Saturday, March 29, 2014

My View (vol. 6)

This is New Orleans, created entirely out of Legos and sitting in a hand, possible of the Great Creator (wink). The creation sits by the children's section at the main branch of the New Orleans Library, which conveniently sits next to Tulane's downtown campus. I love visiting this area. It is not at all accurate, but does feature the fun colored buildings I've come to love so much down here.

This set is not sold in stores.

Friday, March 28, 2014

#7QT: home is where the food is

What a week. I'm exhausted!


I found a realtor this week. I said a small prayer before scouring the bowels of the internet for a good one, and I cold-called an awesome lady who laughs and chats as much as I do, talked up Bethlehem, and sent me 20+ houses to peruse that night. Good vibes.

I'm giggly excited over living in a house, and establishing our third home as a family. Fine, I'm really excited to decorate... and our own space, with no neighbors to listen to (even though they do have good taste in music). I'm in love with IKEA's look book, and finally having more space to spread out instead of using our kitchen table as my desk, our bedroom and nursery as extra storage, and better baby-proofing the kitchen and bathroom areas.


On that note, any tips on selling furniture? I was thinking Craigslist. We have a couple things it would be better to sell than move 18+ hours north.


A professor of mine in college, Dr. Bart, taught me English literature and that gardening is life's greatest sport. While living down south, I've had the opportunity of admiring everyone's lovely garden, or at least the perpetual greenness of the grass and the leaves in the [palm] trees.

I love Kate's "yes!" to doing something beautiful.

I think gardening will be an excellent start to cultivating a love of imperfection. I might start here.


Speaking of beautiful - these pictures! I melt. (And!! Don't miss the baby and french bulldog slide show at the end.)

If you're into craft brew, twins, and trans-Atlantic rivalries, this story is for you.

"Six Little Known Musical Portraits of the Sea" - I think the title says it all! Epic.

Brittany writes on her top seven vocation reads - what would you add to it?

No big deal: Hillsdale College grad here, and we can really say "We're Number 1!" They forgot to list me under notable alumni, though... weird.

But I read all these books for my thesis!! Notable and quotable, I am.

I'm entering that stage of postpartum living where I actually try to look decent every day. That might sound like a laugh ("lofty goals today, Julie!"), but, you know what? It is. Because Grace doesn't judge me or my extremely comfortable yoga pants. As an esteemed professor once told our class, "It takes just as much effort to put on a regular pair of pants as sweatpants."

Well... yes and no. But the point is there. I consider myself dressed once my pants are on. Next step: where are the good looking nursing tops??

My exciting discoveries of the week are two-fold:

  • Uber Chic for Cheap website is a goldmine, especially the postpartum section -- it is not lost on me that everyone is goo-goo for the preggo mom, but not the mom who is nursing and just trying to look decent in her new body shape.
  • The Jones Market is an etsy store with lovely, baby friendly necklaces. My MIL bought me a similar one, and Grace likes it so much that I might need to supplement my jewelry, which always steps up a girl's glamour.
What I'm really trying to say here is: It's a completely different game dressing yourself when it's just for you and the baby, and it's really time to start winning that game.


Happy six months to this little lady!

Because I'm happy!

"Oh hai, Dad!"


Food has been on my mind a lot recently. I've been reading two cookbooks by James Beard, and I think I need to spend more time studying cuts of meats. Ham hocks? Where do I even get that?

Red beans: I'm ready.
This week, I cooked*:

Sunday: Nothing. Chinese food, y'all.
Monday: fish stew + rolls
Tuesday: petite steaks, pesto pasta, rum cake (Will's birthday!)
Wednesday: red beans and coconut milk rice {this last part was a huge, huge mistake to fix in the rice cooker}
Thursday: plain cajun rice and meaty red beans
Friday: more fish stew tonight
Saturday & Sunday: more red beans and fish stew

What will the menu be next week? I'm thinking of fixing little omelets in muffin tins because, as I sleep train Grace, mornings are getting harder [than usual]. This Amish cinnamon bread looks enticing as well. And maybe this soup for Friday? Lisa Schmidt is hosting Soup & Stories over at The Practicing Catholic -- for delicious soups and warm stories, check it out! I'll be posting there on April 11.

*plus sides of carrots or spinach salad; I'm thinking of sauteing corn and carrots this weekend.

