Those happy little things

The past few days have been a roller coaster. A cliche I know but the simplest way to describe life.

Something spooked the budgies at 5 a.m. this morning, which in turn spooked the cockatoo. I had not caged the cockatoo as we had a rough day yesterday and she was mad at me. So I turned the light on to soothe everyone and Nala (my Goffin) flew into my bed with me.

This blog will be mostly a random list of nice things with pictures and a review of McDonald’s spicy nuggets.

So let’s handle the review first.

Angel’s Review of McDonald’s spicy nuggets

I like them. Very much. Good with a side of ranch.

For more on our trip to McDonald’s for Buy One Get One nuggets — with TWO teenagers— see our video on YouTube: Taste Test: Spicy Nugs

Onward…

MY teenager had her first day of Zoom classes as part of her hybrid public high school yesterday. Her friend, who will affectionately be “the second teenager” in this space, joined us.

After class, we visited our friends at Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab to get a large crate for our Greek Pride Foster Kittens so we could segregate Hermes as he has ringworm.

(For more on the kittens:

Zeus and Apollo

Kittens are one of the things that make me happy.

Other things that make me happy:

Silly, sweet Saturday

So, I have come to the conclusion that all I have to do is call Nan and ask, “Are you busy?” and she will grab her white cane and meet me by the door.

Unless NASA has something going on— like a hatch opening or a spacewalk or a launch or a capture.

Today the teenager got up early, at 8 a.m., which in teen time is somewhere between “I had no idea the sun came up this early” and “wow, I can eat breakfast at actual breakfast time.”

Speaking of breakfast, the foster kittens have learned the word “breakfast” and their little ears perk up when you say it.

The teen wanted to go to Petco and Dollar Tree, while Nan and I had our eye on a brief trip to Grocery Outlet to look for smoothies and lentil pasta. Their circular advertised Bird’s Eye steam-in-bag lentil pasta, which Nan and I both like, for 99 cents.

It normally runs $3-4 per bag.

As a blind person, Nan likes the fact that she can make lentil pasta without dealing with boiling water as one has to do with traditional pasta and it’s not a mushy mess of preservatives like canned pasta.

We were both disappointed to discover that they only had lentil/zucchini pasta with olive oil, as opposed to the “sauced” varieties.

But I get ahead of myself. As I mentioned yesterday (see Growing Up), the teenager is now driving. This trip with Nan— because of course she said yes she’d come— would be her first trip with the teen behind the wheel.

Yesterday, we not only drove several highways but I took her to Wendy’s to try the drive-through. She aced that.

We set a rendezvous time with Nan for 10 a.m. and head to the car with a sneak peak at the garden. My fancy little imported peppers have started to grow, and the massive pumpkin vine that originated in my compost heap has started to yield pumpkins not on the ground but on my fence.

Petco passed without incident and Grocery Outlet had minimum disruption as well. But the teenager found Maple Doughnuts (as a brand name) in an unlabeled decadent 12 pack that weighed at least four pounds for $1.99.

“Quality you can see since 1946,” I chuckled while reading that to Nan.

The plan quickly morphed into a trip for coffee at Dunkin’ and doughnuts from Grocery Outlet. The teenager helped us load up the car and she headed to the Dollar Tree and we contemplated beverages.

Except McDonald’s was closer and cheaper. By the time the teen returned we were still deciding because I had a coupon for “buy one milkshake and get one for a penny.” But we had doughnuts.

Nan wanted a chocolate shake but protested that she was pretty sure drinking milkshakes before 11 a.m. was frowned upon, in the same manner as day drinking.

I assured her it would be 11 by the time we received the milkshakes.

So I ordered one small chocolate and one medium strawberry milkshake and one large Diet Coke.

One of us had to pretend to be sensible.

10:35 a.m.

The drive thru is ridiculous. But that’s how it is now. The line at the McDonald’s is like a trip to the DMV whereas getting your learner’s permit at the DMV is relatively instantaneous. Another Covid-19 reality.

