Random Musings #3

K bought me a Bush countdown clock about a year ago as a joke. Every day, I'd see it hanging on my refrigerator and be a little bit depressed by how many days were on it--380, 250, etc. Now, when we've finally gotten down to the really exciting 30+ days to go, the damn thing broke. Guess I'll just have to content myself with our soon-to-be new president.

I'm not sure what to make of Louisiana being the first state to elect an Indian-American governor AND a Vietnamese-American congressman. Kinda makes us look somewhat progressive, even. Thank god we still have Nagin so we don't get too full of ourselves.

Conversations With a Three-Year-Old, Volume 7

On Monday night, Emmeline dropped the Rudolph snowglobe ornament we bought her, and it rolled under the big stuffed chair in our living room. I was in the kitchen at the time, and heard her crying like I haven't in quite a while--one of those full-on fear cries. I ran into the living room, found her stuck prone under the chair, and helped her get out. She wasn't hurt--just scared as hell.

Anyway, the next morning on the way to school, we had the following conversation.

E: Mommies are great people. They help you get out from under chairs when you're stuck.

Me: Yep, Mommies do help you get out from under chairs. What else do Mommies do?

E: Mommies wash dishes, and they read books to you, and sometimes they let you have treats.

Me: That's right. And what do Daddies do?

E: Daddies read the paper and drink coffee.

From the mouths of babes....


Yes, we all act like a bunch of children around here when it snows--it's just so damn rare. The last time was Christmas Day 2004, when we had the briefest of flurries and I was pregnant with E. Today was a full-fledged snow storm by my standards.

The sleet turned into snow around 8:00 a.m., right when E and I were on the way to her daycare. When we got there, she wanted to know if she could eat some snow off of the ground. I'm sure you can guess what my answer was.

When I got to work, I stood outside on the sidewalk on Canal Street for a while, just smiling and watching the snow fall. The guy who came out and stood next to me to smoke a cigarette was definitely not impressed. Turns out he just moved here from Michigan and was amazed at all of the people running around like school kids taking pictures of the snow.

I cruised around at about 9:30, right when the snow was coming down the thickest, and took some pictures on my camera phone. I'll be damned if I know how to get them off of my phone, though--I believe some special attachment is required?

So, the above are the shots I got from my office on the 18th floor.
I love snow. But not so much that I want to move to Michigan....


Conversations With a Three-Year-Old, Volume 6

E: NO, Mommy, I will NOT put my shoes on!

Me: Emmeline, who, exactly do you think you're talking to in that tone of voice?

E: Ummm, my shoes?


The Bagpipe Didn't Say No - Shel Silverstein

Just because it's my favorite poem from childhood, and I like the fact that if I post it on this blog, I'll have access to it for the foreseeable future, hurricanes be damned.

It was nine o'clock at midnight at a quarter after three
When a turtle met a bagpipe on the shoreside by the sea,
And the turtle said, "My dearie, May I sit with you? I'm weary."
And the bagpipe didn't say no.


Conversations With a Three-Year-Old, Volume 5

E: Mommy, I like that Shrek guy.

Me: Yes, he's funny, isn't he? He's a nice ogre.

E: Yogurt? I don't really like yogurt. Especially not the strawberry kind. The strawberries are too small. I like big strawberries--I really like those ones that Gigi makes with the dip. But I like Shrek--he's a nice yogurt.


Conversations With the Father of a Three-Year-Old

Me: Why are you taping the Wizard of Oz?

K: I thought Emmeline might like it.

Me: The girl who has screaming nightmares about the Care Bears and an imaginary frog in her closet? How do you think she'll feel about the Wicked Witch of the West?

K: Yeah, now that you mention it, I guess the flying monkeys probably wouldn't go over real well, either.

Me: Not unless you want her sleeping in our bed until she's 12.

K: (Deletes Wizard of Oz.)


A Letter to My Daughter, 11/08

Dear Emmeline:

You are a funny, funny child. At least a couple of times each day, you say something that cracks me and your father up, often much to our dismay--like the times when we're trying to discipline you and you say something outrageous, which leads to both of us holding back laughter and smiles and flashing each other looks across the room. We try really hard to be stern when the situation calls for it, but sometimes we just want to collapse in laughter as a result of some of the things you come up with.

Your favorite game in the whole wide world right now is when I or K blow raspberries on your stomach. You think this is hilarious and will lie on your back with your arms spread wide, screeching, "Do it again, do it again!" Your second favorite game is pretending that you're going to kiss K and instead giving him a raspberry on his cheek. You then scream out "I tricked you!" and dissolve into hysterical giggles.


I Voted for Barack Obama Because...

This post has been percolating in my head for awhile--let's see if I can get it out.

I voted for Barack Obama because I'm tired of the terrible turn that political discourse has taken in this country. And during the past eight years, I can count myself among the people who have, at times, been blinded by anger and intolerance when discussing politics, even with people that I love and value dearly.

I voted for Barack Obama because I want my country back--the country that I believe in. The country in which we don't torture people, no matter who they are, because it's wrong. Because it's immoral. Because how can we lead by the power of our example when we're on the wrong side of the argument? It doesn't matter whether the people we're torturing are terrorists or really, really bad people, or whether they really might be the key to that elusive ticking time bomb. Did you ever stop to think that some of them are most definitely innocent? Torture is wrong. America is better than that.

11.04.08, Part Two

Thrilled beyond belief....



I saw this a few months back and meant to post it then but got distracted, so thanks to Leigh C. for reminding me. I can't watch this without wanting to weep--it says a lot about what people in this area lost after Katrina. Not just a house, but a home.



