The Doodle Box: Celebrating Joy, Friendship and Playfulness at the Bizzy Hizzy

Deep thanks to the doodling diva Gayle for sharing her talent with me

Stitch Fix is a strange place to work— of course, as a warehouse job it is highly metrics driven and monotonous but the environment encourages “authentic self” as the voice of every member of the team.

We don’t even have a human resource department. We have a “people and culture” team. So traditional HR is referred to as P&C in Stitch Fix jargon.

My therapist had to pause and ponder that one.

But thanks to Covid, each employee has their own “processing box” as we are discouraged from sharing tools. Every person gets a tagging gun, a box cutter, scissors, a lint brush, and this odd little sponge. The box itself is a discarded A6 envelope box from style carding.

And some people, if they gather more tools, graduate to a shoe box.

I asked Gayle to decorate mine as my attempt to adorn mine with stickers failed. My new box attracted much admiration and makes me happy as I gaze upon it.

Disability Pride Month

This is part of a continuing serious about my journey even though I am more than midway through my 40s to understand my disability—cerebral palsy— after a lifetime of pretending it doesn’t exist

Since the teenager subscribed to the family plan of Spotify, my horizons have expanded.

I’ve found so many more podcasts, playlists and music than my 40-something brain can handle. But this allows me to learn new things.

For instance, that July is Disability Pride Month, but not Disability Awareness Month. And there is a Cerebral Palsy Day in October.

Disability Pride month started in 1990 to celebrate the updates to legislation mandating accessibility for those with special needs. And it even has a flag— black with rainbow zig zigs like a child’s depiction of lightning bolts.

How can you be proud of a disability? That sounds like it is anthropomorphizing the disability. Like it has a life. It does something.

I’m not proud of my disability. And I’m not proud to have it. It’s embarrassing and frustrating and, as I mentioned in my review of Netflix’s Special (read it here), when you have a mild disability people can’t see the depth of your struggles.

But I am proud that I get my ass out of bed every morning and do what has to be done.

And for the record, today is a hard day.

And one action I took, although small, I feel is mighty. I added a disability category on this blog and I organized it under the parent category “fitness.”

I started opening old posts and adding the tag, but I had to go get my second Covid shot (Pfizer) and then my neighbor accidentally cut the cable wires so now we have no internet.

And on our phones, the teenager and I share three gigs of cellular data. #singlemom

Anyway, no amount of stretching made my body relax. My back and lower limbs throbbed most of the day. And then after the Covid shot, my arm slowly got heavier and more sore. Now I hate to lift it.

The person who gave me the shot told me to use the arm and drink lots of water. I worked in women’s returns processing at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy where I opened and hung clothes from more than 100 priority mail envelopes. More than 500 items.

The warehouse was probably 90+ degrees but thankfully not too humid.

When I have these days, I tend to bend by doing lunges (to stretch my body and redistribute my weight), do calf raises in place, stand on one foot, and try to stretch my hips and back as much as possible.

But still the pain level seemed to keep increasing.

So in the car I turned on the heated seat and blasted the air conditioning while drinking some cucumber flavored water.

And took two Tylenol PM to ease the pain enough to sleep.

Funny part is— yeah as if it is funny— I don’t think it’s my cerebral palsy causing the pain. My period is due in four days. I think it’s menstrual cramps.

Everything wrong with my body seems to start in my lower back and hips. Hell, my daughter came into this world through back labor. Is that focus on my back part of the CP?

I used to take a lot of ibuprofen, then Aleve, then meloxicam. After a while, I realized. None of it helped.

I was listening to Dax Shepherd’s Armchair Expert last night and they did a special episode on medical misinformation. They had some pretty rough feelings toward chiropractors. They pointed out that chiropractors can be good or bad, but that the field itself isn’t very regulated or science-based. They turned the conversation to physical therapists. They liked physical therapists.

What about chiropractors who have a physical therapy background? My chiropractor can find muscle tension and stretch out things I didn’t even know I had. And my body seized up from being crooked and she straightens it out.

I guess I have a good one.

Bizzy Update: Friday night dance party on a Thursday

It’s been a rough week.

Now, by saying that I don’t mean a bad week, or even an unhappy week. But reality is life is rarely easy nor does it often stay the same.

