Chicken McNuggets and Monday morning car accidents

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.

First day back to work at the Bizzy Hizzy after my cerebral palsy-themed leave

First off: 89%

For those of you who know me or follow me regularly, I performed at 89% today after a month of short-term disability leave.

Short answer to how my day was: good. I felt pretty good and my aches and pains at the end of the day feel pretty normal.

Now, for those who want more detail, let’s start at the beginning.

On April 15, I ruptured a tendon in my left ring finger taking my socks off. The nickname for the injury is “mallet finger” because your finger looks like a mallet or “baseball finger” because if you catch a baseball wrong you can sustain this injury.

You can read a more concise summary of those events and my treatment here.

I worked with my hand like that for a week at the Bizzy Hizzy folding clothes for Stitch Fix’s clients, performing at a solid 90%. But… I realized I rely on my left side for balance and stability and using my right side to do everything exacerbated problems I was already having with my right hip and spine as complications of my lifelong battle with cerebral palsy. That has been another journey of mine— learning about my body and how I can work with it to age well.

I often wonder what I could accomplish if my body could do what other bodies do.

So I asked my family doctor if I could take a short-term disability leave from work and focus on building core strength and stretching my hips. Because with this silly finger cast, on top of all my other issues, I was falling twice a week.

Today I returned to work— one ten-hour shift in my home department (QC) before the holiday weekend. I work Sunday. We have a paid holiday Monday. And I have a doctor appointment Tuesday afternoon with the neurological physiatrist.

Returning to work today gave me a way to ease back into it, and allows me to gather data on how my body performs. I can give that info to the physiatrist. If I hurt again by Tuesday, it’s a sign that either:

  1. I am moving wrong, or
  2. I shouldn’t be doing this kind of work with my body.

I arrived at work for my 6:30 a.m. shift and friends greeted me that I haven’t seen. At first I went to the wrong table, but caught my mistake, and corrected myself.

I had a right table, good for my hand injury, and one at a good height.

But then they shut the line down and I moved to a left table that was a tad high for me.

For the first 60-90 minutes, I hit all my numbers.

Eventually, I got a text from Mr. Accordion. I hope he doesn’t mind but I’m sharing his photos because:

  1. They made my day.
  2. I love halupkis.
  3. I don’t have other art for this post.

I don’t think he knew it was my first day back to work but his periodic cooking updates made me smile. Mr. Accordion and I shared an office at my last non-profit job. And yes, he not only plays accordion but usually has it in his car.

A couple times today, I had to answer phone calls regarding the toilet explosion that happened in my house yesterday. The insurance adjuster will be here Tuesday and meet with the teenager. I am working on getting water remediation people in to make sure everything is dry.

At the end of the day, I have a weird uncomfortable feeling in my left wrist and the kind of typical aches and pains that come from being older than 40 and working in a warehouse ten hours a day.

I attribute some of my success today to my personal trainer Andrew at Apex. We did an exercise yesterday that was something he called a variation of a good morning. This had me holding a weight across the back of my shoulders and “hinging” at the waist while using my hips for most of the motion.

I tried to replicate those techniques when I bent down to get items out of the bottom of my carts.

Then, when I came home, the teenager had dinner in the oven. I received a lovely message from a former editor at The Morning Call’s short-lived weekly editions, Chronicle Newspapers.

He said I was a truly good person (for all my work fostering cats) and that he missed seeing me every day.

I thanked him and said he made my day.

He replied that there were many times when I had made his and my boss’s day.

That was my favorite job ever, and one I was very good at.

Also, I tried the blueberry muffin flavor of ready-to-drink Supercoffee. My initial reaction was that it was gross. Will give a more thorough review later.

Cute animal photos and mallet finger impact

It’s the end of April and it was 35 degrees last night. The price of oil continues to skyrocket and I’m still heating my house halfway through spring.

The cold does not help the poor circulation in my hands which has intensified in my left hand because my mallet finger restricts my movement.

