Fierce as the Wind, by Tara Wilson Redd

Imagine discovering that your boyfriend of two years has been cheating on you for the entire time, and is now leaving you for the other woman. Even worse, imagine discovering that you are the other woman. This is where Miho begins this story. Her boyfriend – renamed Scumbucket by Miho’s friends – has broken off his affair with her to marry his longtime girlfriend who’s now pregnant. Miho doesn’t know how to cope. She wrapped so much of her life into that relationship – not giving herself over to him, but integrating him into her interests and loves and friendships. Now, all the things that make her her feel stolen away, right on the eve of adulthood, right when life is uncertain to begin with. Miho doesn’t want her life to be about the Scumbucket who treated both women in such horrible fashion. She wants to break all ties with him – mentally and emotionally, in addition to the physical break. So she begins something new. On the first night of her grief, she wrapped herself up in a banner on the beach without paying much attention to what it said. It was an advertisement for Ironman Hawai`i, and though Miho has never been particularly interested in sports, she throws herself into triathlon training, with the help of all her closest friends.

I know that’s a long intro, but this book deserved all of that. This was a fascinating book that could have read surface level: breakup woes, girl trains for triathlon to overcome heartbreak, rise from the ashes and become the best she’s ever been, etc. It wasn’t like that at all. This isn’t a commonplace heartbreak. Not only is this a longer relationship than most in adolescence, Miho has to reconcile so many things: how much she integrated Scumbucket into her life; how she failed to realize she wasn’t the only one; the fact that she was in fact the potential cause for the breakup of a longer relationship; how to manage her relationship with the other woman and whether or not to make her existence and the affair known; etc. There was also a whole myriad of themes along social, ethnic, racial, class, and cultural lines. I have good things to say on all of those, but my favorite was in the depiction of poverty. Redd doesn’t idealize poverty, and she also doesn’t portray it as entirely hopeless. It’s realistic and messy and nuanced. That’s a balance I very rarely see authors attempt, much less pull off.

There’s a certain amount of hope throughout Fierce as the Wind, but it’s not just a story of overcoming obstacles to get to a glorious end. Not all obstacles can be overcome, and ends are usually a good mixture of many things. Again, Redd isn’t afraid to take us to a more-nuanced kind of conclusion. That’s what makes the book so good. Miho is looking to find her way, with a wonderful support crew around her to help, but muddling through life is kind of what we do, even if we get glimpses of the road before the next twist surprises us. By the end of the book, it feels like she’s beginning to learn just that, which in itself is a kind of victory. Just don’t expect this one to be like the Ironman version of The Mighty Ducks (yes, I’m showing my age). It’s far better than that kind of story.

Posted in 2022, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Coffee – Why I Don’t Buy Books (Sigh)

I’ve discussed this off and on, but the short version goes like this: I don’t buy books that I haven’t already read except under very narrow and specific circumstances. Like, for instance, when Brandon Sanderson releases a new Stormlight Archive book. There is almost no circumstance in which I’ll regret buying a Stormlight Archive book. But 99.9% of the time, I don’t buy unread books, especially not new.

This didn’t used to be the case. Before late 2010/early 2011, I bought books all the time that I wanted to read. My culling project during that time period taught me just how much money I was wasting by pre-buying. I already used the library a ton, but I shifted to full-time library use for physical copies of books, and now, I only buy books that I’ve read and want to keep on my shelves. This latter bit narrowed even further in 2015 when I KonMari-ed my bookshelves and cut them down to around 100 books. I don’t know how many I own these days, but I periodically go through and cull out anything I no longer care to keep, for selling back to Half Price Books. The system works well for me.

Until I run into things like the Barnes & Nobles 50% off sale.

If you hadn’t heard, BN held a sale in the last week of December that was 50% off all hardcovers. There were a few books on my list that I hadn’t gotten over Christmas – actually, I didn’t get any books for Christmas this year, boo! – so I looked up if any were available at my local store. One of them – The Postscript Murders – was there, so even though I knew it was dangerous to go, I tiptoed into the book-opium den.

I got The Postscript Murders. I also grabbed a book I’d seen and thought would be useful, a mostly-cookbook focused on fueling for workouts. It was a book I was reasonably sure I could use, even if I hadn’t checked it out from the library beforehand. By then, though, I was enthralled.

