Busy, busy: Taking care of yourself takes time (but we always make time for adventures)

It’s been what, a week?, since I wrote in this forum. I know, I know.

I have been trying to write. I have plans to brainstorm ideas for BookTok, projects to edit, and I decided to make short, very real, unedited videos for BookTube.

But, as I left myself 30 minutes to write this blog entry and “wasted” 15 minutes of that panicking over a medical form (all part of “things that have happened since last week”) I may have to leave you with a list:

  • The Intermittent Leave I submitted to my PCP was illegible once printed out, so I typed a new one over the weekend and sent it to the doctor’s office. I had not heard from them, so I double-checked the email this morning and thought the form I sent them was blank. I panicked, discovered my eyes had misled me, but had already messaged the office so now I probably have high blood pressure and look like an ass.
  • My favorite foster, Khloe the Sassy Princess and Cuddler, went to Chaar in Forks Township in search of a home. I went to visit her before the gym Wednesday and she made me biscuits.
  • My workouts have been brutal… I mean amazing, really I do. I’ve been doing what feels like some great weights and focusing so hard on form.
  • We had a heating oil delivery yesterday and I hadn’t anticipated that for another three weeks. $700. Ouch.
  • I had brussel sprouts three times this week. I do love my brussel sprouts.
  • I saw Nan Tuesday night and we practically made a comedy routine out of reading her junk mail.
  • My creative brain is swimming with ideas. Is that because I have no time?
  • I am soooooo close to fully performing at work. They messed up my accommodations Tuesday. My percentages are 98%, 103%, 103%. Accommodations make a difference.

But here’s my big take away:

Feel free to let me know your opinion.

Regardless of whether you have a disability or not, and that can even be a personal determination, getting older sucks… anyway… Taking care of yourself takes a lot of time. Monitoring your habits (food, sleep, exercise), health and treatments take so much time. Finding and visiting doctors. Physical therapy, training sessions or independent-led exercise. It’s ridiculous. Filling out that intermittent leave paperwork really drove home how much time I spend taking care of myself.

Maybe it is easier to neglect oneself. Maybe it would be so much less stressful to eat what I want, accept my “limitations” and live a more sedentary life. Maybe it is easier to stop fighting and be miserable. Maybe it takes an exhausting amount of energy to take care of oneself.

I’m a doer, a fighter. It’s who I am. So I will never stop trying. But now I think I see why some folks don’t.

Anatomy of a Sick Day, part 2 (or why people with special needs are exhausted by advocating for themselves)

In the last few months, I made a promise to myself to be kinder to my body and give it more rest when my cerebral palsy-related issues flare. That was part of my logic in filing for intermittent leave, so I could feel less guilty about calling out. Because while I don’t call off often, and while I have a legit disability, I am after all American and consumed with a drive to push myself past pain and perform at all costs.

So the fact that I laid in bed for an hour this morning contemplating the benefits and the detrimental effects of not going to work, and still called out is a big deal to me. Being a good employee is a big deal to me.

But as soon as I posted my last blog entry, Anatomy of a Sick Day, I checked my personal email only to receive an email from my very nice claims administrator for the absence management company hired by Stitch Fix to handle leaves.

My sick day was being approved only as a courtesy as I had already used up my leave time for the year. I had a medical appointment in early November which launched this whole journey (Is it Time for Botox… in my Hips?) and followed up on a visit with the podiatrist where I was diagnosed with two Morton’s Neuroma (The Stabby Toe and The Challenging Gait).

I have chronicled my frustrations with this whole process in blog posts like WTF? Another Cerebral Palsy Aware Day and Toe-Day at Work.

I have had two falls since early November, and significant work changes throughout the fall. My right side has taken a lot of abuse in all of these falls and changes, and my toe still burns more than it should.

But somehow, despite have a neurological condition that has changed my bone and tendon structure, made it difficult for me to walk, and left me with muscles in my lower body that never relax, the absence management company approved my leave for up to three hours twice a year.

SIX HOURS A YEAR.

How is that helpful?!?!?!?

I reviewed the initial letters and paperwork and found that my very, very helpful and talented neurologist wrote that I should have leave for 1-2 episodes per year of an undermined length. She physically wrote in her own handwriting “undetermined” and explained that my cerebral palsy made me an increased fall risk.

