Tossing seeds and trail maintenance with Mara

Mara and I went for a walk today. Christmas was a bit lackluster because of COVID and we were all being pretty lazy. Work was really slow as it is for a lot of places the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Mara had been camping out on the couch watching TV. I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. None of us were hanging out with each other. And I feel really badly for Mara. Maybe it’s the second child thing. Maybe it’s my schedule, responsibilities, stresses, excuses are all different nowadays. I know one thing for sure, she’s not going to be a kid for much longer. And I love hanging out with this kid. And she’s always game for doing whatever.

So I grabbed her and told her we were going for a walk. And she excitedly obliged. So we walked the Burner trail along Slaughter and tossed a bunch of old sandia pepper, moonflower, and impatiens, over the barbed wire fence. And then she hung out and watched as I cleaned up some dead mesquite limbs that were impeding the trail. And we talked about stuff. I don’t remember what all we talked about. I remember telling her about mesquite, how to identify it, and how it’s good for smoking meats.

We stopped and watch three does grazing on the pipeline. Mara told me about a dream she’d had recently.

Call it seasonal depression. This time of year I always get all mushy and sentimental. And very cognizant of time and mortality. The days and years get shorter and shorter. Kids grow up so damn fast. I still think Mara’s only 4-years-old. I still think I’m only 40.

The Omicron Christmas

Elise and I went to a Christmas party last Saturday (12/18) and some long-time family friends’ house. We’ve admittedly had our COVID guard down for a while. We’re both fully vaccinated (but not yet boosted). So we went to said party unmasked. And had a grand ol’ time hanging out with friends.

On Monday I woke up and knew something was wrong. I knew I was getting sick. Probably a cold. I kept feeling worse throughout the day. I nudged myself out the door during lunch to go for a run. Usually a run will right whatever’s wrong with me. That wasn’t the case on Monday.

Come Tuesday I was feeling really crummy. And so was Elise. I took a COVID test and it came back negative. Elise thought she was having symptoms of cedar fever. Both of us were getting worse.

On Wednesday late morning, Tara brought over a couple COVID tests for us. Elise went first. Positive. I went next. Positive. Five minutes later I had to hop on a Zoom call with the CEO and VP of HR for the job that I’d just started 3 weeks prior. Thankfully, despite my recent diagnosis, my spirits were high and the meeting went really well. And come to find out, our head of HR had just tested positive for COVID the day before as well.

Later that evening, Mara spiked a fever, had a headache and was nauseous. Thursday came around and Maly got it too. Four out of four had COVID, just in time for Christmas.

Steve and Joanne were supposed to drive down from Des Moines to spend Christmas with us. Elise had a telemedicine appointment on Thursday morning to inquire about quarantine times, and solicit advice about her parents driving in. Doc said Steve and Joanne should stay put.

So it was a quiet Christmas this year with just the four of us quarantining by ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, it could’ve been a lot worse. Mara’s bout with COVID was fast, furious, but short-lived. She was almost back to normal by Christmas Eve. Elise was pretty much back to normal. I never really got laid out, but maintained this steady state of feeling at around 70%. Maly took the brunt of it. She was laid out with a fever for a good 24 hours. She finally started looking human again late Christmas morning.

We all watched A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. Maly stayed up late because she’d been sleeping most of the day. I was ready to conk out at midnight but Elise reminded me that we had Santa duty.

Like a kid, I excitedly woke up early on Christmas morning. And Mara wasn’t far behind me. She and I hung out by the base of the Christmas tree with Blue and Loki. Mara played with the toys that Santa had left her. In that moment I found a little solace in the notion that this might be the last year where she has toys under the tree. It’s so damn sad that she’s not going to be our little kid much longer.

It was a quiet Christmas. Just the four of us. There weren’t many presents under the tree so the hubbub was relatively short-lived. But I think we were all okay with that. At least that’s what everyone said. We had cinnamon roll pull-aparts and egg casserole for breakfast before we started putting away the carnage from presents. Maly went outside and started putting together the lacrosse goal that Santa brought her. I started braising the short ribs that Elise ordered from HEB.

