Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Today is the first day of the March Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by the Two Writing Teachers blog. A group of teacher-bloggers join in a community of writers to write each day of March. I’ve done this challenge for many years. I can’t remember how many. Nine, maybe 10? Every year I feel daunted by the idea of writing every day, but I also know at the end of the month, there is satisfaction in having written. And the writing builds community and connection.

Thomas, 2.5 with beads

Today is also Mardi Gras Day which in South Louisiana is a big deal. This year the celebration is back after a hiatus for the pandemic. We have the week off of school, so I am traveling and visiting family. This weekend I was in New Orleans with my daughter and her toddler son. Above, he’s curious about the beads hanging from the porch railing. Beads can be found everywhere, in the trees, on fences, and even on a fire hydrant.

Beaded fire hydrant in New Orleans

My sister and I drove up to Jackson, MS to visit our parents. She brought a taste of New Orleans in a traditional King Cake. When she cut pieces for Mom and Dad, she said, “Watch out for the baby!” and sure enough, Dad got the baby. He is certainly royalty to us! You can read about the tradition of the king cake in this article.

Pop with the king cake baby

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Wildflowers in a jar, Margaret Simon

If you read my post last week, you know I have a thing for flowers. After visiting Petite Anse Farms and cutting my own flowers, the wildflowers that line the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans drew me in and begged to be clipped, collected, and given away.

This week is the Ehtical ELA Open Write and Monday’s prompt from Sarah Donovan encouraged us to write about “a shimmer of being alive.” My mind went back to the wildflowers I had cut on a walk with my daughter this weekend.

And So I Cut Wildflowers

I am taken by the little blooms
that peek from weeds
the ones on the side of the road

and want to carry them home
though I have nothing to cut them with
and frankly worry I will look like
a thief, a landscape destroyer, hoarder. 

The store is open, so I rush in,
buy kitchen shears, the kind for deboning
a chicken–I debone flowers

touch them with my soft hands
hold them in a nest
where scent to scent
pollen on pollen
the warmth of sunlight
still in their faces…

I cut wildflowers
place them in the Mason jar with residue
of coffee grounds, leave them
on your kitchen counter
without a note that says

I love you
You will know

Margaret Simon, draft
And So I Cut Wildflowers, Margaret Simon

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

In addition to the Slice of Life Challenge, I am writing a poem each day with a Facebook group for Laura Shovan’s annual birthday project.  This year we are writing about food.  The prompt yesterday from Laura herself was sourdough bread.  Not having much experience in sourdough bread, the baking or the eating of it, I took the option to write about any bread.

I am currently in New Orleans with my girls celebrating Mardi Gras.  A staple pastry during the Mardi Gras season is King cake.  King Cake is symbolic of Epiphany, the season of the church year following Christmas.  On Epiphany, the three kings arrived to worship Jesus.  The dough is baked in a circle symbolizing unity of faith.  The frosting is colored sugar in purple, gold, and green.  Gold represents power, green is associated with faith, and purple illustrates justice. (Southern Living)

Of the many Mardi Gras traditions, this is one of my favorite.  In our small town of New Iberia, there is a donut bakery that makes King Cakes like a donut.  My son-in-law brought one yesterday that he swears weighs more than his 2 month old.  It’s infused with cream cheese and strawberry jam.  There are two more on the kitchen counter each with its own flavoring and pastry recipe.  The tradition is that a plastic baby is placed inside the King Cake to symbolize the search for baby Jesus.  Whomever gets the baby in their piece is obligated to buy the next King Cake for the next celebration.

I’ve decided to forego my no carb diet just for this weekend.  Let the good times roll!


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This summer after our Father’s Day lunch, a stroll in the lower garden district of New Orleans with my daughters led me to Sophie Bell Wright. When I saw what seemed to be a random statue of a woman, I paused.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I walked across the street and through the tall grass to see this statue.  A woman?  Who is she?

In this season of southern statues causing uprisings, Sophie Bell Wright sits unguarded and untouched, practically hidden from public view.  When I got close enough to read the plaque, I saw that she was a teacher.  I had to know more.