Happy Friday!! UK vs. UL game tonight... game on. Joining with Jen on a plane!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Happy Birthday Ode to Will

Happy birthday, dear husband! It seems so long ago that we first started dating, and we threw you a 24th birthday party!

You're a little less tan (our Pensacola trip will fix that!), and you've got a girl on each arm now:

Lauren at The Loveliest Hour wrote a wonderful piece, "Marriage and the Grand Deception", which I highly recommend. It makes me even more grateful for a husband who keeps his cool under all kinds of pressure, communicates well and first, and loves me even when I'm sulking.

SEVEN THINGS WILL HAS TAUGHT ME {during our marriage}:
  • Fun is fun is fun. Have I ever told you how fun Will is? Way more fun than me. He plays games, he tells jokes, he's super active... and I am the snail coming in last place with a huge grin on my face. He loves that I participate. He loves that I like trying new things. He comes along with me to museums and parades. He helps me indulge when I think I should clean instead - and I appreciate that he embraces the lighter side of life.
  • Vulnerability. When Will's upset, he tells me. When I'm upset, he asks me what is wrong. He doesn't expect a "fine" answer - he wants to know because he cares. I'm learning to be a lot more brave with my emotions because of my husband's healthy attitude towards honesty, acceptance and truth.
  • Cleaning till it's good enough. I don't happen to agree with this, but I appreciate it and I am working on accepting it. When I was pregnant, I went through a CLEAN ALL THE THINGS stage. Then, I had Grace, and that became an Olympic feat. I take a more moderate approach now - one big sweeping clean after dinner, and then I retire until the next day. Wa-la! 
  • Intellectual honesty. Will is straight-forward and unflinching. He knows his strengths and his weaknesses. He is the master of Socratic method discussion and I love picking his brain with philosophical questions and hypothetical situations.
  • Let it go, let it go. Will is not easily ruffled, whereas I can be Sensitive Sally. He asks me, Is it worth it? The answer is usually a resounding no. His perspective is gentle and calming, and firm.
  • He encourages me. Will is all about being hands-on and doing; I am contemplative about everything, including that pile of laundry that needs to be folded. He could eat the same meal every day and not complain, and yet he encourages me in all my cooking ventures (even if that means eating something else later). He watches Grace so I can run by myself for 30 minutes, or write a blog post, or just drink my cup of coffee without two little feet kicking me. He encourages me to seek what I am interested in, and explore it, even if/when I baby step towards it
  • Sex matters. There is so much talk and visual exposure to sex today that its real attraction is being lost: intimate moments between two people. Moments of real connection and passion. Not actors - people in love with each other; people who marry in the hopes of a long life with the other.The intimacy of married life is nothing compared to what Will and I felt before our wedding; and, being with only Will was and is worth it - worth all the waiting. Looks are deceiving, charm is fleeting; people will tempt you, and you'll have conflicted feelings, but sex is so much more than the physical action. The emotional connection of trust, knowing the other person is there for you always, accepting the other person as exactly who they are (combined with the possibility of children), is a true grace from God. It's beautiful and it is special, and the person worth sharing it with you is the one who mutually pledges their life to yours.
Windy day and a walk with Dad

I know Grace; your Dad is 27!

Telling Grace that rum cake is for later in life...
Will, you really are the best. I can't believe how blessed I am. Happy birthday!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Momily Monday: Thirsting for God

First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7
Psalm: Psalm 95
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: John 4:5-42

I sit here with jelly on my shirt because Grace had to be held while I made lunch. Sure, I could have put her down, but she was wailing and there is only so much crying I can take in a day. Plus, Will was sleeping since he got up with her at 5 a.m., so I think he deserved a bit of quiet before class and his research meeting.

It also gave me a taste of what life is going start feeling like - just Grace and me, keeping the house life going, while Will is mostly at work or sleeping. I've been spoiled by these past eight months of living in New Orleans - Will and I spend so much more time together, and I love it; but the time has come.

On Friday, Will found out that he got a job as an Emergency Medicine resident in Pennsylvania. We will be moving there in June so than he may continue his clinical medical training as a doctor, and we are simply over the moon! We are grateful! We are... continuing to be open to God's will for our family.

