#WeekendCoffeeShare: Coughing Fits, Healthy Baking, and Superhero Movies

If we were having coffee, I would tell you no espresso for me today. I need tea with honey and lots and lots of lemon. In fact, I’d tell the barista to slice me up a whole lemon and serve it to me on a saucer. I’ll be sucking the juice from wedges between sips while we chat.

You see, I have a horrible cough. And I can barely speak without erupting. Lean in close because my voice is a bit hoarse, but I’m not contagious, or so I hope. You see, it’s only the cough; nothing else ails me. There’s sniffles in the morning, but that usually clears out by noon. But the cough . . . the cough gets worse as the day progresses, to the point that my throat is raspy, dry, irritated, inflamed, and I feel like a dying old woman exhaling dust.

Medicine doesn’t seem to work. I drank a whole bottle of Robitussin DM, THE cough syrup, in three days with no relief. In fact, I think medicine has made me sicker—how ironic. I’ve resorted to home remedies, sucking on lemons, drinking tea with honey, apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, and ginger mixes. The natural remedies have helped more than the drugstore varieties, which to this point have only made my pee smell funny . . . too much information? I know, we’re eating.

I’m a bit of an overreacter. Whenever something goes wrong, I think the worst case scenario. When I first started my period at age ten, I was so excited to be a woman, especially since the girls in my class with boobs teased me for being flat-chested. But when 28 days passed and the little red dribble didn’t return on schedule, I freaked, thought I was pregnant! There I was, ten years old, never even kissed a boy, and I thought I was pregnant.

So of course with this cough, my worrisome mind has suggested lung cancer (though I’ve never smoked a cigarette), pneumonia, tuberculosis (probably should be in quarantine if that’s the case), Ebola (though I haven’t experienced bleeding or vomiting yet), an irritant in my vocal chords (because my cousin had that a few weeks ago). Notice how I still haven’t mentioned the cold or flu, which is probably the most likely cause.

I see you’re getting squeamish. I know I should probably go to the doctor, but with healthcare jacked up, and a family cruise in July, I really don’t have the funds for a visit to a doctor who will probably only prescribe me pills that’ll knock me out cold.

I’ll stick with my natural medicines for now. Maybe take a day off work (although I can’t afford that either) to get some much needed rest. And if I don’t get better then, I promise I will go see a doctor.

One Bowl Hemp Banana Bread by HealthNut Nutrition

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I went to another bake sale at the bowling alley with my granddaddy, and managed not to cough on the sweets. This time, my mom and I decided to make some healthy varieties. Mom made sugar-free brownies and apple oat bars using Splenda sweetener, and I baked banana bread based on this recipe from HealthNut Nutrition. I made a few alterations. First, instead of using almond flour and spelt flour, I used half and half all-purpose and whole wheat. While I did have almond flour at home, you never know these days who’s allergic to nuts, so it’s best not to take the risk. I also substituted unsweetened applesauce for the honey (even though I still added about a tablespoon of honey after I screwed up on the baking soda measurement). Since we were making these treats with the intentions of selling them to our diabetic friends, I wanted to control the amount of sugar, and a fourth cup of honey (although a natural sugar) seemed like a lot. When I think about it, I adjusted this banana bread recipe so much, it’s really nothing like the original. But it tasted damn good, so I just might post the recipe if you ask (and remember to take a picture too!) ūüėČ

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I finally got to see Wonder Woman! It was good, not great like some people have been saying, but the fight scenes were awesome, and I might have cried at the end, because, well, I can get emotional sometimes—shoot, I even cried during Toy Story 3! But I won’t spoil the ending for you. In comparison with the last two DC movies, Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman is definitely a redeeming quality for the DCEU, but I’m still worried about Justice League. That trailer looked like it was all CGI, and so dark! I think they’re trying to put too much into one movie. I know they’re rivals, but DC should definitely take a page out of Marvel’s book. That formula seems to be working. Speaking of Marvel, there’s one Marvel movie I can’t wait to see . . . BLACK PANTHER! Oh-My-Gosh, have you seen the trailer?! All that melanin, all that black beauty and power and sophistication. YASSSS, HUNTY, YASSSSSSSSSS!

Oh, you haven’t seen the trailer yet? For shame! Here’s my phone. Check it out!

Can’t wait for 2018, can you? Yea, me neither.

If we were having coffee, you would noticed I haven’t coughed for several minutes. Maybe the excitement over superhero movies was all I needed, but I won’t jinx it. So I’d tell you it was nice chatting with you again. And no, you cannot watch the Black Panther teaser on repeat, I kind of need my phone. Thank you. I’d take my plate of lemon wedges and dump them in a to-go cup. Say toodaloo for now and scurry out to the door because I’m late for work!

Nobody Blogs on Fridays

Nobody blogs on Fridays. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating here. WordPress is virtually a ghost town on Fridays, and I struggle to find a good posting time.

