The Drowning Kind, by Jennifer McMahon

Jax has distanced herself from her older, bipolar sister, Lexie, and refuses to answer a series of phone calls one night when Lexie is manic. The next day, she discovers that her sister has drowned. Jax travels to her sister’s home, a manor that has long been in the family and the place where Lexie died, only to get wrapped up in the same mysteries that her sister was investigating.

I’m really striking out on my RIP books so far! It’s a bummer. This one had an interesting premise with a few spooky paranormal bits about a series of drownings and a miraculously healing spring-fed pool. After that, though, I struggled. A section is written from the past, in 1929, where a woman and her husband travel to the miracle-springs as a way to solve their infertility problems. Of course, the legend goes that no miracle is given without an equal curse to balance it, so Bad Things follow. That part of the book was more interesting, though I struggled to connect with the narrator, Ethel.

Most of the book follow’s Jax’s story, though. And it’s where I had the most difficulty. First, there was a “Chekov’s gun” early in the book that kept getting referred back to, but was never truly addressed. It was used as a device near the end, but left completely unresolved. Then, there was the fact that Lexie was such an unlikeable character, and I couldn’t figure out why Jax would feel any real shame or guilt for distancing herself. There was this weird disconnect between “I worship my older sister” and “my older sister tortured me for fun and everyone loved her and ignored me.” I mean, that could work in a story, if there was the implication that Jax’s hero-worship was something born of the abuse she suffered through. But it was put down to “it’s just family,” and then it was like…but everyone in the family is awful. Dad shows up at one point, too, and he’s just as off-the-wall horrible as Lexie. Last, Jax is a therapist who has gone through all sorts of psychological training, and yet succumbs to the weirdest, wildest theories, throwing them out one after another near the end of the book. There was a strange juxtaposition of “is this really supernatural or is it all in her head?” without any real resolution. I like ambiguity as much as the next guy, but…meh.

Honestly, I kinda knew it wasn’t going to work for me pretty early on. I considered abandoning it multiple times. It was Ethel’s story that kept me going. I should have let it go. I’ve had a lot of failed reads this year, and The Drowning Kind wasn’t worth the disappointing finish.

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Saturday Coffee – 20 Years

On September 11, 2001, my family consisted of Jason, me, and 10.5-month Morrigan. This photo of us was taken in September that year, though I couldn’t tell you if it was before or after the 9/11 attacks. At that time, Jason and I were struggling with extreme financial hardship after seven months living in Madison, WI, and we’d briefly moved in with his parents in southwestern WI near the end of August. Morrigan was just starting to take his first steps. Jason was looking for a new job. I wasn’t yet pregnant with Ambrose.

Jason’s father was a PA, and at the time, worked one overnight per week in the ER. Normally, he got home pretty early on his overnight shifts, and we would be quiet in the morning to make sure he could sleep. On this particular morning, he didn’t return home like normal, and we were all worried because Jason’s mom couldn’t get a hold of him. Eventually, he called the house. It turned out that in an entirely unrelated turn of events, there had been some kind of incident (maybe a multi-car pileup, or something? I don’t remember) near the end of his shift and so he’d been busy with patients past his normal hours. When he called, though, he told us to turn on the TV. Jason’s mom relayed this info, and I asked what channel. His response? “It doesn’t matter.”

By the time we turned on the TV and got the news, the second plane had already hit. I remember dropping to the floor. It wasn’t just the horror of what was happening. My sister lived in NYC at the time. I had no idea how close she lived to the attack, or if she was okay. Phone lines were down, of course. In 2001, cell phones were around but not as common, and most of those communication lines were scrambled, too. A lot of phone tag started happening back and forth to various family members, all of us trying to get ahold of Becky. I think it was my dad who finally got through to her, but there was so much confusion and my brain recorded all of this in a weird kind of slow-motion free-fall, so certain details get hazy.

Others remained fixed. We watched when the buildings collapsed. We watched people jumping from windows. We watched as smoke engulfed cameras. And we were so far removed from the situation, nothing compared to those who witnessed it first hand, with every sense alert, the smells and sounds and feel of the air.

My sister watched the second plane hit in real time. It turned out that she had been at her ballet studio only half a mile from the towers. When the first plane hit, they thought it was an accident. There weren’t smart phones or ready access to the internet everywhere in 2001. As she and fellow dancers stood at the windows of their studio discussing the horror, they saw the second plane hit. At that point, their instructors chivvied them into the basement to shelter in place. Some time later, they sent all the dancers away and told them to head away from the buildings. I’m honestly not sure how Becky got home, if she lived in walking distance or if she had to find some other way in a city that had shut down. Eventually, she got a signal on her cell phone and called to let us know she was okay. She told me once, a long time later, that her boyfriend had come to visit her the previous week, and they’d gone up in one of the towers together. That’s how close to possibility she got.

