24 Hours: Adieu to Boo

In my previous blog entry, I mentioned that the cats broke into my room and Peek-A-Boo, my yellow parakeet, was free-flying. Traditionally, I let the parakeets free-fly once or twice a week while supervised.

The routine has changed since kitten fostering, COVID-19, and budgie chicks— and poor Boo found herself in the small bird cage isolated from her friends.

So for her emotional health, I let her free fly more often, but as the stubborn bird she was… she hated going back into the tiny bird cage and wouldn’t go willingly until nightfall.

I would close my bedroom door and let her go.

Thursday night the cats got in before Boo had gotten into her cage. Now my older cats won’t bother her. The hunter in the family now has three legs and more desire to sleep under my bed than play drive to chase a bird. And the dumb one— he already had a run in with Boo and lost. She was in her cage and Oz must have gotten too close. She ripped out a piece of his nose and lip. It’s taken about a year to regrow.

Oz has no interest in the birds. The little jerks dive bomb him, usually with Boo as ringleader, should he wander into the room while she were out.

Now, the younger two (Misty and Fog) and the newcomers belonging to teenager #2 (Venom and TJ) are stereotypical cats.

Changes are that Oz opened the door so he and Opie could sleep uninterrupted in my room and the rest of the Pride took advantage of the situation and scared Boo. She probably couldn’t get to her cage and somehow got out the crack in the door. Or, as there was feathers in my room, one of the cats swept her out of the air and carried her out of my room.

Statistically all of these things seem unlikely to happen all at once but they did. Once Boo made it downstairs, the cats had the advantage and Boo lost quite a few feathers. Somewhere in this time she released some blood curdling screams that teenager #1 “never wants to hear again in [her] life” and teen came running to find Boo cornered between a stool and the wall in the kitchen.

Venom and Fog, the two smartest and food-focused cats we have, stood guard.

Poor Boo was exhausted and had a puncture wound in one wing. Teen #1 scooped her up, and she still had enough spunk to bite. I believe at that point she had neither energy nor feathers to fly.

Teen #1 returned the bird to her cage, covered it partially to give her security and monitored her. She stood quietly and puffy, but we supposed that was appropriate behavior for the circumstances. Then, teenager #1 called her dad and went to Dairy Queen to buy French fries for the birds. Which is a great treat for cockatoos, not sure if it works for budgies.

Friday morning, she didn’t sing when the sun came up. Nor did she rattle the bars of her cage. And now that I think about it, she didn’t harass me with impatience when I fed everyone else breakfast first.

Friday evening, teenager #2 commented that Boo wasn’t active nor visible. So that’s when teenager #1 discovered her dead on the bottom of the cage.

The last 24 hours of mandatory overtime this week

Wow — that ending up being a long story when I was trying to tell the executive summary. What I wanted to do was give a little insight into the last 24 hours of my mandatory over time at Stitch Fix. After a week of sleeping about 6 hours sleep a night, it was hell, but hey… we were all exhausted and in the same boat.

FRIDAY

10 pm— about 44 hours in to a 54 hour work week— I get a text from my daughter that it wasn’t a complete emergency but she needed to talk to me. Boo boo was dead.

The last two hours of the shift were exhausting.

12 am— I leave work with my gift of Stitch Fix gloves, which the nurse distributes with the joke of “next week they’ll hand out fingers.”

SATURDAY

1 am— Teenager #1 and I have a toast and some cookies and pickles to celebrate Boo’s life.

2 am— We head to bed. I have a recurrence of my Covid cough that keeps me up until about…

3 am— Finally sleep

8:15 am— The alarm goes off. Fuuuck. I’m so tired. The birds don’t like that I am leaving. I manage to feed the cats, get my ass dressed (and I look cute since I had planned my outfit in advance), and drink have a cup of coffee before putting on my shoes at 9.

9:15 am— In the car, listening to NPR.

9:30 am— I arrive. One of my supervisors comes in (she is also a 10 am start), puts her head down, and falls asleep on the table in the main break room.

9:55 am— the assignments post. I am QC Line 2, BA. What the hell is BA?

