imports and exports

“Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be,
and becoming that person.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a lovely orange bell pepper / Julie Cook / 2018)

Here it is the height of the summer despite many school systems already heading back
for the start of the new school year.

Living down South, in a place where summer’s luscious produce is hitting its zenith, despite
the stores beginning to put out their fall and Thanksgiving goods, I happened to notice
an odd occurrence when stopping by the local grocery store.

I ran in the store in order to pick up a few things the other day and grabbed one
of the colorful bell peppers stacked ever so neatly on the grocery store’s produce shelf.

I usually prefer the red, yellow or orange varieties over the innocuous green ones as
they taste no different but add a splash of color to whatever one is preparing.

Once home, as I was putting away the groceries, I pulled out my bell pepper.
I looked at the tag stuck to the pepper, reading to see if my bell pepper came from
either Florida or California…all the while secretly hoping it would read Georgia.
It’s that time of the season you know here in Georgia—when gardens are now fully bearing
their long-anticipated fruits of a farmers labor.

Yet I am well aware that our Nation’s produce belts lie in our more temperate climate states…
States such as California and Florida…for various fruits and vegetables and places like
Nebraska or Iowa for corn.

However, imagine my surprise when I read that my beautiful bright colored pepper hailed from none
of the aforementioned states but was actually born and raised in Holland.

The last place I think of when I think of something like a bell pepper is Holland…as in this
low land, country is known for several other things besides bell peppers.
Beer yes, peppers no.

If I still had a garden, this is the time when my own peppers were coming into their own.
Would it not make more sense to have a pepper from right here in Georgia…
since this is our time of year for the likes of produce such as peppers???

Instead I picked a pepper, not a peck of peppers mind you, that had to actually come to me
via a cargo container…and yet despite an arduous journey from the land of canals and windmills
over the Atlantic Ocean, a beautiful orange pepper arrives at my grocery store…
looking pretty as the day it was most likely plucked.

Makes me wonder as to how this pepper has stood up so well during its travels from Holland
to my fridge here in Georgia.

And so yes, it may not be convenient for me to trek out to the local farmer’s market–
getting grocery items at the grocery store and produce items at the produce market and then
butcher goods from a local butcher (of which we no longer have in our smaller community)
I just might want to rethink my shopping habits as I would prefer a fresh locally grown
pepper as to this lovely trans Atlantic pepper.

And nothing against Holland nor this beautiful pepper…but I do prefer local when I can find it.

There are things that each country does well—think Chocolate form Belgium, Beer and sausages from Germany, olive oil from Italy, Spain and Greece…along with olives…
think wines from France, Italy, Portugal and yes, California…

We all have something that is indicative to each of our home nations…
products that we do well…and it should be noted that some nations have been
doing what it is they do now for centuries…

But when it comes to summer produce…well, I kind of prefer mine to grown a bit closer to home…
because Heavens knows that here in the South, we are in the height of the season…

Makes me think about my own seasonal worth and productivity…
that of my own exports and imports…

What has God labored over within me that is now ready for harvest…

And once harvested, it’s time to share…

“However great our efforts, we cannot change ourselves.
Only God can get to the bottom of our defects, and our limitations in the field of love;
only he has sufficient mastery over our hearts for that.
If we realize that we will save ourselves a great deal of discouragement and fruitless struggle.
We do not have to become saints by our own power;
we have to learn how to let God make us into saints.
That does not mean, of course, that we don’t have to make any effort…
We should fight, not to attain holiness as a result of our own efforts,
but to let God act in us without our putting up any resistance against him;
we should fight to open ourselves as fully as possible to his grace, which sanctifies us.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 14-5
An Excerpt From
In the School of the Holy Spirit

Beware the gators

“Because we focused on the snake, we missed the scorpion”
Egyptian Proverb

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(image borrowed from web of a gator crossing an interstate near Naples, FL)

Maybe you’ve heard about them…
or
maybe you haven’t…

Interstate alligators…

And no, I’m not talking about actual alligators crossing the road as in the image above…
Rather I’m talking about something that is equally as dangerous and equally as deadly…
The only caveat is that it’s just not a living creature.

So now that your interest is piqued and you understand that we are not discussing reptiles…
I will explain what exactly an interstate alligator is all about.

