Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Then the fireworks

It's been a busy day. We put together a piece of furniture. We took the girls out to It'z for pizza and games. Then we bought some fireworks. We had some fun with them earlier tonight. Now Isa and Gabe are watching Wall-E. Paula is doing an end-of-year ritual (writing all the bad things that happened to her in a piece of paper and burning it), and I came here for my last post of 2008.

I wish everybody a happy new year. The year 2009 will be a challenging one in many respects. Let us hope it will be a rewarding one as well. See you on the other side.

Adios, 2008

What a tumultuous year it was. Let's hope that things improve in the coming years.

In terms of this blog, 2008 was not as active as the previous year. I have posted about half of what I posted in 2007, and the last few entries have been photo and video postings. This year I did not participate in many writing challenges. The stresses of work occupied a bigger chunk of my time this year, and left me with little energy to attempt any creative endeavors, ruminations about life, or explorations of my feelings.

I do not know what will happen with the blog going forward. I have no intention to end it, but I have to find the spark again. I do not want my blog to be another chore I dread.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 3, in which I am pissed off at Sprint

I am in a much better mood this morning. Sometimes, when I get frustrated with something, I assume a gloom-and-doom view of life. I think that was the case yesterday.

My frustration today is not directed at my life, or my husband, or my kids. It is rather directed at my stupid cell phone company, Sprint. I just got hit with a $200 early termination fee for a phone line that I did not terminate. My daughter Paula lost her purse, with the cell phone in it. As a protection, I called Sprint last week to request that a block be put on her phone. How did that translate into a cancellation of the extra line we have in our account is beyond me.

Because I have my payments set up to come automatically out of my bank account, they hit me with the incorrect charge before I even had time to review my bill. And when I called them to get it fixed, I had to talk to 3 different people without the issue coming to a full resolution. As it stands, the account services people requested a credit and placed a request for their finance dept. to process the refund quickly, but I have absolutely no confirmation that they will, and it takes 24 to 72 hours before the finance people get back to me.

Customers should not be made to suffer because of how a company is organized internally. The three people I spoke to at customer service all put me on hold for several minutes while they found out how to deal with the matter or searched for the next person to transfer me to. They did not even know that I had already been hit with the charge in my bank account.

It is not unreasonable to expect to deal with just one person, who has access to my full history (including payment history) and is empowered enough to request a refund and confirm to me when I will get it. Why can't Sprint get it? I have been a customer for a long time, for the sole reason that Puerto Rico was part of their network before other carriers. But AT&T and Verizon offer coverage now, so that is no longer a reason. And I have been very dissatisfied with Sprint's coverage and customer service for a long time, so there is no love lost there.

This is not the first time I get hit with an early termination fee for a line I have not cancelled. Earlier this year I got new phones shipped to me, and one of them was not what I requested. They sent a replacement and when I sent back the first phone, they cancelled my husband's phone (which was not tied to the returned phone) and hit me with an early termination fee. WTF? Are their systems really that obtuse, or do they just employ a bunch of yahoos who don't know what the hell they are doing?

I will wait until my contract expires, and then I am changing providers. After eight years as a customer, I am officially sick and tired of Sprint.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December Vacation, Day 2

Day one of my vacation is under my belt, but I do not have much to show for it. My biggest accomplishment yesterday was gift-wrapping some of the girl's Christmas presents. No progress on the mountain of dishes, or the piles of papers and unread mail. Gabe and I talked about him maybe coming early from work so we could spend some (much needed) time alone, but he got caught up with work and it did not happen. This bugged me more than anything else, and I spent last night acting all cranky and sulky, even though I had earlier said it was fine and not to worry about it. I had never considered myself a passive-aggressive person, I guess I learn something new about myself every day.

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, my chest tight. I had to do an asthma treatment and take an expectorant. I hate living in a place with poor air quality. But it is the cold that affects me the most. As soon as the temperature drops, I start wheezing. Every year I get a bad cold, bronchitis or a walking pneumonia.

Today I have lunch with my friend Amanda. I am looking forward to that. Maybe afterwards I will get a massage. I would have expected to be relaxed today, this being my second day away from work. But my shoulders are stiff and I have a knot in my stomach. For someone so quick to anger, so expressive in my emotions, I am wound up surprisingly tight.

I am on a reflective mood this morning. I think of where I am now, and try to recall if I ever had a life plan, a place where I envisioned myself at forty. I don't think I ever did. I have lived most of my life on an accidental basis, driving without a map. Despite this, I think things have turned out okay for me. Why, then, am I so restless? I think of trade-offs, the things I have given up and the things that I have; I am not sure that I have made the right decisions in that area. I am not sure that I value what I have more than what I wish I had. That is a terrible thing to think. It makes me feel selfish and greedy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow flurries!

It NEVER snows where I live, so when we had wispy flurries falling upon us this afternoon, I could not resist taking a few pictures. Click on the pics to better see the flurries.





Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another Tuesday

California was OK. We were very busy, doing nine training sessions in all. I think they went OK, since this was the first time our group presented.

I am not part of the group anymore, though. As soon as I got back to work on Monday, my boss sent me a message saying that effective yesterday, I am no longer under him and I now report to his boss. That means that my duties are considered outside the charter of what he is currently doing. We knew this was coming as a result of the reorganization. I am still mentally processing that and wondering how the change will affect my day to day operations.

I am planning to take vacation starting next week until the end of the year. I have a lot of vacation hours accrued, so I think I will take a good, long rest.

