Harried Alive

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Whoo – it’s been a long while. I’ve been busy, y’all.

Face Paint

Doing what, you might ask? Work, mostly, and also precinct chair duties in preparation for the upcoming mid-term election. Which, I am fairly certain, the Dems will not win in Texas. I love me some Beto O’Rourke, y’all – something to which my front yard signs will proudly attest – but in spite of the need for me to put on my happy face for the Dems in my neighborhood I represent, well, come on. We all know Ted Cruz is a lock for Texas. This state might get there eventually, but I do not think this is the year. I’m perfectly willing to be wrong – and I hope I am – but I don’t see it happening.

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Visual representation of me not seeing it happening

We’ve held candidate meet and greets and block walks, and I’ve sent out fliers and push cards. And until this week I was watching/listening to news obsessively; something I finally realized I had to put a stop to. The constant news was making me insane, and the Kavanaugh nomination did me in. I was taking it all, way, WAY too personally, and it was ruining my life. Yes, I believe Donald Trump is a shitty president. I think his administration is incompetent at best; greedy, selfish, and batshit crazy at worst. But you know what – I have disliked presidents in the past, and considered them dangerous and awful (I’m looking at you, Dubya), but I still managed to have a separate and functional life from all of that. And somewhere between November 16, 2016, and last week, those lines got completely erased. I was obsessively on Twitter. I listened to MSNBC and/or CNN for about eight hours a day. I ranted and raged alongside my husband (who is as liberal as I am, but had way more control over himself and the amount of news consumption he was absorbing).

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My brain on Twitter

Long story short, I finally realized I was not going to be helpful to anyone if I was completely insane, so I put myself on a one-week news blackout. No radio, no Twitter, no Washington Post, nothing. The first two days were awful, as checking Twitter every spare second had become a terrible pastime of mine, but by day three I had started to realize there were actually music channels on Sirius XM, and there were TV shows to watch (Dancing Queen, anyone?), and work I’d been putting off, and you know, a world out there that was worth enjoying.  Of course, people are still laughing at me when I tell them I am slowly allowing the news back into my life with my favorite three-hour block of news shows each night (Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’DonnelL, and Brian Williams) as if it’s hilarious that someone’s idea of properly REDUCING the amount of news consumption to THREE HOURS A DAY is somehow inadequate. But to go from 24 hour news consumption to three is, in my opinion, progress. So there you go.

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But no, Beto still ain’t gonna win.

What else has been going on? Lots of work – I have 19 clients this year, which is a LOT. I tutor 3 or 4 kids a day, starting at 3:30 PM and usually working until around 8:30 at night. I also tutor three kids on Sunday, and then I have Friday and Saturday as my weekend off. This is working well, but it’s a lot of kids to plan for and keep track of, so I’ve really had to commit myself to staying organized and making good planning notes after each session, or else I forget what we did when I go back to that kid a week later. Note taking has become VERY important with so many students, and it’s the last thing I want to do after getting home around 9 PM, but I’ve found ways to make it work. Sometimes I do it the next morning, and other times I leave for tutoring a little early and stop by a coffee shop to make my notes before the work begins. One way or another, I’ve found that staying on top of it is essential to doing a good job, so a lot more of my time is taken up with work now than has been for the first two years of doing this. Which is to say that photography has taken a MAJOR backseat lately. I took zero photos in September, and very few in August, so I started editing old blooper photos like the ones you see in black and white above (photos where I screwed something up). It’s been kinda fun to work with photos that are basically screw-ups, and it kept me  occupied when I had a little time to play around with Photoshop.

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Here’s a few examples

I actually took the first week in October off, just to catch up with things, and I took a day to shoot some photos in a few new wigs I’ve picked up lately. But then I got so busy again I’ve barely had time to edit any of them at all.

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Except this one

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And this one

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And this one

So there you go – that’s what’s been going on with me since July 9th when I last wrote a blog post. It feels like I’ve been so busy that I should have a lot more to tell you, but at this point in the school year I can’t remember much past the last week or so, so anything else interesting that’s happened to me lately has already been forgotten. I will try not to stay away so long next time, and  I hope you are all doing well.

Summer Stuff

I’ve had a light summer of tutoring, with the past two weeks having no students whatsoever, so you’d think I would be busy taking advantage of all the free time to do things I don’t have time to do during the school year. But, you would be wrong.

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For the most part, I’ve been incredibly lazy, napping every day and sleeping late, while occasionally hopping into the pool. But I’ve had a few moments of activity here and there, just enough to keep me away from the blog, I suppose.

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For starters, my older sister and I have taken a few little day trips over the past several weeks. It started when I was staying in a hotel during the last few weeks of our mold remediation; I figured since I was in a nice hotel and she and I both love hotel rooms, she should come on over and hang out with me for a while. She spent one night with me and we spent the day shopping at the nearby mall and eating in the restaurants surrounding the area.

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I thought this was the town hall in Hallettsville, TX, but my sister thinks it’s a church. I still have no idea. 

That led to us getting another hotel room in Clear Lake City so we could visit my brother, who lives in Dickinson, when he threw a graduation party for his two kids. It’s a long drive out to Dickinson from where we live, even though technically it’s all still “Houston” – especially since Dickinson is off the main freeway to Galveston Island and the party was thrown over a holiday weekend. Traffic is always horrible on I-45 in the summer, so my sis and I figured we’d get another hotel room, check in at the graduation party, and then spend another nice night hanging out in a hotel on the water instead of making two traffic trips in one day. I forgot my camera, though, so no pictures of that little jaunt.

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Another Hallettsville shot

Most hotels were booked in Clear Lake for the weekend, though, and we ended up staying in an older Hyatt hotel that had a lovely view overlooking the bay, but had horribly thin walls and those old, adjoining rooms that I don’t think newer hotels even do anymore – and the first floor we stayed on was so poorly insulated and populated with small children that I swear my sis and I kept opening the door to the hallway to try to find out where the large gaggle of children was playing in the halls, only to realize that they were the kids in various other rooms that we were hearing as if they were right outside our door. We ended up moving to a higher floor, where they apparently don’t let kids stay, and that reduced the noise level quite a bit. But lesson learned, no more stays at the Clear Lake City Hyatt. It also must have been moldy, because after having no breathing issues for several weeks, I woke up coughing like a maniac the night of our stay, and it took me another week or so to recover. Moving on.

