Night Theatre, by Vikram Paralkar

A surgeon is about to close up his dilapidated clinic in an Indian village when three dead strangers appear. They beg to have their wounds healed up before dawn, at which point, they’ll have a new chance at life if all goes well.

Um. What? It was an interesting premise. The book description goes on to say that after helping the dead, the surgeon’s life gets all tangled up with theirs and some other stuff that actually has nothing to do with the story at all. Ninety percent of the book is the night in question, with details about how the surgeon tries to tend the lifeless wounds with near-worthless equipment in this run down clinic, mixed with the surgeon’s bitterness about his life and the dead folks’ stories about the afterlife and the bargain that brought them back.

This should have been interesting.

Y’all. I was both bored out of my head, and continuously confused. Like, I couldn’t even figure out what genre this was supposed to be. Just plain fiction? Allegory? Fantasy? Magical realism? I also kept trying to figure out what the author was trying to say with this book, and…well, I’ve got nothing. Maybe it went over my head. Or maybe the book missed the mark. I don’t know. Mostly I just regret the time I spent reading it. Once again, I told myself multiple times to abandon, and didn’t listen to myself, so I got what I deserve.

But don’t take it from me. Looking through reviews online, people love this book. I found it weird and pointless and boring, but everyone else seems to find it profound and inspirational.

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Sunday Coffee – Hospitality

The day before Mother’s Day, I hit a personal breaking point. I’m a stay at home mom. My job is 24/7. There are no breaks from it. In the past, I have coped with this by a precarious balancing act. During the school year, I have approximately six hours to myself each weekday when there are no early releases or school holidays. Four times a year – Thanksgiving week, Christmas break, spring break, and summer break – my job becomes full time nonstop anywhere from one to ten weeks. It’s tough, but survivable, especially as my kids have gotten older (2007 was the worst year for me). But then there was that whole covid thing, and in early March 2020, my kids came home for a week of spring break and never went back to school. Now, we’re all home full time, and while I’ve had maybe a half-dozen times left alone in the house for an hour or so, I haven’t had a break in WAY TOO LONG. And this makes me very, very cranky.

So like I said, I hit my breaking point, and the day before Mother’s Day, I announced that I needed a personal vacation. I didn’t really want to GO anywhere. I just wanted some time ALONE. With SILENCE. What I really wanted was to fly off to somewhere I’ve never been but don’t really need to explore (my first thought was Albuquerque – they have nice weather!) for a few weeks in an AirBnB, so I could just be alone. But we’re not rich and this is not something we could really afford. Instead, Jason and I decided to put me up in this longterm hotel here in San Antonio, just for a few days/nights, as a kind of mini-break. Something to ease my going-insane-brain.

That was this week. I checked in Monday afternoon, came home Friday morning.

We chose this particular hotel (which I won’t name) because of our past experience here. When we relocated here in 2017, we had a few weeks before closing on our house, and had to stay in a hotel. Since Jason’s employer was paying for all the relocation expenses, this was fine. Originally, we chose a different hotel because it was in an area we knew to be nice, only to discover that the hotel was…not nice. So not nice that we canceled our reservation after the first night and moved to a different one. And we enjoyed our time at this new hotel. They had social/dinner nights M-Th, and breakfast every day. The place was clean, the employees were nice, the other guests were nice, our suite (for five people) was spacious, the furniture was good quality, they allowed pets, and our experience was generally positive. Positive enough that when our house exploded in 2018, we packed up the family and temporarily moved back into the hotel (above).

Here’s the thing. Hospitality is one of those industries hit hard by the pandemic. I can’t blame the overworked, understaffed, underpaid employees. When my room was…not as clean as I would have liked, I didn’t complain. It wasn’t their fault, either, that my mattress was so old that the springs gave giant metallic bangs when you sat on it and was a rock to sleep on. Breakfast was a sad affair, all pre-packaged, cheap stuff, but hey, it’s a pandemic and you can’t exactly have the waffle maker out for people to use. Social night had been reduced to T/W only, and as I discovered, consisted now of a miniature snack and a plastic cup of cheap wine/beer if you wanted. An all-around lackluster experience.

