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.

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.

Learning to Fly

This is a post about babies of multiple species.

My dad helped me… no he did it… my dad got a really disgusting clog out of the vacuum cleaner last night. And then we (with my stepmom) went to Tic Toc Diner to harass teenager #1 at her first official job as a waitress. The young man assigned to our table recognized me and asked if we wanted her to serve us, and I said that wasn’t necessary we were happy observing her from afar. But he gave her the table anyway.

That’s my baby, and she was buzzing around looking very focused. There is a strange heartwarming and heartbreaking feeling when you see your baby becoming independent.

Earlier that day, Vesta and Minerva went to the adoption event at Petsmart. But no one inquired about these Roman Pride babies. I brought them home to Hermes.

Teenager #1 is with her dad right now, so I spent some time working with our foster kittens from Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. I’m going to post some videos from today to show progress.

Hermes is afraid of human hands. And Mars— oh spunky Mars— bit one of our fellow FURR volunteers when she tried to move him from the habitat at the Petco in Easton to the one in the Phillipsburg area.

Video: Manhandling Mars (and Hermes)

Video: The Roman Pride

Meanwhile, I decided I had to let go of my fear of harm coming to the parakeets. I opted to let them free fly for the first time since Boo-Boo’s death (see Farewell Boo for details). And it was the first time for the babies. My room is oddly silent right now because all SIX birds, including Nala the Goffin (who turned five this week), are sleeping. The budgies flew so hard!

Video: Baby birds awkward flight

And here’s a video of Hermes from yesterday: Hermes amid the vacuum

So all the babies are doing well!

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.

Full of Cupcakes

I was exhausted and grumpy most of the day. But not a single thing happened to make me grumpy, I was just tired.

It was a nice day. Teenager #1 and I took a friend to her podiatrist appointment, and as promised said friend provided a nice coffee and added a surprise— home baked matcha cupcakes. I love matcha and I have loved matcha for far longer than it has been trendy.

So it’s gonna be a good day, because matcha cupcakes. Which reminds me of one of my favorite songs: Good Day.

While our friend is at her appointment, we run to Sheetz. The teenager took my money and bought herself a turkey wrap. Not sure why a turkey wrap screamed breakfast to her but she also brought me my favorite cupcakes, Hostess orange cream cupcakes. More cupcakes!

I saved my cupcakes.

The teenager didn’t even get to eat her wrap because she got a phone call from one of our favorite diners, Tic Toc, asking her if she still wanted a job as a waitress. She was quite flummoxed. She starts later today (it is 1 a.m. now).

My maternal instincts say this will be the perfect job for her. She has the patient, cordial nature and coordination for the job. And the girl loves her food so I think she’ll have the knack for details.

And I love that she’s not working in a grocery store, or a fast food joint. I think she’ll learn a lot and gain a lot of new stories to tell. And while working for a small local business will have its own unique challenges, I’m glad she’s not getting the big corporate crap job for her first official work experience.

Speaking of work, my average time per fix was between 4.25 and 4.58. I QC’ed 83 fixes and that’s— as usual— really low. But higher than last night! I took two naproxen sodium and pain was down around a 2.

And the friend I mentioned gave us hand me downs— so I got to go to work in new-to-me jeans. She had several sizes so everything really small went to teenager #2.

And to warm my heart, there is always, Fog, who started life as a feral kitten. Teenager #1 rescued him and his brother last winter. He was so shy he wouldn’t come near me for a month. Gradually he started sleeping in my bed, until a couple months later he was sleeping at my feet. Then my knees. Now he waits for me to come home from work and we go to bed. Video: Time for Bed

In the morning I have a chiropractor appointment, she has probably taught me more about my cerebral palsy’s impact on my body than anyone else.

PS— i survived today by drinking too much coffee, having several sugary snacks, taking a nap and eating too much.

À demain, mes amis. À tout à l’heure.

