Monday, February 28, 2011

“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.” - Bill Russell

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Eye on the Prize

As I anxiously await the arrival of Mardi Gras and three of my favorite people in the whole wide world, this Bill Russell gem helps me put things into perspective. I've been having a hard time lately focusing on my responsibilities - not that they have been neglected - but they have not exactly been my priority, either. So, in the midst of one of the most exciting weeks in New Orleans, I have to remember the reason I'm here. Just four more short days of concentration and mental toughness, and I'll be a winner, prized with the biggest party in the history of all parties: Mardi Gras!

...And don't forget the shoes below. Those are a prize too. Still drooling...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Upon entering Graduate School, I made a deal with myself: when I finish grad school and land a sweet big-girl job, I can reward myself. So, Mr. Emerson says, "the reward of a thing well done with to have done it?" Well I say sure, that and a pair of shiny new Christian Louboutin pumps and I'll consider myself rewarded!

Photo courtesy:
Drooling... only 10 more months!

Monday, February 21, 2011

“Google before you tweet is the new think before you speak.” - Jennifer Brownhill via Twitter

Photo: Google Screen Shot
So here's some irony for you: Today I sat in a soon-to-be-out-of-business Borders flipping through book after book about the intricacies of social media. And on top of that, the thought actually crossed my mind that I probably didn't need a book, that I could just Google the how-to's instead. Horrified with myself, I immediately rushed to the check-out counter with a book in-hand, purchasing a magazine on the way out as well.

Today's instance paired with a recent multi-generational conversation about the power of social networking has got me thinking, just how "connected" does one have to be to garner or maintain success? There's facebook, twitter, blogs (hello!), you tube, blah, blah, blah the list goes on. And in order to maximize usage of each of these sites, you have to have a smart phone so you can stay in touch with the digital world at all times.

I know this is not new news, but I am still baffled by the scope of it all. I can't help but wonder, where will the world of communication and entertainment go from here? If even big box bookstores are closing in favor of digital readers and online megamarts, what is next? As long as we don't forget about the power of human contact, then I'll be here putting my toes in the proverbial social media water, waiting for the next big thing to shake up our world.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Everywhere I look and most of the time I look, I see photographs." - Bert Hardy

Photo: George Eastman House Collection courtesy Flickr
I have a very rocky history with cameras. 

First there was the polaroid era, great tools, but I regret that I was way to young to truly understand their greatness, so I would pick it up, snap a pic, and put it on a shelf forever.
Then, there were disposable cameras. Pick it up, snap a pic, drop it on the ground, finish the roll, take it to get developed, and gone forever with photos in hand.
Next there was the digital camera era - or should I say cameras - pick it up, snap a pic, drop it on the ground - CRAP! 
Digital Camera #2: pick it up, snap a pic, leave it in a cab - SHOOT! 
Digital Camera #3: pick it up, snap a pic, drop it in liquid - NOOO!

I could go on for about 3 more cameras, but I'll spare you the details. But lucky for me, thanks a very brave gift giver, I now have the Olympus Stylus Tough, and I quote "Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, crushproof and shakeproof" ( Match made in heaven, minus the fact that it's not loseproof. (*Note: I am not above being jinxed, so if I lose this so-called perfect camera in the near future, tears WILL be shed).

Anywho, so, possibly due to this love-hate relationship with cameras, I have developed a mini-obsession with photography. I want to learn all about it, take pictures constantly, edit my own photos from years and years ago, and bookmark gorgeous work all over the internet. Everywhere I go I think, "ooh that could be a photo!" But, until I've proven my ability to responsibly care for this camera, I'm on probation. As much as I dream about getting a fancy-pants camera, its a no-go for this girl. I've made a commitment to practice as much as I can with my Olympus Stylus Tough until I feel confident that I have developed an appropriate respect for the art of photography, and the tools used in the making. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"There's a certain nostalgia and romance in a place you left." - David Guterson

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Cape Florida Lighthouse
Maybe this week's episode of Glee got it right: I'm in a post-Valentine's day slump. Valentine's Day was so much to look forward to, and exceeded all expectations, and now, it's back to the normal routine. I don't know if it is the weather or my strong desire to procrastinate on my school work, but all I can think about is Miami!

I've decided I'm going to get it all out of my system so I can concentrate on my work for the rest of the day. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you a David Letterman-style list:

Top 10 List of Reasons Why I Love Miami

10. The weather - predictable AND beautiful 99.9% of the year
9. Gorgeous beaches and water everywhere
8. Sometimes I can pretend I'm in another country
7. I can wear stilettos and sequins whenever I want, wherever I want, and it is perfectly acceptable
6. I can sing songs about Miami and not feel silly, because I'm actually in Miami, Bitch.
5. Beautiful people watching (though potentially tough on the 'ol ego)
4. Home of the one and only University of Miami - Go 'Canes!
3. Did I mention the beaches?
2. The majority of my best friends and favorite people live in Miami

And...the number one reason Why I love Miami is...