A Letter to My Daughter, 10/08

Dear Emmeline:

You're three-and-a-half now, rapidly going on 30, and I thought that it was about time that I started something that I've meant to do for your three-plus years here, which is to write to you. I started with good intentions--I bought a leather-bound journal when I was pregnant with you, and even recorded a few thoughts in it, starting with the night you were born.

But then, of course, Katrina happened, and all of my good intentions fell by the wayside.

Anyway--you won't see any of this for quite some time to come. Some day, I suppose, I'll decide that the time is right to let you know that your mom is also a person, and I'll clue you in to this blog, if it still exists. I have a feeling, though, that that day is a long way away--I don't think my mother gave me the gift of knowing her as both a person and as a mom until I was around 25.

Tonight, I thought I'd start off by telling you about me.

I'm a sentimental fool, often to my detriment--I almost always look back on my past--and the people who were important to me--with fond memories, regardless of how things may have ended--ex-boyfriends, long-lost friends, all those "I wonder whatever happened to..." people. I have a hard time letting go of people who were once important to me, and I'm a firm believer in letting bygones be bygones.

I'm an ISFJ, which means that I have a hard time expressing my feelings (except semi-anonomously, via this blog) unless I feel extremely comfortable with someone. It also means that I can be too sensitive and too self-conscious. I'm working on it.

When I was pregnant with you, my hormones, like those of most pregnant women, swung wildly. I went from being the even-tempered person that my family and friends know to a crazy person on occasion, most memorably when I yelled at an elderly woman in the grocery store (she started it) and the time I threw the vacuum cleaner across the living room because the hose was clogged. (That one really freaked out your father.)

After you were born, my hormones, like those of most post-partum women, swung wildly. I went from euphoric highs to the lowest of lows. During the first six weeks of your life, I regularly sat in the kitchen each afternoon and cried. When K would ask what was wrong, the only answer I could give--which was completely truthful--was "I don't know."

Stray animals know that I'm a sucker. Just ask Boo-Boo, one of our cats, who came to live with us 11 years ago (bearing that name, I might add), when my friend Curtis, who was an animal control warden, called to tell me that there was the cutest kitten at the shelter who was scheduled to be euthanized that day. Or Betty-Kitty, our other cat (and I have to take full blame for that name), who joined our household 10 years ago, after she finally learned to trust me after she showed up at our house one day and lived under our porch, only coming out for food, for about six months. Or Lola, the stray chihuahua/min-pin/I-don't-really-know-what-in-the-hell-she-was that found us and lived with us for a few months until we found her a home, because I'm a sucker and didn't have it in me to take her to the shelter. Or hell, ask the rats that took up residence in our house after Katrina, that I didn't want your father to poison.

I can be cranky, irrational, bitchy, and/or selfish. I'm working on it.

Some of my favorite movies are the Shawshank Redemption, the Straight Story, and Immortal Beloved. Yes, those movies are, respectively, about a prison breakout, a guy that drives across the mid-west on a lawn mower, and Beethoven. Did I mention that I'm weird? If it makes you feel any better, my favorite books are Where the Redfern Grows, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and To Kill a Mockingbird. And the movie version of Mockingbird was great as well--Gregory Peck will always be Atticus Finch.

Speaking of To Kill a Mockingbird, I asked K when we found out we were having a daughter if he would consider the name Scout. I won't repeat his answer here. I was really surprised when he liked the name Emmeline, as that was another one I threw out there thinking I didn't have a chance in hell of getting agreement on. (See, ferry--or fairy.)

I'm really looking forward to passing my suitcase full of Barbie clothes along to you--one of the few things that survived Katrina. As soon as I find it in the attic and wash all of the dead roaches that you know are hiding in there out of the clothes, it's all yours. I hope that you're a little gentler on them than you've been on the Barbie dolls I handed over to you--so far, you've ripped the heads off of Mrs. Sunshine Family, California Barbie, and Skipper. Mr. Sunshine Family, Ken, and Plain Old Barbie are hanging in there, but their future looks pretty grim.

The sleep-aid commercials with Abraham Lincoln and the talking beaver really crack me up, as do the Filipino prisoners performing Michael Jackson's Thriller. But nothing will ever compare to the dramatic gopher (who's really a prairie dog) for pure comedy gold.

I hate George W. Bush (and will be expecting a visit from the NSA to this blog shortly).

My favorite all-time joke, much to the dismay of everyone I know, is the one about the horse walking into the bar.

I think that just about covers it. You're probably a little bit disturbed now and wishing that you could have a different mother, but I'm afraid you're stuck with me. Sorry.

Love, Mom


Dear Canal Street Panhandler...

I can't speak for the other customers at the Chevron, but repeatedly slapping the hood of my car while screaming "Gimme two dollars!" is a pretty sure-fire way to not only scare the hell out of me but also make me very unlikely to give you any money.

You might want to work on your technique.

Sincerely, A


A Valediction Forbidding Mourning - John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"The breath goes now," and some say, "No."

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears;
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love —
Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.



I really need to get a life. The amount of excitement I feel about the fact that the FEMA trailer that has sat across the street from our house for the past three years (and vacant for two of those three years) is finally gone is a bit disturbing.

Yay! The trailer's gone! The trailer's gone! No more gigantic formaldehyde-ridden projectile across the street during hurricane season! No more above-ground sewage lines made of PVC piping!

Who knew that FEMA could act with such lightening speed to remove a vacant trailer? Only two years? That must be a new record! Progress, people!

Next up, cranes on the skyline....


