Tidbits that made me happy today

I helped my baby, The Teenager, buy a 2012 Nissan Rogue
We stopped at our local Target, where I worked for nearly a decade in the cafe. The store, 2536, is in the midst of a rather tasteless remodel. The cafe sink is in the parking lot. I haven’t worked there for three years now, but man… did the memories come back. I pulled my car next to the fence, put on my flashers and snapped this photo.

Making granola and buying a car

I often joke that I have spent many lives in other time periods— someone once randomly told me I had a soul that belonged to the 1950s and I think maybe I was a hungry child during the Great Depression.

You see, I don’t let food go to waste. I have used for all the leftovers. Like the mini pretzels from the Philly Pretzel Factory at her graduation party? I let them dry out for a couple days and then ran them through the Ninja food processor to make bread crumbs.

And today I poured hot water into the honey jar to get all the honey from the sides of the jar and poured the water into my pitcher of extra strong home-brewed iced tea.

I also made homemade granola. Now you might ask what does homemade granola have to do with saving food from being wasted?

This is an old blog post on my food blog where I chronicled every meal I ate for seven years discussing granola.

The teenager and I are in the middle of reorganizing the kitchen and tackling a lot of home improvement projects. I cleaned and rearranged the cupboards yesterday and found a lot of ingredients that were old and could make granola.

  • Extra unopened containers of traditional oats
  • Raisins
  • Dried blueberries that I don’t remember buying… ever
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nut mixes and random small bags of no-carb trail mix

So, I made granola.

And then I went to Lipsky Cars with the teenager to test drive vehicles. And with me as her co-signer, the teenager has her first auto loan.

What did she drive?

Three 2012 vehicles: the Nissan Rogue, a Subaru Forester and a Honda Crosstour. The Crosstour had some really amazing features and a spicy engine.

Tomorrow we pick up the vehicle. And the handyman comes to look at the ceiling from the flood.

But I’m not going to tell you which car she picked. Tune in tomorrow!

Chicken McNuggets and Monday morning car accidents

Yesterday was my first day working with a custom splint on my mallet finger instead of a cast. And it went really well— except for the times I put my splint back on the outside of my hand instead of the inside. And I went to apply fresh tape and the nurse at work wanted to help.

All-in-all, I achieved a new record (for me) in Freestyle, shipping I believe 574 items or 115% of the 500 item goal for a 10-hour shift. And that includes 15 minutes I spent trying to find a work station that was operational. If you subtract that as official “non-production time” it might be damn close to 116%.

Today, a Monday, with the traditional Monday through Friday people at work, I was assigned to a different table in QC, my regular department. It was a table just a smidgeon higher than the table I worked at last week and the line was on the left instead of the right.

This is the first time since my return-to-work in late May that I have worked on the left. In one way, it’s nice because I have been having issues with the stability of my walk and control in my right leg, so working on the left means I can use my left side more.

But working on the left side means I’m shoving all those boxes with my injured hand and after two hours the cuticle area under my nail on my injured finger is tender and really red. Despite this, at one point this morning, I reached 118%.

But then I got a call from The Teenager. She rear-ended someone in her father’s 2022 Kia SUV. The car he bought after he rear-ended someone in late December and totaled his beloved 2016 Nissan Juke.

She’s fine. It was raining and she misjudged how long it would take her to stop in the wet. The car looked driveable, but when she tried it started leaking fluid and overheating. So, she called AAA to tow it.

I left work early. At four hours into my shift, I think I had QCed 69 fixes, and goal for that specific time of day is 65. That’s with going out to my car to get info for my daughter, calling her father, and similar nonsense.

I was listening to an episode of business wars, the podcast, or was it The History Channel’s The Food that Built America and the history of Burger King vs. McDonald’s and the invention of the Chicken McNugget.

Now I distinctly remember the debut of the Chicken McNugget, which, according to the podcast, became available at all McDonalds in 1983.

I was eight. Probably riding around with my mom in her 1979 Camaro (black). We lived in a very rural area in Pennsylvania’s Slate Belt. The closest actual town was Portland, Pa., which I feature in my first novel, Manipulations (and if you are interested you can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, or at Bookshop.org here — the Bookshop price includes shipping and designates a portion of the profit to an independent bookseller of your choice).

