Sunrise, Sunset

30 03 2014

Between one sunrise and sunset, I found out that a friend had a baby and that another friend had died. I was filled with joy for one and so filled with sadness for the other.

stained glass

This cycle of life was beautifully illuminated a few days later when I went to see the play, Fiddler on the Roof. A church was putting on the production and I had several friends who were a part of the cast and production. I must admit that I went with a less than enthusiastic attitude. The movie had been a family favorite when I was a young girl. The thought of a bunch of non-Jewish, southern-accented, non-actors putting on this classic musical, well…all I could think was, bless their hearts for their attempt. My friends always support me, the least I could do was show up for their worthy endeavor.

The play was in the sanctuary of a lovely old downtown church and the stained glass windows glowed with the light of the setting sun as evening settled in around us. From my wooden chair in the balcony, I soon became swept up in the timeless tale of family and community.

The last time I saw the movie I was a young girl and identified with the daughters whose adult lives were just beginning. I now related to the parents who just want the best for their children as they worry about bills and the tragedies and uncertainties that life brings.

I now watched this story with adult eyes and finally understood why my dad so identified with the main character. A good hard-working man who loved his family and his community, it’s traditions, and did the best he could do in an ever-changing world. My dad loved this story so much, the song Sunrise Sunset was played at his funeral even though for many it is a wedding song. My tears spilled out when the cast sang this song about the seasons of life. I was grateful for the connection to my dad and the realization of how my views of life have changed and evolved as the years have slipped away.

I thank my friends for giving our community this timeless tale. As the sun rises and sets on our days, it is all about life and love and relationships with our family, friends and community. L’chaim.

Dedicated to Tara Dark: I’ll see you on the other side.

Sunrise, Sunset

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he get to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday
When they were small?

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day

They look so natural together
Just like two newlyweds should be
Is there a canopy in store for me?

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

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Another Season

16 03 2014

It’s been a long, cold winter, even for us in the Deep South. But this week I realized spring is here. The Japanese Magnolias, the Redbuds, the Bradford Pears are at the peak of their blooms. The azalea buds are about to burst out and the trees are full of soft spring green leaves.

bradford pear

I’ve been feeling nostalgic during this transitional time of year as my part of the world goes from grey to colorful. Maybe it was a post and a photo of my dad that brought a wealth of comments and storytelling.  Or maybe it was an abundance of TBT photos. Over the last few weeks I saw a few vintage photos of friends that were taken in the springtime of their lives. Back when their hair was full and their faces were unlined, back when we were brand new friends. I read the gentle teasing about getting old in the comments and I wanted to shout, this is how I still see these friends!

The St. Paddy’s Day parade is always a sign that spring is here. It’s a large, family-friendly parade that winds through the most beautiful, older neighborhoods in the city. My sweetie use to live on this parade route and the day is full of tender memories for him. This year my sweetie and I were joined by his adult children and grandchildren to catch the flying beads. Only in Louisiana can you hear that his young grandchildren were now experienced paraders having practiced at smaller “starter” parades. It was so heartwarming to see my sweetie’s face light up when he held his little mini me up to catch a toy and the little fella grinned ear to ear.

My Sweetie with his mini me

My Sweetie with his mini me

We stopped at a friend’s house that lives in the neighborhood. I noticed her young sons are about to grow taller than their mom. I know when her boys look at her, they only see mom. But I still see that adorable redhead who was bursting with talent as a brand new college graduate. That talent has created a loving home for her family and generations of family and friends are welcome at her open door.

My sweetie and I have known each other for decades. He recently made a casual comment, “that was back when I was young and hot.” What he doesn’t realize is that who I see when I look at him. I see past the greying hair and still see the man who looked like Jeremiah Johnson back in the day. I see all the season’s of life reflected on the face of this man I love.

There’s been a lot of buzz lately on how hard it is to age in today’s culture. There was a lot of slamming of aging actors at the recent Academy Awards about some who are trying too hard to cling to their youth.

