Sunday Coffee – A Frustrating Book Discovery

Last week, I started reading a book that I’d gotten digitally from my library. I’d wanted to read it for quite some time, but it took ages to get a copy. The book was called I’d Give Anything, by Marisa de los Santos, and was labeled on GoodReads and Amazon as the fourth book in the Love Walked In series. Note: the term “series” is used very loosely here, as the first three books are only related due to having some of the same characters, but each is fully standalone. I’ve enjoyed many of de los Santos’ books in the past, including those in the Love Walked In series, so this release made me happy. I finally got my hold notice, downloaded the book, and began to read.

I’ll admit straight out that the premise of the book wasn’t really my cup of tea: a married couple struggling after the man is fired in the midst of a scandal, and the wife trying to shield their teen daughter from the fallout. However, I’ve said above that I like both the author and the series, so I read on for several chapters, even as I wasn’t really getting into the book. Finally, about five or six chapters in, I stopped. I didn’t recognize any of the characters, neither in the past chapters or the current chapters. None of them seemed familiar from any of the first three books. So I went to look out on Amazon and GoodReads both, trying to find the connections. I read back through my old reviews of the other books in the series. I couldn’t figure it out.

Then I came across this reader question on GoodReads: “Why does this say it’s #4 in the Love Walked In series? I see no apparent connection.” Clearly, I’m not the only one! And the answer: “Me neither. It’s so frustrating. The author has said on Facebook that it is not related to the Love Walked In series, and she and her publisher have asked Goodreads to fix this error on Goodreads, but Goodreads has not yet done so.” Other similar questions and answers follow. The author has said this is a standalone, unrelated book, and yet…sigh.

That’s frustrating. If I’d known this was unrelated to the original series, I would have approached it differently. I’ve read five de los Santos books in the past, and the two unrelated to Love Walked In have been heavier and a bit more literary, a bit less lighthearted. De los Santos does an excellent job of characterization, but I’ve found that in order to enjoy her books, I have to enjoy the characters she creates. When that’s not the case, it’s best for me not to read the book at all. That would be the case with I’d Give Anything. It was excellently written – for the few chapters I read, anyway – but I just had no interest in the story or characters or the mystery of the past. I’m not scratching the book off my list entirely because it’s possible that in another mood, I’ll love it. It’s just so frustrating to anticipate another book related to characters I already love, to books I consider comfort reads, and then have that all be false advertisement on Amazon/GoodReads’ part.

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Quarantine Diaries – Week 17

I want to tell a quick story this week about covid and privilege. In the last week, both my son and my best friend’s family came down with covid symptoms. As explained in Week 16’s post, my son went down to our local urgent care facility (located in a heavily populated but also solidly middle-class-and-upwards area). He was told the wait would be five hours, outside in the heat, but was brought in after only two. His test was a rapid-response test, and he had his results in 15 minutes.

Now let’s flip over to my friend Natalie’s household, which is primarily hispanic, living in a similar area population-wise, but much poorer. Her family struggles with money and receives certain government assistances as it includes two elderly disabled folks with cancer, one adult with severe autism that requires full-time care, one adult who is a full-time caregiver, and one adult working outside the home to try to provide enough income for all five of them. The latter two have health benefits through employers, the first three have a combination of VA benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid. The ones with employer benefits got covid-tested. One got results within two days; one had to get a second test over a week later in order to get results. The three on government assistance – the three that are most vulnerable – struggled to get tests. One ended up in the hospital, finally tested there (positive), and was then sent home despite being unable to eat, get his fever down, or receive his cancer treatment. One finally had a much-delayed drive-in test with the city, and results have still not come in over a week later. One was refused any service completely, even after a teledoc visit – even though she’s had brain cancer four times, is extremely vulnerable due to brain shunts, and there was a confirmed positive in the house! Nat couldn’t even get her in at the same urgent care Morrigan went to. She finally got an appointment more than a full week after covid was confirmed in the household.

So maybe it’s the lack of health care that is holding them back. Maybe it’s the number of cases in their part of town, where covid is spreading like wildfire. Maybe it’s a lot of things, but this is the real story: in poorer parts of town, health service is scarce, tests are slow if available at all, and this leads to more cases and more deaths. There’s a reason why cases and deaths are happening in disproportionate amounts across the city (and indeed, across the nation). Money, class, and race are major factors in how this disease is spreading. There are a million examples of privilege dividing how patients are treated in health care in general. This is one that I feel on a very personal level. Anyone who says that disease doesn’t discriminate is someone who has never studied any kind of sociology, history, political science, urban development, food science, or disease management. You don’t have to have studied it in school to see these things plainly. None of this is okay. It makes me so, so angry.

Okay. Rant over. Now: If your mental health is at a point where you cannot bear to hear more about quarantine stuff, skip to the bottom of this post for a list of positives and highlights and Nice Things. We all need some of that right now!

-Friday, July 3rd:
Local count: 14,212 (+1334), 117 deaths. Another emergency alert today, this time about mandatory masks. Another 8K new cases in Texas. More concern about the upcoming holiday weekend and people congregating when they shouldn’t be. I really hope they won’t, but I wouldn’t bet on that. For instance, I know my sister-in-law in Minnesota is throwing a giant party with potluck and fireworks for dozens of people, sigh. I’m just thankful that Morrigan is fully recovered, our SA household has plenty of grocery supplies and can stay safe at home for a long time, and three of us are well out of the way of the danger. I really hope that within a few weeks, we can flatten out this curve again!! This continued increase in record daily cases in San Antonio is terrifying. (Pic: Ambrose with the mini-dachshunds here in WI.)

-Saturday, July 4th:
Local count: 14,550 (+341), 122 deaths. Texas had another surge of over 8K cases. Other than that, no real news today, possibly because it’s a holiday. I’m happy to have nothing major to report!

-Sunday, July 5th:
Local count: 14,751 (+198), 130 deaths. We had really upsetting news today. Not only did we report our highest ever daily death count in San Antonio (8), but one of those deaths was of a 17-year-old boy with down syndrome. It’s our first death under the age of 30. Additionally, we had our third death of someone in their 30s. While our case numbers grow bigger and bigger for younger people (more than a third are under 30, and a full quarter of all cases are aged 20-29), deaths have been primarily affecting those over the age of 50. It makes sense, and if all of this surge wasn’t sobering enough on its own, we now have a CHILD who has died of covid. It’s devastating, and raging out of control. I’m terrified for Jason and Morrigan stuck in SA, as well as all my friends and extended family. We’re down to 10% bed availability in hospitals. Testing is swamped, so badly that starting tomorrow, the city has cut off all asymptomatic testing again. (Hopefully that means Natalie and her family will be able to acquire tests after days and days of trying to find somewhere who can take them when they’re all sick and they have a family member with confirmed covid at home and disabled…) (Pic: Lexie says, “Wear a mask and stay home!!”)

