Updates, announcements and anecdotes

It’s just about to turn 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The last 48 hours have been emotionally difficult, and those are internal challenges I have resolved within myself but now I need to “make right” in the world.

My good friend Joan (the talented photographer) had quipped that the moon is in “Frustrato” phase and perhaps that is accurate.

Sometimes it’s nice to blame the universe instead of accepting our part in the mayhem. Because even good intentions spark fires.

I heard a podcast yesterday; I believe it was an economic one, that asked if one host was “a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy.” He replied, “it’s just half.”

That’s too much enigma and philosophy for pre-dawn hours. Blame the fact that my trusty espresso machine only filled half my mug.

Mug from Purr Haus in Emmaus

The teenager and I had 14 kittens in the house Saturday, Sunday and Monday offering temporary lodging for these babies whose official Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab foster families have gone on summer vacation.

They were so much fun to have around, but 11 went home last night. This led the Teenager’s officially adopted foster fail Mars of the Roman Pride distraught that his friends had gone. He screamed until the Teenager released him into “gen pop” where he plopped himself down in front of the remaining visitors.

On Friday, I had a rather grueling session at Apex Training with my coach Andrew. We did some intense work on balance and single leg muscle stability. On Saturday, the communication between my brain and my lower body felt rickety (for lack of a better description) and it was challenging to move. By Sunday, the movement felt smoother but my phone was registering spikes in walking asymmetry. But something very interesting happened Monday— I could not only stand on one leg, but I could also hold my leg in a few seconds of a quad stretch.

Yesterday, I visited the Stitch Fix employee store, which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario. I bought myself jewelry on an impulse and discovered my second holes could still accept earrings. As someone who really grew up in the 80s and graduated high schools in the 1990s, I have three sets of holes in my ears.

I bought the Teenager some new things, including some warm hiking style boots for fall and her dog walks. I bought myself an adorable pair of shorts, and I picked one size up from my pre-existing Stitch Fix clothes and they were too small.

Obviously my efforts to reduce my recent (as in pandemic era) weight gain have been not sincere enough. Sigh. I’m trying to eat better and move more without falling into a strict/restrictive mindset.

But I did eat an entire medium pizza from Domino’s the other night. It was a medium hand-tossed crust, light on the cheese, light on the garlic Alfredo sauce with red peppers and pineapple.

On the way home from work last night, I noticed that the furniture store looked abandoned— and that the sign merely said urn.

In the background of all of this, the ‘cat book’ from Parisian Phoenix has hit some unexpected difficulties prompting a delay in its production. But my quick thinking, after a few hours of pondering, have inspired an interim release of a mini cat book featuring advice and stories about the care of cats. The larger book will come later, perhaps in early 2023.

In the meantime, I am very puzzled why my sweet tripod foster Louise has decided to crate herself.

And the most surprising item of the day was receiving my first catalog for Parisian Phoenix Publishing— Uline junk mail!

I suppose the last update is that the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs have cashed my check for the application fee. I’m anxiously awaiting contact.

To say life has been hectic feels like an understatement.

Here Kitty Kitty

Yes, that is a kitten. Yes that is a photo by the amazing Joan Zachary. Yes, that is the teenager.

Please check out this blog post about the upcoming book to benefit Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Yes, I am helping to write it, putting my journalism skills to work. And I am offering cat wisdom and reprinting a flash fiction I wrote in high school.

As The FURR Flies, an anthology of cat stories, heart-warming tales from cat rescuers, cat resources and cat advice has gone from in the pipeline to …

Here Kitty Kitty

Messages from the street team

At work today, by my math, I did 102% in my home department folding clothes— 159 fixes to be exact during a ten-hour shift that started with a 20+ minute meeting. Yesterday I shipped 565 packages in Freestyle, which is 113%.

Those were some of my fixes.

Sunday we were off, a paid holiday to recognize Juneteenth. The teenager and I used the time to visit the senior community where my mom lives as one of her neighbors wanted some of my books.

Grandma S bought all three of my current novels and a copy of the Parisian Phoenix anthology, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, as it contains essays by me, the teenager and her father.

Grandma S, the teenager and I had a lovely visit where I finally got to meet her mammoth cat.

And we all know I love a cat.

We stopped to see my mom and her partner on our way out — thought it would be a good surprise for Father’s Day as the teenager has good memories of my mother and her roommate that involve Yoo-Hoo and tractors and cornfields.

My mom asked for several books as well.

And then some discussions happened that made me think maybe the senior community might be the closest thing I have to a “street team” to publicize my books.

