“Vacation” continues, starting the Karen books, and wondering if the quest has stalled

Yesterday I had hoped to do more editing on the bits and pieces left of the near-final manuscript of Manipulations, the first of three novels by me, coming soon from my little publishing imprint, Parisian Phoenix.

But then my graphic designer partner in crime (and this endeavor) encouraged me to start Karen by Marie Killilea. The book was in its 11th printing by the mid-sixties and I am reading a copy from about 60 years ago.

It’s part of my recent quest to understand my cerebral palsy, which ironically led to me discovering that my anemia has reared its ugly head. So maybe this quest isn’t addressing physical needs as much as emotional ones. And the neurologist’s office did return my call. My appointment is January 13. Yes, in six-and-a-half months.

While I certainly understand what these parents must have gone through (Karen was born in 1940 and died in 2020), this certainly was a different era. An era of institutions, a lack of knowledge and families and doctors sitting around smoking cigarettes together.

But so far, and I believe Karen is now 4, Karen is described as beautiful, but presented as a thing in the background. The memoir so far is about the mother and her thoughts and parenting techniques and her interactions with the medical community.

To me, the way Marie describes placing her in the backyard and going in the house to do chores… well, Karen slowly pulls herself by her arms inching toward whatever is of interest. The current chapter describes her playing in a mud puddle. She sounds like a fish caught between land and sea.

Honestly, to me it sounds cruel. I’m sure it fostered independence and strength but damn it sounds grueling for Karen. This is the beginning of the ideology of mainstreaming kids with disabilities— toss them in and let them adjust. And as young people with disabilities, emotions and intellect are still immature. So it is cruel in my opinion to let these children struggle with the physical, too. It’s this weird we get that we are different but we don’t have the life experience to understand why or how and while allowing a child to figure it out raises a fighter and someone not prone to accept help or pity, it would be nice to have some framework other than you can or cannot do something or are or are not like everyone else.

I see a potential multitude of nonfiction book projects in my future. My memoir will need to be three volumes: my childhood, my “squiggly” career (yes there is a term for people with eclectic careers like mine), and this health quest.

Speaking of non-fiction, I would like to publish my honors thesis from Lafayette College and do an anthology where I have select authors/artists to explore what I will refer to as identity politics. I have mentioned it to Nan, my blind friend, and Bill, my horror-loving freak friend, and both love the idea. I encourage you to read Bill’s novels, The Kink Noir series, which blend a dark 1940s detective vibe with kink and erotica while exploring some topics about what it means to be human.

My review of Bill’s most recent book is here: Debauchery

More posts including Bill here: Bill on the Blog

Speaking of Bill, my flower workshop got postponed last night, so Bill, fresh off of jury duty, came down to catch up and have dinner at the always charming Porter’s Pub in Easton, Pa.

Rib eye with Jameson’s Demi-Glace

Armed with the news that my iron is low, he bought me a steak and a lemony-smooth gin martini.

Upon arriving home, I finished taking out the garbage and recycling including two more 13-gallon trash bags from teenager two’s room. It looks like she’s officially ghosted me, and that makes me sad.

And I let the dog sleep with me. And as my room is the front room, she heard every noise in the neighborhood.

Grub Hub and Quick Chek

I had a craving for a Reese’s peanut butter cup and a chicken salad sandwich. I still had $40 left on my Grub Hub gift card from Bill, so I ordered for Quick Chek.

I was very impressed with the speed at which the food arrived, the flavors and the price.

I even got half and half for my coffee in case we really do get two feet of snow today.

The meal consisted of chicken salad on a Kaiser roll for me, with a candy cane macchiato and my peanut butter cup. My delivery driver texted me during the whole journey. And my macchiato stayed pretty hot.

I ordered a chicken Caesar wrap, fruit snacks and mango lemonade for teenager #1. They didn’t have mango lemonade so they sent an apology, chocolate chip cookies and a Red Bull.

That made teenager one very happy. And I appreciated that they did some substituons and left a note.

