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.

Fitness update: Where did that leg go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dahlias from a friend

A Saturday morning fitness surprise and a delicious breakfast

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.

Me in my Best Strong t-shirt

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.

Disability Update: Weight training, the warehouse job and unboxing of CBD cream

A mish mash of disability related updates related to my life with cerebral palsy

I’m somewhere around week seven with my weight training with Apex Training and dreaming of a day when my stiff limbs might become those of a Paralympic powerlifting. I want to be a barbell athlete.

I missed Saturday’s session— I normally train 45 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. But I picked up an overtime shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy.

I told Dan, my very talented and diligent trainer, that I would do a home workout over the weekend. I did not. And the lack of long hours and the mix of chores and resting I did over the weekend meant that I was not tired nor was I sore for Tuesday’s workout.

And he says he went easy on me, but he had me doing incline bench presses with 25 pound dumbbells. Now, for comparison, about 4-5 years ago when I was lean and strong, I was just ready to make the jump to 25 pound dumbbells but I couldn’t afford to buy them.

That’s when the teenager and I joined Planet Fitness, which lasted until the pandemic. Almost two years.

Yesterday was upper body day at the gym. That’s probably a good thing as my premenstrual hormones left me so stiff today I couldn’t bend at the waist or walk well. It also might have been impacted by the severe thunderstorm we had.

But somehow I hit 129 in QC at work. 130 is goal. At 11:41 p.m. my supervisor stopped by for an observation. I told her I almost called out but I knew she had to see me on a bad day. But when I started folding the clothes, I hit 35 in the first two hours (goal would be 32.5). But then I slipped and only got to 64 by lunch (goal is 65).

By third break I was at 97, which is shockingly on point. And at 11:41, she rolls up with her laptop. I’m both relieved and terrified.

She needs to see my struggle.

The cart I was working in had 3 refixes— out of 8. I don’t know why they call them refixes. They are fixes that are messed up and need fixing. So I guess the fixes need to be fixed again.

It was arduous. I was tired, sore and stiff. I had two damaged items of clothing and I wondered if she would think I damaged them. (Yes, I know I am insecure. My therapist says I “sell [myself] short].”)

I QC’ed in my observation at a rate of 115%.

And my boss had a suggestion to alleviate my struggle.

When I hurt I need to ask for refix carts. Those are the fixes coming out of the refix department once they are corrected. They come boxed on top of the cart so I don’t need to bend to get them.

They really do want to help.

And finally…

A few weeks ago, I asked the teen how her dad’s arthritis was. He has a club hand, so his left hand does most of his daily tasks. As a result, he has bad arthritis between his thumb, wrist and forefinger.

Turns out, his mother gave him Charlotte’s Web CBD cream and he swears by it. So I ordered some. And I ordered the CBD Medic Arthritis Cream as well.

They arrived today. So I took a shower, suffered through the contorting needed to shave my legs, and upon return to my room, I slathered the Charlotte’s Web cream on the knot in my back. The relief was instant, and I don’t want to think it had anything to do with the gin and limoncello cocktail I am drinking.

More details to come on the creams but it is so nice to go to bed without pain. And I think the knot in my back is loose. But I also must remind you—cocktail.

Can I touch my toes?

Yes.

And I didn’t even bend my knees.

This might be the best thing since Epsom salt.

Are disabled athletes more mindful?

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

“Let’s hit the bar.”

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

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

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

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

And I said, “I’ve always wanted to.”

You could totally lift that.

Dan, my personal trainer at Apex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compelling idea.

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to the podcast on Spotify.

Luau luncheon at the Bizzy Hizzy

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

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

Level unlocked: Bench Press

I have been strength training on and off for the last 20+ years. It definitely makes my muscles easier to manage and allows me to fight the control issues and long range effects of cerebral palsy.

Today I did my first bench press in my session with Dan of Apex Training.

And that’s my first bench press ever.

At other gyms, with other trainers, we never did bench press. At home, I never had the equipment to bench press.

I found it exhilarating— I never realized how much coordination and full body balance a bench press requires. I always thought it was purely upper body.

I can’t wait to do more.

We did various upper body exercises including some newer movements I hadn’t seen before but I am perpetually pleased with Dan’s knowledge. And he has chickens and we share some tastes in food.

Occasionally during the workout, he asked if I could do one more.

I can always do one more.

That isn’t bravado — that’s my mentality for life. That’s how I survive my disability. I have to push my body to do what it needs to do.

My success and “feel good”-edness continued through my work day. I QCed 132 fixes (goal is 130).

I suppose there are two ways to approach life with a disability… One is to do nothing, and give up.

The other is to do one more. And grow stronger.

I chose one more.

Lower body & kitten bodies

Today marked my first lower body work out with Dan at Apex. I did something I rarely do and wore a little tennis style athletic skirt to the gym. I don’t like wearing shorts. There are two reasons why.

1. I honestly don’t like my flesh touching various surfaces: hot car leather, wooden chairs, the concrete if I sit on my steps, of course “thigh rub.” You get it.

2. But I also don’t like to see my lower body in motion. It’s a visual reminder of my physical issues.

So exposing my legs to a relative stranger was a way of me making myself vulnerable. But if Dan is going to monitor and critique my form, he can see my knees.

Lower body. I was so… not anxious, not scared. Maybe trepidation? We did pretty standard upper body exercises. Easy starting point. Dumbbells. I was happy with it. Very happy. (See more here.)