Grandma S said she saw my clumsy video of me reading from Manipulations on Facebook and wants to read more.

Mom apparently enjoyed deciphering the locales and familiar faces in the novel. One of her friends reported that the first novel jumped around too much and was hard to follow. She’s apparently reading the second now.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to get my cast off.

A visit to the podiatrist

My blog post yesterday received a lot of extra views and shares thanks to my discussion of the fabulousness of Nicolosi’s Pizza on Sullivan Trail.

It makes me wish I would have spent a little more time developing the back story so newcomers would understand some of my rambling at the end.

So here’s the latest installment.

Today I worked with Nan, my friend, blind poet and essayist. We did errands— the bank, retrieving laundry— and prepared some new submissions of Nancy’s poetry. We also checked out her most recent publication, “Brewing Chai” in *82 Review.

I made the decision, as founder and publisher of Parisian Phoenix Publishing, to purchase a hard copy of the magazine. One publisher supporting another.

Very exciting.

I also have two friends scheduled to get packages from the publishing company today, if the post office tracking info is accurate.

Very exciting.

And when I took Nancy home, I was able to head to the gym, Apex Training, to work with my trainer, Andrew, who along his prowess in powerlifting, does an excellent job observing my movements and targeting the muscles we think can make the most impact based on information from all the specialists I’ve seen.

And Andrew kicks my butt.

He makes me sweat. He challenges my range of motion. He also exercises the parts of me that work.

Very exciting.

Both of my trainers at Apex have been amazing.

I rushed home to shower and grab lunch as I had to get the dog into the car, pick up the teenager from school and go to the podiatrist. The dog had to go to the vet at the same I had to go to my doctor only a couple miles apart.

(One of the foster cats has worms, so every mammal in the house needs dewormer.)

This all begs the question: Why was I going to the podiatrist?

Well, I’ve known my podiatrist for 20 years. We connected in my journalist days through a mutual friend. The mutual friend nominated him for a small feature in our newspaper.

The mutual friend has passed away, and when the teenager needed a podiatrist and I couldn’t get timely care for her through my networks, this podiatrist friend of my deceased friend got her in expediently AND gave her amazing care.

I’ve been to the podiatrist once or twice myself— and I thought his brain would be a good one to pick for more information on my cerebral palsy. I made the appointment when I was still struggling with my splinter and dealing with my blistering toes.

We had a great conversation as he checked my feet and dealt with all the dead skin from blistering, and he asked me all sorts of questions about what other specialists had said. So I told him.

He’s very curious what the neuro-muscular physiatrist will have to say, and in the meantime he suggested physical therapy stretches twice a day.

And he wanted to know what the orthopedist had to say— if he could do anything. I said no that the only real option was the surgery I should have had when I was twelve.

To which he replied rather passionately that I should have had surgery when I was twelve.

At first he was angry I didn’t have more interventions as a child, but I explained how my mom was told I would die so she named me Angel, and then when I lived they told her I would never walk or talk, and then they said I had severe brain damage.

“Boy did they get that wrong,” he said.

“So that’s why my mom stopped taking me to doctors,” I explained. “Because they only gave her bad news and they were always wrong.”

“That makes sense,” he said.

(And he asked if I got my splinter out myself and I said first I tried a raisin, which fixed my hip pain, but it was my cockatoo that really got it out. And he said, “Oh this is going to be a good story.”)

This doctor has his own private practice and has been a doctor for a long time. I love that he decides how long he can take with each patient and he can be jovial and a little grouchy at the same time. Not nasty grouchy, just like-a-dad grouchy. It’s like he’s a person underneath that doctor coat.

The teenager made dinner: the chicken breast I had leftover from our last Hungryroot box, youba noodles and vegetables. And then we watched the latest Spider-Man movie which featured all the Spider-Mans.

Which, for the record, Adelaide Pitney, the supermodel from my Fashion and Fiends series, loved the Toby Maguire Spider-Man.

And since I started this blog post, both of the packages slated for my friends have arrived. My traveling companion M has received his copy of Recovery, as the book is dedicated to him and to his role in awakening my love of Africa and post-colonial critical theory.

The other package was to my therapist friend in Georgia who loves to have nice things to ponder.

Very exciting.

When Sunday comes on Saturday

My first three day Thursday through Saturday weekend is now coming to a close.

