Monday, January 01, 2024

Hello 2024

Happy New Year!

I just looked back on my few posts in 2023 and well... it was a year.  It wasn't a bad year, really, but it wasn't one where I can look back and think "yeah, I really got what I wanted out of that." Some great things happened, but I never really felt like I was in control of things in 2023. Rather, things controlled me. I let work eat my life far more than I would like. We got super busy with the kids' activities and I never really found a rhythm to things. We did exactly one thing off of our family fun list, so last night we decided to just roll the list over to this year and try again.

I am going to try to take back control this year, to the extent that is possible - or at least not accidentally let work and kid activities take over like they did in 2023. I thought I'd start by reviewing how I did on last year's resolutions and then document my resolutions for this year. 

Instead of specific resolutions, I picked three themes for 2023. They were: Own my age, Make healthier habits, and Enjoy life more.

Of the three, I think I did the best on owning my age. I said I wanted to find my new uniform. I haven't done exactly that, but I do have some new go to brands: Wit and Wisdom for pants, NYDJ for jeans, and Vince Camuto for tops. I don't like all of his tops but there are enough that I like to make it the section I start in when I go shopping. I call my Vince Camuto tops my "middle age mom wants to look nice" tops - and I can tell I'm not alone because last week when I hit the Nordstroms half year sale, all the size L Vince Camuto tops were gone. They had plenty of size S, but let's face it if you're a size S you're probably not buying these tops. They are flowy but have some shape so you can tell I still have a waist, and they hit just below my belly, which has obvious benefits. (As an aside, one of the things that made me laugh in self-recognition in 2023 was this excerpt fromWendi Aaron's book I'm Wearing Tunics Now. The line "How old am I? I'm tunic years old" is so spot on.)

What I'm saying is: I can now dress myself for several consecutive days in which I have to go into an office without too much distress. I call that a win. I'm still looking for my go to weekend tops. Suggestions welcome!

The other things I did with regards to owning my age: I stopped whining about how hair was going from the blonde of my youth to a dingy dishwater color and let my hair stylist add highlights. Literally no one else notices my highlights (not even my husband) but I love them because my hair looks the right color to me again. I stopped whining about the dark spots on my arms and bought some cream that said it would help with that. And it has! (It is just retinol and vitamin C - I haven't graduated to niacinamide yet). My forearms no longer startle me when I see them.

I am still whining about how easily my forearms bruise since as far as I can tell there is nothing I can do about that. But most of my Vince Camuto tops are 3/4 sleeve length so I can just hide those bruises with flowy sleeves.

So basically, I applied money to my age-related issues with my looks and am happier now. 

I didn't do all that well on making healthier habits. My initial instinct on seeing that theme in last year's post was "I didn't do that at all!" - but that is not entirely true. Maybe the right way to look at it is that I laid the foundation for some healthier habits. I found a recipe I like for a healthy, filling week day lunch (quinoa with an egg on top), I just don't always find the time to make the quinoa ahead of time so I can grab a quick lunch. I rediscovered my old yoga DVD, which has a yoga routine that really helps when I make time to do it and that reminded me of how much better I feel when I have a regular yoga and meditation practice. I maintained my Friday afternoon rollerblading routine.  I used my rowing machine enough that it doesn't feel like I wasted my money on it.

So, onward to 2024 on this one - if I can build on this foundation, I'll end the year with some healthier habits!

I did the worst on the "enjoy life more" theme. I tried to make the routines that were dictated by the kids' activities enjoyable, and had some success there (Mr. Snarky and I enjoy our weekly dinner out during Petunia's ballet class, for instance). I read a lot more instead of mindlessly scrolling social media so much. That's a habit I want to bring into 2024, even though I finally signed up for Bluesky (I have the same @wandsci handle there as I had on Twitter).  

But - as I said, I let work eat my life. I don't really have any hobbies right now, and I miss having a creative outlet. I did not get to the beach anywhere near as often as I'd like. And as I mentioned up top, we did so poorly on our family fun list we called a do over for this year.

Looking ahead to 2024, I have a mix of specific resolutions and themes.

My specific resolutions are: 

- Really use the new green bin the city gave us. We have our own compost pile so haven't been putting food scraps in the green bin. But the green bin can take so many things that we don't put in our compost pile! Pizza boxes! Used paper napkins, even the ones we used to soak up extra cooking oil! And more! I need to read up on what I can put in this bin and use it for more than the yard waste Mr. Snarky fills it with.

