Canada’s on fire and it’s looking like the apocalypse

So, it’s on the major media outlets that Stitch Fix is closing two warehouses– or distribution centers as the press release called them– and we are on the list. About 375 people losing their jobs.

Meanwhile, forests are burning in Canada and our air quality has reached such terrible levels that we can not only smell the fire, but the daylight has turned the world into a sepia photograph of sorts and the particles can theoretically absorb into our bloodstream through our skin.

And I also found out via social media that Big Papa’s Breakfast Bistro had a little incident and will be closing until insurance companies can agree and repairs can happen.

And I didn’t get any good news… Gayle needs not one but two surgeries on her eyes for pseudoexfoliated glaucoma and cataracts. There’s an omission in the book that got stuck for two weeks in prepress at the printer and we need to do it again. And don’t tell The Teenager but the distributor has issue with her Tarot book. But I’m appealing their issues.

In the midst of all this, while knowing we’re in a strange limbo between getting laid off and not knowing when our last days will be or what severance packages they will offer us, we’re faced with an apocalyptic landscape.

Another Day at the Bizzy Hizzy

Today was Rainbow Pride Day at our warehouse, with each department wearing a color to support our LGTBQIA+ peers. Outbound had the color red. I donned a low cut red bodysuit under pants, with a red embroidered bathrobe that everyone assumed was a kimono. I called it my cape. I also put on my red glasses.

I went in a half-hour early as my neighbor works the 6-2:30 shift and my car is at the collision center. I got an email from them today stating my car should be done Tuesday. It needs a new bumper. But then I got a text from the collision center an hour later saying that my car has been moved from the prep department to the paint department.

One of our leads approached me today to tell me that I write well, and I thanked her, and perhaps babbled too much at her. And plenty of people complimented my kimono.

We had a safety team meeting despite the bad news delivered yesterday, and we ended up eating doughnuts and bagels while discussing how best to move forward. What started as a conversation about resume building ended up in the zone of how to build a lucrative Only Fans.*

*The Only Fans idea was not suggested nor encouraged by our employer. It was merely a humorous discussion about how we might be able to get people to give us money.

Already, this is not an ordinary lay-off scenario. One of my friends, and I forgot if I’ve given her a nickname, has laid claim to the gong. Supervisors don’t know for sure if they can let her take it home, but if they can… Well, I might have to name this person “Queen of the Gong.”

We also debated what to do with all of the break room toasters. Stitch Fix has a lot of break rooms, and probably at least 20 cheap, double toasters that have rarely been cleaned in the last seven years, if ever.

Metrics for the day landed between 103 and 105 percent for me. I had 30 minutes of overtime and 45 meetings of doughnut meeting– which means I needed to do about 127 fixes to reach 100%. I did 131.

This one is hard: the end of the Bizzy Hizzy

I’m a little glad The Teenager drank all the soda in the house, now there’s not even a splash of Fresca left for me to use as a mixer for the tequila or rum.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I slept in today (5 a.m.), finished editing Julian Costa’s upcoming book, and starting writing a new memoir that I’m working on for a new Parisian Phoenix author.

Apparently there are Canadian wildfires causing smoky air quality in our region. Which logistically doesn’t make sense.

I took my car over to the collision center for a new bumper, which I’m told could take up to a week and a half. The Teenager drove me to work after, and I think I arrived at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse by 10:10 a.m.

But when I walked in the building– from the moment I arrived– things felt wrong. And when I made it into the door to the main breakroom, I knew there was bad news afoot. Very bad news. The room felt dark. It was crammed with all of us. And I heard the door to “P&C” open (People & Culture, that’s the politically correct term for HR) and one of our outbound managers was there. She’s one of the day people. But I had to have answers, because even she seemed solemn. And she always has a smile.

“Did you just get here?” she asked.

“Yes,” I whispered.

She motioned me into the vestibule. “There’s no easy way to say this, and I’m sorry you didn’t hear it from [our building manager] but the Bizzy is closing in October.”