And they decided that the only leave I needed was for regular twice-a-year visits to my neurologist. Why would I pay $30 per form to have special leave for two appointments per year?!?!?

To settle my nerves– because even after I wrote back to them that she requested leave for episodes not appointments they would not budge and said my only recourse was to have more paperwork completed, at my expense– I called my blind friend, Nan. Nan has a lifelong history of advocating for oneself and at this point even she is frustrated and exhausted by the constant mental gymnastics it takes to get the most basic attention.

She moved to a retirement community in September, since as a blind person she will lose her independence if she relocates at a period of time when she no longer can re-learn a setting. She told me how she asked an administrator to read her the activities calendar. The administrator read her one week. And told her to call for help getting more info.

At this point, it’s been almost six months. Nan’s rent is significant, and it would have taken 5-10 more minutes for the administrator to go ahead and finish the month. Yes, Nan can call someone to update her on the day’s activities, but as someone who never neglected to point out the accommodations she would need, shouldn’t some of this help be automatic by now?

Anyway, I’m going to download the medical forms and start filling them out myself, and see if my PCP will just sign them.

Ridiculous.

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.

The latest fall

You know those workplace counters that say things like “X days since our last injury”?

I keep one of those in my head.

My last fall was November 3, 2022. The post-cortisone face plant. That was my last fall, until yesterday. Update counter. It had been two months since our last fall. The stumbles have been happening for about a week. I’ve noticed that’s how they “start.” I start to trip more. But I stay on my feet and I credit my workouts and my improved mobility and balance.

And then I fall.

Maybe the workouts, the chiropractor, and healthy eating do nothing to improve my odds. Maybe I would be a complete disaster without them. I don’t know. I’ve been taking my new medicine, even taking my vitamins (and I got battery-operated toothbrushes, testing the idea of getting a real electric toothbrush).

Yesterday, after a poor night’s sleep and a hard, stressful day at work (those details are recorded in an email to myself at work that I will not send unless the person who did not follow my accommodations says anything to anybody about me alerting my supervisor to her behavior), I came out of my garage, tripped over the stepping stone on the walk and landed after a corkscrew roll in the mud and concrete.

Watch the opening sequence of Netflix’s Special with Ryan O’Connell (season one, episode one) and you will get the idea.

I’m 47-years-old. I don’t like being face down on the concrete with my body in mud. And yes, my first thought was, “Damn, my sweatshirt is dirty now.”

I’m covered in minor scrapes. My hands. My right elbow (which still hasn’t fully recovered from the fall in November). My shoulder (though I can’t see to tell). My right hip. One of my left knee. Two on my right.

It shakes my spirit.

I also stepped on the scale for the first time since before Christmas. I had lost five pounds. I’ve gained those back plus two more. I keep thinking if I can get my weight down, my body might struggle less.

But then emotional eating sets in.

And so I ordered Wing Zone. Boneless wings and a BIG order of fries.

I’m not getting on a scale today.

Or tomorrow.

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.

I did what I could, but things don’t always change as quickly as you want them to

I have minimal patience for people who get stuck, accept it, and then complain about it without striving for change. But don’t worry– this isn’t a post about other people, it’s a post about me. Because the flip side of those who prefer “victim” status and inaction is when you do things and it’s not enough.

I have a funny conversation with my amazing chiropractor every time I see her. Whether I’m feeling good or bad, there is always so much chaos in my life that I have trouble labeling what helped or hurt the most. That’s probably one of my character flaws. If there is chaos, I dive right in. I say yes to help before fully considering the impact on my own life or those close to me.

Since December 12, my supervisors at my warehouse job have been trying to meet my new workplace accommodations for my cerebral palsy. This move for accommodations, on my part, was not spurred by a change in my physical condition, but my a change in how the company measures employee performance. Since I have been with the company for more than two years, experience has shown that I cannot meet the new standard. It took me about a year to consistently hit the previous measure.

My neurologist, who is also a physiatrist, and I adore her, literally wrote, “limit bending/crouching as much as possible to improve endurance.”