You see, I love buying books. In spite of my strictures, a wall of possibilities is a thrill. I created those strictures because of how easy it is for me to spend money on the promise of a book I’ll enjoy, a promise made by a shiny cover and new book smell. And that last week in December, I succumbed.

I bought two more hardcovers. One – Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey – was a complete unknown and a random choice from the Wall O’ Books. The second was Cackle by Rachel Harrison, a book already on my radar, already in my library hold queue to investigate. Did I need this book? Absolutely not. I would have gotten it within a few weeks from the library. Did I want it? Yes. Very much yes. The premise was exciting, and the cover is to die for.

Tbh, I thought about taking some time to read the first five pages of these two books, just to make sure the writing didn’t drive me crazy before I spent money on them. But BN was too crowded, and they were 50% off, and I decided to just go for it. You see, this is why I don’t normally buy books. I make bad decisions when I impulse-buy. I decide “what the hell?” and then I blithely bring books home that I may regret. Like Cackle. Because despite the pretty cover and interesting premise, the writing and characterization drove me crazy. Everyone was a caricature of a person, the dialog and interactions were so unrealistic, and the story didn’t even end up being interesting! I would have easily known within five pages – perhaps even one page – that this wasn’t the right fit for me. But noooooo, I didn’t bother to preview the book. I just spent money on it, and then because I spent money on it, I kept reading long past when I would have stopped normally. I only stopped around the halfway point because I realized I was wasting my time on something I didn’t enjoy, in penance for wasting the money.

And so, I have my first abandoned book of 2022. Already. Abandoned January 3rd.

This. This is why I don’t buy books I haven’t already read.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Quarantine Diaries – Week…?

I could add up the weeks since I last checked in and see where we’re up to, but I’m not interested in doing so. I’m not planning to return to weekly posts or anything, either. I just had a lot to say this week, so I decided to check in.

On covid in the community:
Omicron is insane, y’all. I want to give some scope and context. When I stopped posting my Quarantine Diaries series in October, our area was averaging 200 cases per day with about a 2% positivity rate. That had been steady for quite some time, and continued to remain so. Right around mid-December, the daily case rate climbed to around 300 cases per day, and the city upped our risk level from Low to Mild. On December 23rd – the last day of full reporting until January 3rd – we were still around that 300 daily average, and the positivity rate was 2.2%. There were five known omicron cases in the county, though it was suspected that the actual number was much higher.

(Hello, Omicron!)

Well, things really exploded from there. The city didn’t do full reporting for that 10-day period, but we heard a few things. Like, for instance, in the four days of Dec 27-30, over 3000 new cases were reported, bringing the daily average up to 750+. A local health/hospital system reported that they were seeing a 31% positivity rate at their location, even though the city didn’t report anything specific. On January 3rd, when reports resumed, we got some new information.

(blue lines: daily case reports; red line: average daily cases)

The first three days of January, there were 11,528 reported cases, with each day seeing over 3700, and the 3rd seeing 3900. In 2021, there was only a single day with over 3k cases reported. The new daily case rate – which is calculated weekly, so it includes three days over a holiday weekend when many testing facilities are closed – shot up to 2000/day. The city’s risk level skyrocketed up to Severe, bypassing Moderate altogether, and edging into Critical. The positivity rate jumped from 2.2% to over 27%. We’ve never, ever seen a jump like this. We are fucked. And that was just through Monday! Here’s an updated graph as of yesterday:

Our current daily case rate is 3116 – first time in the pandemic that it’s been over 3k – and we had one day this week with nearly 4500 cases reported – again, the most ever in the entire pandemic, including the one day with a month’s worth of backdated numbers that had been misplaced. There were over 21k cases reported in the city for the first six days of 2022. Yeesh.

On the city/county’s management of the current surge:
Up until now, I’ve been satisfied with the way our city and county leaders have been handling the pandemic. The governor of TX has screwed all the local governments and even all the businesses over, playing Dictator while claiming to be “for the people” and “for personal freedom,” and our city leaders have done their best to work around these restrictions. Until now. Now, it seems they’ve taken their cue from the CDC, whose recent “only need to quarantine for five days” guideline is a frickin’ joke. While continuing to repeat that their hands are tied by the governor and there’s nothing they can do, the city held a NYE party that had 70,000 attendees while they knew damn well just how fast omicron was spreading. I am raging mad about this. They knew better!!

