A gentle reminder

“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
St. Francis de Sales


(wild turkey Cades Cove, The Great Smokies National Park, Tennessee /Julie Coo / 2015)

****It’s time to resume taking our place in our small family’s yearly pilgrimage…
and since I will be out of pocket for the next few days, I’ve
opted to revisit a previous post from 2016—I needed to re-read this post
for all sorts of reasons—if not simply to be reminded that there is so much more
then my narrow sighted surroundings…remember, we must all remain grateful…
Enjoy a rediscovered moment seemingly lost in time…

Late one afternoon last week, I had a doctor’s appointment.
It was one of those late in the day appointments…
the kind of appointment that puts a kink in the entire day….
as in you have to be dressed and ready to go all the while making
certain that you aren’t doing anything else that causes you to overrun
the appointed time.

You know how doctor’s offices can be…

Either they scold you for running late…
as in the receptionist will either actually say something about how you’ve
messed up everyone else by being late,
or rather she will just give you that stare of annoyment while curtly
asking for your insurance information.
Or even worse…they’ll fine you for missing the appointment because
they canceled it when you weren’t there on the dot.

Never mind that you will proceed to sit for hours waiting to finally be seen
despite your punctuality.

I arrived right on time but noticed that the office seemed rather
sparse for that time of day.
This was actually an appointment that had to be rescheduled following my nerve block
as the two coincided and they couldn’t work me in for a solid month,
so I’ve had to wait and wait….
I am happy I wasn’t in total dire straights.

The receptionist asked which doctor I was to see.
When I told her she informed me that he was actually in a different office
in another town that day.

Huh?

“What’s your birthday so I can look up your time…”

I gave it to her while I was now almost certain that for some reason,
maybe the fact that my brain no longer worked,
the appointment was actually to be the following day…
the day I was having to be Atlanta with Dad.

Sure enough it was.

Despite my having gotten the text to confirm the day and time…
despite that the date being marked on my calendar and
despite my cell phone alerting me when to go…

So since I now had to cancel the now following day’s appointment, again,
as I had to be with Dad,
the earliest available was not for another full month…
maybe by then I will be or won’t be in dire straights…

Anywhoo, I exited the office now mad.
Mad at myself…
mad at my crazy life…
and mad that the doctor can’t seem to see me for months at a time…

Aggravated, I got in the elevator with my nose to my phone making certain
I was putting the new date and time in correctly.

I was so preoccupied that I didn’t notice the man coming out of the
same office I had just exited,
right behind me as he entered the elevetaor with me.

I pushed the ground floor and was taken aback a bit when I realized I wasn’t alone.
I asked the gentleman which floor he needed.
He told me the ground floor.

We all know how awkward it can be with just two strangers on an elevator together…
as in what do you say, what to you do, where do you look…I put down my phone and
asked my elevator mate if he was having a good day.

“Oh yes mam I am” he said with a distinct country accent.

Here in the south, true southerners either have a deep southern drawl
or one that is what is considered to be more country than southern.
Much to my mother’s disdain, when she first met my husband,
who was at the time my fiancé of their first meeting,
his accent was and still is more country than was her very genteel southern intonation.

My elevator mate was wearing a green and white checked shirt, neatly tucked into his
nicely pressed blue jeans.
He was an older black man, graying throughout his neatly cut hair.
He was rather thin yet spry and was squinting in the dimly lit elevator…
all the while ginning from ear to ear.

He continued…
“I don’t have to come back for 6 more months cause I just got me a
good report from the doctor.”

“That’s great!” I injected, genuinely happy for him because I know all too well
about those bad reports.

“Ever since that operation when he cut on my stomach,
I’ve quit hurting and I”ve gained 10 pounds in a month’s time!
I aint scrawny no more!!!” he proudly boasted.

I told him that that was great and now he’d be able to truly enjoy his Thanksgiving.
“Oh yes mam I plan to…”

By now we were both making our way toward the parking lot.
As we exited the building, I noticed that it was a very warm late fall afternoon.
The sun was shining yet heading deep toward the west…
all the while a warm breeze blowing.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day” he announced more than asked…
as I respond that that indeed it was.
I added “it certainly doesnt feel very fall-like since we’ve not had any fall
or winter-like weather.

“Well that’s about to change this weekend because it’s going to be cold on Sunday.”

“Really?”

I’ve not paid much attention to the weather as of late as we are in an extremely
unseasonable spell of warm weather that is actually hot and dangerously dry.

“Yes mam, but until then, you enjoy this nice weather and you have yourself a
good Thanksgiving holiday.”