And so, during the course of the last several weeks, I have made most of my metrics with the support of the other staff in bringing me work that doesn’t require me pulling it out of shelves near the floor. We’ve slowly moved me to a work station near the back, so the support staff bringing the work doesn’t need to look for me or drag the work everywhere. We found a work station the right height and that directs the completed work to the left so I don’t have to stress my right hip.

This is after two weeks of a different table every day. Setting up a work station at the end of the day with supplies and my work to start the next day only to be moved somewhere else and given “standard” work in the morning. This is after the stares of my coworkers who are not on my team, as they linger around my work station wanting to figure out why I’m getting special treatment but unwilling to ask questions.

Until one of the nicer people, who still has the attitude of the others who don’t take kindly to us outsiders who originally came from second shift, offhandedly says, “because you have a real disability, right?”

I’ve been working hard in the gym, and set some new PRs on my weights, and since my holiday workouts my hamstrings have been super tight and spasming. The last time I did legs I probably overdid it. But everything was moving so well and I felt so strong so I hope this discomfort is my body trying to build new muscle and new connections with my nervous system, Because that’s my disability– my nervous system doesn’t communicate correctly with my lower body, making it impossible for my brain to tell my muscles to relax.

I don’t know if that’s why my mid-section, as in lower back and hips, has so much discomfort and burning pain, and why my legs ache. That workout was on Saturday morning and it’s Wednesday now. Maybe I’m being punished for binging Fleischman is in Trouble on Hulu for New Years or maybe I’m inflamed because I’ve been living on Christmas cookies and cake.

Who knows? But yesterday was hard and I couldn’t reach my feet or the floor and today I’m having more trouble bending. I see the chiropractor after work, so maybe she’ll have answers. I also forgot to wrap my toe yesterday. That meant that in addition to basic mobility issues it felt like someone had a knife in my toe all day.

But I hit my numbers, even did two extra, and set up my table with about 90 minutes of easy work and new rolls of supplies. And then I received work that I was being labor-shared today. And that has me upset and anxious. I’m folding clothes, just like I normally do, but today I’m supposed to do men’s clothes instead of women’s.

Last time I worked in men’s, it was awful. The clothes are bigger than I am and they don’t fit in the boxes, because the boxes are the same size of the women’s boxes but men have bigger bodies and much bigger feet. Plus, will they honor my accommodations? Will they put me on the left?

It took three weeks to get things comfortable for me in my own department. And my biggest fear is, when I return to my department, I’ll have to start all over with them.

Meanwhile, in the good news camp, The Teenager and I visited some friends last night so she could learn how to change her own headlight bulbs in her car and then she took me out for food. She might not believe me when I say it, but I really do love these small moments with her.

In other thoughts, when I get through my current financial straits (I have $3.92 in my checkbook and a $700 medical bill, the garbage bill is rumored to have gone up 200% and I’m still paying off my new ceiling and new computer), I really want an Apple Watch. I wonder if it could do a better job tracking my mobility and my activity. I’m really curious what all that clothes-folding counts as.

Christmas Eve Phase 1: Celebration of Life and Friendship

I am determined this year to explore new Christmas traditions, so when my Jewish neighbor invited me to deliver Christmas cookies to her deceased family members in the cemetery I said sure. And even though it’s 9 degrees outside (yes, that’s Farenheit), I had a great time.

The neighbor in question is “Little Dog’s Mom,” who made a reservation for my dear Sobaka to visit in April. This is exciting! We always love to have the Morkie (maltese-yorkie) come to spend the weekend. She’s such a fun little dog. And total side note, speaking of dogs, I have been scheduled for my Canine Therapeutic Evaluation with Susquehanna Service Dogs on January 25.

This means The Teenager and I, because you must bring at least one support person, are heading to Harrisburg Mall to work with a service dog. It’s a test to see if the dog helps me or provides a challenge. And also gauges how I will interact with a service dog in public.

The three of us— Little Dog’s Mom, myself and The Teenager— bundled up and piled into Little Dog’s Mom’s car for the ride to nearby Easton Cemetery.

Little Dog’s Mom carefully explained each cookie, and lined them up nicely, while explaining that the squirrels and other animals would get a nice treat.

