Retreat, Sabbatical, Escape

“In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion.”

Albert Camus,

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Aristotle

“By God, I shall spend the rest of my life getting my heart back, healing and forgetting every scar you put upon me when I was a child. The first move I ever made, after the cradle, was to crawl for the door, and every move I have made since has been an effort to escape.”
― Thomas Wolfe

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(bags ready to go / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was this time last year when a plan was hatched.
It was the birth of a thought.
A “what if” sort of conversation.
Curious as to what may be found, three willing travelers were more than ready to journey to the land of great grandparents. . .
A grand adventure was set in motion. . .

Then the world fell apart.

Well not the big World, but rather the little world of family and self.

Practicalities began screaming “NO”
Mr Mole and Mrs Loon became impossible.
Caregivers continued threatening to leave as anger, resentment and failing bodies and minds wrecked havoc on the one versed with the overall wellbeing of everyone involved.

Backing out was too late.
It was a “go” whether or not the surrounding circumstances were in compliance.

So after a year of planning, then frustratingly dreading, the day of departure has arrived.

I’m heading out of pocket for about two weeks.
I leave behind Dad and Gloria who are not in good places right now.
Caregivers who have told me they may not be in place upon my return.
A husband who can’t leave his business.
A son and daughter-n-law who are now scarily “in charge”
A cat who appears to have broken a leg. . .
You name it, there are 100 reasons as to why I need to stay. . .
Yet I’m too far in to back out now, and my two traveling companions would be up the proverbial creek if I did. . .
You never know what will happen during the course of a year as you wait for a “big” event.

What started out as an exciting trip, has now morphed into, more or less, a cross between a sabbatical and a retreat.
Certainly no one is paying for me to go, no one but myself, yet I think my heart and mind both desperately need for me to go.
Things have been really bad on the Atlanta front as of late.
Actually almost impossible.
Enough to make me sick of both heart and health.

Getting away, far away, may be best for a while.
Unplugging, unwinding and simply allowing God to direct my path.
This is a pilgrimage of sorts to the Celtic roots of my life.

I’m not taking my computer.
Of course I’ve got both phone and iPad
Emailing and texting as time allows.
I doubt I’ll blog.
I just want to empty my thoughts for a while, allowing room for God to move in closer.
Dad and Gloria have almost pushed me over the edge.
I’m hoping with me not there 24 / 7, it’ll actually calm them down for a while.
We’ll see. . .

So until we are together again, in about 2 weeks. . .

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all

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(my son and his wife toast a first anniversary with a “bushwhacker” / FloraBama / Julie Cook / 2015

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(the infamous FloraBama sign / the state line / Julie Cook /2015

This is a tale of a little bit of bad leading to a whole lot of good.
And no, I’m not talking about anything scandalous, risqué, illegal, unlawful or even sinful—just barely on the negative side of the whole moral radar.

I visited the Rivera this past weekend.
And no, it wasn’t that Rivera.

It’s a long story which started out several months ago when my husband, the one who doesn’t seem to check calendars, schedules or much of anything else when he blindly accepts an invitation for an outdoorsman’s dream adventure. In this instance, it was a deep sea fishing adventure that was actually an invitation extended to both my husband and son.

Now such an invitation would naturally be quickly chomped at and swallowed by both these two outdoor loving enthusiasts. . .
Trouble was that the weekend scheduled for the trip out to sea was the same weekend that marked a huge milestone in our family—-it was to be my son and daughter-n-law’s first year wedding anniversary.

Being the sentimental one that I am, I just didn’t see any good coming from a One Year Anniversary being spent apart—especially when it was by choice for a pleasure fishing trip verses say, deployment overseas, work, or catastrophic illness.
The long and short of all of that is that my husband relented in the fact that the two woman of the clan “would have” to now tag along.
Not to fish mind you, but to tag along to say, the beach.

