Computer chaos, extracting a chicken neck, medical and service dog updates and a 2023 Nissan Altima

Fosters kitten Jennifer Grey and tripod Louise woke me up at 2 a.m. to play “let’s compete for attention.” Now I love these two cats, and even in the middle of the night I don’t mind giving some half-asleep snuggles. But this went on for at least a half an hour as they each crept closer to me, until Louise was in a ball in my armpit and Jennifer was on my chest.

The Teenager needed to take her car to Kelly Nissan for major repairs. So she drove me to work and kept my car and Southern Candy agreed to bring me home, meet the menagerie and have dinner with us. I’d been looking forward to it. I even bought a chicken. A cute little organic chicken that was the size of a Cornish hen but a chicken nonetheless.

Work was work… I was actually doing okay and hitting my numbers. I took a Baclofen at 6 a.m. and that seemed to loosen everything. The other people stationed around me made me feel a little out-of-place, but that’s fine, especially since one of the people on my roster was delivering work and I got a refix cart. Which is the work that is easier for me to do. And most of my carts were medium, not 1X or 2X like usual. And then around 9 a.m. it started.

The internet started going down. And it looked pretty random. A station beside me. Two stations in front of me. But not me. Half a row over there. So they started having half the people fold and box and those with a working computer scan– except even then I only got about 5 boxes and still had to QC out of the cart.

At ten a.m., the powers that be at work called Voluntary Time Off. I said I would stay, as I felt good and Southern Candy usually tries not to take VTO, but her computer was down and in her department, things weren’t moving as smoothly as ours were so they were destined to run out of work. We left around 10:30, which would at least solve one problem: I would be home when Kelly Nissan called with the Teenager’s car and I would have more flexibility to get her to the dealership.

Southern Candy meets everyone. The elusive Louise makes an appearance. Foster Khloe, our Bean dog and the crazy Goffins cockatoo Nala immediately love her and the Teenager demonstrates probably a full 30 minutes of Bean dog’s tricks.

Kelly Nissan calls. The teenager’s Rogue will need another day in the Service Department. They offer her a loaner. She asks if she can drive a loaner at her age, figuring the policies are similar to rental cars. They assure her that she only has to be 21, and she’s 21….

Um, she tells them, I’m 18.

Oh, they say.

I guess they’re not used to 18-year-olds dropping off cars for $2,000 in repairs.

Kelly Nissan gave me the loaner. Now any dealership worth its salt will lend you a car better than yours to entice you to buy. And one of my dream cars is a Nissan Z. They aren’t going to lend you a Z, but I used to have a Nissan Altima with all the bells and whistles and the big 3.5 liter engine. That’s the car to which I compared all the cars I test drove when I bought my Jetta turbo. I hoped they would lend me a 2022 Rogue, which would be the same car but a decade newer than what the Teenager brought it for repairs.

They brought me a 2023 Altima. I got a little tingle when I heard Altima, but to my disappointment (but meeting my expectation), it was the base model. It handled fine, drive smoothly, felt like I was in a fighter jet cockpit instead of a car. But it had no real power. No sunroof. No heated seats. And it was grey.

They had given me a perfectly boring car.

The back-up camera has better resolution than a lot of televisions, and the warning beeps for parallel parking are annoying.

Once I return home, Southern Candy and I start the chicken. It’s 3 p.m. and the chicken should take 45 minutes to roast. Unless it’s still frozen in the middle. The chicken still has its neck. Southern Candy points this out and I try to cut it but all it does is make her laugh. She tries. She’d not getting anywhere either.\

So we ask Chef Google.

Together we de-neck the chicken. Makes me miss my vegetarian days.

Chicken in the oven, my neurologist-physiatrist calls. She’s filling out my intermittent leave paperwork and wanted my input. I mentioned I have the outside firm’s analysis of my job, and that I planned to give them to her for the upcoming accommodations paperwork. She says she’d like to have those, so I run upstairs and scan them.

I also show them to Southern Candy as we are on the same roster at work and we all technically could be assigned to do any jobs in outbound.

We check the chicken, it needs more time.

The partnership specialist at Susquehanna Service Dogs calls. They have a last minute cancellation for an in-person interview on Wednesday. Can I make it? I ask Southern Candy and the Teenager: Do I want the slot? Work prefers 48 hours notice for requested time off. And this would require a half day as the agency is 90 minutes away. And I’m not sure I have paid time left.