9:55 am— day shift is chugging away. We stand in line at the time clocks. One of our colleagues is way too perky. Another, in a dark way, makes the comment, “were you doing lines of coke?” We chuckle, but not because it’s funny but because we are tired. I suggest maybe that will be the next free snack in the breakroom. Inappropriate humor I know but my filter is damaged at this point. But we are all so tired. We are human. And I point out, if we don’t laugh, we will cry. Another colleague adds that if I cry she will cry.

9:57 am— I ask a supervisor for clarification on what BA is. She scowls and looks me up on her computer, “Line 2, EIGHT A.” And she points to Valley 1. I refrain from telling her that Stitch Fix needs a easier to read typeface.

10 am— I am on the back of the line. Last week, I spent most of my shifts also on Line 2 but in Valley 2 at table 2B. It seems a good spot for me. In the front of the line. Only one table in front of me. And that person behaves as a peer supervisor. I like watching her QC her boxes, audit boxes, fix problems brought to her by the person who puts the styling cards in the boxes (whom I can also see), and doing tasks on the computer I don’t recognize or understand.

At 2-2B, the line is on my left. I have mastered how to organize my table. At 2-8A, the line is on my right and now I am completely out of sorts. I am in the back of the line which means I have to be very forceful pushing my boxes up the line.

As someone who can’t even bowl straight and has never played shuffle board I suck at this too. Another aspect of QC that doesn’t fall in my natural skill set.

12 pm— no one seems to be going on break. Day shift delivers the pick carts with 4 boxes on top instead of the regular 8. The people in this Valley all speak Spanish and yell back and forth at each other. I have been stationed in what appears to be the Spanish party line. My times suck.

12:15 pm— a colleague from my shift informs me, after I take the wrong first break, that meal will be at 3 pm and last break is 5 pm. I’m already hungry so that kinda stinks but the end of the day will move quickly. The fingerless gloves make my hands feel better. I brought my Stitch Fix water bottle but the straw is bent and it won’t get liquid from the bottom.

1:30 pm— my Valley mates leave. Peers from my shift take their place. People I know! People that speak my language! People who do tasks the way I do them! (Man those subtle differences between the shifts are disorienting.)

3 pm— day shift appears to be gone now. We stare out the windows at the light outside in shock. A supervisor, the one who had a rubber chicken on an earlier night and started at 8 am, threatens to blacken them out to make us more comfortable. We have a good laugh.

3:27 pm— I head to the restroom. I stop first at the water bottle refill station. It is filtered and fully automatic so it senses when my water bottle is there. I get so excited I want to tell my friend Gayle. I wind the lid onto the bottle, some how trip on a wrinkle in the rug and end up falling onto the floor with a bang to my left knee and punching the electrical box with my left hand. I use the restroom, wash my hands and realize I will need to see the nurse so I don’t bleed on the clothes.

3:31 pm— I clock in and visit the nurse, who is not my favorite nurse. I explain what happened and despite my assurance that this will not become a workmen’s comp claim has to create an incident report. The clumsy, exhausted employee with cerebral palsy tripped. That is all.

3:37 pm— back to my table. Without thinking, I finished my morning seltzer, drank a V8 Energy Drink (the kiwi strawberry which tasted like a 50 calorie Snapple with vitamins. Love it), and consumed a “cup o noodles” on my meal. This will be important later as I will soon very badly need to urinate.

5 pm— I need to pee. Break. I need to pee. Bathroom is being cleaned. Someone senior to me heads to the office where there are two single seat bathrooms. The plant manager suggests we try the bathroom 750 steps across the warehouse.

5:10 pm— I return to my station. This day needs to end.

6:25 pm— I finish my last fix. My times still suck. I want to cry. I need to decompress. My times still suck. I feel inadequate and guilty. But hey I’m done.

6:34 pm— I am in my car. Going home to my teens. Teen #2 has a yummy surprise. I promised them pizza at George’s Pizza. We also promised to start The History of Swear Words on Netflix. More on that in the next post.

10 pm— I will be in bed!

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.

Travelogue at home

The other day I asked myself— what would happen if we approached our everyday lives like a writer taking notes for a travelogue?

Interesting that I thought of this now, as Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago I was in Somalia eating fruit so succulent it was like ice cream. I remember the dark wood of the built-in wardrobe of our hotel room, the way the guard at the top of the stairs would chit-chat with me as he rocked his plastic lawn chair with his gun across his lap.

