Ever vigilant

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Thomas Jefferson

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(A statue of an Irish wolfhound stands guard at Ashford Castle / Counties Mayo – Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

We are currently caught in a maelstrom…
a
black
swirling
churning
drastically
changing
moment
in
time …

A time of grave darkness.

It was in 2001 when we first heard the words…“we are winning the war on terrorism….”
words Spoken by George W Bush.
He had first publicly used the term “war on Terror” following the attacks of September 11th.
However we can actually look back to the Reagan administration when the phrase was first used by then President Reagan as he implored Congress to pass legislation to freeze the funds of various terrorist agencies.

Terrorist regimes are not new.

Yet our current President tells us that we are winning, making gains, making great strides, curbing and shutting down this insidious menace….
In May he even boasted that the war on terror was over…Hummm
“The “Global War on Terror” is over, President Barack Obama announced Thursday”
(US New and World Report May 23, 2015)
He again touted that we were winning the war on November 13th, just hours before the deadly attacks in Paris.
He must know something the rest of us don’t. He must see something that the rest of us aren’t seeing.

Somehow I think that San Bernardino and Paris and Brussels and Tel Aviv and Egypt and Russia and Tunisia and London and Yemen and Saudi Arabia and Algeria and Denmark and Canada and Bangladesh and Australia and New York and Texas and Afghanistan and Lebanon and Libya and Turkey and…..
All of which would beg to differ…for each and every one of these cities and or nations has had to clean up the spilt blood of their citizens and guests…of which has been shed at the hands of terrorists— either ISIS, aka Daesh, the Radical Muslim terrorist organization, or their duly inspired henchmen.

It doesn’t seem to get any clearer than that…

As it certainly appears that this war on terrorism is pretty much a global issue…

And it is with great frustration that we continue hearing, listening to and seeing the lamentations and the finger pointing…
The accusatory rhetoric from individuals, various nations, the news media, various heads of states and governments, religious leaders…
the “I told you so”
the “this is all your fault” business…
the “this is what you get for _________” (allowing you to fill in the blank)

The “all of this is all the fault of western civilizations….”
(Then why are so many attacks also happening in the Middle East?)

“all this is the fault of Christianity…” dating all the way back to the first crusade…

“All of this is the fault of the Jews dating back to…to…to…Abraham…”

And maybe that is where much of all of this may have actually come about with that whole Isaac and Ishmael business but that tale of woe is for another day…

Since the terrorist attacks on American soil on September 11, 2001, the governmental powers that be will have issued 3 different, or amended, terror alert systems with the latest one to roll off the shelves within the very near future.

I don’t know how many more steps one can add in between BAD and REALLY BAD.

Today’s young people, age 25 and younger, have been living under this raging war on Terror for the majority of their lives—14 long years
And with each passing year, the sitting president continues telling us we are winning the war.

We are NOT winning the war.

If you think anything differently, you are merely deceiving yourself.
The war is simply morphing, evolving, changing.

However it should come as no surprise to any Christians among us that this menacing business of evil has long been with us…dating back to that whole Adam, Eve and serpent debacle.
For it was in that very moment of disobedience that mankind went to war.
Man went to war with himself, against himself, against his descendants, against his world, against His God…
And Evil has freely walked the face of this earth ever since that fateful day when the gate was slammed shut in Eden.

Yet as Christians, we know that this war may indeed continue being fought as it is raging without a seeming end in sight… it may be bloody, it may be cruel, it may be catastrophic…. but one thing is certain…
there will be no victory for the prince of Darkness.

And whereas there are those who will say that such talk is delusional, it is equally delusional to deny that there is Good and Evil and that we are all in the midst of a battle between Light and Darkness.

Our government calls for vigilance.
This vigilance was initially more pertinent for those who were traveling—be it at home as well as abroad.
Yet now that vigilance blankets our journeys much closer to home…journeys now to the mall, to work, to sporting events, to plays, to the theater….

Vigilance.

As Christians, we are making ready our preparations during this Advent season as we are filled with expectant and ever vigilant hearts…
For we are making ready for the arrival of the One True Light…the birth of all Salvation, of all Hope and of the greatest Victory yet to come…
even so, Come Lore Jesus…..

