The crazy, the lazy and the witchy

Today was a typical day in the crazy menagerie of our home. But it was delightful. I’ve come to accept that Saturdays are overscheduled and hectic. Sundays are a rest day.

F. Bean Barker woke at 5:30 am— a normal part of the routine in her old home. No one gets up that early here.

I went to bed around 2:30 am so when Ms. Black Bean woke up and barked/whined/howled for 30 minutes, I texted teenager #1. She went down, covered the dog’s crate with a blanket and laid down on the couch beside the dog to go back to sleep.

After that 45-minute disturbance, I woke at 9:30 am. The teenagers finished picking up the house to prepare for the notary arriving at 1 pm.

We cared for our pets and crated Vesta and Minerva of the FURR Roman Pride for the adoption event at Petsmart.

We then stopped at Dunkin on the way home because I wanted to do something to thank my husband for taking the time to come sign this paperwork and for supporting me in the refinancing of the house. It’s been about 20 months since he’s lived here with me. Neither one of us has filed for divorce. So his name is still on the deed of the house and the current mortgage.

This new mortgage will pay off my car, save me $300 a month, though also extend my term five years. Now instead of the house being paid off by the time I am 55, I will be 60. Mortgage payment alone on the the refinancing will pay off is 50% of my take-home monthly income and that makes me nervous.

My hope is that once the pandemic ends and life shifts, new opportunities and stability will allow me to apply extra money to the principal.

And teenager #1 will take her drivers exam Tuesday. If she passes, her dad and I will have a massive insurance bill so my solace is that if something should happen to my car, at least it is paid for.

Teenager’s dad loved his new cold foam chocolate stout cold brew. The closing almost went without a hitch, but Fog decided to saunter across the table amid the notary’s pile of papers. Cats are not allowed on the table. Especially when we have guests.

The teenager got ready for work and we watched an episode of Canine Intervention on Netflix. I wish they had more episodes.

I dropped her off at Tic Toc Diner. I then went to get the kittens.

Those adorable tuxedo sisters then went to Petco (Greenwich Township, NJ) for their adoption habitat.

Minerva (left) and Vesta

Vesta, having spent about three weeks in the habitat at the other Petco, sat there and shook in fear.

I came home planning to walk F. Bean Barker with our neighbors, Jan and her Ladyship Sobaka. But Bean only made it a half-block.

She’s just exhausted.

And then Jan and I went to pick up Nan and have dinner at Tic Toc. The teenager was worried about not having a Braille menu for Nan. As if we need a menu.

The teenager told me the founder stuffed with crab looked really good as the cook took a lot of care in its preparation and plating. I ordered it. With coleslaw. And the silly waitress got me french fries instead.

The dish reminded me of a crab cake wrapped in other fish. So good and a ridiculous amount of food for the price.

After dinner, Nan and I hung out at my house until it was time to retrieve our waitress from the diner.

And then when she got home, she unboxed this month’s box from Witch’s Gifts. These items are so carefully curated. To see the unboxing: March Box Witch’s Gifts

These boxes (and my tarot and witchy podcasts) remind me that I need to pay more attention to my spiritual and magical development.

Accidents (or the four letter word that starts with S and means ‘poop’) happens.

It’s been a hectic couple of days.

The teenager is pet-sitting for our FURR foster godmother. So she’s in and out of my house several times a day.

I have misplaced Fern’s adoption paperwork, which is totally not like me. Luckily Fern went to a friend of mine so I can asked her to send me a photo.

Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, has been upset and stressed and plucked her flight feathers off her one wing.

It’s really sad to see the confusion in her face when she tries to fly and just falls.

Speaking of Nala, I met her a year ago today.

We had a devil of a time containing Boo-boo last night but since we did Wink and Yo-yo seem much more relaxed as parents. I think it was the right call. Video: catching Boo

And here is a video of the parakeet chicks: Budgie babies!

I also finally got a good picture of Loki:

Sir Loki Dokie Puppy Turkey

While three out of my four cats were cuddly and cute.

