3/4 of the year: The August medical update and ‘the feels’

Yesterday Nancy (my blind friend, poetry editor and my sassy mentor/ partner in crime) and I were in her bank. The other local branch of this big name bank had had some sort of building emergency. That office was temporarily closed, so the customers were lining up with us. The bank was understaffed (the man in charge had a lovely amiable personality and told us all if we wanted a job he needed two tellers immediately. I turned to Nan and asked if she wanted to apply. She laughed).

We were fourth in line, with a small brown man with an accent in front of us. He overheard me tell Nan something indirectly about my weight (the fact that I had worn jewelry made me jingle and I had on heels so I was unusually tall). And I said something about finally having the mindset to make an effort even if I hadn’t lost any of my stress-induced pandemic weight.

The man in front of us softly said, “you look great” (and when we left I got cat-called so it had to be true, I suppose). A few minutes later the man mentioned that seeing Nancy reminded him of the story of Jesus healing the blind man.

Now, before I continue this story, picture us in the chaos of an old-fashioned bank building, the arched ceilings and the old mega vault. Picture the long line, socially-distanced. Picture awkwardly-gaited me and the little old lady with the white cane on my arm.

I have heard the stories of disabled people dealing with religious folks who want to pray for them or with them. And this man muttered something about blindness being a blessing. And Nan mentioned something about disability teaching lessons to those around us and reminding us to have patience.

“It’s a blessing,” the man said.

Easy for him to say. It reminded me of something I heard on a podcast interview with a martial artist who has cerebral palsy. “I can do anything anyone else can do,” he said.

I mean, it’s the crap we always hear. And we can do anything anyone else can. But we also can’t. There’a footnote to that statement no one ever told me: you can’t expect to do it the same way they do it. You won’t look like them or necessarily achieve the same things in the same order. The able-bodied will never understand how different simple tasks that come easily for others can feel impossible to us. I spent my whole life trying to do what everyone else did, they way I saw them do it. But I didn’t understand that the physics of my body is very different from anyone else’s.

My legs and arms are often covered with brushes and scratches from bumping into things. I stumble and fall. But, I haven’t had a serious fall since August 3. That’s exciting. My average since the mallet finger has been every two weeks. I’ve now made it almost three. Today, I have my follow-up with my doctor, and I had called his office when I started the application process for a mobility dog through Susquehanna Service Dogs.

I’ve blogged about this most recently here. I connected some of my earlier posts about the process and decision here.

I asked his staff if he could fill out the medical form, because if he didn’t think he was the right person I could call my neurology physiatrist. She was/is amazing but I only met her once, two months ago. I have been with my primary care physician for 14 years.

His staff checked with him and they assured me that he not only fill out the form but that he would do it at my already scheduled appointment today. I normally see my doctor twice a year, in winter for my physical and in summer to review bloodwork and health issues that may pop up during the year.

When I ruptured my tendon in April, I visited him because my entire system was thrown off balance with the injury and although the specialist had allowed me to return to work (rightfully so), my hip was in pain and I was falling all the time. He signed me out of work for a short recovery leave of about three weeks, so I could work with Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training, my occupational therapists at The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehab, and my talented chiropractor and physical therapy guru Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center.

I have documented this journey and have started writing my cerebral palsy memoir, Gravity is a Harsh Mistress with clever title by my estranged but still strange husband. Blog posts with connections to cerebral palsy are listed here.

My primary care doctor followed up with me after my specialist visit and allowed me to return to work at the end of May, even though my finger was still in a cast. We made this decision because the effort I gave Andrew had paid off and my hip was no longer bothering me. In addition, I had my first meeting with my physiatrist a few days later and I wanted to see how I felt after a week back-to-work to relay that information to her.

Anyway, point is, I haven’t seen my primary care doctor since May. He hasn’t seen my healed finger. He hasn’t heard about some of my rather dramatically majestic recent falls.