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Then my sister wanted to go spend a few days in an incredibly tiny little Texas town called Hallettsville, which is where all these pictures are from. It’s a bit convoluted, but my aunt and uncle bought a tiny little country house there, on about 4 acres of land, where they plan to retire someday, and my sister, who is close to my aunt, has a key to go stay out there whenever she wants (I’m not as close to this aunt so I had never even been to this house before). Sounded like a nice free vacation to me, so we loaded up her car and headed out there for a few days in June.

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When I say Hallettsville is small, I do mean small: Wikipedia lists its population as just over 2,000. Even though we were wandering around their little town square on a Saturday afternoon, there was still almost NO foot traffic, and I have no idea how anything aside from the factory supply store manages to stay in business there. The house my aunt and uncle bought is small, also – almost claustrophobic – but it’s actually a nice enough place to retire if you want some land and a Dairy Queen to visit on occasion. I was a bit fascinated by this little walkway leading up to their front porch though, and fortunately I’d remembered to take my camera so I could do some quick levitation using it as a background:

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That’s the walkway leading up to their house, and as you can see, it just sort of stops for no reason in the middle of the grass. I’m assuming someone at some point had intended to put in a driveway or something and then never did…? I dunno. But anyway, it inspired me as some sort of launching pad to a magical dimension, so there you go. The house is right behind me here, and you can see their little stretch of land with some decent trees and a pleasant view to look out over from the front porch. Not bad, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not sure I could do it long-term though.

Fun little detail: my aunt and uncle keep a golf cart on the property so they can tool around a little, and my sister loves to just hop on it and drive around on the grass, so we did that a few times. I am not as big of a fan of this, because I HAAAAATE flying bugs, and as soon as you start cruising around on the grass all of these CREATURES leap out of the grass and into the cart. So, my sis was really enjoying driving around and listening to me scream. Then, she accidentally ran over a cow pie (that’s cow shit, for those of you not familiar with the term) and it splattered all over my leg. Two more reasons I probably should not retire in the country: cow pies and flying bugs. Moving on.

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In other news, I have new little beauty obsession – fake nails, the kind you glue on and can buy at the CVS.I wore acrylics for years, but really got tired of all the filling and drilling involved, so about a year ago I had those soaked off and just got shellac manicures for about another year. But, since my husband and I are both wanting to work less now, I am trying to cut back where I can, and shellac manicures are rather expensive where I live ($50!). So, the last time I went to the salon I just got a plain old manicure and left it at that. But, not being one to just leave well enough alone, I decided to try out these Lime Crime “Pop On Nails” I saw on their site a while back. I’d never been able to try them before, because of the aforementioned acrylics, so I figured while I had naked nails would be the best time to try.

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I’ve never tried press-on or glue-on nails before, and I was actually nervous about how these would turn out. I held onto them for several weeks, but then my sister and I decided to make one more hotel trip out to the Woodlands to see Chicago and REO Speedwagon (shut up, I’m old) so I figured that was as good a time as any to give these a go. I was really surprised by how nice they looked. I had to shorten and file them a little because they were pretty long, though:

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I don’t drink; that was actually my sister’s glass of wine

I loved them so much I ended up buying all the other available colors of them I could find online (they were limited edition at Lime Crime) but before I got them all in, I discovered some nails I like even better – the ImPress brand you can get at any drugstore or even (in my case at least) the grocery store.

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I actually prefer these ImPress nails because they are much easier to apply, and they hold up better. The Lime Crime ones look amazing at first, but they have to be applied with nail glue and the first time I applied them I used WAY too much and spent about an hour melting them off my fingers with acetone. The ImPress nails actually have adhesive already applied to the nail, so you just peel the backing off and stick them to your nails.

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I have always had seriously wrinkly fingers! When I was a kid classmates would call me “granny hands.” Kids are assholes, BTW. 

Both brands stayed on for a week (the ImPress ones are still on as I type this) but I must say that after a few days the color was starting to flake and peel off the Lime Crime nails, and every little scratch or scuff showed on the surface so that by the end of that week, they looked a lot worse for the wear. So far, the black Impress nails aren’t showing any wear and still look like new. I haven’t tried to take these off yet, so I can’t speak to how hard they will be to remove, but all the reviews say they are easy enough to do and I know I didn’t overdo it with adhesive this time. I’m so pleased with these nails, especially since the ImPress ones are easy to find, are inexpensive (around $7 for 30 nails) and are quick to put on. I never liked getting my nails done, although I do still get pedicures (ImPress actually makes press on toenails, too, but I just can’t go there), but I always loved the look of the acrylic nails, and these are a really practical and nice alternative.

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Another thing I’ve done recently is volunteer to be a Democratic precinct chair for my precinct. I do not yet know what this means, but there is a meeting for all of the Democratic chairs for Precinct 3 this Wednesday, so I’ll find out my duties then. With the mid-term elections coming up, I am sure it will entail a lot of phone calls and block-walking, which I do not look forward to, but the opportunity was there for me to fill an empty chair and even though I didn’t really want to do it, with everything going on right now I felt it was important to do it anyway. Especially being here in Texas, where so many of these immigrant families are being torn apart. By the way – our city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, is awesome, and in no way supports these policies the Trump Administration has tried to implement and bungled so stupendously. He and our city’s police chief Art Acevedo are both very strong, progressive voices for reasonable immigration policy and gun control; Acevedo in particular has gotten a lot of attention lately for his outspokenness on both issues. Houston, even though it’s deep in heart of red, red Texas, tends to have Democratic mayors, and Fort Bend County – which is the county where I live – is statistically the most diverse county in the country. A lot of Fort Bend is more purple than red, except for – you guessed it – precinct 3, where I live, which is the reddest area out here. So block walking for the Dems should be an adventure. If I get shot, well, I can’t complain. I’ve had a better life than most…only partly kidding about this!