Back to Front: Opie, Oz, Fog

Then I headed out to work for the first day since Covid. I stopped at Dunkin for a coffee and discovered there were no more good deals. So I didn’t get my coffee.

No one explained the protocol for my return so I don’t have the proper paperwork from my doctor. I’ll try and get that started— already called the doctor— but am waiting on their end of the paperwork.

I’m annoyed— mostly because I was ready to go back but also because I don’t know if this lack of communication will mean I lose income. With it being the holiday week, I probably won’t get rapid cooperation from the medical folks. And part of that is because there are people sicker and needier than I am.

After everything I’ve been through this year, I won’t complain.

It gave me time to do some grocery shopping and cook for the other teenager.

I even helped her make a smoothie.

One more week of 2020.

First Day at StitchFix: Bizzy Hizzy

I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to be at my local StitchFix warehouse— the Bizzy Hizzy—for my orientation as a warehouse associate.

I applied at StitchFix because many of my Target colleagues had gone there— including our former store manager who is now the head of one of their other facilities.

The state still hasn’t even looked at my unemployment claim that I opened in July, and despite having a bevy of interviews (non profits in the Lehigh Valley, N.J., and Washington, D.C.; development director for a public library in the Greater Philadelphia region; even a downtown manager), I needed an income other than the SNAP benefits (food stamps) I’ve received for September and October.

Well, I was considering applying at Wawa since the pay is above average for retail, it’s close to my home, and I’ve heard they have some good perks.

But if I have to go back to retail, I’d prefer not to deal with customers and something less labor intensive than food service would be nice.

So why not StitchFix? At least it’s fashion oriented. The walking (11-13 miles a day) will help me lose my extra 20 pounds. And by working on second shift, I will have my days more free to my volunteer commitments and other opportunities.

The benefits start day one and the high deductible medical plan is free for the employee, you must pay to add your family and you have options to have better coverage as well.

Free snacks and drinks in the break rooms.

Break rooms and bathrooms in multiple areas of the warehouse.

No dress code.

They call the warehouses by the name “Hizzy.” We are the Bizzy Hizzy.

But what blew me away was how the warehouse is organized— the clothes are on rows upon rows upon rows of Z racks. The clothes are lettered and numbered so it’s easier to keep track of where you are. Like finding a book on the shelves of a library.

I don’t want to say too much as I don’t know what would be considered a trade secret.

But I can tell you that I walked more than 1400 steps today.

How to Survive During a Pandemic

This one might be hard to write.

First, let’s publicize the good news. The Mighty published my “how to go to the doctor during Covid” essay that they accepted in June: What to expect. The Mighty is a social media site for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

Last night, I interviewed for a position in my local Stitch Fix warehouse. I was told I could expect an offer in coming days.

Stitch Fix would be less grueling than any of the other warehouse opportunities (Chewy, Amazon, FedEx, UPS) and less irritating than retail since we never have to interact with the customers.

I am very grateful for the opportunity, and if nothing else comes along in the next few days, I will accept it— and I asked for second shift in hopes of continuing to build Thrive Public Relations and fulfill my volunteer commitments (ASPIRE to Autonomy, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, Mary Meuser Memorial Library and the county Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board).

I don’t know if I can physically handle the job as I am a forty-something with issues in her S1 joint thanks to decades of life with cerebral palsy. But if I get the position I want, I’ll be walking more than 10 miles a day so I’ll lose weight.

I’ll be talking to my doctor (already had a talk with my chiropractor) about what might happen to my body.

And I have to admit that I’m annoyed and frustrated that I lost my job about 15 weeks ago and unemployment hasn’t even looked at my case yet do to the backlog. The wage at StitchFix will be almost exactly what unemployment would have paid me.

And that, my friends, is about 65% of my former salary.

So this “good news” is scary. But that is life as it stands in this body, in this region, in this country, in this world right now.

Exploring new looks

With the teenager and teenager #2 in my home more often than not, they are forcing me to explore new looks.

