The M3GAN Zombie Apocalypse outing with pancakes

Yesterday, The Teenager came with me to see M3GAN, which I had an interest in because of an episode of NPR’s podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour.

The weather had turned rainy and dreary, making the cold January dusk seem later and more ominous than it was.

And when we walked into Regal– there was no one in the lobby except one employee behind the concession stand desperately trying to find things to do. (We scanned my Regal loyalty card and it said my visits were at negative four. That amused me. I attend about once movie a year, and I think the last one the Teenager bought the tickets online because it was her movie.)

The big sign in the outdoor-facing booth where viewers used to queue as little as three years ago (I remember because it was one of my few sad post-break-up attempts at a Tinder date) read “Buy Tickets at Concession Stand” but the little room stood so oddly barren and the theater so damn dark I thought I had entered The Walking Dead and was about to try and loot the place for stale Jujyfruits and processed nacho cheese sauce (two of my favorites). Excuse the extreme run-on sentence because it’s Saturday morning and I’ve been trying to write this since Thursday night and now I’m getting swept up in the mood.

When I googled my spelling of Jujyfruits, this clip came up and I did not watch Seinfeld “back in the day” and I love a fresh Jujyfruit, I had to watch it. Let me share:

The Teenager, as I paid for the tickets, surveyed the concession menu and grimaced. I could tell by her body language that the prices had been a sucker punch. She asked me if I had a quarter as we traversed the long, empty (and silent) corridor to the last theater in the corner. I had one, and she had been obsessing for days about an everlasting gobstopper. I gave her my quarter and she raced to the boxy red gumball machines and moaned when she discovered her sugar fix of choice was fifty cents.

I suggested she go to the car for a second quarter, which she did after much deliberation. I handed her her ticket and opened the door to the very empty theater.

I forgot to check my tickets for seat numbers. I’m “of that age” that this assigned seats at the movies doesn’t make sense to me. I plop my butt in a chair and receive a text from The Teenager.

“The car is locked.”

I heard the theater door open and I was about to toss the fob at her when I realized it was a rather rotund man with a soda and a vat of popcorn the size of my head (including my frizzy shoulder-length curls) walked in. And he sat just enough behind me that I could hear his chewing and have that cozy feeling that the dog had come to the movies with us.

The Teenager returned and I offered the keys and she announced that she had surrendered the hunt for the confection. She asked what seat was hers. She looked at her ticket and pointed out we should have been exactly one seat over on the other side of the aisle. I thought it pretty impressive I had almost selected the seat the lovely person at the concession stand had assigned to us. And, my anxiety made me debate for the next ten minutes whether we needed to move to the other side of the aisle in the empty theater. I stayed put. And no one else came into the theater so it was not an issue.

And this was when the theater lit up with an advertisement that they needed employees, and I may have chortled.

“To do what?” I asked the teenager.

Now I fully intend to write a review of the movie, and I hope my brain can do a good job as I forgot my journal so I did not jot down notes. I then thought I would make some notes when I surprised the teen with dinner, but as we go on with the story you’ll see why I did not.

And when I checked my email after the movie, I noticed Regal had sent me an email while I was at the film offering me fifty percent off a popcorn for National Popcorn Day.

The Teenager darted toward the door after the movie declaring that she hated it, in that same tone that she used to tell me how much she hated summer camp. That she attended nine summers in a row.

“Am I driving?” she asked. And there may have been a reference to what was for dinner.

“I figured I wouldn’t feel like cooking…”

“Do you want me to make something?” she interrupted.

“I was thinking of IHOP, I’ve had a craving for pancakes,” I said.

She was in. But when we left the parking lot of the enormous, confusing shopping plaza, it was pouring rain and my windows fogged up faster than the car could defrost them and my astigmatism made it impossible to see with nearly-a-half-century-old eyes. I turned into the opposite side of the highway and went away from the IHOP instead of toward. Traffic and eyesight meant we went almost half way home before we found a spot to turn the car away. But we wanted pancakes.

And not comforting, grill-greased diner pancakes, but sickeningly sweet IHOP pancakes. Meanwhile, the Teenager googles IHOP’s hours because we’ve had a long day at this point and I don’t want to fight my way there and learn they closed at 6 p.m. or even 7 p.m. (It’s about 6:50 p.m.)

