Untitled: a post about lingering grief

They say with time it gets easier, and I suppose I have to trust.

But this week has been damn hard.

My first big injury without my father and my first bit of car trouble without my father.

Both times when I used to turn to my father.

I tried to reach out to my mother, but there’s just something about that relationship that always goes sideways. And I whatever I try to do to fix it fails.

I shared a poem I wrote about grief to Nancy, my blind friend, when I saw her today. And I think she’s anxious to see where I can go with it.

And first thing this morning— I saw this post from a very clean and well curated antique shop in downtown Easton, advertising its fresh wares.

Now I am not an antiques person, but V. Murray Mercantile puts a lot of effort into curating and presenting their merchandise. And this post featured a vintage Schmidt’s Beer lamp, which was my father’s preferred beer.

And I just wanted it. I wanted the beer lamp. I wanted it so I could think of my dad and the light he gave my life. And he could still give that light. And at the same time, it could poke a little fun at his struggles with alcoholism, because he knew his flaws.

Stroh’s Brewing produced Schmidt’s and closed in 1999, selling its business to Pabst, according to some quick, unverified internet research. That was the same year I got married. Apparently, they revived a beer called Schmidt’s in 2019, which ironically was the year my husband and I amicably separated.

I discovered this website which appears to be from the beer’s 100th anniversary merch shop, and feels like the internet version of a ghost sign: Schmidt’s Of Philly, but has a 2019 copyright and seems to be legit even though the history stops fifty years ago.

I signed up for the mailing list.

So the teenager and I went downtown at 1 p.m., fighting construction.

The store is only open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the lamp sold first thing.

I am crushed, but I know realistically it is my grief I am feeling and has nothing to do with a vintage lamp.

It’s about the little girl, who used to run from the house to her dad’s workshop with little brown bottles of beer whenever her dad asked for a cold one. He was usually tinkering with his Harley. Sometimes the lawn mower.

Either way, he usually had a Schmidt’s.

Spider-Man and Matcha Pie

I have a lot of little things to say that problem don’t belong together but today is the Lehigh Valley Book Festival at Bethlehem Area Public Library and I’m excited, a tad nervous and a bit super-focused and scatter-brained at the same time.

Parisian Phoenix Publishing has participated in events before but we have scaled up with our efforts and this event today.

So this post will cover:

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Health and Fitness
  • Pie
  • Cats

I think that’s about right.

So the teenager and I finally came to the current end of the Marvel Comics Universe movies with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Watching them sequentially, and for me, many for the first time, actually made a lot more sense than when I saw some of them the first time.

I got a strange déjà vu that I had seen some of these villains before, but at the same time I was confused because the memory was vague and distant.

So let’s just say, trying not to spoil it for others like me that are woefully behind in their pip culture, that this film incorporates some older films that will be familiar to Generation X.

The primary theme of this movie, in my opinion, is time travel. The actual plot is a tad weak and melodramatic but the homage made to the previous generation of Marvel movies, and the humor employed in this movie, make it worth it.

My favorite Spider-Man is Toby Maguire. I got to see him again. And that made my heart happy. (Toby is also the Spider-Man adored and referenced by supermodel Adelaide Pitney in my chick lit/horror fiction novel, Manipulations, the first in the Fashion and Fiends series.

I had a very good visit with my chiropractor Nicole Jensen of Back in Line. She’s impressed with my progress and got things to pop and move (my right ankle that I broke more than five years ago) that haven’t popped and moved in a long time.

My Later, Andrew at Apex Training worked out every muscle he didn’t the day before (okay that’s an exaggeration) and the teenager set a new personal record in deadlifting: 225 lbs.

Finally, I get to the part I’ve been waiting for: PIE! If only I weren’t trying to be so health conscious… Because I have been visiting the amazing pie ladies Anne and Lisa at Pie+Tart for three(?) years now and their pies (and flat white coffees) have nurtured my soul through some difficult times— and a very very toxically difficult boss.

I receive their weekly email and saw their “freezer section” of leftover discounted pies included a steak and Guinness pie and a matcha custard pie. A meal inspired by two of my favorite drinks.

