Introducing Mother of Pearl
Writer, new mom, and old soul, Grace Wilson, introduces a new column exploring the pleasures and pitfalls of parenthood, learned at the knees of Evangeline Pearl.
Ever since June 22, 2016, pacifiers, half-eaten popsicles, pearl necklaces and other items previously foreign to me have crept into my life and the crevices of our home.
There are so many things that happen in the first few years of a child’s life, but since you are walking around like someone just hit you in the face with a frying pan, it’s hard to remember them all.
I’m grateful to have a space to start sharing some of these moments. Welcome to our new column: Mother of Pearl.
There won’t be any parenting advice here, since I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. In fact, you can take these vignettes and make notes of what not to do.
These are old tricks, but I’m a new dog. Take for instance the first birthday. How many times have we heard not to make a big deal out of a child’s first birthday?
Not enough, obviously.
This is a perfect example, like a house fire, of how a small thing can wind up so out of control so quickly. (And yes, there was a small house fire as we were prepping for Pearl’s party.)
The first sign that things were about to get silly should have been when people who didn’t come to our wedding (an equally out of control situation) began booking plane tickets to fly across the country for this event.
An event she’ll never remember.
But is forever burned in our memories.
What started out as a simple plan to blow up a few baby pools and grill some hotdogs turned into a full-blown Hawaiian luau, complete with a whole roasted hog from Williams BBQ and a fire dancer from New Orleans.
My in-laws, who spent many years in Hawaii, lovingly prepared authentic Hawaiian side dishes and appetizers for days. About an hour before the party, there was what the Bay St. Louis Historical Society now refers to as “The Great Panko Breadcrumb Fire of 2017,” which my husband put out with a fire extinguisher, with a bug sprayer strapped to his back as wasps were stinging him under his shirt.
Honestly, it’s a wonder anyone in my family is still speaking to me.
Turns out, my ever-thoughtful Husband didn’t even need to spray for bugs in the yard because, like clockwork, as soon as the Bay Rats Marching Battery began to play, the bottom fell out of the sky in the most epic summer rainstorm of recent memory. Did I not mention that a full children’s band came to perform?
Those kids played their hearts out so beautifully. I wish I could have enjoyed the moment a bit more, but I was too busy praying a lighting bolt wasn’t going to strike the huge oak branch they were playing under.
The kids and their equipment survived and I must have stopped praying for a second because the next thing I knew lightning came so close to the house, it shot through the amplifier and metal guitar strings and zapped one of my favorite New Orleans musicians. Did I not mention that singer-songwriter Sarah Quintana had come to serenade?
Music was moved to the Great Hall.
The cake got mistakenly ordered from the Claiborne Hill in Picayune, not Waveland. A drag queen came to the rescue with cookies.
Pearl, worn out from all the action, fell asleep long before candles, cake and ice cream. As people drifted out, more came in. Just as a second wind was filling my sails I finally took a moment to look around at the lovely village that was helping raise this sweet baby and realized that once again in life, nothing went to plan, but in the end everything was perfect.
My family and I are so honored to be a part of the amazing community in Bay St. Louis. Pearl has already had so many adventures around the places and characters of Old Town. We are looking forward to sharing a bit of child-rearing antics with you all.
I’d love to hear your stories and advice when it comes to throwing birthday parties for the kiddos. Email me at : firstname.lastname@example.org
What's Up, Waveland? March 2018
Waveland Alderman Jeremy Burke reports on the St. Paddy's Day parade, the new amendment to the city charter and the ground-breaking for the lighthouse!
The parade will start on Waveland Avenue, travel down Central Avenue, turn right onto Coleman Avenue, right on Beach Boulevard and then disband at Waveland Avenue. Waveland Police Department decided this route is logistically the best route for the parade. Hope to see everyone lined up on the route ready to catch beads, cups, and, of course, cabbage!
Waveland Charter Change
The Waveland Board of Aldermen voted and approved in February to amend the Waveland charter. The major change to the charter is moving the date the newly elected mayor and alderman assume office. The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to move the date of being sworn into office from the day after the general election to the first regular scheduled meeting in January. This will allow for a one-month transition period for the newly elected mayor and aldermen.
The proposed amendment must be sent to the Mississippi Secretary of State for his approval before the change can become official.
Waveland Lighthouse Groundbreaking
If you have driven down Beach Boulevard lately, you may have noticed the fencing around the parking lot at the foot of Coleman Avenue. That means construction is about to start on the much anticipated Waveland Lighthouse.
The city of Waveland would like to invite you to the ribbon cutting for the Waveland Lighthouse on Friday, March 9th, 10:00 AM at the Waveland Lighthouse site with a reception to follow at the Waveland Business Center. For more details, please call Waveland City Hall at (228) 467-4134.
An App for Sound Sleep?
There's an app for everything, and sometimes lots of them! Karen Fineran takes a comprehensive look at some of the most popular apps available to help you get a good night's sleep!
Experts explain that, as we sleep, we naturally flow between phases of deep sleep and light sleep, and our movements vary with each sleep phase. The idea behind Sleep Cycle is that interrupting the "wrong" sleep cycle stage, such as slow-wave ("deep") sleep or REM (rapid eye movement, when dreaming occurs), results in grogginess upon awakening.
Sleep Cycle works by using either the microphone inside your iPhone to detect noises, or the accelerometer inside your iPhone (the part that knows when you turn it sideways) to detect your movements as you sleep.
To use Sleep Cycle, you set an alarm for the absolute latest you want to wake up, plug in your smartphone and place it under your pillow or on the nightstand before you go to bed. Sleep Cycle will try to trigger the alarm during your lightest sleep cycle within 30 minutes before the time you set to be woken up.