Conversations With a Three-Year-Old, Volume 4

E: Mommy, guess what?

Me: What, sweetie?

E: I love you. You're the best mommy in the whole wide world.

Me: Aw, thank you.

E: You're welcome. Now leave me alone and go vacuum or something.


Random Musings #2

After getting back from Atlanta last night, I learned that Bill Jefferson made the run-off and that there were several shootings in the city over the weekend. I'm glad to know that we're keeping the brand out there. In other news, water is wet.

A three-year-old that refuses to take a nap, combined with a seven-plus-hour car ride, makes for a very long day. The next time I take a solo road trip with E, I'm going to play a tape of myself saying the following phrases, over, and over, and over again: "Sweetie, I can't pick up your crayons right now, I'm driving." "Sweetie, I can't look at the picture you drew right now, I'm driving." "Yes." "No." "Because I said so." "Sweetie, I can't read the book to you right now, I'm driving." "Emmeline, please stop shrieking--I'm driving." "Uh huh." "Yes, you're right--that was a cow." "No, we're not there yet." "Maybe." "We'll see." "Yes, we're almost there." "I don't know." "Emmeline, please be quiet." "Yes, that car is yellow." "No." "Because I said so." "Sorry, sweetie--I was yelling at that driver--not at you." "Well, why didn't you tell me you needed to go potty?" "Please take that off your head."


There's a cockroach hanging out in my closet. This morning, when I went to get some clothes out for work, he was cruising in and out of my hanging clothes. I knocked him down and then tried to stomp him with a shoe as he scurried into a dark corner, but I missed. When I opened the closet later to get some shoes, he crawled out of one and I started shrieking. I hate freaking cockroaches. Now, every time I go into my closet for the next fews days, I'm going to live in fear that when I pull a sweater over my head, he'll start scurrying around on my back. Does anyone know if roach motels really work? My preferred method of cockroach extermination is the above-mentioned stomp the hell out it with a shoe technique, but I'm 0 for 2 on that one with this particular cockroach.

Did I mention how much I freaking hate flying cockroaches? Growing up on St. Simons, they were called "palmetto bugs" because: A) that's where they live when they're not invading your house; and B) it's a much more genteel term than big-ass flying cockroach. I've had several run-ins with palmetto bugs, the most memorable of which were the one time when one crawled up under my skirt while I was driving on the interstate and I almost wrecked my car as a result, and the time when a friend who had recently moved to NOLA from San Diego saw a palmetto bug for the first time, while it was swooping around in her living room, and called me crying, begging me to come over and kill it for her. Cockroach, 0; me and a broom, 1.

It's a very small world. This weekend, my husband met a guy who was born and raised on St. Simons Island, my hometown. As they talked, they realized that this guy's mother and my father know each other and have business dealings together. Then, as they talked more, they discovered that he was a chef at the restaurant where we had our wedding reception and that he was one of the guys that prepared the food for our reception. And then, K found out that he was currently living in Bay St. Louis, where we lived for four years, and that he's over there helping with Katrina relief and living on the grounds of Christ Church, the church where my stepfather was the priest for almost 20 years. Of course, I've never met the guy. Weird.

One of our new neighbors is very fond of blasting country music on the car stereo from his driveway, which is right next to our living room, while simultaneously scraping a shovel over the driveway, over and over and over again, to get rid of weeds. My other neighbor, Arlene, is about as thrilled with the new neighbors as I am.

I watched several people stalk Jeremy Shockey throughout the Tchoupitoulas Sav-A-Center tonight. I was very proud of myself for actually recognizing him. Apparently, that groin injury isn't interfering with his ability to shop for produce and dairy products.


Dear Neighborhood Gods...

I'd really appreciate it if you could get the new neighbor next door to stop wanting to have 15-minute conversations about what's going on in his life at 6:30 in the morning when I step outside still wearing my pajamas and just want to pick up my newspaper.

Also, if you could maybe convince him and his wife that sticking red and white plastic flowers in the grass isn't really the most tasteful landscaping option, that would be great.




I'm still alive, not that the lack of action on this blog has really been missed by anyone. I think I may have the dreaded blogger's block. I've been so immersed in meeting a deadline at work the past couple of weeks that I've had very little life outside of the office.

I'm supposed to be going to Atlanta this weekend to visit with family but am wondering if that's a really bad idea, given the gas shortages.

Jeez, my life is dull right now. And with that, I give you the latest weird google search to direct someone to my blog: "What happens if you eat spoiled crab?" Sorry I couldn't help y'all out with that one.

Speaking of the word y'all, I noticed last week that E has begun referring to me and K as y'all. We also discovered over the weekend that she loves boiled peanuts as much as I do. It's nice to know some of my Georgia genes carried over and that she's not 100% New Orleans.


Dear People at Work

This is a 24-story building that houses the offices of several hundred people. As you know, of the nine elevators in this building, only two or three are usually working at one time. Therefore, it would be very helpful if you wouldn't get on the elevator at the eighth floor just to ride up to the ninth floor. There are two staircases in the building, and I would be happy to point you in their direction. I'm not exactly the poster-child for physical fitness, but even I can manage walking up a few flights of steps rather than getting on the elevator to travel one or two floors.

Also, if you're going to use one of the restrooms, please flush the damn toilet. Your mother doesn't work here.

Thank you.


Conversations with a Three-Year-Old, Volume 3

Although not really a conversation, I thought this comment from E was too good to resist. Please note that the following occured in Atlanta, after E had suffered from days of evacu-pation (my new word for evacuation-induced constipation), which resulted in me having to use the dreaded glycerin suppositories.

