Updates, announcements and anecdotes

It’s just about to turn 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The last 48 hours have been emotionally difficult, and those are internal challenges I have resolved within myself but now I need to “make right” in the world.

My good friend Joan (the talented photographer) had quipped that the moon is in “Frustrato” phase and perhaps that is accurate.

Sometimes it’s nice to blame the universe instead of accepting our part in the mayhem. Because even good intentions spark fires.

I heard a podcast yesterday; I believe it was an economic one, that asked if one host was “a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy.” He replied, “it’s just half.”

That’s too much enigma and philosophy for pre-dawn hours. Blame the fact that my trusty espresso machine only filled half my mug.

Mug from Purr Haus in Emmaus

The teenager and I had 14 kittens in the house Saturday, Sunday and Monday offering temporary lodging for these babies whose official Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab foster families have gone on summer vacation.

They were so much fun to have around, but 11 went home last night. This led the Teenager’s officially adopted foster fail Mars of the Roman Pride distraught that his friends had gone. He screamed until the Teenager released him into “gen pop” where he plopped himself down in front of the remaining visitors.

On Friday, I had a rather grueling session at Apex Training with my coach Andrew. We did some intense work on balance and single leg muscle stability. On Saturday, the communication between my brain and my lower body felt rickety (for lack of a better description) and it was challenging to move. By Sunday, the movement felt smoother but my phone was registering spikes in walking asymmetry. But something very interesting happened Monday— I could not only stand on one leg, but I could also hold my leg in a few seconds of a quad stretch.

Yesterday, I visited the Stitch Fix employee store, which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario. I bought myself jewelry on an impulse and discovered my second holes could still accept earrings. As someone who really grew up in the 80s and graduated high schools in the 1990s, I have three sets of holes in my ears.

I bought the Teenager some new things, including some warm hiking style boots for fall and her dog walks. I bought myself an adorable pair of shorts, and I picked one size up from my pre-existing Stitch Fix clothes and they were too small.

Obviously my efforts to reduce my recent (as in pandemic era) weight gain have been not sincere enough. Sigh. I’m trying to eat better and move more without falling into a strict/restrictive mindset.

But I did eat an entire medium pizza from Domino’s the other night. It was a medium hand-tossed crust, light on the cheese, light on the garlic Alfredo sauce with red peppers and pineapple.

On the way home from work last night, I noticed that the furniture store looked abandoned— and that the sign merely said urn.

In the background of all of this, the ‘cat book’ from Parisian Phoenix has hit some unexpected difficulties prompting a delay in its production. But my quick thinking, after a few hours of pondering, have inspired an interim release of a mini cat book featuring advice and stories about the care of cats. The larger book will come later, perhaps in early 2023.

In the meantime, I am very puzzled why my sweet tripod foster Louise has decided to crate herself.

And the most surprising item of the day was receiving my first catalog for Parisian Phoenix Publishing— Uline junk mail!

I suppose the last update is that the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs have cashed my check for the application fee. I’m anxiously awaiting contact.

To say life has been hectic feels like an understatement.

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!

Here Kitty Kitty

Yes, that is a kitten. Yes that is a photo by the amazing Joan Zachary. Yes, that is the teenager.

Please check out this blog post about the upcoming book to benefit Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Yes, I am helping to write it, putting my journalism skills to work. And I am offering cat wisdom and reprinting a flash fiction I wrote in high school.

As The FURR Flies, an anthology of cat stories, heart-warming tales from cat rescuers, cat resources and cat advice has gone from in the pipeline to …

Here Kitty Kitty

Messages from the street team

At work today, by my math, I did 102% in my home department folding clothes— 159 fixes to be exact during a ten-hour shift that started with a 20+ minute meeting. Yesterday I shipped 565 packages in Freestyle, which is 113%.

Those were some of my fixes.

Sunday we were off, a paid holiday to recognize Juneteenth. The teenager and I used the time to visit the senior community where my mom lives as one of her neighbors wanted some of my books.

Grandma S bought all three of my current novels and a copy of the Parisian Phoenix anthology, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, as it contains essays by me, the teenager and her father.

Grandma S, the teenager and I had a lovely visit where I finally got to meet her mammoth cat.

And we all know I love a cat.

We stopped to see my mom and her partner on our way out — thought it would be a good surprise for Father’s Day as the teenager has good memories of my mother and her roommate that involve Yoo-Hoo and tractors and cornfields.

My mom asked for several books as well.

