Forgive Yourself

I believe it is Wednesday. I’m fairly sure because the teenager keeps talking about taking the garbage out, and I had a chiropractor appointment this morning.

She and I talked a bit about the mental component of health and wellness.

My blog post yesterday reinforced it for me. The “do one more” mentality.

But at the same time—

No matter who you are:

  1. Forgive yourself when your house is dirty. Sometimes you don’t feel well; sometimes you are emotionally stripped; sometimes you are busy living life and enjoying the ephemeral moments.
  2. Forgive yourself when your values and what is important to you doesn’t line up with the rest of the world. Yes, I’m a crazy cat lady and I work in a warehouse even though I’ve had a professional career and lots of education.
  3. Forgive yourself when you can’t keep up. Yes, people want you to do things and people need you, but sometimes you can divide a project that you could do in one day over four days.
  4. Forgive yourself when you feel needy. Sometimes you have to ask for that hug or for help.
  5. Forgive yourself when you want to be alone. Don’t guilt yourself if you need rest or merely some quiet time.
  6. Forgive yourself if you aren’t where you want to be. Sometimes the journey goes unexpected places. Embrace it.

Level unlocked: Bench Press

I have been strength training on and off for the last 20+ years. It definitely makes my muscles easier to manage and allows me to fight the control issues and long range effects of cerebral palsy.

Today I did my first bench press in my session with Dan of Apex Training.

And that’s my first bench press ever.

At other gyms, with other trainers, we never did bench press. At home, I never had the equipment to bench press.

I found it exhilarating— I never realized how much coordination and full body balance a bench press requires. I always thought it was purely upper body.

I can’t wait to do more.

We did various upper body exercises including some newer movements I hadn’t seen before but I am perpetually pleased with Dan’s knowledge. And he has chickens and we share some tastes in food.

Occasionally during the workout, he asked if I could do one more.

I can always do one more.

That isn’t bravado — that’s my mentality for life. That’s how I survive my disability. I have to push my body to do what it needs to do.

My success and “feel good”-edness continued through my work day. I QCed 132 fixes (goal is 130).

I suppose there are two ways to approach life with a disability… One is to do nothing, and give up.

The other is to do one more. And grow stronger.

I chose one more.

A Day in the Life: Surviving Monday

6:50 a.m My foster cat Louise sees me roll over and starts licking my face and then, when I ignore her, hobbles her tripod self to my feet and starts licking them.

7 a.m I reluctantly rise, give Louise and her foster sister Khloe and my personal cat (and fellow tripod) Opie some kibble. I feed the cockatoo and the parakeet.

I want to go downstairs for coffee, but the dog and the teenager are sleeping there and I’m not ready to see the dog yet.

7:15 a.m. I manage to get dressed and sit down at my desk to do some adulting before my 7:45 phone call.

7:30 a.m. I’m cuddling cats. Khloe disapproves of me using my desk. She thinks it is here.

7:40 a.m. Khloe is grouchy (the whole territorial dispute over the desk). So I start working with her. I show her she can take out her anger on toys. I take a video because she’s so cute.

7:45 a.m. My cat foster godmother texts. “Your phone went right to voicemail.”

I had to admit I got distracted by my fosters. See the video of Khloe here. My phone was filming video so it blocked the call.

Louise

7:50 a.m. Great talk about cat foster godmother about statistics about Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab and what programs we want to promote as we start the media push for our pop-up cat café August 15.

8:20 a.m. Finally get that cup of coffee, let the dog out, feed our personal cats and our current foster kittens Em(inem) and (Slim) Shady. I even include the foster who thinks she runs the whole house—Touch of Grey.

Touch of Grey. She’s spicy.

8:45 a.m. Having had coffee, I now have the bandwidth to meet my right-hand-gal Janel for coffee and continuing planning the fundraiser cat café.

9 a.m. Janel and I brainstorm and make notes while gulping coffee. We honed out our goals and schedule for the next week.

