I don’t need to get up this early. But, I’ve been on 10-hour day shifts in the warehouse now for 6 months and I feel like it’s the best way to maintain some work-life balance and some productivity.
And honestly, by 8 or 9 p.m. I’m usually so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I am mindlessly eating and/or watching TV.
So I rise in the early morning. It’s too early. I have to tip-toe out of my room as to not wake the cockatoo. The cats are confused. But… This is my creative writing time, my Parisian Phoenix business time, my coffee time, and my cuddle cats time.
Our “gen pop” of cats include brothers Misty and Fog, and fosters through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab Touch of Grey and Minerva, with an occasional visit from our almost 12-year-old cancer surviving old man tripod Opie. Opie is like an old mob boss, but he’s tired now, and Fog, with his 2.5 years, has been challenging him for about the last year. Not in a really aggressive way, but challenging his authority enough that there have been some issues.
This morning, my productivity is not as, well, productive as I prefer. Sure, I tried to tame my curls. I started the dishwasher, took my allergy meds, made a big cup of coffee and checked for book sales. (None last night. The new title debuts next week– and it’s only $6.99. It’s also a novelette and written a little lighter than my usual dark style.)
But Minerva keeps coming to cuddle, Misty and Fog are playing, and Touch of Grey (Tiggy, as we sometimes call her) is patrolling. Oz is considering waking up in his crate, but he’s giving me side-eye. He will only wake if I plan to feed breakfast.
And if you have cats, you understand why I will not feed them breakfast at 4:30 a.m.
We corralled these “gen pop” cats into the spare bedroom last week for the teenager’s party, as we had some guests allergic to cats. The teenager thought it best to lock them up, then clean, as it would reduce the likelihood anyone would die.
We also passed out Benadryl at the door.
But that was the same stretch of time where two of the three cats accidentally given the dog’s flea meds ended up seizing. Misty and Touch of Grey ended up at the emergency vet, and $2300 later, they are both home. Neither is exhibiting any further neurological symptoms or personality damage.
They are both on muscle relaxers. So the teenager maintained quarantine to facilitate delivering their pills. But last night, she released them.
And I’m happy to watch Fog and Misty play, cuddle Minerva and encourage Tiggy to patrol.
The teenager said she liked the peace and quiet of having them locked up, but she has a dog to keep her company. I miss their cat obtrusion into my daily routine. Especially in the dog-free hours of pre-dawn.
But enough of that… I didn’t get much sleep last night and I called out of work today… let me explain why.
Monday night when I got home from work, I was exhausted. For the second day in a row, I had surpassed expectations at work and was achy and just wiped out from getting up at 4 a.m. and grouchy.
The teenager gave me flea meds for the two foster cats that like me best and asked me to apply it. I tossed it with a little a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups into my clean laundry basket. I carried the basket to my room and started my nightly routine of feeding the birds, checking water bowls, cleaning cat boxes and organizing my clothes for the day to come.
Meanwhile, the teenager applied flea meds to Opie, our personal tripod cat who has survived bone cancer; Misty, another personal who is her baby— the runt of a litter born under a neighbor’s porch and the critter responsible for getting us involved with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab; and Touch of Grey, an adult foster cat who used to be extremely aggressive who is finally learning to be loved and appropriately social.
I grabbed the little silver packages from the basket and was about to set them aside (I’ll do it tomorrow, I told myself, I’m exhausted right now) when I noticed the words on the package— K9 Advantix Extra Large Dog Do Not Use on Cats.
For those of you who normally read this blog, you know we have a 60 pound puppy, a mastiff/pit bull/black lab mix named Bean. These were her flea meds. Flea meds are extra important when you have dogs with indoor cats because the dog can transport fleas and other parasites into the house. So even if the cats never go outside they can get fleas and worms from the dog. So the teenager is religious about giving the dog her flea meds.
The cats get flea meds about every three months, or once a season, just in case. But, like the dog, you can apply monthly.
So immediately text the teenager— yes, from within my own house— because it’s the quickest way to get a teenager’s attention.
“You gave me dog flea meds. Please check what you gave the others.”
