Those days

Today was one of those days where I got a variety of outstanding projects done, slept better than usual, barely got any steps in and felt like I made an impact working on Aspire to Autonomy’s annual report for 2019-2020.

As I’ve mentioned it’s an exciting time to be part of this team and the interns working in my department bring so much enthusiasm and knowledge to the table that it is a joy to mentor them.

I even practiced my chopstick skills with the teenager’s tutelage so I would embarrass myself less at future sushi meetings. We used old toothbrushes and I could only master the “cheater” method.

The teenager rescued Buddy (the dog next door) from an empty house as his human has been spending a lot of time away from home.

It was a dreary day today— the weather hospitably cool— but my mood shifted later in the day, I think due to not eating enough.

I found myself irritable over things I have no right to be irritable about.

Large sodas at Wendy’s require a life jacket

I drove the teenager to marching band and then sneaked to Wendy’s for a vanilla Frostyccino and since they had a coupon for a $1 soft drink I got my neighbor a Diet Coke.

Of course, I already got a $2 iced coffee from Dunkin’ today. Buddy joined us for the ride and Darnell joined us for coffee.

So that means I’ve had three cups of coffee today.

But there is something soothing about being alone in the car. Even the long drive thru line wasn’t a bother. It allowed me to sit quietly and reflect, and to people-watch.

Sometimes a peaceful moment comes from what otherwise might be an annoyance.

Manic Monday … Nan and Angel style

Second week of Band Camp for the teenager and somehow I not only volunteered to drive her and the marching baritone to the high school but I also conned my good friend Nan, my crazy blind compatriot, into breakfast before our regular work session.

So I got up at 7:10 a.m., after the teenager did all the work with the menagerie, slapped on some clothes, took my last antibiotic and headed out the door by 7:40 a.m.

The routine with Nan is simple, yet deliciously complex, I pick her up and we drive to a shady spot in the parking lot of her apartment building to peruse coupons and loyalty deals on the various apps.

Now, Nan loves chai. We both love food, the worse for our health, the better. Okay perhaps that is a joke. Maybe. It’s free coffee Monday at Dunkin. And we have coupons for $2 off a breakfast combo at Wendy’s.

I plot a plan.

I really want to try the chicken biscuit at Wendy’s. Nan and I know we love the seasoned breakfast potatoes at Wendy’s.

So, our first stop was Wendy’s. We ordered a chicken biscuit with honey butter combo, making the potatoes a medium (which honestly was too many potatoes even for the two of us) and an unsweetened iced tea. The bill was $3.70. I had $3 cash and Nan had the 70 cents.

Now, I know, that’s only breakfast for 1 person. We then headed to Dunkin for my free medium iced coffee and to see if they still have chai— you see they took it off the menu.

We got the iced tea in case Dunkin really didn’t have chai.

I used the Dunkin mobile app to order the 2 for $3 sausage-egg-and-cheese wraps because Nan likes them. They are easy to eat in the car. And then I could get my free coffee. So that was $3.18. We saved the last egg wrap for the teenager.

Then at the speaker of the drove-thru we asked if they still had the chai, and they did. We ordered a medium hot chai and a cup with ice so I could ice it for Nan. That cost $3.79, as they had to charge us for the second cup.

They total for all the food was about $11 and we had breakfast for three people.

I loved the chicken biscuit with honey butter.

Phase One of our morning complete. Nan and I returned to my house to submit some essays and strategize future creative endeavors.

And then our friend Joan joins us. Neither one of us has seen Joan in a decade. Joan is another wickedly smart and multi-talented woman, dabbling and exploring the so many ways to express the beauty of this world: short stories, photography and music.

Joan, Nan and I all met as members of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group when the teenager was still “the baby.”

A lot of my good friends came from that group.

Angel, Nala, Misty

And Joan also brought the sweetest, ripest smelling melon I have held in my arms in months. Did she notice how much fresh fruit cup I ate in the hospital?

The teenager came home for lunch break (from band camp), Joan departed and we crated our three male fosters for neutering tonight. Except Zeus looks like a girl now.

Apollo

Apollo and Hermes both still have infected eyes and coughs so we were told to bring Artemis instead since she was ready for a forever home.

I went into the teenager’s room and Hermes had escaped his crate!

I let Apollo out, and cleaned cat boxes while on hold with Capital One Auto Financing to finish my application to refinance the last 40 months of my auto loan and drop $50/month from my payment without extending the life of the loan. I owe $7,690 and some odd cents.

With my auto loan approved, I slipped sweet little Artemis into the crate. Remember if she charms you, you can apply to adopt her through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Artemis purring

On the way to Artemis’ rendezvous point, I received a phone call from Capital Blue Cross, my medical insurer. This was my second medical phone call of the day as the hand specialist overseeing my case called me to request a follow-up even though my hospital discharge instructions said I only needed to see my family physician at Medical Associates of Bethlehem.