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”

what might a modern day plague look like?

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

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(a ravenous locust passes through the yard / Julie Cook / 2015)

I really don’t know where to begin. . .
I suppose I’ll start with the latter of the two trains of thought, work my way backwards (a little educational approach. . .backwards design) and hope the two will merge into one nice thought. . .

My son was showing me a video clip yesterday by some quasi news/ entertainment group that seems to take current event images out to the average joe on the street in search of reactions. They show random folks some random recent “viralesque” image, ask a question about the image and then record the responses and reactions. My son is 26 and he starts this little show and tell moment with “so this is how dumb folks are these days. . .” and he proceeds to show me a clip. . .the clip is filled with folks his age and a tad younger. . .hummmmm

It seems that with the new Jurassic Park movie having been recently released, Steven Spielberg, feeling a bit nostalgic, posed in front of a triceratops that was used in one of the movies in the series. The automaton dino was apparently dead and laying on its side with a smiling Spielberg sitting down in front of the creature. . .the not REAL creature.
A harmless enough image of some Spielberg nostalgia. . .

This little quasi news group was on the streets of London with microphone and camera in hand showing the picture of Spielberg and his dino and asked random folks, all of which who were young—late teens through mid 20’s, what they thought of the picture. . .

First of all may I just say that I was appalled by the blatant cursing–if someone with a camera and microphone asks me to answer a question for them while they are filming, I don’t think I’m going to pop out with the “F”word or the other lovely litany of expletives these kids spouted. . .

The other troubling thing was, and this was the point of the posting of the video, that none of those kids asked seemed to know A. that that person in the picture was Steven Spielberg and B. that that was a dinosaur, not to mention a nonexistent dinosaur.

It seems they thought how terrible it was that “this man” was posing in front of “his kill” with a sleazy smile. They were all appalled and thought how awful it was that he had shot and killed a rhino or hippo, as was the common assumption, and that he actually seemed happy about it.
Please note that my eyes are rolling around my head. . .

So now I am not only greatly troubled by the lack of decorum, manners and respect demonstrated by young folks on the street, but I am equally troubled that our young folks don’t seem to know the difference between a dead, non existent, triceratops and a rhinoceros or hippopotamus. . .

The other train of thought is even more troubling and has to do with a recent real life news story.

It seems we had a political debate in this country over this past weekend that seems to be all the rage in the world of news and politics.
Now I am not a fan of either politics or politicians—I don’t watch these so called rating topping debates as I could frankly care less. Comments, questions and responses boil down to the adult version of the he said, she said fussing of children.
Petty, bickering, hateful, assumptive. . .
These “professional” adults begin to sound like the teacher on the old Charlie Brown cartoon’s. . .
“waah waah, waah. . .”

This world of ours has some very real problems and some very real troubles yet we’ve got our potential top leader wannabes and our major news agencies babbling on and on about the idiotic comments offered by a bombastic business mogul / reality show personality and that of his loud-mouthed flippant comments during one of these dog and pony shows debates.

Frankly I want to know who really cares??!!

Who cares what a man dubbed “the Donald,” as if he were some sort of ancient royal, has to say about TV personalities or news commentators when we have the sort of troubles raging, in not only our country, but around our fragile world. . .What does this say about our priorities. . . or perhaps more correctly, what does this all say about how out of touch our major news agencies and entertainment shows seem to really be. . .or how really stupid they think the average American must be. . .
My observation. . .no one is on the same page!

The real issues and worries, such as our country’s latest implosion over race, the overt and rampant escalation of violence when people simply feel wronged, the continued killing, kidnapping, raping, torturing of individuals across this globe by militant Muslim extremists. . .all of which seem to me to be taking a backseat to the latest media obsession of men becoming woman, presidential wannabes, debates over flags being the catalyst for hate. . .

All of this as people continue demonstrating, looting, rioting, as if that’s going to help solve the real issue at hand, that people seem to think that it’s okay to kill for a killing’s sake . . . that Christians in the Middle East continue being systematically eliminated one by one, African girls continue being “taken,” Greek bailouts make the global economy nervous, Turkey erupts in violence and what of Ukraine. . .

