(The Return of) Photography Friday! Murder Mystery Dinner Edition

It’s been awhile since my last installment of Photography Friday! – sorry about the delay. Since moving to my new neighborhood, I’ve been getting back into taking snapshots of my day, so I’m planning to get back into the habit of sharing my week in photos again on a regular basis.

First up, though, here are some fun snapshots from last night. As I’ve been mentioning here and there (OK, you’ve got me – everywhere) on the blog lately, I’ve gone through some pretty major life shifts in the past few months. One of those shifts involves making new friends. After a few years back in NOLA, feeling generally lonely and rather bored with most of my best girls scattered around the globe, I’m finally starting to get out and live a little. Weirdly enough, it turns out that once you leave your house, you tend to meet new people. Crazy, right? Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the new person in your life happens to have a ton of lovely friends who’re willing to adopt you as part of their pack. 🙂

Last night, accompanied by boyfriend and friends, I got to mark a longstanding goal off of my bucket list: attending a murder mystery dinner! The event was tons of fun, made even more so by the fact that our team ended up schooling everyone, solving two murders, and winning the Detective of the Night award. Not too shabby!

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One of our party, Glenn, was chosen to be a character in the murder mystery game – Sleezy McQueen, talent scout and all-around bad boy from the Bronx.

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Happier than I’ve been in a long time. ❤

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Alex and Fish make a great team when it comes to crime solving…as well as extortion.

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Looks like old Sleezy finally met his match in Angie…

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Brains and beauty…the guys really lucked out.

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Champions! That’s what happens when you get a group of geeks together on a Thursday night 🙂

A big thank you to Angie for letting me use all of her photos for this post, since I was too busy having fun to remember to take snapshots at dinner.

Adding Magic

Strawberry Festival Rides

I’m afraid that when I’m on my way out of the world, hopefully hanging out in my comfy armchair at my little cabin beside a pond/lake/ocean/other suitable body of water, I’ll regret wasting too much time on boring, meaningless things. Procrastination seems to be a way of life for me. TV, junk food, and worrying over complete bullshit seem to be my drugs of choice. I hate the cycle I’ve made for myself, but am having a great deal of trouble breaking it. Every day feels like starting over, with failure pretty soon into my morning in some way or other. But I keep plugging along. I keep trying to sort out my frazzled brain and hold on to the things that matter. I’m afraid that I’ll be living like this until I die, and I won’t have accomplished very much.

One of my biggest issues at the moment, of course, is my relationship. It’s troubled, and I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve been trying, but lately even the best days seem to be just OK. I’m not sure if I can be happy with that forever, but I owe it to both of us to hang in there and give it my best. I’ve read that you can’t be happy within a relationship until you’re happy with yourself, so most of my effort now is going to being happy, treating myself right, feeling alive and healthy in my own right, and keeping an eye on how these changes end up affecting how The Man and I get along.

Riding The Chainsaw

So this weekend I did everything that I wanted to do. My coworkers and I all went out to the Pontchatoula Strawberry Festival on Saturday morning, and had a blast! We rode the rides, ate tons of fest food (2 fried strawberries, strawberry shortcake, a meat pie, a half dozen chargrilled oysters, a shot of strawberry moonshine, and a strawberry daiquiri for me), played some carnival games, and all in all really enjoyed the hell out of the day. The best part of the day was riding this ride called The Chainsaw with my coworker Nathan. Each of the ‘cars’ on the ride is its own contained cage, and they flip upside down if the weight distribution in the car is right. Together, we weighed just enough that once the ride got going, our car just flipped continually. It was super scary, but also super fun. I’ve always loved carnivals and carnival rides, but I don’t know if I understood before yesterday just how much I dig them. Not sure if I get enough serious adrenaline in my life – might have to come up with a solution for that one. The rest of the day was pretty calm, though enjoyable. I even got to spend some time checking out the town’s antique shops, and though I didn’t come home with a pallet of strawberries, as intended, I did come home with a massive sunburn. All my fault for thinking that a few hours in the sun couldn’t hurt. My shoulders are not forgiving me.

Sunburn

This morning I met up with my friend Caroline for a great brunch at Surrey’s, this cool little diner. After that we went shopping and got mani/pedis at our favorite nail place. It was so great getting to catch up with her – we used to be coworkers about five years ago, and though I moved on from that job, we ended up keeping in touch over the years and hanging out whenever I was in New Orleans. She’s one of my favorite people in the world, and has a very fresh perspective on life; just what I need right now.

