The Kit and Kaboodle Update

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.

  1. It’s hard to break a habit.
  2. 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?

Fosters: Touch of Grey, Mars and Minerva. Information on how to adopt them at http://www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

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.

Random photo of Nala the Goffin with foster cat Touch of Grey

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.

Let’s Be Average Today

I am in my 40s, and struggling with the effects of a life of always walking crooked thanks to cerebral palsy, a disability I have but, until recently, have known nothing about.

And issues in my spine, while not serious, are affecting my mobility and causing me pain.

But today— in part because we only worked until 7:30 pm at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy— I woke up well rested, only minimally stiff and only minimally hurting. At 8 am no less.

Our charming mutt F. Bean Barker refused to go to bed in the teenager’s room last night because one of our fosters, a former community cat named Georgie, intimidated her. Bean expected me to let her sleep in my room and when I said no she retreated to her crate in the living room. So I let her spend the night. I have spent a lot of time with this dog in the last 24 hours.

I tied a rope around her tire toy gifted to her by my trainer, Dan, at Apex Training and now it’s the best toy ever. See video here.

I was the first one out of bed which meant a swarm of hungry cats outside my door, and I couldn’t keep them all at bay. It was easier to let them in. But our foster Mars totally knows how to knock over the birdcage. Which he did. While I was on the phone with my blind friend Nan and consuming my first cup of coffee.

Nan recently started physical therapy for an issue in her shoulder causing pain and finger numbness. The physical therapist had never worked with a blind client before and was a quick study. He even discovered that some of Nan’s issue might be mobility issues in her neck— because when you’re blind you don’t have many reasons to turn your head or look up and down.

Finally, things settle down and while the parakeet is out he is safe. The teenager and I head to Apex where she gets that barbell and deadlifts 135 lbs. I still felt good at that point.

I came home, showered, and filmed this silly video with Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo.

And then the matriarch from la Familia Velez stopped by and brought me chili which I had for a late breakfast and we talked about marketing for my Fashion and Fiends books. And my goals for Parisian Phoenix in general.

She left, and I finished proofing Darrell Parry’s soon-to-be released poetry book. I placed a few more essays in the nonfiction identity anthology.

And the poor teenager has had a hectic and exhausting couple days— so I cooked.

She has options for dinner when she returns from the diner. She’s given notice at the diner as she has accepted employment with a local pet care company.

First I made sausage and peppers to put over spaghetti.

Then I also made the Purple Carrot Peanut Tofu Stir Fry which I jazzed up with some edamame and sesame sticks.

Mostly I am just sitting around marveling at how pain free I feel. I miss that.

Food box blunders, ear infections and a good workout

I’m feeling exceedingly optimistic today.

I “fixed” my roomba, had a therapy session that left me sobbing in my psychologist’s office, had an incredible workout (full body as I will be traveling this weekend, but we did a lot of work on hip mobility), and cooked.

The business cards for Parisian Phoenix came in. Thanks to my trusty business partner Gayle.

Perhaps the chaos of earlier this week is finally settling down.

Seen in downtown Easton

So, last Saturday I got my regular Hungryroot order. And Tuesday was Purple Carrot. I wasn’t going to get a box from them this week but they had West African Peanut Stew on the menu.

And then I got a text that Green Chef was on the way.

I promptly canceled Green Chef so there would be no more surprises as they were my least favorite. But that box was on the way.

It arrived yesterday after I left for work. I received this message today.

I certainly hope there is no more food coming.

Because the teenager came down with an ear infection and has so much phlegm in her throat that she can’t swallow. But don’t worry she took some antibiotics and some DayQuil so she could enjoy a Hungryroot burger.

I prepared a bag of greens and a Green Chef meal for Gayle as I am supposed to go to DC this weekend and I can’t physically prepare it all. And M, my host, said I can’t bring it. The result— I now can say I pay my art director in groceries.

Purple Carrot has a $75 Thanksgiving box available. I ordered one.

And today I cooked:

  • Green Chef Mojito Cauliflower
  • Purple Carrot Buffalo-style tempeh and roasted sweet potatoes and garlic
  • Brussel Sprouts

But much to my chagrin— Purple Carrot swapped out the peanut stew for a grilled tofu meal.