My weight today was 155, which is more than five pounds less than what it was at the gynecologist’s office last week.

I arrived early. I was in my exam room before my appointment time. My friend Gayle was bringing me her laptop so I could work on the cat book edits. I told her to put it in my car as I didn’t have time to run to her house and didn’t know how long my appointment would be. She ended up at the wrong medical practice. There are two similar St. Luke’s affiliated family practices in neighboring buildings.

I was texting her and making notes waiting for the doctor. I noticed my phone buzz again. My mom had sent a photo via text. That’s odd, I thought to myself. Mom hasn’t said much to me since the Teenager and I surprised her companion on Father’s Day. She didn’t even text me when she went to Florida to visit family. So, what was this?

I opened it.

I shouldn’t have. It was my father’s tombstone. My mother, despite having divorced more than 30 years ago, visits my father’s grave regularly. She’s grieving him, as many people are, and she is also grieving two of her brothers who died in the weeks before my father.

I couldn’t hold back tears. I have not visited my father’s grave since the funeral, and even then I did not get out of the car. I don’t see the point. The funeral had alienated me, and I didn’t feel like I “belonged,” and that’s not due to my family. But my father wasn’t there anymore. It was a corpse. And I had no need to see it formally placed in dirt. He was gone. And no ceremony will change that. Even now, I’m crying again.

Several times I regain my composure and several times I lose it, until eventually the doctor knocks on the door. So, I had to explain.

I mean, I suppose I didn’t have to, but it seemed only fair.

That meant we spent the first ten minutes of my appointment talking about boundaries, grief, and therapy. I’ve been with my psychologist even longer than I’ve been a patient of my doctor and the two of them know each other and speak so sweetly and kindly about each other.

We moved on then I think first to my recovered mallet finger. We reviewed my bloodwork. I told him I had to go get more iron, as my previous bottle had run out and I was using a different iron that didn’t seem to be working as I told Nan yesterday that I “almost bought a pair of potato chips.” Now, when you’ve had a history of iron issues and anemia, word confusion is a symptom. And I have been using wrong words in speech for at least a week. So either the iron is dipping or I should be screened for early onset dementia.

I almost bought a pair of potato chips.

I used this opportunities to ask if there were any other adjustments he wanted to make to my vitamin regimen. He suggested sticking with the 2000 ius of Vitamin D3 (which I take with calcium).

Next, we tackled the form for the service dog. Much to my relief, he thought the dog would be extremely helpful for me. And he also commended me for the work I do to take care of myself. In the evaluation for the service dog process, I was telling stories from the gym and mentioned how my ankle finally popped for my chiropractor Wednesday night, and how after my last fall I asked the Teenager to evaluate my walk, then she told Andrew this info at the gym, and he monitored my movement, until the next day I went to the chiropractor and she had to maneuver my hip back where it belonged.

She said I needed to do more single leg muscle stability work, which I then told Andrew, and I relayed to the doctor the horrible exercises Andrew made me do. And my doctor chuckled.

He once told me that he doesn’t worry about me because he knows if he tells me to do something I will do it. And I think Andrew and Chiropractor Nicole see the same commitment in me. My doctor today said this is why I am in better shape than many of his patients, despite my issues.

He handed me the completed form, which is the type of thing the office signs decry “requires 7-10 days” and payment of form fees. I am so grateful for my team, their respect and their guidance.

Meanwhile, while I am setting up my annual physical for February 2023, I see a text from Gayle. Remember Gayle? Apparently, she forgot my current car was a Volkswagen and was wandering in the parking lot looking for a silver Nissan. (My last car was a red Altima.) I didn’t have my Stitch Fix parking permit on my mirror. The car was clean because The Teenager has her own vehicle now. And there were four silver cars– none of the Nissans– in the parking lot.

She meandered around so long that a staff member came out and asked if she was sick or needed help. When I left the building, Gayle was next to my car. I had been with the doctor for an hour.

