Feet Firmly

It was supposed to be a New Year’s Day trek.

A plan for reviving and renewing and recommitting.

But, Sunday was a sunny day; way more interesting and way more convenient.

As usual, half the battle was getting ready to go out in the cold.

How cold is cold? How warm will I get? Light gloves? Heavy gloves?

Scarf? Hat? Leggings under jeans? Sweatshirt, sweater, long-sleeved tee?

Over-thinking is my specialty. I was still tying my footwear of choice when my fellow adventurer  arrived.

It’s always easier with two. Especially, when easily distracted by catch-up tales of Christmases. Hunting for fairy houses beneath the tropical foliage, discussing and longing for ways to economically and realistically grow tropicals here in Michigan.

It’s funny how quickly you can identify and obliterate your own ignorance. I’ve never wandered through a desert. The closest I’ve come might have been the short succulent aisle at a local garden shop. Or, maybe it was that time I asked someone to pull over so I could get a little closer to a real-live, dead armadillo in Plano, Texas. The green giants there were distant enough, but at least they were alive. I think.

Anyway, the point is, the cacti were stunning. In case you didn’t know, they’re not all green. They’re not all upstanding or towering, either. They’re gorgeous little symmetrical growths and odd-shaped tubular spikes. Subtly variegated, boldly striped or pin-painted with impeccably placed galaxies of dots.

Outside, crisp coldness was a welcome antidote to layered heat-retention. This had been my draw all along. A self-challenge to stop daydreaming about snow photography, and just do it. Stationary and kinetic sculptures, lightly dusted with snow, stood out and peeked out along dirt rows and paved paths. Photo-happy me, scuffled along discovering treasures. Which, is how it came about that we logged 3.5 miles. Slightly over our virtual 5K goal, but a sadly short 22 active minutes.

Lamenting that, I stalled. Standing there in my steel-toes, still caked with the mud of Katrina, this thought crossed my mind: Those were note-worthy years. Some years just aren’t. Obligations, expenses, losses get in the way. In times like these, self-focused isn’t necessarily a negative way to go.

Since its the end of the year, I’ll accept the insignificance and aspire elevation. The good news is the new one begins today. The better news is, new days are plentiful; each with new opportunities for future note-worthiness.

Quote for the Week:

2019 01 01 may our feet be firmly guided jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

In Any Season: Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Nothing but Good News: Good News Network . Org

Hope for the New Year: From the Bible From the Bible

 

 

 

Life’s Like That: Rice

Making rice isn’t for the faint of heart. That’s because of the whole don’t lift the lid thing.

Watching my pot not boil, I have time to think. I’ve been studying my life, lately. Trying to determine self-worth against a fear of no-worth. Trying to remember to trust God.

I snicker, and Blu answers questioningly. If I’m standing here because I can’t trust the outcome of my rice, how can I trust Him on things bigger than potential burnt grain? I snicker again, and Blu huffs a sigh, curling back into cat-nap position.

Right. They’re two different things, aren’t they? Umm, are they?

This is what happens when I can’t lift the lid. I compulsively stay nearby for rescue and the sake of safety. Puttering around rearranging cabinets, wiping out drawers, my Fitbit faithfully paces steps in my galley kitchen.

A boil over would singe my last nerve tonight. After a 7-hour seasonal cleaning marathon, I’ve realized I’m not done, but my body is. Treadmill time doesn’t create kneel-stand-stretch-pull-bend endurance.

I gauge the roil. I re-read the instructions and unsurely determine its time to turn down the heat. The timer is active, but I am not.

I’m still standing there thru the simmer, and its not looking good. There seems to be too much water. At least that’s how it looks thru the lid. I’m determined not to burn. So, I wiggle the pot in lifted circles; ‘stirring’ within the rules, not lifting the lid. It’s not any clearer what’s going on in the there.

At 12 minutes, it suddenly is. Clearer. Now a slurry of milky roiling water and slightly swollen rice nubs, this feels like the dangerous part. The critical point where I really want to stir the pot. I swirl the pan again, and lament that nothing’s significantly moving. Then, it hits me: not much water – that’s a good thing, right?

At 9 minutes, I recant. Maybe its not going as planned, according to the assurances of preparation materials so blithely plastered on paper. 3 easy steps. Except for the don’t lift the lid part.

Guess that’s life though. Standing over a watched pot, hoping everything will become clearer once the process is complete.

6 min. Yeah. Life’s like that. Your focus has to be just right to see thru the condensation. Rivulets riot with your view.  Concentration required comes with a headache from peering over the heated coil, red-face full of radiant heat.

3 minutes. I can still see simmering just below the surface of swollen bits. Ugh. There’s still liquid; disappointment.

2 minutes. Dear God. I hope this doesn’t burn. Technically, it’s not part of my Keto plan. I do reasonably plan to only eat small ¼ cup portions at 5 carbs each. 35 minutes of my life has now been poured into the procedure.

1 minute. A burn now would be a waste of a full 40 minutes, and waste even more time dealing with the mess.

I’m nervously watching the timer. 30 seconds.

It’s time to lift the lid away. Everything is fine, if ‘fine’ means slightly sticky rice.

