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.

‘Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime’

I woke at 6:30 this morning but despite having ten hours of sleep, my eyes had dark circles and my mind spun with a bizarre sequence of dreams. I fed the fat cats on their diet kibble, went downstairs to make my coffee, checked book sales and suddenly realized one of the foster cats appeared to be missing.

A missing cat caper?

Foster Cat Touch of Grey has claimed the bathroom sink

I did a quick sweep of the house, as the missing cat was Touch of Grey, known for her clumsiness. She once managed to crawl into the heat ducts and get stuck almost in the furnace. Touch of Grey, or Tiggy as we call her, can be a jerk. My cat, Fog, also known as Meatball in his obesity, can also be a jerk. I caught Fog intimidating Tiggy as she used the litter box, so I removed her from the fat cat room.

She promptly took up residence in the bathroom sink. So me, being me, laid a towel in the bathroom sink so it would be cozier for her and brushed my teeth using water from the tub.

It seemed extremely odd that I couldn’t find her now.

Introducing The Phulasso Devotional

Seeing no signs of calamity, I decided to have some coffee and dig into my publishing company’s latest work-in-progress, The Phulasso Devotional. Lots of people texted, and seeing some familiar names felt good to my heart. And Maryann Riker, the mixed media artist who contributed to Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, emailed with samples of work she had come across in the style that she thought would be nice for Phulasso.

They touched me– even before Maryann told me the series had inspiration in Tao. Before I started work on The Phulasso Devotional, I sent a rather thorough, elaborate spiritual statement to the author (yesterday!). I wanted to be upfront with him about my own formerly Christian, agnostic, animistic and pagan beliefs. As a publisher and editor dedicating myself to a very Christian project, I needed to cement that we would be comfortable and trust one another. And I believe we do. But to quote one line of that treatise on my own religious background: “(I also took Religions of China and Japan and fell in love with Taoism.)”

And I loved the miniature watercolors depicting a sunrise and an open path that glows with openness and potential.

I ended up buying them.

Maryann said she would be in my area later today so she’d deliver.

Continuing the Cat Hunt

The Teenager did a sweep of the house and the outside. She went to work, and sent me a text saying one of us should check the coal bin in the basement. I put on shoes and headed down, found no cat but carried some garbage from the basement outdoors. I checked the cardboard boxes we have piled next to the garbage cans for recycling, because if I were an indoor cat suddenly outside on the coldest day of the year, a cardboard box would look so good.

No cat.

And then I had a thought: did anyone check my room?

Tiggy was lying peacefully on my bed. Apparently when I left my room at 6:30, she silently crept in.

Sweet Fruity Doughnuts

During my last visit to The Grocery Outlet, I bought some weirdly glazed doughnuts. When The Teenager got home from work, I asked if she wanted to try them. She was game. The glaze was not merely glaze but a thick, hard icing that tasted like fruity candy. I had purchased a mango and a strawberry.

Decorating the House

The Teenager got her baby cousins window markers and window crayons for Christmas, in addition to procuring some for herself. So we decorated the windows for Yule after I showered and donned my Christimas Flamingo sweatshirt.

A Bagel Big Surprise

Little Dog’s Mom brought bagel-themed presents for The Teenager and I and a new toy Christmas Llama for the Bean dog. The bagel theme included a gift certificate for one of our favorite places in the world, New York Bagel & Deli, in one of our favorite local shopping plazas. We also received everything-bagel-flavored pretzel chips (which are one of The Teenager’s favorite snacks) and everything bagel seasoning which has been on my shopping list forever. And Little Dog’s Mom remembered The Teenager’s favorite candy!

Plus, Little Dog’s Mom and I were twinning.

Maryann called and said she was on her way.

Another Artist in My Collection

At Parisian Phoenix, we incorporate original photography and art into our books. We aim to support visual artists as we do those who share the written work. Heather Pasqualino Weirich, of Heather Pasqualino Fine Art, whose art adorned the cover of Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, joined Maryann and other artists in that anthology. Maryann commented that the cover painting from that book should be released in prints.

When Maryann delivered her art, I asked her to come inside my home and decide where to hang them. She hung them beside Heather’s original piece in my central room.

And the nicely wrapped art pieces came with a Ghiradelli packet of hot chocolate and a shot of peppermint vodka. The Teenager took the hot cocoa. I claimed the peppermint vodka. Now I need a candy cane.

