Sunday Coffee – Thanksgiving Week Shenanigans

Happy belated Thanksgiving to the US folks out there! Jason had off this week from work, so we got to spend a little time just hanging out, and our Thanksgiving festivities started on Wednesday. We had a few errands to run, and decided to turn “errands” into a fun date day. First, we stopped by the store to pick up a jacket I’d ordered a couple weeks ago, and then wandered over to look for potential 2023 calendars. (The calendar bit is a thing we do every year together, usually as part of our anniversary festivities. We didn’t find the right one yet this year.) Then we headed across town to pick up a few Christmas gifts at Knight Watch, stopping by Mildfire Coffee for some beans along the way. Then as a spontaneous surprise, Jason took me next door to Knight Watch’s clothing shop, The Sanctuary, where we picked out a flowy skirt to match the new jacket.

Lunchtime followed, eating out at a place called Eggspectations (which I’ve wanted to take him to literally since March 2020, but every time we’ve tried, something’s gone wrong!), before we came home. Our pumpkins from Halloween were starting to get a little soft and mushy in places, so we took them to the back corner of the yard and used a sledgehammer and a pickaxe to smash them up. The squirrels, raccoons, possums, skunks, and foxes can steal what they like, and maybe some of the seeds will take root and grow. They didn’t last year, though – our little urban zoo ate it all, heh. After smashing pumpkins (ha!), I got into the new outfit with two different shirts to see what color scheme worked best, and what’s the best way to get an accurate feel? Impromptu photo shoot in the yard, of course! I decided to play at fairy tales, and got a couple fun photos. While I edited those, J made some orange cranberry muffins for Thanksgiving, and then we watched some silly tv together before bed. It was a really fun day.

Thanksgiving morning started, of course, with the Macy’s parade. It was a little bittersweet this year – our first time watching it without any of the kids home. After the parade, we headed over to my aunt and uncle’s house for Thanksgiving proper. They combine Thanksgiving festivities to invite both sides of their family. Since the pandemic, there are a lot fewer folks from my biological side of the family. My aunt’s mother is elderly and immunocompromised, so only vaccinated invitees can attend. My dad’s sisters are very liberal, but have gone down the extreme new-age road of personal body purity, including distrust of traditional medicine like vaccines. (Just goes to show, both sides of the political spectrum can get sucked into misinformation campaigns.) On a better note, there is no bitterness or family divide because my aunts can’t attend Thanksgiving – there’s a specific reason, and everyone makes the choice for themselves. It’s one of the nicer ways I’ve seen people act about this when opinions are divided.

My aunt does a phenomenal job with Thanksgiving each year. We all bring dishes, but as far as I’m aware, she handles the bulk of dinner. With such a large array of people there, there are quite a few allergies and food restrictions to contend with. Thanksgiving has such a wide variety of food that most of us can find things to eat, but my aunt makes sure there are good options. This year, for instance, there were separate batches of mashed potatoes (one dairy-free), a vegan mushroom-lentil chili for an alternative main course, regular and gluten-free pies, etc. And to top it all off, she made this absolutely beautiful spread of appetizers, fruit, and decor, along with several spiked punches, for people to enjoy before everything was set up.

The day itself was horribly muggy and nearly 80 degrees without even a breeze. We sat outside a lot despite that, and it’s a good thing we did! One of the city’s greenway trails passes right behind my uncle’s house, and a biker saw us outside and hailed us. He’d been out longer than expected, and was a diabetic whose blood sugar had suddenly started crashing. We rushed inside to bring him a variety of sugary foods, so good deed done for the day! Being outside also meant spending more time with my aunt and uncle’s dog, Stella, who has a tendency to pee when excited if she’s inside. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon with a great meal, plus getting to see my sister, brother-in-law, and one of my cousins for the first time since the holiday season last year.

Friday ended up being a little strange. Traditionally, this is the day when my family puts up all our Christmas decor and lights. We made a little progress on this in the morning, and then I drove across town to a new-to-me park for my first hike since June. The semi-hike up a hill for October’s photoshoot gave me the confidence to sign up for a few easier walk/hikes. This was the first. It was a drizzling, grey day, but not as hot as Thanksgiving proper. Even though we didn’t put in a lot of miles, it was actually a really beautiful park (esp with the trees finally starting to turn!) and I didn’t have too many issues with those tendons/nerves in my back/hips, so yay!