11 a.m. — to the minute— we receive the shakes. Nan and the teenager split a chocolate doughnut. I eat a cake doughnut with icing and crystallized sugar. And then a glazed donut with chocolate icing and a thick layer of maple icing.

A relaxed and joyful start to a sweet Saturday morning.

Those days

Today was one of those days where I got a variety of outstanding projects done, slept better than usual, barely got any steps in and felt like I made an impact working on Aspire to Autonomy’s annual report for 2019-2020.

As I’ve mentioned it’s an exciting time to be part of this team and the interns working in my department bring so much enthusiasm and knowledge to the table that it is a joy to mentor them.

I even practiced my chopstick skills with the teenager’s tutelage so I would embarrass myself less at future sushi meetings. We used old toothbrushes and I could only master the “cheater” method.

The teenager rescued Buddy (the dog next door) from an empty house as his human has been spending a lot of time away from home.

It was a dreary day today— the weather hospitably cool— but my mood shifted later in the day, I think due to not eating enough.

I found myself irritable over things I have no right to be irritable about.

Large sodas at Wendy’s require a life jacket

I drove the teenager to marching band and then sneaked to Wendy’s for a vanilla Frostyccino and since they had a coupon for a $1 soft drink I got my neighbor a Diet Coke.

Of course, I already got a $2 iced coffee from Dunkin’ today. Buddy joined us for the ride and Darnell joined us for coffee.

So that means I’ve had three cups of coffee today.

But there is something soothing about being alone in the car. Even the long drive thru line wasn’t a bother. It allowed me to sit quietly and reflect, and to people-watch.

Sometimes a peaceful moment comes from what otherwise might be an annoyance.

Owning up and ripping Sheetz a new one

First off, before I even start this entry let me give my poor customer service representative Justin a shout out for his professionalism, patience and calm.

Second, before I get too far let me admit that I have now reached my heaviest ever weight, about ten pounds heavier than my natural set point with no muscle tone left. Push-ups, planks and heel-touch crunches used to be my jam– I could do 20 push-ups, a sixty-second plank and 100 heel touches without feeling tired or compromised.

At one point I had visible abdominal muscles, then I had abdominal muscles like stone beneath a layer of fat. That is now done. I struggle to walk up hill. I have no muscle tone. Where I once used 25-pound dumbbells for my bicep curls, I now huff and puff with ten.

This past year has been cruel.

This is the owning up portion of today’s blog. Yesterday, I woke up exhausted and hot but still motivated myself to do an ab workout. But then, I didn’t quite meet my step goal. And ate half a Papa John’s pizza and an order of their jalapeno popper bread bites. I meant to share them with the teenager but they were way too spicy. And I ate them all, even though they were kinda gross.

Jalapeño popper bread bites

I blame Dominos for the pizza binge as they sent me a push notification that they had two new pizzas–chicken taco and cheeseburger–but both turned out to sound boring and the $5.99 promotion seemed unavailable so rather than order my free two topping I spent $26 at Papa Johns.

The Zesty Italian or Tangy Italian, or whatever pie it was, was delicious in that trashy kind of way (though I hate Papa John’s tomato sauce I am reminded now). And the meal has led to a type of intestinal distress I don’t normally experience. I also gained 3 pounds.

The teenager tells me the pizza was good, but Dominos is better in her adolescent opinion.

Speaking of adolescent behavior, the teenager went back-to-school shopping with the paternal grandparents. She wanted a milkshake from Sheetz for lunch and her grandparents vetoed that and took her to a diner she does not like. I will withhold the name here as it is a fairly popular spot.

So she came home a little upset over the meal situation as she had just had “the worst quesadilla of my life.” She pined for that milkshake as it is 90+ degrees outside and she has marching band tonight.

