Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson (audio)

In this sequel to Skyward, Spensa is trying to learn about her lineage and the ancient potential for magic that she’s inherited. Unfortunately, her planet’s prison guards are getting more violent by the day. It seems that soon they’ll decide to destroy her people altogether. When an alien crash-lands, grievously wounded, she gives Spensa the opportunity to go on a spying mission with the intent to find a way to move her people far away from their dying planet, to find peace and freedom.

I really enjoyed this book. It had some flaws – too much repetition of the same personality quirks/jokes (which seems to be consistent in Sanderson’s YA novels); a lot of predictability – but was generally a well-paced and well-plotted story. My favorite thing about Sanderson is his ability to peel back layers that show how often our perspectives are skewed. There’s no such thing as “good guys” and “bad guys.” War is a battle of perspectives. These are themes explored in much greater depth in his adult novels, but they were well-handled here also.

My favorite thing, however, was the audio production. I so very rarely listen to YA on audio. I don’t generally like the way narrators read teen voices and inflections. Unfortunately, my library was way behind on ordering new books and this one hadn’t entered the process yet. I was quite anxious to read it! A sample from Audible made it clear that I wouldn’t be too annoyed by the vocalizing, so I went ahead and got the book. Now I want to go back and listen to the first one! Suzy Jackson was amazing! I didn’t want to stop listening (so too bad that I was in the middle of moving, right??). Her narration was definitely an enhancement to the book, and I think I liked it better than I would have in print. That’s always a sign of a wonderful performance. This is the first thing I’ve heard her read, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for more books in the future. Highly recommended!

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WW – That Time I Ran a 10K While Walking a Half Marathon

A friend of mine ran her first 10K this weekend. She began running a few months ago as part of a weight loss regimen, coupled with weight training and healthy eating. Her 10K wasn’t an official event, but one she ran on her own. She did an amazing job! Her determination made me think back to the only time I’ve ever run a 10K, which happened to be at the same time as the only time I’ve ever walked a half-marathon. (Notably, my friend who just ran her first 10K was part of the group walked that same half-marathon!) Since I’m currently busy trying to move into one house and out of another, I thought I’d put up a throwback post from January 2013 (my notes from today in bold):

*****
A full year ago, an idea was presented to the San Antonio Spark team, an idea to spend a year training and then to walk an unofficial half-marathon together. The idea was to bring together people of all ages, sizes, and abilities to accomplish something fantastic, something many people never do. (This idea was presented by a wonderful woman named MaryJane, or MJ, who was one of the most dedicated people in the training group. Hi, MJ!!) I loved the idea right away. At the time we started training, I had lost 70 lbs and just crossed the line from obese to overweight.

I had never walked longer than about 5.5 miles, but I thought I would be up to the training for an eventual 13.1 miles. I was very enthusiastic about the plan, and came to almost every Saturday training, plus I walked my extra training miles throughout the week. In the beginning, there was a lot of enthusiasm from our local Spark team, and throughout the year, that enthusiasm would wax and wane in waves. Many of the people who started training dropped away, but we also picked up many newcomers as the year passed. Sometimes our walking group was huge, sometimes very small.

In June, we chose the location of where we would eventually walk our Half, and began to train there.

Not long after that, I had to stop training for three months due to my stress fracture. I jumped back into training after that, but by the end of September, I realized that the 7-9 mile walks were interfering with my leg’s healing process, and I had to drop from the group. I still walked 5-6 days a week, anywhere from 1-5 miles, but I never went over the 7-mile line, which seemed to be the most I could do without irritating the parts of my leg that were healing. As our chosen date of January 12, 2013 approached, I honestly didn’t know if I’d be able to do the full half-marathon. I wasn’t willing to go through with it if there was any indication that I might get injured again, but I was definitely planning to go out with the group and cheer on the participants.

Saturday, January 12, 2013 was a very mild, muggy day in San Antonio that kept threatening rain (though thankfully it held off). I hadn’t gotten much sleep that night, because I’d gotten this crazy idea the day before:

I didn’t know if I could walk the full half-marathon, but what if I succeeded in some other way that day? What if I ran my first 10k? 

