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Saturday, November 7, 2020

Weathering Zeta

New Orleans was in the cone of uncertainty for SEVEN storms this season, which is simply unfair, and Zeta finally hit us. It came ashore as a category two, but it moved past us blessedly quickly, sparing us the flooding that New Orleans always worries about. It was really just a wind event. We stayed (very few people left for a category 2), and - as predicted - lost power as the storm hit Wednesday evening. 

David took this picture of our street in the eye of the storm.

The eye of Zeta passed directly over New Orleans. This was the first time in decades that a hurricane eye moved over the city, and it was my first experience being in the eye. We walked outside to calm, eery, orange skies. We could still see the sun overhead, but all around us were dark clouds and rain. The storm circled us, but we stood on the street with our neighbors in near-silence. When we felt the first licks of wet wind, we scurried back to the house, just in time for the other side of the storm to pass over. 

It was over in just a few hours, but it left close to 80% of the city without power. We have a gas water heater and stove, so we were fine: I made pasta for dinner, and we read books by candlelight. We didn't get our power back until Friday night, so we ended up staying at my in-laws on Thursday. They live in an area with underground power lines, and never lost power. David took the baby over there (his daycare was closed) so he could work, and since the storm brought a cold front, we decided to sleep over. Our house has no insulation at all, and it was low 50s, so we knew the baby would be cold. We were lucky to get power when we did: many people didn't get it back until the weekend. 

This old church lost a window.
I used some window shards to make a necklace pendant and earrings.

Damage to our street was minimal. The old church on the corner sadly lost a stained glass window (the church has been there since the 1860s when our neighborhood was part of the city of Carrollton in Jefferson Parish, prior to annexation to New Orleans in 1874. It has burned down twice and was destroyed in a hurricane once; the current building is from 1917) and - I am really most upset about this! - the wind absolutely smashed my hibiscus. I loved that tree, so I am very unhappy about that! 

This year has been absolutely bonkers with hurricanes and storms and I am appalled that storm Eta has the audacity to turn our way. Hopefully this week isn't a repeat! 


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Cruisin' the Coast, 2020 style

 Cruisin' the Coast is a classic car show and festival that moves along the coast of Mississippi. David and I have attended several years together (David is a big classic car fan: his first car was a '66 Mustang), and always had fun, so this year we dragged the baby along. We only did one day - no overnight stay in Bay St. Louis - mostly because earlier in the week we were still trying to figure out where hurricane delta was going to land before we made any plans. As it turns out, the storm moved far west of the area (hitting poor Lake Charles for the second time in weeks!) and we ended up with beautiful weather. 

We did our morning runs and treated ourselves to PJ's coffee for the road, timing the trip to leave at about 9:30am, just in time to let the baby nap in the car. Since it's a little over an hour to Bay St. Louis, it worked out pretty well, although he usually naps longer than that. Good enough! Once we got to Bay St. Louis, we headed straight out to see the cars. We are lucky enough to have David's parents' house to use as home base, and it's easy walking distance to the little downtown area along the beach. We walked over and were quickly overwhelmed: we hadn't seen this many people together in one place since Mardi Gras! Mississippi doesn't have a mask mandate, but the crowds were light, and were moving around and outdoors, so a low-risk activity. The bars, though - we could see inside, where the LSU game was on, and they were packed. Definitely different from the very strict life we're living in New Orleans! 






Audubon baby was in heaven. He is OBSESSED with cars and trucks right now, especially loud engines, and also adores people. He's very social, and crowds are his jam. To make things even better, many festers had their dogs with them, and he is also really into dogs! He was beside himself with delight! We looked at the rows of cars with sparkling paint jobs, shining engines under popped hoods, and refurbished interiors, and mostly we were just enjoying the atmosphere. I used to say I didn't like festivals and crowds, but darn it if I don't miss them! We grabbed burgers and beers from a street vendor, but since the baby ate half my burger (story of my life, he is a piggy wig), I was still hungry. Luckily there is now a Creole Creamery - a New Orleans favorite - in Bay St. Louis, and we stopped for an ice cream cone (the employees there were the only people I saw with masks all day: restaurant workers must still wear them in Mississippi). I got bittersweet chocolate torte ice cream and it hit the spot on a sunny day. We walked back in time for the baby's second nap, which we spent reading the morning's paper and having a cup of coffee. 