My birthday is this weekend. Tick, tock, you're getting old. Yikes!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tuesday

I am in Anaheim California. I landed at the OC Airport yesterday. I am not impressed at all by what I have seen so far. There is a thick blanket of smog/smoke covering everything. I saw it from the sky as the plane made its descent. Yuck. I hope my asthma does not flare up.

Yesterday Gabe and I have talked on the phone several times. I also talked to Paula, who told me she missed me, and to Isabel, who said she wanted me to come home and sleep on my bed next to daddy. I miss them all.

I am on Houston time still. I woke up at 4 AM. Today I do four training sessions. I have stage fright.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adventures in Food

As readers of this blog might recall, a few months ago for health-related reasons I started changing my eating habits and started being more discerning about the kind of food I put in my mouth. Besides eating more vegetables and fruit, and buying organic whenever we can, we try to eat better quality meats, purchasing grass-fed beef, pastured birds and their eggs. So far we have been fortunate enough to be able to afford the higher prices, and appreciate our food more.

Today I picked up my Thanksgiving pastured turkey, which I purchased from David & Lori Crank at Oaks of Mamre Farm. I have purchased chickens and eggs from them in the past, and I definitely recommend them to anyone who is interested in eating better quality food. I am really looking forward to my family's Thanksgiving turkey meal.

Last Saturday I was at Houston's Bayou City Farmer's Market, and while there I found these amazing, delicious gingersnaps. They are sweet, but not overly so. They are delightfully crunchy. And they have quite a spicy kick! My husband fell in love with them, and declared them his favorite cookies ever.

The gingersnaps are sold by a non-profit organization called The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation. The organization has been around since the 1950's, and run several programs that provide assitance to people with developmental disabilities. One of them, Willow River Farms, is an organic farm and artisan community. Residents of the farm make the pretty handmade paper ornaments that decorate the tin cans that the gingersnaps are packaged in.

I highly recommend these cookies. They are delicious and by purchasing them you make a contribution to a good cause. If you are interested, their website is www.gingersnapsetc.org

I am not getting any kind of incentive for writing about the farm or the non-profit, so take these as endorsements as made from the heart, based on my happy experiences with both.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday

I found this while randomly searching for stuff on YouTube. I liked it very much.



It seems that lately most of what do is post links to things I have found and enjoyed.

Today is a bit of a sad day for me. I don't want to go into details.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Real Estate Downfall

Saw this posted at Alex Balk's Tumblr page and found it hilarious.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Tirade

I had a horrible weekend. I definitely am going through one of my "down" periods. No matter how many times I have tried, there is no way to accurately convey what this implies. The closest I can come up with is this: it's like someone flicks a switch inside my head and all my shortcomings come into sharp view. I then come crashing down under the weight of unfulfilled expectations, self-loathing and stress.

I am drowning. When I am not picking fights with everybody over stupid stuff, I am crying uncontrollably. I can't stand this.

Friday's incident with Paula, and seeing her report card, set the tone for the rest of the weekend. I can't shake the feeling that this is my fault somehow, that she would do better in school if only I could be more directly involved with school life.

Saturday we went to a fall festival from work and part of the time it was rough. Paula had quite an attitude and I had quite a short fuse. The results were not pretty. I am still reeling from it. I wish I was a better mom, more patient, less angry.

On Sunday I had committed to help Gabe with the formatting of a document he is working on that was due today. It took much more time than I anticipated, and I did not get clean the house at all. My parents are coming to visit on Wednesday, the house is a pigsty and I do not have time to rectify that now. I wish I wasn't such a slob. I wish I did not always bite more than I can chew.

I also very anxious about work. I keep getting new, high-visibility projects thrown on my lap and I feel overbooked and totally out of my element. I wish I was more confident of my ability to tackle the unknown. Learning periods are always so hard for me. Any situation where I feel I do not have complete command is hard to bear.

I feel like such a failure in every single aspect of my life. There is this vision inside my head of the kind of person I aspire to be. She is a great person: kind, patient, even-keeled, confident and accomplished. She does not lose it when she can't find her keys. She does not leave dirty dishes in the sink for days. She plays with her kids and refrains from yelling when they misbehave. The real me just does not measure up at all. I wish I could go to sleep and wake up in two years.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Embellishing the truth

I caught my daughter in a lie yesterday. Someone said something mean to her, and when she told me about it she decided to change the story rather than tell me the truth. I guess my daughter felt what her classmate said lacked punch and I would not get sufficiently upset on her behalf, so she upped the ante in her recollection.

She accused her schoolmate of calling her a terrible name, the kind of foul insult that drives a parent to phone the school principal in outrage over the bully in the classroom. When I told Paula I planned to contact her school over the incident, she panicked and begged me not to. Eventually she confessed that she had exaggerated, and told me what the girl had truly said. It was mean and rude alright, just not at the same level as what Paula said at first. Why would she lie? It is not the first time I catch her in a lie, and it's always so pointless and unnecessary. Why?

To top it all off, we got her report card yesterday. That was not great either. I am disappointed and will be enacting consequences as of today. There will be no more TV in her bedroom; I am unplugging it and taking it out. And she will have no sleepovers with friends until further notice. We'll see if her performance improves.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bajón de boricua

My parents are coming to visit next week. I can't wait. I need a boost.

Once again I have withdrawal symptoms. I am on edge. I am becoming translucent, slowly fading. I am turning gray. I am becoming a blob.

