Why Having a Job Is Like A Marriage

Think about it, we all go through a ritual before we reach that final goal.

Be it, the coveted position in our career path, or the love of our life who we will marry. There is a courtship period when it comes to marriage. Same applies when you’re applying for a job. Well, there’s the interview process we go through in obtaining employment with our target company.

Ok, you ask, what is the difference here? If you were to ask me, I’d say not a whole lot of difference. If you are seeking a mate, the love of your life, you will go through a courtship process, be it long or short. On the first date, you’ll probably wear your best clothes, brush your hair, brush your teeth, and simply be your best.

Seriously, how well do you think the first impression will be if you show up for the first meeting wearing stained or torn blue jeans, have broccoli between your teeth, maybe you haven’t brushed your hair, there’s cream on your face, or you smelled as though you haven’t showered in days. How well is that working for you? Oh, get rid of that “Black Book”, your date really isn’t interested in “who’s, who” in the Black Book.

In a job interview, you’re going to wear your “Sunday best”. Your clothes will be clean, there’s no rips, no stains, and your knickers (guys or gals) are not showing. Ladies, you aren’t showing cleavage, ok? Those tattoos and body piercings won’t be showing. You’ll be groomed to the hilt, hair looks great, fresh breath, and those “all good feelings because I’m going to WOW them”.

Ok, we’ve gotten past the looks department, wow, all 30 seconds to size each other up. It’s working, let’s go forward.

Now comes the hard part, what do we talk about? I don’t care if it’s dating, courtship, or the interview, we’ll be asked to talk about ourselves. Yep, it’s the sales pitch – what makes me stand out from all the others?

If it’s the first date, you’re not going to bad mouth the “ex”. What’s the difference in the interview? None! You don’t want to bad mouth your former employers. Sure, there’s break-ups in personal relationships and there’s break-ups in business relationships. Either personal or business, keep it light, keep it simple, and keep it positive, especially for first time meetings!

Those questions: Are they honest, do they have a good work ethic, can I depend on them, are they loyal? See some similar questions here, one you may ask your date, the other you may ask your prospective employee/employer?

Time marches on. Is there a chemistry between us? Ok, whether several dates have transpired, or the job interviews have been completed. Now what?

For me, it’s the (head, heart, and gut) check. No question is stupid. If it feels right, the timing is right, and it’s for all the right reasons, give it a green light! If it’s a dating relationship, move it forward. If it’s a job prospect or business prospect move forward. I’ll throw caution to the wind, and it’s this: too much analysis will result in paralysis!

Ok, the wedding has taken place, or you’ve accepted the position, now what? Take it a day at a time. Have goals, have fun, be flexible, and be adaptable. There will be good times and bad times, no matter what! Change is inevitable, embrace it. Nothing is set in stone.

Ouch, this isn’t working out, it’s not what I thought it would be like. What did I get myself into?

Yep, change can happen or maybe things didn’t work up to our expectations, now what? Sometimes we can work things out, sometimes we need some help (additional education, training, marital counseling, etc.), and last but not least, we part ways. Either way, we all learn from it, we grow from it, and we move on.

Having a job is like a marriage indeed, Both take work!

There are 2 Certainties in Life: Death and Taxes

Congratulations! By now you should have finished filing your income tax return or at least filed an extension with the IRS and/or State. I do taxes for a living, so I’d rather not go there, it’s a rather “taxing” subject to say the least.

So, the other certainty is “death”. Ok, I’m not the Grim Reaper, I don’t even pretend to be “The Death Whisperer”. I know in Western society, death is pretty much taboo. Considering I almost met my Maker in 2011, I’m not afraid to talk about it, although I would like to keep some humor in it.

Many decades ago, I was with my cousin (Karen). We were walking home, when we passed a Funeral Parlor. We were around 10 or 11 years old at the time. As we walked past a stained glass window, we could hear organ music. C-R-E-E-P-Y!

We ran as fast as we could, almost as though the Headless Horseman was after us. Naturally, we cut across through a cemetery. Would you believe we were followed by a skunk? My take on “the end of life” is it can really stink.

My Grandfather had passed away. The day, it seemed to be overcast, and there were Italian Cypress trees around us. The wind was blowing. Between the whistle of the wind and the trees swaying back and forth, I could’ve sworn that Grandpa was talking to me from the grave! S-P-O-O-K-Y! He’s coming to get me!!! He’s going to take me away.

Well, Grandpa didn’t take me with him. To this day though, I don’t care much for Italian Cypress trees. Ok, I take that back, if I go to Italy, and an Italian man kisses me between some Italian Cypress trees, I may like these trees. Yeah, and I won the lotto!

