freedom…hummmm…

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin


(image courtesy a business site)

If the truth be told, I’ve had one particular thought crossing my mind over and over
throughout this most surreal time in our lives.
That thought is simply one of freedom.

I’ve even addressed it here in blogland, when the time has allowed, during this past nearly
three months of living life in the Twilight Zone.

There has been a roller coaster of emotions for all of us…
emotions of sorrow, fear, confusion—-

And there has been a stone wall of both frustration and anger.

I have noted before that I live in a “free” state.

A classification that I find extremely bizarre.
When would an American find themselves differentiating between a free
and non-free state other than say, during the Civil War?!

But for our 21st-century way of thinking,
a free state is a state that is lifting its pandemic bans.
Non-free states remain closed.
As in non-functioning.

I have recently enjoyed the opportunity of actually going out to eat.

Actually sitting down at one of my favorite restaurants and actually enjoying a dining experience
albeit with masked servers and socially distanced table set-ups.

People in our state can go get a haircut—something I’ve yet to do as the process
is a tad tedious and makes for very limited appointments so I’ll stick to my
ballcap for now.

The liquor store is still curbside.
Which I kind of enjoy but miss looking at the pretty bottles.

Our farmer’s markets are open.

I’m going to get my car serviced tomorrow—at a dealership 45 minutes away, in another town…
meaning I am free to travel about without restriction.

In Italy, they had to have official paperwork allowing them to venture
out of their homes in order to go to the grocery store or Pharmacia.

Whereas our parks are beginning to reopen, our lakes and marinas have never closed.

And we should note that our grocery store chains, Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes
and Home Depot have never closed–
nor did they even ration the number of patrons entering the stores–masks or no masks.

And for the record, I do not wear a mask.

If I am told I had to do so if it meant visiting a certain business, I would oblige–
but if not mandated, I don’t.
I am not sick.
I have not been exposed.
Plus I try not to let fear dictate my life.

Good hygiene practices and common sense rather than fear seem to both win out for me.
But I digress…

One thing I have found perplexing is the tit for tat that governors in
“non-free” states are having with their fellow governors in free states–
along with that of their /our President.
They are trying to remain locked down come hell or high water—
and if they aren’t careful…it just might be both.

People are not being allowed to work.
They are being furloughed, let go, or permanently closed down.
And small businesses, the backbone of this nation, are not being allowed to operate.

As this all makes good economic sense to whom???

Another odd happening throughout the country during all of this mess
is that one has been free to go get an abortion if one so chooses as abortion clinics
had been categorized as “essential” yet church doors remain sealed.

So that means that one’s spiritual wellness is not essential but murder and death are…
go figure.

See Citizen Tom’s posting on the Prince William-Manassas Family Alliance in Virginia for
more of the story of the idiocy reigning supreme in the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding the
rights of the unborn–or maybe that should read…no rights for the unborn.

THE ABORTION MASQUERADE

And if I hear another pastor or priest dictate that they are keeping the doors
shut to their particular houses of worship because they are following
“science” —–well, just knock me in the head!

Men and women of the cloth are to follow the Word of God—
and I’m pretty certain God’s doors are open as He will certainly approve of the various
and the necessary health precautions for his precariously fragile creations.

Wear masks if you must, wear gloves if you must, receive communion, the Host, in open hands and use a
throw away cup for the wine verses a chalice—
Sit in pews 6 feet apart or on every other pew…don’t sing if you think it too
precarious and contagious (as in healthwise and not song-wise) but for Heaven’s sake
and for our sake, let the people pray and worship in God’s house!!!!

Did we close the churches and synagogues during the Great Depression or WWII???
Or what of the summers when polio was plaguing our children?
Or when TB was running rampant?

When people most needed comfort and hope, the various houses of worship opened
wide their doors.
They may have donated church goods to be melted for the war effort, they may have
had fewer attending due to polio or TB concerns, but the doors were open none the less,
allowing the spiritually hungry to come inside and find sustenance.

And so I caught another great post over on the Smoke of Satan and the Open Windows of Vatican II
musing over our plight in the Twilight Zone

“How did a temporary plan to preserve hospital capacity turn into two-to-three months
of near-universal house arrest that ended up causing worker furloughs at 256 hospitals,
a stoppage of international travel, a 40% job loss among people earning less than $40K per year,
devastation of every economic sector, mass confusion and demoralization,
a complete ignoring of all fundamental rights and liberties,
not to mention the mass confiscation of private property with forced closures of millions of businesses?