In December it will be three years since I last visited Puerto Rico. Three freaking years. I miss it so much it hurts in my bones, yet I am so afraid of going back and finding that the gray comes with me, that the stain is indelible.

At what point should I stop kidding myself and admit that I am effectively gone for the long term? What is the cutoff date when it becomes painfully obvious that I can no longer consider myself an island Puerto Rican? Why do I insist of making such a clear cut distinction between islanders and statesiders, and why is it that it upsets me to think that at some point I'm going to have to move from one group to the other?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Remembrance

The first time I traveled to Houston was in January 2000. I came here for an interview, looking for a promotion, for opportunities not available to me through the local branch of my employer.

I remember seeing Houston from the air, and being surprised at the lack of color. Everything seemed gray, flat, and so very big. It was winter in Texas, the sky was overcast and I was freezing my ass off.

Where were the mountains? Where was the beach? How did people find their way? What were all those rectangular ponds I would see every so often? And how many people lived in this place? Would I be able to make it here?

I learned the answers soon. To see mountains I needed to go to the hill country, a few hours' drive, certainly not a day trip. The beach was about an hour from here, but I was warned that coming from the Caribbean, Galveston would seem disappointing. People looked up directions on the Internet all the time, and drove North, South, East and West. Sometimes they would use landmarks (downtown Houston, the Williams Tower in the Galleria area, etc.).

I would also learn that, at 3.4M (per the 2000 census), the population of Harris County was close in sze to that of Puerto Rico (3.8M per the 2000 census). In some parts it can be as densely pack as the Metro area in Puerto Rico is. In others, there is a lot of room to expand.

There's no moral to this rambling. With time, what was once large and intimidating has become home. So far, I have been able to make it. We'll see what the future brings.

It's over

My mom called me yesterday. She was upset. Her party lost the election in Puerto Rico, and she was taking it really hard. The evil people who want to cut up and give away the island to rich foreign interests have won.

After being away for 8 years, I had forgotten how strong island Puerto Ricans feel about their political party affiliations, and how heated and emotional they can can get, not just on election years but every single day.

I have never felt that pull, that passion while living here in Texas. I know partisan politics exist in the United States too, and that some people identify very strongly with their party. But there is a vast majority that is not affiliated, large numbers of people who do not define themselves by whom they vote for.

A big difference between partisan politics in the US and in Puerto Rico is the fact that, at their core, Puerto Rican political parties are organized on the basis of a specific position regarding the island's political status vis-a-vis the United States. In an election where most voters were reacting to the current economic woes besieging the island by voting the incumbent out, a vote for the winning party will nevertheless be taken as a mandate for them to lobby the US Congress and push that particular political status option. That is what has my mom on the verge of tears. She is convinced this win takes us one step closer to statehood, and the sole idea makes her cringe.

Never mind the fact that this cycle has been repeating itself for decades as the leadership of the country goes from one party to the other. Never mind that in the last 41 years we have had three plebiscites, and yet the question of our status does not get resolved.

Some would say it will never be resolved.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The right to vote

There are some people who say that voting is an exercise in futility, that all politicians are corrupt and on the payroll of special interest groups. I am not one of the jaded. I believe in the right to vote, and I have been exercising that right since my first election in 1988.

It has always surprised that, for a country that proudly claims to be the biggest democracy, voter turnout in the US tends to be on the low side. This year may be completely different, and I am very interested to see how many people get out to vote. Now, if only we could get rid of the outmoded electoral college idea...

Election Day

Nothing like a cheesy 80's video to set the right mood for today's activities.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Scary

Halloween

I did not take many pictures last night. Here's a couple of them.

Paula was dressed up as some kind of goth vampire. Paula's friend was a devil, and Isabel was a witch. Paula had fake purple eyelashes and streaks of purple in her hair.

IMGP1781

Here is our neighbors' young daughter and Isabel.

IMGP1787

Friday, October 31, 2008

Kids Pick the President

Paula came home yesterday and told me that they had voted for the president in school, through the Nickelodeon website. She said they went online, read some information about what the candidates stand for, and then made their pick.

Obama won in her class. The majority of kids, with the exception of two, voted for Obama. I was surprised. We live in Texas after all. Although, maybe I should not be so surprised. According to this article in the Houston Chronicle, this year's early voting turnout has been dominated by Democrats.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Night







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Pressure cooker

I have always believed I do my best work under pressure, that looming deadlines make me soar.

I see now that is bullshit.

I have spent the last week under a tremendous amount of stress. I have a deadline. I have to produce something. I have the raw materials. I am struggling to put the pieces together. I keep procrastinating. I feel confused and lost, in over my head. Up shit creek without a paddle.

My whole life has been turned upside down lately. I have not gone to the gym. I have been eating too much and eating stuff that is not good for me. I have not measured my blood sugar in days. The house is even messier than it normally is. I am cranky and moody, more than usual. I am in avoidance mode. This will continue until the deadline is here and I deliver what is expected of me.

This is not soaring or working my best. This is agony. I hate it. I want it over.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Early Voting

We went to vote tonight. We wanted to avoid the long lines and craziness of election day. We ended up waiting in line for half an hour. But now we are done. Now we wait.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blah

I am not in good spirits. I have been in a downright foul mood the last couple of days. I don't know exactly why. I don't particularly care to figure it out either. I don't want any more chores.