During this phase, Sleep Cycle will monitor signals from your body to wake you softly, when you are in the lightest possible sleep state. For example, if you opt for a 30 minute wake up phase and set your alarm for 8:00 am, if Sleep Cycle feels strong movement as you turn at 7:42 a.m. (indicating you’re experiencing light sleep), it will wake you at your most restless point, resulting in your possibly feeling more refreshed than if you’d been woken at 8:00 a.m. in the middle of a deep sleep.
When you’ve woken, you can check your phone and see that Sleep Cycle has generated a sleep graph that allows you to see when you were sleeping the lightest and when you were in your deepest phases.
On this daily graph, you will also see small sound waves under the graph if it detects snoring, along with an option to listen to a 15-second sample of the session in the stats on the same page. (Snore detection is available in the free version, but playing back the snore recordings is a feature of the premium package.)
The free version of Sleep Cycle includes: the intelligent wake-up alarm; sleep analysis with a nightly sleep graph; different choice of alarm melodies; snooze (by shaking or double-tapping the phone lightly); snore detection with “patented sound technology” (but not snore playback); Apple Health integration (exchanges sleep analysis and heart rate), and the export of sleep data to Excel for detailed analysis. After five nights of sleep, Sleep Cycle will calculate the quality of sleep compared to your other nights.
For $30, the Premium version of Sleep Cycle includes everything found in the free version, with the addition of online backup; long-term trends so that you can “compare your sleep with the world;” historical snore trends data; sleep aids to help you fall asleep faster; the ability to take sleep notes (such as whether you drank coffee and how it affected you or what time you ate); your self-reported “wake-up mood;” a wake-up weather report; heart rate tracking (measures your resting heart rate every morning using the built-in camera); Philips Hue light bulb integration (simulates a natural sunrise to give a softer wake-up); and snoring recording playback and export.
In my opinion, the free option gives more than enough options to not upgrade. You can change the sound of your alarm, whether or not you want to add vibration, the type of snooze, the range of wake up phase, if you want to turn the alarm function off on the weekend, and the type of motion detection.
For me, the most interesting premium feature (which alone almost made me shell out the $30) was the snoring snippet playback. How tempting to listen in on the changes in my snore rhythms (or my partner’s) at various phases of the night!
Does the app work? Is there hard science behind it? How accurate is it? Could it even be a “fake” app? I had read a couple of reviews speculating that the app could be bogus, based on claims that the person had set the app up and then left their iPhone out on a table or on the floor, instead of at their bedside. The next morning, supposedly, the phone displayed a sleep graph as if their phone had been beside their pillow all night. Sleuth that I am, I tried it out on the carpeted floor of the spare room in my mother’s house, and no graph was created except for the smallest of vibrations.
Sleep Cycle claims that, with its highly technical microphone motion detection, it even works well for two persons sharing a bed. “Sound decays exponentially with distance, this means that sounds generated by your partner will have a much lower volume than sounds generated by you. And when you are linked over WiFi, Sleep Cycle will be able to locate from where the sound originates, providing a much more accurate sleep analysis.”
My personal experience is in line with the claims. Each bed partner generates his or her different individual graph, but the graphs tend to be rather similar. If one partner gets up at 4 a.m. to relieve himself in the bathroom, or he stirs or rolls in his sleep enough to affect your own movements, or if that Catahoula hound or that cat jumps on or off the shared bed, both of your graphs will register the “sleep disruption” as if it were your own.
In addition, if you have a television in your bedroom and watch TV before bed while lying still (a habit that is not recommended), it will register on the graph as sleep. It can be disconcerting when your sleep graph indicates that you have been lying in bed sleeping for twelve hours, even if you know that you were binging on Game of Thrones.
For people with apnea or other serious sleeping issues, Sleep Cycle is no substitute for clinical sleep analysis and it should not be considered to be pinpoint accurate. In the clinic, sleep researchers use “polysomnography” to strategically place a series of electrodes (EEG) that measure cortical brain activity across particular areas of neurons. These voltage fluctuations appear like waves on the researcher’s computer monitor. In addition to the EEG, various sensors are also placed on the body to detect breathing and movement throughout the night.
Sleep Cycle’s accuracy cannot compare. For one thing, a night's sleep is peppered with brief awakenings and arousals, especially in individuals with apnea, insomnia, or restless legs. Most people find it easy to fall back to sleep after these disturbances, but your phone's motion sensor doesn't know how long you might have been lying motionless while trying to coax yourself back to sleep.
For another, sleep latency (the time between lights-out and when you actually fall asleep) changes every night. While it has been said that the average person takes fourteen minutes to fall asleep, it actually varies every night depending on various factors – such as stomach upset, or stress over an upcoming exam in the morning.
In my experience, the Sleep Cycle app helped me get a better night’s sleep because of its intelligent alarm feature. I believe that I may have less brain fog and feel more alert throughout the day. It also seemed easier for me to wake up, which is something I sometimes struggle with. The only criticism I have is that Sleep Cycle will not automatically set your alarm clock for you (and that you have to pay $30 if you wish to listen to your own snoring).
Given Sleep Cycle’s price (free, if you already own a smartphone!) and the basic sleep tracking features it offers, it’s difficult not to recommend at least giving it a try.
Other Sleep Apps
If this kind of thing interests you, there are plenty of other options on the app market, and you could try and compare as many as you like. Some are free and some aren’t, but most are inexpensive.
I tried an app called Pillow (iOS only; free, with a $4.99 upgrade), but I found it so similar to Sleep Cycle, with so many of the exact same features and a very similar look and feel, that I don’t think it bears much discussion. But, if you’re interested in Sleep Cycle’s premium app features, such as detailed sleep statistics that track over time, this is surely a cheaper route than Sleep Cycle’s $30 premium version.
