Cute animal photos and mallet finger impact

It’s the end of April and it was 35 degrees last night. The price of oil continues to skyrocket and I’m still heating my house halfway through spring.

The cold does not help the poor circulation in my hands which has intensified in my left hand because my mallet finger restricts my movement.

My hands are painfully cold, except when Andrew is making me curse him in my head at Apex Training. Today was leg day, and I was so tired that when I came home and let the dog out I turned around and lost my balance and slammed right into the brick wall between my mud room and my kitchen.

Nala, my six-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, started shaking and plucking her feathers today. Nothing in her environment has changed except the neighbor’s dog has been barking nonstop all day. The teenager believes his distress causes her anxiety.

Speaking of the teenager, she made this thick chocolate chip cookie/blondie dessert that I topped with ice cream that Sobaka’s mom brought home from Penn State when we dog sat last weekend.

Before the teenager brought home our dog, I would never criticize a dog owner, but now that I see the difference between different dog care styles, I feel back for dogs that aren’t spoiled like Sobaka and Bean.

And I don’t know how Sobaka’s mom does it— that dog is a bed hog.

But now an update on my mallet finger:

  • Stitch Fix has been amazing. Because my specialist at OAA took a week to return my paperwork and then didn’t properly fill it out, the onus was on me to find jobs I could do to not hurt myself. It turned out I can QC just fine— I hit 92% just fine.
  • But here’s the thing… my specialist knows hands, he doesn’t know me. I don’t think he heard me when I said I have cerebral palsy and that I work 10 hours a day in a warehouse. I’m just not sure that environment is safe for me right now,
  • Why do I say this? Because this week drove home to me how much I rely on my left side for stability. By forcing me to work 90% on the right, I am struggling to keep my right hip in place.
  • I am so stiff by the end of the work day. I also end up pinching and slamming my right fingertips and by the end of the day my left fingers I can use are swollen and sore.
  • And I fold 750 clothing items a day, handle 150 boxes and rip open probably 500 plastic bags. That’s a lot of fingers moving.
  • Once I consider the risk of accidentally losing my cast and bending my finger (which would extend my healing time) and adding the increased fall risk of mine because I am aggravating known issues with my balance and mobility, I just don’t feel safe.
  • This is a horribly stressful feeling.
  • I’m going to talk with my family doctor about it. I already mentioned it to my therapist, because I wanted to confirm my thoughts were rational and not whiny or emotional.

Today’s vegan lunch: curry carrots, lentils, quinoa, my own roasted chick peas, toasted sesame seeds, green olives and a touch of Thai peanut sauce topped with pumpkin seeds

And last but not least, cats. Misty caught a mouse! Video here.

Survive and conquer

Growing up, I never felt like I had a disability— maybe when you’re younger your body has more ability to compensate.

But I’m guessing with decades of repetitive stress from walking funny and the normal wear-and-tear from age, it makes sense that the last decade has left me hurting.

The last decade led me to my first official broken bones. The last decade left me with a host of experience with weight training, body building, gaining weight, losing weight, chiropractic care and orthopedic and joint issues.

And like I mentioned, I’m not in my twenties anymore so none of this should be surprising.

But it’s really hard to maintain when troubleshoot these physical issues and it’s frustrating when suddenly you wake up in the morning not only stiff but feeling your bones in a way I can only describe as poking where they shouldn’t be.

Ninety-five percent of the time getting up and doing a normal routine eases some of these sensations, but this week was hard.

Today— after all of my ten-hour warehouse shifts— I woke stiff and feeling like my left leg didn’t want to cooperate.

And so when I got to the gym, Apex Training and met with Andrew, my trainer, I gave him my report. “Nothing hurts,” I said, “but nothing wants to work.”

We did leg day. And for the average person, it probably would have been easy. But even my bodyweight bench squats seemed difficult and clumsy. Warm up stretches I can usually knock out without breaking a sweat were a struggle.

And he critiqued my lunge stance and examined it until I could feel the muscles at least trying to work the way leg muscles are supposed to work— i.e. together.