My hands are painfully cold, except when Andrew is making me curse him in my head at Apex Training. Today was leg day, and I was so tired that when I came home and let the dog out I turned around and lost my balance and slammed right into the brick wall between my mud room and my kitchen.

Nala, my six-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, started shaking and plucking her feathers today. Nothing in her environment has changed except the neighbor’s dog has been barking nonstop all day. The teenager believes his distress causes her anxiety.

Speaking of the teenager, she made this thick chocolate chip cookie/blondie dessert that I topped with ice cream that Sobaka’s mom brought home from Penn State when we dog sat last weekend.

Before the teenager brought home our dog, I would never criticize a dog owner, but now that I see the difference between different dog care styles, I feel back for dogs that aren’t spoiled like Sobaka and Bean.

And I don’t know how Sobaka’s mom does it— that dog is a bed hog.

But now an update on my mallet finger:

  • Stitch Fix has been amazing. Because my specialist at OAA took a week to return my paperwork and then didn’t properly fill it out, the onus was on me to find jobs I could do to not hurt myself. It turned out I can QC just fine— I hit 92% just fine.
  • But here’s the thing… my specialist knows hands, he doesn’t know me. I don’t think he heard me when I said I have cerebral palsy and that I work 10 hours a day in a warehouse. I’m just not sure that environment is safe for me right now,
  • Why do I say this? Because this week drove home to me how much I rely on my left side for stability. By forcing me to work 90% on the right, I am struggling to keep my right hip in place.
  • I am so stiff by the end of the work day. I also end up pinching and slamming my right fingertips and by the end of the day my left fingers I can use are swollen and sore.
  • And I fold 750 clothing items a day, handle 150 boxes and rip open probably 500 plastic bags. That’s a lot of fingers moving.
  • Once I consider the risk of accidentally losing my cast and bending my finger (which would extend my healing time) and adding the increased fall risk of mine because I am aggravating known issues with my balance and mobility, I just don’t feel safe.
  • This is a horribly stressful feeling.
  • I’m going to talk with my family doctor about it. I already mentioned it to my therapist, because I wanted to confirm my thoughts were rational and not whiny or emotional.

Today’s vegan lunch: curry carrots, lentils, quinoa, my own roasted chick peas, toasted sesame seeds, green olives and a touch of Thai peanut sauce topped with pumpkin seeds

And last but not least, cats. Misty caught a mouse! Video here.

First day back at the warehouse with mallet finger in a cast

According to the Stitch Fix timekeeping software, their human resource interface and their payroll, I am still on leave.

But when I got to the time clock, I was able to clock in without an issue and a supervisor and I discussed how best to put me to work at the Bizzy Hizzy.

The paperwork from my doctor still has not arrived, and my actual supervisor was out sick today.

But I was very grateful for the opportunity to have my first day back fall on a Sunday as Sundays are way quieter and less hectic.

We decided that I would pick a cart of Freestyle purchases and then fold and ship them— which would allow me to test my functionality in the two main areas of outbound, folding and picking.

A freestyle cart should take 40 minutes to pick, and it covers a good 3,000 plus steps, because it contains 80 individual items. My cart took 65 minutes, but it took me three to get started and another seven to deal with internet problems.

And I quickly realized that as the cart got heavier it got harder to steer to the left because my hand didn’t have a good grip on the left side.

At first break, I was at 98% of the required metrics in folding and shipping, but then I got a cart of shoes and ended up falling to 85% because it’s hard not to stick both hands in the envelope when you have trouble stuffing those shoes in there.

My direct supervisor emailed to check on me, so I gave him my full report.

He said not to worry, I’d be back at 100% before I knew it and he didn’t want me hurting myself. If anything changed or I felt pain, I was to let him know immediately.

The supervisor filling in for him also checked in with me periodically.

By the end of the day, I was over 90%.

