It’s been an on-again, off-again week of how I’m feeling. Same old, same old of issues with my hip, my legs locking up, and sometimes having the clearheaded nature to function like a normal person. Some days my blood pressure is high, other days it’s pretty damn perfect. Some mornings I wake up so lightheaded I stumble like a drunk, and… say it with me now… some days I don’t.
But yesterday had one bright spot– my “partner” at Susquehanna Service Dogs who will handle the final phase of my mobility dog application emailed and asked of she could do my home visit this coming Saturday. Why, I said in reply, that’s my birthday but I can tweak my plans to accommodate a visit. And the idea of this got me very happy.
And so we set the plans.
Today, I went for my tilt table test. If I had a Dr. Frankenstein fetish, it would have been quite the event. If I had teased my hair to flow upward, I could have been a Bride of Frankenstein’s Monster, since I was strapped to a table with large straps and covered with wires and tubes.
To make it more fun, my dehydrated veins (I was not allowed to eat or drink for four hours prior to the test) would not cooperate with the poor older man who had probably done 1,000 IVs in his life. The first attempt was in the inner arm of my right side, as the left completely refused to offer up any juicy conduits.
But seriously, they hooked me up to the ekg and monitored my blood pressure every 10 minutes. They strapped me to a bed that stands 70 degrees upright, and after 10 minutes at rest, they stood me up for 45 minutes to see if anything happened. Nothing did. So perhaps smug little doctor man was right. My symptoms aren’t consistent with POTS.
You know, the man administering the study said, your beta blocker can do that. (Meaning the symptoms I described.) But, I thought to myself, I had these falls that caused injury and required medical attention before I started taking a beta blocker.
Before I laid down to start the test, my heart rate was more than 100 bpm because of some inherent stressors in my morning. In comparison, when I first wake my heart rate is usually between 52 and 65 bpm. At work, my heart rate is typically between 75 and 95. My resting heart rate average for today, according to my Apple Watch series 8, is 64. And my walking average is 130 today, which, again seems a little high.
When the bed rose, it make me feel like I was drinking alcohol. Not all out dizzy but the world swirled. But it cleared up. The scary part was when my whole right hand fell asleep– because if you have read my previous blogs you may know that my left pinky is often falling a sleep and I feel like it’s a warning sign of an impending episode.
The pressure on my head and chest when they lowered the bed made me feel like I was being crushed, and the strain of standing completely still for 45 minutes made my right toes feel like they were getting frost bite.
It looks like my ekg and other results of the study were normal. Even my blood pressure behaved.
So, with a headache from barely eating, I visited Gayle for a quick meeting (I never quite realized she lives probably 500 steps from the hospital) and then grabbed some wings and fries from Wing Stop. And now I’m completely spent.
What if after all this… maybe the only thing wrong with me is that I’m overweight and out of shape?
Then, I got an email from the service dog people rescheduling my visit to 5/25. And when I got home, I had a birthday card from my mom. And since we got in another ugly disagreement on Mothers’ Day, she sent a bunch of old letters I sent her in my birthday card. No personalized note. No mention of celebrating. Just old mail. It’s a habit she’s had lately. Her own special passive aggressive way of saying “you used to love me.”
My daughter has another way of interpreting her paper trail of past communications.
Whatever it is, it’s exhausting. Ever since my dad passed away, my mom has been even more dramatic. She’s experienced a lot of loss in the last two years, as many of us have. I’m at my wits end. I haven’t had a connection to my father’s family for about six months now, and with all my recent health problems, the lack of familial support weighs heavily on me. It’s terrifying to have a known congenital disability and have something else going on that doesn’t make sense.
And it makes one’s heart hurt when you can turn to your teenaged daughter, your soon-to-be ex-husband, your in-laws and your work friends, but your own mother can’t even give you a courtesy phone call when you are in the hospital. Or, say, maybe she sends some keepsake letters in a birthday card, so even on your birthday, you can be reminded what a disappointment you are and how rather than celebrate you, your mother would rather make your birthday about her.
I just want a mom. I just want a mom who can see who I am without constantly criticizing me, or emotionally blackmailing me, or making snide comments about how I might be living my life. When I was a kid, I idolized my mom. And there’s that little girl inside of me who still wants to.
She grew beautiful flowers. Has a beautiful smile. But I look back on my childhood, and I’ve survived so much and forgiven so much, and laughed off so many things… and to constantly have her blame me for everything that’s wrong with our relationship is just not fair.
Because in my experience as a mother, I want to be there, I want to help, and I would probably spam text my daughter if she ever fell out of contact.
7:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 5: Yesterday I was discharged from hand rehab with John at The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation. My hand strength in my right hand is stronger than my left hand, so even though my pinky doesn’t quite have all the functionality it should, John thinks with proper use and exercise at home I can handle recovery.
As John said, implying that he could trust me to monitor and invest in my own hand health, “with everything you have on your plate, this is a mere flesh wound.”
With that, I had my last session of rolling and smashing silly putty and twirling balls in my hand. Really, hand therapy is not that far from children’s play. As an adult, there’s not enough activities that involve silly putty.