Throughout the week, I could have hundreds of views . . . well, let me be more realistic . . . tens of views . . . well I can give myself a little credit ¬†. . . twenties of views on my blog, but once Friday hits, I’m lucky if I make into the single digits. This is not even a joke, the weekend (Saturday, and Sunday, holy day of rest!) is more active than Fridays!

What is it about Fridays that make people not want to work? In my office, half the department is gone by 3:00 every Friday afternoon. The only people left are usually me, the other temps, and the employees who have the misfortune of being scheduled for a 4:30 meeting. I never understood why people used Friday as an excuse to slack off work. Yes, it’s almost the weekend, and people are eager to dive into the weekend shenanigans, but the workday for our office still ends at 5:15 PM, people, Monday through Friday.

But let’s get back to blogging, and why my Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting habit is currently in jeopardy. I recently joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a place to share, encourage, rant, rave, and connect with other insecure writers like me. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, and although last Wednesday I wrote about how I don’t always feel appreciated as a writer in my family, I still wanted to address the optional prompt for the June 7 IWSG blog hop.

Did you ever say ‚ÄúI quit‚ÄĚ? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

Last year, I had a writer’s meltdown. I’m not sure what happened—if had worn myself out, or if I was simply overwhelm with all the projects I was trying to keep up with. Let’s name a few of the things I was doing before my meltdown:

  • The 2016 April A to Z Challenge — The challenge was to write a new post every day (but Sunday) for each letter in the alphabet. I wrote a novella called 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths,¬†a story about a grandmother living in a retirement home who makes some striking revelations to her granddaughter about her past life.
  • Beta reader for a self-published author — Though I was thankful for the opportunity, I wished I hadn’t accepted the task. I didn’t research the author before I committed to being her beta reader, and the novel was nowhere close to publication ready. To be honest, it sounded like something my uncle would’ve written, if he was a writer of fiction. But I was beta reading on my own time; I wasn’t getting paid for it, so I couldn’t edit it the way I wanted too. Personally, I thought the author needed to go back to the drawing board. The story was all over the place; it desperately needed a plot, and the protagonist was flat in the most pitiful way. After much debating with myself, I finally emailed her my comments and my suggestion for her to find a quality editor. A week later, she published the novel as is on Amazon. *sigh*
  • Hosting a flash fiction writing challenge called Moral Mondays — The challenge was to write a 100-word fable based on the moral prompt provided. While this was fun, I just didn’t have the time or energy to facilitate consistently every week.
  • Being a writer — I write short fiction and poetry, and for the pieces I don’t publish on my blog, I submit to magazines. I’m also trying write my debut novel.
  • Being an editor — Yes, I am an editor of an online literary-arts magazine, and I also edit my church’s monthly publication.
  • Day job¬†— On top of trying to supply my growing readership with entertaining content on my blog, establish my brand, and write to be published, I work a 9-5 job. Talk about exhausting!

Eventually, I fizzled out. I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I crashed and burned. I stopped writing altogether. I virtually disappeared. I became a ghost.

After about five months of writing nothing at all, I started this blog to ease myself back into the habit. Starting a new blog is hard work. I can share share share my posts on my other blog until I’m blue in the face (or fingers?), but the likelihood of dedicated followers of my other blog actually clicking the link and coming here was slim. I basically had to start over from scratch. Trying to build a following of people willing to read my insecure ramblings on being single, or being a writer, or just my life in general, which is really quite boring, on a daily basis, especially in a world full of online trollers, is hard.

And so I disappeared for another five months, posting sporadically, coming back for a while and then dropping off again, posting once a month if at all.

Now it’s June, and next Tuesday will mark a year since my first disappearance. Do I feel another disappearance brewing? Not if I can help it! But some days, especially on Fridays, when I fear no one is reading me, I do wonder if it is all worth it…

Have you ever quite on writing? Tell me why, and what brought you back!

Do you blog on Fridays? Prove me wrong about readerless Fridays. Drop a comment! I need a confidence boost that I’m really not talking to myself.

And if you are the type to actually click a link when prompted, check out my Gravatar profile, which has links to all the blogs I manage. The latest posts to my other blogs are also in the sidebar . . . if you never noticed. ūüėČ

Single Lady’s Cookbook: Sunday Meal Prep

[Disclaimer: I am not, nor will I ever be a professional food blogger. I don’t cook with the intention of sharing, so rarely do I make note of measurements for my own inventions—unless baking. I don’t take photos; I don’t have a $500 professional camera, only my cracked android phone. I have no idea what a ring light is, nor do I want to because they probably cost more money that I am willing to spend, and as I said before, I am not a professional photographer, videographer, vlogger, etc.¬†

But sometimes I cook food, and sometimes it tastes fairly decent, and sometimes I want to tell people about it. So here’s me telling people about it: my Single Lady’s Cookbook.]