“How bad do you want it?” Southern Candy asks.

“Badly,” I said.

I accept the interview and email my supervisor.

We check the chicken. It needs a little more time. It’s 4 p.m.

The teenager mentions Chinese food. Southern Candy makes a yummy noise. But she tells my daughter we have chicken right here.

“It’s fine,” I said. “We can have the chicken tomorrow. Or pick on it cold.”

We order $50 in Chinese food. We eat like kings.

Then, Southern Candy and I say our goodbyes and I head to the gym. Where Andrew puts me through a core workout. I gave it everything, as I always try to do, but those side planks were murder on a belly full of Chinese food.

I went to bed exhausted– and had to type this blog entry in the morning, which I rarely do.

The Highlight Reel of the Ides of November

It is 6:45 a.m. I went to bed around 11 p.m. last night, after a long conversation with an old friend whom I haven’t had a chance to truly connect with for years (and while we “caught up” last night as if no time had passed, it didn’t feel like the happy reconnection I thought it would), and the dog woke me up at 5 a.m.

At 6:15 a.m., after loading the dishwasher and starting laundry and trying to snuggle dog into a nap with me on the couch, I finally made coffee figuring sleep would not return.

Now, the dog is gently snoring on the other couch.

I definitely would prefer to be a cat versus a dog. The dog seems an anxious and needy creature, where the cat has an attitude and most of them act like they have their shit together.

I haven’t written much this week because my physical and emotional struggles have left me in a survival mode, and upcoming changes at work have me concerned for my long-term success at mastering my cerebral palsy and achieving work/life balance that includes leading Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

And I’m okay with these struggles, they mean I’m human and I’m alive. And I guess I want other people to know that in an age where we “social media” ourselves to death and we’re exposed to worldwide turmoil and glamour, that I’m here with you in the trenches, surviving.

So, Wednesday turned out to be a hard day. We received the official word that starting some time in December, our performance metrics will be judged daily instead of by their weekly average. And that we can miss the daily minimum two days a month. I had already turned up to work crying because of stress in my everyday life. (Which only my friend in the parking lot saw. Speaking of my friend in the parking lot… she needs a nickname as she will play a larger roll in this blog post and hopefully appear more. I think I shall call her Southern Candy, because her roots are in the Southern United States and she likes to pass out hard candy.)

Now, after my neurologist/physiatrist appointment on November 9, (see Is it Time for Botox), I filed for Intermittent Leave from work which would allow me job protection if my work missed increases due to complications from my disability or more doctor’s appointments. I now have a lot of doctor’s appointments. With recent changes at work, I seem to have triggered a couple neuromas in my right foot, which my podiatrist shot with cortisone (See The Stabby Toe and the Challenging Gait), and unbeknownst to me, as I had never had cortisone to me, this transformed my good leg into a second bad leg.

It absolutely removed all my pain, but — and this is probably why my podiatrist asked when I planned on returning to work and seemed satisfied that “tomorrow” would give me adequate time to recover– it made it impossible to control and rely on my right leg as I typically do. BUT I can also say it made me acutely aware of how I use my legs and unfairly make my right leg carry more than its share of the movement burden which is why my right hip has issues.

My left leg “scissors” causing my left knee to pretty much cross in front of my right leg when I walk (and yes, that is as awkward as it sounds) but now my right foot drags, causing my toes to curl under my foot. I have compensated for this change in walking pattern by buying cowboy boots. Not real ones, but ones we sell at work: the Kassy boot by DV by Dolce Vita. (Unboxing on YouTube here.) They allow me to hear my walk, feel my foot, and not step on my toes.

At our weekly meeting, our supervisors announce the metric change. I understand their logic. They plan workloads daily so they should measure results daily, simply put. And as this change rolls out, I’m confident the company will “do the right thing” in implementing it. I’ve been there two years, so they have investment in me as I have investment in them.

On my good days, I average 101% to 103%. But on my bad days, without some extra support that minimizes my physical struggle, I average 95%. So with the weekly average system, I’m still a “fully performing” employee. On a really bad day, which happens ironically about once or twice a month as their new system will allow, I give everything I can and sometimes only hit 85%.

Now, unlike some of my colleagues, I am also on a work roster that has changed shifts twice in the last calendar year. Yes, I have had three different work schedules in the last year: Monday to Friday, 3:30 p.m. to midnight; then Sunday to Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All very different.