My life as of late, as you all well know, has not exactly been my own.
Stress and worry simply do not do justice when describing life with Dad these days.
Getting away did not seem prudent, practical nor wise.
Guilt and anxiety actually dug deep.
Yet something buried way down in my psyche screamed GO! For Heaven’s sake, by all means GO, and don’t look back!!!!

Now this fishing trip was to set sail from an area known as the “RR” or in the immortal words of Kenny Chesney, “the Redneck Rivera”
Not being a fan of country music nor of things denoted “redneck,” this would not exactly be a place I’d jump to visit as I am one who prefers the subdued, the quiet, the classic and the serene.
When I think of Rivera, I think of sophistication, charm, elegance and “haute” this or that . . .
Throw the word “redneck” out front and suddenly the sound of dueling banjos streams through my brain.

Upon arrival, to our home away from home for the weekend–which by the way was a very nice and stylish condo perched on the beach with little to nothing having to do with “redneck”- the sound of some rather loud music, emanating obviously from a live band jamming out somewhere nearby, filled the air.

I had heard strange tales of a local establishment and of its most infamous concoction, a Bushwhacker, in the general vicinity of our stay.
A den of iniquity of sorts linked to all things college and debauchery is what I had imagined and as it turned out, my imagination wasn’t far off course. . .

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(a wooden clad honky tonk situated on the Alabama / Florida line–perched in-between high-rise condos and parking decks)

The FloraBama, circa 1975, is a mecca for that whole “party on the beach” mindset of the young and often dumb—With the clientele of this particular establishment being not all so young, yet all equally lacking in better judgement.

Never one to miss a famous local attraction, I was game for a little look see. . .as well as a sampling of the oh so famous beverage!
There is a reassuring picture of President Obama sipping a Bushwhacker when he once visited this “business” no doubt on some sort of campaign adventure—so my rationale being, what’s good for the President, must be good for me as well, right???”
What’s the harm in a little chocolate, coconut, frozen medley with a few other added ingredients, served up like soft serve in a disposable cup topped with a cherry? Harmless enough right??

Well I won’t bore you with the details.

I won’t belabor the exploits of the young men and middle to upper aged woman, I watched from afar, stumbling along the beach as I simply shook my head.
Nor shall I understand the site of the older woman dressed as purple and gold Mardi Gras bags of beads, hung over their shoulders by suspenders with feathery boas cascading from their heads, as they paraded along the beach–participating in some sort of odd contest. . .
I won’t bask in reliving the happy thoughts of spending countless hours simply bobbing up and down on my blue noodle just like a lost little cork adrift in the placid Gulf
(note—noodles are for kids and I’m not proud)
I mustn’t speak of my now extra crispy red skin despite having sprayed—yes it hurts.
I shan’t rattle on about all the lovely fish that were caught–very tasty.
I won’t relive the image of my jaw dropping and mouth hanging agape as I entered into this haven of indulgence as my two younger protégées were left wondering if I hadn’t just fallen off the proverbial turnip truck. My college days having long since passed.
I shan’t confess to going barefoot for two solid days, traipsing in and out of the ocean, the beach, the “entertainment establishment” for a few Royal Reds (aka the best shrimp on the Gulf) over and over.
I shan’t expound on how good a trip, albeit it quick, sans shoes, worries, cares, agendas. . .can be for the spirit and soul of the weary. . .

But I will gladly extol the tastiness of a bushwhacker. . .

And may we all remember that obviously what happens on the Redneck Rivera, stays on the Redneck Rivera. . .or so say the Mardi Gras ladies. . .

I love you so much. . .I gave you my cookies

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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(a nibbled box of Sprüngli Amaretti cookies / Julie Cook / 2014)

About two years ago I took a little trek along with my two traveling companions, my aunt Martha and long time friend Melissa—a journey that became known as the Grand Retirement Trip–whereas they had each been retired for several years, the trip was to mark my rite of passage of catching up with them– prompting the adventure.

