Margaritas and cat noses

I might be pushing too hard.

I did (I think) 105% on Sunday at work, 105% yesterday and woke up stiff and with my right quad tight and spasms in my calf. I only did 93% today, but I feel better now. And the dip in numbers had more to do with some chaos in the warehouse versus my cerebral palsy issues.

Regardless, I must admit I was a little relieved yesterday when my fitness coach Andrew from Apex Training postponed my workout.

The teenager proposed going to Applebee’s for dinner, her treat, as she didn’t feel like cooking. She also demanded I order a cocktail as I think she wanted to make sure I drifted off to bed as early as possible. (8 p.m.)

The teenager loves Applebee’s— for a child raised in all sorts of Mom & Pop restaurants where we often knew the owners, she certainly loves her boring old franchise Applebee’s.

I realized that if you took any item with chicken tenders away from the menu, you’d lose more than half the meals available. And if you didn’t want bacon on your hamburger, you had three choices: the quesadilla burger (which we got), the plain old burger and the Beyond veggie burger (which was $14 and came with nothing but lettuce, tomato and pickle).

Boring.

The quesadilla burger was a mish-mash delight (I chose my margarita for the artificial Latin theme) but had to be eaten with a knife and fork.

When I arrived home, Opie and Fog (two of our personal cats) joined Khloe and Louise (foster cats) and Nala (Goffin’s cockatoo) and Yo-yo (parakeet) in my room for the night. Fog tries so hard to be Louise’s friend— and she is slowly (after more than a year) getting braver and more confident.

Louise (left) and Fog (bottom right)

Finally, for those that are wondering… I ruptured my tendon in my ring finger April 15 and had “mallet finger” and a cast for nine weeks. My specialist released me July 25 and expressed his disappointment that my finger was still a little off.

My finger after a ten hour shift August 15 — four full months after my accident.

I use my hands so much at work, so I still splint at night. I must say it feels like and looks like the finger is getting stronger and straighter every day.

Updates, announcements and anecdotes

It’s just about to turn 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The last 48 hours have been emotionally difficult, and those are internal challenges I have resolved within myself but now I need to “make right” in the world.

My good friend Joan (the talented photographer) had quipped that the moon is in “Frustrato” phase and perhaps that is accurate.

Sometimes it’s nice to blame the universe instead of accepting our part in the mayhem. Because even good intentions spark fires.

I heard a podcast yesterday; I believe it was an economic one, that asked if one host was “a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy.” He replied, “it’s just half.”

That’s too much enigma and philosophy for pre-dawn hours. Blame the fact that my trusty espresso machine only filled half my mug.

Mug from Purr Haus in Emmaus

The teenager and I had 14 kittens in the house Saturday, Sunday and Monday offering temporary lodging for these babies whose official Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab foster families have gone on summer vacation.

They were so much fun to have around, but 11 went home last night. This led the Teenager’s officially adopted foster fail Mars of the Roman Pride distraught that his friends had gone. He screamed until the Teenager released him into “gen pop” where he plopped himself down in front of the remaining visitors.

On Friday, I had a rather grueling session at Apex Training with my coach Andrew. We did some intense work on balance and single leg muscle stability. On Saturday, the communication between my brain and my lower body felt rickety (for lack of a better description) and it was challenging to move. By Sunday, the movement felt smoother but my phone was registering spikes in walking asymmetry. But something very interesting happened Monday— I could not only stand on one leg, but I could also hold my leg in a few seconds of a quad stretch.

Yesterday, I visited the Stitch Fix employee store, which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario. I bought myself jewelry on an impulse and discovered my second holes could still accept earrings. As someone who really grew up in the 80s and graduated high schools in the 1990s, I have three sets of holes in my ears.

I bought the Teenager some new things, including some warm hiking style boots for fall and her dog walks. I bought myself an adorable pair of shorts, and I picked one size up from my pre-existing Stitch Fix clothes and they were too small.

Obviously my efforts to reduce my recent (as in pandemic era) weight gain have been not sincere enough. Sigh. I’m trying to eat better and move more without falling into a strict/restrictive mindset.

But I did eat an entire medium pizza from Domino’s the other night. It was a medium hand-tossed crust, light on the cheese, light on the garlic Alfredo sauce with red peppers and pineapple.

On the way home from work last night, I noticed that the furniture store looked abandoned— and that the sign merely said urn.

