A little bit of life updates: from warehouse work to cat fostering

This particular blog post will touch on brief updates of multiple areas of my life.

1. My new phone: The refurbished iPhone Xs sent to be my Square Trade has developed a green line in the display. I went to report it and their website is down for maintenance.

2. The laundry room project: The teenager has selected a color with the help of her grandmother, polka dot skirt.

3. Hungryroot and Purple Carrot: Yesterday’s meal kit was Purple Carrot’s Palestinian Spiced Peppers with Crispy Seitan and Tomato Caper Relish and Lemon Dill Rice. We also cooked the Chicken Bruschetta Burgers from Hungryroot. Everything was amazing.

4. Work and/or Disability: starting Thursday night my body was stiff and my right leg is giving me so much trouble. It appears to be the perfect blend of weather (tropical storms), hormones (ovulation) and disability (cerebral palsy). I was very uncomfortable.

But my numbers at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy have been consistently decent— I QC’ed 46 fixes from 3:30 to 6:30ish, and then picked an M cart in 20 minutes before clocking out at 7:05. The night prior I was on “mailer machine” (a folding machine that operates with a lot of compressed air) that they call creased lightning.

5. Foster Cats: someone expressed interest in Louise. Here’s a video of her last night: Louise

FURR Khloe
FURR Shady

6. The Gym (Apex Training): I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. I’ve always wanted to do barbell lifts. So far I’ve done bench press and deadlifts. Today I did four sets: one of three so my trainer could evaluate the weight of the lift, a set of five, another of eight, and a final of five.

He didn’t tell me how much weight that was— but my research from Mr. Google says the bar is 45 pounds and the plates are 20 kg. That together it’s 135 pounds?

The eye of the storm: the kitten cafe launches Sunday

I have had so much fun and have so much anticipation for Sunday’s Pop Up Kitten Cafe to benefit Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

It’s 2 a.m.

I need to be at the gym at 10 a.m.

But I just finished a salad from Wawa with spinach, chicken salad, carrots, apples and feta. Trying to combat stress with nourishing food.

After all, yesterday was Friday the 13th.

I sent N.J. EZ Pass a copy of my check from my daughter’s violations from her vacation. Apparently they need the front and back and I only sent the front.

I took my phone to Best Buy for repairs as Square Trade told me too. The screen repair would be $379, and my deductible is $129. But my phone is an old iPhone X (purchased in April 2018) and the battery is only at 84% and the face sensor is dead. So Best Buy does not recommend repairing it. They sell replacement iPhone X for I believe it was $549. But they didn’t have any.

So I had to go home, call SquareTrade and have them ship me a replacement. They are sending an Xs. Via FedEx. That is supposed to come today while I am running for the cafe. I hope I’m back in time.

[Edit: 2 p.m. No phone. No note from FedEx. Just a Chewy.com box.]

By the time I went to work last night, I was frazzled. I’ve been part of a small cohort in QC this week while most of the « Midnight Society » team has gone to inbound processing. Because of body stiffness I only made 113 fixes Tuesday and Wednesday night. I’ve lost my mojo.

Last night I started strong, doing 9 fixes every 30 minutes. But by lunch I had slowed down and couldn’t get my speed back up.

I was stressing way too much about the numbers— not in a mental way, as I knew the number who improve from my two “bad nights” and life happens. Physically though it was harder to breathe, my heart quickened and my stomach quivered. And I knew it was a panicked feeling from the stress of everything.

I opened my Ginger Mental Health app. I reached out to a counselor who said something about a mental vacation and that sounded like an amazing idea. (Stitch Fix offers free access to Ginger for its employees.)

She sent me a meditation but my mind had already drifted away to my own memories of vacation in Yemen and Djibouti. I thought about how soothing the call to prayer on the loud speaker was. Video: Call to prayer Djibouti City and if you want some Afar dancing and singing: Afar dancing (only snippets because on Lac Abbé we didn’t have electricity and I didn’t want my phone to go dead.)

And I thought it would me beautiful to hear that right now. I found this on Spotify: Life of the Prophet. That brought me peace.

When I got home I recorded this: Midnight Vlog

Stress, leg day, wins for the cat cafe, taste testing and EZ Pass Drama

In 45 minutes, I need to leave for work. It’s Thursday and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving all week. I’m behind on my own commitments and starting to feel panicked.