I had never run longer than 3.5 miles before, and I hadn’t run at all since December 19th. Despite that, I mapped out a route for myself: 7.2 miles – allowing for a half-mile walking warm-up and cool-down. Then I mapped out an additional 6-mile route that I could walk afterwards if my legs felt up to doing the entire half-marathon. The 10K idea made me both nervous and excited. I had set a goal for myself, a very high goal, and frankly, I don’t like to fail at my goals. (Oh, poor me these last few years – I need to get back to this old level of confidence in my ability to complete goals!! I miss this!!)

When I arrived at the trailhead where we were to start, I was surprised just how many people had come out to walk, run, ride, or man the volunteer stations along the way with water and food. Here we are: (My friend who just ran the 10K is on the far left in the pink jacket. Hi, Heidi!!)

We had all different sorts of people there: people in their twenties and people in their seventies; people who have lost a lot of weight and people who have lost little; people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses and people in perfect health; people who have never done anything athletic and people who have completed half-marathons and triathlons. We had family and friends and pets out to participate or support us. We all had SA Spark Half-Sparkathon bibs that MJ made for us. The 8:00 am start time came around and we were ready to go!

I walked my first half-mile with some of the faster walkers, then stopped to stretch for about a minute before starting off on my first ever attempt to run a distance longer than 3.5 miles. My goal was to go out slow and steady, at a pace and heart rate that I felt like I could sustain for a long time. I didn’t want to push too hard, especially at the beginning. For the first 2.5 miles, fellow Sparker Terry ran with me before she turned back to walk with a few other Sparkers. She told me she hadn’t run in months, but she did a fantastic job and went further than she originally expected. It was great to have her company during those miles. Here we are coming over the largest hill on the course.

After Terry rejoined the walkers, I put on an audiobook (The Chopin Manuscript – it was perfect for this event!) and just kept plodding away. I was surprised at how easy the run felt. My heart rate stayed around 177, I never felt out of breath, and I enjoyed myself immensely. My GPS wasn’t working very well, so I actually ended up running a bit more than I was supposed to (6.35 miles), but my pace was even all the way through, and so I was able to calculate my 10K time – 82:01, or a 13:14/mi (4.54 mph) pace. I was expecting it to be slower than that, and am very pleased with the result!

Not long after I stopped running, one of our cyclists, Suzanne, brought me a banana and kept me company for awhile as I finished out my first route. I got some food from the volunteer table, and decided to go for the entire half-marathon as my legs weren’t at all tired by that point. I took the second route a lot slower, and stopped several times to stretch out my legs. Right around 9-10 miles, I started feeling the strain, but by that point, I had no choice but to walk back to the start, so I knew I was going to finish. I walked a bit more than I was supposed to, and ended at 13.4 miles in 3:53:14 (no idea what the actual half-marathon time was). Our photographer got this picture of me right after I finished.

Even though I was done, I waited with the volunteers at the table for the next few hours as different Sparkers crossed the finish line at different times and distances. In the days since, I’ve seen our team post that they walked anywhere between 12.5 and 13.8 miles. Most of us had never in our lives walked that far before. For all of us, it was a fantastic experience. It was great to see the last of our group cross the finish line triumphant – the originator of this entire plan, MJ, surrounded by friends and family.

I am so glad that I did this. So glad that I stuck with this idea and trained on my own when I could no longer do the larger distances every week. So glad I came out not knowing if I’d make it, just to be with my team. So glad I pushed myself. So glad to learn that I love longer runs much better than shorter ones, when I just pay attention to the way I feel and not to how fast I’m going. So glad to be part of a team that comes together to make amazing, wonderful things happen.

