Labor Force

© jb katke

What does a cookbook have to do with labor? Not much, if anything..

The year before our wedding, Dave gave me this cookbook for Christmas. A smart girl would have eagerly opened it to try out a few recipes. Not I. After the wedding I took the cellophane wrapper off to use it.

Red flags should have been flying for both of us. Food is important and cooking shouldn’t be. A side note: I have reason to believe that this particular cookbook could be valuable. This picture caught my attention. It doesn’t belong in a book of recipes. On the plus side, numerically the pages continue, so I’m not missing any recipes.  As if I would.

© jb katke

I wasn’t excited about cooking, then or now. Because I like eating I have been prompted to try my hand navigating around the kitchen. My first venture was making a roast beef. I highly recommend understanding the recipe prior to preparation. Unfortunately, I misread the roasting temperature to what was actually the inner roasting temperature. A long and slow 300⁰F brings better results in a timely manner, rather than the 165⁰F that takes all night. As the hours ticked by and bedtime was looming, we chiseled off a few bites to keep body and soul together.

It’s difficult to do an unlikeable task. I understand. Around town, we are finding help wanted signs everywhere. This concerns me and will pass what I have learned on to you for future reference.

When a person reaches senior citizen age, Social Security will come. A situation may arise. The income received in your elder years stem from how much you put into Social Security during those years of employment. With fewer people working now, it’s only a matter of time when it will not be pretty. Age happens, ready or not.

The government uses the social security we pay, if there are few employed, funds will be low. So low that by the time you reach retirement, there may not be a Social Security.

For our own best interest, employment should be considered. It has its benefits. Working gives us purpose. When I became employed my mind expanded, taking in knowledge of how one business serves another. Thank you Jesus for farmers and truckers. With no thanks to COVID, we had a taste of empty shelves at the store.

Employment keeps a person occupied so that time is not wasted on the frivolous. I learned time management, my job provided income, my responsibilities at home sustained our family. Both have value and bring positive self-esteem for the effort. At the moment, there is not an over-abundance of self-worth.

Contributing to society had another bonus. It taught my children the value of hard work. Even though life is work, I dislike the word ‘force.’ Like it or not, living does bring a kind of force. Balancing a job with pleasure takes work. Spending quality time with those we love takes time. Instilling a sense of right and wrong in our little people takes patience, and portion of our sanity. Take it from me, it’s worth it!

May the force be with you this Labor Day weekend, and beyond.

School Shopping Nightmares

Can I get an amen for how grueling back-to-school shopping is?

My first experience, when prepping our son, Jamie for kindergarten was hair-raising. It happened so many years ago but the memory never fades. I had asked my mom to come with us as Cindy, our youngest at that time could be a concern. She did not disappoint.

Cindy grew restless, so mom suggested they go for a walk. They had made it only a few steps when Mom encountered a friend of hers. They stopped to chat for only a moment, but that is all the time Cindy needed. As they moved on, mom reached for Cindy’s hand—which was not there. Cindy was gone.

Mom looked anxiously around, no Cindy. Up one aisle and down another, she was nowhere to be seen. How mom must have feared coming to me without my daughter. Together we fruitlessly searched clothing racks where little people like to hide.

As both of us were preparing our hearts for a missing child to be forever gone from us. A voice over the PA announced a missing child. Cindy, because she was well aware of where the toy department was, had gone up the escalator on her own to the furthest part of the store, collected a teddy bear and plopped herself down at the top of the escalator where she assumed we would meet her.

A stranger, recognizing the child was by herself, took her to Customer Service. I consider this shopper to be an angel in disguise. Today, Cindy is a grandma.

Another year of back-to-school shopping had me facing a fellow shopper ripping my face off. I was noticeably pregnant with Naomi, our third child.

“How dare you have another child!”

Sincerely, I did not know how to respond. This was back in the era of zero population growth, so she may have been of that persuasion. Or—she may have longed for more children, and that was not to be. We can never know the pain others may be dealing with.

My last unpleasant back-to-school shopping left me dumbfounded. As anyone knows, the children’s department is an upheaval from searching the right size. The lines into the fitting rooms were enormous. One mom, would have no part of that. She insisted her son, around eight years old, big enough to have a sense of modesty, to undress right there in the middle of the store.

The boy, sobbing, begged his mom, imploring her not to make him do it. She had reached her breaking point and forced him. I could not believe my ears or my eyes. I wonder what her relationship is with her son today? Those are things that stick in the memory bank.

