School Daze

E is three now, which means it's time to start obsessing about finding the right school for her--even though technically, she won't be old enough to enter a kindergarten program until the 09-10 school year. I suppose she could enter a pre-K program this fall, but the thought of trying to figure out before-care, after-care and summer care really scares the hell out of me. Is it educational suicide to leave her in daycare for an extra year rather than looking for a pre-K program? Does that virtually guarantee that she won't be able to get into a kindergarten program if she isn't already enrolled in the pre-K program?

Any parents out there in the blogosphere with young children who can give me some advice? Seeing as I didn't grow up in New Orleans, I'm not real familiar with the whole private school versus parochial school comparisons here, much less the post-K charter school maze. I certainly know which schools I can't afford, and that would be, it seems, most of them. Perhaps it's crass to say so in my blog, but I can't afford to spend $15-$20K on elementary school. At least not on my salary.

Any thoughts on good schools to look at? The only possibilities that even sound within our ballpark right now are Ursuline and Holy Name of Jesus. Even though I'm not Catholic, I'd consider them. Does anyone know if it's possible to get into either of these schools without a three-year wait list? Anyone out there have kids at either school or know anyone that does?

Of course I've heard raves about Audubon and Ecole Bilingue, but my understanding is that Ecole Bilingue is only positively accepting children of French nationals right now, while everyone else goes onto a lottery/wait list. And it's an automatic lottery for Audubon, isn't it?

Are you supposed to get nauseous thinking about how to ensure a good education for your three-year-old? If so, I guess I'm a real New Orleanian now.


It Is To Laugh

I mean, really--can there be any other response at this point, upon discovering that the COE allowed a floodwall to be stuffed with newspaper rather than the rubber joint that's supposed to, um, you know, help keep the city from flooding?

The best part was on WWL radio this afternoon, when COE Colonel Jeffrey Bedey said it was just a temporary fix (that's been there for two years) and that the really important part of the floodwall is the waterstop, which is on the inside of the floodwall (presumably underneath several layers of newspaper). Bedey went on to explain that the only purpose of the rubber joint (that they didn't put in) is to protect the waterstop by making sure it doesn't get wet or dirty. Oh. Well, then--I feel much better. Because everyone knows about the amazing powers of newspaper to keep things from getting wet or dirty.

Me? Really?

My husband is in Alabama this weekend for a bachelor party, and I dropped E off at my sister-in-law's house a couple of hours ago. The entire house is mine, MINE, for 24 hours. I just don't even know what to do with myself. (Thus, the exciting evening of blogging and reading blogs--it takes very little to make me happy these days.) I might even go crazy and sleep until, say, eight o'clock tomorrow.

Anyway--just got off the phone with K a few minutes ago. While we were talking, he asked if something was wrong. I said no and continued on with the conversation. A few minutes later, he asked again. "Are you sure nothing's wrong?" "No, why?" I asked. "I don't know," he said. "You just seem so, well, um, perky."

Needless to say, the word "perky" is not applied to me very often. Cranky? Grumpy? Tired? Yep. Perky? Not so much.

Okay, fine--I'm perky tonight. It's amazing what one night with no responsibilities can do for me. Now, I think I'll go eat something unhealthy for dinner....


Conversations with a Three-Year-Old

Me: E, do you want to eat your dinner now?

E: No, get away from me!

Me: Well, that's not a very nice thing to say.

E: I sorry, Mommy--please get away from me.

Miss Manners would be so proud.


Somewhere Between - Merle Haggard

Somewhere between your heart and mine
There's a window that I can't see through
There's a wall so high that it reaches the sky
Somewhere between me and you

I love you so much, I can't let you go
And sometimes, I believe you love me
But somewhere between your heart and mine
There's a door without any key

Somewhere between your heart and mine
There's a window that I can't see through
There's a wall so high that it reaches the sky
Somewhere between me and you

Somewhere between your heart and mine
There's a love I can't understand
Oh, it's there for a while, then it fades like a smile
And I'm left in the middle again

Somewhere between your heart and mine
There's a window that I can't see through
There's a wall so high that it reaches the sky
Somewhere between me and you


Ben Harper

K and I caught the Ben Harper concert on Directv the other night. K first discovered him at Bonnaroo about five years ago, and we've been huge fans ever since. It's always surprised me that he's not more popular than he is, given how incredible he is. Reminds me of John Boutte and Ingrid Lucia, in that I think he's vastly underappreciated. (Speaking of which, K severely pissed off Ingrid Lucia when we saw her at the Banks Street Bar and Grill, sans electricity, a few months after Katrina, when he told her she was underrated. He meant it in a good way, but she didn't take it that way. A few less beers on his part probably would've helped him get his point across.)

