Anatomy of a sick day (and a really cute Stitch Fix Freestyle blouse)

The Teenager received her remaining Freestyle packages from Stitch Fix yesterday– one from the warehouse in Indiana and one from the warehouse scheduled to close in Utah.

So, before I launch into another blog post about the frustrations of learning the limits of my own body, I waited to share this photo of her in a super adorable top I found for her on the web site. I’ve probably folded and shipped at least 20 or 30 of these. Every time I’ve dealt with it I’ve struggled with its fluidity, wrap front and floppy sleeves. I’ve thought to myself: This must be a difficult shirt to wear.

When it arrived at my house, I thought, “oh it’s that shirt.”

And when the teenager put it on, I saw that she pulled it off beautifully. In my opinion, she looks way better than the model on the web site.

Now onto the cerebral palsy update…

It’s been two years since I started this journey to learn what cerebral palsy actually is, how my body works, and what I can expect as I age. I had no real medical treatment from age five to age 20, which means this is all very new to me. And fascinating.

And it’s been a month since Stitch Fix changed their metric measurement system in our warehouse and graciously implemented my workplace accommodations. Keep in mind that until five years ago I did not consider myself disabled and I worked really hard to do and appear as typically-abled as possible. When I started with Stitch Fix, I mentioned my disability in my interview and it is because of the culture at Stitch Fix that I had the resources and the space to explore my physical condition.

Stitch Fix is in the news right now for some changes, including closing the Utah “hizzy” and asking the CEO to step down. The founder has resumed the role of CEO for now. So, this post is about me and my journey, but I also wanted to point out that it wouldn’t be possible with the support of my colleagues at Stitch Fix.

Last week was rocky. I did a shift on the men’s side of the warehouse, then returned to my home department on the women’s side to find that the support on the women’s side hadn’t completely worked out the kinks. I just repeated to myself that we were all adjusting, and this was a big change that impacted more than just me, and I jotted down the inconsistencies I noticed and pointed them out verbally but not in writing to ask questions about how my accommodations would work and how they effect operations in our department.

Because one incident of an accommodation not being met is a coincidence, multiple is a trend. And none of my concerns became a trend. But I did experience a fall last week, which undid my most recent chiropractic adjustment. Stress may have played a role in that fall.

The great news is that yesterday went without a hitch and I even got a chance to talk to more of my peers, hopefully reducing any tension that may have been introduced by my accommodations changing how the department operates. My numbers have steadily remained where they should be, and on Friday I even hit 105%.

Bad news is… I felt so good yesterday and was working hard and hitting numbers… and I did not take my Baclofen. I don’t normally take it on weekends, and I honestly don’t recall if I took it yesterday morning. I know I did not take it with lunch like I normally do.

Then, being the person I am, I went to the gym and completed my regular weight training which, on Mondays, focuses on upper body.

I came home, showered, had dinner, and by the time I did some other household chores, I dropped into bed a little later than usual. I woke up slightly before midnight with my legs very tight and my shoulder throbbing. It took about two hours to go back to sleep. At four, when my alarm went off, I got up and fed the cats and visited the bathroom. I stretched and changed the toilet paper roll.

I felt much better, but did I feel good enough to go to work? My brain said, “sure.” My body replied, “well, a hard day’s work might stress your already achy body more. And that would perpetuate the cycle.” My brain added, “And you’ve had somewhere between four and five hours sleep. Is it really wise to go to work sleep-deprived? You’re a fall risk on a good day.”

I reset my alarm for five a.m. It never went off because I laid in bed the whole time pondering what to do.

I hate “calling out sick.”

And then, after looking at my PTO bank, my brain said, “this is why you have an intermittent leave. This is a disability-related absence.” But of course, being me, I had to debate whether or not to go in late. I didn’t know when I would wake up if I went back to sleep.

So, I emailed my supervisors and “called out.”

I got out of bed at seven feeling even better than I did at four, though my shoulder still hurt and my healed mallet finger was very stiff and uncomfortable. But now at least I had had seven hours sleep.

I realized when taking my morning medication that I had not taken my Baclofen regularly. This may have proven that it does make a difference, a difference I might not notice until it exits my system. And I also recognize that I very much need to be sure to use both my left and my right sides when I retrieve and empty the fixes that come to my station.