“And I hope you do too….”

And with that we went our separate ways.

Suddenly I forgot that I had been mad, aggravated or feeling frustrated that
I’d wasted the better part of the day with stupidity…

Because in that elevator, I had met a spry and happy reminder to the things in our
lives that truly matter….
and it didn’t have anything to do with missed appointments…
or maybe…it really did…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God
.
Philippines 4:6

transcendence

Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence:
it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense
“destined” to go beyond himself,
and he is called to this in a mysterious way.

APOSTOLIC LETTER
SALVIFICI DOLORIS
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
JOHN PAUL II 1984


(Cades Cove / TN/ Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe it’s the grey skies.
Maybe it’s the deluge of rain.
Maybe it’s age.
Maybe it’s not feeling 100%
Maybe it’s life’s circumstances.
Maybe it’s just our current times..

It seems as if I’ve had a weighted heaviness sitting on my spirit
for quite sometime now…and this “heaviness” seems
much like a festering splinter that is attempting
to work its way to the surface…

What I know about such a type of splinter is that it is
being worked to the surface by a body wanting to rid itself
of an infecting foreign entity.

So maybe this heaviness will be worked up and out as well.
Maybe, just maybe, the heaviness is only a symptom.
But a symptom of what is not exactly clear.

Recently I’ve found myself ruminating on idea of the
transcendence of time.

Vocabulary.com tells us that
transcendence comes from the Latin prefix trans-,
meaning “beyond,” and the word scandare, meaning “to climb.”
When you achieve transcendence, you have gone beyond ordinary limitations.
The word is often used to describe a spiritual or religious state,
or a condition of moving beyond physical needs and realities.
One way to achieve transcendence spiritually might be to fast
for a long time.
If you have trouble letting go of material needs,
then you will have a difficult time achieving transcendence.

As a Christian, I believe, that on this earth, we live in a
constant state of transcendence or perhaps that is transcending…
meaning we are constantly trying to climb beyond.

Gravity and time each keeps us bound to this earth, yet our spirits long
to go to a place beyond and unknown.
There is a longing in our beings for that which we cannot see
but yet we feel is calling us.

Over the years I’ve often written about my “godpoppa”–
He was an Episcopal priest.
Adopted like me.
And he bore the bulk of my teenage angst and
later my often tumultuous choices of life, both good and bad.

He died in December of 2016 only a few months prior to my dad’s death
and even that of my aunt’s.
Loss, let alone back to back losses, is/ are never easy.

And yet this one man’s influence on my life remains just as it
always has–both strong and robust.

It matters not that he is not here physically, because in my reality
he continues on in my soul–day in and day out.
His influence and teachings continue to positively impact all
that I do.

I was fortunate to have had such a person come into my life
when he did, but I do not believe it was by fate, chance or some
random encounter.
I know without a doubt God places folks within our life’s journeys
at just the right time and place.

I do think, however, we’d all agree that it is the physical that
we miss the most when we lose someone we love.
Not so much their words, not at first anyway.

We want to be able to see them, hear them, feel them.
Just as a child who has fallen and skinned a knee, we want to be held
and comforted in our sorrow.
And despite our knowledge of what the separation means when speaking
of death, we still want this now ‘lost’ person to hold us.

And yet their love, the love we shared, transcends both space and time.

What I gratefully remember is the man whose eyes smiled at me…
and yet those same smiling eyes could and would always penetrate past all
my thick protective walls.

He taught me that walls must be broken if true healing is to take place.
He taught me that I had to risk all things earthly in order to find my true
peace and well being.
He taught me that I had to be broken before I could be built back up.

And so I suppose that journey of brokenness to transcendence continues
as I write.
Hence the oft felt heaviness.

God continues to push, or maybe that should be pulls, us along…
as we put one hand over the other, rung after rung…climbing
ever upward and ever forward to that which we cannot see yet knows
waits for us just beyond…

And do you know what makes this journey all that more mystical and
otherworldly??

It is the single fact that along this journey, we might be fortunate
enough to find someone who we thought we’d previously lost forever.

And that’s when it suddenly dawns on us…this most beloved person had
never been lost at all…they were simply waiting for us…
despite neither of us realizing it at the time…
and it is in that single moment of reconnection that we
find our greatest blessing…

So here’s to transcendence, time, space and to the one constant that
always binds—that being love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant 5 or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never ends.
As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues,
they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

(Repeat)The brine, the rugs, getting lost and a grateful heart

*****Since it’s going to be such a crazy week, I thought I’d pull out a memory from
Thanksgivings past…November 2013.
It was the first Thanksgiving I had the bright idea of brining a turkey.
Dad was still with us, our son wasn’t yet married so there was no Mayor or Sheriff.
It seems so long ago…and yet the tie that binds…a grateful thankful heart!

