Alternators, Emissions, and Rainstorms-OHMY!


This is the view from my front porch today…or it WOULD BE if the Mazda weren’t at the mechanic’s garage right now.  We are currently a one-car family circus. This means that I am adding driving my husband to and from work to my usual chauffeur duties.  That’s not so bad, really.  I get to spend a little alone time with him on the way to work and he’ll hold my hand and sort of grunt in agreement as I chatter all the way.  He’s not a morning person.

The Mazda’s alternator is in need of repair. The van can’t seem to pass inspection due to an emissions issue and, as our regular type of luck runs, we’re still one year short of the emissions waiver. DAMMITMAN!  So, we’re working with what runs for now until the one that doesn’t is repaired and then we’ll switch vehicles for a whole new course of driving around in one vehicle while the other is repaired.

I am all about buying used cars and paying cash so that we don’t end up with car payments.  Some would say that considering the automotive repair issues we are facing now, that I should rethink my philosophy of used cars.  To them I say, “Au contraire, mon frère!”  We bought that Chevy van 3 years ago for $2000.  We’ve put about 30k miles on it and maybe $1000 under the hood.  Truthfully, that’s not bad for a 19 year old vehicle.  The Mazda was a gift from my brother, who heard that my little Metro’s transmission and clutch had bit the proverbial dust.  He drove it up here from Austin, signed the title over to me, took a 3-hour nap on my couch and then had me drop him off at the bus depot so he could make it home to work that night. What an awesome guy!  I’ve driven that thing at least 5k miles since February and this is the first time it’s needed to be repaired.

That’s the thing about vehicles, you know?  They eventually need to be repaired.  And many people would be more secure in driving a new car that is still under warranty, etc. But for us, justifying that car note also comes with justifying full coverage insurance which, with 2 teenage drivers, we just cannot afford.  So we’ll keep our secondhand cars and just ride the automotive repair waves this month.  It is what it is.  At least our second vehicle is not a bicycle.



Overbooking and Aging

I’m not really old. But I’m no Spring chicken, either. And for those of us who have been in the “over achiever” category all our lives, this whole aging thing is just ass-kicking. No, not a little tiring. I mean, beat-down with a baseball bat, friggin’ leaving you taking 3-hour naps in the middle of the day, exhausting.

When I was 18, I lived in an apartment with my sister. We both worked several jobs in order to pay the rent, utilities, phone bill, gas/maintenance on our cars, and our part time college tuition and books. And by several jobs, I mean that we were like that overworked family from the West Indies whose members all had multiple jobs on “In Living Color.”  I remember at the time working 5 days a week for my office day job from 7:30 am – 4pm and then from 5- 9pm bagging groceries on Ft Meade 3 days a week, answering the switchboard at (the now closed) Laurel Toyota and Jaguar in Laurel, Maryland from 4-9pm twice a week and all day Saturday and loading boxes onto trucks for E.I.Kane Office Movers on Sundays and days off with the other jobs. I sometimes worked overtime at my day job watching over contractors to keep them out of the “off-limits” corridors or working for our own internal office movers.

The older I got, the more part-time jobs I held down after my day job. I worked as a cashier
for Rite Aid, Romano’s Restaurant, (the now closed) Rumblefish Nightclub, Damon’s Ribs (closed down within a year of my leaving allegedly due to the owner embezzling), and various babysitting jobs, tutoring jobs, and once as a free-lance maid.

Once I got married and had kids, part-time jobs were a thing of the past. I couldn’t juggle all the schedules of five children and work plus a second job. So I made up for the “not enough to do” feeling by over-achieving at housework and cooking. I learned to sew. I would scrub down the walls and shutters and windows every month. I would scrub area rugs and wipe down cupboards and appliances. I scrubbed floor tiles and hung my laundry out to dry on the line.

I’m in my 40’s now. Screw all that shit. I keep a tidy house…mostly. I still cook amazing foods…because we can’t afford to feed a family of seven at a restaurant frequently. I now over-achieve by volunteering all the time and this Summer, my kids decided to kill me slowly by signing up for Summer School to take accelerated Physics and Geometry. That would be fine ordinarily….except they signed up for different sessions. The two taking accelerated Physics took it in the first session. The one taking accelerated Geometry signed up for the second session. Ugh. Also, the two that took the first session now both have jobs so I feel like I’m constantly behind the wheel of a car. My rotator cuff is threatening to go on strike…permanently, due to all the gear changing and u-turns required in a car that does not have power steering.

