End of week grateful: when sunshine and lack of excitement is exactly what I’m thankful for

I worked a couple of ten hour shifts and four hours today (Saturday) as part of my obligation in Stitch Fix’s mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy.

So, this week (Monday through Saturday) I have worked 48 hours across 3 departments: Pick, QC and Women’s Returns Processing. And while yesterday my legs felt very heavy, I really didn’t have any pain. That makes me very humble and grateful.

This was my work today. When I started this was full to the tippy top— so I opened and processed all that mail and got about 300 pieces of clothing back onto the warehouse floor.

And in one of those parcels, someone lost a sock.

Yesterday we had a delightful lunchtime surprise birthday party— Coronavirus style, just our household—for teenager 2 who turned 18.

Last weekend, teenager #1 retrieved an animal cage from our cat foster gosmother. She cleaned it up and started cleaning up our “mud room.” Our greybie brothers (Fog and Misty) love it. In that way that cats think anything you bring into the house is for them.

Last but not least, I started watching Kid90 on Hulu, Soleil Moon Frye’s documentary about being a kid celebrity/teenager in the 1990s. I’m a 90s teenager, and who didn’t love Punky Brewster.

Flexing Creativity: Leveraging the talents of those around you

As some of my loyal readers may know, my long-time friend and partner-in-creativity-crime, Gayle, and I have moved forward after five years on our publishing project, Parisian Phoenix.

Our initial launch will feature my Fashion and Fiends chick lit style horror novels. The first three novels are part of the debut. Gayle is the graphic designer in charge of all things visual whereas I handle the words.

We have ordered the ISBNs and barcodes. I have filed for copyrights. We have begun research on various publishing platforms. Gayle has drafts of all the text.

We needed to get an updated headshot for my author photo. Coincidentally, my good friend Joan is starting a photography portrait class. So I asked her to take my headshot and she asked me if she could use the residents of my menagerie as subjects.

Working together with other local artists generates a sense of community that can be a lot of fun.

These are two of my many favorites that Joan took before the start of her class, traditional and non-traditional compositions:

To see more about Joan and her photography adventures, visit her web site: Joan’s Portfolio.

Midweek moments: Finding new perspective in small joys

This week has been a very busy week for me, in part because I have less hours in a day because of mandatory overtime and the fact that my body has finally adjusted and is sleeping 8 hours a night versus 6.

Recent events and uncertainties remind me of how much we as humans get so caught up in big things, that we forget the little things. These precious details are what make life worth living— whether that be a board game with the family, your favorite ice cream or hitting a new personal best while weight training.

Let me share some of my ten fun “moments” with you.

1. COFFEE DATE: Earlier this week, my neighbor invited me over for a cup of coffee because she wanted to share her excitement over her new milk frotter. Truth be told it was pretty cool— making an ordinary cup of coffee into a celebration.

2. BUZZ CUT CONVERSATIONS: I’ve enjoyed hearing people’s reactions to my extra short hair. Yes, Angel now has a buzz cut. If I’m honest, it makes me uncomfortable as my curly locks are a big part of my confidence and femininity, not having that impacts certain aspects of my personality.

But to hear others react is fun. They tell me their secret hair desires. It strikes up conversations with people with whom I might not normally talk.

3. MIDNIGHT BEER WITH DOG: The weather has warmed so instead of merely letting the pup out to relief herself, I brought a beer and some Doritos and enjoyed our patio and the moon. Moonbathing like the Addams Family.

4. EMBRACING DISABILITY IDENTITY AT WORK: I received an email earlier this week that Stitch Fix is creating some employee groups related to issues like race, gender identity/sexuality and disability. I signed up to join the disability group.

I’m still new on being “out” and open about my disability. I’m learning that I need to be less ashamed and embarrassed about having cerebral palsy. My disability has created many positives. I am tenacious and maintain a good attitude.

In working in a physical and metric driven job, I’m not meeting the same numbers as everyone else but I hope my employer sees that I am dependable, will always give 100% and will always take on a challenge.

5. FUNKY WATER MACHINE: They took away our bottled water at work and replaced it with a water machine that will provide still or sparkling water in a variety of flavors. This makes staying hydrated much more fun.

6. “PEARLS”: I wore my golden costume pearls to work. It made a lot of people smile. It made me clatter when I walked.

7. FUN MASKS: I bought myself some new masks but they are missing. So it means a lot to me that work provides holiday-themed masks. And a lot of them have gnomes.

8. BABY BIRD: Baby Bird is hanging out with the big birds outside the nest. He still can’t fly. He looks like his daddy.

9. FRENCH RAP: I recently renewed my interest in French language hip-hop music. Between that and all the podcasts I listen to at work, I feel like my brain absorbs so many new ideas all the time.