This past Sunday was all about meal prep! I’ve hit a plateau in my weight loss journey, hovering around the same number I reached on Thanksgiving of last year. ¬†While it is possible that this is the weight I’m supposed to be at, it was only four years ago that I was another twenty pounds lighter, and that’s the eventual goal. For now, my short-term goal is to lose ten pounds in five weeks, just in time for my cruise to Alaska. And yes, I understand that an Alaska cruise isn’t really the best reward for finally obtaining the coveted bikini bod, since average temperatures for Alaska in mid-July range from mid to upper 50s, but I would prefer not to look like the Michelin man in a winter coat and gloves while on vacation, thank you very much.

So I’m kick starting my weight loss diet 2.0. The main reason why I’ve stalled at this number that once brought me great joy is because I’ve stalled on my eating habits. About a year ago today, I dedicated myself to an all natural, whole foods diet. I was almost vegan, but I still ate chicken and eggs and fish. I stopped buying dairy products, most of my groceries we from the fresh produce aisle, I started making my own plant-based milks for smoothies, I started making more foods from scratch to avoid the added sugars, added preservatives, added God knows what else, that often come in package foods. This also helped me to save money, because I stopped emptying the store shelves of package and frozen dinners, and I also stopped eating out. On top of all that, I went to the gym at least four to five times a week. Those pounds were flying off. Before I even realized, my clothes were hanging off me as if off a coat hanger. I couldn’t believe it! I don’t think I’ve ever lost weight that fast—except maybe when I was a broke college student. And I did it in a healthy, sustainable, balanced way.

In the past several months, I’ve gotten lazy, almost settling for the weight that I’m at. While I’ve thankfully managed not to gain any weight back, I do eventually want to lose those last twenty pounds. That was my original goal, and I won’t change it.

So what has helped me to successfully lose weight and keep it off? Meal prepping.

I work a Monday-Friday, 9:00-5:00 office job, and while we do have a cafeteria, I started packing my own lunch to save money. That’s when I realized how beneficial making meals ahead of time can be for weight loss. For one, it keeps you from mindless snacking, which has always been my problem. I typically pack breakfast (smoothie, peanut butter banana toast, oatmeal, etc.), a mid-morning snack (usually fruit or nuts), lunch (usually soup and salad), and a mid-afternoon snack (again, usually fruit or nuts).

So on Sunday, as part of my meal prep, I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup. That day, I was also reaping a harvest of fresh, fragrant herbs from my herb garden, so I also decided to make homemade spaghetti sauce with the fresh, Italian flavors of basil, thyme, parsley, and marjoram.

But first I had to make the base for my soup.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Yes, you read that right. I make my own veggie stock. Seriously, once you realize how easy it is to make it at home, you’ll wonder why you ever bought the stuff at the stores.

You’re probably asking why I decided to make veggie stock for a chicken soup. Seems counterproductive right? Why not chicken stock? The short answer: veggie stock is just easier for me, plus if I have any left over, I can use it to season other non-meaty dishes like rice or my spaghetti sauce.

So how does one make homemade vegetable stock? It’s really quite simple. I start by roughly chopping up onions, peppers, carrots, celery, and a couple cloves of garlic (no need to mince them) and tossing them into a large soup pot. I also add one tomato because I like my stock a little sweet. I let these cook for about five minutes or until the delicious flavors start to smell. Then I add what ever vegetable scraps I’ve stored in my freezer. I make a lot of salads, so this is usually cucumber and tomato ends, carrot and onion peels, the leafy stems of celery, plus any other scraps or ends of vegetables I might have cooked that week. I mix everything together in the pot, let the frozen scraps thaw down a little, then add about ten cups of water. This may change depending on how much vegetables you use and how big your pot is. I try not to add too much water, because I want a stock with a robust flavor and deep color. I also don’t want to be left with too much because I only use between six and eight cups for my soups.

As far as seasoning the stock, I add a teaspoon of salt and a tea spoon of whole black peppercorns. Next I toss in my fresh herbs, a few leaves of basil, some parsley sprigs, and some thyme sprigs as well. No need to chop these up; I just throw ’em in whole. Occasionally, I’ll add a bay leaf, but this time I forgot and the soup turned out just fine. So it’s really your choosing what herbs you want to use. I used what I had, but the flavor combinations are endless!

Bring your stock to a boil then let it simmer (covered or uncovered—I typically leave it slightly uncovered) for about an hour and a half to two hours. When it’s done, strain out your vegetables, and you’re left with a flavor packed, richly colored vegetable stock you can use in soups, sauces, whatever you like! If you don’t use it right away, you can keep it in the refrigerator, and try to use it within the week, but there’s always the option of freezing it as well.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture, because of the above disclaimer, so you only have my word for it, but I promise the next time I make stock, I’ll be sure to snap a picture with my beat up phone to share with you.

By the way, my stock never made it to the refrigerator. I used it all that day. Most of it to make my chicken noodle soup.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I did manage to take some pictures! ūüėČ

Chicken noodle soup is probably the easiest soup to make. It’s so simple, yet mouth-watering and so satisfying! I started my soup by sauteing onions, carrots and celery in some olive oil. I didn’t do exact measurements, but if I could guess I would say I used about a quarter of an onion and then one whole carrot and one whole celery rib with about a tablespoon of oil.

