My Spiralized Life

Not long after I started my current job, I was introduced to a nifty kitchen gadget called a spiralizer. In case you’re not familiar, this tool takes a vegetable, such as a zucchini, and turns it into long, thin noodles. It does so by turning it while it’s being cut. When you’re finally done, the resulting pile looks nothing like what you started with, but it sure can make for some good meals. This got me thinking tonight. My life is a lot like a spiralized vegetable.

I can go along for months or years feeling like my life is solid and stable. For whatever unforeseen reasons, every so often, my life can put me in a spin causing things to get all out of whack. It feels like I’m not sure which end is up and I’m just holding on for dear life. What I usually find is that after all is said and done, I come out happier and healthier on the other side. It’s a kind of personal metamorphosis. The trouble is, when the spiralizing is taking place, I’m never sure how long it will last.

I guess I feel like I’m in one of these topsy-turvy times right now. I know I will feel an awakening after it’s ended, but until then, I’m hoping that the view isn’t too dizzying.

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Gandalf Lives!

It’s been said that all women need two people in their lives they can trust: a hair stylist and a mechanic. I’m happy to say my hair has been taken well care of by the same person for the last 17+ years. The mechanic part…well…let’s just say I haven’t been as lucky. I thought I had that one taken care of years ago but instead got ROYALLY screwed as the result of his dishonesty. I’ve now had Gandalf with me the last 5+ years. He’s a gray Kia Rondo, and I plan to drive him until he falls apart. I thought the end was in sight this weekend, but instead, my eyes were opened to yet another dishonest mechanic.

It’s been on my bucket list to take an automotive class so I’m better equipped to handle things myself, or at least discuss them with some knowledge. Hell, I’ve changed the oil in my car before and even, under the guidance of a good friend, changed out Gandalf’s brakes and rotors. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but there are some things that are too involved for me to do. That’s when I leave things up to the experts.

A few months ago, I was having some issues with Gandalf, so I took him in to have him looked at in hopes the issue could be corrected. I wasn’t able to go to my usual mechanic, as they are no longer open on the weekends. Instead, I went to a place, a chain, that my parents have used for as long as I can remember. I felt I was in good hands since it was like keeping it in the family, so to speak. It was discovered that the catalytic converter was shot and it needed to be replaced. (I am now questioning if that was even the case.)

The part was ordered, and when it finally came in, I waited at the store for several hours while the job was completed. Upon being checked out, and after all the work was done, I was told then that they didn’t realize that the part that was ordered was going to cause some noise that sounded much like I was driving a hot rod. I was told by the manager that if it bothered me to let him know and they’d order the other part and replace it for me.

After two days of driving my 17-mile-one-way commute, I called and told them that it had to go. How people drive a car with that racket is totally beyond me! They ordered the part and said they’d call me when it came in. I waited almost two weeks. Finally, after having to call multiple times, they confirmed the part was in and my appointment was scheduled. I waited, again, for several hours while they removed and replaced the catalytic converter, and all seemed fine.

This brings me to last Saturday.

It has only been a few months since the replacement of the catalytic converter when I began hearing some noise when accelerating that sounded much like a knocking or rattling, It was almost like someone was spinning a lottery wheel hoping to land on a good prize. It was extremely annoying, however Gandalf seemed to drive fine despite that. There was no oil light on. There was no check engine light on. Regardless, I called and made an appointment with the same place and was sure to describe the issue. They agreed that it was probably the heat shield and they could look at it on Saturday morning.

I got there right on time for my appointment. Once Gandalf was examined, this is what I was told by the manager. He said that the problem is that there was no oil in the car. Apparently there was an oil leak and no oil was showing on the dipstick. He then said that whoever did my last oil change “owes me a new engine.” (His exact words.) The knocking sound was one of the rods in the engine that was broken and that the only recourse was to buy a new car or completely replace the engine on a model they don’t make anymore. He and the other manager both felt like Gandalf wouldn’t last very long, and I shouldn’t wait to start looking. Nothing was repaired, but they did put in about 2 quarts of oil at no charge to bring me up to 4 ½ quarts. It turns out that just because there is no oil on the dipstick doesn’t mean there’s no oil in the engine. I was due for an oil change, but after being told Gandalf was done, I didn’t figure I should bother with that added expense.

