WTF? (or ‘Another Cerebral Palsy aware day.’)

I woke up by my alarm at 4 a.m. yesterday, and for the first time in days, I thought I could actual get out of bed. My body has been heavy with fatigue and a steady post nasal drip. I suppose that might be from closing up the windows with a bird, a dog, and 11 cats in a house desperately in need of a vacuum.

But even so, I laid in bed until about 4:20 cuddling the FURR fosters in my bed: tripod Louise and kitten Jennifer Grey.

I drank two cups of coffee, one Supercoffee and one Dunkin Polar Peppermint.

I even wrote about 500 words on my next Fashion and Fiends novel that I have been struggling with for months.

I was stiff and my back was achy and yesterday I noticed some of that burning in my toe but I thought perhaps I could blame my shoes.

I saw the chiropractor the night prior, the amazing Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Nothing really seemed amiss and things were moving well.

Yesterday at the warehouse I performed 97%. So I thought… why not… let’s take one of my baclofen pills to see if looser muscles might mean less stiffness and aches. It was the first time I ever took one in the morning. I’ve taken them in the evening and slowly taken them earlier.

The pill helped. It felt like I could swing my legs again.

The medicine reminded me that I never heard back from the neurologist’s office about the appointment they needed to move and the paperwork I submitted. So I emailed. Now, the portal that allows patients to email medical staff has a strict character count. While in the newspaper business, I had a nickname: the word count goddess. This was in the pre-Twitter days when no one cared about character counts.

I composed a masterful email that addressed all my concerns succinctly, but maintained a polite air. I love this doctor and truly want to make her life as easy as possible.

I performed most of the day at 100%, by my employer’s numbers, which don’t account for our ten minute breaks. Their numbers suggest we do 16.25 units per hour, but don’t change during the hours we have break, which is twice a day. Their default calculation means the computer thinks one unit should take almost 3 minutes 40 seconds. So a ten minute break (and a small amount of time to move to and from a work station) reduces the potential productivity of that hour by about 3 units. So to compensate for that difference, if you wanted to keep every hour equal, the units per hour should be 17.

My first hour, I completed 18. My second hour I only completed 16. Then we had break, (and my neurologist had sent an encouraging email back by that point and her nurse had suggested a time for my next appointment) and I completed 5-6 in the twenty or so minutes before we had a department wide “power hour” in which I completed 19. So by the midpoint of my shift, and even when I clocked out for lunch, I was at exactly 100% with no accommodations for my disability. But by lunch, my ability to bend was decreasing.

I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz when he begs Dorothy for oil.

I had a cheerful lunch with my friends, and went back to work, still maintaining the official numbers for 100%. Even by our last break at 1:30, I was still 100%. But I was stiff. And feeling sluggish. So for the first time ever, I took a second baclofen in a day. My doctor suggested up to 3 a day.

My toes were burning at this point, making me wonder if my pain from my two Morton’s neuromas had returned. OR if my toes were rubbing because I forgot my toe separator doo-dad. OR if my toes rubbing (because later I saw and felt the bony, protruding tender spot where it hurts) impacts my posture and triggers the neuroma(s).

If the issue continues, the neurologist wants me to call the podiatrist. I stopped by his office last week to drop off $11.32 in cash for my copay and his office was unexpectedly closed. In the old-fashioned manner, I slipped the envelope in the door.

I worked as hard as I could the remainder of the day, now trailing behind because of my ten-minute break and at 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes from quitting time, the support team brings me the “easy” work and tells me it’s a priority. I end the day one unit away from 100%. One unit.

And somewhere around 2 p.m., the neurologist had called and asked for $30 payment for the form fee for my FMLA paperwork. I apologized and said while I completely would pay the fee, I was at work and didn’t have my wallet on me and I would get back to them before the holiday. I called them at 3:10 p.m. from my car, and was added to a call back list, because the wait time was 40 minutes.

I hope including this much detail might show how difficult it is to pursue medical care and to pursue official accommodations in the workplace. Medical care itself is a labyrinth. Navigating your way to a provider who not only cares but has the knowledge to help, maintaining the patience and persistence to pay the fees and follow the paperwork, and taking responsibility for lifestyle changes that only you can make. I’m fortunate that I can do these things myself. What if my disability prevented that? Would I be treated the same way?

