For the last 24 hours, the teenager and I celebrated the arrival of spring with my college roommate, Curly, so nicknamed by my now deceased father.
The visit allowed us to be something akin to a spiritual family unit— as the teenager has a godmother type relationship with Curly that has fallen to the wayside for the last decade plus, but if grief and death can have a good side, it allowed Curly and I to reconnect.
The three of us are not quite a coven, as we are too informal and not the Wiccan type, but our pagan witchy souls share beliefs, energy and a history with tarot cards.
Compounding this holiday celebration (as the teenager called it) was the fact that the teenager had a robotic baby for the weekend as part of her childcare and development class.
Upon Curly’s arrival, we chatted and got as organized as we ever do and then went for a walk at the Karl Stirner Arts Trail with the baby and F. Bean Barker.
We, or shall I say the teenager and Curly, then consumed a ridiculous amount of sushi and related products at Jasmine Sushi Hibachi and Thai.
And then fighting a fish-induced coma and a crying plastic baby, we parted ways for the evening to meet again in the morning. Curly baked blueberry muffins while the teenager and I met up with Andrew at Apex Training so I could challenge my lower body and do some bench press. The teenager maintained her 95-pound bench press, while I, the old and feeble, peaked somewhere at 80 or 85.
What does any of this have to do with Ostara and the vernal equinox? Throughout the evening we had talked about intentions and goals. Today we set them.
For all of us, the themes became clear. Spring is the time to blossom— to take the intentions we had set earlier and make them bear fruit. Our goals involved relationships, health, creativity and balance. Those are all very strong “spring” ideas.
We took the baby for a walk downtown and I had so much fun exploring downtown Easton with an outsider’s eye and celebrating so many of my favorite spots. From the teenager’s favorite shops, to new stores, to old stand-bys like Mercantile Home, Bella’s Dog Cafe, Three Birds Coffee House, Carmelcornand Easton Public Market.And we dipped deeper into other places like Smartivities and saw art by some of our favorite artists.
With thousands of steps under our belt, we returned to my house for a feast of leftovers (and despite more than 7,000 steps IN HEELS I was still going strong with no pain).
And we settled down for our ritual.
And at one point I asked Curly if the rooster could join our ritual and she said yes. After all, chickens are very symbolic of spring themes.
The energy was powerful in the room, and the ritual allowed me to reset and focus some ideas.
And when it was done— we shared chocolate dipped potato chips from Carmelcorn andmacaroons from Cocodiem.
We shared passion fruit, crème brûlée, honey lavender, dark chocolate, pistachio and Earl grey. Very delightful.
Today was my 69th session at Apex Training. The teenager and I did our first workout with Andrew, as Dan is taking some time with his family.
Now I don’t like change (who does?), but once I get comfortable with it, I can embrace it.
So the teenager and I met with Greg and Andrew at the gym last week and discussed our goals and got to know each other a little better.
And today we had our first session. I have to say Andrew did a great job ascertaining how my body moved and giving me some low impact exercises that would target my problem muscles.
Then he worked with the teenager on her powerlifting form.
And I was reminded that while I was very comfortable and enthusiastic with Dan, that the shift to working with Andrew is offering some fresh perspective and new ideas. That pushes me out of some potential ruts I may have created in my fitness routines.
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.
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.
I don’t have many plans this weekend— defined by my work schedule as Thursday, Friday and Saturday— in part because my body has been unpredictable, the weather has been crazy and the teenager’s work schedule varies.
I went to the chiropractor at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, leaving work 30 minutes early to get the last appointment of the day. I wanted Dr. Jensen to see my body after four ten-hour shifts in Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.
And, for the second or third week in a row, I could barely crawl home on Tuesday night but felt pretty good on Wednesday. So I feel like I’m not getting closer to solutions to my physical issues.
Yesterday I tried to do some work for Parisian Phoenix, did a lot of laundry, visited briefly with a friend I’ve missed and haven’t seen merely enough of, taught a high school student how to write a press release, watched several episodes of Cobra Kai, ran the dishwasher and went to the gym.