I don’t know. . .I think those types of issues might be what those presidential contenders ought to be discussing and thinking about rather than the he said, she said stuff of children. . .

I tend to feel a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to reading the News. . .I scour a variety of sites, shifting though the printed stories, hoping to sort out the real stories minus the slants.
The following story concerning the latest attack on Christians in Syria caught my eye.
I can’t help but agree with the author’s concern about what our political leaders seem to be thinking when it comes to the blind eye to the global attack on Christianity.

Is anyone who has any sort of authority ever going to look at any of these latest crises with any sort of real concern. . .cause I really don’t think God needs to send any new plagues to get our attention, I think we’re plague enough . . .but then again when our younger generations can’t tell the difference between a dinosaur and a rhino maybe none of this really matters. . .

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/08/07/more-christians-kidnapped-in-syria.html?intcmp=hpff

Lemony stars

For my part I know nothing with any certainty,
but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Vincent Van Gogh

If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years–
how man would marvel and stare.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(bright yellow from the yard / Julie Cook / 2015

Twinkle twinkle little star
tell me, tell me what you are

Fiery ball up in the sky
or tiny flower oh so spry. . .

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny sparks;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
‘Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

Twinkle Twinkle little star, the beloved children’s nursery rhyme, was an English poem first published in London in 1806. It was written by Jane Taylor, who along with her sister Ann, first published the rhyme in a periodical entitled Rhymes for the Nursery.
It wan’t until 1838 that the familiar tune was added which is actually based on the French melody Ah! vows dirai-je, maman, which was published in 1761. Several composers, including Mozart, had a hand at arranging the cheery melody.

A man and his paints

“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely”
Sir Winston Churchill

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(photograph of Winston Churchill at his easel taken from the Daily Telegraph Sunday insert 1965 / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is it that defines a man?
What is it that defines greatness?
What sets some men apart from others?
Does eccentricity and genius run merrily along hand in hand?

January 30, 1965, exactly fifty years ago, there was a funeral held to mark the passing of a life from this world to the next. I was a mere 6 years old. There was not the streaming online constant and instant 24 / 7 news coverage in 1965, beaming and streaming live action of the funeral around the globe, but that is not to say that the world did not briefly stop that somber January day, so very long ago, in order to take notice of the silent passing of greatness from one dimension to the next.

It is a rare event in the United Kingdom to afford anyone other than a crowned monarch or consort a state funeral. Rarer still is the assembling of much of the world’s leaders, statesmen, monarchs and dignitaries for the funeral of a mere prime minister. Yet after having lain in state for three days in Westminster Hall, affording the general public a chance to offer a personal farewell, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was honored by both prince and pauper at one of the most memorable state funerals, other than that of Queen Victoria and King George, which the 20th century had ever seen. Within Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 architectural marvel, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the world bid a splendid farewell to one of the most renowned figures of the 20th century.

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(even the often cold and arrogant honored this giant of a man as witnessed by a final salute offered by General Charles De Gaulle )

However, behind the façade of soldier, commander-in-chief, statesman, historian, author, MP, Prime Minister, husband and father, resided a man whose peace and solace was found quietly behind a canvas.

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These photographs are pulled from several of the English periodicals dating from 1949-65 which are a part of my beloved Churchill collection. It is because of Churchill’s stalwart leadership during World War II which most of the world thinks it knows this enigma of a man—however the true identity of a man is not always found in the obvious places nor within plain sight. This most brilliant and equally eccentric man, who helped to shape much of the modern world as we know it today, was much more than statesman or commander. . .he was more than husband and father, or Victorian dreamer— Winston Churchill was a prolific painter who sought and found inner peace during the turbulence of personal, professional and world tragedies, through the simple art of painting.

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(images of paintings on loan to the Millennial Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia offering a tribute of the man and his pairings)

Yet below, in this most famous image of “the Big Three” taken from the conference at Yalta, in the waning months of the war,there is much more taking place than just an orchestrated famous photo op of the three men to whom responsibility fell to mould and remodel a new world. . . There is actually much more going on in this image—there is a hidden and secret dance of diplomacy and duplicity being secretly choreographed by a cold and calculating man who was a master deception–this image is the pure essence of power plays, betrayal, death, and hidden terror all silently playing out before the cameras of a painfully yet hopeful naive world.

