the Mayor is coming, the Mayor is coming…actually, she’s already here

“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings
of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud.
But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…
it’s like soaring through a sunset.
I think it almost pays for the thud.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea


(woobooville’s satellite office awaits her arrival / Julie Cook / 2108)

Not many constituents or aides can get as excited over a mayoral visit as perhaps this
satellite Woobooville office does… as all the aides gathered here become
practically giddy with anticipation!

The Mayor would like all to know that she is showing her support to all law enforcement
members and to anyone who has an affinity for doughnuts by sporting a seasonal set of PJ’s.

Plus she is demonstrating her support for the notion of goodie gathering for all little people.

As she will be attending a cul-de-sac pizza party for the neighborhood children on Halloween
dressed as a pumpkin— a sentimental nod to her dad who was also a pumpkin 30 years ago
for his first trick or treating adventure.
The Mayor is sentimental in those regards.

The Mayor is here for only a quick weekend visit before returning to her main office in Atlanta.
But her aides and constituents are making the most of the joyous time spent together…
even poor Moe the moose who is having his brains shaken loose.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16: 9-11

I want my baby back…

Do you know that Chili’s food chain commercial??
The one with the singing jingle about baby back ribs?

A singing voice keeps repeating
“I want my baby back, baby back, baby back…I want my baby back….ribs…”

It’s the kind of commercial that does what it’s supposed to do, it sticks in your head…
whether you like ribs or not.
Of which I do by the way but I’ve never eaten at a Chili’s…
but I digress.

So recently, on more than one occasion, I am finding myself randomly singing that little
jingle in my head…over and over.
Sometimes I’m actually singing it out loud, as in a sense of desperation.
And no, it’s not because I actually want a plate of baby back ribs…
I simply want my baby back!

And so she will indeed be coming back today!!!

YAY!!

Mom and Dad have an out of town wedding and it falls upon me to be the babysitter…
so too bad for me…wink wink 🙂

Maybe I need to fire up the grill and barbeque some ribs in order to celebrate…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13

A bookstore, a war and a reunion….

“Be swift as a gazelle and strong as a lion to do the will of God in Heaven.”
(as seen on the ex libris of a book looted by the Nazi’s, a reference to
a line form the Mishnah, the Jewish redaction of oral traditions:
Andres Rydell The Book Thieves)


(the interior of a book store in Padova, Italy (Padua) / Julie Cook / 2007)

Today’s tale began many years ago, when my aunt and I found ourselves wandering
and weaving up and down the snake-like alley streets twisting through the old historic district of Padua, Italy…
better known to the Italians as Padova.

We were actually en route from Milan to Florence and opted to stop over for 3 days
in order to explore this deeply rich historical city.
And it just so happened that during our stay, during this particular mid June,
it was the height of the city’s yearly commemoration of Saint Anthony.

Padua is home to the Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova, or the Pontifical Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua—a massive and beautiful church built to honor the Portuguese born saint who settled in Italy, making Padua his adopted home.
The building of the basilica was begun  in 1232, a year following Saint Anthony’s
death, and was finally completed in 1310—with modifications taking place in both
the 14th and 15th centuries.

It was a wonderful experience being a part of such a festive atmosphere, as
thousands of Catholics worldwide flock to this small Northern Italian town for
the June 13th feast day—
The city goes all out to make a colorfully vibrant yet equally respectfully spiritual
time for the thousands of pilgrims and tourists who flock to this city just south of Venice.

There are parades where the various ancient guilds are dressed in period costume as children, nuns, priests, monks and lay people march solemnly through the
narrow ancient streets all carrying flags as residents drape banners from their windows.

Yet Padua is more than just a spiritual hub, it is also very much of an intellectual
hub as it is home to the University of Padua, one of Europe’s oldest universities,
having been founded in 1222.
It is here where Galileo Galilei spent 18 years, of what he has described as being
the happiest years of his life, while he was the head of the Mathematics Department…
teaching, studying, lecturing and writing.

Italy, so rich in history, also happens to have a wonderful history with
paper making as well as bookmaking.
And Padua has its fair share of both fascinating and beautifully rich paper
as well as book shops–shops selling books, antique lithographs and rare prints.

It is said that after Spain, Italy is where paper making actually had its start.
It was most likely introduced to southern Italy by the Arabs who had in turn first
learned the craft from the Chinese.
Arab influence, particularly in architecture, can still be seen in and around the
Veneto region.