Add a neurological condition to that and it’s hard to adapt. When they offered Voluntary Time Off on Wednesday, allowing us to leave three hours early, I took it. My emotional state would best be labeled as frazzled and my right hamstring had started bothering me, probably because it felt like my right leg was a useless tree trunk.

Here is the happy part. The kindness part. The part where the light shines from one person to another. Thursday morning, I get a text from Southern Candy at 5 a.m. “Stop by my car when you get to work.”

She gave me a cat figurine. A cat in frilly dress with pink bloomers, staring into a goldfish bowl that even included a goldfish.

“I know you had a hard day yesterday, and it made me think of you.”

I brought it home and placed it on one of my Parisian Phoenix bookshelves. A place I can see from my workspace at the table and/or when I’m having dinner.

To skip ahead, I’ve been thinking it’s time to record and place a request for permanent accommodations at work. By Friday morning, when one of my colleagues said he’d like to help me out with the easier work but too many people had doctor’s notes, I decided to email my supervisor. So he and I now will try to make that happen. Around the same time, my neurologist’s office called to see if they could move my December 6 appointment to December 9. The times they offered overlap with a preexisting doctor’s appointment I have.

And my intermittent leave needs to be certified by December 9. I returned their call, expressed my regret that those appointments would not work, and asked the person on the phone to please leave a message for the doctor and her nurse that my employer had sent paperwork and that I would have more paperwork and that I would gladly pay any associated fees.

I also wanted to mention I am trying to eliminate inflammatory foods from my diet, but that can wait until I see her. I am wondering if I should request to work with a dietician and get a new set of bloodwork to check not only the standards like iron and cholesterol but also vitamins like B12.

I’ve done really well not stress eating in the ten days since I’ve seen her, eating vegetarian baked beans at work yesterday while my colleagues ate piping hot pizza. My weight is slowly dropping.

I’ve eaten no junk food in the break room, choosing fruit leather and yogurt over Cool Ranch Doritos and fancy fruit snacks. I even reduced my caffeine intake. Yesterday for dinner I made thick egg sandwiches with eggplant, mozzarella and extra sharp cheddar on my favorite multigrain buns and a little chipotle mayo and avocado hot sauce. One for dinner and two to go in the freezer for work lunches this week.

Although I know my perceptions are faulty, I feel like my only success this week has been with Andrew at Apex Training. I got my gym sweatshirt, and the dog immediately jumped on me and coated it with mud so I don’t have a decent selfie… yet. But these guys at the gym have been a lifesaver. Andrew works so hard to meet my needs and come up with innovative exercises to challenge me and train my muscles to cooperate. I did a seated shoulder press this week with 30 lb dumbbells, which ignited my inner strength as my lower body becomes more useless.

I discussed my hamstring troubles and we did some balance exercise yesterday. Andrew thought I was going to stand on the balance trainer and hold a weight on one side to create instability in my stance. Then, he saw me try to stand on the ball. And we opted to practice that first.

Finally, I asked The Teenager to check on Foster Kittens Jean-Paul Sartre and Giorgio in their habitat at Petsmart. I will see them today but it brought my heart joy to see that they are doing fine.

Small goals for a rainy day

I don’t have the energy and the endurance that I once did. I can no longer drive myself to clean the house in a frenzy or bake all my bread from scratch.

I’ve gotten older.

My… constitution?… does not maintain consistency. Whereas it used to be my moods that swung, now my body’s functionality waxes and wanes.

So far today I have:

  • Folded laundry, and done another load
  • Did the hand wash dishes
  • Cleaned most of the stuff off the corner table
  • Had a glass of water, and a glass of iced tea
  • Cleaned the cat boxes in my room
  • Fed the bird
  • Vacuumed
  • And made amazing vegan flautas with Hungryroot cashew cheddar

I started Five Days at Memorial on Apple TV while I hung out with the dog.

And made great strides cuddling foster Jennifer Grey.

FURR Foster Jennifer Grey

With my walking being so unstable, I’m extra proud to announce that Friday night I squatted 135 lbs.

I started taking the Baclofen my neurologist prescribed and we’ll see if that makes walking easier.

And I’ve been sleeping 9-10 hours a night over the last few days so hopefully that also means my body is getting some recovery time.

Last but not least, I’ve been trying really hard to reduce sugars, refined carbohydrates and processed foods from my diet to test if that will lower the amount of inflammation in my body.

Eating of the things, talking about politics, etc.