I started this one-year journey at 70 lbs lost, just barely overweight instead of obese. I end this journey at 97 lbs lost, and just a few pounds from being at a healthy BMI. In this last comparison picture, it’s harder to see the difference these last 27 lbs have made, because many of them are more visible from the side, or are focused on places like my collarbones and the bagginess around my chin. But even if the proof isn’t as visible in picture, it’s so very visible in achievement. A year ago, I had never run longer than a mile without stopping, or walked longer than 5.5 miles. I have now run longer than a 10K, and walked/run longer than a half-marathon. What an amazing difference a year can make!!

*****
Readers, if you’re still with me at this point – I’m in awe of my 2012 self, and inspired for my fitness journey going forward. I don’t know that I’ll ever walk another half-marathon – to this day, seven miles seems to be the limit before my body complains – but I will walk long distances, and run long distances, and find folks to do these sorts of things with again. To me, this isn’t a just a story of achievement, but one of community and love and the power of groups working together toward a goal.

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Strange Planet, by Nathan Pyle

I think most people will recognize the cover art of this book – if not the specific picture, then the style of it. Strange Planet (the comic) has been around quite some time, though I’m not sure of specifics. All I know is that I’ve seen it around quite a bit over the years, and then at some point I began following the artist to get the new comics, and then I put a copy of the book on hold as at my library as soon as it published. Two of my sons follow the artist as well and were excited about the book (temporarily) coming home.

Okay. So there’s really not much I can say about the book. It’s a collection, and I’m terrible at reviewing collections. Really, if you like the online comic, then this is more of the same, so you can read a bunch all at once. It was relatively short (so I never got tired of reading through it, as I can do with some comic collections), and enjoyable all the way through.

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Sunday Coffee – Tucked In

Well, it didn’t all go smoothly as hoped, but we’re in our new house now! Weird story, though.

First, let me explain the circumstances that set this story up. This particular property was never occupied by the seller. A renter lived here, and we have no information on how long she’d lived here, or how many other renters there had been, etc. Normally we wouldn’t look too hard at a rental, but this one seemed to have a responsible tenant who took care of the house, and it meant that we were able to purchase the house for much less than it would have gone for had it been seller-occupied. When the seller proposed we close on the 4th of the month, we surmised this was because the renter would be out by the end of November and this would give the seller a few days to do a post-tenant walk-through, cleaning, etc. I still wanted to give the place a thorough cleaning before we moved in, but expected all would be well.

Only…no. The renter didn’t actually move out until the 3rd, and the seller never did any kind of check on the house. She never went there at all. If she had, she would have seen what we saw when we walked in: a dead mouse in the living room, some kind of hardened liquid in the bathroom the color of blood, and painters tape across all the kitchen water fixtures saying not to turn on the main water to the house until we fixed a broken piece of plumbing. Um…

Okay. The dead mouse? Well, we were told there’d been pest control service, and you can expect to see this sort of thing post pest-control. That didn’t bother me much, to be honest. The blood-liquid? Turned out to be a shattered bottle of nail polish that the tenant either didn’t or couldn’t clean up. The broken pipe – apparently when the fridge was moved out, the head of the ice maker line was broken off, making it shoot water out uncontrollably so the main water valve had to be turned off until this was fixed. These were all issues that the seller should have taken care of and simply taken out of the tenant’s security deposit. But as I said, the seller never even checked the property.

Our realtor was livid. She was on the phone to various agents, brokers, title company people, etc even before we left the walk-through. The seller was in the process of signing paperwork at that moment, and we were set to sign afterwards. We all traveled over to the title company, where we spent a couple hours figuring out what to do. The seller’s agent – who basically botched the whole thing from the beginning – didn’t even show up to her client’s closing. She refused to get on the phone with our realtor, and when we said we couldn’t sign the paperwork or get funding with the house in that condition, she said she’d call her attorney. The whole situation escalated, with the clueless seller left in the middle with no idea what to do. (Clearly the lady needed a new agent and to NOT own rental property!!)

Long story short: paperwork mostly signed, seller agreed to send in someone to fix the issues that day, seller actually followed through, and we finally got the keys to the house that evening. It set us a bit behind schedule, but in the end, we made it. We got the house scrubbed up and called it a night.