So it was during our visit, as we were wandering about one evening following supper,
that we saw the book store I’ve included in today’s post. The store was closed for the night and as we were going to have to be at the train station bright and early the following morning, I knew I would only get to visit this store by pressing my nose
to the window.

All these many years later, I still think about that store.

It had a wealth of what I surmised to be rare antique and ancient books.
Books, despite the language barrier, beckoned for my further investigation.
I would have easily considered giving up my train ticket to Florence just to be able
to wander in, dig and explore….
but it would take years for me to actually understand the draw as to what I would
be digging and looking for….
And as Life so often has her way, time has simply afforded for my wistful musing of
what might have been.

Having finally finished reading The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell,
the image of that book store in Padua has drawn me back time and time again
as I made my way through Rydell’s book. There is a very strong pull to go back
to look, to seek and to wonder.

There are not words nor adjectives enough for me to do justice to the meticulous story
Rydell lays out as he recounts the Nazi’s scrupulous, maniacal and highly
calculated quest to en masse the books of the all of Europe and Russia with
a keen penchant for those of the Jews.
Not only did they attempt to eradicate an entire race of people, they wanted
to hold, own and control the entire literary word of man—
particularly that of religion, science and history.
As they saw themselves as the new keepers of the history of humankind.

Millions and millions of books, both precious and random were taken…as myriads
are now lost or destroyed for all of time.

The Nazis had a detailed system for categorizing the stolen books.
And many of the books that are now scattered across the globe…
be they in large University libraries or small college collections,
to the random bookshop or second hand store—
many of those books still bare the labels of the Nazi’s numerical filing system.

The long arduous journey of Rydell’s very sad, horrific and overwhelming tale ends
in England with his actually reuniting a granddaughter, Christine Ellse, with a lone
little random book that had belonged to her grandfather–
a man she had never known personally but knew he had died in Auschwitz.
There were never any photographs, no sounds, no memories of a the man
this now grown woman so longed to know.

“Although I’m a Christian I have always felt very Jewish.
I’ve never been able to talk about the Holocaust without crying.
I feel so connected to all of this,” says Ellse,
opening the book and turning the pages for a while before she goes on.

“I’m very grateful for this book, because…I know my English grandparents
on my mother’s side.
They lived and then they died.
It was normal, not having any grandparents on your father’s side.
Many people didn’t, but there was something abnormal about this.
I didn’t even have a photograph of them.
There was a hole there, an emotional vacuum, if you see what I mean.
There was always something hanging midair, something unexpressed,”
Ellse says, squeezing the book.

“You know, my father never spoke about this.
About the past, the war.
But my aunt talked about it endlessly, all the time.
She was the eldest of the siblings, so she was also the most ‘German’ of them.
She coped with it by talking;
my father coped with it by staying silent about it.
I knew already when I was small that something horrible had happened.
I knew my grandparents had died in the war.
Then I found out they’d been gassed, but when you’re a child you don’t
know what that means.
It’s just a story—you don’t understand it.
Then I learned they’d died at Auschwitz. Only after I grew up did I begin to understand and get a grip on it.
It was very difficult when I found out they’d been murdered just ten days
before the gas chambers were shut down.
It was agonizing.
I imagine myself sitting on that train, experiencing the cold and the hunger.
And then straight into the gas chambers.
I’ve never able to get over it.”

Historian Patricia Kennedy Grimstead, a woman with a mission to see that war plunder is eventually reunited with families, notes that “millions of trophy books–although no one can say how many there are—will remain as ‘prisoners of war,”
Today, in Russia, there is no willingness to return books to the countries or families
that were plundered. But we still have to know what books are still represented there
from Europe’s cultural inheritance, a monument to the libraries that were destroyed
and scattered as a consequence of the most terrible war in human history.”

And so my mind wanders now back to that bookstore in Padua—
what book, if any, was there that had once been someone’s personal book
before madness took it away…
a book I now wish I could have found, in order to have brought it back home
to its rightful family.

The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.
At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark.
You will be unsuccessful in everything you do;
day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you….

All these curses will come on you.
They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed,
because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands
and decrees he gave you.
They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.
Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly
in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst,
in nakedness and dire poverty,
you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you.
He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28:28-29, 45-48

when a great aunt comes calling…

“There is peace even in the storm”
Vincent van Gogh


(from left to right:
Aunt Blanche, Aunt Alma, my great grandmother Wiliford, and shy Mimi (Mary)
hiding behind their mom / circa 1917)

When I was a little girl, I had two great aunts who were still living.
Aunt Blanche and Aunt Alma.

Both women rattled my nerves…
or maybe it was more like they simply scared me to death.

