Lessons learned about myself

It is 12:40 a.m. My daughter bought me ice cream— low fat diet really freezer burned ice cream but ice cream. I still need to shower. Opie, our three-legged cancer survivor cat, has a 10:45 a.m. vet appointment for the suspicious growth on his neck.

In my life, I never have time to get bored. Why in the last 24-hours, I’ve worked two work centers at the Bizzy Hizzy. I’ve also signed up for the employee store. I almost rescued a 17-year-old Maine Coon cat named Tiny (isn’t that the best name for a Maine Coon).

I had a chiropractor appointment, and she is just as excited about the recent improvements in my body as I am. I wrote a poem. Had my portrait taken. Did some foundation research for the cat foster/rescue/TNR group with whom I volunteer.

I was asked to trim the nails of a former neighbor’s cat. And I swung by the Grocery Outlet.

Even amid all this craziness— I contemplated some lessons I have learned about myself.

1. To get a good photo of me, find props. I am an eccentric person so when it comes time to take a photo, toss me an umbrella, cat, bird, etc., to see my personality.

Photo by Joan Z

2. I don’t have the patience for rescue work. I love to help people and animals, but when someone reaches out for help and either doesn’t accept it or makes it impossible to work with them, I lose all empathy.

3. I’ll never be the fastest, but I am dependable and flexible. I work in a metrics-driven warehouse. I will never be super fast and therefore efficient but so far, my supervisors seem to value my flexibility and good attitude. Which is ironic when my last boss called me “hostile.”

Which brings me to my last lesson from today.

4. Others fear you will display the same bad behavior they do. If someone has an insecurity or weakness in a certain area, they may treat you as if you have the same flaw. I once had a boss who literally removed all the paper and pens from my desk because she didn’t trust my ability to listen and take notes at the same time— despite my fifteen year career as a print journalist. And then I noticed that she only took notes when no one was speaking.

The same sort of thing may come into play if someone thinks your idea won’t work— they may believe that they would not be able to do it, so therefore you won’t succeed. That’s when you have to detail the steps and build confidence.

Pizza at George’s

My teenagers and I have been craving pizza so I told them that if we survived this crazy first week of mandatory overtime at my job we would order pizza Saturday night.

Then I asked them if they’d rather go for pizza.

What a novel idea in this pandemic world.

I called them from the car as I drove home from the warehouse— because teenager #2 scrubbed up the dining room table to feed us something “sweet and yummy” procured via her actual maternal unit.

“Hey, guys, are we still going out for pizza?”

They had forgotten but teenagers are always ready to go out for pizza.

George’s is one of our local pizza joints, about a mile from the house. They have certain dishes, like their homemade vodka sauce (which you can order by the quart), which are satiating comfort foods. They had a 12” one-topping pizza for $6 that I nicknamed the “date night” pizza because it’s perfect for two people to share. They also have two sizes of cannoli which thrills teenager #1.

They once made me an entire pot of coffee because I ordered it late in the day and they offered to let me take the rest home.

I ordered, with the teenagers’ help, two of the little pizzas— one with green peppers and the other with black olives. We also ordered calamari, garlic knots and breaded cauliflower. Only I could get that many vegetables into pizza night.

After a very long day and an even longer week, it felt good to share this experience with the teens. Teen #2, at my goading, went out to the car and got $1 in quarters for each of them to use as they wished. I thought one of them would play pinball.

Teen #1 got one gumball and three bouncy balls.

Teen #2 chose expanding dinosaurs. They now reside in a cup of water at the bathroom sink.

The Tudors, sweating sickness and Covid whiners

Today is day 10 of my post-diagnosis Covid 19 isolation. I am now watching The Tudors on Netflix, struck by the similarities between the Coronavirus pandemic and the 16th Century sweating sickness.

I feel like there is so much not known about Covid-19 and I suspect many people know more than they can admit. But the medical treatments, anecdotal layman wisdom and people’s behavior remind me of these scenes depicting King Henry VIII’s medical crisis.

My symptoms are still dizziness and a dry cough, a congested head and weakness. And chapped lips.

I catch a chill easily, and sometimes the smallest actions wind me.

I think the general populace puts too much security in flimsy masks, and gives not enough thought to social distancing. I think the various government tactics to curb the pandemic cater to major corporations and starve small business.

And it saddens me that people will flock to WalMart or order from Amazon, but not mail order from a small local business or buy gift cards for small merchants.