I’m currently attempting to set up 3 different fundraisers for a non-profit organization and I’m running into brick walls while trying to meet the deadlines I set for myself thanks to all the driving. Today was supposed to be a “get the house CLEAN clean” while the kids were at work and school. I ended up losing in a battle of wills with my bed that kept taunting me. I took a 3 hour nap.

I think I’m just going to admit that I’m too old to take on all of the things like I used to do. The sooner that my family can just learn to applaud when I’m able to fold and put away a basket of towels AND get the dinner made, the better. And so what if I’m getting all this accomplished while still wearing pajamas? At least I remembered deodorant and I’m remembering to put actual pants on before going grocery shopping. What more do you people want?!


Look At Me…Adulting and Stuff

So the kids finished their final exams the day before yesterday. And since none of them is graduating this year, I’ve immediately reached “Summer Break” mentality. This makes life complicated sometimes as I cannot remember what day of the week it is, what time it is, and/or where I need to be.

However, today I am on top of things. I actually sat down and paid all the bills today. AND wrote calendar reminders on my (debatably) smartphone for medical appointments for me and the kids. I got my employed son to his job on time. I opted to skip nagging the unemployed son about getting a job. And I paid the daughter who cannot seem to find work to do the dishes.

I made a lunch date with my cousin for tomorrow following my doctor’s appointment. In a restaurant. In the city, even. WOW. I’m actually adulting here, y’all. Look at me.


Yard Salesman, I’m Not

Junk. It clutters my backyard, corner of my bedroom, hall closet, den closet, shed, and porch. I have got more crap than I can shake a stick at…which would be weird. Why would I shake a stick at anything? Much less a pile of crap that I want to be rid of? I know I need to do it. So why won’t I just have a yard sale already?

I live in the most PERFECT town to have a yard sale. Arlington, Texas knows three pastimes held just above religion and just below tailgating and they are:  Football, Baseball, and Yard Sales. In other towns, yard sales start early on Saturday mornings. In Arlington, they start on Thursdays and will run through Sunday afternoon.

New Spanish words have been created thanks to Garage Sale. A woman on our block moved here two years ago from a small Mexican village and speaks no English at all. She has a garage on her house. (Unlike us with our small carport.) She has a “GaraSeo” each week to help offset her cost of living. I saw the sign nailed to telephone poles on either side of the block for about a year before I figured out that she meant “Garage Sale” and was writing it as she heard it phonetically on her sign. Then last week as I combed the Spanish language circular looking for sale ads and coupons, I spotted a “GaraSeo” ad in the classifieds. Apparently, her creative language has caught on.

Another woman I know, though she lives in Dallas, used to have yard sales monthly. She would collect up all of the clutter in her house, pile it on folding tables in the front yard, mix a thermos full of margaritas and sit down and sell off all the shit while she got hammered in a lawn chair under a tree. By the early afternoon, her prices were way past competitive and bordering on monopolizing the yard sales in a 9-block radius. By 4 pm she was giving shit away. About the time the thermos was empty, she’d drag her folding tables back into the garage and count her earnings and celebrate the decluttering of her home and the ability to buy another fifth of tequila. (*Note: She is now a recovering yard saleswoman as her husband was tired of her making $30 on his table saws that he’d have to go out and buy again new. I’m happy to say she’s now on the wagon and while she is NOT working a 12-step program, she now donates her clutter to the local homeless shelter and stays away from her husband’s power tools.)

So. Why can I not do it? Why have I not been able to drag the old stereo that needs a fuse that I can no longer buy because RadioShack is now only selling stuff online? (Okay. They still have stores. But not around here.) Why can I not drag that stupid 5’x5′ table with the warped top down to the end of my driveway, along with the computer components no one wants, the dinette set that I don’t want, and the hideous knick knacks and things that my kids have purchased at other yard sales and dumped in my house? We have stacks of VHS tapes that no one watches. Furniture that we at one time needed but now just sort of walk around carefully. People it’s a 3-legged couch with torn cushions that sinks under your ass when you sit. It won’t cry if you sell it for $5 on a Saturday morning to someone who needs someplace to sit. It’s saving me the $30 I’m gonna need to rent a truck to hall it off to the dump. Let go, for crying out loud.

I’m not attached to this junk. I truly do want to rid myself of it once and for all. I think it’s the getting up early on a Saturday and arguing with my husband about what we should keep for sentimental reasons that is preventing me from doing it. That’s it. HE’S the pack rat. Not I. Well, that and being tied to a lawn chair in the front yard all day (without margaritas) and having to deal with people haggling over junk that’s already priced to go. I should just bite the bullet and do it already. I’m going. Yup. Heading out now to the dollar store for signs to hang up advertising my yard sale on Saturday. (*Garaseo en Sabado. Se hablo espanol.)

