What Happened to my Feet

in catching up on writing about the recent events on the homestead i realized i was leaving out a huge chunk of what went on. I think the reason for that is that i didn’t take pictures of what was happening and my writing process is just me scrolling through the cell phone pictures to see what i need to write about next. I didn’t take pictures of my feet for two reasons. 1. Seeing my toes not as they should be was alarming to me. My first thought was not “document this”. My first thought was “How do i fix this?” 2. Once i found a solution and felt more comfortable about how i was planning to manage the crisis i had the splints on and couldnt take them off so you couldn’t really see anything but the tips of my toes. What you could see was covered in dirt and dog hair, since i havent been able to wash my feet in a month and a day…not really something i want photographic evidence of on the internet. So, this crisis i did not really document the same way that i do tornados or hail storms or wildfires. And that is simply because it scared me in a way that nothing environmental or outside my body could. When you’re overwhelmed you’re less interested in documenting and more interested in just getting through the problem. I’m going to attempt to run back through the last month’s events that led to me quitting my job, getting a new job, spending thousands of dollars, realizing i couldn’t walk, buying a walking stick, considering selling the homestead, realizing selling the homestead might as well have been suicide because without this piece of land i would have no reason to live, working 7 days a week for a month, discovering full spectrum cbd, getting my life back, and wondering why the **** thc is illegal.

Right. Where to start? I came down with covid on march 9 2020. When i recovered i realized i was riddled with pervasive pain and swelling in every joint. I could not wear any but one of my rings that used to be loose. I lost the ability to walk until i discovered cbd isolate. Cbd isolate took the edge off the pain and rendered me upright and walking, but it did not get rid of the pain. It just rendered me functional. I quit my job in healthcare and began working at a grocery chain. I gave that job 100 percent of my effort and ability every day. The system in place was to have the employees scores written on the wall every day and the team leader would write feedback like “almost” “needs improvement” or “try harder” underneath each name and score. If you wanted the mythical “good job” or “awesome” you had to cheat in some way, like picture shopping the items and only scanning them at the end, bagging after the fact, or refusing to help the 15 customers that asked you questions even though it was in your job description to help them, because you knew it would negatively affect your score. This environment created secretive people that were all cheating in some way and suspicious of everyone around them as potential tattlers. At the end of each shift every employee was made to look on the wall, note their score, write it on the paper, and sign that they’d seen their score and acknowledged the feedback. I was in my thirties. The fact that i was being treated as a naughty kindergartener that didnt quite practice their letters hard enough and wasn’t able to read their sentence well enough in front of the class was utterly defeating to me and when made to do this i just completely unwound and basically became literally unable to function. I would go through the motions but making me do this ritual daily was so humiliating and defeating to a grown adult that pretty quickly they quietly exempted me from participating and my scores and performance shot back up to where it had been. I think it is important to note that even when i was doing my absolute best, when i was doing better than others, when i was doing the best that was possible while answering customer questions, subbing items, and not hitting people with the cart when the store was FULL of people, when i was literally sprinting down the aisles in running shoes like an athlete for 8.5 straight hours, my score was at best “almost”. We had a quota of units per hour that we had to shop if we wanted to stay employed. Now, even if we were well above what we had to hit to stay employed…we were always “below expectation”. The expectation was humanly impossible. This system is designed to create employees who are constantly striving to “be better” but all it really does is create a high turn over rate and people who have no self worth. I cannot tell you how making employees race each other and comparing their scores against each other in front of everyone divides a team. People steal bags from each other in the hopes that the bagless individual will have to run back to the box and get more so that they will get ahead. People pawn customers off on their coworkers so that while they are answering the customer’s question the individual who was originally asked can get a head start. I cannot tell you how many times i had teen coworkers come to me defeated and saying how they were no good and they couldnt do anything right and they were just going to quit. Beautiful bright young people that had convinced themselves in this environment that they were no good and had nothing to offer. I would watch them come in as perky plants bought fresh from the store and wilt over time as if they were plants under the care of someone with a gray thumb in a house where the air filter hadn’t been changed in years and the blinds were always closed. I had to tell them to read the feedback written under my name on the wall so that they would realize, this person management had been telling them they werent doing as good as and needed to step it up to match or defeat, this person also had “needs improvement” written under their name. I hugged them and told them “there is no level you will achieve where they will be happy with your performance. The system is designed to communicate that what you are doing is not good enough, no matter what you are doing, so that they are always getting the maximum amount of work possible out of every employee.” I told them “you just have to know within yourself that you are worth something, because this system is never going to tell you that.” I also let them beat me when we were forced to race. It hurt, but i refused to actively participate in this system of grading. I was not going to buy into the idea that i needed to rush faster lest i be rendered a worse person or worse employee or less valuable in some way because another person was 3 seconds faster than me. After 1.5 years of running/jogging 7 to 8 miles a day for my grocery curbside job 4 days a week with what i can only assume is rheumatoid arthritis at this point, i ended up with one, then two, and eventually four bunions. First my big toes and then my pinky toes began turning and dislocating. It was incredibly painful, alarming to look at, and affected my balance dramatically. I also couldnt get my feet in regular shoes.

