Ashok’s Pierre Part Adventure

 

Click on the pics to view the captions.

I woke up this morning like every other day – not knowing what would be in store for me and my Momma. Would today be a regular day where she goes to that place called work and I have to sit in my cave and wait until she gets home? Or is it one of those days when we go do something together? I saw her put on those shoes that lace up which meant we were going running! Then she said, “Do you want to go for a run?” OMG … Do I? I leaped into the air with joy and ran around in circles while she got her stuff ready to go. Where would we go? Would we go to the lakes where I could swim? Or would we go run by that big building with the stairs? Or maybe we’d go down by the big river where people eat those little spicy red-shelled creatures? I couldn’t wait to see where we’d end up.

Momma's Breakfast
Momma’s Breakfast

We actually ran by the big tall building with stairs and then ran by the river and ran around a place that looked a little like our old neighborhood in Memphis. It was hot, but I swam in several lakes and a couple of times in the big river to cool off. We ran FOREVER… and then we went home. Much to my surprise, she started packing another bag, and asked me if I “wanted to go for a ride?” OMG …. that’s my favorite thing in the world next to going for a run … or maybe going for a walk. I could tell we were heading to Pierre Part, and I couldn’t even sleep along the way. Momma had to stop and get her drink and something to eat – she made sure it was decaf (whatever that is) – and then we headed down the highway. I watched the cypress trees and marshy land pass by until we started to see more water and more swamp. Momma said something to me about watching out for the gators this time, and then she said they might eat me. EAT ME??? Why would a gator eat me? I’m a pet. I don’t even know what a gator would look like. How would I know one if I saw one? By the time we got to Granny’s house, I was so excited that I literally knocked Momma in the head. She yelped, but I couldn’t contain myself. I love going to Pierre Part.

She told me about the gators.
She told me about the gators.

It was boring when we first arrived. I went inside, and they had hidden the dog food and cat food. Then there was a lot of talk. Talk … talk … talk… and they talked some more. Are we going outside??? I wanted to yell at them. I kept looking at them, but they didn’t understand at all. They just kept talking, and they’d laugh at me every now and then. What was I doing? They were the ones that were being funny. There’s all this stuff to do, and they just want to talk. Finally, they asked me if I wanted to go for a ride, and I jumped for joy. FINALLY!!! Poppee has a little motorized cart that we ride in. I sit in the front beside him, and I get to look out at the water and houses as we pass by. It doesn’t go too fast, so it’s easy for me to ride along without getting too scared.

We rode down the road that we always do. Usually, we are the only people there, but this time, there were lots of people there. We’d stop and talk…. stop and talk .. stop and talk. There was so much talking, I thought I’d go crazy. One time we stopped at Aunt Bonni’s place, and we sat and talked … and talked … and talked. I left to find something to do, but Momma kept making me come back to where they were. They kept talking about the gators. It’s like they were obsessed with those things … whatever they are. I swam in the lake once, and they all yelled at me to get out or I’d get eaten by a gator. I didn’t see anything but birds. We finally got back in the cart and rode some more. We went back to house and all of us laid down to sleep. I get to sleep with Momma at Granny’s because there are no cats that sleep with her. I don’t know why we have cats. Except for the tasty poo they have, they seem worthless. They aren’t fun like dogs. When we got up, we sat on the little platform over the water and they talked some more. I was sniffing something under the little platform, and Poppee yelled at me to get my nose out from under there. Again, he said something about a gator.

I was getting pretty sick of this gator talk ruining my good time. They’ve never talked about gators before. I think gators must be something people make up to keep dogs from having fun. I never saw one, and I went swimming several times. I saw cats and birds and other people but nothing unusual. I did see a slimy little animal that smelled funny that flopped around on one of the platforms, but it hardly seemed interested in eating me. It was too tiny anyway.

We rode the island in the little cart again, and Poppee stopped and talked to people again. One time he warned this guy about the law against drinking beer on the island on the weekends, but the deadbeat didn’t seem to care. He laughed like he thought it was funny and offered one to us. Maybe he was a gator since he didn’t seem to have any respect for the laws of the land. At any rate, nobody seemed scared of him, and he kept on drinking his beer anyway. When we got back from our ride, we sat on the platform again. We do the same things all day long in Pierre Part. We eat, sleep, sit on the platform over the pond, ride the cart and talk. We just repeat those things over and over again. I like the repetition. It makes me feel safe. I never did see a gator, and, obviously a gator never ate me. I’m still here. I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. There’s just too much to smell and eat and do in Pierre Part. It’s one of my favorite places … except for the talk. Why do they talk so much? I don’t get it.