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The slight smile on Winston’s face is misleading. Stalin never hid his disdain for the Prime Minister. He also believed he held the President as a puppet in his hands, being able to manipulate a frail shadow of a man as Roosevelt was tired, sick and not much longer for the world. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke only two months following the conference.

Roosevelt came to the conference looking wistfully towards a new world order. At this point he didn’t care what sacrifices had to be made in order to establish his elusive global Nirvana. Winston was more weary, cautious to the resetting of a dangerous chess board with equally deadly results as compared to the game which was in the process of just being played out. Winston felt beaten and betrayed. He had been mislead, left out, manipulated, lied to and betrayed by a dear friend as well as mocked and ridiculed by a wolf, or in this case an angry grizzly bear, in sheep’s clothing. He too was tired as the weight of the world rested upon his aging hunched shoulders.

And it was to his art that Winston would retreat, again and again and again. . .as most often it is to the gift of creativity that a man finds himself turning to, being drawn to, in order to set his world back to balance. In the mere act of painting or to the repetitive laying of brick in order to repair an ancient wall to a family home, Winston found comfort. He was able make sense of often senseless situations. . .in the freedom of putting paint to canvas he could find the easing of mind and solace of spirit both elusive and often battered and bruised from the realities of an often cruel world.

Outlets, diversions, distractions, escape—whatever form of creativity a man seeks, it is all a part of his birth right, a divinely inspired gift of talent and wonderment, bestowed upon him by the one true Master of Divine Creativity. It is what is good in a man. It is what is positive. Just as man works toward waging death and destruction, he works equally towards that which is aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, redeeming and edifying.

Man’s ability to create, to make “art”—is a source of peace and calm. It is a counterbalance in a world bent on death and destruction. It is the tiny piece of hope instilled in man by his Creator which helps to serve the betterment of all of mankind–a gift within an individual which has the ability to ripple outward throughout the ages, resonating to generations yet to be. . . that hope, beauty, good, wonder and joy are indeed alive and well and still very possible as the world continues to allow the dark clouds of death to gather overhead.

It was to this very “gift” that Winston sought his peace, his time of release and his place of balance in a world spiraling out of control. May we all be mindful that such a gift is still very much a part of each of us and has the tremendous ability to heal and comfort in our own equally dizzying time of madness. . .

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Humility and a hero

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.
William Temple

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( Sir Nicholas Winton, seated in wheelchair, being honored by the Czech President, Milos Zeman)

A few months back I wrote a post about Sir Nicholas Winton entitled “When does 669 equal 15,000”
His is a remarkable story of bravery, ingenuity, compassion, hope, intrigue, longevity, but especially noted, his is a story of humility.

I encourage you to read the previous post as it gives the story of Sir Nicholas as based on a report taken from the news magazine, 60 Minutes as well as the BBC.

( https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/when-does-669-equal-15000/ )

At the age of 29, in 1938, a young Jewish London stockbroker made a trip to Prague where he witnessed first hand the perilous situation taking place as Hitler was methodically beginning his annexation of Europe. At the time, most of Europe, Great Britain and the United States had turned a blind eye to Hitler and was taking a stance of Appeasement—an attitude I liken to the mindset of “if I don’t see it or acknowledge it, it is not actually happening.” Sir Winton knew better and he knew that time was of the essence. His mission became clear. He had to get as many children out of harms way before the eventual annexation of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia as quickly as possible.

With little to no resources, no government or military assistance, Sir Winton arranged passage, as well as the eventual housing and “foster care” back in England, for 669 children all before the Nazis sealed the borders making travel or escape impossible. He organized the running of 8 trains from Prague to London. The last train scheduled to leave Prague was stopped due to the closing of the borders and it is believed that none of the 250 children abroad that train survived as the majority of the children were Jewish.

It was 50 years, long after the war, before anyone became aware of Nicholas Winton and of the heroic act he took upon himself in order to save hundreds of children from a fate of certain death. It was not until his wife discovered an old faded musty scrapbook in a trunk in the attic of their home which contained photographs of a much younger man holding child after child that the story was finally acknowledged. He had not even told his wife.

