Dress De-Coding

We went to church. Then, we kept going to church. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I found similarities in prayers and biblical stories. When I skipped over the Jesus part, the sermon always had some good message. Once a month, I remembered I was an interloping fish out water. Communion stressed me out.

Staying seated in a small-ish church was an obvious choice. Despite the invisible but unmistakable arrow of non-belief over my head, greetings were sincerely cordial. “Just wait ‘til they find out,” I’d think to myself, running an uneducated scenario in my head. It was easy to envision stone-faced, blank-wall welcome-retraction.

I noticed while most members sported Sunday clothes, a few regularly did not. It seemed Jeff and I were over-dressed, based on the attire of other attendees in our age range. So, I asked him about the dress code. “I know,” Jeff said. “I just can’t wear jeans to church. It doesn’t seem right. I’d be uncomfortable. I think it’s kinda disrespectful.” Then, as usual, he gave me a choice in the matter by adding, “… but, you can, if you want to.”

I thought about and reached the same conclusion. I would never have worn jeans to a Friday night service. Without ever having done it, or been given the opportunity to, I instinctively felt I’d be uncomfortable, anyway. Dressing up with Jeff made the day feel more special. Sunday mornings became our version of date night. Over brunch we’d talk about the sermon and religion and the store, and whatever else came up. 

Pretty much unfailingly, following “Go in Peace,” Jeff would sort of hopefully ask, “Wanna go to coffee-hour?” At my request or rather my denial, coffee hour was a no-go. Because that would mean socializing, and that would mean questions. One day, Jeff told me he’d really like to go to coffee hour someday, just for a little bit. I explained I was dreading the day when someone would ask me why I don’t participate. “I mean,” I explained, with a double wrist wave  “I’m sure they’ve already figured it out, but…”

“Nah…” Jeff shrugged. “… they probably think you’re Catholic.”

Quote for the Week:

2018 02 13 we choose our clothes to reflect our attitude 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

 

10 x 10 Gamble

With SMC in our heads and the possibility of a part time store with a bridal theme, we just went ‘to look’ at the open space at Selders’ Mall.

We were excited on the way over, set with our plan and pitch. One area of concern was required non-competition with the other stores. A bridal dress salon, a masseuse, a hair salon, a tax man, tuxedos, a seamstress and rental décor already occupied the mall. Jeff and I had poured through every page of products and were thinking wedding décor, wedding party gifts, table favors would fit in nicely.

We’d been told the space was small, but seeing it in person was a bit surprising. I skeptically surveyed the situation. What it really was, was a 10-foot by 10-foot alcove previously used as bridal gown dressing room, if that helps you imagine it any. There wasn’t a dedicated door, just a rod where a curtain had previously hung, and to be honest it was a bit dingy and very poorly lit.

I swiftly conjured up a list of things we’d need to change. Jeff declared it was a perfect size.

I saw the need for paint, carpet cleaning and a way to cover the one narrow door-side sized window without obliterating all of the small amount of natural light.

Jeff envisioned lining the walls with shelves, moving in a small desk and chair and setting up the cash register and credit card machines SMC had helped us obtain. Brides, mothers of brides, wedding planners are not solo shoppers. I worried that trying to get more than two people besides Jeff or I into the store would make it seem uninvitingly small.

In addition, we’d have to be ultra selective with our merchandise. To me, that made the tiny spot a big gamble. Reduced variety can only attract a reduced audience, and we hadn’t even established exactly who we thought our narrow-niche customers might be, yet.

I was impressed with the balloon and rental decor business our enthusiastic friends had set up. The other business owners/space renters seemed nice. Price wise, it fit our budget. The location was pretty good and would give our store-to-be a Tecumseh address. We spent a good amount of time speaking with the owner, asking if we could perhaps incorporate the entrance hallway into the room as part of the shop.

She was agreeable to that, but did not want us to use a side entrance to the building as our main in. I thought that was reasonable and a good business decision. It would give anyone looking for us an idea of what else was there, and us a chance to catch the attention of customers who didn’t arrive already planning to visit our gift shop.

While Jeff and the others were still talking, I slipped back to re-evaluate the room. Something about it reminded me of something I’d seen before. Another business in a microscopic space that managed to be jam-packed full of specifically themed merchandise.

I was still contemplating that as Jeff and I, our friends and the owner made our way into the parking lot.

What happened next was what Jeff would later refer to as a “menu moment.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 26 creativity is ability to change jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links: 

Small Shops: Design Ideas

Small Business: Weird Ideas

Inventory: Big Ideas

 

 

Canned

Our salsa garden lead to lots of salsa and experimentation. Skow’s organic farm in Adrian was a frequent stop. We’d pick up extra tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and whatever else looked good. Jeff’s frequent visits lead to a friendship, because, well … Jeff!

