So… when last we left our quest with the absence management company, I had mentioned that I sent my PCP an already completed form to expand the intermittent leave I had requested from work. Honestly, it’s getting more stressful than it is worth.
The doctor’s office sent me a message on Thursday last week that they had faxed the paperwork and I could pick it up when I was in the neighborhood so that I had the master copy in case the management company lost the fax like they did when the neurologist faxed it.
On Friday, I stopped by my therapist’s office and picked up the paperwork for my psychiatric evaluation for my service dog. During our chat, I mentioned that I had this physical feeling of anxiety that had not lifted since Tuesday, some tightness when I breathe, and the inability to relax, and I suspected high blood pressure since I was having headaches and constantly ringing ears.
He requested I have the doctor’s office run additional blood work and check my blood pressure. I said I would mention it. And that I was stopping in for my paperwork Tuesday, had my iron and Vitamin D blood draws scheduled for the following Saturday, and my annual check-up toward the end of the month.
The psychiatric evaluation mentions my struggles with stress and my past trauma and notes how I have worked through stuff, and also mentions that I display intermittent symptoms of general anxiety disorder and mild, recurrent major depressive disorder episodes. And I noted the diagnostic codes were the generic ones that don’t really say I have the condition, but that I’m teetering on the edge of it. (Is this why my health insurance won’t pay him? Do I not ‘require’ therapy in their corporate eyes?)
Then during the weekend, my fingers starting tingling. I contacted the doctor’s office and mentioned what my therapist had suggested and the staff scheduled me for a visit with the nurse today when I stopped to pick up my leave paperwork. And the doctor included some more blood work slips for me to add to my collection.
Meanwhile, I reduced my caffeine intake to two normal cups of coffee in the morning instead of my turbo-charged Supercoffee.
And today I tossed on my “Emotional Support Animal” t-shirt and for the first time since I have reached double-digits wore pigtails. And my new red glasses.
The Teenager called this my “Punky Brewster turns 40” look.
And then I took my vitamins for the second day in a row.
I did great at work today– I did 145 fixes, that’s 111%
Meanwhile… I’m out of PTO so my request off for the rescheduled service dog canine therapeutic evaluation was denied. I am fairly certain I can work that out with my supervisor.
I leave work, arrive at the doctor’s office, and when she’s available the nurse takes my blood pressure and doesn’t tell me what it is.
“We’ll do it again in a minute.”
The second result, based on her reaction, was no better than the first.
“The first reading was 150/98,” she said.
That sounded bad.
“The second reading was 150/96.”
That was not better.
She excused herself, and returned a few moments later, having discussed with her colleagues whether they should keep me in the office until they talk to the doctor, or if I could go home and they would get in touch with me later. Luckily, I was dismissed.
I came home, scanned the medical paperwork for the absence management company, emailed it and made myself a glass of cashew/almond protein milk with cacao powder. It wasn’t bad, for unsweetened non-dairy chocolate milk.
The examiner from the absence management company said she approved a leave of 1 day/8 hours a month, which is exactly what was put in one question in one segment of the paperwork. What is all the other information in the other four pages for????
And I’m loading up on water and I need to swear off the Little Caesars pizza and the savory food binges.
I have minimal patience for people who get stuck, accept it, and then complain about it without striving for change. But don’t worry– this isn’t a post about other people, it’s a post about me. Because the flip side of those who prefer “victim” status and inaction is when you do things and it’s not enough.
I have a funny conversation with my amazing chiropractor every time I see her. Whether I’m feeling good or bad, there is always so much chaos in my life that I have trouble labeling what helped or hurt the most. That’s probably one of my character flaws. If there is chaos, I dive right in. I say yes to help before fully considering the impact on my own life or those close to me.
Since December 12, my supervisors at my warehouse job have been trying to meet my new workplace accommodations for my cerebral palsy. This move for accommodations, on my part, was not spurred by a change in my physical condition, but my a change in how the company measures employee performance. Since I have been with the company for more than two years, experience has shown that I cannot meet the new standard. It took me about a year to consistently hit the previous measure.
My neurologist, who is also a physiatrist, and I adore her, literally wrote, “limit bending/crouching as much as possible to improve endurance.”
And so, during the course of the last several weeks, I have made most of my metrics with the support of the other staff in bringing me work that doesn’t require me pulling it out of shelves near the floor. We’ve slowly moved me to a work station near the back, so the support staff bringing the work doesn’t need to look for me or drag the work everywhere. We found a work station the right height and that directs the completed work to the left so I don’t have to stress my right hip.
This is after two weeks of a different table every day. Setting up a work station at the end of the day with supplies and my work to start the next day only to be moved somewhere else and given “standard” work in the morning. This is after the stares of my coworkers who are not on my team, as they linger around my work station wanting to figure out why I’m getting special treatment but unwilling to ask questions.
Until one of the nicer people, who still has the attitude of the others who don’t take kindly to us outsiders who originally came from second shift, offhandedly says, “because you have a real disability, right?”
