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Friday, September 30, 2005

Biscuit Friday ~ Now with JUMBONE!

I think he's practicing his Elvis sneer.

Taking care of business!

Stuff Portrait Friday

I have interpreted this week's assignment VERY loosely. First, something that's broken, but I'm keeping it anyway.

Because I have no choice right now, my car. Someone did this to my bumper last week.

You would have left a note, wouldn't you? I have left notes for doing much less harm than this. Some people!

Something that is in my house, where it doesn't belong.

This earns double points. This USPS mail tub came one day when we had too much mail to fit in the box! It is mostly catalogs, etc., which I shoved to the side because I have not had time to look at it. It is now in the family room where it doesn't belong, and probably thanks to Biscuit's pushing aside the curtain to look out the window, it now has a curtain in it, where the curtain doesn't belong! I'll handle this today, I promise.

Something that's in my house that I don't eat. I'm going to change that to something that just arrived at my house, that I haven't eaten YET. Lovely Julie sent this to me, made in her hometown of Cincinnati.

Saturday (and Sunday) dinner! This will be a perfect chili weekend. I think Julie also took the lovely flower pic on the card, so I wanted to show you that, too.

Triple Tag

All right, I'd better do this one, because I've been triple-tagged, by my sister, Squirl; my brother, Greenie; and professional cute person (well, she could be if she wanted to turn pro), Annejelynn.

The Rules:
1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same.

This one was actually fun, and it led to what is possibly my favorite of all my blog posts:

From March 24, 2005: "What is Gumby Doing?"

As he got ready for the most exciting night of his life, he took special care to wave the stench from his freshly shaved pits, and to perform a breast self-exam.

There you have it. This tag has been going around for a while, so I'm not going to tag anyone specifically. If you read this, and haven't done it yet, consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Mean Green

Money. That was mrtl's suggestion for this week's Monday post, and I'm late as usual, but I do find it a very interesting topic, and it's been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, what's on my mind is how difficult it is for some families to make it. I have encountered so many couples and families in the past few years, in which all of the adults are working hard, and they are losing homes, cars, even lives, because they don't make enough money.

Bankruptcy. When I was a child, that was almost a dirty word. I didn't know anyone who'd declared bankruptcy, or if I did, they weren't open about it. Now attorneys compete for bankrupt clients. My office before the one I have now was located in a building owned by an attorney. On the outside, he had hung a huge vinyl banner, urging the general public to declare bankruptcy before the laws changed. Judging by the traffic in his office, his banner was effective. Some people were just waiting for a sign.

About a year ago, I accepted a client who was just released from a psychiatric hospital. She had a history of PTSD; she had suffered most traumas that people in this culture can imagine. And through half a lifetime, she had held it together. Until she and her husband entered bankruptcy proceedings. That was the last straw. She is one of the working poor. She and her husband have "good" jobs, relative to their education levels. They volunteer in the community; they are raising their children well; they are faithful church-goers, and try to live out their faith. The decision to declare bankruptcy did not come easily to them. They find it shameful. The find it morally wrong, although they did choose the option that will maximize payment to their creditors, and allow them at least a chance of keeping their home.

Their story is very common. Many of the people you and I know are one partner's job loss away from major financial crisis. Because we try to keep up with a culture that's gone absolutely mad for things and stuff. For houses and vehicles that are way more extravagant than anyone needs, or even truly enjoys. (And how on earth will we heat those houses and drive those monsters in the coming winter?!)

My client and her family were not more careless with money than most. They weren't Suze Orman, but they weren't spendthrifts, either. And now they are cut to the bone. Cable and internet are gone. Dinners out are gone. Clothes from anywhere other than Wal-Mart are gone. Vacations, gone. In a formerly middle-class household where two good people go to work every day, and work OT when they can get it.

One of my client's greatest heartaches through the summer was that her wonderful children didn't get a vacation. Not even a weekend at the ocean; not even a day at an amusement park, not even a couple of hours at a Firemen's Carnival. These are the kids who also got nothing for Christmas or their birthdays last year, and said they understood.

