The lack of travel posts on my blog over the past several months makes me sad. Thanks Covid-19! But today, I did go to an awesome place in my hometown of New Orleans. It is called JAMNOLA. The JAM stands for Joy, Art, and Music and it is an artistic celebration of New Orleans culture.
It is a guided tour through themed rooms which are each full of unique, colorful, and truly NOLA art. I highly recommend checking it out. It is fun and they encourage photography and fun selfies. It is a great place to spend an hour.
Much of the art is made with reclaimed materials, such as the lanterns in the feather room (made out of Gatorade bottles).
There were paintings, fun wallpaper, or other art installations on every wall and floor.
There was a room made up completely of recycled Mardi Gras beads and the reflective mirrors from parking garages.
The bling bayou was super sparkly of course.
This whole room was hand painted.
The crawfish themed room had lots of fun photo opportunities and the coolest wallpaper.
The costume room had lots of cool stuff inspired by Carnival.
The garden of legends had huge statues of famous NOLA musicians, from Irma Thomas to Louis Armstrong to Lil Wayne and more.
JAMNOLA is a uniquely New Orleans experience full of color, joy, and music.
It’s been awhile since I wrote a post sharing some “Looking on the Bright Side” music with you. Songs that motivate and make you feel good. Well, one of my all time favorite artists is the king of those songs – Jason Mraz. I’ve put together a little playlist of songs to make you feel good with tracks from each of his seven studio albums.
Curbside Prophet Okay, so this one doesn’t exactly fit the theme of the playlist, but I needed to pick a song from his awesome first album, and I just love this one. An introduction to Jason Mraz’s style if you are not familiar. His lyrics are full of wordplay.
Life is Wonderful A slower-paced song about how everything is connected in this life.
I’m Yours One of his more recognizable hits about being open to love.
The Freedom Song This song is from his fourth album, Love is a Four Letter Word. The theme of the whole album, so I have several songs from this one for you. This one is about the beauty and joy that causes us to sing.
Living in the Moment A topic that I’ve written about before on this blog – the importance of being present in the current moment. Let go of the past.
Everything is Sound Another one about the power of music.
The World as I See It We’re all connected, which makes it easier to love each other.
93 million miles No matter how far you go, you can always come home.
Love Someone A song about the power of love.
Hello, You Beautiful Thing Wake up and know it’s going to be a good day.
3 things The three things we should do when going through a hard time to help us recover. 1) Feel the emotion and let it out. 2) Have gratitude for all the good things in life. 3) Let that chapter end and try again.
Have it All Giving blessings to others.
Love is still the answer Love is the answer to everything.
Look for the Good Jason Mraz’s 7th studio album, Look for the Good came out in 2020. We have certainly needed this reminder to find the positive in everything during this crazy year.
Make Love A reminder that peace starts with us as individuals.
My Kind Love brings us together. We are all connected as humankind.
You Do You A duet with comedian Tiffany Haddish. We’re each unique individuals and special, but together we can do awesome things.
Last night, my sister and I attended Celine Dion’s Courage tour in New Orleans. I love attending concerts, but this one definitely blew both of us away. It was amazing!
Celine Dion was our first major stadium concert back in middle school. I was a big fan back at that time, over twenty years ago now. I remember doing a project on her once for music class.
While I have always remained a fan, I have not followed her career closely in the intervening years. Last night reminded me how completely amazing she is!
My sister and I unintentionally wore outfits that were color-coordinated. We had a laugh at our accidental twinning. Many of the fans, however, wore sparkles, sequins, and fur in dramatic silhouettes. I wished that I had dressed with a bit more glam, although my outfit was chosen to take me straight from work to the concert. Together, we decided that we need to attend more events where sequins are the norm and bring some more sparkle into our lives!
And let me tell you, Celine is someone who embraces the sparkle. She had several outfit changes. Each time, I could not wait to see the dramatic and fun look she would sport next.
Pictures that I take at concerts never turn out great, but here is a look at her six different looks.
She started the show with this sparkly red dress with a slit up to there! She is 51 years old, but she has a dancer’s body. Throughout the concert, she did squats and back bends in high heels like it was nothing!
Her next outfit was this tuxedo-inspired pantsuit with the biggest sleeves I’ve ever seen. My sister joked that she looked like a waiter carrying two tablecloths. But you know what, when you’re a diva….you pull it off!