Teenager #2 took the Red Bull. I ordered her a Mac and cheese with chicken fingers. It only seemed to come Buffalo style, so I added ranch.

It was a good meal.

Podcasts and Sunday spirit

My Rough Start to the Day

I thought today would be a laid back day doing little things around the house getting ready for the week ahead and maybe resting.

I woke from what should have been a good dream drenched in sweat and saddened— what was the dream? A friend gave me a hug. It’s been so long since someone I wasn’t related to gave me a hug that in the dream I started to cry.

And that made me wake up feeling isolated and alone.

And then my roomba tried to crawl under the bed and die— it was clogged up with so much cat hair the wheels and spinning parts had made thread out of it.

The cockatoo pooped on me. The parakeets flew out of their cage when I gave them food and water. The fluffy kittens are climbing curtains and managing to get to the top of the window molding to chase the budgies.

And now I need to take the fluffies to the vet to have them be given the all clear to be adopted. These are precious, cuddly kittens with gorgeous long hair and I fear that every day they are not listed on that web site is just detrimental to them.

So I started to cry.

I can’t even leave my bedroom until I get the parakeets safely in their cage but Boo-boo is being stubborn.

I have a headache because it’s past noon and I haven’t had any water or food yet today. a chicken finger basket from DQ would sure make my feel better but I lost four pounds with the new job and gained five this weekend.

So to distract myself, I want to tell you about podcasts.

The Actual Part that talks about Podcasts

Of course, the type of day it has been I totally forgot I had already started this blog post, and now I did it over. Sigh.

From my first attempt at this…At work, we are allowed to wear one earphone and listen to music or podcasts on our phones. In the first week, I just listened to the very random music on the speakers overhead in the warehouse.

Then I asked the teenager if I could borrow the generic AirPods she bought at the dollar store (if the kittens hadn’t eaten them). I also bought my own pair at the dollar store, so now I could experiment.

I signed up for every random podcast… after catching up with my friend William Prystauk’s podcast The Last Knock, once listed in Entertainment Weekly as one of the best horror movie podcasts out there.

I’ve rediscovered my old favorite Car Talk, which is always enjoyable regardless of your connection/experience with cars. My neighbor recommended some like The Indicator (snippets on economics) and Ted Talks Daily. The range of topics on both make it very thought provoking. Ted Talks allows me to be introspective and The Indicator gives me a chance to gain more insight into capitalist American society.

I’ve started following Netflix is a Joke because I love stand-ups comedians. I subscribed to the Daily Show with Trevor Noah because I am a huge Trevor Noah fan.

I rejected the Duncan Trussell Family Hour. I thought it would be fun since it’s new agey and edgy but the final straw was the opening song they wrote about life as an earbud singing about being thrust in the pubic hair of your ear. I also rejected Comedy Bang Bang, content and interviews were fine but it just seemed too long and not funny enough.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first episode of Seeking Witchcraft as they discussed Alex Crowley. I learned a lot and their broader discussion of building oneself and spirituality meant a lot to me.

My other favorites so far are American Innovations, where on a recent episode I learned about Alexander Graham Bell’s life and the science behind the telephone. I listened to several parts of the Do No Harm series which followed the plight of several families who wrongly had their children removed by the state.

Wondery has a magnificent program called This Imagined Life where they tell a second person account of a famous person’s life trying to get “you” to guess who “you” are. I learned about Jackie Robinson and Nora Ephron so far.

I still have many more to try, and if you have a recommendation let me know as I can listen about 7 hours a day.

The non-linear days

PART ONE: GLUTTONY

I had to face my pandemic denial today— due to the stressful nature of my last professional position, I’ve been stress eating more than I’ve admitted the last few months.

(And if you read this blog, you know I’ve been fairly transparent about my ability to each an entire Dominos or Little Caesar’s pizza. So imagine the late night bags of chips and the multiple doughnuts I haven’t told you about.)

Today I hit a new body weight high. And none of my pants fit. So it was sobering.

And I know part of that is my good intentions gone wrong.

