The Proposal

The other day, my husband showed me this cute video of a choreographed dance wedding proposal. I couldn’t see the entire thing due to an interruption concerning a three-foot person, a Tennessee Volunteers tumbler, flying water, and a couch, but from what I saw, I was quite impressed. For those not worried about Toddler Interruptus, you can view the video here. Pretty cute, huh? Dude went all out to show how much he wanted to spend forever with his girlfriend.

When I wrote Destination Wedding, I neglected to put in the story how Clay actually proposed to Marissa. Maybe it was an oversight or maybe I wanted the reader to use his/her imagination. Even though I didn’t include the proposal in Destination Wedding, I am remembering mine and perhaps I did not include the popped question because perhaps I figured that no proposal would ever top mine ;). I think of myself as a simple person, meaning that I don’t tend to go for the elaborate things. I didn’t know what my wedding dress would look like at the age of five. I didn’t think about bridesmaids when I was young. For me, rings just got in the way, so I didn’t need the biggest one. And I didn’t really dream about my dream proposal. But I had a dream proposal. I was blessed enough to meet someone who didn’t go for the elaborate either, but the meaningful.

My proposal took place in New Orleans, interestingly enough. I say that it is interesting because I always remember Angela Lewis, which was Halle Berry’s character in the movie, Boomerang describing New Orleans as a place where you take someone you love and just… chill.

...and just chill.

and just… chill.

Well I never really got a chance to “chill” with someone I loved while living in New Orleans. I was there for a different purpose. I went to school to study urban planning in New Orleans. I had a lot fun with my good girlfriends in New Orleans. Did some internships there. Learned a lot about the city and her culture. But no chillin’. Even still, Angela’s words stayed with me. Two years later after graduation, I returned to New Orleans with that person I loved. Aside from attending the sessions (We were there for the American Planning Association Conference), we rode the street car through the garden district. We strolled along the riverfront. We ate the best food. We partied at the House of Blues and the Rock and Bowl. And we chilled… Then I got proposed to on that last day, in the rain in front of Saint Louis Cathedral. Right there in the city made for chillin’ with the one you love. No bells. No whistles. No dancing. No Honda CRV. No barge-sinking ring. Just my man and me, along with 50 strangers, and a dozen pigeons. For me, that was the best proposal I could have gotten.

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2001 – New Orleans


So I wonder if spotting the “Planner Uniform” of the blue blazer and the khaki pants (regardless of sex) will be turned into a drinking game…? I remember packing for the American Planning Association Conferences. Choosing my outfits was a careful experience. There would be three types of clothes that I would have to pack: 1) The Business Attire – Shirts of respectable length, pants suits, blouses, matching shoes, and purses. 2) Clothes for the Night Life – Dresses or nice slacks, blouses, and boots (I don’t do so well in heels). 3) Casual Wear – If we’re doing our traditional walking tour it was necessary to have jeans or casual pants with comfortable shoes. By the way, ‘Ms. M’ is always good at working an outfit.

Because I was attending the New Orleans APA Conference, my outfits required careful thought. Going back to New Orleans was like going to a family reunion. You know how it is when you haven’t seen certain family members for a while and you know they’re going to want to know what you’re doing or if you’ve changed in some way. Well I was different from the person that I was when I attended school. I think I had surprised Dr. John Wildgen (God rest his soul) the most. He told Kevin how I used to always attend class in a baseball cap. That was indeed my chosen uniform while at UNO – oversized jeans and a baseball cap. Now my old professor was seeing me in a short dress, boots, and a skull cap… I do have a purpose for talking about the clothes, so bear with me.

In my opinion, New Orleans had the best opening ceremony. Unfortunately, it was the only ceremony I remember. Memories of other ceremonies are lost in a haze of food, drink, music, and wall-to-wall planners. I can’t tell one from another. I remember the New Orleans opening ceremony because it was at the aquarium. I just love aquariums. My parents had taken me to practically every one in the northeast. In the future, Kevin will have taken me to every aquarium in the southeast. Anyway, there is nothing like selecting hors de vors and drink while being surrounded by neat, floating, seahorses and jellyfish.