Eventually, she ripped off the sleeves and performed in just the pantsuit.
Her next outfit was a lacy floor-length gown.
In this sassy and silver sequin jumpsuit, Celine performed a medley of covers including “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Kiss,” “Lady Marmalade,” and more. It was spectacular.
Her last outfit of the night was this dramatic poofy gown that she wore for the encore. She came out singing “My Heart Will Go On,” but actually ended the show with John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
It’s hard to put into words what made this show so amazing. It was such a positive, hopeful, and heartfelt performance. From beginning to end, Celine seemed so genuinely appreciative of her fans. She exuded kindness and gratitude. She accepted every gift handed to her from people in the front row as if it was a priceless treasure.
She was entertaining and funny, but even more, she was spreading the messages of love, courage, and peace.
When the couple seen at the top of the picture below got engaged during “Because You Love Me,” she was so excited.
Each part of the show was visually stunning without being too over the top. She highlighted several different musicians in her band. She even brought out one of her back-up singers (I presume) to do the Beauty and the Beast duet with her.
There were cool video montages playing during each of her outfit changes (which she did rather quickly).
She sang all of her big songs, both old and new. It truly was an amazing concert. My Celine Dion fandom has been revitalized. If you ever get the chance to see her live, I highly recommend it. You will walk away not only entertained, but feeling hopeful, loved, and maybe even a bit glamorous!
This morning on my way to work, I was listening to the radio when the song “Thrive” by Casting Crowns came on. The song is about how we were made to do more than just survive, but to thrive.
It got me thinking. What does thriving look like for me?
There are days in life when our motivation is to just survive. Depending on our individual life circumstances, some of us may have more of those days than others. I do feel that I am fortunate enough to be able to focus on thriving, not just surviving. But what is thriving?
The dictionary uses several words to define thrive. It means to prosper. It means to flourish. It means to be fortunate or successful. It means to grow or develop vigorously.
So to me, thriving means always getting better. I am a big goal setter, and I always am working on developing new habits that will make my life better. To me, thriving also means finding joy and being happy in life. It may not be overly noble, but living with joy is one of my greatest goals.
So what does thriving mean to you? And are your daily actions and decisions designed to help you survive or to thrive?
Two nights ago, I got to see Hanson live at the Fillmore in New Orleans for their Wintry Mix tour. I have been a huge Hanson fan consistently since middle school. If you only know “Mmmbop,” you are missing out.
Hanson is a pop rock band, and they put out new albums regularly. I am lucky that they almost always come to New Orleans when they tour, and I have had the opportunity to see them live a few different times.
This was my first time at the Fillmore. They have always played at the House of Blues in the past. The Fillmore is located inside of Harrah’s casino, and it is really nice. It’s much bigger than House of Blues. It is quite spacious, with multiple rooms. The decor is NOLA themed and fun.
We arrived for a 6pm show and were told that Hanson didn’t come on until 9pm! There were two opening acts. Thankfully, they have space to sit and visit and order food and drinks. There were even some Hanson-themed drinks, but I’m too cheap for expensive cocktails.
All Hanson shows are awesome. They are great musicians with upbeat energy. This show was especially exciting, because they played a mix of their hits and Christmas songs! Hanson has put out two Christmas albums, and I love Christmas music!
If you are not familiar with Hanson’s music, do yourself a favor and give them a listen.
Awhile back, my dad told me about the band The Highwomen, a girl country supergroup created in homage to the Highwaymen, a legendary country supergroup. Yesterday, I was listening to the album, which I definitely recommend. Each song is unique and great.
As I drove along in my car, however, I was emotionally unprepared for the song My Only Child. To many people, it will just be another song on the album. But it spoke directly to my heart and made me cry.
You see, it is a love letter from a mother to her only child, a daughter. I am a mother to an only child, my daughter.
The day my daughter was born was traumatic and life-threatening. It ended with a hysterectomy. While I will always be grateful that I survived, the loss of the ability to have more children came with a grief that took a few years to overcome.
For the first few years, I envied families with extremely large families, probably only because I didn’t have the option. I spent time researching and reading books on surrogacy and adoption. I held onto every one of my daughter’s baby items, just in case.