I’ve been working hard in the gym, and set some new PRs on my weights, and since my holiday workouts my hamstrings have been super tight and spasming. The last time I did legs I probably overdid it. But everything was moving so well and I felt so strong so I hope this discomfort is my body trying to build new muscle and new connections with my nervous system, Because that’s my disability– my nervous system doesn’t communicate correctly with my lower body, making it impossible for my brain to tell my muscles to relax.
I don’t know if that’s why my mid-section, as in lower back and hips, has so much discomfort and burning pain, and why my legs ache. That workout was on Saturday morning and it’s Wednesday now. Maybe I’m being punished for binging Fleischman is in Trouble on Hulu for New Years or maybe I’m inflamed because I’ve been living on Christmas cookies and cake.
Who knows? But yesterday was hard and I couldn’t reach my feet or the floor and today I’m having more trouble bending. I see the chiropractor after work, so maybe she’ll have answers. I also forgot to wrap my toe yesterday. That meant that in addition to basic mobility issues it felt like someone had a knife in my toe all day.
But I hit my numbers, even did two extra, and set up my table with about 90 minutes of easy work and new rolls of supplies. And then I received work that I was being labor-shared today. And that has me upset and anxious. I’m folding clothes, just like I normally do, but today I’m supposed to do men’s clothes instead of women’s.
Last time I worked in men’s, it was awful. The clothes are bigger than I am and they don’t fit in the boxes, because the boxes are the same size of the women’s boxes but men have bigger bodies and much bigger feet. Plus, will they honor my accommodations? Will they put me on the left?
It took three weeks to get things comfortable for me in my own department. And my biggest fear is, when I return to my department, I’ll have to start all over with them.
Meanwhile, in the good news camp, The Teenager and I visited some friends last night so she could learn how to change her own headlight bulbs in her car and then she took me out for food. She might not believe me when I say it, but I really do love these small moments with her.
In other thoughts, when I get through my current financial straits (I have $3.92 in my checkbook and a $700 medical bill, the garbage bill is rumored to have gone up 200% and I’m still paying off my new ceiling and new computer), I really want an Apple Watch. I wonder if it could do a better job tracking my mobility and my activity. I’m really curious what all that clothes-folding counts as.
I had a mammogram scheduled for this morning with my “regular” radiology tech. I went into work late, which meant I could sleep in and isn’t that the best way to start a Monday morning? At five a.m. I woke and starting cuddling my foster cat, Tripod Louise, debating whether or not I should get up. I normally rise for work at 4 a.m. so I have time to do Parisian Phoenix stuff or creative writing before clocking into my shift at 6:30 a.m.
But as I lay there at 5 a.m. today, I realized that I had set up the delay feature on my amazing coffee pot, and yes I still adore my Ninja K-cup, travel mug, and standard carafe brewer. I had coffee waiting in the kitchen. If I waited much longer it might not be fresh. If I fell back to sleep, it might not even be hot.
I fed the fat cats their weight management food and went downstairs where I promoted my latest idea, the photo scavenger hunt book. Check Parisian Phoenix’s submission page for more info.
I arrived at the hospital for my mammogram at 8:05 a.m. I went into the lobby and grabbed my registration number. Luckily it was two away from the last number I heard called. I started rooting through my purse for the doctor’s order and found it crumpled and stained with coffee.
A Dose of Anxiety
While I don’t normally suffer from panic or anxiety, when my stress levels increase I am prone to physical sensations of anxiety. And I had forgotten how stressful I find doing any outpatient procedure at the hospital. Grab a number, sit in the main lobby, go to the registration office, go across the hall to radiology, check in at radiology, get called to mammography, traverse the hall, get changed, go into the mammography suite, chat with the tech, get smooshed.
It’s a lot of steps in rapid succession. I could feel my hard pounding and had to keep inhaling deeply through my nose to keep my chest from closing up.
Was I nervous? No. Afraid? No. Shy? No.
It was pressure. I felt rushed and out of control.
Building Up Another Woman
Once in the mammography suite, I learned my favorite tech would be retiring in eight days and staying on per diem because if she works one day a month she will maintain her medical insurance.
I told her I was happy for her, but also disappointed, because she did my first mammogram and she always made me feel comfortable. I told her I’m sure she helped a lot of women and that I hoped she enjoyed every minute of her retirement.
She called me sweet.
And she remembered me by my tattoo. Which is on my breast.
When I left the hospital, I got the sweetest text that our foster kitten Jennifer Grey (who moved to the Teenager’s room last night for better socialization) is adjusting well.
Forgive me, but I’m finding myself too exhausted to continue,
so from this line down, I am writing about Monday on Tuesday
4:30 a.m. Tuesday, drinking exceedingly strong coffee as prepped on the delay setting by the Teenager.
Measuring Challenge at Work
My anxiety from my hospital visit followed me to work. I clocked it 9:07, which made it hard to do the math of where my numbers should be for the day, but I settled on a total of 85 fixes. And I hit 85 fixes. I was at a table on the right, not my regular table on the left, which meant a subtle shift of balance and more pressure on my right hip. The warehouse outbound supervisor herself brought me 22 refixes, or the work already in a box, which were pivotal in keeping my numbers where I wanted them.