Even better? The ice maker broke on my floor. I called it in. Half a day later, I went to get ice, but the machine was open with a ladder next to it, no employees in sight. I headed to the elevators to go to a different floor and met an employee who was also waiting for the elevator. She saw me, screamed “Sh!t I forgot the ice machine,” and ran off. When I got downstairs, I discovered puddles of blood all over the elevator lobby (looked like someone dumped raw meat in the garbage and it leaked everywhere – I took this photo several hours later when it still wasn’t cleaned up). I got my ice, went back upstairs, and the ice maker there was chugging away very loudly, closed with no ladder by it now. Halfway between the machine and my room, there was a giant bang from the machine, which then clunked to a stop. (I didn’t use that machine again…)

I feel bad for them. I really do. I’m sure the CEO of the company who owns this hotel chain hasn’t seen his profits cut or diminished. All the loss of profit has been hoisted onto the understaffed, underpaid, overworked employees, which is why I’m not complaining. (I wish more people understood this and stopped attacking the poor bottom-end employees!) But it makes me a little sad to be taking my “vacation” in this sort of situation.

My plans had been to do yoga every day, to read, to blog, to get caught up on shows I wanted to watch, to listen to podcasts, maybe to go for walks, etc. Yeah, no. Not doing yoga on a floor I know is not clean. Haven’t really felt like blogging. It was raining or 90 degrees each day. Mostly just scrolled mindlessly through tiktok instead of watching shows. I have been reading, though. I got this giant pile of hold books in from the library right before I went to the hotel, and I’ve read (or tried-to-read-and-culled) quite a few. Books read: Night Theatre, The Haunting of Alma Fielding (audio). Books culled: Rule of Wolves, The Mountain Between Us, Into the Wild. Started: Strong Women Life Each Other Up. I also started watching Britain’s Best Home Cook, rather than watching Shadow and Bone like originally intended. I drank wine and way too much iced coffee and was generally a bum for the week.

Now I’m home again, and I’m not sure if the week helped or was just a waste of money, because what I think I really want is to be able to be home alone in silence again, rather than just in silence. Oh well. I’m not ungrateful, I promise. I’m just tired of living in a pandemic, like everyone else. Plus it’s May, and y’all, I’ve said this before but I’ve just got to say it again…May is so tough for me! 😦

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The Haunting of Alma Fielding, by Kate Summerscale (audio)

Subtitled: A True Ghost Story

This is the tale of Nandor Fodor, a paranormal investigator in 1930s Britain, and Alma Fielding, a housewife under poltergeist attack. As tensions mount throughout Europe on the cusp of WWII, ghosts and paranormal occurrences provide an otherworldly outlet for the chaos and lack of control that people feel. Fodor has debunked too many mediums and spiritualists, and is desperate to have a “true” case to work with, to show that he is a proper investigator. Fielding’s case appears genuine, and if faked, is highly elaborate and carefully orchestrated. As Fodor investigates and comes to know Fielding better, he begins to suspect that her case – whether truly paranormal or entirely under her control – is rooted in personal trauma. Summerscale weaves together wartime tension, spiritualism, and early psychology in the story of these two people whose lives were closely intertwined.

I’m in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I found the subject fascinating. Poltergeist hauntings are one of the most bizarre forms of ghost-phenomena, because they are so incredibly complex to pull off if faked. (Let me state up front that I don’t necessarily believe that any poltergeist activity is “real.” But the things that happen in poltergeist cases are so beyond my understanding that I can’t comprehend how they’re being pulled off. I feel the same way about really good magic shows as well, though.) I recently listened to the BBC multi-part podcast on the Battersea Poltergeist, and again just found it fascinating and inexplicable. Alma Fielding’s poltergeist – at least at the beginning – was much the same. Even later, when Fodor had subjected her to so much scrutiny and figured out 90% of how she was creating the phenomena around her, there were still things he couldn’t explain.

At that point, there’s a huge turn toward the psychological. Psychology was in its infancy back then, heavily influenced by Freud’s thoughts and ideas. However, despite this, there was some really interesting work being done on early childhood trauma, particularly sexual trauma, and how that affected the personality. Many of the ideas that certain psychologists put forth at the time – laying the groundwork for things we accept today, like Dissociative Identity Disorder and repressed memories – were laughed at and dismissed. Poltergeist activity is often associated with psychological distress – early traumas, lack of power/control, a manifested voice of a person (often adolescent) who has no other way of expressing their out-of-control feelings. Fodor came to believe that this repression and silencing of a person’s feelings combined with a lack of power or control could give birth to psychic phenomena via poltergeist – or, if not psychic phenomena, perhaps “faked” phenomena as the subconscious attempt to express what the conscious was not allowed to say.