-Monday, July 6th:
Local count: 15,102 (+351), 132 deaths. Some of the news coming from around the country/world is appalling. A teen in Florida died after her conspiracy-theorist mother took her to a “covid party” to get her sick. The Prumpster said our large number of US cases is a “badge of honor.” OMG that a$$hole. And now, a case of bubonic plague in China?? Seriously, stop it, 2020! In local news: Testing is up to 7k daily capacity, but still not enough for all the tests we need right now. Our positivity rate is up to 22%, though thankfully our doubling rate didn’t go further down this week (still at 11 days). The epi-curve is starting to level off slightly, which we hope means that the rate of infection is slowing after the last few weeks of Judge Wolff’s mandate regarding businesses requiring masks for customers. But you never know. It’ll be two weeks before we can assess any damage done over the holiday weekend, and most businesses are still open, and I saw that baseball games have opened here and are allowing fans in (with masks and space between seats, but STILL!). Sigh. It was a rough day for me, personally. The death of that boy yesterday hit me really hard and I spent a lot of the night crying, then didn’t sleep well. I miss home, I miss my house, I miss my family, I miss my cats, I miss being able to hug Jason and get physical comfort when I feel this sad. I really hate being so far apart, even if I know it’s for the best. My in-laws’ kitty, Wally, spent a lot of time snuggling me today (pics), and I have to believe that he knew I needed comfort.

-Tuesday, July 7th:
Local count: 15,880 (+778), 137 deaths. Texas reported over 10,000 cases today state-wide. To give some perspective, the state has well over 200k cases total, which is more than most countries in the world. Most of our news continues in the same direction – lots of emergency and medical personnel struggling with the virus, beds almost full at the hospitals, several churches closed down due to outbreaks among congregations, etc. San Antonio has dropped off the top five hot spots in the US, now down to #9. I don’t think this is because things are better, but rather because other places are going through even worse spikes. I’m also frustrated to learn that voting is one exemption to the mask rule per the governor, so at certain polling places, some people are refusing to wear them. Thankfully, the location Jason voted at today had everyone in a mask! I’m sad that I don’t get to vote this time around, but at least it’s only a runoff primary election; I did my main voting back in February. Meanwhile, people around here aren’t wearing masks at all, figuring the county is immune. They all stare at me and the boys when we go out in our masks, but whatever. We’ll just keep wearing them and staying safe!! (pic: running a MASKED 5K today)

-Wednesday, July 8th:
Local count: 16,725 (+845), 146 deaths. The deaths from this spike are starting to stack up. These numbers include a person in their 20s and another in their 30s. It’s hitting younger and younger folks. We also got the newest update from HEB, which showed that 120+ employees tested positive for covid in June, and in the first week of July, 41 more have gotten sick. Thanks, anti-maskers! Ugh. Also, I learned today that Nat’s mom finally got a test and tested positive for covid, so that’s two of five, and the only person in the family who has been mostly asymptomatic. We were really hoping she dodged the bullet because she’s extremely vulnerable, but no luck. Pic: Today’s stormy weather, which matches my current mood.

-Thursday, July 9th:
Local count: 17,679 (+954), 165 deaths. Note: 13 of the 19 deaths reported today are actually from the last three weeks, with the covid tests only done post-mortem. Six of them are in their 40s, more than doubling our previous number in that age group, and we’ve also doubled deaths in the 30s age group. In San Antonio, we’ve only had four people over the age of 100 test positive and until today, no deaths in that age group (and one confirmed recovery!), but today our first 100+ death was also reported. Sad day. While hospital numbers are starting to taper off slightly, 35% of all hospital admissions are now covid-related. Texas hit their third day in a row with around 10k new cases. Remember back in April when it was news that we hit 1000 for three days in a row? Aww, that’s cute. // Natalie’s husband finally got his covid results (after TWO tests!), and he’s confirmed positive now, as expected. Sadly, her mother went from mild symptoms to major symptoms today, too. Still no word on her brother’s results, and he was tested over a week ago. And to top off what turned out to be a pretty miserable day, I felt sick all day, though likely NOT with covid thank goodness.

So we began the week with 12,878 cases and 115 deaths. We added 4801 cases this week – about 686 per day on average – which is actually a tiny ray of hope. It’s more than last week’s total of 4426 (avg 632), but the climb upwards is MUCH smaller this week. Things are starting to level off a bit. Wish we could have kept them leveled off when we were averaging less than 50 cases per day, but this the first positive sign in the numbers that we’ve seen in about six weeks!! Deaths, of course, are another story. Over 4x the previous highest weekly total of those. Some are from the previous two weeks, given Thursday’s backlog announcement, but even if all of those 13 were not from this week, we’d be far higher than our previous weekly high of 15. Honestly, it’s to be expected. Usually there’s a lag between onset of illness and death, so the deaths are going to skyrocket a bit now just like the cases did. We need to be focused on making sure to slow the outbreak, so we won’t have more deaths in the future!

Positives and Highlights and Nice Things
I am extremely homesick and had a very tough week. Even my positives were less positive. I’m honestly not sure how much longer I’ll be able to stay in isolation up here. I love my extended family, but I miss home.

  • all things rhubarb
  • binge-watching Unsolved Mysteries (the new episodes)
  • been doing good cutting my iced coffee to twice a day (down from three, sometimes four)
  • Wally the kitty, with the lowest, croakiest meow there is
  • one of my friends is moving back to San Antonio after many years later this summer!
  • Jason was able to help Natalie’s family acquire some supplies that were sold out everywhere near them
  • had the initial zoom meeting with the virtual book club I’m forming
  • kickstarter for The Way of Kings swag, including an unpublished novella in my favorite series of all time!
  • finished my second book in a week, which is more quickly than I’ve read since early February!

What’s up in your world right now?

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The Empire of Dreams, by Rae Carson

This is the story of Lady Red Sparkle Stone, or just Red, split between the past that led up to her freedom from slavery in the original Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, and her current story, nearly a decade after the war from that same trilogy.

I don’t want to say more about how this ties in, purely to avoid spoilers for the original series. However, I’ll say that this can be read as standalone. Some of the characters are recognizable, though for the most part, this is purely Red’s story. So for a general book synopsis: When Red’s petition to become a legal daughter of the queen is denied by the court, she responds by becoming the first woman to enter Guard tryouts. There, she has to prove herself and uncover a possible coop that’s gaining ground within the court.

It’s no secret that I loved the original trilogy. The world-building is amazing, the characters are fun, and the story is 100% satisfying. I first read the series in 2014, and later a collection of related short stories in 2015. But it’s been awhile! I didn’t remember nearly as much as I should have. And while the book can easily be read standalone, I found myself trying to remember details from the original – I didn’t actually remember Red at all, and that bothered me! – and that made the beginning of the book go slower than it should have. Once I finally said forget it and just read, I sped through the book, loving every second. Again, the story, characters, and world are just so perfect. If I was at home right now and had access to my copies of the first three books, I definitely would have gone back to reread them immediately.