She tried to give everyone their favorites, and having lost my father last Christmas— which to me still qualifies as “just last Christmas”— it touched me to commune with relatives who have left this Earth even if they aren’t mine.

The outing had some levity after that as Little Dog’s Mom told us about a flamingo Christmas sweatshirt she had contemplated buying with her 40% off coupon at CVS.

We stopped to look at it, and The Teenager surprised her by buying it for her with our 40% off coupon. Then Little Dog’s Mom let me use her 40% off coupon to buy one for us.

To thank us, Little Dog’s Mom took us to McDonald’s for diet cokes.

So thanks to her, we are feeling bubbly.

A Monday mammogram, a dose of anxiety, some more commentary on cerebral palsy (and fitness) and a really yummy dinner

I had a mammogram scheduled for this morning with my “regular” radiology tech. I went into work late, which meant I could sleep in and isn’t that the best way to start a Monday morning? At five a.m. I woke and starting cuddling my foster cat, Tripod Louise, debating whether or not I should get up. I normally rise for work at 4 a.m. so I have time to do Parisian Phoenix stuff or creative writing before clocking into my shift at 6:30 a.m.

But as I lay there at 5 a.m. today, I realized that I had set up the delay feature on my amazing coffee pot, and yes I still adore my Ninja K-cup, travel mug, and standard carafe brewer. I had coffee waiting in the kitchen. If I waited much longer it might not be fresh. If I fell back to sleep, it might not even be hot.

I fed the fat cats their weight management food and went downstairs where I promoted my latest idea, the photo scavenger hunt book. Check Parisian Phoenix’s submission page for more info.

I arrived at the hospital for my mammogram at 8:05 a.m. I went into the lobby and grabbed my registration number. Luckily it was two away from the last number I heard called. I started rooting through my purse for the doctor’s order and found it crumpled and stained with coffee.

A Dose of Anxiety

While I don’t normally suffer from panic or anxiety, when my stress levels increase I am prone to physical sensations of anxiety. And I had forgotten how stressful I find doing any outpatient procedure at the hospital. Grab a number, sit in the main lobby, go to the registration office, go across the hall to radiology, check in at radiology, get called to mammography, traverse the hall, get changed, go into the mammography suite, chat with the tech, get smooshed.

It’s a lot of steps in rapid succession. I could feel my hard pounding and had to keep inhaling deeply through my nose to keep my chest from closing up.

Was I nervous? No. Afraid? No. Shy? No.

It was pressure. I felt rushed and out of control.

Building Up Another Woman

Once in the mammography suite, I learned my favorite tech would be retiring in eight days and staying on per diem because if she works one day a month she will maintain her medical insurance.

I told her I was happy for her, but also disappointed, because she did my first mammogram and she always made me feel comfortable. I told her I’m sure she helped a lot of women and that I hoped she enjoyed every minute of her retirement.

She called me sweet.

And she remembered me by my tattoo. Which is on my breast.

Foster Kitten Jennifer Grey and Bean the Dog

When I left the hospital, I got the sweetest text that our foster kitten Jennifer Grey (who moved to the Teenager’s room last night for better socialization) is adjusting well.


Forgive me, but I’m finding myself too exhausted to continue,

so from this line down, I am writing about Monday on Tuesday


4:30 a.m. Tuesday, drinking exceedingly strong coffee as prepped on the delay setting by the Teenager.

Measuring Challenge at Work

My anxiety from my hospital visit followed me to work. I clocked it 9:07, which made it hard to do the math of where my numbers should be for the day, but I settled on a total of 85 fixes. And I hit 85 fixes. I was at a table on the right, not my regular table on the left, which meant a subtle shift of balance and more pressure on my right hip. The warehouse outbound supervisor herself brought me 22 refixes, or the work already in a box, which were pivotal in keeping my numbers where I wanted them.

I heard rumblings among my colleagues that no one is hitting “full performance,” so I’m not the only one. We were joking at lunch that in a few months they may reduce their workforce by 50% if they dismiss everyone not meeting the new numbers. I don’t think they’ll do that. The company has always been more than fair in the past. At lunch, Southern Candy gave me homemade fudge. I ate too much of the deliciousness and spent the next couple hours a little queasy.

