refuge found in a memory (re-run number 3–it’s that good)

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

St. Anthony of Padua


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

don’t leave us…

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you
have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember
is a better hour because it is dead.
Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Do you remember this commercial?
It was a commercial for Airtran

It was one of those laugh out loud type of commercials..
maybe because I was a parent and could only imagine what “that” was like…

Picture it…
you fly your elderly parents in for a week of family time—just
so they can meet their new twin grand babies.

Little do the unsuspecting grandparents know…
you have an ulterior motive.

You’ve booked a trip for you and your husband.

As soon as the grandparents ring the bell, so excited to meet their new grand babies,
you quickly hand each of them a baby.
Your father thanks you for flying them in as they are so excited to be
with you for the week.

HA!

Suddenly a taxi pulls up, your husband flies out of the house with bags in hand…
you turn to your parents, before hightailing it behind your husband, exclaiming
“we’ll call you when we land…”

“Land?!” your elderly father questions.

By now the taxi is speeding off as a shuffling grandfather trails sadly behind,
with baby in arms, imploring “DON”T LEAVE US WITH THE BABIES!!!!!”

Well, this past week seemed a little similar…
however, we were not blindsided.
We had been asked long time back and we had whole heartedly agreed.

We’d keep “the babies” for almost a week!

Thankfully we aren’t shuffling just quite yet and we were indeed
willing participants.

However…
two toddlers…one 3 and the other 2, for 5 days…at our ages…
well…we powered through it…and in the middle someplace,
we forged some great memories.

The Mayor is jumping in the pool all by herself and holding her breath.
All the while the Sheriff works on finding his comfort zone…preferring
driving a golf cart, or even a small back hoe as his own personal
mode of transportation.

Exhausted when it came time to say good-bye—reluctantly, we
whispered….don’t leave us…

I do hope one day they may remember the happy moments we shared…

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.
Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.

Alex Haley

finding God in all sorts of places…

“We must always remember that God does everything well,
although we may not see the reason of what He does.”

St. Philip Neri


(part of a bilboard is visable from where we parked for a pick up order from Longhorn’s / Julie Cook / 2020)

We had worked all day in our attic…sorting the boxes and plastic tubs of our younger lives.
What to keep, what to toss.

The art of a toddler, the 1950 bank files of my dad, my mom’s 70’s stylish readers,
my dad’s 1930’s coloring books, my husband’s father’s WWII pictures…
Yet the dust and decay took a toll on my sinuses–just like like white on rice…
oh wait, is that colloquialism considered passe PC in this culture of ours???

Anywhoo…

After a full day’s work, we opted to order supper to go from our local Longhorn.

When we pulled into the parking lot, finding a parking spot, I couldn’t help but
notice a rather prominent portion of the billboard hiding just behind the neighboring McDonalds.

The word GOD drew in my attention.
I wonder, had others noticed the same sign, the same word?

Our life is a gift and a giving to others; therefore it is joy at a profound level.
Anyone who seriously makes this idea his own and begins to practice it will find it to be true;
he will discover that the will to live it out, that is, to accept everything as a gift from God,
can transform our life right down to its roots.

Hans Urs von Balthasar
from You Crown the Year with Your Goodness

culling memories

What is a man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness
of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man.
All things are connected.
This we know.
Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.
Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Chief Seattle


(purging a now 32 year old son’s baby clothes)

Spending today in the attic, sorting, and yes purging boxes of clothes that
should have been purged long ago…
this mother of an only child, who is trying to part with each and everything that was worn or played
with by this only child, was finding it painfully difficult.
Pulling out each piece of small, often stained, clothing…
past moments frozen in time, came racing viscerally back to the forefront of
my heart’s consciousness.

The small flannel footed pj’s worn by a young boy who was afraid of the night–
stealing himself from his own bed, standing silently by his mother on her side of her bed
waiting until she finally opened her eyes in order to lift the young boy,
placing him in a place of safety…nestled between his sleeping dad and now wide awake mom.

Night after night for nearly four years, this young boy was fearful…
until his grandfather bought him bunkbeds.

Found was a Christening outfit, a first Christmas onesie, a first Easter two piece,
a pair of Teenage mutant Nija Turtle sandals worn as part of an early Halloween costume…
the crochet teddy bear onesie…

Pieces of 30 some odd years ago that seem just like yesterday.