The teenager did a lot of work on her squat form while I did some accessory work. I also weighed myself— 157 lbs. Sigh. Still 20 pounds overweight.
Then we had Taco Bell, including the new Cinnabon balls.
Today I worked on the index for the Parisian Phoenix nonfiction anthology on marginalized identities, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix web site later tonight. F. Bean Barker was my helper.
Indexing is only half complete and man does it allow me to interact with the text in new ways.
Louise has an appointment with a potential adopter tomorrow and today she was quite cuddly, video here. I don’t know how she’ll do in the backroom of PetSmart but all least we’ll be with her.
In the afternoon, I accompanied the teenager to her audiologist appointment for a tune-up on her hearing aids.
Then we went for shoes. The teenager needed some and I wanted to buy a warmer pair that fit more loosely — hoping that would ease the blistering and burning in my toes.
The teenager got new black Vans and a new design, the orange blossom Vans.
We ran into Target just to use the bathroom and I told the pouty teenager we could get a drink at Sonic. But turns out Sonic is still drive through only, so if you can’t have drive-in service what’s the point of visiting Sonic?
So we went to Sheetz, and had appetizers. Which would have been fine if the teenager hadn’t suggested going to see her grandmother, my mother-in-law. And her aunt— who recently destroyed her elbow falling on the ice.
We’re finishing Captain America: Civil War right now. The ice is slowly building up outside as the cold rolls into town. And Peter Parker just made his debut in the series.
So, as a former journalist, I could easily write a summary of every day like a nice newspaper column and post it. I could probably even manage to maintain my sense of humor, style, and tendency to find joy in the ridiculously ordinary.
But this week, every word I wrote felt repetitious. Or perhaps every word I wanted to write felt like it had been done before.
And maybe it has. Because so much of life goes that way. The same struggles, the same events, and often the same answers. And we repeat the cycle over and over probably for two reasons.
It’s hard to break a habit.
And growth, the kind of change that comes from embracing a lesson, presents its own difficulties.
In today’s blog, I’m going to do a generic update, and I’m honestly not sure if any of this is repeating myself. But do you know what? Repeating myself is okay. This is a small droplet in the vast waters of the internet and there’s always the possibility someone hasn’t heard it before and may need to hear it today.
Are you listening?
All eyes on me.
Topics to come in this entry: Update on my cerebral palsy and quest to end my chronic back pain, weight training with the teenager with Dan at Apex, emotional eating, review of Purple Carrot’s vegan Thanksgiving dinner box, and the requisite animal photos.
This week’s personal training at Apex:
I know I frequently mention how amazing the trainers at Apex are. One of their strengths (weight training pun there) is to recognize the needs of each client and to match the client with the right trainer. I’m obviously not in the whiny white women who primarily want to lose weight category, and that’s how I ended up with Dan. As Dan has the unofficial knowledge of a physical therapist (because he’s had enough accidents to know the patient side of it) and he has the curiosity to read, research and think. With my cerebral palsy this is important. Dan has the observational skill to read my knees and lower body to know if it’s a bodyweight/calisthenics kind of day or a weight training day. And this is important so you can build range of motion and flexibility and not get hurt.
Anyway, Dan has been kind enough to let the teenager join my training sessions. I love throwing weights around but lack the personal discipline to do it on my own this time around. And the teenager has a natural muscle tone and build that makes her perfect for powerlifting. But she hates dumbbells and she hates routine and discipline. So as long as we tell her to go throw around that heavy object she’s fine.
And today she deadlifted 135 lbs as if it weren’t even a challenge. I honestly think she could have done 150 lbs easily.
I think I kept up with her through 115. I only did three at 115 because I was really afraid I would blow out my knees. A deadlift when executed correctly utilizes the lower body, and the weight actually (once I get warmed up) helps me lower my butt in the squatting portion, but since my knees tend to point sharply inward, I have to adjust my stance to compensate. While the main gist of the lift is to pull the weight along the shin and lift into the hips and use the legs to support the weight as the hips straighten and thrust outward with the tightening of the glutes, in my case, I have to force my knees to stay in the proper position facing my toes and not each other.
