The crazy, the lazy and the witchy

Today was a typical day in the crazy menagerie of our home. But it was delightful. I’ve come to accept that Saturdays are overscheduled and hectic. Sundays are a rest day.

F. Bean Barker woke at 5:30 am— a normal part of the routine in her old home. No one gets up that early here.

I went to bed around 2:30 am so when Ms. Black Bean woke up and barked/whined/howled for 30 minutes, I texted teenager #1. She went down, covered the dog’s crate with a blanket and laid down on the couch beside the dog to go back to sleep.

After that 45-minute disturbance, I woke at 9:30 am. The teenagers finished picking up the house to prepare for the notary arriving at 1 pm.

We cared for our pets and crated Vesta and Minerva of the FURR Roman Pride for the adoption event at Petsmart.

We then stopped at Dunkin on the way home because I wanted to do something to thank my husband for taking the time to come sign this paperwork and for supporting me in the refinancing of the house. It’s been about 20 months since he’s lived here with me. Neither one of us has filed for divorce. So his name is still on the deed of the house and the current mortgage.

This new mortgage will pay off my car, save me $300 a month, though also extend my term five years. Now instead of the house being paid off by the time I am 55, I will be 60. Mortgage payment alone on the the refinancing will pay off is 50% of my take-home monthly income and that makes me nervous.

My hope is that once the pandemic ends and life shifts, new opportunities and stability will allow me to apply extra money to the principal.

And teenager #1 will take her drivers exam Tuesday. If she passes, her dad and I will have a massive insurance bill so my solace is that if something should happen to my car, at least it is paid for.

Teenager’s dad loved his new cold foam chocolate stout cold brew. The closing almost went without a hitch, but Fog decided to saunter across the table amid the notary’s pile of papers. Cats are not allowed on the table. Especially when we have guests.

The teenager got ready for work and we watched an episode of Canine Intervention on Netflix. I wish they had more episodes.

I dropped her off at Tic Toc Diner. I then went to get the kittens.

Those adorable tuxedo sisters then went to Petco (Greenwich Township, NJ) for their adoption habitat.

Minerva (left) and Vesta

Vesta, having spent about three weeks in the habitat at the other Petco, sat there and shook in fear.

I came home planning to walk F. Bean Barker with our neighbors, Jan and her Ladyship Sobaka. But Bean only made it a half-block.

She’s just exhausted.

And then Jan and I went to pick up Nan and have dinner at Tic Toc. The teenager was worried about not having a Braille menu for Nan. As if we need a menu.

The teenager told me the founder stuffed with crab looked really good as the cook took a lot of care in its preparation and plating. I ordered it. With coleslaw. And the silly waitress got me french fries instead.

The dish reminded me of a crab cake wrapped in other fish. So good and a ridiculous amount of food for the price.

After dinner, Nan and I hung out at my house until it was time to retrieve our waitress from the diner.

And then when she got home, she unboxed this month’s box from Witch’s Gifts. These items are so carefully curated. To see the unboxing: March Box Witch’s Gifts

These boxes (and my tarot and witchy podcasts) remind me that I need to pay more attention to my spiritual and magical development.

Meeting the metric and other full moon ruminations

Today started with a groggy Angel that for the second day in a row got less than six hours sleep. I headed off to my amazing chiropractor, Nicole Jensen, to report that despite the grueling work week somehow I was not in pain.

And she indeed found that my body was moving well and that my main issue was stiffness in my mid-to-upper spine consistent with all the snow shoveling needed in the last few weeks. She also asked about my neck as I store all my stress in my neck and shoulders.

After getting a great adjustment and convincing a staff member there that her mother did not want a large bird that talks, I came home and unsuccessfully tried to nap. One of my favorite Sarah’s convinced me to get another Dunkin Cold Foam Cold Brew which I review in this YouTube video: Vanilla Cold Brew with Cold Foam

I texted her to thank her for the advice as it was dead on. And somehow I QCed 105– yes one hundred and five— fixes which is more than the required metric of 104. I finally did it. A mere three-plus hours before the full moon.

