We haven't had a chance to finish picking the last crop of oranges from the tree in our backyard, but yesterday morning I found blossoms that mark the coming of the next one! Freshly squeezed OJ, anyone?

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Where have the days gone?! I knew that it had been a while since I posted anything, but the days have flown past so quickly that I had no clue that my last post was a week ago. Bad, bad blogger!

It's been incredibly busy in my neck of the woods. In spite of the lackluster economy, our business has seen an amazing spike in sales on both a retail and wholesale level. When news about the state of our economy was first breaking, I heard an expert giving a list of products that typically see growth during an economic downturn. The items on this list, which the economist classified as "sin" or "vice" products, included tobacco and alcohol related goods. In hard times, the economist said, people "need" their "vices" or "sins" to help ease the stress associated with hardship and as a result, products in those markets typically do not experience a drop in sales. Such has been the case for us.

Ali's family has been making water pipes, like the one in the photo, in Egypt for generations, and we have been importing and selling them in the U.S. for a few years now. When we started, we had no clue that the hookah, and the fruit-flavored tobacco that people smoke in it, had become a pop-culture trend. Lucky for us! Our business has been far more successful than we could have imagined and keeps us plenty busy. But this past week saw an unprecedented increase in wholesale orders! Since ours is a genuine old-fashioned mom and pop business with just Ali, me, and our daughter as the employees, multiple large orders means multiple long days, especially for Ali. Poor guy, in the middle of this hubbub of activity, I had to complete my grading marathon and then promptly got sick. With me AWOL for a few days, Ali was left to assemble approximately 2,800 hookahs and prepare 4 large pallets on his own. And this was just the wholesale orders!

In addition to the craziness at the business, other things have taken me away from the blogosphere. I finally picked up the paperwork to file for my retirement. Had I known that it would be a booklet loaded with forms to fill out, I would have gotten it much sooner. It didn't help that I got it the day before I got sick, either, because the number one item on my To Do list for today is fill out all of those forms. After I get back from a funeral, that is.

We live in an old neighborhood with homes built in the decade of my birth. Several of the original homeowners still live in the neighborhood and as time marches mercilessly on, they are dying one by one. Ali and I bought our home from my father, so the house in which we live has been my home for thirty years. I have grown up and older with the remaining old folks on our street. Ali's compassionate nature makes him quite popular among society's dispossessed. Remember my post about his homeless friends? Needless to say, Ali has a way with the elderly, and the oldies in our neighborhood love him for the same reasons that the homeless who hang around our business do. On Saturday, I learned one of Ali's biggest fans, the 94 year old woman whose home is directly across the street from ours, had died.

Grace was a crochety old lady, but she loved Ali. Correction -- she adored Ali! Although Grace and her husband, George, divorced in the 70's, they remained very close. George visited Grace often and because she couldn't drive, he came to take her grocery shopping every Sunday. When George developed testicular cancer, Grace took care of him. And when George died at her house in the wee hours of the morning six years ago, Grace called Ali for help. As her mind became plagued by dementia, Grace would call Ali in the middle of the night to come check her house for intruders because she had heard a strange noise and just knew that someone had come to get her. Without hesitation or complaint, Ali would get out of bed and venture in the darkness of night to the house across the street where an old lady, not a beautiful young princess, awaited her knight in shining armor. Later today, I will go to say goodbye to her for both of us because the knight is away from the castle for a couple of days.

Ali is in Sin City! He left for Vegas yesterday morning and won't be home until Thursday afternoon. There are two huge tobacco shows / conventions in Las Vegas this week and since we have developed a new tobacco-free smoking product for the hookah, he is there promoting it. While he is away, I get to take a partial break from the business -- at least the physical location -- and will have some time to focus on finishing our newest website. Of course I'd rather be in Vegas with Ali, but Spring Break doesn't come until the week after next, just in time for my sister and brother-in-law to visit from Texas!

The guest room and adjoining bathroom are a disaster and have been since my nephew, who stayed with us while he attended one semester of college in California, went back home to Texas. Nobody uses the room, so it has become the catch-all for things that we can't figure out another place to store. I have recruited Iman and Basma (daughter and niece) to help me clear them out and clean them up so that our visitors will have a place to sleep and shower while they are here. My brother-in-law hasn't been back to California since he left the Marine Corps about 25 years ago, so it will be nice to play tourist with them for the week of Spring Break.

With all that has been going on in my life this past week, is it any wonder that I'm taking the long way back?
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Our new fridge was delivered on Sunday morning, and I have to say that it looks wonderful! We couldn't get the water and ice dispenser hooked up because the hose thingy that the delivery guy brought was not long enough to reach from the area under the sink to the fridge. Ali got the right length from Home Depot, but because things are busy at the shop right now, hasn't had time to get it hooked up yet. Oh, well, at least we have coffee cream again!

I completely forgot about the time change on Sunday. Maybe it happened because I am not a fan of daylight savings time and haven't been for at least twenty years. The older I get and the earlier I wake up and go to bed, the more I dislike the idea of springing forward and falling back. In fact, the time change makes me downright cranky!

This week, I will be having one-on-one conferences with the students in my smaller class. Although the process is mentally exhausting, I actually enjoy this ritual because it gives me an opportunity to work with each student on an individual basis. Students like conference week because they don't have to come to class; they just show up for their conference appointment.

