Hello! My name is…

Steve and I have been married for almost twelve and a half years. We will make that mark on November 18. But we have been together for twelve months longer than that, since May 18, 2001. I will remember those dates until my mind is completely gone. If I never remember anything else, I will remember those. Ah, love.

In all that time, all those years and months and days, we have traded almost daily morning emails. His always go something like this:

Hi Julie!

How’s my little Apple-Oat Cookie this morning?  Did you sleep well?  I slept so-so.  Sometimes when I go to bed later than my normal time, I have a hard time sleeping.  It’s like my sleep rhythm is thrown out of whack, and sound sleep does not come as easily.

Anyway, here I am, back in the office – again!  It should be the same ol’-same ol’. Well, punkin, I hope you have a great day!

I love you!

:  –  **********************************Steve

Every day. Just like the sun comes up every day. I receive this beautiful greeting from my love and it is the gift I need each morning, just like seeing the sun. It makes the day start off with the warmth of a hug…only it comes electronically.

Notice the line after the “Hi Julie!”? This was from yesterday. I was his “little apple oat cookie.” Every day for thirteen and a half years Steve has called me his little…dessert. Sometimes sweet. Sometimes savory. Sometimes with chocolate. Sometimes with fruit. Sometimes with nuts. Always dessert.

I asked him once a very long time ago why he did this. “Because that is who you are to me. Something so good that I just want to eat you up.” I would never in my most romantic thoughts have dreamed up someone like Steve. He just came into my life and made it so much better and I have never looked back. He is the dessert that came to me that I never asked for. “What? Wow! This is for me?” No trick there, only treat.

And then at the end it’s “punkin’.” He’s got so many sweet names that he calls me (and some I won’t share because they are too dear) that when I look in the mirror and just see plain old Julie, it knocks my socks off. He sees something different…and I love him for it.

Wedding cakeThe best name he ever gave me was Mrs. Stephen Burgess.

On the first of January, 2010, I decided to start keeping track of these morning-greeting-dessert-type nicknames. I have done it faithfully every day through today and will keep on doing it as long as this morning greeting goes on. He even does it when I’m traveling and email may not be available to me. He does it on Saturdays and Sundays if he has to go into his office. It is too precious to me to ever forget or take for granted. (It also makes me hungry…)
And so today I present the first of many lists in this blog. You can watch and see if it ever repeats. It rarely does, and if it does, it is usually on our anniversary. And when that date rolls around, May 18, I close my eyes and see the cake we picked out together to celebrate.

With great love to my top chef.

Here are the first three months of 2010:

  • Little chocolate croissant
  • Little piece of Christmas candy
  • Little piece of cranberry bread
  • Little piece of Christmas stollen
  • Little scoop of amaretto-infused mascarpone
  • Little piece of candied ginger
  • Little strudel
  • Little piece of Christmas fudge
  • Little piece of lemon-glazed poppy seed cake
  • Little scoop of chocolate souffle with whipped nougat
  • Little chocolate chip cookie fairy
  • Little Madeleine cookie
  • Little gummi bear
  • Little dollop of cherry jelly
  • Little piece of Bavarian raspberry cream pie
  • Little malted milk ball
  • Little lemon bar
  • Little scoop of butterscotch pudding
  • Little sip of sweet tea
  • Little glazed cruller
  • Little cookie that never crumbles
  • Little piece of toast with raspberry jelly on top
  • Little scoop of chocolate mousse
  • Little cup of hot mulled wine
  • Little scoop of lemon custard
  • Little dark chocolate truffle
  • Little ginger snap
  • Little chocolate Éclair
  • Little piece of kahlua cake
  • Little piece of English flapjack
  • Little scoop of pomegranate granita
  • Little morsel of key lime pie
  • little piece of chocolate covered puffed molasses
  • little piece of spice cake with crème fraiche topping
  • little piece of peanut brittle
  • little sneeballen
  • little scoop of English Trifle
  • little chocolate covered coffee bean
  • little piece of brown sugar skillet cake
  • Little sugar cookie
  • Little lemon cupcake
  • Little Toll House cookie
  • Little scoop of chocolate malt
  • little Chocolate Lava Cake
  • little glazed Kruller
  • little Raspberry Clafoutis
  • little dollop of cherry jelly
  • little piece of Divinity Candy
  • little Crepé Suzette
  • little piece of New York Crumb Cake
  • little powdered sugar doughnut
  • little piece of Shoo-fly pie
  • little cinnamon Coffee Cake
  • little chocolate Easter Bunny
  • little piece of Easter candy

Fortune cookies

I used to have the very good habit of making my lunch every day: Sandwich, fruit, two cookies. Sadly, those days have gone into history now. It was a good habit, though.