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
― Oscar Wilde

DSCN2663
(the blasted turkey sitting in it’s brining bag in the basement refrigerator)

Last Sunday afternoon I accompanied my husband to Lowes as he was in need of some bolts and caulking.
I love going to Home Depot and/ or Lowes as there is always something that catches my eye…
a new plant, some birdseed, new rugs…and that’s exactly what I had in mind—
some new throw rugs.

New rugs for the kitchen as the existing rugs are in a word–nasty.
They were cheap and have not withstood life in the kitchen of a cookie.

As my husband headed off to the nuts and bolts aisle, I casually mention that I’d be
heading over to look at the rugs, catching up to him in a minute.
“What?” he irritatingly asks / states—
as in ‘oh no, we don’t need rugs, we’re not here to spend a bunch of money, no, no, no…’
Of which I reply “don’t get bent out of shape, I’m just looking”
(please note the inflection that is used by a wife who says she’s “just-looking”)

I cruise the carpet aisle spying the giant rugs hanging vertically
from the massive warehouse ceiling.
Hummm….
I pull a couple of the throw rugs and runners out of their cubbies,
laying them out on the slick concrete floor…
Hummmm…
I read a couple of descriptions, pull my phone out for a picture or two.
I roll everything back up, putting the little rugs back in their appropriate bins
before heading off to nuts and blots where I find my husband studying
the various sizes of cement bolts.

As he finds what he came for and we begin heading back the direction of which we had
actually entered this massive warehouse store, making our way to where the check out counters
are located, I casually state that I need to run back and check the prices of those throw rugs again.
This is when I can actually feel his eyes rolling back in his head as I cut off for the rug section—
again.

We meet up at the checkout.
As we are leaving, pushing out his buggy that now has a 2 x 4 dangling precariously
out the front, I causally throw out that I just may come back tomorrow and get those
little rugs for the kitchen.
Note the use of the word “little” strategically placed in the sentence.
Silence in the resignation of new rugs.

Monday afternoon I happily return home from Lowes with 3 new throw rugs and one runner
as I’m more than ready to move out the stained existing rugs.
I sweep, mop, and sweep some more before laying out the new rug pads.
Next, I gingerly roll out the new runner, smoothing it into place.
I then lay out the 3 smaller rugs… strategically placing each in its distinct place–
one by the cooktop, then one in front of the refrigerator and finally one in front of the dishwasher…
the three places I spend the majority of my life.

I step back admiring the colors.
“Oh, dear! Are they too busy?” I muse.
I ask the cats.
Percy immediately goes over to the runner and lays down.
I take that as a sign of approval.
Once my husband gets home from work I clock him to see how long it takes
him to notice, that is, if he notices at all.
2 minutes.
Not bad.
And even better, he’s complimentary, he actually likes them.
Relief.

Fast forward to Tuesday.

I think I’m going to be really smart, I’m going to spread out this Thanksgiving
cooking business over the course of two days verses making myself crazy by doing
it all on Wednesday.
Piece of cake, I’ve got this!
Dad and Gloria have agreed to come for lunch with our son and his fiancé coming in that evening—
I’ll be cooking and serving in shifts, but at least, everyone will be here, albeit in intervals.

Last year I thought I’d mix things up a little by attempting to brine my next turkey.
I’ve never had a problem with my turkeys being too dry, I just thought I’d do something
a little different, as brining does seem to be the vogue thing to do.
Impart a little flavor and try my hand at something new and different.

I prepared the solution–a couple of gallons of water, ice, salt, spices, salt,
apple cider, and did I mention salt?
I get the 5-gallon brining bag in the sink, place my 20lb bird in the bag, and then gingerly
pour the giant black kettle of solution into the bag.
I seal the bag, heaving the now massively heavy bag into a roasting pan to help balance it as I prepare to carry it to the refrigerator in the basement.

I take maybe 5 steps from the sink when suddenly there’s a snap then a sickeningly slurping sound erupts.
This is followed by the glug, glug, glug of 3 gallons of liquid cascading out all over
my wooden kitchen floor, the new runner, and 2 of the smaller new rugs.
“NOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
I scream for no one but me and the cats to hear, sending them running.
I am paralyzed… because if I move, more liquid will flow. “NOOOOOOOOOO”
“AGGGGHHHHHHHH”
Surprisingly I don’t cry.
I’m in a panic!!