At the end of the summer, my client's husband came home with great news. His employer had given him four tickets to the State Fair! She was so happy! I was so happy! Rain was forecast for the day they were going, and as the day approached, I prayed and prayed for sunshine. Prayers answered, it was a beautiful day.

When my client came in, she told me this story:

We got there, and then we realized that the tickets got us in, but that's all. We couldn't ride anything, or play anything. We had brought a little money for hot dogs and drinks. We couldn't disappoint the kids again, so we took part of that money and bought some ride tickets. We put the kids on one ride, and while they were on it, we stood there trying to figure out what in the world we were going to do. We stood there praying for guidance; I was so discouraged.

Then out of nowhere, these two well-dressed men walked up to us, and they asked us if we would like to have their "ride-all-day" bracelets. They had three of them. We asked them "how much?" but they didn't want money. They wanted to give them to us. They had come with their church group, which had gotten a discount on bracelets for everyone, but they and one of their friends didn't want to ride anything, so they just came looking for someone to give them to. It was perfect, because my husband doesn't like to ride rides.

When the kids got off their ride, they couldn't believe it. They were so happy! We had thought we'd get to put them on one more ride -- they were mostly four or five tickets each! -- but we stayed all day, from noon 'til about 7 o'clock. When we were ready to leave, my husband reminded me that he had 20 ride tickets left. I said to my daughter, "Let's pray and ask God to show us who to give these tickets to." We looked at everyone we passed as we went toward the exit. Finally I saw this young mother with a baby in a stroller, and a toddler, and a pre-schooler, waiting in line for tickets. She was looking in her purse like she was trying to come up with just a little more money. I walked up to her and said, "These are for you." She looked at the tickets, and looked at me, and she burst into tears, and hugged me. I knew I had found the right person for those tickets.

It was just a day at the fair. My client needed a day out; but even more than that, she needed hope, and assurance that she'll find a way, that if she does what she needs to do, God will make a way. That's what she believes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

But Your Call IS Important to Us, and We WILL Call You Back

I am working day and night, except for a couple of hours in the evening to pick up my kid and hear about her day. I have to figure out a better schedule, because this one is interfering with my blogging. Until I can grab some time to write something fresh, I thought I'd share with you something that tickled me today. I had to call one of my graduate student interns at her home, and was surprised and amused to hear this on her outgoing answering machine message:

Hello, you've reached the Mental Health Clinic.

*If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.

*If you have Dependent Personality Disorder, please ask someone to press 2 for you.

*If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.

*If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want.
Stay on the line so we can trace your call.

*If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship.

*If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press.

*If you are a Borderline Personality, it doesn't matter which number you press, no one will answer.

*If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969696.

*If you have ADHD, please fidget with the keys until a representative
comes on the line.

*If you have amnesia, press 8 and state your name, address, telephone number, date of birth, social security number, and your mother's maiden name.

*If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, s-l-o-w-l-y and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y press 0 0 0.

*If you have bi-polar disorder, please leave a message after the beep, or before the beep, or after the beep. Please wait for the beep.

*If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.

*If you have low self-esteem, please hang up. All operators are too busy to talk to you.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Lord Did WHAT?

Our pastor is away on vacation, and when she's not around, some things just don't get done. For example, a thorough proofreading of the bulletin for the Sunday worship service. Jif and I got the "church giggles" when we noticed the following:

This is from today's actual bulletin; note Hymn #362 (I have added the asterisks):

THIS is from our hymnal, the actual song that we were to sing:

Well, now, that's different, wouldn't you say?

Sunday Post ~ "If the only prayer you say in your entire life is 'Thank You,' it will suffice." Meister Eckhart

I Thessalonians 5:15-18

file under: &Sunday Post

Friday, September 23, 2005

Biscuit Friday ~ Sneak Preview

Thankya. Thankyaverymuch.

