Last week, I experienced proof-positive that happiness can be contagious.  My extended family (my family, my sister’s family, her in laws and a family friend – 12 of us in all) went on a Caribbean cruise over Christmas week.   On the first night prior to departure, in New Orleans, my husband and I walked into the rest of the group in the hotel lobby and received a very animated “HeyyyYYYYYyyyyy” from them.  It was annoying as hell and very funny as well. The inflection had an effeminate quality, if that helps you to hear it.  Naturally, the HeyyyYYYYYyyyyy immediately caught on, much to my husband’s chagrin.

Everywhere we were, after that moment, you could hear the subgroups of our party issuing the hey call.  It helped us find each other in noisy bars, expansive lobbies and crowded, dark theaters on the cruise ship.  It became our signature.  (We  realized about halfway through the cruise that there was another group using “Dilly, Dilly” as their mating call. It was very funny, too).  If you wanted to find people in the buffet area, all you had to do was walk through sounding “HeyyyYYYYYyyyy” and listen for the answering call.   We had a laughter filled trip!

I did not really realize it, but other people noticed our boisterous, happy group.  We found out, happily, after we had our Secret Santa reveal on the last day of the cruise.  We were sitting in one of the more comfortable sofa groupings in one of the main bar areas, opening, and cheering the cleverness of our gifts (we all drew names and the rest of the cruise, spent time identifying the perfect gift – mind you, one of our 21 year olds drew an 86 year old’s name. It was a fun challenge).

As we sat and laughed and chattered, a couple, about retirement age, came up to us and told us that, “We have been watching  and enjoying all your joy and happiness this week.  Would you allow us to take a picture of your entire group for you to have as a memory?”

Wow.  Just wow.  It made me feel even happier that our joy was outwardly visible.  That it radiated so from us that other people were affected by it.  Happiness is a state of mind.  It may not be possible 100% of the time due to life events and struggles, but a huge component of it is being open to joy.  Let it in, when you are able.


A couple of weeks ago, my husband, my seester, and I traveled to Charlotte to break the curse of the losing New Orleans Saints.  You see, seester and I attend a Saints’ game every year, most often in New Orleans itself.  But, sometimes, we will be present, several years in a row, at a heartbreaking loss (they are ALL heartbreaking, really). When that persists, we attend an away game, in the hopes of breaking the curse.  So, far, it has worked at least 75% of the time.  This year, we chose Charlotte.

In some cases, we have decided it is really fun to experience football from a different fan base.  They have their own customs, traditions, and personality, quite frankly. Now, there are some teams, where we aren’t exactly comfortable displaying our full black and gold colors, for fear of encountering ugly foes.  It doesn’t happen everywhere, but we’ve ruled out a few places due to that.   I’ve heard that Green Bay is a great place to attend a game, but I think the tickets are hard to come by!

The last away game I attended was at the Tennessee Titans.  That stadium is very family friendly, and as such, it falls a little flat on the “we gonna pulverize you and grind you into the ground” feel that other environments produce.  We were underwhelmed, but the tooting steamboat whistle after scoring drives was a little bit cute.  Cute doesn’t belong in the NFL.

So, Charlotte.

The Arts

Charlotte, NC, as it turns out, is a fantastic, walkable, city – at least in the “Uptown” area where we stayed.  The stadiums are less than a mile away from any hotel in the area.  There were many, lovely greenspaces, including a park hosting a free concert on Saturday night.  Charlotte loves the art scene.  One park was dedicated to the celebration of literacy, and I really wish I had thought to really capture it with photos. We kept thinking, this must be where the library is, but it wasn’t.  Just a park with book sculpture, flying copper pages of poetry slapped up against windows and walls, as if blown by the wind, text puzzles in the sidewalks, and all sorts of hidden secrets.

The first picture below is of a sculpture (taller than I) called “Life is an Open Book.” Other random sculptures are from around town.  (I swear, next time I am bringing a tripod and a good camera.)





The Food

What can I say. Charlotte is full of very nice dining venues.  Most we sampled were pretty good, but when we were trying to pin down the signature cuisine of Charlotte, all I could come up with is “salt.”  Almost everything, with one or two exceptions, I ate was over salted, including the breakfast potatoes at the hotel – all three mornings, so it wasn’t an anomaly.  But there is one particular establishment that I must highlight –  The King’s Kitchen.  Their entire purpose is to create fabulous food and serve as outreach to the poorest of the poor of Charlotte.  To lift up the forgotten.  Quite frankly, Charlotte has a very visible homeless population.  These people are trying to make a difference in that area.  The food was fresh, unique and very tasty.  Go visit their website to read more about the mission.

The Football

In our observations, Charlotte is no where on the New Orleans end of the spectrum of football towns.  Until about 2 hours before game time, we hardly ever saw any indication of fandom – not a shirt, not a jersey, not a cap!   And I mean ANY fandom.  You’d think you’d see a bunch of NC university apparel running around, but we did not.  We decided all the sports fans must be commuting, ha ha!