“So,” I replied, “should I go clock in?”

She nodded.

I crept through the breakroom. Some people were sobbing, associates and leaders alike. Some of the toughest people I’ve known were fighting tears. Some people went home. My direct supervisor had red eyes and am expression that looked like someone had knocked the air out of his lungs.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’ll be okay,” he said, unconvincingly.

“You look so sad,” I said. “I feel like I should hug you.”

“You can hug me,” he said.

I gave him a tight embrace.

We were told that we will get our individual separation plans next week. Those who stay until the end will get severance. The Dallas facility– the Dizzy Hizzy– will close a few months after ours. The Bizzy opened seven years ago, and yesterday it was announced that we won the network competition. This is one hell of a prize. Our warehouse is the smallest in the network, cramming merchandise in a space half the size of the newer buildings. Our lease expires this year, so what we gain for the bottom line in shipping rates, we must not have the flexibility of the newer spaces.

I’ve loved my job at Stitch Fix. I love many of my work colleagues. I appreciate how much the company does to keep our health insurance rates low and our other benefits perky.

But this is a blow.

I think of the supervisor waiting for major surgery. The people close to retirement. The couples where both parties work at Stitch Fix. The pregnant women.

I think of myself, my service dog, my financial worries, my disability, my mental health, my future. I haven’t recouped enough of my losses from my recent health scare and hospital stay to approach this with security.

And Louise is getting adopted this weekend. It may be time to give up Touch of Grey and Canyon to other fosters who can afford them.

I have four months to figure out how to make Parisian Phoenix solvent– or face another transition to another job.

Let’s Play: Exploring the Connexion between toys and art, embracing how play can keep our minds vibrant

One of the challenging aspects of writing for both a personal blog and my small independent press is knowing when to address a topic as a publisher and when it would be better served to come from, well, me.

Today is definitely one of those times. I don’t have it in me to write two separate pieces. I’m not even sure I have it in me to do one that conveys the sense of enthusiasm and the nature of the art I saw last night at the opening reception for “Let’s Play” at Connexions, the art exhibit curated by Maryann Riker, who has participated in Parisian Phoenix Publishing’s anthology Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money and provided custom art work for the covers of Twists: Gathered Ephemera and The Phulasso Devotional: Engineering the Warrior Priest for Dark Times.

I asked Maryann what the average viewer would see in the works. This is what she told me:

It’s a fun, whimsical and crazy, but playful, assortment of work. As we settle into the idea of a world with COVID, I hope this exhibit gives the viewer the feeling that play is important. The brain retains plasticity as we age by providing learning and creative opportunities. It gives us new perspectives and idea. Play is vital to children and adults alike.

Maryann Riker, curator of Let’s Play at Connexions, on display now through June 25

Within the exhibit, Maryann selected several photographs by Joan Zachary featuring the residents of Plastiqueville. Joan has shot photographs for Parisian Phoenix that I can’t even list comprehensively, from author headshots to cover shoots.

Joan described the pieces in the exhibit as “while they’re quite different from each other, all depict Plastiqueville as the fun-loving, joyous world I’ve tried to create. All my creative projects attempt to build an imaginary world, filled with detail and lifelike characters (even though the tallest of them are barely seven inches in height, and most of the others are much, much smaller). I know I’ve succeeded if the viewer wants to crawl inside and live there.”

Joan herself is not a tall person, so I wonder if the choice to work with recycled toys in a small, plastic world has more to say than she realizes. One of these days we might find Joan inhabiting her plastic universe with Mr. Tiger Pants and his friends.

“Plastiqueville [is] an imaginary world populated by my random collection of little plastic people. You will see their competitive nature as they compete at Scrabble. You’ll experience their adventurous spirit as they go rafting through waters made from foil paper. And you’ll be invited into their private moments as they share their secrets. Plastiqueville is a world like no other, although it will probably look very familiar,” Joan teased.