I heard rumblings among my colleagues that no one is hitting “full performance,” so I’m not the only one. We were joking at lunch that in a few months they may reduce their workforce by 50% if they dismiss everyone not meeting the new numbers. I don’t think they’ll do that. The company has always been more than fair in the past. At lunch, Southern Candy gave me homemade fudge. I ate too much of the deliciousness and spent the next couple hours a little queasy.
The murmurings report that employees that are shared to other departments must still hit 90% of the new numbers and that their performance in those other departments will count toward their monthly miss-the-mark allowance.
The goal for my department is 16.25 per hour, but does not include time off for our ten-minute paid breaks. So I use my own numbers. Hour one should be 17, hour two also 17, then ten minute break, and 15 to finish the third hour to reach the official numbers. It’s two more hours until my lunch, and I try to maintain 17 per hour to “make up” for our final ten-minute break of the day.
So I missed two hours and 37 minutes of work yesterday. If I divide one hour (60 minutes) by 16.25, I get 3.7 minutes per box. (For argument’s sake, let me point out that doing the same using 17 unites is 3.5 minutes. So we are talking about the impact of seconds, but it adds up.) I missed 157 minutes of work, so using their numbers I should have lowered my goal by 42.5 fixes but I couldn’t do that math in my head. We are six days into the new system and I’ve already missed my two days a month. I thought I made it with 85 fixes, but my official target might have been 87.5. That means I did 97%. We’ll see what they say today.
I know I talk a lot about the numbers at work, but honestly it’s part of what I love about the job. 1. Numbers don’t lie. You can discuss why the numbers are what they are and develop strategies to meet them. I find calculating the numerical benchmarks to be soothing and an objective way to see how my day is going. And, while my employer would hate to hear this, it’s a good reminder that sometimes you can’t work harder only smarter and not everyone had the capacity to hit 100% of arbitrary numbers every day.
The calculations and my podcast keep my mind busy and allow me to brainstorm what I need to do for my publishing business. If I have to work full-time, I would rather work the blue-collar warehouse job than a white-collar office job that destroys my intellectual capacity and short-circuits my brain with stress. 2. I preserve my creative energy for myself. Listening to publishing-related podcasts, various sources of news, other creators and even some bizarre non-fiction stories keeps my mental focus on my goals and allows me to give my full effort to my employer while still working toward my personal goals.
3. I love the clothes. I have followed Stitch Fix since they launched, when The Teenager was a preschooler and I still had a subscription to vogue. I love seeing, touching and preparing the clothes for their clients. I love seeing the fixes, their color combinations, their textures and I love imagining the person who would wear them. I also like to make judgments of whether or not we could be friends based on their box. Because if you’re on fix #72 and I think all the clothes are hideous, that’s your style and we can’t blame the stylist or the algorithm. And since I write fiction in the fashion world, I love seeing the new trends and which items become perennial offerings.
I also took two muscle relaxers, after not taking them during the weekend. I’ve been curious if some of the strange feelings I have in my legs are from when the muscle relaxers wear off or from missing a couple chiropractor appointments due to other doctors’ visits. The jury is out– but the bottom line is with the muscle relaxers, working out and chiropractic care my body moves easier.
A much awaited visit to Back in Line Chiropractic
After work, I filled my water bottle and headed to my friends at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Not only is former physical therapist and chiropractor Nicole Jensen super smart and personable, but the staff contributes some extra care as well. When my schedule got out of control, office staff person B (as I don’t know if she would want me calling her out in a public forum) made sure I got not only one but two appointments so I could survive the holiday season with my mobility in tact.
I apologized to Nicole for letting three weeks go by without an appointment, and reassured her that I did not fall out of love with her. I summarized how life had gotten away from me, and by the time my trainer Andrew noticed that my legs were turning inward in an unusual fashion and I noticed I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, I luckily had called B and had my appointment on the books.
The noises my body made were brutal, but it’s a weird feeling when you stand up and your feet and legs feel loose, move freer and have a more easygoing gait. It’s disorienting. But it’s a good reminder than sometimes I need more help than I realize.
Nicole then shipped me off to Andrew at Apex Training.
The brutal workout at Apex
I love Andrew. I really do. I respect the way he has learned my quirks and can read my form. He has learned ways to troubleshoot what my podiatrist calls my “challenging gait” due to my cerebral palsy. But last night was a killer core and shoulders work out. It was awesome, and murderous. I am gaining so much upper body strength and am very impressed with my lower body function gains.
We missed some workouts recently because Andrew caught a cold and then took some family time for the holidays, but I told him it wasn’t fair that he was punishing me with heavy weights when we lifted and high reps in the more cardio-based exercises. After all, he had canceled not me.