She kicked into action and gave all three of the cats baths with Dawn dish soap. (Which we later learned was the right thing to do.)
So the next step was to wait for signs of neurological distress. And for 24 hours nothing happened. We thought everything was good.
The teenager is hosting a party on Friday and some of her guests are allergic to cats. She has an elaborate plan for cleaning and limiting cats to certain rooms. But we didn’t know what to do with Touch of Grey, because if she gets upset or can’t do what she wants she redirects and can be a bully.
Basically, no one wants to be trapped in a room with her. I suggested putting her in my room with the tripods, Opie and Louise, because Louise will hide and Opie is a boss with a good stare down. Touch of Grey had sneaked into my room when the teenager came to visit, so we decided to make her spend the night. And she decided to sprawl out in the middle of my bed.
I go to bed ridiculously early as I rise at 4 a.m. for my 6:30 a.m. 10-hour shift folding clothes at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse. I turned out my light at 8:30 p.m. and muttered sweet nothings to the cockatoo before falling asleep probably around 9 p.m. (26 hours after the application, for reference)
At literally midnight, I wake up to the cockatoo rustling and this horrible knocking sound, repetitive and frantic. I turned on my light. I am extremely near-sighted (like on a good day I might be able to see my toes versus my feet). I saw a cat thrashing against the wall, feet flailing on its back. I knew it was white.
That meant Touch of Grey or Louise. I put my glasses on and started counting legs. The two cats are extremely similar, except Louise is more white in the face and only has three legs. This cat had four. Touch of Grey! Flea meds!
I leapt out of bed and stopped to her side. The thrashing stopped but she was twitching and panting. I ran my hand across her and her heart was racing. I could feel it. I ran down the hall and woke the teenager.
She called our cat foster godmother, also president of the rescue, and brought her binder of pet first aid. The seizure had settled to twitching at this point, and Touch of Grey kept trying to leave the room. Lethargically.
Godmother told us to call poison control and Harmony Animal Hospital, one of the local emergency vets. Poison control directed us to animal poison control. We were given two numbers (which I wrote on the teenager’s arm with a giant green Sharpie)— one (the ASPCA) kept us on hold for about five minutes and the other kept trying to sell us car insurance.
Opie is looking at us as if to say, “What’s going on?”
We can’t find Misty anywhere.
We took Touch of Grey to the vet, and the vet explained that dog flea meds are extremely toxic to cats. I knew it was toxic, but had I know they were this toxic I would have brought them all in right away and not waited for symptoms (which can take three days to manifest).
We get home from the vet at 1:45 a.m. and the teenager finds her baby, her Misty, seizing in a cat box. I drive her to the vet and Misty is admitted. He’s running a fever of almost 105 degrees and showing more intense neurological symptoms.
Each cat could cost us $900 in vet medical bills.
We got home at 2:30 a.m.
No news this morning about how they are doing, but the vet is administering IV fluids and muscle relaxers. Opie seems okay.
Word of advice: store cat products and dog products in very different locations.
I found it very cool that product registration for this Cuisineart compact toaster oven air fryer from Target could be completed via text & mobile internet.
My first recipe will be air fried apples & dates.
The dates cooked way faster than the apples so the dog ended up with some charred fruit jerky but the apples were tasty. I would lower the temp for a more even and chewier texture but that could have been due to my cut of the apple wedges.
The machine itself was very quiet while running. It threw a lot of heat— I would even claim it threw off more heat than my traditional oven. It’s size and the recipes that came with it seem the perfect volume for the teenager and I.
Also: Foster Mars wanted you to know it’s going to be a hot one today.
It’s the end of April and it was 35 degrees last night. The price of oil continues to skyrocket and I’m still heating my house halfway through spring.
The cold does not help the poor circulation in my hands which has intensified in my left hand because my mallet finger restricts my movement.
My hands are painfully cold, except when Andrew is making me curse him in my head at Apex Training. Today was leg day, and I was so tired that when I came home and let the dog out I turned around and lost my balance and slammed right into the brick wall between my mud room and my kitchen.
