Sunday Coffee – Podcast and Song Recommendations

Last year, I found my first ever Podcast that I enjoyed – Real Life Ghost Stories Podcast. Since then, I’ve found two others. The first is the weekly Unsolved Mysteries podcast, which only began this year. The second is The Battersea Poltergeist, which is a short set of episodes on the topic from the BBC. Beyond this, I’ve never been able to get into podcasts, but recently I’ve really wanted more to listen to. Despite all of the above being either paranormal or paranormal/true crime, I’m actually open to suggestions on just about any topic, so feel free to tell me about all your favorites! I’m just as picky in this area as in books and music, so who knows what I’ll actually settle on, but I’d love more!

I’m also looking for song recommendations. I’m in the process of making a playlist from songs that make me feel like I can take on the world with my bare hands. I’ve posted about this on FB and Insta already, and gotten many wonderful suggestions to sort through. But I thought I’d ask here too. Some of those already on my list include This Is Me from the Greatest Showman, Move Along by The All-American Rejects, Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, Blauw Angel by Umbrella Brigade, Feel This Moment by Pitbull/Christina Aguilera, and Good Girls by Elle King. It’s a very eclectic list and is only likely to get more so! So give me all your suggestions please!

PS – Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate! It’s a weird year for us – my boys are really too old to hunt eggs and neither really wanted to just at the house, and my family still isn’t getting together so much re: covid and the recent death in the family. So we bought a couple bags of candy and I think we’re going to go play crochet in the park today.

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March 2021 Wrap-up

What a weird, weird month. Most of March was actually pretty nice. I had a lot of good moments, learned some things about myself, had tons of birthday celebrations, etc. Ambrose got his first job, Jason and the boys got their first vaccine doses, and things were generally going well until the end of the month, when my family lost a member on the 29th, which of course was fraught with complications since there’s a pandemic in place! But I’ve talked about that in its own post already, so let me move on to how March wrapped up.

Reading and Watching
Hey! I actually managed to read a bit this month! Not much – finished 3 books and have another in progress – but it’s something. I also watched a few new-to-me movies, both older but I’ve never seen them: Dr. Strangelove (saw the very beginning and very end in college, missing all of the middle, so I had no idea WTF was going on, ha!) and The Devil Wears Prada. Both were excellent! Otherwise the only thing I’ve been watching is my recent binging of Temptation Island, which is like uuuuugh but also very addictive and helped me when I was extremely f–ked up about my grandpa this month.

Goals
What are these? Seriously, though, my 2021 goals are basically a bust. I created them before I had some major health and household changes at the end of the year, and I doubt I’ll focus on them at all this year. I suppose that I did get a personal answer about the career exploration I’ve been doing, with an ah-ha moment about school and anxiety and aversion. I’ll have to see where things go from there. Trying to approach this cautiously.

Health
This was a month focused on doctors. I saw three specialists in addition to my regular doctor, and had multiple x-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, and MRIs, with more to come (some results still en route to me). After years of struggling to get anyone to listen to me, I suddenly have All The Things happening at once, and it’s a bit overwhelming. Especially while also dealing with Pandemic PTSD and my grandfather’s situation. I don’t have answers yet, but at least I have progress. (Pic: WTF is up with my left foot??)

In my stats this month, I exercised on 19 days for a total of ~21 hours, including 5 yoga, 45.5 miles hiked/run/walked, and 12 days of social fitness. I tried to do well with my fruits/veggies, averaging 2.9 daily this month, but sadly I’m doing sooooo bad when it comes to controlling how much coffee I drink. I’m like 99% sure that coffee is what’s keeping me from losing weight, and yet I can’t seem to give the stuff up! Ugh. I ended up gaining about a pound from Day 1 to Day 31, making it a total of 8 lbs gained in 2021 so far. But! I’m pretty sure I know why I’m suddenly gaining like this, as well as where my fatigue, depression, and other symptoms are coming from, thanks to the bloodwork I took a few days ago and some strict food-tracking. That’s a subject for its own post, though!

House
The back siding and porch-building are still in progress. Goes very slowly when you only have a few evenings and a couple weekend days to work. It’s been a very rainy month, which meant further delays. But it’s coming along. Much of the trim is up on the back of the house, and some of it is painted. The porch sides are built up now as well, and almost ready to paint. One of these days, our yard will no longer be filled with construction supplies!

In the garden area, the nectarine guild is doing phenomenally (pictured below). We’ve had a small bit of fruit (baby nectarines, small strawberries) which we weren’t expecting so quickly, and we have beans, carrots, and garlic all growing well. The marigolds, honeysuckle, and lobelia are blooming like crazy. We set up a makeshift tiny wooden “fence” for the area right by the back of the house, sewn with oats, peas, and fava beans mostly to keep the area from eroding. I’ve begun designing the next phases of the backyard – a wildflower bed (pictured at right) for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, to go around the new live oak (with another makeshift “fence”); and a succulent zen garden (not done yet). Jason is planning to string up some fairy lights over the porch as well. And we currently have a hibiscus sitting on the porch until we get a tray to go under it – this will eventually be inside by our very bright dining room windows/doors.

