Day 2 alone with the menagerie and continuing my health quest

This piece will also include discussion of the mental health app Ginger and a review of a probiotic carbonated beverage.

If you’re new here… I am a 46-year-old single mom who volunteers with a local cat rescue, has a bratty Goffin cockatoo, and is currently trying to learn more about my own cerebral palsy.

Part 1: Finding the Resources to Grow

Part 2: The Teen Leaves Me With The Menagerie

The Teenager is on Day 2 with her grandmother in Cape May, a trip the teen has been planning since she starting working as a waitress this winter. I am home alone with her dog, our four cats, my birds and five fosters.

Yesterday after weeding, Extra Crunchy thought my sweaty, outdoorsy smelling body was a wild animal. (He is available for adoption; he’s a miracle kitten who survived distemper. And has the most soulful deep grey eyes.) Video: Extra Crunchy Attacks My Dress

Meanwhile the dog ate the case to my air pods while I was listening to Alex Hooper’s podcast Achilles’ Heel and making vegetable stock.

I had my second Ginger session yesterday with my coach. I still had the feeling many of her answers were stock, and that sometimes she may have been balancing more than one client at a time. We ended up talking a lot about how because of a dip in self-worth can cause discipline related and motivation issues— why should I take care of myself and commit to good habits if I’ll still be the same insecure person no one seems to value?

But I did do triceps and shoulders yesterday despite intense heat here.

An old friend popped by for a text last night and the nostalgia made me cry. Perspective is a beautiful thing, and sometimes we all need to remember behavior viewed as “bitter” can come from hurt or anger. Understanding can make a huge difference in an interaction.

By 10 pm, I couldn’t end the circle of thoughts about regret, hurt and the pain of seeing someone you once cared about experience something you know isn’t good for them.

So I texted an evening Ginger coach. At first the answers seemed stock and that she was copying/pasting and distracted by other clients, but that rapidly changed. And she and I had a good discussion. It was only about 20 minutes but it ended the loop of thoughts in my head.

I definitely think this service will help keep me focused with my therapist and allow me to get help for the more everyday issues as a situation is happening. Being the curious type I am, I want to know more about how the system works for the employees.

Of course, with the teen being gone, the dog is sullen and bereft. Last night she kept checking if the teen had come home yet and it was very difficult to get her to go to bed in her crate in the teen’s bedroom without the teen.

At 5:40 am the poor dog starting crying, so I went to her, got her out and took her to the yard and just let her stay free in the house. There was no way I was getting up with only 5 hours sleep.

I woke to find her in my bed with me and I actually liked knowing where she was. We got up for the day at 9.

As I drank my cup of coffee and starting feeding animals, my primary care physician’s office called. They are concerned about my iron and the doctor wants to schedule an appointment to discuss me going for a GI work up.

Now about a decade ago when I switched to his care, I did so because my doctor at the time to refused to treat my anemia. I had stress-induced super heavy menstrual bleeding that had reduced my stored ferritin to a 4. The nurse in the office at that particular doctor said that the adrenaline in my system from the stress is the only reason I was walking around and not in the hospital.

I had a three-month wait to see this particular new doctor. By the middle of the summer I literally could not get off the floor unless my-then five-year-old made me a pot of coffee and brought me a cup.

I called my OB/GYN and begged his staff to help me. The nurse practitioner saw me a day or two later and I left his office with a bag full of prescription-strength, special absorbing vitamin D and directions to take an iron pill with every meal.

So after two years of stress, and my period is still heavy, and eating mostly junk food for the last year, I don’t think we need a complete GI work up to fix this. When I see the doctor, and his residents, I’m going to ask if we can see if diet and supplements will return my numbers to better levels based on whatever deadline he prefers.

But it has me suddenly thinking— the recent falls, issues with hitting my numbers inconsistently at work (I literally said to a supervisor “somedays I just can’t make my limbs move faster.”) I have been blaming being out-of-shape and lazy and my disability for some recent issues, but compounding that is anemia.

