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.

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.

It’s a pets’ Christmas

Today has been a peaceful and special Christmas Eve. Unwrapping presents with Mimi before breakfast. Breakfast via the Dunkin Donuts drive through.

Breakfast on Christmas Eve was $6.66 before tax

But the best part of the morning was when all the kittens vacated my room. Mama Periwinkle (Wink) let me see her baby chick! I see there is only one egg left— and I’m still not sure if there is a younger chick in there under the older one.

Periwinkle and Peek-a-Boo (Boo-Boo) were bonded females, and even now Boo-Boo seems to protect her “sister” and guard her nest. Yo-yo is a devoted father, but the three birds seem to be raising the family together.

Around lunch time, we video-called the teenager’s grandparents and both teenagers opened their gifts. Teenager #2 cried when upon discovering that my mother in law bought a custom made ornament personalized with name, the year, a musical staff and a drum. The fact that practical strangers were able to discern that many little personal details became a little overwhelming.

But the biggest moment of my Christmas Eve was finally escaping the clutches of Covid enough to deliver Fenrir of the Norse Pride aka Fern aka Fern-Edie now to be Edie to her FURRever home through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. The fact that one of my favorite people adopted her certainly made it even better.

Because she went home with a friend, I made a little care package to introduce the two of them.

And I also gave Nala a Christmas gift. After a nap on my shoulder. The gift—A new bell to replace the one she brought with her from Bird Mania. She broke the clapper out of her old one. She’s already unwrapped it, played with it, and rung it for me.

Yuletide whirlwind

Yesterday was the winter solstice— Yule— and the great convergence of Saturn and Jupiter that may have been the Christmas Star of Christian Heritage.

Sugar Cookie and Candy Cane Hershey Kisses

My neighbor Jan and I went on a Christmas season road trip to pick up a package. I wasn’t sure I could make the 90-minute drive alone.

I am grateful to live in such an old fashioned neighborhood that I know what neighbors will have adventures, which will grab me groceries, and who won’t mind grabbing me a coffee.

We stopped at Target and I got my annual bag of Candy Cane Hershey Kisses and treated myself to the new Sugar Cookie Kisses. They have real bits of cookie inside and the white chocolate kiss tastes like icing.

When I got home, the teenagers drove me over to Dollar General and Twin Rivers Music. Dollar General to get the pickle Doritos that are apparently a Dollar General exclusive and Twin Rivers Music for valve oil, a mouthpiece brush, ukulele strings and kazoos.

Teenager #2 thought her kazoo was broken, so teenager #1 had to teach her how to play it (which she did while driving the car!).

YouTube: Christmas Kazoos

YouTube: Review of Sour Pickle Doritos

In honor of Yule, and to celebrate the longest night of the year, I let the teenagers unwrap their stockings (which included some traditional stocking stuffers and some non-traditional items). A lot of make-up, gift certificates for Hyperion Salon and Lucha Bella skin care, candy and snacks, and activity books.

Teenager two got her first paint-by-water book which I bought for her because it featured Sponge Bob. I also got them coloring books of cosmic cats and uni-creatures and a robot faces sticker book.

YouTube: Dumping the stockings

Lunchables Dirt Cake

Activity Books

Teaching the Art of Paint by Water

Review of Oreo Candy Canes

We ate too many of my mother-in-law’s cookies and finished the bag of Doritos so I shouldn’t be surprised that I gained more weight.

Today is a new day and it feels like a clean start thanks to the energy of Yule and I feel a little stronger and more like myself, though still very easy to exhaust.

I got up, cleaned up after one set of cats, shoveled the path for a heating oil delivery, saw my friend Gayle, loaded the dishwasher and started a load of laundry. I tried to pick up some garbage from the house strewn with wrappings and about 5 loads of clean laundry.

Then I worked with Nan by phone. The Fluffy Norse kittens decided to join me on the sunporch and, of course, climbed the Christmas tree.

Fern-Edie in the Christmas Tree

I got the laundry out of the washer and hung it, and teenager #1 made me an egg sandwich, even though by then it was noon.

I tried to clean up the bathroom. Started the dishwasher. And came up to check on the birds.

YouTube: Do we have baby budgies?

And we have one tiny bald, baby budgie!

I am so terrified I will do something to hinder Momma Wink from taking good care of her eggs and baby. I’m especially worried everyone isn’t getting enough to eat.

So finally that brings me to Nala— she’s afraid of something and it might be the parakeets. She’s barbering badly.

Shake and Bake, confetti dessert, holiday cheer and a Covid test

I have hardly gotten out of bed today — I’m exhausted, my body is achy, my joints are locking up, I am lightheaded and my eyes burn.

This could be the ramifications of sleep deprivation and forgetting to take my allergy and blood pressure meds for two days. It could be a cold. But it could be Covid.

The teenager made authentic straight-from-the-box Shake N Bake chicken— which she thought was novel but paying $3.50 for a plastic bag and some breadcrumbs struck her as ridiculous.

On the other hand, the no bake confetti dessert I bought at the Grocery Outlet was scrumptious.

The animals, as they tend to do, noticed I didn’t feel well.

I called my doctor and they asked me to go for the Covid test at the hospital— there’s a drive through tent outside. Only 3 cars were in front of us. The attendent did a great job of swabbing my nose. Now if I have Covid, a doctor will call me Saturday. If I don’t, no one will contact me.