Nala, my six-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, started shaking and plucking her feathers today. Nothing in her environment has changed except the neighbor’s dog has been barking nonstop all day. The teenager believes his distress causes her anxiety.
Speaking of the teenager, she made this thick chocolate chip cookie/blondie dessert that I topped with ice cream that Sobaka’s mom brought home from Penn State when we dog sat last weekend.
Before the teenager brought home our dog, I would never criticize a dog owner, but now that I see the difference between different dog care styles, I feel back for dogs that aren’t spoiled like Sobaka and Bean.
And I don’t know how Sobaka’s mom does it— that dog is a bed hog.
But now an update on my mallet finger:
Stitch Fix has been amazing. Because my specialist at OAA took a week to return my paperwork and then didn’t properly fill it out, the onus was on me to find jobs I could do to not hurt myself. It turned out I can QC just fine— I hit 92% just fine.
But here’s the thing… my specialist knows hands, he doesn’t know me. I don’t think he heard me when I said I have cerebral palsy and that I work 10 hours a day in a warehouse. I’m just not sure that environment is safe for me right now,
Why do I say this? Because this week drove home to me how much I rely on my left side for stability. By forcing me to work 90% on the right, I am struggling to keep my right hip in place.
I am so stiff by the end of the work day. I also end up pinching and slamming my right fingertips and by the end of the day my left fingers I can use are swollen and sore.
And I fold 750 clothing items a day, handle 150 boxes and rip open probably 500 plastic bags. That’s a lot of fingers moving.
Once I consider the risk of accidentally losing my cast and bending my finger (which would extend my healing time) and adding the increased fall risk of mine because I am aggravating known issues with my balance and mobility, I just don’t feel safe.
This is a horribly stressful feeling.
I’m going to talk with my family doctor about it. I already mentioned it to my therapist, because I wanted to confirm my thoughts were rational and not whiny or emotional.
And last but not least, cats. Misty caught a mouse! Video here.
The start of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago brought an end to a couple toxic situations in my life, and led to many new experiences that were both rewarding and frustrating.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may remember teenager #2, a friend of my teenager who needed a place to stay. Teenager #2 and her cats stayed for about nine months, with minimal support or contact from her parents.
Teenager #2 turned 19 last week, and I don’t know if she’d expect me to remember or not, because I haven’t heard from her since she moved out. And left a very trashed bedroom behind. And her cats taught my cats bad habits we are still trying to break.
I’ve heard rumors that she’s expecting her own baby now.
It’s also been about five weeks since my mother contacted me. Though she will probably read this later and text me nasty messages.
And my dad is three-and-a-half months gone now, and it leaves me wondering how people can be there one second and just… poof… gone.
But I’m not trying to elicit pity, I’m merely stating some of the thoughts in my brain to say that my emotions are already on edge.
So, a couple weeks ago we (the teenager and I) received a text message that our former foster Extra Crunchy was being returned to the rescue because a new baby was allergic.
This broke my heart.
But the family never showed up. They turned up unannounced at the FURR adoption event yesterday and returned him on his first birthday.
Readers, I think I am losing my stomach for rescue work.
Extra Crunchy was one of two kittens who survived a bout with distemper last spring. Feline distemper is a very fatal and preventable disease. FURR received a call that someone had three cats, two female and one male, neither fixed nor vaccinated. The two females each gave birth to a litter of kittens. But everyone contracted distemper. And the adults died.
So they called FURR, and FURR took in these ten dying and starved kittens who had never even had the chance to nurse from a mother.
My daughter asked if she could foster these babies, and our cat foster godmother said yes, but that we had to be prepared for them to die.
So my daughter started syringe feeding them. On the day she took over their care, two died right away. And it seemed like every day another would die, usually in the teenager’s arms.
We gave them ridiculous names because they weren’t going to live. Rufus. The Magician (he would just randomly teleport from one end of the playpen to the other). Spunky. Parker (which was actually Parkour because he climbed everything).
And Extra Crunchy. Because he was covered in formula, cat food and feces. After all, no one had taught him how to groom and no one had groomed him.