i was honest with my job from the very beginning. I never called in sick. I never hid anything. I was decidedly honest about what was going on with me. I notified the team leader that my toes were dislocating and i wanted to talk to the boss about possibly transferring to a more stationary department within the company. I knew i could no longer physically perform the duties i was tasked with and so i took steps to find a way for me to still be useful to the company. What i was met with was “who do you think you are?” The team leader told me many before me had tried what i was doing and they were just going to tell me now it ended badly for all of them. I am pretty sure she thought i was faking to get a cushier position and she was going to scare me out of doing so. She told me that she didnt recommend what i had planned and nobody would do anything for me without a doctor’s note and since i hadn’t been to the doctor, i couldn’t just come up in here and announce i had bunions without being diagnosed and expect anyone to do anything. So, i asked if i could be let off a bit early to go to the urgent care clinic and get diagnosed, as i was working a closing shift. The answer was no. The team leader made me work my full shift hobbling around and failing to meet every quota required to keep my job. Then i got in the car and drove to san antonio, the nearest city with 24 hour texas med clinics, waited in a waiting room for 3 hours, and got seen by a doctor who took one look at me and said “yeah, you have bilateral bunions.” She wrote in the doctor’s note that i had developed bilateral bunions and would benefit from a transition to a job position that required less walking until i could get in to see a podiatrist. At this point i began looking for solutions. Surgery doesnt put the bone back where it goes. They just cut the jutting piece off and your toe is still turned, only now it fits in a shoe. I didn’t find this a great solution and wasnt willing to risk a bone infection (having worked in healthcare i know the chance of this when operating on bone is over fifty percent and almost a certainty) to have it done. I found these bunion correction splints online. They had great reviews on amazon and were one of those “amazon’s choice” products. My pinky toes would always be gross but at least i could fix my big toes. I understood that turning in this doctor’s note was a big deal to these people and that i shouldn’t do it if i didn’t want a ton of consequences to rain down on me. So, while i thought i could still fix my injury real quick i notified my boss that i had gotten the paper but that i wanted a little bit of time before i turned it in to see if i could fix the problem and not need a transfer. She was fine with this.

I kid you not, the shift when i first wore those bunion correction splints was the most pain i have experienced in a long time. I cried real tears and was near out of breath from the sheer amount of pain i was in. For hours panic welled in my chest as i fought through the pain and pulled hundreds of lbs of groceries on those red carts as i hobbled down every aisle trying my hardest to meet my quota. At break i told myself i’d take them off for just a second and upon removing them i saw why i had been in so much excruciating pain. My bones had literally moved from being pressed hard against the metal tongue depressor slid into the velcro pocket against the side of my foot. The jutting toe bones had been pressed against the metal until it forced them bit by bit back into place where they were facing forwards and two huge fluid filled pressure sores existed where my toes used to jut out in an ugly way. I was in awe! It worked! For five days i took them off to bathe and the toes popped back and i had to go through hours of this painful process all over again. It was then that i realized i had to wear these splints non stop for a minimum of six weeks and i could no longer take showers. I had to take baths and hang my feet out the side of the tub. When i realized this would be a long term process and not a quick fix i turned in the doctor’s note. It became a whole big thing. I was told that this note was not what they needed. They needed a specific company form filled out that would detail my physical ability and this as it turns out, only a podiatrist would agree to fill out because the texas med clinic doctors told me their expertise in feet was not specific end detailed enough for them to feel comfortable filling out how many hours a day i could walk or stand lest they be sued later for not judging right. A podiatrist could not see me right away. You had to make an appointment and wait. Even though the texas med clinic doctor had written that i should benefit from being transitioned to a role of less walking in the work place until i could get in to see a podiatrist, my job told me i would have to perform my regular physically demanding job duties until i could get in to see the podiatrist. They told me the only thing they could do for me was make me a curbie instead of a shopper so i didnt have to pull the red carts. As a curbie i had to pull the red carts back and forth to retrieve from them and pull the heavy refrigerator and freezer doors back and forth. As a shopper i walked 7 to 8 miles a day. As a retriever i walked 9.5 miles a day. I had asked for a less physical position and what i got was a more physical position. It is important for me to note that my boss did not know that i was walking more as a curbie than a shopper and when she found this out she dropped me down to 6 hour shifts to curb that. The person above her and the person below her could care less, but she did care, and i will not overlook that. She is part of the system yes and she wants good scores just like anybody else but not at the expense of peoples’ lives. Anyways, throughout this whole waiting period to see the podiatrist everyone looked down on me and thought i was extra because i was hobbling and i didnt have a podiatrist’s sign off that i had a reason to do so. They all figured i was making a big fuss about nothing. Every day people asked me why i wasn’t better already. All the ladies that had worn high heels for decades showed me their bunions and said its no big deal they stop hurting after a while and you just learn to live with them. I told them that walking 7 to 9 miles a day would be making mine worse if i wasnt wearing the splints and how could i learn to live with them when they were still actively happening? I spent thousands of dollars from my savings account on shoes that seemed like they would fit the splints inside and still meet the company dress code requirements, ice packs, medical tape, cotton balls, and rubber bunion shoe inserts to prevent sores and protect skin integrity. Eventually i realized the only shoe that would comfortably fit the bunion correction splints inside was a men’s size 9 altra lone peak tennis shoe which i had to drive to austin using my left foot (ambidextrous) to get. I put memory foam inserts in and cut up another memory foam pad to tape it to areas that the bunion correction splints rendered lower than the rest of my foot so that once on the shoes rendered my feet level and i didnt end up walking weird which hurt my hips. Walking in men’s size 9 shoes with a women’s size 5.5 foot was a whole treacherous ordeal of its own. I looked like a duck and walking was laborious, though i did it. All throughout the waiting period people told me that i was misguided and crazy for thinking i could correct bunions with something i bought off the internet because if that worked doctors would prescribe it. Well, a month in now i can tell you its working. At night the bones barely try to move back anymore when theres no weight on the splints. If you can tolerate the pain of moving bones for several hours without ripping the splints off, do it. Listen, docs are great and all but you’ve got to think for yourself. You cant always be sitting around waiting for someone to tell you what to do. I wasnt just going to take peoples word for it that surgery was my only option. I was going to try this first, and if it didnt work i’d go from there, but i didnt let my boss telling me constantly that she didnt think this was going to work because a doctor didn’t prescribe it and she was pretty sure he was going to tell me i needed surgery talk me out of exploring this option to the fullest. Oh, i left out a part. When i turned in the paper from texas