Addendum:

From Gayle, after making her Green Chef meal.

I came home and just put everything in the fridge. Brown bag and all.

Pat looked at the recipe when she headed to the bathroom. She made vomiting noises. Not surprising.

I thought I remembered it saying 30 minutes. About 4:30, I started working on it. I didn’t look at the recipe earlier and didn’t realize it had two sides. I was overwhelmed when I saw all the instructions on the other side. I quickly realized that they were dummy proof and that made them longer.

I got the farro on and started the oven, then cut the squash and picked the tarragon. That was the most tedious part of the whole thing. That all went in the oven and I opened the chard. It was nasty. One leaf was probably okay. Glad you gave me other chard. I’m not a fan of raw chard so I wilted it. The nasty stuff went to the compost pile.

The rest of the prep was easy. By the time the farro and squash were done, the rest was too.

I made two portions. One for another day and one for supper. I did not put the apple on the leftover portion because it was already browning.

I was left with two large piles. One was compost and the other was plastic bags. So many bags. One said to pull off the label and recycle it. The rest had no numbers, no nothing so they went in the trash.

It was nice having all the ingredients and a recipe. It was fantastic having something different to eat.

Health Update: There was a Crooked Hip

I still haven’t heard from either my gynecologist or my primary care physician— and the mental and physical struggle has been rough. It’s ironic, since my daughter thought she say worms in the dog’s poop and within 24 hours she had lab results and preventative medication.

Luckily, I’ve been able to engage my chiropractor (the beyond amazing Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Wellness Center in Easton, Pa.’s College Hill neighborhood) in this journey to discover and maximize the potential of my disabled body.

(Which I am told today is World Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, not that I ever even heard of it or noticed anybody celebrating.)

I told her this past week has been hard and strange with familiar pain and symptoms coming at the wrong time of the month and new symptoms happening now.

But I also admitted that some of these symptoms— like my swollen legs last night— could be explained by my behavior. Cheeto binge this weekend, for example.

Last night, I performed at only 83% when I had folded those clothes at 100% or higher all week despite pain. My knees had intense intermittent pain and my legs felt completely wooden, like they didn’t even have joints.

The chiropractor laughed at my ownership of my Cheeto binge and said that, yes, that might have something to do with it.

And she commented during my adjustment that my body and I are managing life and my symptoms much better in general.

But here is the “good news”—

My hip was crooked. The right side of my hip was significantly higher than my left and probably had been since the pain started last week. I attributed it to the same old pain but it was probably new and unique pain.

So then the chiropractor mentioned what I have been trying to articulate.

I used to have periodic bouts with high levels of pain when joints would seize and shift and muscles would spasm.

Now, with my exercise regimen and some of my other behavior change, I am experiencing lower levels of pain more frequently, but that pain is emotionally disturbing because I am aware of and used to the conditions that send my body into a flare and am doing everything I can to prevent those situations.

So it’s a perpetual game of anticipating what might be next. And how bad it will be or get before I find relief.

I told her I have had much success with CBD cream and she recommended trying a daily dose of the oils to see if that could help from the inside out.

I’m enthusiastically giving it a shot as over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen don’t help.

And the “not knowing” because of slow response time from my medical team is crippling to my mental health.

Pun intended.

I actually emailed my therapist yesterday and it must have been a good email because I got a response asking if he could call me for a check in, which I said yes to, and he called to do a wellness check to make sure I was safe.

Odd how that can make a person feel “loved.”

Now my hip is back in place, I took my vitamins and my CBD oil and prepared my final Purple Carrot meal from my box. This one— apricot sticky rice— even the teenager loved.

Getting sick of electronic devices and words

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.

Food and Fitness Update, plus more reviews of Purple Carrot and Green Chef.

Last night I not only made my metrics at work but I surpassed them. 106% without any accommodation for the six-minute all hands meeting we had or the observation with my supervisor. My legs are no longer hurting and it feels like my back pain is a one instead of a five or more.

