this is what should keep you up at night…

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Marie Curie


(Bela Lugosi as Dracula 1931)

When I was a kid, I loved watching those old black and white horror movies from the ’30s and ’40s—
Dracula, Frankenstein, The Werewolf, The Mummy, all the way up to the vampy ’60’s with
Vincent Price’s The Pit and the Pendulum, the Creature from the Black Lagoon
along with such cult classics as Dark Shadows.

At 10, I can remember telling my mother to buy real garlic and not that powdered stuff
she’d keep in her spice cabinet.
I needed the real deal in order to sleep soundly at night.
Throw in a Crucifix, of which hung on my wall, and all I needed was a silver spike,
some silver bullets and I would be safe and sound.

Ode to the imagination of a 10-year-old.

As an adult, having seen snippets from those same early horror flicks, I now get tickled seeing
the ridiculous over-emphasized melodramatics.

Looking back, however, I can remember the difficulty in trying to convince my 10-year-old self,
complete with an overactive imagination, that sleeping with a strand of garlic around my
neck was not exactly prudent and totally impractical.

Thankfully, I’ve outgrown the frightful likes of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff,
as well as Vincent Price…
however, there is one individual who does, in fact, leave me a bit
restless at night.
One whose very name can cast fear in my heart… just as he should yours.
And all because he remains more of enigma on the world stage rather than
a defined individual.

I’ve written about this individual before…
actually, all the way back in 2016 when the notion of Brexit was becoming a household word…

Of recent weeks, I’ve read a great deal concerning the global financial powers-that-be
bemoaning or gloating, depending on which side of the fence they line their pockets,
what a Brexit would do to the global economy.
The likes of George Soros, a man who has profited, or make that made a killing,
on the downward slopes of markets before (mainly the Bank of England),
is set to cash in once again.
And cash in big—but yet no one really knows how big he cashes in
as he doesn’t disclose much…
This man parlays deeply and dangerously into American politics as he gives and gives
graciously to the Clintons and their campaigns…
He plays his hand in global economies and seems to try to muscle the outcomes of elections
as well as markets worldwide—all to his benefit—

The rich and powerful trouble me.
Rich and powerful politicians trouble me.
Even our self-centered, anything and everything goes, millennials trouble me.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/should-we-go-or-should-we-stay/

Yes, George Soros troubles me.

And he should trouble anyone who loves America, democracy as well as the gift our
founding Father’s left for us.

And it’s because George Soros is determined to rewrite the Constitution of the United States.

However, this notion is nothing new and according to the authors of the book
I mentioned the other day…dark forces have long yearned to alter
The United States as you and I know it to be.

The book in question is not exactly new as it actually came out in 2006…
The Shadow Party
How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and the Sixties Radicals
Seized Control of the Democratic Party

by David Horowitz and Richard Poe

The authors explain that before there was George Soros, there were others who helped
to form Mr. Soros…just as Mr.Soros has helped to form the likes of others—
Hillary Clinton being one such individual.

Growing up, I knew early on from my interest in history and politics, and in part due to the
mystery surrounding the one time leader of the Teamsters Union, Jimmy Hoffa, that big Government
was sadly capable of just about anything.

Powerful people like…power.
Just as much as they like control.

J. Edgar Hoover
Franklin Roosevelt
Joseph Kennedy and his three famous sons
Richard Nixon
Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton
Tip O’Neil
Huey Long
Barak Obama
George Soros
Bill Gates
Nancy Pelosi
Katharine Graham

the list of movers and shakers seems nearly endless…

And there are reasons as to why we are currently watching the rise of the Fab 4
Congressional leaders.
It is not coincidental.

Reasons you and I, the average citizen, need to understand.

And so reading, as I do each evening a few pages here and there,
I have certainly been given just enough information in order to produce more than
my fair share of nightmares.

If you are left scratching your head as to why we seem to be in such a mess these days in
this nation of ours, let me simply recommend this book…
It won’t take too many pages until you’ll begin to understand.

Informed citizens or clueless and mindless entities?
…those in the shadows prefer you remain clueless and most definitely mindless.

Sometimes we vote for a candidate not so much because we love them but because
we know they are the lesser of the evils…and becasue we know garlic
does nothing to help the evil intentions…

children

“Times are bad.
Children no longer obey their parents,
and everyone is writing a book.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

“We cannot always build the future for our youth,
but we can build our youth for the future.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt


(a youthful barn swallow, stuck in our garage / Julie Cook / 2017)

This is not a post about my own child…
nor is it a post about anyone else’s child in particular…
and yet, none the less, it is a post about children.

