Getting sick of electronic devices and words

I haven’t written in a while and I may keep this one skeletal.

I called out sick from work on Thursday and skipped my workout as I woke up in the same pain I had when I went to bed.

I thought I would rest in bed with my laptop and work more on the Parisian Phoenix website, my erotica collection, or even book four of the Fashion and Fiends series, Road Trip.

But instead I had my first Big Mac ever (which is especially odd since I worked my way through college at a McDonalds), ate too much candy and slept for 12 hours straight. The cats did not know what to make of that.

Are you curious how I responded to the Big Mac? See that here.

Friday I moved a little slow but still got decent numbers in QC folding clothes and after work ate too many cheese curls.

But, in my defense, they were amazing cheese curls— sour cream and cheddar— that I found at my local Dollar Tree.

Speaking of food, I also made my final Green Chef meal. Video here. I cheated a bit, adding beef tips, and forgot the pecans and the vegan aioli but it still tasted great.

Tonight I made Purple Carrot’s Fieldstone sausages with roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables. Another great dish. I also made a side of “leftover sauce” pasta, mixing up every scrap from the fridge.

This morning, the teenager and I met up with Dan at Apex training and I did some lower body while Dan taught the teen to do barbell squats. He started by giving her the bar and evaluating her form and then he gave her some weight.

I think she used some muscles in her knees and legs that she has never used before, not with that range of motion. Let’s just say she was walking like me on the way home.

Then we treated ourselves to some egg sandwiches, grabbed the dog and went to the Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab Yard sale and cake auction. The child spent all my money— but we didn’t buy any cake. She got dog supplies and the massive dog now has a mermaid flotation device and a puffer jacket. And I have my third tea pot in two years. The teenager kills my tea pots.

Even the cats got goodies. See the new water fountain here.

I never saw a cake auction before and it was certainly more fun than the livestock auctions I’ve seen.

The dog was so tired she couldn’t keep her eyes open in the car on the way home.

Then I came home and made a video I’ve been putting off. I kept planning to get a little dressed up, do my makeup, set up a cozy spot on the sunporch and made a video of me reading a little of my novel.

Instead, I did it in sweatpants on the couch with the dog. See it here.

Stress, leg day, wins for the cat cafe, taste testing and EZ Pass Drama

In 45 minutes, I need to leave for work. It’s Thursday and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving all week. I’m behind on my own commitments and starting to feel panicked.

The pop up kitten cafe fundraiser for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is this Sunday.

Although it has required effort from many people, in the last few days this has become my baby.

In the last 24 hours, we received commitments from Just Born candy and Target #2536 (the same Target where I used to work and that experienced a fatal shooting in the parking lot last weekend).

This brings our list of supporters to:

  • Many individual bakers
  • Easton Baking Company
  • Philly Pretzel
  • Wawa
  • Wegmans
  • Giant Food Stores
  • Keystone Snacks
  • Chocolate Works
  • Target
  • Just Born

Today the teenager and I will be heading to Keystone Snacks to get the Veggie Chips donation.

So that’s the fundraiser but meanwhile real-life goes on. I haven’t worked on William Prystauk‘s upcoming novel in his Kink Noir series, Bondage, in several days. Our personal cat, kitty cancer survivor Opie has a very goopy, wet eyes. This is very unusual for Opealope so I gave him a couple treatments with a chamomile tea eye wash for cats grown and prepared by our fellow foster, Granola Cat Lady.

Despite all this (and only 5 hours sleep from sharing my bed with the teenager’s dog, F. Bean Barker), I still made it to Apex Training for leg day and some warm-up core work. My body was very stiff after that, not really from the workout but because my period is late and doing things to my body.

Although I have to admit I fell on the way to the gym and broke the screen to my iPhone. After 3.5 years I now get to test my SquareTrade insurance.

The other big news is that the teenager installed a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old one had screws so stripped it kept falling off while you were sitting on it. Bad news is: our bathroom is 1950s Flamingo Pink. The new toilet seat is white— the only one they had. I hate white toilet seats on colored bowls but I also hate “falling in.” And now that she’s seen it, the teenager agrees.