I did some laundry. Did some dishes. Meal prepped for my upcoming lunches and cooked the remaining groceries so the teenager has some food if she wants it. We also discussed our upcoming dinners. I plotted my wardrobe, and I hope to finish gathering underwear and socks, that way I can put my clothes in the bathroom where I can dress without disturbing the cockatoo.

I did a whole lot of work for Parisian Phoenix Publishing, including sending Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money off for copyright.

So, with all of our food planned for the future, the teenager and I visited McDonalds for buy one, get one free Big Macs.

Here is the video of our crazy Bean dog eating her first McDonald’s burger.

Sometimes it’s nice to do something silly.

The Kit and Kaboodle Update

So, as a former journalist, I could easily write a summary of every day like a nice newspaper column and post it. I could probably even manage to maintain my sense of humor, style, and tendency to find joy in the ridiculously ordinary.

But this week, every word I wrote felt repetitious. Or perhaps every word I wanted to write felt like it had been done before.

And maybe it has. Because so much of life goes that way. The same struggles, the same events, and often the same answers. And we repeat the cycle over and over probably for two reasons.

  1. It’s hard to break a habit.
  2. And growth, the kind of change that comes from embracing a lesson, presents its own difficulties.

In today’s blog, I’m going to do a generic update, and I’m honestly not sure if any of this is repeating myself. But do you know what? Repeating myself is okay. This is a small droplet in the vast waters of the internet and there’s always the possibility someone hasn’t heard it before and may need to hear it today.

Are you listening?

Fosters: Touch of Grey, Mars and Minerva. Information on how to adopt them at http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

All eyes on me.

Topics to come in this entry: Update on my cerebral palsy and quest to end my chronic back pain, weight training with the teenager with Dan at Apex, emotional eating, review of Purple Carrot’s vegan Thanksgiving dinner box, and the requisite animal photos.

This week’s personal training at Apex:

I know I frequently mention how amazing the trainers at Apex are. One of their strengths (weight training pun there) is to recognize the needs of each client and to match the client with the right trainer. I’m obviously not in the whiny white women who primarily want to lose weight category, and that’s how I ended up with Dan. As Dan has the unofficial knowledge of a physical therapist (because he’s had enough accidents to know the patient side of it) and he has the curiosity to read, research and think. With my cerebral palsy this is important. Dan has the observational skill to read my knees and lower body to know if it’s a bodyweight/calisthenics kind of day or a weight training day. And this is important so you can build range of motion and flexibility and not get hurt.

Anyway, Dan has been kind enough to let the teenager join my training sessions. I love throwing weights around but lack the personal discipline to do it on my own this time around. And the teenager has a natural muscle tone and build that makes her perfect for powerlifting. But she hates dumbbells and she hates routine and discipline. So as long as we tell her to go throw around that heavy object she’s fine.

And today she deadlifted 135 lbs as if it weren’t even a challenge. I honestly think she could have done 150 lbs easily.

I think I kept up with her through 115. I only did three at 115 because I was really afraid I would blow out my knees. A deadlift when executed correctly utilizes the lower body, and the weight actually (once I get warmed up) helps me lower my butt in the squatting portion, but since my knees tend to point sharply inward, I have to adjust my stance to compensate. While the main gist of the lift is to pull the weight along the shin and lift into the hips and use the legs to support the weight as the hips straighten and thrust outward with the tightening of the glutes, in my case, I have to force my knees to stay in the proper position facing my toes and not each other.

As I start to lift heavier, the dull ache in my spine is a reminder to lift the weight with my legs and not my back. I place my feet in position, point my toes slightly out and stretch my knees in line with them. And, for lack of a better description, I lock them in place and while lifting the barbell I have to concentrate on keeping my knees from turning inward. Because if they would suddenly snap where they want to be, I could not only blow out a knee but also potentially lose balance.

So I did three.

In related news, physical therapy update:

Yesterday I finally had my physical therapy appointment with the proper physical therapist now that neurology has confirmed that my balance and brain are fine. Much to my pleasant surprise, I had the same physical therapist that treated my initial bouts with back pain three years ago. He was at a different physical therapy office, then, and came recommended by my doctor as the guy who really knew back issues. What makes this a funny but pleasant coincidence is the fact that I chose this physical therapy branch because my blind friend Nancy is going there and I thought we could combine appointments and I could help her with rides.

What did my physical therapist Jeff say? Basically, that I need to do yoga. He has me doing “press-ups” 5 times a day for 10 reps. At least to start this week. Last time I had physical therapy with him, he started me super light and then made the exercises ten times harder when I returned in a week. “Press-ups” are cobra pose in yoga. I used to do yoga daily. It always seems like physical therapists are always telling me to do more of what I already or what I used to do.