It was a successful night at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy.

Teenager #1 waited up as a bonding exercise before the full moon. Today in addition to chores and school work, she replaced the screen in her bedroom window and embroidered her face masks for work.

Here are some other contemplations and updates at 2:15 a.m.:

  • I am itching to write fiction again. My friend Gayle has agreed to be my book designer should I decide to publish my books. Gayle and I once had the dream of our own publishing imprint, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.
  • My mortgage refinance is scheduled to close next Saturday. The refi will save me $300 a month, pay off my car, and leave me with several thousand extra dollars. I am dropping from 3.25 to 2.85% interest and adding five years into my mortgage. But it will also drop my actual mortgage to be less than the current 50% of my net pay. My hope is that when things “look better,” I can pay down the principal.
  • So the extra money— do I:
  1. Buy myself a computer and put the rest in savings. It’s been about 3 years since I had a computer and I’m an Apple girl so it’s an investment. Adding the rest to savings would give me about 5-6 months income in the bank as an emergency fund.
  2. Put it all in savings to see what happens in the economy next.
  3. Use it to buy the computer and pay teenager #1’s car insurance should she pass her exam March 9. The bill will be $1500 for 6 months. Mine is $488.
  4. Use it and other savings I have to pay down $5,000 on the new loan’s principal.
  5. Plan a vacation— not going to happen.

And here is today’s kitten picture:

Mood brighteners

I have a gift of stressing myself out even on the best of days in good circumstances and this very bad habit causes more harm than good.

So, yesterday I talked to a very friendly and helpful mortgage broker through Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage. And by today I managed to doubt the whole idea. It’s not resolved yet… and my concerns about it are so minimal. I would instantly pay off my car and still have the house paid off in ten years or less. But the payment is $50/higher than what I am paying now (and would save me $150/month total versus what I pay now).

Realistically it would be better for me to keep saving and pay off the car with cash. I’m in casual conversation with the broker about it. If it’s already too late, so be it.

But I woke up at 6:30 am today thinking about it.

And then it was snowing. I shoveled, with teenager help, but still managed to hurt my back. But good news is— I hurt my back in the normal spot and not a different spot as has been happening at work.

I ran an errand this morning and it was messy out. The snow kept falling. I had to slide my way into the garage with an oil truck backing down the alley toward me and I thought, “maybe I should stay home.”

So I called out.

Even though it’s pajama day at work and I already had on my Cat in the Hat fuzzy pants.

But it does feel good that no one makes you feel guilty for calling out. We have to “call out” via email and it’s usually a pleasant exchange.

As soon as I did, the plow went through.

Sigh.

I ended up watching some of MTV’s Catfish while cuddling the cockatoo. I then took a brief nap.

I struggle amidst the stasis of life right now to stay connected with friends, get the adult interaction I need, somehow be Mom and keep the house clean and kids fed.

But between my change in physical fitness, my weight gain and my being unable to break this new binge eating habit, my mental health is suffering.

To combat this, I’m going to make a list of things I can do at home when I am in a weird mindset.

  1. Make a cup of coffee
  2. Pet a cat or work with one of the foster kittens
  3. Arrange outfits for upcoming days
  4. Pick up a book
  5. Witchcraft/Tarot
  6. Sketch
  7. Text a friend a compliment
  8. Play solitaire
  9. Edit my book(s)
  10. Meal plan

Another day at the Bizzy Hizzy

It’s approaching 1 a.m. and I am amazed at how quickly I am adapting to going to bed around 1:15 a.m. and waking up around 8:45 a.m.

An hour ago I was placing my laptop into the cupboard, taking my last cart of fixes to the “garage” area and heading to the time clock.

I only walked 16,000 steps in the warehouse tonight but I hit the pre-direct pick picking goal of 128 fixes.

I am sitting in my bed with a gin-and-cucumber-positive-beverage-B12 cocktail. I have kittens surrounding me (the Norse Pride domestic long hairs) and Nala chattering and falling asleep on my knee—and I know my bird should be asleep right now but she wakes up when she hears me come home and she’ll be super angry with me tomorrow if I don’t give her a bedtime cuddle.

