Book Review: “Women in Clothes”

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“We are always asking for something when we get dressed. Asking to be loved, . . . to be admired, to be left alone, to make people laugh, to scare people, to look wealthy, to say I’m poor, I love myself.” — 28 year old participant

 

This book is not at all what you expect it will be. When my friend, Harriet, gave me this book I immediately thought “fashion book” which meant, to me, how to dress either for the (upwardly mobile) working world or the fashion world or, maybe, how to dress like one of those many Housewives of Whatever City from those (so-called) “reality” shows. But when I began thumbing through it I saw that the book didn’t appear to be any of those things. It looked quite interesting. And it is.

‘Women in Clothes,’ by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton and over 600 participating women of diverse nationalities and ages is a collaborative wonderland exploring every attitude, judgement, or question about clothes and our relationships to them that you can think of and some you can’t . The book is 514 pages that passed through my fingers rather quickly because almost everything written in it is fascinating. Some of the content is the result of surveys completed by all kinds of women: artists, writers, mothers, activists, students, garment-workers, soldiers, transgendered women, religious women, and many others. You’ll find essays, interviews, poetry, visual collections, snippets of street conversation, and all kinds of other media. I really feel inadequate trying to describe this book so I’ll share some of the chapters and some quotes I flagged while reading it. That should give you an idea of what’s inside this book.

Mothers As Others, Parts 1 & 2 – Participants share a photo of their mother before she had children and tell us what they see. I loved this chapter.

I Do Care About Your Party by Um Adam – Um talks about her clothing style which is wearing a jilbab (loose pants and a long,very loose shirt) and hijab. She talks about what dressing like this means to her in terms of respect for her body and her religion. She says, “God made no mistakes when He made me. He made me perfect. Sorry if I sound arrogant or overconfident, but I am confident about my appearance. Why wouldn’t I be? I was created by the most perfect – my Lord- in perfection, and I don’t need any man, clothing designer, or makeup artist to tell me what is perfect.”

If Nothing Else, I Have an Ethical Garter – Interview with Mac McCelland, Human Rights Journalist – She talks about the textile industry, warehouse and factory workers, and how her work influences her choice of clothing. She also talks about how she doesn’t like to own much stuff. She says, “Then I have some weird disaster issues, like I lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. To me, things that you have are just things you will lose or could lose, so don’t get attached to them.”

Handmade – Participants talk about making their own clothes or re-purposing clothes. Also about women in their families who sewed their own clothing and that of their families’. I liked this comment by Rachel Kushner (author of “The Flamethrowers”, a book I really liked) especially: “My  mother is a southern Protestant beatnik who wove see-through tank tops on her loom and wore homemade pleather hot pants. No bra, never shaved her legs. She has waist-length bright red hair. DIY was instilled in me, I guess.”

This Person Is a Robot – “A smell scientist sniffs coats in a busy New York City restaurant’s coat-check closet.”  Hilarious!

The Pant Suit Rotation – Interview with Alex Wagner, Journalist and TV Anchor – On the disparity between how men on TV dress and how women on TV are expected to dress.

The Mom Coat by Amy Fusselman – Well, I’m not a mom but I found this essay so interesting and insightful into a world I’ve never inhabited. She says, “The Mom Coat is a sleeping bag you walk around in. It turns you into a pod. I almost cease to be human when I wear it: I am just a shroud with pockets. And, of course, because I have kids, my pockets are always stuffed with Kleenex, hair clips, Goldfish, et cetera. The Mom Coat is like a minivan in that way. You are inside and piloting a receptacle for your kids’ stuff.”

In between essays, there will be chapters dedicated to answers from the survey questions such as “Women Looking at Women”, “Protection”, “Sisters”, and “Do You Consider Yourself Photogenic?” The myriad answers entertained, educated, and surprised me.

There are pages dedicated to a series of items (collections) belonging to individual women such as “Gwen Smith’s concert tee shirts”, “Tara Washington’s knitted hats”, and “Tift Merritt’s handmade guitar straps”. Some of the collections are kind of lame (“floss sticks used over the course of a week” – really?) but most are interesting.

I love that there is no striving for perfection in this book. Every woman is allowed to be herself, to express her own unique style and personality in her own way without apology in this eclectic and satisfyingly original book. It’s like having a conversationn with 639 different women and never getting bored.

“Rompers are not ever going to be on my body.” — Roxane Gay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Times/Bad Times: May 25 – 31

Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.

Good Times

Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.

Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.

“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.

I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often  end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook.  I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).

 Bad Times

Local political journalist John McGinnis died last Sunday at the age of 66. Robert Mann penned a wonderful memoir and tribute to Mr. McGinnis here,  a worthy read about an exceptional journalist.

#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.

First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.

Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying)  at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.

Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.

Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.

And, from the men:

My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings  in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.

Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.

And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?

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New-To-Me Blog of the Week

To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading  – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s  The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!

 

 

 

 

 

Susie Price: Cutting Through The Weird Food Codes

For something which everyone has to do in order to stay alive, eating is fraught with way too many social boundaries, judgements about weight and health, strange unspoken rules about what men and women are supposed to eat (or enjoy), and much more. It’s a mess, and everyone knows it, but nobody really talks about it like normal people. The obese get talked about a lot, as do those with eating disorders – not men, mind you, because nobody likes to acknowledge that men suffer from eating disorders as well – but everyone else ends up wandering the desert and speaking in strange codes. Time for some feminism, which seems to be alive and ready to do some kicking.

Dessert Is Not a Moral Issue

Of all the weird food codes, “guilty pleasure” is most insidious. If, like most people, we occasionally enjoy something kind of sweet and not really diet-squad approved, it’s okay to talk about it in public so long as we call it our guilty pleasure. Even yogurt which tastes like it once wandered past lemon cheesecake is marketed as something we ought to feel guilty about enjoying, so the idea of enjoying an actual slice of lemon cheesecake is only acceptable if we claim to feel a little naughty about even having a bite. Suddenly, food becomes a moral issue, something to feel guilty about even if it’s “part of a balanced breakfast”, or lunch, or dinner. It’s easy to say that it’s just a figure of speech, but when we’re talking feminism and the whole messed-up culture surrounding how women are allowed to eat, everything we say on a regular basis tends to run deep. Thankfully, a lot of feminists are now taking a stand against the idea of food-related guilt: “I don’t have guilty pleasures because I shouldn’t feel guilty about my food,” wrote a Guerilla Feminism contributor, which is about as no-nonsense as this kind of thing ought to be.

Our Eating Habits, Ourselves

Quick question: if you’re told about a lazy, self-indulgent, unemployed woman, what does she look like in your mind’s eye? Probably not thin, though maybe not obese – most likely somewhere in between, and definitely overweight. We’re subliminally told time and time again that fat people are slobs, thin people are vain and probably have eating disorders (but are definitely the right candidate for the job), and that there isn’t really a weight or way of eating that doesn’t come with supposed personality traits attached. People suffering from eating disorders are, unfairly, hit particularly hard, with the assumption that they’ve brought their disorder on themselves through vanity or just perfectionism. “An eating disorder is characterized by an extreme disruption in regular eating habits, whether it is eating too little or eating too much,” according to an expert at Psychguides.com, but popular culture would rush to reassure us that what eating disorders are really characterized by are personal failings. However, we all ended up getting painted with the same brush, just in different colors.

Food Doesn’t Need To Be Justified

Ordering dessert – or even just a fatty, delicious steak – in a restaurant can be a fraught moment. Regarding ordering cake when your friends are abstaining, The Story of Telling writes that a “great waiter knows that an emotional decision is being made. He understands that he’s not just there to scribble down an order—he’s there to support the dessert orderer’s choice.” That choice is often justified by ‘well, I’ve eaten well all day’, or ‘I had a salad for lunch’, because society is convinced that we should be held accountable for every small indulgence we grant ourselves. It’s become such a common tactic that it’s now used to advertise cinnamon buns and cakes – something which bemuses even those involved in the diet industry, one of whom wrote that “there’s nothing inherently evil about this or any dessert. Though I would imagine that promises of burning the calories later are more likely lead to weight gain than simply making sure that you eat dessert in moderation.”

This, of course, is the paradoxical heart of nutrition double-talk – not only does it make us feel worse, but it also makes it difficult to have a healthy relationship towards food, and therefore difficult to eat well. It’s a vicious cycle, and one we could all do with getting off.

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NolaFemmes reader Susie Price is now a travel writer, but before she took to sitting at her desk musing on the places she’s visited, she spent a good deal of her life working in the leisure industry in different roles. Now she combines random scribbling with motherhood and is pretty happy with her lot.