Just throwing that out there.

So now the happiest part of my day— hanging out with my blind friend, poet and essayist Nancy Scott.

She needed to go to the bank and she wanted to go to the Dollar Tree to check out the Christmas decorations. We had a great time roaming the aisles with me describing all the goodies. Nan fell in love with an elf.

I said to Nan, “my leg is not working.”

I meant it off-handedly but I checked my phone later. And sure enough— my walking asymmetry was way off. Normally I fall when the spike hits 10 percent. It was 50 percent.

Hopefully today will go smoother.

A successful romp at Easton Book Festival: Sex in the Text

**author’s note: I’m sorry, not sorry, that this piece has become rather long and a tad historical. I will divide the piece with subheadings so that readers seeking particular topics can scan quickly. But for those who love historical context and rambling storytelling combined with my unique chaos, have at it.

It’s a quiet October morning, before the sun rises, and I am sharing my thoughts with you regarding our experience last night at the 4th Annual Easton Book Festival (2022). I’m posting in my personal blog, as I don’t know if I have fully formed thoughts (other than I had my concerns that the grassroots chaos of the festival, part of its charm, might drive my organized self to lose my mind and LO! and BEHOLD! I had a great time. Perhaps the cusp Taurus in me is mellowing into a new calmer self, my Gemini side).

I appeared briefly in the original Easton Book Festival “trailer,” look for me on YouTube with my salmon dress which looks rather orange and my trademark scarf. I join a lot of local celebrities so that tickles me.

The pandemic appeared in the festival’s youth and the city has decided to renovate (and in my humble opinion destroy) Centre Square, where the Book & Puppet Company bookstore is located. They have reduced the circle from two lanes of traffic to one and eliminated all the parking in front of businesses. They have also been toying with the traffic patterns, often closing main streets and making the traditional heart of the downtown one way. As someone who has lived in this community for more than a quarter of a century, I’m annoyed.

My history with downtown Easton

The city has two main parking decks currently in the same basic vicinity, which is good, but they have destroyed one convenient central parking lot and pocket park to build a new deck, which is not open yet. The oldest of the parking structures will soon be eliminated, as are on-street parking permits for residents. As more upscale apartments and multi-story structures join the historic downtown, the footprint of the city is changing. Or perhaps gentrifying.

My first apartment, with poet Darrell Parry, who is on the board of the festival, was an absolute dump but so much fun. We were two recently out of college, engaged kids with a pile of student loan debt and cars that barely ran. I worked at Lafayette College in the Public Information Office and Darrell worked at Caldor, a department store that, like many, no longer exists. It started his career as a shipper/receiver and honed his skill as the master of packing boxes.

Our rent for our strange one-bedroom started at $450 a month, with off-street parking and basic utilities included. We couldn’t afford cable and dial-up internet so we chose internet as we had television our entire lives and the World Wide Web was new. We would often scrape our change together and walk to Coffee and Tea Time Café, which also no longer exists, and I believe the structure is now part of the freshly-reconstructed Hearst Magazine offices that have moved to Easton from New York City. And on spaghetti nights we would order garlic bread from Colonial Pizza, which does still exist, since the restaurant was practically across the street. When we would call to order, they would often say, “Is this the neighbor?”

And then after spaghetti and garlic bread, we would go down to The Purple Cow Creamery, which later had to change it’s name to Bank Street Creamery, but you can still go there for ice cream. It’s not the same owners as it was in my day, but it has remained a hot spot of the downtown.

And since I’m already aging myself, I might as well add that Book & Puppet stands pretty much next to a place called The Crayola Factory. When I was an intern at Binney & Smith (now rebranded as Crayola since that’s the name everyone knows), I was tasked with writing and pitching a then under-construction, exciting new attraction in the former Orr’s building, another defunct local department store, called Two Rivers Landing. It would contain The Crayola Factory and the National Canal Museum.

(And I happen to be a Crayola junkie and a canal aficionado.)

