Pubic Hair Cornrows

The pursuit of seeking logic behind anything the women’s fashion industry does is foolhardy since its sole purpose is to convince as many women as possible that she’s not wonderful the way she is, but can come closer to achieving the ideal beauty if she buys into their nonsense through buying their overpriced, sweatshop-produced clothing and accessories. Of course, ideal beauty is an ever-changing target that fashion-conscious sheeple perpetually hunt.

Becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer straight after graduating from college cured me from the nonsense of women’s fashion. As a matter of fact, I now wear secondhand clothing, except for shoes and underwear, and blend in just fine within the crowds where I normally find myself—for a fraction of the disposable income spent on such depreciable goods.

Yet, there’s an even more sinister fashion trend afoot. No, I’m not referring to the Cinderella glass-heeled stilettos since those have been around for a while. Nor the rise of the “plus-size” model being a size 8, which, by the way is my size. I could be a plus-size model if I wasn’t so short, according to the fashion industry, at a mere 5’5”.

What I’m referring to has no size nor height restrictions and lies beneath all the overpriced, sweatshopped-produced fashionista clothing. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about pubic hair.

I’ve long known that we American women feel compelled to shave underarms, arms, legs and up until the last couple of years a mere waxing around the bikini area. Oh, sure, we all joked about the Brazilian bikini wax for years, but now that has become the new fashionable pubic hair normal.

A trend, which is my latest afflatus: my pubic hair prediction is now that all the fashionable women have lasered or waxed it all away, the pendulum will swing the other way. You see the fashion industry won’t sit still and allow all women to denude their nether region. Cutting-edge, trend-setting fashion means that the new thing has to be what most women don’t already have.

Hence, I proclaim that the next nether fashion will be pubic hair cornrows! That’s right. It won’t be good enough just to grow a natural tangle of pubic hair. Why, that doesn’t cost any money. No, in order to cornrow pubes, women must buy extensions. Some women may need pubic hair implants since all that waxing and lasering has left them permanently deforested.

So fashionable women can go into a salon to get her eyebrow, eyelash and pubic hair implants. This will be the season of hair reforestation!

And since men have pubic hair too, there’s no need for them to be left out in the fashion cold. After all, men and women are both mammals. With matching cornrows couples can do it better than they do it on the animal channel. They can caress each other between the cornrows. Add more sensual hairy friction to the bump and grind. The possibilities are as endless as the fashion industry’s craziness. Get your southern route cornrows today!

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The Hullabaloo

Her scream startled me awake. I listened. More noise meant I had to get up. Silence, I could linger in bed. Regardless, I closed my eyes again. I held the irrational belief my mosquito net protected me from all danger and hullabaloo.

Hullabaloo defined by my Merriam-Webster word-a-day calendar as “a very noisy and confused situation.” Of all the frivolous words that calendar had displayed, hullabaloo was the most applicable. Unlike many of the things Mom sent in her care packages.

No matter how detailed my longhand written letters described my life in this developing country, nothing seemed to penetrate Mom’s gargantuan happy bubble. She meant well. If nothing else, my letters provided her with exotic entertainment and bragging rights. Her smart, worldly daughter doing good in the world.

Far more useful would have been a Swahili word-a-day calendar. At least hullabaloo sounded as lyrical as Swahili. I bought green peppers at the market every week just to say, pilipili hoho. Beyond musical attributes, hullabaloo accurately described daily life.

The volume level of my rural, local neighbors equaled the noise of suburbs in the States. Lively, energetic conversations in sing-songy Swahili, regardless of happiness or anger. Lethargic packs of dogs during the day transformed into growling, barking mongrels at night. Roosters crowing all times of the day. Cows in labor. Bats flapping wings in the crawl space against our corrugated iron roof. And three distinct sounds of beating: the hoe against the earth, the machete against the crops and the small child-size wooden pestle against food held in its mortar.