Grandma DeVaney passes, and we attend the funeral. Sorry Mom, I’m not paying attention to the funeral service, I’m paying attention to that “hot” hearse driver! Yeah, the dude was hot!!!
I’ll probably hear a load of crap from Grandma when it comes to my turn to pass! Making eyes at a dude at a funeral???
D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-I-O-N! On second thought, it’s teenage hormones!I hope Grandma is in a good mood when we meet up! I know, I’ve got some explaining to do!

The next funeral I attend, is my uncle’s funeral in El Paso, Texas. My sister (Marla) and I flew out for the funeral. I had wanted to rent a Corvette, but instead, went with a Lincoln Town Car (the size of a Sherman tank).

We decided to stop at a Mexican food restaurant for lunch. I ordered “double” beans. You do know what beans do? For every action, there is a reaction. Does Blue Flamers Club ring a bell?

We showed up at the grave site. I watched as the 21 gun salute was going off. In perfect harmony, my body decided to give it’s own “salute”. Yep, I tooted in sync with the gun firing. I reckon I gave my Uncle my very own, personal salute. Ironic, it wasn’t the “silent and deadly type”. It sounded like gun fire!
Yeah, I got the “look” from Mom. I really think she was laughing inside, but I couldn’t tell. I’m the “butt” of funeral jokes to this day!

Another funeral I attended was my former roommate (John). He had lived near railroad tracks. From time to time, I could hear the train whistle in the background when we’d be on the phone.

The service was held at a Catholic Church in San Antonio. As the Priest gave his sermon, sure enough, I could hear a train whistle in the background! I chuckled, and I knew he was laughing and rolling his eyes.

Oh, it gets better! At the grave site, his ashes were to be buried next to his Grandparents grave. For some reason, the Funeral Parlor dug the hole in the wrong location. I swear, John had the last laugh!

Ok, what about me? I came pretty close to meeting my Maker in 2011. I would’ve been pissed if I had died enroute to the hospital or even in the hospital. That’s not the way I’m going.

Death should be like a menu, here’s my menu of death:

Press 1 – death when making love. Wow! This is what I call getting laid!
Press 2 – death from natural causes. Boring! Can we be more original?
Press 3 – death while in the hospital or hospice. Ugh, for me, this is not an option. Look I know we came into this world alone, chances are we’ll die alone. A hospital? How sterile!
Press 4 – death of your own choosing! Now you’re talking. My demise, I will be snorkeling in the Caribbean, and my ticker will give out. I should sink to the bottom of the sea. Oh, and this is an inexpensive way to go.

Awww cripes, there’s one problem with this scenario! I’m on the “fluffy” side. If I pass in salt water, my body is not going to sink, it’s going to float. I get it, I’m now a “floater”.

Alright, I may not pass in the Caribbean Sea, so there may have to be Plan B. I can donate my body to science. Please don’t put a bull’s eye on my back and use me as target practice. Oh, and don’t laugh at my dimples or wrinkles, I may come back to haunt you!

We know funeral services are for the living. After all, I may choose to ignore my own service. I really don’t want the wailing, and buckets of tears, that’s no fun.

Music?? You bet!!! Throw on some reggae music! Tell good stories about me. Don’t cry because my physical body is gone (my shell). Celebrate my life instead.

Oh, we know those casseroles that keep on coming from well-wishers. Now, I’m gonna have the last laugh on that, because I’m not going to have to eat those!

Here’s the scoop on me – Y’ALL ARE STUCK WITH ME FOR A LONG WHILE! Get use to it! I’m not ready to expire! Not a snow ball’s chance in hell, am I getting my layout plans, not yet!

Workplace USA – Times are a Changing

I remember job hunting in the 1970’s when I lived in Phoenix. It really was a cinch. Ok, maybe not exactly a cinch.  Everyone wanted to live in Phoenix. Too, job hunters like myself, being a middle Boomer, there were so many of us applying for those coveted positions. For those who don’t know what a “Baby Boomer” is, it is those of us who were born between 1946 and 1964. In a way, I felt like a rat in a maze. Oh, is that why they call it the “rat race”? Fresh out of college, I knew I had a lot to learn, I was pretty ill prepared for my journey down the career path.

My senior year at ASU, recruiters would come to campus to give their sales speech about why we should go to work for their company. I interviewed with: K-Mart, Hartford Insurance, Guy F. Atkinson (construction company), Shell Oil, Sentry Insurance, Mervyn’s, and several others. I remember the interview with K-Mart, when they found out that I was married, the recruiter didn’t think a married woman could be a Manager, because Managers for the company tend to move around a lot. Note: married women can’t MOVE?? My interview with the Hartford was for an Underwriter Trainee position. There were 2 of us interviewing for this coveted position – me and a white male college senior. We had the same GPA’s, same majors. One difference: I was working at an insurance company as a File Clerk, while he had never worked for an insurance company in his entire life. The result? He was offered the job, I was informed that I could start off in the typing pool and work my way up.