“Mom,” she said. “If you buy me a milkshake at Sheetz, I won’t eat anything else today.”

I told her to throw in some extra chores and we could talk. She agreed. I downloaded the Sheetz app as these days, I don’t go anywhere without looking for coupons. I went to create my Sheetz account. Now, my husband has the Sheetz card. I have the Sheetz key ring.

The Sheetz card has a security code that the key ring does not.

You need the security card. The app forces me to call customer service.

Customer service tells me I have to find my security code, have my husband call them and say it’s okay, or use the general random Sheetz card.

To which I say, “If I use a random card, I won’t get the points. Isn’t that the point of the loyalty app?”

I launch into a fiery tirade. Because our Sheetz card/account is in my husband’s name, I cannot log into the Sheetz app. I find it odd that a loyalty app would have such strict security. I merely want to look for coupons and then go buy my daughter a milkshake.

Well, poor talented and patient Justin the Customer Service rep tells me, some people have credit card information in the app.

Yes, I say, but this one does not, because this account has never downloaded the app. So it does not have anything in it. I added that I can tell him my husband’s birthday and his social security number and probably the password he used if we ever tried to set up an online account. But he still needs my husband’s permission.

So I tell him that I refinanced my car over the phone the other day, and that I stayed on the line while the previous loan holder talked to my new financer. That I gave them my permission to share my account information with my new bank.

If I can do that over the phone, I should be able to buy a damn milkshake for my kid.

As a compromise, he called my husband at work and asked if he was allowed to give me access to our Sheetz loyalty account. My husband, of course, said yes.

He told the teenager via text that the customer service people didn’t verify his identity. They asked for no proof that he was indeed my husband.

Now let me add that if I were vindictive, because after all my husband and I have been separated for 14 months, why would I go to the trouble to steal his Sheetz loyalty number which is 16 digits, hack into his account, and run up his credit card with Sheetz purchases? Perhaps I would go squander his non-existent stockpile of reward points.

The app apprised me that we had 523 loyalty reward points and Sheetz requires 500 for a free regular milkshake.

I bought myself a pretzel with nacho cheese sauce and while the cheese sauce had a barely perceptible layer of spice to it, it had no flavor whatsoever.

The teenager enjoyed her milkshake.

Their mobile order system is very convenient.

Fabulous error and hump day fun

Today I finally had my eyebrows done after a long hiatus from Hyperion Salon where I have my nails and waxing done. I still can’t spare the money for a mani-pedi but brows is a $10 investment that yields great benefits.

Since the teenager had to be at band camp at 8, and I was due at the salon at 8:30, I decided to go to Dunkin’ since I had a free beverage credit.

It was chilly and raining so I thought I might order a hot latte, some sort of fancy caffeinated beverage. In the end, I decided on an iced matcha latte with skim milk as I adore matcha but am not willing to pay $5 for some green powder in a glass of milk.

I got to the drive thru window and she is clearly handing me an iced coffee latte.

I’m like…. ummmmm

And she looked at the tag and it was clearly supposed to be an iced matcha latte.

So here’s the cool part… when they made it, it looked like they used a medium amount of skim milk and a large amount of matcha.

It was dark, and rich, and chunky the way I like my matcha drinks.

Heaven.

Then after my brows, which now look amazing, I went to the chiropractor. I listened to Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and Frosted Flakes’ mascot Tony the Tiger).

I listened to “Yes, we have no bananas” four times in a row and was single along at top volume in my best barbershop quartet voice.

What fun, right?

Tonight I am having dinner with my friend Bill (the author of the Kink Noir series— next volume coming soon! More info here: Debauchery and Projects with Bill).

It’s nice to know that there can be fun summer days after all.

Manic Monday … Nan and Angel style

Second week of Band Camp for the teenager and somehow I not only volunteered to drive her and the marching baritone to the high school but I also conned my good friend Nan, my crazy blind compatriot, into breakfast before our regular work session.