“You’re still here?” I said.

“I’ve been out here 45 minutes,” she said. “So when you replied to my text I figured I might as well stay and say ‘hi.’ What’s five more?”

Only you, Gayle. Only you.

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.

The Concept of That Thing, Compliments from the Chiropractor and Ingenuity in Training

Sometimes, these entries feel repetitive. I hope they don’t feel like that to you, the reader. But, in many ways, life is certainly repetitive.

Whether it be the old house always needs attention, the dog is always sick, a struggle with weight, mental or physical illness, a bad boss or money problems, each of us seems to have that troubling thing with which we grapple.

If you don’t have that thing, I would love to read your memoir (or maybe not— I might throw it across the room).

So if you keep stopping by or my blog posts keep popping up somewhere in your life, I know I’ve been talking about cerebral palsy a lot. It’s that thing for me, especially right now, as I topple through the second half of my forties.

I have spend most of my life— until the last decade really— denying that that thing made my life difficult. I laughed off accidents, tried to hide my legs, carefully picked my shoes and didn’t talk about it.

But also, and very important in the chronology, until that point, it hadn’t really been an issue. I occasionally feel down, scraped some knees and hands and laughed about it.

But then I started breaking bones, having issues with my spine and hip, and when I fall now, it’s more serious that wash up some scraped flesh and laugh it off.

So, if you don’t already realize, these blog posts are meant to be informative for those seeking situations involving demiplegic spastic cerebral palsy, but also chronicle my acceptance and journey into how to live my life with my disability instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.

We’re learning to co-exist, cerebral palsy and I, in a way that allows me to stay active, be whole, and keep myself safe.

On Monday, I had an uncharacteristic fall at work that seemed to come randomly out of nowhere. I wrote about it here. It scared me because it didn’t feel like my other falls.

I left work at 11 a.m. and came home to rest and write and emotionally decompress. I was scheduled to go to the gym at 6 p.m.

I texted Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training. He moved my session to earlier in the day and The Teenager and F. Bean Barker accompanied me to the gym to study my walking and confer with Andrew about the possibility of a work out.

F. Bean Barker, hard at work

We scarcely made it two blocks and The Teen says, “Holy Shit, Mom. You’re right knee is hitting your left leg. You can’t feel that?”

She proceeds to mimic my gait. After half a block, she looks back at me and says, “No wonder your body hurts so much all the time, my hip is killing me already.”

It might seem mocking for her to imitate me on a city street, but for me it’s helpful since I can’t see myself move. That’s why I also like her accompanying me to various assessments as she has no problem telling doctors, “She’s having a good day today. When she’s tired that leg is much fuckier.”

She and Andrew studied me and they stared in bewilderment. They agreed that my left hip was definitely out-of-whack. The Teen left and Andrew got me stretching and doing a thorough workout that safely challenged the muscles that seemed to be malfunctioning.

As happened on Monday when I was achy, the workout made me feel better (which is why I didn’t want to cancel). I have never been good at not overdoing it, so the concept of “being gentle with myself” as my therapist says and “taking it easy” (both emotionally and physically) as my dad would remind me if he were still here, does not come easily to me. It’s especially hard because spasticity means my muscles don’t relax, so motion and exercise really can relieve my symptoms. But if my issues are joint and/or fatigue related exercise can make it worse. And I don’t often know which course of action will help.

I proposed this theory to Andrew: Since cerebral palsy means the brain and the nervous system can’t always communicate, I feel like sometimes those messages goes haywire. That’s when a good, supervised workout (where Andrew can guide my motions and direct me as to what body parts are doing unnatural things) helps my brain re-learn those communication skills. The muscles start to do what they should do because I am thinking consciously about how to do it, which helps the muscles get into the groove, and from there muscle memory takes over, and through doing, the brain resets.

Just my theory.