They were the sisters to my grandmother, my mother’s two aunts.

Blanche had never married.
For as long as I could remember, she had lived with my grandmother,
having her own separate area of the house.
She always seemed old to me.

The story went that she had had a young beau who had asked for her hand in marriage…but…he was California dreaming and bound, hoping to make his fortune
in a bustling new area of the country.

This was a time of one century turning to another.
The thought of leaving home and family in Georgia,
setting off to a still newly settled West Coast, with a young man who had nothing
more than a dream… was simply more than she could bear.
She turned down his proposal and remained single until she passed away in her
late 80’s.

The other great aunt, Great Aunt Alma lived in Clearwater, Florida.
She and her husband had no children of their own and in my mind,
they lived to simply play golf with the other old people.

This pistol of a woman was as wide as she was tall.
At 4’11” she was truly short and truly round.
Her perfume filled the room with a sickeningly sweet scent that lingered in
one’s nostrils long after she was gone.
When first arriving she would always make a bee line for little cheeks…
grabbing both cheeks with her thumb and index fingers, giving them a hard tweak and squeeze before leaving brightly red lipstick mark imprinted on both now sore cheeks.

Whenever we were told of an impending visit by Aunt Alma, a deep sense of dread
descended over both me and my younger brother.
Yet as I aged and grew up, my great aunt who by now was widowed, seemed to
be more gruff and impatient…far from embracing or loving.
She no longer grabbed to pinch cheeks or smear ones face with lipstick
but was rather matter of fact and brusque with her greeting.
Plus she would cuss like a sailor in her impatience.

I kept both of these women at arm’s length as their personalities and lives were not
overtly open to young people. They were nice and always gave nice gifts yet there was
no mistaking the fact that they preferred limited interaction with their
young great niece and nephew.

And so now it seems as if we have a new great aunt arriving on the scene…
one who has announced the coming of a most wicked visit.

Her name is Irma.

Somehow I imagine that she too is rather brusque and very matter of fact.
As she is also very round and and exceedingly wide.
We’ve been told that she will roar into town making her presence known in a
most deadly fashion.

Just as I had a sense of dread as a child over the forthcoming visit of great Aunt
Alma, I now have that same sense of foreboding with Irma’s impending visit.

But the difference between Alma and Irma—Alma did love us in her own odd way as
she did enjoy giving us gifts… Irma I fear however cares only for herself…
Taking no prisoners and making no apologies before abruptly departing just as
rudely as she arrived…

Prayers for Florida as well as neighboring Georgia…..
as our prayers continue for Texas and Louisiana…

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:29-30

what shall we suffer

I pray that we may be found worthy to be cursed, censured and gunned down, and even put to death in the name of Jesus Christ, so long as Christ himself is not put to death in us.
Paulinus of Nola

DSCN2550
(Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy.
Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering…

Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps harden them.
Endurance alone is not consecration.

Suffering is consecrated to God by Faith–not by faith in suffering but by faith in God.

Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead.
And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good,
not because they have meaning,
but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.

Thomas Merton

The quickest and easiest way in which a hurting world will dismiss God, and especially the love of God, can be found deep within the black pit of suffering.

Suffering verses the embodiment of God as Loving Creator are each at the juxtaposition of comprehension.

The human mind cannot grasp, let alone digest, that there can be both suffering as well as a God who espouses to be Love personified existing within the same universe of both space and time simultaneously.

And yet the faithful hold tightly to the single fact of truth… that God hates suffering.
How can this be?
Why then won’t He simply wave a hand freeing us mere mortals from Suffering’s both evil and horrific grasp?
“Make it stop, please…”
pleads and begs the anguished, broken, pain ridden heart of the one so deeply wounded by the merciless hold of Suffering.

And Suffering, with its law of averages, and as painful as the reality is, will visit each and everyone of us at some point during our lifetime.

It will visit us up close and intimately personally…
or
it will visit those whom we love and hold dear
or
it will descend upon others… and it will be only thorough our deep empathy for humankind that we will in turn rage against it there as well.

Or even worse….
It will, void of all mercy, descend upon us on all fronts of our lives…relentlessly hammering us and appearing almost sadistically calculating, until we beg to be released from this life…

And yet there is but one explanation for suffering…

It is found in the cross.

That damned cross…

The cross of both death and damnation

Yet that same cross of both Grace and Salvation…

That same cross worn around my neck.
That same cross that is our bridge…mine and yours…
Our only hope,
The only way…
Which will lead us finally Home…

And as difficult as it is, that same saving cross is the raw epitome of Suffering…

We must all face the cross…
Just as we breathe a breath, we must face the cross…
There will be no avoiding it, no getting around it, no denying it.
It is the impassable road block to our journey and it must be dealt with,
by each of us, on our own individual journey home in our own unique way.