Zoom has influenced this as I also am trying to look alive and vibrant on camera.

I have started posting “before,” “after” and “product” shots on my Instagram, but let’s call this my “week in review.”

My Target favorite finds— Maybelline “snapscara” in blue; Rimmel Magnif’eyes Jewel, and Revlon player enjôleuse

I love sparkle, and my Oryza nude shimmer and contour palette serves as my everyday base eyeshadow. That was the best find so far via Ipsy, I even ordered a second so I don’t run out.

Now keep in mind, my makeup experience was non-existent five years ago.

Today

I start everyday with some Oil of Olay moisturizer with SPF 30, a promise I made to my primary care physician to protect my skin. My brand loyalty is based on sales & coupons. (CVS)

When I start to put on my makeup, I used some re:p (real elemental practice) phytocell moisture serum. I like the way it makes my dry cheeks feel and it smells like oregano or some other garden herb. (Ipsy)

My primer today was IT your skin but better color correcting full coverage cream SPF 50+ broad spectrum UVA & UVB. Thought it would hide my dark circles for my zoom. (Ipsy) This is teenager 2’s go to when she works my make-up.

I actually did my cheeks next — I did a whole lot of bronzer. My tarte bronzer in park avenue princess is another product from Ipsy.

Eyes today are the palest Oryza shimmer color, with a layer of the bronze shimmer color and a spread around some slightly purple glitter from the Starlit Dio kaleidoscope palette I ordered from Target.com.

Lips were my Seraphine botanics lip gloss in Berry & Juice. This lip gloss has the best berry smell.

Yesterday

Yesterday I started with my normal Olay complete, and some of the rep serum, and did my hair with the Brazilian hair cream.

Did my eyes with my normal Oryza shimmer, blush was Will Powder from Ipsy, but lips were from Baby Bat Beauty, there celestial lip gloss I believe.

The heavy duty glitter on my eyes is Baby Bat Beauty Glass Slipper.

Adoption nerves

We received a text Wednesday night.

Artemis has received an approved adoption application. Our first foster litter may be losing a member today as he moves to his FURRever home. Today at 1:30, Artemis meets his potential new family at PetSmart, as part of an in-store adoption event.

Does this mean we might never see him again? Does this mean he might never see his siblings again?

This little gent, and his siblings, have brought so much love and joy into our lives— kittens are such magnificent creatures to be around.

So I just had to take a minute to post, and remind everyone to adopt don’t shop. That my home might be a little quieter today and Artemis and his siblings might be lost without each other… but hopefully he will have much love in his new family. Though really, two kittens from the same litter are like having one cat in two halves— if you are new to cat world consider that.

Owning up and ripping Sheetz a new one

First off, before I even start this entry let me give my poor customer service representative Justin a shout out for his professionalism, patience and calm.

Second, before I get too far let me admit that I have now reached my heaviest ever weight, about ten pounds heavier than my natural set point with no muscle tone left. Push-ups, planks and heel-touch crunches used to be my jam– I could do 20 push-ups, a sixty-second plank and 100 heel touches without feeling tired or compromised.

At one point I had visible abdominal muscles, then I had abdominal muscles like stone beneath a layer of fat. That is now done. I struggle to walk up hill. I have no muscle tone. Where I once used 25-pound dumbbells for my bicep curls, I now huff and puff with ten.

This past year has been cruel.

This is the owning up portion of today’s blog. Yesterday, I woke up exhausted and hot but still motivated myself to do an ab workout. But then, I didn’t quite meet my step goal. And ate half a Papa John’s pizza and an order of their jalapeno popper bread bites. I meant to share them with the teenager but they were way too spicy. And I ate them all, even though they were kinda gross.

Jalapeño popper bread bites

I blame Dominos for the pizza binge as they sent me a push notification that they had two new pizzas–chicken taco and cheeseburger–but both turned out to sound boring and the $5.99 promotion seemed unavailable so rather than order my free two topping I spent $26 at Papa Johns.

