It’s been a lifetime since this blog began. Four year ago, Joshua and I had just returned from a short vacation with my dad, Mandy, Hannah, and Eamon in the Ozarks. My dad suggested that I start a blog, and so I did.
It’s safe to say that I began much the same way that I’ve maintained the blog in years since: with an effort not quite approaching moderation. Three lengthy posts were followed by a few months of silence, and then a consistency which has been heretofore unrepeated.
What changed? New Orleans. Or rather, our departure from New Orleans.
Joshua and I joined the 2008 Teach For America corps and were placed in New Orleans. The next two years were… Difficult to describe. Even now, I vacillate between an endless catalogue of the injustices I witnessed and speechlessness. I crave a concise and accurate description that somehow encapsulates why I stayed or what it all meant, but in honesty, I’ve given up. It’s been more than three years since we left, and since then, I’ve thought about New Orleans and those two years often. I am no closer to an explanation than I was when I left.
Sarah, my sister-in-law, is considering a move to Denver this summer, and we decided to come back to visit before she left. New Orleans is a strange, wonderful, and terrible city. We wanted to revisit some of the wonderful.
Among the things that I love about New Orleans: beautiful, brightly colored homes with gorgeous woodwork and enviable porches; the smell of magnolias and night blooming jasmine, even in December; the best pulled pork in the world; a complicated and fascinating history.
They’re still here. We’ve walked through Holy Cross, the Bywater, the Marigny, and the French Quarter, admiring the ivy dripping from second story terraces and searching for our favorite color combinations. We walked down St. Charles and then down Prytania, wondering who is fabulously wealthy enough to live in these palacial buildings. In some ways, it’s even more stunning now. More and more homes have been renovated, and it seems like every building has a fresh coat of paint.
We’ve visited The Joint, home of our favorite pulled pork sandwich, twice, and we’ve had brunch three times already. Sarah is an endless fount of knowledge when it comes to local history, and she entertains me with anecdotal history as we make the long trek from Uptown back to the Lower Ninth Ward.
We’ve even spent time with some of our teacher friends who taught with us in the alternative school. I’m stunned by how comfortable we are around one another. It’s not the same as picking up exactly where we left off – we’re all in very different places now – but we have the same ease. Everyone talks about those two years a little bit differently: Katie and Phil see it as a painful but meaningful catalyst for their life’s work, Claire sees it as a crucible, and Joshua still holds out hope for meaning. Strangely, it seems like I’ve forgotten the most, and whereas most of us can clearly see where our presence was beneficial, I struggle to distinguish between good and bad, positive and negative.
New Orleans is a puzzle of race, poverty, entrenched disillusionment and despair. This is the first place where I came face to face with violence and death, and I still don’t know what to make of it.
In the same way that I struggle to sum up those two years, our time here in the past two weeks has only confirmed my confusion. New Orleans is a special place, unlike any other city, and it is a place marked with the indelible etch of trauma: in the crumbling streets, preserved National Guard graffiti, long list of the dead, and vacant homes in every neighborhood.
Last night, we listened. On New Year’s Eve, it’s not unusual to hear the fire and pop of fireworks late into the night, but per usual, New Orleans takes decadence and danger to a whole new level. It sounded like a battle. After midnight, we lay in bed with Henrie between us, watching light flicker along the walls and listening to explosions that sounded as though they were in the same room as us. Papa Tim peered out the window and saw young children running out of their homes with lit roman candles and tossing them into the street were they would sing and burst.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to come back, to spend time with Nana, Sarah, Papa, and Granny. I’ve loved the food and our long walks and runs. Even better is the uninterrupted time with Henrie and Joshua. At night, we’ve watched a few movies, and I’ve slept a lot. It’s been a good vacation.
And I’ll be happy to go home. I miss Denver and our home. I miss our bed. Hopefully, there will be a dusting of snow when we return.
So thank you, New Orleans, for sharing with us the good and the bad: your beauty and your dirty underbelly. No, really. You’re teaching a lesson I’m still learning. I promise to miss your pulled pork, pretty porches and levees. I promise to wonder how you’re doing and mourn your dead. And if I never return, you’ll know that you’ve still managed to change me forever.
Merry Christmas from New Orleans, ya’ll, and a Happy New Year.
Traditionally Ellie and I spend our Christmas back in Minnesota. Known as the Christmas Blitz we spend 8-12 days bouncing back and forth between our various sets of parents. Last year was pretty difficult with Henriette in tow. This year we decided to change things up a bit and spend our break in New Orleans at my sister’s place. Nana Yvonne came for the first week. Papa Tim and Granny Joette are here for the second week.
While New Orleans isn’t the most kid friendly of cities, its been nice to revisit our old haunts and share some great food. We had a lovely time with Nana, and we are currently enjoying playing with Papa and Granny. Inspired by Ellie’s magical California vacation videos (Summer Vacation in Three Acts), I decided to make one for our Christmas in New Orleans.