Once he woke up, we headed back out for more car-viewing. David is a member of Greater New Orleans Camera Club, which has juried photograph contests on a biweekly basis. Next week's theme is "festivals and fairs", and David really wanted to take advantage of the "golden hour" before sunset to get some good shots. I hope he did - I haven't seen them all yet - and I didn't take too many myself (sorry). I was too busy talking to dog owners, all of whom were laughing at the baby's reaction to their dogs - he goes absolutely ballistic over dogs, kicking, gasping, clapping, eyes wide with glee. One woman with two young black labs brought them over for him to play with, and he was thrilled. When they left, he tried to run after them (which brings me to part where I have to explain that my not-yet-nine-month baby is, while not truly walking yet, taking steps. He will take 2 or 3 steps, but then he gets scared! And I, clinging to my freedom, do nothing to assuage his fears!).  







We left at around 6:30 to make it home in time for bed, and I fed the baby dinner in the car. It was a really enjoyable day trip - something for everyone. We all like classic cars, Audubon Baby got to see dogs, David got photo ops, and I got to be around PEOPLE. It's a tad unnerving seeing life at near-normal in Mississippi, but since we are low risk we didn't mind (the only concern is that we do both go to work, but both our workplaces have precautions that should protect the others who work there). And actually, Louisiana is in phase three now, so not that much different - it's just that New Orleans has been stricter than the state. But I expect to see us returning to some level of crowd activity soon. Meanwhile, it felt kind of good to see people in the street. It was good for my baby to be comfortable around others and to get used to people! I really wonder what the effect of strict lockdowns will be developmentally for these kids! 


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

5k time trial: still pretending to race!

On Tuesday I was talking to my training partners at the track and one asked, "Are you doing the time trial?" And that's how I learned we had a 5k time trial on Saturday morning. 

Of course I wanted to do it: I am grasping at any chance to race, or pretend to race, or test my fitness. I didn't think I was in ideal 5k shape, after all the short repeats we had done for mile training over the summer (the Tuesday before the time trial we did a workout that included 800s, and I felt like they were so incredibly LONG for a repeat!). But with so few chances to "race", I was game anyway. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold (thanks, daycare!). I felt crummy enough that I almost skipped the time trial, but I knew I needed to take the opportunity to see where my fitness was at. So I dragged myself over anyway.*

A group of us - maybe 12 people total? - showed up at the park for the warmup. Rich and Will had just finished marking the course. There is a certified 5k course in Audubon park with precise measurements which made this easy. Many races run the course, so we all knew what to expect (I remember running a small race one time that mis-measured the course. It was long, and the turnaround cone was past where it should be, and I knew immediately the course would be long: I knew exactly where that cone should be!). We did a little under two miles to warm up, and I also found a convenient bush...bathrooms are still closed at Audubon (I have no idea why: even the playgrounds have reopened by now, and I think we would all appreciate a bathroom!). Coach Jimi came out to time us, and right as we lined up, he was about to call the start, it began to rain. This was entirely unexpected: the forecast said 0% chance of rain! 

Rainy conditions for a TT

I was in a funny position at the start: ahead of my normal workout group, and following Jeff, Pou, and Paul - but following pretty far behind. We were immediately spaced out, given the wide range of our abilities and the small size of the group. I wasn't looking at my watch, just trying to run by feel, and hopefully key off other runners in the group. I was hoping to be close to Jeff and Pou, but as we settled into position, I realized Jeff was a lot more fit than I was, and was definitely out of reach. Paul and Pou were close behind him, so I was alone. The first mile beeped at 6:03, and I realized I had let the faster group pull me to much; I would pay for that, now! 

It wasn't bad weather, but it was kind of warm, humid, and rainy, and footing was a bit slippery. We were, of course, dodging walkers and runners, but the rain actually kept the park a bit more empty than usual. So in a way, it helped us. As I approached the turn around cone, I saw Jimi was there calling out times. I missed mine because I was trying to navigate a sudden crowd of walkers, the turn-around, and my other teammates coming the opposite direction. Kir, local runner and marathon Olympic Trials qualifier, had come out to cheer and she was at the turnaround, too. I cheered on the teammates who were behind me, then re-grouped for the second half: the distance between Pou and I was shrinking. When my watch beeped for the second mile at 6:12, I realized I'd lost a lot of time at the turnaround point. Plus, I was letting those around me set my pace: they were slowing, and I was maintaining our relative positions instead of overtaking them. Bad racing! I'm out of practice! I picked it up and passed Pou, who didn't stay with me, and then worked on catching Paul, who was far ahead. At least I had Paul in my sights, because otherwise, this time trial was getting less and less like a race and more like a solo run in the park. I passed Paul before the three-mile mark, which I hit at 6:07, then leisurely jogged it in (well ok I picked it up a little, but not much). I definitely was out of gas, but I could see the cone up ahead and a glance at my watch showed that I was close to 19, and I definitely wanted to break 19. I sped up enough to hit my goal and crossed in 18:56. 

