Racing Heart

Before Jeff, my knowledge of stock car racing could fit in the palm of my hand.  And, that’s only because I’d had my first NASCAR experience at Michigan International Speedway, two weeks prior. Before that, my race knowledge would have fit on my pinky nail – with room to spare.

I was working for a company with a Pepsi connection who’d come up with tickets and pit passes for a Saturday race. I went with a coworker who was super excited, and went on and on about not ever having been in the pits.

Skeptical me wasn’t sure I’d enjoy wandering around garages or watching cars go in circles. It was actually pretty exciting to be so close to the pit boxes and watch the cars squeal in for service. I was blown away. First by the size of the crowd, second by the heat, third by the cars in the pit and lastly by the sheer volume of media present.

After a few hours, I came away with a dusting of sunburn, fine dirt dust everywhere, the smell of hot tar in my nose, hot feet, a little bit of a hearing issue, a lanyard and a hat. The lanyard and the hat went to Jeff on our second weekend. He was my first exposure to the rabidity (in a good way) of die-hard, racing- hearted NASCAR fans.

In Jeff’s case, any potentially obtainable or even absolutely unobtainable NASCAR thing, warranted a wide-eyed, lip-pouting, hand splayed, verbal ooo-intake-of-air exclamation of …. something undefinable, truly. He’d look like a puppy eyeing a brand new ball. , and it always made me laugh. As goofy as he looked each time, I’m sure I looked even goofier always grinning like I’d never seen anything so adorable on a grown man.

Unfortunately, months later, my gifted lanyard resulted in an additional, tacked-on violation, along with a no-belt violation and a reckless driving ticket. All on the same  traffic stop for ‘cutting off’ a state trooper, being unbelted and having my NASCAR lanyard ‘obstruction’ hanging from his rear-view mirror.

When Jeff matter-of-factly informed me I hadn’t “seen nothin’, yet,” he also pretty positively asserted I’d be going with him to the next set of races.

Since he was also nodding at me emphatically, as if it was already a done deal, I shrugged and said, “Sure, I’ll go.”

Quote for the Week:

 

2018 07 03 Speaking from experience sports dont make sense jakorte

 

How to Miss a Wedding (part 3)

Here’s the thing. One person’s prolonged wrong can turn into another person’s wrongs, multiplied.

It was an unpaid ticket for which he’d received multiple notices… at his mom’s address. Sally had been safely tucking them away. She’d given Jeff a few; might have misplaced one or two. Jeff never took them from her while I was there. In any case, he had an inkling. A very strong inkling. Strong enough to make him want to hide his suspended license in my purse.

So, that explained a lot. He’d planned on taking care of it, but had ‘forgotten’ until the flashing lights did not pass us by. But, the extra excuses – 

That he didn’t have the money because I did our banking, and watched it like a hawk…

That he never had a chance because we were always together…

That he didn’t want me to know because I’d be upset … – were the ones that irked me even more.

I don’t know how Jeff talked himself out of being handcuffed and taken in, because that is where the officers told him he was headed. Or why they didn’t take into account his shady evasion tactics. Or even why they believed him when he’d told them I had no idea that he’d shoved his card into my purse. They just gave him a multiple-fine ticket to add to his already outstanding charges and told him to take care of it within three days.

‘Three days’ would mean mid-week. Mid-week would require both of us taking a day off. Jeff argued that I didn’t have to go with him. I countered with the thought it would be a very bad idea for him to drive himself since his license was worthless, at that point.

We emptied our savings of cash, because none of our credit cards would be able to handle the full amount. I didn’t know if they would run multiple cards. I wasn’t going to ask, and we weren’t going to be taking any chances. Jeff suggested we could borrow money from his Mom, if needed. This is where my parental influence kicked in.

It never kicked in on the advice to save money, or plan for the future much, but it somehow stuck with me that borrowing money was the lowest thing you could do. It would show the world your failure and absolutely ruin relationships. I told Jeff that I would never agree to stooping so low, and insisted that nobody really needed to know, anyway.

We’d just have to deal with it like adults. Money was going to be very, very tight for a few months, and I decided we were going to get through this on our own.