Anyway, we had a very small supermarket in Portland so my mom would do most of her family shopping in Stroudsburg, Pa., the gateway to the Pocono Mountains. If she were shopping at Kmart for clothes or household items or at Shoprite for our groceries, we would often stop at Burger King where the delight would be a cheeseburger and some onion rings.

But if we had to go to the Stroud Mall, McDonald’s was across the street. So we want to McDonald’s. I didn’t like McDonald’s — they put onions on their burgers and I don’t like onions. So, eight-year-old me was very excited for these Chicken McNuggets. If my mom was in a good mood, I could order a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal. Which— in the eighties— came with six nuggets in a styrofoam container. And of course, I only liked the barbecue sauce.

So the podcast got me thinking about McDonald’s in general especially since I worked at a McDonald’s (a very busy McDonald’s) from the summer I graduated high school until the August after I graduated college.

We made $5.25/hour in the late 1990s. A full-time employee made $200/week. And we got one meal per shift. I ate a lot of McChicken sandwiches.

I’m thinking about McDonald’s and listening to Conan O’Brian and Andrew Gurza (not together although that would be amazing), when I get the phone call with the teenager in tears.

“Mom, I rear-ended someone in Dad’s new car.”

This was her first car accident. It’s a rainy day here and she misjudged how far she needed to stop. And she didn’t want to slam on her brakes harder and lose control of the car.

At first, she and the police officer who responded thought the car was driveable. It started leaking what looked like antifreeze and overheated. So the officer called AAA.

I told my Stitch Fix supervisors the situation and asked to leave.

The teenager told me she was on a side street “out by Target” “by the library” and I misinterpreted her and went to the wrong town.

The teenager texted me a photo of the nearest intersection and I realized my mistake and turned around.

A very kind officer waited with her and I drove her to the dog walking client she had been driving to when the accident happened.

And then I grabbed us lunch at McDonald’s because their triple cheeseburger is my favorite sandwich on the menu and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

New season: the teenager is now a young adult

It’s over.

I walked into the house after the gym today and I was met with empty rooms, deflating balloons, empty pizza boxes and cake crumbs.

The teenager is with a client. The guests have gone, even the one that drove a distance and stayed overnight.

Throughout the teenager’s life, she frequently lamented that she was the youngest in the class snd never had a birthday during the school year. That inconvenient June birthday.

But yesterday she was able to gather people who celebrated her and had seen her grow and wanted to marvel in who she was as a person, as a young adult, for a graduation/birthday party.

She wanted pizza From Nicolosi’s in Forks Township and pretzel nuggets and dip from the Pretzel Company. (And I think out friends will be patronizing Nicolosi’s now— several of their flights with the pieces cut in half is a great way to spoil guests.)

She wanted to bake her own cakes and decorate them, which she did.

She wanted to play Cards Against Humanity. And we did.

The party started with a raucous discussion of the Hess’s Department Store and ended with promises of homemade pie.

And the dog only ate a small chunk of the red velvet cake.

The teenager is now a high school graduate and soon she will no longer be a teenager. She will be the young adult or the offspring or some other nickname, but she will always be my pride and joy.

So much of parenting is learning, slowly, to step aside and let your child grow into her/his own person. To be mindful and humble and supportive without smothering. To be proud, but subtle. To encourage and guide, but not nag.

And to trust.

To trust your parenting. Your child. And that young person’s decisions.

And seeing that child grown— the love that pours out of you… eventually you might feel like a deflated balloon and then that child does something that makes you float once again.

I will always be my daughter’s mother, but the bulk of the intense, hands-on work is done.

And so today, Curly led us in making an infused oil of basil, lavender and sea salt to bless ourselves and my home with positivity.

It’s all part of the cycle— especially for women— maiden, mother, crone. I guess I might have to transition to the crone phase now.

Pain and performance (and a high school graduation!)

So first things first— let’s embarrass the teenager.

She graduated from high school Friday night. (Above, pictured, left to right: me, her father, her, her paternal grandfather and grandmother and my stepmom)

The weekend that followed included several dinners with family members and we have a party planned later this week.