All children, no matter the species, spend their youthful days swinging upon
some sort of learning curve….
As in growing up…there is always some constant state of learning.

Life is indeed a constant lesson on what to do…
…but probably more importantly, perhaps the lessons are in what not to do.

As in don’t touch…HOT
Don’t step there…DEEP, WET, GROSS, DANGER
Don’t eat that…HOT, GROSS, BAD, POISON
Don’t get out of my sight
Don’t let go of my hand
Don’t forget to_______ (fill in the blank)

Anyone who has survived getting their children to a certain point in life…say,
maybe 30, can tell you that it was harrowing…

And frustratingly still, say at age 30, the coast is yet anything but clear.

Such is the lot of a parent.
A life lived in a constant state of worry, jubilation, pride, disgust, sorrow, anticipation…
the list is endless.

During the summer months I often have had problems with hummingbirds
flying into my carport / garage.
I don’t know why they do it….
there are no flowers, nothing bright and colorful, just an open
dirty white space where two vehicles live, when not on the road…
along with two trash trash cans and all the recycling.

When the birds appear, I usually grab an extension pole—
one of those things that telescopes upward allowing one to clean a ceiling fan etc.
I walk around the garage with pole extended,
complete with a soft brush on the end in order for the now tired hummingbird to light,
all in order for me to slowly lower the pole allowing the bird
to clear the raised garage door and fly to freedom.

Sometimes the birds are so tired that I can actually pick them up by hand from
atop the windowsill.

The birds tire because they buzz around the white ceiling…
unable to perceive that it is indeed a ceiling and not the sky.
Buzzing and bumping into a white ceiling that won’t let them out.
All the while, I’m craning my neck at a 45 degree angle, balancing a
pole blindly and wandering about dizzy while trying to get the birds to light on the pole.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon.
There I was yesterday afternoon, minding my own business in the kitchen
busy cooking supper, when my husband arrived home from work.
I go to the door to let him in when he tells me that I’ve got birds in the garage.

Huh??

Knowing that it was too early for the hummingbird madness,
I couldn’t imagine what in the world he was talking about…
that is until I saw them.

Two barn swallows were whirring about in circles along the top of the garage ceiling…
flying 90 to nothing!

If you don’t know, barn swallows are the acrobats of the sky.
They zoom and dart, precariously skimming the surface of ground or bush as they snap up every
and any sort of insect, never missing a beat of wing.

These two were no hummingbirds and they were not about to let me grab them nor were they
comprehending that they had to swoop downward in order to get out.

As I grabbed a broom, my husband said “let’s eat and they’ll get out on their own.

Well…
following supper there were still two fast as lightening birds swirling and
racing in circles around the top of my garage.
We backed out the cars.
We got brooms and rakes.
I even ran to find one of my crab nets.

All of a sudden, another swallow flies in the garage.
AAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

But this third bird actually flew in, did a couple of laps,
then dipped low while flying back out.

We went back inside to watch and wait as we had an inkling this third bird had a plan.

The third bird kept coming back in, looping around a time or two, then dipping low
each time near the backdoor, then swooping out.

Finally one of the misguided birds took notice and did the same.
This left just one hapless bird who seemed clueless as to where everyone went.

What we deduced to be the mother to these two slow learners, would return in and out until
she finally got the one lagging behind to eventually follow suit.

After about two hours, we were thankfully minus the three swallows but
we had a copious amount of bird poop all over the floor, walls, windows…

And yet I marveled at this most teachable moment within this small family.

Happy, as well as somewhat awed by what I had just witnessed,
my thoughts drifted to that of a loving Father who also tirelessly dips into our own lives…
trying over and over to demonstrate just how it should be done…
until we finally get it and follow suit….

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Psalm 32:8

the collision of patriotism and xenophobia

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith
becomes an American and assimilates himself to us,
he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else,
for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed,
or birthplace, or origin.
But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American,
and nothing but an American…
There can be no divided allegiance here.
Any man who says he is an American, but something else also,
isn’t an American at all.
We have room for but one flag, the American flag…
We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language…
and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

Theodore Roosevelt

article-2307859-193fc4e3000005dc-15_634x552
( part of the health screening for those passing through Ellis Island)

Immigration, the coming and going of peoples from one country to another…
freely…
as in, it’s ok because there is a working process of passage in place…

It is a process for those possessing the desire of becoming something other…
hopefully better, thankfully freer, happier, safer, more prosperous…
and in the end,
American.

