Today’s random review: 2023 Nissan Altima

I had a loaner car from Kelly Nissan so The Teenager could drive my Jetta SE 1.8tsi while her 2012 Nissan Rogue was getting some serious repairs. She’d not older enough to drive the loaner.

I was very excited to hear I was getting an Altima.

When our 2000 Saturn SL2 blew a head gasket (that my father insisted I have repaired and he later sold the car so my husband and I made a healthy profit), my husband and I found ourselves on the Young’s Volkswagen lot looking at used cars around the Fourth of July weekend. I want to say it was 2012.

I spotted her immediately. Shiny dark red with a sunroof. 2005 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE. Beige leather interior. Sunroof. Low mileage. Maybe 22,000. I want to say every car I ever bought was around $15,000, even my 2015 Jetta was no exception.

My Altima was basically the Altima with all the features of a Maxima. My daughter named her “Beauty” the moment they met. Which was a better name than the poor Saturn. The teen, as a preschooler, had named the Saturn “Herbie.”

At first I hated the new Altima. Too many buttons, lights and features that I couldn’t decipher because the user’s manual was still sealed from the factory. It also didn’t have the power of my previous Altima or my current Jetta turbo.

But it was smooth and quiet, and had unobtrusive but very noticeable blind spot alert lights. A backup camera with resolution higher than some televisions and a rear sensor that did not trust my skills to parallel park. On the highway, I discovered she may not be a racecar, but she was steady and slick and handled easily. Her “naught to zero,” as my British car expert Mike Brewer likes to say on his Wheeler Dealers programmes that I watch on Motor Trend streaming, might be nine seconds but once she gets there she keeps going. Her price starts at $25,000 the internet tells me.

The internet also told me that my 2015 turbo-charged Jetta also takes nine seconds 0-60. I didn’t think to challenge the teen to a race.

But by the time I returned her to the dealership, I had grown comfortable in her spaceship-feeling cockpit, thinking maybe I should be shooting aliens out of the sky. She was a comfortable car, in a cozy way, making me feel relaxed as I drove (until I accidentally engaged some driving assistance that made random lights that looked like colliding cars light up and I screamed while driving down country back roads in the dark, “What are you trying to tell me? Did someone hit you?”).

She felt way smaller than my previous Altima and averaged 30 miles per gallon on my day of use. She also handled tighter than my Jetta, which I believe is because the Altima has all wheel drive now.

It makes me want to drive the 2023 Nissan Z, which, as you may guess, Mr. Brewer would call the “Zed.” Car and Driver didn’t seem impressed with the latest sports car from Nissan, which makes me sad.

Meanwhile, we see what the Jetta feels like tomorrow.

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.

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.

Making granola and buying a car

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, I made granola.

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

What did she drive?

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

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

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

Caturday of cuddles

This is my last weekend before starting a full time position as a retail warehouse associate at Stitch Fix. It sounds similar to what I used to do at Target, but without people and more walking.

I’ve read some online reviews and exchanged some texts with some Target folks who also went to Stitch Fix and my concerns are two-fold:

  1. Can this forty-something body with cerebral palsy handle being on my feet walking more than 12 miles a day?
  2. Can I survive on the pay?

But one positive is that the extra steps should help me get my weight under control and increase my fitness fortitude.

Or so I hope.

My accident was a week ago and I’m starting to think that I didn’t hurt my rib but instead really did “pull my boob” as in manage to pull the muscle that supports my right breast. I’m tired of being in pain.

Okay, enough whining.

The day started with a strong cup of coffee shared with my cockatoo, Nala. (YouTube Video: Coffee Time)

And then I heard a ruckus and thought the cats were fighting. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Fog had caught himself a mouse. (YouTube video: Mouse Adventures)

My mom stopped by this morning and transplanted the snake plant that the kittens destroyed. Then Mom and I went to Lidl where I not only got croissants to go with my delectable quince jelly, but I got discounted naan and lots of seltzer. In new flavors! Yes, Lidl has new flavors of seltzer including grapefruit.