Needless to say, when I got home I ate the lovely dinner The Teenager (lamb, broccoli and hand-cut, homemade parmesan fries) prepared and collapsed in bed. To wake at 3:56 a.m. before my 4 a.m. alarm.
I last checked in with this blog on Monday, December 12. Today is Friday. I have diplegic spastic cerebral palsy and my workplace recently changed the way they measure our performance. The company switched from a weekly average to a firm daily number. I work in a warehouse folding clothes, and I’ve been there more than two years. Why do I do physical work when I have a disability, skills/talents and plenty of higher education?
Because I’m tired of emotional stress and the politics in a white collar office environment. I’m tired of being underappreciated, never getting credit for the good stuff I’ve done, and I’m tired of my creative, intellectual energy benefiting some entity other than myself.
I also love the mindlessness of my current work, listening to podcasts and brainstorming my own projects during the day, and my team. Working in a warehouse environment has brought together a diverse mix of people that I wouldn’t get to interact with otherwise. And I feel like this particular company, this warehouse and my supervisor and team give people opportunity and respect when other people/companies wouldn’t.
I have been struggling with my body for about a year. And my employer has never given me any trouble due to my disability. But, I also know that I will fail in this new metric system. So I applied for workplace accommodations and intermittent FMLA leave.
The leave request ran into some complications when the fax never seemed to make it to the absence management company. On Monday I contacted my neurologist to ask if they could fax it again.
On Tuesday, I took all-day VTO and ended up getting some frustrating communication from one of my volunteer activities. The kind of stern communication that feels like a betrayal and makes you reevaluate some relationships and commitments. I spent most of Tuesday sleeping and watching Hoarders. Because nothing makes you feel more psychologically grounded than seeing the homes in Hoarders.
The neurologist’s office followed up with me on Wednesday. I contacted the claims examiner via email to update them, and it was Wednesday afternoon when I received an email with the document and uploaded it to the claims management company.
This was the same day my supervisors at work asked me to submit the accommodation form I had given them to my claims examiner. Which I happened to have a scan of that document on my phone so I did.
I received word today that my intermittent FMLA leave was approved.
As for accommodations, Wednesday a friend from my roster saw to it that I got some work that was easy for me. By my calculations I hit 101%. But I was told I hit 111% because I receive extra non-production time for talking with people about my accommodations.
Before we left on Wednesday, one of the kind people from the original day shift brought me some of the work that was already boxed for me to set at my station for the morning. I also took the time to box the items from the bottom of my previous cart and get that ready. But when I returned to work Thursday morning, someone had taken my nicely packaged work.
It also happened to be the one year anniversary of my father’s death and I was at work when I got the call that I needed to come to the hospital and say goodbye. So, my emotions are on edge because of that, my anxiety is acting up because of the issues with my leave and my accommodations and the other things in my personal life.
My friend from my roster tried to get me pre-packaged work. I took VTO at 11:30 and I thought I hit 105%. The official number was 103%. I would estimate that half my work was the stuff that is easier for me. Thanks to that friend on my roster.
Today I again took VTO, this time at noon. I packed 89 fixes, by the skin of my teeth, which should be 100%. Only 24 of those were prepackaged. So less than 30%. I received more troubling news about three-and-a-half hours into my shift that made me realize that no one that could be considered my family has invited me for Christmas. I’m 100% okay with being alone, and Christmas usually ends with me in a panic attack, but I didn’t anticipate that suddenly at 47-years-old my daughter would be my only family.
My toe has been feeling much better, but I’ve only worked part-time this week. But I think the gel protector ring is helping tremendously. No nerve pain. But my right leg definitely feels turned in and clunky.
I think my life has been challenged on every front recently. The nice thing about such challenges is that they can inspire new beginnings and allow you to mold what you want out of life and stop living to other people’s expectations.
I ran out of juice yesterday. Fatigue, lack of good sleep, adrenaline from publishing Larry Sceurman’s The Death of Big Butch (see a post by Larry on the Parisian Phoenix website today, click here), anxiousness regarding doctors’ appointments and my service dog application, the toll of my various foot and leg issues, and the excitement of my traveling companion, M, coming to visit all caught up with me.
Let’s start with a joke. Because it’s Monday. And we can all use a laugh. And this is clever.
Before work, I went through my collection of protective toe devices. The little foam doo-dad the podiatrist gave me is looking rather worn and tatty, especially since or perhaps despite the fact that I’ve been hand-washing it.
The larger gel separators I wore over the weekend, held in place with the bunion wrap, seemed too big and the pressure hurt my toe more.
So, today I tried out the gel-line toe protector sleeve, which, according to the instructions, they make long enough for your finger. Doesn’t that make it a digit sleeve?
As instructed on the package, I held it up to my toe and then used scissors to trim it to the right size. And I wondered if the piece that remained after the cut might be large enough to use like a toe right to cover the damaged flesh and the portion of toe that rubs. This wouldn’t actually separate the toes, but it might eliminate the friction.
I decided to try it.
It fit! “Waste not, want not,” after all.
