End of week grateful: when sunshine and lack of excitement is exactly what I’m thankful for

I worked a couple of ten hour shifts and four hours today (Saturday) as part of my obligation in Stitch Fix’s mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy.

So, this week (Monday through Saturday) I have worked 48 hours across 3 departments: Pick, QC and Women’s Returns Processing. And while yesterday my legs felt very heavy, I really didn’t have any pain. That makes me very humble and grateful.

This was my work today. When I started this was full to the tippy top— so I opened and processed all that mail and got about 300 pieces of clothing back onto the warehouse floor.

And in one of those parcels, someone lost a sock.

Yesterday we had a delightful lunchtime surprise birthday party— Coronavirus style, just our household—for teenager 2 who turned 18.

Last weekend, teenager #1 retrieved an animal cage from our cat foster gosmother. She cleaned it up and started cleaning up our “mud room.” Our greybie brothers (Fog and Misty) love it. In that way that cats think anything you bring into the house is for them.

Last but not least, I started watching Kid90 on Hulu, Soleil Moon Frye’s documentary about being a kid celebrity/teenager in the 1990s. I’m a 90s teenager, and who didn’t love Punky Brewster.

Snowy day all around

The snow started its gentle cascade yesterday and has kept going, blanketing the world in cold and stillness.

Yesterday I cleaned the birdcages— the budgie family is doing well— and spent some time cooking and checking on friends.

Snow days are for chili, and several others on Facebook had the same idea. My chili was a vegetarian version with kidney beans, black beans, black eyed peas, carrots, spinach and corn (and a Yuengling to make it just right).

I did some more concocting today. Made some pineapple-curry quinoa patties I had in the freezer and chicken potstickers with some sautéed pineapple anticipating that the teens wouldn’t be keen on the “burgers.”

I even used the juice from the pineapple to whip up some homemade sweet and sour sauce. Somehow though I grabbed the chocolate vinegar so my sweet and sour sauce turned chocolaty which actually accented the pineapple.

The animals meanwhile are either sleeping or in mischief. Minerva of the Roman Pride played in some red paint and Mistofelees decided he was a bird.

A video of Misty in the bird cage: Silly Misty in Bird Cage

The snow is still coming down and my shift at the Bizzy Hizzy has been canceled. I’m going to take my vitamins and watch another Brockmire.

I’m a Hank Azaria fan, in part because of his diverse and longstanding voice work on the Simpsons but also because he was hysterical in the Birdcage with greats Nathan Lane and Robin Williams.

I gave Brockmire a test run because of an interview on Fresh Air (this should link to the podcast). I’m finding a lot of humor and a lot of societal commentary and perhaps just reality. Some of Brockmire’s comments about larger issues like climate change surprise me. In general, Brockmire as a character experiences a lot of growth.

And he gets a tortoise in season three. As a former tortoise owner, the tortoise humor slays me. Even though he does keep calling it a turtle.

Clip featuring Clemenza: Clemenza, Brockmire’s tortoise

So now that my dishes are going and my coffee is done, let me head back to my Brockmire.

The Strongest Man in History

I spent today binge-watching The Strongest Man in History, a History Channel series where competitive strong men Robert Oberst, Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw and Nick Best try to replicate some of the most legendary strong man feats in history.

Left to right: Shaw, Hall, Best and Oberst

Now, at first I scoffed at the thought of professional strong men in a History Channel documentary series but I have to admit; they did at extraordinary job. The show was witty, had a great historical depth, and allowed the viewer to see a different side of these athletes— and for me, it offered a chance to see just how intelligent and athletic these men are.

It made me lament how far I’ve left myself go with my own fitness goals, and I could offer excuses but excuses remain excuses.

I’m sad that I finished everything series.

And I’m very impressed with Nick Best, who, at 50, keeps up with the younger men.

Supermarket-themed television

So I’m constantly on the lookout for brainless television for when I am resting or folding the mountains of wash created by the two teenagers living in my home.

Now that I’m working in the warehouse at Stitch Fix, I need something to help me unwind.