First, let’s celebrate that I have no pain today.

Second, let’s celebrate that it’s sun-shining gorgeous out.

Third, let’s celebrate that that damn race between Dr. Oz and John Fetterman is over. Talk about two bad choices.

But it sure was exciting to take my freshly-minted 18-year-old to vote and even more exciting to hear her rant about international politics after she took my out to dinner.

M and I took her to Paris, Moscow and Kazan the summer she turned 12… and while it was a whirlwind visit, she had the brain-expanding experience I hoped she would have.

Because she knows how little of the world she’s seen, but also knows how little she can trust depictions of other cultures perpetuated by the mainstream.

I often wish I could see Russia how she sees Russia. I imagine it’s similar to my view, but also very different because I have seen parts of North and East Africa and even Yemen. But just that little pop of Russia six years ago altered her perceptions forever.

If you want to read more about that trip, click here to start in the middle.

The beginning of the trip is here.

So, last night, The Teenager took me out to dinner— at Applebee’s, she loves the fiesta lime chicken— and we tried the Cheetos cheese curds and the slamming reindeer drink.

The cheese curds were strange, super greasy and very addictive.

Other foods I have taste-tested recently include the cookie butter doughnut at Dunkin which I mention here and some new flavors of delicious Blue Diamond almonds which we bought at QuickChek, video here.

I ended up calling out sick from work today— in part because of my hip and in part because I didn’t get to sleep until 3.

I see my specialist today, and my body is definitely stiff and angled but I’m not in pain. What a thing to say— but I wanted to be in pain to explain how I feel to the doctor.

I’m trying to motivate myself to give up sugar and do a 30 day elimination diet via Whole30 as I think reducing food-related inflammation in my body could go a long way. And there are others who would like to see me try medical marijuana.

A reset? The NaNo Dilemma, a podcast/YouTube interview, and some disability philosophy

I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2022, in part because deadlines and challenges and what feels impossible sometimes motivates me. But between foster cats with diarrhea, work shift changes, health issues and mood in general, I’m losing my focus and drive. I need a reset and an evaluation of my goals more than I need a push.

I have learned in the last five years or so as I’ve “come out” of the disability “closet,” is that when you have a disability or a chronic condition you have a choice: you either withdraw from life or you become tenacious and stubborn and adaptive. I think the majority of those of us with congenital issues, especially when our parents didn’t make our physical difference the center of our existence, tend to be the latter to the point of ridiculousness. We want to do things, whatever they are, and we don’t want our bodies to hinder us.

I think people who came to body differences later in life might be more prone to accept “well I just won’t do that anymore” while younger people with catastrophic injuries have the will to keep on going, and those with issues since birth learn that if they want to experience certain things they have to work harder but in reality we need to work creatively. So the 20-year-old proclaimed paralyzed as the result of a sporting accident will be more motivated to walk again than the 60-year-old who had a car accident.

But these are really complex topics to ponder and very personalized to the emotional and financial resources a person has to support them.

If you read my personal blog, you know I have diplegic spastic cerebral palsy. If you get tired of hearing me day that, I don’t care. I’m 47-years-old and like many Generation Xers out there I’m wondering how the hell that has happened so quickly. But more importantly, and I write this without judgment, I had no real medical treatment between the ages of five and twenty.

I realized– because of my job working in the warehouse at Stitch Fix of all places– that not only do I know nothing about cerebral palsy, but my medical team might not know much either. So no wonder I have a lot of unanswered questions. This week I celebrate my two year anniversary with Stitch Fix and my journey to understand my own body will be forever tied with my warehouse job with them.

Up until December 2021, I had never seen a neurologist. Until that late December visit with a neurologist, I never even had a diagnosis on my file.

And to think, now I have TWO neurologists. I guess I just want to remind everyone, and this is why writing a cerebral palsy memoir will be one of my next projects, that we tend to view our doctors as people in a hierarchy above us and we approach them for answers and with hope of relief. Instead, we need to approach them as peers with education and insight and it’s our responsibility as patients to ferry information between them and do what we can for ourselves.

I had a fall Friday night, after a week long battle with nerve pain in my foot and leg. I agreed to cortisone shots in my foot to see if that would curb the pain in my foot (and it did) but the resulting change in sensation and muscle responsiveness has made this leg (which happens to be my good one) less reliable. Throw in lack of sleep, not enough food and a cocktail and down I went. As someone with cerebral palsy, I need to remember that normal side effects for people who have proper muscle control may manifest differently in me.

