Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Hill Country Vacation

We are home safe and sound but our vacation did not go exactly as planned on the third and fourth days. But that's the thing about vacations. Sometimes you have to be flexible for changes. It all started with my son having second thoughts about going to Jacob's Well. He pointed out that last time we were there the hole itself was really small and he didn't really see how we could swim around it. Then our host pointed out that the water levels were really low and he suggested that if the kids really wanted to swim that we should go to Cypress Creek instead. He recommended a wonderful restaurant called the Back Porch. As long as you order food you can get a table there, right next to the water. It's like the best kept secret and the food is awesome.

We had really nice hostess who seated us right next to the steps into the river. You have to purchase the beer or wine separately from the bar that's run by the Tavern. They only have cans because of the river and glass, understandable. This was a can of rose wine in a can that was pretty good. I loved that we got to eat right there and then took off our clothes, because we had our bathing suits on underneath, and we dipped in the river and floated around on our floats. Seth even jumped off that side of that cliff side across the way. This was by far my very favorite part of the whole trip. This restaurant really is a hidden gem because you have to drive through a neighborhood to get to it. I feel like mostly locals and people who know locals would know to go there. 

We drove to Johnson City on Sunday afternoon, after the Backyard and showers. It was a beautiful drive, like all the drives in the Hill Country. Miranda contemplated how we could own a ranch. How she could buy a ranch when she's older or how I could retire to the Hill Country and own a ranch.

Texas White House, on LBJ Ranch, outside of Johnson City

In Johnson City I had planned to go to the Pedernales Falls. Once again our host warned me that the water levels were low and that I should probably go to the Blanco State Park. But I already had a paid reservation at Pedernales and I wanted to check it out, even if we didn't go swimming.

This is what I have to say about Johnson City. It is such a charming town with so much to do! Like I would go back just to Johnson City for a weekend trip. What would I do if I go back? I would drive out to the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch and I would stop at every building, the school house, the home where he was born, the cemetery, and I would tour the Texas White House. We would also make time to visit the living farm on the same state park. (By the way, it's both a state and a national park.) I would stop at wineries and distilleries on the road. I would drive back to Johnson City and I would shop the antique shops. On a second day I would go to the Science Mill and do other things around town. If the water levels were good I would go back to the Pedernales River and I would see the falls and swim in the river. Seriously, there is a lot to do in this one town! Blanco State Park is only nineteen miles away if you want to swim in that river.
Where the Falls should be

What we actually did. We woke up late for starters. We thought we had time to go to the LBJ Ranch but we found ourselves rushed and we didn't even have time for a tour of the Texas White House. We just saw the ranch, the buildings from the outside, the Airforce One Half, and the White House from the outside. We did learn a lot of interesting things. Like the fact that Johnson had Airforce One Half made especially for flying to the ranch. He would fly from DC to either San Antonio or Austin and then he would take the smaller plane or a helicopter to the ranch. He and Lady Bird are buried in the family cemetery there. He spent 25% of his presidency at he ranch and invited presidents and dignitaries there all the time. For example, he had a big Texas barbecue for all the ambassadors from Latin American countries right there.

We rushed on to Pedernales Falls State Park, only to find that the water wasn't flowing. There was a record breaking heat wave that weekend so it was super hot just to walk down to the look-out point to see this much. The hike back was up hill and even worse. But I survived! By the time we were finished looking at the missing falls I was so hot and disgusted I didn't even feel like driving down stream to see the river. The park ranger at the front office said the water was barely ankle or knee deep in some places and was still water. It didn't sound very appealing. So we just drove home from there and we didn't get home until 9:30 p.m. or so.

It was a great adventure all in all.  I learned lessons of what I would do differently next time. I definitely see a trip to Johnson City in the future and a slow visit through the LBJ Ranch. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Vacationing with the Kids Before They Become Adults

The kids and I decided to come back to Wimberley this summer like we told my best friend's parents we would when we were here over Spring Break. That time we visited Wimberley-Jacob's Well, Dripping Springs-Hamilton Pool, Fredericksburg-the Old Tunnel and the Boerne for the Cave without a Name. We took the scnenic drive home and passed through New Braunfels.