It worked in ages past when it was done openly and legally,
as in going through the proper steps and stages.
Remember Ellis Island–

However today, that is no longer the case–as in it is now a harry carry mess…
often a covert process at best…
clandestine, and even sinister, at worst…

A process that has existed unchecked and unabashedly out of control for decades…
And maybe that’s because none of that had really mattered during those previous decades.
Maybe it was believed that the Nation could keep up and absorb the flow.
Provide for, house, educate, keep healthy and well, defend and protect and afford…
the flow….

Yet, in time, as the world shifted,
we began to not only witness, but rather experience that very shift.
No longer could the flow be absorbed…
Financial affordability and responsibility was maxed…
The original intent was no longer the same…
English was not wanting to be learned.
Assimilation became a bad word.
It was a flow wanting perks without dues…

New words crept into our vocabulary….
Undocumented
Alien
Drug lords
Border control
Terrorism
Islamic extremists
Al Qaeda,
Taliban
ISIS

Tunnels were dug…
As planes flew into buildings…
all with a grave purpose….
And we were learning that things had to change…
there had to be new safety steps put in place….

Yet no one cared to recognize the folly or the negligence in allowing things to continue…
They preferred to rally….
vehemently angry while trying to counter any means possible to corral
and bring some semblance of order to a broken process.

They march while holding signs.
They quit work to protest.
Yet they refuse to do those necessary things that should be done, must be done…
properly…
legally…
correct….
inorder to make it all work…

And so those who say such words as…
proper
broken
assimilate
learn
legal…

are taunted, jeered, cursed and ignored…

Time and resources are passing away…
making it all too late to make things right….

confusion
apathy
ignorance
greed
loss
now replace what once was…
loyalty,
patriotism,
and National honor…
rendering a once strong nation….neutered.

“A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.”
Ronald Reagan

what do we learn

Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.
Mahatma Gandhi

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended –
civilizations are built up –
excellent institutions devised;
but each time something goes wrong.
Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top
and it all slides back into misery and ruin.”

C.S. Lewis

“It is not often that nations learn from the past,
even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.”

Henry Kissinger

1afc8983c747df5e4bc1c9c3ee04451b
( WWI German soldiers, in gas masks, ready to throw a potato masher grenade at the French troops in the opposite trenches)

It is said that if left unchecked, the past is but doomed to repeat itself.

Learning from one’s mistakes is always the best teacher,
always providing the best sorts of lessons to be learned…that is,
as long as one actually learns.

It seems that human beings are simply hell bent on pushing that proverbial envelope.
Yet we are smart enough to push just far enough without plunging ourselves over the cliff into the great abyss of no return.

Our global relationships are fickle at best.
Allies, turned foes, turned allies, turned foes…
as the never ending merry go round runs around and around.
It just seems to be a part of our nature as trust and distrust dance a dangerous waltz.

Ever since that fateful day when brother killed brother,
the children of Adam have never been able to wash the blood of the innocents off of their hands.

Over this past weekend, we Americans marked Memorial Day.
A day set aside to honor our Military Personnel.
It was a day created following the Civil War, the bloodiest war fought on American soil—
the war that pitted brother against brother.

It was a day in which we told ourselves we would never forget the lives lost during the fighting and during the battles. A day set aside yearly to remind us of the sacrifices made as well as of those gallant ideals and principles that divided a Nation—
And we told ourselves that no matter the reasons nor the victors…it was to be a day we would pay tribute to the lives lost, on both sides…a day in which we would pay our respects…

As our time as a Nation has continued, we have continually found ourselves entangled in countless other clashes, conflicts and wars.
Each time as the dust settles and the bombs cease, this Nation is called upon to remember…

Yet with all our celebrations, our cookouts, our ballgames
and our quiet solemn observations over this past long weekend,
we probably failed to notice that there was another tribute taking place…

This “other” day of remembrance was held in Verdun, France.
A poignant ceremony was held to mark a long ago and now mostly forgotten battle.
A battle that is simply kept deep within the books of global conflicts.

It was known as The Battle of Verdun.

The tale of this battle is as black and monstrous as they come.
It was a battle that pitted modern day allies against one another, fighting until the very death.