On my family:
There’s not tons of news on this front. My mom continued to refuse hospital treatment even though her oxygen levels kept dropping to 80%-ish. She’s now on like four different kinds of steroid treatments, and my stepdad bought her an oxygen tank so that she can treat herself from home. She’s got more energy thanks to the steroids, and I think she’s finally healing. It looks like she’s probably going to have some long-haul symptoms, though. I’m just glad it was the “mild” version of covid. Beyond that, I’ve heard that one of my uncles and my grandmother are pretty much recovered, and another uncle – who is probably the one who got covid first – is still struggling with fluctuating oxygen levels. My mom doesn’t update us often on them, though, so that’s all I’ve got at this point. I don’t doubt that they’ll all still refuse vaccination after this. Sigh.

In further news, one of my sisters just let us know that her husband came back covid-positive today. The two of them are vaccinated, though not boosted yet (her husband was scheduled to be boosted this weekend), but they have three children aged 7, 5, and 2. I thought the older two were vaccinated, but I’ve found out now that she was waiting until they knew more about longterm side effects. We do know they’ve all been exposed. I have no idea what will happen from here.

On my personal life:
Tbh, I was probably a bit reckless earlier in the week, but in my defense, I hadn’t realized just how bad things had gotten here. I mean, the last numbers I’d heard were 2% positivity rate and 300 daily case average! There were indictions that numbers were on the rise, we just didn’t have specifics. So my hiking group canceled our big journaling event, but I still went to a smaller version with friends. I started a hike with a mask, but took it off when the exertion got to be too much. My vision board party was a group of seven, all triple-vaxxed, and we decided we were probably okay to go without masks. Maybe we weren’t. Maybe that was a stupid idea. I guess time will tell.

But now that I know, things are changing. I have a hike scheduled for Sunday, and 1) I made it a masks-required hike, and 2) I’m not opening it up for a larger group with more than one hike leader (even though there’s others who would qualify for that going). We just need to be more cautious, and there’s some talk that we might cancel hikes for a bit altogether, the way we did twice in 2020. Omicron looks like it’s going to be far worse in terms of spread than any previous surge, and while it’s “mild,” it’s still hurting folks who are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions. (Well, and the unvaxxed, but frankly, they’re gambling with their health and others’ health, so I have no sympathy for them AT ALL at this point. This of course doesn’t include people who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons – little kids and people allergic to the vaccine and folks too immunocompromised for vaccines – I feel for them the most!!)

(Look! We finally flattened the curve! Oh…wait…)

I am “officially” in the immunocompromised category now – it was just presumed before, but the RA diagnosis makes it official – and I can’t take any chances. So I may have to back off from social activities until things are a bit more under control. This makes me sad, but sometimes it’s just what we have to do, and unlike the antivaxxer crowd, I’m willing to do hard things for the good of the community.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Wellness Wednesday – Vision Board 2022

On Sunday, I got together with a few of my friends to create our vision boards for this year. Though I’ve created vision boards for the last two years, this was my first opportunity to do it in person! (In 2019, I was sick and didn’t want to spread my germs to the group of hikers who gathered together for making them, and in 2020, we were in a big covid surge and the vaccines were only starting to roll out to certain groups, so we didn’t have any indoor gatherings!) Our group consisted only of a couple of us, at a friend’s house, with snacks, poster board, and tons of magazines to sort through and cut apart!

I had a good idea of what I wanted to create before the party, as I’d been tossing around ideas even before the party was scheduled. My board for 2020 was awesome and really helped to motivate me for the year. My 2021 board was awful and it didn’t take long for it to become outdated and pointless. I ended up removing it from my wall by mid-year. So this year, I wanted to do something a bit less general and more to-the-point, like my 2020 board. Since 2021 was a year of increasing isolation and agoraphobia for me, as well as failing health, the goal became to move outside my comfort zone again and expand past the boundaries that pen me into increasingly smaller spaces. I based a lot of the board on one of my favorite song quotes (a quote I actually want to get tattooed on my right forearm):

The map of my world gets smaller as I sit here pulling on the loose threads. -Keane, “Spiralling”

I began the board with a representation of myself, built using washi tape, and then I chose images and words for both internal and external health/improvement. This is the start (my washi-me) and the finished product:

It ended up far more stuffed and chaotic than I was intending, but honestly, that’s perfect! My whole aim for the year is expansion and filling and exploring and growing, so to experience such a wealth of possibilities is right in line with my hopes for 2022.

