Lessons learned about myself

It is 12:40 a.m. My daughter bought me ice cream— low fat diet really freezer burned ice cream but ice cream. I still need to shower. Opie, our three-legged cancer survivor cat, has a 10:45 a.m. vet appointment for the suspicious growth on his neck.

In my life, I never have time to get bored. Why in the last 24-hours, I’ve worked two work centers at the Bizzy Hizzy. I’ve also signed up for the employee store. I almost rescued a 17-year-old Maine Coon cat named Tiny (isn’t that the best name for a Maine Coon).

I had a chiropractor appointment, and she is just as excited about the recent improvements in my body as I am. I wrote a poem. Had my portrait taken. Did some foundation research for the cat foster/rescue/TNR group with whom I volunteer.

I was asked to trim the nails of a former neighbor’s cat. And I swung by the Grocery Outlet.

Even amid all this craziness— I contemplated some lessons I have learned about myself.

1. To get a good photo of me, find props. I am an eccentric person so when it comes time to take a photo, toss me an umbrella, cat, bird, etc., to see my personality.

Photo by Joan Z

2. I don’t have the patience for rescue work. I love to help people and animals, but when someone reaches out for help and either doesn’t accept it or makes it impossible to work with them, I lose all empathy.

3. I’ll never be the fastest, but I am dependable and flexible. I work in a metrics-driven warehouse. I will never be super fast and therefore efficient but so far, my supervisors seem to value my flexibility and good attitude. Which is ironic when my last boss called me “hostile.”

Which brings me to my last lesson from today.

4. Others fear you will display the same bad behavior they do. If someone has an insecurity or weakness in a certain area, they may treat you as if you have the same flaw. I once had a boss who literally removed all the paper and pens from my desk because she didn’t trust my ability to listen and take notes at the same time— despite my fifteen year career as a print journalist. And then I noticed that she only took notes when no one was speaking.

The same sort of thing may come into play if someone thinks your idea won’t work— they may believe that they would not be able to do it, so therefore you won’t succeed. That’s when you have to detail the steps and build confidence.

How’s the Path? An exploration of the chaos that happens when warehouse logistics fail

For those of my readers who know me, you may know me from my 15-year-career as a journalist, or from my volunteering or professional experience in nonprofits, or my time as a board member of Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

But my life has led many other unorthodox places— I worked my way through college at McDonalds, served as the box office manager for Moravian College Theatre Company, and did my work-study in admissions where I filled out a lot of postcards, stuffed a lot of informational folders, and rewrote department brochures. My other work-study job was in the English department photocopying things and the duplication department loved my prowess with photocopiers.

My professional career started at Lafayette College in public relations and from there I moved into weekly journalism.

Life as a print journalism made me a more efficient writer, a more captivating storyteller and a better listener. It piqued my curiosity for subjects I have no interest in, and it honed my ability to discern what information is important and understanding how different systems work.

My career as a journalist opened me to the possibilities— I’m less prone to refuse any opportunity. And my current experience at Stitch Fix is one of those opportunities.

Warehousing is a huge industry here in the Lehigh Valley. It is very easy to get just about anywhere from here from a transportation logistics standpoint. I have had an interest in Stitch Fix since they launched as the first subscription box for retail fashion.

My work as a warehouse associate there as part of “midnight society” (second shift) allows me to work on my personal projects during the day, and, when the work assignments line up to have me “picking,” exercise at night. Pickers walk about 25,000 or more steps in a shift.

Last night, management announced mandatory overtime. Every associate had 24 hours to sign up for 14 hours of overtime before Easter. This made a lot of people grumpy and/or angry as we didn’t have much time to figure out our options. I’ll be working 4 hours each Saturday and coming in 2 hours early two days a week.

So this was the backdrop as one of our overseers mentioned that some of the totes set up for our carts had been messed up. Now I don’t know if a person did it, or a computer did it, as this is the week we switched from Gozer to Star.

