Finally a visit to Mythic Beasts and Brews: Turns out they are passing out homemade chocolate chip cookies

The Teenager is working on her college application and wanted to find a coffee shop to force her out of the house so she would have less distractions. Originally, she wanted to go to Three Birds in downtown Easton, one of our favorite spots, but by the time she got out of work, they would be closed.

I know of places on the other end of the Lehigh Valley open in the evening, but couldn’t think of anything close to home. So, I googled.

Monsieur Google suggested several local Starbucks.

Sigh.

Not that I don’t enjoy a flat white every once in a while, but we wanted something a little more unique and potentially eclectic.

A little more poking around the internet and I remembered Mythic Beasts and Brews, a ten minute walk from our house. Or, as the teenager says, “Mom, it’s closer to the house than the high school.”

The atmosphere is coffee shop meets role-players’ game den, which is exactly what it aims to be. There are four of five large tables for gamers and a few little spots for those of us who have retired our game master and PC gear.

Yes, the teenager’s father and I played White Wolf back in the day.

The Teenager ordered chai, which will make our blind friend Nancy very happy to hear that we have found yet another source of chai. I decided to take the 20-sided die challenge. Whatever you roll is your drink, $4, and it’s 50 cents to reroll.

I rolled a 12, which is a large Irish cream macchiato. That is a good selection for me.

We enjoyed our visit, and we especially enjoyed the free homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Beer and spaghetti: letting go of the hardest emotional weeks I’ve had in years

When I got home from work at 6:45 p.m.-ish Wednesday, after another impressive session at Apex Training with my strength and fitness coach Andrew, the Teenager handed me a cold beer. This was much better than the start of my day.

(New personal record: 40 lb dumbbell row. Now, if we could just get the left leg to participate in the bench press.)

Even though I get up at the pre-dawn hour of 4:15 a.m. to work on my novel (buy my books here or email me for Paypal orders) before my ten-hour shift at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy** starts at 6:30 a.m., between the animals and my superpower of innate time sense, I don’t usually need an alarm.

But Wednesday morning I woke from a terrifying nightmare by alarm. I will spare you the elaborate details but let’s just summarize by saying it felt like it lasted for hours and was one of my “James Bond dreams,” as the Teenager’s father used to say during our marriage. Stress-induced action-adventure dreams where I must navigate great danger to try and save family and/or the world.

Bean

The alarm work me before the end of the dream, so in that particular scene, her dog (F. Bean Barker) and I were trying to find and rescue her from the villain. But the dog had been mortally wounded and was dying in my arms and I still hadn’t located the Teen.

I woke shaking violently, I reset my alarm for 30 minutes later and curled into the fetal position with the covers under my chin, treasuring the faint smell of bleach. I almost called out. But I forced myself from bed and went to work.

Jean-Paul

I hadn’t had enough sleep, in part because our tiny foster kitten Jean-Paul Sartre resides in my bedroom now, and throughout the night (before the dream) he kept leaping on my face and biting me. He’s at the stage now where he’s learning appropriate social interaction, so that’s his way of getting my attention to tell me he’s bored. He’s learning to sleep nicely in my bed, but he still has poor impulse control so we have some lessons to teach him.

I maintained a 90% average on my work metrics, attended my roster and safety team meetings, and voiced my idea about different colored lanyards for safety team members to make us easier to spot in the warehouse. Currently, the safety team has orange name tags but only half the team has them, they make the name tags harder to read, and badges turn so you can’t always see the orange. In my opinion, the fact that you wouldn’t have to personalize lanyards means distributing them is instantaneous and easier to maintain.

In other events:

  • My blind friend Nancy has Covid for the first time.
  • The dining room ceiling project happened.
  • After a brief panic yesterday that one of my references had gotten lost in the mail, my service dog application is complete and will be reviewed in the next 3-6 weeks. More blog posts on that here.
  • My college roommate (Curly) visited.

Mercury Retrograde started September 9 and ends October 2, and the autumnal equinox is September 22 at 9 p.m. Hopefully the equinox will straighten out some energy in the universe. During the last Mercury retrograde, the flood that launched the ceiling project occurred. Read more about that here.

PHOTOS OF THE CEILING:

And because some of you might wonder where the food posts are:

** On an unrelated note, I worked Freestyle on Sunday, hit my normal 103%, and had an order where someone order six of the same sweater in the same color and size. In my fantasy, Mom and her two daughters and three granddaughters are wearing them in a family portrait.

Karaoke adventures

Both the Teenager and my blind friend Nan are musically-inclined. My daughter turned 18 in June and Nan turned significantly older than that in July.

I promised to take them to karaoke. It took a couple months to find an environment suitable for an eighteen-year-old that was also scheduled early enough for Nan and I.