This was our table at brunch. Richard Simmons could not dissuade me from eating a big plate of tofu migas :-)

This was our table at brunch. Richard Simmons could not dissuade me from eating a big plate of tofu migas 🙂

Now I’m home, and The Man and I have had a good night in. We cooked dinner together, and are getting ready to cap off the night with Game of Thrones. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen to Arya, though of course now that I’ve said that, she probably won’t even be mentioned in this episode (argh). Which reminds me, did you guys see this article from Buzzfeed of Game of Thrones actors hanging out with each other in real life? It’s mind blowing, I tell you.

Anyway, I’m going to try to keep adding magic every day. Also, starting tomorrow, I’m going on a 30-day challenge – 30 days of gym/running & yoga every single day. I’ve also been meditating every night for the last five nights, and I’m feeling remarkably calmer than usual. Hoping that 30 days of working out, meditating, eating right and doing at least one thing that sparks my love for life per day will kickstart me into action and instill a new sense of energy and hope in me that I’m just not feeling right now. I want to have things sorted out sooner rather than later. Either I start over in love, or I start over. Either is a great choice, so I’m not scared, just ready to get to work.

Resolution Update #5

South Louisiana Running Series

Today I followed through on one of the toughest of my goals for the new year, and ran the Louisiana Riverfront 5K in Kenner, LA. Even though I’ve been running for health off and on since 2008, and have run several 5Ks and a marathon, this was definitely a turning point for me. It was the first race that I’ve ever been completely prepared for going in, the first race that I had a definite goal in mind other than just passing the finish line, and also the first race that I had a friend running with me. All of these factors led to a race that actually defied my expectations.

The race was very different from all of the ones I ran in Chicago. To begin with, it was a cold day for Louisianans, and I’m sure the 50-degree weather kept a lot of people from coming out. Also, it’s a Sunday, meaning that most New Orleanians were either hungover or getting ready for church when the race started (or both). In all, I’d say there were at most 200 people for the half-marathon and about the same for the 5K, which made for much less confusion at the starting line than I’m accustomed to.

There were no pace groups that I was aware of, though they did have a few officials on bicycles who acted as front and back pacers for the entire race, and also called in timing information on the half-marathon so people back at the line could know who was in the lead. I didn’t know where to stand among the starters, since I knew that my general time was around 10:40/mile and I didn’t want to start out with incredibly fast people that would throw me off balance (or make me feel bad). I just hung out in the back, and concentrated on my goal of coming in in under 30 minutes, which would mean shaving off a considerable amount of time. I ran some faster runs last week, though, so thought I might be able to come in pretty close to my goal.

The race was along the run/bike path that sits atop of the levee that protects Kenner from the Mississippi. The path isn’t incredibly wide, so for the first mile there was a little bit of congestion back with the slow folks like me. Instead of running a loop, like many races, the course was set up as a flat line with a spot to turn around. Luckily, by the time people started getting to the turning point, the pack was loosening up enough for the returning runners to not have to jostle for space or slow down at all. My running buddy, Bill, runs a considerably faster mile, so we passed each other  going opposite directions. For a lot of people I think that might have been discouraging, but I was actually happy to see him and be able to acknowledge that he was doing great and I was still in the race. It gave me a mental nudge to not chicken out or slow down.

For most of the first half I followed behind a girl wearing these gorgeous teal sneakers. She and I ran the same basic pace, so I was just using her as a good way to stop thinking and just keep moving. In fact, I didn’t feel tired or scared I wouldn’t make it until a little after the second mile. It’s important to note that I run a 5K distance a couple times a week, so it’s not really that big deal. What makes it tough is that when I’m running at home, I’m running a route that I know inside out, where I can look up ahead and know my turns, my finish line, everything. I had forgotten how important that can be, though.

Out on the levee today I experienced something I haven’t seen since 2009. I didn’t know my route, and I let my mind start screwing with me. When your normally quite rational brain starts telling you that there is no finish line anymore, or that “it’s really soon, oh wait! it’s actually at least another mile” it’s easy to start feeling like it’s time to give up. I was also running into the sun and a pretty strong wind; people started to pass me. I had just under a mile to go, and I thought seriously about walking a little. Then I remembered that Bill was back at the finish line waiting for me, and I’d just be a jerk if I gave up on him like that.

