An unexpected interruption, the question of shot or no shot and finally, the wisdom of Mary Poppins

“Everything is possible,
even the impossible”

Mary Poppins


(Emily Blunt and the always enchanting Angela Lansbury in the new Mary Poppins
movie as seen on our son’s TV)

Ok, so where was I…??

Ok, so maybe the question should be… where in the heck have I been?

When we were last together, I think I made mention that we were off to see the Mayor…
bringing her home with us for a few days…

Well…we did…sort of…….

A week ago Monday evening, late, we got a call from our son.
Or someone who was supposed to be our son who was sounding very puny, croaky and cloggy.

A pained voice informed us “I’ve just gotten back from Urgent Care and I have the flu
so you’ve got to come get the baby NOW!!!
The doctor told me not to be around her.”

“Ok” I’m thinking.
Your wife is 8 months pregnant, your 13th-month-old has been right there—
you’ve all been together in very close proximity up until now—
so if anyone is getting the flu…
well, that ship sailed days ago when you first started feeling bad.

That’s how viral things work—they make the rounds before you even realize
they’re at work making the rounds.

“We’ve planned on coming tomorrow …
I don’t think the night is going to alter the course of viral destiny”

I calmly respond to a panicked first-time dad.

“We’ve had the flu shot.
We’ve all had the flu shot…
even Autumn had the flu shot…”

He practically wails apologetically with deep lamentations.

“Oh well” I quip a bit caustically.

For you see, at this very moment, I too was oddly not feeling well.
I felt chilled and suddenly zapped of all energy as well as slightly nauseated with a headache.

“Buck up,” I hear an inner voice commanding from someplace deep inside my head.

The satellite Woobooville office was all set-up and good to go—
awaiting our return back home with the Mayor.

‘We are to be on a rescue mission’
I defiantly proclaimed while trying to dismiss what my body was now feeling.

“I don’t feel well” I heard myself tell my husband…
“I’m going on to bed”

“But it’s just 9 o’clock”

“I can’t help it, I’m freezing”

About an hour later I was running a frighteningly odd yet very low-grade fever,
all the while I was violently shaking.

I asked for some Motrin.

And it was just about this very moment in time when my husband began complaining
about having the same symptoms.

This made for a very long, sleepless night of misery.

And yet we were still having to drive over to Atlanta bright and early to rescue the Mayor,
I was more than fretful.

That’s when I noticed how badly my left arm was hurting.

Hummmmmm…

For you see… I’ve failed to share with you that is was on that Monday
(last Monday as you read this today), that both my husband and myself went to get a shot.

A preventative vaccine mind you.

Similar to the preventative flu vaccine our son had gotten.

It was the Shingles shot.

When we went to our pharmacy on Monday Morning, in order to get the shots,
I explained to the pharmacist that we were planning on getting our
13-month-old granddaughter the following day…
so would she be ok with our getting the shot?

“Of course no problem.”

HA!

By Tuesday morning my arm was in full-blown shingles mode.

A burn/bruise-like area the size of a large eggplant covered my arm—
but not at the injection site.
It hurt terribly on a deep level yet was itchy on an up top level.

Eyes now rolling in my head.

My husband had no rash but redness at the injection site along with a
horrific headache, fever and chills.

We struggled to get ourselves up and dressed…
Yet we loaded up the car and headed off to the Mayor’s.

Our son was to be out of town the coming weekend and desperately was trying to
make that still happen—
he stayed home the day we arrived but went on into work the following days
as not to miss any more work.

In the meanwhile, the Mayor came home with us.

They had fretted how she might be feeling.

The Mayor, however, was having none of this as she felt great.
In fact, she was feeling so great, she was actually a live wire—
albeit a live wire with a
very runny and snotty nose.

The next day, I noticed I now had a sore throat and a very cloggy snotty nose
and a headache…
still with my eggplant looking “faux” shingle rash.

The Mayor’s aides were more than puny.
And keeping up with a live wire when feeling puny makes for a tough go.

I called the doctor telling the nurse what was going on.

She calls back the following day.

“Yeah, we’ve heard this shot has had those sorts of reactions…
but as it’s a two-part shot, you’ll need to follow up with the booster
in a couple of months.”

“And get the very viral infection I was trying to avoid in the first place
for a second time??!!”
I incredulously announce rather than ask.
“Thanks but no thanks,” I reply before curtly hanging up.

A week before we picked up the Mayor for her visit, our daughter-n-law informed
her OBGYN that her baby daughter, aka the Mayor,
had gotten what was thought to be Fifth’s Disease.

Such a name comes from the all-knowing medical folks who simply ran out of things
to say when telling everyone
“oh, it’s just a viral infection– you’ll simply have to wait it out”

They decided to give the latest “wait it out” illness a name.
Fifths Disease.

Now if you count Sunday day one in the week…then this disease was named on
Thursday…the fifth day of the week.
But if you’re like most working folks, you count Monday as the first day of the week,
which in turn makes Friday the actual day Fifth’s Disease was named—-
and Lord knows we couldn’t
name a random disease after everyone’s favorite day of the week…
hence the name–Fifth’s Disease.

After having blood drawn then processed, the nurse calls to inform our
daughter-n-law that she is actually immune from Fifth’s Disease.

Who knew one to be immune from a virus?!

Kind of what I was hoping to be from the Shingles.
Immune.

Go figure!

Should the Mayor come down with the Chicken Pox,
knowing I’d eventually be a helping nurse,
I didn’t want to, in turn, get the shingles—
since I had the chicken pox at age 5.