Yesterday the morning started with breakfast with my dad and the teenager. I had coffee, a broccoli feta omelette, home fries, dry rye toast and cranberry juice.

I was proud of my choice because I haven’t had vegetables enough recently and I could bring half of my meal home for today. It was too delicious. So I decided I would skip or have a light lunch.

But then I stress ate a doughnut.

Then my dad and step mom invited me to the pub for dinner. My step mom wanted pizza so I thought I’d have a beer and a slice. I think I ate the equivalent of a whole bar pizza.

This year has not been one of discipline

It’s 7:23 pm and I’m watching the marching band rehearse so my daughter can drive home… I’ll make7,000 steps today but not my goal of 10K.

PART TWO: WARLOCK CRAFT BEER REVIEW

At Three Mugs Pub yesterday, I ordered a salted caramel chocolate Saucony Creek, a craft beer label I typically enjoy. Chocolate stouts and porters tend to be my favorite beers.

They didn’t have it. So I ordered a Warlock instead.

Warlock is an imperial pumpkin stout brewed by Southern Tier Brewing Company. It was smooth and not obnoxious in its seasonal flavor. And caused more of a buzz than I was expecting given all the food I ate.

PART THREE: CHICKEN BONE BROTH

Earlier— on Tuesday—while the teenager was still hanging out with my dad…

I finally turned off my crock pot that had been brewing the chicken bones of a whole young roaster I bought at Grocery Outlet on Saturday for $4. I made the chicken in the crock pot that day, returned the bones and skin to the crockpot and kept filling it with water until Tuesday noon.

I carefully poured it all out and squeezed all the goodness out of the now soft bones. I also started a pot of soup on the stove. The yield was nice.

PART FOUR: TRIGGERED

I started my day with coffee— fighting an unusual sluggishness and some unexpected difficulty with my menstrual cycle.

Last week, I had started thinking about my psychological triggers. I have long known that I have an obsessive attitude toward food. Not in the disordered eating way, but in a hoarding kind of way.

I don’t actually hoard food, but seeing a piece of fruit rot or having to throw out an out-of-date food product upsets me far more than it should.

It usually serves me well, but it backfires sometimes and missteps with food can make me unreasonably angry.

Let’s bring this back to that chicken— I didn’t need that chicken. I didn’t even want that chicken. But that was a huge roaster chicken for $4.

I made soup and froze it for the first cold day of the fall season. (I’m not even fond of chicken soup). I separated the white meat and the dark meat and froze that for future use. And I made bone broth.

That’s a lot of food for $4. Good, healthy protein. But… it’s not food I enjoy. So why?

But then this morning as I was drinking my coffee, I heard two people arguing. It was a loud verbal altercation. This is one of my triggers I forgot about— and it’s one I understand. My parents had a lot of verbal arguments and if I’m honest (forgive me for saying so Mom and Dad) if they had enough alcohol the fights could get violent and ugly. There weren’t that many over the years, but enough to create an even more terrifying environment than the mere alcoholism that existed in my childhood home.

So I surveyed my surroundings and couldn’t see anyone. My chest was tightening and my stomach dropping and that odd little internal tremble shook me.

These incidents were frequent when my previous neighbors screamed profanities at each other and threw objects and each other at the walls. It terrified me. They were literally on the other side of the wall, similar to my parents. When I didn’t stand there paralyzed and watch them.

I am not convinced what happened this morning, but I suspect my neighbor had some sort of television program playing in her car.

PART FIVE: THRIFT STORE

I promised the teenager a trip to our favorite thrift store. She bought supplies for her father’s birthday craft and two belts. I bought approximately three skirts, four pairs of business slacks, one pair jeans and one pair corduroys.

Since I can’t try things on, I got everything from size 7 to 10. Far cry from my normal 2 or 4, or my spare/ baggy sizes 6 to 8.

$43.50.

None of the professional pants fit. The red jeans (Old Navy low cut Rockstar 10) fit but are snug. The corduroys fit (size 8). One size 8 skirt fits, the other two did not. The medium skirt fit.

