TOP 10 REASONS WHY I LOVE BEING A SKILLED NURSING PHYSICAL THERAPIST

In no particular order, the following are 10 reasons why I love being a skilled nursing physical therapist! For context, I graduated from PT school in 2018 and, at the time I’m writing this, have 1.75 years of experience working in the skilled nursing setting.

1 | Transition to Home
Nine times out of ten when I ask a short-term, rehab patient during the initial evaluation what their goals for therapy are, they respond with “to get back home” – to which I jokingly replay, I think I’ve heard that a time or two before (side note, also a great segue into discussing home set-up and prior level of function). As a therapist, I feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in helping a patient achieve their goal in returning home. Home is where love and life happens and it’s a joy to help patients return safely to their home environments.

2 | Forming Lasting Relationships with Long Term Residents
I love being able to walk up and down the hallways, see the smiling, familiar faces of residents I’ve worked with time and time again. Because I’ve worked for nearly 2 years with the same long term residents, I have a good idea when someone is declining functionally – whether it be in the way that they walk, how they propel their wheelchair, or even how often they are out of their room. This allows me to screen, evaluate, and treat my patients to prevent further functional decline, to optimize functional mobility, and improve quality of life.

3 | Interdisciplinary Collaboration
I’m sure this makes me sound like a nerd, but I love interdisciplinary collaboration (my entire scholarly project in PT school was focused on interdisciplinary education for professional healthcare students). The other disciplines I have worked with include other members of the rehab team like occupational therapy and speech therapy, in house nursing and dietary, physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, and what I view as ancillary disciplines like orthotists, prosthetists, and wheelchair vendors/assistive technology professionals. Similar to the hospital setting, it is so beneficial having the ability to walk down the hall and get updates from nursing, express concerns, celebrate victories, and advocate for my patients, without leaving the building, usually without even having to pick up the phone.

4 | Chronicity and Acuity
Working in skilled nursing provides the opportunity to work with short term rehab patients with acute concerns and medical instabilities, but also with long term residents with chronic impairments and various comorbidities. When new admits come to us after lengthy hospitalizations with extended period of bed rest, they are often times very deconditioned and weak, and require extensive physical assist for rolling in bed, sitting without support, even repositioning their legs in bed to optimize comfort and to preserve skin integrity. It is often these patients who challenge my goal writing skills and creativity when forming plans of care. This juxtaposition and variability has helped me refine my skills as a relative young physical therapist.

5 | Variety in Age Range
When I was a physical therapy student, I had the misconception that the only patients in skilled nursing facilities were going to be old people, like 65 or older. I quickly learned during my SNF clinical rotation in Nebraska that this was not always the case. Yes, generally I’d say my patient population is 65 years or older, but it’s not uncommon to work with patients younger than 65. The youngest patient I have had was 27 years old (just 1 year older than me at the time), while the oldest has been 101 years old. I like being able to work with such a wide age range, it keeps topics of conversation varied from life during WWII to Taylor Swift.

6 | Custom Wheelchairs
I have a confession: when I was in PT school and we were learning about wheelchairs, I literally thought it was pointless and that I’d never use that information in my career. Jokes on me because I love, and I mean LOVE, collaborating with wheelchair reps to get my patients custom wheelchairs with custom seating. Wheelchair delivery day is such a satisfying day in the therapy world. It feels like such a win after the long process of evaluating the patient, designing the wheelchair, completing the medical justification paperwork, and waiting for approval from the health insurance companies. It has been a learning process with trial and error, successes and failures, but it is so satisfying to see a patient in their new, custom wheelchair. At the time I’m posting this, I’ve successfully had 6 custom wheelchairs approved and delivered.

7 | Autonomy
Never in my career have I had a physician deny my plan of care for a patient (can’t say the same for insurance companies). In my experience thus far, the physician’s I work with will sign off on anything. Want to pursue a custom wheelchair? Signed. Want to start PT to negate a functional decline? Done. Does nursing staff need re-educated on a restorative program i.e. walk to dine or PROM program? Sure thing. To be honest, I can’t even be sure that the physicians do more than skim the top of the eval to see what discipline it is before signing. I don’t know that this can be said for all skilled nursing facilities, but I feel that I have a lot of autonomy, more so than what I experienced in the outpatient orthopedic setting.

8 | It’s Fun!
In what other setting can you dance with patients to ‘Celebration‘ and ‘It’s Raining Men‘ and bill for it? With some creative wording, dancing in during a PT session becomes challenges to static and dynamic standing balance without upper extremity support with focus on lateral and anterior weight shifting in addition to side stepping and forward stepping to challenge balance reactions for reduced fall risk. Every day may not be fun, but there definitely is fun in every day.