I woke up Thursday morning with minimal discomfort from my fall (and a new lump and bruise where I walked into a weight bench at the gym, which made Andrew feel terrible). I was looking forward to my appointment with Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center on College Hill in Easton, Pa.

Her daughter had joined her in the office. That made it interesting to have a different kind of conversation about my condition. I was a good example of two things: every patient is different and some patients have self-awareness about their body. And according to Nicole, I am one of the most self-aware in the practice. I was also an unusual example of someone who often “does better” in heels because of the fact that my heel parts (tendons? ligaments?) are so tight. I’m a toe-walker. My heels natural fall at an angle so a slight “kitten” heel replicates the shape of my feet.

I told Nicole about the latest “random” fall and this worried her, because she’s noticed (and I have tracked on a calendar) that my falls have gone from every six weeks to every two weeks. I mentioned that I applied for a mobility service dog through Susquehanna Service Dogs. She loved this. She agrees that I am the perfect candidate for this and that a dog could be a game changer.

I explained that I had mailed the application last week (Friday to be exact) and that The Teenager and Little Dog’s Mom had said they would write my letters of support (which means they support the placement of the dog with me and will take responsibility for making sure I take proper care of the dog once it is in my home). The Teenager planted the idea of a service dog in my head and it took some time, research and more falls to help me accept the idea that I have a disability and that a dog would be able not only to help, but would probably improve (and protect) my quality of life. The Teenager works for a local pet care company.

Little Dog’s Mom has known me for 20 years, trusts me to care for Her Ladyship Sobaka, and is a very responsible dog owner who takes often thrice-daily walks and has a magnificent fenced back yard. A potential service dog would have my small yard for potty breaks and the opportunity to run and play across the street at Little Dog’s house.

My doctor’s office assured me that if I bring the medical assessment form with me to my August 19 check-in, that my primary care physician would not only fill out the form but he would also do it while I was there. I asked my estranged husband of twenty years (and The Teen’s father), the president of the cat rescue where I foster (who left the social work business after decades to open Apricity Pet Care), and my therapist (who has known me for a decade and whose wife is a physical therapist) to fill out the personal reference forms. They all agreed. But back to the chiropractor…

Nicole also said to stand on one foot throughout the day to stabilize my leg muscles. Physical therapy is a fascinating science, the simplest movements can impose the greatest change. My blind friend Nancy discovered that a good portion of her shoulder pain and finger numbness stemmed from not stretching her neck up. As a blind person, she never has a need to turn her head toward the sky or ceiling or someone speaking from the stairs or seeking something on the top shelf by looking for it.

When her very clever physical therapist suggested stretching her neck regularly, her symptoms decreased significantly.

There it is. A lot of words. A lot of thoughts. I’m hoping this post will give you food for thought, reassure you that I am not totally a disaster waiting to happen and/or offer you information on my journey and hope for you if you need it.

Simplify: a health update and a Dunkin review

I went to the chiropractor yesterday. Nicole at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center warned me that she “beat me up” more than usual.

That’s amusing to me as I was in an incredible amount of discomfort and she eliminated 90% of it.

I explained everything going on— my stress, my lack of good sleep, the possibility I had omicron, not eating right or taking my vitamins, not stretching or working out, and working overtime.

But as soon as she touched the back of my right hip, the tenderness immediately told me there was an issue I hadn’t thought of: my hip.

I need to remember that when I struggle to use my legs I might have an issue with my hip.

This post explores the last time I had this same issue: click here.

And if you look at that entry, you will see my mental health had declined in similar proportion to what I experienced earlier this week.

Pain and shifts in mobility really do have profound effects on our mental health.

So maybe next time instead of focusing on all the things that are going wrong and contributing to my lack of function and mental health, I need to be quicker to ask for medical intervention because — as I already know— I can’t trust my pain.

My pain recently didn’t feel that bad. But all the signs, including 65% work performance indicated otherwise.

I really need that physiatrist appointment to get scheduled.


