This old house and this old brain

This is my first full work week post-Covid. Last night was the first night of the week that I felt competent and capable.

And now today that feeling is gone. I’m slow. I can’t even say I’m tired but my brain is foggy and I just can’t do more or move faster.

Last night I packed 75 fixes at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I took about 5 1/2 minutes per fix which was a nice improvement over the previous night.

But tonight I am averaging 6 1/2 minutes per fix— almost double the goal of 3 3/4 minutes per fix. Three minutes and 45 seconds to fold five pieces of clothing into a box. Neatly.

They announced mandatory overtime tonight. Starting Monday everyone must work eight extra hours per week. I’m struggling to survive 40 so this was not the news I needed.

At home, the parakeet chicks look like real birds. Mama Periwinkle still won’t let her best friend Peek-a-Booboo into the cage—I tried to reintroduce her into the cage and Periwinkle flew over to her, grabbed her by the neck and threw her to the ground. So poor Booboo remains in isolation.

Nala might be done plucking but the damage is done. Her wings look like Buffalo wings.

And tomorrow Loki has another family coming to consider him.

The teens have an appointment at 11 to use the gift certificates I bought them for the salon. They both plan to get a set of acrylic nails.

In preparation, teenager #1 is trying to finish household projects. Like mounting the new dustbuster to the wall. And swapping out my bedroom door.

I had several beautiful moments with my daughter this week, and some good reflections. So I guess this blog entry is a good introduction into what may come in the next few days.

And if you google “how many calories do you burn folding clothes,” the answer is an optimistic 148 an hour. That suggests I’m burning 1,000 calories a night.

As I fold, I listen to podcasts. And I think. And I am reminded how often is takes finesse and skill to do our best when we are not good at something and wish to be.

I intellectually tell myself that coming back after Covid to a new job is hard, and that I have to stop comparing myself to my experienced colleagues. But it’s hard.

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.

Language is the last to evolve

Some conversation during the holidays has replayed in my mind as someone I care about has prompted some discussions about gender identity and pronouns.

I believe I am considered one of the older members of Generation X, which carries with it a certain laissez-faire, you-do-you attitude of acceptance that perhaps did not exist in prior generations. After all, my generation grew up watching Michael Jackson don sequins and one glove, while also getting paler with every passing year.

AIDS came on the scene in the eighties, and it led to a lot more visibility for homosexual people and while initial discussions about the “gay cancer” may have continued dark judgments on some people for their sexuality, it also allowed more people to talk about various specialities more openly.

Fast forward now 30-plus years (how can I be approaching 50, how???) and gender identity is a topic appearing more and more in our society.

Now this is not a discussion of the legitimacy of cisgender versus transgender. I was journaling this morning, because someone in my family is traveling through this maze of how to pronoun oneself, and I realized—

This is just as much a feminist issue as it is a gender one. I struggle to see how a pronoun could cause discomfort or offense, because in my mind I don’t believe your biological sex and your pronouns should influence who you are in any way— not how you dress, who you sleep with, what your job is, what your family looks like, how much money you make, how much respect you receive.

But in the social construct of our universe, it does. I know it does.

So, the issue to me is a larger one. Why are we still in this day-and-age classifying people by their sexual organs? Language is often both the quickest part of society to evolve and one of the last things to change.

I still don’t quite feel natural using “they” as a gender neutral term as it implies the plural. But one cannot refer to people as “it.” So that leads to a need to refine pronouns.

Is it necessary to identify someone by their sexual organs? Do we need to know the second we meet them what body parts they have? Would a more generic term change how we view others? Would it change who we were sexually attracted to?

Just pondering.

And from the feminist perspective— if names and pronouns become less gendered wouldn’t society have to equalize and end various forms of discrimination? The traditional markers would fade and it would take longer to learn certain factors about a person.

Monday food for thought.

Beginnings and babies

My routine is fairly set… I get up, use the bathroom, weigh myself, feed cats, and brew a cup of coffee (using the time while it brews to tidy the kitchen).

I drink the coffee while hanging with our personal cats, sometimes I do my journal entry then other times I wait until I return upstairs.

Once my coffee is done I start a load of laundry, make sure the kibble is put away where our two cats with urinate issues can’t find it, and head up to “wake the birds.”

Usually by now it’s around 9 or even 10 a.m. (as I work 3:30 p.m. until midnight). I open Nala’s cage (my Goffin’s cockatoo) and throw back the curtains so the budgies fill my room with chirps and chatters. I check on the babies and everyone gets fresh food and water.

