A Tuesday update (PS- the cats are fine)

It’s 4:45 a.m.

I wake at 4:15 a.m. I leave for work at 5:45 a.m.

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.

2nd visit to the hand institute… and some cats

If you read my post from earlier today, then you already know my hand specialist/orthopedic surgeon cut off my cast.

No more man with hat.

This meant I had to schedule an appointment with the very amazing staff at The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation for a new cast.

This also meant I had to cancel my session with Andrew at Apex Training.

At the time I should have been sweating, the teenager and I were cruising down the highway.

The staff member who originally wrapped my finger anxiously stood by as a newer staff member removed the temporary splint.

“You look like you’re waiting for someone to open a present,” I said.

She was that excited to see how I was healing.

My finger is straight, which means the tendon is growing in the right direction. It does not have enough tissue to have any strength yet, so another cast was put on.

I was in and out in 15 minutes, including my trip to the bathroom.

In other news, our remaining two foster who needed shots made it to the vet today. While I was rocking temporary splints.

We also took one of our personal cats, Opie.

Louise did not stop yowling (video).

Heartstrings and hip pain

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 Kitten.

Extra Crunchy being syringe fed by the teenager

Extra Crunchy and Parker survived. They beat the odds. Like I did. My mother named me Angel because I was supposed to die.

So it hurts to see his adoptive family reject him, but they did the right thing by returning him to us.

YouTube Playlist for all the distemper kittens (trigger warning: some of these videos may reference or feature death.)

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%.

Spider-Man and Matcha Pie

I have a lot of little things to say that problem don’t belong together but today is the Lehigh Valley Book Festival at Bethlehem Area Public Library and I’m excited, a tad nervous and a bit super-focused and scatter-brained at the same time.

Parisian Phoenix Publishing has participated in events before but we have scaled up with our efforts and this event today.

So this post will cover:

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Health and Fitness
  • Pie
  • Cats

I think that’s about right.

So the teenager and I finally came to the current end of the Marvel Comics Universe movies with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Watching them 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.

Little wins

It’s Wednesday night— which is my Friday! The Bizzy Hizzy has been a tizzy of Covid cases during this mandatory overtime week.

I’m doing my eight hours of overtime on Saturday.

Tomorrow I’m returning to the gym—the pandemic has also altered my training schedule.

And tomorrow, Georgie gets adopted! Yes, Georgie, our lovable former community cat from downtown Allentown, will be going home to a family where she will be the only pet.

I’m told Louise has an approved adoption application— but this is her third so I am not as optimistic as I should be. The person who applied for her wants two cats so FURR has suggested Khloe also be considered.

If these three cats get adopted— after Danu, Brigid and Aîné all getting adopted since December— I may weep tears of joy.

This week my body experienced all sorts of aches and pains, but I still managed to fold what I felt was a respectable amount of clothes for Stitch Fix. And today was our monthly employee luncheon— chicken Caesar wraps, tomato soup and carrot cake.

And on our final break of the day, everyone from my old shift got sweatshirts.

It’s kinda silly, but at the same token, it commemorates a special era of my life and celebrates the camaraderie we had on second shift. And believe it or not, even though we are scattered among the day shift, we still function as a team.

After work, the teenager invited me to Tic Toc family restaurant where we enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches.

Ingram finally shipped Darrell Parry’s poetry book (Twists: Gathered Ephemera). And several other Parisian Phoenix titles are coming together. Perhaps as many as three titles releasing before the end of February.

Speaking of Parisian Phoenix, I emailed my class correspondent at Lafayette College and he ordered my first two novels.

And finally, side note… Actor Tim Daly was on the most recent episode of the podcast Hypocondriactor. I love Tim Daly. And I found myself comparing him to Anthony Stewart Head, you know… Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I was specifically comparing Daly’s character on Madame Secretary to Head’s role as the school librarian/watcher on Buffy. Both were nerdy academics with interests in obscure topics.

