The Highlight Reel of the Ides of November

It is 6:45 a.m. I went to bed around 11 p.m. last night, after a long conversation with an old friend whom I haven’t had a chance to truly connect with for years (and while we “caught up” last night as if no time had passed, it didn’t feel like the happy reconnection I thought it would), and the dog woke me up at 5 a.m.

At 6:15 a.m., after loading the dishwasher and starting laundry and trying to snuggle dog into a nap with me on the couch, I finally made coffee figuring sleep would not return.

Now, the dog is gently snoring on the other couch.

I definitely would prefer to be a cat versus a dog. The dog seems an anxious and needy creature, where the cat has an attitude and most of them act like they have their shit together.

I haven’t written much this week because my physical and emotional struggles have left me in a survival mode, and upcoming changes at work have me concerned for my long-term success at mastering my cerebral palsy and achieving work/life balance that includes leading Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

And I’m okay with these struggles, they mean I’m human and I’m alive. And I guess I want other people to know that in an age where we “social media” ourselves to death and we’re exposed to worldwide turmoil and glamour, that I’m here with you in the trenches, surviving.

So, Wednesday turned out to be a hard day. We received the official word that starting some time in December, our performance metrics will be judged daily instead of by their weekly average. And that we can miss the daily minimum two days a month. I had already turned up to work crying because of stress in my everyday life. (Which only my friend in the parking lot saw. Speaking of my friend in the parking lot… she needs a nickname as she will play a larger roll in this blog post and hopefully appear more. I think I shall call her Southern Candy, because her roots are in the Southern United States and she likes to pass out hard candy.)

Now, after my neurologist/physiatrist appointment on November 9, (see Is it Time for Botox), I filed for Intermittent Leave from work which would allow me job protection if my work missed increases due to complications from my disability or more doctor’s appointments. I now have a lot of doctor’s appointments. With recent changes at work, I seem to have triggered a couple neuromas in my right foot, which my podiatrist shot with cortisone (See The Stabby Toe and the Challenging Gait), and unbeknownst to me, as I had never had cortisone to me, this transformed my good leg into a second bad leg.

It absolutely removed all my pain, but — and this is probably why my podiatrist asked when I planned on returning to work and seemed satisfied that “tomorrow” would give me adequate time to recover– it made it impossible to control and rely on my right leg as I typically do. BUT I can also say it made me acutely aware of how I use my legs and unfairly make my right leg carry more than its share of the movement burden which is why my right hip has issues.

My left leg “scissors” causing my left knee to pretty much cross in front of my right leg when I walk (and yes, that is as awkward as it sounds) but now my right foot drags, causing my toes to curl under my foot. I have compensated for this change in walking pattern by buying cowboy boots. Not real ones, but ones we sell at work: the Kassy boot by DV by Dolce Vita. (Unboxing on YouTube here.) They allow me to hear my walk, feel my foot, and not step on my toes.

At our weekly meeting, our supervisors announce the metric change. I understand their logic. They plan workloads daily so they should measure results daily, simply put. And as this change rolls out, I’m confident the company will “do the right thing” in implementing it. I’ve been there two years, so they have investment in me as I have investment in them.

On my good days, I average 101% to 103%. But on my bad days, without some extra support that minimizes my physical struggle, I average 95%. So with the weekly average system, I’m still a “fully performing” employee. On a really bad day, which happens ironically about once or twice a month as their new system will allow, I give everything I can and sometimes only hit 85%.

Now, unlike some of my colleagues, I am also on a work roster that has changed shifts twice in the last calendar year. Yes, I have had three different work schedules in the last year: Monday to Friday, 3:30 p.m. to midnight; then Sunday to Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All very different.

Add a neurological condition to that and it’s hard to adapt. When they offered Voluntary Time Off on Wednesday, allowing us to leave three hours early, I took it. My emotional state would best be labeled as frazzled and my right hamstring had started bothering me, probably because it felt like my right leg was a useless tree trunk.

Here is the happy part. The kindness part. The part where the light shines from one person to another. Thursday morning, I get a text from Southern Candy at 5 a.m. “Stop by my car when you get to work.”

She gave me a cat figurine. A cat in frilly dress with pink bloomers, staring into a goldfish bowl that even included a goldfish.

