WTF? (or ‘Another Cerebral Palsy aware day.’)

I woke up by my alarm at 4 a.m. yesterday, and for the first time in days, I thought I could actual get out of bed. My body has been heavy with fatigue and a steady post nasal drip. I suppose that might be from closing up the windows with a bird, a dog, and 11 cats in a house desperately in need of a vacuum.

But even so, I laid in bed until about 4:20 cuddling the FURR fosters in my bed: tripod Louise and kitten Jennifer Grey.

I drank two cups of coffee, one Supercoffee and one Dunkin Polar Peppermint.

I even wrote about 500 words on my next Fashion and Fiends novel that I have been struggling with for months.

I was stiff and my back was achy and yesterday I noticed some of that burning in my toe but I thought perhaps I could blame my shoes.

I saw the chiropractor the night prior, the amazing Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Nothing really seemed amiss and things were moving well.

Yesterday at the warehouse I performed 97%. So I thought… why not… let’s take one of my baclofen pills to see if looser muscles might mean less stiffness and aches. It was the first time I ever took one in the morning. I’ve taken them in the evening and slowly taken them earlier.

The pill helped. It felt like I could swing my legs again.

The medicine reminded me that I never heard back from the neurologist’s office about the appointment they needed to move and the paperwork I submitted. So I emailed. Now, the portal that allows patients to email medical staff has a strict character count. While in the newspaper business, I had a nickname: the word count goddess. This was in the pre-Twitter days when no one cared about character counts.

I composed a masterful email that addressed all my concerns succinctly, but maintained a polite air. I love this doctor and truly want to make her life as easy as possible.

I performed most of the day at 100%, by my employer’s numbers, which don’t account for our ten minute breaks. Their numbers suggest we do 16.25 units per hour, but don’t change during the hours we have break, which is twice a day. Their default calculation means the computer thinks one unit should take almost 3 minutes 40 seconds. So a ten minute break (and a small amount of time to move to and from a work station) reduces the potential productivity of that hour by about 3 units. So to compensate for that difference, if you wanted to keep every hour equal, the units per hour should be 17.

My first hour, I completed 18. My second hour I only completed 16. Then we had break, (and my neurologist had sent an encouraging email back by that point and her nurse had suggested a time for my next appointment) and I completed 5-6 in the twenty or so minutes before we had a department wide “power hour” in which I completed 19. So by the midpoint of my shift, and even when I clocked out for lunch, I was at exactly 100% with no accommodations for my disability. But by lunch, my ability to bend was decreasing.

I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz when he begs Dorothy for oil.

I had a cheerful lunch with my friends, and went back to work, still maintaining the official numbers for 100%. Even by our last break at 1:30, I was still 100%. But I was stiff. And feeling sluggish. So for the first time ever, I took a second baclofen in a day. My doctor suggested up to 3 a day.

My toes were burning at this point, making me wonder if my pain from my two Morton’s neuromas had returned. OR if my toes were rubbing because I forgot my toe separator doo-dad. OR if my toes rubbing (because later I saw and felt the bony, protruding tender spot where it hurts) impacts my posture and triggers the neuroma(s).

If the issue continues, the neurologist wants me to call the podiatrist. I stopped by his office last week to drop off $11.32 in cash for my copay and his office was unexpectedly closed. In the old-fashioned manner, I slipped the envelope in the door.

I worked as hard as I could the remainder of the day, now trailing behind because of my ten-minute break and at 2:30 p.m., 30 minutes from quitting time, the support team brings me the “easy” work and tells me it’s a priority. I end the day one unit away from 100%. One unit.

And somewhere around 2 p.m., the neurologist had called and asked for $30 payment for the form fee for my FMLA paperwork. I apologized and said while I completely would pay the fee, I was at work and didn’t have my wallet on me and I would get back to them before the holiday. I called them at 3:10 p.m. from my car, and was added to a call back list, because the wait time was 40 minutes.