med clinic i was told that after seeing the podiatrist i would begin a period of “reduced work duty”…i forget if those are the exact words that they used. Basically i could have different work duties for a maximum amount of 12 weeks. If i was not “all better” in 12 weeks i could be terminated. My boss told me that apparently this had happened to someone else and they didnt know thats what happened. Her boss told me the word “terminated” was not the only thing she wanted me to hear and that they could also find me a position in another department if a position was available. As i understood it, they could make no promises that a position in a different department would be available, they would try their hardest to place me somewhere, but we were not ruling out “terminated” as a possibility, and lets just wait and see how this plays out. My boss’s boss told me that she would “do what’s best for me” but as i later learned, what was best for me would ultimately always be trumped by what was best for the company. That’s just how the system works. That’s how you run a corporation. I heard the word “terminated” as a possibility in shock. I had given this company my all, to the point where i literally couldnt stand anymore every night when i went home, and made no complaint. I had given them everything i had and now that i was used up, that seemed to mean little. “Terminated” shouldn’t have been on the table as an option but it was. I knew this and i began lining my ducks in a row. They wouldnt give me a stationary position so i applied for one elsewhere. I was useless to them in this state but i still had something to offer in stationary situations. My boss’s boss had told me that i was “the hardest worker they had and even boss man knew that”, but i understood that i wasnt any longer physically capable of the level of physicality this job required and so i knew i had to start lining options up for plan B. Later the boss’s boss’s boss asked me in confusion why i was leaving and why i didn’t just transfer and was super surprised they had told me termination was an option. I told him in honesty that they had asked me not to just focus on the word termination and have that be all that i heard. I told him it wasnt all that i heard, but i did hear it, and it let me know i needed to get other options lined up because there was not a sure use for me here long term. He asked me if i’d been given the number to our free counseling service that we have access to twice a year. I said i hadnt. He said he’d get me that number. Im not sure in what section of the system this got lost so im not going to point fingers at any individual, especially since he seemed to genuinely be trying to help me, but i never received the number. It was okay, i had my own therapist who i spoke to about all this anyway. Many treated me as if i was probably faking this injury until i went to see the podiatrist. When i initially learned i could be terminated for reporting that i needed a work duties change and then still needing that change in 12 weeks i asked if i could retract the request. I hadn’t been trying to leave the company and i expressed that. I was told that no, because i brought her that paper from texas med clinic i set something in motion that couldnt be undone and now i HAD to go to the podiatrist and get their form filled out because i had set this in motion and the possibility of being termed would not go away no matter how i chose to proceed. So i didnt want surgery, i already knew i had bunions, and i was wearing the bunion correction splints for 6 weeks…i had no use for a podiatrist’s intervention but i dutifully scheduled and attended my appointment to get work the form they needed filled out.

The podiatrist was an elderly and set in his ways man who didnt understand why i had come to him if i’d already fixed the bunions. He said i had no need of surgery because they were now facing the right way and refused to fill out my form unless i let him examine both feet. I took off the left splint and he was puzzled at what he should be seeing because there was no deformity to be observed. I refused to take off the right splint. I explained that the right bunion was more severe than the left and within a minute of removing the splint the toe would be back in a position of deformity and to give him a look at it would mean 13 hours of some pain and two hours of excruciating pain as the splint started over on moving my toe. I explained to him that the intervention of the splints was more important to me than getting reduced walking for the remaining 16 days of my job and i would rather have a rough go of it than start the time clock over on 6 weeks of wearing these splints. I had already compromised by taking the left one off and that was my peace offering but i was not going to go as far as to lose all my progress on the toe that was most severely turned and wanted most badly to return to a position of deformity so much so that i couldnt take it off to shower and had been placing the steel tub in the living room each morning and bathing myself with my feet hanging out before drying my legs and torso and then scooting out onto a folded towel to finish drying and ultimately dumping the soapy water off the porch after dragging the tub across the floor and out the front door. He couldnt promise me he was going to fill the form out even if he saw the toe and i knew the price i’d pay in resetting the clock 6 weeks if i took the splint off. It seemed ridiculous to compromise the intervention that was working just to prove to my job that i had the bunions i knew i had been dealing with. I told him that i understood that he was not going to fill out the form and i was okay with that. I had to come to him because once i turned in the texas med clinic form work said i had set something in motion and i owed them that form. He asked me repeatedly what i wanted from him and i could feel the tears welling up in frustration. I fought them back and composed myself. I answered him honestly that i had wanted him to write that i needed reduced walking for my last 16 days of notice that i had given my old job before i started a more stationary new job that would not add to the bunion formation by combining excessive walking with pervasive and chronic joint pain and swelling. I was honest that i had no doctor given diagnosis of arthritis so i called it joint pain and swelling. In this whole process i tried to deceive nobody at any time. I felt honesty was the best policy and so i was honest with everyone about what was going on with me. The doc told me one more time he couldn’t fill out any form if i wouldn’t let him see both feet. I told him i understood. He asked me what i wanted him to do. I told him nothing. He said okay and walked out. His nurses asked me for more information. I had told him i had developed joint pain and inflammation after recovering from covid and that i had ignored this because i watched most of my patients perish from covid and i got to live so joint pain and swelling was a small price to pay. There is no cure for arthritis and i wasnt interested in western medicine pain pills. The whole country was avoiding stressing the healthcare system unless they had some life threatening problem, so thats why i never went to the doctor to get diagnosed with arthritis. He said to me, “you realize this is highly unusual. People in their thirties dont get arthritis. People in their thirties dont get bunions.” As it turned out, his nurses had seen their own fair share of weird things happening to people after contracting covid. The usual wasn’t a thing anymore, respectfully. They went after him as he left the room and explained that i hadn’t come for surgery or bunion shoe fitting or any kind of intervention, that i was just asking for permission to have less walking at my job for the last 16 days. The podiatrist asked me repeatedly did i want him to write that i couldn’t work for 16 days. He seemed to think i was trying to play hookey. It took two nurses commendable efforts to make him understand but they got through to him and he finally understood what i had come to him about. The one nurse sat with me while the other nurse held the form still on the table while he filled it out just outside the exam room. She popped her head in and said “he’s filling it out right now.” I couldnt believe it. I had accepted that i would have to walk 9.5 miles a day until the end of my notice because i was