Tonight, the teenagers had their last competition recording and end of year review concert for marching band. Saturday is the last football game— I have a much coveted ticket.
Teenager #1 earned her varsity letter tonight. Teenager #2 earned a pin.
After the performance, the teenager wanted her dad to take her for ice cream but he’d had some alcohol so he asked me to take her.
But I dilly-dallied over the menu too much and Dairy Queen closed before we got there.
I salvaged the evening by offering a trip to Sheetz. We all got milkshakes— Teenager #1 got the Monster Mash and all she would say was “mmmmm” over and over; teenager #2 got a custom chocolate caramel milkshake with brownie bits. I redeemed some rewards points (which turned out to be a fairly complex process) for the pucker shake. I’m not even sure what it really was but it was a blue milkshake with lots of sour patch kid pieces. I loved it.
Though Sheetz really could give the milkshakes a wider straw.
I ordered an appetizer sampler of boneless wings, jalapeño poppers and Wisconsin cheese curds. I already knew I loved Sheetz’s jalapeño poppers, but their cheese curds are beyond amazing. The boneless wings were dry and disappointing.
Dairy Queen retains the title for best chicken.
Meanwhile, the sugar from that milkshake left me feeling super hyped and more inebriated than an alcoholic beverage.
I ended last night with a delightful (super super delightful) tapas of succulent olives, hummus, blue cheese and pita chips with my neighbor.
Tonight I’m ending the night with blisters from going for my evening walk while wearing flip flops and feeling a little guilty for taking advantage of my DQ reward points to get a free chicken strip basket at Dairy Queen.
I have gained 10 pounds since the pandemic started. I am happy to say that my daily steps have tripled, but I haven’t used my dumbbells for anything other than doorstops, and I suppose I should go ahead and cancel my gym membership. Because I’m unemployed and I don’t want to go pay someone for something I can do at home without a mask.
If only I could stop the junk food habit.
But that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to touch on two topics. I’m going to briefly touch on what I love about the business and non-profit environment here in the Lehigh Valley.
Then I’m going to sing the praises of Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab and report that our adorable pseudo-Russian Blue kittens, now about nine months old got neutered today and are still stoned out of their fuzzy little minds.
Life in the Lehigh Valley
So, I grew up in the Slate Belt and then moved to Bethlehem for my college years at Moravian College. I’ve always loved the diversity of the Lehigh Valley region, the diversity of urban vs. rural, the infrastructure, the businesses, the farms, the corporations.
Today, I attended a meeting with the person in charge of corporate giving for a major corporation that has offices all over the world, and a huge influence historically and currently in the Valley.
I attended that meeting as a representative of Aspire to Autonomy, Inc., and supported one of the founders of the organization in this important private conversation we were having.
And suddenly I was awestruck again.
Periodically, I am annoyed with the Valley for the same reasons that I love the Lehigh Valley. But today I felt enamored.
The Lehigh Valley, in part because of its proximity to the ports of New Jersey and the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and the local highway infrastructure connecting it everywhere, attracts a wide variety of businesses while hosting some economic mainstays—like Air Products, Just Born Candy, Martin Guitar and Crayola.
We have two major hospital networks competing madly locally— St. Luke’s and Lehigh Valley Hospital.
But the region, despite having three cities just about touching (and Allentown, with its population of more than 122,000, is the third largest city in the state), is amazingly small. It’s not that hard to travel from one end to the other and people seem to know everyone, especially in the business world.
Or maybe it just feels that way to me because I spent 15 years as a local journalist.
So, here I am in the meeting, immediately recognized as the former Development Manager for ProJeCt of Easton, helping sell this two-year-old non-profit to a potential major funder.
I even dressed up for the Zoom— and then the person we were meeting dialed in, so I got to put on makeup for my stoned cats.
But because of the “smallness” of the Lehigh Valley, this very busy executive took more time than she had to to meet with us. As a result, we all left with an increased understanding.
We have a better fundraising plan regarding this corporation and this person learned more about how all the anti-trafficking organizations here in the Valley work together.
But what impressed me was the willingness of this individual to work with the “little guy.” That is something that makes me proud to live in the Lehigh Valley.
Therescued kittens have been neutered
I rambled quite a bit on that earlier bit.
Today, the teenager and I left the house at 7:30 to transport the kittens to FURR for a low-cost neutering.
Stephanie, the woman from FURR we have been working with, was even kind enough to place Fog and Misty on the backseat of her car with their cat carriers facing each other instead of in the big cat pile of carriers in the back of the car.
That made me happy. That the brothers could see each other.
On the way home, I stopped at Grocery Outlet as the teenager had announced that cheap instant coffee was garbage and we were going to need more Nescafé.
And then the teenager filled out an adoption/foster application with FURR on her phone in the parking lot.
Because we need more menagerie.
Oz enjoyed being my main baby today while the kittens were gone.
And I also did my nails.