And the worst exercise was a simple calf raise standing on plates so I could extend my heels. While holding barbell.

I’m no longer stiff. Especially after my shower. But man am I tired and wondering what muscles I will feel tomorrow and how my chiropractor appointment will go.

Fitness lamentations and celebrations

It’s been a demanding week with my body in revolt for most of it.

I’ve succumbed to some bad moods but for the most part kept it together— and even enjoyed another pizza outing with the teenager and my blind friend Nan where we have officially determined that Nan and I think Nicolosi’s eggplant parmesan is our new favorite pizza. The teenager is in the chicken-bacon-ranch camp.

The teenager has been housesitting and her own dog F. Bean Barker seems to prefer sleeping in her crate downstairs to being in the teen’s bedroom alone with the two foster cats, Mars and Khloe.

Mars & Khloe

It has taken a few nights of sleep deprivation to discover this.

And it’s cold. And rainy. So the dog and I are both grumpy.

But this week I have started a new routine— getting up at 4:15 am so I can write for 30 minutes before work. In addition to my publishing business (Parisian Phoenix Publishing), I also need to commit to my writing.

Speaking of commitment, I’ve been trying to buy a bookshelf all week.

But I did buy a microphone for the business so that hopefully we can record some authors reading their work and have discussions with and for writers as part of our marketing material.

Nan and I got together today to run errands, see what was going on with Axiom, drink chai and read poetry. The best publication we looked at today was definitely *82 Review which featured Nan’s poem, “Brewing Chai.”

The magazine is very very diverse in its style and I am very excited to read more.

One of the best pieces I’ve read in a long time is “A Child in Need of Services” (a flash submission) where the speaker talks about the origins of their three talents, with such humor and joyful voice that you just don’t see the ending coming. The author is Amanda Skofstad.

We retrieved Nan’s laundry and I parked the car at the high school and walked the half mile in the cold rain (uphill as the teen would remind us) to the gym so the teen could have the car after school to go to work.

But I made it to the gym… for session 73 at Apex Training with my trainer Andrew. I love his current approach— a lot of back and shoulder based weight training for the upper body and creative more-or-less body weight exercises for the lower body so we can develop some muscle memory in those body parts that don’t understand how to play on a team. We also did some hex bar work and other stuff. I always feel good when I leave.

But by far, the hardest exercise for me today was wide stance squats. That had me struggling, concentrating, breathing and thinking I wouldn’t make it through. For squats. Bench squats at that.

Let me explain.

My cerebral palsy makes this the ultimate torture. Remember— my quads, hamstrings and calves never relax. My heel tendons are too short and my ankles don’t have the right mobility. My knees point in because of my femoral anteversion, and that just means the top of my femurs go into my hip sockets at the wrong angle.

So when I do that wide stance bench squat, I need to practice the most muscle control I can. I have to plant my feet and manually rotate my toes to what feels like uncomfortably out. And when I rise, I need to maintain balance, push with my upper region of my legs and force my hips out so they can force my knees out.

It’s damn hard.

But I can feel those body parts trying to cooperate and that’s exciting. If Andrew and I had more money and could work less at traditional full time jobs, I would love to train every day.

I posted this to Facebook:

I came home and stood in the rain for ten minutes holding an umbrella over the dog and she still wouldn’t pee. I took a shower, got dressed and gathered laundry. The washer wouldn’t work. My seven month old washer.

So I made myself an omelet of peppers, two eggs, heaps of Black Bear Mexican turkey, a slice of black pepper Cooper, a half slice of horseradish cheddar and piled it on my last slice of ShopRite bakery seeded rye.

The teenager came home and I googled the error code on the washer and she moved the whole wash tower and ripped the rear access panel off. When the drain pipe wasn’t back there, I had her read me the exact model number so we could Google again. We found this video, by a man with nice hands: Fixing the washer.

The teenager watched about half a minute, grabbed a bucket and ran to the front access panel. Within seconds, she had removed the whole plug apparatus and flooded the bathroom with gallons of wash water.