There are those stories that one hears over the course of a lifetime which make a deep lasting impression—the story of Nicholas Winton, for me, is just such a story.

Earlier this morning, while reading over the BBC’s web news postings, I noticed a story regarding Sir Nicholas being honored earlier this week in The Czech Republic. Sir Nicholas was awarded that country’s highest honor, The Order of the White Lion. Sir Nicholas is now 105 years young. Happily his humor, wit and humility are still very much intact and are most quick and keen. Upon receiving the award, surrounded by many of the now grown children, many of whom are well into their 80’s, Sir Nicholas humbly commented “that I shouldn’t have lived so long as to give everyone the opportunity to exaggerate everything in the way they are doing today.” He went on to thank the British people who helped by taking in the children, the majority of whom, after the war, had not homes nor family to return to.

When asked about life in today’s world, Sir Nicholas replied:
“I don’t think we’ve ever learnt from the mistakes of the past…”
“The world today is now in a more dangerous situation than it has ever been and so long as you’ve got weapons of mass destruction which can finish off any conflict, nothing is safe any more.”

For the video clip and full story from the BBC I’ve provided the following links

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29809556

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29798434

Merriam Webster define Hero as:
a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
a person who is greatly admired

Humility is defined as: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people

May we be mindful that heroes are not born from the scripts of Hollywood nor of athletic prowess on the playing field. Heroes are born from the hearts and minds of humble men and woman who simply see a situation and know that things must change and then go about to create that change with no regard to themselves or of their own wellbeing. They require no thanks, no recognition, no accolades. They merely do what needs doing then quietly and simply move on.

669 children, who grew exponentially to 15,000, are the better for a man named Nicholas Winton.
You and I are better for knowing his story.

The Spoils of War

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.”
Neville Chamberlain

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The above image is that of the former allied checkpoint in Berlin, one of three dividing check points, separating East from West or West form East, depending on your luck or lack of— It is the infamous Check Point Charlie. This is the view seen as one would transition from the free American sector to the Soviet sector of the east. On the opposite side of the placard of the young Soviet Soldier is an image of his same American counterpart greeting those traveling to the free West. Only diplomats or “tourists” with permission were allowed to travel to and fro—not so for Germans.

When Berlin fell to the Soviets in 1945, one third of the city had been destroyed due to massive bombing blitz. What remained of the once vibrant cultural city was divided into 4 sectors, sliced like a pie, remnants of a vicious war all going to the Soviets and the 3 major allies; the United States, the United Kingdom and the French. Thus came the deadly spawn of the second World War– the surreal existence known as The Cold War.

The Reichstag, the house of German government dating from 1871 which, in 1933, was a most likely ominous victim of Nazi lies and propaganda, mysteriously burned. The fire ushered in the insidious vacuum known as the Third Reich. But by 1945, as the Soviets powered their way into Berlin, the Reichstag was pummeled once again. Following was a time of neglect and ruin. By the reunification of 1990, the once proud piece of Prussian glory was fully restored, once again being the seat of German Government. Today visitors may view the remaining inflicted death wounds as the bullet holes, grenade holes, and charred remains are still visible–solemn reminders of a wicked past.

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From a window from within the Reichstag one can look out upon the River Spree which flows placidly through Berlin. Along the bank of the Spree is a painfully simple memorial dedicated to the 13 lives lost over the course of approximately 5 years as eastern Berliners attempted swimming to the free West. Tragically each attempt to swim across the expansive river was met with the resistance of a machine gun. Each individual cross represents those who were gunned down by East German Forces as they attempted to swim to freedom.

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Visitors today to a sleek modern Berlin may still see large sections of the remaining visible division of oppression. . .the infamous Wall which separated freedom of democracy from the crushing regime of totalitarianism.

