Those People

Dear People of the Mississippi:

Let me start off by saying, I'm sorry--I don't know what else to call you. "Flood victims" seems, well, crass. After Katrina, we were called by many names. The nicer ones were "evacuees" and "those poor people."

I remember when I first evacuated to Atlanta and sat, like so many others, glued to the television, watching the coverage of Katrina. After seeing footage of Bay St. Louis, after Katrina made landfall--and of New Orleans, after the levees broke, I turned to my mother and said "We're those poor people now." You know the ones--the ones you watch on television, in the midst of their tragedies. You watch for a minute, shake your head at their fate, and go back to your life.

It's okay. It's normal. It's a part of the human condition, I think--to be able to compartmentalize like that--to disassociate yourself. If we had to sit down and feel--really feel--the daily suffering of our fellow man, we'd go crazy. Hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis, mud slides, earthquakes. Too much misery in the world. So you think about them while you're drinking your morning coffee and watching the news, maybe you click on the "donate" button at the Red Cross site, and then you go on with your life.

And then, it happens to you. And it's different. And people start donating stuff to you--and you're grateful, except for when they send you things like paint-covered sweatpants and old, used underwear. And that gets you mad. And you think, "What am I, a charity case?" And then you realize that, to some people, you are. And that they think you might actually want their used underwear.

And while you're still reeling from the shock of losing your life as you knew it, the comments start. And you realize that while there are plenty of people in this country whose hearts truly go out to you, there are, unfortunately, just as many that want to blame you for your misfortune. The ugly words begin. "Refugees." "Those people," as opposed to "those poor people." Inevitably, it moves on to venom. "They got what they deserved for living there." "What were they thinking?" "It's their fault for not having flood insurance." And it destroys a part of your soul, at least for a little while

Be grateful that there have not yet been debates about whether you should be allowed to rebuild your homes. Be thankful that John Hagee hasn't yet declared that God's wrath was visited upon you.

And then, you'll walk into your home. The one where flood waters tossed everything around. You'll be both appalled and amazed at what the waters were able to accomplish. How in the hell did your refrigerator end up over there? (Do NOT, under any circumstances, open your refrigerator. Tape it shut and put it on the curb, NOW.)

You may wonder why your government did nothing to make sure your levees were safe. You may rail at your insurance agent, who told you that the chances of a 100-year-flood, or the even more improbable 500-year-flood, were so minuscule that flood insurance wasn't necessary, much less required. And those of you who didn't have flood insurance will sit and stare at your insurance agent and watch your life go down the tubes, as he/she tells you that, even though flood insurance wasn't required, or even recommended, you're screwed now, since you didn't have it. And then, you might become even more bewildered when you find out that your insurer has cancelled your policy, even though they haven't had to pay you a dime for those flood-excluded damages. You see, you're too big of a risk now.

And then, you'll cry. And then, you'll begin the process of rebuilding, even if it's in defiance of those who say you shouldn't. You'll pick up the pieces, day by day. And you'll build your life back, little by little. Three years from now, you'll still cart visiting friends and relatives around town and watch their faces as you point out the flood lines and say yes, the water really did get that high. You'll excitedly point to where something used to be but is no longer.

Years from now, you'll still hurt quite a bit. No one will get it, exactly--what it feels like to lose everything you own and/or the life that you knew. Everyone else will think you should move on (and move). But the camaraderie that you feel for those who do get it--for those who went through it with you--may surprise you. They will be there for you, and they'll foster in you a sense of community and support that you might not have known was possible.

And we, in New Orleans, will be thinking of you--and rooting you on.


Checkbook Blues

Did you know that if you apply for your child to enter a private school, beginning in the fall of 2008, and she's accepted, that you have to start making payments of $650 a month to that school in June, even though she won't begin going there until the end of August and even though you're still having to pay $565 a month for her to continue going to her current daycare? I feel nauseous right now looking at my checkbook balance. I haven't even figured out what we'll do next year during the summer months, when said private school is closed.

Some days, I really wonder about living in a place where sending my child to public school--without winning a lottery to enroll her in a good one--is completely out of the question. Especially on the days when I think I'd like to have another child but am not sure we can afford private tuition for two.

This is especially not helpful on the day that I also have to further drain our rapidly dwindling savings account to renew our wind and hail coverage with the Citizens FAIR (ha!) Plan and our flood insurance coverage. Note to future homebuyers--do NOT close on your new home on your birthday. Getting bills from the insurance companies every year with your birthday as your policy expiration date and subsequently having to write large checks to avoid having your insurance expire on your birthday is not the best way to get yourself into a party kind of mood.

Did I mention that I feel nauseous?


Go, Bill Moyers

I've long respected and admired Bill Moyers, but now I think I just may love him. This ambush of a Bill O'Reilly ambush producer is a thing of beauty.


Lessons Learned

A few days ago, E broke out in a rash all over her face and body. K and I thought it was kind of odd and couldn't figure out what might have caused it.

Every once in a while, K and I will be lax parents and skip E's evening bath. I mean, she's three, right? She doesn't really need a bath every day, unless she gets particularly filthy at school. On those nights that a bath isn't involved, one of us will give her a sponge bath of sorts with baby wipes.

So the day after E's rash, I noticed a box of dog wipes sitting in her room. I picked up the box and took it to K, asking if he'd used them to wipe down E the night before. "Yes," he said. "Why do you ask?"

Even though I was standing there with a box of wipes with a picture of a dog on the front, he still didn't get it until I pointed it out to him. Rash mystery solved. And although I felt a little bit guilty on E's behalf, it was pretty damn funny. (The rash cleared up just fine.)

So for all you unobservant people out there (of which I am often one), don't use the white box of wipes with the picture of the dog on it on your child--go for the blue box of wipes with the picture of the baby on it instead. Who knew they didn't contain the same ingredients?

E Goes to Church

I took E to church for the first time last week--to my stepfather's church--it comes in handy to have an Episcopal priest in the family. We're planning to have E baptized in a couple of weeks, so I thought it would be good for her to get in a little practice at sitting still and being relatively quiet during an hour-long service. Yes, having my daughter baptized at the age of three is a little late in the game, but we were kinda distracted around the time when she should have been baptized, due to the whole Katrina thing.

Church went reasonably well. My mom went with me for moral support, and I was armed with a bag full of books, coloring books and crayons for E. She only talked a couple of times during the service, once to point out the statue of "Baby Jesus" in the back of the church. Needless to say, she's not real familiar with the whole meaning of Christianity, seeing as this was her first time at church. Her only real exposure to Jesus up to this point is that he's that nice baby that appears on billboards around town at about the same time that Santa shows up.

Near the end of the service, we took E up to the front of the church for communion. I'd whispered to her ahead of time that we were going to walk up front, kneel, hold our hands out like so and receive communion (I decided to pass on the wine for her). E daintily kneeled and received her wafer, then we walked back to our seats.

I guess the whole church experience was a big hit for her, as, once back in our seats, she loudly exclaimed, for all to hear, "Mommy, that cracker was good!" Of course, after the service, my stepfather good-naturedly pointed out that E shouldn't have received communion, seeing how she hasn't yet been baptized. Oops.