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!

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.

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.

I challenged the Chromebook and lost

I only got five hours sleep last night. My emotions were a mess, my body in pain, and I had a sinking suspicion some of my issues are menstrual cycle/hormone related since in addition to my S1 joint issues, I also feel all my cramps in my lower back. PMS week is supposed to start this weekend, but as a forty-something woman I think the party is starting early.

I treated the teens to iced coffee at Wawa. They have a $2 special going on right now and I gotta say I still don’t like Wawa’s iced coffee. I don’t like their flavors. The coffee tastes week. And they never put enough ice in, and I’m the woman that asks for less ice at Dunkin’.

I get to work at Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy. I see I am once again assigned to QC so I take some ibuprofen and head to my favorite table— Valley 1, line 1B, table 2B.

And after the first hour, the supervisor who also has a disability comes over.

“Angel,” he says, “would you do us a favor and move to pick?”

“Now you know I’m glad to say yes. When?”

I’m thinking after lunch. Nope. He says to go after I finish my cart— which is two fixes!

I only picked 120, and at 11:29 pm my Samsung Chromebook warned me it had 34 minutes left. It died 20 minutes later. Apparently it can’t do math. I only had two more items left to complete my cart, and one was one aisle away. We had to manually get the last items as you can’t restart a pick from the middle.

And I felt better doing all of this than I have all week. Even despite wearing rather impractical shoes.

I came home and took out F. Bean Barker (who I learned is half pitbull/half mastiff). The neighbor’s dog barked as she was mid squat and she refused to go to the bathroom, too afraid.

And then she had explosive, watery diarrhea in the dining room and downstairs bathroom. And we ran out of paper towels.

All in all— an adventurous day.

Snowy sillies

The snow started later than anticipated and my day, my bedtime, started with our weekly garbage pick-up happening at 2:30 a.m. I guess they were trying to get ahead of the storm.

And after “picking” last night, my pain and my mood improved drastically. Though I did binge on junk food again. Sigh.

But these last few months— between Covid and the new job— have really made me realize how much pain changes you.

But today… work is closed due to snow. But Joan texted that her Fix came and we opened it together on Zoom.

Photo by Joan

The teens did the shoveling, and we had some omelettes for brunch. Then this afternoon we filmed a video on our silly Valentine’s treats. The impetus of the video was some rose soda I purchased at Lidl. Our reactions: Video of Valentine’s Treats

First we played some Mille Bornes, the car-themed card game.

The embers of happy

Today I fought my emotions and fought my pain to find some moments of happiness for myself. And in the end, my heart is warm.

My daughter and I often carpool now that she is a waitress at one of our favorite local businesses— Tic Toc Diner.

Before work I took her to the Starbucks in our local Target (#2536) so I could try the new Pistachio Latte.

Our reaction video: Review of our lattes

Once I arrived at the Bizzy Hizzy, I realized I had forgotten to wear red for “red day,” but they gave us all red masks and iced heart sugar cookies. That brought me some joy. As did my lunch, my attempt at Cajun seared scallops.

I started my night in QC, where my performance slipped because despite taking two naproxen sodium my pain level was going from 5 to 7. By 9 pm, I had only QC’ed about 52. But then at 9:15, I got moved to pick direct! It felt amazing to zoom through the warehouse and even though the naproxen sodium had worn off, my pain had dropped to a two or a three.

Teenager #1 texted that she had her uniform and she was waiting tables by herself and she made $28 in tips. I love seeing her in this new role.

And my friend who adopted Fenrir/Fern of the Norse Pride (now Edie) sent me this picture of her:

She looks so majestic. I am assured that she is still naughty.

By the end of the night, I picked 48 fixes and walked about 12,000 steps.

A friend texted to check in when I really needed to hear a familiar voice (thank you, Bill).

Another friend texted me the word “ramfeezled,” to be exhausted from working too much. (Thank you, Joan.)

And then I got home, and found the best surprise ever. Now, every night teenager #1 comes to hang out with Nala. While she is here, she makes my bed.

Tonight I found this…

She bought me clearance Valentine’s chocolate from the Dollar Tree. That’s my girl— frugal impresses me just as much as the thought.

91 and cupcakes

Cupcakes seem to be a recurring theme in my life right now, but that’s okay since Mercury is still in retrograde and my emotions are a little wonky.

Apparently Sunday was not only Valentine’s Day but also Stitch Fix’s 10th anniversary. Since we had a paid holiday yesterday, we got cupcakes today.

As discussed with my supervisor last week, I returned to QC today in hopes of meeting the goal of 104 so I can get my parole and head back to pick.

I hustled and focused and didn’t even look up from my clothes.

By first break, I QC’ed 24.

My supervisor stopped by and commented on my improved numbers. And we discussed my adult days of the week socks— I had chosen “Monday mood” over “Taco Tuesday.” She asked if I was going to wear taco socks tomorrow and I said no, I’m going with hump day.

She asked if they had a camel. I said they do.

By final break I was slowing down.

And by the end of my shift I hit a new high for me— 91— but despite naproxen sodium and ibuprofen I was hurting. Probably around a 5.

Goals, stubbornness and success—and pain

So much happened today.

Or yesterday.

I promised myself I wouldn’t publish this draft until morning because I was both lost in thought and celebrating teenager #1’s first official job (her first unofficial job was as a costumed character) by trying the pink lemonade vodka. I was exhausted and I suspect I am slightly inebriated now.

I received a $7,000 medical bill for my August 3, 2020 hospital visit. My out-of-pocket cost is $500-something. Six months ago. And I think this is just for the first of four days.

