Monday, August 29, 2011

New Orleans Six Years Later

I was in New Orleans for the first time a year after Hurricane Katrina.  I went to my niece's graduation from Tulane University.  Water lines were still clearly seen, signs of the destruction were still everywhere - and only one streetcar was running at the time.  Despite all of that, the soul of the city was strong, and I went away thinking the people who lived there were some of the most genuinely nice people I had ever met. 

Katrina became a storm like we'd never seen before.  It was terrible in the way it happened, and the way it was handled.  Today New Orleans is different, forever changed.  There are so many who didn't go back, or couldn't go back.  It's important we remember New Orleans, and the people who were there, and the ones who still are.  They have faced other battles too, but they always display courage.

As I get closer to heading off to New Orleans again - for that same niece's wedding this time - I'm excited to see it again five years later.  With its distinct architecture, jambalaya, poboys, gumbo, and beignets with chicory coffee - and that Dixieland, jazz, and Zydeco music - there's really no other place quite like it on earth. 

Healing is a long process, but with a city like New Orleans, it will not only continue to heal, but thrive again in the process.  And it will hopefully never lose sight of the unique spirit and character that make it so special.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

If Only We Could Do What We Love Full-Time

Whenever I get my hair cut, I marvel at my hair stylist.  She is not only really talented - and makes my long hair a piece of cake to take care of  - but, she truly loves her job.  I call her a hair genius, and a friend.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, that is rare.  I love to write, I love my photography.  Someday, I will do the latter full-time - and hopefully the photography as well.  It's a constant frustration to have a real love and passion for something that I've just HAD to do since I was three years old, but not near enough time to devote to it.  Even after all the routes I've taken in careers...chemistry, accounting, social always comes back to the writing.  Writing keeps me grounded, keeps me's a form of therapy, a form of expression, a form of artistry.  And, again, just something that's in me that I have to do.  I do spend some nights up way too late writing, and try to get up way too early in the morning to write.  But, I'm always pulled away to my regular job.

I have a quote I carry around with me that I saw a long time ago. I gave a copy of it to a friend of mine who is a filmmaker, but works as a bartender and a waitress.  Her first film was fabulous.  The quote is: "Support your art, don't expect it to support you." So, I try to remember that, but as an artist, of course I'd like to work toward just focusing on the art.  I try to remember that I like my clients, and am basically collecting book material everyday.  But, I do have my moments - many more lately - when I tire of taking care of everyone else, and not having enough time to take good enough care of myself - or enough energy to work on my art and be truly committed to it.

Worst of all, as time goes on, and this week was a good example, I never feel appreciated or respected by the people I work for.  I never feel like any abilities or talents I have are utilized, and I don't fit in. For a kid who grew up all over the country, not fitting in...well, you get used to that.  But, it would be nice to feel appreciated once in awhile when you try to work so hard.

I talked to one of my oldest and dearest friends this morning.  After years of working at a job he loved for the airlines, it was changed drastically, and eventually eliminated after 9/11.  What followed was him doing a job just to get by for way too long.  He did it well, but hated it.  This morning, it was so wonderful to hear the joy in his voice after getting new job a few months ago, which he again loves.  It was a long time coming, and well-deserved.

Hopefully, we will all have our turns at this.  In the meantime, the free spirit in me feels more than stifled at times.  I want to be someone who really loves what they do, be creative and an artist...not someone who is making a living to support it.  Guess it gives me something to attain to, and I certainly know I'm not alone on this one.  In the long run, the good news is, when it comes to retirement someday way down the road...writing is something I'll never retire from anyway.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dressing Funky

I'm really loving some of the fashion blogs lately. Perhaps it's because it's just another way of being creative and expressing yourself in a fun way. For a free spirit, hence the title, I'm not quite adventurous enough with fashion.

I have way too many really fun clothes that stay in my closet. Part of it is my day job. I'm usually relegated to wearing jeans and a shirt (usually layered with a jacket of some sort) because I don't know what I'm doing each day. I also can't really wear my short skirts (which I love) or really nice clothes with my clients. I have so many different things I do each day that one day I might be doing paperwork, the next day moving boxes in a basement. I don't want the clothes to be ruined, and have to dress in a more practical (uh, boring) way. Although, I usually try to wear cool shirts and fun jewelry and funk it up a bit all the time. But, really fun fashion is kept for the weekends. It won't be this way forever...

So, I love the idea of layering skirts and dresses, of layering short skirts with way-too-short skirts over them, and wearing more belts and more of my favorite: tall boots. Harder to do in the heat of the summer, but there are other options for this season. Since it's August, fall is right around the corner anyway.

I particularly like the blog Fashion for Nerds. She has some great ideas and really cool posts. Perhaps it is all the years I spent working at an engineering firm myself, or my years in chemistry, but I can totally relate to where she is coming from. Her blog is a lot of fun, and her outfits are fabulous.

It kind of reminds me of years ago when I finally stopped biting my fingernails and grew them long. Who wants to just wear pale pink nail polish all the time? I went for dark colors...burgundy, black, sparkles, and my favorite: purple. Because, just like fashion, it's yet another way to be creative, fun, and unique. Besides, who wants to be the norm anyway?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Accepting the Red...and the Pale

I was looking at some fashion blogs a few nights ago and came across a post on Already Pretty about the things we're told are not attractive. Is it our knees? Are we to hide our chests that are too large, or make our small chests look larger? Or, as she says in this blog post, does it even go as far as to say our underarms aren't attractive?

Who comes up with this and why do we believe it?

I grew up with an old-fashioned mother who taught me to hide my chest and didn't think women's knees were attractive. I've always been a fan of miniskirts and happen to be quite tall. So, I forgot about the knee thing pretty quickly. And I finally started wearing more flattering shirts that - gasp - showed some cleavage on occasion. I've even recently started being a fan of tank tops. The heck with a large chest and who cares about the underarms? I mean, seriously.

But one of my biggest insecurities came from years of hearing about how pale my legs were. I was told I had great legs...long, and in good shape. But, they were just too pale. So, over time, I stopped wearing my favorite cutoffs. In fact, I stopped wearing shorts altogether. But, I'm a natural redhead - and we are quite often pale. We don't tan, we burn. And we just have to learn to live with it.

Perhaps it's because I grew up all over the country and many of my friends have darker complexions than I do. Their legs always looked better to me. But, then women - especially younger women - tend to compare, and want what we don't have. If we are tall, we want to be petite. If we have brown eyes, we want blue...and, of course, as a redhead my eyes were supposed to be green. And the red hair - which my hairdresser always loved - I hated, because I stuck out.

Fortunately, we grow older and realize that it's the unique things about us that make us individuals. And after many years of being the new kid with the funny accent who was too tall and too pale, and wanted so desperately to fit in...well, now that isn't so important anymore now that I'm older. Now I want to just be me. Red hair, tall, dark brown eyes...and pale.

I can't say all my insecurities are gone, nor will they ever be. But, I can say I'm a bit more accepting than I used to be. The funny thing about it is that now I'm with an African-American man who I really feel is my soul mate. He is the one I should have been with in the first place (not that silly blond fellow I married - and thankfully divorced - back when I was way too young to get married). My guy has beautiful cocoa-colored skin. And he loves my red hair, and encourages me to show a little cleavage, and wear tank tops, and loves my miniskirts. And the funniest thing of all: He doesn't think I'm pale at all. Go figure.