And I honestly can’t remember the last time my iron was checked. The only reason he checked it now was because I reminded him of my history of anemia and that if my vitamin D was low, the two go hand-in-hand. And the highest my vitamin D has been in the last decade was 37. 30 is the lowest vitamin D result that counts as normal.

(By perusing my online medical regards I learned I don’t nor have I had HPV, HIV or Chlamydia.)

And this was all before coffee.

After coffee, I put on my favorite sun dress and ventured into the 90 degree heat (at 10:30 a.m. — that’s insane.) I walked over to Nan’s apartment six blocks away to bring her the Seeing Stars super soft lounge set/pajamas I bought her at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. Giving a blind woman things with nice textures is always fun.

I walked home, sat for a minute and left at 11:15 to walk to CVS to pick up the teenager’s prescription toothpaste before they restocked it. I treated myself to a Booch Pop with my 40% off coupon. It’s a carbonated probiotic drink of only 40 calories that tasted like a zesty ginger beer.

There was also a coupon for free candy so I got a generic assortment of Gold Emblem Swedish fish and a trail mix with pistachios and almonds on sale for $2.99.

I stopped at our public library. Our library opened in 1962 so in our archive “stacks” as they are called we have the original hardcovers of the “Karen” books which were bestsellers in the mid-sixties. The adult librarian asked me if I would prefer she find a newer edition and I said no. The originals add to the experience.

I came home with 5,000 steps done from errands and made Bean and I breakfast of chicken, eggs and rice. I put some of my fresh vegetable stock on my rice.

If you have two minutes and you want to watch our dog eat breakfast, here is a video: Bean having Breakfast with Mom-mom

Tonight I am attending a pick-your-own bouquet workshop at a local farm. Joan is bringing me. I wonder if she will bring her little people.

Three days home alone: the teen leaves me with the menagerie and I continue my quest

This is the second in what will probably be a babbling series of updates about the interactions of many areas of my life.

My new quest is to understand more about my disability— cerebral palsy— since my generation and certainly those before learned not to question these things. In the early to mid-twentieth century those who couldn’t pass as normal able-bodied people were institutionalized and parents of such children told to forget they ever existed.

I did receive a referral from my doctor to call the neurology office and explore this and I suppose I should put down the blog post and call before I forget. I wasn’t told to call a certain person so I am left with questions.

  • Does anyone in the office know CP? Like really know it?
  • Will this be a nice consultation or a medical appointment where I become an experiment?
  • Will I have the nerve to ask these two questions?

I did take the time to call, and I put on my “journalist voice” as my daughter calls it. I explain that I am a 46-year-old woman with Cerebral Palsy and while my medical team has done a wonderful job treating my body and helping me understand my physical defects, no one has ever explained the brain-body connection or what kind of CP I have.

And I emphasize that I want to understand so that I can age as gracefully as I am able, since some issues might reside in my brain and physical therapy won’t fix that.

A very nice person put me on hold. Time passed and with each minute I filled with fear. What if they don’t have someone? I chastise myself for the thought. It’s a neurology department at a major regional hospital network— someone should have some experience with CP.

But somehow, it doesn’t settle the fear. I think that’s another disability-related trait. Because some of us were taught to “pass” as able-bodied we don’t want to break the illusion and we certainly don’t want to bother anyone when obviously these medical professionals have real sick and injured patients who need them.

So while I was on the phone debating whether or not they just didn’t know how to help me or whether they just didn’t want to be bothered with the pesky person who had questions, I unloaded the dishwasher. And reloaded. And made iced tea. Because it took ten minutes.

And then all of a sudden a person from the hospital central scheduling answered the phone. Turns out I had been lost in the phone system.

After a charming conversation with the scheduler, and bidding her adieu hoping I have no major tests in my future that require her services, I called the neurology office back.

