First day back to work at the Bizzy Hizzy after my cerebral palsy-themed leave

First off: 89%

For those of you who know me or follow me regularly, I performed at 89% today after a month of short-term disability leave.

Short answer to how my day was: good. I felt pretty good and my aches and pains at the end of the day feel pretty normal.

Now, for those who want more detail, let’s start at the beginning.

On April 15, I ruptured a tendon in my left ring finger taking my socks off. The nickname for the injury is “mallet finger” because your finger looks like a mallet or “baseball finger” because if you catch a baseball wrong you can sustain this injury.

You can read a more concise summary of those events and my treatment here.

I worked with my hand like that for a week at the Bizzy Hizzy folding clothes for Stitch Fix’s clients, performing at a solid 90%. But… I realized I rely on my left side for balance and stability and using my right side to do everything exacerbated problems I was already having with my right hip and spine as complications of my lifelong battle with cerebral palsy. That has been another journey of mine— learning about my body and how I can work with it to age well.

I often wonder what I could accomplish if my body could do what other bodies do.

So I asked my family doctor if I could take a short-term disability leave from work and focus on building core strength and stretching my hips. Because with this silly finger cast, on top of all my other issues, I was falling twice a week.

Today I returned to work— one ten-hour shift in my home department (QC) before the holiday weekend. I work Sunday. We have a paid holiday Monday. And I have a doctor appointment Tuesday afternoon with the neurological physiatrist.

Returning to work today gave me a way to ease back into it, and allows me to gather data on how my body performs. I can give that info to the physiatrist. If I hurt again by Tuesday, it’s a sign that either:

  1. I am moving wrong, or
  2. I shouldn’t be doing this kind of work with my body.

I arrived at work for my 6:30 a.m. shift and friends greeted me that I haven’t seen. At first I went to the wrong table, but caught my mistake, and corrected myself.

I had a right table, good for my hand injury, and one at a good height.

But then they shut the line down and I moved to a left table that was a tad high for me.

For the first 60-90 minutes, I hit all my numbers.

Eventually, I got a text from Mr. Accordion. I hope he doesn’t mind but I’m sharing his photos because:

  1. They made my day.
  2. I love halupkis.
  3. I don’t have other art for this post.

I don’t think he knew it was my first day back to work but his periodic cooking updates made me smile. Mr. Accordion and I shared an office at my last non-profit job. And yes, he not only plays accordion but usually has it in his car.

A couple times today, I had to answer phone calls regarding the toilet explosion that happened in my house yesterday. The insurance adjuster will be here Tuesday and meet with the teenager. I am working on getting water remediation people in to make sure everything is dry.

At the end of the day, I have a weird uncomfortable feeling in my left wrist and the kind of typical aches and pains that come from being older than 40 and working in a warehouse ten hours a day.

I attribute some of my success today to my personal trainer Andrew at Apex. We did an exercise yesterday that was something he called a variation of a good morning. This had me holding a weight across the back of my shoulders and “hinging” at the waist while using my hips for most of the motion.

I tried to replicate those techniques when I bent down to get items out of the bottom of my carts.

Then, when I came home, the teenager had dinner in the oven. I received a lovely message from a former editor at The Morning Call’s short-lived weekly editions, Chronicle Newspapers.

He said I was a truly good person (for all my work fostering cats) and that he missed seeing me every day.

I thanked him and said he made my day.

He replied that there were many times when I had made his and my boss’s day.

That was my favorite job ever, and one I was very good at.

Also, I tried the blueberry muffin flavor of ready-to-drink Supercoffee. My initial reaction was that it was gross. Will give a more thorough review later.

Gym Update: By Now, You Probably Know I Love The Guys at Apex Training

So, I’m in the midst of what feels like an incredibly long, never ending journey. I’ve posted frequently about fitness, health and disability.

And I’m getting to the point where I’ve accepted that I will never be done.

It’s probably a long shot that my body will ever be athletic or even dependable, but at least I can commit myself to doing as much as I can to be as functional as I can.

I have hemiplegic cerebral palsy, which means it only effects my lower limbs. On good days, in the right circumstances, with the right concentration, you might not even notice. But those days feel fewer and far between as I age.

I started strength training in college— and if you’ve read some of my previous posts this might be repetition for you— as one of my gym electives. My liberal arts education included gym.

