Sunday Coffee – Football

Though my dad’s side of the family were huge football people, I was never a fan of football growing up. Neither was Jason. When our kids were young, the only football they ever really saw was when we had an annual picnic for the Super Bowl. It was really more about the picnic than the football, heh, and the boys enjoyed this. Then we moved to Boston in 2014, and I was massively homesick. On an old blog post, I wrote:

Since moving up to Boston, I’ve been turning the TV on to football nearly every Sunday. I don’t actually sit there and watch. I’ll often read, or blog, or do something else I need to get done. But I listen, the volume turned down low, and the background of football brings out a certain nostalgia for home that makes me feel less homesick. It makes me feel closer to my family, with them being so far away.

Even though I was using football as a soothing technique, I knew my youngest son, Laurence, would love it. I encouraged him to watch, and sometimes he would. Mostly he didn’t bother, so I didn’t push him. After we moved back to Texas, football went back to being an occasional thing. I’m not sure exactly what flipped the switch, but suddenly Laurence became obsessed sometime in the fall of 2017. He didn’t just watch the games. He began learning about the players and coaches and team stats and all the rest. He bemoaned the lack of football between the last Super Bowl and the draft in April, then he obsessively watched the draft, then moaned about the lack of football until preseason started. This past fall, he began taking his (physical) football down to the park with one or both of his brothers in tow to play (mostly they did a lot of punting).

(Super Bowl picnic, 2010)

There has been a LOT of football in our house for the last year. And honestly, since football helped me so much in Boston, I look at it fondly now, It’s something I can share with the boys since I don’t do the whole D&D or Magic the Gathering or video game thing with them. I probably watched more hours of football in the last year than the rest of my life combined, haha. We all have our teams – Jason has been cheering for the Browns since 2010 (and hey, surprise, they actually won some games this year!), and Ambrose follows him in that. Morrigan votes for whoever is winning, with special emphasis to Texas teams. Laurence waffled from the Ravens to the Jaguars to eventually the Buccaneers. This last one came from a random Siri pick when he and Jason decided that he needed to finalize his team, haha. Siri also got to pick my team (though I made Jason narrow my list to the half-dozen teams I liked), and she chose the Seahawks for me. Which is kinda what I would have chosen anyway because their uniforms are so frickin’ awesome! My brother says he has to disown me for choosing “the highlighter team” though, ha!

(Technically these are their color rush uniforms. Normally the green is an accent color. But isn’t it amazing??)

None of our teams made it to the Super Bowl, but we’re all cheering for the Rams tonight. I even have a blue-and-gold outfit picked out, haha! We have a couple friends coming over, including a few diehard Patriots fans, so there’s going to be a rumble! And a great picnic, because that’s what the Super Bowl is really all about!!

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January 2019 in Review

All right. I said I was planning to change my monthly wrap-up to a quarterly format, but I’ve changed my mind. Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself looking back at last year’s monthly posts multiple times when searching for specific information. Additionally, while some sections of these wrap-ups (like goals) would benefit from revisiting only on a quarterly basis, other sections (like health or highlights) do better on a monthly basis. So I’m sticking with the monthly wrap-ups, minus goals, which will be reviewed quarterly. Without further ado, here’s January!

I read quite a few books this month! Eight total, most of which I really enjoyed. My favorite was The Vanishing Stair, with Song of Blood and Bone coming in quite close to top. I also abandoned one book (Aspergirls) and wish I’d abandoned Gut Reactions (review forthcoming). That latter book made me so angry that if I’d had a physical copy, I would have ripped it in half just for the pleasure of doing it. Which is too bad, because until the last fifth or so of it, it was a really great book. Major rant-post coming on Monday.

I watched quite a number of movies this month. Only one (Into the Spiderverse) was in theatre. At home, a bunch of movies I’d had on my hold list at the library started showing up. I watched both Jurassic World movies (the first was good, the second awful), The House With the Clock in its Walls (meh), and Colette (excellent!). I’m steadily working my way through a backlog of movies I’ve wanted to see for quite some time. Next up: Mary Shelley, which Jason and I hope to watch this weekend if we get time.

