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.

Urban Landscape Wooded Escape

Today, the teenager took Gayle and I to the lower end of her special creek. It’s the next journey as part of our virtual El Camino pilgrimage meant to foster spiritual growth and motivate our out-of-shape butts toward better fitness.

The teenager “slopped” in the creek (I think that’s the official Pennsylvania Dutch term for it) and mined for spiritual rocks.

The water was crystal clear even though the setting was marred with litter and debris. Birds sang gleefully as the highway noise competed for attention.

When we returned to my house, about 7,000 steps later, Gayle—the agnostic in our group— lamented that she’s never had a spiritual experience while walking, no breakthrough movements or epiphanies. I suggested that life didn’t work that way, at least not for me. My own personal truth comes in increments.

Then we turned the discussion to fitness and trying to stay motivated to be more active. We both said we’re bad at doing anything on our own.

And then we heard the ice cream truck. The teenager raced for the door as Gayle and I raced for our wallets.

That sure motivated us.

The Tony’s ice cream truck in pink and white has multiple things I need to try.

Somehow, the ice cream truck made me feel alive. Laughing with my daughter over the crazy flavors in the sour patch kid ice cream. Standing in the street, fully enjoying the urban summer experience.

Laughter abounding.

The Rocking Chair

When I was a girl, our house had a fairly plain rocking chair in the living room.

As a girl, I never really thought about it.

And then, when I got pregnant with the now teenager, my friend gave me a rocking chair that was the same basic rocking chair.

I was tickled.

My mother-in-law made cushions for it to match the enchanted forest-themed nursery. (The teenager has never painted over the mural.)

Gradually, when breastfeeding and rocking a grumpy baby was no longer a thing, the rocking chair went down stairs.

The cats like it.

And as the house seems to get smaller, now the chair is on the enclosed sun porch.

Do you know how hairy this chair gets with four cats?

I finally realized today that I could remove the cushions, not just vacuum them. After all, my mother-in-law made the cushions so we could be comfortable with the baby.

The baby just turned 16.

I removed the cushions. I’ll wash the covers and maybe I’ll put them back, maybe I won’t.

How many of us cling to habits or things because we just haven’t realized that we don’t need them or that they don’t serve a purpose?

The rocking chair looks good bare. More appropriate for the porch.

Sometimes we need to stop for a minute and learn to recognize when we are functioning on auto-pilot and not in response to our current environment or situation.

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.

Early Fitness Wins

The teenager has committed herself to her fitness goals at the same time that I have to use some serious discipline on my own behalf.

As the woman in her mid-forties with lower body cerebral palsy and a history of anemia, I have to join her.

The stress of my job has impacted my sleep and my blood pressure and the exhaustion that comes everything—from turning to various comfort eating techniques, drinking too much coffee and working too hard—leads to me not getting enough steps and not doing cardio or weight training.

That makes me look different, feel different and act different.

I like being a strong, fit woman, even if my body isn’t athletic.

My daughter informed me that she can’t work out with me. She doesn’t want her success or failure to have anything to do with anything other than herself. I respect that heartily, but I hope soon we can at least go to the gym together.

She downloaded the Instafitness app onto her phone. I purchased this app for $5 six years ago and it helped me make my body sleek and lean. I went all the way from 142 pounds to 110. That was too thin.

By the way, today I’m 142 pounds.

But why we like Instafitness— it divides workouts several ways:

  • By body group
  • By difficulty
  • By equipment (body weight exercises, dumbbells, and resistance band)
  • Some are labeled as weight loss

Each work out ranges from 10-20 minutes so you can mix and match to build a routine.

Today I tried an arm workout on FitOn. It was a 10-minute burnout session for upper body. I liked how complete it was, but man, I was not prepared for ten minutes of non-stop high intensity dumbbell pounding.

So far, and the reality of our need to get in shape has only really hit us this week:

  • We have made smarter food choices.
  • We have eaten most of the remaining “junk” in the house.
  • I have eaten less refined white carbs.
  • I have eaten more fruits and veggies.
  • My steps were averaging a sedentary 2,000 to 4,000 a day; now I am in the neighborhood of 6,000 to 8,000.
  • I lifted today. Briefly.
  • The teenager is killing it— yesterday was chest, abs & lower body. She repeated chest & abs today.
  • I might even try to get up early tomorrow and do yoga. Maybe.

