The stories as told by a tree

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It seems each ornament has a story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is never coincidence, not even in the dark of night

“And I saw that truly nothing happens by accident or luck,
but everything by God’s wise providence …
for matters that have been in God’s foreseeing wisdom,
since before time began, befall us suddenly,
all unawares; and so in our blindness and ignorance we say that this is accident or luck,
but to our Lord God it is not so.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(Pieta in The Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France /Julie Cook / 20118)

“Many of the saints tell us that these times of God-ordained ‘desolation’ or dryness
are very important times of growth if we persevere through them by exercising a deeper
faith, hope, and love.
It is particularly important, they tell us,
not to give up our spiritual practices but to remain faithful.
God in His wisdom knows how long and how deeply we must be tried in order to come closer to Him,
and we should patiently trust Him during the trial while persevering in our practices.”

Ralph Martin, p.174
An Except From
Fulfillment of all Desire

With God, there are no accidents.
Never.

Even when, in our thinking, a near-irreparable tragedy, of which is a true accident and is
nonetheless horrific and simply unbearable…leaves both our lives and bodies shattered…

We are reminded that God is still very much present.

Yet such a reminder, to those who are living in and with the aftermath,
rings often empty and even bitterly insulting.

Our pain and our anger are both agonizingly palpable.

Yet such moments, more often than not, send even the most staunch religious
and spiritual among us into the depths of deep darkness.
A wasteland of sorrow, loneliness, bitterness and yes, a gnawing and seething anger…

The wasteland can last, for what can seem, an eternity.

Or…on the other hand…perhaps there was no accident…no tragedy…

There was no particular impetus for a sudden wandering into the wasteland of an empty soul…

We simply find ourselves, our souls, suddenly and oddly empty and cold.

At best, our faith remains shallow…
At worst, our faith seems lost forever…

However, we are reminded to hold fast.

To hold on.

Words, which to the hurting, the lost, the lonely, more often than not,
echo of emptiness and even the trite.

It will take a conscious act of totally emptying oneself to all that is.
It will take a complete letting go of all that we know and hold dear.
It will take a blind leap of faith.
It will take a willingness to trust in that which we cannot see while we cling to
a promise given to each of us long ago.

We have a choice…
we can choose to remain lost, bitter or angry.
Or we can cling to the one promise we have…

Be not afraid…

The tragedy, the accident, the sorrow which could not, cannot be prevented…
nor that of the painful results, while one seems to remain caught in the vicious cycle
of pain both physical and spiritual, that results from such situations…
is ours to either keep and hold on to or to let go of while we figure out how to find our way back…home

That is our choice, our conscious decision.

There are no accidents with God, no coincidence.
And when in the desert, He remains steadfast despite a perceived silence.

I say all of this as I am in the midst of reading a book that is a tale
of the horrific, the unthinkable, the unimaginable and yet a tale
of the hope, the healing, and the Saving Grace…
of which far outweighs that of the Evil.

More on this story as time allows.

It does indeed seem empty to say to those who suffer the unimaginable that they must simply
hold on and hold tight…
but that is exactly what we all must be willing to do…
and to “will” ourselves takes a conscious act…

Something Beautiful Happened
A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil
by Yvette Manessis Corporon

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

Isaiah 41:10-13

the other story…

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite
distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible
for each to see the other whole against the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke


(historic marker for the Duelist’s Grave / The Colonial Cemetary,
Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2018)

There’s a street I’ll usually cut through when I’m driving home from town.
It’s a street that my husband isn’t always keen that I take.
Not that he worries about my safety in doing so…it’s just that he thinks it
a bit seedy.
And lord knows should my car suddenly quit working…then where would I be?!

I suppose in seedyville.

And this is when my eyes roll at such a thought as I remind him I’d simply be in the same
town I’ve now called home for nearly 40 years…no worries.

