Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training, has reached new levels of sadism.
I said that (partially) in jest because I love to see his face get that pensive squint when he’s digesting my regular updates of how my body feels and what my other professionals report about its function.
I feel like since my finger recovered from my burst tendon, I’ve reached new heights in stamina and my own strength. Last week, I hit a PR (personal record) with a 35-lb dumbbell row.
And things just feel like they are moving better. I’ve stumbled more than usual, but caught my balance 90 % of the time. I have less pain and I think I understand the pain better.
I’m working out three times a week and doing movements, with support Andrew has designed, like split leg squats that are torture (in a good way) and that I never thought I could do. I even work out after my ten-hour shifts at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.
It’s hard, and exhausting, but I really think it helps get blood flow into all my aching parts and aids my sleep and ultimate recovery.
And today Andrew let me beat the big tire with a mace.
Speaking of Stitch Fix, the company has opted to move the Sunday to Wednesday 10-hour cohort. We get to choose which of the remaining shifts we want to transfer to and I’ll be putting in for the remaining 10-hour cohort, Wednesday to Saturday.
Frankly, the idea of working 5 days a week is horrifying. And I’m not thrilled with the prospect of losing my current shift.
But a warm gluten-free brownie sundae with Ben & Jerry’s cannoli ice cream softened the blow.
I put my underwear on backwards today. All day I kept wondering why my underpants felt so uncomfortable.
This week has been a roller coaster— but isn’t that just the way? People have been telling me I look like I’m loosing weight but I don’t know if that’s true.
The teenager took the dog for a rainy walk at Lafayette College the other day. She sent several very lovely photos.
I have many odds and ends making life out of the ordinary from little foster kitten Jean-Paul Sartre to my dear friend Nan moving from my neighborhood to a senior community.
I ordered a kitchen scale off Target.com to measure Jean-Paul’s growth. He’s up to 1 lb 5 ounces. That was after a big breakfast of pate and kitten milk. He has a hearty appetite and screams for food like any baby does every 4 hours.
He is super inquisitive and smart. He carries tiny toys around in his mouth and plays with our dog, Bean. (Here’s a video.)
Meanwhile, guest fosters Coffee Bean & Pinto Bean are having fun in my room. Khloe and Louise do not like having babies around, but the cockatoo Nala sure does.
For some humor, let’s mention that the Teenager recently discovered that the Morningstar Farms breakfast Pattie’s I have been feeding her for almost two decades are vegetarian. She called her dad to find out if he had been in on this secret.
We never hid that they weren’t real sausages from her and she’s been able to read for a long time. The shock was real, and she’s still talking about it days later.
She didn’t have a chance to go grocery shopping for her nights in the kitchen. I suggested using my Hungryroot ancient grain gluten free pancake mix and the Morningstar sausages. It was a lovely, hearty breakfast-for-dinner. And like she had accused me of when she first discovered my fake breakfast meat, “It was all a lie.”
The teen also got her first fix from Stitch Fix and it came from the warehouse where I work, the Bizzy Hizzy. Click the photo to see her unbox.
Speaking of work, I took voluntary time off on Monday and my stats were 100%, 88% and 98%. Andrew at Apex Training has been working be hard with exercises like split leg squats. My quads feel it. My balance is improving, my aches and pains feel like muscle fatigue and not deeper pain or joint issues. I have caught myself almost falling several times, and can sometimes feel my leg scissoring or even notice my left foot dragging behind before it trips me.
Even my chiropractor, Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center has made comments about how well my body is moving and how things are improving. Today she said my right side was locked up, when it’s usually my left, and that everything went back where it belonged easily.
When I hopped off the table, she told me to look at myself. “I have never seen you stand up with your feet so firmly planted and your poster straight,” she said.
And I felt it, I felt really solid.
So I don’t know if this is where I confess I tried the new Wingstop chicken sandwich. Most of my diet lately has been vegan. But last night I hadn’t had dinner, it was 8 pm and my body was devastated (in that good way). I could barely move after my shower. I considered skipping dinner.