10 a.m. I leave Janel’s patio and head to Nan’s apartment. Nan is coming to my house so I can help her with recent projects. She calls me her computer wizard but really it’s more of an assistant type thing and I feed her.

10:30 a.m. Nan is sipping chai. Nan loves my chai.

Noon We wrap up official work and Nan accompanies me to the kitchen. I try to make “cauliflower steaks” and the teenager prepares Nan a bowl of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I mention I have a dozen ears of local sweet corn I need to shuck and cook as I committed to canning corn relish. Nan mentions she has never seen someone can. I promise to include her.

1 p.m. I take Nan home and come home and take a nap.

1:30 p.m. While I am napping, the teenager lays on the end of my bed and orders a refurbished MacBook pro on my Amex.

2 p.m. I get ready for work.

2:40 p.m. The teen drives me to work so she can keep the car for her therapy appointment. We stop at Dunkin so I get get a large lemonade which I keep putting ice in and drink on every break.

3:20 p.m. I learn a work friend has cancer.

3:30 to midnight I fold clothes (123 fixes) at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy.

Overextended: Update on the Boring Stuff

This weekend was a strange blend of trying to catch up, trying to get ahead and trying to touch base with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Love Boat

Bill Prystauk (the author of the Kink Noir book series) took the teenager and I to Jasmine for sushi and sashimi. We had a love boat where I tried and enjoyed sashimi for the first time: white tuna, salmon and some clam thing that tasted like a seafood gummy bear.

This week I have a commitment every morning and the Bizzy Hizzy every night. I don’t anticipate voluntary time off because the warehouse won’t have computers on August 2 so that will be another 3-day weekend.

The FURR Pop Up Cat Café is reaching some critical mass as FURR volunteers get more involved and excited. Tomorrow I have a 7:45 phone conversation scheduled with my cat foster godmother and an event planning meeting at 9 will Janel. Still no update on a coffee provider… I’m getting nervous.

But Joan Z agreed to take photos, Gayle is helping design some games.

Then at 10, I’ll be meeting Nan. And at 1, I’ll cook lunch and get ready for my Stitch Fix shift.

This week, I have two training sessions with Dan at Apex Training. Tuesday and Friday. As part of my recovery after these workouts, these might be my main days to do my edits and proofs on the final file for Manipulations. Official launch date is September 11.

Wednesday I visit the chiropractor (and I can’t wait to see what she thinks about my new fitness routine) and Thursday I see my primary care physicians and his residents about my anemia.

I mention all of this because these are the weeks when one has to focus on food prep, proper rest and activities to maintain mental balance.

So we shall see.

First Book from Parisian Phoenix Launching Soon

Anyway else feel the universe going haywire?

The full moon is a few minutes away but its pull has been evident for a couple days. My recent health struggles, my employer giving us random time off, and today the dog ate my latest set of AirPods that I bought less than a month ago and emptied my favorite Coach leather wallet I bought in 2010 for my first excursion with my beloved M.

It took about 30 minutes to locate my money, shopping club cards, credit cards and various ID. Not to mention she destroyed my AmEx.

The teenager got a toll violation in the mail for her Cape May road trip. The toll officer yelled at her for stopping to pay the toll because the equipment read my old transponder from the Altima. I had meant to return the damn thing but never got around to it.

She also broke her phone charger.

I also had the misfortune of having to cut off someone who left room for me to merge and then changed his mind. The situation had me worried he was going road rage-y.

But let’s celebrate all the good news.

It was an amazing day. I went to Grocery Outlet and bought my favorite Cabot cottage cheese. I got a free soda at Wawa.

I had dinner with my favorite nurse from Stitch Fix who left the company to “do” hospice. It was so nice to see her.

I came home and registered my first two ISBN numbers to Manipulations (print and ebook). This is the first novel in the Fashion and Fiends series.

I edited some bios, created at Ingram Sparks account, updated my ISBN info at Bowker, downloaded a bunch of user guides and wanted to vomit.

I approved the cover concept. The proofreader signed off.

I assigned prices.