I returned to it on and off, mostly for stress management and then health after The Teenager was born. That’s when I met some very awesome vegan gym owners. (I was still in my vegetarian days. I keep trying to get more into a plant-based diet again.)

I worked out at home for several years while regaining strength after broken bones. And— as I’ve shared before— I got very lean and cut.

Now I have no desire to be than thin again and no discipline left to be that lean. But I am working toward regaining my strength and muscle. Those pictures are from when I was 40. Well, I’m going to be 47 in a few months and progress is slow. I’m still at an all-time high in my weight. I have days where my hips don’t want to work. And my spine hurts most of the time.

My eating habits also don’t match my goals— but my emotional state has to improve for me to fix that.

But I keep working on all these things.

As my marriage ended, I joined Planet Fitness and that kept some of my health demons at bay. The pandemic ended that, and that’s where my weight gain exploded, too.

And I also realized my desire and discipline had faded in direct proportion to my pain and physical difficulties. If I’m going to be crippled away, why bother?

But this summer, I saw a Facebook post by Apex Training here in my neighborhood. So I reached out and Greg got in touch almost immediately. I told him my story— and this meant a lot of vulnerability for me— and he immediately recommended Dan without missing a beat.

Now I was very very intimidated. I had walked by their gym 1,000 times but usually found small gyms and local trainers pushy and unwelcoming. Like a private club.

But I hit it off with Dan and found myself impressed with his knowledge and his creativity. He’d be a gifted physical therapist.

My strength has returned but my body still doesn’t always cooperate but Dan always knows how I’m feeling just my how I’m moving.

This gym is amazing. I see a lot of guys who come together to lift, a lot of women who want to lose weight, and married couples who work out together. And the environment is very family friendly— you’ll often see Greg’s dog Gotti or the babies, Dan and Greg both have toddler sons.

The Teenager has started lifting. She has a love of pushing around heavy weights so Dan has started teaching her barbell sports. Around the same time she started accompanying me to the gym, Andrew joined the team and he has a background in powerlifting.

The Teenager squatting with Dan

Well now it’s too late to make a long story short, but I’ve been feeling better and Dan has made some creative adjustments to my sessions to try and improve my range of motion.

Dan had to cancel this morning’s session so he suggested reaching out to Andrew, but Andrew was running on fumes. We weren’t able to schedule a workout but we had a great conversation about the prospect of getting The Teenager into her own sessions with Andrew and I can continue my work with Dan.

Andrew said she has potential and that he’s impressed with the lifts he’s seen. She now squats 155 I think and deadlifts 195. But here’s what I didn’t expect… “Your work ethic,” Andrew said to me, “is inspiring to watch.”

My world has been upside down for the last three to six months. So to hear that is just a reminder of how you never know who’s watching and how you may impact others.

And while I am still searching for the right doctors as I age, I know that strength training serves as a great boon to my future mobility and health. I see the orthopedic physiatrist this week and scheduled a visit with the neuromuscular physiatrist at the end of May.

I’m hoping these doctors can teach me how my body works so I can give this information to the team at Apex and maybe I could have a future in strength sports. Or maybe I can finally jog a 5K.

But more people need to understand—

Physical therapy is a blessing for specific injury. But as we age, most of us will gain a disability if we don’t already struggle with congenital issues. Just as I look for the doctor that can help me understand my whole body and its movement, the right personal trainer can help me strengthen my whole body.

I really wish I could be with the guys at Apex Training five days a week.

And I hope anyone with a disability who wants to improve their physical condition will consider committing to work with a personal trainer.

A day in the life— medical update, meal plans, sunshine, animals and publishing

I make a lot of lists.

Sometimes my journals are nothing but to do lists and shopping lists. But I like lists— even if I never refer to them again, the act of making a list allows me to stop thinking about things.

If I want to refer to it later, I know where to look, but I no longer have to worry about forgetting as if I want to remember or revisit items from an earlier day I can but I am not staring at a list focusing on what needs to be addressed versus what I actually did.

Many people make lists to receive the satisfaction of checking off the things that are done. I don’t do that. Sometimes I do, but now it’s more like I am acknowledging the list versus trying to conquer it.

I used to finish my list every day or stress over the things I didn’t get to, and on top of that— the list never made me feel better or more in control.

It just exhausted me.

Trapped and the Cover for the Anthology Arrive

Parisian Phoenix’s first contemporary romance has arrived and it looks great. Read more about that here.

But I also received the cover for Not An Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix site this weekend.