“How am I supposed to get that into a bucket?” she asked.

I continue watching the video. There’s a tube you empty first.

“There’s a tube!” she yells.

Oh, Pop Pop on the Mountain, wherever he is in the afterlife, is laughing his ass off now.

The apparatus is clogged with poly fill, a metal ring, quarters and other nonsense. That is fixed now. Drain hoses cleaned. Wash loads continue.

So then we Google the dishwasher as the teen also wants to clean that. We find Big Al. Clean the sprayers in a Maytag dishwasher.

I’m still cold and wet but now some of the appliances are clean.

Spider-Man and Matcha Pie

I have a lot of little things to say that problem don’t belong together but today is the Lehigh Valley Book Festival at Bethlehem Area Public Library and I’m excited, a tad nervous and a bit super-focused and scatter-brained at the same time.

Parisian Phoenix Publishing has participated in events before but we have scaled up with our efforts and this event today.

So this post will cover:

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Health and Fitness
  • Pie
  • Cats

I think that’s about right.

So the teenager and I finally came to the current end of the Marvel Comics Universe movies with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Watching them sequentially, and for me, many for the first time, actually made a lot more sense than when I saw some of them the first time.

I got a strange déjà vu that I had seen some of these villains before, but at the same time I was confused because the memory was vague and distant.

So let’s just say, trying not to spoil it for others like me that are woefully behind in their pip culture, that this film incorporates some older films that will be familiar to Generation X.

The primary theme of this movie, in my opinion, is time travel. The actual plot is a tad weak and melodramatic but the homage made to the previous generation of Marvel movies, and the humor employed in this movie, make it worth it.

My favorite Spider-Man is Toby Maguire. I got to see him again. And that made my heart happy. (Toby is also the Spider-Man adored and referenced by supermodel Adelaide Pitney in my chick lit/horror fiction novel, Manipulations, the first in the Fashion and Fiends series.

I had a very good visit with my chiropractor Nicole Jensen of Back in Line. She’s impressed with my progress and got things to pop and move (my right ankle that I broke more than five years ago) that haven’t popped and moved in a long time.

My Later, Andrew at Apex Training worked out every muscle he didn’t the day before (okay that’s an exaggeration) and the teenager set a new personal record in deadlifting: 225 lbs.

Finally, I get to the part I’ve been waiting for: PIE! If only I weren’t trying to be so health conscious… Because I have been visiting the amazing pie ladies Anne and Lisa at Pie+Tart for three(?) years now and their pies (and flat white coffees) have nurtured my soul through some difficult times— and a very very toxically difficult boss.

I receive their weekly email and saw their “freezer section” of leftover discounted pies included a steak and Guinness pie and a matcha custard pie. A meal inspired by two of my favorite drinks.

I was so beyond excited to eat these pies I was vibrating at “the pie hole” which is what they call their window/doorway. It has allowed them to stay in business safely during Covid because how would we survive sans pie.

I can improvise plenty of solutions for lack of toilet paper but I can’t make pie like this— not even with my Pennsylvania Dutch family connections.

I couldn’t even wait for the matcha custard to thaw. I sawed at it with a knife, broke it in pieces with my hands and microwaved a slice for 30 seconds. It was delectable.

And the steak and Guinness pie? So rich and full of meaty goodness I didn’t even have a chance to take a photo.

Oh how I love my pie friends.

And finally the updates regarding some of the cats we are fostering through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab, Mars has taught Khloe to play and Minerva is becoming much more social. As is Louise.

A new day at the gym

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.

Now excuse me, I’d like to go shower.

Gym Update: By Now, You Probably Know I Love The Guys at Apex Training

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.

The Teenager squatting with Dan

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.

Welcome 2022

I can’t believe it’s 2022.

The teenager graduates from high school this spring. My baby is graduating in 2022. My baby.

It’s been a good start to the year.