9 | Income to Hours Ratio
Let’s be real. I have two college degrees that were not cheap, so pay is important. Now on a personal level, my work set-up is unique in that I work 10-20 hours a week at a full time, hourly rate at one building and 10-20 hours a week at a PRN rate at the other building (because I work for 2 different entities of the same contract company). The down side is that I don’t accrue PTO as quickly as standard full time employees, but I manage just fine, and honestly it doesn’t much matter right now with travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. For comparison, in 2019 my gross income was just over 72K working 1,610 hours in a calendar year. Based off of my own research and conversations with my classmates working in the outpatient setting in my same state, annual salaries can range from 70-85K but as salaried employees, they are most likely dedicating 2,080 to 2,600 hours in a calendar year – a possible difference of 1,000 hours! There definitely is good money to be made in skilled nursing, especially with a couple reliable PRN gigs on the side.

10 | Opportunity to Work in Other Buildings
Working for a contract rehab company affords me the opportunity to work in my ‘home buildings’ (where I serve as the supervising physical therapist) but also other SNFs in the area. This gives me the opportunity to pick up extra hours during the week and on weekends – which equates to more money in my pocket. Aside from the obvious benefit of earning additional income, working in other buildings has exposed me to hundreds of other patient cases, which really helped me gain confidence and improve my skills my first year as a clinician. Now, I’m well known in my company for being a reliable, flexible, and professional physical therapist. My willingness to work at other buildings has helped me network with other directors of rehab and has in turned helped me leverage my worth as an employee, resulting in multiple raises.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


REVIEW OF YEAR 26 IN 26

Ahead of my birthday this week, I wanted to put together a post reviewing the past year of my life – year 26. This time next year, it’ll be interesting to see what year 27 looked like given its start during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

JULY 2019

DENVER, COLORADO

JULY 2019

GRAND LAKE, ALPENA, MICHIGAN

AUGUST 2019

TOLEDO, OHIO

AUGUST 2019

AFTER WORK SURPRISE

SEPTEMBER 2019

TOLEDO, OHIO MOMENTUM

SEPTEMBER 2019

TOLEDO, OHIO MOMENTUM

SEPTEMBER 2019

TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART

SEPTEMBER 2019

TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN

OCTOBER 2019

PACKING TO MOVE TO HOLLAND

NOVEMBER 2019

BROWNS BACKER BAR CANTON, MICHIGAN

NOVEMBER 2019

DETROIT RED WINGS GAME

DECEMBER 2019

OUR FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE

DECEMBER 2019

APARTMENT GALLERY WALL

DECEMBER 2019

BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO

FEBRUARY 2020

BRECKENRIDGE, COLORADO

FEBRUARY 2020

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

MARCH 2020

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

MARCH 2020

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

APRIL 2020

SPRING BLOOMS

MAY 2020

SPRING PATIO ENJOYMENT

MAY 2020

STRING OF PEARLS MARGARITA

MAY 2020

WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY

JUNE 2020

USS SILVERSIDES, MUSKEGON, MICHIGAN

JUNE 2020

NORTON SHORES, MICHIGAN

JUNE 2020

HOLLAND, MICHIGAN

JUNE 2020

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 3

A quick review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list

Home Before Dark
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: thriller, mystery, horror, fiction
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: This was my first Book of the Month selection and it did not disappoint! This book made me feel physically anxious as I got further and further into the story, every ‘thud’ and ‘tap-tap-tap’ I heard while reading made me hesitate and survey my surroundings before continuing on. This book did a great job of shifting focus from one character to the next to keep the reader guessing and miss-identifying the ending. I suppose this is the goal of all thriller and mystery authors, but I’m always surprised and entertained nonetheless. Also, the concept of reading a book in a book was new to me and made this read really something special. I loved the back and forth, alternating nature between chapters. At one point, I was hopeful I was reading a book in a book IN A BOOK – didn’t end up being the case, but would have been a better ending, in my opinion. Regardless, A+++

An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Publication Date: February 2018
Genre: fiction, contemporary
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: It’s been hours since I finished this book and I’m still in a state of awe? Sadness? Content? Confusion? I’m not sure how to feel or who to be happy for at the conclusion of this story. I’m mad at Celestial, Andre, and Roy, in that order, for their actions and reactions throughout the story but dang, this is some heavy, real life stuff surrounding marriage, racism, incarceration, infidelity, death, and deception. A good book to read right now when we are at the height of police brutality protests and Black Lives Matter movement across the nation (and the globe).

Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publication Date: December 2012
Genre: romance, fiction, contemporary
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: Wasn’t really a fan initially given the language and use of the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘crippled’ – two words I loathe and never use in my dialogue as a physical therapist. I tried to keep an open mind, convincing myself it would be beneficial to read a story from the perspective of those who are new to caregiving, but my overall impression is meh. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting that ending. I knew that there were two sequels in this series so I assumed a different ending, but boy was I wrong, and I sobbed as a result. Then I sobbed some more when I watched the movie trailer and I saw some of the pivotal moments in the book brought to life. This was the first romance novel I’ve read in years and while I don’t know that I’m dying to jump into the sequel, or another romance for that matter, I can find some benefit to having read this book. If anything, it serves as a reminder that my patient’s have hopes, dreams, aspirations, but also fear, struggles, and deep, dark periods in their lives. I would have preferred a happier ending, but not all lives, nor all stories, end happily.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Publication Date: May 2018
Genre: nonfiction, race, autobiography
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: While I cannot claim to begin to understand life as a Black woman in America, I did feel connected to Austin Channing Brown early on when she discusses growing up in Toledo, Ohio – as I’ve lived here for nearly a decade. There’s something about reading a book, fiction or nonfiction, that makes it feel so real and close to home when you can literally put yourself in the cities and places described. Overall I found this easier to read and digest when compared to How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (haven’t finished yet, waiting for the digital copy to become available again from the library). These books are similar in that both authors recount personal life events related to racism, discrimination, oppression, etc., but I found Brown’s writing voice to be easier to read and relate to personally. Also, it’s hard to rate non-fiction. Did I enjoy reading this book? Yes, from an educational stand point – but also no. It isn’t “fun” to learn about my own racial biases. There is, and will always will be, work to do in learning to be an ally.

The Guest List
Author: Lucy Foley
Publication Date: June 2020
Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction
Method: digital copy via TPL

Review: What holds me back from a 5/5 rating is how slow the first third of the book felt as we were learning the back stories of the 5 main narrators. At the half way point, my interest was picking up, and by the final quarter, I was hooked. I had figured out that the person who was going to turn up dead probably wasn’t one of the 5 narrators but I never could have imagined how their stories intertwined with the murder victim. Every time I thought I was on the right track and I had solved the mystery, the story line turned and I was perplexed again, but entertained. I definitely feel like this story challenged me mentally to keep tabs on the 5 to 6 different story lines, which required me to do some re-reading at times. Oddly enough, Foley mentioned in a Goodreads interview that her idea of a perfect mystery “should be like a beautiful puzzle: all the clues should be laid out so that if the reader were to go back through the book they’d see that all along they had everything they needed to solve the case.” Article and interview linked here.

Reads On Deck: books I have physical and/or digital copies at the ready

Until tomorrow, Meryn


#THE100DAYPROJECT 2020 – I FAILED + THAT’S OKAY

Yes, it’s true. I gave up and didn’t finish #the100dayproject. Technically, the project is still going on, but I haven’t made or posted a cluster since June 1st which was day 56.

On June 2nd, the diverse and colorful world of Instagram came to halt when thousands and thousands of accounts posted a single black box for what would become known as #BlackoutTuesday. According to The New York Times, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two Black women in the music marketing industry, proposed the music industry hold a day of reflection after the death of George Floyd. The movement quickly took off, expanding beyond the music industry to all facets of Instagram, to celebrities, major brands, and common, everyday users.

In an attempt to show solidarity for racial justice and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, I didn’t post my day 57 cluster. By Wednesday I could have returned to posting my daily clusters, but I just didn’t feel called or motivated to do so. I was getting bored of my project as is, so I quit. Simple as that. And I have not regrets.

Reflection
Overall I’m glad I participated in the project. It was a fun way to dig around my washi and sticker collection and a means to use some of the stickers I knew I wouldn’t use otherwise e.g. anything mom life related. The page by page, monochromatic story wasn’t my initial plan, but I love how it came together in the end.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


CURRENTLY // JUNE 2020

Reading // The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Planning // weekend getaway in Western Michigan along the coast of Lake Michigan, a July whole30 next month

Watching // Facebook live video of The Toledo Zoo’s reveal of Lily the Wombat, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man with host Emmanuel Acho (linked here), planner and beauty youtube as always

Cooking // homemade meatball subs with broccoli salad for Father’s Day dinner, lots of salads with roasted carrots and sweet potato with some kind of protein like chicken sausage, kielbasa, or meatballs

Eating // Durty Bird, The Executive Diner, Cinco De Mayo, QQ’s Kitchen, Zingo’s, The Soup Cafe (Lansing, MI), Lakeside Cafe (Muskegon, MI), Grand Armory Brewing Company (Grand Haven, MI), The Biscuit (Holland, MI)

Drinking // Biggby iced coffee, lacroix, Arby’s jamocha shake, beer → Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. and Unruly Brewing Company (Muskegon, MI), Grand Armory Brewing Company (Grand Haven, MI), Big Lake Brewing (Holland, MI)