It’s not necessarily a bad street in a bad part of town, but it does have its share of
what some might call a few folks who are ‘rough around the collar.’
A mixed sort of neighborhood to be sure.

But having taught school in our community for over 30 years,
I figure I know or have known all the kids from every side of town…
the upside, downside and in between side…so it really doesn’t bother me.
Many are now very much grown and I no longer recognize their faces but they know me…
so if I’m ever stranded in or around town, someone I once knew will most likely
know me now.

When I first started teaching, it was the “westside” of our town that was more or less
the more infamous part of town.
My kids (aka students) who lived in that part of town would ask if I’d ever been there…
and of course, I’d tell them yes as I had actually given ‘so and so’ a ride home.
They would in turn quickly chastize me, telling me not to go after dark.

It’s a shame that we have such sections of our towns and communities…
but the fact of the matter is that we do–as every city and town seems to have its fair
share of places one should be cautious about traveling through.

So on this particular cut through street of mine, sits an old house that looks a bit
piecemealed together…
as in it started out as a single story wooden framed home when at some point or other,
an upper story was oddly added with an open deck that makes me think “old Florida”…
as in the older type of houses built near the ocean back in the day, long before there were
multimillion dollar McMansions and highrise condos.
More bungalow than house.

The yard around the house is pretty rough looking, cluttered and littered with both weeds
and junk.
The upstairs deck is covered with what must be 50 birdhouses of various sizes, shapes
and descriptions.
Plus in bold black letters, on the front of this mishmashed house, are the words
“The other story”
Which is another throwback to those old beach bungalows when folks would name their cottages…

The other side of the story…
As in this fellow who lives here, and I say fellow because this place screams of a
curmudgeonie sort of person that calls this place “home”…maybe its the broken down lawnmower
and all it’s scattered parts…but no matter, it seems that this fellow has his own side to
some sort of story.

All of which has reminded me of something I recently read…
It reminded me of a different sort of ‘the other story’…or maybe it reminded
me of what is actually the real story…

I read that there are actually two Christmases…
Two different Christmases both rolled one into the other.

There is, of course, the Christmas of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays, giving Tuesdays,
Santa at the mall, presents, mistletoe and all that speaks of secularism and consumerism.

And then on the flip side, there is the ‘other’ Christmas.

The Christmas of Christ’s Mass…the birth of the savior.

The latter, however, is deeply overshadowed by the former…and it seems that it is
overshadowed more and more each year with what seems to be a concerted effort to actually
drown it out forever.

But it is that other story, that other Christmas story that is actually the real
and only story.

Because it is the original story
The original Christmas.

The story being that of salvation.
The story of, a once long-ago time, when Hope was returned to earth…
in the form of a baby.

An amazing story really.

Not so much a story about mistletoe, or shopping til you drop, or of presents or
of cyber this or that but rather a story of unconditional love made manifest.

There’s always another side to every story…and I for one certainly prefer this other Christmas
story to that more modern version of this sacred story…

“It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas
and so few stop to inquire into its meaning,
but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human
habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import.”

A.W.Tozer

Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate his coming by making peace impossible
for six weeks of each year…
He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them.

A.W. Tozer

the tale of a tetovierer

Who has inflicted this upon us?
Who has made us Jews different from all other people?
Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?
It is God that has made us as we are,
but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.
If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left,
when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed,
will be held up as an example.

Anne Frank


(image of some of the children in Auschwitz holding up their arms to a cameraman,
showing the tattooed number on their arms / BBC)

I am not a fan of tattoos.

I’m just not nor have I ever been.

And this coming from a retired art teacher who had many an aspiring tattoo artist
in class.

I truly believe that what one finds grand, fascinating, bold as well as defining
at say age 18, will not hold the same sense of fascination, boldness nor still
be defining at say age 58…

Plus I can’t help but see a good bit of an underlying psychology underneath a
need to permanently “ink” ones’ body…..

But hey, that’s just me.

