The Cornbread Lesson

There’s an obvious family trait passed down from Nannee to Sally and then to Jeff, and Eric and Nicole – having a purpose was and is important to each of them. I don’t know that it’s ever been acknowledged, but the way I’ve seen it, that purpose was always to be sure everyone was treated as if they were the most important person in the world, and to do everything in their power not to be a burden to anyone else.

Jeff and I talked it over and knew Nannee was independent enough, and that she’d be stubborn enough, to not accept our permanent hospitality. We didn’t kidnap her, we just kindly informed her she would be coming to stay with us for a weekend… or so.

The first time Nannee stayed with us was only for a day or so. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit but had to get home to attend to her laundry.

The next time was 2 full days and we brought her laundry with her. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit, but had to get home for her mail.

The third time, Nannee said she had the flu, and welcomed a little more extended stay. She lasted an entire week, and by the end of her visit, she was up and about, doing our laundry and helping cook dinner.

I arrived home about an hour later than normal one Friday night after another long week of 9 ½ hour days and 2 ½ hour vanpool commuter roundtrips to find that they hadn’t waited for me for supper. I was overly tired, unreasonably disappointed and very hungry. There’s a common name for that now: hangry.

They were watching TV, Nannee on the couch and Jeff in his chair, when he called out to me from the den, “There’s chili on the stove and corn muffins on the counter!”

I walked into the kitchen, took a look at the counter and yelled, “What the hell, Jeff?!?!”

“What?” he asked in that hurt and hesitant voice I wish I hadn’t induced many times and wish I could forget now, as well.  “What the hell did you do this muffin pan?” I raged.  “There’re gouge marks in every cup!”

When I peered through the pass-thru, Nannee was looking concerned. Jeff’s eyes were huge. He was shortly shaking his head and doing an abbreviated version of the hand-jive, which dramatically finished with the universal finger across the neck sign for “Stop!” I immediately assimilated what that meant, burst into tears and ran into our bedroom.

When I didn’t come back out, Jeff came in after me. “She was just trying to help out,” he said. “She really wanted to do something nice for us.” When I just kept crying, Jeff continued, “She’s feeling pretty good. We had a fun time cooking together.” I felt like a heel and told him so. “It’s alright,” he said. “It’s not!” I wailed. “Give me a minute and I will come apologize.”

By the time I got myself together and changed my clothes, Nannee had decided to go to bed. I felt even worse about that. “It’s ok,” Jeff said. “She understands. I told her you were sorry and she said that she’s glad you feel like you’re able to be yourself around her.”

Saturday morning, Nannee decided it was time to go home, again. “It’s the weekend,” she reasoned. “You should be able to relax and spend some time together without me here.”

I apologized profusely. If I had known she’d been the one to ruin the pan or even if Jeff had been responsible, I had no right speaking to either of them that way. They’d made me dinner and I behaved poorly.

Nannee just pshaw’d me. “Life has bumps,” she said. “.. ‘t doesn’t make the love any less.”

In this case, it made the love even more.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 23 life has bumps jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Why We Say It: Hangriness

Don’t Say It: Biblically Speaking

Eat This: Cornbread

Kindnapped

I never did take communion with Nannee. I felt it would be disrespectful to take communion on false pretenses. I’d have to be a believer to do that. I obviously wasn’t one and had no intention of becoming one, either.  I’d thought she perhaps just didn’t understand. But, then again, she knew my upbringing and now I wonder if it was her way of trying to “save” me.

As Nannee was getting sick more often, not ever getting fully better, Jeff and I would stop on our way home from work and drive over on weekends to make sure she had everything she needed. We’d pick-up her prescriptions, bring in dinner, do her laundry when she was too tired to go down to the basement.

If she knew we were coming, she’d have dinner ready no matter how poorly she was feeling. If she didn’t know we were coming she’d express her disappointment that she wasn’t prepared by saying, “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake.” I always thought that was cute.

About this same time, Jeff’s medical issues began to take over our life. He would miss work because of leg and foot pain. He had difficulty walking long distances. He struggled through his delivery job; struggled to keep his blood sugars in check.

He’d be on and off work as doctors recommended all sorts of ‘hopefully this will be a quick fix’ patches. A week of putting his feet up was supposed to help. Trying a new medication that made me him a little loopy was followed by rising and more frequent insulin injections.

He was in and out of hospitals numerous times, suffering through rampant high blood sugar induced yeast infections, and bouts of excruciating pancreatitis. He gained weight and gained sleep apnea.

