Quarantine Diaries – Week 18

This week (July 13th) makes four months since our first covid-positive case in SA. Back then, my family took precautions, canceling/rescheduling appointments, setting ourselves up to be at home for some time. Imagine: my well-woman’s exam was scheduled for April, and I pushed it back to July for safety’s sake. Ha. Ha. Ha. (It’s now pushed back again until September, will likely get delayed again.) I remember Stephanie telling me that she thought we would have rolling lockdowns for the next two years until we had a vaccine available. It all seemed so surreal. How could we NOT get things under control by summer? But I forgot. Americans are led by a narcissistic dumpster fire who couldn’t make a good decision if his life depended on it, and there’s a whole parade of politicians licking the guy’s feet. Additionally, our culture is obsessed with individualism, instant gratification, and one-upping each other. Disease management has become a political minefield. Ugh ugh ugh.

It would have been so easy to respond to the initial threat with quick pandemic guidelines and solid medical advice, to alter said advice and guidelines as we learned more, and keep people safe while also not crashing the economy. Anyone who says otherwise needs to open their eyes and look at what most of the rest of the world has done. I have a friend in Australia who told me last week that they’re going back into lockdown for six weeks. He hadn’t looked at the numbers for awhile, and when he did, he bugged out about Texas. Texas has 29 million people, Australia has 25 million. The day he looked, AU had just over 9k cases; Texas had 241k cases. I pointed out that San Antonio – population 2 million – had almost 18k cases that same day, twice the number of Australia even though AU has 12.5x the population. The mind boggles. Or really, it doesn’t, because what else can you expect of a country that has divided itself the way we have over the last 12 years?

Ugh, this, yes, because mental health is kinda poorly right now for many of us: 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 10th:
Local count: 18,602 (+923), 166 deaths. Today’s single new death is another child in their late teens. Another – not from today, but recently – was a 30 year old man who attended another of those horrid “covid parties,” thinking it was all a hoax. Not long before he died, he said, “I think I made a mistake.” Close by in Corpus Christi, a six-WEEK-old baby died of covid. I cannot fathom why folks aren’t taking this seriously!! It feels like we’re back at the beginning again, and in so many ways, we are. I remember when this all started in mid-March, and San Antonio’s big annual festival, Fiesta, was postponed from April to November. Today, it was canceled for 2020 altogether. It’s a good decision, but symbolically, it’s a blow. Nat’s brother FINALLY got his results today – positive – and they told Nat there was no reason for her to retest since she’s got all the symptoms and all four of the other people in her household are confirmed positive. (Pic: Isolating for safety’s sake.)

-Saturday, July 11th:
Local count: 19,137 (+535), 175 deaths. Another nine deaths today, including three in my age range. My heart hurts. At least the hospital admission numbers are starting to flatten out pretty visibly in the data now, and DOD medical personnel are headed to different counties in TX, including Bexar. (I just had a thought – for those of you not in Texas, “Bexar” is pronounced “Bear.”) I have to roll my eyes at the governor, who is waggling his finger at us and saying that he’ll have to send the state into lockdown if the spread doesn’t slow soon. If he ever gets to that point, it’ll be far too late. We already have parts of the state that have more patients than hospital availability, and we had another record high number of cases throughout the state again today. It’s so frustrating, because I really want to go HOME. I want it to be SAFE to go home! (Pic: more Wally cuddles as I miss my kitties)

-Sunday, July 12th:
Local count: 19,648 (+511), 184 deaths. The numbers continue to climb. Several reports in from around the country about people getting re-infected with covid months after recovering. Near the beginning of this whole thing, I went on a bit of a rant about the so-called covid parties attempting to get “herd immunity,” and now not only have covid parties proved to be deadly, herd immunity has proved to be a fantasy with this disease. I don’t know what this does to our prospects for vaccine, but this just sucks. I’m feeling grumpy today after waking up at 4:15 am for the third night of major insomnia in a row grr.