I guess I know one book that’s going on my wishlist for Christmas this year!

PS – I have no idea if there will be further volumes of Red’s story. This wrapped up in a way that could be finished, or could have more adventures to follow. Personally, I’m hoping for the latter, just because I love this world so much! If you’ve never heard of this series, I highly recommend starting out with The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

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Life in 2020, so far…

Half of this insane year is over! Definitely not where I saw the year going when it began. I’d like to take a moment to recap where things are today compared to where I’d hoped they’d be on January 1st!

To begin: Life in 2020 began on a high note. In December, I’d made three really big changes in my life that were snowballing into greater things. First, my family had downsized into a smaller and more affordable house, with our former house on the market to sell. Second, I’d joined a local hiking group focused on the motto “No woman left behind.” Third, I’d found short-term and longterm personal purpose in becoming a runner again and returning to school to eventually become a librarian.

The first 2.5 months of the year were amazing, and before covid came and shut everything down, I had every expectation of continuing an incredible and joyous year. On my birthday, Jason themed my gifts around the concept of adventure, and called this my year of adventure. I didn’t really pick a one-word for 2020 – and said that if I did, it would be “Run.” What I’ve realized, though, is that “Adventure” is a far more appropriate word for the year. Despite everything that has tried to make the last few months difficult, I’ve continued to approach 2020 with a passion for overcoming obstacles and breaking down the walls of my comfort zone. I’ve become an active participant in my own life again, even when that’s been really difficult. It has been rewarding.

I’ve discovered many new-to-me places in this city, from restaurants to hiking spots. At times I’ve driven alone to those places, which is the number one most difficult thing for me to do with my agoraphobia. More recently, I’ve volunteered to become a host at some of these events, pushing my comfort zone boundaries even further. In doing this, I’ve met new people, made new friends, and formed wonderful memories.

For the first time in years, I’ve become vocal in person and online again. I’ve worn clothes that I’d normally eschew due to body-shame, and furthermore posted photos in them online. I’ve been transparent about body image and my own obesity, not just here on the blog, but in public forums online. I’ve run in public: in parks, at the gym, in neighborhoods, and in large-group settings like 5Ks. What I’ve discovered is an overwhelming amount of support from strangers, even online, and – with the exception of man-trolls who want to “get to know me better” – have had no negative remarks or experiences. I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I was when I joined a slow-runner community on Facebook and was immediately welcomed by hundreds of kind and positive people.

The slow-runner community is not the only one I’ve joined. I also signed up with the Real Life Ghost Stories group on Facebook (listening to this podcast is also one of the new things I’ve done for the first time this year). At first, I just lurked there, maybe liking a post here or there. I’ve been quiet on social media for about six years now, since my family went through its difficult nomadic period and I retreated into myself. But after awhile, I left a comment or two. And then one of the members set up a Zoom chat with the podcast hosts and opened it up to the group. I nearly didn’t join, because agoraphobia sucks. But I did. I pushed myself past that boundary. And it meant chatting with a dozen  or so really awesome people. I began commenting more. I began posting sometimes, too. I exchanged comments and stories with folks on instagram. All those walls I’d put up crumbled; all those boundaries started breaking down. I put myself out into the world…and the world accepted me regardless of all the faults and flaws I saw in myself.

It’s not always easy, but I’ve worked hard all year. I gave blood for the first time. I stood up and spoke at my cousin’s wedding instead of declining her request out of fear. When I began to xeriscape my yard, I used my own design instead of bending to another’s. During a body-image-improvement course, I went through a process of changing how I thought – looking at the things I’ve done rather than what I’ve failed to do; filling my physical and virtual surroundings with images and items that bring me joy (and not just joy-in-nostalgia). And more. It has been half a year of discarding chains.

Sad Things of 2020
Not everything is happy, of course. I don’t want to focus on these things, but I need to include them, because they are the shadows that make the happy moments brighter.

Ash got sick and has never gotten much better, and we don’t know how much longer he’s got (all indications point to cancer and/or liver failure). Covid came to town and quarantine began, and now despite our city’s best efforts, we’re in the middle of a major spike. Morrigan had to leave school in Kansas and finish here online. Ambrose and Laurence also had to finish the school year digitally, and Ambrose missed all the normal senior year/graduation milestones. Jason has had multiple illnesses and medical problems (very unusual for him). My extended family had a lot of medical problems, too, including one person who had covid (though thankfully recovered), one randomly catching c-diff, and one who had several strokes. My doctors ran a bunch of tests on me for inflammation/autoimmune antibodies, but when the results came back all weird, they just said, “well we have no idea, too bad.” Jason’s and my Planniversary trip (for our 20th anniversary last December) was canceled. Lockdown increased my agoraphobia and insomnia, and this newly-begun secondary lockdown is not helping. Extremely hot temps came to San Antonio much earlier than normal this year. My family had to split up, living in different states, due to covid.

Books of 2020
I’ve had a major book slump this year leading to only 17 books read so far. The good news is that of those 17, most have been wonderful. Favorites of the year include: The First Girl Child, The Sun Down Motel, and Home Before Dark. Also good news: At the end of June, nearly a dozen holds and e-holds at the library all came in at once, so it stands to reason that the second half of 2020 will have a lot more awesome books for me to talk about!

Goals
My goals for the year centered mostly on improving finances, improving health, and working toward an eventual career. My other big goal was related to writing, but that has been put on a WAY back burner and I’m not going to be focusing on that this year as far as I know.

Finances
As the year began, Jason and I had just downsized to a smaller, more affordable house, and we’d taken out a consolidation loan to pay off the massive credit card debt we built up during the insanity that was 2018. It was our first steps to returning to a better financial situation, and in 2020 so far, things have continued to improve with strict and careful monitoring of our finances. We sold our previous house and used the proceeds of that sale, Jason’s annual bonus, and a small tax refund to pay off a large chunk of debts. Jason began to work from home in mid-March re: covid, which cut a lot of our expenses (gas, work team lunches/outings, etc). Covid also resulted in a reduction in car insurance costs, less eating out for the family, Jason’s student loan payments freezing until October, and a stimulus check, which ALL went directly into debts. In May, we decided to borrow from our 401K to pay off the remainder of our consolidation loan (cutting interest from 11% to 4%), and in June, we began the work to refinance Jason’s car (which has an absolutely ridiculous 7% interest rate). All indications are that our situation will continue to improve over the upcoming months.

Career
This has not gone so well, I’m afraid. Right when I was set to volunteer at the library, the libraries closed for covid and have not reopened to volunteers. However, I’m still excited by my choice of career, and will be signing up for classes soon, even if I can’t volunteer until a covid vaccine is available.