Chicks growing feathers

The photos really don’t do them justice. They all have open eyes, clear faces, beaks, feet and wings. They are getting feathers and one is turning blue like Mama Periwinkle.

After feeding everyone I let Peek-A-Boo-Boo free fly as she is stuck in the tiny cage right now.

Then, in an attempt to set my head straight for 2021, I made my bed— inspired by a post by another blogger on her M goals for 2021.

See the whole post here: Olivia’s “M” Goals for 2021

Movement and mindful eating are also on my list. I am losing a little weight every day just by making better choices and paying attention to how much I consume.

I think my journaling and blogging might be similar to meditation. It clears out my head and puts me straight.

But I failed in my grandiose plans to start my I journal with some sort of fancy motivational speech.

Loki went to the adoption fair at Petsmart with our cat rescue group Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. He had a scheduled meet-and-greet with a family. While he was gone, teenager #1 and I went to the dollar stores looking for organizational materials.

And then we got the sad text: “Loki did not go. 😦 ”

So now he’s home with us again.

Never underestimate your impact

Last night at about midnight, I received an unexpected post on my Facebook wall.

Happy New Year, Angel. You have done great things this year despite a million obstacles. And yet you always strive to do more… taking care of so many.”

I don’t want to say I was feeling down last night when I received this message, but I was thinking about past relationships and memories as many people do. So this brought tears to my eyes.

I didn’t set out to do any of the things I did in 2020, but I merely reacted to the situations in my path. I think the moral of this post, if it has one, is if you are thinking of someone or have something kind to say do it. Don’t wait.

This particular shout from the dark, so to speak, came from a college peer. A young woman from Brooklyn who wore clogs and drove a Jeep and blasted The Beastie Boys. Someone pretty and jovial and a little loud. I admired her, and her boldness, and her social life (which is something I didn’t have at that age, my insecurities were so raw).

And I look at her now, and she’s still beautiful and she has equally beautiful children, one of whom is an amazing gymnast.

I don’t know much about her life. She posts about her pride in her family. And I have a feeling she’s a really great mom.

We’ve all matured a lot since the mid-nineties at Moravian College, and it’s super cool that Facebook allows us to spy on each other when life would have separated us. That counts for everyone on South Campus at that time.

So thank you for starting my year with happy memories and high hopes.

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.

Farewell 2020 wish

It’s 12:05 a.m. and I still have to open my journal. My morning started merely five hours after I went to bed with a series of foibles that are normal in my life… so let me appease anyone waiting for my next blog post with this little post I made on Facebook:

Some of our challenges in this household for 2021 include:

  • Reassure teenager #2’s male cat that he is safe. The other cats feed off his insecurity and terrorize him which leads to urination outside the box.
  • Eat healthy again.
  • Each member of my household has some sort of fitness goal. Mine is the inevitable lose weight, but I am going to focus on strength training. Strength and endurance to me are the key to building a healthy body.
  • Raise healthy kittens and enjoy my budgie chicks.

Update on chicks video

The joys and lessons of 2020

I know 2020 dealt a lot of people a bad hand at cards, so to speak, and I know so many people have suffered— loved ones lost, food insecurity, unemployment, instability, break-ups.

I naively believe every year will “be a good year” or a better year… but let’s talk Turkey for a minute: I have a disability (cerebral palsy), I come from a certain socio-economic bracket that has made it difficult (but not impossible) for me to achieve long term financial stability, and my own job choices have often valued community, family and altruism over traditionally-defined middle class life.

2019 was the year I resumed my professional career after taking ten years “off” to raise my daughter. (I worked for Target for those 10 years and they gradually increased my part time hours to full time and so I opted to get paid a professional salary versus a retail wage if I were to put that many hours in.)

My husband and I separated in 2019. That was a huge change after 20 years, and it still pains me. My husband is one of the kindest people in the world, and while I still lament that we couldn’t fix our problems, the end had to come.

So what were the joys and lessons of 2020?

Let me share.