In the front yard, I was delighted to find that the copper canyon daisy is coming back from the roots! The vinca – which we had to raise up with a lot of dirt, meaning much of it got buried – rallied and pulled itself to the surface and is blooming like crazy! The purslane, which we thought was dead-dead after the winter, is growing back from its roots. Plants are seriously so amazing! I’m sad that the lantana is also growing back from the roots. It was there when we bought the house and not planted in a good area for lantana. It’s always half-dead without enough sun, and we were hoping it was gone for good so we could rip it out. But nope! (We still plan to rip it out, but it’s always harder to do that on living plants!)

Favorite photos
As always, these are photos taken by me, and aren’t always the best photography – just photos that I particularly love for one reason or another! Full versions can be seen on FB or Instagram.

Top row: Jennine at the top of Enchanted Rock; garden strawberry; tree tag. Bottom row: hibiscus blooming; snail on the trail; a puddle oasis on top of Enchanted Rock.

Left, top to bottom: Lindsay surprised by her baby shower; itty bitty snail escapes; lobelia flowering. Right top: lizard gives me side-eye. Right bottom: eating the first garden strawberry; lichen growing on the side of a tree at Friedrich Wilderness Park.

Highlights of March
March is a very busy month for my family, especially with the million birthdays everywhere. Busy is often very stressful, and of course the month ended on a sad note as well, but this month produced a lot of wonderful fun moments to break up all the rush rush rush and brighten the sadness.

  • meat-and-veg handpies, cherry handpies (in the air fryer!), and sweet cream ice cream, all homemade from scratch, for my birthday
  • our nectarine tree and strawberry plants got baby fruit! and ohhhh fresh strawberries from the garden, mmmm…
  • the new air fryer. that is all.
  • Molly Galbraith’s new book published, and when I mentioned it online, she DMed me a voice message telling me she remembered me from her Love Your Body Challenge seven years ago, and how much my support has meant over the years
  • my boys got a Switch, so I got a Ring Fit and have enjoyed playing that
  • used part of the tax refund to get a rower!
  • signed up for my first in-person 5K since Feb 2020!
  • I found this lizard in our basil that was trying to camouflage to both the plant and the dirt, making him two-toned, ha! –>
  • yoga in the park with friends
  • new plants! Including the hibiscus we’re (hopefully) able to keep alive inside
  • many members of my family were able to get their vaccines, including the three in my household!
  • meeting hikers by accident in various parks
  • discovering that one of my hiking friends is the mom of one of Ambrose’s friends
  • a doctor who actually listens to me. Let me repeat that incredible statement: a doctor who actually listens to me!!!
  • a day out to Enchanted Rock with friends
  • a surprise baby shower for a fellow hiker
  • helping Laurence with a cool theatre photography project
  • the cuuuuuutest puppy out on the trails!
  • we had a hummingbird near our back door, likely there for the hibiscus, when I’ve never seen a hummingbird near our house before!

Coming up in April
More medical stuff, Easter, and generally transitioning to summer. April is traditionally a tough time for me, with the increased heat, though the last few years that’s been less so. Fingers crossed this is one of the better years. Also: fingers crossed that everything works out and I can get my household fully vaccinated by the end of the month (no delays!)!

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Wellness Wednesday – 23 Years

Before I start this post, I want to talk a bit about the “new” WordPress. Yesterday, WP converted me over without permission, and I lost the ability to choose the classic editor. I despise the new editor. It’s so buggy. In the few mins I tried to use it, I discovered that it didn’t allow me to see all posts (published or not) on the same page, had random editing pop-up blocks when I tried to type, never paid attention to where I actually put my cursor, took 15 steps to get an image into a post, and randomly “corrected” things my post to the way it thought I wanted it to be. No, no, no. I seriously decided to abandon this blog and move back over to Blogger if there wasn’t a fix that allowed me to revert to classic, which thankfully, fellow blogger Trish was able to find! So if any of y’all are in the same boat – mine converted while I was in the middle of drafting a post – here’s what you need to do. Click on your profile (top right, with your pic), then choose account settings, scroll down to interface, toggle on the advanced dashboard pages, and hit save. This will bring the option to use Classic back on the posts section. I don’t know how long this will last, but the moment WP forces my hand permanently, I’m outta here. I guess it’s a good thing I re-opened Ramblings recently, eh?

Last week, I spent an afternoon hanging out with my friend Stephanie. She made a few statements that caused me to look back on my life and have a bit of an epiphany.

I have been focused on my weight/body in one way or another for the last 23 years.

Pic: 1998, the summer after my freshman year of college. Prior to this, while I had body-image issues and other problems, I’d never actively worked toward weight loss, changing my nutrition, etc. I’d been an athlete for most of my teen years, and yeah, we did a LOT of work on fitness, strength, cross-training, etc. There were weeks when I was exercising 20+ hours. But no where during that time did I pay attention to food (other than omg I’m hungry where do I get my next meal) or weight (other than some vague dissatisfactions with how “fat” I was at under 120 lbs). Shortly after that summer of 1998, when I had my tooth surgery that led to all the health problems, “body” became the primary focus on my brain. Pretty much ever since.

