The Meaning of Life

Ask Siri: What is the meaning of life? And she’ll tell you. (Or, well, she used to. Now she says things like, “If you ask Cruella de Vil, life is all about kidnapping puppies. That’s why we don’t ask her.” But a few years back, if you asked her, she’d answer correctly:

TBH, I’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and likely never will. That particular book was ruined for me well before I had a chance to read it by a lecherous fellow writer in one of my writing groups. *shudder* But still, all this is to say that for the next year, I am the meaning of life.

As in, I turn 42 today.

Ha!

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Sunday Coffee – January/February 2021 Wrap-up

My original intention for 2021 was to do a seasonal wrap-up rather than monthly. I set up a future post where I could keep my notes as the months went along. In January, that was fine…but I got toward mid-February, and the notes piled up, and the post content got longer and longer until it was ridiculous and I began to contemplate breaking it into multiple posts. And then I thought – if I’m planning to break this into multiple posts, what is the point of doing it on a seasonal basis? These monthly wrap-ups have been an easy way to look back at my year and remember all the little things that were going on in my life, and to draft it up three months on means that I’ll disproportionately remember more recent months/happenings and leave the early season behind. I just don’t think that’s going to work for me! I don’t want to cut out any of the things I include in my wrap-ups, I don’t want novel-length posts, and the whole point was to include fewer wrap-up posts (so breaking it into multiple doesn’t help!).

So, what to do? Well, I’m going back to monthly posts, and this will just be a (long) combo post for Jan/Feb. These have not been the easiest months. Covid numbers were higher than they have been all pandemic. Ash suffered through another bout of his illness and was down to around 9 lbs (he should be 12 lbs), spending multiple days/nights at the vet before he finally began eating again. Morrigan returned to Kansas at the end of January. We had a week of Snowpocalypse in February, with around 8-10 inches of snow in San Antonio and multiple water/power outages. Our house was under various bits of construction for all of these months. My health has suffered tremendously and I’ve felt like sh1t for a lot of 2021. Everyone is getting major cabin fever after nearly a year of being stuck inside with each other 24/7.

It’s not as if there weren’t good things – I do include highlights below – but so far 2021 has been a sh1tshow, and I’m giving it major side-eye right now.

Reading
I’ve hardly read a thing during the last two months. Two books in January, neither of which were great, and absolutely nothing in February. There was one Rumi poem that I discovered that I liked (pic at left has the poem transposed on photo I took at Hill Country State Natural Area in 2020), and that was pretty much my favorite read of the year so far. I just haven’t felt the reading vibe since about November. It really doesn’t help that I can’t go browsing at my library. I miss that more than almost anything from pre-pandemic.

Watching
On the other hand, I’ve been obsessed with Murdoch Mysteries, and have watched all 13 seasons available to me since mid-December. I’m not generally a big TV person – for years, the only show that I watched regularly was NCIS – but over the last few years, binge-watching shows like SVU and Murdoch Mysteries has been a saving grace for me. It calms my anxiety for some reason. I’ve spent a lot of the last two months injured, with my left foot swollen and my right hip painful in any position, so a binge-worthy TV show was perfect. Additionally, I saw a few new-to-me movies these last two months (Bill and Ted Face the Music; Mulan), but honestly, I tend to prefer shorter show to watch than movies these days.

(I paused at one point and had this random ad come up perfectly framed!)

Goals
My goals are rather abstract this year, but I’ve made some progress in a few areas: fixing up the house, using more small/local businesses, and learning more about the potential career path I might take (still not ready to discuss publicly). Honestly, I’m not terribly happy about the nebulous goals, and likely I’ll forget them entirely by the end of the year. Already I had to go look them up to even remember what half of them were for this post.

Health
As I said above, my health hasn’t been great in 2021. Until this past October, I’d been maintaining my previous current weight +/- 5 lbs for about four years. Unfortunately, the two months I was on Ozempic injections really f-ed me up, and I gained 15 lbs on that medication. My body is heavier than it has been since 2009, and it isn’t adapting well to the new weight. My left foot/ankle is continually swollen and stiff (see below). My right hip has constant sciatica. My right arm continues to go numb from shoulder-blade to fingertips because of the weight from my breasts. My V02 max has dropped a few points because exercise has gotten harder and harder. In general, my body seems to have weight brackets: Go below a certain weight, and certain symptoms disappear. Go below another weight, and more symptoms disappear. Same with going back up. I’ve crossed the line now where my weight causes random body parts to go numb and my hips to continually hurt, and where exercise is no longer fun but a chore. It’s not pleasant.

(the swelling begins right at where the old break in this foot used to be…)

Other things in health: I had my covid vaccine (both parts) over these months, and my only side effects seemed to come from the second dose – a terrible headache for three days, and ten days of intense, grueling hunger. I’ve also experienced both sugar withdrawal and coffee withdrawal headaches these past months as I try to remove these from my diet more and more, as if my body is under major protest (I don’t blame it!).