And I have a 4 p.m. meeting today with another author who I have been hoping would join our family.

Now if only I could finalize some of our business documents to really move the projects forward.

Yesterday (Voluntary Time Off) and evaluating my health

Life at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy has been odd lately. We’re shipping something like 8,000 fixes a day and having the opportunity for voluntary time off.

Last week, I performed at pretty damn close to 100% without pain or significant mobility issues. This week, issues started mildly during my Sunday shift and deteriorated Monday & Tuesday, leaving me at 80% and crying myself to sleep. I talked about this here.

I’m very much wondering if my menstrual cycle has something to do with it, as the Mirena IUD has done miracles for my pain and issues in that department but has made my cycle irregular. I think my body is trying to menstruate later than usual.

I was taking inventory of my recent balance, mobility and functioning issues as today I had my annual “wellness visit” that the office rescheduled from last week.

I took VTO yesterday to allow myself some rest and some time as life (and grief from my father’s death two months ago) has gotten chaotic and overwhelming.

And I made the teenager and I grilled cheese as I had promised to do, and the child acted like I had prepared filet mignon for her.

I have a feeling I will be repeating that after school today.

We also watched Miranda Sings Live on Netflix. The teenager went through a time when she watched the show, so that was weird. It always amazes me how much talent it takes to perform badly.

The doctor today

I have spent more than a decade assembling a talented and caring medical team, so now I can confidently say any issues with my medical treatment stem from the system and not from my doctors.

The doctor and his resident agreed with my assessment that it’s time for me to get into the physiatrist and that their office will advocate for me on that as well, and that my instincts and approaches are correct.

I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency can create problems. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.

And most interestingly… I learned that women more so than men tend to favor one side when they move or stand. As women age, this tendency to let’s say ‘lean’ can create problems, just like what I am experiencing now with my right hip and right leg/foot. That means this is a problem normal people have and not just a result of cerebral palsy.

I reiterated to them that I do know I need to lose 20 pounds, but that we have some issues to address before that.

The psychology of emotional and physical pain

When I was turning 40, I embarked on a journey to lose five pounds and gain muscle. I inadvertently lost 30 lbs and ended up a skeleton and regained some weight to look like this:

That was about 30 pounds ago. I have no need to be that lean again, but I’d really like to see 135 lbs again— which means I need to lose 20 lbs.

I told my doctor and his resident— I know I can’t eat an entire bag of cheese puffs or Wawa bowl of mac and cheese and brisket after dinner. But I’m struggling with depression from my body pain and my father’s unexpected death.

I’m grateful I haven’t turned to alcohol like many in my family, but I have “given in” to food as a psychological crutch.

I pay almost $300 a month for a personal trainer, but I can’t work as hard as I want to because I hurt and I feel like I need answers as to how to move my body so it doesn’t hurt. Because if I could exercise more and move more, I wouldn’t sabotage myself by eating garbage (or if I did, I would be active enough to balance it).

But right now, when I come home from a ten-hour shift with my body twisted and aching badly, and wishing I could call my dad so he could make me laugh and tell me how much it sucks to get old, I grab junk food because it’s the last pleasure I have.

I can’t move without pain so if I’m going to be forced to get fat and lazy I might as well enjoy the process.

These are ugly thoughts and I know that, but I’m being honest.

The fun stuff: errands with Nan

After leaving my primary care doctor, I called Nan as we were scheduled to do some errands together. We stopped at Wawa for some hot caffeinated beverages (cafe con leche for me and vanilla chai for Nan).

Among other stops we visited Park Avenue Market and Deli, one of our favorite haunts known for its deli, salads and meats.

Although I am once again contemplating more of a vegan diet, which will make the teenaged carnivore wince, I am not ready to commit until I feel better. We must achieve discipline before we enact change.

I never got around to meal planning yesterday so I didn’t have a list. I ended up spending $36.89 and I think the results will work.

I purchased: two packs of beef jerky, one small box of minute rice for the teen, three or four teeny tiny bags of Wise snacks from popcorn to potato chips, meatballs, the biggest damn carrot I’ve ever seen, frozen vegetable medley with potatoes and garlic herb sauce, sweet potato crinkle cut fries, pork roll, Lebanon bologna, liverwurst, turkey, olive salad, a store-baked pig ear for the dog and something called “hot pepper shooters”— round hot peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone.

