Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hurricane Sandy, One Year Later

When Hurricane Sandy battered New York one year ago, our lives weren't as affected as so many other residents up and down the East Coast. We were unharmed, our apartment was intact, our car was fine and heck, our lights barely flickered. I felt extremely lucky as the news filled with people who had lost their cars, their homes, their lives.

Paul and I were unscathed, but that doesn't mean that Hurricane Sandy will be unremembered. The hurricane didn't harm us, but it did affect us in two big ways.

First, it caused the cancellation of the 2012 New York City Marathon that Paul was scheduled to run. Instead, Paul will be running the marathon this year. Yes, after years of trying to get in, Paul will be participating only after we move out of New York.

And second, it played a bit part in the not-ideal birth of Edith less than a month later. The hurricane closed many nearby hospitals, which in turn meant that the one I went to received pregnant women who would have gone elsewhere had the hurricane not shuttered those doors. So I got stuck in a harsh, unused surgery room since all of the pleasant birthing rooms were occupied. (Of course, that was only a small part of why the birth didn't go as planned, but that's another blog post. I.e., see the link above.)

As the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy has rolled around, I continue to hope that those whose lives were devastated one year ago are back on their feet. The hurricane is long gone, but it won't be soon forgotten.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Time to Wake Up

I miss a lot about New York. But the one thing I'm reminded about every day is the morning sunshine.

I've written about it before -- New York and Ohio are both on Eastern Standard Time, but on opposite ends. The times for sunrise and sunset are vastly different. Sunset in Columbus last night was at 6:34 p.m. In New York, it was more than a half hour earlier, at 5:56 p.m.

Of course, that means that New York sunrises are earlier, too. It's not due until 7:52 a.m. this morning, while in Brooklyn the day began about 7:18 a.m. Since I like to be up and at 'em before Edith awakes at 8, that generally means I get up in the dark.

I hate that. While I detested New York's early sunsets, I had grown used to waking up not with, but at least in the sun. It's so much harder to get up when the sun hasn't yet either.

Of course, some of this will be cured with the time change this coming weekend, but that's only a temporary respite. Is it too early to be counting the days until spring?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sleeping Through the Night at Last

Edith is finally sleeping through the night and we're all much happier for it.

Earlier this month I was at the end of my rope. The last time I could remember getting a full night's sleep was somewhere around August ... 2012. For weeks before Edith was born I couldn't get eight hours straight because I was so uncomfortable and it was such an ordeal to even roll over. Then, in the 10 months after she was born I would get up at least once -- and often more -- during the night to feed and comfort her.

I was crabby.

The lack of overnight sleep was annoying but wasn't so much of a problem before I started freelancing. Before I had writing assignments, I took naps when she did during the day if I was overly tired. But now I had work to do during that quiet time. Something had to take a backseat, and it was usually sleep.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I decided to try the cry-it-out method. The more I looked into it, the more I understood that it gets a bad rap. You never just leave your child crying alone in a cold, dark room for hours and hours. Instead, you enter the bedroom at increasingly longer intervals to reassure them, but not pick them up.

I knew it would be difficult, but it wasn't as difficult as I feared. I knew something had to change. If we were going to do it, then I was eager to start and get it over with.

We first started on a Tuesday night, and she cried for 30 or 40 minutes, and we checked on her several times. The next night was closer to a half hour. The third night she didn't wake up until 8 a.m. We had done it!

Now she goes to bed at 9 p.m. with little fuss, awake but sleepy. I sometimes hear her wake up at night, but she falls right back asleep and gets up at 8 a.m. every morning.

It's been three weeks, and it still feels like a luxury. But after 14+ months, I feel like I deserve a good night's sleep.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Finally: Visiting the Annual Circleville Pumpkin Show

The biggest pumpkin of them all this year: 1,312 pounds!

And these were the "small" pumpkins!

Rain didn't deter us from the Circleville Pumpkin Show this year, though perhaps it should have.

I've wanted to go to the annual pumpkin festival in this small town just south of Columbus for years, and we planned to in 2006. But it rained, and we chickened out. Then we moved to New York the next year and weren't around to even consider a visit.

Halloween or Christmas?

Edith, trying to do a backflip out of the carrier.

