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Health, trees, San Francisco, and the zoo!

A couple weeks ago I entered a period of depression. It’s something that I’ve written about before, I’ve had bouts of depression since I was a youth, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern or rationale to when they strike. I do think these bouts are made worse by life circumstances and stress, mostly because it’s easier to believe what my lying depression brain is telling me about my situation and the hopelessness of everything when things are already going poorly. Thankfully, it’s usually not debilitating for me. I can work, care for my children, and do basic chores to keep our home running. What doesn’t happen are larger home projects, thoughtful and creative activities with the kids, and I seek TV instead of reading because I am extra tired during these times. Even when we do go out on adventures, I go through the motions, but I feel numb.

I once read that depression can feel like a part of your soul taking a vacation, and it really resonated with me. First, because I do feel quite empty when I’m depressed, like part of my self is gone and I lack the ability to enjoy things and feel hopeful. But also because it’s a comforting story to tell myself. Where is that bit of my soul? Is she having fun by the beach? Going on some glorious hikes? I hope she’s happy, and well-rested when she returns. When I stop being depressed, I wouldn’t say I’m refreshed and ready to take over the world, but compared to being depressed, it’s a very clear shift in everything. Soul vacations work! I hope she comes back soon though, it may not be strictly debilitating, but every single day, every single hour, is hard right now.

Now that I’ve got done sharing that I am not being thoughtful and creative, I’m going to share that the boys and I did something thoughtful and creative for the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat. The holiday celebrates trees, and these days it’s an ecological holiday that’s typically observed by planting trees. We’ve tended to do little tree-related crafts on this holiday, but when Adam saw it on the calendar he became fixated on planting a tree. Unfortunately our small yard can’t really take any more trees and we weren’t able to find a local tree-planting activity that worked with our schedules, but I knew I had to do something. So, as soon as I was done with work for the day, I took the boys to the local hardware store to pick up a large bag of soil. Once we got home, we grabbed a giant pot that we’d originally gotten to grow a baby watermelon, filled it with soil, and then the boys planted several clippings from one of our jade plants (succulent trees! I can’t kill them!). It was a simple and cute activity, and seemed satisfactory to Adam’s desire to plant a tree.

Last week I had the nice surprise of my Aunt Mary being in San Francisco for a work conference. She was incredibly busy, but made time for us the final morning she was in town before her flight. I hadn’t seen her in years so even though only Aaron and I could make it up (MJ and Adam were busy with work and school) it was a real treat to get to see her, and for her to meet little Aaron! I also hope we can either make it to Florida in the coming year, or see her more if work brings here this way again soon, she hasn’t met Adam either, and he just turned five years old.

I’m glad Aaron got to meet more of my family, but I think mostly he enjoyed going on a trip with me to the city on the train. He was disappointed that we couldn’t go on a cable car and didn’t stay in the city for longer because we needed to get back for lunch and nap time, but it was nice to spend a little quality time just the two of us.

Over the weekend we took the boys over to the Oakland Zoo. We’re members and it’s just 15 minutes from home, so it isn’t something we spend a lot of time in planning for, but Adam shared that he wanted to go on some of the rides and the gondola, so we decided to make a day of it.

We started with a kids ride and the zoo train, but it was then getting to be lunch time.

For lunch, we took the gondola up to the California Trail and had lunch at the cafe up there. The zoo itself is located on a big hill, and the California Trail is on the top of that large hill, so you can see the bay, Oakland, San Francisco, multiple bridges. It’s a beautiful spot, and we even managed to snag one of the few tables outside to enjoy that view. It was also the first really beautiful day of the year, with sun and temperatures reaching the low 70s. It did mean that the zoo was rather busy and the lines were long, but it was all quite tolerable. After playing on the playground and enjoying the rest of the California Trail, we went down on the gondola and got to see an elephant and the giraffes before concluding our zoo day by letting the kids go on one final ride.

It’s now February. I spent January observing “dry January” to cut out alcohol for a few weeks. Just like in 2023, it wasn’t a difficult thing for me, but it was a change. I wouldn’t say it was interesting or helpful in any way, but it did reduce the calories I consumed! Speaking of which, back in July I reflected on my diet and weight, and how I had put on 25 pounds and wasn’t happy about it. I identified some changes I thought I should make, but at the end I made clear that I’d prioritize my mental health, and ultimately didn’t commit to making any of the changes I identified. I’d like to try to do that now. Let’s see how I do this time, I’m at 219 pounds now.