  • Cats. December 26, 2019 through late January 2020, the teenager trapped the feral kittens born under our neighbors porch. We kept two of them. Taming feral kittens gave us so much reward. And led to us working with FURR. Our fostering career has involved 12 kittens so far, in seven months. And I cannot tell you how much I love having babies around all the time. On days I don’t want to get out of bed, I do for them.
  • Birds. I met Nala on December 28, 2019 and brought her home in mid-January. By dealing with this obstinate Goffin’s cockatoo, I learned a lot of patience. And the best way to top being “a crazy cat lady” is to be the crazy cat lady with birds. And my parakeets had babies for Christmas 2020. I have three chicks that I have seen grow daily.
  • Professional and personal growth. I found myself crying at my desk more often than I like to admit in 2020. It became apparent by the end of January that my boss was an incredibly toxic person. At the same token, I learned so much from her that when she dismissed me during the pandemic, I could use those new skills to help a young nonprofit grow. Between my original job and my volunteer work with new nonprofits, I showcased this knowledge to steer these organizations to grants. And the success rates for grants, publication of an first-ever annual report, and various media placements throughout the Lehigh Valley was exhilarating.
  • Expanding family. As my faithful readers may know, I have a second teenager staying with me. This teenager has turned our lives upside down, but has shared in our joys and tribulations during the last four months. I always wanted a larger family— and I got it this year: a menagerie of birds, cats and teenagers. It’s been amazing to share our joys and traditions with someone and see my daughter react to no longer being an only child.
  • New attitude toward challenges. I am always the person you can count on when you need someone. So people don’t realize that I am often terrified and insecure. Being “alone” and a single custodial parent has gotten me over that. I had five months with no income and I lived on the $4500 I had in savings. I ended up in the hospital with a cat bite during that time period and it was such a great learning experience. I learned a lot about myself, my neighbors, my friends, and how amazing teenager #1 really is. And then I finally get unemployment after I get my new job at Stitch Fix. I promptly use it to pay off some of my medical bills and a few living expenses I had put on my American Express.
  • We will move beyond Covid. I finally got a job and three weeks in, I contract Covid-19. That whole experience was something, but again— I learned to ask friends, neighbors and family for help. And that GrubHub gift certificate I received during the summer months sure came in handy. This whole pandemic world has me mapping out whom I would recruit for my squad in a real catastrophe.

Maybe I’m just weird— but I see a lot of hope and triumph emerging from struggle. Cheers to 2021.

Early morning animal husbandry

I got up early today — at 5:45 a.m.— to take the teenager to our FURR godmother’s house for her pet sitting job.

These two personal cats of the household wanted my affection and made a receiving line. From the tilt of their heads I am guessing they don’t like paparazzi.

In related FURR news, little Loki Dokie Puppy Turkey of the Norse Pride is learning the rules of the greater house versus life in the master suite. He still likes to challenge the “no cats on the counters” rule but he is learning to prefer the scratching posts to the furniture. For that I am grateful.

Loki

Yes, the scratching post is broken but they don’t mind. We just have to watch the sisal and reattach it.

In other news of gratitude, the chicks seem to have doubled in size. They must be very hungry right now because they chirped much of the night.

Yule was hatched on the solstice, Winter hatched next, and then, yes, Christmas hatched on Christmas.

Mama gives me one chance each morning to check on them and take their photo. If you want to hear the protective mama bird noise, here it is: Protective Periwinkle.

So now, the only thing stressing me out is the fact that I haven’t heard from my doctor’s office. I called them yesterday about my need for a follow up Covid test and a doctor’s note.

Accidents (or the four letter word that starts with S and means ‘poop’) happens.

It’s been a hectic couple of days.

The teenager is pet-sitting for our FURR foster godmother. So she’s in and out of my house several times a day.

I have misplaced Fern’s adoption paperwork, which is totally not like me. Luckily Fern went to a friend of mine so I can asked her to send me a photo.

Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, has been upset and stressed and plucked her flight feathers off her one wing.

It’s really sad to see the confusion in her face when she tries to fly and just falls.

Speaking of Nala, I met her a year ago today.

We had a devil of a time containing Boo-boo last night but since we did Wink and Yo-yo seem much more relaxed as parents. I think it was the right call. Video: catching Boo

And here is a video of the parakeet chicks: Budgie babies!

I also finally got a good picture of Loki:

Sir Loki Dokie Puppy Turkey

While three out of my four cats were cuddly and cute.

Back to Front: Opie, Oz, Fog

Then I headed out to work for the first day since Covid. I stopped at Dunkin for a coffee and discovered there were no more good deals. So I didn’t get my coffee.

No one explained the protocol for my return so I don’t have the proper paperwork from my doctor. I’ll try and get that started— already called the doctor— but am waiting on their end of the paperwork.

I’m annoyed— mostly because I was ready to go back but also because I don’t know if this lack of communication will mean I lose income. With it being the holiday week, I probably won’t get rapid cooperation from the medical folks. And part of that is because there are people sicker and needier than I am.

After everything I’ve been through this year, I won’t complain.

It gave me time to do some grocery shopping and cook for the other teenager.

I even helped her make a smoothie.

One more week of 2020.