When the Levees Broke

22 09 2013

 

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Before and after Katrina is how we mark time down here in Louisiana. We just passed the 8-year anniversary of that milestone hurricane. The lives we knew were washed away when the levees broke. For my high school friend, Karen and I, it marked the washing away of our long-term marriages. My husband moved out the week before the hurricane and Karen moved out of her home, the week after. We found our friendship in the storm’s aftermath and often clung to each other for support.

94992665We both realize the women we were back then wouldn’t recognize the women we are today. Eight years ago newly single with a teenage daughter; I was scared and expecting to be laid off from my job. While that did not happen, it made me question what did I want to do. I tried out a home-based business giving wine tasting parties (a lot of fun, but I drank all my profits). That led me to get over my fear of pubic speaking, which led me to becoming president of my professional club, which led me to giving workshops on creativity, which led me to starting a design business with my sweetie, which led me to discover new talents and strengths. Most importantly I learned to let go of fear and to embrace things outside my comfort zone.

140381196Karen left her affluent life and empty marriage to find meaning in her life after her kids had grown. She moved back to her hometown to family and friends who were critical of her decision. She went from moving in with her mother, to crummy first apartment, to nicer apartment, to buying a house, to renovating that house and making it her oasis. Her small job with an old family friend grew as his company was bought and sold and bought and sold. It is now part of the largest engineering company of its kind in North America. With each evolution of the company, Karen’s job has grown and she’s moved up the corporate ladder. She’s now moving to the center of business for the Eastern region. All of her strengths have come out and are shining brightly.

Karen’s moving up North…to Nashville. Her moving is bittersweet. We recognize that we are closing a chapter in our lives. Her renovated house has a For Sale sign in front and boxes are waiting for the movers. The days of dropping by each other’s home or creating a spontaneous adventure are over as we know it. We know our friendship will shift and change.

I was just in New Orleans for a fun romantic weekend with the man I’ve been in a loving relationship with for 4 years. After the levees broke, I believed that city would never be the same. I was right, but not how I imagined it. I would never have imagined that young people would flood the city post Katrina with their new innovative entrepreneurial spirit. These newcomers wanted to be a part of reinventing their lives while reinventing this old drowned city. They’ve embraced the unique, creative, funky culture and infused it with a new vibe. The dark depressive cloud that hung over the city has blown over. Arts, music, food, business, housing, education are now filled with this new spirit as new ideas and new ways of doing things are happening. And the wonderful, live-and-let-live-with-a-go-cup-in-hand New Orleans spirit is still embraced, it didn’t wash away.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Like the crescent city, Karen and I have reinvented our separate lives. We haven’t ignored our own past, but we’ve grown and built on it. We’ve moved past our after-Katrina chapter. We’ve rebuilt the levees, hopefully strong enough to withstand future storms.

I’ve learned to flow with the current that my life leads me to. It sometimes takes a storm to push us in a new direction. It’s good to occasionally take time to look back at how far we’ve come. I’m grateful for where my journey has taken me. I’m going to miss my friend, but I’m also looking forward to where new travels will take us.

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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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Guest Blogger: Lisa Froman

28 07 2013

Lisa and I have run in the same professional circles since we were new in our careers. But it was only this year through a bit of serendipity that had us both becoming bloggers and discovering a great group of women at Generation Fabulous that caused us to meet in real life. We have been friends and supporters of each other ever since. This spring the Dalai Lama visited New Orleans and we both blogged about it from our different perspectives.  I know you will enjoy my friend and guest blogger’s words as much as I do. —Connie

The Dalai Lama, Non-Violence and Gun Ads

by Lisa Garon Froman

Mardi grasNew Orleans is lovingly called the city that “care forgot.”  And for good reason; its love of revelry, rhythm and blues, and deep-fried everything, is legendary.

Yes, that city. The city that was nearly swallowed up and spit out in pieces by the punishing wind and waters of Hurricane Katrina.