Let 2014 Shine for Girls

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to write about for a New Years Eve post for this blog. Several ideas came to mind while I was showering (where I do a lot of my creative thinking!), or changing the cat box or driving to the store but none of them hit the right chord with me since I didn’t really know exactly what it is I wanted to say. Then I saw a FaceBook status by an acquaintance, a fellow poet whom I interviewed for this blog a while ago, and I knew I’d found my post. Which is really her post that needs to be shared. It screams to be shared.

Sha’Condria Sibley (aka iCON the Artist) was sharing the fact that someone had left a racial slur, the N-word, on the YouTube video of her poem “To All The Little Black Girls With Big Names”. This pissed me off, of course. Another example of haters hating on people who are different than they, an avalanche that just won’t stop. But this post isn’t only about that despicable fact. It’s about Sha’Condria’s  powerful, inspirational poem and about the kind of role models little girls need. Role models like Sha’Condria  who has written this beautiful, empowering poem and performs it to perfection with grace and conviction. Role models who won’t stand for hate and name-calling, who use their talent for good and decent reasons, to share their experiences and their wisdom, to lift up, not tear down.

So, little girls and big girls, y’all listen up and make 2014 a shining year for girls with big names and big ideas. Don’t let the haters get ya down. And Happy New Year!

How Everything Went Black

I’m fat.

I don’t type those words as some declaration of self-empowerment like “I’m fat, dammit, and get used to it because I love me, faults and all!”

I type those words with quite a lot of sadness.

Those two words are two of the hardest words to come to terms with when dealing with oneself, at least for me, and it is an issue I like to dance around, hoping that a verbal slight of hand will distract from that fact that I am, indeed, an overweight gal.

When I was younger, I didn’t have these struggles with my weight. In fact, I was quite athletic and pretty fit. (My 20-year-old self doesn’t know this, however, and I would really like to travel back in time and kick her insecure ass.) I look at photos from that time and I don’t notice the appearance, but I notice the smile.

Very few photos of me from this time in my life exist, the most notable being the ones from Emily Gras, documented forever on the internet. In the photos that do exist, I see an inflated version of me, like suddenly I woke up one morning and was living my life walking around in a Sumo suit. The smiles? They aren’t the same, if they are there at all.

What happened to that girl? That one that was so full of life? The one that went to gigs, rocked out to bands, and hammed it up for the camera? The girl that would run every morning, would go out with her friends in the evenings for a couple of cocktails, and knew that she could take on the damn world? What happened to the girl that was secure with the person she was and had no fear?

What happened? The weight gain happened, creating a bubble of unhappiness that I lived in: unhappy with myself, unhappy about the way I physically felt, unhappy about everything I was missing out on, unhappy about the way I looked, unhappy that life seemed to be going on without me, and unhappy with the person I had become.

My weight gain came after a series of events – the life altering kind that often lead to things like depression – happened rapid fire, one right after another, in a very short time, leaving me to concentrate on taking care of everyone else and forgetting about myself or in a lot of physical pain where doing anything besides getting up, getting dressed, and homeschooling my daughter was pretty much out of the question.

Medication for health problems helped accelerate the weight gain, causing a small flame to become a raging inferno. Before I knew it, 180 pounds turned into 212 pounds, 212 pounds turned into 230 pounds, and 230 pounds turned into 265 pounds.

After I reached 265 pounds, I stopped weighing myself at all.

How in the hell did this happen?

I could try to excuse it by saying that fault belonged to the medication I was on, the health issues I was facing, or blame life in general. And, while those are things that may have contributed to certain aspects, using them as some sort of form of justification is no different than an alcoholic using a bad day at work to justify drinking a case of beer at home.  The answer is really much simpler than that. I let it. It was the way I chose to deal with life.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those moment when you realize you can sink or swim. Me, I had been sinking for a while. I was tired of drowning. It was time to learn the breaststroke.

We left New Orleans for the Northshore four years ago as an extra measure of protection in a custody battle where there were whispers that the violent streets, bad schools, and instability of New Orleans would be used as grounds to file for a change in child custody and placement of my daughter. Whether or not it would have happened, I don’t know. The dust from an emotional and painful custody battle had just settled and I wasn’t willing to take any chances.

I hated leaving New Orleans and saying good-bye to the things here that brought me happiness: walking to Blue Cypress Books and chatting with Miss Elizabeth, spending the day riding the streetcar, getting snoballs at Miss Norma’s, having Mister Mike ask me how my mister and daughter were when I went in for a soda or bag of ice, and seeing my neighbors have a second line for their young baby boy’s baptism. Since the day I left New Orleans, I resented it, and that resentment followed me out to the isolated rural wasteland we were now supposed to call home.