Crafting // ehh, not a very creative month, gave up on #the100dayproject at the beginning of the month when a lot of Instagram accounts stopped posting due to heightened exposure of the Black Lives Matter movement, lost steam with planner spreads at the end of the month when work hours ramped back up to normal

Going // first weekend visit back to Cleveland since January to see Kyle’s dad for his birthday/Father’s Day, weekend getaway to Western Michigan including USS SILVERSIDES Submarine Museum (Muskegon, MI), P. J. Hoffmaster State Park (Norton Shores, MI), Windmill Island Gardens (Holland, MI)

Loving // Lily the Wombat at The Toledo Zoo, Book of the Month subscription, picnic lunch and catching up with friends home from California, dog sitting for Kyle’s coworkers – pupper was so well behaved and calm

Dreaming // visiting national parks, road trips in Escape Camper Vans, visiting friends in California, fall and football season in Nebraska

Feeling // scared during sobriety test at 2am on the side of the highway while semis rush past driving 70+ mph (DD’ing for Kyle and his coworkers), upset and discouraged with the removal of my paid drive time privilege at work, overwhelmed with my increasing hours at work, like I’m falling more and more in love with Kyle through this pandemic, proud of my weight loss journey

Listening // Podcasts: Nutritional Freedom, Live Free Creative, Approachable, Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald, The Financial Confessions

Listening // Spotify Playlists: 90s Pop Rock Essentials, All Out 00s, Today’s Top Hits, This is Jason Mraz, 2000s Teen Angst. Song: Savage Love by Jason Derulo on repeat

Celebrating // 20 lb. weight loss, childhood friend’s baby shower (from afar, because of COVID), 20 blog posts shared, 2 custom wheelchair deliveries, high school BFF asked me to be her maid of honor, Father’s Day with homemade dinner and an evening walk at a state nature preserve, improving work hours to 30-40 hours a week by the end of the month

Learning // how to be an anti-racist, my own personal racial biases, researching engagement ring styles, learning about the 4 c’s of diamond quality

Supporting // Black Lives Matter, signing petitions to bring justice to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Julius Jones #8cantwait initiative for Toledo community (read more here), requested books from Toledo Public Library about race (all recommendations found here)

Buying // bike shorts from Amazon, new happy planner product, Lulu’s dress, new Nutpods flavor (toasted marshmallow)

Monthly Mood Board //

Current Events // via wikipedia
[4] Virginia Governor orders removal of Robert E. Lee monument in the state capital Richmond
[7] number of worldwide cases of COVID-19 surpasses 7 million, US remains global epicenter account for approximately 26% of all reported and confirmed cases in the world
[9] Harvard University study suggests COVID-19 may have been spreading in China as early as August 2019
[15] Supreme Court rules that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals on basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity
[22] NASCAR launches an investigation after a noose was found in the garage of Bubba Wallace, the lone Black driver in the series at Talladega Superspeedway (Alabama)
[23] NASCAR and the FBI uncover the “noose” was in fact the garage door pull, had not been touched or moved since early last fall
[24] MLB commissioner implements a 60 game season, players to report to training camps on July 1 to prepare for a July 23rd or 24th opening day
[30] Minor League Baseball cancels its 2020 season due to COVID-19 pandemic

Until tomorrow, Meryn


COVID-19 QUARANTINE UPDATE: TAKING THE GOOD WITH THE BAD

Facts and Statistics
As I type this, it is June 14, 2020. It has been 5 months since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in the United States. As of May 27, 2020, the US had the most confirmed active cases and deaths in the world and its death rate was 285 per million people, the 9th highest rate globally (source). According to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there are 7,893,700 total global cases with 432,922 global deaths – 115,732 of those US deaths. According to the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio has 38,188 confirmed cases (or 41,148 total cases) with 2,327 confirmed deaths (or 2,557 total deaths).

Work Life
I can thankfully and joyfully share that both of my buildings are still COVID-19 free. While there has been administrative staff that tested positive, I am so fortunate to say that we haven’t had a single long term care resident test positive for the virus, nor have we accepted a short term patient who has been positive. From what I have been able to gather from the administration department, as long as there are other skilled nursing homes, with positive cases, with open beds, my buildings can continue to refuse to take COVID-19 patients to limit the spread of this virus, especially to our vulnerable and highly susceptible population.

This past week both my buildings were visited by a health department surveyor who examined our PPE and sanitation protocols. Up until this point, the CDC and health department’s recommendations had been changing weekly – N95 one day, face shield the next, nah you don’t need either, just wear a surgical mask, on and on and on, different week to week (of note, I was given an N95 and a face shield, only have worn them once in the past 8 weeks). The latest protocol is any new admission to the facility or resident who returns from a medical procedure (i.e. dialysis) must be quarantined in their room, preferably in an isolation unit, for 14 days, and staff is required to don gown, gloves, and surgical mask (last I heard not an N95, but again, that could change tomorrow).