I wore my obnoxious patterned Vans sneakers (that came in one of The Teenager’s fixes. She proclaimed them hideous but I fell in love with them.). Ready for work.
We won’t talk about the fact that I struggled hard to get my socks on this morning. Sometimes my lack of mobility makes be feel like a T-Rex when I need to do stuff with my feet.
Today I handed my doctor-filled-out, official form for workplace accommodations to my supervisor.** Now my supervisor has been working in the other side of the warehouse. He will be there relatively long-term. This had me nervous, and I kept checking my work email seeking some sort of acknowledgement. None came.
Until first break, I clocked in at 100% of the Daily Minimum Expectation. But I fell behind after break. The official numbers don’t account for our 10-minute paid breaks. By official numbers, I was probably 102% or more before first break. By my numbers, I was around 98-99%. My numbers account for the breaks.
Around the halfway point of my shift, I had fallen to 97%. And then I got a phone call and Siri read me the voicemail. My examiner had called, stating that she would be denying my intermittent leave request if she did not get my form from my doctor by 5 p.m. Apparently, she’s in Arizona. Her 5 p.m. and my 5 p.m. are two different things.
I had filed for intermittent FMLA leave November 9, because the shift change I was forced to make in late October has made scheduling my doctor’s appointments nearly impossible. The company that administers the claims for my employer sent a form to my doctor, but it took nearly a week for me to find out which doctor, because I had given them the name of my primary care physician and my specialist.
The neurologist received the form November 12. (I know because the neurology office sent me a receipt and the parent hospital sent me a bill, which I had to scan the receipt and mail to the hospital over the weekend.)
My specialist couldn’t start the form until I paid the fee. For some reason, the office did not tell approach me about this until November 22. They called me while I was at work and I had to call them back once I had my wallet and was off the warehouse.
When I called them back, of course I was placed on a call-back list. I received the follow-up phone call mid-shift the next day (November 23), but luckily I had my HSA credit card in my pocket and I answered the call. I paid the $30 with funds from my HSA.
Now, the paperwork had a due date of December 9. But remember, November has a little holiday called Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving occurred on November 24 this year. My physiatry/neurology specialist called me around 1 p.m. Monday November 28. We had experienced computer problems in the warehouse and I had come home early. She spoke with me while she filled out the form and promised her nurse would fax the forms by the end of the week.
I had an appointment with my specialist December 9, so when I hadn’t heard from the examiner by the end of my work day December 8, I emailed her. I wanted to confirm she had the paperwork. And I wanted to file an absence for December 9, as I had two doctors’ appointments that day. She did not response until today, December 12, because she had been out of the office December 9.
Because she had been out of the office, she gave me the extra time to file the forms. But that extra time was four hours. I can’t even reach my specialist within four hours.
I emailed both the examiner and the neurology office, but heard from neither by the time the neurology office closed today. I guess this means my claim for a leave will be denied. I hope I can open a new one and either resubmit the prior form or ask the specialist to update the date on the form, or worst case contact my primary care physician and have him do a form and also attach the specialist form. “Luckily,” I’m still having issues with my toe which means I will probably see plenty of doctors.
Sigh. I mention this because this is what I’m obsessing over while I’m struggling to get my numbers at 100%. And I’m mentioning this because I am capable, and I can often find work-arounds other people don’t think of. But what if I were a disabled person that relied on caretakers and support staff? What if I had to rely on more people to coordinate these things? What if I had communication difficulties? It is exhausting to advocate for oneself.
Fast forward to lunch. I want to say my stats were at 96% or so. Our employer offered full day Voluntary Time Off for tomorrow and at this point I was stressed out enough to apply for it. I don’t have the money, but I also don’t feel like I have the stamina.
After lunch, my stats kept falling. They had reached 94% when someone “in charge” approached me to ask what my accommodations were because one of my peers (my sassy friend) had mentioned it to her. My supervisor had mentioned my accommodations to this person but she misinterpreted his concern to be about something else, until my sassy friend inquired about me. I think my sassy friend has become our elected leader.
After our final break, one of my teammates (who always supported me when we were on our own shift) brought me the easier work for me to do. Basically, he brought me the work already in boxes so I didn’t have to retrieve the items in the cart. I finished the day at 98.4% of DME which is amazing when you consider that about 75 minutes earlier I had been on track to complete 94%.
In addition to all of this, I never did hear back from the neurologist nor the examiner. The neurologist’s office is closed now. And when Arizona time reaches 5 p.m., my claim for intermittent leave will be denied.
And remember my toe? I had substantially less toe pain today than over the weekend, and no general foot pain.\
And I got the VTO for tomorrow.
Now the answer to our joke…
And yes, I called Nan and asked her if she had ever heard this joke. When she heard it, she nearly bust a gut.
** If you’re new here, I have diplegic cerebral palsy and have worked in a warehouse folding clothes for two years. Today they changed the system of how they measure our efficiency. We used to get our weekly numbers averaged into our performance figure but starting today, they evaluate the figure daily. Without official accommodations, I won’t meet the daily figure. My typical performance is pretty similar to last week, when I did 101%, 101%, 101%, 94%, and 100%. When you average that, my performance is 99.4%. But I miss the mark usually one day a week. Now they only give us two days to miss in a month.