And I pledged that I will donate $1 to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab for every print version of the book sold. One of the minor (but very key characters) in the novel is Zut the tabby, modeled after Zoot, my tabby of 16 years. Zoot was my familiar as it would be called in witchcraft terms.

The official publication date is September 11, which is my husband’s birthday. Even though we’ve been separated two years, he had always been my most loyal supporter when it comes to my fiction.

I have received encouragement from published authors Jonathan Maberry and Kathryn Craft, but no one encouraged me like Darrell did.

So thank you. There are so many good aspects to the 20-plus year relationship I had with you and that is only one.

And the goal is to get the next one out on my partner Gayle’s birthday.

My Five Minutes of LinkedIn Fame

I was scrolling LinkedIn a few days ago and one of the alumni career development personnel at Lafayette College (Margie Cherry) shared a post about older workers leaving jobs in the pandemic.

Last night, at the Bizzy Hizzy warehouse, my phone started buzzing with notifications that people liked my comment.

So I thought Lafayette College alumni were seeing it. I thought “wow! That’s 250 people.”

This morning I get a message from Margie— “your comment was featured on LinkedIn News.”

What?

Sure enough…

I suppose I’ve just typecast myself as an “older worker.”

But it’s so nice to read the comments and replies. Lots of people are reconsidering the value of work-life balance and lower stress jobs.

The Doodle Box: Celebrating Joy, Friendship and Playfulness at the Bizzy Hizzy

Deep thanks to the doodling diva Gayle for sharing her talent with me

Stitch Fix is a strange place to work— of course, as a warehouse job it is highly metrics driven and monotonous but the environment encourages “authentic self” as the voice of every member of the team.

We don’t even have a human resource department. We have a “people and culture” team. So traditional HR is referred to as P&C in Stitch Fix jargon.

My therapist had to pause and ponder that one.

But thanks to Covid, each employee has their own “processing box” as we are discouraged from sharing tools. Every person gets a tagging gun, a box cutter, scissors, a lint brush, and this odd little sponge. The box itself is a discarded A6 envelope box from style carding.

And some people, if they gather more tools, graduate to a shoe box.

I asked Gayle to decorate mine as my attempt to adorn mine with stickers failed. My new box attracted much admiration and makes me happy as I gaze upon it.

Lower body & kitten bodies

Today marked my first lower body work out with Dan at Apex. I did something I rarely do and wore a little tennis style athletic skirt to the gym. I don’t like wearing shorts. There are two reasons why.

1. I honestly don’t like my flesh touching various surfaces: hot car leather, wooden chairs, the concrete if I sit on my steps, of course “thigh rub.” You get it.

2. But I also don’t like to see my lower body in motion. It’s a visual reminder of my physical issues.

So exposing my legs to a relative stranger was a way of me making myself vulnerable. But if Dan is going to monitor and critique my form, he can see my knees.

Lower body. I was so… not anxious, not scared. Maybe trepidation? We did pretty standard upper body exercises. Easy starting point. Dumbbells. I was happy with it. Very happy. (See more here.)

Dan brought his six-month-old son. What a happy, charming, beautiful baby. He didn’t mind seeing my knees.

And right away, Dan put me at ease. I’m impressed by the depth of his knowledge— my physical therapists have explained the same info to me so I know he’s done his homework on normal physiology.

Our exercises yesterday included a supported squat using some overhead ropes (that was amazing! I felt like I could move like a normal person. I could have done that all day.); some mild lifts with a plate that was like a full body deadlift, slowing stretching out the whole self; and some squats with a resistance band moving up and down from a bench. Many of these movements required great concentration on my part but I knew from past physical therapy that he was nailing it.

He apologized for not working me harder but he wants to focus on getting everything moving and flexible again so I don’t get hurt.

That is exactly what I need right now. I shouldn’t be working out hard. I just want to establish the habit, get my metabolism working again, and oil the machine, so to speak. I am so thrilled. Giddy.

And I walked slowly home with no falls.