-Monday, July 13th:
Local count: 20,213 (+565), 195 deaths. New weekly numbers tonight: positivity rate up again, now at 24%, but our doubling rate has bumped up from 11 to 16 days, which is a good sign. Very little else to report, though I did see today some interesting news from the homeless community in SA. Apparently despite the city’s high positivity rate, the rate is only 1% among the homeless shelters and encampments, with only 10-12 people infected over the last four months. Makes me wonder if this is the trend nationwide. Meanwhile, I’m up in the land of no-one-cares-about-the-pandemic, and I was frickin’ annoyed that while I managed to get in to see a chiropractor for my sciatica today, not a single person including the chiropractor was wearing a mask besides me. Grr.

(screenshot from my facetime call home tonight)

-Tuesday, July 14th:
Local count: 21,067 (+854), 201 deaths. Another record high case day for TX with almost 11K. Some new stats from SA: 36% all hospital admissions are now covid-related, and 30% of all cases are folks with no underlying conditions. Also, homicides this year are nearly double what they were at this time last year in SA, many of them domestic-related. Gah!!! And to give an idea of how serious the hospital situation is getting here, there are now refrigerated trucks on standby for the dead when morgues overflow. In other news, there is now bubonic plague squirrels in Colorado, because 2020…

-Wednesday, July 15th:
Local count: 21,546 (+479), 208 deaths. After a bunch of threats from the TEA that schools won’t receive state funding if they don’t open this fall, there’s finally an exception in place. If local health officials order schools to be closed for in-person classes, funding will still be available for students in online classes. Local health officials in SA want to discuss this with the heads of school districts first before making any orders, but I’m hopeful about this. Also, Ambrose’s college put out guidelines, and most classes – hopefully all of his specific classes, but we don’t know yet – will be online. (Pic: I ran a full 5K today. Completely unrelated to covid but I had to celebrate!)

-Thursday, July 16th:
Local count: 27,047 (+5,501), 229 deaths. Note: Only 691 cases reported today are from the last day. The rest is a backlog of reporting from state labs. So…apparently we were doing even worse than we knew. A couple pieces of local news today. 1) The city has announced that city pools will not open at all this summer. 2) SA researchers are looking for participants in a vaccine trial, with the hope that a vaccine will be ready late this year to early next year (far earlier than I’d personally anticipate!). 3) Pregnant women in SA are testing 10-20% covid positive right now, despite being mostly asymptomatic, and with this comes the possibility of known-placenta-microclots leading to future problems with the newborns. This disease!! 4) Our school district has announced that for at least the first three weeks, all classes will be online, whew!

This week, we started with 17,679 cases and 165 deaths, and ended at 27,047 cases with 229 deaths. Apparently those case numbers were inaccurate, though, as we found out at the end of this 18th week of quarantine. There’s no way to know how many cases came when, so I just have to say okay, we had 9368 cases and 64 deaths this week. (We were looking at a slight improvement before that backlog, too!) Since we know those cases came from the last two weeks, I’m going to lump the two weeks of numbers together for average. This puts us at 14,169 cases in two weeks – notably, that’s more than 50% of our total cases – and 115 deaths (half!), for an average of 1012 cases per day. This is NUTS. It’s so bad, y’all. So bad. Top graph is the weekly numbers (non-cumulative), bottom is the cumulative weekly numbers.

An update on Natalie’s family
I’ve gotten periodic text updates from Natalie, whose entire family is desperately sick with covid. All five of them are in the vulnerable category, which makes this particularly scary. Her dad (sick two weeks now) has almost no fever left, has a bit of appetite back, and actually felt good enough to shower on his own on Wednesday. Her mom (who was largely asymptomatic in the beginning) had a couple bad days of symptoms but is mostly feeling better now, thank goodness (she has brain shunts!). Her brother is mostly doing better by now. Her husband is to the point where most of the chest pressure is gone and he’s mostly with joint pain, but overall feeling on the mend. And Nat herself, who was one of the last to get symptoms, is unfortunately still in the thick of it. She had the “felt better one day only to have it get much worse” in mid-week, with high fevers, terrible headaches, and on-and-off delirium. She’s also on an inhaler with specialized meds because of her asthma. I really hope she’ll also be on the mend soon! (Pic: Nat and me in May 2016)

Positives and Highlights and Nice Things
It was a very discouraging week in terms of covid news. These are the few highlights that helped me to get through it.