I also remember the way things turned. How at first, everyone tried to unite and rally together, and how that unification turned its head toward Muslims, because all that fear and horror needed an outlet of anger and hate. I watched Muslim friends being turned on. My father-in-law, who is white but had jet black hair, was stopped multiple time and asked if he was “one of them Arabs.” Hate crimes escalated, and we saw a rise in violent speech, and what became “acceptable” to say. There was all this sentiment about how these colors won’t run, how America will come out of this better and stronger, but in the end, this horrific event caused a cataclysmic change in our culture. We continue to get more divided than ever, and our country continues to collapse. It’s not what they planned when they hit those towers, but in a way, they did what they intended to do: they weakened us, they made fissures, they planted seeds that continue to break us.

It’s a monstrous set of memories.

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Quarantine Diaries – Week 78

Let’s get right to it. I don’t have pics for this week, so I’m going to sprinkle this post with lots of cute kitten photos instead. Heh. This week’s numbers:

  • Cases: 295,953 (+8,542)
  • Deaths: 4,017 (+81)
  • Seven-day rolling average: 983 (-295/day)
  • Positivity rate: 7.6% (-3%)
  • Cases per 100k: 51 (-10)
  • Hospitalizations: 1,159 patients including 365 in ICU
  • Vaccinations: 1,435,702 first dose (86% of eligible population, 72% total); 1,162,982 fully vaxxed (70% of eligible, 58% total)
  • Our school: 1** student; cumulative school-year total: 4 students, 6 staff

**This was clarified for us this week: We will only get a notice if there is a case in our student’s class or activity. So all the numbers I’m reporting here are people my son took classes or other activities with. Great!

I’m going to be honest – I’m terrified of what’s coming. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I feel like we’re in the eye of the storm, so to speak. Number-wise, things are improving on almost all fronts. In fact, the city downgraded our community from “severe (stable)” to “moderate (improving).” However, when you look at what’s happening in the school systems, this is what you see. The week of August 18th, there were 173 self-reported positive cases. The next week, that was up to 5,167; the next was 18,111; and the next was 27,033. A total of over 50K cases in schools, and that’s only self-reported, which is under-reported. I can’t tell you how much is in our county alone because I believe those are statewide numbers, but either way, those are insane jumps from week to week, and those kids and staff members are then spreading the virus at home. It feels like things are just going to get worse at some point, when we reach some kind of apex. I don’t know.

Already, schools are in rough shape. I mentioned a few that closed down last week, or extended the holiday weekend, or canceled sporting events. Another nearby closed an elementary school this week, and another voted to have a mask mandate after they had nearly 800 students out of school in quarantine (with 200+ active cases, nearly all from students). At one school just north of the city, every single kindergarten teacher tested positive, and a 3rd grade teacher is in the hospital. The school didn’t even notify the parents – they found out from each other, and then the story broke in the news. All those five- and six-year-old kids, exposed from their teachers, and no one even told the parents. This is what they’re calling “freedom.”

Speaking of which, some crazy lady began following Judge Wolf around with a camera as he was leaving HEB this week, shouting that he was a traitor and a communist because he puts masks on children (clearly the woman has no idea what a communist is), won’t allow “freedom,” and says that she follows true science, which isn’t paid for by money (um, what kind of “science” doesn’t require money? Science is expensive, y’all!). She yelled about how he was a devil worshipper and paid off in bribes and the election was rigged and soon he’ll be locked up in jail and hanged like at the “Nirenberg” trials (that’s the mayor’s last name, but it wasn’t meant to be a pun, she just flubbed the name of the Nuremberg Trials – and I’m SURE the “connection” of the names has been made in crazytown circles). It was f–king insane. She’s so deep into q-anon that she doesn’t know her head from her foot. It’s people like her that are continuing this pandemic.

There’s some good news this week, though. First, there’s a slight possibility that the governor might approve funding for virtual programs at schools. I think he’d rather do that than back down on the mask thing. Second, the $100 HEB gift card incentive program has been approved, though I’m not sure it’ll really convince anyone who is truly anti-vax to get the shot. Third, studies have shown that vaccinated folks who catch Delta are infections for a much shorter period than unvaccinated people (just another reason to get the shot!). Fourth, President Biden has announced a plan through OSHA that all employers with 100+ employees must either require the vaccine or weekly negative covid tests. (Abbott has already initiated legal action to try to prevent this, saying – without realizing the irony – that it’s a “power grab” by the government. Um…) I hope that is the extreme up-the-nose test – how many times will people suffer through that horror before they give in and get shot?? I’ve seen more and more employers drawing lines in the sand, like American Airlines:

Woohoo! I heard of another employer, also an airline (United, maybe?) that says sure, they’ll “look into” people’s bogus religious exemption claims, and if they determine that you have a real religious exemption, you’ll be approved as an employee who isn’t required to get the vaccine. Then you’ll be placed on unpaid leave of absence until the virus is at low enough loads that it is safe for you to be working with the public again. With the risk of being put on unpaid LoA again if the virus surges. If only all employers were being so sane!! More power to the ones that are forcing consequences on folks who are just whining children at this point.