Sleep Better is an app for both Android and iOS, and its free tier includes the sleep monitor that uses your phone accelerometer to record your sleep quality. It also comes with some extras like a caffeine log, moon phase tracker, and dream diary. But, only a premium upgrade adds the smart alarm clock to the mix, giving you the ability to choose your optimum wake-up window. So, this does not seem to be a better deal than Sleep Cycle’s free version.
Good Morning Alarm Clock is free and ad-supported for Android, and $4.99 for an iOS premium version. Like Sleep Cycle, it also intelligently wakes you based on your sleep activity and targeted wake-up time, with customizable alarm tunes and helpful statistics tracking. In addition, this app comes with a white noise generator to provide you relaxing sounds to help you fall asleep.
Blue light from bright backlit smartphone and tablet displays and televisions is said to interfere with your body clock and sleep cycle. Twilight (free on Android) reduces blue light on your phone’s display, automatically adjusting the colors based on the time of day, gently toning down the blue and introducing a red filter as evening approaches. This results in a softer display that is easier on the eyes and less likely to mess with your sleep cycle.
Sleep Cycle Power Nap ($1.99 on iOS) is a spinoff app from Sleep Cycle that focuses on helping users get short, comfortable naps. Users can set the app for a Power Nap (20 minutes), Recovery Nap (45 minutes), or a full sleep cycle (90 minutes), settle down somewhere comfortable, and let the app use your phone accelerometer to determine when you've fallen asleep, setting your alarm automatically to wake you. The app comes with 17 different alarm melodies and a soothing sound generator to help lull you to sleep.
If you’re looking mostly for customizable soothing sounds to help lull you to sleep, you may want to give Sleep (iOS, $1.99) a try. The app comes with pre-made mixes of soothing sounds and pictures that you can use with no fuss, but the real fun is in the app's soundboard of more than 100 different soothing sounds, pieces of relaxing music, white noise, lullabies, and binaural beats. Users can mix up their favorite soothing sounds, and can save these custom combinations to create their own themed ambient noise combos. The app comes with a sleep timer and a gentle wakeup timer to slowly wake you up with gentle sound.
On the same theme, Pzizz (free on Android or iOS) helps users slip gently into sleep using a combination of music, words, sound effects and binaural beats to help you de-stress and re-energize. Once users set a listening duration (10 minutes to 10 hours), Pzizz generates a unique sleeping soundtrack each time, from its library of built-in media.
Users can adjust the volume levels of music, sound effects and vocal tracks, to achieve the desired effects. This app claims that there are more than 10 billion possible combinations of audio elements, so that you will never have to fall asleep to the same soundtrack twice.
Another free app designed to help users drift to sleep is Surf City's Sleep Well Hypnosis app. Its hook is that it provides users with guided meditations, read by a certified hypnotherapist. It also comes with soothing background noises, and a volume mixer for the voice and background audio.
Snore Report is a free app available on iOS devices that monitors snoring. Users are provided with an audio playback and a Snore Score, an index of snoring intensity. A higher Snore Score suggests greater snoring severity.
Snore Lab is another free app that allows you to record, measure, and track your snoring. The full version is $6.99 and offers more recordings, no ads, unlimited usage, comparison charts, and a full history compared to the three-night history the free version offers. This snoring app also offers nature sounds to help you sleep.
Another app called Snore Control, also offering a free version, records snoring and talking at night, and activates a “stop snoring” function which, on the iPhone, tries to quiet you down with a sound or vibration to disrupt your deep sleep snoring. The free version has limitations on the “stop snoring” function, ability to play back recordings, and full-screen charts; the full version costs $2.99.
The one free sleep app that I am most interested to try is called Lucid Dreamer. It claims to help sleepers achieve a lucid dreaming state by triggering an audio and visual cue onscreen that trains sleepers to make a “reality check” – a common trick that lucid dreaming enthusiasts like myself use to trigger lucid dreaming.
A built-in dream log allows users to jot down their dreams and store them, or share with the app's community. A paid upgrade offers additional features such as options for custom music, sounds such as binaural beats, and pre-sleep visuals and cues to help sculpt your own “dreamscape.”
Sleep tracking apps can’t possibly have pinpoint accuracy, so any information you glean should not be viewed as rigorous science. It should be viewed as an aid to learning about your sleep patterns so that you can know how certain factors affect your sleep, snoring, and dreams (such as how much screen time you engage in before bed, the amount of caffeine you’re consuming, and what time you ate dinner and how much you ate).
So, while sleep-tracking apps are certainly not the most accurate way to assess your sleep, the upside is that people are becoming more attuned to their own circadian rhythms and the effect of sleep (or lack thereof) on their bodies. This is great news, as sleep is one of the most important health factors that can be altered.
Katrina Cottage Makeover
Only the sharpest of eyes would recognize the core of this home as a "Katrina Cottage," thanks to the imagination and vision of owner Curtis Lassere.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
The Katrina cottages came into being in the aftermath of the storm that obliterated tens of thousands Gulf Coast homes in 2005. Travel trailers were used in the initial response to provide emergency housing, but as the recovery dragged on, more permanent options were needed.
The most popular of the cottage designs was created by New York designer Marianne Cusato. Often compared to the early 1900s “Sear & Roebuck” kit houses, the Katrina cottage was attractive, designed to fit into historic neighborhoods and could be built for around $34,000. 3,500 were built for Mississippi alone.
Yet, they met resistance in most coast towns. The cottages were initially perceived as trailers or modular homes that might bring down the value of neighborhoods where residents were restoring or rebuilding more conventional homes. The cottages wound up scattered across the state, with FEMA eventually auctioning off many.
But as the tiny-house movement has gained traction in recent years, the Katrina Cottage concept has made headway from disaster assistance to mainstream.