Not everything has been negative, though. I walked/ran the ASPCA 5K in January, and the pain I’d been experiencing in the fall with my running had gone, so that was good! I hope to start up with C25K again this spring, if I can get my foot/hip to cooperate. I’m also intensely grateful for getting the covid vaccines and for having as much immunity as currently possible. Ambrose and I donated blood in January. I updated my Wellness Wednesday vision board/button. I have some upcoming trips this fall to look forward to and motivate me to greater fitness. And I made a little personal discovery with regards to mental health, emotional suppression, willpower, stress, and weight issues – summed up in the following quote from my GGS personal coaching program: If you are exhausting your willpower in order to suppress your emotions, you aren’t going to have much willpower left over for the self-care behaviors that are important to you. !!!

Lastly, the best thing in health over the last two months is that I’ve mostly been sleeping amazingly well! I’ve hardly had to use any sleeping medication at all, and most nights I sleep for a good 8-9 hours. Hurrah! As someone who has suffered (medically-diagnosed) chronic severe insomnia since the fall of 2011, this is INCREDIBLE!

House
I wrote a whole post on the details of this (link above), but in general, we got a lot done over this time period, mostly in this last week of February. Since Friday’s post, we’ve finished the first coat of base paint on the back siding, added the additional dirt/etc needed by the vinca wall and nectarine area, bought/planted the additional plants that will help the nectarine grow well, and put the baseboard back on in my bathroom. There is still a lot to get done outside (siding, porch) that we’d planned to do by now, but I’m happy with our progress (and that the inside stuff is done!).

Favorite Photos of January & February
Top two collages below are from January; bottom two are from February. There are non-collage, larger versions of all these photos in albums on both Facebook and Instagram. As always, these photos are taken by me, and are not always the best photos, just my favorites!

Top, left to right: Buddha’s Hand fruit; leftover rain water on my aloe vera plant; sunlight cutting across my chiropractor’s office. Bottom, left to right: bookplates from my favorite author; train bridge on a sunny morning hike; moss at Inks Lake.

Top, left to right: Denman Estate Park; Jojo lying in a sunbeam. Bottom, left to right: creek running through Lockhart State Park; air plants; shadow triumph pose!

Top, left to right: sun through snowy trees at my favorite park; dandelion; demon cat (ha!). Bottom, left to right: blowflower, mini-succulents on display at Lowes, macrame and tiny air plant

Top, left to right: catching snowflakes; a lone snowman looks out over snowy treetops. Bottom, left to right: icy blowflower; sun through snow on a discarded window pane. Note: Snow makes for very awesome and fun photos!

ETA: The problem with posting this with a whole day left in Feb is that I now have another favorite photo to add. Here is a tree tag in a photo that looks straight out of a paranormal horror movie, ha!

Random moments
Since this is two months’ worth of posting, I thought I’d add a section for miscellaneous stuff that hasn’t ended up somewhere else.

  • When doing our taxes, Jason and I totaled everything we spent on home repairs in 2020, and it came out to about $22,000. !!!
  • When Jason put the backing board behind the tiles between our kitchen windows, he carved “666” and a pentagram into it so that potential future home owners could have a fun surprise, ha! –>
  • Jason read out to us one night the best donuts in each state, and one was Holy Donut in Portland, ME. Ambrose and Jason argued over whether or not that’s where we went on our day-trip to Portland in 2015, when Ambrose suddenly said, “I’m sure mom has a picture, she takes pictures of everything.” He was rolling his eyes, but I couldn’t have been more proud in that moment. (Yes, I did have a photo, and yes, it was Holy Donut. Mom wins.)
  • Murdoch Mysteries are normally lighthearted and fun, but one evening, I watched S11 E7 and was just bawling. It was so incredibly sad. I very rarely cry at movies, shows, books, etc unless I’m already in an emotionally fragile place, which wasn’t the case here. It was one of the saddest show episodes I’ve ever seen. Very well done, too.

Highlights
Despite the not-so-greatness of 2021 so far, there have been good moments. Here are the highlights of the last two months:

  • my Hiking Group hoodie arrived
  • HEB had kettlebells for sale (I’ve spent most of the last six months looking for heavier kettlebells)
  • snow! (rare in SA – last time was 2017) (Note: This was snow in January, not the later snow in February. This snow was only a small dusting! And it’s very noteworthy that we had snow twice this year! That’s never happened in time here.)
  • my Secret Santa had a late-arriving gift, which turned out to be signed Brandon Sanderson bookplates !!!!!
  • We got some air plants! (Which later got new blooms!)
  • everything about the inauguration, and HURRAH to Trumpy getting out of there!
  • walking the wiggly sidewalk
  • Jason found a refurbished nice camera with manual mode for me, plus I learned (the basics of) how to use the manual settings!
  • outdoor yoga with friends in the park
  • lovely Galentine’s gifts!
  • While it wasn’t a great time what with power and water outages, it really was awesome seeing snow in SA! And going on snow-hikes at my favorite park!
  • Discovered mini-bottles of wine at Target! I normally don’t buy wine for home because I’m the only one who drinks it and I don’t usually go through a whole bottle before the wine turns. These mini-bottles (not just craptastic sutter homes and cheap brands) are a great solution, and it turns out they are available in three of my favorites: Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, and Chandon Brut!
  • I learned that there is an elephant sanctuary not 1.5 hours away from me!! You can pay a (substantial) cost to spend several hours with the elephants. Dream. Come. True.