Rough meal plan

My rough meal plan for the next week or so is:

  • Sandwiches
  • Meatballs and green peppers, either as a sandwich or in pasta
  • vegetable lasagna still in the freezer from last week
  • Burgers and fries, using ground beef from the freezer and the sweet potato fries
  • Cold tortellini salad with roasted carrot, olive salad and seasoned broccoli (broccoli is in the freezer)
  • Pork roll and egg sandwiches
  • Chicken and the frozen vegetables and rice or other grain

PS— we also welcomed a new foster into the house. Her name is Babs. Meet her in this video. I need to make her a page.

Adventures with Nancy and leaving Midnight Society

Tonight was the last official night of “Midnight Society” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and they closed the warehouse at 7:30 p.m.

I say last “official” night because I just heard from my supervisor (at least until the new shift starts Sunday) and my favorite security guard/philosopher that there are a handful of people who can’t transition until after Christmas— and Stitch Fix will let them continue working their traditional hours until then.

That was a really nice move on the business’s part. Too nice in my opinion. I have squeezed a couple months of doctors appointments, tests and physical therapy into two weeks. So part of me is a little jealous.

We start our new work arrangement Sunday.

In other news, my blind friend Nancy and I both had physical therapy today. And Aîné and Brigid of the Celtic Pride got spayed so they are ready for adoption!

But back to physical therapy. Nan and I went together. She’s having issues with her shoulder and numbness in her finger.

I have pain in my spine and fall a lot.

I had to ride a stationary bike for eight minutes. She warmed up on a hand contraption.

I did my Cobra poses, and my physical therapist did that thing where he presses on my spine as if pushing it back into place.

I did deadlifts with a 20 lb kettlebell. I had to lay on my stomach and bend my leg at the knee and lift it off the table. That was harder than it sounds.

I stood on a soft cushion square and moved my leg out using my hip while keeping my knee soft. I also did that kicking back.

I did bridges.

I took a giant ball, held it to the wall with my back, and squared as low as I could.

Meanwhile some teenager stood on a balance ball on one leg, tossed a ball onto a trampoline and caught it ALL while standing on one leg.

I can stand on one leg for nine seconds.

On the floor.

This kid was standing on a ball meant to destabilize you.

And throwing a ball.

I am in total envy.

Meanwhile Nan was teaching the staff to read Braille and how to use a white cane.

And the staff was heartily confused at the fact that friends would come to physical therapy together.

After physical therapy, I turned to Nan. “You what to come to my house for grilled cheese?”

Her answer was a hearty yes. I made hers with Colby Jack, Cheddar and Lebanon Bologna and mine with habanero cheddar and Vevan vegan mozza-melts.

The mozza-melts taste and melt like real cheese, but sadly they have no protein. At all. So while they are a cruelty free version of cheese, they have no nutritional value.

Another day seeking answers

This is another in a series of posts about trying to learn about my cerebral palsy and improve life in my body in general.

As sometimes happen, I woke in pain. I took two Tylenol PM last night so the pain didn’t keep me awake though my cat kept trying to intimidate one of my fosters so that made the six hours of sleep I got rather restless.

I woke to an alarm at shortly after 8 a.m. as I had to be at a doctor’s appointment at 10:05ish and the office is 20 minutes away.

To read about the connection between my gynecologist and my novel, visit the Parisian Phoenix blog.

Today was the rescheduled appointment to get my Mirena IUD that will hopefully reduce my heavy menstrual bleeding and my back pain from menstrual cramps. I had another new-to-me doctor today, and this one had an amazing sense of humor.

She was also the first doctor to ask me, upon hearing I had cerebral palsy, if there was anything she needed to do or be aware of to help me. In my case, the answer is no. But if I had worse issues with my flexibility and lower limbs, this would be a good question.

This is my third IUD, although my first Mirena. So nothing unexpected happened during insertion.

There was a pinch here and there and the doctor told me to take ibuprofen for the initial cramping. And to be prepared for a period that might be weird for the next few months. Every woman reacts differently but I may see my periods lighten or even skip cycles.

I did experience some light cramping and spotting but nothing to require OTC painkillers.

But, once I got to work, my right leg seemed to be impossible to control with my quad and knee burning. My ankles also started to burn. My lower back just throbbed, regardless of whether I was twisting or standing still.

By the end of the night I struggled to reach forward or to lift the pile of clothes.