My hours have been steadily rising over the past few weeks. On June 1st, I went back to my ‘normal’ schedule and started traveling between both my buildings each day, except that I requested to continue to have Wednesdays off for the time being. Because of the limitations in use of PRN staff and limited ability to pull other full time PTs to our building to cover weekends, I’m basically on call every other weekend, so I wanted to build in a day off into my schedule mid week in the event I have to cover both days of the weekend, and it has worked out so far.

Personal Life
While I am very fortunate to have retained my job, I found myself with a good chunk of extra time on my hands during the week since the start of this quarantine. With this time I was able to knock out some big goals, form healthy habits, and (hopefully) create lasting change in my life related to weight loss and hobbies. It goes without saying the privilege I have to be in a position of freedom with minimal responsibilities. I live in a one bedroom apartment with my partner, I have no children and no pets to care for, a sizable emergency fund, and solid support system. If there ever was a time to focus on myself and personal development, this is it.

This quarantine has allowed me to focus my time and energy on meal planning, meal preparation, and working out at home, which resulted in a 20 lb weight loss (read more about that here.) I also became quite the bookworm in quarantine. As of today, I’ve finished my 11th book (nearly four thousand pages) since April 5th with a new found appreciation and love for ebooks, the Toledo Public Library, and Book of the Month (which I joined in June). I’ve read more in the past 10 weeks than I had my entire senior year of AP lit. And lastly, this quarantine pushed me to do something I’ve thought about for years, starting this blog. It’s been so much fun brain storming topics to write about and drafting blog posts. I especially have liked working on my currently/monthly favorites posts and my book review posts.

Daily Life
Ohio has continued to re-open with Governor DeWine permitting the following to open effective June 10th: aquariums, art galleries, country clubs, indoor sports facilities, indoor movie theaters, museums, outdoor playgrounds, trampoline parks, zoos etc. From personal experience I can say the percentage of people wearing masks to grocery shop is quickly declining, though I still continue to wear a mask. My local gym reopened at the end of May but I opted to freeze my membership for 3 months, I figure I’ve managed to lose 20 lbs without the gym, maybe I don’t need it after all. In an unexpected turn, public health superhero and Ohio’s health director Amy Acton’s resigned on June 11th after continued backlash against Ohio’s lockdown protocols.

Reflection
While it feels like we are shifting into a ‘new normal,’ the coronavirus is still very much a threat and likely to be around this time next year. Some speculate that nursing homes won’t allow visitors until a cure for COVID-19 is found. All I know is that this has been the strangest period of my life. I am so blessed and privileged to be coming out on the other side of a global pandemic with a job, my health, and all of my loved ones unharmed.
*knocks on wood*

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 2

A quick review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list

Such a Fun Age
Author: Kiley Reid
Publication Date: December 2019
Genre: fiction, contemporary, race

Review: I just wasn’t impressed nor interested. For me the plot just dragged on and on, I didn’t really like any of the characters quite honestly – the main character didn’t seem to care enough about her own life and own story line, so why should I? While I think the underlying discussion of racism in America was beneficial for me to read and explore, I just wasn’t captivated enough to really be left with a lasting impression. I did some searching under the genre tag of ‘race’ for other novels by African American authors/authors of color on Goodreads and these look like good recommendations, consider them added to the TBR list: These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

The Girl On the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publication Date: January 2015
Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller

Review: After having borrowed this book from a friend for nearly 8 months, I jumped into and finished this thriller in 3 days – at 4:03am because I literally couldn’t put the book down. This book has everything I am loving right now in fiction: suspense, thrill, mystery, change in narrators and a jumping timeline between past and present. This story kept me guessing as the plot unfolded page after page and I felt it kept it up the pace throughout, no lulls or dragging points. I’m definitely adding Hawkins’s next novel, Into the Water, to my TBR list. I also plan to find the movie adaptation soon and dive into that!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Publication Date: May 2017
Genre: fiction, contemporary

Review: My early impression of this book was ‘wow – I hate every character in this book except Raymond.’ Initially, I was annoyed by main character Eleanor’s careless attention to societal norms but as the story develops and the details of her past unfolds, the more I was intrigued. I felt tricked by the ending but in the best way. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t see it coming, especially since I had picked up on some hints along the way. On a personal note, I loved how this book reminded me of my trip to Great Britain with mention of Edinburgh, London, Bath, York, and Hadrian’s Wall, all of which I visited with my mom and aunt after graduating from PT school in 2018.

