Wellness Wednesday – Disbelief of Doctors

I am frustrated. Back in September, I mentioned a new medication I was taking that had suddenly made it so that I could sleep through the night without sleeping meds. For the first time in nine years. This medicine, originally intended for people with type 2 diabetes, does something to regulate insulin, and has been shown to help women with PCOS to lose weight. I actually tried this medicine a year ago, but we pushed rapidly upwards from the pre-dose to the small and then larger doses way too quickly, and I ended up with a terrible number of side effects: nausea, food aversions, stomach cramps, mild weight gain (about 3 lbs total over two months), severe depression (as if my antidepressant no longer worked), constant bouts of hypoglycemia, fatigue. Roughly a month after getting off the injections – it takes 5 weeks for the medicine to get out of your system – I was able to start feeling and eating normally again, rather than living on simple carbs and liquid food.

Now, don’t ask me WHY my doctor and I decided to try again, much slower and more cautious. The thing is, the first two weeks – when I was on the pre-dose level – I DID have positive results. But that dose is not meant to be therapeutic. You’re supposed to take it for at least four weeks before moving up to higher doses, and it was possible that my doctor’s instructions to cut that to two weeks could have caused the problems. So I went in slowly, and for four weeks in September, I took the 0.25 mg dose. While it made no difference at all in my appetite, ability to eat, or weight, I began sleeping through the night without sleeping pills – as if that tiny, pre-therapeutic dose did just enough to regulate my insulin that I wouldn’t wake up at 2-4am like usual.

And then I moved up to the 0.5 mg dose.

Oy. Since the beginning of October, my dosing levels have alternated between the two levels as my doctor said it would be fine to go back and forth as my body got used to the higher one. The last seven weeks have had three higher doses (weeks 1 2 and 4), three lower, and the most recent one with no dose at all. Because Bad Stuff has been happening:

  • All sleep benefits disappeared, because I began waking up at 2-4am STARVING due to the low number of calories I ate during the day.
  • My appetite was severely diminished – the supposed desired effect – so that I was eating roughly a third to half of normal calories. Eating beyond that caused severe heartburn, so I couldn’t eat a bit more at night to prevent middle-of-the-night blood sugar drops.
  • While I had no food aversions this time, I couldn’t eat high fiber foods (like raw veggies) without severe stomach cramps.
  • Depression got worse, as if my antidepressant wasn’t helping anymore. Again.
  • I began to swell severely all over my body. Everything from feet/hands to face and even my tongue is swollen. No matter how much I drink, my body keeps retaining massive amounts of water.
  • Probably related to the water, but also related to the WAY too low level of calories, I gained 10 lbs over these seven weeks. After holding my weight steady for the last few YEARS.

I got off the injections. It takes five weeks for the medicine to get out of your system, and frankly, I want it to get the F out of my body NOW, so I didn’t just drop to the lower level. The sleep benefits of the pre-therapeutic dose were nice, but the rest of this is nothing but hassle and pain and frustration.

Yet, I’ve been hesitant to approach my doctor, because I knew exactly how she would react. And she did: It’s “just not possible” to gain fat while eating a low-calorie diet, she says. I should take a few weeks off the meds and then start again, forcing myself to keep on a low-calorie, low-carb four-small-meals-a-day-no-matter-what regimen. If I really felt it was necessary (eye roll implicit in her words), she could order some blood work, but she was too busy to see me herself and would need to send me to a different doctor in the clinic if I wanted an actual appointment.

Yes, friends, this was the better of my two primary care doctors. Does it matter to her that I’ve explained, in detail, that calories mean absolutely nothing to my weight (gain or loss) when something is WRONG in my body, and that this has been the case since 1998? No. I’ve explained that if my carbs drop below 50% of my daily macros, I experience heavy inflammation, overactive bladder, constant feelings of dehydration, irregular menstrual cycles, extreme fatigue, worsening insomnia, and crippling pain for days after any intense cardio or resistance training (not due to muscle soreness – this pain is in my organs and joints). She still wants me to follow a low-carb diet, which I did for seven years straight to the extreme detriment of my body! I’ve also explained to her that I spend 4-5 hours exercising each week – ST, yoga, running, walking, hiking, boxing, dancing, whatever my body feels like doing that week – and her recommendation is that I should START exercising, maybe doing some bouncing on an individual trampoline because that’s low impact. Sigh.