But as she typed– she typed IGOB instead of IHOP and we have a good laugh about IGOB because that sounds like her kind of place. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you show up and they pile food in front of you and you shove it all it your gob. (Did you know: apparently gob is British slang?)

We made it to IHOP and we drive around the building through the parking lot. All the lights were on but the place was empty. We practically drove up to the front door and there was one person, hunched over the counter by the register, scribbling on a tablet, or maybe dead. The former Howard Johnson’s/America’s Best motel beside us was literally falling down. I tried to park the car nicely in the streaming rain and I totally missed the lines.

“I’m driving home,” The Teenager said.

“Please do,” I replied.

Now, the theme of Zombie Apocalypse was running amok in my head. I felt like I had entered a dystopian fantasy. And part of me wanted to give up and forget pancakes.

But… pancakes.

And I had Christmas cash in my purse that the Teenager had given to me and I had traded her electronic funds into her checking accounts because she knows I like to have a cash reserve. The budget is super tight the next few months and I have pledged to minimize use of my Amex until I replenish my savings. Especially if I am approved for the service dog wait list.

This week might be a week of last hurrahs.

We walked in and it became apparent there was one employee in the kitchen and one in the front of house. The hostess/server announced they were closing in twenty minutes, which really meant the kitchen closed in thirty minutes but close enough, right?

I suggested maybe we should go and the employee’s demeanor changed.

“Oh no,” she said. “You’re good.”

(Maybe she realized serving us would be more interesting than standing around doing nothing for an hour?)

The server, Holly as the receipt later said, started telling us all the things we were out of.

“We just want pancakes,” I said.

The Teenager ordered the cupcake pancakes and I ordered the protein lemon ricotta pancakes with mixed berry sauce. Tossing protein powder in pancakes makes them healthy, right?

As we waited for the pancakes, which may have taken eight minutes (we were in and out in thirty minutes, including the five minutes I watched out server hand wash dishes before coming to take my money), The Teenager (using her waitress eyes from her time in the business) spotted a very dirty five under a ketchup bottle. We passed it along to Holly. She was grateful.

IGOB.

The bill came to $25.63, which I remember because I counted out the 63 cents and The Teenager kept thinking nickels were quarters (kids today), and I left $40.63. Yes, I left a $14 tip. Hopefully I brought Holly some joy, or helped her pay a bill, who knows? The place was so desolate it felt like it was the right thing to do.

Then I went home to these two. Foster Louise the Tripod acts like FURR kitten Jennifer Grey is such a threat. But Jenny keeps trying to be friends. They cuddle me from opposite sides of the bed. Louise gets my right; Jenny gets my left.

Busy, busy: Taking care of yourself takes time (but we always make time for adventures)

It’s been what, a week?, since I wrote in this forum. I know, I know.

I have been trying to write. I have plans to brainstorm ideas for BookTok, projects to edit, and I decided to make short, very real, unedited videos for BookTube.

But, as I left myself 30 minutes to write this blog entry and “wasted” 15 minutes of that panicking over a medical form (all part of “things that have happened since last week”) I may have to leave you with a list:

  • The Intermittent Leave I submitted to my PCP was illegible once printed out, so I typed a new one over the weekend and sent it to the doctor’s office. I had not heard from them, so I double-checked the email this morning and thought the form I sent them was blank. I panicked, discovered my eyes had misled me, but had already messaged the office so now I probably have high blood pressure and look like an ass.
  • My favorite foster, Khloe the Sassy Princess and Cuddler, went to Chaar in Forks Township in search of a home. I went to visit her before the gym Wednesday and she made me biscuits.
  • My workouts have been brutal… I mean amazing, really I do. I’ve been doing what feels like some great weights and focusing so hard on form.
  • We had a heating oil delivery yesterday and I hadn’t anticipated that for another three weeks. $700. Ouch.
  • I had brussel sprouts three times this week. I do love my brussel sprouts.
  • I saw Nan Tuesday night and we practically made a comedy routine out of reading her junk mail.
  • My creative brain is swimming with ideas. Is that because I have no time?
  • I am soooooo close to fully performing at work. They messed up my accommodations Tuesday. My percentages are 98%, 103%, 103%. Accommodations make a difference.

But here’s my big take away:

Feel free to let me know your opinion.