 

Hungering For the Luxurious, Elusive State of Sleep

I wonder if cats ever have insomnia?
I wonder if cats ever have insomnia?

My friends Robbie and Jo Ann and I were discussing sleep the other night over a pile of crawfish. I don’t remember who said it, but we talked about how weird it is that we sleep. Sleep is so important that our lives literally revolve around the necessity to lay down and snooze for awhile each night. Our homes would look totally different if we didn’t sleep. Without the necessity of laying down for the night, a bedroom would not be necessary. Sleep is vital to our well-being.

Just yesterday, I overheard a co-worker in cubicle land ask another co-worker how she was doing. “I’m great,” she said. “I have been sleeping so good.” Just as often, I hear people claim that they are not sleeping so well, and it impacts how they feel. When I was younger, it seemed that sleep was often an inconvenience, and I never really gave it much thought. But, the older I get the more I focus on that 8 hours in the darkness where I get my vitality. It is now my PRIME time! The hour before I sleep, I turn off the phone because I’ve learned that conversations with friends increases my energy level so much that it impacts my ability to fall asleep. I take a supplement to help lower my anxiety level so that my body will start to relax. I don’t watch TV at all anymore, and one main reason is that the lighted screen impacts my sleep. If I have a high level of anxiety for some reason, I have a meditation I do to help me fall to sleep. I also keep lavender by the bed for those nights when I need a little extra help. When I cut out coffee awhile back it was primarily to reduce anxiety so I could sleep. It helped so much, I’m now embarking on eliminating caffeine. The last 3 nights have been the most delicious sleep I’ve had in ages.

A friend of mine’s husband suffered from sleep apnea. It was undiagnosed, but night after night, he would be awakened often through the night. It might appear that he was sleeping, but he was being deprived of that deep REM sleep because it takes time to get there. The more often you are awakened during the night, the less likely you will get to that very beneficial, most important stretch of deep sleep. She kept telling him that he may have sleep apnea, and, as most men are, he was too stubborn to get it checked out. He was finally diagnosed, and he got the little apparatus that helps him sleep. I saw him a little while after he had started his treatment, and I had no idea any of this was going on. The last time I’d seen him, I thought he was starting to look old. Deep lines were forming on his face, and he looked much more haggard than I’d remembered. This time when I saw him, the difference was so profound that I noticed right away. He looked literally 10 years younger. I thought maybe I had just imagined the other, so I didn’t ask. Later, my girlfriend told me the story. “OMG,” I told her. “I could tell! He looks so much younger and well-rested.”

I found this article this morning on the impacts of a lack of sleep. Sleep affects so many things. It affects focus, ability to think and process, heart health, weight, mental health and even your sex drive. The article goes on to say that most people think they’ve adapted to less sleep – a 6 hour night – but they really haven’t. Sleep impairs their judgment about how much lack of sleep is impacting them. I know that I need 7-8 hours of sleep. There was a period of time when I was under high stress when I hardly slept at all. It was the most miserable time of my life. One of my friends that knew me during that time remembers that all I would say is that I wanted to sleep. “I just want to sleep,” she quotes me saying over and over. It was awful. And I was very worried about my health.

The good thing about sleep is that it motivates me to make healthy changes. The biggest impact on my sleep is my anxiety level. So, I work really hard to reduce stress, exercise, and eat foods that help calm my anxiety. Sugar and caffeine are known triggers for anxiety, and I’ve been stubborn about eliminating them. It’s so hard! But, I’ve cut back on sugar, and I’m now sold on the fact that my sleep will improve if I cut out caffeine. I’ve experienced it. Not everybody has anxiety, but, for those of us who do, sleep can be so elusive. I already look less tired. My skin seems more relaxed. The past two mornings I woke up before the alarm feeling very rested. I’ve been dreaming. I’ve had great, vivid dreams that make me chuckle when I recall them. The dreaming tells me I’m getting to that golden land of REM sleep. I haven’t dreamed like that in ages. This morning when I woke up, my first thought was Wow! That felt awesome! My second thought was TGIF! Tomorrow morning, I can luxuriate in this wonderful bed and sleep to my heart’s content. I can’t usually sleep late because of my body clock, but I’m hoping that now that I’ve cut out the caffeine, my sleep habits will change a little. So, don’t call me early tomorrow, folks! I’m sleeping in. And I may even take a nap or two just to indulge in my newfound luxuriousness. Have a great weekend, y’all! And get some sleep!

