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.
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:
Next, let’s briefly do a Purple Carrot Update. Today I prepped the matcha overnight oats and made the ramen bowl. (Video of matcha prep here.)
The teenager vetoed the homemade miso broth and fresh ramen.
I had the leftover black pepper tofu for dinner and it was soooooooo good, even leftover.
And most Purple Carrot meals take 30 minutes to prepare, which in my kitchen has been translating to 40 minutes. Much better than the cooking marathon caused when a Hello Fresh box comes.
But now to the Bizzy Hizzy. I finally learned the “mailer machine.” It’s a folding machine. We used it to fold the postal service priority mailers that go in each fix.
We had trouble getting the machine to work— so we didn’t really get started until after first break. We folded 4401 mailers.
Basically we unpack the mailers, sort them so they are less likely to jam the machine, and feed/empty the machine. There is a zen to lining up the mailers on the rolling machine, fanning them and making sure they don’t curl.
I was sent to the mailer machine as part of Stitch Fix’s quest to know what tasks I perform best. I perform regularly at 96% in QC but unfortunately when I have bad day that plummets to 85-90%. They raised the pick goal so I only do 75% of that. Apparently I have shown both potential and inconsistency in inbound processing and returns. I apparently tanked in style carding (66%) which I would like to believe was a fluke but maybe not. And a shocking 29% in NAP binning. It was shoes. And it was very painful.
I’m told they want everyone to have two work centers they can perform 100%.
So now I’m at the mailer machine.
If I’m honest with you, and it is very hard for me to say this in public, what I hear is: “You’re not good enough for us, so since you suck at everything, let’s stick you on this machine back in the corner.”
I feel threatened. And like a failure.
And that is not what they said. At all.
But I have a disability that makes me insecure and makes me feel inferior, unworthy. And certain childhood traumas leave me feeling unwanted, and as if I am a burden to everyone.
So I am being honest. For one reason. In case someone else is fighting a similar battle and needs to know he/she/they are not alone.
We planned this event in a little more than a month.
We received donations from Wegmans, Target #2536, Wawa, Easton Baking, Philly Pretzel and Keystone Snacks. Just Born also offered candy but the pick up is next week. We will use that for a future event.
So many friends and family members baked. I have leftover coffee cake and oatmeal chocolate chip cookiesfor breakfast. I bought sweets, coffee, a cutting board, a t-shirt (don’t declaw!) and a mug.
When we “opened” at 2 p.m., a horde of people charged the room! There was a line more than half way through the building and no spaces left in the parking lot!
And everyone was patient and polite. The room was so full we couldn’t do all the activities we had planned— there wasn’t space. We only sold about ten cups of coffee but made almost $400 in food and drink donations, as we let everyone set their own prices.
A man came in from the basketball game next store and asked if we took Venmo. I said I had Venmo and had plenty of cash or I could get the card reader. He Venmoed me $20— I gave him $20 from my own pocket. He took a cupcake and a can of Sprite and gave the organization the whole $20!
People just wanted to pass around kittens and cuddle them. And the kittens all laid peacefully in strangers’ arms!
And everyone loved playing with kittens!
We made almost $1,500 in admission donations. Hundreds of people came.
In 2.5 hours, our unofficial count says we raised almost $2,500 for these kittens.
Photos to come.
I just keep picturing in my mind the faces of all these people of all shapes, sizes and ages cuddling kittens. Everyone turns into a softy when those babies curl up against you.
At the end of the event, the teenager’s father and I were taking stuff to the car when I saw a group of teen boys— I assumed athletes— coming out of the gym/the basketball game. We had soooo many cupcakes left I told them to go into our room and tell the people there Angel said they could have cupcakes.
And as we left the event some other young men asked if we needed help. So all in all, it was lovely to see polite & friendly young people. Especially since this last pandemic year has been so hard on our youth.
I am grateful for all the FURR volunteers who staffed the event. I am super proud of my daughter for her hard work. And I loved working with my partner in crime, Janel.