In cheerier news, I recap some of this in a YouTube video I did yesterday while trying the “brown sugar cookie” latte and new egg bites at Dunkin.

See the video here.

If you want the PowerPoint version of my impressions:

  • The Brown Sugar Cookie flavor is boring. To me, it tasted a bit caramelized and like “toasted white chocolate” syrups. I miss peppermint for Christmas and pistachio for spring. These flavors now only come in peppermint mocha or pistachio mocha. I don’t like mocha in my coffee. Unless my friend and colleague Mary Barnes, now deceased, was the barista making a salted caramel mocha about eight years ago before everything came in salted caramel mocha. Starbucks always introduced it for the holiday season. But back to Dunkin and Brown Sugar Cookie, the teenager compares it to gingerbread. I didn’t get the spice of ginger.
  • The bacon cheddar egg bites… these were expensive but at 17 grams of protein and 280 calories they can substitute for a meal. But $4.99 for two miniature donut shaped eggs? Cute, definitely. Firm and crisp on the outside. Soft on the inside. Smoky, cheesy flavor. Again, boring. Strange mouth feel. But a very practical and utilitarian option.

Forgive Yourself

I believe it is Wednesday. I’m fairly sure because the teenager keeps talking about taking the garbage out, and I had a chiropractor appointment this morning.

She and I talked a bit about the mental component of health and wellness.

My blog post yesterday reinforced it for me. The “do one more” mentality.

But at the same time—

No matter who you are:

  1. Forgive yourself when your house is dirty. Sometimes you don’t feel well; sometimes you are emotionally stripped; sometimes you are busy living life and enjoying the ephemeral moments.
  2. Forgive yourself when your values and what is important to you doesn’t line up with the rest of the world. Yes, I’m a crazy cat lady and I work in a warehouse even though I’ve had a professional career and lots of education.
  3. Forgive yourself when you can’t keep up. Yes, people want you to do things and people need you, but sometimes you can divide a project that you could do in one day over four days.
  4. Forgive yourself when you feel needy. Sometimes you have to ask for that hug or for help.
  5. Forgive yourself when you want to be alone. Don’t guilt yourself if you need rest or merely some quiet time.
  6. Forgive yourself if you aren’t where you want to be. Sometimes the journey goes unexpected places. Embrace it.

All the Things

I don’t know whether I should apologize, explain my absence or dive right into this messy, stream of consciousness blog entry. Nothing new is happening but so many little things have brought joy to my life.

I had a great week at the Bizzy Hizzy. I spent most of my week in QC, and I hit 80% of the daily production metric except for one day when I hit 90 percent. But I just can’t seem to replicate that success. Last night I was in receiving inbound processing where I unboxed and received a pallet which included Democracy Jeans and Market and Spruce shirts. I caught a mix-up in tags. And I met a young man whose name is an abbreviated form of Jesus’ Angel because he was born three months premature as I was.

A few nights ago, I was listening to a podcast, probably Mayim Bailik’s Breakdown. They were discussing the ACE Childhood Trauma Test. So I took it. That was a mistake. It made me think about a lot of things— my past, my mental health, my relationships. I didn’t expect the results and I suppose in a way it was profound.

But as much as life may have had some dark spots, the foster cats sure bring joy. Hermes of the Greek Pride is already starting to bound with his new dad. (And even broke something expensive.) Louise the Tripod had a meet and greet with someone interested in adding a new cat to their household. And Parker and Extra Crunchy of ten little kittens are now playing and acting cat-like. Even Touch of Grey seems cheerful.

Evening with Louise

Videos:

Parker and Extra Crunchy

Touch of Grey

I picked up my new glasses, replacing my previous pair. I have abandoned my sexy librarian look and regained depth perception.

New glasses

On another podcast, I heard a host discuss someone who wrote a memoir from her 20 journals. What a joke! He said 20 as if that number is impressive. I have been journaling for 30 years! I lost count after 100 volumes.

