The Year You Did Not Crack.

 

This is for You. For everyone.

For those in my real social life, and those who are just as real in my social media life.

For those who may have entered my orbit yet remain unknown.

For those I do know who occasionally irk me, this one’s for you, too.

 

Turn the camera on yourself, right now. Take a selfie no one else will ever see.

 

Then, consider this:

2020 is going to go down as The Year You Did Not Crack.

 

There’ve been a lot of attitude adjustments. Mostly for the better.

But some of you have faced multiple moments of: I’m too old for this. I don’t have to put up with that. I’m done for good – and for my own good.

Even as you solidly define your new limits, I’m still hearing apologetic self-belittlement for taking a stand, narrated as shame: “I cracked.”

No. No, you did not. You did not crack.

You un-cracked.

You filled fissures that have been worn deep for years with self-saving cement; not to harden yourself, but to protect yourself.

You’ve broken down who you are and decided not to be broken, anymore. You stunted the cracks.

Bravo.

Think about that. How kind you’ve been to yourself. How you’ve decided you love yourself instead of focusing on those who don’t.

Filling your voids has made you stronger. On behalf of every soul in your universe, I thank you.

This gift of self-favor has freed you. The most precious part? Affording others your priceless presence when your strength is needed to shore them.

Smoothing over the surface doesn’t mean you are hiding anything.

It means you have layered purposeful protective boundaries. Swathed the hurt in pristine swatches of emotionally sterile gauze. Taped down so hard, the underneath can’t help but heal from the inside out.

The process never needed to be pretty, you just thought it did. Blisters heal ugly, and you probably call them so. But, knowing you the way I do, I think they’re absolutely gorgeous.

 

Choose your poison – doesn’t matter to me which way you say it. Just say it aloud.

Alone, if you are. Or, alone, if it makes you feel better.

“2020 is going down as The Year I Did Not Crack.”

“2020 is going down as The (explicatives can be empowering) Year I Did Not Crack.”

 

Turn the camera back on. Take another selfie.

Do you see the difference? Believe what you see.

No apologies needed; none accepted.

Now, show the world what you got.

 

Quote for the Week: 2020 05 12 Stop thinking soon ill be free jakorte

Song for the Week: Fall Out Boy, Save Rock And Roll.

You are what you love

Not who loves you

Arranged Around

 

When my brother and sister-in-law arrived, it was confusing and surreal. They lived an hour and a half away. We hadn’t talked about them coming. They’d just seen Jeff the day before, yet, there they were, and I was grateful.

I don’t know what the inside situation looked like to them. (I’ve never thought to ask.) We went outside to get some air and talk and my brother asked questions I hadn’t even thought about. Did I know which funeral parlor? When was the funeral planning meeting? Who was writing the obituary?

I don’t know how or whom I got that information from, how the arrangements were made or by whom. I don’t even know who told my brother – it might have been me and it might have been the next day or the day after. It must have been Jeff’s dad, Roger, who had to do the arranging. I still vacillate between thankfulness and guilt for the protection.

Everything was arranged more quickly than I expected, which seems silly because I didn’t actually know what to expect. I wasn’t part of the planning for Sally or Nannee’s funerals. My father did not have a funeral – his choice. So, I had no idea how any of that happened, either.

The mandatory autopsy added a day.  Mandatory, because he was under 45 and died at home. Part of that investigative thing.

The medical examiner called me directly with the results. Nothing nefarious was found. The final determination was cardio-myopathy; not unusual in diabetics, and genetically-predisposed persons.

Par for the course of Jeff’s life, the call took an unusually common turn. I listened as the examiner offered personal condolences. He told me, he’d known my husband. As a previous pediatric patient, and fondly described him as a very sweet boy.

I came across this gem on Instagram. For anyone who’s looking, glitterandgrief is a lovely place to land.

Screenshot_20200108-175252_Instagram

I do wish social media had been more advanced than it was in 2006. There are so many grief-related groups out there for encouragement and support.

There were a few, back then. Specialized clusters of military support, specific sites for the loss of children, and for parents who now found themselves single. In straight-up widow groups, the relative ages of me versus them seemed an enormous gap. Of course, there are countless circles for young widows, now. Only, I’ve aged out of that group now, too.

Quote for the Week: 2020 01 14 Protection is always gift, except when it jakorte

 

My Favorite, Noel.

I decorate for Christmas.  

Some years, not a single soul sees it. Some years, maybe one or two or three tops.

But, that’s because I travel, and it really doesn’t matter. I do it for me.

I refrained for many years. I could only see painful reminders. I suppose if there was such a thing, I’d say my grief has matured.

One year, I decided I’d at least try. I went through the box and struggled through each memory. Then, I went to World Market and Target and Meijer and struggled through buying new non-traditional décor in fuschia pink and winter blue and brilliant 80’s lime-ish green.

I couldn’t bring myself to put up the unique partial tree that Jeff and I had marveled over. Imagine a fake three-foot fir in a wicker basket – neatly sliced in verticle half to allow for wall hanging.