The typing pool? Are you kidding? That is the biggest, and darkest abyss to get swallowed up in – I’d never get out of it. Cripes, it’s quick sand and the quickest way to go broke. Typists, Secretaries, and Clerks are not the best paying positions.

Oh, and I didn’t get the job at Mervyn’s, but I did get my first credit card from them (of which I never applied for). I purchased 2 pillows and a set of underwear for hubby.

Thankfully, my first job out of college, I worked as a Cost Accountant for Marathon Steel. My boss (Turner Martin) was really nice! The first couple of weeks, I would call him Martin Turner, it was easy for me to get his name reversed. I worked there for a couple of years with a great group of people! Dress attire? Business suits, women did not wear pants!

In the early 1980’s, hubby and I visited his Dad and Step-Mom in Dallas. I scoured the pages and pages of newspapers filled with want ads of employment. I even drove past buildings that had advertisements of positions open. I was in sheer heaven, in comparison to Phoenix. I really felt Phoenix was limited for several reasons: little to no manufacturing, too many people, and not a whole lot of room for growth.

We took the plunge and moved to Texas. Do I feel lucky moving to Texas? Why yes, there’s nothing like settling in Temple, Texas where I “might” get a Cost Accountant job if someone dies or retires. Oh, and interviewing?? I felt like I had been April Fooled for sure!

It was a hoot interviewing in Texas in the early 1980’s. Men would wear leisure suits, cowboy hats, and boots! Oh, and people could smoke inside the building. Sometimes, I’d even see liquor bottles on desk tops of upper management offices.

I lucked out, I landed a position with IRS in Austin, so driving back and forth from Temple became a 68 mile commute one way to work. When we moved to San Antonio, my commute became 98 miles one way. It was at IRS, where I decided to forgo Cost Accounting and switch to Tax for my career. I learned a lot at the IRS Service Center in Austin, one of the things I learned real well, was how to evacuate the building quickly, as we received bomb scares on a monthly basis. We’d sneak across the street to Taco Cabana have a beer, a taco, then head back to work.

In 1991, I tired of the almost 200 mile round trip daily commute to IRS, so the week of my birthday, I quit. I landed a position with the City of San Antonio. Employment there was as micro-management as one could get. We had to be at our desk at 8:00 sharp (no exceptions), go to lunch at exactly the same time (11:30 – no exceptions), and then leave at 5:00 sharp (no exceptions). To top it off, I was sent home one morning because I wasn’t wearing hose with my shoes, so I told my boss “see you tomorrow”, and took the day off. Believe me, it wore thin that by 1995, I decided time to leave San Antonio and head up to Dallas.

Mind you, this is before the internet, before LinkedIn, Careerbuilder, Monster, and any of the other job boards on the net. I was shooting in the dark so to speak when it came to Dallas. I moved up to Dallas without a job lined up!

I settled in Dallas fairly nicely. Traffic was and still is unbelievable. Thankfully, there is flex time (start time between 7:00 and 9:00; end time between 4:30 and 6:00), so there is some mercy due to the high volume of traffic.

Remember the leisure suits, hats, and cowboy boots of the 1980’s? I didn’t see any of that in 1995. Attire was still business professional. Women really didn’t wear pantsuits until around 1996. An example, recruiter after recruiter was trying to get me to work at EDS, but their attire is so business professional, I would’ve had to spend $1500 in a new work wardrobe. Men? The poor guys would have to put on their suit jackets just to go to the bathroom! I felt it was going to be too “stuffy” or “uppity” for me. I never really did like suits.

Then it happened!!! The years from 1998-2000, were boom times for me. I was happily employed as a Consultant at Mobil Oil, receiving 3-4 phone calls a day, from companies and recruiters looking for workers. Exxon acquired Mobil, and the offices were relocated to Houston. I didn’t want to go to Houston, so I landed a position at Northrop Grumman.

What became interesting, is after 2000, more and more of the newspaper employment want ads were being replaced by job boards on the internet. The boards included: Monster, CareerBuilder, etc. The internet was becoming the “go to” place, not just job hunting, but looking for a house, even boards were created by employees of companies that would talk about things going on in their jobs.

The technology boom of the late 1990’s and even today, has provided companies the means to outsource jobs, and/or replace jobs by using technology. I know this all too well, as my tax career lately has had some “stop and go” due to outsourcing and technology.

Even applying for a job has become more of a skill and an art. There is networking, there are job coaches, and there’s even social networks on the internet (LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter). Now, a paper resume is slowly being replaced by a video resume.

The liquor bottles on management desk tops or smoking in the building? Gone! Suits are being replaced by business casual, and even jeans on Fridays.

I grew up thinking that I would work for the same company for 20-30 years and then retire. Oh no, that’s changed! If I were 20 years old today, I would have changed jobs at least 10 times before reaching the age of 40.Companies, just like employees have become highly disposable.

Times are changing. Meet Karen Smith – Tax Professional!






Courage – what is it? Where does it come from?