And of course I love food and grocery shopping… it seemed natural that I would explore some of the supermarket-themed television programs available via streaming.

All are available on Hulu.

Shows will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5.

Supermarket sweep— I heard that this game show had a remake. I watched one episode and while the host (Leslie Jones) had her amusing moments, the show itself seemed cheesy in the wrong way. It just wasn’t entertaining.

👍👍

Supermarket stake out— This was a fabulous concept and out of these three programs, I enjoyed this one the most. The concept is original, challenging chefs to buy groceries from shoppers leaving the stores. In some challenges, they have to buy blind. Each episode is so similar though it’s not a show you can binge.

👍👍👍👍

Guy’s Grocery Games— Guy Fiore hosts this game show where challenges for chefs include skee balling for entree choices or trying to make a classic summer dish with ingredients like powdered doughnuts. Just to silly and ruins the full capabilities of the competitors.

👍👍👍

Streaming TV: Coming of Age stories

I tend to watch TV while doing chores or when resting between fatiguing tasks. I often watch TV on my iPad when putting Nala (my Goffin’s cockatoo) to bed.

I recently finished The Crown on Netflix which fed my love of history to my writer’s mind. When I work with historical documents in my academic work, I often imagine the lives in the text.

Though I do find it… awkward that they made a television series about living royals. Then I realized— it’s Queen Elizabeth’s coming of age story.

I recently watched Free Form’s Motherland: Fort Salem, which is an alternative history, a coming of age story and in my opinion— a political drama. There are heavy ethical questions in every episode even if the plot lines seem predictably anti-cliche.

And I find it difficult to extend my “willing suspension of disbelief” to accept that witches would call a truce with the Church and State and would serve as a conscript military.

And the magic is better than Harry Potter, and the technical aspects of it are done off screen though I don’t like that the magic is mostly vocal.

But I’m very anxious to know what happens next.

Speaking of coming of age stories, I also watched the French film Mignonnes (Cuties) that is trending on Netflix. Of course, the mainstream American discussion focuses on the objectifying and sexualisation of young girls.

The main character (Ami/Aminata) is French of Muslim descent hailing from Senegal. So her grandparents and community elders speak Wolof and she is black.

Traditionally, Muslims came to France as part of the African colonial legacy. Muslims struggle with their identity and acceptance in France— regardless of racial background.

So I immediately saw how all the kids from the French projects bonded through dance even if that dance was suggestive. The fat French girl, the Latina French girl who ironed her hair, the blonde and white French girl, the black French girl and, yes, the African Muslim French girl.

This was a story of the universality or growing up in a technology rich world as a poor female. And trying to find your place and a way “out” of difficult socio-economic places.

A very different coming of age story— offering a very different time and place— was Crip Camp on Netflix. I notice Netflix documentaries made by Netflix are often merely interviews and footage randomly strung together and as such rather boring.

Finally, I’m dying to watch a final documentary, and to some Jersey kids of the 1980s it might also be a coming of age story, Class Action Park. It’s currently on HBOMax and I am considering getting a trial so I can watch it.

Action Park was an amusement park in New Jersey with such crazy rides no one would insure them. Some of my friends used to go. I vividly remember the commercials.

Two Loves Connected in Ellicott City

The backstory

My memories of Ellicott City, MD, are vague but happy. I somehow missed the severity of the 2016 and 2018 floods, perhaps due to marital issues.

My college roommate hailed from Ellicott City, and after living in Texas and North Carolina, returned to the Baltimore suburbs. A town neighboring Ellicott.

My college roommate, we’ll call her N to respect her privacy, was part of the same college social circle as my husband and I. Long before my husband and I dated, we did things like pile into N’s black Honda Accord, the car on which I learned to drive a manual transmission while blasting Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill, to swarm into N’s parents’ split level house and spend the weekend at the Maryland Renaissance Faire.

I can’t even tell you for sure what I did in Ellicott City. I know N always took me proudly down Main Street for a walk. I remember a shop with crazy hats, lively colors and the memory of a velvety texture.