unusual. My whole life i’d been unusual. I couldnt believe they were actually going to help me. I thanked the nurse that was sitting with me profusely. She said, “of course. You need help. We’re here to help. He wants to help you. He just didnt understand.” He wrote that i could stand 8+ hours a day but walk only 2 hours a day for a period of 2 weeks. He wrote that less walking during this time period is key. He filled out all the company questions about how much can i lift, push, pull, etcetera…the only thing impaired was walking. They gave me exactly what i had hoped for, a break. I had had a rough go of life lately and was just asking for a break, a chance to recover. I thanked both nurses that explained my predicament and why i’d made the appointment to the podiatrist and went to pay. As i was leaving i thanked the podiatrist. He didnt seem happy or unhappy. He understood what i was asking for now but still hadn’t warmed up to me and my unusualness. I went to pay and she said i owed nothing. I said, oh, there might be a mistake, im not billing insurance, this will be out of pocket.” The front desk lady repeated, “there’s no charge for today.” My eyes widened as i understood they didnt intend to charge me for the visit. After spending thousands of dollars on bunion addressing shoes and rubber bits and measures and gas to drive to austin i really did appreciate this and i thanked the nurse repeatedly. All doc visits had been out of pocket because the company would not recognize it as a work related injury and was not going to pay and i hadnt met a steep deductible so in the long run it was cheaper to pay out of pocket than bill insurance. Once i had that paper they couldnt run me 9.5 miles a day. They had to by law only walk me 2 hours daily and the rest had to be spent standing. That paper was power. That paper was my rights. That paper was everything. It proved i wasnt lying and finally they had to take me seriously. I gave them a copy and kept the original. 2 hours a day i worked in curbside and for the rest of the 8 hour shift i bagged but could not do carry outs. The podiatrist’s nurse came in as a customer once and found me bagging and was so happy they could help me…it worked, i was given a more stationary job duty for my last 16 days. I had given 30 days notice instead of 2 weeks, as i knew i was supposed to though most people didnt. I wanted to end things the right way and i offered to train up people to replace me in those 30 days. My team leader would ultimately feel threatened by this and i would be told that i was doing a horrible job training though the few people i trained turned out super responsible and with great customer service skills. I told them everything i thought they needed to know to do the job well. My team leader pulled me aside and told me i couldn’t do this because it would just confuse the newbies…i had to only show them the basics, but above her i had the boss telling me to teach them everything because after this run with me they were flying solo so i understood the expectation was not basics. Eventually my boss decided that the offer of training newbies was not worth the tears the team leader would put me in (because this was normally her job) and quit asking me to train. The team leader would only ask me to train someone if they were being defiant, rude, and not listening. I dealt with them as i would have were they being cooperative. I told them what to do and when talked over and dismissed i waited until they were stuck and asking for help and then referred them back to the beginning of my simple instructions until they learned to listen and got it. The saddest moment for me was when i watched the girl i trained become one of our team. I watched the life leave her. Her posture changed. She slouched instead of carrying herself upright. She kept her head down and was quiet. Her eyes no longer sparkled. Her face was sad and defeated. And yet every time she greeted a customer she smiled and put on a show, ran through the series of steps i had taught her perfectly, right down to asking the customer if they would like her to close the trunk. She did perfect, and yet no one commended her. No one valued her. No one noticed her unless she had done something wrong. I felt like i was looking at myself. I had created a me and now i was sad i had done it. It was her first job. I remember her parents waiting in front of the time clock on her first day. They were so proud of her. She had joined the work force. She was young…high school. She was short and quiet but she was smart and a quick study. She drank everything i said like a sponge and she was humble. I was impressed. The mother asked how she did. The father said laughing, “look at her, she’s exhausted, a day of hard work eh?!” I told them she did amazing before she could answer. She excitedly pointed and said, “She trained me.” It was the last time i would see her excited. I had trained her to do a job that was designed to defeat her. I had helped extinguish the sparkle in their daughter’s eyes, squash her confidence and self worth. I should have told her to run. I didn’t and the change that ensued on her face between customers and in the way she carried herself over the next couple weeks would haunt me. I was in my thirties. This system snuffed her light out as a teen. In the words of doctor phil we wrote on the slate of who she was. If i could say something to any customer who has ever been frustrated with the store and called up and made a complaint, i would tell them that the people they are frustrated with are not living their best lives. They are trapped and silently dying inside. They are trying their best to do something impossible and they are falling short every time. I would tell them that we have auditors that look up the employee numbers of everyone that makes a bagging mistake, leaves a grocery bag behind when retrieving, chooses less than ideal produce, or bags something incorrectly, and these mistakes are highlighted in front of the team and written down on the employees record in a three ring binder called “the book of accountability”. I would let them know that the only positive feedback these people ever get are the notes people write us on their orders in the section where you can specify what type of bag you want or any specific level of ripeness preferred for produce. Some people write “you are doing amazing. Thank you for helping us.” Or “have a great day. I hope this shift is the best!” These people made me cry every time. I was so grateful. That is the only positive feedback the shoppers will ever have to remind them they are people and they have worth. They are good. When people would write this kind of note on their order they had this affect on the dry shopper, the cold shopper, the frozen shopper, the bulk shopper, and the production shopper, because all of these employees would shop a section of this one person’s order and the smart phone would load the order with this message at the beginning of all these employees runs. I kid you not i’d run into other shoppers crying in the store and i’d ask, “Did you get the order with the thank you note too?” And they would answer yes. If i could say something to people that use this service, i would tell them to keep doing so. These employees have bills and student loans and many have babies in diapers who need formula. They need to get paid. They need people to use the service. Just, know, if theres an error on your order, chances are we’ve already found it, we’re calling you about it, we’re gonna make it right for you, and the shopper is already punished. When you write a complaint, the shopper can read it. I think if they knew how hard the shoppers were often trying and how much they had to hold in their memories at once, and how little time they had to get it all done, they would be less creative with the words they choose to write. So i say, if you want to be involved in not snuffing out the sparkle in young peoples eyes the way i did my poor trainee, instead of writing that the apples should not be bruised and make sure to use paper this time because last time the shopper didnt read the note and if this happens again you want a full refund, tell someone to have a blessed day. Write to someone “you are amazing and i hope this shift is great.” I promise you the karma will come back to you in the universe and you will make someone cry and remember who they are. Be the difference. Be the light in the dark.