What is courage? Is it something that I can taste, feel, see, hear, smell? If I could color my courage, what color would it be?

Honestly, I think courage is all of the above. The color of my courage, I reckon it’s the color of a rainbow, not defined by a single color. Given who I am, it’s quite colorful.

Now here’s a definition of courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. If I were to find a synonym of my courage, here is what comes to mind: fearlessness, dauntlessness, intrepidity, pluck, spirit. Courage, bravery, valor, bravado refer to qualities of spirit and conduct.

Those who know me know that I have spirit, and perhaps a bit of pluck or two.

I remember as a youngster, Dad was teaching me how to ride a 2 wheel bicycle. Dad had the courage to let go of the bike, knowing that it was quite possible I could fall off the bike. He was quiet about letting go, yet he kept talking to me. I kept happily pedaling along as though Dad was hanging onto the bike. I turned my head and noticed he was at least 100 feet behind me. I’m on top of the world, I can do this. You’d better believe I kept pedaling, laughing and was so darn proud of myself.

A not so pleasant thought of what would take real courage from me, is when I had to file bankruptcy. Ex hubby and I had a lease car. I got the lease car in the divorce, along with the payments (not the income to boot to make those payments). I found someone to assume the lease. He defaulted. There were 2 scenarios I had to look at: a lien filed against me (which can be renewed every 10 years) or bankruptcy. I chose bankruptcy. I filed my own bankruptcy and represented myself in court. One of my creditors showed up, he was larger than life (at least in my eyes).

Sure, I was intimidated that his company would come in and seize the wall to wall carpeting that I had installed 9 months before I filed bankruptcy. I summoned the courage inside myself (man, this is gonna take everything I’ve got). I told the man that the carpeting was a permanent fixture of the house and if he wanted to seize it, he’d better show up on my doorstep with the Sheriff. Believe me, I looked him straight in the eye when I told him. I never heard from him again. Hence, the carpet remained in the house.

In May 2011, I was literally fighting for my life from every which way. My fight was a physical, emotional, spiritual, and even financial fight. I could’ve laid in my hospital bed throwing the biggest whopper of a Pity Party. Woe is me, I’m bald, I’m talking funny, I’m broke, and I’m unemployed. What’s the use – this is too much work! God just take me now.

Are you kidding? Somehow, courage came knocking on my doorstep. Oh, for sure God had a role in it. The love and support of my friends and family gave me courage. For certain it was my own plucky spirit that I just wasn’t ready to lay down and die, perhaps even give up. It was tough on me having others trying to make decisions about my well being (medical staff, family, etc). I’ll have none of that – oh no, not Ms. Independent Me!!! HELL NO!

I recovered from my brain ordeal (totally rebooted) and landed a position in less than 6 weeks after brain surgery. Oh and calling recruiters from my bedside after brain surgery, that’s either courage or stupidity. Hmmm, sick in the head, maybe?

I’ve endured some not so pretty job losses in the last 6 years, due to layoffs. This year is really not much different. I wasn’t quick enough to learn technology – tax systems implementations, which really takes a minimum of 5 years to master (in order for my employer to bill a client $250-$280/hour). So, yes, I was “restructured”.

No, not a failure in my eyes! I had the courage to make a switch in my career – to go from tax compliance to tax technology. Ok, it may not have been the best fit, but what’s cool is I tried! It takes courage to go outside the box!

It’s back to job hunting for me. I’d rather clean the cat box than job hunt. Like anything in life, if you fall off, get right back in the saddle.

I know my plucky spirit, my butt is back in the saddle. As I continue the Journey of Life, I know that I will fall off the horse again, for whatever reason I’ll summon up the courage to saddle up again!


In with the New, Out with the Old, 2013 – Here I Come!

It’s the last day of 2012, this day seems to be washed away by the rain, and the incoming New Year appears to be hazy. Maybe it’s the chill of winter, or the fiscal uncertainty, of the direction that our country is going in.

One good deed that I did today was eat some black-eyed peas. Wonder why? Here’s why: I heard that Southerners eat black-eyed peas for good luck and prosperity throughout the upcoming year. Think about it, the shape of a black-eyed pea kind of resembles a coin. More importantly, they swell as they cook, much as you want your wealth to expand. A coin in the pot promises extra fortune to the one who finds it in his scoop of peas. And a penny is often put under each bowl of peas to boost the luck potential.

Legend has it that black-eyed peas became a lucky dish during the Civil War. Union soldiers near the town of Vicksburg, Va. burned all crops except the peas; thinking they were animal feed, the soldiers did not bother them. Residents discovered that the legume was the only thing left to eat; they adapted it into their diet, and black-eyed peas were therefore considered the food of good fortune.

Black-eyed peas, a lucky food for New Year's.

Black-eyed peas, a lucky food for New Year’s.