E: You are NOT a good mommy and you are NOT my friend anymore! Now take that white thing out of my butt!

Good Riddance, Gustav

God, am I glad these past couple of weeks are over and that, thanks to Ike's change of heart, we don't have to do it all over again this week.

Our evacu-cation to Atlanta was more evacuation than vacation--Mom and I were too stressed out the first few days to do much other than get increasingly irritated at the coverage provided by the idiots on CNN, followed by mad dashes to the computer to watch live video from WDSU and Fox8 to find out what was really going on.


Oh, Google

Today's most bizarre Google search to bring someone to my blog: "my mom in strip club."

Sorry to disappoint, googler. No strip clubs here, other than that one picture in front of Larry Flynt's.


Watching, Waiting, Hoping

Angry, sad, scared. Not much more to say than that.



Created by WetBank Guy, one of the great NOLA bloggers. A beautiful tribute on the eve of this anniversary.

We are not all poor. We are not all "sitting around waiting for a handout." We are not all stupid for living here. But even if we were, we are still people. We are still Americans. We are your family members, your co-workers, your friends. And we still deserve dignity and respect, compassion and love.


On the Night Before My Evacu-cation

Onward to the ATL tomorrow. Spent the evening packing up clothes for me and clothes and toys for E, as well as making a list of things for K to pack up later on in the weekend if things look bad. After packing only 3 pairs of shorts and some t-shirts when leaving for Katrina, which didn't come in real handy 3+ months later in winter in Atlanta, I had to restrain myself from throwing everything I own into my suitcase. Luckily, I really don't love most of my clothes that much. As those of you who know me will agree, high fashion isn't nearly as important to me as comfy.

Even though they're still predicting that Gustav will hit us, I don't really believe it yet. Yes, I went around the house and looked every room up and down, trying to decide what things I would really, really miss if they were gone--needless to say, the list is relatively small, as we've only had three years to re-accumulate things.


Premature Evacuation

As luck would have it, I have a trip to Atlanta planned for the weekend to see my sister. Currently, my mom, E and I are planning to drive to ATL on Friday and come back home on Tuesday. I guess we'll have to wait and see whether driving back to the Gulf Coast will be possible come Tuesday, but at least perhaps we'll beat the evacuation rush out of town if Gustav continues heading this way.
I know, I know, we're still at least five days out from landfall, but I think Gustav has all of us feeling a bit jittery. It didn't occur to me until last night, when talking with my friend Curtis about how unsettled this has made me feel, that this is the first time we've even had to discuss evacuating ahead of a storm since Katrina.


Fay, Fay, Go Away

I am NOT going to worry about the two tracks that show Fay cruising over the Gulf before she makes landfall in Louisiana, with New Orleans in her northeastern quadrant. Nothing to see here, Fay, move along. And I'm sorry for making fun of your name, if that makes you feel any better. Fay is really a lovely name. God, how I hate the cone of uncertainty.


Three Years On

Three years on. Long enough to heal, but I haven't. Long enough for others to say "move on," which they have. Long enough for others to forget.

But for me, it's still there. It will always be there. Katrina was a death, and you don't easily just move on from a death. It was the death of my home, the death of the homes of those that I love. It was the death of my innocence--where before, I thought that, even despite our disagreements, we were all Americans, Katrina demonstrated that we were not. That there are those that hate us, simply because we're here. Because many of our citizenry are black and poor. Because we are "them" and not "us."

Three years on. Three years of despair, of anger, of disillusionment. Three years of being told that we're not good enough. Of comparisons to evacuees from forest fires who are treated to massages and live entertainment, as opposed to a people left on their own, to do the best that they could, with no water, no food, and guns pointed at them. Three years of emails about the self-sufficiency and resiliency of Minnesotans during blizzards. Three years of "finishing what Katrina started."

I don't want to be angry. I don't want to despair. I know what it means to live in a place where you can embrace life without turning your back on death. Here, we can be the yin and the yang, the light and the dark, the black and the white....

But still, three years on, I grieve. I grieve for my losses. For my family's losses. For my city's losses. For the lives lost.

I just can't put into words how I feel sometimes. When I think about it, I can feel it well up inside of me, this giant ball of anger and hurt and disbelief. Ourselves alone. But why does it have to be that way? Why do we have to deal with the callousness of others, who haven't lived here and haven't experienced it? Why is our suffering less than that of an Iowa flood victim? Or an Oklahoman living in Tornado Alley? Or a Californian living where wildfires strike, year after year. Why, simply because we live in New Orleans, are we less than?

Katrina, three years on.


angst (ängkst) n. - A feeling of anxiety or apprehension, often accompanied by depression. See: New Orleans in August.


Bob & Carol & Tomas & Alicia

In my next life, I think I'd like to be the one that gets to choose the names of hurricanes. Does anyone else out there think that some of the names are ridiculous? I mean, come on--Fay? Paloma? And what about Dolly? It seems as if that name was chosen solely so that newspapers could run with a "Hello, Dolly" headline. I remember back in the late 70's (yes, sadly, I'm old enough) when someone at the National Hurricane Center decided it might be sexist to designate only female names, so now we have some masculine ones thrown into the mix. It seems that they also decided to spice it up a bit with some monikers with an international flair, thus Humberto, Henri, Georges, and Eduoard.

I, for one, will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Nana later on this year. Perhaps she can bake homemade cookies for everyone in her path and spawn lace doilies instead of tornadoes. At the time, I thought Katrina was a stupid name. I'm now considering myself lucky that we haven't had to spend the past three years talking about all of the destruction that Nana wrought.

