The Rocking Chair

When I was a girl, our house had a fairly plain rocking chair in the living room.

As a girl, I never really thought about it.

And then, when I got pregnant with the now teenager, my friend gave me a rocking chair that was the same basic rocking chair.

I was tickled.

My mother-in-law made cushions for it to match the enchanted forest-themed nursery. (The teenager has never painted over the mural.)

Gradually, when breastfeeding and rocking a grumpy baby was no longer a thing, the rocking chair went down stairs.

The cats like it.

And as the house seems to get smaller, now the chair is on the enclosed sun porch.

Do you know how hairy this chair gets with four cats?

I finally realized today that I could remove the cushions, not just vacuum them. After all, my mother-in-law made the cushions so we could be comfortable with the baby.

The baby just turned 16.

I removed the cushions. I’ll wash the covers and maybe I’ll put them back, maybe I won’t.

How many of us cling to habits or things because we just haven’t realized that we don’t need them or that they don’t serve a purpose?

The rocking chair looks good bare. More appropriate for the porch.

Sometimes we need to stop for a minute and learn to recognize when we are functioning on auto-pilot and not in response to our current environment or situation.

Early Fitness Wins

The teenager has committed herself to her fitness goals at the same time that I have to use some serious discipline on my own behalf.

As the woman in her mid-forties with lower body cerebral palsy and a history of anemia, I have to join her.

The stress of my job has impacted my sleep and my blood pressure and the exhaustion that comes everything—from turning to various comfort eating techniques, drinking too much coffee and working too hard—leads to me not getting enough steps and not doing cardio or weight training.

That makes me look different, feel different and act different.

I like being a strong, fit woman, even if my body isn’t athletic.

My daughter informed me that she can’t work out with me. She doesn’t want her success or failure to have anything to do with anything other than herself. I respect that heartily, but I hope soon we can at least go to the gym together.

She downloaded the Instafitness app onto her phone. I purchased this app for $5 six years ago and it helped me make my body sleek and lean. I went all the way from 142 pounds to 110. That was too thin.

By the way, today I’m 142 pounds.

But why we like Instafitness— it divides workouts several ways:

  • By body group
  • By difficulty
  • By equipment (body weight exercises, dumbbells, and resistance band)
  • Some are labeled as weight loss

Each work out ranges from 10-20 minutes so you can mix and match to build a routine.

Today I tried an arm workout on FitOn. It was a 10-minute burnout session for upper body. I liked how complete it was, but man, I was not prepared for ten minutes of non-stop high intensity dumbbell pounding.

So far, and the reality of our need to get in shape has only really hit us this week:

  • We have made smarter food choices.
  • We have eaten most of the remaining “junk” in the house.
  • I have eaten less refined white carbs.
  • I have eaten more fruits and veggies.
  • My steps were averaging a sedentary 2,000 to 4,000 a day; now I am in the neighborhood of 6,000 to 8,000.
  • I lifted today. Briefly.
  • The teenager is killing it— yesterday was chest, abs & lower body. She repeated chest & abs today.
  • I might even try to get up early tomorrow and do yoga. Maybe.

Why I need my lucky shirt: a typical day when you’re eccentric and have cerebral palsy

The best stories start with “it began as a typical day,” but in this case it did not.

The teenager turned 16 on Tuesday and my employer had scheduled our annual meeting for Tuesday so I planned to take off today and tomorrow to celebrate with my offspring.

With Coronavirus changing everything I could have taken Monday and Tuesday instead.

Last night, I curled up in bed with a gin cocktail and watched some more of Harlan Coben’s: The Five on Netflix. (Mini review: my friend, brow maintenance person and nail tech Beth recommended the show—and I am enjoying what I feel is edgy cinematography, rapid paced story telling, complex writing, and realistically complicated and tragic characters. It’s like watching a comic book.)

So I got to bed later than I normally do and I slept a little better than I normally do. I fed the kittens, made coffee, started laundry and finagled a cake carrier into the dishwasher.