I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I’ve written. But when I think about it, I suppose I can. The teen had Covid. Her father had a birthday. The teen missed her much anticipated outing to the Renn Faire because of the weather and Covid. My cat Fog has determined that he likes milkbones dog biscuits.
My Stitch Fix metrics started at 103% this week and dropped to 100% and then 94% today. (But Mercury is in retrograde. The computers were malfunctioning. And either the QCers were folding too quickly or we didn’t have enough pickers because we kept running out of work.)
But despite a difficult, hot and frustrating day at the Bizzy Hizzy, I do have one amazing story to report. (And I recount it in this video below as well.)
I’m standing at my table today. My metrics are around 97% for the day. The cart I just finished was all kinds of messed up. The wrong clothes in the wrong fixes. But I got it sorted out. The pick system is quite foolproof, but mistakes still happen. My supervisor mentioned he’d put a note by my name so they stop putting me at that table on line two that stresses me out, because legitimately, it’s a medium table and it’s too high for me. I belong at a normal table.
But so far, I’m still at this medium table that caused me to break another electronic key. They hang from our lanyards and the way the lanyard falls at this table, it smashes between my body and the table as I reach toward the back of the table, causing the card to split.
At this particular point of the morning one of the outbound leads (I think? Or is she a sup? Who knows? But she’s one of the nice day shift people. Some of them still haven’t won me over) approaches my table and offers me a fist bump.
Apparently, they were doing QC audits farther down the line. That’s when they unwrap our completed, folded fixes and check them randomly for quality. They typically look for generic trends to talk about what we are doing right, how we could improve and if there are common issues.
They came to one of my fixes. It was a large box, and the fix contained three pairs of shoes, a huge sherpa-lined cardigan, and a cashmere sweater. I had arranged the boots lying down on the bottom of the box, the flats tucked into the space between the edge of the box and the boots, and the other shoes on top of the flats. I folded and wrapped the sweaters as tightly and I could and still managed to place it with the logo to the left even though it would have fit way better turned parallel to the shoes.
I could not believe I’d managed to squeeze everything into a large box.
They were also impressed. Because once they took everything out of the box, this collection of leads could not reassemble the fix so that the items went back into the box. That’s when they scanned the box to find out who did it in the first place.
They must have figured it out, because they didn’t ask for help.
Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for my Freestyle package. On Friday morning, I slipped into the Teen’s Stitch Fix account and ordered myself a multipack of earrings from Kevia. On Sunday, we work Freestyle. My supervisor asked me to QC and ship a NAP cart (non-apparel: shoes, purses, scarves and jewelry). I told him I had ordered earrings Friday and thought it would be hysterical if I found them in this cart.
My third or fourth item from the cart was a Kevia multipack of earrings. I thought, “It couldn’t be.”
So I scanned them.
The teen’s name popped up on the screen.
What are the odds? Each employee ships hundreds of packages every day from each of the six warehouses.
I shared the news with all my friends. “These are mine and I’m shipping them to my house.”
This week has been a roller coaster— but isn’t that just the way? People have been telling me I look like I’m loosing weight but I don’t know if that’s true.
The teenager took the dog for a rainy walk at Lafayette College the other day. She sent several very lovely photos.
I have many odds and ends making life out of the ordinary from little foster kitten Jean-Paul Sartre to my dear friend Nan moving from my neighborhood to a senior community.
I ordered a kitchen scale off Target.com to measure Jean-Paul’s growth. He’s up to 1 lb 5 ounces. That was after a big breakfast of pate and kitten milk. He has a hearty appetite and screams for food like any baby does every 4 hours.
He is super inquisitive and smart. He carries tiny toys around in his mouth and plays with our dog, Bean. (Here’s a video.)
Meanwhile, guest fosters Coffee Bean & Pinto Bean are having fun in my room. Khloe and Louise do not like having babies around, but the cockatoo Nala sure does.
For some humor, let’s mention that the Teenager recently discovered that the Morningstar Farms breakfast Pattie’s I have been feeding her for almost two decades are vegetarian. She called her dad to find out if he had been in on this secret.
We never hid that they weren’t real sausages from her and she’s been able to read for a long time. The shock was real, and she’s still talking about it days later.
She didn’t have a chance to go grocery shopping for her nights in the kitchen. I suggested using my Hungryroot ancient grain gluten free pancake mix and the Morningstar sausages. It was a lovely, hearty breakfast-for-dinner. And like she had accused me of when she first discovered my fake breakfast meat, “It was all a lie.”
The teen also got her first fix from Stitch Fix and it came from the warehouse where I work, the Bizzy Hizzy. Click the photo to see her unbox.
