I will not freak out….I will not freak out….I will not freak out……

Well, it’s crunch-time. I have shopped like a madwoman, bought a new car, and am about to undergo a cleaning frenzy this weekend to get ready for the new job on Monday. I’ll spare you the existential freak-out by summing it up as nerve-wracking, and leave it at that.

In all this back-to-work frenzy, I also hit another milestone in my fitness quest. Since the New Year, I have dropped 40 pounds. Yep, you read that right sister, 40 freaking pounds. I am now back to the weight I was when I met my husband those many moons ago. Ahhhh…as shallow as it makes me, I sure do like being 40 pounds thinner. Me and the dressing room mirror have resolved our differences, and come to have a surprisingly amicable relationship.

I actually put on my husband’s boxer shorts as pajamas the other day, and Holy Guacamole, they fit. That may not mean much to you, but six months ago, that would not have happened without permanently cutting off the circulation to the lower half of my body. This is good news because I like wearing my husband’s clothes as pajamas…there is something inherently girly about it. The small victories are more tangible than the numbers on the scale, and are usually followed by an absurdly dorky victory dance that embarrasses anyone caught within my vicinity.

While I have been getting ready for this whole work thing, the level of stress around here climbed to dangerous proportions. Granny, in her infinite wisdom, could see that a freak-out was imminent. She packed some bags, enough food to feed a small country, and whisked me, Husband, the heathens and Best Friend M. up to Arkansas for a weekend on the lake. We ate, we drank, we kayaked and canoed down a river (during which time much hilarity ensued), and had a mini-vacation. Husband got up at 5:00 AM to fish, Best Friend M. and I did not. Let me tell ya, it was just what the doctor ordered…well, except for canoeing straight into a tree and traumatizing my Youngest. Oh, and my bathing suit was from 40 pounds ago, so we had to use a variety of safety pins to keep it on me. But, other than that, we all had a nice break from our routines.

Now, if I can just keep myself busy enough this weekend to avoid thinking about just how challenging it will be for a SAHM of 7 years to rejoin the workforce.

I will not freak out….I will not freak out….I will not freak out……

Yes, I’ve Been MIA—Who Knew Getting Ready to Work was a Job in Itself?

The past week has been crazy busy.

Once my husband and I decided that I would accept this new super-awesome job, the reality of the situation began to sink in.

I’ve been a Stay-at-Home Mom for seven years. I can’t just show up for work in a few weeks, easy-peasy.

First, I doubt that my current wardrobe of yoga pants and college t-shirts is appropriate for the office. To that end, I have been desperately scraping through clearance racks all over town in order to build a work wardrobe with very little money. And when I mean clearance, I mean the 3$ rack at JcPenney. You have to be patient enough to dig, and smart enough to dodge the elbows other bargain shoppers are throwing at you.

Aside from my clothing scavenger hunt, I have been handling a lot of logistics. I’ve made chore lists, and meal plans for the entire first month of work, so that I am not drowning in this transition after the first few days. Also, my husband will be at home the first two weeks of my job because the kids will not have started school yet. I had to find meals that come from easy-to-follow recipes for his two weeks as stay-at-home dad. He can cook, but he likes clear instructions, so if I want dinner success, I better make it as easy on him as I can. I have also been cleaning and organizing my house, and getting all back-to-school shopping done, because I will not have time later. Next week, I will deep clean the house, in hopes that a clean slate will be easier to maintain during the back-to-work confusion.

Today, I got a long overdue hair cut and color, because this job probably would not mix well with my messy, bleach-blonde hippy hair. In fact, I think it would probably cause more problems than it is worth, so I did a little makeover on my hair that, while still cute, is not libel to label me as a dumb blonde from the get-go.

And then there is the car issue. I will need a car very soon, but cannot get one until my first or second paycheck yields a down payment. However, because I will need to buy quickly when the time comes, I have been trying to figure out a game plan now. New or used? What type? What is my budget? What about the economy?

A little over 2 weeks to go, but hopefully my frantic planning now will make things easier later. Or I could be deluding myself….

Bad Drivers, Two-Lane Highways and A New Breed of Annoying Stereotype

I’ve heard many opinions about who the worst drivers are. Young men, teens and women have all, at one time or another, been accused of being the worst drivers on the planet.

However, I now realize that a new group holds the “Worst Driver Ever” title.

I live in rural Louisiana, in the land of two-lane highways, most of which are so curvy that passing is almost always impossible, if not suicidal. It is on these roads that I’ve discovered the new breed of bad drivers, and they taunt me constantly. Who are these offensive road hogs?

Men, driving pick-up trucks, while talking on cell phones.

For some reason, as these gentlemen cruise home from work, they drive one-handed, leaning to the other side as they talk on their phones. The problem with this situation is that these men slow down to about 30-40 miles an hour in a 55 mile-an-hour zone. Not only do they drive slowly, but they are also weaving just a bit, because their attention is focused on their apparently enthralling conversations. This weaving is not enough to get them stopped for a sobriety test, but it is enough to scare and confuse other drivers. Every once in a while, they realize their slowness and speed up to the limit, only to gradually fall back into their slow weaving as they become distracted.