After a weekend of high blood pressure, my body suddenly feels low– and my blood pressure is on the low side, even after coffee, and I’m light-headed and feel as if my blood sugar could be low, despite snacking on a slice of fresh pizzeria pizza (I found that real pizza versus Dominoes or frozen varieties does not have the sodium and preservatives that impact my numbers) when I took my evening dose of Lopressor. I ate breakfast, and that helped some, but not enough. I also had an 8-ounce glass of water.
So, as my primary care doctor is signing off on me returning to work on Monday and we’re still waiting for my cardiologist’s report, I’m terrified that something might happen today. But I don’t want to manifest my own misfortune. It’s interesting to note that today was supposed to be my first day back to work, but I still have physical therapy during the day this week, and I felt better knowing my cardiologist should have the info he needs by then in case we need to make adjustments to my treatment plan.
The manufacturer of the Zio sent a push notification to my phone that they received my device and will have the data to my doctor soon.
My left hip, according to my physical therapist, was tight Monday, and now my right hip is giving me issues, the kind of issues it often has when compensating for the left hip.
I should have taken a shower last night, but I thought it would be nice to shower in the morning, but then I remembered I have physical therapy and the gym today… but I might have to take two showers today. I need to see if I can shake this feeling of brain fog and lightheadedness. By then, it will be 8 a.m. and I can call my doctor’s office. They are next door to physical therapy so maybe one of the medical assistants can take my blood pressure. Because my neurologist would be mad at me if I ignore this.
8:20 a.m. After a hot shower and exposure to The Teenager’s work drama– not being able to get into a client’s house to feed the dog– my blood pressure is now high. So I don’t know whether to call the doctor or not. I put on my sports bra inside out and my shirt backwards.
8:30 a.m.I called the doctor’s office. They won’t let a nurse or medical assistant take my blood pressure because they would like a doctor there because of my history. I have an 11:15 a.m. appointment, directly after my physical therapy, with one of the residents, I think, because it says my doctor’s name but that’s not what she told me. But it usually shows the resident’s names so we’ll see.
9 a.m. I decide to play with the Stitch Fix style algorithm before leaving as I only have a couple minutes. This will be important later… because brain fog. That was another symptom I’m struggling with– I put on my sports bra inside out and my shirt backwards.
Brief interlude while I am thinking of it. My hospital EOB came yesterday, as did updates as to some of my other medical visits. It’s obscene to see the battle between medical providers and private insurance companies. When did this become an acceptable model of business? The hospital charged my insurance company almost $18, 500 for one day of services. The insurance company pays a pre-negotiated rate of $2,500 and I get bill about $300.
In a similar fashion– the medical office billed the insurance company for the resident who so patiently spent 30 minutes removing three stitches from my face. It was itemized as “surgery” and the provider billed $66, of which the insurance company paid $13. And left $1.50 for me. So this poor resident, who worked her way through medical school and had to dig the stitches out of my scabby face, isn’t even worth $30/hour?
9:40 a.m. I arrived at Physical Therapy to sit and read my book until my appointment. Yesterday, I finished Susie Bright’s How to Read/Write an Erotic Story and I have every intention of finishing Suzanne Mattaboni’s Once in a Lifetime today.
10 a.m. or there-abouts: physical therapy with Jimmy, instead of Eric, because it’s Eric’s birthday, and his colleagues suggest that this might not be his first thirtieth birthday. I am also informed that the goal today is to poke fun at Eric as much as possible because he’s not there to defend himself.
Summary of Physical Therapy: I worked hard and found myself pushing and having good balance despite the issues with my quasi-lightheadedness. As usual, my left side is tighter than my left, but I notice as the day goes on my discomfort on the right seems to be correcting itself.
I also told my physical therapist about The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation and my mallet finger that I did last year, right before Easter. I explained how I ruptured the tendon pulling my socks off. He’s now afraid to take his socks off.
10:40 a.m. I stop at the car to update my notes and drink some water. This massive Audi SUV is parked next to me, requiring that I turned sideways to slip into my car. I take my blood pressure: 122/71.
10:50 a.m. I walk down to the primary care office, and finally put the facts together that between the physical therapy office and the family practice, there is a pediatrician. That’s why I always hear screaming children though the wall. I use the rest room and open my book.
11 a.m. My doctor’s assistant takes me back to the exam room, and confirms that I will be seeing my doctor. She’s the same person I correspond with through the portal, and who fills out all my paperwork with the patience of a saint. She doesn’t weigh me and this disappoints me because I think all this healthy eating has resulted in a smidge of weight loss.
If we’re honest, I feel silly. My head still doesn’t feel right, but I’m fine… I mean I’m going to be cautious but it could be so many things: blood sugar, blood pressure, the beta blocker, allergies or even the pollution from the major industrial fire a mile away yesterday or heck even stress… but the neurologist said… Everyone in the office, including the doctor, reassured me that I did the right thing since no one wants me to fall again.