“I know you had a hard day yesterday, and it made me think of you.”

I brought it home and placed it on one of my Parisian Phoenix bookshelves. A place I can see from my workspace at the table and/or when I’m having dinner.

To skip ahead, I’ve been thinking it’s time to record and place a request for permanent accommodations at work. By Friday morning, when one of my colleagues said he’d like to help me out with the easier work but too many people had doctor’s notes, I decided to email my supervisor. So he and I now will try to make that happen. Around the same time, my neurologist’s office called to see if they could move my December 6 appointment to December 9. The times they offered overlap with a preexisting doctor’s appointment I have.

And my intermittent leave needs to be certified by December 9. I returned their call, expressed my regret that those appointments would not work, and asked the person on the phone to please leave a message for the doctor and her nurse that my employer had sent paperwork and that I would have more paperwork and that I would gladly pay any associated fees.

I also wanted to mention I am trying to eliminate inflammatory foods from my diet, but that can wait until I see her. I am wondering if I should request to work with a dietician and get a new set of bloodwork to check not only the standards like iron and cholesterol but also vitamins like B12.

I’ve done really well not stress eating in the ten days since I’ve seen her, eating vegetarian baked beans at work yesterday while my colleagues ate piping hot pizza. My weight is slowly dropping.

I’ve eaten no junk food in the break room, choosing fruit leather and yogurt over Cool Ranch Doritos and fancy fruit snacks. I even reduced my caffeine intake. Yesterday for dinner I made thick egg sandwiches with eggplant, mozzarella and extra sharp cheddar on my favorite multigrain buns and a little chipotle mayo and avocado hot sauce. One for dinner and two to go in the freezer for work lunches this week.

Although I know my perceptions are faulty, I feel like my only success this week has been with Andrew at Apex Training. I got my gym sweatshirt, and the dog immediately jumped on me and coated it with mud so I don’t have a decent selfie… yet. But these guys at the gym have been a lifesaver. Andrew works so hard to meet my needs and come up with innovative exercises to challenge me and train my muscles to cooperate. I did a seated shoulder press this week with 30 lb dumbbells, which ignited my inner strength as my lower body becomes more useless.

I discussed my hamstring troubles and we did some balance exercise yesterday. Andrew thought I was going to stand on the balance trainer and hold a weight on one side to create instability in my stance. Then, he saw me try to stand on the ball. And we opted to practice that first.

Finally, I asked The Teenager to check on Foster Kittens Jean-Paul Sartre and Giorgio in their habitat at Petsmart. I will see them today but it brought my heart joy to see that they are doing fine.

New season: the teenager is now a young adult

It’s over.

I walked into the house after the gym today and I was met with empty rooms, deflating balloons, empty pizza boxes and cake crumbs.

The teenager is with a client. The guests have gone, even the one that drove a distance and stayed overnight.

Throughout the teenager’s life, she frequently lamented that she was the youngest in the class snd never had a birthday during the school year. That inconvenient June birthday.

But yesterday she was able to gather people who celebrated her and had seen her grow and wanted to marvel in who she was as a person, as a young adult, for a graduation/birthday party.

She wanted pizza From Nicolosi’s in Forks Township and pretzel nuggets and dip from the Pretzel Company. (And I think out friends will be patronizing Nicolosi’s now— several of their flights with the pieces cut in half is a great way to spoil guests.)

She wanted to bake her own cakes and decorate them, which she did.

She wanted to play Cards Against Humanity. And we did.

The party started with a raucous discussion of the Hess’s Department Store and ended with promises of homemade pie.

And the dog only ate a small chunk of the red velvet cake.

The teenager is now a high school graduate and soon she will no longer be a teenager. She will be the young adult or the offspring or some other nickname, but she will always be my pride and joy.

So much of parenting is learning, slowly, to step aside and let your child grow into her/his own person. To be mindful and humble and supportive without smothering. To be proud, but subtle. To encourage and guide, but not nag.

And to trust.

To trust your parenting. Your child. And that young person’s decisions.

And seeing that child grown— the love that pours out of you… eventually you might feel like a deflated balloon and then that child does something that makes you float once again.

I will always be my daughter’s mother, but the bulk of the intense, hands-on work is done.