- Build a yoga and meditation practice. I feel so much better after yoga. Why do I have such a hard time making time to do it? I have promised myself to fix this in 2024.

I have two themes for the year. One is to continue to build healthier habits. The other is to take my time. This means I don't let work eat my life, but also that I take some time for the things I enjoy. My kids are old enough to give me the time I need, I just need to remember to take it.

I made myself a cheesy sign to remind me of my new theme (my sister gave Petunia this light box years ago and Petunia was going to get rid of it... so I snagged it for my office):

2024 will undoubtedly bring plenty of challenges. It is a Presidential election year so there's one source of stress. Pumpkin will be starting on the college choice process in earnest. Petunia is trying not to have to choose between ballet and volleyball, which means a lot of schedule problem-solving for me. I'm on a big new project at work that has impossible timelines and a lot of competing ideas to wrangle.

But I feel pretty good heading into 2024. I think I know what I need to do to end the year feeling more like I caught some big, exhilarating waves and less like I got dunked into the churn. Now I just need to do it.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

COVID Round 2

Friday evening, Petunia told me one of her best friends at school had tested positive for COVID. Her friend had a scratchy throat so had worn a mask to school, but went home early and by evening tested positive. I opened more windows, turned our main air filter up a notch, and moved our little air filter into Petunia's room. We tested Petunia the next morning - negative. But her luck did not hold. By Sunday evening her throat was scratchy and Monday morning she tested positive. She went into her room and the rest of us nervously hoped for the best. It had been about a year since our last boosters so we knew we were probably vulnerable, but maybe we'd get lucky. Just in case, my husband moved to the guest room since the way our weekend plans had worked out, I had spent the most time with Petunia over the weekend. 

I woke up Tuesday to a scratchy throat, so I tested myself. Negative. But something was off, so I decided to stay in my room after work, close the office door while working, and wear a mask when I came out to the common areas. My husband decided to work in the garage. Wednesday, my throat hurt more and I was getting tired, but I was still negative. Same thing Thursday morning... I was clearly fighting something but I wasn't feeling terrible and I was still negative. But Thursday afternoon I got achy and developed chills so I tested again and this time I was positive. 

I emailed my doctor to see about getting Paxlovid. I spent most of Friday sleeping. My husband found the pulse oximeter I'd bought in the early, panicky days of the pandemic so I could check the value before my call with my doctor. I was surprised to see how low my oxygen saturation was -  it was down to 94. I normally read at 98. When the triage nurse who called to set up the appointment with my doctor asked how I was breathing, I told her I thought I was doing fine. The pulse ox said otherwise! I told the doctor the reading and was encouraged to get Paxlovid, use my albuterol more, and to keep monitoring my pulse ox. If it goes to 92 I am supposed to go to urgent care.

I started the Paxlovid last night and definitely feel better today. My oxygen saturation is up to 96. I am still tired but in a "I want to stay in bed and read" sort of way instead of a "I think I'll just take my 5th nap of the day" sort of way. 

Petunia has felt fine since Thursday and is hoping she tests negative tomorrow so she can go to her volleyball clinic. I suspect she'll still be positive, but we'll see. So far, Pumpkin and my husband are testing negative, although both say their throats feel a little off. We've all scattered to separate rooms. We meet up for dinner outside, sitting far away from each other.

I'm sad to see my "no-vid" status go, but glad I avoided it for as long as I did. Remember at the beginning when we all just wanted to avoid it until we were vaccinated and there were treatments? I do wish they'd have gotten the new vaccines out in time for the start of school but also acknowledge that it was unlikely I could dodge COVID forever since I have two children in school and am also out and about more myself. 

On the bright side, I've finished two books since exiling myself to my room: A Half-Built Garden, by Ruthanna Emrys and The Alarmist, by Dave Lowe. The first is a first contact story set in a future in which at least some humans have started to deal with climate change. It is interesting and ultimately hopeful about the future of humanity. The second is a memoir written by a New Zealand scientist who was involved in some of the early research into how we humans have been changing our atmosphere. It is a sobering reminder of our wasted opportunity to heed the early warnings about increasing CO2, but also a great look at what it took to set up some of the early experiments that demonstrated the impact we were having on our atmosphere and an honest memoir of a life in science.

