The Grand Tour

by Peggy on February 17, 2019

I missed the big day when the WinCo warehouse had its open house almost two years ago. Michael and Paige went with Sam, and got to see where Sam had trained as well as the spot where he works inside that massive building.

Sam will celebrate his second anniversary with the company in March. A few days ago, I took part of the day off to ride to work with him and finally get a tour of the place.

(Here’s a news story from the opening, shown in the Denton Record-Chronicle photo shown above.)

Sam’s unit unpacks small dry goods, such as shampoo and lotion, that are continuously delivered to the warehouse. They move them into bins that can be quickly accessed for shipment to stores in the region. (Sometimes he works on that repacking side, too.) They keep about 18,000 inventory bins stocked at all times. Much of the work is automated, which means he’s working with computers and all kinds of lifts and conveyors.

Once they’ve unpacked a delivery box, they throw the empty box up on a conveyor to the cardboard compactor, which was the highlight of the tour for my inner 8-year-old. The grown-up in me nearly melted watching his face light up showing me how it all worked. He is clearly enjoys his job, and is good at it — his supervisors told me as much, too.

When Sam first joined the workforce almost 15 years ago, a dear friend in the rehab department at the University of North Texas told me that Sam would learn and grow a lot on his first job. I was so grateful that he told me that, because I knew not to be surprised, and to be alert and responsive to those changes. I remember how challenged I felt entering the work force (a feeling that returns with each new job, and sometimes each new assignment, honestly), but I wouldn’t necessarily have connected to those experiences and been ready to help Sam in reinforcing his growth and understanding all of his new experiences, rather than being bewildered by them.

For example, I told him he might be surprised at how tired he would feel going from part-time to full-time work, especially such physically demanding full-time work. He was happy I shared that experience. After a few months, he was ready to advocate for himself in a powerful way: to get moved to swing shift. He knew he was not a morning person and that he needed more rest than he was able to get working day shift.

He also gained a lot more confidence in his strength. I don’t know what it is about autism, but it seems like lots of kids with autism don’t grow up with the core strength that most neuro-typical kids have. Horseback riding probably helped Sam get stronger than he was initially wired for.

But I knew WinCo put that over the top when I asked him to help me load a dryer on the back of my pickup, the kind of two-person job we had done many times over the years. I planned on taking the dryer to my girlfriend in Houston, who’d been all but wiped out by Hurricane Harvey’s flood waters. After I put down the tailgate and anchored the ramps, I turned around to see that Sam had already loaded the dryer on the dolly. He walked it all up the ramp without a word, like the grown-ass man he is.

 

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The Power of Parmesan Cheese

by Peggy on February 12, 2019

 

Sam was very young when he discovered that Parmesan cheese made almost anything taste better, and it became a thing in our family.

We would tell the wait staff at Olive Garden, for example, to please leave the twirling grater at our table, because they had other tables to tend to and they didn’t need to spend all their time grating cheese for us.

(Now, foodie friends, please don’t judge. We were thrilled that (1) Sam finally could not only tolerate but enjoy a dinner out with the family and (2) the kids were asking to order things beyond a hamburger and fries.)

When Sam was little, he had distressing vomiting episodes. The doctors were no help. He eventually whittled his food choices to cold breakfast cereal with milk, morning, noon and night.

After a few years, we stumbled on the power of Parmesan. For Sam, the cheese was a gateway to trying other foods. Parmesan helped restore a balanced diet for him, including vegetables and salads. We didn’t blink at the amount of Parmesan that flowed. We even bought a twirling grater. On our family vacation in Germany last summer, we came across cheese mongers selling massive wheels of Parmesan and we teased Sam, “dude, that’s what you need to buy for a souvenir.”

I used to liken his preference to the way some people think everything tastes better with a little ketchup or mustard. For Sam, it was Parmesan, and we figured that was that.

Then along came Samin Nosrat and Salt Fat Acid Heat. In her Netflix series, she talked about the first time she was a guest at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and how she found herself slathering the cranberry sauce on everything because the meal lacked the acid her palate craved.

In the episode in Italy, she spent considerable amount of time exploring how Parmesan cheese was made and what powerful things it can bring to a dish–fat, acid, salt. She told viewers that good Parmesan should be among your kitchen staples.

No worries, Samin. We got a big check mark on that one in the kitchen at Chez Wolfe.

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Horsemanship as culture

January 26, 2019

When we first moved to Texas from California, I was struck by the fact that Fort Worth’s cultural district put world class arenas and art museums side by side. At the time, I thought we would be more frequent visitors of the latter. That was upside down. Watching Sam’s ride in “working trail” events, you […]

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Making some dust

January 22, 2019

There aren’t many horseback riding events at Chisholm Challenge where the riders go as fast as they can. Sam hasn’t been barrel racing long, but he’s got the hang of it. There were several other riders in other classes that raced before Sam’s class. (Riders completed the course at a walk, a jog or a […]

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Internet commerce is a wild web

January 14, 2019

If Sam wrote up his tips for how to avoid getting scammed, it would read something like this. Don’t read email Don’t respond to texts Don’t answer the phone Open snail mail only after your mom nags you for a week that it’s important And still things happen to him. I try not to hover. […]

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Overheard in the Wolfe House #314

January 7, 2019

Peggy: That box on the front seat of your car is all your old ribbons to take to Mary’s office next time you ride at Born2Be. They can reuse them. Sam: Yeah, Mom, it takes more than a ribbon to prove your success. #RealMillennial

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A year to be more open and connected

December 30, 2018

Two years ago, after writing a news story about a few of our clever readers and what they learned achieving their New Year’s resolutions, I did mine differently. A year into my own experiment, I had learned so much that I shared it in a column. That first goal to not buy anything (with reasonable exceptions […]

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Stupid fear

October 23, 2018

Sam almost didn’t get to go to the State Fair of Texas this year. I enjoy the fair but, honestly, I wouldn’t miss it if a year or two went by without a trip. I think Sam likes that every time we go we check out something new, but we also do some of the […]

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No going back

September 30, 2018

Sam lost his sunglasses in Germany. There wasn’t anything remarkable about the sunglasses themselves. They were a pair of sunglasses that had been lying around the house for years, a little scratched, but durable both in their purpose and their terrific ability to avoid getting lost the way most sunglasses do. The loss, though, became […]

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Ok, Germany, alles klar

September 22, 2018

The kids and I just finished a week of bicycling in the Bodensee region of Germany, Austria and Switzerland Saturday, arriving home Sunday night. We had a wonderful time. There was good wine, great cheese, and lots of beer, too. This is the second time I’ve explored another country by pedaling the backroads with a small […]

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