Curtis Lassere’s imagination was captivated by the small houses he saw around New Orleans after Katrina. He had been dreaming of downsizing from his 3,500 square foot home in Metairie, one he’d renovated over a period of many years. And he had his sights set on moving to Bay St. Louis on the Mississippi coast. For twenty years, he’d been visiting friends who lived in the Bay.
In 2014, Curtis began working with realtor and friend Matt Stieffel to find a lot. One on the 400 block of Sycamore Street met every box on Curtis’s wish list. It was just a few blocks from the beach and the commercial district of Old Town. The location hadn’t flooded in Katrina and was located on some of the highest elevation on the coast. There was a lovely oak in the front yard, the neighbors were friendly, and the neighborhood quiet. Sold.
Curtis assumed he’d eventually build on the lot, but while investigating small house designs, he came across a listing for a Katrina cottage for sale in Gulfport. Since he couldn’t drive over to look at it immediately, Matt agreed to check it out. He brought back a positive report – the cottage basically just needed cosmetics and updating. The sale was made, sight unseen.
The original cottage was one of the larger, two-bedroom versions, coming in at around 950 square feet. Curtis went to work designing a master suite addition. And porches. And an outside living room, adding nearly 700 more square feet total. Local draftsman Chip Prevou drew up the plans and Curtis had a foundation built that would accommodate both the cottage and the additions.
The foundation was completed four months later, in October 2016. The cottage was moved over from Gulfport and construction on the additions began. All plumbing, electrical and HVAC had to be brought up to city code standards as well. Contractor Scott MacDonald, recommended by Curtis’s longtime friend Vicki Hughes, had the cottage move-in ready by in March 2017.
“Most people don’t even recognize it as a Katrina Cottage anymore,” Curtis said. “And those that do, walk in and say, ‘Wow!’”
Curtis credits his Louisiana heritage for providing the guiding principles for the house. He grew up “very simply,” with a large family with nine siblings in a three bedroom, one-bath house in Vacherie, Louisiana (in case you’re wondering, Curtis doesn’t remember any arguments about bathroom privileges).
His hometown is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The community’s five thousand residents mostly lived off the land – hunting, fishing and sugarcane farming. Vacherie is best known for its two plantations, Laura and Oak Alley.
Space for outdoor living is an essential ingredient of any Louisiana home, and the new porches were designed with that in mind.
The kitchen, which “is the heart of the home,” is small, but open to the living room, with a center island where visitors can chat with the cook. That’s especially important because Curtis’s family is close and gets together often. His mother, who has now passed away, loved to cook and Curtis learned her techniques. “It was her way of showing love.”
Curtis worked for more than 20 years as a kitchen designer for a major cabinet company in New Orleans, so he was able to rework the kitchen without much fuss. The original cabinets were a decent grade, and he simply painted them. He added granite countertops, a tile backsplash and the butcher block island with pullouts, made by a friend who’s a master cabinet maker.
He says the kitchen “suits my needs as a cook. It’s a compact area and easy for me to get around. I don’t cook as much as I used to, but I do it at least a few days a week.”
The flooring in the cottage was replaced with a product called Coretec. Again, Curtis’s background in home design and construction came into play: After he moved to the Bay full-time, he began working for Bay Carpet and Flooring where he discovered the product. The Coretec flooring has a PVC center core, a thick vinyl surface and a cork backing - which absorbs sound and makes it easier to stand on. Since it’s waterproof, it’s perfect for a beach town house. Cleanup is a breeze.
Other special touches in the cottage include a bead-board and beam ceiling over the screen porch. Painted in hues of white and soft turquoise, it lends a vintage look to the outdoor living room. The same technique was used in the master-bath, where the tiled walk-in shower gives the room a spa-like feel. A large reclaimed transom window in the same room protects privacy, while providing a soft light.
Barn doors salvaged from an 1860s farmhouse hang over the new washer/dryer room. The screen doors on the porch were rescued from an old schoolhouse in Hattiesburg.
One of the most intriguing features is an electric insert fireplace, just inside the front door. Since it couldn’t block the passageway, Curtis built a low-profile version from horizontally hung barge board he’d collected. The mantle is a single piece of antique heart pine. Beneath the mantle, a compartment pops open to reveal a DVD player.
Many of furnishings and pieces of art have been purchased over the years from estate sales and antique shops. And in true Louisiana fashion, every item has a story. For instance, two paintings hanging in the living room portray Vacherie’s Laura and Oak Alley plantations. Both were painted by a Louisiana artist using different hues of earth and clay.
The overall feel of the place is comfortable without being cluttered, cozy, without feeling claustrophobic. The open design and the outdoor spaces give the cottage unexpected entertainment possibilities. The cottage passed a capacity test during a New Year’s Eve party this past January. More than 40 guests came to celebrate, dine on Curtis’s gumbo and hang out by the fire pit outside. The house easily accommodated them all.
Curtis gestures around the inside living area and laughs. “Sometimes I feel like this is too much room,” he says.
“I love the simple life here in Bay St. Louis - cooking for friends, biking the bridge, walking along the beach, things like that.” He also spends free time gardening and working in the yard.
“Next on the list is to finish the porch screening and the fence in the front yard,” he says. “It’s always something. You’re never finished – even in a little place like this.”
"Promise" by Minrose Gwin
A moving new novel by award-winning writer Minrose Gwin centers around the tragic Tupelo tornado of 1936. The Shoofly Magazine's book columnist Carole McKellar interviews the author and reviews the book.
Minrose Gwin will be at Pass Christian Books on Thursday, March 22 at 5:30 pm. She will talk about Promise and sign books. I hope to see you there, but, if you can’t attend, call the bookstore and have a copy signed for later pick up.
Although the characters are fictional, Gwin uses her intimate knowledge of Tupelo landmarks to provide readers with a vivid picture of the setting. Some places like the Lyric Theater and Reed’s department store remain in business today as they were in 1936. The Lyric Theater served as a makeshift hospital in the aftermath of the tornado.
The central characters are Dovey Grand’homme, an African-American laundress, her granddaughter, Dreama, and Jo McNabb, a white girl of sixteen. The McNabbs are a prominent Tupelo family, and Dovey does their laundry. She hates the family because Jo’s brother raped Dreama without punishment or legal consequences. Dreama became pregnant as a result of the rape and gave birth to a son named Promise.
The characters in Promise are fully developed and complex. They display all too human emotions including guilt, hatred, and pride. I particularly liked Dovey who showed strength and resilience against a life of hardship. Jo and Dovey’s family are bound together by the horrific rape and their struggles after the storm.
The events depicted take place between Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936 and the following Friday. The story is told alternately from the point of view of Dovey and Jo. After the storm, Dovey searched frantically for her family in the segregated makeshift facilities. She is eventually reunited with Dreama and her husband, Virgil, but they have to keep searching for Promise.
Jo’s story involves searching for her baby brother, Tommy. Jo's mother was seriously injured in the tornado and her father was not around. The two missing babies are at the heart of the story.
The depiction of destruction is drawn from actual photographs of Tupelo in the aftermath of the tornado. Gwin’s novel artfully creates an atmosphere and landscape that puts the reader on the broken streets with the characters and shares their suffering and despair. Her depth of research takes us to a lost time and culture.
Minrose Gwin has a good ear for Southern phrasing and idiom. In that respect, she reminds me of Eudora Welty. I smiled when I read the phrase, “Katy bar the door” because my mother used that expression often when trouble was expected. I remember reading The Queen of Palmyra,* Gwin’s first novel, and thinking how true and familiar the characters felt to me. That book was also set in the Tupelo area.
Minrose Gwin has been a writer all of her adult life. She began as a journalist, but found her calling as a teacher of English and creative writing at the college level. She most recently taught at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to the two novels, she has written a memoir about her mother titled Wishing for Snow. In addition, Gwin wrote Remembering Medgar Evers about the slain civil rights leader who was murdered in 1963 outside his home in Jackson.
I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Gwin a few questions which she kindly answered by email.
How long did it take you to write Promise? There must have been a lot of research that went into the story.
Promise really chose me. I was in the revision stages of another novel, when I learned that the stories I'd heard all my life about the tornado weren't complete--that the casualty figures weren't complete because members of the African-American community of Tupelo hadn't been included. This angered me and spurred me to write the novel, which I hope excavates the deeper devastation of racial injustice. Counting research, it took about 18 months. Since I grew up in this town, the landscape was the easy part. It was the fastest book I've ever written.
Both The Queen of Palmyra and Promise deal with racism and its history in our state. You also wrote Remembering Medgar Evers. What influences led you to write about race in this way?
Yes, race is a topic I've dealt with in my scholarly work as well as my fiction and memoir, from the very beginning. I am interested in history and how history shapes us, but my books, unfortunately, are as much about the present as they are about the past. I am white, but I was fortunate to have an African-American babysitter named Eva Lee Miller and to stay with her for extended periods in her home. During my formative years, I got to know her friends and family, their struggles, from inside her home, and I got the benefit of her considerable wisdom and saw the incredible power of her resistance to the racism that embedded the culture, and of course still does. We were in close touch until her death. She was and is a major influence in my life and writing.
Did you hesitate to write in the voice of Dovey given the political climate today? By that I mean criticism of men writing in the voice of women or whites writing as African-Americans.
I don't use the first person voice for black characters in The Queen of Palmyra or Promise. In the first book, the narrator is a white woman recalling the summer she was almost eleven, and in the second, there's an omniscient narrator relating the story from the alternative points of view of Dovey, the African-American great-grandmother, and Jo, the white girl. So we get the voices of the black characters through a filter. To my knowledge, no one has objected to that in my fiction. In writing both of these novels, I was trying to directly confront the social justice issues that remain with us today.
I read about your memoir, Wishing for Snow, about your mother, a poet. Do you write poetry? Who are your favorite poets?
There was a period in my life I wrote poems and a few were published. I've been told that my prose is poetic so there must be some link there. My favorite poets? Among contemporary poets, my favorites are Joy Harjo and Natasha Trethewey. I've always loved Keats, Stevens, and Dunne.
How has your career as a journalist influenced your writing?
My few years as a journalist were pivotal in so many ways. They acquainted me with tragedy. They taught me to get the words down on paper (now computer screen), even if they weren't perfect. Journalism taught me to check my facts. I like fiction that's grounded in facts--the Tupelo tornado in 1936, for instance, in the case of Promise. I like to get details right, like what blooms when and where, like historical detail. Journalism taught me to observe the world closely.
Do you write every day?
Writing every day is especially important when I'm writing a first draft because you have a certain momentum you have to keep up, a certain drive.
What writers influenced you?
I love Mississippi writers! I'm a Faulkner scholar, so he's been a big influence, also Welty, especially the visual in her work. I love her photography too. There's a photo she took of a laundress back in the 1930s that made me start shaping the character of Dovey in Promise. I've read all of Toni Morrison's work, and taught most of it, so she's been an important influence too.
*Bay St. Louis residents will be interested to know that a portion of The Queen of Palmyra was written in the Webb School owned by Ellis Anderson and Larry Jaubert. Gwin was working in New Orleans at the time and used Webb School as a writing getaway.
The annual ArtsAlive! event in Bay St. Louis is no average art festival - it's a hands-on learning experience geared toward the next generation of artists. Peek behind the scenes and check out the 2018 schedule of events!