Stuff Portrait Friday

This is something that seemed like a good idea in the store, but when you taste it, not so much. Only 30 calories, no fat, no sugar. No good reason to eat it.

This is my dinosaur of a digital camera, that does just fine, and for which I am not nearly thankful enough, because I covet more POWER.

This is my cell phone. You've seen it before. It doesn't take pictures or anything. It mostly just phones home. And makes people think I'm a rockstar.

This is Billy Bob. No good reason for him to be here, except that when I went Googling for Tofutti, his picture came up. Say hello to the nice people, Billy Bob.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

You're Out-numbered, Mean Lady!

A day late, but here's my road rage tale.

When LG was about 3, she and I were stopped at a redlight near my office. When the light turned green, I inched forward into the intersection, preparing to turn left, when the cars coming from the other direction were through the light. I sat there in the middle of the intersection with my turn signal on, while the lady facing me, who clearly had the right of way, sat there glaring at me. I can only imagine that she just didn't trust me. She apparently thought that if she proceeded through her green light, I would just cut in front of her to make my left turn.

I waited patiently. She didn't move. She started yelling things I couldn't hear, and shook her fist at me. My child was in the car, and I wanted to be a good example. I made the universal gesture for "please, after you," also known as the "look at the fabulous prize you could win, if The Price is Right" gesture -- basically an exaggerated, sweeping hand motion. Come on, already, lady. She was having none of my chivalry, nor my game show etiquette. She introduced a new gesture to the equation, the one involving only one finger. Which she thrust up repeatedly, as she continued to yell silently behind her windshield.

As I said, my kid was in the car. I replied with still another hand gesture. This one involved two fingers, and was, in fact, the "peace" sign. I upped the ante with a smile. She became enraged and started giving me the universal symbol for "I am a lunatic and I might just run right into you for the hell of it, and YOUR KID IS IN THE CAR" (this symbol involves banging both hands on the stirring wheel, then wildly swinging arms, clutching hair, etc.) so I just went in front of her and got outta there.

LG had observed all of this, and she asked me what the lady's one finger meant. "It was a rude gesture that people sometimes do when they're angry." She asked me what my two fingers meant. "That means 'peace.' I was trying to tell her that I was not angry with her, that I felt peaceful toward her, and that I hoped she would feel peaceful, too."

LG said, "Oh. I thought two fingers meant, 'Hey, mean lady, you better watch out, because there are TWO OF US in this car!"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday Post ~ "This, too, shall pass." Abraham Lincoln
"If you're going through hell, keep going." Winston Churchill

Psalm 37:1-9

file under: &Sunday Post

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fraud? Maybe Kenny Wasn't Straight Up with Her . . .

What went wrong?

I don't often post anything having to do with celebrities, here. But this Renee Zellweger / Kenny Chesney thing has me quite curious. I think Renee is just the cutest. I was happy that she was happy. And now, after only four months of marriage, she has filed for an annulment. And she has given "fraud" as the grounds for this annulment. And no other details have been forthcoming. What in the world?

Here's what I think may have happened. I'm wondering if maybe when she and Kenny got together, Kenny was steppin' large and laughin' easy, if you know what I mean. Then, as people sometimes do, he thought he could go off his meds and . . . I don't know . . . I'm just sayin' . . .

Friday, September 16, 2005

Biscuit Friday ~ On the Job

7:30 a.m. Reporting for duty!

He gets to work . . .

She's awake! Mission accomplished!

Tell us, Biscuit, are there any special tools that you use in your line of work?

Monday, September 12, 2005

The First Time I Laughed After 9-11

I promise I will get to what cracked me up, really made me laugh 'til I cried. But first, I must get through the story of that day. I always thought I would write it for my daughter, try to communicate to her how everything changed that day. Since I have not done that yet, this may be a first attempt at that project. This is not eloquent, it is primitive. It is true, and not always flattering to me. I said some things, and thought some thoughts, that are not my most rational nor most noble. It's where I was that day.