Speaking of journals, I splurged on a Silk and Sonder self-care planner/journal. It’s a monthly subscription and I am already anxious that it will stress me out. My regular journal is more or less a bullet journal now. I think another book that requires a daily check in might not be worth the pressure. And it’s $20/month. That seems expensive. More to come. Including unboxing and review.

Speaking of unboxing, I bought myself a Lite Brite in a moment of nostalgia. #NoRegrets

Video: Unboxing my Lite Brite

The copyrights for my novels so as soon as they return from the proofreader we can start production and get Parisian Phoenix off the ground. Expect my novels hopefully this summer!

And if you miss my Goffin’s cockatoo Naughty Nala, she was in a mood today! Video: Nala steals my underwear

My neighbor let me know I appeared in Lisa Boscola’s newsletter for my role in delivering her public service award given by ASPIRE to Autonomy.

And last in a long line of rambling, I reviewed the Dunkin Double Coconut Macchiato: Video Here

Lessons I Have Revisited This Week

For a while, I was writing everyday on this platform. Recently, life has gotten busy and I shifted my focus to more organized blog entries than random posts.

So I slowed my writing down to times when I am rested and focused— which sometimes isn’t that often. But seriously, this week brought me great joy and also sorrow. In those emotions, I revisited some favorite life lessons. Many, but not all, involve cats.

First, there is Louise, the freshly amputee cat. She spent two weeks under my bed. Probably still confused and uncomfortable from her surgery, but also scared and scarred from her experiences before someone contacted Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab to get this injured apparent stray some help— both material and medical.

After two weeks under my bed, she’s trusting me. She’s super affectionate, cuddly, purrs like a machine and playful. She’s gentle and sweet and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.

Louise tested my patience and rewarded me with her love.

Hermes, yes another foster, got adopted yesterday. He came to us as a very sick kitten on July 31, 2020 as part of the Greek Pride. His sister Hades sent me to the hospital. But that’s another story.

Hermes was terrified of human hands for most of his life, and he’s still a quirky cat. His new family knows his flaws, but they are confident that he should be their cat.

Hermes reminded me that some growth is slow, but can transform everything about how you live your life. And that we are all on a different timeline.

Touch of Grey, a four-year-old owner surrender, has been with us about two weeks because of her tendency to be bitchy and nasty. She’s been an angel with us, even going so far as to try and convince Hermes’ parents to take her home instead.

Sometimes we only thrive in certain environments. What nurtures me might not work for you.

The hardest part of this week was caring for the Ten Little Kittens who were starving and probably have distemper. Only two survived the week. (More on that here: Ten Tiny Kittens) To see some kitten cuteness: Parker Playing.

Sometimes there is beauty and divinity in the briefest of lives, and knowing you did something, even if it leads to heartache, is better than doing nothing.

Okay. No more cats. I had a conversation with someone whom I’m known for a long time— decades. She has had a good career with the same employer the entire time I’ve known her. She’s my age. She asked where I landed after last year’s job loss. I mentioned the Stitch Fix warehouse and expected the conversation to drop or to get that sense I get from people that my job makes me less important or less of a person now.

Instead, she asked if we were hiring and if I thought it was a good job. I explained the pay, the good and the bad. Apparently she has no holiday pay, no paid time off, and ten hour days. Her job is taking a toll on her body and she just wants to move on.

This country places too much emphasis on our jobs and careers as the definition of who we are. And it’s upsetting how basic quality of life items like health care and paid time off are regulated by/ reliant on corporations and small business owners. Your worth is not based on your occupation.

I went to the diner last night to have pancakes and see the charming teenager #1 at work. One of her regulars asked her to help with his dogs so he and I have been talking. He’s a conservative Christian Trump supporter and I am a liberal with socialist leanings. I told him right off we probably had very different opinions on a lot of issues. But we had a polite discussion and did not attack each other.

