Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mardis Gras

Those who know us well, know that New Orleans is a city dear to our hearts.

We first visited as newlyweds on our honeymoon and the combination of music, food, history, and soul was addictive. We have since journeyed to New Orleans every year of our married life at least once (but usually far more times).

We love everything about New Orleans, from the feel of the French Quarter to the touch of the breeze on your face as you stroll along the levy and the Mississippi glides along beside you; from the grand houses along Saint Charles to the funky painted river shacks along Burgundy.

We love the people of New Orleans, who demonstrate an exuberance (even since the storm) that cannot be described in words. They have a gracious hospitality that makes you feel at home. They have a sense of tradition, family, and love for living that is downright infectious and makes you tap your foot, join along and (if you're lucky) carry just a bit of the South home with you.

We love the food ~ of course ~ of New Orleans. Whether beignets at Cafe Du Mond in the early morning with a cup of steaming chickory coffee (even on 100 degree days), Turtle Soup au Sherry at Arnauds, Praline Bacon at tiny little breakfast haunts in Fobourg Marigny, Gumbo anywhere with the crusty French bread that is only found below sea level in New Orleans, waiting in line for a Mufaletta at Central Grocery, fried Pecan pie and burgers at the Camillia Grill at the end of the St. Charles Streetcar line in the Garden District, Alligator Sausage Cheesecake at Jacques Imos Uptown, a Po-Boy from Mother's where the one hour wait even on a steamy summer afternoon is worth every minute, the Avacado Shrimp salad at the Napoleon House, Bread Pudding at Commander's Palace, even a Lucky Dog consummed on Bourbon street at 2AM ~ food just tastes better in New Orleans.

Music. When Katrina was coming, and Ivan the summer before (yes, Gretchen has been there for each) ~ what you noticed first (besides your favorite Daquiri stand closing on Bourbon) was the silence. The music stopped. In the months after Katrina, it has taken time ~ but the music is back in the Quarter. What a sound. Preservation Hall is the best ~ where you have to tip $20 to hear "The Saints" but you won't ever hear the song the same way again. Or taking a ride over to Frenchman's Street for an evening at Snug Harbor ~ where Ellis Marsalis is know to drop in a few nights a week. Street musicians abound ~ some better than others ... the best can be found in the mid-afternoon at Cafe du Mond. And don't let them fool you ~ they'll take your tips, but if you want a CD (and yes, you will want) they can whip out the credit card machine before your VISA leaves your wallet.
There's just something about New Orleans.
It's Mardis Gras ~ and most folks outside of the South don't get Mardis Gras ... it's an intensely family-oriented celebration. Our friends in New Orleans are loving today, sort of a mid-year Thanksgiving. And we celebrate with them. We've got a great batch of Gumbo going on the stove, and french bread. We're picking up our King Cake (and here in Saint Louis you HAVE to call a real bakery and ask for the traditional almond paste King Cake ... traditional cakes don't have crazy fruit filling like Soulard's "traditional" cake claims!) and we will celebrate family, food .... so as the Cajun's say "Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

Let the good times roll!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Life Most Deliberate ~ Resolute

A few years ago, Leon and I determined that the word "resolute" would be an important word in our marriage relationship.

Denotatively, the word means: marked by firm determination; bold, steady, faithful

Connotatively ~ it translates into deliberate living. Waking early to eat breakfast together ~ even when the snooze button is calling. Making time to exercise together ~ even when the work pressures seem debilitating. Creating that special meal from scratch ~ and always remembering to light candles at the dinner table, even on a Tuesday. Remembering to pick up a bottle of strawberry milk at the market ~ especially when making a mad dash to grab a few necessary items on the way to or from ... we always seem to be going to and from.

The days that I live deliberately are my favorite. The days that I wake early. Eat breakfast. Read my Bible. Listen to NPR on the way to work ~ and listen to quiet on my way home. Find time for a heart pounding exercise and trying out a new recipe ... unwinding at the end with a favorite TV show and a glass of Dad's Norton ... those are the days I love. Nothing special ~ just deliberate living.

Tonight, I found time for yoga practice and a leisurely bath ~ I am writing in my kitchen while a pot of white chili bubbles on the range (and frankly, the aroma is amazing! Yum-o!) ... waiting for Leon to arrive home from what seems to be a great night at youth group (Overtime, and the activity is a game called "Sardines" ~ he already wrote a text message to proclaim the night a brilliant triumph!) ... "Frank's Place" on the XM radio (and the thrill of seeing the TiVo light on capturing my favorite Sunday night programs: Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters ... don't you just love time shifting!) I love evenings such as these, particularly on Sundays ~ the week actually begins with a semblance of order and calm. I like that.

