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

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

 

 

Good Measure

When I picture our couples decision-making conversations, I realize I did a lot of pulling.

Carpet Outlet Plus was just down the road from our new home. We’d first gone in to look at possibly replacing the blood red carpet. Realizing it wasn’t going to be immediately affordable, Jeff was still convinced I’d grow out of my dislike.

Jeff got sidetracked in the carpet-tile section by an enter-to-win opportunity. He never missed an opportunity to enter a raffle.  If there was a box to put your name in, he’d put his name in. “You can’t win if you don’t enter,” he’d say. He’d also happily field the predictable sales calls that usually followed.

We wandered around a little on the way out just to be sure we hadn’t missed something, and we had. A small section of the warehouse displayed a few all assembly required Sauder line samples.

I had been thinking maybe a book shelf or two would solve the laundry room’s no-cabinets dilemma. There weren’t any book cases, but there was an armoire that seemed even better because it had doors to hide the supplies behind. We knew it would be a discount flooring warehouse with

Picturing it, I immediately had my heart set on a white one. Jeff preferred the wood faux-finish. Of course, there were only light and dark wooden finishes in the size I thought would fit. “It just looks nicer,” he said, politely trying to sway me. “Oh,” I responded, bluntly. “I think the fake stuff looks cheap.” “Oh.” he said. “Hmmm.”

Around the next bend there was a much larger, white double cabinet.  “Hey, look! It’s white!” Jeff smiled, assuring me that it would fit where it needed to fit. I didn’t think so. I argued that it would stick out too far into the doorway and crowd the space. We realized we’d have to go home to measure.

On the way out, my chicken radar activated. My swiveling eyes locked on a chicken clock. It was a rather large, regular round clock with a chicken feed motif, metal movements and an antique finish. It was $52 dollars, though, which was about half the cost of the large cabinet.  We considered that, then, left empty-handed with a “maybe someday” agreement.

Off we went to Lowe’s. They didn’t have what we wanted, either. But, as long as we were there, we went in search of lampshades for the bedside lamps that came along with the bedroom suite. It’s funny now that we didn’t know we’d need to know what size shade we needed. We didn’t have a clue, so we gave up shopping, went home and measured for both items.

The following week, Jeff received a call from the carpet store, informing him that he had the won the weekly drawing. The prize was a gift certificate. We took our measurements with us and came to the conclusion that the larger cabinet would fit nicely, giving us more storage space.

As we were completing the sale at the cashier desk, I pointed out to Jeff that the chicken clock was no longer where it had been.  “The chicken clock?” the woman behind the desk asked. “Yes,” I said. “It was hanging in that space right behind you.”

“Oh,” she pointed. “You mean that chicken clock over there? That’s the last one and it’s been marked down.”  Jeff asked me if I wanted it. I replied, “I don’t know…” “Well, how much is it?” he asked. It was $28 dollars.

Jeff nodded his head and told the lady we’d take it. “We will?” I squeaked. “Yeah.” He went on to  adamantly explain, “We were gonna buy a cabinet anyway, so we’ll just use the gift certificate for it. It’s like a little bonus!”

We stood in the parking lot a moment shaking and scratching our heads. Somehow, we stuffed the flat-boxed armoire and the chicken clock into the Neon, and headed home.

Quote for the Week:

2017 03 14 lucky enough to enter jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Furniture:  Good Measure

Carpet :  Good Measure

Carpet Outlet Plus:  A Very Good Measure

 

 

Furnished, Part 1

For two people in their mid-thirties, neither Jeff nor I had a lot of anything.

I had my first-ever moving sale when I left temporarily Tennessee. It took three trips back and forth from Michigan, stuffing my Volkswagen Golf to the gills with books, and music and chickens. Not live ones; paraphernalia.

My first Michigan apartment furnishings were either free, flea or followed me. Free is self-explanatory. Flea is a bit of a poetic reference to garage sales, flea markets and second-hand stores. Only two items followed me from Tennessee.

I moved a hand-made wooden rocking chair purchased at a yard sale, and a coverta-table. Also hand-made and wooden, the table top swiveled up easily converting it into a chair. There was also a nifty little storage area in the bench for linens.