Dan brought his six-month-old son. What a happy, charming, beautiful baby. He didn’t mind seeing my knees.

And right away, Dan put me at ease. I’m impressed by the depth of his knowledge— my physical therapists have explained the same info to me so I know he’s done his homework on normal physiology.

Our exercises yesterday included a supported squat using some overhead ropes (that was amazing! I felt like I could move like a normal person. I could have done that all day.); some mild lifts with a plate that was like a full body deadlift, slowing stretching out the whole self; and some squats with a resistance band moving up and down from a bench. Many of these movements required great concentration on my part but I knew from past physical therapy that he was nailing it.

He apologized for not working me harder but he wants to focus on getting everything moving and flexible again so I don’t get hurt.

That is exactly what I need right now. I shouldn’t be working out hard. I just want to establish the habit, get my metabolism working again, and oil the machine, so to speak. I am so thrilled. Giddy.

And I walked slowly home with no falls.

As my rest period at home, I finally wrote the solicitation letter for FURR’s Coffee and Kittens pop-up cat café August 15 at Forks Community Center. The organization is working hard, my former employee and friend Janel and I are brainstorming away and reaching out to potential sponsors.

I hope to have FURR volunteers give five minute talks or demonstrations on various cat topics: TNR, basic cat care, how much cats can reproduce, declawing and cat scratching behavior, working with hissy spitties, cat body language, trimming nails, seniors for seniors, why kittens aren’t easy.

Activities will include live kittens in play pens to cuddle, cat story time (I will read cat stories), and musical chairs with cat-themed music. We hope to have some raffles— the chance to name some kittens, hopefully some prizes. And cat merchandise for sale.

And of course refreshments.

Did I mention live kittens????

The teen and Bernadette

Owning my personal fitness

It’s Monday. And wow is it a Monday!

Before I continue, let me get the usual disclaimers/introductions out of the way.

Like many people, I had a rough 2020– I’m actually grateful to Covid for slowing down my life and allowing me to survive some severe emotional stress that caused me to have high blood pressure, develop a bad comfort eating habit and end up anemic. I had a difficult job experience, lost that job, and now work in the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and deal with my daughter’s crazy dog, my stubborn cockatoo and a bunch of foster cats. I’m forty-something, a single mom, 20 lbs overweight and struggling to understand my body, specifically my cerebral palsy.

My day started with chasing the “pig pony” dog Bean (we call her that because she snorts like a pig and is the size of a small pony) around the neighborhood because she decided to jump the fence and ignore her recall commands.

I’m in my kitchen now, eating a public-school issued bowl of Cheerios with an out-of-date white milk leftover from the teenager’s recent school dates. I met with my trainer today (and my friend Janel who is helping me set up the FURR Coffee and Kittens event at Forks Community Center August 15).

I headed up the hill to Apex Training to meet with my trainer Dan. I finally remembered to ask Dan if it’d be okay if I wrote about him and our work together and he said yes, so I no longer have to be sneaky.

I’m comfortable with Dan. He’s laid back but he knows his stuff, understands the movements and the physiology, and keeps a careful eye without making you feel stared at or inadequate.

He almost seems apologetic that we’re going slow and using 5 and 10 pound dumbbells and not lifting at a pace that makes it a cardiovascular event. But that’s what I love! The anemia, when combined with the cerebral palsy especially, makes it so easy to get tired and clumsy and hurt oneself.

Today, we did some upper body work. 30 minutes, slow and steady. 3 sets of 2 exercises each. Pretty standard way to set up a 30-minute work out hitting the triceps, biceps, chest and upper back.

Five years ago when I did this, I did a lot of cardio, did calisthenic ab exercises every day and did ten to fifteen minutes of lifting focusing on just one muscle (i.e. biceps or triceps) not the whole group.

Like I said, I know what to do, but I’m a person and people get lazy. I need Dan right now, as I’ve said, for several goals:

  1. Restart the consistent habit of training.
  2. Increase energy.
  3. Improve strength, flexibility and agility.
  4. Build muscle and tone body.
  5. Lose weight.

Many of us tell ourselves we can save money and do it ourselves but the reality is there is a big difference between we are able vs. the commitment of we will.

I fully intended to eat a banana every day to get more nutrients into my body as I recover from anemia. Did I?

Does it look like I did?

But back to the training… I find the actual activity of lifting, when I am working with a class facilitator or fitness trainer, meditative. Everyone should focus on their movements when strength training, but I really have to with my disability. Focus is required to make sure all the body parts move as they should. I have to count the reps, remember to breathe, and control the motions all at the same time.

When you are doing all of that, your mind empties. And you just flow with the movements of your body and the feeling in your muscles.

Like today was “oh hello triceps, are you still under all that arm jiggle?”

When I left Dan I was sweating. I was limber. I felt invincible. I was walking home reminding myself how powerful I am.

I fell.

I lost my balance on the sidewalk and just fell about half a block from my house.

My right arm is scraped from the back of my shoulder almost to my wrist. The upper shoulder stings the worst. It’s been two hours and it still stings. I also bounced on my hip and upper thigh— so that is already starting to bruise.

I called out from work tonight. Based on where I’m at in my menstrual cycle and the summer sun, I’m going to blame anemia for this lapse in balance especially since all day yesterday I had no energy. Anemia is awful. Anemia with a mobility disorder is a nightmare.

But this is why I’m working out.

I own my weaknesses. Let’s fight!