While our time there was a healing time for us, individually and as a family, it was also a death sentence, squeezing out the last bit of fighting chance left in me after life had already run me over several times and drove away.

In January, the skies parted, the stars danced, and the gods began to sing. Opportunity presented itself at the right moment, at the right time, in the right place. We were going home, finally going back to New Orleans.

Our return to New Orleans resuscitated me. Instead of escaping into a book, I walked about our new neighborhood.  I didn’t always stay at home on Friday night with Netflix, but hit up Rock N Bowl to see some live music. My mister and I even had a couple of date nights. I began laughing more and smiling often. My friends have said that even talking to me was different, like there was some weird shift in my life. And while I felt like I was being brought back to life, I also felt that there was still something missing, something preventing me from enjoying this city for all of the amazing off-the-beaten-path misadventure it has to offer.

And I realized that thing that was missing was me.

Some people can look at themselves and no matter where they are at in their lives, they are happy with themselves. They are able to accept themselves just as they are and they are able to enjoy everyone and everything around them without worry or care.

I’m not one of those people. Quite frankly, I wish I could be, but to be truly happy, I need to be at my best. Right now, I am not at my best. Not physically and because I’m not physically at my best, I’m not emotionally at my best either.

I’m not speaking vanity, I’m speaking about balance and health.

Instead of allowing myself to feel bad about it, I decided that this time, I was going to take back the control that I needed and that outside static wasn’t going to throw me off course, but would become background noise to further motivate me. I did some research and found a personal trainer. Tonight is my fitness assessment where my weight and measurements will be taken, a functional movement test will be done, and I will set my goals. I’m nervous – I picture me, the fat girl, walking into the gym and people turning their back and smirking. I’m excited – knowing that I am finally calling foul with my family and saying it is time for me to be selfish and focus a little bit more time on myself. I’m full of hope – knowing that this first step is the hardest step to take.

On Moderation

Granted, I write on my personal blog less frequently these days due to a number of circumstances, but I’m both proud and saddened to say that I haven’t linked to an online Times-Picayune article from my site since 2009.

Why is that? Let’s take a look…

Every so often, Alex Rawls of the local music and culture site My Spilt Milk gets on a virtual hazmat suit and takes a look at the interactivity of the Nola Media Group/Advance Internet/Newhouse Publications’ Nola.com site so that the rest of us don’t have to. What he found on the site wasn’t pretty:

…I saw the list of stories with the most comments stories, and it’s hard to imagine that it’s a coincidence that the top five all involved African American males – three on Nagin, one by Jarvis DeBerry on Martin Luther King Day, and one an African American male who strangled a woman. When I started looking at this issue this morning, a story titled “For Some, Attending Obama Inaugural is Relief from Anti-President Rhetoric” was on the Most Comments list (and with 147 comments as of press time, it’s the second-most comented upon active story, above four currently on the list). It includes such gems as:

You can be certain only worship for the aObamanation will be offered.

Down with the USA (created by white men)!

Down with the Constitution (written by white men)!

Hooray for the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Kwanzaa)!

Gordon Russell’s story on Ray Nagin’s efforts to settle into a Dallas suburb did offer a moderate cause for hope as the target of hostility moved off of African Americans and landed on Texas in the Comments. Evidently being Black is better than being a Texan, and it’s probably better than being a Falcons fan, but Nola.com really has to find a better solution to the Comments Section question than whatever it’s doing now.

Admittedly, much of what is there is simply bitter cynicism directed toward almost everything, and not simply coded racism. That’s harder to deal with because it doesn’t cross borders so clearly that it can be taken down, but it lays out an ugly, hostile discourse that adds a mean dimension to the site.

 

It saddens me that, since Newhouse has decided to go with less dead-tree publishing and more emphasis on the website, it hasn’t addressed this.

I wish I could say it was a surprise as well, but it isn’t. It’s been the modus operandi of the organization for quite a while now. As long as the number of hits the website gets can be translated into some sort of monetary gain for Nola.com – hey, we get this many hits per day, come advertise with us! – then any and all traffic is going to look good, even if it leaves behind a trail of filth at the bottom of each article. The racism, sexism, and plain old incivility will continue, no matter how many people from within New Orleans and without are dismayed, offended and horrified.