As my rest period at home, I finally wrote the solicitation letter for FURR’s Coffee and Kittens pop-up cat café August 15 at Forks Community Center. The organization is working hard, my former employee and friend Janel and I are brainstorming away and reaching out to potential sponsors.

I hope to have FURR volunteers give five minute talks or demonstrations on various cat topics: TNR, basic cat care, how much cats can reproduce, declawing and cat scratching behavior, working with hissy spitties, cat body language, trimming nails, seniors for seniors, why kittens aren’t easy.

Activities will include live kittens in play pens to cuddle, cat story time (I will read cat stories), and musical chairs with cat-themed music. We hope to have some raffles— the chance to name some kittens, hopefully some prizes. And cat merchandise for sale.

And of course refreshments.

Did I mention live kittens????

The teen and Bernadette

After the Fall: When the Work Place Treats You as a Person

Last night, after my fall on Monday, I returned to work at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I was assigned to receiving NAP (non-apparel), specifically binning shoes.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most jobs at the Bizzy Hizzy are mind-numbingly boring when you first do them, until you develop a rhythm and master the task.

Shoes go on the bottom shelves in NAP so you get a little stool on wheels and get to scoot around on that, getting up every 30 minutes or so to refill a cloth tote/cart (like you see in a laundry facility) with more shoes.

Sitting on the stool kills me— my back doesn’t like it and by the end of the night by butt hurts. But like anything, eventually you find ways to get used to it.

I get so sick of the same old tank tops last night I wanted to wear my Goth troll doll t-shirt. It comes exactly to the waist of my Stitch Fix Gaiam yoga pants, so it should be fine when measured against the no crop top rule. But to be safe I layered a longer shirt under it.

I think I binned almost 800 pairs of shoes. The section was packed pretty tight.

The first thing I had to do upon arrival was grab a pallet jack and move a cardboard gaylord of processed shoes across the warehouse from inbound receiving to NAP. Now the teenager’s father spent most of his career as a shipper/receiver so I’ve heard a lot about the utility of pallet jacks but I’ve never used one.

And Stitch Fix uses primarily plastic pallets so they are lighter than wooden ones.

And I did it. And texted my family excitedly. To which I received this text from the teenager:

“Oh my, that’s cool. And who TF let your beat up ass use a pallet jack? ‘“She can’t handle her own two feet… here’s a pallet.’”

The 17-year-old

I cackled in the middle of the warehouse as Siri read that one to me.

Somewhere in the second half of the night, I had the opportunity to relay this to my shift supervisor who stopped by to check on me. I respect this woman, did almost instantly. Not sure why— probably mostly because of how she dresses and carries herself.

(And she is a Stitch Fix client and wears a lot of Stitch Fix clothes.) Personally, I like when people visibly support the company’s that employ them. I feel it’s good for morale.

We had a chuckle about the pallet Jack comment. I showed her the damage on my shoulder (and she winced). I shrugged it off as no big deal and told her it was part of my life. Then she said something that touched me:

I’m sorry that you have to experience that.

Some of my wounds

She talked about her struggles getting her mom to advocate for her health as she gets older, and that she hopes I’m a good advocate for myself and that as I grow older I listen to my daughter.

I hope so, too.

After final break, my immediate supervisor stopped to see me. She also asked how I was and winced when I showed her some of my scabs.

These exchanges made me feel valued as a person. While Stitch Fix as a company is driven by metrics, which they have to be, I’ve found that at least in my nine months at the Bizzy Hizzy, the culture tries to make people feel respected and appreciated as individuals and part of the team.

Speaking of the team, the Bizzy Hizzy has frozen hiring on day shift so growth will now focus on second shift (“midnight society”). My supervisor and I discussed this briefly and I said I hope this doesn’t change the culture of our shift. We’re closer, more versatile and have more fun than day shift.

Because the team is cross-trained and understands each other’s jobs, I feel like that improves our ability to work together efficiently. Because we’re a fraction of the size of day shift, we know each other and really focus on goals.

I don’t want that to change.