Yesterday I misbehaved. I did not exercise at all and ate entirely too much. Not only that, but I ate some M&M's, which I really am not supposed to do. I was concerned about my blood sugar levels, as I did not test at all yesterday. But this morning's fasting sugar reading was 96, so I guess I am doing OK.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wassup 2008

Too early to think

I have been up since 6:00 AM. It is an absolutely ungodly hour to be awake on a Saturday. Paula wants to participate in a fun run organized by the school district, hence the early hour wake up call. We are leaving in a about ten minutes.


Lately I am tired of introspection, not just other people's, but my own analyzing and dissecting of feelings. Blech. The more things are explained, the more they are diluted and devoid of life. There comes a time when we have to stop putting our life under a microscope and start living it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Trepando Paredes (Cabin Fever)

It's been a weird day today. I worked from home again, just as yesterday. But while yesterday I had back to back conference calls most of the day, plus a sick girl prancing around, today it's been mostly me and my computer. I feel lonely, deprived of human interaction. I could have gone to the office, I guess.

Still more pics from last weekend

I had forgotten to post these.





Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Suburban wildlife

We have had a bird feeder in our front yard for a few months now. Last week, all of sudden, bird nests popped all over our front bushes, in between a lamp and the brick wall, and on a windowsill.

Yesterday we noticed an egg on one of the nests. I took a picture today, for posterity.

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Bad day

There are changes going on at work. We learned today we are losing a member of our team. She was pretty upset, and I can't blame her. It is not a good time to lose your job.

I am feeling survivor's guilt because I am still here. I am also angry, but there is no use being angry. These things will happen, regardless.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sad Guys on Trading Floors - Ugh, again with the line graphs. Why not something...

Sad Guys on Trading Floors - Ugh, again with the line graphs. Why not something...

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Untitled # 1

Last week a short story I wrote was published in a Spanish language literary magazine called Letralia. It is a magazine that has published texts by Paula's dad in the past. On a whim I unearthed something I had written a couple of years ago, gave it a few tweaks and sent it to the editor. I was pleasantly surprised when he replied they were publishing it. He asked me for a brief biographical note to include with the story, and I hesitated. I am not reallly an active writer (except for the the blog), so instead of providing a laundry list of published works, I put the link to Boricua in Texas on my biographical note.

This morning I found a comment left last night in an old post. A student from Puerto Rico wrote me to ask if I was the person who had written a short story they were reading in class. Their teacher had given them as homework to look for personal information on the author of the story. Since I do not have my full name listed on this blog, I believe the student found me through the link on Letralia.

I am not going to lie. At a time when I feel myself becoming increasingly invisible, it was damn good reading that comment and being reminded that there is more to my life than whatever it is I do at work these days. It is encouraging.

I hope the student found what they needed from the blog.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

October Photography Challenge: Shadow



This is my entry for Graham Ettridge's October Photography Challenge. The theme of the challenge was: silhouette/shadow. I think the picture is self-evident.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On the couch

It's one of those days. I am working from home, and in between phone calls, spreadsheets and frenzied e-mails, I lean back on my couch and wonder is this it?

That question always comes bundled with a sense of emptiness. Sometimes I wonder if I am truly seeking something that will fulfill me, or if I am just plain bored.

I live a perfectly ordinary life. I get up and have coffee. I take my kids to school and daycare. Sometimes I make breakfast for my husband; often he feeds himself. I pack our lunches. I take a shower, get dressed. I drive to work and park in the same area every day (so I don't forget where I am). I work. After work, I get my kids and drive home. We bicker. I make dinner. We all eat. We bicker once more. I sit at the computer for a while. Or I watch TV. I put my kids to bed and I fall asleep myself. Sometimes my husband is home in time for dinner.

My job is OK. I am not changing the world, though. And I often wonder how it would feel to do something that has a direct positive impact on the well-being of others. Not long ago I tried volunteering as a translator for a couple of non-profit organizations, and due to time constraints it did not work out. I feel bad about that. I want to contribute, I want to make my mark. But I am always so tired, and I feel like life is running through my fingers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rains in Puerto Rico cause floods; 4 dead

A vaguada or tropical depression going through Puerto Rico has brought with it so much rain that there has been flooding, especially in the Southern part of the island. At least four people are dead.

http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2251557420080922

http://www.elnuevodia.com/diario/fotogaleria/462203

I lost two hours of my life last night watching Heroes

Heroes premiered last night. Two episodes. Two hours. Can you say L-A-M-E?

All the hype. All the promises that this new season was going to be different. All a bunch of b.s.

They are still doing the exact same crap they have always done. The story makes no sense because they continue to be excessively mysterious. It is a series of purposely vague vignettes. You have no sense that the story is moving forward at all, you just get mystery after mystery thrown at you. It's like a bad comic book series that resorts to nonsensical flashy tricks to extend its run for as long as they can, as opposed to having an actual story arc. One thing is to keep people guessing as a way to entice them to come back. Another is to have a story so murky that your audience gets bored and gives up. I do not want shock value and ratings-grabbing tricks. I would like to see a well crafted story, thank you.

The cast continues to grow. They are stretched too thin. I am not really interested in all these people. It would have been better if they had less characters that were more developed and were given something better to do than show up on screen for a few seconds.

And what is up with the Battlestar Galactica ripoff? A character that is dead suddenly comes back, but can only be seen by one character? Really? Could you be any less original?

I am not sure I will be watching anymore. The Terminator show is on at the same time, and it is much better than Heroes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Start of the weekend

Little by little, life gets back to normal.