Sigh.

Maybe it’s this year, this surreal year of 2020…
Maybe it’s the packing up and moving one’s life after so many years.
Maybe it’s the time of year of all things Advent and Christmas.

A watchful time…a time of waiting for what is coming.

So much is coming.

Are we ready?
Are you ready?

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.
The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.
Another book was opened, which is the book of life.
The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
The sea gave up the dead that were in it,
and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was
judged according to what they had done.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
The lake of fire is the second death.
Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown
into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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

DSCN2667
(waiting for the runner to dry out)

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

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

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

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

They got lost last time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

do you remember…

Memories
Pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories
Sweetened through the ages just like wine
Quiet thoughts come floating down and settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touch them and they burst apart with sweet memories

Lyrics by the Lettermen


(the sun cutting through the clouds / Julie Cook / 2020)

Do you remember when we use to worry about things like tornados, hurricanes, blizzards,
droughts…what about things like The Wall, illegal aliens, the fab four, Madame Speaker,
‘pencilneck’, impeachments, our President, the left, the right, the wrong…

What about the pollen?
The highest ever, in all of recorded history took place this week—

Or what about climate change…oh wait, didn’t it cause the pandemic or was that Trump??

But who has time to worry about sneezing and itchy eyes, the climate, global warming,
ad infinitum, when we can’t even find toilet paper?

Ahhh, those were the good old days…

So isn’t it simply amazing how a pandemic just seems to glibly push all that
other stuff aside?

There was a doctor from Emory University, who was interviewed by the news this morning,
who quipped that we might as well just wipe the month of April off the books cause we
ain’t budging from this life on lockdown for at least 4 to 6 more weeks.

And then to put the icing on the cake, I actually read that Easter was being canceled.

Yep, canceling Easter.

Hummmm…

You mean canceling local egg hunts, Sunday services with fancy new dresses and frilly
Spring hats, the wee hour sunrise services…canceling luncheons and afternoon gatherings…
canceling that Easter right?!

Because we know that nothing…not politicians, principalities, dominions, rulers, kings,
pandemics—-not even death can ever stop Easter…

But of course, we already knew that, didn’t we…??

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 11:25

Okay, you can’t see the glue right??

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
undesirable sentiment.
If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and
address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.
On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(you can’t even tell, I don’t think / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, guilt is a powerful tool.

At last, my moment of weakness arrived…so I must confess…
I have relented.

I didn’t lie to you.

My intention was certainly a BIG no to this year’s tree…
but…
there were those faces, those words, those insistent voices.

It was one of those things, as I started the day, that I had not even contemplated.
It never crossed my mind that I’d be doing “this” for the remainder of the day,
well past dark.

Yet I had gotten plenty of proddings from those both near and far…
And I suppose it was indeed a sense of something missing, as I’d peer over to an empty
spot that was the ghost space of Christmas trees past, that pushed me this morning.

I marched up to that dreaded closest and pulled out that dreaded tub of
broken angels and tiny little nutcrackers.
Old ornaments of all the Christmases past.

I pulled out my various glues and got comfortable at the kitchen table.

I sorted through survivors and the debris.

I next text my husband’s friend, unbeknownst to my husband, and asked if he could
come by sometime today in order to help my husband haul up ‘that tree’ from the
confines of the basement.

He giddily text back a triumphant “YES!”

Now I know I told you that I did manage to put up the outside lights.
That was an all-day affair on the coldest day of the year thus far.
All by myself.

The neighbors have always guilted me with that as well as they would go into
my husband’s business asking when were the lights going up.

What is it with people and the lights????

I had rationalized that if the outside of my world could appear as if Christmas
was alive and well,
no one would be the wiser to what was missing on the inside.

But yet, there were a few who were the wiser.
And yes…even I was wiser.

Be they here at home or now in their own home, I think it’s the comfort of knowing
“it’s” still there.
That home is still home.
And that all is right in the world of “home” is what truly matters.

“It” is always blessedly there whether we are, or they are, here or not…
It’s that sense that life is as it should be…carrying on as if everything is
forever a constant.

The constant of the happy warm memories of what was.
Forget the bad and painful.
Forget the negative or even the current.