Health
Mixed results here. On the one hand, I have definitely exceeded my expectations for becoming a runner, finishing Couch to 5K outdoors and running two miles nonstop by the end of May. I briefly moved indoors to a treadmill for the summer with our insane temps, but treadmill running was NO FUN plus with this covid-spike San Antonio is under, gyms aren’t safe. However, for a short while I should be able to take up running again as I spend some time in Wisconsin, and otherwise I just have to keep cross-training and hope I don’t lose my endurance over these next few months. I haven’t done as well on the weight loss side. I was hoping to lose 10+ lbs by mid-year, but my body is still resisting all attempts to lose, no matter how well I eat or how much of a daily calorie deficit I add up. At least I’m holding steady, though. I’m still working to figure out the root cause of the inflammation in my body that’s preventing me from getting healthier (both in weight and in other factors). I wish I had a doctor who was helping me. Some general stats:

  • In the first 182 days of 2020, I exercised on 115 days, adding up to a total of over 89 hours of fitness.
  • By the end of June, I’d walked, run, or hiked 204 miles in 2020 so far.
  • I’ve had no binges this year, and I’ve basically cut alcohol from my diet altogether, not even having it on special occasions anymore because I don’t like the lingering effects.
  • I’ve introduced several new kinds of fitness, including boxing which I love.
  • I’ve been on 13 group hikes this year (in just under three months rather than six re: covid), and discovered 5 new-to-me hiking locations, parks, and natural areas in the SA area, as well as making many new friends and expanding my social support system exponentially

So at six months into 2020, here is what I can conclude. It has been a really rough year in many ways, and the blows keep on coming. But somehow, for the first time since 2014, I’ve been able to roll with each of these punches, get back up, and keep moving. I have days when it all feels overwhelming and awful, and then something in me then clenches, I set my jaw, and I find some way to overpower the emotions dragging me down. It has been a year of making lots and lots of metaphorical lemonade. I don’t know exactly what it is that has caused this shift in me, that has allowed me to FINALLY move past the pain and fear and grief that has been holding me back for the last few years, but I’ll take it! I had a moment in mid-June, while out on a hike, where I felt absolutely on top of the world (pictured). Living my best life. Joy like I hadn’t felt in six years. So that’s what I have to conclude. Not every moment or every day is joyous, but as I look back on the first half of 2020, those positives and happy moments and that feeling of joy is what wins out. For the first time in ages, my smiles are real. I am alive, I fully embody my life again, and I hope that no matter what the second half of this insane year brings, I will continue to live out loud, making as much lemonade as necessary.

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Sunday Coffee – Favorite Photos of June

What a crazy month. Lots of changes, lots of joyous moments and sad moments both. Lots of photos. Here are my favorites of June.

Left to right: a white moth on a wooden floor; Ash playing with a catnip toy; Medina River Natural Area with gorgeous Majestic Bald Cypress trees.

Left to right: selfie on a hike where I felt absolutely on top of the world; wrapped apples at a hotel as a sign of the covid-times; a stick bug on a pole with a baby stick bug on its back

Top left: a giant mushroom that sprouted in our yard. Bottom left: night sky petunias at Menards. Right: a fellow hiker taking in the scenery

Left to right: Ash; embracing my body no matter its “flaws,” zuppa inglese from a local small business

All photos taken by me and unfiltered/unaltered.

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Quarantine Diaries – Week 16

Oh y’all, I can’t tell you how sad I am that I’m still needing to track this stuff on a weekly basis. It has gotten so bad that I’ve changed back to my original daily format, because my little sectional summaries just aren’t big enough to hold all of what’s happening. San Antonio is going backwards, no control, skyrocketing toward a terrifying threshold that will leave us vulnerable and exposed. Right now, I’m in a relatively safe space with my two younger children, but I’m still following all this stuff in San Antonio, where the rest of my family, plus extended family and so many friends, are in danger.

Anyway: If your mental health is at a point where you cannot bear to hear more about quarantine stuff, skip to the bottom of this post for a list of positives and highlights and Nice Things. We all need some of that right now!

-Friday, June 26th:
Local count: 8857 (+405), 105 deaths. It was a bit of a shocker day. The governor finally took some minor action, closing down bars across the state and cutting restaurant capacity from 75% to 50%. He also made the first overtures toward giving authority back to local areas with regards to their covid plans, though I don’t know how far that will actually extend. They did decide not to open pools this week as originally planned, and are limiting gatherings in city parks to 10. Then out of nowhere, the head of our Metro Health department resigned. We don’t have reasons, though statements released do say it was her decision, without pressure from Metro Health. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was too tired, frustrated, or angry to continue under our current circumstances. The last time she appeared on the daily brief, she was in tears asking people to wear masks please. // At home, we made the decision for Laurence, Ambrose, and me to travel to WI, and began to prep for that trip. Sadly, we heard that another 14 employees from HEB tested positive, and for the first time, one of those was from our local HEB. So we’re taking even more precautions than before. Today’s photo is of bold lipstick, a form of personal empowerment because I do not handle sudden changes in plans very well and I needed bolstering!

-Saturday, June 27th:
Local count: 9652 (+795), 107 deaths. Alert came out over our phones at 7pm warning us all to stay home due to the covid health emergency. We’ve all known things were getting bad again, but this is skyrocketing. And people have started the whole hoarding thing again, so HEB has started limiting toilet paper and paper good purchases again. Oh, people. You won’t wear masks but you’ll buy ten years’ worth of toilet paper. Sigh. In any case, we made the very quick decision to move the Wisconsin trip up from Monday to Sunday. Everything was in chaos.

-Sunday, June 28th:
Local count: 10,147 (+495), 109 deaths. We’ve officially passed the 10k mark for cases. I spent the day traveling north with my two younger boys, making it to Olathe, KS for our first day. Various news stories out of San Antonio included several museums in SA closing and more food-hoarding (sigh). Personal experience on the road led me to realize that while we have a major anti-mask situation in SA, it’s nothing compared to a lot of places. We stopped one place for gas in Oklahoma, and there were two other people wearing masks besides us. Employees had noses and parts of their mouths exposed. In Kansas, the employees didn’t even bother with masks, and we were literally the only masked folks everywhere we went. And frankly, in a hotel or service situation, if you’re not wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic, I’m a bit offended. Clearly, you don’t care about the customers enough to keep them safe from you, and that doesn’t say much for your service skills. Ugh. Also, I’m disturbed by the number of businesses capitalizing on pandemic rhetoric. “Flatten your curves” weight loss. “We practice high deductible distancing” lenders. Just no.