We have all our utilities back since Tuesday. The phone line was the last one to be fixed. We never lost water during the storm, and we have a gas stove and water heater, so we were always able to cook and take a hot bath. Having grown up in Puerto Rico and experiencing several big hurricanes in my youth, I kept telling Gabe and Paula we were very lucky, and that they had no idea what a huge difference it makes to have running water and the ability to cook, even without power.

Sunday and Monday we had been hunting for generators. Everybody else in Houston had the same bright idea. The lines at Home Depot and Lowe's were huge, and they had nothing available, no idea when they would get more, and no clue how many they would get. In any case, by Monday afternoon I had given up hope of getting a generator and was pondering what to do with the meat in my freezer, most of which was still frozen, but starting to thaw. Gabriel found ice at a supermarket in the Inner Loop, about an hour from us. Shortly after he got home and I moved all the meat to a cooler full of ice, the electricity came back on. Was I glad about that!

School is out until Monday for Paula, but Isabel's daycare opened on Wednesday. Gabe and I have been working from home. Poor Gabe pulled an all-nighter two nights ago.

The gym has been closed, and I miss that terribly. I also missed having my coffee with milk. Supermarkets lost a lot in this storm, and some provisions are slow coming. We finally got milk Wednesday night.

All of these are very minor inconveniences. Overall, I think the impact to our life has been small. It could have been much, much worse. It has been a lot worse for residents of the coastal areas, even for some of my neighbors who sustained water damage. We were lucky.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricane stories

For those of you interested, the Houston Chronicle has wide coverage on hurricane Ike with stories such as this one, this one, this one, and this one, and pictures.

This was not even a category 3 hurricane when it hit us, and it veered to the east of what was forecasted. I shudder to think what would have happened if a category 5 hurricane had hit the area head on.

More pics

Attached are a few more pictures I took in the aftermath of Ike. Again, nothing compares to the monumental destruction that ocurred elsewhere in the Houston-Galveston area. But for our part of town, so far inland, I was really surprised by the intensity of the winds and the copious amounts of rain.

This is a water reservoir, basically a huge ditch, very deep and long, designed to collect water runoff from rain. It is usually just an empty pool, but when it rains a lot, it fills with water. This time it filled to the point that it almost reached street level. The rainwater started backing out into our streets because the reservoir was at capacity. I have never before seen it like this, and it scared me, because it would have taken very little for it to overflow. It basically is a lake now, and because this does not drain anywhere else, we now have to wait for the water to evaporate and pray it does not rain again soon.





The strong winds tore shingles off the roofs of many houses. In my house we need to get someone to come and check the roof. I think at least two shingles were blown off. But I have a one-story home, which is settled between several two-story houses. I think that sheltered me from more damage, like the kind several two-store houses got. In some houses, the wind tore down shingles until parts of bare wood were exposed. Some of these houses got water damage.
Below are two examples. I saw houses where the damage was far greater than the houses featured here.





Everywhere there were fences toppled over, as well as trees. Many of the trees in my subdivision are still young, and hopefully they can be straightened up and staked.









Here is Paula reading to Isabel on Sunday. Cabin fever and being together 24/7 has gotten to us a bit. The girls are constantly bickering, Paula has major attutide and Isabel cries if she doesn't get her way. I have been at my wit's end many times over the last few days. But at least there have a few times when they have gotten along, such as this one.


Monday, September 15, 2008

We are alright








We survived Ike, we are fine and we got power back this evening. Paula's school sustained damage, we do not know how much or when is the school district reopening the schools. Isabel's daycare is closed too, I do not know for how long.

It took me an hour to fill up my tank with gas. Lines at the few gas stations that are open are insane. My part of town (NW Houston) got hit hard, more than we expected. But nothing compares to the devastation in Galveston and the coastal areas. My thoughts are with the many people that had to be rescued, and with those who have lost everything. Compared to them, our family was incredibly lucky not to sustain major damage. The pictures above show things I saw around my subdivision after the storm was over.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Unwanted visit

From NOAA, the forecast for my area:

Tonight: Hurricane conditions expected. Showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 1am. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. Low around 78. Northeast wind 35 to 40 mph increasing to between 40 and 60 mph. Winds could gust as high as 80 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

Saturday: Hurricane conditions expected. Showers and thunderstorms. Some of the storms could produce heavy rain. High near 85. Northwest wind 50 to 70 mph becoming west 35 to 40 mph. Winds could gust as high as 90 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

This is nothing compared to what Galveston and the coastal areas are already going through. The storm surge arrived way before any rain or wind showed up. The sea is over the Galveston seawall. I am baffled by the fact that so many residents of the coastal areas decided to weather the storm at home, instead of heeding the mandatory evacuation call.

You can see more news about what is happening here, here, and here.

There are curfews all over the place, as authorities do not want people on the road in the middle of the storm. I don't think we will be that affected, certainly not as much as Galveston and the south of Houston. But we are still vigilant, especially because with hurricanes come tornadoes. Both the girls will be sleeping in our bedroom, and at the first sign of a tornado, we will all take shelter in the walk-in closet.

It hasn't rained yet, but you can already feel the breeze picking up. A few minutes ago we lost power for about 30 seconds. I can't stop watching the news. The historic Strand in Galveston is deep in water. It is estimated that a million customers will lose power in the Houston area, and that it will take a minimum of two weeks for them to get power back. I am crossing my fingers and hoping we are not in that group.