After a cup of my favorite Archer Farms Direct Trade Cafe Mosaica from Target on my breezy enclosed sun porch, I slapped some clothes on… and ended up trying to accessorize a basic outfit.

Which is funny because I was going to pick up Nan, who is blind and won’t see my efforts anyway.

And then I was surprised to find out that the teenager made me breakfast— a mini bagel with greens, cucumber and fresh bacon.

After we worked on some poetry, Nan and I went to Lidl. And I took her home.

When I arrived home, the teenager informed me that her plan for today involved not wearing pants. So after a brief respite, I went to Wendy’s for a Frosty-ccino.

That was when the real adventure began.

I decided to take Nala, my four-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo who joined the family in January. Now, recently we took Nala to Dunkin Donuts to try hash browns and that went well.

And this is how she did: Nala at Dunkin

And we had taken Misty, our kitten, to Wendy’s (Kitten at Wendy’s ) so why not a bird?

So I ordered my Frosty-ccino and a junior fry for my baby girl bird on the mobile app and got into the drive thru lane. And then I did what we all do in this day and age. I took a selfie.

That’s when I realized Nala had pooped on me in fear. And I had no wipes in the car. Green bird droppings now stained my white t-shirt and Nala was walking in the mess.

But everyone in the drive thru window loved her— three employees cooed at her from afar.

I pulled into a parking space and offered her a French fry and she was too scared to eat it. I drove her home, put the car in the garage, gathered the waste and the food and started up toward the house.

Now, the teenager’s father moved some heavy original doors from the house across the garage so he could use my great grandmother’s hutch in his apartment. He did this a couple week’s ago. The doors block a portion of the stairs.

I got tangled up on the stairs/with the doors and fell, to the left onto the doors to avoid smashing Nala who was on my right shoulder.

I almost spilled my coffee and French fries fluttered like hail.

But luckily Nala is a bird, and a forager, so she doesn’t mind a little dirt. I gather them all carefully and climb up from the floor, some contusions and cuts causing minor pain.

I bump the doors and they almost fall on me. This time the French fries scatter to the four winds.

I notice how much blood and dirt cover me and I head inside to discover Nala has pooped even more.

I set her down.

I remove my shirt. White tee shirt. Vivid blood. Green poop.

I wash up and count my blessings— I was very close (too close) to breaking an arm.

I put on my lucky shirt once I cleaned up.

Addendum: I posted this link on my LinkedIn profile and wrote this introduction as to why I felt this piece was important especially as part of a discourse on social justice.

I don’t like to admit I have a disability— #cerebralpalsy. But it’s important to note that with all the stereotypes and institutionalized ideas people have about “others,” whether other cultures, races, religions, sexualities, identities, educational or social class (the list goes on and on), for those of us who have tried to “pass” as “normal” or “mainstream,” our experience is difficult. As all life is difficult to one degree or another. But if you are obviously “different” and you can’t “pass,” those notions of who you are based on quick judgments can be catastrophic. Or lead to people doing harm to you or someone you love. #blacklivesmatter

In that context, allow me to share with you what a typical day looks like for me. Warning— I end up bleeding by the end of it. Different isn’t inferior. Or threatening.

The generic weekly update in the midst of (much needed) George Floyd inspired social unrest and dialogue

It is 8:30 a.m.

Saturday morning.

The house remains still and peaceful except for the whir of fans and the occasional vocalization of a kitten, probably Misty (Mistofelees) looking for his brother, Fog. He’s distraught because I almost closed his tail in the door.

Several times today I have paused and interrupted my normal routine— to text a friend, have a Twitter conversation, drink coffee on the couch instead of in my bedroom with Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo.

One voice in the back of my head says, “You slept in, so now you’re an hour behind. You need to start that laundry and get it on the line, and that includes stripping your bed, and probably the cover on your weighted blanket. Just about every floor in the house needs to be washed with Pine Sol too. And the teenager never cleaned the cat boxes yesterday like you asked her to.”

Man, it’s exhausting just listening to that voice.

And already this morning I managed to stab myself.