In 45 minutes, I need to leave for work. It’s Thursday and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving all week. I’m behind on my own commitments and starting to feel panicked.
The pop up kitten cafe fundraiser for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is this Sunday.
Although it has required effort from many people, in the last few days this has become my baby.
In the last 24 hours, we received commitments from Just Born candy and Target #2536 (the same Target where I used to work and that experienced a fatal shooting in the parking lot last weekend).
This brings our list of supporters to:
Many individual bakers
Easton Baking Company
Giant Food Stores
Today the teenager and I will be heading to Keystone Snacks to get the Veggie Chips donation.
So that’s the fundraiser but meanwhile real-life goes on. I haven’t worked on William Prystauk‘s upcoming novel in his Kink Noir series, Bondage, in several days. Our personal cat, kitty cancer survivor Opie has a very goopy, wet eyes. This is very unusual for Opealope so I gave him a couple treatments with a chamomile tea eye wash for cats grown and prepared by our fellow foster, Granola Cat Lady.
Despite all this (and only 5 hours sleep from sharing my bed with the teenager’s dog, F. Bean Barker), I still made it to Apex Training for leg day and some warm-up core work. My body was very stiff after that, not really from the workout but because my period is late and doing things to my body.
Although I have to admit I fell on the way to the gym and broke the screen to my iPhone. After 3.5 years I now get to test my SquareTrade insurance.
The other big news is that the teenager installed a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old one had screws so stripped it kept falling off while you were sitting on it. Bad news is: our bathroom is 1950s Flamingo Pink. The new toilet seat is white— the only one they had. I hate white toilet seats on colored bowls but I also hate “falling in.” And now that she’s seen it, the teenager agrees.
I finally tried my Emmi Roth cheddar cheese snacks from Hungryroot which were supposed to be for tuna artichoke melts but I couldn’t bring myself to use such fancy cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich. A colleague and I were talking about snacks & cheese so I brought her some and we tried it at the Bizzy Hizzy.
She loved it so much she googled where to buy it. Apparently it’s only available in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It literally melts in your mouth.
After work I went to Sheetz and ordered a pina colada lemonade with immunity boost with my bonus points. It tasted like candy, too thick to be refreshing but definitely very summery. I added some mango vodka when I got home. (Here’s a video if you want to see me talk to myself in a parking lot at midnight.)
And finally, not sure if I mentioned it on the blog, but I’m another step closer to resolving the great EZ Pass Drama of Summer 2021. Did you ever procrastinate something so long it bit you in the ass?
Yeah, so that’s what happened to me.
So, our Nissan Ultima (oh how I loved that car) died suddenly. My husband and I were still together and only had one car. He replaced the Ultima was a used Nissan Juke— a car he had wanted for a while. We moved everything from the Ultima into the Juke.
I had ordered an EZ Pass when I started work on my master’s in world history at West Chester University and was driving down the turnpike at least once a week.
So I knew that the EZ Pass was connected to my car— the Ultima— but I never really used it. I forgot about it. And then I bought my Jetta because I hated the Juke. Our family didn’t really go anywhere. I worked retail so I never really got time off. I had stopped working on my master’s as money got tight and my marriage continued to fail.
I neither returned nor updated the EZ Pass.
My husband returned the box of random things from the Ultima and I, with other things on my mind, tossed the transponder in my car hoping to remember to update it.
I never did.
At this point, I don’t even remember how to access my EZ Pass account.
This summer, the teenager took her grandmother to Cape May. She pulled up to the first toll booth and the toll collector yelled at her for trying to pay the toll.
Being a dutiful child, she trusted the toll collector who told her she had an EZ Pass.
Two weeks later, we get two violations from NJ EZ Pass. $30 in missed tolls and $55 in administrative fees. My daughter and I send a check, but I also send an email stating that I understand I hadn’t updated the EZ Pass, but my daughter had tried to pay the toll and the toll collector yelled at her.
They cashed the check.
Then a couple weeks after that I get a letter from PA Turnpike EZ Pass stating I had insufficient funds in my account and they were threatening to ticket me. Now, my EZ Pass was on a credit card. That credit card expired one month before my daughter’s trip.
I call the number. Because I don’t know my account pin or my transponder number, I am forced to leave a message and they say they will call me back. That was Monday.
A couple days ago I get another letter from NJ EZ Pass. They claim I didn’t pay one of the two violations. I send another email and send them a screen shot from my banking app of the cashed check.
It’s now Thursday. I go to PA EZ Pass and try to remember all my account info. I easily succeed. I look at the “insufficient funds.” $5.37 cents. They also demand $35 to load my account fully. Even though I haven’t used it in three years.
And you can’t just pay what you owe.
I then go to the “manage vehicles” tab, add the Jetta and delete the Ultima. That took five minutes. Had I done that years ago, I could have avoided the whole drama.
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.
My body turned to me as I went to my car after work today, and as I fiddled with the radio (calling up Natalie Merchant on Spotify singing Space Oddity), my body said to me,
“Jesus, woman, what are you doing? We need to talk.”
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? But we can’t spend too much time on all this as it is 1:30 a.m. and my aching body craves sleep.
The teenager was up fairly early today so I suggested she and our almost 1-year-old pit bull/mastiff/black lab puppy walk with me to the gym, about 5 blocks away.
Now if you’re new here… I’m 46 years old, a former newspaper reporter. I have an amazing 17-year-old daughter. Her father and I separated two years ago but he lives nearby and is still an important part of our household. I have cerebral palsy. He has a club hand. I have recently started a quest to learn more about my body, restart my bodybuilding commitment (I was really into it six years ago) as an alternative to traditional physical therapy, and hopefully lose the 20 pounds I gained stress eating to cope with the toxic workplace of the last nonprofit I worked for.
So, the teenager, the dog and I walked up to the gym. F. Bean Barker is learning new manners everyday and the guys at the gym thought she was a beautiful dog.
And then the focus changed to leg day. Now, on upper body day I get to train like a normal person. On lower body day, my poor trainer has to balance my physical deficits with my desire to kick ass.
Or maybe I’m just as awkward both days, and I just never noticed.
Today was session six. It’s the last week of two sessions a week and next week we increase to three.
Please note: I have been in gyms lifting weights since college, which was about 25 years ago, and in recent years I’ve been in physical therapy to learn to walk, for balance, for the strain of my lumbar region caused by trouble with my S1 joint and my broken ankle. Every body is different. Every ailment or disability is different. It is a quest to balance what works for you, what your body needs and what hurts.
I firmly believe that nothing fixes the body like the right exercises. But for people with disabilities or health issues, it’s hard to recognize what pain you need to work through and what hurt is bad. As a weight lifter, I know muscle recovery pain. As a person with a disability, I often experience burning pain.
As a society, I feel like we invest so much money in medical tests, mental health, drugs, organic food, but we don’t want to pay for a trainer.
My trainer is getting to know me. He knows how to observe me. He asks questions about my mobility. We test exercises by going easy at first and adjusting them based on my performance.
And he reads me well.
There are times I can tell he’s afraid of pushing me too far and then I do the exercise and he makes it ten times harder because I surpassed his expectations. This makes him a good trainer because it means he’s testing my basic form and strength so I don’t get hurt. And he readsmy body language to see how I’m doing— not relying on my words.
A good trainer has to push you out of your comfort zone. But he also has to make sure everything’s executed for best impact and in a way that you don’t get hurt.
I have to admit, I hated him a little today. But I also love his full body approach. But when he tells me to do sumo squats with a 15-pound dumbbell and my toes pointed out AND make sure my knees “follow” my toes… I don’t know whether to cry or punch him.
It’s the gym— both those feelings are valid.
But let’s examine the issue. My knees face in.
This means to perform the motion he has requested, I need to move one foot at a time carefully into position. I need to really concentrate on balance. As I move, I need to keep my head up, focus on stretching the knees to position in line with my toes (which is not the way they go) while holding a weight and trying not to fall.
I was dripping sweat by the end of this session— before he hands me a kettle bell to end the work out with kettle bells swings.
When I got home, I made a massive high protein vegan pasta. See me make it here (this can also be my official “before” video.)
I ate 90% vegan today. Only animal products I had were half and half for my coffee and a pack of beef jerky at work. I almost had iced tea with local honey but the teenager spilled it when I left it on the dog crate.
This was dinner:
Speaking of dinner— tonight at the Bizzy Hizzy my team competed in the Stitch Fix olympics. We won the gold medal in the egg toss. I was relieved they weren’t real eggs.
In other news:
I almost started editing William Prystauk’s latest novel in the Kink Noir series.
My Poppy Z. Brite books have arrived.
I hurt. I hope it’s the good hurt.
My friend Joan not only brought us old linens, but scored a cat carrier and animal crate at a yard sale.
Today marked my fourth session at Apex Training and my first meeting others at the gym.
Last night we had voluntary time off at the Bizzy Hizzy warehouse. We were released for a a long weekend at 6:30 p.m. (The warehouse is closed Monday for a computer upgrade.)
The teenager wanted to drive and enjoy sports mode in my Jetta. So we stopped at Sheetz and ate fried food and drank energy drinks as one should do at Sheetz. (View Sheetz Shenanigans here.)
I did some editing for Aspire to Autonomy. They are planning their annual 5K. They also recently opened a new safe house and currently have a labor trafficking survivor living there.
I also worked on more of the final proof for my first novel, the debut publication for Parisian Phoenix Publishing. No pressure!
And some of my main characters are having sex again. That, coupled with the fact that I was in men’s returns processing at the warehouse… led to some mental distraction.
I was in bed before midnight as I had a 10 a.m. session with Dan.
I love Dan’s philosophy in incorporating isolated and full body exercises. I love how he paces the workouts— apparently next week is our last week of two sessions a week and we begin three times a week and he’s going to develop metrics to track our progress.
I tripped on the way home, on the same damn bad patch of sidewalk, but this time I caught my balance and did not fall.
And when I got home, the teenager received her new crate for F. Bean Barker. And she bought one way too big. (More ridiculousness here— Bean and Em the FURR kitten).
Now, I’m off to grab Nan and we’re going to can some corn salsa with farm fresh corn.
Well, if yesterday made one thing apparent… it’s that sometimes answers lead to bigger questions.
And questions often shake our foundations.
I have had an appointment every day this week before work. In the last ten days or so, I have seen my therapist, my personal trainer, my chiropractor (who has a background in physical therapy) and my primary care doctor and one of his new residents.
My heart was genuinely excited for the visit as I’ve made a lot of positive health habit changes and my primary care physician and I have a great relationship. Normally my care is a discussion and we work together to resolve my issues.
Since Covid, the practice has seemed much less organized and attentive as usual. They also recently took on some family practice medical residents. I waited in the exam room for 75 minutes.
I went into my phone to record my blood pressure on iHealth. And that’s when I noticed— iHealth has been recording my double support time and my walk asymmetry for a year. (This morning I compared my walking and balance statistics with my teenager’s and her walk is more screwed up that mine! My walk is consistent and consistently “off” but hers gets severely skewed every time she gets plantar warts. Turns out my neighbor has more issues in this area than I do, too.)
So, at 12:15 pm — as I am lusting for a glass of water and breakfast, I had nothing yet but a gargle of purple listerine— the resident enters the room and apologizes for the tardiness. I told her I was about to order GrubHub out of fear they forgot me.
I told her everything about me (as she had never met me before) and relayed that the doctor wanted to see me. I also mentioned that muscle relaxers might be a better fit to ease my periodic pain than ibuprofen or acetaminophen because it might be more due to the stress on my joints and the tightness of my muscles as a side effect of the cerebral palsy.
Now, remember, my anemia started more than 12 years ago with work stress, gaining weight and heavy menstrual bleeding. And I came to my current doctor because my former one refused to look into the source of my anemia. And that doctor made me cry. And I had started having panic attacks.
Now I am back in a similar symptom situation but I have better mental health and a way better doctor.
The resident goes and gets my doctor. I propose waiting several months to see if the anemia improves with the mesures I am pursuing now. He is worried about polyps in my colon. We agreed I will use some stool cards for a home test.
I didn’t feel heard about my request to find solutions for my body pain because then we discussed my mental health.
And he wanted me to visit their new staff psychiatrist to rule out any issues (like bipolar 2) that might require a mood stabilizer.
Now I complete understand why his said this: I had mentioned some dramatic temper incidents previous to some of my recent lifestyle changes, I had asked to restart the prescription for a very low dose of lexapro that had been prescribed for high blood pressure to see if it would even out some premenstrual mood swings, and I had mentioned some highs and lows in the past.
But I also said the isolation of the pandemic gave me the space I needed to deal with some heavy duty stress, and that good things were developing for me and I felt like this was one of the great years in my life. I talked about having rid myself of anxiety and being able to look back at that former period of my life with understanding of myself and pride. And that my therapist and I were finally looking at my childhood trauma as I scored 6/7 on the ACE test.
And he knows I have been in therapy for more than a decade. And that my therapist recommended him. Shouldn’t he let my therapist request that type of referral?
So I felt betrayed and it reintroduced feelings of anxiety and insecurity, not being sure if my medical professional was really paying attention to me and what I was saying. I had just mentioned delving into childhood trauma for the first time in my life. I am having other health issues that I need to address. So now, in my opinion, is not the time for questioning my brain chemistry.
So we agreed to discuss my anemia and my psychological state with my gynecologist (whom I see Monday) and my therapist and revisit the issue when I return in three months to discuss the follow up blood work.
This left me shaken and wanting to scream, “Stay in your lane.” I went to the doctor because he asked me to come discuss my anemia— how did a shrink come into play?
I often think this is how people get misdiagnosed, not by bad doctors, but by doctors trying to rule everything out and in the process convincing patients they need different help that they actually need. Like when people see a commercial for medicine and later “ask your doctor if (this expensive drug) is right for you.”
I emailed my therapist from my phone as soon as I got into my car. By 3:30 pm, he said he disagreed with this assessment— that I should be screened by a psychiatrist— but that we would discuss. Honestly, he is the only person I would trust with a decision like that. We all need to build teams we can trust. And this is how I advocate for myself.
When I got home, around 2 p.m., I finally had my morning coffee and made this— what I would call my “summer vegan sandwich,” courtesy of my stress shopping last week and a Hungryroot delivery. (See the teenager unboxing here.) Lightlife bacon tempeh, Hungryroot lemon tahini, romaine, deli pickle on 12-grain bread.
I didn’t take proper care of the animals (loosing almost four hours of my day to a doctor’s appointment that normally takes one hour).
I QCed 123 fixes, which is far better than the 116 the night prior. When my favorite Stitch Fix supervisor said hello, she asked how I was, I said okay. She looked at me askance and said, “only okay?”
She told me if I needed anything or if there was anything she could do to let her know. But she can’t fix the emotions in my head. So I thanked her and went back to some of my standbys— showtunes!
I listened to the soundtrack of Avenue Q as we used to in the makeshift temporary newsroom of Lehigh Valley News Group, and I can still remember one of my favorite young editors with her big headphones on, fighting her stress and her insecurities with a dose of “What do you do with a B.A. in English/It sucks to be me.”
Speaking of the newspaper days, I’ve reached out to some Chronicle colleagues for help with promoting the FURR Pop Up Cat Café August 15. The man who hired me for that newspaper (the boss of my best boss ever) mentioned that my daughter has grown up in the blink of an eye (which he has seen thanks to Facebook).
And that brought back great memories as I think the teenager was the only baby born to a staff member during the run of those newspapers. I realized I was pregnant while planning a political debate sponsored by the newspaper in Phillipsburg, N.J.
So yesterday was hard, and I managed to avoid slipping into those old panic-prone mentalities. I am drained today but luckily only have a four hour shift.