And then some discussions happened that made me think maybe the senior community might be the closest thing I have to a “street team” to publicize my books.

Grandma S said she saw my clumsy video of me reading from Manipulations on Facebook and wants to read more.

Mom apparently enjoyed deciphering the locales and familiar faces in the novel. One of her friends reported that the first novel jumped around too much and was hard to follow. She’s apparently reading the second now.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to get my cast off.

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.

Jake not from State Farm and other fun chores

The last 48 hours have been chaotic and exciting. On Wednesday night, as I hobbled around like a Barbie doll with her leg half popped out, I received my LLC approval via email in a pdf called “Happy Letter.”

I brought this and my fictitious name registration and my EIN to my banker, Jake, who is not from State Farm.

Turns out I’ve gathered more paperwork than I need. And none of it matches. So in the future I may need an EIN for the LLC as the original EIN lists the business as a partnership and the LLC does not.

Jake not from State Farm enjoyed my enthusiasm for setting up my banking business and shared that his wife is working on a book about parenting autistic children. And how much he enjoys poached eggs.

I had had plans to have breakfast with Nancy, but those plans had to be delayed. I was supposed to pick her up at 9:30 but I told the teenager I would drop her off at school at 9 and I thought I would run to the bank and see if I could open business accounts.

I told Nan if I were on time it meant I had bad luck, and if I were late, it meant I had a business bank account.

So when I called her at 10:30, she was happy for me but it also meant we couldn’t get breakfast potatoes at Wendy’s. We opted for egg sandwiches from Dunkin instead and came back to my house to work.

I made Nan chai, we did her work, and I subscribed to Poets & Writers for the business. Then Nan and I went to Grocery Outlet.

We got some goodies for the upcoming ice storm— which for Nan meant cotton candy grapes, Cherry Coke Zero and cheddar quinoa crisps. I got the sea salt version of the crisps, some creamers, hot dog rolls, monster cereal, raspberries, dates, frozen cauliflower and whipped cream cheese.

Somewhere along the afternoon, Nancy and I laughed ridiculously hard about things I don’t remember. We picked up the teenager from school.

We went to pick up Nan’s laundry. The teenager helped her carry it up to her apartment and as Nan washed and started snacking on her grapes, the teenager and I went to the gym, Apex Training

The teenager achieved a new personal best for barbell squats— 175 pounds.

I managed my lower body workout, which wasn’t easy with my right hip and leg not acting as a team. I feel so weak and still feel out of shape, as if I’m wasting my money, but this morning I found it much smoother to move so maybe I am moving forward.

And then the teenager and I showered and met my stepmother for dinner. We ate at Thai Orchid in Stroudsburg and followed with ice cream at Jimmy’s.

I had a delightful, flavorful tofu in yellow curry and canned Bubble Tea that made the teenager get over her distaste of tapioca.

This morning I wrote a blog entry for Parisian Phoenix and spoke with Ludwig about merchant services. My credit card reader will arrive next week.

F. Bean Barker assisted in the “office.”

And now to share Parisian Phoenix’s post:

Two official big announcements from the Parisian Phoenix universe today: 1. Not an Able-Bodied White Man With Money, the nonfiction anthology of …

Jake not from State Farm

A day in the life— medical update, meal plans, sunshine, animals and publishing

I make a lot of lists.

Sometimes my journals are nothing but to do lists and shopping lists. But I like lists— even if I never refer to them again, the act of making a list allows me to stop thinking about things.

If I want to refer to it later, I know where to look, but I no longer have to worry about forgetting as if I want to remember or revisit items from an earlier day I can but I am not staring at a list focusing on what needs to be addressed versus what I actually did.

Many people make lists to receive the satisfaction of checking off the things that are done. I don’t do that. Sometimes I do, but now it’s more like I am acknowledging the list versus trying to conquer it.

I used to finish my list every day or stress over the things I didn’t get to, and on top of that— the list never made me feel better or more in control.

It just exhausted me.

Trapped and the Cover for the Anthology Arrive

Parisian Phoenix’s first contemporary romance has arrived and it looks great. Read more about that here.

But I also received the cover for Not An Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix site this weekend.

And I have a 4 p.m. meeting today with another author who I have been hoping would join our family.

Now if only I could finalize some of our business documents to really move the projects forward.

Yesterday (Voluntary Time Off) and evaluating my health

Life at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy has been odd lately. We’re shipping something like 8,000 fixes a day and having the opportunity for voluntary time off.