What does that even mean? Will likes to press to me. There is no way of knowing God's will; no empirical method of trust. In the first reading, God spoke to Moses while his people grumbled, and instructed him to strike the rock so that the people can drink. I felt a rush of emotions listening to this reading - who has not felt the familiar human emotion of anxiety? Nothing is secure; nothing is guaranteed - except the love of God.

But what of those who reject God? "If today your hear his voice, harden not your hearts," we sang. Our own thoughts cloud any wisdom God could give us if we would stop talking to him long enough to listen.

Listen?! Well, hear this, God!

We get angry when we feel disappointed, or shut out, or rejected. I trusted in you God - you didn't answer me. Okay, you answered, but I wanted a different answer.

Hope is what we humans must never lose. Hope in ourselves and our abilities; hope in others and their possibilities; and hope, always, in God. I love the passage in Romans 5 which says "we boast in hope of the glory of God."

My God is an awesome God. When Will and I were newly married, entering one more year of school for one more degree, pregnant, and living decidedly off savings, we had a lot of emotions. A lot of anticipation for the future; we clung to each other, trusting that we would both do what we needed to do. But mostly, we hoped and dreamed. We hoped moving down here would benefit us in the match: and it did. We hope getting married will help us two sinners get to heaven, and in the meantime, we hope to never give up communicating well, growing in love, and pursuing truth.

We do not boast of ourselves - we boast in the hope of the glory of God!

The story of the Samaritan woman hit me close to my heart. I think of all the opportunities I miss to spend time with Jesus. I get so caught up with Grace and chores and work, and then it's the middle of the afternoon, and I'm catching up on reading and the daily readings, trying to catch up with Scripture, slow down, and maybe eat a snack.

Today I felt thirsty, literally and for Christ. I felt like the woman at the well, going about her life, making mistakes but not really letting them sink in until she is face-to-face with Christ, who already knows. He forgives her and implores her to give him water, to be equally generous with him as he is with her. She is confused (and who wouldn't be?) and I love the way Christ pulls her in, planting a hope in her that makes her go back to her town and witness for Christ.

I love this testimony of Mark Wahlberg, an actor and a Catholic, who grew up rough, went to jail, and met Christ through a priest at the jail. He goes to church every day to start his day, and his words are just beautiful:

The Holy Spirit works with every person, drawing each closer to him, and when we unharden our hearts toward God - if we open ourselves to hope - then we too can say, "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My View (vol. 5)

This is outside a local bar down Tchoupitoulas Street - we took a walk down to get a snow cone at Hansen's before looping down Magazine. Tchoupitoulas is pretty industrial; the Port of New Orleans is on the other side, and there is a smattering of brightly painted houses, bars, fix-up car shops, restaurants, a Rouse's, and one house advertising for jazzercise. This bar caught my attention because of the distinctive painting on the walls of the otherwise warehouse-looking bar, and even the tabletops are painted to look like billiard tables.

This is one aspect about New Orleans that I will really miss - the creativity and beauty of even the more worn down locales. The ability to create beauty in the midst of concrete and palm trees, a view of stacked shipping containers and broken sidewalks.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lent: Spiritual and the Physical Needs

TBM Topic #39: Lent

At Ash Wednesday service, Father spoke about Lent being a time of positive change, not just avoiding sweets. I really took this to heart, as no sweets + {spiritual discipline} is my go-to Lenten offering.

This year, I am going in a different path: discipline.

Oh, how I need more discipline! I am distracted and focused and productive, but not disciplined. I am working on discipline because it is accountability. It is understanding that I am responsible for me. It is me taking care of me (with the help of others, mainly Will and God); it is acknowledging my weakness and offering it all up to Christ, who is the only one who gives me the grace and strength I need each day.

My Lenten Disciplines
  • Confession every two weeks (minimum)
  • Rosary every night with Will
  • Forgiving a person who hurt me in the past
  • Bed by 11 p.m.
  • Exercise 3x/ week (minimum)
First, the spiritual disciplines:

Confession and rosary are two spiritual disciplines we (as a couple and as a family) have been trying to do more often, and Lent is providing a wonderful opportunity for us to be more serious about it. We usually combine a nice long walk with saying the rosary, which helps with the weekly exercise goal too.