While the vegetables were heating up, I cut two freakishly large chicken breasts into strips, seasoned them with salt and pepper, then chopped up some fresh thyme, parsley, and marjoram and tossed them into the chicken to coat it. I let it marinade for a while, then added it to the pot and poured six cups of my stock over it. I cooked it covered over medium heat for about an hour. When the chicken was done, I scooped it out and cut it into smaller pieces, added it back to the pot, along with about half a package of Barilla fettuccine pasta.

I will say that at first it’ll look like you don’t have enough pasta. DO NOT ADD MORE! Half a box might be a little much, but I like to know I’m eating noodles. Besides, who doesn’t live for slurping and flapping noodles in chicken noodle soup? Trust me, when the pasta cooks through, it’ll swell up and fill the pot. I learned this the hard way the first time I made homemade chicken noodle soup. I added about 3/4 of a 16oz bag of extra wide egg noodles and ended up with more noodles than I had soup. I learned my lesson, and I pass it on to you.

I surprised myself with how little I seasoned this soup, which is to say I didn’t season it. All the flavors came from the stock, plus what I put on the chicken, which other than the herbs really wasn’t much. No additional seasonings is always a plus, especially if you’re trying to watch your salt intake. This soup makes between 6 and 8 servings, depending on how large or small your bowl is. I try to get at least five servings out of every batch of soup I make for a five day work week. Although, if the soup for that week is particularly tasty, I may have a little helper at home eating it for me, and it may not last quite to five days. In any case, if I did my math right, you’re looking at between 300-400 mg of salt (of course, this may be slightly more or less depending on your serving size), which is well in range for the heart conscience dieter who wants to eat no more than 1500 mg of salt a day (the recommended amount of 2300 mg is rather high).

I would say that this soup is definitely great for someone trying to maintain a healthy diet, because you know exactly what’s in it. From the ingredients, to the stock base, to the flavors, and if you’re trying to watch your carbs, you can always cut down on the pasta.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

The picture is a little deceiving; I bought those tomatoes after I made my sauce. ūüėÄ

Last but certainly not least, I made a batch of my homemade spaghetti sauce. I’ll try to make this quick since my word count is approaching 2,000, and part of me wonders if you’ve even stuck around this long without the abundance of pictures.

I started my sauce by sauteing about a quarter of an onion and a quarter of a green and red bell pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the vegetables start to become fragrant, I dumped a whole can of tomato paste into the pot (I think it’s either 6 or 8 oz.) along with a can of no salt added diced tomatoes (around 15 oz.). Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes if they look good in the store. If not, I just pick up a can; sometimes a can is easier.

I poured in the rest of my stock and stirred everything together. I use tomato paste because I like my sauces to be on the thicker side, but not too thick, which is why I thin it out with the liquid stock.  After that simmered a bit and had a nice, not too thick, not too runny, consistency, I added my fresh Italian herbs, basil, parsley, thyme, and marjoram. I also seasoned it with some dried oregano, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick, and salt and pepper.

And that’s it! Homemade spaghetti sauce is done! I usually put my sauce in an old Prego jar or mason jar. This batch made about two and a half jar fulls. More than enough! My mom just used one jar last night to make a pan of baked spaghetti. I also use this sauce for chili recipes. Store this in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator, and it’ll last you several weeks.

And that was my Sunday meal prep, guys! I hope you’ll give these “recipes” a try and tell me how it turned out for you. Also, does meal prepping and homemade meals work for your weight loss? What do you do to stay on track? Let me know in the comments. By the way, do you like posts like this? I’ll try to post more single lady recipes that I’ve developed along my weight loss journey. Though, let me reiterate, I am not a food blogger, so the posts and especially the photos (when I remember to take them) won’t always look as pretty and polished. I’ll leave that to the pros, who obviously have more time on their hands!

So Mom’s Retired, and I’m Totally Not Jealous…

I’m not jealous of my mom.

Last week, a friend of hers from work, who recently retired, called me and asked for my mother’s number and address. Apparently, she’d lost the information when she switched phones. While we were talking, she professed how excited she was for this new phase in her life and that she was looking forward to spending more time with my mom.

I guess I should mention Mom’s been retired a little over six months now. Yep, that was her Christmas present to herself: retirement…and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Totally not jealous… totally.

Anyway, before we got off the phone, Mom’s friend again exclaimed that she was so relieved to finally be done with work and to not have that burden and stress always on her shoulders, and that she knows that retirement is going to be so fulfilling. Then she paused, as if waiting for me to agree with her, as if she expected me to say, “Yes, retirement is everything they say it is, everything it’s cracked up to be!”

Mind you, I was currently at work when she called.

So no, I have not experienced the bliss that is retirement. And the way this economy likes to cheat us degree-possessing millennials, I probably won’t know that elusive period of life called retirement for at least another 50 years.

God help me if I’m still working at age 75!