The stadium is very nice, open air and we had good weather so it was not to uncomfortable.  There was some hoopla and hubbub on the jumbotrons, but the pump up the crowd music was tailored to those who love 80’s classic rock.  Not much hip hop, and certainly, no Ying Yang twins in the house.  But that’s okay, right? Their fans/their traditions.   One item of note, they are a little snarky, in a funny way.  We noticed, after the Saints sealed the victory with one more touchdown, the sound guys started playing, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” over the PA as the fans streamed out and away.



As you can see, we really enjoyed our quick getaway.  Charlotte is a beautiful city. There seems to be something for everyone in the family to enjoy. We barely scratched the surface because we did not have time to visit the various museums and such.

Go if you can.


The other night, during adventures designed to escape reality for a short while, my sister and I went to see the bat flight at Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge.

During the summer, a large colony of gray bats emerges at dusk for feeding. Recent estimates has numbered the population in the 300,000 to 400,000 range. In my mind, I imagined that they would all emerge, in one gigantic whoosh, from the cave mouth. I drag my sister out to near the middle of nowhere, up a sketchy looking path, after parking on the side of the road, as it’s getting darker and darker.

Only, that really isn’t how the bats performed. We waited and watched, then noticed one, then two occasional little dark gray, silent, fluttering objects near the cave mouth. It’s very hard to see, because the bats are dark, the cave mouth is dark and the surrounding vegetation is dark. (And like fools we didn’t bring a good flashlight). So we waited some more. We saw another singular winged mammal, then another. Hm. This isn’t at all what I expected. Then, suddenly, seester grabbed my arm, and pointed, and said look up! The sky is a lot lighter than it seems, and against that contrast we could see them. First a few, then dozens, then more bats noiselessly swooping back and forth.

It was a Sistine chapel moment, if anything. You expect to be immediately wowed, but you aren’t. Then you are a tiny bit disappointed by the hype. But, then you sit back, and have a chance to take it all in, the wow fills in gradually.

The information posted at the cave, indicated the colony consumes billions of insects each night. BILLIONS! Unfortunately, those bugs feasted on two seesters first, because we realized we had neglected bug spray on our arms and were ett up, so to speak.

And, boy, does a bat cave smell Terr-i-ble!

Batman doesn’t seem so glamorous, now.


I found out yesterday that the Vieux Carre cache in New Orleans has been archived. Even though I don’t have thousands of finds like other hardcore geocachers do, I love the hobby, and I loved this cache. It is probably one of my top 3 all-time favorites, both because of the wonderful nature of the cache itself, and the memories it brings back to me.

You see, I found that particular cache with my sister in New Orleans on the day they reopened the Superdome the year after Katrina and the levee breaches devastated the city. I went to the archive of my old blog from that time frame and pulled out part of the relevant post. Shall we reminisce?

September 25, 2006

The official re-opening party was to start around 3pm on the streets around the dome. The doors were to be flung wide at 5:30. We had a lot of time to kill that day. So we did what seesters do. Walk and eat. And search for snipers on the tops of buildings. Guess where the secret service men are… You know, normal reindeer games down south.

We decided to do this one geocache that someone had told me about. It was in a building. The clues said NO CHILDREN PLEASE, and to look for the two people under the artwork and ask one of them if they could escort you to the cache.

At first we thought it might be in the casino, because the coordinates took us near there (no children, right?) But, no, it was a big shiny office building across the street. We went in, looking at the GPSr in my hand, and were IMMEDIATELY accosted by an uptight woman who kept asking:

“Are you lost?”

“No -we are not lost.”

“Really, where are you trying to go?”

“We are fine, we are not lost”.

I thought she might be getting ready to tackle us (not everyone takes things easy in the Big Easy).

“Are you looking for the mall?” (This had to be because of our sparkly look!)

“No. Lady we are fine.” GO THE FUCK AWAY!

She was, literally inches away from our faces, wringing her hands, leaning in, and obviously very concerned about someone’s welfare (although I am not sure if she was worried about US or herself).

In the meantime the security guard is watching and laughing his ass off. When we finally extricated ourselves from the attention of the fruit fly, he came over and said he’d take us to it. Oooooh boy. Up to the rooftop we went.

The cache itself was up in the maintenance area of the rooftop. Since it’s archived now, I’m not spoiling it for anyone. After disembarking from the elevator, the guard took us around the corner to a storage area with what looked like a huge pirate’s trunk. To date, I think it’s the largest cache container we’ve found. It was full of travel bugs. After liberating a couple of travelers, we continued on up a short metal stairway to the best stage of this cache.


WOW! Two seesters on top of the world with the sacredome in sight! The guard was so nice, we chatted for a while and then went on our separate ways. There were some maintenance men in the stairway shaft up to the roof that were probably wondering what we were all doing out there, but hey, let ‘em imagine the best!

One of my favorite memories, ever.