My blood pressure was 120/77, which is pretty darn close to my car reading so that proves that my monitor is reading my blood pressure accurately and the presence of the doctors does not cause my blood pressure to increase.
11:10 a.m. the assistant leaves and I open up the final pages of my book. And I finish it in five minutes.
11:30 a.m. the doctor arrives. He sees my Alpha Books J journal in my lap and starts asking questions. Then he asks why I am there– that my chart just says “high blood pressure.” I explain that no, it’s actually lightheadedness that started with low blood pressure but hasn’t abated since my blood pressure returned to normal levels, and that the neurologist made me promise not to ignore symptoms like lightheadedness.
I explain that I got out of bed a tad clumsier than usual, after ten minutes of trying to force myself up despite 9.5 hours sleep, and I just attributed it to stiff cerebral palsy legs. But as I went downstairs and turned the lights on, I realized I was a tad lightheaded.
I poured a glass of water, took my blood pressure and my meds, and made a cup of weak (for me) coffee and finished my water and had fruit and toast.
I pass the doctor my list of blood pressure readings and tell him my first of the day was 102/68, followed by 108/65 an hour later.
He peruses the list I gave him and asks, “do you have some fancy blood pressure device that takes your blood pressure every hour?”
“No,” I say. “I’m just neurotic.”
He chuckles. “It’s not bad,” he says. “It gives me data to work with. I have patients I can’t get to take their blood pressure once a day.”
“I know you’re going to ask me what happens in certain situations, so I just want to see if I can anticipate the questions so I have the answers. Like there’s definitely a difference when I eat pizza from the local pizzeria that uses real ingredients versus Dominoes.”
He mentions I should track my pulse. I told him I look at it when I take my blood pressure because the neurologist mentioned it but I haven’t written it down. I haven’t noticed anything. And I didn’t tell him about the symptom diary I started. But I did come home and add heart rate to my iPhone tracking info. I really need an Apple Watch. Okay, I want an Apple Watch, but I refuse to consider buying one until my business computer is paid off and I replenish my savings and pay off the credit card bills I ran up during this hiatus from work.
He performs some basic exams, and has the nurse take my blood pressure lying down, then sitting, then standing up. If the low pressure is caused by gravitational pull on my body, or something like that, my blood pressure will drop as I quickly force myself upright.
My blood pressure spiked (142/100) suggesting that I tensed, which I did, because the sudden movement made me feel like I was swaying. And I braced my muscles, afraid I might fall.
So, the next test in our journey through Angel’s recent career as a face-diving professional, is to half the dosage of my Lopressor. My doctor thinks he found a note made while I was in the hospital that the IV medication made me dizzy and that’s why they switched me to the oral tablets. I don’t recall this, but a lot happened that night… so I asked The Teen much later, and she said no, my memory is correct. I read the note the doctor found, and I believe, though I could be wrong, that the real problem is doctors have no skill at writing and this leads to misinterpretation. Ooooh, maybe I need to start a “Clearer Writing Styles for Doctors” workshop.
And since my echocardiogram was perfect, and he reviewed it there with me, but I’d already read it, he wondered if the beta blocker was necessary at all (ironic since he was trying to get me on blood pressure medication for the last two-plus years) and/or if the Afib was an isolated incident. I dispute this theory, because I had two unexplained, nearly identical falls within two weeks.
My doctor reduced my beta blocker in half, which meant I had to remember to go buy a pill splitter because I already have the tiniest pills I ever saw. And he also suggested taking some sort of hydration beverage into my bedroom– a G2 gatorade or a Propel– to drink before getting out of bed.
And he closed with something like, “these are the kind of things I have to tell my patients who are 70 or 80, but unlike them, you’ll listen.”
Then he asks, “when is your next appointment?”
Not until August, I reply. He looks to me in disbelief. “I want to see you before that.”
And he sends a note to the cardiologist that he reduced my beta blocker and asks him to review the data from the Zio patch. The same Zio patch that just returned to the manufacturer yesterday.
I mention I will see the cardiologist May 5, if that matters when scheduling our next rendez-vous.
“I want you to check in in the next couple days,” he directs me, “and I want to see you next week.”
“How about April 20?” I ask. “It’s in the middle of now and April 5 and I already have to take the day off for some CT scans at the hospital and physical therapy.”
I’m going back April 20, at 8:30 in the morning, to meet with one of the residents. I didn’t think to check which one.
12:10 p.m. I leave and head to my friend Maryann Ignatz’s house to bring her some books she ordered and visit.
2 p.m. CVS. The computers have gone insane. I don’t think this will impact me as I peruse the aisles. My list is simple: a better lotion for scar care, an electrolyte drink, a blood pressure monitor, and a pill splitter.
Now, I have a borrowed monitor and I’d rather have an Apple Watch connected to a wireless monitor cuff…
And the only thing on the list today I need right away is the pill splitter.
