Two Movies and One Small Act of Kindness

23 08 2013

The Butler
I just saw the movie “The Butler,” an excellent movie, with a star-studded cast and Oscar-worthy performances. I appreciated how they told the civil rights story through the real life of one man from his impoverished youth, through the service industry ranks, to becoming butler for eight presidents in the White House.

movies-the-butler-poster

Creative Intermission: There’s a powerful scene when the butler’s son becomes an early Freedom Rider and is assaulted as he participates in a sit-in at an all-white section of a lunch counter in the 60’s segregated south. This scene is cut with the staff at a formal White House dinner preparing and serving the meal. This powerful juxtaposing of these two different events visually speaks volumes.

The movie made apparent how far we have come in this battle for equal rights. I know there is still work to be done and there may always be racism and injustice in the world, but “The Butler” gave me hope that we are moving in the right direction.

I work in a large office building; there are around 100 people who work in this space. There is one woman, Deborah, whose job it is to keep the workplace clean. I thought of her in the scenes when the butler was learning his trade and learned to be invisible. Deborah has that same invisible ability. She stealthily slips in to empty our trashcans and dust and vacuum, while we work. She doesn’t distract us from our jobs and heads rarely look up from computers when she slips in.

The Black Stallion
It was a rare conversation with Deborah and my office-mates, when we learned that she loves to fish and ride horses. This led to a conversation about movies about horses. We asked her if she had ever seen “The Black Stallion.” This movie came out decades ago and was produced by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s is a stunningly beautiful film.

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Creative Intermission:  A young boy and the wild horse are stranded on a deserted island. The scene that has stayed with me since this movie premiered in 1979 is shot from underwater as boy and horse learn to trust each other. You see the horse’s four legs and the boy’s two legs as they play in the surf. As time goes by, you no longer see the legs of the boy, you know he is now atop his companion, the black stallion. They have come to trust each other.

Deborah was excited to learn of this movie and was ready to run out and buy it. We told her it was an old movie and that she’d have to find it online. What became slowly apparent to me is that she doesn’t have a computer and buying something online is a foreign concept. Shortly after the conversation with Deborah, I read my friend, Lisa Froman of Tao Flashes blog post on doing random acts of kindness.  So I went online and ordered this movie and gave it to Deborah.

This simple act opened a door that allowed us to see each other. I was able to thank her for her hard work and she now saw me too. I’m now someone she has a small connection with, not just some woman with her head buried in that box on a desk. We are no longer invisible to each other anymore. We smile and ask about each other’s day and our weekend plans.

Small random acts of kindness…as Mother Teresa said, “do little things with great love.” I believe it’s what moves us forward.

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Life is Like a Song

19 08 2013

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It has been a season filled with friends and music. Songs speak to us and can bring us back to special moments in our lives. From road trips, to weddings, to milestone birthdays, this season’s songs have kept singing to me of love and friendship.

If dreams were thunder
Lightening was desire
This old house would’ve burned down 
A long time ago
—Angel from Montgomery, sung by Bonnie Raitt and by me in my car driving to see her

I took a road trip across the south to listen to Bonnie Raitt perform at the classic Sanger theater in downtown Mobile. Her music has been playing in the background for more than half of my life. The real reason for the trip was to hang out with one of my dearest and oldest friends. She and I have shared our life’s stories over countless cups of coffee and equally countless glasses of wine. There’s been times when I’ve fled to sit on her porch to cry over lost love, but mostly we get together and laugh. We’ve watched our children grow up, seen our life upsized, downsized, our intimate relationships shift and change, our careers evolve and we have always accepted each other for who we are.

We’ve always said when we get old, we’re going to open a Voodoo Shoppe in the French Quarter and live above it and yell at people from our balcony as they pass by on the street. Sometimes we practice what we would yell from her porch overlooking her pool to imaginary people…this always makes us cackle. Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, New Orleans Jazz Fest—music is always playing in the background of our friendship.

And when I tell you that I love you oh
You’re gonna say you love me too oh
—I Should Have Known Better, a Beatles tune sung by my daughter at a friend’s wedding

My daughter is a musician. Her school years were filled with piano/flute/oboe/choir performances. She stepped away from her music for a short while and has recently rediscovered it with an unlikely instrument, the ukulele. She’s playing and singing for the pure joy of it these days. A casual video of her singing caught the attention of a work friend as she began to plan her wedding. And before too much time had passed, there was my baby girl playing her old flute and her new ukulele and singing in her beautiful clear voice at the wedding. With the setting sun backlighting the scene, a fresh take on an old Beatles classic was a perfect song to float in the air at this lovely outdoor wedding. My friend, the bride is closer to my daughter in age and they have become friends.

