If you would have asked me last year in July, what I would be doing this year, in July, I would have told you a whole list of things I am actually not currently doing. I think that I would not have imagined that I would be getting ready for Girl Power Day at the Mission. I know for sure that I would not have imagined preparing to send Mr. Michigan to intermediate. And I wouldn’t have ever dreamed that salty caramel ice cream would be my new favorite flavor.

I love ice cream. I love everything about it. I love the smell, the textures, the way it looks in all forms solid to melted. I love to make ice cream. I love the science of ice cream. I am in awe of how water binds to fat. Too much water in the mix and you have icy ice cream, too little and it gets crumbly. Experimenting with new flavors and  tiny tweaks in a recipe are one of my favorite stress relievers. Tim likes that I like to make ice cream. He waits to lick the beaters from the churn like a little boy waits to lick the cake batter beaters. He is the official taster.

Making caramel the dry burn way is tricky. You have to hover over the sugar. You have to wait ever so patiently for just the right moment to begin to stir it. You have to wait until a tiny amber bubble forms underneath the white sugar and begins to spread. It needs to slightly pop and have a small tendril of smoke puff out, then and only then can you begin to rapidly stir it to the copper color. One false move and you have to start all over. Add the cream to soon and it gets hard, and you have to start all over.

I have been waiting. I realized while I was staring at the sugar, that working with Mr Michigan has been about as delicate as caramel making. If we pushed him too hard he could retreat and we would have to start all over. If we were too easy on him, he would con his way through and get hard. Then we would have to start all over. He has been through a lot during his time here.

He has endured the removal of most of his peers in the program. He reluctantly preserved. He was the sole witness to quite a few shenanigans. He is delicate sometimes. He is smoky and fiery sometimes. Like caramel we have waited until just the right time to move him to the next phase. He kept trying to rush the refining side of things. With caramel you have to wait until the sugar is completely melted and the liquid is totally clear. With Mr. Michigan we have waited for the behaviors that once ran his life to liquefy and dissolve and become clear. We have waited for manipulation, deception, jealousy, obsessiveness, anger, possessiveness, isolation, codependency, sneakiness, and pride to no longer run his life. They are mostly clear now.

He has a work ethic that rivals the best workers I know.

“Well, looks like your about ready to begin job hunting,” I told him.

“Really?” he asked. “What if I am not ready?”

“I think you are. Do you not think you are? Why would you not think you are? Really you pestered me forever to get to this point in the program and now….. you suddenly think you want to stay where you are?” I went on.

“I know, I know,” he answered.

Hugo was appalled. He is on his own count down just like Mr. Michigan was.

“Is he ready?” I called Kyle to see if he was ready for his job interview.

“He thinks he is going to vomit,” Kyle point blank said.

I could hardly stop laughing. All the bravado for all this time ended with a nervous tummy at the notion of a job interview. He doesn’t need to cook any longer in this pot.

Out came Mr. Michigan dressed for success. He had on what I would call the bad cowboy look. Black shirt and black dress pants. I had just given him a fresh haircut. He was ready to go. I think the black shirt made him look even more pale than he already was. His nice summer tan had all but given way to his nerves. He was down right pasty looking.

We drove to the interview going over possible questions. I felt confident he was ready for the interview. We arrived fashionably early and off he went. About thirty minutes later he came out and plopped in the passenger seat of the car. If at all humanly possible he was even a bit pastier looking.

“I lied,” he blurted out.

“WHAT? What could you possibly have lied about? What ever possessed you to lie? Oh for crying out loud really?” I blurted back.

“It just flew right out of my mouth before I could even stop it,” he said.

“What? what flew out of your mouth?” I demanded.

“I might have alluded to the notion that I was sort of a boss around here,” he answered.

“A boss like, wow I am really a boss at bike riding, or a boss like …. THE BOSS?” I asked.

“Sort of like the boss,” he sheepishly said.

“Ah hahha hah ha haha really? The boss of who exactly?” I was now laughing hard.

“You know like a team lead. Well, I tell Hugo what to do sometimes,” he went on.

“That… is … a .. flat out lie, and you know it. What made you blurt that out? “ I asked again.

“I don’t know, I really do not have any idea why it flew out,” he answered.

I was shocked and amused. I could just imagine him in there terrified and struggling for a coping skill. I could imagine his fear at the first sober job interview of half his life. The uncertainty he felt. The confidence he was trying to muster up. I get it. I actually get it.

It for sure was a flat out lie, and I can’t defend that. I understand it, but can’t defend it. I think he felt relieved when I laughed at the whole ordeal.

“Don’t you do that again buster, you hear me?” I sternly said.

“I won’t, I really won’t,” he answered.

We drove back to the job site we had been working on. The color was slowly coming back.

I wondered if we had added the cream too quick with him, nope. He is ready to churn now and become something new and totally different when he comes out of the tub. Something sturdier and fuller. I could never imagine I would love salty caramel ice cream.

““‘Those who keep their heads on straight will teach the crowds right from wrong by their example. They’ll be put to severe testing for a season: some killed, some burned, some exiled, some robbed. When the testing is intense, they’ll get some help, but not much. Many of the helpers will be halfhearted at best. The testing will refine, cleanse, and purify those who keep their heads on straight and stay true, for there is still more to come.”

Daniel 11:33-35 MSG

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