Out of Sight Out of Mind (aka Adventures in Homemaking)

Three days in a row, I’ve gone to the half bath in the girls’ room to use the toilet and each time SURPRISE! just an empty cardboard tube where the toilet paper should be. Does this bother me? Of course. I am actually thinking of employing a BYOTP policy in this house. Does it bother me as much as it does you? Probably not. See, you’re probably thinking, “EWWW! Gross. They don’t use toilet paper.” But it’s not so gross as it is WET. We bought these bidet attachments at Home Depot and hooked them up to the toilets in our house a couple of years ago. (This is not a new idea throughout the Middle East or in Japan.) It’s what we’ve used since forever ago. They’re relatively cheap and very easy to install. We go through far less toilet paper than the average American family, have fewer “skid marks” in underwear, fewer complaints of hemorrhoids, and we rarely have clogged sewage lines due to TP blockage. (It’s usually hair in the tub drain.)

At any rate, I still don’t appreciate having Taylor Swift added to my LIFE’S SOUNDTRACK although that IS what pops into my head and I always giggle to think that this would make an interesting, albeit less-than-family-viewing rated video addition on the music channels. But because the ginormous econo-pak of 48 rolls of 700 2-ply sheets of toilet paper (that we basically use to dry off with following the washing) is in the hallway closet. I know, how inconvenient. I keep 3-4 rolls under the sink in each bathroom but once those are gone, no one ever restocks them. And I, for the last 3 days while embracing my short attention span, have neglected to do the same. TODAY, I forced myself to “hold it” while I grabbed 4 rolls and stocked under the sinks.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is NOT a great philosophy to have when you need visual prompts like I do. We’ve had to spend Thanksgiving weekend in the dark because my husband hates clutter and he grabbed all the “still need to be paid bills” and threw them into a shopping sack and shoved said sack into that tiny cupboard above the refrigerator so that he didn’t have to look at the cluttered papers stacked on the counter in the kitchen. A) Don’t see it. Don’t pay it. 2) We had an electric stove at the time. Coldcut sandwiches for Thanksgiving was a new one for me. And lastly) I’m 5′ 3″. I didn’t even know we HAD cupboards above the refrigerator.

I AM patting myself on the back today though. I am all caught up on the kitchen. I had done the dishes last night. However, the 20-year old college student was up late doing homework. So I woke up to a sinkful of dishes and glasses all over the counter tops. But I washed them all up. I even cleaned out the inside of that tiny microwave I keep hidden in the laundry room because I’m afraid of it. (Intellectually, I know it’s not going to “get me all radioactived up” but still. One can never be too safe. Plus it hogs up all my counter space and I’m NOT getting rid of my coffee pot.)

And then I decided to empty all the plastic ware (read: petri dishes) that were taking up all of the room in my refrigerator. With as many teens with bionic metabolisms as I have, we rarely have leftovers. Occasionally, I’ll overshoot when projecting how much of something we need at dinner. But usually the only thing we have leftovers of is rice. I dumped about 6 of those fancy storage containers into the trash today and realized that I DON’T actually need to buy more plastic bowls with lids. I just need to make less rice at dinner. I washed up the bowls and lids and now I feel so accomplished. (NO. I didn’t wipe down the refrigerator shelves. I have to leave SOMETHING for the punishment of the smartmouths or as a way to earn money for when my youngest complains about being too young to have a job and can I reconsider giving him an allowance.)

Also, I’ve managed to free myself up today to do fun volunteering stuff at the school because either the laws of physics are no longer working in my oven or I just waited too long to take the chicken out of the freezer yesterday. I cook chicken and potatoes in a deep dish pan covered in foil ALL THE TIME and it’s never taken longer than 1.5 hours at 350 degrees. EVER. Last night, 2.5 hours. My husband had a friend over helping him with some electrical work. I was SOOOOOO embarrassed that it was 8:30 and not only was the chicken still bleeding but it was SQUAWKING. I made a quick executive decision, threw some pasta on to boil, fried up some turkey bacon, mushrooms, onions, and a jalepeno pepper, dumped some seasonings, canned tomatoes and a little tomato paste in there and served it over the noodles with some shredded mozzarella and a side order of broccoli.
I call it “Pasta a la Whatever-the-hell-I-found-in-the-fridge-besides-old-rice-in-plastic-containers.” It was a hit. And I don’t have to cook today because I’m just heating up the finally done chicken (and fresh rice) that I made last night.

Silver linings, people. Silver linings.

Stupid Progress!

