Rip it off fast like a bandaid

It’s 11 a.m. on Friday morning— it looks crisp and clear outside. Teenager #2 is in school. Teenager #1 just emerged from her room as we both got to sleep around 3 a.m.

Mandatory overtime and lack of sleep are kicking my ass. My household is experiencing some knocks too as the Roman Pride tuxedo kittens from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab are vomiting. We hope it is because of a recent change in their food.

I wish I could say the birds have been quiet. But alas, alack, the cats broke into my room while Boo-Boo the yellow parakeet was free-flying and Boo-boo flew downstairs. Now Boo-boo is not a hand-tame bird.

This occurred while I was wrestling clothes in the Quality Control Valley 2 of the Bizzy Hizzy at Stitch Fix. Teenager #1 heard Boo-boo screaming because two of our household cats had taken to swiping her out of the air.

Teenager #1 rescued Boo, who was still feisty enough to bite her repeatedly.

So there was that.

Meanwhile, at the Bizzy, I was thinking about numerology and “angel numbers,” thanks to a podcast I heard the other night. In the midst of all this craziness, as I was leaving work the other night, my odometer read 33533. Palindrome. Prime numbers. “Sacred threes.”

Okay so it’s blurry: 33533

So the boxes that got returned to me last night were sent back for issues with wrapping. One of the people training me finally came over and asked how I tear my paper. I showed her. Carefully. Almost daintily.

“Ah, she said, “there lies the problem. You need to rip it fast like a bandaid.”

I did and the results were very different and better.

My foe

I thanked her for the tutelage and laughed, pointing out that this was not something that did not come naturally to my skill set. I have no depth perception when related to placing items in containers. I suck at folding clothes. It’s agonizing for my body to stand still for 8 hours. And I have no concept of straight lines.

But all in all I am improving and I truly enjoy the challenge of learning something new. It reminds me of when I first learned cash office at Target. I wanted to vomit every time I started my shift.

The person overseeing me thanked me for taking criticism well, and again I laughed, and reminded her that I needed her it. She said a lot of people get frustrated. And I assured her that I was indeed frustrated with myself for repeating the same mistakes. She quickly revised her statement— “No, she said, people get really frustrated with me.”

And that struck me. Because I know what she means. And I have to say, in both my professional and… let’s call them survival jobs, I have had supervisors that understand how to deliver constructive criticism and all kinds of feedback and those supervisors who care about the mission, the corporate line, and/or themselves and how they look, more than they were invested in the people.

So far in the Bizzy Hizzy, I have not met one of those. I also feel I am in the honeymoon phase at Stitch Fix. My judgment may be skewed.

This mandatory overtime stinks. We’re all exhausted. And even the scrambled egg appreciation breakfast and free snacks can’t push us past that.

This might be the spot to mention that one of my supervisors spent most of the night running around with a squealing plastic chicken.

The nurse wandered into the Valley about 12:30 to check on everyone doing overtime (as the “deep cleaners” worked around us— which by the way, they move nothing and just wipe shit down. I find more dust and grime when I do my nightly wipes). I showed the nurse my new skill at tearing craft paper. She gave me a gloved high five.

I’m working a normal 8-hour shift tonight then returning for an 8-hour double time shift tomorrow morning. Now if you excuse me, I must go lay out my quarterly budget as it is 2-weeks overdue.

The joys and lessons of 2020

I know 2020 dealt a lot of people a bad hand at cards, so to speak, and I know so many people have suffered— loved ones lost, food insecurity, unemployment, instability, break-ups.

I naively believe every year will “be a good year” or a better year… but let’s talk Turkey for a minute: I have a disability (cerebral palsy), I come from a certain socio-economic bracket that has made it difficult (but not impossible) for me to achieve long term financial stability, and my own job choices have often valued community, family and altruism over traditionally-defined middle class life.

2019 was the year I resumed my professional career after taking ten years “off” to raise my daughter. (I worked for Target for those 10 years and they gradually increased my part time hours to full time and so I opted to get paid a professional salary versus a retail wage if I were to put that many hours in.)

My husband and I separated in 2019. That was a huge change after 20 years, and it still pains me. My husband is one of the kindest people in the world, and while I still lament that we couldn’t fix our problems, the end had to come.

So what were the joys and lessons of 2020?

Let me share.

