I turned 51 on Saturday. It was a great day, and honestly I don't remember the last great birthday I had. This one was packed with activities that I dragged Kin and Kaia along to.

In the morning, we did the Black Liberation Walking Tour, a 2-hour-long tour of West Oakland and its important historical legacy (and the fallout of white supremacy in urban development). The tour was great; the organizers have recorded a lot of oral histories and the guides played them at the spots we stopped at, so you got a real sense of the characters and voices who've contributed to the neighborhood. They passed around books that they encouraged folks to read to learn more about red-lining, the Black Panthers, prison abolition, and so on. It was inspiring — not just the history of resistance but the tour itself (and by extension the work of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network).

I want to get more involved in community activism now that we're settling here in Oakland and that (I hope) the pandemic is waning. I've offered to volunteer for the tour, and I've signed up as a volunteer for Run for a Better Oakland too. (I think I have an orientation this week. That reminds me to send an email…)

For my birthday dinner, we ate at Wahpepah's Kitchen, the Native American restaurant that we ate at when Fred and the kids were visiting. The food there is just so beautiful and nourishing — spiritually and physically. I had a smoked salmon and sweet potato tostado that was an incredible combination of sweet and salt. And I had a blue corn waffle for dessert. And a bite of Kin's buffalo skewer. And a bite or two of his blue cornbread. And a prickly pear limeade.

Wahpepah's Kitchen is located just outside the Fruitvale BART station, and it's always a bit dizzying to go there as it's a site that, thanks in part to Ryan Coogler, is really seared into my mind as a symbol of the violence and injustice of The Town. But that's the thing with the walking tour and with Wahpepah's Kitchen too: there is so much beauty and resilience. I feel so lucky to live here, to live here now, hell, to be alive. It felt so good to spend my birthday in these places, thinking about the joy that can be found in resistance and struggle.

Yesterday, I made another recipe from Kristina Cho's Mooncakes and Milk Bread: sausage, egg, and cheese bao. They feel incredibly decadent for some reason, even though it's just a SEC sandwich, for crying out loud. Perhaps it's the crisp on the bottom when you pan-fry them — that combination of fat and bao.

I was up before the sun yesterday so I could do all my PT and my long run before Kin got up (and we walked around Lake Merritt, as we always do). You know what's good? Progressive overload. It's a phrase I didn't know about until I became an athlete: it's the method of strength training that puts increasing demands on your body — more weight, more resistance, more intensity. I'm slowly building back up my distance with running, and my long runs are still under an hour at this point. But I saw my PT last week, and my achilles is definitely getting better. She added more weight, more resistance, more intensity to the exercises she has me do daily. And damn if Sunday's run didn't feel great; my body, stronger.

There's a purposefulness to the kind of training I'm doing with running and weight-lifting — an intentionality with making things increasingly harder. But if we think of progressive overload as a metaphor — as one does — we can see how we might build strength as life, whether you want it to or not, continues to load more weight, more resistance, more intensity onto our shoulders. The best you can do is to get ready to be strong for it.

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


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