When I dropped LG off that morning, her second week of kindergarten, Miss Sheila told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. How odd, and how sad, I thought. And I also thought that she was talking about the World Trade Center in Baltimore, the closest building I knew of with that name. I told her that I knew someone who worked there, and I hoped he wasn't at work.

On the drive home, I turned on talk radio. There was speculation that it wasn't an accident. I went into my house and turned on the TV. While I watched the first building burning, I saw the second plane fly into the second building. Oh, dear God. I called my husband. I told him we were under attack. They had the television on at his office; his co-workers were on the phone with family members, too. Jif said that one of his co-workers said a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. This pissed me off. "IT DID NOT," I said stridently. "Why do people have to do that? Isn't it bad enough without people making up shit like that, to make it sound even worse? What is wrong with people? I am watching CNN right now. Don't you think if someone crashed into the Pentagon it would be on CNN?" And then there it was. The Pentagon, too. Our country was under attack, as I stood there in my living room, between New York and Washington, D.C. I didn't know it yet, but behind me, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, another plane had become a weapon.

I don't know how people in other parts of the country functioned during those first few minutes, then hours. I know that here, we felt like sitting ducks, very likely to be next on the list. I called LG's school. "Cindy, have you heard...." The secretary interrupted me. "Come and get her, Susan, we're getting everyone out of here." I don't know whether children in other parts of the country were sent home. Ours were.

I drove back to the school, and I remember, will always remember, how blue the sky was. I couldn't tell you the shade of the sky on any other day of my life. I walked into the tiny private school where the fearless, wonderful director was, well, directing. Kids, parents, teachers. I don't know what was on my face, but she and another mom, who happened to be a U.S. Marine, grabbed me and we three hugged for just a moment. There wasn't anything to say.

I took my child home. And I was angry. I was furious that her memories would forever include the day I picked her up early from kindergarten, when people were crying in the hall, and the TV was on in the middle of the day. And I was angry that she wouldn't get to grow up cradled by the same illusions that I was. When I was little, I was taught that other people wanted to BE us. Americans. My daughter would know that other people wanted to KILL us. I didn't know that until embarrassingly late in life.

I got LG occupied in her room and I went back to the TV. The towers were still standing. And I was proud of that. I remember thinking, "You thought they would fall. They're not falling." Then they fell. And the sound that they made sounded like I imagine hell sounds. And then, even though I knew people had died, I became proud again. And I tried to make deals with, and threaten, those people who had done this. And I tried to look on the bright side.

"Please don't fly into the Statue of Liberty."
"Don't you DARE fly into the Statue of Liberty."
"At least they didn't fly into the Statue of Liberty."

I kept watching what I couldn't believe I'd seen. I thought that second plane flying into the tower was the worst thing I had ever seen. Until I saw panic-stricken people throwing themselves out of those high, high windows. Then I decided that THAT was the worst thing I had ever seen.

Until that night on the news, when I saw a new "worst thing I have ever seen." The news was about the world's reaction to our trauma. I saw a woman in a deli in Pakistan, pointing at the television where a plane was flying into a building, and I saw her laugh. I saw this pretty, dark-skinned, fat woman pointing at the first worst thing I had ever seen, and laughing. And clapping and dancing. I saw another human being rejoicing about what had happened. That was it, the worst thing I had seen. And behind her was a red, white and blue Pepsi machine. And I said to her, "Then give us back our fucking Pepsi."

I cancelled my clients that night. My daughter was supposed to have ballet class. I took her. They could do a lot of things to us, but by God, they would not stop little girls from putting on their pink leotards and dancing. Not if I could help it. Ballet was cancelled.

Back at home, the neighbors gathered in our backyard, just standing there, talking, wanting to not be in the house with the TV any more. We all said we never really noticed the planes flying over our houses, until they didn't.