Thursday was the night. After all, under my current schedule, Thursday is my Saturday night.

And it turned out there were two options in the same town. I found about one rather late in a new restaurant but hosted by someone I know. The other was at a more familiar location, one my family has visited since the Teenager was a baby. Literally, car-seat-on-the-table.

I picked SoMa Downtown Grill, formerly sports pub Delahanty’s on the Square. It will always have a soft spot in my heart because I remember when the building was a wreck and the owners received press coverage from my newspaper for their efforts to rehab it.

My favorite items on the menu were discontinued during their rebrand to SoMa but that has forced me to find new favorites on my visits. I knew this would be a family-friendly location for The Teenager to make her karaoke debut and one familiar enough for me to navigate with Nancy.

I even put a little effort into my outfit and wore my Stitch Fix jewelry. And my new “ultra flare” jeans from Target that I cut off at the bottom because they were regular and not “short.”

Meanwhile, Nan was practicing Leann Rimes in her new suite in her new independent living situation.

And I had no intention of singing.

The only time I ever sang karaoke it was with my friend Ken, who hosted the event (and DJed my wedding). I waited years to try and ended up singing Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t it make my brown eyes blue.”

The Teenager and I busted Nan out from her place and headed to New Jersey, where we arrived early and settled in for some dinner for The Teen and I, and an Angry Orchard for Nan. I joined her with a Yuengling draft. We ordered a goat cheese crostini appetizer for the table, which was a delight.

Nan was the second singer of the evening, with Leann Rimes’ “Blue.”

It took a while for the Teenager to commit, but she and I did a duet of Barenaked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars,” of course, as Murphy would have it, her microphone was off and she asked me to take the part I don’t normally do in our car duets. So she tried again and drug me up there for “1985” by Bowling for Soup.

Khloe

And now that’s stuck in my head.

We spent exactly what I had in cash in my wallet without even trying and Yuengling was on special and I didn’t even know it. We were home by 9:30.

And of course, my cat Fog came running to chastise me for being out later than usual and Khloe leapt onto my chest as soon as she got the opportunity.

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.

Stitch Fix Stories: The time I ordered earrings and I shipped them to myself from the warehouse

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I’ve written. But when I think about it, I suppose I can. The teen had Covid. Her father had a birthday. The teen missed her much anticipated outing to the Renn Faire because of the weather and Covid. My cat Fog has determined that he likes milkbones dog biscuits.

My Stitch Fix metrics started at 103% this week and dropped to 100% and then 94% today. (But Mercury is in retrograde. The computers were malfunctioning. And either the QCers were folding too quickly or we didn’t have enough pickers because we kept running out of work.)

But despite a difficult, hot and frustrating day at the Bizzy Hizzy, I do have one amazing story to report. (And I recount it in this video below as well.)

I’m standing at my table today. My metrics are around 97% for the day. The cart I just finished was all kinds of messed up. The wrong clothes in the wrong fixes. But I got it sorted out. The pick system is quite foolproof, but mistakes still happen. My supervisor mentioned he’d put a note by my name so they stop putting me at that table on line two that stresses me out, because legitimately, it’s a medium table and it’s too high for me. I belong at a normal table.

But so far, I’m still at this medium table that caused me to break another electronic key. They hang from our lanyards and the way the lanyard falls at this table, it smashes between my body and the table as I reach toward the back of the table, causing the card to split.

At this particular point of the morning one of the outbound leads (I think? Or is she a sup? Who knows? But she’s one of the nice day shift people. Some of them still haven’t won me over) approaches my table and offers me a fist bump.

Apparently, they were doing QC audits farther down the line. That’s when they unwrap our completed, folded fixes and check them randomly for quality. They typically look for generic trends to talk about what we are doing right, how we could improve and if there are common issues.

They came to one of my fixes. It was a large box, and the fix contained three pairs of shoes, a huge sherpa-lined cardigan, and a cashmere sweater. I had arranged the boots lying down on the bottom of the box, the flats tucked into the space between the edge of the box and the boots, and the other shoes on top of the flats. I folded and wrapped the sweaters as tightly and I could and still managed to place it with the logo to the left even though it would have fit way better turned parallel to the shoes.

I could not believe I’d managed to squeeze everything into a large box.

They were also impressed. Because once they took everything out of the box, this collection of leads could not reassemble the fix so that the items went back into the box. That’s when they scanned the box to find out who did it in the first place.

They must have figured it out, because they didn’t ask for help.

Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for my Freestyle package. On Friday morning, I slipped into the Teen’s Stitch Fix account and ordered myself a multipack of earrings from Kevia. On Sunday, we work Freestyle. My supervisor asked me to QC and ship a NAP cart (non-apparel: shoes, purses, scarves and jewelry). I told him I had ordered earrings Friday and thought it would be hysterical if I found them in this cart.