The other updates:

  • I have been killing it in the gym. My plank time is more than a minute now. My strength is improving and for the first time ever, I did exercises with a 30-lb dumbbell.
  • It’s been seven weeks since I got my first cast to treat my mallet finger. Two more weeks until it comes off. Remember that when I mention that I am hitting milestones like the one mentioned above.
  • I hit the goal for Freestyle on Sunday at work in the Bizzy Hizzy. I shipped 500 items in, if I remember correctly, 363 packages. What makes that amazing is that we also had a one-hour training — so 500 items is the goal for a full day. Taking the training into account, that puts me at 110% for that day.
  • Yesterday and today I worked at the same left side table in QC. Even with pushing boxes to the left with a bum finger, I did 166 fixes yesterday (102%) and 169 today. (104%).
  • But here’s the weird part— i was in pain but it didn’t impact my movement. I started each day extremely stiff and with a little bit of back pain, but not in the low or upper back, in between. And as I eased into my shift, my hip hurt deep in the socket, up near my groin, but in the front in a very small but specific spot. And my quad would feel intense pain that sometimes went into my knee but for the most part didn’t. Tylenol doesn’t help. It gradually subsided over two hours. It happened in exactly the same way today.
  • I combat this my paying extra close attention to all my movements. I plant my feet on the floor and hold my core and glutes tight. I force out my toes and my knees and as I move my body to retrieve clothes below my waist I bend with my hips and stretch them. Is this what helps? Is something out of whack (like my femur) and stiff by morning and I force it back into position?
  • In very sad news, Charles Ticho, the nonagenarian author who penned the Parisian Phoenix book Stops Along the Way died today. I will be addressing this soon on the Parisian Phoenix blog.

Things that frazzle the mind in my forties

**this post may contain strong language… no, this post will contain strong language. I plan to drop an “f-bomb” in the first paragraph. But I promise it will be lighthearted and humorous not vulgar and full of rage.

Sometimes I wonder if the process of losing your mother-fucking mind which seems to descend upon a person once your children enter their teens isn’t the cause of dementia. Will the brain fog that accompanies keeping life together as the offspring prepare to leave the nest clear as they depart? Or is it permanent?

I think when you reach the latter half of the forty-somethings, the time you might have spent on hobbies, movies or parties in your youth is replaced by the tedium of home ownership, career, family, parents and medical care (your own, your family, probably even friends). And maybe you just don’t have the patience you used to.

I am currently waiting for the remediation team. If you skip back to Tuesday’s blog, you’ll recall that my 50- or 60-year-old toilet exploded and damaged my dining room ceiling. The plumber came Tuesday and installed a new toilet, and the teenager gave me shit. Not only does she not like the new toilet (as the plumber warned me) but she also had beef with the plumber for taking her old toilet.

I asked the teenager, “what on earth would you do with an old broken toilet?”

And, of course, the teenager told me. She wanted to take the ancient pink ceramic toilet and use it as a planter in our front yard next to our pink rose bush.

“It would look so cool,” she said.

And it probably would. But I did not go to college and embark on all the adventures I have to place a broken toilet in my front yard.

The scheduler for the insurance adjuster called Wednesday morning, about 29 hours after the incident, and scheduled the adjuster for Wednesday June 1. I asked the teenager if she could handle letting him into the house. She agreed. The scheduler called again and moved it to Tuesday. Teenager agreed again. Scheduler called a third time to ask if we had had a remediation company come to check if we had any or were in danger of collecting any mold. I said no. She said to call one.

So Wednesday on my lunch break (my first day back after a month of medical leave), I emailed ServePro because I didn’t have the time or the quiet to talk on the phone. They called, and after about three difficult phone calls with them, (the person on the other end couldn’t hear me well. I was wearing a mask, using one AirPod and working in a noisy warehouse.) they said they would confirm an appointment for Thursday or Friday by the end of the day.

[note: this is a pause in the blog post as the remediation team arrived.]

The remediation scheduler called about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, which was about 60 hours after I turned the water off to the toilet and started mopping up the damage. My appointment was for 1 p.m. Friday, about 80 hours after the original accident.