I hope including this much detail might show how difficult it is to pursue medical care and to pursue official accommodations in the workplace. Medical care itself is a labyrinth. Navigating your way to a provider who not only cares but has the knowledge to help, maintaining the patience and persistence to pay the fees and follow the paperwork, and taking responsibility for lifestyle changes that only you can make. I’m fortunate that I can do these things myself. What if my disability prevented that? Would I be treated the same way?

Just throwing that out there.

So now the happiest part of my day— hanging out with my blind friend, poet and essayist Nancy Scott.

She needed to go to the bank and she wanted to go to the Dollar Tree to check out the Christmas decorations. We had a great time roaming the aisles with me describing all the goodies. Nan fell in love with an elf.

I said to Nan, “my leg is not working.”

I meant it off-handedly but I checked my phone later. And sure enough— my walking asymmetry was way off. Normally I fall when the spike hits 10 percent. It was 50 percent.

Hopefully today will go smoother.

The Highlight Reel of the Ides of November

It is 6:45 a.m. I went to bed around 11 p.m. last night, after a long conversation with an old friend whom I haven’t had a chance to truly connect with for years (and while we “caught up” last night as if no time had passed, it didn’t feel like the happy reconnection I thought it would), and the dog woke me up at 5 a.m.

At 6:15 a.m., after loading the dishwasher and starting laundry and trying to snuggle dog into a nap with me on the couch, I finally made coffee figuring sleep would not return.

Now, the dog is gently snoring on the other couch.

I definitely would prefer to be a cat versus a dog. The dog seems an anxious and needy creature, where the cat has an attitude and most of them act like they have their shit together.

I haven’t written much this week because my physical and emotional struggles have left me in a survival mode, and upcoming changes at work have me concerned for my long-term success at mastering my cerebral palsy and achieving work/life balance that includes leading Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

And I’m okay with these struggles, they mean I’m human and I’m alive. And I guess I want other people to know that in an age where we “social media” ourselves to death and we’re exposed to worldwide turmoil and glamour, that I’m here with you in the trenches, surviving.

So, Wednesday turned out to be a hard day. We received the official word that starting some time in December, our performance metrics will be judged daily instead of by their weekly average. And that we can miss the daily minimum two days a month. I had already turned up to work crying because of stress in my everyday life. (Which only my friend in the parking lot saw. Speaking of my friend in the parking lot… she needs a nickname as she will play a larger roll in this blog post and hopefully appear more. I think I shall call her Southern Candy, because her roots are in the Southern United States and she likes to pass out hard candy.)

Now, after my neurologist/physiatrist appointment on November 9, (see Is it Time for Botox), I filed for Intermittent Leave from work which would allow me job protection if my work missed increases due to complications from my disability or more doctor’s appointments. I now have a lot of doctor’s appointments. With recent changes at work, I seem to have triggered a couple neuromas in my right foot, which my podiatrist shot with cortisone (See The Stabby Toe and the Challenging Gait), and unbeknownst to me, as I had never had cortisone to me, this transformed my good leg into a second bad leg.

It absolutely removed all my pain, but — and this is probably why my podiatrist asked when I planned on returning to work and seemed satisfied that “tomorrow” would give me adequate time to recover– it made it impossible to control and rely on my right leg as I typically do. BUT I can also say it made me acutely aware of how I use my legs and unfairly make my right leg carry more than its share of the movement burden which is why my right hip has issues.

My left leg “scissors” causing my left knee to pretty much cross in front of my right leg when I walk (and yes, that is as awkward as it sounds) but now my right foot drags, causing my toes to curl under my foot. I have compensated for this change in walking pattern by buying cowboy boots. Not real ones, but ones we sell at work: the Kassy boot by DV by Dolce Vita. (Unboxing on YouTube here.) They allow me to hear my walk, feel my foot, and not step on my toes.

At our weekly meeting, our supervisors announce the metric change. I understand their logic. They plan workloads daily so they should measure results daily, simply put. And as this change rolls out, I’m confident the company will “do the right thing” in implementing it. I’ve been there two years, so they have investment in me as I have investment in them.

On my good days, I average 101% to 103%. But on my bad days, without some extra support that minimizes my physical struggle, I average 95%. So with the weekly average system, I’m still a “fully performing” employee. On a really bad day, which happens ironically about once or twice a month as their new system will allow, I give everything I can and sometimes only hit 85%.

