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Book Review: Ultimate Booty Workouts! February 3, 2014

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I’m going to be totally honest here. Normally, I would not be on the lookout for a book called Ultimate Booty Workouts. But I happen to think that its author, Tamara Grand, is FANTASTIC and so when it was published hot off the presses very recently, I could not resist a peek inside.

I don’t really give my booty- I mean- as a booty – much thought. I think of it as a stack of flattish pancakes somewhere back there. But as a physical therapist, and as a recently injured/surgeried person, I do think give my whole hip-pelvic-gluteal area a LOT of thought. It has undergone a lot of deconditioning and resulting instability. And as I read through this incredibly thorough, thoughtful, clear and well-written book, I thought, “Whoa. My booty does need some help!”

I have so much admiration for Tamara. She is not only an inspiring personal trainer, she is also a good writer, a super kind person, a KNITTER (something I feel is so out of my capable-zone!), a cool mom and a great friend.

First off, I will say that I loooooove the many dozens of photos of the Real Tamara doing the Real Workouts in this book. I WISH WISH WISH that her own beautiful face (and booty) were gracing the COVER of the book. Because when I picked it up, I immediately thought, “Who’s THAT? That’s not Tamara!” Okay, whatever. Get beyond the cover and open up and all the wonderful insides will become very obvious.

the real Tamara!

the real Tamara!

But don’t just look at all the awesome and helpful pictures. READ THE WORDS. Because I loved what the words said! In addition to the great visuals of the various workouts, there are also extremely helpful sections (DO NOT SKIP!) about women and weight lifting, nutrition, weight loss, posture, injury prevention (and rehabilitation). In other words, it’s NOT JUST about your booty.

As I flipped through the pictures, so many of them were familiar to me. I had already done so many of these (and had a love-hate relationship as well) and had no idea that they were doing such good things for my bootycore. Which in turn is doing such good things for my hip and my abs and all the other stuff it’s connected to (ie., almost EVERYthing). And because there are lots of upper-body and leg strengthening workouts as well, it’s really about your whole body. It would be impossible to do these workouts without also getting some pretty darn strong arms and legs as well. There are fabulous and very important sections on warming-up and cooling down. And stretching. With a foam roller!

I am going to put my two cents in and say that I think this book should be re-titled (Not Just Your) Ultimate Booty Workouts.” Because truly there is so much good stuff in here. I have begun doing some of the exercises, gingerly and gradually, and darn, it feels good. To wake up my little stack o’pancakes.

 

Taking Time To (Re)Treat January 25, 2014

IMG_4834So many things have helped me on my path to health, but one that I have been practicing for over 25 years is the retreat. I love this word. It means to take a step back; it means to take refuge. It also means to re-treat: to treat oneself, again. I first came to Santa Sabina in the mid-eighties, when I was a budding calligrapher (little known fact). I signed up for the Friends of Calligraphy retreat,  not really knowing what I was getting into.

It took my breath away. Silence, and beauty. The scratching of pens on paper in what had been set up as the Scriptorium. Words on paper (or on walls). A great spaciousness. My mind was blown.

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Once I started coming to this place, I felt I craved it like one craves chocolate, or oxygen. Once or twice a year (especially when I had babies and small children), I would slip away for twenty-four hours, to step into the quiet corners. I could climb the steps to the straw-bale Hermitage and “be the hermit” for a brief while.

IMG_1617 IMG_1612 IMG_1611Sometimes I came on my own, or with other writer friends. Sometimes I came with groups- calligraphers or poets. I experienced several amazing poetry weekends – one focusing on the work of Rilke, others with Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye. There is poetry everywhere here, and art. The art basement is a generous space filled with art supplies of all kinds – a calligraphers’ nook, a collage room. It invites gentle creativity.

