Choosing My Happy

“Happiness is a choice.”

That’s what the sign says on my sister’s kitchen counter.  My eyes are drawn to it every time I climb up on one of her tall kitchen bar stools when I visit.  It’s placement is perfect.  It’s right next to the coffee pot, just seemingly taunting me and asking me if I’ve made the right choice today.  Well, duh.  Of course, I have.  I see the sign in my sister’s kitchen next to the coffee pot.  Obviously, I chose to come see her AND have a cup of coffee; two things that really get my happy on.

But there are days when I don’t.  There are days– okay, EVERY day– when my neighbor opens her front door to let her dog “walk” himself down to poop in front of my mailbox that I really want to choose rage and cursing.  And this is usually the same day that I find an empty fast food drink cup that my son’s best friend tossed out of his car window the night before in front of my house while he was waiting to pick him up.  And this is after I realize that the kids have drunk up the last of the coffee before I have a second cup.  And all I see is red.

And I remember to breathe in and out.  And I imagine that sign in my sister’s kitchen.  And I remember that it speaks truth.  “Happiness is a choice.”  And I breathe in and out again.  And I relax my throwing arm and put my favorite coffee cup in the sink.  I put on my hijab and grab my purse and car keys and head out to put my things in my car.  I walk down to the curb in front of my house and pick up the empty cup from the gutter. I walk over to the mailbox and scoop up the neighbor’s misplaced dog poop and walk two doors up and return it to its rightful place:  In front of HER mailbox.  Then I toss the empty cup over the fence to my backyard for proper disposal later.  And I realize that I AM happy.  I have chosen my happy.  I reach into my glove box and pull out my hand sanitizer and clean any garbage/fecal germs from my hands.  Then I start my car and head happily to the supermarket to buy more coffee.




The Little Things

He wakes me gently to let me know he’s leaving for work, because he knows that I have a little panic attack when I wake up and he’s not there.  He covers me up with the crocheted afghan, because he knows that I get cold even though I insist on sleeping with one foot poking out from under the covers to regulate my body temperature.  He leaves my coffee cup on the counter next to the pot, because he knows that while I can function in the morning without coffee, that I do so with only one eye open and it sometimes scares the kids when their mother looks like Popeye.  He calls me around lunch time, because he wants to check in and see how my day is going.  He always laughs and says “too much” when I ask him how much he loves me on the phone, and I know it’s true.  And when I teased him last night at dinner about how lucky he is that his wife is such a fabulous cook and gorgeous to boot, he laughed and agreed.  And today I will go about my regular errands to the bank and the grocery store and I will drive to west Dallas to the junk yard to pull a seat belt fastener from a van like his and surprise him with it, because I know he needs one as his doesn’t work properly.  And I’ll probably make lentils tonight because I know how much he loves them.

It really is the little things that make us happy.  And that’s a big thing.

Ramadan 1438 (2017)

Well, in sticking with my usual Ramadan traditions, breakfast was LATE on the first night this year, too. I had big plans, people. BIG plans. We had the dates soaking in milk for about 13 hours. We had freshly made mango juice. We had hummous and baba ghanouj and I even remembered to have my husband bring bread home with him…because I always forget it. We had the coffee pot set up and ready to brew. I had found a recipe for making spiral-cut parmesan baked potatoes and had them ready to go. I had pulled the ribeyes out of the freezer before noon to thaw and since it was 40 billion degrees outside, I decided we’d grill them in the oven instead of any of that charcoal grill nonsense. And I made Brussels sprouts. I should have gone with the charcoal grill.

The stupid meat would not freaking cook. They’re steaks. I’ve made them at least 4000 times in my life time. WHY? What gives? The physics in my oven just decided to go on strike? AUGH! I don’t know what was going on there….but it was terrible. We had all the sides and juices and salads. But no meat until 9:00 when they finally finished cooking. And they were terrible. I was so sad that, of all the traditions, being late with dinner on the first night of Ramadan was the one that I managed to keep. *sigh* Oh, well.

Today I took the meat out of the freezer at 10 a.m. I’m going to start cooking at 3 p.m. And all I’ll have left 40 minutes or so before the sundown is to make a pot of rice and to turn the coffeepot on. Now if I could just remember this lesson on the first night of Ramadan 1439, I’ll be in good shape.

Ramadan Mubarak.

رمضان مبارك


Supposed To vs Actually

We’re supposed to go on a road trip today. We’re supposed to be stuffing the entire overbooked with practical shit summer into one day of family fun not too far from home. My kids are supposed to be up and packing picnics, getting softball equipment, and bags of ice ready and into the back of the van (the same van that my husband just had repaired so that we could make this trip WITH air conditioning as opposed to the usual sweat-logged journeys of the past.) I’m supposed to be gassing up said van and using up all my “fuel points” to get the cheapest gas around and jumping up and down like an idiot that’s one a $50 scratch ticket. (Thank you, Kroger Plus card.)