Day 3 of 10-hour day shift in the warehouse: Podcast reviews

(And a foster cat and teenager update)

This new work week is certainly moving quickly although each day I come home more exhausted. I’m hurting more once I get home, but I’m fine for the first 9+ hours of my shift. If you don’t know what I’m talking about read these:

Yesterday

Sunday

The teenager kept my car as the last two of our fosters who needed to be spayed went to Canyon River Run today. That would be Mama Danu and her tabby kitten Baile from the Celtic Pride.

She hoped to bake cookies for the platters Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab plans to distribute to the many vets who assist the organization. Her eighth grade boyfriend came over to lend a helping hand so she also taught him to make bread.

Meanwhile I just kept dreaming of an iced cold Coke Zero. And an interesting thing happened — I got to work and there was a 4-pack of 20-ounce Coke Zero bottles with a post-it note declaring them free.

I brought them home. My guess is someone didn’t realize Coke Zero had been relabeled in the same red as classic Coke.

Which my metrics tanked by the end of the day which had me chugging this at 3 p.m. break.

My 4 p.m., I was trembling and about to cry. Do. Not. Repeat.

I treated the teenager to dinner at Tic Toc so she could get her last pay check. We both ate too much.

I did my physical therapy exercises and took a hot shower. By the end of the shower my right leg was very uncomfortable so I took a low dose muscle relaxer and covered my leg, knee and back with CBD Medic’s Arthritis Cream.

One more day.

So now, as promised, let me offer some thoughts on podcasts. The teenager and I compared notes on our Spotify end-of-year wrap up and she thought she was impressive with 17,000 minutes since we started using the service in mid-year. I have 88,000+.

MY FAVORITE PODCASTS I LISTENED TO SO FAR THIS WEEK:

  • This one surprises me. The Ellen Fisher Podcast. She’s a very interesting person with her journey to raise her own food in Hawaii with her brood of plant-based kids and interest in all things calm and positive. I don’t really don’t know how I feel about her podcast — but I recently listened to her episode on Mind Change. It was an interesting discussion of neuroscience facts blended with alternative healing techniques to deal with personal trauma to heal the body of disease and mental illness. The guests on the show discuss their experience that illness, whether physical or mental, is the body manifesting trauma that the person has refused to acknowledge and heal.
  • The Daily. I often force myself to listen to the Daily even when the topics don’t interest me. This week I found myself pleasantly surprised by their coverage of Stephen Sondheim’s death.
  • Snacks Daily. Snacks Daily is a brief podcast from Robin Hood, yes the investment folks. It’s an economic summary of course, but it also provides humor and the business side of the news.
  • I finished Sh**hole Countries by Radiotopia. The American host on that show grapples with the possibility that her Ghanaian parents want her to move to Ghana. Enjoyable but also not what I expected. The host uses much of her platform to talk about her queerness and human rights.
  • The Shit No One Tells You About Writing. Very useful and broad tips about writing, critiquing and publishing.
  • Africa Daily just did a good episode on fistula. I found that a surprising topic. I’m impressed. (Though they did not mention the prevalence of female genital cutting and its impact on the rate of fistula.)

Other notables: Power Hugh Hefner, American Scandal The Lewinsky Affair, Operator, Against the Odds Rock Climbers Abducted.

And here is a video of Nala the Goffins Cockatoo: Nala harassing foster cat tripod Louise

Good night all.

The Kit and Kaboodle Update

So, as a former journalist, I could easily write a summary of every day like a nice newspaper column and post it. I could probably even manage to maintain my sense of humor, style, and tendency to find joy in the ridiculously ordinary.

But this week, every word I wrote felt repetitious. Or perhaps every word I wanted to write felt like it had been done before.

And maybe it has. Because so much of life goes that way. The same struggles, the same events, and often the same answers. And we repeat the cycle over and over probably for two reasons.

  1. It’s hard to break a habit.
  2. And growth, the kind of change that comes from embracing a lesson, presents its own difficulties.

