Finding Magic in the Middle of the Night

I have spent most of my life loving the morning, popping out of bed at 7 a.m., and falling asleep by 10. I did my best work as a “morning person” and loved the rhythms of the sun.

I don’t think that has changed. But in my current job working for fashion subscription service Stitch Fix at their Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.

I had a choice of day or evenings, but the prospect of waking up before 5 a.m. every day did not appeal to me.

Even though I traditionally considering myself a morning person.

Now I get my mornings to wake up without an alarm clock, enjoy the sun, make appointments and merely use my favorite part of the day for myself.

And if I come home from work exhausted and sore, I can collapse in bed.

I have come to appreciate a beauty in the middle of the night— the stillness of what is normally busy and crowded, the darkness of businesses and houses. There’s a hush that falls over the world.

I received a phone call from my daughter while she was at her pet sitting job last night. She asked if we could go for a drive. She wanted to listen to music and try my car’s sport mode. She wanted to explore country roads and laugh together.

I took the dog out one last time as both the dog and my daughter relieved themselves (though my daughter was indoors). The dog and I sat in the hammock and waited for her.

And cuddling with an almost 60-lb pit bull/mastiff/black lab mix in a hammock is both riotously funny and dangerous.

I even tried to take some photos.

It didn’t work.

So we left at 10:30 p.m. and with gas more than $3 a gallon we drove for an hour. We even left the state. And when we got closer to home, I spotted a generic “food mart” at a Shell station with all the lights still on at 11:45 p.m.

The teenager loves a good gas station mini mart.

In character for us, we pulled a u-turn and visited a mini-mart stocked with a wide variety of characters, where I think I was being eyed suspiciously because we were wearing masks.

We picked out some snacks: Lipton Pure Leaf tea was on sale for 2/$3.33, an Oreo brownie, and some 7-layer burrito flavored Combos. The bill came to almost $10.

I had the cherry hibiscus iced tea and it was amazing. The Combos tasted like eating tacos.

Driving through some more questionable neighborhoods, we saw police interviewing some women in cheap flip flops and got passed by an SUV with Florida license plates.

I made my daughter laugh by imagining her picking a fight with somebody twice her size, and then almost made her pee herself laughing when she asked the psycho princess cat Touch of Grey sit for a Combo.

“Are you teaching her tricks?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Since she’s crazy, instead of getting her to cuddle and be sweet, are we rehabilitating her for a career in the circus?”

We both cackled.

“What’s next? A little pink tu-tu to match her collar? Teaching her to dance and spin?”

The teenager curled into the fetal position laughing.

These are the memories I will cherish. Simple, poignant moments in the middle of the night. The ones that chronicle who we are.

Travelogue at home

The other day I asked myself— what would happen if we approached our everyday lives like a writer taking notes for a travelogue?

Interesting that I thought of this now, as Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago I was in Somalia eating fruit so succulent it was like ice cream. I remember the dark wood of the built-in wardrobe of our hotel room, the way the guard at the top of the stairs would chit-chat with me as he rocked his plastic lawn chair with his gun across his lap.

That was also the week I decided to overhaul my marriage— because as I was traveling the streets of Mogadishu trying to interpret the paintings that adorned the shops and watched a women make coffee on the side of the road amidst traffic, I realized I had my laptop in Somalia with all of our household information. If anything had happened to me, I didn’t know if my husband knew how to log into our bank account or when to pay the mortgage (or how much it was or who receives the payment).

I suddenly realized my own mortality. And that my control of everything needed to change.

To return this ramble to the idea of a quotidienne travelogue, I always blog while we travel, even to places more mundane than Africa, and M, my traveling companion, would always sit down with his phone and his cigarette about to read the link I sent him.

“Oh good,” he would say, “Let’s see what I did today.”

Life at the Aviary

The colors in the room— vivid pink (almost a fuchsia) walls in semi-gloss, teal swirly floral-paisley curtains and a yellow patterned duvet color with pink sheets adorned with white polka dots— created a cheery environment that brightened exponentially with every ray of sunshine that crept in through the three windows facing south.