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In March I wrote a lengthy post regrading my visit last Fall to Berlin entitled Taxi Drivers, The Wall and Hope
Today’s post’s intention, however, is not meant to recapture the moments of a trip or to showcase the sights of a now modern city which dominates the European Union, as it is home to the world’s most powerful woman, but rather I’ve chosen to use Berlin as but one small example reminding us on this Veteran’s day, this Armistice day, this Remembrance Day that we must be ever mindful that the cost of our freedom has been and continues to be exceedingly high.

Today’s post could very well feature cities throughout the world such as Beirut, Phnom Penh, Dresden, London, Sarajevo, Budapest, Osaka, Tokyo, Hiroshima… No matter the global location the results are always the same with the sad ending being that at the end of the remains of the day, following any war, it is always messy and terribly convoluted. There will always be fallout and nasty repercussions. All of which usually falls upon our military personnel to pick up the pieces the governmental leaders picked apart.

Theirs is the thankless glamorously lacking task of ensuring peace and safety as they are always the ones left to offer aid in the cleaning and rebuilding. They have been scorned, belittled, maligned, resented, shot, wounded, maimed, blown apart, killed and tragically, often, forgotten. And yet they continue doing their job(s).

As buildings, monuments and lands become known simply as the spoils of war, the easy pitiful pickings and crumbs which are greedily gobbled up by the victor, our servicemen and woman are often sadly the by-products of those spoils.

It is my hope that we, those of us who enjoy the forgotten work and sacrifices made on our behalf by the countless men and woman defending the ideals of freedom and democracy, can work to maintain an awareness never allowing any of our servicemen and woman to be a part of those crumbs, those spoils as it were.

Each day service men and woman are returning home from such far flung places such as Afghanistan and Iraq with not only physical scars and wounds of conflict, but most often, sadly, they return with the unseen aftermath, the mental and emotional anguish and damage that takes such a tragic toll–not merely on the warrior but also of his or her family and friends. Tragically it is those types of wounds, the unseen enemy that remains behind, that, we in the general populace, prefer to ignore as those wounds are not readily “fixable”.

Soldiers came home that way from both World Wars, from Korea, from Vietnam and now they come home broken and damaged from Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet we do little to nothing in the way of support, aid, or help. We live our daily lives with little to no regard to the fact that a conflict of “war” has been going on now in this country for the past 10 years. There is no consolidated war front back home, no ration books, no victory gardens, no nationwide civilian drive to promote the servicemen / woman and their families. No all out show of sacrifice and support from the nation left behind known as the “home front”

Times have certainly changed.
It seems it is now left to the wives, mothers, fathers and children of our servicemen and woman to provide the sweeping show of support that often goes unnoticed by the general population–that is until a day such as today, Veterans Day, rolls around. Then we all take pause to reflect, yet by Tuesday we are back to normal—that is for everyone but the solider and his or her family.

Freedom is never free.
May we not take it for granted on this Veteran’s day, or any other day. . .

I’m including a couple of links that may offer the casual reader of this post a place to begin if the desire to do more than reflect stirs within ones thoughts—-

http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org
http://troopssupport.com
http://www.militarysupportgroups.org
http://www.military.com/spouse/military-life/military-resources/how-to-support-our-troops.html
http://www.supportourtroops.org

Anticipation

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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(image of the Nandina bush in the front yard / Julie Cook/ 2013)

Anticipation.
It is most usually a positive state of life… be it the giddy excitement leading up to a vacation or trip of a lifetime, the welcomed relief of a loved one’s long awaited homecoming, the expectant arrival date of the birth of a child, or even the sweet relief to the end of a school term…all are looked upon with a delightful sense of expectancy, joy, and the visualization of something most exciting and / or pleasurable which is about to take place. It’s what gets us over the humps and through the low doldrums of life.

Of course we can counter the positive anticipation by coupling it with a sense of dread, worry or foreboding— as in the stressful prepping before a major test, the nervous waiting for a required surgery, an isolating time of servitude, or the poignant end of something most special.

Either way, the anticipation aspect of any event is 9 times out of 10 the most potent component of any situation— with the actual event taking a bit of a backseat to any sort of “lead up” time.

How many times, as children, were we overtly full of such rapt anticipation, awaiting Christmas and the visit of Santa, that we were beside ourselves with energy, delight, agitation and sensory overload?! It was as if by the time Christmas morning finally rolled around, we felt somewhat let down, disappointed or either our eyes were so glazed over from the anticipatory overload that we found it difficult to maintain the exhilarating high we’d been riding since Thanksgiving.