And of course I will need some sort of note to return to work.

And the two teens decorated the tree and to celebrate they started their 12 days of Christmas advent calendars a little early.

Some silly videos:

Unboxing

Opening the first day

Hunting the pickle

An uncomfortable Tuesday

Firstly, my headline is misleading as it is Wednesday already.

Tonight my body aches. Everything hurts in a bad way. And I was dizzy and lightheaded— in a weird way, like my head was clogged with fluid and my body was dehydrated (which I am not).

I only “picked” 120 at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy tonight and I am frustrated by that. That’s 2.5 carts less than last night which is almost an hour worth of work.

Now, mind you, I was working in W most of the night which is 750 steps from the “garage area” and if I hustle I can cross in 1 minute 30 seconds. But that adds 3 minutes per cart, which easily accounts for 45 minutes. If I follow my own logic, this means if I were stationed closer to the garage I might have easily reached 136, which would have pleased me.

Bizzy Hizzy

It is 1:30 a.m. now and I am continuing season 4 of The Crown. Now, considering how much my body hurts and the fact that my fingers and feet tingle as if they were asleep, something must be wrong with my circulation. Is my blood pressure too low?

So I thought I deserved a salty snack. The teenager had hijacked my new bag of tortilla chips, and left me with the stale broken crumbs in the cupboard. Her grandfather had brought potato chips but I didn’t see those in the cupboard.

But I found a cup of Little Caesar’s cheesy jalapeño dip and thought that could revive the stale chips.

And as soon as I got them to my room, foster kitten Loki spilled them. Onto my floor. I almost cried.

Speaking of The Norse Pride, here they are after their vet appointment declaring them free of ringworm. In this photo— believe it or not— they think they are hiding from the vacuum.

Tonight I listened to a podcast on Tudor fashion, the final segment of “Do Not Harm” on Wondery. I recommended it to one of my social work interns. I can’t wait to discuss it with her.

Earlier in the day, the teenager went with my father and found our Christmas tree and helped me have a steak dinner before work. I also took my homemade beef broth out of the crock pot and packaged it. I have a cheap man’s beef stroganoff planned for tomorrow.

Weekends that are weekends

It has been ages since I had a weekend that felt like a weekend. A weekend without trying to catch up on chores. A weekend without “Sunday scaries.” A weekend without working overtime or getting up early for one thing or another.

As a matter of fact, I slept until 11 this morning, which, when you consider my new bedtime is between 1 and 2 a.m., is not unreasonable.

The teenager made me coffee and brought me a pain au chocolat from Lidl (which is still too soft and not crispy, flaky enough to remind me of real French croissant but far better and cheaper than most American attempts).

I spent some time with my cockatoo, Nala, and many cats and kittens not to mention with my daughter.

Speaking of Nala, she bit my phone screen protector and I’m not sure if she got a shard of glass in the camera or she broke the lens, but my selfies are hazy now.

Teenager #1 wanted to drive today so we ended up at Shoprite, Pet Valu and Starbucks. I haven’t had a Starbucks in ages and I decided to try the Nitro Sweet Cream Cold Brew but ended up a tad distraught that apparently Nitro does not come with ice cubes. It’s room temperature-ness did not appeal to me.

We found lots of goodies at Pet Valu with their going out of business sale— exotic canned cat food, a myriad of treats, lots of parakeet food and a little something for Sobaka for Christmas.

I received an AmEx offer spend $15 at Sonic get $5 back so we went, as Sonic is one of the teenager’s favorite places. The food was kind of awful and they only have the drive thru open so they misheard our order so our total after tax was $15.23. I probably won’t get my special offer.

To hear us talk about our foodie adventures click here: YouTube: Sonic Shenanigans

We ran into one of our favorite couples at ShopRite— We’ll name them C&F. They both have much respect from my daughter and I because they are super intelligent, easy going people who found each other and “overcame” some life obstacles that I pretty much would label as the realities of our American society. I feel like if they were ever two people who earned every success in life it was C&F, and I am so lucky to have met them and have them in my life and so proud of their children and commend them for being great parents. And to think— I have known C since before she got married! They were a little shocked to hear the teenager can drive since we all met when she was six.

Anyway. So after all that and a meal at Sonic, the teenager and I came home. She put the groceries away. We wrapped some holiday gifts. And finished our hair.

Amazing in Lavender

And then while I did laundry— I have surrendered to the idea that laundry will never be “caught up” again in this house— she started construction of the holiday village.

After Christmas

During the last two days I read most of the grant archive at work.

At lunch time, I received a text from my daughter that she shouldn’t be left home alone. She saved a field mouse from our cats and built it an enclosure.

I suggested she find one of the lids. Well, honestly I told her to put the damn thing outside but… she doesn’t listen.

After work, I met my neighbor at Three Birds Coffee House but I was disappointed the birds were on vacation. The lemon verbena tea was delicious.

And I came home to a house still in the throes of the Christmas Bomb, disaster from one end to the other. I picked up a bit, opened a beer and let my new roomba vacuum the kitchen.

Gayle came for supper and we all shared a candy apple.

Our candy apple review

After dessert, the teen and Gayle colored the giant cardboard submarine.

And then the teen discovered the mouse had escaped.

Never a dull moment.