indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

prayers for Coach


(Coach Tim Criswell /courtesy Joe Garrett’s blog / 2014)

Spending a 30 plus career in one place, in one school,
affords a teacher the opportunity of sitting back and watching as a lot of
folks come and go…
An endless sea of students who come in in the 9th grade in order to “serve”
their four years only to then pass through and on come graduation.
Some students will stay all four years while some will not…for a myriad of reasons.

There are also a lot of personnel changes that take place within a school
as folks transfer, move or change careers…
With the front doors of the school becoming almost like a revolving door for change…
Because in a school, nothing stays the same for very long.
Which is just part and parcel of life, the cycle of learning, moving and growing.

I was fortunate in that I worked in a small city school system.
I was the art teacher for 30 plus years at the city system high school.
Our school system employs a lot of former students as well as community members who
have lived in Carrollton or in Carroll County all their lives.
I was actually the outsider all those many years ago.

I was afforded the gift of meeting and working with a wealth of varied individuals.
Some of whom came and went in due time while others stayed, as I did…
forging a lifetime of teaching on one single campus and within one single school.

Those who do such, staying in one place for so very long, find that they actually
become the extended family of their colleagues.
As one actually spends more waking hours with fellow educators than with
one’s own family.

I remember when a new wet behind the ears, fresh out of college, young man
was hired to coach basketball.

At our school football was a long established dynasty…a well known program
throughout not only the state but throughout the entire nation as state titles were collected like Easter eggs and players went on to the NFL…
while basketball was only a mere footnote.

His name was Tim Criswell..and like so many other employees, Tim was also a graduate
of his new employer.

I won’t go into the details of his now near 30 year career…
I won’t talk about the persevering and hard work that has garnered awards, titles
and a wealth of accolades all of which “Coach” has managed to bring to the house of Trojan.

Because accolades and titles mean nothing when you consider the countless number of
lives of an army of young men who have been made the better because they played
under and worked alongside “Coach”
For Tim is a man of great integrity and conviction.
A man who any parent would want as an influence as well as role model for their child.

Tim is now in the final years of a long successful career of both coaching and
teaching.
He and his wife Dawn are looking forward to his retirement.

Saturday morning Tim and Dawn were out riding bikes on the new Green Belt that
circles the city of Carrollton—a 17 mile loop providing a place for walking,
running and riding bikes.

What exactly happened is still a bit unclear but there was an accident.
A serious accident.

Tim had to be life flighted to Atlanta’s Grady Hospital’s trauma unit with
extensive injuries…
broken ribs, a punctured lung and severe head trauma.

He is currently heavily sedated as the medical team works to keep the pressure
in the brain from swelling beyond what is considered to be safe numbers
as the pressure is fluctuating like a see saw of up and down.

They are holding off on needed surgeries due to the fluctuating pressure.
They are debating putting a plate in for one of the ribs,
meshes to help stop blood clots from traveling from the legs to the lungs
as well as surgeries to alleviate the cranial pressure.

He has developed a fever and pneumonia and is currently being given antibiotics.

I am asking for you to please join me for prayers for Tim, Dawn and
their three sons.

Dawn reported last night on the CaringBridge update page that one of the doctors is apparently a strong Believer who told her that the specific prayer currently
needed is for the pressure in the brain to back off….

So I am in turn humbly asking that you all will join me by adding Tim to your list
of those for whom you pray.

I ask that we join together..in turn asking our Omnipotent Father to draw ever
closer to Dawn and the boys as He wraps His arms around Tim’s battered body.

I ask that there will be healing for Tim’s broken and bruised body
as well as for Dawn’s anxious heart.

I’ll will provide updates or you may visit the CaringBridge site to register in order
to read the updates.

https://www.caringbridge.org/

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

in need of prayers…again

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(if you can’t tell, Martha is the one in the middle / Adare Manor County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Three years ago I came here and asked you all for your prayers…
prayers for my aunt…
otherwise known as my partner in crime…
Or to most folks, it is simply Martha….

If you are from the South, that is pronounced Mothaaa
like a moth with a bunch of a’s tacked on.

Three years ago and very much out of the blue, doctors discovered a malignant mass
in my aunt’s left kidney. It all happened so very suddenly and quickly,
catching us all off guard.
The doctors immediately decided the kidney had to be removed and so naturally,
I did the only thing I knew to do,
I asked you for your prayers…

Prayers of good wishes,
healing,
surgical success
and for the continuation of healing and good health.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/martha-my-aunt-my-partner-in-crime-and-one-who-is-in-great-need-of-your-prayers/

Life has rocked along these past three years, since Martha had her kidney removed,
with nary a blip on her radar…
as all the scans and tests since that day have showed only a full and complete picture of health.
Three years allowing us to add to our numerous mis-ques and harrowing adventures.
With last year’s trip to Ireland being one of our most magical and marvelous journeys thus far.

A couple of weeks ago the routine scans came back with worrisome news.
Spots now on the remaining kidney, pancreas and liver.

She is to have the liver biopsied today…and depending on the outcome–
the other organs may or may not be biopsied, leaving us to deal with the results…

I’d offer you a good picture of Martha…just so you’d know who it is you’re exactly praying for
but both Martha and our traveling buddy Melissa love for me to take all the pictures my
little heart desires…
just as long as they are not pictures of them—
so I usually catch them when they least expect it…
only to have such pictures followed by death threats and destruction of my camera…

I thought to throw a couple of them in, but valued my life and the life of my camera…..

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(Martha waiting for dinner at Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Martha wandering with her back to me, which is very common, at Timoleague Friary /
County Cork / Julie Cook / September 2015)

Martha and I each believe very strongly in the power of prayer…

So just know that I thank you for joining with us as prayer warriors during
this worrisome time…

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(Martha in rapt awe watching the youngest Daly boy cutting crystal in the family’s workshop in Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / Sept 2015)

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(see what I mean…Temple Bar district, Dublin, Co Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

should we go or should we stay….