alright so i have to back up a bit. When i heard the word terminated as an option i knew i wasnt valuable to this company anymore and i needed to explore other options. There was a couple who owned a health foods mom and pop grocery. I had known them for years…since i moved to the hill country, since they were at their old tiny location across town. They had learned all my food allergies and every time i entered the store they let me know which new products i could eat and their son or the husband would open a bag of whatever it was and let me taste a sample. It was always fantastic and knowing they had memorized your food allergies just to give you a tailored shopping experience, if it tasted good it went in the basket. It was hard enough to find something i wasnt allergic to. If i could eat it i wasnt that picky but the fact that they willingly offered samples just made you feel special and seen. They were a small store and it felt like every customer was valued. These people were super nice. They remembered you even if you hadn’t come in in months. They remembered your allergies, your preferences, what you did for a living… every time you went in the store they asked you how you were. So this couple ended up knowing pretty much everything that was going on in my life and i watched their children grow from kids and teenagers into men that went off and started their own lives. The little boy that interrupted his dad in the middle of a conversation with a customer and got told “not now son dont interrupt when im having a conversation with someone” would train me years later. Life is trippy. I worked in healthcare for 7 years. They dont allow you sick days. So everyone who is sick comes to work and gives it to everyone else and everyone is sick all the time and we still have to work. I was miserable every month. I was sick more often than i wasnt sick….just a price of the industry i guess. The only thing that helped was the acai bowl this mom and pop grocery sold at their smoothie bar. The acai boosted my immune system and the cold refreshing slush slid down my throat and soothed the searing pain of whatever was ailing me. This couple and their sons had prayed for me when i was looking for a full time job. They had celebrated with me and given me a free grocery item when i got that job. They had prayed throughout the 6 months i tried to buy my land. They gave me a free gluten free brownie and celebrated with me when i closed on the house. They were good people and attentive shop owners and i would have loved them just for that but one day i had laryngitis and i was so sick, so so sick, and the only thing that kept me going through my shift was the thought of this cold acai purple refreshing slush sliding down my throat, making me better, and soothing the inflamed fire engine red tissue. When i arrived at their new location i was told the smoothie bar wasnt in operation yet. I called the old location to ask if the old bar was shut down yet. It was. The couple was there clearing out the old location. It was “moving day” for them and they had to get everything out and cleaned for the new renters. I heard the husband say to tell me that it will be open in a week, but she didnt do it. She recognized me and she knew i ordered the acai bowls to heal, and i clearly had laryngitis pretty bad. I was pretty miserable and i guess i sounded it because i heard her tell him, “aw, she doesnt feel good. Im gonna go make her an acai bowl.” She stopped what she was doing, put the blender and all the ingredients in her truck, told me to stay where i was and she’d be there in ten minutes and make me an acai bowl. She did. She made me acai bowl and i cannot tell you how grateful i was that day, because i was so miserable and so sick and the acai bowl did its trick and that cold slush going down my throat was such blissful momentary relief that i was able to take a nap and started feeling better within the hour. I could not believe she stopped what she was doing and drove over to the new location just for one customer. She didn’t have to do that, but it told me who she was. It told me what she was about. She was about helping people, and i’ve loved her ever since. They used to have produce from their garden available in the store just in a corner in a box and it was soooo good. They always had pictures of the boys fishing with their dad and children in the community would draw crayon pictures and write “hello mr kenny” in big adorable letters and those would be hung on the wall or at the register. I felt God in the presence of these people. I felt i could see him in their works. I never applied for a job at this store. First i worked in healthcare. Then i worked in the grocery biz but i was looking for maximum hours and maximum pay. I felt a mom and pop shop would probably not have a need for me full time and i didnt want to stress them out by having to make room for another employee. But i always felt like these were really good people who had taken care of me for so many years. One day there was a hiring sign in the window. I thought, “wow, to work there, wouldnt that be great.” But i wasnt thinking for me, just in general. I knew the rules. Thou shalt not fantasize about working for competitors while working at the company i was working at. I met one of my old coworkers who had disappeared from the store. He was now working at the mom and pop health food grocery. He told me how wonderful an environment it was and that he loved it and if i wanted an application they were hiring. I listened politely but didnt take him up on it. In my head i was reasoning that i had to remain loyal and could not betray my boss by leaving. When they notified me that termination was an option if i was not completely healed in 12 weeks my feelings about loyalty shifted and i felt less duty on the matter. I felt that i had to do what was best for me. It wasnt vindictive. On the contrary, it was a split second decision i made when i went in for a smoothie. I had just learned i had to drive all the way to austin to get the altra lone peak shoes after having spent all of my off days driving around seeking fruitless interventions for my bunions. I cried a bit, because i was exhausted mentally and emotionally and now i had to drive with the left foot all the way to austin and back in one day just to get these shoes. I went to the smoothie shop to get a chocolove smoothie to convince myself things were gonna be alright. I would have a bit of chocolate and peanut butter and homemade cashew milk and i’d feel better and make myself drive to austin and stop crying out of overwhelm. When i got there the sign was still on the door. They were still hiring. I sat there in the car and a steady little voice, the same one that had convinced me i needed to move out to the hill country without any full time job and just do “as needed” (prn) work seasonally on the off chance that a job would present itself….that voice was back. I hadnt heard it in a long while. It said i was to go in there and fill out a job application. I had not washed my hair. I had not showered. I was wearing pajamas. I wasn’t even wearing matching shoes. One was a tie dyed tennis shoe slip on and the other was a broken flip flop rubber banded around a sock over my bunion correction splint. I was a mess and not feeling too hot about what i had to offer as an employee after the management reception of my medical papers and the constant tears at my team leader’s recent feedback of my performance as a trainer and helping the remaining shoppers retrieve their orders. But that voice was persistent. I understood the assignment. This was where i was meant to be. I was to go in there, right now, as is, and fill out an application, apply for this