The Last Vieux Carre

“Vieux Carre please.”  I wanted to say si vous plait, but I thought that may come off a bit pretentious.   It was Mardi Gras, my favorite night after Christmas and Halloween.   It was my final night before my Lenten fast from alcohol and I wanted my last drink to be my favorite drink, the Vieux Carre…Bourbon and Cognac, bitters and bayou, it reminded me of Home.

“Never heard of it.”

”It’s from New Orleans.”

“ I’ve been bar tending for 20 years, don’t come across that often. The bartender googled it, and began to prepare the cocktail.

“Watcha think?”  I sipped and smiled…Home on my lips…I could smell Time once again.

”Thank you, it’s perfect.”

”So what do you do?”

”I collect stories.”

”You’re a writer.”

”Yes, but I moonlight as a VP of HR.  I don’t force my art to earn my living.  You’re an artist…aren’t you?”

”Yes, I paint and bartend..”   I smiled.  I could spot an artist as soon as I entered the room, tribe members, we can feel each other.

So began a 40 minute conversation about art and wives and babies and New York and and the pleasures of Cincy.

“You must tell me your love story!  How did you meet your wife?”

“At the art academy…she’s a graphic designer now.”

”How did you know she was the one?”

”It’s funny…it’s like everyone says…you just know.  I just knew…she was it.  I knew when she held my hand for the first time   She just grabbed my hand and held it   Like we were high school kids or something.”

Yes…I understood, when you meet that person…you just…know.

I finished my drink, and paid.

”My name is Daniel…it’s a pleasure to have met you.”

”The pleasure is mine Daniel.  Happy Mardi Gras!  Thank you for sharing your story.”

”Madame Vieux Carre…it is an honor.”

Yes, we had met before…I could sense it…like I could sense the coming of things and the going of things.  I was happy to have met him again, and happy to have placed him back on his path with a bit of conversation and listening.

Off I went with NOLA on my lips, a new story in my head, and the reminder that…well…life is the Vieux Carre, at least my life is, a celebration of music, art , and love.  The honoring of, “You just know.”

On this Mardi Gras I honor… the “The just knowing”  the soul’s wisdom,  the magic wisdom of the Vieux Carre-Madame French Quarter, the old square.

Something in a Song

I imagine a humid day,  the sound of the breeze rustling cypress and magnolia trees, laying down next to tombs under 1000 year old oaks and reading poetry with those who walked  before us.  I with close my eyes and smile at the azure blue sky, and listen…for the music of words.

”You have a southern soul!” Jan, a native Georgian exclaimed to me yesterday as we discussed hot days, good food, and family, and the way words sound so much nicer when they are drawn out a bit and slow on the tounge.  You can taste the sound of words better when they are spoken South of Cincinnati.

January and February made me long for Louisiana…I needed to go back to my spiritual center…slow down and sit under a magnolia tree and read.

 

 

A Romantic Evening In the Grocery Store Parking Lot

Bananas, Hen of the Wood Chips (Because they are Cincy good), Salami for my daughters Sandwiches, Blue (stupid expensive) cat food,  coconut quinoa hot cereal “pour moi”, and just as I finished my late night Kroger run…there they were rows and rows of roses, and I was entranced.

Valentines Day was upon us!  I love Valentine’s Day!  It celebrates that thing that sets my soul on fire…love.  A day of Love, how I adore it!

As a romantic, this day celebrates the values I ascribe to, living a life of love.  It’s been a hard won lesson over the years, but now in my late 30’s I have finally started to be able to practice Love well.  It’s actually very simple…be kind, listen, think of others feelings first, listen more, give abundantly.  Loving abundantly is…well…a very happy way to live life.

And you don’t have to be in a relationship to do it.  That’s right…Love is who we are.

As I am super awesomely single this Valentine’s Day, I’m dedicating the day to loving well those humans who are in my path.

My romantic heart gets all squishy this time of year   I felt it when I walked out into the parking lot of Kroger’s and the snow started to softly drift down, illuminated by the lamp light.  It was beautiful and soft, like petals on my skin.  I fell in love with the simple beauty of snow.

It took me 3 minutes to get home.  As soon as I walked through the door I heard music.  As if by magic my phone had turned on, to Ella Fitzgerald sultry voice singing.  Love…that’s how this magic stuff works…it has an energy and force All to its own.  To harness the energy of love in our lives…well…if we can do that…there is nothing we can’t do.  Possibility…with love all things are possible.

 

The song that was mysteriously playing on my I phone when I walked through the door….hmmmm…how the heck did that happen.

 

Where is Paradise?

It is Sunday morning, time for my Sunday morning ritual, the walk to Starbucks which is exactly 4 minutes from my house.  Walking to get coffee is one of my greatest pleasures.  I typically run into my neighbors and chat and say hello.  My neighborhood is an eclectic mix of 1930’s craftsman cottages and new builds which seem to fit in just fine.  My neighbors are the same eclectic mix of families, singles, singles with kids, and many empty nesters.  I’ve haven’t found a place like Mayberry (as I affectionately refer to it) yet.

I’m a small town girl, that’s exactly why I moved back to my hometown in July, it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in the past ten years.  I love my 1936 cottage home, with all it’s charm, my daughter is awash in friends, my neighbors actually know my name, and wave and want to talk.  That’s what happens on my Sunday morning stroll to Starbucks, I always run into a neighbor.  Today I met Bill.

Bill was the kind of older gentleman that paired expensive 80’s  London Fog raincoat’s with sweat pants.  He had an equally aged dog sporting an equally beautiful tan coat.  They matched.

I waved and said hello even though, I’d never met the man, but that’s what you do in Mayberry.  You wave hello to everyone.

“Why hello there!  How’s your day?”  He asked in such a way that I could tell he actually wanted to know, how my day was going.”