- by Denise Jacobs, photos Ellis Anderson, Brenda Comer
ArtsAlive 2018 Schedule
Juried exhibition and Patron' Party
530 pm Friday March 23
200 North Beach Restaurant
Arts Alive Artist / Artisan Showcase
Saturday, March 24, 10am - 5pm
Throughout Old Town
Live music til 7:30pm
110 South Second Street
Student Film Showcase
7:30pm - 8:30pm
110 South Second Street
In the new MakerSpace tent on the corner of Second and Main, a whole lot of hands-on “making” with upcycled materials will be going on. Activities include drum-making with Bay Ratz Marching Battery Director Brian Wilemon; screen printing with Kerr Grabowski; basic wiring, soldering, LED lighting, and control with David Schwartz; and clay ocarina flute-making with Rosie Demoulin.
The MakerSpace is also the go-to place for face painting. Then, over at the French Potager on the second block of Main, the Raw Oyster Marching Club will lead an interactive workshop on oyster decoration.
Volunteers of all ages will decorate and paint trash cans along the beach under the artistic direction of Chris Stebley, a successful Ocean Springs artist whose love for the Gulf Coast’s natural beauty shines through in watercolors, block prints, decorated pottery, and murals. Barney refers to Chris a “real exciting draw.”
Arts Alive! is free and open to the public; however, some events, like the Patron's Party and selected hands-on activities, require an Arts Alive! button. A voluntary contribution of $5 will buy a clever and colorful button designed by John Anderson, architect at unabridged Architecture. Buttons will be available all day during Arts Alive! and can be purchased in advance at Mockingbird Café, French Potager, 200 North Beach, and C&C Italian Bistro.
“The next generation” isn’t just an expression; Barney can put names and faces to those future artists.
Since the beginning of this academic year, a small posse of volunteers from Arts, Hancock County has met with the next generation of artists at the Bay/Waveland Boys and Girls Club on Thursday afternoons.
The after-school meetings grew out of the 2017 Magnolia Bayou STEM Project via Mississippi State University. You might say that Barney and Ann Madden, the lens in Smith & Lens and current vice president of the Arts, Hancock County, put the “A” in STEAM-based projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.) With the conclusion of summer, Barney thought, why stop there?
“Maintaining the connection to students is important,” Barney explains, noting that art education has essentially been de-funded in the public schools. For Barney, continued involvement with students is “an opportunity to give back in a really meaningful way.”
“Success,” Barney muses, is “dependent on community involvement and the generous sponsorship of local businesses and individuals.” For their part, individual businesses will host and sponsor a wide diversity of artists in partnerships that are sure to benefit artist and business alike.
Social Chair’s Yuki Northington, president of the Old Town Merchants Association, attributes the success of Arts Alive! to the accessibility of artists to the public: “Arts Alive! is always a well-attended event because customers have the opportunity to speak with each artist directly, and there is always something new to discover. Our town is bursting with artists, and this event is really their time to shine.”
Special funding and volunteer efforts will really apply the shine. The Hancock County Tourism Bureau has made possible “an aggressive plan” to draw more visitors from neighboring markets like New Orleans and Biloxi. The Hancock County Board of Supervisors made the beachfront beautification project possible.
“The traction of people who like art is gaining momentum,” says Barney. Astoundingly, over 400 people regularly attend family-friendly First Fridays at the Lazy Magnolia Brewery, events that feature local artists, sometimes in demonstration mode. In fact, the March 2 event included 12 artists from Arts, Hancock County.
“We’re real excited about this growing partnership with Lazy Magnolia Brewery. Leslie and Mark Henderson have been great supporters of the arts, both personally and through their business.”
Barney views the buttons that are being sold this year as a mechanism for those in the community who want to support the arts as another way of giving back. For its part, Arts, Hancock County will distribute buttons to next-generation artists at both CASA and the Boys and Girls Club. As Barney says, “Even $20 pays for materials for hands-on activities for four kids”
Tax-deductible donations can be made online or in person at Mockingbird Café, French Potager, 200 North Beach, and C&C Italian Bistro. Every donation directly enables the participation of those who otherwise would not be able to attend.
Barney encourages would-be volunteers to register online and indicate their volunteer preferences.
Little Theatre, Big Happenings
The Bay St. Louis Little Theatre celebrates Tennessee Williams March birthday with a hilarious Stella Yelling contest and a series of original one-act plays for budding playwrights. Stanley and Blanche would love it. And so will you.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
“We decided that first year we owned the building that we would start the tradition. Now it’s in its 10th year, all because of the community’s support,” said Cheryl Grace, the theater’s director. “They just support us in everything.”
The signature “Stella” yelling from Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is the basis for the contest that attracts Stanley Kowalskis of all ages. The audience, many seated in lawn chairs outside the theater, chant to bring namesake character out onto the theater’s actual balcony. Amy Coston, the original and only Bay St. Louis Stella, will reprise her role for the 10th time. “It’s her only acting gig of the year,” Grace said.
In previous years, anyone who wanted to compete just stepped up and paid the $10 entry fee. This year, the contest will be split into two categories: one for adults and a another for kids 12 and under.
The deadline to sign up is 30 minutes before the 4 p.m. contest, to allow for spectators who inevitably get caught up in the moment. “Some people come in costumes and others sign up at the last minute because it looks like so much fun,” Grace said.
Grace expects 25 or 30 contestants again this year. Winners have come from Oklahoma, Texas and Meridian, Miss. “We’ve had tons of contestants come from New Orleans, which has its own contest. Last year we had a gentlemen from Japan compete. It’s amazing,” Grace said.
A panel of judges from the community rate the yellers on their believability, originality, enthusiasm and appearance. First place winners in both categories will receive a large trophy along with bragging rights and cash. The adult winner gets $150 and the young winner will receive $50. Second and third place winners also will be rewarded with cash prizes. Silver Slipper Casino sponsors the contest every year.
In the early days of the Williams tribute, the Little Theatre presented one of his plays but organizers recently decided instead to try to discover the next Tennessee Williams in the state through its Mississippi Writes Original competition.
“Last year for the first time we asked for submissions of one-act plays by only Mississippi writers,” Grace said. The Mississippi-centric works are chosen for production based on their insight, creativity, craft and engagement. Each play runs approximately 20 minutes and has minimal production requirements.
This year four winning playwrights will sit in the front row of the theater and see their plays come to life on stage. “At the end of every show, we do a ‘Chat with the Cast’ and allow audience members to enjoy wine and cheese while asking the writers and actors questions about the show. It’s an amazing evening,” Grace said.
All five plays will be performed March 23, 24, 25, 30 and 31.
Stella Yelling contest
Saturday, March 31
In front of Bay St. Louis Little Theatre
398 Blaize Avenue
Free to the community
$10 contestant fee
Mississippi Writes Original
One-act plays and Chat with the Cast
March 23, 24, 30 and 31, 8 p.m.
March 25 2 p.m. matinee
Regular ticket fees
Bay St. Louis Little Theatre
If you've ever thought about fostering a shelter dog, this story is for you: it blows apart four common myths and demystifies the process!
- by LB Kovac, photos by Ellis Anderson
She’s a current board member of FOTAS and organizer of the shelter’s weekly adoption, which takes place every Saturday at Pet Smart. Having worked in so many roles in the shelter and in the foster community, she has a unique insight into the truths, and myths, of fostering animals.
Myth 1) I don’t have enough money
Costs can easily add up when owning a pet. Even small dogs or cats require some combination of food, crate or kennel, toys, and space to play.
As a pet parent, you would shoulder most of these expenses on your own. But, as a foster parent, those costs are shared with a community. The shelter and FOTAS distribute donated food, toys, leashes, and other necessities among foster parents, helping to defray costs.
And what could be the most expensive part of pet ownership – veterinarian visits - are provided free through the shelter. “There’s a vet on staff, if your foster animal needs medical services, and you have access to worming medication and flea and tick preventatives, among other things.”
2) I can’t because I have other pets or kids
An important part of the fostering process is getting animals ready for experiences outside of the shelter. In the shelter, animals spend much of their time in the kennel, but, outside in the big ol’ world, they encounter all kinds of strange noises and sounds and smells. Being socialized early on, in a safe environment, will ensure that the animal can thrive once it gets to its forever home.
“We welcome fosters with families and pets,” says Hines. “They can help the animals get used to interacting with other cats and dogs.”
There are some preventative measures in place, to make sure that both foster animal and foster family members are all safe and healthy. Along with an application, families or individuals looking to foster an animal must demonstrate that their own pets are spayed or neutered and up-to-date medication.
In turn, the shelter workers do their part to screen animals before fostering, only sending out animals that will work in a foster environment. “We never place an animal that is a medical threat,” says Hines, “and we work to make sure that they have a temperament suitable for other animals or kids.”
3) I’ll be stuck with it forever
Although some foster situations do turn into adoptions, not every foster needs to be a lifelong commitment. Some fosters are just for a few days - think pet hotel.
The Hancock shelter participates in a rescue transport program, which matches adoptable animals with potential pet owners all over the country.
Before these animals “fly” to their new home, they need a place to stay – a hotel room, if you will. Willing fosters can take these animals for a few days “vacation,” so they can relax while waiting to be transported.
The shelter also sometimes experiences overcrowding. When space is limited, workers look to fosters to take extra animals until some are adopted or transported.
“Some fosters do take much longer,” says Hines, “but the typical case lasts less than 10 weeks.”
4) They don’t need me to foster
Fostering is, according to Hines, “critical to the shelter.” Without the work of fosters, animals would die.
Like all shelters, the Hancock shelter strives to be a no-kill shelter. However, the shelter is constantly walking a very thin line.
“Adoption rates in this area are high, but intake numbers are also high,” says Hines. In the past, the shelter has been lucky to find short-term fosters who could take in animals until others were adopted or transported out of state.
If the numbers were to tip just a little – say a few less adoptions one month, or a few too many animals found wandering the streets the next – the shelter wouldn’t have enough space or resources to provide for the animals. “We rely on the fosters; if not for them, some of these animals would have to be put down,” says Hines.
If you’re interested in fostering an animal, you can contact the shelter through their website or by calling (228) 466-4516. You can also check the shelter’s Facebook page for up-to-date information about emergency foster situations.
To all those who do support the shelter’s efforts, Hines has this to say: “This community is great about letting others know about the needs of the shelter… I love those animals, and I love our volunteers.”
Lulu's on Main Street
Fresh ingredients, a creative menu, upbeat hometown atmosphere and a sunny attitude keep customers coming back again and again to Lulu's on Main.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
A farewell letter from owner Nancy Moynan - Lulu's last lunch will be served September 12, 2020
When I purchased 126 Main St thirteen years ago, I became the guardian of a massive retail space and art gallery. Eleven years ago, Lulu Eats and Entertains gourmet retailer became Lulu's "What's For Lunch?" My vision has always been to provide a unique and casual space for folks to lunch and shop. Lulu''s has thrived in being your spot to meet family, friends and coworkers for lunch and brunch and it has been my pleasure to share my love and passion for cooking with you.
Lately I have felt a bit of a tug on my belt loop that quite suddenly untied my heartstrings. After a thoughtful process I allowed myself to realize that the time is now, the time is now for a new chapter in my life, the time is now to, perhaps finish writing Lulu's cookbook, the time is now for a new guardian of 126 Main St.
