Updates, announcements and anecdotes

It’s just about to turn 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The last 48 hours have been emotionally difficult, and those are internal challenges I have resolved within myself but now I need to “make right” in the world.

My good friend Joan (the talented photographer) had quipped that the moon is in “Frustrato” phase and perhaps that is accurate.

Sometimes it’s nice to blame the universe instead of accepting our part in the mayhem. Because even good intentions spark fires.

I heard a podcast yesterday; I believe it was an economic one, that asked if one host was “a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy.” He replied, “it’s just half.”

That’s too much enigma and philosophy for pre-dawn hours. Blame the fact that my trusty espresso machine only filled half my mug.

Mug from Purr Haus in Emmaus

The teenager and I had 14 kittens in the house Saturday, Sunday and Monday offering temporary lodging for these babies whose official Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab foster families have gone on summer vacation.

They were so much fun to have around, but 11 went home last night. This led the Teenager’s officially adopted foster fail Mars of the Roman Pride distraught that his friends had gone. He screamed until the Teenager released him into “gen pop” where he plopped himself down in front of the remaining visitors.

On Friday, I had a rather grueling session at Apex Training with my coach Andrew. We did some intense work on balance and single leg muscle stability. On Saturday, the communication between my brain and my lower body felt rickety (for lack of a better description) and it was challenging to move. By Sunday, the movement felt smoother but my phone was registering spikes in walking asymmetry. But something very interesting happened Monday— I could not only stand on one leg, but I could also hold my leg in a few seconds of a quad stretch.

Yesterday, I visited the Stitch Fix employee store, which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario. I bought myself jewelry on an impulse and discovered my second holes could still accept earrings. As someone who really grew up in the 80s and graduated high schools in the 1990s, I have three sets of holes in my ears.

I bought the Teenager some new things, including some warm hiking style boots for fall and her dog walks. I bought myself an adorable pair of shorts, and I picked one size up from my pre-existing Stitch Fix clothes and they were too small.

Obviously my efforts to reduce my recent (as in pandemic era) weight gain have been not sincere enough. Sigh. I’m trying to eat better and move more without falling into a strict/restrictive mindset.

But I did eat an entire medium pizza from Domino’s the other night. It was a medium hand-tossed crust, light on the cheese, light on the garlic Alfredo sauce with red peppers and pineapple.

On the way home from work last night, I noticed that the furniture store looked abandoned— and that the sign merely said urn.

In the background of all of this, the ‘cat book’ from Parisian Phoenix has hit some unexpected difficulties prompting a delay in its production. But my quick thinking, after a few hours of pondering, have inspired an interim release of a mini cat book featuring advice and stories about the care of cats. The larger book will come later, perhaps in early 2023.

In the meantime, I am very puzzled why my sweet tripod foster Louise has decided to crate herself.

And the most surprising item of the day was receiving my first catalog for Parisian Phoenix Publishing— Uline junk mail!

I suppose the last update is that the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs have cashed my check for the application fee. I’m anxiously awaiting contact.

To say life has been hectic feels like an understatement.

Friday night in Emmaus: Supporting FURR and cat camaraderie

So today I read more of Tylia Flores’ cerebral palsy memoirs, helped an aspiring writer, went to the gym and took a nap.

Sunday I return to work.

Speaking of which, today I received an amazing hand-drawn card from one of my up-and-coming Parisian Phoenix authors to celebrate my time off. Joan says this shows he’ll fit right in.

In the evening, the teen and I popped down to Emmaus, the first of what I hope will be several upcoming visits. I did to get to Let’s Play Books and some of the other Emmaus shops.

But tonight we were headed to Purr Haus, a cat-themed boutique that works with local cat rescues (owned by a former local newspaper reporter). It was finally the night of the FURR fundraiser— 20% of item sales and 100% of basket raffle sales went to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

The teen bought some stuff. Then I bought a lot of stuff. Including this mug.

Because I so need this in my life. And I was an idiot and got two of my three t-shirts one size too small. I keep forgetting I gained weight and grew boobs during the pandemic.

I’ll blame that on the glass of red wine they served me at Purr Haus.

I also asked the owner to contribute to our anthology, As the FURR Flies. She said yes. I hope to tie up most of the project for the graphic designer this week.

The teen took me for espresso milkshakes and chicken salad sandwiches at Vargtimmen King Koffee.

