Meeting My Forever Love

When Smooch and I got engaged in 2008, I wrote up our story and displayed it at our Engagement Party. Since it is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share it again.

Carol DeCook, a small town girl from Spring City TN, only child of Judith DeCook (retired school teacher) and Al DeCook (Community College Professor) grew up alongside her three cousins, worked at Watts Bar Resort and enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. She moved to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee where she worked in the restaurant industry to put herself through college. After earning her degree in 1998 and looking at several options, she decided on a career with Suncom Wireless. When asked to drive to Nashville for team training for her new job, she raised an eyebrow and asked if there was another way. (Carol is not much of a driver.)  Her manager Everly said she would make a call…

Curtis Johnston, born in Westwood NJ, middle child of Curt Johnston (owner of Canaan Electric) and Mary Johnston (CFO of Canaan Electric), grew up harassing his older sister Heather and younger brother Joshua. He worked construction alongside his father, before leaving to serve seven years in the US Air Force. After traveling the world, he settled down in Tennessee with his three children, Richard, Kyle and Sarah. He got a job as a mechanic at Firestone where he was recruited to work for SunCom Wireless. Late one evening, he received a call from his good friend Everly. “I need a favor…”

Early the next morning, Carol awoke fifteen minutes before the alarm clock went off. With a song in her heart, she made a pot of coffee, did a load of laundry and wrote out some bills. To make the best impression on her new coworker, she allowed 20 minutes for her 6 minute drive. She skipped out of the house saying hello to the bunnies and feeding fresh flowers to the deer. The raccoons opened her car door and she was off. Disney at its best.

Across town, Curtis rolled out of bed after hitting the snooze alarm four times. Smell-checking yesterday’s shirt, settling on mismatched socks and grabbing a tie from the door handle, he headed for the car. Running back to the house to frantically search for his keys, finding them strategically placed next to the DVD player, he flew out the door again. Allowing 6 minutes for his 20 minute drive, he decided he still had time to stop for coffee.

Careening into the parking lot and screeching to a halt to meet his traveling companion for the day, he was awestruck by a tall brunette with porcelain white skin. Backlit by the morning sunrise, she looked like Snow White in a business suit. Opening the passenger door and leaning into the car, the princess spoke the first words of their history… “You’re late.”

Yeah, not much has changed over the years. She still acts like Snow White, and I’m a hybrid of Tigger and Eeyore (depends on the day). But we’re still together and still taking road trips!

Perhaps this Valentine’s Day in lieu of flowers or chocolates, give each other the gift of loving memories. How did you meet? Where was your first date? What made you fall in love? The conversation may just surprise you.

Confessions of a Yard Sale Junkie

My wife and I are yard sale junkies. I wasn’t always this way. Ten years ago I didn’t see the value in yard sales. Hey if those guys didn’t want it, why should I bring it into my house? Turns out you can find some awesome deals at yard sales. I have bought tools, water toys and DVD’s for $1. Now they’re not BluRay…and yes, some of them say BLOCKBUSTER across the front, but hey it’s a dollar! You can’t RENT a movie these days for $1. And don’t bring up the Red Box, buck-a-night from Wal Mart. You know you guys don’t return those things within 24hrs — stop lying to yourself!

On any given Saturday, my wife (who I’ll refer to as Smooch going forward) is up by 6am and checking her multiple yard sale apps. Smooch is actually on an email chain that sends her times/addresses of local yard sales. During this “critical research time”, she’s click-clacking away on her iPhone as I lie next to her wondering why I didn’t fall in love with a sleeper-inner. Ah, a sleeper-inner… (cue fantasy music) My sleeper-inner and I would lie in bed for hours watching the sun rise across our popcorn ceiling making stalactite shadows. But no. That’s that the woman I chose. The woman I chose is up and moving before the sun and the stalactite shadows. She makes the coffee, leashes the dogs and is in the car before 7:20am. I stumble down the driveway in yesterday’s t-shirt, looking like Rod Steward the morning after a late night concert in Fiji.

Smooch and I spend the next three to four hours driving around West Knoxville looking for things we just can’t live without: cross-stitched Christmas ornaments, Chris Farley’s highlights from SNL, perhaps a Darth Vader Pez dispenser.

We head for the main streets first, usually spotting signs on Kingston Pike, Campbell Station or Grigsby Chapel Road. Unfortunately, we’ve learned you can’t judge the quality of the yard sale by the quality of the sign directing you to it. We were once lured into a HUGE letdown by some well-made signs. Personally I don’t think they made enough money at that sale to cover the price of materials. But whatever. On the flip side, we followed some mediocre signs with deflated balloons to a sale, and found a chandelier that used to hang in the old Lord Lindsay Nightclub downtown! I know, right?

Hey, one word of unsolicited advice to anyone who hosts a yard sale — have iced drinks for sale and have your kids sell them. Better yet, make it a lemonade stand. If you don’t have kid, borrow some.

Unfortunately after years of yard sales, we had to devote one side of our two-car garage to her “treasures”. Now we have a house full of previously-enjoyed furniture, a front parlor of antiques and a man cave full of…non-manly items. Quite frankly, if our house ever caught fire it would burn for 6 months. They’d see it from space.

Now I don’t have a problem putting the quantity of our possessions into this blog. I’m not afraid.  It’s not like we have a 52” HDTV or expensive jewelry. The 4,400 lbs. of possessions we own amount in street value to roughly $138. But the items we have are full of character, you know?

It’s really not about the purchasing of physical stuff that matters. We’re in it for the story. During our yard sale adventures we’ve made great friends. We’ve been on dozens of house tours. Me and Smooch even helped a guy tap a keg at 10am.

We want to preserve the rocking chair that put three generations down for a nap. She wants to find the earrings that Great Aunt Myrtle wore to meet Uncle Fletcher at the bus station after World War II.

Yard Sales inadvertently protect tangible pieces of that Americana I’ve mentioned before. I love it!

So during your upcoming Spring Cleaning, set aside your old baseball mitt, your grandma’s canning jars and the carousel slide machine. Throw them all on a blanket in the front yard, pull up a lawn chair and make some new friends.

It’s Saturday!