MY SYSTEM resents the alarm clock but I am up early with Wolf, my German Shepherd, to open The Washtub, our laundromat. When I started it 2 1/2 years ago, I had visions of a quaint establishment. So I restored the building and decorated it with dozens of antique washboards, even an antique washing machine with a wooden wringer in the front window. Now the neighborhood children call me the "washer lady."

Back home, I scan the mighty W.P., drink coffee and eat half a bun. Oooohh, I'm fat. The diet starts Monday.

I restore old houses on Capitol Hill for a living - but I still haven't completed my own. My son Joe and I came back to D.C. after my 10-year marriage in Baltimore ended and we have seen plenty of indignities - no heat or hot water, missing windows, plaster dust, termites, crumbling walls, even missing floors.

When Joe first saw the house at 10th and H NE, he said: "Oh, Mom, how can you do this to me?"

I'd better spend the afternoon cleaning.


I am trying to locate a boxing ring for a block party in Anacostia. The Department of Recreation has one, but prying it loose is like pulling teeth.

On the phone, trying to obtain some building plans for one of my projects. Desperate. Jerry Dunphy, a real estate broker, got me into this world. I followed around on his heels, giving know-it-all advice, so he asked: Why don't you restore a house on your own and maybe the answers won't come so easy. Why not?

Jerry is an individualist. He got rich on the one hand, restoring Capitol Hill houses, but his Catholic training dictates he return some to the community - his Oxford degree is in religion and philosophy.Together we did the research on "red-lining" by savings and loans. We filed suits, lobbied council members. I became a fixture at City Hall, believing foolishly that I could influence the outcome.

On to my favorite project - Sassy, a new monthly paper for Washington youth which an old friend, Claudette Ford, and I will co-edit and publish.

I make some calls to potential advertisers. It looks promising - a showcase for young black people that has graphic style. The three A's (art, athletics, academics) with a bit of spice and philosophy ("Don't Give Me Nothing, Cause Nothing Ain't Free"), a bit of history and a bit of "sass back" from young adults, speaking in their own words.


Yesterday was my in-day. Today is my out-day. Before leaving, I prepare a mortgage application to a local bank for a loan on a multi-unit building. Interests rates are 12 percent plus 2 points and finding money is going to be difficult.

I make seven stops - the beauty parlor, the cleaners, the market to buy three bottles of ginger ale on sale for my mother, among others. She is frugal, my mother, also my very good friend and my biggest supporter, morally and financially.

She was the backbone of my campaign for City Council in Ward Six last year and now spends her time frying fish to raise money for our new organization, Community Voice Inc.

My rounds take me to the D.C. Housing Department to deliver financial statements required for the purchase of an RLA house - one which everyone wants, but does not want me to have. I use their Xerox machine because it's free.

My last stop is the last house I restored. The buyer is unhappy about dampness in the basement. I pay $85 to a technician who diagnoses the problem. It's the grading from a neighbor's property which must be corrected. Now I must locate the owner of the building and negotiate a solution.


Off to Baltimore for meetings with City Hall people and the HUD area office. I am there on business for the BLK Group, a D.C. management consulting firm which has a HUD contract to educate women in 16 cities on home ownership and mortgage credit.

The meetings go well. The city of Baltimore appears to have grasped the reins of restoration problems, avoiding many that Washington faces. It's clear City Hall is in charge - offering incentives to the private developer to provide houses for all income groups.

I always drive my pickup when I travel - in hope of finding junk, antiques or firewood along the way. Having lived through a recent winter with no heat, I am paranoid about firewood.


I tour Baltimore's restoration areas - Federal Hill, Bolton Hill, Fells Point. Can't resist.

My meeting with women representatives from various organizations is mediocre. I am supposed to recruit local coordinators for the HUD educational program. I strut my stuff, always loving the spotlight, but one participant resists my charms and is very persistent, dominating the group with her questions. I want to muzzle her - but afterward I embrace her in conversation. We exchange phone numbers.


Today is catch-up time. Every morning I make a "should do" list but it never gets completed.

I try to line up a psychiatrist to do a regular column for Sassy.The first dummy looks great. I call several students as potential reporters.

Have to discuss my loan application with the bank. They want to clarify my "cash flow" status.

I promise a community organization that I will appraise a house for them over the weekend. This means I won't have time to take Joe to the tennis courts.

Joe is stretching his "Leo" self in ways I admire. He is 16, a senior at Wilson High, second on the city championship tennis team. Tolerates his mother, respects his dad and believes that he has a place in the sun.

Visit Mother, which means gossip on the front porch about neighbors and President Carter's ineptness. I return home loaded with fresh vegetables from her garden and a gift check which I need.


Off to Annapolis for dinner at the home of Doll and Bob Gordon, the architect. Crabs, wine, good conversation on politics and race. The wife of a publisher of an out-of-print magazine for black teens promises to send a copy, which will help me with Sassy. This good luck supports my philosophy in life - to play while I work and work while I play. CAPTION: Picture, no caption