So I find one for $8.49 and I have a 40% off coupon that expires today. I also find Propel dry powder packets that go into a water bottle– I think $3.49 for ten packets. On Amazon, the already constituted Propel Water in the same flavor costs $8.38 for 12 bottles, which is 70 cents a bottle or twice the price. I even placed one of my reusable water bottles by my bed, and I picked one with a screw-on lid designed for my bike so it’s less likely to spill.
The blood pressure monitors start at $62, and the $62 one provide $10 in Extra Bucks, but I don’t want to spend that much now.
And the only lotions “better” than the ones I have at home start at $10 and the ones specifically for scars are $20.
And on top of all that, the system doesn’t really register my Extra Care card, so it says I was logged in, but it didn’t use my coupon.
I never pay full price at CVS.
And we’re not going to talk about the fact that they were sold out of jelly beans.
3:30 p.m. I make a run to the bank and take the dog for a trip to Dunkin’ for Munchkins. Oh, and the teen. I eat too many jelly munchkins, drink a cold brew and eat one of their salty processed sandwiches, their completely not-a-Grilled Cheese with their sun-dried tomatoes. Not worth the money I paid. My blood pressure does not change. I cancel the gym for tonight because I still don’t feel stable.
I come home and I cut a pill. The Teenager then insists she can do it better and that I’m sloppy.
4 p.m. I spend some time with my cockatoo, and tend to some self-care details and start laundry.
6 p.m. The Teen and I make salads with tofu nuggets and romaine and cucumbers. The Teen devours heaps of romaine and cucumber. With a homemade fresh lime dressing.
I mention to the Teen that KFC has nuggets now.
“Really, Mom?” she protests. “You expect me to eat tofu after mentioning KFC?”
And then I proceed to drop the knife several times while chopping vegetables. I’m amazed I still have all my toes. Brain fog is so real.
6:45 p.m. I text the neurologist just to update her.
7 p.m. I place my last load of laundry into the dryer and find a half pill of my beta blocker on the table.
I call the teen’s name.
“Did I not take this with dinner? Did I miss my mouth?”
“I doubt you missed your mouth,” she reassures me. “It probably just slipped out of the bottle.”
“I could count them,” I say.
“And if there is an even number, you fucked up,” she says.
It was an odd number.
7:30 p.m. I finally retire to my room hoping to start a new book as part of my pre-bed, no screens ritual. I make the bed, feed the cats, put my Propel packets in my drawer and organize my lotion (for scar massage on my finger and my face) and my water bottle. But first I have to finish this blog entry. And I notice– to my chagrin– that somehow this morning I changed my next Fix from May 18 to April 18. Hopefully I can change it back before the stylist grabs it, because my charge card needs to take a little vacation from my wallet until I rebuild my rocky finances.
And that, friends, was my day. Louise the Tripod is snuggled against me, kicking me with her back feet and snoring. I still need to give the bird water, make my Propel, brush my teeth and massage my scars. So, if you think I’ve been over here partying during this short-term disability leave, I have not.
Here I am, looking less exhausted and beaten. My scabs were flaking off and healing nicely but some of them cracked today (vigorous chewing? It happened at lunch time) and started bleeding. I’m still impressed at how quickly the body can heal, but these stitches feel like flies on my face.
I left the house early today to visit Koch 33 Collision. In early February, a work colleague’s car happened to give mine a love bite on the entrance ramp of 22– this was early on in the days of my unknown cardiac troubles when the symptoms were starting to show. I remember not because my heart had anything to do with that situation but because I joked about minor car accidents just adding more stress to my life. The estimate will cost less than $1500, hopefully the insurance companies can agree to that.
When I came home, I made myself my first cup of coffee for the day. I have slowly been changing my morning coffee habit into a morning water habit, unless my blood pressure is low, then I go ahead and make the coffee (which my occupational therapist at hand rehab thought was hysterical).
“What?” I said. “This is my first week on this medication and my blood pressure has been low when I have to take it. They don’t know what caused my a-fib, so I can’t skip the dose, but I also can’t take a beta blocker with a blood pressure of 97/56.”
Today my blood pressure was perfect so no coffee.
The neurologist’s office called and moved my appointment up a week from 4/4 to 3/30. I mentioned the report from the physical therapist should be in my chart, and that the news looked good, and that my body had adjusted to the beta blocker so my blood pressure and my blood sugar seemed to be stabilizing.
Gayle had promised me a new graphic every week I made it without a fall. Unfortunately, I was on day seven when the last fall occurred so I never earned it. But today is day eight. So I definitely made it seven days. And I display my new badge proudly.
I worked on Larry Sceurman’s short story “The Vanity Demon” for his upcoming anthology, Coffee in the Morning. I’ve reached the point in the editing schedule where I should edit one story a day to kick back to Larry for final tweaks before sending to Gayle for layout.
Speaking of stories and Larry Sceurman, Gayle, Nan and I spoke to the Apex Writers Group last night on Zoom, about 21 people attended our presentation. The participants seemed most interested in book construction, so Larry’s book, The Death of Big Butch, allowed us to show how we used text and book design to reinforce the nostalgic feel of the 1970s.