It also saddens me that so much of society can really on DoorDash or GrubHub, but not call your favorite local restaurant and order take out.

I believe I caught the Coronavirus at work, despite all the precautions to “keep us safe.” Because despite the gloves, the masks, the nurse, the sanitizer spray, and working socially distant, the reality is there are 70 or more of us in one room at the same time, unmasked, eating and talking for each of our three daily breaks.

The vaccine has arrived. And I wish it were — what do they call it— a reactive vaccine vs a mRNA vaccine. Perhaps I am old-fashioned in my thinking.

So I suppose I am grateful to have caught Coronavirus and see how my body reacts. I have had the chance to develop my own antibodies. And no one else in my family for sick so I am also grateful for that.

I am deeply saddened that others have not had the same privilege that I have. I am saddened that people I love have lost people they love.

It is a confusing time.

So my best advice would be to do your own research, think about how viruses work and make the decisions that keep you and your family safe. And care for your neighbors and support local business in ways you can.

Pancakes and John Rosemond

I wanted to write this last night when I got home from the Bizzy Hizzy but I had forgotten my phone charger in the car and wanted to preserve my battery.

After completing another week at Stitch Fix, (where I listened to the Indicator’s episode on “The Beige Book” from the federal reserve bank and learned about pandemic-fueled growth in the warehouse sector as I worked my new warehousing job performing inbound processing functions), I mixed myself a cocktail— Ciroc Vodka, coconut seltzer and bubblegum A-Treat. If you missed our taste test of the A-Treat, you can see it on You Tube here: Bubble Gum?

Speaking of podcasts, last night I listened to Trevor Noah joke about James Bond, an exploration of what happened to a Van Gogh painting that wasn’t a good Van Gogh (Carnation in a Vase, I believe) and rediscovered John Rosemond, the syndicated parenting expert columnist who is a self-described “renegade family therapist who believes in the Bible not psychology.”

Now, my estranged husband reminds me that he believes we knew that Rosemond was a conservative Bible-thumper, but last night hearing him in a radio program where he could speak his views freely was a “wow” moment.

I fully believe in his advice and agree with his philosophy that parents have a duty to prepare their children to be emotionally “sturdy” adults and that discipline comes when adults maintain an authoritative attitude that commands respect versus employing certain trendy (even when “research-based” methods). I enjoyed his podcasts. Out of five stars:

👍👍👍👍👍

Podcasts have left me on the fence about a lot of hosts, but I have listened to people like football player/broadcaster Emmanuel Acho on his show Armchair Expert and learned many new perspectives.

Earlier yesterday, since teenager #1 is all cyber now, we spent lunch hour getting pancakes. It was the first time in almost 9 months we went out together and sat in a restaurant together/alone for a meal.

Nothing beats buttermilk pancakes in the teenager’s eyes and I had a magnificent eggs Benedict Florentine with tomato and garlic. I can’t wait to have it again.

The Strongest Man in History

I spent today binge-watching The Strongest Man in History, a History Channel series where competitive strong men Robert Oberst, Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw and Nick Best try to replicate some of the most legendary strong man feats in history.

Left to right: Shaw, Hall, Best and Oberst

Now, at first I scoffed at the thought of professional strong men in a History Channel documentary series but I have to admit; they did at extraordinary job. The show was witty, had a great historical depth, and allowed the viewer to see a different side of these athletes— and for me, it offered a chance to see just how intelligent and athletic these men are.

It made me lament how far I’ve left myself go with my own fitness goals, and I could offer excuses but excuses remain excuses.

I’m sad that I finished everything series.

And I’m very impressed with Nick Best, who, at 50, keeps up with the younger men.

Podcasts and Sunday spirit

My Rough Start to the Day

I thought today would be a laid back day doing little things around the house getting ready for the week ahead and maybe resting.

I woke from what should have been a good dream drenched in sweat and saddened— what was the dream? A friend gave me a hug. It’s been so long since someone I wasn’t related to gave me a hug that in the dream I started to cry.

And that made me wake up feeling isolated and alone.

And then my roomba tried to crawl under the bed and die— it was clogged up with so much cat hair the wheels and spinning parts had made thread out of it.

The cockatoo pooped on me. The parakeets flew out of their cage when I gave them food and water. The fluffy kittens are climbing curtains and managing to get to the top of the window molding to chase the budgies.