To some, this probably sounds dreadfully dull. I can name a few friends who will read this and say "you need kids" ... and some day, God willing, we will have them! And then, we will redefine what a life "resolute" feels like, the pace and ebb and flow will be drastically changed ~ but the core value ... living with deliberate intent won't change (at least we hope so as "old" parents in our mid-thirties ... hopefully that's one perk!)
So, as the week begins ~ here's to deliberate living. Enjoy your own version of a life resolute.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


If I could sing the title of this blog to you ~ which unfortunately I cannot ~ you would hear my one-woman rendition of the blended tones of the cast of White Christmas heralding nature's greatest winter gift ~ that's right, SNOW!

Today finds Leon and I tucked in at home enjoying an inside view of the white powder drifting down ~ and it's still coming!

It was one of those excellent days ~ 8 hours of productive time in the home office, challenging yoga practice, soothing hot chocolate ... and now, time for blogging before preparing dinner.

What am I thinking about this evening? (Aside from wondering why Katie Couric's eyes look so bizarre on tonight's evening news ...)

In my current graduate class, Media & Culture, this week is George Gerbner week. You might be familiar with Gerbner as the "media violence guy" ~ he has been tracking television violence for decades and is the creator of a theory known as the "mean world syndrome." Good stuff, provocative and worthy of chatter.

I just finished reading an article by Gerbner, Reclaiming Our Cultural Mythology (http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC38/Gerbner.htm) in which he discusses how the systematic "homogenization" of media has caused a loss of the central story of society.

I am not entirely sure how I think about this ... just the other evening I said to Leon ~ and not in the positive way ~ "what would we be doing without the Internet?" By that I meant, would we know our neighbors better? Would we have our families over for longer, lingering meals? Would that stack of "must read" novels be conquered more rapidly? Gerbner suggests that we used to gather our sense of issues and society from many sources ~ and now he says we rely only on media that exists to sell things. He suggests that the effects on our future will be profound.

But what if the new media IS telling the cultural story? It certainly is different ~ and unlike anything that has gone before ~ but is it really that far off base?

Or is it that we are learning to share, receive, and respond in new ways? Without blogs, would I know as much as I do about my sister who lives hundreds of miles away? Would I care about the daily status of my friends if not for Facebook? Without new technologies, I would mindlessly learn about presidential candidates, whereas now Barack Obama's site asks me to create my own blog to respond to his platform ...

As with every age, we need to proceed with caution, but perhaps our cultural myth is alive and well ~ just online ... I don't know. It's a careful balance, I suppose. And there are times when I wonder about our common pulse as a people ... in my class forum I wrote,

"Does society WANT a story-teller? Or does society equate a central story-teller with a loss of diversity? How do we tell a grand, sweeping cultural story in today's America that (seemingly) demands total devotion to concepts of diversity (and by association) autonomy? Do we have a cultural meta-narrative yet to tell?I think we do. Disturbingly, perhaps media IS telling us the story of our culture. Do we like it? Are we content with it? Those are different questions."
Just the musings of this wintry night ... I think I'll go prepare that supper ...
Onward & Upward!

Friday, February 2, 2007

It's a Je Je Jejune world ...

I'm enjoying a wintry February Friday night.

Watching Frasier reruns and skimming a few cookbooks for this week's menus ~ when the word "jejune" caught my mind, and I realized that was my day. I accomplished things, a major paper written, work projects crossed off the never-ending "to-do" list ... nothing sensational.

Still, devoid of interest and significance as it was, I wanted to keep the accolades from dear readers coming (those who are stunned by my sudden prolific blogging) and so, here I am!

I have been home all day; but without Leon home takes on a different aspect.

Leon is currently in Indiana on a major interview for a ministry position at a thriving, energetic congregation in Columbus, Indiana. The next months could be interesting ~ and that, too, is tugging my thoughts toward contemplation of "home" ...

I seem to be going through a homebody phase ~ meaning that I far prefer snuggling in at home to any other activity. It must be the winter that brings on this desire for cocooning. Anyone who knows me probably realizes that is a bit of a shift for me. Certainly in terms of work, I am constantly required to be "on" ~ socializing, traveling, eating dinners that last far too long with complete strangers and being energetic, interesting, and engaging. I enjoy that part of my life, and have a certain aptitude for it, but I think it has led me to be even more protective of my time at home ...

Home is an important concept ~ a place, a thing, a feeling, people ... and there is nothing I love more than dishing up comfort food, wrapping in my quilt, talking about everything and nothing with Leon while the "mundane" routine wraps around us.

Home is far from jejune ... even when my daily grind is.