Little wins

It’s Wednesday night— which is my Friday! The Bizzy Hizzy has been a tizzy of Covid cases during this mandatory overtime week.

I’m doing my eight hours of overtime on Saturday.

Tomorrow I’m returning to the gym—the pandemic has also altered my training schedule.

And tomorrow, Georgie gets adopted! Yes, Georgie, our lovable former community cat from downtown Allentown, will be going home to a family where she will be the only pet.

I’m told Louise has an approved adoption application— but this is her third so I am not as optimistic as I should be. The person who applied for her wants two cats so FURR has suggested Khloe also be considered.

If these three cats get adopted— after Danu, Brigid and Aîné all getting adopted since December— I may weep tears of joy.

This week my body experienced all sorts of aches and pains, but I still managed to fold what I felt was a respectable amount of clothes for Stitch Fix. And today was our monthly employee luncheon— chicken Caesar wraps, tomato soup and carrot cake.

And on our final break of the day, everyone from my old shift got sweatshirts.

It’s kinda silly, but at the same token, it commemorates a special era of my life and celebrates the camaraderie we had on second shift. And believe it or not, even though we are scattered among the day shift, we still function as a team.

After work, the teenager invited me to Tic Toc family restaurant where we enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches.

Ingram finally shipped Darrell Parry’s poetry book (Twists: Gathered Ephemera). And several other Parisian Phoenix titles are coming together. Perhaps as many as three titles releasing before the end of February.

Speaking of Parisian Phoenix, I emailed my class correspondent at Lafayette College and he ordered my first two novels.

And finally, side note… Actor Tim Daly was on the most recent episode of the podcast Hypocondriactor. I love Tim Daly. And I found myself comparing him to Anthony Stewart Head, you know… Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I was specifically comparing Daly’s character on Madame Secretary to Head’s role as the school librarian/watcher on Buffy. Both were nerdy academics with interests in obscure topics.

Hungryroot meal prep for week ahead

On Saturdays, I tend to make my work lunches and make a loose meal plan for the week ahead.

I ordered an extra Hungryroot box after the snafu of last week’s shipment as we have almost eaten everything in the pantry and freezer.

And since I have heard there is mandatory overtime this week and I have already signed up to work next Saturday, I ordered a box to be delivered this coming Friday.

I have a $15 credit currently on my account and should see an additional $87 credit hopefully Monday.

Meal prep with Hungryroot groceries: superfood blend, salmon, kohlrabi noodles, beef meatballs, turkey meatballs and tortellini

I put most of the teenager’s food into one big divided container so she can design lunches.

For myself:

  1. one lunch of kohlrabi noodles with marinara, shredded parmesan, nutritional yeast, two beef meatballs and two turkey meatballs
  2. one lunch of kohlrabi noodles with thai peanut sauce, superfood blend, and broccoli
  3. one lunch of teriyaki salmon, superfood blend, sesame ginger sauce and sesame seeds
  4. One lunch of tortellini in kale pesto with shaved Brussel sprouts

Dinners will include nachos or tacos with chicken, cuban beans and avocado. Another of burgers, sweet potato fries and my “popcorn” cauliflower, and some sort of stir fry or grain bowl with the remaining brussels and/or cabbage, one of the leftover sauces and tofu burgers.

But by the time I made everything, I forgot to save a meal for today. So the teenager and I tried Hungryroot organic peanut butter on her homemade cinnamon raisin bread with a side of the dark chocolate banana bites also sent by Hungryroot.

Her assessment of the peanut butter: “I don’t hate the peanut butter.”

The bites?

“These don’t taste like banana.”

I looked at the package. “That’s because they are salted caramel chocolate cashews.”

The verdict?

Teenager very much likes the cashews and doesn’t mind the bananas, though the cashews are infinitely better.