The days of the week lose meaning when you are on hurricane time. It is Friday night, but you would never know it. The streets are empty.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blah

There is a hurricane headed our way. I guess it hasn't sunk into my head yet, because I could not care less.

I did buy water yesterday at the supermarket, so I am not completely clueless. But I am not in a frenzied panic, getting ready to leave town. Since we are far from the coast, and we are not in a flood-prone area, maybe I am not as alarmed as the news breadcasts expect me to be.

The latest forecast says we could get winds as fast as 70 mph in my part of town. I will need to make sure I bring all my plants inside. The brick house can withstand a lot more than that, but we have glass windows, so I do not want to have things lying around that can turn into projectiles. At times like this, I miss the "Miami" windows we had in the house I grew up in.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Funny clips

I wanted a laugh, and The Soup never fails to deliver for me.



Monday, September 08, 2008

So glad it's Monday

I had a pretty rough weekend, and I find myself more exhausted than I was on Friday. It's amazing that coming to the office feels like a respite.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday morning

This morning my fasting blood glucose is 94. Every time I get a good reading like that, I get excited. This reading is particularly significant to me, because I did not go to the gym last night. Typically, when I do not go to the gym, the morning after my blood sugar is a bit on the high side. But our dinner last night was fantastic and low in carbs- Wild Alaskan Cod, lightly coated with panko bread crumbs and seasoning, and baked in the oven. We ate that with a salad and avocado slices. It was awesome.

I missed the gym last night, though, and I am a bit upset. Wednesday evening I took a break from my workout because I was feeling tired and had been working out hard the previous days. Yesterday I missed the gym because I had to be home to meet the ATT technician who came to swap a noisy DVR box. He came around 7:30 PM, and by the time he was done, it was just too late to go to the Y. I was bummed about that, and today I already feel the urge to get moving.

I feel very blah this morning. I have to rush to meet a deadline at work. I am not motivated to work today. All I can think of today is going to the pool. I would love to have a good swim. I also wish I was all by myself today. I am not in the mood for the joys of motherhood today. Paula has a really rotten attitude lately, and Isabel is not far behind.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mr. Froggy is our friend



He lives in our front yard, in the bushes.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shrinkage

This reminds me of how I have lost weight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Miércoles

Since Monday, I have started four posts that did not come to fruition. It has been a somewhat strange week for me so far. Not only did Paula start a new school year, but I am back in the office after three weeks working from home. It is taking some adjusting to get back to a comfortable morning routine. I simply have not had enough time to do what I need to do before leaving the house.

Also, I have gone to the gym alone Monday and Tuesday, and may have to go alone again tonight. Gabriel is sick, battling a chest cold since Sunday night, and he just doesn't feel up to exercise at this moment. I can't skip the gym, so I have gone without him. But the last couple of nights I have felt lonely.

Monday, August 25, 2008

You gotta eat

Today was Paula's first day of school. It is also my first day back physically in the office since August 1st. I was very busy in the morning, and did not have my coffee until more than an hour after my normal time. I also did not have breakfast in time, and wound up packing my breakfast to eat at the office. I got pretty busy upon my arrival, and did not realize I had forgotten to eat breakfast until way past 9:30 AM, when I started to feel lightheaded, hot in the face, and getting blurred vision. A quick blood glucose check showed 165. Damn it! Since then I had my breakfast, followed by a snack sometime later. Now it's 12:40 AM and I am eating my lunch. The blood sugar level has normalized, but my vision is still a bit blurred.

The lesson today is, eat my meals at regular times with no exceptions. Do not skip them, do not delay them. Another lesson, skipping a meal can actually make my blood sugar go up, instead of down.

Based on my experience today as well as last week, I am starting to wonder if my decision to not take Metformin was well-intentioned, but misguided. Maybe I need to start looking at myself as a diabetic, not a prediabetic. I called my doctor's office to ask when is my next appointment, because I need to talk to her about this.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Photos - Dinner







We had Tandoori chicken kabobs for dinner. They were delicious.

Friday

Last night my blood sugar was high after exercise, around 148. It is the first time this happens since I changed my diet and started monitoring my blood sugar. Usually it is the other way around. I did not know what to make of it.

Not coincidentally, I was crabby as hell last night. After getting home from the Y, the girls were getting on my nerves. Actually, it was not just the girls. I had sensory overload. Every loud noise, bright light, and fast movement proved overwhelming. Clutter and misplaced things drove me to the edge. Isabel was jumping on the bed, and her knee landed on my ankle (pretty painful, I tell you). That was enough to make me scream like a banshee. I lost my temper, and afterwards felt spent.

In the morning, my blood sugar was still high at 134. This is baffling to me. The only thing I can think of is that yesterday I ate bread twice. In the morning I made an egg sandwich for breakfast, and for dinner I ate a quick grill cheese sandwich right before leaving for the Y. The bread is not made of wheat. It's a whole grain bread made of millet and flax. Still, based on my glucose levels, it seems like bread is something I really need to be careful about.

Of course, it could turn out that something completely different has caused the spike. I am still very new at the whole monitoring thing, and do not have enough data yet to build a profile over time. I don't know how my reproductive cycle may affect my blood sugar, for example. I do not know if lack of sleep or bodily pain can affect my blood sugar levels. I do not know the precise effects of exercise on me yet. I have read that sometimes your blood sugar can actually rise after certain types of exercise (such as lifting weights) or if you do not exercise vigorously enough to burn the increased glucose that your liver is making.