In today’s blog, I’m going to do a generic update, and I’m honestly not sure if any of this is repeating myself. But do you know what? Repeating myself is okay. This is a small droplet in the vast waters of the internet and there’s always the possibility someone hasn’t heard it before and may need to hear it today.

Are you listening?

Fosters: Touch of Grey, Mars and Minerva. Information on how to adopt them at http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

All eyes on me.

Topics to come in this entry: Update on my cerebral palsy and quest to end my chronic back pain, weight training with the teenager with Dan at Apex, emotional eating, review of Purple Carrot’s vegan Thanksgiving dinner box, and the requisite animal photos.

This week’s personal training at Apex:

I know I frequently mention how amazing the trainers at Apex are. One of their strengths (weight training pun there) is to recognize the needs of each client and to match the client with the right trainer. I’m obviously not in the whiny white women who primarily want to lose weight category, and that’s how I ended up with Dan. As Dan has the unofficial knowledge of a physical therapist (because he’s had enough accidents to know the patient side of it) and he has the curiosity to read, research and think. With my cerebral palsy this is important. Dan has the observational skill to read my knees and lower body to know if it’s a bodyweight/calisthenics kind of day or a weight training day. And this is important so you can build range of motion and flexibility and not get hurt.

Anyway, Dan has been kind enough to let the teenager join my training sessions. I love throwing weights around but lack the personal discipline to do it on my own this time around. And the teenager has a natural muscle tone and build that makes her perfect for powerlifting. But she hates dumbbells and she hates routine and discipline. So as long as we tell her to go throw around that heavy object she’s fine.

And today she deadlifted 135 lbs as if it weren’t even a challenge. I honestly think she could have done 150 lbs easily.

I think I kept up with her through 115. I only did three at 115 because I was really afraid I would blow out my knees. A deadlift when executed correctly utilizes the lower body, and the weight actually (once I get warmed up) helps me lower my butt in the squatting portion, but since my knees tend to point sharply inward, I have to adjust my stance to compensate. While the main gist of the lift is to pull the weight along the shin and lift into the hips and use the legs to support the weight as the hips straighten and thrust outward with the tightening of the glutes, in my case, I have to force my knees to stay in the proper position facing my toes and not each other.

As I start to lift heavier, the dull ache in my spine is a reminder to lift the weight with my legs and not my back. I place my feet in position, point my toes slightly out and stretch my knees in line with them. And, for lack of a better description, I lock them in place and while lifting the barbell I have to concentrate on keeping my knees from turning inward. Because if they would suddenly snap where they want to be, I could not only blow out a knee but also potentially lose balance.

So I did three.

In related news, physical therapy update:

Yesterday I finally had my physical therapy appointment with the proper physical therapist now that neurology has confirmed that my balance and brain are fine. Much to my pleasant surprise, I had the same physical therapist that treated my initial bouts with back pain three years ago. He was at a different physical therapy office, then, and came recommended by my doctor as the guy who really knew back issues. What makes this a funny but pleasant coincidence is the fact that I chose this physical therapy branch because my blind friend Nancy is going there and I thought we could combine appointments and I could help her with rides.

What did my physical therapist Jeff say? Basically, that I need to do yoga. He has me doing “press-ups” 5 times a day for 10 reps. At least to start this week. Last time I had physical therapy with him, he started me super light and then made the exercises ten times harder when I returned in a week. “Press-ups” are cobra pose in yoga. I used to do yoga daily. It always seems like physical therapists are always telling me to do more of what I already or what I used to do.

Random photo of Nala the Goffin with foster cat Touch of Grey

Confession time, emotional eating:

My weight is 160lbs. This upsets me greatly. When I had gestational diabetes at six months pregnant I was 169. I was 142 on the day I brought the teenager home from the hospital and 142 for most of her toddler years. When I finally decided I needed to get my weight under control and regain strength after breaking my right hand while working at Target, I lost 30 lbs in 6 weeks. I lost too much weight too quickly and then gained weight while strength training and got ripped. Over the years, I found a set point at 135, where I could maintain muscle but be more relaxed about eating.