She just fell asleep — on my knee.

The scene looks something like this:

The swarming Norse Pride

Poor Fog is whimpering outside my door as he used to be the cat that slept with me until the teenager moved the Norse Pride (some of our foster kittens through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab) into my room. He wants no part of those pesky furball kittens.

But he misses me now that I am working, and he pursues every opportunity he can to be with me.

Fog

Today involved some meetings, including the Lehigh Valley Regional Homelessness Advisory Board. I organized some paperwork and paid some bills as this week’s unemployment payment came.

I received EBT/SNAP (food stamps) for September, October and November so I’ve been combing every store possible for the best deals. Grocery Outlet and Lidl remain my standbys, but I find some good coupons at CVS. Today they sent me a coupon for a Starbucks Frappuccino from their ready-to-drink cooler for $1.49. I had $1 in Extra Bucks expiring today so I got the coffee beverage for 49 cents in food stamps.

Why does SNAP pay for candy and bottles of Frappuccino but there is no program to pay for bath soap, laundry supplies or toilet paper? One friend remarked that poor people must not be allowed to be clean.

So, now that I’m employed again these are issues I shouldn’t have to contemplate much longer.

And I suppose eventually StitchFix might ask me to stop blogging about them but I hope not— I’m a wholesome blogger with a long history in the public relations and journalism field.

But I’m so excited about hitting the 128 number and we had Thanksgiving dinner at work!

Happy Fluffy Day

Happy Friday, my faithful and potentially new readers!

I started today somehow determine to clean my room and perform the weekly maintenance on my roomba that should have been done at least three months ago.

That took a lot of time and energy, especially since my rib is still bothering me from my fall last Friday. This is one of the many things that keeps life spicy when you have cerebral palsy.

But the unseasonably warm weather and everything fluffy kept me happy amidst my chores.

Then my silly Goffins cockatoo, Nala, decided to dive into her water bowl.

Silly bird

I received a text from one of my neighbors inviting me over for coffee, so I took my filthy self, my quince jelly and my last two English muffins and enjoyed some chit chatting with my other half (she owns the other half of my double). And Buddy, her dog, was handsome as always.

Buddy

Then I heard from another neighbor, Sobaka’s mom, that “cookie walk” could be scheduled for about 11:15. Cookie walk is a trip around the neighborhood where we visit with another neighbor’s mom and step dad as we collect treats for the dog.

We decided to do errands together with me as chauffeur. After a trip to the ever amazing Carmelcorn in downtown Easton (I did not go in— she who has a BMI of almost 27 and no income does not need candy), we finished our outing with a stop to CVS where I needed to grab my prescription and some food deals.

I came home and made some DiGiorno frozen pizza. Teenager #1 and I agree that the stuffed crust on the stuffed crust DiGiorno was delicious, but the pizza was lackluster. The four cheese DiGiorno was incredible.

As if that wasn’t enough goodness from today, I received a text from Zeus and Apollo’s new mom. She says they are doing well. And sent photos!

She has no idea how happy her text made me. This is some of what she had to say:

I wanted to tell you these little kitties are amazing. They are fearless even around our other kitties. So far everyone seems to be getting along , they are very curious about each other. The little ones are still timid to get pets but took treats and played.

The times they are a-changing

So, today is my estranged husband’s 46th birthday. Our daughter— the teenager— worked very hard on a custom gift.

She had $1.80 to her name and wanted to go to Dollar Tree and purchase wrappings.

I told her I could get her to $2.12 for tissue paper and a gift bag.

Now I keep a change purse separate from my wallet. But I usually leave it in my car. I also keep a half-pint “jelly” mason jar in center console in my car for my quarters. Because I believe in “parking quarters.” I think that shows how old I am.

I also keep a pint-sized canning jar in the kitchen for the spare change I forget to leave in the car or the coins that go through the wash or fall in the couch.