So, Saturday morning, I nestled under my new Dad blanket (if you need to hear more detail on any of this about Friday click here) and planned to work on my NaNoWriMo project. Even though I had the time, and the healthy start needed to get a flow going on the project, I didn’t write a word. And I’m wondering if, already having one novel underway and past deadline, if starting another is merely destroying any chance of focus I have.

I have 4,000 words on the NaNo project, which if you don’t know is National Novel Writing Month, and I should be at 12,000 words by now. I had hoped the new project, a new idea which is nothing like anything I’ve ever written, would shake off the bad habits of an editor/publisher debating every word and allow me to write freely. That impetus would revive my ability to write quickly and without overthinking.

And strengthen writing habits.

The jury is out.

I may abandon official NaNo in favor of sticking with a strict writing schedule of rising at 4 a.m. daily before my warehouse shift and writing from 4:15 to 5:15 a.m.

The Teenager has had two overnight clients and I think at last count it had been 16 days since she slept in her own bed. When she arrived home yesterday morning, she looked at me on the couch and her dog lazily dozing and decided we both needed fresh air. So she mentioned key words: “walk,” “ride” and “window.” The dog lost her mind.

The Teenager knows how to bribe both of us.

She recently bought a new harness and long line for the dog. So we went to a small park to try it out. The park outlaws tobacco, alcohol, fireworks, drugs and golf. But dogs are okay.

There’s a cute video on YouTube of F. Bean Barker enjoying the outdoors.

And then we went to “the Window.” Which in this case meant Dunkin as it was still early and we sampled their new Cookie Butter offerings, the cold brew and the doughnut. Both were dangerously decadent. The doughnut is 370 calories so I’m hoping it sells out to the extent where I can’t get my hands on it.

I went to the park and the window in my pajamas, because it was a gloomy Saturday and I didn’t see the point of fancying myself just to hang out with the dog.

I spent a good portion of the day doing dishes and laundry and watching “Wheeler Dealer Dream Car” on Motor Trend’s streaming channel. I subscribed to Motor Trend last month so I could binge watch the Dax Shepard redo of “Top Gear America” and I may hang on to the subscription as I enjoy the content. The Teenager finds this perplexing as she knows I have no mechanical aptitude.

She classifies my car knowledge as “it looks pretty” and “it goes fast,” but I suppose my interest is similar to my fascination with haute couture sewing. I have read my haute couture sewing guide cover to cover (and yes there is such a thing) and I can’t sew to save my life.

I suppose I am a true academic. Reading and obsessing over knowledge of things I will never have the skill to do.

Then, the Teenager found “her box” on the doorstep, her third fix from Stitch Fix!!!! So we opened that bad boy.

I think The Teenager is disappointed that her box doesn’t have more flare, but the staples she receives is really improving her day to day look. As a dog walker, I am now seeing her in these Stitch Fix selections as a way that she can maintain comfort and still look put together.

If you watch the YouTube review, you’ll see more of The Teenager in what she calls her new “math teacher sweater.” It’s a keeper. It’s about 16 hours after she received it and she’s still wearing it. Stay tuned to see if I steal her shoes and keep them.

Later in the day, I had an interview with David Figueroa of David’s Cerebral Palsy and Fitness Channel. I have explored his YouTube content and I listen to his podcast. I am working hard to take charge of my aging process and I hope my message of the importance of strength training and my approach to medical advocacy resonate with people.

We talked for an hour and a half. I’ve included a link to his YouTube channel below. Let’s hope the chaos of my house wasn’t too distracting! But one disruption I welcomed was the motorcycle that passed by while I was talking about my father.

I ended up sleeping more than nine hours last night, and woke up this morning covered in cats. I hope your time-change-hour served you as well as mine did. Here’s a photo of me with the fosters, and it’s blurry because I took it without my glasses.

End of week update: the stats, the hip, the fitness, the coffee

Yesterday might summarize recent trends in my life. I know I posted a blog post before I left for my last 10-hour shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. Monday I start a more traditional Monday through Friday shift. I’ll get home earlier, but I lose a day off. And I’m used to having Thursday and Friday off which is nice for running errands, making appointments with doctors and professionals, and for connecting with people regarding my business, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

I still had my Friday nights and Saturdays, even if I had to head to bed earlier than most people want to on Saturday night. Many well-meaning friends and everyday people have made comments like “well that will be nice,” “no more long days” and “you’ll have your weekends back.”