Whatever the answer, it’s got to be a bizarre tale…”

https://smokeofsatan.wordpress.com/2020/05/25/the-2006-origins-of-the-lockdown-idea/

And now, we come back full circle to the notion of Freedom.

A notion, along with the fact that I am writing this post on Memorial Day,
is a most poignant thought.

It is the day we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our very freedoms.

But the question remains…what of those freedoms?

Who now dictates those freedoms?

I will close today’s rambling with a look at the opening quote by Benjamin Franklin…

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

What are you willing to give up for a bit of temporary safety?
Everything?
I hope not.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers.
Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But if you bite and devour one another,
watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:1 and 5:13-15

not exactly the Mother’s day you may have wanted…

“Be a Mother who is committed to loving her children into standing on higher ground
than the environment surrounding them.
Mothers are endowed with a love that is unlike any other love on the face of the earth.”

Marjorie Hinckley


(the styling and profiling Mayor / Julie Cook / 2020)


(The ever smiling Sheriff / Julie Cook / 2020)

What does a Pandemic Mother’s day look like?

Well, I’m not certain.

I wasn’t certain what a Pandemic St. Partick’s day would look like.
Nor what a locked-down Pandemic Easter would look like.

I didn’t know what a 1st birthday would look like as we hunkered down inside…
Nor did I know what a festive Cinco de Mayo would be from home.

What I do know, however, is that we celebrated together none the less.
We lived through and did the best we could with what we had
and with what we could do…making the most of the simple and reserved.

And now I suppose this Mother’s Day will be much the same.

We will miss those who are not with us to celebrate just as we will mourn those who
have gone on ahead of us.
We will grieve for those who now grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice.

It has not been easy on you living here these past two and half months…
away from your own home, your comfort and familiarity, as well as that of
your own complete little family.

Yet we’ve each done the best we could do.

And so, on this Pandemic Mother’s Day,
I want to thank you for allowing me to share your children.

I want to thank you for allowing me to share in the day to day caregiving
and responsibility.
You have been gracious in allowing me to be that now missing and yet extra parent.

There are only three people in my life who I am related to by blood—
and you and I share those three people.

One of those three I have shared with you while you in turn have shared two with me…

And so I thank you for that.

Long ago, one of my own mother’s favorite folks was Erma Bombeck.

She was that folksy, common sense female author and journalist so endeared by
“the commmon woman.”
She was a woman who didn’t need hashtag movements, protests, marches or amendments to know that,
as a woman, she could and would make a difference in the lives of others…all the while, doing
so with a deeply rich and delicious humor.

She was self-deprecating in the best sense of the word.
She knew how to laugh at herself as she invited others to laugh as well.

At that particular time in our culture, Erma Bombeck was the sole spokeswoman
for the most underappreciated being on the planet…that being the mom…
and in particular, the stay at home mom.

My mom was a stay at home mom.

An often lonely and mostly underappreciated role.

She was a woman who did not have extra money like those of her working friends.
She was a woman who didn’t have fancy clothes or a nice car, or a super nice house.
She was a simple woman who probably would have enjoyed being complicated.
A woman who knew how to make $50 dollars a month feed a family of four
while sewing clothes for school.

A woman who knew what it meant to hurt and suffer as one of her children
battled mental illness.
A woman who bore cancer, and its eventual loss of life, without nary a complaint.

And so I share with you a tale by Erma Bombeck—a piece
about when God created mothers—-something my mom certainly understood
and something I think you may already understand.

Happy Mother’s Day to my daughter-in-law…

“When God Created Mothers”

When the Good Lord was creating mothers,
He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said.
“You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order?”
She has to be completely washable, but not plastic.
Have 180 moveable parts…all replaceable.
Run on black coffee and leftovers.
Have a lap that disappears when she stands up.
A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair.
And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said.
“Six pairs of hands….no way.”

It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked,
“it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks,
‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows.
Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know,
and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say,
‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently,
“Get some rest tomorrow….”

I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself.
Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick…
can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger…
and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

But tough!” said God excitedly.
“You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

Can it think?”