Now, unlike some of my colleagues, I am also on a work roster that has changed shifts twice in the last calendar year. Yes, I have had three different work schedules in the last year: Monday to Friday, 3:30 p.m. to midnight; then Sunday to Wednesday, 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All very different.

Add a neurological condition to that and it’s hard to adapt. When they offered Voluntary Time Off on Wednesday, allowing us to leave three hours early, I took it. My emotional state would best be labeled as frazzled and my right hamstring had started bothering me, probably because it felt like my right leg was a useless tree trunk.

Here is the happy part. The kindness part. The part where the light shines from one person to another. Thursday morning, I get a text from Southern Candy at 5 a.m. “Stop by my car when you get to work.”

She gave me a cat figurine. A cat in frilly dress with pink bloomers, staring into a goldfish bowl that even included a goldfish.

“I know you had a hard day yesterday, and it made me think of you.”

I brought it home and placed it on one of my Parisian Phoenix bookshelves. A place I can see from my workspace at the table and/or when I’m having dinner.

To skip ahead, I’ve been thinking it’s time to record and place a request for permanent accommodations at work. By Friday morning, when one of my colleagues said he’d like to help me out with the easier work but too many people had doctor’s notes, I decided to email my supervisor. So he and I now will try to make that happen. Around the same time, my neurologist’s office called to see if they could move my December 6 appointment to December 9. The times they offered overlap with a preexisting doctor’s appointment I have.

And my intermittent leave needs to be certified by December 9. I returned their call, expressed my regret that those appointments would not work, and asked the person on the phone to please leave a message for the doctor and her nurse that my employer had sent paperwork and that I would have more paperwork and that I would gladly pay any associated fees.

I also wanted to mention I am trying to eliminate inflammatory foods from my diet, but that can wait until I see her. I am wondering if I should request to work with a dietician and get a new set of bloodwork to check not only the standards like iron and cholesterol but also vitamins like B12.

I’ve done really well not stress eating in the ten days since I’ve seen her, eating vegetarian baked beans at work yesterday while my colleagues ate piping hot pizza. My weight is slowly dropping.

I’ve eaten no junk food in the break room, choosing fruit leather and yogurt over Cool Ranch Doritos and fancy fruit snacks. I even reduced my caffeine intake. Yesterday for dinner I made thick egg sandwiches with eggplant, mozzarella and extra sharp cheddar on my favorite multigrain buns and a little chipotle mayo and avocado hot sauce. One for dinner and two to go in the freezer for work lunches this week.

Although I know my perceptions are faulty, I feel like my only success this week has been with Andrew at Apex Training. I got my gym sweatshirt, and the dog immediately jumped on me and coated it with mud so I don’t have a decent selfie… yet. But these guys at the gym have been a lifesaver. Andrew works so hard to meet my needs and come up with innovative exercises to challenge me and train my muscles to cooperate. I did a seated shoulder press this week with 30 lb dumbbells, which ignited my inner strength as my lower body becomes more useless.

I discussed my hamstring troubles and we did some balance exercise yesterday. Andrew thought I was going to stand on the balance trainer and hold a weight on one side to create instability in my stance. Then, he saw me try to stand on the ball. And we opted to practice that first.

Finally, I asked The Teenager to check on Foster Kittens Jean-Paul Sartre and Giorgio in their habitat at Petsmart. I will see them today but it brought my heart joy to see that they are doing fine.

The Toe Update

I asked for a table on the left today, because my body was so stiff, my hip sore and my toe felt like someone forced a knife through it and used it to anchor me to the warehouse floor. It happened about every hour, when the clock struck 20-something for some reason and lasted about four minutes as the pain slipped up the inside of my calf and hit my knee.

By 9 a.m., I had had enough. Interestingly, whereas yesterday I did 85%, today I believe I did 95%, and at 9 a.m. I was still about 97%. The left table had alleviated most of the stress on my hip.