To this day, they all stick in mine. I thank the Lord for bringing our Cindy back to us, for a tidbit of compassion for an angry mom, and giving us a healthy little Naomi.  Not to mention a God that only asks us to follow him, stretching us out of our comfort zone in a way that encourages us to keep our focus on him.

Each Day a Gift

“It’s a gift.”

The words easily rolled off my tongue. I meant it.

A new school year has begun, placing my husband back to work. Translation: Our summer days of living as if we were truly retired have come to an end.

Dave works for a company that services our local schools. Each day, late in the afternoon, he gets his work order for the following day. However, no contact was made for the first day of school. This seemed unusual to me, “Are you going to go in anyway, just in case you were accidently overlooked?”

“No, no work order means I’m not working.”

What we thought was our last full day together actually was not. We had one more to enjoy each other’s company. Hence, my ‘gift’ comment.

Not only had we received a gift, but I also had an opportunity to give a gift.

I was about to enter a small grocery store when a young man approached me. “Excuse me ma’am, could you help me out? This is not easy for me ask, but could you give me some money? My car is out of gas and I am in need of getting some formula and diapers for my baby, along with some food for the week too. I won’t get paid until next week.”

That is a lot of need. I hesitated at first. But have come to recognize our Good Lord knows who should be approached to meet some needs once in a while. Our family has known need from time to time too.

“I can go with you across the street to Target and help you purchase some things. Would that work for you?”

“I’m not sure they have everything, but my car needs gas too.”

“Would it help more if I got you gas instead?”

“That would be nice, if you could do that.”

We met at the corner station and as I filled his gas tank he proceeded to go to others nearby petitioning them. I realized there was a male passenger in the car. Be careful girl, you are alone.

Upon his return, “This is so good of you. Most people just tell me no and to shove off. They don’t give a damn about my needs. I went to my church, and they refused to help me too. I really need the money for diapers and formula, food too. I live in Paola, but was here to see my girlfriend.” The more he talked, the more flaws I recognized.

“What church do you go to?” He gave a generic name just about every community has.

“Let me call my husband, he will be expecting me home soon. “Hi Babe, listen I have received a ministry opportunity and may be a little late. There is a chance I might be going to Walmart, but I will let you know when we can meet up.”

“Would you like me to follow you up to Walmart where I might be able to help a little bit?”

“Oh no ma’am, you have already helped so much. All I need now is money.”

I could see where this is going. He wanted cash, nothing else would do.

“Well, if you change your mind, let me know. God be with you,” as we parted ways.

Almost at the grocer for the second time, I realized I didn’t get my receipt at the gas station. Rushing back, can I remember which fuel pump we were at? I did and it was still hanging there waiting for me.

Finally, arriving at the store for the third time, there the young man was. Asking for help to anyone who would listen. Red flags flew as the light dawned.

He was peddling at locations that did not have what he claimed he needed. This grocery store was limited in merchandise, but what they did have was good prices. There was a risk in seeking help at Target or Walmart because he may encounter someone willing to do what I did. Meet his supposed need, what he wanted was money.

He may or may not have a girlfriend and a baby. Only God knows. Having filled his gas tank, I may have enabled him to carry on his quest for cash. He may have considered me a fool. What he would do with the money is anyone’s guess. But…

Listening to my phone call, he learned I considered him a ministry. On our closing conversation he received my blessing of God being with him.

I am no gardener, but seeds were planted. What is done in the name of Jesus is never wasted. Never forget that.

No Staycation

Are your vacations via the posts of others on Facebook? That would be me.

This year though, we did a little travelin.’ It started out as business, with a conference I attended, but we took the scenic way home.

Our first stop was Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Thought I was gonna die there. The heat was unbearable for this Michigan girl with British blood. We found it best for me to enter lots of shops for the air conditioning.

A dangerous thing for a vacationer to do, shop. I came home with the most expensive purse I have ever owned. Remembering whatever we purchase must find a place to fit in a down-sized home is essential. Keeping in mind too, when moving to my eternal home, nothing comes with me helps too.

Continuing homeward we landed in Branson, also in Missouri. We encountered the Veteran’s Memorial Museum. I recommend visiting any of the Veterans memorials as they ooze so much information about a life not everyone has experienced. Considering what we hear in the news, I am not confident our children are getting historical facts of our country.

© jb katke

Memorials of all kinds are essential. More about that another time.  