I have that appointment scheduled for Wednesday, and now the hand specialist for the following Monday. On the phone was my case manager from the insurance company. She sounded pleased that I was healing well and on top of everything. She will call again next Tuesday.

Upon delivering Artemis and retrieving the teenager, we came home and I finally had Brussel sprouts. When I was admitted to the hospital last week I had missed them by a couple hours as part of the Monday lunch special.

Wendy’s Breakfast

I called Nan, my blind friend, during the weekend and said, “I have to get out of the house. Do you have time this week for a social visit? I have some customer loyalty coupons and specials for fast food— how do you feel about breakfast at Wendy’s?”

Nan has a pretty standard response to my phone calls.

“Ooooooooo,” she says.

We agreed I would pick her up on Monday at 9 a.m.

The teenager usually doesn’t emerge from her room until after 10 a.m. I decide to surprise Nan with a trip to Family Dollar, too.

I need a notebook for my volunteer role as Communications Director for Aspire To Autonomy, Inc., and for my notes as a partner in Thrive Public Relations.

Part of the fun of going to Nan’s building right now is the massive construction project they have going on. Her building has seven stories and they are removing the bricks on the south-most wall. The scaffolding they have is like an erector set for Godzilla.

Nan gets in my car, and despite the temperature already in the 80s and the humidity above 50%, I don’t have the air conditioning on in the car. The breeze is nice, the sun roof is open and the air conditioning is too cold.

We plot our order via the Wendy’s app— I order a small vanilla Frosty-chino (on special for $1) and the maple bacon chicken croissant (free with any mobile order). I want to try the chicken honey butter biscuit, too, but I can’t pass up free.

Nan orders the traditional sausage, egg and cheese combo. We order it on the standard bun as croissants can be greasy and flat and a biscuit might be crumbly. When you are planning a car picnic with a blind person, ease of handling is the primary concern.

We make hers the combo. We can split the seasoned potatoes and she gets an unsweetened ice tea as her beverage. Like me, Nan doesn’t like sweetened tea.

Our total for breakfast comes to $6.77.

We split the tab.

We drive over to Wendy’s, go through the drive through and discover that the Wendy’s parking lot has a lot of shade. Things we never noticed before the Coronavirus pandemic.

Surprisingly, the croissant is not a traditional croissant. It is square. This pleases me as I hate when fast food restaurants use American style croissants for sandwiches.

Nan’s sandwich appears to have a real egg on it.

I really like having chicken for breakfast as I am not a “breakfast meat” person. The maple bacon fills the whole car with maple scent. Nan finds it too strong. It tastes like table syrup.

Nan and I agree the potatoes are amazing. Nan reported that her sandwich was better than the average fast food breakfast sandwich.

We both think the potatoes are dangerous.

And I dribbled Frosty-cino down my white t-shirt.

We were very pleased with our experience.

Why I need my lucky shirt: a typical day when you’re eccentric and have cerebral palsy

The best stories start with “it began as a typical day,” but in this case it did not.

The teenager turned 16 on Tuesday and my employer had scheduled our annual meeting for Tuesday so I planned to take off today and tomorrow to celebrate with my offspring.

With Coronavirus changing everything I could have taken Monday and Tuesday instead.

Last night, I curled up in bed with a gin cocktail and watched some more of Harlan Coben’s: The Five on Netflix. (Mini review: my friend, brow maintenance person and nail tech Beth recommended the show—and I am enjoying what I feel is edgy cinematography, rapid paced story telling, complex writing, and realistically complicated and tragic characters. It’s like watching a comic book.)

So I got to bed later than I normally do and I slept a little better than I normally do. I fed the kittens, made coffee, started laundry and finagled a cake carrier into the dishwasher.

After a cup of my favorite Archer Farms Direct Trade Cafe Mosaica from Target on my breezy enclosed sun porch, I slapped some clothes on… and ended up trying to accessorize a basic outfit.

Which is funny because I was going to pick up Nan, who is blind and won’t see my efforts anyway.

And then I was surprised to find out that the teenager made me breakfast— a mini bagel with greens, cucumber and fresh bacon.

After we worked on some poetry, Nan and I went to Lidl. And I took her home.

When I arrived home, the teenager informed me that her plan for today involved not wearing pants. So after a brief respite, I went to Wendy’s for a Frosty-ccino.

That was when the real adventure began.

I decided to take Nala, my four-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo who joined the family in January. Now, recently we took Nala to Dunkin Donuts to try hash browns and that went well.

And this is how she did: Nala at Dunkin

And we had taken Misty, our kitten, to Wendy’s (Kitten at Wendy’s ) so why not a bird?

