Learning to Fly

This is a post about babies of multiple species.

My dad helped me… no he did it… my dad got a really disgusting clog out of the vacuum cleaner last night. And then we (with my stepmom) went to Tic Toc Diner to harass teenager #1 at her first official job as a waitress. The young man assigned to our table recognized me and asked if we wanted her to serve us, and I said that wasn’t necessary we were happy observing her from afar. But he gave her the table anyway.

That’s my baby, and she was buzzing around looking very focused. There is a strange heartwarming and heartbreaking feeling when you see your baby becoming independent.

Earlier that day, Vesta and Minerva went to the adoption event at Petsmart. But no one inquired about these Roman Pride babies. I brought them home to Hermes.

Teenager #1 is with her dad right now, so I spent some time working with our foster kittens from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. I’m going to post some videos from today to show progress.

Hermes is afraid of human hands. And Mars— oh spunky Mars— bit one of our fellow FURR volunteers when she tried to move him from the habitat at the Petco in Easton to the one in the Phillipsburg area.

Video: Manhandling Mars (and Hermes)

Video: The Roman Pride

Meanwhile, I decided I had to let go of my fear of harm coming to the parakeets. I opted to let them free fly for the first time since Boo-Boo’s death (see Farewell Boo for details). And it was the first time for the babies. My room is oddly silent right now because all SIX birds, including Nala the Goffin (who turned five this week), are sleeping. The budgies flew so hard!

Video: Baby birds awkward flight

And here’s a video of Hermes from yesterday: Hermes amid the vacuum

So all the babies are doing well!

My favorite cat litters

This won’t be the most game exciting post, but as a foster parent for feral kittens and a long-time cat mama, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of development in the cat litter arena.

I thought I’d share the cat litter we stock in this house in case it would help anyone else.

In our main living area boxes we use So Phresh from Petco, on repeat delivery. It’s nothing fancy but the price is very reasonable and it ships to the door. Plus, the plastic buckets are reusable and the kitty on the bucket looks like our Fog. I apologize to the UPS man every time we get a delivery. We fill our four cat boxes downstairs with this litter (one on the sun porch, one in the dining room, two in the bathroom).

Even though the fosters receive donations from the supporters of Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, because we currently have five cats in teenager #1’s bedroom, we order Arm & Hammer’s Clump N Seal from Chewy.com. This is my favorite clay litter, but it is pricy so I can’t justify buying it for every box. But it really does seal in odor and isn’t dusty. So for the two boxes in the teen’s room, Arm & Hammer it is.

Both of these litters are fairly scent-free because I know cats have sensitive noses and I do, too.

Now there are occasions when we use Yesterday’s News and Feline Pine. Yesterday’s News is a pellet litter made from recycled newspapers. It dissolves when urinated on, but does not clump with poop. Same is true with Feline Pine. With both, you can scoop out the poo and shake the box and the box refreshes in a way. I like that the pellet litters are easy to clean up when they get kicked out of the box. Yesterday’s News is very clean and scentless— so when a cat is recovering from surgery or illness it’s a safe choice. I also use it in the tray of the bird cages.

But I like the pine smell of the Feline Pine when the cat uses the box, so I keep a tiny litter box in my room with that litter. It’s small because with the birds, cats aren’t typically in my room.

Teen #2 has two boxes for her two cats in her room, and I suggested she use one pellet and one clay litter so her cats have a choice.

Our foster cat godmother from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab recently traded in her traditional cat boxes for a horse trough. That is a brilliant idea!

Mood brighteners

I have a gift of stressing myself out even on the best of days in good circumstances and this very bad habit causes more harm than good.

So, yesterday I talked to a very friendly and helpful mortgage broker through Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage. And by today I managed to doubt the whole idea. It’s not resolved yet… and my concerns about it are so minimal. I would instantly pay off my car and still have the house paid off in ten years or less. But the payment is $50/higher than what I am paying now (and would save me $150/month total versus what I pay now).

Realistically it would be better for me to keep saving and pay off the car with cash. I’m in casual conversation with the broker about it. If it’s already too late, so be it.

But I woke up at 6:30 am today thinking about it.

And then it was snowing. I shoveled, with teenager help, but still managed to hurt my back. But good news is— I hurt my back in the normal spot and not a different spot as has been happening at work.

I ran an errand this morning and it was messy out. The snow kept falling. I had to slide my way into the garage with an oil truck backing down the alley toward me and I thought, “maybe I should stay home.”