I can’t help but wonder if the constant movement of all my other fingers makes my injured figure wiggle in my cast. If so, will that loosen the cast prematurely? Something to keep an eye on….

The raisin and the good day

So, if you read yesterday’s post, you know I have a massive splinter in my foot.

What you don’t know is that the teenager told me to put a raisin on it.

Apparently, she saw it on TikTok* and my follow up research suggests that there is something in the chemical construction of the raisin that helps the splinter get out.

*edit: The teenager informed me that the raisin came from a discussion in English class not TikTok.

So I went to work with a raisin under the ball of my foot.

And stood on it for 10-plus hours.

They made those of us on 10-hour shifts in outbound stay the whole day even though everyone else in the building went home at 3. There was probably 10 of us left behind.

But here’s the amazing thing—

We had a meeting and I still managed to fold 175 fixes. The goal for a ten hour day is normally 162, but the 15-minute meeting drops it to 157-158.

My process lead called me a beast.

My supervisor confirmed I did 110% of the daily minimum expectation.

Nothing, other than the splinter, hurt. For the first time, the first day, in years if not decades, I didn’t have some body part malfunctioning.

Did the splinter in the ball of my feet change my alignment?

I slept well last night but still didn’t even get 7 hours sleep. I ate the same meals I’ve been eating all week.

And yesterday I was miserable.

So what changed?

Something to ponder.

I came home and checked the splinter. There was no swelling where the raisin had been.

I took a shower (because I worked so hard today I was smelly), soaked my foot in Epsom salts and applied a fresh raisin to the swollen pocket.

And then the dog forced me off my spot on the couch.

Tuesday recap of goals, safety and math

I intended to write this post two hours ago as a form of relaxation when I got home from work. Instead, I got sucked into the proof of TRAPPED that came from the printer, and writing instructions on how to pitch a press release for a local high school student.

Opening page of TRAPPED

My spine is hurting, but as far as Tuesdays go today was a good one. I think I may have hit 98% if my metrics in the QC department of the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy.

Tuesdays typically leave me rather crippled— but for some reason this week I am doing better than usual. I performed 108% in Freestyle Sunday, and then my process lead and I found an error in the computation of yesterday’s metric in QC. The computer at first assigned me 91%. I suggested that might be wrong. That by my calculations it should be around 95%. Turns out my lunch wasn’t in the figure. So the computer thought I should have hit a higher goal.

My process lead seems perpetually impressed by my ability to perform math, and my tracking of my own performance. I also don’t agree with the official distribution of targets throughout the day, and eventually I will have my own numbers. (I basically have them now— but I’m still honing them. For instance, they say 40 by 9 a.m., whereas I aim for 42 by 8:50.)

Today might have been my best day since before the shift change. Not only because of the numbers but because I did a pre-interview or something like that for the safety team.

I’m not even really sure exactly what the safety team does, but I think I can bring perspective and the ability to explain to others with me to the table.

Apparently one of my former Midnight Society teammates “talked me up.” And it appears I did not disappoint. They had an ice breaker of one fun fact— and this colleague had to think I would talk about Parisian Phoenix or my cat fostering.

I warned him I was going to say something that would surprise even him. I mentioned my most exotic vacation included a visit to Mogadishu.

“Didn’t see that coming,” he said.

He then proceeded to tell them that I was a very interesting person with whom to talk.

All of that made today a little special.

Rainy Icy Friday

I don’t have many plans this weekend— defined by my work schedule as Thursday, Friday and Saturday— in part because my body has been unpredictable, the weather has been crazy and the teenager’s work schedule varies.

I went to the chiropractor at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, leaving work 30 minutes early to get the last appointment of the day. I wanted Dr. Jensen to see my body after four ten-hour shifts in Stitch Fix’s Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.

And, for the second or third week in a row, I could barely crawl home on Tuesday night but felt pretty good on Wednesday. So I feel like I’m not getting closer to solutions to my physical issues.