  • Cats. December 26, 2019 through late January 2020, the teenager trapped the feral kittens born under our neighbors porch. We kept two of them. Taming feral kittens gave us so much reward. And led to us working with FURR. Our fostering career has involved 12 kittens so far, in seven months. And I cannot tell you how much I love having babies around all the time. On days I don’t want to get out of bed, I do for them.
  • Birds. I met Nala on December 28, 2019 and brought her home in mid-January. By dealing with this obstinate Goffin’s cockatoo, I learned a lot of patience. And the best way to top being “a crazy cat lady” is to be the crazy cat lady with birds. And my parakeets had babies for Christmas 2020. I have three chicks that I have seen grow daily.
  • Professional and personal growth. I found myself crying at my desk more often than I like to admit in 2020. It became apparent by the end of January that my boss was an incredibly toxic person. At the same token, I learned so much from her that when she dismissed me during the pandemic, I could use those new skills to help a young nonprofit grow. Between my original job and my volunteer work with new nonprofits, I showcased this knowledge to steer these organizations to grants. And the success rates for grants, publication of an first-ever annual report, and various media placements throughout the Lehigh Valley was exhilarating.
  • Expanding family. As my faithful readers may know, I have a second teenager staying with me. This teenager has turned our lives upside down, but has shared in our joys and tribulations during the last four months. I always wanted a larger family— and I got it this year: a menagerie of birds, cats and teenagers. It’s been amazing to share our joys and traditions with someone and see my daughter react to no longer being an only child.
  • New attitude toward challenges. I am always the person you can count on when you need someone. So people don’t realize that I am often terrified and insecure. Being “alone” and a single custodial parent has gotten me over that. I had five months with no income and I lived on the $4500 I had in savings. I ended up in the hospital with a cat bite during that time period and it was such a great learning experience. I learned a lot about myself, my neighbors, my friends, and how amazing teenager #1 really is. And then I finally get unemployment after I get my new job at Stitch Fix. I promptly use it to pay off some of my medical bills and a few living expenses I had put on my American Express.
  • We will move beyond Covid. I finally got a job and three weeks in, I contract Covid-19. That whole experience was something, but again— I learned to ask friends, neighbors and family for help. And that GrubHub gift certificate I received during the summer months sure came in handy. This whole pandemic world has me mapping out whom I would recruit for my squad in a real catastrophe.

Maybe I’m just weird— but I see a lot of hope and triumph emerging from struggle. Cheers to 2021.

Really, budgies?

I started my day-after-Christmas in a peaceful frame of mind.

Those are such lovely sentiments. And then I went upstairs to care for my birds and Papa Parakeet slipped out under my arm and started flying around my room.

I give him a lecture, text my daughter and toss all kittens out of the room.

Here is my panicked video: Escapees

And then I think— well, maybe there is something missing that he thinks he needs for his babies. And he goes to the cockatoo’s cage and steals her rice cake. And Boo boo joins him.

Which, by the way, Nala the Goffin has almost finished unwrapping her final gift from me.

But I digress.

I wash all their bowls, get fresh water, the fancy food, some treats and fresh banana.

And about 20 minutes later…Budgies go home

And then I get this text:

It’s going to be a long day.

An uncomfortable Tuesday

Firstly, my headline is misleading as it is Wednesday already.

Tonight my body aches. Everything hurts in a bad way. And I was dizzy and lightheaded— in a weird way, like my head was clogged with fluid and my body was dehydrated (which I am not).

I only “picked” 120 at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy tonight and I am frustrated by that. That’s 2.5 carts less than last night which is almost an hour worth of work.

Now, mind you, I was working in W most of the night which is 750 steps from the “garage area” and if I hustle I can cross in 1 minute 30 seconds. But that adds 3 minutes per cart, which easily accounts for 45 minutes. If I follow my own logic, this means if I were stationed closer to the garage I might have easily reached 136, which would have pleased me.

Bizzy Hizzy

It is 1:30 a.m. now and I am continuing season 4 of The Crown. Now, considering how much my body hurts and the fact that my fingers and feet tingle as if they were asleep, something must be wrong with my circulation. Is my blood pressure too low?

So I thought I deserved a salty snack. The teenager had hijacked my new bag of tortilla chips, and left me with the stale broken crumbs in the cupboard. Her grandfather had brought potato chips but I didn’t see those in the cupboard.

But I found a cup of Little Caesar’s cheesy jalapeño dip and thought that could revive the stale chips.

And as soon as I got them to my room, foster kitten Loki spilled them. Onto my floor. I almost cried.

Speaking of The Norse Pride, here they are after their vet appointment declaring them free of ringworm. In this photo— believe it or not— they think they are hiding from the vacuum.

