Sunday Coffee – Let’s Play the Good News Bad News Game

As you might be able to tell by my fine coffee picture, I’m currently sitting in a hotel. There’s quite a lot of story that leads up to this. It starts on June 1st, a crazy rollercoaster of a day filled with alternating good news and bad news. I’ll split this into two sections, family and house, and forewarn you that this post will be LONG. Continue reading

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May in Review

Please note: Last night I got the news that my uncle has advanced cancer with liver and kidney failure. There’s a very strong probability that he won’t make it longer than a few more days. I’m heading to Houston to see him today. I’ll likely be absent from the blog for a bit as I deal with the upcoming weeks. This post was mostly pre-drafted. 

*****
I feel like I came out of this month battle-scarred. It was a tough one. I got through it, and I didn’t have any major breakdowns (I won’t say how many minor…), but I pretty much spent the whole month binge-watching TV as a coping mechanism for stupid ghost-trauma, and then I kinda overspent when I became LuLaRoe-obsessed. That’s far better than I’ve done over the last few years in May, though – no binging or binge-drinking – so I consider the month a semi-success despite accomplishing very little.

Goals
We made progress on our front yard xeriscaping/landscaping project! It’s about 2/3rds done now and I hope we can finish soon. The longer this goes on, the hotter it is outside to work! I did also finally sign up to get monthly massages, so I’ve started in on that part of my 2018 goals. Getting a pedicure with my friend Stephanie early in the month crossed off another goal (new-to-me locations/events), and I used up my second-to-last skein of yarn making a grey beanie. –> So I suppose I accomplished some things this month…

Health
This is where my month-of-ghost-trauma-and-TV-watching really affected me. As I was saying in my last post, I can exercise like normal, but if I just sit around post-exercise, nothing good happens weight- and health-wise. Example: I exercised 22 days this month (average for me), for a total 22 hours (average), with 13 yoga sessions (below average) and 42 miles walked (above average) and a daily step count of 9680 steps (average). Other than my yoga being slightly less than normal, this is pretty much the norm for me. And yet, everything went wrong in my health. My sleep was pretty bad, my diet was worse than usual, my mental health was in shambles, and despite my best intentions, I did drink alcohol a few times this month. And the scale – it dropped in the first week of the month, carrying over from my work in April, but then it stalled out, bumped back up a bit, and flatlined from there. Pretty much starting from the exact same place I began.

Books
I wasn’t really in a reading mood this month. Managed to read two books, one of which was a reread and one of which I disliked. Heh. I think I might do a summer of (mostly) rereads coming up.

Highlights of May
I still tried to record the good moments of the month, because otherwise I’d just be miserable! Here’s my Good for May:

  • Laurence playing Mr. Darling in his school play, Peter Pan
  • spa date with my friend Stephanie, including my very first ever pedicure
  • getting complimented on my yoga poses in a public class
  • seeing (briefly) numbers on the scale that I haven’t seen since Feb 2017
  • having coffee with Stephanie one day and my cousin Jen showing up randomly (in other words, I love being home again with so many people I know and love nearby!)
  • my kids seeing the “garbage day” clip of bad movie reels for the first time, and their reactions to it (if you don’t know it, please follow that link, it’s awesome!)
  • attending my first LuLaRoe party and receiving the lovely clothes afterwards (not to mention buying far more after that party than I probably should have…)
  • Morrigan getting his driving permit and finishing driver’s ed
  • Laurence having his first ever date and girlfriend
  • finally seeing The Greatest Showman (it was sooooo good!), and seeing Book Club in theatre
  • new haircut! (above)
  • Ambrose got inducted into the National Art Honor Society!
  • the progress on our front yard has been lovely, and I adore the way it looks

Coming up in June
School gets out on the 7th. Those who have been following me for a long time know that I dread the summer for two reasons. First, the heat, because come on, a temp variance of 80 degree nights and 100 degree days for months and months? No fun!!! Second, as a stay at home mom, my job becomes a 24/7 thing with no break for the next three months. Some people might feel like this is a dream, but I’m a stay at home mom out of necessity, not choice, and I miss my quiet, non-chaotic days. This summer will be particularly packed because my two younger kids decided to take extra classes for summer school, and Morrigan is doing both band camp and this trip to Japan in July. Plus Jason will be working from the office rather than home this summer, the first summer he’s not been a home-based employee since 2013, so I have to adjust to having no help at home again. Sure, the boys are older, but my oldest has a lot of mental health problems and home-restrictions, so there’s a lot of worrisome coming up.

On the other hand, June 1st tends to mark a reawakening in me, a little shot of energy that will (hopefully) keep me going for a bit. It’ll be especially helpful now, because all that ghost-trauma of May? There’s less of it in June-July-August, but 2013-2015 involved a LOT of trauma stuffed into those summer months, and I’m still wary of how my body may cope. Often, I drop off the blog altogether between May and August. I don’t think that’ll happen this year, but you never know. I’ll just keep doing the best I can.