The gallery has a second exhibit on display right now, the regional summer group show. The two presentations work well together– the group show offering scenes of spring and local views, an exterior examination of life; while Let’s Play encourages an interior dialogue of what toys mean, beyond their existence as the possessions of children. Do their vibes and their influence stay within us as adults?

The gallery itself is a fun place to visit, the hand of artists evidently at play with the eclectic blend of furniture, the items of display from jewelry to pottery, a nook for chess here, a very European feeling courtyard there. Even the music by DJ Kaos was perfect.

And anyone in the area knows the best place to get the best food is Forks Mediterranean Deli and Connexions certainly did it right. I once spent a year attending ever Hillel function at Lafayette College until they revealed the secret to their falafal– it came from Forks Mediterranean Deli.

As soon as The Teenager and I walked into the room with the refreshments we had the same thought. Surrounded by the familiar smell that could have made us drool like a dog, we both recognized it.

Chicky… and a puckle schmear, and a visit to Miller’s Hardware

Yesterday was a gorgeous Saturday morning and my coupon to Dairy Queen to get buy one, get one free Blizzards for my birthday was set to expire. The Teenager asked me if I would accompany her to the hardware store, and I said sure, if she would force me to go to Aldi for half and half, and she said, “Sure, then I can get more creamsicles with the popsicle outsides.”

It was 9:30 a.m.– The Teenager was on a morning break between pet sitting clients. She wanted to visit our neighborhood hardware store, Piscitello’s Home Center, for our first visit since the store changed hands. But first… I suggested we visit the other local hardware store in the small town a mile away from us, West Easton.

Now if you’re local to the Lehigh Valley of Pa., you might already know where I wanted to take her. You see the Teenager loves hardware stores, tools, doo-dads, mops and sponges. The Teenager took woodshop, engineering, and home repair in high school, all the hands-on, doing useful things kind of skills that she did not inherit from her father and I.

When she was about six, my brother had gotten a chain stuck on the pick up truck and Poppop on the Mountain was crawling around on the gravel parking lot trying to remove it. The Teenager– then the Wee One– crawled under the truck and gave it a yank with everything she had. Poppop laughed, and gruffly made the comment, “there’s my grandson.”

My father told that story, with such pride, at least once a year.

The Teenager doesn’t hesitate to tackle household projects so it was time to take her someplace special: Miller’s Hardware. It’s been around for more than 100 years, and our local television station even did a feature on it, click here. Most of us in the borough (Wilson) and in West Easton have homes that are 75 to 100 years old. So, to think that this little slice of living history with the bits and pieces we need to do things around our homes still exists is amazing.

They didn’t seem to take credit cards, and the cash register was very old, and Mr. Miller, whose grandfather started the business on Butler Street in Wilson and had been known for the in-house chickens, is a thin man who seems a tad slowed by age though he moves about the cluttered maze of rooms with precision.

I found some cash in my wallet that I keep for emergencies, and The Teenager bought a pair of safety googles, one of those long mixer drill attachments and some double stick carpet tape will dust glued to the box and graphic design that screamed of last century. I honestly encouraged her to buy it because of the box. The total came to $17.50.

We’re not sure how Mr. Miller did his math, but I think he sets the prices when he acquires the inventory and doesn’t increase them with inflation, because many of the prices were drawn on with marker and seemed way too low. But if it’s been on the shelf for twenty years, I think the merchandise is paid for.

I sent a photo of the tape to Gayle and asked her to give a guess when this product was made.

“1970s,” she said.

So is this double-stick carpet tape as old as I am?

Miller’s Hardware is an overwhelming and amazing gem.

But then we did have to go to the new Piscitello’s, where at one point, the Teenager almost had a part-time job if only she hadn’t worried about it conflicting with marching band season. We got a new hose, a hose splitter, some new hose nozzles and even some hose gaskets.