Act 1: To California
Act 2: California
Act 3: California Part 2
26 hours 58 minutes 29 seconds
2 hours 22 minutes 19 seconds
6 hours 53 minutes 36 seconds
Colfax marathon here I come. Logged more miles this month than I ever have in a single month. Feeling good about going sub 4:00:00. The 800 speed workouts have done wonders for me. Two weeks out. Time to start tapering down.
Henrie and I got some more gardening done yesterday and today. The peanut is a natural born gardener. She loves to crawl around in the dirt. She also meticulously watches me out seeds in the ground. She then imitates me and pokes her fingers into the dirt and the pays it with her hand. When I laugh or smile at her for this she coos with glee.
In sum, we planted three more beds. In the second long bed we put in radishes, carrots, and beets. In the square sectioned bed we first added some compost and then laid down spinach, mustard greens, and a spicy salad mix. In this bed there are also some herbs that wintered over. The thyme is still kicking, and mint and oregano seem to be making a come back. I left the section with the mint open knowing mint will go wild in a month from now. I planted the other greens around be thyme and oregano. Mmmm thinking of using both on summer grilled pizza.
In the first medium sized bed with added sheep poop and some more compost. We then spread arugula seeds in rows across half the bed. On the second half we planted red winter and Italian kale.
I’ve decided to go heavy on the greens this year. In fact I’m a little worries there won’t be enough spinach. With the Pietaris and Eunice living with us as we’ll as aunt Sarah coming to stay for a month in addition to other family coming throughout the summer the garden is going to be hard pressed to keep pace.
This year I’ve also decided to plant all the seeds directly into the ground as opposed to starting them in starter cups and planting later. We seem to have bad success with this in the past the few times I’ve done it. In order to keep gardening on top of parenting and being a good husband and running and teaching and remodeling the basement, I need to figure out was to make gardening quick and easy this year. Anyone have tips on this front? Feel free to comment here.
Lastly, our fruit is finally taking off. The buds on the cherry trees are popping (that sounds super dirty). Same with one of the apple trees. The other is going slower. And most exciting of all, my raspberries are alive!!!!!! I was so worried about them all winter. I have several shoots coming up. I’m very excited.
Thanks for the gardening advice Michael, Mandy, and Eunice. This weekend I added some compost we’ve had cooking for a year and a half now and a bit of dirt from the window wells to the two large 12 ft beds and tilled them with the mattock. Very satisfying to use homemade compost. I feel like we’ve completed a circle of some sorts.
In the bed closest to the shed I sowed 9 rows of peas. I put in three varieties: Cascadia Bush snap, snow pea, and green arrow shell. Henriette was a huge help in the seeding. She thought it was hysterical watching me swing the mattock while tilling too.
There’s a little room on the end of the first bed. In the remaining room and in the second 12 ft bed I’m hoping to plant some greens and roots this week. However today brought a mile high April surprise:
It’s about 7-8 inches right now. I’m thinking along your line Mandy, water for my peas :)
In other news I’ve been running a lot and feeling strong. After some disappointing knee problems at the Salida marathon in early March I’ve been trying to work more squats and core work into my routine to strengthen the stabilizer muscles. Additionally I’ve been riding the bike a little between our bouts of snow. These slight changes have made an impact. In march I logged a total of 121 miles with little to no knee problems post Salida. In April now I’m already at 83 miles. I went for a big 25 miler with 5100′ of gain on Saturday with some of my ultra friends. It was a good test of my fitness. I felt strong and good he whole way. Knee was a bit sore yesterday, but I think it has something to do with the fall I took mid run. The weekend before Kyle and I ran for edgewater to aurora to see David in the hospital. Weird run. Here’s two pictures from it:
Sunday this weekend we had a family day. Wearing the new pack with Henrie in it, my beast wife did the better half of a 7 mile hike through Dino ridge and Red Rocks. Henrie had a blast. We stopped after a while for a snack. Henrie had fun playing in the dirt and exploring the rocks.
Lastly the basement is coming along slowly but surely. I installed egress windows over spring break in March. I drew up my floor plans. I began framing. And, today the plumber started working on the ejector. By the end of April he goal is to finish all plumbing and framing and move into electrical.
In closing I just want to say my heart goes out to those folks in Boston. Such a heinous and hateful act is beyond comprehension to me. And as a runner I feel another connection and have questions on another level. Why a race? Runners are humble loving people. While I’m never going to be Boston fast I a feel a community I am a part of was attacked. I’m not trying to say that i can in anyway conceive of what the people there are feeling and going through, but I can’t help feel some personal connection.
The snow continues to fall outside the window as i write this on the iPhone in bed (again apologies for all the typos, still trying to figure out how to iPhone blog). Snow day snow day snow day! Common there’s actually snow unlike last week. Keep the snow falling.