I called the neurological physiatrist, and they could see me in April. The person who answered the phone would leave a message for the doctor, and her nurse would give me a call. Now, for the record, I missed that call which was around 4:45 p.m. because I was in an appointment with my chiropractor. But it looks like they may see me next week.

I also called my podiatrist, whose office manager scheduled me for 2:15 p.m. Friday and asked if she had a cancellation if I could come tomorrow. I said yes.

Around this time, a form went around via email asking who might be interested in a day off tomorrow. So I filled out the form.

I rushed home to take off my shoes and socks, and the toe looked fine. Well, red and a little swollen but not as bad as it felt. When I poked my toe and bent them all, my sore toe throbbed for several minutes afterward. So I elevated it.

I could feel the stiffness in my body and the phone kept registering asymmetry. I was very much looking forward to my visit with Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Even lying on the table, it felt like my right hip was higher than the other. And when she put her hand against it, she verified that it was. And she pushed on it, like her palm was kneading bread. But in one motion, not back and forth. Okay, maybe the analogy is no good.

We both agreed that the toe thing needed to be sorted out, and that skipping tonight’s workout with Andrew might be best. Nicole manipulated my toe gently, and asked what hurt, and since nothing really bothered me at the angles she was working, she started adjusting my toes. They made some funky noises.

I also feel two inches taller and as relaxed as I can get when she gets done with me…

The predominant theory of what is happening: (according to Andrew, myself and Nicole) I had some intense turning inward of my left leg this week, which may be in part because of a 5-day-a-week work schedule when I’m used to a 4-day schedule in two different jobs versus just one now. Add this to the fact that my table is on the right, forcing me to constantly rely on my right side to move shipments, stand on tip toe to grab boxes and twist to get clothes. When my left leg twists, my right side compensates. And all of this might have caused me to stand forward on my toes more. The added pressure and their curvature made them rub and irritated them and maybe some nerve pain is resulting. And maybe a blister. Or not. Who knows?

But a year ago, I would have horrible pain and difficulty moving. Around the beginning of the year, I started falling. That makes me want to investigate and not take the chance that this toe could start the downward spiral all over again.

Unlike that magic splinter I got. But that’s an old story. Read it here.

Let’s hope the podiatrist has some ideas for prevention and relief.

So much to do and I want to binge watch Top Gear America

Today was my first Monday day shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. I worked second shift, then 10-hour shifts and now I have moved to Monday to Friday 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. After almost a year of 10-hours, 8-hours feels so short. And it feels like we’re always on break. And transitioning from a 15-minute break to a ten minute is disorienting to say the least.

After work yesterday, I went to the chiropractor, the amazing and dedicated Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. I feel like she’s learned my body to the extent that it’s personal to her, the challenge of keeping my misconstructed extremities functioning. I think she has this zone she gets into, where she’s plotting a strategy and it’s her against me, well, the physical form of me.

I felt my body start to compensate for my hip falling out of place yesterday. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t even feel wrong, but I noticed elements of my posture changing. A little more protest from the right side, leaning that way more heavily, occasional back pain.

I don’t have the best understanding of mechanics or physics, so my brain is slowly clicking when it comes to considering my femoral anteversion, which means the head of my femurs sit in my hip sockets kinda facing the wrong way making my legs kinda face backwards I guess, makes my bones put pressure on the socket at the wrong angle pushing it out of place? Maybe?

And me, either being a trooper or an idiot, did a 8-hour work shift on a Monday, where I performed at 95%, went to the chiropractor and then visited Andrew, my also amazing and dedicated coach at Apex Training. I think I scowled at him more than usual. The work out was brutal and ended with… what did he call them… offset dumbbell rows? Imagine kneeling on the bench and doing a dumbbell row with a 20 or 25 lb weight while holding the other leg up in the air.

Meanwhile, I reached out to David from The Cerebral Palsy and Fitness Podcast and asked if my discovery and fitness journey would be something of interest for his show, and he said yes. I also updated Andrew Gurza of Disability After Dark Podcast about my upcoming “Sex in the Text” panel at the Easton Book Festival. We had recorded an episode in June, but my parakeet (may he rest in peace, that might be what reminded me of the interview) made so much noise, we hope to rerecord an interview in November.