So I called out.

Even though it’s pajama day at work and I already had on my Cat in the Hat fuzzy pants.

But it does feel good that no one makes you feel guilty for calling out. We have to “call out” via email and it’s usually a pleasant exchange.

As soon as I did, the plow went through.

Sigh.

I ended up watching some of MTV’s Catfish while cuddling the cockatoo. I then took a brief nap.

I struggle amidst the stasis of life right now to stay connected with friends, get the adult interaction I need, somehow be Mom and keep the house clean and kids fed.

But between my change in physical fitness, my weight gain and my being unable to break this new binge eating habit, my mental health is suffering.

To combat this, I’m going to make a list of things I can do at home when I am in a weird mindset.

  1. Make a cup of coffee
  2. Pet a cat or work with one of the foster kittens
  3. Arrange outfits for upcoming days
  4. Pick up a book
  5. Witchcraft/Tarot
  6. Sketch
  7. Text a friend a compliment
  8. Play solitaire
  9. Edit my book(s)
  10. Meal plan

Snowy sillies

The snow started later than anticipated and my day, my bedtime, started with our weekly garbage pick-up happening at 2:30 a.m. I guess they were trying to get ahead of the storm.

And after “picking” last night, my pain and my mood improved drastically. Though I did binge on junk food again. Sigh.

But these last few months— between Covid and the new job— have really made me realize how much pain changes you.

But today… work is closed due to snow. But Joan texted that her Fix came and we opened it together on Zoom.

Photo by Joan

The teens did the shoveling, and we had some omelettes for brunch. Then this afternoon we filmed a video on our silly Valentine’s treats. The impetus of the video was some rose soda I purchased at Lidl. Our reactions: Video of Valentine’s Treats

First we played some Mille Bornes, the car-themed card game.

The embers of happy

Today I fought my emotions and fought my pain to find some moments of happiness for myself. And in the end, my heart is warm.

My daughter and I often carpool now that she is a waitress at one of our favorite local businesses— Tic Toc Diner.

Before work I took her to the Starbucks in our local Target (#2536) so I could try the new Pistachio Latte.

Our reaction video: Review of our lattes

Once I arrived at the Bizzy Hizzy, I realized I had forgotten to wear red for “red day,” but they gave us all red masks and iced heart sugar cookies. That brought me some joy. As did my lunch, my attempt at Cajun seared scallops.

I started my night in QC, where my performance slipped because despite taking two naproxen sodium my pain level was going from 5 to 7. By 9 pm, I had only QC’ed about 52. But then at 9:15, I got moved to pick direct! It felt amazing to zoom through the warehouse and even though the naproxen sodium had worn off, my pain had dropped to a two or a three.

Teenager #1 texted that she had her uniform and she was waiting tables by herself and she made $28 in tips. I love seeing her in this new role.

And my friend who adopted Fenrir/Fern of the Norse Pride (now Edie) sent me this picture of her:

She looks so majestic. I am assured that she is still naughty.

By the end of the night, I picked 48 fixes and walked about 12,000 steps.

A friend texted to check in when I really needed to hear a familiar voice (thank you, Bill).

Another friend texted me the word “ramfeezled,” to be exhausted from working too much. (Thank you, Joan.)

And then I got home, and found the best surprise ever. Now, every night teenager #1 comes to hang out with Nala. While she is here, she makes my bed.

Tonight I found this…

She bought me clearance Valentine’s chocolate from the Dollar Tree. That’s my girl— frugal impresses me just as much as the thought.

91 and cupcakes

Cupcakes seem to be a recurring theme in my life right now, but that’s okay since Mercury is still in retrograde and my emotions are a little wonky.

Apparently Sunday was not only Valentine’s Day but also Stitch Fix’s 10th anniversary. Since we had a paid holiday yesterday, we got cupcakes today.

As discussed with my supervisor last week, I returned to QC today in hopes of meeting the goal of 104 so I can get my parole and head back to pick.

I hustled and focused and didn’t even look up from my clothes.

By first break, I QC’ed 24.

My supervisor stopped by and commented on my improved numbers. And we discussed my adult days of the week socks— I had chosen “Monday mood” over “Taco Tuesday.” She asked if I was going to wear taco socks tomorrow and I said no, I’m going with hump day.

She asked if they had a camel. I said they do.

By final break I was slowing down.

And by the end of my shift I hit a new high for me— 91— but despite naproxen sodium and ibuprofen I was hurting. Probably around a 5.

