chasing monsters

“We are each other’s harvest;
we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Gwendolyn Brooks


(the setting sun in a western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2017)

Like most folks I imagine, here on the east coast, I awoke yesterday to learn that a horrific tragedy had unfolded while I had slept..taking place out west.
In Las Vegas to be exact.

Shock, disbelief, raw and numb…
were just a few of the words used to describe my initial bleary eyed
reaction.

Readying for the day I gravitated between the television and my phone just
trying to glean the latest news coming in as I tried making sense of what
I was hearing, reading and seeing.

My son and I had a day of traveling on our agenda so once in the car, with me driving,
he pulled up the local Atlanta Channel 2 Action New’s live feed so we’d be able to
see and hear the President address the nation.

All I could think about was here was one more president coming before a somber Nation,
once again, to offer words of solace and comfort in the face of madness.
How many times has Trump already done this?
How many times had President Obama done this?
How many times had President Bush……

Below the streaming live feed my son kept watching and reading the scrolling comments
coming into the station from its viewers. He read some of these to me….
and I was sickeningly appalled at the words he shared.

There were no words of bereavement, no words of sorrow but rather words and feelings
from viewers expressing disdain and mockery.

From disgusting, vile and derogatory remarks about the President and his family to the
notion that this latest massacre equated to mere payback to whites….
I was quickly reminded why I shun social media.

One viewer finally expressing what I was feeling—“is there a way in which I can turn
off these terribly offensive and insensitive comments and just listen to the President?”

My son turned his phone off as the comments were simply too distracting…
too inhumane really, too monstrous…so we continued our drive mostly in silence as our minds worked to absorb the enormity of these latest events.

Later in the afternoon, as I finally made my return journey home alone,
I did something I normally don’t do while driving…I turned on the radio to the news.
I usually prefer to drive in silence, lost in my own thoughts sans any music or chatter..
but today was different… I wanted to hear and feel what the Nation, my Nation,
was experiencing.

I caught the live press briefing from the White House.

There is a big difference when listening to something verses watching it—

With the visual imagery being non existent, the words take on more of their true
intended purpose.

The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, came to the podium and offered words of both sorrow and condolence.

She began the briefing by talking about Puerto Rico and The US Virgin Islands and of the ongoing efforts to offer the necessary aid and support to help in the recovery efforts
for these islands following the deadly assault by the hurricanes.

Next her voice began to waver and crack as she began to speak about our common bond
as Americans and the unity of our shared humanity.

She addressed the current unfolding events coming out of Las Vegas.
She shared the various stories of the heroic acts offered during the melee.
The selfless sacrifices freely offered from stranger to stranger throughout the
surreal shooting.
The stories of those who offered their own bodies as shields in an attempt to protect others.
Such acts she noted recalled the verse John 15:13….
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Once finished she turned the remaining time over to the gathered reporters fielding their questions.

I don’t know.

One would think that the heaviness felt from this emotional observation would have been enough to take the wind out of the sails of that most caustic room of reporters.
One would have thought the enormity of what had recently unfolded, just as it continued
to unfold, would have been enough to soften even the most callous and anti-Trump
reporter. One would think, that while our Nation was currently experiencing a tragedy
of epic proportion, it would be reason or should and would be reason enough to have a quieting effect…
but it didn’t.

They did wait until the second question however before falling into their typical
patterns.
The questions began immediately over gun control.

Ms Sanders quickly reminded those in the room that this was a time of National
reflection, National mourning, a time of coming together in our collective
sorrow all the while as the investigation was currently active—it was all too fresh,
too raw and it was NOT the time nor the place to begin the questioning of or for
revisiting policy decisions or for the attacking of a president….the tit for tat of typical partisan politics.

And yet question after question, reporter after reporter began the litany…
There were those who pushed Hillary Clinton to the forefront of conversation with her
less than sympathetic knee jerk tweets regarding the NRA, there were those who revisited the President’s comments from 12 years ago regarding gun control….
on and on they went.

It all reminded me of a friend of mine who just won’t ever take to hearing the word
“no” for an answer.
She’ll turn and twit her query ever so until she gets the answer she wants to hear…
and that’s what this Q & A reminded me of—-someone determined not to hear the word or words “no” or “not now” as they turned and twisted their words over and over,
again and again as they desperately worked to have their affirmative moment…

And yet time and time again, Ms Sanders stoically redirected the focus to the current moment—
to the pain we are all experiencing….not to the what ifs, not to the would haves,
nor to the should haves….

