In life, as with pickles, take the sweet and the sour together

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

Life is exciting. That’s what I said last week after chatting with three different people who are all going through various stages of non-treatable illness.

At first, I felt overwhelmed. What can I do? And then I realized that I can listen and show my care, but what matters more than how I respond is how they themselves face their future. As I live out my days, I never know what will come my way. That’s what makes life so exciting.

So I have been thinking a lot about that saying: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” On my lunch break, I talked about it with Jim.

One of the happiest people I have ever met was a man with no legs in Haiti who was getting around by pushing himself on a wooden board with wheels. He seemed surprised at my question. “Why are you so happy?” He told me his life was good and he was taken care of. What more would he want?

Maybe, we decided, it’s not about bad things happening to good people. Maybe it’s life and how we react to it. Can we move forward day by day and not look back? Do we spend the time fully processing what happened so we can take each day for what it truly is? Am I a victim or am I a survivor?

We looked at some of our “bad” circumstances and realized that each and every one of us has been dealt some bad in our lives. Anyways, after a deep philosophical discussion on the issue, we both went back to work.

Later, that day, Jim came to tell me that our house had been broken into. And all I could do was laugh. Hadn’t we just had this discussion?! Apparently, life comes with both the bitter and the sweet. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For each bitter pill, I will spend my days looking for the sweetness out there. We will sweep up the broken glass, take our house back, find new earrings and move forward, knowing that we have caring neighbors. One of them brought us some peaches. “Here’s something sweet to go with the bitter,” he said.

Maybe that’s why at this time of year, when the cucumbers start multiplying, I always make a batch of bread and butter pickles. Something both sweet and sour to remind myself that such is life…

Here is the recipe if you want to make them.

Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 1 half-peck bag of small pickling cucumbers
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ of Volcano pepper, minced
  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1½ tsp. turmeric
  • 1½ tsp. celery seed
  • 2½ tbsp. mustard seed

Directions

  1. Wash and chunk cucumbers. Add onion slices and hot pepper.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over cucumber mixture.
  3. Let cool. Cover with a lid and put in refrigerator. (Make sure that they are not in a metal container.)
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