The Harder Side of Rescue

We have worked with three litters of kittens trapped by Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab: The Greek Pride, The Roman Pride and the Norse Pride.

  • Artemis
  • Apollo
  • Hermes
  • Hades
  • Zeus
  • Mars
  • Minerva
  • Jupiter
  • Vesta
  • Fenrir
  • Loki
  • Vale

And when they are trapped young and healthy, it’s easy to socialize them and find them homes.

But the Greek Pride was already a little wild when we got them, and they had kitty cat respiratory infections. Hades sent me to the hospital with a cat bite within the first 48-hours. I stayed four days.

She never settled into a house cat routine and ended up in a barn. I was giving her eye meds at the time she bit me— while I scruff my cats relatively frequently I hadn’t scruffs a kitten in a very long time and didn’t have a good grip.

Apollo got so sick he started sneezing up blood. He would let us swaddle him, wash his face and feed him antibiotics but once he got healthy the experience left him aloof. His sister Zeus was the runt and she was always a goofy love. She didn’t get as sick as the others.

Luckily, her FURRever family adopted her AND Apollo. He still remains aloof, but loves the other cats in the family. His mom is so patient with him.

Artemis was actually adopted first, and he is doing great at his home. His mom is now my Facebook friend and I heard he had a cold last week. My heart hurt for the poor little guy.

Hermes is still with us. Not only did he get eye infections and respiratory infections, he also had two bouts of ringworm. As a consequence we are still working on his fear of human hands. Video: Hermes

The Norse Pride have all been adopted and every communication I receive has been positive.

That leaves the Romans.

The softest tuxedo kittens ever, now about six months old.

Vesta and Mars just spent about three weeks at the local Petco and Minerva has been attending the Saturday adoption events at Petsmart.

Today, another FURR volunteer tried to move Vesta and Mars to a different Petco where she thought they would do better and someone had expressed interest.

Then we got a text that Mars had bit her.

So they are with us again, and we hope Vesta and Minerva can go to Petco instead while we see if Mars was just nervous and scared or if something else was going on.

Mars (left) and Vesta

We have had problems with shyness and skittishness but no one in this litter has ever bit anyone before.

Video: Mars in bed

Video: Original arrival at Petco

Video: Vesta and Mars

Ipsy February 2021 Glam Bag Plus

I have to admit I was disappointed when my choices rolled around for this month’s Ipsy glam bag plus. I love the fun of this subscription service and it’s allowed me the opportunity to change up my look.

But the pandemic now limits where I can go and covers a lot of my face so I just don’t wear make-up that often anymore.

I upgraded from the glam bag to the glam bag plus about six months ago and downgraded my plan from every month to every other month. The smaller bag got highly repetitive and didn’t offer enough edgy products. I think the value and versatility of the glam bag plus is much better than the glam bag. The one “bad” thing is that most of the fun of getting a surprise happens when you select your products online versus a surprise when you open the box.

Glam bag plus allows you to select your products from a curated collection. I have to admit— sometimes none of the products appeal to me. But today, even though online I was disappointed, when they arrived in real life I was impressed.

Here is a video of me unboxing this month’s glam bag plus: February 2021 Glam Bag Plus

Goals, stubbornness and success—and pain

So much happened today.

Or yesterday.

I promised myself I wouldn’t publish this draft until morning because I was both lost in thought and celebrating teenager #1’s first official job (her first unofficial job was as a costumed character) by trying the pink lemonade vodka. I was exhausted and I suspect I am slightly inebriated now.

I received a $7,000 medical bill for my August 3, 2020 hospital visit. My out-of-pocket cost is $500-something. Six months ago. And I think this is just for the first of four days.

But let’s go backwards… Teenager #1 and I went to Dunkin to get a free drink— I chose the iced Pink Velvet Macchiato (made with skim milk). At this point, caffeine, sugar and a double dose of naproxen sodium is the only way I can survive my shift.

I talked to my chiropractor and she said to continue my physical therapy stretches and that the fact I am no longer in pain in the morning is a good sign. But that my body was “off level” more strongly than usual. I had noticed my right side was bothering me instead of the left so is my body trying to compensate? And am I developing nerve pain in my spine from standing so much? She said all is possible. And then she moved everything around.

I then heard someone I used to work with (and someone I greatly respect and enjoy the company of) is becoming the general manager of a local cannibas dispensary. And more than one person has recommended medical marijuana to me, so it gets me thinking. But I’ve never smoked a cigarette and only ever had one hit of pot so I don’t know how I feel about that idea.