In any case, today I have not consumed any bread, and the only carbs have come from fruit (a banana), the milk in my morning coffee and a cheese stick I ate as a snack. For lunch I stuck to protein and veggies, and I intend to do the same for dinner (we are having Tandoori chicken kabobs).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday evening

I made some baked Tilapia for dinner, with a jalapeño sauce, served over whole wheat couscous and with a baby spinach salad on the side.

At least that is what I ate. Paula had french fries with her fish, and refused to have anything to do with the couscous. Isabel ate an apple, some whole wheat rotini noodles with cheese, and a bit of fries with ketchup.

Gabe is not home yet, but I saved him a plate of fish.

My jeans are getting too big for me, I have to wear a belt or they will fall. They were a bit roomy to begin with, but I guess my belly has gone down enough to make them entirely too big. If I keep going this way, in a few weeks I may need to buy new clothes. It's an exciting prospect, although I hate shopping for clothes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Llueve, detrás de los cristales llueve y llueve

It has been raining today. As I work at my dining room table I can see the raindrops roll down the glass windows. I could not help but remember the song "Balada de Otoño" by Joan Manuel Serrat. I will always love Joan Manuel Serrat. This is one of my favorite songs. I have listened to this song since I was too young to remember.



Sometimes I wonder if I would have turned out different, less prone to sadness, if the music I listened to growing up was of a different mood. There was such delicious melancholy in most of what my mom listened to, and it has definitely informed my aesthetic.

I am making tea with herbs from my garden (peppermint and stevia) plus a stick of cinammon. I love the smell. I am experimenting with things that can help lower my blood sugar or keep it in check. Yesterday I did not exercise (I reluctantly let my body rest), and my fasting blood sugar this morning was higher than average.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Walk



This is somehow appropriate, based on my mood today.


The Walk, by Imogen Heap

Inside-out, upside-down,
Twisting beside myself.
Stop that now,
'Cause you and I were never meant to be.
I think you'd better leave.
It's not safe in here.
I feel a weakness coming on.


Alright then, (alright then.)
I could keep your number for a rainy day.
That's where this ends.
No mistakes no misbehaving.
I was doing so well.
Could we just be friends?
I feel a weakness coming on.


It's not meant to be like this.
Not what I planned at all.
I don't want to feel like this.
Yeah.
No it's not meant to be like this.
Not what I planned at all.
I don't want to feel like this.
So that makes it all your fault.


Inside-out, upside-down,
Twisting beside myself.
Stop that now.
You're as close as it gets
Without touching me.
Oh now don't make it harder
Than it already is.
I feel a weakness coming on.

It's not meant to be like this.
Not what I planned at all.
I don't want to feel like this.
Yeah.
No it's not meant to be like this.
Not what I planned at all.
I don't want to feel like this.
So that makes it all your fault.



Big trouble losing control.
Primary resistance at a critical low.
on the double gotta get a hold.
Point of no return one second to go.



No response on any level,
Red-alert this vessel's under seige.
Total overload all systems down they've got control.
There's no way out.
We are surrounded.
Give in, give in and relish every minute of it.


Freeze, awake here forever.
I feel a weakness coming on.

It’s not meant to be like this,
Not what I planned at all.
I don’t want to feel like this.
Yeah.
No it’s not meant to be like this,
It's just what I don't need.
Why make me feel like this?
It's definitely all your fault.


Feel like this la la la la la la la la
It’s all your fault (feel like this) la la la la la la la la
It’s all your fault (feel like this) la la la la la la la la
It’s all your fault (feel like this) la la la la la la la la
It’s all your fault.

Weakness

Yesterday wasn't a good day for me.

On Saturday I pushed myself when doing my walk/run. I did more running than I usually do, and I went longer than usual too. As a result, yesterday my legs felt very tired and sore. Instead of taking a break for a day, which in hindsight I can see I needed, I insisted on going for a walk/run yesterday. Gabe was downstairs doing weights, and I was at the indoor track with the girls. I could hardly walk, much less run. But I tried. Thankfully, my heel pain actually eased up as I walked. However, I ended up with searing pain in the front of my right leg, below the knee. It was so intense I had to stop my walk short, and I struggled to make my way down the stairs. Gabe told me it was most likely a shin splint.

Once we were back in the car I just lost it. First my back and now this? I have already lost my sit ups due to the back injury. I can't lose my walk/run. What am I going to do if I can't walk or run anymore? The exercise is one of the elements keeping my blood sugar in check. I need it.

I was so frustrated, so scared of losing everything that I am fighting so hard to achieve, that I exploded in tears. Gabe reassured me that I was not going to lose anything, I just needed to listen to my body and take a break now and then so I can recover. I hope he is right.

I was very cranky the rest of the day. My usually low patience levels were even lower. And when my in-laws came for Sunday dinner, I misbehaved and ate a lot of bread, plus had a big serving of bread pudding with caramel sauce on top, and a glass of wine. The dinner, save for those two items, was actually a healthy, sensible one. I made some eggplant parmigiana, lightly breading and baking the eggplant in the oven (instead of frying) and serving it with whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce. We also had some baby spinach on the side.

I paid for my sins. In the evening, almost three hours after we ate dinner, my blood sugar was at 163. In the morning, my fasting sugar was 119. These are the highest values I have had in a very long time.