She clearly doesn’t believe anything I say. It doesn’t fit into her medical world view. But I know my body. I know that for the 11 years that I had tooth infections from 1998 to 2009, I would go long periods of time maintaining my weight and then suddenly gain or lose 20-30 lbs in less than a month. I know that I had severe allergy reactions to mountain cedar (a big seasonal allergen in SA) when allergy tests showed I wasn’t allergic, and when I’ve literally had NO reaction to cedar in the 11 years since 2009 (not to mention all the years before 1998). I know that I experienced symptoms that appeared to align with bipolar II disorder during those years, only it wouldn’t improve with medications, and when the last of the infections was cleaned out, all those symptoms went away permanently. I KNOW WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG IN MY BODY. I know, because bodies aren’t SUPPOSED to suddenly gain 80 lbs in under a year when you’re doing everything the same as all the years you when you had no problem maintaining your healthy weight. But I’ve never ONCE found a doctor that frickin’ believes me. Not. Once.

Which is why I’ve always had to do things myself. Which is why I was hesitant to even tell my doctor what was going on at the moment. Which is why I tend to avoid doctors unless it’s an unrelated symptom (or possibly-unrelated symptom). Because who is going to connect them all? Six years now of:

  1. sudden unexplained weight gain and later inability to lose weight despite rigorous protocols
  2. anosmia that lasted for months and then turned into dysgeusia which has continued for over two years, and which only improves if I take a steroid treatment to lessen inflammation
  3. inflammation (with markers off the charts for years now)
  4. autoimmune antibodies showing up all over the place but which don’t match any known pattern
  5. PCOS symptoms that don’t react to various PCOS treatments and I’d guess would disappear altogether if we fixed the true source of the problem
  6. hives that appear if I take probiotics and then last for months, plus also showing up at random times over the last six years, often in conjunction with medicines to treat above symptoms
  7. injuries that take well more than the normal healing time to recover, and never recover completely (like that broken foot from 2015 that took until 2017 to fully heal enough to walk on properly – doctors called it “a catastrophic failure to heal” – and which STILL flares up with pain on a regular basis)

I could go on, but this is the general point. My body does stupid stuff to get my attention when something is wrong, but my body is also not very good at telling me where the wrongness is. And doctors never believe a damn thing I say, nor connect all the random seemingly-unconnected symptoms. So yeah. I’m frustrated, and frankly I wish I’d just kept my mouth shut and stopped taking these injections and just never brought things up to the doctor at all.

Also: it’s time to change doctors. Again. Maybe the next one will be better.

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Smoke and Mirrors, by Elly Griffiths (audio)

In this second book of the Magic Men** series, two children are found dead in the snow, a line of candy leading to them as if in parody of Hansel and Gretel. Fairy tales play a major thematic part of the investigation, all the way back to a previous child murder from forty years ago.

This book was far more interesting than the first in the series, and there were so many different clues and misdirects that I had absolutely no idea where the mystery itself was going. I wouldn’t have even begun to guess who ended up being the murderer! I had tons of theories, growing increasingly wild, but none of them even got close. Like the previous book, it was a bit lighter and less thick than Griffiths’ other mysteries, but still fun!

**This series has multiple names: Magic Men, or the Brighton Mysteries, or the Stephens & Mephisto Mysteries. The first is the shortest to type, so I’m going with that. Heh.

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Sunday Coffee – Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving week, and to be honest, it couldn’t be worse timing. The country is in a massive wave of covid, with nearly 200,000 new cases a day, making July’s spike look like peanuts. This has been going poorly for weeks, and San Antonio has been faring relatively well…until now. Two days ago, our case numbers suddenly skyrocketed, and we all got emergency warnings on our phones about levels that hadn’t been seen since mid-July.