I always use that money at Dollar Tree, because even when you’re broke you can afford something at The Dollar Tree using the change from the jar.

So I took the jar with me into the store.

I gave the teenager enough change to have $3.18. That way she could also get a bow.

The cashier said she’d rather have coins than the teen’s dollar.

And then she asked what I had in the jar.

I told her that was my change.

“We buy change,” she said.

And the look in her eye was like I was gripping a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I was holding a jar of nickels, dimes and pennies.

The line was getting very long but I counted out a dollar in small change and took my daughter’s paper money back.

Manic Monday … Nan and Angel style

Second week of Band Camp for the teenager and somehow I not only volunteered to drive her and the marching baritone to the high school but I also conned my good friend Nan, my crazy blind compatriot, into breakfast before our regular work session.

So I got up at 7:10 a.m., after the teenager did all the work with the menagerie, slapped on some clothes, took my last antibiotic and headed out the door by 7:40 a.m.

The routine with Nan is simple, yet deliciously complex, I pick her up and we drive to a shady spot in the parking lot of her apartment building to peruse coupons and loyalty deals on the various apps.

Now, Nan loves chai. We both love food, the worse for our health, the better. Okay perhaps that is a joke. Maybe. It’s free coffee Monday at Dunkin. And we have coupons for $2 off a breakfast combo at Wendy’s.

I plot a plan.

I really want to try the chicken biscuit at Wendy’s. Nan and I know we love the seasoned breakfast potatoes at Wendy’s.

So, our first stop was Wendy’s. We ordered a chicken biscuit with honey butter combo, making the potatoes a medium (which honestly was too many potatoes even for the two of us) and an unsweetened iced tea. The bill was $3.70. I had $3 cash and Nan had the 70 cents.

Now, I know, that’s only breakfast for 1 person. We then headed to Dunkin for my free medium iced coffee and to see if they still have chai— you see they took it off the menu.

We got the iced tea in case Dunkin really didn’t have chai.

I used the Dunkin mobile app to order the 2 for $3 sausage-egg-and-cheese wraps because Nan likes them. They are easy to eat in the car. And then I could get my free coffee. So that was $3.18. We saved the last egg wrap for the teenager.

Then at the speaker of the drove-thru we asked if they still had the chai, and they did. We ordered a medium hot chai and a cup with ice so I could ice it for Nan. That cost $3.79, as they had to charge us for the second cup.

They total for all the food was about $11 and we had breakfast for three people.

I loved the chicken biscuit with honey butter.

Phase One of our morning complete. Nan and I returned to my house to submit some essays and strategize future creative endeavors.

And then our friend Joan joins us. Neither one of us has seen Joan in a decade. Joan is another wickedly smart and multi-talented woman, dabbling and exploring the so many ways to express the beauty of this world: short stories, photography and music.

Joan, Nan and I all met as members of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group when the teenager was still “the baby.”

A lot of my good friends came from that group.

Angel, Nala, Misty

And Joan also brought the sweetest, ripest smelling melon I have held in my arms in months. Did she notice how much fresh fruit cup I ate in the hospital?

The teenager came home for lunch break (from band camp), Joan departed and we crated our three male fosters for neutering tonight. Except Zeus looks like a girl now.

Apollo

Apollo and Hermes both still have infected eyes and coughs so we were told to bring Artemis instead since she was ready for a forever home.

I went into the teenager’s room and Hermes had escaped his crate!

I let Apollo out, and cleaned cat boxes while on hold with Capital One Auto Financing to finish my application to refinance the last 40 months of my auto loan and drop $50/month from my payment without extending the life of the loan. I owe $7,690 and some odd cents.

With my auto loan approved, I slipped sweet little Artemis into the crate. Remember if she charms you, you can apply to adopt her through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Artemis purring

On the way to Artemis’ rendezvous point, I received a phone call from Capital Blue Cross, my medical insurer. This was my second medical phone call of the day as the hand specialist overseeing my case called me to request a follow-up even though my hospital discharge instructions said I only needed to see my family physician at Medical Associates of Bethlehem.