So with all this is mind, I purchased my coffee and dropped the teenager off at her first day of work.

As expected, I was in QC again so I took my two naproxen sodium and headed out.

Podcasts helped keep me motivated. Now, I am about to murder someone if one more of my regular podcasts talks about love and sex for Valentine’s Day. But this one didn’t let me down. Stand up comedy featuring Bert Kreischer — Bert : A Joke About Pajamas (podcast) and I got really excited about the New York Times The Daily Podcast talking about France, Islam and laïcité. This is the exact stuff I wrote a thesis about and I can’t believe this conversation is still happening. It’s very parallel to race relations here in the United States.

If you want to listen: France, Islam & Laïcité

This got me thinking about my hope to update and publish my thesis. That needs to become a plan.

About two hours in to my shift, one of the people I report to stopped by to check on me. We had an interesting conversation. It started with: “How do you feel about QC?”

I told her everything about my love-hate relationship with QC. How it aggravates my cerebral palsy. How it does not fall within my natural skill set. How it physically hurts.

“We don’t want you to be in pain.”

You don’t?

Pain is like a grouchy friend at this point. We’re used to each other. I never had an employer say that before. And I told her I know I need to have more conversations with the supervisory team about this.

The conversation ended with: “Would you like to be permanently assigned to pick?”

But I’m stubborn and I want to get at least closer to the goal, which I’m told now is 104 not 130. She critiqued my work and I learned some better techniques.

I said I’d like to see if I can improve and then go back to pick.

And I felt energized, excited, and good at my job. I decided not to obsess over the numbers and just work as hard as I could and see where the numbers fell. That didn’t work. By the end of the night I had my worst night ever— I QC’ed 78 fixes.

This was devastating to my psyche. Perhaps, in part, because it revives some past employment trauma where I wanted to succeed and I was doing everything I was asked to do, but I just couldn’t meet the same expectations the employer had.

Perhaps it was because I have that personality where I hate to fail.

Perhaps it was because as someone with a disability I feel like I am under more pressure than the average person to prove my worth and that my performance makes a statement not only for me but also sets a standard for how others like me will be treated in the future.

Full of Cupcakes

I was exhausted and grumpy most of the day. But not a single thing happened to make me grumpy, I was just tired.

It was a nice day. Teenager #1 and I took a friend to her podiatrist appointment, and as promised said friend provided a nice coffee and added a surprise— home baked matcha cupcakes. I love matcha and I have loved matcha for far longer than it has been trendy.

So it’s gonna be a good day, because matcha cupcakes. Which reminds me of one of my favorite songs: Good Day.

While our friend is at her appointment, we run to Sheetz. The teenager took my money and bought herself a turkey wrap. Not sure why a turkey wrap screamed breakfast to her but she also brought me my favorite cupcakes, Hostess orange cream cupcakes. More cupcakes!

I saved my cupcakes.

The teenager didn’t even get to eat her wrap because she got a phone call from one of our favorite diners, Tic Toc, asking her if she still wanted a job as a waitress. She was quite flummoxed. She starts later today (it is 1 a.m. now).

My maternal instincts say this will be the perfect job for her. She has the patient, cordial nature and coordination for the job. And the girl loves her food so I think she’ll have the knack for details.

And I love that she’s not working in a grocery store, or a fast food joint. I think she’ll learn a lot and gain a lot of new stories to tell. And while working for a small local business will have its own unique challenges, I’m glad she’s not getting the big corporate crap job for her first official work experience.

Speaking of work, my average time per fix was between 4.25 and 4.58. I QC’ed 83 fixes and that’s— as usual— really low. But higher than last night! I took two naproxen sodium and pain was down around a 2.

And the friend I mentioned gave us hand me downs— so I got to go to work in new-to-me jeans. She had several sizes so everything really small went to teenager #2.

And to warm my heart, there is always, Fog, who started life as a feral kitten. Teenager #1 rescued him and his brother last winter. He was so shy he wouldn’t come near me for a month. Gradually he started sleeping in my bed, until a couple months later he was sleeping at my feet. Then my knees. Now he waits for me to come home from work and we go to bed. Video: Time for Bed

In the morning I have a chiropractor appointment, she has probably taught me more about my cerebral palsy’s impact on my body than anyone else.

PS— i survived today by drinking too much coffee, having several sugary snacks, taking a nap and eating too much.

À demain, mes amis. À tout à l’heure.