what comes from the Spirit

“The adorable Heart of Jesus is our comfort, our way, our life.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


(a winter treat blooms / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The experience of the Church and the saints demonstrates a general law:
what comes from the Spirit of God brings with it joy, peace, tranquility of spirit,
gentleness, simplicity, and light.
On the other hand, what comes from the spirit of evil brings sadness, trouble, agitation,
worry, confusion, and darkness.
These marks of the good and the evil spirit are unmistakable signs in themselves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe

‘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

Hummmm…..

Yesterday’s infusion becomes today’s coagulation, which in turn,
becomes tomorrow’s clarified nectar…or so I’m hoping.

cookie

Now let’s retrace our steps.

Yesterday we peeled 11 lemons and added the peels (minus the white pith) to 3 cups
cognac and 3 cups brandy…and let it steep for 24 hours.

And thus we’ve gone from this on Monday…

To this on Tuesday…

A curdled heady aromatic pot of who knows what.

Waiting for about 2 hours, I next poured the coagulated mess through some cheesecloth
and a fine-mesh strainer.

After staining, the remaining liquid will be moved to the fridge where it will sit for
another 24 hours, allowing any remaining “curds” to settle.
After sitting and settling, I’ll strain the liquid through a coffee filter.

Benjamin Franklin used a jelly bag…or so said the recipe he’d
handwritten and shared with a friend.
Aren’t handwritten recipes great?
They just keep getting passed around…albeit it spotted, yellowed and torn.

I don’t know what a jelly bag is and thus, doubt I own one…
hence the coffee filter and cheesecloth.

I did previously add to this putrid looking mess some cardamon pods, a single star anise,
a broken cinnamon stick, a fully grated nutmeg along with 2 cups of lemon juice,
1 1/2 cups of sugar, 4 cups of water and 4 cups of boiling milk…

All resulting in the curdled mess now staring up at us from the pot.

I dared to taste it, stealing a small spoonful this morning.

It’s pretty boozy as well as heavy on the lemon.
Maybe too lemony—

I was hit with a taste of bitterness but of course,
that was before I added the sugar, water, and milk.

I’m beginning to think that 11 lemon peels and 2 cups of juice may have been all of
a bit of an overkill.

But Ben said to do it and so I did.
How can I argue with the man who wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac?!

The sampling I had tasted down at the beach had been made with pineapple.
Since I’m not a huge pina colada, tropical drink kind of fan, I stuck to Ben’s original recipe
and opted not to introduce any pineapple.

I did deviate slightly however and threw in a few cardamon pods.
I like cardamon as it reminds me of a warm Fall cozy evening.
I also sprinkled in some cinnamon along with the broken stick as I like a heavy dose of
cinnamon in my Fall goodies.

I’m now wondering if adding a vanilla pod might have been a nice touch.

As you can see in the picture below, the curds were caught in the cheesecloth…

The strained liquid, which is still rather cloudy and reminds me of apple cider, will sit
for a day or so before it goes through more filtration.

The taste is spicy, warm, and again, very boozy…but in a soft sort of way.

We’re off to see the Mayor and Sheriff tomorrow so the final presentation will have to wait
a day or so longer— but trust me…
we’ve come this far and by gosh, we will have an official presentation if it kills me…

And let’s hope that drinking this stuff won’t…kill me!

I’ll also pass on Mr. Franklin’s recipe.

And I suppose that there might be some of you wondering why in the heck I would go
to such trouble just to make a simple drink…or more aptly, a most complicated drink?!

Maybe it’s because the mountain was there and I wanted to climb it…
Maybe it’s because I’ve been missing that creative spark in my life.

Or maybe it’s in part because it’s something that harkens back to a
different day and time.

It takes us back to a time when taking one’s time was appreciated.
It was a time when taking the time to do something that was somewhat painstaking
and was in turn, shared with others,
was equally appreciated as both a product and a preparation.
There is a deep sense of satisfaction in that.

It harkens to a time when we didn’t take everything for granted…
knowing that we could simply run out to a store and buy what our tastes might
be yearning for…
As in there were no grub hubs or uber eats back then.
The work from our hands filled our needs and wants and thus that was where our satisfaction
was found.

It was a time when things like lemons and spices were not readily available.
So when you could find them, afford them, they were savored and relished.

And thus savoring and relishing while feeling a sense of accomplishment and gratitude
is certainly reason enough…or at least it is for me.
And since it is indeed Fall…there’s no better time for slowing down,
savoring and reflecting upon some past simple pleasures.

Cheers!

We are a coveting people, yearning for Royalty

“When I realize that God makes his gifts fit each person,
there’s no way I can covet what you got because it just wouldn’t fit me.”