I also received my latest copy of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group newsletter, which included my first official “Podcasts for Writers” column. If you’d like to read all of it, it appears here. More of these lists will be printed and organized in my paid Substack archives.
The Teenager came home from work and we had to run some errands. Somehow, we ended up at my hand rehab appointment more than an hour early. We visited Josh Early Candies, which killed some time. But with our meager budgets we could not afford fancy chocolates.
We ended up at Grocery Outlet, but not our local store, one on the other end of the Lehigh Valley. And we hadn’t made it 20 feet into the store when I spotted Silk Very Vanilla Soy Milk in juice boxes. Now this is The Teenager’s favorite milk for drinking.
She almost bought a pop-top can of artichoke hearts to eat in the car but proclaimed that would be a new low, even by her standards. I bought myself a pack of Maple Donuts because it was time for my afternoon snack, and I seem to do better if I save a carb-y item for around 2 p.m.
The Teenager then made a noise and I wasn’t sure what was wrong and she said it was sad how happy we were wandering around a discount grocery store. I lamented that it was a shame Nan could not be with us. And I didn’t know if that would be a good time to also mention that Gayle and I had exchanged emails with a ridiculous amount of excitement about customized packing tape from Sticker Mule.
Gayle had said she had to check out the template because it was something the business should do when we had more money and I quickly said that despite the fact that we recently printed a new book, this was something we obviously needed. And then she totally outdid herself on the design, so if Sticker Mule delivers a good products, it’s going to be so amazing that you will have to order books just so you can receive a package from us.I pack a good looking parcel to start with, so this will up our game.
When I showed Gayle’s proposed design to The Teenager, the Teenager also got excited and I bet her father would, too, because he did spent most of her life to date as a shipper-receiver so our whole family has an acute appreciation and enthusiasm for packing tape.
But this is taking up way to much space– The Saga of Angel and Gayle and their Polka Dot Packing Tape.
The Teenager and I sat in the parking lot eating Maple Donuts. Maple Donuts are always delicious, but they are not maple flavored. These donuts had a sell by date of March 27 and it’s only March 21 so I knew they would be melt-in-your-mouth soft. And they had cinnamon sugar. I LOVE A GOOD CINNAMON DOUGHNUT.
I ate two cinnamon. They glided down my gullet and I couldn’t help myself from also having a plain cake doughnut. I have no self-control.
The Teenager whipped out a Silk soy milk.
“Are you going to drink that warm?” I asked.
“Room temperature,” she answered. “Do you think I ever drank these cold? How do you think they came out of my lunch box?”
Hearing her reminisce about having these in her lunch box reminded me of how many times I worked hard to find sales and coupons and deals to buy them for her because I knew she loved them– and other than that she only got Juicy Juice or Adam and Eve juices because I was very strict on what I fed her and Silk in juice boxes was so expensive compared to the half gallons. And sometimes I worked hard to save money on all the other groceries so I had the $10 extra to buy her favorite milk for her lunch.
And they are delicious.
The half gallons supposedly are only sold at Dollar General these days but we still haven’t found one in our area that sells them.
Once we headed to The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation, we had our cravings satisfied.
The Hand Report
When I arrived at therapy, they wrapped my hand in a moist heated pack for twenty minutes and it’s the best twenty minutes of my life. My therapist heard my tale of falling down the stairs and landing in the hospital in the hours after my previous visit, and he said I win for the most interesting story of the day.
Then, he proceeded to talk with me about things I could do at home to prevent future falls and make my life safer– because he is, at the end of the day, at occupational therapist. It was a great talk. It was an even better conversation because he gave me a hand massage during it.
My mobility has improved greatly, and even though it is still swollen, I can make a fist! I did several exercises there. My therapist mentioned that next time we will focus on strength, because he believes he can trust my previous experiences to make sure I follow through with a home rehab plan, he wants to be sure I have full hand strength so that I can fully grip the banister.
“Not that I’m picking on you,” he added.
I did four sets of exercises. First I picked up handfuls of these six-sided dice and dropped them all so that the six was facing up. Then I held the big ball in my hand and drew the alphabet in the air with only my hand and my wrist, not my arm. Then I squeezed the red ball. For the final exercise, I had two balls the size of a golf ball but a tad lighter. I rolled them across my fingers and then tried to reverse the order on the way back.
The Teenager is on an overnight for a client, petsitting. Her dog is sleeping in her crate in the living room below my bedroom. I have Louise, the sweet foster tripod cat, sleeping in my arms. Bean, the Teenager’s dog, whimpers.
You see, I normally get up for work at 4 a.m. She knows this. I fall back to sleep and wake to barking at 5 a.m. Poor Bean thinks no one is home and she will be left to rot in the crate. So, I get up, let the dog out, and make coffee.
I struggled with my mental health yesterday. I was prone to depression, anxiety and even anger. I had to see some people whom I no longer trust, and whom I feel betrayed me. I’m stressed about some recent financial upheavals: an unexpected medical bill that I should have expected, uncertainty about heating the house and the borough announcing that the garbage service we have used for the last 20 years has changed, the rules have changed and the days have changed and the rumor is that the price has tripled– starting tomorrow.
