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.

Rip it off fast like a bandaid

It’s 11 a.m. on Friday morning— it looks crisp and clear outside. Teenager #2 is in school. Teenager #1 just emerged from her room as we both got to sleep around 3 a.m.

Mandatory overtime and lack of sleep are kicking my ass. My household is experiencing some knocks too as the Roman Pride tuxedo kittens from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab are vomiting. We hope it is because of a recent change in their food.

I wish I could say the birds have been quiet. But alas, alack, the cats broke into my room while Boo-Boo the yellow parakeet was free-flying and Boo-boo flew downstairs. Now Boo-boo is not a hand-tame bird.

This occurred while I was wrestling clothes in the Quality Control Valley 2 of the Bizzy Hizzy at Stitch Fix. Teenager #1 heard Boo-boo screaming because two of our household cats had taken to swiping her out of the air.

Teenager #1 rescued Boo, who was still feisty enough to bite her repeatedly.

So there was that.

Meanwhile, at the Bizzy, I was thinking about numerology and “angel numbers,” thanks to a podcast I heard the other night. In the midst of all this craziness, as I was leaving work the other night, my odometer read 33533. Palindrome. Prime numbers. “Sacred threes.”

Okay so it’s blurry: 33533

So the boxes that got returned to me last night were sent back for issues with wrapping. One of the people training me finally came over and asked how I tear my paper. I showed her. Carefully. Almost daintily.

“Ah, she said, “there lies the problem. You need to rip it fast like a bandaid.”

I did and the results were very different and better.

My foe

I thanked her for the tutelage and laughed, pointing out that this was not something that did not come naturally to my skill set. I have no depth perception when related to placing items in containers. I suck at folding clothes. It’s agonizing for my body to stand still for 8 hours. And I have no concept of straight lines.

But all in all I am improving and I truly enjoy the challenge of learning something new. It reminds me of when I first learned cash office at Target. I wanted to vomit every time I started my shift.

The person overseeing me thanked me for taking criticism well, and again I laughed, and reminded her that I needed her it. She said a lot of people get frustrated. And I assured her that I was indeed frustrated with myself for repeating the same mistakes. She quickly revised her statement— “No, she said, people get really frustrated with me.”

And that struck me. Because I know what she means. And I have to say, in both my professional and… let’s call them survival jobs, I have had supervisors that understand how to deliver constructive criticism and all kinds of feedback and those supervisors who care about the mission, the corporate line, and/or themselves and how they look, more than they were invested in the people.

So far in the Bizzy Hizzy, I have not met one of those. I also feel I am in the honeymoon phase at Stitch Fix. My judgment may be skewed.

This mandatory overtime stinks. We’re all exhausted. And even the scrambled egg appreciation breakfast and free snacks can’t push us past that.

This might be the spot to mention that one of my supervisors spent most of the night running around with a squealing plastic chicken.

The nurse wandered into the Valley about 12:30 to check on everyone doing overtime (as the “deep cleaners” worked around us— which by the way, they move nothing and just wipe shit down. I find more dust and grime when I do my nightly wipes). I showed the nurse my new skill at tearing craft paper. She gave me a gloved high five.

I’m working a normal 8-hour shift tonight then returning for an 8-hour double time shift tomorrow morning. Now if you excuse me, I must go lay out my quarterly budget as it is 2-weeks overdue.

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.