  • my mom Polo-ed us video of a particular Hallmark Christmas movie scene that we always enjoy getting (long story, involves a mute button and Jason improving rom-com dialogue…in other words, a good laugh for us!)
  • one of my two most anticipated books of 2020 (The Lantern Men) finally released after several delays! (Yes, I finished it. Yes, it was delightful!)
  • That friend in Australia I mentioned above? His name is Oisin, and this week we talked via Zoom. It was the first time we’ve talked live in the 14 years we’ve been email penpals!
  • I RAN A FULL 5K!!! –>

What is your good news for the week? I need some positives!!

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Wellness Wednesday – Warm-ups

When I was a preteen, on a day when I felt sluggish and tired, my dad gave me a piece of advice that I promptly filed away under the “whatever, dad” label. He told me that if he didn’t warm up properly before he practiced (playing trumpet) each day, he felt terrible. Not only would his practice be heavy, clunky, and clumsy, but the rest of his day would be as well. As I had been a competitive swimmer for nearly a year at that point in my life, he was trying to make a parallel to my swim practice. I didn’t see the value or relevance of what he said, and promptly ignored it.

As an adult who does a LOT of exercise, I still rarely make use of any kind of warmup. Sure, the yoga videos I follow have warmups built in, and before a 5K, I’ll stretch and jog in place a little and try to make sure my muscles aren’t cold before the start, but I don’t want to do too much and tire myself out beforehand. Otherwise, though, I’ve never seen much of a use for it, especially when it comes to strength-training. This probably sounds a bit stupid, especially coming from someone who does so much exercise (and has done so for nearly 30 years), but there’s a reason for it. It starts with The New Rules of Lifting for Women, which I read in late summer of 2012.

TNRoLfW laid out a seven-stage plan that lasted about six months, and in early September that year, I began to follow it with the intention of finishing around my 34th birthday in March. I didn’t make it through stage 1. Partly, that was the lack of proper equipment. It’s hard to squat heavier and heavier weights when you don’t have a squat rack and you have to start by getting the heavy bar from ground to over your shoulders. (At one point, I strained a muscle in my forearm and had to take time off!) Another big factor was the time. Even though the workout itself wasn’t too long, the workout + warmup + workout-warmup was over an hour! All of that left me feeling sore, exhausted, tired, and dreading the exercises. And the warmup was the absolute worst. Frankly, I didn’t see the point of doing bodyweight squats as a pre-warmup for low-weight squats as a workout-warmup for heavy-weight squats. That’s too many gd squats!!

(2013, before another ST program attempt)

Since giving up/failing the NRoLfW plan, I’ve attempted about half a dozen other strength training plans of varying levels and complexities. In the beginning, I always followed instructions and did the accompanying warmup. Inevitably, said warmup would tack on an extra 20-30 mins to the session and I’d be physical exhausted even before the real workout began. Needless to say, I never made it very far. So I started skipping the warmups instead. Now, the workouts didn’t take as long, but the inevitable fatigue, soreness, and days-long regret continued to linger. The last time I attempted this was back in May, with a very VERY beginner level workout. I think I made it through one of six weeks before I decided that I’m just not meant to do heavy ST and quit.

