Counting in Moments

Before I began this WordPress journey, I used a now defunct free library blog. Before I began A Year of Memories, which is now in its second year, I would just write. Whatever was on my mind; informational editorials and advice, mostly to myself.

I often go back to my archives looking for a specific story: to find an outline, for the facts, for details and any memories I might have forgotten. I didn’t find what I was looking for tonight. I found April 16, 2013, instead.

There were paragraphs before this excerpt and paragraphs beyond, as well. It may seem like an interruption, but it’s a crucial part of the story. It’s what allowed me to have stories to share. I won’t lie and say from here on it will all be laughter. There are more sad moments coming. There are also tender moments, happy moments, hilarious moments.

Still, if there is only one lesson to be learned from storying the past, it is this:

Being pleased with your life is a wonderful long-term thing, but happiness…?
Happiness is a notch above, usually for a shorter time than we’d like.
How could we know what happy was if it didn’t sweep in and out of our lives?

Happiness can only be counted in moments.
So, count them.
Immediately.
Safe-guard the memories.

Someday ahead, you’ll need them to remind you
that you were indeed happy once, and for a while.

Trust that now may not be your time.
Act on this: happiness is something you can give away,
To whomever you choose;
even if you don’t have any, at this particular time.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 02 Happiness can only be counted in moments jakorte

“Whosoever trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” – Proverbs 16:20

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

Lilacs

Every April, I remember the lilacs and the other significant April things….

Jeff’s mother’s house bordered a field. Jeff had planted, nurtured and raised a hedgerow of thick, bushy lilacs. The first time I saw them, all in purple bloom, was magnificent.

When my younger brother was born, my parents planted a lilac tree. It sat almost in the center of our lawn surrounded by mulch and a rough rock border. The bane of my summers was weekly weeding that non-lawn island.

I would pull lawn creepers with my head tucked under the beautiful pastel branches. I always came away from the plant with a monstrous headache. We hadn’t figured out the flower allergy thing, yet.

But, I loved that bush; a little more so that my own honor planting of a red oak with its dramatic scarlet autumn show.  I drove by our old house as part of my 30th high school reunion trip. It was a little more surprising than it should have been to see my thin-ish elegant oak had morphed into a thick-trunked, house-high tree. Slowly, it dawned on me that the darn tree was 48 years old.

My older brother’s birth started the tree tradition with a weeping willow that eventually destroyed our septic tank and was replaced by a pine. Planted near the end of the driveway, that pine was replaced with another pine closer to the house after the first one got run over a few times by my mother.

Anyway, about the lilac; I’d lobbied to take it with us when we moved, but it got left behind. After Jeff’s mom passed, I had hoped to get a cutting from her grove, but that never happened. Even if it had, we would have planted it at the house in Adrian, and I would have had to leave it there when I moved into an Ann Arbor apartment.

Apparently, April almost ten years ago to the day – was significantly warmer than the current one. It had only been 7 months since Jeff had passed and I was sorting through my first April without him.

April 06, 2007

Lilacs

amid lilacs and hats
wasps buzz, breezes blow
the sun matters now
and I am trying to be peaceful
but my heart gets in the way
it wants you here,
but it loves you gone, too.
now, both in our own little heaven
me for each moment I can manage,
you for eternity.

I carry so many pieces of you with me
to take the place of the pieces that went with you
and they’re almost a perfect match, but
when the wind blows through the little gaps,
they might as well be canyons, whistling
deep flutes, running and jumping
carrying your deep purple scented laughter,
warming like a smile, blowing tears to my cheeks

I know I need to
lift my chin
and believe with all I have, that
even as years go by, I can remember being
amid the lilacs, and I can count on your memory
always being there

Quote for the Week:

2017 04 04 Lilacs poem 2007 jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 

Lilacs: Farmer’s Almanac

Lilacs: Symbolism

Lilacs: Color?

 

 

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

4 Hour Assembly, Required

If you’ve ever put together a do-it-yourself anything, you’ll know it’s never as easy as it seems.

Our new to-be wardrobe-turned-cabinet was no exception. Assembly began in the living room. We’d agreed that the laundry room would be too tight to try it there, and we might damage the linoleum or the cabinet finish. Working on the carpet, did us no favors, though. It was hard to even off the sections and perfectly align the frame.

With the intention of continuing to work in the kitchen, I lay down a top sheet while Jeff moved all the unattached parts.  Back in the living room, we stood what we’d put together upright to keep its integrity together. Then, we ran into a minor obstacle.

The cabinet was taller than the door frame between the dining room, the off-shoot kitchen and the hallway to the den. My many moving experiences came in handy just then. We just needed to angle it down a few degrees to pass below the threshold. It went through easily.

Getting ready to move. “Wait a minute. Wait a miiiinute,” Jeff said setting his side down. I followed suit. Jeff peered around me into the kitchen. Then peered into the hallway, and said, “We’re gonna have the same problem gettin’ it in there.”  ‘In there’ meant the laundry room.

“That’s ok,” I answered, “we’ll just angle it again.”

“Well…” Jeff stalled, scratching his beard. “Yeah, I think that door way is narrower and after puttin’ it together, it’s gonna be really heavy and hard to tilt.”

“Oh,” I said, immediately envisioned us tilting too much, dropping it on the floor and ruining the cabinet before we ever used it.

“Yeah,” he answered. “We’re gonna have to build it in there.” I didn’t think it was going to be possible for both of us to get in there with the darn thing and work on it.

“Well… Jeff shrugged. “We gotta try it….” So, we slid the flimsy shell down the short hall, angled it once again and set it upright where we thought it might go best. Unfortunately, leaving it there would mean never being able to open the side door fully.

Jeff thought that would be alright. I didn’t. I worried about damaging the door, damaging the cabinet and how we’d even move it if we had to bring something through that side door. “How about over there?” I suggested.

Jeff sighed and nodded. He pushed, I pulled and we kept it together enough to place it closer to the laundry room entrance. There was more of a corner wall to be tucked in nicely, which also kept the door from banging the front. It was a good spot. We lowered the framed structure down to the floor again, which again, sounds easier than it was.

The very tight fit left only room for one. Since Jeff was on the far end of the cabinet, he was more-or-less stuck in the laundry room. He wouldn’t be able to get out without stepping onto the thin backboard or leaving the house entirely through the side door and come in the front door.

Jeff took a floor seat and undid some of the work he had already done in order to square it up, re-tighten bolts and ensure the construction was as solid as it could be. I transported all of the parts from the kitchen to the hallway.  That left me in charge of relaying the instructions after I identified which part was which and what went next. That led to a few tense moments.

From start to finish, moving and moving and moving it, unassembling and reassembling, and a few step-aside moments, took about 3 hours. By the time we stood the behemoth up, anchored it to the wall, attached the doors and crankily debated the proper shelf spacing, another hour had gone by.

Standing back to admire our handiwork, I thoughtfully considered our success. “You know…” I offered, “We could really  go get another one and put it right next to this one…”

“The only thing we’re gonna to get tonight is a pizza,” Jeff replied picking up the phone. “And,” he added, continuing to search  speed dial for The Pizza Bucket, “We’ve got enough cabinets. We’ve got more than enough cabinets. We’re never gonna need another cabinet…. ever.”

Bringing the phone to his ear, he said “Hi … I’d like to place an order…”

Quote for the Week:

2017 03 21 For a long time, I_ve suspected pizza collusion jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Pizza Delivery:  All You Need to Know

Pizza Crust:  Make Your Own

Sauder: Assembly Required