First of all, let me say that Cheri works too hard, and too long. That’s nothing new, and it’s not that I am averse to hard work. When I served as a district superintendent, I frequently had weeks where I began my work day at 6am or earlier, and between driving and meetings, would often get back to a hotel a bit after 9pm, and do that four or five times a week. There is always plenty of work to be done in this world, I guess.
Cheri, however, takes it to Olympic levels. The poor gal is up at around 4am every weekday, checking clinic messages and creating a chart of her appointments for the day. Nowadays, when I roll out of bed around 6am, stumbling to get my first cup of coffee, she is already ironing her clothes and getting everything ready for me to drive her to work at 7am. I know she can drive herself, but I always think if the weather gets rough in the afternoon, with a pouring rainstorm (it could happen!), I hate to think she has to walk through the downpour to get to her car, when I could simply be waiting under the drive-through shelter, and she can just sit back and relax for a few minutes on the ride home. I know – I’m a heck of nice guy, and a wonderful husband… you don’t have to tell me…
When she gets home most days, she quickly changes and then, while I’m fixing dinner, she starts in on her “charts” – she has to go over each and every patient she saw during the day (sometimes 19 or more), and clear the charts by recording everything that occurred during the appointment. Sometimes, she even carries her laptop downstairs and works until about 8pm while the TV is on, and the men of the house just kick back and relax. The next morning, it all starts again. She works too hard.
But I can’t fix her work load, at least for a few more years until she can join me in retirement. Just an aside: I’m not sure even at that point that she will be able to just relax and sit back. Her sons continually chide her for being wound “too tight,” but that’s probably in her nature.
Now, none of all that really has anything to do with today’s thoughts, except that’s where I started. I’m really talking about the Instant Pot that Cheri’s sister gave to her last month. If you aren’t aware, it’s supposed to be this miraculous cooking appliance which reduces the cooking time of even the most complicated dish to a mere few minutes (or 45 or so) using the miracle of pressurized, heated air. Yes, they are basically just fancy pressure cookers, like Mom and Grannie used to use.
Now, another small aside. Right now in our kitchen, have a stovetop, an oven, a microwave, a blender, a food processor, and now, an Instant Pot. And lest we forget, there is also a gas grill and a smoker twenty steps from the kitchen door to the patio. I’m not even mentioning the griddle, the panini press, the popcorn maker, the waffle maker, or the rest of the assorted small appliances that stand on the ready to prepare a meal. I think we are most likely “over-applianced” – in fact I know so, but my voice is like the wind off a craggy cliff. It doesn’t matter.
So, back to Instant pot. In the two or three weeks since it came to find its home with us, the weekly menu has suddenly come to include things like “Parmesan Chicken Penne pasta” or “chicken risotto” – and more, all arising from the fascination with the Pot. Again, I am not averse to new recipes, but they are all seriously complicated, as the selection committee seems to be happy with me spending a huge amount of time trying to figure out how to bring the meal from paper to table. This week, in fact, we had three different meals dependent on the Pot. Trouble is, the instructions on how to use it require a test run, and then all sorts of warnings and cautions, as though we were handling nuclear material.
We haven’t used it yet. It sounds good, but I finally decided to wait until the weekend, when I am not driving at 5pm to pick up Cheri (when the food should be underway). After sandwiches, Chinese and pizza, all ordered in three different nights, the Pot is a punt.
That left me with the next most complicated menu selection for the week. I call them “Overly Complicated Quesadillas.” You know how to make a quesadilla, right? You get a tortilla, put some meat of some sort, and lots of cheese and heat it up and put salsa on it, and voila – you find yourself in a Texas border town enjoying the simple meal. Not so with this one, of course – it requires steak that is marinaded for 8 hours, and then grilled and then sliced, and then to pull out the dozen other ingredients and end up creating a small Thanksgiving feast out of a simple tortilla…
So, as “we” looked at the recipe last night, I quietly mentioned that we had no steak, and therefore, no marinade, and no… our second son countered that, since I was taking Mom to work at 7am tomorrow, I could simply drive on over to the grocery store, and pick up some steak, and then come home and get it into the marinade before breakfast. Oh, and don’t forget the cheese, either.
So, this morning, I kissed my wife goodbye at the clinic, and then indeed, drove over to the grocery store. Here comes the amazing secret: at 7:10am, outside of the bakery folks and the shelf stockers, I had the store – at least ½ of it – to myself. I mean, there was only one or two other people in the entire place. It was delightful! I moseyed around looking at breakfast muffins, and then over to the steak where I found a nice one at a sale price. Walking another quarter mile inside the store, I came to the cheese – again on sale, and then walked the final quarter mile to the checkout stand.
Of course, only one was open, and the only other person checking out appeared to be stocking up for the apocalypse. His cart was massively overloaded. I hoped to get out before lunch. Suddenly, the woman who was bagging (I think she was a manager) asked how many things I had, and I replied that I had an entire four items. She shuffled me quickly to another cash register, checked it all out, and I was on my way, again through an empty store, to an empty parking lot, and on my way home, to start the marinading process.
Now, I’ve been to that very grocery store at times when you nearly had to park across the street in the field, and then wait for a shopping cart to show up, only so you could fight your way through a sea of humanity, with people using that fine ancient technique of stopping their cart in the middle of the aisle, and just standing to block the rest of the aisle while wondering which kind of ketchup to buy. There are only two brands – make a choice!
I must say, even though I don’t even dream of shopping at 7:10am any time soon, that it’s not a bad time, especially if you like to shop like I do – a list, laser beam focus, and get on out asap.
I still have marinade the steak, however, so I’d best get to it…
I think it’s interesting that for most of us, our reality exists within a rather small bubble of the here and now, where we are. I expect it’s quiet every morning at the grocery store, but it was a new reality to see that was the case. What happens in most of our lives, is that we assume the same things to be true every day, and so the assumptions become accidental ways of living. However, in those moments, or those situations when we instead act intentionally different from what we have done before, it’s possible that the world opens up to a new reality, and a new perspective, and new experiences. Not just in grocery stores, but throughout our lives – when we are able to thoughtfully ask and explore what might be a different way of doing things, of experiencing things – again, it all opens up, and we can be promised to experience “a new thing” or an expanded understanding of what this world is about. We just have to get up early sometimes, and go buy some steak…
Word for the day: alma mater. You know how to pronounce that, but most likely, you may not know its origin or what it really means. For most of us, our alma mater is where we went to school, which is one designation. However, the phrase itself is far more profound. It means “nurturing mother,” at early on in Roman times, it referred to the goddesses of the earth, and the later the Christian church gave the name “Alma Redemptoris Mater” to the Virgin Mary as the nurturing mother of salvation, as the mother of Christ.
It was claimed as the name of the University of Bologna, the oldest continual university in the world, as “Alma Mater Studiorum” or nurturing mother of studies. Where we go to school, apparently, has a strong emotional attachment, like the Beach Boys sang “Be True to Your School.” It is so much so, that an “alumnus” doesn’t just mean someone who graduated from a certain place. The word really means, “the nourished one.”
Slip all of that into a conversation, and watch people look at you in awe…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.