Magnetic Ransom Notes

I returned to work on the devotional until The Teenager’s Dad arrived to play Ransom Notes and have dinner with us as I had bought the Teenager shrimp. Ransom Notes is like Cards against Humanity using magnetic word pieces like those in a magnetic poetry kit. We mixed it all our magnetic poetry kits, too. We also listened to Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.

The Teenager made shrimp, broccoli, rice and potatoes, but since I don’t eat shrimp she cooked up some Spam so I’d have some protein. That’s right. My Christmas dinner was a pile of broccoli with some diced up Spam.

As I write this, The Teenager and her father are downstairs playing video games. All in all, a simple but soulful, joyous Christmas.

Christmas Eve Phase 2: A Trip to Bethlehem and Nazareth

My mother-in-law mentioned that she was making fried chicken and potato salad for Christmas Eve dinner, so I of course said I would come. If there is something I love, it’s her fried chicken and potato salad. She also made ham and a honey glaze. And stuffed shells. I put honey glaze on my chicken.

My brother-in-law made figgy pudding. That was tasty.

My mother-in-law always has a heap of homemade Christmas cookies and the family fruitcake recipe is unbelievably tasty. And the goofy sugar/coconut/strawberry JellO crystal cookies are one of my favorites.

The Teenager says she likes when I come to family functions, because I liven them up a bit with my big mouth.

The kids opened presents– the eldest great-grandchild received a learn-to-tie-your-shoelaces wooden shoe (The Teenager received the same but in book form at that age) and “The Old Lady Who Swallowed The Fly” finger puppets (as The Teenager also did as a child, except the Teenager received a creepy old lady doll with a creepy gaping mouth). I tried to engage the whole family in a sing-along of There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed The Fly, because all the children in the family, I believe even back to my husband and his siblings, were raised with that morbid song.

No one went for it.

If you don’t know the song, here’s a version on YouTube.

I’ll give you some nice holiday photos of the tree and The Teenager opening her exciting new clamps from her uncle, who always knows what she needs for her growing tool collection. And she also kept swapping out the baby Jesus in the manger for first a goose and then a turkey.

With our bellies bursting with cookies and figgy pudding– so yummy, I do love figs, we left Bethlehem to travel to Nazareth to visit one of my former Target colleagues who now works there. We exchanged some Christmas hugs. I put gas in the car. And The Teenager got a salted caramel hot chocolate.

This low-key holiday is working out perfectly.

Christmas Eve Phase 1: Celebration of Life and Friendship

I am determined this year to explore new Christmas traditions, so when my Jewish neighbor invited me to deliver Christmas cookies to her deceased family members in the cemetery I said sure. And even though it’s 9 degrees outside (yes, that’s Farenheit), I had a great time.

The neighbor in question is “Little Dog’s Mom,” who made a reservation for my dear Sobaka to visit in April. This is exciting! We always love to have the Morkie (maltese-yorkie) come to spend the weekend. She’s such a fun little dog. And total side note, speaking of dogs, I have been scheduled for my Canine Therapeutic Evaluation with Susquehanna Service Dogs on January 25.

This means The Teenager and I, because you must bring at least one support person, are heading to Harrisburg Mall to work with a service dog. It’s a test to see if the dog helps me or provides a challenge. And also gauges how I will interact with a service dog in public.

The three of us— Little Dog’s Mom, myself and The Teenager— bundled up and piled into Little Dog’s Mom’s car for the ride to nearby Easton Cemetery.

Little Dog’s Mom carefully explained each cookie, and lined them up nicely, while explaining that the squirrels and other animals would get a nice treat.

She tried to give everyone their favorites, and having lost my father last Christmas— which to me still qualifies as “just last Christmas”— it touched me to commune with relatives who have left this Earth even if they aren’t mine.

The outing had some levity after that as Little Dog’s Mom told us about a flamingo Christmas sweatshirt she had contemplated buying with her 40% off coupon at CVS.

We stopped to look at it, and The Teenager surprised her by buying it for her with our 40% off coupon. Then Little Dog’s Mom let me use her 40% off coupon to buy one for us.

To thank us, Little Dog’s Mom took us to McDonald’s for diet cokes.

So thanks to her, we are feeling bubbly.

The Magic of Yule Time

I consider myself agnostic, animist pagan with a foundation in some Christian values and appreciation for religious myths. I wonder if maybe I would be a better Jew than Christian, but in the end I think our behavior overshadows our labels when discussing the “goodness” or “worthiness” of a person or a way of life.

