Some cats, some ramen, learning the “mailer machine” and more about childhood trauma and imposter syndrome

First, the cat picture of the day.

Misty and Oz, two of our cats

Next, let’s briefly do a Purple Carrot Update. Today I prepped the matcha overnight oats and made the ramen bowl. (Video of matcha prep here.)

The teenager vetoed the homemade miso broth and fresh ramen.

I had the leftover black pepper tofu for dinner and it was soooooooo good, even leftover.

And most Purple Carrot meals take 30 minutes to prepare, which in my kitchen has been translating to 40 minutes. Much better than the cooking marathon caused when a Hello Fresh box comes.

But now to the Bizzy Hizzy. I finally learned the “mailer machine.” It’s a folding machine. We used it to fold the postal service priority mailers that go in each fix.

We had trouble getting the machine to work— so we didn’t really get started until after first break. We folded 4401 mailers.

Basically we unpack the mailers, sort them so they are less likely to jam the machine, and feed/empty the machine. There is a zen to lining up the mailers on the rolling machine, fanning them and making sure they don’t curl.

I was sent to the mailer machine as part of Stitch Fix’s quest to know what tasks I perform best. I perform regularly at 96% in QC but unfortunately when I have bad day that plummets to 85-90%. They raised the pick goal so I only do 75% of that. Apparently I have shown both potential and inconsistency in inbound processing and returns. I apparently tanked in style carding (66%) which I would like to believe was a fluke but maybe not. And a shocking 29% in NAP binning. It was shoes. And it was very painful.

I’m told they want everyone to have two work centers they can perform 100%.

So now I’m at the mailer machine.

If I’m honest with you, and it is very hard for me to say this in public, what I hear is: “You’re not good enough for us, so since you suck at everything, let’s stick you on this machine back in the corner.”

I feel threatened. And like a failure.

And that is not what they said. At all.

But I have a disability that makes me insecure and makes me feel inferior, unworthy. And certain childhood traumas leave me feeling unwanted, and as if I am a burden to everyone.

So I am being honest. For one reason. In case someone else is fighting a similar battle and needs to know he/she/they are not alone.

The eye of the storm: the kitten cafe launches Sunday

I have had so much fun and have so much anticipation for Sunday’s Pop Up Kitten Cafe to benefit Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.

It’s 2 a.m.

I need to be at the gym at 10 a.m.

But I just finished a salad from Wawa with spinach, chicken salad, carrots, apples and feta. Trying to combat stress with nourishing food.

After all, yesterday was Friday the 13th.

I sent N.J. EZ Pass a copy of my check from my daughter’s violations from her vacation. Apparently they need the front and back and I only sent the front.

I took my phone to Best Buy for repairs as Square Trade told me too. The screen repair would be $379, and my deductible is $129. But my phone is an old iPhone X (purchased in April 2018) and the battery is only at 84% and the face sensor is dead. So Best Buy does not recommend repairing it. They sell replacement iPhone X for I believe it was $549. But they didn’t have any.

So I had to go home, call SquareTrade and have them ship me a replacement. They are sending an Xs. Via FedEx. That is supposed to come today while I am running for the cafe. I hope I’m back in time.

[Edit: 2 p.m. No phone. No note from FedEx. Just a Chewy.com box.]

By the time I went to work last night, I was frazzled. I’ve been part of a small cohort in QC this week while most of the « Midnight Society » team has gone to inbound processing. Because of body stiffness I only made 113 fixes Tuesday and Wednesday night. I’ve lost my mojo.

Last night I started strong, doing 9 fixes every 30 minutes. But by lunch I had slowed down and couldn’t get my speed back up.

I was stressing way too much about the numbers— not in a mental way, as I knew the number who improve from my two “bad nights” and life happens. Physically though it was harder to breathe, my heart quickened and my stomach quivered. And I knew it was a panicked feeling from the stress of everything.

I opened my Ginger Mental Health app. I reached out to a counselor who said something about a mental vacation and that sounded like an amazing idea. (Stitch Fix offers free access to Ginger for its employees.)