Fun place.

The sunset was gorgeous and I saw some 50s-era cars in a driveway. And I think the teen enjoyed driving my Jetta turbo on the highway.

And then I came home and tried on my cat wardrobe— and realized my error in two of my t-shirts.

Cat rescue isn’t all work. There is some play.

Cracker Barrel & Vitamin D: Blending the Mundane, Building Friendship

I started my day by leaving the house at 7:15 a.m. to visit my friends the phlebotomists at Quest Diagnostics. With my history of anemia and fluctuating iron & vitamin D levels, I tend to get iron & vitamin D checks with my annual bloodwork.

My vitamin D was low during my January 2021 physical (22) so I started adding vitamin D + calcium supplements to my diet. With my multi & my slow release iron.

By June, that had jumped to 32. I stayed that level for the next six months. Today’s test would see if I had gained more— 30 is considered normal.

I started laundry before I left so I could wear my new cat t-shirt. I had a much anticipated meeting with social activist-journalist Dawn Heinbach scheduled for the afternoon at Cracker Barrel, a location I thought would be convenient as she lives several counties away. She submitted some material for the Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money anthology. I had some books she wanted. I know she’s a cat person so I knew she would love my French pun cat shirt.

When I got home from Quest, I made an egg sandwich and took a photo to my artist friend Maryann whose mixed media postcards appeared in Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money. She thinks all my food photographs are well-played and pleasingly styled. I told her she’ll have to come for dinner.

I put the laundry in the dryer and eventually changed into my cat shirt. I did some paperwork before I picked up my good friend Nancy to provide a ride to the doctor. Nancy is my poetry editor at Parisian Phoenix Publishing and she’s blind. She keeps me in line both with my writing and my business and occasionally has to make sure I’m facing my disability in an intelligent fashion.

While at the doctor’s office a very senior citizen’s phone went off. The ring tone was the opening notes of Usher’s “Yeah.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. He looked mortified. Did a grandchild prank him?

I finished Tylia Flores’ Handi-Capable while in the waiting room. I posted a review on Amazon.

We did a couple other Nancy errands and I pointed out I needed gas in the car, and asked if she’d mind a detour to Wawa. I think Nan made out on that one as she went home sign a turkey sandwich, some sour cream and onion potato chips and some half-and-half iced tea/lemonade.

Somehow the two of us can do absolutely nothing but laugh while doing it.

I spent the afternoon blogging and catching up on some work for the business before it was time to go to Fogelsville for my early dinner.

The sky opened, as they say.

I told Dawn I would hang out in those amazing Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. I didn’t know it would be in a deluge.

Luckily I had my umbrella in my car.

The servers came out and danced in the rain. An old man complimented my Eiffel Tower umbrella and said he and his wife were going there next.

Ever the grammar nerd, I said, “really? From Cracker Barrel right to Paris? I hope you love it.”

Dawn and I had a superb conversation about what journalism should be, and she lives in the geographic region served by my protege at Berks-Mont newspapers. We talked cats— and she did like the cat shirt. And my turkey dinner was disappointing but Dawn and I chatted for two hours. We shared a cup of coffee after dinner before going our separate ways.

I bought the teen a Scooby Doo mug and myself a coconut peanut butter candy that tasted like toffee both in flavor and mouth feel.

On the way home, my 2015 jetta played a horrible prank on me. The gas gauge and miles per gallon/miles until empty screens didn’t display any information. Luckily I got gas with Nan so I knew I had plenty. On the highway. 26 miles away from home.

Upon reaching home, I took care of some correspondence and received an update from my doctor. My vitamin D is now 37!

Here Kitty Kitty

Yes, that is a kitten. Yes that is a photo by the amazing Joan Zachary. Yes, that is the teenager.

Please check out this blog post about the upcoming book to benefit Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Yes, I am helping to write it, putting my journalism skills to work. And I am offering cat wisdom and reprinting a flash fiction I wrote in high school.

As The FURR Flies, an anthology of cat stories, heart-warming tales from cat rescuers, cat resources and cat advice has gone from in the pipeline to …

Here Kitty Kitty

A Tuesday update (PS- the cats are fine)

It’s 4:45 a.m.

I wake at 4:15 a.m. I leave for work at 5:45 a.m.

I don’t need to get up this early. But, I’ve been on 10-hour day shifts in the warehouse now for 6 months and I feel like it’s the best way to maintain some work-life balance and some productivity.

