Along the River Road: Churches and Religious Sites in St. James Parish, Louisiana

Some of my earliest memories were formed at St. Michael the Archangel Church on the River Road on the east bank of the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, Louisiana. The Gothic red brick building seemed monstrous to me as a child—the inside dark, solemn, and intimidating. I recall lighting candles in the grotto for loved ones I’d lost, burying relatives in the centuries-old cemetery, and frequently dipping my fingers in the Holy Water.

So when I walked into the church this past December, this time for a story, all my memories came rushing back to me with the smell of candlewax and old carpet, and the spirits of my grandparents, who were members for decades. It’s the smell of my youth, and the smell of history.


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Setting boundaries

In the last few months, I was brought to a realization that I’ve never been very good at setting boundaries. I like to think of myself as an independent, assertive, confident woman…but there are some situations and people that make all of that go out the window and I give in too easily — to myself, to others, because of fear, because of wanting to be liked or loved or accepted.

And what is the outcome of this? By not setting boundaries for myself and others, I become way too vulnerable, and end up hurt way more than I ever could have imagined. This isn’t to say that being vulnerable isn’t okay, or that giving people a second chance or a third chance isn’t a good approach either — within reason. It’s easy to get into a pattern of letting yourself go along with things that you really aren’t comfortable with, all in the name of wanting to please others, or not wanting to be a burden or to miss out, or lose out on a relationship.

But there comes a time when it’s important to look yourself in the eye and ask, is this what I really want? Is that what I really deserve? Who am I doing this for? Why am I doing this?

And if the answers to those questions make you uncomfortable, you’re not holding yourself accountable, and you aren’t setting the right boundaries. Where to start, you might ask? You start small. You start by saying no to a group happy hour invitation and sticking to your plan of going home or working out or whatever else it is you would actually rather do. Then maybe you acknowledge hurt or confusion a friend’s actions may have caused, but then determine how to discuss it with him or her and get back on track. In a tough situation where you feel pressured to do something, you remember what you’re made of, and you go with your gut, instead of just going along with it.

As humans, we want to be loved and liked and accepted and respected. We want people to be our friends because they want to, not because it’s convenient, or not only when the going gets tough. And others want that from us in return…and I’ve come to realize that in order to respect and love and accept myself, and to get others to perceive me this way, I have to follow through on my end. I have to act in a way that creates respect, I have to stick to my boundaries, and hold myself accountable, or no one else will. I have to be stronger, for me.

In the coming months, setting boundaries and holding myself accountable will be something I focus on — how do you do the same in your daily life?

There’s a time for everything

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Good things come to those who wait. Or so say those with patience. I usually don’t have much patience — it’s a virtue I’ve always lacked. I wanted to be going fast in the boat or the car right away, rather than work up to it. I wanted to be in high school when I was in grade school, and college when I was in high school, and on my own when I was still at home. I want to open the microwave before it beeps, and sometimes, yes, I’ve peeked at the back of the book. It’s not that I’m always in a hurry… I just don’t like waiting.

But life is about waiting, because most things don’t happen when we want them to, or even when we think we need them to. They happen when it’s time — when it’s right, whether we can see it or not, believe it or not. That great job, or the promotion, the opportunity to travel to a far-flung place, or meeting the person that will be our partner for life…they all tease us and beckon us, and fill our hopes and dreams and journals and heart-to-hearts, but they rarely ever happen when we want them to.

So we wait. And sometimes it seems like everyone else is speeding past us, getting their promotions and finding the loves of their lives, and making the big move to a country abroad. And like things that happen in threes, so it goes for this, too. Everyone on Facebook gets married in the same weekend, or four of your friends tell you they’re moving within six months of each other. And you? “Oh… the usual.”

The voices in my head say it’s not fair that so-and-so has this, and I don’t. But then mom and my best friend and a dear colleague remind me that everyone has their own path, and their own timing. That my time is coming, and with reason. Whatever big changes in my life are coming, they will come…when they come. And whether I have a hand in them by making decisions around them, or they happen because the universe decides it should be so, I must go about my journey and accept them when it’s time for me, and only me. Today may not be my time, nor tomorrow. But there is a time for everything, and it will come.

Be Fearless: Moments in Time

I was feeling nostalgic and looking through old photo albums, and I realized I was coming across so many moments in my life that I would label as fearless. Some were mine, some I witnessed from others — but all make me stop and remember those times for the awe and inspiration I felt, the pride, and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment afterward. There are so many moments I could share, but for now, here is a small photo slideshow with some of my top Be Fearless moments over time.

Figure out what matters to you. Stop.

The simple life

A year ago, I came back from Costa Rica with their mantra of “pura vida!” or the “pure life” in my mind and heart. A few days ago I returned from Italy with much of the same feeling, but in their own words. I learned so much about the slow food movement in Italy, and all about making wine and olive oil and other amazing foods, but that is for another blog post. (Some of you may have already seen my photos.) But out of the food and the culture and the scenery came one concept: that life can be fulfilling and content in the simplest means possible, if you just let it be so, and embrace it with open arms.

When you make apple juice, Stefano, the owner of the agriturismo we stayed at in Southern Tuscany, says it’s like this: “Apples….stop.” When you make meat, it’s “Pig. Salt. Stop.” His simple directions became a recurring theme for our G Adventures tour group, and one that we laughed at, but all took seriously. We all wanted to work for Stefano and live on a farm by the end of the trip. We all wanted the simple life.

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