That night in bed, I saw the news when I closed my eyes. I liked the world better with my eyes open. I didn't sleep. I worried about what stupid, hateful thing "we" would do during the night, to retaliate. Against whom, I didn't know. In the morning, I thought, "Al Gore is the happiest man in the world right now." No one would have signed up to be President under those circumstances. Then I thought, "Gary Condit is the happiest man in the world right now." He, who had been on the news for weeks, would not ever be returned to prominence in the news again.

In the days that followed, they said the killers were from Afghanistan. I felt like I'd done something very wrong, because I didn't know Afghanistan. I knew nothing at all about "them," least of all, why they'd want to kill us. Then I saw where they lived. I saw caves and dirt. And I said, not without pity, "They live on the fucking moon. No wonder they hate us."

I cried for the people who died. For the brave ones who tried to save others. For the ones who never knew what happened. And I cried for the people who lived. Who knew their loved ones were dead; and for those who still didn't know. And for those who were working so hard to rescue, then to recover, victims. I cried a lot. I cried for kindergarten children who would not grow up as oblivious as I was; who would not have that precious luxury of feeling that while we are HERE, we are safe. As long as I didn't know it wasn't true, it was true. And even though I recognize now that that oblivion was part of the problem, I would still give it back to my child if I could.

I started teaching my daughter even more about our country. I have always been very, very patriotic. I remember riding on the train with LG to the Million Mom March a couple of years earlier, and telling her, with tears in my eyes and voice, what we were doing, and why we were doing it. Mostly, I told her we were doing it because we could. Because we are Americans, and we are free to say what we want. I went to grade school at a time when every single day, after we said the Pledge of Allegiance, we sang, "My Country Tis a V."* That's what I thought we sang, anyway. "My country, tis a V; sweet land of liberty, of V-I-C." I didn't know what that meant, but I knew that my country was a sweet land of liberty, and that this guy, "Vic" must have been someone very important. After 9-11, I started to teach my child those kinds of songs. I sang the national anthem every freakin' day on the way to school, for weeks after that. And I cried.

I let her watch parts of shows about the Taliban, particularly their treatment of women. She knew what a burqa was, and that it was a bad, oppressive thing that she and I did not have to wear.

One afternoon, LG and I had been out shopping. We were in the car with the radio on, when the announcer said that it was time for everyone in the United States to stop what they were doing and say the Pledge of Allegiance together. LG knew the Pledge by then, so we said it, and then she asked me, "What does 'liberty' mean?"

I started trying to explain it, and became very emotional. My patriotism overflowed, as I blinked back tears, swallowed hard, and said, by way of explanation, "There are no Moms and daughters out driving in Afghanistan today. They have no liberty. Women aren't free to drive there..." I stopped to collect myself, and a few moments later, LG leaned forward in her booster seat and touched my shoulder, and said, so sweetly, "Mama, I know you're sad because the Afghanistan Moms aren't allowed to drive, but look at it this way: it's probably for the best, it keeps them safer, because if they could drive, they'd just be crashing into everything, because of those things covering their faces."

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, got me laughing again. And again.

*"My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing..."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sunday Post ~ "The thing to do is to supply light and not heat." Woodrow Wilson, 28th U.S. President

I Corinthians 13 (The whole chapter! It's a short one :)

file under: &Sunday Post

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Vanderbilts Update

Our friends, the "Vanderbilts" have returned to their home! It is in disrepair, although more from wind than water, which makes it much more repairable than many. The three of them have been joined by 20 (TWENTY!!!!) newly-homeless friends and family members. This must be quite something; they are a small family who live in a small-family size house (not a Vanderbiltesque house), but they are very thankful to have a home to share, and they are making the best of the situation. Jobs and school are still up in the air.

