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 is 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 

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 

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!

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