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Life Lessons from Mardi Gras

There is some spice that lingers in the air of New Orleans. It flavors the heavy air with a special Joie de vivre. The ghosts whisper their stories to you as you walk down the brightly painted streets of the city. Perhaps because the weather is less than ideal the city compensated by adopting an appetite for life and a true culture dedicated to pleasure. I was born just outside the city of New Orleans, as was my husband. I attended grad school at Tulane and few in love with the city. The city sparkles and proves that when life gives you alligators you make sausage. It is exactly what you would expect from a city whose favorite catchphrase is Laissez les bons temps rouler. Take these lessons from the Big Easy as an invitation to slow down and enjoy life wherever you are.

Dress up at every opportunity. It seems the idea of make-believe and dress-up is abandoned when we exist in childhood for the stern reality of adulthood. Not in New Orleans. Where a costume, a ball gown, or a t-shirt with red hurricane juice stained on the front. Play dress up. Wear what makes you happy. Wear sequins, glitter, feathers, and lace. It is a city where anything goes and individualism is celebrated.

Start with kindness. Say hello to people as they walk by. Ask how people are doing and be genuinely interested in their answers. New Orleans is a big small town and you always seem to be 2 degrees separated from someone's cousin. It is a beautiful way to view the world. As one big family that is connected to each other and finding their common ground.

Celebrate traditions in a new way. Tradition is important and helps us as a community bind us. Most traditions center around shared human experiences - births, deaths, and love. New Orleans has a special mixture of its port city roots with flavors of old Europe, colorful Caribbean, ancient Africa, and Native Americans. Like its famous dish Gumbo it threw everything together in one big pot that proves variety really is the spice of life. Traditions such as Mardi Gras are a combination and celebration of Spanish, French, Native American, African, and Caribbean traditions. You can try an Old European King Cake, watch the Mardi Gras Indians (who have not updated their moniker), catch Zulu coconuts, and of course suck the head of a crawfish with all of those incredible spices.

Know your neighbors. While other cities such as New York are proud to point out that they don't know their neighbors New Orleans takes another approach. Perhaps it is because your whole house can be whipped away with the gusts of a hurricane wind but neighborhood familiarity is foundational. You stop and talk, you share meals, you keep protective eyes open.

Pleasures of life - it may be a dedicated force to find balance from the mosquitos, humidity, and constant storms but New Orleans has flourished in its food, music, and art. The diversity of the city and the merging of cultures always create a delicious and innovative mixture that is the perfect incubator for creativity to thrive. New Orleans wants you to have a good time. To sing, dance, eat, drink, and be merry. To activity chose joy despite the harsher realities of life.

New Orleans wants you to enjoy your life. To celebrate our differences and indulge in the things that bring us joy. Take these lessons from the NOLA gumbo pot and serve yourself up a big dose of sequined joy. Let the good times roll.

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