The Zesty Italian or Tangy Italian, or whatever pie it was, was delicious in that trashy kind of way (though I hate Papa John’s tomato sauce I am reminded now). And the meal has led to a type of intestinal distress I don’t normally experience. I also gained 3 pounds.

The teenager tells me the pizza was good, but Dominos is better in her adolescent opinion.

Speaking of adolescent behavior, the teenager went back-to-school shopping with the paternal grandparents. She wanted a milkshake from Sheetz for lunch and her grandparents vetoed that and took her to a diner she does not like. I will withhold the name here as it is a fairly popular spot.

So she came home a little upset over the meal situation as she had just had “the worst quesadilla of my life.” She pined for that milkshake as it is 90+ degrees outside and she has marching band tonight.

“Mom,” she said. “If you buy me a milkshake at Sheetz, I won’t eat anything else today.”

I told her to throw in some extra chores and we could talk. She agreed. I downloaded the Sheetz app as these days, I don’t go anywhere without looking for coupons. I went to create my Sheetz account. Now, my husband has the Sheetz card. I have the Sheetz key ring.

The Sheetz card has a security code that the key ring does not.

You need the security card. The app forces me to call customer service.

Customer service tells me I have to find my security code, have my husband call them and say it’s okay, or use the general random Sheetz card.

To which I say, “If I use a random card, I won’t get the points. Isn’t that the point of the loyalty app?”

I launch into a fiery tirade. Because our Sheetz card/account is in my husband’s name, I cannot log into the Sheetz app. I find it odd that a loyalty app would have such strict security. I merely want to look for coupons and then go buy my daughter a milkshake.

Well, poor talented and patient Justin the Customer Service rep tells me, some people have credit card information in the app.

Yes, I say, but this one does not, because this account has never downloaded the app. So it does not have anything in it. I added that I can tell him my husband’s birthday and his social security number and probably the password he used if we ever tried to set up an online account. But he still needs my husband’s permission.

So I tell him that I refinanced my car over the phone the other day, and that I stayed on the line while the previous loan holder talked to my new financer. That I gave them my permission to share my account information with my new bank.

If I can do that over the phone, I should be able to buy a damn milkshake for my kid.

As a compromise, he called my husband at work and asked if he was allowed to give me access to our Sheetz loyalty account. My husband, of course, said yes.

He told the teenager via text that the customer service people didn’t verify his identity. They asked for no proof that he was indeed my husband.

Now let me add that if I were vindictive, because after all my husband and I have been separated for 14 months, why would I go to the trouble to steal his Sheetz loyalty number which is 16 digits, hack into his account, and run up his credit card with Sheetz purchases? Perhaps I would go squander his non-existent stockpile of reward points.

The app apprised me that we had 523 loyalty reward points and Sheetz requires 500 for a free regular milkshake.

I bought myself a pretzel with nacho cheese sauce and while the cheese sauce had a barely perceptible layer of spice to it, it had no flavor whatsoever.

The teenager enjoyed her milkshake.

Their mobile order system is very convenient.

Coffee musings: Review of Folgers Black Silk

I love dark roast coffee.

My current favorites are Target’s Archer Farms Mosaica and Wegman’s whole bean espresso roast.

My neighbor prefers Starbucks PPR (Pike’s Peak Roast) to brew at home and I enjoy it when I have my amazing coffee mornings with her, but I don’t believe it is worth the money. But I also don’t begrudge anyone their favorite coffee— I prefer to get my Mosaica when it is on sale or on the Target Circle app, and if that is not available I go to Wegman’s as it is normally $4.99 for the bag. I don’t recall the exact ounces of the bag, but it is the small bag that typically lasts me a month at one cup of coffee a day.

But recently Target had ridiculously low prices on my allergy medicine so I decided to see if my coffee was on sale.

It was not.

So I did what I do— I stared at coffee options and price points for 20 minutes deliberating.

I purchased a massive plastic bin of Folgers Black Silk, their dark roast, for $5.99. Today I opened it.

