Battling Giant Mutant Cockroaches

I work for a company that sells pesticides to farmers. No, not Monsanto, but a similar devil.

In my four years of working here (unfortunately not full-time, but if this new communications job that just opened doesn’t obnoxiously require 10+ years experience like the last one, maybe I can change that), I’ve come to realize that we apparently do not use our own products on our grounds. Or maybe we do, and the bugs have just mutated and become immune to the chemicals. Because some of the ugliest, ghastliest, fat-ass creepy-crawlies you’d ever want to see rise from the pits.

And last night, one of them followed me home.

Have you ever seen something out the corner of your eye and totally spazzed out? Maybe it was a remote, or a phone, or a hair ball, or a shifting shadow. Whatever it was, it appeared in just the right angle of your eyesight to trick you into thinking it was a bug you weren’t prepared to kill. So you scramble like there’s no tomorrow. Fight or flight kicks in and you shoot off, sent reeling into the air, dangling from the rotating ceiling fan only to realize it was a false alarm.

I didn’t heed that alarm, assuming it was just another deception of the eyes. When I finally peeled away from the computer and looked to the floor, I nearly choked on my tongue trying to scream.

Crawling over the fibers of my carpet was the biggest cockroach I have ever seen in my life.

I won’t gross you out with pictures, just know that it was huge. About the size of my index, middle, and ring fingers combined! The kind of bug you only see after a horrible rain storm, blown in from some far-off, rural third-world country where the people have learned to cohabitate with their monster vermin. Not me. I am 100% a product of the Western world (to my detriment). I do not do bugs. Bugs give me the heebie-jeebies; I freak even when a fly buzzes by my ear. And don’t get me started on spiders! I’m still anxious about the one that escaped my shoe a week ago, and he was a microbe compared to this roach!

And my brother was not home to kill it. Not that he would even bother if he were. My brother is like one of those drunk, potbellied stepfathers, who lie on the couch all day drinking beer from a can. You hesitate to approach them with a request because you never know what kind of mood they’re going to be in. Will they be gentle this time, or lay siege to you with F bombs before even opening their eyes? Knowing my brother, he probably would’ve told me to grow up, get a pair, and sent back to my room to fend for myself.

Sometimes I wonder who’s the older sibling.

So I got my mom outta bed to help me kill the despicable critter. When she saw how big it was, she turned to me and said, “You brought that home from work.” God, I hope so, and I hope it didn’t bring any friends, or heaven forbid, lay any eggs, because I think I would die right there if I woke up in the middle of the night to a blanket of cockroaches crawling from under my bed. Eeeek!

My mom picked up a can of bug spray to gas the sucker out, which only pissed it off, because then it came sprinting towards me, and by the grace of God I had enough sense to pick up my weighed down dirty clothes hamper and slam it right on top of the bugger before it made anymore sudden moves. Then, for good measure, I climbed inside the hamper and stomped around just to make sure it was dead. But you know, cockroaches are resilient; if cats have nine lives, they’ve got 29. And if they can survive nuclear bomb blasts, surely they can survive being crushed by a flimsy plastic wicker basket.

But killing it wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was getting rid of the body. I couldn’t force myself to lift the hamper, too afraid that it had survived and would dart out for a hiding place before either me or my mom could react, or that it had managed to escape before I could deal the blow and was somewhere in my room, unbeknownst to either me or my mom. (Then I’d have to move to Canada, because there was no way I was staying in that house!)

I cowered in the hallway just outside my bedroom door while my mom peeked under the basket to discover the roach was still kicking. She got the fly swatter to finish it off, only to do a fidgety dance around it because she didn’t want to have to touch it. After about 10 minutes of us standing around, squirming in our pajamas, she finally went to the kitchen and got a plastic cup out of the trash can. Using the swatter, she flicked the dying roach into the cup and quickly shoved the cup into a plastic grocery store bag. Then she rushed through house and out the back door and tossed the bag into the outside trashcan, whose contents will be collected today. Sayonara! Good riddance! I’m glad that nightmare is over.

The both of us were still a little squeamish to go to bed too soon, though.

Thankfully no more mutant cockroaches rose from the depths that night, at least not while I was still awake. (Oh, please let that be the end of it!) But now I’m afraid to go to work, afraid Creepy’s vengeful brother will crawl into my bag under my desk to terrorize me when I get home.

To have dominion over all the creepy-crawlies of the earth, I don’t always feel like it. Apparently my company sells a product called Demon. According to Mom, it’s to, “scare the shit outta those roaches.” I wonder if they would let me take a few samples, build up my arsenal for the next attack. Then again, if these chemicals really are mutating the bugs, I’ll just stop doing laundry and stick with my overstuffed dirty clothes hamper as my weapon, because Lord knows I don’t want to wake up to Vincent D’Onofrio’s giant alien bug (think Men in Black) standing over my bed. Eeeeek!

PROVDO Vault via Flickr

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! 😉

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. 😀

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 “Sparrow’s Trill” 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

 

#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 café, 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.

A Birthday Conundrum

My birthday’s coming soon, and I couldn’t feel more stressed out. Not as stressed as my co-worker, who decided to propose to his pregnant girlfriend on his birthday, but pretty darn close.

To be honest, I could care less about my birthday, but everyone around me is trying to make it a bigger deal than what it is. Hence my stress. Birthdays stopped being important after 21, and once you pass 30, they only serve as cruel reminders that you’re getting old and have nothing to show for your uneventful life.

