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.

Chasing a dream in the autumn chill

Sometimes, as members of the human race, we have days that are full of delights from sun-up to sundown. Those days are rare, but often involve a leisurely day with the family, a vacation or a holiday.

Then there are days that are good despite— or perhaps because of — their imperfections and today was one of those days.

Maybe today was my “bones day” after all. If you don’t get the reference, it’s a prognosticating pug on TikTok (read more here).

I was originally going to blog this on the Parisian Phoenix website, but I thought I could be more honest and personal here. So here I am.

I came home from work in a lot of pain last night. I achieved 90% in my work metrics and came home, once again, in the kind of pain that leaves me crying and nauseous. Part of a marker for bad pain for me is if the pain interferes with my sleep and/or does not dissipate by morning.

I did not sleep well and I woke in pain.

But, I got up, got dressed, combed my hair and put on makeup. Because today was the Easton Book Festival. It might have been cold and rainy, but I was putting my best foot forward, even if the discomfort made it hard to put a shoe on that foot.

Now, here’s the thing.

Easton has been a part of my life for more than 25 years. Even now, I live very close to Easton. I can walk there.

Book and Puppet Company has been a part of our lives for quite some time. The teenager’s father connected with the owners of the independent bookstore. The teenager had a career as a contained character there.

Andy Laties of Book and Puppet founded the Easton Book Festival three years ago. I even appeared in the original “Read a Book” video— and they also featured a Muslim student in hijab outside the literacy center at my last non-profit job in development at ProJeCt of Easton.

My supervisor there quickly forgot the things I did well, like that placement and our involvement in the Easton Downtown Association scarecrow competition, in which they still participate. But I digress.

The teenager’s father now serves on the board of the Easton Book Festival, so when they organized a local author’s event, he invited me.

One month into Parisian Phoenix’s launch and I have a promotional spot. I didn’t sell enough books to pay for the small expenses of the event: parking, coffee, book printing (but hey, I would have needed those anyway), and the copy of the inaugural issue of the Lehigh Valley Literary Magazine I bought. And an overpriced breakfast.

But one person not only bought my book, but also came back specifically to hear me read. So that was touching.

I read a scene from the sequel to MANIPULATIONS, COURTING APPARITIONS where the villain performs a magical ritual in downtown Easton.

It was my first “reading out” in years!

I kept it very brief, because some others had run long and we were all tired.

Until the YouTube video drops— you should be able to view the Facebook live here.

I had intended to join the teenager’s father at one of the last poetry events of the festival, but I was frozen so I came home instead.

My neighbor, aka Sobaka’s mom, has now formally joined the Parisian Phoenix team as a proofread. She says we need to talk about chapters 1 & 2 of COURTING APPARITIONS tomorrow.

The teenager’s father received the copyright for his upcoming poetry chapbook so that could be going to press in a few weeks.

And tomorrow I hope to make applesauce, post some new material from Rachel Thompson on the Parisian Phoenix blog, and start typing Maryann Stephanie Ignatz’s material.

I even got to have dinner at my favorite diner with my neighbor to celebrate Jan’s official status as part of the Parisian Phoenix team.

Even with the psychological weight of pain, my gratitude abounds

Today I did some work on the Parisian Phoenix Publishing website. (I also did two loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, edited a press release for anti-trafficking human services non-profit ASPIRE, and cleaned a whole bunch of cat boxes before helping my daughter with her English paper and heading to the Bizzy Hizzy.)

I should type this post a little faster as it is already almost 2 a.m. and I have my alarm set for 9:30 to meet with my personal trainer Dan at Apex Training for our 27th weightlifting session.

But I have to write this, because I had FOUR colleagues approach me about my book today. I gave them my personal business card as I don’t have the publishing company cards ready yet. This oversight was by design as I didn’t plan on printing the cards until closer to the launch of the second book, when the web site would be finished and a marketing plan in place.

So, if you are from Stitch Fix and found your way here looking for information on my novel (including links on where to buy), you can click here.

Fashion and Fiends series

Also, I have to report to the world at large that after two fantastic, fully-performing days at work, my body took a functional nose dive. By the end of the night, I was at a seven or eight in pain physically and quite near my breaking point psychologically.

That is why I am so grateful to my “midnight society” colleagues at work who took the time to ask me questions about my creative ventures. Their interest really did pull me out of my discomfort. And it really makes me feel seen as a person to have so many random people approach me after I told one person about my novel (because she’s a cat person).

Last week, another colleague started reading my book in the break room.

So thank you for boosting my spirits.

More another time.

I like surprising people

I have mixed feelings about surprises. I like good, controlled surprises but I hate when people try to pull one over on me.

But I do like surprising people.

That statement came from one of my bosses tonight after she heard I wrote a novel that had been published by Parisian Phoenix and was available at major online retailers. (Like here.)

“I didn’t know you were a writer.”

I mentioned it to her because I know she adores her cat and she knows I do cat fostering and rehab work. So I wanted her to know I was donating $1 for every print book sold to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

I teased her that there was a lot she didn’t know about me. Like when I traveled to Siberia for pizza. And visiting Yemen and Somalia.

It always makes me feel good to stand out for things I can control— my hobbies, my opinions, my talents— versus the fact that I walk funny and fall a lot.

Building from nothing involves time-consuming baby steps

It is 1:15 a.m. and I worked a full shift in QC at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy where I folded clothes with my quads and knees burning in addition to my lower back/lumbar region.

Sometimes the pain wears me down, grinds at me, gnaws; and other times—like today—it fatigues me but it does not impact my day, a certain resignation comes over me.

So here I am, sipping a beverage, rubbing CBD arthritis cream on my lower body and fretting that I can’t find my coaster.

Barbell Apparel, the company that sold me my #BestStrong Nick Best Strongman “Age is Just a Number” t-shirt just called me an inspiration on Facebook!

In the random Parisian Phoenix Publishing news department:

  • I gave my therapist a copy of my novel, coincidentally author copy #8 which is one of my favorite numbers, and I wrote in it something like, “Thank you for being one of the people who gave me the confidence and courage to publish this.” He was touched by the gesture in a way I did not anticipate.
  • I have been spending several hours a day mapping, drafting, and uploading content to ParisianPhoenix.com. It’s slow going because there are so many branches of this business in my head that I have to translate to the web.
  • Parisian Phoenix now has an official email: ParisianPhoenix@gmail.com.
  • Parisian Phoenix is on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter is the only one where I had to tweak the name, @ParisBirdBooks.
  • I also reached out to some representatives of GLVWG (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group) about renewing my membership and promoting Parisian Phoenix.
  • I launched the Parisian Phoenix blog.
  • I set the deadline for the identity politics anthology, October 31.
  • I am considering compiling a short book of my own erotic fiction and poetry.

Author chatter: Why did I launch Parisian Phoenix Publishing?

Last night, I was blessed to spend the evening with William Prystauk, author of the Kink Noir series, podcast host and reviewer of all things horror at Crash Palace Productions.

Buy Bill’s books here: William Prystauk on Amazon.

Buy my book here**: Buy Manipulations on Amazon.

Or buy my book at Barnes & Noble

Or even at Target.com

Or if it fits your values better, ask your independent bookseller to order it from Ingram.

But back to last night…

Bill and I got together for dinner and chatter— in part to celebrate the publication of Manipulations and the launch of Parisian Phoenix Publishing (working on the web site ParisianPhoenix.com and social media channels a little every day) and in part because Bill just really really really loves sushi.

Over a wonderful wide selection of sushi (including salmon roe and sea urchin, I did not partake in the urchin as it looked like radioactive cow tongue and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the salmon caviar) at Jasmine (read about our last visit there here), Bill and I started what ended up being an hours and hours long conversation about our hopes and dreams for our lives and our careers.

The conversation continued over cocktails at County Seat Spirits (Easton) and the ice cream at Ow Wow Cow, both at the Silk Mill.

The bar at County Seat Spirits

Bill and I have exchanged writing in the past and encouraged each other so I suppose he wasn’t horribly surprised when he received his copy of the book this week and opened it. But he asked a lot of good questions— why didn’t I go the traditional agent/editor/publisher route. I love that he believes in me and believes in my writing but I have shopped this manuscript.

Every few years I dust it off and send it out and every agent I have queried asks for pages. And every rejection I have gotten features personalized statement of the first 100 pages merits but how it doesn’t fit a proper genre or have the type of structure readers want.

And I know my writing can be dark, and literary from time to time. The fashion aspects are very feminine in a chick lit way but the supernatural elements are more horror than paranormal romance. My writing can be flowery, the emotions intense, but the situations can be very gritty and real.

And I don’t want to sacrifice that.

I don’t want any editor to have control over issues I discuss in my work: marriage/divorce, jealousy, domestic violence, self esteem, body image, self confidence, infertility… and those are just the first book. And I honestly hope you don’t outwardly notice these topics in the story but that they steep into your subconscious and slowly transform you like cold-brewed iced tea.

Meanwhile, as Bill and I are talking about upcoming books ( for those of you who have read Bloodletting, Punishment, and/or Debauchery— I have not only read the fourth book in the series but I also know the title of the fifth!), I am receiving texts and Facebook posts from people who have received their copies. And poor Gayle is left working on the poppet that will adorn the cover of the sequel to Manipulations, Courting Apparitions.

Courting Apparitions is a ghost story that examines the effect grief and depression has on our lives.

** $1 of every print copy of Manipulations sold goes to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

The struggle brought bliss: my novel arrives

It’s 1:24 a.m.

My alarm will go off in less than 8 hours.

I will leave for the chiropractor in about 9 hours.

But how can I sleep when I am seeing the print version of my novel, Manipulations,for the first time.

And noticing a few typos in the back of the book.

I was so excited to finally see my baby after 30 years. Click here to see my reaction on YouTube.

If you’d like a copy… and remember $1 for every print book sold benefits Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab

So let me take a moment to say today started out hard. My body was stiff and not functioning well. This made me grouchy because I felt like I should be over last week’s pain by now. (Ultrasound Sunday, BTW).

But my workout went awesome, as it usually does, and I reflected on some of the kindnesses I have noticed lately. The help with the filter from the technician that serviced the furnace and his joy in seeing the little kittens. The consideration of the woman scheduling my mammogram wondering if 6:30 a.m. would be easier than 7:30 because I could theoretically not go to bed.

And I bribed the teenager with munchkins to get my an iced macchiato with an extra shot of espresso from Dunkin.

And then I took a Bang energy drink to work.

Speaking of work, my right leg and back bothered me all night but I still hit 132 fixes QCed. That’s 101.5% by my calculations but by my calculations I got 77% last night and they said I reached 104. So… who knows?

I am thrilled with today and let me leave you with the first page of my favorite chapter…