But at least I made myself a nice dinner of fig & ricotta ravioli from Lidl with Alfredo sauce from Hungryroot and vegetables (baby broccoli, red pepper, and peas) cooked in the Cuisinart air fryer toaster oven.

Last night, when the teenager got home from her dad’s, I think I was emptying the dishwasher and I went on a psychotic rant about silverware. You see, when her father and I got married, we registered for Oneida’s Easton flatware in the satin finish. I have always loved that silverware. It was $100 a place setting, and that was in 1999. That’s $20 per utensil. But it’s beautiful, and my husband and I both agreed on it without compromise, and it’s heavy, and we lived in an apartment in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania.

Oneida flatware pattern: Easton (Satin)

And sometime between when teenager two lived with us and now, many pieces of that silverware have disappeared. And it’s melodramatic, but the loss is like a gaping wound. No other silverware feels right in my hand. So I snapped, for the umpteenth time, and shouted at the teenager about my missing silverware.

In that moment, I realized that for some reason, that silverware really means something to me. Eating with it brings me joy. And that silverware looks as new as the day we bought it. Our marriage lasted 20 years, and the silverware may last generations.

“I don’t have the money to replace it,” I screamed.

And then I realized…

I launched a publishing company. I buy myself iced coffee about once a week. I spend almost as much on animal food as I do on people food. So, why can’t I figure out how to pay for new silverware? Especially since I know Replacements.com has just about every silverware and china pattern ever made (used) at a discount. I think I found my dream pattern. I ordered a few pieces of my silverware, based on cost and what I actually need.

This morning started with a cup of coffee, some cuddly cats, a trip to the chiropractor and a whole lot of cleaning before the remediation team arrived. I made the teenager and I a breakfast of fresh baguette from Lidl, toasted in the Cuisinart oven, buttered, covered a slice of proscuitto and toasted more, and then drizzled with hot honey and sprinkled with herbs de provence. It was as amazing as it sounds.

The teenager had her last high school final exam, the only one she had to take this year, and returned home to find me aflutter with the broom and a mop. I asked her to do something for me. It might have been to move a multipack of paper towels to another room, when she stopped and opened the sunporch window.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

And I thought to myself, she’s not smelling the roses.

And she replied, “I’m smelling the roses.”

“Seriously?” I said. “I ask you to do something and instead you literally stop to smell the roses!”

She then picked a bouquet for the main room downstairs. Eventually, she moved the paper towels.

Once the house was cleaned and the teenager shuffled off to work, I finished Natasha Sizlo’s memoir, All Signs Point to Paris. I received a copy via NetGalley and reviewed it on Goodreads and mentioned it in my Parisian Phoenix blog post that will go live tomorrow. I tried to start P.N. Dedeaux’s Algiers Tomorrow but it offended me beyond rebuke within the first two chapters.

I understand that the book was published in 1993. I also understand that erotica by its nature breaks rules and can feature taboos. But in the first two chapters, we join two bratty rich sixteen year olds nicknamed “Boobs” and “Butt” through a vacation in France. By the end of the chapters, I want them to get murdered. I was hoping for some cheesy references to Algerians with which I could have some Mystery Science Theater 3000-type fun.

chicken vodka pizza

I ordered a chicken pizza with vodka sauce from Nicolosi’s Pizza in Forks Township. It was a custom pizza and I told them to “put whatever on it to make it pizza-y.” They added fresh basil. It smelled amazing. The teenager was picking it up at 2:45 p.m after work.

And don’t you know it, the remediation team was late… They called at 2:55 p.m. and arrived at 3:05 p.m. I had one bite of my scrumptious, piping hot custom pizza. And it was time to find out if my house was wet.

Unfortunately, it is.

We could lose our bathroom subfloor. Our hardwood floors and walls are damp. We have five industrial air movers in the living area and a massive dehumidifier. And upstairs we have three more air movers in the bathroom and another dehumidifier.

But we’re safe, and sometimes you just have to have faith it will work out.

At the end of the day, Bean Dog got new toys.

Health update Thursday?

This post may not be the most exciting as I sit here stinky after a small home workout— smelling the petroleum heavy heat of asphalt. But it is a hopeful post. My roses sit heavy with blooms, and the first flowers have opened behind the bush.