It can be quite annoying when I’m minding my own business, doing my work, or writing, or reading, or eating breakfast or lunch, or walking down the hall, or hell, even using the bathroom, and someone stops me to ask, “How’s your mom doing?”

I DON’T KNOW!¬†

While she is at home, lounging around, not lounging around, cooking, not cooking, planting a garden, not planting a garden, sweating in gym class, not sweating in gym class, taking spontaneous road trips to the beat to buy fresh fish,¬†¬†not¬†taking spontaneous road trips to the beat to buy fresh fish, blasting radio music, not blasting radio music…

…I’m at work. I have no idea what she’s doing, how she spends her day. One thing I do know: she ain’t working. Meanwhile, I’m trying my hardest not to curse people out, or cry from getting cursed out. The joys of working in customer service.

And I’m totally not jealous.

But I’ll admit, I was a little depressed when I left the house for work this morning. Not because it’s Monday. Although, no one would blame me—having to spend eight of the most precious hours in the day in a cold, gray office after such a beautiful and warm weekend, who wouldn’t get depressed about that?

But this morning, I was in a good mood before I got ready to leave. I didn’t sleep through my alarm (insert slap the snooze button twenty times) and woke up on time. I read several chapters from Psalms to receive encouragement and strength from God’s holy word. I packed my lunch—homemade chicken noodle soup I cooked the night before, and tuna salad (also homemade) spread on toast for breakfast. I got a laugh from some of the ridiculous cases on Judge Faith (in this episode, a woman sued her ex-boyfriend for a vacation he promised her when they were together). I watered my herb garden (unfortunately my cilantro died, but my mom, since she has the time now, bought be a new cilantro plant). I even packed some gym clothes and tennis shoes because I plan on going to Planet Fitness after work (my aunt seems to think I lost three pound since Memorial Day, because she’s gained it, so I want to spend about an hour on the elliptical just to make sure those pounds I apparently lost stay off).

Today was going to be a good day.

Then I walked past Mom’s room, and she was lying in the bed watching Iron Man.

I want to lie in bed and watch Iron Man.¬†I don’t want to have to go to work when I could be lying in bed watching Iron Man!

But I’m not jealous.

Nope, totally not jealous.

 

Dear Jiffy Lube Mechanic

Dear Jiffy Lube Mechanic,

Remember me? I came by for an oil change on a rainy Wednesday afternoon around lunchtime the week before Memorial Day. You weren’t my first choice. I originally intended to spend my lunch break at the garage closest to my office, but when I turned the corner, the parking lot was completely full—everyone apparently having the same idea as I, to get last minute service work done on the car before holiday travel.

In comparison, your establishment looked closed, and I was tempted to turn around and go back to work, half my lunch break already wasted and I still hadn’t eaten, but you were leaning against the side of the building waiting for me. So I pulled in, and you approached my window, gestured for me to roll it down, and asked what you could do for me. I informed you that I only needed an oil change. You asked me the mileage on my car (around 61,000—I don’t do much driving), and listed for me the pricing options and complementary services you offer for every oil change, like breaks and lights check, tire pressure, windshield wipers, and vacuuming (which I really needed, since in the two and a half years I’ve had that car, I’ve never gotten the floors vacuumed).

While the men were under the car, took me aside to your computer and informed me the services my car was due for: transmission service for every 60,000 miles at $149, fuel filter change every 30,000 miles at $79. I wasn’t prepared to spend all that money when all I wanted was a basic oil change, and I’m still not so sure you weren’t just trying to sell me stuff, but I wrote it down, just in case, for future garage visits when I had the funds. However, you sold me on the new air filter and the more expensive oil change that would give me 7,500 miles, which meant my next oil change won’t be for at least another year with how often I drive, and you also offered me ten dollars off.

Is it common practice to tip mechanics? If so, you deserve at least twenty percent gratuity for such great customer service. Miles ahead of the garage I usually take my car.

I stayed in the waiting area inside while you worked on my car. I brought my writing journal along to do some character sketches and story outlines. I was participating in the Short Story a Day May Challenge, and I had also challenged myself to write a new short story for literary magazine submission. With May nearly over, I was successful in posting a new flash story on my blog every day, but I had yet to start on my new literary story. I wanted that to change, because believe it or not, It’s been almost two years since I’ve written for anything other than my blog. So doubt was seeping into my mind.

Then you came in to tell me my car was ready and saw me writing. You asked if I was a writer. After hesitating, I said yes. Claim it, I thought to myself. Don’t apologize, don’t make excuses, you are a writer. You are published.¬†You asked me if any of my work was available for you to read, and I tore off a sheet of paper and quickly scribbled down the online magazines where some of my favorite stories are published. Like “Full Court Drama,” published in Agave Magazine, “Clouded Memories” in Cease, Cows, “Folly” in Minerva Rising’s¬†‚ÄúSparrow‚Äôs Trill‚ÄĚ issue. I also wrote the web address to my writing blog and gave the scrap paper to you.

