Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't have enough time?

Cherie was on her way to her part-time barista job after having worked graveyard shift as a supervisor at a well-known freight company. She cleans houses in her spare time. She’s finishing up her accounting degree in a year. She’s 24 and a single mother.

And she finds time to hand-write thank you notes to her driver(s)? Yes, the afternoon guy got a card and a chocolate bar, too.

Isn't that the sweetest?

Maybe she's got time to give classes to people without enough time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Feed the hungry - volunteer on The Farm

I recently met Amy, the volunteer coordinator, of The Farm for the Hunger Task Force. She puts together the teams that help on the farm. There are youth camps, corporate work groups, and individuals that help bring the harvest to the hungry of Milwaukee County.

Two hundred acres for fruits, veggies, and the fish hatchery used to stock Milwaukee County ponds. Two hoop houses might  coming in the next year so that they might experiment with year-round farming. 

If you’d like to get some sweaty exercise on behalf of the hungry, contact The Farm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Felicia Monrovia Liberia

As we neared the 2014 mid-term elections and the ebola scare was all over the news I met Felecia. I did not touch her car or her keys. She was not drooling, hacking, or wheezing.

She was mostly on her phone actually. And when she spoke she sounded vaguely Caribbean. Maybe that’s because the service advisor said that’s what he thought.

She had not traveled home recently or even known anyone in Milwaukee to have traveled home during the outbreak.

I was not concerned in the least. I came home, told my wife (just in case) and no one else. 

The elections came and went. Ebola was not eradicated but it’s usefulness as a boogeyman came to an abrupt end for the US political system.

It’s been well over 21 days. I can mention it to you now as I add Liberia to my list. I am now somewhat over fifty countries. The actual country count is somewhere in my notes.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Variety is all there is

Monica is from Cincinnati and she's been here 25 years. All her family is elsewhere in warm places and so she travels a lot on holidays. She just retired last September after 16 years at Froedtert in the Medicare reporting division.

Before I knew she was going for a ride in the shuttle I saw her alone in the waiting room. I told her how to change the channel if she wished.

"I don't have a television any more.” 
“Congratulations. Maybe you could give a course or something. Some people need help.” 

Apparently she wanted to paint a back bedroom. Her TV was also a VGA monitor for her desktop and it all sat on a large desk. She didn’t really like the desk. She took it apart, set it on the curb and never saw it again. Maybe that’s what happened to the TV. Or maybe she donated it. I forget. She has a laptop and an iPad. Monica does not miss the TV at all. It’s been six months now.

So she retired, changed gears and didn't slow down. She's the co-administrator of the food bank at her church and on Thursdays she stocks shelves at a food bank downtown and … something else. And, she is looking into volunteering at the local NODA chapter. NODA stands for No One Dies Alone. Apparently they coordinate with hospice teams ... no one should die alone.

Her job took her to Chicago for awhile years ago and then called her to Milwaukee. She had certainly heard of Milwaukee before. She drove out of Chicago clean and dry. The weather was fine until she hit the state line. All of a sudden there were 12 inch drifts and she fell in love. It’s been home ever since.

She also is taking Spanish lessons from a Russian born woman whose second language was Polish, her third language was English, and her fourth language is Spanish. Now she's actually teaching Spanish at the Wilson Park Senior center for five dollars a semester.

"Isn’t Wilson Park wonderful?” I asked.

Then I said something about my wife signing up for the upcoming woodworking class.

“Oh, I just took that last fall. My instructor hollered at everyone but me. Apparently I know what I'm doing.”

If it actually hits fifty degrees this balmy weekend of December, Mark is going to put his canoe into the Mukwonago river for a little bit. He's never gone canoeing in December. He's done nine other months and this would be the 10th month so he's kind of looking forward to it.

And Jeffrey had been in architecture since college. He started his own shop about five years ago and is managed to keep himself successfully busy. A lot of people he knows started their own architectural firms after that after the crash because they were pretty much otherwise unemployed. We talked about condos, high-rises, and the Milwaukee sky line.

I so enjoy the people I meet. The old expression is variety is the spice of life. While that may be true variety is also the meat and potatoes, the rice and beans, the peanut butter and jelly,  and the ham and cheese. 

Variety is all there is.