That would be a PR if it was a real race, but it's not - I don't ever seem to get a fast 5k in a race. I have run under 19 in a 10k, in a workout, and in a time trial, but never a 5k race! I was glad to get under 19, but I'd like to run closer to 18:30, which I think it totally doable. I only need 5 or 6 seconds per mile. Honestly, slightly better weather or an actual race would probably get me 5 seconds per mile! So next REAL 5k I run, I hope to be able to shoot for something even faster, depending on my fitness at the time. 

Next time I will also hopefully feel better. The cold I had got worse as the day progressed, and actually, I ended up taking a sick day the next week I felt so bad. Feeling crummy, plus being out of the racing habit, probably affected my strategy. I obviously made some mistakes pacing and following others. 

The rest of the group had mixed results - Tom, Paul, Pou, and Jonathon were disappointed; Will and Michelle killed it. Jeff ran 17:55, his first sub-18! 

Anyone else running any time trials during COVID times? Alone, or with others? How did you motivate yourself? 

* I felt totally crappy, but it wasn't COVID - I got tested (I have to for work!)

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Currently....

Currently...

Eating: NOT SUGAR OR ALCOHOL. Because I had a couple of baby pounds to lose and I wanted to be back to pre-baby weight by the nine month mark. Makes sense, right? Nine months to gain it, nine months to lose it! I tried a rather drastic fast last month and it was a disaster. I kept bonking on my long runs and workouts. So instead I just cut out my empty calories - sugar (I have a terrible sweet tooth) and alcohol ('bye, wine! Boo hoo!). This isn't long term, just to get back to normal weight. I was about ten pounds overweight this summer, and fasting took off five measly pounds; since then I have lost three or four more, so I am doing well. But I think the weight includes more fat and less muscle than pre-baby, which my total lack of strength work supports.

Cooking: I've been on a sushi bowl kick lately. I start with a bowl of rice and top it with avocados, asparagus, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and barely-seared salmon (or tuna, when the grocery store has a fresh catch). The night before I prep the vegetables and marinate the salmon in soy sauce, then make a siracha-mayonnaise sauce. We usually also add some more soy sauce on top. The crowning touch is these fun "seaweed snack" garnishes - they're the same as the seaweed wraps used for sushi, but sold in convenient bite-sized sheets. It's a fast, easy meal and tastes like a sushi roll! Normally I get my sushi raw, but since I don't buy sashimi-grade fish, a quick searing makes me feel like I'm slightly less likely to end up with a liver fluke. 

Reading: I just finished Into Thin Air by John Krakaur and I loved this documentation of his harrowing climb up Everest. This book is the subject of some controversy, as another climber disputes his version of events in his book, The Climb. I intend to read that next to get the full picture! I just requested it by interlibrary loan today.

Strengthening: My ankles and feet. I have had terrible tendon and ligament problems since pregnancy, and now I wake up very stiff and arthritic. I have to hobble out of bed. I've been trying to do some strength and mobility work to help with that. I actually wonder if I truly have arthritis, since morning stiffness is such a tell-tale sign. My feet have always been problematic, so it wouldn't surprise me if I had early osteoarthritis. 

Ankle tendinitis :(

Liking: It's McIntosh apple season, and I'm eating at least three a day. I love me some McIntosh!


Not liking: This hurricane season has seriously annoyed me. We have been in the "cone of uncertainty" for SIX major storms, wreaking havoc on work, weather, and plans. Every time daycare closes we have to scramble for childcare! Luckily, they have all shifted and spared us, but I can't believe we're on Delta already. What a busy storm year this was! 

Planning: Audubon baby's Halloween costume that he can wear *nowhere*. And I haven't gotten very far, honestly! I'm very uninspired this year! 