I think I would have just thrown my hands in the air and walked away.
They just didn’t get it—they didn’t get that this is not the time nor the place….

There is however a time and a place…
but today, right now, was / is not that time nor that place for bickering over policies
failed or not. It is not the day to point the fingers.
It is not the day to be accusatory.
It is not a day of politics.
Not the time nor the place for right or left or anarchist…

For today is the day we sort through the shock as we allow ourselves to grieve.
Today is the day we mourn the lives lost and the lives forever changed.
We allow the pain and yes we even allow the anger…
As we mourn another lost piece to the puzzle of our American innocence.
As we digest that life once again, will never be the same as we knew it.

Yet as a Nation, we seem to have forgotten to allow ourselves our own grief.
The press leads the way, our politicians follow suit as now an angry and hate
filled Nation begins the ugly rhetoric.

Did we better grieve or mourn more honestly before this social media of ours—

Before the distractions and the million of tiny soap boxes we each now
climb upon offering up our hateful and accusatory 2 cents as if anyone is really listening…

When was it exactly that we became this way…?

I ponder these thoughts as I hear of the gut wrenching yet heroic tales of selflessness
offered from stranger to stanger—
sheltering, protecting, offering aid to strangers in the crowd… each
caught in the middle of a nightmare.

As a Nation we must allow ourselves time as well as permission for our collective
sorrow, for the shock, for the disbelief and for our own very humanness…
rather than heeding the call by those now jaded and who have forgotten that we are
more than right, more than left, more than anarchist…eschewing their cries in the meida or on social media to gather the pitchforks in pursuit of the monster—
because in our haste, we might just be chasing after the wrong monster…

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort
and relieve your sick servants, and give your power
of healing to those who minister to their needs,
that those for whom our prayers are offered may be
strengthened in their weakness and have confidence
in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Nefarious and sinister

“No sign, so far, of anything sinister—but I live in hope.”
Agatha Christie

Firstly, you must remember that I am from the generation that was before this
over-zealous addiction with technology was a thing…
From a time before cell phones, before DVD’s, before standard air conditioning,
before videos before virtual reality….

Television, with only the standard 3 major networks, broadcast in black and white,
was not a 24/7 happening thing.
Who doesn’t remember the good ol buzzing of the test pattern waiting for the time
in which the day was to crank back up?

I was well into my teaching career when schools began introducing computers
to their teachers.
A hulking behemoth of a thing that had no such thing as a connection to a
world wide web or wifi capability…but rather ran a single electronic grade book system….of which was only as good as the teachers trying input the
averages and grades…

So when it came time for our son to actually need his first computer,
in say maybe his 9th or 10th grade year in high school,
he was sold on needing an Apple.

My dad was always the techie guru of the family…
of which probably had something to do with Dad having been an engineer all his life.
For he was always cutting edge with technology.

When I was young we were the first on our street to get a color television,
the first to move from HiFi to stereo and the first to get a cell phone.
Granted it was basically a plug-in phone in a bag that looked more like a
traditional phone stuck in a black pocketbook…
but it was cutting edge none the less.

When he bought mother her first microwave, a giant monstrosity that took up an
entire kitchen counter, he made us all leave the room when it was on lest we be
radiated…yet it was ok to eat the radiated food…hummm.

So when it came time for folks to get home computers, dad was right there
in the mix…and this must have been where our son got his proclivity for
technology.

Of course it was now the 21st century…
Apple had come a long way from the early
days of the Macintosh…
Apple now presented a clean futuristic take on technology.
They were slick and if you were slick, Apple was what the slick were craving.

So naturally our son eventually sold me on needing an Apple as well…
despite my school still using traditional PCs in the classroom.
“Apples are easier to use and they don’t get viruses mother” he would
frustratingly remind me whenever something went awry at school…
“Plus they’re for the more creative” this being a push to his
art teacher mother.

And so it is…
I’ve been through one large Apple desktop and two iMac lap tops…not to mention
and array of iPhones and one iPad…

And then it happened.

There I was last night having to update my adobe acrobat.
My phone happened to be ringing at the same time.

Answering the phone while trying to update…
as in multitasking has always been an area in which I have always excelled…
Yet suddenly something crazy and terribly wrong had come up on my screen as there
was now a voice coming from my computer with some dude talking to me about virus
detection while my computer had downloaded not adobe acrobat but something else
entirely, something called Safe Finder—
with this actually becoming my new home page.
Safe it was not….

WHAT????? I hear a panicked voice wailing,
realizing the voice was mine.