So it turns out that all I had to do was to get the preventative vaccination
and I’d in turn, get the virus.
Kind of like our son and the flu.

Is this beginning to smell of something fishy—
like a little pharmaceutical racket???

Ahh, but I digress.

And so a very rotten puny me headed back to Atlanta Friday,
following the torrential downpours,
in order to take the Mayor home and to spend the weekend with our daughter-n-law while
our not so well son went on out of town as planned.

That had been the plan.

The plan before all the shots made everyone sick.

Our daughter-n-law’s faculty friends were giving her a baby shower for the new baby
(aka the new sheriff in town) on Saturday—
I was to go along with her and the Mayor.

We eventually did—and it was a lovely gathering…
A great bunch of Catholic Parochial school teachers.

Yet all the while… I had a Shingle’s arm and flu-like symptoms from
what our son must have passed along via the Mayor.

Did I mention that we, as in my daughter-n-law, the Mayor and myself
were having to dog sit?
As in a friend of our son’s was leaving his boy dog in their care.
As in an unfixed boy dog that is actually a herding dog…
as in a herding sheep sort of dog?
A herding sheep sort of dog that is oddly being made to be an indoor
pet named Alf.

All the makings of a worst case scenario.

He is a nice enough dog that is wound up like a nervous ninny–
hence the suppressed need to be herding…

And so it fell upon the Mayor to be the chosen item for herding—

despite the Mayor’s wailful protests.


(The Mayor and her watchdog Alf / Julie Cook / 2019)

Think indoor chaos.
Indoor chaos for a sick chief aide and an 8-month pregnant overworked teacher and an impatient
13-month old Mayor.

Note, the Mayor’s actual dog Alice is on a long term vacation due to the arrival of
the herding indoor non-fixed sheepdog.

I was actually supposed to stay until tomorrow, until when our son got home—
however, I was slowly dying and desperately needed to head home as soon as possible
so I could simply crash and burn in the comfort of my own home…

But before I do so… crash and burn that is—
allow me to briefly share with you about our having watched the new Mary Poppins movie
with the Mayor Saturday evening.

Now back in 1964 when the original Mary Poppins movie debuted, I was 5.
My dad, a big kid himself, made certain to take me to see the movie in the theater.

Granted I’ve rewatched the movie throughout the years ever since that year of 1964…
yet I have oddly never been a huge fan.
I liked it well enough as a child but found it to be somewhat odd and boring.

Maybe I just wasn’t a musical loving child at the time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke…but the movie
didn’t do much for me when I was a little girl.

However, while I was there helping, or more like dying–
whichever way you’d like to look at it,
my daughter-n-law suggested we watch the movie.
She told me she thought I’d love this latest new version.

They had just gotten a new television and I must confess, not being a huge TV
nut like our son or even like my dad had been, I have to admit,
the picture quality was indeed amazing.

And yes I really did enjoy this new version versus that classic version
of my childhood—
Which is really quite something given the fact that I am never a huge fan of the re-makes.

Maybe it was because I was feeling poorly…very poorly.
Maybe it was because Dad will have been gone now 2 years tomorrow.
Maybe it was because there we were in what had been his house, dad’s house, and my house
and now their house…
all the while watching a movie whose story merely picked up 25 years past the original story…
picking up where the original movie’s children were now grown up with their own lives of bluster,
loss, and need—much like my own life.

But Mary Poppins, this enigmatic figure, who mysteriously yet magically appears in the most
timely of times, arriving out of a burst of stormy winds,
all at the singular moment when one is at their most dire times of need—
albeit one who has no idea of the depth of that need…
A time when one is in great need of her eclectic whimsy and almost militaristic regime
of peculiar order…

She arrives for the person who needs to be reminded that nothing is ever truly lost.
She reminds her charges that those things, which at first glance appear to be impossible,
are never really that way at all but are actually possible all along…
for it’s all just a matter of one’s perspective.

And so I found my thoughts dancing over to the idea of our relationship with our loving Father,
the Great I AM…

He who comes not in the earthquake or the fire, or the storm…
but the One who rather comes to us in the stillness of a whisper…
always reminding us that with Him, nothing is ever lost nor is it ever impossible.

So thank you Mary Poppins…maybe it was the fever talking, but thank you for reminding me
that with God, nothing, in particularly me, is ever lost… and no matter what I do,
with God’s help, all things are indeed possible…

Oh, and when “they” tell you to get the shot…run like hell the other way.

But Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

Omaha, Utah, Sainte-Mère-Église


(view from one of the myriad of German bunkers that covered the Normandy coastline /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Several years ago, one Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping through the television
channels in hopes of finding something of interest.
I stopped on what was obviously a dated war movie.
Yet having never seen the movie, I knew immediately what it was…
It was the 1962 film The Longest Day.
A big screen depiction of the lead up to and the event of
the Invasion of Normandy…D-Day.

The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Richard Burton along with a host of
other big name stars of the day.

Despite not particularly wanting to watch a war film on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, I
hunkered in, none the less, ready to endure a long afternoon watching a long film about
about a truly significant long day.

My purpose here is not to retell the historical events of that infamous day now 74 years ago.
but rather to offer a glimpse into what was and what is.

Our day for the D-Day tour couldn’t have been much worse.

As I noted in a post from the other day…there was rain, lots of rain…blowing wind and
bitter wet cold.