Today’s walk

Walking takes on significance— as a journey to health, a method of transporting oneself from place to place, a time for reflection, an active meditation.

My friend, Tiff, the beautiful, otherworldly matriarch of La Familia whom we visited Friday night, (Blood Donation, KFC, and our favorite Familia) is celebrating her 25th Wedding Anniversary this summer.

Life threw a variety of curve balls their way, so the pilgrimage to Spain they had planned has now been reduced to a spiritual Facebook group who discuss their walks and their reflections.

I invited the teenager, my friend Gayle and my new friend from Georgia to join in the discussions and activities.

Today the teen wanted to explore Emmaus, and Gayle needed to walk as part of the virtual fundraiser for the Koman Foundation.

Because of the heat, the teen opted to walk in the woods— so we went to Alpine Street Park and took the Alpine Street Trail and walked about 6,000 steps and the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs.

The teenager gathered rocks from the creek. I think rocks are an important part of her spirituality and help ground her.

Gayle’s post on our walk: More Than Pink Hike

After the walk, the teen and I returned to Into the Myst in Downtown Bethlehem where she purchased her amulet.

I think the amethyst with calm her and the sterling silver moon and pentacle will protect her.

Living with a teenager can be exhausting, but seeing her now interpret the world in her own view is amazing.

Friday Fluidity

So, I emailed Chewy about the bird seed explosion in my package and they are mailing me a replacement. See today’s earlier entry for details. (Cockatoo Mischief)

The teenager and I had made special plans as she just turned 16 years old and she was excited to donate blood.

My pulse clocked in at 102, and the cut-off to donate is 100. So I was disqualified.

Then they couldn’t find a vein on the teenager.

We were both very disappointed.

And, as the final culinary stop of her birthday tour, she asked for KFC.

And then we went to Into the Myst in downtown Bethlehem, where the teenager stocked up on her incense and is seriously debating a silver pentacle pendant adorned with amethyst. I think it would be a good protection amulet for her.

Then for dinner we visited our favorite familia—and on the way to their house the teenager and I discussed our ideas about what happens after death.

Our favorite familia features my charming writer friend with her Judeo-Catholic French-Celtic California roots and her also charming Puerto Rican husband and their crazy animals and now 90% adult children who have grown into impressively beautiful adults with wicked intellects.

Over grilled chicken and various types of potatoes, diverse conversation on employment, dog training, travels, the NSA, Sartre, customizing shoes, Russian Blue Cats, Russia, philosophy… flowed effortlessly with sprinkles of laughter.

The teenager remarked that she always admires how we don’t catch up with them for years, but the energy always feels like we’re best friends.

And they have a big dog.

And then we had cake and coffee.

Why I need my lucky shirt: a typical day when you’re eccentric and have cerebral palsy

The best stories start with “it began as a typical day,” but in this case it did not.

The teenager turned 16 on Tuesday and my employer had scheduled our annual meeting for Tuesday so I planned to take off today and tomorrow to celebrate with my offspring.

With Coronavirus changing everything I could have taken Monday and Tuesday instead.

Last night, I curled up in bed with a gin cocktail and watched some more of Harlan Coben’s: The Five on Netflix. (Mini review: my friend, brow maintenance person and nail tech Beth recommended the show—and I am enjoying what I feel is edgy cinematography, rapid paced story telling, complex writing, and realistically complicated and tragic characters. It’s like watching a comic book.)

So I got to bed later than I normally do and I slept a little better than I normally do. I fed the kittens, made coffee, started laundry and finagled a cake carrier into the dishwasher.

After a cup of my favorite Archer Farms Direct Trade Cafe Mosaica from Target on my breezy enclosed sun porch, I slapped some clothes on… and ended up trying to accessorize a basic outfit.

Which is funny because I was going to pick up Nan, who is blind and won’t see my efforts anyway.

And then I was surprised to find out that the teenager made me breakfast— a mini bagel with greens, cucumber and fresh bacon.

After we worked on some poetry, Nan and I went to Lidl. And I took her home.

When I arrived home, the teenager informed me that her plan for today involved not wearing pants. So after a brief respite, I went to Wendy’s for a Frosty-ccino.

That was when the real adventure began.

I decided to take Nala, my four-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo who joined the family in January. Now, recently we took Nala to Dunkin Donuts to try hash browns and that went well.

And this is how she did: Nala at Dunkin

And we had taken Misty, our kitten, to Wendy’s (Kitten at Wendy’s ) so why not a bird?