It’s obviously not the rest of our culture’s or society’s mindset….
I’m just a one hole pierced earring sort of girl….

I like things understated and simple really…elegant, ageless and timeless.
I blame my grandmother…thankfully.

I grew up with many Jewish friends.
I attended Synagogue with them as they came to church with me.
I feel a deep connection to our Jewish brethren as I happen to
claim one of their own as my Savior.

Yet in all my years, I never knew nor had met anyone who had been a survivor
of the Death Camps.

I knew many a WWII veteran but never an individual who lived to tell the
horrific nightmare of having lived when one was expected to die…

I knew Vietnam Veterans and even POWs of that war, but none from
those infamous Death Camps of a previous war.

So I have never seen an aged wrinkled arm that bears the fading yet distinct
numbers of one’s time spent surviving death.

I did a pencil drawing once of a portion of a forearm and hand…
It was a man’s arm and hand.
There was a number scrawled on the inner wrist running about an inch and a half
lengthwise up the forearm–along with an inch wide hole piercing all the way through
the palm of the hand…
the backdrop was what one would assume to be a rough hewn piece of wood….

His death, the death of the man whose arm I had drawn, had not been in vain and
had not been for but a select few…it had been for all…
as He had been there, in their midst, with all those who had those numbers
inked onto their arms, despite many Jews to this day truly believing that God
had abandoned them during the Shoah …

The biblical word Shoah (which has been used to mean “destruction” since
the Middle Ages) became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of European Jewry
as early as the early 1940s. The word Holocaust,
which came into use in the 1950s as the corresponding term,
originally meant a sacrifice burnt entirely on the altar.
The selection of these two words with religious origins reflects recognition
of the unprecedented nature and magnitude of the events.
Many understand Holocaust as a general term for the crimes and horrors
perpetrated by the Nazis;
others go even farther and use it to encompass other acts of mass murder as well. Consequently, we consider it important to use the Hebrew word Shoah with
regard to the murder of and persecution of
European Jewry in other languages as well.

Yad Vashem

And so I never gave much thought as to those tattooed numbers on those forearms.
I never thought about who was charged with having to “write” them…
I never thought about when exactly it was, during the ordeal,
that they had received them…
And how odd that I had never known anyone who had endured what it meant to have one.

The other day I caught a story with a rather interesting title….
The Tattooist of Auschwitz–and his secret love

Visions of today’s tattoo artists in my mind is of an individual who
themselves is covered in various images and colors, electric pen in hand…
a master of a cultural craft.

Throw in the notion of a secret love and all manner of clandestine activities
suface in one’s imagination.

Clicking on the story, I am met with the tale of a man and of the life
he lived and of an age-long sense of heaviness for having betrayed the
millions who did not survive.
I believe that is called survivors guilt.

And yet in this tale there is found love, loss, rediscovering, life, hope….
and finally a sense of understanding that there was no culpability for
simply having survived.

The story is set in Melbourne, Australia…
a far cry from a Death Camp in 1940’s Poland.
And the hero of this tale actually died in 2006.
It took him until he was well into his 80’s to even be able to share his story…
much of which his now grown son had not known. Not many who survived liked to
talk about their stay.

The story is of Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg who later changed his name to
Lale Sakolov.

Lale’s story was coaxed out of his memory by Heather Morris
who has since written a book The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Lale was a Slovak Jew who, like the other Jews in Czechoslovakia, was sent
to Auschwitz.
He was 26 years old.
He did manual labor at the camp until he contracted typhoid.
He was cared for by a Frenchman who had actually been the one who had
tattooed Lale’s number on his arm 32407.
The man was known as in the camp as a tetovierer, or tattooist.
He was charged with “writing” the numbers onto the arms of those coming into
the camp who would be staying—those being sent immediately to the gas chambers.
did not receive numbers.

Eventually Lale became the tetovierer to the camp.

Yet in the middle of madness and death, love was actually kindled.

