I started this blog entry in the middle of the night as I often do, thinking I would lead about how I think we should be more like my cancer-surviving three-legged senior cat, Opie. He’s calm, brave and steadfast. He doesn’t scream for breakfast like the impatient cats. And he holds his ground with the 50-pound puppy. He doesn’t even look concerned when she swats at him like she’s an overgrown kitten.
But then several of my cats— three out of four including Opie— decided to get me out of bed before my alarm. And Opie was uncharacteristically naughty.
I think they decided they didn’t want to wait for breakfast anymore.
My estranged husband still works for Lafayette College and they had a vaccination clinic scheduled on campus today. Spouses were eligible so he arranged an appointment for me.
I have strong opinions about the pandemic, my Covid experience and the vaccines, but I recognize that our government, other countries and probably employers will require vaccines for travel, work and life in general. So I just want to get it over with.
After cuddling with Louise, our latest FURR foster, I went to bed and slept very restlessly. One of my work colleagues got her second dose of the Moderna vaccine yesterday and I watched her develop more symptoms as the shift continued. My empathy went out, remembering my own struggles to work with the initial phases of Covid.
Speaking of life at the Bizzy Hizzy Stitch Fix warehouse, I did about one-third of my shift in pick and the rest of my night in QC. By my estimation, I nailed my partial pick metric. They also returned the timer to the cart. In QC, I managed 67 fixes. That’s about 84%.
And we had mini bundt cakes.
So after spending more of my night than I’d like to listening to news about the pandemic and the economy and the issues in Europe and AstraZeneca, I wake up to an email that my vaccine appointment has been canceled.
The FDA and the CDC have warned that the same blood clot risks that exist with the AstraZeneca vaccine exist with Johnson & Johnson.
And briefly, the dog keeps trying to eat some crazy stuff and I finally did some grocery shopping at Lidl with my good friend Nan. Nan, as a blind person, enjoys grocery shopping with me. After shopping, we ate pastry we bought at Lidl in the parking lot of Dunkin.
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.
It is 12:40 a.m. My daughter bought me ice cream— low fat diet really freezer burned ice cream but ice cream. I still need to shower. Opie, our three-legged cancer survivor cat, has a 10:45 a.m. vet appointment for the suspicious growth on his neck.
In my life, I never have time to get bored. Why in the last 24-hours, I’ve worked two work centers at the Bizzy Hizzy. I’ve also signed up for the employee store. I almost rescued a 17-year-old Maine Coon cat named Tiny (isn’t that the best name for a Maine Coon).
I had a chiropractor appointment, and she is just as excited about the recent improvements in my body as I am. I wrote a poem. Had my portrait taken. Did some foundation research for the cat foster/rescue/TNR group with whom I volunteer.
I was asked to trim the nails of a former neighbor’s cat. And I swung by the Grocery Outlet.
Even amid all this craziness— I contemplated some lessons I have learned about myself.
1. To get a good photo of me, find props. I am an eccentric person so when it comes time to take a photo, toss me an umbrella, cat, bird, etc., to see my personality.
2. I don’t have the patience for rescue work. I love to help people and animals, but when someone reaches out for help and either doesn’t accept it or makes it impossible to work with them, I lose all empathy.
3. I’ll never be the fastest, but I am dependable and flexible. I work in a metrics-driven warehouse. I will never be super fast and therefore efficient but so far, my supervisors seem to value my flexibility and good attitude. Which is ironic when my last boss called me “hostile.”
Which brings me to my last lesson from today.
4. Others fear you will display the same bad behavior they do. If someone has an insecurity or weakness in a certain area, they may treat you as if you have the same flaw. I once had a boss who literally removed all the paper and pens from my desk because she didn’t trust my ability to listen and take notes at the same time— despite my fifteen year career as a print journalist. And then I noticed that she only took notes when no one was speaking.
The same sort of thing may come into play if someone thinks your idea won’t work— they may believe that they would not be able to do it, so therefore you won’t succeed. That’s when you have to detail the steps and build confidence.
My weekend was shortened thanks to mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy, with me doing a four-hour shift on Saturday before teenager #1 had her four-hour shift at the diner. I invited my mother to come down and join me at Tic Toc.
When the teenager got home, most of the family hung out in the backyard with some pets, a hammock and a pound of cheese fries.
Then yesterday teenager #1 and I did the grocery shopping and visited Mars and Minerva (of the FURR Roman Pride) at Petco. They were so glad to see us.
And we had tons of unhealthy but tasty food including my mother-in-laws completely amazing homemade Easter candy.