Quote for the Week:

2018 06 12 One persons prolonged wrong jakorte

Talk Turkey to Me

The first time Jeff used the turkey fryer, it was awesome. He followed directions,  precisely. No matter he was outside in the snow behind the townhouse and not too far from a neighboring house. It was quick and juicy and we vowed we’d never succumb to long-cooking turkeys again.

The second time, there was a little clean-up disaster as Jeff tried to return the used oil to the plastic jug. Unfortunately, the roiled oil was still too hot, melted the jug and ruined his boots. We were both very glad he was wearing full coverage foot wear and not his usual winter sandals.

The third time involved 2 Jeffs and a plan to cook chicken wings out of the way of the freezing wind, in a garage. For some reason, it took an awfully long time to heat. So, they waited and waited and finally decided to check out the problem by lifting the lid. The result was a flume of combustion that blackened the garage ceiling and singed eyebrows. The temperature gauge had not been in contact with the oil, so it was plenty hot and smokin’. The result was a heavily burned, super hot pot that ended up coming to rest in a big pile of cul-de-sac snow.

The fourth time, breaking in a recently purchased new pot, the turkey didn’t cook all the way through in some spots. Could have been the pot needed to be seasoned first; could have been we bought the lower grade peanut oil at a discount store, rather than the good stuff at Cabela’s.

The fifth time, nearly a year later, we took it along with us to a family gathering. To fry the main course turkey, of course. Apparently, the new pot must have not enjoyed the infield at MIS and/or disliked living in the shed. Because, as oil went in, oil came out, creating another slick situation.

So, off we turkey trotted off to Meijer, returning with a new pot, more oil and an ugly pair of fish slippers Jeff planned on bring to his family’s Christmas exchange. I’m not quite sure which brotherly direction it went, but one of them had either chased Jeff or been chased by Jeff with an actual fish head.

After attempt #5 and negative incident #4, the fryer was unceremoniously and unsadly retired.

Optimistically, we opted for a smoker….

Quote for the Week:

2017 11 14 when frying a turkey for the first time jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Turkey Fryer Fire Song: by William Shatner (video)

Turkey Fryer Safety:  by State Farm (list)

Turkey Fryer Reviews: 2017 Top Picks

Bonus Picture: First Time!

Jeff Turkey Fryer (2)

 

 

Dream-Talk

In the few days before lease signing, we checked to see if there was another hot sauce store anywhere in our vicinity. There wasn’t. That was good.

We needed a license, but first we needed a name. I thought there was an advantage to having a Tecumseh store address and that Tecumseh should part of the name.

Tecumseh Hot Sauce Company and Tecumseh Hot House were contenders, but boring. We tried to find something that rhymed with our last name and made sense with what we would be trying to sell. That didn’t go well. It was impossible.

Jeff suggested Jeff & Jodi’s Joint. I debated whether or not that could be misconstrued for a bar or a head-shop. It also didn’t say anything about what we were trying to sell. For example, The Chocolate Vault in Tecumseh obviously sold chocolate. They sold other stuff too, of course, but at least it was specific enough.

We decided to keep working on the name game, after dinner. Over Jeff’s homemade tomato sauce and pasta, we dream-talked about what would make our store wonderful. A frequent buyer card, taste testing, grand opening mailing list, a good variety of product.

It was also important to get a solid idea of what kind of up-front cash we would need.

In retrospect, I don’t suppose it matters what type of retail space you have, if it’s only 10 x 10.

There are many advantages to limited size: cheap rent, not a lot of room for fixtures, limited stock space, and one person can cover the whole store by themselves. I know some of these don’t seem like good things, but when you have small, your expenses are small.

Sure, only 2-3 other people could fit in there at a time, but that was good for conversation, which Jeff was very good at. Because I’d worked in retail in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York City, I happily declared that this would prevent shop-lifting stock loss.

“But,” Jeff tsk-ed.,“…this… is… Tecumseh…” he finished with obvious hometown pride.

Clearing the table, I pitched another possible store name. “Hey, how about Jeff & Jodi’s Hot Spot?” I proposed. “Boy,” he exclaimed on a burst of laughter, “I don’t think of hot sauce when I hear that …. sounds like you’re talkin’ ’bout your lady parts!”