Review: A Marvel Challenge

First, an update for my regular followers:

  • Dr. Anna Williams of the My Gothic Dissertation responded to the link I sent her of my review of her magnificent podcast. She also commented that some of my interest (cats, photography), she also enjoyed.
  • My hip and spine and leg are, I believe, not in pain today, just incredibly stiff.
  • We received our first snow last night, a fluffy white four inches. The teenager has her first and only snow day of the season— as the school district has proclaimed that any further inclement weather closings will be remote instruction days. “Baby Dog” F. Bean Barker refused to go out into the snow.
  • Our foster pride through our volunteer work with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is “down by two” as Mama Danu of the Celtic Pride and former community cat Georgie are in local pet store habitats. Danu is at Pet Supplies Plus in Bethlehem Township and Georgie is at Chaar in Forks Township. Georgie tends to be vocal and melodramatic but she’s adorable… this is her playing fetch yesterday before we took her to Chaar: YouTube video of Georgie.
Danu
  • Nala, my naughty Goffin’s cockatoo, celebrated her gotcha-versary this week. She has now been with me two years. She will be six years old next month. This is her most recent YouTube video, featuring our tripod, cancer-surviving cat Opie. This was her first video with me.
  • I am editing both Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, Parisian Phoenix’s first non-fiction book, and my third novel, Recovery. I am also trying to write the fourth novel, Road Trip, my werewolf Bildungsroman. That is very slow going and making me nervous.
  • And I think, while I was out sick having my hip tended to, there was a mandatory overtime dictate at work. I think I’ll have to squeeze eight more hours into my work week before Jan. 16— which means I will either have to work 12 hours a day (5 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or somehow squeeze 8 hours into Thursday, Friday & Saturday. I have an 11 a.m. appointment Thursday, three doctors appointments Friday and the warehouse is only open for a 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. shift Saturday. Because, of course, Saturday I have no plans.

On to the Movies…

A few days ago, I mentioned to the teenager that it might be fun to watch the Marvel movies in chronological order of how they supposedly happened. I haven’t seen most of them. We decided to use this list as reference: The Wrap.

We watched Captain America: The First Avenger (which I have seen) on Wednesday. I’ve always enjoyed this movie. I wouldn’t call it a good movie, but I love the goodness in Captain America’s motivations and the mix of history, mythology and comic book nonsense.

Last night we started Captain Marvel, which I have not seen but I do remember some controversy about Captain Marvel being a woman in the movie.

We have not finished it, as life happened, but I am thoroughly enjoying reliving the 1990s and seeing a young Nick Fury. Even more fun is seeing my daughter react to the nineties.

The UnChristmas

For the first time since December 15, I felt like myself. I’m still grieving. I’m still hurting, but by the time end of today (12/26/2021), the overwhelming hurricane of different emotions had pushed me into its eye. And I felt like me.

Yesterday was a hard one. My mother called early in the morning, wishing me a Merry Christmas. Really, my brain couldn’t even fathom why she would wish me a Merry Christmas when I was home alone and my dad is newly dead.

The holidays are always hard on me. They start with hope and usually end with disappointment. I had often said I wish I could ignore them all together. Just skip. And go to Paris.

There were no presents to open Christmas morning. I let the teenager open hers early when we needed some joy in the midst of funeral stuff. No decorations. I never got the Christmas tree up. I never listened to Christmas music this year— and I love Christmas music.

The world stopped when my father died.

The teenager has multiple pet sitting responsibilities. Something like eight visits a day. And her father just got his new car on the 23rd, so I had expected to have a car to visit family without her.

My nephew came down with Covid so there would be no gathering with that side of the family.

So my little funeral tantrum that led me to spend most of the service in my car apparently prevented my exposure to Covid.

I did have a bit of a something— a cold? A sinus issue? Backlash from not taking my allergy medicine for a week?

And I had hoped maybe I could go have some of Mom’s lasagne.

But by the end of her phone call, I think she hung up on me. I don’t know if she realizes it, but her last words were, “well, excuse me for being alive.”

That stung.

I thought she would understand how much I was hurting. She lost her dad when she was 21.

I spent the day alphabetizing and organizing some cards I’ve been saving. It tools about six hours, while watching reruns of ER and drinking coconut rum and pina colada lemonade.

The teenager brought home sandwiches from Sheetz. Other than that my meals were Christmas cookies and potato chips.

I went to bed around 8:30 pm and woke at 4:15 a.m. I did my physical therapy cobra poses and went downstairs to have my coffee.

When I arrived at work, my body struggled with anxious feelings, trouble breathing, difficulty regulating body temperature. I was no longer sick, though the post nasal drip is still very real.

