What day is it?

I believe I was talking to my traveling companion M about life with my teenagers and we were discussing how it’s impossible for anyone to develop a routine when basic public school looks like this:

MONDAY, TUESDAY: asynchronous learning online, students must fill out an attendance form by 10:30 a.m.

WEDNESDAY: students have Zoom classes from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, FRIDAY: In-person school, 7:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., though the teenager #1 leaves school somewhere around 11:20 a.m. on Thursday because her last class of the day is a study hall.

And MARCHING BAND is Tuesday 6 to 8:30 p.m, and Wednesday, Thursday 6 to 7:30 p.m. and often Saturdays 2 to 4 p.m.

Not one single day is even similar to another. Mondays and Tuesdays are totally self-directed and then Wednesdays are super-regimented.

And then by Thursday we actually have to get up and go to school.

I spent yesterday primarily in a meeting with someone who may end up being our new editor-in-chief for the revived, repositioned and redesigned Lady Boss Magazine, a publication of the Lady Boss Women’s Entrepreneurial Club/Network.

The most recent edition in the old format came out last month. Visit it here: Lady Boss on Issuu.

We have started planning some exciting content (and I hope my new client Merri of Lucha Bella Skin Care and Body Waxing and my step mom can get involved). And something about an Italian master chef who ended up with her own shoe line???

Speaking of Merri, she’s gotten her first original content off the ground, appearing on Instagram and Facebook today:

Winter Skin Tips

So please follow Lucha Bella, and of course, me!

Soccer Music

Time to embarrass the teens!

Teenager 1 & Teenager 2 attend a small public high school with some stellar education and arts programs. They are both in marching band. #1 plays baritone and #2 plays a base drum.

Many of their peers in marching band play sports so the group has a tradition — when each sport one (or more) of their camarades have “senior night” in their respective sports, as many band members as possible cart home their instruments and go to the game to play.

Today was Senior Night in Women’s Soccer. Teen #1 boldly stepped up to play tuba parts on her baritone and carry the low brass section.

And teen #2 not only banged that drum, but she motivated the teenager #1 to go to the event. And to practice.

YouTube Videos

Practicing smoke on the water at home

Drum Line

Hang on Sloopy

Hey Baby

Educational Videographer

There are elements of every week that feel harder than the previous week.

I think I have determined that if I don’t move enough and I sit at desks and in similar circumstances my spine cannot handle it. Perhaps I am a candidate for a standing desk.

I spent yesterday cold and in pain, rotating my chores with cuddling kittens.

The teenager went with her uncle today to build a cat litter box for her room. She’s on her way home so I’m anxious to see how it went.

I was trying to determine what to do with my day when I got an email from my friend Gayle— yes, the same Gayle with whom I walk and who is designing ASPIRE to Autonomy’s annual report— “If only you lived closer…”

And me being me, I said “I’ll be right over.”

What was her dilemma?

Filming how to video mini lectures for her classes in the graphic design department at Northampton Community College.

It was fun to help her discuss magazine layout, master pages and style sheets in one video and cutting and scoring in the next.

Then we went for a walk. Gayle had new shoes she needed to break in before her 9-mile walk on Friday. And my back did just fine on the 4,000 step promenade.

Gayle has new sneakers

She took me for a walk to Fountain Hill, past the house where she used to live. We stopped to talk to Violet who used to feed all the stray cats and I noticed a pretty cool stick. And I stopped at Dunkin on the way home as the Eagles were playing so I got a $1 iced coffee.

The times they are a-changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I took the jar with me into the store.

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

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

And then she asked what I had in the jar.

I told her that was my change.

“We buy change,” she said.

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

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

“That” mom

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

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

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

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

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

“Is it charged?” I text.

She assures me it is.

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

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

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

When did I become this?

It’s raining lightly, the crickets are singing.

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

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

She knows teenagers. She sees it every day.

“She claims they are charged.”

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a small public school.

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

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

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

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

Misty

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

Apparently for an SOS.

The first foster departs

And now there are four.

We have four cats.

We have four birds.

We have four foster kittens.

Our five kitten litter that we are fostering for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, that we named after Greek gods and nicknamed “the Greek Pride,” is approaching 5 months old.

Artemis, now Artemus, was the most social and the most cuddly of the group. Today, he went home with his new family.

I’m glad it was a busy day, and I’m also glad Artemus’ sibling is a therapy cat with his own Facebook page because this allows me to keep up with Artemus’ adjustment to his new home.

Sketch & Artemus (Marshall on the stairs)

I even saw a video!

My heart started today with a touch of sadness so I’m glad I spent the day with people I enjoy.

  • Yesterday I took all the carrots we received during the summer food program and diced them in the Ninja.
  • Nan came over to work in the morning and eventually we plan to do a Mother Maiden Crone themed piece, discussing a multi-generational experience of the pandemic.
  • Nan and I sneaked to the drive through for cold beverages, but we only spent $2 and some change.
  • The teenager and I spent a lot of time cleaning so there may be a tidy home in our future.
  • The teenager’s father brought me my favorite chicken salad and not one but TWO quarts of half and half from Aldi.
  • My mother-in-law brought picnic leftovers.
  • My stepmom gave me fresh cantaloupe that she says is the best she ever had in her life.
  • The teenager and I started watching the documentary Pick of the Litter on Netflix.