So I ordered my Frosty-ccino and a junior fry for my baby girl bird on the mobile app and got into the drive thru lane. And then I did what we all do in this day and age. I took a selfie.

That’s when I realized Nala had pooped on me in fear. And I had no wipes in the car. Green bird droppings now stained my white t-shirt and Nala was walking in the mess.

But everyone in the drive thru window loved her— three employees cooed at her from afar.

I pulled into a parking space and offered her a French fry and she was too scared to eat it. I drove her home, put the car in the garage, gathered the waste and the food and started up toward the house.

Now, the teenager’s father moved some heavy original doors from the house across the garage so he could use my great grandmother’s hutch in his apartment. He did this a couple week’s ago. The doors block a portion of the stairs.

I got tangled up on the stairs/with the doors and fell, to the left onto the doors to avoid smashing Nala who was on my right shoulder.

I almost spilled my coffee and French fries fluttered like hail.

But luckily Nala is a bird, and a forager, so she doesn’t mind a little dirt. I gather them all carefully and climb up from the floor, some contusions and cuts causing minor pain.

I bump the doors and they almost fall on me. This time the French fries scatter to the four winds.

I notice how much blood and dirt cover me and I head inside to discover Nala has pooped even more.

I set her down.

I remove my shirt. White tee shirt. Vivid blood. Green poop.

I wash up and count my blessings— I was very close (too close) to breaking an arm.

I put on my lucky shirt once I cleaned up.

Addendum: I posted this link on my LinkedIn profile and wrote this introduction as to why I felt this piece was important especially as part of a discourse on social justice.

I don’t like to admit I have a disability— #cerebralpalsy. But it’s important to note that with all the stereotypes and institutionalized ideas people have about “others,” whether other cultures, races, religions, sexualities, identities, educational or social class (the list goes on and on), for those of us who have tried to “pass” as “normal” or “mainstream,” our experience is difficult. As all life is difficult to one degree or another. But if you are obviously “different” and you can’t “pass,” those notions of who you are based on quick judgments can be catastrophic. Or lead to people doing harm to you or someone you love. #blacklivesmatter

In that context, allow me to share with you what a typical day looks like for me. Warning— I end up bleeding by the end of it. Different isn’t inferior. Or threatening.

As the teenager finishes her sixteenth year…

The teenager was born at 1:34 a.m. on June 23, 2004. I was induced on Monday the 22nd. I remember it as a Monday because of the disappointment I felt as the clock struck midnight…

Why? you ask…

Well, Tuesday’s child is full of woe.

The French day, “I have XX years,” vs. “I am XX.” I am pondering that today because it really is more accurate.

When the teenager wakes up in the morning, she will have finished 16 years on this earth.

Doing silly things like this: Her cake topper (YouTube videos)

Her birthday started this weekend with a scavenger hunt at her dad’s and his homemade peanut butter bars. He invited me over to share in their celebration.

Today she spent the day with my father riding his Harley through the Pocono Mountains, eating pancakes and buying coffee from convenience stores.

And my mother-in-law asked what she wanted for her birthday. The teenager asked for a meatloaf.

Birthday Meatloaf

Well, if your in-laws are bringing a meatloaf, they might as well stay for dinner. And if the in-laws are here, you might as well invite the estranged husband.

And I had some “presents” for her. Unbeknownst to her, a bunch of her packages came today while she was gone.

Among the goodies: most of her Dress Lily order, her June Universal Yums box, and her “low brass witch” customized color-changing tumbler purchased to support my former Target colleague as her family dealt with Covid-related unemployment while their middle child (age six) is battling Leukemia.

More on all of these things another day, as I had a business meeting at eight p.m. and I took a long walk in today’s heat with Nala on my shoulder. She did well,

Blizzards: Twice in one day

The teenager asked me for ice cream. She even offered to pay.

I’ve so wanted to try the frosted animal cookie blizzard at DQ.

That desire led to this unusual experience last week: No lunch at DQ today.

My daughter only had $4, which doesn’t buy multiple Blizzards. And I didn’t feel like driving.

So we texted her father.

Animal Cookie Blizzard

It was sooo good. Weird. Super sweet. The teenager said it tasted like strawberry. The cookies were crunchy and the sprinkles just right.

I sent them back for another round.

Good thing I’ve started walking more. I’m going to have to pick up some cardio.