We willingly endured a sales talk concerning time share vacation apartments. It wasn’t our first experience. Knowing what we set ourselves up for was worth getting a show at seventy-five percent off, plus a fifty-dollar gift card. A heads up for you, those salespeople don’t take no easily.

Traveling on, I noticed with pleasure the differences in locales. We passed a restaurant under construction. The site bore signs announcing the coming of a Schlotsky’s. At home we learn which bank is funding the build and who the construction company is. I don’t care about that, just let me know what’s coming.

We encountered minimal road construction, as opposed to enduring it everywhere in Johnson County. One can count on that every summer. All this to say we had safe travel and made some good memories. © jb katke

Travel is nice, but there is no place like home. Where the responsibilities lie. Reality bites but I cannot tell you how wonderful DVR’s are. It’s petty thing, but watching TV in the hotels and having to set through commercials are a pain. The commercials seem to run longer than the show itself.

Sleeping in our own bed is priceless. Settling down in our easy chair at home without sinking down to the bare wood frame is appreciated as well. Take a deep breath, enjoy where you are, vacation or no.

Seek joy wherever you can because I am convinced when settling into our eternal home, it’s gonna feel just as good.

Kidnapped or Ransomed

Have you ever been kidnapped, without realizing it?

Possibly so, but not in the sense of how we define kidnap. Our society considers kidnapping to be taken against our will and held captive. Usually demanding a financial transaction to take place before setting free.

There are other dimensions to the word that we can pursue. Instead of being taken physically, some may be drug dependent, addicted to porn, subject to alcohol disease. Or perhaps fastened to social media on your phone? I know, ouch, right?  Not all of these issues are considered  life-threatening.

Obviously, drugs can kill. Alcoholics can eventually pickle themselves to death. But porn? That hurts no one. No one except maybe the spouse, or children if they are exposed to it. Involving children is a whole other issue I won’t focus on today. Our cell phones can easily take over the time and energy we normally devote in person-to-person interaction.

Look at what the Good Book has to say:

“For you know God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver”. NLT I Peter 1:18

The things of the world has the power to hold us captive. In the eyes of our creator, it is considered emptiness. Probably because addiction to stuff doesn’t provide lasting satisfaction. We want more. And then still more. Before we know it, we are held captive by our desires.

To a degree, I can relate. Maybe my desires were not life-threatening, but it did prove lasting satisfaction was not to be had. Continual wanting of more ties us down. Kidnapped. This has been the lot of humankind from the beginning of time.

In reference to the above verse, if gold or silver is an inferior payment, what could be of more valuable?

“ He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”               NLT I Peter 1:19

The guy we are talking about here, is Jesus, God’s only son, that he specifically sent to earth to die for our sins. The only way we can get to heaven is to confess our wrongs and agree with God that we need the kind of help Jesus offers. He paid the debt with his own blood, something far more valuable than gold or silver.

The two of them are waiting to hear from you, the ball is in your court. Tonight, you may be looking skyward admiring a fireworks show. Think beyond that to the celebration held in heaven when you invite Jesus to be part of your life. It will set you free. Free of worry, free of fear, free to tell others of what a difference Jesus makes in life here, and in eternity.

 Despite the confines of government, you will be free indeed because you are looking beyond the here and now. The hope of living in perfection forever awaits you.

Father is Watching2

 © jb katke

In my childhood our family didn’t take vacations, so I was eager to get to Burroughs Farms. It was beachfront park land owned by Burroughs Corporation, where my dad worked. Only Burroughs employees were admitted in. Looking back, I don’t know why I was excited. Mom would secure the ties of my swimsuit so tight around my neck I couldn’t stand up straight. Besides I didn’t know how to swim. Most of the time I was at the waterfront making sand castles.

There was this slide in the water that all the kids loved. I am a land-lubber at heart, even as a child. But decided to give it a try. However, once I got to the top of the ladder, my perspective changed. From my new perch, the water looked ominous. I was reconsidering my decision. My brother was nearby. He told the kid behind me, “Go ahead and push her, it’s OK, she’s my sister.”

Ready or not, down I went, with my arms and legs thrashing the water. Panic-stricken I couldn’t rise to the surface. Fortunately, Dad was watching and came to my rescue.

Did he see that I had been pushed? Was my brother in trouble? Had dad not been paying attention; I could have drowned. From that episode, I learned a greater respect for the power of water. 