From 1998 to 2009, my body/weight went up and down and up and down in random bursts, or related to pregnancies, and while dealing with a myriad of other illnesses and symptoms that all boiled down to invisible, silent tooth infections. From 2009 to 2013, my body was healthy, I was able to lose all the excess weight, and health/fitness essentially became my second job. After 2013, the focus was no longer on weight loss but weight maintenance, but “body” was still my focus. And from late 2014 to present, I’ve been dealing with weight gain and inability to lose weight no matter what I do, as well as more random symptoms that I’m sure is related to one thing or another wrong in my body that I have yet to find. (Except it’s probably coffee, at least in part.)

(Pic: 1999) It’s not like I haven’t realized that these were the segments of my life prior to this weekend. They’re divided in my head into “the tooth years,” “the healthy years,” and the current “WTF years.” But I never looked at them together, and realized they’ve taken up more than half of my damn life. Perhaps the reason I never put all those years together is that the healthy years in the middle, while still focused first on weight loss and then on maintenance, were ones where my body worked “normally.” So the results were good, and controllable – but the focus was still on the same thing. And I’m soooooo tired of this. I don’t WANT to be hyperfocused on my body.

Not like I can stop, though. My body is in a place of very ill health and discomfort, in addition to preventing me from doing what I want to do. So the cycle continues. I don’t know how to get off this train.

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Celebration of Life

My grandfather passed away overnight. There was no way to say goodbye in person. He didn’t want people to see him that way, but instead wanted us to remember him as he was. Those were his wishes when he was lucid – also that he wanted no funeral or memorial service – and so we respected them as best we could. I wrote him a letter, for my grandma to read to him, but it didn’t get to her in time. She was with him in the hospital when he passed. His children at least got to say goodbye – I’m glad the hospital let the four of them that remain come in for that. The rest of us grieve from afar.

So I will remember him as he was, and celebrate his life that way.

Pics: grandpa holding toddler me; playing his violin (I loved this so much as a kid); being silly pretending to pour a drink on grandma’s head; and at a surprise birthday party at the Frio River

Pics: holding Morrigan when he was a baby; the cousins “scaring” their great grandparents with ghosties; the Jeep that grandpa would drive us around in on the ranch (that’s him standing to the left); my aunt and uncle, grandparents, mom, and stepdad when I came to visit TX when I lived in Boston

Pics: my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2018 as well as my grandpa’s 90th birthday; the last three are bonfire nights on NYE of 2018, 2019, and 2020. The 2019 photo – bottom left – was the last time I saw my grandpa in person.

There is a curious thing that has happened to me over the last 14 years. Back in 2007, when my paternal grandpa died, one of the songs they played at his service was “Ships That Don’t Come In” by Joe Diffie. It was a song I loved, and it became inextricably tied to the passage between life and death to me after that. In 2014, my family moved to Boston while my aunt Cheri was dying of colon cancer. She also didn’t want anyone to see her, so it was about 18 months since I’d last seen her before the move. A few weeks after moving to Boston, I was asleep one night and my dream was interrupted by that song, so loudly that it was as if it was external and it woke me up. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my aunt had just passed away. And she had.

With my grandpa’s passing now, I didn’t have that same sort of experience. (Nor did I when several other members of my family passed away between 2007 and now – it was just my aunt Cheri.) But I did have another really odd experience. I put my phone on do-not-disturb last night as I always do. I was woken at 5am by a text, and DND was no longer on my phone. It was my sister letting us all know that he’d passed away between 1-2am. Eventually, I fell back asleep, and when I woke up again, I was numb and just opening apps at random on my phone as my brain tried to sort through the world has it now is, without my grandpa in it. I opened facebook, which loaded a memory at the top per On This Day. I read through the first few words with a sense of surreality: “This death really hits home.” Blinking, feeling half asleep, I continued: “Joe Diffie sang a song…” As it turns out, Joe Diffie passed away this say day a year ago. That, more than anything, feels fitting in a way, and makes everything that much more real and present in a way I really needed.

Rest in peace, Grandpa.

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Sunday Coffee – Toxic Headspace

Ooooooy.

This week hasn’t been good. I mentioned in Friday’s post that my grandfather is in the hospital. I’ve spent an anxious few days waiting for news and trying to distract myself, which means eating too much junk food and watching the trashiest of trashy reality TV (Temptation Island…). I already wasn’t doing great before this, frustrated with my body and dealing with absolutely horrible doctor’s offices this week. Feeling a bit punchy-stabby, tbh. And starting my cycle on top of all that. TMI? Too bad.

Yeah. My headspace is really toxic right now, y’all. And I’m trying to get out of it. I spent Friday afternoon out with Stephanie to talk things out a little, and then I had a nice hike with friends yesterday morning which helped. But it’s just so much right now.

I don’t deal well with grief. I learned years ago that my brain has a really weird coping mechanism when it comes to grief. Essentially, any time I begin to grieve, there’s a voice that turns on in my head telling me that I’m faking it and my emotions are all for show, so I should STFU because I’m not actually sad. This isn’t an uncommon coping mechanism, and I’ve had it for so long that I know that voice isn’t real. But it’s my brain trying to disconnect and dissociate, and the only way I’ve found to counteract it is to find a silly, unimportant thing to grieve about. Like, when my aunt died in 2007, I was reading a series where one of the characters died at the end of the trilogy. I’d had no idea that the moment was coming, and I ended up bawling my eyes out…then rereading the trilogy to spend more time with that character and crying when he died again. I knew I was really crying for my aunt, but it sidestepped the numb surreality that my brain tried to dissociate me into.