I only QCed 92 fixes. That’s almost 71% of goal. Now granted tonight we were in the men’s Hizzy for the first time ever. It took me 4.5 minutes to do fixes that in women’s takes less than 3.

And they have such nicely organized work stations with drawers.

While listening to my first podcast of the night— 60 songs that explain the 90s— i discovered that Weird Al donated the profits from “Achy Breaky Song” to the cerebral palsy foundation.

My British colleague asked why I’m not on disability. That made me wonder how bad I must look if she says that to me.

In good news, let me regale you as I drink my last pins colada lemonade gin cocktail, the teenager is very excited about the new soap dispenser she bought.

I did a thing and did a soft launch on a Parisian Phoenix podcast on Spotify. I thought my blind friend, Nancy, would like it.

And if you want some fun pet items:

Nala the cockatoo plays in the shower.

Bean Dog tries to get bone out of tire.

I walked into the teenager’s bedroom and the kittens of the Celtic Pride were all in her laundry.

Fitness update: Where did that leg go?

Last week, I moved my follow up bloodwork from Friday October 15 to yesterday in part because I am planning a trip to DC over the weekend.

The morning yesterday started in a discombobulated fashion as my mornings generally do. I was so mixed up by the time my appointment rolled around that I drove right by the office.

The events of the morning had my anxiety on high, and revisiting my past issues with anxiety has not been fun. I even find myself fighting some of familiar behaviors, like stressing about how much money I have in savings and going over budget on food.

At the same time, I had a lunch appointment with my mother who recently lost a brother to cancer and anticipates losing another to the same cancer.

And I’m feeling my body thinking — my right leg isn’t working. I woke yesterday in no pain whatsoever yet something felt very wrong with my right leg, like maybe it was too close to the left one or pointing the wrong way. Very disorienting feeling.

I asked the teenager to take a look and she confirmed that it indeed look “very wrong” so we called Back in Line so my chiropractor Nicole Jensen could take a look.

This meant the whole day involved running from place to place which led to more stress, which increases the tension and the cerebral palsy stiffness in my muscles.

Nicole adjusted me again and aggressively stretched my hips. She also commended me for trying to know my body.

And at work I felt it. Keenly, painfully. Started in my hip, then my spine, then the left side of my lower back, and then the right. Everything hurt. I finished the night at 92% because of the pain.

The pain bothered me all night, and I woke up with it, and believe it or not struggling to carry the 80 lbs of cat litter I needed upstairs may have helped— by relieving tension.

Thank goodness for the gym, as my trainer Dan at Apex Training is very cognizant of how I am moving and has catered my workouts to my health levels.

I’m struggling emotionally right now, and I am physically in pain across my lower body. I can’t afford to stay home from work and I fear tonight will be worse than last night.

This morning, my bloodwork returned. My TSH is normal. My iron is creeping up way slower than I had hoped. My vitamin D was increasing but it hasn’t budged in four months.

And I also got an email with the results of the Artful Dash— officially Gayle beat me. Which she did not. I was a clear two feet ahead of her in the finishing chute.

Dahlias from a friend

Friday update: some health news and some silliness

Yesterday must have been “doctors return patient messages” day because I heard from both my primary care physician’s office and my gynecologist’s staff.

But before I get to that… because that info will primarily be about the female reproductive system and how my issues in that area are compounding the impact of my cerebral palsy (and I know that’s an exciting topic), let me start with the humor in this beautiful Friday morning.

But perhaps the humor started last night with the fire drill at work. The fire alarm itself sounded like crickets chirping in a field. I supposed the sound gets lost in the depth of the warehouse.

The Bizzy Hizzy released us at 9:30 p.m. last night, which is fantastic for my aching body that is still trying to figure out what the hell happened to my hip. (Read about that here.)

I got up this morning hoping to be well-rested and pain-free. I woke up a cuddly Khloe and another phone call from my gynecologist— but I’m skipping those details for now. Let’s just say I have an appointment with them on October 22 and the person who made my appointment has a cat named Mr. Doodlehead.

Khloe

I go downstairs, let the dog out and noticed the Met-Ed truck at my neighbor’s house. The noise of the bucket truck scares the dog. We go inside. I put coffee in the Keurig.

The power goes out.

The bucket truck drives away.

Our own neighbor tries to chase down the crew. Another neighbor starts pacing the sidewalk. A third guy— yes all these people are men— stands in the yard and stares. (He’s the apparently live-in boyfriend of the resident. It’s a weird situation because they met on the internet and I was told it didn’t work but now he appears to be living there after two dates.)