All that was fascinating. I loved it. The part I didn’t love…that’s more complicated. Honestly, I can’t tell if the book was really, really dry, turning what should have been a great subject into one that kept putting me a sleep, or if the audiobook was doing that. The audio is read by David Morrissey. I’ve never listened to him as a narrator before, and I was not impressed. He has a quiet, whispery kind of voice that tended to make me feel very sleepy. He might have been fine to read a different kind of book – actually, I think his voice would have been great for certain kinds of dark fairy tales – but this one didn’t work for me. I couldn’t tell if I had to keep stopping the book to listen to other things because of him making me sleepy/bored, or if the book itself just droned on in places. The thing is, I listened to another book by Summerscale a few years ago, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, and that one was great! She did much the same thing there – weaving together two stories set on a cultural background that played a big part in those stories – and it was exactly the kind of nonfiction that I love. That makes me lean toward the “I just didn’t like the audio version” side of things. A narrator can make or break a book, and I have a feeling this one kinda broke things for me. Still a good book, but…maybe not as good as it could have been.

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Race Report: Gabriella’s Cupcake 5K 2021

Woohoo! It’s my first in-person 5K since the pandemic began! A special new milestone!

Last year, I signed up for the Gabriella’s Cupcake 5K because a hiking friend of mine told me about it. There was a group of us who were going to walk it together. Then covid pushed the race back twice, until eventually it went fully-virtual in July. I walked/ran this one up in Wisconsin, getting my second-best 5K time since I re-started running in 2017, only a few days after running a full 5K with no walk breaks. I was really happy about the achievements, especially without any of the in-person excitement to spur me on like during in-person 5Ks. Now, a year later, a group of us decided to walk this 5K together again – and in person this time!

(my crew)

So let’s just talk a sec about the excitement of in-person 5Ks. This was a small 5K – the in-person was capped at 250 people – which is my favorite kind. I like the 250-500 person range for 5Ks: not too crowded, but not so small there’s no excitement. As we lined up, I was itching to run. I knew I shouldn’t. 1) I have this injured foot, and I’d literally stopped exercising on it as of May 2nd. 2) I’d hardly done any running since the previous fall, including only four times since the beginning of 2021, never more than a minute or two at a time. 3) I hadn’t stretched or warmed up or any of the things you should do before you run. 4) I was wearing my purse with my hydroflask hanging off of it – not the best physical situation for running!

But here’s the thing, y’all. Remember how I recently said that I had to cancel my camping trip because if I’d gone up there, even with the intention to just camp, I would have hiked? This is who I am. I am a person who does stupid things to her body when caught up in the moment. I am a person who must take extra precautions to keep herself from doing these things. Example: In 2013, I was scheduled for a 5K, and I had bronchitis when it came around. In order to keep myself from running, I wore jeans, a baggy cotton t-shirt, non-running shoes, a regular bra, and my purse. I only have one picture –> from the event and it doesn’t really show my incredibly stupid-looking 5K outfit. And even with all that, I was really, really temped to run. When the gun goes off and everyone starts to run across that starting line, I just want to run with them. I ended up walking that 5K in 2013 in an absolutely ridiculous time of 43:34, a 14:03/mi pace, by far the fastest walking pace I’ve ever done. (No, I didn’t run once. Yes, that is faster than my current best running 5K pace.)

Anyway – back to last Saturday. Normally, if I’m with a group of people walking a 5K, I can get past the start line without breaking into a run. I expected that to be the case here, so I didn’t take any special precautions. Only then we crossed the start line, and Mari said, “Let’s run!” to Yoli, and the two began to run, and then I was running with them, and…yeah. So I only ran about a minute or two of the 5K, probably a total of a tenth of a mile, but it was stupid stupid stupid. The excitement had passed, and I stopped running, and I spent the next two miles with my calves all tight and achy, walking with zombie-legs, really needing a stretch. Finally, with less than a mile to go, they started to loosen up again, and I began to feel normal. I began to feel the way I should have felt the entire 5K. Heh.