The wooden floors!!!
The rugs!!
AAAGGGHHHHH!!!
Towels, I need towels!
I run to get every bath towel we own.
I proceed to sop up all the liquid before it destroys the floor.
I pick up my new, now saturated rugs” – — did I mention that it was 34 degrees
outside and pouring down rain.
I run outside in the cold rain, throw the rugs down on the oh so wet driveway,
pulling out the garden hose to wash off the salty solution now soaking into my new rugs.
Anyone driving by most likely thought I’d totally lost any brain I had.

DSCN2667
(waiting for the runner to dry out)

I lay the remaining towels, including beach towels, in the garage,
dragging my now heavy soaked rugs in from the rain, laying them on the towels,
layering other towels on top. I proceed jumping up and down attempting to “blot”
them dry as best as I can on a pouring down rainy day.
Did I mention it was 34 degrees?

Back inside I continue sopping up the salty solution,
mopping the kitchen floor, more towels.
Not to mention how many times I now had to run the washing machine.
The damn turkey (please forgive my language, it just seems appropriate at this moment in time)
is still sitting in the brining bag waiting for transport to the basement sans the brine.
I pull out another jug of apple cider, pouring it over the turkey,
reseal the bag and drag it to the basement.
I eventually bring the rugs inside to the laundry room where I drape them over the dryer and
washing machine and the heat vent hoping they will dry out by Thursday.

Fast Forward to today, Thanksgiving.
The rugs are back in place, a little wavy and a bit shimmery,
even after vacuuming, as the salt seems to now be ingrained.
The oven is full of delightful dishes offering up heavenly aromas.
The stove has simmering and bubbly pots of savory goodness.
The table is set,
Round I may begin.

The phone rings.
“JULIE?”
Hey, dad are y’all almost here?
Dad yells into his cell phone as if I’m on another continent and the connection is poor.
“NO, WE’RE LOST AGAIN”
Ugh…are you freaking kidding me?

They got lost last time.

They’ve only been coming here to this house for the past 14 years several
times a year.
Gloria is not one for the interstate–an hour’s drive takes her 3 hours as she likes
to go by way of Tennessee to get to our house.
“Where are you, Dad?”
“THE SAME BAKERY WE STOPPED AT LAST TIME”

“Tell Gloria to stay were y’all are and I’ll be there in just a bit”

I cut off the oven and everything on the stove, grab my keys, and off I go.
I find them sitting in the parking lot of an empty bakery and just like the commercial,
I roll down my window and holler, “FOLLOW ME”

We won’t talk about Dad sneaking a drink of his favorite libation,
of which he’s not supposed to have, and then of him practically falling asleep
in his plate, but at 86 I can’t scold him too badly.
Or of him biting into a chocolate turkey and breaking his partial.
Or of the hour drive here which takes them 3 hours and yet they refuse
for us to come pick them up.

We won’t talk about round 2 when our son and his fiancé came for dinner and of
how he and his dad got into a fuss over money and school at the table.
We won’t talk about my husband dreading opening his business tomorrow as the madness
known as “black Friday” brings him such discontent.
Or of how hard it is to run a business and not conform to being open on holidays
and on Sundays, as nothing remains sacred in this country.
We won’t talk about the things that worry us as parents for our children
or as grown children for our aging parents or of how we will manage to make ends meet
for them as well as for us and of what the new year will bring to the business.

There’s so much not to talk about and yet there is so much that needs talking about…
as in my being so so grateful…grateful for the fact that I still have my dad,
that he and Gloria still manage to visit despite getting lost;
that my husband who has worked so very hard to make his business survive given our
country’s economy keeps tirelessly working to make it a go;
that I was able to retire after 31 years of teaching to “tend” to this family of mine;
grateful that our son can attend college and that he will be taking the LSAT next weekend;
grateful that I can have food on the table which is lovingly prepared to share despite
brining disasters;
grateful that there could be new rugs; grateful that I have a family,
for good or bad, who loves and supports one another the best way it knows how.

So on this day of reflection and of Thanksgiving,
with the clear knowledge that God has blessed me and that He has blessed
all of us beyond measure, it is with a grateful heart,
I say AMEN!!

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

‘unthankful day’???

Ingratitude is always a kind of weakness. I have never known men of ability to be ungrateful.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ungratefulness is worse than a cancer; it eats away at your soul;
blinding your heart and eyes to the beauty and miracles that are
all around us each day in our lives.

Geraldine Vermaak


(a storefront window seen in Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, I certainly hope everyone had a warm, happy and thanks-filled Thanksgiving!