Extra Crunchy is currently at Chaar Pet Store in Forks Township.
On Friday, the teenager plans to bring him home for a bath and grooming before Saturday’s adoption event.
In addition to that, my hip is acting up and I don’t have a chiropractor appointment for two weeks. So I’m trying a whole lot of stretches.
The pain got worse throughout the day, and I accepted the offer to leave work at 3 when they announced VTO. I picked my own cart to start this morning, which meant I had a 3,000 step walk first thing in the morning. And by the end of the day, I had shipped 380 items, which, by my calculations is 108.5%.
I have a lot of little things to say that problem don’t belong together but today is the Lehigh Valley Book Festivalat Bethlehem Area Public Library and I’m excited, a tad nervous and a bit super-focused and scatter-brained at the same time.
So the teenager and I finally came to the current end of the Marvel Comics Universe movies with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Watchingthem sequentially, and for me, many for the first time, actually made a lot more sense than when I saw some of them the first time.
I got a strange déjà vu that I had seen some of these villains before, but at the same time I was confused because the memory was vague and distant.
So let’s just say, trying not to spoil it for others like me that are woefully behind in their pip culture, that this film incorporates some older films that will be familiar to Generation X.
The primary theme of this movie, in my opinion, is time travel. The actual plot is a tad weak and melodramatic but the homage made to the previous generation of Marvel movies, and the humor employed in this movie, make it worth it.
My favorite Spider-Man is Toby Maguire. I got to see him again. And that made my heart happy. (Toby is also the Spider-Man adored and referenced by supermodel Adelaide Pitney in my chick lit/horror fiction novel, Manipulations, the first in the Fashion and Fiends series.
I had a very good visit with my chiropractor Nicole Jensen of Back in Line. She’s impressed with my progress and got things to pop and move (my right ankle that I broke more than five years ago) that haven’t popped and moved in a long time.
My Later, Andrew at Apex Training worked out every muscle he didn’t the day before (okay that’s an exaggeration) and the teenager set a new personal record in deadlifting: 225 lbs.
Finally, I get to the part I’ve been waiting for: PIE! If only I weren’t trying to be so health conscious… Because I have been visiting the amazing pie ladies Anne and Lisa at Pie+Tart for three(?) years now and their pies (and flat white coffees) have nurtured my soul through some difficult times— and a very very toxically difficult boss.
I receive their weekly email and saw their “freezer section” of leftover discounted pies included a steak and Guinness pie and a matcha custard pie. A meal inspired by two of my favorite drinks.
I was so beyond excited to eat these pies I was vibrating at “the pie hole” which is what they call their window/doorway. It has allowed them to stay in business safely during Covid because how would we survive sans pie.
I can improvise plenty of solutions for lack of toilet paper but I can’t make pie like this— not even with my Pennsylvania Dutch family connections.
I couldn’t even wait for the matcha custard to thaw. I sawed at it with a knife, broke it in pieces with my hands and microwaved a slice for 30 seconds. It was delectable.
And the steak and Guinness pie? So rich and full of meaty goodness I didn’t even have a chance to take a photo.
Oh how I love my pie friends.
And finally the updates regarding some of the cats we are fostering through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, Mars has taught Khloe to play and Minerva is becoming much more social. As is Louise.
Sometimes my journals are nothing but to do lists and shopping lists. But I like lists— even if I never refer to them again, the act of making a list allows me to stop thinking about things.
If I want to refer to it later, I know where to look, but I no longer have to worry about forgetting as if I want to remember or revisit items from an earlier day I can but I am not staring at a list focusing on what needs to be addressed versus what I actually did.
Many people make lists to receive the satisfaction of checking off the things that are done. I don’t do that. Sometimes I do, but now it’s more like I am acknowledging the list versus trying to conquer it.
I used to finish my list every day or stress over the things I didn’t get to, and on top of that— the list never made me feel better or more in control.
But I also received the cover for Not An Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix site this weekend.
And I have a 4 p.m. meeting today with another author who I have been hoping would join our family.
Now if only I could finalize some of our business documents to really move the projects forward.
