The Highlight Reel of the Ides of November

It is 6:45 a.m. I went to bed around 11 p.m. last night, after a long conversation with an old friend whom I haven’t had a chance to truly connect with for years (and while we “caught up” last night as if no time had passed, it didn’t feel like the happy reconnection I thought it would), and the dog woke me up at 5 a.m.

At 6:15 a.m., after loading the dishwasher and starting laundry and trying to snuggle dog into a nap with me on the couch, I finally made coffee figuring sleep would not return.

Now, the dog is gently snoring on the other couch.

I definitely would prefer to be a cat versus a dog. The dog seems an anxious and needy creature, where the cat has an attitude and most of them act like they have their shit together.

I haven’t written much this week because my physical and emotional struggles have left me in a survival mode, and upcoming changes at work have me concerned for my long-term success at mastering my cerebral palsy and achieving work/life balance that includes leading Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

And I’m okay with these struggles, they mean I’m human and I’m alive. And I guess I want other people to know that in an age where we “social media” ourselves to death and we’re exposed to worldwide turmoil and glamour, that I’m here with you in the trenches, surviving.

So, Wednesday turned out to be a hard day. We received the official word that starting some time in December, our performance metrics will be judged daily instead of by their weekly average. And that we can miss the daily minimum two days a month. I had already turned up to work crying because of stress in my everyday life. (Which only my friend in the parking lot saw. Speaking of my friend in the parking lot… she needs a nickname as she will play a larger roll in this blog post and hopefully appear more. I think I shall call her Southern Candy, because her roots are in the Southern United States and she likes to pass out hard candy.)

Now, after my neurologist/physiatrist appointment on November 9, (see Is it Time for Botox), I filed for Intermittent Leave from work which would allow me job protection if my work missed increases due to complications from my disability or more doctor’s appointments. I now have a lot of doctor’s appointments. With recent changes at work, I seem to have triggered a couple neuromas in my right foot, which my podiatrist shot with cortisone (See The Stabby Toe and the Challenging Gait), and unbeknownst to me, as I had never had cortisone to me, this transformed my good leg into a second bad leg.

It absolutely removed all my pain, but — and this is probably why my podiatrist asked when I planned on returning to work and seemed satisfied that “tomorrow” would give me adequate time to recover– it made it impossible to control and rely on my right leg as I typically do. BUT I can also say it made me acutely aware of how I use my legs and unfairly make my right leg carry more than its share of the movement burden which is why my right hip has issues.

My left leg “scissors” causing my left knee to pretty much cross in front of my right leg when I walk (and yes, that is as awkward as it sounds) but now my right foot drags, causing my toes to curl under my foot. I have compensated for this change in walking pattern by buying cowboy boots. Not real ones, but ones we sell at work: the Kassy boot by DV by Dolce Vita. (Unboxing on YouTube here.) They allow me to hear my walk, feel my foot, and not step on my toes.

At our weekly meeting, our supervisors announce the metric change. I understand their logic. They plan workloads daily so they should measure results daily, simply put. And as this change rolls out, I’m confident the company will “do the right thing” in implementing it. I’ve been there two years, so they have investment in me as I have investment in them.

On my good days, I average 101% to 103%. But on my bad days, without some extra support that minimizes my physical struggle, I average 95%. So with the weekly average system, I’m still a “fully performing” employee. On a really bad day, which happens ironically about once or twice a month as their new system will allow, I give everything I can and sometimes only hit 85%.

Now, unlike some of my colleagues, I am also on a work roster that has changed shifts twice in the last calendar year. Yes, I have had three different work schedules in the last year: Monday to Friday, 3:30 p.m. to midnight; then Sunday to Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All very different.

Add a neurological condition to that and it’s hard to adapt. When they offered Voluntary Time Off on Wednesday, allowing us to leave three hours early, I took it. My emotional state would best be labeled as frazzled and my right hamstring had started bothering me, probably because it felt like my right leg was a useless tree trunk.

Here is the happy part. The kindness part. The part where the light shines from one person to another. Thursday morning, I get a text from Southern Candy at 5 a.m. “Stop by my car when you get to work.”

She gave me a cat figurine. A cat in frilly dress with pink bloomers, staring into a goldfish bowl that even included a goldfish.

“I know you had a hard day yesterday, and it made me think of you.”

I brought it home and placed it on one of my Parisian Phoenix bookshelves. A place I can see from my workspace at the table and/or when I’m having dinner.

To skip ahead, I’ve been thinking it’s time to record and place a request for permanent accommodations at work. By Friday morning, when one of my colleagues said he’d like to help me out with the easier work but too many people had doctor’s notes, I decided to email my supervisor. So he and I now will try to make that happen. Around the same time, my neurologist’s office called to see if they could move my December 6 appointment to December 9. The times they offered overlap with a preexisting doctor’s appointment I have.

And my intermittent leave needs to be certified by December 9. I returned their call, expressed my regret that those appointments would not work, and asked the person on the phone to please leave a message for the doctor and her nurse that my employer had sent paperwork and that I would have more paperwork and that I would gladly pay any associated fees.