The Battle of Verdun, fought throughout the entire year of 1916, is known as the longest battle waged. Deadly, frustrating, endless trench warfare.
It is a battle with some of the most staggering numbers of casutalites and fatalities for any single battle.
700,000 soldiers from both France and Germany were either killed, wounded or never found as the fighting wore on for eleven long months–
The battlefield covered not even 6 square miles of land.

As the fighting wore on, it no longer remained a strategically feasible fight but became a battle of nationalistic pride. Who could outlast the other…

During the course of fighting, 9 surrounding villages were destroyed as a nation’s landscape was forever altered. It is said that the villages died for France.
Historians note that the battle was eventually wrested from Germany,
giving France the bittersweet victory.

Two years later, in 1918, Germany was finally defeated, offically ending WWI…
Yet silently a stage was now set as a foreboding darkness sat ominously upon a not too distant horizon…as lessons would quickly be forgotten…

This past weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined France’s president, Francois Hollande, marking the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Verdun.
These once sworn enemies, on more than one occasion, came together on May 29, 2016 in solidarity, now as allies and friends, in order to remember what once was a very dark time in both their shared history.

Days such as Memorial Day, VE Day, VJ day, Decoration Day, Armistice Day, the 4th of July…specific days set aside yearly, or even those spontaneous moments, results of humanity’s gratitude…
serve to teach us…
they remind us of our past struggles and sacrifices as well as of our past differences…differences in ideologies and goals.
They teach us that the freedom to live and to do, a freedom we often take for granted, more often than not comes at a tremendous cost…a cost, that as a generation passes, is likely to be quickly forgotten.
These days serve to teach the surviving generations that working hard as well as together—that the deadly mistakes of the past do not always have to be repeated, as long as we are willing to learn….

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

Please click on the link in order to see more regarding the past weekend’s ceremony.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36407564

Taking one for the team in the company of loons and voodoo dolls

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
Vince Lombardi

Skylark, Have you seen a valley green with Spring Where my heart can go a-journeying, Over the shadows in the rain To a blossom covered lane? And in your lonely flight, Haven’t you heard the music in the night, Wonderful music, Faint as a will-o-the-wisp, Crazy as a loon, Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.
Johnny Mercer

Great Northern Diver/Common Loon
(a beautiful image of a loon found on the web and belonging to Ignacio Yufera photography)

Ok–
I’ve always said let me be the example. . .
Allow me to be the one others look to in order to learn from life’s mistakes.
I’m willing to take one for the team, hoping that others will see. . .
what not to do
how not to do
when not to do
While learning from my
miscues
misfires
misgivings
mishandlings
misinterpretations. . .

These past three weeks have been jam packed with shining examples.
Despite any luck of the Irish that may have befallen the planet this past week, I was sadly passed over.

Almost three weeks ago I found myself living the life of a voodoo doll.
A cute little stuffed stick like figure, arms stuck straight out, hair looking like a result of an errant finger poked in an electrical outlet, blank faced, quasi puppet who’d quickly became a pin cushion at the hand of the malevolent and loon alike.
I was placed,
forced,
stuck,
covered in a situation (or four or five)
in which I was knocked upside the head,
dealt a terrible hand,
hit broadside with a triple whammy,
bamboozled,
and dumped within the middle of one nasty sticky wicket.

In order to protect the innocent or actually my own behind, we won’t use names.
Nothing to identify anyone but my poor misguided self and of course good ol Dad.

And before we proceed and lest we forget, a loon is not just another name for a lovely red eyed lake bird possessing a haunting tune, but rather the name for a psycho, sociopath or crazy individual who I seem to attract like a magnet. . .

–First to the current moment at hand. . .
If a medicine reads PM and or Nighttime, do not think that suggests AM or Daytime.
That is unless you enjoy feeling rather “outer body” during the waking hours
want to / need to drive
operate heavy machinery or something as simple, say like, the washing machine or hair dryer
wish to be productive–such as shower, dress, cook, eat, clean. . .
need to stay awake, as in not sleeping. . .
enjoy feeling drunk,
or think it’s a good idea to drive home from the grocery store with eyes that won’t focus. . .
PM and Nighttime are for just that—nighttime—even though it just may be the only option
in the cabinet, simply wait for the sun to go down before taking.

–Never ask “what else can wrong”
For it will be at that very moment the sewer pipe bursts.