So I quickly hung up the phone and tried doing everything a limited minded
57 year old knows to do.
I cut my computer off and on.

When some semblance of clarity finally returned to my distraught brain,
I tried uninstalling the blasted thing but it wouldn’t uninstall.

Shades of Equifax now ran through my brain as I heard the Discover Card commercial
Russian sales associate “Peggy” mocking me from somewhere deep in Siberia…
I now believed everything I held dear or what was of importance to my existence as
a humanbeing had just been dumped on that nefarious Dark Web.

I actually looked up “what is the dark web”
And just when you thought the internet was not dark enough,
it gets even darker.

The links that came up were frighting at best.
With the lead link claiming to be able to step by step anyone into the dark web
within 15 minutes allowing you to remain anonymous.
I felt as if it was assuring me that it could happily step by step me
smack dab into the middle of Hell all within 15 minutes…
somehow I don’t think one remains anonymous in Hell.

Naturally I didn’t click on any links because I just wanted to see if it was
really real.
And no I do not need to see if Hell is real…
I’ve already figured that one out.

So I now had a sick feeling in my stomach…a kind of scared to death feeling of
instant doom.

I worked my way into reaching Apple in order to make an appointment at one the
Atlanta stores for the following day but discovered there were no appointments
until Saturday at 5:15.
“Are you freaking kidding me?????”
Again the panicked voice, which was mine, was heard wailing.

By now my husband was home.
I rapidly fired off the retelling of my troubles as he was wondering why
supper was only half way cooked.
“Maybe you should just go buy another one?”
“No” I practically snapped, “this one is only two years old and a new one
would cost an arm and a leg.”
All the while images of viruses being sent out to everyone I knew, or worse,
my identity was now multiplying in places like North Korea, Russia, China….
all dark shadows playing out in my now overstimulated imagination.

After supper I called Apple and left my number for a “miracle worker”
to call me back.
An almost immediately my phone rang with said Apple miracle worker.

I explained my tale of woe.
We ‘share screened’…
(which is scary in itself as we where both in my computer at the same time)
while he walked me through the malware issue.
He found the culprit embedded on my hard drive…hidden well deep within
the labyrinth of the the computer.

We got it, got rid of it and added a Malware program to my computer to
detect and deal with any further issues.

So naturally with all this virus verses no virus business…
along with the hackers, identity theft, and the sinister Dark Web plaguing
my life, I got to thinking….

We live in a world of utterly false protection.
If you think otherwise, it won’t be long until this world makes a believer out of
you as well.

We have been lulled into believing that everything from our identity,
to our credit history to our medical records, to our very safety as an American
are all perfectly safe…
Yet with the big credit companies like Equifax recently being attacked…
While millions of medical records were hacked at Anthem in 2015, with even
the Pentagon being hacked, no one should feel safe.

While credit information is easily stollen at gas stations, restaurants and
even while innocently and mindlessly shopping…
with it all being sold to the highest bidder.

Life is no longer simple nor is it safe.

So while we now work diligently to be ever vigilant protecting what is ours
while living in a world of growing cyber darkness…
we must be equally, if not more so, mindful that our very souls are
just as vulnerable as our credit or our medical records or even our identity ….
for there is indeed a darkness that longs for such…

And should you disagree—there are steps available for taking you just as dark as
you dare go…I think they call that hell…..

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent,
who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—
he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,
“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the
authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers
has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word
of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you,
O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12:9-12

Come thou long expected….

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear
a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly
waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:28


(Cross outside Drumcliffe Parish Church, County Sligo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Our son, daughter-n-law and grand dog have all come to stay with us as a good
portion of Atlanta has been in the dark since Irma’s visit.

Atlanta is the type of city where they say a squirrel never has to touch the ground.
The trees are old and plentiful…which is such a huge part of the city’s charm and beauty, but is also a grave trouble during storms…
be it hurricanes, tornados or ice storms.

A tree fell on a neighboring street, taking out a transformer and so therefore we
now have company.

As I was busy in the kitchen last evening, I caught a bit of an interview with Bill
Bennett, otherwise known as Willian Bennett, the former Secretary of Education under
President Ronald Reagan.

I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Bennett’s sound wisdom.

Mr. Bennett was being asked about the growing violence currently coming from
the group Antifa…
A radicalized anarchist styled militant group that favors violence over anything
else as they claim to be fighting against fascism—
Yet the troubling issue at hand is that this group has decided the sitting
President of the United States is just such a person of just such a group and he,
as well as anyone who voted for him needs to be violently taken out….