On that visit our host, my best friend's dad, Jaime Sr., said that we needed to come back when it was hot and go swimming in the Blue Hole so that's what we did yesterday. This is the blue hole, which looked a little green. It was nice, it was cold but my #1 recommendation if you go here is to take water socks! I don't know what I was thinking. I hadn't been in any natural water in this area in years and I forgot that water socks are essential. The shallow bottom of this swimming hole is super rocky. My second recommendation is to take a float or a tube and to go down to the end, past the two swings, to the 10 feet deep side, away from the crowd and the families with little kids. I wish I'd seen that side first and I would have gone there when I discovered the rocky bottom. My kids had no problem with the rocks and played on the shallow side the whole time.

One special treat while we were there was that I got to see a fellow blogger and Facebook friend who was there with her family too. It's so cool when I bump into online friends in real life!

Since our last visit the dad had some health issues so he's moved from the garage apartment into the big house, so the mom has been staying in the house looking after him. The house actually belongs to my friend Jaime and his retired parents have been living behind his house.

On this visit the mama, Judith, let us stay in her adorable attic apartment, which is as charming as it sounds. We had a place to come back to, shower and change, and then we went out to dinner in town at the Wimberley Cafe. We got frozen yogurt and walked around town looking in at the shops that were still open. We tried to stay out as late as we could because we knew that once we were at the ranch we couldn't go back. The drive from the main road to the ranch is narrow, winding, and could be dangerous if done in the dark because there are no street lights out here.

Once we were back at the apartment we had Miranda's first "behind the wheel" driving lesson. This is the ideal place for that since there is very little traffic and basically none on Jaime's street because he's in a cul de sac with a couple of other ranches. At night we could go out on the balcony deck of the apartment and we could see all the stars and planets. An amazing sight!

Today's adventure will be Jacob's Well. We have a reservation at noon so we are relaxing and enjoying the "attic" apartment one last time this morning before packing up to go on to our next destination. After Jacob's Well we are going to Johnson City to Pedernales State Park then home on Monday evening.

While on this vacation I'm thinking about how this is our last summer vacation with the kids both at home. After this Miranda is off to college and next year she'll be a college kid home for the summer. I want to make this last year count and I want to make every summer after this memorable because after that my kids are pretty much adults.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Running Post an Injury and My Constant Struggle with Weight

I ended my last post with a reference to #walkTOrun. It's my new hash tag for my latest effort to get back to running and exercise. I've started and re-started so many times it's not even funny. I can't even remember the first time I really started running, unless it was 10 years ago on a treadmill at the gym. That's when I got the lap band and lost the biggest amount of weight.

Biggest I've been, June 2006 - Smallest I've been post high school, January 2009

The smallest I've ever been is high school. Who wasn't? Once I started college it was a downhill battle with my weight with me reaching the biggest size you see in the left picture, after college, being married and having two kids. I would lose weight with each pregnancy and nursing, but the weight would come right back. In December of 2007 I got the lap band and the picture on the right was taken in January of 2009,

The last ten years have had their ups and downs weight wise but I have never gotten back to the biggest size I am on the left. Around a year and half ago I found a new lap band doctor after my old clinic closed. I was en route back to my lowest weight post lap-band when I started feeling a lot of restriction. I was about to go on vacation to Germany so my doctor took a good amount of fluid out. Since then I've had a fill but I haven't gotten back to the right spot and I've gained weight.

So here I am now. I'm 48, I cut my ankle pretty badly before summer even started, and I've gained fourteen pounds total since last year. I've struggled with my weight my whole life, but now I'm at the age where it's do or die. It's not about looks any more. It's about surviving and living longer than my mom did. I'd like to land somewhere between 69, the age my mom was when she died, and 94, the age my dad almost reached when he passed away last February. 

What's really frustrating is that two years ago, a whole year before that lap band complication, I had been really running for the first time in my life. By running I mean not on a treadmill, outside in the heat, on the streets, and I'd built up to a really good walk/run rhythm. I was running more that summer than even a year ago. I want to get back to that type of running. 