But then I thought about my food intake for the day:
4:30 am: Supercoffee dark roast with half and half
5:30 am: Wawa coffee con lèche (it was a bribe to make myself go get gas)
6:30 to 8:30 am: 20 oz water
9 am: Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast bar and about 3 oz cranberry juice cocktail
9:30 to 11:30 am: 20 oz water
12:15 pm: quinoa with roast zucchini, white beans and my home canned roasted tomatoes, 6 oz Diet Pepsi
2 to 5 pm: 20 oz water
5:30 pm: sunflower seeds
6 pm: 12 oz cucumber water
I thought a chicken sandwich would be good for protein and I saw the commercial for Wingstop’s new chicken sandwich on Hulu. It was good, not as big as I thought a sandwich from a chicken joint would be— but to be able to slather any sauce from their menu on our was really cool. I had a mango habanero sandwich and a side order of the honey hot rub boneless wings. It hit the spot.
Despite high heat and humidity and a general lazy attitude, I drag my ass to the gym three times a week.
I’m feeling good. Gaining strength. Still not losing weight but the stamina is improving and body parts seem to be gaining definition.
My fitness coach Andrew at Apex Training and my chiropractor and physical therapy guru Nicole Jensen at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center had a lovely conversation on social media that tickled my heart.
But then… a strange incident happened today that I take as a compliment. I was walking home from the gym when a stranger stopped me.
“I don’t mean to be all up in your business,” this stranger said to me on the street, “but you seem to not be limping. You used to really favor that one leg.”
Ummmmm… I know my town is small but I didn’t know it was that small.
That reminded me of a list I made the other day. I was thinking about what I would do to improve my fitness if I had more resources. And that should be considered self-care.
And I’m proud that I’ve made a financial and personal commitment to my training, even if I haven’t had the same discipline with my diet.
So here’s my unorthodox approach to maintaining my physical and mental health… if I had more resources.
In addition to my personal training and regular chiropractic care, I would pursue:
hot yoga. I’ve heard it is fantastic for stretching and relaxing the muscles.
Private dance lessons. My doctors and physical therapists keep telling me about stretching, and at one point I was doing these video tap-dance lessons at home. The foot movements in the tap steps are exactly what my doctors tell me to do. But more fun.
Massages. This is another one of those things they recommend for spastic muscles.
Facials. Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition so I need to make sure that I balance not only my physical health but my stress levels, too.
Professional Nail Care. Regular manicures would keep my confidence strong. And foot health is extremely important. And I need help trimming and maintaining my toe nails.
Chiropractic care. So, I go to the chiropractor every one to two weeks. It’s pretty much the one thing that provides relief to my achy joints and stiff muscles. But I would love to have a regular weekly appointment that I didn’t have to worry about payment.
Mental health therapy. I have an appointment with my therapist about every six weeks, but that’s another one I would like to be more frequent. Because of my mindset “slips,” my physical health will follow.
Competitive sports. If I had more resources, or perhaps had a job that didn’t demand so much physicality from my body, I would love to commit to a strength sport or to running a 5K with a coach to guide me.
Food. I love food shopping and I enjoy cooking. I just wish it were easier to afford the right kinds of food that nourish, maintain and heal the body.
I did (I think) 105% on Sunday at work, 105% yesterday and woke up stiff and with my right quad tight and spasms in my calf. I only did 93% today, but I feel better now. And the dip in numbers had more to do with some chaos in the warehouse versus my cerebral palsy issues.
Regardless, I must admit I was a little relieved yesterday when my fitness coach Andrew from Apex Training postponed my workout.
The teenager proposed going to Applebee’s for dinner, her treat, as she didn’t feel like cooking. She also demanded I order a cocktail as I think she wanted to make sure I drifted off to bed as early as possible. (8 p.m.)
The teenager loves Applebee’s— for a child raised in all sorts of Mom & Pop restaurants where we often knew the owners, she certainly loves her boring old franchise Applebee’s.
