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

to dance, without music

Once I assured myself Jeff’s mask situation was secure, I headed to the other end of our house. Out of courtesy. I doubt my husband would have woken up if I’d exercised my option to use our en suite. Since he was solidly sleeping, I didn’t want to take the chance.

By the end of August 2019, with the help of Jeff’s Salsapalooza plan, our still relatively tiny store (although, comparatively, a mansion to our minuscule starter-store) had broken even YTD. We were unbelievably ecstatic knowing we’d be heading into the holiday season in great shape.

Yes, we’d have to work hard to keep the momentum going. Hopefully, we’d need to keep purchasing stock. The final quarter of 2006 could be significantly profitable, fuel the future of our business and solidify our dream.

With any luck, MHSC could conceivably close out non-red in just our third year.

Of course, we weren’t planning on letting it be a luck thing. We’d never leave it up to that. It would be a face-to-face, phone-to-phone, email-to-email, direct mailbox mail, somewhat prehistoric print, semi-regular radio, and weekly BNI thing.

That same year, we’d also created a postcard mailing advert for Jeff’s next fantastic idea – Sauce of the Month Club. We simultaneously debuted the program in our web-store.

When the very first participant signed up and purchased the plan on-line, it was a banner day.

Jeff was hilariously giddy, grinning from ear to ear. I was right there with him because he waited until I got home to tell me.

“You’re the first person I’m telling this to,” Jeff started out of the office, as I came in the front door. Opening his arms wide, he declared. “I wanted to celebrate this with just us.”

Without knowing what we were celebrating, I jumped in for a hug. Once he had me in his arms, Jeff began to dance. I followed his lead, without any music, while he explained.

I smiled up at my love, as we took waltzing steps. Without any music, I got to thinking. Jeff took one look at my face and figured out I was contemplating.

“Now, now, now,” he admonished, with over-dramatic fake seriousness. “Don’t worry about any of this,” he confidently continued, clasping our hands over his heart. “I already talked to the guy and it’s a present for his Dad.”

“We made a list of stuff he’d like!” he beamed. “And, get this… he might even get his Dad to come in with him to get it each month. So, we might not need to do any mailing!”

Quote for the Week: 2019 08 27 to dance without music jakorte

Not Napping Music, Not

The same evening, between other commercials, I addressed the schedule for our up-coming weekend plans.

We were closely booked, which would require a bit of running. Over the past few weeks, we’d canceled a few social outings.

Among those, one was an overdue family visit. One was a much anticipated ‘meet the baby’ date. We’d previously discussed rescheduling the baby outing for Saturday evening or Sunday after church. When I asked Jeff if he’d been able to arrange it, he said he’d been thinking about that.

“Maybe, Saturday at lunch time, would be better,” he hemmed.

“We can’t, tomorrow.” I answered, quickly, shortly.

Jeff’s brow furrowed.

“We’re going to Lansing, tomorrow.” I reminded him.

“Well, huh.” Jeff scrunched his lips to the side, and puffed out one cheek. “Maybe, we can reschedule that for when I’m feelin’ better?”

“We’ve already canceled, twice.” I pointed out. “We can’t to cancel, again. Besides, the store is already covered for tomorrow.”

It wasn’t always easy to find someone willing to tend shop by themselves for an entire day. We’d already cancelled our scheduled helper’s shift, once, too.

“Mmm… maybe, you can go without me, this once…?”

“Absolutely not!” I popped back. “I’m not going without you.”

I missed my cousin’s wedding in Georgia, because Jeff simply couldn’t make the trip. The advice I received from a non-family member was that he was a big-boy and he could take care of himself for a weekend. I stood my ground that time, too, and refused.

I was terrified enough; always wondering each weekday, if that day would be the day. I can’t even imagine what would have become of me, if I had left Jeff for a weekend, and Jeff had left me forever that weekend.

I badgered my continued opinion. “You can sleep in the car on the way up, and back. It’s what you’d be doing at home, anyway.”

Jeff sat there, lips pressed, two cheeks puffed out.

I’m not even sure he was trying to come up with an argument, but in case he was, I enticed and cajoled. “You can pick the music.” I stated, with unarguable finality, “even if you’re gonna sleep through it all.”

That got a smile. “AC/DC, it is!” Jeff crowed.

“You realize, that’s not really napping music.” I conveyed; fair point.

“Yeaaahhhh,” he wheezed on purpose, followed by a sinister Mutly laugh.

“Maybe, I’ll bring Kid Rock, too. I can sleep through anythin’ and one of us has gotta stay awake for the drive!”

Quote for the Week: 2019 07 23 your people will understand if you can’t make jakorte

 

more usual than un-

As Jeff requested, we went straight home. Didn’t stop to eat on a Friday night, which was unusual, for us.