job. So i walked in and asked my former coworker who was behind the counter, “are they still hiring?” He seemed caught off guard. I had been so adamant that i wasnt changing anything last time. In reality im a very loyal worker. You literally have to convince me that you have no use for me in order for me to leave because i will tolerate any amount of abuse and stay, but thats what they did. They said that if i was not all healed in 12 weeks termination was a possibility. So maybe it was time for me to go before i was booted. I knew that i loved this couple. I knew that they had taken care of me for years, and i knew that my gratitude towards them for this would have me so motivated to watch over their company as if it was my own and do the best that i could to serve their customers in any way i could. He handed me an application and said they had hired a few but he thought they were still hiring. As i stood there and filled out the application on the table next to the register the owner came in and found me filling out the application. She looked excited as she asked, “are you wanting a job?” I was in pajamas with a flip fop rubber banded to my foot. I couldnt figure out what she could possibly see in me but my marketing skills kicked in and i told her i was a quick learner with good customer service skills and i was willing to learn any task they had a need for and work any position they were seeking to fill. I meant it. When i start a job im a sponge and ill learn anything you want to teach me and then do it that way every time. She explained that she liked for each employee to learn a little bit of everything so that if one position is busy and the other is not we can just jump in and help each other wherever needed. She told me and later my new coworkers told me that this is like a family and we should work together and help each other wherever there was a need. For example, front end handles the phone but if they have a customer and the smoothie bar is empty, smoothie bar can answer the phone. I loved this idea. My ancestors in hungary and russia all ran their own grocery stores. This job would entail a little bit of all the tasks that my ancestors must have done. I was interested in feeling more connected to my roots and this job sounded like more responsibility and less disciplining and grading. There would be no gps tracking on the smart phone. You would just have to be an integrity individual and do good…be where you’re supposed to be doing what you’re supposed to do, how you’re supposed to do it. I thrive in a situation with trust rather than tracking devices because i am the kind of person that will want to prove that trust was well given and not wasted. If i was never trusted to begin with, i cant really prove that trust was well spent can i?

she discussed job details and what she was looking for and told me to get with her employee (who i consider to be the equivalent of a team leader or team manager) to schedule an interview. So i was super excited, finished filling out and turning in the application and finally went to get my chocolove smoothie for the drive to austin. As it turned out the team manager was running the smoothie bar that day and when j went to pay for my smoothie my name came up and she realized i was the person the owner had told her to interview. So, she asked me if i wanted to come in for an interview at ten the following day (my last day off that week). I told her i did, thanked her, and headed to the car in my pajamas and rubber banded flip flop. I keep mentioning this attire because its important. Sometimes God tells me to do things in my most vulnerable and uncertain moments and every time i have listened it was without a doubt the best decision for my life. This was not the way i would have wanted to show up to an interview when trying to convince someone to hire me but God said do it and do it now and as it happened the owner and the manager were there right then and i had another day off to be completely available for a job interview and they hadnt filled the position yet. So, dressed ridiculously they agreed to train me and we discussed that i would have to give my old job 30 days notice but i could work as a trainee on my off days until july. I drove to austin, got the shoes, wore them to the interview the following day, confirmed that they intended to hire me in july and train me through june, and turned in my thirty days notice the following day. When i did it all three of my bosses were in the same office and i could see one didn’t know what was going on, my boss’s boss didnt seem to care, and my boss was sad. She handed the paper to her boss and said something like “do you see this?” She had a “i told you” look on her face and i knew in that moment that she was a real person…when you’re telling people things they dont want to hear, like i have a medical issue, its hard to know where people stand because everyone goes straight to liability and hr training and recites generic phrases, but i could tell my boss didnt feel comfortable about how i had received the “possible termination” conversation and she asked me if this was what motivated the decision. I assured her it was more motivated by me realizing this was going to be a long term problem and if i fixed my feet i would still have arthritis so the continuation of what made the deformity would likely make it again and i wanted to be able to work on my homestead and walk and not have to sell my homestead because i couldnt manage. This was the only point at which i was untruthful. I wanted to spare her of any guilt. She was part of the system yes but she had been human to me and i did have love and respect for her and i understood that there were many instances in which she had genuinely tried to do what was best for me. So i told her it was more about the homestead than possible termination when in actuality it was 50 50 and when she asked where my new job was going to be i told her my adoptive mom was going to hire me at her shop in the shopping center next to the goodwill. I didnt have the heart to tell her i was going to the competition so i didnt refer to it by name. With all the times the owner of this shop had rescued me from illness, celebrated my life milestones, and prayed for me i might as well have considered her family but she was not my adoptive mom. Cindy was. So i fibbed, but, it didnt feel right to rub it in her face that i was going to the competition and i didnt want to be talked out of what i was doing. Maybe there’s a place in life for small fibs when they spare good peoples’ feelings. At the corporation i was supposed to do my one task and only this task. If the team leader was outside delivering an order i would answer the department phone rather than have it ring and ring until recycling back to the business center until disgruntled customers got through and were furious theyd been trying a whole hour to reach the team leader. My tendency to answer the phone infuriated some team leaders to the point where they would yell at me not to answer the phone because it wasnt my job. It didnt make sense. There was a need. I knew how to do it. Why not? At the new job they let me answer the phone, make juices, make smoothies, make acai bowls, package prepared food, label prepared food, clean surfaces and glass refrigerator/freezer doors, stock and face shelves, work the cash register, help customers, and wash and cut fruit and veg. I felt so productive and so trusted and so valued and used to my full potential. I was where i needed to be and i knew this, so much so that we still hadn’t agreed upon an hourly rate and i didnt care. This work i was doing was feeding my soul. I felt connected to my ancestors. I felt i was helping the community. I