The pop up kitten cafe fundraiser for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is this Sunday.

Although it has required effort from many people, in the last few days this has become my baby.

In the last 24 hours, we received commitments from Just Born candy and Target #2536 (the same Target where I used to work and that experienced a fatal shooting in the parking lot last weekend).

This brings our list of supporters to:

  • Many individual bakers
  • Easton Baking Company
  • Philly Pretzel
  • Wawa
  • Wegmans
  • Giant Food Stores
  • Keystone Snacks
  • Chocolate Works
  • Target
  • Just Born

Today the teenager and I will be heading to Keystone Snacks to get the Veggie Chips donation.

So that’s the fundraiser but meanwhile real-life goes on. I haven’t worked on William Prystauk‘s upcoming novel in his Kink Noir series, Bondage, in several days. Our personal cat, kitty cancer survivor Opie has a very goopy, wet eyes. This is very unusual for Opealope so I gave him a couple treatments with a chamomile tea eye wash for cats grown and prepared by our fellow foster, Granola Cat Lady.

Despite all this (and only 5 hours sleep from sharing my bed with the teenager’s dog, F. Bean Barker), I still made it to Apex Training for leg day and some warm-up core work. My body was very stiff after that, not really from the workout but because my period is late and doing things to my body.

Although I have to admit I fell on the way to the gym and broke the screen to my iPhone. After 3.5 years I now get to test my SquareTrade insurance.

The other big news is that the teenager installed a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old one had screws so stripped it kept falling off while you were sitting on it. Bad news is: our bathroom is 1950s Flamingo Pink. The new toilet seat is white— the only one they had. I hate white toilet seats on colored bowls but I also hate “falling in.” And now that she’s seen it, the teenager agrees.

I finally tried my Emmi Roth cheddar cheese snacks from Hungryroot which were supposed to be for tuna artichoke melts but I couldn’t bring myself to use such fancy cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich. A colleague and I were talking about snacks & cheese so I brought her some and we tried it at the Bizzy Hizzy.

She loved it so much she googled where to buy it. Apparently it’s only available in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It literally melts in your mouth.

After work I went to Sheetz and ordered a pina colada lemonade with immunity boost with my bonus points. It tasted like candy, too thick to be refreshing but definitely very summery. I added some mango vodka when I got home. (Here’s a video if you want to see me talk to myself in a parking lot at midnight.)

And finally, not sure if I mentioned it on the blog, but I’m another step closer to resolving the great EZ Pass Drama of Summer 2021. Did you ever procrastinate something so long it bit you in the ass?

Yeah, so that’s what happened to me.

So, our Nissan Ultima (oh how I loved that car) died suddenly. My husband and I were still together and only had one car. He replaced the Ultima was a used Nissan Juke— a car he had wanted for a while. We moved everything from the Ultima into the Juke.

I had ordered an EZ Pass when I started work on my master’s in world history at West Chester University and was driving down the turnpike at least once a week.

So I knew that the EZ Pass was connected to my car— the Ultima— but I never really used it. I forgot about it. And then I bought my Jetta because I hated the Juke. Our family didn’t really go anywhere. I worked retail so I never really got time off. I had stopped working on my master’s as money got tight and my marriage continued to fail.

I neither returned nor updated the EZ Pass.

My husband returned the box of random things from the Ultima and I, with other things on my mind, tossed the transponder in my car hoping to remember to update it.

I never did.

At this point, I don’t even remember how to access my EZ Pass account.

This summer, the teenager took her grandmother to Cape May. She pulled up to the first toll booth and the toll collector yelled at her for trying to pay the toll.

Being a dutiful child, she trusted the toll collector who told her she had an EZ Pass.

Two weeks later, we get two violations from NJ EZ Pass. $30 in missed tolls and $55 in administrative fees. My daughter and I send a check, but I also send an email stating that I understand I hadn’t updated the EZ Pass, but my daughter had tried to pay the toll and the toll collector yelled at her.

They cashed the check.

Then a couple weeks after that I get a letter from PA Turnpike EZ Pass stating I had insufficient funds in my account and they were threatening to ticket me. Now, my EZ Pass was on a credit card. That credit card expired one month before my daughter’s trip.