-Monday, June 29th:
Local count: 10,797 (+650), 109 deaths. So much news today on both a city-level and personal-level. In San Antonio, so many industries are getting rapidly expanding numbers of cases (HEB, the police, the fire department and paramedics, a resurgence at the jail, the Air Force basic trainees, staff and children at county juvenile facilities…) We got new data showing our doubling rate has dropped to 11 days, and our positivity rate is now over 20%. One in every four people admitted into the hospitals are for covid, and the number of patients is starting to outpace the number of available beds. In some hospitals, there are people waiting in lines at the ER for beds to open up. Meanwhile, there is some good news, too. USAA (where Jason works) says that none of their employees will come back into the office until 2021 at very earliest. Many school districts, including ours, has closed all summer strength and conditioning camps for sports, plus city library facilities that operate out of school district buildings. San Antonio became the first city to begin using oral swabs for covid-testing, which allow for less contact between people. And the governor got the Prumpster to extend federal funding for covid testing in TX.

That’s just the local news. On a personal level, this was a very difficult day. Jason called me when we were about two hours away from our destination in Wisconsin. Morrigan had suddenly come down with a bad cough and a 102 fever. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t have been worrying, especially with all the Saharan dust in the air. But then there was covid. They went to urgent care, where they were told to wait in the car (in 100+ degree temps) in the parking lot until Morrigan was called in, which could be up to five hours later. Oy. He ended up getting called in only two hours later, but still. They took a swab and apparently had some rapid response tests, because fifteen minutes later they told him that he was negative. But they also said to quarantine for 10 days just in case it was a false negative (20% chance). So up in the north of the country, we are also quarantining very carefully for at least 10 days. Just in case. I’m really glad the test was negative, even if there’s a possibility of being wrong. I can’t tell you just how awful it felt to simultaneously be driving toward family members potentially carrying covid AND being thousands of miles away from my child who might have covid. This is the nightmare right now.

-Tuesday, June 30th:
Local count: 12,065 (+1268), 110 deaths. We reached 1000 cases in San Antonio on April 19th, 5.5 weeks after our first case arrived, and today we had more than that number in a single day. It took us until April 27th to get to a total case number as high as our day was today. Oy. So the city decided to make all businesses ask people health questions on entering, as well as taking customer temps. I don’t think that’ll work well, but hey. The governor was supposed to make an announcement today but postponed it (for the second time). Let’s all hope it’s good news. In the meantime, I continue to worry from up north, where I wore a mask pretty much all day, because safety. (See their attitude up here in today’s picture.) Morrigan is still sick, and honestly, Jason and I have been discussing the feasibility of him going back to work at all while using our car and living in our house. It’s just not safe for any of us, and we have more than one person to think about. He doesn’t NEED the money.

-Wednesday, July 1st:
Local count: 12,504 (+439), 111 deaths. The city rolled back the questioning/temp checks for businesses, because it was pointed out that the plan was absolutely unfeasible (yup). Instead, they have to display a list of covid-symptoms, which seems pointless. Everyone knows what they are by now! Meanwhile, the governor is still postponing his announcement that was supposed to come days ago, and Texas as a state surged up another 7000 cases. We’ve been told point-blank that San Antonio is on a steeper curve than Italy was in the worst of times. // It was another difficult personal day. My good friend Natalie, who moved to San Antonio with her husband last summer to help take care of her father (cancer), had to call EMS to take her father to the hospital with covid symptoms. He tested positive. With several underlying conditions and being in his 80s, there’s a good chance he won’t make it through this. Additionally, while her test came back negative, we have yet to hear about her husband’s (he has symptoms), and neither her mother nor her severely autistic brother have been able to get appointments to be tested despite being symptomatic also. It feels so helpless to be so far away from people I love who are suffering, and to know that even if I was still in SA, I couldn’t do anything to help her family right now. (pic is me and Nat in the spring of 1996)

-Thursday, July 2nd:
Local count: 12,878 (+374), 115 deaths. Hallelujah, the governor FINALLY put in a mandatory mask order in all TX counties with at least 20 cases (nearly all of them). Texas surged up another 8k cases after the 7k yesterday. A bunch of city and hospital officials in SA did a midday brief to discuss the timeline of this, and how the surge began happening exactly two weeks after Memorial Day. They’re (rightly) concerned because this weekend is Independence Day weekend and has the potential to cause another spike. But all the parks are being closed by the city, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 10, and now people have to wear masks, so please oh please let there not be another spike. Our hospitals are already near capacity. // One of my “friends” decided to argue with me that I have no right to be concerned about San Antonio anymore because I’ve left. WTF? Bye, lady! Morrigan has officially been furloughed by Taco Bell, allowed to come back whenever the covid situation is safe (they didn’t want him to resign as originally planned). He also got new guidelines from the housing department at KU, because they’re still planning to open to students in August, with a hybrid situation depending on individual teachers/classes. Natalie’s brother finally got his covid test, though no one has results yet, and she may need to get retested because she’s starting to get symptoms. It’s a mess.

Graphs above are daily and weekly cases/deaths since March 13th. This is where we’re at. 4426 cases this week – daily average now 632 – and 11 deaths. June wrapped up with a total of 9235 of our 12065 cases (June 30th), a full 77% of our numbers. It’s insane, and I’m scared to death for all my friends and family, and feel simultaneously relieved and guilty to be so far away.

Positives and Highlights and Nice Things
I spent several days either traveling or preparing to travel early in the week and didn’t really keep track of things in that time. But I’ve been trying to look at those nice things since then!

  • HEB had masks for sale, so we could stock up for splitting the family into two different states, plus then my sis-in-law made me the one pictured above!
  • Old Dutch dill pickle chips, as well as other touchstones of being in the north again (Perkins, Culvers, Pizza Ranch, etc)
  • Jason made us gf lemon chocolate chip muffins for our trip
  • we made it safely to WI, and then got to see my in-laws and my sis-in-law, plus all the puppies!
  • fresh strawberries from my MIL’s garden
  • my sis-in-law made me a couple great bags from one of my favorite fabrics ever!
  • a giant tree branch broke off a tree here, but thankfully missed my car by about two feet !!!
  • absolutely beautiful orange-and purple lilies, and night sky petunias, and so many other flowers/plants I don’t usually see in TX
  • I read an amazing book (The Empire of Dreams by Rae Carson)
  • the RLGS podcast called out my name for patreon subscriptions, and argued about how it was pronounced (neither option was correct – my name is just weird!)
  • started my new GGS program, plus I got to go out running for what feels like the first time in ages!

How has your week gone?

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June 2020 in Review

This month has been a rollercoaster and an exercise in frustration. At the beginning of the month, my calendar was nearly as full as it would have been pre-quarantine. I had nearly a dozen hikes scheduled (all with six or fewer hikers, because safety), and we’d scheduled quite a few medical appointments that we’d had to put off re: covid. Additionally, there were multiple virtual and physically-distanced family/friend visits planned, and a few surprise Zoom appointments. But by mid-month, suddenly all the events and appointments began to drop off. After the 19th, literally only the marking of Father’s Day remained on my calendar. It’s frustrating, because it was soooooo good to see people again, even if we all had to keep our distance and wear masks. But apparently we can’t have nice things here, because somehow masks have become a political debate, and due to this idiocy, we now have a covid-situation that is worse than it’s ever been. I really hope that soon San Antonio can get this thing under control because BALANCE is good and we’ve got to figure out a way to live with this virus until we have a better solution!