After a string of absences and unresolved issues, Jeff was encouraged to apply for FMLA. He happily did so, convinced this was just a temporary blip in his life. However, having to take more time off morphed into short term disability, then continued into long term disability.

Throughout it all, Jeff really wanted to get back to work and fully expected to. Eventually, the pain won and left him with the very much unwanted and depressing status of permanently disabled.

In the middle of all this, Jeff and I kindnapped Nannee.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 17 Some people always see blue skies jakorte

 

Apologetic Delay

Certain times a year, the regrets really pile up. Lately, I’m practically buried.

So many things went wrong. Small things became disproportionate disasters. Mostly, due to my stubbornness, but always with help from Jeff.

I’m being stubborn again, all by myself. Memories are flying in from all directions and I want to accurately order them. Actually, I feel I have to accurately order them. I so want to skip over the regrets. I do want to include them, too. Our story’s weave will be weak without them.

Apologizing to people who may not have known they were slighted won’t make me feel better. Probably won’t make them feel any better, either.

I’m also a bit uninspired from having to sort through some rather uninspiring parts of my recent life. It would be nice to be self-inspired, but that’s not working so well.

Pushing a stalled car may get you somewhere, but it’s still going to be stalled when you get there. I’m trying but I could use a little outside inspiration… and a magic wand.

In the meantime, while I’m unrealistically waiting for my thoughts to spring from my being onto paper or into my computer, I’ll tell you about the start of something. But first, let me tell you about the start of the start of our most important journey.

About Nannee, Mary Vincze was a strong woman with a strong faith. She buried her husband young and lost her only child, her daughter Sally. They were close and I do believe that she struggled, although she would never admit it. Nannee was a smart woman, worldly wise, I’d say. She’d seen much in her lifetime; poverty and boons, war and peace, births and deaths.

She never hesitated to put a positive spin on any situation, often quoting condensed bible verses. When Jeff and I would take her to church, she’d always advise me that I could indeed take communion because it was “open to anyone.”  I’d just smile politely and shake my head, “No.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 09 if regrets really were a dime a dozen jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 

Sweet Pea

I’ve always had a little trouble remembering Jeff’s birth date. I always got April, but I’d get confused about whether it was the 24th or 25th. Pretty much every year, I would pride myself on getting it right, and end up getting it wrong again.

I’d give him his card first thing in the morning, or maybe stealthily add it to his lunch bag. And then he’d look at me or text me, “Thank you. My birthday is tomorrow.” “I know,” I’d respond. “I just wanted to be the first.” Of course, Jeff knew better, but he never embarrassed me by saying so. I’d just make sure to run out for another card for the next morning.

In 2012, I did something that I felt required notifying Jeff’s family. It was after the fact, but still important so I broke the ice with a short email. “Thinking of you and Jeff today,” I wrote. The response I received was graciously humorous and something to the effect of, “I’m sure Jeff will be having lunch with Dale Earnhardt in heaven, tomorrow.”

Early on in our relationship, I started calling Jeff ‘Sweet Pea.’ Always privately, mostly on the phone and mostly at the end of our week night conversations. I’d say, “Goodnight sweet pea, love you.” He’d say, “Goodnight, I love you, too.”

If you think that would sound ridiculous coming out of my mouth, it did. And, it came out with an accidentally adapted light pseudo-southern/Nashvillian accent to boot.

I never thought much about how he’d feel about it. But, he never objected or said anything about it, either.

About two years into Michigan, Jeff pointed out to me my accent wasn’t as bad. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Your accent,” he repeated.  “I don’t speak any differently than I ever did,” I protested.

“Uh, huh,” Jeff nodded, retrieving his cell phone from his pocket.  He dialed emphatically, and handed it to me. “Just listen…” he advised.

And there I was listening to a two-year prior version of me deeply twanging my way through a typical voicemail greeting.

At a Flea Market one afternoon, I noticed an oversized cup with a flowery design and the words ‘Sweet Pea’ in an equally flowery font.

“I think I’ll buy you this cup for your birthday,” I teased. Jeff laughed, “Well, it is my birth flower.”

“Your what?” I asked. “My birth flower – it’s the sweet pea – it’s the April flower.”

“Really?” I countered. “I didn’t know that!”  He laughed again, but stopped short a few steps later.

“Wait,” he said as he turned to face me. “Why did you call me that then?

“I don’t know,” I said. “It just … popped out. Must have been that southern influence…”

“Well, I like it,” He confessed sincerely with his usual wide grin.

I smiled, too. I’m still smiling, actually.