When we got to Freestyle— our assignment for the day— there was no work for us. So a bunch of us had to transfer to Freestyle Pick and go out into the warehouse to pick our own work. And although the Freestyle carts are 80 items instead of 40 like ordinary fixes, I had a great time. I always liked picking. I arrived back in Freestyle not first but not last.

And I got to see the warming sunrise through the warehouse windows.

My guess is that I performed at about 90% in Freestyle QC/ship.

And then, at the end of the day they asked me to go pick again! And despite my back hurting a bit on the right side, once again I had a great time. The Freestyle/Direct Buy cart took me 45 minutes. I imagine the goal is 40 minutes.

That motion drove the feeling of panic away.

And before I left, I grabbed some hard-boiled eggs to share with the dog. I had asked the teenager to grab some jarred vodka sauce at the grocery store when she was between clients and she one-upped me.

She went to George’s Pizzeria and bought their homemade vodka sauce. My favorite.

And our cat foster godmother, now the teenager’s client and the teenager’s boss at Apricity Pet Care, left her a bottle of wine to bring home to me.

While the teenager finished her afternoon shifts, I made spaghetti. I sautéed a chicken breast and heaps of fresh broccoli, kale and spinach. I mixed it all up with George’s vodka sauce.

We ate like queens.

And then as I cleaned up the leftovers and packed my remaining work lunches for this week (Mr. Accordion stopped by and brought me his scrumptious halupkis that I finished today), the dog grabbed my favorite cat by the scruff of his neck and starting running around the kitchen with him in her mouth.

The cat was fine. The dog just wanted to carry him.

I poured some wine and grabbed some cookies.

And that is my unChristmas update.

Merry Medical Morning

I woke up with not much voice, still not quite right and worrying that maybe I have a cold. I haven’t been sick since I had Covid— more than a year ago— but I drank lots of hot liquids, chugged some DayQuil and ventured out into the cold.

Why?

The teenager had a 9 a.m. greatly anticipated appointment for a hearing aid fitting. When they put her in the test hearing aids, her voice quieted immediately.

Apparently speech tones have been difficult for her to hear for quite some time and the pandemic made it more obvious that she was reading people’s lips.

The doctor was greatly personable and loved the teenager’s enthusiasm.

From there we went to the neurologist— the first time I have ever visited one. This visit was one of many doctor appointments in 2021 I booked as part of my fact finding mission regarding my body and my cerebral palsy.

(My temperature was 97.6, so whatever is making me feel “off” does not include a fever.)

And so I talk with the assistant, the resident and the doctor. I was very impressed with the doctor and even more impressed that she kept checking in with me— “I want to make sure I address any questions you have.”

But honestly I got scared because when she first walked in she said, “so you think you have cerebral palsy.”

As if I had googled it and just came to that conclusion with web m.d.

And I’ve heard other people say it… but never experienced it before today. When you have a visible disability that you often have to explain to people, when someone threatens to change that diagnosis it’s very unsettling. I never expected to feel so uneasy that someone might challenge the very thing that has defined much of who I am, even if I hate the fact that it intertwined with my personal identity so deeply.

But spoiler alert, after examining me and watching me walked she touched my knees gently and said, “I agree.”

Not only did she explain things I already knew about the condition (it’s static and will not change), but she pointed out that I often step on my left foot. I literally trip over my own foot. She also sat on a stool beside me— so the doctor was below me making eye contact upwards. I have never had a doctor do that before.

She referred me to the physiology department, and thinks they may recommend Botox to relax my leg muscles and prescribe braces for my feet to help them face the right direction.

She also scheduled a head CT, warning me that it will show brain damage, but that young brains compensate for damage via their elasticity. (Is that the word?) I’m excited about this because it gives us a baseline image of my brain so as I age we won’t confuse my cerebral palsy brain with, say, a stroke.

And she was impressed with me, as doctors often are.

More on this journey:

The first day of adieu

I spent most of my morning trying to be practical and do what needs to be done. And maybe get some breakfast before heading to my father’s viewing.

My morning coffee companion

The teenager went to her morning job— a cat sitting visit— and then had breakfast with her father and my college roommate.

I finally forced myself to eat an egg with some kale.

And I found myself sitting quietly.

Struggling to find shoes that fit.