Mari (left in this photo) did a lot more running than the rest of us, and came in with an awesome time! The rest of us walked together through the end. We picked up cupcakes (mmm) and took pictures and grabbed lots of swag. All the results were posted online to help with social distancing. I was really confused by my time, because I’d used my Garmin to be exact, and I stopped my watch at 56:50 about 10-15 seconds after going past the finish, and my “official” time (not gun time) was 57:07. I forgot that I’d stopped my Garmin for half a min to wait for the rest of my group after my little run-bit, ha! So with my “official” time, I came in 213 of 243 folks, 149 of 168 women, and 22 of 25 in my age group (40-44). Not the best times in the world, but hey, I don’t care a bit. My pace – going by my Garmin – was 18:20/mi, and my best pace was 7:49/mi. I thought my Garmin was being stupid with that last one, til I realized that that pace was when Yoli and I sprinted the last 10 feet across the finish line for photos. 😀

(finisher medals)

It was a fun morning. I didn’t stretch properly before or after, so by the time I got home, my left calf had badly cramped, and I spent most of the day aching from the waist down. (Dudes. What happened to the Manda who knew how to properly handle a pre- and post-5K routine? Clearly she forgot way too much during the pandemic…) Likely my foot will take longer to heal than originally anticipated as well, though I’ll admit, it never did hurt after that 5K or in the time since. And hey, it was my first 5K post-pandemic, and I’m very happy to experience all the hoopla again! Plus, I have to admit: It was kinda awesome to experience a little of the old-me popping out there in the early excitement of the 5K. I don’t see pre-2014 Manda very often anymore, and those rare moments always make me smile.

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Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge

Triss knows that something is wrong. She doesn’t remember falling into the river. She only remembers waking up, soaking wet, and being cared for by her overly-concerned parents. Her sister seems to hate and fear her, Triss’s stomach is screaming for food no matter how much she eats, her hair is rustling like dead leaves in her ears, and she’s suddenly terrified of scissors. Her parents speak in whispers about a mysterious man, a bargain, and letters that come from nowhere. Something is wrong, deep secrets, and Triss’s curiosity leads her down paths she’d rather have left alone.

Oh. My. This book was delightful, all atmospheric and creepy and dark. Hardinge has the most incredible imagination, and she takes fantasy and horror to new and interesting places. Amidst all the dreamlike imagery and unexpected turns in this story, Hardinge also works in themes of family, grief, and post-WWI culture shock across Britain, as well as what it means to be “real.”

I’m so incredibly grateful to have seen my book-friend April post about this one on Instagram, because honestly, I’d kinda given up on Hardinge. I adored A Face Like Glass in 2017. It remains one of my favorite books of the last decade. But since then, I read The Lie Tree (just okay) and abandoned two others, A Skinful of Shadows and Deeplight. I thought maybe Hardinge was just a one-hit author for me. Now, I believes she writes in many different atmospheric tones, and so some appeal to me while others don’t. This one is definitely in the “love” category, and is by far my favorite book of 2021 so far.

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Sunday Coffee – Spring Forward Recap

So spring’s goals mostly felt like an exercise in frustration. So many of them were attempted but failed for circumstances out of my control! You can see the lack of colored-in very clearly in that pic, heh. Here’s how things went:

Attempt C25K: I actually began this one on 3/4, before these spring goals technically started. But C25K is an eight-week program and I knew I wouldn’t finish it by May 15th even if I started early! Unfortunately, right after I started, I was told to stop running as we figured out this potentially-broken-foot thing. And then I was told I had to stop running altogether re: arthritis in my heel bone. Boo.

Listen to the Murdoch Mysteries podcast: I was really excited about this one, and then really frustrated as it seemed this podcast was literally just recap of specific episodes told in the form of diary entries, complete with audio clips from the show. Boooooring!

Listen to the Unsolved Mysteries podcast: Unlike the Murdoch one, this podcast was awesome! It’s like an audio version of the original show, except shorter as each one only discusses one case. There are interviews and news clips and sound effects. The first one (on the Ball Cemetery) freaked me out completely, in the most delicious way. I’ve continued to listen every week as soon as the new episodes release. I’m glad they have them listed on their website, too, so I can (hopefully) check for any potential updates – which (yay!) they also update on their instagram!