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I also discovered Venessa Arizaga’s jewelry lately, which, if you haven’t checked her out, you really should. I know a lot of her stuff looks insane, and her prices aren’t cheap, BUT the pieces look much better on that they do just sitting there against a white background, and if you get on her mailing list she has major sales ALL the time. I got a TON of her stuff during a recent 50% off all sale event, and things like that bracelet above I got for a steal. It was already reduced to  $27 and I got it for 50% off that, when it was originally fifty bucks! I now have a ton of her necklaces and bracelets and they are just what I like. I actually don’t care for metal jewelry, and much prefer necklaces and bracelets made of leather or cloth material, which is pretty much her thing. And everything is made to be worn with other items and really layered together, like so:

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It all is very light and works well together – although I will say, I bought one of her shell chokers and it was literally choking me; I had to buy a necklace extender just to fit it around my neck. That one also isn’t very comfortable; the shells are heavy and the material is itchy. But other than that, everything I have bought from her I’ve loved.

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Oh, and I have a few other things I’m keeping busy with right now – for starters, I am really trying to learn Spanish, and so far am having little luck. I’m using Babel, and there a few damn verbs I just can’t get a grasp on (those damn ‘to be’ verbs are killing me) and trust me, if I were taking this as a class I’d be failing right now. But using the app is actually helping me understand what it’s like to struggle with English grammar and spelling, which helps me with my tutoring, so it’s all good, even if my Spanish never gets up to snuff.

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The thing I am more excited about than that, though, is that I am learning how to sew. I haven’t officially started yet, because my sewing machine doesn’t arrive until tomorrow (I tried to borrow one from my mom but hers was broken), but I’ve got a good book to work with that jumps right in to working with simple patterns like making headscarves and simple skirts. I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew forever (I was forced to take sewing in high school, and in a fit of misplaced feminist rage I refused to learn anything. This worked against me because not only did I not learn how to sew but I failed the class, which was less than impressive on my transcript. I failed cooking too, for the same stupid reason). I figure that most of the clothes I love to wear are loose, light, and pretty damn simple; I dislike zippers and buttons and fancy details, I tend to wear things I can easily pull on and off, and I don’t even like to wear prints, so how hard can it be to sew this stuff? Plus, I have so many things I don’t wear but would if I could just alter them a little, and let’s not even talk about the COSTUMES I could create for my photos! I really think I am going to love this new hobby, and hopefully, I will be better at it than I am at speaking Spanish.

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As you can tell, I’ve also managed to take some photos too – so this all sounds like I’ve been way busier than I feel like I’ve been. Especially when I mention that I am taking one more trip with my sister at the end of the month to Galveston, but honestly, most of these trips I’ve taken have been her idea, and she’s done the planning while I’ve just tagged along. I promise there has also been a LOT of nap-taking, TV binging, and Candy Crush playing going on this summer, too. In truth, I’ve actually started to get bored and look forward to getting back to tutoring my students again in August.

Oh, and one more thing – in trying to spend less, I recently opted to not renew a LOT of the features I’ve paid for in the past for this blog. I am honestly not sure what some of the stuff was I was paying for, so things might randomly go wonky here if I actually canceled something I should have kept. If that happens, I’ll figure it out eventually and get things back to normal. 🙂 It just seemed like I was spending lots of money every year for a blog I only post on about once a month now, so in a fit of frugality I canceled all the extra features. We’ll see what happens!

Up and Running

I’ve brought the blog back up, but the wig reviews are still down. At this point, I don’t think I will bring them back, but you never know with me. I’m definitely done reviewing any new ones, since at this point it just doesn’t seem worth it to me when all people who watch them can do is nitpick and complain. Let all those people who find fault with everyone who tries to share their opinions about wigs via video step up and make some for a change, is pretty much where I’m at with it at this point.

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We got in all the photos I had printed to hang around the house, so I thought I’d share the final result of that. In this photo, which we put on our fireplace mantel, the original had a purple curtain in the image, which I changed to gray to make it match more with our decor. This is one of my favorites that we got printed onto canvas.

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This one is in our front room – not sure how I feel about this one, mostly because although I got it printed on the largest canvas the company had, it still gets dwarfed on this wall. All the furniture in this room is pretty old and mish-mash, as well, but I found some small rugs online that I threw over the settee and chairs and it actually doesn’t look half-bad. None of the furniture is very comfortable, though, so I ended up getting big floor pillows to sit on when I spend time in there. Strange little-known fact about me: I have always preferred sitting on the floor to sitting on furniture. Who knows why.

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office 1

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And yes, I did hang pictures of myself in my office, thankyouverymuch. I know it looks vain and kinda weird, but I love a lot of my self-portraits and movement/motion/costume shots, and I wanted to print some up and hang them somewhere – and the room where I do my photoshoots seemed like the logical choice. I had a few more I really loved and wanted to print, but I would have had to put them in other parts of the house to do so and it did seem like overkill to hang big prints of myself all over the area. So, I stuck with these and called it a day. You may have also noticed that a lot of these prints are a bit crooked or off-center – and I totally admit to not caring about that. I never have, and it makes a lot of people (like Doug) crazy that to me, just getting close to straight is enough for me.

I also think I hung these too high on the wall, but again, I don’t really care:

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I call this our “pet wall;” it’s upstairs in the loft which functions as my husband’s office (hence the mess everywhere – he’s even more sloppy than I am). In spite of how much I love color in my shots, I transformed a lot of them into monochrome for printing, just because when hung side by side they tended to clash – that happened with the pet shots and the photos I hung in my office, too.

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The bedroom has had a few issues – at first I bought all white bed linens, because I loved the look, but since our pets run the house and deposit themselves on all of our furniture, that lasted about a month before I had to make a change. I refuse to spend a lot on bed linens, though, because of the aforementioned pet issue, so I found this new comforter set on eBay for $60 and I actually like it – even though I still prefer the look of the solid white.

I finally set up a photoshoot yesterday and took new pictures, so I’ll share more of those in a later post. At least the major house stuff is finally done!

House Party

OK, so. It’s all been a challenge, but the major home renovations are finally done.

Before and After shots – the ‘before’ is on the left

There’s still a lot to do – we are going to print my photos to hang on the walls, and there’s still furniture to replace or move  – but the main, really destructive stuff is done.