You stayed while I paid the girl at the counter, then walked me out the door and to my car. That’s when you asked for my number. And while I’m not one to just give any guy my number, especially one I just met thirty minutes before, I gave you mine, not only because of all your help with my car, making me feel like I truly received service and didn’t just spend a bunch of money, but also because you showed more interest in my mind rather than my looks. You opened the driver’s door for me, let me in, and promised to call me soon, take me out sometime, eager to hear me read some of my stories to you. I left with a smile and much anticipation.

But you never called.

I thought maybe you were abiding by the rule—wait a few days to call, don’t appear too desperate and available, make them sweat a little.

But now it’s been two and half weeks, and while there’s still a possibility that you might call, my hope is stretching thin. I’m not mad . . . not really . . . just a little disappointed. I’m at a place in my life where I’m not interested in a romantic relationship, but I was really looking forward to making a new friend, someone who was supportive of my writing. I don’t have many friends like that, apart from my blogging family online.

What happened? Did you change your mind about me? Was getting my number just a bet between you and the other mechanics? Did you forget my name and lose my number amid your hundreds of contacts? That happened with a lady at church once. Maybe I mistakenly gave you the wrong number. Things like that slip my mind quite often—remembering my own phone number. If I did, believe me, it wasn’t on purpose. Maybe I gave you the right number, and you did call, but I didn’t answer. Because of the rise in scam phone calls, I don’t answer numbers I don’t recognize. But you could’ve texted me; I do answer those. It might’ve even been better if you’d called me while we were both standing by my car. I could’ve saved your number in my phone then. ¬†At least I could’ve gotten your name. I’m sure you were wearing a nametag, but I don’t think I ever looked at it.

I guess my only option now, if I ever want to see you again, is to go back to Jiffy Lube, use the over due transmission service or fuel filter change as my excuse for my visit. But let’s be serious, I’m a bit of a penny pincher, and I probably won’t go back to a body shop until after I attend the “Getting to Know Your Vehicle” seminar that the Men’s Ministry at my church is hosting, just so I’m sure I understand all the maintenance work that’s required for my car to keep from over spending.

Also, I’m afraid you won’t remember me, and that would be so much more embarrassing.

So if you happen to read this, I’d like to say I’m still waiting for your call—maybe we could meet up to see Wonder Woman together—but if you’ve chosen not to continue your pursuit, it was really great meeting you. You seem like a great guy, and any woman, especially if she’s a single, insecure writer like me, would be lucky to have you as a friend.

Sincerely,

The car illiterate writer with the red Hyundai

 

Insecure Writer‚Äôs Support Group: Will the Real Writer of the Family Please Stand Up

Not everyone can write. I know that’s a contentious statement to make in writing circles, so let me backtrack and say that not everyone can write well.

I have a lot of people in my family who think they can write, and hey, if you’re good, I’m not knocking you, but let’s be serious here. The true writer of the family is me, and it has always been me. But I never get the recognition I feel I deserve. Yes, my mom reads my work, and she brags to her coworkers, and they get hooked on the stories I post on my fiction blog. I have a brother in jail who has loads¬†of time now to¬†read the stories I send him to keep his mind off his unfortunate circumstances. As for my extended family—they make me feel like, oh, anyone can do that, or, it’s amazing when someone else does it, but not so much when I do it.

Memorial Day weekend, my cousin came down from Nashville to visit, and she told me about this memoir she and her parents were writing. It’s basically a history of the family, crazy life experiences, etc. It had a great premise, I thought, on account that every family has at least three outlandish stories to tell that would make a great book. The title was also badass, but I probably shouldn’t share it¬†since the eventual goal, according to my cousin, is to publish the book.

During the entire conversation, I was under the impression that I was invited to be a coauthor in this project. Hell, we were on our way to their house to have an all-day writing session. She’d even given me the link to the shared Google Doc the memoir was on. I was so excited to be included, because for the longest time, I felt that this part of my family didn’t care about my writing, didn’t acknowledge it, or simply didn’t think it was that big a deal.

Unfortunately, when I arrived with laptop charged and ready, my aunt politely told me no, this project was for their family only, meaning mom, dad, sister, sister, no cousins, no nieces, no previously published fiction writers allowed. So while everyone else sat at the dinning room table, typing away in their assigned chapters, I tended to my blog and pretended not to be totally irked, by the fact that I was the only true writer at the table not writing in the memoir. The family memoir.

But I had many other projects on my plate. For one, the Short Story a Day challenge was nearing completion; I had three more stories to go. I was also gearing up to write a novella in July for CampNaNoWriMo in preparation for writing my novel in November for NaNoWriMo, which I spent all April planning.

Of course when I told them this, my aunt’s response was, “Do you get a prize or something for writing every day?”

“It’s more of a personal achievement,” I answered.

Then my cousin asked me to explain NaNoWriMo, and I was excited to tell her all about it since I will participating this year, and this is the first year I actually feel fully prepared and confident that I can start and finish the challenge.

Then my non-writing uncle chimed in. Allow me to roll my eyes for three minutes.