My research led me to Know Louisiana, a website curated by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.  I have supported this organization for years, but didn’t know about this site for historical documents.  This primary source newspaper article was there.  Click on the image to go to the article.

Sophie B. Wright only lived for 46 years. In those years she struggled with a disability and rose above poverty to create a public day school for girls and a night school for boys who had to work during the day.  In 1904 she established the first school for disabled orphans. In her spare time, Sophie Wright worked for prison reform, public playgrounds, and as president of the Woman’s Club.

I saw a Tweet from a friend about a NY Times article by Julia Baird entitled Why We Should Put Women on Pedestals.  While this article speaks of a statue of Queen Victoria in Quebec that was damaged by vandals, it inspired me to look back at the photo I took this summer. In the process, I found the story of Sophie B. Wright.  This amazing woman should be recognized for her strength and courage during post Civil War New Orleans to face obstacles and persevere for education for all.  This is a statue that will continue to point us toward a deeper understanding of the purpose of statues and monuments: to inspire us to be better, do better, and know better.


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..out in de camp, out yonda in da camp, de ole, ole women too old to work and too old to make babies, dey stay an mind de young chilens so dat de me kin all work in de fields and dey fee dam an all so when de ma come back all dey got to do is to push ’em in de bed, all of dem in de same bed. –Frances Doby, age 100
Cammie G. Henry Research Center
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Federal Writers Project Folder 19

On Monday, I went on a summer field trip to Whitney Plantation located in Wallace, LA. Established in 1752, Whitney Plantation was a working sugar plantation until the early 1970’s. Recently, it has been transformed into an active museum that captures the experience of enslavement.  This place tells the unheard story of all other plantation homes.  This story is not a romanticized version of plantation life.  This story is gripping and harrowing and sad.

Inside the old Antioch Church, statues of enslaved children stand, some sit on the pews.  The children of the slaves from Whitney Plantation tell you the story with their staring eyes.  These stories were captured by a Federal Writers Project led by John Lomax in 1936.  The plantation now honors over 100,000 names of slaves and children.

The Antioch Baptist Church was moved to the plantation in 1999. This church was built post Civil War (1870) by former slaves.

This memorial statue stands in the Field of Angels to honor all the slave children lost before age 3.

Panels in the Field of Angels include etched photographs, prayers, and quotes along with 2,200 names from documents in the Sacramental Records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

A Jamaica line of sugar kettles remind us of the long, arduous task of turning cane into sugar.

If you are ever in the New Orleans area, Whitney Plantation is a worthy side trip.  I believe we must try to understand our history to move forward into a better future.



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Poetry Friday is with Carol at Carol's Corner.

Poetry Friday is with Carol at Carol’s Corner.



In my Inbox, I found this prompt from Poets and Writers:

In his 1821 essay “A Defence of Poetry,” Percy Bysshe Shelley writes, “Poetry is…the perfect and consummate surface and bloom of all things; it is as the odor and the color of the rose to the texture of the elements which compose it….” Make a list of words and phrases that describe the surface textures, odors, and colors that surround you as this year draws to an end, choosing the details that are most evocative of the season. You may find yourself drawing inspiration from the contrasting primary colors of holiday cheer, bright puffy parkas or dark wool coats, the shiny prints and textures of patterned gift wrap, the stark tones of snow, or the scents of fragrant conifers and baked desserts. Write a trio of poems, each focusing on one type of sensory input. Select an element–setting, narrator’s voice, repeated words, or a specific object–that stays constant through all three, tying them together.

I was relaxing at my daughter’s house in New Orleans after a long, amazing, yet tiring weekend at NCTE.  The mowers came to mow the median.  And this poem emerged.



Even in November
mowers hum,
chopping remains of green,
throwing dust to the wind.

My soul prepares
for the cold,
curled up in a blanket,
wearing wool socks.  

This cooling of air
this crisping of leaves, grass, my toes
gives space for new growth
prepares for seeds to flower.