In the background of all of this, the ‘cat book’ from Parisian Phoenix has hit some unexpected difficulties prompting a delay in its production. But my quick thinking, after a few hours of pondering, have inspired an interim release of a mini cat book featuring advice and stories about the care of cats. The larger book will come later, perhaps in early 2023.

In the meantime, I am very puzzled why my sweet tripod foster Louise has decided to crate herself.

And the most surprising item of the day was receiving my first catalog for Parisian Phoenix Publishing— Uline junk mail!

I suppose the last update is that the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs have cashed my check for the application fee. I’m anxiously awaiting contact.

To say life has been hectic feels like an understatement.

Today I canned Amish tomatoes

So, I got a text the other day— it was probably Thursday but who knows— from my friend and talented photographer Joan.

“The farm has Amish tomatoes, want some? $25/bushel.”

We agreed to split some if they had some left when she went to pick up her regular CSA share.

She dropped them off yesterday. Now, I have always wanted to home-can tomatoes. I decided to make seasoned roasted tomatoes.

I started at 7:30, they came out of the water bath at 11:30. I think my yield was 1 pint jar, 2 half pints, the tiny quarter pint jar and a mouthful.

Cracker Barrel & Vitamin D: Blending the Mundane, Building Friendship

I started my day by leaving the house at 7:15 a.m. to visit my friends the phlebotomists at Quest Diagnostics. With my history of anemia and fluctuating iron & vitamin D levels, I tend to get iron & vitamin D checks with my annual bloodwork.

My vitamin D was low during my January 2021 physical (22) so I started adding vitamin D + calcium supplements to my diet. With my multi & my slow release iron.

By June, that had jumped to 32. I stayed that level for the next six months. Today’s test would see if I had gained more— 30 is considered normal.

I started laundry before I left so I could wear my new cat t-shirt. I had a much anticipated meeting with social activist-journalist Dawn Heinbach scheduled for the afternoon at Cracker Barrel, a location I thought would be convenient as she lives several counties away. She submitted some material for the Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money anthology. I had some books she wanted. I know she’s a cat person so I knew she would love my French pun cat shirt.

When I got home from Quest, I made an egg sandwich and took a photo to my artist friend Maryann whose mixed media postcards appeared in Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money. She thinks all my food photographs are well-played and pleasingly styled. I told her she’ll have to come for dinner.

I put the laundry in the dryer and eventually changed into my cat shirt. I did some paperwork before I picked up my good friend Nancy to provide a ride to the doctor. Nancy is my poetry editor at Parisian Phoenix Publishing and she’s blind. She keeps me in line both with my writing and my business and occasionally has to make sure I’m facing my disability in an intelligent fashion.

While at the doctor’s office a very senior citizen’s phone went off. The ring tone was the opening notes of Usher’s “Yeah.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. He looked mortified. Did a grandchild prank him?

I finished Tylia Flores’ Handi-Capable while in the waiting room. I posted a review on Amazon.

We did a couple other Nancy errands and I pointed out I needed gas in the car, and asked if she’d mind a detour to Wawa. I think Nan made out on that one as she went home sign a turkey sandwich, some sour cream and onion potato chips and some half-and-half iced tea/lemonade.

Somehow the two of us can do absolutely nothing but laugh while doing it.

I spent the afternoon blogging and catching up on some work for the business before it was time to go to Fogelsville for my early dinner.

The sky opened, as they say.

I told Dawn I would hang out in those amazing Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. I didn’t know it would be in a deluge.

Luckily I had my umbrella in my car.

The servers came out and danced in the rain. An old man complimented my Eiffel Tower umbrella and said he and his wife were going there next.

Ever the grammar nerd, I said, “really? From Cracker Barrel right to Paris? I hope you love it.”

Dawn and I had a superb conversation about what journalism should be, and she lives in the geographic region served by my protege at Berks-Mont newspapers. We talked cats— and she did like the cat shirt. And my turkey dinner was disappointing but Dawn and I chatted for two hours. We shared a cup of coffee after dinner before going our separate ways.

I bought the teen a Scooby Doo mug and myself a coconut peanut butter candy that tasted like toffee both in flavor and mouth feel.

On the way home, my 2015 jetta played a horrible prank on me. The gas gauge and miles per gallon/miles until empty screens didn’t display any information. Luckily I got gas with Nan so I knew I had plenty. On the highway. 26 miles away from home.