The bride’s grandmother is an amazing energetic 94-year-old who got up with the band at the reception and sang “Jambalaya”. Her grandmother recently discovered jello shots. She’ll tell you in her southern drawl, “Yes, they are delicious, I like to make mine with bourbon.” We’ve discovered several unexpected connections between our families. There we all were, new friends with old family connections spanning generations, singing and dancing and celebrating with the bride and groom the beginning of their journey together.

Songs about hope and dreams
Songs about loving everything
—Beneath these Strings, a song by friend Martin Flanagan on his new first-ever CD

Flyin Alligator waterfront lounge

Friends and family gathered to celebrate a milestone birthday of my sweetie. A cool, crisp night, under a full moon with it’s long refection across the dark river, sitting on a pier that bridges the space between land and water. Full of gumbo, drink in hand, surrounded by friendships that spilled across decades. A night full of storytelling and reminders of long-forgotten stories. Listening to friends sing their songs and play their music. Well…it all made for a magical evening that took my breath away. I’m also thankful no one fell off that pier.

My sweetie and I have been friends for over thirty years. We know many of the same songs that have been milestones in our separate lives. We’re approaching our fourth year anniversary of our first kiss. Life, love and friendship are all singing together this season.

At last
My love has come along 
My lonely days are over 
And life is like a song
—At Last, me and my sweetie’s song

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Bless Your Heart

11 08 2013

My sweetie and I went to breakfast at a place we had never been before. When we sat down, he said, “you know this is classic southern and it’s gonna be good, there’s pork chops on the breakfast menu and a deer head on the wall.” When we checked out, I noticed the avocado-green-wall-mounted phone and above it the photo montage of a fishing trip next to a big mounted fish. Next to the fish was framed artwork of Scarlet and Rhett at Tara. The grey-haired lady behind the cash register who had obviously just had her weekly visit to the beauty parlor had friendly eyes and was smiling. She handed us our change and left us with “have a good day and bless your hearts”.

I saw this floating around Facebook. A young white man with dreadlocks won the right to wear a colander on his head in his driver’s license photo in the name of religious freedom. My immediate thought was, “well, bless his heart.” That translates to, what a f’in idiot.

Same phrase and two different meanings.

I say it all the time, just like I say y’all and fixin’ to. I jus’ cain’t hep it, I’m a true daughter of the South, plus I was raised Southern Baptist (a double whammy). I was in Chicago recently with women from all over the country and tried to explain the meaning of this quintessential southern phrase and how useful it is.  The obvious meaning is like the sweet lady at the cash register, the literal meaning, truly a heartfelt blessing. If you hear bad news about someone, “did you hear her mama is sick again?” You may say “bless her heart,” because of all the burdens you know she carries.

But more often than not, it’s a southern passive aggressive insult. A conversation may go, “I ran into Betty Lou yesterday, ya know about that drinkin’ problem…” you then look knowingly into each other’s eyes, and say together, “bless her heart.”

Sometimes, you just say a name and a bless your heart will express all you need to say. And if someone says something really tacky to you like, “I can tell you don’t believe in plastic surgery or you’ve quit coloring you hair,” you can respond with a pat of their hand and say “why bless your heart honey.” They will understand that you are not to be messed with—in southern-speak you just told them to “F off”.

I was reminded that my office had a group that gathered early every morning to start the day with a prayer. I was not included in this group. I heard that they talked about everyone in the office and then said a prayer. It went like this. “Let us pray over our Sister Connie, ya know she divorced her husband and is now on the Internet dating men.” Holding hands everyone in the prayer circle makes eye contact and says together “bless her heart” and at this point there may be more prayer needed. None of the women who were in this prayer group work there any longer…bless their hearts, wherever they are.

I say it often and because I write like I talk, I also use it often in my blog posts. If you ever need me to explain if I’m being kind or tacky, just ask.

On second thought that kind southern lady at the restaurant may have really been saying, ‘Thank God you are finally finished, it’s Saturday, we’re only open for breakfast and as soon as this place clears out, I can go home. So here, take your leftover biscuits in that butter-soaked napkin and get the hell out of here.”

Amen.

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Maw Maw’s Hot Milk Cake

6 08 2013

Hot Milk Cake

My Grandmother was known for her baking skills and I have her hand-written recipes. I love to look at them on the yellowed, brittle paper and imagine her cooking from them. Some just list the ingredients, other’s leave things out, like what to set the oven at and how long to cook it. I realize those are details that she just knew without needing to write them down.