Our western culture seems to have mastered the art of anticipation—as you are no doubt hearing Carly Simon singing her most notable song in your head as you visualize ketchup slowly making its way from bottle to bun…anticipation sadly or joyously drives our economy.

For my generation it was the arrival of the 4 inch thick Sears catalog. I would spend hours eagerly marking page after page, item after item, for mom and dad, and of course Santa, to fill my hopes and dreams. For today’s kids, it is a true sensory overload as they absorb larger than life, high definition, clear images on their 50 inch plasma interactive televisions of the latest gadgets and gizmos, jewelry and designer this and that which they must receive in order for their lives to, sadly, be complete.

Times Square screams such with it’s constantly moving, undulating, bigger than life, ever-changing advertisements… as the same can be said world wide from Tokyo to Hong Kong, to London to Pairs—bright lights, bright colors, big, large, giant images and pulsating sounds of which are all intended to hypnotize us into a glazed trance of believing that we must have, be a part of, or become these glamours images in order to reach our individual utopias as we are dressed and sporting everything the same as the person next to us…hummmm

I say all of this with a bit of reflection. It was the other Sunday evening when I accompanied my poor husband, who owns a small business in our community and who has spent his entire life in retail, as he went to check his store—just as he does each Sunday evening, the only day the business is thankfully closed.

As we made our way back to his truck, having completed the week’s deposit, in the darkened nearly empty parking lot, we couldn’t help but notice a small bevy of vehicles parked just outside of Bath and Body Works. It was well after store hours as all the other businesses were dark and shuttered for the night. There were a dozen or so employees busily decorating the store for, what else, Christmas. It was November 3rd.

My husband let out a long heavy sigh. “I can never remember a single Christmas or Thanksgiving that I have ever really enjoyed” he sadly lamented. I’ve been married to him now going on 31 years— I know this. He is 64 years old and from the earliest time of memory he has spent the “holidays” wrapped up in his family’s business giving way now to his own business. It is indeed a love / hate relationship which sees owners and employees moving momentum from one holiday to the next, riding the perpetual holiday wave as it were.

The hours, the time, the energy, the demands, year after year, have grown exponentially. Way back when, back in a vastly different time in this country, businesses closed at noon on both Wednesdays and Saturdays with all businesses being closed on Sunday. Slowly that has all changed. Businesses, if they expect to stay competitive or just viable are open 7 days a week at least 12 hours a day. Add to those hours during the Holidays.

Black Friday does not signal Christmas, a time of our Holy anticipation, that of the Advent leading to the birth of a Savior, but rather it is the marking of a feeding frenzy. A need to feed an unquenchable thirst and hunger of and for consumerism which gives way to our obsession with materialism. It has nothing to do with what Christmas, or even Hanukkah, is actually all about but rather it has everything to do with our economy and the need to feed it.

My daughter-n-law “to be” lamented this morning that her cherished pumpkin lattes from Dunkin Doughnuts are on the last call list as they are making way for the Christmas flavors. It is November 5th. I thought Pumpkins and Spice were the sights and scents of November… as in Thanksgiving, as in the end of the month, not the beginning of the month. Weren’t we just trick or treating last week?

A dear friend of mine in Florence, Italy, whose family has had a business in that most magical and historical city for almost 150 years, was recently lamenting that the Ministry of Commerce and the governing officials there in the city of Florence are pressuring all businesses to stay open 7 days a week, 365 days a year and to forego the siesta hours of closing for lunch. An entrenched way of life and of a culture being told to change to meet the growing and insatiable appetites of a hungry consumer driven populace.

I just wish things were different. I wish we could all just slow down, savoring the time and seasons of our lives..relishing life rather than the empty things that we hope to gobble up in order to fill it all full…

Just like Pooh in today’s quote–the eating of honey is really wonderful but it’s the time, the magical time, leading up to the actual eating that seems even more sweet… Here is to the sweet anticipation to all of those magical moments in your life. . .make time to enjoy every moment.

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