Upon reaching home, I took care of some correspondence and received an update from my doctor. My vitamin D is now 37!

A yummy Tuesday

Tuesday already. If I had not taken voluntarily time off this week, I would be three-quarters of the way through my work week and asleep in preparation of my last day before the weekend.

Instead I slept until a leisurely 6 a.m., did some kitchen cleaning and some laundry while I waited for my coffee to brew.

I did some work on my own essay for the As the FURR Flies cat fundraising anthology — “The Unfortunate Cat Bite Hospital Vacation.”

Spoke with the teenager and headed to visit Gayle, the Parisian Phoenix Art Director, and my longstanding (and upstanding) friend. First I had to remove a tire toy the dog inserted into my purse. We had plans to scan the ink cartoon our friend Rachel had done for the anthology.

Then we went for a walk. I told Gayle not a long walk as my right hip just didn’t feel right and I felt like I had to march to avoid tripping myself. That I had not only fallen on Sunday night, but out of the damn bathtub while taking a shower yesterday.

I bought her a beverage at Déjà Brew, an eclectic local coffee shop/cafe, and nearly fell on my face because the damn floor has a massive bubble down the whole thing. I can’t even describe how huge and high this ridge was. I felt like someone had parked a tree under the tables.

Lunch was pita with hummus and harissa. Then the teenager went to visit a housebound senior to try and help her clean up a bit.

When we finished, I took the teenager to the auto parts store where the Amazon driver left her new Apple Pencil, bought us both discount Diet Cokes at McDonalds and then we headed to a place she’s wanted to visit for a long time— Exotic Dreams and Lingerie— and their neighbor. We bought some anatomically styled sour patch candies and let’s just say our dress form Esther might be donning some knotted red ropes in the future.

When we got home, I unboxed my new calendar: Video of unboxing Silk & Sonder August 2022.

The teenager went to work and I finished my story for the cat book and attended a library meeting. Then the teen made a magnificent hamburger dinner with homemade garlic parmesan gourmet fries.

And we attended a foster meeting via Facebook.

To end the night, the teenager broke an ancient ceramic bowl and I dropped a mason jar very painfully on my toe wrestling with the dog gate.

We’re both pretty exhausted tonight.

How to Deal with a Heat Wave: Ice Cream Dog Walks

“You better put in that application for a service dog.”

We hadn’t even made it half-way down our block and I already stumbled and fell. The teenager, her dog, and I had left our house at 7 p.m. on just another high-90s day. We were headed to CVS for ice cream.

The CVS is a 2,000 step walk— there and back— so we thought it would be good exercise for the whole family.

Plus, I had about $3.75 in Extra Bucks and a 40% off coupon. A pint of ice cream is $6.99 at CVS so I grabbed a whole bunch of singles and a handful of change.

The dog behaved really well on the walk, but my left foot did not— it kept twisting under me. I felt like I had to lift up my feet in exaggerated steps not to fall. Like high knees marching.

I stumbled twice on the way home but did not fall again.

The teenager made her remark about the service dog. I’ve spent a lot of time with her dog this weekend and thought… just imagine if this dog were useful.

I already did 90% of the 54-page application packet. I talked to those people I want to be my support letters (the teenager and my neighbor, as they would be my literal supports) and my references: the teenager’s father, cat foster godmother (who used to be a social worker) and my long-time therapist (whose wife is a physical therapist).

That leaves one thing: the medical evaluation. My own insecurities make it very difficult for me to ask for help. And it’s taken a long time for me to learn to speak up and out and advocate for myself.

I am nervous to ask my doctor— my family doctor of more than a decade— to do it. Part of me wants to wait until my appointment on August 19. But if he says no, that only leaves me two months to find someone else.

I think I need to call the office tomorrow and leave him a message to ask if he’d do it if I bring the paperwork August 19, or sooner if he wishes.

Again, I have doubts. What if I’m not disabled enough? I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I don’t want to take a spot away from someone who needs a dog more than me.

But I’m struggling and I’m scared and I’m getting older. And I can do so much on my own but a dog would give me that much more.

I spent a lot of time on the application. Pretty much a whole day. What do you want the dog to do? What’s your typical day? Do you work? Do you volunteer? What are your interests and hobbies? Do you own a home? Do you have pets? Who lives with you? Do you drive? Can you handle travel? Can you take care of the dog? Are you able to train the dog?

If I can get ahold of the doctor’s office, as soon as I know someone will fill out the papers— I will tell my letter-writers and references to do their thing.