Coming up
March is birthday month! My birthday is tomorrow, and there are six further March birthdays in my family. Several are literally on the same day – which also happens to be the same day as our one-year pandemic anniversary in SA. March 13th – which yes, was a Friday last year. Dun dun dun. Ha! So that’s pretty much all we’re looking at for March. Lots of (virtual) birthdays and the acknowledgement of an entire year stuck at home.

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A Week of “Vacation”

Y’all. The house projects were stacking up. The kitchen and dining room were stuffed full of saws, tools, air compressors, random nails and screws, and more. (Pic below is after most of it was cleaned up!!) The living room had several stacks of wood in it. The back porch was so full of construction materials that it couldn’t be used as a porch. The front and back yards were both full of stacks of retaining wall blocks and sheets of cement siding panels. The outer walls of both dining/kitchen and master bedroom were ripped apart. There were new trees that needed to be planted before they died in their temporary pots.

In other words, the list of projects-in-progress had grown untenable, and the house had been taken over by construction supplies and partially accessible rooms. The chaos kept building until, in early February, I said enough was enough.

(I don’t handle chaos very well.)

Because of the pandemic and several canceled vacations over the last two years, Jason had an excess of vacation days built up. After some discussion, he asked for this last week of February off, with the intention of finishing as many of the projects as possible. Usually, we only have weekends to work on these things, and many of the projects had been in progress for months – and some for nearly a year! So we made a list and set up priorities for this week of “vacation.” Of course, we didn’t expect an insane snow-week to come the week before this “vacation,” causing some further construction-related issues. Sigh. So anyway, here’s what we managed to complete.

In my room, the wall was torn up from the window-replacement done in 2020 (top photo is from actual window replacement on 12/31). Most of the following work had been done over weekends in 2021, but was finished this week. Wainscoting went up over the damaged wall and the interior shelves between the two new windows was built. Eventually it was all painted a very pale blue. (Difficult to see via photo with the old walls still that ugly brown they were when we moved in.) I also got new curtains that weren’t blackout-style. Eventually, the rest of the walls will be repainted, but that’s luxury instead of necessity, so my room is done for now. (Not pictured: a couple more shelves added to that between-the-windows area.)

In the dining/kitchen, we used slat-board and tile to frame out the new windows and repair the walls. (Bonus: It covered up the really horrible yellow. It doesn’t show in photos, but the yellow paint was a single layer over some kind of dark color with no primer, and looked sickly and patchy in real life.) I’m highly sensitive to polyurethane, so we couldn’t poly the walls, and we were worried that I’d have the same reaction to highly chemical varnishes. Then Jason found this absolutely wonderful website about non-chemical finishes, and we used the info to shellac and wax up our wall to make it beautiful without paint! In the above photos, please ignore whatever mess was around – other parts of the house were still under construction, and the “after” photos were taken while still dealing with the boil-water notice – and the open light switch, which we can’t finish until after the outside work is done. Plus, the “before” photos are what I could cobble together from the last year living here! Eventually, we will do far more to this room (replace cabinets, counters, and florescent lights; paint the other walls, new light fixtures, etc), but once again, that’s luxury.

Outside, I finally built the wall around our tree and vinca as the next step of xeriscaping the front yard. I can’t do much more right now for lack of finances, but I’m glad to get that done. In the backyard, we’d previously bought two new trees to plant, a live oak and a nectarine. Thankfully, we hadn’t planted them before the Snowpocalypse came through! They stayed safe inside the house! This week, we planted them. The nectarine took longer than expected because we had to build up a retaining wall to give one of the trees more than a couple inches of topsoil! So much erosion in this neighborhood! Note: I was supposed to plant my giant aloe vera as well, but the spot we chose for a potential succulent garden 1) didn’t end up being a good spot, and 2) led us to discover one of two problems caused by the Snowpocalypse. More on this in a bit.

One of the other big projects we planned to do this week was finish the siding along the back wall, and potentially finish the porch railings and such. There was siding on about 2/3rds of the back wall, and house wrap on the rest. Jason got the rest of the siding up and caulked everything together. We began the painting as well. But then other more-urgent projects arose due to the Snowpocalypse, plus it began to rain. The rest of the painting, trimming, soffits, porch stuff, etc all became a much lower priority (at least that’s all outside!) while we worked with other things. Photos: The before photo is the realty photo taken before we bought the house, and includes the old (rotten, falling-down) porch as well as the moldy siding. The in-progress photo is current as of yesterday morning, though we hope to make more progress by the time J goes back to work next week. Assuming it ever stops raining. (As you can see, our yard is still FULL of construction supplies!)