 

Co-Habitating with My Inner Addict

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I’m not surprised that I’m being pulled to give up my caffeine addiction this week. I’ve been practicing yoga daily for almost 2 months. Every time I get into a regular yoga practice, I get much more sensitive to what is not right in my life. I spend 20 or so minutes each morning focusing on my internal life. The deep rhythmic breathing brings me home to myself, and I have to deal with whatever is going on inside. Any little ripple of discomfort or obsession distracts me and becomes like a foghorn in a quiet night. Allowing my soul to settle and be quiet just for a little bit becomes so peacefully comfortable. Anything that distracts me starts to irritate me. What was taking me away from it for a good deal of time was my obsession with having my caffeine. Sometimes I found myself wanting to skip my practice to get to it quicker. But, I wouldn’t do it. I had committed to doing this. But there was that voice inside that said Just this once it won’t matter. And, I’d think, Who the hell are you – wanting what I don’t want … encouraging me to sidestep what I know to be loving and kind to myself?

I know who it is. It’s my inner addict. Not everybody has one because not everyone is plumbed for addiction. But I do, and I’ve known her for a really, really long time. It’s been a rocky relationship at best. Power struggles define the history of our interactions. I knew her since I was a girl, but I never really met her until I went to a codependency workshop right after I separated from my second husband. At that workshop, they encouraged us to draw a picture of our inner addict. At first, I was a little unsure of what to draw, but my fingers began to move, and she finally showed her face. Wild, curly hair framed a face tense with fear. Bloodshot eyes peered from underneath the blanket of curls. She drew herself hanging on a cross because, you see, she is a martyr …. a victim of her circumstances. It’s not her fault… whatever it is. It felt so good to finally come face-to-face with her. It somehow took her power away to know that she was a frightened girl who had a very skewed perception of reality.

My caffeine addiction may not be as strong or as detrimental as my codependency – my addiction to the possibility – or alcohol, but it is an addiction nonetheless. And, my inner addict is pissed right now. Once more, I’m saying, “No, I’m not doing this any more.” Yesterday, I had a great day with my withdrawal. I still had a headache, and my muscles were spongy and achy, but the roller coaster was gone. I felt more energetic as a whole. But, there was a voice inside me telling me that a cup of tea would take that headache away. Just this once it won’t matter. When she’s desperate and using, her voice is more insistent. When she knows she’s losing her power, she becomes more gentle and understanding. She is kind, catering to my immediate needs for comfort.

A friend of mine described his inner addict to me recently. He said he is insistent that it will be okay to do it this time. It’ll be fun. It’s not hurting anybody. We have a right to have fun. But, after his addict has his “hit”, he goes to sleep for a nap. The remorse, guilt, backlash and hangovers are left for him personally to handle. Then a few days later, here comes his addict again. Where’s my hit? Come on, let’s do it again. In recovery, we personify our disease in the same way that I did by drawing the picture of my inner addict. If I can put a face to it or realize that it’s not REALLY me, it’s easier to put up defenses against it. My inner addict actually IS me because I’m doing this stuff, but who cares if I pretend that she’s an intruder if it makes it easier for me to be congruent with who I want to be. Sometimes the ends justifies the means.

Knowing that I have an inner addict simplifies things for me. It is the way I am plumbed. It doesn’t matter what the substance is, I can get addicted to it. When I gave up alcohol, I took on food. Codependency took control at another point. All along the way, I’ve been addicted to caffeine. I can be addicted to just about anything that makes me feel good and takes me away from myself. It doesn’t matter how long I’m in recovery, I will always be an addict. It is my internal plumbing… it is my story … it is my song.

This morning, I rinsed out my blender from my smoothie, and water started rushing out from underneath the door under the sink. I looked to see what was happening, and the entire plumbing under the sink had come loose. It wasn’t a leak. It was a total fallout. I had to laugh because it seemed very synchronistic that this plumbing issue happened while I was thinking about my inner addict and the way I’m plumbed. I’ll have to get my landlord to come over and fix this. It’s a mess. He’ll get it fixed, but the framework – the plumbing – will remain the same. He’ll have to shore it up so that it can withstand the pressure better. Any weak links will need to be repaired. I’ll have to clean up the mess under my sink. My inner addict will never change. I will always have to be strong enough – or supported enough from the outside – to withstand the pressure. She still hangs … on her cross … with her wild eyes ... waiting for an opportunity to get her mojo back. She’s a little b*tch for sure … but she’s taught me so much. How could I ever, ever let her go?