IMG_1633 IMG_1630Several years ago, I began offering group retreats myself at Santa Sabina. It has been one of my greatest joys. Two years ago, I led a retreat called Stories of the Body. Participants came together to share stories through collage, art, writing, movement, and to be with their own bodies’ stories in silence and reflection and silent, mindful meals. It was so moving and beautiful. I have been trying to book a date for a return visit for years, but the center has been undergoing many renovations and there have not been dates open — until now! I am thrilled to be offering Stories of the Body again at the end of March.

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There’s an early-bird discounting until January 28th, and I’m also offering a discount to YOU, blog readers. (you can take advantage of both!) For readers of this blog, just enter the code FOODFOODBODYBODY and you’ll get an additional reduction in price.  I am also offering a deposit option with extended payments for those who cannot pay all at once.

I am hoping to be able to offer a weekend scholarship for one retreat assistant to this retreat this year. The work involved would be minimal but of great help to me (registration, set-up, logistics). If you feel that you would benefit from this special time away (and into yourself), please email me with the following:

  • Why you feel this retreat would benefit you at this time
  • Your commitment to attend if chosen
  • Experience in dealing with groups (ie your “people skills”)
  • DEADLINE: February 1, 2014

Exercise and eating well have been so elemental in my health journey, but this – THIS- has been an invaluable element that I often forget. Being with myself. Taking time for the quiet. I hope you will join us.

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The San Francisco Hot Chocolate 5k (Race Recap) January 16, 2014

it was a hot chocolate party

it was a hot chocolate party

Yesterday was the first official race I’d done since last June (See Jane Run). I was excited, I was nervous, I was happy. I started myself on the couch-to-5k program again a few weeks ago, and as of this week I’m up to Week four. I told myself I’d just go at whatever pace felt comfortable, and I just wanted to finish and celebrate being back in the (sort of) running world again.

I was a Hot Chocolate Ambassador for this one, meaning they sponsored my race registration (thanks Hot Choco folks!). I have to say, for someone living in the East Bay, this was one darned inconvenient race. First of all, there was no same-day packet pickup, so all race packets needed to be picked up at the San Francisco Presidio Sports Basement beforehand. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am still not back to my job yet! I LOVE Sports Basement the store, and the Presidio is absolutely gorgeous, but MAN, it is not an easy place to get to. I was giving it directions from THREE separate GPS devices (two apps plus my car) and not ONE of them could locate the store correctly. Fail. I kept driving PAST it or OVER it on the freeway. So, that was a pain. Once inside the store, though, the place was teeming with Hot Chocolate volunteers and there were virtually no lines. I was able to present race information for a dozen people and get EVERYone’s goodie bag. BTW, the goodie bags were AWESOME.

pile o goodie bags!

pile o goodie bags!

The biggest item (aside from chocolate!) in the goodie bag was this fantastic fleece HOODIE complete with thumb holes. So great for a chilly January day. So much better than the (hardly ever used) stack of coupons and protein bars that come in most goodie bags…

The race folks also sent out a dozen emails warning us to NOT park in or near the race, and to take these shuttles, but there were no East Bay shuttles (cough: for next time, please) and BART trains did not start running until half an hour after the start of the race. So it was a real trick getting over twelve East Bay runners over to the park for start time.

It was emotional starting the night before, setting up my pre-race pile. I hadn’t done that in so long, and it is such a beloved ritual.

pre-race pile

pre-race pile

One of our Team in Training honorees, Justin, recently passed away. This was such a heartbreak for our team. Justin came out at the start (and end) of many of our race trainings and he was so inspiring and encouraging and… relentless. I was so so sad to hear about this loss of such a good young guy. His memorial service was yesterday also, so I made sure to wear our team shirt with his name on it, and this run was in his honor.

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I couldn’t sleep well all night. I kept waking up about every hour, worried about sleeping through my alarm. Four-thirty came soon enough and I got up, ate my traditional whole wheat English muffin + peanut butter, and then went to pick up Lily for our carpool. It felt so great to be picking her up in the pre-dawn hours again! So many times we did this during our triathlon training, and it made me feel all emotional and nostalgic.

