20 May 2013

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
                - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

This weekend, Husband and I were offered tickets to another amazing, decadent, and satiating event...no, not a fancy dinner gala! This time, we had the opportunity to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak at Tulane University's 2013 Commencement ceremony.

Commencement took place in the Superdome! It was my first time inside, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit. Husband pointed out the disparity in my embarrassment meter, as I regularly and unabashedly tell people that I play Dungeons and Dragons...but I digress...The Superdome! It's so big! And confusing! And we sat WAY UP HIGH, so my pictures don't really do it a lot of justice.

Waiting for the ceremony to begin.
Is anyone else weirded out when they put dresses on chairs?

The procession. Also a good reference to how high up we were.

I should note that, while not represented in pictures, the speech given by Tulane president Scott Cohen was extremely moving. He emphasized the importance of hope in troubling times. His closing remarks had me all misty eyed. I paraphrase: Hope didn't die in Boston. It didn't die in Sandy Hook. It didn't die in Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, and it didn't die on Frenchman Street.

This was the only reference today (or really in many days) to the Mother's Day shootings here in New Orleans which has had me seriously thinking about violence and how we use language to categorize violent acts. This may seem cruel and simplified, but it's what I've come up with: If violence is perpetrated by a white person, it is a tragedy. If violence is perpetrated by a "brown" person, it is terrorism. And if violence is perpetrated by a black person, it is what? Expected? Street violence? Someone else's problem? These words are imbued with prejudice, as is our framework for thinking about violent crime. I don't know how to express how I feel about this problem, or how to solve it, but I will be seeking out people who may have the ideas or power to do so.

So, after the president's moving and thought provoking speech, there was a speech by a graduating doctoral student that was so contrived I wanted to gag. But, in the spirit of compassion and hope, I will refrain from publishing negative impressions here. Instead, I will move on to the words of the Dalai Lama himself.

His Holiness Speaks

First, let me say, that being a language teacher, while fulfilling and exciting, sometimes annoys the hell out of me. Case in point, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama is, obviously, a second (or likely 3rd or 4th) English language speaker. Most of the beautiful quotes you edit into a waterfall photo to post on Facebook have been translated by professional interpreters and written in a way to make them more poetic. In real life, his English is halted, simplistic, and heavily-accented.

In many ways, I think hearing him speak is absolutely more powerful for exactly those reasons. He doesn't have (or need) complex grammar or excessive adjectives to express his teachings. Everything about his message is simple, smoothed down to the most basic of words: peace, trust, hope, patience, compassion. It's beautiful. It's powerful...

And it is completely outside my power to not try and pick apart his accent for ideas about how to help my Asian students with particular sounds. I can't stop recognizing patterns of language mistakes that my students make and immediately try and figure out why? how? It's so frustrating. Especially when you are trying to clear your mind to welcome a message of hope.

But I managed to still find the Dalai Lama's message. He began by talking about hope. Hope, he insists, leads to trust. If people can only trust each other, if they aren't afraid of each other, there can be peace. The only way, he says, we can really trust each other, is if we stop thinking that we are better or worse than other people. I paraphrase - Whenever I meet someone I think he is just a person, but so am I, so I am glad to meet him.

His Holiness encouraged students to not value their education too highly. Education alone is not enough, in fact, it can be dangerous. Education plus compassion leads to inner peace, which also allows people to trust each other and find peace.

It was very inspiring. You can watch the whole thing here (the Dalai Lama's speech begins at 5:30):

Afterward, Husband and I took a walk through the French Quarter and reflected on the idea of equalizing how we categorize people. It is amazing how much negativity we project onto the world without realizing it. In a matter of hours, we'd busted ourselves making snide comments about people's clothing, tourists' ignorance to local customs, even each other's choices for lunch - giant hamburgers from the Clover Grill...don't judge, we're not Buddhists.

So, we're going to focus on positive thinking this week. Hope, compassion, peace. I'll let you know next week how we do!

Here are some beautiful, professional photos of the event, borrowed from the Tulane University Facebook page:

His Holiness and Tulane President Scott Cohen Second Line into graduation

The Dalai Lama and Dr John, who also received an honorary degree
His Holiness speaks of hope, peace, and compassion

13 May 2013

Sippin' in Seersucker 2013! Another Extravaganza!!!