I tried to come back home once the floors were installed, but there was so much construction dust everywhere that my lungs got very irritated again – so I spent the last week while the house was being painted at a hotel.

We took out all the seriously outdated wallpaper, and replaced it with a soft, subtle beige by Sherwin Williams called “Kilim Beige.” You can’t see it really in this shot of our living room, but above the wainscoting it’s actually beige, and below it is white. The contrast doesn’t show up well in the photo, and it’s pretty subtle anyway. Truth be told, the paint ended up being lighter than I thought it would be, but it is quite pretty, and our house is old which means we have small rooms, so anything much darker would have kept the rooms feeling small and cramped, so in the end it’s fine.

We also replaced all that nasty wall-to-wall carpet with laminate flooring, FINALLY. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but we were too cheap and lazy to get it done.

The color in some of these photos also looks more pink or red than the wall paint is in reality. Oh well.

My health is slowly on the mend – I am still coughing a lot, but at this point I just think it’s going to be a slower recovery than I would like. It still wakes me up at night sometimes, but not regularly, and I am seeing a pulmonologist regularly who says my lungs are clear and there’s nothing else going on but inflammation, and I’m just going to have to keep taking my meds and being patient. I also screwed up my back sleeping on the floor for the two weeks I tried to stay at the house, and my sciatic nerve is a mess. But I’m seeing a chiropractor for that and limping around for now while that recovers.

Slowly but surely, things are getting back to normal, and I have a lot of life and work stuff I need to get in order since everything has been all over the place since early March. But I am definitely ready to get back to normal and not live out of a suitcase anymore!

Black Mold, Texas Tea

After two and a half weeks at my sister’s, I came back home today to a house that’s still ripped apart, but has been given a clean bill of health and has been scrubbed into submission. We had out air vents cleaned out also, and I swear you can actually SMELL how clean it is in here.

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The entrance to our bedroom

Within the next day or two, all the sealed areas should be opened, and our furniture will be HEPA-vaccuumed a second time and placed back into the bedroom. The floor has been ripped out, though, so in about two weeks we will have to take all the furniture back out again to replace the floors. We are going to go ahead and replace all the nasty carpet on the first floor and get wood laminate for the entire downstairs area, which ultimately will be awesome and is something we should have done years ago, but keep in mind our completely shitty home insurance is not covering a dime of this, so it’s going to cost us a ridiculous amount of money. We also have to get the sheetrock re-done again (most of it is sheetrock we already replaced once, right after Harvey before we knew about the mold situation). Then, we are going to go ahead and rip out all the wallpaper in the areas where we still have it (the kitchen, the bathrooms, and our front living room – yeah, we’ve been living with serious old-school decorating in this house for decades) and get all the walls repainted (some of which we also JUST re-painted right after Harvey).

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One of our built-in bookcases, which also had mold. It wasn’t the black mold we had in the bathroom, but it still has to go. 

But here’s the thing: EVERY TIME I try to get back to normal as far as getting out of the house, going to tutoring sessions, running errands, etc., I get sick again. Even trying to have a simple conversation with someone on the phone sends me into a coughing fit within twenty minutes. It’s as if the only way I feel well is if I sit in bed all day, don’t speak to anyone, or do ANYTHING. And it’s really pissing me off. I have been canceling tutoring sessions for three weeks now, although I’ve managed to squeeze in a random one here and there before getting worn down and miserable again, for the most part I’ve gone weeks without working with most of my kids. Everyone is being really great about it, but I’ve worked really hard to build up the client base that I have, and I hate to risk losing it.

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After packing up all my things and my dogs this morning and driving us all back out to the house, I ended up with another massive coughing fit that just broke me down into tears. I was so frustrated having to cancel on my students again, and to not be able to get back to normal health-wise. I also have now pulled something on my left side from all the coughing, and I’m just really worn down, tired, and disappointed that I can’t get well. I had a chest x-ray done, and while it shows hyperinflated lungs due to asthma, it’s not like there’s any congestion in my chest or anything else going on. It’s just that nothing we’ve tried so far has worked to control my asthma, and we’re pretty much at the top of ladder as far as the escalating steps you take to get asthma under control. I’m honestly not sure what we’re going to try next, unless we add daily breathing treatments and perhaps get allergy tested again to see if I’m reacting badly to something else other than the mold. Especially since the damn mold is gone now and our house is probably the cleanest one in Houston – although the pollen is out of control in the area right now which I am sure isn’t helping.

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Our bedroom furniture, which has been HEPA-cleaned and sealed.

Reluctantly, I took the entire week off and cancelled all my sessions, and as much as I hate to do it my plan is going to be to sit at home on my ass and just. do. nothing. I’m going to go back to the doctor on Thursday for a check-in and I hope to God by next week to be able to get back to normal as far as my health. This sitting around coughing and hacking and feeling exhausted is for the birds. And I haven’t worked out in weeks and am gaining weight. So overall, I just feel sloppy and lazy and nasty and totally blah.

Cat-ching Up

I only titled this post as I did because I have a few new cat pictures. Here’s one of them:

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I have a few other pictures to share that aren’t of cats, and lots of random things to discuss, so I’ll just throw it all into the mix and see how things come out. Sound good? Let’s get to it.

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First of all, on the home front: we’ve spent the last 2-3 weeks dealing with contractors and literally getting our house in order. Last week, all the damaged drywall in the house was being fixed, and having workers in the house every day from 9 AM to 6 PM put a serious damper on my schedule. I ended up doing a lot of nothing but babysitting nervous cats and dogs while all the banging was going on, and I didn’t do much of anything else but read books and watch Netflix while trying to avoid all the parts of the house that were under construction. That said, all the leaks and water damage is fixed, finally, and everything we had to move and store in other parts of the house has been returned to it’s original location, OR has been tossed out/donated.

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Doug and I did have a conversation, at some point in all of this, about how little TLC we’ve given to this house over the years, much as I mentioned in one of my earlier Harvey posts, and we both agreed that some of the problems we had during the storm were our own fault for not fixing house issues properly as soon as they arise, choosing instead to ignore things until they reach the critical. We also discussed how we should really go ahead and put some real money into the house and settle in a stay awhile, so that when/if we really do decide to move we can actually sell it for a decent price. And we’ve both decided that staying on for at least the discernible future might be the best thing, after all – in fact, since our house is almost paid off, it might be wise to stay a good, long while. So, to that end, we’ve been getting bids for other repairs and cleaning out, well, everything, in an attempt to start treating our home more, shall we say, respectfully.