 

Trying a New Experience: No Caffeine

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My favorite yoga teacher, Marifer, has a saying she repeats during yoga class. “In yoga, it’s all experiences. No judgment if you can’t do it. It’s just an experience,” she says in her lilting gentle voice. It reframes my perspective on whether or not I do the pose right. She adds that we really could do yoga with our eyes closed because we shouldn’t be looking at other people. Yoga is an INTERNAL experience.

I have been over a month without coffee, and I feel so much better that I’m attempting to give up caffeine. I don’t plan on giving it up altogether – although I might have to if I can’t do it in moderation – but I want to get off the daily caffeine roller coaster that is my life. Even without the coffee, I’ve increased my tea intake enough to meet the same caffeine level, and on some days, exceed it. Tea doesn’t provide the hammer, and there are times when my energy feels really low. Yesterday I was reading about caffeine because I honestly didn’t feel so good this weekend. I ate too much junk, and I had too much caffeine. The junk is easy for me to stop because I normally eat pretty healthy, but I think it’s time I look at what drugs I’m addicted to, and caffeine is my current drug of choice.

Monday, I had cut back from the weekend indulgence, and I had a bad headache. I was also irritable and on an emotional roller coaster. I found it unacceptable to feel that way. So, yesterday, I allowed myself one tea bag in the morning and one in the afternoon. My muscles felt really fatigued. I used Peppermint essential oil to perk up my flagging energy, but, honestly, it didn’t help a lot. It might have made sense to just have some caffeine, but if I feel that bad without out it, I’m obviously addicted. Without it, I start out with a significant energy deficit. What if I got off it and had a normal energy level? Caffeine has a great high followed up by a low. It’s up and down every few hours. If I could get off the roller coaster, I might feel better. Then, if I needed caffeine on an occasional basis, I wouldn’t have to have so much to keep me going.

I have been caffeine-free before. I’ve done it for years. I remember that I felt good. I was sleepy sometimes, but it wasn’t often. It was usually a real sign of lack of sleep or over-exercise or some other “true” reason to be fatigued. I didn’t have the early morning issues getting out of bed, late morning energy lag or after lunch battle to stay awake. The caffeine dip makes everything worse, and I end up trying to perk up my flagging energy with sugar or more caffeine. Plus, it’s costly. I’m tired of spending the money on something EVERYDAY. A friend of mine and I were talking about smoking. He has quit now, but he remembers counting cigarettes before he went to bed to make sure he had enough for the morning. If he didn’t, he’d have to go out and get some. Addictions are really just one more thing you have to keep up. I’ve got enough to keep up. I’d like to spend my $5 a day or even $3 a day – depending on the caffeine fix – on something else. Maybe an Athleta tank top would be nice.

So, today will be my first day WITHOUT. I ran for 45 minutes this morning. I slept so well last night, and I had these amazing vivid dreams. I woke up energized. I’m missing the hit a little right now, but I don’t have a headache or fatigue yet. Maybe I won’t get it today. Anyway, I’m using this post as my commitment not to hit on caffeine today. Like Marifer says, it’s just an experience. If I take the one day at a time approach – and that’s all I can handle anyway – I can experience one day without caffeine just to see what I learn. Everything … everything is yoga.

P.S. I wouldn’t try to resolve any conflicts with me today, though. It might not go well. I’m just sayin’.

Finding Loveliness in the Simple Things

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This morning God had me reading The Dance of Life by Henry Nouwen. I always just open the book and let God tell me what I need to hear. It works like a charm. This morning’s salve was a journal entry where Father Nouwen reflects on his propensity for drama. He talks about a friend who always talks about the small things in life that are beautiful and joyful while he likes the “newspaper news.” He laments that he’s not more focused on the joys of life as a natural inclination.

Yesterday,  I was thinking about how everywhere I’ve lived, there have been wonderful things that I love. People ask me all the time which city I loved the most. I can never really say. I can say that I loved Seattle because it was so over-the-top beautiful with its snow-capped volcanoes and watery backdrop. I loved Knoxville because of its proximity to the Smoky Mountains and my girlfriends I knew there. I loved Memphis because of its music, its healing community and the downtown area. I loved St. Joseph because of Lake Michigan and the quaint Victorian neighborhoods. There is so much beauty in this world. No one place has an advantage over another. I had a fiancee when I moved to Michigan from Seattle. He couldn’t adapt because he thought Seattle was the only beautiful place in the world. He was looking for beauty that was in his face every minute of the day. I remember telling him that if Seattle was the best place in the world, Chicago wouldn’t haven any people in it. They’d all be in Seattle. He laughed, but I could tell he just couldn’t pick out loveliness in less obvious things.