In addition to the rosary, I like using Scripture for a deeper and more meditative prayer. For Christmas, my father gave all of his kids a small book entitled The Scriptural Rosary: A Modern Version of the Way the Rosary was Once Prayed Throughout Western Europe in the Late Middle Ages and it gorgeous. {My dad bought it at the local Catholic book store - the link works too.}

Forgiveness of said person is the one only I can solve with Christ. I have verbalized it to that person (not always the answer for difficult situations, but it was appropriate for this one), and from there, I learn to let go and forgive so that this life is not filled with the regret that anger and grudges often weighs heavily against the grudger more than the accused.

By victimizing one's circumstances, even if justified, it can cripple one's ability to truly experience life. There will still be hurts and disappointments, but there will also be more causes for joy and love. It is about switching one's mindset from victim to survivor. It is about meaning the words when I pray "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

I can say that, while all is not solved, Christ has already given me so much peace in my heart that was certainly not there before; he has given me a second chance at a better relationship with said person and him too, whose love I was not fully accepting because my anger kept me at bay. Since letting go, I am freer. I am happier. I am more at peace. I wish this for all struggling to forgive, or feel forgiven.

'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far/ And grace will lead me home.

Now, physical discipline:

I really struggle in these areas. Tell me not to eat that cookie, fine. Mastered.

But bed by 11 p.m.?

Yeah, that has hardly happened yet. I get so excited at Grace being asleep that I do ALL THE THINGS!!! Nonetheless, Will's been giving me the "sleep when your baby sleeps" speech, because I am a mess in the morning. We are moving into sleep training, but once 5 a.m. hits, all bets are off. Grace is so happy to be alive and is ready to groove. I am staring at her through bleary eyes because I stayed up too late.

Tonight is another night, right?

Grace in the morning. So happy and ready to go!
Which moves me into exercise... one reason I stay up is because I have all my energy at night, and the horrible staying up cycle continues. I love being active; I hate feeling like I am out of shape or too tired to even go on a walk. I try to keep up with postpartum exercise videos, but it's so beautiful outside, and I want to get more cardio. I am currently using the Couch to 5k app, and that is a wonderful motivator for me. I've been given a glorious body, and I would hate to waste it and all its potential because I do not make its upkeep a priority.

The quote for last night's walk/run was "The longest journey begins with a small step taken by a brave person."

That is what Lent is: a small step towards our longer life journey. Lent is not about getting beach-bod ready or other external fixes; it's about internal. It's a way of the cross. It's taking up our own cross. It's saying, These are my human weaknesses, Jesus (as you already know): I acknowledge them, and I offer them up to you during these 40 days.


Join the Bright Maidens on Facebook and follow us on Twitter! Let us know what you are doing this Lent!


Bonus discipline: being careful with our food budget, and giving the saved funds to the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl Fund! Look for the small things you can do in your life, not the big motions. Giving $20 is better than giving nothing because you cannot give hundreds of dollars.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Five Favorites (v. 7)

“Irish fight because they love. The more a man loves the more he fights for what he loves. Because the Irish love their country and their God they have more to fight for.” 
--Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Yesterday, I fixed my very first stew: Irish beef stew for St. Patrick's Day! and... we had dinner and beer with a couple of Will's classmates to celebrate the match. So, today, still unsatisfied with how the stew was tasting (after following above directions), I proceeded to take my dad's advice and cook it on low for the next eight hours. (I also added more water, more tomato paste, more red wine, more parsley and more beef/potatoes/carrots.)

Perfection. It had to "stew" - imagine that! Paired with a Shock Top and rolls. I read it's even better in the days to come! Which is good... because we have a lot of it. I cooked it in a stock pot, but I bet a crock pot would work too if you cut the ingredient size. (Or maybe our crockpot is just smaller?)


My lassie, hanging on tight - I love this swing - Fisher-Price Space Saver Swing and Seat. Affordable, swings and vibrates, and easy to move around tiny areas. Keeps Grace very happy!


I wish I had discovered this months ago, when it was actually Thanksgiving, but I'm not that hip. Harvard Sailing Team, on the other hand, is:

You're welcoming.

Young House Love has a line being launched exclusively at Target at the end of March and I am drooling:

So simple, yet imaginative!
I am soooo looking forward to our next place if I get to hang things up on these cute, stylish hooks!