After a little while, I realize I don’t want to open the fridge but I really should have breakfast so I’ll go out. My leg and spine still feel weird after Wednesday’s rather dramatic adjustment— I veto walking to the teenager’s favorite mini-mart gas station. Besides, they might not have power either.

At this point, the dog brings this from the kitchen:

Poop in a can

As if the cat food can wasn’t delectable enough, the teenager must have tossed a bag of animal poop in it. Poop in a meat can! What a treat.

I put on my shoes about to take the dog to Dunkin’ and I realize— I have no idea how to open the garage door manually. So I sit back down and work on the memoir I am proofreading.

But I need food.

So eventually I brave it.

The dog had tried to convince the kittens to play and lost that battle so she needed a pick-me-up, too.

The trip was uneventful. Except I had to drive around the building an extra time because I got to the speaker before I had my order ready. You can see me feed the dog a turkey sausage, egg and cheese wrap here.

And when I got home I realized—

I have no idea how to reconnect the garage door opener.

Now the health stuff…

I am on day three of taking CBD oil.

I am recovering from anemia caused by stress and heavy menstrual bleeding. My menstrual cramps hit me in my spine every two weeks, first for ovulation then for the actual bleeding. My spine already has issues with my SI joint because of all the years of walking crooked due to cerebral palsy. Despite my history of an active lifestyle and my current training program, the pain is getting worse and harder to treat.

CBD cream has been very successful in relaxing tense and spasming muscles in my back.

The gynecologist ordered some blood tests — I go Monday — and the PCP won’t see me until November 2 and I have instructions to follow up with my gynecologist in the meantime.

They requested and I got abdominal and transvaginal ultrasounds which revealed small growths (a benign cyst and a fibroid) in my uterus (looks like adenomyosis) which due to my age will probably cause more pain until menopause.

To alleviate this, they are going to give me the Mirena IUD in two weeks. Which is funny, because the proposed treatment for my back pain is a contraceptive device when I’m 46-years-old and haven’t been that kind of intimate in more than two years.

Fingers crossed that it helps. And that insurance covers it because it costs a thousand dollars.

I had two copper IUDs (Paragard) in the past. The first one lasted the whole ten years. The second was so painful I asked them (honestly begged them) to remove it after the first year.

Are disabled athletes more mindful?

Barbells might be my new obsession. Remember my new shirt from the Fitness Tee Company in Michigan?

“Let’s hit the bar.”

I bought it after my first bench press with the barbell. I have always wanted to lift barbells. I’m fascinated with power lifters, and admire women like Meg Squats. She recently had a baby, but to stay on topic, here is one of her lifting videos: 5 things I wish I knew before I started lifting.

So when my trainer first put me on the bench with a barbell, it was in part to evaluate me. What he didn’t know was my secret burning desire to do it. And it did not disappoint.

Those first couple lifts I learned so much— about form, about using “power zones” in the body, and how a simple bench press uses most of your muscle groups. Fascinating. To see other people do it hints at the complexity, but to do it yourself is a true lightbulb moment to the depth of the interactive mechanics of the human body.

Today I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. Pretty much because my trainer said, “You could totally lift that,” and pointed to the barbell on the floor.

And I said, “I’ve always wanted to.”

You could totally lift that.

Dan, my personal trainer at Apex

So he let me deadlift the one-plate (on each side) barbell. I mimicked his form, which appeared to be underhand and it was a totally different kind of effort from the dumbbell deadlifts I previously completed. Those seemed very concentrated in the butt and legs, these included more of the body in a fluid way.

I did three in that first set and returned to my dumbbell circuit— 10 lb dumbbells in a swing style motion up to a press, 10 reps, followed by 10 bicep curls— before back to the bar. This was my cool down set of the day. And I did 3 more additional sets at the barbell— a set of five, another circuit with the dumbbells, then eight at Dan’s urging, another circuit, and he asked for another eight, but I tapped out after five.

I determined that I prefer underhand grip. Overhand grip puts too much stress on my lower back. Mixed grip is awesome, too, but I think that may require some work before I can up my weight. Mixed grip forces a certain instability and requires more focus on balance, which as a balance exercise would be stellar.

But what does any of this have to do with athletes and disability— the idea I propose in the title?