But let’s go backwards… Teenager #1 and I went to Dunkin to get a free drink— I chose the iced Pink Velvet Macchiato (made with skim milk). At this point, caffeine, sugar and a double dose of naproxen sodium is the only way I can survive my shift.

I talked to my chiropractor and she said to continue my physical therapy stretches and that the fact I am no longer in pain in the morning is a good sign. But that my body was “off level” more strongly than usual. I had noticed my right side was bothering me instead of the left so is my body trying to compensate? And am I developing nerve pain in my spine from standing so much? She said all is possible. And then she moved everything around.

I then heard someone I used to work with (and someone I greatly respect and enjoy the company of) is becoming the general manager of a local cannibas dispensary. And more than one person has recommended medical marijuana to me, so it gets me thinking. But I’ve never smoked a cigarette and only ever had one hit of pot so I don’t know how I feel about that idea.

So with all this is mind, I purchased my coffee and dropped the teenager off at her first day of work.

As expected, I was in QC again so I took my two naproxen sodium and headed out.

Podcasts helped keep me motivated. Now, I am about to murder someone if one more of my regular podcasts talks about love and sex for Valentine’s Day. But this one didn’t let me down. Stand up comedy featuring Bert Kreischer — Bert : A Joke About Pajamas (podcast) and I got really excited about the New York Times The Daily Podcast talking about France, Islam and laïcité. This is the exact stuff I wrote a thesis about and I can’t believe this conversation is still happening. It’s very parallel to race relations here in the United States.

If you want to listen: France, Islam & Laïcité

This got me thinking about my hope to update and publish my thesis. That needs to become a plan.

About two hours in to my shift, one of the people I report to stopped by to check on me. We had an interesting conversation. It started with: “How do you feel about QC?”

I told her everything about my love-hate relationship with QC. How it aggravates my cerebral palsy. How it does not fall within my natural skill set. How it physically hurts.

“We don’t want you to be in pain.”

You don’t?

Pain is like a grouchy friend at this point. We’re used to each other. I never had an employer say that before. And I told her I know I need to have more conversations with the supervisory team about this.

The conversation ended with: “Would you like to be permanently assigned to pick?”

But I’m stubborn and I want to get at least closer to the goal, which I’m told now is 104 not 130. She critiqued my work and I learned some better techniques.

I said I’d like to see if I can improve and then go back to pick.

And I felt energized, excited, and good at my job. I decided not to obsess over the numbers and just work as hard as I could and see where the numbers fell. That didn’t work. By the end of the night I had my worst night ever— I QC’ed 78 fixes.

This was devastating to my psyche. Perhaps, in part, because it revives some past employment trauma where I wanted to succeed and I was doing everything I was asked to do, but I just couldn’t meet the same expectations the employer had.

Perhaps it was because I have that personality where I hate to fail.

Perhaps it was because as someone with a disability I feel like I am under more pressure than the average person to prove my worth and that my performance makes a statement not only for me but also sets a standard for how others like me will be treated in the future.

Friends, food and fun

The last two days— when not paying bills, shoveling snow, fighting pain and surviving work at the Bizzy Hizzy— has been a blend of chores and silliness.

I took Teenager #1 for a drive yesterday to navigate city streets made narrow by snow and drive in whatever slop we could find so she could experience driving on snow and ice in a controlled manner.

She asked for something from McDonalds so I got her an iced coffee, and I wanted to go to Dunkin across the street for my iced coffee.

I ordered the coffee on the McDonalds app and no lie— it took 45 minutes to make it through the drive through. At Dunkin, I got a cold brew with cream, the coconut flavor shot and one pump of the pink velvet syrup.

Yes, they have the pink velvet syrup in things other than the pricey pink velvet macchiato.

At work in the Stitch Fix warehouse, I tried to get a picture of the inflatable Valentine’s dinosaur…

And I got assigned to QC. I assembled 89 fixes and was very grateful when my Tylenol and ibuprofen managed to numb the pain in my spine. I listed to two IT innovation podcasts featuring data science, algorithms and Stitch Fix.

After taking Minerva of the Roman Pride to FURR’s cat adoption event at Petsmart, teenager #1 and I went to Wegmans across the street. Now, we are expecting snow again tomorrow AND it’s the Super Bowl so of course, it was crazy.

But it sure made this generic bologna sandwich taste amazing.

A social worker friend and I discussed budget tactics, loan amortization and the influence of white privilege in the disability sphere.

Then our neighbor and our favorite little dog stopped by. We finalized dinner plans to go to our favorite local diner— and wow was it lively tonight.

Not only did we have the brand new waiter (whom they hired instead of teenager #1), but there was one guy who looked like his mask came out of a BDSM scene and a sweet little old lady wearing fingerless gloves who sent back her omelette so many times they ran out of egg whites.

The poor new waiter dropped food on the floor and broke at least one plate, didn’t have any grasp of the menu, was slow as molasses, and could not keep track of the condiments. But don’t worry, we were patient.

Apparently my request for a tuna melt on rye confused him, because he had to return to the table to confirm that I didn’t want a tuna melt and an order of rye toast.

And during one of our trips today, we fished the Yuengling out of the yard that teenager #1 tried to throw to the neighbor as he was snow-blowing.

After all that, and much trademark cackling, we finally did the soda taste test video we’ve had planned: Weird Sodas (Ramuné in melon and strawberry, Major Melon Mountain Dew and A-Treat Pumpkin.

That’s some real pandemic excitement.

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.