Little wins

It’s Wednesday night— which is my Friday! The Bizzy Hizzy has been a tizzy of Covid cases during this mandatory overtime week.

I’m doing my eight hours of overtime on Saturday.

Tomorrow I’m returning to the gym—the pandemic has also altered my training schedule.

And tomorrow, Georgie gets adopted! Yes, Georgie, our lovable former community cat from downtown Allentown, will be going home to a family where she will be the only pet.

I’m told Louise has an approved adoption application— but this is her third so I am not as optimistic as I should be. The person who applied for her wants two cats so FURR has suggested Khloe also be considered.

If these three cats get adopted— after Danu, Brigid and Aîné all getting adopted since December— I may weep tears of joy.

This week my body experienced all sorts of aches and pains, but I still managed to fold what I felt was a respectable amount of clothes for Stitch Fix. And today was our monthly employee luncheon— chicken Caesar wraps, tomato soup and carrot cake.

And on our final break of the day, everyone from my old shift got sweatshirts.

It’s kinda silly, but at the same token, it commemorates a special era of my life and celebrates the camaraderie we had on second shift. And believe it or not, even though we are scattered among the day shift, we still function as a team.

After work, the teenager invited me to Tic Toc family restaurant where we enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches.

Ingram finally shipped Darrell Parry’s poetry book (Twists: Gathered Ephemera). And several other Parisian Phoenix titles are coming together. Perhaps as many as three titles releasing before the end of February.

Speaking of Parisian Phoenix, I emailed my class correspondent at Lafayette College and he ordered my first two novels.

And finally, side note… Actor Tim Daly was on the most recent episode of the podcast Hypocondriactor. I love Tim Daly. And I found myself comparing him to Anthony Stewart Head, you know… Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I was specifically comparing Daly’s character on Madame Secretary to Head’s role as the school librarian/watcher on Buffy. Both were nerdy academics with interests in obscure topics.

Hungryroot meal prep for week ahead

On Saturdays, I tend to make my work lunches and make a loose meal plan for the week ahead.

I ordered an extra Hungryroot box after the snafu of last week’s shipment as we have almost eaten everything in the pantry and freezer.

And since I have heard there is mandatory overtime this week and I have already signed up to work next Saturday, I ordered a box to be delivered this coming Friday.

I have a $15 credit currently on my account and should see an additional $87 credit hopefully Monday.

Meal prep with Hungryroot groceries: superfood blend, salmon, kohlrabi noodles, beef meatballs, turkey meatballs and tortellini

I put most of the teenager’s food into one big divided container so she can design lunches.

For myself:

  1. one lunch of kohlrabi noodles with marinara, shredded parmesan, nutritional yeast, two beef meatballs and two turkey meatballs
  2. one lunch of kohlrabi noodles with thai peanut sauce, superfood blend, and broccoli
  3. one lunch of teriyaki salmon, superfood blend, sesame ginger sauce and sesame seeds
  4. One lunch of tortellini in kale pesto with shaved Brussel sprouts

Dinners will include nachos or tacos with chicken, cuban beans and avocado. Another of burgers, sweet potato fries and my “popcorn” cauliflower, and some sort of stir fry or grain bowl with the remaining brussels and/or cabbage, one of the leftover sauces and tofu burgers.

But by the time I made everything, I forgot to save a meal for today. So the teenager and I tried Hungryroot organic peanut butter on her homemade cinnamon raisin bread with a side of the dark chocolate banana bites also sent by Hungryroot.

Her assessment of the peanut butter: “I don’t hate the peanut butter.”

The bites?

“These don’t taste like banana.”

I looked at the package. “That’s because they are salted caramel chocolate cashews.”

The verdict?

Teenager very much likes the cashews and doesn’t mind the bananas, though the cashews are infinitely better.

Welcome 2022

I can’t believe it’s 2022.

The teenager graduates from high school this spring. My baby is graduating in 2022. My baby.

It’s been a good start to the year.

My great grandmother was born January 1, 1900. So every year I think to myself that my great grandmother would be X years old. 122. She died in the 1990s.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and cuddled cats until 6ish. And believe it or not, I had a cup of coffee and starting doing chores— dishes, meal planning, updating the wall calendar.

The teenager came home from work around 9 a.m. She and her dad brought my favorite coffee, café con leche, and a Sizzli: pork roll, egg and cheese on a bagel. I have wanted to try the pork roll Sizzli for a while and it was delicious. 19 grams of protein and 400 calories.

The teenager and I went to the gym, where we goofed around during the official Boot Camp class. She loaded 188 pounds onto the leg press! When Boot Camp was under control, we started barbell squats and then Romanian deadlifts.

The teenager squatted 135 pounds! I made it to 115, but I wasn’t comfortable attempting 135. It’s too close to my body weight.

I love to watch her lift.

Then, I went to get Nan as we were scheduled to work. After we finished her writing, I prepared a chicken bone-broth soup and a cheese and pierogie casserole. My Hungryroot is stuck in transit so I rooted through my pantry to see what I could prepare. I had a long overtime shift yesterday and don’t want to spend my day off grocery shopping.

