More good news: I passed my home visit

Although I have not received the official email, the representative of Susquehanna Service Dogs who came to tour my home today gave me the verbal confirmation that I will soon be on the waiting list for a mobility and balance dog. I’m just about one year in to the four year process, and the representative confirmed that it will be 2-3 more years until I receive a dog.

But that’s good as I have to pay off some debt and save the $5,000 to pay for the dog.

From what I understand of the process, I will spend some more time working with dogs so that the organization can evaluate exactly what I need from a working dog companion. I will meet puppies when my name gets further up the list, and eventually one puppy will bond with me and they’ll send that puppy to a puppy raiser for basic training and then it will complete its specialized training with Susquehanna Service Dogs.

When that dog turns two, a vet will evaluate him/her to make sure its joints and health are adequate for mobility work.

Then I’ll spend several weeks training with the dog before bringing him/her home.

I think by the end of the visit with us, the representative of Susquehanna Service Dogs might have been afraid we were going to pull even more animals out of some random places.

The teenager did a great job explaining all of her animal training techniques and procedures. Even if she did babble a little due to CVS running out of her ADHD meds and her forgetting her hearing aids… but the representative of Susquehanna Service Dogs was polite, loves cats, couldn’t believe how nice our neighbor was to let us use her fenced in yard, and seemed genuinely appreciative of The Teenager’s creative ingenuity regarding household problems.

So, yeah, a new adventure awaits.

Monday. Just Monday.

Despite waking yesterday 15 minutes before my alarm and falling asleep face down in my pillow as I tried to lift my phone off my desk to start my day, yesterday started as a decent day. It was slow, and everything seemed to annoy me. My body hurt, my heart rate and blood pressure seemed off, but my work metrics were good. Too good.

I was very thirsty all day, and ended up stepping away from my station three times during the day to use the restroom– which is not me– but my current symptoms include not being able to tell how urgent the signal to urinate is so waiting too long or not responding immediately might result in an uncomfortable outcome.

I returned to eating “real food” after a weekend of salty and sweet treats for my birthday, which made my body feel generally bloated and sluggish but had stabilized some of my postural issues.

And my hand, the one where the medical professional had done an exploratory IV last week, turned multiple colors that didn’t exist there over the weekend.

The coffee shop I had selected to meet Natalie Lowell of Exquisite Page turned out to be closed on Monday, as was my second choice, so she suggested the old familiar Terra Cafe. I had a lovely London Fog and the discussion flowed easily.

I learned along the way to the cafe that the Meet-and-Greet scheduled for FURR Louise for June 10 was actually a sight-unseen adoption, which makes me nervous with special needs cats and this one has been in my bedroom for two years and sleeping in my arms at night for at least six months.

I ate a small snack. From there I went to the gym, where Andrew– despite our schedules keeping us apart for a week– put me through a brutal workout, which really wasn’t that brutal but it felt brutal, reinforcing the idea that maybe my recent health problems are just a ramification of being 25 pounds overweight and out-of-shape.

And then I had a good old-fashioned fall on the way home. The kind that scraped my hands and bruised my thigh and chewed up the flesh of my shoulder. After a conversation with my Apple Watch, (“Looks like you had a hard fall.” “I fell, but I’m okay.”) I headed home, my pride more battered than anything else.

The Teenager made an enjoyable dinner and I had a Hostess cupcake. I could have finished the strawberry cream puffs from Sheetz. Those were surprisingly amazing.

By the time I took my shower, my wounds stung and my left hand was trembling. My heart rate and heart rate variability were low, my blood oxygen was 97% and my blood pressure was high. I decided to write a small blog entry, but when I opened my computer I saw a message from Gayle.

The content led me to believe that I sent her the wrong edited file of Larry Sceurman’s Coffee in the Morning, and so I opted to go to bed. When I woke this morning, I had received the truest of all motivational messages from Gayle.


So when I get home from work today, I’ll have to check the file. When I have more wits about me.

While normally my self-confidence wavers, Gayle’s right. I do not second guess myself. I move forward often boldly in a direction without worrying about the consequences.