Fully awake, my eyes refused to remain closed. The frantic shuffling of my roommate’s cheap plastic sandals against the concrete floor traveled into the kitchen. The clang of pots. Opening of drawers.

No need to get out of bed. I heard it all. Even through a closed door.

I’m an analytical thinker. A real problem solver, if you will. That could be a dangerous personality trait. Foreigners like me tended to rush into a country like this, roll up their sleeves and try to fix everything. Making a bigger mess than the original situation.

First thing we were taught in training: “Don’t just do something. Stand there!”

My roommate walked among us as if she was smarter than everyone else. Myself included. And the way she condescended to our local neighbors. I marveled at how they could still address her with such warmth and glowing smiles in their sing-songy accented English. Perhaps another cultural difference was their inability to pick up on condescension, as was the case with sarcasm.

However, her elitist attitude worked in my favor in this case. She’d try several solutions before conceding and knocking on my door for help. For my part, I gave her the time to resolve it. Whatever it was.

Whatever it was, ground zero was not in the kitchen. The shuffling had just traveled into the bathroom. Seconds later, clang-banging wrenched me from a supine position swifter than the most obnoxious alarm clock. Blood-drained induced stars dazzled before my eyes. If ever there was a time to do much of nothing, now was precisely that moment.

I leaned in closer to my mosquito net. Not that it improved my hearing. It just felt a little more comforting to be slumped to the side. My muscles relaxed into a sitting sloth’s position. My heartbeat slowed down. I continued my descent, hugging my knees and resting my chin on them.

She tapped out an erratic rhythm accompanied by guttural unintelligible chanting. My best guess: a long wooden spoon against the porcelain, Westernized toilet basin. Minus the toilet lid. Minus the toilet seat. Usually minus the running water through the pipes to flush it. With such a lack of comfort and utility of a true Western toilet, we didn’t even refer to it by its English name. No, the Swahili name was more appropriate: choo.

Short, quick and efficient. As one’s trip to a developing country’s bathroom usually was. If questionable food hadn’t caused harisha (doesn’t that sound more beautiful than saying “diarrhea”?), then the high oil content most locals used in their food meant it slid out as fast as it had slid in. Depending on the quality of the bathroom situation, one learned not to linger too long, especially when not using one’s own substandard choo at home. Some foreigners even became anal retentive about where they deposited their waste. After a while, their nervous system no longer supported such hyper vigilance and they went practically anywhere.

The arrhythmic beating stopped. I hoped that was a good sign. Now that I was up, I needed to go. The shuffling advanced in the direction of my bedroom. It stopped in front of my door. Illogically, I held my breath, willing her away. Yet, she knocked. At first hesitant, but a few seconds later, a little louder.

I sighed, reluctant to give the verbal cue for her to enter. “Karibu.”

The door squeaked open.

“We have a rat in our choo!”

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Couponing Rediscovered

By the time I resigned from teaching full time at the end of March 2014, I still had stars in my eyes. I’d dutifully paid off all debt, saved up six months’ worth of money and had big dreams of launching my freelance writing/editing career.  Although I’d landed a couple of lucrative writing/editing contracts, there was always some delay in receiving payment, which turned out to be par for the course.

I analyzed what to do more efficiently with invoicing.  I became more proactive when searching for more work before one contract ended.  Yet those lucrative writing/editing contract jobs trickled by.

My reality check came when my dependable freelance work ended the first week in December 2014. There were some minor-issue payment delays. By then, I had started looking into part-time teaching jobs and entered the new year with three interviews lined up.

After the first two interviews, I landed the job I’d wanted the most out of the three, teaching adult basic education in the evenings. Although I knew I’d have no social life, I figured since I’d nearly flatlined financially, I’d save money from teaching in the evenings Monday through Thursday.

Call me optimistic, but much later than I should have, I stopped throwing away all those valuable coupon-containing “junk” mail. I hadn’t needed to maintain a strict budget since my early days of teaching and grad school debt. Even though I watched my savings slowly deplete, I kept telling myself that since I wasn’t extravagant with my money and had some income, I’d be OK. The first week I sorted through that “junk” mail to retrieve valuable coupons, I saved nearly $20! I could’ve kicked myself for not doing this months earlier.