And then we went to Dairy Queen for blizzards. Now, with my recent health issues, I pee a lot. And even though I peed before we left the house, I had to go again already. So, The Teenager pulled over to Wawa and ate her blizzard while I ran in to use the restroom. Here is what we learned: Getting ice cream at Dairy Queen and people watching in the parking lot of Wawa might be our new favorite hobby.

And then on the way home, on the side street, right by our house, there was a turkey vulture in the middle of the road with a dead possum. And he made it quite clear, dragging that carcass around, that it was his and he was keeping it. We didn’t want to disturb him, so we sat and watched for a while, afraid to scare him away. But others didn’t share our special consideration for the vulture.

We made a video:

We did, by the way, get the half and half and popsicles so all is right with the world.

And today, The Teenager was chatting with me about her sudden appreciation for plain, old yellow mustard to which I said, “best thing on a hot dog, mustard and a puckle schmear.”

I really want my brain fog to lift. And then I offered her a piece of “chicky” because apparently my half-brain thinks chicken is too fancy a word.

Let’s get the holiday weekend started

Last night, after the representative from Susquehanna Service Dogs left, The Teenager and I went to Taco Bell because it was late and I was famished. Despite eating my meal and half of the teenagers– somehow I woke this morning extremely lightheaded and with a blood pressure of 110/60. The issue did not resolve until 5 hours later.

When we settled into the house last night, I noticed a wrapper on the floor.

“Hey, when did you get Nutter Butters?” I asked the Teenager.

Apparently, the dog had stolen them and eaten most of the pack. The dog just looked at us guiltily and wagged her tail.

And we had bought her a cheesy roll at Taco Bell.

I told some leads and supervisors about my service dog approval at work today and then when those closest to me had heard the news from me, I sent an official email.

It’s not my most eloquent work, because I’m utterly exhausted. It says, “I have been placed on the list for a service dog. It’s about a three year wait because they raise a puppy with my input for me. I don’t know what the next three years will bring— but regardless of whether I still work here or move on, I would like to initiate a conversation about whether a service dog would be considered a reasonable accommodation. Legally, it is considered reasonable if it helps me with my disability while at work, does not put any person or company interest in danger, and if the dog would be safe and not exposed to danger for its own welfare. The dog could help prevent falls and help me get clothes and other items out of the cart and off the floor.

We have a couple years to pursue this conversation and I have 2-3 years to raise the $5,000 to pay for the dog. So to have that investment pay off, I want to bring the dog to work.Also I am working with Susquehanna Service Dogs which is a very reputable and supportive program.”

One of the other people at work asked me what I would name the dog. I pointed out that I think financial donors get to name the puppies and so once I met my puppy and learned its name I would probably develop a nickname for it. He wants to know the potential nicknames.

I haven’t named a dog since the late 1970s. Preschooler me named our Old English sheep dog mutt “Cheezie” because she liked cheese.

And a local professional offered me a discount on his services so that I could use the extra funds to put aside for my service dog. That was super kind, and just goes to show that when you walk in the world with kindness and try to support those who support your community, that the karma comes back.

I came home from work and The Teenager had planted my flower from Southern Candy, exactly as I envisioned it.

I did some work for the publishing company, drank a cup of coffee and headed to the gym since I missed Wednesday having fallen asleep at 6 p.m. Andrew promised to go easy on me, because lately my blood pressure is high, my heart rate is low, and my blood oxygen keeps dipping to 94%.

I had a great workout, and even made it home without a fall or incident.

I shared my basic granola formula with Andrew, made salmon and couscous for dinner, and finished the gummy bears with The Teenager.

Being that it’s Friday night, I’m up a little late as The Teenager and I were talking about service dog gear, Gunnar kennels, and ADA service dog rule cards.

Then I came up to take my shower and Opie shot out of my room and Louise followed him. Louise is the tripod foster from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab scheduled for adoption June 10. She hasn’t voluntarily left my room since I worked second shift. When the house was quiet at 1 a.m. she would normally follow me to the bathroom.