The birds grew more animated as the sun intensified, three adult parakeets and three freshly hatched chicks under three weeks old and a Goffin’s cockatoo, a mini-parrot who expressed her nervousness by barbering and plucking her own feathers. Even bird teenagers are prone to rituals of self-harm.

Once awake, I strolled down to the living area, also decorated boldly but simply with sky blue walls with a hint of turquoise and a chalkboard wall under the stairs with a variety of notes. The furniture included a cushioned bench, cozy teal chairs, and an emerald green loveseat that sat oddly low to the ground.

I sipped a very hot cup of coffee with cream not brewed but steamed for me as if it were espresso. Cats swirled at my feet, including one with a gruff, tired face. He wore a Captain America collar. When he moved, his gait revealed his amputee status— having lost his front left leg to kitty cat cancer.

After this, I traveled back to the aviary chamber to help care for the birds. I handled these tiny chicks!

My companion and I departed shortly after our “chores” to have breakfast at Tic Toc Diner. My companion has a love of chocolate milk and pancakes. She insists that both always tastes better at a diner.

I discover what might be my new all time favorite breakfast: Eggs Benedict Florentine with garlic and tomato. As a poached egg is one of my favorite things on Earth, it only gets better when we add some nutritionally dense spinach smothered in hollandais sauce.

The pleasures here and simple and the environment chaotic.

Picking 64

Yesterday I returned to work at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy after 3 weeks out with the Coronavirus.

I worked an eight-hour shift processing women’s returns. It was a new work center for me and I’m frequently amazed at how many work centers I haven’t learned. It sure make what could be mindless, monotonous work more interesting to slowly learn everything in the building.

I haven’t really got to know anyone well at Stitch Fix though I am consistently surprised by everyone’s kindness. Today I wore a cropped sweatshirt and one of my colleagues whom I don’t know at all chased after me worried that my exposed back would leave me cold. She then realized I had a beige shirt on underneath and chuckled, only to still tuck my sweatshirt under the strap of my little pack.

Speaking of making friends… The nursing staff usually changes over after the evening shift clocks in. The day shift nurse is the sweetest, most outgoing person. I imagine in other settings she would have a wonderful bedside manner. She said she was worried when she hadn’t seen me in so long and me being me said there was merit in her concern as I had Covid.

Then she peppered me with questions about my symptoms and my experience.

But after we clocked in, she didn’t leave. She did the regular rounds through the warehouse. And she made it a point to check on me every time— and make sure I had the stamina to make it the whole shift and that I was drinking water.

I ended up processing 252 pieces which is probably a mediocre number. I felt like I had worked a 10-hour Black Friday shift from my Target days, and all I did was stand there. But standing is hard for me since my cerebral palsy has made my body crooked and led to issues with my S1 joint. AND two weeks ago I felt like I had run a marathon when I walked the 20 feet from my room to the bathroom.

My only Covid complication was having a prolonged coughing fit during our meal break when a piece of Raisin Bran tickled my throat wrong and I couldn’t stop choking!

Today when I arrived she asked how I was feeling, and how I slept last night. My supervisors keep asking how I am as well. They didn’t have me assigned to a department so I ended up in direct-pick. It felt so good to move!

As for tonight’s numbers, I picked 64— which is half the bare minimum number they like. But here is the good news: They let us go early so I only worked half a shift. My step count remained consistent with my pre-Corona figures.

One interesting fact, in addition to my weakened fortitude, is how challenging it is now to wear my mask especially while performing labor that gets my heart rate up. The nurse encourages me to wear the lighter disposable masks so I can breathe easier and not get so “hot” (if that makes sense).

I’ve also kept my calories at around 1500, with a lot of good protein and wholesome foods which, as I increase my activity levels should lead to some improvement in my current weight and fitness struggles.

My heaviest weight ever— not including pregnancy— I hit last week at 154.5. I’m not even 5’ 4” so that is unacceptable. But today I was 151.5. I managed to lose three pounds so far by tracking my macros and calories.