Which leads us to the two WTF Snowpocalypse projects of the week. The first is hard to see in that photo to the left. When I went to find an exact spot to start my succulent garden, this entire area was water logged, and an external drain was pouring water as if a tap was turned on. Turns out, it was the water heater release drain – meant to drop only condensation from the a/c and heating unit, or to drain water from the water heater if it got too hot or was under too much pressure. None of those situations were applicable (the a/c and heating unit hadn’t even been on for days!). We spoke with the plumber who installed the water heater – who, btw, was swamped due to all the broken pipes from the sub-freezing temps – and he concluded that due to the low water pressure issue, it’s likely the pressure valve had gone bad. We picked up a new valve, and Jason installed it. Issue fixed. Just took time away from other things!

Then there was my bathroom vanity. That thing was old, cheap, and not particularly well-cared for by previous occupants. Over our winter-week, we had the sinks either filled to capacity (for washing use once we lost our water) or continually running (to prevent burst pipes). One of the two sinks sprung a leak through the porcelain itself. I mean WTF?? After multiple attempts to fix it with epoxy and more, plus attempts to improve the other sink (it was the worser of the two and generally didn’t get used), we realized we were just going to need to replace the whole thing. This was a project we were planning in the “eventually, once we have a lot more money” category. (The whole bathroom needs gutting and redoing.) So it was IKEA to the rescue! The final setup is definitely an in-progress photo because the walls and floors both need to be repaired/replaced, and I’d like to eventually get rid of the horrid lighting and mirror situation with a better solution. But like everything else, that’s luxury. For now, this will be fine, and at least I really like the setup!

So how’s that for “vacation?” Ha! And to think, we still have all these things as current in-progress projects that need to be finished before we can STOP doing house construction for a bit, aka things we’d planned to be done with during this “vacation:”

  • finish painting and trimming the siding, plus soffits, along the back wall
  • wiring the two porch lights (and indoor switch that goes with them)
  • more dirt/compost/mulch to both the nectarine area and vinca area
  • porch railings attached to the new siding, and railings finished (need interior rails)
  • porch stairs need a stable ground under the last step re: erosion
  • planting the aloe vera
  • replacing the baseboard in my bathroom
  • attaching one of the two bathroom cabinets pictured above to the wall (need to buy supplies to anchor it)
  • general construction supply cleanup, including many, many trips to the recycling center/dump

Some of that, we still plan to do today and over the weekend, depending on the rain situation. Hopefully, we’ll both get in a movie and/or a couple’s massage or something relaxing over the weekend as well, as a reward for all this insane work. We’re both sore and exhausted. Hauling 40+ concrete blocks, 22 lbs each – not to mention bags and bags of dirt, manure, peat moss, and mulch – across the property is no fun. Nor is tons of digging in ground that doesn’t exactly like to be dug out, or assembling furniture, or painting… And I didn’t even do any of the holding-up-concrete-siding-panels etc. Oy. But it does feel good to make progress, even if some of that progress was impeded by new emergency projects. One of these days, we’ll finish all this crap and take a nice, long break before we do anything more!!

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Wellness Wednesday – Hikes of 2021, #9-16

Overall, I’ve hiked a lot less in February than I did in January, due to some foot/hip injuries. This post includes the last few from January and all those up til now in Feb, which will likely be all but one more this upcoming weekend (unless predicted rain becomes bothersome!). It becomes quite obvious through this post that there are certain parks I tend to frequent more often than others! There are also a few that I used to go to often, but haven’t been to in ages…need to diversify my hikes a little more going forward!

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The Great Bra Hunt – Another Batch of Returns

Please see my introductory post for why I’m on a Great Bra Hunt. And feel free to skip past this post if real bra talk and related topics aren’t your thing!

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Sunday Coffee – Winter Wonderland, or Snowpocalypse

I’ve lived in San Antonio for over half of my life. I’ve experienced snow here several times, and ice storm or two, and some hard-freezes where temps got into the low-20s. But I’ve never experienced anything (here) like what San Antonio went through this week. The event ranged from the amazing to the horrific.

(ice/snow storms in 2007, 2011, 2017)

As last weekend approached, we watched the weather forecast with amazement. Temps as low as 4 degrees were predicted. I looked it up, and it turns out that San Antonio has only dipped into single digits five times since 1899 before this week. So we were in for some insanity! The cold weather began to roll in on Friday, and the snow/ice was predicted to start Sunday morning. Hikes got canceled for safety’s sake, and my family ran to the grocery store early on Saturday to stock up on some basic supplies for the week (milk, eggs, etc). The temps went below freezing on Saturday evening and didn’t get above freezing again until Wednesday.

