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.

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

October-ish

October-ish. That’s how I’d describe the last few days here in Michigan. Of course, those few days were sandwiched between an oppressive humidity wave and today’s June like warmth and afternoon winds.

Anyway, the weather is what’s put me back on track. It was October and Jeff had died and things were moving along around me; absolutely progressing without me.

After the funeral planning, the funeral pants and the arrival of my mother, came more things I’d never thought of. More situations I’d never imagined.

Again, I have no idea how this happened, but there was to be another pre-funeral sort of planning thing. I couldn’t figure out what could possibly be left to plan. I walked into this one blindly.

Somehow, I learned that there would be light refreshments. I couldn’t fathom arriving empty-handed so I bundled up a beautiful, fruit bouquet. In my usual fruitlessness, I’ve searched the web for the name of the company. There are a lot of those companies, now.

After a dozen absolutely wrong search engine responses, I finally deleted: fruit, basket, flower, bouquet. Rethinking my approach, I entered ‘edible.’ Ah, yes. Edible Arrangements!

You wouldn’t think that mattered so much, but I used them for a few years after because they had been so absolutely accommodating.

The order had been placed by a friend in New Jersey, with specific instructions to not include any pineapple. Pineapple pretty much makes up most of the flowers. My arrangement had none, but was still gorgeous and generous.

I haven’t a clue what other refreshments were offered. Or who made them. Or bought them. But, I definitely do remember a necessary cup of Sprite in my possession.

Because, before I’d even made it from the front door through the lobby, I choked on simultaneous laughter and tears.

Quote for the Week:

Syrup vs. Social Distance

 

Thud.

Not a sound I usually expect on Saturdays. Most of my front step thuds occur Thursday or Friday based on anti-social internet shopping. Tongue in cheek, of course.

Mostly for the sake of limited nighttime long winter lack of light, I signed up for conveniences. Groceries, cat needs, and art supplies are my top three delivery staples.

The unexpected arrival succeeded in shrinking a mileage gap of real social distance.

Ranked in order of cousin-closeness, distances in hours:

8.5 hours to PA.

10.25 hours to MN.

11 hours, 7 minutes to GA.

11 hours, 15 minutes to CT.

“Refrigerate after opening! Hope you enjoy the syrup. Made on my property.”

Adorned with an adorable dog, the enclosed card noted charitable support of Guiding Eyes for the Blind guide dog schools.

This sweetness came from Canadensis, Pennsylvania, courtesy of the closest of my all far-away cousins.

Bubble-wrapped and sealed to perfection, it took me less than a minute to excitedly break that bottle open.

Didn’t see the point of wasting time retrieving a spoon; sampled the first dollop from right from my left pointer finger.

My right pointer light-bulb searched Johnny Cakes. Hm.

Never had much luck with pancakes – always suspected the cause might be lack of a proper griddle. Probably more my impatient and usually irreverent cooking technique.

Considered time consuming, high effort waffles. I’d need to drag up the step-ladder from the basement to reach that high cabinet over the fridge where I keep this treasure hidden.

I followed a few of those endless links within links deep enough to discover fried corn meal mush, eventually arriving at old-school. Old-fashioned cornbread. Fell asleep that night anticipating the morning.

My night-before flagged recipe called for pre-heating the cast iron pan in the oven. The closest I could come without running out to World Market (where I habitually eye the irons) was my non-stick bundt pan.

Don’t laugh, y’all. It worked.

The syrup crawled into cuddling crevices, pooled and was pretty as well as being mighty tasty.

The gift smoothed over miles of distance with warm fuzzies and a fine example of turning the tables on social distance and social distancing.

(PS with MI on “Stay home, Stay safe” 3-week executive order, I’m not going to be driving out to the post office anytime soon. March birthday and monthly greetings cards for April are going to be late.)

Quote for the Week:2020 03 25 sweet surprises can so easily lessen true jakorte

The Beginning of the Story of the End

 

13 years ago today, I think I knew before I knew.

It was the strangest feeling.

It still is.

.

I took a 20-mile detour on the way home from Lansing this past weekend.

Accidentally, really. Not even on auto-pilot, since it’d been so long since I went that way.

Just a missed turn while I was thinking about the rain and Frosty Boy and my Brookside destination.

Odd to travel that same path so close to the same days. The thing is, the story goes on.

And, again, a warning.

It’s only the beginning of the story of the end.

The reality that followed wasn’t pleasant. It was shocking, bizarre, surreal and sadly, in a glass-half-empty way, expected.

February’d found us listening to a rundown how things might go. How Jeff’s disease and complications would likely progress.

The order was correct: first, he’d be alive, and then, he wouldn’t be.

The timing, though, was fundamentally far-off, greatly misjudged, significantly skewed.

Even when you know what to expect, it’s still unexpected. Quite unbelievable, and unbelievingly challenging for the mind to process.

It’s the sort of thing the heart is much quicker to recognize.

In the same way that Sadie was waiting for me to figure it out, my certain heart was forced to wait for my uncertain mind to follow.

I picked up the phone and dialed 911.

Quote for the week: 2019 10 01 the heart will speak truthfully jakorte