I realized that if you took any item with chicken tenders away from the menu, you’d lose more than half the meals available. And if you didn’t want bacon on your hamburger, you had three choices: the quesadilla burger (which we got), the plain old burger and the Beyond veggie burger (which was $14 and came with nothing but lettuce, tomato and pickle).
The quesadilla burger was a mish-mash delight (I chose my margarita for the artificial Latin theme) but had to be eaten with a knife and fork.
When I arrived home, Opie and Fog (two of our personal cats) joined Khloe and Louise (foster cats) and Nala (Goffin’s cockatoo) and Yo-yo (parakeet) in my room for the night. Fog tries so hard to be Louise’s friend— and she is slowly (after more than a year) getting braver and more confident.
Finally, for those that are wondering… I ruptured my tendon in my ring finger April 15 and had “mallet finger” and a cast for nine weeks. My specialist released me July 25 and expressed his disappointment that my finger was still a little off.
I use my hands so much at work, so I still splint at night. I must say it feels like and looks like the finger is getting stronger and straighter every day.
It’s just about to turn 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The last 48 hours have been emotionally difficult, and those are internal challenges I have resolved within myself but now I need to “make right” in the world.
My good friend Joan (the talented photographer) had quipped that the moon is in “Frustrato” phase and perhaps that is accurate.
Sometimes it’s nice to blame the universe instead of accepting our part in the mayhem. Because even good intentions spark fires.
I heard a podcast yesterday; I believe it was an economic one, that asked if one host was “a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy.” He replied, “it’s just half.”
That’s too much enigma and philosophy for pre-dawn hours. Blame the fact that my trusty espresso machine only filled half my mug.
The teenager and I had 14 kittens in the house Saturday, Sunday and Monday offering temporary lodging for these babies whose official Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab foster families have gone on summer vacation.
They were so much fun to have around, but 11 went home last night. This led the Teenager’s officially adopted foster fail Mars of the Roman Pride distraught that his friends had gone. He screamed until the Teenager released him into “gen pop” where he plopped himself down in front of the remaining visitors.
On Friday, I had a rather grueling session at Apex Training with my coach Andrew. We did some intense work on balance and single leg muscle stability. On Saturday, the communication between my brain and my lower body felt rickety (for lack of a better description) and it was challenging to move. By Sunday, the movement felt smoother but my phone was registering spikes in walking asymmetry. But something very interesting happened Monday— I could not only stand on one leg, but I could also hold my leg in a few seconds of a quad stretch.
Yesterday, I visited the Stitch Fix employee store, which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario. I bought myself jewelry on an impulse and discovered my second holes could still accept earrings. As someone who really grew up in the 80s and graduated high schools in the 1990s, I have three sets of holes in my ears.
I bought the Teenager some new things, including some warm hiking style boots for fall and her dog walks. I bought myself an adorable pair of shorts, and I picked one size up from my pre-existing Stitch Fix clothes and they were too small.
Obviously my efforts to reduce my recent (as in pandemic era) weight gain have been not sincere enough. Sigh. I’m trying to eat better and move more without falling into a strict/restrictive mindset.
But I did eat an entire medium pizza from Domino’s the other night. It was a medium hand-tossed crust, light on the cheese, light on the garlic Alfredo sauce with red peppers and pineapple.
On the way home from work last night, I noticed that the furniture store looked abandoned— and that the sign merely said urn.
In the background of all of this, the ‘cat book’ from Parisian Phoenix has hit some unexpected difficulties prompting a delay in its production. But my quick thinking, after a few hours of pondering, have inspired an interim release of a mini cat book featuring advice and stories about the care of cats. The larger book will come later, perhaps in early 2023.
In the meantime, I am very puzzled why my sweet tripod foster Louise has decided to crate herself.
And the most surprising item of the day was receiving my first catalog for Parisian Phoenix Publishing— Uline junk mail!
I suppose the last update is that the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs have cashed my check for the application fee. I’m anxiously awaiting contact.