I call the number. Because I don’t know my account pin or my transponder number, I am forced to leave a message and they say they will call me back. That was Monday.

A couple days ago I get another letter from NJ EZ Pass. They claim I didn’t pay one of the two violations. I send another email and send them a screen shot from my banking app of the cashed check.

It’s now Thursday. I go to PA EZ Pass and try to remember all my account info. I easily succeed. I look at the “insufficient funds.” $5.37 cents. They also demand $35 to load my account fully. Even though I haven’t used it in three years.

And you can’t just pay what you owe.

I then go to the “manage vehicles” tab, add the Jetta and delete the Ultima. That took five minutes. Had I done that years ago, I could have avoided the whole drama.

Advocate: A Difficult Day on the Health Quest

Well, if yesterday made one thing apparent… it’s that sometimes answers lead to bigger questions.

And questions often shake our foundations.

I have had an appointment every day this week before work. In the last ten days or so, I have seen my therapist, my personal trainer, my chiropractor (who has a background in physical therapy) and my primary care doctor and one of his new residents.

Yesterday was the latter.

This recounts why I was seeing my doctor. Later in this post, some of this info may be pertinent.

My heart was genuinely excited for the visit as I’ve made a lot of positive health habit changes and my primary care physician and I have a great relationship. Normally my care is a discussion and we work together to resolve my issues.

Since Covid, the practice has seemed much less organized and attentive as usual. They also recently took on some family practice medical residents. I waited in the exam room for 75 minutes.

I went into my phone to record my blood pressure on iHealth. And that’s when I noticed— iHealth has been recording my double support time and my walk asymmetry for a year. (This morning I compared my walking and balance statistics with my teenager’s and her walk is more screwed up that mine! My walk is consistent and consistently “off” but hers gets severely skewed every time she gets plantar warts. Turns out my neighbor has more issues in this area than I do, too.)

So, at 12:15 pm — as I am lusting for a glass of water and breakfast, I had nothing yet but a gargle of purple listerine— the resident enters the room and apologizes for the tardiness. I told her I was about to order GrubHub out of fear they forgot me.

I told her everything about me (as she had never met me before) and relayed that the doctor wanted to see me. I also mentioned that muscle relaxers might be a better fit to ease my periodic pain than ibuprofen or acetaminophen because it might be more due to the stress on my joints and the tightness of my muscles as a side effect of the cerebral palsy.

Now, remember, my anemia started more than 12 years ago with work stress, gaining weight and heavy menstrual bleeding. And I came to my current doctor because my former one refused to look into the source of my anemia. And that doctor made me cry. And I had started having panic attacks.

Now I am back in a similar symptom situation but I have better mental health and a way better doctor.

The resident goes and gets my doctor. I propose waiting several months to see if the anemia improves with the mesures I am pursuing now. He is worried about polyps in my colon. We agreed I will use some stool cards for a home test.

I didn’t feel heard about my request to find solutions for my body pain because then we discussed my mental health.

And he wanted me to visit their new staff psychiatrist to rule out any issues (like bipolar 2) that might require a mood stabilizer.

Now I complete understand why his said this: I had mentioned some dramatic temper incidents previous to some of my recent lifestyle changes, I had asked to restart the prescription for a very low dose of lexapro that had been prescribed for high blood pressure to see if it would even out some premenstrual mood swings, and I had mentioned some highs and lows in the past.

But I also said the isolation of the pandemic gave me the space I needed to deal with some heavy duty stress, and that good things were developing for me and I felt like this was one of the great years in my life. I talked about having rid myself of anxiety and being able to look back at that former period of my life with understanding of myself and pride. And that my therapist and I were finally looking at my childhood trauma as I scored 6/7 on the ACE test.

And he knows I have been in therapy for more than a decade. And that my therapist recommended him. Shouldn’t he let my therapist request that type of referral?

So I felt betrayed and it reintroduced feelings of anxiety and insecurity, not being sure if my medical professional was really paying attention to me and what I was saying. I had just mentioned delving into childhood trauma for the first time in my life. I am having other health issues that I need to address. So now, in my opinion, is not the time for questioning my brain chemistry.

So we agreed to discuss my anemia and my psychological state with my gynecologist (whom I see Monday) and my therapist and revisit the issue when I return in three months to discuss the follow up blood work.