Fairchild update: I am brain-fried. Today begins day three of the marathon intern orientation and training at the agency where I began working part-time over the summer. I like all my students, and am excited to work with them. But I am not accustomed to talking/teaching/sitting around for three straight days, and I am, as I said, fried before I even begin today. Well, I'm off to teach about suicide. I hope you're doing something more fun than that with your Saturday!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

It's All in the Spin

UPDATE: Here's a challenge for you. After reading, see if you can write a "spin," like this one, either based on a story we would all know, or tell us the real story first and follow with the spin. Let me know if you do it, I'd love to read.
I did not write the following. It has been in my files for a long time, came to me somehow even before internet, although it is the kind of thing you might have received in a junk email. I like it well enough to share, though. In fact, I like it a lot. The power of well-chosen words.

A prominent local family was preparing to celebrate the 80th birthday of the family patriarch. His children wanted to give him something truly special for the occasion, and they decided to hire a writer to research and prepare a report on their family tree. They hired a geneological writer, and he went to work.

After several months of research, the writer returned to the family to report on some of the highlights of their history.

"By far the most interesting member of your family was Uncle George," the writer commented.

The patriarch's children looked at one another, and each said that they had never heard of an Uncle George. Was the writer certain his research was correct?

"Absolutely," the writer asured them. "Uncle George was in the branch of the family that moved to the Chicago area in the late '20s. There he met and went to work for Al Capone. He was hired by Capone to guard liquor warehouses during Prohibition. He was on the job one night when Eliot Ness came to raid the warehouse, and there was a gunfight. When the smoke cleared, it turned out that your Uncle George had shot and killed an FBI agent. George was tried and convicted, and was eventually executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing."

The family was horrified. They thanked the writer for his work, but said that they would have to think of another gift to give their father. With Uncle George in the family tree, their father would be ashamed, and since he had lived this long without knowing about Uncle George, they decided it would be best to leave it that way.

But the writer reassured them. "Trust me," he said. I'm a professional. You have nothing to worry about." The family reluctantly agreed to let him continue the family tree project. When the final report was delivered, they grabbed it and turned right to the paragraph on Uncle George of Chicago. It read:

George moved to the Chicago area in the late 1920s, where he was closely associated with the legal community, and active in some of the most historically significant events of the day. He eventually made a killing in his chosen profession. George was a man who endured many trials in his life, and he emerged from them with strong convictions. The last position he held was a seat in applied electronics at a major federal institution. This was a very secure position, and one to which George was strongly bound until his untimely death. Many were shocked by George's demise, but none so much as George himself.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Runnin' on Empty

Today's motif from mrtl is "Travel." I just told y'all about my vacation, so I didn't have too much fresh to say on the topic. Then I saw that my friend, Hoss, had posted a fancy map showing where-all he'd been, and I liked that, so here you go:

create your own personalized map of the USA

Not too shabby, I think, as far as domestic travel goes. I am definitely within doable range of visiting all 50 states. So I shall aspire to that.

For the past week, my heart has been with those who are travelling, not by choice, but by necessity. The people displaced by Katrina. There has been discussion of what to call them. The word, "refugee" has been used often. I used it myself. To my knowledge, it meant "a person who needs refuge." And I thought it was a good word, because it brings to mind a desperate, a very serious situation, and I thought someone needs to GET that this is a desperate situation, requiring all of our efforts to help.

Then I learned that some people were offended by the use of the term. And I was puzzled by that. Then Shoshie visited and asked that people stop using it. So I went in search of its true meaning. Your basic grade school dictionaries do define it as "a person seeking refuge." However, the word, as we use it today, is from the world of international law, and it has a very specific meaning that is definitely not applicable to our Gulf Coast citizens:

Generally, a refugee is a person who has fled his/her country because of fear of persecution. The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted in Geneva in 1951, defines a "refugee" as a person who:

Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Though the language varies somewhat, U.S. law incorporates the refugee definition contained in the Convention. Specifically, Section 101(a)(42)(A) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines a "refugee" as:

Any person who is outside any country of such person's nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

So, there you have it. By definition, a citizen of the United States of America can never be a refugee, thank God. Because, by definition, the United States of America will not persecute its citizens for their race, religion, etc. Right? We have to make sure that is true.