For the bad news, though: My dad contacted us to let us know he tested positive for covid. He hadn’t been sick at all the day before, but he felt weird on Friday, so he took two rapid tests and both were positive. This of course means the entire family gathering was exposed, including the elderly, immunocompromised folks. Also possibly my hiking friends, though we were outdoors and mostly not in close enough proximity for long enough time that it’ll matter. Still. And there was meant to be a gathering at my dad’s house that evening, this time with those aunts who couldn’t come to Thanksgiving dinner, which would have been the first time I’d seen them in person since the pandemic began. Obviously that was canceled. Instead, my sister and brother-in-law came to our house to hang out (after all four of us had negative rapid tests, of course). We’d all been equally exposed and everyone (except me) had recently had the omicron-specific booster, and I’d had my fourth booster in July. I guess we’ll see what happens from here. I felt so bad for my dad. His symptoms were mild so I have hopes he won’t have too bad of a case, but I know he’s feeling really bad to possibly have exposed all those people at Thanksgiving. Stupid covid.

So anyway, that was our long Thanksgiving. We still need to finish putting the Christmas decorations up today, but we’ve mostly been taking it easy. Unfortunately, I seem to be sick. As of yesterday, I was still testing negative for covid (haven’t taken a test yet today) but I’m achy and my chest is tight and last night I spiked a fever. Fun times. We may just have fallen to the Virus for the first time in almost three years of this pandemic. Or maybe it’s just a plain old cold and I’m a bit baby, heh.

ETA: Positive for covid, going to head to urgent care for meds. Jason is still testing negative but he had his omicron booster fairly recently so hopefully he can dodge it!

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Bleeding Heart Yard, by Elly Griffiths (audio)

In this third installment of the Harbinder Kaur series, a high-ranking MP has been killed at his class reunion. His full group of former high school friends are now under suspicion, and the case dredges up an old death, once labeled accidental, from their last days at school.

Just a few days ago, I was talking about how sad I was that the Ruth Galloway series was ending. This is one of Griffiths’ other series, and while I’m not yet as attached to these characters, I can tell things are moving that direction. DI Harbinder Kaur has transferred to London, and there is now a full cast of characters – friends, colleagues, roommates, etc – to round out what was previously a bit lacking from her world. Additionally, folks from the previous books show up briefly either in person or by reference, giving more depth to the story and series as a whole.

Personal parts aside, the mystery is brilliantly written. The story is told from several points of view, all of them human and realistic (aka no arch-villains plotting against the detective in one POV, like so often happens). The psychology, trauma, and guilt that swims through all these characters is extremely realistic. No one has superhuman reserves of mental and emotional strength – everyone is cracking and fearful and worried. Furthermore, there’s never any real hint about who the killer is. I had no clue. Even now that I know, I look back at the story and can’t see the foreshadowing. That didn’t make for a disappointing or farfetched ending, though. Instead, it served to give the story more depth. The answer was so mundane as to be almost beside the point. The point was how this whole cast of characters have coped over the past two decades since that high school death, and how they act and react to the present-day events. I love this kind of writing. It’s not for everyone, but it’s why I love Elly Griffiths as an author so very much.

The book’s ending, from the climax onward, had me smiling and wanting a physical copy to hug. This is why I’m starting to think I’ll eventually love the series as much as I do the Ruth Galloway books. Griffiths gives so much heart to her characters, with focus on friendships and group camaraderie, and this wins me over every time.

Random question for UK folks – is the term “bleeding heart” not used over there? Because there was some debate amongst Kaur and her colleagues about what the term meant, and they thought it was a term in America to describe liberals. I honestly thought this was a fairly universal term, so now I’m curious if it’s really just confined to the US! (And funny side story: Back in 2003, we had bleeding hearts growing in our yard in Wisconsin. My very liberal BIL taught Morrigan, who was a toddler, a “fact” about the flower, and Morrigan brought one to his grandmother to say, “It’s a bleeding heart! It’s the national flower of the democrats!” Ha!)