Regardless of whether you have a disability or not, and that can even be a personal determination, getting older sucks… anyway… Taking care of yourself takes a lot of time. Monitoring your habits (food, sleep, exercise), health and treatments take so much time. Finding and visiting doctors. Physical therapy, training sessions or independent-led exercise. It’s ridiculous. Filling out that intermittent leave paperwork really drove home how much time I spend taking care of myself.

Maybe it is easier to neglect oneself. Maybe it would be so much less stressful to eat what I want, accept my “limitations” and live a more sedentary life. Maybe it is easier to stop fighting and be miserable. Maybe it takes an exhausting amount of energy to take care of oneself.

I’m a doer, a fighter. It’s who I am. So I will never stop trying. But now I think I see why some folks don’t.

‘Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime’

I woke at 6:30 this morning but despite having ten hours of sleep, my eyes had dark circles and my mind spun with a bizarre sequence of dreams. I fed the fat cats on their diet kibble, went downstairs to make my coffee, checked book sales and suddenly realized one of the foster cats appeared to be missing.

A missing cat caper?

Foster Cat Touch of Grey has claimed the bathroom sink

I did a quick sweep of the house, as the missing cat was Touch of Grey, known for her clumsiness. She once managed to crawl into the heat ducts and get stuck almost in the furnace. Touch of Grey, or Tiggy as we call her, can be a jerk. My cat, Fog, also known as Meatball in his obesity, can also be a jerk. I caught Fog intimidating Tiggy as she used the litter box, so I removed her from the fat cat room.

She promptly took up residence in the bathroom sink. So me, being me, laid a towel in the bathroom sink so it would be cozier for her and brushed my teeth using water from the tub.

It seemed extremely odd that I couldn’t find her now.

Introducing The Phulasso Devotional

Seeing no signs of calamity, I decided to have some coffee and dig into my publishing company’s latest work-in-progress, The Phulasso Devotional. Lots of people texted, and seeing some familiar names felt good to my heart. And Maryann Riker, the mixed media artist who contributed to Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, emailed with samples of work she had come across in the style that she thought would be nice for Phulasso.

They touched me– even before Maryann told me the series had inspiration in Tao. Before I started work on The Phulasso Devotional, I sent a rather thorough, elaborate spiritual statement to the author (yesterday!). I wanted to be upfront with him about my own formerly Christian, agnostic, animistic and pagan beliefs. As a publisher and editor dedicating myself to a very Christian project, I needed to cement that we would be comfortable and trust one another. And I believe we do. But to quote one line of that treatise on my own religious background: “(I also took Religions of China and Japan and fell in love with Taoism.)”

And I loved the miniature watercolors depicting a sunrise and an open path that glows with openness and potential.

I ended up buying them.

Maryann said she would be in my area later today so she’d deliver.

Continuing the Cat Hunt

The Teenager did a sweep of the house and the outside. She went to work, and sent me a text saying one of us should check the coal bin in the basement. I put on shoes and headed down, found no cat but carried some garbage from the basement outdoors. I checked the cardboard boxes we have piled next to the garbage cans for recycling, because if I were an indoor cat suddenly outside on the coldest day of the year, a cardboard box would look so good.

No cat.

And then I had a thought: did anyone check my room?

Tiggy was lying peacefully on my bed. Apparently when I left my room at 6:30, she silently crept in.

Sweet Fruity Doughnuts

During my last visit to The Grocery Outlet, I bought some weirdly glazed doughnuts. When The Teenager got home from work, I asked if she wanted to try them. She was game. The glaze was not merely glaze but a thick, hard icing that tasted like fruity candy. I had purchased a mango and a strawberry.

Decorating the House

The Teenager got her baby cousins window markers and window crayons for Christmas, in addition to procuring some for herself. So we decorated the windows for Yule after I showered and donned my Christimas Flamingo sweatshirt.

A Bagel Big Surprise

Little Dog’s Mom brought bagel-themed presents for The Teenager and I and a new toy Christmas Llama for the Bean dog. The bagel theme included a gift certificate for one of our favorite places in the world, New York Bagel & Deli, in one of our favorite local shopping plazas. We also received everything-bagel-flavored pretzel chips (which are one of The Teenager’s favorite snacks) and everything bagel seasoning which has been on my shopping list forever. And Little Dog’s Mom remembered The Teenager’s favorite candy!

Plus, Little Dog’s Mom and I were twinning.

Maryann called and said she was on her way.