When you’re a kid, birthdays are exciting. You spend the days leading up to your birthday anticipating what presents you’ll receive. Maybe your parents plan a Disney themed party at your house and invite all your friends from school, or maybe you celebrate at the arcade, or the pizza place, or the children’s museum, or the McDonald’s Play Pin (do those even still exist?), or any other place where young children gather. You and your friends eat all the cake and ice cream you can cram into your tiny little stomachs until you pass out on the floor, bodies contorted in strange positions, with brightly colored blue, purple, red, or green tongues, and dried frosting crumbling around your lips.

Once you reach adolescence, the next big birthday is 16, the age also known as the peak of teenage-y-ness (because 17 is merely an afterthought). Maybe your parents buy you your first car, or you throw a wild, outlandish party like the ones on MTV’s Sweet Sixteen. Maybe you’ve decided that this is the day you lose your virginity, although if you’re smart, you’ll wait until prom, because good things always happen on prom night. (Did you catch the sarcasm there?)

Two years later, you’re 18, an adult, eager to do everything you previously needed a parent’s permission to do; get a tattoo, stay out late, date that no-good boy who will definitely shatter your heart (if you still live at home and have strict parents, this may still prove challenging), buy cigarettes—a friend in high school made this a huge deal on her eighteenth birthday, only to have the cashier deny her the privilege because her ID was expired. Maybe you’re gearing up for college, to finally be free of mom and dad (although not completely, because they’re more than likely flipping that hefty tuition bill), become your own person, discover you!

And lastly, there’s 21. The only thing cool about this birthday is that you finally get to drink . . . legally . . . but we all know you’ve been “turning up” since 16.

So what’s left after 21? Well if you’re me, you have the displeasure of having your brother’s girlfriend (a college student who still parties like she’s 21) feel sorry for you because she thinks you have no friends and you never get out of the house to do anything fun (probably because that’s what your insensitive brother—who’s mind is perpetually frozen at age 16 because of all the weed he smokes—has told her), and now she feels obligated to make you her charity case and drag you to the club with her uptight friends—who think they’re too cute for clothes that fit—to “turn you out.”

Well, excuse me for assuming when I graduated from college, I left behind the constant peer pressure to accept that “fun” meant drinking like you have no liver, dressing like you’re about to make your vixen debut on a rap music video, dancing in the dark with some sweaty man breathing down your neck, and going deaf from the noise they have the audacity to call music these days.

Call me an old soul in a twenty-something-year-old’s body.

That kind of “fun” has never interested me, not even when I was in college. My kind of fun is watching a classic horror movie marathon while eating a huge bowl of popcorn, going midnight bowling with my girlfriends (yes, I do have friends) and between games having a beer or two and sharing a plate of chili cheese fries, going to the bar for the hot wings and home chips and to watch the game and maybe even find someone to teach me how to play pool.

Notice how going clubbing with my brother and his girlfriend was not mentioned. Why? I because I’d rather not be miserable on my birthday doing something I hate with people I don’t particularly like. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother, but we have nothing in common. The things he likes to do for fun I absolutely abhor, and the things I like to do for fun he thinks are boring and lame. Is there a way we can find common ground? Probably. We just haven’t found it yet. And we won’t find it by my birthday. And that’s perfectly fine, because like I said, I really don’t care to do anything but eat some cake and go to bed.

The last few years I’ve spent my birthday with a gang of squealing children. You see, I basically share a birthday with my friend’s (yes, another friend) five-year-old. She was born two days after my birthday, and since the baby shower, I’ve celebrated with her and her family, and have had so much more fun. Why? Because I can actually be myself. My family tries too hard to control my birthday—my brother is always trying to make me be “cool,” my granddaddy always has something more important to do, my mom always has to have a “plan” to go by, and if by some miracle I do come up with a plan, everyone wants to change it!

Wait a minute, whose birthday is it, again?!

Then there’s the issue of presents. If I don’t care to have a party, I don’t care to get any presents. Of course, my granddaddy is probably going to try to “make a statement” of not getting me anything simply because I only bought him a card for his birthday earlier this month.

According to what’s he whined to my mom in private, I didn’t get him anything. Apparently a card with a beautiful message doesn’t count as a present?

And what exactly do you buy an 88-year-old man who already has everything? He has enough shirts, he has enough ties, he has enough power tools. I’ve yet to see him wear the hat I bought him last Christmas (as in Christmas 2015). And if you ask me, my brother didn’t give him a present either, just a wad of cash in card that I bought! Does the thought not count anymore? Only the dollar bills? Well I’m sorry my money’s all tied up in a summer cruise to Alaska and a $1400 doctor’s bill that my bogus insurance won’t cover.

If he tries to give me a long drawn out speech about “being a good family member” and buying presents “to show that you care,” I swear I’m going to lose it. At the end of the day, presents are just things—they break, they tear, they stop working, they get worn, and eventually we throw them away. I can do with less things. We all can.

I’ve considered disappearing on my birthday. Maybe I’ll take a spontaneous road trip down to Georgia to visit my best friend, make a pit stop in Charlotte to pick up my other best friend, and the three of us spend my birthday together. Or maybe I’ll just go off on my own, take a rest and relaxation getaway to the beach or the mountains. Hey, I live in the Piedmont of North Carolina, both are equal distances away.

But the most logical solution will be what I always do. Suffer along with my controlling family, and then party with the five-year-olds. One more year won’t kill me. But the planning for next year’s birthday getaway trip starts TODAY! Don’t ask me what I’m doing for my birthday. I’m already gone.