My memories of New Orleans consist of the bowling party with Planning and the Black Community Division and our visits to the French Market, but it was the last day of the American Planning Association Conference that will stay with me forever. That morning Kevin and I had lunch at Zachary’s with ‘Ms. A,’ Ms. M,’ and another fellow planner. It had been the intention for Kevin and me to hit the road right after as it was a long drive back to Atlanta. After taking pictures on the porch and saying our goodbyes, I fully expected for us to head for the I-10 East and out of the city, but Kevin wanted to drive around some more and see New Orleans one last time. I didn’t blame him. After this conference, New Orleans became “our city.” I had already told him my dream of someday owning a house there. After driving the streets of downtown and the French Quarter, taking in the “ah-kit-techture,” we ended up back at Jackson Square. This is where Kevin and I got out of the car and we ended up in front of Saint Louis Cathedral. By then it started to rain, which was okay because I was in casual attire of a shirt, green jeans, and boots for the purpose of the trip home. I had added the baseball cap to protect mr hair from the rain. Kevin took me inside of the church. Ok, nice. Been inside before… Then Kevin took me outside of the church in the drizzle… Just as I really began to wonder what on earth was really going on, Kevin was on his knee on the wet concrete and he asked me to marry him. I got down on my knees and told him yes – me and my baseball cap. Suddenly, the audience that we didn’t even know that we had broke out in applause.

Needless to say, that New Orleans was the best conference I had ever attended.

Missing: Terrilynn Monette


I’m going to break from my usual blog format to talk about a young lady who has been missing since March 2nd. She went out with friends to celebrate a milestone in her teaching career and disappeared from a bar. Just vanished without a trace. Yes, I realize that men, women, and children go missing everyday. It’s heartbreaking and I weep for their loved ones because that is a pain no one should ever have to endure. I find myself having to talk about Terrilynn Monette, however. While I have never met this woman, she speaks to me because she could have been me. First, she was taken from Lakeview in New Orleans, which isn’t far from where I went to school. Secondly, she’s a teacher. She came to New Orleans as a fellow who is placed in inner city schools. Third, she’s my sorority sister, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Incorporated. I understand that this young woman is originally from California. I can’t help but to wonder as I am writing this if she, like me came to New Orleans to make a fresh start in her life only to have this happen. I’m not going to ask the rhetorical question as to who could be so sick as to snatch this young woman in the prime of her life. I just pray that we find her alive.

Palmetto Dinner Table

JambalayaAnyone who knows me knows that if you take me to a restaurant, I am content with ordering a burger and fries. No mayo on the burger. Mustard only and with fixin’s sans tomatoes. I use ketchup on the fries only if they are steak fries or have skins. The salt goes in the ketchup and then I dip. If it’s shoestring or the waffle kind, salt only. If you really want to get on my good side, take me to a place that serves excellent New York Style Pizza. That’s the large slices with perfectly seasoned, rich tomato sauce and dripping cheese. Pepperoni. Always pepperoni. Only pepperoni (I’m getting hungry as I am writing this). I’ll eat the other toppings, but to me that’s not the perfect pizza slice.

Although I am from Hilton Head Island, I hate fish and that includes shrimp. If you open a can of tuna in front of me, I am likely to go postal. I actually don’t mind the taste of shellfish dipped in butter. My mother used to have to share with me when she ordered lobster. Then we went crabbing. I enjoyed it. There was deserted inlet on the island (secret’s out though now, as it’s been overrun by tourists) where we set up camp, tied some chicken neck to the casting basket, lowered it in the water, and waited for a nibble. I was so excited when I caught my crabs. Then I befriend the crabs. Finally, I became traumatized when my catch was thrown into the cooking pot filled with boiling hot water. Alive. Needless to say, no more shellfish for me. From then on, I would catch the crabs, but I wouldn’t eat them.

Once in a while, I do crave a Low Country home cooked meal. I really missed it while at Hampton and the alternative was over-sugared spaghetti from the “Big Cafe”. During the holidays on the island, family dinners would encompass the usual soul food accoutrements. Meats included fried chicken, turkey, and ham. The different sides were various salads, macaroni and cheese, and South Carolina’s official vegetable: collard greens (For real. It was actually a question on Jeopardy!). For the breads we most likely would have rolls and cornbread. Now of course our table distinguishes itself with a couple of low country highlights like white rice and red rice (yay!), okra and tomatoes, and shrimp dishes. I’m still waiting for someone to cook Low Country Boil, though.

When I got to New Orleans, I had to get used to food being a favorite pastime. It was an easy tradition to fall into and the food is excellent too. Based on what I stated earlier, I stay away from crawfish, ettoufee, and shrimp po boys. I head that they are good though, so if you are a seafood lover, I encourage you to chow down. For me though, I love jambalaya, red beans and rice (I had some that was excellent on that River Road Plantation trip that I took with my class), muffalettas, and I’ll do a meatball po boy. I love Beignets. My husband made some for us this weekend. I heard bananas foster is a good desert when made right. I’m thinking it’s like banana pudding, but with that special flava. I like my bananas in a shake or smoothie, so I have not had the pleasure of trying either of those dishes. I can do a King Cake for Mardi Gras. It took a couple of tries to get this desert right without destroying the baking pans (burnt sugar is nothin’ nice).