Performance: The audiobook was read by three narrators – Nina WadiaCandida GubbinsJane Collingwood – for the three POV characters. I enjoyed the narration. All three women sounded different enough in tone and subtle accent that I could always tell which of the characters was narrating at that time. 

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Baby Photographer

Back in 2011, my family visited my in-laws in northern Wisconsin. While we were there, we hired a photographer friend of my sis-in-law to take some family photos for us. I don’t know exactly how experienced she was but even then, we knew she wasn’t a professional. Her charge was fairly cheap, either $50 or $100 (I can’t remember which), but we’d seen the (nice) engagement photos she’d done for my sis-in-law. Since we couldn’t afford a professional photographer, this seemed a perfect solution.

The session itself was a bit of a nightmare, tbh. First, she spent less than half an hour with us. Second, she treated all of us like toddlers with that saccharine-sweet fake high-pitched voice adults use with kids when they don’t know a thing about kids. The boys consequently acted up throughout the entire thing, which frustrated me and caused Jason to turn into his goofy self that could get the kids to stop being grouchy, and so on. Lastly, she gave us almost no direction for most of the shoot, and when she did give direction, it put us in unnatural poses. Honestly, having sat for some actual photographers at different times, I thought this was fine, until I saw the photos and discovered that the poses looked as unnatural as they felt.

I was so upset when she gave us the photos. There were maybe 15 photos total, and there wasn’t a single good one among them. Literally only three included the entire family, which is what I’d really wanted. (The bottom photo in this post was the “best,” and in it, Laurence is actually crying…) Most were photos of the kids, with a few of Jason and me. I was the person who took pictures in our house, so I already had tons of the kids. I wanted family portraits. On top of all that, every photo looked wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on specifics, but not a single photo seemed worth the money we paid for them. It was really upsetting.

Fast forward to the present day. I’ve been studying and practicing photography for the last two years, and I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to either knowledge or skill. In October, I began doing practice photoshoots with friends. It’s a win-win situation. We all have fun, they get free photos (hopefully good photos), and I get a chance to practice. One of the unexpected benefits from this is that I’ve been contracted to take some family photos for a woman I met at a vendor show. I explained to her that I was a baby photographer and I’m not comfortable charging for photos at this stage because I can’t guarantee the quality. She either didn’t mind me being an amateur or she was happy about the idea of doing this for free, because she still booked with me. A friend of mine said that even as a baby photographer, I should be charging small amounts, just to get used to asking for money (another learned skill!). And that made me think back to that 2011 family photo session.

I kept most of the photos we were given back in 2011. Even though they were bad, they were important to me. I’m glad that I did, because I may not have been able to name why the photos were so bad in 2011, but I certainly can now. Partially finished and very visible blurred photoshop lines alongside parts of bodies. Horizon lines that are never straight. Patches of sunlight across faces. Glaring background objects that distract from the main subject. Kids caught mid-blink. Photos not cropped to properly frame the subject. The photographer even sent us the photos where the only thing not in focus were the people! No one should have been charged for that kind of work. It was absolutely unprofessional quality.

This is why I’m not charging. While I know better when it comes to the things I mentioned in the last paragraph, I also know there’s a lot that I don’t know. I make a lot of mistakes, whether that’s forgetting to check that there’s nothing left in the background that I’m going to have to remove later, to adjusting a setting but forgetting to adjust other settings to compensate. I’m especially new when it comes to photographing people rather than cats, butterflies, flowers, etc (aka the stuff I’ve mostly practiced these last few years). Plus, I only started learning how to use photo editing software a few months ago. So all in all, I mean it when I say I’m a baby photographer. Until I have a lot more practice and knowledge under my belt, I don’t want to charge. Even if it’s only $50, I don’t want to give anyone the kind of experience my family had in 2011.

