Saturday, June 30, 2012

Heat and Discouragement

I shouldn't complain about the heat. I feel like an a-hole. You know like that lyric in Denis Leary's song? "I walk around in the summertime saying, "How about that heat?" And it's not like I'm a firefighter up in Colorado Springs or something. (Lord, please bring them rain.) And I'm not a Bedouin living in a tent in the middle of the Sahara or something. So I don't have air-conditioning. We do have ceiling fans and if worse comes to worst, we can always walk down to the beach (if the damn tourists will move over and leave some space on the sand) and enjoy the breeze and the cool water. So what if it's 86 degrees F with a relative humidity of 66% making it feel as though is is 106! It could be worse. (Not that I'm asking for proof of that, Lord.) In Dhaka, Bangladesh right now it's 84 degrees F but their relative humidity is at 87%. If the relative humidity is 100% is it raining? Indeed.

So, I've been researching publishers and editors online and WOW. There is so much to learn. I am not certain if I want to self-publish. I know you get more profit-wise but I don't know that I'm that much of a control freak and really...who has the time? I get sick of my own self-promotion just spreading around my links back to this blog. I love the attention but honestly, if I have to beg for it, People. It's just so anticlimactic.

A very, dear friend of mine (you're all dear friends but this one I've been friends with since 1987) read all the chapters of my novel that I've written so far and she said that it's kinda of memoir-ish and that the character I wanted as my main to sort of hanging out there. So that was disappointing. BUT,
still encouraging. I can fix all of that later if I can just sit down and pound out my story. I'm starting to sleep an awful lot lately. I could be getting sick. But I think it's just the heat. So if I can just tie a cotton scarf on my head to keep the sweat out of my eyes and sit down and type my heart out, I can go back and edit the crap out of it and tie it all together later, right?

My mom once told me that the devil's favorite tool is not lust or envy or any of the glamorous sounding sins. It is discouragement. Because when we are discouraged we tend to doubt ourselves and then we give up. Giving up prevents us from being the most or best that we can be. And I thought about that yesterday. I thought about it a lot. And I know that I'm sabotaging myself by allowing the heat and lack of time (really, lack of MAKING time) and whatever other excuse I can think up, to prevent me from completing this work.
(Honestly, that could all be said for me failing miserably at this dieting thing, too. But that's another bridge to jump from later.) So, I'm going to do this. I'm going to write. And for once in my life, I'm going to COMPLETE this task before starting another. (Pinterest, your lovely DIY projects will have to be put on hold.)

I AM a writer. I will write.

Monday, June 25, 2012

To-Do Lists Are Not Getting To-Done

SAHMs are constant list-writers, for the most part. We have lists of things to do, things to buy, whose turn it is to do the dishes and who is grounded from computer and for how long.  Sometimes my life is so jam-packed with activity, responsibility, items we've run out of, that I have to include things that ordinary people never forget, like eating or pooping. Yes. My to-do list will actually have -go poop written on it most days.
I've given up adding the more decadent activities to my to-do list.  I now write "shave legs" and "wax mustache" to my bucket list with the hopes of experiencing these things at least once more in my life time before I kick that damn bucket which seems to be further out of sight daily.  If I could remember to refill and actually take my cholesterol medicine, I may never have to put " -go poop" on my to-do list ever again. That job will be "to-done" before I finish my first cup of coffee.

So, today I've added the following to my B.B.T.D.L. (that's Big Bad To-Do List): three official emails to write, copies of one child's entire medical history to be made, pick up oldest kid's school records and copy, and find a cyber-cafe with a working printer so that I can print off my absentee ballot and get that thing in the mail. All of these in addition to the usual grocery shop, cook, clean, break up fights, hang clothes, break up more fights, pull hairball out of bathroom  pipe, break up fights, pay whatever unexpected bill collector that shows up at the door, break up fights, make dinner, pry the remote control out of teasing 11 yr old's hand and break up fights.