When I hear
mower sounds,
wind playing its violin,

I turn my ear–


I see black faces
of the mowers earnestly
getting the job done.
Do they take pride
in their mowing?

Do they take their families
for a ride later,
drive by the median
on Carrollton Avenue,
point to the grass,
and say, “I did that!” ?

Do any of us
see the lawn of our lives
as beauty
we have created?

–Margaret Simon

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

I remember standing in my bedroom watching the TV in tears. I turned it off, sat down, and grieved… for the city I knew, for the deserted ones, for my own daughter. On Sunday, August 28, 2005, Hurrican Katrina reached Category 5 and barrelled down on the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi. We were a safe 120 miles from the storm.

One thing I have learned from experiences with hurricanes all my life is that the stronger the hurricane, the more it sucks into itself, thus leaving outlying areas in a strange calm with virtually clear skies. And yet, the horror was showing up on my TV screen.

My daughter was packed and ready to return for her junior year at Loyola University in uptown New Orleans. The schools closed. Every thing closed. The city was completely shut down.

Maggie wasn’t going to let this disaster ruin her college plans. She got online and watched the Jesuit schools all over the U.S. open their doors to Katrina victims. We had a talk with her. She said, “I have my choice of schools. I want to go to New york City.” By Tuesday, Sept. 6th, Maggie had chosen Fordham in the Bronx of New York City.

I insisted on going with her. All flights from Houston and Baton Rouge cost close to $1000. (Total price scalping, if you ask me.) We decided to travel to Jackson, MS. where my parents live to get a cheaper flight. We drove to Jackson on Wednesdy and flew out on Thursday.

Students at Fordham were asked to open their doors to these victims. Maggie was welcomed by a wonderful group of girls who took her in and are her close friends even now. This experience changed her life, widened her experience, and tested her adventurous spirit.

Leaving my oldest child in New York City was hard. At the same time, I was grieving for the loss of a favorite city and a treasured coast line. I cried all the way home.  There are many tragic stories of Katrina. This is not one of them. Maggie’s experience in NYC was great. We call it her semester abroad.

All three of my children love New Orleans. Two of my girls live there, and the third will be moving there soon. It’s a special place.

Recently, I visited my middle daughter, Katherine, in NOLA. She took me to an outdoor display in her neighborhood of Gentilly near the London Avenue Canal levee breach. The panels told the story of the devastation of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. What saddened me most was that all of the flooding that occurred, destroying homes and taking lives, was caused by human error. For years the Army Corps of Engineers maintained the levees below standards. The levee could not handle the weight of the water. The water did not flow over the levee, it flowed through a subwall that gave away.

Katherine looks at the neighborhood commemoration of Hurrican Katrina, 10 years later.

Katherine looks at the neighborhood commemoration of Hurrican Katrina, 10 years later.

Ten years later, this home is still abandoned and delapidated.

Ten years later, this home is still abandoned and delapidated.

Here is a link to a news report about the neighborhood commemoration.  Here is the online version of the text on the panels revealing the failure of the levees.

So much of the aftermath of Katrina could have been avoided. This disaster exposed a tragic weakness in levee structure and government infastructure and the blind neglect of people living in poverty. The city is reviving. Young people want to be there. The culture of arts and music is alive and growing. You can walk down the street and feel the energy. Keep New Orleans in your heart. Once it gets in there, you will never be the same.

Katherine and I at The Bean Gallery-- notice the Katrina flood line above our heads.

Katherine and I at The Bean Gallery– notice the Katrina flood line above our heads.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.


I started this week in Chicago and ended closer to home in New Orleans. I celebrate special times with family. When my sister texted me on Tuesday that she would be in New Orleans this week, I made plans to go. Not only did I want to spend time with her family, I secretly hoped I would get some of her mother-in-law’s amazing Indian food. Friday’s brunch was dosa, A South Indian filled pancake. Yum! And she filled her Lazy Susan with fruit, mango salad, and chutney. A savory and sweet feast. (Sorry, no pictures. I was too busy eating.)