I know not everyone has a lap band to help them but at my age, and with the complications I've had lately with my foot, I think there are still a lot of people who can relate to my struggle. A lap band is not a magic bullet solution. It's a small helping hand but you can still eat around it and cheat the system. Believe me, I've learned how to do that in the past 11 years. I want to blog about running post an accident and injury and how to beat this monkey that's been on my back my whole life. 

Goal 2

                                                                   Biggest I've been, June 2006 - June 2017

My first goal is to start walking again so I can build up to my walk/run once my foot is better. My second goal is go get to where I was last year in the yellow dress above. If I can get to the yellow dress size then it's only 10 more pounds to get to the size I was in the gray dress in the top photo. After gray dress the final goal is to get down 10 more pounds than that. But baby steps.

Goal #1 starts tomorrow. Back to walking to build up to run and preparing my meals the night prior so I have time to exercise. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Freak Accident & New Running Goals

Where to start... should I start with finding a well in my back yard? Which some of my friends would debate was the beginning of "the series of unfortunate events." But I feel like the well is a story all by itself and that if I mix it in here it won't get to shine in the limelight by itself. So stay tuned for the entire story about the well.

Me in the Emergency Room After Getting Seven Stitches

I know you're now wondering what the heck the well story is all about so I will just tell you. In a nutshell I found a well in my back yard, like a real honest to goodness water well, with all the bricking on the inside, ten feet deep. We've owned the house for 17 years and I never knew it was there. So some of my friends joked that I had opened a portal into the under world and shortly after that I had about three bad things happen to me. 

One of the crazy things that happened to me was that I cut my ankle open with a bottle of Topo Chico water. I posted this on on Facebook and I had some friends who reached out via private message to ask me for more details in order to understand what had happened. I had other friends who just read it and imagined their own scenario in their head and thought it happened completely differently.  So here is the real story. This is a long story so sit back, get another drink, or go use the restroom now.

It was a freak accident and in hindsight I should have made a completely different decision and maybe I wouldn't have this huge scar on my ankle and nerve damage now. 

On the eve of Mother's Day I went grocery shopping at Walmart on a Saturday, when I usually go on Sundays. Maybe that was my first mistake. I wanted a 12 pack of Topo Chico like the ones I always see set up in the main middle aisle of the grocery side but I didn't see any. (Ironically because I wanted to cut down on drinking so I drink Topo Chico with lime and salt like a margarita.)  Instead of leaving well enough alone I asked one of the employees. He told me he had some in the back and he brought me one. I put it in my cart, took it out again to have the cashier scan it when I paid for my groceries and took it to my car. As I was putting all my groceries up I saved the 12 pack for last because it's heavy. I had a bunch of blankets in my back trunk area so I had to put most of my groceries in my back seat. When I set the 12 pack of Topo Chicos down on the floor of my back seat I heard a crack. I had set the pack of bottles down too hard and I broke a bottle inside. Bottle #1.

Second mistake. I should have just taken that damn 12 pack back inside and asked for an exchange but I didn't feel like hassling, plus I had frozen stuff in my car. Ha! Hindsight is 20/20 and this is a perfect example of that. No, instead I decide to open the box to see which bottle was broken. It was the bottle in the very middle. Once again, another reason I should have just taken the box back inside. I get the brilliant idea of taking each out bottle and wiping off the shards of glass and water and putting each one down on the floorboard of the front passenger side. I even sat down on the passenger side seat, legs out the door, taking out each bottle, wiping it and setting them down on the floorboard. 

I was on the 10th bottle when it slipped out of my hand and crashed to the cement, right between my legs. Bottle #2 that I broke. Imagine a full bottle of carbonated water crashing down and the explosion of that bottle because of the pressure inside. Also imagine my legs very close to the bottle because I was sitting inside the car with my legs out. So I didn't drop it from very far when it hit the ground and it hit right between my feet.  When it hit, it somehow bounced or something (it happened so fast I don't know how it happened) and the bottle cut me on the inside of my right ankle. It made a nice curved shape of a bottle cut. Blood gushed out like a little fountain, not a little trickle of blood, and I knew that it was a deep cut.