As I stood next to three generations of St. Paddy’s Day parade goers, I realized I’ve come to embrace the age I am and see the gifts it brings. I turn 57 in a few weeks, I’m no longer in the springtime of my life and I’m not clinging to my youth. Each season has it’s own beauty and rewards. What I didn’t know in my younger years is that when I look at my loved ones faces, I would see all of their life reflected back at me. I also know that’s what they see when they look at me. What a treasure to know the joy and tears that caused those laugh lines that now crinkle the corners of our eyes.

As the world spins to another season, it’s good to remember the ageless wisdom, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

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Transcending Time

9 03 2014

“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is due to so much pain in someone else’s,” Lupita Nyong’o tearfully said in accepting her Oscar for best supporting actress at the Academy Awards.

I have a business acquaintance whose mother discovered an old book as a child and as an adult fought for it to survive in the modern world. Her diligence led to that book being republished and was part of the reading I did when I took the best class I had when attending LSU. It was a class on the Civil War by renowned historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, T. Harry Williams. That book was “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup. Northup’s story of the horrors from that Southern plantation is just a half-day’s drive from where I live.

I watched a moment that transcended time in that Oscar acceptance speech. It has been over 160 years since Northup first told his story. A young actress in her debut movie, who as a child had prayed for lighter skin, was cast as the African slave, Patsy. It was a role Lupita Nyong’o was destined to perform; that of a young, strong, beautiful, vulnerable woman from Africa. I read that Lupita “talked” to Patsy each day of filming to try to be true and honest to her spirit.

From Northup writing down his story, to a 12 year old girl discovering his book in 1930, to a filmmaker visualizing it for the world to witness, to an actress becoming that slave—Patsy’s voice is finally being heard across time. It is a strong voice that still resonates with us today.

Divine Gifts
I say a prayer that when the Universe sends me a gift that I have the wisdom to see it. Another Oscar winner spoke of the power of gratitude. I am filled with gratitude for a gift I received this week. It too transcended time.  

I wrote a story about my Dad for Father’s Day. He was a man with a generous heart and a big personality. In the blog I tell of him being a local character, a man who did his own commercials for the business he started. I posted a vintage photo of him producing and starring in one of those commercials.

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, shooting a tv commercial

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, shooting a tv commercial

Months after that post, I got a blog comment from someone at Harvard Business School. The school wanted to use this photo in a teaching documentary that explores the evolution of advertising/marketing. This led to a nice connection and conversation with the filmmaker that went beyond discussion of the history of advertising. We shared stories of our parents and grandparents and their family-owned businesses and how lucky we were to have had real connection with our community because of those businesses that now were just a memory.

I gave him the name of a salesman who knew my dad and still worked at the TV station where the photo was taken to help his research. John had been young in his sales career when he called on my dad selling airtime from the TV station. He called me as soon as he ended his conversation with the filmmaker. It’s been nearly 20 years since my dad had passed away. John had been wanting to tell me stories I did not know after all those years. He shared a funny story of my dad introducing him to his first big taste of hot Chinese mustard and of my dad telling him how much he loved my mom and that it was important to honor the women in your life. But it was the story I didn’t know from my Dad’s bankruptcy that warmed my heart the most.

I was in my 20’s when my dad went out of business. His small business could not compete with the national big box stores that moved to town. John said that my Dad owed money to many people when he went bankrupt. What I didn’t know was that he paid back everyone he owed money to, even though he was under no legal obligation to repay that debt. He payed it in $25 and $50 increments and he did it over years. It was important to John that I know that my dad paid back every dime to everyone he had a debt with. And it was powerful for me to hear John’s story of my dad.

It takes an honorable person to do the right thing when no one is looking. I will be forever grateful that I learned this decades-old story of my dad. I knew my dad was a good father and a good man. It’s wonderful to learn of how his life affected others.

Our lives leave ripples. We often never know where those ripples land. It’s important to know that a life lived with integrity leaves its impact upon the world. It can even transcend time.