I did lots of dishes, vacuumed the downstairs and my room (the roomba is functioning great now that I cleaned it, and washed the dining room and living room floors.

In between these tasks, I cuddled kittens and watched Car Masters: From Rust to Riches on Netflix.

Vale of the Norse Pride

In the last three days, I’ve managed to watch both seasons of this program. I love cars. My dad was a diesel mechanic and truck driver for much of my childhood. He can fix anything and I have a certain admiration and attraction to people who can fix things.

I’ve had the same cell phone number since 1998 because my dad gave me an old 1984 Ford Escort whose carburateur would flood and leave me stranded with every rain storm.

Some of my favorite memories are of watching my father work.

I recommend the reality series Rust to Riches — it features some serious strategy in building some amazing cars and also has more drama than one might expect.

The people who staff Gotham Garage in California include a woman who specializes in motors and knows classic muscle cars.

I made the teenagers a cheap knock off of seafood Alfredo for dinner.

And now the teens are playing Monopoly with a friend downstairs.

Tomorrow I will be getting a facial at Lucha Bella, hopefully making a trip to the Dollar Tree and taking the foster kittens, all seven of them, for shots.

Ford v Ferrari and my obsession with history

I once had a stranger walk up to me and ask if I felt out of place. She specifically asked me if I felt as if I were in the wrong time.

She continued to tell me that she saw an air of an earlier era about me, circa the 1950s, which struck me as odd because my specialty in my academic work was 20th Century colonial/post-colonial Francophone Africa.

I gravitate toward post-World War II history and have to feign interest in anything 19th Century or earlier (though I can handle specific topics like the Industrial Revolution and Early French secularism because of their direct impact on the areas I enjoy) and have equal distaste for things that happened during my lifetime.

I love movies based on real events, and the rise of cinema celebrating real people and their achievements (like First Man, for example) and even historical settings (like the Downton Abbey feature film) are likely to get me into the theater.

Ford v. Ferrari had been on my calendar since I saw the trailer months ago.

In addition to “liking” the mid-Twentieth Century and, of course, how can you not look at Ford v Ferrari and not see a nod to American Industrial Complex v European Artisan Mindset… I also really like cars.

I can recite most of the Nicolas Cage version of Gone in 60 Seconds. My initial thought when I say the Ford v Ferrari trailer was “oh, they made a biopic for Eleanor.”

So last night my teen daughter and I saw Ford v Ferrari. We laughed. She cried. She jumped from her seat at every spin the car made. And squealed with every race lap.

And it was also interesting to see Lehigh Valley native Lee Iococca represented on the big screen.

But I left the film with a sense of homesickness, or maybe heartsickness. Perhaps a piece of my soul belonged to someone perhaps my dad’s age, born in the late 40s or maybe 50s, and perhaps they died young. Maybe these yearnings I have for the past are desires to finish a life someone else didn’t have the chance to complete.

Maybe they died in a car accident… who knows?

A new review on Crash Palace Productions and… car shopping?

Recently (which in my universe means more than a week ago and somehow I didn’t notice), Billy Crash published the latest in our mother-daughter movie reviews on the horror web site, Crash Palace Productions. Please have a look:

http://crashpalaceproductions.com/2018/10/21/boys-in-the-trees/

I have survived life as a marching band mom one more season, somehow navigated various minefields at work and now find myself car shopping.

During the summer, my beloved Altima and I had what I consider a premature end. My husband bought a car he has wanted for quite some time, a Nissan Juke. He is smitten with it, but I am not.

He recently received a promotion. I am working more and also working more erratic hours. This, when combined with a teenaged daughter, means we may soon become a two car household.

Since I have a car, I am in no rush and I am frugal. I am comparing leasing vs. buying and new vs. used.

And it’s exhausting.

I spent my day off today at two Kia dealerships. And drove various used cars, too.