I’m not sure I feel better today. That remains to be seen. I had strange dreams last night. A toilet falling over while I was using it. Having unexpected and messy female troubles. And my favorite– sitting next to my father after dinner at the table as we always did. He would be smoking his cigarettes and perhaps having a cup of coffee. The Teenager and my stepmom were sharing cheesecake as if nothing were wrong, and not offering me any. And then I realized that my father is dead, and that The Teenager and my stepmom didn’t see him. He was there just for me.

And once I realized that, he was gone, and all I had left in me was to weep.

I had fallen alseep last night with tears in my eyes. And I woke with Louise in my arms and tears in my eyes again, but this time, with the strength to face a new day.

Birthday, day three: The breakfast gravy with no biscuits

Today I slept in until nearly 6 a.m., waking only when I heard The Teenager rise and leave the house for her dog walk client. I laid in bed until almost 6:20. To me, that is the ultimate laziness as I usually begin work at 6:30 a.m.

It’s been another delightful birthday day of celebration. I started the morning with breakfast with some of my Stitch Fix crew, with Southern Candy arriving at Big Papa’s early to bestow the table with some decorations.

There were cards and laughter and Southern Candy ordered her regular biscuits and gravy only to discover the biscuits were not biscuits but English muffins. So much commotion ensued of the giggling and carrying on sort, making jokes about what to call biscuits and gravy that does not contain biscuits, because English muffins with gravy sounds gross.

We had a discussion about making our own biscuits and bringing them and comparing making biscuits with shortening versus lard.

I ordered a spinach, green pepper and feta omelet hoping that the vegetables would help heal the damage done by my weekend of caffeine, sugar, fat and grease.

That might be too much to hope for as my blood pressure was 116/96.

The next item on the agenda was to take FURR foster tripod Louise to a meet-and-greet event at the Phillipsburg Petco, where she behaved like a trooper (even if she did spill her litter box so she could hide under it).

I was able to finish the last set of changes to Coffee in the Morning by Larry Sceurman on the laptop while chatting with another FURR volunteer to happens to be the only person I know eagerly and reliably waiting for my next novel.

I came home, cleaned up my room and finished Netflix’s Queen Charlotte, which, as all the Bridgerton tales do, has quite the sentimentality regarding love and relationships.

I also ate a rather large “elephant ear” with The Teenager that Little Dog’s mom had procured.

I’m off to check my blood pressure, take my evening meds, pack a lunch, and decide on dinner. But I just may allow myself a birthday beverage– as my birthday weekend officially launched with a gin gimlet with photography Joan and her other half, Randy.

Mixing business with pleasure

I’ve been making friends in the writing community for decades, and collecting artists along the way. One of those writing friends is William D. Prystauk– from a chance meeting at a literary event for Kaylie Jones hosted by Laurie Lowenstein– which had to be 15 years ago.

Bill and I would meet for coffee at Lafayette College’s Skillman Library and talk writing for hours. We’ve even seen Gorbachev together. And he’s nailed my kid in the face with a frisbee, probably one of the first signs she had ADHD. She couldn’t stop talking long enough to notice the frisbee sailing toward her.

Bill is also the author of the Kink Noir series: Bloodletting, Punishment, Debauchery and Bondage. I asked him if he could bring Parisian Phoenix Publishing some inventory for the upcoming April 29 celebration of National Independent Bookstore Day we are holding in collaboration with Easton’s Book and Puppet.

While Bill is not officially one of the Parisian Phoenix authors, he did appear in our 2022 anthology, Not an AbleBodied White Man with Money. As publisher at Parisian Phoenix, I try to promote the hard work of authors that appear in our books, even if those other works do not appear in our stable. That’s one of the benefits of working with a tiny craft press.

Bill and I went to a new business in my neighborhood, Plants & Coffee. They literally opened last week. Bill and I are whores for good conversation, environment and taste-bud experiences. He tried their mango spritzer, and I went for the lavender rose basil spritzer. I love lavender. I love rose. And the mix… greenery surrounding us, the calming lavender and the exoticism of the rose, which reminds me of the Arab sections of Paris…

The shop itself is in a building where I once toured an apartment that could have come straight out of a 1970s porn set. The commercial space was most recently some sort of discount produce stand, and if I remember correctly had some makeshift arcade for a while, and prior to that what Bill referred to as the best Mexican food he’d ever had in this life at a place called “Garibaldi’s.” I remember it, but I never ate there.