And I took a fall down the stairs on Sunday resulting in a lot of bruises and perhaps more shaken pride.

On Tuesday, the entire Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse received news that not only had Stitch Fix’s stock soared twenty percent the previous day but that the company was restructuring the pay scale and putting it into effect with the next pay check.

This meant the entire company got a raise— the starting wage for the Bizzy is now $16.50 and warehouse associates will receive 50 cent-an-hour increases every six months until the three year mark.

On Wednesday I did most of my shift in QC, moving to pick at 9:30. I had completed 93 fixes despite a roster meeting that night which put my metrics at 108%.

On Thursday morning, my daughter and I went for our first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. (I later found out Rite Aid had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And the hospital literally 500 steps away had been giving it the previous week.) We went to another campus of the hospital network near our house and noticed they had a very smooth operation able to accommodate more than a dozen people at a time.

And I literally had my choice of any time I wanted for my first vaccine. But somehow, when I went to schedule my follow up and they only offered the second dose on two days in July, during two evenings— July 7 and July 14. And the July 7 window was 4 to 8 p.m. Those times conflict with my shift. So I politely asked if there would any other times available. I was told no.

Thousands of choices for the first dose. Only a couple for the second.

Had I been able to find Johnson & Johnson I would be officially mask free by the end of June. Ironic that it won’t be until August now even though I am probably naturally immune. For now. Maybe for life.

The good news is we had our Friday night Bizzy Hizzy dance party on Thursday as one of our supervisors was going to be out Friday and didn’t want to miss it.

But between the heat, the humidity, achy muscles from the shot, lingering effects from my fall down the stairs and maybe even some joint pain from changes in barometric pressure… I only got 113 fixes folded and shipped out. That’s 90%. People noticed too. That made me sad.

Speaking of sad, our favorite nurse is leaving the Bizzy Hizzy for a position in hospice. The nursing staff is only temporary due to Covid and she thought it might be time to transition back to a permanent position.

Teenager #1 and I had fun gathering some gag gifts for her: Band-aids, ibuprofen, muscle pain relief cream, etc., with a Lebanon bologna/horseradish cheddar hoagie from Park Avenue Market. She loved it.

Stitch Fix circulated a giant card that we all signed and had cupcakes for her at our 10 p.m. break.

This was followed by the regular Friday night dance party. And I hit 124 fixes. That’s 95%.

I’m ready for the weekend.

Arrival of June Silk & Sonder and some silliness

Greetings my readers — apologies for the lackadaisical level of blogging but in addition to mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy my life has been a tad repetitive.

I ended a beautiful work week with hitting my QC quota not once but twice, learning that my favorite nurse is leaving to take a job in hospice, introducing my daughter to some of my Stitch Fix colleagues, finding out I have to get the Covid vaccine* and wear a special sticker in the warehouse if I want to work without a mask this summer, and binging on fried food and a Swedish fish milkshake at Sheetz.

The new Swedish Fish milkshake at Sheetz (my favorite junk food spot in the middle of the night — scrumptious jalapeño poppers and Wisconsin-style cheese curds) topped off my night although I was a little “drunk” on sugar when I got home and slept like garbage because of it. But the sweet flavor and the tiny gooey chunks were a lot of fun.

And to make life exciting, my replacement Silk & Sonder June journal arrived. The excellent customer service made right for the difficulties incurred by the postal service. My original June journal has been sitting in the regional post office 8 miles away for two weeks and at one point did arrive in my local post office two miles away only somehow to be rediscovered at the regional post office yesterday. The post office claims it will be delivered today.

If I end up with two I will give one to my friend Gayle who is often my partner in crime. She’s a graphic designer, a college professor and, in my opinion, a professional and talented doodler. So if we use this “self-care” journal together, it could lead to some interesting feedback.

Another random side note, teenager #1 is considering returning to therapy. She has struggled to find a good match as she is a teen but an unusually mature teen with more adult than teen problems. I have reached out to a friend of a friend (we all went to college together) about the prospect of her professionally seeing my daughter and I was suddenly struck by the notion that I am now old enough that my friends have such fully developed skills and careers that we are, well, the grown-ups in the room.

