Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!

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Ringing in Christmas: The Red Kettle Part 2

Oda MaeI know you don’t think I’m givin’ this four million dollars to a bunch of nuns!” Oda Mae glared at Sam the ghost. It was one of the best scenes from the movie – the two nuns smiling beneficently one moment; then fainting in disbelief.

“Does anything like that ever happen in real life?” I asked Micki, “…Maybe not million dollar checks, but unusual donations like rings and things?”

“Oh yes,” she grinned. “It happens all the time. Once we got a bunch of gold Krugerrand coins, another time there was a stack of hundred dollar bills wrapped in a single dollar…and then there was the time someone gave us their teeth…”

MickiMicki Bizek is the new Salvation Army Kettle Coordinator for the City of Modesto. She moved here from Bullhead City, Arizona, in July when her husband, Kalvin, accepted the position of Overseer for the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter. Micki has been Kettle Coordinator in dozens of cities from Washington to Arizona, so she just sort of naturally fell into the job.

“The Salvation Army is in our blood,” Micki explained. “I just love, love, love our mission and Church – regardless of what city I serve.”  She inherited the vision from her mentors or “adopted parents” (Majors Dan and Ruth Birks, now retired),  and joined the organization in 1982. And she has passed it on. Her daughter and her husband (Lieutenants Joshua and Ryan Boyd) are the Corps Officers, or pastors in Anacortes, Washington.

Scheduling the Red Kettle

If you’re a regular reader of Paladini Potpie, you may remember the post I wrote a few years ago, where I talked of my own experience as a bell ringer, and shared a little of the history of the red kettle.

That article raised so many questions I decided to write a follow-up, so I called Micki and asked if I could drop by and talk with her. I thought I was getting a pretty good jump on the kettle season – after all is wasn’t even the middle of October yet! – but I found out that things were already in full swing!

slotsThere’s a white board in Micki’s office, divided into time slots for bell-ringing shifts. It’s probably 18 feet long, nearly covering her entire wall. Dates from the morning of November 14 till Christmas Eve are posted down the left side of the grid, and 35 sites in Modesto are lined up along the top. That’s a lot of slots to fill!

I saw that only a few scattered boxes had been filled in, regular people who always ring a bell at the same place. But Micki said she expects to start getting calls and filling the volunteer shifts soon.

She said she has already had over 100 applications from people who would like to ring the bell as a job for minimum wage; and that is always a good option. (I talked about that in “The Red Kettle“. But it’s Micki’s dream to man all the kettles with volunteer bell-ringers.

The red kettles do provide “Christmas for the needy”, but they are also the Salvation Army’s main fundraiser for the whole year. More volunteers mean more money for all that good work.

The Salvation Army, Modesto

Adopt a Kettle

Looking at Micki’s whiteboard, I noticed that the entire month of December was filled by Trinity United Presbyterian Church at the Hobby Lobby store. Micki explained that an organization can “adopt a kettle”. People of the organization then have the flexibility to decide among themselves how to man the kettle. They can create shorter or longer shifts that work for everyone’s convenience. An 11×17 laminated sign is set up to identify the group who is ringing the bell. Your group may adopt a site for a day, or for a few weeks. Give them a call!

Match a Kettle

Another thing I found out is that if you (or your family or organization) are just too busy to stand and ring a bell, you can call Micki (209-522-3209) and tell her you would like to “match a kettle”. In this case, you promise to match the funds collected by the kettle of your choice on the day of your choice. An 11×17 sign identifies the person or group who is matching the kettle.

So how much are we talking here?

“Match the funds gathered in a kettle? That sounds like it could be pretty dangerous,”  I thought. “How can you guess how much might be collected in any given kettle on any given day?” Micki explained that you can put a $500 cap on your match.  She said the average kettle brings in about $200.00 a day. The highest a Modesto kettle ever collected was $1,000.00.

Bell Ringing Fun

I’ve always thought it was fun to stand out there and ring the bell and talk to people all day, but Micki Bizek has plans to make bell ringing even more challenging and fun for everyone this year.

December 6 will be Mascot Day, when schools, organizations, and businesses man the kettle, with their mascot ringing the bell.  There will be a nice donated  prize for the highest yielding kettle. And it’s good advertising for your group! If you have a mascot, it’s not too late to join and get involved.

Give Micki a call – 522-3209.

December 12 will be Mayors’ Day, when mayors and their staff from Modesto and neighboring cities personally ring bells at Vintage Faire Mall and try to out-do each other, claiming the prize for the most generous city and most popular mayor.

