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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