We drove up to the funeral home and met my aunt and my uncle’s widow and her family. My older sister and her husband came next. And then my stepmom and her sister (and her extended family).

My uncle’s widow thanked me for my recent writings as they helped her adjust to the reality that my father has left his earthly life.

(Later, my stepmom’s nephew hugged me and his wife told me how beautiful some of my recent writings and reflections have been.)

Together, we entered the funeral home. And the funeral director apologized for being in her slippers, but honestly it brought me a sense of home.

We walked into the chapel, and my dad was surrounded with red and white roses and celebrated with so many flowers from friends, relatives and colleagues (some of whom even signed his nicknames for them instead of their given names).

Photos everywhere.

  • Photo 1: On the top, that’s a photo of my dad and his older brother, Earl Ivan Jr. or “Skippy.” The photo on the bottom right is my dad on microstock race night with my nephew holding the now teenager as a baby.
  • Photo 2: My dad holding the now teenager at the West End Fair, at the tractor pull. It was my first outing with the baby on my own. She was about 8 weeks old.
  • Photo 3: I had to take a photo to remind me of how peaceful Dad looked, with a slight smirk like he got the last joke. He just needed a remote and some pretzels. The teenager said before he passed on Wednesday morning, she could feel his reluctance to leave us, but the calm when he did.
  • Photo 4: My stepmom and my aunt, the last remaining sibling
  • Photo 5: the teenager and her dad
My brother and his dog

My mother came and said some nice things to my stepmom, thanking her for always being nice to myself and the now teenager, and my stepmom said we are easy to love.

My friends and Parisian Phoenix staff — Gayle and Joan— came. (And the whole day was a theatrical farce of people coming and going and not seeing each other.)

My college roommate slipped out with the teenager’s dad to grab sandwiches.

And my in-laws not only came but my mother-in-law, at my request, made chicken and potato salad and brought many other goodies. Including Memmy’s fruitcake and Uncle Lee’s baked beans.

It was a long afternoon — and people kept leaving things in Dad’s casket: cigarettes, a Harley Davidson hat, flowers, a racing patch.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Solstice magick

Before my father’s unexpected passing on Wednesday, the teenager had hoped to celebrate Yule instead of Christmas.

Today is the full moon before the winter solstice. We are approaching the celebration of the birth of the sun, who will, as the time comes, restore life to the Earth.

And today is the day my college roommate arrived for my dad’s funeral. My dad always called her curly.

But within moments of her arrival, I realized— she came to support me and rekindle our friendship now that our children older, but the universe sent her to share her energy with the teenager. Curly had a vibe that the teenager needed. I could feel the difference in the energy of the room and knew that Curly had brought peace.

After all, Curly was one of the women present for the teenager’s one year birthday ritual where she promised to help guide the teenager.

And tonight she did. And it was the perfect time for it.

We spent the night reading tarot cards and charging crystals and telling stories of our ridiculous past together— Curly, the teenager’s father and I— and then Curly went to spend the night in the teenager’s room in her father’s apartment.

It was the grounding and the relief we needed before tomorrow.

*i know the actual solstice is December 21, but to me, the full moon is the start of that celebration,


In other news:

  • I received another gorgeous bouquet, this one from my friends at Mary Meuser Memorial Library.
  • Brigid of the Celtic Pride got adopted today!!!
  • Nala the Goffins Cockatoo got so mad that I wasn’t to bed on time that she broke out of her cage, broke Yo the parakeet out of his cage, and stole his cage and wouldn’t let him back in.
  • Our cat foster godmother stopped by and actually socialized with Touch of Grey— the cat who terrifies her. ToG has come so far! She is 90% normal, friendly cat.
  • William Prystauk released his fourth novel in the Kink Noir series, Bondage.
  • Gayle, my partner at Parisian Phoenix, wrote a fascinating blog post about 2021 book projects.

Nobody gives a sh*t, in a good way

I intended today’s post to be about my medical appointments, but grief and death have a way of sneaking into everything.

So, let me start this post by saying I’ve been released from physical therapy and let’s hope I do yoga and more weight training to improve more and free myself or even more pain.

I haven’t been to the gym in two weeks because first came the schedule change, then my trainer got sick and then my dad died.