So, what is it about the new year that is different from the old year? For me, it’s remembering to change the year when I write my checks. I can buy a calendar at 50% or more off. Maybe some fresh beginnings, like losing weight, a new hair style, or just a change in my life. Ok, seeing the different types of bubbly at the stores is cool and even better, if they offer samples!

Champagne wishes, caviar dreams. Cheers 2013!

Champagne wishes, caviar dreams. Cheers 2013!

When I think about this new year, the best way I can describe it is a poem written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of a year.”

Overall, 2012 has been a good year, a few bumps here and there, and some good life lessons learned.

A toast to you and the New Year! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


My Fascination with the Moon

I’ve always had a fascination with the moon. Don’t ask me why I’m fascinated by it, because honestly, I don’t know why. Probably it’s the closest planet that I can see. I’m fascinated with our own planet, but I haven’t seen the whole earth as I’ve not been lucky enough to have flown over the earth courtesy of NASA.

It really doesn’t matter what the shape of the moon is, be it a First Quarter, Third Quarter, Full Moon, or New Moon. The size, the shape, or the color, it all intrigues me.

All I know is I can count on the time between two full moons is around 29.53 days.

Quarter moon. It makes me think "who stole my cheese"?

Quarter moon. It makes me think “who stole my cheese”?

A quarter moon will occur when I see the Moon half illuminated by the Sun, and half enshrouded in darkness.

When I see a half moon, it seems as though the moon is hiding from the clouds. Really Mr. Moon, what are you hiding from me tonight?

half moon

Yes, we do share our moon with the other planets, Venus for one.

Sharing the moon with Venus.

Sharing the moon with Venus.

On the night that the full moon makes its grand appearance, I always envision wolves howling at the moon, ok, maybe Werewolves or Wolfman, himself.

Better yet, what about the man in the moon?

I can almost say "the man in the moon". How about fishing by the moon light?

I can almost say “the man in the moon”. How about fishing by the moon light?

The full moon is mysterious to me, at times it seems as though it is a big ball of swiss cheese in the sky. I’m always curious as to what color the full moon may be each month, just like the seasons, the color of the moon seems to change too.

Just like the seasons, the full moon takes on many colors.

Just like the seasons, the full moon takes on many colors.

For the month of December, the moon is called “Full Cold Moon” in the Old Farmer’s Almanac. This is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. This full Moon is also called the Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.

Let me humor the moon, there many expressions that have “moon” in them. “Once in a blue moon”, “Many moons ago”, “”Reach for the moon/stars”, “Over the moon”, “Moonshine” and of course “You’ve been mooned”.

Another thing, I might even learn the “moonwalk” like Michael Jackson – ok, I couldn’t help myself there!

I look forward to many more moons. They will always fascinate me!

The winter moon is like the still of the night.

The winter moon is like the still of the night.

WHAT??? Me taking on home improvement DIY? I’m not my Father!!

Master bath vanity (after)

Master bath vanity (after)

Master bath vanity (before)

Master bath vanity (before)

Lately I’ve taken on some home improvement jobs. One job was the texturing, priming, and painting the garage ceiling and walls. Another job included sanding, priming, and painting the master bath vanity cabinets. Last but not least, sealing the grout in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Ok, let me set the record straight, I did hire a drywall crew to texture the garage ceiling, there was NO way I would tackle that on my own! Nonetheless, these jobs took time and some real elbow grease on my part.

Toiling away on the cabinets, I felt as though Dad was side by side with me, rooting me on, keeping my spirits up, and giving me some guidance. I confess that the cabinets were one of the hardest DIY projects I’ve ever done.

Dad is in his mid-80, I’ve always been in awe of his home improvement projects that he’s taken on over the years. As a kid, I watched him convert a carport into a bedroom, build a below the ground bomb shelter, and converting a Jim Walter home shell, into a warm and comfortable home for he and Mom. Honestly, I don’t know where he learned all of this from, but I believe men his age were handier around the house, than men my age are today.

Myself? I would say that women my age are somewhat transitional. Girls were not allowed to take Shop or Auto Mechanics until I was a senior in high school, which was almost the mid 1970’s. One girl (Jackie Steele) took shop. I can’t say I was interested in Shop or Auto Mechanics, and I can guarantee that Mom would not have consented to me taking either course. In those days, there were certain roles for girls and certain roles for boys.

My sister and I were allowed to garden, wash the cars, paint, and other yard work. Yep, the easy and safe stuff, lest we get our hands dirty. Lovely, we were stuck doing the indoor chores (laundry, cooking, dishes, etc.) that never seem to end. Our brothers chores were relegated to the outdoors and taking out the trash. Talks about easy street, outdoor chores aren’t done every day! I mean that housework is never done, SERIOUSLY!

