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

 

The Way the Crinkle Crumbles

Back to the Crinkles:

The first issue, was that I proceeded to try and puncture the cookie with the toothy strength needed to break through our family tradition of over-caramelized undersides and dry snappy hardness.

As a result, I overly chomped right through the softness and took a mini-chunk out of the inside of my bottom lip. Reflexively, I attempted to shout like hurt people do, “Oh, ow!” Instead, on the inhale, I vacuumed some of the powdery topping (which, being unfamiliar with Crinkles, I didn’t realize was powdered) into my mouth and throat and very upper bronchials.

I spewed forth a spattering cloud of exhaled wheezing, followed by immediate tears; continuing with a deep barking coughing spell that seemed like it was never going to end. Jeff handed me a cup of presumably water, which turned out to be milk. Not fond of straight-up milk, I unhappily expectorated it before it got too far. Jeff’s eyes bugged wide, eyebrows rising toward his hairline in astonishment.

He grabbed a kitchen chair, rolled it over to me and pressed down on my shoulders until I was seated. Firmly patting me on the back, his face mere inches from mine, Jeff alarmedly asked if I was ok. I shook my head ‘no’ at first, but eventually, croaked out that I thought I would be. “Ok.” Jeff bobbed his head, clearing his face of concern. With my hands in his, hope in his eyes, and an adorable earnestness, Jeff took a deep breath, then asked, “So, how’d ya like it?”

He never did make me an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie, but believe me: the ones he made were surely enough. Snickerdoodles and Sour Cream cookies. Buttery Sugar Cookies and melt-in-your-mouth Spritz.

Soft Peanut Butter and rich Scotchies. Potato Chip cookies and Billy Goats. Almond Crescents and Thumbprints. Perfectly spiced Gingerbread, both, soft rounds and firm, but not tooth-breaking, rolled.

Anise Stars, which, without fail, he would purposefully mispronounce, then laugh out loud at his own  joke. No-Bakes, which I firmly argued against calling a cookie.

Later on, and only for us, Jeff spiced cookies with various degrees of heat. Habanero shortbread; dark-chocolate cake-based cayenne. Spicy icing and mini-cheesecakes flavored with an awesome heated line of dessert hot sauces called Toad Sweat. 

Oh, and what turned out to be one of my favorites – Crinkles. I would safely lick most of the sugar off of the pretty tops, before delicately biting to ensure injury-free enjoyment.

Quote for the Week:

2018 12 25 For good measure, the proper ratio of sugar and spice jakorte

Smokin’ Sweet

Jeff would probably be unhappy that I am sharing these photos.

He adamantly wanted to be cremated, no open casket. “So, no one will have to carry my lard-a**,” he insisted. And, because he didn’t want people to remember him that way.

But, for those of us who loved him, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to get stuck on that. We’re going to be too enraptured by his normal, larger than life joy.

And for those of you who didn’t know him, I hope you might start to feel like you did. 

There are a couple things worth pointing out.

1. He’s got hot sauce everywhere!

2. Some of those spots left slight burn marks on him.

3. That’s his Dad, Roger, in the background. 

4.  Dale Jr. Budweiser hat, MHSC embroidered logo shirt, half-wrapped legs, socks with sandals, and pukka shell choker which he would argue was definitely not a “necklace.’

5. Bottles of varying Scoville. Only a few I can make out: Michigan Hot Sauce Club, Ass-Kickin’, Bee Sting, El Yucateco, and one hot sauce bottle with an eyedropper – most likely Blair’s Reserve or Dave’s Ultimate Insanity – waivers required.

6. A craft table, a tasting table, and the flatbed, still attached to the truck. I still have an awesome handmade raised-potting bed, which I keep full of artificial plants, including a pretty realistic hot pepper pot.

The hard work Jeff put in was impressive.  Even as far back as my initial hesitation, my heart and gut were already swaying me. Not specifically knowing what lay ahead, I somehow chose the path of no-regret.

Following Jeff, I did my best to run behind him and jump ahead of him; proud of his accomplishment and thrilled that most of my worrying was for naught. 

The end result was a jump-up in community awareness and an amazing increase in sales. The financial risk paid off. By the end of August 2006, in just our third operational year, we had broken even  – for the year. Before the holiday season had begun!

The success was smokin’ sweet. We did it, but couldn’t have without  huge amounts of help from friends and family, Tecumseh and Adrian small business owners, and BNI members. Most importantly, we did it together. 

2018 11 13 salsapalooza event

 

It Happened.

When I finally realized it could happen, within our budget, within our time frame. I got to work.

I created flyers, postcards, judging guidelines, tasting labels and signs, decorated donation jars. I made sure we had my emergency event supply kit, as well as a first aid kit. I organized the program and timing of contests. We made many trips to the local dollar store for supplies and décor.

We recruited family and friends to work. The weather cooperated; the vendors showed up. Two of Jeff’s friends came from Ohio with one of those humungous dancing windsocks, and set that up. (There’s a story about these two, I also have to tell.)

When it was time for our live interview, Jeff came and found me. Carting two folding chairs, he walked me over to the outdoor radio set-up. He looked around, and snapped his fingers. Lifting one in the air, Jeff observed another seat would be needed, but first. he had to go check on something.

He wandered away as quickly as a wanderer can, and never came back. So, that’s how I ended up at the tech board, fielding questions about things I wasn’t 100% sure about and providing information, alone.

I didn’t really mind, and had no trouble doing it by myself, but when I asked Jeff what had kept him away, he sheepishly admitted he just hadn’t liked how he’d sounded when we’d recorded a small pre-spot at the radio station studio.

For as loud and happy as Jeff was, he shied away from spotlights. He loved parties, and loved planning. He just preferred to be one of the crowd; in among the people, where the action was.

The hot sauce eating contest began with only a handful of participants. That number dropped pretty quickly. Three rounds in, there were only two. The guy who became the second-place winner finally quit when his tears started to burn his cheeks. He walked away with $25.00. The first-place winner ridiculously took another spoonful hit as a ‘Victory Lap,” and then announced she was off to spend her $50.00 prize at El Chalupin (aka The Grasshopper) in Adrian for a Mexican dinner.

Jeff and pretty much everyone spectating, were astonished by that. I didn’t think it’d be worth it for anyone to go as far as they did. Chili-heads are a fierce, feisty and fun-loving bunch, devoted to fiery foods. The fiery food vendor and selling community were the most enthusiastic folks I’ve ever done business with. Jeff fit right in.

Many of our vendors were just as dedicated, just as friendly. I have many stories to share about them. That’ll be coming up.

Thought for the Week:

2018 11 20 Share your enthusiasm cultivate and curate jakorte