And so today, Curly led us in making an infused oil of basil, lavender and sea salt to bless ourselves and my home with positivity.

It’s all part of the cycle— especially for women— maiden, mother, crone. I guess I might have to transition to the crone phase now.

Zigzag: Random thoughts about exercise, food and friends

Yesterday before the teenager and I took our impromptu trip to Hershey to visit with Curly, I had the good fortune to have a coffee date with a neighbor who has proven herself time and time again as a reliable friend.

We met while pregnant, due dates a week apart, homes a few blocks apart, and with jobs in the same town in the next state. Even though we lived less than a block apart for most of the teenager’s life (and the fact that her son and my daughter have first names that are one letter apart and family names that are very similar and fall alphabetically beside each other), she and I have not kept in touch the greatest— but somehow— when I need her, she seems to be there.

She even worked for me for about six months when I needed a staff member that could act without much hand-holding and understood my working style. The partnership renewed our connection— and the employer recently asked her to return to the organization and she politely declined.

We had the chance to discuss these things over “coffee” at the diner where the teen used to waitress. But the day was rainy and we both wanted soup instead of coffee, so we had our mom therapy session over bowls of pepper pot.

We talked about the teenagers’ post-high school plans, the value and frustration of college, our health, medical insurance in America, and how hard it must be to be a teen in today’s world.

I mention this as a reminder of how sometimes, sharing a moment can bring laughter and release.

Our latest Hungryroot box came, and I realized for the first times in all these months of Hungryroot that the reusable nitrogen ice packs are plant food. Now I can’t wait to pour that on our compost heap.

Speaking of food subscription services, my breakfast today was Cabot cottage cheese from Grocery Outlet and a sprouted multigrain everything bagel and garlic herb probiotic cream cheese from Hungryroot.

My lunch was leftover cauliflower linguine and one meatball from Hungryroot, basil tomato sauce from ShopRite and a pile of plain lentils I made.

Turns out lentils are a great way to add plant protein to spaghetti.

And finally, my session at Apex Training today was not easy— but I did it. We did a lot of sweat-inducing balance exercises. I have been having issues with stiffness since I left work and my walk has been unstable. This morning my right leg felt off. So I told Andrew and together we thought it might be super tight. Well, by the time I left, my right leg and back were screaming.

But after a shower and an NSAID to make sure nothing is inflamed, at least I don’t feel like a pile of grinding gears needing oil.

Road trip to Harrisburg rerouted to Hershey

The plan: the teenager and I would head out after school today and meet my college roommate Curly for a belated Beltane dinner at a brewery in Harrisburg— approximately half way between our home and hers.

But in the pouring down rain, the accidents started to pile up (pun intended) and Curly would arrive at the Mill Works 30 minutes or more before we would.

And that would have us arriving in Harrisburg and at the brewery for Happy Hour.

So I suggested a mid-travel switch from Harrisburg to Hershey. And since we needed to agree on a coordinate before driving too much farther, I suggested Fuddruckers as we used to take the teenager there on road trips in her younger days and for some reason, she adores it.

We lingered there as long as we could trying to find something to do in the evening and in the rain. I found a couple cafes and a family amusement center with go-karts but it seemed something called the cocoabeanery was nearby so we headed there.

Which turned out to be Hershey Lodge.

And when I texted Sobaka’s mom that we ended up at Hershey Lodge, where she often stays for the state school board conference she asked if we could pick up her lotion. And sent us a photo.

We did some chatting over beverages in the lobby. I had a lavender latte. The cocoabeanery turned out to be the hotel’s breakfast room in the off hours. We got to watch many teens at their prom.

Curly and the teenager did some energy work, and invited me to join, but my vibrations freaked out the teen.

And now… the drive home.

I had a good day

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good day. Sunday was okay, but then Monday was hard. I had to ask the question—

How can one day be so much harder than the day prior? Shouldn’t grief get incrementally easier?

I had either a mild cold or intense backlash from not taking my allergy medicine which really fatigued me. Combine that with my father’s death, no real Christmas to speak of and a formerly good friend reappearing Sunday night to gaslight me, again, hopefully for the last time.