An 18 year old girl found herself standing before Lale…one in a myriad of women
waiting in the long line…
waiting their turn to exchange a life and a name for a number.

Lale did not like tattooing the women—there was always a sickening feeling in
the pit of his stomach, but he did as he was ordered.

Gazing up at this girl who stood before him, his heart was immediately taken
by this girl’s bright eyes.
Her name was Gita.

Gita and Lale’s life together actually began that fateful day in Auschwitz–
and the twists and turns are amazing…

There is a lovely video clip on Heather’s kickstarter page that she put together—
which I assume was created to help raise the necessary funds to write and publish
Lale and Gita’s story.
The book is now available on Amazon…I ordered mine today.

Below are two links—
the first is Heather’s story along with a brief video overview about her finding
and forging a relationship with Lale, who would eventually share his story with her.

The second link is about the story as written by the BBC.

For even in the midst of misery and death, remains hope…there is always Hope.

http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

Can a human being really remain neutral?

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who,
in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri


(photograph of Carl Lutz, Swiss Ambassador to Hungry, as seen from the cellar
where he and those he protected waited out the battle of the Soviets over the Nazi occupation)

I promise, really I do…..
I’ll get back to my focus on what I took away this week when watching our friend the
Wee Flea but first—- I have to share this story.

It’s a story I saw day before yesterday and it begged me to stop and
read further.

I did and I was glad that I did.

The story is a story with a back story….
and I believe it will be beneficial for us to first read the
back story in order to fully understand the front story….
of which is an end story…. which is really just a story about humankind.

How’s that for a story about a story??!!

I would think that most of us who know any little something about nations,
countries, Europe wars, etc, knows that that tiny land locked country of Switzerland
is and has always been known for being fiercely neutral.

It has watches and clocks.
It has the Alps and skiing.
It has snow and the Matterhorn.
It has Heidi and cows.
It has chocolate.
It also has neutrality.

As in it maintains a fierce state of neutrality.

The words ‘fiercely neutral’ almost rings of an oxymoron…..
because when one thinks of the word and notion of being neutral and of neutrality,
one would naturally think nonchalant, laid back or indifferent…
not seemingly to care one way or another as to what’s going on around
say, in the neighboring countries.

Think of it like “we’re neutral, we’re not getting involved with that…”
sort of mindset.

Switzerland is globally recognized as a Neutral Nation.

Meaning Switzerland doed not engage in wars nor will it get involved.
Despite having a military requirement that all young Swiss males serve two years in
the Swiss Army.

My husband has a life long Swiss friend who has shared his tales of committal to a
military inscription as a young man. He marvels that I would love to have had his
Government issued Swiss army blanket as those original blankets now command a
pretty penny.

According to a story on the BBC Travel section, the Swiss have not always been
a neutral nation. I found this to be quite interesting.

Their past, it turns out, might actually appear to be a bit more unsavory than
gallant as they started out not so much as indifferent as they did fortuitous mercenaries.

According to Merriam Webster a mercenary is of a person,
or the behavior of said person, which is primarily concerned with making money
at the expense of ethics.

That doesn’t sound too much like someone interested in being a
humanitarian or neutral now does it??

And even currently found on the Swiss government’s website it states that not only is
the nation to focus on the country’s humanitarian bent
(think Red Cross on flag for a reason)
it lists some of the rules: The country must refrain from engaging in war,
not allow belligerent states to use its territory and not supply mercenary troops to belligerent states….

Hummmmm…..

According to Billie Cohen the author of the article,
even the way the country is set up seems like the epitome of peaceful
coexistence. Politically it’s a direct democracy;
culturally it recognises four language groups;
and as you crisscross the cantons, you feel like you’re visiting four countries:
Italy (in Ticino), Germany (in Zurich), France (in Geneva)
and a unique descendant of the Roman Empire (in Grisons).