If Nana threatens us, I'll be seriously irritated. If we get hit by another storm, I at least want it to be one with a more intimidating name--Hurricane Otto or Igor, perhaps.


Ah, Memories....

I was playing around on Google Earth today and plugged in our address. Up came this picture of our house taken post-Katrina, with all of our possessions sitting out on the curb. I guess that means Google hasn't updated its satellite photos since around December of 2005. Google Earth was how we originally confirmed that we had some sort of flood damage immediately after Katrina. The CNN reporter crusing around in a boat in the Sav-A-Center parking lot gave us a pretty good idea, but good ol' Google Earth left us without any doubts. Good times.


Early Bird Special

This is one of my favorite pictures. Not because it's a particularly good picture of me (I'm the one on the right) or my sister. And not because it's a particularly good picture in general (which, obviously, it's not). But how often do you get to see a bunch of senior citizens lined up--camping out, even--in front of Larry Flynt's Barely Legal Club? Pay no attention to the pictures of naked women behind you, grandma. Just keep looking forward. Taken during French Quarter Fest a couple of years ago, when one of the jazz band stages, was, unfortunately, directly across from the strip club. This picture always makes me smile, because it's definitely one of those only in New Orleans moments.


The Grass Is Always Greener

I have lots of thoughts floating around in my head but no clear focus, other than a longing for some semblance of a normal life that I know is pretty much impossible to have while living in New Orleans.

K was offered a position in Destin a few months ago, and we considered the idea briefly. But I think we both knew he didn’t have any real interest in it—my husband is a New Orleanian through and through. It was a very nice offer, but by the time we factored in the fact that my chances of finding a comparable job in that area were slim to none, we decided against it. Plus, the odds of selling our house right now in this market are, let’s face it—not real high.

Still, sometimes it’s tempting to put this city and its problems behind us. We briefly toyed with the idea of moving to Slidell—even went so far as to look at some houses on the market over there. But let’s face it—Slidell isn’t New Orleans. And despite how much house you can get for your money over there, and the fact that you can actually just walk into the local elementary school and enroll your child there—no waiting lists, no lotteries, and a solid, tuition-free education—neither of us could really stomach the idea of making that commute every day. And the thought of moving over there made us both feel like we’d be giving up, to a certain extent.

But sometimes I long to live in a place that’s well, for lack of a better word, normal. A place where the local newspaper isn’t running a seven-part series on a 17-year-old murder victim—because there are no such stories, as opposed to too many of them to count. A place where, as mentioned above, I could just walk into our neighborhood elementary school and enroll E. A place where the streets are paved and where people don’t have to find the humor in our atrocious streets by hosting birthday parties for potholes, planting flowers in potholes, posting “no lifeguard on duty” signs in potholes, etc. (All funny as hell, but I’d happily trade the humor for functional streets.) A place where we don’t need to have discussions about whether the mayor is a crook, is suffering from Katrina-related PTSD or just doesn’t give a damn. A place where I can still enter and exit the parking garage at work, even though we just had a heavy rainstorm, because the street isn’t flooded. A place where state senators don’t (allegedly) assault their girlfriends and then get lap dances. A place where our monthly electric bill isn’t comparable to our car payments combined.

At the same time, I don’t really want to leave New Orleans. I just want living here to be better—to be easier. The people of this city are what keep us all here, I think. The love of life that everyone here has, the love for this community. There is no other city like it—or at least none I’ve been to. Nothing can replace the sheer sense of joy I get from hanging out with both friends and strangers during a Mardi Gras parade. Or wandering around shouting “Who Dat” in the CBD before a Saints game. Or any of the other countless, wonderful and unique things and people this city has to offer. Again, sometimes I just really wish it was easier to live here. And I wonder what I can do—what role I can play, if any—to make our city better.



What in God's name is going on at the NOPD? Seriously, WTF?

First, we have an NOPD cop doing 90 across the Crescent City Connection and then slapping the CCC cop who pulled him over.

Then, the big black shirt versus blue shirt debate.

Then, the appalling and disgusting tactic of entrapping homeless people to steal by baiting a car with Budweiser, Kool cigarettes and candy and charging anyone unfortunate enough to fall for the trap with a felony.

And now we have some enraged female cop showing up at a children's center and brandishing a gun at a mother there trying to pick up her children, followed by the responding officer telling the cop that she should have shot the MFer that told her to put the gun down because there were children present? Are you kidding me?

Jesus, it's like Ray Nagin and Warren Riley are on a mission to see if they can sink the police department to depths even lower than those seen back in the 90s, when Antoinette Franks and Len Davis were around. Is there nothing we can do to get these clueless assholes out of City Hall and off of the police force?


Coffee, Tea or Xanax?

K's latest post over at Good Children got me thinking about traveling with children, and I agree--I hope there's a special place in hell for people who make nasty comments to or about those of us traveling alone with small children. And to those of you who brushed past me impatiently last week at the airport while you saw me trying to keep track of my three-year-old's hand while also trying to walk up the stairs from the tarmac to the jetway while juggling a very large stroller, a diaper bag, a purse, and a portable DVD player, I hope you one day have sextuplets and have to travel alone with them. And that they scream all the way to your destination.