We simply cannot believe, live or profess that Jesus overcame death if we cannot, in turn, face the cross.
As hard and as painful and as difficult as that will be, we must each face the cross and all that it entails.

Many of us will spend a lifetime running from it, hiding from it, denying it…

It will be the hardest and most difficult thing any one of us will ever do,
but it is something we will all have to do…
if we are to share in the conquering of death by God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:4-5

Pretty little redhead

“You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair.”
― L.M. Montgomery

Everybody thinks I’m crazy.
Yesiree, that’s me, that’s me.
That’s what I’m cracked up to be.
I chop a hole in every tree.
Knock on wood.
Well, knock on wood.
So, I’m crazy, so what?
What can I do?
So are you!

Woody Woodpecker 1941

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DSC01238

DSC01245

DSC01246
(red headed woodpecker / Julie Cook / 2015)

woody-woodpecker-tv-04-g
(1947 Woody Woodpecker illustration)

One of my favorite birds to visit the yard. . .
Along with one of my favorite cartoon characters when I was little. . .
Here’s to colorful and very happy May Monday. . .

Don’t keep your head in the sand

“How long am I gonna stand,
with my head stuck under the sand?
I’ll start before I can stop,
before I see things the right way up.”

lyrics by Coldplay

DSCN7470
(grazing sandpiper / Watercolor Beach, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I realize it’s been quite sometime since I last wrote a post regarding Dad.
Oh, not to worry, he’s fine—with fine of course being a relative term with Dad.

You should know that my dad loves college football, of which I figure is pretty much where and how I learned to love the sport as well, as countless Saturdays at home were spent with Dad glued in front of the TV watching every game imaginable. Remember, these were the days before Game Day, Hulu, Tivo, remotes, split screens, etc. It was not uncommon for my dad to haul every television in the house, the tiny black and white in my bedroom, the larger black and white in their bedroom, setting them up in the den in order to watch the games playing out on all three major networks- – -remember this was the time when there were only 3 stations of choice. . .no ESPN, no SEC network, no Sports South, no CBS Sports. . .well you get the point.

His favorite team of course is his alma mater, the GA TECH Yellowjackets.
I was singing “I’m a rambling wreck from GA Tech” before I could count.
I know what you’re thinking, “didn’t you go to UGA and are not Tech and UGA huge in-state rivals?”
The answer to your query is “yes, indeed” (slight smile forming at corner of mouth)
I can’t help that a Tech man sent his daughter to THE University of Georgia—I suppose he’s the one who has to live with that, but I digress.

So imagine my surprise Saturday when I called Dad following the exciting climax of Tech’s narrow victory over their conference rivals Va Tech and he seem clueless as to what I’m talking about:
a groggy warbley “heeellllooo”
Hi Dad
uh Hi. . .
Boy what a game, that was something wasn’t it!? (note enthusiasm)
Game, what game? (total confusion)
Dad, what do you mean “what game”??!! (aghast surprise)
Uh, who won? (again confusion)
What do you mean who won?? It went down to the wire. (frustration)
Did we win? (ugh)
What do you mean “did we win”???!! (aaaggghhhhh)
Were you not watching the game? (ditto that)
uh I guess I dozed off. (resignation)
Dad, are you kidding me??!! (grave concern)

That is not like Dad to miss Tech.
It’s not like Dad to miss a football game.
And whereas I have visited him throughout the summer months, popping up for lunch and short visits here and there, I have, however, backed off with my pursuit of his paper chase—the statements, the bills, the invoices, his insistence that “he’s got this and to leave him the hell alone.”

I’ve rationalized that if the lights are still on, the phone still works, they have hot water and air-conditioning, then things are good, right?!
I had grown weary of the weekly assaults by a feeble old mind that continues to slowly fade which imagined me as agitator over very real financial disasters, etc. His cursing at me which is so out of character, his childlike temper tantrums which really began when my mom died 28 year ago and his defiance and refusal to simply recognize that all I’m doing is trying to help.

And yet, it is time, I suppose, that I suck it up and get back to the task of putting his house in order by pulling my head out of the proverbial sand by actually taking an honest look and making certain that all is well rather than assuming such—as we know what happens with that business.

Here’s to a trip to Atlanta!
Here’s to Dad!
How ’bout them DAWGS