When my daughter was 2, yes the teenager, I drove the three hours alone to meet N and my high school best friend who drove three hours up from Virginia. And we took lots of photos on Main Street in Ellicott City. I recall antique stores on that trip.

And I locked my keys in the trunk of the car at a rest stop two hours away from home at dusk.

I also know of another trip where N took me for coffee and dessert at what I believe was a French restaurant one night. Where I taste pear tart tartine for the first time.

I have very key memories of Ellicott City.

Gordon Ramsay

Now, if you’ve been around this blog for a while, you probably know I have a strong admiration for Gordon Ramsay. I also have some rather strong unladylike feelings for Chef.

I can’t help it— I like tall, athletic men with exotic accents and bad attitudes. And I’m a Taurus so food is really important to me.

So when I saw that Gordon filmed an episode of his latest TV show in Ellicott City a few months ago, I did what any fan girl would do: I squealed and texted all my friends. Okay, maybe not all of them. My almost ex-husband and N. I haven’t reached out to N in months but this was important.

The episode aired May 13 and is available on Hulu now.

N said she hadn’t seen it, but most of Ellicott City is still boarded up. She’s heard that the locals feel like Gordon came across as single-handedly taking credit for rebuilding the town.

(They had catastrophic 1,000 year floods two years apart—2016 and 2018.)

Gordon worked with four local businesses and made some cosmetic improvements. And then Covid hit.

I watched the double episode and didn’t feel like Gordon was being an egotistical maniac. He was kinder and more in the background than he usually is.

The story of the episode really focused on the trauma and the struggles and the personalities of the business owners and the community at large.

If anything, it seemed to honor the spirit of the town and the grit of the businesses.

I hope N gets to watch it.

I’d like to hear her opinion.

In the meantime, we need to amend the constitution so Gordon can run for President. He always seems to have his act together. Maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger can be his running mate.

Medicine in the time of Covid

I slept this morning until 8:30.

I never do that. I think the animals had started a plan as to what to do if I were dead. The three-legged cat had slowly but surely opened my bedroom door. The kittens came in and hung out in my open windows.

Last night, the teenager and I watched most of the documentary A K A Jane Roe on Hulu. The format distressed the teen as they presented Norma McCorvey’s story in her words and in the words of others (including the reverend who might be seen as her biggest adversary in the beginning)—including historical footage.

The teen found it disjointed and hard to ascertain what was “truth,” so I said with a sigh that I guess I don’t have to worry about her becoming a journalist.

We had a fantastic discussion about “when life begins,” eugenics, abortion and patriarchy and then had a little passive-aggressive disagreement about what happened to the potato chips. (Two binge eaters in the house = bad news. By the way, I’ve lost a pound. Not enough, but it’s a great start.)

This morning, the doctor’s office called me about my blood pressure check scheduled for Tuesday. They wanted to know if I still planned on coming. I said it didn’t matter to me as they had already refilled my medication.

It’s a shame my appointment isn’t today as then they might have gotten a good blood pressure reading.

And they won’t be happy about the weight I’ve gained.

So they asked me every question under the sun about my health and possibility for Covid-19 symptoms. They confirmed my medical insurance. Asked if I had a mask and if I’d be coming alone. They asked what I drive.

I am to complete my check-in online.

They will call Monday afternoon to confirm my medications.

On Tuesday when I arrive I am to call from my car. The physician’s assistant will escort me into the office when they are ready for me.

Medicine in the era of Covid-19.

TV Psychotherapy

My mind has experienced a lot of shifts recently. I have changed the way I communicate thanks to some insights of the teenager, some stress at work, and a variety of great support from friends and family.

In the midst of all this, there is the Coronavirus pandemic which allows a lot of introspection for those of us who try to be self-aware.

I’m not a big television watcher. I grew up in a rural setting in a valley by the river where we had poor television reception. We didn’t receive access to cable until I was a teenager.

When I left home, my husband and I chose not to pay for cable (and this was Netflix first started and they mailed you discs and prepaid envelopes— streaming was not a thing).