So now, with work done, I am celebrating as only a mom would. I started a load of laundry, fed the cats, ran the dishwasher and while I wait for the wash (which I will need to take down yesterday’s loads and hang tonight’s) I will pour a gin drink and watch The Tudors with my cockatoo Nala.

The teenager should be home around 10 from her pet sitting job. Teenager two will be going to visit her mom to watch the ball drop.

Bubble gum soda, Bizzy Hizzy and the wildlife

I was up blogging and cuddling kittens last night until almost 2:30 a.m.

And then I woke at 9 a.m. to a flurry of text messages— similar, but not as stressful as, yesterday.

We had a meeting regarding some new contributors for Lady Boss Magazine. In the middle of it, teenager #1 texted home from school that her grades had “magically gone to shit” and that she would go to guidance to see if she could transition to fully online as whereas teenager #2 needs to be in school for success, teenager #1 can be self-directed but needs a regular routine more than an in-person teacher.

By the way, there is no transition required— starting tomorrow teenager #1 is fully online.

Meanwhile little foster kitten Vale of the Norse Pride no longer wishes to stay in my bedroom with his siblings. This feisty Ruby wants to explore the house and hang out with the big cats.

Vale and Opie

And the highlight of my day was discovering A-Treat Bubble Gum Soda. It was surprisingly delightful and not as sickeningly sweet as I feared. (See the video.) here: Bubble Gum ATreat taste test

And as if this wasn’t enough to force me into sugar overload — the Bizzy Hizzy (Stitch Fix’s Bethlehem warehouse) had bagels, Oreos and butterscotch Krimpets. Not to be confused with crumpets. Everyone went berserk over them. The bagels were sad, the toasters broken and the cream cheese stingy and rather sour tasting.

Despite every joint in my body below my rib cage throbbing (I hope to goodness it is due to the forecasted rain tomorrow), I binned about 600 items in women’s non-apparel and 900 in apparel. I worked really hard to make the women’s non apparel bins (NAP) look like the concepts and photo on the training board. Organize items like books on a shelf.

This English major can handle that.

And I learned that our inventory devices are “hammers” and their brand name is Thor.

I’m surrounded by Norse legends.

I only walked about 10,000 steps instead of my normal 22,000.

My listening material tonight included a comedy roast I didn’t like, Dax Shepherd interviewing astronaut Scott Kelly, Trevor Noah discussing racism in the housing market, something about how the Metropolitan Museum of Art refuses to count the value of its paintings, and a fashion podcast lamenting how in a pandemic world the absence of fashion shows puts a lot of people out of work.

Well, chances are the models were already starving.

And on the way home, there were two occasions where wildlife crossed the road in front of me.

First a deer.

Then a fox.

I’m taking my aching bones to bed.

Taco Bell Tantrums

My teenagers and I decided to splurge and order a party pack from Taco Bell.

(As a side note: I discovered they have very good iced coffee at Taco Bell, available right now for a dollar, and their powdered creamer is some strange thing like “ecostix” or something and it didn’t have any fake, chemical or soy taste. Kudos, Taco Bell.)

But upon getting the party pack home, we discovered the most ridiculous thing.

Remember the whole gag with the cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?

Well my cockatoo apparently has tantrums for Taco Bell.

YouTube: Tantrums for Taco Bell

Barometer of mood

Earlier this week and late last week I was struggling emotionally— my financial status growing more precarious and my friends feeling distant, etc. Nothing any more serious than what many other people are going through.

And then Tuesday happened.

That was yesterday I think.

I had Zoom meetings, Google Meets, programs and in person meetings from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. After a coffee meet with a marketing client, I accompanied an ASPIRE peer to our new office space in downtown Easton. I’m not sure it’s official official yet so I can’t provide details.

But I went to use the restroom.

And I forgot I had car keys in my pocket and they fell into the flushing toilet. Whooooop— right down the hole.

Well.

My first thought was, “What do I do????”