But then, my marriage ended. My boss at the job that allowed me to separate from my husband and support myself turned out to be a sociopath. I mean that in the kindest way possible. She was very sweet, and driven, and perfection-oriented but she had no empathy, no flexibility and no patience for any way other than hers. No views allowed other than her beliefs. This led to high blood pressure and I honestly had no energy left to take care of myself. When she fired me, it took six months for unemployment benefits to determine she was in the wrong. The pandemic was underway by then (Summer 2019). I lived on my savings, a total of $4,500, and foodstamps that kicked in three months after I lost my job.

And this was also when I ended up in the hospital for an infected cat bite and took in a second teenager who lived with us for nine months without her parents contributing to her care.

I mention this only because it is why I lost my discipline. Why I stopped caring for myself like I used to. It was easy and fun to go to McDonalds for a $1 Diet Coke and a $1 McChicken. Cheap dinner.

I thought I would turn this around when I started “picking” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I walked 17,000 steps a night in the warehouse, grabbing clothes. But then I caught Covid-19. And my stamina never bounced back. So now I fold clothes. Which killed my back.

Even though I had a delightful Thanksgiving, with vegan recipes I prepared from Purple Carrot and leftover pie and wine from my in-law’s meal, I “ruined” it by drinking a big glass of wine yesterday with about 1200 calories of Trolli gummy worms. And then I tell myself, “Well, at least they had protein, iron and calcium.”

And finally, the Purple Carrot Box:

I’ve only made about half the box. The rest is still in the fridge.

I made the Purple Carrot “sausage” stuffing, vegan thyme gravy and cranberry sauce. The thyme gravy was better than I expected as I am not a gravy person. I added local granny smith apples and herbs de provence to the stuffing. The stuffing began life as caibatta rolls, root vegetables, and Fieldstone vegetarian sausage. Let me say again, if you haven’t heard it before, that the Fieldstone vegetarian sausages are amazing. The fact that they come wrapped tight in plastic “skin” casings annoys me, but they are very tasty.

Sometimes you need to unleash the beast

I hope this weekend to partake in some fun activities and lighthearted blog posts, but I also need to do some administrative work for my publishing company, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

My second novel in the Fashion and Fiends series, Courting Apparitions, releases officially November 29 (my co-founder’s birthday) and could possibly be available Black Friday. Like, damn, when did that happen?

The first book, Manipulations, is available at all the usual places online— for instance here is the link to buy it at Barnes and Noble.

My friend and fellow writer William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series and horror website Crash Palace Productions left me a truly wonderful review on Amazon and Google.

See more here.

This was my original post on his first novel, Bloodletting. Hard to believe it’s been three years.

Buy his books on Amazon.

On everyday life and health front, I went to the chiropractor yesterday and like my doctor she approved of my new technique of changing work tables to try and even out my sides. I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up my prescription for muscle relaxer. I also made my last Purple Carrot meal in the fridge: mango glazed roasted vegetables with tahini butter.

Worked went mediocre/well. The night seemed long and boring and I felt like I was getting used to my body again after the chiropractor. I QCed at about 83%.

I came home and several cats were waiting for me— including Minerva, a sweet foster who started in our second foster litter of kittens, The Roman Pride.

I took a muscle relaxer to see how it impacted my pain and my morning stiffness. It didn’t make me loopy and I think it helped with my tossing and turning.

I only got six and a half hours of sleep last night, but still managed to meet up with the teenager my trainer Dan at Apex Training to lift some weights. I felt so much more limber after. The teenager easily did 105 on the barbell deadlift and 95 on the squat. I could lift the 105 but not execute the lift. My squat form is still adjusted for my limited range of motion in my lower body so I maxed out at 85 while the teen hardly had to put any effort into it.

We came home and shared some Little Caesars pizza as I was craving their “pizza and sticks” pie. We even shared with the dog.