Meanwhile, in the last few days of the month, the family had to split up, with Jason and Morrigan staying in San Antonio for work and the cats, while I took my two younger children up to live with their grandparents for awhile in a rural area of WI to minimize our exposure to covid. Morrigan got sick and had to be tested (came back negative, but we’re told that there’s a 1 in 5 chance of a false negative, ugh), so now I’m up north and quarantined for the family’s safety and worried about my husband and child down in the San Antonio hotbed that we’re told is on a trajectory WORSE than Italy was at one point.

Reading and Watching
Once again, not the greatest month for books and movies. I did see the newest Addams Family movie, which was cute. And I read two books: Home Before Dark (loved!) and Little Eyes (got me thinking a lot, but not sure I actually liked it). However, I just had nearly ten books arrive for me from the library, most digitally, so I might actually read something now!

Goals
Very little progress on my yearly goals this month. I tried to keep up with running, but the mornings are 80 degrees at sunrise with 90+ percent humidity; the evenings are 95 degrees with heat indexes over 100 (plus my body feels better exercising in the mornings); and I don’t have a treadmill at home. I debated between getting a treadmill and getting a gym membership, eventually deciding on the latter. Then I despised the treadmill running, and COVID got so bad that I had to stop going to the gym anyway. Maybe running will go a bit better in July given the better Wisconsin weather!

As for my 20-20 in 2020 goals, I did barely squeak by in June, with the holdout being the phone-off-by-9pm goal. That one is hard! Once again, I was doing well until covid-anxiety began to creep up again. But I made it, and get to pick a reward for the first time since February! My summer break quarantine goals are going pretty well, with seven (and three partials) out of eighteen. However, this temporarily relocation to Wisconsin will mean there are several goals on the list (like landscaping part of my front yard) that aren’t going to get done! That’s okay – covid safety takes precedence!

Health
I talked above about the whole running thing, which is a big part of my health/fitness. Otherwise in exercise, group hikes began again this month, and I managed to attend six of them before we had to cancel them again due to the Virus. Altogether, I managed 21 days of exercise, for 17:48 hours total, including 9 yoga, 6 strength training, and 39.4 miles for June.

Outside of exercise, my health hasn’t always been good this month. Anxiety is high. I had my second-ever kidney stone, which is no fun, but at least this time I didn’t have to go to the ER like in 2016 (thanks for the tip, Gricel!). I’ve had a lot more insomnia, and that’s probably tied in to drinking even more coffee than usual. My stomach has hurt a lot since mid-May when I quit eating gluten-free, but I haven’t been able to convert back to a GF diet despite this because options are so limited and I don’t have the mental energy left to deal with that. With the increased yoga I’ve been doing, my cyst in my left wrist has started to reemerge – no fun!! In better news, I signed up for a personal coaching program through Girls Gone Strong. It only began this past weekend, so I don’t know yet how it’s going to go, but after trying to handle this myself for six years (and with absolutely NO help from doctors), I need guidance from someone smarter than me. Fingers crossed that through this program, I can see results and perhaps figure out what’s wrong.

Things that worried me
Number one on this list: the gigantic covid spike. We had a total of 9235 new cases in June. That’s 77% of our total 12065 cases since March 13th – literally we ended May with 2830 cases and went up to 12065, y’all. Oy. Hospitalizations, critical care, ventilator usage…all up. All going the exact wrong way instead of keeping our curve nice and flat like before. Then there were the other things to worry about: Gavroche had surgery on his mouth this month. Ash began to get jaundiced again. Laurence had outpatient surgery on his toe that he’s still recovering from. I had to deal with that kidney stone. Morrigan is working in fast food where customers are still being belligerent about masks, and eventually got sick, currently quarantined and unable to work for at least two weeks (if he ever returns!). Three of us traveled cross-country and are separated from the rest of the family, which as I’ve said is both a relief and a worry in multiple ways.

Highlights of June
It was a serious roller-coaster month, with some really wonderful moments and some really low points as well. Here are the highlights.

  • Global Running Day and a new PR mile time (for level ground)
  • finally getting photos put in the frames and photo-coasters received at Christmas and my birthday
  • going out on group hikes again, and leading my first hike – these were my favorite moments of the month
  • fun outfits from Torrid, Lane Bryant, Superfit Hero, and others
  • some small improvements in Ash’s health finally (though sadly he’s starting to look very jaundiced again, boo!)
  • getting holds from the library again
  • Nimi on catnip – this was hilarious and we’d never seen it before as Ash tends to get aggressive on catnip so we almost never have it around
  • seeing my Wisconsin extended family and all the puppies/kitties/chickens

Coming up in July
It’s another high-birthday month in my family – my mom, stepdad, half-sister, and middle son all have birthdays in July. It’s going to be really weird to have all these birthdays with no way to get together. Boo! Ambrose will be turning 18 this month, just in time for voting come November! And of course, part of my family will likely spend the entire month in Wisconsin (end-date is currently unplanned). Plus: the new Unsolved Mysteries releases in July!!! (Yes, I’m super excited for this!)

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Sunday Coffee – Unexpected, but welcome

Did you notice that I’m drinking iced coffee instead of hot, the way I said I would be? No, I’ve not already fallen off the bandwagon. (Heh.) But I am extremely anxious at the moment, and clearly I have successfully transferred my anxiety-coping-technique to drinking iced coffee, because this is what it’s going to be! On the other hand, I have a feeling I’ll be breaking the habit soon anyway, because:

The last two days have been whirlwind. After Thursday’s gigantic daily spike in covid-cases and the news that SA is currently on a course to reach full capacity in the hospital within two weeks, Jason and I began to talk. I’m immunocompromised in more than one way, and we have one child working 40+ hours a week at a Taco Bell, exposed to hundreds of people daily, many of whom still refuse to wear masks (not employees! just customers). It’s the end of June, and there is literally no reason for Ambrose, Laurence, or me to be in San Antonio right now. None of us are working or going to school. Jason’s parents live in northern Wisconsin, in a county that literally has only 31 cases and no deaths, with a 0.07% infection rate. (San Antonio, on the other hand, has a 4.25% infection rate, so it’s not just a population difference.) The entire state of Wisconsin, including metro areas, has a daily increase rate on par with San Antonio, so that really shows the difference. So Jason decided to talk to his parents, and they agreed that the three of us should come up to stay with them for the next month-ish.

I’m simultaneously relieved and wary of this decision. On the one hand, it means relative safety for at least three members of my family. It also means much more pleasant weather for exercise, which is always a plus. On the other hand, it means that I’ll be away from Jason and Morrigan and won’t be able to take care of them if they get sick. I also won’t be here if Ash takes a turn for the worse. And it’s a little weird to go live with my in-laws without Jason there, even if we’ve been family for 20 years. Above all these things, I don’t do very well with last-second changes of plans, so the last two days have been very anxiety-ridden.