And then we starting reading the upcoming Parisian Phoenix anthology, Not An Able-Bodied White Man with Money. And meanwhile Joan is shooting more photos for Trapped.

I have received several beautiful messages today— from current and former colleagues at work, strangers on my blog, and my psychologist.

And another good thing— I got to laugh heartily with my daughter. Mostly at the expense of her dog.

And this is Bean trying to make friends with Khloe. Video

** P.S. I haven’t done my Cobra pose physical therapy. My spine is hurting. Is this why?

Struggling to find a groove

Change is hard.

Sunday we arrived at work to learn we couldn’t punch in because engineering was upgrading the time clock system. I managed to ship 374 items in 296 packages as part of the Freestyle department.

And my dad— who has been struggling with Covid— ended up back in the hospital.

But then Monday rolled around and I was back in my home department folding clothes.

I was ready to try and excel as the change in shifts has been hard. The ten hour day is amazingly smooth, but getting up at 5 a.m. is exhausting — even if I go to bed at 9 p.m.

And then we changed software and the computers couldn’t keep up with the new system so everyone was working at 80 percent. Okay, I can’t prove everyone, but there’s a day shift woman who told me she always hits her numbers and yesterday she only did 108 instead of 130.

On top of this I had several fixes that I struggled to put in an extra large box and half way through the day the stats went down.

I am struggling to stay motivated and moving without my average time per fix being tracked, let alone no stats at all.

And then some guy drilled each of our table and attached new brooms and butlers. We used to share one or two brooms per valley, now we have about 20.

Many many brooms.

And around 2:30 p.m., a day shift peer was talking to someone who might have been a processing lead and she started hysterically crying for a good 20 minutes.

So I was very glad when yesterday was over. Not only was my back hurting, but my right leg is acting up again and I have intense pains in one of my right toes.

Then today started. My computer doesn’t have a keyboard or a mouse. Just a keypad. And the computer can’t “see” it. Lost ten minutes looking for a mouse until a lead stole one on my behalf.

One of my favorite second shift QC support people— we’ll call him Flying J in honor of the way he buzzes through the valleys with carts under his arms like wings of an airplane— brought me refixes! You know, the fixes that needed to be fixed and come on top of the cart instead of inside.

AND he told day shift that I liked them.

And one of the day shift support people came to see me and said she would bring me as many as she could. Then she paused.

“I don’t know how to say this without offending you,” she said.

“Honey, you can’t offend me.”

“I see the way you work and I see the way you walk—”

I interrupted her. “I have cerebral palsy,” I said. “And right now, my spine is bent the wrong way. I struggle to get the fixes out of slots 7 & 8.”

I was really moved. I am always touched when people want to help.

And today was our December employee luncheon.

Meanwhile, at home, the teenager did a ritual (at my request) for my father’s recovery.

After work, we took the dog for ice cream at The Spot.

Bean Dog eating ice cream video.

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.

Review: County Seat Spirits Whiskey Collaboration with Boser Geist Brewing

So in mid-November, County Seat Spirits announced they would be launching their collaboration whiskey, distilled from coffee stout from Boser Geist Brewing, on Black Friday.

Both establishments are in Easton’s Silk Mill.

Both create invigorating adult beverages.

My second novel, Courting Apparitions, launched the same day and I thought this particular spirit would be the perfect celebration.

Except when Black Friday came, I didn’t want to leave my house.

Last night, the teenager received a call from her father. He needed to go grocery shopping and with his car out of commission, he required her help as chauffeur.

Now, the way to his apartment goes right by Easton’s Silk Mill. So, I ordered my bottle of the collab and ask her dad to pick it up.

When they finished their shopping, he joined me for a tasting of the libation and it was delightful to see it warm his mood.

I didn’t feel like looking for real serving glasses or retrieving ice, so I poured about an ounce into tea cups. The scent was very strong and biting. A closer examination revealed it was 90 proof so that might explain the explosion in my nose.

The ex said he could taste the flavors as soon as it hit his lips. Potent. Elaborate.

He had purchased some Kalamazoo Stout, which is brewed with licorice. We poured the whiskey over ice and added the stout.

Both on its own and as a power force in the stout, the whiskey and its complexity did not disappoint.


To purchase Courting Apparitions or my first novel, Manipulations, visit your favorite online retailer. (Here’s a link to Barnes & Noble.) For more information on other projects and releases from my publisher, visit Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

Adventures with Nancy and leaving Midnight Society

Tonight was the last official night of “Midnight Society” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and they closed the warehouse at 7:30 p.m.

I say last “official” night because I just heard from my supervisor (at least until the new shift starts Sunday) and my favorite security guard/philosopher that there are a handful of people who can’t transition until after Christmas— and Stitch Fix will let them continue working their traditional hours until then.

That was a really nice move on the business’s part. Too nice in my opinion. I have squeezed a couple months of doctors appointments, tests and physical therapy into two weeks. So part of me is a little jealous.

