A Kid, An Apple, A Summer, A Trip, A Storm, A Syndrome, and I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends


First of all, let me say that the greatest joy in my life are my two amazing children, Henry and Isabelle.  I am so grateful for them, and as every mother knows, they enrich my life in untold ways. They are shown here on their way to  Henry's graduation ceremony from Lusher Charter High School. And this is where my story begins.

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At the young age of 19, Henry is already an accomplished artist with an outstanding body of work in the fields of sculpture, painting, film and installation art. In fact, (and I realize I'm bragging here) he won the top art award from his High School, and they created a special name for it in honor of him: The Out-Of-the Box award for Fine Arts! Here are some pictures of his metal sculptures.



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For Henry's graduation, I gave him a high-tech wonderful new Apple Computer. It has all the cool graphics and film editing and music synthesizing capabilities and all kinds of other things I don't understand on it that he said would be helpful in his college career because he has chosen to pursue a major in fine arts.


Henry said  that this computer was just what he needed to make all his dreams come true. He also told me that he would hand me down his present Apple computer to replace my PC that was in the process of dying.

Henry said I would love working on a Mac. He said it would change my life, and boy did it!

I quickly came to realize that Macs are very different than PC's and lots of programs do not translate easily from one operating system to the other. Let me also say that I am an old dog and I was not doing too well with learning the new tricks. Most importantly, you cannot blog using Windows Live Writer on a Mac, and I couldn't find anything comparable to use on my new hand-me-down Apple computer, so blogging became quite a challenge since my PC was getting so decrepit and slow that it would time itself out before it could get a post published. It was very sad and very frustrating.

In addition, the summer following Henry's graduation   became a  very  busy one, with lots very interesting projects.

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The summer went by so fast, that I barely had time to realize that I would be taking my first-born child, now all grown up, all the way across the country to college.

Which was lucky, because I didn't have time to get started on my empty-nest syndrome quite yet.

Well, the summer went by, and it became time for us to take Henry  to college in California. And since I have not been able to bring myself to get on a plane since Hurricane Katrina (it's my own personal manifestation of post-traumatic stress) I decided to drive him there.

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Here's Henry on his way to College!

I left my shop in the very capable hands of the beautiful and talented Julie P and Jennifer G. who took care of everything in their own inimitable style!

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We were very lucky because our wonderful friends Hayes and Jessica, to whom I'm eternally grateful, decided to join us and make a fun road trip out of it. And it truly was.

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Here are Hayes and Jessica with Henry in Albuquerque.

It was a wonderful trip and we had so much fun riding together, watching the scenery and landscape go by, visiting some interesting places, eating,, drinking, and just enjoying the trip.


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We saw awesome mountains.

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Beautiful plant life.

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Fabulous architecture.

It was great fun, but also, privately I was realizing what an enormous step we were taking. I was bringing my son all the way across the country to school. And leaving him there. I tried not to dwell on this aspect, and just enjoy our wonderful trip.

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We visited Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas.

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Here's Henry and Jessica posing with a big rooster somewhere in Texas.

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We visited the amazing Painted Desert.

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And finally, we reached San Francisco. We got to San Francisco about 5 or 6 days before Henry had to be at school so that we could enjoy being in San Francisco and visiting with our friends Robyn and Robert, our friends from New Orleans who moved to California so that Robyn could attend graduate school  at San Francisco Art Institute.

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Here are Hayes, Jessica, Robert, Robyn, and Henry in San Francisco after attending the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the de Young Museum. It was an amazing show and I was so happy to have had the opportunity to see it.

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Here are Hayes and Jessica and Henry clowning at the waterfront on the Embarcadero.

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Henry and me on the Pier.

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After awhile, we got Henry settled, and school started and it was finally time for me to go home. I knew it would be hard to say goodbye, and I was dreading it, when I got a call from my daughter Isabelle. "Mom, you can't come home," she said. "Hurricane Gustav is coming and we have to evacuate."


Grateful as I was not to have to say goodbye to Henry just yet, I was so worried about Isabelle, our cats, our friends and our beloved, battered city. None of us was prepared to have to face another hurricane.

I was so proud of Isabelle. She and some of our wonderful neighbors readied our house for any eventuality. Isabelle emptied our refrigerator, she prepared to take the cats with her and my dear friend Mary Alice, the mother of Isabelle's friend Georgianna scooped Isabelle up and took her with them to safety in Alabama. Mary Alice has my eternal gratitude for getting my child out of harm's way.

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Here is Isabelle with her good friend Georgianna, before evacuating.

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My wonderful  angels, Mary Alice and Tom May, who took Isabelle with them on their evacuation, and kept her safe and entertained.

Meanwhile, at my workshop Michael battened down the hatches, closing shutters and otherwise securing the building. Lesley and Kathryn got things in order, and Lesley, choosing to stay in the city, offered to look after my house and my cats, so that Isabelle would not have to put them and herself through the ordeal of a long car trip.

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Here is Lesley, with her wonderful attitude, telling me not to worry about it because she had everything under control! She was so wonderful, e-mailing me and texting me about weather conditions, the city, and my cats!