My great grandmother was born January 1, 1900. So every year I think to myself that my great grandmother would be X years old. 122. She died in the 1990s.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and cuddled cats until 6ish. And believe it or not, I had a cup of coffee and starting doing chores— dishes, meal planning, updating the wall calendar.

The teenager came home from work around 9 a.m. She and her dad brought my favorite coffee, café con leche, and a Sizzli: pork roll, egg and cheese on a bagel. I have wanted to try the pork roll Sizzli for a while and it was delicious. 19 grams of protein and 400 calories.

The teenager and I went to the gym, where we goofed around during the official Boot Camp class. She loaded 188 pounds onto the leg press! When Boot Camp was under control, we started barbell squats and then Romanian deadlifts.

The teenager squatted 135 pounds! I made it to 115, but I wasn’t comfortable attempting 135. It’s too close to my body weight.

I love to watch her lift.

Then, I went to get Nan as we were scheduled to work. After we finished her writing, I prepared a chicken bone-broth soup and a cheese and pierogie casserole. My Hungryroot is stuck in transit so I rooted through my pantry to see what I could prepare. I had a long overtime shift yesterday and don’t want to spend my day off grocery shopping.

And then we starting reading the upcoming Parisian Phoenix anthology, Not An Able-Bodied White Man with Money. And meanwhile Joan is shooting more photos for Trapped.

I have received several beautiful messages today— from current and former colleagues at work, strangers on my blog, and my psychologist.

And another good thing— I got to laugh heartily with my daughter. Mostly at the expense of her dog.

And this is Bean trying to make friends with Khloe. Video

** P.S. I haven’t done my Cobra pose physical therapy. My spine is hurting. Is this why?

Physical Therapy Gone Wicked

Today was my third visit to St. Luke’s Physical Therapy at Anderson Campus.

I love them. I love the impact of physical therapy.

I am probably the perfect candidate to be in physical therapy for the rest of my life.

Today, though, my physical therapist introduced some strength building exercises that I would classify as difficult and a little wicked, in the best way possible.

My homework is to keep stretching my back opposite the direction of my retrolisthesis, especially by doing yoga— cobra pose 50 times a day.

Something is definitely working, so we’ll credit PT.

But my session today started on a treadmill which is always a challenge for me. It requires concentration for me. I have to think about each step and try to walk evenly and correctly.

After an eight minute warm-up, we did some Cobra pose/press-ups, some lifts (the kind where my belly is on the table and I bend my knee at a 90 degree angle and lift my leg from the table using the hip area) and today he slapped on ankle weights, some bridges, some one legged bridges, and a bridge where I hold and lift each leg up (one at a time of course) while keeping my hips up, and some hip stretches moving my leg while standing on the cushion.

It was an intense 30 minutes. So I treated myself to a free holiday blend coffee at Dunkin.

Now, I had a chiropractor appointment with Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center next. But I had enough time to run home and use the bathroom.

And feeling spry I hopped to the curb, fell, scraped up my hands and a knee, and apparently flung my phone half way across the neighbor’s yard.

But I arrived at the chiropractor on time and learned that not only is Nicole liking my progress, but she also is on chapter three of my book, Manipulations.

All in all, a good start to the middle of my weekend.

Celebrating the small victories

Yesterday was a day of mixed signals.

The pain in my hips kept waking me the night before, despite a cocktail and a Tylenol PM. I woke grumpy, stiff and achy.

I didn’t keep that from affecting my workout with Dan at Apex Training.

Because here’s the thing about pain— sometimes it’s a warning that you need to stop but sometimes it’s recognition that your body is changing.

I did 75 lbs on the barbell incline press. And that reminded me that my body is not all bad.

But at the same time whatever is impacting my spine, hips & leg is making basic mobility difficult and my job folding clothes painful.

I slathered myself with my CBD Medic Arthritis ointment and somehow folded more than the requested 130 fixes QCed. I did 133.

I’m probably in half the pain I was last night.

And in seven hours I need to get out of bed and go to the gynecologist for my Mirena IUD.

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.