Speaking of work, I took voluntary time off on Monday and my stats were 100%, 88% and 98%. Andrew at Apex Training has been working be hard with exercises like split leg squats. My quads feel it. My balance is improving, my aches and pains feel like muscle fatigue and not deeper pain or joint issues. I have caught myself almost falling several times, and can sometimes feel my leg scissoring or even notice my left foot dragging behind before it trips me.
Even my chiropractor, Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center has made comments about how well my body is moving and how things are improving. Today she said my right side was locked up, when it’s usually my left, and that everything went back where it belonged easily.
When I hopped off the table, she told me to look at myself. “I have never seen you stand up with your feet so firmly planted and your poster straight,” she said.
And I felt it, I felt really solid.
So I don’t know if this is where I confess I tried the new Wingstop chicken sandwich. Most of my diet lately has been vegan. But last night I hadn’t had dinner, it was 8 pm and my body was devastated (in that good way). I could barely move after my shower. I considered skipping dinner.
But then I thought about my food intake for the day:
4:30 am: Supercoffee dark roast with half and half
5:30 am: Wawa coffee con lèche (it was a bribe to make myself go get gas)
6:30 to 8:30 am: 20 oz water
9 am: Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast bar and about 3 oz cranberry juice cocktail
9:30 to 11:30 am: 20 oz water
12:15 pm: quinoa with roast zucchini, white beans and my home canned roasted tomatoes, 6 oz Diet Pepsi
2 to 5 pm: 20 oz water
5:30 pm: sunflower seeds
6 pm: 12 oz cucumber water
I thought a chicken sandwich would be good for protein and I saw the commercial for Wingstop’s new chicken sandwich on Hulu. It was good, not as big as I thought a sandwich from a chicken joint would be— but to be able to slather any sauce from their menu on our was really cool. I had a mango habanero sandwich and a side order of the honey hot rub boneless wings. It hit the spot.
The wounds I acquired last Monday falling through the screen door (yes, there is a blog on that) have mostly healed, except where Bean Dog accidentally scratched off my scabs. The teenager tells everyone it looks like I had a fist-fight with a bear. And we had a family debate over Indian food– the teenager, her father and I, over whether I won or lost. Consensus was I won. (The Indian food came from Nawab in south Bethlehem, who were gracious hosts despite us not knowing that had converted to reservation only for dinner.)
On Saturday, I went to the gym and hit a new personal best with Andrew at Apex Training. I think it was 110 lbs on the barbell for three reps in box squats. My torso, my thighs, everything could take the weight well, except my knees. My knees kissed as I stood up with each rep. It didn’t hurt. It quivered a little, but I definitely had to plant my feet, balance the weight, lead with my thighs and hips and force those knees slowly out. The weight didn’t bother me. My own knees terrify me.
On Sunday, I performed 111% at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy, which means I shipped 555 items. Goal is 500 for a ten-hour shift, but as I reached higher numbers and saw that 555 was possible, I went for it. After all, both 111 and 555 are lovely numbers. Three prime numbers in a row, twice. Patterns and numbers comfort me. They offer a reminder that while a million permutations might exist, that there is underlying order in the world.
Yesterday I started my shift with refixes at the table in QC that has been assigned as mine for about three weeks. My table, line 4b, table 6, has a manual conveyor line on my left, which is great for my balance but bad for my finger. I hit 162, the daily minimum expectation, but barely.
I was achy, with sore feet and a sore spine, but nothing unusual for a person standing for 10 hours a day. I notice on my phone that around 4 p.m. that my walk was asymmetrical by 1%.
I have averaged six hours of sleep lately, with borrowed kittens and the high heat, so I opted to take a muscle relaxer and sleep versus push myself at the gym. My chiropractor has suggested my recent issues with falls and lack of control in my right leg might stem from overdoing it.
Between the heat wave, the full 10-hour shifts, the general aches and stiffness and the inappropriate levels of sleep, I opted to postpone the gym, take one of my muscle relaxers and sleep. I slept much better, but I could use a solid 8 hours or more.
I’m slowly learning just because I can push myself doesn’t mean I should.
Monday. I slept pretty decently last night despite the oppressive heat. I had performed 105% in Freestyle on Sunday in the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse, folding and shipping clothes while dreaming of new sundresses for myself.
I came home a little stiff and achy, a trend that seems to be back-sliding on the recent physical progress I made but the finger held up to its first day out of the splint at work.
I also came home early, as the Teenager planned a movie night for blind friend Nan to watch How to Train Your Dragon, a movie I have not yet seen despite the fact that I made a Toothless stuffed animal at Build-A-Bear.
Nan and I were to stop and pick up dinner at Wawa and the Teenager had made homemade ice cream (that honestly was on par with Cold Stone Creamery). And everyone got their desired dish from Wawa— except me— as I wanted a pre-made salad from the grab and go cooler and apparently the cooler was broken. The employees were removing all the food and the floor around it bore wet floor signs.
So I ate leftovers out of my fridge.
The audio-described version of the movie was intense. The poor man doing the description didn’t have time to breathe.
I was in bed by 8 p.m. The cockatoo had issues at 2 a.m. But all-in-all a good night.
