Just Call Me Martha

E and I spent the afternoon making homemade sugar cookies, complete with homemade icing. They were not only edible, but quite good--I think we're both in shock.


Louise Sandlin Hutto

My grandmother Lucy died last week. She was 89 years old. It wasn't sudden; it was one of those experiences where you sit around waiting for the call, wanting it to come because you're so anxious, jumping every time the phone rings, but not wanting it to come, because you don't really want to face that reality.

Lucy was an incredible person. She was born in 1918 in Georgia, met and married my grandfather, Vee, in her early 20s and went on to raise five children, 15 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Vee died in 1989, and though I know she missed him, Lucy just kept on going strong for the next 20 years. She was the kind of grandmother that everyone wishes they had--she always had time for us grand kids, and it seemed like her life pretty much revolved around us. She was attentive and loving, but she was also a firm disciplinarian--I don't think there's a one of us that won't remember how it felt when she fixed her gaze on you and told you to "hush up." You did just that, because you knew that Lucy didn't suffer any fools.



I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later, but E has developed a fear of the dark and has started having nightmares. At first, it was standard, run-of-the-mill stuff that would scare a two-year-old, like tigers, monsters, etc. But the past two nights, she's woken up screaming bloody murder saying that a crawfish is trying to attack her feet. The best we can figure out is that this sudden fear has to do with the crawfish she saw painted on the side of a seafood store on Jefferson Highway. I guess crawfish are pretty scary when they're six feet tall. Ah, New Orleans--even more things to scare a toddler than your average town!


Just Because #1

In my opinion, one of the saddest and most beautiful songs ever written (sans the happy, dream-sequence ending). But then, I like depressing stuff.

Gloomy Sunday

Sunday's gloomy,
my house is slumberless.
Dearest, the shadows I
live with are numberless.


The Village Idiot

My loathing of the resident in chief is well known among my friends and family. They love giving me buttons, magnets and bumperstickers, including that one about a village in Texas that's missing its idiot.

The downside? That smirk greets me every morning from the refrigerator, before I've had my dose of caffeine. The upside? E now thinks his name is idiot--I try to use polite terms in front of my daughter--and is very proud of herself that she can identify him.

One of these days, she's going to see a picture of GWB out in public, point at it and shout "idiot!" I can't decide whether that day will be highly embarrassing or highly amusing. A little of both, I think.



Two years ago today. I don't feel as emotionally raw as I did on the one-year anniversary--I guess time really does have a way of numbing pain.

I think I feel the same as most people living along the Gulf Coast these days--one day I wake up and can't fathom the thought of living anywhere else; the next day, I'm longing to escape the realities of life here and just start over somewhere else--somewhere that doesn't have all of these problems. I dream of a city with smooth, paved streets and a local newscast that doesn't lead every day with the latest murder.

I don't think any of us envisioned how little progress we would make, two years down the road. Lakeview, St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward are still ghost towns, sad remnants of what they used to be. Doesn't it at least seem like all of the damaged houses should have been gutted by now?



The Katrina anniversary is upon us. And so it begins. The local newspapers and television stations have begun their coverage, and, I suppose for a brief period of time, the rest of the country will focus on us briefly at some point this week. Some will give us no more than a passing thought, some will wish us well—unfortunately, the vast majority will still not realize that Katrina was a man-made disaster in New Orleans, caused not because we’re stupid enough to live below sea level and got what was coming to us, but because the levee system that the Corps promised would hold did not. And, sadly, there will still be some mean-spirited people who will feel the need to post their scorn of New Orleans and its citizens on numerous websites, for some reason feeling better about themselves and secure in their superiority. It’s been like this for a while and I’m sure it will continue to be for years to come.

For me, August 26th is the day that the anniversary really starts to have an effect on me, as today is the day that the altering of our lives was put into motion. In my head, I've started calling it the Day of Lasts. It’s often struck me throughout life—I suppose even more so since I've had a child—about how many “lasts” we experience. There are the ones that you know are the lasts, like the last night your child sleeps in a crib before you move her into her “big girl” bed, the last time you drive a car before you trade it in, your last day at a job. But I guess I've spent a lot of time thinking about the “lasts” that you don’t know about at the time. There are so many unimportant lasts in our day-to-day living. And then there are the big ones—the last time you see your grandmother before she passes away, the last time you actually pick up your daughter in your arms before she gets too big for that, the last time that you talk to a friend with whom you've slowly been losing touch. I've always found the big lasts that we don’t know about at the time to be rather heartbreaking, in hindsight.

