Being in the driver seat of telling Jeff’s story is a lot of fun for me. I’ve always known my husband and forever best friend is amazing. But, as my perspective and priorities have changed since Jeff’s Mantle Cell Lymphoma diagnosis I am reminded of so many things and experiences that add up to this one-of-a kind man!
Jeff was a crazy, nutty kid to say the least! (I can see your surprised look as you read this). Any stories that Kinsley hears of Jeff's "good old days" she just assumes dad was being crazy because he's a boy and she believes in her heart of hearts that all boys are CRAZY!!!! She has a good point but Jeff, as a child, was on another level!
He loved his family with all of his little boy heart! He had a very close relationship with his dad, Max. Jeff looked up to Max as a comforter, provider and role model. All children want and need to know is that whatever happens that they will be loved and their needs will be met. This sense of security was lost when Max took his own life when Jeff was just 10 years old and his brother Josh was 3 years old. Sandy, Jeff's remarkable mom was there as strong as she could be while her world was crumbling around her! She took the best care of those boys and Josh and Jeff were reassured that everything was going to be okay because their mom would always be there to take care of them.
There is power in prayer, faith and FAMILY! The Nations family had all three of these in full force. Sandy's parents Grandma Suz and Grandpa Jack became so close and played a vital role in their lives! Grandpa Jack provided Jeff & Josh with the male role model they needed, not to mention plenty of fishing, motorcycle riding and wood building. Jeff could not have loved his grandfather more and this great relationship would continue to flourish and grow. Meanwhile, Grandma Suz and mom were there provided unconditional love and support, remaining his constant pillars!
As Jeff grew up, his ideas grew with him and somehow he did not lose his reckless boy approach to what he could conquer. In fact, his ideas great more and more extreme. One of his childhood games was hitting golf balls across the street with a tennis racquet as cars drove by. One day he scored and hit a red MG! The car stopped in front of his house as Jeff ran inside with fear! As the driver inspected his car for damage Jeff tried to form a lasting alibi by washing dishes, one activity that was not normal for him. As Jeff watched the man inspect his car he took in the man’s full marshal uniform, complete with gun attached, and waited. Eventually the man returned to his car and drove away. And, as all good childhood stores end, Jeff sighed with relief and sore to never cause trouble again.
The next stunt involved gasoline and a tennis ball! There had been a huge hailstorm and many roofs in the neighborhood had damage and were being repaired daily. The roofers would tuck their trash under the homeowner’s car in an effort to keep things from blowing away. Jeff’s next extreme idea? Soak a tennis ball in gasoline and roll it down the hill. Well just as predicted the ball ended up under car and the trash and the car started on fire. In the blink of an eye he jumped on his brother’s bike, which was eight times too small for him, and pedaled as fast as he could! He was pedaling toward the car, where he pulled the flaming papers out and stomped on them to put the fire out. I believe that because Jeff lost his dad at such a young age he grew up more quickly than most children. He also wanted to control as much as he could because it allowed him to feel more comfort and peace while he was the one making the decisions. He has carried this trait throughout his life and not only does he rely heavily on it, but so do others who depend on him. While traveling to MX we learned that "Jeffrey" in Spanish means chief and that's exactly what he is to many!
Jeff pursued his college degree in finance and graduated from Metro State College in Denver. He planned to have a successful career in commercial real estate. If you are reading this, then you probably know we are "God believing" Christians and know that there is something much bigger than us that leads us exactly where we are supposed to be in this life. In the face of starting his career, Jeff traveled to San Francisco where he enjoyed sourdough for the first time. It made such an impression on him that he wanted to know why it wasn't offered in Denver and then set out to open a bakery and bring that amazing bread to the Mile High City.
He traveled to Carmel, CA and shadowed Claudio Cantore in his bakery. Claudio told Jeff to plan to study six months. Jeff completed his study in six weeks and quickly returned to Denver to start his bakery. The Aspen Baking Company was born and Jeff began selling sourdough in Denver as a commercial bakery start up. "How's your Aspen” remains his slogan and always makes people pause for a moment, and then smile. 24 years later he is still our "bread winner" and brings in the "dough"! And no, those jokes never get old!
With a successful business and a house Jeff was ready to settle down with the perfect companion for life. Many people were on board with this plan and he was regularly set up on dates. One day, he was set up on a blind date with ME! When the woman setting us up to me his profession I thought she said that Jeff was a banker but later realized that he was a BAKER! Our first date included dinner and a Coldplay concert, not leaving nearly enough time to get to know each other before it was time for the show. I still remember being at the concert feeling butterflies in my stomach, feeling nervous, and processing the unrecognizable feelings I had. I wiped my lip gloss off and asked him if we could just get the first kiss over with because I was so nervous and that was that! Our first date, first kiss and each other’s last love!
We were married the following April and found out we were pregnant with our 1st love that October! Kinsley was born on 6/16/2009. WOW! Our worlds collided with emotions, love and responsibility on a much deeper level because it wasn't just us anymore that we had to take care of. I always knew the kind of dad Jeff wanted to be based on his past and the experience he took from the relationship with his own father.
He has been the most treasured dad in the world and you should see the way his two girls look at him! They know that they can count on him to always take care of them, love them like no other and provide.
When Jeff and I were told his cancer diagnosis that was the piece that rocked us the most. What were the girls going to do without him? He didn't want to ever leave them because they counted on him and they could and should! It was heartbreaking to think that one day he may not be here for them because a disease took him too soon! The bottom line is that he didn't want to leave his girls scared and alone like his dad unfortunately did to him. Jeff will always feel confusion about what happened to his Dad, but also has forgiveness and peace.
With every ounce of strength, courage, faith and determination Jeff knows that he will be there for his girls! We’ve learned we can't control everything and that this is out of our control. We knew when it was time to let go and let God, because this was far more than we could handle on our own. Our Father took us under his wing right where we've always been as children of Christ and has walked along side us!
It will be a roller coaster but what we can tell you going into this journey that we LOVE like crazy cakes and will use this story and experience to make a positive difference in people's lives even if that means ONE person's life!
Thank you for following Jeff's story! Thank you for your positive thoughts, prayers and the constant flow of love pouring over us like we've never seen! You will see why we are called The United Nations ❤️