But, you know, you can’t really plan that kind of thing. And honestly, this one is a particularly tough situation because 1) my grandpa’s wishes were for no one to see him in this condition, so we’ve been asked not to come say our goodbyes, and 2) he also wants no funeral or memorial service. So that’s it. It’s just…done. And daaaaamn y’all I’m not handling it well.

When I was a teenager, I once wrote that things that stayed in my head just spin around in circles, growing larger and larger, becoming more and more complicated the longer they stayed inside. You know how people say that when you’re in an argument, you should walk away and cool off for a bit so you can discuss rationally? Yeeaaah not so much. If I have to walk away and just think, it’s going to build and build and become so much worse. My brain is a place of amplification. For better or for worse. So sometimes, I just need to get the thoughts out.

I’m in the process of making big changes in my life right now. I’m going through about a million medical procedures, and trying to work full-time on my health. (I’ve even reopened an old blog from 2012 to discuss this on a more regular basis, because I don’t want this blog to be ALL about health, fitness, or weight.) I’ve made some career-related decisions and had some ah-ha moments with all that. My family world has been f–king rocked and I’m swearing at the pandemic that had me erring on the side of caution for all this time, which now means that I’ll never see my grandpa again. And that’s all just this week. It’s so much. Too much. I feel like I’m spinning. I could really use some time off from my head right now.

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Quarantine Diaries – Week 54

So. It’s Week 54, and there’s SO MUCH information this week that it needs its own weekly post. So here we go: Week 54, March 19 to 25.

This week, we’ve arrived at 203,191 cases, 3,076 deaths, a 179 seven-day rolling average, and a 2.3% positivity rate (down 3.3% to lowest rate ever!). The hospitals got down to 182 cases earlier this week, which is lower than we’ve seen since the beginning of our summer surge last year. Our school reported 1 staff member positive for covid this week, first report for our specific school in several weeks (fingers crossed it doesn’t start going up!).

We’re now two weeks out from the mask mandate and occupancy limits going away, and from when the majority of schools around here had spring break. Starting in a week or so, we’re going to see how the numbers play out. Already, we’ve seen a steadying, bottoming out, and slight increase of our daily rolling average and hospital level, and I hope that’s not an early sign of reversal!! The rest of the vaccine doses can’t come quick enough!

Speaking of vaccines, there’s big news on that this week. Jason had his second volunteer shift yesterday, and they’re supposed to schedule him for a vaccine now. Fingers crossed! Unfortunately, the city is now having trouble getting volunteers to come in for their shifts after an announcement this week: The state of TX said that starting Monday, all adults will be eligible for the vaccine. Really, it makes no sense that they’re going this fast – they literally opened up the 50+ category last week – but I guess it’s just going to be a free-for-all now. And you know what? I don’t care. It means that I can sign Ambrose up for a dose, and Laurence, too, because by “adults” they are including the 16-17 age group that can get the Pfizer shot. I mean, why not, right? The sooner I get my family sorted and vaccinated, the better!

Unfortunately, it’s not just first-dose appointments that seem to be a free-for-all. I have one sister who, as an educator, got her first dose ages ago, and whose second dose was canceled due to the ice storm. She’s been unable to get a second-slot appointment in the month since then. Then my other sister and her husband, who got their first shots because the pharmacy had extra doses thawed at the end of the day, have been unable to get their second shots because the pharmacy literally hasn’t received another shipment of Moderna since then. What a mess! Too many people, too few vaccines, and the city here says that incredibly, their no-show rate has quadrupled, with a full 20% of people missing their vaccine appointments last week! WTF?? I don’t know if those people found a way to get their shots elsewhere or what, but that’s crazy. It’s a mad scramble and frankly, whoever is the best at technology and has the most time to go trolling for appointments are the people who are going to get in first, not the people who need it the most. Though the state did make one good ruling with this “everyone qualifies” free-for-all: Anyone aged 80+ can go to any site and go immediately to the front of the line without an appointment, and must be prioritized over everyone else. So that’s something.

I was looking over the city’s data a few nights ago, and checked on a few things that I stopped looking at awhile back. I noticed, for instance, that our pediatric rate is up to over 18% of all total cases – the highest rate of any age group except those in their 20s. It’s really too bad we don’t have any vaccines approved for people under 16 yet, because it seems like kids are spreading the disease like wildfire if you go by the numbers. Yeah, their rate of death is a lot lower, but 1) longterm effects and 2) you can’t really get a herd immunity when 20% of the population can’t be immunized, even if you could get all the rest of them to accept the vaccine (not happening in the US). Of course, if they did have a vaccine for the under-16s, we’d be in an even madder scramble right now…

Other news for the week:

  • Krispy Kreme is giving out one free donut per day to anyone who is vaccinated. This of course has become a fat-phobic joke around the internet, but f*ck the fat-phobic a$$holes!! I do wish it was Dunkin, though, because I’m not a fan of Krispy Kreme at all, heh.
  • A reporter asked how many cases of the UK variant we’ve had here, and we were told that they know of only 6 cases, all mild cases that didn’t require hospitalization and all recovered from now.
  • We had a few anniversaries this week, including the anniversary of our first (and only) shelter-at-home order on 3/23 (which had to be lifted by June due to state orders), and the anniversary of our first covid-death in Bexar County (3/22). With the ~3100 people who have died of covid over the last year in SA, covid has tied the two top causes of death we normally see, heart disease and cancer, which each take about 3000 people annually. Remember all that talk about how this was less deadly than the flu and so we’re overreacting? *eye roll*
  • The CEO of Texas Roadhouse killed himself this week because he could no longer stand the longterm complications of covid. Apparently it caused him severe tinnitus. I know nothing about the guy personally, but this is sad, disheartening, and just horrible.