My sleep patterns and quality of sleep have been good lately, and my dreams though rather nonsensical had a heavy air of pure emotions— I blame the full moon.
Monday, though bright, had a whipping wind and a deep chill. I had been practicing a “cutting cords” exercise I heard about on a podcast (specifically Kesha and the Creepies) and had some memories on my mind. My heart felt heavy and a ten-hour shift awaited me at the Stitch Fix warehouse.
Assigned to QC (line 3, table 3A), I spent 10 hours folding clothes. My times kept me firmly at 80% of their expected daily metrics, which is as high as I’ve ever gotten and I think nicely consistent for an extended shift.
Early on in my shift, I encountered a Karl Lagerfeld shirt called the “Zelie” which I took as an awesome reminder of my own creativity and endeavors. One of the main characters in my Fashion and Fiends novel series is Basilie Saint-Ebène d’Amille, whose husband always calls her Zélie. Another side note, my college roommate named Zélie and I gave Zélie her birthday.
Lagerfeld, of course, is a fashion legend and powerhouse. His legacy in worldwide fashion has touched more fashion houses than I can remember. His own label and the iconic Chanel influenced me the most.
Surprisingly, I had no pain yesterday which has me a bit in shock. So once again I am grateful.
But the final hint toward my own projects that came was a text from my friend Joan who would like to try the next set of portraits tomorrow. Something to look forward to.
Meanwhile, life at home was not so smooth. Teenager #2 received some good news as she has a job interview today at a local grocery store. She apparently met the manager in the yogurt aisle. But teenager #1 encountered some bad mojo in my room. Was it the full moon? The date? (The date does hold some personal significance) My own attempts at “cutting chords”?
She discovered this while spending time with Nala the Naughty Cockatoo and delivering popcorn to the budgies. Those budgies are now chasing popcorn all over their cage.
So she did a sage cleanse with the help of Misty the cat who also assisted her in designing a candle ritual for me to perform when I got home.
I worked a couple of ten hour shifts and four hours today (Saturday) as part of my obligation in Stitch Fix’s mandatory overtime at the Bizzy Hizzy.
So, this week (Monday through Saturday) I have worked 48 hours across 3 departments: Pick, QC and Women’s Returns Processing. And while yesterday my legs felt very heavy, I really didn’t have any pain. That makes me very humble and grateful.
This was my work today. When I started this was full to the tippy top— so I opened and processed all that mail and got about 300 pieces of clothing back onto the warehouse floor.
And in one of those parcels, someone lost a sock.
Yesterday we had a delightful lunchtime surprise birthday party— Coronavirus style, just our household—for teenager 2 who turned 18.
Last weekend, teenager #1 retrieved an animal cage from our cat foster gosmother. She cleaned it up and started cleaning up our “mud room.” Our greybie brothers (Fog and Misty) love it. In that way that cats think anything you bring into the house is for them.
Last but not least, I started watching Kid90 on Hulu, Soleil Moon Frye’s documentary about being a kid celebrity/teenager in the 1990s. I’m a 90s teenager, and who didn’t love Punky Brewster.
This week has been a very busy week for me, in part because I have less hours in a day because of mandatory overtime and the fact that my body has finally adjusted and is sleeping 8 hours a night versus 6.
Recent events and uncertainties remind me of how much we as humans get so caught up in big things, that we forget the little things. These precious details are what make life worth living— whether that be a board game with the family, your favorite ice cream or hitting a new personal best while weight training.
Let me share some of my ten fun “moments” with you.
1. COFFEE DATE: Earlier this week, my neighbor invited me over for a cup of coffee because she wanted to share her excitement over her new milk frotter. Truth be told it was pretty cool— making an ordinary cup of coffee into a celebration.
2. BUZZ CUT CONVERSATIONS: I’ve enjoyed hearing people’s reactions to my extra short hair. Yes, Angel now has a buzz cut. If I’m honest, it makes me uncomfortable as my curly locks are a big part of my confidence and femininity, not having that impacts certain aspects of my personality.
But to hear others react is fun. They tell me their secret hair desires. It strikes up conversations with people with whom I might not normally talk.
3. MIDNIGHT BEER WITH DOG: The weather has warmed so instead of merely letting the pup out to relief herself, I brought a beer and some Doritos and enjoyed our patio and the moon. Moonbathing like the Addams Family.
4. EMBRACING DISABILITY IDENTITY AT WORK: I received an email earlier this week that Stitch Fix is creating some employee groups related to issues like race, gender identity/sexuality and disability. I signed up to join the disability group.