She sent me a meditation but my mind had already drifted away to my own memories of vacation in Yemen and Djibouti. I thought about how soothing the call to prayer on the loud speaker was. Video: Call to prayer Djibouti City and if you want some Afar dancing and singing: Afar dancing (only snippets because on Lac Abbé we didn’t have electricity and I didn’t want my phone to go dead.)

And I thought it would me beautiful to hear that right now. I found this on Spotify: Life of the Prophet. That brought me peace.

When I got home I recorded this: Midnight Vlog

Stress, leg day, wins for the cat cafe, taste testing and EZ Pass Drama

In 45 minutes, I need to leave for work. It’s Thursday and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving all week. I’m behind on my own commitments and starting to feel panicked.

The pop up kitten cafe fundraiser for Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab is this Sunday.

Although it has required effort from many people, in the last few days this has become my baby.

In the last 24 hours, we received commitments from Just Born candy and Target #2536 (the same Target where I used to work and that experienced a fatal shooting in the parking lot last weekend).

This brings our list of supporters to:

  • Many individual bakers
  • Easton Baking Company
  • Philly Pretzel
  • Wawa
  • Wegmans
  • Giant Food Stores
  • Keystone Snacks
  • Chocolate Works
  • Target
  • Just Born

Today the teenager and I will be heading to Keystone Snacks to get the Veggie Chips donation.

So that’s the fundraiser but meanwhile real-life goes on. I haven’t worked on William Prystauk‘s upcoming novel in his Kink Noir series, Bondage, in several days. Our personal cat, kitty cancer survivor Opie has a very goopy, wet eyes. This is very unusual for Opealope so I gave him a couple treatments with a chamomile tea eye wash for cats grown and prepared by our fellow foster, Granola Cat Lady.

Despite all this (and only 5 hours sleep from sharing my bed with the teenager’s dog, F. Bean Barker), I still made it to Apex Training for leg day and some warm-up core work. My body was very stiff after that, not really from the workout but because my period is late and doing things to my body.

Although I have to admit I fell on the way to the gym and broke the screen to my iPhone. After 3.5 years I now get to test my SquareTrade insurance.

The other big news is that the teenager installed a new toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom. The old one had screws so stripped it kept falling off while you were sitting on it. Bad news is: our bathroom is 1950s Flamingo Pink. The new toilet seat is white— the only one they had. I hate white toilet seats on colored bowls but I also hate “falling in.” And now that she’s seen it, the teenager agrees.

I finally tried my Emmi Roth cheddar cheese snacks from Hungryroot which were supposed to be for tuna artichoke melts but I couldn’t bring myself to use such fancy cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich. A colleague and I were talking about snacks & cheese so I brought her some and we tried it at the Bizzy Hizzy.

She loved it so much she googled where to buy it. Apparently it’s only available in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It literally melts in your mouth.

After work I went to Sheetz and ordered a pina colada lemonade with immunity boost with my bonus points. It tasted like candy, too thick to be refreshing but definitely very summery. I added some mango vodka when I got home. (Here’s a video if you want to see me talk to myself in a parking lot at midnight.)

And finally, not sure if I mentioned it on the blog, but I’m another step closer to resolving the great EZ Pass Drama of Summer 2021. Did you ever procrastinate something so long it bit you in the ass?

Yeah, so that’s what happened to me.

So, our Nissan Ultima (oh how I loved that car) died suddenly. My husband and I were still together and only had one car. He replaced the Ultima was a used Nissan Juke— a car he had wanted for a while. We moved everything from the Ultima into the Juke.

I had ordered an EZ Pass when I started work on my master’s in world history at West Chester University and was driving down the turnpike at least once a week.

So I knew that the EZ Pass was connected to my car— the Ultima— but I never really used it. I forgot about it. And then I bought my Jetta because I hated the Juke. Our family didn’t really go anywhere. I worked retail so I never really got time off. I had stopped working on my master’s as money got tight and my marriage continued to fail.

I neither returned nor updated the EZ Pass.