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There’s a leak,” she pronounced.
“I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”

It’s not a leak,” said the Lord,
“It’s a tear.”

What’s it for?”

It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

You are a genius, ” said the angel.

Somberly, God said,
“I didn’t put it there.”

― Erma Bombeck, When God Created Mothers

One man’s torment is another man’s gift

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much,
and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

Vincent Van Gogh


(a box of absente or absinthe / Julie Cook / 2020)

Let’s talk about art and food and drinks…
let’s talk about torment and gifts…

And so I must share a small revelation.

One that I have discovered during this time of lockdown****.

(**** a lockdown being a state of never-ending sheltering in place—
A state of being, of which, we have all been living now for nearly two solid months…
a state that started back on St. Patrick’s Day…but I digress)

I have learned that throughout this virus imposed social exile…
well, probably there are multiple things that I have learned but for today,
we shall leave it at one thing…
I have learned that we each possess a seemingly innate desire for some sort of
creative outlet!

The desire to find creativity within the mundane has oddly become a most
dire consequence of being ‘confined”.

The choice is either we go bonkers from madness—
or instead, we release the pent up weariness and channel it into something grand.

Yet perhaps that is simply my delirium talking.

Cooking, cleaning and caring for family who are now all living together
under one roof, while some are working from home, leaves one drained
both physically and mentally.
Throw in a 1 and a 2-year-old who are in constant motion, plus who are in constant need,
from sunrise to sunset…thus, the desire for some sort of diversion, any diversion,
becomes critical…critical for all who reside under the same said roof.

For if one blows, they all blow!

Enter the colorful picture of the box shown above.

The portrait should be familiar.
It is a picture of Vincent van Gogh but not exactly a portrait we are familiar seeing.
It is on the packaging for a bottle of absinthe.
A bottle I recently purchased.

Now before you say anything, let me explain.

During this lockdown, I have been cooking three big meals a day.

Those who know me, know that I have always loved to cook.
It was oddly this art teacher’s outlet into the creative.
I was always happier cooking than I was painting.
Go figure.

It was a joy, as well as a foray, into the world of taste, texture, and visual imagination.

But now let’s throw in a pandemic…
of which means cooking has suddenly become both a necessity and a chore.

Gone are the days of excitement and the desire of what might be—gone is the frill and flair…
as that is now replaced by the need for speed, fulfillment, and satiation.

Only to wash the dishes and get ready to do it again.

Enter the l’heure de l’apéritif or the aperitif hour…
aka— the happy hour.

There is an American ex-pat who lives in Paris—he is a cook, author,
as well as food/travel blogger.
His name is David Lebovitz and just before the pandemic hit, he had just released
his latest recipe book for classic Belle Époque French cocktails.

Drinks that harken back to a time of sophistication and elegance

So guess what…
L’heure de l’apéritif has become my new creative outlet.
The moment of the day, other than the bed, that I look most forward to.

For each afternoon, I am offering the adults in this lockdown of mine,
a sample of days gone by…as I concoct libations found in David’s book.

Libations that have me pulling out and dusting off my grandmother’s finest crystal glasses.
Coupes, flutes, sherries, and highballs.

Libations that have sent me to the curbside liquor store in search of liquors and liqueurs
some of which, I can hardly pronounce.

Enter Absinthe.

According to Wikipedia:
Absinthe (/ˈæbsɪnθ, -sæ̃θ/, French: [apsɛ̃t] is historically described as a distilled,
highly alcoholic beverage (45–74% ABV / 90–148 U.S. proof).
It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers
and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise,
sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color but may also be colorless.
It is commonly referred to in historical literature as la fée verte (“the green fairy”).
It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur,
but it is not traditionally bottled with added sugar and is,
therefore, classified as a spirit.[6] Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a
high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water before being consumed.

Absinthe originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century.
It rose to great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th-
and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers.
The consumption of absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists,
partly due to its association with bohemian culture.
From Europe and the Americas, notable absinthe drinkers included Ernest Hemingway,
James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust,
Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, and Alfred Jarry.

Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug
and hallucinogen.
The chemical compound thujone, which is present in the spirit in trace amounts,
was blamed for its alleged harmful effects.
By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe,
including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria–Hungary,
yet it has not been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
Recent studies have shown that absinthe’s psychoactive properties
have been exaggerated, apart from that of the alcohol.