Yesterday (Voluntary Time Off) and evaluating my health
Life at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy has been odd lately. We’re shipping something like 8,000 fixes a day and having the opportunity for voluntary time off.
Last week, I performed at pretty damn close to 100% without pain or significant mobility issues. This week, issues started mildly during my Sunday shift and deteriorated Monday & Tuesday, leaving me at 80% and crying myself to sleep. I talked about this here.
I’m very much wondering if my menstrual cycle has something to do with it, as the Mirena IUD has done miracles for my pain and issues in that department but has made my cycle irregular. I think my body is trying to menstruate later than usual.
I was taking inventory of my recent balance, mobility and functioning issues as today I had my annual “wellness visit” that the office rescheduled from last week.
I took VTO yesterday to allow myself some rest and some time as life (and grief from my father’s death two months ago) has gotten chaotic and overwhelming.
And I made the teenager and I grilled cheese as I had promised to do, and the child acted like I had prepared filet mignon for her.
I have a feeling I will be repeating that after school today.
We also watched Miranda Sings Live on Netflix. The teenager went through a time when she watched the show, so that was weird. It always amazes me how much talent it takes to perform badly.
The doctor today
I have spent more than a decade assembling a talented and caring medical team, so now I can confidently say any issues with my medical treatment stem from the system and not from my doctors.
The doctor and his resident agreed with my assessment that it’s time for me to get into the physiatrist and that their office will advocate for me on that as well, and that my instincts and approaches are correct.
I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency can create problems. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.
And most interestingly… I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency to let’s say ‘lean’ can create problems, just like what I am experiencing now with my right hip and right leg/foot. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.
I reiterated to them that I do know I need to lose 20 pounds, but that we have some issues to address before that.
The psychology ofemotional and physical pain
When I was turning 40, I embarked on a journey to lose five pounds and gain muscle. I inadvertently lost 30 lbs and ended up a skeleton and regained some weight to look like this:
That was about 30 pounds ago. I have no need to be that lean again, but I’d really like to see 135 lbs again— which means I need to lose 20 lbs.
I told my doctor and his resident— I know I can’t eat an entire bag of cheese puffs or Wawa bowl of mac and cheese and brisket after dinner. But I’m struggling with depression from my body pain and my father’s unexpected death.
I’m grateful I haven’t turned to alcohol like many in my family, but I have “given in” to food as a psychological crutch.
I pay almost $300 a month for a personal trainer, but I can’t work as hard as I want to because I hurt and I feel like I need answers as to how to move my body so it doesn’t hurt. Because if I could exercise more and move more, I wouldn’t sabotage myself by eating garbage (or if I did, I would be active enough to balance it).
But right now, when I come home from a ten-hour shift with my body twisted and aching badly, and wishing I could call my dad so he could make me laugh and tell me how much it sucks to get old, I grab junk food because it’s the last pleasure I have.
I can’t move without pain so if I’m going to be forced to get fat and lazy I might as well enjoy the process.
These are ugly thoughts and I know that, but I’m being honest.
The fun stuff: errands with Nan
After leaving my primary care doctor, I called Nan as we were scheduled to do some errands together. We stopped at Wawa for some hot caffeinated beverages (cafe con leche for me and vanilla chai for Nan).
Among other stops we visited Park Avenue Market and Deli, one of our favorite haunts known for its deli, salads and meats.
Although I am once again contemplating more of a vegan diet, which will make the teenaged carnivore wince, I am not ready to commit until I feel better. We must achieve discipline before we enact change.
I never got around to meal planning yesterday so I didn’t have a list. I ended up spending $36.89 and I think the results will work.
I purchased: two packs of beef jerky, one small box of minute rice for the teen, three or four teeny tiny bags of Wise snacks from popcorn to potato chips, meatballs, the biggest damn carrot I’ve ever seen, frozen vegetable medley with potatoes and garlic herb sauce, sweet potato crinkle cut fries, pork roll, Lebanon bologna, liverwurst, turkey, olive salad, a store-baked pig ear for the dog and something called “hot pepper shooters”— round hot peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone.