I finally tried my Emmi Roth cheddar cheese snacks from Hungryroot which were supposed to be for tuna artichoke melts but I couldn’t bring myself to use such fancy cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich. A colleague and I were talking about snacks & cheese so I brought her some and we tried it at the Bizzy Hizzy.

She loved it so much she googled where to buy it. Apparently it’s only available in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It literally melts in your mouth.

After work I went to Sheetz and ordered a pina colada lemonade with immunity boost with my bonus points. It tasted like candy, too thick to be refreshing but definitely very summery. I added some mango vodka when I got home. (Here’s a video if you want to see me talk to myself in a parking lot at midnight.)

And finally, not sure if I mentioned it on the blog, but I’m another step closer to resolving the great EZ Pass Drama of Summer 2021. Did you ever procrastinate something so long it bit you in the ass?

Yeah, so that’s what happened to me.

So, our Nissan Ultima (oh how I loved that car) died suddenly. My husband and I were still together and only had one car. He replaced the Ultima was a used Nissan Juke— a car he had wanted for a while. We moved everything from the Ultima into the Juke.

I had ordered an EZ Pass when I started work on my master’s in world history at West Chester University and was driving down the turnpike at least once a week.

So I knew that the EZ Pass was connected to my car— the Ultima— but I never really used it. I forgot about it. And then I bought my Jetta because I hated the Juke. Our family didn’t really go anywhere. I worked retail so I never really got time off. I had stopped working on my master’s as money got tight and my marriage continued to fail.

I neither returned nor updated the EZ Pass.

My husband returned the box of random things from the Ultima and I, with other things on my mind, tossed the transponder in my car hoping to remember to update it.

I never did.

At this point, I don’t even remember how to access my EZ Pass account.

This summer, the teenager took her grandmother to Cape May. She pulled up to the first toll booth and the toll collector yelled at her for trying to pay the toll.

Being a dutiful child, she trusted the toll collector who told her she had an EZ Pass.

Two weeks later, we get two violations from NJ EZ Pass. $30 in missed tolls and $55 in administrative fees. My daughter and I send a check, but I also send an email stating that I understand I hadn’t updated the EZ Pass, but my daughter had tried to pay the toll and the toll collector yelled at her.

They cashed the check.

Then a couple weeks after that I get a letter from PA Turnpike EZ Pass stating I had insufficient funds in my account and they were threatening to ticket me. Now, my EZ Pass was on a credit card. That credit card expired one month before my daughter’s trip.

I call the number. Because I don’t know my account pin or my transponder number, I am forced to leave a message and they say they will call me back. That was Monday.

A couple days ago I get another letter from NJ EZ Pass. They claim I didn’t pay one of the two violations. I send another email and send them a screen shot from my banking app of the cashed check.

It’s now Thursday. I go to PA EZ Pass and try to remember all my account info. I easily succeed. I look at the “insufficient funds.” $5.37 cents. They also demand $35 to load my account fully. Even though I haven’t used it in three years.

And you can’t just pay what you owe.

I then go to the “manage vehicles” tab, add the Jetta and delete the Ultima. That took five minutes. Had I done that years ago, I could have avoided the whole drama.

The highs and lows of Christmas 2020

Christmas is always hard for me. Having a second teenager, a houseful of kittens and brand new budgie chicks helps me escape a lot of the pain that surfaces during the holidays.

And no matter what I try, I can’t escape it. Instead, I work to minimize it.

And every year it gets a little easier.

It’s 9:30 pm now— I am listening to Rachmaninov on my brand new AirPods and at first I was very disappointed to discover that they didn’t have buttons.

Imagine my shock when I discovered they automatically turn on and off when I place them in my ear and take them off. And so far they don’t fall out as easily as the cheap ones do. (When I saw cheap I mean cheap— I got my previous set for $10 at Family Dollar. I had no problems with my $10 set either except I broke pieces off of them within the first couple days).

So to continue writing about my holiday backwards, teenager #1 received kitchen tools from teenager #2 and a new hand mixer from my mother-in-law. She’s baking banana bread now.

Apparently piles of cookies and fruitcake aren’t enough for her.

I’m journaling, blogging, and about to watch another episode of The Tudors. I can’t believe Vale of FURR’s Norse Pride is going home tomorrow— and I am bringing three other kittens to the adoption fair as well.