There is always something powerful in our midst that can bring about danger. Have you noticed that too? Now days, we have something else to be mindful of. Video cameras are everywhere. They record the suspicious, traffic violations, and people doing stupid. On the flip side, they can offer protection and validation.

Our Heavenly Father also looks after us. Many a time he has saved me from what could have been a dangerous situation. He is attentive 24/7, nothing gets by him. His heavenly perspective is more accurate than what I see. What any of us see.

I am grateful for both my fathers. The one I had on earth and the one I have in heaven. As well as the father of my children. We have just wrapped up a weekend celebrating Father’s Day. Maybe there are a few that do not realize how valuable they are, how much they have to offer that balances what mothers teach their young. It takes all three to train up a child, don’t leave out our heavenly father. His love is greater than any evil power lurking about.

Thanks Dad

© jb katke

Dad, I’m glad you didn’t leave. There were tough days when it would have been so easy to walk out and never come back. Thank goodness that was not even an option in your thinking.

I don’t know if Mom ever said it, but she needs you. It’s not just her either, so do Sis and I. Looking back at all those camping trips, teaching us how to fish. Even if we didn’t like eating it. Mom is not as fond of fish as you, she would never have shown us the fun and challenge of catching them.

All those sports games you and Mom attended, just to watch me flub up. Your support meant so much, thank you for coming. Some parents never came. I guess I should include all the dance recitals too. Did you really enjoy all that tippy-toe dancing? The same heart went into attending those as my games, and it pleased Sis too, to see you proudly sitting there watching every her every move.

Many of my friends don’t have two parents at home anymore. I feel for them. I’ve seen Jimmy’s mom, after working all day, to come home to cook dinner. Then, help him with his homework, she doesn’t get the new math either. But she tries, sometimes she looks so tired.

You know what I loved the most? The times you entered my world, trying to master some musical instrument that just wasn’t going to happen. But you tried, so that we could have a good laugh together.

I know we kids have not always been so fun to be around, but heck, being a kid is tough. Hearing about when you were a kid is neat. Life sure was different back then. I’m still trying to figure out how walking to and from school was uphill both ways. And barefoot? Wow.

Sis and I have grown up now and left home. Bet you never thought we would do that, huh? We sure do appreciate knowing we can call you with some problem, knowing you will always be there for us. Now we learn, it’s not just us.

A little bird told us what you did. Cleaning the floors and dusting? Are you losing it, or do you love Mom that much? Never mind answering, we know. Sis and I are glad you treasure her, so do we.

All this to say, thank you for being you. I cannot imagine anyone else could be as good a Dad as you are. We don’t say it too often, but Sis and I love you. Mom does too. In fact, we sorta look up to you as a national treasure. No one else could fill your shoes.

Thank you for not leaving, Dad. You have no idea how important you are. Oh, BTW, Happy Father’s Day.

Love, Us

Standing By The Banner

My research proved to be short-lived and left me deflated.

The debate was settled on June 14th, 1777.

Today is Flag Day and I had hoped to give you a little history of how it came to be. Stars and stripes it is. What I don’t know is what were the other options for our national flag? No matter, it’s all history now.

Were we in total agreement back then? Most likely no, seldom have the citizens of our fine country been in complete agreement. The only instance I can recall in my lifetime was after the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were under attack.

Leaders gathered on the steps of the courthouse, regardless of their political party, and prayed for our nation. Yes, prayed! Together. Every one of us stood together, united under our flag.

There are many flags to stand for and be united under. Each state has its own flag. The only other flag I recognized was the white surrender flag.

These days, the police have a flag for those who esteem how vital their role is in our society. Black Lives Matter has one to memorialize the oppression their race used to live under. The Jewish nation also has a flag, remembering the atrocities their ancestors endured.  

I am beginning to see the importance of flags in general. It is what they represent, a people, a nation, a sect, united in cause. Standing together. This is what makes our American flag so popular, and desired by many.

Our stars and stripes reveal we are one nation, under God’s authority, giving liberty and freedom to our residents. Freedom to pursue worthy endeavors, and worship in our own unique way. To live without fear, or at least it used to be.

That has to be why so many are eager to come here. To experience what freedom looks like. Of course, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Every nation has their laws.

It gets sticky when man-made laws interfere with God’s laws. His laws can be found in Exodus 20 in the Good Book. What many don’t realize is that following God’s laws far surpass man’s laws. Both are intended to protect. One just does a better job than the other.