For my 8th grade Geography class, I was going to do a project on Africa, which required a circular board.. Dad put his power saw to work to cut the plywood into a circle. Dad’s power saws were loud and noisy. He’d always complain about my music being “noise”. Since when is Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, and Santana, noise? Uh Dad, your saws are NOISE!
After Dad finished with the plywood, I outlined the country of Africa in black, and the inside of Africa, I used rice (of different colors).

I always felt that no matter what Dad tackled, he was able to do it and do it well. I don’t remember any of his DIY home improvement projects being in limbo or half-baked.

One of my first projects (under Dad’s supervision) was painting the walls of our bedroom. I believe all 4 of us kids had a hand in it, probably because we were cheap labor. My brother Bill had asked me for my paintbrush, so I handed him the brush (bristles first), thankfully, Bill had the wisdom to grab the handle part, and not the bristles. This was probably the beginning of my own DIY.

The first house hubby and I bought had popcorn ceilings and white walls. There was a yellow/brown border around the ceiling in the family room. Rick and I concluded that the previous homeowner waxed the paneling and the wax got on the ceiling edges. You want my honest opinion? I think someone peed upside down. I even told Rick that, I got that “look”. Rick used the wrong roller for the job. The original roller had too thick of nap. Oh yeah, watch Mr. Type B (cool dude) Personality turn into Type A, with a little bit of Painter’s Rage coming out. This is not a good thing.
Back to the store to get the right roller, oh and it was loads of fun to load up the car with 15 gallons of paint.

My first and second house in San Antonio, the first thing DIY for me was to paint the interior walls and trim. I’m not fond on white walls unless I have a lot of good art work or pictures to hang on the walls. I see white walls as being too sterile. The last house in San Antonio, I also painted the outside of the house. That’s a real chore, it is so much more work, scraping, sanding, and priming, before a single roller or brush stroke.

The house I’m currently in, I bought in 2000, from an elderly lady. It wasn’t maintained or updated very well, but I knew the “bones” of the house were good. I am the 4th owner of this house. It was built in 1982. The weekend I moved in, I already had plans in motion to paint the entire inside of the house; replace wall-to-wall bathroom carpet with tile; and replace the vinyl kitchen floor with tile. Oh, and eventually replace those foam backed drapes!

I was careful in paint selection, I learned a hard lesson about the quality of paint, and you get what you paid for. One of my houses in San Antonio, I thought I’d save some money and buy paint at Montgomery Wards. Monkey Wards? Yes, their paint is Monkey Wards, it’s like water! Want to see a grown woman cry? Watch me paint with Wards paint!

The paint I selected was Pratt & Lambert, it was a pretty penny, but oh did it roll on smooth as silk. I was also careful to buy the best brushes and rollers for the job. It took a couple of weekends to do, but I got it done. To this day, it still looks great.

My fireplace is made of brick, my best guess of the original color is mustard with some black. I didn’t care for it and wanted to do something with it. What to do? Cripes, I don’t have a Warren Buffet or Bill Gates budget for granite or tile. I don’t want to paint it, I’ve seen some of those painted fireplaces that resemble something from a horror movie.
Lucky me! I came across a website for “Brick A New”, which entails a kit to faux paint your fireplace. That I did, and it looks great and total cost was under $100!

In 2004, I took out a small home improvement loan. I decided to replace my front entry door; a new deck and pergola in the backyard. Install a new A/C and furnace. Best of all, gut the guest bathroom down to the studs. Shopping for the materials was the most fun! All of that work, I decided to leave to the Pros to do.

Late in 2004, I replaced the landscaping in the front yard, which entailed stacked stone borders, plants, and 2 trees.

In 2009, it was time for a mini make-over of the kitchen. I had granite countertops with a tile backsplash installed. I had a blast picking out the tile, granite, and border. To top it off, I had a Painter apply limestone Venetian plaster to the walls.

This year, I decided that the cabinets in the master bath needed a make-over. I sanded the cabinet doors, drawers, and frames to the bare wood. I applied primer, and finished up with latex paint in espresso! The finishing touch would be hinges in satin nickel. The cabinet doors were the hardest! The door style is cathedral arch. What gave me the hardest time was the primer, I had to move fast. If I had painters do the work, it would cost $850! My total cost came out to $150! It was a hard project but I’d do it again!

Last but not least, the ceiling and walls in the garage needed new taping and bedding. I was not going to do that project, it’s best to leave it to the pros. After the dry wall folks were done, I primed, and painted the walls.

In each project I’ve done, I’ve learned so many things. Sure, I wish I had the knowledge and skill set that Dad has, but things were different for girl/boys and men/women. The really cool thing is going to Home Depot, and there are many other young women and women my age that are tackling home improvement projects.

No, I’m not Dad, but I do have fun with these projects! Maybe I have Mike Holmes (Holmes on Homes) to also thank for teaching me some of these things on HGTV/DIY when Dad isn’t around!