“Eek!” I giggled. “Fine,” I volleyed back. “How about just Jeff’s Hot Spot, then?”

“Nah,” Jeff said. “I don’t like that. We’re doing this together.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 10 10 where you come from effects how you feel about where you are

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Choosing a Business Name: Don’t

Choosing a Business Name: Do

Choosing a Business Name: Licensing

 

 

 

10 x 10 Gamble

With SMC in our heads and the possibility of a part time store with a bridal theme, we just went ‘to look’ at the open space at Selders’ Mall.

We were excited on the way over, set with our plan and pitch. One area of concern was required non-competition with the other stores. A bridal dress salon, a masseuse, a hair salon, a tax man, tuxedos, a seamstress and rental décor already occupied the mall. Jeff and I had poured through every page of products and were thinking wedding décor, wedding party gifts, table favors would fit in nicely.

We’d been told the space was small, but seeing it in person was a bit surprising. I skeptically surveyed the situation. What it really was, was a 10-foot by 10-foot alcove previously used as bridal gown dressing room, if that helps you imagine it any. There wasn’t a dedicated door, just a rod where a curtain had previously hung, and to be honest it was a bit dingy and very poorly lit.

I swiftly conjured up a list of things we’d need to change. Jeff declared it was a perfect size.

I saw the need for paint, carpet cleaning and a way to cover the one narrow door-side sized window without obliterating all of the small amount of natural light.

Jeff envisioned lining the walls with shelves, moving in a small desk and chair and setting up the cash register and credit card machines SMC had helped us obtain. Brides, mothers of brides, wedding planners are not solo shoppers. I worried that trying to get more than two people besides Jeff or I into the store would make it seem uninvitingly small.

In addition, we’d have to be ultra selective with our merchandise. To me, that made the tiny spot a big gamble. Reduced variety can only attract a reduced audience, and we hadn’t even established exactly who we thought our narrow-niche customers might be, yet.

I was impressed with the balloon and rental decor business our enthusiastic friends had set up. The other business owners/space renters seemed nice. Price wise, it fit our budget. The location was pretty good and would give our store-to-be a Tecumseh address. We spent a good amount of time speaking with the owner, asking if we could perhaps incorporate the entrance hallway into the room as part of the shop.

She was agreeable to that, but did not want us to use a side entrance to the building as our main in. I thought that was reasonable and a good business decision. It would give anyone looking for us an idea of what else was there, and us a chance to catch the attention of customers who didn’t arrive already planning to visit our gift shop.

While Jeff and the others were still talking, I slipped back to re-evaluate the room. Something about it reminded me of something I’d seen before. Another business in a microscopic space that managed to be jam-packed full of specifically themed merchandise.

I was still contemplating that as Jeff and I, our friends and the owner made our way into the parking lot.

What happened next was what Jeff would later refer to as a “menu moment.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 26 creativity is ability to change jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links: 

Small Shops: Design Ideas

Small Business: Weird Ideas

Inventory: Big Ideas

 

 

Pampered Peppers

After Jeff had been off work for a significant length of time, we co-decided he needed something to do. He took to gardening the 4’ x 6’ landing of the staircase leading down to our back yard. This became our first official salsa garden. It was truly amazing how many plants were living on the balcony and hanging off the wooden railing. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and cilantro thrived for a few reasons.

First, was the amount of TLC Jeff gave our greens. Second, was the fact that the planters that hung over the edge were really difficult for critters to get at, especially since they were at the top of a 7-foot stair case. Third, was that the bugs didn’t rise that high, either. Fourth, was our Sadie squirrel deterrent. For a little girl, she had an astonishingly loud voice. We saw quite a few early morning varmits take a startled dive over the edge. Jeff would always check, peering over the railing to be sure that the creatures weren’t hurt. There never was one that was.

The garden was awesome but didn’t really keep him as busy as he’d thought. Even with Sadie to take care of, being our designated chef and chief launderer, Jeff was becoming bored. Too many hours of TV and internet surfing lost their luster, so he wanted to find something that would bring in a little extra income. I supported that, too. Jeff was a people person, and the lack of daily socializing depressed him.