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Parading in Pink

2 03 2014
Two guys walking abreast (that me and my buddy in the cleavage)

Two guys walking abreast (that me and my buddy in the cleavage)

It was a 
dark time growing up without king cake. I grew up in a time before
 Mardi Gras came to Baton Rouge. I’d heard about it as a kid and 
family friends would bring me exotic, glamorous beads from a far
off place. As a child New Orleans seemed much further away than 90 
miles and it was so foreign to where I lived. Even the accents of 
the people from there sounded funny.

That first experience didn’t 
happen for me ’till I got to college. My parents remained Mardi
 Gras virgins. But at some point in my young adulthood, a small
 parade began in the shadow of Louisiana’s huge phallic State
 Capital. Sure, it was a bunch of drag queens that 
liked to dress up and parade down the streets of the town’s oldest 
neighborhood, Spanish Town, but it was a parade. That little parade 
grew and grew and last year 100,000 came to catch the beads, or
 condoms, or white bread or whatever was being thrown off the 
homemade floats.

Governor Jindal was among many politicians skewered this year
Governor Jindal was among many politicians skewered this year

It is 
appropriate that a parade grew up organically in the shadow of 
Louisiana politics. It’s the honoring of our corrupt and crazy
 political history that makes the parade so fun. Add sexual
 overtones to it all and it is a day that is so fun and hip and cool 
that Baton Rouge can only sustain that level of intensity for the 
day of the parade. The Spanish Town parade doesn’t try to be a big
 and glitzy New Orleans parade with it’s imported celebrities. The celebrities that are at the Spanish Town parade are likely to 
be the infamous politician who just got out of  jail. The
 floats look homemade because they are. Pictures are stapled to the
 sides that someone downloaded and printed on their office printer
 when the boss wasn’t looking. The paint is barely dry on others 
because they were hastily put together with a keg and an 
all-nighter.

costume copy

Even the colors are 
different. Instead of the traditional purple, green and gold, 
flamingo pink is the color that rules the day. People dress in the
ir reverence of the parade spirit and of course in pink. You can’t
 be too pink or too tacky. That drag queen spirit is still present 
in the deep marrow of the costumed revelers. Families are welcome, 
but this is an adult parade with pink penis popsicles sold by the 
same vendor selling pink cotton candy.

The hightlight of the parade 
is the lawnmower brigade—the Krewe of Yazoo. They parade like a 
marching band, but they’re all pushing their lawn mowers. And each 
year they have a choreographed performance. Last year they were 
zombies performing “Lawn of the Dead” to the music, Staying Alive.
 My favorite past performance may always be when they were the 
Mow-donnas.

The Grand Marshall and me
The Grand Marshall and me

The Baton Rouge Spanish Town
 Mardi Gras Parade, a day of hilarity and friends and eating and
 drinking. It’s all the things I love about living here, all wrapped
 up with a big pink bow—just don’t ask where that bow has been!

If you
 enjoyed my blog, I’d love for you to
 hit the follow button and share 
it with your friends!
—Connie





Memorable ADDY Awards

26 02 2014
The National ADDY Awards

The National ADDY Awards

I attended the National AAF ADDY Awards Show in Austin the summer of 2012. An ADDY is to the advertising industry what the Oscar is to show business or the Grammy is to the music industry. It is arguably the hardest advertising competition in the world. To win a national ADDY means you’ve won your local and district competition. By the time you’ve won nationally, you’ve won three times and beaten out the best in the entire country. It is filled with the industry heavy weights—the world’s largest multi-national advertising agencies and global brands. Those Superbowl commercials whose budgets are the size of small countries…that’s the kind of competition …and that’s who’s there at the awards show. I can’t stress for me what a BFD this was. That Darth Vader/Volkswagon commercial—it won Best of Show—which was the eve of the young actor going into the hospital for very serious surgery which was what the the agency talked about  in accepting their award. 

It's an real achievement to win one of these big boys.

It’s an real achievement to win one of these big boys.