As I start to lift heavier, the dull ache in my spine is a reminder to lift the weight with my legs and not my back. I place my feet in position, point my toes slightly out and stretch my knees in line with them. And, for lack of a better description, I lock them in place and while lifting the barbell I have to concentrate on keeping my knees from turning inward. Because if they would suddenly snap where they want to be, I could not only blow out a knee but also potentially lose balance.
So I did three.
In related news, physical therapy update:
Yesterday I finally had my physical therapy appointment with the proper physical therapist now that neurology has confirmed that my balance and brain are fine. Much to my pleasant surprise, I had the same physical therapist that treated my initial bouts with back pain three years ago. He was at a different physical therapy office, then, and came recommended by my doctor as the guy who really knew back issues. What makes this a funny but pleasant coincidence is the fact that I chose this physical therapy branch because my blind friend Nancy is going there and I thought we could combine appointments and I could help her with rides.
What did my physical therapist Jeff say? Basically, that I need to do yoga. He has me doing “press-ups” 5 times a day for 10 reps. At least to start this week. Last time I had physical therapy with him, he started me super light and then made the exercises ten times harder when I returned in a week. “Press-ups” are cobra pose in yoga. I used to do yoga daily. It always seems like physical therapists are always telling me to do more of what I already or what I used to do.
Confession time, emotional eating:
My weight is 160lbs. This upsets me greatly. When I had gestational diabetes at six months pregnant I was 169. I was 142 on the day I brought the teenager home from the hospital and 142 for most of her toddler years. When I finally decided I needed to get my weight under control and regain strength after breaking my right hand while working at Target, I lost 30 lbs in 6 weeks. I lost too much weight too quickly and then gained weight while strength training and got ripped. Over the years, I found a set point at 135, where I could maintain muscle but be more relaxed about eating.
But then, my marriage ended. My boss at the job that allowed me to separate from my husband and support myself turned out to be a sociopath. I mean that in the kindest way possible. She was very sweet, and driven, and perfection-oriented but she had no empathy, no flexibility and no patience for any way other than hers. No views allowed other than her beliefs. This led to high blood pressure and I honestly had no energy left to take care of myself. When she fired me, it took six months for unemployment benefits to determine she was in the wrong. The pandemic was underway by then (Summer 2019). I lived on my savings, a total of $4,500, and foodstamps that kicked in three months after I lost my job.
And this was also when I ended up in the hospital for an infected cat bite and took in a second teenager who lived with us for nine months without her parents contributing to her care.
I mention this only because it is why I lost my discipline. Why I stopped caring for myself like I used to. It was easy and fun to go to McDonalds for a $1 Diet Coke and a $1 McChicken. Cheap dinner.
I thought I would turn this around when I started “picking” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I walked 17,000 steps a night in the warehouse, grabbing clothes. But then I caught Covid-19. And my stamina never bounced back. So now I fold clothes. Which killed my back.
Even though I had a delightful Thanksgiving, with vegan recipes I prepared from Purple Carrot and leftover pie and wine from my in-law’s meal, I “ruined” it by drinking a big glass of wine yesterday with about 1200 calories of Trolli gummy worms. And then I tell myself, “Well, at least they had protein, iron and calcium.”
And finally, the Purple Carrot Box:
I’ve only made about half the box. The rest is still in the fridge.
I made the Purple Carrot “sausage” stuffing, vegan thyme gravy and cranberry sauce. The thyme gravy was better than I expected as I am not a gravy person. I added local granny smith apples and herbs de provence to the stuffing. The stuffing began life as caibatta rolls, root vegetables, and Fieldstone vegetarian sausage. Let me say again, if you haven’t heard it before, that the Fieldstone vegetarian sausages are amazing. The fact that they come wrapped tight in plastic “skin” casings annoys me, but they are very tasty.
I hope this weekend to partake in some fun activities and lighthearted blog posts, but I also need to do some administrative work for my publishing company, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.
My second novel in the Fashion and Fiends series, Courting Apparitions, releases officially November 29 (my co-founder’s birthday) and could possibly be available Black Friday. Like, damn, when did that happen?