To say life has been hectic feels like an understatement.
Sometimes, these entries feel repetitive. I hope they don’t feel like that to you, the reader. But, in many ways, life is certainly repetitive.
Whether it be the old house always needs attention, the dog is always sick, a struggle with weight, mental or physical illness, a bad boss or money problems, each of us seems to have that troubling thing with which we grapple.
If you don’t have that thing, I would love to read your memoir (or maybe not— I might throw it across the room).
So if you keep stopping by or my blog posts keep popping up somewhere in your life, I know I’ve been talking about cerebral palsy a lot. It’s that thing for me, especially right now, as I topple through the second half of my forties.
I have spend most of my life— until the last decade really— denying that that thing made my life difficult. I laughed off accidents, tried to hide my legs, carefully picked my shoes and didn’t talk about it.
But also, and very important in the chronology, until that point, it hadn’t really been an issue. I occasionally feel down, scraped some knees and hands and laughed about it.
But then I started breaking bones, having issues with my spine and hip, and when I fall now, it’s more serious that wash up some scraped flesh and laugh it off.
So, if you don’t already realize, these blog posts are meant to be informative for those seeking situations involving demiplegic spastic cerebral palsy, but also chronicle my acceptance and journey into how to live my life with my disability instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.
We’re learning to co-exist, cerebral palsy and I, in a way that allows me to stay active, be whole, and keep myself safe.
On Monday, I had an uncharacteristic fall at work that seemed to come randomly out of nowhere. I wrote about it here. It scared me because it didn’t feel like my other falls.
I left work at 11 a.m. and came home to rest and write and emotionally decompress. I was scheduled to go to the gym at 6 p.m.
I texted Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training. He moved my session to earlier in the day and The Teenager and F. Bean Barker accompanied me to the gym to study my walking and confer with Andrew about the possibility of a work out.
We scarcely made it two blocks and The Teen says, “Holy Shit, Mom. You’re right knee is hitting your left leg. You can’t feel that?”
She proceeds to mimic my gait. After half a block, she looks back at me and says, “No wonder your body hurts so much all the time, my hip is killing me already.”
It might seem mocking for her to imitate me on a city street, but for me it’s helpful since I can’t see myself move. That’s why I also like her accompanying me to various assessments as she has no problem telling doctors, “She’s having a good day today. When she’s tired that leg is much fuckier.”
She and Andrew studied me and they stared in bewilderment. They agreed that my left hip was definitely out-of-whack. The Teen left and Andrew got me stretching and doing a thorough workout that safely challenged the muscles that seemed to be malfunctioning.
As happened on Monday when I was achy, the workout made me feel better (which is why I didn’t want to cancel). I have never been good at not overdoing it, so the concept of “being gentle with myself” as my therapist says and “taking it easy” (both emotionally and physically) as my dad would remind me if he were still here, does not come easily to me. It’s especially hard because spasticity means my muscles don’t relax, so motion and exercise really can relieve my symptoms. But if my issues are joint and/or fatigue related exercise can make it worse. And I don’t often know which course of action will help.
I proposed this theory to Andrew: Since cerebral palsy means the brain and the nervous system can’t always communicate, I feel like sometimes those messages goes haywire. That’s when a good, supervised workout (where Andrew can guide my motions and direct me as to what body parts are doing unnatural things) helps my brain re-learn those communication skills. The muscles start to do what they should do because I am thinking consciously about how to do it, which helps the muscles get into the groove, and from there muscle memory takes over, and through doing, the brain resets.
Just my theory.
I woke up Thursday morning with minimal discomfort from my fall (and a new lump and bruise where I walked into a weight bench at the gym, which made Andrew feel terrible). I was looking forward to my appointment with Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center on College Hill in Easton, Pa.