Thursday: Moved 95% of our household to the new house. Up til 11pm doing this. Cats moved last, and they were all pretty okay about it except Jojo, who in true PTSD form was freaked out by the entire experience. (He’s mostly chill by now –> though still getting used to new noises.) Friday: Lots of unpacking and organization, making the house actually livable. Discovery! I was wrong not to worry about the dead mouse, because apparently there wasn’t any kind of pest control, and mice are getting into the house somehow. (The cats are very interested in this development.) Pest control called and scheduled. Wifi turned on. The house got to be about 25% livable. Saturday: A bit more unpacking and organization, then most of the day spent cleaning the previous house and getting that last 5% of stuff to the new house. House got to be about 50% livable, but my bedroom is more like 80% livable, which helps.

I’m exhausted. There is still so much to be done, so much to unpack and organize. Downsizing is very different from moving into bigger house or one the same size. There are lots of things to finagle and we’re still not sure how everything is going to fit together (this after donating TONS of furniture and such to charities that could use them). There’s also a lot of little work to be done on the house – replacing faucets, getting adapters where our appliances aren’t the same as the fixtures in the house, etc. We also still have work to do on the previous house, mostly outdoors, before we can put it on the market. All the stuff that comes with moving, right? Not to mention we still need to get all the Christmas stuff up…

Today, however, is my break day. Jason and the boys will be playing D&D, and it’s football day, and I’m going out for iced coffee with a friend later this morning. I might get the rest of my room put together – or at least as put together as I can make it until I can buy a few things – and tuck in with a book for a bit, too. I have four books out from the library right now and it’s been too long since I’ve had time to read!!

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Wellness Wednesday – A New Start

In a couple hours, we close on our new house. The plan for the next few days (minimum) is to do an extensive clean of the new house, move all our stuff in, then extensively clean the previous house and get it ready to go on the market. I’m unlikely to be around the blogosphere much until we get settled, but I wanted to get this written because today is an important one for me. It represents a new start on my health and fitness journey, not because moving to a new house is a new thing, but because this house is different from every other house I’ve been in since 2014: It has carpeted areas to exercise in!!!

I’ve discussed this before, the need for carpet in order to run indoors, and how upstairs floors bounce and cause joint pain/issues, etc etc. This new house is carpeted in all the right areas, and I now have both a living room and a bedroom to potentially exercise in.

This is incredibly important for me, because there are times when my agoraphobia flares up in a major way. (And it is ALWAYS a factor, even when it’s not at its worst.) When that happens, I can barely open the front door of my house, much less go out to walk/run/go to the gym/etc. Being able to run in my living room while watching a TV show or listening to an audiobook is a CRITICAL component to my health. Without a place to exercise inside my house, I lose roughly half to three-quarters of my exercise opportunities. I also have to rely on exercise like yoga, which is extremely good for me but not necessarily good for weight loss and cardiovascular health.

This new step today, moving to this new house, is not only a step forward for my family in terms of financial health. It represents a wellness opportunity for me, one I haven’t had in 5.5 years. I. Cannot. Wait.

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November 2019 in Review

This has been a month of changes for me and my family. Morrigan of course got home, after separating out from the navy. There’s been a lot of packing and prep to move into our new place, so the housing situation has been very transitional. And just barely, I’ve begun writing again!

Back before my family moved to Boston in 2014, my cousin Jen and I lived about five minutes drive from each other. For several years, we got together weekly to write, alternating houses. We also did a lot of walking together at the local hiking trails nearby. About six months after I moved, her life circumstances changed and she returned to work. Even after I moved home, we were rarely able to get together. She now lives on the other side of town, but starting this month, she changed to a job with more flexible hours and the two of us began to meet up again for walk-then-write sessions weekly. While I haven’t been writing anything decent, I’ve at least been writing again those days, which is awesome.

This was also Thanksgiving month, of course, which I talked about yesterday. It was nice to see so much of my extended family and I look forward to seeing even more this upcoming month.