More good news: I passed my home visit

Although I have not received the official email, the representative of Susquehanna Service Dogs who came to tour my home today gave me the verbal confirmation that I will soon be on the waiting list for a mobility and balance dog. I’m just about one year in to the four year process, and the representative confirmed that it will be 2-3 more years until I receive a dog.

But that’s good as I have to pay off some debt and save the $5,000 to pay for the dog.

From what I understand of the process, I will spend some more time working with dogs so that the organization can evaluate exactly what I need from a working dog companion. I will meet puppies when my name gets further up the list, and eventually one puppy will bond with me and they’ll send that puppy to a puppy raiser for basic training and then it will complete its specialized training with Susquehanna Service Dogs.

When that dog turns two, a vet will evaluate him/her to make sure its joints and health are adequate for mobility work.

Then I’ll spend several weeks training with the dog before bringing him/her home.

I think by the end of the visit with us, the representative of Susquehanna Service Dogs might have been afraid we were going to pull even more animals out of some random places.

The teenager did a great job explaining all of her animal training techniques and procedures. Even if she did babble a little due to CVS running out of her ADHD meds and her forgetting her hearing aids… but the representative of Susquehanna Service Dogs was polite, loves cats, couldn’t believe how nice our neighbor was to let us use her fenced in yard, and seemed genuinely appreciative of The Teenager’s creative ingenuity regarding household problems.

So, yeah, a new adventure awaits.

Good news. The aneurysm is nothing to worry about.

I have no doctor appointments, nor tests, for the next month. It’s been three months and a lot of professionals later… with no official diagnosis but many clues. And I’m okay with clues. The tilt table study, as I thought, came back normal so I don’t have POTS and that is good news. My symptoms share some similarities with POTS, but I’ve never fainted so there’s that. Smug little doctor man was right, but he could have been less dismissive about it.

The lovely hatch pattern on my shoulder from my fall Monday is healing nicely and I don’t seem to have any more permanent damage from it. So that’s more good news.

I’ve been keeping up with my metrics at work, but my body has felt very awkward about it.

Today I am scheduled for a home visit from Susquehanna Service Dogs, and the teenager has been working hard not only on decluttering the house but also cleaning. I intended to help more, but I came home from the neurovascular appointment yesterday, canceled the gym, took a shower and went to bed without dinner.

I slept more than nine hours. And I noticed at the doctor’s office my temperature was 98.3, which is actually high for me as I am usually around 97-point-something. I checked my watch and sure enough my temperature has been steadily creeping upward, but so has the sunshine and heat outside.

Regardless, I wasted last night by spending it cuddled with Louise instead of accomplishing anything. I knew I should have stopped for coffee on the way home.

The neurologist I visited yesterday was located in the Doctor’s Pavilion at the hospital, recommended by my neurologist/physiatrist, to consult with me about my aneurysm. It was a tiny office on the sixth floor of the building with a list of doctors and physicians assistants that had to be thirty people long. The waiting room was also small, and like a good patient, I arrived at 1:50 p.m. as they asked me to be there by 2 p.m. for my 2:15 p.m. appointment. And by some strange coincidence, I found a very convenient parking space.

I had also completed all my paperwork, confirmation and check-in online. They had me in the waiting room by 1:52 p.m. And despite the fact that I had a very compelling brand new ebook on my phone, The 8-Ball Magic of Suzie Q by Jody J. Sperling, I was way too exhausted and a tad too lightheaded to read it.

Instead, I people watched. As the small waiting room grew more and more crowded. A woman in a wheelchair that didn’t fit in the actual seating area. Her caretaker. A thin woman with bronze skin who didn’t look up and had a cane. A woman with bold tattoos who argued in Spanish with a burly man who spoke on his red iPhone once she left for her appointment. (She appeared to be the only one close to my age.) A large African American man whose accent revealed he may have had cognitive issues either from a congenital disability or a stroke– I was in a neurologist’s office waiting for a neurovascular assessment. And several more who arrived as my name was called. It was very claustrophobic.