If you have Directv and haven't seen Harper, check him out--he's an incredible live performer. Channel 334 tomorrow night at 11:00.

Here's a youtube clip:

Dear Bad Drivers...

There are a few things I've been meaning to talk to you about. Not all of you, mind you; I know there are plenty of good drivers in this city. But some of you--and you know who you are--really need a few pointers:
  • That wand-looking thing sticking out on the left side of your steering wheel controls your turn signals. They're magical lights that let cars in front of and behind you know when you're planning to turn. These are especially important if you have the right-of-way and I'm sitting at a stop sign, as it gets kind of tiresome not being able to make a left turn because the last eight people with the right-of-way were all turning right but didn't bother to make that known. Turn signals are your friends.
  • If a stoplight turns red, that means stop. I know this can be confusing, but believe it or not, it does NOT mean to floor the gas pedal and keep on driving through the intersection. Those of us who have barely missed being sideswiped several times by this little maneuver would appreciate it if you'd just stop.
  • Speaking of red lights, for those of you that are waiting for the light to turn green, I haven't come across any evidence yet that proves that you get there more quickly by easing out as far into the intersection as possible before the light turns. What is that about, exactly? Could someone explain it to me?
  • Friends are nice. Who doesn't love their friends? If, however, you're driving down the street and you run into a friend who happens to be driving down that same street in the opposite direction, this is not the opportune time for both of you to stop your cars and catch up on what's been going on in each other's lives. Could you pull over? Pretty please?
  • Pulling over also applies when you're dropping your kid off at school, waiting for your car pool buddy to come out of his house, etc. I know you're in a hurry, but so are the people behind you.
  • Speaking of time, why do some of you think that your time is more valuable than everyone else's? Everyone in New Orleans knows that there are certain streets where the right lane turns into a right-turn only lane. St. Charles at Louisiana, for example. Please don't get into the turn lane and then gun it to try and get in front of me in the one remaining lane. You're not special--wait your turn. And since we're being honest, and because this is one of my biggest pet peeves, I'll do everything in my power to keep you from cutting in front of me. Just so you know. I'm not really an aggressive person, but this move drives me crazy.
  • A car horn can be a useful tool--when someone, say, runs a red light, you can honk at them after they almost sideswipe you to get your point across. It's also acceptable to honk when the driver in front of you doesn't notice that the light has turned green. But people, give it at least a few seconds, okay? You don't need to honk at the exact moment the light turns green. I see it, I'm going. I know you're upset that I didn't ease out into the intersection before the light turned green, but get over it, okay? And if we're sitting in traffic, with several cars in front of us who are also stuck in traffic, laying on the horn really doesn't help matters.
  • Finally, when driving a 2,000-pound car down the street, you really should try to pay attention to what's going on around you. It really isn't the best time to be applying your eye makeup, playing Suduko or reading the newspaper.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel better now.
Hugs and kisses, A


Random Musings #1

If the 17th Street Canal floods my house again, I'm going to be more than a little peeved at the Corps of Engineers. Of course, the COE says there's nothing to worry about, so I feel much better now. (HT, Editor B).

I'm not sure how I'd feel if the NOPD came into my yard and shot my dog. I'm going to go with pissed. Yes, it was a Doberman, and perhaps it did lunge at the officer. But eight shots fired at a dog seems a bit excessive, no? What's that motto again? To protect and to serve?

Yay--the yellow blog is back!

An excellent editorial by Gwen Filosa re: the Dinerral Shavers case (HT, Oyster).

Pope Mania

Although I guess I shouldn't be after living here for 10 years, I was a little surprised that the Pope's visit to the U.S. was the lead story on the local news tonight. I mean, it's not like he showed up here. But then, this is a major Catholic town, so I guess it's relevant.