It is to the warmth of fond memories that the heart of a child,
now locked deep inside an adult, runs to.

There is a sense of permanence, of rooting and of anchoring found in those types
of memories.
The true essence of how we came to be who we are…for good or for bad.
For it is of the kinder memories we cling to of how we came to be.
We seem to need them in order to be reminded of them.

And so today became the day that I gave up or rather gave in.

Today, the warmth of Christmas came home…
whether anyone is here to see it or not.

Christmas comes and they will always know.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4

four years following a loss…

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”
Arthur Schopenhauer,


(engadget.com)

I caught the following story on a newsfeed Saturday afternoon.
It was a rainy afternoon and I was bouncing between watching college football games and
peeking in on the day’s news.

The following story is one of those types of stories that catches you from out of the blue
and in turn, leaves you speechless.

I tried to tell my husband about the story but the words wouldn’t come.
Finally, I sputtered that there was a story he’d need to read but that I was
unable to read it out to him nor could I even recap it as it was just “that” kind of story…
because the lump would not leave my throat and the tears were becoming heavy.

Maybe I had the reaction I did because I understood this story.
I understood it on a level that goes beyond simply reading the tale of another.
I knew, as I know, that this is due to my own experiences.

How many of us who have ever lost a loved one yet still had a recording of their voice
lingering on our answering machine or phone’s voice mail?

How many texts or letters do we continue to cling to…reading their words,
reliving conversations, tracing the letters of their individual personal script?

And how many of us have taken painstaking steps to ensure that those recordings
or writings reside in our lives forever…never wanting to lose the sound of the voice
or the written words of the one we have loved and lost….
because if we dare lose that recording or those words, we lose that person all
over again…as the sound of their voice or their written words and
their personal cadence slips aways forever from memory.

I know that when my sister-n-law’s phone fell off their boat this past summer, late one
afternoon when they were at the lake, she was frantic and beside herself with panic.
Her late daughter’s final voice mails were on that phone.
The laughter, the “I love yous”—that surreal sense that she wasn’t truly gone
from her life was dependant upon that phone.

She called us from her husband’s phone frantic to know if we knew how or if she could ever
retrieve those voicemails on a new phone.

We didn’t.

I was almost 26 when my mom died.
I mourned and grieved albeit very stoically on the outside…yet on the inside
I was a wreck.

I grew angry, as I still can find myself doing after all these many years later,
angry that she is not here…not here to listen, to help, to offer me her advice,
her love…

She missed the birth of her only grandchild.
She missed his growing.
She missed so much, as I missed her so much…

So the story about a 23-year-old Arkansas gal who would text her dad’s cell phone every
day after his death, just to text him her thoughts…
talking and texting into a phone with no voice or words responding back…
but a continued effort of reaching out to his phone,
as she desperately needed to connect to her dad…well, her story left me speechless.
She still yearned for her dad… his wisdom, his strength, his presence in her life.

I could understand that yearning.

She would text and share her ups and downs.
The milestones he was missing…

Little did she know that there was someone listening and reading on the other end of that phone.
For four years he read yet never responded with a word.
He let her just talk or write about her world without her dad.

This went on for four years.

And the twist to all of this turns out that the person on the other end of the phone
was a father who had lost his own daughter.

And so now here was a daughter reaching out to her dad…
and here was a dad who had lost his daughter…

who knew that one phone number was now another’s number.

A number of one grieving reaching out unknowingly to another who was grieving.

Below is a portion of the story along with a link to the full story at the bottom.

I text my dad every day to let him know how my day goes,
for the past Four years! Today was my sign that everything is okay and
I can let him rest!
❤️

A 23-year-old woman in Arkansas lost her father four years ago,
but she continued to text his phone every day to update him about his life.
She never got a response from the number, until this week.

Like she did every day, Chastity Patterson, of Newport, texted her father’s number on Thursday,
the night before the fourth anniversary of his death.

“Hey Dad it’s ME,” she said. “Tomorrow is going to be a tough day again!”

In her texts, Patterson recapped all of the highs and lows she had gone through over
the past four years without her father by her side.
She talked about how she beat cancer and has been taking better care of herself
like she promised her father she would.
She talked about how she finished college and graduated with honors and how she’d fallen
in love and had her heart broken,
“(you would have killed him),” she told her father.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me the most,
but one day we will [sic] our chance to watch that game!”
she wrote in her latest text.