You see, in my day, you could actually walk through the real Crayola factory in Forks Township and follow this blue line through all the stages of crayon and marker production. When you arrived at corporate offices in the morning, if they were making crayons, the air would carry that trademark warm aroma of wax, and if they were making markers, it smelled like burnt plastic.

I can remember sitting in my cubicle in corporate communications pitching my press release about this new family attraction to national magazines. My small, unattributed contribution to history. I did a lot of fun things at Crayola. Including dressing professional dancers in phallic crayon costumes at New York City’s Rainbow Room.

Okay, so now you see why I did not start this in the Parisian Phoenix Publishing professional blog. Because I’ve transformed into an old woman telling you the way it was in my day. And if I want to throw it back another generation, whenever I get off topic, I like to reference Arlo Guthrie‘s “Alice’s Restaurant.” If you don’t know the song, you’re young enough to find it on YouTube, Spotify or Apple Music. “This is a song about Alice. Remember Alice?” the lyrics say, even though the song seems to have nothing to do with Alice for most of the 18-or-so minutes the song goes on.

This is a song about the Easton Book Festival and “Sex in the Text.” Remember the Easton Book Festival?

This is a song about Alice. Remember Alice?

Arlo Guthrie

Darrell hates that song.

Opening Act: Poetry galore

I will not make a James Bond reference off of that title to relate it back to “Sex in the Text.”

Lynn Alexander opened the poetry segment reading from her collection, Find Me in the Iris. Followed by our own Nancy Scott, then Darrell and Rebecca Reynolds. Nancy read from newer work, including a poem about her recent move. Darrell read from his book, Twists: Gathered Ephemera, with a rather stunning introduction delivered by Lafayette English professor and festival board president, Chris Phillips. Rebecca read from each of her books (Daughter of the Hangnail and The Bovine Two-Step) and her work in progress.

And if you ever wanted to watch someone read Braille, here’s your chance.

Sex in the Text: Making Love Between the Pages

So, for some reason GLVWG (Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group) and our (Darrell, the festival board, myself and Book & Puppet) connections did not yield more panelists for this discussion. So, Darrell and I talked about making the panel into a talk show type format where questions could be placed on index cards and William Prystauk, author of the Kink Noir series, and I could ask the questions of each other Oprah-style and discuss.

We had a fantastic time and the questions were thoughtful not only from a literary perspective but also from a societal values perspective.

It was a refreshing night, and I hope the spectators enjoyed it as much as Bill and I did.

Murphy, you’re not going to win: How a great day broke my heart, part 1

Yesterday, I “broke” my dear blind friend Nan out of her independent living facility, her first outing since her bout with Covid-19. I drove up to the door in that convenient wide lane that have under the overhang and lowered the window on her side of the car.

“Hey, Nan,” I shouted. “Your getaway car has arrived.”

She laughed, and since she recently had her first Corona experience, it sure was nice to hear her laugh again.

I had the Spotify ready to go, as Nan loves a good random computer generated playlist, and we pulled off. Her goals were simple.

  1. CVS for vitamin C and Excedrin
  2. Batteries for her clock, 2-4 AAAs
  3. Stop at her old apartment as there was a package for her that was not forwarded
  4. Get some cash at the bank.

Well I told her right off that we had a 40-pack of AAAs somewhere in my house. So that was easy. I then told her I had thought I might take her back to my house for chai, but thought maybe getting out of a building into the sun would be more fun. That we could listen to Spotify in the car with the sunroof open sipping chai.

“That does sound nice,” she said.

“The same theory as taking the dog for a car ride,” I explained.

She laughed when I compared her to the dog, and I pointed out that really we both liked things that the dog would enjoy.

Nan and I headed into CVS, where I found her 200 generic acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine tablets and 100 chewable vitamin C/rose hips tablets. The original price was $31.00 before tax, but I had carefully set up my CVS app to use some coupons that reduced her total to $20.58.

We drove to my house, got the batteries, and headed to her old apartment building.

“I just thought of something,” she said to me. “How are we going to get in?”

“I suppose you’ll have to tap the lobby door with your cane until someone sees you,” I said.

But there were no parking spots on street, and I pulled into the parking lot.