My husband returned the box of random things from the Ultima and I, with other things on my mind, tossed the transponder in my car hoping to remember to update it.

I never did.

At this point, I don’t even remember how to access my EZ Pass account.

This summer, the teenager took her grandmother to Cape May. She pulled up to the first toll booth and the toll collector yelled at her for trying to pay the toll.

Being a dutiful child, she trusted the toll collector who told her she had an EZ Pass.

Two weeks later, we get two violations from NJ EZ Pass. $30 in missed tolls and $55 in administrative fees. My daughter and I send a check, but I also send an email stating that I understand I hadn’t updated the EZ Pass, but my daughter had tried to pay the toll and the toll collector yelled at her.

They cashed the check.

Then a couple weeks after that I get a letter from PA Turnpike EZ Pass stating I had insufficient funds in my account and they were threatening to ticket me. Now, my EZ Pass was on a credit card. That credit card expired one month before my daughter’s trip.

I call the number. Because I don’t know my account pin or my transponder number, I am forced to leave a message and they say they will call me back. That was Monday.

A couple days ago I get another letter from NJ EZ Pass. They claim I didn’t pay one of the two violations. I send another email and send them a screen shot from my banking app of the cashed check.

It’s now Thursday. I go to PA EZ Pass and try to remember all my account info. I easily succeed. I look at the “insufficient funds.” $5.37 cents. They also demand $35 to load my account fully. Even though I haven’t used it in three years.

And you can’t just pay what you owe.

I then go to the “manage vehicles” tab, add the Jetta and delete the Ultima. That took five minutes. Had I done that years ago, I could have avoided the whole drama.

Week Four of Physical Training at Apex and more thoughts on Disability

When I turned up at the Apex Gym today for my first session of the week, I was accompanied by the teenager and her dog. They were both impressed— and in the dog’s case confused— that my trainer Dan was wearing his baby.

I am always impressed with the different bodies I see at the gym and the attention both trainers give to their clients.

There was a woman at the gym finishing her session when I arrived. She was working hard with some dumbbells, with her back to me. She was older than I was, and overweight, probably at least obese by BMI standards (because I am overweight by BMI standards).

But she was uneven, with 80% of her excess weight in her legs.

And just like with me, Dan supported her and challenged her as if we were athletes. You could tell she was proud of herself, and I was proud of her.

And I couldn’t wait to tell my trainer Dan that I can already feel my body moving better. In his eyes, he calls it “a little increased mobility” and to me, I feel like my knees are moving the correct direction.

I told him that I got to pick at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and covered about 6,000 steps and pulled 216 items in less than three hours. Now those aren’t stellar numbers, but I haven’t left QC in months. And I didn’t hurt.

If this Apex experience doesn’t teach me to participate in exercise and strength training daily, nothing will.

Today’s workout t-shirt was “let’s hit the bar” by The Fitness Tee Company and my trainer Dan let out an enthusiastic battle cry. We did hit the bar, and we added weight to it. I really enjoy bench press.

In other news, I listened to the latest podcast from the NYT Daily Sunday Read, “The Man who filed 180 disability lawsuits.” It looked at the “industry” of people hired by lawyers to find non-ADA-compliant businesses. And sue them.

I need to digest this more, but the reporter interviewed a small restaurant that almost lost everything because of such a lawsuit, in what seemed a situation where a new restaurant just had everything go wrong.

But the reporter also interviewed the litigant who said businesses have a responsibility to know the law better (my note: it’s almost 300 pages) and that being disabled is expensive so these lawsuits help pay for his equipment and care.

Link to the podcast on Spotify.

Luau luncheon at the Bizzy Hizzy

Changes are brewing at work. Tomorrow I learn the infamous mailer machine and QC Valley 0 has been transformed into a test site to see if QC centers can prep their own boxes as they fold each fix.

I’m terrified of this. I have a really awkward relationship with packing tape.

Forgive Yourself

I believe it is Wednesday. I’m fairly sure because the teenager keeps talking about taking the garbage out, and I had a chiropractor appointment this morning.