Fern-Edie is doing well in her new home. And I am starting to hyperventilate a little thinking this might be the last night my bed looks like this:

Vale and Loki

As I came up to my bedroom to start the animals’ night routine, I noticed all three budgies were out. Mama Wink showed me that all her eggs had hatched and I watched her clean shell off her newest chick. We hope to name them Yule, Winter and Christmas if they all survive. I hope they do.

Other highlights of Christmas:

  • The big Christmas mission for the teenager’s mysterious package earlier this week was… her varsity jacket!

YouTube: Teenager opens her varsity jacket

  • We listened to some non traditional Christmas carols extremely loudly in the car. Including “The Christmas Tree’s on Fire.”
  • I earned a place of honor in this year’s Christmas Grace, “Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe from Corona, well except for Angel.” Ever burst out laughing during a prayer? Now I have.
  • I was asked to make the broccoli for Christmas dinner. My step mom doesn’t trust anyone else with the green vegetables I guess. I sautéed them golden brown in butter with sea salt, too much multicolored peppercorns (I grabbed the wrong jar— oops!) and herbs de Provence.
  • Christmas was much smaller than usual because of the pandemic, so my stepmom decided we would get fresh cut steaks from the butcher. She even ordered one for my brother’s dog. And she wanted to grill them. The temperature dropped drastically while my dad was at the grill and then all the steaks went up in flames. I learned that a good blue cheese dressing can cut the taste of charcoaled steaks.

I guess the last thing I’ll mention is that the teenager got a pet play pen which will come in handy for our work with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Of course, I’ve discovered it houses cats and teenagers.

I gave up my Fitbit.

About three weeks or a month ago, I was standing in the kitchen at work and my bracelet broke. But, you see, it wasn’t merely a bracelet. It was one of the custom Fitbit bracelets my husband made me.

I slipped it into my pocket where the old Fitbit Flex could at least continue to track my steps and continued my day.

When I got home, I relayed the catastrophe to my husband. The next day, he fixed it. He fixed it while I was at work. My Fitbit broke on Saturday and I went to work Sunday without it.

Sunday is the first day of the week. This whole week would be “under” since I missed a day. I couldn’t “make up” those steps. I’d spend the whole week below my Fitbit friends in the rankings when I knew I had more steps than that.

So I challenged myself to take the week off.

It took until Thursday for someone to email and ask me if my Fitbit died. I’m really surprised that no one emailed or called my husband to see if I had died.

By the weekend, I didn’t miss it.

I’ve been wearing my Fitbit for more than two years. My Fitbit story is NOT the usual Fitbit story. I needed to lose ten pounds. I had some health issues that led to me gaining weight and I needed to lose about ten pounds. I was 39 and thought I had to do it now because the next decade historically is not kind to women in my family.

Well, when you walk a mile every hour at work, and suddenly cut carbohydrates, increase protein, remove junk food from your diet, give up alcohol and fancy coffee drinks… And decide to bike with your daughter, box in the garage and lift weights… Those ten pounds come off easily.

One month later, I had lost thirty pounds.

Oops.

I bought a Fitbit to make sure I ate enough for my increase in activity. And then when I understood how much food and what food my body needed, I kept wearing it because I liked the step goals. I loved seeing the charts and the impact. But then I started to know without looking. So, then my focus turned to my sleep habits. Now that I never mastered. My sleep habits stink. I’m a mom, after all.

I lost my drive for a lot of my activities. I used to roam the neighborhood for miles, do walks in new towns, even tried to run a 5K. I used to lift hard every day. I used to kick box and do yoga. But suddenly, my soul got tired.

Maybe it was stress.

I had regained about 15 pounds of that thirty lost, and it needed to return. It returned as muscle. I went from underweight and bony to muscular enough to toss forty pound boxes around in the freezer at work. I can carry a 35-pound of popcorn kernels on my shoulder across the entire store. I can do push-ups and chin-ups.

I have visible abs.

I don’t have wiggly arms.

So WHY did I stress myself out if I didn’t hit five miles a day? Why did I feel guilt if that number hovered around 10,000 steps? Why did I hate myself if I sat?

Even one “rest day” would drive me insane.

And the only time I watched a movie was if the battery died.

So, I’m glad I gave up my Fitbit.