I’d been to a few Pampered Chef parties and I always would end up asking Jeff what he’d like me to get for him, because he was the one who’d be using the gadgets. With the help of his sister, Nicole, a consultant herself, and the input of a male friend who had begun consulting himself, Jeff saw an opportunity. He could share his love of cooking with the guys he knew were also cooks. For those who weren’t, he’d be able to give good recommendations as to which gifts his buddies should buy the women in their lives.

The things I remember most about his trial host party are the many men who came, and the constant hilarity and laughter. So much so that Nicole was forced off track numerous times, and ended up laughing so much herself. I didn’t actually attend the show. I don’t remember what the food demonstrations were, at all. I spent most of my time in the kitchen, staying out of the way.

I think  I remember who amongst Jeff’s friends, former co-workers and family came. But the important part is that I love you all for showing up. I still get teary-eyes about it, too. It did so much for his spirits to have personal connections there with him for a little while.

For Jeff, the term ‘friends’ included family and the term ‘family’ included friends. All of Jeff’s friends were close friends, and his close friends included his cousins and siblings, as well.

For me, the best term I can think of now to describe you all is, tribe.

Quote for the Week: (minor apologies for the awkward physical splicing of 18 year old old-fashioned prints.)

2017 09 11 anything can bloom anywhere you plant it jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Pampered: Chef

Social vs: Lonely

Balcony: Garden

[j1]

Leaps and Bounding

Sadie continue to tall-up. She was adorable and sweet and fun, just different. Maybe not so smart, but sometimes smarter than us. We solved the litter-box raids by putting up a baby gate at the door to the laundry room. For the first few days, she’d do a double-take whenever she passed it.

A few days later Sadie seemed to realize what she was missing. She’d stop and sit, stare longingly into the laundry room for a few seconds, huff and then hoof it. She was also obsessed with the red ball.

She really loved that cheap dollar-store firm foam orb. As far as toys go, Sadie never touched the kong. Squeaky toys were instantly dismantled; pieces strewn about were discarded. Somehow, she always managed to hide the squeaker part somewhere obscure. We’d look for them, but never once found one. There’d suddenly be a squeeze frenzy days later. Many times, while one of us was on the phone and often after we’d been asleep for a bit.

Jeff discovered he could keep her entertained longer by sending her on longer indoor fetches. He had perfected a double bounce that would propel the ball into the dining room. He achieved that by launching the ball toward the right wall of the hallway, where it angle-bounced to the left wall. From there it flew it into the dining room and if Jeff and Sadie were lucky, the ball would deflect off a chair and travel toward the living room.

That worked well until the day Sadie bounded after her red ball as it bounced off the hall wall into the laundry room. I watched in fascinated dread as it seemed she would easily clear our brilliant barrier. Sadie flew after it, naturally jumping right over our stop-gap.

“Sadie! No!” I cried out. But my sudden loud outburst hadn’t slowed her down at all. When she didn’t reappear, I slammed the recliner footrest down, stumbling away from a startled Jeff.  He hadn’t quite processed what was going on, partly because he couldn’t see around the corner and mostly because I hadn’t filled him in.

“Oh, no! No, no, no no no!” I wailed in dismay. By the time I arrived at the entry door, Sadie was snout deep in Miss Fred’s refuse.

Jeff was halfway out of his chair with alarm, yelling back, “What? What?”

Sadie smiled happily at me, picked up her ball, took a running start and just as easily re-cleared the gate on her way back to Jeff.

“You bounced the ball into the laundry!” I huffed. “She jumped the gate and got into the litter again.”

“Oh, that’s no big deal,” Jeff poo-poo’ed me. “That’s what dogs do.”

“Just now!” I emphasized. “Right before she picked up that … that ball with her POTTY mouth and gave it to you.”

Jeff looked down at his hand. “Arrrgghhhh!” His situational assessment was shortly followed by “EEWWWWWWW!” and a forceful arm catapult as the ball went whizzing by my head.

Quote for the week:

2017 08 22 The fancier the plan, the more can jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Fancy Doggie: Gates

Patent Baby: Gate

Safety: Gates