Posted in Wellness | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Stitch in Time, by Kelley Armstrong (audio)

Bronwyn hasn’t been back to Thorne Manor since her uncle died when she was fifteen. Now, her aunt has also passed, and left the house to her. Bronwyn has to face the secrets of her past, confronting what she’s been persuaded to believe was a mental breakdown in her teen years. That’s more reasonable than ghosts, and time travel, and an imaginary friend who may not have been so imaginary…

Holy shit, this book was…delicious! For a first book of the year, it really bodes well. The story was interesting. The mystery absolutely blindsided me when I really thought I had the answer. The fantasy elements blended perfectly into reality. Bronwyn was a delight of a character, a confident and well-balanced woman in her late 30s who prioritized her career and mental health over romance and self-sacrifice. William was a person flawed by his time period and culture, but willing to learn and treat Bronwyn with the respect she demanded. The sexy parts were perfectly integrated and extremely well-written. And the conclusion? Couldn’t have asked for better! Really, I could say that about the entire book – feminism, body positivity, gender-inclusiveness, focus on career and community, romance that wasn’t all-consuming, a touch of the paranormal/fantasy, great sex, and lots of kittens. Again: I couldn’t have asked for better.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. This one is standalone, the “second” book related to some side characters, which makes it even more perfect. No cliffhangers! Why have I never read anything by Kelley Armstrong before?? Are all her books this lovely?

Performance: The audiobook was narrated by Samantha Brentmoor. It’s my first book by her, and I was impressed. The book goes through a range of accents, none of which struck me as false or weird. (I’m not from the UK, though, so while most of the book is spoken in a north American accent, I can’t truly vouch for the UK versions.) I hope she reads further volumes of the series!

Posted in 2022, Adult, Visual | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Coffee – The First Day of the Year

It’s become a bit of a tradition to think of the first of January as a bellwether for the rest of the year. Start how you mean to go on, and all that, right? And honestly, I want 2022 to be a year of rest, healing, and strengthening the good relationships I have, while also separating myself from the not-so-good relationships at the same time. I hope that with a diagnosis and a treatment plan, I can start on some physical healing, and I’m working to find a good therapist, because after some major unpleasant ah-ha moments I had in the last few days of 2021, I have a lot to unpack for some emotional/mental healing as well.

Back to January 1st, though – here’s how I spent the first day of 2022!

Well, to start, I actually stayed up to midnight, kissed Jason as we entered 2022, and then promptly went to sleep because that’s WAY past my bedtime, haha!

In the morning, I began with my favorite breakfast, full-fat, plain Greek yogurt with cocoa, honey, and strawberries. Then I traveled across the city to Government Canyon State Park to meet up with some friends for a journaling exercise. Sarah led the four of us in journal prompts as a way to look back over 2021 and to shape our vision of 2022 going forward. It was awesome! Originally, this was meant to be a big event. Our hiking group was renting out a pavilion and several dozen women were going to come for breakfast and journaling, but with covid cases rising astronomically here, we canceled. The four of us still wanted to gather, so we had a nice time outdoors on a picnic table, writing out our thoughts.

This was followed by a hike at a new-to-me park, OP Schnabel. One of my fellow journal-attendees, Kristina, was also hosting this, as well as a third host, Val. This allowed the group to be quite large – larger than I’ve seen in our hikes since the pandemic began! There were lots of hikers that I already know, and quite a few new faces, many on their very first hike with our group. We did two miles that, frankly, shouldn’t have been as tough as they were, but my sciatica was RAGING no matter how often I stopped to stretch out my hip. Ah well. I also wish I had my nice camera with me, because there were so many deer and all my phone photos are pretty awful! Other than the sciatica and the heat – why you 80 degrees on New Year’s Day, Texas?? – it was a nice hike! And I’m glad to have been to another new-to-me park here in town.

Then it was home for lunch (leftover frito pie), mimosa, shower, and general chore/paperwork completion. Once I got done all the need-to-do stuff, I spent a few hours listening to my audiobook, reading my print book, doing blog maintenance, and updating my daily journals. Dinner was cobbled together because Jason decided to re-shelve the entire pantry today, so I had a steak parmesan pinwheel, asparagus, some mac & cheese, and a small naan. That all goes together well, yeah? Heh.