FURR cat update and review of Richmond Farm & Brewery

#1

Please excuse any typos and attribute them to the beer flight and draft I consumed in celebration of my mother’s birthday at Richmond Farm & Brewery, the almost six month old enterprise of Milissa and Eric Smith, classmates of mine from Bangor Area Senior High School in the grunge era.

#2

I am experiencing a tad bit of melancholy as our bestest FURR foster kittens — Em(inem) and (Slim) Shady, moved into a habitat at Petsmart on Rte 248. If all goes well, someone will fall in love with them and we will never see them again.

So after much organizing of the up-and-coming nonfiction identity-themed anthology for Parisian Phoenix Publishing, I was very much anticipating our visit to the brewery.

This was their first weekend indoors. The bar and the tap system are not even installed yet, but the decor and ambiance are perfect. You don’t even notice it’s unfinished.

And frankly, with so much economic uncertainty in the world right now, it’s nice to see business owners moving through the stumbling blocks but still operating.

You can’t recoup time and money invested waiting for everything to magically fall into place.

The renovation of this old barn— well, for this Slate Belt girl it didn’t feel “barny” enough for me. But it all seriousness, it was roomy and gorgeous, rustic but classy. Homey. Warm.

At this time, you order food at one register and beverages at the next. Simple. Expedient.

Milissa greeted us. I had warned her we were coming. I introduced my family and she was kind enough to ask me about my book and congratulate me on it. And she bought a copy for her daughter.

It was heartening to hear that many Bangor classmates are surprising Milissa and Eric by stopping by. Milissa is trying to collect photos of everyone. I tried to impress upon the teenager, since she is a high school senior with a class the size of mine back in the day, that someday she may be surprising her classmates.

In the end, I think Richmond Farm & Brewery did all the necessary impressing.

The food— a small, carefully curated menu— exceeded my expectations. And even though the choices were minimal, I still had trouble deciding and wanted to eat it all.

Richmond Burger

And I purchased a maple vanilla Porter draft for myself and a flight of six beers for mom and I to try.

Immediately I noticed that the maple vanilla Porter had overwhelming notes of blackstrap molasses. A very different taste than I am accustomed to in my porters, but one I grew to like as I enjoyed my burger with its bacon bourbon jam.

And the flight?

Not a “bad beer” on it.

For the full beer list, click here.

My flight included:

  • The Mosaic Masterpiece, aptly named, as it was my favorite. I did not read any of the descriptions before trying, but I warned the staff I wasn’t a fan of IPAs and gravitated to the porters and stouts. Many of their beers were not available, but the Mosaic IPA was my top beer of the night and very fruity in the finish.
  • The Diehly, surprisingly basic but easy to drink. The description refers to it as vibrant and full of unique hops.
  • The Richmond Pale Ale, my notes referred to it as light on the palate.
  • The Maple Vanilla Porter, which I arrogantly thought would be my favorite, had strong notes of blackstrap molasses.
  • Smitty’s Blonde Ale, I found mild but pleasant. Definitely a summery beer.
  • Extra Pale Zonkey Ale, the web site describes this one as the easiest beer to drink ever. And it is so simple and smooth, it’s very refreshing.

I was disappointed not to try the stranger brews— the shredded wheat ale, the cranberry ale or the gingerbread brown ale brewed with spiced gum drops. Or their cow tail brown ale with chocolate, caramel & coffee notes. Or their more traditional Potbelly Porter.

But, I am so so glad I was forced to try beers I wouldn’t normally pick. I enjoyed all of them, and most of them I wouldn’t have chosen under normal circumstances.

Just another example of how being pushed outside of your comfort zone is good.

For more on the brewery, visit their website here.

Cupcakes at Midnight: A discussion of future plans for Parisian Phoenix Publishing

Yesterday was the launch day for my novel. At midnight, the teenager and I were celebrating with cocktails and cupcakes.

