Tah Dah! (and other love notes)

We weren’t lighting the world, the state or even the city up, but the Michigan Hot Sauce Club was our baby. If we sold one or two of something, we’d order one or two more, plus a new product or two until we’d reach free shipping status. Jeff had long and real conversations with our suppliers. I came across many of them while going through his email after he passed away.

I also have a good number of interesting and humorous exchanges between us. At first, I held onto them accidentally. Clearing out email wasn’t even something I’d ever considered doing, for which I am thankful. I’ve held onto them for a long time, now, considering most of them are 12-15 years old. I haven’t shared them before, but now seems like a good time.  So, keeping in mind we were married in 2001, went through deaths of multiple family members and Jeff’s health was failing, here comes a small sampling of some of the best support we offered each other.

05/06/2004 Re; hello?

Me: I love you!

Jeff: wooo hooo!!!! can ya see me do the snoopy dance? ? ? you love me!!! and I love you!!!

05/10/2004 Re: ok… so…

Me: I love you more than the never-ending blue sky that is always around when you are. kisses. me.

Jeff: I think you just made my day … my week… my month… my life… I love youuuuuuuu

09/16/2004 Re: Christmas cards

Me: We have blank card stock, so we need envelopes, but here is my idea [for MHSC]…. Happy Jala-Days!

Jeff: sometimes I think I would like to crawl inside your head, just to see how you think up all your great ideas.

01/05/2005

Jeff: I can’t remember if I told you that I loved you this morning… so just to make sure…. I LOVE YOU! Jeff

01/19/2005 Re: American Idol

Jeff: Well shoot. We missed American Idol last night. But I really enjoyed snuggling up together and reading last night. I love you. Bubba

02/09/2005 Re: nothing but trouble

Jeff: You are the GREATEST wife in the world. I don’t know what I would be doing without you. Probably be locked in the basement at Gary & Mom’s is my guess. I’m so glad you came into my life. I hate it when I get short and grumpy at you. I feel like such a heel when I let myself do that. I think for Lent I will give up arguing with you. Oh, did I tell you lately that I love you? Well, just in case I haven’t…. I LOVE YOUUUUU!! If I could get up on the roof of OUR house, I would shout it from the rooftops for all to know and hear! Will you be my Valentine??

03/07/2005

Jeff: We can get schmaltz from the mustard guy

07/01/2005

Me: Almost quitting time. Looking forward to our long weekend! Do you know when the fireworks start?

Jeff: I’m hoping tonight when you get home. 😉

02/14/2006

Jeff: Gappy Valentine’s Day! oxoxox. I LOVE YOU!! TAH DAH! (He was missing a front tooth.)

06/27/2006

Jeff: it’s raining cats & dogs. I just stepped in a poodle!

08/31/2006

Jeff: I LOVE YOU!! TAH DAH!

09/22/2006

Jeff: Seasonings Affective Disorder = the need 2 kick things up a notch when they taste fine the way they are.

Quote for the Week:

2018 04 10 the secret to any good relationship sticky notes jakorte 04 10 2018

I Wish You Could Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Link:

Unfortunately, I’ve spent about an hour and a half searching for the source of our “Tah Dah!” It came from a TV program Jeff and I watched one night featuring a humorous inspirational blonde woman speaker; I believe from Australia. Her two key phrases and matching gestures were “Get Over It!” and “Tah Dah!”

Tah Dah.

Many Times Over

On the verge of a migraine, day 2.

I’ve been more than tempted to just say, “Not this week…”  Staring off into space thinking about where we’ll go next, my blurred vision focused on a book shelf. Clearing on a black binding, I suddenly realized the season.

I drew it from its spot, wedged firmly between other versions of the same book in different formats and different languages. Flipping open the cover, I remembered why I had this treasure. The volume that caught my attention, didn’t originally belong to me. It does now, by default.

I’ll stress this up front. My love gave me gifts. The gift of acceptance, the gift of care; gifts of hope and light that meant a lot to me then, but even more to me now. The greatest of all these – love – has always been there, remains and endures.

I reiterate these truths from a season past:

I don’t want to own false grief.

I’m not happy about losing Jeff. I’m not angry, either.

I’m not questioning, “Why?” I know why, and I’m thankful.

I don’t want to own false hope.

I want to have faith that where I am headed will someday make sense to me, and maybe to some others.

I don’t want to own the responsibility of false vision, knowing all that lies ahead.