Yes, that city, the one that inspires hope and loss in the same breath; the city that spurs the kind of violence that leaves you heart sick and slack-jawed from the shock and soulless brutality of it all. Like when two young males well-schooled in violence casually open-fired on a Mother’s Day parade wounding 20 people, including several children.

This was the city that the Dalai Lama came to visit recently. A city badly in need of healing.

This was the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Orleans and he came to deliver a commencement speech to Tulane graduates and speak at several other engagements in the city.

Not surprising he spoke of peace in his speeches. To the Tulane graduates he said,   “Please pay attention to securing your own inner peace. Our hopes for the future rest on your shoulders. Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.”  

dalai

Speaking at a separate event at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena, he talked about non-violence and peace and compassion.

He said, “It is not our job to disturb the peace and then it’s God’s job to restore it. Violence isn’t created by God or Buddha; it’s created by human beings. So logically, the responsibility to eliminate it belongs to us too. Here in America there’s been a lot of discussion about gun control. But the real source of control is in our hearts.”

Wise words from a wise monk.

Violence and poverty and abuse all stem from a lack of compassion. The need for guns and the need for gun control is all the same to me. It’s all rooted in fear and violence in my book.

Look, I’m from the South. Guns are serious business here. This isn’t a subject that makes friends–unless you’re on the right side of the argument– if you get my drift.  It’s a subject that I usually stay away from because I’m a peacemaker at heart and it almost seems counterintuitive to me to argue about guns.

“…Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.” I think of the Dalai Lama’s words to the graduates about securing peace, and working for a more peaceful world. I wonder what I can contribute to the cause.

I think there are a lot of us who are confused about how to walk in this world more peacefully.

I’m of the opinion that it starts with finding inner peace. Not an easy task. But I believe that meditation is a good start here. Finding compassion for ourselves, for our faults, and loving ourselves so we can better love others, is another strategy.

I think when we’re brave enough to do the inner work, to look at all of the places inside of us where we are at war with ourselves, where we focus on what’s wrong with ourselves, with our lives, is a good place to work on non-violence. Perhaps that’s the foundation of the saying, “Love others as we love ourselves.”

Maybe the idea is that we should love ourselves a little more, so we learn the capacity to be truly compassionate, truly kind to others. So that we can love others.

I think prayer is also a gateway to compassion. Praying to God, Spirit, Buddha or to your higher spirit for guidance is a good way to open up the heart. The older I get, the more I pray.

If we’re honest, we can admit that light and dark both exist in this world. But light, including inner light, can be the beacon that disperses the darkness. Within us and around us.

When we actively focus on non-violence, maybe we will lessen the violence in the outside world. Maybe we won’t have to live forever with the duality of seeing this:

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

A full page article in the Baton Rouge paper featuring the Dalai Lama’s visit to New Orleans with an ad for a gun shop placed on the opposite page from it. I’d like to think this was an accident. But the truth is, I’m not sure.

Which leads me to the truism that “there are no accidents.” Maybe there’s a message here about our society’s conflict. About how we all wrestle with the light and the dark.

267-2About Lisa: 
Lisa Garon Froman is a writer, poet and an award-winning communications professional. She lives in Baton Rouge, La., and is the mother of one son, Alexander.  
If you’re interested in more thoughts on compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read her book Tao Flashes.  Visit her blog: Tao Flashes, a woman’s way to navigating the midlife journey with integrity, harmony and grace or follow her at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or twitter @taoflashes. 

Lisa and I are both proud to be GenFab bloggers!





Salut! It’s My One-Year Blogging Anniversary.

6 07 2013

Salut

This month marks one year of blogging! WOO HOO! It has been an amazing year and this little blog ‘o mine has taken me to unexpected places. I started it because I needed to have my creative voice out there. A few months into blogging, I stumbled upon this fabulous group of women at Generation Fabulous. They were remarkably supportive of one another and read my blog and even commented on it. Then GenFab bloghops were in the freakin’ Huffington Post and there I was!  This led to writing for another group, Better After 50 and more amazing writers. GenFab has grown in just the few months since I joined and  now has a website featuring the powerful voices of midlife. I was a featured blogger and had a video interview with Chloe Jeffreys for her feature Coffee with Chloe. I still am surprised when I look back on this past year and see where My Creative Journey has taken me.