–Never assume when presented with two different scenarios,
with one being tolerable and the other being the onset of Armageddon,
that you will get lucky, escaping with the better scenario hiding behind Door number 1. . .
Armageddon has your name written all over it.

–Never think that the other people you will find yourself dealing with are like minded, sane, rational, nice, or friendly. . .
There is a 50 / 50 chance you’ll get like minded–we must remember that since you usually get Armageddon, that 50 /50 percentage thing will be more like 80 / 20 against you. . .enter the loons.

–Never think that if you leave Atlanta at 4PM on a Friday afternoon, for your average hour drive home, that you will arrive anytime before midnight–thus making you the loon.

–Never think that if you are standing in a room with a loon and about five other folks that the loon will ask what you would like for lunch. . .the said loon, who has you in its crosshairs, does not consider you present, only the five other folks.
Trust me, you will be the only one without a sandwich.

–Never assume that age is essential when expecting people and loons to act mature. A 55 year old loon can act like a 12 year old junior high age kid any day of the week.

–Always remember, evil does walk the planet and sometime enjoys stalking you.

–Voodoo dolls are real and they look very much like me you.

–There comes a time when you need to be your parent’s advocate. The torch mysteriously passes from them taking care of you and your needs to you taking care of them and their needs. Don’t forget to step up and speak up.

–Which brings us back to likeminded. . .never assume you’ll be working with those who possess a “team” mentality when meeting a crisis head-on especially with a loon nearby.

–Never assume that if you were once a childhood friend with a loon someone that they remember it having been a nice friendship, a good time, or even remember at all. . .

–Never assume or figure. . .you’ll always be wrong, especially when it comes to loons.

–Never trust your “confused” 87 father with a “touch of alzheimers” to tell you that he will pay his bills and keep his records organized and don’t even mention the taxes—the witness protection plan may be the only open option when dodging the IRS

–Never remarry if you have grown kids. . .trust me.

–Never give in when the loons first approach you wearing smiles offering some sort of “great idea.”
Keep that whole Armageddon thing in mind.

–Never assume savings will always cover long term care for the elderly.

–It’s okay to now ask your dad what he was thinking when he thought getting remarried at almost 70 was a good thing. Trust me, he will now wonder with you what he was thinking.

–It’s ok to change your dad’s doctor.

–It’s ok to ask your dad if his idea of shaving is that of his entire face or just sections. It’s also ok to ask if he’s shaved in the past week or finds a beard with one long hair here and one long hair there his idea of no shave November in March

— It’s ok if your 87 year old dad asks you over and over “ok the doctor told me to speak my mind right?” “Yes dad, find your voice”

–It’s not ok when your dad starts calling you from a cell phone you thought he’d lost years ago and never knew how it worked.

–It’s not always a good thing getting step siblings at age 40

–Siblings. . .step, half, whole, or otherwise are like that whole 50 / 50 thing. . .
with that whole Armageddon thing hiding in there somewhere.

–Remember loons of a feather flock together, often attracting like minded loons.

–If you get rundown and stressed you will get sick—and then you will take nighttime meds accidentally in the daytime and wonder how you’ll get home from the grocery store

–there are no frequent flyer miles for traversing Atlanta’s interstates

–And lastly remember, when Life and loons come calling with crises and haunting calls—
it’s best to hold on, pray hard and look for the humor in between the tears. . .

“Give me Liberty or Give me Death” or everyone has “stuff”

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

DSCN4599
(beautiful white azaleas in Julie’s yard / 2014)

Most individuals who we currently read about today in the annuals of our History, those brave men and woman who have gone long before us, paving the way for the life we all know and treasure today, have grown, no doubt, larger than life exponentially with the passing of time. Exploits and deeds take on lives of their own as the truth, history, fact and legend mix precariously through the ages.

We tend to think of such individuals as almost super human, void of the things we mere mortals suffer and deal with on a daily basis.

I think Steven Spielberg helped us humanize Abraham Lincoln in his most recent movie “Lincoln”. The movie portrayed a man acquainted with deep sorrow and affliction. We actually saw a man (albeit the actor) wrestle with grief and loss while dealing with the shared pain within the dynamics of his family, all the while as a Nation wrestled with tremendous growing pains.

The cynics among us can say that Mr. Spielberg may have taken liberties with the emotions of a man that we know only through grainy black and white photographs and the myriad of writings, letters, and documented statements regarding his actions and reactions. Yet it is the actual seeing and viewing of such actions and reactions, via the medium of stage and screen, that which we see with our very eyes, which makes the man, truly a man.