An interstate alligator is the dubious moniker for the remnants of the shredded tires from tractor trailer trucks.

shredded_tire_roadside

More times than not, those big rigs, which are driving on very worn tires, will lose the most worn tires off their rigs to the rigors of constant wear and tear…all while driving on car infested roadways.
As they race up and down the highways, freeways and interstates across this grand country of ours, these worn steel belted tires will basically begin to disintegrate and shred while the truck is clocking 70 to 80 mph.

semi-tire-blowout
(image courtesy Real Truck Driver Blog)

Add to that the heat of summer, as the pavement reaches deadly hot temperatures…
With worn tires riding along an inferno of cement and asphalt, we’ve all got troubles!

Imagine huge chunks of tire being slung off a spinning rim, most often unbeknownst to the driver, as the driver isn’t about to be slowing down or moving over to the far right lane in order to exit or move to the emergency lane in order to stop…

Next imagine being the cars behind and beside these big truck as the tire is shredding.

Needless to say there have been many a damaged vehicle as there have been many a fatality as a result of these shredding tires.

The alligator part comes into play when the remnants of these tires are left where they fly then fall—that being the middle of lanes, along the shoulder of the road…just anywhere they finally lose the momentum of flight—as they now lay in wait, lurking and waiting for those poor unsuspecting drivers who are on top of them before being able to slow down or swerve safely out of the way while attempting not to ram into a fellow driver…

Today’s journey to Atlanta, on its infamous perimeter, was like navigating a backwater bayou at full speed while trying to dodge and miss a plethora of both big and small gators all before it being too late before an impending collision.

Cars were slamming on their brakes, erratically changing lanes, hoping the cars beside and behind could get stopped in time.

Holding on for dear life as I made my way through the cement minefield,
I smelled it before I saw it as the air was rife with the acrid smell of burning rubber.
Dodging debris big and small, I soon road past the culprit. A big rig’s second to the back tire was disintegrating faster than he could move over and slow down.
Tire was slinging left and right as cars did their darnedest to dodge the deadly shrapnel.

As I miraculously made my way past the truck and the sea of tire parts without being hit, without running over anything and without being hit by my fellow dodging drivers, I was struck (not literally thank God) by the sheer magnitude of how things can change in one’s life from good to disastrous in literally the blink of an eye.
A ‘now you don’t see it, yet now you suddenly do’ sort of life’s scenario..

Yet we don’t much like thinking of life in that regard.

We don’t like to dwell on the possible and potential negatives of life…
those ‘could be’s’ or those ‘what if’s’ in life…
but what of the sudden and sheer catastrophic…??

We don’t want to live life constantly fretting and worrying.

Yet we do need to always be ready…
Ready for those very instantaneous what if’s.

As in…what if I’m taken out by this interstate monster right here, right now—am I ready for that?
Am I ready if my life is snuffed out just like that?

There’s no time to think,
No time to suddenly and quickly introduce yourself to a God you’ve just kind of always kept in the back of your head…
Kind of like a Santa Claus—
calling on Him in a pinch or when you really need or want something….

This isn’t like the “oh please God don’t let me get caught by that red light again” sort of thing…
Rather this is…there’s a big black chunk of rubber and steal, that’s just come up out of nowhere, hurdling through both time and space with lightning speed right for your windshield and face sort of thing, leaving you nowhere to turn, nowhere to run, leaving you nowhere to duck and cover….

Your relationship with God cannot wait.
It’s that dire, that urgent.

Not because you need to be saved from flying projectiles or hungry debris alligators who are lurking and waiting for when you lest expect it…but because time will not always afford you the luxury of waiting, pondering and deciding, if you want your soul to be lost or to be found…

There is true comfort in knowing that no matter what happens in this life…no matter the dangerous and deadly perils that await us…the catastrophes, the accidents, the random horrible things …
that in and through it all…God is yours and you are His…forever and ever…Amen!!

May you travel in safety my friends…

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

wisdom from the road

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
Will Rogers

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”
Lewis Carroll

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(somewhere along the road in County Kerry near Dingle, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Anyone who has ever spent any time on the road driving here, there and yon knows all too well that there is a real love–hate relationship between driving and journeying from the proverbial point A to point B.