I have struggled with my share of issues this past year– as many of us have and do– but yesterday was the start of Yule and the Teenager wanted to lean more into our pagan side.

She purchased a small live tree and wanted to decorate it with items in homage to nature, such as pine cones.

Today was my last day at work before the holidays and the leadership team have designated that I get all the pre-boxed work. For some reason I felt energetic and more myself in months, if not since my father died. So, I decided to take the early out from my shift, clocking out at 9:44 a.m. I came home, had a cup of coffee, did some dishes, and whipped up some really yummy macaroni and cheese.

It was that good that the dog and I licked the bowl and then the dog ate the spoon. Oops!

I invited Gayle over– because Gayle knows the fleeting nature of my holiday spirit– and she brought a summer sausage to share with the Teen and I as we ended up popping and stringing popcorn for our miniature tree for Yule. The Teen brought down the sewing kit which is really an old, plastic storage bin for Matchbox cars that we stashed yarn, needles and other small sewing implements on one side and The Teenager moved all our embroidery thread to the other.

While it may be under three feet tall, and has only pine cones and popcorn on it, it stands in our living room like a marvel.

Spending time with friends to spruce up mental health

I have faced challenges recently unlike the previous difficult times in my life. I no longer live with my husband. My father passed away a year ago this past Thursday. I don’t hear much from members of my family. The health issues that come from aging with a chronic condition like cerebral palsy, while my prognosis is static, present their own difficulties. My cerebral palsy will never change, or get worse, but the complications from having spastic muscles, scissoring legs, years of toe walking and leg bones that don’t sit where leg bones were designed to sit are very real.

This week, for many reasons ranging from family stress to communication difficulties and new and old volunteer commitments, pressed my mental health beyond the point I like to go. I watched a lot of TV.

I also spent much time cuddled into my new Stitch Fix zipper hoodie. But I did peel it off to wash it today, and put it right back on my body.

And my curls came out nicely today. Thank you, curls.

Television viewing

I caught up on The Good Doctor (and while YES! Audrey Lim decided to accept her disability rather than go through a risky surgery, at the midseason episode now the team decides she has recovered some movement on her own and a new less risky surgical plan might restore her mobility. Even her new boyfriend in a wheelchair says she has to do it, and he proposes, to prove to her he’s there whether she can walk or not. The episode ends with her in surgery. If the surgery succeeds, I will be pissed. Will they then feature an interabled relationship? Why must she walk again? Why can’t we have an able-bodied fancy surgeon become a wheelchair user and excel at it? It’s ridiculous that mainstream television starts to show an able-bodied person accepting a serious disability and then again reverts to the idea that she must walk again. And disabled people know, no one complains louder, no one takes adjusting harder than an able-bodied person suddenly rendered less able.)

Wow. I didn’t expect that tangent.

With that caught up, I tried Little Women: LA and a few episodes of Little Women: Atlanta. I learned some of the varieties of dwarfism, and was forced to thing about discrimination in hiring, but as with most reality series, the focus seemed to be on drama. The Atlanta spin-off really heightened the drama. Within two episodes, we had a pregnancy with an indifferent father and jealousy and cat-fights in the clubs. Because if you use Little Women: Atlanta as a source (which I would not) apparently stripping is a great way to make a living and still collect your disability checks. I was not born with that kind of disability.

I heard a podcast featuring Randall Park and thought I would try his Netflix series, Blockbuster. That was also a disappointment. The humor fell flat for me, and I struggled with the concept. There is one Blockbuster video store still in existence, in Bend, Oregon, and USA Today wrote an article comparing the fictional last Blockbuster and the real one and honestly that just confused me more.

So, I went for Hoarders season one on Hulu. It’s amazing after having binge-watched later seasons during previous times of emotional crisis to see how unpolished the initial season is. You can see the crew determining what works and what doesn’t. The cinematography is more dramatic, but the professional only have two days to clean massive hoards and they slowly tack on more time.

At this point, I renewed my Motor Trend streaming service and will stick with Mike Brewer and Marc “Elvis” Priestley on Wheeler Dealers.

Rocking New Boots

I finally got to wear my new Marc Fisher over-the-knee boots! The Teenager worried about me leaving the house in higher-than-usual heels. They were so much fun to wear and didn’t feel any more uncomfortable than other boots.

