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.

A taste of withdrawal

Yesterday was crazy difficult.

On Tuesday morning, I got up early and took the Norse Pride to the vet for a post-ringworm follow-up.

I forgot to take my medicine and vitamins. I have taken Zyrtec just about every day since this pandemic started. I am allergic to pollen, mold, dust, and just about everything else including cats.

During the coronavirus shut down I started taking my medication because spring was blossoming and I didn’t want people to think I had Covid.

Around the same time, my doctor had prescribed a low dose of Lexapro for my stress-induced high blood pressure.

So on Wednesday a.m., when I got home from work, I cuddled the animals and watched some more of the Crown. I got to bed a little after two.

Somewhere around 7:30 a.m., I heard the school bus. I rolled over to go back to sleep and — no exaggeration— a jackhammer started opening the street two doors from mine with a ferociousness that shook my house.

Thank you, UGI.

So five hours sleep.

And again because my routine is off I forgot to take my medicine.

I only picked 120 last night and I was terrified about the state of my health.

I was experiencing allergy symptoms (after all I now have 14 cats in my house), exhaustion, every muscle and joint in my body was aching. I couldn’t think. My forehead was sweating but my hands were cold. My hands and feet were tingling randomly as if they had fallen asleep.

I started the night strong with just about 40 fixes picked by first break, but at the end of the night even the ones that should have taken 15 minutes took me 30.

Every break my joints locked up and it took me time to get moving again without pain. And my numbers kept dropping.

I started to worry that maybe I had a fever and the nurse didn’t notice because I tend to have a low temperature. One thermometer earlier in the day said I was 94.5. That is impossible.

Luckily, I had some chili from a friend for dinner and a $2 latte from Dunkin.

Somehow I still managed to walk 24,000 steps but man— that brief episode of withdrawal scared me. A lot.

I came home and took all my vitamins and my medicine and slept about 7.5 hours. Hopefully that will put me on the mend.

Note: I found out later, these were Covid symptoms.

Bubble gum soda, Bizzy Hizzy and the wildlife

I was up blogging and cuddling kittens last night until almost 2:30 a.m.

And then I woke at 9 a.m. to a flurry of text messages— similar, but not as stressful as, yesterday.

We had a meeting regarding some new contributors for Lady Boss Magazine. In the middle of it, teenager #1 texted home from school that her grades had “magically gone to shit” and that she would go to guidance to see if she could transition to fully online as whereas teenager #2 needs to be in school for success, teenager #1 can be self-directed but needs a regular routine more than an in-person teacher.

By the way, there is no transition required— starting tomorrow teenager #1 is fully online.

Meanwhile little foster kitten Vale of the Norse Pride no longer wishes to stay in my bedroom with his siblings. This feisty Ruby wants to explore the house and hang out with the big cats.

Vale and Opie

And the highlight of my day was discovering A-Treat Bubble Gum Soda. It was surprisingly delightful and not as sickeningly sweet as I feared. (See the video.) here: Bubble Gum ATreat taste test

And as if this wasn’t enough to force me into sugar overload — the Bizzy Hizzy (Stitch Fix’s Bethlehem warehouse) had bagels, Oreos and butterscotch Krimpets. Not to be confused with crumpets. Everyone went berserk over them. The bagels were sad, the toasters broken and the cream cheese stingy and rather sour tasting.

Despite every joint in my body below my rib cage throbbing (I hope to goodness it is due to the forecasted rain tomorrow), I binned about 600 items in women’s non-apparel and 900 in apparel. I worked really hard to make the women’s non apparel bins (NAP) look like the concepts and photo on the training board. Organize items like books on a shelf.

This English major can handle that.

And I learned that our inventory devices are “hammers” and their brand name is Thor.

I’m surrounded by Norse legends.

I only walked about 10,000 steps instead of my normal 22,000.