Bennett notes that there is a growing and troubling support base for Antifa
now coming from a wide range of folks…
with post secondary educators being right in the middle of the mix.
While the latest vocal support is actually coming out of schools such
as Dartmouth college.

It seems this upper crust Ivy League school had a professor who had written a very
public letter expressing his support for Antifa, endorsing their violent tactics.
Dartmouth’s president in turn wrote a letter denouncing any such sweeping
support coming from his school for such groups as Antifa.

This in turn lead to a letter being signed by 100 faculty members who
expressed their support for not their College President but rather for Antifa
and the supporting professor.

And these are the very people educating our youth!!

Dejected, I turned my attention back to the dishes…
lost under the burden of thought.

Suddenly out of the blue I hear a long forgotten familiar tune…
and I’m the one humming it….

Come thou long expected Jesus….

Come, O Long-Expected Jesus
By: Charles Wesley

Come, O long-expected Jesus,
Born to set your people free;
From our fears and sins release us
By your death on Calvary.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope to all the earth impart,
dear desire of ev’ry nation,
Joy of ev’ry longing heart.

Born your people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king;
Born to reign in us forever,
Now your gracious kingdom bring.
By your own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By your all-sufficient merit
Raise us to your glorious throne.

http://video.foxnews.com/v/5574320618001/?playlist_id=5410209611001#sp=show-clips

The tale, part II

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”

― Emily Dickinson


(view from our room overlooking the busy horse carts on Mackinac Island /
Julie Cook/ 2017)

I wrote this part II post Tuesday, a day before my aunt lost her battle with
the reoccurring cancer.
I know she would insist that I run the post because the ending is so much better than
any of our losses….
and so it is…..

Picking up from where we left off yesterday….

Over our subdued lunch shadowed by my angst,
I called another very nice, but much smaller historic, hotel
located in town… and to our amazement, they had a room!
And if the truth be told…in the end we preferred this
second hotel much more than our stay at the more uppity larger hotel.

Thankfully our final two days of this trip were relatively incident free…
as finally, perhaps even thankfully, the time came for our return home…

What with the many
planes
cars
trains
boats
horses
and bikes…
we made our way back to the tiny little airport…
the one we had been so intimately acquainted with just
days prior.

The nice TSA lady told everyone gathered to make certain to take all food items,
especially Mackinac’s famous fudge, out of their carry-on luggage.
She instructed everyone to put all said fudge into separate bins
allowing it to pass through the screening machine
by itself.

Hummmmmm.

I scrambled pulling out sack after sack of fudge from my backpack.
Everyone back home had asked me to bring back some of this most well known
and most delectable treat.

Finally unburdened from all packed fudge poundage,
my husband and I proceeded to pass through the detectors.

The TSA man stops my husband, who can’t hear because he’d taken out his hearing aids,
and proceeds to tell my clueless husband that he is going to patted down…
my husband looks at me to interrupt.

TSA agents don’t like for you to work as a team…

I tried explaining to the TSA fellow that my husband wouldn’t be able to hear him…
this while another TSA agent grabs my backpack,
the one that had just exited the X-ray scanner,
and asks me to step over to a counter.

All the while my husband is being frisked.
This latest TSA agent places my bag on a counter behind a screen and
proceeds asking me, in a very serious sounding tone,
if there is anything sharp or dangerous in my bag.

“No.”

“I am going to empty the contents of your bag and I want you to keep your hands
where they are and do not reach over here for anything I pull out.”

“Ok.”

She proceeds to pull out my fig newtons, a few of the knick knack gifts
I’d picked up for my son and daughter-n-law,
my windbreaker, my book, my little bag of goldfish crackers,
my camera….
finally she pulls out a sack that had been buried on the very bottom of the pack.
One last box of fudge I had missed in my rush to empty out everything else.

The agent informs me that fudge takes on the properties of an explosive.

“Huh?”

She takes her little magic explosive wand, wiping down my fudge box as well as the
entire insides of my backpack….checking for explosive residue.

I’m sorry but I’m standing in the middle of a teeny tiny little midwestern
regional airport waiting to board a tiny connecting flight—
I look as American as Charlie Brown—a far cry from an evil radical terrorist…
and I have a ton of fudge—does that seem terroristic to you?

She proceeds to berate me for not paying attention,
for not listening to the prior screening request to empty out bags of
all candy.

“HELLOOOOOO, do you not see the sacks of fudge and taffy sitting in this bin that I obviously did empty…???!!!”