So, this upcoming April is the five year anniversary of my blog. I'll be revealing a redesign by the lovely and super talented Margaret and oh! I feel like the new kid on the block by discovering Bloglovin this past week. I must have been living under a stupid rock or something. But I love it, and I must shout this love from the blog tops! If you want a fun and easy way to follow your favorite blogs besides e-mail or sidebar updates, this is the tool for you.

And... Follow my blog with Bloglovin!

Thanks Hallie!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Luck of the Irish and a Mardi Gras Hang-Over

Will called the St. Patrick's Day parade down the Irish Channel on Saturday the "Mardi Gras hang-over" and it was hard to disagree. Lots more green beads this time, though, and people handing out cabbages. It's really great living within walking distance as well - certainly makes for an extra fun parade!

Will Grace inherit her mother's Irish complexion or her father's talent for tanning?

The theme for the floats this year was circus!

Beads a-flyin'!
Okay, this is seriously cool - Simon is a New Orleans-based folk artist artist whose work I love and whose studio I stumbled upon a few weeks ago while on a walk with Grace. On my birthday, we stopped by, met him, and ordered a sign... and then a few days later, we saw him again! 
The after math. Boom.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!! My favorite holiday, hands down, that does not double as a high holy day. A holiday started by proud Irish-Americans to celebrate their homeland, so I feel it is fitting that we participate accordingly. I am fixing Irish stew for dinner and me thinks we'll have a few celebratory beers as well! BECAUSE WILL MATCHED *SOMEWHERE* ... and for my grandmother's birthday today! Happy birthday, dear Mema!

Residency here we come! And erin go braugh!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My View (vol. 4)

So, welcome to the urban jungle. When we first started reading about the program at Tulane, they talked about the "uptown campus" and "downtown campus" - what they really meant was the "pretty campus" and the "ugly campus next to the hospital".

I know; the aesthetics can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, downtown New Orleans is {in general} much nicer than these particular buildings, and I just wish there had been a bit more thought in how to make medical-related buildings more welcoming and beautiful.

On the bright side, next door to the building Will has half his classes in is next to the public library, and the other building is on Canal Street, which is lined with palm trees and is wedged between the French Quarter and the CBD/ Central Business District + Warehouse District for those who want to stay in the city but off the tourist parade routes.

On the other side of this street, there is a lovely city park, City Hall, trees and greenery galore, and streetcar and bus stops. But this is the street we Baldwins frequent daily, and thus it must be viewed.
Join us!

Friday, March 14, 2014

#7QT: Eating Our Way Through The Week

Back by popular demand... Grace Harriet here to dialogue about my week. It was Mom's birthday on Wednesday, so, between naps and feedings, we've been having a rawther good time.


My debut as Super Grace with my loyal sidekick (Mr. Muscle) went smashingly! The Lower Garden District is safe. Jackson Ave., I'm watching you.

Super Grace and Mr. Muscle


My people!

Mom's excited because it's her birdday

Those donuts. Dang. Mom made a good choice for breakfast. When do I start solids again?!

wedding cake & glazed

Even my not-a-sweets-person Dad duly enjoyed his:


Then, we got a big package from Cincinnati! (What's Mom's is mine, right?)

And red velvet cupcakes!


Tulane sponsored a crawfish boil yesterday, which is Dad's favorite food. Dad said it was the best day of his life, but he clearly meant of that week... Because my arrival was the best, right? Right?!

Heaven will be a big ole crawfish boil
It was delectable. Not pictured: brass band playing. 

Hamming for the Gram.
Baldwin babes.


Mostly, though, I just like hanging out with my people. Both of them! 

Here's one before bed. While walking down memory lane, Dad showed me his cards.
Not pictured: Mom reading The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep by Dr. Harvey Karp. Not sure why, I am super well-rested. I even get up early! 


Tomorrow, we'll watch the St. Patrick's Day parade down the Irish Channel! That and me rolling by myself for the first time... Quite a week! Mom is hosting My View link-up again tomorrow; you should join in too!

Happy weekend! Joining in with Jen!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Knowing Your Limits

I'm truly terrible at writing under expectation. I used to think it was pressure, but it turns out, I can write 10+ papers a semester and a thesis and only truly lament that if I had backed up my computer better, I wouldn't have had to re-write a 20+ page one my senior year (and... three my junior year so... I guess I sort of learned my lesson times a million, or am a total glutton for punishment).