The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda
Publication Date: June 2019
Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction, suspense

Review: Maybe I’m too gullible or I don’t take the time to pause, dissect, and reflect throughout the story but dang, this book got me on each twist and turn. The last quarter reminded me of Where the Crawdads Sing; the author kept leading the main character towards answers but left us with more questions, slightly confusing- but like in the best way. Every couple chapters I was bouncing between suspects, unable to land on the guilty party until the climatic conclusion of the summer of 2018. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, it felt a little impractical and unlikely, I wish there would have been more build up during the meat of the book to support that conclusion. Also, I still don’t really know what to make of the title. Readers on Goodread didn’t know either, which I think must mean it was an intentional selection by the author.

The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publication date: January 2018
Genre: fiction, fantasy, contemporary

Review: It’s not often I’m brought to tears while reading a book but this story got me, twice. This book has so much depth and range to it, with incredible (and eerie) relevance to what’s happening this month in America: gay right’s, racism, discussion of a quarantine, all within part 1 of the book! As the story builds, it discusses topics very near to me, both professionally and personally: science and medicine, gene expression, research, the mortality of our parents, the desire to extend life, death and dying. One criticism I’d have to agree with I saw mentioned on Goodreads was the odd, misplaced sexual references – could have done without those. Even so, I was intrigued from the very start and really enjoyed the format of the book. It was interesting to know that each part of the book would conclude with the death of a main character, but how each came to be surprised me. Honestly, I could see myself rereading this book in a year.

Reads On Deck: books I have physical and/or digital copies at the ready

Until tomorrow, Meryn


HOW I LOST 15 POUNDS AND 5 INCHES DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE

How I managed to lose nearly 15 pounds during a global pandemic, and keep it off, can be summed up into 3 things: diet, exercise, and accountability (but also the triple D: discipline, dedication, and determination).

Disclaimer: I define diet as “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” I don’t current claim to be ‘on a diet’ or ‘dieting’ as I view whole30 as a purposeful lifestyle and form of eating, rather than a restrictive eating program as the term diet might imply. I did not count a single calorie nor intentionally restrict my intake of calories in quarantine as a means of maintaining or losing weight.

Diet
When Melissa Urban announced they were launching a community whole30 – #whole30athome, to begin on April 13, 2020, I knew it was time. The announcement came around week 2 or 3 of the COVID-19 outbreak and just after Governor DeWine put into effect our stay at home orders in Ohio. I had already committed to working out at home 4-5 days a week following the closing of my local gym, but I knew the next step to making lasting change was to re-evaluate my diet and eating habits. Enter: a new round of whole30.

Let me say first that I have quite the history with whole30. You can read more about my first round in 2015 here, as well as all other blog posts I’ve shared about the topic of whole30, including a week by week recap of #whole30athome, here. During #whole30athome I managed to lose 9.4 lbs and a combined 3 inches. I ate over 95% of my meals at home, only twice did I ‘eat out’ which consisted of the whole30 compliant chicken bowl from Chipotle.

Of the seven rounds of whole30 I’ve done in 5 years, I’d say this was the easiest. Not only did having months of prior experience work to my advantage, but having extra time to meal plan and meal prep also aided in my success. And let’s not forget the fact that most restaurants were either closed at this time or only offering take out with limited menus, thus reducing temptation to eat out. Honestly, it was a recipe for success from the start (ha, food pun).

Exercise
Was I jazzed to be limited to working out at home after the closure of my local gym in March? No, but I was also determined to make the most of it. I knew it would be easy to just stop working out all together, I mean who could blame a person? We are living through a global pandemic after all. But I made a commitment to myself to continue to exercise 4-5 times per week with the goal of 60 minutes of activity. It took a week or 2 but I found a routine and rhythm that worked and that I have stuck with months later. My at home fitness routine is combination of strength training, tabata/HIIT workouts, and cardio.

I was seeing a lot of HIIT and tabata type workouts being shared on Instagram. What I didn’t particularity like about them was that they were usually only 15 to 30 minutes long and the tabatas were typically 30 sec on/15 sec off. Knowing that I wanted to commit to 60 minutes of exercise/activity, I downloaded a tabata timer app, messed around with the intervals and time limits, and settled on 60 secs on/30 seconds off for 7 rounds which equates to a 10 minute round. From there, I began building workouts by choosing 4 to 5 exercises to be completed tabata-style with 10 minutes reserved at the end either for a cool down walk outside or stretching/yoga. I quickly found that this was the perfect blend of repetitiveness and variety for me. I started building my at home workouts like this near the end of March and have continued this method into June.