William P. Smith

We are always striving for things forbidden, and coveting those denied us.
Ovid


(Royal Standard of Great Britan)

I’m not exactly certain as to why it is…
but what I do know is that it is indeed a real thing.

What am I talking about you ask?

Well, a couple of things really…but first I need to set the stage for our day’s
dialogue with a peek into an odd little obsession of ours.

It seems that we Americans have a bit of an obsession with anything and everything “Royal.”

Maybe it goes back to our being the somewhat red-headed stepchild or the kissing cousin or
simply the former colonist…I’m not exactly certain as to the reason but what I do know is
this—-
That the wee tidbits and morsels of all things Royal…be it from the news (aka gossip rags)
all the way to the paparazzi pictures tossed our way like a bone to a starving dog,
everything Royal seems to leave us only salivating for more.

We might think this goes back to a public’s love affair, from both sides of the proverbial pond,
with a young girl who grew from a shy and awkward girl into a glamorous beautiful princess all before
our wanting and wondering eyes…

It was a possessive sort of obsession with a girl who had married an older cad of a prince—
a man who had perhaps stopped his selfish playboy ways in order to settle down with
the Cinderella of his dreams.

Our favorite happy neverending fairytale.

Yet it was a tale that was neither happy nor neverending.

We loved how she doted over her two adoring sons and we felt protective when she became a
much-maligned princess from the Royal’s perspective.

And eventually, we painfully mourned when her beautiful life was tragically cut short…

Her demise was due in part to our obsession and to those who wanted to feed
that obsession.

We took her into our hearts as the tragic romantic heroine who seemed to need us as much
as we needed her…

Or maybe this fascination of ours goes back even further.

Maybe it goes back to the King who abdicated his short-lived reign in order to marry the
“woman whom he loved”—
A very public curiosity over the matter of duty versus that of love.

It was an abdication for a woman who was both an American and twice-divorced—all of which
precluded a British monarch the right to marry such.

The desire for forbidden fruit.
The desire of our wanting what we cannot or should not have…
or at least in this case, our wanting it for another.

And so being the hapless romantics that we truly are, we must have thought it oh so noble
to turn one’s back on both one’s solemn birthright of duty and responsibility while racing
blindly into the arms of love for love’s sake…
or was that lust for lust’s sake?

Never mind they both became Nazi sympathizers.

Or maybe it goes back even further…back to the life of a young Queen and mother who lost
her beloved prince consort prematurely to a brief illness,
as she spent the next 40 years of her very public life living a very public life of mourning.

A woman we associated with wearing nothing but black while ruling a realm,
of which the sun never set, with an iron thumb.

Or maybe it goes back even further…all the way back to our history books…
back to a king who was married 6 times…
Marrying, executing, losing and leaving women left and right for all the wrong reasons…

We became fixated on such a notion…that being of marriage for the sake of an heir—
The proverbial carrier of both name and nation…

Throw in the tawdry sex and it was a made for a Hollywood script nearly 500 years
before Hollywood was ever imagined.

Never mind that his illegitimate, bastard and passed-over daughter carried his legacy
on longer than any other man or woman…
that is until our present day’s monarch.

So no matter when this fascination of ours started, we are hopelessly continuing on
with such as we wait, watch and speculate what will be the latest saga
between two brothers…Wills and Harry…
as we fixate on their wives, their children, and their seemingly tragically
beautiful lives.

Lives that truly have no bearing on our own.

However, this post is not so much about our love affair with being Roayl,
being Roayl watchers or hoped for fairytales coming true as it is about our
wanting what others seem to have.

And no, I’m not suggesting that we want Royalty over our Presidency…
despite perhaps many
bemoaning such a possibility…
For we have our own royalty as we have turned our Presidents into our personal
little Royalty…
think JFK and Jackie, Ronnie and Nancy…
Just as we do with our entertainers and sports figures.
We have mastered the art of making people into things they really aren’t.

Yet this post is not even about that…turning people into things they are not…
nor is it about duty vs selfish wants…

Or maybe, just maybe, it is…
Maybe it is about our selfish wants.

For this is a post about our yearning to have that which is not our own…
wanting what others have and we have not.

We call it the simple act of coveting.

And coveting just happens to be on that oh so controversial list of “do nots”
as in the list of the Ten Commandments.

I think our subject actually comes in at number 10

Thou shalt not covet.

Or as we read in Exodus 20 verse 17 and according to the New International Standard,
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant,
his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Yet we have seen this notion of wanting what another has since the dawn of man.