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Sadly, I will admit to being a bit of a slob, as is my husband, and while the truth is we are not averse to cleaning up after ourselves, or paying a service to come in and do deeper cleaning every other week, neither one of us has ever been meticulous about much of anything else, and as such, we have a lot of work to do just to get things up to snuff (in fact, we just had a vacuum cleaner delivered today because we didn’t even own one). For example, last week I decided just to clean out our kitchen pantry, and that task alone generated FIVE BAGS of trash. Our worst habit is probably taking things that are broken or serve no purpose for us and just kind of stashing them somewhere, then leaving them there for 20 years. As such, the pantry was full of old broken coffee pots, toasters, boxes of unneeded dishes, and other ridiculous items that haven’t been touched in decades as well as canned foods that expired in 2008 and spices on a rack that had completely lost all color and smell. I know, it’s a horrible thing to admit, but there it is. I also actually changed out the light bulb, which hadn’t been done in so long I still keep forgetting to actually turn it on when I go in there.

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It took me about four hours to clean all that out, and y’all, that was just a PANTRY. Literally every closet and cabinet in this house is in a similar state (except for the expired food part – that was strictly a pantry issue). In fact, we actually have an upstairs bathroom that at some point came to be treated like a closet and was full almost to the ceiling with boxes of stuff that needed to either be thrown away or put in the attic. I am proud to say we’ve cleaned that out now, and can actually use our bathroom as, well, a bathroom. Go figure. But it probably goes without saying that I have my work cut out for me as far as getting this house in order; I don’t mind, as I have the time now to do this, and I figure it’s good exercise as well as being necessary work I need to do. But clearly my aversion to behaving like an actual adult runs DEEP, y’all.

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Health-wise, I mentioned in a previous post how much anxiety I’ve been having lately, and I did meet met with my psychiatrist and was taken off Wellbutrin and put on Lexapro instead, which addresses the anxiety as well as the depression that Wellbutrin was prescribed for originally. And I am happy to report that the results have been tremendous. From the first day of taking it, I’ve had exactly zero panic attacks, and zero anxiety. The only issue has been how sleepy it makes me, but recently I switched from taking it in the morning to taking it at night, and that seems to be helping. For now, I’m thrilled with this solution, and having the anxiety lifted helps me realize both how bad it had gotten and how long it’s been building up. I probably should have been put on Lexapro the first time I went to a doctor for my depression, but I wasn’t even able to articulate that part of what I was feeling was anxiety until recently.

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I don’t know how much I mentioned here about my other health issues I’ve been handling lately; I went to a doctor over the summer to deal with my right wrist, which felt fractured but ended up just being inflammation that, surprisingly for how much it was hurting, healed up completely in about six weeks. I was totally expecting to need a surgical solution to that problem, but while I was talking to that doctor, I mentioned how basically my entire right arm gives me trouble constantly, and that the second-most pressing issue I was having (next to the wrist that I thought was broken) was my rotator cuff, which has troubled me for, oh, let’s say at least seven years. Seriously. It’s hurt for so long I just got used to it, and for some reason have always considered it just some weird thing about me that I have this one shoulder that sucks, and never considered it something I should see a doctor about. I am not even sure where I got this idea, but obviously it stuck, because I barely even thought to mention it to the wrist doc.

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When I did though, he made me an appointment to see a shoulder specialist at the same location, who ordered an MRI (an awful, awful experience that I will never go through again without some serious Xanax, but I’m not going to talk it about it any more than this because I do not want to relive that nightmare) and discovered I have not one, but TWO tears in my shoulder. My rotator cuff has a partial tear, and I have a lateral tear on the back side of my shoulder, so between the two of them it’s no wonder my right arm gives me serious grief from time to time. Still, the doctor felt like rushing into surgery wasn’t the best idea, and I totally agree – I’ve heard that rotator cuff surgery is no joke, and I want to avoid that shit if at all possible. So for now, I’ve been given an injection that did reduce the pain for now, although it does still hurt when I try to do certain things, and I am schedule to start some physical therapy this week to try and strengthen the muscles around the tears enough to make the shoulder functional, and see if that is enough for now. I am really regretting not getting to a doctor sooner about this issue, since if I had done so it could have resolved on its own like my wrist did without ever developing into being torn, but I can’t bust myself up too much over something that seriously just never ever occurred to me to be a problem. Still baffles me why I decided that, but nothing can be done about it now.

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Due mostly to my ongoing arm issues, I haven’t been blogging or editing pictures much at all, as too much computer work is a primary pain culprit. Before the injection, just thinking about getting online and commenting on people’s blog posts just felt like more than I could handle, but for now at least I can do it. Who knows how long that will hold up. I’m hoping that the ease with which my wrist healed up is a sign that I can get to a similar place with my shoulder. We’ll see.

Insurance Assurance

 

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Came across this photo when reviewing pics to send to insurance; I admit that in the original photo, the ‘ha’ in ‘happy’ was covered up by something, so I did a quick and crappy editing job to put those letters back in.

Sitting here waiting on an insurance rep to show up and go over the damages from the roof leak to our home. I walked around and took pictures a few days ago – very low-quality so I can email them, of course, but here’s just a few I can share:

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In many places, our carpet was also damaged from these leaks, and a distinct moldy smell has taken over our home. I have a 2 PM appointment to see a doctor because it appears I’ve contracted pink eye in my left eye; this could be due to the mold, but I can’t be sure about that. The areas around our brick chimney are also water-stained, and the brick is still wet on both sides, but since I took such low-res photos for emailing those shots aren’t even clear enough to upload, really.