I’m sorry, guys. I also wanted to update you on Aspire to Autonomy, Lady Boss Entrepreneurs Club and some recent make-up unboxing from Dolls Kill and Target.com. But I’m wiped out and this is really long. Oh — and William Prystauk’s third novel appeared on Amazon.com today so now you can read the latest Kink Noir masterpiece and get your mystery/romance/crime/BDSM on.

More tomorrow?

In the meantime: enjoy this unboxing video:

Unboxing a Dolls Kill package

Fabulous error and hump day fun

Today I finally had my eyebrows done after a long hiatus from Hyperion Salon where I have my nails and waxing done. I still can’t spare the money for a mani-pedi but brows is a $10 investment that yields great benefits.

Since the teenager had to be at band camp at 8, and I was due at the salon at 8:30, I decided to go to Dunkin’ since I had a free beverage credit.

It was chilly and raining so I thought I might order a hot latte, some sort of fancy caffeinated beverage. In the end, I decided on an iced matcha latte with skim milk as I adore matcha but am not willing to pay $5 for some green powder in a glass of milk.

I got to the drive thru window and she is clearly handing me an iced coffee latte.

I’m like…. ummmmm

And she looked at the tag and it was clearly supposed to be an iced matcha latte.

So here’s the cool part… when they made it, it looked like they used a medium amount of skim milk and a large amount of matcha.

It was dark, and rich, and chunky the way I like my matcha drinks.

Heaven.

Then after my brows, which now look amazing, I went to the chiropractor. I listened to Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and Frosted Flakes’ mascot Tony the Tiger).

I listened to “Yes, we have no bananas” four times in a row and was single along at top volume in my best barbershop quartet voice.

What fun, right?

Tonight I am having dinner with my friend Bill (the author of the Kink Noir series— next volume coming soon! More info here: Debauchery and Projects with Bill).

It’s nice to know that there can be fun summer days after all.

Kicking off my birthday

Many things happen in May that I look forward to, primarily the blooming of my lovely pink roses and Lily of the Valley (both fragrances I adore.)

Lily of the Valley, May’s flower

Warmer weather normally arrives (though this year we had snow). The school year is winding down. And there’s an anticipation akin to the new year that good things are to come.

My birthday arrives smack dab in the middle of this week and I know it’s significance will be dulled by major work deadlines and the pandemic. We do have a three day weekend coming for Memorial Day, all of which was why I had hoped to take vacation the last week of May.

Nala and I: Nala’s New Trick

That issue has not been settled, so I decided to have some mild fun to at least acknowledge to myself my birthday. Which is #45.

I ordered a sit down hot meal last night, instead of my usual stress meal of 2,000+ calories of pizza. My dear friend and editing client William Prystauk of the Kink Noir series suggested that the teenager and I deserved the treat. Ironically, it was the same restaurant my husband picked for my birthday dinner last year, Two Rivers Brewing.

More on Bill and his BDSM-themed crime novels: Sunday evening briefing: My Time of Debauchery Ends

Last time I tried Two Rivers delivery service: Two Rivers Brewing Delivery

I ordered a crowler of the Banker’s Brown ale, the breathtaking peanut butter bacon burger, bacon apple mac and cheese, and Brussel Sprouts. My daughter and I feasted like queens.

Speaking of queens, I started watching Hulu’s The Great, loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great of Russia. The costumes and sets are amazing. The script is witty and allows much thought of life and politics in that time period. I watched 5 episodes yesterday while doing housework.

The teenager had deserved a good meal as she had resecreened one of my bedroom windows.

She’s on the roof

A friend of mine texted early. He said it was a shame that people couldn’t celebrate properly because of the pandemic. But I pointed out that really nothing has changed. The teenager plans on baking me a cake— might be trying lemon cardamom this year. Cards still come in the mail. My friends and family have phones. And most restaurants have curbside or delivery.