Oh. Emergency to-do list interruption, "Mom, I need to go to the dentist. I have a big, huge cavity and it hurts to breathe." *sigh* 

Monday, June 18, 2012

NO I Don't Know Where the Promenade Deck Is

It's 5 million humid degrees outside and it's 1 a.m. and my kids are "bored" and begging me to entertain them and I would LOVE to play "TAG with a Cattle Prod" and I'll be "IT" but I don't have a cattle prod and I already made the rule that we can't run in the house.  And for the record, my name tag, if I were required to wear one for this SAHM-gig, would read MOMMY and not "Julie McCoy - Cruise Director" so it's not my responsibility to entertain you people.  This is a really small apartment packed to the gills with hot and sweaty people and no air conditioning. It's not the Love Boat.

Have I mentioned it's hot?  I HATE the summer.  Winter is cool because, even if we don't have heat, we can put down area rugs, pile on the blankets, wear two  pairs of socks and snuggle.  But summer? YUK. You can only BE naked. I mean, what's after that? I don't even plug in the water heater in the summer. And you'd think that that would provide us with cold showers all around, right? Wrong. Egypt is so damn hot that the cold water comes out of the pipes hot. Yup. Like solar powered water heater without the inconvenience of putting all those little solar panels up on top of the building.

So I've got the box fan blowing on me on high and hoping that my computer doesn't overheat because you know, NO AIR-CONDITIONING. I'm going to go take my fourth shower for the day and hit the sack. But I'll be dreaming of the Yukon, baby. And snow and polar bears drinking icy bottles of coke. And maybe I won't wake up so sweaty tomorrow.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


In a show of solidarity with Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown (D) who was banned indefinitely from speaking on the House floor because the male House leader "took offense" to her use of the word "vagina" while addressing legislation involving just that, I have chosen to write about the body part that enabled a lot of you the honor of celebrating today, Father's Day.

I find it ridiculous that grown men in the year 2012 are uncomfortable hearing the correct medical term VAGINA.  What's even more reprehensible is that these same men have no problems writing legislation requiring women seeking abortions to have a transvaginal ultrasound. Before I get a bunch of "hate-comments" from my loving family, I will say this:  I am not at all an advocate for abortion.  I am not a member of any pro-choice groups. Likewise, I am not a member of any pro-life groups. I do not carry placards for either side of the Roe v. Wade controversy.  I have never had an abortion, nor would I. Personally, I feel like the law was written and upheld now since 1973 and no amount of  protesting in the damn near 40 years that the law has been on the books has made even one iota of difference. So, there are plenty of others who disagree with me. That's fine. If you find that abortion is wrong, don't have one. Teach your kids abstinence and to be responsible and not to have abortions. That's what I'm doing.

But having a man, who doesn't have and never will have a vagina, dictate that one of the most invasive and horribly intrusive forms of ultrasound be performed on a woman before she can have an abortion, is just insanity.  I had one of these procedures done when I was spotting during my third  pregnancy.  The ultrasound technician, a man, performed the procedure as though he were grinding the gearshift in his 1974 Ford Pinto because he hadn't bothered to press down on the clutch. I remember him saying several times, "I just need to get a look over here."  And the phallic shaped device poked even harder into my cervix.  What came of all this?  Well, I felt like I had been raped with an inanimate object while viewing it on a monitor by some pimply faced technician who had the sensitivity of a hungry gorilla poking through a "box" of "hairy tacos" in search of one little bean. (Yeah, puns intended...that's why those words are in parentheses.)
I went home and my spotting had turned to bleeding and then to full on hemorrhage requiring an emergency D&C procedure when my blood pressure had dropped to 40/20.  I was twelve weeks pregnant when I
"miscarried." I have refused to have a transvaginal ultrasound ever since.