Whether yours was small and quiet or large and raucous, I hope you had
some time for a bit of private and or even vocal reflection…
being able to reflect upon what it was and is that you have in your life to be
thankful for and over.

I made mention, in one of my posts prior to my brief Thanksgiving hiatus, that
I was concerned about our society’s obsessive frenzy over of all things black,
cyber and local shopping for Christmas, as we hurridly hop from Halloween to Christmas
flippantly glossing over Thanksgiving…

That in our zest and zeal, for all things of consumerism and materialism,
we forget the importance that first and foremost, there must always be gratitude.

Like many other families and individuals, our little crew took the show on the road
this Thanksgiving.
We ventured to Georgia’s first city…the city of her inception, Savannah.

There’s a bit of personal history there and I’ll chat about that another day…
but for today, my focus is on that of being thankful.

Thursday, before we were to sit down and break bread over our own Thanksgiving dinner,
we enjoyed a leisurely stroll throughout this Southern historic city.
As we made our way through the city’s shopping district, we noted that there were
actually, a few businesses open, while the majority were closed for the observation of Thanksgiving.

As I would expect nothing less.
Families and individuals being able to take a day for a national observation of
gratitude.

I stopped in front of a local business that had posted a bit of a diatribe on their
storefront window extolling the importance of an “Unthanksgivng Day” as they
opted to stand with the indigenous people.
Decolonize this place they said??

Huh?

First I thought to myself, “here you are closed, on a national day of Thanksgiving so
perhaps you should have actually been open to show your true discontent…
or is that malcontent?
But instead, you were closed, most likely indulging in the day…”

And then I pondered the notion of decolonization…as in are we all to vacate this
Nation of ours, heading back to whatever land was that of our ancestors,
telling the last one out to leave a single light on.

The following day, I caught a news story in the same vein of thinking.
It was a story about how the disgruntled, or is that disgraced,
former football QB Colin Kaepernick, who had attended an
“Unthanksgiving Day” on Alcatraz Island, of all places, vocalized his endorsement for
an Indigenous People’s day while espousing the need to do away
with Thanksgiving.

Sigh.

Again, I thought, ‘here is a very blessed young American man who has had so very
much in his life to be thankful over and for, yet he’s promoting the notion of
being Unthankful…”

It makes no sense to me.

Am I the only one who sees the egregious irony in someone having been adopted
as a baby and in turn, afforded so very much love and opportunities, opportunities
found in a great land of freedom and just that, opportunity, and yet here he is touting
a day of Unthanksgiving?
Is not this unthanksgivng just another word for ingratitude?
As in unthankful?
As in ungrateful.

Oh, I get it.
I get what this is all about.
I get the gist behind all of this being that our Native American populations have grievously
suffered over the centuries at the hands of the white European’s first arrival and then
the ensuing conquest of the new land.

I have often said we owe a great deal to our native Americas past and present,
but try as we like, we cannot rewrite our history.
We can’t do away with Columbus Day despite his treatment of the locals upon landing…
because he also opened a great door.

We can’t discredit that.

We can’t decolonize a nation or toss out Thanksgiving because Pilgrims
have gotten more attention than their local native hosts.

That is what much of this millennial disgruntlement seems to be about…
a desire to rewrite an often less than stellar history.

But here’s the thing—you can’t rewrite your history…it is what it is.

It is there for better or for worse, in hopes that you will learn from it
not erase it just because you don’t like it.
It will not disappear no matter how hard you try to turn it into
something it never was.

That you will learn from what was
Grow from what was.
That you do not repeat the negative of what was.
But rather that you may find that which must be celebrated and
in turn, offer thanks…

Do not grouse.
Do not complain.
Do not lament.
Do not have a temper tantrum over that which you do not fully grasp
understand or truly know…
And do not whine over that which you cannot change.

But rather learn, grow and rejoice.

Be grateful.

Do not ask what is there to be grateful for…
the list is endless.

Be thankful for the others, who went before you, offered their lives
so you could live in a place that allows you to grouse, to complain
to have temper tantrums while you opt to hashtag everything that
comes across your phone.

Find your gratitude not your negativity.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more
people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 4:15

From our turkeys to yours


(wild trukeys caught on our trail cam / Gregory Cook / 2019)

From our turkeys to yours…..

A most blessed and peace-filled Thanksgiving!

The Mayor and the Sheriff wish you all happiness…

a plethora…

“Well, you just told me that I had a plethora,
and I would just like to know if you know what it means to have a plethora.
I would not like to think that someone would tell someone else he has a plethora,
and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.”