After dinner, I pulled out my yoga mats. The kittens were extremely curious and all three immediately claimed the cotton mat. I swear, that cotton mat has been attracting kittens since I first got it years ago! Stephanie and I used to attend a yoga-with-cats class at the cat cafe before it shut down (back in 2018), and the cats loved that mat. I got it to put on top of my normal yoga mat because it prevents my hands from slipping too much, but the cat thing is a definite bonus. I have pictures of ALL of my cats from over the years spread out and loving on that thing. And I guess that despite periodic washings, there’s just something about it that keeps the cats coming back.

With my sciatica and the hike earlier, I didn’t want to do much yoga, but one of my big goals this year is to do more and establish a better yoga schedule. I had a 40-mins cozy blanket yoga session in my backlog, so decided on that one. Angus stayed with me almost the whole time. I was wearing my denim sundress, and he kept getting under the skirt while I was doing different poses, making me look pregnant. Ha! I’ve discovered recently that he likes being inside blankets and other coverings. Maybe it makes him feel safe? If I take a nap and don’t close my bedroom door, he burrows under my blanket and curls up by my feet, which makes it really easy to fall asleep! He’s a little space heater! Anyway. So I had my own yoga-with-cats session last night, eventually joined by Atticus and Jojo as well. (Jojo came from that cat cafe, and he claimed me at one of those yoga-with-cat classes, so he has a bit of a longstanding kinship with me and yoga, or more accurately, with that cotton mat!)

So that’s about it. My day in a slightly longwinded nutshell. I began my year by journaling with friends, hiking with my hiking group, reading, listening to constant construction in my house (ha!), and doing yoga with my cats. That seems about right. Heh.

Happy New Year!

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 4 Comments

TGIO, 2021 Edition

(2021 by month)

Let me get right to it: 2021 has not been my year. In fact, it’s been downright awful in a lot of ways, particularly with regards to 1) grief/loss and 2) my physical health. And even though it looks like 2022 is going to start a lot like the way 2021 is ending – and perhaps continue on in that fashion for a few more months – I look forward to turning my back on 2021.

So, odd thing: Until the end of this year, when my whole maternal side of the family caught covid, I had this weird thought that the pandemic wasn’t a really major influencing factor of 2021. On further reflection, though, I realized just how wrong I was. Early on in the pandemic, people made this great effort to fight against isolation. As time went on, those efforts became harder, as pandemic-fatigue set in. Things returned to semi-normal off and on. Vaccinations allowed for a bit more freedom of movement. At the same time, we’re all getting used to a different kind of new normal, and I felt the effects of that a lot this year. I don’t think I’ve ever spent quite as much time alone, even surrounded by people, as I did this year. It’s both contributed to and been affected by my depression, a whole circle that feeds itself – the more I stay isolated, the more likely I’ll become even more so. It’s insidious, and it crept up on me this year, particularly once illness and injury kept me from participating in even the barest social events.

It’s a weird place to be – things look kinda normal, but they’re anything but. The stress has been hard. So while Covid hasn’t been an in-your-face influencing factor of 2021 – until these last two weeks – it’s been kind of the underlying atmosphere, the ugly sea I’ve floated on as I’ve dealt with everything else 2021 brought. Speaking of which, I’m going to break this post into sections, each a thing that had a major influence on my year, whether good or bad:

Continue reading

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

2021 in Books

It has been an interesting year for me in books. Mainly because I just wasn’t all that interested in reading! I’m not sure what’s up with my brain these days, but pretty much since the pandemic began, reading has taken a back burner to other, more immediate forms of entertainment. This is actually my lowest yearly reading total since I began blogging, with only 48 books read! Most of those were new-to-me, with only one reread, and I abandoned a further four books through 2021. Here are a few stats for the year:

Book Type: 35 fiction – 13 nonfiction
Fiction Type: 19 speculative – 16 realistic
Media: 31.5 text – 15 audio – 1.5 visual
Audience: 38 adult – 9 YA – 1 children’s
Authors: 37 women – 10 men – 1 both

New to me authors: 23
Most read authors: Martha Wells with 6 books (from the Murderbot series)

Shortest book: It Could Be Worse (98 pgs)
Longest book: As the Shadow Rises (485 pgs)
Shortest audiobook: The Lost Gargoyle of Paris (3:01)
Longest audiobook: Apples Never Fall  (18:04)

The OUCH collection: no classics, no translations, only a single chunkster, and seven books that I wish I’d abandoned…

A few fun things:

  • 1 collection read this year
  • 13 books were out of my comfort zone
  • most and least popular on Goodreads are Wild (~1.2 million) and In Search of Elsewhere (40)
  • highest and lowest rated on GR are In Search of Elsewhere (4.69) and The Woods Are Always Watching (3.09)

Best bookish experience: I began taking photos of my books read this year! At first, I just took photos wherever (like on the shelves at the library), but later I started to play with themes, trying to match the backgrounds to the book when possible. It became a fun photography project as I learned more about photography in general. My favorites of the 48 books this year are the following:

Best book-related discovery: Cain’s Jawbone! I have yet to find a copy of this book – in fact, my order through bookshop.org eventually refunded after five weeks of backorder – but I’ll get it one day. It’s a puzzle mystery. The pages are out of order and can be placed in lots of different ways, and the goal is to figure out who the murderer(s) is/are, as well as who got killed. It’s fascinating! My friend Stephanie got her copy, and the two of us are going to try to solve the book together!

***************

Best of the Year

It was hard to pick favorites in 2021. I wasn’t much in a reading mood, and I didn’t read all that many books, even less that I enjoyed. Even those I did enjoy, I mostly no longer remember. My brain wasn’t sticking to books this year. Normally I choose favorites not only based on my initial thoughts and enjoyment, but by how well a book sticks with me over time. Books that linger are books that tend to grow in intensity (either good or bad), so the good ones tend to be the ones that become longterm favorites. Nothing stuck this year, and I know that’s entirely due to me, and not to the books themselves. So these are my best guesses, and perhaps when I lift out of this fog, the list will change.

  • Cuckoo Song: Beautiful writing, incredibly imaginative setting, great characters, perfect balance of story and depth, just an all around great book. One of the only books from this year that I put on my Christmas wishlist.
  • The Night Hawks: I love this series, and I particularly loved this volume of the series. Especially the ending, especially hints about where the series may go in the next volume, which I’m happy will come out in 2022!
  • Runner up: All Our Hidden Gifts: A lot of fun to read, magic and curses and witchcraft mixed with a good deal of politics, cultural references, and social commentary.
  • Runner up: the Murderbot series: These were brilliant escape books with a fascinating narrator in a genre that is WAY outside my comfort zone. I can’t wait until more are published.

Most Fun to Read

  • the Murderbot books: totally out of my comfort zone, but I started with the first book and didn’t stop until I’d been through every published volume!
  • The Alchemist of Fire and Fortune: returning to an old friend, loved it so much
  • The Box in the Woods: a surprising little standalone after a series I’d enjoyed, so again, a return to old friends and a fun little mystery that I read through twice

Most Beautiful Writing

  • One Great Lie: Caletti’s prose is always beautiful, to be honest, and this one was no different; especially great in the Venice setting
  • Cuckoo Song: pure masterpiece painting in words

Most Disappointing and/or Distasteful

  • Wild: Hands down the worst, so filled with lies and the glorification of reckless hiking, and uuuugh I can’t believe I finished this drivel – why do people like this one so much??
  • The Woods Are Always Watching: hillbilly stereotypes, impossible situations, and a great giant bear-mauling to act as the hand of god!
  • Night Theater: y’all, I really don’t know what was up with this book…
  • As the Shadow Rises: I loved the first book in the series, but this second one was a slog, and in December, I quit the third book about a quarter of the way in, which is really disappointing!

Best Settings, Vividness, and/or Visceral Moments

  • Cuckoo Song: brushing fingers through her hair to come away with bits of crumbling leaf; opening her mouth to swallow a porcelain doll; so many other moments of brilliant imagination
  • Ghosts of the Tsunami: This is real life, and the author paints a vivid picture of a rural part of Japan post-tsunami in 2011.
  • The Original: the all-white setting of a digital world, the orange-carvings, the intense world-building in this short novella…
  • Any Sign of Life: I can’t actually write this out with giving away major spoilers, but let’s just say the first time we meet the Culprits of this situation is one of the most visceral moments that I read in 2021. World-building is phenomenal too.

Best Relationships

  • Vivi and Rhys, The Ex Hex: straight up sexy witchy romance
  • Beck and Hot ‘N’ Crusty, It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story: the relationship between a girl and her own origin story, mixed with the friendships formed at the restaurant
  • Ruth and Harry, The Night Hawks: the most complicated kind of hands-off romance and co-parenting
  • Murderbot and…well, just about everyone, the Murderbot books: Murderbot just wants to be left alone with its media…
  • Spensa and Chet, Cytonic: fellow explorers

Physical Books I Bought / Kept From My 2021 Reads

***************
And there you go – the end of an unremarkable reading year! Here’s to 2022 being so much better!

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | Leave a comment

An Answer!!!