On everyday life and health front, I went to the chiropractor yesterday and like my doctor she approved of my new technique of changing work tables to try and even out my sides. I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up my prescription for muscle relaxer. I also made my last Purple Carrot meal in the fridge: mango glazed roasted vegetables with tahini butter.
Worked went mediocre/well. The night seemed long and boring and I felt like I was getting used to my body again after the chiropractor. I QCed at about 83%.
I came home and several cats were waiting for me— including Minerva, a sweet foster who started in our second foster litter of kittens, The Roman Pride.
I took a muscle relaxer to see how it impacted my pain and my morning stiffness. It didn’t make me loopy and I think it helped with my tossing and turning.
I only got six and a half hours of sleep last night, but still managed to meet up with the teenager my trainer Dan at Apex Training to lift some weights. I felt so much more limber after. The teenager easily did 105 on the barbell deadlift and 95 on the squat. I could lift the 105 but not execute the lift. My squat form is still adjusted for my limited range of motion in my lower body so I maxed out at 85 while the teen hardly had to put any effort into it.
I haven’t written in a while and I may keep this one skeletal.
I called out sick from work on Thursday and skipped my workout as I woke up in the same pain I had when I went to bed.
I thought I would rest in bed with my laptop and work more on the Parisian Phoenix website, my erotica collection, or even book four of the Fashion and Fiends series, Road Trip.
But instead I had my first Big Mac ever (which is especially odd since I worked my way through college at a McDonalds), ate too much candy and slept for 12 hours straight. The cats did not know what to make of that.
Are you curious how I responded to the Big Mac? See that here.
Friday I moved a little slow but still got decent numbers in QC folding clothes and after work ate too many cheese curls.
But, in my defense, they were amazing cheese curls— sour cream and cheddar— that I found at my local Dollar Tree.
Speaking of food, I also made my final Green Chef meal. Video here. I cheated a bit, adding beef tips, and forgot the pecans and the vegan aioli but it still tasted great.
Tonight I made Purple Carrot’s Fieldstone sausages with roasted fingerling potatoes and vegetables. Another great dish. I also made a side of “leftover sauce” pasta, mixing up every scrap from the fridge.
This morning, the teenager and I met up with Dan at Apex training and I did some lower body while Dan taught the teen to do barbell squats. He started by giving her the bar and evaluating her form and then he gave her some weight.
I think she used some muscles in her knees and legs that she has never used before, not with that range of motion. Let’s just say she was walking like me on the way home.
Then we treated ourselves to some egg sandwiches, grabbed the dog and went to the Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab Yard sale and cake auction. The child spent all my money— but we didn’t buy any cake. She got dog supplies and the massive dog now has a mermaid flotation device and a puffer jacket. And I have my third tea pot in two years. The teenager kills my tea pots.
Even the cats got goodies. See the new water fountain here.
I never saw a cake auction before and it was certainly more fun than the livestock auctions I’ve seen.
The dog was so tired she couldn’t keep her eyes open in the car on the way home.
Then I came home and made a video I’ve been putting off. I kept planning to get a little dressed up, do my makeup, set up a cozy spot on the sunporch and made a video of me reading a little of my novel.
Instead, I did it in sweatpants on the couch with the dog. See it here.
So good morning all, and I have to say it’s a gorgeous Saturday and I had another great workout at Apex Training with my trainer Dan.
The photo is actually from Thursday’s workout, taken by Dan so I could tag #NickBestStrongman on social media, which I did and his official Instagram account started following me.
But today, the teenager got up early and came with me to the gym. The teenager is super strong and very balanced with the use of her body, full of power, so I wanted her to have the chance to really lift.
I think she’d be an amazing powerlifter.
And she did most of my weights at the gym today without breaking a sweat. Flexibility is her weakness. Balance is mine. Well, other than the cerebral palsy.
The teenager and I did a barbell bench press of 55 pounds, and did some hex deadlifts as well.
I came home and had an almost vegan breakfast— cream of wheat, vanilla soy milk, fresh artisan cashew butter from The Peanut Company in Cape May, dried blueberries, chia seeds and the one animal product, local honey. That was so delicious.