I had a really rough day at work yesterday. All of the BS got to me, and I wanted to flee. I literally did flee for a couple of hours, but I had this really strong desire to get the hell out of Baton Rouge and the higher education system with its much slower pace and financial problems. I longed for the world of corporate America where the pressure was on, and people who aren’t performing are weeded out pretty quickly. I wanted to be working in a place where there was plenty of money to get the things done that needed to be done. It was just too much to overcome for the moment. I took some time, and I got my head back into the game, but I’m still working really hard this morning to find the good. I know I’ll get there, but I had reached the point of completely giving into the fantasy of escape, and it felt like a huge relief. I could see Arkansas in my windshield and Louisiana in my rear view mirror as plain as day… and I was in sheer bliss. But, escape isn’t really that easy, is it?

Individually, they are tiny and ordinary, but in a field, they are fabulous.
Individually, they are tiny and ordinary, but in a field, they are fabulous.

So, this morning I have this message about finding the joy and changing my focus. Sunday as I was driving home from my sister’s house in Cottonport, I was enjoying the ride. Cottonport is in Northern Louisiana (sort of), and it is country almost all the way to Baton Rouge. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the trees were dressed out in that beautiful new leaf limey green. Country music was playing on the radio, and my dog was snoring next to me in the passenger seat. I noticed field after field of these lovely little yellow flowers. The entire field would be covered with them giving the blanket of green this lovely yellow glow. When I first got into recovery, and I was in so much emotional pain I could hardly bear the day. I started running in the trails in the Indiana Dunes State Park. In the springtime, the forest was covered with yellow wildflowers much like the ones I saw Sunday. I saw them then .. and now .. as symbols of the sunlight of the spirit. They remind me of God … and goodness … and the promise that our world has a much deeper meaning than is evident at first glance. Sunday, I watched field after field of these flowers pass by.  I talked to a good friend who had been in a terrible car accident a few weeks ago. It was so bad that she had this really peaceful knowing that this was it…. this was how she was going to check out. But, she woke up – amazed to be alive. It made me realize how sad I would have been if she hadn’t made it and the fragility of our existence. I found myself pulling off the road for a minute to really take those flowers in.

Life is short. Even though my heart feels a bit heavy this morning with work issues, I’m going to try to find the joy in my work today. There has to be something that drew me here to this job that is more meaningful than the everyday BS. I might go pick up some yellow flowers to put on my desk. That might just be the ticket. I forget that escape can look like a complete escape, or it can just be a minor tweak in perception. I pulled up that pic of the yellow flowers that I took yesterday. Just seeing them gives me the connection to spirit that I need. Thanks, Father Nouwen for following up with your very obvious reminder to find the simple beauty in life. Loveliness is not only evident in snow-capped volcanoes and obvious over-the-top beauty, but it resides in simple little yellow wildflowers. Beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder.

Come on, Y’all!! I’m Behind by 2% … WHERE ARE YOU? :)

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Okay… you’ve had a few days off for the holiday, it’s time to get back to work. SOMEHOW Midlife Moments Blog has fallen to second place in the Vibrant Voice Blogger contest. That is unthinkable. You can vote EVERYDAY! From every DEVICE! If I have ever made you laugh, cry, think about yourself differently or even irritated you, I’ve made you feel! Please help me get this … I’m getting new readers everyday because of it! It’s fun. Have a great Monday… even if you don’t vote for me.

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Another Voice: Bisque, Baskets and Blogs

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My sister asked if she could blog about our family tradition of making crawfish bisque at Easter. Frankly, I thought this was tradition was from her husband’s Cajun family. I didn’t remember until this morning that this was our Fair family tradition. I remember every Easter going over to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house along with the Fuglers and the Bentons and hiding and hunting Easter eggs in the lilies that lined the circular drive in front of their house. I can see the old Live Oak trees clear as day with the Spanish Moss clinging loosely on their branches as we climbed over the roots to look for eggs. Those beautiful lilies would have been in full bloom as the bisque gravy bubbled in large black pots outside. I’m glad she was paying attention to what we ate for lunch those many Easter Sundays or I wouldn’t be eating bisque today. Enjoy my sister’s blog. Happy Easter, y’all!

By: Susan King Gremillion

Pics by: Laura King (2012 bisque-making) Click on the pics or hover over them to see the captions.