If God’s laws are disobeyed, and a contrite heart admits it, the offender may suffer the consequences.  But also gets grace and mercy. A second chance to do better, it makes for a new and improved you. Man-made laws cannot guarantee that.

Near Surrender to Fred

© jb katke

There comes a time when ya gotta give up. We named him Fred.

This spring we have had the annoyance of a cowbird seeing it’s reflection in our window. Fred demands mating with it and will not take no for an answer. He ignores his female counterpart at the feeder.

The screens came down to protect them from damage. Fred now has free access to perching on our window sill with frequent body slams trying to get at its reflection. One would think he would get the hint or knock himself silly.

Covering the window with aluminum foil, we thought the shiny surface would deter it him becoming a nuisance. No such luck. Swapping the aluminum foil with cardboard was considered, but talked ourselves out of it. To be effective, it should be placed outside the window where the spring rains would make a mess of it.

Either way, our vision outdoors was blocked. What really angers me is Fred is keeping the humming birds away. I have worked hard at drawing them, all to no avail now.

Anger is putting it nicely; I want to kill him. Wouldn’t you know, Jesus had something to say about a birds.

Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. (Matthew 10:29 NLT)

I bet that applies to cowbirds too, so murder is out of the question. That blasted bird is holding us captive.  On our pleasant days we have been unable to open windows for the lack of screens.

Dave has done a little research and learned a further reason to hate Fred. Cowbirds lays eggs in other bird’s nest. If the home-owning bird returns home to find foreign eggs, it kicks them out. The next time it leaves the nest, that ornery cowbird kicks out the homeowners eggs. Talk about squatters taking over, I have nothing nice to say about him.

In the past, I have wished to learn the various bird calls to know who is ‘singing.’ I have learned the cowbird; he is still lurking about. Any ounce of Christianity I have is quickly evaporating.

Until I continued to read what Jesus has to say about people v birds.

So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows.            (Matthew 10:31)

Clearly Fred knows enough scripture to not fear the evil intent of my heart. As a last resort, we have placed a wood owl wall-hanging Dave made in our window. Fred seems to be keeping his distance now.

Perhaps I should be content that the good Lord values me above a bird, regardless of my heart. It almost makes me want to surrender my anger to play nice to this creature God created. After all, it is people that God created to be his own image, not some birdbrain.

Opposites Attract

©jb katke

Winter is necessary.

My dearly beloved, Dave, would hasten to disagree with me. We are polar opposites. Not to say I love winter, but it does create an appreciation for springs new growth.

At least in normal people. Not I. After our springtime rainy season is over and it gets warm, sadness settles in me. I know what is coming. Heat and sunshine, neither of which I can tolerate. Nor can this squirrel.

The same happens with Dave, only his time of sadness is when autumn hits. That is when I shine. But we both know what is coming. A cold dead winter that chills him to the bone.

Trees lose their leaves. Don’t you just love hearing them crunch underfoot? Dave doesn’t. He sees the bare branches of those trees losing their lush greenness, standing bare naked for all the world to see

I, on the other hand, see them pointing up to their creator. The beauty of the individual leaves is better seen when underfoot, not so when massed together in the branches. Suffice it to say, one of us is perpetually gloomy. Correction, not gloomy. just eager for the season to be over.

Looking back, I can’t say when this mood swing became apparent. When we married we agreed on everything. I jokingly say he’s changed. But I have too. Those tendencies were lurking about for a long time. Each of us growing up in Michigan, we were unaware of extreme weather changes.

Living in Kansas, we now recognize the change and can lay a finger as to the why of it. Michigan is full of trees and overcast skies. The sun shone brightly, but the trees were a shield. We had occasional hot days, but they never lasted long, and gentle breezes made it bearable.

On the other hand, the Kansas breeze is more akin to a constant wind. In the summer, it blows hot air. Admittedly, I do appreciate it when we have the winter ice storms, as it seems to blow the pavement dry.

Bottom line, there is always something to be grateful for. As well as something to whine about. Change is what the world is all about, and for the longest time, has never meant to be perfect. Instead, it gives us something to look forward to. Something to hope for that is better than what we see or feel today.

Something that won’t change, ya’ know, something everlasting. Like God’s love. And heaven, where life is perfect because of who lives there. Jesus and his dad, the Lord God.

Spoiler Alert: He was the Guy who created all this climate change. Something for everyone!