Listening and sharing information has to be a polite and earnest exchange. People can have different opinions but respect each other and, even so, cooperate.

Midweek moments: Finding new perspective in small joys

This week has been a very busy week for me, in part because I have less hours in a day because of mandatory overtime and the fact that my body has finally adjusted and is sleeping 8 hours a night versus 6.

Recent events and uncertainties remind me of how much we as humans get so caught up in big things, that we forget the little things. These precious details are what make life worth living— whether that be a board game with the family, your favorite ice cream or hitting a new personal best while weight training.

Let me share some of my ten fun “moments” with you.

1. COFFEE DATE: Earlier this week, my neighbor invited me over for a cup of coffee because she wanted to share her excitement over her new milk frotter. Truth be told it was pretty cool— making an ordinary cup of coffee into a celebration.

2. BUZZ CUT CONVERSATIONS: I’ve enjoyed hearing people’s reactions to my extra short hair. Yes, Angel now has a buzz cut. If I’m honest, it makes me uncomfortable as my curly locks are a big part of my confidence and femininity, not having that impacts certain aspects of my personality.

But to hear others react is fun. They tell me their secret hair desires. It strikes up conversations with people with whom I might not normally talk.

3. MIDNIGHT BEER WITH DOG: The weather has warmed so instead of merely letting the pup out to relief herself, I brought a beer and some Doritos and enjoyed our patio and the moon. Moonbathing like the Addams Family.

4. EMBRACING DISABILITY IDENTITY AT WORK: I received an email earlier this week that Stitch Fix is creating some employee groups related to issues like race, gender identity/sexuality and disability. I signed up to join the disability group.

I’m still new on being “out” and open about my disability. I’m learning that I need to be less ashamed and embarrassed about having cerebral palsy. My disability has created many positives. I am tenacious and maintain a good attitude.

In working in a physical and metric driven job, I’m not meeting the same numbers as everyone else but I hope my employer sees that I am dependable, will always give 100% and will always take on a challenge.

5. FUNKY WATER MACHINE: They took away our bottled water at work and replaced it with a water machine that will provide still or sparkling water in a variety of flavors. This makes staying hydrated much more fun.

6. “PEARLS”: I wore my golden costume pearls to work. It made a lot of people smile. It made me clatter when I walked.

7. FUN MASKS: I bought myself some new masks but they are missing. So it means a lot to me that work provides holiday-themed masks. And a lot of them have gnomes.

8. BABY BIRD: Baby Bird is hanging out with the big birds outside the nest. He still can’t fly. He looks like his daddy.

9. FRENCH RAP: I recently renewed my interest in French language hip-hop music. Between that and all the podcasts I listen to at work, I feel like my brain absorbs so many new ideas all the time.

10. CAR TITLE: I paid off my car last week and the title arrived today. I bought the car in November 2018, refinanced it when I lost my job during the summer and now it’s mine!

Second shift midnight society

I never understood why people like to give their favorite parts of their day to their employer— unless of course you are your employer then it makes sense that you use your most productive part of the day to your business.

This is the main reason I enjoy working second shift. I think the pandemic and shift toward working from home shows how out of date the 40-hour-work week of the 20th century has become.

And while I miss the mission and accomplishment of professional work, one part of warehouse employment I very much enjoy is working second shift. At the Bizzy Hizzy, they call it “midnight society” because we clock out at midnight.

I like having my mornings to enjoy the sunshine, schedule appointments and run errands— or lazily lay in bed.

At 2 pm, I pour a cup of coffee and prep for work. And after that same time, my intellectual capacity and my motivation has diminished so working at a low skill, menial task gives me a second wind.

I clock out at midnight and the world is majestic in its quiet. I look at the empty roads and darkened houses, even the silence of my own living room, and I feel peace. Whatever I chose to do, even the cats are sleepy.

And then in the morning, I do it again.

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.