As a non-Catholic, I can't really get into the whole pope thing. I was raised as a Presbyterian and then started attending the Episcopal church when I was a teenager--not a hard decision, as my stepfather is an Episcopal priest. The Episcopal church works for me--as my brother Andrew likes to say, it's "Catholic-lite." (All of the tradition, none of the guilt.)

I wasn't quite sure what to make of ol' Pope Benedict for the first couple of years. At the risk of offending some Catholics, the whole Hitler youth thing kind of creeped me out a bit. But, any man who shows such obvious disdain for George W. Bush gains a little more esteem in my book. I love that the Pope declined to attend the birthday dinner in his honor at the White House. My kind of pope.


Extraversion Aversion

This pretty much sums it up. Is it neurotic to worry about being 79% neurotic?

Neuroticism - 79
Extraversion - 7
Openness to Experience - 67
Agreeableness - 82
Conscientiousness - 84

Neuroticism - You don't usually get angry too easily but some things can annoy you. You tend to lack energy and have difficulty initiating activities. You are sensitive about what others think of you. Your concerns about rejection and ridicule cause you to feel shy and uncomfortable around others. You are easily embarrassed and often feel ashamed. Your fears that others will criticize or make fun of you are exaggerated and unrealistic, but your awkwardness and discomfort may make these fears a self-fulfilling prophecy. High levels of stress can lead to you feeling panic or confusion, but usually you cope with day to day pressures.



For Charles and Ashley. Rest in Peace.


My brother, Charles Eric Johnson, was born on August 29, 1978. He died on April 11, 2001, at the age of 22. It's hard to believe that seven years have passed already--especially when I think about how much the world has changed in those seven years. September 11th, and all of the changes that day would bring into our lives, was still five months away. This August, on the third anniversary of Katrina, Charles, had he lived, would have turned 30 years old.

In a weird way, it's always sort of struck me as fitting that Katrina made landfall on Charles' birthday. He was a weather freak, and all of us were convinced for a while that he would become a meteorologist. When a storm was in the Gulf, Charles would go into action mode--tracking the storm on a chart he kept on his bedroom wall, driving around to take pictures of the increased wave action in the Sound. He loved being a witness to a storm and its power.

Dinerral Shavers

I was saddened--although not shocked--to hear that David Bonds, the man accused of the murder of Dinerral Shavers, was found not guilty yesterday. I got this email from Silence is Violence this morning, and they said it better than I can.

For many months now, we have found the motivation for an entire public awareness movement in one case that has meant a lot to us personally. Dinerral Shavers was our friend and our brother. His murder on December 28, 2006, inspired us to call on our leaders and our fellow citizens to do more for each other and for our city. For over a year now, Dinerral's murder case has been the focus of our efforts to demand more from our criminal justice system in particular. During this time, we have seen a new Violent Offenders Unit formed at the office of the District Attrorney, and more experienced prosecutors take over murder cases. We have seen an ineffective District Attorney forced from office through public pressure. We have seen new levels of cooperation between police officers and prosecutors begin to slow the notorious revolving door at Orleans Parish Prison, in both directions.

This evening, we also had to watch as Dinerral's murder case ended in what we must accept as justice, but can hardly embrace as resolution. The defendant in Dinerral's case was found not guilty by a jury today. So ends the case that has focused us, inspired us, and channeled our energies for over a year. But the end of Dinerral's case cannot mark the end of our movement, or of the determination of all New Orleans citizens to raise our voices when we see injustice, inaction, and silence in the face of violence. We will continue to engage with our neighbors and our leaders: to hold our government accountable, but also, as Judge Jerome Winsberg wisely counseled at the conclusion of today's proceedings, to look inside ourselves and hold ourselves responsible for the chaotic societal circumstances that are breeding violent crime, and which caused Dinerral's death.

