Snapping Turtle Spots

In his mind, he’d committed a grievous crime showing unusual temper. Per usual for Jeff, though, he found a humorous way to apologize.

Despite what the cute card said, his reaction wasn’t “for no good reason,” and the real crime wasn’t losing his temper.

Before we’d reached this point, before disability, and a long while after the honeymoon backseat-bottle incident, I saw a notice for a free mouth and throat cancer screening. 

I signed Jeff up. I was thinking ‘scared straight’ and ‘this is how much I care’ combined.

I’d already given him facts and articles. I’d already cajoled and nagged. I’d already yelled and cried. I was hoping a doctor could get him to quit, and offer a way to help him do that.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go that way.

He resisted, of course.

I insisted, of course.

We drove to Ann Arbor for the weekend clinic appointment. I accompanied him into the exam. When the doctor asked Jeff why he thought he’d need a screening, Jeff pointed. “It was her idea.”

I explained the chew and the diabetes and what I knew from internet-research. The doctor concurred, and said we could certainly talk about ways to quit after the exam.

The exam was brief. I mean, very brief. He asked Jeff how long he’d had dark spots on his gums, under his tongue and inside his lower lip. Jeff said he had no idea. There were many of them, but two in particular were large and concerning.

So concerning, that the doctor immediately halted his examination. He rolled away and bluntly reported: “I’m 99.9 percent sure what I’m looking at here is mouth cancer. You’ll likely have throat cancer, as well.”

We were stunned. He went on to explain that the only question was what type, which would determine the degree of aggressiveness. 

Turning to pull some supplies, he announced, “We’re going to biopsy those.”

“Now?” Jeff asked, echoing the panicked look I was aiming his way.  The answer was a firm, curt, business-like, “Yes. Right now. Is there a reason why you don’t want to do it now?”

“Nnnooooo,” Jeff drew out his answer, shaking his head.

He was advised to immediately stop tobacco use, and we were given a return appointment in 2 weeks. At that time, we would know what type of cancer Jeff had, and would be able discuss treatment options.

The timeline, itself, was an urgency marker – a 2-week turn-around. High priority. 

I drove us to a nearby restaurant, parked, took a deep breath and turned to Jeff in tears.

“Aw, might not be anything…” he waved it off. I stared at him in disbelief. “Did you not hear him?”

“You don’t know what you don’t know.” Jeff tried to reason with me.  “99.9% sure!” I countered, crying out. “Jeff! What are we going to do?”

“No sense in worrying about it for two weeks, yet.” Jeff turned his head away and looked out the window.

“Not gonna change anything…” he softly shrugged.

Quote for the Week:2019 02 05 Sometimes pushing a person to the edge jakorte2019 02 05 snapping turtle card jakorte




à la (turtle) mode

Despite the common characterization of game-play turtle mode as weakness; in life’s arena, it is not.

Hard-back turtling lessens the effects of external impacts, but offers no relief from internal storms.

Without the disadvantaging noise of detractors, non-quiet leverages irrationality and self-criticism to an adversarial elevation.

Over-offering, repeatedly, in a situation that hasn’t yet and isn’t projected to change, depletes.

What begins as tiring escalates into exhausting.


Adding layers to overshadow error is akin to covering a souring store-bought pie in hand-cranked ice cream.

Of course, it will taste better at first bite, but the snap bites back.

Not even the sweet, creamy temporariness of ice cream can drown out the decomposition of our restrained relationships or the bitterness of rejection bile.

Insisting on internalizing the obvious rottenness of turned fruit leaves us sicker than pure abstinence.


It takes immense strength to assume a position of self-coverage; to willfully withdraw outside influence.

As bodies rest from over exertion, so must souls, and hearts:

“Commune with your heart upon your bed and be still.” (Psalm 4:4)


Staying engaged to circumstance for the sake of affordability and ease is an attractive solution for many, though rarely solid and often lacking longevity.

Is it easier to be the one who pulls in to avoid encouragement of feeding or fueling pain, or the one who remains out desperately wanting back in, against their nature willing to embrace any change?

Neither, really. Each comes with its own unique bad-tasting backwash of turtle-soup flavored doubt, pain, fear, and loss.


Often uncredited, José N. Harris’ internet-splashed prose plucked from the pages of MI VIDA: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love: offers confirmation.

 “There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it.”


When walking away isn’t immediately possible, employ another self-worth protecting, but truly temporary option.

Turtle: pause, but do not remain suspended: do not allow indefinite prolongation.

Be aware and beware: the heart and mind and GOD-given soul wane without ebb and flow.

Turtle: safely resurface, and continue as Harris contends, to,

“Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”


Quote for the week:

Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause. – Bruce Feiler

Enjoy this week’s discovery links:

Turtle Soup:  (I tried it: in New Orleans, after the person who ordered it assumed a remarkably turtle-like face on the first bite, and pushed it away.):

Jose Harris:

Bruce Feiler:

à la mode: not only ice cream:


a la turtle mode