I also changed my cooking habit. I’ve always known that eating at home was more economical than dining out, but I was still under the illusion that I could go through my recipe books, choose a recipe for the week, and write out the needed groceries to make it. While that scheme had served me well in the past, being chronically underemployed did not cater to such middle class luxuries.

The best strategy to use when so dependent on coupons is to build a meal around the available coupons. No matter if the best deal is a 16 oz can of flavored beans, EVERYTHING will taste delicious when fresh, sautéed vegetables and freshly ground spices are added.

I used to boast about being a “guerrilla cook” when I lived in developing countries, then a “blender chef” when I discovered how time-saving using a blender to make dry spice powders and pastes as a base for a meal. Now, I’m the “coupon culinary artist.” The challenge is to save the most money through buying and cooking meals based on the available coupons, bulk items, fresh produce and spices, and my cooking creativity.

My delicious coupon meals remind me with every savory bite I’m not a poor starving artist.

 

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Valentine’s Day Vasectomy

6 penis pop nurse

Men, are you facing yet another Valentine’s Day bad date? Can’t bear another year of giving the cliché gifts of assorted chocolates, a bouquet of flowers and reservations at some crowded expensive restaurant? This year, do you want to do something unconventional and guaranteed to get your woman interested in having lots of sex months and even years after this Valentine’s Day? Then schedule your Valentine’s Day vasectomy today!

With this outpatient procedure, you can give your woman a gift she’ll cherish the rest of her life. Image sparing your partner the surgery, complication and expense of tubal sterilization, or protecting her health from the danger of future pregnancy. A vasectomy is also a good choice for men who want to enjoy having sex without causing pregnancy, don’t want to have a child biologically in the future, think other methods are unacceptable, or don’t want to pass on a hereditary illness or disability.

The best part is with a vasectomy a man can still get an erection, feel sexual pleasure and ejaculate. This procedure only affects his sperm cells, which are produced in the testicles. And since we use the no-scalpel technique, one tiny puncture is made to reach each vas deferens, the sperm tubes. The tubes are either tied, cauterized or blocked. The tiny puncture heals quickly without stitches or scarring, resulting in less bleeding, less pain and decreases the probability of infection, bruising and other complications. Men, you’ll be back in sexual action in 3 to 4 days!

With a Valentine’s Day vasectomy, you and your woman can take playing sexy nurse and horny patient to the next level. Act now, and we’ll even throw in a free tube of lubricant and a handheld masturbatory pleasuring device. After three months of consistent manual stimulation and sex with other forms of birth control, your doctor can confirm that all traces of sperm have been cleared out. And for the rest of your life, the playground will be open!

Disclaimer: Valentine’s Day vasectomies are only intended for men who do not wish or no longer wish to procreate and seek a permanent, non-hormonal birth control solution. Vasectomies do not protect against any sexually transmitted infections. Although the risk of infection due to surgery is low, if you experience a fever over 100°, blood or pus oozing from the site of the puncture, excessive pain or swelling, then see a health care provider. Other potential problems, which usually clear up on their own include bruising, hematomas, hydroceles, granuloma, and pain or discomfort in the testicles. Very rarely, the cut ends of a tube grow back together, which may happen within four months of the operation and allow pregnancy to happen.

[I was inspired to write this spoken word piece after watching several versions of a hormone-replacement treatment for women. All the women made a point to mention how they were driving their husbands crazy wanting sex. Initially, I thought why aren’t any of these women driving their boyfriends, girlfriends or wives crazy wanting sex? Then I thought, what would be the male version of some treatment that would entice a wife or girlfriend to have more sex with her man?]

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MLK Weekend Celebration 2015

I find celebrating MLK Day to be just another day in my life. Since graduating from college in 1992, I’ve dedicated my life to teaching math and science to mostly nonwhite populations, starting with my Peace Corps assignment in Tanzania. Additionally, I read books about African American history, current events and participate in African diaspora culture throughout the year.