I don’t want to say much as I don’t know how much of Stitch Fix’s operations are proprietary. But normally each cart of eight fixes being “picked” stays in a certain size area of the warehouse. A medium batch might include medium, size 6 and size 8 and have you roaming the aisles throughout the M section.

Last night, the pickers would start in W/2 XL and have fixes on their cart that included all the sizes which meant more or less picking one fix at a time and zigzagging throughout the warehouse— which from XS to XXXL is about 900 of my steps.

By meal break, most of the bad batches had been picked, and the shift supervisor was asking if the paths had improved. I was very grateful when they had. The ones that weren’t right wasted a lot of time and were very disorienting.

In other news, our three-legged cancer survivor cat Opie has a vet appointment with a new doctor on April 1. I was unhappy with the vet practice who diagnosed his cancer, and the one vet there I liked has left the practice. The vet that actually amputated his leg is an hour away.

He has a lump growing on the back of his neck and I don’t like the look of it. So April 1, I am taking him to Canyon River Run to be checked. Canyon River is one of the vets who works with the cat rescue we foster with, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

Life in Valley 2

Forgive me if this post contains typos or other errors as it is literally 1 a.m. and a wage of fatigue just washed over me. I think I might be too tired to write this.

Last night, the work center board at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy proclaimed that I would work QC.

QC is the quality control work center. Once the fixes are picked, the QC team inspects and folds the pieces and prepares them for the shipper.

It is the most stationary, sedentary work center I have worked in so far at the Bizzy. But I like it—except it kills my spine. It causes me a lot of pain to stand still for 8 hours. And yes, the give us mats and offer a variety of table heights to make it more comfortable.

After our two hours in training, I packed 36 fixes at a rate of 8+ minutes per fix.

Tonight when I arrived at work, scheduled for QC again, my favorite nurse asked how I did in QC last night. I told her it was hard on my S1 joint (she already knows I have cerebral palsy) but I liked it. But then I like to learn new things and face new challenges.

Now I don’t remember her exact word choice, but she commented on my good attitude and the fact that I am “always happy.”

I fought years. “Thank you for seeing that, as I’m having a hard time right now.”

And she offered me prayers.

Then she commented on how I try to do everything, and I shrugged and reminded her that this was my whole life— that I’ve always had a disability so things never come easy.

And then she pointed out that in her line of work she’s seen people give up facing less.

With that pep talk, I headed to QC valley 2. Now tonight I was on the right side of the valley and liked it. I QC’ed a total of 59 fixes at a rate of between 5.9 and 7.2 minutes per fix. Only two of my boxes were returned and both were do to issues with the paper. A supervisor told me nice folding! And I even tried to highlight whatever was pretty in each fix/folded item.

On first break I took 400 mg of ibuprofen to help prevent back trouble. And it helped! Or maybe I just really am getting stronger post-Covid.

At the end of my shift, I was hungry for chocolate so I grabbed a chocolate chip Pop Tart. As I was walking out, my favorite nurse offered me a cookie.

I didn’t want to touch her cookies, so she piled some into a tissue while using a tissue as a glove.

Best thumbprint cookie ever

And I never tasted anything quite like that thumbprint cookie. I haven’t had thumbprint cookie in years.

I went out to my car and found one final surprise; my mileage was 33399. I like numerical patterns and that number sequence was super cool.

33399

So the day that had a rocky start had a strong finish.

Picking 64

Yesterday I returned to work at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy after 3 weeks out with the Coronavirus.

I worked an eight-hour shift processing women’s returns. It was a new work center for me and I’m frequently amazed at how many work centers I haven’t learned. It sure make what could be mindless, monotonous work more interesting to slowly learn everything in the building.

I haven’t really got to know anyone well at Stitch Fix though I am consistently surprised by everyone’s kindness. Today I wore a cropped sweatshirt and one of my colleagues whom I don’t know at all chased after me worried that my exposed back would leave me cold. She then realized I had a beige shirt on underneath and chuckled, only to still tuck my sweatshirt under the strap of my little pack.