I’ll let you click on the link below for the full story of Switzerland’s neutrality
as it is rather interesting but suffice it to say that being a mercenary nation
became no longer advantageous nor profitable as the Swiss were militarily routed
by both the French and Venetian forces in 1515.

Selling out then to France, as acting bodyguards to the King, became the path of least resistance and least painful….that was until a certain French Revolution
rolled around, as heads were also rolling, so thus a rethinking,
or more like a redo or makeover, was in the works.

Neutrality it would be.

But then the World Wars happened, and that reputation was sorely tested,
especially during WWII when Switzerland controversially bought Jewish gold from Nazi Germany and refused Jewish refugees.
“From a Swiss perspective, [neutrality] was successful in so far as Switzerland
wasn’t involved in fighting,” Goestchel explained.
“There have been many debates if Switzerland was really neutral,
especially in WWII, but it wasn’t involved in fighting activities.”

( http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170717-the-country-that-cant-choose-a-side)

And so it helps for us to understand Switzerland as a whole before we can fully
appreciate the story a certain Swiss diplomat…..

All of this—this particular story, makes me wonder….
It makes me wonder as to how is it that I can still be amazed??
How can there continue being tales of such goodness and quiet heroism that just
seem to keep popping up out of the blue during a time of such horrendous darkness?

Just when you’re pretty certain you’ve read or heard all there is in the way of
the positives during the World’s greatest time of negative…
something else is uncovered, unearthed and brought to light…

One of those still hidden, yet rare tiny gems.

And so is the story of Carl Lutz.

Mr Lutz was a Swiss diplomat who had served his diplomatic time in the 1930s
in Palestine.
(Remember Israel was not yet a nation…that was after the war in 1948)
He was up and transferred to Budapest in 1942—a rather precarious time
for a transfer during what was shaping up to be a full blown European war.

Upon Lutz’s arrival it became most apparent quite quickly that Hungary’s Jews were in
grave peril and Mr. Lutz realized that in his position,
that of a lone diplomat in a country that no longer had an American or British embassy,
it rested upon him and a handful of others to do something drastic.

Dubbed Switzerland’s Schindler, Lutz got to work.

As one of a few remaining diplomates Lutz was to act as “diplomat” for those
countries no longer represented in Hungry. He was to represent the interests of those countries who had removed their staffs due to the war.
So Lutz went about the task to create a slew of protective passports under the guise of various countries….and not for just individuals, as he had lead German authorities
to believe, but rather passports to entire families.

He also fudged his number counting hoping that the Germans would not notice.

For those Jewish families and individuals who he could not spirit out of the country,
he found and created 76 safe houses and places that he could hide them away—
away from the Nazis seeking to deport all of Hungry’s Jews to the Death Camps.

It is estimated that Lutz saved the lives of 62,000 people.

“It is the largest civilian rescue operation of the Second World War,” says Charlotte Schallié.

Other diplomates still living in Budapest did the same. Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish envoy did his share to assist the Jews. But it was Lutz who made the decision to use
his own Embassy as a safe house.

After the war, when he finally returned home to Switzerland, it was not to a
hero’s welcome as one would imagine. Instead Lutz returned across the border alone.
There was no congratulations from his colleagues or Government but rather a
stinging rap on the knuckles, a reprimand for overstepping his boundaries and
for being what was thought to be careless and foolhardy.

Yet Lutz’s selflessness and humanitarian bravery has not gone totally unnoticed.

Over the years Lutz was awarded honors from Israel, Hungry, The UK, The United States
and slowly even Switzerland has made a few memorials to one of their own who
when push came to shove chose to take a stand rather than to stand by in neutral
watching thousands of men, woman and children being sent to certain death.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42400765

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.
Would that you were either cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16

who’s the real hero

Ok, when I read the following story I realized that it said it all–
there was nothing I could add or even say…because this story does indeed say it all…
perfectly…
Please enjoy…..