At work today, I was tired, hot and a little bored at my regular table in QC. I did 101%.
I’m still have issues with a strange burning and tightness in my right thigh, and dealing with that is causing lower back pain.
I got home from work and tentatively poked my head around the corner in the garage— checking to see if dog was in the yard. She was not.
I walked up the stairs from the car bay to the main room of the garage. Walking across the big open space in my garage, I tripped over my own foot and fell. I did some sort of corkscrew dive and fell backwards through the screen door to exit the garage then skidded across the floor. I scraped my hand, my knuckles, my elbow and I think my leg and knee.
But then I still went to the gym. Under Andrew’s careful eye at Apex Training, I did my workout. I felt better than when I arrived, even if I am still a little stiff and achy, but such is life with cerebral palsy.
Yesterday was my first day working with a custom splint on my mallet finger instead of a cast. And it went really well— except for the times I put my splint back on the outside of my hand instead of the inside. And I went to apply fresh tape and the nurse at work wanted to help.
All-in-all, I achieved a new record (for me) in Freestyle, shipping I believe 574 items or 115% of the 500 item goal for a 10-hour shift. And that includes 15 minutes I spent trying to find a work station that was operational. If you subtract that as official “non-production time” it might be damn close to 116%.
Today, a Monday, with the traditional Monday through Friday people at work, I was assigned to a different table in QC, my regular department. It was a table just a smidgeon higher than the table I worked at last week and the line was on the left instead of the right.
This is the first time since my return-to-work in late May that I have worked on the left. In one way, it’s nice because I have been having issues with the stability of my walk and control in my right leg, so working on the left means I can use my left side more.
But working on the left side means I’m shoving all those boxes with my injured hand and after two hours the cuticle area under my nail on my injured finger is tender and really red. Despite this, at one point this morning, I reached 118%.
But then I got a call from The Teenager. She rear-ended someone in her father’s 2022 Kia SUV. The car he bought after he rear-ended someone in late December and totaled his beloved 2016 Nissan Juke.
She’s fine. It was raining and she misjudged how long it would take her to stop in the wet. The car looked driveable, but when she tried it started leaking fluid and overheating. So, she called AAA to tow it.
I left work early. At four hours into my shift, I think I had QCed 69 fixes, and goal for that specific time of day is 65. That’s with going out to my car to get info for my daughter, calling her father, and similar nonsense.
I was listening to an episode of business wars, the podcast, or was it The History Channel’s The Food that Built America and the history of Burger King vs. McDonald’s and the invention of the Chicken McNugget.
Now I distinctly remember the debut of the Chicken McNugget, which, according to the podcast, became available at all McDonalds in 1983.
I was eight. Probably riding around with my mom in her 1979 Camaro (black). We lived in a very rural area in Pennsylvania’s Slate Belt. The closest actual town was Portland, Pa., which I feature in my first novel, Manipulations (and if you are interested you can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, or at Bookshop.org here — the Bookshop price includes shipping and designates a portion of the profit to an independent bookseller of your choice).
Anyway, we had a very small supermarket in Portland so my mom would do most of her family shopping in Stroudsburg, Pa., the gateway to the Pocono Mountains. If she were shopping at Kmart for clothes or household items or at Shoprite for our groceries, we would often stop at Burger King where the delight would be a cheeseburger and some onion rings.
But if we had to go to the Stroud Mall, McDonald’s was across the street. So we want to McDonald’s. I didn’t like McDonald’s — they put onions on their burgers and I don’t like onions. So, eight-year-old me was very excited for these Chicken McNuggets. If my mom was in a good mood, I could order a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal. Which— in the eighties— came with six nuggets in a styrofoam container. And of course, I only liked the barbecue sauce.
So the podcast got me thinking about McDonald’s in general especially since I worked at a McDonald’s (a very busy McDonald’s) from the summer I graduated high school until the August after I graduated college.
We made $5.25/hour in the late 1990s. A full-time employee made $200/week. And we got one meal per shift. I ate a lot of McChicken sandwiches.
I’m thinking about McDonald’s and listening to Conan O’Brian and Andrew Gurza (not together although that would be amazing), when I get the phone call with the teenager in tears.
“Mom, I rear-ended someone in Dad’s new car.”
This was her first car accident. It’s a rainy day here and she misjudged how far she needed to stop. And she didn’t want to slam on her brakes harder and lose control of the car.
At first, she and the police officer who responded thought the car was driveable. It started leaking what looked like antifreeze and overheated. So the officer called AAA.
I told my Stitch Fix supervisors the situation and asked to leave.
The teenager told me she was on a side street “out by Target” “by the library” and I misinterpreted her and went to the wrong town.
The teenager texted me a photo of the nearest intersection and I realized my mistake and turned around.
A very kind officer waited with her and I drove her to the dog walking client she had been driving to when the accident happened.
And then I grabbed us lunch at McDonald’s because their triple cheeseburger is my favorite sandwich on the menu and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.