Ok, I need a cup of coffee now because like the cartoon says, I can't think without it!
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I have to start with a big sigh of relief, followed by a gleeful shout of T.G.I.F. because, oh my God, what a week I've had! A grading marathon, a computer virus, and a dead fridge all in seven days. What more could I possibly want?

Ali and I have been living out of ice chests since Monday because our sturdy, but 20+ years old refrigerator gave up the ghost quite unexpectedly. No whirring or groaning or whizzing sounds, no last minute gasps from the internal light bulb, absolutely nothing to indicate that there was a problem even. Just a sudden, surprising, we-didn't-even-get-to-say-goodbye death. Ali has wanted a side-by-side with an ice and water dispenser in the door for years but because he is a firm believer in hanging onto appliances until even junk yards don't want them, his dream fridge had to wait. That is, until Monday when I called to deliver the bad news: "Ali, we have a problem. The refrigerator is dead."

After checking online for sales and rebates, I found the model that would best suit our needs, give us the most in rebates, and had a sale price that appealed to my inner cheapskate. I love stainless steel appliances and already have a fairly new stainless steel sink, so that was the obvious choice. I sent Ali to our local Sears to buy the fridge, thinking that because the store's website said it was available for next day delivery, that we'd have our chill back by Wednesday at the very latest. If only our lives could be so neatly ordered and problems so easily solved!

Problem number one: the stainless steel fridge is not EnergyStar compliant. Our power company offers a $50 rebate for EnergyStar compliant refrigerators, and I certainly didn't want to give that up. Although not my first choice--ok, technically, not even my fifty-first choice--we ended up with the same model in white because that color does comply with the EnergyStar standards. Why one color or finish complies and the other doesn't, even when the only difference between them is appearance, escapes the clutches of my rational thinking ability.

Problem number two: although the store's website says that the white fridge is also available for next day delivery, we can't get ours delivered until SUNDAY! So Ali is trying to speak to me discreetly from his cell phone with the sales guy standing right beside him, while I am emphatically telling him that there is no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that we can stay without a refrigerator for six days! But in the end, it was what it was--no delivery until Sunday. Ali paid for the fridge, and the problem was solved.

I finished grading the essays for one class and am diligently working to finish the papers for the other one. Focus is not my strongest point these days, possibly because if I sit still for too long a stretch, sleep overtakes me. Napping has become a necessity lately, but it sure does put a hitch in my get along, as my grandfather used to say.

In fact, although it's less than ten minutes after seven in the A.M., and I have been awake for only three hours, I need to catch another forty winks before we head off to tackle the challenges that await us at the business. Keep your fingers crossed that the cosmos ignores me for a while!
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The jasmine that grows on our fence has begun to bloom, a sign that spring is in the air at last! With the entire fence covered in a profusion of highly-scented blooms, the scent of spring spreads from my home to nearly half the neighborhood. Does it take a village to smell a jasmine?

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1. What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
I don't remember the name of it, but it's a Fifties style diner in Lake Jackson, Texas. Whenever I go to visit my favorite Aunt, we go there to eat fried pickles and fried steak fingers with gravy. (The Soda Shoppe Cafe may be the name, but I don't know for sure.)

2. What food could you eat for 2 weeks straight and not get sick of it?
It would have to be spanakopita (Greek spinach pies). They don't last very long around my house when I make them!

3. Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
More than I want to think about at the moment!

4. What is the last heavy item you lifted?
Does my fanny count?

5. Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
Thankfully, no.

6. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
Definitely not! Knowing the exact day of my demise would prevent me from living a real life and all that is good, bad, and ugly about it.

7. If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
I've never wanted to change my name; Carleen suits me fine.

8. What's your goal for the year?
To avoid another hospital stay.

9. Last person you hugged?
Hubby was the last person, but I hugged one of my cats after that.

10. First place you went this morning?
To the coffee pot in the kitchen.

11. Do you always answer your phone?
If I hear it ringing, yes.

12. It's four in the morning and you get a text message, who is it?
Probably from a family member in Egypt who forgot about the time difference!

13. If you could change your eye color, what would it be?
Definitely hazel like my mom's.

14. What's on your wish list for your birthday?
I haven't thought about it yet.

15. Does the future make you more nervous or excited?
The future makes me nervous because it is exciting. Can't wait to see how it all turns out!

16. Do you have any saved texts?
Once a conversation is finished, I always delete texts.

17. Ever been in a car wreck?
Unfortunately, I have -- twice.

18. Do you have an accent?
I don't think I do, but when I go to visit family in other states, they think I do.

19. What was the last song to make you cry?
Eva Cassidy's version of "Over the Rainbow."

20. What did you do last night?
Ate a delicious Persian dinner, watched a little TV, and fell asleep on the couch. Such an exciting life, LOL!

21. Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?
I reached the lowest point in my life when I was 17, and my mother died.

22. Current hate right now?

23. Met someone who changed your life?
My husband!

24. How did you bring in the New Year?
At home, eating shrimp from Red Lobster and drinking Martinelli's Sparkling Cider.

25. What song represents you?
Probably "My Way" because I've never really done things the way that my family wanted me to.

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