And now I need to take the fluffies to the vet to have them be given the all clear to be adopted. These are precious, cuddly kittens with gorgeous long hair and I fear that every day they are not listed on that web site is just detrimental to them.

So I started to cry.

I can’t even leave my bedroom until I get the parakeets safely in their cage but Boo-boo is being stubborn.

I have a headache because it’s past noon and I haven’t had any water or food yet today. a chicken finger basket from DQ would sure make my feel better but I lost four pounds with the new job and gained five this weekend.

So to distract myself, I want to tell you about podcasts.

The Actual Part that talks about Podcasts

Of course, the type of day it has been I totally forgot I had already started this blog post, and now I did it over. Sigh.

From my first attempt at this…At work, we are allowed to wear one earphone and listen to music or podcasts on our phones. In the first week, I just listened to the very random music on the speakers overhead in the warehouse.

Then I asked the teenager if I could borrow the generic AirPods she bought at the dollar store (if the kittens hadn’t eaten them). I also bought my own pair at the dollar store, so now I could experiment.

I signed up for every random podcast… after catching up with my friend William Prystauk’s podcast The Last Knock, once listed in Entertainment Weekly as one of the best horror movie podcasts out there.

I’ve rediscovered my old favorite Car Talk, which is always enjoyable regardless of your connection/experience with cars. My neighbor recommended some like The Indicator (snippets on economics) and Ted Talks Daily. The range of topics on both make it very thought provoking. Ted Talks allows me to be introspective and The Indicator gives me a chance to gain more insight into capitalist American society.

I’ve started following Netflix is a Joke because I love stand-ups comedians. I subscribed to the Daily Show with Trevor Noah because I am a huge Trevor Noah fan.

I rejected the Duncan Trussell Family Hour. I thought it would be fun since it’s new agey and edgy but the final straw was the opening song they wrote about life as an earbud singing about being thrust in the pubic hair of your ear. I also rejected Comedy Bang Bang, content and interviews were fine but it just seemed too long and not funny enough.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first episode of Seeking Witchcraft as they discussed Alex Crowley. I learned a lot and their broader discussion of building oneself and spirituality meant a lot to me.

My other favorites so far are American Innovations, where on a recent episode I learned about Alexander Graham Bell’s life and the science behind the telephone. I listened to several parts of the Do No Harm series which followed the plight of several families who wrongly had their children removed by the state.

Wondery has a magnificent program called This Imagined Life where they tell a second person account of a famous person’s life trying to get “you” to guess who “you” are. I learned about Jackie Robinson and Nora Ephron so far.

I still have many more to try, and if you have a recommendation let me know as I can listen about 7 hours a day.

Supermarket-themed television

So I’m constantly on the lookout for brainless television for when I am resting or folding the mountains of wash created by the two teenagers living in my home.

Now that I’m working in the warehouse at Stitch Fix, I need something to help me unwind.

And of course I love food and grocery shopping… it seemed natural that I would explore some of the supermarket-themed television programs available via streaming.

All are available on Hulu.

Shows will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5.

Supermarket sweep— I heard that this game show had a remake. I watched one episode and while the host (Leslie Jones) had her amusing moments, the show itself seemed cheesy in the wrong way. It just wasn’t entertaining.

👍👍

Supermarket stake out— This was a fabulous concept and out of these three programs, I enjoyed this one the most. The concept is original, challenging chefs to buy groceries from shoppers leaving the stores. In some challenges, they have to buy blind. Each episode is so similar though it’s not a show you can binge.

👍👍👍👍

Guy’s Grocery Games— Guy Fiore hosts this game show where challenges for chefs include skee balling for entree choices or trying to make a classic summer dish with ingredients like powdered doughnuts. Just to silly and ruins the full capabilities of the competitors.

👍👍👍

What I’m watching

It’s time for an update on What Angel is Watching. Other than foster kittens. I watch them eat, I watch them sleep, I watch them look at me suspiciously. The Roman Pride kittens ate THREE cans of cat food in front of me today. For breakfast.

Minerva, Mars, Vesta, Jupiter

They must be going through a growth spurt.

So, even though I am job hunting and now have four volunteer responsibilities (foster kitten mom for FURR, communications director for ASPIRE to Autonomy, trustee at my local library and now member of the drug and alcohol board at the county level… and an informal member of the social justice committee at the YWCA of Bethlehem… so maybe 5…) and have two teen girls at home who also participate in marching band, I occasionally have time to watch some programming usually while folding laundry or late at night waiting for the dishwasher to finish.

