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.

The Art of Self-Soothing

I haven’t made it a secret that I’ve been struggling. Fitness, stress and work have been heavy on my mind.

And I don’t know about you—but when I’m stressed the habits I need most seem to be the ones that fall first.

First to go is cooking. I love to cook. I love to enjoy a meal. But as soon as I am stressed, I start eating processed foods and pizza, because I like those foods and they are easy. But they take a toll. Even though my weight is healthy, I can still feel the impact of those foods on my body, my stamina, my energy, and my moods.

I’ve worked really hard lately to balance stress eating with healthy eating. I actually brought a frozen dinner to work to eat for lunch earlier this week. I actually crept into my office to eat it in secret because I was embarrassed. I didn’t even enjoy it. I was just lazy.

So I went home and made this casserole:

Now this was a delight: spaghetti squash roasted by the teenager, then I mixed it with tomato sauce, kale, chick peas, feta and Italian cheese blend. I sprinkled in some nutritional yeast for extra vitamins.

Speaking of vitamins, when I’m stressed I stop taking mine. I don’t eat as much at meals when stressed so I don’t have a full enough stomach to take my vitamins. On top of that, then I end up snacking and binge eating chips or Doritos.

Another bad habit when I’m stressed is over-cleaning. In a desperate attempt to control something in my environment, I clean until I exhaust and/or hurt myself.

And if you see me skip a blog entry, that could also signify I’m tapped out.

So how can I self-soothe?

  • Text friends and make arrangements to go out. Today I texted my husband and asked if he could visit me at lunch time. I cried and told him my fears and my struggles. Despite the fact that I asked him to move out in June, and we’ve lived apart with minimal contact for eight months, he hugged me and held me and that made my cry more. I think that was the best hug he ever gave me. He made me feel protected. So I thank him for that.
  • Play with the kittens, cuddle with Nala (my Goffins cockatoo), manhandle one of my older cats or listen to the budgies sing.
  • Watch stand-up comedy. I love stand-up.
  • Shave and moisturize. Something about soft, smooth skin is reassuring.
  • If I’m not going to the gym, I at least need to do physical therapy exercises for my S1 joint in my back and my balance.
  • Write more.
  • Does budgeting count? I hope to do a blog entry on budgeting. I don’t mean paying bills, I mean planning the future use of anticipated income. It also makes me feel in control.
  • Occasionally splurge on a fancy coffee or a treat. But not often enough to qualify as stress eating.

Okay, I’ve shared what I had to share. I’m going to watch some Gordon Ramsay now. Another relaxation technique. Eventually I want to blog about his different shows. He is very prolific.

Tree Trimming Party

Once we got our tree together we had a small gaggle or friends over to decorate.

We ended up with three trees: the real tree, the mini tree of the teenager’s special ornament selection, and the “Who” tree, our artificial tree decorated like a tree from Whoville.

The wines I reviewed earlier:

Wines from the Tree Trimming Party

We even invited some neighborhood dogs, Buddy and Sobaka.

Highlights:

  • The teen’s childhood Christmas compilations including the ones where she sings are still adorable.
  • We lost some of the tree lights and couldn’t find them until the tree was lit.
  • Dark chocolate hummus is very tasty on raspberries.
  • My big dumb cat Oz is always a party favorite.
  • It’s fun to have mismatched wine glasses
  • One second you have plenty of brownies and macaroons and the next they are gone.

And no Christmas tree is complete without a spectacle of putting up the star:

The Debut of the Disco Star