felt what i was getting up to do every day was important and i felt connected to my coworkers like a team. I felt we were in it together and i didnt feel like their success was my ruin and vice versa. If i learned something i shared it with the other new trainee and if she learned something she shared it with me. She learned how to take damaged goods out of the system for inventory purposes so we knew how many we had on shelf and i learned what cbd products to recommend for what ailments and so we taught each other. I tried to lift her up when i could and she did the same for me and i felt here, i wasnt pitted against my coworkers. We werent racing to see who was better. Her success was my success and vice versa because if we helped the customers to the best of our ability the store did well and if the store did well we continued to have a place to thrive and work. I started tasting every smoothie and juice i made by pouring a tiny bit in a cup and tasting that before pouring the rest in a different cup for the customer. In this way i learned what each smoothie and juice was supposed to taste like and i could recognize if it was not right and tweak or redo it before it went out. Quality control. I made sure it was right for the customer before selling it. I learned how much peanut butter you had to put before it could be tasted as a flavor. I learned what fruits were overpowering to others and so what i should go heavy on and what i should go light on to get the desired blend of flavors. I also learned the recipes on the wall left a lot of extra in the blender once the smoothie was poured and the lid was on the cup. So i tweaked the proportions until there was very little leftover to speak of and sometimes not enough for me to test taste. In this way i used less fruit in making each smoothie because the excess had to get dumped. We would in the long run have to buy more fruit less often or run out of fruit less quick depending on how you wanted to look at it. The first time i made an acai bowl was so cathartic for me. I learned to make what they had been making for me for years, what had healed me every time i was sick, and i made it for other sick and miserable people who came here to feel better, and a lot of them wore scrubs. I made smoothies for my former coworkers who secretly visited the shop for a trusty favorite smoothie every day before shift to psych themselves up for the grind. I knew they would never tell they’d seen me there because they’d have to admit that they were there to see me. When i was told i could answer the phone i got super excited because it was hard for me to listen to something ring and not pick it up. Here i didnt have to do that. When they taught me to use the cash register to check customers out that was like the ultimate sense of worth because i had been told that at the corporation you have to prove your worth by bagging for a year before they will let you learn to work the cash register. You cant just be taught…you have to qualify first. Well here i could do both, the bagging and the using the cash register and there was no waiting period to learn. I was worthy of doing all these tasks and having all this responsibility. Let me tell you, it wasnt like i was without mistakes. I broke a glass bottle of coconut water when it fell behind the cooler as i was getting the back stock down from on top of it. I also told a customer we had stone hill whole milk when we had stone hill whole milk kefir and so if you go by her reaction it was the end of the world and i felt sooooooooooo bad about it for over a week, but you can bet i learned what kefir was after that and im now better prepared to serve the community when it comes to milk and kefir. My point is, they didnt have a log book of accountability where they wrote down every one of my mistakes and then dwelled on them for a year before starting over in the recording of them. I had to chuckle to myself because when i was auditing during my last days at the old job i happened to glance at my name. I had never looked in there because i was so depressed about what a horrible employee i must be based on verbal feedback. My last mistake was january 19. I read the note that said “paper bags please” and then forgot and put them in plastic. I remembered that day for a reason. I remembered the note but about two hours after the order was picked up. It was too late to fix my mistake and i felt horrible for over a week. As you can see by the lack of other log entries, this stuck in my head and i learned not to forget the paper bag requests.

My last day was yesterday. I was surprised. Nobody said bye to me. Nobody gave me a send off card. Nobody said “we’ll miss you” or “good luck.” My team simply didnt care. I worked there with those people for a year and 9 months. I mean, granted there was a high turnover rate so only a few of them had been with me all the way through, but not one of them said bye to me. My boss came in and hugged me and said she’d miss me and i had to come say hi when i came in to shop. She asked the team if they knew today was my last day. The team leader said uneventfully, “yeah.” Nobody else answered. That was the extent of my send off in my department. I would later understand that pitting employees against each other for scores, making them race, making them audit each other, and having them all cheating in some way and worrying about team mates tattling on them while they tried to meet an impossible standard did not foster a sense of friendship and comradery. In short, these people didnt like me. These people didnt like each other. We were all just in the same boat together but nobody was friends. This is still a sore spot since i did not realize this until the end and in fact respected and valued many of them as friends before i realized it was not returned in any way on my last day. Other departments asked me often if i liked everybody in my department and my answer was always that none of us really knew each other. We never had time to chat and our jobs often had us outside of the box either shopping or delivering to customers. We didnt spend a lot of time together. We didnt know each other even though i’d worked in that department with some of them for nearly two years. My boss tried to fix this by interviewing us about ourselves and then printing a flyer about a couple employees each month and then giving blue slips (redeemable reward used to buy snacks) for each employee going and reading the flyer about their team mate. My boss was trying, but she was also pitting them against each other in races and so there was little connection made after reading the flyers. We were just like huh, that person has two cats or this person knows karate and then on with life. The saddest part of my last day was realizing my favorite team leader was the one who had answered yeah uneventfully and my favorite team mate was the one who would miss me the least. You never know until the end how things really are. Most of the cashiers said bye to me and that they would miss me. Even though id only been with them two weeks, we had bonded and we were friends. I felt this was probably because the bagger and cashier have to work together in a rhythm as a team. If the cashier scans too fast the bagger cant keep up and the eggs get crushed by the steak and pineapple and all the yogurts are pushed in by pears and celery. If the bagger is too slow the cashier cant meet their quota of customers per shift. The bagger has to notify the cashier of any items left in or under the basket which are 99.9 percent of the time a complete accident on the customers part but since the cashier cant see that area from where they stand they rely on the bagger to catch it and communicate with