“Why don’t we just drive down to the back door and see if we see any of your neighbors,” I said.

“Good idea,” Nan agreed.

I saw the maintenance man at the back door. I pulled into the middle of the parking lot and hopped out of the car, escorting Nan as I hollered, “Excuse me, but can you let this vagabond into the building?”

She got her package.

We then got my favorite teller at the bank and almost went to a Dunkin several miles away, forgetting there was one on the other side of the bank.

We remembered in time.

We sat in the car, windows and sun roof open, enjoying the sun, listening to cars and birds and all the mundane sounds Nan had missed when trapped in her room with Covid.

And then, she went home and I talked to my friend Maryann Ignatz. I did all the press stuff I had planned for my business. I thought I deserved a small rest. I went up to my room and cuddled with some fosters, including sweet Jean-Paul Sartre.

The teenager texted that her boss was stopping by later. If you’re a regular here you might recall our “cat foster godmother.”

I decided to go downstairs and clean.

I grabbed my computer, Rosie, the 13″ MacBook Air, last of the Intel processor generation, and my iPhone. Foster cat Khloe has been a member of gen pop lately, free roaming the house because she scared the dog so badly. She can be a little dramatic.

The teenager has a baby gate with a cat door at the top of the stairs. Khloe was walking out the cat door and I went to unlatch the gate and must have tilted my hand just enough that Rosie the Laptop slipped from my fingers and somersaulted all the way down the uncarpeted, hard wood stairs.

When I opened her again, her screen image was splintered.

I have three book projects underway for Parisian Phoenix, and the Easton Book Festival coming up. I’m still wondering how best to pay off the recent ceiling repair…

Now is not the time.

But life is like that. I have to remind myself that we have more appreciation for the things that don’t come easy, that real success is slow.

And then I broke down into hysterics, alone, just me and the dog. And I scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees.

This saga will be continued on Parisian Phoenix’s blog.

Cracker Barrel & Vitamin D: Blending the Mundane, Building Friendship

I started my day by leaving the house at 7:15 a.m. to visit my friends the phlebotomists at Quest Diagnostics. With my history of anemia and fluctuating iron & vitamin D levels, I tend to get iron & vitamin D checks with my annual bloodwork.

My vitamin D was low during my January 2021 physical (22) so I started adding vitamin D + calcium supplements to my diet. With my multi & my slow release iron.

By June, that had jumped to 32. I stayed that level for the next six months. Today’s test would see if I had gained more— 30 is considered normal.

I started laundry before I left so I could wear my new cat t-shirt. I had a much anticipated meeting with social activist-journalist Dawn Heinbach scheduled for the afternoon at Cracker Barrel, a location I thought would be convenient as she lives several counties away. She submitted some material for the Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money anthology. I had some books she wanted. I know she’s a cat person so I knew she would love my French pun cat shirt.

When I got home from Quest, I made an egg sandwich and took a photo to my artist friend Maryann whose mixed media postcards appeared in Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money. She thinks all my food photographs are well-played and pleasingly styled. I told her she’ll have to come for dinner.

I put the laundry in the dryer and eventually changed into my cat shirt. I did some paperwork before I picked up my good friend Nancy to provide a ride to the doctor. Nancy is my poetry editor at Parisian Phoenix Publishing and she’s blind. She keeps me in line both with my writing and my business and occasionally has to make sure I’m facing my disability in an intelligent fashion.

While at the doctor’s office a very senior citizen’s phone went off. The ring tone was the opening notes of Usher’s “Yeah.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. He looked mortified. Did a grandchild prank him?

I finished Tylia Flores’ Handi-Capable while in the waiting room. I posted a review on Amazon.

We did a couple other Nancy errands and I pointed out I needed gas in the car, and asked if she’d mind a detour to Wawa. I think Nan made out on that one as she went home sign a turkey sandwich, some sour cream and onion potato chips and some half-and-half iced tea/lemonade.

Somehow the two of us can do absolutely nothing but laugh while doing it.

I spent the afternoon blogging and catching up on some work for the business before it was time to go to Fogelsville for my early dinner.

The sky opened, as they say.