A lot of trial and error.

Anyone else having a weird day? Or is it just me?

Wednesday. 4 a.m. Alarm sounded. I contemplated staying in bed until 4:30 but I scrolled through my messages on my phone and fed the cats in the “fat kids” room by 4:15-ish.

I did take the time to use the restroom first.

I grabbed my clothes, but couldn’t bend enough to find socks. Got dressed. Went downstairs and started coffee. Took my medicine (muscle relaxer and antihistamine— I was incredibly stiff and I am allergic to cats and just about everything else).

I put on my gel lined toe protector.

About 4:45 a.m. First sips of Supercoffee dark roast. Updated my calendar. Went to the couch and started a blog entry. I was hurting and I didn’t want to work on creative projects.

5:15 a.m. Posted the blog. Went upstairs. Brushed my teeth and got a pair of clean socks I had stashed in the bathroom. Went downstairs. Grabbed my lunch from the fridge and headed to my shoe basket where I selected my cowboy boots.

5:40 a.m. I set up Spotify, checked my AirPods, and turned on the car and my heated seats. I felt like I was 80 today. Drove to work in fog so dense you could barely see the warehouse from the parking lot.

6 a.m. Morning routine. Change Spotify to work podcast list. Fill water bottle. Check work email. Pee. Have a snack. I had a cranberry almond Kind bar.

6:27 a.m. My Adventure Begins in Men’s Outbound QC.

Enough of the minute by minute bologna.

THINGS I LIKED WORKING MEN’S:

  • The personnel on the men’s side were very receptive to my accommodations
  • The ability to swap boxes easily even after the fix is complete

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE:

  • The strict adherence to the 9×9 square. I had five boxes returned to me today when the dress shirt collar popped out too far of the wrap when I compressed it. Easily rectified once I knew of the problem, but they didn’t start coming back until after lunch.
  • The clothes are bigger than I am. I jest slightly.
  • The atmosphere is sullen and extra quiet due to the lack of automation. The lack of automation means some extra jobs — some of which seem ridiculously tedious.
  • Men’s fixes are boring. Shoes, maybe a hat or a belt. Jeans. Dress pants. T-shirt. Sweatshirt. Sweater. Over and over again. Boring colors. Boring styles. No way to make the fixes fun.
  • Sooooooooo many large boxes that could be medium

I attended the safety team meeting and finished the day at about 93%.

3:30 p.m. Despite two rounds of Baclofen, I was aching, stiff and crotchety when I arrived at the chiropractor. She agreed that I probably overdid my leg workout Saturday and the resulting hamstring spasms impacted my already interesting gait. She even helped the tension in my neck. I left with my pain and creaky body moving great.

4:15 p.m. Grabbed an iced coffee at Wawa, but since I don’t like Wawa’s iced coffee I had them add espresso to it.

4:30 p.m. Came home, switched shoes, fed the overweight cats again, turned on the lamp for the cockatoo that’s afraid of the dark, and left for my walk to the gym. Whereas for days my back, glutes and hamstrings had been causing issues, now my quads were burning. As if saying, “Why are we the center of attention again?”

4:50 p.m. Andrew’s circuit of “Boom” exercises– meaning one after the other, despite the fact that I told him I have no Boom left– and the espresso had me sweating and had my pulse rate up. It was intense, but I’ve noticed my workouts feel shorter now. I’m assuming that means my endurance is improving. I know my upper body strength has, and I have definition in my arms again. And I know my mobility has definitely stabilized and improved.

5:40 p.m. Left the gym and walked home. The Teenager had put away the Hungryroot delivery and we sat down to open her fix. Our sun porch is full of Chewy boxes. She hated her fix and that made me so sad. I fold and pack adorable fixes in her size everyday. She interacts with the app and her stylist. I have had conversations via company email with her stylist and know her stylist is not the problem. Why is the algorithm failing her? Why does it appear that her stylist cannot access the items she wants? Why has she received sweater after sweater?

She started Stitch Fix hoping for new styles she wouldn’t pick on her own.

