Sunday, April 17, 2011

Finding joy in New Orleans (and my inner Bob Vila)

Untangling jump ropes and banging down the nail that keeps popping up on our stairs is about as handy as I get around the house. But who knows what will happen now that I have become a pro driller.

This life-changing event happened in New Orleans yesterday. I was there for the Mom 2.0 conference, a big, wonderful blur of informational sessions and shmooze-a-thons. I've been to New Orleans before—once for Mardi Gras (talk about big blurs), once with my parents and sis for my 21st b-day, and once with Dave. I wandered around the French Quarter alone one afternoon, and memories of all trips came rushing back to me, including a b-day dinner at Brennan's where my dad seemed so proud that I was 21. Of course, I hit Cafe Du Monde for beignets, I think maybe it's a law or something that tourists have to. Beignets are as heavy as hockey pucks and too tasty, though consuming hockey pucks would probably be healthier.

Saturday afternoon, we had the choice of doing a few activities and I went with a service project. Me and a bunch of other moms pitched in with building a playground in East New Orleans courtesy of KaBoom!, a nonprofit that helps communities build playgrounds, and Let's Play, a community partnership funded by Dr Pepper/Snapple to get kids and families active. Since Katrina, Kaboom has built some 160 playgrounds in the Gulf Coast area. Together with Let's Play, they'll be building/improving 2000 playgrounds in the next three years. Nice, right?

The playground was on the Vietnamese Initatives in Economic Training (VIET) campus, a resource center for minorities that offers community programs. Village de L'Est, it's called. The area was hit hard by Katrina.

Linda, a retired teacher, gave us our assignments. "After Hurricane Katrina, I didn't see any kids playing in my neighborhood for months," she said. So she decided to do something about it...and do something and do something and do something. This was the 43rd playground she'd built.

Sign duty! Screwing in nuts and bolts = yeah, I can do that.

Bench duty! People were exceptionally polite when I had to remove about half of the screws because I put them in cockeyed. But now, I am a drill master. Word to Dave: This does not mean I am going to renovate our bathroom.

Kids in the community painted these table toppers.

The official opening ceremony for the playground, complete with boys doing a traditional Vietnamese lion dance.

A cute four-year-old.

With new pals Lauren, who works for the One Campaign, and Meghan O'Neill, editor of TLC's Parentables.

I don't get the chance often enough to do community volunteer work and I was psyched to be able to do something, anything, to help in New Orleans.

On the bus back to the hotel, we got to see a second line wedding parade (the "main line" is the musicians; the "second line" are those that follow them to enjoy the music). There was a brass band, a bride walking beneath a white parasol and dancing next to the groom, a crowd of guests behind them cheering and waving white handkerchiefs, and a police escort.

I haven't been back since Katrina, and it was heartening to once again see that New Orleans joie de vivre in action, here and all around—a good reminder to find joy in life every single day. And eat beignets. And show your husband how to use a drill so he can renovate the bathroom.

Have you visited New Orleans and loved it, too?


  1. I have never once visited New Orleans....but I've always loved it--if that makes any sense!

    It's one of my dreams to go there!

  2. great stuff!
    did the latest set of tornados come anywhere near?

  3. My husband and I were just there in December for our honeymoon- it was magical! The city went all out for Christmas, we had a great time! It was so nice to see many businesses back in full swing. I love New Orleans!

  4. I've never been to NO. Shawn's been for business, and like Vegas, swears he'll never vacation there. Although now we're close enough for a long weekend.
    You have to promise me, if you come to ATL for one of your big schmoozefests, you'll let me know ahead of time and we can meet up!

  5. Debbie: No conferences planned in ATL for now but when and if I am there, you can bet we will meet up. Or come to NYC! Felicia: Same goes for you!!

    Dave: The tornados didn't veer toward New Orleans, but I can't be sure because I exist inside a bubble in these conferences. When I got home, Dave greeted me with these words of concern: Did you hear Nicholas Cage got arrested in New Orleans?

    Lauren: Congrats!

  6. Love seeing you at Mom 2.0 summit. I'm sorry we didnt get enough time together. I'm not very handy either. Spent 2 weeks taking a stage construction class. That's how long I lasted.

  7. OH my gosh I love love love the signs the kids painted for the tables.

    You master driller you!

    So great to connect with you in NOLA! (Again).. :)

  8. Hi, I was reading through some of the blogs about Mom 2.0 and i saw yours. Didn't you love the DPS playground build! You posted such great pictures! The sign you have at the end of your post, "Life is Beautiful" was made by my daughters and me...and Nancy Matira the pr rep for Dr. Pepper.

    So glad you had a great time at the build and at the summit.

    Janelle James
    Fishbone Marketing


Thanks for sharing!

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