And honestly, by 8 or 9 p.m. I’m usually so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I am mindlessly eating and/or watching TV.

So I rise in the early morning. It’s too early. I have to tip-toe out of my room as to not wake the cockatoo. The cats are confused. But… This is my creative writing time, my Parisian Phoenix business time, my coffee time, and my cuddle cats time.

Our “gen pop” of cats include brothers Misty and Fog, and fosters through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab Touch of Grey and Minerva, with an occasional visit from our almost 12-year-old cancer surviving old man tripod Opie. Opie is like an old mob boss, but he’s tired now, and Fog, with his 2.5 years, has been challenging him for about the last year. Not in a really aggressive way, but challenging his authority enough that there have been some issues.

This morning, my productivity is not as, well, productive as I prefer. Sure, I tried to tame my curls. I started the dishwasher, took my allergy meds, made a big cup of coffee and checked for book sales. (None last night. The new title debuts next week– and it’s only $6.99. It’s also a novelette and written a little lighter than my usual dark style.)

But Minerva keeps coming to cuddle, Misty and Fog are playing, and Touch of Grey (Tiggy, as we sometimes call her) is patrolling. Oz is considering waking up in his crate, but he’s giving me side-eye. He will only wake if I plan to feed breakfast.

And if you have cats, you understand why I will not feed them breakfast at 4:30 a.m.

We corralled these “gen pop” cats into the spare bedroom last week for the teenager’s party, as we had some guests allergic to cats. The teenager thought it best to lock them up, then clean, as it would reduce the likelihood anyone would die.

We also passed out Benadryl at the door.

But that was the same stretch of time where two of the three cats accidentally given the dog’s flea meds ended up seizing. Misty and Touch of Grey ended up at the emergency vet, and $2300 later, they are both home. Neither is exhibiting any further neurological symptoms or personality damage.

They are both on muscle relaxers. So the teenager maintained quarantine to facilitate delivering their pills. But last night, she released them.

And I’m happy to watch Fog and Misty play, cuddle Minerva and encourage Tiggy to patrol.

The teenager said she liked the peace and quiet of having them locked up, but she has a dog to keep her company. I miss their cat obtrusion into my daily routine. Especially in the dog-free hours of pre-dawn.

Rebuilding

No fancy title. No big announcements . Just some subtle realness.

Though I do have a little good news. Misty came home today. He’s wobbly, but he’s his sweet-natured self. Video here.

Touch of Grey is still in the hospital.

If you missed that harrowing tale, you can read it here.

The world often seems twisted in an eternal loop of one step forward, two steps back. It makes me miss my dad.

But I noticed today amid the cat drama and everyday life— I worked with my blind friend Nan this morning— that I still have trouble with my right leg, mostly stiffness and lack of control, but no pain.

So when I headed to Apex Training for my session with Andrew, I felt anxious and emotionally exhausted but physically ready to go.

Every session Andrew challenges me more today— and I did a mixed grip barbell deadlift at 100 lbs. And for the first time, I felt like I nailed the form.

As if that weren’t enough, he had me do something I never heard of: a plank up. He wanted me to do 5, but I only did 4 1/2. Well, Greg was willing to give me credit for 4 3/4. And as the teenager says, Greg doesn’t hand out credit easily. Speaking of improvements, in Saturday’s session, I surpassed 60 seconds in a plank.

My strength, at least the physical kind, is coming back.

Dinner was a flat bread pizza — a vegetarian delight of random cheese I found in the fridge, a radish sliced thinly, and some honey with red pepper flakes.

Accidents happen: Don’t mess around with cats and flea meds

This is a cautionary tale for those of us who keep dogs and cats in the same household. And what happens when pet caregivers make a terrible mistake.

I don’t want to write it, because it makes me feel like a terrible, negligent person. But I will write it, because sometimes those experiences are the ones that impact someone else.

I know my cat bite experience and my resulting hospital stay is one of the most read pieces on this blog, right behind Girl Scout Camp Moseywood and my trip to Siberia for Pizza.

But enough of that… I didn’t get much sleep last night and I called out of work today… let me explain why.

The Mix-Up

Monday night when I got home from work, I was exhausted. For the second day in a row, I had surpassed expectations at work and was achy and just wiped out from getting up at 4 a.m. and grouchy.