I introduce myself again and say there must have be an issue on either my end or their’s as I ended up transferred to central scheduling. I repeated my cute little tale and the person answering the phone— it was either Megan or Lisa (the other was the lovely person from central scheduling)— said she’d send a message to the physician and when he found the right person they would call me back.

If I could back up for a moment, today the teenager left for her Cape May vacation with her grandmother, her father’s mother. They took my car and I am so excited for them. The teen has worked so hard to pay for this trip for her grandmother. She took my car so I’ll be home alone until Thursday night, caring for the menagerie and getting caught up on housework and hopefully putting the near final touches on my debut novel.

That’s a lot for three days. Tonight I plan on doing my yard work and tomorrow I need to gather some more of the teen’s birthday bomb as it is garbage night. I will also continue taking garbage from teenager two’s former room as she no longer reads my messages and left a room full of garbage, dirty dishes and about 30 empty cat food cans and a dirty cat box with cat waste also on the floor. I think I found all the partially consumed (human) food, and I also found some broken dishes and destroyed linens.

She did thank me for everything I did, but I’d still feel better if I didn’t have to clean up her filth.

Many more of these to come.

There’s a heat wave browbeating everyone so I’m filling a lot of water bowls and passing out ice cubes. These new Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab tumblers make it easy to stay hydrated.

Yesterday before work I went for my follow up blood work. I always get blood work done before my annual physical. This year’s January blood work showed low vitamin D.

He asked me to start taking vitamin D, which isn’t unusual. Most people don’t get enough. He asked for a follow up in six months, and, because of my history of anemia (which was very severe when the teen was in kindergarten) I suggested he check my iron. My vitamin D has increased by 10, but I’m seeing that both D and iron are low/normal. We’ll see what he has to say about that.

And some fun stuff related to my previous blog post… I know it was long and rambling but I want people to experience the string of connections as I feel them. My stress regarding being on hold with the neurologist may resonate with someone. And two of my friends did point out some connected resources. I do love resources.

First, a good friend mentioned she used to read and reread the memoir/biography Karen by Marie Killilea (and there’s a sequel From Karen with Love) about a mother’s journey mid century with her daughter’s CP, when mom was told to institutionalize the child.

Another friend mentioned the podcast Achilles’ Heel hosted by a close relative. Alex Hooper on the podcast interviews guests on a wide range of topics from empaths to panic attacks encouraging listeners to tackle head on their own Achilles’ Heel. I listened to enough last night to know this will be fun.

I also had another Ginger coaching session, but that’s going to have to wait as my typing fingers are tired.

Progression: A Discussion of Finding the Resources to Grow

I may have said this before, but even if I have it’s a message that can be said again: I am blessed to have a talented and caring medical team. In addition to this team, I have also been harvesting resources for my physical and mental help.

I am recording this week’s journey so others might consider different ways to find their own resources.

On Monday, the teenager resumed therapy with a new therapist who attended Moravian College at the same time I did and is loosely a friend of my traveling companion M.

I asked if she was comfortable treating my daughter, because we have circulated in similar arenas in the past and my 17-year-old daughter struggles to connect with therapists who work with teens and is too young for a therapist who treats adults.

From what I knew of her personality from the few interactions we’ve had over the years and the information on her web site my gut said she would be a good fit for the teen.

And in my teen’s eyes, I was right.

My daughter is far from a troubled teen, but she has two parents with disabilities, a mother with trauma in her background and an extended family history of addiction.

Her strong empathy and witchy powers can make her experience of the world intense. (Speaking of which— I gave her my tarot cards on her birthday and she cried. I knew she would understand the significance of the gesture but I didn’t expect her to get so overwhelmed she cried.)

On Monday and Tuesday, my work performance wouldn’t crack 88%. I was frustrated and in pain and just moving slowly. After mapping my pain patterns for years, I can say that my back pain is worst when I ovulate and when I menstruate.