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Sunday Coffee – The End of an Era

A little over three years ago, I read The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths. It was the first in her Ruth Galloway series, and even though the first book is not the strongest of the volumes, I was hooked. Over the next couple weeks, “hooked” turned into “obsessed,” and I devoured the entire as-of-then-published series (11 books) in under a month. Since then, I’ve read each new release as they’ve come out, all the way up to book 14 this past summer. A couple days ago, Audible suggested that I use a credit to pre-order The Last Remains, the 15th book in the series, which will release in 2023. My heart caught in my throat when I read the first line of the description:

[spoilers for earlier volumes] in this not-to-be-missed last act of the beloved Ruth Galloway series…

But. But. I wanted the series to go on forever! I mean, I know 15 books is a long run for a series, and I know Griffiths has other series that I enjoy also, but I’m so going to miss my yearly fix of Ruth, Nelson, Kate, Cathbad, and all the rest. I suppose soon it’ll be time to go revisit those early books that I sped through. It’s not the same, though, not quite. There are so few mystery/crime procedural series that I just love, so I’m going to miss this one quite badly. Though honestly, I just need to thank Griffiths for giving me so much bookish joy over the last three years. She’s been one of my favorite authors discovered in recent years, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

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Fire and Rituals

There’s a special place in San Antonio that I discovered with some friends back in December 2019. The city has worked to put together 80+ miles of walking/biking trails in what will eventually be a loop around SA. Portions of the Greenway Trails have been around for decades and are being expanded and connected so make one contiguous path. Back in 2012, I trained for a half marathon along a section of the those Trails, and later explored still more as I joined my hiking group in 2019. It was on one of my first outings with my hiking group, along the same path I used to train on a decade ago, that we discovered something magical.

If you go just a little ways off trail and into the woods, you’ll turn a corner and find a gigantic double-trunk live oak tree that is several hundred years old. Despite its size, the tree can’t be seen from the trail, even though it’s maybe 50 feet max away and the trail is easily visible from the tree. Pictures don’t do justice to the size and majesty of this thing. I’ve watched people stop dead in their tracks the first time they see it. It’s that breathtaking.

This past Sunday, it was on fire. From the inside.

Here’s the thing. Most people don’t know about the Big Tree, but some definitely do. People spend time in the clearing around it. Sometimes, they bring offerings – flower bouquets, beaded necklaces, painted rocks, etc. Sometimes they leave religious tracks or build cairns. Sometimes it’s folks out for a party, and they leave behind garbage that ranges from Doritos bags and broken bottles to used condoms and worse. I have no idea if the fire started from a tossed cigarette, or was lit purposely, or if someone left a candle in a hollow in some idea of tribute. All I know is that a brush fire was called in, and it turned out to be the Big Tree burning alive from the inside. No one knows if the Tree will survive, or if it will have to be removed as a safety hazard. (If it falls toward the path, it could kill someone – again, despite not being visible from the trail, this tree is ginormous!)

I keep picturing what it would have been to show up and discover the tree on fire, or to find it covered in fire retardant and caution tape afterwards. Because that was almost the case. My November group photoshoot was centered around the Big Tree. Three friends and I were taking a bunch of props out there to have a fairy-tale ethereal shoot based around the idea of offerings, complete with flowers, wooden beads, acorns, broken pottery, and incense sticks. I was literally about to leave my house – and two of the others were already en route – when another of our friends texted us the news alert about the Tree. If she hadn’t seen the news and passed it along, the four of us would have blithely walked into a nightmare firsthand.

Obviously, we had to do a last minute relocation, and due to the lack of a central focal point to the shoot (aka no Big Tree), we ended up doing a series of photos that became more witchy than fairy tale. Kudos to all of us, honestly, for rallying despite what came as devastating news (for reasons far deeper than losing a photoshoot setting). We pulled it together and honestly had quite a lovely evening, with an end product of photos that weren’t exactly what we pictured, but awesome nonetheless.

I really hope the tree survives. I’m sad to think that someone might have done this, whether intentionally or not, and that more people will now be tramping around this place that honestly feels sacred and magical. I personally haven’t been out to the tree since March 5th, and even then, I was worried for the Tree because someone had taken a knife to parts of it, cutting off sections of bark. It feels strange knowing that I may never be able to go back, to spend time with it again, to introduce other friends to that space. It’s just really sad, and a little surreal, and though it’s been a few days, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all.

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Sunday Coffee – The Power of Others

I was a mess this week, a big part in tribute to the time change messing with my sleep schedule, and hormone issues on top of that. But it’s not just that. This week really brought home to me just how important it is for me to stop remaining isolated.