And with that, I think I have used up my tolerance for being upright and will lay back down and start another book. 

(Here is the write up of our first experience with COVID, also courtesy of Petunia's classmates!)

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Summer Thoughts

We're recently returned from our big summer vacation - it was a bit of a friends and family tour in that we saw friends or family at every stop. But it was also a really great vacation to wonderful places (Rarotonga and Australia) so I'll try to write something about it over on Adjusted Latitudes soon. We came back to some busy weeks at work and with Petunia's summer activities, and since we once again took our summer vacation to places where it is winter (albeit some of the places have pretty mild winters!) I want to take advantage of the San Diego summer now that we're home.

Which is a long-winded way of saying Petunia and I made our first real beach trip of the season today and it was awesome. Beach trips are so much easier now that we don't need to haul a bunch of toys along and everyone can happily walk 20 mins from the parking spot I found to the beach.

San Diego has been spared the worst of the heat dome, but summers here definitely have more warm days than I remember from my grad school days (more than 20 years ago). This summer, it seems like the connection between the hot summer and climate change is really making it into the mainstream news stories, which is good. We need people to realize climate change is real and it is here. But so many people seem to have a resigned "this is the coldest summer of the rest of our lives" attitude that I don't think is helping. It doesn't have to be if we decide we don't want to just accept a future in which the climate situation just gets worse and worse. 

One of the things I do on long flights is listen to podcasts on repeat - listening lets me dose off and get some sleep, but by putting the podcast on repeat I end up hearing most of the podcast, anyway. This was particularly true on our flight home from Australia, since it left at 10 a.m. and my body wasn't having any of my brain's attempts to convince it to get some sleep.

The podcast that was on repeat the longest on that flight was the recent Volts episode about enhanced geothermal energy. It is such an optimistic episode! Geothermal can provide a source of firm clean energy, meaning that it doesn't not depend on the sun shining or the wind blowing. It has been limited to specific areas with geothermal activity, but now, using the same technology developed for natural gas extraction, it can be deployed in many more locations. The first commercial-scale enhanced geothermal energy plant is now online. To quote from the podcast:

"Last week, the geothermal developer Fervo Energy announced that its first full-scale power plant passed its production test phase with flying colors. With that, Fervo has, at long last, made it through all the various tests and certifications needed to prove out its technology. It now has a working, fully licensed power plant, selling electricity on the wholesale market, and enough power purchase agreements (PPAs) with eager customers to build many more.

EGS is now a real thing — the first new entrant into the power production game in many decades."

This is a big deal. It is just the latest reminder that we have the technology we need to change our climate future. We "just" need the political will to make the change a reality. 

But juxtaposed against that optimistic podcast, on the same flight out of Australia there was a large contingent of Australian firefighters flying to help fight the wildfires in Canada. And as soon as I switched out of vacation mode and checked the news sites, I saw news of heat waves in the US and Europe. 

But I still think we can change our trajectory. There are a lot of fights to win, and there is a lot of work to do. But if we resign ourselves to a future in which every year is warmer than the last we won't even try to win the fights and complete the work. We need to try.

With those thoughts in mind, when I came back from vacation I thought I should do something to offset the carbon spewed by our flights. Since general carbon offsets are hard to assess, I decided I would go all in and pay for carbon removal - i.e., direct air capture of carbon. As far as I can tell, there is one option for that: Climeworks. Before I decided to send them money, I wanted to do a little more research on carbon capture. Luckily, another one of my favorite climate change podcasts had an episode on carbon capture that I found very helpful, and when the expert being interviewed said she buys carbon capture credits I decided we'd do it, too. We're just working out how much per month to commit to and how much to send to a climate change charity (and which one to choose - I'm looking at the options described in this Vox article right now.) We donate to a charity every month and decided that this month we'd pick a climate charity, so now I just have to figure out which one to choose. 

I'll be making my choices tomorrow, since this was meant to be our July charity.  

Anyway, that's my summer so far. How has your summer been?

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Just Some Random Things

I thought that perhaps when I stopped posting on Twitter I might write more here, but it hasn't worked out that way. I do occasionally post over on Post or Instagram, but mostly I lurk. I haven't stopped lurking on Twitter but increasingly it feels like I should. 