As I get older and cook more special family dinners, sure I make the traditional soul food, but it’s accented with accented with a couple of Low Country dishes. That’s not all though. I’m practicing my New Orleans cuisine for a more eclectic table. Come to my house for the holidays and there will be the usual meats, sides, and breads. Also you will find three types of rice to include my jambalaya. As soon as I perfect the red beans and rice, that will be added to the repertoire as well. And finally, I will learn how to do Low Country Boil with Seafood. Just because I don’t eat it, doesn’t mean that I can’t cook it. I wonder if it would be frowned upon if I added a New York Style pepperoni pizza to the spread.

The Palmettos Celebrate Mardi Gras

My decision to attend the University of New Orleans for my masters degree was an important one. It was during a time when I needed a serious life change. I wanted to go to a place that was unfamiliar but held as much history as the home I was leaving behind. New Orleans was indeed different. The music. The lingo (which I have to remember on each return trip). The food. The culture. It was all so different. But it was familiar. I would listen to some of the accents and they would remind me of how my grandmother used to sound. Surprisingly, I could understand some of the patois, even though it was not Gullah, because it was similar to that of the low country even with the French influences. They also use piliau so of course I would love the jambalaya. I’m a red rice kind of girl, remember? Add some different spices and there you go! The music – oh the music – what can I say about the music? The first time I heard that New Orleans bounce music on the radio I was floored. It wasn’t GoGo, it wasn’t House music. I was like nothing I had ever heard. I had to find a station that played some Biggie Smalls or something. Eventually though, I found myself bouncing right along with it. I love the live brass bands. I love the Zydeco. I can get down with some Mystikal, Juvenile, and Master P. (I think sis stole my cd though). Br’er Rabbit stories. They tell Br’er Rabbit stories according to the curator at the Laura Plantation. My daddy can tell a Billy Beaver story at the drop of a hat.

While in New Orleans, I met the best person I could for a girl who loves history (Not discounting my other NOLA buds – shout outs to ‘Miss A’, ‘Miss D’ and others…) For the sake of this post, I will call my friend, ‘Miss M’. Miss M knows as much about New Orleans as I do about Hilton Head, and that’s a lot. We met at some crazy function, which will remain anonymous in case those people are still in operation. Let’s just say that it’s no place for a devoted Catholic and A.M.E. So I think our agenda at that function was trying to sift through the nuts, not drink the Kool Aid, and find someone half-way normal. I think we took to each other immediately (along with another girl who ended up leaving school after the first semester) especially when we found out that we were in the same Planning Masters program. From that weekend, it was on and we were going everywhere, and everywhere had a history lesson. There was so much over my two years there so I’ll stick to the highlights. Some outings deserve their own blog post. There was the French Quarter. Going to the French Quarter required wearing the “French Quarter boots”. There was always a party going on there and people partied hard. I had to keep a straight face while having a conversation with a dude in a leather vest and matching thong. There were the clubs, shops, and restaurants of course, but there were also the magnificent “ah-kitecture” and the secret interior gardens. There was Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square, which is an excellent historic site as it’s the birthplace of jazz. Too bad it’s always gated… There are the above ground cemeteries, which is a necessity seeing that the Crescent City is below sea level. I saw them on the way into the city and was intrigued. I never thought of a cemetery as a good place to visit, but it was really interesting. There is one site that is the resting place of the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, which is marked by a series of “x’s”. Saint Louis Cathedral would hold a special memory for me in the future. The Garden District held the sprawling mansions, City Park, and Tulane. Treme held Claiborne Avenue, dissected by the 1-10, which had its own Black American history and plenty of oak trees, now gone. Of course I can’t forget about the Mardi Gras Indians. I think the first time I saw them in full dress was at the Zulu Ball.