Her daughter had joined her in the office. That made it interesting to have a different kind of conversation about my condition. I was a good example of two things: every patient is different and some patients have self-awareness about their body. And according to Nicole, I am one of the most self-aware in the practice. I was also an unusual example of someone who often “does better” in heels because of the fact that my heel parts (tendons? ligaments?) are so tight. I’m a toe-walker. My heels natural fall at an angle so a slight “kitten” heel replicates the shape of my feet.
I told Nicole about the latest “random” fall and this worried her, because she’s noticed (and I have tracked on a calendar) that my falls have gone from every six weeks to every two weeks. I mentioned that I applied for a mobility service dog through Susquehanna Service Dogs. She loved this. She agrees that I am the perfect candidate for this and that a dog could be a game changer.
I explained that I had mailed the application last week (Friday to be exact) and that The Teenager and Little Dog’s Mom had said they would write my letters of support (which means they support the placement of the dog with me and will take responsibility for making sure I take proper care of the dog once it is in my home). The Teenager planted the idea of a service dog in my head and it took some time, research and more falls to help me accept the idea that I have a disability and that a dog would be able not only to help, but would probably improve (and protect) my quality of life. The Teenager works for a local pet care company.
Little Dog’s Mom has known me for 20 years, trusts me to care for Her Ladyship Sobaka, and is a very responsible dog owner who takes often thrice-daily walks and has a magnificent fenced back yard. A potential service dog would have my small yard for potty breaks and the opportunity to run and play across the street at Little Dog’s house.
My doctor’s office assured me that if I bring the medical assessment form with me to my August 19 check-in, that my primary care physician would not only fill out the form but he would also do it while I was there. I asked my estranged husband of twenty years (and The Teen’s father), the president of the cat rescue where I foster (who left the social work business after decades to open Apricity Pet Care), and my therapist (who has known me for a decade and whose wife is a physical therapist) to fill out the personal reference forms. They all agreed. But back to the chiropractor…
Nicole also said to stand on one foot throughout the day to stabilize my leg muscles. Physical therapy is a fascinating science, the simplest movements can impose the greatest change. My blind friend Nancy discovered that a good portion of her shoulder pain and finger numbness stemmed from not stretching her neck up. As a blind person, she never has a need to turn her head toward the sky or ceiling or someone speaking from the stairs or seeking something on the top shelf by looking for it.
When her very clever physical therapist suggested stretching her neck regularly, her symptoms decreased significantly.
There it is. A lot of words. A lot of thoughts. I’m hoping this post will give you food for thought, reassure you that I am not totally a disaster waiting to happen and/or offer you information on my journey and hope for you if you need it.
It’s Wednesday. That’s my Friday. Wednesday is typically both hectic and easy at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy (Pennsylvania warehouse).
I’ve been performing at 100% all week— probably 106% yesterday— and my body has been protesting. A lot of dull pain and stiffness. I was honest with Andrew, my fitness and strength coach at Apex Training, that I have been struggling with my leg and spine.
So, Monday night, coincidentally the only day I worked a full-hour shift this week, I went to the gym but only focused on upper body. And I felt so much better and woke up as close to I get to ready to take over the world.
And yesterday, Tuesday, I excelled at work and came home stiff but still had an enjoyable evening. I thought it might be a good idea to take one of my muscle relaxers. It’s not a strong dose, but I hoped that they would ease the stiffness and allow by body to recover.
I woke up dragging, but managed to pull myself together. I had a cup of coffee and did what I could around the house. Put on my new cat leggings from Purr Haus. More about that here. (And I believe women of a certain age should not wear graphic prints on their bums and I am in that category. I have ventured outside my comfort zone.) Grabbed my lunch out of the fridge and left for work.
Went into the building, said hello to my friends and colleagues in the main break room. Walked down the central aisle with my big yellow purse and in the middle of the room, with open space everywhere and with no one and nothing near me, I face-planted onto the hard, austere floor.
On of my Monday through Friday colleagues came to help me up. I stood tall. Went to the cubby holes where we store our stuff and put my purse down. I took my water bottle and went to the bathroom and the water filling station.