Tonight I listened to a podcast on Tudor fashion, the final segment of “Do Not Harm” on Wondery. I recommended it to one of my social work interns. I can’t wait to discuss it with her.

Earlier in the day, the teenager went with my father and found our Christmas tree and helped me have a steak dinner before work. I also took my homemade beef broth out of the crock pot and packaged it. I have a cheap man’s beef stroganoff planned for tomorrow.

Weekends that are weekends

It has been ages since I had a weekend that felt like a weekend. A weekend without trying to catch up on chores. A weekend without “Sunday scaries.” A weekend without working overtime or getting up early for one thing or another.

As a matter of fact, I slept until 11 this morning, which, when you consider my new bedtime is between 1 and 2 a.m., is not unreasonable.

The teenager made me coffee and brought me a pain au chocolat from Lidl (which is still too soft and not crispy, flaky enough to remind me of real French croissant but far better and cheaper than most American attempts).

I spent some time with my cockatoo, Nala, and many cats and kittens not to mention with my daughter.

Speaking of Nala, she bit my phone screen protector and I’m not sure if she got a shard of glass in the camera or she broke the lens, but my selfies are hazy now.

Teenager #1 wanted to drive today so we ended up at Shoprite, Pet Valu and Starbucks. I haven’t had a Starbucks in ages and I decided to try the Nitro Sweet Cream Cold Brew but ended up a tad distraught that apparently Nitro does not come with ice cubes. It’s room temperature-ness did not appeal to me.

We found lots of goodies at Pet Valu with their going out of business sale— exotic canned cat food, a myriad of treats, lots of parakeet food and a little something for Sobaka for Christmas.

I received an AmEx offer spend $15 at Sonic get $5 back so we went, as Sonic is one of the teenager’s favorite places. The food was kind of awful and they only have the drive thru open so they misheard our order so our total after tax was $15.23. I probably won’t get my special offer.

To hear us talk about our foodie adventures click here: YouTube: Sonic Shenanigans

We ran into one of our favorite couples at ShopRite— We’ll name them C&F. They both have much respect from my daughter and I because they are super intelligent, easy going people who found each other and “overcame” some life obstacles that I pretty much would label as the realities of our American society. I feel like if they were ever two people who earned every success in life it was C&F, and I am so lucky to have met them and have them in my life and so proud of their children and commend them for being great parents. And to think— I have known C since before she got married! They were a little shocked to hear the teenager can drive since we all met when she was six.

Anyway. So after all that and a meal at Sonic, the teenager and I came home. She put the groceries away. We wrapped some holiday gifts. And finished our hair.

Amazing in Lavender

And then while I did laundry— I have surrendered to the idea that laundry will never be “caught up” again in this house— she started construction of the holiday village.

“That” mom

The teenager is a junior at our local public high school, plays low brass and usually makes the honor roll.

Her entire school career we’ve had “the rule.” You get one bail out per school year. One Mom-SOS request to bring an item to school— band music, mouthpiece, lunch, whatever.

Today, on the first official day of in-person hybrid public education she forgot her school-issued Chromebook.

7:36 a.m. (one minute before the late bell rings) — text message— “Mom SOS.”

I go up to her room and find her refurbished MacBook Air and her school Chromebook. Both stacked nicely on her newly organized desk. Neither plugged in.

“Is it charged?” I text.

She assures me it is.

I try to resist the kittens gathering at my feet. It’s hard— but I have a mission.

I grab her wallet (as she has my keys attached to it at this moment) my wallet, and my flip flops.

I am now “that mom.” I always prided myself on being dressed and groomed before walking my kid to school. But today, I am still as I was when I rolled out of bed: crisp white t-shirt now speckled with some Fiero dust (spicy Taki-style corn snacks in fire-breathing chili lime flavor), no bra, and yoga pants.

When did I become this?

It’s raining lightly, the crickets are singing.

I park the car near the school and buzz the office (which, with me were several late coming students). It’s a small school so the employee in the office pretty much knows most of the parents and all of the kids.

From my sequestered hallway in the vestibule I hand her the computers and noticing the lack of cords she asks me, “Chargers?”

She knows teenagers. She sees it every day.

“She claims they are charged.”

The office employee nods. I realize I really should know her name, but I suppose it’s not a bad thing as I have not become one of “those parents” in addition to “that mom.”

“Those parents” are always at the school dropping things off or calling to talk to someone about their child.

The woman at the window asks if my daughter is coming for the machines, so I text her. (Is this not blatant disregard for the “no phones in school” policy?)