We start our new work arrangement Sunday.

In other news, my blind friend Nancy and I both had physical therapy today. And Aîné and Brigid of the Celtic Pride got spayed so they are ready for adoption!

But back to physical therapy. Nan and I went together. She’s having issues with her shoulder and numbness in her finger.

I have pain in my spine and fall a lot.

I had to ride a stationary bike for eight minutes. She warmed up on a hand contraption.

I did my Cobra poses, and my physical therapist did that thing where he presses on my spine as if pushing it back into place.

I did deadlifts with a 20 lb kettlebell. I had to lay on my stomach and bend my leg at the knee and lift it off the table. That was harder than it sounds.

I stood on a soft cushion square and moved my leg out using my hip while keeping my knee soft. I also did that kicking back.

I did bridges.

I took a giant ball, held it to the wall with my back, and squared as low as I could.

Meanwhile some teenager stood on a balance ball on one leg, tossed a ball onto a trampoline and caught it ALL while standing on one leg.

I can stand on one leg for nine seconds.

On the floor.

This kid was standing on a ball meant to destabilize you.

And throwing a ball.

I am in total envy.

Meanwhile Nan was teaching the staff to read Braille and how to use a white cane.

And the staff was heartily confused at the fact that friends would come to physical therapy together.

After physical therapy, I turned to Nan. “You what to come to my house for grilled cheese?”

Her answer was a hearty yes. I made hers with Colby Jack, Cheddar and Lebanon Bologna and mine with habanero cheddar and Vevan vegan mozza-melts.

The mozza-melts taste and melt like real cheese, but sadly they have no protein. At all. So while they are a cruelty free version of cheese, they have no nutritional value.

The Difficult Reality: Time to Calorie Count

This is a hard one for me.

I know, like all capital letters and in bold know, that my weight is a problem. I have excuses and plans and can logic everything six ways from Sunday. But it’s time to own up.

And I’ve done that and still failed several times to take control of the situation.

So, on Saturday, after a strong workout and a report from the physical therapist that really suggested I shouldn’t offer any more excuses, I re-downloaded My Fitness Pal and started tracking activity and food.

I challenged myself to make sure I hit 5,000 steps a day, with the intent of increasing that over time. And my current average is probably 4,000. Walked to the gym Saturday. Took the teenager and the dog for a walk. Hit 5,000 by 5 p.m. (And the dog wore down her claws on the sidewalk to the point where she bled. All over the house.)

I entered my gym workout, my water consumed, counted my physical therapy as yoga. Then I dealt with the fact that my eating is half trash, half perfect. Post gym meal? Coffee, Lebanon balogna and a Otis Spunkmeyer Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Yeah, that was the meal choice that made me re-download My Fitness Pal. It’s one thing to accept I made this choice. It’s another to stare at it for the rest of the day.

My dinner plan was more balanced. My Hungryroot box came. Since the teenager was at Petco buying first aid supplies and styptic powder for the dog, I made a lamb Mediterranean salad.

By 6 p.m., my food selections looked like this:

The program defaults to 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein (or is it 30%?) and the remainder fat for the Macro distribution. My diet is always higher in fat than it should be and I know from past experience that protein and fat keep my mood and hunger more stable than a high carb, low fat diet. So I adjusted it. Since I am regularly weight training, my diet should be high protein if I am trying to gain muscle. Which I am. Right now, I am merely aiming for a calorie deficit. If I succeed in shedding some weight, the next step would be to adjust fat and carbohydrates to encourage a leaner look.

The easiest solution to equalize the balance in these macros depicted would be for me to eat a stack of leftover turkey, plain, or perhaps with a little bit of horseradish if I get hungry again. That would shift the ratio of carbs, fat and protein.

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.

Searching for the weird and the yummy

Dunkin’s new pancake minis

The teenager loves pancakes so when Dunkin announced their new pancake minis, I had to buy her a set and get her professional opinion— as a diner waitress (at least for a few more days).

I thought they had a good flavor, though a dry texture. The teenager was not impressed. I think the awkward texture comes from the fact that the tiny pancakes are fortified with protein.

For $2.99, that works out to fifty cents a pancake. I think Dunkin has tastier and more satisfying options at that price point.

Kitu Supercoffee Dark Roast K-cups

I think I have a new favorite coffee. I only paid $1 for my recent prescription at CVS, so I treated myself to a pack of Kitu Supercoffee in dark roast. It was on sale for $6.99 for 10 cups. I love that the flavor and the extra caffeine and vitamins don’t hurt.

Finally, I had to review Hungryroot’s Thanksgiving Bowl featuring their seasoned turkey meatballs that the teenager and I already know we love.

The Sauces N Love cranberry sauce was the right blend of smooth and tangy. The Right Rice medley was quick to prepare and had all the familiar flavor of traditional stuffing. The grains were softer, fluffier and almost had a cakey mouth feel.

I liked both so much I ordered more.