I proceeded to tell this agent, which perhaps I shouldn’t have,
that I was a teacher, and if anyone knows how to follow instructions
it was me…

Did she not pick up on that little fact by the ton of candy I had already
removed that was sitting outside of the bag..???!!!
Plus did it not occur to her that ‘I simply missed one last sack????

“Oh, and by the way, I don’t even like fudge!!!!!!”

Once on the plane and settled into our tiny little seats,
my husband exhales loudly. The restrained composure he bravely maintained
all week was now fading rapidly away….
He matter of factly states in a rather loud voice for all to hear,
that from now on…we will not be flying anywhere, ever again–
-we will be driving….

Fast forward to Monday as life resumed its monotony of routine.

I met my son at their home here in town in order to finish moving boxes and
begin the scrubbing process.
I asked why his wife hadn’t come down…again.
“She’s still sick” he replies.
“Still? What in the heck is wrong…I’ve told y’all to
hurry up and find a doctor and quit waiting till you’re near death…”
On and on I fuss, just like a fussy mother hen, I chide and ramble.

Suddenly I stop my fussing.

“Brenton,”
I slowly ask….
“is Abby pregnant?”

“Yes…..”

One word…

“yes”

and suddenly our little world is transformed into
something so much bigger, so much greater,
so much more than where we were right before
he said the single simple word
“yes.”

“We’ve been afraid to tell y’all what with everything that’s been happening.”
Almost apologetically he tells me they had not planned it to be this way.
We know the timing is poor…but…

and so now yes,
and now but…
and now life,
and now thankfully,
and now joyfully…
it happens…

everything that was,
everything that seemed so insurmountable,
everything that was such a big deal
so annoying
so troublesome
so stupid
so difficult….

as Dad’s former caregiver told me when I shared the news with her…
“in the black community we have a saying,
when one leaves the world,
another one enters”

and so it is…
and so it does….

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

Ephesians 2:8-9

The tale, Part I

“A year jammed full of adventure and misadventure,
strides forward and many steps backward, another year in my topsy-turvy,
Jekyll-and-Hyde existence.”

Anthony Kiedis


(the lone baggage carousel in the Pellston, MI airport / Julie Cook / 2017)

What do you notice about the picture up above?

Well, there seems to be a couple of stuffed animals…which might
give the impression that the location of this particular carousel is somewhere
in the wilds of nature.

Secondly you might notice it’s empty…as in no luggage is currently riding
the merry go round….

And that’s exactly what we saw late one afternoon last week when we flew into this
upper Michigan tiny little regional airport—

This is a long story that I want to keep brief so I’m cutting to the chase as
quickly as possible…
I’m going to be leaving out a good bit of detail so do
your best with your imagination as I offer you the basic facts…
But I will post it in two parts as it is, like I say, a long story.

I don’t fly often…maybe once, maybe twice a year if at all.
So the question is…why has Delta lost my luggage on 4 separate occasions
during the past few years?

Good question.

Second question, why was I surprised that it happened again on this
latest adventure.

Let’s back up.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that my past
three years of life have been trying at best.

From caring for elderly parents who didn’t live nearby and didn’t want caring—
both suffering from dementia and yet requiring help, lots of help….
One being a stepmother who ended up resenting everything and everyone…
so much so that she began claiming she was not married,
nor had she ever been married…to my dad…this after 20 years….
If she had those thoughts in the beginning, things might be easier now,
but I digress.

There was the commuting to and from the city for months upon months
Think Atlanta traffic….

We then had a year of successive loss.
We lost my father-n-law, my niece and then my dad…
and if you count my stepmother being moved out of state following dad’s death,
well that’s a quasi sort of loss.

We’ve suffered and are currently suffering again through the anguish of cancer.
My husband is still embroiled in a legal nightmare over his dad.
As we have grown weary of mind, body and soul.

Our son took a job at the onset of Dad’s illness and he and his wife had to
hurry to the city where they leased an apartment while their house here sat
sort of empty sort of not….for a year now.

Then there was the putting together of the pieces of Dad’s world
following his death…
a process that is proving monumental and still seemingly nightmarishly
unending….
Mourning got put on the way back burner as wrestling more with anger
and resentment pushed sorrow to the side.

Our son and his wife next moved into Dad’s old house, cause that’s what
Dad wanted….
Yet it is an old house needing much work.
As we are still wading through that.

Our son is changing jobs.
All of this as we now race, with everyone driving back and forth
to empty and clean the house here in order to put
it to market….
too many houses and apartments currently in our lives.