All first world problems. Except for the relationships gone wrong. It hurts when people don’t listen to you or respect you.
I hit a new PR on the squat at the gym yesterday, 145 lbs. Everything felt like it was moving well, and I even did impressively on my hamstring curls (and my right hamstring is reminding me of that fact today.)
Our New Year’s Eve involved finally remembering to retrieve our medicines from CVS. I grabbed a couple of clearance Russell Stover Christmas hearts with three milk chocolates inside. And I used my 40% off coupon to buy a Duncan Hines EPIC Fruity Pebble Cake Kit. The Teenager was soooooo excited she baked it right away. We washed down the cake with some leftover Jewish Christmas cookies from Little Dog’s Mom. She makes incredible cookies.
Little Dog Sobaka, Little Dog’s Mom and I listened to the recent Christmas episode of This American Life, where comedian Alex Edelman discusses his first and only Christmas. It’s a great story of experiencing Christmas as an Orthodox Jew. It also looks like Little Dog’s Mom will be able to accompany The Teenager and I to the Harrisburg Mall on January 25 for my Canine Therapeutic Evaluation with Susquehanna Service Dogs.
I also made this weird little treat: I took a sprouted flat bread, spread it with vegan cashew cheddar, sprinkled it with organic parmesan and herbs de provence and drizzled it with cold-pressed extra virgin Lebanese-imported olive oil and toasted it.
But this morning, things took a turn. I texted the Teenager about a run to Dunkin on her way home. She arrived with her tea, my bagel and some hashbrowns.
“Where’s my coffee?” I asked.
But quickly it became apparent that the Teenager was doubled over in pain. I have never seen her like that. On Monday, the Teenager and her uncle came down with a fairly violence stomach bug that seems to have originated with the Christmas Eve gathering at my mother-in-law’s. The Teenager’s cousin and her family got it. My husband got it. I did not. Though I did fart heavily most of the week. My guts did churn a bit so I think I managed to fight it off.
As a consequence, the Teenager did not eat for about three days and her meals since then have been tiny but frequent. The smell of the hash browns in the Dunkin bag triggered intense pain. The Teenager nibbled a protein bar with her hash browns and laid down for a nap. I am waiting for her to come back downstairs. Here’s hoping she’s okay.
Of course, her dog became extremely distressed that The Teenager was not well. And the Teenager did not want to dog all over her in her discomfort. So, I opted to take the dog and run to Dunkin to get my missing cold brew.
“Bean,” I said, “Do you wanna go for a ride?”
The dog looked at me confused, as if saying, “did you say what I think you said?”
“Do you want to go for a ride?”
The dog leapt to her feet and ran to the front door and then the back not sure if we were going to the garage or the street. We headed into the garage. Bean hopped in the car. Dunkin made me a fresh cold brew and I bought the dog some munchkins which I fed her at every stop sign along the way home.
I woke at 6:30 this morning but despite having ten hours of sleep, my eyes had dark circles and my mind spun with a bizarre sequence of dreams. I fed the fat cats on their diet kibble, went downstairs to make my coffee, checked book sales and suddenly realized one of the foster cats appeared to be missing.
A missing cat caper?
I did a quick sweep of the house, as the missing cat was Touch of Grey, known for her clumsiness. She once managed to crawl into the heat ducts and get stuck almost in the furnace. Touch of Grey, or Tiggy as we call her, can be a jerk. My cat, Fog, also known as Meatball in his obesity, can also be a jerk. I caught Fog intimidating Tiggy as she used the litter box, so I removed her from the fat cat room.
She promptly took up residence in the bathroom sink. So me, being me, laid a towel in the bathroom sink so it would be cozier for her and brushed my teeth using water from the tub.
It seemed extremely odd that I couldn’t find her now.
Introducing The Phulasso Devotional
Seeing no signs of calamity, I decided to have some coffee and dig into my publishing company’s latest work-in-progress, The Phulasso Devotional. Lots of people texted, and seeing some familiar names felt good to my heart. And Maryann Riker, the mixed media artist who contributed to Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, emailed with samples of work she had come across in the style that she thought would be nice for Phulasso.
They touched me– even before Maryann told me the series had inspiration in Tao. Before I started work on The Phulasso Devotional, I sent a rather thorough, elaborate spiritual statement to the author (yesterday!). I wanted to be upfront with him about my own formerly Christian, agnostic, animistic and pagan beliefs. As a publisher and editor dedicating myself to a very Christian project, I needed to cement that we would be comfortable and trust one another. And I believe we do. But to quote one line of that treatise on my own religious background: “(I also took Religions of China and Japan and fell in love with Taoism.)”
And I loved the miniature watercolors depicting a sunrise and an open path that glows with openness and potential.
I ended up buying them.
Maryann said she would be in my area later today so she’d deliver.