I hope you savor the flavor of Lulu's in your memory and keep warm thoughts of me, Cyndi "Lulu", Regina and Lizetta.
If you were one of the many generous friends who have a special place in my heart and a plate with your name on it now you can take your plate home and make a new memory for it... to all of you, I thank you kindly.
Our last day for lunch will be Saturday, September 12. So we'd love to see you before then for lunch and you may want to buy the table and chairs, china, etc.
It has truly been my pleasure,
The setting at 126 Main Street just off Beach Boulevard is inviting, dynamic and appealing to shoppers who enjoy making their way through the historic building checking out the ever changing creations and merchandise.
Diners can choose to sit in the dining room, also art filled, or opt for a table on the adjacent screened porch, cooled by breezes off the water.
Nancy, whose resume includes cooking in the kitchen of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, prepares traditional Southern food as well as Continental cuisine, all bundled up into a casual coastal dining experience. Nancy also learned cooking from her mother and grandmother, so that adds an extra dimension to LuLu’s dishes.
Consider Lulu’s Jazz Brunch menu available on Sundays. Redfish Florentine pairs pan fried Gulf fish and creamy Spinach Madeleine. Cheese grits are topped with tender grillades or large BBQ shrimp. Pain Perdu comes in a silky version or Nancy’s own twist, served with golden fried chicken tenders. There’s more tradition found in the desserts: Betty’s Bread Pudding and Bananas Foster to name just two choices.
Breakfast and lunch offerings are all prepared to order.
“I have a fixed menu - all the hot, delicious sellers like pear pecan salad, and specials every week - whatever’s fresh, whatever I feel like. Or I might do a different take on a popular special,” she said. On a recent week the special was Oysters Rockefeller Quesadillas.
Nancy’s corn and crab bisque and portobello mushroom with baby spinach soup are always popular items, as is her “debris” stuffed roast beef poboys, and chicken salad. Those items never change. “You can come in 10 years from now and taste the same flavors,” she said.
Also among the favorites is Nancy’s homemade, all natural ingredient ice cream, made in small batches every day, and not just in summertime.
Nancy maintains her passion for cooking, preparing all meals to order and with attention to ingredients and tradition. “If it smells like my mom’s and grandma’s food, it’s gotta be good,” she says, promising diners will leave Lulu’s having tasted the flavors of the Bay and her native New Orleans.
Nancy’s creativity doesn’t stop in the kitchen. After Hurricane Katrina, she turned muddy streets into a delicious event: the SOUPer Mudfest on the Second Saturday Artwalk in March. This will be the ninth edition of the fest, and about 1,000 people are expected to join the festivities.
For $20, participants can buy a soup bowl crafted by local potters and enjoy a succession of soup servings throughout Old Town at dozens of businesses. Past favorites have been tomato basil and corn and crab bisque among other tasty soups. Lines always form at the tent on Main at Second Street where hundreds of bowls will be sold.
All money collected from the sale of the bowls goes to the potters, Old Town Merchants’ Association, the Hancock County Food Pantry and Hancock County’s tourism board.
On LuLu’s Facebook page, there are photos of Nancy at the stove, clearly enjoying the cooking. “I love it,” she said. “What makes it enjoyable to me is having people come back and relive memories that they had of eating my food.”
DIY Pallet or Deck Board Wall/Island
Transforming a room with a little paint and some salvaged pallet or fence boards is easier than you think. DIY diva Holly Lemoine Raymond shares her secrets.
When our clients and visitors come in, one of the first things they notice is the pallet wall with our logo on it. It’s a great focal piece and makes a great conversation starter. When I tell them that using recycled and repurposed wood created the pallet wall, island, and other features around the office they are amazed.
One of my favorite things about recycling wood is that the wood is never perfect. It’s a great reminder that nothing and no one is perfect. I’m an imperfect person who likes to take old, worn out items and turn them in to beautiful things.
To make the pallet wall or island you will need the following supplies:
Now that your supplies have been gathered let’s get started!
Step 1: Pick the area to be updated and remove any existing trim or outlets. Prep the area by wiping it down and removing any excess dust.
Step 2: Measure the area you will be working with so you can be sure to have enough paint and boards.
Step 3: Using a dark color, paint the area and allow it to dry. Remember, this does not have to be perfect. The purpose of the paint is to hide the small imperfections of the boards. The color I used was Gauntlet Gray.
Step 4: While your painted area is drying use this time to deconstruct your pallets, deck or fence boards.
Depending on the look you are trying to achieve you can stain or white wash your boards. I prefer to leave the boards in their natural color. This gives more of a rustic or industrial look, which is the style I prefer.
Step 5: Let’s cut our boards down to size! I like cutting the boards in random sizes. Some boards I trim off a little on the end, others I cut in half or three quarters.
Step 6: Start putting your puzzle together. Stagger your pieces and vary the shades of wood. Again, more imperfect the better!
Step 7: Stand back and enjoy the view!
I hope you enjoyed this project. It is fun to bring things new life. If you’d like to see how we used recycled wood in our office, please stop by for a visit. Our team would love to see you and have you sign our chalkboard wall!
Thank you for reading Beautiful Things!
Second Saturday Artwalk - March 10
During the Second Saturday Artwalk each month in Old Town Bay St. Louis, you'll find cool deals, fresh meals and lots of art and live music. The March one is always a favorite because of the Souper Mudfest celebration. What? Don't worry, we've got all the details.
Be sure to visit Hot Spot businesses Antique Maison Ulman and Tea Room, Garden, 317 Ulman Avenue and Green Canyon Outfitters, 108 South Beach Blvd.
- stories by Denise Jacobs, photos by Ellis Anderson and Denise Jacobs
Antique Maison Ulman and Tea Room & Garden