My worst traveling alone with children experience was definitely last summer, when my flight was delayed and we sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes, waiting for our turn to depart. Emmeline was very cranky and whiny, and the woman sitting in front of us turned around and berated me for not keeping E quiet. When I told her that E was two and that I was doing the best I could, even showing her the books and snacks I was trying to entice E with, the woman told me that she had three grown children and that I was most definitely NOT doing the best that I could, as her children had never behaved that way. Mind you, E wasn't even in a full-blown temper tantrum--she was just being a standard-issue, cranky two-year-old. I love the people whose own children are so far removed from the toddler days that they don't even remember what it's like to try to calm down a pissed-off two-year-old, all while keeping her strapped into a seat on a plane. It's not like time-out is really an option when you're in an airplane.

It seemed that the woman wasn't going to be happy unless I violently spanked my daughter, but that wasn't something I was going to do. So, the woman's next move was to lean over the seat, put her finger in Emmeline's face, and tell her that she was a very ill-behaved child, which caused me to coldly tell the woman not to speak to my child. Then, the woman called the flight attendant over. All of this, mind you, while everyone on the plane was watching. The woman insisted to the flight attendant that I and my daughter be moved to another section of the plane with empty seats. Why the woman herself couldn't move, rather than insist on me dragging E, a car seat and various toys and books to some other seats, I don't know. But at that point, I was so angry I was in tears and couldn't wait to get as far away from that woman as possible. Needless to say, I hope her luggage was lost and never found. And that she had to sit next to a violently ill toddler on her return trip.

Ah, the joys of airline travel.


4th of July on SSI

Emmeline and I spent the 4th in my hometown of St. Simons Island, catching up with family and friends. As you can see, E thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride, especially after her uncle taught her to say "hooyah." I particularly enjoy the look on her cousin Graham's face, like he's thinking, "What in the hell are you doing, woman?"


Motherhood Blues

Even thinking about writing this post makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, like it will expose me for the fraud I am. Like perhaps the mommy police will find out who I am and beat down my door to berate me for these thoughts. But I have to say it--sometimes, I really don't enjoy being the mother of a toddler.

The baby days were idyllic, once E and I got on a schedule that made her happy. She ate every three hours and napped shortly thereafter. Most of her awake time was spent with me marveling about what an incredible baby she was. And she was one of those wonder babies that was adaptable. As long as E was fed on time, she was perfectly content to bask in our adoration and go anywhere--to a restaurant, to a crawfish boil, to JazzFest.

After her first birthday, things became a bit more interesting, as she navigated learning to walk, learning to talk, and beginning to learn that she is her own person. But since she turned two (and now three), I find myself more and more exhausted, exasperated, and frustrated as we both try to learn how to make our way through the toddler years. Now, although there's still plenty of marveling at the incredible being that is my daughter, it seems as if a lot of my time is spent wiping her bottom, picking up her toys, negotiating with her on learning to pick up after herself, putting her in time-out, saying "no," saying "hurry up," doing laundry, and trying to come up with meals she'll eat, all while also holding down a full-time job and having a husband who mostly works nights and weekends.

The best way I've been able to describe it to friends is that at least once each day, she makes me laugh out loud, followed shortly by wanting to beat my head against the wall. Why do so few people talk about this part of motherhood? Is it wrong to get bored with playing princess eight times a day? Or to feel terribly unchallenged when putting together a puzzle for the 432nd time? To get frustrated when you try to prepare a somewhat healthy meal for your child, only to have it rejected, while the ungodly orange Kraft macaroni and cheese is always devoured? To feel frustration when you have to fight the same battles over and over again? To sometimes feel relief when bedtime arrives?

I tried to do an internet search last night for other mothers who might sometimes feel this way--but apparently, I couldn't figure out the right words to google. Searches for "toddler + mother + frustration" resulted in lots of tips for how to deal with a frustrated toddler. Searches for "mother + dissatisfaction" brought up psychiatric evaluations. All of that was a little disturbing to me--is there really no one out there talking about the dissatisfying parts of motherhood? Do I really need psychiatric help because I feel frustrated with parenting some days?

I love my daughter fiercely and immensely. But sometimes, I miss my pre-parent days. I miss staying out as late as I wanted on a Saturday night and drinking too much, knowing full well that I'd have all day Sunday to recuperate, if need be. I miss those long, leisurely Sundays when K and I would order takeout and a couple of pay-per-view movies and never leave the house. I miss long, romantic dinners. I miss going to the movies. I miss sleeping past 6:00 a.m. I miss feeling like I have time for myself to read, to shop, to tackle a new recipe. I miss quietness. I miss solitude. Hell, I even miss going to the bathroom by myself.

This too shall pass, I know. When I pick up my daughter from daycare today, her face will light up and she'll run across the room as quickly as she can to hug me, and it will all be worth it. And one day, I'll look back with longing on her toddler years, just as I do on her too-short babyhood. But still, I wonder--is it okay to sometimes feel less than enthralled with parenthood? And if so, why do so few people talk about it?


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.


Min-Pin, Anyone?

I took Lola the amazing Chihuahua-mix to Animal Rescue of New Orleans over the weekend for a medical check. It turns out she's a miniature Pinscher and that she's about three years old.

She received a clean bill of health--she doesn't even have heartworms, which the ARNO staff said meant she must have belonged to someone recently. She now has all of her shots and is up-to-date on her flea and heartworm meds. I do believe that she may be in better health than my golden retriever. And little dogs live a looooong time, don't they?

K and I discussed it Friday night and agreed that we do NOT want another dog. So, I went into ARNO on Saturday, full of firm resolve to tell them that I simply cannot keep another dog. Especially one that eats porch furniture cushions and Little Mermaid dolls, digs holes, isn't housebroken and barks a lot. But then Lola started trembling the minute we walked into the clinic, and my resolve crumbled a little bit. And then when we got home, E was so excited to see her that she carried her around the backyard for about an hour, saying "I love you, Lola. It's okay that you ate Ariel."