And then I realized I have the only electronic key fob currently in existence for my car.

So I stuck my hand into the toilet. Thank heavens they were there. Pulled them out, covered a paper towel with some sanitizer, wiped it down and popped the fob apart to try and dry it.

And I laughed at the situation. A few days earlier I would have cried.

In other silly news, my crew had some fun with musical instruments. YouTube videos here:

Low brass and bass drummer playing without the whole band (teenagers 1 & 2)

Recorder lesson from a blind lady and euphonium in background

Seven Nation Army

“That” mom

The teenager is a junior at our local public high school, plays low brass and usually makes the honor roll.

Her entire school career we’ve had “the rule.” You get one bail out per school year. One Mom-SOS request to bring an item to school— band music, mouthpiece, lunch, whatever.

Today, on the first official day of in-person hybrid public education she forgot her school-issued Chromebook.

7:36 a.m. (one minute before the late bell rings) — text message— “Mom SOS.”

I go up to her room and find her refurbished MacBook Air and her school Chromebook. Both stacked nicely on her newly organized desk. Neither plugged in.

“Is it charged?” I text.

She assures me it is.

I try to resist the kittens gathering at my feet. It’s hard— but I have a mission.

I grab her wallet (as she has my keys attached to it at this moment) my wallet, and my flip flops.

I am now “that mom.” I always prided myself on being dressed and groomed before walking my kid to school. But today, I am still as I was when I rolled out of bed: crisp white t-shirt now speckled with some Fiero dust (spicy Taki-style corn snacks in fire-breathing chili lime flavor), no bra, and yoga pants.

When did I become this?

It’s raining lightly, the crickets are singing.

I park the car near the school and buzz the office (which, with me were several late coming students). It’s a small school so the employee in the office pretty much knows most of the parents and all of the kids.

From my sequestered hallway in the vestibule I hand her the computers and noticing the lack of cords she asks me, “Chargers?”

She knows teenagers. She sees it every day.

“She claims they are charged.”

The office employee nods. I realize I really should know her name, but I suppose it’s not a bad thing as I have not become one of “those parents” in addition to “that mom.”

“Those parents” are always at the school dropping things off or calling to talk to someone about their child.

The woman at the window asks if my daughter is coming for the machines, so I text her. (Is this not blatant disregard for the “no phones in school” policy?)

She says she doesn’t think she can unless someone gives her permission. I relay this. The woman in the office calls.

I have not said my daughter’s name out loud this whole time.

It’s a small public school.

I am instructed to leave the technology on the narrow table beside me in the hall. I exit. I see the teenager approaching from inside the locked doors. I wave from the rainy outdoors.

I walk home in the rain— my middle aged self in a white t-shirt. I figure the child will want to drive later so I leave the car there.

Funny part is, it was raining on her orientation day last week so I let her friend use my umbrella. Her friend also had it with her today.

I get home a little soggy and my daughter’s cat is in my spot.

Misty

And to think my daughter asked me — “why are you up this early?”

Apparently for an SOS.

Coffee mugs

The teenager started it. She bought me a mug for Mother’s Day 2019. Of course, she bought it with my Target Red Card. It had a lid, so she didn’t have to worry about me spilling hot coffee on myself while going up the stairs.

I received a fun coffee mug for Christmas 2018 as part of a Secret Santa— it was a Magic 8-ball (I used to take one to work and have my fellow Target team members ask it questions).

But in recent months, the teenager and I have impulse bought a few at The Dollar Tree. She bought herself “I love dogs” and the companion “I love cats” for me.

Most recently I got the “smile and nod” and coffee hug mugs because they bring humor into my early mornings.

And that is the best way to start each day.

Random Hospital Tidbits during a tropical storm

I think I have a sense of humor

My daughter brought extra dry erase markers so we could have fun with the nurses and my care team. Yes, as the a patient with cellulitis from a kitten bite I drew paw prints all over my board.