Another Artist in My Collection

At Parisian Phoenix, we incorporate original photography and art into our books. We aim to support visual artists as we do those who share the written work. Heather Pasqualino Weirich, of Heather Pasqualino Fine Art, whose art adorned the cover of Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, joined Maryann and other artists in that anthology. Maryann commented that the cover painting from that book should be released in prints.

When Maryann delivered her art, I asked her to come inside my home and decide where to hang them. She hung them beside Heather’s original piece in my central room.

And the nicely wrapped art pieces came with a Ghiradelli packet of hot chocolate and a shot of peppermint vodka. The Teenager took the hot cocoa. I claimed the peppermint vodka. Now I need a candy cane.

Magnetic Ransom Notes

I returned to work on the devotional until The Teenager’s Dad arrived to play Ransom Notes and have dinner with us as I had bought the Teenager shrimp. Ransom Notes is like Cards against Humanity using magnetic word pieces like those in a magnetic poetry kit. We mixed it all our magnetic poetry kits, too. We also listened to Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.

The Teenager made shrimp, broccoli, rice and potatoes, but since I don’t eat shrimp she cooked up some Spam so I’d have some protein. That’s right. My Christmas dinner was a pile of broccoli with some diced up Spam.

As I write this, The Teenager and her father are downstairs playing video games. All in all, a simple but soulful, joyous Christmas.

Christmas Eve Phase 2: A Trip to Bethlehem and Nazareth

My mother-in-law mentioned that she was making fried chicken and potato salad for Christmas Eve dinner, so I of course said I would come. If there is something I love, it’s her fried chicken and potato salad. She also made ham and a honey glaze. And stuffed shells. I put honey glaze on my chicken.

My brother-in-law made figgy pudding. That was tasty.

My mother-in-law always has a heap of homemade Christmas cookies and the family fruitcake recipe is unbelievably tasty. And the goofy sugar/coconut/strawberry JellO crystal cookies are one of my favorites.

The Teenager says she likes when I come to family functions, because I liven them up a bit with my big mouth.

The kids opened presents– the eldest great-grandchild received a learn-to-tie-your-shoelaces wooden shoe (The Teenager received the same but in book form at that age) and “The Old Lady Who Swallowed The Fly” finger puppets (as The Teenager also did as a child, except the Teenager received a creepy old lady doll with a creepy gaping mouth). I tried to engage the whole family in a sing-along of There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed The Fly, because all the children in the family, I believe even back to my husband and his siblings, were raised with that morbid song.

No one went for it.

If you don’t know the song, here’s a version on YouTube.

I’ll give you some nice holiday photos of the tree and The Teenager opening her exciting new clamps from her uncle, who always knows what she needs for her growing tool collection. And she also kept swapping out the baby Jesus in the manger for first a goose and then a turkey.

With our bellies bursting with cookies and figgy pudding– so yummy, I do love figs, we left Bethlehem to travel to Nazareth to visit one of my former Target colleagues who now works there. We exchanged some Christmas hugs. I put gas in the car. And The Teenager got a salted caramel hot chocolate.

This low-key holiday is working out perfectly.

A Saturday with M, food at Allentown’s Damascus, an empty bathroom and a burning toe

Today is the day The Teenager planned to work on the downstairs bathroom, installing a new floor and finishing the paint. Our fellow cat foster has agreed to help her with this project, which is very kind of her. Originally, The Teen had off today, but at the last minute her boss added some clients to her roster.

So, as I write this, I have a belly full of pleasant Middle Eastern food after going to Allentown with M to visit the restaurant Damascus, which was once the establishment of our college peers whose parents emigrated from Syria.

My washer, dryer, toilet and floor have been removed from the downstairs bathroom and I have a burning, burning toe.

Where to begin…

I think the logical start might be our meal.

We arrived and inquired about the history of the restaurant, only to learn that the cousins who lived down the hall from me in college did indeed come from the family who founded and operated Damascus for 25 years.

We also learned that the family sold the restaurant about 7 years ago, but they still made amazing food.

I ordered the falafel sandwich and M ordered the garlic labneh, hummus and zaatar/oil.

My falafel came in a tight cylinder of pita, stuffed with crisp lettuce, hot peppers, tomato and dripping with tahini. It was lovely brown and crusty (in the good way) on the outside of the falafel, but soft and flavorful on the inside. They put a few hot peppers on, just enough to give the tahini some zing but not too many, protecting the flavor integrity of the falafel.