Speaking of making friends… The nursing staff usually changes over after the evening shift clocks in. The day shift nurse is the sweetest, most outgoing person. I imagine in other settings she would have a wonderful bedside manner. She said she was worried when she hadn’t seen me in so long and me being me said there was merit in her concern as I had Covid.

Then she peppered me with questions about my symptoms and my experience.

But after we clocked in, she didn’t leave. She did the regular rounds through the warehouse. And she made it a point to check on me every time— and make sure I had the stamina to make it the whole shift and that I was drinking water.

I ended up processing 252 pieces which is probably a mediocre number. I felt like I had worked a 10-hour Black Friday shift from my Target days, and all I did was stand there. But standing is hard for me since my cerebral palsy has made my body crooked and led to issues with my S1 joint. AND two weeks ago I felt like I had run a marathon when I walked the 20 feet from my room to the bathroom.

My only Covid complication was having a prolonged coughing fit during our meal break when a piece of Raisin Bran tickled my throat wrong and I couldn’t stop choking!

Today when I arrived she asked how I was feeling, and how I slept last night. My supervisors keep asking how I am as well. They didn’t have me assigned to a department so I ended up in direct-pick. It felt so good to move!

As for tonight’s numbers, I picked 64— which is half the bare minimum number they like. But here is the good news: They let us go early so I only worked half a shift. My step count remained consistent with my pre-Corona figures.

One interesting fact, in addition to my weakened fortitude, is how challenging it is now to wear my mask especially while performing labor that gets my heart rate up. The nurse encourages me to wear the lighter disposable masks so I can breathe easier and not get so “hot” (if that makes sense).

I’ve also kept my calories at around 1500, with a lot of good protein and wholesome foods which, as I increase my activity levels should lead to some improvement in my current weight and fitness struggles.

My heaviest weight ever— not including pregnancy— I hit last week at 154.5. I’m not even 5’ 4” so that is unacceptable. But today I was 151.5. I managed to lose three pounds so far by tracking my macros and calories.

So now, with work done, I am celebrating as only a mom would. I started a load of laundry, fed the cats, ran the dishwasher and while I wait for the wash (which I will need to take down yesterday’s loads and hang tonight’s) I will pour a gin drink and watch The Tudors with my cockatoo Nala.

The teenager should be home around 10 from her pet sitting job. Teenager two will be going to visit her mom to watch the ball drop.

Kittens, craziness and the end of my first two weeks at StitchFix Bizzy Hizzy

So tonight I finished my first two weeks at the Bethlehem warehouse of StitchFix, or the Bizzy Hizzy as they call it. I am still fascinated by the logistics of the warehouse and how well it works.

I reached 128 again tonight in my picking, which considering it looked like I hit 80 before my meal is both good and disappointing. I think I would have hit 140 had I not been stationed in W most of the night. Between the physical distance between that section and the “garage,” about 750 steps, I lost a good four minutes with every cart. That adds up to an hour over the course of the night so yes my math is correct.

This job requires so much walking— about 21,000 steps tonight—that my calves, thighs, feet and butt all burned by the end of the night but it’s the “agony” of muscles that haven’t seen that kind of action in a long time.

I do love seeing what goes in each fix and the fact that I work alone and can compete against my own performance pleases me.

I even got to visit the employee store tonight— where dresses and pants are $10, tops are $5 and you can buy five items. I bought some Christmas presents for the teenager. And a Karl Lagerfeld Paris polka dot sleeveless blouse and 1822 denim ankle skinny jeans in acid-washed camo for myself.

As close to Chanel as I will ever get

The teenager ordered Dominos at midnight so we could all— me, the cockatoo, teenager #1 and teenager #2— could have a pizza party.

That feels like a great start to the weekend.