This is what I have recently watched or tried to watch:

  1. The Social Dilemma — I already came to the conclusion that Netflix makes boring documentaries. This one is no exception. Well, except maybe they finally have watched some of their own documentaries and know how truly dull they are. I say this because they added a dramatization of a fake family to demonstrate their point and made some elaborate “Matrix” vibe scenes when discussing the effects of social media. It makes the awkward sensation of watching a Netflix documentary even more uncomfortable. The content of course is good, but if you hadn’t thought about how social media manipulates you and your life, well you must either be one of the brainwashed masses or live off-the-grid.
  2. The Kitten Lady— since we work with feral kittens, we’ve been watching The Kitten Lady on YouTube to gather some new techniques on socializing our fosters.
  3. Jackson Galaxy/Cat Mojo— Another YouTube personality with more cat information. Both of these people are a little vibrant and off-kilter.
  4. Diana: In her Own Words— Another slow-paced Netflix documentary I didn’t finish. This documentary uses recordings of interviews done with the princess in secret. Fascinating and compelling topic but dry in execution.
  5. Fight the New Drug (Human Trafficking stories)— These 5-10 minute videos were recommended on YouTube and I enjoyed their presentation, though the content is sad. I didn’t research the organization to see how they put together these shorts.
  6. Real Families: Thalidomide Disaster Survivors Share their Fight to Get Justice— This is a feature-length documentary on YouTube about the Thalidomide babies of the early Sixties. I found it much better done than anything on Netflix.

Inspired by Vu Le, Nonprofit AF

I attended a Zoom Meeting today with Vu Le of Nonprofit AF hosted by The Gruvin Foundation. Now I know it seems odd for a writer and communicator from the Lehigh Valley to spend time with a foundation focused on Ocean County, N.J., but I had a hunch Vu Le would have a message that transcended geography.

But before I get how right I was, let me celebrate the fact that I attended the meeting in true 2020 remote work fashion—

My Zoom Face

While below the waist, I spotted pajamas.

Let me just say that Vu Le speaks the truth and boldly proclaims what those of us who rely on traditional nonprofit institutions to employ us cannot say.

It’s time for the nonprofit sector to be bolder and more assertive.

Vu Le, Nonprofit AF

He so eloquently described what could be improved about the nonprofit sector. From the basic concepts such as fundraisers should not be judged on how much money they bring in and we should reflect upon the greatest needs in the community versus pushing our own mission.

Le advocates for a change in the ecosystem so that nonprofits stop functioning in silos and foundations and philanthropists stop generating mistrust and wasting time and resources.

For instance, Le reminds us all that GRANT PROPOSALS are a WASTE OF TIME since most never get funded. He poses the question— what if nonprofits employed the same tactics as funders?

A hungry family comes to the food pantry. Before they receive food they have to prepare the following:

  1. Compose an essay detailing how hungry they are.
  2. Include a logic model of exactly how all food will be used.
  3. Prepare outcomes of how this food will benefit your children.

We don’t do that, right?

So, Le asks, why do funders do it to us?

He compares the current nonprofit environment to The Hunger Games and like the book series, he challenges those in the sector to end the game and take down the system.

Vu Le speaking, hosted by Gruvin Foundation

Some more of his simple but mind blowing, completely logical ideas to improve inequality in this country:

  • The “easiest” way to fix society is to elect more women of color. It’s the only way to balance the voice is old white men.
  • The wealthy need to pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Remove corporate influence from politics.
  • Change the two-sided narrative so it’s harder to argue.

Then he reminded us all of this fact: If most social injustice and issues that nonprofits seek to correct effect primarily people of color, why is it that typically…

Non profit boards are white

Non profit staff is white

Donors are white

So white people should allow more people of color decision-making capacity in programs to benefit them. To continue to paraphrase Le, white folks need to stop taking jobs as executive directors for programs that don’t have any impact on white people.

And if funders are only participating in philanthropy to receive the tax breaks, they need to accept that the money is no longer theirs. They need to allow those communities facing the issues at hand to make decisions on how it is spent.

And one of the best ways to promote change in the sector is to encourage funders to give general operating expense funds and let the people doing the work decide where it is needed.

Again, these ideas are not mine but belong to Vu Le of the blog “Nonprofit AF.”