August 26th was a day of lasts that I didn't know about at the time on a grand scale. I don’t need to detail all of them again—you can read about them here. But for a long time coming, I think August 26th will be an especially poignant day for me; it was the last day that our family, our friends, our neighbors, our city, and our region would feel normal for days and years to come. It was the last day that we got to go about our everyday lives, not knowing about the storm that had decided to re-organize in the Gulf. It was a Friday, and the majority of us were content in the knowledge that we’d have a nice weekend and then go back to our jobs and our schools and our lives on Monday morning.

You all know the story by now. Instead, on that Monday morning, we sat in living rooms or hotel rooms or shelters scattered around the country and watched Katrina come to shore. We watched the footage of houses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast reduced to splinters from Katrina’s surge, and we watched the streets of New Orleans fill with water when the levees broke.

And we didn't know it on that Friday, but by that Monday we knew--some of us had experienced the last time we would ever see a certain loved one, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a pet. We had experienced the last time we'd sit in our own living rooms. We had experienced the last time we'd sleep in our own beds. We had experienced the last time we'd be able to work in a particular office, shop in a particular store, or eat in a particular restaurant. Because that's when it started sinking in that it was all gone.

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking about two years ago today and what’s been lost since that time. A Day of Lasts.


Lives Lost

Another day, another horrifying and senseless murder in the City that Care Forgot. Nia Robertson, a 28-year-old woman who worked for the Road Home program, had her throat slashed by a complete stranger at a bar in mid-City on Wednesday night. She died several hours later. How frightening and f-ed up is that? She was just sitting in the bar, hanging out with a friend, and an unstable man knifed the man sitting next to him and then walked over to her and slashed her throat. Then he slowly walked out of the bar and started walking home, where police arrested him.

Pablo Meija Jr., a third-generation New Orleanian, was shot execution style during a robbery in New Orleans East earlier this month. He was working as a contractor and renovating a flood-damaged home when three men came into the home, robbed him and his friend, and shot him while he knelt on the ground. His wife is currently nine months pregnant with their first child.



I remember the first time I walked into our house, after Katrina. It was December 26, 2005, and I'd put it off as long as I could. I went alone--I didn't want Kenny to go with me. He'd been there several times, and I needed to be alone the first time I saw it. And also, if we'd gone together, it would've meant taking Emmeline with us, who was only ten months old at the time.

I drove Kenny's car there--we still hadn't replaced my car--and I pulled up into the driveway with a sense of dread and of wanting to turn around.

When I put the key into the lock--for the first time in four months--it was the weirdest feeling that I can describe. After all, we'd only lived in the house for six weeks when Katrina hit. It was like coming home and walking into a stranger's house at the same time.


Lessons from a Two-Year-Old, Installment #3

After your precious daughter gets her hands on the Sharpie (extra-wide tip) pen that was in the kitchen junk drawer and proceeds to decorate your newly installed kitchen cabinets, bedroom doors and closet doors with it, do not panic. You will try paint thinner first to remove the artwork--it will not work. Luckily, today's installment of Lessons from a Two-Year-Old has your answer. After frantic google searches for removing permanent ink, your intrepid reporter tried all sorts of sundry (and odd) items to do the trick--toothpaste and peanut butter being the ones on the really strange end of the spectrum. Finally, I found one that did the trick--ah, the magical properies of rubbing alcohol! Next time, join us for Lessons for the Husband That's Supposed to be Watching the Two-Year-Old.


Oh, Katrina

Is anyone else as freaking exhausted as I am from thinking about Katrina too much of the time? Is it normal for me to need to take a couple of over-the-counter sleeping pills every night if I want to even think about closing my eyes, 18 months later? Is anyone else still pissed off about the whole "Katrina fatigue" thing from people who live in effing Iowa, or Texas, or name any other state?