Now, if I don’t remember to grab some of the always yummy leftovers we have in the fridge, I head for one of several great food choices in the neighborhood of the church. My favorites are the Chinese take-out places, of which there are four within just a few blocks, although I usually choose from one of two.

A creature of other habits (making my lunch not being one anymore, as I said), I order one of two things: broccoli beef or sesame chicken with friend rice. It’s not healthy, but it tastes good. And the bonus that comes with it: the fortune cookie!

No kidding! Steve and I once got the same fortune in our cookie at Sunday lunch.

No kidding! Steve and I once got the same fortune in our cookie at Sunday lunch.

I have been saving these on my desk for some time now, and periodically look them over. What I have discovered is the messages come in several categories, such as actual predictions, advice for the short term, descriptions of me that I love and hope are true, a couple that I totally disagree with as far as describing me, and the balance are kind of common sense.

And so for lack of anything better to talk about today, here are the messages from my fortune cookies over the last several years.

The common sense messages:

  • Fear is interest paid on a debt you may not owe. (That’s a good one. I would like to substitute “worry” for “fear” as that is one of my biggest problems.)
  • Things are not always what they seem. (Absolutely! Sometimes they’re something else. See “worry” above.)
  • Action takes precedence over words. Can you do it? (I hope my actions back up my words!)
  • Don’t forget to do good deeds as you accumulate wealth. (I might add, “or any other time.”)
  • Example is better than advice. (I try not to give any of the latter, but hope my life offers the former, in a good way.)
  • Where there is a will, there’s a way. (Or as my dad used to say, “Where there’s a will, there are relatives.”)
  • One old friend is better than two new ones. (Can’t go with this one, but will quote my old Girl Scout song here, “One is silver and the other gold.”)
  • A person is not wise simply because one talks a lot. (True that!)

Short-term advice:

  • Now is a good time to finish up old business.
  • Channel your energy into something positive.
  • Now is a good time to finish up old tasks.

Looking at number one and number three, it seems recycling is happening in fortune cookies. Recycling is always good!

Actual fortunes:

  • Good news will come to you by mail. (It did several times. Thank you Sr. Aunt Carolyn!)
  • Happy life is just in front of you. (And behind me, beside me, all around me. Thank you, God, for Steve!)
  • You will have many friends when you need them. (Thank you for Facebook! I always find encouragement there.)
  • Lucky you make this choice. Everything comes out for the best. (Strange syntax, but I appreciate the message. I try to make wise choices.)
  • Pleasure awaits your company. (Here is the one where “in bed” added at the end makes me smile lasciviously!)
  • For greater returns, avoid being too risky this week. (I am personally conservative with family and business finances, so this is sound advice.)
  • Your next business venture will be very profitable. (If you need printing, check out autoprintomaha.com)

Things that DO NOT describe me:

Actually I got the same one twice – You like participating in competitive sports. I must have gotten someone else’s cookie here. 🙂

And here are my favorites. Humbly, humbly, I do hope I look like this to others:

  • You take an optimistic view of life.
  • You have the ability to analyze and solve any problem.
  • You have great physical powers and an iron constitution.
  • You have musical talents. Make them known.
  • You constantly struggle for self-improvement.
  • You are vigorous in words and action.
  • Generosity and perfection are your everlasting goals.
  • You have a natural grace and great consideration of others.
  • You have an active mind and a keen imagination.
  • You are a person of strong sense of duty.
  • You are an exciting and inspiring person.
  • You have a deep appreciation of the arts and music.