There’s also been quite a bit of home news this week. Laurence went to the high school for the first time since before spring break last year. He had to go in to take his SAT, and the experience was a bit surreal for all of us after a year of him being home. My stepmom, Lauren, had her first covid shot, on the same day that my dad got his second. Their daughter, my half-sister who is 17, was able to get an end-of-the-day shot at the same time, with an appointment for her second in April. Woohoo! In less happy news, I had my first experience with a doctor’s office not taking covid seriously. I mean, it was an office in a hospital and it said masks required, but half the folks in the lobby (and a few employees!) were either not wearing masks or not wearing them properly. I was stuck in the office for frickin 2.5 hours after my appointment time, and so angry the whole time. I definitely don’t want to go back to that doctor again!

Lastly, I got a call from my sister on Wednesday evening to tell me that my grandfather was being rushed to the hospital for the third time since this weekend. He’s in horrible condition and deteriorating. I mean, he’s been in horrible condition for the last few years, and everyone is surprised just how long he’s made it, but it just keeps getting worse, and now it looks like he might be transferred to hospice today. I haven’t been able to visit him since New Years Eve 2019, and we aren’t allowed to go into the hospital, and I have no idea if there’s going to be any way to say goodbye. I hate this so much.

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Wellness Wednesday – Enchanted Rock

Last Thursday, a few members of my hiking group leadership team and I went out to Enchanted Rock State Park. It was Jennine’s birthday, and she wanted to conquer this rock for her special day. When she mentioned her plan, I was gung-ho and signed up immediately. But standing there at the bottom of the rock, I realized just how foolish and naive I’d been in agreeing to go.

(me, Kristina, Jennine, Melanie)

Y’all. My body was not ready for Enchanted Rock. My lungs were not ready. My heart was not ready. I’m carrying around sooooooo much excess weight, and while I’m strong and didn’t expect my muscles to complain too much about the 400+ climb at 30+ grade, I knew that the weight alone would make this challenging. But I wanted to do this for Jennine. Jennine, who had been unable to climb this rock earlier in her life, and who wanted to reach the summit that day. So even though my trepidation was enormous and a big part of me wanted to say, “You know what ladies? I’ll wait for y’all at the bottom,” I set off to climb with them.

It is hard to capture just how intimidating this climb is. From a distance, it looks like a smooth, rounded dome that might make an easy walk. Up close, you just go up and up and up. At times you have to walk sideways because the slope is too steep to do otherwise. Huge swaths are unbroken rock, with nothing to hold onto or support you if you start leaning back too far. The rock is broken in places with giant boulders, trees that grow miraculously out of the granite itself, and tiny micro-ecosystems in puddles that trail into mini-oasis of grass, minute succulents, and all sorts of underwater creatures. You zigzag your way through all of this to reach the top, marked by a small flat disk that you have to search for if you want to reach the “official” highest point.

(birthday girl at the top!)

This was my fifth (?) trip to Enchanted Rock, and my fourth in adulthood. (I know I went at least once as a teenager, but I don’t have any specific memories or photos of the trip(s).) It was the first time I didn’t know if I would make it. Y’all, there were times when I would traipse forward about 10-20 FEET and have to stop for another rest because my heart rate was too high and I was gasping for breath. I’m told that the entire thing is like climbing 45 flights of stairs, and at my current size, stopping to catch my breath after every single flight (after the first few) is just about right!! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve climbed this rock many times, but before Thursday last week, the heaviest my body has been on the trip is about 50 lbs lighter than I currently am. Those 50 lbs make an insane amount of difference. I really did nearly give up multiple times. (Pictured above is my four adult trips, though I don’t have a photo of myself from 1999 on the Rock, just a picture of the day before. That was the lightest I’ve hiked this in adulthood, in the 130s.)

It was my fellow hikers who kept me going. The motto of our group is No Woman Left Behind, but this was not a hike set up through the group. No one had to stick to that philosophy, and yet they did. Because we all take those words to heart. That’s what makes this group so special, y’all. Even typing this up, I have tears in my eyes because the three of them were so much more fit than me and I know I was holding them back, but they never once made me feel like I was. They encouraged me and pushed me, and we all got to the top together. And I admit, I felt a little bad about it all, because this was Jennine’s special day, not mine. I didn’t want to keep calling attention to myself with all my stop-needs. I’m just really happy to say that despite all the help everyone had to give me, it was a good day for everyone, and I wasn’t the only one to feel elated to reach the top.