January was a physically tough month for me, for two general reasons. The first was all the medicine issues. Antibiotics for weeks, hives and inflammation all month, having to get off all my normal meds (including sleep meds and anti-depressants) because of the hives, etc. The second has to do with overdoing it on the exercise. I’m actually going to talk about this more in a separate post, because it’s a lesson I keep having to learn over and over and over again and it helps me to write it through more extensively. In the meantime, though, I’ll just say that since late November, I’ve exercised almost every single day, sometimes without any rest days for longer than two weeks at a stretch. By early January, my body rebelled, and despite the exercise and daily calorie deficits, my weight wouldn’t budge until I took a few days off.  Total stats for the month: 25 days of exercise, for 23 total hours, including 25 yoga and 38 miles. Calorie deficit: Equal to 4 lbs. Actual weight loss: Half a pound. (Measurements: same as on Jan 1st) On the plus side, that half a pound of loss puts me at ten total since September 23rd, and some of the clothes in my closet now fit when they didn’t in the fall. Yay! –>

In non-weight-related health news, I discovered two things this month. First, I’m pretty sure that the rashes and hives were related to my sleeping pill (Lunesta). The first time I got the facial rash (December) was within a few days of taking it, but I thought my face was just raw because I had a cold and was using a lot of tissues. The rash went away in the ten days of Lunesta disuse (insurance requirement), then came back again in January – only this time I didn’t have a cold, and I also got hives. I don’t think Lunesta was the only reason for the hives, but I also haven’t refilled my prescription, and I’ll be back to the drawing board with my doctor next week. Second, in getting off my current mental health medication, I’ve discovered that it was doing me more harm than good. It was a mood stabilizer, given to me because I had some manic symptoms during the super-stressful summer. However, those “symptoms” were just coping mechanisms, and the meds were premature. Since I began taking them when I felt stressed and awful anyway, I didn’t notice that I stayed low-energy, exhausted, and stressed long after the stressors went away. But in getting off the mood stabilizer, I’m emotionally feeling so much better. And I’m processing negative emotions like anger in a healthier, non-internal way. So that’s good. At some point I may need to get back onto an anti-depressant, but honestly, I’d like a few months to try to balance myself naturally.

Highlights of January
Given that my health issues basically took over nearly every waking moment this month, few other moments really registered at the time. Looking back, I see a couple highlights of the month to give it a little bit of brightness:

  • putting up the artwork and shelves in my bedroom (above)
  • exploring TED talks with Laurence
  • finalizing our November vacation plans
  • finding my meditation “happy place”
  • discovering some old photos and videos of my kids from back in 2013/2014 that had all of us rolling with laughter
  • it’s always wonderful when you discover you can shop in your own closet!

Coming up in February
Taxes. Sigh. Usually I look forward to these because I actually enjoy all the math involved, but the new tax laws passed last year make me very angry. They only negatively impact people with children who make less than $157k per year. Instead of getting a large refund like normal, we’ll be paying extra taxes this year. Frankly, I don’t mind paying more in taxes – and I’d especially not mind paying more if we actually got things like health care, school funding, etc out of it – but I’m really angry that our government passed a law that will ONLY hurt families that don’t earn a ginormous salary. I won’t rant about it, though. Instead I’ll look forward to a few fun things: the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, my blogoversary, and planning for my upcoming Buzzard Party for my 40th birthday on March 1st!

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Wellness Wednesday – Garmin Vivosport Part 2

I’ve now had my Garmin Vivosport for two months. My review in December gave my initial thoughts and impressions on use, and now I’ve had two months of actual use to do a real review. While I still think the Garmin does well in terms of step-tracking, and I like the built in GPS, I’ve had several problems that made the Vivosport more disappointing over time.

First, my skin. When I first put on the Vivosport, the band fit well and didn’t cause any skin-related problems the way my Fitbit Charge did. Over time, the constant wear in the same place (necessary to track heart rate) has definitely began to affect the skin. I’ve developed contact dermatitis. Partly this is because my wrist will swell and the band will get too tight, or the opposite will occur and the band will slide around. It’s not nearly as bad as with the Fitbit, but it’s not great. And I can’t wear the band looser (which results in less contact dermatitis) because of the problem in the next paragraph.

Second, the heart rate drops or doesn’t pick up properly during about half of my workouts. (This always happens if the band is loose.) Some days I’ll go for a 45 min walk on the hills of my neighborhood, and my average heart rate will be 125 bpm (a mix of higher on hills and lower on downhills). Sometimes I’ll do the same walk and it’ll say my average heart rate is 90. Um…no. I can see the sudden dip or rise that indicates that part of the walk wasn’t recording properly. This means that half of my workouts don’t give me an accurate readout. At first, it was just indoor walking workouts, and I could deal with that, but lately it’s been outdoor walks as well. Any time I mix some jogging in, it does the same. It’s frustrating.