But I’ll no longer have that feeling of “getting work over with” and I’m no longer part of a unique cohort. We worked alone in the building on Sundays, and that was peaceful, and for two hours every afternoon, we more or less finished the work the traditional day shift left behind.

So, I arrived at work yesterday morning, basking in the bliss of using my new Ninja DualBrew correctly. (I still have to buy coffee filters, but I love the ease of use, the temperature of the coffee, the different settings for the strength of coffee, AND how I can select just the right amount of coffee for me. The reservoir is cool for me, because it removes one more decision or step to screw up. I have been known to double fill the coffee pot when I forgot I already did it.)

On Sunday, I normally perform between 100 and 105 percent of daily metrics. I may have once hit 108. This Sunday, I hit 97. This annoyed me. It was the first sign that something was off. On Monday, I kept struggling. I didn’t really notice anything physically wrong but I did note that my toes on my right foot were really burning by the end of the day. Andrew, my wonderful coach at Apex Training, had asked if we could move Monday night’s session to Tuesday. I said sure.

I busted my butt for the rest of the day and hit at least 99 percent, but I may have hit 100. That’s when I noticed some residual issues in my body. Just that nagging sense that something was not right. I attributed it to working hard and not having my regular Friday appointment with Nicole Jensen at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. She had a class on Friday, so she had moved clients.

Tuesday I could feel my right hip turned wrong. It was a weird feeling, like my leg was facing the wrong way. In reality, it might not work that way but that’s how it felt. And my right hip was very tender to the touch. I still didn’t have any pain, but movement was getting harder. So I tried to stretch my hips during the day, but by the end of the day, I had only hit 90 percent and it had been hard. I asked Andrew if we could move the Tuesday session to Wednesday, worried that this was more of a structural issue than a muscular one and working out could push me from discomfort and mobility issues to actual pain.

And a year ago, I was in pain every day and I don’t want to go back to that. Ever. I was flipping through my journal and last year at this time I was starting every journal entry with a number from the pain scale. That broke my heart to see.

I took a muscle relaxer, stretched some more and went to bed after a nice meal. Wednesday morning I didn’t move any better, but I was no longer stiff. But by the time I got to work, my gut said this hip was really struggling to do its job. And I was about to stand on it for ten hours.

At 6 a.m., I called Nicole’s office and left a message. At 9:15, they called me back and scheduled me for 5:15 p.m. I knew that if I waited until my regular Friday appointment and forced that hip to work out, it would lead to pain and harder-to-fix problems.

I emailed my boss as I couldn’t find him and it turned out that he had called out sick. I arranged to leave at 4:30. By my calculations, I hit 87 percent. My right side just didn’t have the mobility it should. The drive to the chiropractor took about 20-25 minutes, and when I got out of the car, it felt like my right leg had fused and stretching it into a step felt ridiculously hard. But still no pain.

This is when cerebral palsy plays tricks on the brain. As I’m (what feels like) dragging my leg into the chiropractor, I started wondering, “maybe I just need to stretch,” “maybe there’s nothing really wrong and I’m just lazy and my muscles stiffened.” But then I remembered the burning toes. Something was pushing my posture forward and my body was fighting it. But I still had my doubts.

Now, no one has ever gaslighted me in the medical community, except maybe my first primary care physician who referred me to the wrong specialist in the days when I had an HMO. I now always have plans where I chose my physicians myself.

When Nicole entered the room, I explained what’s going on and she quickly confirms that yes, my hip was crooked. Like really crooked. She even made a hand gesture. And that my body had done other weird things to compensate. It all moved beautifully when she manhandled it. She pondered what caused this when we had just considered potentially spacing out my weekly appointments to every other week. Did I overdo it at work? Was it missing the adjustment Friday? Was it skipping my workout?

When I got up from the table, my feet did, as Nicole put it, sexy normal feet posture. My balance has improved dramatically in the last few months, and my strength has returned, and my stamina is definitely increasing.

I stepped out of the chiropractor and took some long, beautiful, easy strides.

It. Felt. Good.

No, it felt GREAT.

So, I don’t know how Nicole would feel about this, but I went to the gym. And let me tell you– Andrew delivered a brutal work out. We did split leg squats in sets of 20 reps each leg with weights. He said I was moving better than I ever had before and I said, yes, because Nicole had straightened my body and stretched out my lower extremities. Like, literally, just did. We did military presses with 25 lb dumbbells. We did core. We did upper body exercises like IYTs. And shoulder taps and mountain climbers and rope slams.

