Better Late

I’d expected a card first thing in the morning, as we got ready for church. I’d waited  through the service and through our late, diner breakfast.

I was impatient, but decided not to spoil the fun. I’d over-eagerly done that, before. Most notably, by ruining Jeff’s engagement plan and proposal.

I figured there would be a surprise when we got home. Only, there wasn’t one.

Halfway through Sunday, July 23rd, 2006, I finally said it. “It’s my birthday, you know.”

“I know,” he replied casually. “I didn’t have time to get you a present.”

“You didn’t have time?” I asked.

“Besides,” he tacked on, “I could never surprise you, anyway, ‘cause you see all the bills.”

“That’s true,” I laughed. “Did you get me a card?” I was still hopeful.

Jeff’s flat answer was, “No.” Then, a half-hearted, “I never made it out.”

“Well, why didn’t you make me a card?” I wanted to know. “You used to always make me cards.”

Jeff sighed, “I was gonna bake a cake later.”

“Oh, ok.” I understood. Going out and getting around was getting more difficult, so that made sense to me. “You could have wished me a happy birthday, though.” I stressed.

“Yep.” he acknowledged, with a nod. “I probably should have.”

Just about dinner time, Jeff got up, and said he was going to go make my cake. I told him he didn’t have to, and that I’d be just as happy ordering Chinese food.

So, that’s what we did, complete with my favorite almond cookies and ritual fortune cookies. As usual, Jeff wanted to know what my fortune said. I read it to him, to which he responded the same way he had every time since we’d first met. “Mine,” he’d wiggle his substantial eyebrows and the tiny little paper slip, “Says – ‘Lucky Number –  69!’”

Three days later, I came home to a colorful Happy Birthday sign in our home-office window. Strategically hung facing the driveway, so I’d immediately see it when I pulled in.

Waiting for me inside, was a stellar dinner. Jeff made a special meatloaf concoction of ground beef, sausage and salsa baked under a cloak of ketchup and garlic. Accoutrements: hand-smashed, garlic red-potatoes with butter, Brussels sprouts drenched in butter and dinner croissants… with butter.

The butter-use was a nod to the occasion. Our frugal budget and our smidgen of health-consciousness meant margarine, in tubs. When planning special dinners, or upon getting good celebratory news, Jeff would roar, “This calls for Butter!”

After dinner, Jeff told me to close my eyes.  I opened them to a cake and a card. The double-chocolate cake was covered in neon yellow frosting and featured a black-piped beak plus google eyes to which he’d added eye-lashes using more black piping.

The card was a comic one. Amusing and strange, with an extra bit of Jeff’s handwritten humor. “Better late, than never.”

We went to bed full of cake topped with canned cherries and vanilla ice cream, holding hands, and giggling. I loved that chicken cake, and my husband, completely.

Jeff had managed to surprise me on a day I wasn’t expecting anything. I like to compare this birthday to the way I consistently and erroneously surprised him the day before his birthday; every year.

That card, though.

It was the last one.

Jeff had, unwittingly, been philosophically correct. I would gladly take always late, instead of never again.

Quote for the Week: 2019 03 05 late is always better than never again jakorte

2019 03 05 better late than never card jakorte

Memorable

The first time we went to church, Jeff was reluctant to ask if anyone knew our caller. I’m not sure why. When I asked about it, he just said, “Next time.” I didn’t push it, because, well, I wasn’t the reason we were there.

The second time we went, I encouraged him to ask. Jeff said, “Ok.” He slid down the pew to ask a woman he sort-of knew. He remembered her name from years ago, as a friend of Nannee. Surprisingly, she remembered Jeff quite well, and enveloped him in a back-slapping hug.

It was surprising, to me, at the time. You’d think after about the 100th time someone he hadn’t seen in 30-40 years recognized him, remembered him and was happy to see him – that I wouldn’t be astonished.

I never got used to it, certainly never expected it. It happened a lot. Like the time Jeff and I were standing in line to pay at the food auction. When we were just a few people back from cashing out, Jeff left me to pay while he went to get the car. The woman behind me tapped me on the should and asked, “Is that Jeff?” I confirmed and she lit up with a huge smile. “I was his teacher!” As she told me he was such a nice young man, I was picturing a junior high connection.

When Jeff came back in to load up our purchases, he was greeted with a hug. He explained that she was one of his early grade-school teachers.  (3rd grade, maybe?) That surprised me because I’m sure he was a little shorter and had a lesser amount of facial hair at that age. I’d never seen him sans mustache ad beard, and momentarily wondered if I’d recognize him at first glance without them. 

