Sunday, August 31, 2008

Papa, Can You Hear Me?

End of summer back to school time always makes me think of my grandpa.  My papa died 19 years ago.

He was raised in Kentucky on a family farmstead, but moved here for work when he was young.  He met my grandma here too.  After he served 3 years on the frontlines in WWII, they married and started a family.

After they both retired, they moved back to the farm in Kentucky.  I would spend my summers there with them helping them care for the animals and just having fun.

I joke that I am a country girl at heart because I spent so much time there and fell in love with the South and Southerners.  We fished, picked fresh watermelon and blackberries, baked pies, canned fruit, tended the fields, slopped the hogs, fed the horses and mowed the expanse of lawn on an old riding lawn mower.  The memories I have of that time are stronger and more precious than any other in my life.

I always think about my papa on three different occasions more than any other.  The day he died, which is the same as my niece’s birthday.  The Fourth of July because that was his absolute favorite holiday.  When the kids go back to school because back to school time was when I always had to leave him.

I was very close to him.  At the same time, I didn’t know so many things.  I didn’t know the details of his life.  I knew what mattered though.

I knew that he loved me.  I knew that he loved his family.  I knew that he always wanted to look nice and everything had to be just so.

I knew that he got up before the sun every morning and liked to drink his coffee boiling hot before heading out to do his chores.  I knew that he rarely drank alcohol, but when he did, he would get surly.  I knew that he had patience beyond compare, but there were certain things he would not tolerate.

I knew that he loved my grandma and did things just for her.  I knew that he loved leftover meatloaf sandwiches.  I knew that he couldn’t have salt because of his heart.

I knew that he needed me to help him as much as he enjoyed me helping him.  I knew that he was a true Southern Gentleman.  I knew there would never be anyone that could hold a candle to him in my life again.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Orleans is Beckoning

New Orleans is beckoning.  I fell in love with the Big Easy on my first trip 7 years ago.

An amazing friend took me along with her on a business trip and while she was trapped in conferences all day, I explored the French Quarter.  I have been in the Business District, the Warehouse District and the Garden District.  All of them interesting in their own right, but none can hold a candle to the majesty of the French Quarter.

Many who have never been there, or who have been but failed to see its beauty, have asked me what it is that I love so much.  They tend to think that it is the nighttime atmosphere of free flowing alcohol and zero inhibitions, but that is only a small part of the appeal.

The French Quarter is saturated with history and culture all of which appeals to and captivates the senses.

I discovered this the first day I ventured out on my own.  I walked from the Riverwalk to Decatur down to the French Market and I could feel the sights, the sounds, the smells and the tastes seep through my pores and the magic enter through the soles of my shoes taking hold of my heart and my soul.

Immediately my eyes were enraptured by the sight of the Mississippi River, the amazing architecture in the wrought iron balconies, the Mediterranean inspired houses, the sculptures and statues every few feet, the artists wrapped around Jackson Square, the people buzzing about, the street entertainers, brick lined streets and shops filled with a variety of treats.

My ears were delighted by the sounds of the zydeco music pouring out of the souvenir shops and from the street performers near Jackson Square, Jazz music carrying me away near the French Market, the whistle of the ships on the River, people laughing and forgetting the cares of the world.

The scent of the French Quarter tantalized me with its unique mixture of mud from the river, Creole sauces and Cajun spices, gardenias and jasmine hanging from the balconies, beignets and pralines mulling around me.

The taste is compiled of as many flavors as compile the culture of the city consisting of the expected flavors of Cajun spices, but goes beyond this to incorporate Spanish, French, Caribbean, Italian, Southern, traditional American cuisine and many other influences.  You’ll find burgers and fried chicken, fresh fish and a variety of crawfish dishes, gumbo and jambalaya, pasta and your fancier fair, poboys and muffulettas.  Do not forget the sweet delights of the beignets, pralines, cakes, pastries and bananas foster, which melts on your tongue.

The people of New Orleans, whether natives, transplants or tourists, are warm and friendly.  Everyone there seems to ingest the motto of “laissez les bons temps rouler” which means “let the good times roll.”  Day or night the good times roll and strangers become your friends.

There is a different feeling in New Orleans than there is in Chicago or any other city I have visited.  It is definitely a city of “anything goes” and “live and let live.”  The shy come out of their shell, the wild can let go without judgment, the uptight cut loose and the spirit becomes free.

This is sometimes helped along by a fruity, yet dangerous, little drink called the Hurricane.  The bars serve anything you like, but if you are in New Orleans, you ought to try the drink for which they are known.  It is fruit punch with a blast of bourbon that will slowly sneak up on you.  If you are not aware prior to your arrival, you will most likely be thrown by the walk up windows where you may order a drink with which you can walk around.  Just be careful not to enter a bar with a drink from another establishment, they will quickly let you know this is not acceptable.

The nightlife is evident throughout the French Quarter, but no street is more famous or more frequented than Bourbon Street.  You’ll find souvenir shops, bars, karaoke, live bands, dance clubs and strip clubs.  But don’t limit yourself to Bourbon Street.  Decatur has some great clubs and bars.  If you veer off these two main strips, you’ll find yourself at historic treasures like Preservation Hall, which you will recognize by the plain facade and the line of people waiting to enter filing down the street.

I have been to New Orleans three times and have experienced the French Quarter off-season and during Halloween but, regardless, there is always a crowd.  I have seen the beauty and history of the Garden District and the plantation homes and have witnessed the glory of the swamps and its wildlife.  New Orleans has so much to offer and I cannot get enough of it.  I hear it whisper to me periodically calling me to come back.  I smell it, I hear it, I taste it and I feel it.  New Orleans is in me, it took hold that very first day.