Now, we weren’t planning on having a huge traditional Thanksgiving celebration anyway. I have a very large extended family, and most years, we have an early Thanksgiving gathering with my mom’s side of the family the weekend before. It would have been yesterday, but it didn’t happen of course. And then on the day-of, we would normally go to my aunt and uncle’s house for a celebration with my dad’s side of the family. Again, that’s not going to happen, not in the current environment and definitely not now that our area is starting to spike.

But we were planning a few small things. We were going to make traditional foods just for us. My sister was thinking of coming to town and even isolated herself completely for a few weeks beforehand to be extra safe. We were going to hang out on our back deck, outside, far enough apart to again be extra safe. My mom and stepdad might have come over as well, though those plans weren’t finalized. At some point, we might have gotten together outdoors with my dad and stepmom and half-sister, maybe for a walk on the trails. It’s looking like all of that might be canceled, though. Our meagre attempts to be with family at this time of year, as safely as possible, just gone.

I know this is the way it has to be. I know. I’m going to spend some time mourning anyway. I have no idea when I’m going to see my family again, and my oldest son isn’t even coming home from college for the holiday. (He’s decided to stay up in Kansas over the long winter break, with a short week down here at Christmas.) Those are sad things. Covid has made a lot of sad things this year.

But I’m also going to take some time to be thankful this week for the things we have. None of us have been sick. (Fingers crossed it stays that way!) My kids have options for virtual schooling. Jason has a job that can be done from home, so we haven’t had to worry about income issues or him potentially getting exposed at work. I have a social support network that I can lean on when I’m sad.

I do hope that soon, we can be together again. Christmas is coming and I know it won’t be the same this year, which is going to be doubly hard as it already wasn’t the same last year due to other family circumstances. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen some of the people in my family now, and for a group that’s as tightly connected as ours, this has been rough. We’re all still hanging in there, though. And I’m going to try my best to appreciate that this Thanksgiving week.

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The Zig Zag Girl, by Elly Griffiths (audio)

From GoodReads: Brighton, 1950. When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind. Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…

Likely this review will be shorter than that description. 1) I only realized recently that Elly Griffiths had another mystery series out, with five books published. 2) The first three of those books are available to me for free from the Audible Plus catalog, yay! 3) While I didn’t find this book as engaging as Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series, it was a fun read, and I’ll likely read the rest of the series. 4) The theatre/magic bits made the story quite interesting and were what I enjoyed most. 5) I kept getting tripped up by the characters’ “back in the war” comments because it felt like the war was 20+ years behind them rather than the rather close 5-ish years. 6) The culprit was fairly easily spotted early on, though I admit that I had another candidate I thought more likely. 7) James Langton narrates, and I quite liked his performance.

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Wellness Wednesday – Grounding, Hunger, Change

In mid-October, when my extended family was in a crisis in four different ways, my anxiety went through the roof and I began a combination of not-eating mixed with drinking 5-6 tumblers of iced coffee per day. This was bad for me. It clearly showed angry results with my first month of real weight gain in 2020.

To combat this, and in my first step toward cutting all coffee by the end of November (or at least down to one cup per day), I stopped buying and making iced coffee several weeks ago. If I wanted coffee after this point, I either had to make hot coffee, or go down to Dunkin’ for iced. This would keep me from binging on the stuff. Many days, I’ve gone down to Dunkin’ for an afternoon coffee. It’s not an ideal solution, but with one exception, I’ve only had two cups of coffee daily since Nov 1st.

On November 2nd, on my way home from a chiropractor visit, I strongly considered taking the exit that would take me to Dunkin’ even though it was 4pm and I usually don’t drink coffee that late. Plus, I’d already had my two allotted drinks for the day. I felt extremely anxious, and ever since transferring my anxiety-drink from wine to iced coffee over a year ago, anxiety immediately makes me crave the latter. I didn’t know WHY I felt anxious, though, and since I had a few minutes before reaching that particular exit on the highway, I sat with the emotion for a bit. Then I realized: I didn’t feel anxious. I felt hungry. The hunger was giving me anxiety.

I’ve talked recently about how I began using coffee as an appetite suppressant back in 2014, and how it completely messed up my metabolic system, causing massive weight gain. To this day, if I drink too much coffee, or drink it at the wrong time of day – ie, to stave off eating when I get hungry – I tend toward hypoglycemia attacks and weight gain. This is the reason I’m cutting it back and eventually out completely. Clearly, coffee isn’t good for my system. But it’s also not terribly good for my mental health, either. Which leads me to two things: grounding, and hunger.