I was so beyond excited to eat these pies I was vibrating at “the pie hole” which is what they call their window/doorway. It has allowed them to stay in business safely during Covid because how would we survive sans pie.

I can improvise plenty of solutions for lack of toilet paper but I can’t make pie like this— not even with my Pennsylvania Dutch family connections.

I couldn’t even wait for the matcha custard to thaw. I sawed at it with a knife, broke it in pieces with my hands and microwaved a slice for 30 seconds. It was delectable.

And the steak and Guinness pie? So rich and full of meaty goodness I didn’t even have a chance to take a photo.

Oh how I love my pie friends.

And finally the updates regarding some of the cats we are fostering through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, Mars has taught Khloe to play and Minerva is becoming much more social. As is Louise.

Our Ostara Celebration

For the last 24 hours, the teenager and I celebrated the arrival of spring with my college roommate, Curly, so nicknamed by my now deceased father.

The visit allowed us to be something akin to a spiritual family unit— as the teenager has a godmother type relationship with Curly that has fallen to the wayside for the last decade plus, but if grief and death can have a good side, it allowed Curly and I to reconnect.

The three of us are not quite a coven, as we are too informal and not the Wiccan type, but our pagan witchy souls share beliefs, energy and a history with tarot cards.

Compounding this holiday celebration (as the teenager called it) was the fact that the teenager had a robotic baby for the weekend as part of her childcare and development class.

Upon Curly’s arrival, we chatted and got as organized as we ever do and then went for a walk at the Karl Stirner Arts Trail with the baby and F. Bean Barker.

We, or shall I say the teenager and Curly, then consumed a ridiculous amount of sushi and related products at Jasmine Sushi Hibachi and Thai.

And then fighting a fish-induced coma and a crying plastic baby, we parted ways for the evening to meet again in the morning. Curly baked blueberry muffins while the teenager and I met up with Andrew at Apex Training so I could challenge my lower body and do some bench press. The teenager maintained her 95-pound bench press, while I, the old and feeble, peaked somewhere at 80 or 85.

Me, the robotic baby, and the real baby and Greg at Apex

What does any of this have to do with Ostara and the vernal equinox? Throughout the evening we had talked about intentions and goals. Today we set them.

For all of us, the themes became clear. Spring is the time to blossom— to take the intentions we had set earlier and make them bear fruit. Our goals involved relationships, health, creativity and balance. Those are all very strong “spring” ideas.

We took the baby for a walk downtown and I had so much fun exploring downtown Easton with an outsider’s eye and celebrating so many of my favorite spots. From the teenager’s favorite shops, to new stores, to old stand-bys like Mercantile Home, Bella’s Dog Cafe, Three Birds Coffee House, Carmelcorn and Easton Public Market.And we dipped deeper into other places like Smartivities and saw art by some of our favorite artists.

With thousands of steps under our belt, we returned to my house for a feast of leftovers (and despite more than 7,000 steps IN HEELS I was still going strong with no pain).

And we settled down for our ritual.

And at one point I asked Curly if the rooster could join our ritual and she said yes. After all, chickens are very symbolic of spring themes.

The energy was powerful in the room, and the ritual allowed me to reset and focus some ideas.

And when it was done— we shared chocolate dipped potato chips from Carmelcorn and macaroons from Cocodiem.

We shared passion fruit, crème brûlée, honey lavender, dark chocolate, pistachio and Earl grey. Very delightful.

A trip “For the Girls”

Today was supposed to be the day I blogged about Black Panther and Doctor Strange, which I will do when I finish this and schedule it for tomorrow. Short version: Black Panther was amazing but made me think about how we represent African cultures, cultural appropriation and stereotypes AND how comic books in general have to start with some sort of basic cliché and try to improve from there. I loved how Doctor Strange blended an action hero with sorcery and in the process led to some great philosophizing about the nature of reality and the definition of good versus the definition of evil.

But I have to interrupt my planned schedule and tell you instead about my visit to FOR THE GIRLS EASTON. Visit their web site here. And I encourage you to digest their mission on their web page here.