So, it appears that I am now the somewhat-reluctant owner--or at least foster mother--of a non-housebroken, pillow-chewing, hole-digging, barks-a-lot dog. Sigh.

Min-pin, anyone? Did I mention that she's very good with children?


What's in a Name?

It seems like I'm surrounded by pregnant women lately (although I'm most definitely not one of them). One of my co-workers is Swiss, and I've learned a lot from her about different customs during her two pregnancies. In Switzerland, for example, it's considered impolite to inquire of someone who's pregnant as to what the sex of the baby is, what baby names are being considered, etc. She told me that in the Swiss culture, pregnancies are not discussed among anyone but the closest of friends and relatives until the baby is born--acquaintances, co-workers, and of course, strangers, pretty much pretend that the pregnancy doesn't exist. And they certainly don't go around annoyingly treating pregnant women as if they're some sort of community property. Having my stomach patted or rubbed by a complete stranger while I was pregnant was one of the most disturbing things I've ever had happen to me and was avoided whenever possible.

I'm guessing that not having to discuss your pregnancy with strangers and co-workers (and possibly in-laws) must be pretty pleasant in a lot of ways. I'll never forget when my mother-in-law asked me what K and I were planning to name the baby. When I told her the name we'd picked out, her response was, "Are you serious?"

My daughter's name is Emmeline. Apparently, it's a very popular name in Belgium, according to my boss. Needless to say, everyone is very confused as to how to spell our daughter's name. The most common variation is "Emmaline," as that's how it sounds like it should be spelled. Even my father misspells it on a regular basis. When he last asked and I spelled it out for him on the phone, he spelled it like above. When I told him that there was no a--just three e's--he spelled it "Emmaleine." At least he got that a in there somewhere.

I suppose E will end up hating me when she's older, after having to spell both her first and last name for everyone she meets (our last name is a common one, but for some reason, people can't spell it). Plus, she will have the additional trauma of never, ever being able to find one of those pre-printed, personalized keychains at Disney World or a license plate for her bike with her name on it.

The best part about Emmeline's name is when my husband tells people that she was named after a ferry. I'm sure that sounds strange enough as it is. But when he talks to people and they automatically assume he said fairy, you can see the looks of total confusion on their faces as visions of Tinkerbelle start dancing through their minds and they're wondering if they need to back away from the crazy guy.

The real story is this--I grew up on an island off the Georgia coast, St. Simons Island. Back in the early part of the 20th century, it became quite the tourist hot spot. Before cars became all the rage, people got to St. Simons by ferry. One of the boats was named the Emmeline and one was named the Hessie. During my childhood, there was a restaurant on St. Simons called, of course, the Emmeline and Hessie, so I've just grown up with those names in my consciousness. I've always loved the name Emmeline--and when, for some shocking reason, my husband agreed to it instantly when I threw it out as a possible baby name, we both settled on it immediately. I'm still surprised that he liked the name as much as I did.

This year, my dad found a picture of the original Emmeline and gave it to E for her birthday. She doesn't appreciate it much now as a three-year-old, but I think it's pretty damn neat having a picture of her namesake around. Although I suppose at this age, she'd prefer to be named after a fairy. And no, if we have another daughter, we won't name her Hessie.

Conversations with a Three-Year-Old, Volume 2

E: Mommy, am I a people?

Me: Yes, sweetie--you're a person.

E: Is Tchoups a people?

Me: No, Tchoups is a dog. But you, me and Daddy are all people.

E: No, you're not a people--you're a mommy.

Keeping the Brand Out There

I was pleased to see that New Orleans was in the news last night, having made the "Oddball" section of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Gotta keep the brand out there, you know.

Apparently, a cross-dresser robbed the Burger King on Carrollton Avenue last week after climbing through the drive-thru window with a gun. No word on whether his shoes and purse matched, but the police did say that his nails were nicely painted.

Luckily for us, this story was reported in places like Houston, Charleston, and San Antonio, as well as in more far-flung places, like Australia. And of course, on Countdown. Hopefully, C. Ray can hold a press conference soon to tell us how transvestite robbers are a good thing for the New Orleans tourism business.


Smother's Day

My daughter really cracks me up sometimes, and Sunday was one of those days. I didn't get greeted with flowers or cards or breakfast in bed, as K was at the restaurant taking care of other people's wives and mothers, as usual. But E was there to pick up the slack and greeted me with a joyful "Happy Smother's Day!" (No, I don't know why she thinks it's called "Smother's Day, either.)

She informed me that because it was "Smother's Day," she was going to be a very good girl all day. I guess they discussed the topic at daycare or something. But, she was true to her word and was good as gold all day, which, as you may know, is hit or miss with a three-year-old. She serenaded me with her favorite songs, including the alphabet song and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." She didn't have a raging case of the "I want thats" when we went to the grocery store. And she made me laugh especially hard when she coaxed Lola the stray chihuahua-mix into her kiddie pool and down the slide. All in all, it was a very nice Smother's Day--and a nice way to spend the day with my little girl.


Dear Hillary...

Please go away now. It's over--I know that you want to claim a 2% lead in Indiana as an amazing win, but it's not. Especially when you said that the Wright controversy proved that Obama was unelectable and that North Carlina would be a "game changer." Last time I checked, a 14% lead in Obama's favor doesn't count as a game changer for you.