She and I talked a bit about the mental component of health and wellness.

My blog post yesterday reinforced it for me. The “do one more” mentality.

But at the same time—

No matter who you are:

  1. Forgive yourself when your house is dirty. Sometimes you don’t feel well; sometimes you are emotionally stripped; sometimes you are busy living life and enjoying the ephemeral moments.
  2. Forgive yourself when your values and what is important to you doesn’t line up with the rest of the world. Yes, I’m a crazy cat lady and I work in a warehouse even though I’ve had a professional career and lots of education.
  3. Forgive yourself when you can’t keep up. Yes, people want you to do things and people need you, but sometimes you can divide a project that you could do in one day over four days.
  4. Forgive yourself when you feel needy. Sometimes you have to ask for that hug or for help.
  5. Forgive yourself when you want to be alone. Don’t guilt yourself if you need rest or merely some quiet time.
  6. Forgive yourself if you aren’t where you want to be. Sometimes the journey goes unexpected places. Embrace it.

Overextended: Update on the Boring Stuff

This weekend was a strange blend of trying to catch up, trying to get ahead and trying to touch base with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Love Boat

Bill Prystauk (the author of the Kink Noir book series) took the teenager and I to Jasmine for sushi and sashimi. We had a love boat where I tried and enjoyed sashimi for the first time: white tuna, salmon and some clam thing that tasted like a seafood gummy bear.

This week I have a commitment every morning and the Bizzy Hizzy every night. I don’t anticipate voluntary time off because the warehouse won’t have computers on August 2 so that will be another 3-day weekend.

The FURR Pop Up Cat Café is reaching some critical mass as FURR volunteers get more involved and excited. Tomorrow I have a 7:45 phone conversation scheduled with my cat foster godmother and an event planning meeting at 9 will Janel. Still no update on a coffee provider… I’m getting nervous.

But Joan Z agreed to take photos, Gayle is helping design some games.

Then at 10, I’ll be meeting Nan. And at 1, I’ll cook lunch and get ready for my Stitch Fix shift.

This week, I have two training sessions with Dan at Apex Training. Tuesday and Friday. As part of my recovery after these workouts, these might be my main days to do my edits and proofs on the final file for Manipulations. Official launch date is September 11.

Wednesday I visit the chiropractor (and I can’t wait to see what she thinks about my new fitness routine) and Thursday I see my primary care physicians and his residents about my anemia.

I mention all of this because these are the weeks when one has to focus on food prep, proper rest and activities to maintain mental balance.

So we shall see.

Owning my personal fitness

It’s Monday. And wow is it a Monday!

Before I continue, let me get the usual disclaimers/introductions out of the way.

Like many people, I had a rough 2020– I’m actually grateful to Covid for slowing down my life and allowing me to survive some severe emotional stress that caused me to have high blood pressure, develop a bad comfort eating habit and end up anemic. I had a difficult job experience, lost that job, and now work in the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy and deal with my daughter’s crazy dog, my stubborn cockatoo and a bunch of foster cats. I’m forty-something, a single mom, 20 lbs overweight and struggling to understand my body, specifically my cerebral palsy.

My day started with chasing the “pig pony” dog Bean (we call her that because she snorts like a pig and is the size of a small pony) around the neighborhood because she decided to jump the fence and ignore her recall commands.

I’m in my kitchen now, eating a public-school issued bowl of Cheerios with an out-of-date white milk leftover from the teenager’s recent school dates. I met with my trainer today (and my friend Janel who is helping me set up the FURR Coffee and Kittens event at Forks Community Center August 15).

I headed up the hill to Apex Training to meet with my trainer Dan. I finally remembered to ask Dan if it’d be okay if I wrote about him and our work together and he said yes, so I no longer have to be sneaky.

I’m comfortable with Dan. He’s laid back but he knows his stuff, understands the movements and the physiology, and keeps a careful eye without making you feel stared at or inadequate.

He almost seems apologetic that we’re going slow and using 5 and 10 pound dumbbells and not lifting at a pace that makes it a cardiovascular event. But that’s what I love! The anemia, when combined with the cerebral palsy especially, makes it so easy to get tired and clumsy and hurt oneself.

Today, we did some upper body work. 30 minutes, slow and steady. 3 sets of 2 exercises each. Pretty standard way to set up a 30-minute work out hitting the triceps, biceps, chest and upper back.

Five years ago when I did this, I did a lot of cardio, did calisthenic ab exercises every day and did ten to fifteen minutes of lifting focusing on just one muscle (i.e. biceps or triceps) not the whole group.

Like I said, I know what to do, but I’m a person and people get lazy. I need Dan right now, as I’ve said, for several goals:

  1. Restart the consistent habit of training.
  2. Increase energy.
  3. Improve strength, flexibility and agility.
  4. Build muscle and tone body.
  5. Lose weight.

Many of us tell ourselves we can save money and do it ourselves but the reality is there is a big difference between we are able vs. the commitment of we will.

I fully intended to eat a banana every day to get more nutrients into my body as I recover from anemia. Did I?

Does it look like I did?

But back to the training… I find the actual activity of lifting, when I am working with a class facilitator or fitness trainer, meditative. Everyone should focus on their movements when strength training, but I really have to with my disability. Focus is required to make sure all the body parts move as they should. I have to count the reps, remember to breathe, and control the motions all at the same time.

When you are doing all of that, your mind empties. And you just flow with the movements of your body and the feeling in your muscles.

Like today was “oh hello triceps, are you still under all that arm jiggle?”

When I left Dan I was sweating. I was limber. I felt invincible. I was walking home reminding myself how powerful I am.

I fell.

I lost my balance on the sidewalk and just fell about half a block from my house.

My right arm is scraped from the back of my shoulder almost to my wrist. The upper shoulder stings the worst. It’s been two hours and it still stings. I also bounced on my hip and upper thigh— so that is already starting to bruise.

I called out from work tonight. Based on where I’m at in my menstrual cycle and the summer sun, I’m going to blame anemia for this lapse in balance especially since all day yesterday I had no energy. Anemia is awful. Anemia with a mobility disorder is a nightmare.

But this is why I’m working out.

I own my weaknesses. Let’s fight!

Style Cards and the Soothing Sorting

Since starting work at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy, my fascination for the company has not waned. When they began more than ten years ago, I remember reading about them in Vogue — they were the first subscription fashion service and how I wished to have the income to do something like that.

Subscription boxes were brand new then.

Now that I work in the warehouse I still marvel: at the miles and miles of clothes, number of clients, years customers have spent with the service, and the volume of mail in and out of that warehouse everyday.

With my interest in fashion and my curiosity regarding the business & warehouse specific logistics, I developed a new intrigue for style cards.

When you “style card” as a work center, you are supposed to print 900 sheets a night— each sheet has one personalized note and five style cards.

I asked my friends who get fixes to save them for me.

So I have been collecting them, reading them and now I have started to sort them by category and alphabetize them by brand. I find this organizing soothing. And they could be a great primary source archive of early 21st century fashion.

The teenager thinks I’m nuts.

Maybe I am.

Foster Khloe and sample style cards

Baby steps: Attitude and habits to fight anemia

Although my current quest is to understand (after decades of life existence) my cerebral palsy, recent bloodwork has shown that my body continues to flirt with anemia. I see my doctor at the end of the month.

It is time.

The last two years have been stressful— the dissolution of my marriage, a job that threatened my emotional wellness, helping teenager two, raising my own teenager, the pandemic, and the menagerie. This time frame has posed challenges and offered delights.

But the heavy fatigue I feel in my bones is not the change to a second shift schedule nor is it due to working in a warehouse with my disability.

I was diagnosed with anemia circa 2009-2010. My daughter was in kindergarten. I survived a stint in non-profits then, in a position that drove me to panic attacks.

Very similar to my situation today. Hopefully I have learned from my mistakes.

Emotional eating has been a huge part of my existence and unemployment may have also caused my nutritional habits to plummet. And now my body feels the loss.

My largest downfall— not including the impulsive fast food buys and late night junk food binges— is not liking fruit. Not a big fruit person. That brings me to anemia tip #1:

Vitamin C helps the body process iron.

Pair iron-rich foods with fruit or vitamin C laden fruit juice. Example: cream of wheat with fresh strawberries.

Symptoms of anemia, by the way, include mixing up words, not being able to move your body as quickly as you are used to, and fatigue not lifted by caffeine, sleep or sugar. Your nails can pale. Your hair can weaken. I also have increased balance issues.

So I am now recommitted to improving my eating habits. Luckily, a lot of my favorite foods are iron rich. I believe that’s my body saying I need more iron.

But I am not a big carnivore and typically people turn to beef and other meats. I move more toward nettle tea, dark leafy greens, nuts and beans.

I also bought some liverwurst. I’m not a fan of “sausage” or organ meats, but it contains close to 30 percent of your daily iron and lots of coblamin, part of the B-vitamins, which promotes healthy red blood cells.

“Whole Foods” and lots of fresh vegetables provide nutrients your body needs.

I’m a fan of spinach and kale wherever I can add it, and like mentioned above, iron-rich nuts or beans can top many dishes.

And even though it seems impossible to function, it’s important to limit caffeine.

Reducing coffee consumption can allow your body to absorb more iron.

But when you’re in the throes of anemia, coffee becomes an IV fluid. So it’s a double-edged sword.

And it’s important to know your particular symptoms and take supplements if needed— talk with your doctor and find out what supplements will benefit you.

You can often tell by your bowel movements if you are taking too much iron. The more iron in your system, the darker and harder your stool becomes.

Supplements can help, and can increase the body’s stored ferritin. Note that the body will deplete vitamin D before iron, so vitamin D supplements often go hand-in-hand with iron.

Regular blood work, a healthy diet and the right supplements can get your body back on track but it often can take months to fully recover.

And if it’s summer, the heat will sap your remaining energy.

Update on Silk & Sonder: Wheel of Life reflection and July’s courage theme

I ordered my first Silk & Sonder planner in May as a birthday present for myself. My June one got held up at the post office so July marks the first month I could fully use the planner to, uh, plan.

(To read about my previous Silk & Sonder experiences and their amazing customer service:

This month I have done less of the exercises, read less of the text and gave it less of my attention. Yet, I think the habit has rooted in making me deliberately cognizant of my routines and needs.

I’ve been slipping with making and tracking clear weekly goals for my mini habit trackers, and I don’t always fill out “one thing” or the weather, but I like seeing the monthly tracker as a method to chronicle what vitamins I take and studying the patterns of color on the mood page.

My friend and publishing partner Gayle mentioned last month that she had did a “wheel of life” exercise and in July’s courage-themed wellness planner I found the same exercise.

I was surprised by the results and what they show about me. My highest satisfaction level was in the adventure category. I thought about my travels, my fondness for road trips, my love of new cuisines and testing new restaurants. I love reading books about new topics, learning new skills, and stepping outside my ordinary routine.

My lowest rating fell in the relationships category. That’s where my biggest insecurity lies. I have troubling opening up and even more trouble trusting though I will answer any question you ask me. I’m fiercely loyal and very generous but can also be stubborn, brutal with my honesty and frugal. So with my frequent dips in self worth (probably the result of childhood trauma and life with a disability), I can be distant because I fear being left behind. The people I love and/or trust most are often the ones who are cruelest to me.

Meanwhile, education seems misleading because even though I have two bachelors and a quarter of the work done on a masters degree, I really want a Ph.D. in African Studies. And if I’m honest an MFA in creative writing. I want to learn everything and share what I learn with everyone through my writing.

Romance and family present themselves as areas of struggle. But I’m strong in my spirituality, finances and home environment probably because those are the silos of my life where I feel in control.

Health and Career are mediocre, but I do not strive to have a career.

I value my freedom and living more than my career. I have no desire to make my mark on the universe through my career.