Life’s like that. All about timing. Whether you’re waiting on rice or God.

The relief is nice, but short-lived. Success over shadowed by nausea, I quickly evaluate my situation, pull the pot from the heat, find a seat and dangle my head below my knees. All the extra effort, sweltering over the course of experience, worry and watching did not change the outcome.

Will I do it again? Probably.  The same way? Probably, maybe. My treacherous mind still believes in the future possibility of failure. Which, directly connects to my Matthew 6:25-34 struggle. Not worrying seems irresponsible to me. But, that’s another blog.

Quote for the Week:

2018 09 09 Life_s All About Timing rice or god jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Rice: Cook Covered

Rice: Cook Uncovered

Rice: Cook Sticky (On Purpose)

 

Hard Refrigerator Wisdom

It’s hard to pray for what you don’t want.

It’s even harder when your prayer is answered.

Last week, I lost a hard to define person: part of my life, sort of relative, adoptive 3rd mom, friend.

About 6 years ago, on another platform, in another format, I published an article about alternate gift giving. The information was drawn from many sources, links provided, and sent out into cyber-space. The result of that was a slip of paper she gifted me. It has been magnetized to my wisdom board since that Christmas.

Over the years, I have noted little slips of wisdom on the refrigerator in the home she and her husband shared. A home that I was welcomed into. Reluctant to go the first time, my two-years past Jeff mantra was, “I don’t do other people’s families at holidays.” It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, it’s extremely uncomfortable being the “extra” at any table.

Especially so, with Jeff’s family. Let me emphasize: I was always sincerely invited, always happily welcomed. My perception of me and my place in the family was skewed by insecurities. My interpretation of the situation was that my arrival at any Korte family function was an awkward beacon of sad; a glaring, strobe reminder that Jeff was no longer there.

However, at the insistence of my brother and sister-in-law, I agreed to tag along to their family gathering. It wasn’t any easier than going to Jeff’s families’ holidays.  The only difference was that I felt more like a solitary lighthouse of alone. None of them were strangers to me; I’d known them all before Jeff. They represent the before and the after Jeff, which sometimes makes the missing middle seem that much further away.

Over the last ten years of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, sport days, funeral and no-reason days, I merged into the unit quite permanently. The slip I noticed Sunday, has likely been there for a while. 

Judging by the placement, it was positioned purposefully while she was still able to do it, herself. I took a clandestine picture, with the plan of posting in my home and have decided to share it with you. It is a perfect, logical, statement of fact, which I choose to interpret with her deep, implied beliefs – adding my own, silent, faith-filled addendum … “for now.”

Quote for the Week:

2018 06 26 there are things we dont want to happen jakorte

A Good Spot

When Jeff first told me that he believed, I thought, “Ok, that’s good.” I believed in God, too, sort of, not always, but sometimes, on and off, wavering as circumstances changed.

Jeff did not bring his belief into his life. It simply was his life, expressed as peace and contentedness. I had a hard time grasping all that, but his overall great, upbeat attitude was contagiously inspiring. I’d never met anyone like Jeff. Always willing to see the best, always believing everything was for the best.

As I’ve mentioned, before we were married, neither one of us believed a house of worship was necessary. The more we went to church, the more interesting I found it. Many prayers are the same as those in Judaism, and, obviously, the old testament is identical.

As far as I was concerned and I as far as I could tell, we believed in the same overall God. Recognizing similarities, (real or imagined) made me more comfortable. The more we went to church, the more church Jeff wanted. We went to coffee hour; we participated in a few functions. The more people we met, the happier Jeff became.

I’d gotten used to the trio of older ladies who regularly sat in the pew behind the pew Jeff and I regularly sat in. Our spot was on the left on an aisle in a row just about center of the back half of the chapel. Not too close to draw attention to ourselves, close enough to hear and see, with not too many people behind us, close enough to the rear bathroom that Jeff felt he wouldn’t have “walk the gauntlet” to get there. It was a good spot.

Truly, it wasn’t all that strategically chosen. It was, however, a good spot, because sometimes, when Jeff bowed his head in prayer, it stayed bowed a lot longer than other people’s. Especially, if it was later in the service. Or if he hadn’t eaten breakfast. Or if it was too warm. Mostly, nobody noticed. Jeff’s bowed head could easily be mistaken for lengthy prayer.

Unless he snored. Then, I’d have to elbow him. Occasionally, one of the trio would ask if he was ok. Jeff would smile and declare that he’d just been “praying hard.” Followed by a teasing wink.

Quote for the Week.

2018 04 03 Choosing a good seat jakorte

Many Times Over

On the verge of a migraine, day 2.

I’ve been more than tempted to just say, “Not this week…”  Staring off into space thinking about where we’ll go next, my blurred vision focused on a book shelf. Clearing on a black binding, I suddenly realized the season.

I drew it from its spot, wedged firmly between other versions of the same book in different formats and different languages. Flipping open the cover, I remembered why I had this treasure. The volume that caught my attention, didn’t originally belong to me. It does now, by default.