That was also the week I decided to overhaul my marriage— because as I was traveling the streets of Mogadishu trying to interpret the paintings that adorned the shops and watched a women make coffee on the side of the road amidst traffic, I realized I had my laptop in Somalia with all of our household information. If anything had happened to me, I didn’t know if my husband knew how to log into our bank account or when to pay the mortgage (or how much it was or who receives the payment).

I suddenly realized my own mortality. And that my control of everything needed to change.

To return this ramble to the idea of a quotidienne travelogue, I always blog while we travel, even to places more mundane than Africa, and M, my traveling companion, would always sit down with his phone and his cigarette about to read the link I sent him.

“Oh good,” he would say, “Let’s see what I did today.”

Life at the Aviary

The colors in the room— vivid pink (almost a fuchsia) walls in semi-gloss, teal swirly floral-paisley curtains and a yellow patterned duvet color with pink sheets adorned with white polka dots— created a cheery environment that brightened exponentially with every ray of sunshine that crept in through the three windows facing south.

The birds grew more animated as the sun intensified, three adult parakeets and three freshly hatched chicks under three weeks old and a Goffin’s cockatoo, a mini-parrot who expressed her nervousness by barbering and plucking her own feathers. Even bird teenagers are prone to rituals of self-harm.

Once awake, I strolled down to the living area, also decorated boldly but simply with sky blue walls with a hint of turquoise and a chalkboard wall under the stairs with a variety of notes. The furniture included a cushioned bench, cozy teal chairs, and an emerald green loveseat that sat oddly low to the ground.

I sipped a very hot cup of coffee with cream not brewed but steamed for me as if it were espresso. Cats swirled at my feet, including one with a gruff, tired face. He wore a Captain America collar. When he moved, his gait revealed his amputee status— having lost his front left leg to kitty cat cancer.

After this, I traveled back to the aviary chamber to help care for the birds. I handled these tiny chicks!

My companion and I departed shortly after our “chores” to have breakfast at Tic Toc Diner. My companion has a love of chocolate milk and pancakes. She insists that both always tastes better at a diner.

I discover what might be my new all time favorite breakfast: Eggs Benedict Florentine with garlic and tomato. As a poached egg is one of my favorite things on Earth, it only gets better when we add some nutritionally dense spinach smothered in hollandais sauce.

The pleasures here and simple and the environment chaotic.

Hermes

Hermes overlording

Hermes world view is expanding. He’s about eight months old and though timid super inquisitive. He’s the last remaining member of our first litter of fosterkittens. He is listed for adoption on the web site, www.felineurbanrescueandrehab.org.

This cat is the perfect mentor for younger kittens. He loves to watch the action and the household but doesn’t like to be the center of attention. If you’re looking for a subdued cat who loves to listen to your conversation, sniff everything in the house and sits near you without being clingy or needy, consider him. As he continues to relax around people, he’s going to be a character. And he’s no dummy.

YouTube video: Hermes explores

He’s timid because he was so wild and sick as a baby. He would dart around the room when we tried to med him. Hence the name Hermes, like the Greek messenger. He had a couple rounds of respiratory infections, weeping eyes that still flare up occasionally, then two bouts of ringworm.

Now he’s healthy and the patriarch of our fosters.

Beginnings and babies

My routine is fairly set… I get up, use the bathroom, weigh myself, feed cats, and brew a cup of coffee (using the time while it brews to tidy the kitchen).

I drink the coffee while hanging with our personal cats, sometimes I do my journal entry then other times I wait until I return upstairs.

Once my coffee is done I start a load of laundry, make sure the kibble is put away where our two cats with urinate issues can’t find it, and head up to “wake the birds.”

Usually by now it’s around 9 or even 10 a.m. (as I work 3:30 p.m. until midnight). I open Nala’s cage (my Goffin’s cockatoo) and throw back the curtains so the budgies fill my room with chirps and chatters. I check on the babies and everyone gets fresh food and water.

Chicks growing feathers

The photos really don’t do them justice. They all have open eyes, clear faces, beaks, feet and wings. They are getting feathers and one is turning blue like Mama Periwinkle.

After feeding everyone I let Peek-A-Boo-Boo free fly as she is stuck in the tiny cage right now.

