New Orleans: Food, Music and Inspiration

I spent two and a half hectic days in New Orleans this weekend and it was truly inspiring.  The music, the food, the survivors, the fellow bloggers, the hot HGTV hosts…

It really was a great trip.  It wasn’t without a few glitches and a few things could have been a little more organized, but I’m certainly not complaining.  I ate a lot, slept very little, met some great people and saw just how much work still needs to be done down there.  I think the highlight of my trip was talking with a homeowner in the Gentilly neighborhood named Brenda Wheeler.  She was amazing, so encouraging, filled with faith and really blessed my heart.  Despite the horror of the last five years (after Katrina her marriage fell apart, her mother died, she was displaced and she suffered serious heart problems) she was the most peaceful person I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking with.

I will be sharing her story over at 5 Minutes for Mom this week.  I can’t wait for you to read it.  I’m even putting together a short video of our conversation so you can see her and hear her words first hand.  It was such a blessing to hear her talk about how God has blessed her life and given her strength to endure despite the hardships.

I was able to see the goodness in people as hundreds rallied to help rehabilitate homes that remain in disrepair so that New Orleans residents could finally come home.  The average income in the neighborhood where I worked was roughly $16,000 a year so it is no wonder that most houses remain uninhabited, or in a state that is not healthy or safe for the residents.  That region still needs help, they still need support, both financially and in basic labor.  It was eye opening for me.

I got to drive throught he lower 9th Ward, where I did not see Brad Pitt (Sad Panda) but I did see the houses he built.  They’re beautiful and amazing, but they sit next to wasteland.  Overgrown lots and dilapitated homes leave a stark reminder of the destruction that happened.  And the day I drove through it was pouring down rain.  It was almost eery to see the community in the rain like that.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend, including one with me and Carter Oosterhouse who, I must say, is more adorable in person than on TV.  I’ve never watched his show, but I know who he is because how can one not be aware of someone who looks like him?!  Just sayin’…

And now I’m off to edit video, write a few more posts and get some coffee.  I’m at the gym using their free wifi.  The gym has become my office as of late.  The kids get to play, I get work done and everybody wins.  Well, except for my body which is just getting soft and squishy…



These women are three generations who have been displaced since Katrina hit.  Their house should be completed and ready to move back in in just a few weeks.  The older woman, Lula, lived in an apartment or “ghetto,” as she put it, her whole life.  Her daughter Lois bought this house in 1998 because she wanted her mother and children to know what it was like to live in a home and in a safe environment.  She wants to bring her aging mother home.


Many of the abandoned homes still bear the water marks from the floods.  The X on the front indicated where the water peaked.  The numbers are the date that the house was checked and on the bottom the number indicated if any bodies were found.  Thankfully this one bears the mark of 0.


I helped build a fence with a group of kids from the Americorp.  They were all between the ages of 19 and 23 and when they asked how old I was one of the boys literally let his mouth drop open.  “You’re 32?!” he exclaimed.

“Yeah, I know right?” I replied.  “I’ve got one foot in the grave.”

“No!  It’s just that I thought you were one of the college helpers.”

I almost kissed him, but I resisted.  Instead I asked if I could adopt him.  Then it got awkward.  *sigh*


I was interview by the 2nd City Comedy Troup film team who were working with Sears to capture some of the events of the weekend.  It was very awkward.  I didn’t know if I was supposed to be funny or serious.  I felt like Ricky Bobby.  I don’t know what to do with my hands. Good times.


Chris Grundy of HGTV’s DiY, blogger Greta, Hotty Mc-hot-erson Carter Oosterhouse, and me.  🙂


One of Brad Pitt’s cool looking homes in the lower 9th.  But no Brad Pitt.  I know, right?!

Finally, I leave you with a compilation of clips that I took the night that I explored Frenchmen Street with two of the other bloggers.  I harkened back to my college days and stayed out until 2:00 am.  It was awesome.  I’m totally paying for it today, though.  The music in New Orleans is everything you hear.  It’s amazing.  Enjoy…

The one where I want to be cool

So I’m leaving in two days for New Orleans and I’m starting to have a small panic attack. 

Whatever for?! You may ask.

I’ll tell you what for.  It’s not just because I have to interview CEO’s and CFO’s and Presidents of large corporations, including Sears (although I am nervous about that, but I’m pretending I’m not because if I think about it too long, my hands start to shake).  It’s not because I might get to hob nob with influential public figures or meet other fantastically talented writers, because chances are I won’t actually be hob nobbing with much, although I like to pretend that when it’s all said and done I’m going to be BFF’s forever with all sorts of artsy creative folks.

Oh no.  I am nervous because I don’t know how to pack.  I don’t know what to wear.  This is serious stuff, folks.  I have to look cool and put together.  What do I wear when I’m in a position of working as a volunteer while simultaneously being listed as part of the Press Corps? 

I have literally googled the phrase photos of Extreme Makeover Home Edition to see what the ladies on that show wear when they’re working.  I’m that desperate for ideas.  Pitiful, yes?

I have dug through my wardrobe and have questioned all manner of clothing and have come to the conclusion that I could really benefit from a stylist.  Darn Hollywood stars who set the fashion bar so high…

I need functional cute clothes for working and casual cool clothes for evening events and fun party clothes for going crazy on Bourbon Street.

Just kidding…not that last part.  I don’t think I’ll be going to Bourbon Street.  Or maybe I will – I dunno, actually.  I have to get up at 3:00am on Thursday morning and be ready to go by 4:00 when a car service will pick me up.  Upon arriving at my New Orleans hotel, I have an immeditae meet and greet with the PR company putting all this together.  So I need to look presentable.  Something tells me that I’m not going to up for late night galavanting after a long day of working and travelling.

That and the fact that I’ve never been much of a galavanter, anyway.  I’m not even sure if I know how to galavant…

So what are your suggestions?  How should I dress for something like this? Literally, my itinerary suggestions casual and cool clothing.  Um…I’m not sure what casual cool means or looks like.  I’m heading to the mall now in the hopes that there will be some wicked sale racks filled with clothing that screams CASUAL COOL.

Wish me luck…