Perhaps I bought this for the bucket and it came with free coffee inside…

Now, a few basic facts before we continue:

  1. I hate Folgers coffee. This whole experiment rests on the idea that I can remain objective.
  2. I love the buckets Folgers coffee comes in. Household tip: save it. I keep one by the sink for a composting bucket. The lid is easy to open but as the company promises, keeps the freshness (or in this case rottenness). Also a handy small cleaning bucket as the container has a handle. So if you need a small bucket of hot soapy water to carry around the house, this is a great bucket. AND it goes into the dishwasher for easy cleaning. Perhaps I bought this for the bucket and it came with free coffee inside.
  3. I do not brew my coffee in a standard coffee pot or even a snobby French press. I used to make the perfect cup of coffee grinding my Wegman’s beans and putting them in my French press but I have forgotten how.
  4. My husband got the coffee pot in our break-up, and that was by necessity, as he and the coffee pot had an intense relationship whereas I have videos proving that the teenager, at the tender age of four, had to teach me how to use it.
  5. Instead, I consume my caffeine via the espresso machine. My first real boss— my first white collar, grown up job—gave me a $50 Boscov’s gift card when I got married. At the time, I thought that was ridiculously extravagant of him. I did not start drinking coffee regularly until after the teenager was born. To do justice to the generous gift from my boss, who was a coffee drinker, I purchased a tiny espresso machine (with steamer) and coffee grinder. I thought I had arrived in the world. I use this to make my coffee. Yes, I am putting commercial Folgers into my espresso machine.
  6. I do not sweeten my coffee. I use real half and half to lighten it, and *spoiler alert* this coffee did require extra half and half to make it the color I prefer.
  7. Finally, a note on my coffee preferences. I prefer Dunkin to Starbucks, on the taste of the coffee alone. I find Starbucks bitter. Not intolerably bitter but bitter.

And yes— that is a Pyrex measuring cup. The carafe broke. What do you want from an espresso machine more than 20 years old?

And now finally the tasting…

It’s more akin to Starbucks PPR than the coffees I prefer. Bitter, but after the first few sips, the bitterness is forgotten.

I must ask my neighbor to use some the next time we have coffee together. Meanwhile, for the price, this economical option will tide me over until I regain my financial footing and start making money in my “side gigs” or attain a job.

Errands and decadence

Today started from the get-go with an air that everything would be harder than it needed to be. I’ll spare you my editorializing and stick to my main message.

The other night, the teenager turned to me and asked what happened with our recent cat litter order. Now with four cats in the house I have 30-lbs of cat litter on auto ship from Petco every three weeks. I actually had this order ship early and I upped it to 60 lbs.

Petco Customer Service

Fog

It shipped on July 24. Well yesterday I tracked it, as our five litter boxes are getting low.

The UPS tracking system said “receiver has moved.” Ummm…. I haven’t moved in 17 years and I have been getting this order for more than a year.

I call customer service. I had a very sweet, very friendly representative named “Jean” who didn’t sound American. She informed me she would file the appropriate claim about the missing package.

I quietly said, “and in the mean time, what about my cat litter?”

She placed a new order, free to me, that should arrive in 5 to 7 business days.

Three 30-lb containers of cat litter arrived at noon today. Kudos to Petco.

Errands and paperwork

I finally wrote the letters freezing my Planet Fitness membership. I don’t have a printer, but the teenager does, even though it is running out of ink. I shared the letter with her on Google docs and asked her to print two copies.

Why two copies?

Because even though my home gym is in Easton, some of my paperwork says it is Mount Pocono even though I have never even seen the Mount Pocono Planet Fitness. The letters need to be certified, according to the contract, so I spent $4.10 each to send two. It’s easier than finding out I sent it to the wrong gym.

I had $33 cash and 15 cents in coins when I arrived at the post office. I told him to give me a few stamps and if he could get the total to an even number I would pay cash. At 55 cents each, the math on making that work… well he gave me 14 and it came to $15.90.

He’s probably now thinking the same thing I am— that 2 more stamps would have been the number we wanted, $17.