10. CAR TITLE: I paid off my car last week and the title arrived today. I bought the car in November 2018, refinanced it when I lost my job during the summer and now it’s mine!

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.

I’m Back in Line—singing the praises of my chiropractor and watching the teenagers grow up

Today turned out to be a completely ordinary but yet amazing day. I owe much of that to my chiropractor, Dr. Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Wellness Center.

I have been working with her more often since I started at Stitch Fix as I don’t want to live my life in constant pain as I did toward the end of my decade working for Target.

Nicole has a background in physical therapy so she can deal with my cerebral palsy issues, messed up S1 joint, and get all that tension out of my neck. (I never even told her about my tendency to hold all my tension in my neck— she noticed.) She also gives me ideas on what to do at home (like which of my physical therapy exercises and what new stretches).

And funny story— she’s even worked on one of my fingers (after my cat bite/hospital stay for cellulitis this past August) when it wouldn’t bend and once she adjusted a toe for me. I can’t quite remember why…

So today Nicole did what she termed some agressive work on my hips as my main complaints these days are more about stiffness than pain. Now don’t get me wrong— QCing (standing still folding clothes from 3:30 pm to midnight) makes me hurt. And picking also makes me hurt. But both those pains usually fade by morning leaving behind stiffness that can be quite uncomfortable.

I am very grateful for Nicole, as she has done more than any other person to help me understand how my body works because of my disability.

When I left her, I felt like someone had popped off my legs as if I were a Barbie doll and popped new ones on. They didn’t feel bad, they just felt loose and new and weird.

And I didn’t experience any pain at work, at least not the bad kind. I definitely experienced the discomfort of a good workout. Even bending down at the end of my shift wasn’t nearly as intense as usual.

And I walked more than 26,000 steps (but only picked 693 items).

For Saint Patrick’s Day, Wawa had given me a free matcha drink. There happens to be a Wawa across the street from the chiropractor so teenager #1 picked up a matcha mint latte for me.

I seem to be one of the first people posting on YouTube about Wawa’s matcha, so here is today’s installment: Matcha Mint latte from Wawa. This particular video has 18 views. Yesterday’s has 118. Spoiler alert: it was tasty but I gave it to the teenager as the fact that I couldn’t taste the matcha ruined it for me. But I would rate Wawa’s matcha better than Dunkin’s and akin to Starbucks.

Next, I took the teenager to the bank to open her first checking account. Even though the small bank I used has been gobbled up by a larger bank, I took the teenager to the same branch where her father and I opened our checking account in the late 1990s. I still have the account, in part because I am incredibly fond of my account number.

When we got home, teenager #2 asked me some questions about the differences between savings and checking accounts so we discussed banking. Teenager #2, a friend teenager #1 made in marching band who came into our home when she needed a place to stay last fall, turns 18 in about a week. Holy crow. A week.

In my household, birthday children get $100 and get to plan a day. I saved up $100 cash to give her— and, knowing this was my custom, she asked if she could use that money to open her own checking account. I responded, “of course.”

After all that, I made some ravioli and we all took turns cuddling with the dog.

Pick me!

Our days have been occupied by kittens (Vesta of the FURR Roman Pride has been adopted and is now known as Paisley. I received a photo of Edie, formerly Fern/Fenrir of the Norse Pride and for a mere seven months old, she is enormous!), training the puppy (also enormous!), and working on the details of the publishing debut (definitely feels enormous!).

Last night at work, at the old Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy Warehouse, I ended up assigned to QC. I was rather stocked when I QC’ed 28 fixes by first break, but rather disappointed when I only managed 103 by the end of the night.

This was a bad weekend for relationships. The sting of it all still lingers and today it got worse. But my lovely daughter— teenager #1– stopped at Wawa and used her own money to get me one of there new matcha lattes. Better than Dunkin’s and a good challenge to Starbucks.

I posted this very brief video: Wawa Matcha

I was assigned to QC again tonight and wondered if I would redeem myself. I QCed 21 by 5 pm but remained a tad distracted because of the contents of my head.

One of the overlords came over— the only person who has an obvious physical disability came over and asked me for a favor. Which is his way of saying they want to move me.

And they wanted to move me to pick. And he apologized explaining that with call outs they needed to shift people. I reminded him that I love chaos, it breaks up the monotony.

Now, Pick moved from the Gozer software platform to Star yesterday. (Who names these things?) They no longer track our number of fixes picked, focusing instead on items picked. The main complaint in the warehouse is that they have removed the timer.