The murmurings report that employees that are shared to other departments must still hit 90% of the new numbers and that their performance in those other departments will count toward their monthly miss-the-mark allowance.

The goal for my department is 16.25 per hour, but does not include time off for our ten-minute paid breaks. So I use my own numbers. Hour one should be 17, hour two also 17, then ten minute break, and 15 to finish the third hour to reach the official numbers. It’s two more hours until my lunch, and I try to maintain 17 per hour to “make up” for our final ten-minute break of the day.

So I missed two hours and 37 minutes of work yesterday. If I divide one hour (60 minutes) by 16.25, I get 3.7 minutes per box. (For argument’s sake, let me point out that doing the same using 17 unites is 3.5 minutes. So we are talking about the impact of seconds, but it adds up.) I missed 157 minutes of work, so using their numbers I should have lowered my goal by 42.5 fixes but I couldn’t do that math in my head. We are six days into the new system and I’ve already missed my two days a month. I thought I made it with 85 fixes, but my official target might have been 87.5. That means I did 97%. We’ll see what they say today.

I know I talk a lot about the numbers at work, but honestly it’s part of what I love about the job. 1. Numbers don’t lie. You can discuss why the numbers are what they are and develop strategies to meet them. I find calculating the numerical benchmarks to be soothing and an objective way to see how my day is going. And, while my employer would hate to hear this, it’s a good reminder that sometimes you can’t work harder only smarter and not everyone had the capacity to hit 100% of arbitrary numbers every day.

The calculations and my podcast keep my mind busy and allow me to brainstorm what I need to do for my publishing business. If I have to work full-time, I would rather work the blue-collar warehouse job than a white-collar office job that destroys my intellectual capacity and short-circuits my brain with stress. 2. I preserve my creative energy for myself. Listening to publishing-related podcasts, various sources of news, other creators and even some bizarre non-fiction stories keeps my mental focus on my goals and allows me to give my full effort to my employer while still working toward my personal goals.

3. I love the clothes. I have followed Stitch Fix since they launched, when The Teenager was a preschooler and I still had a subscription to vogue. I love seeing, touching and preparing the clothes for their clients. I love seeing the fixes, their color combinations, their textures and I love imagining the person who would wear them. I also like to make judgments of whether or not we could be friends based on their box. Because if you’re on fix #72 and I think all the clothes are hideous, that’s your style and we can’t blame the stylist or the algorithm. And since I write fiction in the fashion world, I love seeing the new trends and which items become perennial offerings.

I also took two muscle relaxers, after not taking them during the weekend. I’ve been curious if some of the strange feelings I have in my legs are from when the muscle relaxers wear off or from missing a couple chiropractor appointments due to other doctors’ visits. The jury is out– but the bottom line is with the muscle relaxers, working out and chiropractic care my body moves easier.

A much awaited visit to Back in Line Chiropractic

After work, I filled my water bottle and headed to my friends at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Not only is former physical therapist and chiropractor Nicole Jensen super smart and personable, but the staff contributes some extra care as well. When my schedule got out of control, office staff person B (as I don’t know if she would want me calling her out in a public forum) made sure I got not only one but two appointments so I could survive the holiday season with my mobility in tact.

I apologized to Nicole for letting three weeks go by without an appointment, and reassured her that I did not fall out of love with her. I summarized how life had gotten away from me, and by the time my trainer Andrew noticed that my legs were turning inward in an unusual fashion and I noticed I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, I luckily had called B and had my appointment on the books.

The noises my body made were brutal, but it’s a weird feeling when you stand up and your feet and legs feel loose, move freer and have a more easygoing gait. It’s disorienting. But it’s a good reminder than sometimes I need more help than I realize.

Nicole then shipped me off to Andrew at Apex Training.

The brutal workout at Apex

I love Andrew. I really do. I respect the way he has learned my quirks and can read my form. He has learned ways to troubleshoot what my podiatrist calls my “challenging gait” due to my cerebral palsy. But last night was a killer core and shoulders work out. It was awesome, and murderous. I am gaining so much upper body strength and am very impressed with my lower body function gains.