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with them...the people who give you their food give you their heart. - Cesar Chavez

Yes! It IS another post about a decadent night of exquisite food and drinks! What can I say? We live in an eating town and we are privileged to know some of the most excellent people who invite us to amazing events!

Last week I made matching seersucker shirts for our good friends, T and Z.

As payment for sewing, they generously gave us tickets to Sippin' in Seersucker! We went last year too and it's a damn good time! Lots of delicious treats from local restaurants, generously poured craft cocktails, amazing live music, AND a costume competition! It's a fundraiser for the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and hosted at the Canal Place Shops (read: the fancy mall).

So, here's our evening!

We started eating immediately, of course!

Grits and Debris from Mother's Restaurant

Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned!

Calamari Ceviche from...?

More friends arrived and the evening started hopping!

Let's eat all the things! Okay!
Undescribable and delicious science experiment from Root!

Kimchi Pancake with Pork Belly Hash from Booty's!

Rillettes (tasty!) on toast (stale brick) from Cleaver and Co!

For the seersucker competition, contestants really dialed it up this year! Our friend T was a finalist, but the evening was really all about the ladies in seersucker!

None of us were finalists, but we all looked like winners!

Seersucker Competition

The Bride - Yep! That's ALL seersucker!

The Winner! She made her dress herself!

 There was amazing live music by two bands (whose names I forgot to write down, oops - I blame the free cocktails)...

Hibiscus and Jalapeno Margarita from Bellocq

Awesome band! Yes, she is playing a washboard.

 It was a truly fabulous evening full of fun and the most wonderful friends you could hope to know!

Another amazing band! 

I managed to not eat ALL of these French Macaroons from Chicken Scratch!

 At the end of the night, there was just one more thing to do....take drunken photos in the parking garage! (Have no fear, 'twas not I who drove home)...

Last year, I made this green seersucker dress for the event.I didn't have the time or money to make a new dress this year, so I pulled out the old one. It's much too big! So, I took it in and decided to recreate a photo from Seersucker 2012 to casually mark my progress toward weightloss and fitness. Here are the before/after shots! Not too shabby!

Before - Cute Couple 2012

After - Smokin' Couple 2013

Before - May 2012

After - May 2013

Y'all probably get tired of me expressing how lucky I feel, but it's really true! Most of what makes my life exciting is directly the result of the incredible people who choose to share their adventures with me. Thank you all so much!

09 May 2013

And now back to our regularly scheduled sewing...

Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. - Abraham Lincoln

Whew! The spring semester is over, and all teachers and students are alive and accounted for! It has been the most whirlwind year (possibly ever in my entire life) so far, and I really can't complain because, barring some horrible illnesses and mild anxiety attacks, all the mayhem has been of the most positive variety.

The one thing that I do truly feel has suffered so far this year is my creativity. I've been so busy working and being social and working and being more (too?) social, that I haven't made ANYTHING in months! Once my final grade reports were submitted, it was time to remedy this problem!

First, I caught up on the epic pile of mending that had been sitting on my dryer for, no lie, a year. That done,  I moved on to my WIP pile. First up, a red plaid, princess-seamed, goth column dress I snagged at a thrift store ages ago. In general, I hate a column silhouette. I think unless you are 6'5" and weigh 85 pounds, it's just a super non-flattering look. So, I spent about 3 hours seam ripping 6 of the skirt seams out to just below the waist. Then I cut black godets to give the dress some much needed flare!

That was a LOT of seam ripping.
Unfortunately, I don't have an "after" photo for you yet, but as soon as I wear it, I will post one! Needless to say, the dress is much improved in my estimation and it was an important first project after a long crafting hiatus!

Next! Good friends T and Z needed matching seersucker shirts for an upcoming fundraising event! Sippin' in Seersucker is a super fun fete sponsored by the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. There's live music, craft cocktails, and gourmet snacks from several local restaurants. We went last year and it was a blast! T and Z got a hold of a really fun, fruity seersucker print! Here are the final products!

Z's flirty fruity safari top! She's actually going to wear it with a red belt.

T's fruit adventure shirt! The buttons are stylized watermelon!

As payment for the shirts, T and Z are generously taking us to the event with them! I won't have time to purchase/make a new dress, so I'll be sporting the same green seersucker dress I made last year. I'm normally dismal about costume repeats, but, since I've lost 25 pounds since last year's Sippin' I'm actually really excited to alter the dress and do a little before/after set up for you in my next post! I'll also make sure to post pics from the event and the fruity duo! Until next time!