So here's the thing that makes me so angry about the situation in the Michigan State House of Representatives.  People who don't want their taxes to pay for abortions are okay with paying for forced intrusive procedures and then their taxes pay for abortions. OR their taxes don't pay for the abortions but because they don't want anyone to have abortions, even though the US Supreme Court upheld the legality of abortion back in 1973, they're going to be vindictive and  punish those abortion seekers via a forced invasive procedure that their tax money IS going to pay for. (Scratching my head now.) Is the issue the money? Or is it punishment? I haven't figured it out yet. It's seemingly a case of "You shouldn't have screwed around and gotten pregnant and there's nothing we can do about it legally to keep you from aborting.  So we're gonna literally screw you, too, with an inanimate object and force you to watch from the inside our expense." WHATTTT????!

Seems to me the GOP has lost its "family values" leg to stand on.

So, when a female member of the Michigan State House is banned from speaking on the House floor indefinitely because she used the word VAGINA and the House Leader found it "offensive," I begin to wonder.  Had she used the term "HOO-HOO," "snatch," "bearded clam," "gash," "slit," or "lady junk"
would he have been any less offended?  If referring to her "pee-pee," "baby-chute," "love hole," or "carnal canyon of happiness," by its PROPER ANATOMICAL NAME makes him so uncomfortable, perhaps he should reconsider legislating as to what goes into it. (Also, if I were the gambling type, I would be willing to bet that the same dude nervous over the word VAGINA doesn't have any qualms about any up-close and personal shots of one while he's watching his favorite free internet porn site.) I'm just saying.

Oh, and Happy Fathers Day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It Might Be About That Time

I was standing in the kitchen making my awesome
Chicken and Vegetable Pasta with Bashamel Sauce
today when a rare breeze blew through the windows.
I felt something touching the back of my leg just 
above my ankles. Fearing it was a red ant (our kitchen
is FULL of them this summer), I immediately dropped
my spoon and started smacking the back of my legs.
Nothing there. "That's odd," I thought. I wasn't 
sweating. So it wasn't a drop of sweat rolling down
where you aren't sure if it's sweat or a bug. So I went
back to finishing dinner.
Another breeze blew through the windows and I 
felt it again...only this time it was more like a tickling
sensation. I checked behind me to see if Ismail or Hamo
were playing tricks on me with a dry paintbrush. Nope.
I was all alone in the kitchen. That's when I noticed. 
been since I mowed those things? I mean, shaving my 
legs is always one of the last things on my list of stuff
to do, ESPECIALLY when my husband is working 
overseas. But DAMN! I could probably french braid 
these puppies. 
So, my list of stuff to do has one more job on it. Oh yay.
Now I need to make sure I've got at least 2 new razors, 
just in case one breaks during the pending hackfest. I
don't think we own a machete. We live in the city, for
crying outloud. I may have to wait until the kids go to 
sleep tonight. This looks like a 2-hour job. I know, I know.
TMI. But what's a girl to do? I'm really busy and I don't
have my man around right now to ask me why I'm wearing
legwarmers to bed in August to remind me to shave my
legs. I got the kids fed. What more do ya want from me?
So, I look a little "Sasquatch-y". It could be worse. At
least I remember to bathe!

((*I originally wrote this back in August 2009. But I suddenly developed 
writer's block when I sat down to write and figured I'd just share one from
the archives.  But honestly, I chose it because my daughter rubbed her 
hand against my leg and said, "Ouch!" So, of course I laughed and thought
of this post.))

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Granny Jean

I woke up this morning happy. My Granny Jean had come to visit me in a dream. It was weird. Everyone was giving me birthday gifts wrapped in Christmas paper but when I opened them they were just pieces of cardboard with mud smeared on them. But Granny Jean was so sweet and kissed me on the head and gave me Little Debbie oatmeal creme cookies. Then I woke up.

It was nice. Ordinarily I have the type of dreams where I wake up in a cold sweat and a panicked gasp for air after being thrown off a large roller coaster that I'm driving my Buick on (yeah, I know) or I've been submerged under water for a long time and someone is holding me by my face with a gigantic hand. But today I got to see my late grandmother and she even gave me the greatest Little Debbie's ever made! (Yeah, Wendy! Oatmeal Creme Cookies are the best. NOT those lame Zebra Stripes!)