Such a metaphor for life. The whole “bloom where you are planted” concept.

I have been working hard— like I want to stop, I want to vomit, my muscles burn. Andrew at Apex Training has been amazing, helping me stretch and challenge spastic muscles in my lower body.

I have had two days now with no hip or back pain, and I can drop into bed and lie anyway I want.

My weight has been up and down thank to Taco Bell and Mothers’ Day cake and ice cream and generic Takis.

But I went for my check-up bloodwork yesterday, and the phlebotomist told me my insurance doesn’t cover vitamin D unless my doctor codes it a deficiency. We skipped that, but my ferritin has risen from 28, just barely in the normal range, to 36. Still far from the middle of normal but rising.

That might be my theme for right now— rising.

And my bad cholesterol, which should be under 100, has fallen from 109 to 107. Again, not a huge leap, but progress. Progress made during a difficult, difficult time of my life.

My pill dispenser has made it easier to take all my vitamins and allergy meds. And I started the process of putting myself back on a low dose of Lexapro,

Maybe it will help.

My personal cat, Fog, decided to love me today. And I wrote a poem about buying my new socks from the Dollar Tree.

The teenager has been nursing an ear infection all week so between that and the roses bloominfection, spring has really sprung.

She returned to school today.

Today I made a leftover sandwich— some old smoked Turkey, slightly wilted lettuce and my coleslaw mix stirred into chipotle mayonnaise.

I spent the morning with my blind friend, Nan, and took her for her bloodwork.

Came home and the dog came out just in time to see that the paving crew had Taco Bell for lunch.

My trainer asked to reschedule my session today, so I told him I would do something at home.

This was my half-assed work out. My trainer asked me to select exercises and do them with intent, and instead I fought with the dog, picked some exercises I thought would move the important parts and retain the ground I made versus improve. Here is a video.

I also received a payment from my short-term disability insurance through work, and I’m grateful as this is giving me time to strengthen myself and recovery from my mallet finger. Hopefully, this will prevent further “domino effect” on my health. I see the neuro-physiatrist at the end of the month.

I’m curious what she will have to say, and I’m thinking this may be the end of my quest for answers about my cerebral palsy.

Zigzag: Random thoughts about exercise, food and friends

Yesterday before the teenager and I took our impromptu trip to Hershey to visit with Curly, I had the good fortune to have a coffee date with a neighbor who has proven herself time and time again as a reliable friend.

We met while pregnant, due dates a week apart, homes a few blocks apart, and with jobs in the same town in the next state. Even though we lived less than a block apart for most of the teenager’s life (and the fact that her son and my daughter have first names that are one letter apart and family names that are very similar and fall alphabetically beside each other), she and I have not kept in touch the greatest— but somehow— when I need her, she seems to be there.

She even worked for me for about six months when I needed a staff member that could act without much hand-holding and understood my working style. The partnership renewed our connection— and the employer recently asked her to return to the organization and she politely declined.

We had the chance to discuss these things over “coffee” at the diner where the teen used to waitress. But the day was rainy and we both wanted soup instead of coffee, so we had our mom therapy session over bowls of pepper pot.

We talked about the teenagers’ post-high school plans, the value and frustration of college, our health, medical insurance in America, and how hard it must be to be a teen in today’s world.

I mention this as a reminder of how sometimes, sharing a moment can bring laughter and release.

Our latest Hungryroot box came, and I realized for the first times in all these months of Hungryroot that the reusable nitrogen ice packs are plant food. Now I can’t wait to pour that on our compost heap.

Speaking of food subscription services, my breakfast today was Cabot cottage cheese from Grocery Outlet and a sprouted multigrain everything bagel and garlic herb probiotic cream cheese from Hungryroot.

My lunch was leftover cauliflower linguine and one meatball from Hungryroot, basil tomato sauce from ShopRite and a pile of plain lentils I made.

Turns out lentils are a great way to add plant protein to spaghetti.

And finally, my session at Apex Training today was not easy— but I did it. We did a lot of sweat-inducing balance exercises. I have been having issues with stiffness since I left work and my walk has been unstable. This morning my right leg felt off. So I told Andrew and together we thought it might be super tight. Well, by the time I left, my right leg and back were screaming.