Just look at her in this video– her outfit has more style than her box! And it’s a boring, basic Lafayette College sweatshirt and the same pair of Denizen by Levis distressed skinny jeans in indigo that she has ordered from Target time after time, year after year.

I thought as an employee I could help her guide the algorithm to update her style. Even buying things from Freestyle, she’s had no luck. We’ve ordered at least five pairs of Vans, yet despite asking for new Vans, she doesn’t get Vans.

So I spent an hour in her account, on Freestyle, building her my own fix. A blouse, a t-shirt and a pair of Vans to go with the tank and the sweater she kept.

7 p.m. I finally headed to the shower. My foster Louise and my cockatoo are very needy for my attention.

7:20 p.m. The teenager brings me a delicious grilled cheese.

7:30 p.m. I check my Stitch Fix account. I haven’t ordered a fix yet. Waiting to get my employee discount back. But the suggested looks seem like they know me. I hope when I receive a fix, that’s true.

Spending time with friends to spruce up mental health

I have faced challenges recently unlike the previous difficult times in my life. I no longer live with my husband. My father passed away a year ago this past Thursday. I don’t hear much from members of my family. The health issues that come from aging with a chronic condition like cerebral palsy, while my prognosis is static, present their own difficulties. My cerebral palsy will never change, or get worse, but the complications from having spastic muscles, scissoring legs, years of toe walking and leg bones that don’t sit where leg bones were designed to sit are very real.

This week, for many reasons ranging from family stress to communication difficulties and new and old volunteer commitments, pressed my mental health beyond the point I like to go. I watched a lot of TV.

I also spent much time cuddled into my new Stitch Fix zipper hoodie. But I did peel it off to wash it today, and put it right back on my body.

And my curls came out nicely today. Thank you, curls.

Television viewing

I caught up on The Good Doctor (and while YES! Audrey Lim decided to accept her disability rather than go through a risky surgery, at the midseason episode now the team decides she has recovered some movement on her own and a new less risky surgical plan might restore her mobility. Even her new boyfriend in a wheelchair says she has to do it, and he proposes, to prove to her he’s there whether she can walk or not. The episode ends with her in surgery. If the surgery succeeds, I will be pissed. Will they then feature an interabled relationship? Why must she walk again? Why can’t we have an able-bodied fancy surgeon become a wheelchair user and excel at it? It’s ridiculous that mainstream television starts to show an able-bodied person accepting a serious disability and then again reverts to the idea that she must walk again. And disabled people know, no one complains louder, no one takes adjusting harder than an able-bodied person suddenly rendered less able.)

Wow. I didn’t expect that tangent.

With that caught up, I tried Little Women: LA and a few episodes of Little Women: Atlanta. I learned some of the varieties of dwarfism, and was forced to thing about discrimination in hiring, but as with most reality series, the focus seemed to be on drama. The Atlanta spin-off really heightened the drama. Within two episodes, we had a pregnancy with an indifferent father and jealousy and cat-fights in the clubs. Because if you use Little Women: Atlanta as a source (which I would not) apparently stripping is a great way to make a living and still collect your disability checks. I was not born with that kind of disability.

I heard a podcast featuring Randall Park and thought I would try his Netflix series, Blockbuster. That was also a disappointment. The humor fell flat for me, and I struggled with the concept. There is one Blockbuster video store still in existence, in Bend, Oregon, and USA Today wrote an article comparing the fictional last Blockbuster and the real one and honestly that just confused me more.

So, I went for Hoarders season one on Hulu. It’s amazing after having binge-watched later seasons during previous times of emotional crisis to see how unpolished the initial season is. You can see the crew determining what works and what doesn’t. The cinematography is more dramatic, but the professional only have two days to clean massive hoards and they slowly tack on more time.

At this point, I renewed my Motor Trend streaming service and will stick with Mike Brewer and Marc “Elvis” Priestley on Wheeler Dealers.

Rocking New Boots

I finally got to wear my new Marc Fisher over-the-knee boots! The Teenager worried about me leaving the house in higher-than-usual heels. They were so much fun to wear and didn’t feel any more uncomfortable than other boots.