Reading
Started the month in a slump, which ended when I opened Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts. Ended up reading a total of four books in November. Tuesday Mooney was definitely my favorite of them!

Watching
There was not a lot of time for TV/movies this month! I did finish the final episode of the Great British Baking Show this season, and watched one movie on my backlist: Yesterday, which was very different than I was expecting and quite cute. Even though I’m not a Beatles fan.

House
We decided to wait until we move to put this house on the market. This way, it can show vacant, and we don’t have to deal with the whole “five cats” issue. Or our old furniture that won’t exactly show nicely. Etc. We’re still stripping things down, packing all but essentials, scrubbing and cleaning and generally sprucing the place up, but it’s a lot less frantic than when we were trying to push flat-out last month.

Health
Transitional months aren’t good for me. I really did try to get things going again this month, then had a PTSD breakdown and spent the rest of the month in gentle self-care. Then ten-year anniversary of my original weight loss journey just passed on November 27th, and I remained about exactly where I’ve been the last few years. I’m kinda tired of repeating myself like this, I admit…and I also feel like the new house will be a bit of a new start for me. There’s one specific reason that I’ll discuss in a future post, but I have a feeling that exercise at least will be easier for me in the new place.

Highlights of November
Other highlight of the month include:

  • watching Laurence’s most recent performance, in James and the Giant Peach
  • Ambrose made the most amazing chocolate bavarois for dessert one night, mmm…
  • those Taylor vs Cat memes – they just get funnier every time. I’m such a dork.
  • making Christmas wreaths with a wonderful group of friends
  • I began the process of going back to school in the fall!
  • my new literary cats mug!!!

Coming up in December
It’s a big month. Beyond Christmas (a huge deal in my family) and New Year’s Eve, it’s Jason’s and my 20th anniversary on the 22nd. Also, we’re supposed to close on our new house in just a few days. So yeah. Lots of stuff about to happen, hopefully we have some breathing room somewhere in there right??

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Sunday Coffee – From One Holiday to the Next

We had a pretty good Thanksgiving. A bit different from normal, but it’s been that kind of year. Normally, we have an early Thanksgiving with my mom’s extended family, but that got canceled due to health issues of the hosts this year. Any other year, I would have offered to host instead. But of course, we’re in the process of moving, and our house is half packed away! Instead, my sisters and I planned to meet up with my mom the day before Thanksgiving. Then one of my sisters and two of her kids all got strep, and couldn’t make the trip down. It ended up being a small party indeed, but we all got tamales and that was nice. Thanksgiving itself was at my aunt and uncle’s house as usual, where we all ate and watched football and played pool etc etc. We came home fat and happy afterwards.

In my family, it’s traditional to begin the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving. On that day, we all stay home and decorate the house while listening to Christmas music. Every once in awhile, we go out in the afternoon (once Black Friday Insanity has died down) and see if we can get a good deal on something, but this is rare and only when something specific we need/want is on a great sale. Mostly, it’s just a day to kick off the holiday spirit.

This year – totally different. Obviously, we couldn’t put up Christmas decorations, since we’re supposed to move this week. Morrigan spent the night with a friend who was in town from college, and Ambrose spent the day/night with a group of friends in a post-Thanksgiving celebration. Jason and I did chores and ran errands and generally tried to prep for the upcoming move. It was not in the least bit traditional and admittedly a bit sad.

Goal: When we move into the new house this week, one of the first things we’ll unpack is the Christmas tree and decorations. It’s unlikely we’ll get outside lights up this year, but that’s okay, as long as the inside looks as festive as possible. And I told Jason – normally we take down the decorations on New Year’s Day, but today we need to keep them up just a bit longer to compensate for our lost time. Heh. The boys just want to make sure that we still make our traditional sugar cookies this year. Of course!!!

How did the holiday week go for all of you? Also, do you like my new “literary cats” mug? I saw it at Half Price Books this week and couldn’t resist!!!

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