It’d be nice to think that the recent Sal Perricone commenting brouhaha resulting in Jim Letten’s resignation may have made some commenters a tad more cautious about typing something up straight from their ids and hitting “post,” but a lack of civility still rules online.  I keep telling people that once they get on the Internet, unless they are supremely technically savvy, their computer screens are not one-way glass (helloo, IP addresses), so they’re better off still behaving as they would were they talking to someone face-to-face. It’s been years, and that hasn’t gotten through to the general public yet. People still think their anonymity relieves them of the apparent burden of being a compassionate, thinking person…

…which leads to the other, more awful part of when comment sections are allowed to run amuck. A bunch of comments that are most likely the first, unfiltered thing to slither out of the recesses of the more reptilian parts of our brains can take the hard work of dedicated journalists and relegate it to being ripped apart in a manner akin to Cinderella’s stepsisters tearing the hell out of her first ball gown before her fairy godmother comes along to set things right. The scorched earth atmosphere that results can weaken the self-esteem of even the hardiest newshound. This doesn’t mean that journalists shouldn’t be criticized for what they do – but any references to their skin color, their families, or their lifestyles (as well as those of the journalists’ subjects) should be left out of it, and leaving it up to the commenters themselves to “flag” anything they deem offensive clearly isn’t working, judging from Alex Rawls’ examples quoted above. It’s why I subscribed to the dead-tree Picayune until the laying off of half the paper’s newsroom – to support the journalists’ work, not the commenters’ spew.

James O’Byrne of Nola Media Group kept emphasizing at this past year’s Rising Tide conference the increased use of smartphones and tablets among readers that supposedly helped push the decision to publish the TP 3 days a week. I know that when I go to a Nola.com link via my Droid phone, most of the time I don’t see the comments unless I click on another link for them. I want to hope that the monitoring of hits is taking that into account, but as long as this remains a numbers game, I don’t see that happening.

With all the current hubbub over the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras, the hand-wringing by City Hall over the good impressions we locals need to impart to this season’s big shot & tourist onslaught, and the technological innovations being touted, it’s sad that Da Digital Paper, putting itself out there as THE New Orleans news source online, cannot seem to consider all of this and take the steps to preserve whatever integrity it has left.

Yeah, admittedly, there’s not a lot of integrity there, but monitoring or eliminating comments outright would be a good step towards getting some back.

when the path becomes clear

Today it happened – a burst of clarity came to me as I was reading the paper this morning. I don’t want to necessarily call it an epiphany, but instead more of a definite decision has been reached. This lucidity was then worked through as I worked out – while walking several miles this morning at the park, the details began to emerge. I got home and quickly wrote down the “road map” – the place, the time, how to traverse the journey, the contingencies on other events and taking those factors into consideration, how long it will take, and then I tacked it onto the cork board above my desk.

I am a methodical planner – I do give in to spontaneous joys, like catching a band and deciding to go ten minutes before the event, or heading out to dinner on an hour’s notice. But this, the life changing event that will eventually manifest, this takes time. Whether or not it works out remains to be seen, but I am steadfast in the decision.

This path has been a long time coming. I’ve been lost, so to speak over the past several years, accomplishing goals yet losing much, too much in the process. Its been an empty time, being stuck in limbo, not knowing what lies ahead and too emotionally broken to attempt to begin forging a new direction. I cannot tell you how hard its been, like being on a rudderless ship, going around and around in circles with the shoreline lost in the fog. Putting on a brave face to mask the internal struggles has helped getting through the day to day, that until now was like living a lie in public.

But no matter, its all going to be OK. For those of you who have gone through the same struggle, I know you can relate – it is so profoundly crushing that once the direction becomes clear, all else falls away and makes getting to that new destination that much more tolerable. I was able to find comfort in “just being” over the past few years, I knew that the future destination would eventually become evident. I can now be comforted in the fact that the compass is working and the ship is sailing. I now feel calm, daresay happier? And for those of you still stumbling in the fog, I hope it clears for you sooner than later, as it just did for me.

My tiny chef

My tiny chef

Sarah Mae with her three degrees

(she’s laughing because her father and his brother were all blowing air horns)

Saturday marked an auspicious occasion for my daughter Sarah. She graduated from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux Louisiana with three degrees: Culinary Arts, Culinary Science and Dietetics. I have watched as my 18 year old daughter grew into a strong, smart, self confident, beautiful 23 year old young woman. She survived heartbreak, several bouts of digestive problems and frustration with teachers/courses. Yet she succeeded. I am proud to present my Tiny Chef Sarah.