Let me pause to tell you a little bit¬†about my uncle. First, he loves to talk about himself, but then I guess all writers do. Hell, that’s what I’m doing. I would take him more seriously if he was actually a good writer, but the man can’t even put two words together¬†to form a complete¬†sentence that makes sense when he talks, which is why it’s so mind-boggling to me that he was a preacher for 25 years. Preaching to whom? What congregation?¬†Who could understand him?

When I was around 17 or 18, on my way to college, I told him about my aspirations to become a published author, and he basically told me to get a day job, I was wasting my time,¬†no way in hell, it’s a¬†one in a million chance that I will ever get published, might as well just give up now, major in something that will get¬†me a job. After that, he showed me his scrapbook of all the articles he published¬†in magazines¬†back in the ’80s on activism and what not, and all I could think was, “Really? After you’ve just killed my dreams, you’re seriously¬†gonna shove all your ‘success’ in my face?” Obviously, I’ve never gotten over it (even though I probably should).

And¬†he still does that shit,¬†to this day!¬†Whenever I tell him, “Hey, I got a new story published,”¬†he immediately goes to his office and grabs that stupid notebook to show off his writing from thirty years ago. Can I get one moment of glory, please, without you always trying to¬†steal my thunder, Uncle?

And he writes just as “well” as he speaks—jumbled up rambling that spins the reader¬†in circles. I’ve tried to read his published articles before, and each time I’ve found myself¬†wanting to edit them.

So getting back to the story, my uncle adds his two cents. “50,000 words in a month? That’s¬†extremely hard to do!”

Me: “It’s around 2,000 words a day.”

Uncle: “That’s a lot!”

Thinking to myself: Not really, that’s like three pages single-spaced in a word doc. Saying aloud: “Well, you have to plan ahead; you can’t fall behind, or it’ll be harder to catch up.”

Uncle¬†after jumbling a few words: “You have to be a real writer!”

Me to myself: The fuck? I am a real writer! (in Eddie Murphy’s Mushu voice from Disney’s Mulan)

Auntie: “Well, she’s a writer too, honey.”

Me to myself: Oh, you remember now?

Uncle: “Well . . .¬†” *fumble jumble tumble bumble* ¬†“. . . no.”

Me to myself: What?

Uncle: “I’m talking about a¬†real writer. Yea, ’cause, ’cause, I know of this guy, you know, who writes like 10,000 words a day, a day! OK?”

Me to myself: He obviously doesn’t have a day job. Whatever, man. I’m done with this conversation.

So after we fell into an awkward silence, I decided to go to the link my cousin sent me and read what they had written so far. I could tell from the opening lines that this memoir was her idea. She’d written some great sections, hilarious, not too wordy, clever headings and titles (I should enlist her help with titling some of my stories, because sometimes I struggle). Then I came upon a section written by my uncle, and once I got through all the mumbo jumbo, it was again all about him, all about the great ministry work he’d done, a bunch of self-righteous shit jumbled together in run-on sentences. I was over it.

I didn’t even bother to read what my aunt had written. She’s not a writer. Period. She and my cousin spent ten minutes arguing over why she couldn’t randomly rename characters Pookie and Ray-Ray just because that was the title of the chapter (another clever title by my cousin, which I probably shouldn’t have named, but oh well). Pookie and Ray-Ray are caricatures of the ghetto. Every “hood” has at least one Pookie and one¬†Ray-Ray. Obviously my cousin intended for that chapter to be about the types of people you meet in the hood, but if you’re going to name a character Pookie or Ray-Ray, that character has to fit the profile: Pookie, the ghetto fabulous, over-sexual hood rat, and¬†Ray-Ray, the fast talking hustler, always trying to sell you some knockoff purse or pair of shoes, smooth talking a girl right out of her panties. These are just a few definitions, but there are many. The point is you can’t just name anyone Pookie or Ray-Ray, and the fact that my aunt could not understand that is proof (proof, I tell you!) that she is not a writer, at least not a creative one.

I’m the writer of the family, dammit! My cousin, I’ll say she’s good, from what I’ve read so far¬†(and she’s pretty supportive of me, even from Nashville), but this is my livelihood, and it sucks that my family doesn’t respect it.

Maybe I’m a little selfish. Maybe my feelings are just hurt¬†because I don’t get to participate in the family memoir. Since graduating from college, I struggle to find like minds who enjoy writing as much as I do. It’s why I immerse myself in blogging. I have a family of writers here online. But to have a writing session where the whole family sits together at the table to write and discus writing—oh my goodness, that is a writer’s wet dream! Unfortunately, I don’t get to be a part of it. Not with this family.

Even though I am family.

But I guess working with a real writer would be a little intimidating for them, especially since I can be an asshole of an editor too. Just ask my countless unfinished novels collecting megabyte dust on my hard drive.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: 25 Going on 90, Herb Gardens, Bake Sales, and New Ventures

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you to pass the cream and sugar, chuckling as I pour them into my cup, because the barista always manages to put too much expresso in my milk, and I¬†probably shouldn’t be ordering¬†coffee anyway, since I never liked the¬†taste of it, and adding more sugar to anything cannot be¬†deemed healthy. I’d consider ordering tea on my next visit to the caf√©, since the only coffee I ever¬†drink are flavored lattes and frappuccinos, and¬†maybe I’ll lay off the sweets next time too—trying to lose weight and all.