So, Hulu and Netflix on my iPad have allowed me to explore decades of pop culture. And I realize that many of these reality television programs can offer a window as to how we all face our struggles and build our relationships.

While I originally started watching Gordon Ramsay, it was because I love food and he had a reputation that I wanted to understand. I also like big, athletic guys with bad attitudes and exotic accents.

But the more I watched— whether it was Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell or other Ramsay programs— I saw people of all backgrounds reaching toward goals of increased knowledge and skills, wanting a better life, and working to impress not only a mentor but a larger-than-life icon, a modern God.

And Ramsay pulls talent out of people and sees something in people. It’s amazing to watch.

Inspiring.

Shows like 90-Day Fiancé show how desperately people want to be loved and the lengths they will go to— whether in hope of love or acceptance or, again, that desire for a better life or a Green card.

Now, I’m watching Hoarders. I watched the first episode because I’ve been in a hoarded house and it is mind-blowing. I wanted to understand.

I have learned how our upbringings and traumas intersect and influence how we communicate and relate. That stuff, shopping, accumulating, giving up and other verbs… it’s a manifestation of our emotional walls. I would classify My Secret Addiction (or is it My Unusual Addiction?) in the same realm—how to cope.

And then you take a show like Transitions, where people explore their gender identity, and I suddenly see how much of a struggle they have to live as the person they really are versus the person they feel forced to be by family and society. That’s strength.

And why you really want a good outlook, and to see hope, enthusiasm and change, you watch Queer Eye.

Kicking off my birthday

Many things happen in May that I look forward to, primarily the blooming of my lovely pink roses and Lily of the Valley (both fragrances I adore.)

Lily of the Valley, May’s flower

Warmer weather normally arrives (though this year we had snow). The school year is winding down. And there’s an anticipation akin to the new year that good things are to come.

My birthday arrives smack dab in the middle of this week and I know it’s significance will be dulled by major work deadlines and the pandemic. We do have a three day weekend coming for Memorial Day, all of which was why I had hoped to take vacation the last week of May.

Nala and I: Nala’s New Trick

That issue has not been settled, so I decided to have some mild fun to at least acknowledge to myself my birthday. Which is #45.

I ordered a sit down hot meal last night, instead of my usual stress meal of 2,000+ calories of pizza. My dear friend and editing client William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series suggested that the teenager and I deserved the treat. Ironically, it was the same restaurant my husband picked for my birthday dinner last year, Two Rivers Brewing.

More on Bill and his BDSM-themed crime novels: Sunday evening briefing: My Time of Debauchery Ends

Last time I tried Two Rivers delivery service: Two Rivers Brewing Delivery

I ordered a crowler of the Banker’s Brown ale, the breathtaking peanut butter bacon burger, bacon apple mac and cheese, and Brussel Sprouts. My daughter and I feasted like queens.

Speaking of queens, I started watching Hulu’s The Great, loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great of Russia. The costumes and sets are amazing. The script is witty and allows much thought of life and politics in that time period. I watched 5 episodes yesterday while doing housework.

The teenager had deserved a good meal as she had resecreened one of my bedroom windows.

She’s on the roof

A friend of mine texted early. He said it was a shame that people couldn’t celebrate properly because of the pandemic. But I pointed out that really nothing has changed. The teenager plans on baking me a cake— might be trying lemon cardamom this year. Cards still come in the mail. My friends and family have phones. And most restaurants have curbside or delivery.

I think the pandemic just removes a lot of the pretentious notions of what we need to survive and highlights how outdated the 40-hour workweek is. Employment for a lot of fields could be based on project completion versus time occupied at a desk.

I treated myself to a self-purchased birthday present today and thanks to the pandemic it comes with a free mask!

Dolls Kill

And this morning my mom surprised my with a few fun edibles (not THAT kind of edible) and a pair of tights.

Mom and Nala bonded and she approved of the teenager’s efforts in the garden.

So here’s hoping I can clean up this house and get my spirits to where they need to be to start the work week— and my birthday week— with enthusiasm.