The final recognition surprise came a few days after Jeff passed. I received a phone call from the coroner’s office. It was the medical examiner offering personal condolences with the explanation that he had been Jeff’s pediatrician when Jeff was very young. He wanted me to know that he remembered Jeff very well and fondly, too.

Thinking about it now, so many people saw something in Jeff that could easily be dismissed as recognition; but I think what they were really remembering was his never-changing soul.

(And the fact that his laugh was so distinct, someone an aisle over in the grocery store would rush around the corner and exclaim, “I knew it HAD to be YOU!” Happened. More than once.)

Quote for the Week:

2018 02 06 faces are easily recognizable jakorte

Bonus School Photo Collage (a gift, compiled by my niece):

Jeff school photo collage 20180206_190706~2

 

Gingerbread (Hot House)

I can’t place the timing, which always irks me. I wouldn’t even be questioning the timing, if there hadn’t been that recent ‘50 years ago’ today newspaper story. That startled me into a memory, too.

I know what happened, but I’m not always sure how or why what happened, happened. So, on that note, I confess: I’m not at all sure how I got to the beginning point of the story I’m about to tell you. Obviously, some things had to have happened first.

Like the conversation, Jeff and I had. That’s easy enough to recall, because… Wait, wait. It could have been something that came up in a BNI meeting, but it would have had to occur at the end of September 2006. I can’t help thinking that would have been pretty far in advance. I suppose, though, as area business were looking ahead to the holiday season, it might not have been unreasonable announce plans for an open-house and contest.

It’s something Jeff and I talked about, were excited about and planned to do: enter a gingerbread house contest at a local, main street yarn store. I’m sure they carried more than yarn, but the first time I entered the shop wasn’t to shop. I was there to drop off our creation. Near tears, I didn’t linger.

Physically, it was only my creation, assembled in the weeks following Jeff’s death. I didn’t have much time, and I’d never made a gingerbread house, before. The ideas and enthusiasm were just as much shared as everything in our lives was.

Jeff started it, so I expected Jeff would be making it, too. But, there I was, a few weeks into widowhood, thinking about how much fun it would have been to do it together. Perhaps, well probably, I was still in a sort of shock. Functioning and trying to keep moving along. I decided to keep the plan, and set out into the internet world of gingerbread and patterns and royal icing.

My edges weren’t straight, my technique was terrible. My royal icing either didn’t harden fast enough or hardened too fast to use. Eventually, I baked and sugar-solder assembled on a plain cardboard base something that happily looked like a lot house. I stared at the pile of decorations I’d amassed and the naked shell for a while wondering, “Now, what?”

I decided to let the structural bones set-up overnight and dragged out the top of our Tupperware cake carrier to protect it.

Quote for the Week: 

2018 01 02 A good overnight set could either make a lot jakorte

Bonus Photo & Story:

Tecumseh Herald Gingerbread House Jeff and Eric 1967

 

 

Jalapeno Puppy!

My holiday seasons rarely lack spice. I know a lot of folks who like it somewhat hot, and some weirdos who like to see how hot they can go for equally weird bragging rights. There’re stories there, but ….

First let me introduce, Sadie the Pepper Pup. As hyper as she was, she also was terrified of weather an sounds. Not just rain and thunder, winds and motorcycles were equally scary. While having her nails clipped at a Lenawee Humane Society fund-raiser, Sadie shook a bit. When we said she was scared of a lot of things, we were advised that she should own a thunder shirt.

We eyeballed each other and seemed to silently agree to give it a try. On our way home with a pink camouflage doggie hoodie and a clipped puppy, Jeff mentioned he was kinda surprised I wanted to buy one. He thought I’d be doubtful. I was absolutely doubtful. I only went along with it because I thought he believed. We chuckled about that. As soon we got home, I sat Sadie down, and said, “Here goes nuthin…”

To our mutual surprise, she didn’t balk. It was surprisingly easy to get her in and out of it. And it was surprisingly easy for her to get it dirty. Instead of washing it every day, I went back and bought her another one.

After which, “I got to thinkin’” as Jeff would put it. I figured I could go to Salvation Army and get her some kids clothes. “What?” Jeff raised his eyebrows, “You’re gonna put her in pants?” “No, no. Not pants!” I shook my head. “Dresses?” he asked. “No, no.” I squinted in his direction. “Not dresses.” Just cheaper shirts so we didn’t have to do doggie laundry every other day. Just enough to get through a week. Jeff crinkled his eyebrows; his face and forehead followed. “She’s gonna have seven shirts?” he tried to clarify. “No, no.” I grinned at our silly conversation. “I’m thinking eight or nine, so she’ll have one to wear while we hers are in the washer….” “Geez,” he teased. “That dog’s gonna have more shirts than I have!”