Lastly, the inaccuracy of the GPS has gotten much worse than I initially thought. I might walk 1.8 miles and the Garmin will give me 1.5 miles. My pace will go from an 18-minute mile to a 21-minute mile during some workouts, just by the GPS being wrong. I can look at my path afterwards and see where it thinks I’m walking through houses. –> A little inaccuracy is expected. My walk log on my phone (using my phone’s GPS) sometimes has me in the wrong spot (on a lawn or in the street when I’m on the sidewalk) but it’s so close that I feel good about the tracking capabilities.

And when I started relying on the walk log rather than the Garmin, I started wondering what I was wearing this Garmin Vivosport for. Steps. Just steps. That’s the only thing it seems to calculate accurately. (Well, and resting heart rate, I suppose, but that’s not a measure that I pay any attention to, and sometimes that’s wrong, too – once it told me that I was up on the elliptical for ten minutes in the middle of the night when I was asleep.) I don’t know if the problems with the software comes from this being a refurbished model, or if it’s a problem with the Vivosport generally. But the contact dermatitis won’t be long-term sustainable, and I’d like to have back several measures of health that are accurate: calories burned during exercise, calories burned in a day, floors climbed, etc.

As y’all know, I’ve been trying to find a decent fit tracker since my Fitbit One broke almost a year ago. I just really, really wish Fitbit was still making the One! My cobbled-tracker for the Fitbit Charge was okay, but still not ideal (only worked if I had pockets). So I decided to bite the bullet this week and pay way too much to get a refurbished Fitbit One with a three-year warranty. I really ought to have done this a year ago instead of trying all these different things. No matter. I’m just happy to finally be back to a reliable device for me again! My Fitbit is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. I love the timing – I should be back to my One on the first of February!

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The Vanishing Stair, by Maureen Johnson (audio)

This is the much-anticipated (by me) sequel to Truly Devious, and so I won’t say anything about the plot and give things away for the first book. This is a double mystery, after all!

When I read Truly Devious last year, I left with two impressions. First, the book felt very unfinished. I felt like I had no answers at all, with no mysteries wrapped up, and no real conclusion. It wasn’t that I felt there was a cliffhanger – the story just felt unfinished and mildly dissatisfying, even after a second read. Second, I somewhere got the impression that this was the first of a two-book series, so I expected The Vanishing Stair to be the end of the story. Both of these impressions combined led The Vanishing Stair to be one of my most highly anticipated books of 2019, and I preordered the audiobook as soon as it was available. Before it arrived, I re-listened to Truly Devious (still felt unfinished, though not as much on this third read), and then I dove in immediately when the audiobook arrived on the 22nd.

Holy Wow. This book was GOOD. Also, it ended on a major cliffhanger, because apparently this is NOT the last book in the series. Some mysteries are cleared up. Others are opened. New characters are introduced. New tragedies color the scene. New motives are explored. The Ellingham school is under a thick cloud of tension. And the waters are muddied far more than in the first book.

I have suspicions. I have very specific suspicions, confirmed by a fourth read of Truly Devious and three readings of The Vanishing Stair. (It’s a double-mystery story! I tend to go through these multiple times, looking for clues.) I’d mention my suspicions here if there weren’t spoilers involved. And yes, I wish I had a group to discuss this all with! I can’t believe I’m going to have to wait at least another year for answers…

On a side note, one of my favorite things about these books is the nonchalant way that Johnson addresses characters who don’t often show up in books – people with disabilities, non-binary characters, etc. The books aren’t about these characters or their situations, but they exist and are right in the foreground. I feel like these sorts of books are important, because the casual acceptance and acknowledgement of all kinds of people is one of the things that I think helps move our culture and tolerance levels forward. The world is changed through artists and activists, in my opinion, and this is a fantastic example of the former. Love it.

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Sunday Coffee – November Sailing

I mentioned waaaaay back in my October wrap-up that I’d penciled a specific date into my calendar (Nov 23, 2019) and said I’d discuss why at some point. It’s been a few months, but plans have finalized and I’m ready to actually discuss why. First, a little flashback:

2011. I made a large goal for myself that year and promised myself a very large reward if I hit it. That reward – which I did earn – was to finally have my honeymoon, twelve years after Jason and I got married. It was the first time in our married life that we had an income large enough to put money into savings, and we’d been saving up for this for about 18 months. In March 2012, Jason and I went on an 11-day cruise through the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. We only chose a cruise because it allowed us to see many different destinations in one vacation. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the experience itself, but I did. Since then, we’ve been on two others – one we got on a cheap special deal in May 2013, and then the one we just went on last September.