I have this very basic practical set of Chicago Cutlery knives that for the first 20 years I never put in the dishwasher. Somehow, in the last day or two since I did my traditional hand wash dishes, every knife from that set is dirty. Six steak knives, the mini cleaver, the paring knife, the tomato knife, the kitchen scissors, all of them.

And last night, after a long work week where I never quite knew if I would ever receive the respect I deserve in the midst of some major ordeals, I just threw every knife in the silverware basket. Point up. The way every home ec and kitchen safety teacher tells you never to do.

I even looked in the dishwasher and chastised myself and said I should stop being super lazy and reload the top shelf so I could at least use that plastic flap that holds the knives.

But I didn’t.

Because this week brought me to new places. Another grant came back with with the largest award we ever received from that funder. Our Pennsylvania county finally went yellow. The primary happened.

But just like at work where I often feel like my voice is not heard and my experience and work style is not respected nor appreciated for what I can contribute, everything seems to stay the same.

George Floyd is still dead.

The two party system defends only the elite and anyone outside of that elite will always be marginalized.

So I slammed my dishwasher door and ran it not only with my “good” knives inside but also with them point side up.

And somehow, when reaching for a clean coffee mug that I never put on the bottom shelf but I did this time, I gave myself a superficial stab wound in the middle of my palm.

Probably because I was distracted by a long list of housework and not staying present in the moment.

This is not how people should live.

I gaze out the front window (oh, damn, I need to trim the roses too). The birds chatter and chirp outside oblivious to how humans destroy each other and our shared habitat.

But Space X Dragon launched successfully. So we have reached phase 1 of our transition into the society we glimpsed in Wall*e.

Which coincidentally was the first movie the teenager ever saw in a theater. I believe she was 4, and I recollect that it was somewhere around this time (must google). She wore a cute dress. We saw the movie at Bethlehem’s Boyd Theater. I didn’t want her first movie to be in a modern boring theater.

She was transfixed.

So now it’s 9 a.m. and I think back to my transformative experiences this week.

  • I lost 4 pounds in the last day. (Amazing what happens when you resume drinking water, eating fruit instead of candy and chips, and stop eating half a pizza every four days.)
  • I started baby steps toward making my body work effectively again.
  • I filled out a self evaluation form at work, which I think fairly depicts my successes and my struggles. I was trying to be honest and transparent but I feel I will be viewed as scathing.
  • I had a good visit with my doctor, noting that my blood pressure is going down.
  • In conjunction with those previous two bullets, I video chatted with my therapist who specializes in work stress and it was an intense appointment. I was drained for the rest of the day and ate nothing but a handful of cashews until 5 p.m. That was my most recent bout of binging half a pizza and Little Caesar’s stuffed crazy bread. Which was a disappointment. Stuffed crazy bread tastes nothing like real crazy bread and the cheese inside was weird. The bread itself was soggy. The outside tasted like a soggy Olive Garden breadstick without the addictive outer coating and the inside was overloaded with a heavy but tasteless mozzarella.
  • I didn’t vote in the primary. I always vote. But I researched all the candidates and in the races where I wanted a voice there was no opposition. It bothers me deeply that I did not vote.

And George Floyd.

And the struggles of every “minority,” every person labeled for their skin color, their body shape or function, their religion, their choice of dress, their economic status, their sexuality, their gender, their resistance to be the status quo, their inability to be the same, the non-conformists, the thinkers, the doers.

George Floyd is dead.

Unwinding (vacation day 4, grilling day 2)

I woke today with no clear idea of what I wanted to achieve today except that I promised my teenager that we could go to Lidl and get supplies to grill again.

I even called my blind friend Nan (who’s now on twitter and just published a NASA poem as a tweet) and got her shopping list.

  • Macaroni salad
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Ice cream

I got up and fed the menagerie. One quietly sad little leftover tidbit of having formerly feral kittens is that sometimes they really do eat anything.

Fog, who was on his own a month longer than his brother Misty (Mistofelees), tends to eat the cockatoo’s kibble.

But I do feed them— as I grind my whole bean espresso blend and feed it into my little espresso machine.