Y’all. I don’t usually post in the evening. I usually pre-draft my posts, and edit, and take time to get pictures, and whatever whatever. But I’m too excited to do all of that, because TODAY I GOT A DIAGNOSIS. That’s right – after 7.5 years of symptoms and a year that had over 120 medical appointments, I finally, finally have an answer.

I have rheumatoid arthritis.

Is it a good diagnosis? No. It sucks. But I’m over the moon happy just to have it. Because this means I can have a direction, a treatment, specific things to do, targeted medication, an actual plan to work toward health. For now, my rheumatologist and I are going to work on calming the massive amounts of inflammation in my body. That inflammation has been ongoing for years, causing so much damage, but hopefully we can get it under control and I can move more toward the health I used to have. After that, it’s all about management.

It’s funny – apparently I had a really good indicator that this would be the diagnosis back when I had my foot MRI in the spring. The fact that there’s arthritis in a formerly-broken bone, with cystic change inside that bone, is classic RA. And considering my foot has been swelling every day for 14 months, except the 12 days I was on a steroid for inflammation, getting the inflammation under control (without steroids!) will be a big part of making my feet useable again! It should also help my chronic sciatica, upper back, shoulder, and neck pain. Oh I’m so hopeful. I know it’s a chronic disease and it can go into remission but can’t be fully cured, but I’m so very hopeful!

Honestly, I don’t think this is the only answer. I took food allergy tests earlier today as well, and I imagine there will be some answers when I get those results, too. I also still think the diabetes insipidus test will come back positive when I take that one in early January as well. But at very minimum, this RA diagnosis will help me treat the chronic pain and inflammation with the right meds, and – fingers crossed – removing inflammation from the equation will make it possible to slowly lose weight and take the pressure off my joints (an important action that can help minimize RA’s effect on joints/bones).

You know how sometimes you can get into a negative spiraling circle, where one bad thing leads to another and another? For me, agoraphobia leads me to staying indoors more, which increases my agoraphobia, which makes me want to go outside even less, etc. This diagnosis feels like the opposite – a spiral into good things. With this diagnosis, we can treat the inflammation that’s blocking me from being able to lose weight, so perhaps I can lose weight, which will make my body healthier and make it so it takes on less damage from the RA, so less inflammation will be produced…and so on. And guys? A positive spiral is something I desperately need!

I hope so much that this diagnosis leads to good. I’m just so happy to have an answer!

Posted in Wellness | Tagged | 3 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Christmas, Scattered

I didn’t want to say anything in my anniversary post the other day, but the last week has been a series of punches to the gut. First, my middle son got into an accident on the way home from work last weekend. Thankfully it was at low speed and no one was hurt from either party, but it did total Jason’s electric car, making this the fifth accident and third totaled car in our household this year. We’re currently limping along in a single car, trying to make that work as different people have different appointments and schedules, until we can get a settlement and buy another car. Sigh. Fingers crossed we can do that before the year is out. And that we can find ourselves another electric car in our price range, especially since we have another $1k deductible to pay!

That, however, is the least of our concerns. My mom has been sick for the last two weeks. A few days into her symptoms, she took a home covid test, which came back negative. From there, she started to get better, only to relapse last weekend with what was probably considered new symptoms: a fever that wouldn’t drop below 103; cough; a terrible stabbing headache; falling asleep at the drop of a hat; inability to sort thoughts properly; everything smelling putrid and sweet… Yeah. My sisters and I all suspected covid, and we encouraged her to go to Urgent Care despite her negative test a week beforehand. She did eventually go, because she worried it might be bronchitis or walking pneumonia. No. It’s covid.

My mom is unvaccinated – refuses to be vaccinated – and in addition to that, she won’t take certain traditional medicines. Like, she’ll take antibiotics, but not Tylenol or any other fever reducers. So she started taking calcium for fever and vitamin C for covid, and she’s talking about ivermectin and nebulizing hydrogen peroxide and colloidal silver, eek!!! My stepdad won’t get tested, but it’s 99.9% probable he also has covid, since he has all the same symptoms.