The manager also mentioned that the reason that their oil changes take an hour is because they take the time to look at the car in case anything else is wrong. He said that had they done the oil change, they would have found the leak and fixed it then. He said that the lack of oil in the engine ruined it. It was broken…and so was my heart.

I spoke to the manager and district manager for the prior service center, both at the suggestion of this shop’s manager. I got nowhere. They said they noted it on the ticket. I then told the district manager that it’s ridiculous that they’ll verbally upsell you on every service under the sun, but when there’s a physical problem with your car, they simply “make note” for you. Poor Gandalf.

After leaving the mechanic, I sat, dumbfounded for a while trying to figure out where to start. Thanks to suggestions from several friends, I spent the rest of the day, until 9:00 pm, looking at cars. At a minimum, it was going to cost me around $16,000 for a pre-owned vehicle. I had not planned to spend my entire day doing this, but after the grim news from both the managers, I felt I didn’t have a choice.

Yesterday, a good friend took a look at Gandalf, and then we took him for a short drive. He seemed to think that the sound wasn’t coming from the engine, but he did notice that there was oil sprayed on the underside of the hood, so that could have been part of the issue. After his examination, I felt the need to get a second opinion, as I was not happy about having to shell out $16,000 for a car.

Today, I took Gandalf into an auto repair place I have used in the past. They have been very honest about their work and I trust them completely. Again, the only reason I wasn’t going to them was that they weren’t open on the weekends. Fortunately, I was off work today, so I was able to schedule an appointment. Pretty quickly, they noticed the oil leak, but realized that it can be fixed by getting a new front crank shaft seal kit. This runs about $15 for the part and $585 for the labor, as it’s a very involved process…which they fully explained.

Regarding the knocking, it was discovered very quickly that it was NOT coming from the engine. In fact, it was nowhere near the engine. I stood with them under the car and saw for myself the source of the sound. It was coming from the REAR catalytic converter. It was BEYOND obvious that was what was making the noise…even to me! They confirmed that the issue is either with the heat shield or with something that was knocked loose when the front catalytic converter was replaced and is now rattling around inside. The cost to fix this would be no more than $562 for the part. Given the location, it was much easier to replace if need be, so the labor would be much less. Because they may not even need the part, it could be an easier, and less expensive fix.

My gratefulness to these guys was diminished in part by the pure FURY I had for the prior shop. HOW ON EARTH can someone who works on cars day in and day out not be able to locate the source of a noise that is not only BEHIND the front wheels but is located in the middle of the car with nothing around it?!?! The other shop almost cost me $16,000 (at a minimum) when the cost to repair these FIXABLE issues won’t cost more than $1500 for both the catalytic converter and the oil leak. The technicians who looked at Gandalf today were dumbfounded as to how this was missed. They simply couldn’t explain it given how obvious it was. All I can say is that this place now has a loyal customer for life!

I have already reported this to the Better Business Bureau and will be posting a negative review on Yelp and any other place I can find. I have emailed their area manager with all the details as well. I will never step foot back inside that place again, which is sad given that my parents have always been loyal customers for as long as I can remember. How this was missed is totally beyond me. I put my trust in that company and in people who clearly do not know anything about cars or how they work.

I couldn’t be happier that it now appears that Gandalf and I will still have many happy years together. He has been a great car, and knowing he’ll be well taken care of makes me beyond happy. In addition, I am currently completely out of debt and plan to stay that way for as long as I can. I now know that I need to start planning for the day when this weekend’s events become a reality. Until then, I will be forever grateful for great family & friends with not only amazing advice and support, but incredible senses of humor!

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In My Dreams

He came to me last night in a dream. I awoke in tears. It has been so long since I’ve seen him, so this vision of him caught me completely off guard, even in an unconscious state. Our last visit together was nothing but loving and a bit bittersweet, but it’s a memory I will always cherish.

I’ll never understand why certain things or loved ones show up in my dreams, but this vision was so vivid. Even now, I get choked up thinking how unfair it is that I won’t ever see his face again and how real everything felt. Loss is very different for many people. We all react to it in different ways. My friends and family mean everything to me, so to lose someone I love is absolutely heartbreaking.

In my dream I was at a friend’s house talking when I looked outside across the yard. There, coming out from behind the fence, I saw him. He looked just like I remembered. I turned to my friend and shockingly exclaimed, “Is that Max?!”