I have so much hope for Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

It’s too early for me to know how many copies have sold, I don’t expect large numbers as I haven’t really implemented my marketing plan. Our small boutique publisher is a partnership— myself and graphic designer Gayle Hendricks— so the work that needs to be done, we do as we can or we ask for help.

We have lots of ideas, so this first novel may be mine, but part of that stems from my philosophy that before I publish anyone else’s book, I want to learn and grow from lessons made bringing my manuscript into the limelight.

Our Fiction

This novel— Manipulations, the first volume of the Fashion and Fiends series—means a lot to me. I believe it breeds chick lit to horror fiction (think what might have happened if Stephen King wrote The Devil Wears Prada) and uses contemporary literature (and the mythic supernatural) to examine social issues.

Manipulations, at its core, is a book about building healthy relationships. And the proverbial lesson of “things are not always what they appear.” And I hope my readers will understand that magic, in this context, allows us to explore domestic violence.

To order Manipulations:

The next volume, Courting Apparitions, (due out in late November) uses a ghost story to examine grief and depression.

And the next, Recovery, (slated for first quarter 2022) tackles disability, motherhood and women’s rights. But don’t worry, magic is still afoot.

Meanwhile, the fourth, Road Trip, is a coming of age novel. With werewolves. I’d like to release that one on June 23, 2022. The day my baby turns 18. But first I have to finish writing it.

The fifth volume, Absolution, looks at the intersection of sacrifice and love.

And the sixth volume, at least half written at this point, is Finding Hooyo— a hybrid romance novel, medical drama and war story. Hopefully that should tie up the original story line but certainly not the Fashion and Fiends universe.

Our nonfiction

Currently our team of authors and interesting people have several projects in the works.

Sometime in 2022, I hope to revisit a book I wrote as part of my research at Lafayette College. I looked at the anti-Muslim laws in France and traced their roots to 19th century colonial stereotypes and considered the thesis that these laws perpetuate stereotypes that started in Algeria.

My love, as a critical theorist, of post-colonial Francophone Africa stems from my view that French imperialism during the colonial era serves as an amazing parallel to contemporary American imperialism and attitudes towards Muslims.

And now, with identity politics very en vogue, I feel like these lessons in stereotypes and prejudice are very relevant.

Speaking of critical theorists and identity politics, I have assembled a group of authors to discuss various identity issues in a special anthology, currently called: Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money: Expressions of Alternative Perspectives Influenced by Experiences in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Committed so far is Darrell Parry, poet and writer, and my estranged husband; Eva Parry, otherwise known as “the teenager”; William Prystauk of Crash Palace Productions and the Kink Noir series; Maryann Riker, multimedia artist; Nancy Scott, blind author of essays and poems; Rachel Thompson, science fiction and alternative history writer; Joan Zachary, photographer and writer… and hopefully more.

Racing with them toward the finish line is a cat anthology to use as a fundraising book for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab which will feature cat stories, photos, memoirs of FURR volunteers and academic research on animal welfare, poverty and empowering low-income and diverse neighborhoods to know what resources are available for themselves and their animals.

And with the new “Texas law,” Parisian Phoenix hopes to work with people on the team who have experience in women’s issues and chronicle stories as a fundraiser and historical record for groups in this sector.

Our poetry

Sometime in late fall, Parisian Phoenix hopes to release a full-length poetry manuscript, the poems for which have been assembled and the layout is in process.

I can guarantee this book will be as funny as it is thought provoking.

Our erotica and romance

It’s not quite clear when our erotica and romance will hit the market, but we have authors working to provide stories with real characters facing real life.

In the romance department, we have a manuscript, Trapped, that combines middle-aged love that sparks because of the skunk infestation with the joy of reinventing oneself.

There are hints of a Fashion and Fiends erotic prequel that extends the arousing feel of the horror fiction universe with more sex and no monsters.

And our goal is to offer kink/BDSM erotica, quality stories with empathetic characters who participate in safe, informed and consensual play. We have authors working on those tales, too.


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