This left me shaken and wanting to scream, “Stay in your lane.” I went to the doctor because he asked me to come discuss my anemia— how did a shrink come into play?

I often think this is how people get misdiagnosed, not by bad doctors, but by doctors trying to rule everything out and in the process convincing patients they need different help that they actually need. Like when people see a commercial for medicine and later “ask your doctor if (this expensive drug) is right for you.”

I emailed my therapist from my phone as soon as I got into my car. By 3:30 pm, he said he disagreed with this assessment— that I should be screened by a psychiatrist— but that we would discuss. Honestly, he is the only person I would trust with a decision like that. We all need to build teams we can trust. And this is how I advocate for myself.

When I got home, around 2 p.m., I finally had my morning coffee and made this— what I would call my “summer vegan sandwich,” courtesy of my stress shopping last week and a Hungryroot delivery. (See the teenager unboxing here.) Lightlife bacon tempeh, Hungryroot lemon tahini, romaine, deli pickle on 12-grain bread.

I didn’t take proper care of the animals (loosing almost four hours of my day to a doctor’s appointment that normally takes one hour).

I QCed 123 fixes, which is far better than the 116 the night prior. When my favorite Stitch Fix supervisor said hello, she asked how I was, I said okay. She looked at me askance and said, “only okay?”

She told me if I needed anything or if there was anything she could do to let her know. But she can’t fix the emotions in my head. So I thanked her and went back to some of my standbys— showtunes!

I listened to the soundtrack of Avenue Q as we used to in the makeshift temporary newsroom of Lehigh Valley News Group, and I can still remember one of my favorite young editors with her big headphones on, fighting her stress and her insecurities with a dose of “What do you do with a B.A. in English/It sucks to be me.”

Apparently this is the whole musical on YouTube. Check it out.

And if you just want the song… Here you go.

Speaking of the newspaper days, I’ve reached out to some Chronicle colleagues for help with promoting the FURR Pop Up Cat Café August 15. The man who hired me for that newspaper (the boss of my best boss ever) mentioned that my daughter has grown up in the blink of an eye (which he has seen thanks to Facebook).

And that brought back great memories as I think the teenager was the only baby born to a staff member during the run of those newspapers. I realized I was pregnant while planning a political debate sponsored by the newspaper in Phillipsburg, N.J.

So yesterday was hard, and I managed to avoid slipping into those old panic-prone mentalities. I am drained today but luckily only have a four hour shift.

Photography and musings on the visual arts

I admire artists. I have several friends who have the visual arts among their gifts, as does the teenager’s dad and his family. They have « the music » too. Well, the teenager’s dad has a pretty good ear for music, but he doesn’t make any. But visual arts is a language he speaks. And he almost went to Pratt Art Institute instead of Moravian College.

Me, I have always loved all of the arts but I have an absolute tin ear for music—it’s just an alien language I cannot speak or hear as those who are fluent do—and I struggle with visual arts.

I practiced for years to learn the basics of fashion drawing and every time I stop doing it I have to get out the books and magazines and teach myself all over again.

I commissioned a fashion illustration from Renie Hanna that still hangs in my living room.

Original commission by Renie Hanna

I love the Impressionists— Berthe Morisot is my favorite and my favorite museum is the Musée D’Orsay in Paris.

My friend Rachel has given us watercolor paintings, which I hang with pride. We need new glass for one, the strange one, which is slated for a new home in the living room.

And the only painting I ever saw that I HAD to have was one by Heather Pasqualino Weirich— and it has hung in my “entry hall” for about a decade and still mesmerizes me with it’s vibrancy and simplicity.

Heather Pasqualino Fine Art

Interestingly, the two paintings in my bedroom were done by me and my step mom in those “any idiot can paint” classes. I love them, but I know they are relatively crude and awful.

How anyone can pull a picture out of their head and see the details to replicate on paper is a great mystery to me.

That is why I love photography. It captures moments that are happening. It freezes time. There are two great tricks to photography: 1. To take a lot of photos so you don’t miss anything and 2. To sense when a real moment is about to happen and not miss it.

My daughter’s latest iPhone has a camera way better than my iPhoneX and it has given her a chance to explore photography. Perhaps when she rouses from her bed on this rainy Sunday, I can convince her to pick a series of her favorites and host a show here on my blog.

