From Kicking Butt to Baking Bread

I wanted to write a bit about my recent visit to New Orleans but have been struggling with where to start. So, I guess I’ll start at the beginning (or as close to the beginning as I can). The purpose of the visit was to compete in the Tiger-Rock World Championships (taekwondo); both my kids and I were participating.

Having spent a good two months training hard, the time had come to put ourselves to the test. About a week before, I had a severe case of the butterflies and confided to a fellow student just how terrified I was. But then, over the course of the next week, I managed (with the help of my instructor, trainer, and friends) to calm down and focus on what I needed to do.

Can you spot the trained gator coming to the food boat?

Can you spot the trained gator coming to the food boat?

On the way to New Orleans, we stopped in Slidell, LA for a swamp tour at Honey Island – home of the famous Honey Island Swamp Monster. It was pouring rain the entire time but it was still a good tour. We saw trained alligators (I was hoping for a bit more of an authentic experience) who heard the boat and came directly for treats. The tour operators make a habit of feeding the alligators with marshmallows; I understand they want to give the tourists a good “show” for the money…but I just don’t agree with it. I’d much prefer to see a wild animal going about its normal business. Anyway, after the tour we drove on to New Orleans where we met up with our instructor and new friends for dinner at Mulate’s. A great meal; though I was worried about eating something that would mess up my performance the next day. I needn’t have worried however.

The next day, we arrived at the competition early so I could warm up and assess my competition. Strangely, I wasn’t nervous; I confident and ready. The ring I was competing in had other women that were in my age range and were green and blue belts. First up was our form competition. At the last tournament I competed in, I came in next to last in form; my goal this time was to simply do better than that. After I finished, the judges gave me two 4’s and a 4 ½. At the end of the forms portion, the judges announced there was a tie for first place so another woman and I had to do our form again, and receive new scores. After form competition was sparring. It was really exciting; each competitor was so different in their technique. I found myself again competing for first place. My opponent was tall and her legs just seemed to be everywhere! I wound up losing that match, but I was very happy with 2nd place. After sparring came the awards. All the competitors lined up and the judges announced third, second, and first place. I truly thought I was getting 2nd in forms…but they announced my name for first place. Then, second for sparring.

That same day, I did board breaking and E-CAS (elite counter aggression skill) competition. Kicking and breaking boards isn’t one of my strong areas but I still wound up with a bronze by breaking with my elbow, palm heel strike, and a side kick. E-CAS has also not been a strong area, but apparently I pulled it together to receive a gold there as well. Also on that day, both my kids did board breaking and the agility course. My son wound up with a bronze in board breaking, too. So it was a good day, overall.

While in New Orleans, we did get a chance to have some amazing food. The wood grilled oysters at Cochon were simply amazing and breakfast at Mother’s was both fascinating and satisfying. We also had the opportunity to visit the aquarium and the National World War II Museum. Living reasonably close to the Chattanooga Aquarium always causes me to compare any other aquarium…and while New Orleans had an interesting aquarium, Chattanooga still remains my favorite. The World War II Museum is a must-see. My kids, aged 9 and 7, enjoyed it very much as well.

On the way back home, we took a mini-vacation by visiting Oak Alley Plantation. Actually, we spent the night in a cottage there. Very enjoyable stay; we had after-hours access to the plantation which was great for picture taking without tourists.  The breakfast at the restaurant was amazing; worth a visit in itself. However, I found the staff and overall house tour disappointing. During the tour, there were cell phones going off in the “staff only” section, and there seemed to be a bouncer following us around, drinking out of his Styrofoam cup. The tour gal was fairly new and simply reciting her script…not very personal.

Ruins of WindsorFrom there, we drove up to Port Gibson to stay at a lovely b&b, where the owners served up ice cream for the tots. It was great! We visited the Ruins of Windsor – the remains of a plantation house that actually survived the Civil War but burned down afterwards. All that’s left is 24 columns and some wrought iron railing. From there, we drove up to the Vicksburg National Military Park. Alice and Ben were happy that, like other National Parks, there was a Junior Ranger program for them to do. I had allocated only half a day for this visit, but it wound up taking ¾ of a day…which made the drive back home seem longer.

All in all, it was a great trip. New Orleans was better than my first visit there. Not sure if it was my imagination, or the fact that it’s post-Katrina, but the city seemed friendlier. Or it could have been we stayed more in the business district (still within walking distance of great activities), but it was a positive trip.

Upon my return, I found the garden in super-productive mode. I’ve been canning, freezing, and making squash/zucchini bread constantly. In talking with my trainer, I mentioned all the bread making and his response was, “what? You were kicking butt one weekend, and now this weekend you’re doing the exact opposite. From Bruce Lee to Martha Stewart!” We shared a good laugh over that one.

Everyone is asking me “what’s next?” Well, our next tournament is in November so we’ll be preparing for that. We have travel planned in September – returning to Estes Park, CO, and our Epic Road Trip this year will be to the Grand Canyon. I still want to make it home to Pennsylvania at some point, perhaps in August. But, mainly what’s next is just continuing to live life, be a mom to my kids, and do things that give me joy.

What’s next for YOU?

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