I told Dawn I would hang out in those amazing Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. I didn’t know it would be in a deluge.

Luckily I had my umbrella in my car.

The servers came out and danced in the rain. An old man complimented my Eiffel Tower umbrella and said he and his wife were going there next.

Ever the grammar nerd, I said, “really? From Cracker Barrel right to Paris? I hope you love it.”

Dawn and I had a superb conversation about what journalism should be, and she lives in the geographic region served by my protege at Berks-Mont newspapers. We talked cats— and she did like the cat shirt. And my turkey dinner was disappointing but Dawn and I chatted for two hours. We shared a cup of coffee after dinner before going our separate ways.

I bought the teen a Scooby Doo mug and myself a coconut peanut butter candy that tasted like toffee both in flavor and mouth feel.

On the way home, my 2015 jetta played a horrible prank on me. The gas gauge and miles per gallon/miles until empty screens didn’t display any information. Luckily I got gas with Nan so I knew I had plenty. On the highway. 26 miles away from home.

Upon reaching home, I took care of some correspondence and received an update from my doctor. My vitamin D is now 37!

Fitness lamentations and celebrations

It’s been a demanding week with my body in revolt for most of it.

I’ve succumbed to some bad moods but for the most part kept it together— and even enjoyed another pizza outing with the teenager and my blind friend Nan where we have officially determined that Nan and I think Nicolosi’s eggplant parmesan is our new favorite pizza. The teenager is in the chicken-bacon-ranch camp.

The teenager has been housesitting and her own dog F. Bean Barker seems to prefer sleeping in her crate downstairs to being in the teen’s bedroom alone with the two foster cats, Mars and Khloe.

Mars & Khloe

It has taken a few nights of sleep deprivation to discover this.

And it’s cold. And rainy. So the dog and I are both grumpy.

But this week I have started a new routine— getting up at 4:15 am so I can write for 30 minutes before work. In addition to my publishing business (Parisian Phoenix Publishing), I also need to commit to my writing.

Speaking of commitment, I’ve been trying to buy a bookshelf all week.

But I did buy a microphone for the business so that hopefully we can record some authors reading their work and have discussions with and for writers as part of our marketing material.

Nan and I got together today to run errands, see what was going on with Axiom, drink chai and read poetry. The best publication we looked at today was definitely *82 Review which featured Nan’s poem, “Brewing Chai.”

The magazine is very very diverse in its style and I am very excited to read more.

One of the best pieces I’ve read in a long time is “A Child in Need of Services” (a flash submission) where the speaker talks about the origins of their three talents, with such humor and joyful voice that you just don’t see the ending coming. The author is Amanda Skofstad.

We retrieved Nan’s laundry and I parked the car at the high school and walked the half mile in the cold rain (uphill as the teen would remind us) to the gym so the teen could have the car after school to go to work.

But I made it to the gym… for session 73 at Apex Training with my trainer Andrew. I love his current approach— a lot of back and shoulder based weight training for the upper body and creative more-or-less body weight exercises for the lower body so we can develop some muscle memory in those body parts that don’t understand how to play on a team. We also did some hex bar work and other stuff. I always feel good when I leave.

But by far, the hardest exercise for me today was wide stance squats. That had me struggling, concentrating, breathing and thinking I wouldn’t make it through. For squats. Bench squats at that.

Let me explain.

My cerebral palsy makes this the ultimate torture. Remember— my quads, hamstrings and calves never relax. My heel tendons are too short and my ankles don’t have the right mobility. My knees point in because of my femoral anteversion, and that just means the top of my femurs go into my hip sockets at the wrong angle.

So when I do that wide stance bench squat, I need to practice the most muscle control I can. I have to plant my feet and manually rotate my toes to what feels like uncomfortably out. And when I rise, I need to maintain balance, push with my upper region of my legs and force my hips out so they can force my knees out.

It’s damn hard.

But I can feel those body parts trying to cooperate and that’s exciting. If Andrew and I had more money and could work less at traditional full time jobs, I would love to train every day.

I posted this to Facebook:

I came home and stood in the rain for ten minutes holding an umbrella over the dog and she still wouldn’t pee. I took a shower, got dressed and gathered laundry. The washer wouldn’t work. My seven month old washer.