The teenager gave me flea meds for the two foster cats that like me best and asked me to apply it. I tossed it with a little a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups into my clean laundry basket. I carried the basket to my room and started my nightly routine of feeding the birds, checking water bowls, cleaning cat boxes and organizing my clothes for the day to come.

Meanwhile, the teenager applied flea meds to Opie, our personal tripod cat who has survived bone cancer; Misty, another personal who is her baby— the runt of a litter born under a neighbor’s porch and the critter responsible for getting us involved with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab; and Touch of Grey, an adult foster cat who used to be extremely aggressive who is finally learning to be loved and appropriately social.

I grabbed the little silver packages from the basket and was about to set them aside (I’ll do it tomorrow, I told myself, I’m exhausted right now) when I noticed the words on the package— K9 Advantix Extra Large Dog Do Not Use on Cats.

F. Bean Barker

For those of you who normally read this blog, you know we have a 60 pound puppy, a mastiff/pit bull/black lab mix named Bean. These were her flea meds. Flea meds are extra important when you have dogs with indoor cats because the dog can transport fleas and other parasites into the house. So even if the cats never go outside they can get fleas and worms from the dog. So the teenager is religious about giving the dog her flea meds.

The cats get flea meds about every three months, or once a season, just in case. But, like the dog, you can apply monthly.

So immediately text the teenager— yes, from within my own house— because it’s the quickest way to get a teenager’s attention.

“You gave me dog flea meds. Please check what you gave the others.”

She kicked into action and gave all three of the cats baths with Dawn dish soap. (Which we later learned was the right thing to do.)

So the next step was to wait for signs of neurological distress. And for 24 hours nothing happened. We thought everything was good.

The Seizure(s)

The teenager is hosting a party on Friday and some of her guests are allergic to cats. She has an elaborate plan for cleaning and limiting cats to certain rooms. But we didn’t know what to do with Touch of Grey, because if she gets upset or can’t do what she wants she redirects and can be a bully.

Basically, no one wants to be trapped in a room with her. I suggested putting her in my room with the tripods, Opie and Louise, because Louise will hide and Opie is a boss with a good stare down. Touch of Grey had sneaked into my room when the teenager came to visit, so we decided to make her spend the night. And she decided to sprawl out in the middle of my bed.

I go to bed ridiculously early as I rise at 4 a.m. for my 6:30 a.m. 10-hour shift folding clothes at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse. I turned out my light at 8:30 p.m. and muttered sweet nothings to the cockatoo before falling asleep probably around 9 p.m. (26 hours after the application, for reference)

At literally midnight, I wake up to the cockatoo rustling and this horrible knocking sound, repetitive and frantic. I turned on my light. I am extremely near-sighted (like on a good day I might be able to see my toes versus my feet). I saw a cat thrashing against the wall, feet flailing on its back. I knew it was white.

That meant Touch of Grey or Louise. I put my glasses on and started counting legs. The two cats are extremely similar, except Louise is more white in the face and only has three legs. This cat had four. Touch of Grey! Flea meds!

I leapt out of bed and stopped to her side. The thrashing stopped but she was twitching and panting. I ran my hand across her and her heart was racing. I could feel it. I ran down the hall and woke the teenager.

She called our cat foster godmother, also president of the rescue, and brought her binder of pet first aid. The seizure had settled to twitching at this point, and Touch of Grey kept trying to leave the room. Lethargically.

Godmother told us to call poison control and Harmony Animal Hospital, one of the local emergency vets. Poison control directed us to animal poison control. We were given two numbers (which I wrote on the teenager’s arm with a giant green Sharpie)— one (the ASPCA) kept us on hold for about five minutes and the other kept trying to sell us car insurance.

Opie is looking at us as if to say, “What’s going on?”

We can’t find Misty anywhere.

We took Touch of Grey to the vet, and the vet explained that dog flea meds are extremely toxic to cats. I knew it was toxic, but had I know they were this toxic I would have brought them all in right away and not waited for symptoms (which can take three days to manifest).

We get home from the vet at 1:45 a.m. and the teenager finds her baby, her Misty, seizing in a cat box. I drive her to the vet and Misty is admitted. He’s running a fever of almost 105 degrees and showing more intense neurological symptoms.

Each cat could cost us $900 in vet medical bills.

We got home at 2:30 a.m.