This morning I started laundry, washed the bathroom floor and reassembled it now that it’s been thoroughly scrubbed. I had my last birthday cupcake for breakfast.

I saw a got the last of my anticipated packages, a shirt and necklace from Doll’s Kill. (Unboxing here: My last birthday package.)

I also got two pairs of slacks and a purple tunic from White House Black Market. I thought the necklace would look amazing with the tunic. (Another unboxing here: New Pants)

My Goffin’s cockatoo, Nala, had her morning talking session and woke the teenager up at 11 a.m.

The teenager and I went to Lidl and the Dollar Tree. Our finds at Lidl included super cheap scrapple and super cheap hot dogs and super cheap maple breakfast sausages. We got two bags of instant light charcoal. Dill pickle pita chips. Some varieties of veggie burgers. Provolone because it was on sale and the teenager adores provolone. The teenager even got break and bake chocolate chip cookies to make in her father’s new toaster oven. (His apartment does not have a stove/oven.)

At the Dollar Tree, I got tuna. A vase because for the life of me I can’t find the one I made in college that I use to display my roses. Frozen appetizers. A can of corn so we can make my mother-in-law’s corn bake. A can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli because it might be the second time the teenager ever had it. Some grill utensils. Matches. And Ajax. Because the teenager wanted Comet for cleaning but the Dollar Store only had Ajax. And instant decaf coffee. Because Lidl didn’t have any decaf coffee and I need to detox.

Nala got really hot this afternoon and started swimming in her water bowl.

The teenager started the grill again. This time we were more determined than ever to succeed. Read about last night’s attempt here: Yesterday’s BBQ

We even invited her dad for dinner. And do you know what? Those cheap hot dogs were really good.

And I had a library board meeting at 7 p.m., so I poured a Diet Coke and mango nectar.

I can feel my tension fade away and it feels delightful. I ate well today, though I’m hungry now. I even had a ton of fruit. A serving of cantaloupe. An apple made in the grill like at Girl Scout camp. And probably 8 pieces of watermelon.

Nothing Just Happens

My daughter and I have developed a fascination with The Attic Clothes in Bethlehem as they have been hosting online sales on Instagram and Facebook.

We’ve been supporting small local business and indulging in one of the great teen girl sports of all time— consignment store shopping.

I’m going to switch up the chronology of this piece since right now the teenager, my blind friend, Nan, and I are among several other cars in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot.

Troublemakers

This experience can be summed up as— as my daughter put it— Nothing Just Happens.

So, Nan, being blind and a little strange, decided to wear her mask over her eyes.

We invited her along to pick up our consignment items. We stopped at the teenager’s grandmother’s to drop off a stepladder we borrowed. And her grandfather bought her the new Cats movie on DVD, like seeing it three times in the theatre wasn’t enough.

We had promised to take Nan for a car ride and stop at Dunkin for coffee and snackin’ bacon. And we all shared a matcha since Nan had never had any.

It was starting to look like the perfect day for the teen.

Until she discovered I messed up her coffee and she didn’t like it. So we went through the drive through a second time. This time we were going to order Munchkins too!

The teen wanted the 50 count bucket that looked like it came out of Kentucky Fried Chicken. But since we’re all gaining weight— the only way we were getting 50 munchkins is if Nan were taking 45 of them home to share with all her neighbors.

But they said they were out of munchkins. And they were paid for. So I told the poor guy to throw anything in the bag. He asked if I would accept a donut or two. I said sure. I think he was uneasy that I made him choose but he gave us a chocolate cake donut, which Nan and I split, and a chocolate iced donut with sprinkles which we gave to the teen.

That and her blue raspberry coolatta will have her high as a kite by the time we get home.

We were cleaning the garage earlier and removed about 150 gallons of garbage— she’ll have the energy to go home and finish the job, hoisting furniture over her head like a she-hulk.

So while the teen is trying on clothes in the backseat (skills learned in marching band), quasi-modeling her purchases, there are people wondering what the hell is up with us.

And Nan says it makes me look like the normal one.