Writing after college, I did fine until I quit being a reporter and my now-somewhere-else mentor told me I needed to hop back on the horse and stop wasting my talent. I told another mentor, a trusted friend, and he asked me what else was I going to do besides write?

Never had I felt so cornered. Like my worth was in my words.

So, I decided to keep working for our family business. I started writing for fun, and sometimes money. But those jobs and I were not a good fit, and when I do not engage in them, I am happier. I'm relieved. That's not usually the emotion one should feel, I think. It's also a bad attitude, but I'm going more for intellectual honesty here and less about pride.

The couple weeks before Grace was born, I took a creative writing e-class on narration and storytelling. But it comes down to that new trigger - you are your words, make them roar. Even when I feel like a big sigh? So I'm taking a break from freelance, and I'm going to write what I want, and start teaching in the fall - my new adventure.

Adventure. I like to say the word, tasting it. Everything is so different from what I imagined my life to be. I saw my twenties in a big city with a big writing job and, and, and... not a husband, or a baby, or worrying about where we're going to end up for residency, or wondering how close we'll be to family, or planning bedtime nap time and wake-up time around a little monster with long eyelashes and the happiest-to-see-you-mom! smile.

We all have our tough days. We all have our lonely days. Just because I have a husband and a baby doesn't mean I don't get lonely. It's the kind of void only I can fill; the void of my life, and living for me. I cannot be myself if I do not take care of me.

My limits are not set - I can push them, I can lower them, I can accept them. I've been trying to exercise more than my body is sooo not having it. That's really hard for me.

Fine, I'm a toaster oven more than a microwave. You can't wish a crockpot to be an oven - they have different purposes and methods. So, I persevere, and try again. That's what I do! And that's how I do. Now, back to those book reviews.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekends with Grace

Hello Y'all,

Grace here. Dad had spring break this week for Mardi Gras, so I had my grandparents visit! Then, a present from Cincinnati!

For me?
Why? Why not! I need a St. Patrick's Day outfit! I'm Irish! (Thanks Mom!) Dad has Irish in him too, but tends to defer to his stoic English side... oooh, tissue paper.

A few new outfits helped me feel better about this teething business. Teething has been bringing out all the emotions, especially sadness...

But nothing a little baby wearing didn't solve. Thanks Mom! Sorry about the, you know, drool.

On Saturday, there was weight-lifting/ flying lessons with Dad!

Then he carried me around in my princess chariot because I am a princess and he is my servant. I mean father. He is my father-who-does-what-I-imply-through-cries-and-coos.

I know, I'm pretty cute, right?
Mom and Dad decided on Saturday afternoon Confession and Mass so Dad could focus on his protocol work all of Sunday... exhausting! 

My behavior: A
Pews with seat cushions: B+
Teething toy bonding while Mama folded laundry...

Little Lefty Baldwin
Sunday was spent mostly outside, enjoying the sunshine of New Orleans.

Totally natural, not posed
Then a family walk up the street where we perused through Nadeau - lots of pretty colors!

Who's the fairest of them all?
Finally, after my blowing bubbles marathon, leg kicks, reaching up towards my parrot under my gym, and a few more meals, I settled in for a nice deep sleep.


Good night, all!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My View (vol. 3)

Dogs. More specifically, blue dogs.

This picture was taken on Canal Street, a little ways down from the French Quarter, where an exhibit of George Rodrigue's artwork is until January 2015. Rodrigue painted these blue dogs based on his own dog, Tiffany, and a Cajun legend called loup-garou. A native of Louisiana, Roudrigue began painting landscapes of his home state in the 1960s, before moving into historical art and Cajun culture. The blue dogs, originally a commission piece of art, launched him into international fame in the 1990s.
"The yellow eyes are really the soul of the dog. He has this piercing stare. People say the dog keeps talking to them with the eyes, always saying something different. People who have seen a Blue Dog painting always remember it. They are really about life, about mankind searching for answers. The dog never changes position. He just stares at you. And you’re looking at him, looking for some answers, ‘Why are we here?,’ and he’s just looking back at you, wondering the same. The dog doesn’t know. You can see this longing in his eyes, this longing for love, answers."
— George Rodrigue on the Blue Dog, interview with The New York Times (1998)
The contemporary art of Rodrigue is now seen all over New Orleans, in private homes and restaurants, as well as in the public sphere. Diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, Rodrigue died on December 14, 2013.