Yet, for this snapshot of one weekend where the national focus is a concentration on the African American phenomenon, both our struggles and triumphs in the US, I danced for nearly three and a half hours in four different African-inspired genres of dance classes, spoke of my international experience of wearing dreads at an open mic, and texted friends and family, “Happy MLK Day! Be sure to hug a black person.”

As a result of the latter activity, I received updates from two older friends who are recovering from surgery, got several virtual hugs, and one laugh-out-loud response from a friend, who joked about the possibility of being arrested for hugging a random black person at Home Depot.

I strutted into my bikram yoga studio and wished the instructor a Happy MLK Day and followed up with asking her if she’d hugged a black person yet. She said no, but enthusiastically came around from the front desk to receive a hug and the receptionist followed suit.  I ended up hugging six people.

Hugs can be as meaningful as the giver. I often marvel at how small changes in one’s behavior produce big changes in the long run. If you ever want to know the power of hug, all you to do is hug someone who has not received human touch in a while. Or hug someone you don’t normally hug. I’ve never celebrated MLK Day in this manner, but after the positive reception I’ve received, I think I’ll incorporate it in my yearly observation.

 

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Redemption Coupons

“Redemption” means “being saved from sin, error or evil” and it also means “getting the possession of something in exchange for payment or clearing a debt.” So thanks to the craziness of the English language, Jesus redeemed all Christian souls through his sacrificial blood in a related manner that customers redeem coupons. Granted, one deal was far more tremendous than the other. Or, if you’re an atheist, one deal exists and the other doesn’t.

Yet “redemption” transcends religious belief in all people who are willing to act in return for the possession of something. People work to possess everlasting life, a clear conscious or a depreciable good. But, what good does any of it do?

Given the fact that the sense of “redemption” is a human construct, it’s no wonder the religious and atheist alike share this notion. Part of being human is to inevitably make mistakes. And it’s also human nature to love getting something for less than what we usually pay.

Now let’s say, you’re a stand up, normal person aware of his or her faults. Your first impulse is to right the wrong or at least provide some semblance of “paying for your sins.” Does that smack too much of religion? Then let’s say, you want to “make it up” to someone. That’s merely swapping one monetary analogy for another.

And to extend that analogy, what I’m suggesting are redemption coupons. I’m not talking about some prefabricated, Hallmark greeting card “Oh I’m so sorry” type thing. Nor something that’s legally binding and “take it to the judge” kind of thing because if you’ve done something that bad, the law’s eventually gonna catch up with you anyway. Neither am I talking about a ritualistic ceremony where you must consult with a holy person to perform a symbolic redemption.

Envision, if you will, those colorful enticing coupons that come within the Sunday paper. They’re written in bold, simple words and usually they have an attractive image printed on them. That’s how your redemption coupons should be, figuratively speaking. Now, you can actually make a coupon if you want, but the spirit in which you offer someone a redemption coupon should be a declaration in bold simple words of how the recipient can redeem it and obtain the attractive possession, which is what you’ll do to clear the debt of your wrongdoing.

When you offer someone a redemption coupon, you must honor it or else you’re guilty of false advertising. On the other hand, if they refuse to accept your coupon, then it’s time for negotiation. The first rule to negotiating is to listen to what the other side wants. Depending on your situation, you may discover that all the other person wanted was to be heard.

You must never offer a coupon that has a greater value than the possession. Think about it: even when a business offers a coupon for something free with no purchase necessary, in the long run, they will still make a profit. The profit you make off your redemption coupon will be a clear conscious.

Your coupon should never expire. Putting an expiration date on your redemption coupon signals to others that they must forgive you on your time rather than theirs. Any manipulative, ultimatum strings just invalidates your coupon. For redemption to work, you must offer your amends, then step back. Everyone has his or her own time frame. Even those businesses that publish their coupons in the Sunday paper know that not every customer will rush out to redeem them at the same time. Most businesses even show how good they are by honoring expired coupons.