I have no athletic talent what so ever. My coordination is awful. I tend to walk “all done f*cky” when my health is poor or I am fatigued. I also deal with a myriad of aches and pains from walking crooked and associated issues with my S1 joint.

But my trainer often comments on my form, well, once he reminds me to point my toes for a squat or perfect that lean for a row. He’s even commented that I’m “built for that” while we do certain exercises. That once I correct manually what my brain can’t make my body do automatically, that I use a very deliberate form.

As I’ve mentioned before my weight training is very meditative for me because I am counting (something my trainer and the teenager were discussing because she said even with a decade of band she can’t count) and my trainer said I was good at keeping count, but that many of his clients needed assistance. I am also thinking about control in every motion of the exercise— from each body movement, to pace and control.

And on top of that, I try to note feeling and body function. Though that is touchy. In a “leg day” session a week or two ago, Dan said he noticed something strained about the lift I was doing. He wanted to know if it were legs or back bothering me.

I had to do an extra rep of the exercise to answer him. Because I hadn’t noticed.

“Ankles,” I answered. “My ankles are stiff and shaky today.”

All of this makes me think, and question, how those of us will a mild physical disability like cerebral palsy might be better athletes because we don’t have talent or physical advantages. But we know our bodies and we are accustomed to acknowledging the details of our bodies and their functions.

Does the fact that I am required to concentrate on every motion make me more prone to perform that motion closer to perfection than someone who can breeze through it without thinking about it?

Compelling idea.

Stress, leg day, wins for the cat cafe, taste testing and EZ Pass Drama

In 45 minutes, I need to leave for work. It’s Thursday and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving all week. I’m behind on my own commitments and starting to feel panicked.

The pop up kitten cafe fundraiser for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is this Sunday.

Although it has required effort from many people, in the last few days this has become my baby.

In the last 24 hours, we received commitments from Just Born candy and Target #2536 (the same Target where I used to work and that experienced a fatal shooting in the parking lot last weekend).

This brings our list of supporters to:

  • Many individual bakers
  • Easton Baking Company
  • Philly Pretzel
  • Wawa
  • Wegmans
  • Giant Food Stores
  • Keystone Snacks
  • Chocolate Works
  • Target
  • Just Born

Today the teenager and I will be heading to Keystone Snacks to get the Veggie Chips donation.

So that’s the fundraiser but meanwhile real-life goes on. I haven’t worked on William Prystauk‘s upcoming novel in his Kink Noir series, Bondage, in several days. Our personal cat, kitty cancer survivor Opie has a very goopy, wet eyes. This is very unusual for Opealope so I gave him a couple treatments with a chamomile tea eye wash for cats grown and prepared by our fellow foster, Granola Cat Lady.

Despite all this (and only 5 hours sleep from sharing my bed with the teenager’s dog, F. Bean Barker), I still made it to Apex Training for leg day and some warm-up core work. My body was very stiff after that, not really from the workout but because my period is late and doing things to my body.

Although I have to admit I fell on the way to the gym and broke the screen to my iPhone. After 3.5 years I now get to test my SquareTrade insurance.

The other big news is that the teenager installed a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old one had screws so stripped it kept falling off while you were sitting on it. Bad news is: our bathroom is 1950s Flamingo Pink. The new toilet seat is white— the only one they had. I hate white toilet seats on colored bowls but I also hate “falling in.” And now that she’s seen it, the teenager agrees.

I finally tried my Emmi Roth cheddar cheese snacks from Hungryroot which were supposed to be for tuna artichoke melts but I couldn’t bring myself to use such fancy cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich. A colleague and I were talking about snacks & cheese so I brought her some and we tried it at the Bizzy Hizzy.

She loved it so much she googled where to buy it. Apparently it’s only available in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It literally melts in your mouth.

After work I went to Sheetz and ordered a pina colada lemonade with immunity boost with my bonus points. It tasted like candy, too thick to be refreshing but definitely very summery. I added some mango vodka when I got home. (Here’s a video if you want to see me talk to myself in a parking lot at midnight.)

And finally, not sure if I mentioned it on the blog, but I’m another step closer to resolving the great EZ Pass Drama of Summer 2021. Did you ever procrastinate something so long it bit you in the ass?

Yeah, so that’s what happened to me.

So, our Nissan Ultima (oh how I loved that car) died suddenly. My husband and I were still together and only had one car. He replaced the Ultima was a used Nissan Juke— a car he had wanted for a while. We moved everything from the Ultima into the Juke.