Buy a denim sundress: I got a $15 reward from Torrid for my birthday in March, and spent that (plus a little more of course) on a denim sundress. Ish. I’m not a fan of the current fashion of having buttons all the way down the front, but that’s what was available. Plus size shopping is very limited. Unfortunately, when it arrived, it was like a muumuu made of very thin not-really-denim material. I had to return it. When I did, they refused to refund my birthday reward! Terrible customer service! Ugh. I’ve looked and looked every other store I know but can’t find a single one selling this fashion of dress. I even caved and tried to look on Amazon, but there was nothing! I’ll keep looking but ugh. This doesn’t seem like such a hard ask…

(Why is this so hard?? Photo: 1998)

Make something with macrame: Well. I got several books on macrame from the library, including ones to teach you how to do it, and I was so overwhelmed by them that I sent them back! I thought maybe I’d wait until I could take a craft class or something, but then Stephanie gave me a macrame kit for my birthday. So I started over looking for a better source of instruction. No luck yet, but perhaps one day.

Buy new pajamas: Why is this such an impossible task? My needs are fairly simple: tank top sleeves, at least long enough to cover my belly but not below the knees (too hot!), with shorts long enough that my thighs aren’t sticking together in the middle of the night. But no, the top options are either too short or too long, and the only shorts sold in pjs these days are booty shorts. I tried Walmart first because that’s where I used to get pjs, before they changed brands a few years ago and started putting out thinner, see-through tops and booty shorts. No luck. I tried Lane Bryant and managed one top that was right, though I had to buy it in a set with some pants that are absolutely not going to get worn during a TX summer. I tried Torrid, nothing. I tried Kohl’s, nothing. Old Navy Plus, Davy Piper, Target, nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. WTF? I’ve literally been wearing the same two sets of pjs since 2017 because that was the last time I was able to find a simple long tank top and shorts!

Finally, Jason spotted a Fiesta-themed sundress at HEB. It was at a good length, made of a soft light material that pjs are often made from, and with a good internal lining to keep it from being see-through. I sized up to make it loose and flowing, and it worked perfect. So I finally had two new pjs tops as of the end of April. In May, I found some pj shorts the right length through a third-party via Walmart online, and they arrived on the 7th. They’re crappy material and slightly too big, but whatever. At least I have new pj sets now.

Meet up with an old friend: In mid-April, I attended a hike where I got to see a fellow hiker that I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic! (photo of us is Dec 2019 pre-pandemic)

Reach 175 miles for the year: I was actually on track to finish this easily, but then as May started, I had to quit walking altogether for 6-8 weeks, so I finished this at only 167 miles.

Buy a new alarm clock: I really tried finding one in stores because I’m avoiding Amazon, but I couldn’t find any that had red numbers, so eventually I caved and ordered from Bezos.

I didn’t even attempt the following:

Try out one of my bellydancing workout videos: These videos are all on DVD, and right now, the only DVD player we have is the boys’ XBox, and I can’t make the stupid thing work. I keep saying that I would like to get a real player, but we keep not doing it, so right now, I just don’t use DVDs or BluRay at all.

Listen to the Hamilton soundtrack: I’ve not been in the mood to listen to music at all, and I don’t want to potentially dislike this purely because I’m in the wrong mood. So this is back-burnered.

Finish my YWA backlog: I was super lazy about yoga this spring and need to be much better about it, so this might eventually be done…

I’m not sure I’m going to do a summer-goals-drawing-thingy this year. I’ve done them for the last four seasons, and the winter/spring ones were kinda meh. If I do, the dates will go from 5/31 to 8/15 (summer break here).

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Wellness Wednesday – Hikes of 2021, #30-35

Since I’m currently on a walking-hiking-running-anything-to-do-with-my-foot break, this post is a bit shorter in number than usual. I might be off for a few months, though, so I didn’t want to just hold it in my drafts. I’ll be back with these at some point in the future…

30. After two days of a MAJOR heat wave (temps near 100), it was lovely to wake up to a hike in the 60s and breezy! Wish there hadn’t been so many worms (oak leaf rollers and cankerworms), but it was fun to see the ladybugs out, and we even saw a (non-poisonous) ribbon snake! I’ve been hiking at this park hundreds of times over the years, and this is only the second or third time I’ve seen a snake there. Heh. Top left photo is me making my “cranky” face with Eva, who refused to get into other pictures, ha! We tease each other back and forth on the picture situation every time we’re on a hike together. [Hike 19/52 for my 52 Hike Challenge.]