So I got up at 7:10 a.m., after the teenager did all the work with the menagerie, slapped on some clothes, took my last antibiotic and headed out the door by 7:40 a.m.

The routine with Nan is simple, yet deliciously complex, I pick her up and we drive to a shady spot in the parking lot of her apartment building to peruse coupons and loyalty deals on the various apps.

Now, Nan loves chai. We both love food, the worse for our health, the better. Okay perhaps that is a joke. Maybe. It’s free coffee Monday at Dunkin. And we have coupons for $2 off a breakfast combo at Wendy’s.

I plot a plan.

I really want to try the chicken biscuit at Wendy’s. Nan and I know we love the seasoned breakfast potatoes at Wendy’s.

So, our first stop was Wendy’s. We ordered a chicken biscuit with honey butter combo, making the potatoes a medium (which honestly was too many potatoes even for the two of us) and an unsweetened iced tea. The bill was $3.70. I had $3 cash and Nan had the 70 cents.

Now, I know, that’s only breakfast for 1 person. We then headed to Dunkin for my free medium iced coffee and to see if they still have chai— you see they took it off the menu.

We got the iced tea in case Dunkin really didn’t have chai.

I used the Dunkin mobile app to order the 2 for $3 sausage-egg-and-cheese wraps because Nan likes them. They are easy to eat in the car. And then I could get my free coffee. So that was $3.18. We saved the last egg wrap for the teenager.

Then at the speaker of the drove-thru we asked if they still had the chai, and they did. We ordered a medium hot chai and a cup with ice so I could ice it for Nan. That cost $3.79, as they had to charge us for the second cup.

They total for all the food was about $11 and we had breakfast for three people.

I loved the chicken biscuit with honey butter.

Phase One of our morning complete. Nan and I returned to my house to submit some essays and strategize future creative endeavors.

And then our friend Joan joins us. Neither one of us has seen Joan in a decade. Joan is another wickedly smart and multi-talented woman, dabbling and exploring the so many ways to express the beauty of this world: short stories, photography and music.

Joan, Nan and I all met as members of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group when the teenager was still “the baby.”

A lot of my good friends came from that group.

Angel, Nala, Misty

And Joan also brought the sweetest, ripest smelling melon I have held in my arms in months. Did she notice how much fresh fruit cup I ate in the hospital?

The teenager came home for lunch break (from band camp), Joan departed and we crated our three male fosters for neutering tonight. Except Zeus looks like a girl now.

Apollo

Apollo and Hermes both still have infected eyes and coughs so we were told to bring Artemis instead since she was ready for a forever home.

I went into the teenager’s room and Hermes had escaped his crate!

I let Apollo out, and cleaned cat boxes while on hold with Capital One Auto Financing to finish my application to refinance the last 40 months of my auto loan and drop $50/month from my payment without extending the life of the loan. I owe $7,690 and some odd cents.

With my auto loan approved, I slipped sweet little Artemis into the crate. Remember if she charms you, you can apply to adopt her through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Artemis purring

On the way to Artemis’ rendezvous point, I received a phone call from Capital Blue Cross, my medical insurer. This was my second medical phone call of the day as the hand specialist overseeing my case called me to request a follow-up even though my hospital discharge instructions said I only needed to see my family physician at Medical Associates of Bethlehem.

I have that appointment scheduled for Wednesday, and now the hand specialist for the following Monday. On the phone was my case manager from the insurance company. She sounded pleased that I was healing well and on top of everything. She will call again next Tuesday.

Upon delivering Artemis and retrieving the teenager, we came home and I finally had Brussel sprouts. When I was admitted to the hospital last week I had missed them by a couple hours as part of the Monday lunch special.

Errands and decadence

Today started from the get-go with an air that everything would be harder than it needed to be. I’ll spare you my editorializing and stick to my main message.