On the home front, last weekend’s note from our school district says that last week’s student case count, district-wide, was 409, up from 291 the week before, and that most of those cases are at the elementary school level (what a surprise!). Ambrose began in-person classes today, which means that even though he’s been vaccinated, he has to start getting weekly covid tests, since the college can’t require masks per Abbott. My friend whose son got covid last week, and who tested positive herself at the end of the week, are both recovering well. My friend Stephanie’s nephew also tested positive, which is just crazy given that he goes to school on an Air Force Base where masks are strictly enforced and vaccines are mandatory for eligible people. But both her nephews are under the vaccination age, so one got it, and so far it seems as if their quarantine measures are working well as everyone else is still testing negative. Fingers crossed!

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Wellness Wednesday – Another Failed Doctor

I had a rather upsetting visit to the doctor last week. I hadn’t wanted to go to this doctor, because my first experience with her in June wasn’t great, but I went. For some context, my PCP referred me to a gastroenterologist back in May. She believed it was possible I was having some nutrient malabsorption issues because of some weird things that happen when I eat certain ways (specifically, if the carb content of my daily diet drops below 50% of my calories, I start experiencing extreme thirst, facial inflammation, peeing 3 dozen or more times per day, muscle/joint/bone pain, etc). The actual doctor she wanted me to see didn’t have any openings for months, but the other doctor in her practice, one Dr. Mallikarjun, had an opening in June. I went ahead and took that one, to my long-lasting regret.

June’s appointment was…unfortunate. The nurse was awesome, but Dr. M was HORRIBLE. The only questions she asked was if I had diarrhea, heart burn, or unexplained weight loss. Since the answer was no to all of those, she asked me why I was there. Um…okay. So I explained why my doctor sent me over, and before I even got halfway through the explanation, she cut me off, told me we could do an endoscopy and small intestine biopsy, and then left the room, leaving me to figure out what to do next. I didn’t even know what she’d be doing these procedures for! But I set the surgery up for the end of July, and a follow-up with the doc at the end of August.

Only then, I ended up in the hospital with colitis in July, and I didn’t want surgery so soon after sepsis. I called to cancel the surgery while I was still in the hospital, and figured that was that. Until I received a call from the surgical center a few days before surgery, calling to give me instructions for the surgery day. I had to explain to them the situation and got the procedure actually canceled. Meanwhile, I’d had an abdominal CT scan, and there were some troublesome spots on my liver that my PCP wanted the gastroenterologist to check out, in addition to following up on the colitis situation. I still had my f/u with her scheduled for the end of August, so I went back, even knowing it was going to be bad. I just…had a feeling. And my instincts, as usual, were right.

First, the office had no record of me ever having been there. Turns out, they’d changed systems and lost all their patient records. (This explains why they were trying to bill me for something I’d already paid, too, as well as them not actually canceling the surgery.) Dr. M had no idea who I was, and asked if she met me during my hospital stay. When I explained to her about the original biopsy plans, she again cut me off mid-sentence (she ALWAYS did this!) and said we could reschedule. I told her I wanted to wait until the hospitals weren’t filled to capacity with covid patients, and she LITERALLY ROLLED HER EYES AT ME. She turned back to her computer and told me that fine, follow up with her in six months. Then she asked me the same questions about diarrhea, heart burn, and unexplained weight loss, listened to my abdomen for half a second, and said I was fine. No follow-up on the CT scan at all, and less than five mins after she entered the room, she was done.

Only, as she was turning to leave, she suddenly paused, then turned to me and said, “Also? Lose weight.”