At least once a week I’d head over there with Jeff. We’d pick fresh produce and Jeff would make “Summer Slop.” For sure not the most appetizing name, but it was wonderful. It began with bacon or kielbasa and continued with the addition of zucchini, onions, tomatoes, garlic, green beans, peppers hot and not, eggplant, spinach, corn – whatever was available was included in the pot. Fresh grated parmesan topped our plated mounds of delish. 

Frequency and the friendliness became the basis of many long nights of culinary weirdness. Near the end of the day, Jeff would swing by the farm and he and Mr. Skow would come to an agreement about the leftovers.

Once it was a plethora of green beans which took us about 6 hours to clean and snap. The fruit of our work resulted in the most amazing canned goods which lined that self-assembled cabinet in the laundry room. There were 10 quarts of beautiful Italian bean, and 6 quarts of experimental green beans spiced with Hungarian peppers and dill. Jeff made up that recipe on the spot. They were fantastic and fantastically addictive. I playfully created labels for both types of green beans and cheekily dubbed his creation “Pick-a-Dilly Beans.”

My New Yorkers, East Coasters, Tennesseans and perhaps even a few Michiganders are probably giggling about the incongruous picture of city-me this creates, but that was nothin’ really.

We canned stewed tomatoes, crushed Italian spiced tomatoes, tomato juice, carrots and salsa. But, by far the most memorable to us and our Adrian neighbors is the time Jeff and I shucked over 80 ears of corn in our driveway, mostly in the dark.  I arrived home after work early evening and discovered I was unable to pull in. Rows of bins, and Jeff in a lawn chair blocked my way. He explained he thought he’d be done by the time I got there, but had apparently misjudged the amount of end-of-the-day corn he’d bargained for.

I changed my out of my work clothes and joined him and before we knew it, it was dark. Streetlights popped on and I ran into to turn on the inside office lights on that side of the house hoping it would cast a bit more light. With my hand on the un-flipped light switch, I naturally glanced outside. It was a messy scene, and I figured when we were done, we were going to have a heck of a lot of clean up.

Even with his back to me, arms pulling and ripping, tossing first-stage cleaned ears into bins, I could tell Jeff was truly happy. It was quite a picture, and one I’d wish I thought to take. But, the memory and my grinning chuckle remain.  

PS – we were out there ‘til midnight, rinsing with the garden hose and hauling full storage bins of corn inside. The next morning, I wandered into the kitchen to find Miss Fred crouched on top of a pile, feasting on an ear of corn. She was a weird little cat, but then again, who were we to judge? 😉

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 19 There is no better way to love than to learn jakorte 

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Can It: Preserving

Jarring: All About Them

All Recipes: Galore

 

Infomercial Intrigue

Jeff and I shared the desire to own our own business. Since we both had jobs, we often talked about what we’d like to do, together, someday. And since Jeff was up late at night a lot, he was the one who saw the Tom Bosely, Specialty Merchandise Corporation infomercial. He told me about it in the morning on our way to work. That evening we crammed into our tiny office in the Tecumseh townhouse, fired up the computer and read everything there was to read on the SMC website.

We started off with a standard website and sent out a dozen business inquiries. We thought we should start small. We received one response from a tattoo shop in Tecumseh, set up a meeting and sold a few things. We sent out another dozen, but nothing came of those.

Jeff came up with another idea, though. Jeff used to sell trading cards at expos and we both loved flea markets, so we decided to try those route. The hardest thing about retail is trying to gauge what buyers want. We set out to see what was missing from the local weekend markets, and decided it was garden décor and birdhouses. I also included some of my fabric flower pins, just to see what would happen.

We did well enough our first show to earn back our table fee and recoup half of our purchase money. It didn’t come close to breaking even for us, especially with the program buy-in fee. I took the catalogues into work and made a few sales that way. What was left was taken to another flea. That’s where we learned (which we should have already known) that the same buyers go many places to see what is different. Of course, we should have known that, because that’s why we went to many places, as well.

After spring and summer, comes winter and no markets. We had quite a bit of stock left, and our enthusiasm for dragging around merchandise, setting up and tearing down displays every weekend kinda fizzled. It came up in conversation one day with friends who had a retail space in a mall that currently had some open spaces available.

“What good would a store be?” I asked Jeff. “You can’t just have a store open on weekends…”

“Well, why not? Sure ya can.” He replied, quickly adding, “Let’s just go look…”

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 05 Ive learned a lot from infomercials jakorte

How to flea market: Flea Market Facts

Flea Markets Today: A Little More Sophisticated

Pure Michigan: MI Flea Market Map

 

Leaps and Bounding

Sadie continue to tall-up. She was adorable and sweet and fun, just different. Maybe not so smart, but sometimes smarter than us. We solved the litter-box raids by putting up a baby gate at the door to the laundry room. For the first few days, she’d do a double-take whenever she passed it.

A few days later Sadie seemed to realize what she was missing. She’d stop and sit, stare longingly into the laundry room for a few seconds, huff and then hoof it. She was also obsessed with the red ball.