We missed some workouts recently because Andrew caught a cold and then took some family time for the holidays, but I told him it wasn’t fair that he was punishing me with heavy weights when we lifted and high reps in the more cardio-based exercises. After all, he had canceled not me.

Needless to say, when I got home I ate the lovely dinner The Teenager (lamb, broccoli and hand-cut, homemade parmesan fries) prepared and collapsed in bed. To wake at 3:56 a.m. before my 4 a.m. alarm.

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.

More about advocating for oneself, cerebral palsy and life in the warehouse

I last checked in with this blog on Monday, December 12. Today is Friday. I have diplegic spastic cerebral palsy and my workplace recently changed the way they measure our performance. The company switched from a weekly average to a firm daily number. I work in a warehouse folding clothes, and I’ve been there more than two years. Why do I do physical work when I have a disability, skills/talents and plenty of higher education?

Because I’m tired of emotional stress and the politics in a white collar office environment. I’m tired of being underappreciated, never getting credit for the good stuff I’ve done, and I’m tired of my creative, intellectual energy benefiting some entity other than myself.

I also love the mindlessness of my current work, listening to podcasts and brainstorming my own projects during the day, and my team. Working in a warehouse environment has brought together a diverse mix of people that I wouldn’t get to interact with otherwise. And I feel like this particular company, this warehouse and my supervisor and team give people opportunity and respect when other people/companies wouldn’t.

I have been struggling with my body for about a year. And my employer has never given me any trouble due to my disability. But, I also know that I will fail in this new metric system. So I applied for workplace accommodations and intermittent FMLA leave.

The leave request ran into some complications when the fax never seemed to make it to the absence management company. On Monday I contacted my neurologist to ask if they could fax it again.

On Tuesday, I took all-day VTO and ended up getting some frustrating communication from one of my volunteer activities. The kind of stern communication that feels like a betrayal and makes you reevaluate some relationships and commitments. I spent most of Tuesday sleeping and watching Hoarders. Because nothing makes you feel more psychologically grounded than seeing the homes in Hoarders.

The neurologist’s office followed up with me on Wednesday. I contacted the claims examiner via email to update them, and it was Wednesday afternoon when I received an email with the document and uploaded it to the claims management company.

This was the same day my supervisors at work asked me to submit the accommodation form I had given them to my claims examiner. Which I happened to have a scan of that document on my phone so I did.

I received word today that my intermittent FMLA leave was approved.

As for accommodations, Wednesday a friend from my roster saw to it that I got some work that was easy for me. By my calculations I hit 101%. But I was told I hit 111% because I receive extra non-production time for talking with people about my accommodations.

Before we left on Wednesday, one of the kind people from the original day shift brought me some of the work that was already boxed for me to set at my station for the morning. I also took the time to box the items from the bottom of my previous cart and get that ready. But when I returned to work Thursday morning, someone had taken my nicely packaged work.

It also happened to be the one year anniversary of my father’s death and I was at work when I got the call that I needed to come to the hospital and say goodbye. So, my emotions are on edge because of that, my anxiety is acting up because of the issues with my leave and my accommodations and the other things in my personal life.

My friend from my roster tried to get me pre-packaged work. I took VTO at 11:30 and I thought I hit 105%. The official number was 103%. I would estimate that half my work was the stuff that is easier for me. Thanks to that friend on my roster.

Today I again took VTO, this time at noon. I packed 89 fixes, by the skin of my teeth, which should be 100%. Only 24 of those were prepackaged. So less than 30%. I received more troubling news about three-and-a-half hours into my shift that made me realize that no one that could be considered my family has invited me for Christmas. I’m 100% okay with being alone, and Christmas usually ends with me in a panic attack, but I didn’t anticipate that suddenly at 47-years-old my daughter would be my only family.

My toe has been feeling much better, but I’ve only worked part-time this week. But I think the gel protector ring is helping tremendously. No nerve pain. But my right leg definitely feels turned in and clunky.

I think my life has been challenged on every front recently. The nice thing about such challenges is that they can inspire new beginnings and allow you to mold what you want out of life and stop living to other people’s expectations.

But sometimes– no, often– it still hurts.