(snow, Monday morning)

The snow/ice didn’t start on Sunday morning as expected, but instead came in around 10:30pm. It started with some graupel fall, then switched to full on snow over the next six hours. Altogether, we got about 4-5 inches at our house. (San Antonio once had a heavy snow – 13 inches – in 1985, but otherwise has never gotten above about 2-3 inches before this week. The most I’ve personally seen was ~1 inch or less.) The power went out briefly in the middle of the night. We’d already anticipated this, and had set out extra blankets (for humans and cats), covered all the plants and pipes, had the water running throughout the house, cabinet doors open, etc. We’ve lived up north enough to know 1) how to deal with this kind of weather, and 2) how different San Antonio is structured from northern areas used to these kinds of temps. For example, the pipes run through concrete slab foundations, so are really susceptible to freezing/bursting!

(the cats wanted out, but then they weren’t impressed, ha!)

Thankfully, we had no major energy or water issues on Monday, when the temps were as low as 7 degrees and as high as 28 degrees. Many of my friends were without electricity, and quite a few lost water. We were informed that there would be rotating power outages because TX is stupid and they privatized and deregulated their energy grid, so it was mismanaged and power was being spread throughout the state. (Really, why wouldn’t you winterize your power stations?? WTF??) My sisters, who live up in the Dallas area, experienced different levels of power outage. My mom has been off and on all week, and my dad’s house was out for all of Monday (then off and on afterwards). Jason and I ventured out at mid-day (when the roads were slushy) because we couldn’t resist a snowy hike at the trails just four miles away. Some of the stoplights were completely out. !!! We were SUPER careful driving, and also out on the trails.

(winter hike in SA!)

Monday was our best day, despite it also being the coldest day. Other than our short power outage overnight, we had power and water all of Monday. Over the next night, the temps got back down to around 10 degrees, re-freezing all the semi-melted slush into ice sheets on the roads. The city closed all highways. Tuesday morning, our power went out…for the next six hours. About four hours into that time, the water pressure suddenly got very, very low. We quickly filled up tubs, sinks, pitchers, and large pots with both drinking water and water that could be used for toilets. We prepped food so that we could start cooking the second our power came on. When we’d grabbed food supplies at the store, we didn’t expect massive rolling blackouts, so we hadn’t grabbed the right supplies! Long story short, the power came back on around 5pm, and we ran to cook breakfast tacos, cornbread muffins, cookies, hot chocolate, and coffee, plus charge all our electronics and batteries. We had a couple hours of power before it dropped off again.

(ice and thaw – we have no idea if any of our plants will survive!)

After that, we seemed to go on a three-hours-on, five-hours-off power schedule. During our time in the dark, I caught up on my favorite podcast, read more of my photography instruction books, and attempted some really simple macrame (it didn’t come out so well, haha!). During our power-on times, we cooked, warmed the house, and charged electronics. Because we have plenty of heavy-duty clothes/blankets from our time up north, we managed pretty well. Unfortunately, Tuesday overnight brought a secondary ice storm, and by noon on Wednesday, we lost water completely. (The water system said the pumps were being put out by the power outages, and couldn’t get enough water pressure to reach the houses. Thankfully, our pipes didn’t freeze!) Wednesday did see above-freezing temps, thawing some of the ice and snow, plus allowing Jason to run to the grocery store again for a few scant supplies (not much was available!). Why a grocery run this late in the game? Because a third storm front was set to come through on Thursday with another load of sleet, freezing rain, and snow.

(more power outages, more snow)

The good news: First, the power situation improved Wednesday and we began to have power more often than not. It was back completely by Thursday. (Other than taking showers and running the dishwasher, we continued to conserve heavily!) Second, the water – which was down to a dripping in the bathroom sink and gone completely in the kitchen – returned to normal pressure overnight into Thursday. (Hence showers and dishwasher!) (Unfortunately, the return of water came with a boil water notice for the foreseeable future.) Third, the last storm that was set to come through grew milder in the forecast (from sleet/ice and snow to just snow, and from 4+ inches to maybe 1 inch). In the end, there was definitely closer to 3-4 inches of snow, but it was all snow, no more ice. Whew! It was the prettiest kind of snow, too, fat lazy flakes that lasted for hours! Once again, I couldn’t help myself, and I went out on another snow hike, ha!

(snowy hike 2!)

Overnight Thursday into Friday was another hard freeze (about 17 degrees, which was much lower than expected!), but it got above freezing in the afternoon. The snow started to melt except in places of deep shadow. I took the sodden, heavy sheets off our plants. The tall dianthus were mostly snapped in half, so they’re going to take some pampering and might not survive. I guess we’ll see what happens. Especially since Friday into Saturday saw another hard freeze (this time only down to about 25 degrees at least!). I have to admit, by Friday afternoon, I was going stir-crazy. I’m used to being in my house all the time, but able to leave to take walks and such. Sure, I took those hikes, but I wanted to really go out. Didn’t matter if it was to the nursery for flower pots, or the craft store for macrame supplies, or the gym to renew a membership I haven’t used in ages anyway. I just wanted OUT. I was happy when my hiking leadership group decided to get together for a walk Saturday afternoon when it was in the 50s and the snow was mostly melted away completely.