The other night, the teenager turned to me and asked what happened with our recent cat litter order. Now with four cats in the house I have 30-lbs of cat litter on auto ship from Petco every three weeks. I actually had this order ship early and I upped it to 60 lbs.

Petco Customer Service

Fog

It shipped on July 24. Well yesterday I tracked it, as our five litter boxes are getting low.

The UPS tracking system said “receiver has moved.” Ummm…. I haven’t moved in 17 years and I have been getting this order for more than a year.

I call customer service. I had a very sweet, very friendly representative named “Jean” who didn’t sound American. She informed me she would file the appropriate claim about the missing package.

I quietly said, “and in the mean time, what about my cat litter?”

She placed a new order, free to me, that should arrive in 5 to 7 business days.

Three 30-lb containers of cat litter arrived at noon today. Kudos to Petco.

Errands and paperwork

I finally wrote the letters freezing my Planet Fitness membership. I don’t have a printer, but the teenager does, even though it is running out of ink. I shared the letter with her on Google docs and asked her to print two copies.

Why two copies?

Because even though my home gym is in Easton, some of my paperwork says it is Mount Pocono even though I have never even seen the Mount Pocono Planet Fitness. The letters need to be certified, according to the contract, so I spent $4.10 each to send two. It’s easier than finding out I sent it to the wrong gym.

I had $33 cash and 15 cents in coins when I arrived at the post office. I told him to give me a few stamps and if he could get the total to an even number I would pay cash. At 55 cents each, the math on making that work… well he gave me 14 and it came to $15.90.

He’s probably now thinking the same thing I am— that 2 more stamps would have been the number we wanted, $17.

Ah, well. I’m still not convinced this federal coin shortage isn’t a political move to force Americans into accepting a cashless society. I’m still pissed that we moved our currency away from the gold standard.

Review: McDonald’s Iced Coffee

On the way home from the post office, I stopped at McDonald’s again for a medium iced coffee and to get my free fries Friday medium fries. I had mentioned yesterday that the caramel iced coffee tasted like a milkshake more than coffee.

So today I ordered a medium iced coffee for $1.29 (and my free French fries with a side of spicy buffalo sauce). The standard iced coffee comes with cream and liquid sugar, which confuses me because I think it is also made with whole milk.

Well I ordered mine with no sugar. I don’t like liquid sugar and I don’t put sugar in my coffee.

When I took a sip, it was awful. My Nescafé is better. But once I started eating the French fries and the buffalo sauce, my searing tonsils didn’t have any problem with the coffee any more.

Perhaps I will have to drink all of my iced coffee plain and compare them all. Get one from Dunkin, one from Starbucks and one from McDonald’s.

This is how I think they would rank:

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts
  2. Starbucks
  3. McDonald’s

So, I want McDonald’s to knock Starbucks down a peg as Starbucks coffee is bitter. But McDonald’s struck me as weird. We shall see.

Fast Food Guilt

Triple cheeseburger & iced coffee

Well, before we have the serious discussion about poverty and food insecurity in America, let’s get a bit of humor out of the way.

There is a good possibility that the teenager will come home from her grandparents’ house today, and having read this, scream at me (because she has hearing problems not because she is disrespectful), “You went to McDonald’s without me??”

But in all seriousness, I have put on ten pounds since March and most of it is “stress weight.”

Since I lost my job July 10, I havent been to the grocery store this month — except for picking up some instant coffee or a pack of toilet paper.

I received my last pay check July 17, and tomorrow there could be $400 in unemployment compensation in my account but this will be my first payment so we’ll see if the paperwork went through. It should, but the teenager’s father and some of his colleagues were furloughed in June and he returned to work this week never receiving a dime.

So while I have some savings, my financial stability right now is precarious and as the custodial parent as a teenager I worry about the future. Therefore I cling to my pennies.

I peeled the lunch meat, cheese and the tomato out of half a hoagie the teenager didn’t plan to finish because it was “gross” and made an omelet with it for dinner.