Another perfect Saturday

Please let me preface that with the fact that I am not one of those “Northshore Snobs”, I’m a yankee who’s been here since ’75, mothered a cajun girl and am not going back. Louisiana is my home and that’s that!

It has been a crappy week at our house this week. We had to put a cat down, we adopted a cat, hubby’s still out of work on medical because of a cat tripping him on the stairway, a coworker and her father died unexpectedly last week and we attended the funeral and I’m losing a special girlfriend at the spaceship factory who’s transferring to DC. We definitely needed a getaway.

We found out about the fantastic 3 Rivers Art Festival in Covington. We like to attend this every other year because it takes place on one of our favorite weekends to check out the Louisiana Renaissance Festival in Hammond (a MUST attend event if you like fall fests)

With artists of every ilk from Louisiana to North Carolina, this festival’s enjoyment factor was multiplied by 10,000 because of the perfect November Southeast Louisiana weather.

I apologize ahead of time for the number of pictures, but these are just the favorites of the several hundred that we took. I hope you enjoy and make the effort to attend in the coming years. Festivals in this area are fantastic.
So without further ado, here are some of what we thought were interesting pieces of art or sites found at Three Rivers Arts Festival in Covington Louisiana:


This was the end of our day, taken at Bayou Liberty – close to our home.

Leap

Abundance wasn’t a word in my family’s vocabulary growing up.  My parents had to feed three kids on one blue-collar income, so our word was more like “need,” as in the kids need shoes again or clothes or we’re out of milk.  When I ventured forth into the world, my parents advised me to find a practical vocation, one in constant demand, a nurse, a teacher, a sure thing, no matter what I wanted.

So, it’s funny that abundance was on my mind yesterday as I quietly gathered my belongings and slipped out of a comfortable, stable corporate job that paid well and offered health insurance.  I could already hear my mom:  You did what?  In this economy?  In her life, you did what you had to do, any job; you weren’t supposed to like it.  The idea still seems right to me;  I should feel lucky to have a job.  But I quit mine anyway.

Already I feel a deep sense of guilt writing this.  My husband was unemployed for a full year until recently.  We subsisted on dry beans and lentils and the cheap produce box from Hollygrove.  There were months when making rent was a luxury, others when I seriously contemplated residence on a close friend’s front porch.  I feel guilt, too, because the current economy necessitates unemployment for some while I elected to quit my job.  It feels selfish and reckless.

But quitting that job also immediately felt like shrugging off a fifty-pound bag packed with stones.  It also felt like something else:  taking a gamble on myself, saying, by my actions in the world, that I don’t have to take the first offer or the surest thing.  I don’t have to settle.

I’ve spent so much time governed by fear.  Thinking, “Oh, no. That isn’t for people like me,” whatever that may be.  A publishing career, a prize, a bikini, whatever.  I’ve convinced myself before even trying that I deserve defeat, and therefore cement that outcome.  This is a common mentality among those who grow up poor.  We internalize cultural assumptions that we have earned poverty and that we deserve it.

I even found these ideas creeping into a conversation with my mother recently.  My mom has lived a relatively safe life, not stretching too far or risking too much.  After spending almost her entire adult life in the Midwest, she’s decided to pack up the family and head to Florida to be closer to her parents.  Immediately, the trained pessimist inside me told her that she wouldn’t like it, she was making a mistake, she shouldn’t leave my adult brother alone in St. Louis, and on and on.  In the face of my mother’s act of tremendous bravery, I scattered fear and worry all around her, forcing her to defend her decision when I should have supported her.  My mother is leaping, maybe for the first time in her life.  There is tremendous beauty in that.

How much of our lives are governed by fear?  I feel like we are less so in New Orleans.  Perhaps it’s the adversity the city has overcome, instilling confidence that we can survive.  Or maybe it’s the tight communities across social structures that act as barriers elsewhere, so that we understand if we face need, we can turn to our neighbors who will always have something extra in a pot or on the grill for us.  Whatever it is, abundance seems built into our culture here, and I don’t mean excess.  I don’t mean huge houses and expensive cars, although some of us have that, too.  I mean abundance, joy, something indefinable that encourages us to leap.

I don’t want to say that any of you should do something as drastic as quitting a perfectly good job, unless it makes you as unhappy as my job made me.  But definitely find some place in your life where you’ve been harboring insecurity and fear, telling yourself that something you want isn’t possible—whatever that thing is—and then leap.  Think about abundance and its many forms.