And then, before a shower or dinner, and it’s 7:30 p.m. now, I had to deal with the hellions in my room. I had to swap out and refill three litter boxes for the six cats in my room. I had to vaccuum. I didn’t clean the bird cages, but I did feed and water everyone. And I’m still wondering how the heck those four kittens have trashed my closet without opening the door.

I wanted to blog all this last night after I ate my omelet of cheddar, peppers, homemade farm-procured, roasted tomatoes. But I was exhausted.

When success means you think someone is trying to kill you

During one of my recent doctor visits, I think it was at the end of August, my physician asked how my strength/fitness personal training sessions were going.

I told him my coach Andrew at Apex Training put me through some demanding stuff so I was in agony pretty often.

My doctor laughed and said that if Andrew was doing his job well I should hate him.

Well, today was the closest I ever came to thinking he might kill me.

Now, if you are new here, please note I have diplegic cerebral palsy (which basically means that my brain and my lower body muscles don’t communicate well, which has led to some structural issues in my hips, legs, etc.

I work out three-times-a-week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Andrew has his full-time job, which is primarily an overnight shift, and I work at a warehouse Sunday through Wednesday, 10-hour-shifts.

Mondays are always interesting. I am 50% through my workweek and Andrew is usually sleep-deprived.

By some miracle, I work 6:30 am to 5 pm and head straight to the gym, and Andrew comes to the gym, often having not slept for almost 24 hours. But he shows up and so do I.

Tonight was a full body workout that felt twice as intense as my normal routine, but it felt amazing to push myself and even more amazing to succeed.

And because Andrew knows what I’m feeling — not only as a person working to better myself physically but also as someone still grieving the loss of her father— he forgave me for eating half a cake for my dad’s birthday.

But I also asked him if some people had stopped working out three times a week. He say yes, that several of his clients were sporadic. One changed work schedules and hadn’t committed to a new time. And two of us were regulars.

I get life being in the way. I know it’s hard. I know it’s expensive.

But I encourage you to stick to it.

I started at Apex in August 2021. Somehow despite a tight budget, I find the money.

And for all those people who can’t stick with it— I promise:

  • You will see mental and physical changes in yourself.
  • You will feel better.
  • Your body composition will change.
  • Your fortitude will grow.

And you should also see changes in your balance, stability and coordination. The things you can do, whether stamina on a long walk or moving furniture, will improve. Your confidence should increase.

And some days it will feel grueling. Some days you will be exhausted or achy and not want to do it. On those days, tell your trainer how you feel, but show up for the workout and do your best.

Baked Flavors: A Ben & Jerry’s Review and a CVS saving spree

It’s 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I just finished a rather strange Chinese take-out meal after a long work week and a hearty work-out with Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training.

Hit another PR I believe, a 35 lb dumbbell RDL.

My performance at work has been stronger (by my calculations Sunday was about 104%, Monday 98% I think, 100% yesterday and 99% today). I finally replaced the company-issued box that Gayle doodled for me with a stadium backpack with my supplies divided by department. My box has gotten super messy and it was ripping.

Amidst all that, I still find myself dwelling on the fact that Friday, September 30, is my dad’s birthday.

It makes me so sad. It’s the first one without him here. He missed the teen’s high school graduation, her 18th birthday, her first car accident, buying her first car.

He missed the flood in my house, my dead car battery, and all the other things that happen day to day.

So now is the perfect time to review ice cream.

Last week I had $5 in Extra Bucks at CVS about to expire, and they were having an ice cream sale— so I got 3 pints of Ben & Jerry’s, a bottle of unsweetened flavored sparkling water and an 8 ounce bag of pistachios and almonds for $12.78. It was $30 before my deals.

I picked all “bakery”/cookie flavors.

Over time I made these conclusions:

  • Half Baked (chocolate and vanilla ice cream with gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough and brownies) was a disappointment. The chocolate ice cream overpowered the vanilla. There weren’t enough cookies and brownies and the ones we did find tasted dry.
  • Thé Tonight Dough (caramel and chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie chip cookie dough, chocolate cookie swirls and peanut butter cookie dough) came recommended by Andrew. The cookie chunks were significantly better than the Half Baked, and the Teen and I both wished there was more caramel ice cream.
  • Netflix and Chill’d (peanut butter ice cream with salty pretzel bits, salted caramel and brownie chunks) might have been our favorite. The peanut butter ice cream complimented the pretzel and brownie accents perfectly.