Join in!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#ashtag: Lent 2014

Two crosses for us and one Simba swipe for Grace this morning...

The ciiiiiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiiiife... 
First Things shared an article about being anti-#ashtag, and I must admit, I'm against being anti-#ashtag (a double passive negative? Whatever.) because, contrary to the argument of the author, I do not see the problem with taking pictures/ selfies of wearing ashes. I see it as evangelization.

Wearing ashes are not contrary to today's gospel of people standing publicly to pray and thus receiving their just rewards - it's a public witness. Buzzfeed, for example, posted "Christians Mark Ash Wednesday With #AshTag Selfies" -- and I got to see Fr. Jack, the fantastic priest at my high school, with seven Ursuline Academy students laughing and smiling behind him, as well as many other non-cloistered Christians. 

The importance of wearing one's ashes is never lost on me when I remember waiting for a flight in the Detroit airport during college on Ash Wednesday. I was going to a conference somewhere, waiting with a thick black cross on my forehead. A young girl walked up to me and asked if I had a tattoo on my forehead. She was from L.A and she had never seen ashes before, and explaining why I had them on my forehead was a humbling and surreal experience.

We are dust, and to dust we will return. A sobering and serious thought - and one shared by a community of believers. Why shouldn't that community share our beliefs in a fun and public way? It is one thing to say we are sinners; it is another to wear physical ash as a reminder for all to see- marked for Christ, we share in the humiliation. Our sorrow can become joy, even! A sacramental with real reactions. 
"During a traditional Ash Wednesday service, ashes are applied to the worshiper’s forehead (the “imposition”) in the shape of a cross. In Scripture ashes or dust symbolize mortality (Gen. 18:27), mourning (Est. 4:3), judgment (Lam. 3:16), and repentance (Jon. 3:6). An ashen cross serves as a reminder that you come from dust and to dust you shall return one day. It is also a call to “Consider yourself dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). 
As you begin this journey of Lent, you must start with rending your heart—tearing it from self-absorption and binding yourself (mind and devotion) to Jesus. Regardless of your current state or your proneness to wander, you must “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Joel 2:13).  
After all, Lent is not about your faithfulness, but rather about the faithfulness of Jesus on your behalf. He is the faithful One!"  
-Journey to the Cross, Day 1, Ash Wednesday
Part of our Confirmation promises is to be a soldier for Christ - soldiering does not mean one is militant, but present. Wearing one's ashes and sharing them with others connects the vines of Christ, and plants seeds along the way too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Flannery O'Connor Reads "A Good Man Is Hard To Find"

Vanderbilt University - April 1959, Miss Flannery O'Connor reads her short story, "A Good Man Is Hard To Find":

There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely by a pistol report. "Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap and another ain't punished at all?" 
"Jesus!" the old lady cried. "You've got good blood! I know you wouldn't shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I'll give you all the money I've got! 
"Lady," The Misfit said, looking beyond her far into the woods, "there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip." 
There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called, "Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!" as if her heart would break. 
"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead," The Misfit continued, "and He shouldn't have done it. He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness," he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.
Vivian and I sitting on Flannery O'Connor's porch in Georgia. (February 2011)
What a writer; what a lady.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My View (vol. 2)

Mardi Gras has started in New Orleans, and there are parades every day. I like to watch on the ParadeCam, but last night we joined the crowds on St. Charles Street to watch the Skeleton Krewe parade go by - it was so fun!

All the people on the floats wear masks and pass out cups, beads and other novelties. There are krewes of all women, or all men, or mixed - and they have a theme, and dress up accordingly, and sometimes dance. There are high school bands and dancers and twirlers and cheerleaders. There are also men who walk with huge torches, and other men riding on horseback, straight out of The Horse and His Boy.

I like the people who get right up next to the float, shouting for stuff. It was hilarious, and totally over-the-top.

Nice float, eh? The Skeleton Krewe was awesome! Very macabre. Then a packet of beads landed between Grace and me - nice catch, baby ergo! Will put them on Grace.

And in the spirit of not trusting the people next to us (the lady asked if Grace was a month, Miss 92nd percentile is 5 months...), we took a grainy selfie to commemorate that we were all at the parade together. Happy weekend!