We met up with Annie, Lisa and Mary for our carpool and then headed over to the city. My friend Caroline had posted a welcome sign (Happy Running, Susan & Friends!) on her garage door. Awww! We could see lots of people on the streets all headed to the park. One last stop at Starbucks for hot coffee and bathroom, and we were off! I was toting my big inflatable gold “5” with me. (for my fifth year of running and 5th healthaversary!)

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The race itself was BIG. I had no idea how big it would be, but they announced something like 10,000 runners. Pretty awesome! I lined up in the last corral which was the one that allowed walking. There were LOTS of people there!

Corral E/Start line

Corral E/Start line

I had that nervous happy butterfly feeling when we inched toward the start line. Then the air horn went off, and we start shuffling off! It was one of the most crowded races I’ve been at – similar to Bay to Breakers – and the road we were on  was so narrow, we could not help going pretty slow. I hung with Lily, Mary and Lisa (her first race! Ever!) and we got nice and warmed up until the course spread out and then we did a little bit of slow-running intervals. There were a few loops so we got to pass the faster runners going the opposite way on a few occasions. That’s always inspiring and exciting.

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

This race had some rolling hills – some flats – going through Golden Gate park, which I LOVE. For the first three-four years I lived in San Francisco, I was always just a few blocks away from the park. I spent a lot of time in there, getting lost in the trees and paths. It felt like coming home.

We did alternating jogging and walking, whatever felt right. (mostly depended on up or down hills!) It felt like a push from my regular workouts, but also not painful. Julie and Anne met us right at the the finish line and urged us to push through the last bit. It felt good to do a little sprint but then I was panting! In a few minutes, Lisa and Mary came through. It was so exciting to see Lisa cross her first finish line!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Victory chocolate! We had little chocolate fondue cups with bananas (ergh) and other stuff to dip in. Marshmallows, mmmm.

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

We took a bunch of photos, met up with the whole group.

 

It's @sarahlou1976!

It’s @sarahlou1976!

Team Weight Watchers!

Team Weight Watchers!

George, who had been my first mentee when I was a mentor for Team in Training, is now a traithlon mentor himself, as well as training for his first 50-mile ultra marathon race. BEAST, George! So happy to see him again.

Triathlon Team reunited!

Triathlon Team reunited!

All in all, I was really happy to return with this sweet not-so-little race. I was really glad to be surrounded by friends. After all that happened in the latter part of 2013, this felt like a great way to start the year. Yay for chocolate and running!

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Baby Steps, Baby Sweats, and Goodbye for Now January 5, 2014

Filed under: body image,emotions,exercise,good things,health,injury,Nia — Susan @ 9:59 pm

A couple of weeks ago I sweated for the first time since September. It was a gentle, beautiful, emotional and extraordinary experience. I went to a Nia class, which was one of the very first kinds of movement I ever did, five years ago. Danielle was the instructor, and it was one of her final classes before she leaves for a two-year journey to China. IMG_2220One of the other dancers was Alexis (pictured in my post here 2009). She brought her adorable six-month old baby with her, and danced with her in a front carrier. Her gentle, modified moves were perfect for me, just creakily getting back into movement. She didn’t bend as low or hop in the air or do any sudden moves. Just gentle.

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babydancing

Because it was Winter Solstice weekend, Danielle did a routine called Mandala that involved no spoken instruction. She moved, we followed, and she indicated transitions by clapping her hands. It felt so organic and wonderful. And the music? It made me tear up immediately. She played the music of Kitaro, which brought back really intense memories of a long ago time…

……………………..

Back in one of my first home health physical therapy jobs when I was in my twenties, I had a patient named Oscar. He had a really advanced spinal cord tumor which had left him with paraplegia. I first worked with him in the hospital and then at his home. After some time it became clear that he was not getting better. His final desires were to walk again, however limited, and to go home to his homeland of Argentina. None of his doctors believed in either of these goals as either possible or advisable, but he was a determined guy.