My third or fourth item from the cart was a Kevia multipack of earrings. I thought, “It couldn’t be.”

So I scanned them.

The teen’s name popped up on the screen.

What are the odds? Each employee ships hundreds of packages every day from each of the six warehouses.

I shared the news with all my friends. “These are mine and I’m shipping them to my house.”

They arrived today.

They are just as pretty as I’d thought they’d be.

CEO and CMO at the Bizzy Hizzy

So last week they made this announcement at work.

The “new” Stitch Fix CEO had scheduled a visit to the Bizzy Hizzy. When founder Katrina Lake stepped down from the CEO position last year, Elizabeth Spaulding replaced her.

Elizabeth has been visiting all of the warehouses in the Stitch Fix network and her visit was the first time a CEO had visited the Bizzy Hizzy since our opening six-plus years ago.

The supervisory team at the Bizzy distributed a Google doc for warehouse associates and leaders to attend a question and answer session with Elizabeth. If we submitted what question we would like to ask, the Bizzy People & Culture office would select some of us to represent our warehouse.

Photo: the email announcing I was selected

I thought to myself, “I was a journalist for 15 years, I can ask a good question.”

I got picked!

In preparation for the CEO’s visit, our managers asked us to wear our Stitch Fix t-shirts. I went one better and also tied my “midnight society” Stitch Fix sweatshirt around my waist. Had to ‘rep’ second shift.

My supervisor and the other members of the Sunday to Wednesday 10-hour shift cohort were excited that I had been chosen, and to my delight, someone else from our cohort was also in the room.

When I arrived for the event, Emily Watts said hello. Emily is the general manager for the Mohnton facility which is Stitch Fix’s manufacturing facility here in Pennsylvania, producing the Mohnton Made clothing line.

My mother-in-law made a career out of garment manufacturing in the Kutztown area, so I’m extra excited to see American made clothing resurface.

Emily was also my store leader at one time at Target #2536. Many of the team members from that store have worked at or currently work at the Bizzy.

When I enter the room I see several small tables, creating the customary U-shape and a head table. There are twelve name plates around the U.

12.

I had no idea this would be so intimate. As we trickle in, I notice one odd thing: there is only one man among us. Everyone else is female. Did the men not read the email? Were they disinterested in the opportunity? Did they ask stupid questions?

Ethnically, age wise, and even ability wise, the room is diverse. There are two of us that I knew had disabilities— myself with my cerebral palsy and my hearing impaired colleague.

Debbie Woloshin and Cherizza Lundy entered the room first, and I had no idea who they were. Debbie plopped down beside me, and filled out her nameplate, while Cherizza did the same on the opposite side of the room in the empty seat there. Elizabeth came in, and seeing no more empty seats in the U, realized that she had to sit at the head table, so the other executives joined her.

I then learned that Cherizza is the head-of-staff and that Debbie is Debbie Woloshin, Stitch Fix’s first ever Chief Marketing Officer. She has an impressive fashion retail resume and such a great vibe. The discussion that resulted lasted almost an hour-and-a-half and I definitely felt like that panel of executives was using the visit to gauge the company’s needs from the bottom up. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think so.

We discussed what could improve the warehouse associates’ experience (growth and development opportunities as simple as peer to peer spreadsheet training and GED programs to more complex items like tuition remission; finding ways to ease childcare and transportation burdens; etc.), future growth of the company (hopes for improving technology, nurturing and expanding the Freestyle and traditional Fix businesses, and future growth of facilities (as existing facilities max out on capacity will we construct mezzanines in existing buildings, open nodes to existing buildings, or move into larger buildings). Certainly none of the discussions came with definitive answers, but you could see that the executive staff was weighing the enthusiasm, concerns and capabilities of the Bizzy Hizzy facility and team.

Well, I don’t think the building had enthusiasm or concerns. And what I also found encouraging was that our team still acted like our team. It didn’t feel like we were putting on airs for the boss.

“…we will do what we can to help and make you feel heard.”

I’ve been with the company now for almost two years, and I still believe that for a warehouse job, it’s a good job. And the company, while a little California ‘crunchy,’ has a good culture. As my original supervisor told me in my interview, “if you leave here upset after a shift, that’s on you. If you have a concern, tell us and we will do what we can to help and make you feel heard.”

Later that night, I sent connection requests to all three women and Cherizza accepted by requested at about 9:30 pm.

I hope all three women had a delightful visit not only to the Bizzy but to the Lehigh Valley in general.