Without a hesitation, I knew it was my sweet boy, and ran for him calling his name. He saw me and ran to me. I was happy beyond words to get to see his beautiful face in front of me. Upon connecting, I walked with him towards a bench, my hand never breaking our touch, so I could pet his head and love on him once more. When we got to the bench, he had changed into a human form and I was able to hold him in an embrace that I never wanted to end. It was then that I woke up.

 

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My three-letter tradition

You’ve probably heard of many traditions over the years. Some are religious in nature, some have to do with family, but I doubt any involve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Well, my friends, that is all about to change. Tomorrow marks a very significant day for me, as I will be getting the key to my next home. My actual move-in date is Friday, but tomorrow evening I will be dining on PB&J’s as I start the process of creating new memories in a new place.

I didn’t just choose this childhood delicacy randomly, but rather I specifically chose to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to continue my tradition of celebrating my independence. This all stemmed from the fantastic 80’s movie, St. Elmo’s Fire.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with this movie, but it is one I highly recommend. It features the brat pack – Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, & Mare Winningham. It was a scene with Mare Winningham, who played Wendy, which started this whole thing back in 2012. Wendy was the daughter of rich parents. Her problem was that they wanted to run her life. When she finally stood up to them, they cut her off financially. This meant she had to learn to fend for herself for the first time ever. She managed to get herself her own apartment without the aid of her family. One night Billy, played by Rob Lowe, came by to see her. As they’re talking, Wendy says,

“Yeah…ya wanna know what’s great? Last night I woke up in the middle of the night to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…and ya know, it was my kitchen, it was my refrigerator, it was my apartment…and it was the BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I have had in my entire life.”

This scene was burned into my brain. When I finally moved into my very own place for the first time ever back in 2012, something about this quote came to the forefront of my mind. After all, I had gone from living with my parents, to college roommates, to being married, but never during that time did I live alone for a significant amount of time. That all changed once I got divorced and moved out on my own.

When that happened, I had to find a way to support myself. I had to learn that, despite the fact that I had (and still have) an INCREDIBLE family, I needed to be able to stand on my own two feet. There was a lot of fear that came with that discovery, but there was also an immense sense of accomplishment with every milestone I reached. THAT is why peanut butter and jelly sandwiches serve as a powerful symbol of strength and a reminder of what I’ve accomplished on my own. This is one tradition I’m proud to continue and will do so with each bite.

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Celebrity Sightings

I recently went out to dinner with some girlfriends. As two of us we were walking towards our dining destination, we passed by the window of another restaurant. Sitting there at a table was someone I immediately recognized. It wasn’t a friend or someone famous, but I do consider these encounters “celebrity sightings.” The man I saw was someone I had chatted very briefly with after receiving a message from him years ago online. The reason he stood out to me was the nature of what he was looking for in a relationship.

Now…to each his own. I get that. I guess though, if I’m being honest, I’m just more of a traditional girl. It turned out that I got a message from him and started chatting with him before first reading his profile. BIG MISTAKE!! I quickly discovered that the guy is married, but they have an understanding, as he is a dominant and is looking for a submissive. Upon learning this, I immediately wished him luck on his search, but withdrew my application to further the conversation.

These types of sightings happen to me all the time. What’s funny is that despite the fact that I live in Austin, TX, I have only had one real celebrity sighting since I moved here back in 2000…and it took me until a whole day later and a lot of internet searches before I realized who the actor even was. The majority of the time, my encounters have included running into someone who I’ve either gone out with, chatted with, or avoided like the plague.

A few years ago, I was at one of my favorite karaoke spots having a fabulous time. I was there with a large group, mostly people I didn’t know. If you know me, you know that I rarely meet a stranger, so it definitely made for a fun night. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed I had a message waiting for me from another potential suitor. When I opened it, I had to laugh. The message was from one of the guys I’d been hanging out with that evening. He told me that he’d been staring at me all night trying to figure out how he knew me. The minute he logged onto the dating app, it hit him. He just wanted to say hi and that it was nice meeting me in person. Well…whaddaya know?!?! I was the celebrity this time!!

I guess when you’ve spent years perusing dating profiles from various sites that this is bound to happen. Some encounters bring back funny memories, while others make me glad I dodged that bullet. There have been times that I see a guy and initially think, “Wow! He’s attractive!” Then my mental Rolodex reminds me that I actually went out on a date with him several years ago, and I remember why it didn’t go anywhere.