(except I actually do love feeling strong, especially doing pullups! Pic: 2014)

So that’s where I was in late June when I joined this GGS personal coaching plan. My biggest reservations about the program was the strength training portion. I know that muscle-building resistance workouts are crucial to build metabolism and keep your body healthy – I just prefer to do that as part of my yoga practice! So I chose the easiest program I could, for the easiest beginner level, with only two workouts per week. Unfortunately, those workouts came with a “warmup.” You know, a warmup that consists of mountain climbers, side planks, and walking lunges in addition to another seven exercises and/or stretches. The warmup looked harder than the actual workout! I knew I would never make it, and I dreaded having to try.

There is a lot of reading material that comes with this program, and part of it discussed the purpose of warming up before strength training. Supposedly, if you warm up, it prevents delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Obviously, this had never been the case for me! I got the same amount of DOMS with or without a warmup. In my mind, avoiding that excruciating soreness was out of the question. But I thought, perhaps I could warm up using light yoga instead of the battery of bodyweight ST. After all, I enjoy yoga, prefer it to regular ST, didn’t want to remove it from my regular exercise routine to accommodate the new ST, and have experienced firsthand how much easier walks are if I’m already warmed up via yoga. (You’d think the expression “warmed up” would have clued me in earlier, but no matter.) I asked my coaches if I could sub the yoga in for the dynamic warmup, and they agreed.

Oh. Wow. I had no idea the magical effect a proper warmup can have. All those bodyweight ST warmups? They were too much for me, even back in 2014 at the height of fitness and strength. (T-pushups? No prob! Swiss ball inverted crunches? Can’t even feel them. Stupid frickin’ inchworm warmup? Oh god I’m gonna die…) It was like doing two to three ST workouts in a row back in the days of NRoLfW. I needed a warmup for the warmup for the program-warmup for the program… But using yoga to stretch and get my muscles loosened and ready to go? That has been incredible. I’ve been doing these ST workouts for several weeks now, and I’ve had absolutely no DOMS whatsoever. You know how you sometimes squat or lunge down – even in real life, not exercising – and you feel a muscle pull a bit and you know you’re going to be in pain and unable to sit easily for days? That moment of, “Oh crap, I pushed myself too far.” Even when I’ve felt that, which is most workouts because I have a tendency to push hard, I still haven’t gotten any residual soreness. I’ve spent the last eight years avoiding warmups because they didn’t help, and turned out all along that I was just doing the wrong kind!!

I’ve been doing light yoga before my runs these last few weeks, too, and it has made a substantial difference in how much I can run, and how much burning I do/don’t feel in my legs/hips/back while running. It’s nuts. What a discovery! Makes me wish I’d studied this all more carefully, or headed the advice of my dad all those nearly-30-years ago…

Posted in Wellness | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins

This is a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, taking place ten years after the end of the initial war, in the year of the 10th hunger games. Coriolanus Snow – President Snow from the original series – is the main character, a teenager in school who is fighting for his personal and family dignity in a time of chaos and poverty. He’s chosen as one of the first 24 hunger games mentors, paired with the female tribute from District 12, who turns out to be a spunky singer named Lucy Gray with an affinity for snakes. Snow is determined to do well as a mentor in the games, to help his family, and increasingly to help Lucy Gray survive her time in the arena.

It’s been ages since I read the original Hunger Games trilogy, but I remember it quite well. The moment I heard this was coming out, I knew I had to read it. Snow’s character development – from naive adolescence to the road toward the ruthless dictator he becomes in Katniss’ time – is an interesting study in circumstances, adult influences, and psychology warped by war and trauma. In the Hunger Games, Snow is seen as a puppet-master, with the tributes as his playthings, but in this book, he himself is the puppet. Collins always does a masterful job with psyche, and I liked how she played with some particular philosophies on human nature. What happens to humans when stripped of order, law, and control? Does hardship and fear bring out the best in us, or the beast? When we are forced to kill, even for survival, how does that change us, and can we ever come back from it?