The worst part of our damage, though, is our shower:

25 Also a crappy photo, but I think you get the idea. Yuk. 

It looks like water is just sitting up there above the ceiling, waiting to crash down on us, and gunk is dripping from the ceiling and running down the walls. I’m embarrassed to admit that although we have three bathrooms in this house, this is the only shower that’s currently working. In general, my husband and I pride ourselves on stubbornly refusing to pay to get things fixed unless absolutely necessary, and with just the two of us in this house we never saw the need to repair our other two showers when they needed it. We never used them, so we basically forgot about them – and one now houses two litter boxes anyway. But now that one is basically unusable, we’re feeling the effects of our laziness and ridiculous house-frugality.

So, our house didn’t flood, although I know people who lost everything, and Houston will slowly begin the work of rebuilding and digging out of this mess. We’ve given money to the fund Mayor Turner set up for the city, and I am offering a month of free tutoring to everyone affected by the floods. There are a lot of people going around house to house and offering to rip up carpet and bust out sheetrock for families who took on water, but I am not useful at such things and so am waiting for the water surrounding us to finally go down so I can get out of the neighborhood and take donations to shelters. For the moment, we are still locked in, but I’m hoping to be able to leave the area by Tuesday (the doctor I am going to visit is within our levee so I can make it there and back, but I’m going to have to go by a circuitous route).

The insurance rep was supposed to be here between 10 and 10:30, and it’s now 11:20 with no sight nor sound of the guy. Typical. This is probably going to be a big chunk of our lives for the next few months while we deal with insurance and contractors and the fact that everyone else in the city is doing the same thing. If the mold gets too bad, we may have to move out temporarily, but I’m hoping that doesn’t happen. The wait out the storm period has passed, and the wait and see what happens next has begun.

Here’s hoping that horrible Irma stays away from the U.S., but it ain’t looking good. Stay vigilant, East Coast. I hope you are spared.

Tuesday Newsday

An update on our Hurricane Harvey situation:

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First things first: we made it through the night when our part of town got hit the worst. Harvey is so big, and has moved so slowly over Houston, that literally no part of the Houston area has been spared. Having lived here all my life, I have family and friends spread out all over the place, and as it has turned out so far, every one of us has had a “turn” at being in the worst possible location on a given day. The first night of the storm, it was my brother out in Dickinson watching the water creep up to his door and seeing helicopters rescue his neighbors. The second night, it was my friend in Katy, who had the same situation as my brother the night before with an added crisis of two rescuers getting trapped in a tree and having to be rescued themselves. Then yesterday, it was my turn, when around 4 PM our county judge changed the voluntary evacuation notice in our neighborhood to a mandatory one. Up until that moment, I was fairly calm about our situation, although that water creeping up our front walk was making me progressively more nervous throughout the day.

In our case, the mandatory evacuation was called because the levee that surrounds our neighborhood, and that has kept us flood-free for thirty or forty years, had a valve that malfunctioned when a nearby creek overflowed into it. Ironically, our levee system was “improved” after the Tax Day Flood of 2015, which sounded like a good idea until it got tested this weekend and failed. Our street didn’t flood in 2015, before these ‘improvements.’ During Hurricane Harvey, it did – along with most of the neighborhood. Needless to say, this is going to be a huge problem for whomever did that work moving forward, because they clearly screwed up something that was working fine before they got their tools on it. Moving on.

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Once the county saw what was happening, they called for a mandatory evacuation, but the problem was that by that time most of us could not leave. Yes, our neighborhood generally is flood-free, but everything around us floods in storm situations, and we become an island. Because of how safe we’ve always been here, barely anyone responded to the voluntary evacuation, and were suddenly faced with taking pretty epic measures to get out when it switched to mandatory. For Doug and I, it wasn’t really possible for us to leave; we have four pets, and two small compact cars; unless you had an SUV or a big truck you weren’t going to make it out of our neighborhood. And, once you got out, there wasn’t much of anywhere to go. By this time, the shelters in our area had filled up, and there were even people who’d evacuated to shelters in the area only to find the shelter filling up with water, and having to evacuate again. We weighed our options, moved our stuff to the second floor of our house, and decided to take our chances.

All evening long the news was fixated on our area; specifically, on our very street. Reporters were a mere block or two away from us, filming people in waist-deep water being hoisted into boats to escape the encroaching floodwaters. They were squinting through the heavy rain that had been falling non-stop for 24 hours (our poor dogs were about to bust before they’d go outside and relieve themselves; i finally had to let them poop in the garage) and ominously saying things like, “If you live in this area, this is no time to take chances…you need to GET OUT NOW.” All evening long, we could hear helicopters overhead and airboats in the slowly rising rivers our streets had become. I was a wreck. We’d stocked up on food, we had everything we needed moved to the second floor, and fortunately, as the evening turned into night we discovered that most of our neighbors had also stayed and we were not, in fact, going to be all alone drowning in our own poor choices. We would all go down together, it seemed, and that helped. Still, I admit to breaking down in tears at one point, just from the sheer stress of the situation. I finally understood what my brother had been going through on his long dark night of the storm, and my friend the previous night. I texted with everyone I knew throughout the night for comfort, and kept posting on the neighborhood Facebook group that sprung up that morning when the first voluntary evacuation was ordered, created for people who were choosing to stay.

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We placed a rock at the waterline on our front walk and checked it every hour. For several hours, it rose about 12 inches each time. Then, around 10:30 or so, we went to check it and noticed it had only risen about half that. Then, it seemed to stop. It was about that time the county judge, who’d called for the mandatory evacuation, had a Facebook live press conference and explained that the malfunctioning valve had been temporarily fixed, and that the levee was pumping out water again. As soon as we heard this, my husband and I ran out to the walkway to check our little rock, and sure enough – it had gone down about an inch. We celebrated in the rain like maniacs, and held our breath the rest of the night, forcing ourselves to wait an hour before going out and checking again lest we get too obsessive about it. Each time we checked throughout the night and into Monday morning, it had gone down a bit more.