Continue reading

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Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

Subtitled: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Four years after Strayed’s mother dies and her life falls into chaos, addiction, and loneliness, she sets off – without any true preparation – to hike a big chunk of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

If ever there was a book that I should have abandoned, this is it.

So in my recent review of Leave Only Footprints, I talked about being wary of the author’s memoir portions, as he did this project as a recovery from heartbreak, and that can all-too-easily turn into whining, bitter naval-gazing. It didn’t, and I was happy for that. Wild…is the opposite. About 60-70% of this book is all about Strayed’s crappy childhood and traumatic adulthood and addiction issues. There were these long tangents that had nothing to do with hiking the PCT where I just wanted to speed ahead and get back to the actual hiking portion of it, because honestly, I just got tired of hearing the same thing over and over and over again. This is why I rarely read memoirs. I have no interest in reading about most people’s personal lives and the intricacies of their emotional turmoils. Maybe that makes me callous, but frankly, I have enough on my plate without wading through someone else’s crap, you know? Which is why I avoid memoirs. I only read this one because I wanted to read about the hike! I’d hoped it would be like Becoming Odyssa – which was also a lost-to-found type of story, but which focused on the hike primarily – a sort of PCT alternate to the AT. It was not. Here were some of my thoughts as I read:

  • Wait. The heroin bits are sus. No detox?? That’s not how that works…
  • Why, why, why, why, why would anyone ever EAT THEIR MOTHER’S CREMATED ASHES????? WITH CHUNKS OF BONE IN THEM?????
  • WTF did she do to that poor horse?
  • How many times can she repeat the same phrase over and over? This book really needs an editor.
  • There is a lot of casual racism and stereotyping here.
  • How did this lady not die? (ad nauseum)
  • How irresponsible can you be to not only start this unprepared, but keep going that way, endangering rescue workers and anyone who looks to this hike as inspiration?

I should have known better than to keep reading. I’d been warned away from this book from people who know about my drug phobias. There’s a lot of heroin-talk in this book. (Also, trigger warnings for others – there is drug addiction, child abuse, domestic abuse, animal cruelty, rapey-vibe scenes, and the like in this book.) That alone should have turned me away, but nope, I kept on going. I tried so hard to like this one, and just couldn’t. Even though I read through the memoir portions as fast as I possibly could, I also kept getting irritated with the hiking/camping portions. I think the author and I just have polar opposite personalities. Her chaotic, uninformed, wing-it approach the the world is not only the furthest thing from something I’d ever do, but it stressed me out just reading about it. Then, as the book went on, the hiking portions got smaller and smaller, skipping right through most of the actual hiking to the overnights-at-way-stops whenever Strayed wasn’t recounting her past.

For a book that was meant to be about hiking the PCT, there was very little about hiking the PCT.

By the time I finished, all I wanted was to find a different book about hiking the PCT. Whereas Becoming Odyssa made me want to do a long-distance hike for the first time in my life, Wild made me feel like I would never, ever, EVER want to go backpacking or distance hiking, which actually makes me really sad! Clearly, I’m the wrong audience. It’s a bit like how The Omnivore’s Dilemma turned me off of processed food, whereas Salt Sugar Fat – which was attempting to do the same – actually made me crave it more.

I did learn a few things from this book, though:

  • What not to do if I ever go backpacking (which frankly, as an avid day-hiker, I could have said without reading this book, but this made it even more abundantly clear)
  • Maybe REI would swap out my hiking boots, which I’ve only worn twice because they’re too small and make my feet go numb after a few miles.
  • I need to find a more recent book about the PCT, to see if the trail conditions have improved in the last 25 years.
  • I would really like a trail partner or two, because I would not want to do any backpacking trip alone. (I have many day-hiking friends and an entire hiking group I belong to, but we haven’t tried backpacking at this point.)
  • Just like I said in my review of Becoming Odyssa, I really, really wish I had a trail name. Maybe one day.

That’s all. I wish I could be more positive, but this was clearly not the book for me. If you like memoirs, it might be really great for you. But if you were looking to read this one for the hiking portions, I’d suggest finding another book as this one spends very little time on that, plus Strayed’s hike took place many years ago (so might not be as relevant today, as trail conditions definitely change over time).