Step away from the latte

He was not the first man from Iran I met in the van. But Reza was in the Iranian Air Force training at Bergstrom Air Base in Austin TX in 1979 when I was there. 

"I did meet some Iranian airmen at a party once at least."
“I was there then."
"Maybe we already met?”

And then the revolution. 

He has plenty of perspective on world politics that he is more than willing to share. Don’t get me wrong - he’s glad to be an American - but he does see that things were different and better here some time ago.

Alyson is in administrative work at an agency helping people with no health insurance. I’m sure there are plenty of stories there. Somehow we started with food. Maybe I was hungry.
We began at soup and the bone broth I started the day before, turned the talk to a morning brew I’ve been tweaking the last couple weeks. I can take coffee or leave it. 

I have also been enjoying Honey Water lately. I’ve read that one should drink lemon water. Or, honey/lemon water. Or apple cider vinegar, or this or that or the other. So, I put them together all on my own. Now, instead of slurping down industrial coffee I have been doing variations on this more often.

This is a recipe of my own device. It’s a place to start.

Heat 4 cups water
1/2 cup honey - stirred into hot water
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 T level turmeric*
1 cinnamon stick
Powdered chipotle
Powdered ginger 
(Add several shakes each - use fresh when possible).

Top off with about 3 C water.
Heat a cup or two and add to your individual mug or tumbler
Add lemon to taste 

I mentioned the Penzys catalog and heard her hum. 

"I was reading a page on chai tea once taking note of the spices and wondering what I had and what I needed. A few moments later I had flipped over to the curry page and was looking at those blends spice by spice. I noticed quite an overlap. I actually have the Sweet Curry blend right here right now."

That’s the story. I mixed some spice blend into hot water. Yum. I even emailed the note to Penzys corporate office hoping to get a spot in the catalog. So far - not.

This is just me and my little fist taking some greater control over my commercial feeding tube. I can think for myself sometimes - at least a little bit. One can educate the taste buds. One can stretch the imagination. 

Put the sugar down.

Step away from the latte. 


*Note: Turmeric does stain and it does not stay long in suspension. Don’t spill. Shake before sipping.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sister Margaret

I was not given a slip for this woman. We got in the van with Jim we were going to take home first. She was in the front seat. He was in the back. It was a quick trip and we were all quiet for the five minutes until we arrived at his house. I let him out with the customary procedural farewell. And then she and I were off.

“So, good morning.” I said,  "What’s your name?"
"I'm a nun.” she said. “Retired."
"You know what a nun is?”
“Well, not everyone does.”
“Well, I do and I am not even Catholic.”
“Oh. Good.”
“So, what is your name?"
“Sister. Margaret.”
“Welcome aboard, Sister Margaret, I said, extending my hand, "You are the first nun I’ve met in this space. I’ve met priests and pastors and you are my very first nun."

A few minutes earlier, before we left, and as I was about to leave with Jim, I asked if she was going to wait or did she need a ride. She asked me if I could take her to Pick and Save so that she could shop for groceries.

“Well, we take people home and to work. We don’t really take people shopping, you know, grocery shopping.”
"Well, if you could drop me off, I’ll walk back.”

It’s 45 degrees - balmy for mid-December - but foggy, therefore humid. It's like a long way for a little old lady carrying groceries. How many groceries could be key to this question, but it’s a mile. One mile.

I did say that, if, and I mean if, I was not called to other missions, when she was done I could pick her up. She’s retired as I said. She does have a cell phone but it is not turned on. Of course. 

She never did call and I did not see her the rest of the day. Her car service was to take about two hours. I did ask her why she couldn’t shop when her car was done. She didn’t have an answer. 

And then I have Warren and Trevor on board. Trevor's younger, Warren’s older and they got to talking about fixing cars and fixing motorcycles and stuff way out of my league. I am so happy sometimes when customers can just run the conversation themselves. Warren invited us to take a look at his Bugatti 900 when pulled up in his driveway. Thanks Warren, maybe some other time is what I thought.

People ask about me and my past and this job and I've always said that how I got here had to do with 'I don't have an education' and 'I was self-employed' therefore 'I can't do one thing all day long’.  It’s me making excuses.

This very morning, for the very first time, I'm thinking I had a hand in the co-creation of this particular gig. This is so custom fit for me it's hard to imagine it existed without my own wishes and intentions. Yes, we could make a graph of the days, step by step, turn by turn, or we could begin to see that we got here (yes, you, too) by designing a dance, a tango perhaps, of fate and freewill.