In his closing comments, Judge Winsberg expressed "shock" at what he witnessed during the trial. The way these children are living is not okay, he said, comparing inner-city New Orleans unfavorably with Baghdad. "It is appalling...it is shocking..." over and over said a judge who has presided over scores of criminal cases. The world our young people are living in came to terrifying light through the fearful testimony of witnesses, justifiably afraid; through the defendant's assertion that he sells drugs in order "to help my family" (this forming part of the defense in this trial); through the repeated references to petty but clearly deadly turf wars being fought by children too young to drive from one neighborhood to another. We should all heed Judge Winsberg's call for citizen outrage at these situations, and at many other realities that were rendered more stark than ever over the course of this case:

  • That brazen intimidation of witnesses is such an ingrained part of the system that witnesses can be threatened while on the stand--and the juror who points out the threats removed.
  • That police investigations lack the rigor and thoroughness that can stand up in court.
  • That our standards for education and family are so low that our young people believe that living without parents, taking care of other people's babies, and dropping out of school are normal modes of youth.
We are not satisfied to be leaving Dinerral's case behind without a cleaner resolution. But at least we have seen real energy, real attention, and real concern directed toward an inner-city murder case. This, at least, we can take as a step forward--so long as our system commits to treating every murder case with this level of sincerity and seriousness.

"This is our system," said Judge Winsberg today. "It's the system we must live by." We are asking each of you, on behalf of these confused young people, to get to know this system better so we can understand how to fix it. As painful as it is, go watch a murder trial. As reluctant as they may seem, reach out to a troubled young person in your neighborhood. As busy as you may be, take the time to attend a City Council meeting. Clearly, we citizens must continue the hard work of repairing our own city and creating a world for our children that makes some kind of sense.


Running on Empty

It's stupid, really, but I can't stop thinking about Ashley--and Hana--and their three children. I say stupid, because it feels comparable to someone mourning the loss of a celebrity--someone I never knew, but someone who really touched my life. So I keep thinking about them. I tried to explain it to K tonight, as he doesn't really understand how I feel such a sense of community with people I've never met. But when I told him that Ashley was the author of FYYFF, he seemed to get it, at least a little bit.

I think I'm just emotionally drained right now. K has been working a lot of hours at the restaurant, and my constant companion for the past couple of weeks has been E. Granted, we've had some interesting conversations, but you can only get so in-depth with a three-year-old. Right now, we're debating whether she really is too much of a "big girl" for Sesame Street. Are you kidding me? You're already shunning Big Bird, Grover, the Count and the gang at age three? Granted, Bob is starting to show his age, but I was enthralled with Sesame Street at least up until the age of five, when it then became common knowledge that The Electric Company, Shazam, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl were the new "it" TV shows. She's also very into Candy Land now--if you ever need a break from life, spend an evening explaining the rules of Candy Land to a toddler--and yes, I let her win.

And finally, there's my friend C, who is currently dealing with sorting through all of the stuff his father left behind, who died two weeks ago. Sorting through your dead father's belongings is bad enough. Now imagine that said father molested you as a child and you left home and began living in your car at age 16 to get away from him.

Not a fun week.


Ashley Morris

I just began my daily routine of clicking onto Ashley Morris' blog, only to discover that he died yesterday. At first, I was certain that it must be an April Fool's Day joke or something--but after reading through the comments, I realized it was real. I don't even know what to say, it's such a complete and utter shock. My heart goes out to his wife and three children.

I've never met Ashley Morris, other than during KduV last year, when he handed me one of the "Edwin Edwards, Now More than Ever" postcards his sub-krewe was handing out. He, of course, had no idea who I was, but I was excited about my mini-brush with celebrity.

I feel certain that I would have really liked Ashley, had I gotten the chance to meet him--he was just the kind of person we all needed around here after Katrina. I first discovered him through that classic post, FYYFF. Can't even remember how I came across it, but it was after Katrina, I was hurting, and FYYFF gave voice to all of the anger I think most of us were feeling at the time, as we came to the realization that the majority of the country didn't care about us or New Orleans and thought we had gotten what was coming to us for living here.

Anyway, FYYFF opened up the world of New Orleans bloggers to me, and I've been a devoted lurker ever since. So thank you, Ashley, for your passion for this city, for expressing the anger and outrage we've all felt since the federal flood, and for your humor. Thank you for introducing me to the New Orleans blogging community--if you're on Ashley's blog roll, you're probably on my regular reading list. I feel like I've lost a friend today, albeit a friend I'd never met.

Sinn Fein, Ashley. May the light perpetual shine upon you.


Cotton Field in Hazelhurst

As a girl born and raised in southern Georgia, cotton fields will always be beautiful to me and remind me of home. This picture was taken by my cousin while we were in Georgia for my grandmother's funeral. What can I say? I think it's pretty.