So I made myself an omelet of peppers, two eggs, heaps of Black Bear Mexican turkey, a slice of black pepper Cooper, a half slice of horseradish cheddar and piled it on my last slice of ShopRite bakery seeded rye.

The teenager came home and I googled the error code on the washer and she moved the whole wash tower and ripped the rear access panel off. When the drain pipe wasn’t back there, I had her read me the exact model number so we could Google again. We found this video, by a man with nice hands: Fixing the washer.

The teenager watched about half a minute, grabbed a bucket and ran to the front access panel. Within seconds, she had removed the whole plug apparatus and flooded the bathroom with gallons of wash water.

“How am I supposed to get that into a bucket?” she asked.

I continue watching the video. There’s a tube you empty first.

“There’s a tube!” she yells.

Oh, Pop Pop on the Mountain, wherever he is in the afterlife, is laughing his ass off now.

The apparatus is clogged with poly fill, a metal ring, quarters and other nonsense. That is fixed now. Drain hoses cleaned. Wash loads continue.

So then we Google the dishwasher as the teen also wants to clean that. We find Big Al. Clean the sprayers in a Maytag dishwasher.

I’m still cold and wet but now some of the appliances are clean.

A visit to the podiatrist

My blog post yesterday received a lot of extra views and shares thanks to my discussion of the fabulousness of Nicolosi’s Pizza on Sullivan Trail.

It makes me wish I would have spent a little more time developing the back story so newcomers would understand some of my rambling at the end.

So here’s the latest installment.

Today I worked with Nan, my friend, blind poet and essayist. We did errands— the bank, retrieving laundry— and prepared some new submissions of Nancy’s poetry. We also checked out her most recent publication, “Brewing Chai” in *82 Review.

I made the decision, as founder and publisher of Parisian Phoenix Publishing, to purchase a hard copy of the magazine. One publisher supporting another.

Very exciting.

I also have two friends scheduled to get packages from the publishing company today, if the post office tracking info is accurate.

Very exciting.

And when I took Nancy home, I was able to head to the gym, Apex Training, to work with my trainer, Andrew, who along his prowess in powerlifting, does an excellent job observing my movements and targeting the muscles we think can make the most impact based on information from all the specialists I’ve seen.

And Andrew kicks my butt.

He makes me sweat. He challenges my range of motion. He also exercises the parts of me that work.

Very exciting.

Both of my trainers at Apex have been amazing.

I rushed home to shower and grab lunch as I had to get the dog into the car, pick up the teenager from school and go to the podiatrist. The dog had to go to the vet at the same I had to go to my doctor only a couple miles apart.

(One of the foster cats has worms, so every mammal in the house needs dewormer.)

This all begs the question: Why was I going to the podiatrist?

Well, I’ve known my podiatrist for 20 years. We connected in my journalist days through a mutual friend. The mutual friend nominated him for a small feature in our newspaper.

The mutual friend has passed away, and when the teenager needed a podiatrist and I couldn’t get timely care for her through my networks, this podiatrist friend of my deceased friend got her in expediently AND gave her amazing care.

I’ve been to the podiatrist once or twice myself— and I thought his brain would be a good one to pick for more information on my cerebral palsy. I made the appointment when I was still struggling with my splinter and dealing with my blistering toes.

We had a great conversation as he checked my feet and dealt with all the dead skin from blistering, and he asked me all sorts of questions about what other specialists had said. So I told him.

He’s very curious what the neuro-muscular physiatrist will have to say, and in the meantime he suggested physical therapy stretches twice a day.

And he wanted to know what the orthopedist had to say— if he could do anything. I said no that the only real option was the surgery I should have had when I was twelve.

To which he replied rather passionately that I should have had surgery when I was twelve.

At first he was angry I didn’t have more interventions as a child, but I explained how my mom was told I would die so she named me Angel, and then when I lived they told her I would never walk or talk, and then they said I had severe brain damage.

“Boy did they get that wrong,” he said.

“So that’s why my mom stopped taking me to doctors,” I explained. “Because they only gave her bad news and they were always wrong.”