(patchy thaw)

Across San Antonio, things were crazy all week. Highways closed. Streetlights out. Power and water outages. Giant warmth shelters set up to hold hundreds of people despite the covid threat. City services (mail, recycling/organics pickup, new briefs, covid data, etc) were all canceled. Covid testing sites were closed and vaccines delayed. Schools closed or went async, and there are possible closures next week as well as school deal with burst pipes. The water system put in place a policy where customers will pay whichever is lower of this month’s and last month’s bills, because of burst pipes. Electricity bills aren’t so kind across much of Texas – we don’t know what ours will look like yet. Sigh.

(post-Snowpocalypse hike)

We aren’t out of the woods yet. We still have to boil all our water for drinking, giving to the cats, and cooking. For the dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher, we’ve had to add a bit of bleach to the wash water. One of our sinks got overwhelmed holding full of water and began to leak out of the drain, so we have to fix that now (nothing to do with the cold, it was just old). Gas stations are out of gas and the oil refineries are apparently offline, so we may not be able to fill our cars up for another week. Major fires have broken out in areas where there is no water pressure, causing widespread damage (far more than normal) because firefighters couldn’t get them out in a timely manner. Etc. But it got into the 50s  yesterday, and is supposed to remain above freezing all week, so hopefully soon we can get to the work of fixing, rebuilding, and (of course) changing the energy grid system here in Texas!

Things I learned this week of the snowpocalypse:

  • Hiking in snow uses weird muscles that will be really sore the next day.
  • Cold brew is a lifesaver when you have no power. Also I’m glad I learned about 20 ways to make it this past year.
  • Have the kettle filled so that you can run and hit “heat” the second the power comes on. Have a coffee thermos that will keep it hot for you.
  • Cook when you have power. Better to have real food that’s room temperature than snacks for dinner.
  • Texas is stupid. A privatized, de-regulated energy grid for the entire state is stupid.
  • Eating healthy is no longer a priority when you only have power a few hours per day. Neither is exercise when you don’t have heat or running water.
  • Cell towers also go out when the electricity goes out, and we rely too much on the internet for things like emergency updates.
  • Breakfast tacos only take 5 mins to cook. Five-min meals are excellent when you don’t know how long the power will stay on.
  • Boiling all your water sucks. We don’t keep bottled water around but I do wish we’d stocked up before this started.
  • Boiled water also tastes awful. You wouldn’t think so, but it really does change the taste of the water.
  • HEB is the best store that ever existed.
  • Ted Cruz is an a$$hole. I mean, I didn’t really learn that – I already knew it – but he really proved it well this week!
  • WhatsApp is an awesome tool for keeping in contact when the cell towers go mostly down and you only have the tiniest bar of data, because it’s primarily text-based and no frills. My text support group on there was the very best.
  • Nothing makes you feel more human than being able to take a shower for the first time in three days. (Also, clean dishes and clothes.)
  • Snow days make for really awesome photos and great photography practice!!

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve never experienced anything like this in SA. Hell, I lived in Wisconsin for five years and I lived in Boston in The Year of Blizzards, and still have never experienced anything like what we went through this week. I’m just glad we’ve made it through safe and healthy and without any major damage.

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Quarantine Diaries – Weeks 48 and 49

It hardly feels worth posting this today as Week 49 was basically superseded by our Snowmageddon. The city stopped updating its numbers and holding daily briefings after last Friday. Plus, the week came down to “covid vs keeping people warm,” and of course immediate survival trumps potential spread every time. Big centers opened to house up to 500 folks who were without power and water. Vaccine and testing centers basically closed down for the week, and scheduled vaccines were moved forward a week or two. There’s no telling just how the pandemic will be affected by all this, but I don’t blame the city for doing all they could do. The power situation with the (de-regulated, privatized) statewide energy grid and the water outages that occurred because of that are just nuts. So anyway, I put together what info I could for Week 49, and I’m sure future weeks will show the rolling trends of numbers bump up and down in compensation for a bit.

Week 48 – February 5 to 11
186,346 cases, 2,387 deaths, 890 seven-day rolling average (major drop!), 9.7% positivity rate (down 1.7%). Hospitals have dropped to under 800 patients. Our local high school reported only 5 students positive for covid this week.

It’s been really good to see the numbers go down day after day. We’re far from out of the woods, but we’re getting there. Our “danger” meter for the city has been dropped down to “moderate” level, and the same for the school danger indicator. (Though, statewide, there have been 100k+ students and 60k+ staff to get covid since schools opened in September.) There’s no telling if the numbers will continue to go down, not with 1) Super Bowl home gatherings last weekend, 2) the upcoming Stock Show and Rodeo (sigh), 3) the UK variant now definitely in SA, and 4) the women’s NCAA tournament being held, entirely, in our city. I guess we’ll see. Fingers crossed.

Week 49 – February 12 to 18
Because of the Snowpocalypse this week, covid testing facilities have been closed and the city wasn’t updating info or doing news briefs for most of the week (as stated above). Even though there was an update at the end of the week, there was no case or statistical data updates for the week. Schools were also closed all week, not even bothering with virtual async classes after Monday, so my only school number (0 students, 1 staff) was as of last Friday.