There is very little in common between wine and iced coffee, and yet, I was able to successfully transfer from one to the other to combat anxiety. It was an intuitive process and not one that I worked to do on purpose. When I look back on it, I know exactly what made the switch successful: the straw. Sounds silly, but neurologically, it’s not. Sucking through a straw activates particular parts of your nervous system, and the thicker the substance (so the harder you have to work), the more this activates. (We used to have Ambrose drink yogurt from through a straw for occupational therapy when he was two years old and had sensory processing disorder.) When you have anxiety, your nervous system is in overdrive, and by giving it stimuli, you can help to calm the system. It’s no different from putting ice on your skin or doing tapping rhythms for grounding. Drinking water through a straw didn’t help me, because there’s just about no resistance to water, but there was just enough with iced coffee thickened with half-and-half to provide a mild grounding experience. This, in addition to the stimulation of the drink itself, was the key to the wine-to-coffee anxiety switch.

Then you add in the hunger component. After using coffee as an appetite suppressant for years, and becoming more and more disordered in my relationship with food, hunger has become an anxiety trigger. It didn’t used to be. I wrote multiple posts back when I was losing weight the first time about the importance of hunger cues. An excerpt from one of these posts said:

Too often, hunger becomes the enemy of those of us trying to lose weight. We wish we simply didn’t have to deal with hunger, because if we didn’t get hungry, we wouldn’t want to eat so much, right? But hunger is NOT the enemy. Hunger – REAL hunger – is a signal from our bodies that we need fuel. Hunger keeps us alive. Hunger tells us that we aren’t starving (or in starvation mode). Hunger is an amazing, wonderful thing, and an incredibly USEFUL tool on our weight loss journeys, if only we learn how to recognize it.

But back in 2014, my anxiety, hunger cues, trauma, intuitive eating, disordered eating, and coffee consumption got all folded in together, and I stopped being able to recognize what my body was trying to tell me. And now, apparently, getting hungry outside of planned mealtimes is an immediate nosedive into anxiety. Coffee was both my go-to for unwanted hunger and for anxiety, so it’s a double whammy to overcome in order to quit the habit(s).

So. It’s time to do a little work, and transfer across my current anxiety drink from iced coffee to something else. (It doesn’t even have to be a drink, though likely that would be the easiest transfer.) I don’t know what I can use, yet. I can’t stand tea of any kind, I don’t want highly sugared drinks, and I can’t seem to find any iced milk drinks that aren’t of the coffee/tea variety (milk drinks would be best in terms of straw-tension). But this is the goal, in addition to re-learning to recognize true hunger cues again as I cut away the drink that intentionally buries them.

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by VE Schwab

Three hundred years ago, Addie made a deal with a devil: her freedom to live life as she chooses in exchange for her soul when she’s ready to die. She didn’t realize the catch – loosening her ties for total freedom means that she can leave no mark. No one remembers her. No one knows her name. And then one day, someone does.

Let me start by saying that this book is worth every bit of the hype. I put it off, worried that I’d be the one person who wouldn’t like it. Nope. I savored every page over the ten days that I languidly read it, and I wish I’d spread out the last hundred pages or so for longer as I read them way too fast. There was so much good here. The writing was exquisite and immersive. The characterization was awesome, with people who were flawed and not always good but also lovable. The ending was perfect, in a really tricky situation. This will definitely end up being in my top books of the year.

There were a few things that struck me. First, while the books are very different, I saw a lot of parallels between Addie and The Night Circus. There is a certain dreamlike quality to both books, weaving in and out of time and history. There’s even a scene where Addie and Henry walk through an interactive art exhibit** that reminded me of the tent-mazes in the Circus. It’s not just that, though. On a personal level, both books were ones that reminded me of the joy involved in writing and creation. I read both while taking a break from writing, and both made me want to start again. They’re inspiring and beautiful and spoke directly to my core.