When I was a child, every year my entire extended family on my mama’s side would get together for Easter, and Grandma and Grandpa Fair would make crawfish bisque for everyone. Everyone in the family looked forward to that: deep brown gravy served over rice with crawfish heads stuffed with ground up crawfish tails. It was delicious. The kids had a great time; we would run and play and have fun while all of the adults slaved over the gravy. When it was declared ready, we would all rush over and fill our bowls with the bisque. Life simply did not get any better than that. My grandmother passed away when I was just twenty-four, but the bisque did not stop there. My grandfather, mother, and aunts kept the bisque tradition alive. However, a few years later, when Grandpa passed away, I knew the bisque tradition was in danger.

My husband, Gary, loved the tradition that my family had, and, being the cook of the family, he felt the tradition must go on. Just a few months after Grandpa’s passing, he called my mama and asked her if she would be offended if he began making bisque for the family. My mama quickly agreed, and a new tradition was born: Gary and I began making crawfish bisque for Easter. Over the years we have had to change the tradition a little. We no longer live in the Baton Rouge area, so the family has to travel to our house for Easter weekend. Of course, my family members like to go to their own churches on Easter Sunday, so we moved the bisque extravaganza to the day before Easter. Each year, my brother Terry, and his wife, Laura, and their family comes to spend a few days. Mama and Daddy also come early. Sammy and his family come on Saturday and spend the day. Sharon has always lived to far away to attend, but now that she’s back in Louisiana, we’re going to make sure she gets involved as well.

Everybody gets involved in stuffing the heads.
Everybody gets involved in stuffing the heads.

On Good Friday, Mama, Laura, and I get busy stuffing heads for the Saturday feast. Gary is in charge of the gravy part of the bisque, so he makes the gravy while we work at the dining room table stuffing heads. Although the conversation is not in French, as tradition would have it, we still laugh and have a good time preparing the heads. In the old days, a crawfish bisque took three days to prepare: On Good Friday, families got together for a crawfish boil. Saturday was spent chopping the crawfish tails, the onions, celery, bell peppers, and all the good stuff that goes into the gravy with the leftover crawfish tails, as well as cleaning the crawfish heads. Easter Sunday, it all came together, and the bisque was enjoyed by the family. We have a much easier job now. We buy bags of Louisiana crawfish tails (Please note: LOUISIANA tails are a must; the Chinese version is much less desirable.), run them through the food processor along with all the seasonings, and stuff the heads. The heads, which used to be cleaned by my grandparents by hand, are now processed by inmates at the prison where my husband works. You can also buy cleaned heads at some south Louisiana seafood stores. At any rate, the job is minuscule compared to what it used to be. What used to take three days can now be done in three hours, and it is just as delicious.

Saturday morning everyone arrives, and we do all of the things that all families do on Easter: we sit around and laugh and talk and catch up, the children hide and look for eggs, and then lunch is served. At this time of year, I think of my grandparents daily, and Easter is my favorite holiday because of them. People outside of south Louisiana may not understand our peculiar eating habits, but anyone who has ever tasted the dark rich goodness of a bowl of crawfish bisque knows that we have what others can only dream about. I think my Grandma and Grandpa look down from Heaven every Easter weekend and smile. I know they would be proud that we carried on their tradition. And I hope that when I’m gone, someone in the family will say, “Let’s keep the tradition going. We can do that.”

Crescent City Classic 2014: 6.2 Miles of Fun

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“This is not normal,” I overheard a woman say, “People die doing this!” I laughed out loud on the race course as I passed her. We – the Varsity Running Club of Baton Rouge – arrived at the Superdome about 45 minutes before the race start. I had forgotten to eat this morning. I was in such a rush to get out of the house for the 5:15 bus, and I didn’t realize I had not eaten until I got halfway there. It was a novice mistake. Some people don’t eat much before a race, but I have to eat. A fellow runner had some cinnamon rolls, and my friend Tracy gave me some yogurt. It was hardly the high protein meal I needed, but it would have to do. There was nothing open where I could get a bite, and I had to wait in line at the porta potties. I’ve decided that the next photo essay I’m going to do is going to be snapping candid shots of people as they exit porta-potties. The expressions are priceless.

NOTE: Click on the pics for captions and zooming. 🙂

Before the Start

The 10 K (6.2 mile) race course for the Crescent City Classic runs from the French Quarter down Esplanade and into City Park. It was absolutely fabulous. I had decided to snap pictures the whole way and enjoy the race route since this was my virgin voyage. I had waited 30 something years to participate, and I wasn’t going to spend it worried about my time and looking at my GPS. I wanted to stop and smell the roses – literally – along the way. When we arrived, one of the guys on our bus gave the newbies some pointers. “If you take anything from any of the locals, it’s probably going to have something in it. Don’t take it unless you are looking for that.” Another person added that the fireman hand out straight vodka instead of water. “Oh, and please pace yourself … I’m talking about the party afterwards,” he added with a laugh. It was going to be a beautiful morning, and I was really looking forward to the race… except for the fact that I was starving – before I started running.