I cannot even begin to describe what this meant to me, far away from home, facing the upcoming saying goodbye to Henry, dealing with  the reawakening of post trauma feelings from Katrina, being separated from Isabelle and knowing I would have to make the trip home alone because Hayes and Jessica had to fly out to help their families evacuate. And did I mention that I have severe travel anxiety?????

At any rate, we used the opportunity to enjoy more of  the Bay Area, and to move Henry in with Robyn and Robert, who opened their home to him. They are truly amazing friends.

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We visited the Golden Gate Bridge where Henry, Robyn and Robert pose with a section of one of the cables that holds the bridge up.

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We went to China Town,


we ate at The Stinking Rose,


and the Cliff House.

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This is the view from our table at the Cliff House.

My extended stay in San Francisco really gave me the opportunity to see the everyday sights of the city.

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And  meanwhile, the city of New Orleans escaped the devastating effects of Hurricane Gustav.


When it was finally time to say "goodbye" to Henry, I will admit that I think I cried more tears than the number of raindrops that fell during Gustav. Although I am not proud to admit this, I did not take it very well at all!

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done to leave my son in California, and make my way back home without him.

Since Hayes and Jessica had already gone home, I was left to make the trip home all by myself, not an easy feat for someone with travel anxiety, so I decided to look upon it as an adventure.

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I stayed at the lovely Hilton Checkers in downtown LA.


And the next morning I drove myself to Union Station and boarded a train for home.


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I loved the colors and patterns in the historic Union Station.

Here are some photos I took out of the train window as I crossed the country on my trip home.

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I must say that the way I coped with my travel anxiety while on the train was to concentrate on the beautiful scenery that was going by.

Because of Hurricane Gustav, Amtrak was only allowing the train to go as far west as San Antonio, so my trip took another twist, since I then had to find a place to stay overnight in that city before renting a car to drive home to New Orleans. Fortunately, I was able to find a beautiful place to stay, the newly opened Grand Hyatt. 



The new hotel is beautiful and has some very interesting light fixtures, but I digress...

The next morning, the car rental man who picked me up from the hotel was kind enough to give me a little driving tour of  San Antonio so I actually  got to see the Alamo!


The last leg of my journey consisted of an approximately nine hour drive from San Antonio to New Orleans. I was never more ready to get home!

When I arrived home that night, the city was still pretty much evacuated, giving it an eerie feeling I hadn't experienced since the time I had come home to visit my house during the Katrina evacuation.

The next morning, when I returned the rental car downtown across the street from the convention center, more disturbing memories of post-Katrina times surfaced.


Isabelle returned home from her evacuation trip, and I was so glad to see her that I almost fainted. We went to the grocery to restock our refrigerator and did the little housekeeping things that make you feel like you're getting back into the normal routine.

But there were reminders that a storm had made its presence felt on our  city, on our lives. And it made us remember how vulnerable we really are down here.

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And life seemed very different with Henry so far away.

So I went into a "Post-Traumatic-Empty-Nest-Syndrome Funk!

My lighting business was so busy since we were making all the lighting in the Lafayette Decorator Showhouse as well as for several other projects. Everyone who works with me was so wonderful helping me keep going and keeping me on track, and I am so grateful for all their help.

I tried to blog but I couldn't figure out how to do it on an Apple and my PC was not cooperating, and in my emotionally challenged condition, I just gave up.

BUT, since I never stay down for long, I am here to tell you that it has all turned out well in the end. I decided to buy myself a new computer just for picture storage and blogging and I love it!!! It's small and cute and travels well and I understand it! And my mother's heart is happy because my beloved Henry has decided to return to New Orleans and pursue his degree in Fine Art right here at Loyola University. So I'm feeling more centered, more cheerful and very inspired.

Hence, you can count on reading much more regular, interesting, stimulating  posts because I am very happily back on track!

One last note, though.

As anyone familiar with design blogging knows, the blogosphere is such a community. Not only is it a forum for writing about and discussing ideas with like-minded people, it is truly a place where good friends are made, and in my case this is more than true.

I was lucky enough this fall to have been paid a visit by the gorgeous and amazing Visual Vamp, Valorie Hart.

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She popped into my shop and into my life on the night of Art for Art's Sake, and we immediately hit it off!

As you can easily tell from her amazing blog, Valorie has oodles of experience in the design and decorating field, and more than that, she has a natural, instinctive "eye" for the fabulous and a true writer's voice.

She lives in a chic and swanky New Orleans shotgun house which she and her wonderful husband and tango partner, Alberto have made their own.



After the first time we met for coffee, we became soul sisters,and Valorie was so very encouraging of me and helped me draw out of my slump. She insisted that I get  a PC and get my worn-out self back into the blogging world. I am so grateful to her for that and much more!!

I  have asked Valorie to be the Marketing Director for Julie Neill Designs and she graciously accepted my offer! So thank you Blogosphere for bringing such an amazing friend in to my life and stay tuned bloginistas, because I am back and will be posting regularly!

I am the owner of Julie Neill Designs in New Orleans where we create beautiful custom lighting. This blog is my love letter to the unique people, places and happenings which make New Orleans the amazing place it is.

Please visit my website to learn more about my lighting and our fabulous shop on Magazine Street.


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