My dad, visiting the teenager at her waitressing job

Today, my college roommate reached out to say she would drive up from Baltimore if I needed her. And I started to weep in the parking lot of physical therapy, because she and I have been extremely sporadic in our contact since we graduated. I never even told her when the teenager’s father and I split up.

I did finally tell her, but only after she sent a Christmas card.

So many people have been kind in the wake of my father’s death, but to have such an act of kindness offered just hit me hard.

And then, as I have often since we met with the funeral home, I checked for his obituary. This time, I found it.

Daddy’s Obituary

Now it could just be I’m grieving and therefore have a lower IQ than usual— I somehow got the dog’s bowls stuck together— but it is a little tricky to navigate the options on my phone to see the obituary.

And finally, my daughter looked at me this morning and said, “you know how you always say that my generation has an easier time with body acceptance… for me, that wasn’t social media or TikTok or anything, it was Poppop. He never said anything when I started gaining weight, and if I said something, he’d say, ‘Nobody gives a sh*t. Fat, skinny, you’re still my grandkid.’”

And he’d know how to get those damn bowls unstuck.

Nobody gives a sh*t. Fat, skinny, you’re still my grandkid.

Jim Ackerman, “Poppop on the Mountain.”

Struggling to find a groove

Change is hard.

Sunday we arrived at work to learn we couldn’t punch in because engineering was upgrading the time clock system. I managed to ship 374 items in 296 packages as part of the Freestyle department.

And my dad— who has been struggling with Covid— ended up back in the hospital.

But then Monday rolled around and I was back in my home department folding clothes.

I was ready to try and excel as the change in shifts has been hard. The ten hour day is amazingly smooth, but getting up at 5 a.m. is exhausting — even if I go to bed at 9 p.m.

And then we changed software and the computers couldn’t keep up with the new system so everyone was working at 80 percent. Okay, I can’t prove everyone, but there’s a day shift woman who told me she always hits her numbers and yesterday she only did 108 instead of 130.

On top of this I had several fixes that I struggled to put in an extra large box and half way through the day the stats went down.

I am struggling to stay motivated and moving without my average time per fix being tracked, let alone no stats at all.

And then some guy drilled each of our table and attached new brooms and butlers. We used to share one or two brooms per valley, now we have about 20.

Many many brooms.

And around 2:30 p.m., a day shift peer was talking to someone who might have been a processing lead and she started hysterically crying for a good 20 minutes.

So I was very glad when yesterday was over. Not only was my back hurting, but my right leg is acting up again and I have intense pains in one of my right toes.

Then today started. My computer doesn’t have a keyboard or a mouse. Just a keypad. And the computer can’t “see” it. Lost ten minutes looking for a mouse until a lead stole one on my behalf.

One of my favorite second shift QC support people— we’ll call him Flying J in honor of the way he buzzes through the valleys with carts under his arms like wings of an airplane— brought me refixes! You know, the fixes that needed to be fixed and come on top of the cart instead of inside.

AND he told day shift that I liked them.

And one of the day shift support people came to see me and said she would bring me as many as she could. Then she paused.

“I don’t know how to say this without offending you,” she said.

“Honey, you can’t offend me.”

“I see the way you work and I see the way you walk—”

I interrupted her. “I have cerebral palsy,” I said. “And right now, my spine is bent the wrong way. I struggle to get the fixes out of slots 7 & 8.”

I was really moved. I am always touched when people want to help.

And today was our December employee luncheon.

Meanwhile, at home, the teenager did a ritual (at my request) for my father’s recovery.

After work, we took the dog for ice cream at The Spot.

Bean Dog eating ice cream video.

When Sunday comes on Saturday

My first three day Thursday through Saturday weekend is now coming to a close.

I did some laundry. Did some dishes. Meal prepped for my upcoming lunches and cooked the remaining groceries so the teenager has some food if she wants it. We also discussed our upcoming dinners. I plotted my wardrobe, and I hope to finish gathering underwear and socks, that way I can put my clothes in the bathroom where I can dress without disturbing the cockatoo.

I did a whole lot of work for Parisian Phoenix Publishing, including sending Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money off for copyright.

So, with all of our food planned for the future, the teenager and I visited McDonalds for buy one, get one free Big Macs.

Here is the video of our crazy Bean dog eating her first McDonald’s burger.

Sometimes it’s nice to do something silly.