The Quarter & Esplanade

New Orleans streets aren’t that wide at some points, so the race course was crowded. These big races remind me of a microcosm of life itself. People show up on the race course like they do in life. Some are flamboyant in their tutus and costumes, drawing attention to themselves. Others just want to be comfortable. Some are prepared for the challenge, training and educating themselves on what to expect. Others show up with no training and just gut it out. Some want to speed by to compete and win while others just want to enjoy the journey. If you think you know what a runner looks like, you’ve never been to one of these races. Runners are as diverse as the population as a whole. Some are big. Some are small. Some are blind. Some are young and fit. Some limp all the way through in ways that make me wonder how they can get through a race with a gait like that. Some just run for the beer while others run for their health or for their time. There are even superheroes who stride past with their capes and masks like they are flying on the wind. Others run for God, their deceased friends and relatives or their Moms. A crowded race course is filled with charity runners for every major disease and some very rare ones. I find myself laughing, sometimes crying and often motivated by the people I see moving before me in a river of bodies.

Entering City Park

Today’s race snaked through the beautiful City Park in New Orleans among the ancient Live Oak trees. You could see runners everywhere, moving like ants marching through a picnic. And, speaking of a picnic, I made it to the finish but was famished by the time I got there. I was never so glad to see an orange in my life. The race culminated in a massive party with red beans and rice and jambalaya accompanying the main attraction … beer … and lots more beer. I’ll leave you with some pics of the day. I’m tired. I feel very blessed to be healthy enough to run among old friends and new. I’m full of good food and replenished with a massive dose of vitamin D …. I know I’ll sleep well tonight.

Happy Easter, y’all! I saw several Easter Bunnies at the race today. I hope they are not too tired to get with it tonight.

 

NOLA Indulgences: Shopping, Eating and Topless Driving

Photo Apr 18, 2 41 08 PM

Tomorrow is the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans. I’ve been wanting to run this 10K race in New Orleans for several years, and now that I’m back living in the area, it’s do-able. The race course starts in the French Quarter and ends at City Park, two of my favorite locations in New Orleans. The year I graduated from high school was the inaugaural year for this race, and the website says it was the original “party” race in the country. Tomorrow’s race has 20,000 runners registered. I registered for it last October, and I was really sweating my ability to run it when my injuries started cropping up and continued to hang around from November to early March. But, I’m healthy, and I’m ready to run it tomorrow. I ran the 6.2 mile distance last weekend, so I know I can do it. It probably won’t be my fastest 10K ever, but I plan to enjoy it and post photos to Instagram the whole way. It should be fun.

The Expo

My friend Jo Ann and I have both been so busy that we haven’t been able to hang out much since our Mardi Gras plans got frozen out. So, I asked if her if she wanted to drive over for the Expo. She offered to drive her convertible when I got to her place this morning, and I said of course! It was too chilly to go topless this morning, but we certainly could do it on the way home. We arrived 5 minutes before the Expo opened, and, within 5 minutes of walking in the door, we made our first purchase. We tasted a vitamin drink that tasted just like a Dreamsicle, and they had a hell of a deal for the Expo. Little packets that you pour into bottles of water contain a multi-vitamin, caffeine and electrolytes. The company called 4D Supplements is out of Harahan. In fact, most of the vendors there today were local companies. That was a nice surprise. We shopped running stores, local jewelry-makers, the New Orleans Advocate, local race planners and everybody’s favorite Louisiana coffee, Community. Since I’ve given up coffee, I had decaf – I’m so good –  and it was really, really good. I even signed up for the Louisiana Marathon in January – the half marathon, actually. I said I wouldn’t do another this year, but they offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse, and I really liked the people that were running the race. So, why not? 13.1 miles… here I come, again…. gotta stay healthy.

The City

We picked up my race bib and shirt, and, on the way out, I made an impulse purchase and bought a tank from the CCC official merchandise table. We headed out of the hotel… getting lost and adding another 20 minutes to our exit … and turned toward the French Quarter. We ran into Carl and Jennifer, tourists from Chicago. Jennifer was stoked about the race tomorrow and said she’d probably sign up and run it since she has to run anyway. They were friendly folks, and we walked with them all the way to the French Quarter, swapping stories about visiting New Orleans, Chicago and riding the City of New Orleans between the two cities. We parted ways on Bourbon Street, and we set out to find muffaletta sandwiches, pralines, flip flops and a summer purse for me.