Other news from the week: UHS (the health system through which I got my vaccine (which notably, I should have as full protection as possible now)) administered their 100,000th vaccine last Friday. Another pediatric covid death was reported this week. The next few Spurs games are postponed/canceled due to multiple players testing positive. We passed one year from our first covid-19 case here. (Note: This was not actually a San Antonio case. That first case was March 13th. However, when Covid first came to the US, travelers from China were quarantined for several weeks, and the US chose one of our Air Force bases in SA as the quarantine location. One of those folks was the positive test, and never had any exposure to SA folks, thus didn’t contribute to our first cases here.) Generally, though, most of our news this week was with the Snowpocalypse, which I’ll save for another post.

Moving forward
I have no idea. For the first time, everything feels really unpredictable. Before, while the predictions were bad, it at least followed fairly historically-predictable patterns! But when you start having to factor in mass gatherings for warmth/water, an energy grid failure, a water system failure, EMS out in full force to help folks who were too stupid to stay off the roads, etc? Maybe it’ll be all right and the city will make sure everyone is wearing masks at these large centers. (I doubt that’ll be possible, but I know they’ll try.) Or maybe we’ll have another surge. I don’t know. But it feels helpless and hopeless and scary right now. Especially given that we’re not fully out of the woods yet on the electricity and water issue!

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Wellness Wednesday – Enjoyment vs Necessity

They say the key to sustainability with any fitness plan is enjoyment. And for years, I’ve stuck with this motto. I’m fortunate enough to enjoy many types of exercise, and after forcing myself to do HIIT (I despise HIIT) for awhile in 2011 and 2012, I’ve been good at mostly sticking to workouts that I enjoy. Sometimes that means lots of running, and other times it means lots of yoga. Sometimes it means that I over-exercise because I’m trying to do All The Workouts and then I crash.

The one thing I’ve never really done with fitness, though, is apply my nutrition philosophy – healthy but reasonable – to it. In my mind, as long as I exercised often and diversely, I didn’t need to worry beyond that.

But perhaps I do.

(2012)

“Healthy but reasonable” as a motto for nutrition has meant that I eat in a way that is sustainable long term. It means that I don’t restrict/remove whole food groups, but I also don’t eat only what I enjoy. If I ate only what I enjoyed, I’d never pick up another piece of fruit or vegetable again. I don’t like fruits or vegetables. I never have. At best, I got to a point where I found ways to eat produce that were enjoyable, which is not the same thing as enjoying the produce itself. But a healthy diet necessarily includes foods that I would never eat without making the conscious decision to do so, and so I make that conscious decision. At the same time, I eat chocolate probably every day. Not massive amounts of it, but some, because I love it, and giving it up would make me go crazy and send my eating patterns into a tailspin. (Hell, even during my ill-advised months with paleo/whole30 eating, I mixed cocoa powder with coconut manna and put it on grapes as a snack to quell chocolate cravings!) This is my balance. This keeps me eating well enough – a healthy-but-reasonable diet.

So what are the fruit-and-vegetable equivalents of fitness? Strength training and injury prevention (stretching, warm-ups, foam-rolling, rest days, ice when necessary, etc). You know what I really don’t like to do? Strength training and injury prevention. Lifting weights is BORING. Warm-ups feel like a waste of time when I just want to get out there and go. Foam rolling hurts like a mf. It’s far easier to just skip all these things, skimp on the post-workout stretches, get a yoga workout in every once in awhile and say it’s enough. Hint: it’s not.

(2014)

Did you know that one of the best indicators of longevity is grip strength? How is grip strength built? Weight training. Weight training builds both muscles and bones, improves circulation, increases metabolism, decreases the aging process, helps prevent injury, and in general is one of the very best things a person can do. And GAH I’m just not one of those people who enjoy it. Maybe if I was doing it with a group or something, like in a crossfit class? I don’t know. But just lifting weights in my room? Uuuuugh.

Like eating my vegetables, though, I know it needs to be done. So I’ve decided to begin a weight lifting program again this week. I was doing one over the summer, and it worked well for me in a time when the heat/humidity was so awful that I didn’t want to be outside. Plus, I was up in WI and not around all the folks that I hike with. After I got home, though, I had hiking and my running park and all the other things I prefer to do, and I gave it up. It is time to bring weights back into my life.

(2013)

The other thing that prompted this? I spent all of last week sitting around because my left ankle/foot/skin swelled up to insane levels and was painful to the touch, while my right hip succumbed to severe sciatica again. It was December all over again – just walking to the mailbox had me limping! I felt so much better in January…when I was doing yoga most days. TBH, I’ve not been terribly interested in yoga these days. I’d much rather being doing something else. And so I’ve skipped it more and more…which means that my tendons/muscles have all tightened…which has caused my feet and hips to get all wonky again…yeah. Skipping my yoga is the opposite of injury prevention. And coupled with avoiding my foam roller, my body is in agony. I actually got on my foam roller last weekend, and even the parts that don’t usually hurt (like my upper back) were screaming in pain. Sigh. You know what gets me to do my yoga more often? Weight training, because yoga serves as my warm-ups.