Adam and Eve wanting the knowledge God had.
Cain wanting the recognition from God that was afforded to Abel.
David seeking another man’s wife…

We have been wanting what is not ours to have been since that initial apple incident…
as our wants have only become even more alluring.

Coveting is indeed our insidious obsession.
And our society has honed it into a fine art form…a very profitable art form.

One we call marketing.

They have it, we want it.
So let’s make it work.
Plain and simple.

We’ll market it, make everyone think life’s happiness depends on it and then we’ll sell it…
We’ll make gobs of money in the meantime…allowing for more wanting and having.

I think social media has had a deadly hand in all of this.
Social media has become a very slick tool in the marketing of wanting and having.

Not only are we inundated by cutting-edge advertisements and sales gimmicks working on a
psychological level convincing us that our happiness and well-being depends on getting and having–
we now have social media making us yearn for what we see others enjoying, doing and having.

The beautiful life plays out in front of our very eyes making us feel less-than because
we don’t seem to be having as much fun, traveling to such exotic destinations,
attending such fun events or accumulating as cool a-stuff as those whose lives
spill out before us on Instagram and Facebook.

I had a friend once tell me that she was going to stop looking at facebook because, as she
confided, it actually made her feel bad about both herself and her life.

She found herself becoming jealous and in turn depressed over her friends who were traveling,
having fun, buying new cars, new homes, new everything and anything they thought to post…
images of that which she wasn’t doing or of that which she didn’t have.
All she was doing was getting up each day and going to work.
How fun, how glamorous or how mundane or how boring was such a life?

Just the other week I found myself lamenting that my cousin was heading out on a trip
to Bermuda while several other friends were off to Europe for a couple of weeks…all the
while I was off to babysit.

I wanted what they had… the fun, the freedom, and the adventures.

Yet what was wrong with what I had?

Absolutely nothing.

For what I had was more lasting and not fleeting… it was not something that would only grow dim or
forgotten in a short time but rather it was something that was enduring and edifying.

Yet only a few of us are brave enough or honest enough to admit that we find ourself
feeling less-than when we see or hear of what others are doing or where they are going
or what it is they are buying…

We are coveting…

We want what others have…
while leaving behind what is our own realtime lives.

We compare what we have, or rather what we don’t have, to all that is around us and in turn determine our
level of self-worth and self-esteem—and if the truth be told, we usually come out
on the short end of the stick.

How many of us snap pictures of this or that wonderment we’re currently experiencing and find
it almost too hard to resist the urge to race to our social media outlets in order to quickly
upload, post, and share?
Living not in the moment but rather living in the moment ahead.

Our brag sheets to the world…while we calculate just how many ‘likes’ we will then accrue.

The fleeting fickleness of having and not having.

We have become the masters of voyeurism.
Living a life of watching the lives of others as we yearn for that which is not ours.

We are living in a world, in a culture, that glamorizes that which we have been commanded to
avoid—to avoid at all costs for our own eternal salvation.

We’re being sold a bag of ill goods..a bag of lies while we greedily digest the tawdry,
the egregious and the wanton with a sick level of zeal.

Being happy with what we have.
Being grateful for what we have.
Being satisfied with where we are…with who we are.
Being content.
Being at peace.
Enjoying.
Rejoicing…

Things which are quickly forgotten…
just as is the cost for such forgetting…
along with the cost of coveting.
All of which are becoming dangerously inbreed deep into our psyche.

So perhaps the lesson to be found in this roundabout tale is the fact that we most certainly do
yearn for Royalty.

We yearn to be the princes and princesses of a king…
the sons and daughters of a great King of a great Kingdom…
afforded the glory found in such a king and kingdom.

And the thing is, we need not dream of such…
for we are the heirs of the one Great King…

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

Shenanigans, BBQ and the Mayor… along with her Sheriff

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
Allen Saunders


(the Mayor is about to get wet / Julie Cook / 2019)

Sunday we drove over to see the Mayor and her new Sheriff.

Lunch sounded like a plan so we headed over to the Battery…
otherwise known as Suntrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves Baseball team.

The team actually wasn’t home but had traveled up to Philly in order to play ball—
so we opted to take advantage of their absence and visit their vacated home
for a fun-filled and much less crowded afternoon.

My husband likes to say that they built a baseball stadium inside
of an outdoor mall.

The Stadium is surrounded by a live, work, play, visit, eat and drink area known as
the Battery.

There are greens for kids to play on, fountains of water for kids to run and jump in,
restaurants galore…from cheap eats to galm good. A hotel, apartments, shops,
bars, ice-cream shops…giant screen TVs showing the latest game…you name it,
The Battery has it.

Something Atlanta was in great need of.

