All the Things

I don’t know whether I should apologize, explain my absence or dive right into this messy, stream of consciousness blog entry. Nothing new is happening but so many little things have brought joy to my life.

I had a great week at the Bizzy Hizzy. I spent most of my week in QC, and I hit 80% of the daily production metric except for one day when I hit 90 percent. But I just can’t seem to replicate that success. Last night I was in receiving inbound processing where I unboxed and received a pallet which included Democracy Jeans and Market and Spruce shirts. I caught a mix-up in tags. And I met a young man whose name is an abbreviated form of Jesus’ Angel because he was born three months premature as I was.

A few nights ago, I was listening to a podcast, probably Mayim Bailik’s Breakdown. They were discussing the ACE Childhood Trauma Test. So I took it. That was a mistake. It made me think about a lot of things— my past, my mental health, my relationships. I didn’t expect the results and I suppose in a way it was profound.

But as much as life may have had some dark spots, the foster cats sure bring joy. Hermes of the Greek Pride is already starting to bound with his new dad. (And even broke something expensive.) Louise the Tripod had a meet and greet with someone interested in adding a new cat to their household. And Parker and Extra Crunchy of ten little kittens are now playing and acting cat-like. Even Touch of Grey seems cheerful.

Evening with Louise

Videos:

Parker and Extra Crunchy

Touch of Grey

I picked up my new glasses, replacing my previous pair. I have abandoned my sexy librarian look and regained depth perception.

New glasses

On another podcast, I heard a host discuss someone who wrote a memoir from her 20 journals. What a joke! He said 20 as if that number is impressive. I have been journaling for 30 years! I lost count after 100 volumes.

Speaking of journals, I splurged on a Silk and Sonder self-care planner/journal. It’s a monthly subscription and I am already anxious that it will stress me out. My regular journal is more or less a bullet journal now. I think another book that requires a daily check in might not be worth the pressure. And it’s $20/month. That seems expensive. More to come. Including unboxing and review.

Speaking of unboxing, I bought myself a Lite Brite in a moment of nostalgia. #NoRegrets

Video: Unboxing my Lite Brite

The copyrights for my novels so as soon as they return from the proofreader we can start production and get Parisian Phoenix off the ground. Expect my novels hopefully this summer!

And if you miss my Goffin’s cockatoo Naughty Nala, she was in a mood today! Video: Nala steals my underwear

My neighbor let me know I appeared in Lisa Boscola’s newsletter for my role in delivering her public service award given by ASPIRE to Autonomy.

And last in a long line of rambling, I reviewed the Dunkin Double Coconut Macchiato: Video Here

Ironing out the anxieties

Today’s blog post will ramble through my everyday activities as they often do, but I will also attempt to show how attitude, reaching out and communication can overcome life’s anxieties.

First thing this morning I saw a post from my new-ish internet friend Fausta advertising her one day free seminar on Zoom covering Mindful Self-Compassion.

We were on our way out the door first thing this morning, teenager #1 and I, to take our kitty cat osteosarcoma survivor, Opie, to a new vet, Canyon River Run, to have the lump on his neck checked.

Although in the pandemic era, we only met the vet tech, teenager #1 and I were very pleased with their service and demeanors. The prices were reasonable, too. They even called my former vet’s office (Wright’s Veterinary in Bethlehem) when I didn’t have Opie’s most up to date shots.

The vet reported that in her opinion the lump of his neck is not cancer as it is clearly in the skin and not deeper. I have to follow up because the verbal report relayed to me said it would need to be surgically removed but I don’t know if it would be a cosmetic one or a diagnostic tool to confirm her opinion.

That was the first of several anxieties addressed.

On a side note, I tried the cold brew at Wendy’s. It was quite delightful. Strong but not too bitter.

I also contacted Bird Mania, the establishment where I acquired Nala, to sow them our new photos. (They approved, Joan.) I hope to take my four baby budgies to them tomorrow as they should be young enough to hand tame and rehome.

My bird overpopulation is another anxiety addressed. Though catching and surrendering my chicks is another.

The teenagers had some issues last night, some of which remind me of college roommate situations. We shall work it all out, but since the vet took longer than I anticipated and I worked a 10-hour shift last night, my phone battery was down to 15% as the conversations continued throughout the night. I’m glad we all started a conversation about it as that’s really the only way we can initiate a solution.

Before all this started, on my first of several 10-minute breaks last night, I used my pick Chromebook to request a late start next week for Fausta’s seminar. That’s when I also noticed one of my supervisors had sent me an email requesting my presence for a chat.

Later that night. New anxiety. In several of my previous work environments, meetings never meant anything positive.