Note: After reading the book and writing this review, I couldn’t stop thinking about how off everything felt in this book (especially the “walked away from heroin with no issues” bit). I was also having a lot of trouble understanding why everyone else seemed to love it. Looking down through the ratings/reviews of my GoodReads friends, it was all glowing praise and four- to five-star entries…until I got to my friend Karen’s rating. She’d given it one star, and I reached out to her to say I’m glad I’m not alone in my feelings. She, too, expressed how off she felt about this book, and linked me out to an entire blog that debunks Strayed’s entire trip. I’m always inclined to believe nonfiction, perhaps because I don’t read as much of it, but this blog helped me put together why things felt so off. I’ve had experiences with folks who embellish and invent 90% of their stories in the past, and after realizing just how much of this book was verifiably false, I finally understood the instincts that were kicking in as I read.

The blog is hilariously cutting – it’s called “I Hate Cheryl Strayed” after all – so perhaps don’t read it if you like Strayed or her memoir. Personally, I spent an entire afternoon reading all 40ish posts that debunk, fact-check, and rip apart Wild. And hey, now that I’ve done that, I dislike the author even more and don’t feel nearly as bad as I did about the PCT. Excellent trade-off!

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Sunday Coffee – Camping, Except Not

I’m supposed to be at Inks Lake right now on a weekend camping trip.

I’ll be honest: I never thought I’d go camping again as an adult. My family used to camp a lot when I was a kid, not because anyone particularly enjoyed camping, but because when we traveled, we couldn’t afford hotels. Campsites were cheaper. We lived in South Carolina, so every time we went to Charleston or Myrtle Beach or to the nearby lakes or mountains, we camped. Then I got older, my family got larger, and the camping grew more infrequent as first we couldn’t afford vacation and then my parents divorced. The last time I remember sleeping in a tent was in 1999, at a trip to the Frio River with my mom’s extended family. By that point, I hated sleeping on the ground. As I went off and started my own family, I expected never to camp again.

And then here we are. I got convinced to give it a try by Becoming Odyssa and my fellow hikers. We were planning to spend the weekend at Inks Lake State Park, hiking during the day and camping at night. I bought all my supplies – tent, AIR MATTRESS, sleeping bag, cooler*, chair*, food, etc. (*Note that the cooler and lawn chair were actually things I needed outside this trip, as my previous ones went kaputt.) I was nervous and excited and actually looking forward to the trip, while simultaneously hoping that the whole sleeping-in-a-tent thing would be better on an air mattress and that I wouldn’t be miserable all weekend. Heh.

Then there was my foot. So, you know that hope I wrote about and all that jazz, just a few days ago? Well, that day, my foot started to cramp up and swell. And it just kept getting worse. I realized: the longer I put off letting this foot rest, the longer it’s going to take to heal, and the more longterm damage I was going to do. I realized: perhaps hiking all weekend may not be the best plan. I realized: As much as I wanted to ignore my foot and camp with my friends, this was a very, very bad idea.

So I am not camping right now. In fact, I have returned much of that procured equipment and supplies, because I doubt I’ll be camping any time in the next six months given 1) foot and 2) miserable summer heat. And I’ve stopped using my foot as much as possible, earlier than planned. Depending on how I feel next weekend, I might skip the 5K I’ve signed up for. Or I might just walk it slow in supportive shoes, one of only a few planned easy walks scheduled for the next six weeks. And then I’m going to rest my foot for as long as it takes to get better. Because not-listening-to-my-body certainly hasn’t helped me over the last seven months. And hey, it’s the beginning of miserable hot summer here, so if I need to take a few months off, so be it. Better now than over the winter!!

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Quarantine Diaries – Weeks 59 and 60

So much of life right now feels tentatively safe at the moment. It feels like for the last 13-14 months, I’ve been living in an underground shelter, hunkering down and waiting until things are safe again, and now we’re peeking out to see if we can reemerge. The danger is still out there, but my family is as safe as we can get, and if we take reasonable precautions, we’ll be okay. For now, at least. It makes me laugh a little, because I know a lot of folks – including family members – who are Preppers, some with actual literal bunkers, and these are the folks who have refused to stay home, to wear mask, and now to get vaccinated… Like, what was all that Prepping for? Why bother if you refuse to actually take shelter and wait for the danger to pass when it comes?