And yet the peaceful ebbing ocean that greeted us this day,
was anything but peaceful 74 years ago


(a parasilor enjoys the surf that was once red from the blood lost by those
soilders who never got to shore)

Rain blew sideways, winds gusted 35 to 40 MPH, umbrellas turned upward and a Patagonia
rain jacket that hails as an H2No…proved to be no match as I might as well
have been wearing a paper bag.

But the weather didn’t seem to matter on this particular September day as it seemed
almost fitting.
I knew that the weather on this northwestern coast of France, a coast right off the
often chaotic English Channel is famous for its squalls and unpredictability.

A predicament that proved crucial 74 years ago as the Allied forces needed a window to open.

During the course of our tour, I learned that the movie The Longest Day,
along with other similar movies such as Saving Private Ryan, are actually more movie
than truth.

John Wayne’s character was not the pivotal commanding officer that decisive day but because
John Wayne demanded the most airtime, his character came across as such.
The true leader of the offensive that day was a mere blip in the movie.

And the real tale of the Ryan brothers was not what Tom Hanks offered us as viewers…
And the currently hanging mock paratrooper who perpetually dangles from the bell tower
of Sainte-Mère-Église did not actually fall on that side of the tower at all.
Today’s manikin hangs from its current wall because it simply offers a better view
for visitors arriving into town.

John Steele, the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got hung up on the church tower, in the tiny
village of Sainte-Mère-Église survived his predicament but unfortunately went deaf
that fateful night—
It was the night that he, along with hundreds of parachuters jumped on a moonless night
out of hundreds of planes sent behind enemy lines just prior to the following day’s
infamous landing.

It just so happened that a fire had broken out in town and the church bells were ringing…
endlessly ringing alerting the villagers and occupying Germans that there was a fire and
that all available hands were needed to assist in putting out the fire.
Steele, having been shot in the foot, had to “play” dead so the Germans would not continue
shooting at him.
He hung for hours beside those ringing bells.

Other soldiers fell into the trees, getting tangled up in the limbs…many broke bones
and suffered traumatic punture wounds…
those lucky enough not to be shot while falling from the sky, hunkered in to fight.

Many who were shot as they helplessly floated in the night sky were killed long before
even hitting the ground.

One soldier that fell into this particular tree worked frantically to cut himself loose
from his shute, cutting off his thumb in the process.
Once he fell free to the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to
get to a secure location in order to engage the enemy

Bullet holes remain in the rod iron fencing around a home once occupied by the
German commanding officer of the occupying army.
The scars of a small village which are the remaining physical reminders of
a battle fought so long ago.

From Utah Beach, we climbed down, in and around the now chared bunkers.
Soldiers who managed to survive the intial assualt after storming the beachhead
and then scaled the rocky cliffs, tossed grenades into the bunkers or used flamethrowers
to render the giant guns, used to fire at the Allied Naval ships just off the coast,
inoperable…


(one of the large guns remains in its bunker/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(the stone base where one of the “big” guns was once postioned)


(the hedgehog, that giant steel x shapped barrier, is origianl)

These particular beachheads were chosen in part due to the fact that the sand is
extremely dense and compactable.
Not a soft fluffy sort of sand but rather a hard packed sand, hard enough to allow
heavy equipment to be brought ashore.

Beachgoers today continue finding remnants of that fateful day.

What appears to be a grassy covered dip in the landscape is actually a bomb crater…
the shoreline is covered with such craters…

Sheep have been brought in to assist with ground maintenance as mowers cannot traverse
the pockmarked landscape

Bunkers and beaches have been transformed and are now somber memorials…

Eventually, we moved inward, driving a few miles from the beaches,
making our way to a tiny village and its cafe Cafe J. Phillippe….a cafe
that once greeted war-weary soldiers just as it greeted us this cold wet afternoon.

Mike holds a photograph of Allied troops making their way to this same village.
Stopping just as we did for a needed bite to eat…
the cafe remains just as it did 74 years ago–preserved and frozen in time…

Following our late lunch, we made our way to the final leg of our day which seemed most
fitting as it was indeed the final leg for upwards of 9400 men and women.

Yes, there are actually four servicewomen buried here in the cemetery.

The trees that line the cemetery are all capped off at the top…cut off as a purposeful
and visual reminder of all the fallen whose lives were cut short.

As visitors to the cemetery, we noticed that the names on all of the markers appeared
to be turned around as if backwards— facing away from arriving visitors.
However, we were told that there was a purpose here as well… all 9,387 markers face west…
as in they face home…a homeland that these brave men and women would never see again.

Seeing a sea of impeccably white and neatly aligned stars and crosses standing in silent
attention, each turned so as to face the United States which was nearly 5000 miles away
was almost more than my heart could bear.

Oddly the number of the buried in the cemetery continues to fluctuate.

Modern technology now allows for DNA testing on remains that are still being discovered.
As well as for those bodies that, for all these years, have gone unnamed and unknown.
The families of those Americans now being identified are afforded the option to either bring
home their loved one or to allow them to remain in France…buried in the American Cemetery.

The United States has vowed that they will identify all unknown soldiers buried in France.
Thus the number of buried now changes yearly with the latest body
receiving honors this past summer.

There is even one soldier from WWI who is actually buried in this WWII cemetery.

President Theodore Roosevelt, cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had 4 sons.
All four sons served in WWI. The youngest son, Quentin, was a WWI flying ace who was shot
in the head during a dogfight and whose plane eventually crashed.
Two other sons suffered serious injuries during the war but
it was Quentin who remaind behind as he was buried in Belgium.