Even as I say out loud tonight, “Happy Birthday in Heaven, Sweet Pea.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 04 25 the greatest gift you can give someone jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

There’s a flower for that: Actually, there are 2

Don’t Eat Them: Truly

Beautiful:  But, finicky

Peeps – The Kiss First Clause

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s still Peeps season.

As far as I’m concerned, it will remain Peeps season until all of the Peeps are gone.

I’m talking about the coveted and cabineted ones. Even with the holiday in my rearview, there’s still time to increase the stash. I’ll be ‘Peep Seeking’ a little while longer in the likely vain hope of a misplaced carton or even sleeve.

I admittedly will not give up until it becomes clear I will not find this year’s coveted flavor. I sadly started the search too late, and was left standing forlornly in Target staring at the empty box labeled “Vanilla Caramel Brownie Peeps.”

I also admit that I might not have believed that was a true special occasion creation, but, as I said, I saw the empty box for myself. In retrospect, I should have photographed it. It would have made a social media plea for them an illustration of frustration and perhaps I would have been flooded with good-willed Vanilla Caramel Brownie Peeps. Sigh.

Sometimes the very thing that makes me happy, makes me sad, and then makes me laugh.

My husband, Jeff, was a man who would not even slightly hesitate to insert his entire arm into a cow’s uterus.

So, how a cute little squishy marshmallow chick could cause him to cringe, shake and gag was always beyond me.

Physically. He’d watch me bite into one, and pull his head back like he wanted to turtle into his own shoulders. He’d wave his hands at waist-level, muttering “yuck” and shivering into goosebumps.

As true love often does, I willingly made small sacrifices for Jeff, and Jeff willingly made small sacrifices for me. One of the sweetest involved the seasonal search and appropriate pre-consumption seasoning of Peeps.

Religiously poking holes in their cellophane habitats, Jeff would clandestinely hide my favorite treats somewhere I was sure never to look. You know, that almost useless over-the-stove cabinet that only tall giant-sized people ever consider an actual place to store things.

He went to all this trouble for two very good reasons.

The first was so that the adorable, delicious candy creatures would be ever-so-slightly crunchy-stale when he ceremoniously presented them to me on whatever holiday it was we were celebrating.

The second was for the kiss he knew he would get after I finished squealing in delight.

The kiss had conditions, though: it had to occur after presentation, before ingestion. I tried it once the other way and Jeff objected.

“Ew,” he’d said. “Don’t ever kiss me after you eat one of those!”

After that, he always insisted on that order, sometimes going as far as keeping them way above me with his outstretched arm.  “Kiss first!” he’d grin. And I would happily oblige.

Quote for the Week:

2017 04 18 Sometimes the very thing that makes me happy jakorte

The Lilac Connection

The lilac connection is a curious thing.

Little by little I am hearing stories I’ve know nothing about. Like this one from Jeff’s brother, Eric:

“Lilacs played a huge part in Jeff’s life. There were lilacs in Papa and Nannee Vincze’s backyard.

We would play whiffle ball, catch fire flies, have parties and learn about life from our Grandparents in a backyard encircled by huge lilac bushes.

When my grandpa had his heart attack and was in the hospital, the lilacs were in bloom.

Each morning, my grandma would awake before dawn to spray water on them to keep the frost from killing them.

When he came home, he was sad to see all the freezer-burnt lilacs on the way.

But, when they pulled into the driveway, he saw all of their lilacs in full bloom…

an act of love.”

That story reminded me of another one that requires a bit of explanation.

Certain moments have stuck with, even as I’ve been oblivious for years. Sometimes, I am in the memory of the moment. Sometimes, I am an observer of events, watching us both make our way through the life we shared.

I don’t know why this one is an observer moment. I’m sure someday it will become clear.

When Sally passed, she was interred in Brookside Cemetery. Waiting at her gravesite, Jeff said he was glad she could be so near her father (Papa) and someday, her mother (Nannee.) It was a source of comfort for him.

I wish I could remember the exact words. I’m not even sure if Jeff was relaying it was Sally’s wish or if it had been his own comfort.

Anyway, there we were, slowly walking away from the ceremony, hand-in-hand, as usual.

Jeff stopped at a spot halfway between Sally and Popa. With a firm down-stroke of his chin and a leftward tilt of his head, Jeff made a nodding point toward a smallish bush.

Maybe he said, “At least…

Maybe he said, “I’m glad…”

But the last part of the sentence was, “… she can see the lilac tree from here.”