El Guapo (played by Alfonso Arau) from the movie ¡Three Amigos!


(a vast array of tomatoes and vegetables at Campo di Fiori, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

A plethora…an abundance…a profusion…

And that is exactly what I am grateful for…

I am grateful for the abundance of family and friends that I have both here in
my small corner of the blogosphere as well as those in my small corner of this world
in which we live.

Thank you…each of you for stopping in…
for visiting, reading, caring, writing, sharing, loving…
and for making me smile, laugh, cry…as well as think…

Thank you for being my friend…even for those of you who do not see eye to eye
with what I write.

May God’s Grace abundantly bless each of you…
Keeping you safe, happy, warm, dry, well fed, free from harm and at peace…
during not only this Thanksgiving Day but throughout this season of wonderment,
joy and awe.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Oh, and by the way…The Mayor has requested that her closet aides accompany her on a bit of
an excursion during the next couple of days.
Something about wanting to visit the place where she has her earliest family roots
while taking in a bit of serene history…she’s calling it a working holiday…
she can be such a slave driver…but when she says jump, we aides say how high 🙂

Plus… if you read yesterday’s post, I lived through the pumpkin pie making as well.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

dreams

“Yes: I am a dreamer.
For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight,
and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

Oscar Wilde

Spare a little candle
Save some light for me
Figures up ahead
Moving in the trees
White skin in linen
Perfume on my wrist
And the full moon that hangs over
These dreams in the mist

These Dreams lyrics
Heart

dscn4686
(super moon 2016 / Julie Cook)

Maybe it was the moon…all that super business doing some massive gravitational pull
on my subconscious…
Or maybe that’s just it in a nutshell, my subconscious…

It was about 5:30 this morning when I woke from a night of fitful sleep.
I had a headache.
If it’s not my back, it’s also my neck—
as in all my discs are giving out…
and obviously the warranty has given out as well…

I got up and rummaged around in the oddly lit house under the watchful eye of the latest super moon,
looking for a couple of motrin to alleviate the gnawing aching pain.
I thought I’d just go ahead and get up since I was pretty much wide awake…
But knowing I had a long day in Atlanta with Dad, what harm would laying back down do,
just for a minute….

Bad idea.

Obviously I fell back asleep…into one of those massively deep sleeps…
as in out like the dead.

It was during this dead sleep that I found myself having the most crazy and vivid dream.

But of course I don’t know why that would be something new or out of the ordinary because
all of my dreams are pretty much crazy.
They often seem quite real albeit bizarre, odd and absolutely not normal.

In this particular dream I was somewhere, though I knew not where,
I just knew it was not home, nor any place familiar.
I was pushing my son in a baby carriage…whereas in real life he’s almost 28…
yet in the dream he was a baby.

We were trying to get away from some bad guy who was following us.
The next thing I remember is that I’m reading in a newspaper in some sort of room
that was again, not familiar.
It was the obituaries and I was reading that both my dad and godfather had each died as
I suddenly found myself desperately trying to text my mother to tell her what I’d read…
because I knew she’d need to know and would need my help.

Ok, so in real life, my mom has been gone now for over 30 years, long before texting ever existed,
let alone living in a society that is now joined at the hip with their cell phones.

I remember that I frustratingly couldn’t get the text right….
which just means that some part of my brain knew that mother was not exactly in texting range….
and yet I couldn’t find my right clothes or any of my “stuff” …
because remember, I was someplace unfamiliar….

Thankfully I finally woke up…only to realize that both my husband I had overslept—
I jumped up, he got up…
and off we both raced for the day.

As he was getting ready to leave for work, I told him briefly about my dream—
and in his typical nonplused fashion…
“I can tell you where you were.”
“Really?!
You can?!” I marveled.
“Yeah, you were in the nut house because all your dreams are the stuff for loony bins”

And I suppose he has a point.

The night before last, I dreamt someone was trying to kidnap and kill my beloved cat
and that I had gotten Carrie Underwood to watch him and help keep him safe.

But I knew where that bizarre dream was born…
it was the direct result of the heavy birthday supper I had eaten that night—
very rich and overfilling…resulting in very poor and fitful sleep.

Last night’s dream however was so vivid that I woke with tears in my eyes and immediately hit
the computer to scour over the obits for my godfather…who thankfully was not there.
A bit irrational but that’s how clear it all seemed.

He and dad are in equally poor states of health…both physically and mentally
with him in a facility while dad is still at home….
So I imagine that that constant worry over both of them,
simply lingers somewhere past the waking and cognizant part of my brain.