Yes, that’s a real alligator. Before I arrived, my sister’s family went on a swamp tour. The guides encourage alligators out of the water with treats of marshmallows and hotdogs. Beth took this amazing close-up right from the boat.

Blues brothers

One of the highlights of our French Quarter visit was a tour of the House of Blues. Tinka, my brother-in-law, wanted to show his kids this famous venue. We didn’t expect to get a tour, but the hostess offered, so we jumped at the chance. The place is full of good vibes beginning with the God Wall. This wall hangs directly above the stage celebrating all religions. Our guide told us that the God Wall is central to their shared philosophy of tolerance and kindness. One House of Blues motto is “Help Ever*Hurt Never.” I wanted that on a bumper sticker but had to be satisfied with a t-shirt.

House of Blues God Wall

House of Blues God Wall

I celebrate summer, time to travel and be with family. This is Jack’s collage of our day. I didn’t mention beignets, a must stop in The Quarter. I love that Jack wanted a picture with me at Cafe du Monde. I’m not the only one celebrating this special time.

Jack's nola collage

French Quarter carriage driver waters down his mule.

French Quarter carriage driver waters down his mule.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

August 7, 1982

August 7, 1982

On August 7, 1982, I was not even 21 yet. But I made a very wise and wonderful decision to marry my best friend. We celebrated 32 years by dancing to our favorite Zydeco band, Geno Delafose and the French Rockin Boogie. They were playing in New Orleans at the Rock N Bowl. Yes, you read that right, Rock and Bowl. Only in New Orleans can you bowl and dance to Zydeco. Read about the interesting history of the place here.

I thought the band started at 7 PM. I don’t know why I thought that and having not verified it, we showed up at the Rock n Bowl at five minutes to 7. With our hands stamped, we were told that the music started at 8:30. Jeff and I walked next door to another longtime New Orleans establishment, Ye Ole College Inn. I’ve never had a bad meal there. We had a delicious meal and a drink (or two), so we were ready for dancing the night away. Geno has more stamina than we do, so we rarely see the tip of his hat and his farewell. But we made it until 11:30, dancing our last dance to “Make the Dust Fly.”

We took our time getting up on Friday morning. We had a nice lunch and visit with my cousin and his wife. They are renovating an old four-plex in Uptown making it into a single family home. My cousin is an architect. I am fascinated by his choices. The door to the back porch is an automatic garage door. He has salvaged tin from an old shed to make a tin wall. He is also using an old gurney to make a rolling island in the kitchen. Regretfully, I didn’t take any pictures. I just listened to him talk passionately about keeping the integrity of the materials he is using. I celebrate his endeavor.

One of our favorite bars is The Napoleon House, known for its Pim’s Cup, a delicious refreshing gin-based drink. When we were dating long ago at LSU, we would drive to NOLA after a game and hang out at The Napoleon House, a unique bar/restaurant with crumbling concrete walls, cheerful male waiters most of whom have a handle-bar mustache, and loud classical music.

Our celebration continues today.

Napoleon House

Napoleon House

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Join the Poetry Friday round-up at Violet's place.

Join the Poetry Friday round-up at Violet’s place.

For Mother’s Day, I spent the weekend in New Orleans with my daughters. Katherine and I went to church on Sunday morning on the campus of Tulane, The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, where the Reverend Minka Sprague, close friend of my parents, was preaching. I am a word collector, and in her sermon, Minka used the term anastasis to refer to the resurrection. I recorded a Soundcloud of the portion where she spoke of its Greek meaning.

Minka’s words, the beautiful day, and the resurrection feeling I get when I visit New Orleans came together in this poem.



The storm cloud moves,
a hole of blue,
lined in shining white,
this is sky.

When you feel fear,
say your name.
To say your name,
this is air.

On a Sunday in May,
flooded New Orleans streets,
blooming jasmine
this is resurrection.

Hear the full sermon here.

Poetry news: Amy VanderWater has adopted a manatee over at The Poem Farm in honor of my students who wrote manatee poems. You can read them at our ongoing kidblog site. Today is our final day of school (report card hand-out), but I hope some of my students will continue to write and post over the summer.

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