Yesterday I tried to do some work for Parisian Phoenix, did a lot of laundry, visited briefly with a friend I’ve missed and haven’t seen merely enough of, taught a high school student how to write a press release, watched several episodes of Cobra Kai, ran the dishwasher and went to the gym.

The teenager working on her squat form

The teenager did a lot of work on her squat form while I did some accessory work. I also weighed myself— 157 lbs. Sigh. Still 20 pounds overweight.

Then we had Taco Bell, including the new Cinnabon balls.

Today I worked on the index for the Parisian Phoenix nonfiction anthology on marginalized identities, Not an Able-Bodied White Man with Money, which I will be blogging about on the Parisian Phoenix web site later tonight. F. Bean Barker was my helper.

Indexing is only half complete and man does it allow me to interact with the text in new ways.

Louise has an appointment with a potential adopter tomorrow and today she was quite cuddly, video here. I don’t know how she’ll do in the backroom of PetSmart but all least we’ll be with her.

Nala and Louise

In the afternoon, I accompanied the teenager to her audiologist appointment for a tune-up on her hearing aids.

Then we went for shoes. The teenager needed some and I wanted to buy a warmer pair that fit more loosely — hoping that would ease the blistering and burning in my toes.

The teenager got new black Vans and a new design, the orange blossom Vans.

We ran into Target just to use the bathroom and I told the pouty teenager we could get a drink at Sonic. But turns out Sonic is still drive through only, so if you can’t have drive-in service what’s the point of visiting Sonic?

So we went to Sheetz, and had appetizers. Which would have been fine if the teenager hadn’t suggested going to see her grandmother, my mother-in-law. And her aunt— who recently destroyed her elbow falling on the ice.

We’re finishing Captain America: Civil War right now. The ice is slowly building up outside as the cold rolls into town. And Peter Parker just made his debut in the series.

“Put me in coach”: A Work Story

If you stop by here often, you know that last Wednesday I spoke with some more people at work about my disability and that whole day I was given my preferred/easier for me fixes.

I achieved 96% for the day, folding what are called refixes, fixes that had problems that got rejected and needed to go back to be fixed. So the fix needs a fix.

When they return from the refix department, they are boxed in the box they were originally slated to ship in and they are on top of the cart instead of on the shelves.

I really struggle to reach shelves seven and eight so this is a huge help.

And since neither the physiatrist nor my neurologist have responded to my recent concerns about my mobility and my coordination, I have not asked for official work accommodations yet.

Yesterday was the first day of my work week— I did something like 89% in Freestyle, folding clothes and shipping packages for the first 8+ hours of my shift. At 3:30 p.m., I moved over to returns processing where I might have hit 75%.

Today was Monday, which means the warehouse was firing on all cylinders. I was in my home department, and I might have gotten 40 refixes today. So 3/4 of my work involved a lot of bending, crouching and twisting.

My back did okay, but my right quad and right foot burned most of the day and by 4 p.m., my hip hurt. It feels like it’s pointing directly behind me like a tail.

Despite this, I was in the neighborhood of 99%.

And at 4:25 p.m., my process lead asked me to go style card— calling me his “emergency style carder.” I would prefer the phrase “back-up.”

But it gave me a chance to move around and improve my hip functionality so I am grateful.

It made me feel like an athlete waiting on the bench, which then got the song “Centerfield” stuck in my head as I worked.

“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play…”

I would have made the reference to my process lead, but I think he’s too young to get the reference. But, the teenager tells me if he’s seen The Sandlot, he’ll know the song.

If you need to hear the song, here’s a YouTube link.

Vulnerability in the workplace and its role in building teams

Grammar police— this piece is full of tense shifts. I’m tired. Deal with it.

We’ve all had that corny job that encourages team building exercises and how uncomfortable that can be when they are telling you to trust someone that frankly you don’t trust.

It’s hard to be vulnerable with new people and new environments and this can lead to us seeming aloof or feeling alienated or shunned by the group.