Throw in my husband’s retail business and those worries and hassles,
throw in our own home, our own lives and worries….
and you’ve got a toxic mix for a potential meltdown.

Enter the notion of getting the heck out of dodge…
aka taking a much needed vacation.

My husband has never shut down his business for any reason—
not even for death…not his mind you….
So when he announced that he was past tired and thought
he’d close the week of the 4th,
and please find somewhere cool we can go for a few days
(sadly he isn’t a fan as I am of the beach),
I wanted nothing more than to make him happy.

A time to get away,
to change the pace,
to forget the looming nightmares
and to clear both our minds and ours sights.

He was really excited.

We haven’t taken a trip like this in a long long time and getting far away,
seemed to be something most needed.

All seemed to fall neatly into place.
Someone to watch the cats.
Someone to watch the closed store.
A new roof going up at Dad’s.
Tickets all aligned.
Everything was good to go.

That was until we got to the final point of airport destinations
when Delta decided to keep my husband’s luggage in Detroit
while my luggage met us in Pellston.

I wearily approach the gal at the one small counter of this
regional airport’s only desk.
She assures me that its “no problem…”
Delta will bring the luggage to our hotel tomorrow morning.
“But we have to be on a wilderness train ride at 7 AM and my husband needs
his jacket and tennis shoes.”
“Well there’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here…
and where is your hotel?”
“Salut Ste Marie”
“US side or Canada side?”
“Canada.”
“Oh.
“What do you mean oh?”
“We can’t take luggage across the border.”
“WHAT?”
“There’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here.”
“What time is the next flight in from Detroit?”
“5 and 1/2 hours.”
“WHAT?”
“We have to drive the almost two hours to Canada this evening”
“There’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here”

We had no choice but to wait on the flight.
While the hot tears formed in my eyes, I stewed over the lost
time of daylight and of the afternoon we’d planned to use
to explore the region before checking into the hotel in Canada…
as I forlornly lamented over our precious limited time being
needlessly eaten away…

This entire little airport shuts down in-between flights as flights are
so few and far between.
The car rental windows shut, the agents leave, the baggage handler leaves, the
TSA agents leave…
they all leave…
but us.

There was however a little restaurant / bar upstairs where we could sit
for a spell, having a bite of supper.

We put the things we did have in the rental car,
a car that reeked like a giant ash tray,
and came back into the airport in order to camp out for the near 6 hour wait.

We opted to make our way upstairs, and ordered a typical
Michigan whitefish dinner…which was actually quite tasty.
There was a nice family sitting next to us who couldn’t help
but hear our accents.
Southern accents oddly stick out like a sore thumb everywhere
but in the South.

When this family had finished with their meal,
as this is about the only restaurant / bar available in this small town,
they made their way to our table to ask where we were from and what had
brought us to their neck of the woods.

We explained about our trip and then about our luggage.
They offered suggestions for our various destinations and were most
kind and welcoming.

Once we said our goodbyes, we went back to our whitefish.

Just a few minutes later the wife came back into the restaurant
making a beeline for our table….
excusing herself for appearing to be stalking us but that she had a sense
from God that she was to pray for us and asked for our names.

“Wow!!” I thought as now happy tears entered my eyes.

Long story…we finally got to the hotel in Canada at almost 1 AM.
No sleep as we were up and going at 5AM readying to get to the train station
for the 7AM departure.

12 hours of riding a train through the rocks and woods with nary a view
or vista.

Once to the canyon, everyone clambered out to enjoy the hour and a half of
exploring and picnicking.

The one glitch being that the passengers were not informed that the
mosquitoes and gants would be swarming horrendously,
so much so that folks practically trampled over one another getting back on
the train in order to wait until beginning the 6 hour descent back to town
through the same rocks and trees.
Did I mention the tons of goose poop?

There was much itching, scratching and silence…
most folks slept all the way back to town.

We eventually reached what was to be the best part of the trip,
Mackinac Island.

A marvelous place of a life without motors…
a place of only bicycles, 600 resident work horses and lots of feet.

The only issue is that this small island is inundated with tourists from the
mainland throughout the entire summer season.
My husband quipped that from all the arriving ferries and tourists,
it was a wonder the island didn’t sink.

The staff at the hotel we were to spend our time were all young,
foreign and kept reminding me of the youthful staff at Disney–
a strange sea of constantly smiling international faces whose english was
halting and who were a little hard to understand.

I proceeded to check us in.