Photo Aug 29, 4 26 31 PM

All through the day today, it’s been draining, and as of 6 PM there’s no water standing in our stretch of the street. But many areas of the neighborhood are still flooded, and the very unfortunate people who live in the areas the news media was filming yesterday due to the extent of the flooding where they were got water in their house – some as much as three feet. When out walking around this evening to take some more photos, I encountered a couple who were venturing onto their street for the first time since evacuation, and when they told me where they lived I regret that they could see on my face what I knew they would find. I’m sure they already knew to expect the worst, but my heart really broke for them. I grew up much closer to Galveston, in an area that flooded badly in tropical storms and hurricanes, and our house flooded three times that I can recall, so I know what a disaster that is to deal with. We have a little disaster of our own to handle now, because our roof, which we got replaced after Hurricane Ike, leaked like a bitch for some reason and ruined a lot of drywall and carpet. But what we’ve got to repair is nothing compared to the nightmare of having a flooded house, and obviously, in this storm, so many, many people have lost everything, included houses, belongings, and cars – not to mention lives – that I am not complaining. We even somehow miraculously never lost power, which has never happened to me during a hurricane or tropical storm (with Ike, we were without power for four days during August, and it was torturous). Oh, and Doug’s father’s house had a tree fall on it, too, so he’s got to deal with that also (no one was harmed). But still, our troubles are small compared to most people right now.

Interestingly, for the first time ever I find myself feeling attached to this house. I don’t know, I got so nervous about losing it, somehow, and even felt like it protected us really well, in spite of all the leaky ceilings and walls, and I sort of promised myself that if this house protected us and got us through this thing safely, I would stop taking it for granted and appreciate it more, and maybe even start to really take care of it better. I’ve never been one to care much about my surroundings, as long as I have a roof and a bed I really don’t care what things look like or where it is, but the last few years I’ve been wishing either that this house looked nicer, or we could sell it and buy a new one that already looked nice (because the idea of fixing up an old house doesn’t excite me IN THE LEAST). But when Doug and I were talking about all the repairs we were going to have to do, and he said we needed to just get this thing fixed up quickly and move, I felt a little pang of resistance at the idea. I think he sensed it, because he followed that up by saying that we could put some real money into it and fix it up properly and sink all our money into it and stay, and I perked up a little at that thought. I couldn’t tell if he perked up, too, or was just saying that to see what how I felt about it, but now isn’t time to make all those decisions anyway. But maybe. The idea of going through the moving process has never EVER thrilled me in the least, so I could be encouraged to stay here for sure. But in the end, I’m not sure it’s the best idea.

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Anyway, now we just have to survive the Brazos River going over its banks, which is supposed to happen sometime tonight or tomorrow, but as long as our levee holds, which it should now, we will be OK. We just may not be able to get anywhere for several days, but this house has taken care of us so far, as has the neighborhood, so I think we’ll be good.

Edited to add: Catherine asked about donations, and while displaced people will need clothing and food, etc. those things have to come locally for now due to the flooding all over the area. However, should you want to donate financially, our mayor has set up a fund here: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

Evacuation Proclamation

So, we live in Houston. And no, we did not evacuate.

Here’s what people think evacuating looks like:

Young couple driving convertible at sunset

Here’s what evacuation really looks like:

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Deciding whether to stay or go in a natural disaster like this involves risk analysis: is my risk greater if I leave, or if I stay? But there are risks either way, and neither option is a good one – at all. The risks involved in evacuating are quite actually quite high; it’s not like you pack a light bag, make a road-trip mixtape, pick up a few cases of brewskis and hit the open road for a luxury resort in another town. And I say this because I lived here during the whole hurricane Rita fiasco, and I heard so many of my students saying they had decided to evacuate and were just going to “drive up to Austin for a nice vacation” instead of waiting out the storm…well, the photo above is the result of millions of people having that attitude at the time.

Because of that disaster, people in Houston learned their lesson, and did not evacuate unless the risk involved in staying was greater than the risk of evacuating. This is how it SHOULD be done. Yes, many of those people are now in trouble and need help. But this is what I wish the rest of the damn country would understand: we all KNEW we might end up needing help later if we stayed. But we HAD to allow the people who were in immediate danger to get out first.

People who stayed are not examples of individuals who stupidly refused to evacuate before a storm. They are examples of people who weighed the risks and rightly chose to wait things out in order to allow those in greater need to get out FIRST. And now those brave people need help, and they deserve to get it.

I haven’t even mentioned people who cannot evacuate because they have no money, no transportation, or not even the physical health and stamina needed to endure such a journey. Because honestly, I shouldn’t have to. If every single armchair warrior out there judging Houstonians online for not evacuating wants to pack up a bag and drive over here to my house to show me how to better wait out this storm, then they’re more than welcome to do so. Otherwise they can pretty much shut the entire fuck up.

Love you all!

Anxiety Society

That title sucks, but hey, it does rhyme. Moving on.

I’ve taken some new shots with the intention to continue working with the curves tool when editing my photos, so I was sure to use some backgrounds, costumes, lighting, and poses that I thought would work for that purpose. So far, so good, and I’m having fun playing around with these new techniques.

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I also bought these two feather collars from Free People a while back when they went on sale (honestly, is there no end to the over-priced cool stuff that store carries?) and was finally able to use them.

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I also broke out a flashbender I can attach to my external flash and used that in some shots, like the one above. When I first got it I used it a lot, but over time I found I didn’t care for the harsh light I got when using it and that it was much more difficult to edit those photos and achieve the look I wanted. But I wanted to see how the photos would turn out if I used it and then edited them with the curves tool, so I strapped the flashbender onto the camera and gave it a go. I’m glad I did because I did get some nice pictures as a result. Although, right out of the camera they looked awful.

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The flashbender directs the light from the flash into a narrow beam, so it gives the photos a spotlight effect, which makes for some really interesting shots, although I barely know how to use it so they need a lot of work when processing to make them look right. So anyway, yeah, on the photography front things are pretty cool, but in other ways, things are a bit tricky right now.

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The big problem I’m having right now is anxiety. I’ve actually starting having anxiety attacks, and they’re really fucking annoying. It starts with some random body ache or pain, which sends me into a panic thinking I’m going to get sick, which leads to this awful lightheadedness that starts in my gut and radiates upwards into my head as if I’m going to pass out; I sometimes also feel hot and nauseous, and like I can’t catch my breath even though I’m breathing fine. I had my first attack like this over a year ago; I thought I was having a heart attack until I realized I wasn’t, and that by calming down with self-talk and walking around to get myself moving, I could make it stop – even though I felt jumpy for some time afterwards. After that first bout, I didn’t have another one for almost a year, but in the past 3 months or so I’ve been getting them regularly. Several attacks have come at night, and twice they’ve been bad enough to keep me up for hours (two other times I just talked myself through it and feel asleep in spite of it). I haven’t had an attack in public since the first one a year ago – until today.