Wednesday was, as mentioned in other posts, the teenager’s 17th birthday. I had a tele-appointment with my therapist of about 12 years. Coincidentally I discovered his birthday is the same as my daughter’s. That’s just another reason we get along.

It’s fun to have a professional in your life for a long time like this because I get to see his practice grow and develop, sometimes in parallel to my own life.

I recently took the ACE Childhood Trauma test, which gave me a different outlook on some of my experiences. My parents did the best they could, but they had their flaws and their own battles to fight. So between their own struggles and life events they couldn’t control, stuff happened.

I can’t explain why it’s time to face some of this now, but that’s the way things go sometimes. We all come to certain aspects of self awareness in our own time.

On Thursday, I visited my beloved chiropractor, Nicole Jensen at Back in Line, who leveled things out, told me I was stressed and talked with me about different physical therapy stretches I need to do to fight the pain. We both agree that the pattern of pain increases on those certain days in my menstrual cycle.

I came home and ate cake and ice cream for breakfast. Not the best decision as I have been 20 lbs overweight for a year.

I suddenly remembered that Stitch Fix offers employees access to the Ginger Mental Health app. So I made an appointment for an initial consultation for Friday.

My hope was to use Ginger’s coaching to set goals and recreate/spur my discipline and good habits regarding food and exercise. For instance, I haven’t lifted a barbell in a year. I miss strength training. I still think I could be an excellent body builder.

My Ginger coach is Kathryn, who has a master’s degree in social work. Our session, completely done over text, seemed to be two sessions in one.

The first hour, she asked basic questions about me. The second hour we set up a plan of the topics we’d like to address. This week we will start making and implementing goals. It doesn’t always feel like talking to a human, though the occasional grammar or spelling error reassures me that it is a person on the other end.

Some of her thoughts include: “Sounds like a great idea! So in your case, a plan I might suggest would be to start by addressing your feelings of stress, [being] overwhelm[ed], and lack of motivation by incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine, which can help bring some relief from challenging emotions and help you see more clearly how your thoughts and emotions are impacting your behaviors so that you can feel more grounded, intentional, and comfortable being yourself. This can also include exercises centered around relaxation techniques, positive distractions, mindful awareness, developing awareness of triggers (when feeling stressed and/or overwhelmed, taking time to notice what the root cause is and look for a pattern), pattern recognition, scheduling and time management, and identifying and building on your current strengths and resources. We can also discuss accountability/working with providers (i.e. therapist and coach) and explore sleep/exercise/diet as needed.”

A lot of that feels copied and pasted, but it’s okay in my opinion. Sometimes just having someone help you pick a direction or even commit to a new direction can be the change you need.

Also on Friday, our dog F. Bean Barker got spayed at Canyon River Run, a vet we really love.

On Friday night, I learned a new work center at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy— style carding. My colleagues cheered me on in learning this new role and I very much enjoyed it, even when my computer monitor broke and I had to use a computer on another line and lean way over to grab my boxes.

Basically, the associates who “style card,” grab all the completed fixes that come off the QC line and use the packing slip to print a style card that includes a personal note from the stylist and lists each piece in the fix and offers examples of how it can be worn.

Working with anywhere from 6-8 fixes at a time, the “style carder” folds the packing slip and style card and places them into an envelope before returning them to the box.

A quick check that the box is correctly wrapped and the style carder lines up the boxes and shoots them down the table onto a metal conveyer line operated by sensors. This takes the boxes to “OB1” or the outbound/shipping department which inserts the return envelope, tapes the box shut and prepares the boxes for mail pickup.

The pickers assemble 920 items a shift, which breaks down to 184 fixes. Each QC associate folds and packages 130 fixes a shift, each style card associate aims for 900 fixes a shift, and the Bizzy Hizzy itself ships about 6,000 fixes a day.

During this time, our tasks are fairly simple, automated and monotonous so we are allowed to listen to podcasts or music. I’ve used the time to explore a lot of topics via podcasts on Spotify.