Years later his older brother Teddy Jr, who was at this time a grown man with a successful
business and political career was also a soldier.
Teddy Jr was actually a brigadier general.

By 1944 Teddy Jr. was in poor health suffering from both a serious heart condition and
crippling arthritis.
Knowing of the impending invasion, Teddy Jr. requested to be assigned as a
leading commander.
Yet due to his health, his initial request was denied.
Undeterred, he petitioned the high command and was allowed to serve as leading commander.

Teddy Jr. bravely lead the assault on Omaha Beach.
Four days later, Brig Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr died from a massive heart attack.

The Roosevelt family was asked if they would like for Teddy Jr’s body to be brought home for
burial at Arlington—however knowing that Teddy would want to remain with his men,
he was buried in France.
The family then asked if Quentin could be exhumed from his grave in Belgium and moved to be
beside his brother.
The request was granted.

And so when I hear of the stupidity, yes stupidity, about over-payed Football players, athletes,
and even now cheerleaders, who are all wanting to kneel during the singing of our National Anthem…
claiming that the flag of the United States does not represent them…
I am incensed.

Those kneeling individuals such as Colin Kaepernick, who is the poster face for
all things disrespectful, are no heroes.
It is not a risk to life to kneel rather than stand at the start of a ballgame.

He and his ilk are certainly entitled to their feelings and thoughts…
Kaepernick may even speak out and state his peace as to why he feels the flag does
not represent him or who he is—and who he is is a young man of mixed heritage
who happened to have been adopted as a child and reared and raised by a white family
who afforded him all the privileges and comforts of a middle-class family life…
He attended and played football on scholarship at UNLV–in part because that was the
only school, as reported by his mom, who would give him a scholarship.

And yet the irony in all of this is found in the lives and eventual death of those
young men from a previous and different generation who were actually the ones who
stormed those Norman beaches…
They were fearful and nervous as to what awaited them on that fateful June day in 1944—

Young men…some who prayed, some who smoked, some who whimpered through tears
and those who sat stoically before they were given the call to charge…

They raced into the sea which turned red with their blood, racing into a hail of
machine gun fire, grenades, and bombs blasting all around them…
they did so for the likes of Colin Kaepernick and his NIKE sea
of followers…they did so as well as for you and me…for those of us who are humbled
by their bravery and for those of us who prefer to show disdain for the same flag these
young men proudly carried and quickly died under…

https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery#.W8j6f6eZP2Q

I’m not looking for trouble, honest…

“In her voyage across the ocean of this world,
the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s
different stresses.
Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course.”

St. Boniface


(I wonder if any of these birds know anything about the missing owl decoy’s head? / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve gotten to the age where I really don’t go looking for trouble…rather,
trouble merely seems to come looking for me.

Now that’s not to say that I’d back down or run from trouble…
I’ve learned that it’s often best to simply brace oneself while stepping into the wind…
the wind of trouble that is.
Marching forward and dealing with it head on…that is, when it comes marching my way.

I say all this because I had four things yesterday that I found troubling all within about
the span of a blink of the eye—
I didn’t find them, they found me.

Like I say, I don’t go perusing for these sorts of things and I do my darndest to keep such
off my radar…but…

Usually, every time when I go in to fetch my email, a “news” feed page comes up first…
AT&T’s home page.
It runs a scrolling snippet of the day’s headlines…

Now the idea of what I’ve always thought of as a headline versus what our “society”
now considers a headline, separated and parted ways eons ago.

So before I could even click the ‘take me to my mail page’ icon,
I saw that John Kerry was making fun of President Trump’s girth,
Tom Brady stopped an interview over a reporter’s snide remark regarding his daughter,
that the Grammy’s were a huge “I am woman hear me roar” moment and that—
with that last one actually being a twofer—
it was a night of who’s who in Grammyville loving one another while hating the rest of
everyone else…as the women untied and wanted to bash the heads of those who
countered their endearing and de-masculating moment of unification…

Then in my email, I read that our friend the Wee Flea reviewed a movie that will probably be up
for best picture–a typical movie plot over racism in small town USA, a movie that he actually
hated—and left him sad and hopeless that we as a society have sunk to calling such a film
“entertainment” and actually a bravo moment…

Then before I could run and hide, a movie ad pops up for a totally different movie that I
actually looked into regarding the plot line as it too was claiming to be a best picture.
It’s that movie about the Shape of Water business and having read the storyline–
about a mute woman falling in love and actually having sex on screen with a mutant sea creature,
while they then swim off happily together into the sunset, left me shaking my head…

As in shaking to see if something was lose inside my brain cause I just don’t get any of this.

A, I’ve never heard of either movie until first, I saw the Wee Flea’s post and then secondly
when the pop-up ad for the other movie actually popped up…and I confess,
I fell for its ad and looked further. So they accomplished their desire of fishing for curiosity.
But that was enough because I was resolutely reminded once again as to why I really don’t
ever go to see a movie.

They are either ridiculous, full of hidden agendas, laced with unnecessary awful violence and sex
or just flat out stupid.

Then we have the notion of news…that which makes news news…
and whatever that actually is—and that I don’t care for any of it.

I miss Huntly and Brinkley…I’ve written about them before…and I’m still missing them.