Because we were leaving tomorrow.

Cue anxiety, hence the iced coffee, which is going hand-in-hand with insomnia. I’ve been scrambling to cancel/reschedule appointments, make packing lists, buy travel food, plan routes, choose a safe hotel for the one overnight stay, etc. I’ve also been attempting to get my boys to prep properly, when all they want to do is play Minecraft and watch Tik Tok.

And then last night, we all got sudden notices –> on our phones with an emergency warning after nearly 800 cases were reported in and our hospital capacity slipped down another 5%. So we’re no longer leaving tomorrow. We’re leaving now.

Wish us safe travels, and see y’all on the other side.

My stomach is in knots.

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Quarantine Diaries – Week 15

We have officially passed the 100th day since COVID19 came to the San Antonio community (March 13th). In the beginning, we did well. Recently, not so much. Sigh.

It’s been a particularly difficult week for me personally, as I’ll discuss below in my “this week at home” section. Mostly, this involves having to go back into full(ish) lockdown measures for safety’s sake, even as too many folks in the city go around as if covid doesn’t exist.

Again: If your mental health is at a point where you cannot bear to hear more about quarantine stuff, skip to the bottom of this post for a list of positives and highlights and Nice Things. We all need some of that right now!

This week in numbers
Another record-breaking week. As expected. We started out with 5550 cases and 92 deaths, and continued the trend of exponentially increased numbers:

  • Friday, June 19th: 5962, 96 deaths (+412)
  • Saturday, June 20th: 6344, 96 deaths (+382)
  • Sunday, June 21st: 6882, 97 deaths (+538) – a new daily record high
  • Monday, June 22nd: 7156, 97 deaths (+274)
  • Tuesday, June 23rd: 7467, 100 deaths (+311)
  • Wednesday, June 24th: 7814, 104 deaths (+347)
  • Thursday, June 25th: 8452, 104 deaths (+638) – now this is a new daily record high

So that gives us 2902 new cases this week – daily average now 415 – with 12 new deaths. Hospitals were up to 628 patients last night (a month ago, they were below 90), while 202 are in ICU and 94 are on ventilators (more than our previous total hospital admissions). It is bad, bad, bad.

Keep in mind this is one county – not a full state (Texas is getting about 5500 cases daily now, and has far more total cases as a state than most countries in the world) and not even a fraction of the US as a whole. One county/city. It’s BAD. So bad, in fact, that one of our health authorities came straight out and said we’re currently running on the worst-case-scenario formerly predicted by statistics models back in March. The one that predicts we’ll have over 100k cases in SA by the end of August.

This week in San Antonio
We were really doing so well compared to other urban areas around the country. We really were. But at the beginning of this week, we were named 4th highest hot spot in the US, and that moved to 3rd highest by Wednesday. Other cities around TX are actually putting San Antonio up as a health travel warning. It’s not just us – Austin, Dallas, and Houston are doing just as badly – but again, our local officials’ hands are virtually tied. The governor came out this week and scolded Texas. Bad Texans! We shouldn’t have high numbers! If we don’t get better, he’ll have to do something about this! (While refusing to do something now, while refusing to mandate masks, ironically, because “Texas is too big to have a statewide order because each area is unique in their situation,” though each area isn’t allowed to mandate them either…) The most he’s doing is yanking alcohol permits from bars for 30 days if they are reported for violations. Oh, and he says we’re “pausing” the reopening of Texas, even though he’s already opened ALL businesses and there’s nothing left to pause! Literally, that’s it. Great leadership!

No one should be surprised. Hell, Prump decided to defund Texas’ covid tests this week (along with other hotbed states) because the high numbers are making him look bad. This is REALLY not the time to have a narcissistic a-hole who doesn’t care about lives in charge. But there you go. He really thinks less testing will “improve” the situation, or at least, will improve his “ratings.” Meanwhile, we have cases breaking out all over: the blood bank, food bank, dozens of HEB employees (70 in June alone so far), and who knows about businesses that refuse to report! Seriously, I read some stats this week on our situation: a quarter of all our covid deaths have been in the last two weeks alone, and in the same time period, hospitalizations have gone up 600%!

So we do what we can. The governor allowed one tiny new privilege to local communities: the ability to limit gatherings to 100 people. Of course, this restriction has so many exemptions (churches, amusement parks, pools, childcare, camps, sports, zoos, rodeos, carnivals, etc etc) that the ONLY things I believe that are ACTUALLY restricted are 5Ks/etc and protests. Go figure. (Btw, amusement parks actually opened here this week, claiming they had a lot of “safety measures” in place…but really, do you think they’re going to sanitize rides between each go, while hundreds of people wait packed in lines, most of them not wearing masks? No thank you!!) And of course, the new masks-in-businesses order went through this week. This has led to more violence, including the county judge (who initially went up against the governor re: masks) being assaulted at a local Lowes when he tried to intervene between a belligerent maskless customer and the employee being bullied. (The attacker turned himself in a day later and was only given a misdemeanor charge at the judge’s request.)

Last but not least, we have a unique circumstance arriving in San Antonio this week. Every year, the Saharan dust storms travel across the ocean and reach the Gulf shores. For several weeks, the air quality goes down sharply, and people are subjected to all sorts of breathing problems. We’ve already been warned that the Saharan dust can cause symptoms similar to those of covid, but there’s really no way to tell exactly what’s the source of your symptoms without a test. That’s going to put even more strain on a testing system that’s already booked a week in advance and which the Prumpster has now defunded… Plus, now we hear that the dust is thicker than has ever been recorded. Because 2020, right?

This week at home
I didn’t know, when I went on a 3-mile rainy hike with a group of four other ladies on Friday, that it would be my last group hike. I had six more scheduled for the last 1.5 weeks of June. But we all discussed the situation in town here, and decided not to schedule any new hikes in July. And then decided a day later to cancel the rest for June, too. The previous two weeks of hiking had been marvelous and a great way to re-connect with people again. And now, because people are acting like babies here (refusing masks, not social distancing, hosting big gatherings, etc), we’ve lost this physical and mental lifeline once again.

This has compounded on me personally because my exercise is being impacted in so many other ways. It’s now too hot to run outdoors morning or evening, and gyms are one of the worst spots for covid-spread, so Laurence and I have stopped going there, too. It’s making my anxiety worse, and my mental health is low this week. It doesn’t help that Morrigan is out there working in fast food 40 hours a week, and I have no idea how well he’s scrubbing up when he gets home at 2:30 in the morning. He’s in that age where he doesn’t really take this as seriously as he should, and of course there are four others in this house that may be affected. And now we’ve heard that there’s a possibility that Ambrose’s chosen community college may not open to students this fall. He’s already said that if that’s the case, he’s not going to do online school, but he’ll take a gap year instead. Online school is pretty much his worst nightmare. And since he didn’t get a job when Morrigan did, we’re reluctant to send him out to work, doubling our potential exposure rate. It’s a mess, and I’m not coping terribly well this week.