Sometimes, it hits me and the frustration just fills me up inside. Really, who do these people think they are, to question our intelligence for living here, to say we're too lazy to do the job of rebuilding for ourselves and are just sitting around waiting for someone to hand us a check? To say that Katrina cottages are just too darn nice and we shouldn't install them (not that that's a problem in Louisiana, where they've yet to issue cottage #1) because then people would never move out of them? Jesus, we wouldn't want to reward people for having the audacity to survive a major disaster with a somewhat comfortable place to live, would we? Stick them all in trailers--that'll show 'em.

Why does the media keep referring to what happened in New Orleans as the biggest natural disaster in history, when it wasn't a freaking natural disaster? Nature didn't cause the levees to break.

And why, when our disaster was brought to us courtesy of the Corps of Engineers, are we written off, scorned, looked down upon, etc., while the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are portrayed as hard-working citizens who are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps? Don't get me wrong, I bear no ill will toward the people of Mississippi--my mom, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, grandmother-in-law and closest friend went through the natural disaster part of Katrina and lost everything in the surge. In some ways, they resent New Orleans, rightfully so, because we got the bulk of the news coverage immediately after the disaster--although a fat lot of good it did us.

And in some ways, I resent Mississippi, because, as I said, they get portrayed as good, honest, God-fearing people who deserve sympathy, respect, and even empathy--you know, that emotion where you put yourselves in other people's places and, dare I say, put aside your judgments and think about how you would feel if it were happening to you? But really, that's not Mississippi's fault, any more than the fact that the increased coverage we got was our fault because dead bodies floating in the streets made for more compelling news.

In New Orleans, we get scorn, stupid conservatives talking about what a waste of tax-payer dollars it would be to rebuild here, derogatory comments about welfare queens, etc. Well, to quote a much better blogger than I, FYYFF.

Do you know what my first reaction is now when I see on the news that some town in Oklahoma got blown away by a tornado? "Well, that's what you get for living there." Do I really mean that? Of course not. But after being looked down on and having the same asinine phrase said to us, it starts to get to you after a while. What is my real reaction? Empathy. Concern. Prayers offered up on their behalf. But it's tempered by the anger and hurt of knowing that many people in this country don't feel that my city and its residents deserve that same acknowledgement.

We are a country, are we not? The United States of America? And trust me, there's lots of you people that I'd rather not claim. (28%-ers, I'm talking to you.) But you know what? I do--because you are my fellow Americans, whether you like it or not. God didn't send a plague down upon New Orleans in the form of Katrina to punish us for our heathen lifestyles, assholes. And Chicago Bears fans, an especially big screw you to you for telling Saints fans at the NFC championship game that you wished they'd drowned, or that you were finishing what Katrina started.

And New Orleanians? Sinn Fein.


Lessons from a Two-Year-Old, Installment #2

The dog's water bowl makes a fabulous swimming pool for Fisher Price Little People.


Lessons from a Two-Year-Old, Installment #1

Water from the toilet? Delicious. Water from the toilet in a pink Barbie teacup? Divine!



We had squatters in our house. That seems like such a bizarre thing to say in the 21st century, but it's true--someone was living in our flooded-out house while we've been in the process of renovating it. When I told my sister about it, her response was "What's a squatter?" Oh, to live in a place that didn't recently suffer a major disaster.

Kenny discovered this fact about three weeks ago when he went over to see the progress the contractors have made--we currently have no walls, as they recently ripped out all of the moldy sheet rock. When Kenny walked into the house that Saturday afternoon, he found two sleeping bags on the concrete slab in our living room, another couple of sleeping bags in the back den, and various groceries in what remains of the kitchen. After my initial shock at the thought of someone living in our house, albeit a house that's nothing more than a shell, I thought, "what the hell--let them live there until we're ready to start putting in new flooring and walls." The water has remained turned on for the past year and a half, just because it seemed easier to leave it on and pay the minimal monthly fee, so our uninvited guests had been reasonably good about cleaning up after themselves. And as long as they didn't hurt the house, what harm was there? Stupid, I suppose, but I think both Kenny and I were kinda hoping they might just burn the place down or something, as we've been a bit ambivalent about rebuilding.