As if this wasn’t enough joy for today, the teenager and I hung out with Darnell and Amber tonight— trading some of my unfiltered chicken stock (tomorrow I will strain it and bring him his official portion) for some leftover chili.

After some work (yes, even though it is a holiday), we had some raucous and fun conversation over margaritas and a home cooked meal.

And we all know how I appreciate a meal.

Tomorrow might be as zany as today, but I’m ready.

Silly, sweet Saturday

So, I have come to the conclusion that all I have to do is call Nan and ask, “Are you busy?” and she will grab her white cane and meet me by the door.

Unless NASA has something going on— like a hatch opening or a spacewalk or a launch or a capture.

Today the teenager got up early, at 8 a.m., which in teen time is somewhere between “I had no idea the sun came up this early” and “wow, I can eat breakfast at actual breakfast time.”

Speaking of breakfast, the foster kittens have learned the word “breakfast” and their little ears perk up when you say it.

The teen wanted to go to Petco and Dollar Tree, while Nan and I had our eye on a brief trip to Grocery Outlet to look for smoothies and lentil pasta. Their circular advertised Bird’s Eye steam-in-bag lentil pasta, which Nan and I both like, for 99 cents.

It normally runs $3-4 per bag.

As a blind person, Nan likes the fact that she can make lentil pasta without dealing with boiling water as one has to do with traditional pasta and it’s not a mushy mess of preservatives like canned pasta.

We were both disappointed to discover that they only had lentil/zucchini pasta with olive oil, as opposed to the “sauced” varieties.

But I get ahead of myself. As I mentioned yesterday (see Growing Up), the teenager is now driving. This trip with Nan— because of course she said yes she’d come— would be her first trip with the teen behind the wheel.

Yesterday, we not only drove several highways but I took her to Wendy’s to try the drive-through. She aced that.

We set a rendezvous time with Nan for 10 a.m. and head to the car with a sneak peak at the garden. My fancy little imported peppers have started to grow, and the massive pumpkin vine that originated in my compost heap has started to yield pumpkins not on the ground but on my fence.

Petco passed without incident and Grocery Outlet had minimum disruption as well. But the teenager found Maple Doughnuts (as a brand name) in an unlabeled decadent 12 pack that weighed at least four pounds for $1.99.

“Quality you can see since 1946,” I chuckled while reading that to Nan.

The plan quickly morphed into a trip for coffee at Dunkin’ and doughnuts from Grocery Outlet. The teenager helped us load up the car and she headed to the Dollar Tree and we contemplated beverages.

Except McDonald’s was closer and cheaper. By the time the teen returned we were still deciding because I had a coupon for “buy one milkshake and get one for a penny.” But we had doughnuts.

Nan wanted a chocolate shake but protested that she was pretty sure drinking milkshakes before 11 a.m. was frowned upon, in the same manner as day drinking.

I assured her it would be 11 by the time we received the milkshakes.

So I ordered one small chocolate and one medium strawberry milkshake and one large Diet Coke.

One of us had to pretend to be sensible.

10:35 a.m.

The drive thru is ridiculous. But that’s how it is now. The line at the McDonald’s is like a trip to the DMV whereas getting your learner’s permit at the DMV is relatively instantaneous. Another Covid-19 reality.

11 a.m. — to the minute— we receive the shakes. Nan and the teenager split a chocolate doughnut. I eat a cake doughnut with icing and crystallized sugar. And then a glazed donut with chocolate icing and a thick layer of maple icing.

A relaxed and joyful start to a sweet Saturday morning.

Growing up

I always wanted a family and I imagined myself surrounded by children, but my life circumstances led to me (and my now separated from husband) bringing one child into the world.

There are several key points in my life that caused a dramatic shift in who I am— she was the first.

In the first few months of her life, I started to see every good and every negative part of my personality. Akin to the experience of most parents, she changed me because suddenly I knew I had more at stake on this earth than my own existence.

She depended on us as her parents, not only for survival, but as role models. And wow— was that reality sobering.

Yesterday her father took her for her learners permit. Covid-19 has delayed some of her plans to start driving.

But now it’s official.

The teenager is now a teen driver. On YouTube: The teen picking me up

Now, her father drives a 2016 Nissan Juke which is like driving a dune buggy. By comparison, my 2015 Jetta turbo is a race car. My daughter smartly recognizes the difference and adjusts her learning plan to best suit each car.

For example, she wants to learn to merge onto the highway in my car before her father’s as she knows if she misjudges, mine will increase speed faster.

Speaking of the highway, she drove me to my mammogram and ultrasound this morning, which involved first experiences not only on Rte. 33, but also Rte. 22 and 378.

She asked me to photograph the experience.

I am so proud of her. And am so glad to share these key moments in her life.

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.