I’m still new on being “out” and open about my disability. I’m learning that I need to be less ashamed and embarrassed about having cerebral palsy. My disability has created many positives. I am tenacious and maintain a good attitude.
In working in a physical and metric driven job, I’m not meeting the same numbers as everyone else but I hope my employer sees that I am dependable, will always give 100% and will always take on a challenge.
5. FUNKY WATER MACHINE: They took away our bottled water at work and replaced it with a water machine that will provide still or sparkling water in a variety of flavors. This makes staying hydrated much more fun.
6. “PEARLS”: I wore my golden costume pearls to work. It made a lot of people smile. It made me clatter when I walked.
7. FUN MASKS: I bought myself some new masks but they are missing. So it means a lot to me that work provides holiday-themed masks. And a lot of them have gnomes.
8. BABY BIRD: Baby Bird is hanging out with the big birds outside the nest. He still can’t fly. He looks like his daddy.
9. FRENCH RAP: I recently renewed my interest in French language hip-hop music. Between that and all the podcasts I listen to at work, I feel like my brain absorbs so many new ideas all the time.
10. CAR TITLE: I paid off my car last week and the title arrived today. I bought the car in November 2018, refinanced it when I lost my job during the summer and now it’s mine!
For those of my readers who know me, you may know me from my 15-year-career as a journalist, or from my volunteering or professional experience in nonprofits, or my time as a board member of Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.
But my life has led many other unorthodox places— I worked my way through college at McDonalds, served as the box office manager for Moravian College Theatre Company, and did my work-study in admissions where I filled out a lot of postcards, stuffed a lot of informational folders, and rewrote department brochures. My other work-study job was in the English department photocopying things and the duplication department loved my prowess with photocopiers.
My professional career started at Lafayette College in public relations and from there I moved into weekly journalism.
Life as a print journalism made me a more efficient writer, a more captivating storyteller and a better listener. It piqued my curiosity for subjects I have no interest in, and it honed my ability to discern what information is important and understanding how different systems work.
My career as a journalist opened me to the possibilities— I’m less prone to refuse any opportunity. And my current experience at Stitch Fix is one of those opportunities.
Warehousing is a huge industry here in the Lehigh Valley. It is very easy to get just about anywhere from here from a transportation logistics standpoint. I have had an interest in Stitch Fix since they launched as the first subscription box for retail fashion.
My work as a warehouse associate there as part of “midnight society” (second shift) allows me to work on my personal projects during the day, and, when the work assignments line up to have me “picking,” exercise at night. Pickers walk about 25,000 or more steps in a shift.
Last night, management announced mandatory overtime. Every associate had 24 hours to sign up for 14 hours of overtime before Easter. This made a lot of people grumpy and/or angry as we didn’t have much time to figure out our options. I’ll be working 4 hours each Saturday and coming in 2 hours early two days a week.
So this was the backdrop as one of our overseers mentioned that some of the totes set up for our carts had been messed up. Now I don’t know if a person did it, or a computer did it, as this is the week we switched from Gozer to Star.
I don’t want to say much as I don’t know how much of Stitch Fix’s operations are proprietary. But normally each cart of eight fixes being “picked” stays in a certain size area of the warehouse. A medium batch might include medium, size 6 and size 8 and have you roaming the aisles throughout the M section.
Last night, the pickers would start in W/2 XL and have fixes on their cart that included all the sizes which meant more or less picking one fix at a time and zigzagging throughout the warehouse— which from XS to XXXL is about 900 of my steps.
By meal break, most of the bad batches had been picked, and the shift supervisor was asking if the paths had improved. I was very grateful when they had. The ones that weren’t right wasted a lot of time and were very disorienting.
In other news, our three-legged cancer survivor cat Opie has a vet appointment with a new doctor on April 1. I was unhappy with the vet practice who diagnosed his cancer, and the one vet there I liked has left the practice. The vet that actually amputated his leg is an hour away.
He has a lump growing on the back of his neck and I don’t like the look of it. So April 1, I am taking him to Canyon River Run to be checked. Canyon River is one of the vets who works with the cat rescue we foster with, Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.
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.
Our days have been occupied by kittens (Vesta of the FURR Roman Pride has been adopted and is now known as Paisley. I received a photo of Edie, formerly Fern/Fenrir of the Norse Pride and for a mere seven months old, she is enormous!), training the puppy (also enormous!), and working on the details of the publishing debut (definitely feels enormous!).
Last night at work, at the old Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy Warehouse, I ended up assigned to QC. I was rather stocked when I QC’ed 28 fixes by first break, but rather disappointed when I only managed 103 by the end of the night.