“Mam we have you arriving today and checking out in two days.”
“Well no, we’re actually checking out in three days.”
“Okay mam, whatever you say,
but it is on the 7th that we have you checking out.”
“No, we’re checking out on the 8th, see….”

And that’s when I saw my mistake.

Panic gripped my entire being.
“Do you have another night’s room available? I asked as I tried to
contain the rising hysteria.
“I will put you on the waiting list Mam but we are very full” this all said
with a great big smile to a woman who was about to reach critical mass.

In all my years of plotting and planning trips, adventures, outings…
From all my years of teaching and making certain that every last detail
was on schedule and secure…
how, of all times, had I failed to cross check these dates???!

I felt the hot tears building in my eyes.
This while my very hard of hearing husband kept asking me what the girl,
he couldn’t understand, was saying…back and forth I went from the smiling
hard to understand girl to my hard of hearing not smiling husband.

The tears in my eyes and my very red cheeks tipped him off that the
conversation was not good.

I turned to my husband, as I thought I would now throw up, and practically
shrieked that the island was so crowded, we’d never find a room…
panicking and practically wailing I announced we should just go home…
as in now…..

My poor husband calmed me down as best he could…
this from a man who is not known for calm or patience…
He suggested we wander back down to town to find a bite of lunch,
as we wait for the room to be readied allowing us time to regroup.

I had tried so hard to make things perfect for him, for us,
as this was one of those a big deals that I tend to take way too seriously.
We had worked so very hard and had gotten through so very much
just to be able to actually now try and get away and forget life’s worries
for just a few days—
only to have it turn into one misadventure right after another…
as I was now just about overwhelmed by every misadventure.

All of this was now making it very difficult for me to breathe
let alone concentrate.

So here is where we’ll break off until tomorrow…
Hang on cause there’s more to come and the best part will be worth the wait….

demanding

“He didn’t ask “Where will you spend eternity?”
as religious the-end-is-near picketers did but rather,
“With what, in this modern democracy,
will you meet the demands of your soul?”

Saul Bellow


(the ripening little peaches / Julie Cook / 2017)

God’s love is a demanding love…
this much we know….

And unfortunately we, as in you and me and all of us, are not very good with “demanding.”
We don’t listen nor we do we do what we’ve often been told to do…
this since the dawn of time.

An example you ask…?
Well we just have to look to the Israelites…

Folks just don’t wander around in a desert for 40 years because they’re
doing everything they’d been told to do…
wandering while looking and hoping to find one’s way usually means a wrong
turn was taken somewhere along the way and the recalculating voice has yet to reset….

For it just seems that in our heart of hearts we, me, you…simply aren’t up to the
demands of answering the call of this demanding Love.
We simply don’t, or perhaps it’s more apt to say we can’t, do “demanding” very well.
There’s just something about that rebellious nature of ours….

And since we’ve basically spent the history of time stumbling about lost to ourselves
while totally avoiding demanding Love…of which means we’ve not been very good at
offering said love outward….
well, it all sounds really quite hopeless actually….

And yet…

Yeshua, the Son of the Omnipotent Creator…
the very Creator of this very demanding Love,
came to this earth in order to live the very example of the oh so demanding Love…
demonstrating that it is hard, that it can be painful and that it is extremely costly but…
it can be done and when it is done…it is actually the gift of everlasting Love….

And he did all of this for you and for me and for all of us who are lost in our
rebellious ways….

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—–
though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood,
much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,
much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received our reconciliation.

Romans 5:6-11

a husband

The most important thing in the world is family and love.
John Wooden


(my husband during the latest trip to the beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

A while back, shortly following Dad’s death, a blogging friend inquired about
my husband.
This friend had been patiently and graciously following my sad daily
tale of Dad’s battle with cancer.
This friend had also joined in prayer and was an ardent supporter offering words
of consolation and hope during my 24/7 ordeal of driving over daily those many months
to care for Dad as well as my stepmother.
He had wondered in all of this ordeal about my husband as he was pretty certain
I had, form time to time, mentioned having one…
so he was wondering if he had been supportive.

And it did seem as if I was “alone” a good bit of the time during my time of constant
care management but that’s what happens…not everyone can drop everything, when life
comes calling, as there has to be someone who remains behind holding down the fort.

I do have a husband.

I’ve written about my husband from time to time here in cookie land,
but he prefers that I don’t.
He doesn’t quite understand this “blob” of mine and why I do it and what it’s all about.
He is why I don’t “do” Facebook as he was adamantly opposed when that thing called
social media first hit the forefront of our now virtual reality.