But she took these photos of me yesterday, and I want to share them with you because they capture so much… We went to pick up her dress at The Attic clothes in Bethlehem. They are hosting online sales via Instagram and Facebook.

She asked to surprise her grandparents (her father’s parents) who live a few blocks away.

I said sure.

Now, my husband and I have lived apart for 10 months. We haven’t started divorce proceedings yet probably because it’s a new process and neither one of us likes to do new things that make us uncomfortable. There’s a whole lot of practical things that don’t impede our daily lives that we need to untangle. And we just haven’t.

So I always feel a little awkward showing up at his parents’ house. Especially unannounced as I have no reason to be there.

But I had a lovely conversation with my father-in-law and my mother-in-law fed us the leftovers her husband didn’t want to eat and she told the teenager stories.

Cabbage and noodles with the teen

And we compared the teenager to her paternal great grandfather who died before she was born. Pappy Buss was a farmer, a master carpenter who did some work for Martin Guitar, a pure-hearted Christian man who embodied everything a good person should be, and a mischievous prankster.

His first language was Pennsylvania Dutch and he played trumpet, unless I have my facts wrong.

But every since the day my daughter was born, I felt she had a piece of Pappy in her. And it gets stronger as she ages. Of course, she doesn’t have Pappy’s quiet demeanor.

So, here are the photos the teenager took of me at her grandmother’s kitchen table, eating angel food cake.

Technology: iPhone junkie unplugged

Image

A month ago, I left my phone in D.C. It came home in this package.

I am an iPhone junkie.

Everyone around me knows it. I have never denied it. Earlier this summer, I left my iPhone 4 on my friend’s bookshelf in D.C. where it was charging. He mailed it to me, but since I left on a Thursday and the phone arrived on Monday afternoon, that meant five days without my phone.

Monday, while cleaning the bathroom, my iPhone slipped from my pocket and went for a brief swim. As it fell, I reached out to catch it but it was too late. Submerged in water for about seven seconds, the time and my home screen flashed at me briefly before it powered down. I sealed it inside a plastic bag of whole grain brown rice. I’m told I can’t touch it for a week. A week!

That was about 50 hours ago. I find it’s not the Facebook or the Instagram I miss as badly as the lack of information. When my husband mocked me for not knowing a 1980s cartoon monkey, there would be no YouTube search. No news makes it into my house. My favorite news sources’ tweets fall upon other ears. No texts from my father. No Facebook messages from work colleagues pushed to the forefront to let me know that extra shifts are mine for the claiming.

No impromptu photography of the ridiculous things my daughter does. No blogging of the meals we eat day-to-day for my recipe blog, http://www.angelfoodcooking.blogspot.com. My email is limited, as we don’t really have internet in the house. Those job listings I find via the Indeed app each morning… Those are far away. No pedometer to tell me how far I’ve walked or where I walked it.

It’s hard to check my bank balance, especially since I have several accounts at two different banks all of which are more or less empty. When I went to Target to buy my grandmother a new nightgown, I couldn’t use Cartwheel. Read a book? Listen to music? Nope, can’t do that, either. No maps. No easy access to my calendar, phone numbers or addresses. No GPS to tell me where I am. No apps to help me find the nearest bike path or public transports. I can’t even buy a train ticket.

I’ve been told I can do things via my phone that some people haven’t mastered on their computers. I edited press releases via the Pages app, share them as Word docs and save them to Google Drive or simply email them. I keep PDFs of my resume, favorite samples, portfolio and recent newsletters that I can distribute with a touch of my finger.

My Instagram followers and Facebook friends may think I’m dead. In a way, I am. I am using my circa 2009 Nokia flip-phone that I gave my husband after his phone went through the washing machine. The kind people who answered at my carrier’s customer service line have forwarded my calls to his line. But that leaves us one phone. For a family of three. And no landline. My daughter doesn’t even remember when we had a “house phone.” Answering machines are alien technology.

The ring tone of my ancient phone is Cake’s “No Phone.” The lyrics remind me, “No Phone. No Phone. I just want to be alone today.” I loaded it as a joke back-in-the-day when I was a newspaper reporter. In the days before iPhones, Twitter and Facebook.

But, hey, the old Nokia has a car charger.