Rough meal plan
My rough meal plan for the next week or so is:
Meatballs and green peppers, either as a sandwich or in pasta
vegetable lasagna still in the freezer from last week
Burgers and fries, using ground beef from the freezer and the sweet potato fries
Cold tortellini salad with roasted carrot, olive salad and seasoned broccoli (broccoli is in the freezer)
Pork roll and egg sandwiches
Chicken and the frozen vegetables and rice or other grain
PS— we also welcomed a new foster into the house. Her name is Babs. Meet her in this video. I need to make her a page.
Yesterday I cleaned a lot of my downstairs and had a relatively good work out at Apex. I haven’t felt incredibly strong lately, but my IUD must be working because I’m not in pain.
I had a good week at work, so cleaning, working on Parisian Phoenix projects and watching Cobra Kai suited me just fine yesterday.
I even found two of the dog’s Kong balls under the couch which made for a very happy dog.
Today, I was supposed to have my annual physical but my doctor’s office called yesterday and rescheduled for next week— which also means another week without answers from my CT scan and physiatrist referral. Neither the neurologist nor the physiatrist’s office has called me back.
And I need a doctor that can help me understand the motion and mechanics of my body, and not just its individual parts.
Today I scrubbed the exterior of the stove and did dishes. Then I went to help my blind friend Nan with some errands and grocery shopping.
We made plans to pick up some pizza at Little Caesars so Nan could try the Batman Calzony. No matter how I tried I couldn’t explain what it was to the blind lady. So we bought one.
But we had time to kill before the teenager got out of school even after we put groceries away. We grabbed the dog and got drinks and hash browns (for the dog) at Dunkin.
And then we surprised the teenager with the dog at school.
Then Joan stopper by to drop off some hand-me-down magazines and erotica, cupcakes and photos that Joan needed us to sort.
Now, I’m cuddling with Louise, watching Gotham Garage and enjoying kitten photos.
I don’t have many plans this weekend— defined by my work schedule as Thursday, Friday and Saturday— in part because my body has been unpredictable, the weather has been crazy and the teenager’s work schedule varies.
I went to the chiropractor at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, leaving work 30 minutes early to get the last appointment of the day. I wanted Dr. Jensen to see my body after four ten-hour shifts in Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.
And, for the second or third week in a row, I could barely crawl home on Tuesday night but felt pretty good on Wednesday. So I feel like I’m not getting closer to solutions to my physical issues.
Yesterday I tried to do some work for Parisian Phoenix, did a lot of laundry, visited briefly with a friend I’ve missed and haven’t seen merely enough of, taught a high school student how to write a press release, watched several episodes of Cobra Kai, ran the dishwasher and went to the gym.
The teenager did a lot of work on her squat form while I did some accessory work. I also weighed myself— 157 lbs. Sigh. Still 20 pounds overweight.
Then we had Taco Bell, including the new Cinnabon balls.
Today I worked on the index for the Parisian Phoenix nonfiction anthology on marginalized identities, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix web site later tonight. F. Bean Barker was my helper.
Indexing is only half complete and man does it allow me to interact with the text in new ways.
Louise has an appointment with a potential adopter tomorrow and today she was quite cuddly, video here. I don’t know how she’ll do in the backroom of PetSmart but all least we’ll be with her.
In the afternoon, I accompanied the teenager to her audiologist appointment for a tune-up on her hearing aids.
Then we went for shoes. The teenager needed some and I wanted to buy a warmer pair that fit more loosely — hoping that would ease the blistering and burning in my toes.
The teenager got new black Vans and a new design, the orange blossom Vans.
We ran into Target just to use the bathroom and I told the pouty teenager we could get a drink at Sonic. But turns out Sonic is still drive through only, so if you can’t have drive-in service what’s the point of visiting Sonic?
So we went to Sheetz, and had appetizers. Which would have been fine if the teenager hadn’t suggested going to see her grandmother, my mother-in-law. And her aunt— who recently destroyed her elbow falling on the ice.
We’re finishing Captain America: Civil War right now. The ice is slowly building up outside as the cold rolls into town. And Peter Parker just made his debut in the series.