My therapist and I had a chat about it. His professional association discourages therapists from doing medical evaluations for service dog applications, but since I was asking for a reference, he was okay with that. He had no idea how many things a mobility dog could do.

He mentioned that in our current times, the emotional support animal and assistance dog phenomenon seems to be getting more and more prolific but that in my case, I’d obviously put a lot of thought into it, done my research, and found a program that could really benefit me.

Fingers crossed, I guess.

Oh, and the ice cream… it was $1.86 after my discounts. I had a $5 bill, five singles and 87 cents in my pocket. I paid exact change.

Tidbits that made me happy today

I helped my baby, The Teenager, buy a 2012 Nissan Rogue
We stopped at our local Target, where I worked for nearly a decade in the cafe. The store, 2536, is in the midst of a rather tasteless remodel. The cafe sink is in the parking lot. I haven’t worked there for three years now, but man… did the memories come back. I pulled my car next to the fence, put on my flashers and snapped this photo.

Making granola and buying a car

I often joke that I have spent many lives in other time periods— someone once randomly told me I had a soul that belonged to the 1950s and I think maybe I was a hungry child during the Great Depression.

You see, I don’t let food go to waste. I have used for all the leftovers. Like the mini pretzels from the Philly Pretzel Factory at her graduation party? I let them dry out for a couple days and then ran them through the Ninja food processor to make bread crumbs.

And today I poured hot water into the honey jar to get all the honey from the sides of the jar and poured the water into my pitcher of extra strong home-brewed iced tea.

I also made homemade granola. Now you might ask what does homemade granola have to do with saving food from being wasted?

This is an old blog post on my food blog where I chronicled every meal I ate for seven years discussing granola.

The teenager and I are in the middle of reorganizing the kitchen and tackling a lot of home improvement projects. I cleaned and rearranged the cupboards yesterday and found a lot of ingredients that were old and could make granola.

  • Extra unopened containers of traditional oats
  • Raisins
  • Dried blueberries that I don’t remember buying… ever
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nut mixes and random small bags of no-carb trail mix

So, I made granola.

And then I went to Lipsky Cars with the teenager to test drive vehicles. And with me as her co-signer, the teenager has her first auto loan.

What did she drive?

Three 2012 vehicles: the Nissan Rogue, a Subaru Forester and a Honda Crosstour. The Crosstour had some really amazing features and a spicy engine.

Tomorrow we pick up the vehicle. And the handyman comes to look at the ceiling from the flood.

But I’m not going to tell you which car she picked. Tune in tomorrow!

Apex 100, the strawberry Frosty and a makeshift splint

I wept tonight. I nearly wept myself into a panic attack. My guts are still fluttering. And I flung things down the stairs.

But that’s the end of the story. Let’s start at the beginning.

On Monday night, after the teenager’s car accident, I went to Apex Training for my 100th session at the gym since I started about ten months ago.

Because it was my 100th session, the my trainer picked out 6 exercises for me to do 100 times, at my own pace, breaking them into sets as I saw fit.

I was a little stiff the next day, which was yesterday, but I still managed to do 100% according to the metrics at work. But my the end of the day my right leg was unsteady.

Today I woke up very stiff, with my muscles in my lower body so tight I struggled to bend and I had even less control and stability in my right leg.

I only made about 90% today.

By the end of the day, my right quad had this dull burn to it, but it didn’t really hurt. But it was getting more and more difficult to control as my stiffness dissipated.

But the teenager and I still made it to my 101st session at Apex and celebrated by trying the new strawberry Frosty at Wendy’s. Which, by the way, is much tastier with a Wendy’s sugar cookie.

I took my custom splint off— today marks one week of wearing it and taking it off every 3 hours for occupational therapy exercises and when needed “for hygiene.” And the finger is looking steady!

I removed the splint to wipe down my hand with a wet nap before eating. I set it down carefully in my lap. And then it just disappeared. I checked the take-out bag. I checked my bra, the car compartments, the seat.

The teenager told me to stop wiggling around that it had to be in the car and we’d look at home.

We didn’t find it at home.

So I went to the kitchen and started to cry. my finger had looked so good wrapped around that Frosty cup as I smeared the Frosty on my portion of the cookie the teenager and I shared.

I checked my local CVS’s website: no splint in stock. So I checked my local Walgreen’s: no splint in stock. And so it went.