I cooked that night. Nothing unusual. Just my usual, my-turn-to-cook, spaghetti and meat sauce. Quick, easy, and yummy;  only because Jeff had taught me how to doctor up the jarred stuff. Fresh garlic and onions, sautéed with the meat, and finished with generous handfuls of fresh grated parmesan, made all the difference.

Jeff ducked into the shower, while I was prepping. He announced that he had sweat enough for a whole week that day, and needed some freshenin’ up. He was in there a little longer than I thought he would be. I considered checking on him, but he appeared, just then, in fine spirits.

“What can I do?” he asked, brightly.

“You can go sit down and relax,” I said. “Dinner’s almost done.”

“Supper,” he jokingly corrected me.

It was our usual, silly corny routine. The result of early dating differences, and trying to convince each other what the proper name for our evening meal should be. A lot like the next Saturday/this Saturday debate. After a few, important, miss-communications, we’d decided it was best to always supply a numeric date, when discussing the future.

Happily headed to the den, Jeff parked himself in his chair, legs elevated, as usual. I was stirring the cooked pasta into the sauce, when the phone rang. The one-sided part of the conversation I could hear, was Jeff laughing and saying, “Oh, hi. Yes, I’m fine. Feelin’ great now. Must be…. ’cause I even got my appetite back. Just waitin’ on the wife to serve me up some supper!”

I playfully arched an eyebrow at him through the pass-thru. “Oh, I’ve done it now,” he laughed, said his goodbye, and hung up.

The check-in was from the owner of the business who had taken our original 10’x10′ spot at the mall. They hadn’t been open all that long. I’d only, recently, met him and his wife.

But, Jeff, as usual, had encouraged them, and advised them, and in the course of the day when there were few customers, extracted most everything there was to know about his new friend.

“Wow.” I thought on that for a second. “That was really nice.”

“Yeah,” Jeff nodded. “That was real nice…”

I delivered Jeff’s serving, along with his usual big glass of white milk. On my way back to the kitchen, I stopped before rounding the short, separating wall.

“So, you must have really scared him, too. Huh?”

“Nah. I didn’t scare him,” he negated. “She did that!”

Quote for the Week:2019 06 25 only caring can create jakorte

 

 

 

to a kid –

I almost believed him.

“Oooooo – k.” I took my time stretching it out.

“If you’re sure…” I added, in an identifiably skeptic tone. The one Jeff had come to recognize as my ‘that might not be the best way to handle this‘ voice.

“Actually,” he hedged. “Mmm. Maybe, you should pick me up.”

                                                                         ∼

The thing was, until I was picked up for the ride home, I’d forgotten that my other end-of-the-line back-up driver wasn’t with me.

I decided to stop at the store on the way home, to see for myself. When I got there, he was sleeping. He woke up immediately, but was mildly disoriented for a few moments.

I couldn’t take him in the commuter van – that was an unauthorized no-no, which could have disbanded the van pool.

I considered parking the van at the store and driving the Buick home. But, we had a visiting trip planned for Saturday, and wouldn’t be able to pick-it up until Sunday.

The thought of leaving it in the parking lot made me nervous. If anything happened to the van while it was parked there, I’d be responsible.

I asked Jeff to call around, and see if someone could meet me at home in Adrian, and then drive me back to Tecumseh., so I could turn around drive him home. That wasn’t easy, either. After a lot of attempts, Jeff finally found someone.

There ended up being some sort of confusion; some sort of delay. Jeff announced he’d just drive himself home. He didn’t want to put anybody out.

I put the ka-bosh on that, attempting to entice him with the promise of stopping anywhere he wanted to for dinner on the way home. He said he’d wait, but he wasn’t really hungry.

My whole trip from the store to home, and back to the store, took about an hour. By the time I got back there, Jeff was feeling better, and feeling badly, that he’d cause so much concern.

Our rescuer was a sweet, new-ish driver, whom Jeff had been giving cooking lessons to, and who happily referred to him as ‘Uncle Jeff.’

I gotta tell you; this. It never ceased to amaze me how kids gravitated to him, and how strong those bonds became. Little people didn’t look up and see a huge, hairy scary giant. They instinctively recognized him as a big, loveable kid. There wasn’t a single one who was afraid of him.

In fact, there was one little boy, we were about to meet who had developmental problems. We’d been told he was terrified of new people, and had been known to throw himself on the floor in tantrum when faced with an unfamiliar situation. We’d been warned, it probably wouldn’t go well.

We were prepared for that. Actually, I was prepared for that. Jeff wasn’t prone to pre-conceived notions. He’d just step into any situation, and wait and see how it’d go.

What I wasn’t prepared for was for the little guy to walk right up to Jeff, shake his hand, and say, “Hello.” It was truly special.

And, a profound moment for me. I didn’t suddenly learn something new about my husband. There was no Godly beam of light or angels chorusing, but my heart swelled, as if there were.