My final break came. My meeting with the leaders was 10:15 p.m. Break was 10 to 10:10 p.m. I wasn’t sure what to do with that five minutes. So, me being me, I returned to QC and folded one more fix before leaving my table at 10:15.

It turns out that my “chat” was to check in about how I’d been doing split between QC and pick. And to announce that as of Monday, they would test changing my basic schedule to move between pick and QC in a regular fashion, starting the “morning” (I assume this means the first half of my shift as we start at 3:30 p.m.) in pick and moving to QC later.

We talked a bit about numbers and strategies and once again, as I have mentioned to other leaders, I reiterated that I know I will never be the fastest though I know I will grow more efficient. I try to make up for my lack of speed and natural dexterity by being dependable and flexible and finding ways to work smarter. I also pointed out that while I haven’t hit the best metrics, my metrics are consistent.

“Can we clone you?” one leader asked.

Finally, I bought some clothes at the Stitch Fix Employee Store. I wasn’t going to visit the store this time around, but in the end my issue with ill-fitting and disappearing clothes urged me onward.

The store has been open almost two weeks so there is not much left. And some of the things I most wanted weren’t available. I wanted jeans as I’m still not thin enough to fit in my size four wardrobe from the pre-Corona days but the hand-me-down size eights are getting too baggy.

I also wanted nice t-shirts. Everything I own appears to be sleeveless or shapeless.

As Joan the photographer reported when she got her first Stitch Fix box, the Democracy Jeans are comfortable but the zippers-for-pretty get caught on everything. These are beige camo, not a print I wanted. I didn’t want a print at all. They are skinny cut, not my favorite cut either. And they are too long for me, which makes them very wrinkled.

The Michael Stars top is amazing, fits great, looks very feminine and so comfortable. And I feared it would be too big.

Finally, the yoga top/lazy woman’s sports bra thing from Free People movement actually holds everything in like a sports bra but looks really cute. It retails for $30 which is insane. But I’m a forty-something woman who is very surprised this skimpy top works for me.

Can a relaxed weekend yield a relaxed Monday?

My weekend was shortened thanks to mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy, with me doing a four-hour shift on Saturday before teenager #1 had her four-hour shift at the diner. I invited my mother to come down and join me at Tic Toc.

When the teenager got home, most of the family hung out in the backyard with some pets, a hammock and a pound of cheese fries.

Then yesterday teenager #1 and I did the grocery shopping and visited Mars and Minerva (of the FURR Roman Pride) at Petco. They were so glad to see us.

And we had tons of unhealthy but tasty food including my mother-in-laws completely amazing homemade Easter candy.

My sleep patterns and quality of sleep have been good lately, and my dreams though rather nonsensical had a heavy air of pure emotions— I blame the full moon.

Monday, though bright, had a whipping wind and a deep chill. I had been practicing a “cutting cords” exercise I heard about on a podcast (specifically Kesha and the Creepies) and had some memories on my mind. My heart felt heavy and a ten-hour shift awaited me at the Stitch Fix warehouse.

Assigned to QC (line 3, table 3A), I spent 10 hours folding clothes. My times kept me firmly at 80% of their expected daily metrics, which is as high as I’ve ever gotten and I think nicely consistent for an extended shift.

Early on in my shift, I encountered a Karl Lagerfeld shirt called the “Zelie” which I took as an awesome reminder of my own creativity and endeavors. One of the main characters in my Fashion and Fiends novel series is Basilie Saint-Ebène d’Amille, whose husband always calls her Zélie. Another side note, my college roommate named Zélie and I gave Zélie her birthday.

Lagerfeld, of course, is a fashion legend and powerhouse. His legacy in worldwide fashion has touched more fashion houses than I can remember. His own label and the iconic Chanel influenced me the most.

Surprisingly, I had no pain yesterday which has me a bit in shock. So once again I am grateful.

But the final hint toward my own projects that came was a text from my friend Joan who would like to try the next set of portraits tomorrow. Something to look forward to.

Meanwhile, life at home was not so smooth. Teenager #2 received some good news as she has a job interview today at a local grocery store. She apparently met the manager in the yogurt aisle. But teenager #1 encountered some bad mojo in my room. Was it the full moon? The date? (The date does hold some personal significance) My own attempts at “cutting chords”?

She discovered this while spending time with Nala the Naughty Cockatoo and delivering popcorn to the budgies. Those budgies are now chasing popcorn all over their cage.

So she did a sage cleanse with the help of Misty the cat who also assisted her in designing a candle ritual for me to perform when I got home.

