Cass Community Social Services, 500 Biblical Meatballs & 375 Memorial Challah Onion Rolls.

RE-POST from April 2014:

There are at least six, solid, Biblical references regarding meatballs.

“Hi, we were wondering…”

I received a significant, mid-week invitation from a dear, don’t-get-to-see-often, friend. It was one of those jump-to-it, second-chance, “you don’t want to miss this,” opportunities. The last time I rode along became a scary freeway ice-dancing event featuring sliding cars, sudden lane-swerving, and frightening brake pumping. A few near-accidents in, a committee of concerned participants made the reluctant decision to head home before reaching our destination. It was a hard call to make, because individually and as a group, we don’t take volunteering lightly. In this case, it was clear a no-show would have serious consequences, but the severity of the travel conditions could not be ignored.

That’s how a recent early Saturday morning found me munching a Clif protein bar, hanging in the far parking lot of Sam’s Club, waiting on another ride.

In mission work there are sometimes great gaps of knowledge. This one wasn’t much of a mystery. We knew where we were headed, and what we would do. Still, the informational brochure I was handed filled in a lot of unknown blanks in my perception of the project. The impressive scale of Cass Community Social Services in Detroit is something to behold. The volunteer schedule is equally as impressive.

The Saturday kitchen schedule was filled by a church confirmation class from Alpena, a church youth group from Northville, the Detroit chapter of One Brick, some Michigan State-ers on spring break, and a women’s church group from Tecumseh. It started off slowly, but at one point I counted 24 people in the kitchen.

We had arrived believing we would be making sandwiches, and left not having made a single one. The new first order of kitchen business was slicing semi-frozen flanks of meat. The first problem I encountered was a lack of latex free gloves. By default, I became the dishwasher.

A volunteer named Bobby, who has been washing dishes at Cass for 9 years, so far, demonstrated the basics. Food down this shoot; rinse, load, fill, sanitize, stack, and re-shelve. I really wanted a bit more instruction from Bobby, but he wasn’t inclined to give it. He walked away and I proceeded to process dishes, utensils, pots and pans for two hours straight. Bobby would fly by every once in a while, saying the same thing, “You’re doin’ alright!”

During one of those passes, another volunteer pointed to my cleaning stash and requested an aluminum scrubbie. When I turned for it, Bobby was in my way, so I asked him to please hand it over. He didn’t. “The scrubbie,” I reiterated, thinking perhaps he hadn’t heard my quiet voice in the ruckus. He just stood there, shaking his head at us. I tried again, carefully explaining and renaming the item, “She would like that scouring pad, please.” Finally, he cracked a semi-smile and pointed behind her. There, at the exact spot where the question had originated, in a rather obvious place, was another one. 

In those two minutes, my pile had grown to overflowing the staging-space allotted to dirty items. but went back to work with a conquer-this-mountain attitude. Eventually, I was relieved of dish duty. I didn’t want to be relieved, but Miss Lonetta – head cook, kitchen orchestrator/coordinator, menu planner – insisted. She handed me two bowls with bananas, oranges, and grapes, pushed open a door and told me to go sit outside. A few minutes later, I became the fruit sharer, offering fruit and fresh-air seats to the also forced-to-take-a-break cooking crew.

The beef slicers also chopped a lot of broccoli and garlic, grated carrots and cheese, made rice, cracked dozens of eggs, and melted butter. From 9:00 AM until Noon, the principles hustled us along. It was about then that some of the volunteer shifts had ended. There were only about 6 of us left. Lonetta told me to go grab some parchment paper, and pointed in the general direction supplies. I wasn’t exactly sure where to look, but eventually I spied, grabbed, and delivered.

Then she wanted to know why I wasn’t making meatballs, with the few remain-ers who were also running out of time. I explained about the latex, and she gleefully cried. “Grab an apron and suit up!” One of the volunteer groups had shown up with a box of latex-free gloves. On my first grab, it was interesting to discover my right hand was reluctant to roll anything. It was sorely sore from squeezing the hand-held faucet. Still, I did my best with the sticky stuff. Out of 500 meatballs needed, jumping in at the last minute, I probably rolled somewhere around 50.

During the course of the morning and early afternoon, Lynetta changed her meal plan three times while we were prepping. Due to a lack of peppers, Pepper Steak turned into Steak ala Cass, which is actually pepper steak minus peppers, plus onions and mushrooms. Ten trays of garlic bread were prepped for the oven. For the most part, those who come for Cass meals, don’t eat vegetables if they’re presented as a side. Miss Lonetta devised a way to sneak them in. Meatballs were beefed up with carrots, broccoli, and onion, and stretched with crumbs, eggs and cheese. At the last minute, we learned a vegetarian entry would also be needed. We reviewed ingredients available, put our thinking caps on, and came up with a very improvised veggie stir-fry.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: each person’s mission experience will differ. I can’t say this is an accurate reflection for anyone else but me, but, the 30-second do-this dishwashing brief, the here’s-two-bowls-go-sit-outside directive, and the frantic search for parchment were unnerving in a successful, hyped-up sort of way. There is something to be said for being available and able to fumble around, change directions, and do whatever has to be done. It brings a little self-pride, a little coping confirmation, and an absolutely miniscule idea of what may be expected next time.

