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

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

 

Common. Quirks.

“Oh, geez,” he protested. “I was just waitin’ for the end of the song.”

He smiled, and waited for me to smile back. I smiled back.

It was one of the crazy quirks we discovered we had in common, on our first date.

We’d pulled into our second restaurant location for dessert and what was supposed to be a good-night, night-cap.

Jeff pulled the handle to get out of the car, then glanced over at me, questioningly.

I hadn’t moved. My hand hovered over the dial. Poised, because, the song on the radio wasn’t at an appropriate end-spot. For my tastes, anyway.

Sheepishly, I explained my compulsion to listen all the way until the end of a tune. Or, at least, wait for a well-timed verse break or chorus completion or the top (or bottom) of an instrumental break, or when the singer took a big breath or something.

Jeff’s concerned expression had quickly morphed into a high-eyebrowed, silly grin. “Me, too!” he endearingly exclaimed.

My expression morphed into a silly grin. I flipped the switch as a comfortable place to end the music arrived, and we exited in sync.

We spent a good 20 minutes or so talking about the best place to stop listening, if you absolutely had to stop listening. If you didn’t have to, we agreed it was best to wait until the song ended. We also both expressed a dislike of DJ’s who liked to talk over carefully crafted ending instrumentals, and confessed to not being able to put a book down until the next chapter; or until the last line of a page had a completed sentence that ended in a period.

Jeff sat down at the kitchen table, while I dispersed groceries. I set a pot of water to boil. Spaghetti was always our back-up when Jeff didn’t feel like cooking. Or, when he took an unplanned afternoon nap that lasted a few hours.

“So,” I asked, after loading the milk Jeff said he’d drink into the fridge. “What was the song?”

“I don’t remember. It was kinda a surprise when I woke up.” Jeff told me.

“Hmm,” I wondered aloud. I asked him what his most recent blood-sugar was. “Oh, that’s ok!” he reported. “It’s only 220!” 220 was a low. Norm was 250-280, fasting.

“Why is it 220?” I asked. “What did you eat today?”

He told me he’d made fried eggs and fried bologna for breakfast, and hadn’t been hungry since.

I continued my inquiry. “Any of your meds change? Have you missed any? Run out of anything?”

He thought about that, while tapping two fingers on the table. “Nope. Got ‘em all picked up last week. Nothin’s changed in a while,” he concluded. “I’m just tired.” He chuckled. “Yep. Guess if I keep fallin’ asleep, I must be tired.”

“Well, maybe you should mention that to the doctor, at your next appointment. Do you have another appointment?”

“Yeah. In a couple weeks.”

“Maybe, you should call before then.” I suggested.

“Yeah.” Jeff agreed. “Maybe, I should call.”

Quote for the Week: 2019 05 07 most relationships begin with quirks jakorte

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

 

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.

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