Owning up and ripping Sheetz a new one

First off, before I even start this entry let me give my poor customer service representative Justin a shout out for his professionalism, patience and calm.

Second, before I get too far let me admit that I have now reached my heaviest ever weight, about ten pounds heavier than my natural set point with no muscle tone left. Push-ups, planks and heel-touch crunches used to be my jam– I could do 20 push-ups, a sixty-second plank and 100 heel touches without feeling tired or compromised.

At one point I had visible abdominal muscles, then I had abdominal muscles like stone beneath a layer of fat. That is now done. I struggle to walk up hill. I have no muscle tone. Where I once used 25-pound dumbbells for my bicep curls, I now huff and puff with ten.

This past year has been cruel.

This is the owning up portion of today’s blog. Yesterday, I woke up exhausted and hot but still motivated myself to do an ab workout. But then, I didn’t quite meet my step goal. And ate half a Papa John’s pizza and an order of their jalapeno popper bread bites. I meant to share them with the teenager but they were way too spicy. And I ate them all, even though they were kinda gross.

Jalapeño popper bread bites

I blame Dominos for the pizza binge as they sent me a push notification that they had two new pizzas–chicken taco and cheeseburger–but both turned out to sound boring and the $5.99 promotion seemed unavailable so rather than order my free two topping I spent $26 at Papa Johns.

The Zesty Italian or Tangy Italian, or whatever pie it was, was delicious in that trashy kind of way (though I hate Papa John’s tomato sauce I am reminded now). And the meal has led to a type of intestinal distress I don’t normally experience. I also gained 3 pounds.

The teenager tells me the pizza was good, but Dominos is better in her adolescent opinion.

Speaking of adolescent behavior, the teenager went back-to-school shopping with the paternal grandparents. She wanted a milkshake from Sheetz for lunch and her grandparents vetoed that and took her to a diner she does not like. I will withhold the name here as it is a fairly popular spot.

So she came home a little upset over the meal situation as she had just had “the worst quesadilla of my life.” She pined for that milkshake as it is 90+ degrees outside and she has marching band tonight.

“Mom,” she said. “If you buy me a milkshake at Sheetz, I won’t eat anything else today.”

I told her to throw in some extra chores and we could talk. She agreed. I downloaded the Sheetz app as these days, I don’t go anywhere without looking for coupons. I went to create my Sheetz account. Now, my husband has the Sheetz card. I have the Sheetz key ring.

The Sheetz card has a security code that the key ring does not.

You need the security card. The app forces me to call customer service.

Customer service tells me I have to find my security code, have my husband call them and say it’s okay, or use the general random Sheetz card.

To which I say, “If I use a random card, I won’t get the points. Isn’t that the point of the loyalty app?”

I launch into a fiery tirade. Because our Sheetz card/account is in my husband’s name, I cannot log into the Sheetz app. I find it odd that a loyalty app would have such strict security. I merely want to look for coupons and then go buy my daughter a milkshake.

Well, poor talented and patient Justin the Customer Service rep tells me, some people have credit card information in the app.

Yes, I say, but this one does not, because this account has never downloaded the app. So it does not have anything in it. I added that I can tell him my husband’s birthday and his social security number and probably the password he used if we ever tried to set up an online account. But he still needs my husband’s permission.

So I tell him that I refinanced my car over the phone the other day, and that I stayed on the line while the previous loan holder talked to my new financer. That I gave them my permission to share my account information with my new bank.

If I can do that over the phone, I should be able to buy a damn milkshake for my kid.

As a compromise, he called my husband at work and asked if he was allowed to give me access to our Sheetz loyalty account. My husband, of course, said yes.

He told the teenager via text that the customer service people didn’t verify his identity. They asked for no proof that he was indeed my husband.

Now let me add that if I were vindictive, because after all my husband and I have been separated for 14 months, why would I go to the trouble to steal his Sheetz loyalty number which is 16 digits, hack into his account, and run up his credit card with Sheetz purchases? Perhaps I would go squander his non-existent stockpile of reward points.

The app apprised me that we had 523 loyalty reward points and Sheetz requires 500 for a free regular milkshake.

I bought myself a pretzel with nacho cheese sauce and while the cheese sauce had a barely perceptible layer of spice to it, it had no flavor whatsoever.

The teenager enjoyed her milkshake.

Their mobile order system is very convenient.