I’ll stress this up front. My love gave me gifts. The gift of acceptance, the gift of care; gifts of hope and light that meant a lot to me then, but even more to me now. The greatest of all these – love – has always been there, remains and endures.

I reiterate these truths from a season past:

I don’t want to own false grief.

I’m not happy about losing Jeff. I’m not angry, either.

I’m not questioning, “Why?” I know why, and I’m thankful.

I don’t want to own false hope.

I want to have faith that where I am headed will someday make sense to me, and maybe to some others.

I don’t want to own the responsibility of false vision, knowing all that lies ahead.

I want to affirm that life’s adventure is a gift, gladly opening each day as such.

I don’t want to own a false sense of security.

I want to believe with my whole soul that, as paths change, they will continue to be clearly marked in my rear-view mirror – under the direction of the only GPS necessary: God’s Positioning System.

 Ephesians 2:6: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (NIV)

 I do believe. I do believe I’ve been gifted. I do believe I’ve been gifted, many times over.

Quote for the Week:

2018 03 27 the greatest of gifts became even greater jakorte

 

Dress De-Coding

We went to church. Then, we kept going to church. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I found similarities in prayers and biblical stories. When I skipped over the Jesus part, the sermon always had some good message. Once a month, I remembered I was an interloping fish out water. Communion stressed me out.

Staying seated in a small-ish church was an obvious choice. Despite the invisible but unmistakable arrow of non-belief over my head, greetings were sincerely cordial. “Just wait ‘til they find out,” I’d think to myself, running an uneducated scenario in my head. It was easy to envision stone-faced, blank-wall welcome-retraction.

I noticed while most members sported Sunday clothes, a few regularly did not. It seemed Jeff and I were over-dressed, based on the attire of other attendees in our age range. So, I asked him about the dress code. “I know,” Jeff said. “I just can’t wear jeans to church. It doesn’t seem right. I’d be uncomfortable. I think it’s kinda disrespectful.” Then, as usual, he gave me a choice in the matter by adding, “… but, you can, if you want to.”

I thought about and reached the same conclusion. I would never have worn jeans to a Friday night service. Without ever having done it, or been given the opportunity to, I instinctively felt I’d be uncomfortable, anyway. Dressing up with Jeff made the day feel more special. Sunday mornings became our version of date night. Over brunch we’d talk about the sermon and religion and the store, and whatever else came up. 

Pretty much unfailingly, following “Go in Peace,” Jeff would sort of hopefully ask, “Wanna go to coffee-hour?” At my request or rather my denial, coffee hour was a no-go. Because that would mean socializing, and that would mean questions. One day, Jeff told me he’d really like to go to coffee hour someday, just for a little bit. I explained I was dreading the day when someone would ask me why I don’t participate. “I mean,” I explained, with a double wrist wave  “I’m sure they’ve already figured it out, but…”

“Nah…” Jeff shrugged. “… they probably think you’re Catholic.”

Quote for the Week:

2018 02 13 we choose our clothes to reflect our attitude jakorte

 

 

 

 

Memorable

The first time we went to church, Jeff was reluctant to ask if anyone knew our caller. I’m not sure why. When I asked about it, he just said, “Next time.” I didn’t push it, because, well, I wasn’t the reason we were there.

The second time we went, I encouraged him to ask. Jeff said, “Ok.” He slid down the pew to ask a woman he sort-of knew. He remembered her name from years ago, as a friend of Nannee. Surprisingly, she remembered Jeff quite well, and enveloped him in a back-slapping hug.

It was surprising, to me, at the time. You’d think after about the 100th time someone he hadn’t seen in 30-40 years recognized him, remembered him and was happy to see him – that I wouldn’t be astonished.

I never got used to it, certainly never expected it. It happened a lot. Like the time Jeff and I were standing in line to pay at the food auction. When we were just a few people back from cashing out, Jeff left me to pay while he went to get the car. The woman behind me tapped me on the should and asked, “Is that Jeff?” I confirmed and she lit up with a huge smile. “I was his teacher!” As she told me he was such a nice young man, I was picturing a junior high connection.

When Jeff came back in to load up our purchases, he was greeted with a hug. He explained that she was one of his early grade-school teachers.  (3rd grade, maybe?) That surprised me because I’m sure he was a little shorter and had a lesser amount of facial hair at that age. I’d never seen him sans mustache ad beard, and momentarily wondered if I’d recognize him at first glance without them. 

The final recognition surprise came a few days after Jeff passed. I received a phone call from the coroner’s office. It was the medical examiner offering personal condolences with the explanation that he had been Jeff’s pediatrician when Jeff was very young. He wanted me to know that he remembered Jeff very well and fondly, too.

Thinking about it now, so many people saw something in Jeff that could easily be dismissed as recognition; but I think what they were really remembering was his never-changing soul.

(And the fact that his laugh was so distinct, someone an aisle over in the grocery store would rush around the corner and exclaim, “I knew it HAD to be YOU!” Happened. More than once.)

Quote for the Week:

2018 02 06 faces are easily recognizable jakorte

Bonus School Photo Collage (a gift, compiled by my niece):

Jeff school photo collage 20180206_190706~2