And then there was / is mom.
Obviously I am missing her tremendously as I now go it alone caring for dad.

When I was young and foolish I would, from time to time, imagine what it would be like when I
was like my parents who, at the time, were caring for both of my grandmothers—
it’s just that I never imagined what we’d all be living, or in mother’s case not living,
as we are today.
And maybe that’s the thing—life is never what we imagine nor dream what it will be.

Sometimes it can be the stuff of dreams—
all good, all nice and all delightfully other worldly…
but for the majority of the time,
it is humanly real, raw and very very hard.

I think that’s why I’ve let what’s going on in this country of ours bother me so badly…
as it’s just left me feeling so depressed, not that my own life hasn’t been depressing enough.

Life is hard.

And it requires a great deal from us just to make it through.

I work hard just getting through each day…
as these past two years have been all but draining of all emotions and physical well being.
It’s as if I’ve been living under a very heavy grey cloud…
ever since, having lost their cognitive and physical freedoms,
Dad and my stepmother required outside help.

And it is very much that I have bordered on depression on and off these past two years.

Yet I work very hard to make certain that they are ok in their own home…
cause that’s how dad wants it…
to go out in a box from his own home…whenever that day comes—
despite me explaining to him that I don’t think a box will be involved….

There is the day to day running of their household…
the caregivers, the housekeeper, the nurses, hospice, the bills, the taxes, the invoices,
the groceries, the doctors, the hospitals, the maintenance on a older home…
And then there is our household 75 miles away—
as in me the caregiver, the maid, the cook, the yardman, and everything else in between…
when and if there is time or energy or even desire…

People wonder why I don’t have time to do this or that anymore…
why can’t I squeeze in anything for me or for them or for whatever…
I obviously don’t even have time to sleep worth a flip let alone the nicer things about
nurturing self or that of friendships….

So I grow angry when I see on the news the sea of protesters across this county.
Surely I’m not the only person who has life issues to contend with.
My life is more than enough to keep me busy and focused…
Lord knows how’d I manage to balance protesting, marching, walking out of class…
all the while fussing and cussing with my neighbors on the street…

Life is bigger than any of us realize…
It’s bigger than this election.

When it is all said and done…
presidents will come and go,
elections will come and go…

Some elections will go the way we want and some will not…
that’s how life works—not always as we’d like…

That’s simply life and it is what it is wherever or not you and I like that…

And I can honestly say that anyone battling a catastrophic illness, caring for loved ones,
watching elderly parents slowly slip away or who has been devastatingly injured,
will tell you that that is not how they ever would have imagined or dreamed their lives would go.

So everyone out there who seems to think they have all sorts of time for all
this bitching, complaining and nasty fussing and cussing…
because that’s what protests are are they not…glorified bitching and complaining…
obviously has way too much time on their hands to waste…
the otherwise precious energy for living.

My God, can’t those of you just be thankful that you can afford to be in college?
And can apparently afford to ditch class…
not to mention all these high school kids out there walking out of class who can’t yet even vote.
Stay in class for heaven’s sake and learn something about being a decent citizen
because wandering around on the streets fussing and cussing your neighbor
isn’t gaining anything but expending wasted anger….

Instead of wrath and anger, be thankful that you live in a country that affords you
the opportunity to vote—
Never mind that whomever it was you wanted to win may not have won…
because that’s simply the result when two people run…one wins, one does not.
That’s called democracy and you have a military that has lost countless of lives
of men and women over the generations who sacrificed everything for you…
you who now use your protected freedom and wasted time in life that you cannot get back
to bitch, complain, fuss and cuss and march…

But be glad you have choice…so many countries don’t get choice.
That little fact is in part why other nations view us as entitled and spoiled—
we bitch and complain even when we have options and choice…
as in we never really seem happy.

Be glad that obviously you are healthy enough to go out, ditching class or work,
just to bitch and complain…
because those who are sick, hurting or busy with the demands of life, simply can’t fit any of that in.

Dream…dream big…big wonderful sorts of dreams…
because one thing we know about America is that dreaming and working can make dreams come true—
because America has always equated to opportunity…
where in other nations…
opportunity not so much….

Don’t fuss and cuss…because life is simply too short…
Dreaming is so much more important and much more fun and much more hopeful and much more productive
than bitching and complaing and marching and fussing and cussing our neighbors….

Just ask Dad….who just wishes he could have a little more time in life to dream….

“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams….”