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I’ve been feeling pretty confident about these attacks because I’ve been controlling them well, but today it started as I was driving around town running errands, and the anxiety just stayed with me all damn day, no matter what I did. Of course I know part of the problem was that I kept trying to “do” things to calm myself when it just wasn’t in the cards for me because not only was I having an anxiety attack, but I was also trying to run a bunch of annoying errands that I was determined to do anxiety be damned, and everything kept cycling. It was totally frustrating, and more than a little disconcerting, because in my mind I’m thinking, how long is this going to go on? Is this going to happen while I’m tutoring a student? Am I going to just feel this way forever now? What if I become one of those people who’s scared to leave the house because I’m afraid of having an attack in public? Is this going to totally ruin my life?

I don’t have answers to those questions yet. I don’t know why this is happening all of a sudden, although I’d say I’ve had low-grade anxiety my entire adult life, so perhaps I should be surprised it’s taken this long to manifest this way physically. What I do know: I talked to my gynecologist about the possibility of this being related to perimenopause, and she was pretty non-committal about whether it was or not either way. She feels that because I’m still on birth control, I shouldn’t be having any menopause-related symptoms, and that what i described to her was garden-variety panic attacks and nothing more. I went and got a physical and that doctor felt what I was describing was panic attacks as well; all my bloodwork came back normal, so I know it’s not related to my thyroid, or diabetes (a possibility since it runs in my family), or anemia or any other blood-related thing that might be causing it. After today’s fun anxiety-fest I made an appointment with the psychiatrist who prescribes my Wellbutrin to discuss this with him and see what he thinks. I know Wellbutrin can cause anxiety or exacerbate it in people who are prone to it, so perhaps that’s part of the problem too.

I also know that I grow increasingly anxious by the day about the man who currently sits (or squats, as the case may be) in the Oval Office. I feel like the anxiety level of the entire country is in overdrive right now, and the events over the weekend in Charlottesville have me good and freaked. I also know I lost a friend a few weeks ago, and that having people so close to me in age and life experience die does freak me out any time it happens. I also know that over the past year or two I’ve had other things happen that have felt so unfair as to be almost unbelievable; the sort of things I never thought would happen to me and that disappointed and distressed me to my core. I know I had shingles in January, and there’s really only one reason someone gets shingles (stress). I know my entire life schedule is still topsy-turvy and I’ve not yet gotten myself into a decent routine, and I spend way too much time still sitting around doing a bunch of nothing other than play too many video games and read/watch WAY too much CNN. I know my sleep habits are pretty awful, and let’s not even get started on my diet because that’s a total disaster. I know I still haven’t gotten myself back into a decent workout routine, which is partly due to injuring both my rotator cuff AND my wrist on the same arm – two things which also make me anxious as I fear growing older and getting fragile and sustaining injuries I can’t recover from (fears I’ve never had before – my clumsy ass has injured myself tons over the years, but NOW I fear every injury will permanently damage me for some reason).

So yeah, I guess when I write it all out I can see why I’m having panic attacks. But for anyone who’s been down this road, you know that it’s not always enough to know why they happen. Once they start to happen they seem to take on a life of their own, apart from all logic and wisdom, so getting this under control will be a challenge, but one I am willing to accept, because I refuse to just hide out in the house all day and stop living my life over something like this. Some things I’m doing to try to help: 1. Actually get involved politically instead of sitting on the sidelines. 2. Eat better and exercise more. 3. Schedule my life each day instead of just wandering from hour to hour and day-to-day without any real plans for how I should be living and what I should be doing. and 3. See if there is something medically I need to do differently, like change my medication or get off of it (which I tried once, without success).

As far as getting more involved politically, in this little town near my neighborhood yesterday a woman put together a spontaneous vigil for the people of Charlottesville, and I decided to pull my head out of my ass and go. The plan was to walk about a mile up a major road holding candles, and then walk back. It sounded a little odd, but the heart was in the right place and it was nearby, so I went and joined them. It really was a small little group of women (and one man), so honestly I felt a little silly doing it, but everyone was lovely and it was something to show which side I am on, at least, and I met some nice people in the process. Hell, one woman showed up on crutches just because she wanted to stand up for love and peace and harmony, and the man was older and had to turn around halfway because it was so damn hot and humid, so all in all it was at least nice to see some sort of light in the midst of the weekend’s darkness.

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Getting ready to walk in Fulshear. That one woman carried the mirror because she said something about Trump needing to look at himself in the mirror, or something. I didn’t really understand that part – but I was super-impressed that she carried that damn things for three miles. It was heavy! 

So I don’t know, y’all. I don’t want to be dealing with panic attacks all the time, and knowing it’s not something physical like blood pressure or low thyroid actually doesn’t help as much as I thought it would, because at least if the problem is physical that means there’s a physical process for correcting the problem, whereas when it’s mental/emotional it feels impossible to fix. Then again, the last time I remember feeling this frustrated in relation to my body was when my gluten intolerance reached the breaking point over ten years ago and I kept ending up in the emergency room, and no one could explain to me what was going on, and I eventually figured out how to deal with that problem. And in my twenties I went through a terrible phase of having awful migraines, the kind with aura and partial blindness, and I remember feeling pretty despondant at first that the situation was going to permanently ruin my life, and that didn’t happen then, either. So, I am hopeful that this too is something that’s awful right now but DOES have a solution that will work for me, and I just have to find it. But, as I already mentioned, I’m also less optimistic about shit like this than I used to be, too, so while I’m hopeful, I’m not as hopeful as I would have been ten years ago, or even five years ago, because now i realize that some problems just don’t have solutions at all, and eventually all of us get that one diagnosis that signals the start of the end of things for real, and really shitty bad luck does happen to other people all the time so why couldn’t it happen to me too. So there you go. Hopeful, kinda? But also, in a way, not entirely. Boo.