She says she doesn’t think she can unless someone gives her permission. I relay this. The woman in the office calls.

I have not said my daughter’s name out loud this whole time.

It’s a small public school.

I am instructed to leave the technology on the narrow table beside me in the hall. I exit. I see the teenager approaching from inside the locked doors. I wave from the rainy outdoors.

I walk home in the rain— my middle aged self in a white t-shirt. I figure the child will want to drive later so I leave the car there.

Funny part is, it was raining on her orientation day last week so I let her friend use my umbrella. Her friend also had it with her today.

I get home a little soggy and my daughter’s cat is in my spot.

Misty

And to think my daughter asked me — “why are you up this early?”

Apparently for an SOS.

The first foster departs

And now there are four.

We have four cats.

We have four birds.

We have four foster kittens.

Our five kitten litter that we are fostering for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, that we named after Greek gods and nicknamed “the Greek Pride,” is approaching 5 months old.

Artemis, now Artemus, was the most social and the most cuddly of the group. Today, he went home with his new family.

I’m glad it was a busy day, and I’m also glad Artemus’ sibling is a therapy cat with his own Facebook page because this allows me to keep up with Artemus’ adjustment to his new home.

Sketch & Artemus (Marshall on the stairs)

I even saw a video!

My heart started today with a touch of sadness so I’m glad I spent the day with people I enjoy.

  • Yesterday I took all the carrots we received during the summer food program and diced them in the Ninja.
  • Nan came over to work in the morning and eventually we plan to do a Mother Maiden Crone themed piece, discussing a multi-generational experience of the pandemic.
  • Nan and I sneaked to the drive through for cold beverages, but we only spent $2 and some change.
  • The teenager and I spent a lot of time cleaning so there may be a tidy home in our future.
  • The teenager’s father brought me my favorite chicken salad and not one but TWO quarts of half and half from Aldi.
  • My mother-in-law brought picnic leftovers.
  • My stepmom gave me fresh cantaloupe that she says is the best she ever had in her life.
  • The teenager and I started watching the documentary Pick of the Litter on Netflix.

As if this wasn’t enough joy for today, the teenager and I hung out with Darnell and Amber tonight— trading some of my unfiltered chicken stock (tomorrow I will strain it and bring him his official portion) for some leftover chili.

After some work (yes, even though it is a holiday), we had some raucous and fun conversation over margaritas and a home cooked meal.

And we all know how I appreciate a meal.

Tomorrow might be as zany as today, but I’m ready.

Silly, sweet Saturday

So, I have come to the conclusion that all I have to do is call Nan and ask, “Are you busy?” and she will grab her white cane and meet me by the door.

Unless NASA has something going on— like a hatch opening or a spacewalk or a launch or a capture.

Today the teenager got up early, at 8 a.m., which in teen time is somewhere between “I had no idea the sun came up this early” and “wow, I can eat breakfast at actual breakfast time.”

Speaking of breakfast, the foster kittens have learned the word “breakfast” and their little ears perk up when you say it.

The teen wanted to go to Petco and Dollar Tree, while Nan and I had our eye on a brief trip to Grocery Outlet to look for smoothies and lentil pasta. Their circular advertised Bird’s Eye steam-in-bag lentil pasta, which Nan and I both like, for 99 cents.

It normally runs $3-4 per bag.

As a blind person, Nan likes the fact that she can make lentil pasta without dealing with boiling water as one has to do with traditional pasta and it’s not a mushy mess of preservatives like canned pasta.

We were both disappointed to discover that they only had lentil/zucchini pasta with olive oil, as opposed to the “sauced” varieties.

But I get ahead of myself. As I mentioned yesterday (see Growing Up), the teenager is now driving. This trip with Nan— because of course she said yes she’d come— would be her first trip with the teen behind the wheel.

Yesterday, we not only drove several highways but I took her to Wendy’s to try the drive-through. She aced that.

We set a rendezvous time with Nan for 10 a.m. and head to the car with a sneak peak at the garden. My fancy little imported peppers have started to grow, and the massive pumpkin vine that originated in my compost heap has started to yield pumpkins not on the ground but on my fence.

Petco passed without incident and Grocery Outlet had minimum disruption as well. But the teenager found Maple Doughnuts (as a brand name) in an unlabeled decadent 12 pack that weighed at least four pounds for $1.99.

“Quality you can see since 1946,” I chuckled while reading that to Nan.

The plan quickly morphed into a trip for coffee at Dunkin’ and doughnuts from Grocery Outlet. The teenager helped us load up the car and she headed to the Dollar Tree and we contemplated beverages.