“That makes sense,” he said.

(And he asked if I got my splinter out myself and I said first I tried a raisin, which fixed my hip pain, but it was my cockatoo that really got it out. And he said, “Oh this is going to be a good story.”)

This doctor has his own private practice and has been a doctor for a long time. I love that he decides how long he can take with each patient and he can be jovial and a little grouchy at the same time. Not nasty grouchy, just like-a-dad grouchy. It’s like he’s a person underneath that doctor coat.

The teenager made dinner: the chicken breast I had leftover from our last Hungryroot box, youba noodles and vegetables. And then we watched the latest Spider-Man movie which featured all the Spider-Mans.

Which, for the record, Adelaide Pitney, the supermodel from my Fashion and Fiends series, loved the Toby Maguire Spider-Man.

And since I started this blog post, both of the packages slated for my friends have arrived. My traveling companion M has received his copy of Recovery, as the book is dedicated to him and to his role in awakening my love of Africa and post-colonial critical theory.

The other package was to my therapist friend in Georgia who loves to have nice things to ponder.

Very exciting.

Cupcakes at Midnight: A discussion of future plans for Parisian Phoenix Publishing

Yesterday was the launch day for my novel. At midnight, the teenager and I were celebrating with cocktails and cupcakes.

I have so much hope for Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

It’s too early for me to know how many copies have sold, I don’t expect large numbers as I haven’t really implemented my marketing plan. Our small boutique publisher is a partnership— myself and graphic designer Gayle Hendricks— so the work that needs to be done, we do as we can or we ask for help.

We have lots of ideas, so this first novel may be mine, but part of that stems from my philosophy that before I publish anyone else’s book, I want to learn and grow from lessons made bringing my manuscript into the limelight.

Our Fiction

This novel— Manipulations, the first volume of the Fashion and Fiends series—means a lot to me. I believe it breeds chick lit to horror fiction (think what might have happened if Stephen King wrote The Devil Wears Prada) and uses contemporary literature (and the mythic supernatural) to examine social issues.

Manipulations, at its core, is a book about building healthy relationships. And the proverbial lesson of “things are not always what they appear.” And I hope my readers will understand that magic, in this context, allows us to explore domestic violence.

To order Manipulations:

The next volume, Courting Apparitions, (due out in late November) uses a ghost story to examine grief and depression.

And the next, Recovery, (slated for first quarter 2022) tackles disability, motherhood and women’s rights. But don’t worry, magic is still afoot.

Meanwhile, the fourth, Road Trip, is a coming of age novel. With werewolves. I’d like to release that one on June 23, 2022. The day my baby turns 18. But first I have to finish writing it.

The fifth volume, Absolution, looks at the intersection of sacrifice and love.

And the sixth volume, at least half written at this point, is Finding Hooyo— a hybrid romance novel, medical drama and war story. Hopefully that should tie up the original story line but certainly not the Fashion and Fiends universe.

Our nonfiction

Currently our team of authors and interesting people have several projects in the works.

Sometime in 2022, I hope to revisit a book I wrote as part of my research at Lafayette College. I looked at the anti-Muslim laws in France and traced their roots to 19th century colonial stereotypes and considered the thesis that these laws perpetuate stereotypes that started in Algeria.

My love, as a critical theorist, of post-colonial Francophone Africa stems from my view that French imperialism during the colonial era serves as an amazing parallel to contemporary American imperialism and attitudes towards Muslims.

And now, with identity politics very en vogue, I feel like these lessons in stereotypes and prejudice are very relevant.

Speaking of critical theorists and identity politics, I have assembled a group of authors to discuss various identity issues in a special anthology, currently called: Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money: Expressions of Alternative Perspectives Influenced by Experiences in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Committed so far is Darrell Parry, poet and writer, and my estranged husband; Eva Parry, otherwise known as “the teenager”; William Prystauk of Crash Palace Productions and the Kink Noir series; Maryann Riker, multimedia artist; Nancy Scott, blind author of essays and poems; Rachel Thompson, science fiction and alternative history writer; Joan Zachary, photographer and writer… and hopefully more.