I thought that maybe I'd waste less time scrolling and spend more time reading, and that has sort of worked out. I am finding it depends greatly on how much I am enjoying whatever book I'm reading. I think I need to get more ruthless about abandoning books that don't grab me in a couple of sittings. It is not like there is a shortage of things to read. 

I have started using my library to borrow ebooks instead of just buying from Amazon. Now that I'm reading more, my habit of just buying the book was going to get expensive. I try to buy the book more often if it is a less well-known author but to be honest it sometimes just comes down to whether there's a waitlist on the book at the library. 

I just posted a comment with some books I've enjoyed recently over at Grumpy Rumblings so I won't repeat them here. I will say a bit more about the books that didn't make the list, though. Over the Christmas break I reread The City and the City by China MiĆ©ville and loved even more the second time through. It is just such an interesting, mind-bending book. So I went looking for something similar. I utterly failed. I found a list of books other people had recommended as similar and while I could see the reason for the recommendation they were both so disappointing that I won't list them here. One hinted at really interesting things in the world they built but never did anything with them, leaving the world feeling flat. The other did a good job world building but fell down on characters. Both wrote women characters that didn't feel real at all. They often read like the enactment of the author's fantasies. It was terrible. I had forgotten what a hard time some sci-fi writers have with writing women or even making a world in which women can have some true agency. Blech.

The closest I came to the William Gibson or The City and the City feeling in reading recently was The City Inside by Samit Basu. This book had a believable and interesting world, believable and interesting characters... but ended without really tidying things up. Maybe there's a sequel planned. If there is one, I'll read it, but I prefer books to leave me feeling like I read something complete, even if there is a sequel.

In other news in my life... I had two business trips in January. I caught a terrible cold on the last day of the second trip and brought it home to share with my family. My husband and I are still coughing - it is a month later for me! - but my kids got over it really quickly. That was a nice stark reminder that we're aging and so are our immune systems. 

The business trips were good, but as much as I like to travel, I'd be happy not to have any more trips for quite awhile. Business travel is its own class of travel and now that my kids are old enough to let me read uninterrupted at home, the business trip has very little to offer me. (I used to enjoy getting to snuggle into bed and just read in the evening - a rare treat back when my kids were little.)

Work continues to be intense, but I am slowly getting a handle on things and am cautiously optimistic that by the time it is beach weather here I will actually be able to deliver on my promise to take more half days to take Petunia to the beach.

Now that I only cough occasionally and not constantly, I am trying to get back into my exercise routine. So I think I'll sign off and go out for my Sunday morning run/walk. It is a glorious day here. I hope you are all keeping well!

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Hello 2023

Happy New Year! 

I have had such a bad run of success with New Year's resolutions/intentions/goals that I decided to try something different this year. I wrote a list of all the things I'd like to improve upon. I did this quickly, without thinking too much about it. I figured this would get me the list of things that are most on my mind. Then I looked at the list to see if there were any themes. And there were - three themes emerged:

- Own my age

- Make healthier habits

- Enjoy life more

My plan is to try to let these three themes guide my decisions in 2023. Petunia wanted a specific "wellness journal" for Christmas. My sister and I got our wires crossed and both bought it for her. I was too lazy to take the one I bought back, so I gave Petunia the cash and kept the journal for myself. It is not at all what I'd have picked if I went shopping for such a thing, but it will do. I needed something like it to track my diet and sleep as I try to identify possible triggers for the supraventricular tachycardia episodes and so I will use it for that and also for setting monthly goals for my three themes. We'll see if that helps me actually do the things I want to do this year!

What do the themes mean? Well, owning my age is the category that encompasses things on my list like "find a new 'uniform' now that my old one isn't so flattering anymore" (my "uniform" is my go to easy type of outfit - I had one for casual and one for work. Both need updating.) Making healthier habits is probably self-explanatory. It includes things like "do something active for at least 10 minutes every day" (I feel so much better, physically and mentally, when I do this!) and "decrease my alcohol intake" (it crept up in the lockdown phase of the pandemic and I never did a post-pandemic reset - now is the time). Enjoy life more has things like my ever popular "take more walks on the beach" and "read more" - but also "actually do all the things on our family fun list" (our performance in 2022 was abysmal). 

We'll see how this system works. Maybe if I do well with it, I'll be shopping for a wellness journal of my own next December!