(You know, after the memory movie in my head ended, after I’d written it all down and re-read the story, it seems I don’t have to wait for that ‘someday’ answer. Something did become clear. It’s a good thing I learned to type without looking at the keys. I’m not sure I could have seen them through the tears, tonight. Because, remotely watching us standing made the mystery unravel. That spot Jeff stopped on turned out to be his. He can see the lilacs from there, too.)

Quote for the Week:

2017 04 11 We can spend a lot of time asking why or let the universe jakorte

 

Bonus Photo: through the power of Google Maps from my brother who knows how to use it: 2017 view of the Lilac and the Oak from last week’s ‘Lilacs’ blog.

Blackwood Road Screenshot_20170411-205227

via Daily Prompt: Unravel

Shady

The next purchase we tackled opened my eyes a little. I’d like to say it changed me; and it did – for a moment and then left me with a reluctant memory.

The gifted dark wood bedroom set also came with two bedside tables and two bedside lamps sans shades. Compared to the other acquirements, it was a small gnat of a chore. It’d skipped our minds most of the summer, but following the fall time change we’d go to bed and rise up to blinding bare lightbulbs and the annoying retina ‘burn’ spots that go with them. We finally set out to take care of that.

Another Lowe’s Saturday morning found us standing in the lighting section, clutching our measurements, which didn’t tell us much and certainly not what we needed to know. The lamps were over 2 foot tall, but having that information was rather uninformative.

Jeff tracked down an associate, and I explained our problem. The bottom line was there were no real fast rules, but there were standard sizes which left us with three basic choices requiring three more decisions. The first part of the deciding process was to choose between awkward sized standard shades. One version seemed too small, the other seemed too big.

Our easy solution was to buy a set of each, and return whichever didn’t look worse than the other. The next hurdle was shade shape. There were plenty of the normal cone-shaped covers. There were also plenty of degrees of varying steepness to the dimensions, tall ones, short ones, barrels versus sloped versus hourglass.

We agreed on the steeper narrower style, and then had one more agreement to reach. White or Off-white? I thought I was being daring by throwing blue into the mix to match the blue/maroon theme we were stuck with. I was scouring for blue shades to match our criteria, Jeff was wandering around one aisle over.

“Hey,” he called through the shelving, “Come here and look at these!”

I suppose part of my shock was that I was expecting to see a shade in some sort of shade of blue, but Jeff was pointing to an upper shelf, smiling from ear to ear. “I want to get these!” he declared as my eyes followed his movements. He turned back around with a 2-stack of leopard print lampshades.

“Those? ” I replied, “We can’t get those. They don’t match.”  “Match what?” he asked. “The blue and maroon,” I explained. “Who says they have to match?” he looked at me quizzically. “I just don’t think leopard print will look good,” I went on. “When people come to our house it’ll just look silly!”

“They’ll be in our bedroom!” Jeff exclaimed, “Who’s going to see our bedroom?!”  I shook my head and apparently gave him a look that said, “We’re not getting those.” He exasperatedly returned them to the shelf, throwing up his arms once they were empty.

“Why do you ask me?” he wanted to know, “When we’re just going to do what you want anyway!”

Jeff eyes showed his dejection. “Well, because…it… matters,” I stuttererd as my eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry,” I apologized. “You’re right. I do usually get my way.”  He stared at me incredulously.  “Well, don’t cry about it!” he exclaimed. “They’re only light shades!”

“I’m sorry,” I apologized, again. “If you want them, we’ll get them. Let’s get them. They’ll be fun and you’re right! Who’s gonna see our bedroom, anyway?”

I took them off the shelf again to emphasize my willingness.  Jeff took them from my hands and put them back.

“It’s ok.” he said. “These are kinda expensive, anyway. Let’s just get normal ones… so… white or off-white?”

“You’re sure?” I asked, giving him a watery smile. “You decide.”

He rolled his eyes. “It’s…  just…  light… shades.”

“I know, but I love you,” I sniffed. “I just want to make you happy.”

Jeff stuck his hands in his front pockets, rocked back a bit on his heels, looked at me like I was loon and seriously replied, “You always make me happy.”

“Apparently, not always,” I shot back.

“Geez,” he lamented, shaking his head. “Light shades…”

“Lamp shades,” I corrected him as we moved toward check-out. “Light bulbs, lamp shades.”

He chortled and smiled and then declared, “I’m pickin’ lunch.”

I’m sure wherever we went was wonderful, but I’d rather have the leopard light shades, now.

Quote for the Week:

2017 03 27 same side of the see saw jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Say:  See-Saw

Reduplication:  See-Saw

‘The Death of Common Sense’ See-Saw