Wondering: What to do about my health. I saw an interventional radiology specialist about my uterine mass (still hanging out there!). The plan was to embolize the arteries feeding it, and thus allow it to die back by eliminating blood flow. He did an MRI and I am not a candidate for that treatment. His advice is that I may not even be able to safely have a myomectomy due to size of the mass - it is submucosal (in the muscle) and takes up nearly the entire uterus. He recommended complete hysterectomy but perhaps do the embolization procedure about three days prior to reduce the risk of hemorrhage during surgery. The mass is very well perfused and the concern has always been too much blood flow for a safe surgery. 

I have done nothing since then - no follow ups, no decisions. I just don't want to have a hysterectomy! And I also don't want the symptoms I am having! Argh, no good answer to this one! 

Since I enjoyed Into Thin Air so much, any recommendations for similar true adventure stories? Any ideas for easy baby costumes for lazy parents?



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Franklin, TN: day five, home again!

Day five

On our final day, we ran on the jogging path by the hotel instead of going to a park. It was a wide, smooth, riparian path, and there were migrating Canadian geese all around. The weather was cool (mid-60s) and I could have run all day, but we had to get going so I called it at five. The baby got his nap in while we packed up, then when he awoke we headed to The Factory. It’s an old stove factory that now houses shops and eateries (basically a hipster mall, except it also has event venues and office and studio space).

The Factory

This was a really cool place, very smart and attractive use of the space. For example, one large hall was all adjustable size booths you could rent for short term shops or show rooms. We bought an ornament for our travel collection, and then wandered into a nearby store...

WHERE OUR LIVES CHANGED FOREVER. I saw this soft, floppy stuffed goat and mindlessly brought Audubon Baby over to feel it. He loves soft, plush things, so I knew he'd like to touch this. Ha. He immediately fell in love and I, sucker that I am, immediately bought it for him. He was so cute with this toy - shining eyes, huge smile, expectantly clapping his hands while the clerk rang us up. And since then they have been inseparable. We named the goat "Franklin" after the town he was bought in, and Audubon Baby thinks he's a dog and calls for him: "Dah! Dah!" if he can't find him. He drags him everywhere, and this little toy is saving us from an early walker...Audubon Baby is absolutely ready to walk, but it's hard to hold onto things and pull yourself up while holding a slippery, plush toy in one hand, so Franklin is sort of delaying his development. Ha ha!

After adopting Franklin into the family, we had a donut from Five Daughters Bakery, and honestly that just about changed my life forever, too. I mean... donuts should not be that good. I don't even like donuts and this was one of the best things I ever ate. 

He thinks he can walk (he's 8 months old and nope, he can't).

We next headed to Centennial Park in Nashville, a lovely park with a to-scale model of the parthenon! We spent a while outside on the pretty grounds, then explored the Parthenon building and museum. 


Giant statue of the goddess Athena

Before we left for the airport, I sat by the water to feed the baby, and David and I had some chips. We had eaten some dinner leftovers before leaving the hotel and didn't really want lunch, so we just made do. We ended up being in the airport longer than we planned on - I just can't get used to how quiet everything is with COVID. Rental car drop off took five minutes; ticketing took 15 (in person ticketing with a baby SUCKS, it's a requirement for a free lap child, though!), and we were through security in ten.


I killed time hanging in the nursing lounge: the baby could roam safely, and if anyone else came in we'd just pack up and leave. 

That's Franklin in his lap! 

The flight home was uneventful. The baby laughed and snuggled with his Franklin and the airline attendant gave him a pair of wings! She said it was for his first flight, but really it was his third flight since we dragged that baby to Dallas at six weeks for a business trip (yes, we're crazy). We took the wings anyway! And thus concluded a short, laid-back vacation in the COVID era: not what we envisioned, but still a blessed break from the daily routine. 



Monday, October 5, 2020

Franklin, TN: day four, hiking

Day four

Day four was our hiking day, so we skipped our morning run figuring we would get enough exercise anyway. Our original plan was to do a longer hike in the morning, a picnic lunch, and then a short hike in the afternoon. We ended up just doing one hike, because I wore sandals and got a blister! I was rushed in the Target on Monday trying to quickly grab appropriate shoes, and I bought two pairs just in case one didn’t work out. Well, one worked out great, but the other one that I wore to hike in ended up giving me blisters. Some might say perhaps don't hike in sandals?! 