When the Gulf Coast was battered and bruised three years ago, my heart ached with sadness and fear for the people and the city that welcomed me so kindly.  I know she is being rebuilt and will be back once more.  I hope to be back in the arms of New Orleans soon; it will be two years this Halloween since my last visit, but in the mean time I can only reminisce and share with all of you what I love about New Orleans.

Let us not forget those living in the area affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Keep them in your thoughts and prayers and, if you can, offer them whatever support you are able.  Pray, meditate, send love and light or however you offer good intentions that Hurricane Gustav spares them and the others in the Gulf from any further devastation.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pog Mo Thon!

I have mentioned before that I live with my parents and my grandma.  Initially, it began as a method to save some money after my roommate decided to move in with her boyfriend.

When I lost my job (loooong painful story), it was a wonderful relief to know I didn’t have to scramble to pay rent or a mortgage.

I have had a lot of people make remarks about my poor parents having to have a grown child back at home.  Or how awful it must be for me to live with my parents.

Granted, it is not the most ideal situation.  There are times that I would like my privacy or not to have to deal with anyone.  There are times that I would like to not have to clean up after 3 other adults.

For the most part, though, it works out fine.

To the amazement of most people, my parents LIKE having me here.  Aside from the fact that I do all the housework and most of the cooking, they just like me being here.

We have a good relationship and my mom is my best friend.  I know that they would prefer I not move out until I’m married (if that happens).  I make them laugh, lighten the mood when there is too much stress and tension from my step-dad’s work/travel and my mom’s caring for my uncle.  I also take care of Grandma.

For me, except for those few expected moments of frustration, I am good with being here too.  For the time being, it is a situation that works for all involved.

It would be nice if people stopped judging, commenting snidely and ridiculing us.

I know that with the current economy, there are a lot of people in the same living situation.  Way back when, this was totally normal and expected.  I get tired of having to defend myself and my family on something so basic and non-controversial.

To those with issues regarding my living arrangements, I say get over it, mind your business and pog mo thon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How Do I Move To The Front Burner?

I have realized that I have a disease.  One many people, but especially women, suffer from.

I have developed this disease over the years and it has been put upon me by family, society and myself.

I have the people-pleasing disease.  It is a genuine desire to please people, to make them happy, to help them.  I love to help people.

That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?  The bad thing about this disease is that I put myself last.

What I want and what I need are not nearly as important.  What I want and need can wait until tomorrow.  What “you” need is more important and needs to be done today.  Of course I can wait. 

No problem.

It has become a problem, though.  I have lost an entire year because of this.

Short version: my uncle was in an accident and hospitalized for 3 months last year.  During those three months, I gave up everything to help my mother who was the one beside his bed every second, paying his bills, taking care of all of his affairs, etc.

I took on the role of housekeeper, chef, caretaker to grandma, personal assistant to my step-dad, errand-girl, grocery shopper, etc for a house of 4 adults.  I kept after my mother to make sure she took care of herself, ate, slept, gave her pedicures when her feet were killing her, etc.

Most of this has kept up over the last year and 1 1/2 months.  I don’t do all of it and I don’t do it to the level I was during his stay in ICU, but it continues because my mother cares for my uncle.  He had MS prior to the accident, but has suffered a decrease in his ability to care for himself.  That is for another post.

Because I want to help her, I give up what I need/want to do.  What my mom, my grandma, my family in general, friends, etc. need and want always take precedence.

I’m not blaming anyone really.  I know I have done most of this to myself.

I just didn’t realize the extent until the last week.  Things getting pushed back until X happened.  Today I was going to go to one of the schools I am interested in to learn about a program.  Last night around 9:00 pm, I got a call from a “cousin.”   She is really the daughter-in-law of one of my mom’s best friends, which makes her family.  She is the sweetest thing too.

She was in a bind for a sitter today.  My mom’s friend told her to call me because she knew I hadn’t found a job yet.  She needed someone to watch her son in the afternoon.  I said if you don’t mind bringing him here, that’s no problem.

And really, it isn’t.  He is only 6 months old and is currently sleeping.  I’m happy to help.  As I said, I love to help.

But I put myself on the back burner.

I’m not sure how to remedy this.  Is there a magic pill?  A special diet?  Hypnosis, maybe?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

To Hug Or To Kiss?

Does anyone else have this issue?

I would say that 85% of the people I know hug OR kiss when greeting and/or saying goodbye.

The trouble is, how do you remember which are huggers and which are kissers? 

I can’t remember.

Other than my mom’s two best friends who I’ve know my whole life (they are kissers), I can’t remember who does what.

It’s even more awkward when it’s someone you don’t know, possibly just met that day or if they are people you rarely see because there is no way to know which they are going to go in for, the Hug or the Kiss.

What ends up happening is this:

If you are a hugger and you lean in for the hug, but they are kissers, they end up kissing your ear or neck or maybe even your hair.

I’ve had this happen frequently because I am a hugger, but then sometimes, I think they are kissers, so I go in for the kiss and I end up kissing the ear, neck or hair because they are huggers.

Then you have the opposite situation for the hugger who gets a kisser who then realizes they are with a hugger. The kisser stops short and gives a brief hug. The hugger ends up with a half-assed hug.

You know what I’m talking about.

The barely there hug.

The hand and wrist on the back, but nothing but air between.

If I’m gonna hug, I want a hug. Damnit.

Sometimes if you realize the other person is going for the opposite of what you are, you end up with the cheek to cheek AND the half-assed hug.

There should be some kind of notice or maybe even a rule. A manual perhaps. Something dictating which you are to do, HUG or KISS. It would save on some very uncomfortable moments.

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