My unofficial three-part summary of Cass Kitchen philosophy:

Be aware of your surroundings.

You can find whatever is needed, if you look.

If you can’t find it, improvise.

Quote for the week:

Cass Community Social Services: http://casscommunity3.wordpress.com/

Philippians 2:4: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out-do one another in showing honor.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

What I Said Not What I Didn’t Say.

So, I’ll tell you, again. I have no idea who I was writing to.

I’m at a loss really. I’m not sure who I was addressing, but I have thought a lot about who I wasn’t addressing. The ministers covered so much about family and friends, without some of the more questionable parts, but still with enough give to allow for a watery smile or a grimaced chuckle.

I didn’t really decide to add humor to my thoughts. I wasn’t going for a lighten-up-the-atmosphere effect. I just did what I always do. Wrote in my speaking voice. I just wanted to say aloud to as many people as possible, to explain – the importance of him. And the importance of him + me.

I started out steady enough. Halfway through the second sentence, I strangled – I ran out air. I choked emotionally. I blinked the blurriness (that I refused to let fall) into evaporation, gulped and pushed out the rest in a very short-of-breath fashion.

I’m a little hard to understand on regular days. My natural tendency tends to cause confusion. Speaking softly was never a stylistic choice. I will make an effort to overcompensate when alerted to the need.

Much, like the sex-talk Nannee thought she and I had had, but hadn’t – soft speaker vs hard of hearing.

What I said next was similarly interpreted widely off the mark. Terribly misunderstood.

Yes, I had microphone. But, no. Apparently, that didn’t help.

I never fessed up.  

Some very important people in my life sought me out that afternoon to say that the words they thought I’d said had made an indelible impact on their hearts. Not in those words and not collectively, but there were 4 of them, plus 1. The first four were one right after another. The fifth was present for all of the others, but reserved comment for a bit.

Following the logic of lyric interpretation – in the old days, at least – when “so fine” was the precursor to “a bangin’ #ut#” – I respect creativity and adore the creators who, very sincerely, decline to explain their work.

What it means to you might be a world away from the aim. The important part is that it gave you something, whether intended or not. The gift is that it moved you, made you more determined, opened your eyes, changed your mind – for the better, for you, whatever.

Sometimes, there’s just no need to correct the notion.

Interpretation is a beautiful thing.

Quote for the Week:

If God Swore

Until then, I’d never experienced our church from the pulpit view. I’d done a reading once, down a tier at the presenters’ lectern. I once made a nervous mission announcement from there, as well.

I don’t know how many seconds passed before I began to speak.

There may have been no delay, at all.

Maybe my mind was moving faster than time. Or, maybe time truly suspended giving me a moment to catch up.

Being caught in that living still frame isn’t something I’ve ever been able to escape. Nor the feeling of being yanked back to the conscious present based solely on the physiological need to breathe.

This is what I saw: our church – our house of worship – filled. Surpassing Christmas, surpassing Easter. Standing room only, was truly that.

People lined the outer walls, the back walls, stood in the lobby, 2-3 deep in respectful rows, sat shoulder to shoulder. Hands clasped, eyes turned, a hush-filled quiet uncomfortably questioning what was about to happen.

So unexpected. So. Many. People.

I don’t know what I thought I’d see from up there, but that wasn’t it.

Someday, I want to paint the way I felt: far-away shadow figures, vague- shaped contours; impressionistic forms. It’s not that they don’t deserve to be individualized. It’s rather that they were one cohesive group, for the first time, for the last time, forever.

I’ve run the scene so many times; replayed when I need to feel stronger. I remember I did that and remind myself if I got through then, I can get through now.

I have an issue listening for God or to Him. I’ve gone way too long in some situations and found myself happily or unhappily God-smacked.

Like upside the head, like, “Hey, dammit (if God swore), pay attention!”

Like a physical push, showing me out of a situation that has long since run it’s course.

It’s easy to glance back and see the dozens of times the message almost got through to me. Last week, one actually did.

GOD: Dwelling. Places.

ME: (stubbornly) How. Many. Heavens?

Suddenly, I saw it so clearly. I knew.

In that sea of souls, right there in our Father’s house of worship, there were many dwelling places.