I say all of this as I read most recently a most interesting article regarding Patrick Henry. Our famous Revolutionary War hero whose immortal words “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” have cemented his fame and notoriety in the pages of the birth of this mighty Nation.

Not knowing a great deal of Mr. Henry’s personal life, I was intrigued by this short article regarding such. It seems that one evening, several years prior to the turbulent days of the Revolution, Mr. Henry was entertaining some guests. As everyone had gathered in the parlor for after dinner brandies and conversation, a commotion was heard coming from somewhere in or under the house. A scratching sound and the faint shrieks and screams of what must be a woman or perhaps bobcat. Appearing somewhat confused and baffled, Mr. Henry moved his guests to another room of the house where the remainder of the evening was quiet and without further distraction.

Was it a ghost the guests, and now reader, perhaps wonder?

Upon the departure of his guests, Mr. Henry returned to the parlor where he first heard the dubious sounds and proceeded to pull back a rug from the floor, revealing a small trap door. Mr. Henry pulls open the door, and with a candle in hand, proceeds down the steps to a dark labyrinth which ran underneath his home. He makes his way hesitantly through the dark and wending alley like maze. Suddenly the candle casts an eerie glow towards something huddled in a darkened corner. Cowering in this dark tomb crouches a figure, which at first glance appears to be that of an apparition or other worldly specter— but in actuality was that of a woman.

She is dirty with wild darting eyes. “There there my dear” the reader hears Mr. Henry utter, whispering across the span of hundreds of years.

The story now takes on a sad twist verses one of some other worldly shenanigans.
It seems that Mr. Henry was once married to a woman named Sarah– to whom he greatly loved as she in turn loved him. During the course of their marriage, she bore six children for the couple, but as the years passed, it was noted that her mental health became more an more erratic. Her actions became violent as she attempted to cause harm to not only the children and Mr. Henry but to herself as well.

Given that this was the mid 1700’s, in a young new land, facilities and care for the mentally ill were quite archaic if non existent. The notion was still widely believed that those who suffered mental illness were actually demonically possessed or were practicing witches. Treatment for such individuals was often more torturous then restorative with many patients dying in unspeakable conditions.

Historians continue with conflicting theories as to Mr. Henry’s intentions for locking Sarah in a damp and dark cellar. Some believe that, fearing for her safety as well as for the rest of the family’s, it was the only solution but to lock her away (shades of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights comes to mind). Others theorize that his reasons were a bit more sinister and selfish as he was embarrassed having a wife who was mad and wished that no one knew, or as few individuals as possible, of his wife’s “condition”.

Either reason mattered not upon her death, at which time Mr. Henry cleared both house and heart of any and all reminders of his wife, never speaking of her again.

It was not much longer until the Mr. Henry we all now know grew into his own with his famous Revolutionary battle cry.

This story is but one small reminder that we all have our burdens to bear in our lives. No one is exempt from the mishaps of life. Some of us may seem to be more blessed than others, living more charmed lives than others, but that is merely only on the surface. Chances are that even the most fortunate among us have had their share of trials, sorrows, tragedies, setbacks, struggles, miscues, and misadventures.

Even as those who saw the recent movie “Saving Mr. Banks” came to learn, that even the most magical among us, have had to bear hardship, often times at the hand of physical and emotional abuse.

The real story here is that greatness can and does rise up from adversity. We may either allow the circumstances of our lives to ruin and destroy us, or we can use them as a stepping stool, reaching upward and outward, working our way toward bigger and better places.

I have written often about the dysfunction and mental illness which plagued my own family as I was growing up, so I can speak first hand of its devastation and darkness, but I am here to also speak of the saving Grace and Hope that can be found waiting as well.

Do not allow life’s darkness to cover the radiant light that lies deep within your own heart. Do not succumb to the hardships and sorrow. It is all merely the furnace which is being used to forge, shape and mould the beauty in your own soul.

No one says that you must love these difficulties and burdens but they will tell you to learn from them and to use them for making not only yourself and your life better, but use them for making that of the World’s existence better as well. . .