I wish I could get across her tone here. They were the cruelest, most dismissive words she could say, filled with absolute contempt and judgement. I’ve had doctors act condescending to me about my weight before, but never with undisguised contempt. In that moment, I was frozen in shock. Thankfully, I managed to get my mouth back in working order before she left, and I started stumbling out an explanation about that being why I was sent to her in the first place, nutrient malabsorption, etc. She cut me off – again – with another eye roll and said that yes, she remembered, if I ate too many carbs bad things happened. Clearly, she remembered wrong, because it’s the opposite, and I corrected her. She gave a dismissive wave of the hand and told me that it was “simple math” and that if I ate fewer calories than my body used, I would lose weight. If only it were really that easy, right? I began to talk about inflammation and hormones and autoimmune issues, and she again gave a dismissive wave. Those didn’t affect weight loss, she said. They only affected your metabolism, and if you eat at a calorie deficit–

By this point, I’d gotten over my shock, and I was ANGRY. I cut her off this time, and said, very slow and strong and clear, “I can be have a thousand calorie deficit every day for months and still be gaining weight.” It was the only non-yes-or-no sentence of the entire visit that I finished in completion. She looked at me for a second, clearly deciding that it wasn’t worth arguing about because I wasn’t going to take her “advice” seriously, and said, “There’s nothing wrong with your small intestine. Clearly you’re absorbing nutrients if you’re gaining weight, so it can’t be a nutrient malabsorption issue.” Then she stood up, told me to call the office to make a follow up visit in six months, and left.

This, my friends, is a complete and utter failure of the medical system, and of a doctor. Dr. Mallikarjun ought to be stripped of her medical license, or at least required to take some classes to get her up to date on science (and patient care!). You’d think a gastro MD would know that 1) weight loss and gain is far more sophisticated than “simple math,” and 2) nutrient malabsorption is not the same thing as “inability to take in calories.” I mean, you can take in calories but, say, not be absorbing potassium correctly, leading to low potassium levels. Just as one example. Then there is her “beside manner” so to speak. I’ve had plenty of doctors dismiss me or condescend to me, but the outright disgust and contempt is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from a medical professional. They may not believe me – and they’ve ALWAYS been wrong when they don’t, because I ALWAYS find the root of the problem when they fail to – but the “suck it up you lazy b!tch” attitude is 100000000% unacceptable. And that’s exactly the attitude she had.

I haven’t decided whether or not to file a formal complaint. I did see my PCP, who was very upset that I was treated this way, plus that Dr. M didn’t even bother to investigate the spots on my liver. She’s sending me to a different gastro doc to start from scratch, because that was completely ridiculous and a waste of months of time. She also said that she will never refer another patient to their office, and she’ll be spreading the word around the rest of the practice (which is a multi-office clinic with dozens of doctors and PAs). Good. No one needs to see Dr Mallikarjun and her horrible judgmental and blind practice.

Each time something like this happens, I get a little better at advocating for myself. I hope to do better in the next situation, not allowing myself to get cut off every sentence, standing up to the doctor when they make dismissive comments about my weight or health practices. I work HARD for good health. I eat well, I eat moderately, I exercise as often as I can, I get good sleep, I take care of my body. I do all the right things, even if my body doesn’t respond the way it’s expected to. And I don’t want to be involved with any doctor who doesn’t understand and respect that.

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Devil’s Night, by Todd Ritter

It’s the night before Halloween, and Perry Hollow’s history museum goes up in flames. It’s a tragedy, but becomes more so when a woman’s body is discovered in the wreckage – not burned, but bludgeoned to death with a cryptic message left on her arm: This is just the first. Kat Campbell is overwhelmed and dismayed at the prospect of another serial murderer in her small town…and things get weirder when the police discover a spray-painted pentagram left on the ruins of the museum.

This is the third and final book in the Kat Campbell series. I read the first two last year, and enjoyed them for the most part. I was really looking forward to getting back into this series during RIP. And at first, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed seeing Kat and so many other characters again. Some of the pithy little turns of phrases cracked me up, too. (Like, regarding an Italian businessman, “He lives for publicity, good or bad. He’s like the Donald Trump of Italy.” Ha! Even better given this book was published in 2013, well before Trump began his bid for presidency. He was a fool back then, too.)

But honestly, that’s about where my positives ended. There were too many attempts at elevating the writing to a pretentious level far above where a mystery/crime level generally falls. (Who just walks around talking about leitmotifs, honestly?) There was an attempt at a love triangle that came out of nowhere and was cut short by some major deus ex machina. The Big Reveal involved a huge stretch of believability. Then there was the following conversation, that made me stop and reread and want to bang my head against the wall, and beg that it was the character and not the author who was this ignorant:

“I figured it might help, it being close to Samhain.”
Kat was getting a headache. “Wait. Sam what?”

Y’all. Really? This is a character who is super pretentious about being a witch and a Wiccan, who goes on and on about various protection herbs and freedom of religion in America and how Halloween is co-opted from paganism etc, and then he goes on to say Sam-Hain instead of pronouncing it correctly? I mean, that could be the case. I’ve definitely met That Guy before. But if so, Kat is well old enough to have heard the very common mispronounced Sam-Hain before, and wouldn’t be confused by it. And it didn’t need to be like this, because that guy was pretentious enough to definitely say it correctly (on purpose, to cause confusion, as well as to show his superiority, like he does at every second in his conversations). Kat could have said, “Wait. Sow what?” instead, and that would be perfect. So while there’s a possibility it’s the character, I honestly have to think it’s actually the author.