I want to affirm that life’s adventure is a gift, gladly opening each day as such.

I don’t want to own a false sense of security.

I want to believe with my whole soul that, as paths change, they will continue to be clearly marked in my rear-view mirror – under the direction of the only GPS necessary: God’s Positioning System.

 Ephesians 2:6: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (NIV)

 I do believe. I do believe I’ve been gifted. I do believe I’ve been gifted, many times over.

Quote for the Week:

2018 03 27 the greatest of gifts became even greater jakorte

 

Take a Right

Before we were married, before we lived together, Jeff and I attended a work Christmas party together.

He’d had a few drinks and was tuckered out from dancing, so I offered to drive his truck home. He gave me some initial directions and then sat back for the ride. When, I’d reached the end of the first leg, I asked for the next set of directions. I had to wake him up, but he answered quite coherently. I followed his advice until I sort of knew where I was. As we neared Roger’s Highway, I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss his mom’s house, so I asked for guidance, again.

He was momentarily confused when I woke him up for that. But, after assessing our surroundings, told me to turn left onto Roger’s. I already knew that. “How far I should go?” I asked. Jeff said he’d let me know.

When it seemed I’d be driving longer than I expected, I looked over to see that he was asleep, again. So, I nudged him awake, again.

“Oh,” he said. “Where are we?” I read him the street sign we were passing. “Ok,” he said. “Take the next right.” So, I did. Another minute went by and nothing looked familiar, so I asked. “Jeff, where do I go next.”

“Oh,” he said. “Take the next right.”  I drove along on a dark country road for another few minutes. When I came to a set of railroad tracks, I had a feeling something had gone wrong. I came to a stop, pulled on his sleeve, and said, “Jeff, I don’t think this is right…”

Suddenly, he sat up straighter in his seat, turned to me and in all seriousness asked, “Where are we?!”

“What do you mean ‘Where are we?! I’ve been following your directions!”

“Oh,” he said. “I was sleeping!” I was startled into silence, while Jeff craned his neck around to try and get his bearings.

“Well, I’m not sure…” he started. Interrupted by clanging bells, flashing lights and the lowering of the railroad gate, he seemed even more stunned. “You must have missed mom’s,” he mused. I reminded him I’d been following his directions. Jeff reminded me that he’d been asleep.

“Are you awake now?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m awake now,” he affirmed, gesturing grandly toward the train rumbling by us.

“That’s great,” I nodded. Shivering and lost, I told Jeff to get out of the truck and change seats with me. “But… we’re almost home!,” he countered. Halfway out of the driver’s door, I half-laughed and full-on snorted “uh, huh.… and you’re going to stay awake and get us there!”

Another time, on the way back from a casino run to Mt. Pleasant, late at night, almost early in the morning, I was once again the designated driver. This time Jeff hadn’t had anything to drink, but he was super sleepy. So, I took the reins and drove the three of us back to my apartment. With Jeff in the passenger seat and my out-of-town friend in the back seat, we’d been on the nearly empty highway for about 30 minutes. She and I were keeping each other awake and talking and laughing, when suddenly Jeff flung his arm across in front of me, pointed and screamed, “Deer!!!!”

I, immediately, (unfamiliar with recommended and unrecommended deer avoidance actions) slammed on the brakes. My friend found her front half and one wildly waving arm over the center console, accidentally jabbing Jeff as she tumbled. In full-on panic, Jeff grabbed for the dash board. His head shot toward me as he bellowed, “Huh? What? Whoa! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

“What do you mean ‘What am I doing?’” I shouted back. “You said there was a deer!”

“I didn’t see any deer!” he yelled. “I WAS SLEEPING!”

“You pointed at it!” My friend and I almost simultaneously shouted back.

Jeff never truly believed that I had been following his direction to his mom’s house. I’m not sure he believed me about the deer, either. At least this time, I had a witness. A slightly bruised, but very gracious witness. She and I still laugh about that. 

Quote for the Week: 

2018 03 20 some memories anchor jakorte

 

The Second and Third

The second call came, which kinda surprised me. The etiquette of my polite confusion and unacknowledged lack of proper knowledge couldn’t have been that encouraging.

But, Jeff took the second call while I was on my way home from work. He said he’d had a nice chat, which I took to mean, he’d  been able to talk to the church member just as easily as he could talk anybody, else.