And it seemed like it took forever until it was time to retrieve the boys. They are both about 9 3/4 pounds. They are Feline Leukemia negative. They have their shots now, nails trimmed, flea meds and deworming.
And they are ridiculously mellow and stoned right now. I think Fog fell asleep with his head in the water bowl.
But at the end of the post, there will be a bit of bad news explaining why I had said blizzard. But let’s focus on the good. Because that’s how I roll.
The teenager and I skipped breakfast and went to Dairy Queen for lunch with Nala, the Goffin’s Cockatoo.
The Drumstick Blizzard
The latest blizzard creation from Dairy Queen is the drumstick blizzard with chunks of deep fried chicken in ice cream. Just kidding.
They crushed up bits of Drumstick ice cream cones and peanuts! So good. Very similar to a Snickers Blizzard but not as chewy. The ice cream cone pieces were crunchy and tasty.
And Nala enjoyed her French fries.
So now I have 503 reward points at DQ which is enough for a free 4 piece chicken strip basket.
What I struggle to understand is what is this super bendy straw for?
So, now the bad news… I was informed today that my last day with the non-profit agency where I work will be July 10. That’s why I had a Blizzard.
Here’s to the next chapter. I had a great time learning a lot of new skills in a field that was brand new to me. I had a lot of good experiences and made a lot of new friends and new connections. I look forward to finishing out next week with the team, and I wish the agency the best in the future.
I’ve tried to incorporate the spirit of my “staycation” two weeks ago into my everyday life. I have tried to embrace a more carefree joie de vivre.
I think to some extent it is working.
Scrolling through my blog feed, I see lots of random home-cooked meals, even more pizzas and fast food… I mean, what crazy mood swing prompted me to eat TWO blizzards from DQ in one night???
My dental work on Wednesday was a huge success and has prompted such a physical and emotional relief— because when you’re slowly paying off more than a thousand dollars in dental bills and something is not right, it drains you.
It reminds me, as life often does, that our struggles never really end. The only destination in this journey is death, regardless of what milestones we try to hit along the way.
Some days it’s harder to get out of bed than others, but hopefully there is something for all of us to appreciate and something we can do for the world.
I opened my Lock Keeper Gin from County Seat Spirits last night. Mixed a shot of so with equal parts carbonated water and a light French lavender soda.
Gin by itself has a clean but bitter taste, in my opinion, with the Lock Keeper Gin bursting with a strong citrus aftertaste. The light blend of lavender gave the gin just enough sweetness to be undetectable in my cocktail. I find gin way smoother and easy to mix than vodka, which I know is an unpopular opinion.
As one of the perks of the online writing community, I have had the pleasure to meet Fausta, a life coach and therapist who has a wide range of capacities and wicked sharp writing skills. She has been working on her blog, and her business, Fausta’s Place to Ponder.
People often influence and inspire each other in the most unexpected ways—often without trying—and I’ve admired and respected Fausta for a long time in just that kind of subtle way.
Like most of us, she’s a real and imperfect woman with a quiet vibrancy. She’s touched me with her honesty about life as a woman and the everyday struggles as a mother, building/continuing her career/business, dealing with her own and her family’s health and keeping her heart and emotional state strong and well.
Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do? In a recent blog post (linked below) she talks about our attitudes and how our mental framing of tasks impact how we perform them. I have continued to ponder this.
I love routine, order and cleanliness. But with 4 cats, 4 birds, 1 teenager, a full-time job, my own physical and emotional issues and a coronavirus pandemic, I can’t always achieve/complete/do everything I want to do.
I have to employ more mindful self compassion, and with the teenager’s help I am growing in this regard. She and I have been discussing the differences in how our brains are wired. This helps me look at my setting from multiple points of view.
My goal, in what used to be Standard American Life, was to workout either at the gym or at home 3-5 times per week and never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.
Now, the gyms are closed. I’m eating too much fast food. And my goal is to clean the kitchen every morning— as my energy levels are higher and it reinforces the idea that every day is a clean start.
But I still need to examine my motivations. There’s a flip side to chores.
Today is Sunday. Yesterday, I got up, did a load of laundry and started the dishwasher. I cleaned all the litter boxes— no small chore with four cats, but oh so worth it.
I did some other odds and ends too but I’ll be darned if I remember them.
And then I attended a business meeting, had coffee with a neighbor, cleaned up after the birds, let the teenager give me a haircut (a rather severe one that doesn’t exactly match the crazy hair I have, but give it two weeks and it will be perfect), split a ginormous, super-sweet cinnamon bun from Cake and Corolla, enjoyed dinner from Dairy Queen, and watched Hell’s Kitchen for the rest of the day.
And I’m not beating myself up over “not doing more.”
But this morning— I got up, washed the pots and pans, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, did two loads of laundry and hung them on the line, fed the menagerie, scrubbed them kitchen counter, took out the compost, emptied the garbage, carried the garbage outside, and vacuumed and washed the kitchen floor.
All before 9:30.