Racing with them toward the finish line is a cat anthology to use as a fundraising book for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab which will feature cat stories, photos, memoirs of FURR volunteers and academic research on animal welfare, poverty and empowering low-income and diverse neighborhoods to know what resources are available for themselves and their animals.

And with the new “Texas law,” Parisian Phoenix hopes to work with people on the team who have experience in women’s issues and chronicle stories as a fundraiser and historical record for groups in this sector.

Our poetry

Sometime in late fall, Parisian Phoenix hopes to release a full-length poetry manuscript, the poems for which have been assembled and the layout is in process.

I can guarantee this book will be as funny as it is thought provoking.

Our erotica and romance

It’s not quite clear when our erotica and romance will hit the market, but we have authors working to provide stories with real characters facing real life.

In the romance department, we have a manuscript, Trapped, that combines middle-aged love that sparks because of the skunk infestation with the joy of reinventing oneself.

There are hints of a Fashion and Fiends erotic prequel that extends the arousing feel of the horror fiction universe with more sex and no monsters.

And our goal is to offer kink/BDSM erotica, quality stories with empathetic characters who participate in safe, informed and consensual play. We have authors working on those tales, too.


Find Angel Ackerman on WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Follow Parisian Phoenix Publishing on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

Does the pandemic have a fun side?

Sometimes I am reminded of my age— when I think of those summers of my girlhood circa the 1980s, when Pennsylvania experienced temperatures that averaged in the high seventies/low eighties and for about 2 weeks every August a heat wave of around 85 degrees.

It also snowed a lot more, and I can’t say I miss that.

Now I won’t be naive enough to suggest this pandemic has been fun. Some people have gotten seriously ill, others have died. Luckily in my circle, those who contracted Covid-19 survived and none ended up in the hospital.

But as I said in the beginning of the pandemic, the Coronavirus has forced us to look at our health system, our purchasing habits, our supply chains, what we need and what we don’t. I have found a more relaxed pace of life, and while I have lost my job, I have found some inner truths that bring me hope. Perhaps that is where my naïveté lies.

Yesterday, I had a business meeting with my first client as a partner in Thrive Public Relations. Thrive is the brainchild of a friend— who has been searching for someone with media, print and editorial experience to complement his digital marketing, strategy and networking expertise. I have agreed to help him, and hopefully this will lead to some paying work that could help keep me afloat and allow me to rebuild my career portfolio.

I spent much of the last year as a grant writer, and would love to highlight some current public relations work to augment my grant writing potential.

So I was asked to attend a business lunch at Sogo Asian Fusion yesterday in one of my favorite environs, downtown Easton. I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the 95 degree heat, dining on the patio. It felt lovely to build an outfit, put on make up and head into the world.

Then later that evening, my propensity for stress-related binge-eating led to me eating most of a jar of “trail mix” — I put that in quotes because it had walnuts and almonds but was mostly butterscotch and white chocolate chips— that my blind friend Nancy gave me for Christmas. I had it on my desk at work and it was one of my possessions that Mr. Accordion drove to my house.

The teenager doesn’t like almonds. So she gave them all to me.

And then my daughter cornered me. She started reciting old bits from Brian Regan, one of my favorite comedians (from the golden age of the early 1990s, before I graduated high school and Nirvana changed the world).

Finally she got tired of her delivery falling flat and we spent an hour watching Brian Regan clips from YouTube on my phone. I grabbed a Diet Coke and finished the rest of the vanilla vodka from County Seat Spirits.

The teenager’s father, my husband of 20-years whom I separated from last summer, does not like stand-up comedy. But a good stand-up comic (like Regan, or Trevor Noah, or for those who have thicker skin and/or less sensitivities Denis Leary and George Carlin), can lift my darkest spirits. So I love the fact that our daughter inherited my taste in comedy.

And when I got up this morning, as mundane life started to overwhelm me with chores and commitments, Nan called.

The Mighty.com had published her piece on our summer picnic and shared it with Yahoo News. It features me, and the teenager, so I got to enjoy reading about my life.

You can read it here: Nan’s summer picnic article on Yahoo News

So maybe life doesn’t look the same as always, but the simple joys don’t really change.