I had just lived that scene in every underdog teen movie or television show. You know the one— where the dork gets tripped by the cool kid and throws their lunch tray across the room.
In the bathroom, I noticed that I ripped my brand new pants. I had scraped my knee but no bleeding.
I went back to the break room and couldn’t stop myself from crying. One of my colleagues, part of “the Sunday cohort” with me, gave me a light hug while I collected myself, assured me the pants could be repaired, and made me laugh.
When I got to my table for the day, I noticed that not only did my thumb hurt, but I had a tiny bruise under my fingernail.
I went to my supervisor and asked if I could leave at 11 instead of 3. The whole incident has me upset.
The falling is easy. Hell, getting up and doing what you have to is easy. But the fear is getting to me. The fear of when the next fall will come, how it will happen and what will happen to me clouds my brain.
I started my day by leaving the house at 7:15 a.m. to visit my friends the phlebotomists at Quest Diagnostics. With my history of anemia and fluctuating iron & vitamin D levels, I tend to get iron & vitamin D checks with my annual bloodwork.
My vitamin D was low during my January 2021 physical (22) so I started adding vitamin D + calcium supplements to my diet. With my multi & my slow release iron.
By June, that had jumped to 32. I stayed that level for the next six months. Today’s test would see if I had gained more— 30 is considered normal.
I started laundry before I left so I could wear my new cat t-shirt. I had a much anticipated meeting with social activist-journalist Dawn Heinbach scheduled for the afternoon at Cracker Barrel, a location I thought would be convenient as she lives several counties away. She submitted some material for the Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money anthology. I had some books she wanted. I know she’s a cat person so I knew she would love my French pun cat shirt.
When I got home from Quest, I made an egg sandwich and took a photo to my artist friend Maryann whose mixed media postcards appeared in Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money. She thinks all my food photographs are well-played and pleasingly styled. I told her she’ll have to come for dinner.
I put the laundry in the dryer and eventually changed into my cat shirt. I did some paperwork before I picked up my good friend Nancy to provide a ride to the doctor. Nancy is my poetry editor at Parisian Phoenix Publishing and she’s blind. She keeps me in line both with my writing and my business and occasionally has to make sure I’m facing my disability in an intelligent fashion.
While at the doctor’s office a very senior citizen’s phone went off. The ring tone was the opening notes of Usher’s “Yeah.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. He looked mortified. Did a grandchild prank him?
I finished Tylia Flores’ Handi-Capable while in the waiting room. I posted a review on Amazon.
We did a couple other Nancy errands and I pointed out I needed gas in the car, and asked if she’d mind a detour to Wawa. I think Nan made out on that one as she went home sign a turkey sandwich, some sour cream and onion potato chips and some half-and-half iced tea/lemonade.
Somehow the two of us can do absolutely nothing but laugh while doing it.
I spent the afternoon blogging and catching up on some work for the business before it was time to go to Fogelsville for my early dinner.
The sky opened, as they say.
I told Dawn I would hang out in those amazing Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. I didn’t know it would be in a deluge.
Luckily I had my umbrella in my car.
The servers came out and danced in the rain. An old man complimented my Eiffel Tower umbrella and said he and his wife were going there next.
Ever the grammar nerd, I said, “really? From Cracker Barrel right to Paris? I hope you love it.”
Dawn and I had a superb conversation about what journalism should be, and she lives in the geographic region served by my protege at Berks-Mont newspapers. We talked cats— and she did like the cat shirt. And my turkey dinner was disappointing but Dawn and I chatted for two hours. We shared a cup of coffee after dinner before going our separate ways.
I bought the teen a Scooby Doo mug and myself a coconut peanut butter candy that tasted like toffee both in flavor and mouth feel.
On the way home, my 2015 jetta played a horrible prank on me. The gas gauge and miles per gallon/miles until empty screens didn’t display any information. Luckily I got gas with Nan so I knew I had plenty. On the highway. 26 miles away from home.
Upon reaching home, I took care of some correspondence and received an update from my doctor. My vitamin D is now 37!