I left my house around noon. I had promised to bring Maryann some books as her tavern is featured on the cover of The Death of Big Butch. I delivered her copies, visited for a moment (but not as long as I thought I would because the traffic and road closures in downtown Easton made it impossible to drive the three miles to her. It took FORTY minutes.), and heading for my lunch with Bill Prystauk, the author of the Kink Noir series and a long-time writing friend.

We had a lovely meal at Gap Diner in Wind Gap, Pa., a midpoint we select between his location in Stroudsburg and mine in Easton. He had a spinach and feta omelet where the rye toast had this perfect dark line around the edge but the bread remained flexible. The potatoes were also picture perfect. They had this crisp outside and looked soft on the other side. I had pepperpot soup and the buffalo chicken Caesar salad. I was a tiny tiny bit disappointed that the chicken was chicken fingers cut into bite sized pieces but honestly, the beauty of the shredded romaine and its luscious green color won me over.

It was a good eating day as the Teenager brought home fresh bagels from the bagel deli and I had had a salt bagel with piles of kale and spinach and hummus for breakfast, an iced coffee for an afternoon treat, and a dinner of heaps of vegetables (kale, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and zucchini), a vegan chicken tender and a token amount of pork.

Much better than yesterday when I ate a double steakhouse cheeseburger from DQ, cheese curds, pretzel sticks with queso and a blizzard (snickers/brownie) so large in came in a medium soda cup.

Visiting her Ladyship Maxine

From Wind Gap, I traveled out to Point Phillip through some scenic roads to visit photographer Joan and deliver her copies of Big Butch, which apparently I would trade for celery and pears. Joan and I are often trading edibles.

I met the younger stepson, the grandson, and even got to pet the adorable Maxine, a striking cat of great renown. As soon as she heard that I was the one who alerted her people to the existence of Tiki Cat cat food with shrimp, she sniffed and rubbed against my boots providing me with the ultimate blessing.

And Joan gave The Teenager, myself and her own self a Yule present: a game called Ransom Notes, basically Cards against Humanity but with magnetic word stickers. The Teenager cannot wait to play.

All in all, I think I put 50 miles on the car.

I received a phone call from a journalist trying to convince his editor to write a story on Big Butch. And I participated in a speaker phone call with The Teenager and her grandmother (my mother-in-law). She revealed that she would be having fried chicken and potato salad among the offerings on Christmas Eve so I may now have a social obligation that night. I love my mother-in-law’s fried chicken and potato salad.

I like my coffee pot

That’s all I got for ya.

It’s 5:15 a.m., on my final Wednesday of my 10-hour Sunday to Wednesday shifts at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I loved these shifts. I love having three days off. But as of Monday, I will be Monday to Friday, “normal” 8-hour shifts, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. More change.

My chiropractor had a class last week so I missed my regular adjustment and now I can feel my hip moving inward. I never expected that this journey to improve my fitness and awareness of how my body works (if you aren’t a regular I have diplegic spastic cerebral palsy) would lead to this strange zeroing in… I am starting to pinpoint these subtle differences, but I am still learning how to fix them.

I bailed on my strength coach Andrew last night. He had asked to move my Monday session to Tuesday and by Tuesday (yesterday), I just didn’t have it in me. I didn’t sleep well. My stress was through the roof. I overdid it Monday (trying to prove myself to no one but me). And to top it all off, my diet had been all processed foods. When I felt that hip turning inward, I knew my body needed me to stop.

So here we are, the final Wednesday. The third day of my life with my new Ninja DualBrew coffee pot. Unboxing video here.

The Teenager got her second fix, and she loved it. She was aghast to learn that a sweatshirt could cost $78 at full retail price, but I think this experience will teach her the difference between the workmanship of different brands. She asked me not to record her trying things on, but I wish she had because the fit and look of this fix was exponentially better than the first. Unboxing video here.

I have to leave for work in a moment, but let me say I am on my second cup of Green Mountain Dark Magic coffee, courtesy of one of the Teenager’s clients, and I must say it’s the only coffee to keep pace with my Supercoffee.

The Ninja DualBrew has been great so far. I like the brewing options, the heat and strength of the coffee, but I am making small errors in operating it. But I haven’t experienced any of the problems listed in the reviews. My four a.m. brain likes the K-cup option, and my weekend self loves the option to brew a pot. I have not tried iced coffee yet.