This was a bad weekend for relationships. The sting of it all still lingers and today it got worse. But my lovely daughter— teenager #1– stopped at Wawa and used her own money to get me one of there new matcha lattes. Better than Dunkin’s and a good challenge to Starbucks.
I was assigned to QC again tonight and wondered if I would redeem myself. I QCed 21 by 5 pm but remained a tad distracted because of the contents of my head.
One of the overlords came over— the only person who has an obvious physical disability came over and asked me for a favor. Which is his way of saying they want to move me.
And they wanted to move me to pick. And he apologized explaining that with call outs they needed to shift people. I reminded him that I love chaos, it breaks up the monotony.
Now, Pick moved from the Gozer software platform to Star yesterday. (Who names these things?) They no longer track our number of fixes picked, focusing instead on items picked. The main complaint in the warehouse is that they have removed the timer.
I picked 499 items and walked 20,000 steps. And ate shrimp. And I don’t even like shrimp.
Stitch Fix has instituted observations for their workers and tonight at the Bizzy Hizzy I experienced my first one. It was supposed to be in pick, but I was moved to QC as my shift supervisor came looking for me.
She decided to come see me in QC. This was nerve-wracking experience as I really respect this supervisor.
After so many bad bosses, it’s hard to feel out my position in the warehouse.
In part, because the feedback has been so positive. I often wonder if I am still in the “honeymoon” phase of this warehouse job.
So my first observation, in a department I really don’t even like, happened about 10:30 pm on a Friday when I was already exhausted.
I’d been in pick all week— averaging 144 fixes a night with a couple nights almost hitting 152. The goal (DME or “daily minimum expectation) is 160. So I am consistently at 87.5%. I start every night strong, often hitting 72 or 80 before our mid-shift meal.
But by 9:30, I fall apart. The carts that normally take 20 minutes are now taking 25. And that makes a big difference. This is so frustrating.
I so love pick, and I want to stay in pick, and honestly, I don’t even mind when they move me to QC at the end of the night because I see the carts backing up in the garage and I think I would be more useful over there. And it keeps me from beating myself up too much about the numbers.
Last night I did 112 fixes before getting moved to QC at 10. I wasn’t going to surpass 144 with that number. But almost every cart I did was out in the far side of the warehouse— which meant 750 steps out and back just to reach the garage. A full shift in pick, at the pace I am moving now, gives me 25,000 steps in a night.
Then the software had be zigzagging in a strange pattern. That might be because large portions of the warehouse are unbinned (empty). Stitch Fix had a massive shipment of flat pack holders that they plan to install.
Plus on Monday, they will be switching our software and as of right now, no one is really sure how it will work.
What is hindering my performance?
Am I tired? It is Friday after all, and my weekday sleep patterns are erratic.
Is it the number of fixes in the far end of the warehouse?
Is it the emptiness of the warehouse?
Is it stamina and fortitude?
Do I always fall apart at the end of the night due to fatigue-induced lack of motor control caused by my cerebral palsy?
All of this is going through my head when this shift supervisor that I really respect turns up for my first observation.
By the numbers, I was only at 69% DME in part because of performance anxiety. We discussed what she saw and then she emailed me the same feedback we discussed. That was a really nice touch. It’s often annoying that our superiors in the warehouse hierarchy email us communication as we are warehouse workers without time to find computers.
Granted with apps and what not we can do it on our phones, but that just feels like a lot of personal effort for a unskilled job.
But on days like this, it sure makes me feel like a person instead of one little piece in this big machine.
Here’s what really surprised me—-
I am good at folding clothes.
Yup, they said so. Officially. And apparently even though my job is brainless and feels like the work of an automaton, I have developed my own strategies that, according to this supervisor, have both efficiency and the client experience in mind.
I will share her exact words with you, “Angel’s folds are great! I can really tell she cares about her work and what her end product looks like to the client. Love how she recognizes the clothing she has in front of her and how she plans in her head how she will build her stack. She folds her clothes in the order of how she stacks them and stacks as she folds.”
Seems like common sense to me.
And to be fair, if you want to see the criticism, here it is, “By scanning all the items first and then taking the items out of bags, this will help to ensure that she scans all the items prior to folding and minimize the amount of rescans she may need to do. It will also serve to see if she’s missing something right away instead of spending time to unwrap and realize something is missing. I’d also recommend trying to do a fluid motion when scanning the box prior to putting it on the line. It will be a bit more ergonomic and create less touches of the scanner and the box.”