Peaceful Saturday

The weekend started on a rowdy note, after a difficult but not insurmountable week of difficulties with my physical body after two weeks of mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy.

I haven’t written much not because I lacked anything to say, but because my emotional exhaustion matched my physical fatigue.

The teens stayed up last night, and Mama found herself hungry around 11 pm so from my high-jacked-from-inbound-processing work station, I texted them:

You guys want pizza?

I let teen #1 order from Dominos as not much else is open that late at night, and somehow a $43 charge appears on my Amex. They do love their pizza.

I know at work I’m still slow compared to the people that normally work returns, processing and even QC but I felt good last night and my numbers did improve during the week.

I got home at 12:25 am and the pizza arrived at 12:30 am— which tasted amazing and I ate too much. It was perfectly accompanied by a cold Yuengling brought by my separated-from husband.

It was so nice to spend some time laughing and joking with the teens. Even if we were up past 2 am.

We took Minerva of the Roman Pride to the Cat Adoption Day at Petsmart hosted by the organization with whom we foster/volunteer: FURR. Minerva’s profile is here: Adopt Minerva. Her brother Mars and sister Vesta are at Petco.

Mars

On the way back, I stopped at Dunkin and we tried the Valentine’s pink velvet macchiato.

Pink Velvet Macchiato (includes Minerva) video review

I spent some time helping Teenager #1 gather sources for her AP English research paper on Anne Rice’s influence on the vampire legend. I can’t wait to see where she takes it. I know where I would.

I also bought some unusual liquor yesterday— so here are some cocktail ideas I put together.

  • Caramello Russian: 2 parts caramel vodka with 1 part crème de cacao
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Shot: 2 parts peanut butter whiskey, 1 part crème de cacao

The blur

The last few days have been a blur: the last of mandatory overtime and trying to rest, seeing my dad for the first time in a while, teenager #1 following up on the job offer from our local diner. Throw in the mix some foster kitten errands, some wintry weather, and my annual fasting blood work and I scarcely know what end is up.

Perhaps this winter is a time of licking and healing old wounds so the spring can be a time of good growth.

Right now, I’m sitting in our favorite diner, really a favorite of everyone in the neighborhood, drinking a cup of coffee while my daughter takes a tour in anticipation of getting her working papers and accepting a job as a waitress.

The weather outside is sleet and slush, so it’s also her first day driving in wintry mix. We picked up some kibble at our foster godmother’s house— we’re down to three foster kittens. The roads in her area were slick and the back end of the car did slip but she maintained control. She also says she can hear the difference of the tires on the road when there’s precipitation under them. Her father says her ears are a superpower.

We started the day getting my annual fasting blood work— the prescription for which expires tomorrow so the phlebotomist was a tad confused. In my defense, I was scheduled to get my bloodwork the very day they closed my local Quest Lab. I had been fasting as required and they emailed less than 2 hours before that my appointment had been canceled.

To get today off on a good note, I wore my adult days of the week socks— Taco Tuesday— which I ordered off Target.com. And after my bloodwork I took the teenager to Wendy’s so she could finally taste the breakfast potatoes. Of course, I also got a free hot coffee from Dunkin. I tried the midnight dark roast.

Teen tries Wendy’s potatoes

Happy Tuesday!

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.

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.

Really, budgies?

I started my day-after-Christmas in a peaceful frame of mind.

Those are such lovely sentiments. And then I went upstairs to care for my birds and Papa Parakeet slipped out under my arm and started flying around my room.

I give him a lecture, text my daughter and toss all kittens out of the room.

Here is my panicked video: Escapees

And then I think— well, maybe there is something missing that he thinks he needs for his babies. And he goes to the cockatoo’s cage and steals her rice cake. And Boo boo joins him.

Which, by the way, Nala the Goffin has almost finished unwrapping her final gift from me.

But I digress.

I wash all their bowls, get fresh water, the fancy food, some treats and fresh banana.

And about 20 minutes later…Budgies go home

And then I get this text:

It’s going to be a long day.