He mentioned United Methodist was the church he had sort of grown-up in and been definitely been confirmed in. I wasn’t aware that Jeff had been through confirmation. I nodded, unaware of my limited understanding – my assumption: Jeff’s religious upbringing had been culturally similar to mine. Parents led you to do what you what they felt you were supposed to do when you were young, and then let the back-up years slide by the wayside.

After the third call (his second), Jeff said we’d been invited, again, and he’d like to go to church. “Ok,” I replied.  “When did you want to go?”

“Sunday,” he answered. “I know ‘Sunday'” I replied a little sarcastically, “…but which Sunday?”

“Next Sunday.” “You mean, like, in two days ‘Sunday’?” I questioned, mostly because I’d expected him to say something vaguer, like, “Oh, sometime soon.”

Jeff misinterpreted my surprise as reluctance.

Ever accommodating, he hesitated after saying, “Well, you don’t have to go with me…” Then, breathed out earnestly, “But… I’d like you, too.”

“Of course, I’ll go with you,” I rushed. Because, in that instant, my love for him realized two things. Jeff rarely longed for anything, and I never wanted him to have to be or to feel alone, in anything. 

Quote for the Week:

2018 01 30 not everyone takes a sharp river turn jakorte

 

 

The Cornbread Lesson

There’s an obvious family trait passed down from Nannee to Sally and then to Jeff, and Eric and Nicole – having a purpose was and is important to each of them. I don’t know that it’s ever been acknowledged, but the way I’ve seen it, that purpose was always to be sure everyone was treated as if they were the most important person in the world, and to do everything in their power not to be a burden to anyone else.

Jeff and I talked it over and knew Nannee was independent enough, and that she’d be stubborn enough, to not accept our permanent hospitality. We didn’t kidnap her, we just kindly informed her she would be coming to stay with us for a weekend… or so.

The first time Nannee stayed with us was only for a day or so. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit but had to get home to attend to her laundry.

The next time was 2 full days and we brought her laundry with her. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit, but had to get home for her mail.

The third time, Nannee said she had the flu, and welcomed a little more extended stay. She lasted an entire week, and by the end of her visit, she was up and about, doing our laundry and helping cook dinner.

I arrived home about an hour later than normal one Friday night after another long week of 9 ½ hour days and 2 ½ hour vanpool commuter roundtrips to find that they hadn’t waited for me for supper. I was overly tired, unreasonably disappointed and very hungry. There’s a common name for that now: hangry.

They were watching TV, Nannee on the couch and Jeff in his chair, when he called out to me from the den, “There’s chili on the stove and corn muffins on the counter!”

I walked into the kitchen, took a look at the counter and yelled, “What the hell, Jeff?!?!”

“What?” he asked in that hurt and hesitant voice I wish I hadn’t induced many times and wish I could forget now, as well.  “What the hell did you do this muffin pan?” I raged.  “There’re gouge marks in every cup!”

When I peered through the pass-thru, Nannee was looking concerned. Jeff’s eyes were huge. He was shortly shaking his head and doing an abbreviated version of the hand-jive, which dramatically finished with the universal finger across the neck sign for “Stop!” I immediately assimilated what that meant, burst into tears and ran into our bedroom.

When I didn’t come back out, Jeff came in after me. “She was just trying to help out,” he said. “She really wanted to do something nice for us.” When I just kept crying, Jeff continued, “She’s feeling pretty good. We had a fun time cooking together.” I felt like a heel and told him so. “It’s alright,” he said. “It’s not!” I wailed. “Give me a minute and I will come apologize.”

By the time I got myself together and changed my clothes, Nannee had decided to go to bed. I felt even worse about that. “It’s ok,” Jeff said. “She understands. I told her you were sorry and she said that she’s glad you feel like you’re able to be yourself around her.”

Saturday morning, Nannee decided it was time to go home, again. “It’s the weekend,” she reasoned. “You should be able to relax and spend some time together without me here.”

I apologized profusely. If I had known she’d been the one to ruin the pan or even if Jeff had been responsible, I had no right speaking to either of them that way. They’d made me dinner and I behaved poorly.

Nannee just pshaw’d me. “Life has bumps,” she said. “.. ‘t doesn’t make the love any less.”

In this case, it made the love even more.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 23 life has bumps jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Why We Say It: Hangriness

Don’t Say It: Biblically Speaking

Eat This: Cornbread

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