So I didn’t stop. I even managed to dredge up more energy for the last quarter mile, sprinting as soon as I saw the finish line. And when I crossed, my time was 29:35 – roughly 3 and a half minutes faster than my personal record! It’s the first time I’ve finished a race and had a genuine reason to be proud of myself, other than just for finishing. It’s a damn good feeling.

I’m actually thinking about going against my original resolution rule and starting to tack on a little more distance. I’m thinking I might want to run the Crescent City Classic 10K in April. Does that sound crazy?

 

Another Day, Another Laundry Pile

Everyday isn’t laundry day in my house, though sometimes it sure does feel like it. I don’t mind doing the laundry, though. This is my first apartment with an in-unit washer and dryer, and they’re both brand new and awesome. For the first time in my adult life, I don’t have to hunt for quarters any time I need clean underwear, and the dryer actually DRIES my clothes. It’s revolutionary, I tell you.

Of course, we all know who absolutely adores laundry day – the gorgeous Miss Isabel. She’s always happiest when towels are part of the mix, but earlier today I was on a roll, and thoughtlessly unloaded and folded a dryer’s worth of towels quicker than she could make it to the bedroom to come play. Realizing my mistake a few minutes later, I threw a couple of the clean towels in with the next load of things to dry, so she could still enjoy a good snuggle. I’m such a sucker, but as you can see, it was totally worth it.

Isabel the Cat in a Laundry Pile

"Mmm...so toasty warm!"

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"Seriously Mum, this is the best ever..."

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"I'd invite you to share, but you see, it's such a small pile. It's really only big enough for one of us."

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"Seriously - you're not going to fit. Especially not with that black box thing strapped to your head."

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"Oh, all right, you can come play too!"

And much cuddling and purring ensued.

The End.

The Cats of New Orleans

Since I’m working from home now, it turns out I end up spending a lot of the day basically Velcro’d to my couch.  My social life is pretty sparse, since I’m not a big drinker and I’m trying to drop some weight, which makes me not too much of a big eater, right now, either.  That means that my only real excursions are rather boring – trips to the gym, grocery store, and the occasional coffee shop.  Thus, it seems like a good idea to start inventing reasons to get the hell out of the house, so as to prevent (or at least slightly impede) my gradual decent into madness.

Which leads me to my new project: taking photos around the neighborhood.  I have a DSLR that I’m trying to learn to use, and even on ‘auto’ (which yes, I know makes me one of those people) it takes decent shots.  I’ve signed up for some classes, starting in early November, but until then I’m not going to shelf my camera and wait to become learned before trying to capture a piece of everything I see and love.  I typically take photos of architectural details, but the other day I saw a number of cats out in people’s gardens around the Lower Garden District.  Here are a few who were kind enough to pose for me.  I guess you could also call this series ‘Cats Behind Bars’!

Magazine Street Cat, New Orleans, October 2011

Magazine Street Cat, New Orleans, October 2011

Catnapping on Magazine Street, New Orleans, October 2011

Catnapping on Magazine Street, New Orleans, October 2011

Unimpressed Cat on St. Mary Street, New Orleans, October 2011

Unimpressed Cat on St. Mary Street, New Orleans, October 2011

The Reluctant Lock

Key in Door

I just moved back to New Orleans from a long stint in Chicago.  I did not want to.  I moved back to the city mostly because it was time to put more effort into my relationship after 3 years of long-distance dating.  The Man believes that I’m a little bummed to be back in my old stomping grounds, but that I’m mostly OK.  In reality, I’m a lot bummed to be back in my old stomping grounds, but OK enough now to realize the experience will most likely grow on me.  It just didn’t make sense to relate my despair to him when I knew there was a high chance for me to turn it around.  I’m pretty resilient, and I did mostly have a great time living here the last time (1999 – 2008).  I have sweet memories of what it’s like to be a New Orleanian, even just a transplant.  There are quite a few people left in this town that I’m proud to call ‘friend’, and it’s the kind of city where it’s incredibly easy to make new friends with just a tiny bit of effort and a bit of social lubricant.

