French Quarter Festival

There’s ALWAYS a festival in New Orleans and there’s ALWAYS great food to be had!

Carriage rides are so romantic in the Vieux Carre
The MIGHTY Mississippi River. My most favorite view of the city is behind me.

It was such a perfect warm day on Friday of the festival. I soaked up the sun and could’ve stayed for hours but mommy duties called. There were several stages of bands playing (free live entertainment) and too many food and drink booths to count. Sunday was way overcrowded and not as peaceful as Friday but still enjoyable.  If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans this festival would be a great one to catch!

Sistah Retreat

The retreat was held at Ashe Cultural Center and started with a spiritual cleansing with Florida water. It smelled lovely and had petals floating around in it. After the cleansing we were to go to the elder women in the group and touch their knees (honoring them for the time spent on their knees IN PRAYER for all of us) and their feet (showing respect). Many of these acts are African traditions and a way in which we pay homage to the ancestors.

Sister Kimberly & Sister Nana dancing

We sang songs, danced, chanted, meditated, drew pictures and so forth.
One of the chants we started with was

I am beautiful 
                                        Love abides in me

You simply cannot say that dozens of times and NOT BELIEVE it.  

YOU are beautiful and LOVE does abide in you. You did know that though right?

The retreat was headed by Nana Anoa Nantambu – an Earthmother and founder of Wholely Living Simply Living, Inc. She led us in song, dance, visionary meditation, purpose and sister groups. Another sister taught us a walking meditation -something I’d never even heard of before.

One recurring theme was :                   ALL IS WELL

Once again if you tell yourself this ENOUGH you believe it DESPITE your circumstances.

One young sister had survived a near death hospitalization of seven weeks.
She was so glad to be there and to be alive. It was so moving speaking with her. Life- how often we take it for granted yet this twenty something year old had faced death head on and thankfully survived.

Another sister, Antoinette Harrell, who is an African genealogist (RARE find) had undergone an amputation of her leg. She had always visited plantations and cotton fields in her work and research and wondered how she’d ever do that again with one leg, but GOD said she would and she DOES. She shared her heartfelt story and moved my spirit when she spoke of the ancestors who endured the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, had babies snatched from their womb and all of the atrocities of slavery.

Their stories, strength and testimonies were beyond inspiring and I found myself shedding many tears.

Queen Suma STILL dances at 83 years. It was such a blessing being in her presence.

Mother Suma was like a magnet drawing us all to her hoping to soak up a little of her 83 years of wisdom.

She spoke on LOVE and how people say it’s hard to love someone and takes a long time to love people. She DISAGREED and said LOVE is easy and that she loved each and every one of us. She stated that she
often meets people she instantly feels LOVE toward.

                         That’s the place I want to be in and exist from. A place of LOVE!

We closed with this simple song:

May all be BLESSED

                                     and may all be at Home
Altar with food offering to ancestors
Lunch was basmati rice, bbq tofu, grilled tofu and salad. Super yum!
Bissap Breeze is a healthy beverage company owned by a young lady named Esalima & her husband. It was a delight meeting her and hearing her beautiful voice sing in her native African language. It was VERY good.
                                          Love is All There Is.              

Time Well Spent

For ME time well spent is doing any one of the following:

* Walking/ Running
* Praying
* Reading and growing my mind
* Spending quality time with family and friends
* Meaningful conversations
* Learning something new (recently it was how to make cupcakes & icing from scratch!)
* Reading to my 6-year old
* Doing my daughter’s hair
* Baking cookies (chocolate chip)
* Going on retreat & finding time daily for silence
* Finding cheap fun attractions
* Volunteering

Write down the things you consider to be a positive use of your time, things that bring you peace and enjoyment and don’t forget to schedule time in your calendar to do these things often.

I chaperoned a field trip to the zoo last week w/these 2 cute boys – Time Well Spent 😉

Tips for Individual Day of Prayer Retreat

I’m so excited to have finally gone on retreat. You see when I was a girl attending a Catholic school retreat was a normal part of our vocabulary. I remember one fun retreat with my classmates to Covington, Louisiana in the 8th grade before our Sacrament of Confirmation. That was a long time ago, however the need to get away and spend time with God has always been a strong desire of my heart. I have daily devotions at home but I’ll be honest, I’m easily distracted by the guy outside cutting the grass and the baby in the apartment across from me crying. A retreat center offers you a great measure of solitude because they’re usually nestled away from the noise and distractions of daily living. The only noise I encountered was that of birds and other animals roaming about the grounds. It was very peaceful. Retreating is also a biblical principle. Jesus often went away from the others to pray to Our Father. It’s good for your soul to detach yourself from the worries of this world and retreat.