I think the pandemic just removes a lot of the pretentious notions of what we need to survive and highlights how outdated the 40-hour workweek is. Employment for a lot of fields could be based on project completion versus time occupied at a desk.

I treated myself to a self-purchased birthday present today and thanks to the pandemic it comes with a free mask!

Dolls Kill

And this morning my mom surprised my with a few fun edibles (not THAT kind of edible) and a pair of tights.

Mom and Nala bonded and she approved of the teenager’s efforts in the garden.

So here’s hoping I can clean up this house and get my spirits to where they need to be to start the work week— and my birthday week— with enthusiasm.

Sunday evening briefing: My Time of Debauchery Ends

Yesterday was a frolicking good day of silly adventures and hearty chores— I feel the after effects of hauling all that trash from the garage yesterday burning in the tops of my thighs.

This morning I enjoyed coffee with my mom in my home and then sat in the morning sun and read more of William Prystauk’s manuscript, Debauchery. He asked me to edit the final manuscript before it heads to the printer as his regular editor was unavailable.

Bill and I have been friends for more than a decade now and I told him I’d love to take a look if he didn’t mind as I’m a HUGE FAN of his previous Denny Bowie novels— it’s just the right blend of counter-culture, dark crime, intelligentsia and erotica.

Bill takes on some kinky themes. His characters experience the best and worst of the human condition. They ooze love. They survive trauma. They admit their weaknesses and accept their fetishes. They explode in rage and sometimes toy with pain.

Everyone seems vibrantly alive yet always on the precipice of tragedy.

And while one person might look at the words, the events, the violence and the various expressions of sexuality and squirm in the face of its counter-mainsteam manifestations, the way Bill has crafted the tale makes the more disturbing twists easier to stomach and nothing is ever gratuitous.

The first book, Bloodletting, focused on love and acceptance— that a real relationship won’t ignore any part of a person or their desires. In Debauchery, the antagonist examines not only the motives of the people involved in his current missing person case but also challenges his own world view and his connection to his own unorthodox living arrangements.

Bill has made a valiant effort to keep each novel in the series a stand-alone, but please don’t start with this one. I think the reader needs to read at least one of his previous books to appreciate the depth of Denny Bowie’s angst.

Or shall I call him Dennison?

I know Bill was pleased with my one week turn-around on this just slightly more than 80,000 word manuscript. But when the story is this compelling, and has such a strong, unique voice, you can’t put it down easily.

Covid Friday Night

I’m exhausted.

After work I cuddled with the cockatoo and took a walk with a neighbor. Visited with another neighbor on the lawn as the teenager trained her dog.

We got two packages from Petco and one from Chewy. Yes the teenager and I did some unboxing videos and plan to redo bird cages this weekend. Will post when we do.

I’m up to page 96 of Bill’s novel, Debauchery, which I am editing for him. There has been some wonderful humor and sardonic attitude, but there is a lingering air of sadness in the novel that I hope isn’t a harbinger.

Then, it was 7:3O pm and I hadn’t made supper yet, which I promised the teen if she vacuumed the entire downstairs for her gym class I would make her a nice meal.

She vacuumed.

And since last night’s dinner was a bedroom picnic…

I made zucchini Parmesan tonight which the teenager loved.

I helped her with some of her homework today. She’ll be working on a persuasive essay— we of course picked the topic “why music should NOT be cut from school budgets,” though we had to brainstorm 5 potential topics— and a band assignment where she had to order instruments for the entire band and keep to a budget of $150,000.

I love the creativity some of her teachers have shown.

So we have some adventures planned this weekend and lots of ridiculousness to blog about. Please tune in.

And eating late on a Friday night alone with the teen. It was so damn easy to be together.

Last but not least, a video of Nala:

Nala playing with her rope

Realities of lemons and tandem bikes

Yes, I know the title is nonsense— but the world has turned a tad upside down as the world tends to do as having billions of people and billions of animals on a planet will erupt into some unexpected situations from time to time.

The teenager loves to eat lemons. I love to cook with lemons. For a while, especially when I first discovered Gaz Oakley the Avant Garde Vegan (Check him out on YouTube—amazing falafel, his own recipe for peri-peri sauce) I always kept fresh lemons in the house.