Last weekend was a big one. It started on Friday night, with a nerdy board game night at my friend Jennine’s house. Jennine, Kristina, Alia, and I hung out and played Ticket to Ride (my first time playing). I almost didn’t go because it just felt so hard and exhausting, but I knew I’d be happy once I got there. It was frustrating, because I always feel so exhausted by going out, even though I’m an extrovert and actually feel really recharged by being around my friends! Somehow, over all these years, I never made the connection: It’s the actual leaving the house, the getting out, that’s the exhausting part. It’s the beating agoraphobic impulses that wears me out. The friends part? That’s the reward.

The rest of the weekend was great, too. Went out for boozy ice cream on Saturday with Stephanie, then over to Michael’s to pick up some supplies for my next group photoshoot. In the parking lot for the shopping center by Michael’s, there was a pop-up market with a ton of vendors that we wandered through, and made some fun little purchases and personal connections. On Sunday, I had lunch with some cousins that I hadn’t seen in over a year, and then I went to Alia’s house with another friend, Sisa, to have a Love is Blind watch party (which mostly involved chatting with the show running in the background, ha!).

Then Monday came, and I suddenly felt awful, and I ended up a mess for the rest of the week. All the way until Friday evening, when Sisa and Alia – who both had also not been feeling the best – came over to my house for our second Love is Blind watch party. Literally all three of us nearly canceled the watch party for our various emotional/mental health reasons, but we all made it (including me, who had to get off her bum to clean the house, ha!), and all three of us felt enormously better than we’d felt beforehand. Just having people around who you love and who love you, without any pressure or conditions, people you can say to, “Hey, I barely managed to shower today, don’t worry about looking nice for me” without worrying about their response – that’s priceless.

I have been so isolated this year. Ever since Shai and Hulud came into our lives on April 1st, I’ve closed myself off: stopped hiking, stopped going out, stopped everything. Then my kids peeled away to their own new lives this summer, and while I appreciate having my quiet time back, it’s definitely a double-edged sword. There was a time when I had to learn how to use that quiet time productively, and after losing it for 2.5 years to a pandemic, it’s like I’ve forgotten how. I’ve forgotten how to leave the house to go for a walk, or have a coffee with a friend, or spend time at the library. Life has been so isolated, not just since April, but generally since 2020, that I have to relearn how to use my time in a way that’s not just effective or productive, but beneficial to my emotional health. (Rather than actively harmful, which is where I’ve been for the last couple months, sitting around binge-watching TV and shutting off my brain so I don’t have to deal with my emotions.)

Of course, you can’t spend every day or every weekend jam-packed like last weekend. That would also get exhausting. But I’ve also watched how my entire spirit lifts when I take time out to be with others again, and I know it’s important for me to keep doing this. I need to relearn the balance, and it’s definitely time to sort through the coping mechanisms that kept me sane during the pandemic and discard those which are no longer serving me. It’s also time for me to get out into the world again, to experience life outside my home and comfort zone.

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Introducing Dexter and Dee Dee!

Considering these two have been in my house for two weeks now, and get turned in for surgery and potential adoption in another two weeks, it’s about time for me to actually introduce them, yeah?

Meet Dexter and Dee Dee! They came home with us the same day we dropped off Austin, Abby, and Rillo. They also had calicivirus, which is why we could bring them home right away. Thankfully, they’d already been on almost a week’s worth of meds at that point, and were actually doing quite well. Perhaps the virus was milder on them, or it was caught early enough. They never stopped eating due to tongue/mouth ulcers, never started dropping weight, never grew really sick or lethargic.

(Dee Dee)

Instead, Dexter and Dee Dee had a few other things going on. First and most important, Dexter’s left eye was severely infected by calici. The virus can cause a lot of secondary infections, and both of his eyes were swollen shut when he arrived at the shelter. By the time he came to us, his right eye was fine and his left eye just needed a few more days of meds for the external infection to clear up. However, rather than looking like an eye, Dexter has a glazed over, solid-colored ulcer covering his left eye, with little vision in it. It doesn’t seem to hurt him or give him any problems, but we’re still treating it with a range of drops (including one made from dog’s blood serum, which is…bizarre?) in the hope of saving it. There’s a possibility he’ll need to get it removed though, making him a little pirate-kitty. Fingers crossed that we can prevent that!