Ah, well. I’m still not convinced this federal coin shortage isn’t a political move to force Americans into accepting a cashless society. I’m still pissed that we moved our currency away from the gold standard.

Review: McDonald’s Iced Coffee

On the way home from the post office, I stopped at McDonald’s again for a medium iced coffee and to get my free fries Friday medium fries. I had mentioned yesterday that the caramel iced coffee tasted like a milkshake more than coffee.

So today I ordered a medium iced coffee for $1.29 (and my free French fries with a side of spicy buffalo sauce). The standard iced coffee comes with cream and liquid sugar, which confuses me because I think it is also made with whole milk.

Well I ordered mine with no sugar. I don’t like liquid sugar and I don’t put sugar in my coffee.

When I took a sip, it was awful. My Nescafé is better. But once I started eating the French fries and the buffalo sauce, my searing tonsils didn’t have any problem with the coffee any more.

Perhaps I will have to drink all of my iced coffee plain and compare them all. Get one from Dunkin, one from Starbucks and one from McDonald’s.

This is how I think they would rank:

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts
  2. Starbucks
  3. McDonald’s

So, I want McDonald’s to knock Starbucks down a peg as Starbucks coffee is bitter. But McDonald’s struck me as weird. We shall see.

CVS magic

I am not an “extreme couponer” and I hate the whole concept of “extreme couponing.” Life experience has taught me to be frugal, but *living* life has taught me that reading 5 newspapers to get a few extra bottles of Tide raises the question of how much is my time and my happiness worth?

When stores first starting using loyalty cards, I hated the concept. I still hate cards. But customer loyalty apps are different. I already have my phone. These apps also allow me to shop and plan my shopping trips. Target Circle, like many others, combines their coupons, payment options (even when in the store), circulars, and stock all in one place. I can scan items to see if there’s a deal while in the store and, of course, they customize offers to cater to my shopping habits.

The Lidl app allows me to make a shopping list (as does Target but I like Lidl’s list organization system better) and rewards me based on how much money I spend. Last month I earned a 30% off sliced cheese coupon! So I bought extra cheese. We might be living on toasted cheese sandwiches with my upcoming job loss.

I sign up for the emails and while a lot of them get annoying, some of them alert me to major deals on my household staples.

And that is what happened with CVS. They sent me a coupon for the gallon bottle of Arizona iced tea for $1.66 cents. The teenager has a weakness for Arizona iced tea so I let her buy some as an occasional treat.

I texted her the offer, and asked her if she wanted to walk to CVS to redeem it. She declined.

CVS sent a 40% off one item coupon. I loaded it to my card because you never know when you’ll end up in CVS for a health emergency.

The teenager also loves Cinnamon Toast Crunch and had a craving for Honey Nut Cheerios. Now I view cereal as an occasional emergency snack, not as breakfast. But the teen is a convert to the cereal-to-start-the-day camp.

Now I know CVS regularly has regular cereal sales.

Yesterday they sent me a coupon. “One day only! General Mills Cereal! $1.99!”

And the photo featured Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honey Nut Cheerios.

I texted the teenager.

She came downstairs. When I told her that I would buy both cereals, she volunteered to walk to CVS. I handed her my debit card. She refused it. “Mom, it’s $4.”

I asked her if there was anything else she needed. She said no, but she might buy iced tea. I thought, “drats. We missed that iced tea offer.” I told her she could use the 40% off coupon if the iced tea was full price.

She came home with the gallon of iced tea, the two boxes of cereal, and a bag of Doritos. I asked her how much she spent.

“$7,” she said, “but that doesn’t make sense. This is $14 worth of stuff. At least.”

Apparently I also had a snacks/drink coupon I forgot about that also saved us 85 cents.

So we talked about it, and I asked her if she was starting to get my system. She said no. Not at all.

As far as she understood, she merely said she wanted to go to CVS, I looked at the app and put coupons on, she randomly grabbed what she wanted, and told the clerk at the register to use all the coupons.

Magic.