I don’t need fortune cookies to help me get through the day. I know who I am in God’s eyes and that is enough for me. But I can’t help smiling when I open these up and read them as I enjoy the sweet treat of the crisp cookie. I think it would be a great ministry to be the one who puts those encouraging messages into someone else’s dessert.

Besides, now I know my lucky numbers, too!

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…

A walk in the dark

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I need to clear my mind of the jumbled thoughts that cram it up at times, I go for a walk. I can look back in the past fifteen years especially and remember some of those times and those walks.

I remember one I took on the evening of May 17, 2001. I had come home to find a letter in the mail to me from one Steve Burgess. Presumably it was an answer to one I had sent him three days before. Instead of ripping it open to read in that moment of anticipation and wonder, I set out on an hour’s walk to clear my mind of the worst possibilities. I took the dogs with me for company and just walked and walked through the neighborhood, down to Elmwood Park, up through UNO and back. Upon returning home, I took a deep breath and opened the letter. The end of it said something like, “Why don’t you call me when you finish this.” I did. It was life-changing as the next night I went on my first date. Ever.

About seven months later, I took another long walk. It was the morning of December 22, a Saturday. I headed out the door with a mind so full of joy and amazement that I needed to expend the energy. I could have easily driven the eighteen blocks to my dad’s apartment to tell him that his daughter said “yes” to Steve’s proposal, but I walked instead. Actually, I’m not sure my feet really touched the ground, but that’s love, isn’t it?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASteve and I went to the Czech Republic twice to be with the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in 2007 and again in 2008. We had a great experience getting to know about our brothers and sisters there in the reformed church, whose beginnings go back to Jan Hus, a reformer 100 years before Martin Luther. At a beautiful church property in the Krkonoše mountains near the Polish border, we had a hike with our team. As we hiked through the forest and along a tumbling stream, I couldn’t help but think of Jana. Jana’s home and heart were in the Colorado mountains and she had walked paths like this so many times. My heart just broke for the fact that her life wasn’t there any more. She was back in Omaha dealing with the reality that her life had gotten smaller due to the seizures which had struck her and sent her back for more emergency neurosurgery. She could no longer hike the mountain paths along tumbling streams as the wind’s song through tall conifers played above and around her. I stopped by that stream and just wept. I found walking by myself away from the group was the only way I could find communion with Jana in her loss and try to absorb this moment for her.

I took another one of those head clearing walks last night. Some days communicating with Jana is hard. Her logic is not our logic. In trying to help her to simplify ordinary tasks, Steve and I have a tendency to push her places she doesn’t want to go. Nor should she have to, but we push anyway. We sometimes push her to the point of tears and it tears my heart apart to see this once headstrong, confident, stubborn woman, broken to this point.

My way to deal with it last night was to put my shoes on and walk. No, I didn’t want Steve to come. No, I didn’t have the company of two four-footed friends as we don’t currently have any. I just went, trying to dump the pain and the hurt by walking.

I noticed a small American flag kicked to the curb in a puddle. It lay there in stark contrast to the one flying high on the flagpole at Memorial Park.

I walked by our next-door neighbor church on my way up to the park. It’s a hurting place now, with both pastors gone. On my way back home, there was an ambulance and fire engine stopped in front, lights flashing. I hope whoever needed them at a meeting that was going on there last evening is fine this morning. But I couldn’t help but think of the irony of emergency vehicles in front of this church in need of rescue and healing.

I noticed that in the dark of seven o’clock in Omaha’s early fall evening I couldn’t tell what colors were blooming in the rose garden of the park. I had just walked there a few days before in the afternoon, and all the colors stood out. But not at night. They all just blended together into a dullness that looked like my heart felt.

It was more of a walk of lamentation.

I came home after that. I’m not sure my mind was cleared of anything. It was just empty. And maybe that was what I was after. Emptiness for just a few moments before I could sleep.

I woke up this morning like every morning. Steve kissed me good-bye. Jana said “good morning.” We had our breakfast together and I took her to the print shop. Normal life returned. A clear mind to start the day. No worries. No drama. No tears. A fresh start.

And it is kind of funny that the verse that comes to mind on a morning like this after an evening like that is from the book of Lamentations:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (3:22-24)

Truth. Truth. Truth. That’s where I’m walking today.