A Lesson from EZ Pass

I spend too much of my life stressing over details in my life that really don’t require that much thought. Thanks to EZ Pass and my American Express this might be changing. 
I started grad school as a whim. Not something normal people do, but I’ve never done anything in the ordinary fashion. The tuition went on my American Express (no interest until August 2016), along with my prepay heating oil bill for the winter.

When I first started driving to West Chester every week, I gathered a stack of singles and fives to keep in my console in the car. Toll money. There are two fairly equally ways to travel the turnpike to West Chester. One involves Route 22 and straight down, the other uses Route 78 and the back roads to hook up with the turnpike in Quakertown.

The back road method eliminates a dollar or so in tolls.

And I’m cheap.

I ordered an EZ Pass and I noticed something when it came. I didn’t care so much about that extra buck. I usually drive to West Chester on the cheaper way, but on the way home I never feel like weaving around in the dark. So I don’t.

And I refuse to stress over saving or spending a dollar. 

I’ve noticed on my EZ Pass bill that it really doesn’t force my account to recharge any sooner than if I stick to my stingy back way.

Maybe I’m mellowing in my old age.

I freaked out the first time I used the EZ Pass. What if it didn’t work? I made my husband use the ticket and EZ Pass lane just to be sure.

And that stack of $30 in small bills in my car? It’s down to $5. Most of it reallocated to the child’s lunch money. 

But it took a month before I was willing to touch it.

Technology: iPhone junkie unplugged

Image

A month ago, I left my phone in D.C. It came home in this package.

I am an iPhone junkie.

Everyone around me knows it. I have never denied it. Earlier this summer, I left my iPhone 4 on my friend’s bookshelf in D.C. where it was charging. He mailed it to me, but since I left on a Thursday and the phone arrived on Monday afternoon, that meant five days without my phone.

Monday, while cleaning the bathroom, my iPhone slipped from my pocket and went for a brief swim. As it fell, I reached out to catch it but it was too late. Submerged in water for about seven seconds, the time and my home screen flashed at me briefly before it powered down. I sealed it inside a plastic bag of whole grain brown rice. I’m told I can’t touch it for a week. A week!

That was about 50 hours ago. I find it’s not the Facebook or the Instagram I miss as badly as the lack of information. When my husband mocked me for not knowing a 1980s cartoon monkey, there would be no YouTube search. No news makes it into my house. My favorite news sources’ tweets fall upon other ears. No texts from my father. No Facebook messages from work colleagues pushed to the forefront to let me know that extra shifts are mine for the claiming.

No impromptu photography of the ridiculous things my daughter does. No blogging of the meals we eat day-to-day for my recipe blog, http://www.angelfoodcooking.blogspot.com. My email is limited, as we don’t really have internet in the house. Those job listings I find via the Indeed app each morning… Those are far away. No pedometer to tell me how far I’ve walked or where I walked it.

It’s hard to check my bank balance, especially since I have several accounts at two different banks all of which are more or less empty. When I went to Target to buy my grandmother a new nightgown, I couldn’t use Cartwheel. Read a book? Listen to music? Nope, can’t do that, either. No maps. No easy access to my calendar, phone numbers or addresses. No GPS to tell me where I am. No apps to help me find the nearest bike path or public transports. I can’t even buy a train ticket.

I’ve been told I can do things via my phone that some people haven’t mastered on their computers. I edited press releases via the Pages app, share them as Word docs and save them to Google Drive or simply email them. I keep PDFs of my resume, favorite samples, portfolio and recent newsletters that I can distribute with a touch of my finger.

My Instagram followers and Facebook friends may think I’m dead. In a way, I am. I am using my circa 2009 Nokia flip-phone that I gave my husband after his phone went through the washing machine. The kind people who answered at my carrier’s customer service line have forwarded my calls to his line. But that leaves us one phone. For a family of three. And no landline. My daughter doesn’t even remember when we had a “house phone.” Answering machines are alien technology.

The ring tone of my ancient phone is Cake’s “No Phone.” The lyrics remind me, “No Phone. No Phone. I just want to be alone today.” I loaded it as a joke back-in-the-day when I was a newspaper reporter. In the days before iPhones, Twitter and Facebook.

But, hey, the old Nokia has a car charger.