Innocence of Our Youth

Oh my god, what the hell is wrong with our world today? What has happened to the innocence of our youth? In light of today’s shooting in Connecticut, I can’t even begin to imagine or comprehend the horror that both parents and children are going through.

I haven’t read all of the details, and honestly, am not sure I want to. Maybe I still have the mindset of “Leave it to Beaver”, “Happy Days”, or “The Andy Show of Mayberry”. I don’t have kids, but I’m a firm believer that children should be able to have a happy, safe, and carefree childhood.

In today’s modern world, I’m not sure that applies anymore. We as humans are so plugged in, 24/7. Be it adults, teens, or children, we do not know the meaning of a whisper to our souls “shhh, be still”. If we aren’t plugged into our electronic gadgets, all we have to do is turn on the TV, and news is now 24/7. Most of the news is negative, hence, the news channel of CNN (Constantly Negative News).

I think I’m grateful I was a kid in the 1960’s. I remember the day when President Kennedy was shot. We were taken outside of our classrooms, led outside and watched the flag being lowered. When we were at Love Field in December 1963, waiting for our flight to New York City, I remember asking Dad, if I was going to be shot like President Kennedy. I was scared to be at the Dallas airport, the same city in which JFK was murdered. Lordy be, I was only 7 years old, and I couldn’t fully comprehend the death of our President. I also remember when we had to take “cover” under our desks, in case of a nuclear fall out.

Today, kids have to constantly look over their shoulders, not just to protect themselves from bully classmates, but to protect themselves from adults who should know better. Schools of today have metal detectors.

My elementary school, (Carmichael Elementary), our fear is if we misbehaved, our teachers would tell our parents. We had the fear of God in us, that if we got paddled at school, we’d be facing a Can of Whup Ass at home too. No questions asked.

My 2nd grade picture. Innocence of youth!

I look at my 2nd grade photo and I am so grateful that as a child I didn’t have to worry about shootings at school, being kidnapped, or even having to walk through metal detectors. Ok, I did have to worry a bit about Granny Baker, a 4th grade Teacher who seemed to be constantly ruling over the tether balls. Granny Baker ruled with an iron fist and took no crap. Another thing with Granny Baker, I had to worry about the eyes in the back of her head.

Even at my age, it’s a scary world out there. I’m not talking about the Boogeyman under my bed, much less any dust bunnies. Our world today is wound up so tight. I think of the children at this school, well what about their kids? What will their world be like?

I can only hope that the innocence of our youth will not be wasted by the rat race, and our angry world. I look to the day when we have more laughter, peace, and hope, not only for our kids, but for ourselves!

I’m Falling for Fall

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, the other favorite season of mine is spring. Fall is such a busy time of the year, it’s a step between the hot, dog days of summer, and the frigid cold of winter.

There is an abundance of color, it is as though God is at the canvas with brush in one hand and a pallet of colors in the other, stroking the canvas a brush stroke at a time. I  believe it, all I need to do is take a look at the leaves on the trees and those that have fallen to the ground. The leaf colors ranging from bright yellow, yellow, golden, orange, and scarlet. It seems that the Bradford Pear trees are the first to shed their leaves, and the Shumard Oaks are the last to shed their leaves.

What’s so fascinating about fall, besides the changing of the leaves, is the changing of the produce in our stores. By the end of September, the stores offer us an abundance of pumpkins. For me, this is one of the “kick off’s” of fall, that more good things are to come.

The pumpkins will become a centerpiece of the table, put in the windows for Halloween, and best of all, consumed in pies for Thanksgiving.  Strolling through the stores I see more squash, gourds, cranberries, pears, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, and turnips to tempt my palate with.

As the nights cool down, the smell of wood burning in the fireplace becomes more common place. It tempts me to roast marshmellows in the fireplace, oh, and sip some wine while I’m at it.

Cooler temps in the day mean less watering of the yard. Best of all, I feel like I want to be outdoors more, and my fur kids, they are at play in the yard. I had a ball with the fur kids today – tossing leaves at them, watching them chase after acorns. In turn, they will be watching me rake up the leaves in another month or two.

Liza at play

Liza at play

Missy posing in the leaves. She had me in stitches, she was a real clown.

The one thing about fall that I’m not in love with, is night comes earlier. In the blink of my eye, night falls around 5:30. I was so use to night falling around 8:30. Oh, and that damn, turn back the clock thing that we endure every fall!!  Don’t forget to turn back the clocks – in fall, it’s “fall back”. Ok, ok, I like that extra hour of sleep that I gain!

For me, the grand finale of fall is Thanksgiving. I truly want to celebrate that time with a glass of champagne with a toast to fall for all of her beautiful colors. No two falls are alike, I never know from year to year, what the colors of fall will bring. Now, that’s exciting! Cheers to fall!

Leave it to me to enjoy fall!

What Happens After We Die?