This week, Patterson received a response from a man who had been receiving her
daily messages these past four years.

“My name is Brad and I lost my daughter in a car wreck August 2014 and your messages
have kept me alive,” the response read.
“When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.”

“I have listened to you for years and I have watched you grow more than anyone,”
Brad said.
“I have wanted to text you back for years, but I didn’t want to break your heart.”

He said he wished his daughter would have become the woman Patterson is.
“I’m sorry you have to go through this but if it makes it any better,
I am very proud of you!
P.S. I think your father would be happy to know you bought another dog instead of having children.”

Patterson posted the exchange to Facebook.
“Today was my sign that everything is okay and I can let him rest!”
It has since gone viral.

In a later post, Patterson revealed that the loved one she’d lost,
Jason Ligons, was not her biological father, but she called him dad.

“Jason was not my ‘biological’ father, but blood could not make him any closer!”
she said.

“He never missed a school dance, prom, my games and YES he would give me long talks
about my mouth and attitude.
I had to introduce my boyfriends to him (If I was allowed to date)
and he would act like a normal dad and give us the long talk,” Patterson said.

“I shared my messages for my friends and family to see that there is a God
and it might take 4 years, but he shows up right on time!” she added.

https://www.foxnews.com/us/arkansas-woman-texting-father-every-day-response

make mine a White, no make that, a Black Russian please

“All we can know is that we know nothing. And that’s the height of human wisdom.”
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace


(images of both a White and Black Russian Liquor.com)

I’m changing my original order from a White Russian to that of a Black Russian
because by the time these shenanigans are all said and done, none of us will be able to
afford cream…forget the liquor!

Maybe just make mine a glass of ice.

Back in the day…those heady days of the mid 70’s when disco, along with some
smooth jazz via Barry White, were the various kings of the airwaves while we were busy turning 18—
of which was the legal drinking age in the state of Georgia—life was feeling pretty good.

We could be seen boldly sashaying into many a bar with our very own and very real legal IDs in hand
as we no longer needed to borrow a friend’s or use the fake stuff.

It was most likely some backgammon bar or a place where a guy was playing folk music on a guitar…
as we’d plop ourselves down at a table or, if we were feeling really daring, we’d saddle up
to the highly polished mahogany bar.
The bartender had a bit of a ‘fro,’ glasses and a mustache while nonchalantly asking what we’d like.

Practically salivating in anticipation over ordering something that sounded oh so grown-up
and sophisticated, all the while making certain it was something palatable and
equally sweet and appealing to our most youthful and naive tastebuds, we’d place our order.

The favorites were the White Russian, an Amaretto Sour, a Tequila Sunrise or even a Grasshopper.
Things drunk out of coups, highballs or old fashion glasses.

Feeling our oats and checking our pockets or wallets, we might be known to order another
or equally ready to settle up our tab while making a hasty retreat to the lucky house whose
friend’s parents were out of town for that weekend’s party where the kegs were tapped and
ready…all the while finding suds comfortably more suitable to our beginner’s palates.

This small walk down memory lane comes on the heels of the most recent news coming out of DC.

If we can ever figure out how to black out the news from that small, yet massive district in our lives,
we might be better off.

Falling back to the days of the telegraph, telegrams or pony express might be a nice respite.

But I digress.

So in case, you missed it…

Surprise…..

the Russians aren’t coming nor were they ever coming in the first place.
But didn’t we really know this all along???

I digress.

Okay, so now what you ask???

I’ve made an executive decision on behalf of all tax paying Americans.

I’m going to call that “One call that’s all” sleaze-bag of a lawyer
whose commercials must be nationally syndicated.
The guy who promises help if you’ve been hurt in an accident.

Ok, so why does ambulance chaser come to mind??
But again, I digress.

Well, maybe we haven’t been hurt in an accident, but none the less, our wallets and savings
sure have been hurt—-
along with our faith in this assinine political world of ours.

I don’t care if you like Trump or hate his guts,
the one thing that we all need to share is the disdain for the egregious amount of
taxpayer dollars that have gone into this now two-year-old investigation
of rabbit holes and fairy tales.