"Evacuees" or "displaced citizens" or any such description works just fine.

I saw on the news yesterday, when Mayor Ray Nagin was asked where the most recent evacuees to leave the Convention Center by bus, were going, he said, "I don't know. They might be going to Houston, maybe San Antonio, I don't know where they're going." Later I saw another reporter, at the Superdome, where we were told everyone had left. Turns out not everyone did. Because some of them wouldn't get on those long-awaited busses. Because when these human beings, citizens of the United States of America, asked, "But where is this bus going?" no one would give them an answer. Just get on, we don't know where you're going.

A little "Golden Rule" application would be in order here. Even a, "We're not sure where you will ultimately be taken, but first we're going to Baton Rouge (or any, true, specific place name), to get you registered, and cleaned up, and fed." In my opinion, there's been too much criticism and too little working together already, so I truly don't mean to add to that. But please, local, state, and federal leaders, have a PLAN. Even if you didn't have it before, make it now. And tell these people, these human beings just like you and me, what the plan is. They've had enough uncertainty. They need something to hold on to. If your word were something they could hold on to, that would be a wonderful thing right now. This situation is the worst of the worst. We need the best of the best, from all parties, races, genders, to come together to make short- and long-term plans, and to follow them through.

Those travellers, not refugees, but American citizens, have a right to know where they're going.

Late last night, I saw another interview with Mayor Nagin. And heard some new information, among the most horrendous stories I've heard yet from the whole disaster. He said that when people arrived at the Superdome, not all of them wanted to stay there. In fact, many of them wanted to begin walking out of town. Due to bridges being out, there was only one route out of the city. ONLY ONE WAY OUT. The mayor explained this, and told them they were free to go, to try and make their own way if they chose. He told them that by taking that one and only way, they would eventually meet up with all those busses that were on the way to rescue them. Hundreds of them went for it. Some at the front of this group turned out to be criminals. They left the city limits and they stole and destroyed property in the neighboring parish. And by the time the next wave of evacuees arrived at the city line, law enforcement from the parish met them there with machine guns drawn, and forced them back into the city. I can barely even type this now. Forced these brave travellers back into the city. Because some who came before them had been criminals. Forced them to turn back, cut them off from the only way out. Back to the Superdome. And you know what happened there.

As Mayor Nagin said, they put protection of property ahead of protection of people. They put property before people. What did they have there in that parish that was more valuable than those people's lives? I teach my child, in just these words, "People before things. Always." It doesn't matter what the things are. And it doesn't matter who the people are. People are always to come before things. Somehow those law enforcement officers, or their bosses . . . someone in that chain of command, missed that rule. People before things. Always. I think we are all going to need to keep that in mind in the months to come.


And on a somewhat lighter note: Did you hear Aaron Neville singing Louisiana 1927? Do you still mock me for loving the man? I rest my case.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Little Rock Rocks Big!

Just this afternoon, we finally got to talk to our friends, the "Vanderbilts," formerly of St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, more recently of Little Rock, Arkansas. It was WONDERFUL to hear their voices. Some of you have asked for updates:

Good News: They have been in touch with people who have seen their neighborhood. Their house appears to have minimal damage. The people of Little Rock continue to be amazingly good to them. Thanks to local churches, they haven't had to spend a dime for a meal. The Hampton Inn where they are staying has drastically reduced rates, with no end in sight, for all the Gulf Coast evacuees. The movie theater has hosted a movie night just for them, everything free. Someone organized a bus trip to the zoo for the children, all free. They continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of everyone they've encountered in Little Rock. They are with some other family members there, and they know where most of the other family members have gone -- Lafayette, Orlando, Houston.