Whether you spend time commuting each day to and from work or school, or you make your living driving, or you drive the roadways and the byways for recreation…or you simply have to get from one place to another…
I think most all of us would agree that there are many life lessons, as well as much wisdom, to be gleaned from the simple act of driving down any one of life’s many roads…

One of the most important lessons we can either learn the easy way or discover the hard way is to make certain that we know which direction we are to be headed because one thing is always certain…
Life is full of obstacles.

As there will always be those situations, issues and looming crises that will get in our way no matter how hard we try to avoid them…that’s just the way life is…

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(cows crossing somewhere on a road in County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Which in turn will give way to the fact that there will always be a need for patience…
For good or bad, patience will be necessary and it will be sorely tested along Life’s many traversed roads.
Blood pressures will rise and frustration will shoot through the roof…
And no matter how hard one tries, often times there will simply be no other way of getting around or avoiding certain troublesome moments in this thing called life, other than to resolutely meet it all head on…

Also we must be mindful that there will be those dark and lonely stretches of road when we will find ourselves unfortunately isolated and very much alone.

DSCN1747
(somewhere along the road near Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Maybe we’ll have hit a rough patch in the road… a bit of bad luck or have found that life does not discriminate when it want’s to be cruel and difficult. By keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes focused on the task at hand… will not only be required but most necessary as we labor to keep things steady and safely in the middle of the road as we avoid the ruts, soft shoulders and unavoidable potholes during those lonely and dark days.
During such times, our resolve will be greatly tried…keeping steady and focused on our journey, knowing that we indeed have an ultimate destination will help to keep us going forward.

Additionally we must be mindful that there be those times when we will find ourselves face to face with oncoming trouble.
As in it simply can’t be helped.

DSCN0949
(heading up the road somewhere in County Kerry near Dingle, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

Sometimes we are blindsided, not knowing what’s hit us…
Other times, we will see it coming, knowing that the inevitable is headed right for us… and that there’s no avoidance, no running, no hiding…for the colliding of two separate forces cannot always be helped.
Our only recourse is to simply square our shoulders, set our jaw, point the wheel straight ahead, put the pedal to the metal and face it all bravely head on…for the character of any man or woman is forged in the fiery trials of Life.

And just when we think we’re back to our mindless cruising, merrily scooting back down the road, there comes along the strange and unusual diversion…something most often out of the blue, which averts our attention…perhaps something very much unwelcomed…some sort of siren’s song luring us to an unnecessary demise…or perhaps it is something welcomed yet untimely in its arrival, only working to delay our progress….focus, we must remain focused!

DSCN1485
(a wandering sheep along the road somewhere in County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As once again, the important key is knowing how to handle any and all distractions…knowing how we will handle ourselves in all situations is best as it provides consistency even in the face of the unknown…
We mustn’t allow any of it to steal our focus, our determination, our resolve…
Rather, we must simply shift gears, turn our attention back to the task at hand and get back up to speed…

Yet no matter how harrowing a drive and or journey may be, we can never know with certainty, what waits around each bend or turn or curve…so preparation will be constantly tested…

So may we all remember that when it comes to heading out on one of Life’s many roads, even for just a quick sort of errand, being focused and prepared will make any sort of drive more bearable as well as enjoyable…
Happy travels one and all….

DSCN1066
(somewhere along the road in County Kerry near Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

Reminders and Remembrance

“There are moments when we have real fun because, just for the moment, we don’t think about things and then–we remember–and the remembering is worse than thinking of it all the time would have been.”
― L.M. Montgomery

“What you remember saves you.”
― W.S. Merwin

DSC01700
(a collection of shells found at Orange Beach, Al / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have two small, rather faded and mostly brittle, sea shells riding
along on the console of my dash—actually along the outcropping for my car’s navigation screen.
The shells slide from one side to the other should I ever make a sudden turn or swerve.
They bother my husband.
He’s afraid they’re going to scratch the Nav’s screen.
They aren’t.
Every time he gets in my car to ride with me, he always asks the same question:
“Why do you have those shells up there?”
Followed by “They’re going to scratch the glass.”

I always answer the same. . .
“Those were two shells I found in the car when I was cleaning it out, after our long weekend trip back in September, to the beach.”
Which means they have been riding in my car now for 8 months.
Back and forth during the change of seasons, in the depths of winter’s chill. . .Halloween, Christmas, Easter—over to Atlanta, to the airport, to the mall, to the grocery store, to meetings, to the lawyer’s office, to the hospital, to the doctor’s office, to the dentist’s office, to the church, to a myriad of places to eat, to the beach again, to the home of friends, to wedding’s, to funerals, to parties, to Dad’s–
For miles and miles, and even more miles. . . those little shells have been my tiny passengers. . .