1928. My grandmother, Jimmie Corrine holding my mom, Jimmie Dee.

1928. My grandmother, Jimmie Corrine holding my mom, Jimmie Dee.

I started baking from those recipes a few years back for special occasions for my Mom and her brother, my Uncle Dudley. I love to watch them close their eyes as they savor a bite. I eagerly await the ultimate complement, “It’s just how I remember Mama’s.” I treasure that I can give them this sensory memory of their youth.

Maw Maw’s Hot Milk Cake

hotmilkcake

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 stick margarine (I use butter)
1 cup milk

Directions:
Beat eggs, add sugar. Sift four and baking powder, add to mixture. Add vanilla. Heat milk and butter. Add last. Put in greased and floured tube pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

This makes a very moist cake. The texture is slightly sticky. Enjoy. Goes well with Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream and a good cup of strong coffee.

slice

I honor my maternal heritage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

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Adventures from BlogHer; Chapter 3

2 08 2013

BlogHer, the world’s largest blogging conference for women was a remarkable event to be a part of. 5000 bloggers there equaled 93 million followers and Midlife Bloggers was among the most mentioned topics.  I kept trying to be profound while attempting to write this and then I’d just start laughing thinking about all the adventures I had. I started writing and then kept writing. This post got real long, it’s turned into a novella, so I’ve decided to break it down into three chapters. I learned blogs shouldn’t be as long as a novella.

This is Chapter 3 of 3, click here to read Chapter 1 or here to read Chapter 2.

Saturday Adventures

Saturday’s keynote of Facebook COO and author of “Lean In”, Sheryl Sandberg was the talk I was most looking forward to. She asked for a show of hands of how many women were called bossy when they were little girls. A majority of hands went up. She then said instead of telling our daughters’ they’re bossy, take a breath and tell them that she has executive leadership skills. She has a created a group called leanin.org,  which is a live real time way to experience the power of a small group. Like every blogger in attendance, she wants women to be heard.  Powerful stuff.

I was at BlogHer because of these fabulous women, Chloe Jeffries, Sharon Greenthal and Anne Parris.

I was at BlogHer because of these fabulous women, Chloe Jeffries, Sharon Greenthal and Anne Parris.

Saturday was a day of many powerful voices. Midlife women had a strong presence this year. I’ve been told that made this year different. I had been eagerly awaiting the three founders of GenFab‘s session on midlife blogging. Sharon,  Chloe  and Anne   (now friends in real life) knocked it out of the ballpark and next year they are going to have to put us midlife women in a bigger room. We are indeed changing how the world views midlife.

Veteran Hollywood producer (and another midlife woman), Gale Anne Hurd was the closing keynote. She’s known for portraying powerful women in The Walking Dead, the Terminator and Alien. I must confess to not being a zombie fan as were the rest of the audience in the vast ballroom, but after hearing her talk, I may have to start watching. We got a heads up that this season is going to be about parenting.

Great Swag

I learned all about swag.

Virginia and I learned all about swag.

Time for one quick visit to the exhibit hall. The vendors were tired and trying to get rid of all their swag so they didn’t have to haul it back home. My roomie, Virginia and I saw an especially long line and got in it, thinking it must be something good.  It WAS a good line! We realized they were giving away really great swag. Trojan gave us all the swag we could carry. And to the young woman who looked at this midlifer in disbelief and asked if I was going to use it, I wish I would have responded in my deepest southern drawl, “Bless your heart.” Congrats to my friend who won a chain saw from another vendor, but I could fit my swag in my luggage.

•napkinVirginia and I hit one last party; the wonderful BOOMbox B(L)oomers shindig in a very cool, colorful, arty and refurbished space. We visited our online friends that we now know in real life and hugged and said our goodbyes. So ended the BlogHer experience.

Time for one last adventure.

We got a great recommendation for a real deal little Italian restaurant, La Scarola in the heart of the city. You know the kind of Italian place that looked like it could have been a set for the Godfather movie. Pictures of famous people on the wall. All the staff were Italian men, many with heavy Italian accents. It was packed with locals. There was a bit of a wait, we were told we could go to the bar next door. So off we headed to Richard’s Bar. 

The bartenders at Richard's Bar thought we sweet (and smart) young things!

The bartenders at Richard’s Bar thought we were sweet young things (and smart too)!