1. I am not in Miami!

...but I will be in T-minus 10 weeks...not that I'm counting, or anything...

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Love, the greatest of all things!" - Shirley Kreasan Strout

Photo: McCall's Magazine via Flickr
Remember in Elementary School when everyone got little Valentine's Day cards in their decorated paper mailboxes? Ahh yes...those were the days...

Now, depending on the year or the mood, Valentine's Day can be one of the most celebrated days or one of the most hated days of the year. For some of us, it is a wonderful excuse to have a night out with that someone special, but for others, it is a time to binge on Ben and Jerry's ice cream and viciously point out the flaws of corporate America (sorry, Hallmark). 

But all criticism aside, I actually really like Valentine's Day. Sure, it can be a day where couples make other people feel uncomfortable with unnecessary PDA, but when I look past the unfortunate visuals, I see a day where love prevails above all. It is a time to reflect on the connections we make with each other as humans and to recognize that we all share the same repertoire of emotions, including love. Not every culture has a word for the feeling of "love" like ours does, but I truly believe we are all loved by someone. Whether we even know it, understand it, or not, the love that exists should be acknowledged and celebrated; and Valentine's Day gives us the perfect excuse to do just that.

...and get flowers...and cards...and candy...wait, make that chocolate....Mmmm....


Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Be a good animal, true to your animal instincts" - David Herbert Lawrence

Photo: Rachel DeHayes via Picnik
Fun Facts:
1) Picnik is awesome. I highly recommend it for its brilliant time-wasting capabilities
2) Animals displaying "human-like qualities" makes me smile
3) I'm a sucker for cheesy moments, no apologies here

Stay tuned for the mushy gushy stuff...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude!" - Emily Dickinson

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Bird Island at Audubon Park
On days when I wake not to the sound of my buzzing alarm, but rather to the chirping of busy birds in the tress of my backyard, I just know that I'm Snow White. I rise from bed, open the shades, the sun pours into my open room, and it is going to be a good day. 

I never cease to be amazed by the power of nature. Even though I live on a zero-lot line property, up several flights of stairs, with no direct exit to the outdoors, those very first sounds of nature remind me that the world is bigger than my little plot of land. Most days I have to go out of my way to indulge in its beauty, the closest outlet being a 2-mile walk around Audubon Park, but in that short time out of my day, I always feel better. 

We've created a world where we could go weeks without really experiencing nature - and trust me, that happens to the best of us - but even this born-to-be-a-city-slicker-self knows that a moment alone with nature is a therapy and catharsis money could never buy. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Photo: Pleated Jeans

People ask me all the time: "Why do you want to go into social work? You know there's no money in that, right?" For the record, yes, I'm aware. But as for the "why" question, it has been a bit difficult to articulate. But, just like in Gandhi's statement above, my decision to go into a field to help others has actually led to some revelations about myself.

So, here: I chose social work because its principles, ethics, and values most closely align with how I want to conduct business. While I don't know what sect I'll ultimately go into (though I have a pretty clear vision for now...), the fact of the matter is that social work emphasizes human relations skills, and any profession that does not involve other humans is not a profession for me.

In other news, I found this map above, and literally laughed out loud. I mean, poor North Dakota! Ugliest residents? And Ohio? Full of nerds! And my current state of Louisiana boasting Gonorrhea - lovely. But as I laughed, I thought, what a gold mine for my fellow social workers. Everyone seems to have a specific population they'd like to work with, so here it is ladies and gentlemen, laid out in full color display. As funny as the map is, however, it is also pretty sad. What does this map say about our country? About ourselves? 

So, true to my theme, what are your interpretations? Is your state's label representative? For more information about the research used to create this map, check out Pleated Jeans.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"The truest expression of a people is in its dance and music." - Agnes de Mille

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Royal Street Folk Musicians

Drawing from my amateur background in anthropology, I can vouch for Agnes de Mille in her assertion about the importance of music and dance in a people's culture. Music is a unique medium through which one human can release raw energy and emotion and feel assured that his message with be received with its full intent through the ears of another human. Performer or listener, musician or groupie, perfect pitch or tone deaf, native language or foreign, music crosses all barriers to tell the story of human spirit and passion.

In very few cities do street performers earn (almost) as much respect for their talent as do professionals on a stage; and of course, New Orleans is one of those cities. Touring through the French Quarter, you'll find a bucket drummer on one corner, an eight-piece brass band on another, an a capella gospel singer outside a store front, and a six-piece folk band two blocks further down the road. Sure, some of these people could be beggars looking for their next meal, but among the nonsense are true musicians just looking for an audience with which to share their craft.

Yet, in New Orleans, this long-held tradition of street performance continues to face political controversy. Are the musicians too loud? Do they play too late? Should they even be allowed to play music on the streets at all? Or do they have the right to freedom of expression; to share their culture with their neighbors?