The teenager has breasts, and as a teenager she has grown and needed new bras during the pandemic. I have wanted to take her to FOR THE GIRLS for two plus years now, and her boobs keep growing, because every woman needs bras that fit, especially if you have large breasts (like my daughter) or older breasts (like me in my forties over here).

My daughter, having a moment of smarts as she is quite prone to do, asked her father to buy her bras from FOR THE GIRLS for Christmas. He said yes, and she finally had the opportunity to request an appointment for this weekend.

I asked if I could come, in part because I was curious about the shop, and also because I wanted to see what kind of options were available for my ample daughter.

So as she was trying on bras in the backroom fitting area, her dad and I sat in the shop playing with this really sweet dog. And suddenly I realized: I’ve gained 20 pounds and have been wearing bras too small for two years. I keep thinking I’ll lose weight so I don’t want to invest in new bras, because I don’t like my bigger boobs and I certainly don’t want to keep them. But I’m falling out of my bras. Just falling right out.

It’s not nice. It’s not comfortable.

I asked, “Can I be fitted, too?”

And of course the answer was yes.

** I love small businesses. **

And when she saw my boobs spilling out of my bra, that poor proprietor said, “Oh no.”

Traditionally, when I am at a healthy weight, I’m a 34B. Overweight I typically come in at 36C.

My new bras are 32F.

And it feels great to not have them jostling everywhere.

Standard bra sizes really don’t match your torso size and your cup size correctly. It’s just like jeans that never fit right. Bra sizes that are in the big chain stores for cheap are based on sizes most women can wear, and that means if you’re a smaller girl with a large chest, you might be stuck wearing a larger band size and smaller cup size that you really need.

To continue the jeans analogy, think about how a certain size might fit in the waist but not in the thighs even though by the measurements and the size chart, it’s supposed to fit. If manufacturer’s can’t mass produce cheap jeans that fit, why should bras be any different?

I think a lot of women short change themselves because bras are not something we see or show on a regular basis, but the reality is, as demonstrated by the mission at FOR THE GIRLS, women have more confidence in a proper bra. And to me, more importantly, a bad bra fit just makes you uncomfortable all day long. Especially if you have a large chest, or if you move around a lot, or if you are aging and nature doesn’t hold up what it used to.

So thank you, FOR THE GIRLS.

And if you didn’t want to hear about my boobs or if I said too much about boobs– tough. I don’t care. It’s important.

Review: County Seat Spirits Whiskey Collaboration with Boser Geist Brewing

So in mid-November, County Seat Spirits announced they would be launching their collaboration whiskey, distilled from coffee stout from Boser Geist Brewing, on Black Friday.

Both establishments are in Easton’s Silk Mill.

Both create invigorating adult beverages.

My second novel, Courting Apparitions, launched the same day and I thought this particular spirit would be the perfect celebration.

Except when Black Friday came, I didn’t want to leave my house.

Last night, the teenager received a call from her father. He needed to go grocery shopping and with his car out of commission, he required her help as chauffeur.

Now, the way to his apartment goes right by Easton’s Silk Mill. So, I ordered my bottle of the collab and ask her dad to pick it up.

When they finished their shopping, he joined me for a tasting of the libation and it was delightful to see it warm his mood.

I didn’t feel like looking for real serving glasses or retrieving ice, so I poured about an ounce into tea cups. The scent was very strong and biting. A closer examination revealed it was 90 proof so that might explain the explosion in my nose.

The ex said he could taste the flavors as soon as it hit his lips. Potent. Elaborate.

He had purchased some Kalamazoo Stout, which is brewed with licorice. We poured the whiskey over ice and added the stout.

Both on its own and as a power force in the stout, the whiskey and its complexity did not disappoint.


To purchase Courting Apparitions or my first novel, Manipulations, visit your favorite online retailer. (Here’s a link to Barnes & Noble.) For more information on other projects and releases from my publisher, visit Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

Chasing a dream in the autumn chill

Sometimes, as members of the human race, we have days that are full of delights from sun-up to sundown. Those days are rare, but often involve a leisurely day with the family, a vacation or a holiday.

Then there are days that are good despite— or perhaps because of — their imperfections and today was one of those days.

Maybe today was my “bones day” after all. If you don’t get the reference, it’s a prognosticating pug on TikTok (read more here).