Then, in an attempt to set my head straight for 2021, I made my bed— inspired by a post by another blogger on her M goals for 2021.

See the whole post here: Olivia’s “M” Goals for 2021

Movement and mindful eating are also on my list. I am losing a little weight every day just by making better choices and paying attention to how much I consume.

I think my journaling and blogging might be similar to meditation. It clears out my head and puts me straight.

But I failed in my grandiose plans to start my I journal with some sort of fancy motivational speech.

Loki went to the adoption fair at Petsmart with our cat rescue group Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. He had a scheduled meet-and-greet with a family. While he was gone, teenager #1 and I went to the dollar stores looking for organizational materials.

And then we got the sad text: “Loki did not go. 😦 ”

So now he’s home with us again.

Farewell 2020 wish

It’s 12:05 a.m. and I still have to open my journal. My morning started merely five hours after I went to bed with a series of foibles that are normal in my life… so let me appease anyone waiting for my next blog post with this little post I made on Facebook:

Some of our challenges in this household for 2021 include:

  • Reassure teenager #2’s male cat that he is safe. The other cats feed off his insecurity and terrorize him which leads to urination outside the box.
  • Eat healthy again.
  • Each member of my household has some sort of fitness goal. Mine is the inevitable lose weight, but I am going to focus on strength training. Strength and endurance to me are the key to building a healthy body.
  • Raise healthy kittens and enjoy my budgie chicks.

Update on chicks video

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.

Early morning animal husbandry

I got up early today — at 5:45 a.m.— to take the teenager to our FURR godmother’s house for her pet sitting job.

These two personal cats of the household wanted my affection and made a receiving line. From the tilt of their heads I am guessing they don’t like paparazzi.

In related FURR news, little Loki Dokie Puppy Turkey of the Norse Pride is learning the rules of the greater house versus life in the master suite. He still likes to challenge the “no cats on the counters” rule but he is learning to prefer the scratching posts to the furniture. For that I am grateful.

Loki

Yes, the scratching post is broken but they don’t mind. We just have to watch the sisal and reattach it.

In other news of gratitude, the chicks seem to have doubled in size. They must be very hungry right now because they chirped much of the night.

Yule was hatched on the solstice, Winter hatched next, and then, yes, Christmas hatched on Christmas.

Mama gives me one chance each morning to check on them and take their photo. If you want to hear the protective mama bird noise, here it is: Protective Periwinkle.

So now, the only thing stressing me out is the fact that I haven’t heard from my doctor’s office. I called them yesterday about my need for a follow up Covid test and a doctor’s note.

Accidents (or the four letter word that starts with S and means ‘poop’) happens.

It’s been a hectic couple of days.

The teenager is pet-sitting for our FURR foster godmother. So she’s in and out of my house several times a day.

I have misplaced Fern’s adoption paperwork, which is totally not like me. Luckily Fern went to a friend of mine so I can asked her to send me a photo.

Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, has been upset and stressed and plucked her flight feathers off her one wing.

It’s really sad to see the confusion in her face when she tries to fly and just falls.

Speaking of Nala, I met her a year ago today.

We had a devil of a time containing Boo-boo last night but since we did Wink and Yo-yo seem much more relaxed as parents. I think it was the right call. Video: catching Boo

And here is a video of the parakeet chicks: Budgie babies!

I also finally got a good picture of Loki:

Sir Loki Dokie Puppy Turkey

While three out of my four cats were cuddly and cute.

Back to Front: Opie, Oz, Fog

Then I headed out to work for the first day since Covid. I stopped at Dunkin for a coffee and discovered there were no more good deals. So I didn’t get my coffee.

No one explained the protocol for my return so I don’t have the proper paperwork from my doctor. I’ll try and get that started— already called the doctor— but am waiting on their end of the paperwork.

I’m annoyed— mostly because I was ready to go back but also because I don’t know if this lack of communication will mean I lose income. With it being the holiday week, I probably won’t get rapid cooperation from the medical folks. And part of that is because there are people sicker and needier than I am.

After everything I’ve been through this year, I won’t complain.

It gave me time to do some grocery shopping and cook for the other teenager.

I even helped her make a smoothie.

One more week of 2020.

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.