I left my house around noon. I had promised to bring Maryann some books as her tavern is featured on the cover of The Death of Big Butch. I delivered her copies, visited for a moment (but not as long as I thought I would because the traffic and road closures in downtown Easton made it impossible to drive the three miles to her. It took FORTY minutes.), and heading for my lunch with Bill Prystauk, the author of the Kink Noir series and a long-time writing friend.

We had a lovely meal at Gap Diner in Wind Gap, Pa., a midpoint we select between his location in Stroudsburg and mine in Easton. He had a spinach and feta omelet where the rye toast had this perfect dark line around the edge but the bread remained flexible. The potatoes were also picture perfect. They had this crisp outside and looked soft on the other side. I had pepperpot soup and the buffalo chicken Caesar salad. I was a tiny tiny bit disappointed that the chicken was chicken fingers cut into bite sized pieces but honestly, the beauty of the shredded romaine and its luscious green color won me over.

It was a good eating day as the Teenager brought home fresh bagels from the bagel deli and I had had a salt bagel with piles of kale and spinach and hummus for breakfast, an iced coffee for an afternoon treat, and a dinner of heaps of vegetables (kale, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and zucchini), a vegan chicken tender and a token amount of pork.

Much better than yesterday when I ate a double steakhouse cheeseburger from DQ, cheese curds, pretzel sticks with queso and a blizzard (snickers/brownie) so large in came in a medium soda cup.

Visiting her Ladyship Maxine

From Wind Gap, I traveled out to Point Phillip through some scenic roads to visit photographer Joan and deliver her copies of Big Butch, which apparently I would trade for celery and pears. Joan and I are often trading edibles.

I met the younger stepson, the grandson, and even got to pet the adorable Maxine, a striking cat of great renown. As soon as she heard that I was the one who alerted her people to the existence of Tiki Cat cat food with shrimp, she sniffed and rubbed against my boots providing me with the ultimate blessing.

And Joan gave The Teenager, myself and her own self a Yule present: a game called Ransom Notes, basically Cards against Humanity but with magnetic word stickers. The Teenager cannot wait to play.

All in all, I think I put 50 miles on the car.

I received a phone call from a journalist trying to convince his editor to write a story on Big Butch. And I participated in a speaker phone call with The Teenager and her grandmother (my mother-in-law). She revealed that she would be having fried chicken and potato salad among the offerings on Christmas Eve so I may now have a social obligation that night. I love my mother-in-law’s fried chicken and potato salad.

Festive Friday’s life (and cerebral palsy) updates

My traveling companion M is in town so I stopped very briefly to say hi. He’s staying at a hotel between Sheetz and Wawa, and he’s never been to either, so I have a Pennsylvanian duty to educate him.

His hotel has a few artisanal touches in an otherwise uninteresting and rather lackluster environment.

I received a message from M last night while I was at Barnes & Noble at the Noble Quills poetry open mic where Darrell was featuring. (See YouTube video below.)

My most-exhausting-work week ended with a few lessons. I noticed that no pair of shoes I own will alleviate the foot pain I am experiencing, though experimenting with different tape/toe separator arrangements I can select the type of pain I prefer to experience. With this in mind, I have purchase three different varieties of toe separators from CVS today. ($22 worth of merchandise that I got for $15 and I paid with my HSA debit card.) I achieved 101%, 101%, 94% and 100%.

I had my follow-up with the neurologist-physiatrist today. The Baclofen appears to help my stiffness, and though I do experience a weird jerky stiffness at the end of the day after I sit and then get up, I have not fallen and I seem to move easier. She filled out my accommodations paperwork… so hopefully I will get a share of the easier work. I offered several ideas of how to provide easy accommodations. (I shared the same letter with my doctor and Stitch Fix.) The doctor remarked that my gait had noticeably improved and I think she laughed when I told her I preferred walking in cowboy boots because of the sound and the feel. (She was wearing a mask, so I can’t be sure.) She also seemed to make a quiet noise of approval upon the mention of a service dog.

I had an hour between appointments and in that time, I hung out with The Teenager’s dog (F. Bean Barker). It was Festive Friday at work so I wore my favorite “Fleece Navidad” Christmas sweater.

I then met with my therapist. He was one of three people who served as references for my service dog application and because I mentioned I had a therapist on my medical team, they sent him a psychiatric evaluation to fill out. He wanted to review it with me, because he wasn’t sure of the weight of his role in the whole process. He was much relieved to hear that I had had the in-person interview last week (read more about that here) and that I had received the email an hour earlier stating that my home visit and canine therapeutic evaluation would be scheduled early in the new year.