Eventually, my husband and I decided that our family would be complete with just the three of us. I slowly started to give the baby things away. While I was at peace with the decision, that doesn’t mean it did not come with a great deal of sadness.
The song starts by talking about how “I know you wish you had a brother” and “I know you wish you had a daughter.” At some point, every only child asks about siblings. I have explained to my daughter and I’m pretty sure she understands that she will always be an only. I know that sometimes she gets bored with just us parents, but I try to focus on the positives.
The rest of the song is a love song to a child. That is the positive. She is the greatest love of both me and her dad.
The song is raw and intimate. If you also are the parent to an only child, perhaps not by choice, check out the song and have a good cry like me.
Last night, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Backstreet Boys concert. It was fun and full of energy. I got my tickets on a super sale, so the seats weren’t the best. We were up high and on the side, so I watched the big screens more than the stage, but I could see both.
The nostalgia factor ranks high when it comes to my taste in music. I truly believe that the music we listen to and love during our adolescence will always hold a special place in our hearts due to its connection to a highly emotional time in one’s life. Regardless of generation, people are drawn to the music of their adolescence.
I purchased my first Backstreet Boys album on cassette. I remember dancing to “Backstreet’s Back” at my middle school dances.
The show was great. Each member of the band had their time to shine and they obviously work well together. They made some jokes about their age, but they were still able to dance and jump all around the stage.
Brian’s son, Baylee, opened for them, which was sweet to see the next generation being supported.
Some of their clothes was kind of cheesy, but the coordinated outfits and choreography are all part of the fun! I took a bunch of pictures, but most of them came out too blurry to post.
They sang all of their old hits, along with songs from the new album. The new album, DNA, is great and includes some really good songs. So it’s not just the nostalgia factor making them great! They’ve got 26 years of great music to perform. And don’t forget…
I have always been a believer that sometimes the universe (or God) sends you messages when you most need to hear them. I’ve had those moments throughout my life. Sometimes it might come in the form of a quote, something you read, a sermon at church, but often it comes in the form of song lyrics.
This evening, I was feeling pretty down on myself. I was driving in my car and thinking about how I’m not great at my job and not great as a mother. I was reflecting on all the ways that I am deficient. Just as I pulled into my destination, “Live Like You’re Loved” by Hawk Nelson came on the radio. I was telling myself that I’m not good at anything, and then ….
That’s the great thing about music. It reminds us that so many of the things we feel are part of the human condition and not unique to us. A few more lines and then I heard exactly what I needed to hear in that moment ….
In the midst of my depressing thoughts, God reached out to me through the power of a song. It helps that I was listening to KLove, but I promise that this used to happen to me all the time long before I started listening to Christian music. The messages are there if you keep your ears open for them.
Listening to music is a powerful way to spread a message, set a mood, relax, and “look on the bright side!” I love listening to music with a powerful or inspirational message, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite albums that fit into this category. For each album, I will mention my top 3-4 tracks. As I was preparing to write this post, my daughter randomly reminded me of a scene in Hotel Transylvania 3 where the villian is defeated with the power of happy music! I love music that makes me feel good.
The first album I want to profile is India.Arie’s Songversation: Medicine (2017). The title of the album represents exactly what listening to it is: medicine for your soul. You could prescribe these songs to someone having a rough time. One of the tracks is even titled “Chicken Soup in a Song.” India.Arie’s lyrics feel like poetry. There are only 8 tracks on this EP, and they are all excellent.
“I Am Light”
“Just Let It Go”
“Life Is Good”
The next album is “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams (2017). If you listen to Christian radio, you will already be familiar with this artist, as he is very popular at the moment. For me, his lyrics and voice stick out from the other Christian artists commonly played on the radio. He has a country/Southern Rock vibe, and even covers an Allman Brothers song on this album. There are 15 awesome tracks. They remind me about the power of God, and it is music that moves you.
“Old Church Choir”
“Fear is a Liar”
The final album that I will recommend is Jewel’s “Spirit” (1998). This one brings me back to my early high school years. I have always been a huge Jewel fan, and I’ve seen her in concert twice. Every song that she writes is pure poetry, and she has a wonderful voice. Some of the 13 tracks on this album are inspirational, while others tell stories. It is beautiful and uplifting.