Acts 2:17

tenacity

“Courage is not having the strength to go on;
it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

Theodore Roosevelt

gwtwset4
(Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, wearing her mother’s curtains)

Think Scarlet O’Hara, Julia Sugarbaker and Steel Magnolias all rolled into one.
Who else would think to turn their mother’s prized curtains into
a matter of getting what they need…but a Southerner.

That’s because we in the South understand the significance of
desperate times requiring drastic measures…

For we are a resourceful lot when we need be,
especially during the thick of battle..
We are kudzu and honey all rolled into one..
Barbed wire and sugar spun together…

Because that’s just what we are down here in the South,
tenacious as a bulldog when needed,
soft as a cotton ball when called for….

We are also sweet and charming.
We are cordial.
We are warm.
We are hospitable.
We are not dumb, deplorable or rednecks…contrary to what some would have you believe.
We are educated.
Well educated.
We have great schools, colleges and universities.
People like our weather, well, maybe not in August…
I don’t like our weather in August, or even now, but I digress…

People like our food..think fired this or that, as in chicken and okra.
People like our drinks…think bourbon.
We are mannerly…for if we are not, our grandmothers are obviously not watching.
We believe in morality, decorum and being polite.

But none of that should never lead you to believe that we are
pushovers,
ignorant,
easy,
or lazy.

We are a strong kind people.

And I keep finding that I have to continually remind myself of such…

I have seen more of my poor father than any daughter should ever see of her father
and it is enough to last me a life time.
Bless him.
He can’t help it.
And sadly I can’t avoid it.

We got the water balloon dad unclogged today.
Mr nonchalant doctor was his typical rude, arrogant and non southern self during our visit…
He didn’t want to initially believe, let alone admit,
that there was any scar tissue from August’s surgery…
Well guess what…
there was.

No wonder poor dad was becoming a human water balloon,
a toxic human water balloon.
But mr nonchalant doctor assumed it was the tumor growing; the one we had opted not,
against his suggestion, to spend 8 weeks radiating on a daily basis.

“Has he looked at dad in that wheelchair of his” I wonder…

Quickly and without fanfare or even words, Mr nonchalant doctor performs a little procedure
then quickly leaves the room with us eventually leaving
with now a new sort of water balloon,
a catheter.
And thankfully free-flowing once again!!
No spreading cancer as dad was fearing…
just a little scar tissue fouling up the works…

Dad was having to get up literally 18 times a day and 9 times throughout the night living
like a human water balloon…filling up, but not flowing out.

The doctor walked out with nary a word….
No words of kindness, no words of encouragement,
no words of care nor words of what we might need to do…

Kind of like a wham bam thank you mam sort of moment.

Leaving me with the young nurse to attach everything…
getting everything in, on, up and poor dad back into his chair.

Where I come from a gentleman assesses the situation and lends a hand where
he sees the need.
We call that being a man…patient, kind, gallant and thoughtful.

When we finally walked out, me walking, dad rolling…
Mr nonchalant doctor was sitting at his computer in his office, directly across from us,
as we exited the exam room.

I was sincere and gracious in my thanks and gratitude for helping dad.
As I was always taught to offer thanks for a service rendered and I was genuinely
grateful that dad would now be functioning and flowing.
Plus there I was wheeling my cancer ridden, feeble, 88 year old father
who has just bared everything to everyone…did he not deserve a word?

There was a very long pause of silence before acknowledging that I had spoken…
without glancing from the computer came an “ah huh”…
and with that, dad and I were on our way.

At the elevator dad leans his head back in my direction as I push the button for down…
“he doesn’t have much personality does he?”
“I think he’s a jerk dad.”
“I just think he doesn’t have a beside manner” dad counters…

And that my friends is the response of a gentleman.

A man who just bore his feeble sickly body for violation and he merely chalks up
being ignored to a lack of personality.
Where I see a sorry SOB…

Had I not been wheeling dad, who was now hurting and asked for something for pain,
as mr nonchalant non caring doctor quips over his shoulder, “take some tylenol'”…
I think I would have marched in that office of his, slaping my hands down on his desk,
asking or rather telling him to do the polite thing by
looking me in the face when I’m speaking
and to acknowledge my father as an elder as well as a hurting human being….

Because that’s what we do here in the South, we acknowledge our fellow human beings as
what they are, fellow human beings….

And don’t forget, we also came up with iced tea…..
thank you very much…

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

Thanksgiving prayer

DSCN2197
(a pair of wild turkeys alert and hiding out in a mountain field / Cades Cove, TN / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

(prayer of Thanksgiving /
The Book of Common Prayer / The Episcopal Church)