Finally, the most important person who must accept your redemption coupon is yourself. If you deem yourself unworthy of forgiveness, then you have no reasonable expectation that anyone else will. Past transgressions cannot be undone just like harsh words cannot be unsaid. What you can do is take a deep breath and begin again.

 

 

 

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Farewell to 2014

my outfit

 

I boldly limped into you

With the ambition to end a few things…

My second novel

My horrible job

My insomnia

My doubts

I painted novel scenes

Climbed Machu Picchu

Worked from home

Worked out of my comfort zone

Derailed my train of thought

Blurred my lines

Dangled my participles

Argued against Oxford commas

Obeyed the Laws of Physics

Removed myself from the machine

Became a new part for an innovation outside the box.

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Cowboys v. Redskins

1 playing field For the second time ever, I attended a professional football game. One of my sisters had graciously invited my other sister, her son, our father and me to use four of their Redskin season tickets.2 playing fieldNormally, my sister cheered for the Redskins…except for when they played the Cowboys.  I’d attended my first pro football game in Dallas over ten years ago. I can’t remember who the Cowboys had played. Or even if they won.
3 in the locker room Since I’m not a sports fan, I truly didn’t care who won. Just being there was a terrific, novel activity. Rarely do I watch sports on TV. Being there in the flesh made the game enjoyable.4 cowboys on the playing fieldThe teacher in me didn’t like how the Redskins fans booed when the Cowboys came on the field.
5 fellow sports fans We’d arrived much earlier than necessary since luck was on our side as far as traffic and parking were concerned.6 Jesus hates cowboys Of all the fanatics around, the guy with the “Jesus Hates the Cowboys” T-shirt was the closest to us. 7 start of the game

Once the game began, the stadium rapidly filled, the rain began to drizzle and the Cowboys beat the Redskins 44 to 17.

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Xmas Paintings

Back in June, I visited Peru and bought everyone in my family a pair of alpaca socks for Christmas. As thrifty as I am, I knew simply giving everyone a pair of socks was a little lean. Yet, buying for 9 people adds up very quickly.

I’m not sure when I got the brilliant idea to paint everyone a 4 X 5″ canvas from pictures, but I pounced on the task within a week. I ordered 9 canvases from a local art supply store since they did not have the total amount I needed. In the meantime, I selected and cropped the pictures I wanted to sketch on each canvas.  I’m so glad I did myself the favor of not putting any background. This allowed me to use white paint to correct some mistakes. Other mistakes were lack of skill! 1 CJ The picture I selected for my youngest nephew predates his mohawk, which he’s had since he was 5. We were checking out of the hotel after spending the weekend at our annual family reunion. He’d hopped on the luggage cart for a ride.2 Maya My youngest niece had participated in teen pageants. She ended that phase after two years and had her crown.3 Jasmine Last time I’d visited, I teased my oldest niece about always being on her phone. Apparently she still had a good sense of balance since she’d recently been accepted to VCU’s honor program.4 Alec When he was 16, my oldest nephew visited me in Honduras. We stayed in hotels with swimming pools. At one point, I looked over from reading poolside and discovered a rat was treading water around him. I snapped the picture, then told him to get out of the pool so the men could take care of the rodent.5 Carla One of the few times I visited my parents’ house for Christmas, it snowed. After the second snowfall, Mom made snow cream, which was the only thing good about it snowing. Here, one of my sisters ladles out her serving. 6 Renee My other sister has a passion for hats. I knew any portrait I painted of her, she’d be wearing one. Although I didn’t capture the exactness or details of the hat in the picture, this was close enough for my purposes!7 Carl I was limited in my choices for my brother-in-law’s canvas. I thought this pose, minus the rocking chair, did well.8 Mom I’ve documented all of Mom’s home remedies in an essay; so, this canvas captures one of her latest: eating nine gin-soaked golden raisins for the arthritis in her knee.9 Dad