Another surprise is that I didn’t expect that each post I’ve written would become a blog child. I must admit while I love all my blog children I do have favorites. So in honor of my one-year anniversary I’m going to tell the world my favorites and why.

These are what I consider my 3 best posts:

the jump

Taking the Leap
This is about my attempt to become fearless.

Me and my sweetie, Steve

Soul Mates and Angels
Even though I wrote this, I can still tear up when I read it. It’s me and Steve’s love story.

Full view w detail

If You Give Connie a Glass of Wine
This chronicles the birth of my business, Greenview Designs in that meandering way that is my creatve processs. It’s written in the style of, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” a book I loved reading to my daughter when she was little.

These are about where I live:

katrina-08-28-2005

Bread, Batteries and Booze
Big shoutout to my buddy Juan Simoneux who posted it on at The Cajun American.  It’s because of his fans that this remains my most viewed post ever. It’s about living in hurricane country.

Flyin Alligator waterfront lounge

Luzianna Friday Nite
I love where I live. OK, I don’t love hurricanes (see above).

These are about my family:

  My mom dresses just like the Cosmo Girl.

Wild Woman
This is about my Mother. You’ll need to read the post to understand why that’s all I can say about this one. 

My Mom and me, 1961

The Sandwich Generation  
What make The Wild Woman story so special to me is where my Mom came from. This post tells that story.

letter

Large and Purple
My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, was a local character and a really great father.

My first apartment

Argo, the Ayatollah, Eudora Welty and First Apartments
Connections I share with my daughter.

These were unexpectedly popular:

mcleodyardwork

Timeless Tips From a Fashionista
This was inspired by the GenFab bloghop on epic fashion fails and it also made the Huffington Post. It proves I don’t care about embarrassing myself if it makes a good story.

Teresa from the Housewives of New Jersey flipping a table screaming Prostitution Whore!

My Guilty Pleasure
I was a little surprised how many other people admitted to the same guilty pleasure. Ssssshhh, it’s our little secret.

Sometime in the last year I heard about this amazing blogging conference called BlogHer. So I will be flying off to Chicago soon and rooming with a new friend from GenFab. I could never have imagined this a year ago. I’m sure a blog child will be birthed from this adventure. Time will tell if it’ll become a favorite.

Thanks to all who have read and supported me in the past year.

If you like My Creative Journey, I’d love for you to follow me. My posts will then arrive in your email and I promise no spam.

I’m proud to be a GenFab blogger!





Large and Purple

1 06 2013

letter

When I was very young my Dad worked the night shift, midnight to eight, and started his TV fix-it business in the garage he built during the day. I’d bring my Barbies and play on the floor as he worked. When asked what my dad’s hobby was, I would say, “sleep”.

Connie&Dad B&W65

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, would became a local character because of that business he started. I spent a lot of time at the shop. My mom would pick me up from school and we’d “go to work.” He became a bit of a local celebrity from the commercials he created and starred in. They were those classic “bad” commercials that every town has. A big guy, he did one that said, “I stand behind everything I sell…because if I stood in front of it, you couldn’t see it.” But people identified with this large man who talked to them from their tv’s in their living rooms. Strangers really did come up to us when we were out for dinner and ask for his autograph.

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, shooting a tv commercial

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, shooting a tv commercial

Purple Truck

The building that housed his business was known as “the large purple building.” The color came into being because when he had only one delivery truck, he let an ex-con paint it. He was very affordable and needed a job. It came back painted a wild purple color. But people soon started asking Dad if he had a fleet. A marketing accident that turned into a successful brand was born.

