Errands and decadence

Today started from the get-go with an air that everything would be harder than it needed to be. I’ll spare you my editorializing and stick to my main message.

The other night, the teenager turned to me and asked what happened with our recent cat litter order. Now with four cats in the house I have 30-lbs of cat litter on auto ship from Petco every three weeks. I actually had this order ship early and I upped it to 60 lbs.

Petco Customer Service

Fog

It shipped on July 24. Well yesterday I tracked it, as our five litter boxes are getting low.

The UPS tracking system said “receiver has moved.” Ummm…. I haven’t moved in 17 years and I have been getting this order for more than a year.

I call customer service. I had a very sweet, very friendly representative named “Jean” who didn’t sound American. She informed me she would file the appropriate claim about the missing package.

I quietly said, “and in the mean time, what about my cat litter?”

She placed a new order, free to me, that should arrive in 5 to 7 business days.

Three 30-lb containers of cat litter arrived at noon today. Kudos to Petco.

Errands and paperwork

I finally wrote the letters freezing my Planet Fitness membership. I don’t have a printer, but the teenager does, even though it is running out of ink. I shared the letter with her on Google docs and asked her to print two copies.

Why two copies?

Because even though my home gym is in Easton, some of my paperwork says it is Mount Pocono even though I have never even seen the Mount Pocono Planet Fitness. The letters need to be certified, according to the contract, so I spent $4.10 each to send two. It’s easier than finding out I sent it to the wrong gym.

I had $33 cash and 15 cents in coins when I arrived at the post office. I told him to give me a few stamps and if he could get the total to an even number I would pay cash. At 55 cents each, the math on making that work… well he gave me 14 and it came to $15.90.

He’s probably now thinking the same thing I am— that 2 more stamps would have been the number we wanted, $17.

Ah, well. I’m still not convinced this federal coin shortage isn’t a political move to force Americans into accepting a cashless society. I’m still pissed that we moved our currency away from the gold standard.

Review: McDonald’s Iced Coffee

On the way home from the post office, I stopped at McDonald’s again for a medium iced coffee and to get my free fries Friday medium fries. I had mentioned yesterday that the caramel iced coffee tasted like a milkshake more than coffee.

So today I ordered a medium iced coffee for $1.29 (and my free French fries with a side of spicy buffalo sauce). The standard iced coffee comes with cream and liquid sugar, which confuses me because I think it is also made with whole milk.

Well I ordered mine with no sugar. I don’t like liquid sugar and I don’t put sugar in my coffee.

When I took a sip, it was awful. My Nescafé is better. But once I started eating the French fries and the buffalo sauce, my searing tonsils didn’t have any problem with the coffee any more.

Perhaps I will have to drink all of my iced coffee plain and compare them all. Get one from Dunkin, one from Starbucks and one from McDonald’s.

This is how I think they would rank:

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts
  2. Starbucks
  3. McDonald’s

So, I want McDonald’s to knock Starbucks down a peg as Starbucks coffee is bitter. But McDonald’s struck me as weird. We shall see.

Fast Food Guilt

Triple cheeseburger & iced coffee

Well, before we have the serious discussion about poverty and food insecurity in America, let’s get a bit of humor out of the way.

There is a good possibility that the teenager will come home from her grandparents’ house today, and having read this, scream at me (because she has hearing problems not because she is disrespectful), “You went to McDonald’s without me??”

But in all seriousness, I have put on ten pounds since March and most of it is “stress weight.”

Since I lost my job July 10, I havent been to the grocery store this month — except for picking up some instant coffee or a pack of toilet paper.

I received my last pay check July 17, and tomorrow there could be $400 in unemployment compensation in my account but this will be my first payment so we’ll see if the paperwork went through. It should, but the teenager’s father and some of his colleagues were furloughed in June and he returned to work this week never receiving a dime.

So while I have some savings, my financial stability right now is precarious and as the custodial parent as a teenager I worry about the future. Therefore I cling to my pennies.

I peeled the lunch meat, cheese and the tomato out of half a hoagie the teenager didn’t plan to finish because it was “gross” and made an omelet with it for dinner.

We have a small garden. We have some friends with gardens. I keep my non perishables well stocked, so while we may be only eating meat about once a week, we have food.

And most of my food insecurity comes from not knowing when I will have any income again. I still have about half my last paycheck in the bank and won’t even have to touch savings for another month. But my savings are meager, but from what I understand better than average for the typical American who can’t afford an impromptu plumbing repair.

But, you see, when I get stressed I want fast food. The more fast food I have, the more I want.

And with the ease of order ahead apps and the discounted prices, it’s hard.

I worked my way through college at McDonald’s. I worked there 5 years and gained a hatred of drive-throughs (how lazy and inconsiderate can Americans be ordering 8 Happy Meals all custom orders in the drive through) and thought I’d eaten all the McDonald’s I would ever care to eat.

At our McDonald’s, about 25 years ago, each employee working a full shift got a free meal: one medium soft drink, one large fry and one sandwich. At the time I didn’t each lettuce, so I wouldn’t typically get a plain McChicken as I don’t care for mayonnaise either. I would occasionally get a triple cheeseburger without the onions with extra pickle.

I hadn’t eaten at McDonald’s since those days and avoided fast food restaurants so vehemently that the first time my daughter got a fast food kid’s meal (at around six of seven) she exclaimed, “Mom! There’s a toy inside!”

All went well until McDonald’s came out with a stroopwaffel McFlurry. A close friend got me hooked on stroopwaffels before they became a thing in the United States. And then suddenly they were everywhere.

I’m a sucker for a stroopwaffel.

Even after 25 years, in a McDonald’s 25 miles away from my hometown, the lobby has the same exact greasy fast food smell that I remember. My uniforms and shoes all had that smell. The French fry grease smell.