The hummus was smooth. The labneh creamy and rich with garlic. And as M loved to point out, the zaatar had the sumac he loves.

After our lunch, we shared some of the most photographic baklava I’ve ever seen and sipped Turkish coffee. I don’t know about you, but I love a strong Turkish coffee so rich it almost reminds one of chocolate. I didn’t add sugar, preferring to alternate bites of the succulent, picture-perfect baklava with the coffee.

The man behind us explained to his date in detail how they make baklava which involved lots of repetition of “they crush pistachios” and “they layer phyllo dough and honey” over and over and over.

M and I talked for a while sipping coffee in tiny cups and then drove to the Parkland area to see the new mosque under construction a friend had told him about when they met overseas.

On the drive home, my damn toe started burning again, so badly that I could not wait to get home and rip off my socks and remove my new toe separator. I believe I mentioned yesterday I bought each variety of toe separator available at my local CVS: the gel separator, the bunion wrap with toe separator and the gel toe protector.

My toe no longer looks inflamed, but the skin is still painfully tender and red with skin peeling all around.

I decided to wear gel separator with the bunion rap today. The gel separator felt much thicker than my normal toe separator cushion from the podiatrist. I really liked the wrap, but I really think the gel separator might have put too much pressure on the toe.

Computer chaos, extracting a chicken neck, medical and service dog updates and a 2023 Nissan Altima

Fosters kitten Jennifer Grey and tripod Louise woke me up at 2 a.m. to play “let’s compete for attention.” Now I love these two cats, and even in the middle of the night I don’t mind giving some half-asleep snuggles. But this went on for at least a half an hour as they each crept closer to me, until Louise was in a ball in my armpit and Jennifer was on my chest.

The Teenager needed to take her car to Kelly Nissan for major repairs. So she drove me to work and kept my car and Southern Candy agreed to bring me home, meet the menagerie and have dinner with us. I’d been looking forward to it. I even bought a chicken. A cute little organic chicken that was the size of a Cornish hen but a chicken nonetheless.

Work was work… I was actually doing okay and hitting my numbers. I took a Baclofen at 6 a.m. and that seemed to loosen everything. The other people stationed around me made me feel a little out-of-place, but that’s fine, especially since one of the people on my roster was delivering work and I got a refix cart. Which is the work that is easier for me to do. And most of my carts were medium, not 1X or 2X like usual. And then around 9 a.m. it started.

The internet started going down. And it looked pretty random. A station beside me. Two stations in front of me. But not me. Half a row over there. So they started having half the people fold and box and those with a working computer scan– except even then I only got about 5 boxes and still had to QC out of the cart.

At ten a.m., the powers that be at work called Voluntary Time Off. I said I would stay, as I felt good and Southern Candy usually tries not to take VTO, but her computer was down and in her department, things weren’t moving as smoothly as ours were so they were destined to run out of work. We left around 10:30, which would at least solve one problem: I would be home when Kelly Nissan called with the Teenager’s car and I would have more flexibility to get her to the dealership.

Southern Candy meets everyone. The elusive Louise makes an appearance. Foster Khloe, our Bean dog and the crazy Goffins cockatoo Nala immediately love her and the Teenager demonstrates probably a full 30 minutes of Bean dog’s tricks.

Kelly Nissan calls. The teenager’s Rogue will need another day in the Service Department. They offer her a loaner. She asks if she can drive a loaner at her age, figuring the policies are similar to rental cars. They assure her that she only has to be 21, and she’s 21….

Um, she tells them, I’m 18.

Oh, they say.

I guess they’re not used to 18-year-olds dropping off cars for $2,000 in repairs.

Kelly Nissan gave me the loaner. Now any dealership worth its salt will lend you a car better than yours to entice you to buy. And one of my dream cars is a Nissan Z. They aren’t going to lend you a Z, but I used to have a Nissan Altima with all the bells and whistles and the big 3.5 liter engine. That’s the car to which I compared all the cars I test drove when I bought my Jetta turbo. I hoped they would lend me a 2022 Rogue, which would be the same car but a decade newer than what the Teenager brought it for repairs.

They brought me a 2023 Altima. I got a little tingle when I heard Altima, but to my disappointment (but meeting my expectation), it was the base model. It handled fine, drive smoothly, felt like I was in a fighter jet cockpit instead of a car. But it had no real power. No sunroof. No heated seats. And it was grey.