It used to be, not terribly long ago, that when one had simple or even complex issues with their American-made vehicles, all she would have to do was go to her local auto parts store and buy the replacement part and swap it out. But now, a bad brake light bulb isn’t fixable with just a new brake light bulb. Apparently, even something so simple as this or switching out a dead battery for a new one requires a trip to the dealership….as suggested by the car owner’s manual.

Well played, GM. Well played.

An A for Effort

I’m probably the least organized person on the planet. I file things horizontally….on my desk….and chair….and table….and floor…and bookcase….and sometimes even IN the drawers. If I don’t see the bills, then they don’t get paid. Imagine how difficult “paperless billing” is when I forget to check my email. *sigh* And now it’s shopping day and I’m digging all the coupons out of the bottom of my purse and attempting to be organized by pulling out all of the expired ones and sending the ones that I never use to a friend in Arizona who uses the ones that I don’t. (Check your mailbox in about 4 days, Pattie.)

And if I could just get this organization thing down, I could probably stretch $600 worth of groceries for our family of 7 for an entire month. I’m good usually for about 2.5 weeks with that amount….not counting staples. I buy all the rice and sugar and flour and salt wholesale in huge 50 lb bags and those will last a couple of months or more. (Truth: I bought a 25 lb bag of salt at a warehouse store back in January and I’m still not even halfway through it. Only cost me $3.40.) But that’s the stuff that’s easy.

When you have 5 kids ages 14-20 and three are boys all over 6 ft and still growing you tend to run out of the milk, bread, cheese, eggs, cereal, lunch meat, fruit, and snack stuff fast. I am so grateful that they are good eaters. While they like chips and junk food, they kill off the bananas, apples, pears, raisins, prunes, oranges, and plums faster than I can get them into the house. We’re sandwich eaters. And those in the health-food know can say all they want about sandwich bread….but I am buying the cheap stuff because we go through 2 loaves of the 88 cent wheat bread a day. (They’re all tall and thin and have metabolisms to beat the band.)

SO…where was I? Ahh, yes. The coupon thing. I’m clipping and attempting to organize them…at least inside an envelope according to the set up of our supermarket so that I don’t forget to use them today. The sheer number of expired coupons tossed in a pile on the floor right now is incredible. And the majority of them and old receipts were pulled from the bottom of my purse and probably were contributors to the bursitis in my left shoulder. Another friend suggested that she and I take an “Extreme Couponing” class from someone she knows. I’m tempted. But I’m afraid.

I’m afraid that my horizontal filing system is going to become an even larger fire hazard and my homeowner’s insurance will increase and that’s where all my monies saved from couponing will end up and I’ll never be able to remodel my kitchen. Perhaps I’ll just keep doing it the way I have been. At least now I can still see the fire extinguisher from here.

The Best Laid Plans…

So, when I started this whole “Walking 1000 Miles” thing and I’d planned to get up early, walk my 2-3 miles and then shower and write daily, I had no idea that I’d end up down for the count  with bronchitis for a week and also that we’d be suffering through a 104+ degree heatwave for 2-3 weeks straight. Still I managed to get some of the walking and a lot of the showering done. The writing? Not so much.

But now that the 4 teenagers are all completely registered and in school and the 20-yr old is completely registered and has some of his books and has started his classes, I am able to at least attempt to walk and shower and write daily. We’ll see how it goes.

In an effort to save money, I sat down and wrote out a menu from the 15th of August through the 15th of September. I scoured sales ad papers, clipped coupons, and arranged my shopping trips according to the furthest store on the map and made my way back to the house, hitting each one along the way and testing the full capacity of trunk space in my 1998 Chevrolet Metro. Who knew that you could stuff so many bags into the back of one of the world’s smallest cars if you just remember to pull all of the usual crap out of the car before putting the back seat down? I hit 4 different grocers hard and made it home within 3.5 hours with just over $200 spent and so many bags that the kitchen floor was barely visible.

Of course, school didn’t start for another 9 days after this grocery shopping trip, so 2/3 of that food was gone by the time the teenagers boarded their school buses on the 24th. *sigh* And while I still have a large amount of the staples in my cupboards, alas! The supply of meats, poultry, and produce are sorely lacking again on the 31st. So no matter how much effort I put into savings, coupons, research and shopping smart (and not hungry,) I’m still out of food in 15-16 days. AUGH! Whatever. One day I’ll figure it out.

But in the mean time, I’m getting healthy due to the walking, keeping friends due to the showering, and keeping my kids fed whether we want to or not. It is what it is, folks. Not really completing the planned tasks, but definitely attempting to do so.

Also, this may be the single most boring post I’ve ever written.