Anyway, back to Silk & Sonder, the June 2021 theme is “play.” I am numb with fear. My mother and estranged husband all insist I don’t know how to play. I had carved away this small block of time before dinner to explore more of my June Silk & Sonder planner…

I transferred the June-related notes from my May planner. The basic layout is the same but I see they do try to change up the mood tracker and some of the pages. I didn’t try last month’s recipe or complete all of the “creativity” exercises.

But I was surprised at how distressed I became when I no longer had it. I’m a little behind on all my hopes for today so as I start working with it more there will be another post. Or many.

Previous Posts on Silk & Sonder

* Now, please don’t lambast me for not wanting to get the Covid vaccine. I am very glad there are products available for those who need it or would feel safer with it. But the research on this virus is still happening, the current products on the market are not approved by the FDA and the mRNA vaccines are new technology (using the same techniques developed by crispr to genetically modify mosquitoes so they can’t carry disease and the same technology was used by a Chinese scientist to modify a female baby so she can’t catch HIV) that is not a vaccine at all.

I had an appointment to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as that is a more traditional (do they call it viral vector?) product. My appointment was on the same morning the FDA called for the pause, so it was canceled, not by my choice. I don’t understand the fuss about blood clots when plenty of women get blood clots all the time from hormonal birth control pills.

And if that wasn’t enough to make me think twice, the new guidance from the CDC suggests that natural immunity generated by the body after contracting and recovering from Covid, which I had in December 2020, should last for at least a year if not for life.

So I probably don’t need an experimental vaccine product, not yet.

And, I have anecdotal reports from a friend who works in Washington DC as a medical technologist who has attended events at the CDC regarding this virus, that the next round of vaccine products, boosters as it were, may allow those who have not been vaccinated to receive only one shot instead of two.

And, I think finally, I am concerned that since I had Covid, the vaccine may cause a reaction on the first dose and since I had Covid once, I’m not ready to volunteer to repeat any of that experience. In addition, vaccinated people often test positive on Covid tests when they don’t have Covid and this can cause unnecessary quarantine and prevent travel and delay necessary medical procedures as one friend can attest.

Pets, vaccines and other ruminations

I started this blog entry in the middle of the night as I often do, thinking I would lead about how I think we should be more like my cancer-surviving three-legged senior cat, Opie. He’s calm, brave and steadfast. He doesn’t scream for breakfast like the impatient cats. And he holds his ground with the 50-pound puppy. He doesn’t even look concerned when she swats at him like she’s an overgrown kitten.

But then several of my cats— three out of four including Opie— decided to get me out of bed before my alarm. And Opie was uncharacteristically naughty.

I think they decided they didn’t want to wait for breakfast anymore.

My estranged husband still works for Lafayette College and they had a vaccination clinic scheduled on campus today. Spouses were eligible so he arranged an appointment for me.

I have strong opinions about the pandemic, my Covid experience and the vaccines, but I recognize that our government, other countries and probably employers will require vaccines for travel, work and life in general. So I just want to get it over with.

After cuddling with Louise, our latest FURR foster, I went to bed and slept very restlessly. One of my work colleagues got her second dose of the Moderna vaccine yesterday and I watched her develop more symptoms as the shift continued. My empathy went out, remembering my own struggles to work with the initial phases of Covid.

Speaking of life at the Bizzy Hizzy Stitch Fix warehouse, I did about one-third of my shift in pick and the rest of my night in QC. By my estimation, I nailed my partial pick metric. They also returned the timer to the cart. In QC, I managed 67 fixes. That’s about 84%.

And we had mini bundt cakes.

So after spending more of my night than I’d like to listening to news about the pandemic and the economy and the issues in Europe and AstraZeneca, I wake up to an email that my vaccine appointment has been canceled.

The FDA and the CDC have warned that the same blood clot risks that exist with the AstraZeneca vaccine exist with Johnson & Johnson.

And briefly, the dog keeps trying to eat some crazy stuff and I finally did some grocery shopping at Lidl with my good friend Nan. Nan, as a blind person, enjoys grocery shopping with me. After shopping, we ate pastry we bought at Lidl in the parking lot of Dunkin.

Second shift midnight society

I never understood why people like to give their favorite parts of their day to their employer— unless of course you are your employer then it makes sense that you use your most productive part of the day to your business.