Spotify is still a new platform for me and it’s slowly gaining exclusive proprietary rights to a lot of the podcasts I listen to. I heard on several news broadcasts that Spotify paid 60 million for Alex Cooper’s “Call her Daddy” where she talks about sex often with an emphasis on blow jobs.

I listen to her because she has some funny stories of the ridiculous escapades she has had: dating a professional athlete, offering blow jobs as a way to sneak into sporting events, etc. But she also sometimes interviews people— like a retired Playboy bunny who left the Mansion and points out the realities of such sexual exploitation. Alex can be really insightful but she also can misuse her vocal range to try and make the podcast more interesting to listen to and that hurts me ears.

In addition to Kristen Bell, Dax Shepherd, Mayim Bialik, and Conan O’Brien (and in addition to the news and fashion), I searched for cerebral palsy podcasts. From TheMighty.com, I learned that the name “cerebral palsy” is an umbrella term for several brain-related disorders. And I don’t really know anything about which CP I have.

I learned CP can interfere with the neurotransmitter GABA which is why our muscles and our brains don’t communicate effectively. I learned that muscles that don’t get used correctly and don’t get the right messages can stiffen and become spastic. This causes pain and lack of control.

The two main classification differences I have heard are hemiplegia and quadriplegia which you may recognize from the words paraplegic and quadriplegic. These terms explain the parts of the brain/body affected. I would assume I have mild hemiplegic CP, as I think it only affects my lower body. But sometimes I think I see it in my hands so I don’t know. And I think I am low spasticity as I seem to have fairly good muscle control for someone with this disorder.

But I don’t know. So I did what I like to do, on Saturday, I called Nan. If you don’t know Nan from this blog, she is often my partner in crime. She has been blind since birth. Like me, we were raised in able-bodied families and never knew life any other way.

Nan is older than I and, despite her disability, has lived independently for most of her life. She attended college. She married. She has a hobby writing career and attends poetry open mics. She was a teenager when NASA put a man on the moon, but despite having never seen the moon, she has been fascinated and following the advances of NASA ever since.

Nan is closer to my aunt’s generation than mine. My aunt has what would now be referred to as developmental delay, but what was called the now insensitive term “mental retardation” in her day. In school, she didn’t learn what the other kids learned. She had basic reading skills and could add and subtract but never learned to multiply or divide. I know because we used to play school, except I really taught her things.

My aunt, then a few years later Nan, and even a few more years later me, we were all part of 20th centuries advances. Medicine had found ways to help us survive, but technology and society had not discovered ways to help us thrive.

None of us have thick medical files that detail the specifics of what is wrong with us. You were thrown into the mainstream to sink or swim. And if you couldn’t swim, you were institutionalized or kept home. Therefore, families didn’t talk about disability as much as they pushed functionality— they urged us to act as normal as possible and pretend the differences about us were not even noticeable.

I mentioned some of this to my primary care physician when I transferred to his practice more than a decade ago (some friends and my therapist recommended him). At that time he guided me to specialists to explain what is wrong with my specific body, but I am realizing now that he might not know that I know nothing about what my disorder is.

So, also on Saturday, I emailed my doctor. I asked him to help me find someone who can talk to me about cerebral palsy. I know children with the disability in today’s world work with a pediatric neurologist.

And it hasn’t all been work and reflection. My daughter and I got mani/pedis for her birthday/upcoming trip to Cape May. It was our last appointment with “Nails by Bethy” at Hyperion Salon. Beth has a new full time career that should offer her more stability and room for advancement.

We met Beth 12 years ago on the same date she ended her nail career. And the teenager and I got to be her final clients.

And yesterday I tried the new strawberry popping bubbles at Dunkin. I had them in an iced matcha latte. I must say, this is the best matcha latte I ever had at Dunkin but the bubbles had such an artificial strawberry flavor it tasted like someone poured chunks of jello in my drink.

If Dunkin’ wants to capitalize on the boba trend they should stick to normal tapioca.