Clean and family-friendly on the more northern and western side of the city
And technically it’s not in the city of Atlanta but rather in Cobb County,
north of the city and closer to Marietta.

One of the myriads of restaurants is actually an outpost to one of Atlanta’s more
famous BBQ joints…Fox Brothers.

(http://www.foxbrosbbq.com/fox-bros-home.html)

And you should know that I rather fancy myself as a bit of a rib aficionado.

Smoky, sweet, salty, savory, spicy, tangy, fall off the bone and melt in your mouth…
type of aficionado…
Of which pretty much sums up a good plate of BBQ ribs from Fox Brothers

It was just about a month ago when my son first introduced me to Fox Brothers and
I must confess, I’ve never looked back.

Fox Brothers is just that, a place owned and operated by two pit master brothers
from Texas who made their way to Atlanta.
They’ve been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, The Travel Channel,
The Today Show,The BBQ Trail, etc.

They’re that good.

So we loaded the kids up in the car and all 6 of us trekked over to The Battery
for lunch and a bit of fun family time.

Following a heavenly meal, The Mayor was most keen to visit the water fountain.
Not so much to throw in 3 coins to the fountain, but rather to partake in
a splashing good time…of which she did—as in we had to change her clothes before
we headed back home because she was soaked to the bone.

A smashing good time indeed!!

Meanwhile, the poor Sheriff just didn’t know what to think!

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

the Sheriff has arrived for duty

“Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
― George Washington


(the Sheriff dressed for his arrival at home…finally)

It’s been a whirlwind of time and activity…
trying and hard as well as grateful and good.

It’s like I told Tricia the other day…when our family’s newest addition ended up in the
neonatal unit shortly after his birth, it was as if the world simply stopped and stood still.
Nothing outside that hospital mattered…

no politics
no societal or cultural idiocy
no countries
no governments
no Democrats
no Republicans
no tit for tat…

Absolutely nothing mattered but that our little guy would rally.

In hindsight, we learned that one of his lungs had collapsed and he “strangled” on amniotic fluid—
of which was suddenly realized when the “crisis” occurred while he was being kept in the nursey
following his birth.
Hence the surge of staff presence and the rapid removal to the neonatal care unit.

Add to that a few other issues that would delay circumcision for at least 6 months.

When my son and daughter-n-law returned home without a baby…
the very baby they had raced to deliver Sunday night, it was a sad arrival back home
and it was hard.

I had just returned home from having spent 4 days with them—we thought we still
has about 3 days when at midnight I got the call…
“Mother, I need ya’ll to come back, NOW!”

But how many couples experience such…?
How many parents continue to leave for the hospital only to come back home without the baby
they had left to go deliver?

It quickly put a spin of reality on birth…
something that we in the “civilized world” now take for granted.

We treat delivering a baby much as we do a trip to the dentist— a simple in and out.

100 years ago…folks knew not to take such for granted…

Perhaps it is our technological advances that have left us jaded and smug while feeling
almost infallible and indefensible to those worst-case scenarios…
situations that a century ago our grand and great grandparents knew better than to assume
that all would be well.

I learned as an educator to expect the worst, but rejoice when the success comes…

Maybe that’s why I consider myself more or less a pragmatist…
despite the fact that I claim and often cling to the positive…
I know, however, that life can change on a dime.

We were fortunate.

His initial tests came back negative and he got to come home to us late Thursday afternoon.

He weighed nearly a pound less than and was shorter in length than that of his sister,
The Mayor, when she was born nearly 15 months ago.

He lost weight in the hospital…backtracking from his birth weight.
But is slowly making a come back to the weight he arrived with.

Lanky and spindly vs a sister who was more round and full.

And speaking of the Mayor…she was a bit apprehensive on the day of her brother’s birth.

And note that face on The Mayor when she clamored up to sit by Mopie (aka “Biya”) when holding
the new Sherrif…

The Sheriff now wears a tiny monitor on his foot which measures his heart rate and oxygen levels…
And thankfully so far so good.

He’s just so tiny and seemingly frail…but I suspect that having to live under the tutelage
of his new boss, the Mayor, will require a ramp up in fortitude…
something I suspect our little Sheriff will certainly rise to occasion for…

I have no doubt…

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again:
Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

Neonatal units are scary places

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.”

St. Brendan

Complications today on several fronts have left us all unsettled…all
but the Mayor naturally.

He will remain for several more days barring any further worries…
And a surgery down the road in about 6 months is in his future…
But we give thanks for the bountiful blessings we have received thus far…

As in after nearly 30 hours, I finally got to hold my first and only grandson…

The Mayor is just too busy to be bothered with worry.

This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10