Still upset, I found a piece of wood my cockatoo had stripped from her toy and taped it to my finger.

My splint. Hopefully I’ll find a better solution in the morning.

Chicken McNuggets and Monday morning car accidents

Yesterday was my first day working with a custom splint on my mallet finger instead of a cast. And it went really well— except for the times I put my splint back on the outside of my hand instead of the inside. And I went to apply fresh tape and the nurse at work wanted to help.

All-in-all, I achieved a new record (for me) in Freestyle, shipping I believe 574 items or 115% of the 500 item goal for a 10-hour shift. And that includes 15 minutes I spent trying to find a work station that was operational. If you subtract that as official “non-production time” it might be damn close to 116%.

Today, a Monday, with the traditional Monday through Friday people at work, I was assigned to a different table in QC, my regular department. It was a table just a smidgeon higher than the table I worked at last week and the line was on the left instead of the right.

This is the first time since my return-to-work in late May that I have worked on the left. In one way, it’s nice because I have been having issues with the stability of my walk and control in my right leg, so working on the left means I can use my left side more.

But working on the left side means I’m shoving all those boxes with my injured hand and after two hours the cuticle area under my nail on my injured finger is tender and really red. Despite this, at one point this morning, I reached 118%.

But then I got a call from The Teenager. She rear-ended someone in her father’s 2022 Kia SUV. The car he bought after he rear-ended someone in late December and totaled his beloved 2016 Nissan Juke.

She’s fine. It was raining and she misjudged how long it would take her to stop in the wet. The car looked driveable, but when she tried it started leaking fluid and overheating. So, she called AAA to tow it.

I left work early. At four hours into my shift, I think I had QCed 69 fixes, and goal for that specific time of day is 65. That’s with going out to my car to get info for my daughter, calling her father, and similar nonsense.

I was listening to an episode of business wars, the podcast, or was it The History Channel’s The Food that Built America and the history of Burger King vs. McDonald’s and the invention of the Chicken McNugget.

Now I distinctly remember the debut of the Chicken McNugget, which, according to the podcast, became available at all McDonalds in 1983.

I was eight. Probably riding around with my mom in her 1979 Camaro (black). We lived in a very rural area in Pennsylvania’s Slate Belt. The closest actual town was Portland, Pa., which I feature in my first novel, Manipulations (and if you are interested you can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, or at Bookshop.org here — the Bookshop price includes shipping and designates a portion of the profit to an independent bookseller of your choice).

Anyway, we had a very small supermarket in Portland so my mom would do most of her family shopping in Stroudsburg, Pa., the gateway to the Pocono Mountains. If she were shopping at Kmart for clothes or household items or at Shoprite for our groceries, we would often stop at Burger King where the delight would be a cheeseburger and some onion rings.

But if we had to go to the Stroud Mall, McDonald’s was across the street. So we want to McDonald’s. I didn’t like McDonald’s — they put onions on their burgers and I don’t like onions. So, eight-year-old me was very excited for these Chicken McNuggets. If my mom was in a good mood, I could order a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal. Which— in the eighties— came with six nuggets in a styrofoam container. And of course, I only liked the barbecue sauce.

So the podcast got me thinking about McDonald’s in general especially since I worked at a McDonald’s (a very busy McDonald’s) from the summer I graduated high school until the August after I graduated college.

We made $5.25/hour in the late 1990s. A full-time employee made $200/week. And we got one meal per shift. I ate a lot of McChicken sandwiches.

I’m thinking about McDonald’s and listening to Conan O’Brian and Andrew Gurza (not together although that would be amazing), when I get the phone call with the teenager in tears.

“Mom, I rear-ended someone in Dad’s new car.”

This was her first car accident. It’s a rainy day here and she misjudged how far she needed to stop. And she didn’t want to slam on her brakes harder and lose control of the car.

At first, she and the police officer who responded thought the car was driveable. It started leaking what looked like antifreeze and overheated. So the officer called AAA.

I told my Stitch Fix supervisors the situation and asked to leave.

The teenager told me she was on a side street “out by Target” “by the library” and I misinterpreted her and went to the wrong town.

The teenager texted me a photo of the nearest intersection and I realized my mistake and turned around.

A very kind officer waited with her and I drove her to the dog walking client she had been driving to when the accident happened.

And then I grabbed us lunch at McDonald’s because their triple cheeseburger is my favorite sandwich on the menu and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.