I no longer insist on maintaining the divide or further widening the gap between I and Thou. If I was created in the image of God, who is the creator, then I am also a creator. What do I get when I diminish myself? And I pretty much don't think that God wants anything from me or for me either way. My God does not want. God is not in the state of wanting.

Further, my God also doesn't exhibit other human emotions. My God isn't angry, my God isn't happy, my God isn't smiling to see me on Sunday morning whether I am in the pew or otherwise engaged. (Even so, when I am singing What a Friend We Have in Jesus, I do get a little misty. Can’t explain it. Don’t care to. I give up.)

I spoke with a gal named Lois today; the same age as my mother, Lois. 
“Not many of us named Lois.”
“Yes, I know. Rare birds."

She used to be a buyer at Bucyrus Erie. In one of the high points of her career she went out to a mine site in New Mexico and actually sat up in the operator seat of piece of equipment that she purchased. She’s not yet been to the Bucyrus Museum. I talked it up a little. I could see a little gleam in her eyes as she remembered the good times.

I was taking her to the nursing home where she had to do some paperwork, as power of attorney, on behalf her sister with dementia. It was some kind of emergency change of residence that seemed to be under control. The last five years have been nothing but trouble for Lois. One big thing after another and she named many of them.

But she keeps it all under control with gratitude. It is her saving grace. And, so we segued into one of my favorite projects; giving thanks by giving thanks, sharing words of praise and seeking those opportunities first rather than gunning for trouble or having to be right.

I gave her a card. She beamed and nodded her head. I gave her a couple more to share. She said she would not be seeing the caregivers at this facility any more after the next few days and she did have people to thank. And she started with me.

When she was done with the paperwork she would walk the mile home. Same day and another old lady walking a mile in the balmy fog.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tuesday December 9th

I met this guy Dan who's been a nursing home administrator for 40 years. He works at the mental health complex. He was hired to shut down a couple facilities and reintegrate the populations elsewhere. 

His job will be over in a year. The first one is closing within about a week and he's on track with that. Then the next one will be done about a year from now. He thinks maybe he'll retire. Except he doesn't know what to do and can't imagine sitting around.

 We talked a lot about caregiving and the system. I mentioned the surprising number of people I meet that need additional help. I told him I called Interfaith to see if they were offering such services. He told me they were great people doing great work providing many kinds of services that fill in the gap for caregivers. He mentioned the directors name and said that they used to have each other on speed dial.  

He talked about the importance of crystal clear directives and power of attorney. You can get those forms online and have them notarized at the bank. If one is not clear in one’s wishes and the system takes over … well, the system takes over.

And as we were pulling up he’s fishing around to give me a business card. He gets out, puts both feet on the ground, and looks back at me.
"I'm serious," he said, "you can use that number.” 

This morning I met Sujata and she told me how to pronounce the word kitchadi. Well, she didn’t just blurt it out. I asked her.

She looked at me a bit quizzically as if to ask how I know about this dish. 

“That’s not something you can get in an Indian restaurant.” she said. “We only cook it at home. It’s for times we don’t feel well.” It’s comfort food.

I said I read about it online. It’s white rice and moong dal as a base. A easy-to-digest, near-complete protein. 

KITCHadi, sometimes spelled kitchari - with an ‘r’ - and if you can say the ‘d' and the ‘r' together you’ve gotten a lot closer to the pronunciation.

I said I use basmati rice and she said plain white is better; less flavor. It’s kind of strange about the rice flavor when the complicated spices may include ginger, cardamom, cumin and any number of vegetables including onion and perhaps even garlic.

She indicated that one should not believe everything on the internet. Of course. Then I tried to interject my research on Arabian Seven Spice and my finding that every country or region has it’s own recipe. None of them are wrong. Right?

Anyway, at least I can now pronounce basmati rice the Indian way. Accent on first syllable. Basmati.


When we say everything changes we have some understanding about what that means. What I hear by using the word changes, is that there might be some changes in the future. We can look to a time in the past where there have been changes. 

A way that describes the actual activity is this: everything changing. That means ongoing right now. 

Look around. Pay attention. Soon it will be something other.