(this is nowhere near the top, heh)

Back in the fall, I was signed up to hike Enchanted Rock, but dropped out because I knew my heart/lungs weren’t ready. In preparation for the hike, I tried to go up the gully at a nearby park, which is a roughly a third of elevation of Enchanted Rock at an easier grade. I could not get all the way to the top without stopping due to my heart rate going too high and making me feel dizzy, and needing to gasp for breath. It was frustrating, because I could still run a mile or longer without those problems, but going up a steep elevation was just too much for my body. And that was before the Ozempic injections caused me to gain 15 more pounds! I really wasn’t ready for the hike last week, but somehow, I made it through. I got to the top.

(that’s me in the blue, struggling through my next few feet of climbing, heh)

But I have to be honest: As much triumph as I felt on finally getting there, I also felt a combination of relief, disappointment in myself, anger at my body’s situation, guilt for holding everyone back, and an overwhelming shame that I haven’t felt in many years. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of being at a size where everything hurts, where clothes are hard to shop for, where I’m self-conscious all the time, where I’m limited in the things I can do. I’m tired of feeling frustrated and helpless and hopeless because nothing works and nothing changes and no doctor will listen. I’m tired of having no solutions, and feeling like my life is slipping away from me. That’s what I felt at the top of that rock. Not the unadulterated joy I should have felt getting there with my friends on an absolutely beautiful day.

This isn’t a post about doubling down and determination. Frankly, I’m too exhausted for that. I don’t know how to move forward, or what next steps to take. In October, I’m set to spend a week at Big Bend with a bunch of fellow hikers, and I see that the elevation gain there is 2000 feet – 4 to 5x the gain at Enchanted Rock. I haven’t been to Big Bend since I was 16 years old (and about 120 lbs) and I’m terrified now that I’m going to spend the week holding everyone back and taking days off at the AirBnB so no one feels obligated to wait for me. I don’t want that trip to be that way!!!!! I want to go to that park and feel amazing and tackle those mountains and be with my people. I want to be happy in my body and to feel the amazing power that our bodies have within us. I don’t want to just hurt the whole time. I want joy back again. I don’t know how to get there over the next few months, but I have to try, yeah? Somehow?

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The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner

In the past: an apothecary named Nella dispenses poisons to select customers, helping women to rid themselves of men who have betrayed them. In the present: Caroline is alone in London on what was supposed to be her tenth wedding anniversary vacation until a secret of her husband’s came out. The two stories intersect in a way that changes many lives.

That is a terrible synopsis, but the GoodReads one says too much and I didn’t want to give away too many things. This is a book best left to unfurl slowly and weave itself together chapter by alternating chapter. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I chose this book as my March Book of the Month selection, whether it would step into the realm of the speculative or stay firmly in the realities of alternative medicine in the late 1700s. (Mostly the latter, as it turns out.) The book was part history, part mystery, part women’s fiction, part coming-of-age. It doesn’t really fit into a specific genre, and I loved that.

This is the first fictional book I’ve enjoyed since November. I read it slowly over a week or so, lapping up each little twist and discovery. For some reason, I’d gotten the impression that something specific was going to happen (from the description? from what BotM said in their description? from my own assumptions?) and I kept waiting for it. (It never happened. Heh.) Instead, the book went down an entirely different path than I expected, and kept me entertained and intrigued. The ending was so appropriately ambiguous that it was perfect.

The only thing that I disliked was the treatment of Caroline’s husband. He was very two-dimensional, a plot device without a real personality and whose feelings, reactions, and actions flitted around with so many random changes that it was hard to see his purpose in the book at all. With the rest of the characters drawn as vivid and real as they were, it was just this little hole in the story where something really poignant could have been, regardless of which direction/personality/actions the husband embodied.

Otherwise, though, I quite enjoyed the novel. It felt really nice to finally read something that I really loved again after soooooo many months of dry spell!

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Sunday Coffee – More Little Things

It’s another of those weeks when so many little things are happening and none of them are worth a full blog post and all of them I want a record of. Perhaps my brain is just a bit scattered lately. My thoughts really do seem to be running in circles.

New toys: I’ve mentioned the pain and swelling in my left foot from the last few months, and I discuss this more in depth in the next section. Last week, Jason and I decided to put part of our tax refund toward a rower, thinking it would be a good way for me to exercise off my feet (or at least, less pressure on them!). We got a fairly low-level ProForm model, which came home on the 11th. First time using it, I had to stop twice in ten mins, ha! My body is def not used to this, but it’ll be a good exercise eventually. Unfortunately, after that first time, Laurence tripped on the cord and broke the head off, so we had to go in search for a new one (which we finally found yesterday). Our other new toy is the Ring Fit. Laurence and Ambrose pooled their money to buy a Switch, and Jason and I decided to get the Ring to go with it. It’s a fun little way to get in exercise, and reminds me of the days we were all excited about the Wii Fit when we got that one back in 2011!

Foot: My foot has been so bad lately** – swollen and painful – and I started to think that I might have a stress fracture or something. So I made a doc appt on Monday (after getting the rower, ironically) and started the ball rolling on getting x-rays, specialist care, potential MRIs, etc. She checked to make sure it’s not something vascular or circulatory, which is isn’t, and she agreed that it was likely stress fracture or ligament tear or something similar. I had a series of X-rays taken on Friday, and I see the specialist on Thursday this week. Likely I will need an MRI, I’m told, but we’ll see what the specialist and X-rays say.