I could care less about award shows such as the Grammy’s, the Oscars, the Tony’s,
the you name its.
Why do I want to see an elitist crowd who is so far out of touch with reality, patting one another
on the back, while they use their public platform to tell the little people why it
is they are so little and why they the elitists, are so indeed so elite…

Sigh…

Today’s quote is by St Boniface—an English Benedictine monk (675-754 AD) who was tasked with
spreading the Gospel into the pagan Germanic tribes while also working to bring reform
to what Christian Churches had previously been established in the land of the barbarian Franks.

Neither task was easy and keeping one’s life was not a guarantee.
As Boniface was eventually massacred as he was preparing to baptize a group of converts.

He was committed to his faith in Jesus Christ.
He knew the significance of leading others to Christ and to sharing the Gospel with those
who had not yet heard or seen or whose hearts had once known but were now hardened.

Boniface bore out the Christian rule: To follow Christ is to follow the way of the cross.
For Boniface, it was not only physical suffering or death, but the painful,
thankless, bewildering task of Church reform.
Missionary glory is often thought of in terms of bringing new persons to Christ.
It seems—but is not—less glorious to heal the household of the faith.

(Franciscan Media)

I imagine that today’s current society is not much different than that of the time of Boniface
in that he was tasked with healing an ailing household of faith during a time of grave
personal peril. The Germanic Chruch, what there was of it, had fallen back into Paganism
along with having fallen into corruption.
Much like the day of St Francis when he was told by Christ on the Cross to “rebuild my house”
And again, not much unlike today.

Seems that not only are Believers meant to share, live and spread the Gospel,
they are also tasked with keeping house…
and when that house falls into ill repair, they are tasked with the repair and
even the rebuilding.

So I actually take heart when I read and see most vividly the wantonness of our day…
everything from the anger, the hatred, the belligerent chatter of the tit for tat and the
global persecution of the faithful…
because from all of this, be it the current “news” feeds or the latest ailments within the Chruch,
all of which is certainly enough to make me feel almost hopeless, and yet I take heart
in the words of St Boniface–
words which resonate with both my heart and soul.

We must not abandon the ship…
but rather we must work diligently to make certain
that we keep her on course…as well as make any needed repairs…

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called,
and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

joy….to give or to receive…

“I don’t think of all the misery,
but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank


(the work of a day / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thanksgiving afternoon, I was complaining to my daughter-n-law, dreading the notion
of having to begin the yearly arduous ritual, of “putting up” Christmas.
Some people will go into a feeding frenzy of all things consumerism and
I will go into light mode….

“Why do we do this?” I lamented.
“Why do we work our butts off, schlepping stuff up and down from basements
and attics every year….

Why do we move all this stuff in while moving all the other stuff out…
making way for holiday paraphernalia…
just to turn around to then put it all away again in just a couple of weeks???”

I lament so because I am the one who pretty much does it all….
all the lights,
all the decorating,
all the tree,
all the buying,
all the wrapping,
all the cooking,
all the cleaning etc…
because bless my husband’s heart,
he runs a retail business.

Suffice it to know that our lives are not our own right now…
nor will they be…not until about the middle of January.

Neither my husband or I truly “get” this Black Friday absurdity that consumes
this nation of ours.
He does nothing out of the ordinary for it and I don’t even acknowledge it.
Something about the wantoness of all the materialism consuming this country of ours
just oozes of emptiness.

Why do people stand in line for hours on end when they should actually be
home just enjoying Thanksgiving, family, time off, being outside, being inside, being someplace other than a strip mall, a big mall, etc…
oddly preferring to scoop up “stuff”????
Stuff no one really “needs” to survive.

Places like Syria just keep coming to mind when I see cars parked 4 deep,
wrapped around parking lots, just so folks can buy a flat screen TV or clothes,
a mixer or whatever it is they think they JUST have to have in order to survive Christmas…
along with all the other trivial things no one really needs in order to survive.
Like I say, I just don’t get it…..

So my daughter-n-law reminds me, “well you know he really does appreciate it”
He being my only child and son who was born a week before Christmas.
Christmas is his official holiday….but certainly not his dad’s.

The night our son was born, oh so many moons ago, in the wee hours of a December Monday morning…my poor husband had to leave us shortly after the birth so he could go
open the store and work all day…after having been up all night.
Missing his only child, his new son’s first day of living…
He is remorseful all these many years later, but it was how he fed us,
and for that we give thanks.
Yet how does one ever get back time?
They don’t.

In this family of ours, there is definitely some resentment concerning the consuming madness of holiday shopping…. on all sorts of levels…
and yet our son just adores Christmas…what are those odds?!

Sigh…..

So as I was lamenting, my daughter-n-law tells me about a movie they recently went
to see —-a movie I would never ever consider watching.

They are only in their late 20’s—they watch things on television and at the movies
that I pretty much consider toxic—
of which I hope they too will soon realize as toxic…but until then,
I just pray….

My daughter-n-law relayed a line from the movie which actually resonated with me….

She said that in the movie the main character was grousing, much like I was, about
this whole Christmas business.
In walks the mother who deadpan responds….
“don’t you know, mothers don’t receive
joy, theirs is but to give joy”
(a paraphrase)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

An understanding as to what exactly a lot of this is really all about.
It hit in certainly not a martyresque sort of understanding…but a deeper sense of understanding.

It is an understanding that none of this is about me….never has been.

It’s not about what “I” can get,
not about what I can buy,
not about what I can have….
nor is it about what I want….
but rather it’s about what I can give.

It’s about the ability to give verses the ability to get and receive….
And that giving has nothing to do with stuff—not of things gathered
from a store, or from on-line or from any place else for that matter.
Nothing tangible….