I had ordered an EZ Pass when I started work on my master’s in world history at West Chester University and was driving down the turnpike at least once a week.

So I knew that the EZ Pass was connected to my car— the Ultima— but I never really used it. I forgot about it. And then I bought my Jetta because I hated the Juke. Our family didn’t really go anywhere. I worked retail so I never really got time off. I had stopped working on my master’s as money got tight and my marriage continued to fail.

I neither returned nor updated the EZ Pass.

My husband returned the box of random things from the Ultima and I, with other things on my mind, tossed the transponder in my car hoping to remember to update it.

I never did.

At this point, I don’t even remember how to access my EZ Pass account.

This summer, the teenager took her grandmother to Cape May. She pulled up to the first toll booth and the toll collector yelled at her for trying to pay the toll.

Being a dutiful child, she trusted the toll collector who told her she had an EZ Pass.

Two weeks later, we get two violations from NJ EZ Pass. $30 in missed tolls and $55 in administrative fees. My daughter and I send a check, but I also send an email stating that I understand I hadn’t updated the EZ Pass, but my daughter had tried to pay the toll and the toll collector yelled at her.

They cashed the check.

Then a couple weeks after that I get a letter from PA Turnpike EZ Pass stating I had insufficient funds in my account and they were threatening to ticket me. Now, my EZ Pass was on a credit card. That credit card expired one month before my daughter’s trip.

I call the number. Because I don’t know my account pin or my transponder number, I am forced to leave a message and they say they will call me back. That was Monday.

A couple days ago I get another letter from NJ EZ Pass. They claim I didn’t pay one of the two violations. I send another email and send them a screen shot from my banking app of the cashed check.

It’s now Thursday. I go to PA EZ Pass and try to remember all my account info. I easily succeed. I look at the “insufficient funds.” $5.37 cents. They also demand $35 to load my account fully. Even though I haven’t used it in three years.

And you can’t just pay what you owe.

I then go to the “manage vehicles” tab, add the Jetta and delete the Ultima. That took five minutes. Had I done that years ago, I could have avoided the whole drama.

Week Four of Physical Training at Apex and more thoughts on Disability

When I turned up at the Apex Gym today for my first session of the week, I was accompanied by the teenager and her dog. They were both impressed— and in the dog’s case confused— that my trainer Dan was wearing his baby.

I am always impressed with the different bodies I see at the gym and the attention both trainers give to their clients.

There was a woman at the gym finishing her session when I arrived. She was working hard with some dumbbells, with her back to me. She was older than I was, and overweight, probably at least obese by BMI standards (because I am overweight by BMI standards).

But she was uneven, with 80% of her excess weight in her legs.

And just like with me, Dan supported her and challenged her as if we were athletes. You could tell she was proud of herself, and I was proud of her.

And I couldn’t wait to tell my trainer Dan that I can already feel my body moving better. In his eyes, he calls it “a little increased mobility” and to me, I feel like my knees are moving the correct direction.

I told him that I got to pick at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and covered about 6,000 steps and pulled 216 items in less than three hours. Now those aren’t stellar numbers, but I haven’t left QC in months. And I didn’t hurt.

If this Apex experience doesn’t teach me to participate in exercise and strength training daily, nothing will.

Today’s workout t-shirt was “let’s hit the bar” by The Fitness Tee Company and my trainer Dan let out an enthusiastic battle cry. We did hit the bar, and we added weight to it. I really enjoy bench press.

In other news, I listened to the latest podcast from the NYT Daily Sunday Read, “The Man who filed 180 disability lawsuits.” It looked at the “industry” of people hired by lawyers to find non-ADA-compliant businesses. And sue them.

I need to digest this more, but the reporter interviewed a small restaurant that almost lost everything because of such a lawsuit, in what seemed a situation where a new restaurant just had everything go wrong.

But the reporter also interviewed the litigant who said businesses have a responsibility to know the law better (my note: it’s almost 300 pages) and that being disabled is expensive so these lawsuits help pay for his equipment and care.

Link to the podcast on Spotify.

Luau luncheon at the Bizzy Hizzy

Changes are brewing at work. Tomorrow I learn the infamous mailer machine and QC Valley 0 has been transformed into a test site to see if QC centers can prep their own boxes as they fold each fix.

I’m terrified of this. I have a really awkward relationship with packing tape.