**and by “lately,” I mean “since mid-October.”

Birthday: Laurence’s 17th birthday was last week, as I mentioned that weekend. We didn’t do much for his birthday. It was low-key, his second covid-birthday. But L tends to like things low-key, so that wasn’t too much of a problem. He got to rent a movie of his choice (he chose The Devil Wears Prada, which none of us had seen – it was quite good!), and then he ordered Chinese food curbside for dinner. We made donuts – in oil after a disastrous attempt at an air fryer version that basically turned them into weird bagels – for his requested dessert. Then he and Ambrose played Splatoon 2 all night (he got that for his birthday). (Yes, he was making that face on purpose in that picture. It’s a thing he does.)

Job: A few weeks into this semester, Ambrose decided to leave school. (He really hates online school.) So we told him that he needed to get a job instead – he couldn’t just hang around the house watching TikTok, yeah? So he began applying, and when the one he wanted fell through, he began work at our local nursery. (On Laurence’s birthday!) His first day was a ten-hour shift – he posed for this photo afterwards to show how “tired” he was. Unfortunately, he had a minor car accident on the way home, running over a curb in our neighborhood when his foot slipped off the pedal. (He’s not used to wearing his work boots yet.) It popped/slashed the front tire of Jason’s car, so suddenly we had to go out and replace both front tires. Sigh. At least no one was hurt, right?

More new toys: My trail shoes were absolutely obliterated at a hike a few weeks back, caked with clay that I couldn’t get off for the life of me. (A friend in the same situation literally had to use a pressure washer on her shoes!!) Since mine were a year old anyway and needed replacing, plus I had a few rewards from Fleet Feet to use before May, I skipped the pressure washer and got new trail runners. I also decided to get with the trend with a new Hydro Flask because my other water choices on hikes were 1) a small running bottle that didn’t insulate, or 2) a full-on Camelbak, which is a bit overkill for a 3-4 mile walk/hike!

5K: So you know how I was saying I missed in-person 5Ks so much? Well, I’ve signed up for one in May! It’s limited in-person participation (max 250 people) and there’s still a possibility that it’ll have to go virtual due to what circumstances will be like at that point. We’ll see. It’s a 5K I did (virtually) last year. I’d signed up before covid, and the event got delayed, and then turned to all virtual in July. Some friends of a friend host this one to raise funds for pediatric brain cancer research, so it’s a good cause!

Plant-mom: I’ve officially become a plant-mom in addition to a cat-lady. Not sure how that happened, as I hated plants and touching any kind of “nature” for years. Turns out, it was really just grass that I hated (and still do!). So in addition to all the gardening and landscaping we’re doing lately, Jason bought me a hibiscus to keep indoors! It’s hard to find plants that are nontoxic for cats that you can keep indoors, but this is one of them. In the picture, it’s outdoors because it had a ton of new water put in when we transplanted it from its plastic container, and we didn’t have a tray for it yet. But it’s going to go in the corner by the french doors, getting plenty of light! It’s blooming all over, too, which makes me so happy! I’ve been taking waaaaay too many photos, ha!

Torrid: For the first time, this company has really disappointed me with horrible customer service. They sent me a birthday reward of $15, which I used on an item that didn’t end up fitting. When I returned it, they gave me back the money I spent on it, but not the $15 birthday reward. I asked, and they said basically too bad so sad. Rewards, once used, can’t be refunded even if you don’t keep an item. WTF, Torrid? How’s that for my (nonexistent) birthday gift? Definitely means I’m less likely to shop Torrid in the future, grr.

Baby shower: Fellow hiker/hike-leader Lindsay is now about 33/34 weeks along in her first pregnancy, and the leadership team threw her a surprise baby shower yesterday morning under the guise of our monthly leader hike. It was chaotic and not at all like we were originally planning (the park was SO FULL because of youth sports games, and we had to move areas twice because apparently we chose spots that were reserved), but it was also really awesome. Food and games and gifts all covidified to be safe especially for the future mama. And it turned out that while we expected she’d had other baby showers already, she’d opted out of them and feeling a bit sad about that, so this was just perfect. It feels so nice to have a group of friends who care enough to do stuff like this for each other!

So that was my week. I had to opt out of this morning’s hike due to foot/hip issues and massive #plaguelife mask-line sunburn from yesterday’s event (you can see it a bit in the coffee photo above). Sooooooo much has been happening that I’m quite overwhelmed – all good things, so I don’t mind! – and hoping to take today as a way to rest, recuperate, reorganize, and get caught up!!

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Quarantine Diaries – Weeks 52 and 53

I feel like we’re currently in the calm before the storm. We’re hitting all sorts of record lows, or lowest-lows-in-months at least, and we’re getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible. But of course, all covid safety measures were removed by the state on March 10th, so by the end of the month, we’ll see increasing numbers again. These are the weeks that are still benefitting from the work that came before – like I said: calm before the storm. I’m trying to enjoy them while I can!