When I visited him at home, he played Kitaro for me for the first time. “Listen,” he said, and he put these huge cushy headphones over my ears. This was at the very beginning of “New Age” music, and I’d never heard anything like it. He believed that it was magical. That it would help him walk. And one day I’ll never forget, he played this music through speakers in his living room, and step by step, he walked about ten steps across the floor. I was holding him by two shaking hands with a gait belt, and pulling his wheelchair by nudging it with my toe, and both of us were sweating bullets. But to the soundtrack of this incredible otherworldly music, he took his last walk.

Next, he asked me to take him to Macy’s in San Francisco so he could buy a traveling outfit – new pants and a jacket, and gifts for his family. It took all that I had to transfer his unwieldy body and his heavy wheelchair into my little Toyota hatchback, but we made it. I wheeled him all through that department store and helped him stand up (in physical therapy terms, using Maximum Assist) so he could see himself in a full length mirror. As we were leaving he said he wanted me to have a gift, and he bought me this beautiful ivory colored poet shirt with huge billowing sleeves. Because you are really a writer, he said. (yeah, he knew) Shortly after, he got onto a plane to Argentina and that was the last I ever heard from him. I assume he made it home for his final wish. But that was one of the most moving and meaningful experiences I ever had as a therapist.

I was young. Super young. And in retrospect I broke all kinds of rules I probably or maybe wouldn’t do now: I took a patient somewhere in my own car (liability no-no!). I accepted a gift from a patient, and lunch too. All these things are super frowned upon now (and probably then as well!). But that experience changed me.

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Hearing Kitaro again in this return-to-movement class was terribly emotional for me. Danielle was leaving. Oscar had been leaving. I was returning to something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do again. All of this without words, but in stretching and turning and circling around the room. I had a hard time keeping the tears in. (so I didn’t)

Danielle has been an amazing teacher for me  – graceful and strong and fun. I will miss her Michael Jackson Nia classes, her Halloween class, all of them. She sent out so much healing energy to me when I was hurt and I really felt her caring. I will miss her. I’m glad I got to experience her Nia one last time before she goes. Godspeed Danielle, and thank you. oxoxo

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Grateful. November 29, 2013

a new day

a new day

Yesterday was Thanksgiving day, and I had a lot to be thankful for. Just a few weeks prior, I thought I might have to bail on the holiday altogether, as I had been bailing on many things right and left since September. But thanks to my successful surgery and my gradual recovery, I had a wonderful day that managed to keep the majority of beloved traditions intact.

For the past four years, I have been participating in our local Weight Watchers 5k Turkey “Trot” (mostly a walk, although I did partially jog it a few times). This is something I really did not want to miss; starting the day out with some good company and activity. I had missed my WW members so much and I was hoping to see some of them there.

so excited to see many of my WW members

so excited to see many of my WW members

Hooray! Quite a few of them were there and it was great to walk along the shoreline with them. Pretty soon, though, I was feeling like “whew you guys are walking awfully fast!” and I fell back to the group behind them, and then behind them, and I was walking slower and slower and then I felt my gas tank start to sputter. I knew I had to turn around to the start point. I didn’t  measure the distance but I was guessing it was maybe half – like a mile and a half? The last few blocks back to my car felt like forever. I waited to meet up with them coming back the other way and got to see the fabulous Julie, who has been generously and enthusiastically holding down my meeting for me in my absence. I am forever grateful for HER for giving my members consistency while I’ve been away.

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It was tiring, but I was really really happy to have gone, and to be out there on the shore at sunrise. It felt like the beginning of a new day.

The triple challenge for drive-walk-drive, from 6:30am-9:00am pretty much took the stuffing out of me. I went home, gave instructions for various food preps, and took to my bed for several hours. Whew.

Right before dinner, we had a little holiday card family photo shoot.

intergenerational beauty and silliness

intergenerational beauty and silliness

the guys took care of the bird

the guys took care of the bird

My family has been amazing. A billion more gratitude points for them. They lifted all the heavy pots and pans, reached into high cabinets, chopped and prepped and stirred and did everything that I couldn’t. It all came together into a beautiful meal.