We used it in the townhouse, much to Miss Fred’s annoyance. She’d sit near the wall and balefully mewl. I suspect she was either trying to convince the tree to come down and play or she believed her caterwauling would spur us into action and bring all the shiny things down to her level.

It seems every year, I’ve managed to find the baby-steps, bits and pieces strength to add another sentimental piece. At least that’s what my lighted, miniature, fake burlap sack ensconced pine tree is telling me.

These are a few of my favorite things:

The purple and gold swirl paint bulb Jeff made.

The beaded snowman pin that Jeff also made

A tiny box with a big message from my mother-in-law, Sally

The tree topper is a handmade ornament from Nannee Vincze

The paper folded pinecone is a purchase I made at a craft show from a couple who reminded me so much of us.

The glass chili pepper is part of a set of six I bought for Jeff the Christmas after our store opened.

The Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh were a beautifully authentic biblical present to myself, and to others one year.

The Hershey kiss angel, by my best guesstimate, is somewhere between 20-25 years old – the result of a crafting episode with my sister-in-law.

The illuminated pine bottle was a gift this year from a friend who likes to call me ‘sis’.

The miniature Hannukah lamp was a gift from my mother that year we took her to Bronner’s. That is a story unto itself.

The nativity was my first, acquired the same year I purchased my condo.

The tatted cross is a gift that is a story unto itself, as well. A heritage heirloom I was astonished and honored to receive from a family that wasn’t mine to start with, but now completely is.

The Christmas Loon comes from the same family. No one has ever able to explain why, and the only thing I’ve found on the internet is a reference to the Loon being the state bird of Minnesota.

And I have no idea where the super shiny sparkly pine cone came from or how it landed in my Christmas storage tote, but… I like it.

All of this sits on the top of my living room hutch. There’s a lot of love crammed onto the four-foot-long top, which is conveniently completely Blu proof. He’s got jumping issues.

Happy Christmas from me. Repeating an adored adopted phrase, I’m the one who wants you to know – God loves you, and so do I. Noel.

Picture for the Week: 2019 12 24 Merry Christmas Noel jakorte

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

Stealth & Pink Purses

Jeff’s father’s side step-family is tremendous, based on the size of my family. It only took me a few events to remember all of the children’s names. The names of the seven plus parents and all of their spouses calling out to them, took me a little longer. What a bunch of wonderful, fun and funny people.

Not a white-elephant or a Yankee-swap since we’re in Michigan, this group’s Christmas gifting tradition included a set budget, and an indication on the gender of the intended recipient or not.  Order picking was determined by drawing of numbers, and some rules designed to make the exchange only an hour or two long. The free range made for lots of laughter and gift stealing.

My second year of participation, I was a nervous wreck. Jeff had solely taken care of my first, but gave me the duty of picking out a women’s gift the following year. We went shopping together, of course. I don’t remember what he purchased, but I decided on an adorable pink purse. I was terrified no one would like it, no one would want it, and it would become the unintentional joke gift of the year.

I promised, myself I would watch carefully and if the hands it ended up showed any reluctance, I would make a point to steal it back. By the time the gathering came around, I had pretty much convinced myself it wasn’t a good fit for the exchange, even though I loved it. I fully expected to be going home with the pink purse. I did have it in my hands for one round, but it was stolen away from me! I ended up with some beautiful Christmas towels. We didn’t own any fancy guest towels. It was a good fit for us.

But, still, I wished I’d ended up with that purse, because, truly, it was just that cute. On the way home, Jeff commented that the purse had been well-received. “I know,” I said. “I kinda wish it hadn’t. I got sorta attached to it.”

Jeff chuckled, shook his head a little and gave me that “you’re adorable,  but crazy” look.

A few weeks later, I was unwrapping Jeff’s Christmas gift for me. I truly expected some sort of cute chicken/rooster thing. I was amazed and astounded when I parted tissue paper to find a pink purse! No, it wasn’t the same as the one that went to a good home. It was actually more awesome and I absolutely loved it.

Of course, it came with a story. Jeff had managed to run through JC Penney on his way home from work. He’d had to wait until we weren’t together to do it. He spent quite a bit of time searching the accessories section and was about to give up when he saw one on display. He related how he’d stealthily slipped the purse off of the mannequin’s arm and then run (briskly walked) across the entire store to pay for it.

He thought if he spent too much time, was later getting home that I thought he would be, I’d probably worry and ask him where he’d been. He didn’t want to have to tell me. “You’re impossible to surprise,” Jeff pointed out, mid-story. “You’re always looking at statements!”

He said felt weird carrying it. So, to make sure it was clear that it was not his personal purse and that he had no intention of stealing it, he held it at arm’s length stuck straight out in front of him, moving as quickly as possible. Jeff reached down and picked up my newly unwrapped purse to demonstrate his technique.

My big burly, bearded guy in his work uniform, duck boots along with a plaid jacket, big M ball cap and suspenders; swaggering and trying not to swing a pink purse.

That image crinkles the corners of my eyes and makes me giggle every time.  Sometimes silently; sometimes aloud.

