Cards, Stacked

There were obviously more cards from Jeff, but those were the ones I kept.

There were obviously cards going the other way, too – from me to Jeff.  Two at a time. Always, one funny and one serious.

When it came time to move out of our home, I pared down. I waded through our shared stacks. I discarded most of the me-to-him. My thought process was that he would never be reading them again, so there was no point in keeping them. However, I found two of them in the card box, amongst the him-to-me.

For our first anniversary, I handmade the serious one. It was just one simple sheet of plain red cardstock, plainly folded in half. The only embellishment added was a left-over gold foil, double-heart seal we’d used on our wedding invitations.

I wanted the message to stand on its own. The outside read, “I meant it when I said….” On the inside, I’d re-printed the vocal vows I made to Jeff on our wedding day.

I do not know which anniversary the second card was for. We only celebrated four of those, so it was either the second or the third or the fourth. Store-bought, it reminds me of the snowman card; same subject. Another way to answer to Jeff’s rote retort, “I don’t know why.”

The last two cards I saved from Jeff were life lessons for me. The subjects aren’t all that happy.

The first one came from an incident where I was once again harping about his health and bad habits and chewing tobacco. Jeff stood on one side of the bed; I was on the other side. “You must not love me very much,” I’d snarked.  “I’m trying,” he mumbled back. I shouted, “Stop TRYING and just do it!”

” I’M … TRYING…” he snapped back at ramped up volume. Stomping his feet and throwing his arms wide for exclamation, his eyes filled with frustration and failure.

That look broke my heart. He wasn’t a failure. He was just unfairly up against some highly stacked odds.  I knew no matter how much I nagged, Jeff quiting the killing tobacco wasn’t going to make him ‘get better.’

I just couldn’t understand why he’d choose to exacerbate and accelerate with vile chew. Hindsight, I know now it wouldn’t have mattered. We’d have argued a lot less if I’d realized that, then.

“Come sit with me,” I said. We sat on our bed, and held onto each other. “I don’t want you to die,” I whispered. “You wouldn’t be so lucky,” he teased, with quiet laugh. “I’m gonna live ’til I’m 80. You’ll see – I’m gonna be a grumpy ol’ man, just like my Dad.”

As unusual as it was for Jeff to have the last word in an argument, that was the end of that. He’d emphatically expressed he was trying, so I backed-off and let it drop.

Three days later, he handed me a card.

Quote for the Week:

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you jakorte

That time when someone said it better; perfectly.

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you slide 2 jakorte 01 28 2019

 

 

Carded

Remember how I’ve mentioned, more than a few times, the key to a good relationship is notes?

I mean, love notes, silly notes, random unexpected notes.

We both loved notes: handwritten, typed, sticky, email, text, added to a homemade or store-bought card. On a scrap of paper, a bank deposit slip – in any way or shape or form. A few words, a smiley face; maybe just a heart. Little reminders that we were part of a wonderful “We.”

I have a lot of “first” cards. First card ever. First Valentine’s Day.

My first birthday. A card Jeff gave to me the first time I shared his birthday with him.

First Valentine’s Day and birthday as “Wife.”

All these little sweet and silly stories hold a wealth of history and such huge feelings.

Quote for the Week: (contributed by my editor. ;-))

“Even though post-it notes are removable and can be moved from place to place, somehow, the post-it notes written by loved ones stick forever.”

2019 01 22 carded 3 jakorte2019 01 22 carded 2 jakorte

2019 01 22 carded 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

Cookie Season

I like cookies. I’d say I love them, but that wouldn’t be fair to cake. Especially, since cookies actually fall third to my super love: donuts!

Oh, who am I kidding? Unless it’s got a walnut or pineapple in it, I’ll eat any cookie that comes my way. It’s Cookie Season, now. I’m plumping up a bit, but that’s what New Year’s resolutions are made of.

Cookies weren’t really varied in my youth. Standard homemade choices were chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal. All crispy, all crunchy, all of the time.

With the exception of rarely made and ridiculously rigid sugar cookies, holiday cookies were softer. Concocted of a cream cheese enriched dough; featuring some sort of jelly, preserves or fruit butter. The same ingredients, just presented differently, depending on the celebration.

I had no complaints as a kid, but Jeff taught me about other confections. My contented hard-cookie horizon expanded to a galaxy of undiscovered soft and chewy treasures.

Jeff made marvelously moist Oatmeal Raisin cookies, often. I once (and only once) requested the addition of chocolate chips. He stared at me in confusion for a beat, then simply stated, “There’s not supposed to be chocolate chips in ’em.”

He didn’t understand rather involved Rugelach, but he made them for me, anyway. Minus walnuts, plus my chocolate chips. As far as I’m concerned, he invented the stunning combination: chocolate & unseeded-raspberry rolls of delight.

I’d never heard of a Crinkle Cookie, until Jeff made them for Christmas. They looked so pretty on a tray: gently sloping, round mounds of contrasting dark dough and a bright white, crack-emphasizing topping.

“Try one,” Jeff encouraged.

“What do they taste like?” I wanted to know.

“Like a chocolate cookie,” he answered matter-of-factly. “Try one.”

Death by Chocolate can be a very real thing. That pastry almost killed me.

Quote for the Week:2018 12 18 What's normal for one is novel for another jakorte

Cookies brought to you by J, T, V & Me.

It’s good to know folks who make cookies. Those who makes cookies are usually good folks!

 

Bystanding; Beside You

Little moments change us every day.

Mostly, we hardly notice; adjusting with a four-second, second-thought: next time I’ll…

It’s the tremendous moments that throw us. Moments so life altering, we clutch our chest, gasping it in. Release comes way too slowly; a barely audible woosh, because there are no words and there never will be.

Just as misleading as “A Year of Memories,” losses pile on.

a daughter, a father and husband, a brother, a mother and friend. pls, a closed head injury, stage 4 lymphoma, melanoma, and some sort of vague, obviously understated, emergency surgery I still don’t know enough about.

This is your year of firsts.

The first day, the first week, the first month. The first winter, spring, summer and fall. The first birthday, the first holiday, the first missed ritual. The first of many commonly ordinary, unspecial wishing days.

It’s ok. It marks time. It gives us a measured outline, a flowing structure. 

It’s ok to have an honest day;  especially, an honest holiday. 

Holes lives leave cannot be filled, cannot be fixed, and are not meant to be, anyway.

They’re yours – to have or to hold or to heal.

I just want you to know: you’re not alone.

I’m walking beside you, because, that’s what love leads to.

Quote for the Week:

2018 12 04 It's ok to have an honest day 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