My mom pointed this trend out to me, and after careful observation, I can say that she is right. Every time I get behind a slow-weaving truck, it is always some guy on a cell phone, leaning over on his other elbow,  and cruising like it is a Sunday drive, instead of the 5-o’clock rush hour.

Yes, you can still drive and talk on a cell phone here. But I hope that changes soon…grumble, grumble.

Bayou-Mama Goes to Work! ( WTH??)

In a surprising turn of events, my life is changing big-time.

For a while now, I have been looking for a part-time teaching gig at a local college, or some other job that would let me use my overly-expensive education to bring in a little extra income. I wasn’t really looking that hard, but with Youngest about to start school, I foresaw an opportunity to make a move that would ease some of the financial stranglehold we seem to stay in as a one-income family. Unfortunately, such jobs are thin on the ground in my area, and just did not seem to come around when I needed them.

Then, one day, I saw an ad for a job. This job was not only right up my alley, but I wrote my bleeping undergraduate thesis on it. It did not specify the hours, and I suspected it was full-time, but I submitted my résumé for fun anyway. Well, wasn’t I surprised when I got an interview, and even more surprised that I was in the top ten finalists from a pool of about 70 applicants. I went to the interview on a whim, and found out that it was my dream job. Oh buddy, was it my dream job. It was exactly the type of job I had in mind as I slugged through college and grad school.

But, as I left the interview, I shelved the experience in my mind. Out of 70 applicants, I was the stay-at-home mom who had zero work experience in the past seven years. All the fancy education in the world probably couldn’t counterbalance my professional hiatus, especially in such an obviously competitive market. I figured that I was probably the first application to swish through the old circular file of refuse.

Well, Holy Guacamole, they called last week and offered me the job, with a salary that was even a smidgen more than the initial advertised base pay. Of course my super-awesome husband’s response was “of course you’ll take it; it’s your dream job.” I, however, had reservations. Transitioning from a SAHM to a working mom was NEVER part of my plan. I mean never, ever. But, this job seemed destined to work…they even offered to delay my start date until August, just before my kids start school. My husband and I ran the numbers, I made a several pro/con lists, and I chewed on the idea for a while. It was really hard reconciling such a surprising offer with what I thought was my life-plan for the immediate future.

Needless to say, I accepted the offer, and I now have one month to figure out just how to become a working mom. I am going into this transition like a general preparing for battle. I am planning out the next two months of my life in almost obsessive organization, so that I can make this transition as easy as possible for my family. I need all the advice and insight I can get, because not only is my life changing big-time, but it is turning in a direction that is one I never expected.

 

Silencing My Inner-Jew

I was born a picky eater, to a woman whose cooking is revered locally. Those years of homesick cure-all cooking in Los Angeles made my mother the best cook I know. Don’t take my word for it. She’s since had a restaurant and a catering business, and regularly receives marriage proposals from strange men, including my stepdad’s friends. Yep, her food is that good. Just ask my back-side.

Despite her culinary flair, my mom got stuck with me, the world’s pickiest eater. While I eventually grew out of my pickiness, I remember many a night during my childhood when my mother warned me that one day, I would have a child just like me. And then I would apologize to her for my picky-eater theatrics. “You just wait…” she would hiss at me. Little did I know my mom has some crazy voodoo going on, and her warning became a prophetic curse. I got stuck with TWO picky eaters, and my mom gets to laugh her behind off regularly as I beg, threaten and finally force feed my children something other than chicken tenders.

While I did grow out of most of my picky-eating tendencies, my aversion to all things pork seemed permanent. I’ve been told that I should have been Jewish, instead of a Louisiana Catholic, because of my constant refusal to eat anything that once oinked. Me and the “other white meat” were the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s as far as I was concerned. When I worked as a counselor at a Jewish summer camp up in Yankee-land, the directors worried that a Louisiana girl would struggle with keeping kosher. I assured them that it would be no problem for me. I almost starved to death that summer anyway, because I guess I did not understand the full concept of kosher, and only Matzo ball soup stood between me and emaciation. (Ok, maybe that is as slight exaggeration, but I did get off the plane that fall begging my mama to feed me quick)

My husband eventually coaxed me into a relationship with bacon by making bacon –cheese fries. However, I still avoided cooking any kind of pork if I could help it.

That is, until I finally found a pork chop recipe that silenced my pork-hating ways. It came from Taste of Home magazine many moons ago, and I guarantee it will make any husband happy…unless his taste buds are disabled…then you’re on your own.

Pork Chops in Mustard Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 bone-in pork loin chops (1 inch thick), trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions:

  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 1/4 cup flour, salt and pepper. Add pork chops, one at a time, and shake to coat.
  2. In a large skillet, brown chops in oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside. In the same skillet, sauté mushrooms and garlic for 3 minutes. Add broth and rosemary; bring to a boil. reduce heat; to low; return pork to pan.
  3. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until meat is very tender. Remove pork and keep warm. In a small bowl, combine the half-and-half, sour cream, mustard and remaining flour until smooth. Pour into skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over pork chops. Yield: 4 servings.

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While me and pork are still getting to know each other, my husband is simply happy to have some meat diversity in our menu, and my kids actually eat this without half the histrionics of other meals.

Oink, Oink.