If we were having coffee, I would proudly tell you that I finally listened and responded to God’s call for me to be a teacher,¬†using my natural talent of writing to¬†offer biblical teaching and insight to¬†as many people as I can. Teaching doesn’t always have to involve standing in front of a group of people, which has always terrified me. And I’ve always been more eloquent in my writing anyway. So, after sporadically sharing it on this blog and others, and even on a short-lived Hubpage, my project, Sunday Morning Word, finally has a home, and it’s looking quite welcoming and homey on¬†a new¬†clean, quiet blog. I’m so excited to share its content, starting ¬†with my first post, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People,” which should be an inspiration to anyone who is currently going through a hard time in life.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that at age 25, I fear I’m getting senile. Last night, I forgot I had a load of clothes in the washer, and I’ve only just now put them in the drier. Thankfully¬†the weather is not too hot or humid, and the clothes don’t smell moldy, so maybe I can get away with not washing them a second time and wasting water, energy, and detergent.¬†Another “senior moment” happened when back to back¬†two phrases that should’ve easily come to mind, like “activate a credit card,” and “engage with an audience,” completely escaped me, and I sat there frozen for minutes (I am not exaggerating), thinking, “What’s the word. What is that word?!” Dementia runs in my family, and it terrifies me that I could be losing it already when there’s still so much to do. So maybe I should pay¬†closer attention to what I’m putting in my body, i.e.¬†drink more water, eat more “brain food”—salmon, carrots(?)—get more anal stricter about my diet again because that belly pouch is starting to come back and the number on the scale is going in the wrong direction. Plus¬†it’s¬†just over two weeks before the start of bikini season, and I’ve got to get in shape!

If we were having coffee, I would show you pictures of the herb garden I planted—because I finally got fed up with paying $4.00 a pop for herbs and spices at the grocery store, and fresh always tastes ten times better that freeze dried, store bought, or picked too damn early anyway. The basil is looking delectable, and the marjoram, parsley, and thyme I can’t wait to eat, but my cilantro is struggling and hanging on for dear life, and I’m so bummed about it because I was really hoping to use it to make some authentic Mexican guacamole, or salsa, or cilantro lime rice for a southwestern dish. So if you’re a foodie or¬†you¬†have a green thumb, I could really use some advice on how to save my dying cilantro. My dinner plans are in a crisis!

If we were having coffee,¬†I would tell you that while watching a kids show on qubo tv (don’t ask), I heard a little girl, maybe five or six, say she wished she was 25, and immediately I said, “No you don’t,” because I’ve been at it a little over two months now, and this 25 shit ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and how exactly do you “adult” anyway, because I’m pretty sure I’m not doing it right, in fact, nine times out of ten, I have no idea what I’m doing, but somewhere in the nonsensical definition, it’s called “adulting,” so I just BS and roll with it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my granddaddy is selling cakes for $2 a slice at the bowling alley to raise money for the cancer foundation at our local hospital. It’s just one of many fundraisers he has leading up to the¬†annual bowl-a-thon he hosts in honor of his second wife, who died of breast cancer. We had five cakes (four of which¬†Granddaddy made himself) on display—lemon, five flavor (vanilla, almond, butter, pineapple, and coconut)¬†plain and with icing, chocolate, and¬†almond—plus a dish of¬†banana pudding. Twice I had to resist the urge to smack some people. The first was a lady who stuck her nose all up in the cake, like she couldn’t smell it from 10 feet away. Don’t you hate it when people do that? The second was when a man paid for his cakes with a $2 bill. I would’ve kept that! They don’t make those anymore; in a few years, they could be worth more than two dollars!

Despite minor setbacks, we made $119 this weekend and will¬†be back again next Saturday.¬†Of course, I’ll probably be doing all the work because Granddaddy and his lady friends just sat off to the side, gossiped about Trump, and occasionally¬†yelled at people waking by who tried to pretend they didn’t see our delicious cakes (diabetes the excuse). But¬†it doesn’t bother me—hey, I¬†used to work in food service, I’m a pro at it—I only ask that somebody pay attention to take the money because I don’t want to be handling the¬†desserts and touching dirty¬†dollar¬†bills¬†too. That’s just nasty.

If we were having coffee, I would glance down at my watch and say I have to run, because there’s always something urgent on my calendar that completely slipped my mind until now—me being so forgetful and all. I would thank you for this lovely chat, and promise that I’ll let you speak next time, but you’re such a good listener and I just get so¬†carried away sometimes. I’d sneak a wink at the barista on my way out the door, and halfway down the street, I’d spin around and rush back in to get my cup of milk with too much coffee that I absently¬†left on the table.