My medical assistant introduced herself as Franky, while her nametag revealed her full name was Francesca. She said she loved my name and said it was her brother’s name. My name harkens back to my birth story, so I always experience a pang of weird sensation when someone mentions it. It’s a mix of gratefulness to be alive and also a split second decision of what do I keep to myself and what do I share.

I usually keep to myself.

Franky warned me that my providers were running behind and that they probably would not arrived until 2:40 p.m. and if they arrived later than that, she would check on me. I spent the next half hour staring out the window, and studying the models of spines. Without touching of course.

By physician’s assistant arrived at 3 p.m. and used a lot of big words, showed me an image of my aneurysm (which is on the vessel between my left eye and my nose) and explained our plan of monitoring this tiny balloon of blood in my brain. (My phrase, not hers. I don’t know her big words.)

As long as the right side of my body doesn’t suddenly experience numbness or other hemiplegia (that’s my word– I know that one from cerebral palsy lingo) or as long as I don’t start experience the worst headaches I’ve ever experienced in my life, I’m good. With a less than 1% chance per year of something happening. But should either of those things happen, I am to visit the ER immediately.

After a thorough neurological exam, I headed home, leaving the hospital around 3:30 p.m. I don’t normally drive the highways at that time, and since the Lehigh Valley has so many medical professionals it seems the 3 p.m. time has a ridiculous amount of traffic. And I still can’t believe the number of people who cannot merge. You can tell from their driving that they are terrified.

Here’s hoping I can stay awake past 6:30 p.m. tonight.

Monday. Just Monday.

Despite waking yesterday 15 minutes before my alarm and falling asleep face down in my pillow as I tried to lift my phone off my desk to start my day, yesterday started as a decent day. It was slow, and everything seemed to annoy me. My body hurt, my heart rate and blood pressure seemed off, but my work metrics were good. Too good.

I was very thirsty all day, and ended up stepping away from my station three times during the day to use the restroom– which is not me– but my current symptoms include not being able to tell how urgent the signal to urinate is so waiting too long or not responding immediately might result in an uncomfortable outcome.

I returned to eating “real food” after a weekend of salty and sweet treats for my birthday, which made my body feel generally bloated and sluggish but had stabilized some of my postural issues.

And my hand, the one where the medical professional had done an exploratory IV last week, turned multiple colors that didn’t exist there over the weekend.

The coffee shop I had selected to meet Natalie Lowell of Exquisite Page turned out to be closed on Monday, as was my second choice, so she suggested the old familiar Terra Cafe. I had a lovely London Fog and the discussion flowed easily.

I learned along the way to the cafe that the Meet-and-Greet scheduled for FURR Louise for June 10 was actually a sight-unseen adoption, which makes me nervous with special needs cats and this one has been in my bedroom for two years and sleeping in my arms at night for at least six months.

I ate a small snack. From there I went to the gym, where Andrew– despite our schedules keeping us apart for a week– put me through a brutal workout, which really wasn’t that brutal but it felt brutal, reinforcing the idea that maybe my recent health problems are just a ramification of being 25 pounds overweight and out-of-shape.

And then I had a good old-fashioned fall on the way home. The kind that scraped my hands and bruised my thigh and chewed up the flesh of my shoulder. After a conversation with my Apple Watch, (“Looks like you had a hard fall.” “I fell, but I’m okay.”) I headed home, my pride more battered than anything else.

The Teenager made an enjoyable dinner and I had a Hostess cupcake. I could have finished the strawberry cream puffs from Sheetz. Those were surprisingly amazing.

By the time I took my shower, my wounds stung and my left hand was trembling. My heart rate and heart rate variability were low, my blood oxygen was 97% and my blood pressure was high. I decided to write a small blog entry, but when I opened my computer I saw a message from Gayle.