No news this morning about how they are doing, but the vet is administering IV fluids and muscle relaxers. Opie seems okay.

Word of advice: store cat products and dog products in very different locations.

The Birthday Toaster and other silliness

The teenager got me a birthday present and it arrived today.

I didn’t expect it to arrive today so I asked her to pick up two items I haven’t tried from Dunkin: the pesto grilled cheese and stuffed bagel bites with chive and onion. Response here.

Here is the unboxing video.

I found it very cool that product registration for this Cuisineart compact toaster oven air fryer from Target could be completed via text & mobile internet.

My first recipe will be air fried apples & dates.

The dates cooked way faster than the apples so the dog ended up with some charred fruit jerky but the apples were tasty. I would lower the temp for a more even and chewier texture but that could have been due to my cut of the apple wedges.

The machine itself was very quiet while running. It threw a lot of heat— I would even claim it threw off more heat than my traditional oven. It’s size and the recipes that came with it seem the perfect volume for the teenager and I.

Also: Foster Mars wanted you to know it’s going to be a hot one today.

2nd visit to the hand institute… and some cats

If you read my post from earlier today, then you already know my hand specialist/orthopedic surgeon cut off my cast.

No more man with hat.

This meant I had to schedule an appointment with the very amazing staff at The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation for a new cast.

This also meant I had to cancel my session with Andrew at Apex Training.

At the time I should have been sweating, the teenager and I were cruising down the highway.

The staff member who originally wrapped my finger anxiously stood by as a newer staff member removed the temporary splint.

“You look like you’re waiting for someone to open a present,” I said.

She was that excited to see how I was healing.

My finger is straight, which means the tendon is growing in the right direction. It does not have enough tissue to have any strength yet, so another cast was put on.

I was in and out in 15 minutes, including my trip to the bathroom.

In other news, our remaining two foster who needed shots made it to the vet today. While I was rocking temporary splints.

We also took one of our personal cats, Opie.

Louise did not stop yowling (video).

Health update Thursday?

This post may not be the most exciting as I sit here stinky after a small home workout— smelling the petroleum heavy heat of asphalt. But it is a hopeful post. My roses sit heavy with blooms, and the first flowers have opened behind the bush.

Such a metaphor for life. The whole “bloom where you are planted” concept.

I have been working hard— like I want to stop, I want to vomit, my muscles burn. Andrew at Apex Training has been amazing, helping me stretch and challenge spastic muscles in my lower body.

I have had two days now with no hip or back pain, and I can drop into bed and lie anyway I want.

My weight has been up and down thank to Taco Bell and Mothers’ Day cake and ice cream and generic Takis.

But I went for my check-up bloodwork yesterday, and the phlebotomist told me my insurance doesn’t cover vitamin D unless my doctor codes it a deficiency. We skipped that, but my ferritin has risen from 28, just barely in the normal range, to 36. Still far from the middle of normal but rising.

That might be my theme for right now— rising.

And my bad cholesterol, which should be under 100, has fallen from 109 to 107. Again, not a huge leap, but progress. Progress made during a difficult, difficult time of my life.

My pill dispenser has made it easier to take all my vitamins and allergy meds. And I started the process of putting myself back on a low dose of Lexapro,

Maybe it will help.

My personal cat, Fog, decided to love me today. And I wrote a poem about buying my new socks from the Dollar Tree.

The teenager has been nursing an ear infection all week so between that and the roses bloominfection, spring has really sprung.

She returned to school today.

Today I made a leftover sandwich— some old smoked Turkey, slightly wilted lettuce and my coleslaw mix stirred into chipotle mayonnaise.

I spent the morning with my blind friend, Nan, and took her for her bloodwork.

Came home and the dog came out just in time to see that the paving crew had Taco Bell for lunch.

My trainer asked to reschedule my session today, so I told him I would do something at home.

This was my half-assed work out. My trainer asked me to select exercises and do them with intent, and instead I fought with the dog, picked some exercises I thought would move the important parts and retain the ground I made versus improve. Here is a video.

I also received a payment from my short-term disability insurance through work, and I’m grateful as this is giving me time to strengthen myself and recovery from my mallet finger. Hopefully, this will prevent further “domino effect” on my health. I see the neuro-physiatrist at the end of the month.

I’m curious what she will have to say, and I’m thinking this may be the end of my quest for answers about my cerebral palsy.