I have been short-tempered, moody and a little meaner than usual. We all understand the reasons why, right? In addition to this very emotional stuff, I am still dealing with what is essentially premature aging in my spine and a new extended work day and a daily schedule that involves flipping my previous life upside down. I used to go to be at 2 a.m. and now my alarm wakes me at 5 a.m. That is, when cats don’t request a cuddle at 4:30 a.m.

The former friend in question here wished me a happy and safe holiday after ignoring me for the last three weeks— which unbeknownst to me was on purpose because I wouldn’t provide this person informative on a quasi-sorta date I went on. This person felt slighted and like they were not valued as a friend because I did not share something I felt was personal and none of their business (I told none of my friends) AND something that didn’t go anywhere worth reporting.

Apparently, this friend— who has a history of gaslighting— stopped looking at my social media, my blog, etc. Not once did this friend say anything to me.

This friend said nothing when my dad passed.

So, being at the end of my rope in every category, I lashed out.

I said mean things. The same mean things I have said to this person before and this person has responded not by addressing those issues but with points on how nasty I can be.

I’m wondering if I need to block this person. I don’t want to, because once upon a time this person was a good friend. But circumstances outside my control have changed my relationship with this person.

And I don’t have the emotional energy to placate people any more.

And in those same terms— I am so grateful for those friends who keep checking on me. You know, the ones that actually pay attention to what is happening in my life.

But anyway… my good day…

I am realizing more and more that stress makes my aches and pains flare. And I wonder if that contributes to the burning sensation in my quads and my instability.

At work, it quickly became apparent that I was hitting my metrics! I texted the teenager and asked if she wanted to have breakfast on my 15 minute break. She made a Dunkin run and brought the dog to see me.

I think I maintained 95% in QC all day.

Lunch was delicious — leftover chicken with vodka sauce and fresh broccoli, kale, and spinach.

And I got to style card, which I also got to do yesterday. It feels good to do something different and work in positions not everyone in the warehouse knows.

It just felt like a normal day, and I felt like me, and not a foggy me.

Nobody gives a sh*t, in a good way

I intended today’s post to be about my medical appointments, but grief and death have a way of sneaking into everything.

So, let me start this post by saying I’ve been released from physical therapy and let’s hope I do yoga and more weight training to improve more and free myself or even more pain.

I haven’t been to the gym in two weeks because first came the schedule change, then my trainer got sick and then my dad died.

My dad, visiting the teenager at her waitressing job

Today, my college roommate reached out to say she would drive up from Baltimore if I needed her. And I started to weep in the parking lot of physical therapy, because she and I have been extremely sporadic in our contact since we graduated. I never even told her when the teenager’s father and I split up.

I did finally tell her, but only after she sent a Christmas card.

So many people have been kind in the wake of my father’s death, but to have such an act of kindness offered just hit me hard.

And then, as I have often since we met with the funeral home, I checked for his obituary. This time, I found it.

Daddy’s Obituary

Now it could just be I’m grieving and therefore have a lower IQ than usual— I somehow got the dog’s bowls stuck together— but it is a little tricky to navigate the options on my phone to see the obituary.

And finally, my daughter looked at me this morning and said, “you know how you always say that my generation has an easier time with body acceptance… for me, that wasn’t social media or TikTok or anything, it was Poppop. He never said anything when I started gaining weight, and if I said something, he’d say, ‘Nobody gives a sh*t. Fat, skinny, you’re still my grandkid.’”

And he’d know how to get those damn bowls unstuck.

Nobody gives a sh*t. Fat, skinny, you’re still my grandkid.

Jim Ackerman, “Poppop on the Mountain.”

First Thanksgiving of the season

I have always harbored a certain resentment that holidays are defined as certain days, and since I worked retail for a decade, I adopted the attitude that holidays and celebrations happen when people gather not on a certain date or on the fourth Thursday in November.

My foster cat godmother gave us an 18-pound turkey and as I was a vegetarian for about eight years until my carnivorous daughter was born, I have never cooked a turkey. And it felt like this was the year to try.

I did some internet research and got the bird out of the fridge only to discover that my cheap refrigerator had frozen part of this damn turkey and even after soaking it in hot water we had a terrible time getting the neck from the chest cavity.