OffBeat Magazine tells the story better than I could, but I know, regardless of its political adversaries, the show will go on. And I, for one, look forward to hearing it. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

"In New Orleans, gluttony is a way of life" - Morton J. Horwitz

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Beignets at Cafe Du Monde

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Roast Beef Debris Po'Boy
There are no two ways about it: family in town = good food. Actually, since this is New Orleans, where "good food" is practically an insult, let me re-phrase: family in town = oh my god I'm so full from ridiculously delicious food that I won't be able to move for hours. 

As important as it is to take in the sites and sounds of this cultural mecca, New Orleans is the kind of city where the food easily drives the planning for the whole day. Though the city offers some of the most creative breakfast meals - Ignatius and Elizabeth's, I'm talking to you! - we decided to take one meal per day to rest our taste buds, and let's be honest, lunch and dinner weren't about to get cut from the list. 

Thanks to suggestions from local friends and a burgeoning knowledge of my new home, here is the complete list of decadent indulgences from this weekend's gluttonous extravaganza:
  • Lunch: Port of Call on Esplanade Ave - Some call them hamburgers, I call them "cloudburgers." And don't even get me started on the baked potato...
  • Happy Hour: The Columns on St. Charles Ave - As classy as it is reasonable, with $2 drink specials and a live Jazz trio set in a Plantation-style home turned hotel
  • Dinner: Dante's Kitchen on Dante Street - Hands down, best meal of the weekend thanks to homestyle cooking with plenty of Louisiana flair
  • Lunch II: Joey K's on Magazine Street - Crusty, juicy Roast Beef Debris Po'Boys, trust me, far more delicious than it sounds
  • Snack: Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street - The one and only place to indulge in fresh beignets and cafe au lait, but beware of flying powered sugar!
  • Happy Hour II: Pat O'Briens on St. Peter Street - Tall, strong Hurricanes with a side of dueling pianos
  • Dinner II: Pascale's Manale on Napoleon Ave - A recommendation from my grandpa and a don't miss for the barbecued shrimp - paper bib and all!
  • Lunch III: Cafe Rani on Magazine Street - Redfish Po'Boy and weekend brunch specials out on the sunny courtyard with live music
If you're exhausted from reading that list, just think about my full tummy! But no complaints here, I'm happy to indulge for the weekend. Check back this week for more updates on the rest of my weekend as a tourist. But for now, I've got leftovers calling my name...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." - Mark Twain

Replace San Francisco with Orlando, and this Mark Twain remark just about sums up my experience with cold weather! And BRRRR is it cold in this country! I know I can't complain about New Orleans' weather to you Mid-Westerners and Northerners, but hey - we got some snow flurries yesterday. And by flurries I mean hail. Whatever. 

On a brighter note, family is coming to visit for the weekend! And barring inclement weather, I'll be playing host/tourist, so I hope to have some good inspirations and photos to post in the coming days. 

As for now, off to a hot shower and a hot dinner. I'll leave you with the cutest, possibly warmest polar bear of all time:

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Sleepy Polar Bear

Stay warm, my friends!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” - Leonard Bernstein

Photo: Rachel DeHayes, Clock tower in Chicago
I'd say Leonard Bernstein got it right with this ironic statement. My Grandpa always says the key to success is the 3 P's: preparation, preparation, preparation. And while I wholeheartedly agree, all that preparation won't do too much good unless you have just enough fire under your bum to put that plan into action. 

I've always been a planner. Ask anyone. Just like any true Virgo, I crave organization and order. But when that organization and order is paired with a busy schedule and just enough of a time crunch, its a high I can't even explain. 

February is going to be the kind of month where, if Bernstein's recipe is correct, greatness shall be achieved. It will be a busy month, mixed with heavy deadlines and weekends of fun, but I say bring it. The planning is done. It's time to jump into action!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo: U.S. National Archives (courtesy Flickr)
It is only day three of Open to Interpretation, and it is evolving in my head at the speed of light. Today, instead of searching for an inspiration, I knew exactly what I wanted to be inspired by: Black History Month. And my muse? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His perspective on the innate goodness of the human spirit is truly awe-inspiring. Can we all really put our differences aside? Can we replace our prejudices with love and respect? Martin Luther King, Jr. sacrificed the most precious gift of life, yet, are we even close to fulfilling his iconic dream?

Since moving to New Orleans, race and all that goes with it has been illuminated in some of the ugliest and darkest of ways. However, in addition to seeing the disparities that still exist between people of different colors, I have also seen the light. I've seen people come together to take a stand. To acknowledge it. To talk about it. To fix it. 

People say Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love, and perhaps it is, but the title could also go to New Orleans. The people of New Orleans love their food, love their music, love their architecture, and above all, love the Saints. So why not push that love one step further, and love each other, regardless of color. It's time to celebrate our differences, and then maybe share a bowl of jambalaya. Or alligator cheesecake. Yummm

Curious about the efforts New Orleanians are putting forth to promote love and respect among people of all colors? Check out And share your favorite Dr. Martin Luther King inspiration by commenting below. Because in the end, it's all open to interpretation!