I put them on the dash as a reminder. . .

Reminding me of those more peaceful carefree moments spent simply basking in the wonderment of creation, as in my case, at the ocean’s shores.
Reminders of treasured moments when one affords oneself the luxury of enjoyment, contentment and release.
When one slows down long enough, stoping while bending over,
to pick up a small piece of Creation. . . marveling in or at something that is intriguing,
eye catching, simple, plain, pretty, interesting, unusual—pocketing the minuscule as a treasured keepsake. . .a wee reminder that nothingness, and yet everything,
can be treasured, special, sacred. . .

Reminders of a time when nothing pulled at, called upon, pressed down on, worried, frightened or troubled mind, body or soul.

It’s important that I can hold on to the reminders and the memories of such. . .

We all have similar little mementoes tucked away someplace. . .those tiny scrapes of paper, pretty little rocks, bits of glass, old buttons, frayed ribbons, tattered photos, long forgotten keys all the tiny tangible pieces of our peace, our happiness, our treasured moments of time savored and found in a long forgotten little pieces of this or that. . .

For me, many of those tiny treasures are natural items that I pick up along my journeys outward. . .
Walks along the beach, a trek into the woods, a hike in the mountains, the precarious forging of a creek or stream. . .bits and pieces, tangible particles, of the natural wonders. . .the tiny parts offered to the created by the Master Creator Himself. . .

I pocket them, holding on to them, putting them where I can see them. . .in order to recall, to remember, to reclaim, to hold on to. . .the fact that God has given me a tiny token of Himself and His wonderment, in order for me to carry, to actually touch, to feel and to hold. . .reminding me that He is greater than myself and my various little journeys to here and there—I am reminded of the one significant fact—that when life is overwhelming and I’m feeling as if I’ve reached a breaking point. . .I’m sweetly, gently reminded that He is bigger, greater, grander. . .while at the same time and most poignantly reminded that He can be both gently thoughtful and touching. . .simply reminding me always of His presence in my often frantic and manic world. . .

Petitions, Grace and Gratitude (re-mix)

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

DSC00607
(Image: a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of ST. BLASIUSKIRCHE , Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

***This post was originally published in October of 2013.
Normally I don’t re-publish previous posts.
I had actually shared this particular post yesterday with a friend as I thought the subject was of importance to her and to her current life’s journey. It is a post of literal travels and journeys, as well as journeys which reach much deeper than the mere physical.
Having re-read the post myself, I was moved by my previous words as it is a strong reminder of a faith, my faith, that is so much deeper, so much stronger and so much greater than me or of the current life “journey” I’m finding myself traversing along with my dad as my traveling companion. . .
May you find comfort in the story and the words as well. . .

4/19/15

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

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly, bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.
I once heard it put that religion was just something for old woman and children. Pity that…as that must mean that older woman and children are the only ones who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, too arrogant to truly understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Rome and Jackie with Love

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
Albert Schweitzer

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(photograph: skyline of Rome looking toward The Vatican,The Janiculum hill/ Julie Cook/ 2007)

Isn’t there something most magical about the Roman skyline?
Particularly the vista that is punctuated by the magnificent dome of Michelangelo’s
engineering genius.
Are you aware that it is Roman law that no building may be built which exceeds the height
of St. Peter’s?
I love Rome, as I’ve written before.
It is a city that is dirty, loud, lurid, raucous, serene, historical, artistic,
trashy, holy and very very real.

I’ve often mused that I could live in Rome…usually, until I step in the mountains of dog poo
which line the sidewalks or when I get a good whiff of the unmistakable stench of human urine
wafting up from the stairways leading down to the Tiber River.

For Rome does have its flaws……

I cannot, however, think about Rome without thinking of a very dear friend.

I lost this dear friend today, Wednesday.
She actually died last night from a lengthy bout with cancer–an ongoing battle that
seems to have plagued her for most of her adult life.

A mutual friend and former colleague called me this morning with the news.
I had been receiving regular texts, as she had been rushed to the hospital
last week and was in ICU.
The texts were from one of her daughters who was updating the progress of her mom…
it seemed she was greatly improving daily…
that is, until yesterday evening.
She was only 78.