Even worse, the rest of my mom’s family, who also refuse to be vaccinated, have all been exposed. My uncle Greg has tested positive. My grandmother is really sick and won’t let anyone help her out, even after another uncle – who was also sick but not tested at that point – found her on the floor where she’d laid for a long time post-falling (while refusing to hit her life-alert button to notify anyone). He bought in another uncle, who as far as I know wasn’t sick at all, so he’s now been exposed. On that side of the family, there are at least three uncles, one aunt, and my grandmother who have all been exposed to covid and who are all unvaccinated with various underlying health conditions. Which left us all wonderful who we might lose by the end of 2021. In better news, my grandmother did get tested this week, and she had to get her test at the hospital, so when the test came back positive, they immediately started the monoclonal antibody treatment. I know that she would have refused this in any other setting – like if she had to go to a treatment center herself – so this is one thing to be grateful for! She definitely felt much better afterwards.

(L to R: uncle, aunt, grandpa, grandma, mom, stepdad. Every person in this photo from 2014 – as well as a few others – has been exposed and is now vulnerable, except my grandfather, who passed in March)

Obviously, Christmas on my mom’s side of the family has been postponed. The original plan was for my family to go to my mom’s house on Christmas morning, along with my brother who is in town for a week. Obviously that’s out. Also out is the new year’s eve bonfire at my grandmother’s ranch. Last year, Jason and I didn’t do any of that out of an abundance of caution, pre-vaccine. This year, with rates still low in town (though starting to rise) and the four of us fully vaccinated and boosted, we felt safe enough going even though they were unvaccinated, especially for the outdoor festivities. But I guess that’ll wait, and honestly, I don’t know if I’ll see my grandmother again. I hadn’t seen my grandfather – who passed (not from covid) in late March – since the NYE bonfire in 2019, and one of the big reasons I pushed to attend the bonfire this year is that I don’t know how much longer my grandmother is going to last. Even before this, she wasn’t doing well. I guess at least I got to see her in April at my grandfather’s memorial. But GAH.

Anyway. I’m going to draw a line under the sad bits there, and return to what was possible for Christmas this year. First, there was the Secret Santa exchange with my hiking friends. We had dinner out last weekend, and I brought my good camera so that I could get better photos of the night. At first, I was a bit shy about taking them, but as time passed and I got more used to it, it almost felt like fading into the background and capturing moments, which I love. After our lunch/exchange, we had a little photo portrait session outside the restaurant (which had a beautiful botanic setting!). Not everyone was able to stay for that part, but the majority did, and I got a great photo of our group:

(I love these ladies so much!)

On Christmas eve, we spent the afternoon with a few members of my dad’s side of the family, including my brother (who I last saw in April) and my half-sister (who was in California for her first semester of college this fall). We had a hilarious white elephant exchange, and afterwards played a blow-up gladiator game outside. At home in the evening, we Zoomed with Jason’s family for our annual Christmas gift swap, and then per tradition, each of us opened one present before bed. Mine happened to be Connect Four Shots, so we had another rambunctious and fun game before everyone settled down for the night. Ambrose and Laurence put out brandy and fairy toast for Santa instead of milk and cookies. It was awful. Jason took one bite, while I took one sip of brandy, and then Jason poured the brandy over the toast and wrote a note back to the boys to scold them. Ha! It’s become a Thing to have Santa and the boys in a verbal spar every year.

Christmas, of course, was very subdued compared to normal. We opened our household gifts in the morning, then facetimed with Morrigan in Kansas. We’ll be doing our household gift swap (which includes Morrigan and his girlfriend, Katy) later tonight, in addition to my family’s sibling swap, which may or may not happen this afternoon. (When I said Christmas was SCATTERED this year, this is what I meant!) We had most of the day off to relax and hang out, then went to my dad’s house for games and a fireside hangout in the afternoon/evening. We played cornhole (I am the cornhole MASTER), ate cake, drank wine…it was nice. Admittedly, fire was an odd choice for 80-degree weather, but hey.  At least the sunset was gorgeous!

Obviously, there is still more to come. The swaps I mentioned above, plus anything with my mom’s side of the family after the covid dust settles – which will hopefully settle without any deaths!! It’s a complicated and unfortunate time in the family, and while I have a couple end-of-year wrap-ups mostly pre-drafted for this week in terms of the blog, I’m going to continue to stay a bit inactive here for the rest of 2o21. I hope you all had a covid-free and less stressful Christmas, and that you continue in good health through the rest of the holiday season!

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 7 Comments