So I ordered my Frosty-ccino and a junior fry for my baby girl bird on the mobile app and got into the drive thru lane. And then I did what we all do in this day and age. I took a selfie.

That’s when I realized Nala had pooped on me in fear. And I had no wipes in the car. Green bird droppings now stained my white t-shirt and Nala was walking in the mess.

But everyone in the drive thru window loved her— three employees cooed at her from afar.

I pulled into a parking space and offered her a French fry and she was too scared to eat it. I drove her home, put the car in the garage, gathered the waste and the food and started up toward the house.

Now, the teenager’s father moved some heavy original doors from the house across the garage so he could use my great grandmother’s hutch in his apartment. He did this a couple week’s ago. The doors block a portion of the stairs.

I got tangled up on the stairs/with the doors and fell, to the left onto the doors to avoid smashing Nala who was on my right shoulder.

I almost spilled my coffee and French fries fluttered like hail.

But luckily Nala is a bird, and a forager, so she doesn’t mind a little dirt. I gather them all carefully and climb up from the floor, some contusions and cuts causing minor pain.

I bump the doors and they almost fall on me. This time the French fries scatter to the four winds.

I notice how much blood and dirt cover me and I head inside to discover Nala has pooped even more.

I set her down.

I remove my shirt. White tee shirt. Vivid blood. Green poop.

I wash up and count my blessings— I was very close (too close) to breaking an arm.

I put on my lucky shirt once I cleaned up.

Addendum: I posted this link on my LinkedIn profile and wrote this introduction as to why I felt this piece was important especially as part of a discourse on social justice.

I don’t like to admit I have a disability— #cerebralpalsy. But it’s important to note that with all the stereotypes and institutionalized ideas people have about “others,” whether other cultures, races, religions, sexualities, identities, educational or social class (the list goes on and on), for those of us who have tried to “pass” as “normal” or “mainstream,” our experience is difficult. As all life is difficult to one degree or another. But if you are obviously “different” and you can’t “pass,” those notions of who you are based on quick judgments can be catastrophic. Or lead to people doing harm to you or someone you love. #blacklivesmatter

In that context, allow me to share with you what a typical day looks like for me. Warning— I end up bleeding by the end of it. Different isn’t inferior. Or threatening.

The ups and downs of DQ

I originally started this blog post intending to lambast my local Dairy Queen.

But literally as I was debating what to title this piece when either the owner or the manager of our local Dairy Queen called to make this right.

So as you read this long-winded tale of technological failure and questionable customer service moves, let me say that while it’s not 100% resolved now, I have the cell phone number of the person who can fix it.

The story begins with a mildly inconvenient family matter that still hasn’t been resolved. It kept me out of the house last night until almost midnight. I was lucky to get six hours of uneasy sleep.

And I had a dream that a good friend had come to stay for a couple days to help me deal with some of the things in my life, so I woke disappointed and tired.

The teenager is staying with her dad. She stopped by for her wallet and to get some items she needed to pick up some strong medicine at the doctor.

I ended up leaving work in late morning because of fatigue, and the personal text messages I kept receiving.

The teenager left around 12:30 to head to the doctor.

I hadn’t eaten yet and I saw that DQ has a new Blizzard. Frosted Animal Cookie. Doesn’t that sound interesting?

So I thought I’ll get a 3-piece chicken strip meal deal and the Blizzard and a cheeseburger. A little naughty but it’s been a rough day.

I very carefully selected what I wanted— and left the house at 12:50. The order was submitted, I received a confirmation email and a notice from my bank that $11.25 had been deducted from the $27 left in my account.

DQ’s mobile app has this feature, that you tell them that you’re “here.”

I pulled into the drive thru. So I hit the button.

Now traditionally, in the pre-Coronavirus universe, I hate drive-thrus. I worked for five years at a McDonald’s, much of that in the drive-thru. It was so stressful, but it was my job through college. Drive-thru’s contribute to our anxiety and laziness as a country. We’re all too busy to get out of the car.

Now with Covid-19, I am using a drive-thru once a week. I’m in the line at DQ.

My order disappears.

1:10, I arrive at the speaker. I very professionally and clearly say, “I had a mobile order, but it seems to have disappeared even though I was charged.”

The mysterious voice in the box apologizes but says there is a problem on their end with mobile ordering and she can’t give me food.

I ask her, “May I read you the order and show you it on my phone?”

No, she says.

But you took my money, I said.

You need to call corporate, she said.

May I have the phone number? I asked.

It’s in the app, she replied.

And I had to sit in the drive thru for 20 minutes to not get food.

At 1:30 I pulled into the parking lot to search the app for a phone number. Found a comment section in the app. Gave them 1 star.

Who can’t give $10 of food or a phone number?