(Dexter)

Both siblings also have mild cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), also colloquially known as wobbly syndrome. Cats with CH range in symptoms from barely noticeable to so wobbly that they don’t function like cats normally function. However, the condition is a neurological one that they’re born with, and isn’t painful. It’s also not contagious or progressive – it won’t get better, it won’t get worse, and the cats with it have never known anything else, so it doesn’t bother them. In Dexter and Dee Dee’s case, it’s very mild. They have a wider A-like stance and gait, and are slightly clumsier when they’re running around. Sometimes they’ll stretch and their back legs will slide out under them. Sometimes when they’re standing still and look up at you, they’ll have a brief wobble of the head out of nowhere. When they’re stressed or afraid or startled, they have a tendency toward more wobbly movements. But it’s mild enough that the shelter never noticed it when the kittens were in a crate waiting for foster. (We have let them know, because any neuro condition means extra precautions when undergoing anesthesia.)

Lastly, these two siblings are very strongly bonded to each other. TBH, this is the only thing that concerns me about them, because the shelter we foster for doesn’t require bonded pairs to be adopted together. They’re a no-kill non-profit trying to save as many animal lives as possible, so they don’t have the luxury of waiting for an adopter to want two kittens. Dexter and Dee Dee are brown tabbies, the most common kind of kitten around and the ones mostly overlooked unless they have special features that endear them to folks. Having (potentially) one eye and mild wobbly syndrome isn’t exactly something most people will take on, even though the wobbly part is so mild that it doesn’t require any accommodation at all. Taking on two brown tabbies with wobbly syndrome and possibly one with a single eye? It’s unlikely to happen. So these two, who literally won’t use the litter or drink water or eat without each other, are 99% likely to be separated, and that breaks my heart.

But that’s a future problem. For now, Jason and I continue to show these babies all the love and fun and happiness that we can, while also trying to get that eye to heal! These guys are super active and playful, though Dee Dee is definitely the more energetic of the two, while Dexter is the cuddlier. I hope we can get them both all healed up and as cute/sweet as can be so they won’t be completely ignored on the adoption floor for being brown tabbies. If only people knew how sweet and laid back and talkative and loyal brown tabbies are! They have some of the best personalities in the cat world! And just look how cute they are cuddled up with each other!!

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Sunday Coffee – Vote!

Early voting ended in my area this Friday, and official day is on Tuesday. I’ll be honest – I know my vote makes zero difference in this whole thing. People want to think that Texas can progress, but it’s so gerrymandered that our voices will never really be heard, and in the places where they could be, non-white voters are so disenfranchised that it’s difficult to impossible for them to have their say. It’s a mess, and everyone knows it’s a mess, but the people it helps like it that way, so it stays.

Anyway. Enough of the political rant. This post is actually about a funny story from when I went to vote this week.

My closest early voting station is at my local library. Unfortunately, the parking lot is very small, and politicians came up with a very sneaky way of discouraging voters this year. They basically filled the parking lot with folks trying to shill for their campaigns, so that even though there was literally no more than 2-3 people in line, there were no parking spots available to potential voters! (There are some hot races in my local area – we gets upwards of half a dozen fliers daily from a single politician!) So after circling the parking lot a couple times, trying to find someone who happened to be leaving and wondering why it was so full since there was clearly no line, I gave up and parked at a florist shop nearby. On one hand, this meant trying to cross a busy, four-lane road with no pedestrian crossing area. On the other, it meant that I missed 95% of the campaigners, who can’t get within so many feet of the voting area. For extra protection, I brought a library book with me in plain sight so everyone could see I was there for the library, not for voting, and they’d leave me alone. Ha!

Road crossed successfully, library book turned in, campaigners avoided, I got into the voting “line” which literally had one person ahead of me. Took about two minutes til I was sent to get checked in, and this is where things got weird.

The lady checking me in took my license and then verified my address. Before she handed my license back, she looked up at me and said, “How many cats do you have at your house?”