Then my neighbor introduced me to the $1 beverage menu. I downloaded the app when I saw it was free french fry day.

And then I saw the McChicken on the $1 menu. My good old favorite. And it was slightly more boring than I remember it.

Fast forward to today. I ate two small meals so far today. A small whole grain pastry. Some cheese and goldfish crackers. I’m hungry. My daughter is away.

I regress you my blue collar roots and I know I can get dinner at McDonald’s for about $3. I know I could also get a $3 bagged salad, but that won’t have the protein of a big old fast food sandwich. I haven’t had fruits or veggies today. I have some lovely fresh Brussel sprouts, probably also $3.

But I cave.

Now if I really want to be cheap, I can get the $1 McChicken, a $1 large Diet Coke and I have a coupon for a $1 large fry. Except fries are really empty calories.

So ditch the fries. Then I could upgrade and get the $2 double cheeseburger instead of the fries and McChicken. But then I’m not using any coupons so I could swap the Diet Coke with the coupon I have for a 99 cent any size iced coffee. I select caramel.

But then greed and gluttony kick in, I upgrade the $2 double cheeseburger for a $3 triple cheeseburger, the same burger of my youth. I don’t need that much cheeseburger.

But I’m getting that much cheeseburger.

I also click on not one but TWO apple pies. One for me and one for the teen. $1.49. But we don’t need apple pie. I remove it.

But I’m a little heartbroken as when we were McDonald’s crew we would take the outdated hot apple pies, at pre-close, and place them on the trays that had to be for the Big Breakfast, and smother them with the soft serve before we emptied the machine. And then we added the hot caramel. So good.

But no apple pies. I exercised restraint.

But that triple cheeseburger with no onion and extra pickle was exactly as I remembered.

This was my first experience with McDonald’s iced coffee. It wasn’t iced coffee. It was more like a milkshake. Made with whole milk and caramel syrup the coffee was more like coffee ice cream. Not bad, but way too sweet and decadent to be iced coffee. Next time I’ll get one without flavor.

I know this rant doesn’t have much organization, but I realized today I was falling into the trap of many Americans with financial concerns or in poverty. There are so many cheap & tasty options out there that are so much easier than fresh cooking. And in food deserts, the cheap options of Taco Bell and the $1 McChicken are cost effective.

I have always known this truth, but I didn’t expect to be participating in it. I never thought I would revert to my fast food youth. But here I am.

I swear— tomorrow I will eat the Brussel sprouts.

Public relations and mini adventures

The last two days I have been hectic busy. But, yesterday, despite my activities and the sporadic heavy rain, I still walked about 9,400 steps.

Go, me!

Oz the Regal (random cat photo)

I started my day with a video chat with my fellow volunteers at Aspire to Autonomy, Inc. This anti-human trafficking organization helps connect underserved populations with services, while educating about human trafficking and looking for trafficking victims. It then helps victims rebuild their lives and get whatever help they need to reach autonomy.

They are also currently hosting monthly “Feed Northampton County” pandemic response food distributions at the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley and in the West Ward of Easton. Using a pop-up food pantry model, Aspire and their network of ambassadors distribute food, masks and hand sanitizer.

The organization works with interns from Kutztown University’s Master’s of Social Work program. Currently I am working closely with Sarah, who has embraced the idea of learning more about public relations and how it can benefit her in promoting her future activities in her career.

Sarah and I were scheduled to have a video chat to strategize pitching the press release she had written the day before on a training session she and two other interns—Kayla and Sam—are facilitating next week on Pennsylvania’s Act 197. (More on that in a few paragraphs.)

Kayla and organization co-founder Darnell (and my supervisor) joined us to catch up on the list of activities we have going on right now.

I left the meeting energized and started pitching to my end of the media list, while Sarah handled the others. This morning, we noticed that The Valley Ledger had already posted our material. Thank you to them!

To read more about our upcoming training (please come!), click here: Act 197 training .

I hopped from there to a meeting for the fundraising committee of Mary Meuser Memorial Library. We had to cancel our annual book fair, due to Covid-19, and met to discuss future possibilities for fundraising. I floated what I felt was a good idea to use key space in the library (and facing a major thoroughfare) to promote local businesses. The committee like the idea and I am to prepare a proposal.

And the teenager made arrangements with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab (FURR) to get our kittens fixed next week.

Fog, my office companion

The rest of the afternoon is a blur. But I know I helped with some correspondence for Aspire and pursued some networking opportunities on behalf of the group. I also asked my peers at the organization about an idea I had to promote the enforcement of Act 197 via a social media campaign.

Last night, I visited with my neighbors, watched Golden Girls with the teenager, went for a walk with “my other half,” Buddy’s mom who lives in the other side of my house, cuddled with my cockatoo and watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.

This morning somehow I slept until 8:30. And my email alerted me that it was National Drive Thru Day. I wrote a corporate sponsorship letter for Aspire and submitted it to the founders for review. Then, the teenager borrowed Buddy and we went to gather up cheap eats at the drive thru.

First I stopped at Dunkin as I still have more than $30 on my Dunkin gift card. They were offering 100 points on any purchase. I cashed in the free beverage I had on my card and bought the teenager hash browns. Then we stopped at McDonald’s as they were offering a free medium fry with any $1 purchase.

I bought her a $1 large Diet Coke and they kept offering me a $1 McChicken. The teenager told me to get it, so I did, but I had them make one without mayo and with lots of pickles.

There is still much work to be done in coming days as Aspire has several major happenings next week, but it’s exciting that between Aspire and the library board I have the opportunity to freely share my ideas and work to move both agencies forward.