We kicked off the trip by spending two days in Zurich, Switzerland. While in the picturesque Swiss city, we wandered into the most delectable shop known as Confiserie Sprüngli—a part pastry / part snack shop complete with its very own confectionary store right next door. You and I may not be familiar with the name Sprüngli, but we are familiar with Lindt Chocolates—of which are actually, one in the same. The Sprüngli side maintains the pastry confection part of the business while Lindt is strictly the chocolates. Sprüngli remains in Switzerland while Lindt is in the US.

And of course I had to buy some goodies to take along for sustenance during the extensive trip. One item in particular caught my fancy. It was a small package of about 3 little cookie stacked on top of one another packaged in a cellophane wrapper with a pretty light blue bow and burnt orange tag. They were called Amaretti, an almond like macaroon, and of what I now know to be similar to the Italian treats by the name Amaretti di Saronno. The Sprüngli version however has a creamy cherry kirsch center covered in a delectable bottom layer of decadent rich dark chocolate

I stuffed them in my travel bag, wanting to save them for when I finally made it back home.

After almost three weeks on the road, we finally arrived home. Upon unpacking I sadly realized my once beautiful cookies had gotten sandwiched at the bottom of my backpack leaving me with a sufficiently crushed bag of crumbs.
No matter. . .I tore into the bag, savoring each delectable morsel.
Ooooo, I had to have more.
I went online to the Sprüngli website. Yes, I could order a box or two and they would indeed ship to the US, but. . .I figured it all up, the cost to ship the cookies would far exceed the cost of the cookies themselves. How was I going to rationalize this little spending spree?

Needless to say, I wasn’t. I decided that the only way I’d get any more of these lucious little treats would be if I ever found my way back across the ocean, landing in Switzerland. And that wasn’t happening anytime too soon.

Fast forward to last weekend.
My husband has a really good friend who was born and raised in Switzerland who now make his home in Florida.
It just so happens that this friend travels back home at least once a year to visit family and I just happened to know of his latest trip’s plans. . . I asked that if he happened to wander by Sprüngli’s while in Zurich, would he be so kind as to pick me up a box of the cookies. . .

Long story short, our friend came to visit us last weekend with my box of cookies in tow!!!
Wooowhoooo!!

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Delicious and delectable!
To be savored with deliberate patience, one by one—spreading out the consumption over time, slowly so as not to hurriedly eat them all up. . .as who knows when, if ever, I’ll ever have such a treat again.

I hesitantly offered one to my husband, pretty certain, praying, he wouldn’t like them.
His palate is a more Oreo and Chips Ahoy sort of palate and not the delectable cream cherry kirsch filled almond macaroon leaning of a more patient and delectable palate.
Thankfully, he made a face after his first little tentative bite, putting the remainder of the cookie back in the box.
Whew!
I and my cookies were safe. . .or so I thought. . .

Later that evening, as we were sitting, well after supper, watching Monday Night Football, he gets up from his chair heading for the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” I nonchalantly ask.
“No where” comes the response.
No where?. . . my mind muses, hummm, odd. . .
When it hits me like a ton of bricks. . .
“Tell me you’re not getting my cookies!!!!” I shout toward the kitchen.
He re-enters the room holding something clutched in his hand, the hand he’s trying oh so hard to just hold by his side as if nothing is there.
“YOU DO HAVE A COOKIE, DON’T YOU???!!! I practically scream.

Now mind you it’s not that I don’t want to share my cookies with him, but you must understand, this is a man whose idea of a cookie is a handful of about 5 or more and not the single little special savoring variety cookie that only happens into one’s lifetime once, maybe twice if one is so lucky.
“AGGGHHHHHHH” I scream jumping up as he pops the whole thing in his mouth as he closes with a huge grin.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO—YOU DON’T EAT THEM LIKE THAT!!!
He’s poised to pop another in his mouth when thankfully sanity regains its hold on him.