“I’m fine thanks!  My day is great now that I have my coffee.  Glad it’s warmer today, a bit gray though.”

“Yes, that it is.  I’m Bill, I live down the street there.”  He pointed to the corner house behind the bank.

“I’m Cindy.  I live on Wallace, the little white house with the red door.  My daughter and I live there, I just moved there in July.  I grew up here though.”

“We just moved back here in November.  Lived here 40 years before that.”

“Where did you move from?”

“Carmel.”

“Carmel by the Sea??’

“Yes, the very one.”  I was shocked.  Carmel by the Sea was one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  I visited 10 years ago for my brother’s wedding.  It’s a gorgeous fairytale like community with ocean views that seem more painting then real life.  High rent district to be sure, very pricey, but stunning.

“You moved back here…from Carmel??”  I couldn’t fathom it.

“Well…every place has it’s pluses and minus’s.  Even Carmel.  It’s beautiful, they let the dogs run on the beach, that was nice.  But we didn’t have any neighbors.  Just people who bought homes as vacation homes, and came only ever so often.  They didn’t stay long.  We never really got to know anyone, people just owned homes, but rarely came.  Anyway, we have three children that live right in this block, and 8 grandchildren they are raising, and one on the way.”  His grandpa pride kicked in.

“So you moved back here.”

“Oh yes, it’s much nicer.  Our family is here, and we have lots of neighbors to talk to, like you.”  He said with a big grin.

The older I get the more I appreciate small things.  Small homes, small communities, good friends, and people to share with.  There was a time I craved the big home and everything that went with it.  But I know now that would have made me unhappy.  My paradise is a small home, with quirky corners, on a street of stories.

Paradise isn’t a beautiful landscape and expensive homes…it’s your family and a neighborhood, it’s people to talk to and look after you and you look after them, it’s being able to walk to get your coffee on a Sunday morning, and say hello to someone you don’t know and be acknowledged for simply being.  Paradise isn’t Carmel by the Sea, it’s a small town in Southern, Ohio… it seems.

 

The Ancient Art of Canning Laughter

One thought before bed…

 
I wish I could can laughter. Like split pea soup, tomatoes, and bread and butter pickles. I want to can the laughter of those people that I love. I would keep it in a mason jar in the kitchen and label it in with whiteboard chalk-“[insert name]’s LAUGH, GIGGLE, or SNORTLE, CHUCKLE or SNARFEL.

 
I would take it out on quiet evenings like tonight, after reading a bit of Faulkner, sit in my writing nook, take out the jar, gently unscrew the lid, gingerly place the jar to my ear, and slowly lift the lid to let out a pinch of a giggle and grin as the most beautiful sound in the universe tickled it’s way into my soundscape. Peals of beautiful laughter and giggles, and chortling, and the type of snortles that make your sides ache, reminding me of the best part of love and humanness.

 
There is so much to love about another person, but their laughter…well…the laughter of loved ones is a special kind of magic…and if I could bottle that, for happy days, and average days, and sad days…well…I think that might just be the cure for any sickness of the soul.

The Artist and the MBA

”Do I need to take the GRE again?”  I held my breath praying a “hell no I hope not”.  It had been way too long since I had muddled around a standardized test.

“You’re a Vice President right? And a Masters in Educational Administration?”

Yes

”Then no…all you’re need is an updated resume and transcripts”

Thank the stars, I was in.  And just like that my Masters in Business administration with a concentration in values based leadership was about to commence.

I looked over some of the coursework and knew I was on the right road.  Ethical business practices was something I had studying for the past year all on my own.

BLAW 609: Business Ethics Through Film (3)
BUAD 604: Spirituality and Leadership (3)
BUAD 681: Doing Business in Europe: International Ethics (3)
MGMT 616: Leadership and Ethics (3)
MGMT 621: Corporate Citizenship – Sustainability (3)
MKTG 670 : Ethical Issues in Marketing (3)

While I absolutely love my day job as an executive in a non profit….I also have a passion for the arts…and writing.  Ironically, in undergrad I couldn’t stand business majors.  I thought most of them were complete assholes who didn’t have a creative bone in their body.

As I’ve made my own way in the world I’ve come to realize…most everything is business…particularly the arts.  Great art needs business minds to back it up and promote it.  Books need agents and bookstores.  There are benefits, contracts, financials, and investments behind classical music and art galleries…

And I was going to master it…my artist soul was going to take on business and and make ethical leadership and business a creative and lucrative opportunity.

I realized if  I was going to be great not only at my job, but also as a writer and patroness of the arts (Oh yes I will be on a few boards of trustees by 45) I must understand and master business principles.  And that didn’t have to be boring. In fact, you only have to step into my office and see my wall (which you can write on with dry erase markers) covered with “word clouds” for our recruitment campaign and see that creativity and business can work together.

I have always been a visionary, but visions don’t manifest by thought alone. It takes hard work. Getting up early and getting stuff done, making decisions and facing my fears.

If I wanted to own my own Red Lotus Room bookstore/ writers nook in OTR with floor to ceiling bookcases, a fire place, chaise lounge and wing back chairs, warm low lighting, lovely drinks, beautiful art and great music,  I was going to have work my ass off to get it.

The local coffee shop in my hometown was ripe for take over as well…desperately in need of better coffee and new management.  I saw a non-profit aftercare program for children with an arts focus…a safe space for creatives…branding…hmmm…something garden..bees…something involving transformation.  So many ideas bubbling through my brain!

Then learning the business of books.  Publishing…

Funny the twists and turns of life, who knew this artist had a flare for business too.

I am looking forward to the years ahead as I work on my vision, retire, teaching what I’ve learned to others, with just enough money to spend my winters in Louisiana …with real folks…writing 🙂