I have also been enjoying what I call 100s which are typically shorter, 15 to 30 minute workouts. Similar to the tabatas, I pick 3 to 4 full body exercises, like squats, push ups, and sit ups most often, and do 10 reps of each move round after round until completing 100 reps, doing my best to limit rest time. I like these shorter workouts for either after a short run outside or after a long neighborhood walk.

The last component of my at home exercise routine is cardio, specifically running outside. I aim for 2 runs a week, generally one run to focus on a quick 1 mile, with the goal to reduce my 1 mile time, and the other to be a slower paced run, 2 miles or longer. I’m still building tolerance and find that for longer runs I need to alternate between periods of running and walking – typically I’ll run the first 1 to 1.25 miles, walk for 0.25 miles, run 0.5 miles, then walk again for 0.25 miles, run 0.5 miles, and repeat, so on and so forth.

Here’s a list of fitness Instagram accounts I look to for inspiration for exercises to include in my HIIT and tabata workouts:
– Maddie of @madfit.ig, also on youtube
– Rachael DeVaux of @rachealsgoodeats
– Melissa Urban of @melissau
– Gabrielle Rodriguez of @gabsfit15
– Iulia Danilova of @fit.with.iulia
– Kayla Itsines of @kayla_itsines and @sweat
– Meg Morat of @megmo_fit

And here’s a list of the basic equipment I have for my at home workouts:
– yoga mat
– 8 lb medicine ball
– 15 lb kettlebell
– 25 lb kettlebell linked here
– resistance bands linked here
– tabata timer app

Accountability
Throughout this weight loss journey and especially during quarantine, I set up various systems and habits to keep me accountable to my goals which has helped my motivation and focus on my overall goals.

1 | A habit I put in place at the start of the year was a bi-monthly, excel spreadsheet check-in where I record my weight, measurements, cardiovascular health (via fitbit data), and journal about my overall emotional response and feelings to the 15 day reporting period. This has helped me track my progress, both numerically and emotionally, and holds me accountable to my actions.

2 | In a similar way, I keep a health and fitness Happy Planner where I record my daily workouts, weight, thoughts, emotions, etc. I love flipping through the planner and reflecting on the progress I have made, and it is a nice way to get workout inspiration from older at home workouts I’ve done.

3 | Publicly documenting my #whole30athome journey through Instagram and this blog was another huge form of accountability. The benefits were two-fold – it kept me focused on delivering whole30 content but also helped build diversity in my blog posts.

4 | Earlier this year, I started tracking my workouts more publicly (i.e. not just in my Happy Planner) in our apartment by keeping a weekly tracker on our command station whiteboard. At the start of the #whole30athome in April, I adapted the dashboard to track my 1 mile time, days of whole30, weight, and weekly workouts. I sounds crazy to admit but this simple, weekly overview dashboard is the biggest driving force for my success, without a doubt. There is something about passing this section of the whiteboard everyday that holds me to my values and reminds me of my overall goals. Something inside me can’t stand the thought of not being able to check off all 5 workout boxes (classic Gretchen Rubin obliger, I know).

And finally, because I am technically an exercise scientist (with a bachelor’s degree to prove it), please enjoy a summary of the data I’ve obtained:

April 1, 2020June 1, 2020CHANGE
Chest42 in 41 in1 in
Waist38 in36 in2 in
Hips45.5 in43.5 in2 in
Thigh27 in25.75 in1.25 in
6.25 in
Weight 184.8 lbs170.2 lbs14.6 lbs
WeightJanuary 1, 2020
188.2 lbs
June 6, 2020
170.0 lbs
OVERALL
18.2 lbs

Post-workout glamour shots below:

Until tomorrow, Meryn


CURRENTLY // MAY 2020

Reading // The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Planning // a return to my previous work schedule (going between each building every day) for June 1st, a cheat day of June 5th aka national donut day

Watching // Chef’s Table: Massimo Bottura, Melissa Urban’s Gus the Duck saga, local news coverage for riots in response to police, video of Flint, MI sheriff Christopher Swanson addressing and marching in solidarity with protesters

Cooking // zuppa toscana soup from The Defined Dish, black pepper chicken from The Defined Dish cookbook, chicken lettuce wraps from Life in the Lofthouse, sweet and savory chicken salad from Mary’s Whole Life

Eating // solely whole30 up until May 14th, took a few days off, then 97% whole30 through May 29th, homemade frozen fruit popsicles, lots of potatoes (frozen hash browns, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes)

Drinking // new la croix flavors – LimonCello, Hi-Biscus!, and old faithful Key Lime, hot coffee at work with either Nutpods or sugar free vanilla almond milk, always always Biggby ice coffee, either black or with a splash of coconut milk

Pinning // more whole30 meal ideas, sweet treats like coffee cookie crack bars and birthday cake pancakes, how to care for string of pearls, retro modern house numbers (for no other reason than style appeal), solitaire style engagement rings

Crafting // my own hand written fonts via Calligraphr.com (inspiration via Tik Tok), weekly planner spreads, #the100dayproject over half way through!