I was there because it’s part of the national AAF Convention and the club I was president of that past year was being honored at the convention. A few of us from AAF-BR were able to attend and there were three companies from Louisiana that won ADDYs. It was great to be able to WOO HOO for them and we may have been a small group but we were the loudest.

One Louisiana agency won three Gold ADDYs for spectacular photography for a campaign they produced. I coincidently sat right behind the two heads of this agency—one of the largest agencies in the state and have a really great body of work that I sincerely admire. They hadn’t seen me and I didn’t really know if they even knew me, though we had met on occasion. As they got up to accept their awards, I thought, how cool it would be for me to take their picture accepting their awards and then I can give it to them and they can instantly tweet and Facebook it!

There are hundreds of people in this impressive room and it’s dark. When they returned to their chairs, I got up and squatted down beside their aisle chair, quietly introduced myself and asked them if they wanted me to text them their photo. Of course they did and were gracious and appreciative.

Then as I got up to leave, I leaned back in my high heels instead of forward and before I knew it I was flat on my ass with my legs in the air…yes at this most prestigious awards show, there I was splayed out in the aisle. I scrambled up as quickly as I could and assured them I was sober.

The exchange when I got back to my seat.

The exchange when I got back to my seat.

I had to call them when I got back home over a question about a press release. When I introduced myself, the agency owner said, “Connie, I know who you are.”

Yep, I’m pretty memorable. I’m in advertising and that’s my spin on it.

Epilogue:
It’s now been two years since I wrote this. This past Saturday night was the local American Advertising Awards in Baton Rouge. The first ADDY Awards of what is a 3-part journey to national. I was honored to be a presenter for the Best of Show Broadcast Award. Guess who won it? You guessed it. It was the same agency, Zehnder Communications. At least I didn’t fall off the stage when I handed them their award. Congrats to all the local winners and I hope you all make it to National!

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Savor the Moment

22 02 2014

Savor is the best word to describe yesterday’s lunch. I would not have guessed that my writing would have led me to a little French bistro in New Orleans to meet with friends I did not know when I started this blog.

462398121-1

I stumbled onto a bloghop on Huffington Post last fall. It was from a group of midlife women bloggers, I was intrigued and looked up this group and soon became a part of it. Chloe was a founder of this group and I became a fan of her blog. I was always amazed by how open and honest she was in her writing. I work at a woman’s specialty hospital and she is an OB/GYN nurse, so I also felt a connection because of our day jobs. This midlife group grew and became an online zine and Chloe and I continued to get to know each other when she interviewed me in a video.

I love the magic of when you meet someone and instantly connect. She and the other women I met in this online group were the main reason I attended BlogHer in Chicago last summer. That’s where I met Cheryl, much to my delight, a blogger from my part of the world. Cheryl and I connected again in New Orleans and after a bloody mary (or two) we knew we had found a new friend in each other.

87776577-2When Chloe and her husband planned a New Orleans vacation, we conspired to steal a few hours for a girlfriend-only visit. I drove the 90 miles to Cheryl’s classic, stately historic home and Chloe arrived by streetcar a short walk from Cheryl’s pleasant house.  We chose the French bistro, Café Degas for lunch in a lovely non-touristy part of town. We drove through streets that were preparing for the onslaught of Mardi Gras parades, but were still quiet. Cheryl and I both shared our love of this city as we drove through it on this almost-spring day. There had been a loud thunderstorm the night before and the raindrops that still clung to the trees made the tender spring green leaves brighter and the Japanese Magnolias’ blooms were a little bigger. 465585553-1

The next few hours was spent in smart and insightful conversation. We were equally as interested in what each other had to say as we were in sharing our own thoughts. The conversation ranged in topics as we are all women who have lived full, well-traveled lives. If we did not solve all the world’s problems, our talking about them left us hopeful of the world our children and their future children will live in. The big takeaway we ended with was, how lucky we felt to be women living in this country at this moment in time.