Until this year. The show was Wednesday through Saturday, but only the last day was really an option because of Paul's work schedule. Unfortunately the forecast called for rain, and unfortunately the forecast was right on the money. But it wasn't a hard rain, so Paul, his mom, Edith and I bundled up, brought umbrellas and took off.

Rainy day at the pumpkin show.

Such fine pumpkin fare!

The festival was surprisingly busy even as the rain got harder, so who knows how long the food lines would have been in bright, sunny weather! We stood in an empty tent eating our treats during the heaviest rains and really didn't get that wet. We all changed our socks when we got home and were as good as new.

I'll let the photos below explain what we devoured. I would've tried more had the weather been better -- toward the end, a warm, dry car sounded better than a pumpkin roll, pumpkin pancake or even pumpkin hot chocolate. I do regret not getting a slice of pumpkin pie, though why would I get something so boring when there was all of this to try?

Pumpkin squash blossoms, breaded and fried.
More sweet than savory, and maybe my favorite food there.

Pumpkin chili. Slight pumpkin-spice flavor.

Pumpkin burger. More like a sloppy joe.

Stacks of fried pumpkin waffles.

Billed a pumpkin waffle, it had a fried, thin, flaky crunch. Delicious.

Giant pumpkin pie, in the bakery where I got pumpkin donuts.

I didn't get a finger full of pumpkin pie, but someone did!

Friday, October 18, 2013

You Won't Find This in a NYC Bodega

My local Kroger grocery store here in Columbus sells a 25-pound bag of carrots. I think I can safely say that no bodega in Brooklyn does.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wildlife in the City

For living in the city, we see a surprising amount of wildlife.

I wasn't shocked to see lots of squirrels, like the one pictured above, although I wasn't happy to see them taking a bite out of a pillar on our porch.

But there's more: A week or so ago I actually saw a raccoon climb straight up the ivy around the tree in our front yard. Even crazier, we've seen deer just steps from the trail a short walk from our home.

This wouldn't be weird if I was back home in northwest Ohio. But I live a few minutes away from one of Columbus' busiest streets. Talk about a cross between city and country.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Columbus Day!

Happy Columbus Day from the beautiful city of Columbus, Ohio.

We're back in Columbus after a lovely weekend visiting my family in northwest Ohio, mostly to celebrate the finale of my dad's 40+ years at the same place of work. Now that his last day on the job was earlier this month, I hope he and my mom will spend more time in Columbus, too.

Congrats, Dad!

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Very Own Car

I've always gotten the hand-me-down car. I'm not complaining. I never wanted to spend the time researching new or used cars, and I didn't really care what I drove anyway. Four wheels and an air conditioner? Thank you, I'll be on my way.

So the three times we've purchased new-to-us used vehicles, Paul's done the legwork. It became my primary set of wheels only with the arrival of the next car.

That balance was thrown out of whack in New York. We replaced our old Saturn with a much newer Jetta only last year. But once we moved back to Ohio, we needed a second car. This time, it was up to me.

I wasn't excited about the research, but I knew what I wanted: a Prius. I was reminded by friends and family that this was not necessarily a great choice for a young family. I listened, but I also investigated. A Prius is no minivan, but it can fit three car seats in the back. Which is hopefully more than we'll ever need.

Assured that our family will fit, I was free to daydream about the gas mileage: 51/48. Then I did the real research, about the different models, features and generations.

Finally last Saturday, almost exactly six years after we sold off our second vehicle, we became a two-car family again. Never has a car felt more like mine than this blue 2011 Prius.

The car seat is already installed and fits better there than in the Jetta. And I have yet to buy a tank of gas.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Fire Station Tour!

When I was a kid, the worst week of the entire school year was fire prevention week. Each year, after all of the stop, drop and roll talk, I was absolutely convinced that my house was going to go up in flames. I was terrified. I remember being amazed when my mom told me that no house she had ever lived in had caught fire.

Hopefully Edith won't inherit my fear. We took the first step earlier this week by attending a tour of the local fire station organized by the moms' group I recently joined.

Monday morning a couple of dozen moms and their children (from about 3 weeks old to 3 or 4 years old) met at the station for a private "tour." Really, we were all in the garage while one firefighter put on all of the gear while another did the talking. But I think the kids were just interested in the truck and spraying the water.