In other odd little updates:

Darrell Lea Australian soft licorice made me very happy. I bought it at CVS, and after my ExtraBucks it was $1.11. I was looking for a candy treat, preferably plant-based that I wouldn’t eat in one sitting. The name sold me. It’s one letter different from my husband’s name. (Yes, I know we’re separated, but we’re not divorced yet so I feel “ex” isn’t right either. And he’s more to me than just the teenager’s father.)

I was extremely stiff yesterday — and when I admitted that to my fitness coach Andrew at Apex Training, he was brutal. Which was mean because I had already worked a full ten-hour shift. We got my heart rate up with ropes, stretched those leg muscles with weights, and did a whole bunch of split squats. I’m not stiff today, and I’m moving a whole lot better.

The teenager tested positive for Covid. Her head “felt funny” and she had post-nasal drip so she feared she might be developing an ear infection. So she went to the doctor. And tested positive for Covid. To combat this news, we ordered pizza from Domino’s and broke out some immune supplement from Target. We got the $20 family deal, which meant we got a pizza for each of us and a two liter of Diet Coke. I chased my immune supplement with a diet and gin. I almost tossed the tablet in the cocktail.

JP and Giorgio

This morning I tossed FURR fosters Jean-Paul Sartre and the random litter (they were named before I got them and have no theme so my naming convention does not apply) onto the sun porch to meet each other and perhaps influence each other. JP needs more socialization with other cats and the Random Litter, as I have christened them, need to learn that they are safe. They should be able to look at JP and realize, “hey, nothing attacked this little moron.” I filmed some videos. They are rather long and boring, but, if you’re patient, you might notice JP stalking our old man tripod Opie and little Dixie/Jenny (her folder was blank so I named her Jennifer Grey so ‘no one could put Baby in the corner,’ and then I saw online that her foster file said her name was Dixie) considering trying the cat door or making friends with my boy Fog.

Things that make me happy… I must be old

So someone I know, who shall remain nameless unless she outs herself, tagged me in this Facebook post:

She invited me to consider it, which I would if it weren’t two hours every Friday for six weeks.

Speaking of falls, the teenager asked for some bathroom toiletry storage devices so I bought these:

The wall-mounted shelf is ridiculously sturdy. All came from Target.com.

I “treated” myself to some grip-circles to reduce the likelihood of falling. And they are pretty.

The sight of everything organized made me happy. As did dinner.

Dinner was Banza chickpea rotini with Hungryroot Alfredo sauce, fresh spinach, my homemade roasted tomatoes from the farm and chicken bruschetta burgers broken into “meatballs.”

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.

My dream self care for cerebral palsy

Despite high heat and humidity and a general lazy attitude, I drag my ass to the gym three times a week.

I’m feeling good. Gaining strength. Still not losing weight but the stamina is improving and body parts seem to be gaining definition.

My fitness coach Andrew at Apex Training and my chiropractor and physical therapy guru Nicole Jensen at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center had a lovely conversation on social media that tickled my heart.

But then… a strange incident happened today that I take as a compliment. I was walking home from the gym when a stranger stopped me.

“I don’t mean to be all up in your business,” this stranger said to me on the street, “but you seem to not be limping. You used to really favor that one leg.”

Ummmmm… I know my town is small but I didn’t know it was that small.

That reminded me of a list I made the other day. I was thinking about what I would do to improve my fitness if I had more resources. And that should be considered self-care.

And I’m proud that I’ve made a financial and personal commitment to my training, even if I haven’t had the same discipline with my diet.

So here’s my unorthodox approach to maintaining my physical and mental health… if I had more resources.

In addition to my personal training and regular chiropractic care, I would pursue:

  • hot yoga. I’ve heard it is fantastic for stretching and relaxing the muscles.
  • Private dance lessons. My doctors and physical therapists keep telling me about stretching, and at one point I was doing these video tap-dance lessons at home. The foot movements in the tap steps are exactly what my doctors tell me to do. But more fun.
  • Massages. This is another one of those things they recommend for spastic muscles.
  • Facials. Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition so I need to make sure that I balance not only my physical health but my stress levels, too.
  • Professional Nail Care. Regular manicures would keep my confidence strong. And foot health is extremely important. And I need help trimming and maintaining my toe nails.
  • Chiropractic care. So, I go to the chiropractor every one to two weeks. It’s pretty much the one thing that provides relief to my achy joints and stiff muscles. But I would love to have a regular weekly appointment that I didn’t have to worry about payment.
  • Mental health therapy. I have an appointment with my therapist about every six weeks, but that’s another one I would like to be more frequent. Because of my mindset “slips,” my physical health will follow.
  • Competitive sports. If I had more resources, or perhaps had a job that didn’t demand so much physicality from my body, I would love to commit to a strength sport or to running a 5K with a coach to guide me.
  • Food. I love food shopping and I enjoy cooking. I just wish it were easier to afford the right kinds of food that nourish, maintain and heal the body.