She also hopes to start “Red Kettle Clubs” in Modesto area high schools, encouraging young people – especially those who have community service to perform – to not only ring a bell at Christmas, but get involved all year; take a tour of the homeless shelter or volunteer some time at the downtown soup line. “It seems like that would be a perfect fit,” she enthused.

So I am all set up for my usual place outside Wal Mart in mid December. I expect lots of you to stop by with dollar bills for my kettle (and maybe coffee for my tummy) I always look forward to it. Every year most frequent comments I get are about how much good this organization does! It makes me proud to be part of the team. And it’s easy to be a part of it. Why not give Micki a call and join the fun!  209-522-3209


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Sprouting Memories

It was the roll of screen that did it. Like a time trigger. Without warning I was transported back to my earth-momma days of the eighties. John had bought the screening fabric from Home Depot to repair one of our window screens, but my mind began to sprout with memories.

Alfalfa, radish, broccoli, mung beans…I used to sprout everything I could get my hands on.

But I hadn’t done it in years.


We cut a six-inch square from the roll of screen; I got a quart canning jar, a canning ring – and I was off to the health food store.

The health food store hadn’t changed much since I last visited it in the eighties. Shelves full of amber bottles, and the strong smell of lavender and brewer’s yeast. Nostalgia swept over me. I thought about running home and digging out my old denim jumper or overalls – uniform of my home-school-momming days. But just then I was greeted by one of my son’s friends – now a grown man – who had brought his own little sons in to have a drink at the juice bar. (That really blew my mind, so to speak).

At the bulk food bins I measured out a mixture of alfalfa, broccoli, and mustard seed. (I also got some wheat to sprout for wholesome sprouted wheat bread – but that will be another blog.)

And so the second generation of sprouting began:


 Put a heaping tablespoon of seeds into the quart jar and close it with the screen and canning ring.


Cover with water and set it aside for several hours.

Then pour off the water.

 (I always drink the water. I like to think it is full of vitamins but John gags and tells me I’m drinking pond water.)


Cover the jar of drained seeds with a towel and set it aside on the counter.

The seeds begin to sprout quickly.

A couple of times a day you should rinse the sprouts, by running water in through the screen top and pouring it off.


        The sprouts will continue to grow and in two or three days the jar will begin to look pretty well filled.


When the sprouts are about an inch and a half long, place the jar somewhere sunny for a few hours.

They will quickly turn nice and green.


Now you have a pretty big bowl of crisp sprouts for sandwiches or salad. They will keep well in a plastic sandwich bag, but you will want to start another batch as soon as you put this one away. They are really yummy.

       And you don’t even need to wear a denim jumper to enjoy them.

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A Grief Observed

Jerry and LisaHe was crying one minute. And the next minute he was angry, harboring resentment against God. Then he was feeling guilt. Then he felt resigned, and fairly peaceful. Then he was laughing at some funny little memory. Then he was crying again.

My brother’s wife had died of a sudden heart attack as they sat together watching TV.

In those first weeks after her death, Jerry would sometimes call me late at night just to talk …and I saw A Grief Observed.

In his book C.S. Lewis writes, “In grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?How often – will it be for always? – How often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.” 

A Grief Observed is the journal of C.S. Lewis’ honest feelings, and the jarring questions about his wife’s death, and the brief lapse of his own faith in God.

“Where is God? …Go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face.”

Lewis admits that he never intended his journal to be published. But it occurred to him years later that his grief and observations, and finally his peace and understanding might be a help to others who had lost a loved one.

I sent the book to Jerry, and he called me yesterday in awe.  He said it is “like he is reading my mind!”anniversary Jerry Lisa

“That is exactly what I hoped for,” I told him.  God knows what we need to hear.

We laughed about the times we have gone to church and heard a message that made us almost think the pastor had our house bugged and knew all our business, or someone had been telling tales about us.

Jerry told me that once he and Lisa had a fight. That night as they lay in bed Lisa apologized in her cute Filipino broken English, “Jerry, I don’t know why I do the things I do. I always want to do one thing, but then I do what I don’t want to do. I don’t understand.”

Jerry said he was almost laughing as he reached across the bed to his wife’s night table and picked up her Tagalog bible. He turned to Romans 7:18 where Paul wrote, “… for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

bible “How did he know how I felt?” Lisa was stunned, and comforted to know that she and the great Apostle Paul went through the same struggles.

And that’s how Jerry felt reading A Grief Observed.

He said he will finish it and maybe read it again and then send it back to me. Of course I told him I don’t want it back. I have a couple of copies. Make notes in the margin and underline things and cry all over it and then put it on your shelf. Someday you will want to give it to somebody else as you observe their grief.

It is good to know we’re not alone.