Today was my 26th session with my trainer Dan at Apex Training and we worked on upper body, I was bench pressing some 25 pound dumbbells— almost was able to do 30.

Still no update from my medical team after receiving the results from the ultrasounds about 10 days ago. They found some things, not too big or suspicious things but things that may explain my symptoms I hope.

But the fun thing is I finally got my Purple Carrot box. And had my Green Chef Maple-Glazed Carrot power bowl for dinner.

Green Chef Power Bowl

I ate the bowl without the green goddess dressing and still thought it was amazing. Why can I not remember what the first Green Chef meal was? Ah, the farfalle with Brussels.Making the Farfalle.

Today’s Purple Carrot unboxing can be viewed here.

The refried butternut squash tacos were a great light meal.

The bottom left is prepared according to the recipe.

My daughter won’t approve

So, my daughter asked me if I plan on returning to my vegetarian habits when she leaves home.

I said no, but the more I think about it— the answer might be yes.

I probably eat 75% plant-based naturally. I even eat quite a few vegan meals, like the Hungryroot zucchini falafel I had for lunch yesterday in a sweet potato wrap with green chili sauce and lemon tahini.

As the teenager likes to remind me; I put beans or vegetables in just about every meal.

I find plant-based cuisine quicker to prepare, very versatile and easier for me to get the nutrients I need. And harder to overeat. Easier to stay lean.

And easier to avoid processed or fatty foods.

But the volume of food needed to gain muscle and stay satiated when weight training is intimidating. If I weren’t at the gym— I know I could keep a good diet. But I’m already struggling with my macros so it makes me nervous.

This is when I turn toward Simnett Nutrition, Gaz Oakley the Avant Garde Vegan and even Abbey Sharp on YouTube.

I also ordered a Green Chef meal box. This accompanies the meals and groceries I have delivered from Purple Carrot and Hungryroot.

I “do” Purple Carrot and Hungryroot once a month each and I was jonesing for an extra Purple Carrot box last night at 1:30 a.m. but I missed my order cut off and found a discount code for 50% off a Green Chef box so…

And the teen and I are supposed to go grocery shopping at noon today. I intend to go to the gym, hit the weights hard, and come home and meal plan. I need to make it harder to abuse myself with food.

Speaking of the gym… My Nick Best/Best Strong t-shirt by Barbell Apparel arrived Tuesday night and I am so excited to wear it to the gym. Nick Best is a strong man athlete up there with Brian Shaw and Edie Hall, but Nick is in his fifties. I can relate to his philosophy:

Age is just a number.

Nick Best

Unboxing the Best Strong t-shirt can be seen on YouTube here: T-shirt and my new novel unboxing.

I posted the photo on Instagram and Nick Best’s Instagram liked it and followed me!

Order my novel here:

A little bit of life updates: from warehouse work to cat fostering

This particular blog post will touch on brief updates of multiple areas of my life.

1. My new phone: The refurbished iPhone Xs sent to be my Square Trade has developed a green line in the display. I went to report it and their website is down for maintenance.

2. The laundry room project: The teenager has selected a color with the help of her grandmother, polka dot skirt.

3. Hungryroot and Purple Carrot: Yesterday’s meal kit was Purple Carrot’s Palestinian Spiced Peppers with Crispy Seitan and Tomato Caper Relish and Lemon Dill Rice. We also cooked the Chicken Bruschetta Burgers from Hungryroot. Everything was amazing.

4. Work and/or Disability: starting Thursday night my body was stiff and my right leg is giving me so much trouble. It appears to be the perfect blend of weather (tropical storms), hormones (ovulation) and disability (cerebral palsy). I was very uncomfortable.

But my numbers at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy have been consistently decent— I QC’ed 46 fixes from 3:30 to 6:30ish, and then picked an M cart in 20 minutes before clocking out at 7:05. The night prior I was on “mailer machine” (a folding machine that operates with a lot of compressed air) that they call creased lightning.