So imagine my surprise when I walk into this gleaming space of black, cream and greenery. Small touches like books, retail items and couches providing so much softness and homey feel.

I will be back.

(Meanwhile The Teenager is at home getting her newly adopted rats situated.) They are fitting right in to the menagerie. She adopted them from the Harrisburg Humane Society.

And we also went for sushi at Jasmine, which I often think is Bill’s real reason for coming to see me.

Final days of medical leave…

The reduced dosage of my beta blocker has put more pep in my step and so far improved my symptoms of feeling quasi-lightheaded. And I can get out of bed without sleeping 10 hours a night!

Yesterday was a magnificent day. The Teenager and I went to her grandmother’s for an impromptu early Easter dinner and pie baking lesson. Grammy’s crust is 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup shortening and 1/4 cup water.

We brought the dog and invited Southern Candy to have dinner with us, since she had texted that she missed me and I had produce scraps for the guinea pigs.

Southern Candy told me she had regrets about accepting the invitation because she doesn’t “know these people” but I assured her it would be no problems, she’d have fun and there would be pie. Prune custard to be exact.

And Southern Candy told me she doesn’t like custard. I told her she should try it, and if she didn’t like it, she could slip it onto my plate.

Southern Candy loved Grammy’s decorating style, her cooking and our free-flowing conversation. And then she was the first person at the table to reply when Grammy asked how the pie turned out.

“I’ll tell you,” Southern Candy said. “I don’t even like custard but this pie is delicious!”

Grammy’s pie does that to people.

Grammy tried to make me memorize the custard recipe: 4 eggs, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 regular can milk, and corn starch. I forgot the exact measurement.

Meanwhile today I deep-cleaned my room. I only got it 75% done, but it gave me a chance to do sustained work before returning to the warehouse Monday. Perhaps in the future I will do a blog entry on family books. I have my travel diary, my great-grandmother’s little brother’s copy of Walden, my great-grandmother’s Aunt Tilly’s scrapbook and family notes, my great-grandmother’s journal from when she was 20, some old prayer books and hymnals, and my grandfather’s scrapbook of his time on the Queen Mary during World War II, which has Bob Hope’s autograph in it.

And I got the results of my Zio patch — but the cardiologist has not reviewed them yet.

And the latest medical stuff…

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.

Alpha Books J Journal

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.

vegan tofu salad with lime dressing and cucumbers

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.

The many moods of Minerva

Minerva is the last foster cat from the second litter of kittens we fostered for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Her brother, Mars, is The Teen’s foster fail. I can only assume their siblings Jupiter and Vesta lived happily ever after. Our Roman Pride of kittens.

Every month or two, I take Minerva and usually someone else to keep her company to the Meet the Cats event at the Phillipsburg Petco, because it’s a quieter and smaller event than the organization’s usual pre-adoption mixers at the Petsmart in Lower Nazareth Township. It’s a different state and a different crowd.

Mars and Minerva spent almost six months in various habitats — Petco, where one volunteer couldn’t read directions and got bit by Mars; then Petsmart, and then the other Petco in Phillipsburg because everyone thought they would do well with the coordinator there. And they did. And we did. But they spent too long in pet stores which made Mars unflappable and social, while Minerva became shy and nervous.

So they came home. They are both soft, cuddly tuxedo cats.

And when the same person who cared so well for them two years ago asked if Minerva could return, I said yes.

I was told a family wanted to meet her today, so I went to Petco to warm her up before they arrived.

It became apparent very quickly she was happy to see me.

And after a lickable treat, she became downright flirtatious with the young man/teenager feeding her. He had never had a cat before and the two of them seemed to have quiet souls. He pet Minerva for 45 minutes, and then she made eyes at the mother and soon came out for proper greetings.