The Man and I have moved in together.  It’s not the first time.  The first time was in Chicago, though it was somewhat of a disaster since he was having a hard time finding a job and the resulting mood around the house was less than zen.  We lived there for two years, though by that time he was working in New Orleans again during the week and only home about twice a month for a couple of days at a time.  We moved into a second apartment in Chicago, as well, but again it was mostly just my apartment that he visited every few weeks.  Our newest place is our second attempt at living together full time, and it’s going pretty well.  There are only two problems.

The first problem is the amount of time I spend in the house.  I work from home now, as the marketing director for an interior design firm in Chicago.  From 9 to 5:30, Monday through Friday, I sit on my couch (or bed), typing away on the computer and chatting on my cell phone.  By the time the afternoon rolls around, my back and hips are screaming in pain, and I’m a bit stir crazy.  By the time The Man gets home from work and wants to enjoy being home, I’m absolutely mad with the need to leave, to be anywhere but home.  Last week I had the most amazing moment of overwhelming joy while shopping for a loaf of bread at Winn Dixie.  That is so not normal; I’ve made the resolution to get out of the house much more in the coming week.

Which leads us to problem number two:  our front door lock doesn’t work for me.  My key doesn’t turn in the lock.  “Easy,” you say, “just get a new key cut.”  I did.  Eight keys, in fact, most of which work for The Man with just a little jostling.  In general until yesterday, it took me no less than 10 minutes to lock or unlock my own front door.  For a woman who 1) works on a tight schedule, and 2) REALLY needs to leave the house when it’s time, this is a sophisticated form of torture.  Of course, for the first week, The Man regarded my complaints with that bemused look men tend to get when dealing with members of the opposite sex who obviously aren’t clever enough to use mechanical items.  It didn’t help that in general I’m not the greatest with mechanical stuff, and I also couldn’t turn the key in my own car last week (in my defense, it’s only been my car for a week, and I didn’t know there was such a thing as a wheel lock mechanism).  But then on Friday his key gave him a bit of trouble and he realized it wasn’t all in my head.  Finally yesterday, when all three housekeys on my keyring AND the two he possessed failed to get us into our apartment, we reached a point of agreement.  He realized how utterly frightening and frustrating it is to neither be able to get into nor leave your own house, depending on the whims of a shitty deadbolt.  Eventually we got in again, but again I’m trapped in my own home until a solution is reached.

So.  Here we are.  It’s noon on a Sunday, and The Man, along with our landlord (who thankfully lives upstairs and saw our key plight) is attempting to install a new deadbolt.  I say ‘attempting’ because the first lock the landlord bought locked with a key on both sides, and once they got it installed, it was realized that wouldn’t do.  The landlord has run back out to the hardware store for a proper deadbolt lock, and The Man is having a smoke on the front porch.  There’s a dishrag stuffed in the hole where the reluctant lock once lived.

Someone with a bigger imagination could probably see a world of inferences in this story.  Perhaps this is a chance for a new life, free of boundaries.  Maybe this small change will help truly ignite larger changes in my personal life.  Right now, all I can think about is how frustrating it is to be locked away in your own home, complaints as to quality of stay only believed when indisputable proof is received.  I guess I also think about how this house has become an extension of my distaste for this move; I feel like I was trapped into moving here, there was no other choice.  Maybe now that I can leave whenever I want to, I’ll stop feeling like this entire move is a form of imprisonment.

The Man says that I’m never happy.  Maybe that’s true, but I remember times when I was happy a lot.  It’s just that for the last few years, everything has felt like such a struggle, like life is all about working hard to not go under, not working hard to rise above.  I’m so ready for that to change.  As much as I’m sad about moving back here, I want to start living with joy again.

While I’ve been writing this, the new lock arrived and was installed.  I’ve tried it out and it works smoothly, without a hitch, nothing but a velvety click when I flick the key back and forth.  Maybe that’s the first sound of happiness as it returns.  I’d like to think so.

The Reluctant Lock

Key in Door

I just moved back to New Orleans from a long stint in Chicago.  I did not want to.  I moved back to the city mostly because it was time to put more effort into my relationship after 3 years of long-distance dating.  The Man believes that I’m a little bummed to be back in my old stomping grounds, but that I’m mostly OK.  In reality, I’m a lot bummed to be back in my old stomping grounds, but OK enough now to realize the experience will most likely grow on me.  It just didn’t make sense to relate my despair to him when I knew there was a high chance for me to turn it around.  I’m pretty resilient, and I did mostly have a great time living here the last time (1999 – 2008).  I have sweet memories of what it’s like to be a New Orleanian, even just a transplant.  There are quite a few people left in this town that I’m proud to call ‘friend’, and it’s the kind of city where it’s incredibly easy to make new friends with just a tiny bit of effort and a bit of social lubricant.