Today I feel quite uneasy. I am still moody and prone to tears. I am on a very tight deadline at work and I am finding it hard to get going. I am scared of regressing, and at the same time I am flirting with the idea of just throwing the towel and saying the hell with it, where's the candy?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Great Automatic Procrastinator

That's me. Put off, put off, put off things until the water is up to my neck.

I have been stressed the last few days. I am in a learning curve at work right now, and I am always nervous when I am thrown out of my comfort zone. When I am not quite sure how to do something, I just put it off, hoping it will either magically get it done or it disappears. That is never the case, so I always end up in a rush to the finish.

With the stress comes a breakdown in my mood. I have been doing so well. I have been so even keeled it has surprised even me. I was crediting my life changes for that. Now it's obvious my life has not changed that much. A lack of stress was driving the improved mood. Now the pressure is on again, and I am starting to crack.

I don't like the implications of this line of thinking.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday

My back is better this morning. It's still sore, and tender to the touch, but thankfully I am not writhing in pain when I breathe. Gabe gave me a back massage last night and I guess it worked. But I am going to stay away from the weight machines and the fitness ball until the pain is totally gone. I will just have to walk/run every day, instead of 4 times a week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not so great day

I am not having a good morning. Monday night I seem to have injured my back doing core exercises on the fitness ball. Yesterday I was a bit sore on the left side of my back, and it bothered me no more than muscular spams I have had in the past. But this morning! I have woken up with excruciating pain in the middle of my back. It hurts to breathe, especially to take deep breaths.

I have just taken some Advil, and let my boss know I am hurt and may have to take it slow this morning. I should probably put some ice on my back.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A good afternoon laugh

Click here to see The Guardian turn President Bush's trip to the Olympics into a LOLCats series!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Photo- Self Portrait


Friday

I find myself struggling to find something to write about. Since this is a personal blog and not a cultural, media or gossip one, I do not tend to have a supply of new topics to write about every day.

When there are no sudden developments, when there is no drama, when my mood is balanced, when I am not facing any crisis, it can be hard to find something to write about.

This week has been fairly ordinary. Since Paula is back, I have worked from home every day. I never thought I would say it, but I miss going to the office. I miss the daytime interaction with other adults, the drive to campus, the walk from the parking garage to my cubicle.

We went walking last night. I did not try to run because my heel is still tender. It was a good call and today the discomfort is not as marked as it would have been if I had run. I did try to walk briskly, to get my heart rate up as much as I could.

I have not told my doctor, but I have decided I will not take the Metformin or the birth control pills. I am absolutely convinced that a change in my diet and eating habits (and the weight loss that will eventually come with that) will help me get both my blood sugar and my hormones under control. I already know my blood sugar levels are back to a normal range. It remains to be seen if my female hormone levels will normalize, but I am hopeful. My last cycle came and went without any of the extreme symptoms that tend to accompany it. I still got bloated and a bit emotional, and I still had trouble falling asleep some days, but it was nowhere near the extremes I had seen the last few months.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wednesday

I am old and sore and achy all over. After a long, long hiatus, Monday night we used the weight training machines at the Y. That was enough in itself, but then last night I overdid it at the track. I am trying to do intervals (jogging for a set distance, then walking the same distance, then jogging again, etc.), and I think I ran too much, too hard. My heel is killing me, and Gabe insists that I need to see a doctor for that. I resist, because I do not want to be told I can't walk or try to run anymore.

I weighed myself again today. I can now say with pride that I am officially 10 lbs. lighter than I was when I first visited my doctor back in June. Unfortunately, that puts me back in the same weight I was back in November, when I had a health checkup for insurance purposes. At this point I am still about 45 lbs. away from my goal weight (a generous 170 lbs. for my 5'9" frame).

So, looking only at the scale, what I have done so far is undo the damage done during the holidays. That is a bit frustrating. I have to take my eye off the scale and focus on all the other benefits of this change.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tests

Yeaterday I had my appointment for follow up tests as a result of my mammogram.

I saw the purported abnormal densities that showed up in the original test. There they were, two dark spots on one breast, one in the other. I was scheduled to have a spot compression and a breast ultrasound. Luckily, the spot compression test cleared any concerns over the so-called densities, and I was told by the radiologist to go home, that there was no need to do the ultrasound. I expect that my doctor will get the results either today or tomorrow.

Instead of a celebratory post, this is a bittersweet one. While I am very happy and relieved by my results, last night I found out that one of my "mommy board" friends, Suzy, was diagnosed with breast cancer yesterday. She will undergo surgery and lose one of her breasts. She will also have to take three courses of chemo. My heart goes out to her, for she is about to embark in the fight of her life.

My mother survived breast cancer. I am hopeful that Suzy will come out on top of this too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An ordinary life

I have not been inspired to write lately. I have been quite busy with work and daily life, and I have not found much time to either blog or read my favorite blogs.

We continue with our efforts to lead a healthier life. We are eating veggies and fruit everyday. We are eating breakfast and small snacks. Our dinners have gotten smaller and we are not snacking uncontrollably in the evening. We are buying organic whenever we can, and we are avoiding ready-made foods as much as possible. We are also walking at least four times a week. We are bringing a lunch bag to work every day and have not eaten out in a long time, other than the ocassional skinny latte from Starbucks. I don't miss it.

Other than my heel pain, I have been feeling pretty good about all this. Every time I check my blood sugar, it is within the normal range. I feel calmer and more energized. I am excited for what the future holds for us if we continue on this track.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Photos: Food

Bird food, that is.

Bird Feeder- July 2008

Birdie