We were a tight family unit. My Dad was a ham and we thought the attention funny.  I may have spent a lot of time “at work”, but my dad was at every school event, birthday party and if I had to get a shot at the doctor, he was there to hold my hand. He loved for our home to be filled with my friends. I remember him playing dead at slumber parties as little girls squealed and jumped on him and tried to wake him up. And then the screams when we woke him up. We’d all laugh and giggle until we were out of breath.

My Dad was large, literally and symbolically. He loved to eat and drink and smoke his cigarettes. He had a big laugh and when he snored, it rattled the windowpanes. He loved people and nothing made him happier than when someone dropped by our house unexpectedly. I never had that teenage need to sneak out. My house was the place my friends came to at all hours. Because of his long years on the night shift, he was a catnapper. Odds were if you came by at midnight, he’d be up. The only rule was not to wake my mom. If she showed up in the doorway in her robe, it meant party over.

I can now see that he was groundbreaking as a brand in his time. As a teenager, however, when your parents are supposed to be invisible, having a Dad on TV was mortifying. When I was in high school, I would have him drop me off at the corner rather than be driven to the front door in one of his purple delivery vans.

My Dad left me a great legacy. I went into advertising because of those early lessons in branding. But more importantly is that I know what unconditional love is because of both my parents. Like Dad I believe in living life large. Dad and I both loved the movie Mame and her quote, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are staving to death!” For me a perfect evening is a dinner party at my house; food, friends, freely flowing wine, the telling of our stories and lots of laughter.

I realize that I’ve unconsciously filled my house with purple. I was painting an accent wall in my home a very deep purple. I went to the paint store that was now housed in Dad’s old purple building. They kept trying to get the color right, but it took two hours of mixing and remixing to get the exact color I wanted. I felt his spirit was there beside me as I was getting purple paint in his old shop and he just wanted me to stay there in his old purple building for as long as possible.

Some people see butterflies when they feel a loved ones presence. I see purple. I am my Father’s daughter.

If you like My Creative Journey, I’d love for you to follow me. My posts will then arrive in your email and I promise no spam.





Going Blond

26 03 2013


shoe

My mother advised me years ago “don’t go grey, go blond.” So when those grey beacons starting lighting up my dark hair, I remembered my Mom’s sage advice.

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At 84, Mom is frail and in a nursing home. She is living with her 89-year-old boyfriend. She says she has no intension of getting married, but she did make him buy her an engagement ring. She speaks her mind and can play an audience like a fine instrument with well-timed comments. She knows that if she talks about sex, drops the f-bomb or gives someone the middle finger that she’ll get a reaction. No one expects this from a sweet little old Southern Baptist lady with a walker. She’ll tell you she doesn’t smoke or drink, but she’ll tell you with a twinkle in her eye, “So I lie”.

Despite her occasional lie, she is my model on how to age. Whoever said, “Getting old is not for sissies,” was correct. I’ve learned by watching my mom how to pick yourself up when life knocks you down and to stand tall with grace and humor.

I was catching her up on her 22-year–old granddaughter. She asked me if she had a boyfriend. When I said no, she responded that maybe she should get a girlfriend. Apparently Dr. Phil has said this is perfectly okay. While it doesn’t matter to me if my daughter prefers men or women, the fact that it doesn’t matter to my mom either is something I take real pride in. I hope that as the decades pass and I get older that I stay as open to the changing world around me.

Not only have I inherited my mom’s sense of humor, I’ve also inherited her klutziness. My mom and I, as well as my daughter, all have issues with the ability to stay upright. My friends know I’m not known for my grace and my dancing has even been compared to Elaine’s from Seinfeld. Not that it has ever stopped me from dancing to my own beat.

From my female lineage, age is clearly showcased in heel height. Mom, much to her chagrin, is in orthopedic shoes these days. After a recent tumble, she cut her hand bad enough to get it sutured. She had the ER staff in stitches as she regaled them with stories of her love life in the nursing home. “Yes, those nursing aides come in all during the day and night trying to catch me and my fiancé doing it!”