My Journey of 1000 Miles Began With 1.7 Miles Today

It’s official. I’m about 100 lbs overweight according to all the BMI charts. For MY personal comfort level within my own skin and my clothes, I’ll own about 75 lbs overweight. And either way it sucks. Yeah, according to some chart that floats between an Army orderly room and the vapors of the internets, I’m considered obese. But you know what? It does NOT define me.

You see, while I’m officially fat, my “health numbers” are all good, with the exception of my cholesterol. That’s been high my entire life and I’m pretty sure it’s probably gone DOWN in the last 6 years even though my weight has gone up. But that’s because I make better choices in food. I don’t fry anything anymore. I don’t overdo sweets or fats. I eat vegetables everyday. I eat fruit quite frequently. I drink water. I’ve managed to pack on the pounds mostly because I moved to the US.

In Texas, you drive almost everywhere. You know that song with the lyrics, “Nobody Walks in L.A.?”  That’s pretty much the truth in Arlington, TX, too. Unless you don’t own a car yet. You certainly aren’t going to ride a bus unless you are leaving the city from the university campus. For some reason, usually tied to air pollution from exhaust of city buses, they keep voting down public transportation. And that reason is stupid since all the city buses in neighboring Fort Worth and Dallas are powered by natural gas.

In Egypt, I walked EVERYWHERE. We did not own a car. The beach was 1 mile away. We walked. School? 2.5 miles away. We walked. Nearest supermarket? 2 miles away. We walked. Nearest bus stop to get downtown? 1 mile away. We walked. During the school year, I walked the boys to school 2.5 miles away and came back through the open-air market on my walk back home. Put away the groceries, started laundry, woke up the girl, walked her to school (girls middle school was in the afternoon in the same building as the boys’ grade school) and then walked the boys back home. Made dinner. Walked back up to the school to pick up the girl and walked home.

I was still fat. But according to my complete heart workup at the cardiac hospital, I had the heart rate of a 35 year old. I was 44 when I had that done.

Now that I’m back in the states, I find it so incredibly easy to be lazy. I cannot afford to go to a gym or yoga class. But I know all the ways that I can exercise for free. (Weight and size battles have been an ongoing struggle my entire adult life. Not my first rodeo, Cowboy.) So really, it’s just a matter of committing to do this. And today I have.

I woke up at 0730 and had a cup of coffee this morning. I dressed and plugged my earbuds into my phone, found a great internet radio station, and I walked. I walked 1.7 miles in 30 minutes. Not a super fast pace, but it’s sure faster than sitting on the couch! And I did it.
And I feel great. And I’m going to keep doing it. And you know what else? All the Judgy McFatShamers can choke on the fact that I’m doing this because I CHOSE HEALTHY and  not because of anything that they said.

MY journey of 1000 miles began today with 1.7 miles. How’s yours going to start?

Getting Started Is Not As Easy As I Recall

In an effort to assist my son in getting his first real job (read: In an effort to take over my son’s life and push him into employment quickly,) I decided to sit down and type up a resume for him. I got stuck just after his name and address. While the email address he
came up with back when he was 14 or 15 years old was funny then, it just doesn’t have the
same professional sound when a potential boss is replying to “”
So I set up a new account for him first. I went back to the resume template and got as far
as job history. How do you beef up a resume for your first real job? I guess you can’t.

Then I started thinking about my own resume. Now that the kids are all ambulatory, know
how to cook for themselves, and don’t need help in the bathroom, I’ve been seriously thinking of going back to work. But the gap in my own resume will be 15 years of no employment. A lot has changed since I was working full time. How do I explain all the years of experience and personal challenges that I’ve amassed over my time as a stay-at-home-mom is actually a plus for any company?

I’m not sure that employers actually realize that negotiating with a bill collector on the phone, while breaking up a fight between two teenagers with the “evil eye of death,” making a grilled cheese sandwich and putting away dishes all at once, is the epitome of “multi-tasking.” I’ve braved the halls of midnight feedings, teething screams, potty training, prepubescent funky smells, “the talk,” running a household better than any CEO can run a corporation, and all on a much smaller budget with coupons at the ready. I’m nothing, if  not efficient and my ability to delegate authority is unmatched. (GO DO THE DISHES NOW!) I am able to coordinate my efforts with those of government agencies.
(Parent-teacher conferences are a breeze.) And I maintain an approval rating that surpasses any elected official on any given day. (I control allowances and meals.)

Pffft. I am a writer. I can make ANYTHING sound professional and honestly, the experiences that I have can be put into use in any situation with any position. Any employer would be fortunate to have me as an employee. I got this.