It was a friendly, charming side of Minerva I’ve never seen around strangers before.

And when we started to leave, she followed us to the end of her enclosure, hollering, as if to say, “Hey! You can’t leave without the cat!”

Minerva is the perfect first cat. They sent a text saying they are heavily leaning toward adopting her.

And they go to the same vet who already treats Minerva. My fosters will always have a home with me, but I have long believed that Minerva needs more quiet predictability in her life to blossom. A teen who enjoys video games in his room is the perfect companion for Minerva, and she’s a low maintenance cat with no baggage.

The mom asked me why she had been in foster so long– as if she had to have some secret flaw. But she really doesn’t. Her flaw is she hides, and she hates loud places so she doesn’t “show” well. She’s merely been overlooked.

Maybe this is her time.

If it is, we’d be down to three fosters.

The Mid-Weekend Check In: 48 hours+ with the Zio and life at the publishing company

Sunday morning.

I’ve been sipping strong coffee for about 90 minutes now, munching pistachios as I take my morning beta blocker. I have been trying to get my meds to 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. I don’t want to take them at the time I get up for work, because who wants to wake at 4 a.m. on a day off? The hospital gave me them at 9:30… but in the evening I’m usually asleep by then and working on a typical day. 8:30 a.m. is my morning break at work, so that would make sense from a practical point of view, but it would also mean having a snack at 8 p.m. and not getting to sleep until 9 which means the most sleep I will ever get is 7 hours. 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. sound ideal because I usually arrive at work at 6 a.m. and have a small breakfast and 6 p.m. is dinner.

But today I slept until 7.


But when I got downstairs, my legs felt persnickety and my blood pressure was perfect if not a little low– so I went ahead and made the strong coffee. And I took my baclofen for the first time since before I went into the hospital.

One of the generalist’s at the hospital thought the baclofen might be causing some of my issues. Which makes this a test? Maybe?

But this is not a post about my Zio heart monitor or my scabs slowly crumbling down my face, though those things are fun. My gash is healing rapidly and well. I wanted to talk a bit about my weekend and what’s up with the publishing company.

Many of these thoughts will be further explored as part of the Parisian Phoenix blog and Substack newsletter. We’ve migrated from Mailchimp to Substack for better visibility and the prospect of building more paid resources and services for writers and readers. If you didn’t read this week’s recent release, check it out here.

Friday night, a journalist friend and her partner came to visit. I had planned to go visit her, but this close to my hospitalization I wasn’t sure driving on the highway by myself for an hour was a good idea. They have also been involved with cat rescue, so she’s offered some support on realigning the cat book. I’m helping her (I hope) with some of her goals and we’re both trying to help people find ways to publish their books.

My unsolicited submissions pile is growing rapidly.

Meanwhile, the dog is keeping an eye on me.

In the afternoon yesterday, I visited my “office” at Panera where our photographer Joan touched base with me regarding her activities at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group conference this coming weekend. She’s not fooling me– I know my friends are doing wellness checks.

But I had the most amazing meeting with the duo behind Echo City Capers, and we have a handshake agreement to launch some projects together which will allow Parisian Phoenix Publishing to kickstart Parisian Phoenix Kittens with a second edition of an Echo City Capers Jr. book, a children’s book from Darrell Parry (and maybe someday a puzzle book/older kid story– hint hint Darrell) and perhaps event a story in the vein of Eric Carle from Larry Sceurman.

It’s thrilling to watch a simple “let’s introduce ourselves” coffee meeting can explode into ideas and mutual support.

That little meeting went two hours and when they saw our physical books, they were pleased. They immediately saw the love and attention we give to our titles at Parisian Phoenix, and without even meeting Gayle yet, I think they “know” and trust her.

I ended my afternoon romp with a visit to Larry, to deliver some publicity materials and give him and his wife, Barbara, a copy of Thurston’s book.

When I left, I felt like my blood sugar was dropping. I found a cherry Pop Tart that the Teenager had left in my car more than a year ago and came home and made a lovely lamb dinner. (The teenager saw lamb and potatoes in the skillet and immediately claimed the leftovers.) My blood pressure was high, but it was also time to take my beta blocker.