5. Foster Cats: someone expressed interest in Louise. Here’s a video of her last night: Louise

FURR Khloe
FURR Shady

6. The Gym (Apex Training): I did my first one plate barbell deadlift. I’ve always wanted to do barbell lifts. So far I’ve done bench press and deadlifts. Today I did four sets: one of three so my trainer could evaluate the weight of the lift, a set of five, another of eight, and a final of five.

He didn’t tell me how much weight that was— but my research from Mr. Google says the bar is 45 pounds and the plates are 20 kg. That together it’s 135 pounds?

Review: Finished the first week of Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot now wins the distinction of being the first meal kit delivery service I have used that I have managed to make all the recipes without getting sick of them or sick of the effort.

Hungryroot is a very close second because I still didn’t eat half their food— some of their entrees are in the freezer and I still have tofu, green chile sauce and lemon tahini in the fridge.

Today I finally finished Thursday’s ramen— and I made the last recipe: Tropical Avocado Cakes. Except just like when I make falafel or from-scratch veggie burgers or my zucchini cakes, they turned out like hash or home fries instead of patties.

Quinoa-white bean-garlic-avocado and lime zest patties with purple cabbage, mango and avocado in lime juice and scallions for dressing and a pickled jalapeño-vegan/soy free mayo aioli. I mixed it all into a big pile and gobbled it up.

Fitness update and my favorite vegetarian protein sources

My trainer Dan at Apex Fitness said something last week that made me chuckle and made me beam with pride.

“I forget you can handle more [weight] than most [women].”

“I still got it?” I asked.

He laughed.

Dan is very good at using full body motions even on isolated body part days. So on leg day we’ll throw in some bicep curls after those deadlifts and on upper body day, we do things that focus on form and stretching the lower body in addition to burning out the arms and chest.

I’m noticing much more flexibility in my body and that my chiropractor has gotten more agressive as well.

And I get to play with Dan’s super adorable baby and we talk a lot about food. He just picked up a client who is a vegetarian and doesn’t like tofu and some other stuff. We were brainstorming protein sources.

I thought I’d make a list.

Here’s my favorite vegan athlete on YouTube: Simnett Nutrition. Look at the sheer volume of food he eats. That is why I can’t be vegan. It has nothing to do with the diet— I just couldn’t stomach that much food.

For more gourmet cooking, check out Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan (here).

My favorite vegetarian proteins that are not tofu

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cabot cottage cheese
  • Silk unsweetened soy milk
  • Nut butters (morning hack— coffee, nut butter and yogurt smoothie. Add dates if you want to feel trendy)
  • Homemade salad dressings featuring tahini or peanut butter
  • Add black beans or chick peas to anything you can
  • Add hummus or tahini and/or sprouts to sandwiches. Pick bread with higher protein.
  • Nuts and seeds (including chia, flax and hemp) on salads, oatmeal, in baked goods or smoothies
  • Ancient grain or chick pea pasta
  • Peas and lentils
  • Frozen lentil pasta
  • Morningstar vegetarian breakfast patties
  • “Wheat meat”/seitan
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Adding beans or eggs to soups
  • Eggs & cheese
  • Snap pea snack crisps
  • Special K nut and fruit protein bars
  • Sweet Earth frozen foods

And for vegetarian meal services/meal kits:

  • Purple Carrot offers meal kits and prepared food. They have low calorie and high protein options are plant-based and get on the table in about 40 minutes. Purple Carrot is expensive, and requires a minimum of three dinners a week. Read my previous blogs on Purple Carrot here.
  • Hungryroot has more flexibility than Purple Carrot and offers “free protein”with each box. You can order meal kits, prepared foods or groceries. I get one or two meals and spent the rest of my credits on groceries. A lot of their recipes include extra ingredients— instead of a small jar of a tablespoon of Chile sauce for example, they send a tub. So you can use the extra for other meals. They can get on the table very quickly. They use a lot of “whole” main ingredients coupled with prepared sauces which keeps nutrient value high but prep time low. Read about my impressions of Hungryroot here.
  • Hello Fresh has a lot of great recipes and offers vegetarian food. All the sauces are incredible. But you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Also expensive. Servings tend to be small. I am told Every Plate is cheaper. My experience with Hello Fresh is here.
  • Green Chef, have not tried it