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.

Commentary #2 on Stitch Fix fashion trends, waiting for first Fix

On Monday, the Teenager should receive her first Fix. I’m tremendously excited. So much so I am annoying her. But, she is 18, and I often annoy her by existing. She received her preview yesterday, and complained about it, as she said it ruined the surprise.

She selected two or three of the eight recommended items, with my input, and left her stylist some notes. I believe it was a heavy knit sweater, a thin but soft color blocked sweatshirt and some Vigoss black shorts. She rejected the cardigans, almost chose the faux leather jacket, and liked but ignored the two pairs of boots. I think in part because I have purchased her several pairs of shoes lately.

I offered to give her my employee discount and a budget to pursue some fixes as she was recently lamenting that she hasn’t had a chance yet to develop her own style. She’s paying her own bills: car payment, food, contributing toward electric and car insurance, so I thought investing some of my monthly savings into her wardrobe would be fun.

Meanwhile, I’m watching my Stitch Fix account and the trends, waiting for my turn. Which won’t be until Valentines Day.

If you want to see my overzealous first set of trend reviews, click here.

Here are some recent outfits from my recommended trends:

Let’s break these down.

Now, I do have this dress in my favorites as it is adorable, but I find it amusing that Stitch Fix is offering me the same dress in two different colors. My soul wants the red, but I feel my style now is more black. The black would give me the freedom to accessorize with a vibrant scarf, a bright purse like the one in the photo or any pair of shoes I own.

I love this ensemble— and I could even walk in the shoes. The dress is fairly heavy, too, so it should have some great drape when worn and offer some warmth.

This dress looks amazing but it’s really short and I’m not sure my middle-aged mom bumps could pull it off. I love those animal print shoes but I don’t think I can wear them so I perused the other styling options— boots, a necklace and motorcycle jacket? That is definitely awesome.

I don’t like this outfit. I like the theory— and the jacket is the one my friend Joan received in the video below. It looks nice on Joan, but I don’t like the fabric. The little green shirt looks good in the photo and seems to look good on people, but it’s just weird when you see it. The shoes are funky and I don’t like them. But the outfit might be nice.

And finally two outfits that would probably be perfect for my current lifestyle. One note: I want that mustard sweater.

Here is the video of Joan and I unboxing her recent fix:

The Teenager is already dreading when I submit her to something similar.

Changing it up… Revival?

Before the pandemic, I had an office job in nonprofit development primarily as a fundraiser. I had been hired as a communications professional, and I excelled at that work. But the toxic work environment that stemmed from the head of the organization (who would normally be referred to as the executive director, but she reveled in her title as Chief Executive Officer, perhaps because she needed the ego boost to compensate for her insecurities), led to rapid and frequent staffing changes.

(This is certainly getting long-winded for where it is going. But bear with me.) I knew all of this before I accepted the job, because I had excused myself from the interview process from the same position about a decade earlier. I had turned down the opportunity because The Teenager was a preschooler and my gut warned me that this job, and this entity, would require more energy than I could give.

This time, in part because of a really awesome person hiring me, I decided to take the challenge. When the person in charge finally burned him to his breaking point, she promoted me with assurances that I would have all of the support and guidance I would need. (In her mind, that was one hundred percent true, but unfortunately, what was in her head and what her employees needed to thrive were completely at odds with each other.)

During this period, I paid close attention to my style, my accessories and my make-up. In my youth, I didn’t have the confidence to toy with these fashion topics. Then, I had a child. Then, I worked at Target. By the end of my almost-decade in red-and-khaki and food service, I had started to experiment in make-up and other touches that could allow my personality to come through despite the dress code.

As I moved into fundraising, these choices became more important. The world hates to admit this, but in any sort of business matter, appearances count. Not necessarily because you need to be pretty to succeed, but because you need to make an impression and you need to look confident, trustworthy and project the attitude that you are an expert in your arena. That’s a little different than confident.

There are two kinds of confidence in this regard. One says, “I know who I am and I like that person and we get shit done.” (That’s the confidence my former supervisor lacked.)