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Wellness Wednesday – Exercise & Diet

They say you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, and I suppose that in a way, this is true. But in my case, I’ve found the opposite to be truer: you can’t out-diet a sedentary lifestyle. At least I can’t.

I’ve never had a particularly poor diet, with the exception of my year in Boston and the brief time in Texas between Boston and Wisconsin. At the time, I was dealing with severe grief and PTSD triggers, depression and anxiety and panic attacks, and I developed a binge-eating disorder for a time. Additionally, I started drinking way too much alcohol. Both of those issues have become almost non-existent over the last two years. My diet is generally good again, with most of it coming from whole foods. I rarely eat fast food, choose well at restaurants, have cut back a lot on sugar, keep good track of my calories and macronutrients, and generally have good portions at my meals. It’s not perfect of course, but I do fine. And I do well enough that even on sedentary days, I have a calorie deficit 95% of the time.

Here’s where the crux comes in for me. I can count calories religiously and keep a deficit going daily, but if I’m sedentary for long stretches of the day, I’m not going to lose weight. If I go out for a walk in the morning, then watch TV the rest of the day, I’m not going to lose weight even if my calories give me a 500-cal deficit each day. On the other hand, if I don’t do any traditional exercise, but I’m up and moving through the day, I’ll lose regardless of whether or not I have a daily deficit. This holds true even if I just get up twice an hour to swap laundry or unload the dishwasher or whatever. I won’t lose fast that way, without traditional exercise, but I will lose.

So for me, the best combination involves traditional exercise, followed by general movement throughout the day so that I’m never sedentary. It also involves continuing to eat a healthy-but-reasonable diet. In order to keep myself from over-eating, and from being sedentary all day, I have to carefully choose my traditional exercise. Anything too strenuous or wearing will cause the hunger monster to explode and my body to just be too tired to do anything else the rest of the day. (No interval training or heavy weight lifting for me!) Decent sleep is obviously very important as well, because insomnia tends to make me both hungry and too tired to move/exercise. Stupid chronic insomnia! (Sleep study coming this coming Sunday!)

All that sounds far easier than it is to actually do, of course, or I’d have this weight loss journey in the bag, heh. May has been a learning process. My sedentary life this month – binge-watching TV and not doing nearly as much exercise as usual – has lead to stagnation in my health, and I’m sick of it. It’s time for action again. Movement, not rest.

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LuLaRoe

Last week, I attended my first online LuLaRoe party. I’ve been interested in LLR for a few years but had never moved from interest to action. Now that I did so, I probably bought WAY too much, but there’s something in particular that appeals to me about LLR clothes. Certain lines, anyway – I adore the ones that are long, flowing, and can be worn over leggings or pants. (Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Brief Manda-history: During my freshman college orientation, all the way back when I was 18 years old, I decided that my favorite fashion involved nightgowns over jeans. This wasn’t a fashion that existed, of course, but I wished it did. I’m a long-waisted person, and shirts tend to be too short on me. (Example: the shirt pictured below is one of their longer ones, goes to mid-thigh on many people. It doesn’t even cover my butt.) I like empire-waist dresses, but my bust has always been too big for them, even at my thinnest. Tunics, kaftans, and other long, flowing tops became my default when I could find them. I took to wearing dresses as shirts over jeans, since I couldn’t really wear nightgowns. Now, over twenty years later, and I still feel the same way about fashion. I like tops that drop anywhere from mid-thigh to mid-calf, with some sort of trousers/leggings/jeans/etc underneath. In the summer, a pair of shorts underneath will do.

LLR has a lot of longer tops, either dresses or shirts. Since their staple is leggings, their shirt pieces are often long enough to be worn with leggings. This is what appealed to me. I’m still not into the full-time legging thing because I like POCKETS but I adore the tops. And I spent way too much money during and after that party last week. (Yes, I bought more later on. From three different dealers. Heh.)

One of my packages arrived this weekend, and I love everything that I bought! I love that my two dresses are long enough to wear with shorts (not showing) or capris during the summer. I love the long overlay vest that will go with everything since it’s grey. Both sets of leggings are gorgeous, and the cut of the one t-shirt is perfect!

Hopefully when I get my other packages, everything will be just as fantastic as this first package. And hopefully I can also now keep my budget in check, because this stuff is all very expensive and I spent WAY too much. Totally worth it, though. Now if only I could find a local dealer so I can actually see/feel stuff before I order…

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Sunday Coffee – Landscaping Progress (Tier 2)

When you use the words “xeriscape” and “South Texas” together, it conjures images of cactus and rock yards. That’s pretty much the xeriscape norm around here. It makes sense – we live in an area highly prone to drought, and even when we’re not in drought, we’re always under water restrictions. Our weather is volatile and extremely hot. For half the year, temps are up in the 90s and 100s, and the direct sun is brutal. It’s not unusual to see news reports of pavement temps being well over 140 in the sun, 120 in the shade. A plant has to be super hardy to live around here. I grew up thinking that green grass in the winter and brown grass in the summer was normal.