Finally, for Dad’s canvas, I chose a picture from when I’d returned home for Christmas and it snowed. Here, Dad measures how much snow has fallen on top of his car.10 xmas tree After a cancelled flight and 6-hour campout at the airport, I had a good night’s rest and the wrapped gifts. Magically, more gifts appeared under the tree, which were overflowing by the time Christmas Eve rolled around.11 sleeping Maya For the second Christmas in a row, my nieces and nephew got up late. This one was awake enough to cover her face when I came in to check on her and her sister.12 sleeping Jasmine My other niece was oblivious.13 CJ's awake My nephew, the youngest, had been awake for hours, but hadn’t led the pack to kick off the Christmas present unwrapping. 14 Maya's awake Of course, the big sleep-in had to do with no longer believing in Santa–except for snarky T-shirts!15 sobrinos & tree They’d finally got into present-unwrapping position. A few were grumpy we’d eaten breakfast before opening presents, but all we adults told them they’d missed the before-breakfast opportunity. I hope it’s the start of a new tradition.16 Carla's socksOne of my sisters was the first to open her gift from me. Even though people caught on they were getting a pair of Peruvian socks and a canvas, it was still entertaining to see their reactions to their portrait.
17 Carla's canvas 18 Dad w:dogtags Dad had let me borrow his Air Force dog tags for one of my spoken word and poetry shows. I surprised him by putting them in his gift bag along with his socks and canvas.19 Dad w:socks 20 Dad w:canvas 21 Maya w:canvas I’d always teased one of my nieces for being a redbone. The complexion on her canvas showed a serious tan, but she liked it.22 Alec w:poster I think my nephew was far more impressed with the racy mini poster of the all-female rock band than he was with the canvas I’d painted for him. It was all I could do to have him put it down and get the other gifts out of the bag.23 Alec w:canvas 24 Jasmine w:TshirtOne of my nieces had spent a week with me in Austin. She’d survived a beginner’s capoeira class as part of her visit.25 Jasmine w:canvas My other niece immediately recognized the shirt her sister wore in the canvas. Here I thought I’d fudged it so much that it had become my own design.26 Jasmine w:socks 27 Renee w:socks 28 Renee w:canvasThe complexion of my other sister’s canvas was also much darker than she is in real life, but she loved the hat.
29 me w:money Usually, my sister and her husband gave gift cards as our stocking stuffers.  This time around, they’d misplaced them and gave us cash instead.  Worked for me!30 Carl w:socks 31 Carl w:canvasMy brother-in-law claimed I didn’t give him enough hair in his portrait. Ironically, this picture cut off his head.
32 CJ w:canvas 33 Mom w:canvas 33.1 Mom w:socks 34 Renee & Carl afghan Despite my exotic and sentimental homemade gifts, Mom topped me with her personalized Afghan of my sister and her husband about 30 years ago.35 Mom Dad & Alec Originally, I’d wanted to get a picture of Mom and Dad’s new smiles, but Dad claimed he wanted to keep his smile “top secret” until all his dental work was completed.36 senior citizen napAnd no Christmas story would be complete without a shot of Mom and Dad napping with the TV on after all was said and done around noon.

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Xmas in the Poconos

This vacation started off a bit rough. The mid-morning flight I’d booked to fetch me from Austin to DC had been cancelled by the time I arrived at the airport. I only had three options to arrive in DC much later on the same day. This began my warped sense of time. Once I reached my sister’s house, the kids were already in bed and we adults were too tired to be sociable.

Much too early, my sister knocked on the door, gently announcing it was 5:10. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had such an early wake up call. In retrospect, that would’ve been back in June when I was trekking to Machu Picchu. This special occasion was to attend my nephew’s track meet. I dutifully got up, got ready and warmed up something to eat in the oven.