I found a comment form and started filling it out and after I got it half way done and the form automatically submitted itself.

I started over.

Then I finally found a phone number.

I called.

Waited 10 minutes.

Had a really skillful customer representative named Jeremy who laughed at my jokes and sympathized with my plight. He filed a report and asked me if I wanted to add a complaint against my particular store. Jeremy asked if they were rude, and I said no but I just felt like they could have handled it differently.

So, that done, I ordered a burger from Wendy’s and Vanilla Frostyccino. It was 2 pm and I still hadn’t eaten.

I brought my Wendy’s home, fed Nala (my cockatoo) her French fries and some apples, watched some Gordon Ramsay and prepped to blog a scathing tale of DQ.

As I finished my meal, I got a phone call from someone in charge of my local DQ. I didn’t catch his name, but we had a lovely conversation.

Addition to original post: I texted him this blog post and he told me his name was John and that he owns both the Easton and Bethlehem DQ stores.

I told him I worked for almost a decade selling icees and making Pizza Hit pan pizzas in the Target on Rte. 248. And I would have been able to give my customers a phone number and I would have given them the food.

I had an $11.25 order, for goodness sake.

And he said he would have handled it differently and that he’d like to make it right.

This is a summary of what I told him:

I’m glad you called, because even if I never see the $11 again, just knowing that there are business owners that care and want to provide a good experience matters. The virus makes it hard, we don’t have those face to face interactions. People are tired and aren’t prepared for some of these issues.

So I get that. But he called. And I appreciated that.

And I would let him know if I didn’t get my $11.25 back.

He thanked me for being understanding.

And he told me if I ever had a problem to call him— on his cell.

#customerservicewin

He dealt with my complaint within an hour, over an $11 sale. He didn’t have to do that.

Thank you.

And John’s response to my blog entry: “Thanks and again, so sorry again about the inconvenience. My name is John and I own the stores in Easton and Bethlehem. I have great crews at both stores but this incident could have been handled much better. I will be using this and sharing it with my crews as a learning experience to 1) do the right thing – take care of the customer and 2) when mistakes happen or problems occur take ownership and let the customer know that you are sorry and that you care. Have a great weekend!! John”

Vegetarian sweet potato tacos and a kitten joy ride

Many years ago, I used to blog every meal I made, in part because I had friends in far away states who wanted my recipes. Also because I am frugal. I also kept the blog because I never cooked the same meal twice and I wanted to preserve my best dishes. Even if they were an accident.

That blog is located here: Angel Food Cooking.

I promised the teenager we could take her kitten on a car ride. His first. So I ordered him a hamburger patty from Wendy’s and we also got french fries for Nala.

Then we came home and started dinner of leftovers and the next round of goodies from Grocery Outlet to make luscious vegetarian tacos.

Ingredients:

  • Corn tortillas, I don’t even remember when/where I bought them. I heated them in the skillet with coconut oil and a touch of chili powder and smoked paprika.
  • Green leaf lettuce leftover over from Tucker Silk Mill/Tucker Provisions from the burger kit I bought for Memorial Day two weeks ago.

You can read about that here: Tucker Provisions Burger Kit on the table

Buying the kit

  • Leftover sweet potato from dinner last night, also from Tucker (and this made the tacos really creamy and gave them a fantastic rich flavor)
  • Light sour cream leftover from when the teenager made her grandmother’s corn bake

More about the day on my recent vacation where we enjoyed corn bake: Our own Walking Purchase: Forest Bathing

  • Salsa from Lidl
  • A Boca Southwestern Skillet vegetarian dinner kit I bought at Grocery Outlet last night for less than $3. Three servings, though the outside of the package said serves 2. The sauce was tasty.
  • Jalapeño velveeta, also from the Grocery Outlet, which I got for 47 cents. A touch gave the taco some fire.
  • We had Italian black olives but we opted not to open them.

Encounter at Nearpoint

Tonight, the teenager and I are watching the pilot episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, “Encounter at Far Point.” We ate some of our gourmet Double Good popcorn that the teenager sold to pay for her marching band trip that has now been canceled.

It allowed me to be a little punny with my title— as while the Enterprise explores the far reaches of the galaxy, the teenager and I had our own encounter near home, visiting a dear friend and mentor who may not even realize how key she has been in my personal and professional development.

And she has a beautiful piece of property near us where the teenager could sip their own special lemo-tea and galavant through the sun-kissed woods.

On the way home, the teenager and I stopped at Wendy’s for cheeseburger kids’ meals for dinner as I had some volunteer work to do in the evening— we opted to postpone our proposed vegetarian Mexican dinner.

Between my two phone meetings for my volunteer commitment, I went for a walk with my neighbor. The walk is about a mile and a half, but for some reason it registers as about three miles on the Apple Health app.