I swear, my brain kicked into overdrive. Was this a security question? Did I put this as a security question the last time I renewed my voter registration? Was this something to do with “preventing voter fraud” as the Right is always claiming about its absurd measures? What number of cats had I had when I sent that answer in, and is it still the same? What if I get it wrong?

All that took place in about two seconds, and then I just said, “Seven.” The lady laughed, handed me back my license (Did I pass the test?) and started chatting with me about cats while she got my ballot ready and printed out. Only when she handed me the ballot and I caught sight of my shirt did I clock what had just happened.

Dear Manda,

You have multiple shirts related to cats. You also probably have cat hair everywhere on your clothes, even if you try to keep them clean. There is really no reason to ever be surprised when a stranger asks you about cats. It’s kinda your whole personality at this point. Get used to it.

Love, me.

At least I still avoided any campaign folks on my way back out of the library. And I got my useless vote in, civic duty done. I guess it was all worth the funny story!

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Favorite Photos of October 2022

I didn’t include my favorite photos in my monthly wrap up this time because frankly, there were just too many favorites!! I don’t know why some months I can barely choose four or five, and some months I wish I could throw three dozen into the mix! (Well, no, I know why. Sometimes I take 50 photos in a month, and some months – like October – I take hundreds.) In any case, here are October’s favorites, which I managed to whittle down to 18.

Clockwise from top left: monarch butterfly in my garden; Gremlin looking like he wants everyone to get off his damn lawn; coffee with Rillo; queen butterfly in my garden (my fave butterfly!); red admiral butterfly in my garden; a cozy coffee shop. Can you tell it was butterfly season in my garden? I had to leave out multiple other shots that I loved!

Clockwise from top left: “red dance” (practice with motion); gorgeous portrait of Kristina; Alia the goddess of feather and fire; queens of autumn; “in the woods” (creative portraiture with candles); Alia the flame goddess. (All of these, and all of the next batch, are from the Ghourlies photoshoot I did last weekend. The “red dance” photo was a practice/vibe/brainstorm photo for this particular shoot.

Clockwise from top left: Kristina the flower goddess; Alia in grass; Kristina the flame goddess; the Narnia wall; as autumn fades; moon goddesses emerge (a portrait that proves even blurry outtake photos can be turned into something gorgeous!)

Now, were 11 of the 18 favorites of the month taken in a single night? Why yes, yes they were. Are they the best photos ever? Of course not. I’m still a baby photographer, and my skills with camera and editing software are rudimentary. On the other hand, I have the loveliest friends who are helping me to practice and grow into this dream. I smile every time I see the photos, remembering both the joy of that night, and knowing that even if I’m not the best photographer, I improved each and every one of these photos, and both Alia and Kristina love them. Can’t wait to do this again!

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October 2022 in Review

October turned out to be a pretty incredible month. Started on Day 1 with a Muslim Culture Festival in Austin with friends – my first proper ladies’ day out in ages – and ended with an amazing Halloween night where we had the exact perfect amount of candy and also got to feed a community cat. Because even the cats in the neighborhood know that we’re the cat house, ha! In between, I brought kittens back from the brink of death, went on a yarn crawl with a friend, semi-rescued a neighborhood cat, dove into a bujo project to consolidate the 13 notebooks taking up space on my shelf, and had my first real group photoshoot. Part of the busyness and insanity was in compensation for the very real dissonant feelings I have about becoming an empty nester, and part was just October, which tends to be fairly high-energy for me. So there were down moments, but overall, such a lovely month.

Reading and Watching
I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted this month, just the four books (or four and one novella). My brain was preoccupied with other things, and frankly, I spent WAY too much time watching TV this month. Great British Baking Show (and omg the “Mexican” week was soooooooooo bad), Unsolved Mysteries, Love is Blind (with friends), NCIS, La Brea, The Real Love Boat (oh god it’s awful!), SVU. I remember the days when I literally watched only a single show or two! I really need to pare these down, especially some of the really horrible ones that I don’t even really like, haha! However, I did get to see Hocus Pocus 2 with my friends, and that was awesome!

Goals
We finally got all of our cats’ microchips updated with current addresses, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages!