I picked 499 items and walked 20,000 steps. And ate shrimp. And I don’t even like shrimp.

This month’s employee appreciation dinner

Moving Forward on Fashion and Fiends

So last night I finished reading the final polished manuscript of my Fashion and Fiends series of horror novels.

There are probably at least six books in the series, though I totally believe the possibilities of the universe I have created are endless.

Recovery is the third novel in the Fashion and Fiends series. My friend Gayle and I are publishing the series as part of our little boutique “press,” Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

I copyrighted all three novels that are print ready tonight. It’s been… oh… 25 years since I copyrighted last. I was surprised to see it’s now $45 versus the $20 it was in the 1990s. And you can upload everything electronically now.

But interestingly enough, the Library of Congress website doesn’t appear to have changed at all since those days since the interface looks like this:

So to recap:

  • The name Fashion and Fiends refers to the mix of the high fashion world and the supernatural.
  • The first book, Manipulations, follows a 400-year-old witch as he tries to absorb a supermodel’s water magick in hopes of becoming an immortal being. The story mimics the realities of domestic violence, and the fantastically successful supermodel actually fights her own insecurities and body image issues.
  • The second book, Courting Apparitions, is a ghost story. The subtext explores grief, depression and impotence and their effects on human relationships.
  • The third book, Recovery, blends some supernatural craziness with sex and romance, while also diving deep into medicine, the military, and the African landscape. The subtext here looks at the ramifications of French colonialism and explores the complexities of how to blend Islam, multiculturalism and race in the modern environment. And a certain character comes face to face with the monster of Ghoubet.

But when I finished the third manuscript, I was shocked to see some of the rather dramatic things I thought happened in the novel Absolution happening in Recovery. One of my favorite characters was left in serious trouble. So, I had that special author distress where you know you need to save him.

But here lies the kicker— the next manuscript in the series no longer exists except for two large sections of the final two chapters.

So now I have to sit down and write.

Wish me luck.

PS— Tomorrow is Étienne d’Amille’s birthday. He is the fashion magnate in the series. He will be 62. Where does the time go?

I think they like me

Stitch Fix has instituted observations for their workers and tonight at the Bizzy Hizzy I experienced my first one. It was supposed to be in pick, but I was moved to QC as my shift supervisor came looking for me.

She decided to come see me in QC. This was nerve-wracking experience as I really respect this supervisor.

After so many bad bosses, it’s hard to feel out my position in the warehouse.

In part, because the feedback has been so positive. I often wonder if I am still in the “honeymoon” phase of this warehouse job.

So my first observation, in a department I really don’t even like, happened about 10:30 pm on a Friday when I was already exhausted.

I’d been in pick all week— averaging 144 fixes a night with a couple nights almost hitting 152. The goal (DME or “daily minimum expectation) is 160. So I am consistently at 87.5%. I start every night strong, often hitting 72 or 80 before our mid-shift meal.

But by 9:30, I fall apart. The carts that normally take 20 minutes are now taking 25. And that makes a big difference. This is so frustrating.

I so love pick, and I want to stay in pick, and honestly, I don’t even mind when they move me to QC at the end of the night because I see the carts backing up in the garage and I think I would be more useful over there. And it keeps me from beating myself up too much about the numbers.

Last night I did 112 fixes before getting moved to QC at 10. I wasn’t going to surpass 144 with that number. But almost every cart I did was out in the far side of the warehouse— which meant 750 steps out and back just to reach the garage. A full shift in pick, at the pace I am moving now, gives me 25,000 steps in a night.

Then the software had be zigzagging in a strange pattern. That might be because large portions of the warehouse are unbinned (empty). Stitch Fix had a massive shipment of flat pack holders that they plan to install.

Plus on Monday, they will be switching our software and as of right now, no one is really sure how it will work.

What is hindering my performance?

  • Am I tired? It is Friday after all, and my weekday sleep patterns are erratic.
  • Is it the number of fixes in the far end of the warehouse?
  • Is it the emptiness of the warehouse?
  • Is it stamina and fortitude?
  • Do I always fall apart at the end of the night due to fatigue-induced lack of motor control caused by my cerebral palsy?

All of this is going through my head when this shift supervisor that I really respect turns up for my first observation.

In QC.

By the numbers, I was only at 69% DME in part because of performance anxiety. We discussed what she saw and then she emailed me the same feedback we discussed. That was a really nice touch. It’s often annoying that our superiors in the warehouse hierarchy email us communication as we are warehouse workers without time to find computers.

Granted with apps and what not we can do it on our phones, but that just feels like a lot of personal effort for a unskilled job.