Second. There’s a particular scene where Henry takes Addie to the whisper gallery in Grand Central Station (for those who don’t know: you can whisper at the wall in one corner and have it sound perfectly audible on the other side of the room). He’s taking her to a spot she’s never known or experienced, something new in her 300+ years. It annoyed me at first, because how could she have missed this? I mean, this is a famous thing. It is literally mentioned on Wikipedia and on the Grand Central website as a thing to see there. My sister took me there on my first ever trip to NYC. So in all the many years Addie has been exploring the city, how did she not know? But then I had a realization: If someone had wanted to take her to this whisper gallery, they would forget her before they reached the other side of the room and began to talk via the audio arch. Yeah, it’s not particularly realistic that she wouldn’t have heard of this place, but it’s almost certain she never could have experienced it. So even though the scene stretched believability, I appreciated it all the same.

Last, because I don’t want to drone on too long about this book: the ending was incredible. The relationship between Addie and the “darkness” (the devil she made her deal with) is complex and interesting. I really worried about the different directions it might go. Without going into anything spoilery, the resolution between them was just as complex and interesting as the rest of their history. I cheered for Addie’s ingenuity, and while I mourned some of what was lost, I loved the perspective of time from the viewpoint of someone who has navigated three centuries of experience. It was just perfect.

I can see myself reading this book many times. Definitely need to check out an audio version to see if that will be equally brilliant. I love love love when I can add books like this one to my collection, and I’m so happy that I didn’t let the hype deter me!

**In the week since I finished this book, I discovered that there’s an interactive art installation here in SA that is very similar to the one in this book. I definitely need to go there when this whole covid thing is under control!

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Sunday Coffee – Theories: Rhythm of War

Note: This post will contain spoilers for earlier volumes of the Stormlight Archive (including Dawnshard), as well as spoilers for the pre-released chapters from Rhythm of War. Do not continue if you don’t want to read spoilers!

Continue reading

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Quarantine Diaries – Weeks 33-35

Today is Friday the 13th, eight months to the date from the Friday the 13th in March when we got our first case of Covid in San Antonio. The country is undergoing a third spike, higher than previous spikes. Unemployment benefits – which are already a joke as most people get red-taped out of them and those who don’t get almost nothing (we, for instance, would get less than a third of Jason’s salary if he lost his job) – haven’t been extended by the current administration, so they’ve expired (maximum of 26 weeks). San Antonio has been named one of the top five cities in the country for covid financial distress. People are out of work and unable to go back to work safely because our state and country are doing absolutely nothing to help or get this under control!! Texas became the first state to reach a million covid cases just a few days ago, and the US is now experiencing well over 100k new cases and 1,000 deaths per day. And with people protesting masks by wearing them under their noses even more since the election results, I’m kinda terrified of what we can expect to see before we have a vaccine available.

Week 33 – October 23 to 29
65,423 cases, 1,250 deaths, 201 cases for the 7-day rolling average (major increase), 6.9% positivity rate (up 1.1%). That plateau we were on? It’s now a steady increase. Not a spike yet, not this week, but it feels like it could become one easily. Why? Well, a big chunk is all the kids returning to school. Another big chunk is cooler weather and people thus hanging out (with people outside their household) indoors instead of outside. There’s also a lot of pandemic fatigue – people just tired of being strict with the rules. Not to mention, if the rest of the state/country has increasing numbers and people have to travel for work, there’s gonna be cross-contamination. So hospital numbers are on the rise, testing numbers and positive results are on the rise, and Bexar County has moved up from low to moderate risk this week.

Things hit hard at home this week. My aunt, who runs a preschool with my mom in a small town west of San Antonio, tested positive for Covid. By the time she got tested and had a positive result, she’d had a week of symptoms exposing my uncle, mother, stepdad, and elderly grandparents (not to mention however-many pre-symptomatic days!). Her case was mild, thank goodness, and she’s recovering already, but the preschool is shut down for several weeks and we just have to wait to see if anyone else caught it. My mom was tested on the 28th and has yet to get her results, but has no symptoms at this point.