I wore out that purse. Used it every day for years. Finally had to let it go due to serious non-repairable deterioration. I suppose I could have kept it for some crafty reason, but at the time I had no idea I would miss it or the man.

It still ranks up there as one of my all-time favorites gifts, and has given me yet another, more-laughing-than-crying story to share.

God Bless.

Quote for the Week:

2016-12-20-stealth-purse-jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Purses: Ew, that’s gross

Purses:  sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t

Purses:  J Geils Band, First I Look at the Purse

 

Abandon Intentions

Intentions. I always have them. They’re my “but…” sort of clause to everything.

They’re my “I meant,’” “I should;” my excuse for misuse, of term and promise.

I forgot my drop at PF Changs. Lunch was interesting and fabulous, grouped and longer than planned, and I completely forgot to bring my abandonment with me. I adjusted disappointment with the rationale that I would have had to wait until the restroom was empty, which wouldn’t have been likely with the full house of diners.

My next intended target was the pet store. After considering the melee likelihood of right-before-Christmas work and shopping traffic, I never even tried. I thought I’d come up with a better idea, anyway.

Christmas Eve Day at the Chiropractor, someone would find my starry pin. I was leaning toward the bathroom again, but this bathroom is just a one-person, regular door lock bathroom; there’s be no in-out traffic. I excitedly placed it prominently on top of the paper towel dispenser, and took a picture for posterity. I immediately reconsidered for perceived cleanliness concerns, wondering if I would pick up a “gift” in a restroom. I might, but I also didn’t want it to be found while I was still there. I tagged my pin, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out where it came from. That would be embarrassing.

I re-pocketed my prize. Even though I hadn’t used it, I ceremoniously flushed the toilet. I figured it might seem assumedly gross to anyone who had watched me go in, or would see me come out, if that sound was missing. Then, I washed my hands, because I’d touched the toilet handle.

There was no chance for hallway stealth, either. Every chair was unusually filled with Christmas Eve day drop-ins. At the risk of causing concerns for my health, I would revisit the restroom on my way out, reclaim my drop spot, and be done with it. No one passed by on their way to the exit while I was waiting for a room to open, but a staff member pointed to a doorway and told me I could go in. The occupied sign was flipped, but it wasn’t really empty. As a patient was still gathering her belongings, I saw another, easier, possibility!

I would simply leave my abandonment in the table-room after my adjustment. It would be much more appealing to find a random present there than any random lavatory. I’ll be a little slow putting on my coat. I’ll hesitate a moment, and when left alone, quickly set it on a waiting chair, and stealthily slip out. I couldn’t help but wonder which one of the waiters would be gifted. They all looked like pleasant people, albeit in a bit of pain. Glancing over my shoulder gave me a glimpse of whom it would be traveling home with, and a satisfied internal glow. It was done! Abandoned, to surely be found, and I was happy.

With one hand on the exit door, seconds away from complete and true success, wishing all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I was flagged down.

A cheerful staff member stood waving a recognizable little packet in my direction. “Is this yours?” she asked, adding, “It was on a chair in the room you were in.”

I felt my jaw drop and managed to mumble, “It was supposed to be there.” “Was it a gift for the Doctor?” she asked. “No,” I replied dejectedly, “No.” I probably should have brought one as a gift for her, or at least a holiday card, or something. “It was supposed to be there,” I explained again without much conviction, followed by the compelling need to explain the details of these supposedly anonymous random art drops, which mine was no longer.

“Should I give it back to the lady who found it?” she asked. “Yes,” I said, “unless she doesn’t want it, then feel free to keep it, or pass it on, or whatever….”

And that was that. I don’t know if the finder kept it, or if someone else might have loved it. It might come up at my next adjustment appointment, but I hope not. I wish I’d thought fast enough to respond differently. Perhaps, if I had said, “Yes,” I could have reclaimed it, re-headed for the restroom and re-ended the abandonment fiasco in exactly the same spot it had begun twenty-five minutes earlier.

Instead, I abandoned the situation, thinking what I’ve been thinking about every little thing since my early October luck-slide began. Every attempt to attempt anything in a reasonable way in a reasonable amount of time has been met with the Universe’s loudest protest, to which I have repeatedly shouted back, “Really?! It shouldn’t be this hard!!”

Lessons for me: Good intentions can be miresome, and even happy-ending stealth can make you feel guilty of something.

I’ve been scrolling for “mail call” two weeks now. The find hasn’t been reported. I know for a fact it was found, so I’m a little bogged down by the disappointment that comes from a craving for gratification. I’ve since learned that it’s not cool to tag items for recognition, or, for that matter, pumping for sales.

I’m sure I’ll do it, again, hopefully more anonymously. Hoping it will become easier with knowledge and repeat, because “intention” should never be followed by “was.”

Quote for the Week:

My intention is best followed by is 01 05 2015

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

 

Links:

Buddhist Solutions – How To Give Without Return:  (watch until at least 20:00)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Krhmz-dau0s

Paulo Coehlo – Give Love, Seek No Reward:

http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2011/12/08/give-love-and-seek-no-reward/

Not Only at Christmas:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/acts-of-kindness