To complicate and worsen it all, Morrigan found out that his scholarship is not being renewed for next semester because he slagged off in his classes for the last few months. (I’ve so far resisted the urge to say, “I told you so.”) But because he has the luck of the gods and always has, he has the option to change his worse grades to pass/fail this semester because of the covid/online issue, and after that, his improved GPA will reinstate his scholarship. I just hope that he actually learns his lesson this time!! Also, while Ash’s energy and weight is up a bit, I noticed a few days back that his tongue has gone yellowish, indicating that he’s getting jaundiced again. He’s probably not drinking enough and will need another IV or subcutaneous fluids. Poor baby. It’s just been a mess here at home this week.

Positives and Highlights and Nice Things
I need these more than ever right now:

  • hiking in the rain! (Even if it was my last group hike for awhile)
  • awesome new outfit from Torrid, plus some new exercise tanks and capris from Lane Bryant and Superfit Hero
  • signing up for a year of personal coaching through Girls Gone Strong
  • cats on catnip (ha!)
  • one of the nearby Red Robin restaurants reopened for curbside pickup – they’d been closed since quarantine began, even after allowed to open, and I’ve been craving their fries so badly!
  • Jason and I went on a hike Wednesday evening, and it was a weird one where not a single person besides us were wearing masks, and we saw a woman jogging in shorts and a regular (frilly, lacy, sparkly) bra; a man with one hand wrapped up so much it was larger than a boxing glove; a man using a golf club as a walking stick; and a wild vole, which I didn’t even know we had in Texas!
  • the trailer is out for the new season of Unsolved Mysteries coming in July!

How are all of you? Tell me good news, if you have it!

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Wellness Wednesday – First Steps

There have been several big changes to my life this week. Covid has spiked so badly here that my hiking group has canceled the remaining June hikes and decided not to schedule any for July. That’s a big part of my exercise and social life extinguished. Furthermore, the covid spike means that it’s not safe to go to the gym anymore, so Laurence and I have quit going for the time being. That removes the possibility of treadmill runs, which while I disliked them were the only kind of running option I still had left. The weather is BAD here, with 80-degree-with-95-%-humidity sunrises and 90-degree-with-over-100-heat-indexes sunsets. So any running that doesn’t involve me doing mini-laps around my bedroom is out. Lastly, my coffee addiction has become bad enough that I can’t ignore it any longer.

(failed evening run)

It has understandably been a hard week, but I refuse to let 2020 get to me. Despite everything, it has been a good year, the best year I’ve had since before my family’s move to Boston in mid-2014. I’m taking mental health days when needed, and letting myself grieve, nap, shout at folks in my head about not wearing masks, worry, stay up too late looking at news, etc. But I also refuse to let those mental health days morph into weeks and months, not when I have the energy, positivity, and desire to channel my energy into something different.

So: running is out, hiking with my group is out, the gym is out, and coffee has entered a danger zone. It’s time for change. It’s time for First Steps.

(hiking together pre-covid)

Hiking
My friend Stephanie has finished moving into her new house, and wants to get back into doing some exercise on a regular basis. Tonight, we’re going to hike together, masks on. I hope we can do this a few times a week, or conversely, that I can buddy up with one or two of my other fellow hiker friends and do this a few times a week. If I have a relatively small set of people in my support-bubble of sorts, and we keep masks on, we should be okay. Furthermore, I can hike alone. There’s really very few locations that I feel safe hiking alone, so I’ll stick to them, but that’s okay. Something is better than nothing, and will make the larger group hikes sweeter when we can return to them.

Social
Well, if my group hikes are out again for the foreseeable future, I need a new way to socialize. Yesterday, I decided to call out to folks to see if they’d be interested in a virtual Zoom-based book club. I’ve run book clubs in the past, and I’ve wanted to start another one for years. A half-dozen folks responded, and I hope I can get us all together for this. Eventually we can move to in-person meetings, but Zoom will do for now!

Coffee
I’ve put this issue off too long. I know that coffee affects me, even before I had a major addiction to it. Over the years, I’ve seen time and time again that cutting coffee down to once a day often led to the ability to lose weight slowly. Since my rapid weight gain only started around the time that I began to drink coffee more regularly (and often twice-daily), and nothing else I’ve tried for the last six years has helped, I have a strong suspicion that coffee is the key thing holding me back. Starting this morning, I’ve switched back to hot coffee in the morning. I prefer iced coffee. I prefer it so much that I was drinking three times the amount of hot coffee I used to drink. I prefer it so much that I used it as a substitute for wine to soothe anxiety when I had PTSD triggers. I have no regrets about this last bit, but I need to move iced coffee back to the realm of an occasional anxiety relief rather than a three-to-four-times daily habit. This is the first step, with the goal of eventually cutting coffee altogether.

Girls Gone Strong
Other than the coffee situation, I’ve done EVERYTHING a person could possibly do over the last six years to attempt to get my body to budge and let go of weight. Eaten less, eaten more, giving up sugar, cutting carbs, cutting fat, cutting animal products, exercising more, exercising less, exercising differently, rebalancing hormones with the help of my doctors, dealing with mental health, tracking calories religiously, eating intuitively, etc etc. My long-time followers will know just how dedicated I am to my body and its wellness. A decade ago, after my eleven-year-long illness was finally diagnosed and cured, I spent 3.5 years losing 100 lbs (pic below), and then kept that weight off for a 1.5 years without any problem at all. I’m not saying it was easy – I lose weight very slowly, due to PCOS – but I’m a determined person and when I put my mind to something, I do it.

But then I gained 80 lbs in about 15 months with almost no changes in my habits. The two changes that I can pinpoint were that I began drinking wine a couple times a week, and I began to drink coffee regularly (often twice a day). All other changes from when I began to regain weight have since been dealt with and negated, but still I can’t lose weight. Even the alcohol thing has been nixed. I’ve had maybe a half-dozen glasses of wine since last June, and none for months now because I don’t like how it affects my body longterm. And who knows? Maybe now that I’m FINALLY addressing the coffee issue, things will improve. But it’s equally possible that I just need help, which is where Girls Gone Strong comes in.

(one day my GGS shirt will fit again!)

I’ve followed Molly Galbraith from GGS for seven years now, and I love their brand of women-helping-women. Twice a year, they open slots for personal training, a year-long intensive course in fitness, nutrition, mindset, and more. It’s expensive. Honestly WAY more money than I ever wanted to pay for this kind of thing. But I’ve done just about all I can on my own, and with running and group hikes nixed, Jason and I discussed the situation and decided that I should take the plunge. I’ve signed up, and the program starts Sunday. I’m nervous and excited in one. It’s another first step toward (hopefully) a healthier future.

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