So I said I would approach the paperwork as if they just wanted to know if I was stable enough to care for myself and the dog.

By the time I returned home from that appointment, the UPS man had left a special package on my doorstep. It was Larry Sceurman’s debut novella, The Death of Big Butch. And some other books from Parisian Phoenix Publishing. As is my custom, I did an unboxing on film.

Buy Parisian Phoenix books from Barnes & Noble here.

The Teenager and I did some chores around the house and loaded up the car with the dog and the books and made deliveries: to the author (where books were signed) and to people anticipating the release. And, because Larry lives near a 7-Eleven, the teenager needed to stop for a Mountain Dew Slurpee.

She happens to have one of her new sweaters on from her latest fix.

And the joy of bringing Larry his books warmed my Grinchy heart.

And watching Larry decide how to sign his books, debating which of his signatures should be his author-specific nomenclature, also had an impact. I’m proud of his book. I’m proud of the product the Parisian Phoenix team made– and I’m told the effort and the quality of the book are more than Larry had ever expected to see from his stories. After all, when he pitched his stories to me, Larry had figured he had a short story anthology to offer the world.

And poor Larry, I told him he had a novella in Big Butch, and still had enough stories for the anthology, and that one of the longer anchor stories in the anthology really should be a full length novel. He’s stuck with me for a while.

Barbara gave us some cut-out cookies. Buttery, not thick not thin, with a lemony or vanilla-y hint of something so scrumptious. Roll-otts as my Pennsylvania Dutch in-laws would say.

Larry and Barbara also gave me a large bag of cat toys, which we gave to foster Khloe for right now. She’s protecting them and sleeping with them like a dragon hoarding treasure.

Maybe I’m naive or egotistical, but I really love the craft model of publishing I’m creating– including my authors in every stage of the process and creating a book we all believe in, from the author to the publisher, the artists to the designer. I never thought publishing could empower, but I’m learning so much that I never realized I wanted to explore. Talents always feel better when you share them.

Let’s talk a little bit about the holidays

The Christmas season, in general, makes me anxious and uncomfortable. The reasons for this don’t matter. Just accept the statement. I spent Thanksgiving alone this year, though I know I could have gone to my in-laws. This year has been a year of firsts, first everything without my father. And spending most of my holidays home alone has been part of my grieving process. A great big letting go of all the expectations and obligations.

It’s the first weekend in December. The Teenager has asked to give up the Christian trappings and embrace our pagan side. So, we intend to celebrate Yule. She wants a small tree covered with pine cones and other items of nature. I’d like to make a dinner that includes rabbit or venison.

Yesterday, we ended up in Bethlehem– The Christmas City– and stopped to see The Teenager’s grandparents (in part because The Teenager added the grandparents to our phone plan since a certain phone service that focuses on seniors has sent phones Grammy cannot use and that don’t dial 9-1-1 when her husband is having diabetic seizures in a stranger’s driveway. Good job, Consumer Cellular.) Grammy is learning how to use her iPhone 13 and even FaceTimed her sister who lives six hours away. Even if the FaceTime was an accident.

I got to see Grammy’s tree and train, and eat the last slice of Grammy’s shoofly pie. While Grammy comes from Pennsylvania Dutch stock, she struggles to make a wet bottom shoofly pie. So she’s been working on it. And we brought the dog, so the dog got to see Grammy and Poppop and the squirrels in their backyard.

Then the teenager and I spent some time doing chores and resting before embarking on the one totally ridiculous thing that is our holiday tradition: watching Denis Leary in The Ref. And this year we watched it sipping chocolate laced wine, eating dusty road sundaes without the chocolate syrup and waxing our legs.

Every day I see more and more ways The Teenager has absorbed the values of my estranged husband and I, and the things that make us uniquely us are important to her. And that makes me happy.

And it’s not easy to be happy these days, under the weight of grief and the stress of disability.

Half way through the movie, The Teenager wanted potato chips. So she called her dad. He happened to be in the middle of Target. He brought us two bags of Doritos, one original red for The Teen and one Cool Ranch blue for me.

Because we’re all still family.

Iron Man 3: a Christmas movie?

The teenager and I have a favorite Christmas movie— The Ref with Denis Leary.

But Denis may have lost his place as our unorthodox Christmas hero because Tony Stark has usurped his place.