That’s fine with me, as so much has happened since June: my service dog application, new physical struggles and this “Sex in the Text” program for Easton Book Festival among them. I’m lagging behind on my preparations, which means I’ve been scanning my Fashion and Fiends novels for sex and jotting notes about themes, goals and techniques.

But then, my new computer Midnight came with a free trial of Apple TV, which made it ridiculously easy to subscribe to a free trial of Motor Trend‘s streaming channel. Why on God’s green Earth would I as someone with no understanding of physics or mechanics need Motor Trend? Three words: Top Gear America. It’s the only way to see Top Gear America featuring Dax Shepard and cars.

I don’t think it’s readily apparent from this blog, but I adore cars. If I had any sort of skill with tinkering, I would be more hands-on, but I am useless. But, I can still drive and appreciate cars. And I certainly admire and appreciate Dax Shepard from more than one angle. I just want to watch every available episode (there are two seasons available) and forget about the rest of the universe.

Which right now is tempting… because the episode on the Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche SUVs had me laughing out loud. I started the hot rod episode but pried myself away for what ended up being a very trouble night of sleep. Bad dreams and body pain, to the point where I was up for an hour from midnight to 1 a.m., debating whether to pull the laptop into bed. I, instead, smeared my back and hips with CBD arthritis cream and drifted away into another uneasy three hours of sleep.

So much to do before the book festival, but the cars… and the Dax… call to me.

End of week update: the stats, the hip, the fitness, the coffee

Yesterday might summarize recent trends in my life. I know I posted a blog post before I left for my last 10-hour shift at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy. Monday I start a more traditional Monday through Friday shift. I’ll get home earlier, but I lose a day off. And I’m used to having Thursday and Friday off which is nice for running errands, making appointments with doctors and professionals, and for connecting with people regarding my business, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.

I still had my Friday nights and Saturdays, even if I had to head to bed earlier than most people want to on Saturday night. Many well-meaning friends and everyday people have made comments like “well that will be nice,” “no more long days” and “you’ll have your weekends back.”

But I’ll no longer have that feeling of “getting work over with” and I’m no longer part of a unique cohort. We worked alone in the building on Sundays, and that was peaceful, and for two hours every afternoon, we more or less finished the work the traditional day shift left behind.

So, I arrived at work yesterday morning, basking in the bliss of using my new Ninja DualBrew correctly. (I still have to buy coffee filters, but I love the ease of use, the temperature of the coffee, the different settings for the strength of coffee, AND how I can select just the right amount of coffee for me. The reservoir is cool for me, because it removes one more decision or step to screw up. I have been known to double fill the coffee pot when I forgot I already did it.)

On Sunday, I normally perform between 100 and 105 percent of daily metrics. I may have once hit 108. This Sunday, I hit 97. This annoyed me. It was the first sign that something was off. On Monday, I kept struggling. I didn’t really notice anything physically wrong but I did note that my toes on my right foot were really burning by the end of the day. Andrew, my wonderful coach at Apex Training, had asked if we could move Monday night’s session to Tuesday. I said sure.

I busted my butt for the rest of the day and hit at least 99 percent, but I may have hit 100. That’s when I noticed some residual issues in my body. Just that nagging sense that something was not right. I attributed it to working hard and not having my regular Friday appointment with Nicole Jensen at Back in Line Chiropractic and Wellness Center. She had a class on Friday, so she had moved clients.

Tuesday I could feel my right hip turned wrong. It was a weird feeling, like my leg was facing the wrong way. In reality, it might not work that way but that’s how it felt. And my right hip was very tender to the touch. I still didn’t have any pain, but movement was getting harder. So I tried to stretch my hips during the day, but by the end of the day, I had only hit 90 percent and it had been hard. I asked Andrew if we could move the Tuesday session to Wednesday, worried that this was more of a structural issue than a muscular one and working out could push me from discomfort and mobility issues to actual pain.

And a year ago, I was in pain every day and I don’t want to go back to that. Ever. I was flipping through my journal and last year at this time I was starting every journal entry with a number from the pain scale. That broke my heart to see.

I took a muscle relaxer, stretched some more and went to bed after a nice meal. Wednesday morning I didn’t move any better, but I was no longer stiff. But by the time I got to work, my gut said this hip was really struggling to do its job. And I was about to stand on it for ten hours.

At 6 a.m., I called Nicole’s office and left a message. At 9:15, they called me back and scheduled me for 5:15 p.m. I knew that if I waited until my regular Friday appointment and forced that hip to work out, it would lead to pain and harder-to-fix problems.

I emailed my boss as I couldn’t find him and it turned out that he had called out sick. I arranged to leave at 4:30. By my calculations, I hit 87 percent. My right side just didn’t have the mobility it should. The drive to the chiropractor took about 20-25 minutes, and when I got out of the car, it felt like my right leg had fused and stretching it into a step felt ridiculously hard. But still no pain.

This is when cerebral palsy plays tricks on the brain. As I’m (what feels like) dragging my leg into the chiropractor, I started wondering, “maybe I just need to stretch,” “maybe there’s nothing really wrong and I’m just lazy and my muscles stiffened.” But then I remembered the burning toes. Something was pushing my posture forward and my body was fighting it. But I still had my doubts.

Now, no one has ever gaslighted me in the medical community, except maybe my first primary care physician who referred me to the wrong specialist in the days when I had an HMO. I now always have plans where I chose my physicians myself.

When Nicole entered the room, I explained what’s going on and she quickly confirms that yes, my hip was crooked. Like really crooked. She even made a hand gesture. And that my body had done other weird things to compensate. It all moved beautifully when she manhandled it. She pondered what caused this when we had just considered potentially spacing out my weekly appointments to every other week. Did I overdo it at work? Was it missing the adjustment Friday? Was it skipping my workout?

When I got up from the table, my feet did, as Nicole put it, sexy normal feet posture. My balance has improved dramatically in the last few months, and my strength has returned, and my stamina is definitely increasing.

I stepped out of the chiropractor and took some long, beautiful, easy strides.

It. Felt. Good.

No, it felt GREAT.

So, I don’t know how Nicole would feel about this, but I went to the gym. And let me tell you– Andrew delivered a brutal work out. We did split leg squats in sets of 20 reps each leg with weights. He said I was moving better than I ever had before and I said, yes, because Nicole had straightened my body and stretched out my lower extremities. Like, literally, just did. We did military presses with 25 lb dumbbells. We did core. We did upper body exercises like IYTs. And shoulder taps and mountain climbers and rope slams.

And then, before a shower or dinner, and it’s 7:30 p.m. now, I had to deal with the hellions in my room. I had to swap out and refill three litter boxes for the six cats in my room. I had to vaccuum. I didn’t clean the bird cages, but I did feed and water everyone. And I’m still wondering how the heck those four kittens have trashed my closet without opening the door.

I wanted to blog all this last night after I ate my omelet of cheddar, peppers, homemade farm-procured, roasted tomatoes. But I was exhausted.

Do I have the strength to be the lone voice of a group?

Last fall, at work, before we even suspected they were eliminating our shift at the warehouse, our company launched what they called communities to represent and discuss certain voices across our network.

Black Lives Matter, Latinx and women were three of the communities— as was a community for people with disabilities.

I joined the community for employees with disabilities, but at the launch Zoom meeting I noticed everyone either worked in the office or worked from home. And no one represented the warehouses, but me.

The community had meetings during my work shifts, and the emails seemed focused on neurological and psychological diagnoses. And while those conditions are important and probably impact more of our population in the company than physical disabilities.

I had a brief conversation about this with my boss today as I had mentioned this flaw in the communities when one of my colleagues asked the CEO why warehouse associates across the network couldn’t have more on-the-clock time to contribute to the communities.

This same fellow employee— a member of the Black Lives Matter group— launched a series of Lunch and Learns to promote more involvement in these communities.

She came to my work station to ask me to come.

My boss said he would be there to represent Latinx. When I told him I registered, he replied, “sweet.”

But, what I realized in discussing this with him, was that people with disabilities probably don’t apply for jobs in warehouses. Because we’ve been conditioned to believe we can’t or shouldn’t do it.

That’s why we don’t have more representation in the warehouse. So while I want to know what plans the company has to accommodate people of different abilities, the reality is we need to determine what people with disabilities can do in the warehouse without impacting overall productivity.

But the next question is: am I really the best person to represent this issue? Do I have a choice?

It feels like a new level of training

Andrew, my strength and fitness coach at Apex Training, has reached new levels of sadism.

I said that (partially) in jest because I love to see his face get that pensive squint when he’s digesting my regular updates of how my body feels and what my other professionals report about its function.

I feel like since my finger recovered from my burst tendon, I’ve reached new heights in stamina and my own strength. Last week, I hit a PR (personal record) with a 35-lb dumbbell row.

And things just feel like they are moving better. I’ve stumbled more than usual, but caught my balance 90 % of the time. I have less pain and I think I understand the pain better.

I’m working out three times a week and doing movements, with support Andrew has designed, like split leg squats that are torture (in a good way) and that I never thought I could do. I even work out after my ten-hour shifts at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy warehouse.

It’s hard, and exhausting, but I really think it helps get blood flow into all my aching parts and aids my sleep and ultimate recovery.

And today Andrew let me beat the big tire with a mace.

Speaking of Stitch Fix, the company has opted to move the Sunday to Wednesday 10-hour cohort. We get to choose which of the remaining shifts we want to transfer to and I’ll be putting in for the remaining 10-hour cohort, Wednesday to Saturday.

Frankly, the idea of working 5 days a week is horrifying. And I’m not thrilled with the prospect of losing my current shift.

But a warm gluten-free brownie sundae with Ben & Jerry’s cannoli ice cream softened the blow.

PS —

I put my underwear on backwards today. All day I kept wondering why my underpants felt so uncomfortable.

Stitch Fix Stories: The time I ordered earrings and I shipped them to myself from the warehouse

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.”

They arrived today.

They are just as pretty as I’d thought they’d be.

CEO and CMO at the Bizzy Hizzy

So last week they made this announcement at work.

The “new” Stitch Fix CEO had scheduled a visit to the Bizzy Hizzy. When founder Katrina Lake stepped down from the CEO position last year, Elizabeth Spaulding replaced her.

Elizabeth has been visiting all of the warehouses in the Stitch Fix network and her visit was the first time a CEO had visited the Bizzy Hizzy since our opening six-plus years ago.

The supervisory team at the Bizzy distributed a Google doc for warehouse associates and leaders to attend a question and answer session with Elizabeth. If we submitted what question we would like to ask, the Bizzy People & Culture office would select some of us to represent our warehouse.

Photo: the email announcing I was selected

I thought to myself, “I was a journalist for 15 years, I can ask a good question.”

I got picked!

In preparation for the CEO’s visit, our managers asked us to wear our Stitch Fix t-shirts. I went one better and also tied my “midnight society” Stitch Fix sweatshirt around my waist. Had to ‘rep’ second shift.

My supervisor and the other members of the Sunday to Wednesday 10-hour shift cohort were excited that I had been chosen, and to my delight, someone else from our cohort was also in the room.

When I arrived for the event, Emily Watts said hello. Emily is the general manager for the Mohnton facility which is Stitch Fix’s manufacturing facility here in Pennsylvania, producing the Mohnton Made clothing line.

My mother-in-law made a career out of garment manufacturing in the Kutztown area, so I’m extra excited to see American made clothing resurface.

Emily was also my store leader at one time at Target #2536. Many of the team members from that store have worked at or currently work at the Bizzy.

When I enter the room I see several small tables, creating the customary U-shape and a head table. There are twelve name plates around the U.

12.

I had no idea this would be so intimate. As we trickle in, I notice one odd thing: there is only one man among us. Everyone else is female. Did the men not read the email? Were they disinterested in the opportunity? Did they ask stupid questions?

Ethnically, age wise, and even ability wise, the room is diverse. There are two of us that I knew had disabilities— myself with my cerebral palsy and my hearing impaired colleague.

Debbie Woloshin and Cherizza Lundy entered the room first, and I had no idea who they were. Debbie plopped down beside me, and filled out her nameplate, while Cherizza did the same on the opposite side of the room in the empty seat there. Elizabeth came in, and seeing no more empty seats in the U, realized that she had to sit at the head table, so the other executives joined her.

I then learned that Cherizza is the head-of-staff and that Debbie is Debbie Woloshin, Stitch Fix’s first ever Chief Marketing Officer. She has an impressive fashion retail resume and such a great vibe. The discussion that resulted lasted almost an hour-and-a-half and I definitely felt like that panel of executives was using the visit to gauge the company’s needs from the bottom up. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think so.

We discussed what could improve the warehouse associates’ experience (growth and development opportunities as simple as peer to peer spreadsheet training and GED programs to more complex items like tuition remission; finding ways to ease childcare and transportation burdens; etc.), future growth of the company (hopes for improving technology, nurturing and expanding the Freestyle and traditional Fix businesses, and future growth of facilities (as existing facilities max out on capacity will we construct mezzanines in existing buildings, open nodes to existing buildings, or move into larger buildings). Certainly none of the discussions came with definitive answers, but you could see that the executive staff was weighing the enthusiasm, concerns and capabilities of the Bizzy Hizzy facility and team.

Well, I don’t think the building had enthusiasm or concerns. And what I also found encouraging was that our team still acted like our team. It didn’t feel like we were putting on airs for the boss.

“…we will do what we can to help and make you feel heard.”

I’ve been with the company now for almost two years, and I still believe that for a warehouse job, it’s a good job. And the company, while a little California ‘crunchy,’ has a good culture. As my original supervisor told me in my interview, “if you leave here upset after a shift, that’s on you. If you have a concern, tell us and we will do what we can to help and make you feel heard.”

Later that night, I sent connection requests to all three women and Cherizza accepted by requested at about 9:30 pm.

I hope all three women had a delightful visit not only to the Bizzy but to the Lehigh Valley in general.

In other odd little updates:

Darrell Lea Australian soft licorice made me very happy. I bought it at CVS, and after my ExtraBucks it was $1.11. I was looking for a candy treat, preferably plant-based that I wouldn’t eat in one sitting. The name sold me. It’s one letter different from my husband’s name. (Yes, I know we’re separated, but we’re not divorced yet so I feel “ex” isn’t right either. And he’s more to me than just the teenager’s father.)

I was extremely stiff yesterday — and when I admitted that to my fitness coach Andrew at Apex Training, he was brutal. Which was mean because I had already worked a full ten-hour shift. We got my heart rate up with ropes, stretched those leg muscles with weights, and did a whole bunch of split squats. I’m not stiff today, and I’m moving a whole lot better.

The teenager tested positive for Covid. Her head “felt funny” and she had post-nasal drip so she feared she might be developing an ear infection. So she went to the doctor. And tested positive for Covid. To combat this news, we ordered pizza from Domino’s and broke out some immune supplement from Target. We got the $20 family deal, which meant we got a pizza for each of us and a two liter of Diet Coke. I chased my immune supplement with a diet and gin. I almost tossed the tablet in the cocktail.

JP and Giorgio

This morning I tossed FURR fosters Jean-Paul Sartre and the random litter (they were named before I got them and have no theme so my naming convention does not apply) onto the sun porch to meet each other and perhaps influence each other. JP needs more socialization with other cats and the Random Litter, as I have christened them, need to learn that they are safe. They should be able to look at JP and realize, “hey, nothing attacked this little moron.” I filmed some videos. They are rather long and boring, but, if you’re patient, you might notice JP stalking our old man tripod Opie and little Dixie/Jenny (her folder was blank so I named her Jennifer Grey so ‘no one could put Baby in the corner,’ and then I saw online that her foster file said her name was Dixie) considering trying the cat door or making friends with my boy Fog.

My body feels wonderful… and other ridiculous tales

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.

Nancy in her new place

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.

Click to see what’s in the box

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.