One thing I always teased my sister about whenever I visited was the family’s “hobby” of hoarding material and edible things. So, I had no challenge finding food. As a matter of fact, my Herculean task was not to binge eat from the time I woke up until minutes before going to bed. That plus dealing with the avalanche of stockpiled things. Case in point: plastic bags.

I’d opened a drawer to get aluminum foil and couldn’t close it again. Try as I might, the drawer kept getting stuck. Due to the earliness of the day, I repeated the same useless motion more times than logically necessary before opening the small cabinet door below the drawer. Out tumbled a few plastic bags. The drawer still wouldn’t close. Being in an all-or-nothing mood, I took great joy pulling out a dozen plastic bags, one handful at a time.
1 plastic bags I’m sure my fascination with the bags was a combined reaction to the sheer number that had been jammed into such a small area and the fact I no longer stockpiled my own since the single-use plastic bag ban in Austin.

After dropping my nephew off at his school, my sister, brother-in-law and I went to the venue where the track meet was held–far too early! We sat in the parking lot for about half an hour where I took the first of several naps. 2 CJ @ track meet By the time we entered the facility, the place buzzed with energetic students and sleepy-eyed adults. I kept looking for my nephew’s mohawk, which was the best way to pick him out of a crowd. My sister and I got good seats on the concrete bleachers away from the door and in front of the finish line. My brother-in-law reported to the floor to be one of about 30 other adults who’d volunteered to be timers.

My sister didn’t realize her son’s first event would be the long jump despite the fact I kept telling her he was standing in line to jump. Too bad I couldn’t get a picture of him in mid jump, but that event occurred at the far end of the field and my butt was already frozen to the concrete bleacher.4 CJ @ track meetThe only good picture I took of his 55m dash was after the fact. 3 CJ @ track meetI liked the blurry picture I took of his 300m race since my mind had become just as blurry. We collected him after that race and returned home. Even though we arrived home a little after one, I felt it was much later in the day. I ate and took another nap.
5 CJ @ track meet Believe it or not, we still made the 4-hour drive to the Poconos! I napped several more times in the car. Normally, I enjoy reading on long-distance trips, but the sun had already gone down by the time we had hit the road. About half past eleven, we arrived at the welcome center to get our keys to the condo. The receptionist apologized upfront for the darkness where our condo was located. Yet, he’d said nothing about entering from the back door.

When my sister originally tried the front door, we were shocked it was chained from the inside. None of us liked scary movies and there we were standing in near darkness on the porch when occupants may have been inside our condo. I strained my eyes, looking through the window for movement and knowing full well had I’d seen any, I would have had a near heart attack.

Despite this, I suggested trying the backdoor. My brother-in-law shot that idea down, reasoning if someone was inside, we wouldn’t want to surprise them. He tried calling reception, but couldn’t get a signal. Then my sister suggested trying the backdoor.  I accompanied her. The key worked and the door was unchained. She called out a greeting and turned on the nearest lights. I picked up a flashlight, conveniently located just near the door, thinking any weapon was better than none.

As we called out some more, we made our way to the front door, unchained and unlocked it.  Not seeing any evidence of personal items, I still ran upstairs, flashlight in hand and checked out the two bedrooms. All clear.6 Compton's Pancake House Even though we wanted to have an active Sunday, all we managed to do was eat, starting with brunch at a famed breakfast place.7 Compton's Pancake House The warm atmosphere, including the buttery smells, welcomed us in. Reading the menu, we were overwhelmed by exotic pancake and omelet choices. We began buddying up to share two dishes we were most interested in tasting, knowing full well we’d all sample one another’s plates. Although I declared no two people should get the same thing so we can sample as many things as possible, my sister and one of her daughters both ordered the garden omelet. My nephew and I split a bacon Belgian waffle and New York cheesecake pancakes–the most delicious combination that hit the table!