But on days like this, it sure makes me feel like a person instead of one little piece in this big machine.

Here’s what really surprised me—-

I am good at folding clothes.

Yup, they said so. Officially. And apparently even though my job is brainless and feels like the work of an automaton, I have developed my own strategies that, according to this supervisor, have both efficiency and the client experience in mind.

I will share her exact words with you, “Angel’s folds are great! I can really tell she cares about her work and what her end product looks like to the client. Love how she recognizes the clothing she has in front of her and how she plans in her head how she will build her stack. She folds her clothes in the order of how she stacks them and stacks as she folds.”

Seems like common sense to me.

And to be fair, if you want to see the criticism, here it is, “By scanning all the items first and then taking the items out of bags, this will help to ensure that she scans all the items prior to folding and minimize the amount of rescans she may need to do. It will also serve to see if she’s missing something right away instead of spending time to unwrap and realize something is missing. I’d also recommend trying to do a fluid motion when scanning the box prior to putting it on the line. It will be a bit more ergonomic and create less touches of the scanner and the box.”

That boosted my spirits.

Prelude to Wheels

Yesterday indeed was Monday. Or shall I say the day before yesterday. When I started this entry it was 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

I started with household chores on Monday and felt very productive. Teenager #1 and I took the dog for a 5,000 step walk around the neighborhood.

Here’s a video of Bean eating icy snow: Bean and the ice

I sat down after lunch to spend some time with Nala the Goffin’s cockatoo and read more of book three of my Fashion and Fiends series, this one called Recovery.

Teenager #1 decided she wanted to go to her dad’s for the afternoon. I wanted to go get my $1 medium coffee at Dunkin. By the time we got organized we were leaving later than I would have liked. And then the dog pooped on the floor. And then the dog peed on the floor.

I decided this meant I needed coffee to survive the night. The line was ridiculous but I had already made the order via mobile so I was committed.

And then the teen forgot her keys. So I had to drop her off at her dad’s office instead of apartment.

Somehow I made it to the Bizzy Hizzy on time.

And I was assigned to pick. I hit 144 and walked about 25,000 steps in the Stitch Fix warehouse.

The big news yesterday was taking teenager #1 for her driving road test, which due to Covid is a swing around the parking lot with the testing official watching from the curb. She passed.

I ended up in pick again last night, but got moved to QC at 10:30 pm.

And now, with Zoom classes and homework done, the teenager has taken my car to run errands— mostly shopping for her pets.

And yes, she’s going to stop and fill up the car with gas and get coffee for mama.

Lost in a book

Yesterday, the teenagers spent time out of the house— which meant after chores I had some free time. Especially since teenager #1 took her dog.

I sent manuscript #1 of my old Fashion and Fiends series (Manipulations) and sent it to my friend Gayle for design. I last shopped these books to agents and publishers five years ago. At this point, I want my ideas and words recorded and preserved.

I decided to sit down with a slice of coconut cake (from Tic Toc Diner) at Rosie the new MacBook Air.

I wanted to read the second book of the series, Courting Apparitions. I couldn’t put it down. Gayle found it very amusing how much of my own story I had forgotten. But that is the point of putting a story away for a long time. To judge it with new eyes.

I read all 90,000 words— in six hours.

And for the second time this week set a meal on fire. Which, since it was salmon, actually gave it a nice crisp.

One of the main characters of the series, fictional fashion designer Étienne d’Amille, turns 62 this week. In the series, he is 43 and his significant other, investment banker Basilie, is 45. I am currently 45. And Basilie and her sisters represent some of the strongest women I know, so great homage to Women’s History Month.

The series is a feminine version of horror fiction, or a darkly intense psychological version of chick lit. Manipulations focuses on a supermodel who has uncontrollable water magic, which leads to her fashion world success and gives her healing powers, but also attracts supernatural forces.

Because of the industry and her own past, no one sees the danger of her body image issues and lack of self-esteem instead only seeing her as “the girl in the pictures” which allows her to fall into otherworldly domestic violence.

Courting Apparitions is a ghost story. The characters involved have to cope with their own emotions and relationships as a ghost, and the witches who want its power, haunt them. It’s as much a story about recovering from depression and reconnecting/forgiving loved ones as it is about the supernatural.

Author Jonathan Maberry once told me that if I wrote my stories as paranormal romance, or pitched them as such, I would find success. But as funny and poignant and incredibly sexy these stories are, the romance has a gritty reality to it that I can’t tone down.

Gayle always said I like to torture my characters, but I really just want them to overcome terrible things so I can bring out there strength and admire them. They become my heroes in addition to the heroes of their own stories.