Random photo of Nala the Goffin with foster cat Touch of Grey

Confession time, emotional eating:

My weight is 160lbs. This upsets me greatly. When I had gestational diabetes at six months pregnant I was 169. I was 142 on the day I brought the teenager home from the hospital and 142 for most of her toddler years. When I finally decided I needed to get my weight under control and regain strength after breaking my right hand while working at Target, I lost 30 lbs in 6 weeks. I lost too much weight too quickly and then gained weight while strength training and got ripped. Over the years, I found a set point at 135, where I could maintain muscle but be more relaxed about eating.

But then, my marriage ended. My boss at the job that allowed me to separate from my husband and support myself turned out to be a sociopath. I mean that in the kindest way possible. She was very sweet, and driven, and perfection-oriented but she had no empathy, no flexibility and no patience for any way other than hers. No views allowed other than her beliefs. This led to high blood pressure and I honestly had no energy left to take care of myself. When she fired me, it took six months for unemployment benefits to determine she was in the wrong. The pandemic was underway by then (Summer 2019). I lived on my savings, a total of $4,500, and foodstamps that kicked in three months after I lost my job.

And this was also when I ended up in the hospital for an infected cat bite and took in a second teenager who lived with us for nine months without her parents contributing to her care.

I mention this only because it is why I lost my discipline. Why I stopped caring for myself like I used to. It was easy and fun to go to McDonalds for a $1 Diet Coke and a $1 McChicken. Cheap dinner.

I thought I would turn this around when I started “picking” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I walked 17,000 steps a night in the warehouse, grabbing clothes. But then I caught Covid-19. And my stamina never bounced back. So now I fold clothes. Which killed my back.

Even though I had a delightful Thanksgiving, with vegan recipes I prepared from Purple Carrot and leftover pie and wine from my in-law’s meal, I “ruined” it by drinking a big glass of wine yesterday with about 1200 calories of Trolli gummy worms. And then I tell myself, “Well, at least they had protein, iron and calcium.”

And finally, the Purple Carrot Box:

I’ve only made about half the box. The rest is still in the fridge.

I made the Purple Carrot “sausage” stuffing, vegan thyme gravy and cranberry sauce. The thyme gravy was better than I expected as I am not a gravy person. I added local granny smith apples and herbs de provence to the stuffing. The stuffing began life as caibatta rolls, root vegetables, and Fieldstone vegetarian sausage. Let me say again, if you haven’t heard it before, that the Fieldstone vegetarian sausages are amazing. The fact that they come wrapped tight in plastic “skin” casings annoys me, but they are very tasty.

Sometimes you need to unleash the beast

I hope this weekend to partake in some fun activities and lighthearted blog posts, but I also need to do some administrative work for my publishing company, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

My second novel in the Fashion and Fiends series, Courting Apparitions, releases officially November 29 (my co-founder’s birthday) and could possibly be available Black Friday. Like, damn, when did that happen?

The first book, Manipulations, is available at all the usual places online— for instance here is the link to buy it at Barnes and Noble.

My friend and fellow writer William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series and horror website Crash Palace Productions left me a truly wonderful review on Amazon and Google.

See more here.

This was my original post on his first novel, Bloodletting. Hard to believe it’s been three years.

Buy his books on Amazon.

On everyday life and health front, I went to the chiropractor yesterday and like my doctor she approved of my new technique of changing work tables to try and even out my sides. I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up my prescription for muscle relaxer. I also made my last Purple Carrot meal in the fridge: mango glazed roasted vegetables with tahini butter.

Worked went mediocre/well. The night seemed long and boring and I felt like I was getting used to my body again after the chiropractor. I QCed at about 83%.

I came home and several cats were waiting for me— including Minerva, a sweet foster who started in our second foster litter of kittens, The Roman Pride.

I took a muscle relaxer to see how it impacted my pain and my morning stiffness. It didn’t make me loopy and I think it helped with my tossing and turning.

I only got six and a half hours of sleep last night, but still managed to meet up with the teenager my trainer Dan at Apex Training to lift some weights. I felt so much more limber after. The teenager easily did 105 on the barbell deadlift and 95 on the squat. I could lift the 105 but not execute the lift. My squat form is still adjusted for my limited range of motion in my lower body so I maxed out at 85 while the teen hardly had to put any effort into it.

We came home and shared some Little Caesars pizza as I was craving their “pizza and sticks” pie. We even shared with the dog.