This afternoon, teenager #1 got a haircut and bleached her hair. While out with her dad, they stopped at our foster godmother’s house to pick up a spare 18-pound turkey she had. Now it looks like I’ll be having some friends over for a turkey meal on Sunday. It will be my first attempt at making a turkey.

Meanwhile, the ringworm which originated with Hermes what feels like months ago has not only spread to both other litters of foster kittens but two of our personal cats.

Speaking of cats… teenager #1 took this video of Jupiter from the Roman Pride and within the first 24 hours on YouTube it had 622 views. YouTube: Hello Jupiter

Another day at the Bizzy Hizzy

It’s approaching 1 a.m. and I am amazed at how quickly I am adapting to going to bed around 1:15 a.m. and waking up around 8:45 a.m.

An hour ago I was placing my laptop into the cupboard, taking my last cart of fixes to the “garage” area and heading to the time clock.

I only walked 16,000 steps in the warehouse tonight but I hit the pre-direct pick picking goal of 128 fixes.

I am sitting in my bed with a gin-and-cucumber-positive-beverage-B12 cocktail. I have kittens surrounding me (the Norse Pride domestic long hairs) and Nala chattering and falling asleep on my knee—and I know my bird should be asleep right now but she wakes up when she hears me come home and she’ll be super angry with me tomorrow if I don’t give her a bedtime cuddle.

She just fell asleep — on my knee.

The scene looks something like this:

The swarming Norse Pride

Poor Fog is whimpering outside my door as he used to be the cat that slept with me until the teenager moved the Norse Pride (some of our foster kittens through Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab) into my room. He wants no part of those pesky furball kittens.

But he misses me now that I am working, and he pursues every opportunity he can to be with me.

Fog

Today involved some meetings, including the Lehigh Valley Regional Homelessness Advisory Board. I organized some paperwork and paid some bills as this week’s unemployment payment came.

I received EBT/SNAP (food stamps) for September, October and November so I’ve been combing every store possible for the best deals. Grocery Outlet and Lidl remain my standbys, but I find some good coupons at CVS. Today they sent me a coupon for a Starbucks Frappuccino from their ready-to-drink cooler for $1.49. I had $1 in Extra Bucks expiring today so I got the coffee beverage for 49 cents in food stamps.

Why does SNAP pay for candy and bottles of Frappuccino but there is no program to pay for bath soap, laundry supplies or toilet paper? One friend remarked that poor people must not be allowed to be clean.

So, now that I’m employed again these are issues I shouldn’t have to contemplate much longer.

And I suppose eventually StitchFix might ask me to stop blogging about them but I hope not— I’m a wholesome blogger with a long history in the public relations and journalism field.

But I’m so excited about hitting the 128 number and we had Thanksgiving dinner at work!

Adjustments

As I write this, it is Friday the 13th and after four months of no income, my unemployment has come through as I finish my first week as a warehouse associate at StitchFix. I also have three fluffy kittens on my lap and a Nala bird on my shoulder.

I’d like to find my pretty socks before I go to work tonight, where I will be working in inbound processing.

And I need to head down to the teenager’s room to visit the tuxedo kittens.

But let me tell you a little bit about life at the Bizzy Hizzy. The people are nice, and helpful. I had my first fall— I tripped over am empty pallet at the time clock. A colleague helped me up.

I’ve always enjoyed working second shift— because it allows me to start my day with what I want to do and then go to work and collapse in bed when I get home. No alarm clocks. No getting out of bed at 5 or earlier. Empty roads at night.

I don’t want to share too many specifics on the warehouse— or hizzy in StitchFix terms. We are the Bizzy Hizzy and our mascot is the busy bee.

Second shift at our warehouse is smaller than first so we tend to move into different jobs as needed. Tonight we will all be working on inbound processing as there is a lot of sweaters that need to make it onto the floor.

I don’t want to say too much and infringe upon any proprietary information, but I’ll give you a glimpse of my day.