With a triumphant smile on his face, he offers me the now melting remaining cookie.
Ugh, I hang my head.
“Go ahead, you can have it” I sheepishly mutter.
Again, popping the whole thing in his mouth, he grins
Oooo the agony of it all. . .

Now that he has sufficiently tormented me, he proceeds to munch on the handful of Fig Newtons he had originally gathered. Who can follow delectable wonderment with a fig newton??!!
See what I mean??

Hours later, as I crawl into bed, with my husband fast asleep and snoring like nobody’s business, I wonder, as well as marvel, how in the world he can be in the bed no more than 5 minutes and he’s already sound asleep, I turn out the light.

Situating myself under the covers, through the darkness I utter a soft “I love you” as I’m certain he’s sound asleep.
Suddenly I hear a very groggy muffled, as if far away, “. . .love you too. . .”
I counter with my familiar “love you more”
again a groggy “no you don’t”
“oh but I do”. . .I whisper, “I love you more because I gave you my cookies”
And with that the heavy snoring resumes as I contently smile in the darkness.

As I lie there in the dark staring up at the ceiling, pondering the thought of what it means to love someone so much so that you’d give away special cookies, I am suddenly struck by the enormity of what has been done and given to me in the name of that same Love I casually wrap myself in like a warm blanket.
Giving and Sacrifice, each on a massive scale.
My thoughts race across time to an ancient form of torture and capital punishment, a cross with a lone figure hanging by 3 piercing iron nails—first in agony, then limp in the utter and total betrayal of loneliness and isolation, cut off from any and all.

With a sudden rush of tremendous clarity, I am overwhelmingly struck by what “loving someone more than” is really all about. . .

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16

Loving and being loved even more than a box of cookies. . .

Cookie’s on the move

“Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”
― Katherine Mansfield

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Not a permeant move mind you, just a few days sabbatical.
Wait.
If it’s a working trip for one of us, can it still be a sabbatical for the other one of us?
The one whose already retired, the one who is tagging along looking for a little bit of inspiration from new sights and new sounds?

I feel as if Cookie was born to move.
As in, I have bags, I will travel, sort of move.
Not the whole pack up your world and move.
Nothing so drastic.
Little movement verses big movement.
Of course I blame it all on the adoption.

A baby born, knowing it is pre-destined for the “home”– certainly came pre-destined with a packed bag.
(and speaking of Philomena—not necessarily the movie, as I purposely chose not to see it but I am currently reading the book—It is proving to be the sort of book I must put down on an almost chapter by chapter basis as it is hard to imagine such took place in the country of my family’s roots, Ireland—plus as an adopted individual, it certainly makes one think. . .but we love Dame Judi Dench–of course we do. We’ll have a post on such at a later date. . .but today it is on to bigger and better things—things like moving on. . . and things like Texas—BIG)

My take on being adopted is that one is to make the most of a hard wired tendency.
No regrets.
If folks say I gotta move, than move I shall!
What was that song. . .”all my bag are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say good-bye. . . yada yada yada, I’m leaving on a jet plane. . . yada, yada, yada”—you get it, right?. . .

You say trip, adventure, business— I say I’m gain and I’m there!
Bags packed, camera ready. . .passport finally with the correct name—what a fiasco—you must read one of my very first posts—-“Goose chases, passports and the times in which we live” from Feb. 28, 2013. . .that is the story of my life encased in a nutshell–a nutshell of a comedy of divine errors.
So yep, I’m good to go!
This coming from a Miss Homebody. . .

This world is indeed wide and wonderful, and yes, wherever I may roam, my thoughts do return to precious things such a family, friends and home—but I am always up for a road trip. . .just let me know when you’re ready. . .and I’ll start packing!!
Oh and you should know, that I keep my passport on the ready.
I keep a $100 and 100 euros tucked inside on the ready because one just never knows when one needs to make a quick getaway. . .

Next stop—the Lone Star State
Stay tuned . . .

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