House
Jason has been working on getting our porch/deck finished as a deck, since we probably won’t be enclosing it in the future now. We also fixed some of the holes/tears in the wall and re-textured. I’m at a place where the repairs aren’t ones I can help with, so I’m just trying to take care of other things so there’s less on J’s plate.

The Ferals
So many cats this month. We had Sunday, the not-actually-a-stray-cat who got stuck in our tree. We had the A-Team foster kittens, who survived calici and are now up for adoption. (Well, Gremlin was adopted within an hour of going onto the floor, and Abby was adopted over the weekend. Rillo still needs a home, though!) Our new fosters are Dexter and Dee Dee (see pic below), also recovering from calici, and probably have mild CH too. Then on Halloween, a big orange community cat decided to plonk himself next to us as we gave out candy (pic at right). We gave him some fish to eat, and scanned him for a microchip (nope). He was pretty friendly, and eventually, he brought a friend over to our yard (who was too skittish to get close to, but Jason thinks it might have been King – Shai & Hulud’s dad). The orange boy was so friendly that he kept trying to get us to let him inside the house. Not today, buddy! Ha!

Health/Fitness
Literally the only exercise I did all month was the hike up to the top of the park for my group photoshoot. Mourjaro was kicking my ass this month – or more accurately, my stomach. I’ve been at the lowest therapeutic dose for five weeks now, and the nausea was intense for the first three of those weeks, especially weeks two and three. Sometimes it would last for nearly an entire week. Nausea if I ate too much, nausea if I ate too little, and the beginnings of food aversions to anything with fiber, fat, or protein (leaving me pretty much with simple carbs!). Thankfully, the fourth week only had one day of nausea, and this week was maybe half a day, so I’m feeling much better. On the negative side, it means that a lot of the month, I was living on bread, crackers, and chips, plus yogurt for breakfast (the only time I could eat real food!). I was trying desperately to get in nutrition with pureed veggie soups, but the whole month was a struggle. You can see why exercise on top of that would have been bad! So I listened to my body, I did what I could to mitigate the nausea and food aversions, and I’ve made it to the other side now. Even without exercise and all the junky food, I lost 2.5 lbs in October, and as of today, a total of 11.5 lbs since I began this new med. Hopefully in November, I can add back in some yoga and walking to my routine!

Highlights of October
A great month with a LOT of highlights:

  • Muslim Culture Fest in Austin, ladies’ day out, including henna and art and food and dance and so much fun
  • Hocus Pocus 2 movie party
  • my new perfume that I love so much every day
  • the collective uprise against Paul Hollywood for his absolutely, certifiably wrong “expertise” in Mexican food; and then later for his “s’mores”
  • yarn crawl and discovering new coffee spots with a friend –>
  • having the resources, network, and support to rescue cats as needed when they show up on our doorstep
  • queen butterflies and giant swallowtails and monarchs coming to our mistflowers! Plus, new critters, like the andremona moth, to photograph and identify!
  • playing with creative editing for artistic portraiture
  • the lady at the animal shelter told me that she honestly didn’t expect all three of our calicivirus kittens to make it, and said we did a really good job bringing them back to health
  • the day Stephanie and I showed up wearing the exact same shirt by accident, ha!
  • writing to a GBBO contestant via Insta, not expecting them to even read my message much less reply, but they replied !!!
  • “YOU CANNOT HAVE MY PLANS!” (iykyk)
  • Gremlin getting adopted within an hour of being put on the adoption floor! Abby adopted by the end of that weekend. Now if only we can get Rillo adopted!! He’s the sweetest and goofiest. ETA: He was adopted on Nov 1! Hurrah!
  • the fake B$ (Brandon Sanderson) Spirit Halloween costume –>
  • “Ghourlies” photoshoot, then dinner out with friends
  • giving out full size candy bars for Halloween, and making a teen’s night when we let him have two caramel Ding Dongs, which he said was his favorite, and then some kid (maybe 10 yrs old) put his candy back when he realized the box of sardines on the tray was available, ha! We let him take a candy too.

Coming up in November
This is the time of year when I tend to quiet down. It used to be because I was hard at work for NaNoWriMo, now it’s just a comedown from October’s madness. There’ll be Thanksgiving, of course, but other than that, I have just about nothing planned.

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