I mean, the author also made it so this Super Pretentious Witch Guy didn’t know who Severus Snape was circa 2012, which is a pretty big stretch. Then he (the author) went on to spend an entire paragraph explaining, in minute detail, the shape of a pentagram, with analogies like, “the [stars] children draw in their first bursts of artistic creativity.” It’s a pentagram! We all know what a pentagram looks like! Just. Say. Pentagram. It reminds me of when Paul Auster described “bugs” (germs) as “that odd little word we all fall back on to describe the invisible contagions that float through the city and worm their way into people’s bloodstreams and inner organs” (Oracle Night). Or when Beth Fehlbaum explained what Chuck E Cheese is, and went into detail describing the structure of a knock-knock joke (Hope in Patience). These are not obscure things. Bugs, Chuck E Cheese, knock knock jokes, pentagrams…we know them, okay? Cut out the overly explanatory bits of the prose, and move on. Don’t treat readers like they were born yesterday.

Anyway. Story-wise, it was fun, and I liked the setup being a by-the-hour framing. But I think the book needed a lot of editing and revision, and for a third and final book in a good series, it was rather disappointing.

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Sunday Coffee – More Kitten Updates

Yes, another kitty update. And if anyone is annoyed by that…well, there might be quite a few of these going forward, because after these kittens are off to their forever homes, I plan to volunteer as a foster for one of the local no-kill shelters. So there will be lots of kittens in my future! I’ve found this whole situation both exhausting/fretful and rewarding, and much of the negatives of that have been related to doing this solo. Jason and I have spent nearly $1500 on vet care alone, and trying to find home placements for these babies is hard when you don’t have a way to advertise them, so to speak. However, I do have good news on that front!

So I said last time that Gherkin is supposed to go to her home in mid-September. We’re getting the exact dates for that at the moment. Angus and Ghost are set to get neutered on the 20th, and then in the last week of the month, they’re going to their new home together! An employee at Jason’s company has been wanting to get cats for a few years now and she just lit up when she saw them, so we’re coordinating with her. Hopefully all works out well – I’m so excited that the boys will get to stay together!

(Angus in the back, Ghost in front)

As for the feral colony, the neighbors have tried trapping our kittens’ mother, but she’s sooooo smart and the little grey Bert kitty is so stupid (he’s set off the traps at least half a dozen times, but he’s already neutered, so all it does it scare mama away!). Jason and I have seen the babies now. From a distance, we can’t tell if they are brown tabby or grey tabby, but they look identical to our kittens (they’re all brown tabby except Ghost, who is grey tabby). The neighbors plan to bring the two new babies into their house after they’re old enough to be trapped and fixed. We just really hope they can get the moms before they get pregnant again!!

(wish I had a better pic, but it was dusk and they were far away and I only had my phone camera on me!)

That’s all for now. I’ll update again after everyone is off to their new homes!

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Quarantine Diaries – Week 77

Honestly, I don’t have the bandwidth for all the crap this week. So let me just start with the numbers, and then bullet-point my way through the mess this week. Screw trying to condense and make this more readable. Whatever. We’re 77 f-ing weeks into this crap now and nearly half the people in this country still won’t take it seriously, Delta+ is starting to enter our community, and I’m just not feeling it this week.

  • Cases: 287,411 (+9,635)
  • Deaths: 3,936 (+119 !!!)
  • Seven-day rolling average: 1,278 (+152/day)
  • Positivity rate: 10.6% (-3%)
  • Cases per 100k: 61 (-8)
  • Hospitalizations: 1,268 patients including 361 in ICU – admissions remain around 200 per day
  • Vaccinations: 1,435,702 first dose (85.8% of eligible population, 71.7% total pop); 1,162,982 fully vaxxed (69.5% of eligible pop, 58% total pop)
  • Our school: unknown, but at least two students

Okay. So news for this week:

1) The DOE launched investigation into some states that ban mask mandates. Texas is not included because the TEA has said the mandate won’t be enforced, even though school districts are complying or saying they can’t enforce a mandate (like ours!).

2) Our school district is now saying that masks are “strongly recommended” but that means nothing at all. They also say they won’t be sending out covid numbers from the school like they have for the last year, and we’ll only receive a notice if there’s a positive case in our kids’ class. I’m not sure how that works in a high school setting where you have multiple classes with multiple kids, not to mention crowded hallways. And then we got two letters this week anyway, each saying a kid tested positive, and we’re not sure if this means these kids were in one of Laurence’s classes or not. Not that any of it matters, because I met a teacher from our district this week and she said those notices are BS because they’re only counting the barest minimum of what they can get away with, and the actual numbers are much, much higher.