But after a shower and an NSAID to make sure nothing is inflamed, at least I don’t feel like a pile of grinding gears needing oil.

Road trip to Harrisburg rerouted to Hershey

The plan: the teenager and I would head out after school today and meet my college roommate Curly for a belated Beltane dinner at a brewery in Harrisburg— approximately half way between our home and hers.

But in the pouring down rain, the accidents started to pile up (pun intended) and Curly would arrive at the Mill Works 30 minutes or more before we would.

And that would have us arriving in Harrisburg and at the brewery for Happy Hour.

So I suggested a mid-travel switch from Harrisburg to Hershey. And since we needed to agree on a coordinate before driving too much farther, I suggested Fuddruckers as we used to take the teenager there on road trips in her younger days and for some reason, she adores it.

We lingered there as long as we could trying to find something to do in the evening and in the rain. I found a couple cafes and a family amusement center with go-karts but it seemed something called the cocoabeanery was nearby so we headed there.

Which turned out to be Hershey Lodge.

And when I texted Sobaka’s mom that we ended up at Hershey Lodge, where she often stays for the state school board conference she asked if we could pick up her lotion. And sent us a photo.

We did some chatting over beverages in the lobby. I had a lavender latte. The cocoabeanery turned out to be the hotel’s breakfast room in the off hours. We got to watch many teens at their prom.

Curly and the teenager did some energy work, and invited me to join, but my vibrations freaked out the teen.

And now… the drive home.

Cute animal photos and mallet finger impact

It’s the end of April and it was 35 degrees last night. The price of oil continues to skyrocket and I’m still heating my house halfway through spring.

The cold does not help the poor circulation in my hands which has intensified in my left hand because my mallet finger restricts my movement.

My hands are painfully cold, except when Andrew is making me curse him in my head at Apex Training. Today was leg day, and I was so tired that when I came home and let the dog out I turned around and lost my balance and slammed right into the brick wall between my mud room and my kitchen.

Nala, my six-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, started shaking and plucking her feathers today. Nothing in her environment has changed except the neighbor’s dog has been barking nonstop all day. The teenager believes his distress causes her anxiety.

Speaking of the teenager, she made this thick chocolate chip cookie/blondie dessert that I topped with ice cream that Sobaka’s mom brought home from Penn State when we dog sat last weekend.

Before the teenager brought home our dog, I would never criticize a dog owner, but now that I see the difference between different dog care styles, I feel back for dogs that aren’t spoiled like Sobaka and Bean.

And I don’t know how Sobaka’s mom does it— that dog is a bed hog.

But now an update on my mallet finger:

  • Stitch Fix has been amazing. Because my specialist at OAA took a week to return my paperwork and then didn’t properly fill it out, the onus was on me to find jobs I could do to not hurt myself. It turned out I can QC just fine— I hit 92% just fine.
  • But here’s the thing… my specialist knows hands, he doesn’t know me. I don’t think he heard me when I said I have cerebral palsy and that I work 10 hours a day in a warehouse. I’m just not sure that environment is safe for me right now,
  • Why do I say this? Because this week drove home to me how much I rely on my left side for stability. By forcing me to work 90% on the right, I am struggling to keep my right hip in place.
  • I am so stiff by the end of the work day. I also end up pinching and slamming my right fingertips and by the end of the day my left fingers I can use are swollen and sore.
  • And I fold 750 clothing items a day, handle 150 boxes and rip open probably 500 plastic bags. That’s a lot of fingers moving.
  • Once I consider the risk of accidentally losing my cast and bending my finger (which would extend my healing time) and adding the increased fall risk of mine because I am aggravating known issues with my balance and mobility, I just don’t feel safe.
  • This is a horribly stressful feeling.
  • I’m going to talk with my family doctor about it. I already mentioned it to my therapist, because I wanted to confirm my thoughts were rational and not whiny or emotional.

Today’s vegan lunch: curry carrots, lentils, quinoa, my own roasted chick peas, toasted sesame seeds, green olives and a touch of Thai peanut sauce topped with pumpkin seeds

And last but not least, cats. Misty caught a mouse! Video here.