I almost panicked, but I didn't. I got my stuff together, tried wrapping my makeup rag around my ankle and I started limping towards the store for help. I think I called my best friend and then my ex husband before I did that. Best friend didn't answer and ex husband said he'd be there as fast as he could. I won't tell you all about the couple who drove up and didn't even try to help me because it will just make me mad all over again. I will tell you about the awesome angel named Angela, a Walmart employee, who came to my rescue. She saw me in the parking lot, helped me inside, cleaned my cut, stopped the bleeding or at least slowed it down, and then bandaged me up so Rey could take me to the emergency room.

Two emergency rooms later I left around 10 p.m. with seven stitches and a $1,000 co-pay. Awesomeness. So you see, even if some things had defrosted while I returned the 12 pack of Topo Chico it would have still been way cheaper and less painful. 

Side note: Walmart and Topo Chico were great about reaching out afterwards. I told them both that it was a freak accident and nobody's fault and I had to assure them that I wasn't going to sue anybody. I broke both bottles. One inside the box and the other one outside the box and that's the one that cut me. (I feel the need to clarify this part because apparently it's confused some people)

Eight weeks later. I'm wearing high heels again for short periods of time and I started walking for exercise again. Bad news is that the cut was so deep that I have nerve damage in the area under the cut. So my foot is still swelling there and it hurts when I've been on my feet too long or walked too long.

I often think about those running memes that I see about being grateful that you can still run when others can't. I appreciate those memes now. I have to start over completely from the bottom again and I have to build up to the small walk/jog routine I had going. I'm going to start blogging about running after an injury and I hope that there are people out there who can relate and maybe share their experiences. So new goals! I will build up to running again one day soon. In the meanwhile I will #walkTOrun!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Westcott Cemetery Update

I'm setting a new goal to blog once a week as much as possible. Of course life always gets in the way and so on, but I will do my best. I've never really used this blog as a money-maker or as a way to really promote myself as a writer. It's always been more of a writing outlet for me. But when I find out that my blog made a difference in someone's day or even affected the course of the way things may have gone it's very inspiring.

I have a really cool follow up story to my blog post regarding the Westcott Cemetery ten years ago. Five years later one of the descendants of the Westcott family contacted me on this blog post. She told me that she and her sisters had been researching their genealogy and she had come across my blog about her family's cemetery. We had lunch and I learned more about the Westcott family and Gayle and I became friends.

Fast forward five years later and Gayle's sister Sara has led an effort to to take back ownership of the cemetery and to create a non-profit organization, the Westcott Cemetery Association. I was so honored when they asked me to sit on the board of this association.

Last weekend my daughter Miranda and I volunteered to clean up the Westcott Cemetery with neighborhood friends and volunteers from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, who were in town volunteering with several causes. I took pictures and went on ice runs but Miranda did a lot!

Miranda hard at work!

The cemetery has had years when it's been cleaned by the city, the community and years when it is completely forgotten. Keeping it clean is not a one time job of course. It's something that has to be kept up regularly and that's hard work. Last weekend's efforts really made a huge difference! 

I love this story for so many reasons. First of all because I love this cemetery. We first went there because my sister insisted that my dad stop so we could explore. I used to like to go there as a little girl and I kept up with it over the years.  I would drive by just to look at it. I was so sad when I found out that the archway with the name had either fallen or had possibly been knocked down by vandals. But I'm so excited that I can now make a difference in the care that this cemetery receives. As you all know, I'm obsessed with old cemeteries but this one was my first love. 

It's also been so inspiring to learn how the community, the Greater Northside Management District, Pastor David Smith of the New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church and his wife, and people who grew up in the neighborhood have just embraced this cemetery and loved it over the years. When we were there last weekend City Councilwoman Karla Cisneros stopped by to learn more about the initiative. 

Another reason I love this story is because it's a testament to the power of social media. I wrote a blog, a descendant read it and now there's an association for the Westcott Cemetery. That alone is amazing and I can't wait to see what happens in the future as this effort grows.