We let the baby take his morning nap while we drove to the trail. We parked at Percy Wagner Park and did the Moss Ridge Trail. It’s about 5 miles, and quite easy. I mean, I did it in flip flops with a baby in a carrier, it can’t be that hard. However, it did take a little longer than I expected, because I had to stop to feed the baby and change his diaper. I figured maybe two hours, and I think it took us an additional 15 minutes. 
Feeding the baby in the woods

It's a very low-barrier place to hike. You can just show up and do a hike: the trails are wide and well-marked, with absolutely no way to get lost, and there are trails of several distances. 

Plus, there are bathrooms and pavilions at the trailhead. I'd packed sandwiches and chips, and we ate lunch there, then played with the baby in the grass for a while. He’d been in the carrier for a long time, so he needed some exercise! We decided to head back to the hotel and play in the pool again, since he’d had so much fun there the other day. The pool had a 6” deep area that he could crawl in and he loved it. And we didn't hate relaxing by the pool, either. Then we went to happy hour for margaritas at a Mexican restaurant. We had nice seats outside in beautiful weather, so we ended up staying for dinner there and scrapping our original dinner plans. The baby was a huge hit - he is incredibly social and smiley and was making friends left and right. And the waitstaff were impressed by the way he plowed through his enchilada! We watched the football game later that night once the baby was asleep. I never thought I’d say a Cincinnati vs. Cleveland game was exciting, but it was a good game!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Franklin, TN: day 3, grumpy baby day

Day 3. We debated our plans for Wednesday, because initially we had planned a hike on Thursday and rain was forecast for Thursday. So we thought maybe we would hike on Wednesday. However, the weather cleared, so we stuck to our original agenda. 

We spent the morning exploring another cute park with a running trail. Not only did we get our runs in and another picnic breakfast, but the playgrounds were wide open, something that is not the case at home, and the baby got to go on a swing for the first time! The rest of the morning was consumed by his nap, and then we drove to Leiper's Fork for a distillery tour. It was an absolute disaster. Overall, we did really well fitting a lot of activities into this trip even though it was a very short visit, we had to drive pretty far to everything, and we had a baby with us. But this wasn’t a good idea. It was far away from our hotel, and the baby started to have a car meltdown. He doesn’t particularly love the car, but because New Orleans is so small he never has to sit in his seat for too long. He especially did not like it on this trip, because we did not think to bring a car mirror so he could see him and he could see us. Turns out that he really likes that! So the ride there was about 50% baby crying. That sucked. And then the distillery “tour“ was a small group in a very small room looking at a still while a folksy guy in overalls made dad jokes. And actually, I was appalled by the tasting. After the tour, we went to a very small tasting room. It was completely closed off, so no ventilation. There were 12 people in the room, and we were seated elbow to elbow. And then we had a flight of whiskeys and the guide instructed us to swish the whisk in the mouth, swallow, and then breathe out heavily three times. And we were in there for about 25 minutes. Like... seriously the highest possible Covid risk activity. I knew that in this area masks were not mandatory unless you were in a restaurant, but I obviously did not do my research very well. There is no way I would’ve taken that risk. We aren’t being hyper-vigilant about COVID19 (for example, we go to church, we are doing small group outdoor social activities, and I have gone to work every single day as an essential employee) but come on. There’s no reason to actively pursue activities known to spread the disease! So that was a fail. After the tour and tasting, we got lunch in the little town, and then drove to the Natchez Trace Parkway. Mostly we wanted to see this bridge! 






And it is terrifying. Apparently it is a site of many suicides and suicide attempts, and I think the reason for that is that the railing is about waist height! Neither David nor I are particularly fond of heights, so it was a little nerve-wracking! We had given the baby a little car nap, but it was super short since he woke up when we stopped at the bridge. So he was kind of in a mood. This whole day was not really very baby friendly. And I have no problem with that, babies have to learn that they are not the center of attention all the time, but he was a little tired and cranky by the end of the day! So after some fun time in the hotel pool, he went to bed early and David and I sat quietly in the room trying to eat Thai food without making noise. I finally got some reading done since it occurred to me that I could read on my Kindle app, even though it’s not my favorite way to read (I don’t like reading on lit screens. I prefer books, but nothing beats a Kindle for travel!)