3) Our school district now has so many kids out that they’ve opened their own covid testing center to help families avoid the huge waiting lists to get a test.

(for fun, bc the rest of the photos that follow are WHYYYYYY???)

4) Not to mention about 3000 kids in our district alone just didn’t come to school at all this year. People would rather remove their kids from school altogether than risk covid because our state and are district refuse to be reasonable about a simple little thing like face coverings.

5) Two nearby school districts (Medina and Leakey) closed schools down for a week or two re: covid, and another (Floresville) is extending the Labor Day holiday weekend from 3 to 5 days. Another nearby district (Hondo) is canceling football games. If you know anything about Texas (think Friday Night Lights), football is practically a religion here, and high school football is the highest form of church. Hondo is a small town, so this is REALLY big news.

6) Speaking of church, the Catholic archdiocese here in SA refuses to give out religious exemption paperwork for Catholics, saying that there’s nothing about the covid vaccine that is morally wrong and that people should get the damn shot.

7) Instead, people continue to argue that horse dewormer is the answer. I mean, I can’t figure out the logic behind using a parasite medication for a viral treatment, but hey, just go ahead and die on this hill. Though I wish we could just say that if people take horse dewormer, they get denied a hospital bed because all the rest of us that are sane ought to have that priority. I’m beyond sympathy at this point.

(a real comment on TikTok)

8) Like for this guy, Caleb Wallace, from San Angelo. This man actively fought against masks, vaccines, and any other covid protections. Then he got covid, refused to get tested, took vitamins and horse dewormer (which, surprise surprise, didn’t work!), ended up in the ER, spent a month unconscious, taking a hospital bed from someone else who needed it to get treated for a disease he claimed was a hoax, and then he died, leaving his wife, three kids, and a fourth unborn baby on the way. Way to go, Caleb. I feel sorry for his family, but I won’t contribute to their gofundme, which is supposed to help pay for Caleb’s medical and funeral bills that should never have been necessary in the first place. This is the type of BS that I refuse to deal with. Why should ANYONE fund those medical bills? Caleb should’ve worn a mask and gotten a shot and hey guess what he wouldn’t be dead. Idiot.

9) He’s not the first, nor will he be the last. Recent polls show 45% of the population say they won’t take the vaccine no matter what. UUUUUGH.


10) People aged 30-49 are being hospitalized at nearly double the rate as in January (29% in TX, up from 15%). Because Delta.

11) Abbott, ever the idiot, tweeted out about the “improvements” Texas has made. His tweet, below, came out on Sunday, a day when numbers are always down because of reporting delays over the weekend. “Lowest level since Aug 22” aka “lowest level in a week!” “More than 56% are vaccinated” aka “nearly half the population refuses to get vaccinated and vaccine doses are expiring and going to waste.” This was the most pathetic attempt to sound positive that I’ve ever heard. Not to mention, the true statistics say that last week, there were nearly 14k hospitalizations across the state, barely under the peak of the January surge. I’m seriously having 1984-Orwell flashbacks.

12) San Antonio has canceled jury duty again. Jason was called up for some time in September, and it just got canceled. They aren’t even doing online versions right now.

13) One of my friends in town asked where we got our otc covid test last week for Laurence. She has two kids, one old enough to be vaccinated, and one only a year or two under the age line. Unfortunately, that kid took the covid test and has come back positive. The whole family went into quarantine protocols and got pcr-tested, and while the daughter remains negative for now, my friend has been feeling sicker and sicker, and her pcr test came back positive yesterday. Ugh! It makes me all the more angry at the people who refuse to help by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated!!

14) The Witte Museum, recognizing that covid will be a big part of the city’s history, has begun collecting testimonies and artifacts related to the pandemic from our community.

15) And to cap off the week, let’s go with the most ridiculous story I’ve heard. This one takes the cake. Last year, when covid was spreading like wildfire and there were so little options in what to do, San Antonio partnered with some local hotels. They set aside several hundred rooms where people who tested positive could go to quarantine if they didn’t have a place where they could quarantine safely at home. This was mostly used for homeless folks, people who lived with severely immunocompromised folks, etc. It was a really kind thing that allowed people a safe space for no cost. In the year-plus since, things have grown so politicized that this week, rumors began to spread. Actual quote from the woman who started this on social media: “Anybody else have a friend or family member, forced, quarantined at a quarantine detention center in SA after being tested for covid? This is not a joke, I couldn’t believe it myself. How is this legal?” That’s right, folks. This free, optional service provided by the city is now rumored to be a forced, mandatory “quarantine detention center.” And people have run with the rumor, because it fulfills everything they believe about the Scary Government Covid Conspiracy. UGH.