I was originally going to blog this on the Parisian Phoenix website, but I thought I could be more honest and personal here. So here I am.

I came home from work in a lot of pain last night. I achieved 90% in my work metrics and came home, once again, in the kind of pain that leaves me crying and nauseous. Part of a marker for bad pain for me is if the pain interferes with my sleep and/or does not dissipate by morning.

I did not sleep well and I woke in pain.

But, I got up, got dressed, combed my hair and put on makeup. Because today was the Easton Book Festival. It might have been cold and rainy, but I was putting my best foot forward, even if the discomfort made it hard to put a shoe on that foot.

Now, here’s the thing.

Easton has been a part of my life for more than 25 years. Even now, I live very close to Easton. I can walk there.

Book and Puppet Company has been a part of our lives for quite some time. The teenager’s father connected with the owners of the independent bookstore. The teenager had a career as a contained character there.

Andy Laties of Book and Puppet founded the Easton Book Festival three years ago. I even appeared in the original “Read a Book” video— and they also featured a Muslim student in hijab outside the literacy center at my last non-profit job in development at ProJeCt of Easton.

My supervisor there quickly forgot the things I did well, like that placement and our involvement in the Easton Downtown Association scarecrow competition, in which they still participate. But I digress.

The teenager’s father now serves on the board of the Easton Book Festival, so when they organized a local author’s event, he invited me.

One month into Parisian Phoenix’s launch and I have a promotional spot. I didn’t sell enough books to pay for the small expenses of the event: parking, coffee, book printing (but hey, I would have needed those anyway), and the copy of the inaugural issue of the Lehigh Valley Literary Magazine I bought. And an overpriced breakfast.

But one person not only bought my book, but also came back specifically to hear me read. So that was touching.

I read a scene from the sequel to MANIPULATIONS, COURTING APPARITIONS where the villain performs a magical ritual in downtown Easton.

It was my first “reading out” in years!

I kept it very brief, because some others had run long and we were all tired.

Until the YouTube video drops— you should be able to view the Facebook live here.

I had intended to join the teenager’s father at one of the last poetry events of the festival, but I was frozen so I came home instead.

My neighbor, aka Sobaka’s mom, has now formally joined the Parisian Phoenix team as a proofread. She says we need to talk about chapters 1 & 2 of COURTING APPARITIONS tomorrow.

The teenager’s father received the copyright for his upcoming poetry chapbook so that could be going to press in a few weeks.

And tomorrow I hope to make applesauce, post some new material from Rachel Thompson on the Parisian Phoenix blog, and start typing Maryann Stephanie Ignatz’s material.

I even got to have dinner at my favorite diner with my neighbor to celebrate Jan’s official status as part of the Parisian Phoenix team.

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.

What a lovely Saturday morning should be

I slept in today— until 8:15 a.m.—which is both good (I needed the rest) and bad (I made plans to meet a work colleague and fellow cat lover at Easton Farmer’s Market at 10 a.m.

The cockatoo completely ate the rest of my cork board (see Cockatoo Mischief) while we visited our favorite familia yesterday (see Visit with La Familia).

And a mysterious feline decided to deposit a hair ball on the couch on the sun porch. So I tried my best to clean everything up and I took down the cork boards only to also remove great portions of the paint. The teenager assured me we have the paint to touch it up.

Somehow we made it downtown on time— and met our friends. The teenager spent her birthday money on a strawberry plant and some pickles and stuffed olives.

I bought her breakfast at Pie + Tart (apple turnover for her and mini strawberry rhubarb pie for me) and beverages from Fieldstone Coffee Roasters (mango black tea for her and bubble tea for me— which the server gave me a yellow straw to match my yellow pants).

After saying goodbye to our friends, we strolled the downtown so the teenager could visit The Loving Peace. They did not have any supplies she needs.

The teenager then directed my attention to The Carmelcorn Shop. She let me have anything I wanted!

In this video we review our haul from The Carmelcorn Shop. The biggest surprise was, as the clerk recommended, the tootsie roll balls were amazing. I don’t even like tootsie rolls! Review of Candy Haul

Life is certainly sweet!