It has nothing to with with savvy shopping, marketing strategy, deals, door busters
or the madness that has become what we know as Christmas in the modern world.
A time that won’t even allow most schools to utter the word “Christmas”
but rather “winter break.”

What this season is about…isn’t about all this decorating,
or about all this consuming, or about all this buying and wrapping of “stuff”….

It’s not about the amassing or consuming….or materialism.
It’s not about the biggest gift, the best deals, the nicest trip to some
exotic wonderland.
Rather it’s about what we can offer and what we can give…

Because the original notion of this holiday Christmas business wasn’t about
Black Fridays and sale margins…it wasn’t about cyber Monday’s or on-line surfing…

It was about a gift…. but not a gift in the modern mindset of what constitutes
as a gift…

It was a single tiny gift that was actually given in order to save…
to save both you and I, as well as all of mankind, actually from ourselves….

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything
we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

2 Timothy 1:9

the desperation for a happy ending

“The presence of conflict does not mean there is to be no peace…
Peace is God’s presence within that conflict…”

(the paraphrasing of a sign as seen outside of a small country church)


(Judi Dench in the role of Queen Victoria in the 1997 movie Mrs Brown)

My father adored Dame Judi Dench.
He was once willing to extend a trip to London just to catch this quintessential
actress on a London stage.

My aunt adored Dame Judi Dench’s haircut and had her hair stylist to cut her hair
just like Dame Dench’s despite the warnings from said stylist—
My aunt was too tall and had a double cowlick—simply not the right shape to pull off
such a cut—and yes, the truth be told, the cut looked much better of Dame Dench
than on Aunt Maaatha.

My son adored Dame Judi Dench in her role as M on the latest series of the Daniel Craig Bond films and was devastated when her character was killed off.

For me, I don’t think anyone has ever quite played Queen Victoria like Dame Judi Dench.

The first time I saw her playing the perpetually mourning monarch was in the 1997 movie Mrs Brown.

I had previously read the book The Empress Brown…a book written by Tom Cullen and published in 1969.
It is the tale of the life of the bereaved Monarch following the death of her beloved prince consort, Prince Albert.

John Brown was the Queen’s Scottish groom and attendant for 34 years
following the death of Albert.
It has been widely speculated that John Brown was more than just a key figure in pulling Victoria’s life back up following Albert’s death.
There has even been rumor that the two had been secretly wed.

As to whether the relationship was purely platonic or something much more will never
be known–but what is known is that the friendship was a strong remedy for a
broken hearted Queen. The friendship was a great comfort to a grieving Victoria who wore
mourning clothes for the remainder of her life.

Both Albert and Victoria were 42 when Albert died suddenly of typhoid fever.
Following his death, Victoria would continue to lay out Albert’s clothes each morning—leaving them on his bed only to be put away by an attendant each evening.

John Brown was held in great disdain by those closest to Victoria who resented any sort
of influence the brusk Scotsman may have had on the Queen as well as upon
her policy making. Yet the fact remains that John Brown was probably the closest friend
the overtly guarded Queen had during those remaining 39 years of her adult life.

There is a new movie soon to be out that once again has Dame Dench reprising her role
as an aging Queen Victoria.
This time the movie is entitled Victoria and Abdul.
The story based on the relationship between Victoria and an Indian servant,
Abdul Karim.

I read the review offered by our good friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
The good Wee Flea pastor did go to see the movie and offered a more historical and more accurate view of an aging Queen and an Indian servant based on the facts of the House of Hanover.

The script writers, in typical Hollywood fashion, have decided that their take on the historical facts and the relationship between a monarch, who was also the head of the Church of England and her Muslim friend, made for a much better story than that of the actual truth.
Going so far as to even insinuate that the Queen may have even had a death bed
conversion from Christianity to that of Islam.

(https://theweeflea.com/2017/09/26/victoria-and-abdul-re-writing-history-to-indoctrinate-todays-society/)

The good pastor, in his picking apart fact from fiction, references another Hollywood attempt at portraying a historical figure as something ‘other than’ in the depiction of
the Scottish warrior, William Wallace, in the film Braveheart

Whereas the legendary Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace is certainly the stuff of legend and lore, the underlying story of love and loss in Hollywood’s adaptation of the life of William Wallace makes for a much better storyline and movie than the straight
facts behind the man himself.

As I must confess that I was certainly taken by Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Wallace as to this day I often think I catch that most valiant cry of FREEDOM riding in on
an easterly blowing wind.

Yet that’s the thing.
We love a good story.
We love a happy ending.
We actually yearn for a happy ending.

Throw in some rich cinematography, a beautiful musical score and we’ll have bought in, hook, line and sinker.

As we prefer our history lessons to be of such entertaining wonderment.

But contrary to Hollywood, or anyone else for that matter, life, real life,
is not all about happy endings.

We’ve just witnessed such in the latest mass shooting coming out of Vegas.

There is no happy ending there nor will there ever be.
Yet we want desperately to hear of such.

And so our news folks, our media, our politicians and eventually our very selves will
each spin, twist and distort whatever we can in order to assuage the overwhelming and incompressible pain.
There will be continued deflection in an attempt to dodge the very real and very sad
hard truth.

We can pass laws, we can rewrite the events as we distort the facts…
but when all is left open and bare…the truth is that there will always be man…
a fallen and broken creature who makes his (and her) way in a fallen world that is the battleground of both Good and Evil.