The content led me to believe that I sent her the wrong edited file of Larry Sceurman’s Coffee in the Morning, and so I opted to go to bed. When I woke this morning, I had received the truest of all motivational messages from Gayle.


So when I get home from work today, I’ll have to check the file. When I have more wits about me.

While normally my self-confidence wavers, Gayle’s right. I do not second guess myself. I move forward often boldly in a direction without worrying about the consequences.

I’m not sure I feel better today. That remains to be seen. I had strange dreams last night. A toilet falling over while I was using it. Having unexpected and messy female troubles. And my favorite– sitting next to my father after dinner at the table as we always did. He would be smoking his cigarettes and perhaps having a cup of coffee. The Teenager and my stepmom were sharing cheesecake as if nothing were wrong, and not offering me any. And then I realized that my father is dead, and that The Teenager and my stepmom didn’t see him. He was there just for me.

And once I realized that, he was gone, and all I had left in me was to weep.

I had fallen alseep last night with tears in my eyes. And I woke with Louise in my arms and tears in my eyes again, but this time, with the strength to face a new day.

Birthday, day three: The breakfast gravy with no biscuits

Today I slept in until nearly 6 a.m., waking only when I heard The Teenager rise and leave the house for her dog walk client. I laid in bed until almost 6:20. To me, that is the ultimate laziness as I usually begin work at 6:30 a.m.

It’s been another delightful birthday day of celebration. I started the morning with breakfast with some of my Stitch Fix crew, with Southern Candy arriving at Big Papa’s early to bestow the table with some decorations.

There were cards and laughter and Southern Candy ordered her regular biscuits and gravy only to discover the biscuits were not biscuits but English muffins. So much commotion ensued of the giggling and carrying on sort, making jokes about what to call biscuits and gravy that does not contain biscuits, because English muffins with gravy sounds gross.

We had a discussion about making our own biscuits and bringing them and comparing making biscuits with shortening versus lard.

I ordered a spinach, green pepper and feta omelet hoping that the vegetables would help heal the damage done by my weekend of caffeine, sugar, fat and grease.

That might be too much to hope for as my blood pressure was 116/96.

The next item on the agenda was to take FURR foster tripod Louise to a meet-and-greet event at the Phillipsburg Petco, where she behaved like a trooper (even if she did spill her litter box so she could hide under it).

I was able to finish the last set of changes to Coffee in the Morning by Larry Sceurman on the laptop while chatting with another FURR volunteer to happens to be the only person I know eagerly and reliably waiting for my next novel.

I came home, cleaned up my room and finished Netflix’s Queen Charlotte, which, as all the Bridgerton tales do, has quite the sentimentality regarding love and relationships.

I also ate a rather large “elephant ear” with The Teenager that Little Dog’s mom had procured.

I’m off to check my blood pressure, take my evening meds, pack a lunch, and decide on dinner. But I just may allow myself a birthday beverage– as my birthday weekend officially launched with a gin gimlet with photography Joan and her other half, Randy.

Birthday, day two: Off to the races!

Yesterday was my official birthday and the festivities exhausted me so heartily that I have waited until this morning to write about it. Since the medical establishment has not discovered rhyme or reason about my recent health issues, I made the decision earlier this weekend to eat what I felt like consuming, have a good time and return to my disciplined habits tomorrow.

Currently, I am sipping my peppermint coffee, while combating a vague lightheadedness and lower blood pressure and taking my beta blocker. I miss the robustness of my strong Supercoffee dark roast and had I known my blood pressure was low, I would have made some, but I feared it was high from my diet of Sheetz spicy chicken sandwich, jalapeno poppers and a premium sampler of salty fried snacks, pastries upon pastries, and sugary candy galore… because it was my birthday.