There were two empty bar stools left as we bellied up to this smoke-filled crowded and kinda dingy bar. Virginia said this is what is called a dive bar in San Francisco; I said this is what we call a real bar back home. The bartenders were friendly and…how to put this…to the friendly bartenders; Virginia and I were sweet young things. When we showed one bartender how to attach a photo to a message on his iphone, our drinks stayed full till our table was ready. They insisted we take our drinks with us. Virginia was new to the concept of go cups, a common practice where I live.

•foodWe ordered the appetizer that bartender Anthony (he looked like a slightly older Anthony Bourdaine) recommended and took our cute waiter’s suggestion for a pasta dish. It was Delizioso! A real deal Italian meal, even the bread was good. Before we caught a cab back we returned to Richard’s Bar and gave the bartenders a hug goodbye.

It was a perfect end to an extraordinary few days. Perfetto, Hugs and Kisses, and Bless our Hearts to all my new BFFs IRL. I’ll see you online.

And Virginia, you are indeed a first class woman. I know we’ll see each other again. And ‘till then, this is for you.

Blogher b cardHi, I’m Connie McLeod of My Creative Journey, I write about my creative life.  If you like my adventures I’d love for you to follow me. I promise no spam. Here’s my card (imagine I’m shaking your hand). 

I’m proud to be a GenFab blogger!





Adventures From Blogher; Chapter 2

1 08 2013

BlogHer, the world’s largest blogging conference for women was a remarkable event to be a part of. 5000 bloggers there equaled 93 million followers and Midlife Bloggers was among the most mentioned topics.  I kept trying to be profound while attempting to write this and then I’d just start laughing thinking about all the adventures I had. I started writing and then kept writing. This post got real long, it’s turned into a novella, so I’ve decided to break it down into three chapters. I learned blogs shouldn’t be as long as a novella.

This is Chapter 2 of 3, click here to read Chapter 1.

All badged up and ready to attend all the sessions!

All badged up and ready to attend all the sessions!

Friday’s Adventures

After arriving in Chicago on Thursday, I was ready and excited for the first full conference day. My roommate Virginia and I thankfully learned that we are both low maintenance women when it comes to sharing a room and bathroom because the day started early. By the time we got to the kickoff keynote, Ree Drummand, the Pioneer Woman, we felt like we had known each other for years. Over three days we shared conversations about difficult first marriages, happy second marriages (OK, Steve and I aren’t technically married).  We learned when either of us got quiet it meant that we were tired or hungry—this was the only time we were quiet.

We both want our blogs as well as our lives to grow and evolve. Each speaker and breakout session taught us something that will help us meet our goals.  My favorite event was the Voices of the Year (VOTY) presentation. Queen Latifah  may have been the emcee, but the real queens were the powerful words of the women who read their stories.  They were funny, powerful, tragic, and heartfelt. They were all real life experiences that the writers had a very understandable need to share on their blogs. It was a good thing I brought Kleenex, my Indian name is She Who Weeps and I cried as much as I laughed.

Shannon Bradley Colleary is a GenFabber who presented a hilariously funny story, What I Know About Sex Now That I’m in my 40s. She has the links on her post to the other women who read. There were a dozen women who read their stories, but 100 VOTY bloggers were selected and honored for their outstanding stories. Several honorees were friends from the GenFab crew. Each winning blog had a huge 4′ x 8′ foot poster for everyone to read.

•nightAfter this heartfelt event, the tears of laughter continued with some of my new best friends. There were about a dozen of us, having a drink and getting to know each other in a quiet place with comfortable couches and a great night view of Chicago. All of a sudden I saw my roomie and one of the honorees lugging her 4′ x 8′ foot poster to where we were seated. The honoree thought this was a great thing to bring home. Two others honorees also thought this was a great idea, so up the escalator they went and back down the escalator with their ginormous posters to where we were gathered. We were all rather proud of the chutzpah of this heist…and then it slowly…very slowly began to dawn on all of us …how does one get a 4 ‘x 8’ foot poster home? The realization of the probable $400 shipping costs started to sink in as well as where does one discreetly display a  poster of this size in one’s home or office cubby? So I was part of the crew that helped return the “borrowed” posters back up the escalator to the scene of the crime. When someone asked us what we were doing when we were discreetly putting them back in place, I looked him in the eye and said, “Don’t ask.”

The last I saw of the one that wasn’t returned…was of it quietly being shoved into an elevator.

Click here for Adventures From BlogHer; Chapter 3 .
Blogher b card
Hi, I’m Connie McLeod of My Creative Journey, I write about my creative life.  If you like my adventures I’d love for you to follow me. I promise no spam. Here’s my card (imagine I’m shaking your hand). 

I’m proud to be a GenFab blogger!