We went everywhere that first year. No matter our destination, there was the standing order – DO NOT BUY MARDI GRAS BEADS. Little did I know that there would be more than plenty. The first place we went that Mardi Gras season was to the Quarter. Miss M and my sis (who was visiting that weekend) got a few beads from the people in the balcony, but they didn’t get as much as those who bared themselves for all to see. I didn’t get any beads. Not to worry, there were more opportunities at the parades. I got plenty from Bacchus, Muses, Endymion, Thoth, Orpheus, and more. I got more beads that you could count, including a really huge one when a total stranger lifted me up to the float. The coveted beads were the ones with the name of the Krewe and I managed to get a few of those as well. All of this happened before Fat Tuesday even arrived. I had never heard of the parade we would head to that morning. I had awaken and gotten ready at an hour in the morning that usually leaves me very cranky, but we had to stake out a prime spot for this particular parade. I don’t even remember which street we ended up on, but at least we were up front. What parade was this, you ask? This was a parade where sure, you may have gotten a few beads, even some with the name of the Krewe and that year’s icon, but what you really wanted from the Zulu Parade were the coconuts. These coconuts were handed to a person, not thrown (Imagine the concussion. Worse, imagine the beat down). It’s a real prize, so much so that I saw this guy almost let this kid get squished by the rolling float so that he could grab the one that was being handed to him. It was unbelievable with all of the hands reaching for the painted prize.

I didn’t get one that first year. Miss M got two and being the friend that she is, gave me one. I did get a spear, which I still have. The next year, being a bit more savvy in Mardi Gras, I actually managed to get three. Take that! Over the years, I have collected about six coconuts, a couple given to me by Miss M, and a boatload of beads. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of them over the years with all of my moving around. I still have the really big one, although in pieces thanks to the snatching hands of a particular 18-month-old. I have not been back to Mardi Gras since graduating from UNO, although I’m itching to go. Maybe an early anniversary gift (hint). Meanwhile, I have to settle for the reports from Miss M on the parade front. Right now she’s throwing ‘bows for coconuts and I suggest those who are out there get out of her way.

The Big Beads

The Big Beads

The Spear from the Zulu Parade

The Spear from the Zulu Parade

Palmetto Art

When I describe my sister, Tam, I would say that no one else has one of these.  People may think that’s extreme or they may think, “Oh everyone says that about someone in their life,” but once people meet my sister, they understand what I am talking about. You don’t just meet Tam, she’s someone you “experience”.  She’s bubbly. She’s energetic. She’s creative. But you can’t just use words to describe Tam (although I will attempt to in this blog post).  Not even the word, “charismatic,” does her personality justice. Whatever it is about her, it’s infectious. My best example: When I was living in New Orleans, Tam was attending Florida State University and came to visit me one Mardi Gras weekend.  We, along with a couple of my friends, were standing on the corner of, I believe it was St. Charles and Canal St., waiting on the street car. My sister regaled us with the details of her trip to New York City with the University gospel choir.  I noticed the further she got along in her story, the larger this crowd grew of people I have never seen before in my life.  By the time she got to the end of story, she had this crowd of random people cracking up. I don’t know if it were just the specifics of this experience that were humorous (although they were funny), or the comedic factor that was pumped up several notches in the telling. She had the hand gestures and the sound effects. It was the varying facial expressions. It’s one of those “you had to be there,” but again to know her is to understand what I’m talking about.  And it’s not just her knack for storytelling.  There’s the fact that she makes up names for certain events and items that just fit and catch on (Yes, that humongous winter coat that you are wearing, swallowing you whole, does look like it should be called a “Boonitup” coat). Then there’s the “each sponge has a purpose depending on what you are cleaning,” which I can’t just limit to calling it anal.  It’s just too funny. Then Tam has all of her friends, of course… And my friends too. When I spent time with my friends, Tam was right there. Most siblings mind, I didn’t. She was just herself and blended right on in.

And then there is the art. The purpose of this blog post.  My parents knew what they were doing when they named artist, Uncle Alex as her godfather (God rest his soul). They were peas in a pod when it came to original personalities. And artistic talent.  My sister has a corporate career like most people and like everything else, she brings her own flair to the position.  She even uses her experiences to teach others (Corporate Tips), but it’s a big cover up for the hidden talent. The art. I asked my sister to design my book cover. I knew that my sister drew things here and there and did craftwork here and there. I’m thinking she’s going to send me some sketches or some crayon work on construction paper. No, this girl sends artwork masterpieces on tile. Two of them. Just when I think I know her, I’m floored. They are such a brilliant depiction of Sea Island art using yellows, blues, and greens. She knew what I wanted even though I didn’t know what I wanted and she gave me what I wanted. Add that to the list of character traits that I cannot describe using merely words.   So, again I am serious when I say, that no one else has one of these.  A unique individual.

Happy Birthday, Sis. I look forward to many more years of you.

By Tarisse Grant-Shelton

By Tarisse Grant-Shelton


By Tarisse Grant-Shelton

By Tarisse Grant-Shelton