Today was my second day in the hospital at St. Luke’s Bethlehem/Fountain Hill and also the day that Tropical Storm Isaias wreaked havoc in the Lehigh Valley.

This is the only unplanned hospital stay I have ever had and will also be the longest. My other other experience in the hospital was giving birth to my daughter.

There are only two parts of this experience that I have disliked: IVs, though I have learned to ignore them, and collecting my urine so everyone can monitor my fluids.

Everyone on staff has been kind, and most downright enjoyable and intelligent. But Nurse Michelle has been my favorite.

Michelle finally arranged all my IV tubes into a double Dutch arrangement so they don’t have to keep swapping them out on my arm. She labeled everything meticulously. Attention to detail is the perfect trait for a nurse.

The hospital has lovely old architecture and picturesque views.

I started betadine soaks today. I’m tickled that such basic medicine still works well. I also feel like I’m hanging out with Marge from the Palmolive commercials.

“You’re soaking in it.”

Old Palmolive Commercial on You Tube

The teenager stopped by so that was fun— we took silly pictures. Speaking of the teenager and silly photos, I FaceTimed my cockatoo last night.

And in the category of things that make me happy—

Does the pandemic have a fun side?

Sometimes I am reminded of my age— when I think of those summers of my girlhood circa the 1980s, when Pennsylvania experienced temperatures that averaged in the high seventies/low eighties and for about 2 weeks every August a heat wave of around 85 degrees.

It also snowed a lot more, and I can’t say I miss that.

Now I won’t be naive enough to suggest this pandemic has been fun. Some people have gotten seriously ill, others have died. Luckily in my circle, those who contracted Covid-19 survived and none ended up in the hospital.

But as I said in the beginning of the pandemic, the Coronavirus has forced us to look at our health system, our purchasing habits, our supply chains, what we need and what we don’t. I have found a more relaxed pace of life, and while I have lost my job, I have found some inner truths that bring me hope. Perhaps that is where my naïveté lies.

Yesterday, I had a business meeting with my first client as a partner in Thrive Public Relations. Thrive is the brainchild of a friend— who has been searching for someone with media, print and editorial experience to complement his digital marketing, strategy and networking expertise. I have agreed to help him, and hopefully this will lead to some paying work that could help keep me afloat and allow me to rebuild my career portfolio.

I spent much of the last year as a grant writer, and would love to highlight some current public relations work to augment my grant writing potential.

So I was asked to attend a business lunch at Sogo Asian Fusion yesterday in one of my favorite environs, downtown Easton. I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the 95 degree heat, dining on the patio. It felt lovely to build an outfit, put on make up and head into the world.

Then later that evening, my propensity for stress-related binge-eating led to me eating most of a jar of “trail mix” — I put that in quotes because it had walnuts and almonds but was mostly butterscotch and white chocolate chips— that my blind friend Nancy gave me for Christmas. I had it on my desk at work and it was one of my possessions that Mr. Accordion drove to my house.

The teenager doesn’t like almonds. So she gave them all to me.

And then my daughter cornered me. She started reciting old bits from Brian Regan, one of my favorite comedians (from the golden age of the early 1990s, before I graduated high school and Nirvana changed the world).

Finally she got tired of her delivery falling flat and we spent an hour watching Brian Regan clips from YouTube on my phone. I grabbed a Diet Coke and finished the rest of the vanilla vodka from County Seat Spirits.

The teenager’s father, my husband of 20-years whom I separated from last summer, does not like stand-up comedy. But a good stand-up comic (like Regan, or Trevor Noah, or for those who have thicker skin and/or less sensitivities Denis Leary and George Carlin), can lift my darkest spirits. So I love the fact that our daughter inherited my taste in comedy.

And when I got up this morning, as mundane life started to overwhelm me with chores and commitments, Nan called.

The Mighty.com had published her piece on our summer picnic and shared it with Yahoo News. It features me, and the teenager, so I got to enjoy reading about my life.

You can read it here: Nan’s summer picnic article on Yahoo News

So maybe life doesn’t look the same as always, but the simple joys don’t really change.