They had given me a perfectly boring car.

The back-up camera has better resolution than a lot of televisions, and the warning beeps for parallel parking are annoying.

Once I return home, Southern Candy and I start the chicken. It’s 3 p.m. and the chicken should take 45 minutes to roast. Unless it’s still frozen in the middle. The chicken still has its neck. Southern Candy points this out and I try to cut it but all it does is make her laugh. She tries. She’d not getting anywhere either.\

So we ask Chef Google.

Together we de-neck the chicken. Makes me miss my vegetarian days.

Chicken in the oven, my neurologist-physiatrist calls. She’s filling out my intermittent leave paperwork and wanted my input. I mentioned I have the outside firm’s analysis of my job, and that I planned to give them to her for the upcoming accommodations paperwork. She says she’d like to have those, so I run upstairs and scan them.

I also show them to Southern Candy as we are on the same roster at work and we all technically could be assigned to do any jobs in outbound.

We check the chicken, it needs more time.

The partnership specialist at Susquehanna Service Dogs calls. They have a last minute cancellation for an in-person interview on Wednesday. Can I make it? I ask Southern Candy and the Teenager: Do I want the slot? Work prefers 48 hours notice for requested time off. And this would require a half day as the agency is 90 minutes away. And I’m not sure I have paid time left.

“How bad do you want it?” Southern Candy asks.

“Badly,” I said.

I accept the interview and email my supervisor.

We check the chicken. It needs a little more time. It’s 4 p.m.

The teenager mentions Chinese food. Southern Candy makes a yummy noise. But she tells my daughter we have chicken right here.

“It’s fine,” I said. “We can have the chicken tomorrow. Or pick on it cold.”

We order $50 in Chinese food. We eat like kings.

Then, Southern Candy and I say our goodbyes and I head to the gym. Where Andrew puts me through a core workout. I gave it everything, as I always try to do, but those side planks were murder on a belly full of Chinese food.

I went to bed exhausted– and had to type this blog entry in the morning, which I rarely do.

Small goals for a rainy day

I don’t have the energy and the endurance that I once did. I can no longer drive myself to clean the house in a frenzy or bake all my bread from scratch.

I’ve gotten older.

My… constitution?… does not maintain consistency. Whereas it used to be my moods that swung, now my body’s functionality waxes and wanes.

So far today I have:

  • Folded laundry, and done another load
  • Did the hand wash dishes
  • Cleaned most of the stuff off the corner table
  • Had a glass of water, and a glass of iced tea
  • Cleaned the cat boxes in my room
  • Fed the bird
  • Vacuumed
  • And made amazing vegan flautas with Hungryroot cashew cheddar

I started Five Days at Memorial on Apple TV while I hung out with the dog.

And made great strides cuddling foster Jennifer Grey.

FURR Foster Jennifer Grey

With my walking being so unstable, I’m extra proud to announce that Friday night I squatted 135 lbs.

I started taking the Baclofen my neurologist prescribed and we’ll see if that makes walking easier.

And I’ve been sleeping 9-10 hours a night over the last few days so hopefully that also means my body is getting some recovery time.

Last but not least, I’ve been trying really hard to reduce sugars, refined carbohydrates and processed foods from my diet to test if that will lower the amount of inflammation in my body.

Eating of the things, talking about politics, etc.

First, let’s celebrate that I have no pain today.

Second, let’s celebrate that it’s sun-shining gorgeous out.

Third, let’s celebrate that that damn race between Dr. Oz and John Fetterman is over. Talk about two bad choices.

But it sure was exciting to take my freshly-minted 18-year-old to vote and even more exciting to hear her rant about international politics after she took my out to dinner.

M and I took her to Paris, Moscow and Kazan the summer she turned 12… and while it was a whirlwind visit, she had the brain-expanding experience I hoped she would have.

Because she knows how little of the world she’s seen, but also knows how little she can trust depictions of other cultures perpetuated by the mainstream.

I often wish I could see Russia how she sees Russia. I imagine it’s similar to my view, but also very different because I have seen parts of North and East Africa and even Yemen. But just that little pop of Russia six years ago altered her perceptions forever.

If you want to read more about that trip, click here to start in the middle.

The beginning of the trip is here.