Believe it or not, I was a staunch defender of both you and Bill up until the past few months. Even as recently as February, I was defending you to my winger friends who claimed that they'd leave the country if you were elected president. I supported you and Bill throughout Travelgate, White Water, Vince Foster. Even Monica-Gate. I firmly believed (although I didn't necessarily agree with Bill getting lip-service in the Oval Office from Monica) that that whole sordid affair was none of our business and had nothing to do with whether or not Bill was a good president. I even defended the "what the meaning of is is," which was pretty hard to do.

But come on--you've begun veering into crazy territory. The gas tax holiday and discounting the "elite opinion" of economists? Threatening Iran with nuclear obliteration? Duck hunting and boiler makers in Pennsylvania? Suing OPEC for running a monopoly? Terry McAuliffe bragging about your winning a shot contest with John McCain? It's called pandering, Hillary, and it's exactly what turns off those of us who are ready for something other than politics as usual. And the non-stop push to count the votes of Florida and Michigan. Those votes weren't that important when you thought you would have it all wrapped up on Super Tuesday, were they?

If you win the Democratic nomination, you will have my vote. But it will be a vote cast while holding my nose. I used to really admire you and Bill--now you both make me wonder if I was wrong for defending you throughout the 90s, especially in light of your win-at-all-costs attidute, which includes frequent criticism of Obama--you know, the other Democratic nominee?

I am not a Kool-Aid drinking Obama-bot. Initially, I didn't care which of you got the nomination. But you've lost me and a lot of others. Your campaign has been inept from the beginning, and it's time to pack it in.

Please go away.

Sincerely, A


Chihuahua, Anyone?

A very sweet little Chihuahua showed up at my house late last Thursday night, filthy and with all of her ribs showing. I fed her because I felt so sorry for her.

On the way home from school on Friday, I cautioned E that there would be a little dog in our yard and that she was NOT, under any circumstances, to try to pet it, as I wasn't sure how the dog would react. (E has a thing for chasing our cats around frantically--needless to say, they're not amused--especially when she actually catches one, which is rare.) So, we pull up to our house, E gets out of the car, and the dog just comes barrelling up to E and immediately begins jumping up and down, licking her face, etc. It would appear that this dog really loves kids.

She's a very sweet little dog, and E is getting quite attached to her, but we really don't want the responsibility of another pet. (We already have one dog, two cats and three fish. I'm sure as E gets older, there will be some rodents involved in there somewhere, as well.) While saying that I do NOT want another dog, I am also an animal sucker. I brought the dog inside and gave her a bath, have been feeding her regularly, and we even let her sleep in the house last night, where she promptly displayed for us that she isn't potty-trained.* We've been calling her Lola.

So, does anyone want a Chihuahua that's not housebroken but is very sweet and good with kids? I've been scanning the lost and found ads on nola.com and craigslist, but so far no one seems to be missing her. I'm wondering if perhaps she was dumped in our neighborhood. If I can't find a home for her, I guess we'll end up keeping her. (See animal sucker, above.) But did I mention that I really don't want another dog?

Anyone interested? Anyone?

*I realized after writing this that I put "potty-trained" instead of "housebroken." Can anyone tell what's on my mind as far as my daughter is concerned?


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.


I See London, I See France....

Does anyone have any pictures of C. Ray in his underoos? If so, we can have him recalled.



The wayward husband from yesterday had more signs on Jefferson Avenue this morning. One said "I've kept it in." Can you think of anything he might be referring to other than keeping it in his pants? I wonder how his wife feels about these very public apologies.


Happy Valentine's Day

It's been a busy Valentine's Day so far, and it's only 8:30. I finally got E off to school with all of her lollipop Valentines for classmates still intact, after much negotiating. I feel sorry for the teachers at daycare today--they have a long day ahead of them of trying to keep the kids from inhaling candy all day. One of E's friends was sobbing when we got there because the teacher wouldn't let her eat her candy for breakfast. Teachers, both at daycare and of older children, have my greatest admiration.

Then, driving down Jefferson Avenue on my way to work, I saw three hand-lettered signs in the neutral ground. The first one said "I love my wife" and got me thinking "Oh, how sweet. I wish K would do something like that for me." Then I came to the second sign, which said "Then why did I hit her?" and the third sign, that said "I need to change." Well, alrighty then--never mind on wishing my husband would do something like that for me.

Finally, I got into work this morning and had this email waiting for me from my mom. I really do think I have one of the best mothers in the world--if I can do half as good a job of making sure E always knows that she's loved and supported, I think I will have done pretty well.

It's the official "I Love You" day, and I woke up thinking about those I love. I feel so very blessed to have such wonderful daughters - and sons-in-law. You are my friends and confidants, my support and encouragement when I'm down, and my enthusiastic well-wishers when times are good. I'm aware that you're always there, always ready to grieve or celebrate with me - or otherwise just to share in life. I appreciate all of you and I love you. Be loving with one another and have a wonderful day. Love, Mom

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody.


All on a Mardi Gras Day

K and the Jefferson City Buzzards, taken from Times-Pic website.

Mama, why is Daddy wearing tights and purple velvet?



Sword fight

Group shot

Throw me something, um, Sidney Torres!?!



E and her friend Beau, enjoying the view from their ladder before the parades start.


I love me some Mardi Gras. We did every parade this weekend, with the exception of Endymion. I'm so glad that Endymion has gone back to its Mid-City route--gives me a night to recuperate before Bacchus Sunday, and it's really nice no longer having to to fight huge crowds camped out for Endymion while trying to watch Iris and Tucks.

E had a ball. This is her third Mardi Gras, but it's the first time I think she really got it. Other than a few mishaps with flying beads making contact with her face, she loved every minute of it.