Hopefully things have calmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How’s the Path? An exploration of the chaos that happens when warehouse logistics fail

For those of my readers who know me, you may know me from my 15-year-career as a journalist, or from my volunteering or professional experience in nonprofits, or my time as a board member of Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

But my life has led many other unorthodox places— I worked my way through college at McDonalds, served as the box office manager for Moravian College Theatre Company, and did my work-study in admissions where I filled out a lot of postcards, stuffed a lot of informational folders, and rewrote department brochures. My other work-study job was in the English department photocopying things and the duplication department loved my prowess with photocopiers.

My professional career started at Lafayette College in public relations and from there I moved into weekly journalism.

Life as a print journalism made me a more efficient writer, a more captivating storyteller and a better listener. It piqued my curiosity for subjects I have no interest in, and it honed my ability to discern what information is important and understanding how different systems work.

My career as a journalist opened me to the possibilities— I’m less prone to refuse any opportunity. And my current experience at Stitch Fix is one of those opportunities.

Warehousing is a huge industry here in the Lehigh Valley. It is very easy to get just about anywhere from here from a transportation logistics standpoint. I have had an interest in Stitch Fix since they launched as the first subscription box for retail fashion.

My work as a warehouse associate there as part of “midnight society” (second shift) allows me to work on my personal projects during the day, and, when the work assignments line up to have me “picking,” exercise at night. Pickers walk about 25,000 or more steps in a shift.

Last night, management announced mandatory overtime. Every associate had 24 hours to sign up for 14 hours of overtime before Easter. This made a lot of people grumpy and/or angry as we didn’t have much time to figure out our options. I’ll be working 4 hours each Saturday and coming in 2 hours early two days a week.

So this was the backdrop as one of our overseers mentioned that some of the totes set up for our carts had been messed up. Now I don’t know if a person did it, or a computer did it, as this is the week we switched from Gozer to Star.

I don’t want to say much as I don’t know how much of Stitch Fix’s operations are proprietary. But normally each cart of eight fixes being “picked” stays in a certain size area of the warehouse. A medium batch might include medium, size 6 and size 8 and have you roaming the aisles throughout the M section.

Last night, the pickers would start in W/2 XL and have fixes on their cart that included all the sizes which meant more or less picking one fix at a time and zigzagging throughout the warehouse— which from XS to XXXL is about 900 of my steps.

By meal break, most of the bad batches had been picked, and the shift supervisor was asking if the paths had improved. I was very grateful when they had. The ones that weren’t right wasted a lot of time and were very disorienting.

In other news, our three-legged cancer survivor cat Opie has a vet appointment with a new doctor on April 1. I was unhappy with the vet practice who diagnosed his cancer, and the one vet there I liked has left the practice. The vet that actually amputated his leg is an hour away.

He has a lump growing on the back of his neck and I don’t like the look of it. So April 1, I am taking him to Canyon River Run to be checked. Canyon River is one of the vets who works with the cat rescue we foster with, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

I 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.

Lost in a book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doolittle, the new Mac, a small fire and more life at the Bizzy

I don’t know what’s the better feeling— taking off your socks and shoes after being on your feet all night or removing your bra.

I’m in pain tonight, numerically probably only a six, but the discomfort is debilitating. That does quite make sense to me. I’ve hurt more but felt less uncomfortable.

It’s almost 1 a.m. My S1 joint has been giving me trouble all night so all of those muscles are on fire. I poured the last of the Pink Whitney vodka as I ponder my other aches and pains—my right knee, a pulsing pain in the ankle I broke six years ago. The angle I am sitting at right now hurts. But Fog is curled up against me and I don’t want to move.

But I did walk the dog. That felt good. Stretching all those sore parts.

The dog— her name is Freja but Teenager #1 wants to change in to Bean. I suggested F. Bean Barker. She’s doing well. Went to the bathroom outside for us today and less accidents in the house.

Speaking of accidents, I packed up the homemade ham broth and kept pouring long after the container was full. That made a mess.

Then I tried to fry some eggs and started a small grease fire. I extinguished it, but not before teen #1 yelled, “Mom? Is everything okay? I just saw flames everywhere.”

But back to the Bizzy Hizzy at Stitch Fix. I had a “talk back” meeting with some of my leaders. Again, explaining that QC hurts. Talk of doing 4 hours in QC and 4 hours in pick when they roll out split work centers.

And they want me to hit 130 QC fixes. That’s 3 minutes per fix. Tonight, between meetings and pain I only did 91. I did 104 last night. That is 3.63 minutes per fix. Tonight I ended around 3.8.

In better news, my MacBook Air came. Tomorrow I hopefully can do my local taxes (state and federal are done and filed) and work on Finding Hooyo, the Romance/War/Medical novel I would like to be the second book published by Parisian Phoenix Publishing. Manipulations, the first novel for our little imprint and the first novel of the paranormal/romance/chick lit Fashion and Fiends series should be in design now.

If you want to see me unbox the new Mac, the video is here: Unboxing

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.

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.