There are times that a celebrity sighting happens, and I can see the guy staring at me trying to figure out why I look so familiar. That happened one time while shopping in HEB. As I walked past the poor pensive person, I start giggling to myself because I immediately recognized him as the 24-year-old who made a pass at me after I’d met his girlfriend the weekend prior.

I will admit, there are some men I’d like never to see again and others I’d enjoy bumping into from time to time. I guess that is one good thing about online dating. It gives you the opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise run into during the course of your day. Maybe these are just a way of keeping my mind sharp as I get older. After all, I definitely don’t want to make the same mistakes twice.

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Ummm…you’re not all that!

I’ve gone on my share of dates over the years. Sometimes you have an amazing connection, while other times you may not feel that spark, but the person you’re with is just fun to be around. With the latter, you may become friends, otherwise you both cut your losses and move on. There are instances, however, when you meet someone and begin trying to figure out how quickly the date can end. That was the case this time.

It had been a long week at work, and I was looking forward to the weekend. I had started talking with a new guy online and we decided to meet up Friday night for one of my favorite pastimes – shooting pool. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I can definitely hold my own. During our conversation, he mentioned that he had his own pool cue. I was excited at the thought because it made me think that if he owns his own cue, he must play often. If he plays often, he’s probably pretty good, and I’m the type who would prefer to play with someone better than me in the hopes that I might up my game.

We both arrived at the pool hall at the same time and ended up greeting each other in the parking lot. Upon meeting him, I realized that while you can find someone’s pictures attractive, they don’t always seem the same in person. Maybe it’s how they carry themselves. Maybe it’s seeing them at a different angle. Maybe it’s their personality. Most of the time it’s the whole package that just tells you it’s not a fit. What’s weird is that I know from experience that you can have great chemistry with someone online, via text, and over the phone, but it just doesn’t translate in person. I’ve been on both sides of this coin, so I know what it feels like. It’s not something I can really explain, but when the mutual connection is there, it’s obvious. When it’s not, you know it pretty quickly. It became very apparent in this situation that the attraction was one-sided…and I was on the wrong side.

We walked into the pool hall, him with his case in hand, and we quickly found a table towards the middle of the room. We talked for a few minutes and decided to start our first game. It didn’t take long for me to realize that owning a pool cue does not automatically mean you are skilled in the ways of billiards. I’ve been playing on occasion for several years now, so I typically study the table, think about how one shot will set up the next, carefully aim, and hope for the best outcome.

My date couldn’t have been more the opposite. He awkwardly walked up to the table and, without much aim or planning, quickly made each shot. He fumbled with the cue a few times, almost dropping it. He missed the cue ball a few times and just didn’t seem to be very confident in his playing. All this came as a surprise given he had his own billiards equipment with him. Part of the way through the second game, his cue tip broke, which got him pretty flustered. He took the cue and just threw it in the garbage.

What made this encounter more awkward was the fact that after his shots, he would come up to me and put his arm around me in an affectionate manner. I really couldn’t have been more obvious with my body language that I didn’t reciprocate his advances, but he didn’t seem to be paying attention. Each time he’d attempt to be close, I would conveniently find an amazing shot to take from the other side of the table. I didn’t do this in a rude manner, but I was very surprised he wasn’t reading my stiff, closed off stature. I guess I was doing my best to be perfectly clear that I didn’t feel the same. The conversation was a bit awkward as well. Maybe it was his nerves, which I get, but, again, lack of confidence in a man is something I have a hard time with on a date.

We played a few games, and then he suggested we switch to darts. I was ready to go home, and had been for a while. In all honesty, I was actually pretty tired, but I wanted to be nice, so I agreed. He seemed like a decent guy, but unfortunately that extra something just wasn’t there for me. After a few games, I told him that I was really getting tired, as it was approaching midnight, and was ready to head home. If the night wasn’t awkward at that point, it was about to take a nosedive into the land of awkwardness.

Despite the fact that we’d been chatting, sort of, all night, he said he’d like to just talk for a few minutes. Ugh! I just wanted to go home already! They have several couches all around the pool hall, so we headed towards the ones near the bar. I was hoping this would be short-lived, as I was pretty exhausted, but I was willing to give him a few more minutes of my time.