“And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too.”
Elizabeth I

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(leftovers from the great wedding of two years ago / Julie Cook / 2014)

The votes have been cast and the people have spoken–much to the disbelief of many other people on this planet of ours…

BREXIT has become reality.

And why pray tell, is this yank daring to wade into the fray across the pond, in the land of over there, you may wonder…

Well, as I’ve stated to a few of my British comrades in arms…. that whereas it would appear that as an American I have no dog in the Brexit fight…it is for that very reason, that I am an American and my closet allies are those of the United Kingdom, that on the contrary, I think we all have a dog in the fight—
as do the other EU countries who are now set for divorce.

It is, however, not for me to ever state how I think those in GB should vote, just as I don’t enjoy being told who I should for for president. But as an outside observer, who is keen on this particular observation, as GB’s decisions do have an effect on this land of their first cousins….I have watched, read, waited and now marvel over the outcome.

The world powers-that-be have each waded deeply into the fray’s waters by telling the people of Great Britain how to vote.
With our President sadly leading the pack.
I apologize on his behalf…that an American president should tell the people of the United Kingdom how to vote on a very in-house sort of referendum…it’s not a very proper thing to do to be sure.

When I was a young new teacher, we had a long standing and powerful superintendent who was considered to be an entrenched member of the good ol boy system within our state’s educational, as well as political, systems.
He and I were not on the same sides of a political fence and I greatly resented each time an election would roll around and he’d make the rounds to each school, calling for a faculty meeting, just in order to tell “his” teachers how to vote…and that was to always cast a vote for his “friend.”

Now I could understand if there had been some sound educational reasons as to why we should be voting for his person of choice…
But for this superintendent, it was strictly a party vote of friends voting for friends—and I for one am not keen to vote for someone just because they are in cahoots with the boss…
especially when I don’t think them worthy of my vote…

I think I was also leery of voting for the entrenched politicians who had made a career out of their office.
For we know what they say…”complacency or familiarity breeds contempt”….
maybe that should read “breeds lethargy and corruption…”

Of recent weeks, I’ve read a great deal concerning the global financial powers-that-be bemoaning or gloating, depending on which side of the fence they line their pockets, what a Brexit would do to the global economy. The likes of George Soros, a man who has profited, or make that made a killing, on the downward slopes of markets before (mainly the Bank of England), is set to cash in once again.
And cash in big—but yet no one really knows how big he cashes in as he doesn’t disclose much…
This man parlays deeply and dangerously into American politics as he gives and gives graciously to the Clintons and their campaigns…He plays his hand in global economies and seems to try to muscle the outcomes of elections as well as markets worldwide—all to his benefit—

The rich and powerful trouble me.
Rich and powerful politicians trouble me.
Even our self-centered, anything and everything goes, millennials trouble me.

I have grown tired, vexed and weary of our political leaders telling us what’s good for us when they haven’t brought about any good themselves…
I am tired of those of the younger generations who whine and complain about those who vote for things such as leaving the EU or vote for politicians that don’t cater to the whims of youth, those young ones whose rallying cry is that “they” have stolen, or are in the process of stealing, our future…”
Yet they are either too preoccupied to be bothered with voting or don’t educate themselves on the bigger picture…

And granted the markets have gone tumbling today…
but it’s that analogy I keep hearing—that the markets are so volatile and actually so unstable that if someone sneezes in one section of the world, every other global market quickly reaches for a tissue lest the sneezing becomes a catastrophic epidemic —sending everyone scrambling for cover…
all of which we are seeing today.
That simply just doesn’t seem very secure in the first place…

So votes like Brexit, which send shock waves into the seemingly untouchable circles of the rich and powerful, the young and the unversed,
as well as for those of us of more average stature,
actually offer a bit of fresh air—
that the people–the average people, still matter.
For good or bad, they still can make a difference.
Their voice, for good or bad, can still be heard…
and that the vote of the everyday person does indeed still matter…

I think Brexit is just one more example of the average, dare I say middle aged and older person, being tired of how this world is being run…

So here’s to adjusting our sails…

The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change;
the realist adjusts the sails.

William Arthur Ward

Cast your burden

Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you,
he will never let the righteous stumble.

Psalm 55:22

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(an abandoned hornets nest, Cades Cove, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble,
the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
Send you help from his holy place and strengthen you out of Zion;
Remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice;
Grant you your heart’s desire and proper all your plans.
We will shout for joy at your victory
and triumph in theName of our God,
May the Lord grant all your requests

Psalm 20:1-5

Snippets of Life through a couple of Psalms

I am like a pelican of the wilderness:

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(pelican in flight, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.

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(Vienna Zoo / Schönbrunn Palace / Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012

I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.

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(pigeon atop roof of the Old State House / Boston Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014

When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.

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(praying mantis / Julie Cook / 2014)

For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears

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(embers in the BBQ / Julie Cook / 2014)


Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

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(seal swimming / Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012)

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(basking sea lion, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012

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(the tip top of an orca, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012)

lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,

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(Georgia clouds / Julie Cook / 2013)


you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,

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(Watten, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

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(espaliered apple tree, Mondsee, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,

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(neighboring Georgia bull / Julie Cook / 2014)

kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,

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(Web image of painting of Henry VIII)

young men and women,
old men and children.

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(homeless man, courtyard of The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(young boy posing for mom’s picture atop the duckings in Boston’s Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)


Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

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(full moon over Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Jewish and Christian religious groups de
(web image of a rally in support of Israel)

Praise the Lord.

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(happy flowers covering Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014 )