We have a small garden. We have some friends with gardens. I keep my non perishables well stocked, so while we may be only eating meat about once a week, we have food.

And most of my food insecurity comes from not knowing when I will have any income again. I still have about half my last paycheck in the bank and won’t even have to touch savings for another month. But my savings are meager, but from what I understand better than average for the typical American who can’t afford an impromptu plumbing repair.

But, you see, when I get stressed I want fast food. The more fast food I have, the more I want.

And with the ease of order ahead apps and the discounted prices, it’s hard.

I worked my way through college at McDonald’s. I worked there 5 years and gained a hatred of drive-throughs (how lazy and inconsiderate can Americans be ordering 8 Happy Meals all custom orders in the drive through) and thought I’d eaten all the McDonald’s I would ever care to eat.

At our McDonald’s, about 25 years ago, each employee working a full shift got a free meal: one medium soft drink, one large fry and one sandwich. At the time I didn’t each lettuce, so I wouldn’t typically get a plain McChicken as I don’t care for mayonnaise either. I would occasionally get a triple cheeseburger without the onions with extra pickle.

I hadn’t eaten at McDonald’s since those days and avoided fast food restaurants so vehemently that the first time my daughter got a fast food kid’s meal (at around six of seven) she exclaimed, “Mom! There’s a toy inside!”

All went well until McDonald’s came out with a stroopwaffel McFlurry. A close friend got me hooked on stroopwaffels before they became a thing in the United States. And then suddenly they were everywhere.

I’m a sucker for a stroopwaffel.

Even after 25 years, in a McDonald’s 25 miles away from my hometown, the lobby has the same exact greasy fast food smell that I remember. My uniforms and shoes all had that smell. The French fry grease smell.

Then my neighbor introduced me to the $1 beverage menu. I downloaded the app when I saw it was free french fry day.

And then I saw the McChicken on the $1 menu. My good old favorite. And it was slightly more boring than I remember it.

Fast forward to today. I ate two small meals so far today. A small whole grain pastry. Some cheese and goldfish crackers. I’m hungry. My daughter is away.

I regress you my blue collar roots and I know I can get dinner at McDonald’s for about $3. I know I could also get a $3 bagged salad, but that won’t have the protein of a big old fast food sandwich. I haven’t had fruits or veggies today. I have some lovely fresh Brussel sprouts, probably also $3.

But I cave.

Now if I really want to be cheap, I can get the $1 McChicken, a $1 large Diet Coke and I have a coupon for a $1 large fry. Except fries are really empty calories.

So ditch the fries. Then I could upgrade and get the $2 double cheeseburger instead of the fries and McChicken. But then I’m not using any coupons so I could swap the Diet Coke with the coupon I have for a 99 cent any size iced coffee. I select caramel.

But then greed and gluttony kick in, I upgrade the $2 double cheeseburger for a $3 triple cheeseburger, the same burger of my youth. I don’t need that much cheeseburger.

But I’m getting that much cheeseburger.

I also click on not one but TWO apple pies. One for me and one for the teen. $1.49. But we don’t need apple pie. I remove it.

But I’m a little heartbroken as when we were McDonald’s crew we would take the outdated hot apple pies, at pre-close, and place them on the trays that had to be for the Big Breakfast, and smother them with the soft serve before we emptied the machine. And then we added the hot caramel. So good.

But no apple pies. I exercised restraint.

But that triple cheeseburger with no onion and extra pickle was exactly as I remembered.

This was my first experience with McDonald’s iced coffee. It wasn’t iced coffee. It was more like a milkshake. Made with whole milk and caramel syrup the coffee was more like coffee ice cream. Not bad, but way too sweet and decadent to be iced coffee. Next time I’ll get one without flavor.

