Stories about cats, cat rescue and health insurance

The pandemic has prompted a lot of discussion about job loss, job growth, and changes in the economy. Other discussions have talked about the impact of various lockdowns and work from home situations on animal welfare, adoption and rescue groups.

** disclaimer: I am not an expert on any of these issues and the following blog post is a collection of my anecdotal experience during my life and in the last year.

In mid-July last year (2020), I lost my job at a small local nonprofit with an operating budget of more than two million dollars annually. My job loss stemmed from my supervisor’s dissatisfaction with my performance after she asked me to move from a job I was extremely good at to a job I had absolutely no experience in. (Forgive these excess prepositions because this experience was so stressful I don’t want to waste time perfecting my grammar because even writing about it gives me great anxiety.)

Around the same time, we had asked Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab for help neutering the two about 9 month old brothers, Misty and Fog, that we had trapped at our neighbor’s house.

Now, during my newspaper layoffs and even when I left other jobs, my health insurance lasted until the end of the month as the premium at been paid. Forgive my snarkiness, but at this particular human services non profit agency, the powers that be (as there is no human resource department or trained human resource professional) cancel your medical benefits on your last day to save money for the agency, because if they dispose of you before the 15th (or so I was told) the insurance agent refunds the monthly premium.

As soon as I learned I was losing my job, I asked my husband (at that point we had been separated for a year) if he could put me on his medical insurance as of August 1. After all, my July premiums had been paid.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was suddenly without medical insurance for two weeks.

Now, from what I understand, COBRA benefits can be purchased retroactively. And our local hospital has a good charity care program.

But still.

So that’s the background. We’re in a global pandemic, I’m unemployed and have $5,000 to my name, no medical benefits, and two male kittens coming of age.

Enter FURR.

When they helped us get low-cost neutering for our “greybies,” we thanked them and I said the fateful words, “I wish I had the money to give a nice donation but I just lost my job. But if you ever need a foster, I’m willing to help.”

Foster cat godmother gave us our first batch of kittens July 31.

Yes, we have been fostering with FURR for a year and a week. Foster cat godmother can’t believe that and says it feels like we’ve been around for an eternity.

Now, if you are one of my friends or a regular reader, you may recall that on August 1, our sassy little black kitten, Hades, bit me as I tried to medicate her infected eyes.

I went to urgent care that day as the finger was growing redder and redder. This was the very first day I had medical benefits and honestly I was scared that they might give me trouble as my insurance had lapsed. Was that fear rational? No. But was in understandable in American society? Hell, yes.

About six a.m. August 2, I went to the ER because the finger had swelled (despite antibiotics) and I could no longer bend it.

On my second day of renewed medical insurance.

I was in the hospital for four days. First time ever, other than during childbirth.

My neighbor— an economics professor at a local community college— and I had the discussion this winter: Who should be responsible for healthcare?

I abhor the idea that this is the domain of the employer. Your access to affordable medical care should not be tied to your job. I believe— even without “socialized medicine” (which I 100% believe in but think certain improvements are attainable without it)— with proper regulation from the government and this system abolished, individuals could find their own health care.

Insurance companies would have to shift their market to individuals instead of employers, and they would have to adapt and market more affordable products but would make their money by attracting as many individuals as they could.

Anyway, the teenager and I were talking about insurance and I was thinking about all of this.

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.

Zigzag Busy Bizzy

This is my week of 1:30 pm to 12 am shifts at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy to meet our mandatory overtime requirements.

I started my night at a station called “QC South,” which is an overflow area in the back of the warehouse. As it is an overflow area, it isn’t permanently set up with conveyer lines to move workflow and some stations (like mine) didn’t even have platforms for the computer. But I did get a tagging gun so that was exciting!

A person at a nearby table almost passed out— so that was exciting too and not in a good way.

I QC’ed 18 fixes between about 1:50 and 3:20, which is still painfully slow. We took our first ten minute break of the day and I learned I was on pick direct for my regular shift. This news gave me a lovely thrill. Between 3:30 and 6, I picked 40 fixes— which is five carts. Most carts took me 20 minutes and the last took 25 out in the W section.

I gained 10,000 steps today my day in that portion of my shift.

The direct pick carts were overtaking the “garage” area of the warehouse so a supervisor asked me to go back to QC. I chose a spot (6B) on line 1 in Valley 1 because I strongly prefer tables with the lines on my left.

I ended the night with a total of 65 fixes QC’ed which is no improvement from my times last week.

Two people from my side of my valley disappeared mid-shift and the nurse returned for their personal things. Another to my right seemed sluggish and prone yo staring off into space, but that could be that person’s natural state. I can’t help but wonder if I am seeing Covid winding its way through my colleagues.

Might just be paranoia as I had Covid.

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.

This is a post about food

Since recovering from Covid, I have tried to focus on healthy food choices and cooking at home instead of eating out. I believe good food is key to regaining my strength and moving forward in losing some weight, but more and more I find myself viewing food as a friend.

In other dietary confessions, twice this week I have taken advantage of the snacks in the breakroom to have 500 calories of honeybun at 10 p.m. And I’ve noticed, that seemed to be the only thing that gave me the energy to improve my performance. I have always had a strong physical reaction to sugar so this is no surprise.

I think the moral is that I need to balance my meals prior to work and “save” some carbohydrates for treats at my final break.

Tonight I find myself without teenagers and having eaten decently throughout the day, I have some “calories to spare.” I decided to use them for some healthy snacks while I watch Bridgerton. I find the series quaint and endearing, with amazing costumes and scenery. But I don’t see anything worth the extreme hoopla I see on social media. But there is a beauty in it. And I hope I am wrong, but I am almost done with episode 5 and so far while it is charming, it is predictable.

The snack I prepared were some pumpkin seed and raisin crackers, Harvest Snaps green pea snacks, Smart Pop popcorn, and Smartfood caramel apple popcorn.

Loki Dokie Puppy Turkey of the Norse Pride went home to his FURRever family today and I am feeling the absence of crazy kitten antics. Two of my personal cats, Oz and Fog, have curled up in bed with me. I have missed Fog’s attentions.

Other recent meals that I enjoyed:

A little about each meal:

1. Salad of romaine, shredded cabbage, kalamata olives, wasabi peas, sliced almonds, feta and fresh strawberries.

2. Chicken with a “hash” of spinach, spaghetti squash, butternut squash and Brussel sprouts.

3. Salmon. I used the cooking method from the Whole30 and seasoned with dill.

4. Cornish Game Hen. I seasoned it, used a little smoked flavor, and cooked it in my chicken bone broth, diced carrots, and kale. I didn’t care for it. Too much work to get the meet off the bones. Fog loved what he stole.

5. I had a craving for good old fashioned processed beer battered fish— might have been Gorton’s.

6. Croque Monsieur. Teenager #1 made the béchamel sauce, and I didn’t think to warn her how temperamental a roux can be.

7. At Lidl, I came across some discount thaw-and-eat frozen sushi. It was 50 cents a pack. It was edible but the rice was completely al dente.

8. I have been aching for avocado and eggs. So I bought avocado and forgot to make it when I made egg-and-pepper omelette.

9. Some chicken I bought on clearance cooked in butter, lemon and dill. Then I sautéed some cabbage and added some leftover corn from earlier in the week and the rest of the pepper I didn’t use for yesterday’s omelette.