This is the main reason I enjoy working second shift. I think the pandemic and shift toward working from home shows how out of date the 40-hour-work week of the 20th century has become.

And while I miss the mission and accomplishment of professional work, one part of warehouse employment I very much enjoy is working second shift. At the Bizzy Hizzy, they call it “midnight society” because we clock out at midnight.

I like having my mornings to enjoy the sunshine, schedule appointments and run errands— or lazily lay in bed.

At 2 pm, I pour a cup of coffee and prep for work. And after that same time, my intellectual capacity and my motivation has diminished so working at a low skill, menial task gives me a second wind.

I clock out at midnight and the world is majestic in its quiet. I look at the empty roads and darkened houses, even the silence of my own living room, and I feel peace. Whatever I chose to do, even the cats are sleepy.

And then in the morning, I do it again.

Unexpected

Yesterday was the first day of my second full week back to work since having had Covid-19. It was also the first week of mandatory overtime at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy.

I left home feeling disconnected and anxious. I had volunteered for a 1:30 p.m. to midnight shift, assuming I would be well rested and up early enough to get to work at that time. Some of my peers had taken on a 12-hour shift— 1:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

They had so many people in the building some of us had to go to pick, which is my favorite role. I haven’t “picked” with any gusto since before my illness.

It felt amazing to be on the warehouse floor. I was peeling off layers and picking at about 21 minutes per cart of eight fixes. Again, not the fastest but decent. I walked 6,000 steps in that 2 hours and there wasn’t a moment of struggle or discomfort among them.

But when I peeled off my top layer, I discovered my tank top was inside out. I had a sports bra on so I decided to fix it. Except I got all twisted up in the pretty straps.

So my wardrobe malfunction impacted my times.

After first break at 3:30 I found myself in QC. I had a hard time getting organized and started— so it was probably 4 p.m. by the time I got rolling. I folded and packed 74 fixes. Which averaged to about 5 1/2 minutes each. I need to get that under 4.

I had told my trainer my goal was 80. I said that because Friday it had been 75 and I hit it. And I felt sluggish on Friday so logically 80 was doable.

My trainer didn’t care. My numbers have been consistent and I feel like my fixes are getting neater, my wraps better and the whole process seems to have a rhythm now.

Thanks to my time in pick, I walked more than 9,000 steps yesterday. I ate deliberately, trying to balance high doses of protein with refined sugary treats so I could get the buzz I wanted.

I took a Tylenol (just one) at one point as I did have some spinal pain. At the end of the night, my favorite nurse commented that I “looked good” and indeed I felt good— not like someone recuperating from a virus and working an 10-hour shift in a warehouse with a malfunctioning body (thanks cerebral palsy). I honestly felt good.

I weigh exactly what I did yesterday after several days of losing weight. I still need to lose at least 15 pounds. Or buy new clothes.

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.

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.

Morning Fog

Routines in this house have changed since I contracted Covid.

Today I have completed the 10-day isolation period recommended by the CDC and can now leave the house. I want the teenager to take me to the Dollar Tree and Petco.

It’s 7:40 a.m. Because of my job on second shift and then my illness, I haven’t been up this early in probably months.

Loki and Fog

My room is typically a cat free zone. Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, and my three budgies (and now three budgie eggs) are in there.

But the Norse Pride ended up with me— in part because the teenager worried the Roman Pride were making them nervous and in her words they were too small to bother the birds.

The kittens, after a month in my room, decided they want to be with the big cats, so when I come in and out of my room, Vale leads a charge.

Because of this I leave my door open more soon they can come back. And now my cats and Teenager #2’s cats like to gather here. Her cats want to watch birds. My cats want to enjoy a warm bed with me and watch the birds.

Now dear Fog was my bed mate before cockatoo and before kittens. He and the three-legged old man liked to rest in my room and minded their own business.

And now Fog has taken to opening my bedroom door and joining me in bed in the morning, which confuses the Norse Pride kittens who don’t understand the magic of how a cat opens the door.

He doesn’t like the kittens— but he wants to be with me as I have my morning coughing fit. He’s got to be checking on me.

But the kittens are fascinated and confused by him and run to me. And it’s been a while since I had an 11+ pound cat in my bed. So it’s a jarring way to wake up.

I’ve also missed my Fog cuddles.