Knowing about my Granny Jean might give you a glimpse into my personality. My grandmother, Mary Emma  Ward-Nicholas was fondly called Jean by my grandfather, Roy.  He used to sing that song "Jean, Jean, Roses are Red" to her. She was 39 years old when I was born. She was 39 years my entire life. I was pregnant with my 4th baby when she passed 39 years of age.  She was a good Southern woman who wore shorts around the house with her knee high stockings rolled down and her supportive shoes on.  I remember spending the night at her house and staying up late to watch Johnny Carson with her while we both ate Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal. (Because really it's more like a dessert than a breakfast food.)  She kept Trident gum in a tin shaped like an apple on top of the refrigerator and made a mean lemon pound cake in a bundt form that she lovingly called "Buddy Cake" after my granddad, Buddy. (We never called him Granddad. He wasn't old enough to be our grandfather, but he would be our buddy.)

Granny Jean taught me how to make biscuits from scratch, several times. Because I thought I was too smart to write it down and eventually had to ask my Aunt Ginger to tell me again as an adult when I finally did write it down. Granny Jean is the only person I know who would ask you, "How do you like your oatmeal done?" Well, in our family you did have a choice. You could either eat it with a spoon or a fork. I always went with the fork version and would throw a fried egg on top. She kept her mayonnaise in the cupboard instead of the fridge and none of us ever got food poisoning from it...EVEN in the Alabama heat.

Whistling at my grandparents house was for OUTDOORS ONLY. We could actually get in trouble for whistling in the house. And screaming...forget it, you'd better be bleeding to death or you'd wish you were. Granny Jean loved to laugh and was always lighthearted.

The Nicholas grandchildren were all taught to be card sharks. Granny Jean played Bridge sometimes with her friends but with us kids she played Spades, Hearts, War, Rummy, Double Solitaire, and Bullshit! We went through a brief  phase where we played spoons but too many of us ended up getting hurt diving across the floor or kitchen table to grab up the last piece of silverware available. Rainy days, sunny days, ANY days you could find a gaggle of kids around shuffling and bridging a deck of cards like they were professional dealers in any Vegas casino.

Thanksgiving in Mobile was always my favorite. I brought my husband down to Thanksgiving at Granny Jean and Buddy's house when we were living in Georgia. He'd never experienced that much Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, etc before. The homemade pies lined the length of the buffet and while everyone else was watching the football game, Mohamed began to yawn. Apparently, he'd never experienced that much tryptophan, either. Granny Jean took him into her room and told him to lie down on her bed. Mohamed was embarrassed and told her, "That's okay, Granny."  She insisted and told him that there wasn't a member of our family yet that hadn't had a nap on her bed at least once. He zonked out an official member of the family.

When she finally died, I couldn't make it to her funeral. I was too far pregnant with my daughter, Samiya, and we were living in Maryland by then. Daddy called me to tell me the news and then asked me if I knew where my sister, Monika was so that he could inform her. I told him that she had said something about going to have dinner at her boyfriend's house. She later told me of the events that followed her conversation with Daddy on the phone. She said that she cried when she hung up the phone. Here's the way it went with her

Boyfriend:     What's wrong? Are you okay?
Monika:         No. That was my dad. My grandmother is dead.
Boyfriend:      (Hugging her) Were you two close?
Monika:         I was her namesake.
Boyfriend:      Oh. Her name was Monika?
Monika:         No. (sobbing)
Boyfriend:      Oh. So her name was Jean?
Monika:         No. But she always liked the name Jean.
Boyfriend:      (Not the first time confused by our family history) How old was she?
Monika:         (Laughing now) 39!!!!!!!!!!