Anyway, here are a few tips for an Individual Day of Prayer Retreat

1. Many retreat centers are Catholic but anyone of any faith can use them. I am no longer Catholic but I felt very comfortable and welcomed by the staff at the center. You can also have a retreat in a motel room, beach, woods…you name it.  My retreat costs $35.00 for the day (8 a.m.-4 p.m.) and it included my private room, free roam of the grounds and lunch. I added an extra $5.00 as a donation. I thought of going to a B&B but they cost three times as much.  Retreat centers are usually affordable and some only ask for a donation.

2. Plan for your retreat the night before. I ironed my clothes and set aside my bible and writing materials so that I wouldn’t be rushed in the morning. Dress comfortably. My room was very cool so next time I will bring a light sweater. I also wore flip flops but would have been more comfortable in sneakers since I spent a lot of time walking the grounds and praying.

Besides planning physically be sure to plan spiritually. Make a list of the people and causes you purpose to pray for during your retreat.

3. Pray on your drive to the retreat. I said a simple prayer asking God for a good retreat and that the Holy Spirit opens my heart up during the experience.

4. Bring water. There were water fountains in the center and even a vending machine but my large water bottle was quite sufficient.

5. I found this tip on another site and it really helped. It stated to have a verse or promise you to memorize so that when your mind wanders during praying or meditating you repeat that verse to bring you back on track. My verse was “God maintains my right and cause.” Pslam 9:4.

6. Enjoy the experience and congratulate yourself for making the time to do something so important for your spirit. The bible states that God looks down from heaven upon the sons (and daughters) of men to see if there is one who seeks Him (Psalm 53). I’m so glad when he looks down and sees ME seeking HIM.

Retreat Part I
Retreat Part II

Retreat Part II

Front of Cenacle Retreat house

I didn’t arrive at the retreat center until 10:20 a.m. and was quickly led to my room which was quaint and simply decorated. There was a bed (many people on a retreat like to take spiritual naps :), desk, sink, towels and a comfy chair facing the window with a lovely view of the greenery. 

Before I go on to the tour of the center I have to share how IN-TUNED God is to me and what I’m going through. On the desk was a magazine and on the cover was the word I loathe the most because it has plagued me this past year like NEVER before in my entire life. The word was VULNERABILITY. There it was, God speaking to me again and letting me know that HE knows how I’ve been feeling and HE’S got me covered. I was so moved by that and wouldn’t you know someone left an insert on how one’s emotional needs can only be met by God and not man inside of the book?

Vulnerability – a feeling I dislike immensely

I was given a tour of the grounds which included a parlor on the floor of my room, a rooftop area with seats and lounge chairs also overlooking the beautiful scenery, library, chapel, and cafeteria. After the tour, I returned to my room, turned off my cell phone and took off my watch. I didn’t want any reminders of time. 

I spent some time on my knees praying and then I walked the peaceful grounds where squirrels scurried across the grass and even pelicans flew above. The retreat center is located right by Lake Pontchartrain. There were so many beautiful trees and the grass, although cut, was still very thick. I should have worn sneakers instead of flip-flops – the only negative. 

I was the only person at the retreat center doing a day of prayer, therefore, I was by my lonesome in the cafeteria as well. A little old lady wheeled over a cart with my lunch which consisted of broccoli cheddar soup, toasted circular bread, salad, chocolate eclairs for dessert, iced tea and water. She went over to the radio and turned on a classical music c.d. and left me in perfect peace. The music, ambiance, the atmosphere was all so peaceful and overwhelming I nearly cried. (I guess my eyes were already dried out from crying earlier – you see I get REAL emotional when I lay it all out before my Awesome, Forgiving and Loving Father).

After lunch I walked the grounds and even climbed the levee to look at the lake. It was so nice out and oh so quiet. I found a small garden with the stations of the cross and smiled inside. I had wanted to meditate on the cross and here was my chance. There HE was again making sure to fulfill my heart’s desire as the psalm says.  As I slowly moved past each station I felt emotion building up in me again at this perfect sinless Jesus loving me soooo very much that he took my sins upon him to the point of death. 

The triangular wooden structures each have a station of the cross beneath it. There were many places to sit and reflect on the grounds.

I returned to my room and spent the last thirty minutes praying for me. I’ll share that my constant prayer is that God works in me, through me and mold me into the woman HE desires me to be. 

I took many pictures of the grounds but unfortunately, my camera has a mind of its own and only five pictures remain. 😦 However, if you’re interested in viewing the grounds you can look here online.

Retreat Part I

This plaque was on the wall in the lobby & caused me to pause & reflect on this truth every time I passed it

I have LONGED to go on retreat for YEARS now but I always had an excuse. Someone needed to be home for the kids when they returned home from school, and who was going to make sure everything ran as smoothly as me, “Wonder Woman?” That was back in my martyr mom whoa is me role where I selflessly gave of myself, placing everyone else’s needs and wants before my own. Needless to say this behavior created a very bitter and resentful me!