She really loved that cheap dollar-store firm foam orb. As far as toys go, Sadie never touched the kong. Squeaky toys were instantly dismantled; pieces strewn about were discarded. Somehow, she always managed to hide the squeaker part somewhere obscure. We’d look for them, but never once found one. There’d suddenly be a squeeze frenzy days later. Many times, while one of us was on the phone and often after we’d been asleep for a bit.

Jeff discovered he could keep her entertained longer by sending her on longer indoor fetches. He had perfected a double bounce that would propel the ball into the dining room. He achieved that by launching the ball toward the right wall of the hallway, where it angle-bounced to the left wall. From there it flew it into the dining room and if Jeff and Sadie were lucky, the ball would deflect off a chair and travel toward the living room.

That worked well until the day Sadie bounded after her red ball as it bounced off the hall wall into the laundry room. I watched in fascinated dread as it seemed she would easily clear our brilliant barrier. Sadie flew after it, naturally jumping right over our stop-gap.

“Sadie! No!” I cried out. But my sudden loud outburst hadn’t slowed her down at all. When she didn’t reappear, I slammed the recliner footrest down, stumbling away from a startled Jeff.  He hadn’t quite processed what was going on, partly because he couldn’t see around the corner and mostly because I hadn’t filled him in.

“Oh, no! No, no, no no no!” I wailed in dismay. By the time I arrived at the entry door, Sadie was snout deep in Miss Fred’s refuse.

Jeff was halfway out of his chair with alarm, yelling back, “What? What?”

Sadie smiled happily at me, picked up her ball, took a running start and just as easily re-cleared the gate on her way back to Jeff.

“You bounced the ball into the laundry!” I huffed. “She jumped the gate and got into the litter again.”

“Oh, that’s no big deal,” Jeff poo-poo’ed me. “That’s what dogs do.”

“Just now!” I emphasized. “Right before she picked up that … that ball with her POTTY mouth and gave it to you.”

Jeff looked down at his hand. “Arrrgghhhh!” His situational assessment was shortly followed by “EEWWWWWWW!” and a forceful arm catapult as the ball went whizzing by my head.

Quote for the week:

2017 08 22 The fancier the plan, the more can jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Fancy Doggie: Gates

Patent Baby: Gate

Safety: Gates

In Decision

The medications weren’t really helping, so his doctors decided to try alternative measures. TENS units, TED hose and PT were added to Jeff’s mix. None were working as well as hoped. When a sleep study proved he had alarming apnea, an oxygen concentrator and a PAP machine arrived in our home.

After our dog excursion, Jeff mentioned the puppies a few times. I shook my head each time. I thought we had enough troubles.

More than two weeks had passed and I couldn’t get the pups off my mind. Jeff was bored and lonely and, according to his doctors, beginning to show signs of depression.

As far as I could tell, Jeff was still Jeff. Still, I began thinking maybe a dog wasn’t such a bad idea. It’d keep him busy, provide companionship.  I was a little worried about what a puppy would put Miss Fred through, but then again, it was a big house. Freddie wasn’t fazed by much. She wasn’t a constant attention grabber or a snuggler. With the exception of drive-by leg-bumping, she wouldn’t get that close. She’d sit near you – maybe close enough for a pet, maybe not, and definitely not often. 

On my way out the door to work each morning, I left Jeff his daily list of to-do tasks jointly devised as a way to keep him occupied and helpful. We’d talk about it the night before and hand note what was needed on a pre-printed form I created. On Thursday night we wrote: make a grocery list, make dinner, wash bedding. Friday morning, finally in decision mode, I added an extra line item: call to see if any puppies are left. 

Within hours, he found out there were only two puppies left. On our weekend way back to the farm, Jeff of the Big Heart said, “You know… I’ve been thinking… maybe we should take them both, because they’re the last ones, and then one wouldn’t have to be lonely.”

I said, “I’m not even sure about one. I don’t think two is a good idea.”

“Well, how will I decide?” he asked. “You’ll just have to,” was my answer.

There was no commotion in the kennel, this time. Inside the barn, two babies slept peacefully in a hay-lined, low-sided wooden crib. Jeff lifted one in each hand, and set them both down both in the morning sun. While their tiny eyes adjusted into squints, I decided I’d try the ‘Kelsey’ test and plopped myself down on the ground to see what would happen. The next thing I know, I was playfully attacked by a little black and white streak. He ran around me in circles, jumping in and out of my lap and zealously yapping. Continually, and quite normal for a Jack.

The other simply one laid down near Jeff’s feet. The yapper bumped into her a few times, so Jeff picked her up to get her out of the way.

“Is she sick? Could she be contagious?” I asked, comparing her docile demeanor to her energetic brother. “I don’t think so,” Jeff answered. Because I was me, I adamantly encouraged him to ask. Because he was Jeff, he handed her off to me and set out for the house.

Quote for the Week:

2017 08 01 Comparing apples to apples isn_t always fair judgement jakorte 07 31 2017

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Apple: Facts

Apples: Applause

Puppy Diseases: To Watch For