Except McDonald’s was closer and cheaper. By the time the teen returned we were still deciding because I had a coupon for “buy one milkshake and get one for a penny.” But we had doughnuts.

Nan wanted a chocolate shake but protested that she was pretty sure drinking milkshakes before 11 a.m. was frowned upon, in the same manner as day drinking.

I assured her it would be 11 by the time we received the milkshakes.

So I ordered one small chocolate and one medium strawberry milkshake and one large Diet Coke.

One of us had to pretend to be sensible.

10:35 a.m.

The drive thru is ridiculous. But that’s how it is now. The line at the McDonald’s is like a trip to the DMV whereas getting your learner’s permit at the DMV is relatively instantaneous. Another Covid-19 reality.

11 a.m. — to the minute— we receive the shakes. Nan and the teenager split a chocolate doughnut. I eat a cake doughnut with icing and crystallized sugar. And then a glazed donut with chocolate icing and a thick layer of maple icing.

A relaxed and joyful start to a sweet Saturday morning.

Growing up

I always wanted a family and I imagined myself surrounded by children, but my life circumstances led to me (and my now separated from husband) bringing one child into the world.

There are several key points in my life that caused a dramatic shift in who I am— she was the first.

In the first few months of her life, I started to see every good and every negative part of my personality. Akin to the experience of most parents, she changed me because suddenly I knew I had more at stake on this earth than my own existence.

She depended on us as her parents, not only for survival, but as role models. And wow— was that reality sobering.

Yesterday her father took her for her learners permit. Covid-19 has delayed some of her plans to start driving.

But now it’s official.

The teenager is now a teen driver. On YouTube: The teen picking me up

Now, her father drives a 2016 Nissan Juke which is like driving a dune buggy. By comparison, my 2015 Jetta turbo is a race car. My daughter smartly recognizes the difference and adjusts her learning plan to best suit each car.

For example, she wants to learn to merge onto the highway in my car before her father’s as she knows if she misjudges, mine will increase speed faster.

Speaking of the highway, she drove me to my mammogram and ultrasound this morning, which involved first experiences not only on Rte. 33, but also Rte. 22 and 378.

She asked me to photograph the experience.

I am so proud of her. And am so glad to share these key moments in her life.

PEEC

A few weeks ago Gayle and I proposed to the teenager going to Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) www.peec.org for their waterfall tour.

The July date didn’t quite mesh with our schedules so we headed up today.

17,000 steps later…

Gayle has some great stories from our day on her blog: “Fat Girl Walking” at PEEC

I don’t really have much to say other than:

  • The parks/trails seemed so crowded and people were from out of state, which is fine, but they seemed to be hanging out more than hiking.
  • A hiking guide’s idea of a mile is shorter than mine.
  • If land is designated as National Recreation Area, people can hunt and fish on that property. You cannot hunt or fish in a National Park.
  • Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel are nearly identical. Mountain Laurel grows in high elevations and has leaves smaller than the palm of your hand. If the leaves are bigger than your hand, it is a rhododendron.
  • Burning poison ivy and breathing the fumes can give you internal poison ivy.

Our tour guides had some interesting knowledge of the area; and our favorite had an eclectic post-college experience of accepting Americorps posts all over the country. She apparently had extraordinary prowess with a chain saw.

We learned a lot about plants, both native and invasive; trees and their insect diseases; and history— they even discussed how this area was shaped by the proposed Tock’s Island Dam project.

I find the Tock’s Island Dam controversy fascinating. Because the land was taken by eminent domain and not originally destined for National Park use, the people who had their homes seized did not have much time to move. So much debris was left behind but nothing can be removed from a National Park.

These high school students did a great job on this brief documentary explaining the project.

Student Documentary on Tock’s Island Dam

The official park service web page on Tock’s Island Dam

What is even more fascinating is that without the proposed Tock’s Island Dam, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area would not exist as it does today and it wouldn’t be as expansive. Even one of the biggest anti-Tock’s dam activists says that the process of condemning those homes and entire towns for the dam protected the area from future development.

I grew up on the Delaware River. Much downstream from where we were today, at the start of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. So hearing about “Hurricane Diane,” “the (19)’55 flood,” etc., was like listening to legends about my own history, as if the river were my blood.

My bedroom faced the river, and when I find myself someone where I can hear water washing against the shore in the lazy way that river does, I close my eyes and can revisit some of the best memories of my childhood.

And of course no 65 minute road trip is complete without some sites on the road: