Small goals for a rainy day

I don’t have the energy and the endurance that I once did. I can no longer drive myself to clean the house in a frenzy or bake all my bread from scratch.

I’ve gotten older.

My… constitution?… does not maintain consistency. Whereas it used to be my moods that swung, now my body’s functionality waxes and wanes.

So far today I have:

  • Folded laundry, and done another load
  • Did the hand wash dishes
  • Cleaned most of the stuff off the corner table
  • Had a glass of water, and a glass of iced tea
  • Cleaned the cat boxes in my room
  • Fed the bird
  • Vacuumed
  • And made amazing vegan flautas with Hungryroot cashew cheddar

I started Five Days at Memorial on Apple TV while I hung out with the dog.

And made great strides cuddling foster Jennifer Grey.

FURR Foster Jennifer Grey

With my walking being so unstable, I’m extra proud to announce that Friday night I squatted 135 lbs.

I started taking the Baclofen my neurologist prescribed and we’ll see if that makes walking easier.

And I’ve been sleeping 9-10 hours a night over the last few days so hopefully that also means my body is getting some recovery time.

Last but not least, I’ve been trying really hard to reduce sugars, refined carbohydrates and processed foods from my diet to test if that will lower the amount of inflammation in my body.

So much to do and I want to binge watch Top Gear America

Today was my first Monday day shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I worked second shift, then 10-hour shifts and now I have moved to Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. After almost a year of 10-hours, 8-hours feels so short. And it feels like we’re always on break. And transitioning from a 15-minute break to a ten minute is disorienting to say the least.

After work yesterday, I went to the chiropractor, the amazing and dedicated Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. I feel like she’s learned my body to the extent that it’s personal to her, the challenge of keeping my misconstructed extremities functioning. I think she has this zone she gets into, where she’s plotting a strategy and it’s her against me, well, the physical form of me.

I felt my body start to compensate for my hip falling out of place yesterday. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t even feel wrong, but I noticed elements of my posture changing. A little more protest from the right side, leaning that way more heavily, occasional back pain.

I don’t have the best understanding of mechanics or physics, so my brain is slowly clicking when it comes to considering my femoral anteversion, which means the head of my femurs sit in my hip sockets kinda facing the wrong way making my legs kinda face backwards I guess, makes my bones put pressure on the socket at the wrong angle pushing it out of place? Maybe?

And me, either being a trooper or an idiot, did a 8-hour work shift on a Monday, where I performed at 95%, went to the chiropractor and then visited Andrew, my also amazing and dedicated coach at Apex Training. I think I scowled at him more than usual. The work out was brutal and ended with… what did he call them… offset dumbbell rows? Imagine kneeling on the bench and doing a dumbbell row with a 20 or 25 lb weight while holding the other leg up in the air.

Meanwhile, I reached out to David from The Cerebral Palsy and Fitness Podcast and asked if my discovery and fitness journey would be something of interest for his show, and he said yes. I also updated Andrew Gurza of Disability After Dark Podcast about my upcoming “Sex in the Text” panel at the Easton Book Festival. We had recorded an episode in June, but my parakeet (may he rest in peace, that might be what reminded me of the interview) made so much noise, we hope to rerecord an interview in November.

That’s fine with me, as so much has happened since June: my service dog application, new physical struggles and this “Sex in the Text” program for Easton Book Festival among them. I’m lagging behind on my preparations, which means I’ve been scanning my Fashion and Fiends novels for sex and jotting notes about themes, goals and techniques.

But then, my new computer Midnight came with a free trial of Apple TV, which made it ridiculously easy to subscribe to a free trial of Motor Trend‘s streaming channel. Why on God’s green Earth would I as someone with no understanding of physics or mechanics need Motor Trend? Three words: Top Gear America. It’s the only way to see Top Gear America featuring Dax Shepard and cars.

I don’t think it’s readily apparent from this blog, but I adore cars. If I had any sort of skill with tinkering, I would be more hands-on, but I am useless. But, I can still drive and appreciate cars. And I certainly admire and appreciate Dax Shepard from more than one angle. I just want to watch every available episode (there are two seasons available) and forget about the rest of the universe.

Which right now is tempting… because the episode on the Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche SUVs had me laughing out loud. I started the hot rod episode but pried myself away for what ended up being a very trouble night of sleep. Bad dreams and body pain, to the point where I was up for an hour from midnight to 1 a.m., debating whether to pull the laptop into bed. I, instead, smeared my back and hips with CBD arthritis cream and drifted away into another uneasy three hours of sleep.

So much to do before the book festival, but the cars… and the Dax… call to me.

When success means you think someone is trying to kill you

During one of my recent doctor visits, I think it was at the end of August, my physician asked how my strength/fitness personal training sessions were going.

I told him my coach Andrew at Apex Training put me through some demanding stuff so I was in agony pretty often.

My doctor laughed and said that if Andrew was doing his job well I should hate him.

Well, today was the closest I ever came to thinking he might kill me.

Now, if you are new here, please note I have diplegic cerebral palsy (which basically means that my brain and my lower body muscles don’t communicate well, which has led to some structural issues in my hips, legs, etc.

I work out three-times-a-week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Andrew has his full-time job, which is primarily an overnight shift, and I work at a warehouse Sunday through Wednesday, 10-hour-shifts.

Mondays are always interesting. I am 50% through my workweek and Andrew is usually sleep-deprived.

By some miracle, I work 6:30 am to 5 pm and head straight to the gym, and Andrew comes to the gym, often having not slept for almost 24 hours. But he shows up and so do I.

Tonight was a full body workout that felt twice as intense as my normal routine, but it felt amazing to push myself and even more amazing to succeed.

And because Andrew knows what I’m feeling — not only as a person working to better myself physically but also as someone still grieving the loss of her father— he forgave me for eating half a cake for my dad’s birthday.

But I also asked him if some people had stopped working out three times a week. He say yes, that several of his clients were sporadic. One changed work schedules and hadn’t committed to a new time. And two of us were regulars.

I get life being in the way. I know it’s hard. I know it’s expensive.

But I encourage you to stick to it.

I started at Apex in August 2021. Somehow despite a tight budget, I find the money.

And for all those people who can’t stick with it— I promise:

  • You will see mental and physical changes in yourself.
  • You will feel better.
  • Your body composition will change.
  • Your fortitude will grow.

And you should also see changes in your balance, stability and coordination. The things you can do, whether stamina on a long walk or moving furniture, will improve. Your confidence should increase.

And some days it will feel grueling. Some days you will be exhausted or achy and not want to do it. On those days, tell your trainer how you feel, but show up for the workout and do your best.

It feels like a new level of training

Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training, has reached new levels of sadism.

I said that (partially) in jest because I love to see his face get that pensive squint when he’s digesting my regular updates of how my body feels and what my other professionals report about its function.

I feel like since my finger recovered from my burst tendon, I’ve reached new heights in stamina and my own strength. Last week, I hit a PR (personal record) with a 35-lb dumbbell row.

And things just feel like they are moving better. I’ve stumbled more than usual, but caught my balance 90 % of the time. I have less pain and I think I understand the pain better.

I’m working out three times a week and doing movements, with support Andrew has designed, like split leg squats that are torture (in a good way) and that I never thought I could do. I even work out after my ten-hour shifts at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.

It’s hard, and exhausting, but I really think it helps get blood flow into all my aching parts and aids my sleep and ultimate recovery.

And today Andrew let me beat the big tire with a mace.

Speaking of Stitch Fix, the company has opted to move the Sunday to Wednesday 10-hour cohort. We get to choose which of the remaining shifts we want to transfer to and I’ll be putting in for the remaining 10-hour cohort, Wednesday to Saturday.

Frankly, the idea of working 5 days a week is horrifying. And I’m not thrilled with the prospect of losing my current shift.

But a warm gluten-free brownie sundae with Ben & Jerry’s cannoli ice cream softened the blow.

PS —

I put my underwear on backwards today. All day I kept wondering why my underpants felt so uncomfortable.

My body feels wonderful… and other ridiculous tales

This week has been a roller coaster— but isn’t that just the way? People have been telling me I look like I’m loosing weight but I don’t know if that’s true.

The teenager took the dog for a rainy walk at Lafayette College the other day. She sent several very lovely photos.

I have many odds and ends making life out of the ordinary from little foster kitten Jean-Paul Sartre to my dear friend Nan moving from my neighborhood to a senior community.

Nancy in her new place

I ordered a kitchen scale off Target.com to measure Jean-Paul’s growth. He’s up to 1 lb 5 ounces. That was after a big breakfast of pate and kitten milk. He has a hearty appetite and screams for food like any baby does every 4 hours.

He is super inquisitive and smart. He carries tiny toys around in his mouth and plays with our dog, Bean. (Here’s a video.)

Meanwhile, guest fosters Coffee Bean & Pinto Bean are having fun in my room. Khloe and Louise do not like having babies around, but the cockatoo Nala sure does.

For some humor, let’s mention that the Teenager recently discovered that the Morningstar Farms breakfast Pattie’s I have been feeding her for almost two decades are vegetarian. She called her dad to find out if he had been in on this secret.

We never hid that they weren’t real sausages from her and she’s been able to read for a long time. The shock was real, and she’s still talking about it days later.

She didn’t have a chance to go grocery shopping for her nights in the kitchen. I suggested using my Hungryroot ancient grain gluten free pancake mix and the Morningstar sausages. It was a lovely, hearty breakfast-for-dinner. And like she had accused me of when she first discovered my fake breakfast meat, “It was all a lie.”

The teen also got her first fix from Stitch Fix and it came from the warehouse where I work, the Bizzy Hizzy. Click the photo to see her unbox.

Click to see what’s in the box

Speaking of work, I took voluntary time off on Monday and my stats were 100%, 88% and 98%. Andrew at Apex Training has been working be hard with exercises like split leg squats. My quads feel it. My balance is improving, my aches and pains feel like muscle fatigue and not deeper pain or joint issues. I have caught myself almost falling several times, and can sometimes feel my leg scissoring or even notice my left foot dragging behind before it trips me.

Even my chiropractor, Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center has made comments about how well my body is moving and how things are improving. Today she said my right side was locked up, when it’s usually my left, and that everything went back where it belonged easily.

When I hopped off the table, she told me to look at myself. “I have never seen you stand up with your feet so firmly planted and your poster straight,” she said.

And I felt it, I felt really solid.

So I don’t know if this is where I confess I tried the new Wingstop chicken sandwich. Most of my diet lately has been vegan. But last night I hadn’t had dinner, it was 8 pm and my body was devastated (in that good way). I could barely move after my shower. I considered skipping dinner.

But then I thought about my food intake for the day:

  • 4:30 am: Supercoffee dark roast with half and half
  • 5:30 am: Wawa coffee con lèche (it was a bribe to make myself go get gas)
  • 6:30 to 8:30 am: 20 oz water
  • 9 am: Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast bar and about 3 oz cranberry juice cocktail
  • 9:30 to 11:30 am: 20 oz water
  • 12:15 pm: quinoa with roast zucchini, white beans and my home canned roasted tomatoes, 6 oz Diet Pepsi
  • 2 to 5 pm: 20 oz water
  • 5:30 pm: sunflower seeds
  • 6 pm: 12 oz cucumber water

I thought a chicken sandwich would be good for protein and I saw the commercial for Wingstop’s new chicken sandwich on Hulu. It was good, not as big as I thought a sandwich from a chicken joint would be— but to be able to slather any sauce from their menu on our was really cool. I had a mango habanero sandwich and a side order of the honey hot rub boneless wings. It hit the spot.

Navigating healthy limits: I can and I should are two different things

The wounds I acquired last Monday falling through the screen door (yes, there is a blog on that) have mostly healed, except where Bean Dog accidentally scratched off my scabs. The teenager tells everyone it looks like I had a fist-fight with a bear. And we had a family debate over Indian food– the teenager, her father and I, over whether I won or lost. Consensus was I won. (The Indian food came from Nawab in south Bethlehem, who were gracious hosts despite us not knowing that had converted to reservation only for dinner.)

On Saturday, I went to the gym and hit a new personal best with Andrew at Apex Training. I think it was 110 lbs on the barbell for three reps in box squats. My torso, my thighs, everything could take the weight well, except my knees. My knees kissed as I stood up with each rep. It didn’t hurt. It quivered a little, but I definitely had to plant my feet, balance the weight, lead with my thighs and hips and force those knees slowly out. The weight didn’t bother me. My own knees terrify me.

On Sunday, I performed 111% at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy, which means I shipped 555 items. Goal is 500 for a ten-hour shift, but as I reached higher numbers and saw that 555 was possible, I went for it. After all, both 111 and 555 are lovely numbers. Three prime numbers in a row, twice. Patterns and numbers comfort me. They offer a reminder that while a million permutations might exist, that there is underlying order in the world.

Yesterday I started my shift with refixes at the table in QC that has been assigned as mine for about three weeks. My table, line 4b, table 6, has a manual conveyor line on my left, which is great for my balance but bad for my finger. I hit 162, the daily minimum expectation, but barely.

I was achy, with sore feet and a sore spine, but nothing unusual for a person standing for 10 hours a day. I notice on my phone that around 4 p.m. that my walk was asymmetrical by 1%.

I have averaged six hours of sleep lately, with borrowed kittens and the high heat, so I opted to take a muscle relaxer and sleep versus push myself at the gym. My chiropractor has suggested my recent issues with falls and lack of control in my right leg might stem from overdoing it.

Between the heat wave, the full 10-hour shifts, the general aches and stiffness and the inappropriate levels of sleep, I opted to postpone the gym, take one of my muscle relaxers and sleep. I slept much better, but I could use a solid 8 hours or more.

I’m slowly learning just because I can push myself doesn’t mean I should.

Falling through the screen door

Monday. I slept pretty decently last night despite the oppressive heat. I had performed 105% in Freestyle on Sunday in the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse, folding and shipping clothes while dreaming of new sundresses for myself.

I came home a little stiff and achy, a trend that seems to be back-sliding on the recent physical progress I made but the finger held up to its first day out of the splint at work.

I also came home early, as the Teenager planned a movie night for blind friend Nan to watch How to Train Your Dragon, a movie I have not yet seen despite the fact that I made a Toothless stuffed animal at Build-A-Bear.

Nan and I were to stop and pick up dinner at Wawa and the Teenager had made homemade ice cream (that honestly was on par with Cold Stone Creamery). And everyone got their desired dish from Wawa— except me— as I wanted a pre-made salad from the grab and go cooler and apparently the cooler was broken. The employees were removing all the food and the floor around it bore wet floor signs.

So I ate leftovers out of my fridge.

The audio-described version of the movie was intense. The poor man doing the description didn’t have time to breathe.

I was in bed by 8 p.m. The cockatoo had issues at 2 a.m. But all-in-all a good night.

At work today, I was tired, hot and a little bored at my regular table in QC. I did 101%.

I’m still have issues with a strange burning and tightness in my right thigh, and dealing with that is causing lower back pain.

I got home from work and tentatively poked my head around the corner in the garage— checking to see if dog was in the yard. She was not.

I walked up the stairs from the car bay to the main room of the garage. Walking across the big open space in my garage, I tripped over my own foot and fell. I did some sort of corkscrew dive and fell backwards through the screen door to exit the garage then skidded across the floor. I scraped my hand, my knuckles, my elbow and I think my leg and knee.

But then I still went to the gym. Under Andrew’s careful eye at Apex Training, I did my workout. I felt better than when I arrived, even if I am still a little stiff and achy, but such is life with cerebral palsy.

Some of the damage

Apex 100, the strawberry Frosty and a makeshift splint

I wept tonight. I nearly wept myself into a panic attack. My guts are still fluttering. And I flung things down the stairs.

But that’s the end of the story. Let’s start at the beginning.

On Monday night, after the teenager’s car accident, I went to Apex Training for my 100th session at the gym since I started about ten months ago.

Because it was my 100th session, the my trainer picked out 6 exercises for me to do 100 times, at my own pace, breaking them into sets as I saw fit.

I was a little stiff the next day, which was yesterday, but I still managed to do 100% according to the metrics at work. But my the end of the day my right leg was unsteady.

Today I woke up very stiff, with my muscles in my lower body so tight I struggled to bend and I had even less control and stability in my right leg.

I only made about 90% today.

By the end of the day, my right quad had this dull burn to it, but it didn’t really hurt. But it was getting more and more difficult to control as my stiffness dissipated.

But the teenager and I still made it to my 101st session at Apex and celebrated by trying the new strawberry Frosty at Wendy’s. Which, by the way, is much tastier with a Wendy’s sugar cookie.

I took my custom splint off— today marks one week of wearing it and taking it off every 3 hours for occupational therapy exercises and when needed “for hygiene.” And the finger is looking steady!

I removed the splint to wipe down my hand with a wet nap before eating. I set it down carefully in my lap. And then it just disappeared. I checked the take-out bag. I checked my bra, the car compartments, the seat.

The teenager told me to stop wiggling around that it had to be in the car and we’d look at home.

We didn’t find it at home.

So I went to the kitchen and started to cry. my finger had looked so good wrapped around that Frosty cup as I smeared the Frosty on my portion of the cookie the teenager and I shared.

I checked my local CVS’s website: no splint in stock. So I checked my local Walgreen’s: no splint in stock. And so it went.

Still upset, I found a piece of wood my cockatoo had stripped from her toy and taped it to my finger.

My splint. Hopefully I’ll find a better solution in the morning.

Rebuilding

No fancy title. No big announcements . Just some subtle realness.

Though I do have a little good news. Misty came home today. He’s wobbly, but he’s his sweet-natured self. Video here.

Touch of Grey is still in the hospital.

If you missed that harrowing tale, you can read it here.

The world often seems twisted in an eternal loop of one step forward, two steps back. It makes me miss my dad.

But I noticed today amid the cat drama and everyday life— I worked with my blind friend Nan this morning— that I still have trouble with my right leg, mostly stiffness and lack of control, but no pain.

So when I headed to Apex Training for my session with Andrew, I felt anxious and emotionally exhausted but physically ready to go.

Every session Andrew challenges me more today— and I did a mixed grip barbell deadlift at 100 lbs. And for the first time, I felt like I nailed the form.

As if that weren’t enough, he had me do something I never heard of: a plank up. He wanted me to do 5, but I only did 4 1/2. Well, Greg was willing to give me credit for 4 3/4. And as the teenager says, Greg doesn’t hand out credit easily. Speaking of improvements, in Saturday’s session, I surpassed 60 seconds in a plank.

My strength, at least the physical kind, is coming back.

Dinner was a flat bread pizza — a vegetarian delight of random cheese I found in the fridge, a radish sliced thinly, and some honey with red pepper flakes.

Pain and performance (and a high school graduation!)

So first things first— let’s embarrass the teenager.

She graduated from high school Friday night. (Above, pictured, left to right: me, her father, her, her paternal grandfather and grandmother and my stepmom)

The weekend that followed included several dinners with family members and we have a party planned later this week.

The other updates:

  • I have been killing it in the gym. My plank time is more than a minute now. My strength is improving and for the first time ever, I did exercises with a 30-lb dumbbell.
  • It’s been seven weeks since I got my first cast to treat my mallet finger. Two more weeks until it comes off. Remember that when I mention that I am hitting milestones like the one mentioned above.
  • I hit the goal for Freestyle on Sunday at work in the Bizzy Hizzy. I shipped 500 items in, if I remember correctly, 363 packages. What makes that amazing is that we also had a one-hour training — so 500 items is the goal for a full day. Taking the training into account, that puts me at 110% for that day.
  • Yesterday and today I worked at the same left side table in QC. Even with pushing boxes to the left with a bum finger, I did 166 fixes yesterday (102%) and 169 today. (104%).
  • But here’s the weird part— i was in pain but it didn’t impact my movement. I started each day extremely stiff and with a little bit of back pain, but not in the low or upper back, in between. And as I eased into my shift, my hip hurt deep in the socket, up near my groin, but in the front in a very small but specific spot. And my quad would feel intense pain that sometimes went into my knee but for the most part didn’t. Tylenol doesn’t help. It gradually subsided over two hours. It happened in exactly the same way today.
  • I combat this my paying extra close attention to all my movements. I plant my feet on the floor and hold my core and glutes tight. I force out my toes and my knees and as I move my body to retrieve clothes below my waist I bend with my hips and stretch them. Is this what helps? Is something out of whack (like my femur) and stiff by morning and I force it back into position?
  • In very sad news, Charles Ticho, the nonagenarian author who penned the Parisian Phoenix book Stops Along the Way died today. I will be addressing this soon on the Parisian Phoenix blog.