We all clock in at 3:30 and as I typically work as a picker, my job is to run around the warehouse gathering the clothes the stylist has picked for each client. The best pickers hit the 180 fixes (or each client shipment) in a night.

The first night I picked 80 fixes. The second night I picked 88. Last night I picked 48, and then I went to inbound processing for half my shift.

The warehouse is filled with Z racks of clothes, each rack has five sections, and each row has at least 40 racks. The rows start at AA and then AB etc; then BA, BB, BC etc, through the alphabet. There is a break in the row every ten numbers. So it’s very orderly and the computer maps your path.

At 5:30, the entire population goes into the break room (maximum occupancy pre-Covid was 492) where there are free snacks and drinks. Snacks include yogurt, chips, cookies, Kraft Mac and cheese cups, oatmeal, cereal, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, muffins, fruit, pop tarts, cup of noodles, trail mix, string cheese, pudding, etc.

At 7:30 everyone takes their 30-minute meal. At 10 pm we have our final break.

My last full shift as a picker I walked 17,000 steps. I’ve lost two pounds already.

There is a company store where everything is $5 or $10. I’d like some of those shoes, and I like the look of Judy Blue jeans. I would love to score some jumpsuits or a Karl Lagerfeld blouse.

My body is getting used to being active again.

And the animals swarm me when I get home.

As I zip through the warehouse I feel like PacMan.

Finding shoes and a new routine

So after my first day at StitchFix, I will be starting full time work tonight on the 3:30 to midnight shift.

As a consequence, I’m going to have to streamline and focus my routine. Today, I got up, fed my cats, made a cup of coffee and made a list of things to do.

With that out of the way, I started the dishwasher. I also gathered, sorted and started one load of wash (which I later hung on our heated drying rack and started another to hang outside.)

Next I focused on my room: primarily running the roomba, cleaning the bird cages, and giving fresh food and water to the birds and fosters. I also totally swapped out the litter box for The Norse Pride and spent a little time with everyone.

This included some bird and kitten play time: YouTube video of Loki and Nala

Now it’s 10 am and I’m hoping to have a croissant and some fruit salad before my neighbor and her dog, Sobaka, stop by.

We’re going on a leisurely cookie walk to test one of the three pairs of shoes I bought for my new job.

I tested the ASICS last night. They felt so light. I got a black pair. I’ve always wanted a black pair. I also bought some glittery boots that are more comfortable versions of Doc Martens. Now in the end, they still may require inserts.

But if I’m buying inserts maybe I could go get the actual Doc Martens I wanted.

Mortgage for now — more shoes later.

First Day at StitchFix: Bizzy Hizzy

I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to be at my local StitchFix warehouse— the Bizzy Hizzy—for my orientation as a warehouse associate.

I applied at StitchFix because many of my Target colleagues had gone there— including our former store manager who is now the head of one of their other facilities.

The state still hasn’t even looked at my unemployment claim that I opened in July, and despite having a bevy of interviews (non profits in the Lehigh Valley, N.J., and Washington, D.C.; development director for a public library in the Greater Philadelphia region; even a downtown manager), I needed an income other than the SNAP benefits (food stamps) I’ve received for September and October.

Well, I was considering applying at Wawa since the pay is above average for retail, it’s close to my home, and I’ve heard they have some good perks.

But if I have to go back to retail, I’d prefer not to deal with customers and something less labor intensive than food service would be nice.

So why not StitchFix? At least it’s fashion oriented. The walking (11-13 miles a day) will help me lose my extra 20 pounds. And by working on second shift, I will have my days more free to my volunteer commitments and other opportunities.

The benefits start day one and the high deductible medical plan is free for the employee, you must pay to add your family and you have options to have better coverage as well.

Free snacks and drinks in the break rooms.

Break rooms and bathrooms in multiple areas of the warehouse.

No dress code.

They call the warehouses by the name “Hizzy.” We are the Bizzy Hizzy.