(Dec 2014: left to right – my uncle, aunt, grandpa, grandma, mom, and stepdad – everyone here had potential exposure, plus a few others)

Unfortunately, this is the side of my family where a lot of folks aren’t wearing masks, limiting shopping trips, etc. And my grandparents are extremely vulnerable being in their 80s/90s with multiple underlying conditions. It’s been a very stressful week. Doesn’t help that another six kids from the local high school came down with covid – we got a new notice almost every single day about at least one kid – and Laurence was scheduled to take his PSAT there on the 29th. He decided that he flat-out wasn’t going to take it – he doesn’t need it for college and he didn’t want the covid risk. Jason and I tried to convince him to go, but he put his foot down. And honestly, I don’t blame him. I just hope this doesn’t take away future opportunities for him.

Week 34 – October 30 to November 5
66,909 cases, 1,268 deaths, 212 7-day rolling average, 7.7% positivity rate (up 0.8%). We’ve now shown a steady increase in daily case trend for the last few weeks, contrary to the two-week decline trend that we look for. Unfortunately, lots of other parts of the state are overloaded. El Paso is beyond capacity so hospital patients are being sent all over TX, including over 40 here so far (and we’re 10 hours away from El Paso!). One news station estimates that we saw a bit over 8k cases in October total (about 12% of our numbers), but of course that’ll likely change with backlogs etc, which is why I don’t even bother to try to tabulate that stuff now! And at of the end of the week, the county judge was exposed to covid through another county employee, so we’ll have to see what happens there.

My mom’s covid test came back negative thank goodness! Several other family members (who I didn’t even know had been exposed) also came back negative, but I have yet to hear about my grandparents and don’t even know if they’ll go in for tests. There’s so much pandemic fatigue going on. My chiropractor office, which used to do well in terms of safety, is getting more and more lax to the point where I’m getting afraid to go (photo shows my chiropractor and how he always wears his mask now). People are hoarding toilet paper again (this time in anticipation of post-election riots). The library has officially moved to Stage 3 as of the 4th, and Fitness in the Park has returned with limited classes – all this despite the current increases we’ve had. My family is starting to talk about Christmas and what we might be able to swing or not swing safely. It’s all rather depressing. It would be easier if we didn’t have another spike…

Week 35 – November 6 to 12
69,014 cases, 1,287 deaths, 283 (!!!) 7-day rolling average, 8.4% positivity rate (up 0.7%). We’ve seen some major jumps in numbers here this week, including multiple days with over 300 and 400 new cases for the first time in months. The positivity rate has been climbing for the last month, and our hospital numbers are up quite a bit too (though some of that is a continued influx of patients from El Paso). Texas is back up to over 10k cases a day, a level on par with the peak in July, and it looks to continue rising. Other than a few spiked days that reflected case backlogs in SA and Houston, we’ve had the highest daily increases in our state ever this week. Nov 11th was nearly as high as the spike day from SA’s backlogged cases! Sigh.

In better news, the county judge had two negative covid tests so it looks like his exposure last week didn’t lead to contracting covid. On the other hand, our mayor was apparently exposed this week and is currently in self-quarantine awaiting a second negative test (first came back negative). With things getting worse, the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon people finally saw the light and decided to cancel this year’s event despite saying just a few weeks ago that they’d still be hosting it traditionally. We saw another three students at the local high school come down with covid – at least that has slowed a bit now! – and sadly, we got notice that one student passed away. We don’t know if that was covid-related as they keep that info private, but it’s always sad when a classmate dies. It wasn’t someone my kids knew (the high school has over 3,000 students enrolled), but either way, grief is tough and even more surreal in a situation like the current one.

Moving forward
Well it would help if Prump stopped acting like a toddler and let the transition process begin. If he were anyone else, he could help bridge the divide here. But then again, if he were that kind of person, he could have pulled both sides in together over covid – and hey, he likely would have won the election had he done that. In any case, I think we’re in for a rough few months of lawsuits and protests (both in-person, and safety-related), and that’s going to lead to worsening covid numbers. The current ones are staggering, and they’re predicting now that soon it could be 200k+ daily cases in the US.