Bad News: They don't know when they can return home. There is no electricity, and no prediction for its return. Even when it is turned on, all the vacant houses must be checked, have all electrical things turned off, to prevent electrical fires in the damaged homes. This will take a while. There is water and sewage, however, the treatment plants, pumping, etc., are operated by electricity, so once people return and start using water . . . well, gotta get that electricity restored first. There are some stores open within a few miles of their neighborhood, but looters are still going through the homes in the neighborhood. All of Shelley's family has lost their homes and all their contents; one uncle remains unaccounted for. Shelley's 82-year-old father has stopped speaking -- apparently PTSD. Her mom cries about the loss, not of their home which her husband built with his hands, but of their "Wall of Fame," the wall covered by framed photos of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. There is no word yet on Parran's job, or Star's school. For now, they are not available. And finally, Parran tells us that, according to the people they've been able to reach who remain in the area, the news media is not reporting the worst of the stories that are going on there. He believes the death toll will be up to 5,000 people. Reportedly, hundreds of people drowned in the schools in which they were instructed to gather for sanctuary.

And yes, they know and we know, how incredibly blessed they are to have had the means to leave when they did. And to have a home to return to. Some day.

photo by Bert Myers

Audubon Park in the mist, New Orleans, Louisiana. I did not take this picture, but I have taken many in this park. Possibly the most beautiful park, in the most magical city, that I've ever visited.

Sunday Post ~ "God loves a cheerful giver."

2 Corinthians 9:7-12

file under: &Sunday Post

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"It's worse than anyone can imagine."

That's what the email that I received today says. It is from our friends, the ones with whom we went on vacation just weeks ago. I haven't said anything about them this week. Not here. As I said yesterday, this is my diversion, my distraction, not where I talk much about how frightened I am. But I have watched TV, and cried, and prayed and called their cell phones over and over. And heard nothing. Until just hours ago. They are safe, evacuated to Arkansas. They don't know what shape their home is in, but they know they cannot get back there for months. They've been instructed to "go somewhere" and enroll their child in school. They -- Shelley, Parran and the little girl, we'll call her Star -- are in a strange state, in a hotel with strangers, eating food delivered by local churches. We are so thankful they're OK. Their home, if they do still have one, is north of New Orleans. Shelley's parents, in their 80s, and two sisters, one brother, and their families, lived in the city. Their homes, their belongings, everything is gone.

On vacation, we were the Fairchilds, and when that wasn't enough to get us a good table in a restaurant, they were the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilts are in big trouble, as are so many, many people. But we happen to know and love these particular N'Orleaneans. Here's how Shelley closed her email today:

"Thanks for the prayers, and PLEASE, keep them coming."

So, please do. And help however you can.

UPDATE: Good news. In an email this morning (Friday), they say that they have received word their house is still standing and in relatively good shape. (WOOHOO!) Jobs and school are still unknowns, and when they will be able to get back home is unknown, due to power, water issues. We had invited them to stay with us, which they will keep as an option. I am sure they'd rather be stationed closer to home. I don't know where Shelley's family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews) is, just that their homes are gone, but they're alive. I also want to pass on this quote, for which I am so thankful:

"The people in Little Rock have been absolutely fantastic. There is a local Baptist church, and they are supplying the LA/MS evacuees with lunch and dinner each day! The hotel supplies us with breakfast and snacks each day. The local businesses are offering discounts, even free stuff like at the movies. The hotel has reduced their rate for us by about 30%. We feel very fortunate."

I have never had aspirations to visit Little Rock, but I surely do now. Some day, those good people will get some of my tourist dollars, for sure.

But "Unrestrained" is Fine

SierraBella's comment yesterday that her "stuff is unrestrained," reminds me of a therapist I used to see, years ago, before I even went to school to become a therapist. At the time I was in the corporate world, wearing suits, silk blouses and pumps. (Not really me.) The therapist wore jeans, and she said to me, "It's that time of the month, do you mind if I get comfortable?"

I didn't know what she meant, but I'm all about people getting comfy, so I told her to go right ahead. She undid her belt, unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans, and curled up on the couch, just hangin' loose. This was a major factor in my deciding to become a therapist. Although, for the record, I have never undone my pants in my office when a client was present.