I know some of those kids still remember him, because they still talk about him. About all the silly, outrageous, playful things he did. About his patience and the knowledge he loved to share.

As I’ve told you before, he was kinda unforgettable. Even more so, to a kid.

Quote for the Week: 2019 06 18 Its normal to reconcile the world in relationship jakorte

 

More Brewing

More Friday, September 29, 2006.

So, back to this particular day. Over unrushed, non-churdled coffee, I asked how Jeff was feeling. He told me he must be getting better, because he felt pretty good. He was less tired than he had been for the last few weeks.

We had a quick conversation about maybe buying a cappuccino/espresso maker and a popcorn machine for the store. His targets, he’d explained, were the massage and hair salon clientele. He figured there was usually a person or two waiting, and the smells would be tempting. Plus, it’d make the whole place a little better on those extra hot summer days when the wind drifted in, confirming evidence of the adjacent farm.

“And…” he preened. “I already looked and they’re not that expensive.”

It was a creative and very cute idea. I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought; I saw issues. I brought up food licensing guidelines. Jeff immediately responded that we already had our food handler certification. I pointed out that preparing food to serve as opposed to just opening a jar of salsa and handing someone a cracker wasn’t on the same level.

I tasked Jeff with finding out if there was even piping for water available for our store. My optimist said that wouldn’t be a problem. If there wasn’t, we could just increase our water delivery for brewing. I countered; how would we clean up or clean our equipment?

“We can use the salon sink. I already talked to the owner, and she likes the idea of coffees.” Jeff offered, smiling proudly. He’d done some leg-work on this.

“With the hair dyes and bleaches?” I questioned. “I have a feeling that would be a bad idea, even if somehow it was approved by the licensers.”

Jeff tugged his ear, reasoning aloud. “Well, there’s always the bathroom sink.” I asked him to check on that, too.

I told Jeff I thought it was a great idea, but we had to see if it was workable.

Getting up to leave, I had another question for him. “Do you even know how to use one of those machines?”

“Nope.” He replied, with confidence. “But, we can always learn it at home, first.” That typical Jeff answer made me giggle.

With a quick kiss, we mutually advised each other to ‘have a good day.’ Then, I was out the door.

Quote for the Week: 2019 06 04 when asked if capable jakorte

Thursday, By Appointment

In the beginning, we’d established Michigan Hot Sauce Club hours based on stock deliveries and peak times the mall was busiest. Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Thursday was the day devoted to store-keeping. Parked in the fire-engine red and glittered, padded vinyl office chair behind the display counter, Jeff would scan new items into the register. Then, price label the goods, and find appropriate alphabetical space for each.

Not long in, we determined Thursday wasn’t going to be a big sale day. We downgraded to Thursday afternoon. Pretty quickly, realizing weekday sales were still rare, we decided to advertise, “Friday, Saturday, and Thursday by Appointment.”

I’d put the fear in him that check-ins were required, twice a day, or I’d freak out. That came about in response to a few incidents. One, notably, the time a physical therapist showed up for a home visit, and it appeared Jeff wasn’t home. After ringing the doorbell, knocking on the front and side doors, and phoning him, she called me.

She’d already looked in the front window and the office window. I asked her to please go around the side and peer into the den window by his chair. Thankfully, she did, reporting that she had knocked on the window and he hadn’t moved.

I begged her to, please, knock harder – as hard as she could. I told her I didn’t care if the siding was damaged or if the windowpane cracked. She whomped a few heavy-handed hits. That did the trick. Jeff’d been deep-sleep reclining in just his underwear.

Later, told me how embarrassed he was. I was more concerned that he’d missed the doorbell, the knocking and the phone ringing. I told him that he’d given me a panic attack. From here out, I demanded he always have his phone on the loudest setting possible, and that he keep it with him, at all times.

“Even in the bathroom?” Jeff joked, good-naturedly, rolling his eyes when I answered with an emphatic, “Yes!” I, also suggested, he should always be wearing pants or shorts. At all times. Especially, when he had appointments.

Thursday, September 29, 2006.

I worriedly called Jeff on my break at work. It was almost 10:00 am, and I hadn’t heard from him, yet.

It took me two, long-ringing tries to get him on the phone. When he answered, I immediately asked him, “Where were you?” “Morning constitution!” he quipped.  He told me he wasn’t “feelin’ too great,” and asked if I thought it would be ok if he took the new stuff down to the store on Friday.

I didn’t see a problem with that. We hadn’t had a Thursday sale in quite some time, and Friday mornings weren’t setting our profits on fire, either.

Jeff did end up bringing the boxes down that day, after lunch. He said he’d just had to force himself to “get on the giddy-up.”

Quote for the Week:2019 04 16 Adjustment is the key to almost everything jakorte