So, last night, The Teenager took me out to dinner— at Applebee’s, she loves the fiesta lime chicken— and we tried the Cheetos cheese curds and the slamming reindeer drink.

The cheese curds were strange, super greasy and very addictive.

Other foods I have taste-tested recently include the cookie butter doughnut at Dunkin which I mention here and some new flavors of delicious Blue Diamond almonds which we bought at QuickChek, video here.

I ended up calling out sick from work today— in part because of my hip and in part because I didn’t get to sleep until 3.

I see my specialist today, and my body is definitely stiff and angled but I’m not in pain. What a thing to say— but I wanted to be in pain to explain how I feel to the doctor.

I’m trying to motivate myself to give up sugar and do a 30 day elimination diet via Whole30 as I think reducing food-related inflammation in my body could go a long way. And there are others who would like to see me try medical marijuana.

End of week update: the stats, the hip, the fitness, the coffee

Yesterday might summarize recent trends in my life. I know I posted a blog post before I left for my last 10-hour shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. Monday I start a more traditional Monday through Friday shift. I’ll get home earlier, but I lose a day off. And I’m used to having Thursday and Friday off which is nice for running errands, making appointments with doctors and professionals, and for connecting with people regarding my business, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

I still had my Friday nights and Saturdays, even if I had to head to bed earlier than most people want to on Saturday night. Many well-meaning friends and everyday people have made comments like “well that will be nice,” “no more long days” and “you’ll have your weekends back.”

But I’ll no longer have that feeling of “getting work over with” and I’m no longer part of a unique cohort. We worked alone in the building on Sundays, and that was peaceful, and for two hours every afternoon, we more or less finished the work the traditional day shift left behind.

So, I arrived at work yesterday morning, basking in the bliss of using my new Ninja DualBrew correctly. (I still have to buy coffee filters, but I love the ease of use, the temperature of the coffee, the different settings for the strength of coffee, AND how I can select just the right amount of coffee for me. The reservoir is cool for me, because it removes one more decision or step to screw up. I have been known to double fill the coffee pot when I forgot I already did it.)

On Sunday, I normally perform between 100 and 105 percent of daily metrics. I may have once hit 108. This Sunday, I hit 97. This annoyed me. It was the first sign that something was off. On Monday, I kept struggling. I didn’t really notice anything physically wrong but I did note that my toes on my right foot were really burning by the end of the day. Andrew, my wonderful coach at Apex Training, had asked if we could move Monday night’s session to Tuesday. I said sure.

I busted my butt for the rest of the day and hit at least 99 percent, but I may have hit 100. That’s when I noticed some residual issues in my body. Just that nagging sense that something was not right. I attributed it to working hard and not having my regular Friday appointment with Nicole Jensen at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. She had a class on Friday, so she had moved clients.

Tuesday I could feel my right hip turned wrong. It was a weird feeling, like my leg was facing the wrong way. In reality, it might not work that way but that’s how it felt. And my right hip was very tender to the touch. I still didn’t have any pain, but movement was getting harder. So I tried to stretch my hips during the day, but by the end of the day, I had only hit 90 percent and it had been hard. I asked Andrew if we could move the Tuesday session to Wednesday, worried that this was more of a structural issue than a muscular one and working out could push me from discomfort and mobility issues to actual pain.

And a year ago, I was in pain every day and I don’t want to go back to that. Ever. I was flipping through my journal and last year at this time I was starting every journal entry with a number from the pain scale. That broke my heart to see.

I took a muscle relaxer, stretched some more and went to bed after a nice meal. Wednesday morning I didn’t move any better, but I was no longer stiff. But by the time I got to work, my gut said this hip was really struggling to do its job. And I was about to stand on it for ten hours.

At 6 a.m., I called Nicole’s office and left a message. At 9:15, they called me back and scheduled me for 5:15 p.m. I knew that if I waited until my regular Friday appointment and forced that hip to work out, it would lead to pain and harder-to-fix problems.

I emailed my boss as I couldn’t find him and it turned out that he had called out sick. I arranged to leave at 4:30. By my calculations, I hit 87 percent. My right side just didn’t have the mobility it should. The drive to the chiropractor took about 20-25 minutes, and when I got out of the car, it felt like my right leg had fused and stretching it into a step felt ridiculously hard. But still no pain.