In a way, you end up feeling sorry for Snow, despite no doubt detesting him in the first three books. But you can also stop and look at his individual choices along the way, and wonder how much of his chosen path was due to forces outside his control, and how much was free will. How much responsibility can he claim, and how much is he willing to? Could and would he have been a different person if he hadn’t been puppet-led into specific situations? This is particularly noteworthy when contrasted with another character, Sejanus, who is in many ways Snow’s opposite while thrust along the same path. Same path, different choices, vastly different outcomes. The way I see it, Snow floats his way through life, seizing chances when available, while Sejanus makes strong decisions, whether right or wrong. In the end, maybe being a puppet didn’t matter, and this is what Snow was going to become no matter what, given the opportunity. Was he born to become a cruel and twisted dictator, or can that blame lay at another’s feet?

Collins doesn’t provide the answers. She simply lays out the story, piece by piece, while you watch what Snow becomes, already knowing the outcome (if you’ve read the original trilogy, at least). Honestly, the ending bothered me at first. There’s so much ambiguity, and some choices/changes that Snow makes that seem very sudden and out of the blue. After a lot of thought, though, I can see why she wrote them this way. I’d been waiting for something to happen to Snow. For betrayal, or loss, or severe grief – something that breaks him. By foregoing this, Collins presents the idea that he wasn’t broken by a single event. You can argue that he was still broken, or that he wasn’t. That’s left open to discussion. But you can’t romanticize his “going bad” with a broken heart, or a lost loved one, or a heartrending choice, or any number of things that other books have bestowed on evil folks to justify their descent into evil. It’s probably not a decision that many readers will like, the same way many disliked the third book of the original series. I think it’s a fascinating look into the realities of cruelty, though, without simplifying or romanticizing trauma, just like Collins was unwilling to simplify or romanticize war in Mockingjay.

Posted in 2020, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Homesick

Two weeks ago, I arrived in northern Wisconsin with my two younger boys. I was homesick in a way before I even arrived, especially after learning that my oldest son was sick about two hours before our trip northwards was complete. Nothing like a scare at home to make you want to be back again, eh? And honestly, while it’s nice to be in a place that’s safer and to see my extended family again, I miss home so, so much. This is why I’ll never move away from San Antonio again, despite disliking the weather and politics in TX. I didn’t realize how attached I’d become when we decided to relocate for a better job opportunity back in 2014, and the lesson has been reinforced over and over since then.

I miss hiking and my local parks. I went hiking here once. The area was overgrown, damp, and excruciatingly humid, and I got chased by a persistent insect for a mile. It was not fun, not a workout, not a place I’d go again in the current season. (I’ve been there in autumn before, and it was nice then, though still not a “hike.”) My hiking group leadership is planning a few small hikes and get-togethers, 2-3 people each, and I ache to be out there with them. Here, there are hardly any hills to walk much less hike. There really aren’t places to go out walking or running except in neighborhoods, watching out for cars and dogs the whole time.

I miss being near my library. Yeah, it’s not open except for curbside, but right now Jason is getting my hold books and mailing them to me, and I have to mail them back to turn in again before they’re due. It’s silly and annoying, especially when I’m finally getting the urge to read again. Plus, even if I can’t go inside, my library is a place of comfort for me. Just seeing it when I’m out at my favorite park (attached to the library) provides that comfort. Also, I miss my personal library at home, where I can go back and reread books from my shelves (something I’ve wanted to do with multiple books over the last few weeks).

I miss my chiropractor. Long drives make my sciatica flare up badly, and I’m in a lot of pain right now, trying to see if I can get in to see my old chiropractor here. It’s still not as good as my chiropractor at home, though. I always miss him when I’m away!

I miss Dunkin Donuts. DD isn’t even open for carry out right now. If I want their iced coffee, I have to do an order through the app and wait for them to bring it outside. But they extended their free iced coffee Wednesdays all through July, and I’m missing it because the closest DD to us here is 40 miles away. Every time I see the app icon on my phone, I get a little pang of homesickness. Before quarantine, I’d meet up with friends at that little store and just drink an iced coffee and chat for hours.