Continuing the Cat Hunt
The Teenager did a sweep of the house and the outside. She went to work, and sent me a text saying one of us should check the coal bin in the basement. I put on shoes and headed down, found no cat but carried some garbage from the basement outdoors. I checked the cardboard boxes we have piled next to the garbage cans for recycling, because if I were an indoor cat suddenly outside on the coldest day of the year, a cardboard box would look so good.
And then I had a thought: did anyone check my room?
Tiggy was lying peacefully on my bed. Apparently when I left my room at 6:30, she silently crept in.
Sweet Fruity Doughnuts
During my last visit to The Grocery Outlet, I bought some weirdly glazed doughnuts. When The Teenager got home from work, I asked if she wanted to try them. She was game. The glaze was not merely glaze but a thick, hard icing that tasted like fruity candy. I had purchased a mango and a strawberry.
Decorating the House
The Teenager got her baby cousins window markers and window crayons for Christmas, in addition to procuring some for herself. So we decorated the windows for Yule after I showered and donned my Christimas Flamingo sweatshirt.
A Bagel Big Surprise
Little Dog’s Mom brought bagel-themed presents for The Teenager and I and a new toy Christmas Llama for the Bean dog. The bagel theme included a gift certificate for one of our favorite places in the world, New York Bagel & Deli, in one of our favorite local shopping plazas. We also received everything-bagel-flavored pretzel chips (which are one of The Teenager’s favorite snacks) and everything bagel seasoning which has been on my shopping list forever. And Little Dog’s Mom remembered The Teenager’s favorite candy!
Plus, Little Dog’s Mom and I were twinning.
Maryann called and said she was on her way.
Another Artist in My Collection
At Parisian Phoenix, we incorporate original photography and art into our books. We aim to support visual artists as we do those who share the written work. Heather Pasqualino Weirich, of Heather Pasqualino Fine Art, whose art adorned the cover of Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, joined Maryann and other artists in that anthology. Maryann commented that the cover painting from that book should be released in prints.
When Maryann delivered her art, I asked her to come inside my home and decide where to hang them. She hung them beside Heather’s original piece in my central room.
And the nicely wrapped art pieces came with a Ghiradelli packet of hot chocolate and a shot of peppermint vodka. The Teenager took the hot cocoa. I claimed the peppermint vodka. Now I need a candy cane.
Magnetic Ransom Notes
I returned to work on the devotional until The Teenager’s Dad arrived to play Ransom Notes and have dinner with us as I had bought the Teenager shrimp. Ransom Notes is like Cards against Humanity using magnetic word pieces like those in a magnetic poetry kit. We mixed it all our magnetic poetry kits, too. We also listened to Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.
The Teenager made shrimp, broccoli, rice and potatoes, but since I don’t eat shrimp she cooked up some Spam so I’d have some protein. That’s right. My Christmas dinner was a pile of broccoli with some diced up Spam.
As I write this, The Teenager and her father are downstairs playing video games. All in all, a simple but soulful, joyous Christmas.
I consider myself agnostic, animist pagan with a foundation in some Christian values and appreciation for religious myths. I wonder if maybe I would be a better Jew than Christian, but in the end I think our behavior overshadows our labels when discussing the “goodness” or “worthiness” of a person or a way of life.
I have struggled with my share of issues this past year– as many of us have and do– but yesterday was the start of Yule and the Teenager wanted to lean more into our pagan side.
She purchased a small live tree and wanted to decorate it with items in homage to nature, such as pine cones.
Today was my last day at work before the holidays and the leadership team have designated that I get all the pre-boxed work. For some reason I felt energetic and more myself in months, if not since my father died. So, I decided to take the early out from my shift, clocking out at 9:44 a.m. I came home, had a cup of coffee, did some dishes, and whipped up some really yummy macaroni and cheese.
It was that good that the dog and I licked the bowl and then the dog ate the spoon. Oops!
I invited Gayle over– because Gayle knows the fleeting nature of my holiday spirit– and she brought a summer sausage to share with the Teen and I as we ended up popping and stringing popcorn for our miniature tree for Yule. The Teen brought down the sewing kit which is really an old, plastic storage bin for Matchbox cars that we stashed yarn, needles and other small sewing implements on one side and The Teenager moved all our embroidery thread to the other.
While it may be under three feet tall, and has only pine cones and popcorn on it, it stands in our living room like a marvel.
The Christmas season, in general, makes me anxious and uncomfortable. The reasons for this don’t matter. Just accept the statement. I spent Thanksgiving alone this year, though I know I could have gone to my in-laws. This year has been a year of firsts, first everything without my father. And spending most of my holidays home alone has been part of my grieving process. A great big letting go of all the expectations and obligations.
It’s the first weekend in December. The Teenager has asked to give up the Christian trappings and embrace our pagan side. So, we intend to celebrate Yule. She wants a small tree covered with pine cones and other items of nature. I’d like to make a dinner that includes rabbit or venison.
Yesterday, we ended up in Bethlehem– The Christmas City– and stopped to see The Teenager’s grandparents (in part because The Teenager added the grandparents to our phone plan since a certain phone service that focuses on seniors has sent phones Grammy cannot use and that don’t dial 9-1-1 when her husband is having diabetic seizures in a stranger’s driveway. Good job, Consumer Cellular.) Grammy is learning how to use her iPhone 13 and even FaceTimed her sister who lives six hours away. Even if the FaceTime was an accident.