Yup. That was my grandmother. Still making us smile from beyond the grave.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Patience, Poopy Diapers and Trips to the Beach

So I took the kids to the beach today. I know it sounds ridiculous but it's too freaking hot to go to the beach. Yeah, that does sound kind of retarded. But that's because you guys probably DRIVE to the beach and get to lie around on a clean sand and NOT have to decide whether to plop down in the sand near the tracks of the rented 4-wheelers that these idiot tourists rent for their NINE YEAR OLDS to drive up and down the coastline or next to the family on vacation from Cairo who whip their baby's poopy diaper off and toss absently over their shoulder landing with a splat on your germophobic son's flip-flop! (And yeah, I know that the date on the photo above is wrong but that's because I couldn't get any good shots today with all the tourists in the way. But those are my kids last month at the same beach.)

I'm not a patient person by nature. Being a parent has sort of forced patience upon me. I have learned to ignore the disrespectful stares and rude remarks of people who don't know or care to understand dealing with an autistic child who has had too much change or sensory overload in public. I can hold my tongue and keep my hands to myself when dealing with multiple levels of stupid even though it is taking every fiber of my being to not stab repeatedly with whatever object is handy. And I've yet to act upon my fantasies of driving my kids out to the desert and dumping them there with a 2-liter bottle of water and a road map when they are fighting and tattling to the point that my blood pressure is within the optimal range for a full blown stroke. I've come a long way.

But the heat and humidity of Alexandria mixed with the morons that visit it in the summer and trash our beaches and then have the audacity to criticize how filthy they are, is sometimes more than I can handle.

But I finally gave in after five days of whining, crying, deal-making and cajoling by my kids. Ismail, Randa, Samiya and Aiman swam and played and watched an old man get rescued from drowning in 4 feet of water(?) while Mohamed drew new stories in his comic book and I talked to him with both eyes staring out at the sea counting to four repeatedly. After an hour and a half, I noticed the sun starting to set and I called them in, handed out sweatshirts, dumped out baby powder to rub on their feet to get the sand off and then we packed it up and headed home. I'm just excited that I've got two of the five knocked out asleep on the couch!

Maybe we'll bring a large trash bag next time and be good citizens and hope that the Cairenes learn from our example. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Memory of Scent

I was just going to close up on here and let my kids have a turn on the computer. But then suddenly I smelled the night jasmine coming in from the balcony door on the other side of the house. The doorman has a night jasmine tree planted just under our balcony. It's LOVELY when the wind blows in off the Mediterranean Sea (which is about 12 blocks away) and hits that tree. We get to reap the benefits. It reminds me of walking in Amman, Jordan in the evenings on my way home from work.

Scents always trigger memory quicker than any word or song or  picture. The smell of Old Spice cologne makes me think of my dad. And whenever we walk past the pastry wholesale shop on our way to the butcher, I smell the aroma of cooking sugar and butter and immediately I'm back in Nikaia, Greece in KAIROS bakery where my husband worked when we first started dating. The smell of rain makes me think of shopping in Germany with my sister. And the smell of freshly cut grass can take me to any number of softball fields where I played on various teams growing up.  The smell of "Sweet Honesty" perfume by Avon makes me think of my mom in the summertime when I was only 8 and the smell of tangerines takes me back to St. Nicklaus' Tag in Germany and putting my boots outside the door for treats.

The smell of peppermint candy makes me think of my paternal grandfather, Buddy Nicholas. And the smell of  pine trees, Frito's, or pecan pie is an instantaneous trip to Mobile, Alabama. The smell of iced tea makes me think of my Aunt Ginger.  The smell of Baby Magic lotion makes me think of my firstborn son and how he loved to take a bath in the kitchen sink.

The smell of lemon Carpet Fresh makes me laugh, because my cousin, Jim, empty an entire box of it on the rug in the den one time and even after we vacuumed it all up, no one could walk into the den without their eyes tearing up for about three weeks. The smell of Poison perfume makes me want to vomit. (Someone bathed in it at work when I was pregnant with my first baby.)  And the smell of popcorn makes me think of sitting around our living room watching movies together.