But what blew me away was how the warehouse is organized— the clothes are on rows upon rows upon rows of Z racks. The clothes are lettered and numbered so it’s easier to keep track of where you are. Like finding a book on the shelves of a library.

I don’t want to say too much as I don’t know what would be considered a trade secret.

But I can tell you that I walked more than 1400 steps today.

Of mufflers and magic

The last few days have been emotional, challenging and at times full of mirth… so as expected, it is the full moon.

I attended a few trainings and meetings and will be (or was) on the county council meeting agenda to serve on the drug and alcohol task force. I also sat in on a meeting of the YWCA of Bethlehem’s Empowerment and Justice Committee.

Today was the first Friends of Pete mixer since the pandemic started!

But let me not get ahead of myself.

I did two loads of laundry, tended some pets, had coffee with a neighbor, vacuumed my room, tried to get information on my unemployment claim (tried two different agencies and could get through to neither), went for a walk with another neighbor… and learned some high school physics.

And then Sarah, my lead intern in the communications department at ASPIRE to Autonomy visited! It was our first in person meeting despite working virtually practically side by side since June.

She knows the delightful crazy in my house— the naughty cockatoo, the sibling grey cats, the visiting dogs, the foster kittens, marching band, teenagers 1 & 2, the blind poet friend, etc. She’s seen & heard a lot of silly and strange things via video chat.

And now she drove 90 miles to see the real thing. Maybe a should start my own reality television show… and then run for President.

Teenager #1 proclaimed that Sarah was “even prettier in real life.”

She tried to make friends with Nala, met lots of cats, and then I went to take her on a tour of my neighborhood.

And there was construction blocking on end of the street and no lie a MUFFLER and TAILPIPE at the other. To get out of my street, we had to move part of an exhaust system. To which Sarah merely said, “I am not even surprised.”

View from my garage

I drive her to the teenagers school, show her Easton Area High School (the size of which blew her mind), and (don’t judge) visited two Dunkin’ Donuts out of the six within 2.5 miles of my house. We only got drinks at one. Note: Sarah uses almond milk.

We drop the car off and take a walk around the neighborhood which she enjoys because she can’t go anywhere on foot at her house. And she asked a lot of good questions discovering the history of the Dixie cup along the way.

We return to the house because I told Sarah we were going to light a few candles. Apparently I had never mention to Sarah that I was an animist pagan (or in practical terms a witch).

Oops.

Luckily, she has a history as a Catholic and Catholics light as many candles, burn as much incense and if you consider a prayer a spell, then do as magic as witches do.

So around 4:15, we did a candle burning ritual to coincide with the 5:05 full moon. I gave teenager 1 a white candle to draw the positive light to us and keep our intentions pure. I gave teenager 2 a purple candle as I want her to draw peace, calm, and safety into her life. I gave Sarah a blue candle as her friend had cancer surgery today and we wanted to pray for her healing. My candle was green. I need money, a job or some sort of resources.

After Sarah’s first ritual, we left for the Friends of Pete mixer— the Pandemic Breakout Networking event— in downtown Easton. I also showed her my old office at ProJeCt of Easton and then we drove by the new office for ASPIRE.

I reconnected with some old acquaintances— including Gil Bean of InFlow Advisory and Pete Reinke. I met some new people and got to have drinks with my ASPIRE peers. And forgot to finish explaining to Amber, the co-founder of ASPIRE the difference between a Wiccan, a pagan and a witch.

I had a gin-elderberry-lime-berry cocktail and calamari at Ocean. I’d dined at all the other restaurants on the list so it was nice to finally try Ocean.

But let me back up and explain— Friends of Pete is a Lehigh Valley networking group that has a strong LinkedIn presence, a weekly Zoom check in and used to have monthly mixers.

It is how I met Darnell in August 2019.

And Sarah realized she’d been to Easton before— to visit The Crayola Factory. Which I had written the original press release when Binney & Smith first remodeled the old Orr’s store and launched that attraction more than 20 years ago.