I miss HEB. I’ve been to Aldi and Marketplace and even Walmart here (because in a small town, you have limited resources, and you make do with Walmart if you don’t have any other choice!) None if it compares to HEB. This is another irony homesickness, because I literally haven’t stepped foot in an HEB since March 16th. But still.

I miss my scale. I didn’t bring it with me, and for someone who has been a daily weigh-in person for her entire adult life, this is weird and anxiety-inducing. Probably good for me, but it’s just another thing I miss from normal life.

I miss HPWU. To be honest, over the last two months I’ve gotten really bored with Harry Potter Wizards Unite. They haven’t released anything new to the storyline since the initial game release. No new mysteries, no new SOS assignments, no higher-level lesson plans, etc. But when I just want to give my brain a break, I can open up the app, grab a few foundables, and feel a bit of a mental reset. Here, there’s nothing around. No foundables, almost no inns, greenhouses, or fortresses. I can pretty much do nothing but go out on the Knight Bus to the Hogwarts fortress, and that’s even duller than having a few options!

I miss routine. Routine was already sorely lacking since quarantine began, but it’s even worse now. We are guests, or semi-guests, and my in-laws live in a way that is more fluid than I’m used to. Jason and I came from opposite spectrums when it comes to day to day life – his was unstructured and a bit chaotic, mine was rigidly structured. We’ve managed to put together a happy in-between that allows routine for me, but fluidity for him. Now, I never know when things will happen, when we’ll eat dinner, when the laundry will be free for me to use, when guests will arrive at the house, when I’ll suddenly need to run an errand mid-week…it’s hard for me to cope with, honestly. Like some people feel like they need a vacation from their vacation when they get home? That’s now for me.

I miss my wardrobe. When I packed, I brought about four day’s worth of exercise clothes and a week’s worth of regular outfits. My dresses and a couple shirts are hanging in the closet, while the rest of my clothes remain folded in my suitcase because I have no dresser to put them in. Both the lack of options and the suitcase situation makes me feel like I’m living out of a hotel sometimes, and I miss having a wider variety of things to choose from. Particularly because I expected the weather to be a bit cooler here like it usually is, so some of the options I brought are inappropriate for the current weather. Sigh.

I miss my neighborhood, my house, my room, my bathroom. The other night, I dreamed that I was living in some unknown-to-me house with lots of problems and that I was so sick of dealing with it and wanted to move. I woke up feeling really depressed, because somehow my brain had forgotten that we’d moved house in December, and I thought I was still living in my old house. It took me a bit to remember what my new house looked like, and as soon as I did, I was hit with a wave of homesickness. I love that house so much. I love my room so much. I miss having my own bathroom, and a bathtub, and known walking routes around my neighborhood, and checking the mail down the street, and having enough space in my room to exercise properly, etc etc etc.

I miss my friends and family and kitties. It doesn’t matter that I could hardly ever see anyone. There were lawn meetups, and Stephanie and I were doing careful physically-distanced hang-outs, and I was hanging out with my dad, stepmom, and sister in their backyard, etc. And of course, there are my five cats, my babies, who I’ve been seeing through facetime every night (and who respond to my voice, looking around to find me), and it’s not enough. I have Wally here, been petting him a lot to get in my kitty-fix, but I miss Jason and Morrigan and the cats so much it hurts.

I miss physical contact. Last week, when I found out about the 17-year-old kid who passed from covid, I couldn’t stop crying. I wanted Jason nearby so I could hug him and hold him and generally be comforted. I miss the pre-bedtime ritual of talking with Jason and having his hand in my hair or on my back. I crave physical contact. I feel so alone.

There are more things than this, and I’m aware that this is a very self-indulgent post. I’m privileged to have a place to go to feel safe from the virus, and to have family up here, and to have many of the things I have right now. But homesickness is real, and I have to acknowledge that. I want to go home. It’s only been two weeks, but I desperately want to go home.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 3 Comments

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?

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in 2020, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 2 Comments

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?

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 12 Comments