And I feel good about the work I got done. Even if I am still worrying about cutting the grass, working out this week’s budget, and dealing with this week’s groceries and work stress. I dread both. I *don’t* want to do the grocery shopping and I never know what will happen at work on Monday.
So I have a delicate balancing act— what can I do to feel good about myself and my house and what can I do to not exhaust myself?
Because you see, I know I also do chores and scrub the bathtub to avoid facing my fears and emotions in the stillness.
Chores let me use the energy of my angst to achieve something positive, but in the end, that’s not always the best approach to my emotional health and physical self.
Early on in this pandemic I invested in good old fashioned cleaning products: Pine Sol, Ammonia, Fels Naptha, Borax, etc. I opened up the Pine Sol today. Just felt like my neglected floor needed something extra. I got this at the Grocery Outlet and as you can see it’s not traditional Pine Sol. It’s like super floral. “Fresh Scent” by patooty. Someone just exploded a fake floral bomb in my house.
I’ve been allowing myself to sleep in a bit and these days I’m waking up between 6:15 and 6:30. I lay in bed sometimes until almost 7, but I’m always dressed, with pants and everything, and at my desk with a hot cup of coffee by 8:30.
I’ve enjoyed sharing an office with my birds— three budgies and a Goffin’s cockatoo—all of whom must be enjoying the electronic swing I listen to at my desk and the bird playground I have assembled for them.
Yes, that’s the teenager’s kitten who refused to get out of the cockatoo’s cage.
Now, when Nala the cockatoo destroys toys I save the salvageable pieces and put them in these spare dishes and she plays with them and throws them at the cats.
I think I have some new toys coming for the parakeets, and I also need to order them more ladders and perches because they have suddenly destroyed everything in their cage.
Work passed easily, I feel like I was quite organized and productive. And I’m offtomorrow. I took an unplanned paid time off to take care of some health issues. So it will be part trip to the pharmacy, part virtual doctor visit and part mental health day.
There’s a contact we have at work at a local company that is the point person for a rather large food drive that benefits our agency. Because of the state lockdown, they can’t host this food drive so the employees contributed cash instead, but she didn’t want to mail it and our offices are closed.
So the teenager and I took a road trip. It’s strange when a 25-mile round trip to the next town and back feels like a major outing. I donned my mask, put on my gloves and we exchanged an envelope of cash in the parking lot.
That might be the closest I will ever come to feeling like a drug dealer. Nope, scratch that. I’ve driven around with a trunk full of Girl Scout cookies.
My teenager and I have the best conversations while in the car. We talked a lot about financial responsibility and budgeting and how important it will be for her to determine her own style of fiscal management. She admires my discipline, chicanery and creativity with making my money work for me.
I taught her about different ways to trick yourself into putting money into savings. The first of course is to set up automatic transfers. Another is to have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into savings.
The easiest is to always, as soon as you take a new job, decide on a number of how much goes into retirement if your job offers a retirement plan. That way before you even see how much your take home pay is, the money goes into your future.
And if your job doesn’t have retirement options, go to your bank and contribute to an IRA. Every year. Because money saved when you are young goes far.
That motivated me to go ahead and take the plunge and use that last $1,000 of my stimulus check that I had put into savings and use it to prepay for 400 gallons of fuel oil for next winter’s heat at $2.199.
That was painful. But at least it’s over. Next I need to contact the dentist about the $859 bill they sent me for my crown. My insurance company didn’t cover anything but $17. I’m annoyed because the dentist thought they’d pay 50%, the tooth still isn’t right AND the bill they sent didn’t include the credit for the $394 I already paid.
But paying for the fuel oil was enough adulting for today.
The teenager made an amazing steak dinner.
And Nala loves onion rings.
The teenager discovered, because I sent her an Instagram post, that The Attic thrift store has an online sale and bid on a red dress. That she won.
I love the ingenuity our local small businesses are showing. I hope it continues after the lockdown ends.
Last but certainly not least, I tried this Cascara tea which is supposedly full of antioxidants and it tasted really good.
So tonight our family is going to see Heddatron at Lafayette College. My office colleague’s husband is the technical director at the college and she invited us to come.
The teenager’s dad works at Lafayette (as I once did many, many moons ago) and I earned a second bachelors degree there, graduating with the class of 2013.
I invited him to join us for the show. He agreed. He and the teenager will be heading to the laundromat after the performance. Sounds like a good time!
We decided to go to Dubs on Fifth in West Easton for dinner. While just a sports pub, they have some vintage arcade games and good burgers. They also have an eclectic menu of grilled cheeses. They also have a sign over the bar that makes me smile:
I love Jesus but I drink a little.”
Dubs on Fifth
After dinner I mentioned that Dairy Queen has a Buy One Get One For 80 cents in honor of the eightieth anniversary.
So, of course, the teen wanted ice cream. She and her dad both got mediums. I got two minis. That way I could have TWO flavors.
And the teenager just realized her father has no neck. And thanked me for hers.
We’re enjoying a lot of silliness together. And that feels good.