That was also about the time I would have lemon water first thing in the morning. The juice of half a lemon with tap water.

I did that again this morning. First time in probably a year. Or more.

Today was also the first time in a week I haven’t gained weight. The first month of this pandemic, I was eating better but stopped because… Easter… or so I claim. I am a jelly bean addict and once I start eating the jelly beans I launch onto a sugar and caffeine roller coaster.

This was breakfast. Not ALL of them.

So maybe this post should be called “bad habits.” I originally lost about 5 pounds due to stress in the beginning of the pandemic, but between beer, pizza, Easter candy, homemade cookies and triple jalapeño bacon cheeseburgers from Wendy’s they have found their way back.

But look— I got a salad

It’s been rough. More pressure than ever at work. A good friend walked away coldly without even saying goodbye. A work colleague who often made me smile left unexpectedly. Medical bills still coming in.

But in the end, I still feel inside these struggles help us grow and bring us to the next level— as another work colleague likes to say— we don’t age, we gain experience like in a video game. So I’m less than a month away from my 45th Level with the teenager two months away from Level 16 and a drivers license.

Designated Driver AND babysitter, mom friends out there!!!!

Yesterday was a sunny day amidst a forecast of rain. Last week the teenager did not complete her three weekly gym assignments and she told her teacher in her log that she “got lazy” and he wrote back that sometimes he gets lazy, too. This is a great lesson for our (older) kids in communication and work ethic. Those of you with younger kids, God Bless You and Keep You.

I would be screaming every day if the teenager were, say, six. Our brains are wired too differently.

But back to gym. We got out the tandem bike. (Yes, we have a bicycle built for two— it was a gift.) I wanted the teen to “win” gym this week. And she should get extra credit for captaining a bike with her mom, who has cerebral palsy and no real balance skills.

Then her dad came over and brought his famous hot buffalo chicken dip for dinner, at the teen’s request, and included beer for us grown-ups. And he even got on the bike! (He doesn’t ride bikes.)

I excused myself to work on some more chapters of Bill’s novel Debauchery (and reached the first sex scene— those characters are so in love it hurts). Please don’t be scared by the violence and BDSM in this novel/series. The real theme here is the beauty of acceptance no matter who you are.

And the first of several pet related packages came. So here is a Petco unboxing and some animal videos:

Petco unboxing
Nala eating pretzels with the teen

Let’s see what adventures today brings! Stay well, friends! Let’s crush this day!

Editing a new novel

I’m so excited. My dear friend William Prystauk has asked me to edit his upcoming novel, Debauchery, the third in a detective/erotic series that crosses genre lines and pushes boundaries while exploring themes about human relationships, our need for acceptance and love, and exploring our sexuality.

It’s some well-written, nail-biting stuff with a heart-wrenching gooey side. At least, that was my experience of his first two novels.

So when he lamented that his regular editor was too busy to serve him, I quickly raised my hand. Pick me! Pick me!

The manuscript arrived today.

Bill and I met more than a decade ago at an after-party for a book signing. A typical strange six degrees of separation story connecting us with mutual interests with intersecting paths.

I still remember the first time we exchanged samples of our written work. Sharing literary endeavors is the true test of whether a friendship between writers will work.

He sent me a chapter from Bloodletting which featured a murder via crucifixion in a church; and I sent him what was then chapter two of my working manuscript which featured two witches performing violent, bloody sex magic on an altar in a church.

Neither one of us knew the other was sending such sacrilegious work. Yet, we both sent samples of the most disturbing things we could think of to do in a church.

So Bill can trust me with his baby. Working on this manuscript will be my reward. And if any of you have questions for Bill, drop them in the comments. He’ll be glad to take a look. He also has a very cool podcast that has won some accolades.

For more on some of my adventures with Bill: see Samples of projects with Bill.

For my work on Bill’s horror movie web side: see Reviews by Angel Ackerman