Week 59 – April 23 to 29
217,219 cases, 3,354 deaths, 235 seven-day rolling average (up 13), 1.9% positivity rate (down to an all-time low and better than any metro areas in TX). Hospitals have actually seen a few days of decreases, which shows just how well our vaccine program is affecting our community!

The J&J vaccine is back on the market now, cleared by the FDA after the clotting issue. Pfizer (and I believe Moderna too) announced that boosters will be available in the fall, to come 6-12 months after initial vaccination (and hopefully any updates for variants). HEB is doing walk-in covid vaccines now, Metro Health is setting up mobile vaccination clinics to get into various neighborhoods, and the city is opening their mass vaccine site to everyone eligible without any appointment necessary. Right now, we’ve got roughly 572k folks fully vaccinated and 840k half-vaxxed in SA. Additionally, we’re up to seven breakthrough covid cases now (cases after full vaccination). All have been mild.

Jason had his second dose this week, with some mild fever and fatigue the day after. His symptoms were less than any of the rest of us. We also had our family memorial this week, which was tough. I had to not argue when I was told things like “I’m not getting the vaccine because it doesn’t prevent spread, it just prevents you from feeling any symptoms.” Sigh. I will be relieved when May 11th comes around and we’re all as immunized as possible. J and I talked to Morrigan as well, to see if he’d managed to get his shots yet, and he said he was planning to do so after mid-May when he moves into the apartment he and his roommate have leased. I’ll feel much better after he gets his doses too!

Generally over the last year-and-a-bit, the focus of these quarantine diaries has been on personal, local, and sometimes statewide happenings related to covid. Very occasionally, I’ll mention something happening on a larger scale. If I’d tried to track the covid-happenings worldwide, I would’ve given up the project ages ago. But right now, the crisis in India is so extreme that I feel the need to mention it here. The spike in cases/deaths is the most steep I’ve seen from any country this whole pandemic, and is even worse than we can tell, as many cases/deaths aren’t being reported because infrastructure, testing, the medical system, and so many other areas/departments are overwhelmed and unable to function. People are literally dying unseen and unattended in the streets. Someone – I’m not sure who to credit – has created a list of charities and folks helping on the ground in India. If anyone has the capability to help, please do.

Week 60 – April 30 to May 6
219,008 cases, 3,379 deaths, 205 seven-day rolling average (yay!), 2.6% positivity rate. Another 2 cases at the local high school this week.

Even though TX is almost the worst state in the country for percent vaccinated (44th!), San Antonio is still doing okay. We currently have 928k folks who have received their first dose (61.6%) and 647k fully vaxxed (43%). That number should continue to improve as 1) doses are now being administered to jail inmates (you might recall we’ve had several MAJOR outbreaks at the jail) and 2) the FDA is set to approve the Pfizer vaccine for the 12-15 age group next week. Current predictions are that they’ll be approve for under-11 by fall (some reports say ages 2-11, some say 6mo-11). I hope that happens because then my nephews can get their doses! There isn’t a lot of news beyond that this week, except that it was election week here and our current mayor handily won his reelection bid. (Whew!)

As for at home, my boys hit their two-weeks-post-vax on Wednesday, so they are now as protected as currently possible. Laurence and I went to the school for the high school play last weekend, and I was surprised (and pleased) that all the actors wore masks the entire time, managing to project their voices and enunciate well even through cloth! Laurence later had to go into the school for end-of-credit testing (because it’s TX, and yeah standardized testing is the most important thing in the world, eye-roll), and he felt a lot better about that since he’d had his vaccines. Ambrose is set to house-sit for my sister in Dallas in a few weeks, and will be flying up there – another thing we wouldn’t have even considered before his shots! Then there was the morning I spent at fellow-hiker Lindsay’s house, helping to take care of her newborn (above pic) while she’s in the hospital for complications – everyone in the house was vaccinated, so none of us had to wear masks, and that’s just so…old and new at the same time.

Moving forward
Unless we start getting a lot of crazy news, I’ll be posting these Quarantine Diaries a little further apart again. It really does feel like things are holding steady in our local area, the negatives and positives in a precarious balance atm. I’m sure with the variants running around the world, we’ll see another wave at some point. But for now, things feel relatively stable(ish). I’m afraid to say it and jinx it!

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