The Quiet Hero Of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’
(Hint: It’s NOT Jimmy Stewart)
Entertainment Now
FOX News — Paul Batura


(Christmas classic celebrates its 70th anniversary)

As we approach the 71st anniversary of Frank Capra’s perennial Christmas classic
“It’s A Wonderful Life,” I think it’s time to reexamine the film’s heroes.
The result might surprise you.

As a child, I assumed the hero was Jimmy Stewart’s wholesome hometown character,
George Bailey. The American Film Institute agreed, listing George as the ninth
greatest screen hero of all time. After all, the whole point of the movie is to
show us what life in Bedford Falls would be like without George.

We quickly discover it would be pretty grim – a dark and foreboding shantytown
owned by an evil millionaire named Henry F. Potter,
a miserly character played perfectly by Lionel Barrymore.
The film revolves around George,
the congenial and affable everyman who bravely stands up to Mr. Potter’s greed.
The hero had to be George, or so I thought.

In my teens and twenties, when my faith became my own and I began studying
more closely the mysterious and spiritual side of life,
I thought the hero had to be Henry Travers’ character,
Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class.

It’s Clarence who saves George – so that George can continue to help save
everybody else. Though theologically questionable,
the thought of a guardian angel is comforting.
Plus, it’s Christmas and angels play a significant part in the Yuletide story.
For years, Clarence had my vote.

But now that I’m in my forties, and as a husband and father,
I’ve come to realize that the biggest hero of the movie isn’t George or Clarence.

The biggest hero is actually a heroine, Mary Hatch Bailey,
played by Donna Reed.
She’s George’s poised and unflappable wife and the mother of their four children,
Janie, Pete, Tommy and Zuzu.

Here’s why:

Mary is patient: George and Mary are about to head off on their honeymoon
just as there’s a run on the Bailey Building and Loan.
George abruptly cancels the romantic trip to New York City and Bermuda,
instead spending their savings to keep the business solvent.
His bride doesn’t complain. She pledged to be his wife for “richer or poorer” –
and Mary quickly keeps her sacred vow.

Mary is long-suffering:
The newlywed couple moves into a dilapidated and drafty old house.
Does Mary want more?
She never lets on but instead gets to work making the rickety house a home.
Later, when George foregoes a big payout by declining an offer to sell the
business to Mr. Potter, Mary doesn’t criticize her husband’s idealism.
Instead, Mary throws herself into the care and nurturing of the children.
She’s content.

Mary is responsible:
With World War II raging and her husband deferred from military service due
to his poor hearing, Mary eagerly volunteers to do her part for the country.
Despite being a busy mother of four, we see Mary running a local branch of the USO.

Mary is a woman of prayer:
When George, stressed over the missing $8,000 now owed to Mr. Potter,
rages red-hot and hurls insults in every direction on Christmas Eve,
it’s Mary who keeps her cool.
After George storms out of the house,
Mary urges the children to pray for their father.
She prays, too, and she also gets to work.

Mary is a woman of quiet action:
It would be easy to sulk and sour in the midst of the family’s traumatic day,
but after urging the children to pray,
Mary immediately picks up the phone and rallies the help of their family and friends.
When George returns with a new and improved outlook,
Mary doesn’t lace into him or even question where he’s been.
“You have no idea what happened to me!” George cries.
To which a smiling Mary, about to welcome in an adoring and jubilant crowd of friends, responds,
“You have no idea what’s happened.”

At a time in history when popular culture is being reminded again about
the importance of respecting women,
the many positive attributes of Donna Reed’s seven-decades-old character affirm
anew what William Ross Wallace first wrote in 1865:
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

Heroism manifests itself in many forms in the overlooked or understated people
of this world, most especially spouses who sit outside the spotlight and mothers
who sacrifice on a daily basis for their children.

Christmas is a wonderful time to remember that greatness often comes quietly,
as it did in the form of a helpless baby to another quiet woman named Mary.

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….