I had the vague feeling of déjà vu watching the film as I remembered more of this one than I usually do with films I’ve only seen once.

This one is fun because Tony Stark spends much of the film without the use of technology and his suits, relying instead on his wit and his body.

There’s a theme of taking responsibility for one’s actions running through the film, perhaps getting us ready for Spider-Man’s line, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

There is also a young man named Harley who I hope to see in a future film, and I also want to see Agent Caulson’s cellist. She was mentioned in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. But I digress.

But what really steals this movie and provides probably the closest thing to reality is Tony Stark struggling with PTSD and anxiety attacks after fighting off robotic aliens in New York (Avengers). It’s refreshing to see a good guy deal with mental health issues on screen.

The UnChristmas

For the first time since December 15, I felt like myself. I’m still grieving. I’m still hurting, but by the time end of today (12/26/2021), the overwhelming hurricane of different emotions had pushed me into its eye. And I felt like me.

Yesterday was a hard one. My mother called early in the morning, wishing me a Merry Christmas. Really, my brain couldn’t even fathom why she would wish me a Merry Christmas when I was home alone and my dad is newly dead.

The holidays are always hard on me. They start with hope and usually end with disappointment. I had often said I wish I could ignore them all together. Just skip. And go to Paris.

There were no presents to open Christmas morning. I let the teenager open hers early when we needed some joy in the midst of funeral stuff. No decorations. I never got the Christmas tree up. I never listened to Christmas music this year— and I love Christmas music.

The world stopped when my father died.

The teenager has multiple pet sitting responsibilities. Something like eight visits a day. And her father just got his new car on the 23rd, so I had expected to have a car to visit family without her.

My nephew came down with Covid so there would be no gathering with that side of the family.

So my little funeral tantrum that led me to spend most of the service in my car apparently prevented my exposure to Covid.

I did have a bit of a something— a cold? A sinus issue? Backlash from not taking my allergy medicine for a week?

And I had hoped maybe I could go have some of Mom’s lasagne.

But by the end of her phone call, I think she hung up on me. I don’t know if she realizes it, but her last words were, “well, excuse me for being alive.”

That stung.

I thought she would understand how much I was hurting. She lost her dad when she was 21.

I spent the day alphabetizing and organizing some cards I’ve been saving. It tools about six hours, while watching reruns of ER and drinking coconut rum and pina colada lemonade.

The teenager brought home sandwiches from Sheetz. Other than that my meals were Christmas cookies and potato chips.

I went to bed around 8:30 pm and woke at 4:15 a.m. I did my physical therapy cobra poses and went downstairs to have my coffee.

When I arrived at work, my body struggled with anxious feelings, trouble breathing, difficulty regulating body temperature. I was no longer sick, though the post nasal drip is still very real.

When we got to Freestyle— our assignment for the day— there was no work for us. So a bunch of us had to transfer to Freestyle Pick and go out into the warehouse to pick our own work. And although the Freestyle carts are 80 items instead of 40 like ordinary fixes, I had a great time. I always liked picking. I arrived back in Freestyle not first but not last.

And I got to see the warming sunrise through the warehouse windows.

My guess is that I performed at about 90% in Freestyle QC/ship.

And then, at the end of the day they asked me to go pick again! And despite my back hurting a bit on the right side, once again I had a great time. The Freestyle/Direct Buy cart took me 45 minutes. I imagine the goal is 40 minutes.

That motion drove the feeling of panic away.

And before I left, I grabbed some hard-boiled eggs to share with the dog. I had asked the teenager to grab some jarred vodka sauce at the grocery store when she was between clients and she one-upped me.

She went to George’s Pizzeria and bought their homemade vodka sauce. My favorite.

And our cat foster godmother, now the teenager’s client and the teenager’s boss at Apricity Pet Care, left her a bottle of wine to bring home to me.

While the teenager finished her afternoon shifts, I made spaghetti. I sautéed a chicken breast and heaps of fresh broccoli, kale and spinach. I mixed it all up with George’s vodka sauce.

We ate like queens.

And then as I cleaned up the leftovers and packed my remaining work lunches for this week (Mr. Accordion stopped by and brought me his scrumptious halupkis that I finished today), the dog grabbed my favorite cat by the scruff of his neck and starting running around the kitchen with him in her mouth.

The cat was fine. The dog just wanted to carry him.

I poured some wine and grabbed some cookies.

And that is my unChristmas update.