My listening material tonight included a comedy roast I didn’t like, Dax Shepherd interviewing astronaut Scott Kelly, Trevor Noah discussing racism in the housing market, something about how the Metropolitan Museum of Art refuses to count the value of its paintings, and a fashion podcast lamenting how in a pandemic world the absence of fashion shows puts a lot of people out of work.

Well, chances are the models were already starving.

And on the way home, there were two occasions where wildlife crossed the road in front of me.

First a deer.

Then a fox.

I’m taking my aching bones to bed.

Streaming TV: Coming of Age stories

I tend to watch TV while doing chores or when resting between fatiguing tasks. I often watch TV on my iPad when putting Nala (my Goffin’s cockatoo) to bed.

I recently finished The Crown on Netflix which fed my love of history to my writer’s mind. When I work with historical documents in my academic work, I often imagine the lives in the text.

Though I do find it… awkward that they made a television series about living royals. Then I realized— it’s Queen Elizabeth’s coming of age story.

I recently watched Free Form’s Motherland: Fort Salem, which is an alternative history, a coming of age story and in my opinion— a political drama. There are heavy ethical questions in every episode even if the plot lines seem predictably anti-cliche.

And I find it difficult to extend my “willing suspension of disbelief” to accept that witches would call a truce with the Church and State and would serve as a conscript military.

And the magic is better than Harry Potter, and the technical aspects of it are done off screen though I don’t like that the magic is mostly vocal.

But I’m very anxious to know what happens next.

Speaking of coming of age stories, I also watched the French film Mignonnes (Cuties) that is trending on Netflix. Of course, the mainstream American discussion focuses on the objectifying and sexualisation of young girls.

The main character (Ami/Aminata) is French of Muslim descent hailing from Senegal. So her grandparents and community elders speak Wolof and she is black.

Traditionally, Muslims came to France as part of the African colonial legacy. Muslims struggle with their identity and acceptance in France— regardless of racial background.

So I immediately saw how all the kids from the French projects bonded through dance even if that dance was suggestive. The fat French girl, the Latina French girl who ironed her hair, the blonde and white French girl, the black French girl and, yes, the African Muslim French girl.

This was a story of the universality or growing up in a technology rich world as a poor female. And trying to find your place and a way “out” of difficult socio-economic places.

A very different coming of age story— offering a very different time and place— was Crip Camp on Netflix. I notice Netflix documentaries made by Netflix are often merely interviews and footage randomly strung together and as such rather boring.

Finally, I’m dying to watch a final documentary, and to some Jersey kids of the 1980s it might also be a coming of age story, Class Action Park. It’s currently on HBOMax and I am considering getting a trial so I can watch it.

Action Park was an amusement park in New Jersey with such crazy rides no one would insure them. Some of my friends used to go. I vividly remember the commercials.

Update on TheMighty.com

I was just emailing my mortgage company, sending them the school tax bill, when I received an email from The Mighty.com.

I looked at it for a minute— TheMighty.com is a social media platform for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

They featured my post, which they posted two days ago and shared with Yahoo News and Zenith News, as the lead story on their daily disability e-newsletter.

I looked again…

And opened my TheMighty.com app to see my story had 69 likes. So yes, my story appeared in the daily newsletter.

Suddenly, learning how to email my taxes is not the highlight of my day.

Body Privilege

Last week, I wrote my piece “A Somber Thought” randomly as a reflection.

Last night, I reworked it and submitted it to The Mighty.com, a social media site for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

They published it instantly, despite having accepted an earlier piece that may have “died on the vine.” The earlier piece was on what to expect at your next doctor’s visit during Covid.

The current piece on the Mighty has been shared to Yahoo News and Zenith News.

Body reliability is a type of privilege. One you don’t appreciate unless you have yours taken aware or you never had it.

The original post on my blog is here: Disability and Reliability.

The Mighty post is here: Let’s talk about body privilege .

Ask the Yahoo post is here: Yahoo: Let’s Talk about Body Privilege

Somber thoughts on disability and reliability

So I had a somber thought this morning about disability…

How does disability color our view of the world, security and life?