Last week, I performed at pretty damn close to 100% without pain or significant mobility issues. This week, issues started mildly during my Sunday shift and deteriorated Monday & Tuesday, leaving me at 80% and crying myself to sleep. I talked about this here.

I’m very much wondering if my menstrual cycle has something to do with it, as the Mirena IUD has done miracles for my pain and issues in that department but has made my cycle irregular. I think my body is trying to menstruate later than usual.

I was taking inventory of my recent balance, mobility and functioning issues as today I had my annual “wellness visit” that the office rescheduled from last week.

I took VTO yesterday to allow myself some rest and some time as life (and grief from my father’s death two months ago) has gotten chaotic and overwhelming.

And I made the teenager and I grilled cheese as I had promised to do, and the child acted like I had prepared filet mignon for her.

I have a feeling I will be repeating that after school today.

We also watched Miranda Sings Live on Netflix. The teenager went through a time when she watched the show, so that was weird. It always amazes me how much talent it takes to perform badly.

The doctor today

I have spent more than a decade assembling a talented and caring medical team, so now I can confidently say any issues with my medical treatment stem from the system and not from my doctors.

The doctor and his resident agreed with my assessment that it’s time for me to get into the physiatrist and that their office will advocate for me on that as well, and that my instincts and approaches are correct.

I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency can create problems. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.

And most interestingly… I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency to let’s say ‘lean’ can create problems, just like what I am experiencing now with my right hip and right leg/foot. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.

I reiterated to them that I do know I need to lose 20 pounds, but that we have some issues to address before that.

The psychology of emotional and physical pain

When I was turning 40, I embarked on a journey to lose five pounds and gain muscle. I inadvertently lost 30 lbs and ended up a skeleton and regained some weight to look like this:

That was about 30 pounds ago. I have no need to be that lean again, but I’d really like to see 135 lbs again— which means I need to lose 20 lbs.

I told my doctor and his resident— I know I can’t eat an entire bag of cheese puffs or Wawa bowl of mac and cheese and brisket after dinner. But I’m struggling with depression from my body pain and my father’s unexpected death.

I’m grateful I haven’t turned to alcohol like many in my family, but I have “given in” to food as a psychological crutch.

I pay almost $300 a month for a personal trainer, but I can’t work as hard as I want to because I hurt and I feel like I need answers as to how to move my body so it doesn’t hurt. Because if I could exercise more and move more, I wouldn’t sabotage myself by eating garbage (or if I did, I would be active enough to balance it).

But right now, when I come home from a ten-hour shift with my body twisted and aching badly, and wishing I could call my dad so he could make me laugh and tell me how much it sucks to get old, I grab junk food because it’s the last pleasure I have.

I can’t move without pain so if I’m going to be forced to get fat and lazy I might as well enjoy the process.

These are ugly thoughts and I know that, but I’m being honest.

The fun stuff: errands with Nan

After leaving my primary care doctor, I called Nan as we were scheduled to do some errands together. We stopped at Wawa for some hot caffeinated beverages (cafe con leche for me and vanilla chai for Nan).

Among other stops we visited Park Avenue Market and Deli, one of our favorite haunts known for its deli, salads and meats.

Although I am once again contemplating more of a vegan diet, which will make the teenaged carnivore wince, I am not ready to commit until I feel better. We must achieve discipline before we enact change.

I never got around to meal planning yesterday so I didn’t have a list. I ended up spending $36.89 and I think the results will work.

I purchased: two packs of beef jerky, one small box of minute rice for the teen, three or four teeny tiny bags of Wise snacks from popcorn to potato chips, meatballs, the biggest damn carrot I’ve ever seen, frozen vegetable medley with potatoes and garlic herb sauce, sweet potato crinkle cut fries, pork roll, Lebanon bologna, liverwurst, turkey, olive salad, a store-baked pig ear for the dog and something called “hot pepper shooters”— round hot peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone.

Rough meal plan

My rough meal plan for the next week or so is:

  • Sandwiches
  • Meatballs and green peppers, either as a sandwich or in pasta
  • vegetable lasagna still in the freezer from last week
  • Burgers and fries, using ground beef from the freezer and the sweet potato fries
  • Cold tortellini salad with roasted carrot, olive salad and seasoned broccoli (broccoli is in the freezer)
  • Pork roll and egg sandwiches
  • Chicken and the frozen vegetables and rice or other grain

PS— we also welcomed a new foster into the house. Her name is Babs. Meet her in this video. I need to make her a page.