them. Having been both a cashier and bagger in my twenties i fell back into this role seamlessly. There were a few new things to learn but it was pretty much like riding a bike, and they put up with me graciously for the most part. I wanted to thank the head of front end and her assistant for letting me heal there for my last 16 days but on my last day my team leader refused to send me to front end and i had to walk 5 hours for my last shift. The front end management went home before i had a chance to say goodbye. When i was doing returns some of the cashiers waved and asked if i was coming to them soon and i told them i hadnt been released from my department so i guessed the day before would end up being my last day with them. They told me theyd miss me and wished me well. It felt genuine and i appreciated it after the lack of love from my own department. I asked a really nice cashier named kelly if she would tell her boss and boss’s boss thank you for me during the following day’s shift and asked if she would tell them i appreciated them. She promised me she would. The head of the alcohol department also stated she would tell them thank you for me. They were my only hope to be able to express gratitude where it was due because i had not been allowed to leave my department on my last day and did not get a chance to do so. When it came time to go i donated three shirts that werent stained or snagged so others could have them, turned in my badge, and my key card for the door. I absconded with the laminated cheat sheet behind my name tag detailing what temperatures food should be kept at and the proper procedure for handling pastries. I felt most people lose this anyways so it didnt qualify as straight stealing. I knew i should give it back so they had to print and laminate one less but i felt i should gain more than i lost at every job i did in my life and i needed this little information card to tip the scales once my entire department ignored me on my last day and never said bye. I said bye to the evening team leader and she said “i know, i cant believe you’re leaving.” So there was at least one who didn’t hate or resent me but im such a people pleaser when it comes to jobs the lack of genuine connection between me and anyone on my last day was so startling and hurtful. The moment when you realize you truly are just a cog in a machine. Deli, front end, grocery, alcohol, cooking connection, the janitor, and the bread and cracker vendors said bye to me so, its not a storewide problem. Its a curbside problem. And i think i will miss everybody else so i will probably make myself go visit, but the fact that nobody acknowledged my existence or non existence in curbside will hurt my feelings into my nineties and i dont think i will probably stop in to my former department if i do visit the bread and cracker venders, alcohol rep, cosmetics, front end, the janitor and so many more. There is a part of me that wants to just put the whole store out of my mind and never think about it again but the janitor did nothing to me and she is my friend and i love her genuinely and who would i be if i never acknowledged or visited her again?

Again i have to go back. I skipped a part. My new employer sells cbd with the legal amount of thc in our state. Its legal to sell and buy but because it has a small amount of thc in it, it can show up on a drug test and because we dont have a way to differentiate on the test whether your thc came from weed or cbd, if you fail the drug test you can be disqualified from whatever job position you were applying for. Knowing this i accidentally took a capsule of thc containing cbd once and it was fantastic! I was rendered with zero joint pain for about twenty hours, so i knew it worked. Then i cried a lot because i knew i could never take it again. It would cause me to fail a drug test and the corporation would fire me. So i gave the bottle away and turned to isolate instead. Now that i was quitting i wondered what my new employer’s policy on thc containing cbd was. I bought the one that had worked so well years ago when i had that one capsule. It was like being born again. Suddenly i could walk. I could sleep. The pain didnt wake me up every hour. I could run. I could dance. I could do the night chores in 40 minutes instead of two hours. I didnt need the walking stick anymore. Full spectrum cbd gave me my life back. I was walking again, not hobbling. For the life of me i couldnt understand why this stuff was so demonized. I mean obviously anything done in excess is probably bad but it seemed this thing had real solid medicinal purposes. The only side effect i could see after three weeks of use was a decrease in anxiety and insomnia. I told my new boss through tears of gratitude that i loved her, thanked her for selling cbd, and that she gave me my life back. Because it did. Full spectrum cbd gave me my life back. Unlike the cbd isolate which simply took the edge off the pain, this completely eliminated it. I felt young and vibrant again. I felt useful. For the first time since contracting covid i felt like a woman in her thirties and not an 80 year old. I realized at this moment that i could never leave this job. Actually the specific moment was watching my new manager help a disabled customer back his car out by stopping traffic after i had shopped his groceries over the phone and brought them to him in his car…he was like family to them and the team was like family to him and whatever needs any customer had they went out of their way to meet them because that was what this little store was for: to do God’s work, to make a difference in people’s lives, to change the world one customer at a time and get up every morning with the same mission, positivity, and enthusiasm and just do the best one could, and that would be enough. I saw my manager help that customer back his car out and the customer stuck his head out the window and waved emphatically, “love you!” And my manager and i said, “love you too” as we waved goodbye, because he was family and he’d been coming to them for years and he really did love them. My heart melted and my soul was lit afire and i knew that i would leave this job position as a 99 year old lady or on a stretcher in an ambulance because there would be no other reason anyone would ever convince me to stop doing this work for these people. When i returned to the cash register i noticed a tiny bible wedged beside it. I never opened it but the fact that it was there gave me comfort and made me feel like God and Jesus’s teachings were considered in all these endeavors and decisions. My aspirations for a 9 to 5 GIS job shrunk to the desire to do weekend grunt work for a cut of my tutor’s big GIS projects. I knew this would mean i was going to be poor for a long time. I thought back and remembered that there was a passage in the bible that said something about how hard it is for rich men to enter the kingdom of heaven. Well, it seems like being poor is the thing to aspire to, so lets do this. I almost lost my ability to walk. I learned the hard way that money isnt everything. You should choose the path that feeds your soul, not the one that feeds your bank account. Every minute of every hour, every step of every task at this new job feeds my soul and i know in my bones that i am where i am meant to be, doing what i am meant to be doing. Money cant buy that kind of contentment. All the money in the world could not buy the feeling that i have when i step foot in the doorway of that job every morning, when i tie on that apron, or when i flip the closed sign to open. Money cannot buy that feeling and i feel blessed, so very blessed, to have found where i was meant to be.

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