This is when cerebral palsy plays tricks on the brain. As I’m (what feels like) dragging my leg into the chiropractor, I started wondering, “maybe I just need to stretch,” “maybe there’s nothing really wrong and I’m just lazy and my muscles stiffened.” But then I remembered the burning toes. Something was pushing my posture forward and my body was fighting it. But I still had my doubts.

Now, no one has ever gaslighted me in the medical community, except maybe my first primary care physician who referred me to the wrong specialist in the days when I had an HMO. I now always have plans where I chose my physicians myself.

When Nicole entered the room, I explained what’s going on and she quickly confirms that yes, my hip was crooked. Like really crooked. She even made a hand gesture. And that my body had done other weird things to compensate. It all moved beautifully when she manhandled it. She pondered what caused this when we had just considered potentially spacing out my weekly appointments to every other week. Did I overdo it at work? Was it missing the adjustment Friday? Was it skipping my workout?

When I got up from the table, my feet did, as Nicole put it, sexy normal feet posture. My balance has improved dramatically in the last few months, and my strength has returned, and my stamina is definitely increasing.

I stepped out of the chiropractor and took some long, beautiful, easy strides.

It. Felt. Good.

No, it felt GREAT.

So, I don’t know how Nicole would feel about this, but I went to the gym. And let me tell you– Andrew delivered a brutal work out. We did split leg squats in sets of 20 reps each leg with weights. He said I was moving better than I ever had before and I said, yes, because Nicole had straightened my body and stretched out my lower extremities. Like, literally, just did. We did military presses with 25 lb dumbbells. We did core. We did upper body exercises like IYTs. And shoulder taps and mountain climbers and rope slams.

And then, before a shower or dinner, and it’s 7:30 p.m. now, I had to deal with the hellions in my room. I had to swap out and refill three litter boxes for the six cats in my room. I had to vaccuum. I didn’t clean the bird cages, but I did feed and water everyone. And I’m still wondering how the heck those four kittens have trashed my closet without opening the door.

I wanted to blog all this last night after I ate my omelet of cheddar, peppers, homemade farm-procured, roasted tomatoes. But I was exhausted.

Baked Flavors: A Ben & Jerry’s Review and a CVS saving spree

It’s 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I just finished a rather strange Chinese take-out meal after a long work week and a hearty work-out with Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training.

Hit another PR I believe, a 35 lb dumbbell RDL.

My performance at work has been stronger (by my calculations Sunday was about 104%, Monday 98% I think, 100% yesterday and 99% today). I finally replaced the company-issued box that Gayle doodled for me with a stadium backpack with my supplies divided by department. My box has gotten super messy and it was ripping.

Amidst all that, I still find myself dwelling on the fact that Friday, September 30, is my dad’s birthday.

It makes me so sad. It’s the first one without him here. He missed the teen’s high school graduation, her 18th birthday, her first car accident, buying her first car.

He missed the flood in my house, my dead car battery, and all the other things that happen day to day.

So now is the perfect time to review ice cream.

Last week I had $5 in Extra Bucks at CVS about to expire, and they were having an ice cream sale— so I got 3 pints of Ben & Jerry’s, a bottle of unsweetened flavored sparkling water and an 8 ounce bag of pistachios and almonds for $12.78. It was $30 before my deals.

I picked all “bakery”/cookie flavors.

Over time I made these conclusions:

  • Half Baked (chocolate and vanilla ice cream with gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough and brownies) was a disappointment. The chocolate ice cream overpowered the vanilla. There weren’t enough cookies and brownies and the ones we did find tasted dry.
  • Thé Tonight Dough (caramel and chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie chip cookie dough, chocolate cookie swirls and peanut butter cookie dough) came recommended by Andrew. The cookie chunks were significantly better than the Half Baked, and the Teen and I both wished there was more caramel ice cream.
  • Netflix and Chill’d (peanut butter ice cream with salty pretzel bits, salted caramel and brownie chunks) might have been our favorite. The peanut butter ice cream complimented the pretzel and brownie accents perfectly.

And finally, in closing, walking home from the gym tonight with the pink & blue swirls of sunset before me, I noticed some changes in our neighborhood. On one hand, the neighbor boy who spray painted his name on their front walk is a senior in high school and his graffiti has faded.

And at another house, designs in sidewalk chalk suggest that the babies born to the kids who were the Teenager’s neighborhood playmates are old enough to stake their claim to playing outside and repopulating our block with youth.

I look forward to it.