A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s,
following the adoption of modern European Union food and beverage laws that removed
long-standing barriers to its production and sale. By the early 21st century,
nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries,
most notably in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Spain,
and the Czech Republic.

In fact, the 1875 painting below, by Edgar Degas, of a lonely stupified woman is rather reflective
of the effects of what imbibing too much in absinthe could lead to.


(L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas 1875 / Musée d’Orsay)

And thus I have always been leary of absinthe.
It was cloaked in intrigue as well as the forbidden.

That is until I needed a bottle of it for one of my new recipes.

So off I trotted…driving myself to the local curbside liquor store where
I handed the masked and gloved young man, on the curb, my list of needs–
I asked for a mid-range priced bottle of absinthe…
and he returned with the same box you see above in the picture.
Complete with an absinthe spoon.
Ooooo.

I felt a slight thrill and rush as I placed a single toe into the world of the forbidden
as I marched my new bottle into the house.

And so this is the spot where the gist of my post comes into play…
that of both torment and gift.

As an art /art history teacher, I have always had a soft tender spot in my heart for
Vincent van Gogh…the ever tormented, isolated Dutch Impressionism painter…

Vincent never sold a single painting during his short lifetime—except to his loving
brother Theo.

It is true he cut off his ear.

It is true he loved a prostitute.

It is true he originally wanted to enter the priesthood.

It is true that he was sickly much of his life and in turn, ate very poorly.

It is true he lived with and fought physically and vehemently with his friend and fellow
artist Paul Gauguin.

It is true he was mentally troubled…most likely what we today might call bi-polar
or even schizophrenic.
And thus, he spent time in and out of mental hospitals.

It is true he was broke and financially destitute throughout his life.
His brother Theo provided financial assistance throughout most of Van Gogh’s life.

It is also true that he drank—and drank heavily.
Depression has a way of leading the depressed to that which might dull the unending ache.
And for van Gogh, much of the drinking was of absinthe.

Was it the wormwood?
Was it the hallucinations that lead to his vision of beauty, of colors, of texture?

At the age of 37, Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in a cornfield.

It is debated as to what exactly lead to van Gogh’s mental instability.

Was it genetics?

Or was it the effects of a poor diet, artistic frustration, romantic rejection, or
was it just the alcohol?
Or perhaps…it was merely a combination of it all.

There is no doubt that Van Gogh was both troubled and tormented—this much we know.
But we must also know that it was in his death that we, the world, was actually given the
true gift of his talents..that being his art.

His brother Theo made certain, after van Gogh’s death, that the world would
finally, see his brother’s art.

In 1990, one of Van Gogh’s paintings, the portrait of Dr.Paul Gachet,
was sold at auction for $75 million dollars— making it, at the time,
the most expensive painting to have ever been sold.

A tormented soul who would be loved by a different time and a different generation of people—
He would finally be embraced by a world that would fall in love with him and his art.
Yet it is a relationship sadly too late for Van Gogh to have ever known and enjoyed.

And thus, in this vein of thought, I was struck by the notion of both torment and gifts.

A ying and yang of life.
A conundrum.
An anomaly.

My thoughts turned to a different man.
A different time.

A man who was not haunted by personal demons but rather a man who came to quell the demons.
To quell the demons in man.

A man who was loved by some yet hated by others.
A man who is still deeply loved as well as deeply hated.

A man whose gifts healed the souls of those he touched.
A man who was willingly tormented and was, in turn, killed by his tormentors…
killed in order to give others the gift of life.

So yes—it seems that there can be beauty found in torment.
As therein can lie the gift of life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

running on empty

Running on (running on empty)
Running on (running blind)
Running on (running into the sun)
But I’m running behind

Lyrics / Jackson Browne

Well I’m a-runnin’ down the road try’n to loosen my load
Jackson Browne /The Eagles


(vector stock)

Everyone who is tired, raise your hand.

Everyone who is stressed, raise your hand.

Everyone who feels as if they are running on empty, raise your hand.

Okay now…put down all your hands.

You are not alone…

Obviously, we know this from all the raised hands…

There is comfort in not being alone.

Unfortunately, however, there are many of us right now who are
alone because of the “lockdown” while there are many of us
locked down with a passel load of family.