Sadie’s (and my, our) fondness for shirts meandered easily into to holiday outfits. An American flag t-shirt for 4th of July, red with hearts for Valentine’s day, green for St Patrick’s day.

I was amazed when Jeff found a dog store on-line that also had  a wide selection of Halloween costumes. They were all so cute. As he was scrolling quickly, one in particular caught my eye. My crazy-chicken lady-ness kicked into high gear. “I want it!” I squealed. “That one,” I pointed – “that chicken dog-fit with a matching chicken head hat!”

Jeff said, “Oooo-k…, but what I really want to show you is… THIS!” he announced in a ta-dah flourish. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but an obviously, divinely, inspired red satin chile suit with ‘just picked’ greens as the neck.

“Ooooo,” I leaned over to get a better look, touching the screen as if I thought I could feel it. Both were definitely higher priced than the second-hand toddler shirts I’d been collecting. For some reason, though, the hot pepper was way more expensive than the chicken.

Leaning on Jeff’s shoulder, I decided out loud, “Well, we’ve just got to get that one!” “And the chicken, too?” he turned to ask. “Umm,” I pondered. “No, not right now,” I said. “Let’s just get this one. Maybe, we can make it a business expense…” Jeff just arched his eyebrows at me.  “You know…” I shrugged with a little smugly smile. “A business suit… for our new mascot!”

And that’s how Sadie the Pepper Pup came to be.

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 19 there seem to be more misunderstandings jakorte

Bonus Pictures:

2017 12 19 MHSC first year store Christmas card and santa and Sadie bonus pix jakorte

 

ps… would you please let me know if you’ve read this? all feed back welcome.

Pre-Step, Step

I continued my deliberately slow crawl toward Ketogenics, and crashed into convincing.

Third Step: Entice myself with palatable recipes from the marvelous world of internet recipes and Instagram using the helpful, happy hashtag #keto. It was so easy I almost don’t remember pre-internet. Oh, I have a vague recollection of taking the train to the Boston Public Library because whatever I was looking for couldn’t be found in the high school library. Of course, I used the opportunity to visit record stores and Quincy Market, too. The web kind of negates those opportunities. I mean you find what you’re looking for and you’re still on your couch.

Anyway, to my delight, I almost over-dosed on pictures of possibility; smorgasbords of scrumptious. From click to click, most everything looked excitingly edible. Jalapeno Poppers are Keto? Ok! Cheese stuffed chicken? Ok! Ricotta Pancakes with blueberries? Ok! Coffee Bombs? Umm…ok. Kale & Collard greens, well, probably not… but that was ok!

After much gleaning and self-reason, I reassigned this lifestyle to ‘maybe.’ If, I ease into it. Quite a few of the sites warned against the gentle-in approach, but the big leap just wasn’t fathomable.

Still, I decided to take the next logical step for me: Follow multiple easy steps agreed on by numerous sites, which actually means after dilly-dallying, I’d be back at the recommended start of my journey.

Easy Step 1: Choices were deplete cabinet full of food by wasting or deplete cabinet full of food by eating.

My choice? Re-home as much as possible, and then, do a little of both of the above.

From the cabinets, give-aways included: quinoa, lots of individual packages of nuts (with corn solids), canned soup, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned and jarred tomato sauce, pickles, dehydrated potatoes, many forms of pasta and rice, baking mixes, cake mixes, muffin mixes, packaged seasonings, packaged dry soups, a wholesale store sized tub of window pane pretzels, salsas, unopened jars of jelly, tortilla chips, microwave popcorn and popcorn kernels and Pirate’s Booty, crackers, canola oil, vegetable oil, and low-fat everything – salad dressing, mayonnaise, imitation butter in various forms.

It was a little hard to let go of my jar of Ms Renfro’s BBQ sauce, as it’s a rare one that does not contain pineapple. Bottled wing sauce was another struggle, but knowing I could create my own keto version helped.

Remnants of a near empty bag of Christmas cookie flour and a half-eaten jar of peanut-butter made the toss along with some surprisingly expired canned goods.

There were a few items tucked away into an emergency stash….

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 05 overwhelm is easily negated jakorte

 

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Processed Foods: Good ?

Processed Foods: Good ?

Processed Foods: https://bodyecology.com/articles/hidden_dangers_of_processed_foods.php