By the time we finished brunch, half the daylight hours were down. We shopped a little at a local chain we could have visited anywhere in the States and parts of Mexico, then visited another local food favorite.8 Popcorn Buddha If there were too many choices at the breakfast place, the popcorn place was even worst! The employees enthusiastically asked the mob of customers who needed help next and brought out samples of popcorn choices two at a time. We mainly stuck with sweet or savory choices, not trying any “fruity” flavors or any of the homemade fudge until our second visit the next day.9 Popcorn flavors Most of the savory choices, especially those that were advertised as “spicy” tasted too salty. Yet, we walked away with some good selections and we all received a small bag of buttery popcorn. Instead of eating my free bag, I added it to my mother’s Christmas bag since she’s a popcorn enthusiast.10 tubing preview By this time, there were only a few hours of daylight left. Yet, we wanted to drive by the slopes, mainly to find out where it was. We’d become lost going to nearly every destination, only to be rescued by GPS after a couple of attempts to reach a particular destination. As a matter of fact, we’d accidentally entered New Jersey twice just to pay a $1 toll to escape.

After seeing the slopes, we returned to the condo, making plans to eat breakfast at home in order to get an earlier start and hit the slopes the next day. Of course, we all reported to different rooms in the condo to relax. I favored the upstairs, which had such intense heat, I’d awoken with a slow nose bleed the first morning. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed reading up there until dinner.11 Alaska Pete's This restaurant had a smorgashbord of choices: BBQ, Mexican, pasta, seafood, soups, salads and red wine! That should have been our first clue that they couldn’t have been experts in all dishes.12 Alaska Pete's At least I captured my three sobrinos in a moment where no two of them were bickering–not that they were too enthusiastic about taking a picture with Frosty.13 Alaska Pete's The one thing I wanted was seafood pasta, which was no longer on the menu. Instead, the waiter, who’d obviously had a recent cigarette break, suggested to order the “Captain’s Platter” over pasta. Looked better than it tasted.14 preparing for tubbing Next morning, everything ran like clockwork. We all suited and booted up.15 preparing for tubbingSome of us tripled up on socks and other articles of clothing. Thanks to my snowsuit, I had to suck in my stomach to raise my leg and put on my boots.
16 preparing for tubbing We walked across the bridge. I could barely walk with all that clothing on.17 preparing for tubbing I was somewhat comforted by the name of the restaurant at the slopes.18 Shawnee MtnWe quickly filled out our release forms, waited in line and had our little hearts crushed. Apparently, the 11 am tubing only happened on the weekends.
19 Shawnee Mtn So close to tubing! Yet we had our forms filled out, our tickets and another plan to make it on time for the 1-3 pm tubing.20 snow machineBefore we returned to the condo, I snapped a picture of the technology making it all possible: the snow machine. We’d seen evidence of natural snow, piled up in the corners of parking lots. Fortunately for me, there wasn’t more snowfall while we visited.
21 ready to tube Third time to the slopes was the charm. We marched to the tubing area, missed the initial instructions, but that activity had such a low learning curve, the biggest challenge was keeping one’s temper while waiting in line.22 Renee ready to tube

Although there were three lanes, the only difference I experienced among them was how fast the line moved. Once again, I was happy to be childless. I’m sure some teacher looks seeped out. I straight up told two teens they may be prohibited from riding if they continued to throw snowballs at one another. Throwing snowballs was against the rules, but I wasn’t sure what the actual consequences were. My sister and I were the top winners for making the most runs.  There was only one time I waited in an exceptionally slow line.  The only consolation was speaking Spanish with a Cuban woman who’d never tubed before.

23 Inti Peruvian restaurant

For our last ethnic meal in the Poconos, we dined at a Peruvian restaurant.  Before we arrived, I had warned them against eating guinea pig, but it wasn’t on the menu.  Neither was alpaca, which is tasty meat.  We ordered a carafe of chicha morada, a spicy purple corn drink.  Everyone except my nephew liked it. We ordered a variety of meals, each one satisfied the palate.

For our final breakfast before returning to VA, we all enjoyed the leftovers from all the places we’d eaten. I laughed inwardly at how we’d managed to recreate the food hoarding for the brief time we were there!

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