We sat down on the love seat, him to my left. Before I could say anything, he grabbed my legs and laid them across his knees. He then took my hand to hold it, but did the “interlocking finger” manner, which seriously caught me off guard. Then to top it off, he laid his head on my shoulder. He was all cozy and comfy, and I could not have had stiffer posture unless I was petrified. I felt a bit bad for the guy, as he obviously was looking for a connection with me. The problem was, it just wasn’t there…AT ALL!!

After about five minutes of this insanity, I mentioned again that I was really tired and should be heading home. In a very disappointed manner, he sat up and removed my legs from his lap. We gathered our things and headed out the door. He walked me to my car, and I managed to dodge a kiss goodnight. Again, the guy was nice, but I just wasn’t feelin’ it.

I got home a little after midnight and sent him a text to let him know I made it. I said, “Thank you for a fun night. You’re a fierce competitor.” I figured that was my way of saying thank you, but not giving the hint of another date. I crawled into bed and zonked out.

Twenty minutes later, I was startled awake when I got a text from him that said, “That’s good to know.” I briefly looked at it and put my phone back down. I was out again in about 30 seconds.

Twenty minutes after that, I was startled awake again when I got a text from him that said, “I’m free Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening if you’d like to get together again.” I honestly didn’t read the text then because I was just too tired and figured he’d fall asleep soon too.

Wrong!

TWENTY MINUTES LATER – it is now after 1:00 am – I was startled awake for the last time by him with a text that said, “But I don’t know if you want to see me.” It was then that I realized that I was unfortunately going to have to let him down easy or he was not going to stop. Through sleepy eyes, I texted him back to tell him that I really appreciated the offer, but I just didn’t feel the same connection that he obviously did. I said that didn’t mean we couldn’t hang out again, but I just wanted to be clear of my feelings. I was hoping that would be the end of it.

NOPE!

THE DUDE BLEW UP MY PHONE!!!

I got text after text from him.

“What do you mean you don’t feel the same connection?”

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s got to be something wrong!”

They kept coming. I replied back and said that there was nothing wrong. Sometimes it just doesn’t translate in person.

He insisted, “What’s wrong?! There’s got to be something wrong! I was married for eight years. I don’t understand.”

OY VEY!!

I very calmly replied back and said again that there was nothing wrong. I told him that I just didn’t feel the same attraction for him that he felt for me.

His response floored me!

He said, “No attraction?! Good luck finding better!”

I replied and asked him what he meant.

He said, “Ummm…you’re not all that! Good luck!”

I stared at my phone like Ferris Bueller would stare right into the camera.

REALLY?!?!

If I’m being honest, I had a bit of a chuckle at this one, but I was so beyond tired at that point that I put my phone down, turned it to silent, and zonked out.

I guess I can now rest assured that I don’t have to put too much pressure on myself moving forward since I’m not all that. Whew!

 

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Do I Need To Be Here For This?

Someone once asked me what’s worse on a first date – no attraction or nothing to talk about. In my opinion it would be the latter. To me, there’s nothing worse than an attractive man who has nothing to say. There is one exception to that – when my date is doing all the talking and the conversation is completely one-sided.

A few years ago, I began chatting online with a very attractive man who fortunately didn’t live too far from me. It wasn’t long after that before we scheduled our first date. We met at a sports bar to have a drink and visit for a while. I liked the atmosphere of the place and had been there before. It had a good energy yet wasn’t too loud for good conversation.

I met him just inside and was very pleased, as he looked just like his pictures. We found a table inside close to the door for the outside patio. We each ordered a beer and he ordered a burger and fries, as it was closer to dinner time. We continued our conversation that had started that afternoon, and it all seemed to be going well…

Very quickly, the conversation took a turn, and it began to revolve around my date’s ex. Let’s just say he did NOT have nice things to say about her. This continued for a good 15 minutes before I tried to steer the conversation in another direction by asking about his family.  He followed my detour, but apparently the conversation cruise control clicked on and we were back to talking about his ex again.

My interest in this conversation was so over. At no time was I asked about myself, my interests, my work, how my beer was, or anything remotely off topic. He seemed very angry, and I began to wonder if I even needed to be there. After all, he could have the same conversation with himself, and I could go do something else like bang my head against the wall or play in traffic.

The painful visit finally came to an end. Any attraction I felt for him upon meeting was long gone. In fact, I found him rather ugly at this point. Personality really does make a difference. We said our goodbyes, and I breathed a sigh of relief that the date was finally over. The best part about that night was that I knew I would never have to see him again.

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