Gun laws will come and go, other laws and demands will come and go, arguments
and hateful rhetoric will come and go as we desperately try to stave the literal bleeding….but man, bent on evil acts, will continue to carry out the heinous and
the unbelievable because there is no stopping the Evil that walks
this planet.

There is no Nirvana, no Heaven nor Valhalla on this earth…no perfect place where the people live in some sort of scripted perfect unity and utopia and despite all the laws written and all the regulations passed and all the rhetoric spewed forth…
we can never rid ourselves of the duality of ourselves—
that being both the Good and Evil of man.

That is not to say that we can’t do our best to safe guard our way of life—
but we know that those broken, wounded and lost will continue to carry out acts of
hate and destruction and violence despite our best efforts.
Despite the current finger pointing and ranting.
We can’t rewrite, let alone stop, what took place that fateful day in a garden
so long ago.

No matter how hard we want to rewrite this fact into something other than, into
our own lovely notion of some far fetched happy ending…the only fact,
the only healing, the only saving Grace will be found in the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ—bottom line and end of sentence.
The saving Grace found in the Blood of the Lamb….

And until that fact is figured out—we will live in the middle of a fallen, evil,
hate filled world.

Hollywood and the politicians can’t write us out of that….

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not
justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified
by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law,
because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin?
Absolutely not!
If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained
through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Galatians 2:15-21

Frankly my dear, I knew it

“Rhett, Rhett… Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

(the parting scene between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in the movie
Gone With the Wind)

I knew it was just a matter of time and I suppose the time is finally here.

I read yesterday morning that the movie Gone With The Wind is being pulled from Memphis theaters due to being “racially insensitive.”

Here is where I need to remember to watch my problem with my knees,
that kneejerkitis that often afflicts both of those pesky knees of mine because
I need to choose my thoughts here carefully.

When I was in high school during those heady days of the mid 70’s, I read for
one of my lit classes, J.D. Salinger’s 1951 book Catcher In the Rye.

I was an angst filled teen who longed for understanding so Salinger’s angst
filled tale seemed to be a good choice, right?
Well, not exactly.

Holden Caulfield was a messed up kid.
Spoiled, lost, and empty.
And there I was a lost young girl trying to connect with a lost young male character
in a quintessential tale of the lostness of adolescents.
Sigh…

Not a good combination really.

The language was off putting to me even back then,
as was the heavy black curtain which seemed to hang over me the reader…
heavy like a cloud of suffocating stale cigarette smoke, as
Holden himself seemed to be constantly drowning in the book under the weight
of his own heaviness.

Yet it was considered a classic…a troubled classic much like Holden himself.

In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book
in public schools in the United States

wikipedia

Talk about an internal struggle.

It was a book that was so controversial that it’s bad boy status catapulted
it to being one of the most sought after books of it’s time…
nothing like being told you can’t do, read, see or hear something
that spurs on that endless thirst to do just that…to do, read, see or hear
that which one has been told one can’t….

Catcher in the Rye is not a book I would now want to go back and read,
and perhaps it was a book that I should not have read back in high school.
I don’t like the storyline, I don’t like the graphicness, the lostness, the
angst ridden quest which never seems to find salvation….

I learned a long time ago in my Christian journey that surrounding myself with
that which is edifying is important.
It’s like being a recovering alcoholic and surrounding one’s self with a
room full of drunken sots.
A broken individual can only be strong for other broken individuals,
being strong alone, for just so long….

Which in this case mirrors my connection to the world.
If I continue to fill myself with that of the world, then I stay pretty much
in the world and a part of the world…a broken, lost, messed up, angry world.

It’s when I fill myself with those things of God’s glory and grace, and that alone,
is when I can finally be uplifted…
Yet the world, like a bottle of alcohol to that alcoholic,
keeps calling me back…’come back to being a part of the quagmire…watch the
“moralityless” shows promoting homosexuality, promiscuity, vulgar language,
lawlessness, brokeness… listen to the music that promotes gang violence,
sexual abuse of woman…’because misery is loving some company’
while no one is considering Salvation.

But all of that brokeness and lostness is not my point…
my point is back with Gone With The Wind.

When I was still teaching, I worked with probably the best Media Specialist
on the planet (Hi Phyllis)…
She started her career as a librarian…
but librarians were soon to be rocketed to the stratosphere with the advent of
technology within the schools…So what was the humble school book clerk
transitioned to being something akin to a superman or woman…the Media Specialist.
These are now the all knowing techie gurus in schools who still just so happen to
be the keepers of the books and periodicals.

Part of my friend’s job was to meet with the faculty ever so often in order to
share the latest list of banned books or books that were being challenged by
the outside…be it by parents, community members or whomever felt the need
or calling to challenge.

There would be an announced “hearing” where we the faculty and the community
would be invited to the said hearing forum where the banning arguments
were to be heard.

I never attended such hearings because I preferred laying low.
So I can’t speak first hand to the whole banning process.

But it was just all too much for the American loving freedom fighter in me who
would simply get really riled because the only thing I could picture in my mind
were the Nazi’s and their book burning bonfires.
A sure enough time when the lunatics were indeed running the asylum.

On the US list Mark Twain is a frequent guest.
As is the Bible.
As is George Orwell, Willian Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway…
with the list going on and on and on.

And yes, Gone With The Wind is also on the list.

It seems to me that we will allow current trending movies, television shows
and music to run happily amuck, promoting everything from sexual promiscuity
to violence against woman to disrespect to the glorification of gang violence…

But let us dare to perceive something in our past to be insensitive,
especially what we now consider to be racially insensitive….