Both chairs had hand-carved and wood-burned sheaves of wheat. I didn’t think about that detail much back then. All I knew was I like the motif, had purchased them at separate times, and they sort of matched. A year later, in Michigan, I found a close-out entertaiment center with sheaves of wheat to match. I briefly acknowledged that with a fleeting thought of “Hm, what a coincidence.”

Among my early Michigan acquisitions were a second-hand orange and brown plaid couch and a second-hand matching orange velvet chair that were stashed in an empty office where I worked. A wood coffee table that needed some balancing help and an old used-to-be-white dresser and mirror came next.

I painted the dresser a yellowish-white to match the yellowed laminate top, then added a few burnt orange accents. I happily accepted a compliment when the previous owner exclaimed, “If I’d known it could look like that, I might not have given it away.”

I purchased an old wood-boxed TV that must have weighed about 100 pounds. Trying to corner roll that into my new apartment building, lead to meeting the neighbor who would later introduce me to online dating.

I also acquired an old copper dry sink, an old three-tiered wooden sewing basket, and a beautiful piece of stained glass art.

Of all those first run belongings, only three remain. The dry sink sits just inside the door of my current home. It’s where I set my work bag down when I get home, and where I pick it up from in the morning.

The sewing box serves a dual purpose as an end table in the living room. The stained glass rainbow hangs over the bureau in my bedroom.

I guess you could say I don’t hang on to much furniture.

Quote for the Week:

2017-02-14-you-cant-take-it-with-you-when-you-move-jakorte

 

 

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Why DO We: Keep It

What To Do With: Sentimental Pieces

On the Other Hand: Minimalize

 

The String Thing, 2

So, about the string thing….

There was this woman with a worthy JLo booty, and she changed my life. I know that sounds dramatic, but that one little piece of information made a big impact.

The infomercial shot cut away from the widely demographic group of this-is-for-everybody dancers back to the spokesperson. She offered an explanation followed by a demonstration on how to imagine a string coming from the top of your head.

The idea was to make sure you were holding your head in alignment with your body.  I stood up and tried it, and felt a difference. She also talked about the importance of working stomach muscles, again demonstrating some moves.

I didn’t buy the CD-set. Money was still questionable after closing the store and losing Jeff’s portion of our income. I kept thinking about it, though. Walking with the string thing gave me a different point of view. I tended to look down for sure footing. The string thing kept tugging my head back up.

I tried the string thing on the treadmill, and realized I was nowhere near balanced. It made the walk so much harder, I had to walk slower. Even setting myself back to 30 minutes, I would sweat rivulets. I used some of the dance moves in an awkward self-devised cool down, once I was back on the den floor.

A few steadier months in, I was bored and decided to spice up my life by executing those moves on the moving treadmill. I could do it, and I loved it! I would dance myself up and down the length, in perfect posture while belting out off-tune tunes. For variety , some nights I’d switch on the TV, usually already on the International Music Channel. The timing was such that I most often ran into a portion of the Bollywood hour on IMF. I have no idea how to properly belly-dance.Miss Fred probably thought I looked like a loon, but the dancing I was doing felt good.

Before I moved to Ann Arbor, I routinely treadmill danced 45 minutes to an hour almost every night. The result was 118 pounds lost and confidence in my movements gained.

The move, not being allowed to use my treadmill in a second floor apartment, changing positions at my job, the 5th anniversary of Jeff’s passing, and two surgeries set me back. One was the removal of my gall bladder, the other was repair of a hernia I gave myself on an elliptical.

I felt I wasn’t getting enough of a core workout, so I tried pedaling in a downhill skier stance. If I hadn’t had the first surgery, it might have been ok, but the weakened stomach muscles gave.

I never recovered my intense treadmill habit. I’d swim in the summer, walk outside in nice weather. I’d struggle to get the workout room, and then give up when it got too cold or snowy or icy or I just didn’t feel like it.

I’ve been battling the same 25 pound regain for 5 years, now. That’s 25 pounds more I have to lose to reach my BMI goal, totaling a 40 pound goal. January 2nd, 2017 I recommitted.  All fired up with an eclectic and eccentric playlist, I’m working my way back to treadmill dancing and more of the story of us.

Quote for the Week:2017-02-07-never-under-estimate-the-power-of-a-good-workout-mix-jakorte

Playlisting:

Pandora

Slacker

Fitness Magazine 100 Best Workout Songs