I have that appointment scheduled for Wednesday, and now the hand specialist for the following Monday. On the phone was my case manager from the insurance company. She sounded pleased that I was healing well and on top of everything. She will call again next Tuesday.

Upon delivering Artemis and retrieving the teenager, we came home and I finally had Brussel sprouts. When I was admitted to the hospital last week I had missed them by a couple hours as part of the Monday lunch special.

Discount Cookies

Today’s haul

Sometimes your days don’t go as planned. I thought I’d get up, feed the pets, and head to the Dollar Tree to get our foster kittens some sardines to soften their tender feline hearts.

The thunderstorm scared the cockatoo, and the rain must have slowed me down as I finished feeding the pets and having a coffee on the porch at 10 a.m.

But Sunday is the day of rest, so that’s okay.

I headed to the Dollar Tree and spent $9.

  • Three cans of sardines
  • 1 small box of generic golden crisp cereal or “sugar crisp” as it was called in the 1980s
  • 1 four-pack of individual boxes of cereal
  • 2 packs of Chips Ahoy sandwich cookies
  • 2 bags of Cajun gator dill potato chips
  • 1 jar mayonnaise

Then I went to the Grocery Outlet where for $14.75 I got everything else in the photo. Now, note, this is all processed breakfast foods and various snacks as the teenager starts band camp tomorrow and I know she will need to get something in her system at 7 a.m. and she will come home starved.

So snacks. And cereal. And Pop Tarts.

When I got home the teenager and I decided to try the Doozie cookie bar and the Sour Patch Kid cookies.

The results were exactly as I expected.

The teenager loved the Doozie bar. It was a cookie dough bar— so if you love edible cookie dough this was a nice treat. I thought it was too big for one sitting, that the sweetness got to be too much. I’m sure the teenager disagrees.

Doozie Birthday Cake Edible Cookie Dough Bar

I purchased three of these for 29 cents.

Now the Chips Ahoy cookies, with Sour Patch Kids, were definitely a purchase for me. I bought them at the Dollar Tree.

They tasted like sugar cookies with candy in them.

I liked them. The teenager did not.

Chips Ahoy Special Edition Sour Patch Kids

CVS magic

I am not an “extreme couponer” and I hate the whole concept of “extreme couponing.” Life experience has taught me to be frugal, but *living* life has taught me that reading 5 newspapers to get a few extra bottles of Tide raises the question of how much is my time and my happiness worth?

When stores first starting using loyalty cards, I hated the concept. I still hate cards. But customer loyalty apps are different. I already have my phone. These apps also allow me to shop and plan my shopping trips. Target Circle, like many others, combines their coupons, payment options (even when in the store), circulars, and stock all in one place. I can scan items to see if there’s a deal while in the store and, of course, they customize offers to cater to my shopping habits.

The Lidl app allows me to make a shopping list (as does Target but I like Lidl’s list organization system better) and rewards me based on how much money I spend. Last month I earned a 30% off sliced cheese coupon! So I bought extra cheese. We might be living on toasted cheese sandwiches with my upcoming job loss.

I sign up for the emails and while a lot of them get annoying, some of them alert me to major deals on my household staples.

And that is what happened with CVS. They sent me a coupon for the gallon bottle of Arizona iced tea for $1.66 cents. The teenager has a weakness for Arizona iced tea so I let her buy some as an occasional treat.

I texted her the offer, and asked her if she wanted to walk to CVS to redeem it. She declined.

CVS sent a 40% off one item coupon. I loaded it to my card because you never know when you’ll end up in CVS for a health emergency.

The teenager also loves Cinnamon Toast Crunch and had a craving for Honey Nut Cheerios. Now I view cereal as an occasional emergency snack, not as breakfast. But the teen is a convert to the cereal-to-start-the-day camp.

Now I know CVS regularly has regular cereal sales.

Yesterday they sent me a coupon. “One day only! General Mills Cereal! $1.99!”

And the photo featured Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honey Nut Cheerios.

I texted the teenager.