Finally, I slithered to my bed– exhausted, when I didn’t even do much– in great anticipation to finish Katherine Ramsland’s I Scream Man and Echo City Capers YA Graphic Novel printed in Canada, Who Turned the Lights Out?

I was so tickled and delighted to read the wit, the humor and the “smarts” in this little volume, which the type is uniquely done and the paper quality gorgeous. It made me very sad to put the book down to sleep.

The update on life, service dogs, what it feels like to live with cerebral palsy, and other things I know at least one faithful reader is waiting for

I haven’t written in a while. Again. I’ve wanted to– I’ve started blog entries and not finished them. I’ve posted on Parisian Phoenix’s web site. Please, if you haven’t subscribe to the mailing list over there or on Substack. Or buy a book. From Parisian Phoenix directly or wherever you prefer to buy books. We have an affiliate shop on, that’s another option to consider.

Meanwhile, forgive the cornucopia of prepositions in that title.

And I think it’s time to give another work friend an official nickname. I’m going to christian another work friend, the one with the stylish purple glasses that really complement her skin tone, as “Faithful Bizzy Reader.” She is one of my tribe, one of us who has migrated from Midnight Society to the Sunday cohort to traditional day shift at our Pennsylvania Stitch Fix warehouse. Those transitions, as brutal as they’ve been over the last 16 or so months, have made us a raucous bunch. At least, that’s how we behave at our lunch table. She’s noticed my sporadic posts, and today I admitted that my physical health has drained me to the point where I have nothing left to write.

The disability/cerebral palsy/dog stuff

As I’m sitting here, my Goffin’s cockatoo is grooming me, and I’m trying to get her to trim my hangnail. She’s really good at hangnails and splinters. If you never heard the story of the raisin that fixed my gait and how Nala the Goffin removed my splinter, you can read that story here.

I have dealt with various levels of pain on and off for more than a week now. I prayed that it would end with my chiropractor appointment last week, but it didn’t. It went from an eight to a two, so I was happy with the improvement, but then cycle of vacillating between slight and excruciating burning continued for days. My glutes, my lower back, my quads and sometimes my knees scream horribly. And when an “attack” comes upon me, standing there takes all my energy and makes me want to vomit. The burning sensation never goes away. My quads and lower back are throbbing with about a two of pain right now, seated in this chair at my desk. And my calves are pulsing. Maybe even spasming.

I tried taking more muscle relaxers. I tried exercise. I tried rest. Nothing seems to make it better or worse. I even brought Sobaka with me to the gym. (If you look at the photo on the right, that’s Greg who founded Apex Training with our neighbor princess dog who has been staying with us this week. Also, my name is very close to the upper left hand corner on the chalkboard wall.)

Interestingly, my trainer Andrew said my posture in some of my core related movements looked good. But man, every exercise was a struggle. Even the “pop-squats” he asks me to do, merely sitting down and popping back up as soon as my butt hits the bench required a lot of concentration. And I honestly don’t know how I survived hamstring curls as my legs haven’t wanted to cooperate with things like basic walking or stretching out my quads. But I did it. I was really hoping the extra blood flow would help.

But it didn’t. And after so many days of inconsistent pain, I just want to sleep for a week and stream TV.

My toe and my Morton’s neuroma have not been bothering me, but I did order my latest pair of shoes a half-size bigger.

And in positive news, I received an email from Susquehanna Service Dogs that they received my post-CTE (canine therapeutic evaluation) paperwork and will be reaching out to schedule a home visit. The final step between me and the waiting list for a service dog. “Both you and [The Teenager] provided awesome, valuable feedback in your emails,” my coordinator in the program wrote. “I’m glad that you had yet another chance to work with Miss Katydid– she is spunky!!”

The Stitch Fix stuff

I’ve been struggling at work. Luckily my stats, even at my worst days have remained around 100%. I’ve been on a downward spiral ever since I got sent to work in inbound processing for a day. That day, working on the back of a line on a table forcing me to pass baskets pretty far forward and to my right, shifted something. I don’t have an injury, but ever since that day, the pain I’ve grown familiar with in my hip has moved into my tailbone and quads. It’s nice that my femur no longer feels like it’s poking a hole through my pelvic bone, but now my muscles of my lower body always feel like they are overtaxed.