And finally, in closing, walking home from the gym tonight with the pink & blue swirls of sunset before me, I noticed some changes in our neighborhood. On one hand, the neighbor boy who spray painted his name on their front walk is a senior in high school and his graffiti has faded.

And at another house, designs in sidewalk chalk suggest that the babies born to the kids who were the Teenager’s neighborhood playmates are old enough to stake their claim to playing outside and repopulating our block with youth.

I look forward to it.

Finally a visit to Mythic Beasts and Brews: Turns out they are passing out homemade chocolate chip cookies

The Teenager is working on her college application and wanted to find a coffee shop to force her out of the house so she would have less distractions. Originally, she wanted to go to Three Birds in downtown Easton, one of our favorite spots, but by the time she got out of work, they would be closed.

I know of places on the other end of the Lehigh Valley open in the evening, but couldn’t think of anything close to home. So, I googled.

Monsieur Google suggested several local Starbucks.

Sigh.

Not that I don’t enjoy a flat white every once in a while, but we wanted something a little more unique and potentially eclectic.

A little more poking around the internet and I remembered Mythic Beasts and Brews, a ten minute walk from our house. Or, as the teenager says, “Mom, it’s closer to the house than the high school.”

The atmosphere is coffee shop meets role-players’ game den, which is exactly what it aims to be. There are four of five large tables for gamers and a few little spots for those of us who have retired our game master and PC gear.

Yes, the teenager’s father and I played White Wolf back in the day.

The Teenager ordered chai, which will make our blind friend Nancy very happy to hear that we have found yet another source of chai. I decided to take the 20-sided die challenge. Whatever you roll is your drink, $4, and it’s 50 cents to reroll.

I rolled a 12, which is a large Irish cream macchiato. That is a good selection for me.

We enjoyed our visit, and we especially enjoyed the free homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Karaoke adventures

Both the Teenager and my blind friend Nan are musically-inclined. My daughter turned 18 in June and Nan turned significantly older than that in July.

I promised to take them to karaoke. It took a couple months to find an environment suitable for an eighteen-year-old that was also scheduled early enough for Nan and I.

Thursday was the night. After all, under my current schedule, Thursday is my Saturday night.

And it turned out there were two options in the same town. I found about one rather late in a new restaurant but hosted by someone I know. The other was at a more familiar location, one my family has visited since the Teenager was a baby. Literally, car-seat-on-the-table.

I picked SoMa Downtown Grill, formerly sports pub Delahanty’s on the Square. It will always have a soft spot in my heart because I remember when the building was a wreck and the owners received press coverage from my newspaper for their efforts to rehab it.

My favorite items on the menu were discontinued during their rebrand to SoMa but that has forced me to find new favorites on my visits. I knew this would be a family-friendly location for The Teenager to make her karaoke debut and one familiar enough for me to navigate with Nancy.

I even put a little effort into my outfit and wore my Stitch Fix jewelry. And my new “ultra flare” jeans from Target that I cut off at the bottom because they were regular and not “short.”

Meanwhile, Nan was practicing Leann Rimes in her new suite in her new independent living situation.

And I had no intention of singing.

The only time I ever sang karaoke it was with my friend Ken, who hosted the event (and DJed my wedding). I waited years to try and ended up singing Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue.”

The Teenager and I busted Nan out from her place and headed to New Jersey, where we arrived early and settled in for some dinner for The Teen and I, and an Angry Orchard for Nan. I joined her with a Yuengling draft. We ordered a goat cheese crostini appetizer for the table, which was a delight.

Nan was the second singer of the evening, with Leann Rimes’ “Blue.”

It took a while for the Teenager to commit, but she and I did a duet of Barenaked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars,” of course, as Murphy would have it, her microphone was off and she asked me to take the part I don’t normally do in our car duets. So she tried again and drug me up there for “1985” by Bowling for Soup.

Khloe

And now that’s stuck in my head.

We spent exactly what I had in cash in my wallet without even trying and Yuengling was on special and I didn’t even know it. We were home by 9:30.

And of course, my cat Fog came running to chastise me for being out later than usual and Khloe leapt onto my chest as soon as she got the opportunity.