I know this rant doesn’t have much organization, but I realized today I was falling into the trap of many Americans with financial concerns or in poverty. There are so many cheap & tasty options out there that are so much easier than fresh cooking. And in food deserts, the cheap options of Taco Bell and the $1 McChicken are cost effective.

I have always known this truth, but I didn’t expect to be participating in it. I never thought I would revert to my fast food youth. But here I am.

I swear— tomorrow I will eat the Brussel sprouts.

Whirlwind Tuesday

I ended last night with a delightful (super super delightful) tapas of succulent olives, hummus, blue cheese and pita chips with my neighbor.

Cozy tapas

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.

The rescued 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.

(For more details on this, see yesterday’s post: Nescafe Capers)

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.

Matte silver

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.

And here’s some stoned cat videos:Fog doesn’t want to come out

Misty coming out

Public relations and mini adventures

The last two days I have been hectic busy. But, yesterday, despite my activities and the sporadic heavy rain, I still walked about 9,400 steps.

Go, me!

Oz the Regal (random cat photo)

I started my day with a video chat with my fellow volunteers at Aspire to Autonomy, Inc. This anti-human trafficking organization helps connect underserved populations with services, while educating about human trafficking and looking for trafficking victims. It then helps victims rebuild their lives and get whatever help they need to reach autonomy.

They are also currently hosting monthly “Feed Northampton County” pandemic response food distributions at the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley and in the West Ward of Easton. Using a pop-up food pantry model, Aspire and their network of ambassadors distribute food, masks and hand sanitizer.

The organization works with interns from Kutztown University’s Master’s of Social Work program. Currently I am working closely with Sarah, who has embraced the idea of learning more about public relations and how it can benefit her in promoting her future activities in her career.

Sarah and I were scheduled to have a video chat to strategize pitching the press release she had written the day before on a training session she and two other interns—Kayla and Sam—are facilitating next week on Pennsylvania’s Act 197. (More on that in a few paragraphs.)

Kayla and organization co-founder Darnell (and my supervisor) joined us to catch up on the list of activities we have going on right now.

I left the meeting energized and started pitching to my end of the media list, while Sarah handled the others. This morning, we noticed that The Valley Ledger had already posted our material. Thank you to them!

To read more about our upcoming training (please come!), click here: Act 197 training .

I hopped from there to a meeting for the fundraising committee of Mary Meuser Memorial Library. We had to cancel our annual book fair, due to Covid-19, and met to discuss future possibilities for fundraising. I floated what I felt was a good idea to use key space in the library (and facing a major thoroughfare) to promote local businesses. The committee like the idea and I am to prepare a proposal.

And the teenager made arrangements with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab (FURR) to get our kittens fixed next week.

Fog, my office companion

The rest of the afternoon is a blur. But I know I helped with some correspondence for Aspire and pursued some networking opportunities on behalf of the group. I also asked my peers at the organization about an idea I had to promote the enforcement of Act 197 via a social media campaign.

Last night, I visited with my neighbors, watched Golden Girls with the teenager, went for a walk with “my other half,” Buddy’s mom who lives in the other side of my house, cuddled with my cockatoo and watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.

This morning somehow I slept until 8:30. And my email alerted me that it was National Drive Thru Day. I wrote a corporate sponsorship letter for Aspire and submitted it to the founders for review. Then, the teenager borrowed Buddy and we went to gather up cheap eats at the drive thru.

First I stopped at Dunkin as I still have more than $30 on my Dunkin gift card. They were offering 100 points on any purchase. I cashed in the free beverage I had on my card and bought the teenager hash browns. Then we stopped at McDonald’s as they were offering a free medium fry with any $1 purchase.

I bought her a $1 large Diet Coke and they kept offering me a $1 McChicken. The teenager told me to get it, so I did, but I had them make one without mayo and with lots of pickles.

There is still much work to be done in coming days as Aspire has several major happenings next week, but it’s exciting that between Aspire and the library board I have the opportunity to freely share my ideas and work to move both agencies forward.