Over the weekend, my daughter and I went to visit my dad, while my neighbor shopped at my step-mom’s store (The Flag Store, Rt 209, Sciota). My daughter and Dad were spying on me from the security camera.

“You know, Mom,” the teenager said, “Your CP is a lot more noticeable on video. Because when you look at you when you are with you, it’s just that you walk a little funky. But looking from the camera it’s obvious that bodies shouldn’t do that.”

My initial thought was relief because I thought everyone saw me as I appear on video.

It’s the whole reason I refused to allow anyone to video my wedding.

And smart phones weren’t a thing back then.

So today— while pondering recent stresses in my life— I had a sober thought.

Does disability teach you to rely on others and therefore make it easier to ask for help?

That’s how I see my friend, Nan. She’s been blind since birth. She never had children. She’s outlived her whole family. Yet, she has this amazing network of friends who are also helpers. And we all love her sense of humor, her adventurous spirit and of course her practical approach to everything.

But for me, disability has intensified my insecurities to the point where I think no one, and nothing, is reliable. I know there are a lot of other factors that contribute to that in my mind, but I wonder if my disability “tightens the screws.”

Because I can’t even rely on my body.

Will it be an easy walking day? Will I trip and fall? Will my S1 joint protest? Will aches and pains plague me? (Or will my allergies make me nuts as if I don’t have enough health issues?)

Just a somber thought.

Rainbow Mac and Cheese and my thoughts on privilege and racism

I am saddened that in the 21st century this nation has not made more progress into equality and basic needs for all people.

Having visited different countries in the industrialized and in the developing world, having studied the history of colonialism and prejudice in Francophone Africa, the basic reality that as humans we continue to judge each other and care for ourselves and our own whole ignoring the pain of our neighbors pains me.

I have studied France’s relationship with its colonial history and its institutionalized prejudice against Muslims as a critical theory model for what I see with American imperialism and what I see with our own world legacy of hatred.

Race always enters into these studies because the African American experience shares a lot of commonalities with the French of Muslim Descent community; neither population asked to be enslaved by an empire. Yet, both populations are now belittled and mistrusted by their historical populations.

And both populations are judged and denied opportunities based on their appearance, on something genetic.

It’s so sad.

It’s 2020, America. We have outdated social classes, corrupted government systems, unsustainable consumption, unattainable educational opportunities, a capitalistic drive that values the work over the person, and a healthcare system that threatens our financial wellbeing more than it helps.

So it’s hard.

And I am fortunate to be white. But I am a woman, and I am a woman with a disability, so I understand the lens of judgment. I live every day wondering if I will be judged inferior or incapable because I walk a little funny.

But at least I don’t have to live every day in fear that I may be perceived as dangerous, or manipulated into a situation where I am suddenly an enemy merely because of the color of my skin. I won’t be killed for being dark skinned and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Or near the wrong people.

It’s so sad that some of the best, most helpful people I know have to live in this reality.

That Black men have to swallow their fear.

That Black parents have to hope their sons come home.

That people with power

  • whether the power of law (the criminal justice system which favors the white),
  • the power of occupation and authority (police officers, prison guards),
  • the power of messaging (advertising, media, even entertainment)
  • or the power of mass control (our government and the systems perpetuated by it)

can continue this nonsense of us against them is a classic battle of the “haves” and the “have nots.” It’s really time you listened to your mama and started to share.

Anyway, on a much lighter note, I made macaroni and cheese for the teenager.

I used rigatoni and made a sauce of mostly cheddar and 1% milk, with a chunk of Monterey Jack and a chunk of dill havarti.

I put the rest of my fresh spinach in there, put some smoked paprika, purple peppercorns, and smoked provolone on top and it was amazing.

I called it rainbow macaroni and cheese which got me thinking of the larger racial and prejudice issues.

And that made me sad.

But I did have a very heartening conversation with the teenager today. She’s cleaning her room because, as she told me, she needs to get her act together to be able to help me more.