Anyway, whatever is happening in my body caused me to miss metrics three days in a row and now I’m in the middle of a probationary period of sorts known as “focus,” a first warning where Stitch Fix, my supervisor and myself work together to discover how Stitch Fix can “support me” because four rounds of “focus” can lead to termination.

Or I’m guessing will lead to termination.

I don’t know what to think– and once again I find myself placed in a situation where I need to be more of an advocate than I ever wanted to be. I enjoy my job. I love the people. I find the wages and benefits fair. But will it come to the point where I have to argue that 1. Their lack of following my approved medical accommodations during that day in inbound may have caused this whole situation (and I did not advocate enough for myself at the time, because I didn’t know it would f*ck me up) and 2. I have worked for the company for nearly two-and-a-half years and I have always experienced periods where I just cannot perform like the average person. Their recent change in metrics have placed me at a disadvantage, and I still have the capacity to do just as much work as the average person over longer periods of time, I just cannot do it every day. And the two days a month of grace they allow us does not fit my body.

So… keep in mind… yesterday I did 136 fixes, which is 105% of the daily minimum expectation of 130 fixes. I could have done 140, but I slowed down toward the end. In the old system, those extra fixes would have cushioned my numbers. Today, I did 130 while fighting nauseating pain and fighting for balance. I could have done 131, but again, it won’t matter. But in the old system, had I done 140 and 131, that puts me 11 fixes ahead for the weekly average, which means if I only made 120 later in the week, I would still hit my numbers.

I understand that they need consistent performance, but if you know an employee is giving 100% and that employee has a documented disability, that employee deserves a little bit of leeway.

I have a lot of questions about this “focus” concept. But, if once I get out of my focus period, how long do I have to perform at 100% before I end up clear of my record of first focus, because it’s only a matter of time before my body can’t do it. So, how long do I have to last before receiving a second focus, versus another first focus?

The fun Stitch Fix (fashion) stuff

There are several items in the Stitch Fix inventory I have wanted for a very long time. One is the Papermoon ember sweatshirt in dark gray that reads, “Weekend.” I love the cut of the Hiatus t-shirts. There is a Lagerfeld ruffle, striped tank top. Some Liverpool plaid pants. I could go on…

And since I received my discount back from The Teenager, I went on a bit of a shopping spree and bought some sale items. But, meanwhile, I kept thinking of the Skies are Blue Hannah modal blazer in magenta. It’s normally $88, incredibly silky, and the perfect color to represent Parisian Phoenix at events. Don’t confuse this with the Skies are Blue boyfriend blazer in magenta– the Hannah blazer is sleeker, softer and less boxy.

I earmarked the blazer as a favorite in my Stitch Fix account. It popped up in my proposed looks, as it does in the photo to the right. I already own that bag. I love that bag, the Urban Expressions utility tote in mustard if memory serves. I love the dress, but my middle-aged saggy mama belly couldn’t pull it off, and I would certainly wear those boots. But seeing this look made me cave and buy the blazer. Thank you employee discount! It headed out from the Breezy in Atlanta and should be here Friday.

The boring stuff

Finally, in household stuff: I still need to finish my local and state taxes, and pay the per capita tax. My drivers license renewal form came. I cleaned the air purifier in my bedroom (primarily caked with that chalky white bird dust) and must do a deeper than usual clean of the two cat boxes in my bedroom because I’m smelling ammonia in there. The Teenager had chicken quesadillas on the menu tonight. And I have a library meeting on Zoom at 7 p.m. I serve on the board of trustees at my local public library, the Mary Meuser Memorial Library.

So, there will be no sleeping for a week or streaming TV. Instead, I will attend my meeting and collapse in bed in exhaustion and get dressed out of the laundry basket in the living room because I just don’t have the strength to carry it up the stairs.

This is how we start 2023?

It’s 4 a.m. on Sunday, January 1, 2023.

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.