I got to see Grammy’s tree and train, and eat the last slice of Grammy’s shoofly pie. While Grammy comes from Pennsylvania Dutch stock, she struggles to make a wet bottom shoofly pie. So she’s been working on it. And we brought the dog, so the dog got to see Grammy and Poppop and the squirrels in their backyard.
Then the teenager and I spent some time doing chores and resting before embarking on the one totally ridiculous thing that is our holiday tradition: watching Denis Leary in The Ref. And this year we watched it sipping chocolate laced wine, eating dusty road sundaes without the chocolate syrup and waxing our legs.
Every day I see more and more ways The Teenager has absorbed the values of my estranged husband and I, and the things that make us uniquely us are important to her. And that makes me happy.
And it’s not easy to be happy these days, under the weight of grief and the stress of disability.
Half way through the movie, The Teenager wanted potato chips. So she called her dad. He happened to be in the middle of Target. He brought us two bags of Doritos, one original red for The Teen and one Cool Ranch blue for me.
On Monday, the Teenager should receive her first Fix. I’m tremendously excited. So much so I am annoying her. But, she is 18, and I often annoy her by existing. She received her preview yesterday, and complained about it, as she said it ruined the surprise.
She selected two or three of the eight recommended items, with my input, and left her stylist some notes. I believe it was a heavy knit sweater, a thin but soft color blocked sweatshirt and some Vigoss black shorts. She rejected the cardigans, almost chose the faux leather jacket, and liked but ignored the two pairs of boots. I think in part because I have purchased her several pairs of shoes lately.
I offered to give her my employee discount and a budget to pursue some fixes as she was recently lamenting that she hasn’t had a chance yet to develop her own style. She’s paying her own bills: car payment, food, contributing toward electric and car insurance, so I thought investing some of my monthly savings into her wardrobe would be fun.
Meanwhile, I’m watching my Stitch Fix account and the trends, waiting for my turn. Which won’t be until Valentines Day.
If you want to see my overzealous first set of trend reviews, click here.
Here are some recent outfits from my recommended trends:
Let’s break these down.
Now, I do have this dress in my favorites as it is adorable, but I find it amusing that Stitch Fix is offering me the same dress in two different colors. My soul wants the red, but I feel my style now is more black. The black would give me the freedom to accessorize with a vibrant scarf, a bright purse like the one in the photo or any pair of shoes I own.
I love this ensemble— and I could even walk in the shoes. The dress is fairly heavy, too, so it should have some great drape when worn and offer some warmth.
This dress looks amazing but it’s really short and I’m not sure my middle-aged mom bumps could pull it off. I love those animal print shoes but I don’t think I can wear them so I perused the other styling options— boots, a necklace and motorcycle jacket? That is definitely awesome.
I don’t like this outfit. I like the theory— and the jacket is the one my friend Joan received in the video below. It looks nice on Joan, but I don’t like the fabric. The little green shirt looks good in the photo and seems to look good on people, but it’s just weird when you see it. The shoes are funky and I don’t like them. But the outfit might be nice.
And finally two outfits that would probably be perfect for my current lifestyle. One note: I want that mustard sweater.
Here is the video of Joan and I unboxing her recent fix:
The Teenager is already dreading when I submit her to something similar.
Tuesday already. If I had not taken voluntarily time off this week, I would be three-quarters of the way through my work week and asleep in preparation of my last day before the weekend.
Instead I slept until a leisurely 6 a.m., did some kitchen cleaning and some laundry while I waited for my coffee to brew.
I did some work on my own essay for the As the FURR Flies cat fundraising anthology — “The Unfortunate Cat Bite Hospital Vacation.”
Spoke with the teenager and headed to visit Gayle, the Parisian Phoenix Art Director, and my longstanding (and upstanding) friend. First I had to remove a tire toy the dog inserted into my purse. We had plans to scan the ink cartoon our friend Rachel had done for the anthology.
Then we went for a walk. I told Gayle not a long walk as my right hip just didn’t feel right and I felt like I had to march to avoid tripping myself. That I had not only fallen on Sunday night, but out of the damn bathtub while taking a shower yesterday.
I bought her a beverage at Déjà Brew, an eclectic local coffee shop/cafe, and nearly fell on my face because the damn floor has a massive bubble down the whole thing. I can’t even describe how huge and high this ridge was. I felt like someone had parked a tree under the tables.
Lunch was pita with hummus and harissa. Then the teenager went to visit a housebound senior to try and help her clean up a bit.
When we finished, I took the teenager to the auto parts store where the Amazon driver left her new Apple Pencil, bought us both discount Diet Cokes at McDonalds and then we headed to a place she’s wanted to visit for a long time— Exotic Dreams and Lingerie— and their neighbor. We bought some anatomically styled sour patch candies and let’s just say our dress form Esther might be donning some knotted red ropes in the future.