She came downstairs. When I told her that I would buy both cereals, she volunteered to walk to CVS. I handed her my debit card. She refused it. “Mom, it’s $4.”

I asked her if there was anything else she needed. She said no, but she might buy iced tea. I thought, “drats. We missed that iced tea offer.” I told her she could use the 40% off coupon if the iced tea was full price.

She came home with the gallon of iced tea, the two boxes of cereal, and a bag of Doritos. I asked her how much she spent.

“$7,” she said, “but that doesn’t make sense. This is $14 worth of stuff. At least.”

Apparently I also had a snacks/drink coupon I forgot about that also saved us 85 cents.

So we talked about it, and I asked her if she was starting to get my system. She said no. Not at all.

As far as she understood, she merely said she wanted to go to CVS, I looked at the app and put coupons on, she randomly grabbed what she wanted, and told the clerk at the register to use all the coupons.

Magic.

We have a jumper! (This post jumps around)

I’ve been allowing myself to sleep in a bit and these days I’m waking up between 6:15 and 6:30. I lay in bed sometimes until almost 7, but I’m always dressed, with pants and everything, and at my desk with a hot cup of coffee by 8:30.

I’ve enjoyed sharing an office with my birds— three budgies and a Goffin’s cockatoo—all of whom must be enjoying the electronic swing I listen to at my desk and the bird playground I have assembled for them.

Yes, that’s the teenager’s kitten who refused to get out of the cockatoo’s cage.

Now, when Nala the cockatoo destroys toys I save the salvageable pieces and put them in these spare dishes and she plays with them and throws them at the cats.

I think I have some new toys coming for the parakeets, and I also need to order them more ladders and perches because they have suddenly destroyed everything in their cage.

Work passed easily, I feel like I was quite organized and productive. And I’m off tomorrow. I took an unplanned paid time off to take care of some health issues. So it will be part trip to the pharmacy, part virtual doctor visit and part mental health day.

There’s a contact we have at work at a local company that is the point person for a rather large food drive that benefits our agency. Because of the state lockdown, they can’t host this food drive so the employees contributed cash instead, but she didn’t want to mail it and our offices are closed.

So the teenager and I took a road trip. It’s strange when a 25-mile round trip to the next town and back feels like a major outing. I donned my mask, put on my gloves and we exchanged an envelope of cash in the parking lot.

That might be the closest I will ever come to feeling like a drug dealer. Nope, scratch that. I’ve driven around with a trunk full of Girl Scout cookies.

My teenager and I have the best conversations while in the car. We talked a lot about financial responsibility and budgeting and how important it will be for her to determine her own style of fiscal management. She admires my discipline, chicanery and creativity with making my money work for me.

I taught her about different ways to trick yourself into putting money into savings. The first of course is to set up automatic transfers. Another is to have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into savings.

The easiest is to always, as soon as you take a new job, decide on a number of how much goes into retirement if your job offers a retirement plan. That way before you even see how much your take home pay is, the money goes into your future.

And if your job doesn’t have retirement options, go to your bank and contribute to an IRA. Every year. Because money saved when you are young goes far.

That motivated me to go ahead and take the plunge and use that last $1,000 of my stimulus check that I had put into savings and use it to prepay for 400 gallons of fuel oil for next winter’s heat at $2.199.

That was painful. But at least it’s over. Next I need to contact the dentist about the $859 bill they sent me for my crown. My insurance company didn’t cover anything but $17. I’m annoyed because the dentist thought they’d pay 50%, the tooth still isn’t right AND the bill they sent didn’t include the credit for the $394 I already paid.

But paying for the fuel oil was enough adulting for today.

The teenager made an amazing steak dinner.

And Nala loves onion rings.

The teenager discovered, because I sent her an Instagram post, that The Attic thrift store has an online sale and bid on a red dress. That she won.

I love the ingenuity our local small businesses are showing. I hope it continues after the lockdown ends.

Go follow AtticClothes

Last but certainly not least, I tried this Cascara tea which is supposedly full of antioxidants and it tasted really good.