What’s actually happening is my husband is in the backyard painting the cement slab he laid for the kids to play basketball on, I’m checking email (and now blogging quickly as my jeans are still in the dryer,) and all 5 teens are still asleep.

I vote we ditch the kids and show them pictures of all the fun we had while they slept once we get back.


October Anniversaries

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. Wow. It seems like such a huge accomplishment on the one hand. On the other, the older we get the more time seems to just fly by. So really, making our marriage work this long has not been more difficult than just remembering to breathe, choosing the battles that we should fight, and doing kind stuff for each other along the way. Not really. Sometimes it’s hard. Really hard.
But more often than not, it isn’t.

It’s not an effortless relationship. I mean, if I end up at Home Depot one more time on “date day,” I may end up screaming and ripping my own hair out. And while I don’t find the smell of freshly cut plywood or new power tools a turn-on, I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t like waiting around until 8:00 pm to eat dinner because I can’t make the physics on our oven work any faster on half-frozen chicken that I forgot to take out of the freezer a few hours earlier. He’s a neat freak. I’m a sloppy person who files things horizontally.

So last Wednesday, our daughter decided she wanted THE most obscure Sesame Street character plush toy. I believe her exact words were, “IT’S AN EMERGENCY!” I went to two different toy stores in the mall in search of Zoe. No joy. So I decided to go to Walmart. As I went through the home furnishings section, I noticed that they had the Kitchen Aid mixers on sale for $189! So I snapped a photo with my phone and texted it over to my husband because he has been wanting one of these for almost as long as I have. (He’s a pastry chef.)  I found no Zoe in the toy section and then went home and ordered the Zoe online from the Children’s Television Workshop.

That night my husband placed a box on the counter in the kitchen when he got home from work. It was the Mother of All Gifts for Those Who Bake. It was the Kitchen Aid Mixer. He kissed me on the cheek and said, “Happy anniversary. You texted me the picture so I assumed you wanted it.” I told him, “Uhm, YEAH….but totally not why I sent it to you. I figured we’d just talk about buying it and then end up buying new brakes for the van instead.”

A week later was my 18th celebration of my 29th birthday. My friends, Roslyn and Marcella, gave me gift cards. I love them both. So I let my husband spend about half of the card for Bed, Bath & Beyond. He had so much fun. He made a beeline for the wall clocks and chose one with coffee beans in it. (I tease him a lot about wanting a wall clock in every room of the house. He makes fun of me for buying area rugs every chance I get.)

I am so fortunate to have been blessed with my husband. He loves me to the moon and back and I adore him. I get him. He gets me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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.

I Am James Brown AKA I Feel Good

So I have 6.6 miles logged on my app that tracks my 1000 mile journey.  (Truth be told, it should be 8.3 miles because I got 1.7 in the first day before I downloaded that app.) Whatever. I’m off the couch and I’m pushing myself to up my pace everyday. It’s not consistent. But I’ve gone from a 22.5 mph average to 17.45 mph average and today is only day 4. I’m awesome. And I know that 17.45 mph averages aren’t anything Guiness would even pick up the phone over. But that’s almost my average time for jogging 2 miles when I was younger and far healthier. And I’m WALKING not jogging. (Why pee your pants when you don’t have to?)

My friend, Kim, who works out regularly, pointed out that it’s an addictive feeling; that overall GOOD that you feel following your workout….well, more accurately, following the SHOWER after your workout. And HELLS YEAH. She is so right. It is addictive. Yes, my science geek friends:  They’re endorphins. They’re like Prozac, with ONLY good side effects.

Here’s the thing. I have a sway back. So when I fell into bed last night, literally, I slept on my face. Thanks to Menopause and her twin sister, Night Sweats, I rarely use the covers and sleep with the ceiling fan on. But sleeping face down forces my lower back to dip down just before the sway up at the tailbone and no covers plus ceiling fan plus sweaty back equals “Honey, please  help me get off the bed before I wet my pants”  in the morning. I was so stiff and unable to move without pain that I was lucky to make it to the coffee pot.
My husband told me to take today off and rest.

At first I thought, well, maybe a 1/2 mile walk at a “Sunday stroll” pace. Just to keep up the momentum. Then when I got outside, the weather was so nice and there was a nice breeze, so I just ended taking a slightly different route. Instead of taking it easy, I walked 2.72 miles in 48 minutes at an average pace of 17.45 mph. A personal best. Yay, me.

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?

Quiet is the New Loud

…or at least that’s what I’m going to try to convince my kids of today.

I purposely got up before everyone else today so that I could have at least half a cup of coffee alone to my thoughts.

Today was a scary day to be alone with my  thoughts.

Did you ever wonder why you dream the dreams you do? I am wondering whether the big folding tables that lined our front yard in front of a townhome we lived in 14 years ago with 40-50 sari-clad guests seated at them was a combination of Yann Martell being so great with adjectives while writing LIFE OF PI (which I am currently reading) or if I have an underlying need to wait tables at an Indian restaurant. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Time for more coffee.