Missed opportunity

“During their lifetimes, every man and woman will stumble across a great opportunity. Sadly, most of them will simply pick themselves up, dust themselves down and carry on as if nothing ever happened.”
― Winston Churchill

DSCN4581

DSCN4584

DSCN4585
(a very wet cardinal, seeking shelter from a spring downpour amongst the leaves of an ailing oak tree / Julie Cook / 2014)

Each day, as we wander about this thing we call life, we are offered a myriad of opportunities. Opportunities “to bless and to be blessed.”
Some may say it is an opportunity to be kind and to receive a kindness in return, while others may simply put it in a nutshell as “one good deed deserves another”. . .
How ever you choose to view the chances and opportunities offered to all of us on a daily basis, those chances to be nice, to be kind, to be giving. . .tragically are sometimes totally missed.

Missed opportunities.

I am ashamed to say, I totally missed one today.
In a big way.

Long story short, as I was cruising down the frozen food aisle, during my weekly grocery pilgrimage, while looking for frozen peaches for the blasted daily smoothie regime, a young woman pushing a shopping cart, with a cute little boy sitting in her buggy, comes up behind me. We’re the only two buggies on the aisle.
I hear a question being posed somewhere from behind me but it was such that I couldn’t tell if it was being directed to me or perhaps it was a phone conversation.

I turn slightly, looking over my left shoulder, acknowledging that someone is coming up right beside me. Sure enough, the young woman was talking to me.
“hey, can I ask you a question?”
I stop pushing my cart, smiling.
“I remember you, you’re a teacher at the high school. Do you have any money, maybe some change, some pennies?”

Whoa. . .What?
I’m knocked totally off guard—and I didn’t recognize this person telling me she recognized me.
Who asks for money on the frozen food aisle??

She had a lean cuisine sitting in her buggy. The little boy, who I assumed was her son, was cute and smartly dressed. Upon observation I could see that her teeth were not in the best of shape and she looked a bit ragged but was bubbly and quite personable. I was so taken aback that I stammered, telling her I just had a debit card.

She continued chatting. “You still teaching?”
“No” I replied, “I retired almost 2 years ago.”
“Retired?” she retorts incredulously, “you old enough?”
“Do you miss it?”
“I miss my kids but I don’t miss the hassles” I offer.
“Oh I miss it. I miss school a lot.”
This said as she scoots on down the aisle chatting and laughing.

I follow along behind her, working my way to a check out lane. Attempting to see in which direction she headed, as I now had had enough time to process what had just happened, I looked down in my bag for my change purse–wanting to offer her what I could find—but I couldn’t figure out where she went.

The checkout lanes aren’t that massive, but she wasn’t standing in one.
Hummmm.
I actually knew the lady in front of me at the check out lane who was in the process of putting her groceries on the checkout counter. Telling her quickly what had just happened, she helps me to scan the area as well, but couldn’t spot the young lady.

Missed opportunity.

I’m not a super quick thinker. Nor terribly fast on my feet when it comes to “confrontations”–always coming up with the perfect response after having had time to think about it all. . .
I actually had a little cash in my wallet, but was wanting to use it for the next stop of the day at the dry cleaners.

I felt terrible. I should have given her the cash. Why did I have to think about it first? Why couldn’t my response of giving have been immediate, one without thought or reservation? Why didn’t I offer to buy the lean cuisine?

No, I had to rummage in my brain as to why she’d be asking for change or pennies for a lean cuisine.
I had to ponder the potential for scams as the nightly news pounds that into our brains.
I had to be reserved, pulling inward, rather than letting go of self and flowing outward.

I dropped the proverbial ball.

What had I learned form Lent, from Easter and from all that I hold to profess as my faith–
Sadly, obviously, very little.

What I do know, is that we are to give, unabashedly.
We are to offer all we have.
The Pharisees gave greatly because they had greatly to give. . .but the poor widow had but pennies and gave all that she had. . .she didn’t think about it. . .she didn’t ponder whether she’d have enough for the dry cleaners, she didn’t worry about being scammed, she didn’t have to know the person. She didn’t have to have proof that the money was going to what was professed.
She simply gave.
No thoughts.
No waffling.
No holding back.

Missed opportunity.

Now I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind.
I whole heartily recommend that one should take in the surroundings and circumstance before digging into wallets and pockets, all before handing over any money to strangers.
I certainly suggest using some common sense.
But I am hoping that for the next opportunity presented my way, that I may step up to the plate a bit more readily, without wrangling in my head and weighing the pros and cons, the shoulds and the shouldn’ts—being more giving than reserved.

Here’s to learning from a missed opportunity.