The jasmine is filling up my head and reminding me that it's not my turn on the computer anymore. It's lovely. I'm going to go sit closer to the balcony door to enjoy it and the other scents of Summer.

Summer Schedules

It's hot. (Yeah, Africa hot because it's only June. I expect it'll be Dallas-hot by August.) So I'm not a big fan of the heat because it's so doggone humid here and we don't have air conditioning. I can live with just ceiling fans and open windows. Probably, it's healthier this way. (And if it's not, just can it! I don't want to hear how I'm doing it wrong mainly because I can't afford an air conditioner right now nor the additional 100 Pounds per month on the electric bill.)

Every summer I have these huge plans involving how much I'm going to get accomplished. I usually plan to complete my novel, teach my kids how to type without hunting and pecking, teach them to swim and we'll spend every other day at the beach, and I'll make awesome desserts that I saved from the internet and maybe I'll go back to freelance translation of articles online to make some extra money. And every year I'm lucky enough to get my butt out of bed before noon because it's too hot to sleep at night and too hot to do anything during the day.

However, this year is different. Today I got up at 11 o'clock. (That's EARLY in Egypt.) I managed to wash and hang a load of laundry, shower, have a cup of coffee, and complete five more pages on Chapter 7 of my novel! YEAH! I then got up and went to pay the internet bill (only three days late) and managed to keep my service from being interrupted. YEAH! And I brought Randa with me...she NEVER wants to go anywhere anymore. And we went to the vegetable market and bought fresh green and red grapes and apples and okra (YUM) and meat and rice and most importantly, a new remote control for the satellite receiver. Our old one bit the dust when it fell on the floor during a fight about which ridiculous cartoon we were going to watch. (I'm seriously considering grounding them from watching any cartoons with the exception of Warner Brothers cartoons. At least then they'd learn about classical music and how to cross dress in order to prevent hunters with speech impediments from blowing their brains out.

I got home and made a light lunch of fava beans with cumin and peppers and cheese and tomatoes with Arabic bread. And then I attempted to "catch my husband" on Skype. No joy. Oh well. He's  probably doing laundry or fixing his IS the weekend.

It's been an incredibly weird week for me. I finally looked at myself in the mirror and decided that blonde is NOT a good look for me.  So last night I went back to red. I feel like I've got my own skin on again. It's still in the beginning days so any water on my hair drips off red and my t-shirt that I'm wearing now has red stains around the collar because it's so EFFIN' hot that I was sweating and my sweat dripped red onto my shirt. Oh well. And it's still pretty bright. (LOVE the Koleston Intense Cherry Red by WELLA.) I kind of look like I'm wearing a Fasching wig . Except that after bleaching the crap out of my hair a month ago and then dying it blonde and now red....all of my natural curl is just gone. I've never had such limp straight hair in my life. I don't know what to do with it. Perhaps it will curl back up again in a few weeks. I sure hope so. I love my curls.

Also, my kids have decided to get into classic rock recently. I went through my son's favorites  playlist on YouTube and he's got nothing but AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Metallica and Queen saved on it with a couple of Bob Schneider songs thrown in for good measure. Also, Randa was walking around singing "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin yesterday. That was weird. This is my autistic kid who still soothes herself by listening to Barney songs. Aiman has always had a thing for anything he can play air guitar to. But Samiya prefers only Michael Jackson and Ismail, my rhythm-less wanna-be rapper, is still a sucker for anything remotely gangsta.  (I'm trying to gently push the old hip hop because I don't want him walking around calling women bitches and hoes all the time. I think "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five can provide him with more intelligent lyrics and still give him that funky bass line that he admires so much.)

Anyway, I'm hoping to continue with some semblance of a schedule this summer that starts with me writing each morning. If I can just get a few pages or even paragraphs written daily, I may make this novel a reality instead of just a dream.

Next dream to make a reality:  Killing this blankety-blank-blank mosquitoes that have taken up residence under this desk!