So yes, it’s time for me to adopt a healthy-but-reasonable approach to exercise as well. Yeah, the hiking and running and boxing and dancing and walking and all the rest are great…but I need to include strength training, yoga, foam-rolling, and regular warm-ups and cool-downs/stretching. The same way I need to include fruits and veggies in my diet, even they aren’t my favorite.

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The Great Bra Hunt: LacyLinen

Please see my introductory post for why I’m on a Great Bra Hunt. And feel free to skip past this post if real bra talk and related topics aren’t your thing!

Continue reading

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Sunday Coffee – 13 Years

Tomorrow is my 13th blogoversary, if you don’t count the weird transitions I went through between 2011 and 2014 due to many circumstances that I won’t go into here. I created my blog on Valentine’s Day in 2008 during a fit of major jet lag after coming home from Palestine, and wrote my first book review the very next day – marking, to me, the true beginning of my blog experience. The people I have met through blogging, both in person and online, have made a huge impact on my life, and blogging itself has been a wonderful experience in multiple ways. I don’t want to write a second post in two days that gets all mushy and nostalgic, though. Instead, I’m going to write up a few lists! Ha!

13 Random Excellent Books I Only Read Through Bloggers’ Influence

  1. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  2. Germinal by Émile Zola
  3. Wine Isn’t Rocket Science by Ophelie Neiman
  4. All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior
  5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  6. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  8. Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
  9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  10. Between Mom and Jo by Julie Ann Peters
  11. Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  12. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
  13. The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis

(header version 2009 – no, I don’t know where this photo came from)

13 Moments That Fellow Bloggers Have Touched My Life

  1. Kristen sending me my favorite chocolates as well as Guatemala Worry Dolls when I was very depressed/anxious.
  2. Being voted “best writing” waaaaay back when blog awards were a thing
  3. Bloggers making and sending (music) mix lists to me
  4. Bloggers sending international non-English Harry Potter books when I was collecting
  5. Being told that I was a “rock star” in the book blog world (you know, back in 2010 when book blogging was much bigger and when I was a full-on book blog, heh)
  6. Blog friends wanting/volunteering to read my manuscripts and offering critique
  7. Adam sending cards to my family – names all correct! – at random times, just because he’s kind
  8. Bloggers rallying around me in a private FB group during my trauma-year in Boston
  9. Bloggers also rallying around me after the Incidents in 2009 and 2010 (y’all know who you are! Love y’all!)
  10. Being told that I was the inspiration behind folks starting to run, losing weight, getting fit, hiking, etc
  11. Inclusion in book swaps and secret book-Santa swaps
  12. Reaching out to connect on other social media platforms, especially those who left blogging so the connection would be lost without this
  13. Finding inspiration in the things other bloggers do, whether that is running, writing, traveling, budgeting, crossfit, getting articles published, teaching, etc etc

(header: version 2010)

13 Bloggers I Have Yet To Meet In Person But Hope To Someday

  1. Bryan
  2. Allie
  3. Gricel
  4. Adam
  5. Lu
  6. Shaina
  7. Hannah
  8. Selena
  9. Becca
  10. Nancy
  11. Stephanie C
  12. Jennifer H
  13. Nan

(This is by no means comprehensive – just the first 13 who came to mind! Also, some of these folks are technically “former bloggers” but they 100% count!)

(Generic header from WP: era 2014)

13 Reasons I Keep Blogging

  1. It provides a creative outlet now that I’m no longer writing fiction.
  2. It helps me to sort through my thoughts better than a journal.
  3. Connecting with other folks, making friends and deepening friendship
  4. I love having a book journal to look back on!
  5. Y’all encourage me and push me when I’m feeling down.
  6. It gives me something to focus on when I’m anxious.
  7. Broadening my book experience to books and genres I wouldn’t have tried without y’all
  8. Learning about personal points of view I may not have encountered otherwise
  9. I really enjoy telling stories.
  10. It’s a good way to keep track of events, body-data, things my kids said/did, photos, travel memories, etc.
  11. It’s part of my identity by now!
  12. It’s been a (fairly) consistent part of my life for 13 years when many of those years were a bit touch-and-go in other areas.
  13. I still enjoy it, especially after giving up the more rigid aspects I once held myself to (pre-2011).

(a failed header attempt from 2017)

So…happy blogoversary to this little project of mine, named after a short story I wrote long ago, and which has endured moves, shutdowns, changes, and all manner of insanity over the last 13 years. Thank you to all the folks who have stuck with me all this time, and those who have begun to read in the time since. Love you all!

(current header: 2017)

PS – I think it might be time to change my header again. That photo is quite some years old now. I’m trying to remember how many headers I’ve been through since 2008. A half-dozen-ish? Either way, I’m thinking it’s time for a revamp. The current photo is a bit outdated.

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