And so I sign off for the week. I’m so done, readers. I’m so done.

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August 2021 in Review

It’s been a month. With a capital M. Man oh man am I glad to have August behind me!

Reading and Watching
August was a slumpy kind of book month, with me sending back to the library several books that I know I want to read. But in the end, I still finished six (thanks RIP!), and I actually enjoyed half of them. Half really is low for me. I tend to DNF books that aren’t really working for me. Not sure why I didn’t on several occasions. Favorite of the month is probably All Our Hidden Gifts.

Time to make new ones, I think. I have a personal challenge for myself designed for the next 100 days. Mostly as a way to elevate my mental health a bit as I go into the part of the year I love the most. I’ll talk about that in its own post at some point in the future.

A lot of this month has been consumed by depression and lethargy. I haven’t done as well with keeping coffee out of my diet, which I will rectify going forward. I also had another Urgent Care and ER visit earlier in the month with a suspected blood clot in my leg. Thankfully, that ended up being nothing (though the area that was swollen, red, hard, and painful is still painful and hard to the touch – there’s clearly damage there, though it’s likely fascia damage). I’ve also been doing regular physical therapy for my feet and hips, which so far isn’t really helping (sigh), plus I had a “fun” follow-up visit with my GI doc, which I’ll dedicate to its own post because GRRRRRR.

(at least my feet always look fun after therapy!)

No actual construction/work this month (we’re trying NOT to do any of this right now!), but I did rearrange my bedroom as a way to help get my headspace into a different place, and I enjoy the new arrangement.

Favorite photos
Same caveats as usual – all photos taken by me, not necessarily great photography, just the photos I ended up liking the most. Full photos available in a dedicated story on my Instagram.

Top, left to right: spider after molting (I got her dropping the shell off her web on video, too!); Angus being held in my arms like a baby (his favorite position); checkered skipper butterfly. Bottom, left to right: the neighbors’ new birdhouse; pipevine swallowtail resting in our wildflower garden

Left to right: Ghost staring out the window (his gorgeous amber eyes!!); an orange in the rain – a fluke shot that I ended up loving because it felt so nostalgic and as-the-summer-dies-away; cicada shell in the front garden (I had to laugh because it was posed just like this, as if expecting a photo!)

Highlights of August
Here are the good and fun bits for my month:

  • birthday dinner out for our hiking group founder, Mari
  • discovering that a story created by the Weekly World News in the 80s is now being discussed online as “fact” and “government cover-up” ha!
  • Angus wanting to be held like a baby on his back
  • seeing tons of deer right behind my yard
  • kitten zoomies throughout the whole house after we had enough interaction between the two sets of cats that they could be trusted around each other
  • passing along the Gordo tradition to my little sister as she leaves for college (long story, slightly touched on in this old post)
  • my hiking group got featured in the local “around and about SA” newspaper
  • the “careful, I scream” paper towel dispenser video
  • the kittens all trying to sleep in my lap at one time
  • Jason brought me a little “sound machine” toy and every sound is a different Halloween/spooky sound
  • dying my hair purple!
  • rearranging my space
  • my friend Kristina liked one of my butterfly photos so much that she printed it out and used it as a template to paint!
  • getting my Journey Before Destination bumper sticker on my car
  • new green anoles in the garden, including a little female on the deck with a split tail just like Neko had!
  • the absolute cutest blep ever –>
  • One of my old high school friends visited the old pool we swam at, and our old record in the 800-yr freestyle relay from 1995 still hasn’t been surpassed. Our names are still on the wall. Which is nuts, because our time was TERRIBLE, ha! But our school never had a big swim team, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there hasn’t been four swimmers able to compete for that particular relay in the last 25 years.

Coming up in September
I’m begging Texas for a cold front sometime soon. This heat and humidity is killer. Last Sunday, I was so excited to look at the weather and see that it was only 71 degrees out. Then I saw that it was also 97% humidity. It felt like 80+ degrees already. Sigh. So…yes. Cold fronts, please, and spooky books that go better than 2/3rds of what I’ve started for RIP, and hopefully better news on the school/covid front, and less depression, and more energy, and a solid beginning to my new personal challenge. Fingers crossed!

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All Our Hidden Gifts, by Caroline O’Donoghue

Maeve is a bit of an outcast at school, trying desperately to fit in by any means necessary, even if that means cutting out older, un-cool friends like Lily. Her most recent stunt comes when she discovers a contraband pack of tarot cards and starts giving out readings. A clash between Maeve and Lily occur over a tarot reading, and a few days later, Lily disappears. Now everyone thinks Maeve is a witch, and Maeve is terrified that she somehow wished her former friend out of existence, and a new gang of fundamentalist Christians have begun to terrorize all the people and places that Maeve loves.