But luckily the teenager is stubborn like her mother and got the neck out, which looked and felt disturbingly phallic.

Teenager with a bird neck

I assembled the coleslaw by placing cabbage, radishes and carrots in my Ninja food processor. I made a honey mustard dressing.

I slathered the turkey with butter, purple pepper, smoked paprika, poultry seasoning and sage and placed it in the oven. I “basted” it every thirty minutes by recycling the juices from the drip pan and wiping them across inside the bird with a pastry brush.

Then I whipped up the corn bread and placed it in my neighbor’s oven while I assembled the green beans Caesar and the sweet potato crunch.

I didn’t have enough pecans so I put some mixed nuts in the Ninja and that made my nuts more like nut butter. That was the only real “fail” of the night. But I liked it.

I heated up some corn and made some butter-sage turkey gravy from scratch. Nan brought some cranberry sauce. And Darnell and Amber were kind enough to stop by and rescue me when it came time to carve my bird.

Teenager #1 made a deliriously good batch of homemade mashed potatoes.

I heated up some corn and the spaghetti squash I grew in my compost heap.

Jan stopped by with her ladyship Sobaka and we had three teenagers in the house. That felt good.

The Rocking Chair

When I was a girl, our house had a fairly plain rocking chair in the living room.

As a girl, I never really thought about it.

And then, when I got pregnant with the now teenager, my friend gave me a rocking chair that was the same basic rocking chair.

I was tickled.

My mother-in-law made cushions for it to match the enchanted forest-themed nursery. (The teenager has never painted over the mural.)

Gradually, when breastfeeding and rocking a grumpy baby was no longer a thing, the rocking chair went down stairs.

The cats like it.

And as the house seems to get smaller, now the chair is on the enclosed sun porch.

Do you know how hairy this chair gets with four cats?

I finally realized today that I could remove the cushions, not just vacuum them. After all, my mother-in-law made the cushions so we could be comfortable with the baby.

The baby just turned 16.

I removed the cushions. I’ll wash the covers and maybe I’ll put them back, maybe I won’t.

How many of us cling to habits or things because we just haven’t realized that we don’t need them or that they don’t serve a purpose?

The rocking chair looks good bare. More appropriate for the porch.

Sometimes we need to stop for a minute and learn to recognize when we are functioning on auto-pilot and not in response to our current environment or situation.

Encounter at Nearpoint

Tonight, the teenager and I are watching the pilot episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, “Encounter at Far Point.” We ate some of our gourmet Double Good popcorn that the teenager sold to pay for her marching band trip that has now been canceled.

It allowed me to be a little punny with my title— as while the Enterprise explores the far reaches of the galaxy, the teenager and I had our own encounter near home, visiting a dear friend and mentor who may not even realize how key she has been in my personal and professional development.

And she has a beautiful piece of property near us where the teenager could sip their own special lemo-tea and galavant through the sun-kissed woods.

On the way home, the teenager and I stopped at Wendy’s for cheeseburger kids’ meals for dinner as I had some volunteer work to do in the evening— we opted to postpone our proposed vegetarian Mexican dinner.

Between my two phone meetings for my volunteer commitment, I went for a walk with my neighbor. The walk is about a mile and a half, but for some reason it registers as about three miles on the Apple Health app.

Whipped coffee and Facebook connections

The right doses of caffeine and sugar shoot me into the heavens like a rocket ship.

This was the best use of Nescafé instant coffee I ever encountered.

A new acquaintance I met at a Christmas party posted the link on her Facebook page and I bookmarked it.

I decided today was the day.

I was just about to make this when another friend, one who used to be in my writers critique group when the teenager was a small child, called for a long chat. This spirited woman moved away a few or more years ago and as it goes when you’re older than 30, life zips by and five years feels like five minutes and you realize you’ve lost touch with people who meant a lot to you.

This particular person participated in some sort of virtual writing workshop and posted a video of herself reading the opening of her manuscript. I watched the video and remembered this character from our time together and commented how far her voice as an author had come.

That’s how we reconnected.

And if that person wants to share her video, she is welcome to post it in the comments.

PS— I made the recipe as directed but poured *all the servings* of coffee into about 10 ounces of milk. So you may want to be smart and NOT do that. Because my heart is racing.