The rest of the day was pretty low-key. We hung out in the front yard for an hour. Mara colored. Maly shot goals. Elise raked leaves. I talked to mom on the phone. Cedar pollen brought us all back inside.

We watched Elf while I shredded short ribs. We all FaceTimed with Steve and Joanne for a couple hours. The girls both went to bed and Elise and I watched A Christmas Vacation. I think that’s the movie that has become my must-do Christmas ritual. It ended right at midnight and I felt like Christmas was complete.

It was a bit of a solemn Christmas. It was 80-degrees here in Austin. We all had COVID. Steve and Joanne couldn’t come down. We couldn’t do anything because we’re quarantined. Even if we didn’t have to quarantine, I don’t think anyone really wanted to do anything. But, we were all here together, and I guess that’s what Christmas is all about.

As I type this, in true form, I’m suffering from some mild post-holiday blues. I went for a run later this morning and then drove to 7-11 for coffee after taking a shower. When I turned the Jeep on, there was regular pop music playing on 95.5 instead of the 24/7 Christmas music.

I feel like we were a bit robbed of Christmas this year. But, in the grand scheme of things, we were together. And, again, that’s what’s important. There’ll be more Christmases.

2021 year in sport

I think my running in 2021 might be over. Elise, Mara and I all have COVID. My mind is inclined to go for a run, but I don’t think my body could keep up with that inclination. I’m sitting here mustering the courage and strength to walk to the mailbox.

Running, LAX and Christmas-themed weekend

The weekend started with the run club’s annual tour of Circle C’s Christmas lights on Friday night. Every year the crowd gets larger. The whole club has been getting larger as well. It’s been amazing to see this crew grow. Most of us hung out in the parking lot of the community center after the run for some beers and to chat.

On Saturday we all got up early and humped it to Lockhart for the Outlaws (Maly’s club team) LAX at the Ranch lacrosse tournament at Two Wishes Ranch. The Outlaws beat both Forged and the Jalapenos. And for the third game, the coaches mixed and matched all three teams for a free-for-all final game. It was really fun to watch all of those girls, from three different cities (Houston, San Antonio, and Austin) come together in a couple teams and get to know each other and laugh while playing each other in lacrosse.

The high on Friday was 81º. It was 53º, cloudy, and windy as all get out on Saturday morning. It was cold. Elise, Mara, Michelle, Stacy and I were shaking like leaves on the sidelines all morning. The wind was brutal.

After the girls’ second game, Elise, Mara, and I decided to leave the tournament to drive into town to get lunch. You have to get barbecue whenever you’re in Lockhart as it’s the barbecue capital of Texas. Elise had never been to Lockhart, so I took her to Kreuz Market. Thankfully we got there right in time. After ordering a pound and a half of brisket, the crowd started piling in and a huge line formed. The brisket was amazing. We also got sauerkraut and baked potato casserole. Elise loved it so much that she wants us to take her parents there whenever they’re here for Christmas later this month.

Saturday night we went to dinner with our friends Pete and Lindsay and then to see the Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis Holiday Shindig at the Paramount Theatre. We had dinner at Group Therapy in the Hotel ZaZa. Everything was fantastic until Pete’s and my halibut showed up. We both decided to send our plates back as the halibut was tough and chewy. We both acknowledged that we’re not the types to send food back, but I wasn’t going to pay $40 for a piece of burnt fish. Aside from that, it was a great experience. Our waiter and manager took care of us. We didn’t get our meals replaced because we were in a hurry and thankfully we’d both ordered a salad, so we didn’t leave starving.

After dinner we walked over to the Paramount to see Bruce & Kelly’s Holiday Shindig, which was a ton of fun. We got front row seats on the balcony which was an awesome vantage point for some funny stories and classic Americana Christmas songs.