The tour got cut short when the firefighters had to respond to an actual call. We were all shooed out of the garage and watched as the truck, lights flashing, pulled onto the street. Talk about going out with a bang.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What I Miss About New York and Love About Ohio

Six years ago tomorrow we moved to New York. We've been back in Ohio for about 2 1/2 months, but there are still things I miss. But for (almost) everything I miss about New York, there's something I equally love about Ohio.

I miss looking down from our apartment's third floor perch onto the streets below ...
  • ... but I love looking down from our second floor windows into our pleasant little backyard, with its bench and swing.
I miss our cozy little Brooklyn apartment, where everything was only a few steps away ...
  • ... but I love stretching out in our large kitchen, large dining room, large EVERYTHING.
I miss the number of restaurants within walking distance of our apartment ...
  • ... but I love the few restaurants that we can actually walk to in Clintonville -- they're some of my favorite in all of Columbus.
I miss not having to rely on a car to get anywhere any distance away ...
  • ... but I love having a garage and driveway so Paul doesn't have to spend 20 minutes looking for a parking spot.
I miss barely ever having to use the car seat ...
  • ... but I love not lugging the stroller up and down three flights of winding stairs.
I miss hearing the ships blasting their horns in the bay in the morning ...
  • ... but I love the whistles of the trains that are just far enough away not to be annoying.
I miss Central Park and how it was impossible to explore it all ...
  • ... but I love that the trail and Park of Roses is a short stroll away.
I miss exploring Brooklyn with Edith ...
  •  ... but I love exploring Clintonville's antique and vintage stores on a weekday afternoon with her.
I miss the noise ...
  • ... but I love the quiet.
New York and Columbus aren't opposites, but you can be forgiven for thinking that the manners in which we've lived in each city are. Like parents say about their children, I love each in their own unique way.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Walking Taco by Any Other Name (Is a Frito Pie)

Sometimes you just want a taco in a bag.

I hadn't had a walking taco in at least 10 years, since my days hanging out at the Defiance County Fair. So when I saw one on the menu of a vendor at our neighborhood's recent arts and music festival, there was no doubt what I was going to order.

I had a walking taco in another form right here in Columbus, not long before we moved to New York. I ordered a Frito pie, which is basically the same thing as a walking taco, minus the bag. In a nutshell: Fritos plus meat plus taco toppings.

But a walking taco is more fun. Basically you open an individual-size bag of Fritos and then dump in the meat, lettuce, tomatoes and whatever else you want. Then you eat the "taco" with a fork. And yes, you can eat it while walking. But is that really any different than your standard taco?

This particular taco was placed in a paper boat, which kind of defeated the purpose of placing it in the bag. But it didn't affect the taste. The crunchy Fritos turn nice and soft surrounded by the meat and tomatoes. And the last few bites -- surrounded by a pool of grease at the bottom of the bag -- are just as inedible as I remembered.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Launching a Freelance Writing Career

I'm writing again, and not just for my blog.

The move to Ohio seemed like the perfect time to launch a freelance career -- new beginnings and all. In August I started freelance copywriting, and in September I began reporting for newspapers again.

Right now I work only from home, usually a couple of hours a day, more or less. Even though I'm nowhere near full-time, re-entering the workforce in even this limited capacity is both more rewarding and more difficult than I expected.

The copywriting jobs I've received call on the skills I learned spending five years in a New York City marketing department. The company I freelance for assigns me content to be written for businesses based mostly in the U.S. and Australia. I've written website copy, blog posts, marketing emails, press releases, tweets and even a flier. I can do the work whenever I want -- and that's frequently closer to midnight rather than noon.

I've put back on my journalism cap for the newspaper group I worked for before moving to New York. These pieces are more difficult, but mainly because of the baby in the background. I conduct phone interviews during working hours, and Edith's non-existent schedule doesn't always cooperate. I learned Friday that a few Cheerios will keep her quiet through at least one interview.

I'm glad to be getting back into the swing of things. Sometimes I miss the office environment -- particularly when I'm interviewing or trying to meet a deadline -- but overall I like working from home. I'll be the first to admit that it's a balancing act I haven't yet mastered. My free time is practically nil: To whit, I haven't finished a book since moving to Ohio, which is killing me. But I believe the positives will outweigh the negatives, and I hope I'm right.


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