Week 52 – March 5 to 11
199,431 cases, 2,861 deaths, 186 seven-day rolling average, 2.6% positivity rate (down 3%, and now the lowest its been since this started being calculated!!). Hospital patients and admissions continue to decline as well. With things going so well, SA has moved down to a “low” risk level, woohoo! At our local high school, it’s spring break, so there have obviously been no reports.

Of course, it won’t last. Not only is it spring break this week – and people do stupid things on spring break – the state-wide mask mandate was rescinded on Wednesday as promised, and all occupancy limits on all businesses were lifted. In the next month, we’ll see what comes of bars opening up to full capacity with no masks, given that bars have historically been one of the biggest spreaders of covid nationwide. Many businesses have drawn their lines in the sand, and (thankfully) most are requiring masks, but for the most part, bars are treating this as a reason to party. Tons of stuff related to the new policy happened this week:

  • Before the order even went into effect, the governor preemptively began to blame immigrants for the upcoming covid surge. He keeps talking about how the Biden administration is letting “hundreds and hundreds” of covid-positive illegal immigrants into the state and that those immigrants are then spreading the disease. None of this is true in any way, of course, but the rhetoric is working on people who already believe the crap Faux News shoves down their throats. (I know people who genuinely believe this fiction.)
  • Across the state, people started planning mask-burning and “un-masking” parties.
  • The city and county put out a new emergency order that says businesses must post visible signage stating their health/mask policies at entrances, so that no one can claim they don’t know the policy. Then, if someone refuses to follow the private business’s policy, they can call the police, and the troublemaker will be escorted off-premises and/or arrested for criminal trespass.
  • Other cities, like Austin, have said that despite the governor’s order, businesses must continue to require masks due to a local order from the health authority, which supersedes governmental authority. This directive is already being challenged in court, and depending on how that legal action goes, we may consider doing something similar here in SA.
  • Many school districts are continuing to require masks and not changing their current policies, like ours. Unfortunately, there are others that have said it’s now up to each individual parent. In one case, the decision was made without input from the school board or anything. Ugh.
  • Originally, HEB said it would require masks for employees and “strongly recommend” them for customers because it would be too tough/dangerous to try to force a mandate on people contrary to government orders. However, the thousands of HEB employees fought back and demanded that the chain require masks in their stores, and hurrah, HEB reversed course and is doing just that!

In other news, the state announced that starting March 15th, people who qualify under Phase 1c (aged 50+) will now qualify for vaccines. Our local leaders are exasperated, because literally 75% of our population falls under Phases 1a-c, and we’re not getting nearly enough doses to vaccinate the over 2 million folks who qualify. They did get another 40K doses in for the next four weeks. Jason spent last Friday volunteering at the vaccination site and is waiting for another slot to open up – if he spends two shifts as a volunteer, he’ll be able to get his vaccine even though he doesn’t yet qualify. One of the perks of being a volunteer! Fingers crossed a slot opens soon! I was also really excited by the updated CDC guidelines for vaccinated folks, saying that those who have been fully vaccinated may now safely get together in small groups indoors and without masks. Hurrah!

Last but definitely not least, do y’all remember me talking about the strip club that kept getting citations for refusing to follow covid guidelines? Back in November or so, the city yanked their certificate of occupancy to shut them down, and they sued the city, and the city sued them back. I have no idea how those court cases came out, but the strip club is back in the news. Apparently, they began opening again in January without a license to operate. They received five citations for operating without an occupancy certificate. The city shut electricity off to the building. The strip club brought in a generator and opened up that way. The city cut off the water supply to the building. That was the last thing I heard, but MAN I’m so frickin’ amused by this ridiculous story and will continue to look for the strip club’s next zany move. Ha!

PS – It’s spring break this week in most of TX. Let’s just pray that no one does anything too stupid over spring break and causes even more outbreak/spread than removing the mask order…

Week 53 – March 12 to 18
201,273 cases, 2,295 deaths, 146 seven-day rolling average, 5.6% positivity rate (3% increase). Notably, there was a drastic decrease in testing for the week this rate was calculated (from ~60k to ~20k) due to spring break, as several of the school districts have been working with an independent lab to administer daily tests. The rise in rate could possibly be contributed to the decrease solely because many of the absent tests are proactive rather than symptomatic. I guess we’ll see what happens next week. No reports from the school this week. Hospitals are down to 202 patients which is marvelous!

So the virus has been in our community for a year now, and we hit a few milestones this week. We passed the 200k mark for cases over the weekend. At the same time, the number of vaccinated folks in our community surpassed our total case number for the first time, which is really awesome even if it’s only about 10% of the total community vaccinated. Hopefully vaccinations will continue to go smoothly – we did hear that some doctors’ offices have been reallocating designated second-dose shipments as first-dose vaccines, so that they run out and folks can’t get their second doses, which is eek.

Unfortunately, the removal of the mask order has led to another consequence that was easily foreseeable: mask-related conflict. While I’ve yet to hear about folks getting shot over masks like in the early days of the pandemic, one of my friends was attacked for wearing a mask. She kept walking away, and the (not-masked) offender kept pursuing her, shouting and getting up close in her face. Ugh!

We celebrated Laurence’s second covid birthday this week, the first of us to have a second birthday under a pandemic. What a milestone.

Moving forward
Hoping that vaccinations can keep up with the potential increases coming from bad government leadership and people being stupid over spring break…

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