More Expo

It was cool most of the morning. About 12:30, we both immediately got too hot and started whining about needing to find cooler shoes and cooler clothes. That always happens to me in New Orleans. I’ll feel cool in the morning, and in one sharp second, I feel like someone lit a fire under me. Finding something cooler to wear becomes an emergency. Or, it can be vice versa. The last time I was down, it was hot all day, and then it turned sharply cold, and I had to buy a sweatshirt. But, I digress … I was starting to get really hungry, so we went to Central Grocery to get a muffaletta. There was a very short line which was a treat since I was starving. I got a half for us to eat at lunch and a half packed for home. The meat and cheeses on a muffaletta are really good, but the bread is to die for. It is just the right crustiness with sesame seeds that push it right over the edge from good to delicious. I laughed and said that it was probably good because it soaks up the olive oil from the olive salad like a sponge. I not only ate my quarter, but I ate the top bun from Jo Ann’s quarter, too. I don’t know which was better – the sandwich or just the bread. On the way out, I asked one of the counter folks how many of those sandwiches they serve a day as the line was now spilling outside, and every person in the store had a muffaletta. It’s as if there is nothing else on the menu. “Hundreds,” he said, “hundreds…” and he turned around to take the next order.

The Coffee Oasis

We shopped in the French Market and found some bargains on my flip flops, a little dress and a summer purse. Jo Ann indulged on flip flops and a red summer dress. We both went into the ladies’ room and stripped out of our warmer clothes and put on our pretty dresses and sandals. We decided to ditch the long walk back and ride the trolley to the hotel parking lot. Oh, yeah… we had to have our praline fix, and we got some original pralines from Sally’s. It was the perfect end to a French Quarter indulgence. We visited on the trolley with a couple of ladies from Killeen TX who were heading out on a cruise tomorrow. Jo Ann and I had discussed going on a cruise later this year, so I thought we’d probably look like them except about 20 years younger. We joked earlier in the day about being Thelma and Louise, but, honestly, I think those two crazy gals were a little younger than us, and I don’t think that trip ended so well anyway.

The Loot

 

We went topless all the way home. We hit traffic on the way out of New Orleans, but after we got some open highway in front of us, we both got really quiet. The wind was blowing through my thick, curly hair like the wind on a desert tumbleweed, and the sun was warm on my skin. The breeze made things chilly, and, at one point, Jo Ann reached over and turned on the heat so that my toes and legs started to get toasty warm. I was lost in a kaleidoscope of thought as we crossed the Bonne Carre Spillway. What should I wear to a race that will be in the 50s early but we’ll be hanging out into the afternoon with temps in the upper 70s? Should I pack long pants for after the race or shorts? Or both? ….. I hope I’m not uncomfortable traveling with a group of people that I don’t know….. I thought back on the walk through the French Market and my purchase of sandals from the Jamaican man who said his brother made them… I wondered how much water Middendorf’s got when Katrina hit and how long it had been closed for repairs … intimate scenes from an afternoon with an old flame danced through my mind’s eye… memories of sitting in the sun at Southeastern’s Spring Game last weekend flitted past in a slideshow … oh, yeah … I got sunburned…. I hoped that wouldn’t happen again, and I checked my arms to make sure… I wonder if my iPhone will stay charged all day tomorrow …

After being lulled into a trance of thought for about half an hour, Jo Ann and I talked about our day and some other personal things. It had been a great day. The weather was perfect. We had no plan when we left, and it all worked out just right. We indulged enough …. but not too much. We met some cool people, and we enjoyed the outdoors. I picked up my dog and headed home, needing to eat a healthy meal before my run. On the way home, I had to hide my half muffaletta from Ashok lest she take advantage of my focus on the road. I think my favorite part of the day was riding home in the car. It felt so good to just sit in silence and let my mind wander wherever it wanted to go. It’s fun to have friends that will just hang out and go with the flow even if that means being quiet and listening to the wind. I feel connected this evening … grateful to live across the swamp from the great City of New Orleans …. filled up with happiness from a fun day … and ready for a great, fun run tomorrow. And, I’d better be. I have to rise at 4 AM to catch that bus that will drive me back to the Quarter. I can’t wait to share it with you. Night, y’all!

 

 

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