35 million Muller bucks alone.

So yes, I think we the taxpayers of America need a ‘one call that’s all’ sort of lawyer who
is going to defend us for all of our pain and suffering.

We’re going to sue all of the Democrats… and a few Republicans for good measure.
We’ll sue the major television networks and several cable networks.
We’ll sue their reporters, pundits and opinion makers.

We’ll sue basically all of Hollywood, the entertainment industry, late night show hosts,
the music industry and anyone and everyone who jumped on the Russian bandwagon.

We’ll sue the journalism industry, those newspapers and magazines chomping at the headline bit…

Heck, we’ll sue colleges and their off-the-chain whacky professors.
We’ll sue over safe spaces for the snowflakes who want to spend all day crying.

We’ll sue everyone and anyone who thought 35 million dollars of taxpayer money was a wise decision
to use toward an endless investigation into nothingness.

So once our ‘one call that’s all’ lawyer gets us all our money back…
as his previous clients certainly boast, we’ll once again be able to afford cream
for our Black Russians, making them decadent White Russians and heck,
we’ll even use Tito’s American made vodka.

Cheers to the American people!!!!
We want our money back!!!

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,
for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak,
and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 16:13

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot


(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

This is a post I wrote the first year I had started blogging.
It was actually written the day after Christmas but I think the sentiment
is still very much worth sharing and most timely…as I think such thoughts might
be best remembered now instead of in a few days when things are being packed
up and put away…remembered as we stand on the cusp of a most joyous
and sacred time.

I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in these few short years since
this post…
changed for both sad and joyous…
There have been deaths, loss, gains, marriage, babies…
the very visible continuum of just one family.

It is my wish for all of us that we may each remember how precious our
lives are and of how important it is to spend the allotted time given to each
of us wisely and lovingly…
Please enjoy….
And I wish for each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of
it all is now but a mere blur.
People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—-
then they departed.
Now more people are coming today. . .
where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving,
eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing some time next week.
Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going,
I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas.
My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year
so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away
all before New Year’s Eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–-boxing up, packing away, hauling up and
down steps, carrying out to the trash…yet another Christmas.

As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down,
I become a one-woman demolition team.
It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down
with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating
for a holiday.
I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree),
I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–-
even as I lugged all of the ornament boxes, once again, out of the attic–
spreading them out all over the floor. No wonder they call it boxing day…not really
but it works for me.

I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree.
Our tree is a hodgepodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a Sunday school class
in 1963 when I was a little girl—-
the ornaments create a bit of a timeline, moving forward through college,
on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby
then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament.
There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries.
There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the
cherished ornaments from friends…

It seems each ornament has a story.

There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died.
I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a
beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas–-
Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament,
gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place
in the ornament box—-
thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”—
unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my
stepmother recounted through tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys
this past week—-thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–-
but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use…

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood.
They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees
and of my life today.
There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads
I have to glue back on year after year.
There are even the little glass Santa snowmen with the googly eyes that were actually
my grandmothers–then there are the painted Easter eggs that belonged to my
other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years.
As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being
transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the
gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented.
It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts which in turn
makes each received present truly special and one of a kind.
I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in
high school.
I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me.
He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a
remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me
following the death of my brother.
There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand-carved birds from Vermont…
And there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite
cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who,
at the time, I did not know.
She had decided to call it quits mid-year in 1982.
She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the
history teachers.
She had decided to leave mid-year in order to go back to school at the
University of Georgia to further her degree.
I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as
the replacement.
Eventually, I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys
should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7.
One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some Lego kits.
In order to make some spending money, she had him make Christmas ornaments.
After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his
tongue depressor snowmen.
I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy,
whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”—
I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much.
She departed this life leaving behind her then-teenaged sons and their dad,
a very distraught husband and father.
A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague,
her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor
his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree.
With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me.
That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree,
I am constantly reminded of what was—-for happy or sad.
I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story.
There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a
constant continuum–-with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas,
there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended
for a future tree.
These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of
drawers and cabinets gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets,
doodads, figures, and balls—–all adding to the continued story of a single family who
travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad,
inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to
be continued by those who follow suit.
The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .