Update on the blood pressure issue

It’s hard when facing a health scare not to feel like a victim. Not to feel like another “oh, shit, why me?” moment has hurtled itself at oneself.

I try to take every new challenge and scare as an opportunity to make positive changes or do things in a new way.

So if my blood pressure is high, maybe this is the kick in the butt I need to cut back on the caffeine and encourage the discipline to stop my emotional binge eating.

I’ve upped my water intake, cut out my processed foods, and asked my trainer for his support sticking to a healthier diet and hopefully shed some of this excess weight. I have blood work scheduled on Saturday, and the doctor’s office called and asked me to visit one of the resident’s tomorrow morning.

I am doing my best to stay calm and wait to see that tomorrow brings.

And the medical fun continues… not the outcome I expected

So… when last we left our quest with the absence management company, I had mentioned that I sent my PCP an already completed form to expand the intermittent leave I had requested from work. Honestly, it’s getting more stressful than it is worth.

The doctor’s office sent me a message on Thursday last week that they had faxed the paperwork and I could pick it up when I was in the neighborhood so that I had the master copy in case the management company lost the fax like they did when the neurologist faxed it.

On Friday, I stopped by my therapist’s office and picked up the paperwork for my psychiatric evaluation for my service dog. During our chat, I mentioned that I had this physical feeling of anxiety that had not lifted since Tuesday, some tightness when I breathe, and the inability to relax, and I suspected high blood pressure since I was having headaches and constantly ringing ears.

He requested I have the doctor’s office run additional blood work and check my blood pressure. I said I would mention it. And that I was stopping in for my paperwork Tuesday, had my iron and Vitamin D blood draws scheduled for the following Saturday, and my annual check-up toward the end of the month.

The psychiatric evaluation mentions my struggles with stress and my past trauma and notes how I have worked through stuff, and also mentions that I display intermittent symptoms of general anxiety disorder and mild, recurrent major depressive disorder episodes. And I noted the diagnostic codes were the generic ones that don’t really say I have the condition, but that I’m teetering on the edge of it. (Is this why my health insurance won’t pay him? Do I not ‘require’ therapy in their corporate eyes?)

Then during the weekend, my fingers starting tingling. I contacted the doctor’s office and mentioned what my therapist had suggested and the staff scheduled me for a visit with the nurse today when I stopped to pick up my leave paperwork. And the doctor included some more blood work slips for me to add to my collection.

Meanwhile, I reduced my caffeine intake to two normal cups of coffee in the morning instead of my turbo-charged Supercoffee.

And today I tossed on my “Emotional Support Animal” t-shirt and for the first time since I have reached double-digits wore pigtails. And my new red glasses.

The Teenager called this my “Punky Brewster turns 40” look.

And then I took my vitamins for the second day in a row.

I did great at work today– I did 145 fixes, that’s 111%

Meanwhile… I’m out of PTO so my request off for the rescheduled service dog canine therapeutic evaluation was denied. I am fairly certain I can work that out with my supervisor.

I leave work, arrive at the doctor’s office, and when she’s available the nurse takes my blood pressure and doesn’t tell me what it is.

“We’ll do it again in a minute.”

The second result, based on her reaction, was no better than the first.

“The first reading was 150/98,” she said.

That sounded bad.

“The second reading was 150/96.”

That was not better.

She excused herself, and returned a few moments later, having discussed with her colleagues whether they should keep me in the office until they talk to the doctor, or if I could go home and they would get in touch with me later. Luckily, I was dismissed.

I came home, scanned the medical paperwork for the absence management company, emailed it and made myself a glass of cashew/almond protein milk with cacao powder. It wasn’t bad, for unsweetened non-dairy chocolate milk.

The examiner from the absence management company said she approved a leave of 1 day/8 hours a month, which is exactly what was put in one question in one segment of the paperwork. What is all the other information in the other four pages for????

And I’m loading up on water and I need to swear off the Little Caesars pizza and the savory food binges.

And to think it’s only Tuesday.

Tuesday night

Today has had its share of disappointments and excitement.

  • The new Little Caesar’s Slices N Stix with Bacon or Jalapeno had unexpected “results” in our household taste test. Even I, the one who normally does not eat meat, preferred the bacon.
  • Performance yesterday at work, 105%. Today, 103%.
  • Warby Parker liked my social media posts, and voted for the “Edna Mode” frames (the Winston). I ordered the red ones, only to discover that one pair is $95, but two pairs are $160. So I added the Louise Blush. They have already sent an email trying to upsell my lenses based on the strength of my prescription, which would add $50 each pair.
  • My PCP’s office has acknowledged the paperwork I sent in, and once the doctor signs it, the person I have been communicating with will fax it to the absence management people. And then I will pick it up, so if the absence management people lose it like they did last time, I can also upload it via the online portal.
  • It’s supposed to snow tomorrow.
  • Tomorrow was my canine therapy evaluation appointment with Susquehanna Service Dogs. They rescheduled due to the weather, so the new date in February 14.

Having some fun spicing up my glasses with Warby Parker frames

I have worn eyeglasses for more than 30 years. I think it’s a more than ordinary experience to select your new frames at the eye doctor and hate them two weeks later. Plus, when you have bad eyes, you need your glasses to function. If you watch the video that accompanies this, you will see me struggling to function without my glasses and doing some trademarked bad vision maneuvers.

As I mentioned in my post on the Parisian Phoenix blog about visiting the eye doctor, I could use reading glasses for my right eye, so my new prescription glasses will be progressives, with all the usual bells and whistles (blue light filter, glare resistance, and that term they use for the technology that makes the lenses thinner) and will cost about $800 before insurance. Luckily, with my insurance, the bill for the exam, the glasses and these really cool photos of my eyeballs costs $305.

Now, I’ve had some glasses I’ve really enjoyed (and the dog ate them all in her puppy days) and regardless of how much I think I like them I have criticism of them fairly quickly. The pair I have now are too delicate, weirdly shaped around the eyes and the coating on the metal has eroded where the cockatoo grabs them with her beak and rips them off my face. (Yes, I know eyeglasses are not meant to withstand a saucy Goffins cockatoo.)

So, I thought, with my new prescription in hand, it might be fun to try Warby Parker mail order frame service. Now, it turns out that there is a Warby Parker brick and mortar store twenty minutes away, but who wants to go be surrounded by that many choices. I used the online try on tool to browse and select my final five choices.

I selected these five frames because they are not what I would pick to wear on my face for the next 1-2 years. And to be clear– I am planning to order the cheapest, single vision lenses they offer because I just want some glasses to break up the monotony.

Day One Thoughts:

The Big Black Pair. I was inspired by Edna Mode. And I do like them. Because they are excessive and completely unlike anything I would wear. And The Teenager looks cute it them.

The Red Pair. If I had to pick right now, I would pick these. They are too wide for my face, but they mimic the shape of my narrow-lensed favorite glasses ever. And as the Teenager pointed out, they turn a bit pink on my skin. Which makes them great for Parisian Phoenix events.

The Blush Tortoiseshell. My previous pair of glasses had large standard tortoiseshell frames. I nicknamed them “The Librarian Glasses.” I thought these would be a subtler version. The Teenager said they matched my skin and make the glasses look weird, as if the frames were broken. But seeing them on the video, I like them.

The Muted Green Pair. At first I thought I hated them, but once again, the video has me wondering if I was wrong.

The Clear Plastic Frames that Look Like They Have Wire. These are just compelling. It’s an unusual style of frame.

I’ll keep you posted what and when I order. Please send your opinions via the comments.

This video contains an excessive amount of giggling and cat butt.

Inspiring tour of the Phillipsburg area… cats, dinosaurs and Edison’s concrete houses

I loved being a newspaper reporter and I adored working for weeklies the best. Weekly newspaper reporters typically had a geographic beat, whereas daily reporters had a topic-oriented beat. I worked in Phillipsburg (N.J.) School District (Phillipsburg, Lopatcong, Pohatcong, Greenwich, and Alpha) for several papers and Bethlehem (Pa.) Area School District for another.

I covered Phillipsburg from early 2000 to late 2005.

I know so many things about the region, its neighborhoods and its nooks and crannies. It’s how Maryann Ignatz of Steve’s Café on South Main Street in Phillipsburg ended up in the Parisian Phoenix anthology, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money. (Which Amazon has a ridiculous deal on right now. $2.60 each, limit four. I don’t think I can order them from the printer for that low of a price. So I ordered some. This also allows me to see if they really do have as many of my books in stock as they say they do. But I may do a Parisian Phoenix blog to explore this more. I ordered some books from Bookshop and Amazon, the kind I did not publish.)

But I digress.

Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab at Phillipsburg Petco

The cat rescue for which I foster originated in the Phillipsburg area “back in those days.” Mars, The Teenager’s foster fail, and his sister, the shy Minerva I mention occasionally, spent time in the Phillipsburg Petco to improve their socialization with a certain cat volunteer who I believe is the only person who has purchased, read & reviewed all of my novels. I call her my only true fan. She even bought some as Christmas presents for family. (I swear to this individual, I am writing the next installment. I am.)

So, when they have a “Meet the Kitties” event, someone from that crew usually invites Minerva.

Yesterday I received such a text.

I was in my bedroom plotting my catch-and-crate technique for the shy girls. I had two potential crates at the Petco, so if I could nab Minerva and tripod Louise, then they could share the crate on site, and eight month old kitten Jennifer Grey could have the other. Except Louise knew something was up and hid.

That’s when my friend and Parisian Phoenix photographer Joan Zachary texted.

“You going to be around later? I have some stuff I forgot to give you.”

I told her: The only place I had to go was to the cat event.

“I haven’t picked up my camera enough.”

Joan said she’d like to come photograph cats, as she hadn’t picked up her camera enough and could use the inspiration.

I don’t know what made me say it, but I asked her: “Have you ever seen the dinosaurs in Alpha?”

I warned her that they weren’t that exciting, unless you had a thing for dinosaurs or were five.

“I’m five at heart,” she replied.

So I told The Teenager that Joan would be coming over and we would go spend some time at Meet the Kitties and I might take Joan to see the dinosaurs.

“Can I come?!?!?!” she exclaimed as if she were five.

I have taken her to see the dinosaurs probably every three years since she was not-even-two-years-old. And she still acts likes the random metal dinosaurs are exciting.

G.J. Oliver’s Dinosaurs

We drove Joan to the Phillipsburg Petco where she took some kitty cat photos (“you need them for the new cat book,” she said). Then, with two cats and The Teenager in the car we headed to Alpha to the Industrial Park to see the dinosaurs. I heard the story about the dinosaurs at an Alpha council meeting, when someone was talking about how confused the MedEvac helicopter pilot was when a dispatcher told him to look for the dinosaurs to find the small municipality.

The story goes that industrialist G.J. Oliver built the life-sized metal dinosaurs, complete with a rather blocky, Minecraft-style caveman, for his grandson. Online research reports that the Oliver operation is a steel fabrication company, which makes a lot of sense. We did a photo tour of small town Alpha for the newspaper “in my day” and included another Alpha icon, the now defunct Charlie’s Pool Room which was primarily a hot dog joint run by two brothers with some blue plates, a crock pot, a skillet and their grandmother’s secret sauce.

The dinosaurs have been standing now for decades. The main display of dinosaurs in the field are now white. The Teenager insisted that they had to have been primed as the white was too even and perfect. The dinosaur by the gate is still deep green, which makes me wonder if sun damage may have bleached the others. (As of this writing, Joan has only shared her iPhone photos. She has not played with the real camera shots yet. And both the Teenager and I, having seen the dinosaurs a dozen times before, did not snap token photographs.)

photo by Joan Zachary via iPhone

Ingersoll’s Valley View Neighborhood of Edison’s Concrete Houses

photo by Joan Zachary, via iPhone

As we departed Alpha, some random information about my newspaper days started tumbling from my mouth.

“Did you ever hear about Thomas Edison’s patented, single-pour concrete houses?”

The Teenager, who has a fascination with all things built, leaned closer. Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic. But suddenly she looked up from her phone where she was probably engulfed in TikTok.

Phillipsburg has changed a lot over the years. The Ingersoll Rand tract has finally been developed into warehouses. When I still attended Phillipburg council meetings (before The Teenager was born), the town council constantly discussed the land’s redevelopment and finally took the parcel by eminent domain. Or maybe they just talked about it. But I’m pretty sure they did. I also remember one property on the site I may have visited in the first attempt to revive the site, but that might be my imagination.

So, it’s no surprise I lost my bearings among the warehouses and had to google Gino’s Market, the landmark of the Valley View neighborhood where the concrete homes (one neighborhood of only three in New Jersey featuring the experimental quick-to-erect, low-cost homes by early 20th century standards) stand. I don’t know why I didn’t google Green Street School.

I had overshot the neighborhood by a street and that’s how I confused myself. I had the Early Childhood Center in view the entire time but I was on the opposite side of the building where I thought I was.

Now, honestly, I don’t know if Joan really needs all my quirky adventures. I’d like to think she does. And The Teenager laments that she never knew me as a reporter and that she would love to experience all these strange tidbits I have floating in my head. I don’t know what made me think of the concrete houses today, but The Teenager loved them. I suppose it’s no surprise that I write fiction because sometimes my paranormal stories are less strange than my real life.

For more information:


Concrete Houses & another

A mom and her teenager attend M3GAN (because mom wants to see the stylish robot, and explore the AI/robotic ethics/parenting themes)

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, The Teenager and I went to see M3GAN late Thursday afternoon. That in itself became a delightful adventure and you can read about that here. We had a lot of fun, but The Teenager still hates horror movies. We had a brief stint as reviewers on Crash Palace Production’s horror blog, watching horror films as a mother-daughter team. (Here ares our reviews of Little Shop of Horrors, Nosferatu, and others.) I had listened to an episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast on the film, where reviewers discussed its similarities and differences from the Child’s Play franchise and the changing ethics of robotics now that we have reached the age of AI.

As soon as I saw the trailer, I couldn’t help but make a comparison to VICI (pronounced Vicky, “Voice Input Child Identicant”) of Small Wonder, a sitcom that aired from 1985 to 1989. Now, VICI and M3GAN are both androids made to appear as girls about ten years old but man does M3GAN look like a badass compared to girl next door VICI.

If you never saw or don’t remember Small Wonder, it’s available on YouTube.

But forget the innocent, eager-to-please robot of the 1980s. M3GAN wears dark eye makeup and takes her role as the friend and protector of Katie– the child she’s paired with– very literally. I mean, she’s a robot so I guess that’s to be expected.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One can liken a good robot story to a good vampire story, but from different sides of the human condition. I always considered any anthropomorphic, humanoid monster a way to explore the darkness of our souls. The monster does what many of us would like to do: give in to our urges, be violent, be sexual, be indulgent, and selfish. A good robot story examines what it means to be human and what happens when technology fails because they lack what makes us human: emotions, the ability to age, the capacity to see beyond black and white.

The reviewers at Pop Culture Happy Hour portrayed the film as homage to 1980s horror, and spoke about it with an enthusiasm that sounded more fun that just discussing its merits as a movie. And one reviewer said something that, especially when combined with the concept of what happens when AI goes rogue? piqued my interest; she said that everything the robot did was justified when you consider the basic command it was given.

I asked my friend, Bill Prystauk, founder of the horror website I referred to earlier (Crash Palace Productions), if he wanted to join me. He said apologetically that his schedule was tight and that he wasn’t sure he would enjoy the horror comedy.

I stared at my phone. Horror Comedy?

Did I happen to mention that I am very out of mainstream pop culture? I specifically listen to podcasts like Pop Culture Happy Hour and Why are People Watching This so that I might have a clue.

But I don’t.

But I did want to see this movie.

So what did I think?

The movie began with a satire of a Furby commercial. Which in itself was confusing in the best way. It was a not-so-subtle reference to the company where Aunt Gemma worked. And the toy Aunt Gemma had bought Cady for her birthday. And then we witness a car accident. And (MILD SPOILER– you might be under a rock if this is a spoiler) this is how Cady comes to live with Gemma.

And Gemma builds robotic toys. As a new guardian, Gemma has to struggle with work/life balance and her own inability to be emotionally available. When she gets the opportunity to use Cady to beta test what Gemma believes will be a best friend and babysitter, she takes advantage. The clincher is when Cady remarks that if she had a doll like M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android) she would never need another toy. And the social worker had said that Gemma had to get Cady some toys.

Except for Gemma and Cady, many of the characters are two-dimensional in the satirical way. The ridiculousness of these people is what gives this movie its humor: the ill-mannered tech CEO, the overlooked assistant, the bully at school, the annoying and inconsiderate neighbor, the “granola” mom. The humor is far from complex, but certainly at a higher level than let’s say middle school boy.

The creepy factor is 100%. From how M3GAN baits her victims to how she does what does. I shiver a bit even now. Let’s just say M3GAN doesn’t need traditional weapons.

The CGI can be a tad over the top.

But the ending… is perfect. The final battle shows that Cady was paying attention all along and is way smarter than anyone gave her credit for.

But overall–

I felt like I was strapped into a roller coaster. Maybe an old wooden coaster trying to compete with modern steel. The way the film moved from campy humor to dark horror in seconds was a jarring transition, and overall the film felt super rushed. As a viewer, it felt like the entire movie spanned only two weeks. And I’d like to believe that if M3GAN is going to outgrow her original programming, it would have required more time. And this is amazing because in the first scenes of the movie, M3GAN’s head blew off in an accident with the construction of her face. She goes from melted to demonic in no time flat.

In totality, the movie was fun and as said earlier extremely creepy and if you take the time to think about all the topics they are tackling– from the dangers of AI to parenting with technology, there’s a lot going on. And in many ways, M3GAN finds her reasons to act on all the things we would really like to do: deal with the jerk at the office, the annoying dog, the obnoxious neighbor and the school bully. But the movie is also a satirical romp through all the horror tropes, which I did not expect, but I suppose I did enjoy.

In closing, let me offer you this review from Critical Drinker.

The M3GAN Zombie Apocalypse outing with pancakes

Yesterday, The Teenager came with me to see M3GAN, which I had an interest in because of an episode of NPR’s podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour.

The weather had turned rainy and dreary, making the cold January dusk seem later and more ominous than it was.

And when we walked into Regal– there was no one in the lobby except one employee behind the concession stand desperately trying to find things to do. (We scanned my Regal loyalty card and it said my visits were at negative four. That amused me. I attend about once movie a year, and I think the last one the Teenager bought the tickets online because it was her movie.)

The big sign in the outdoor-facing booth where viewers used to queue as little as three years ago (I remember because it was one of my few sad post-break-up attempts at a Tinder date) read “Buy Tickets at Concession Stand” but the little room stood so oddly barren and the theater so damn dark I thought I had entered The Walking Dead and was about to try and loot the place for stale Jujyfruits and processed nacho cheese sauce (two of my favorites). Excuse the extreme run-on sentence because it’s Saturday morning and I’ve been trying to write this since Thursday night and now I’m getting swept up in the mood.

When I googled my spelling of Jujyfruits, this clip came up and I did not watch Seinfeld “back in the day” and I love a fresh Jujyfruit, I had to watch it. Let me share:

The Teenager, as I paid for the tickets, surveyed the concession menu and grimaced. I could tell by her body language that the prices had been a sucker punch. She asked me if I had a quarter as we traversed the long, empty (and silent) corridor to the last theater in the corner. I had one, and she had been obsessing for days about an everlasting gobstopper. I gave her my quarter and she raced to the boxy red gumball machines and moaned when she discovered her sugar fix of choice was fifty cents.

I suggested she go to the car for a second quarter, which she did after much deliberation. I handed her her ticket and opened the door to the very empty theater.

I forgot to check my tickets for seat numbers. I’m “of that age” that this assigned seats at the movies doesn’t make sense to me. I plop my butt in a chair and receive a text from The Teenager.

“The car is locked.”

I heard the theater door open and I was about to toss the fob at her when I realized it was a rather rotund man with a soda and a vat of popcorn the size of my head (including my frizzy shoulder-length curls) walked in. And he sat just enough behind me that I could hear his chewing and have that cozy feeling that the dog had come to the movies with us.

The Teenager returned and I offered the keys and she announced that she had surrendered the hunt for the confection. She asked what seat was hers. She looked at her ticket and pointed out we should have been exactly one seat over on the other side of the aisle. I thought it pretty impressive I had almost selected the seat the lovely person at the concession stand had assigned to us. And, my anxiety made me debate for the next ten minutes whether we needed to move to the other side of the aisle in the empty theater. I stayed put. And no one else came into the theater so it was not an issue.

And this was when the theater lit up with an advertisement that they needed employees, and I may have chortled.

“To do what?” I asked the teenager.

Now I fully intend to write a review of the movie, and I hope my brain can do a good job as I forgot my journal so I did not jot down notes. I then thought I would make some notes when I surprised the teen with dinner, but as we go on with the story you’ll see why I did not.

And when I checked my email after the movie, I noticed Regal had sent me an email while I was at the film offering me fifty percent off a popcorn for National Popcorn Day.

The Teenager darted toward the door after the movie declaring that she hated it, in that same tone that she used to tell me how much she hated summer camp. That she attended nine summers in a row.

“Am I driving?” she asked. And there may have been a reference to what was for dinner.

“I figured I wouldn’t feel like cooking…”

“Do you want me to make something?” she interrupted.

“I was thinking of IHOP, I’ve had a craving for pancakes,” I said.

She was in. But when we left the parking lot of the enormous, confusing shopping plaza, it was pouring rain and my windows fogged up faster than the car could defrost them and my astigmatism made it impossible to see with nearly-a-half-century-old eyes. I turned into the opposite side of the highway and went away from the IHOP instead of toward. Traffic and eyesight meant we went almost half way home before we found a spot to turn the car away. But we wanted pancakes.

And not comforting, grill-greased diner pancakes, but sickeningly sweet IHOP pancakes. Meanwhile, the Teenager googles IHOP’s hours because we’ve had a long day at this point and I don’t want to fight my way there and learn they closed at 6 p.m. or even 7 p.m. (It’s about 6:50 p.m.)

But as she typed– she typed IGOB instead of IHOP and we have a good laugh about IGOB because that sounds like her kind of place. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you show up and they pile food in front of you and you shove it all it your gob. (Did you know: apparently gob is British slang?)

We made it to IHOP and we drive around the building through the parking lot. All the lights were on but the place was empty. We practically drove up to the front door and there was one person, hunched over the counter by the register, scribbling on a tablet, or maybe dead. The former Howard Johnson’s/America’s Best motel beside us was literally falling down. I tried to park the car nicely in the streaming rain and I totally missed the lines.

“I’m driving home,” The Teenager said.

“Please do,” I replied.

Now, the theme of Zombie Apocalypse was running amok in my head. I felt like I had entered a dystopian fantasy. And part of me wanted to give up and forget pancakes.

But… pancakes.

And I had Christmas cash in my purse that the Teenager had given to me and I had traded her electronic funds into her checking accounts because she knows I like to have a cash reserve. The budget is super tight the next few months and I have pledged to minimize use of my Amex until I replenish my savings. Especially if I am approved for the service dog wait list.

This week might be a week of last hurrahs.

We walked in and it became apparent there was one employee in the kitchen and one in the front of house. The hostess/server announced they were closing in twenty minutes, which really meant the kitchen closed in thirty minutes but close enough, right?

I suggested maybe we should go and the employee’s demeanor changed.

“Oh no,” she said. “You’re good.”

(Maybe she realized serving us would be more interesting than standing around doing nothing for an hour?)

The server, Holly as the receipt later said, started telling us all the things we were out of.

“We just want pancakes,” I said.

The Teenager ordered the cupcake pancakes and I ordered the protein lemon ricotta pancakes with mixed berry sauce. Tossing protein powder in pancakes makes them healthy, right?

As we waited for the pancakes, which may have taken eight minutes (we were in and out in thirty minutes, including the five minutes I watched out server hand wash dishes before coming to take my money), The Teenager (using her waitress eyes from her time in the business) spotted a very dirty five under a ketchup bottle. We passed it along to Holly. She was grateful.


The bill came to $25.63, which I remember because I counted out the 63 cents and The Teenager kept thinking nickels were quarters (kids today), and I left $40.63. Yes, I left a $14 tip. Hopefully I brought Holly some joy, or helped her pay a bill, who knows? The place was so desolate it felt like it was the right thing to do.

Then I went home to these two. Foster Louise the Tripod acts like FURR kitten Jennifer Grey is such a threat. But Jenny keeps trying to be friends. They cuddle me from opposite sides of the bed. Louise gets my right; Jenny gets my left.

Busy, busy: Taking care of yourself takes time (but we always make time for adventures)

It’s been what, a week?, since I wrote in this forum. I know, I know.

I have been trying to write. I have plans to brainstorm ideas for BookTok, projects to edit, and I decided to make short, very real, unedited videos for BookTube.

But, as I left myself 30 minutes to write this blog entry and “wasted” 15 minutes of that panicking over a medical form (all part of “things that have happened since last week”) I may have to leave you with a list:

  • The Intermittent Leave I submitted to my PCP was illegible once printed out, so I typed a new one over the weekend and sent it to the doctor’s office. I had not heard from them, so I double-checked the email this morning and thought the form I sent them was blank. I panicked, discovered my eyes had misled me, but had already messaged the office so now I probably have high blood pressure and look like an ass.
  • My favorite foster, Khloe the Sassy Princess and Cuddler, went to Chaar in Forks Township in search of a home. I went to visit her before the gym Wednesday and she made me biscuits.
  • My workouts have been brutal… I mean amazing, really I do. I’ve been doing what feels like some great weights and focusing so hard on form.
  • We had a heating oil delivery yesterday and I hadn’t anticipated that for another three weeks. $700. Ouch.
  • I had brussel sprouts three times this week. I do love my brussel sprouts.
  • I saw Nan Tuesday night and we practically made a comedy routine out of reading her junk mail.
  • My creative brain is swimming with ideas. Is that because I have no time?
  • I am soooooo close to fully performing at work. They messed up my accommodations Tuesday. My percentages are 98%, 103%, 103%. Accommodations make a difference.

But here’s my big take away:

Feel free to let me know your opinion.

Regardless of whether you have a disability or not, and that can even be a personal determination, getting older sucks… anyway… Taking care of yourself takes a lot of time. Monitoring your habits (food, sleep, exercise), health and treatments take so much time. Finding and visiting doctors. Physical therapy, training sessions or independent-led exercise. It’s ridiculous. Filling out that intermittent leave paperwork really drove home how much time I spend taking care of myself.

Maybe it is easier to neglect oneself. Maybe it would be so much less stressful to eat what I want, accept my “limitations” and live a more sedentary life. Maybe it is easier to stop fighting and be miserable. Maybe it takes an exhausting amount of energy to take care of oneself.

I’m a doer, a fighter. It’s who I am. So I will never stop trying. But now I think I see why some folks don’t.

Anatomy of a Sick Day, part 2 (or why people with special needs are exhausted by advocating for themselves)

In the last few months, I made a promise to myself to be kinder to my body and give it more rest when my cerebral palsy-related issues flare. That was part of my logic in filing for intermittent leave, so I could feel less guilty about calling out. Because while I don’t call off often, and while I have a legit disability, I am after all American and consumed with a drive to push myself past pain and perform at all costs.

So the fact that I laid in bed for an hour this morning contemplating the benefits and the detrimental effects of not going to work, and still called out is a big deal to me. Being a good employee is a big deal to me.

But as soon as I posted my last blog entry, Anatomy of a Sick Day, I checked my personal email only to receive an email from my very nice claims administrator for the absence management company hired by Stitch Fix to handle leaves.

My sick day was being approved only as a courtesy as I had already used up my leave time for the year. I had a medical appointment in early November which launched this whole journey (Is it Time for Botox… in my Hips?) and followed up on a visit with the podiatrist where I was diagnosed with two Morton’s Neuroma (The Stabby Toe and The Challenging Gait).

I have chronicled my frustrations with this whole process in blog posts like WTF? Another Cerebral Palsy Aware Day and Toe-Day at Work.

I have had two falls since early November, and significant work changes throughout the fall. My right side has taken a lot of abuse in all of these falls and changes, and my toe still burns more than it should.

But somehow, despite have a neurological condition that has changed my bone and tendon structure, made it difficult for me to walk, and left me with muscles in my lower body that never relax, the absence management company approved my leave for up to three hours twice a year.


How is that helpful?!?!?!?

I reviewed the initial letters and paperwork and found that my very, very helpful and talented neurologist wrote that I should have leave for 1-2 episodes per year of an undermined length. She physically wrote in her own handwriting “undetermined” and explained that my cerebral palsy made me an increased fall risk.

And they decided that the only leave I needed was for regular twice-a-year visits to my neurologist. Why would I pay $30 per form to have special leave for two appointments per year?!?!?

To settle my nerves– because even after I wrote back to them that she requested leave for episodes not appointments they would not budge and said my only recourse was to have more paperwork completed, at my expense– I called my blind friend, Nan. Nan has a lifelong history of advocating for oneself and at this point even she is frustrated and exhausted by the constant mental gymnastics it takes to get the most basic attention.

She moved to a retirement community in September, since as a blind person she will lose her independence if she relocates at a period of time when she no longer can re-learn a setting. She told me how she asked an administrator to read her the activities calendar. The administrator read her one week. And told her to call for help getting more info.

At this point, it’s been almost six months. Nan’s rent is significant, and it would have taken 5-10 more minutes for the administrator to go ahead and finish the month. Yes, Nan can call someone to update her on the day’s activities, but as someone who never neglected to point out the accommodations she would need, shouldn’t some of this help be automatic by now?

Anyway, I’m going to download the medical forms and start filling them out myself, and see if my PCP will just sign them.


Anatomy of a sick day (and a really cute Stitch Fix Freestyle blouse)

The Teenager received her remaining Freestyle packages from Stitch Fix yesterday– one from the warehouse in Indiana and one from the warehouse scheduled to close in Utah.

So, before I launch into another blog post about the frustrations of learning the limits of my own body, I waited to share this photo of her in a super adorable top I found for her on the web site. I’ve probably folded and shipped at least 20 or 30 of these. Every time I’ve dealt with it I’ve struggled with its fluidity, wrap front and floppy sleeves. I’ve thought to myself: This must be a difficult shirt to wear.

When it arrived at my house, I thought, “oh it’s that shirt.”

And when the teenager put it on, I saw that she pulled it off beautifully. In my opinion, she looks way better than the model on the web site.

Now onto the cerebral palsy update…

It’s been two years since I started this journey to learn what cerebral palsy actually is, how my body works, and what I can expect as I age. I had no real medical treatment from age five to age 20, which means this is all very new to me. And fascinating.

And it’s been a month since Stitch Fix changed their metric measurement system in our warehouse and graciously implemented my workplace accommodations. Keep in mind that until five years ago I did not consider myself disabled and I worked really hard to do and appear as typically-abled as possible. When I started with Stitch Fix, I mentioned my disability in my interview and it is because of the culture at Stitch Fix that I had the resources and the space to explore my physical condition.

Stitch Fix is in the news right now for some changes, including closing the Utah “hizzy” and asking the CEO to step down. The founder has resumed the role of CEO for now. So, this post is about me and my journey, but I also wanted to point out that it wouldn’t be possible with the support of my colleagues at Stitch Fix.

Last week was rocky. I did a shift on the men’s side of the warehouse, then returned to my home department on the women’s side to find that the support on the women’s side hadn’t completely worked out the kinks. I just repeated to myself that we were all adjusting, and this was a big change that impacted more than just me, and I jotted down the inconsistencies I noticed and pointed them out verbally but not in writing to ask questions about how my accommodations would work and how they effect operations in our department.

Because one incident of an accommodation not being met is a coincidence, multiple is a trend. And none of my concerns became a trend. But I did experience a fall last week, which undid my most recent chiropractic adjustment. Stress may have played a role in that fall.

The great news is that yesterday went without a hitch and I even got a chance to talk to more of my peers, hopefully reducing any tension that may have been introduced by my accommodations changing how the department operates. My numbers have steadily remained where they should be, and on Friday I even hit 105%.

Bad news is… I felt so good yesterday and was working hard and hitting numbers… and I did not take my Baclofen. I don’t normally take it on weekends, and I honestly don’t recall if I took it yesterday morning. I know I did not take it with lunch like I normally do.

Then, being the person I am, I went to the gym and completed my regular weight training which, on Mondays, focuses on upper body.

I came home, showered, had dinner, and by the time I did some other household chores, I dropped into bed a little later than usual. I woke up slightly before midnight with my legs very tight and my shoulder throbbing. It took about two hours to go back to sleep. At four, when my alarm went off, I got up and fed the cats and visited the bathroom. I stretched and changed the toilet paper roll.

I felt much better, but did I feel good enough to go to work? My brain said, “sure.” My body replied, “well, a hard day’s work might stress your already achy body more. And that would perpetuate the cycle.” My brain added, “And you’ve had somewhere between four and five hours sleep. Is it really wise to go to work sleep-deprived? You’re a fall risk on a good day.”

I reset my alarm for five a.m. It never went off because I laid in bed the whole time pondering what to do.

I hate “calling out sick.”

And then, after looking at my PTO bank, my brain said, “this is why you have an intermittent leave. This is a disability-related absence.” But of course, being me, I had to debate whether or not to go in late. I didn’t know when I would wake up if I went back to sleep.

So, I emailed my supervisors and “called out.”

I got out of bed at seven feeling even better than I did at four, though my shoulder still hurt and my healed mallet finger was very stiff and uncomfortable. But now at least I had had seven hours sleep.

I realized when taking my morning medication that I had not taken my Baclofen regularly. This may have proven that it does make a difference, a difference I might not notice until it exits my system. And I also recognize that I very much need to be sure to use both my left and my right sides when I retrieve and empty the fixes that come to my station.

A lot of trial and error.