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my plate

my plate

After dinner, I needed another very big lie-down. The one task I had taken on was the Making of the Pan Gravy, and standing over the stove with my neck bent over the pan didn’t prove to be very comfortable in the long run. I was incredibly grateful (AGAIN) to everyone for doing ALL of the cleanup while I took some medication and lay on the couch.

dessert buffet!

dessert buffet!

Round 3 of Thanksgiving tradition: dessert and games! We had good friends come and join us for the grand finale of the evening. We have been playing games after Thanksgiving dinner for as long as I can remember, and it always ends in great hilarity. This time we played the old chaotic game of Pit, and then moved on to Balderdash so that all 14 of us could participate. We were laughing so hard we were wiping tears. Good times.

PIT!

PIT!

By ten o’clock another wave of major droopiness was setting in. But that was fine. All of the major holiday traditions had taken place: turkey trot, family photo shoot, dinner, friends and games. I managed to get through out with several big rest breaks and not a whole lot of pain. Considering where I was just four weeks ago, this was nothing short of a miracle.

super thankful for him

super thankful for him

Today is rest day.

 

 

Post. Op. November 17, 2013

Pre-Op with my buddy.

Pre-Op with my buddy.

So, it finally happened: I had a cervical laminotomy, microdiskectomy and foraminectomy on Wednesday afternoon. I had been hoping hoping to avoid surgery, but after eight weeks of really relentless pain, I was glad to try something that promised the hope of relief. I won’t lie, I was nervous. And emotional. But ready.

We got to the hospital a few hours ahead of the 3:30pm surgery time. I put on my stylin’ hospital gown (very nice design, with a big pocket in the front!) and settled in to wait. I was visited by the neurosurgeon, the anesthesiologist and the OR nurse. Finally they wheeled me into the operating room. The last thing I remember was going through the swinging doors that said OPERATING ROOM on them, and then… nothing.

I woke up and there was a nurse who kept saying, Take another deep breath. Another one. Apparently I had to hang out in recovery for a couple of hours because the breathing thing wasn’t happening to their satisfaction. I had about a minute of “I think I’m going to be sick” but they shot me up with anti-nausea stuff right away and nipped that in the bud, so for the first time I didn’t have terrible vomiting after anesthesia. I was very grateful for this.

Finally they brought me up to my room where Mr. McBody had been waiting for me. I was so happy to see him. And by the time I was awake enough to notice, I realized that the arm/shoulder blade pain that has been torturing me for two months was gone. GONE. AWAY.

I did a lot of sleeping. I managed to get up, with a lot of help from the nurse and Mr. McB, to the bathroom.  The next day (Thursday), the physical therapist came by and stated we were going for a walk around the hall. This sounded very ambitious to me, but lo and behold, holding on to the IV wheel, I did it.

the physical therapist took me on my first walk

the physical therapist took me on my first walk

There was a big board in my room with all of my pertinent information. One thing they do is ask every several hours, What is your goal? (I thought this was kind of amusing). I said my goal was to go home.

Goal: would like to go home.

Goal: would like to go home.

I got home around noon on Thursday. I think I slept most of that day. Friday and Saturday I felt pretty sore in the incision area, which they said was to be expected. Even though my incision was pretty small, it was deep and a lot of stuff had gone on in there. As Mr. McBody is fond of saying, “they really raunched around in there.” He was able to get ahold of my surgery report which I found very interesting.

I had noted that there were these two spots above my ears (on my skull) that were very, very sore and tender. Then I realized that this was because my head was clamped to the table!

The head was secured with the Mayfield head fixation device

Which I suppose was a good and necessary thing. I was taken by how many times the words “careful” and “carefully” were used in the report. Like a dozen. Somehow this made me feel good. I mean, he wouldn’t say “casually” or “messily” but I liked that he made a point of being “careful.”

It became clear that there was a large disk herniation causing marked compression of the ventral nerve root at its exit from the spinal canal… the larger pieces of the herniated disk were mobilized…this resulted in immediate decompression.