Down here, we call them hearts. Each person there, took him all the way Home in theirs.

Quote for the Week:

The Funeral Service and Stuff I Found

From the New Testament, Jeff’s father chose selected verses from John 14.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.”

“Believe in God, believe also in me.”

“In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.”

Dwelling places; the phrase slammed me. For some reason; a jolt. It’s one I’ve never understood. A point of confusion really: how many Heavens are there? I heard other familiar bible bits drift in from a long way off. In between each, echoed “dwelling places.”  

My recollection of the dedicated meditation time was that I did not. Instead, irrationally irked, I internally re-played Roger’s specific “dwelling places” passage request, and wished the meditative time would end.

As a mark to the end, the Ministries announced that we would be moving into remembrances and microphones would be available if anyone chose to share their special memories of Jeff. I know they both clergy spoke, in turn. I cannot tell you what either said.

I can tell you that when pulled my own paragraphs from Jeff’s ‘funeral file’ last night, I was shocked to see I possess some semi-detailed notes. This isn’t the first time I’ve culled papers from the chest. It’s a bit unnerving not to remember ever having seen them before just because of the volume.

There are five pages. Three pages and one extra line of pink college rule, which, at first glance, I believed were in my mother’s handwriting. I compared it to the one-page neon yellow printer stock on which she wrote her thoughts. I can’t definitively say one way or the other. The brilliant paper Mom used however, no doubt was taken from our Michigan Hot Sauce Club stash for monthly newsletters and mail adverts.

There’s a list of the same color that seems to have be compiled by Jeff’s sister. I’m unsure if it is a role-call, an invite list or rows of still-to-be-notified. On the other side, are notes in my handwriting. Names, phone numbers, time of day or night, some doodle work, plus the note ‘figure out the store.’ That last one wasn’t in my pen.

Quote for the Week:

Pink College Rule Pages (1-4), Group Eulogy Contributions

My Favorite, Noel.

I decorate for Christmas.  

Some years, not a single soul sees it. Some years, maybe one or two or three tops.

But, that’s because I travel, and it really doesn’t matter. I do it for me.

I refrained for many years. I could only see painful reminders. I suppose if there was such a thing, I’d say my grief has matured.

One year, I decided I’d at least try. I went through the box and struggled through each memory. Then, I went to World Market and Target and Meijer and struggled through buying new non-traditional décor in fuschia pink and winter blue and brilliant 80’s lime-ish green.

I couldn’t bring myself to put up the unique partial tree that Jeff and I had marveled over. Imagine a fake three-foot fir in a wicker basket – neatly sliced in verticle half to allow for wall hanging.

We used it in the townhouse, much to Miss Fred’s annoyance. She’d sit near the wall and balefully mewl. I suspect she was either trying to convince the tree to come down and play or she believed her caterwauling would spur us into action and bring all the shiny things down to her level.

It seems every year, I’ve managed to find the baby-steps, bits and pieces strength to add another sentimental piece. At least that’s what my lighted, miniature, fake burlap sack ensconced pine tree is telling me.

These are a few of my favorite things:

The purple and gold swirl paint bulb Jeff made.

The beaded snowman pin that Jeff also made

A tiny box with a big message from my mother-in-law, Sally

The tree topper is a handmade ornament from Nannee Vincze

The paper folded pinecone is a purchase I made at a craft show from a couple who reminded me so much of us.

The glass chili pepper is part of a set of six I bought for Jeff the Christmas after our store opened.

The Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh were a beautifully authentic biblical present to myself, and to others one year.

The Hershey kiss angel, by my best guesstimate, is somewhere between 20-25 years old – the result of a crafting episode with my sister-in-law.

The illuminated pine bottle was a gift this year from a friend who likes to call me ‘sis’.

The miniature Hannukah lamp was a gift from my mother that year we took her to Bronner’s. That is a story unto itself.

The nativity was my first, acquired the same year I purchased my condo.

The tatted cross is a gift that is a story unto itself, as well. A heritage heirloom I was astonished and honored to receive from a family that wasn’t mine to start with, but now completely is.

The Christmas Loon comes from the same family. No one has ever able to explain why, and the only thing I’ve found on the internet is a reference to the Loon being the state bird of Minnesota.

And I have no idea where the super shiny sparkly pine cone came from or how it landed in my Christmas storage tote, but… I like it.

All of this sits on the top of my living room hutch. There’s a lot of love crammed onto the four-foot-long top, which is conveniently completely Blu proof. He’s got jumping issues.

Happy Christmas from me. Repeating an adored adopted phrase, I’m the one who wants you to know – God loves you, and so do I. Noel.

Picture for the Week: 2019 12 24 Merry Christmas Noel jakorte