You guys!! This book was soooo much fun. The cover looks so cheesy and the writing feels younger than I initially expected, so I didn’t think it would be a book that would work for me. But omg it was so fun. Plus it has just about everything you could wish for – tarot, magic, creepy Christian cult leaders, an exploration of genderqueer identity and community, big sprawling Irish families, and a semi-senile old ex-nun, all set on a background of modern-day Ireland trying to cope with the political and religious changes from the last thirty years. It was the perfect start to the RIP reading challenge (ignoring the fact that 1) I finished a week before the challenge actually started, and 2) I technically pre-started with Survive the Night, boo).

The writing was pretty great, once I got used to Maeve’s voice. Like I said, it sounded younger than I expected. (I think Maeve is around 16, but she sounded more like 14 to me, but then again, it’s an entirely different country/culture so I can’t judge on the standards I grew up with in Texas/US.) But also very pithy. Every once in awhile, she’d pop out with something so on-point that I literally laughed aloud. Like, for example: “Maybe she’s on Facebook. If she was seventeen in 1990, how old is she now? Forty-seven? Definitely on Facebook, then.” Ha! She’s not wrong.

In some ways, the book was a lot like reading a modern-day version of The Craft – a little silly and a lot of fun. In others, there were some very deep thematic elements surrounding religion, divorce, abortion, the LGBTQIA+ community, family (and found family), racism, class divides, and hate crimes. There was some indication throughout that the fundamentalist Christian cult group would end up being minimized through certain actions of the main characters (trying to avoid spoilers here), which would have lessened the book. But instead, the Cult continued on its horrid way, spreading evil in the guise of Christianity, Catholicism, and Irish purity. It was realistic, and incredibly relevant since much of the world is experiencing a fundamentalist backlash these days.

I didn’t realize until the end of the book that there should be a sequel coming out next year. The book is a full story, with a teaser that will lead to something new, and I am here for it! I can’t wait. I think I’ll get the next one via audio, because I’ve listened to a sample of the reader now and love her voice, plus there’s a bunch of Irish words/names sprinkled throughout that I absolutely don’t know how to pronounce. (I only know that Niamh is pronounced Neeve because of another book I read for RIP back in 2014, and I know there are others I’m reading incorrectly.) I imagine this would have made an amazing spooky audiobook to listen to. I might just go back to it via audio one day, maybe to revisit the story before reading the sequel, depending on when the sequel actually releases!

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Sunday Coffee – RIP XVI

It’s here! My favorite reading time of the year, spooky season, the season when things are supposed to start getting cool and crisp (even if that doesn’t happen until late October in south TX, if then!). Time for all the spooky fun creepy books! As usual, I started early and won’t count those books toward my RIP totals. But honestly, I nearly always get in at least a dozen books under the categories that RIP generally entails: mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasygothichorror, and supernatural. Here’s my starting list for the year:

  • Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
  • The Scapegoat – Daphne du Maurier
  • Devil’s Night – Todd Ritter
  • Unhallowed Graves – Nuzo Onoh
  • The Reluctant Dead – Nuzo Onoh
  • The Postscript Murders – Elly Griffiths
  • Mister Impossible – Maggie Stiefvater
  • Ghosts of the Tsunami – Richard Lloyd Parry
  • Testimony – Mark Chadbourn
  • The Drowning Kind – Jennifer McMahon
  • Snowflakes – Ruth Ware
  • Graveminder – Melissa Marr
  • Dark One – Brandon Sanderson
  • The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina – Zoraida Córdova
  • Mr Flood’s Last Resort – Jess Kidd
  • Murder at Melrose Court – Karen Baugh Menuhin
  • The Woods Are Always Watching – Stephanie Perkins
  • Not a Happy Family – Shari Lapeña

I definitely won’t get to all of those! Some, I’m not even sure will actually qualify as RIP books once I start reading them. And I’m sure there will be more I haven’t heard or thought of yet as well. (Also, I already started reading RIP books by mid-August, so there are two that were originally on my list – Survive the Night and All Our Hidden Gifts – that don’t officially count, but certainly count in my head, heh.)

Now here’s a particularly fun thing. The hosts of RIP are including a bingo card this year! I know it’s unlikely I’ll get a full-on blackout card, but I hope to get at least one line of Bingo during my RIP season! Additionally, there’s a new photo challenge (September = Cozy, October = Atmosphere, both = Tradition) and a new tier, Peril of the Listen (music, audiobooks, podcasts). Yes! Sign me up please!!

As always, thank you to the hosts for all the things you do in this spooky season!

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged , , | 2 Comments