She was a colleague, mentor, friend, mother figure and a darn good high school
math teacher.
She was also the mother to two grown girls with families of their own as well as the former
wife of a rather notable Speaker of the House…
a Speaker who shall remain nameless as this is the place today to simply remember my friend.

She had battled colon cancer long before I had ever known her.
Her famous husband, or so the story goes, went to the hospital when she was
in the midst of her struggle with cancer and that of a life-saving surgery,
asking for a divorce.
That was the “hear-say” story, as she was not one to hang out the old dirty laundry—
and we always respected her for such and never asked for any clarification.

She never bashed him, never said a derogatory word, despite having much right to
do so… giving his philandering ways and the years of sacrifice she had made for his
rise in the state then national political picture.
She always respected the fact that he was the father to her children and therefore…
we never talked about him nor of that former life.

It was during those times when this former husband, who would try his hand at national
politics, that her life would be examined as if under a microscope by the press,
again and again.

Despite wearing the title of “ex” wife, she still seemed fair game for political fodder
or so deemed our oh so pious media (please note the sarcasm).
Reporters actually sat outside of school, in the bushes and trees for a shot, even approaching
fellow teachers for a “story”….
As we all did our best to protect her and her privacy.

The news was never flattering of her, describing her as the “ugly” one–
as she was the first of three wives.

How dare they!

She was a real woman, a real lady actually.. not one of those stretched and augmented women
not starched or altered as the many women of Washington are.
She was not a “trophy” to be lead around on a leash as if on show.
She was a beautiful lady.

I often thought of the qualities of Winston Churchill when I thought of my friend.

She was tenacious and fierce if need be—like a mama bear protecting her cubs…always
to the death.
She was like Yoda, a wise sage always full of the wisdom gained by a life lived
long and well.

She had suffered polio as a child, known sorrow and sacrifice as an adult, and
was toughened by the years of hard work… yet in the end, she was never bitter nor sad.
Her body often betrayed her as she battled countless near death illnesses,
yet all the while she managed to have a new trip or adventure in the works while
living life with chemo, radiation, hospital stays, neuropathy and lastly a stroke.

We’d never know when the cancer came back because she never really spoke about it.
She’d just be sick, fight, recover and run to another life adventure.
With skydiving being one of the last big adventures.

It was this friend that taught me to live life like there was no tomorrow—
as she herself never knew if tomorrow was promised to her or not.

It was this dear lady, this dear friend who knew of my love of Italy and
of all things Italian.
It was this friend who knew I had lost my own mom when I was young and who was
now struggling as a young wife, mom, and teacher…

She took it upon herself to befriend me and gently guide me through the often murky
waters of life.
I remember being devastated when she retired.
She was the old guard at school, the wizened sage who kept us younger teachers
in tow.
She made us laugh, think, fight and always do the right thing by our students
and ourselves.

Once she retired, we did not stay in touch as often as I had wished as our paths
simply diverged.
She was now was hanging out with the other retired teachers while traveling profusely—
With Italy being the last big trip…

It was right around the time when Pope John Paul II was quite ill and actually just prior to
his death that she told me she’d bring me a memento back, something about him…for she
knew my deep admiration for the Pope.

All the while she encouraged me to go soon if I could–as she always found
travel to be one of life’s better teachers.
She brought me back a beautiful image of my beloved pope and I did manage to
make that trip a few months following John Paul’s death—
heeding her advice to go—always go…

I’d see her, from time to time, in Target or at the grocery store—
which just so happens to be the last place we actually talked.
Funny how grocery stores are so prominent in our lives.
Those off places where we run into those important folks who seem to pop in and out
of our lives…

She’d often frequented my husband’s business, sending me her “hellos”
via my husband.
Each time she’d come in the store, he’d come home from having seen her
with the latest story of the latest adventure—

After the stroke, I recently sent a card to the rehab center in Atlanta
where she had been moved while working on regaining strength, speech, and mobility.
I told her in my card that here it was, time for me to finally retire,
and off she moves over to Atlanta…
I was all ready to start our travels and would be waiting on her—
for her to get better and for her to be ready to go, once again…

Sadly, it looks as if she went on without me.

Thank you, Jackie, for everything you ever taught me—–
I will miss you.