Rewind to a few weeks ago. Remember that list of things I long to do? Well, retreat is on that list and I started thinking what would be a great birthday gift to myself? It didn’t take me long to come up with a day of prayer at a retreat center. I am so fortunate to have a retreat center only a few miles from where I live. I called the day before and excitedly made reservations. I wrote down my goals and objectives for the retreat which mainly consisted of praying for each of my children for a lengthy time (I wrote down an hour first but decided 45 minutes per child, then 15 minutes of silence would probably be better – that way I could HEAR God speaking to me). I knew I would need my bible, journal, camera, water bottle and pens. I did a quick google search for more ideas but I kept it really quick because I didn’t want to be bombarded with information. One tip I really liked was to meditate on the cross. I hadn’t done that but in passing and wrote it down as a reminder. I also liked the tip to not bring reading material because the purpose of an individual retreat/ day of prayer is to PRAY and talk with God. 

My rough draft schedule went something like this:
9:00 – Thank God for his many blessings/ confession
10:00 – pray for oldest son
10:45 – silence
11:00 – pray for daughter
11:45 – silence
12:00 – pray for D
12:30 – lunch
1:00 – pray for extended family members and friends  (I did also write to pray for children who were suffering, President and other issues that are dear to my heart).
2:00 – pray for self
3:00 – pack up and head home

Well, wouldn’t you know the devil had other plans? My schedule was thwarted by a late night phone call saying there was a change in plans. I was sooo upset because I really wasn’t equipped to deal with any negative news. I decided I would STILL attend retreat even though I would go later than planned and leave earlier. I simply had to revise and I figured that there was a reason the devil was so busy trying to keep me from this special time. I was going to get a breakthrough and leave with clarity and peace. I HAD to do this for me no matter what! 

Stay tuned for Part II. 😉

My Birthday Party/ Fundraiser

Getting started

I was inspired by NikStar to have a Paint Party after reading about her fun experience recently. I wanted to make this party more than just a typical birthday celebration and was able to accomplish this by turning it into a fundraiser for the New Orleans Women’s Shelter thanks to New Orleans Paint n Party. I volunteer at NOWS once a week and thought this would be a great way for us to support a worthy cause and give back to our community.

Needless to say that when the girls get together with cupcakes, fruit, wine and Beyonce on blast, a fun time will be had by all! One of my friends commented how this was so out of her comfort zone but she was glad that she came and had a good time. Sometimes you have to try and do something different. This is how we grow as individuals and women.

In addition to FUN we raised almost $300.00 for the shelter and the ladies brought donations of clothing, shoes and toiletries for the women as well!!!! #myGIRLSrock

Fleur de lis
Finished! Pelican, oysters, shrimp, blue crab, tabasco & fleur de lis – NOLA
Receiving a check for New Orleans Women’s Shelter

After painting we went for dinner at Camellia’s Grill – VERY yum food and from what I’ve been told you can’t go wrong ordering anything off the menu. They also serve breakfast all day! Since we were right on St. Charles Ave. we hopped on the streetcar and ended the night like tourist!

I love my city!

In conclusion, I had a wonderful birthday weekend with my friends. My insides are still smiling.

New Orleans African American Museum

When you say African-American AND history my interest is immediately peaked. There is a list of things I’d like to do now that I’m back in my hometown and visiting the Nola A.A. museum in historic Treme was tops on my list.

I love these old cottages & all that was missing were the rocking chairs and glasses of sweet iced tea.
Historic cottage

One rainy morning last week my friend and I had a “Girls DAY out” and visited the museum. We did a self-tour of the exhibits and one that really impressed me was of a beautiful bedroom suite made in the 1800’s by a free man of color named Barjon. Barjon gave the suite to his daughter for her 16th birthday and she was said to have kept it until her death. It was absolutely gorgeous. The family ran a successful furniture making business and the pieces were exquisitely crafted. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed but I did sneak a shot next to Marie Laveau, famous voodoo queen.

Aunt Marie taught me my mojo 😉
There are two additional cottages on the property with exhibits open for viewing as well as slave quarters that are not for touring.

After the museum, we had lunch at the famous Lil Dizzy’s cafe located around the corner where I enjoyed a spicy shrimp salad.

Moss draped trees

I love nature’s beauty and moss draped trees are top on my list of things I LOVE. These trees are so peaceful looking and remind me of days long past. Once upon a time when the main source of transportation was horse and wagon, men earned a living off the land by picking moss from trees. They filled their wagon beds with moss and returned home where the moss underwent the process of curing until it turned black.  It was then taken to a factory that further processed and cleaned the moss. The moss would be used to stuff furniture and bedding.  I find the history of moss picking fascinating, but I most enjoy looking upon the beautiful things God has blessed us with here on earth. It feeds my spirit.