Reading this, and talking with the surgeon the next day, made me feel so relieved and also like… so there was a REALLY BIG REASON I have had so much pain. He said that the nerve had basically been strangled and stretched and he was surprised I had been able to go 8 weeks in this condition. I was also so relieved that it was so straightforward – there was a very specific, physical cause for my pain and he fixed it.

So since I’ve been home, I’ve had different pain. The place where the incision happened has been pretty sore, but it mostly bothers me when I’m changing position. (lying down to sitting up is the worst) Once I’m in the new position, it kind of calms down and then I’m good unless I move too much. It’s a completely different sort of pain, and I am noticing that it is improving every day.

Yesterday, Lily came by and took me for a walk up on the trail. We went a whole mile and although it was exhausting, it didn’t make my pain worse. So YAY!

1 mile walk!

1 mile walk!

I feel like I am finally on the road to getting better. I’m still not able to drive (too much head turning) and I don’t have a lot of energy, but that terrible, awful stabbing pain has left the building.

I didn’t get to Minneapolis this week. Which was sad and disappointing. But tonight I am actually going to show up for something on my calendar. I’ll be reading from this new book tonight and I’m going to be out in the world, even for just a few hours.

Yay. Whew. Yay.

 

1.14 MILES! and Other Good Things November 9, 2013

Filed under: body image,emotions,exercise,good things,pain — Susan @ 4:42 pm
Fall has arrived in my front yard!

Fall has arrived in my front yard!

Yesterday I felt a real corner-turning. Mr. McBody asked me (as he always does) if I wanted him to bring me a cup of coffee. Just last week I was having to drink coffee out of a straw because it really hurt to drink it sitting up.

bendy straw + water bottle

bendy straw + water bottle

But yesterday, I felt like, I want to get my own coffee! So I went downstairs and did just that. And it was a little twingey but it didn’t take everything out of me like it had in the past. He went to work and I came back and surveyed my little bedside kingdom. WHAT A FREAKING MESS.

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For the past 7 weeks, I have only strayed from this spot to go to another bed, or to the living room sofa. People have visited or mailed me nice stuff, and I looked at it let it drop from my hand and then it just… sort of… accumulated. Lots of books. And cards and stuff. My bedside table was a mountain of medicines, bendy straws, and goodness knows what else. I spent most of the morning sorting it out and getting down to a clean(er) surface.

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That felt so much better. (I didn’t get to ALL the stuff on the floor, but that’s another task for this weekend ;-)) But it was such a great thing to feel like I could do– SOMETHING. Like I could do anything. I spent the afternoon getting caught up on my physical therapy charting from MONTHS ago that I had just… abandoned. By nighttime I got an email from the QA person at my office saying that things were finally looking “pretty clean.” HIGH FIVE. I just have not had the mental acuity to really focus on this stuff, either from pain or drugged state or both. It felt really good to get that done.

Today I wanted to get out of the house. I was getting tired of just going up and down my little street, so Mr. McBody drove me up to the park near our house (it’s a STEEP HILL getting there, so walking there did not quite seem do-able yet). I was so happy to be on my familiar home trail.

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trail sweet West Ridge trail

We decided we’d go 15 miles or to the “first bench” or which ever came first. Turned out it was all at the same time. By the time we got to the bench, it was just a little over half a mile. It was a very nice place to lay down and rest. Thanks to Chuck Conlin. (see plaque)

This bench always makes my day.

This bench always makes my day.

When we got back to the parking lot, my Runkeeper said we’d gone 1.14 miles. This was so much better than I’d thought. My neck and arm were achey (I’d say about 3-4 on the Pain Scale) and I was tired, but it felt worth it.

Now I’m lying down again. But I feel really good about that walk. It’s real progress!

Last night my PT buddy came over and did some reflex and muscle testing. They’re definitely still problematic on the right side, but how much is the question. We will talk with the doctor again on Monday. My current thinking is to push it out another two weeks and hope for even more improvement.

She had her reflex hammer in her car!

She had her reflex hammer in her car!

And now… a nap. ;-)

 

 
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