(Roatan, 2012)

Our boys have never been on a cruise before, and ever since that first one in 2012, they’ve been asking to go on one. Laurence in particular desperately wants to go on one. Unfortunately, when our nomadic life began in 2014, our finances just got shot to hell and stayed there. We had three houses in a row that exploded, plus the expenses of moving cross-country four times, plus Jason losing his job, plus the outrageous living expenses in Boston, plus the housing market boom in San Antonio. When we initially started all this, we were comfortable in our money and opted for the job in Boston because of the huge salary increase. Unfortunately, our goal to save for the boys’ college expenses not only didn’t come to pass, but we’re in a far worse financial situation than we were five years ago. Other than visiting family and the cruise last September, there have been no vacations since 2014.

Morrigan is going to college this year, and Ambrose will enter his final year of high school in the fall. We’ve already run out of time. I told Jason last fall that it was important to me that we take the boys – at least the two who will still be living at home – on a vacation before any more of our kids leave for college. And the boys wanted a cruise. One through the Caribbean, specifically. We couldn’t afford much, so we looked for short, cheap, and easy. We waited until getting Jason’s annual bonus, so that this wouldn’t negatively impact the credit cards. And then we booked.

This coming Thanksgiving week, the four of us will be sailing to Haiti** and the Bahamas. It’s a tiny itinerary and it’s on a different cruise line than we’ve traveled on in the past (to save money). We have no idea what the experience will be like. But the boys are excited, and the date is significant to me personally. November 23rd – the day we leave – makes exactly 14 months from the day we got home last September. That day was my highest regain weight, and I’ve been (very slowly) losing since then. At the rate things have gone, I should be able to lose 35 lbs by the time the cruise comes around, and of course I’d like to lose more. I’d like to lose a total of 50 lbs – or 40 lbs from where I’m at now – by that time, to get back to the same weight I was at during our first cruise in 2012 (see pic). That’s the goal I’ve been working toward. Given all the obstacles my body tends to put in my way, that might be too much of a stretch. However, I’ll do my best, and I plan to be far more comfortable (physically and mentally) by the time our November vacation comes around – willing to be seen and able to do All The Things. I want those boys to experience this fully, and perhaps make up a little bit for all the years our bad decisions lost them.

**And by “Haiti,” I mean one private beach owned by the cruise line that’s actually nothing like the rest of Haiti, but hey…

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An Unwanted Guest, by Shari Lapena

A collection of guests are snowed in at a quaint luxury hotel in the Catskills. When one of them dies, it looks like an accident…but then another is quite obviously murdered. Terror ensues.

I grabbed this one off my library’s express shelf with no idea if it would be any good. Turns out, it was! This was a fast, fun murder mystery with a dash of thriller thrown in. There were a couple things I disliked – one character was basically a two-dimensional cliche, and there was a last-chapter mini-twist that was completely unnecessary – but other than those things, I really enjoyed the book. Couldn’t put it down. It felt like a modern-day And Then There Were None. I loved having all the different viewpoints and trying to spot the killer beforehand (I did!). Makes me want to read more of Lapena’s books.

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Love a la Mode, by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Henry and Rosie meet on a plane to Paris, where they’re both new students of a specialty culinary high school. They fall in love-at-first-sight, of course, as you’d expect, but you know things can’t be that easy.

This was a cute YA love story but only if I turned off the part of my brain that noticed all the disturbing messages it was sending. Sure, if you like a boy, go out with him even when he treats you like crap for months. Sure, it’s okay to form exclusive friend groups and leave others out if your group is made up of the not-normally-cool people. Etc. I did like a lot of the book, but messages like those kept popping up and they got treated as if they were fine, which made the experience mixed for me. It’s just like when I watched Forever My Girl last year, and I wanted the female love interest to never let the jerk who jilted her back into her life. At this point of my life, empowerment means more to me than romance, I guess. Having three teenagers who love to read – and who enjoy romance in books – I’m a little wary of what these sorts of books are telling them. It’s hard to turn that part of my brain off these days.

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