Grass and lawns are not good for my part of the world, not to mention that Jason and I really dislike taking care of that kind of thing. And since our house is on a giant slope filled with many long-established trees, we decided that xeriscaping would be our best bet when we cut the lawn into tiers for erosion control. Neither of us like rock yards or cactus, though, which is where our combined joy of research came in really handy!

As it turns out, there are some fantastic resources for San Antonio gardening. Not only could we get some rebates from the city water company for xeriscaping our yard, but there is detailed information on what plants are perfect for our area: native, low-maintenance, low-water, perennial, tolerant of full sun or full shade, tolerant of terrible soil (ha!), non-invasive, etc. We could easily pick out plants from ground cover to full trees (if we needed more), and could see which ones worked best with each other. And after all our online research was done, we could pop down to the nursery only a few miles away and peruse the possibilities. And to make it even easier, the plants we were looking for – which all qualified for the city water discounts – are specially labeled at the nursery.

I’ve always had a bit of a black thumb, as I’ve said before. I can’t really keep any plants alive. I’ve also never really been interested in gardening. I don’t like touching soil, bugs, and especially grass/leaves/plant material. Standing barefoot on grass is a personal nightmare. But research helped. Knowing the names of plants, experiencing them at the nursery, and of course using gloves when we planted them, helped a lot. Also, choosing plants that are low maintenance and native and can grow in whatever soil/sun/shade/water you give them means that you can turn your black thumb into a green thumb with absolutely no effort at all on your part. Ha!

Our yard is now about 2/3rds xeriscaped. We finished the box around the three trees at the bottom of the lawn, and put in erosion-control turfstone by the driveway, and created a rock-garden with creeping herbs next to that. The top of the lawn, which had already been level, got overhauled from scraggly grass to new xeriscaped plant beds. We installed wooden borders along the sidewalk and down the side of the rock wall (to make mowing easier for our neighbors!). We still have to do some drainage work at the bottom of the driveway, and then Tier 3 will begin. I know I said we were going to wait a bit before we continued work in our yard, but with temps hitting 100 this week, we’re anxious to finish asap!

In the meantime, I’m enjoying our little garden, and I’m not a fan of the outdoors! We’ve already seen massive butterflies flitting around, and that’s very unusual around here. I guess when they say these plants attract butterflies, they mean it! Beyond that, we have this lovely, cool front yard that’s a far cry from the traditional rocks-and-cactus image normally expected in south Texas xeriscaping. I can’t wait until the whole yard is this beautiful!

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Close to Home, by Cara Hunter (audio)

GoodReads summary available here.

The hunt for police procedurals, take 1: Nope.

I’m not going to spend long on this one. The book was well-written. I really enjoyed most of it. For awhile, I thought perhaps it would be the first of a series I could enjoy for a long time. But then came the epilogue, an out-of-nowhere twist, which made the whole thing feel not at all like a procedural but like some kind of genre mash-up instead. That epilogue pretty much ruined the rest of the book experience for me. Crossing this series off my list.

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Wellness Wednesday – Cobbling a Fit-Tracker

As you know, my Fitbit One died at the end of March, and they aren’t making them anymore. It was a month past when it would have been under warranty, so no dice in terms of trying to replace it. Boo. So I got a Fitbit Charge 2, which ended up being such a terrible solution for me that I let Jason have it. For awhile, I wrestled with my One, trying to limp it along, but that just wasn’t going to work. I got a Bellabeat Leaf, and while I loved the versatility and look of the Leaf, it didn’t keep track of steps in any way accurately. I returned it, and went back to the drawing board.

Needs: a pedometer that accurately counts steps and can sit in my pocket. Preferably, it would track elevation and a basic calorie count as well. The Charge 2 failed on all those points, but I started to think – what if I took the Charge off its band and just kept it in my pocket instead? Could I use it as a One even though it’s not a One?

So yes, I stole my own Charge 2 back from Jason (ha! I had his permission) to try this out. And at first, I was confused, because the Charge kept giving me a heart rate all day long, even though it was in my pocket. I did some research and figured out how to turn the heart rate monitor off, because the pocket-measurement was highly inaccurate and skewed both my fit minutes and my daily calories. And after that…it was practically like having a One again! Yay!

There was just one more thing I needed to make the situation perfect – some kind of case or cover to keep the tiny Charge from slipping around and possibly out of my pocket. I didn’t want to lose it! So I did some research, and found a perfect shop on Etsy, Giraffairy Creations, that makes all sorts of Fitbit accessories. I picked out a ClipWrap Slim, chose a fabric, and received my carrier case just days later. It’s pretty and sturdy and a perfect fit, and makes it so I now have exactly what I want in a pedometer/fitness tracker again!

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