What a remarkable time we live in, right now and right here. Cheryl, Chloe and I would never have met without social media and blogging. Things that simply did not exist a few years ago. The three of us do not earn a living as writers and yet our writing is now published. People from around the world that we will never know, read our words and connect to us. Individual voices are being heard in a way that has never before been experienced. That’s real power.

It was a lunch full of delicious wit, intellect and friendship. It was a great connection for a few short hours before we left to continue our separate journeys. I’ll continue to savor that lunch for a long time.

Chloe, Cheryl and me

Chloe, Cheryl and me

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Mardi Gras Traditions

10 02 2014

From Old World to New
The Mardi Gras traditions harken back to the early days of our country when the area I live in was settled by the Spanish and then the French. The season began with a Ball on Twelfth Night—or King’s Night—in honor of the arrival of the three kings bearing gifts for the Christ child.

146870014

In old New Orleans, they chose a King for the Twelfth Night Ball and in the King’s cake there was a bean or sometimes a jeweled ring. The lady who got the piece of cake with the token became the Queen, until the next week when there was another ball and new royalty was crowned. The parties and parades continued until Lent, when the revelry was given up for the 40 days before Easter. This tradition that began hundreds of years ago is still an important part of New Orleans and has now spread beyond the old city.

From New Orleans to Baton Rouge
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The Mardi Gras traditions of king cakes, balls and parades is something that has evolved in Baton Rouge in my lifetime. At a just-attended Mardi Gras Ball, I realized the pomp and circumstance that goes back to a bygone era is still present in today’s traditions.

The Ball I attended was a simple affair, as far as Mardi Gras Balls go. It grew out of a neighborhood parade started nearly 30 years ago. I grew up a few blocks away in a home similar to many on the parade route. A simple wood-frame house built before air conditioning, raised off the ground, with hard wood floors and a big front porch.

This family-friendly neighborhood night parade is still a simple event. Parents sit in lawn chairs on their front porches and let their kids catch the flying beads as they’re thrown off the homemade floats, though catching Mardi Gras beads brings out the kid in everyone. Years ago, this is the parade I brought my Brownie troop to after an afternoon spent making king cakes with purple, green and gold sugars for a cooking badge.

Queen Teresa and her royal consort, Thom

Queen Teresa and her royal consort, Thom

From Seattle to Baton Rouge
Teresa and Thom moved to Baton Rouge about 10 years ago from Seattle and we became friends not long after. They quickly assimilated to this land of king cakes, parades, parties, football, food, drink, friends and fun. They discovered this local parade and easily became a part of it. This year Teresa is Queen of the parade and Thom is her royal consort.

I am so glad that I was there for the celebration Ball and that these friends have become part of the Mardi Gras tradition. It was fun to watch the remnants of an old European royal tradition reimagined, without the class distinctions.

The King and Queen were announced and entered the decorated and festive room in their jeweled clothes and crowns with the sound of a bagpipe playing. They sat on a throne on a raised dais overlooking the room. Those who head the groups that build the different floats are announced and come to praise the royalty. They come bearing gifts (like pet treats for the royal pets). All those in attendance are dressed for the ball, whatever their definition of “dressed up” was. From the large ponytailed giant of a man dressed in a kilt with his black socks and dress shoes and Star Wars helmet, to the regal lady in a classic ball gown.

The King and Queen of Southdowns

The King and Queen of Southdowns

There is a grand silliness in the pageantry and no one takes it too seriously, other than wanting to seriously have fun. This is clearly shown in the group who called themselves “the Barbarians” who come dressed in leather and fur, a Viking-come-to-town attire.

This old Baton Rouge neighborhood has embraced the real meaning of neighbor and opened its doors to all and will let you be royalty for the season if that’s what you want. Mardi Gras has evolved over the centuries and it still celebrates the tradition it came from. This simple Southdown’s Mardi Gras Ball was a night of acceptance and celebration for all in attendance. As we say down here in south Louisiana, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler, which means Let The Good Times Roll.








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