He doesn’t have time for virtual reality because he is really too busy in the literal reality
of the daily grind of working and living….

So if you will indulge me a few words, I will share a little about the role my husband
played and continues to play as I think father’s day is a most appropriate day to do so….

We’ve been married just shy of 35 years.
My husband was a confirmed bachelor and is actually 10 years older than I am.
He was 33 when we married and I was a fresh out of college, naive young teacher of 23.
We have one child, a son who is now 28.
We also have two cats and a grand dog.

My husband, who at 67 is tired and would very much like to retire, but likes
to be able to pay the bills…
and we do like to eat.

Five years ago when things began to take a nose dive in the health and wellbeing with
my dad and stepmother, it was my husband who told me that with 31 years in under
my belt, he had decided I needed to “retire” so I could be more available to them there
in Atlanta.
He’d pick up the economic slack so I could go and do.

I felt badly because my husband had been working since he was 14 years old, having
lied to a local manufacturing plant about his age.
His father was a long time and long suffering alcoholic and my husband actually
had lived in 8 different homes before entering 3rd grade for theirs was a life of
physical pain, mental anguish and uncertainty.
I felt if anyone deserved to retire, it was him rather than me.

He took over his family’s jewelry business in 1976 and has been running a small town
business ever since.
Anyone who has ever worked retail or owned their own business can understand the
overwhelming anxiety and uncertainly that comes with such.
It has not always been easy…as the business has ebbed and flowed.

Add to that that it took our son a while to get through school.
He has lived with, as well as learned how to cope with,
a very difficult learning disability that made school at times an
insurmountable obstacle.

My husband worked, as I worked, but I was afforded the time of summers to help our son
by ferrying him to a regime of various tutors as we spent one entire summer
driving daily to Atlanta to a school for kids with dyslexia…
We could not afford the school on a year round basis…so we paid for what we could
and took advantage of each opportunity.

My husband always made certain that our son would have the tools necessary
to succeed even if that meant he was constantly working at the store in order
to make it so.

And that success was made a reality last summer the day our son graduated college.

My husband attended college…. albeit briefly.
His saving grace growing up was football and he actually earned an athletic scholarship
when he was a walk-on with the school’s football team.
He had wanted to be a coach or a dentist but his father demanded he
quit college after just two years because the family business needed him—
he sent my reluctant yet dutiful husband to jewelry school in New York.
The last thing he wanted to be was a jeweler tied down for a lifetime
in a family business.

My husband went to New York under a sense of obligation to a man who had
caused him so much pain,
but thought being a dutiful son was more important in the bigger scheme of life.

And even years later, having spent years alienated from not only his father but
the majority of his immediate family due to the utter collapse of dysfunction
run amuck in an alcoholic family, my husband found himself caring for his
ailing 92 year old widowed father…

We’d cook his meals, and once my husband got off work, we’d drive several evenings
throughout the week to the small town his father called home….
all until his father’s death a year ago.

That story is a long mess unto itself, but a mess that my husband took on all
on his own.
Simply doing what he deemed to be the right thing for a man who never opted to
do the right thing by a once vulnerable young boy turned now grown son.
Yet I think God always has a way of honoring such selflessness…as I keep reminding
my husband when he laments doing what he did as it has now proven to be problematic
with those who chose to remain in the quagmire of dysfunction.

For that is what my husband does…the right thing when others, including myself,
would readily say forget it…that’s not your worry, your problem…
that bed has been made, let them all just lie in it…

But the thing is… my husband sees that the right thing, the selfless thing, in
the long run, is just that…the right thing…
and he’s never been one to keep a record of wrongs…
deciding long ago that life is bigger than keeping or settling a score.

And so it was, as I spent the past several years running back and forth, tending
to my own father’s life and eventual death…
my husband was working 6 days a week, 14 hours a day,
keeping things at home a float so I could focus solely on my Dad…his father-n-law.
Not a perfect man either, but a man who had had a child and having eventually
grown old and sick, needed that child.

And so today, this day of all things fathers,
I am left remembering the men in my life who have each come and gone,
leaving both this world and me behind…
yet I am forever grateful to and for the one man who remains…by my side…

For despite his having wondered, as I’m certain he has done from time to time,
as to why he has indeed remained so steadfast by my side,
he’s simply doing what he deems to be the right thing no matter what…
and I’m certainly the better for this most thoughtful and dutiful man!
so…..
Happy Father’s Day

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is
alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11