Going // walks at Toledo Botanical Gardens, Oak Openings, Westwinds, Wiregrass, and WW Knight Nature Preserve, vital stops at Biggby and Kroger, short stay in Defiance to deliver Mother’s day flowers

Loving // having evening fires in our fireplace, 25 lb. kettle bell, string of peals house plant (Margarita) Kyle gifted me for our 6 year anniversary, Toledo Public Library for borrowing digital books, Origins GinZing gel moisturizer, hanging out, listening to music, and reading on the balcony, spring blooms, patient’s doodles on the therapy gym whiteboard

Dreaming // of traveling literally anywhere beyond a 50 mile radius from Toledo, OH, but also returning to Scotland (inspired by reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine which is set in Glasgow)

Feeling // scared, worried, but hopeful we’ve turned a corner, at least in Ohio

Listening // Podcasts: binged Nutritional Freedom – Claire Siegel’s new podcast discussing “sustainable nutritional health habits and living a life in alignment with your values”, Live Free Creative episode 91 featuring Elise Cripe discussing her three things method, Almost 30 – I’ve just started episode 319 with Rami Sethi about wealth, Approachable with beauty youtube sensation Samantha Ravndahl, The Financial Confessions was back with 2 new episodes this month after a COVID hiatus

Listening // Spotify Playlists: 2000s Teen Angst, This is Adele, This is Lord Huron, This is Of Monsters and Men, This is The 1975, Today’s Top Hits, Lights Lacquer playlists including Olivia + Mila (in conjunction with their launch of nude nail polishes)

Celebrating // 6 year anniversary with Kyle, Mom’s birthday with a meatloaf dinner in our apartment, the re-opening of Ohio businesses including bars and restaurants for outdoor dining, high school best friend Leeann’s engagement, finding toilet paper at Kroger – like Charmin, not just Kroger brand, custom wheelchair delivery day x 2!

Learning // my preferred literary genre at this point in my life is thriller/suspense/mystery, to love myself through the ups and downs of a weight loss journey (down 18 pounds since the first of the year)

Supporting // Hoen’s Garden Center in Holland, #irunwithmaud a 2.23 mile nation wide walk/run in honor of Ahmaud Arbery on what would have been his 26th birthday, Sodbusters hole-in-the-wall bar in downtown Sylvania, joined Book of the Month with my first selection coming in June

Buying // bath and body works candles, soaps, and hand lotion, Happy Planner product, industrial looking strings lights for the balcony, Kyle bought a tin Guinness sign for the bar area

Monthly Mood Board // a collection of images I’ve saved on instagram

Current Events // via wikipedia
[6] video surfaces of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery (February 23, 2020) by 2 white men in his Georgia neighborhood by 2 white men
[11] Shanghai Disneyland reopens with new social distancing rules, death toll from COVID-19 in the US exceeds 80,000
[17] NASCAR becomes the 1st American sports league to resume its season
[19] Edenville Dam in central Michigan collapses after 3 days of heavy rainfall resulting in declaration of state of emergency for 3 central Michigan counties
[25] George Floyd is murdered by Minneapolis officer who was recorded on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck eventually causing his death, protests and riots break out nation wide in response to Floyd’s death to bring attention to continued police brutality
[28] death toll from COVID-19 in the US exceeds 100,000
[30] SpaceX launches Crew Dragon Demo-2 carrying 2 NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral
[31] the number of worldwide cases surpasses 6 million and the US remains the global epicenter accounting for ~29% of all reported cases in the world

Until tomorrow, Meryn


#THE100DAYPROJECT 2020 – 2ND QUARTER UPDATE

Recap
I must admit, this project is starting to feel stale, which is to be expected I suppose, and maybe the point? I’m still loving the movement through the rainbow by way of the monochromatic collages but I’m getting kind of sick of looking through the same sticker books. I’m getting close to the end of the journal I started in and will need to start a second book in the next week or so which is exciting.

One of my fears was that I would feel like I was ‘wasting’ stickers but as the project has progressed, I’ve realized I’m primarily selecting decorative stickers I would never use otherwise i.e. stickers with off the wall quotes or very specific themes I don’t particularly like. For the most, part I’ve been saving the functional stickers as those are what I actually see myself using in planner spreads and projects in the future.

If anything, this project has taught me that I have thousands more stickers than any one person could ever use. I remind myself that, if history is to repeat itself, MAMBI and The Happy Planner will continue to create beautiful and useful stickers – really it just keeps getting better and better, so #usethedamnstickers.

Until tomorrow, Meryn