The second says, “No one can do this better. When it comes to this, I know my shit.” (That’s the confidence my former supervisor had so much of that I adored her. I wanted to learn her skills and knowledge, but her instability as a leader made that impossible. Her deficit in leadership and trust led her to think any way other than hers would not only never work, but destroy everything she had built, because it her mind, it was all her. And she did build it, more than 25 years ago, and sometimes things need to change after 25 years. And sometimes, her way and someone else’s way can coexist and succeed together.)

Anyway… when I accepted my current job working evening shift (“midnight society”) at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse, I wore eye make-up for the first few months, but after I got Covid, that fell away. My shift changed, changing my wake-up time to 4:15 a.m. when I was accustomed to going to bed at 2 a.m. (I miss that shift soooooooo much.) No time for make-up when you can barely wake up.

2022 required change. I launched my business (Parisian Phoenix Publishing) while still on evening shift. Evening shift was eliminated. The first week of day shift, my dad unexpectedly died. I think I got the Delta variant at my dad’s funeral. I burst my tendon removing my socks. I struggled with hip issues. We had a small flood in the house. The teenager graduated from high school. The teenager had a car accident, her first.

2022 wants to kick my ass, but I keep giving it hell. I’ve started weeding and reorganizing my wardrobe even though I’m still 25 pounds overweight. I’ve started spending time on the Stitch Fix app, combing the options and the styling ideas. (More on that here.)

And now that this very short topic is very long… I just wanted to tell you I wore jewelry today.

Reviewing the trends in my Stitch Fix account

There’s an old Grimm’s fairy tale where someone catches on fire, and having no water, the onlooker urinates on the person burning to extinguish them. It’s rather horrifying to read, and when you do, you realize just how much Disney has sanitized our lives.

But, if anything, that is an accurate depiction of how this week has felt. Hopefully now the fires are out and if I’m lucky Cinderella will stop by, clean my hearth, and we can hit up Fairy Godmother for a night on the town.

It’s the beginning of my weekend. They say temperatures will drop by ten degrees by tomorrow night. I have seen more evidence that my service dog application is in process. And my body, though fatigued by the extreme temperatures and long days in the Bizzy Hizzy Stitch Fix warehouse, has not experienced pain or falls this week.

So I thought I’d do something light and frivolous and fashion-oriented, which is legitimately something I need to do more often as author of the Fashion and Fiends series. Buy my books here. If you prefer to avoid the Big A, try Bookshop.org here.

The whole reason I work at Stitch Fix is because 10+ years ago when I still had a print subscription to Vogue magazine, I read about this revolutionary clothing subscription box. Six-plus years ago, they opened a warehouse a couple miles away from where my husband’s grandfather had the family farm. The people who left Target while I worked there either left for Stitch Fix or Amazon. The former Target employees who went to Stitch Fix were elated with their new jobs at this place where I had wanted to be a client.

When I lost my non-profit development job, I thought if I can’t have the clothes maybe I can at least handle them.

In early November, I will celebrate my second anniversary with the company. I have shopped at the employee store (the deals, amazing!), and I recently ordered shoes from Freestyle through my friend, Joan the talented photographer and archivist of Plastiqueville, who is the current recipient of my employee discount.

We can only change our discount designee once every six months and I believe Joan has had it for a year. It has been really fun watching her get “fixes.” But after her fix this month, I plan to transfer the discount to The Teenager. The teenager wishes to develop her own style and I think this is a great way to do it.

When she completes her journey, I’d like to sign up. Meanwhile, I’m working frantically in the Stitch Fix app to help the algorithm learn my style. By the time a stylist gets me, the computer should have me all mapped out.

These are some of the current trends Stitch Fix curated for me and my reactions.

For larger photos, open the gallery.

  1. Gold Ray Asymmetrical Cold Shoulder sweater, cheetah wrap skirt, stone bead bracelet in warm tones and flip flops. I have wanted this sweater since I first laid eyes on it. I also think it would look good on the Teen. The skirt looks amazing in the photo, but I think in real life… The skirt would flop open, my belly would bulge out from under the sweater and the flip flops would be an expensive fall hazard.