Little Dog stayed with us for a few days and her mother returned for her yesterday, bringing with her the largest pastry I have ever seen which I later discovered was an elephant ear and what I am eating now, which appears to be some sort of blueberry scone with a touch of lemon if I am not mistaken. But someone must tell whatever bakery Jan is visiting that the term “elephant ear” is not meant to be life size.

The Teenager wanted so terribly to take me for a nice meal of my choice, but I told her– you know what I want? Some decadent road trip snacks to eat on our way to Pocono Raceway for the Sports Car Club of America Road Racing Northern New Jersey Region Joe DeLuca and Linda Gronlund Freedom Major. (

One of my high school peers works as an official at the track, so he invited the Teenager and I to come sit in the pits and watch as many classes as we wished and potentially stay for the cookout at the end of the day.

But I get ahead of myself.

The Writing Stuff

Little Dog and I slept in until a delightful 5:30 a.m. yesterday and then I copyedited the text for the next title in production for Parisian Phoenix Publishing. (We have 11 titles out now, one a tad delayed but due out as soon as we make the final tweaks, and this new one is #13, which since it is a tarot journal seems apropos.) Anyone who wishes to make my birthday even more exciting should consider buying one or several of our books. Here is the whole list on Amazon, including one book that’s not ours but shares a title and confuses the algorithm.

I finished the text of the tarot book, sent it to Gayle to mock up some design while we wait for the author to approve the text, and then headed to a meeting at Panera Bread with Larry Sceurman to retrieve his final proof on Coffee in the Morning. As it was my birthday, Panera gave me a free pastry after I already ordered my asiago bagel with chive cream cheese and Larry paid for my refreshments due to my day of birth.

I am happy to report that the changes to Coffee in the Morning are minor, and very good catches on the part of Larry and his wife, Barbara. The team spirit at Parisian Phoenix creates an atmosphere where we all really are putting our best foot forward and making sure we all look good in the end.

From there Larry and I attended the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group to surprise Darrell Parry, who was giving the morning presentation and afternoon workshop on poetry. I may have left with an invitation to be the October speaker and a nomination to serve as the group’s president. More on that here.

With my commitment to attend the races, I could not stay for the afternoon workshop. I went home and collected the Teenager and we drove over to Sheetz to gather our road trip snacks, redeem birthday points for gas ($2.92 a gallon) and head to Pocono Raceway with a Spotify playlist The Teenager carefully curated.

The Racing Stuff

I have not visited Pocono Raceway in 30 years. This area used to have two major racetracks, Pocono and Nazareth, and Darrell lived about a mile from the Nazareth track. It closed shortly after we graduated college, which is also damn near 30 years ago. I am not a NASCAR or Formula One fan, but my life tends to intersect with motorsports. My dad was a diesel mechanic known to race microstock, participate in tractor pulls and ride his Harley, anything to tinker with an engine.

When the Teenager was a year old, we went to the dirt track every Friday night to watch him race and when his racetrack closed, he told me not to attend his new venue as he deemed it too dirty and not family-friendly enough for the baby. I also have vague memories of going to drag races in New Jersey during my own childhood.

Once we found Bob and Erica up at Pocono, we settled in for our first class, Ford spec. Next came I believe a GT Lite class. Then the little min-formula one type cars with the small engines. The last class we saw was the Miata spec class, with three Minis and a Chevy Aveo sharing the track with them.

I definitely enjoyed the spec classes, as the cars are so similar that the race relies more on the prowess of the driver versus the classes where the cars have so many differences. In the mixed classes, the gaps between cars are much wider and that makes the race less interesting from a spectator perspective. The slow cars tend to be less interesting to watch also as they take so long to go around the track that you almost forget they are out there.

We stopped at Wawa on the way home for water and due to sale prices I ended up with fancy Hawaiian volcanic water for the same price as Deer Park.

And the special thank you goes to Santander Bank for making me feel ancient by sending me an email to remind me that my oldest account with them dates back almost 24 years and that they wish me a happy birthday.