So…we agree that many of us are physically tired or emotionally tired, or simply both.

Well, I had to venture back out yesterday into the world of contagion to gather food.

Remember, my hunter /gathering senses have kicked into overdrive during this madness…
yet I still can’t seem to snag any of that elusive toilet paper…but I digress.

So as I made my way through the grocery store as quickly as possible,
holding my breath when passing anyone closer than 6 feet,
the fellow stocking the cheeses was loudly lamenting to a co-worker,
who by the way was standing right next to him and not the required 6 feet,
that he was sick and tired…
His voice was rising as he hit the word tired.
He loudly announced that he oh so needed a vacation but…. there was now nowhere to go.

So naturally, I chimed-in in agreement.
We are indeed all tired.
And we all desperately need a vacation…
and no, there is nowhere to go!
So there you go.

I could hear him still bemoaning as I rounded down the flour and sugar aisle.
All of which are still sparse.

The thought of him flipping out while stocking cheese did cross my mind.
As I probably would have joined in by grabbing more than the allotted two packs
while making a mad dash to the exit.
The police would have probably persued the crazy woman with more than her two packs
of cheese.

Life is now oh so odd is it not?
And it seems to just keep getting odder by the hour.

There were more masks worn on emotionless faces at the store,
yet I noted that none of the employees wore masks or gloves…
I don’t have a mask—

However my cousin did send me the funniest video of a woman making her own mask from a pair of
her husband’s briefs…I tried it…

My husband didn’t seem to like it.
(rest assured, I had just taken them from the dryer)

I did think it probably was better material for a mask vs the homemade cotton masks.
But for now, I’ll forego my homemade mask.

So yes, I worry.
I’m a mother…we worry.

I worry about us, our American family, throughout this nuttiness.
We were bad off enough before this pandemic what with all our PC mania,
our progressive left thinking, our socialism wannabees..

And so I took heart while reading the following by Newt Gingrich–
the sound of wisdom found during the storm:

Beyond the Crisis: We Will Endure and Prevail

According to the pandemic experts, we are in the heart of the crisis.

The next few weeks will see a substantial increase in American deaths even as the virus
begins to be isolated and lose momentum.

For many families, there will be anguish and a deep sense of loss.

For communities, there will be a sense of grief as the virus takes its human toll.

Americans have suffered grievous loss before.
The surgeon general cited Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
He could have added the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg,
the cost of the Normandy campaign,
and the Army and Marine losses to the Chinese Communist offensive in Korea
in the winter of 1950 to 1951.
Americans have suffered losses going all the way back to
Gen. George Washington’s long, painful winter at Valley Forge during the American Revolution.

And after each cycle of loss, there has been a rebirth of the American spirit,
determination to build a better future,
and deep belief that we Americans cannot be defeated or conquered.
Instead, we have a compulsion to work toward a bigger, better,
more fulfilling life for our children and grandchildren.

The great novelist William Faulkner captured this spirit in his 1950
Nobel Prize acceptance speech when he said:

“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is
immortal simply because he will still endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom
has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red
and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound:
that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

“I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure:
he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures
has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable
of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.
The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.
It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart,
by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion
and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.
The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man,
it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

We must once again call upon this American tradition of overcoming challenges.

A few weeks ago, we had the strongest economy in American history.
A few months from now we can have an even stronger economy.
As the entire world gears up after the pandemic,
there will be a real hunger for American medical breakthroughs,
American health technology, and all the capabilities of the
American system to respond to market opportunities.

Americans should be encouraged right now to start thinking about the next four or five years.
What do you want to be doing? What do you want to achieve with your life?
What have you learned from this experience that can lead to a more productive and fruitful life?

We need to remember the Declaration of Independence’s promise that we are endowed
by our Creator with certain inalienable rights including life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This still applies to every one of us.

So, as you spend these last few weeks of sheltering in place,
take stock of what pursuing happiness means to you and the people you love.
Start making plans for how you and yours are going to pursue happiness the minute we defeat the virus.

Remember President Ronald Reagan’s favorite line,
“you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

That is the optimistic, buoyant,
happy way we should approach the world after we have defeated the virus
(and we will defeat it decisively).

We will get beyond the crisis, and we will be bigger and better than ever.

Beyond the Crisis: We Will Endure and Prevail