2. White Tank, studs, jean cut-offs, and green Vans. Great basic outfit. But I wouldn’t pay premium brand prices for it. I already purchased the green Vans, but due to a thorough bleaching mine around one-of-a-kind two-tone.

3. Similar to two: Patterned flowy tank, similar shorts but more distressed, autumn tone bracelet and thin mustard flats. I have not seen this tank in person, which is surprising since I fold about 750 articles of clothing a day. It looks like it might be really cute. I love the bracelet. And I like these shorts more than the previous because they are more casual and roughed up.

These shoes have a very almost jute texture, it’s really cool and I am super-into this vivid mustard color right now. That said, these shoes are super narrow and I doubt I could walk in them. But, they do come in several colors and pack nicely. Great vacation shoes.

4. Patterned dress, purse, shoes. I have nothing against the outfit. But, boring. And that purse seems like it would get dirty easily and not hold the three items the Teenager says I always have: tampons, pens, and food rations.

5. & 6. Ribbon tied tank, skirts, bags and sandals. I am putting these two ensembles because they really are variations on a theme. I don’t like anything in either outfit except for the tank. It’s the same tank in two different colors. It’s a decent fabric, and has a triangle in the cleavage area tied together with a wide ribbon. I like the style, though I can’t say I’m a fan of the navy blue. The white, on the other hand, I like. While it is easily stained, it is also very versatile.

7. & 8. Late sixties, early seventies? Before my time chic. I appreciate both of these styles, but they seem dated to me. I would fall in both pairs of shoes. If the gold top is the one I think it is, it feels rough. And I can’t wear an open cardigan. I have no shoulders to hold it up.

9. & 10. Dresses and big totes. This is my style. I love dresses. I already own the mustard tote. The ensemble with the striped dress, lightweight coat and sandals would be a cool mate to my tote, but I wouldn’t buy it. I don’t have enough time in my life to wear sandals. The dress, with its colors and pattern, wouldn’t match enough other items in my warddrobe. But that coat does match my bag.

The red dress looks super cute, and traditional I could totally do the “lady in red” look. And the boots, I need them. Now.

11. Faux leather jacket, jeans (bootcut), clunky shoes, and a funky messenger baggish thing. I love this outfit, but I would switch out the shirt. The shirt is boring. Love the shoes and the bag. I’ve handled a lot of the faux leather jackets, and they are okay. I think this brown color would be flexible.

12. & 13. Tanks and long jeans. I like both these looks but probably like the earrings best. I can’t wear wedges. Ever. The purse is a weird shape and the pattern is too much. I love white jeans, but don’t think I’d invest in a pair until I get a little thinner. But they would look great with the magenta patterned tank with the flared wide-leg jeans. Would I wear the jeans? If I found the right shoes.

14. Ruched crossover sleeveless lavender top, cuffed jeans, slouchy bag, and striped sandals. This is a very update take on what I called the sixties/seventies retro chic in 7 & 8. It’s very relaxed and easygoing, but I wouldn’t wear a single piece of it.

15. The basic sundress beach look. Love the sundress. For a small purse, I like this. I think I keep trying to buy the mustard yellow one that matches my tote. And while I love the shoes, I can’t wear anything that unstable.

16. & 17. Little black dress(es). I really love the ruching on the dress on the left, but I think it wouldn’t hang right on my shape. The little green slouchy boots so remind me of my middle school years, the late 1980s. That means I like them, but I don’t like them. I definitely prefer the tan boots in outfit 10. And while I like the shoes in outfit 11 in brown, here are the same shoes in black and I don’t like them. The purse on the left is unimpressive, but I totally desire the purse on the right. The black and white checks would be a fabulous accent to any solid color piece or pieces.

18. & 19. Upgrades to jeans and a t-shirt. Both of these are decent looks, but I hate both pairs of shoes. The jeans are unimpressive, but I think I like the yellow v-neck top and the bracelet.

20. Casual dressed up? I love the soft feel of this sweater and the buttons but the color doesn’t excite me. I would have to see the jeans on to know for sure how I feel about them, but I’m starting to believe distressed jeans have to be straight, or skinny, in order to have any sort of feminine vibe other than “I’m destitute.”