The Man and I have moved in together.  It’s not the first time.  The first time was in Chicago, though it was somewhat of a disaster since he was having a hard time finding a job and the resulting mood around the house was less than zen.  We lived there for two years, though by that time he was working in New Orleans again during the week and only home about twice a month for a couple of days at a time.  We moved into a second apartment in Chicago, as well, but again it was mostly just my apartment that he visited every few weeks.  Our newest place is our second attempt at living together full time, and it’s going pretty well.  There are only two problems.

The first problem is the amount of time I spend in the house.  I work from home now, as the marketing director for an interior design firm in Chicago.  From 9 to 5:30, Monday through Friday, I sit on my couch (or bed), typing away on the computer and chatting on my cell phone.  By the time the afternoon rolls around, my back and hips are screaming in pain, and I’m a bit stir crazy.  By the time The Man gets home from work and wants to enjoy being home, I’m absolutely mad with the need to leave, to be anywhere but home.  Last week I had the most amazing moment of overwhelming joy while shopping for a loaf of bread at Winn Dixie.  That is so not normal; I’ve made the resolution to get out of the house much more in the coming week.

Which leads us to problem number two:  our front door lock doesn’t work for me.  My key doesn’t turn in the lock.  “Easy,” you say, “just get a new key cut.”  I did.  Eight keys, in fact, most of which work for The Man with just a little jostling.  In general until yesterday, it took me no less than 10 minutes to lock or unlock my own front door.  For a woman who 1) works on a tight schedule, and 2) REALLY needs to leave the house when it’s time, this is a sophisticated form of torture.  Of course, for the first week, The Man regarded my complaints with that bemused look men tend to get when dealing with members of the opposite sex who obviously aren’t clever enough to use mechanical items.  It didn’t help that in general I’m not the greatest with mechanical stuff, and I also couldn’t turn the key in my own car last week (in my defense, it’s only been my car for a week, and I didn’t know there was such a thing as a wheel lock mechanism).  But then on Friday his key gave him a bit of trouble and he realized it wasn’t all in my head.  Finally yesterday, when all three housekeys on my keyring AND the two he possessed failed to get us into our apartment, we reached a point of agreement.  He realized how utterly frightening and frustrating it is to neither be able to get into nor leave your own house, depending on the whims of a shitty deadbolt.  Eventually we got in again, but again I’m trapped in my own home until a solution is reached.

So.  Here we are.  It’s noon on a Sunday, and The Man, along with our landlord (who thankfully lives upstairs and saw our key plight) is attempting to install a new deadbolt.  I say ‘attempting’ because the first lock the landlord bought locked with a key on both sides, and once they got it installed, it was realized that wouldn’t do.  The landlord has run back out to the hardware store for a proper deadbolt lock, and The Man is having a smoke on the front porch.  There’s a dishrag stuffed in the hole where the reluctant lock once lived.

Someone with a bigger imagination could probably see a world of inferences in this story.  Perhaps this is a chance for a new life, free of boundaries.  Maybe this small change will help truly ignite larger changes in my personal life.  Right now, all I can think about is how frustrating it is to be locked away in your own home, complaints as to quality of stay only believed when indisputable proof is received.  I guess I also think about how this house has become an extension of my distaste for this move; I feel like I was trapped into moving here, there was no other choice.  Maybe now that I can leave whenever I want to, I’ll stop feeling like this entire move is a form of imprisonment.

The Man says that I’m never happy.  Maybe that’s true, but I remember times when I was happy a lot.  It’s just that for the last few years, everything has felt like such a struggle, like life is all about working hard to not go under, not working hard to rise above.  I’m so ready for that to change.  As much as I’m sad about moving back here, I want to start living with joy again.

While I’ve been writing this, the new lock arrived and was installed.  I’ve tried it out and it works smoothly, without a hitch, nothing but a velvety click when I flick the key back and forth.  Maybe that’s the first sound of happiness as it returns.  I’d like to think so.