My own acknowledgement of age also has to do with the lowering of my heel height. I gave away my high heels for my fortieth birthday, but by my fiftieth I was divorced and feeling sexy again, so I was back in shoes that made me about 4 inches taller. However, now that I’m half way through my fifties, I must recognize that I have a tendency to fall off those beautiful, sexy high heels. I was warned with my last purchase of an adorable pair of towering platforms that I was likely to take a fall. Sure enough, on my second outing, I found myself face down, spread eagle in a hot parking lot. And unlike a toddler with skinned knees, my knees and bones no longer heal fast. So along with going blond, I’ve now gone to flats.

As I grow older, I’ve stumbled upon a few things. I no longer care if people see me fall down, literally or symbolically. Most of my stumbles are funny and I’m the first to laugh at myself. And if I tumble too hard, I welcome the hands that pick me up again.

Neither my mom or I will ever be described as graceful, but I’ve learned from her to accept aging graciously with a wicked twinkle in my eye. I think I’ll keep those cute tall Spring shoes. My mom and I also like to repurpose things. I should be able to turn them into a flowerpot.

 





The List

10 02 2013

This is part of the February Generation Fabulous bloghop. It’s even featured in Huffington PostClick the link at the end of the post to read the  celebrity crushes of the other amazing GenFab bloggers.

list photo

For a while, I thought I was the only one who had a list. You know, the list of the celebrity men that you’re allowed to have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for. Because that man in your real life would understand and love you so much that when Brad Pitt walks into your life…well, Brad would be so overcome with passion that he must have you immediately. Yeah, THAT list! I didn’t realize other people had a list until there was an episode of Friends about it.

Pitt

Numero Uno on my list is Brad Pitt. But not just any Brad. I want Legends of the Fall Brad. That beautiful tortured bad boy who loved so intensely that he went crazy…in a beautiful way. Real life Brad doesn’t do it for me, Angie can keep him. Even Brad from the movie Troy doesn’t hold a candle to Legends of the Fall Brad. That wild mountain man with those long blond locks blowing in the breeze. Heavy Sigh.
DayLewis

Daniel Day Lewis…now you may be thinking about him in Lincoln and going “Really?” Now, he gives a great performance and I think he should win the Oscar for that role. But no, Hawkeye from Last of the Mohicans, Daniel Day Lewis. Another wild man with long flowing locks. My real-life sweetie has never seen that movie. HHhhhmmmmm, I might need to get it for Valentine’s Day.
Neeson

More long flowing locks in this epic period movie with Liam Neeson—Rob Roy. The movie poster copy reads, “He loved one woman. He feared no man.” Maybe I’m picking up a theme as to why certain celebrities are on my list. A strong man’s man who loves a woman so intensely, he would give his life for her. Whew!

Redford

Robert Redford is getting too old for me. But Bob washing Meryl’s hair in Out of Africa. That memorable scene has to be one of the sexiest of all time. Like Meryl, I would buy a farm in Africa and tell him long stories over a great meal, wine and candlelight if he would wash my hair. In the movie, it’s not like camping at all. It’s epic and romantic, and there are no bugs and the water isn’t too cold.
Clooney

Now George is a good-looking man, but real life George may be a little too good looking for me. Not that I wouldn’t go hang with him in Lake Como, Italy. But George Clooney as Dr. Doug Ross on ER. Doug/George was a bit of a bad boy who broke rules and he always had a wicked twinkle in his eye. The episode that was Julianna Margulies’ final episode when she ran into his arms someplace that was not in the ER because he had already left the series to start his movie career. The memory of watching that kiss still makes me melt. I may have to take a break now and go have a glass of wine and take a long bubble bath.

So next time I’m in New Orleans, sitting in a French Quarter bar (because this could happen in that old magical, romantic city), when someone from The List wanders in and our eyes lock from across the crowded room, all I can say is, he’d better be in character, because this is MY fantasy.


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

If you’d like to read about the other celebrity crushes clink on this link and they are connected at the bottom.