Now that is scary.

Shenanigans

It’s definitely Saturday. I stayed up late working on the first draft of a poem— right now in very poor shape and entitled “You become”—but I slept really well.

I fed the beasties, did some vacuuming, started some laundry and my mom dropped off some Easter candy.

So, since I am a mature adult, I decided to have the bottled Starbucks drink and Brach’s classic Jelly Bird Eggs for breakfast.

Opie, the three-legged cat, disapproves of my breakfast choices

I gave the budgies some shredded wheat as a treat and let them fly free for a couple hours. The teen came down to my room to use my desk to complete this week’s geometry and Oz the big, dumb, recovering-from-depression cat opened the door to my room to join us.

We have a jumper! (This post jumps around)

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 off tomorrow. 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.

Go follow AtticClothes

Last but certainly not least, I tried this Cascara tea which is supposedly full of antioxidants and it tasted really good.

The Uplifting Side of Pandemic Days

There is just something about life in these pandemic times that I find uplifting.

Maybe the sense of nowhere to go or a certain carefreeness that reminds me of being on summer vacation as a teen.

Our grocery trips focus on the present more than ever. I normally only grocery shop once every two weeks but find that now I’m going once a week, buying less and rotating stores.

Today I went to a local small independent grocer, Park Avenue Market, where they are known for their amazing sandwiches and in store meats.

I treated the teenager to her first taste of olive loaf from the deli, slab bacon and their own feta spinach sausage patties. I also bought some stew beef and a small steak.

I discovered, in the middle of the store, with my order and my blind friend’s order, that I did not have my wallet. I found myself staring straight at a local cop and wondering where my wallet at fallen out of the back pocket of my jeans.

I told the teen to keep shopping and went home to look for it— it had fallen out of my pocket when I used the toilet before beginning our journey.

After the market, I took Nan her items and took the teen home before heading to Weis. There I got bananas, muffins, some discounted chicken and frozen vegetables. Half off fresh bakery products that weren’t so fresh any more. Milk, eggs, half and half and two six packs— one of Yuengling and one of a raspberry ale with a name I don’t recall.

We got some other items between the two trips: broccoli and cheese whipped into something akin to mashed potatoes, bread, mini shoo fly pies, A-Treat soda and lord knows what else.

Because suddenly life is shorter and the carbohydrates and sweets provide a taste of celebration.

I ate a vat of spaghetti squash when I arrived home and helped my daughter design a marching band show for her music assignment. Her dream has long been to play Cake’s Short Skirt Long Jacket in band. So she was ecstatic when the web sure her teacher posted had the music.

It was hard to unify songs since we didn’t have enough Cake songs to do a Cake theme. She found a lot of Green Day and thought maybe she should do all Green Day. But I couldn’t let her dream die.

She found the theme from Die Another Day— which I believe is Madonna performing in the James Bond film. I didn’t think mixing a movie theme and alternative would work. And her band director has done a Bond show.

Finally I researched early 2000s alternative rock in a Google search and we decided on Nickelback. Green Day’s Basket Case for the Opener, followed by the Cake song, closed by some Nickelback song that I’ve forgotten already.

So the theme would be alternative rock from the era in which these musicians were born.

And here’s Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, rocking out to Green Day.

Nala rocking to Green Day

Boxing

When the teenager was a wee thing, she idolized Buffy The Vampire Slayer. So much so that as a seven year old she named her kitten Oz after Seth Green’s werewolf character.

Shortly thereafter— I can’t remember if it were a birthday or a Christmas present—but we got her a real Everlast punching bag and boxing gloves.

So she could train for her superhero career.

Today, my boss asked me to work late. And I had a library board meeting at 7. At 4:45 pm, since I had no lunch, I clocked out on my 30-minute meal break and went to the garage with the teenager.

Slamming on that punching bag released a lot of tension from my shoulders.

And the teen has another unorthodox gym class to add to her log for her phys-ed teacher.

I logged back into work at 5:15 and worked until 6:30. I’m beat. But I’m glad I took the time to box a bit.