I have a pair of shoes similar to these, but I can’t walk in them. I take them out of my closet and try periodically and wear them until I almost twist an ankle.

And I like the flashy earrings with a relaxed combo.

21. Feminine distressed. Okay, I might work this look. With my mustard tote it might look amazing, especially if I get the mustard coat.

But seriously, these look to be higher waisted and slightly slimmer distressed jeans. I like the faded wash and the lack of cuffs. I have short legs so we don’t need to make them look any shorter. I love the scoop deck, shaped polka dot top reminiscent of a sun dress. And I have the earring set from Nakamol Chicago but in brown instead of blue. And I not only like the shoes, but I really feel the creamy neutral and they look like suede or faux suede. And I think I could walk in them.

22. Nope. There is nothing positive I can say about this one. I find most of the Daniel Rainn blouses are tacky. And this one outdoes itself. The shoes are boring and basic as are the jeans. And the purse is just ugly and a weird size, too big to be “small” and too small to shove in books, a lunch or a laptop.

23. Back to School. I think I like the shoes. Not sure. Backpack is loud. Shorts are too long. T-shirt the color of a foggy day. Boring.

Updates, announcements and anecdotes

It’s just about to turn 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The last 48 hours have been emotionally difficult, and those are internal challenges I have resolved within myself but now I need to “make right” in the world.

My good friend Joan (the talented photographer) had quipped that the moon is in “Frustrato” phase and perhaps that is accurate.

Sometimes it’s nice to blame the universe instead of accepting our part in the mayhem. Because even good intentions spark fires.

I heard a podcast yesterday; I believe it was an economic one, that asked if one host was “a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy.” He replied, “it’s just half.”

That’s too much enigma and philosophy for pre-dawn hours. Blame the fact that my trusty espresso machine only filled half my mug.

Mug from Purr Haus in Emmaus

The teenager and I had 14 kittens in the house Saturday, Sunday and Monday offering temporary lodging for these babies whose official Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab foster families have gone on summer vacation.

They were so much fun to have around, but 11 went home last night. This led the Teenager’s officially adopted foster fail Mars of the Roman Pride distraught that his friends had gone. He screamed until the Teenager released him into “gen pop” where he plopped himself down in front of the remaining visitors.

On Friday, I had a rather grueling session at Apex Training with my coach Andrew. We did some intense work on balance and single leg muscle stability. On Saturday, the communication between my brain and my lower body felt rickety (for lack of a better description) and it was challenging to move. By Sunday, the movement felt smoother but my phone was registering spikes in walking asymmetry. But something very interesting happened Monday— I could not only stand on one leg, but I could also hold my leg in a few seconds of a quad stretch.

Yesterday, I visited the Stitch Fix employee store, which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario. I bought myself jewelry on an impulse and discovered my second holes could still accept earrings. As someone who really grew up in the 80s and graduated high schools in the 1990s, I have three sets of holes in my ears.

I bought the Teenager some new things, including some warm hiking style boots for fall and her dog walks. I bought myself an adorable pair of shorts, and I picked one size up from my pre-existing Stitch Fix clothes and they were too small.

Obviously my efforts to reduce my recent (as in pandemic era) weight gain have been not sincere enough. Sigh. I’m trying to eat better and move more without falling into a strict/restrictive mindset.

But I did eat an entire medium pizza from Domino’s the other night. It was a medium hand-tossed crust, light on the cheese, light on the garlic Alfredo sauce with red peppers and pineapple.

On the way home from work last night, I noticed that the furniture store looked abandoned— and that the sign merely said urn.

In the background of all of this, the ‘cat book’ from Parisian Phoenix has hit some unexpected difficulties prompting a delay in its production. But my quick thinking, after a few hours of pondering, have inspired an interim release of a mini cat book featuring advice and stories about the care of cats. The larger book will come later, perhaps in early 2023.

In the meantime, I am very puzzled why my sweet tripod foster Louise has decided to crate herself.

And the most surprising item of the day was receiving my first catalog for Parisian Phoenix Publishing— Uline junk mail!

I suppose the last update is that the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs have cashed my check for the application fee. I’m anxiously awaiting contact.

To say life has been hectic feels like an understatement.