I also wanted to mention I am trying to eliminate inflammatory foods from my diet, but that can wait until I see her. I am wondering if I should request to work with a dietician and get a new set of bloodwork to check not only the standards like iron and cholesterol but also vitamins like B12.

I’ve done really well not stress eating in the ten days since I’ve seen her, eating vegetarian baked beans at work yesterday while my colleagues ate piping hot pizza. My weight is slowly dropping.

I’ve eaten no junk food in the break room, choosing fruit leather and yogurt over Cool Ranch Doritos and fancy fruit snacks. I even reduced my caffeine intake. Yesterday for dinner I made thick egg sandwiches with eggplant, mozzarella and extra sharp cheddar on my favorite multigrain buns and a little chipotle mayo and avocado hot sauce. One for dinner and two to go in the freezer for work lunches this week.

Although I know my perceptions are faulty, I feel like my only success this week has been with Andrew at Apex Training. I got my gym sweatshirt, and the dog immediately jumped on me and coated it with mud so I don’t have a decent selfie… yet. But these guys at the gym have been a lifesaver. Andrew works so hard to meet my needs and come up with innovative exercises to challenge me and train my muscles to cooperate. I did a seated shoulder press this week with 30 lb dumbbells, which ignited my inner strength as my lower body becomes more useless.

I discussed my hamstring troubles and we did some balance exercise yesterday. Andrew thought I was going to stand on the balance trainer and hold a weight on one side to create instability in my stance. Then, he saw me try to stand on the ball. And we opted to practice that first.

Finally, I asked The Teenager to check on Foster Kittens Jean-Paul Sartre and Giorgio in their habitat at Petsmart. I will see them today but it brought my heart joy to see that they are doing fine.

Why you should always be nice

Today I kept my head above water, but I often still feel like I’m drowning.

Physically I’m still struggling a bit so that makes it a little harder.

Dinner tonight was Little Caesar’s deep dish.

I ordered it for 5 pm so the teenager could come with me to pick it up, but she had a kitten pinning her down and we all know how hard it can be to escape kittens. 

I arrive early since I didn’t stop home. The person staffing Little Caesar’s front desk is super apologetic that my pie isn’t ready. I said it was fine, and told her that my daughter being held hostage by kittens.

She gave the only response she could, “Awe…. you have kittens?! Like little kittens?”

And as she drank her Mountain Dew I told her the story of trapping the kittens and how I don’t have the heart to separate the remaining siblings.

Next she asked, how old is your daughter?”

“Almost 16,” I replied.

“You don’t look old enough to have a daughter who’s 16.”

“I’m going to be 45 in a couple months,” I told her.

“You look damn good for 45,” the woman said as she handed me my pizza.

I thanked her. And then she told me to wait and she gave me big bag of cookies, for my daughter, even though my daughter was too old for cookies, she said, but everyone likes cookies.

It made me think of all the times I used to give out things like popcorn.

But who knew Little Caesar’s had cookies?

Anyway, those cookies felt like winning the lottery.

In closing, enjoy this photo of the teenager exploring the cookies and Nala, the cockatoo, and I, eating pizza.

Hope and light come in unexpected places

I chose my current employer based on the flexibility I wanted for school, travel and motherhood. And for the most part, I like my job. Sometimes, people frustrate me but many of my regulars can uplift my spirits. Especially the children.

I’m a good old reliable person. I tend to get assigned duties that the average peon might not do, and I don’t mind, it keeps my mind engaged. I like my immediate team and my supervisor is incredibly down-to-earth and full of common sense.

The last few weeks have been challenging. We’ve increased our production, changed routines, and even experienced equipment difficulties. But our team weathers it well.

Today, I took a turn cashiering, not my usual gig, but I don’t mind doing what needs to be done. For a while, as I covered breaks for the regular cashiers, the lines got pretty intense as I was the sole person ringing.

In the middle of one of those lines, a truly beautiful woman approached. She seemed a couple years older than me, in a white dress with a subtle pink pattern. I believe it was a classy princess seamed dress. She had short dark hair. She brought a several pieces of jewelry to the counter with her other purchases.

She was full of so much positive energy.

“May I ask your opinion?” she asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

She showed me item #1. A friendship necklace. “I am buying this for a friend.”

She showed me item #2. A necklace with family charms. “I have another friend who is really close, and I consider her family. Is that cheesy?”

“No,” I said. “I think it shows the depth of your feeling. I would do the same thing and I would be touched if I were your friend.”

“I’ll do it,” she said.

We continued to chit chat as I rang up her purchases and at the end I heard her say something about offering me a bracelet.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“May I give you a breast cancer awareness bracelet?”

She pulled this big bag of pink bracelets from her bag.

“Sure,” I said. “I know some survivors and some people fighting.”

“I’m fighting as hard as I can,” she said.

Then I realized. She had short hair. She was very thin. She had a band-aid over what was probably her medication port. We chatted some more and I wished her luck. I told her I would be thinking of her often and if she ever needed support I normally worked in the cafe and she should come see me.

“I might take you up on that,” she said.

“Please do,” I said.

She brought light into my life and made me humble. Good luck to you, wherever you are.