Ok, ok, before I get protests, or rolling of the eyes, give me a break. Honestly, we all have asked that question during our lives, not once, not twice, but every once in awhile the thought sneaks up on us. Maybe for me, it’s because of May 2011, and maybe too, because I’m getting older.

We all know that there is mystery that surrounds death, and the “life” thereafter. When I think back to May 2011, I’d venture to say I was knocking on Death’s Doorstep, thankfully briefly. I’m one of those that sometimes think – oh heck, I’m invincible, nothing’s going to happen to me TODAY! I can’t possibly die at a young age. Pray tell – what is a young age?

My brothers, sister and I’ve had a conversation about how each of us 4 would meet our demise. Gary, the oldest, and a retired police officer said “I’ll piss off Hells Angels so bad, they’ll shoot me dead”. Bill, my next oldest brother said “I’ll die before I reach 70!”. My sister, Marla said “with all of my health problems, I’m lucky to still be alive, none of you will go before me”. Finally, it was my turn, I said “I’ll be snorkeling in the Caribbean and swallowed up by a whale or a shark”. Oh goodie, the Smith kids talk about how they will meet their demise!

I don’t know if there’s humor, but death isn’t ordered from a menu. We don’t know when or how we will die, we just hope we aren’t too young and that we won’t suffer. Most folks I talk to hope they die in their sleep.

What really happens to me after I die? I suppose there is reincarnation – wow, hope I don’t come back as an Ant. Then there is “heaven” and there is “hell”.

As a child I believed and still do believe in heaven and hell. I’m not sure about the reincarnation bit, I’m not totally sold on that argument. When I was a little girl, I envisioned God as bald, very muscular, dark skinned, and he resembled an Indian Chief. He wasn’t mean, he seemed to be very loving, but also one not to mess around with. He could be heard throughout the universe when he spoke. I also believed and still believe that animals go to heaven too.

I have just finished reading a very good book “Heaven is For Real”. It’s a story about a 4 year old boy (Colton Burpo) who leaves his body during surgery and visits heaven. The story is true, and for him to tell his Dad (who is a Minister) the details about heaven is astounding, given the young age of Colton.

One of the descriptions of heaven from Colton were “the gates of heaven were made of gold and there were pearls on them.” “The heavenly city itself was made of something shiny, like gold or silver.” The flowers and trees in heaven were beautiful and there were animals of every kind.”

Reading that description of heaven brought me back to my World #1 – the forest with the animals, the flowers, and the rabbits. Also how bright and colorful everything was! I honestly can’t say whether I was in heaven for a brief moment on May 28, 2011. Who knows? I didn’t see any of my deceased friends or relatives, which begs me to question if I even remotely died and came back. That’s the “logical” part of me. I do believe that people have died and come back, and some have taken that journey to heaven (near death experience)!

While out walking the other day, I saw a rabbit on top of a bird bath. I must’ve looked at it for 5 minutes or longer, I couldn’t help but think about World #1 – the forest with the birds, animals, and yes, those rabbits! The rabbits in World #1 were white with some dark markings around their eyes and cheeks. Their eyes were blue!

Bunny on in the birdbath with a heavenly face

When I saw this rabbit, the expression on his face reminded me of the 3 rabbits I saw in World #1 in May 2011. I felt at ease and loved by those rabbits.

Animals in heaven? Could that be for real? Personally, I do believe there are animals in heaven. I’ve lovingly referred to my former cats and dogs as having gone to “The Rainbow Bridge”. Towards the end of the book “Heaven is for Real”, Colton saw Jesus’s horse, dogs, birds, and even a lion – and the lion was friendly, not fierce!

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge – the heavenly place for our animals.

Ok, if I die and go to heaven when I reach the age of 75, am I going to look like an Old Angel wearing glasses? In the book “Heaven is For Real”, Colton Burpo describes that there are no “old” people in heaven. Perhaps when we enter heaven we no longer have our aged and broken down bodies. When I was in World #1, I wasn’t a 50 something year old woman, I was in fact a young woman!

Oh, I can just see me with this extra large set of wings! Hmm, flying around the universe wouldn’t be so bad, hey maybe I can close enough to touch the rings on Saturn! Maybe I won’t even have to wear shoes in heaven.

Will I be playing an instrument – lord help me if it’s the piano, I’ll be screwed. Maybe I can fiddle around with a violin, or keep harping on God to let me have a tune or two with the harp. Who knows? Oh, last but not least, what is there to eat in heaven? Maybe there is a “Golden Arch” up there that we get our take-out food from.

I was an Angel in a school play back in the 3rd grade. Yes, I got to wear a halo and a long gown. Wow, I hope I didn’t have to sing because I’m so tone deaf that the shower pipes squeak when I sing in the shower.

I think we all have our own beliefs or theories about what will happen to us after we die. In my heart, that call will be made by God as to what will happen to me after I did. Again, I think it’s a personal journey, just like our journey in life is our OWN personal journey!

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