Well our overtly culturally correct loving Nation is now the greatest group of
hypocrites since the Victorian aristocracy….
and yet no body seems to get it.

We have bigger fish to fry, like aiding those caught in the middle
of a raging catastrophe along the Gulf….
so therefore all this negative anger needs to be channeled toward helping and caring
for those in the greatest need…
yet everyone is too busy being selfish and too caught up in their own tunnel
vision to get it.

So like Rhett Butler, I want to say to the latest statue disputes,
Berkley protesters, Alt right and Antifa idiots among us…
as well as to the latest book or movie banning squads out there that
this growing madness over “insensitivity” is…well…
Frankly my dear, I just don’t give a damn.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men,
but God knows your hearts.
For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

Gone home….


(a table in my son’s home—his tribute to his grandfather)

Dad passed away last night—it was 11:42 when I was called.
We’d spent the day with him and my son was with him last around 9:30 PM
His earthly journey complete…his pain and suffering no more.
As I drove back over for the second time that day, just past midnight,
I was swept over by a sense of calm knowing Dad was finally
with Mother.

I had written the following post after sitting with him yesterday.
I think it still important to share…
But just know that death has once again been overcome by
Life!

Edward Dale Nichols
March 10, 1928—March 19, 2017

Thank you all for your love, prayers and support….

it’s never like the movies

“The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until
the party is over,
and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind,
which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things”

Lemony Snicket

Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back for its ability to create
iconic and memorable snippets of life…
With some of the most captivating moments being those dramatic scenes of both death and dying.

A quick little Google search of iconic death scenes and you get anything from Alien
to Bambi, while my generation most likely thinks Love Story…
with it’s now immortalized tag line,
“love is never having to say your sorry….”

But anyone who has ever been involved in any sort of real life relationship knows that that
particular little Hollywood dribble is just a bunch of crap…
but of course, I digress….

No matter what overtly dramatized film moment you may happen to recall when thinking
classic death / dying scene…
be it an endearing tearjerker like in Titanic or a graphically
gory melee of any epic war picture,
nothing quite compares to the real life drama found in the balance between
true living and dying

Take the above image of the coffee filter filled with fresh dark roasted coffee beans…

Your brain registers that you’re looking at a coffee filter filled with coffee beans…
and because of what you know about coffee beans,
you’re pretty safe assuming that there is a strong aroma associated with the beans…
However you can’t actually smell them.

Captured images just don’t processes a smell-o-rama capability.

You see the beans….
you know they have a very strong enticing smell…
but….
because they’re sitting on a screen, you only experience them with just one sense…
that of sight.

Now Hollywood works hard on a viewer’s senses of both sight and sound in order to
coax out a physical reaction…they’ll happily surmise that they’ve been succeessful if
they think that they’ve made a viewer “feel”…
be it a physical reaction from laughing to crying to even nausea….

Yet for all their special effects, they lack the sense of smell.
And the truth be told, they lack reality.

Because whereas art tries to imitate life, it will always fall short.

Now you know with your eyes and brain that the two images here of,
first the coffee beans and now a fresh bouquet of flowers,
each have a distinct aroma or smell….
but…
you can’t actually smell them by looking at them on your screen.

You can’t touch them or hear them or smell them.

You’re just working off your previous associations…

Nothing can prepare you for reality…but reality.
The nitty gritty touch, taste, hearing, seeing, smell, feel of raw reality.

Dad’s room is now filled with coffee filters filled with coffee beans.
Not because he ever greatly appreciated coffee…
but because the Hospice nurse told us it would help with the smell.

The overwhelming smell of decay because oddly the body will fall apart quite frankly
before we’re exactly finished using it.
As in the body will begin to simply erode, decay and die while we’re still hanging on…
with the end result not being a pretty picture.

Dying is so much worse then what we see in the movies.

For there is much more to it then a Hollywood script…
For it has graphic sights as well as unpleasant sounds and sickening scents…
things that never should be imitated because the reality it simply too overwhelming.

Yet in all of this….
what I know to be true is that our bodies are merely borrowed earthly vessels in which
our souls reside before we are freed from them in order to go home as it were.

Yes I believe this.

It is nearly impossible to watch and be a part of…this eroding, this wasting…
what with the sounds, sights and smells….
because our human brains and emotions are so limited…

This body is all we have known….it is what we have seen age over the years.
It is has come to represent what and who we love, who we cherish, who we hold on to,
who we cling to…who we associate our very beings with….

It is the tangible while our God is not tangible.
It only makes sense that we anguish over its demise.

And yet, in the graphic sights, sounds and smells there remains something far greater
then the decay of age or disease..

For there once was a body that had been so grossly damaged, so horrifically abused as
it had died a slow and agonizing death.
Later it was to be washed and cleaned…
anointed with sweet oils, aloes and spices before being
wrapped in freshly woven flaxen linens.

Yet following three days, more spices were brought to be added to the tomb—
a tomb that was by now assumed to be filled with the overwhelming
stench of human decay and rot…

However, that was not the case….

For within that dark enclosure—a seismic shift of time occurred…
where once life had simply slipped away and become death….
here in this dark enclosure, death had become life…

And so now we wait amongst the coffee beans…for death, to become, life….

“No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of
Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem.
Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship.
Thank God, we have an empty tomb. The glorious fact that the empty tomb
proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes.
Death is not a wall, but a door.”

Peter Marshall