At home, we’re going to keep quarantining as much as possible. I’m being more careful about how many hikes I attend/lead, and likely our little individual support bubbles will get smaller/stricter as the numbers grow here. It’s really frustrating, right in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas! But I’d rather have my family and friends alive for future holidays than with me this year. At least our deck is almost finished and we can have a few people over for outdoor, distanced celebrations! Ironically, the Texas weather that we despise so much is actually going to make the next few months easier. Temps in the 60s and 70s over winter makes for great outdoor gatherings! Certainly easier than the 100+ temps from over the summer!

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Dawnshard, by Brandon Sanderson

This novella is #3.5 in the Stormlight Archive, taking place between Oathbringer and the upcoming Rhythm of War. In it, Rysn guides her ship toward the treacherous island of Akinah, with help from several Radiants, and a traitor on board. This is the sort of book that is absolutely dependent on reading the others in the series to know what’s going on. It’s a book that bridges gaps and fills in holes in readers’ knowledge of the Cosmere.

Did I love it? Oh yes. Absolutely. I knew that the book would be about 75% Rysn’s POV and the rest mostly The Lopen’s POV, and while Rsyn hasn’t always been my favorite character, I was interested in watching her continue to grow as a person. The Lopen, of course, is just awesome, and I knew he had a good arc to navigate as well. Plus, the prologue clued me in to the fate of someone I’ve wondered about since early in the second book, which is awesome!

The region felt so empty. Quiet as a home with no cousins. –The Lopen

Um…Not really much else to say here. I’m not going to go into realmatic theory and I don’t know if any of my current readers have ever even been interested in the Stormlight Archive, despite my obvious enthusiasm. So I’ll just keep this short: Brandon Sanderson does it again!

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At the Top of a Mountain

Do you remember where you were on 9/11? Where you were when President Obama made history as the first Black president of our country? How about now – will you remember where you were when Kamala Harris became our first female, Black, Asian-American vice president?

I will remember.

Saturday morning, the fifth morning of the election, dawned with no new news. Things were leaning blue, but I was still nervous that something might change. I was awake very early to get ready for an hour-forty-minute drive up to Lost Maples for a hike. Once there, I discovered that – as expected – I had no cell signal. I met up with the other seven ladies going on this hike, and we hit the trails. Lost Maples is known for its amazing color changes in November. You have to reserve one of the limited day passes a month in advance – you can’t do it any earlier than that and they run out FAST. And you never know exactly which week the trees will begin to turn. Happily, we arrived in the early turning. Maybe a quarter of the maples were red, orange, or gold, and that will ripple outwards over the next week or two, with new trees turning and turned trees losing their leaves. If you’re lucky enough to get to the park in this window, it’s a riot of color.

I haven’t been to Lost Maples since the fall of 1998, but I still recognized a lot of the trail. At one point, we diverged from the trails my family used to take, and took the challenging East Trail upwards. For 0.8 miles, we went up. And up. And up. About 400-450 feet of elevation in a very short distance! When we reached the top, we could look out over the valleys and peaks of the area. I say we were on top of a mountain, and that’s not quite true as these are technically still hill-sized – just very big hills! It felt like we’d reached the top of a mountain, though.

And as we stopped to check the map and decide which direction to go, one of the ladies realized that she had signal, now that we were at such a high altitude. She started to check her phone, and suddenly quieted us all. “Ladies,” she said, “Ten minutes ago, Kamala Harris made history.” We paused for only a beat, letting that sink in, and then began to cheer and whoop.

As we traveled over the top of the mountain and down a slippery, rocky slope back to the bottom, we heard other groups break into cheers as they got the news. Various groups on all sides of the mountain were cheering back and forth to each other, echoing across the valley. Amazingly, we didn’t hear a single set of boos or insults. Everyone we passed was celebrating. I’ve heard about towns where cars were driving by honking, or where crowds gathered in the streets to dance and shout, or where people rang bells all clanging together. My experience was of a mountainside exploding into joy as people got the news intermittently in an area with almost no cell signal. It was glorious.

I’m so glad I got to spend this day with these women. It’s very hard for me to do a lot of what I did Saturday – especially to drive by myself over roads I don’t know to an uncertain destination (no one knew where we’d meet up) – but every hard step was worth it. I know where I was when history was made. I was with my hiking family at the top of a mountain.

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