Yesterday I had a painful day at work, and I’m still struggling emotionally with my father’s death, and compounding all of that is the fact that my sleep has not been that restful.

So imagine me… as the alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m., struggling to stretch out my stiff, spastic lower body and my aching spine. I went to the other side of my room to check on the cats’ food and had to use the vacuum cleaner as a cane.

I stumbled to the shower and afterwards managed to get my bra, shirt and panties on but saved the socks and pants for after coffee.

I prepare my coffee directly into my to-go mug, a FURR fundraiser item that keeps my coffee warm until my first break almost four hours later and lukewarm until lunch.

I email my neurologist asking for help getting a physiatrist appointment. I still wonder if I should be going to work at all. I tell myself if I really can’t function, I’ll call the chiropractor at 9 a.m. and see if I can get an appointment.

I decide it’s time to put on my pants.

But then my pants don’t button.

And I’m not talking about “these are snug,” these are all out as if I were trying to wear a child’s pants. Too much Taco Bell last night.

The teenager did a white wash so there is a pair of sweatpants in the kitchen. I put them on and wrestled with my socks.

I go to get my shoes. The teenager has piled the garbage on top of them. I find other shoes.

I then needed to decide between the pizza I can’t even remember when I ordered it and the pancakes from Friday for lunch.

I grabbed both.

Once at work, they have me assigned to line 5, table 8a. Now, they have the tables on line 5 labeled incorrectly. Somehow, they go 0, 1a, 2a, 3a, 5a, 8a, 4a, 6a, 7a. Someone is already working on the ninth table, which is labeled seven. So just to be clear, I ask my supervisor.

“I am to go to the sixth table, which would if you were going by the labels at the previous lines would be table five, because the actual labels are out of order?”

He looked up. “Oh, yeah. They are.”

But then someone is also at the sixth table which is labeled 8a. The lead on the line does the research and this interloper belongs on an entirely different line, but somehow ends up a few stations ahead of me.

I have to organize the station because it was set up for Freestyle not QC.

And then I see the person on line 4b, across the aisle from me, get an entire rack of refixes. That’s about three hours worth of work.

I went back to the lead who I approached about my interloper. I explained I had a disability and I was having a bad physical and emotional day and, let me paraphrase, I said I wanted refixes, too.

I got them.

The day shift support people and my normally favorite support person brought me refixes all day.

And I learned more about my favorite support person’s family history. And we discussed philosophy and gave each other a pep talk. And the day shift support person was also super supportive.

And it made me feel physically and emotionally better to share the weight of my burdens. I made 98%. Which is amazing — and I haven’t seen numbers that high since October.

My lead was pleased.

And I felt lighter.

Do until you can’t do

If you’re a regular reader here, you may recall I had a fall last week, at the hospital, when I went for a CT scan of my brain. If you missed that episode, you can read about it here

What I didn’t mention is that I also took a second rather more dramatic fall in my kitchen that same day.

I’m rather sure Dr. Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center cringed as I told her this story, and the story about my knee totally facing the wrong way.

This prompted her to adjust my ears— apparently I had some left ear congestion. The adjustment was a rather uncomfortable yank in my earlobes.

Anyway, she mentioned that I tend to “just keep doing until I can’t do no more” which is 100% true and something I learned from both my parents. They both have incredible work ethics.

On Sunday at work in the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy, I believe I hit 96% in packing Freestyle orders. Yesterday, we got shipped to women’s returns processing where I struggled in an attempt to hit 70%. Today I hit about 85% in my home department (QC) despite incredible amounts of pain.

My feet were burning. My joints a little achy. My right quad screaming. A slight nosebleed. And both sides of my hips felt wrong. So I checked walking asymmetry in iHealth.

Definitely periodic issues since yesterday afternoon.

If I’m still uncomfortable and having trouble moving in the morning, I’ll go to work and call the chiropractor when she opens.