Thursday, September 29, 2005

Starting the day off with a bang

Or a whimper, as the case may be. I made the mistake of eating part of a cookie this morning and not chewing it thoroughly. My internal food police (aka the lap-band) let me know that they wholeheartedly disapproved of my efforts to gulp my food. That cookie got hung up, caused me considerable pain for a good half an hour or so, and then came back to see me. Ugh. I'm feeling OK now - after that, I had some hot tea, and then some soup and a coffee for lunch, and I should be able to eat a little something for dinner. (I hope so - I'm hungry!) But that wasn't a very fun way to start my day. Good to have the occasional confirmation that my lap-band is working as it should, but not an experience I care to have *too* often.

Still no word on the internal position - it's almost the end of the week, wonder if we'll hear tomorrow? We're only here until 11:00 - tomorrow is our company picnic, and the office shuts down early so we can all go. No skipping out allowed - if you're here, you've got to come to the picnic. Our team leader is going on vacation next week, and asked if she could stay here to make sure she gets everything done that she needs to get done before she leaves next week. Nope, gotta go to the picnic. If they won't even let you stay and work if you ask, they must really want us to all bond and get along! LOL

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This and that

Thoughts on New Orleans:

Michael Brown is an odious little toad. Here he's been pointing the finger at state and local officials, saying they're to blame for everything that went wrong in the aftermath of Katrina, and apparently he was warned of problems that could delay supplies and endanger emergency personnel. I'm not saying there's no fault to be found with how city, parish and state officials and agencies handled things - I think there's some blame to be had on every level (keeping in mind that hindsight is always 20/20, and it's always easier to say what should have been done afterward than to know beforehand what should be done). But I don't see how Michael Brown can say with a straight face that FEMA did a bang-up job and all the problems were everyone else's fault. I was listening to NPR this afternoon, and heard a commentary that made the point about how the appointment of Brown is an example of what happens when you use political appointments to reward your friends and contributors. I didn't realize that civil service was originally designed to apply to all Federal government jobs, but over time, certain positions have come out from under the civil service umbrella. Huh, look where it got us with this particular former director of FEMA.

Thoughts on work:

Today was hideous. I got a good bit accomplished on one important aspect of my job, but had to let another important aspect slide, and may not be able to get that one caught up by month end. In my interview for the internal position I've applied for, the hiring manager said she was concerned I might be bored in the new position. I wish I'd thought to make this observation: My present job isn't all that exciting. It's not intellectually challenging, not a stretch of my abilities - once you learn the procedures and processes, the work is fairly simple. What makes the job a challenge is the sheer volume of work, and to my mind, being so overwhelmed with work that you don't know where to start isn't a good challenge to have. If the volume of work in my current position were less than what it is, I'd be bored with it. So I don't think the "bored" factor should be a consideration - wish I'd thought to bring that up at the interview. No word on the new position, by the way. But the week isn't over yet.

It dawned on me yesterday that my manager is a good six or seven years younger than me. And I realized that I'll be 40 in just three years. I'm getting to the age where the probability that my manager will be younger than me is increasing. It's not to where that would be the norm - I'm not quite that old. But it's a rather disconcerting thought to realize that I'm not really part of the "young" crowd anymore. I don't feel almost 40 (well, not most days, anyway).

Thoughts on beauty and attraction:

As I'm at a point in my life where I might think about meeting new people, about dating at some point, I occasionally worry about my appearance. I'm working out, trying to get into better shape, but I'll never fit the societal norm of beauty. I'm just not built that way. I'm too short and too round, always have been, always will be. But then I thought, you know what? From a biological standpoint, I've done my share. I've contributed to the continuation of the race, I have a wonderful, beautiful son who's smart as a whip. At this point, is it really my role to try to be as beautiful and enticing as I can? I don't think it is. I'm never going to look like a Barbie doll, I'll never be so skinny that you can balance coffee cups on my collarbones, I'll never be a size 2 or 4 or 6. And you know what? I don't care. I'm a mother now. My primary responsibility is to raise my son and to help him grow up to be a well-rounded, confident, responsible adult. I'm not going to let myself go, but I'm not going to flog myself (figuratively speaking) for not dropping eight or ten pounds a month, for not being able to fit into those clothes that have been lurking in my closet since the early 90's, for eating a chocolate chip cookie instead of nonfat yogurt. If anyone is going to be interested in and attracted to me, they're going to have to be interested in me as a person, not me as a warm body. Sex? Eh, I can take it or leave it. Besides, it wouldn't mean anything to me anyway if my partner didn't value the person as much as the body. So I'm not out to lure a man in with my stunning beauty and feminine wiles. If guys aren't interested in a woman who's intelligent, a tiny bit sarcastic, who can cook and who likes sports and beer, well, then, they aren't for me.

And that's enough thought for one night, I think. I'm going to bed. G'night.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Well, quelle surprise!

Here's a shocker - C has broken up with his girlfriend (or she broke up with him, whichever). And he coincidentally calls me? Hmm, some coincidence. If he were to ask me out, I think I'd just laugh. A girlfriend asked me if I were still attracted to him, and I could honestly say no. I've been burned twice, and I'm not stupid - I do learn from things that don't work out like I'd hoped, so his chances with me in the future are nonexistent. I'd have to be off my rocker to put myself in a position for him to flake out on me a third time. At least it was a learning experience for me - I realized that nothing could have worked out between us long-term, he'd have driven me batshit crazy (and not in the good way). I just think it's funny that he's calling *now*. I don't hear boo from him for ever-how-many months, his girlfriend bails on him, and I get a phone call. He called again over the weekend. I didn't even hear my phone ring, so he left a voice mail. I do love how life can provide a good chuckle when I need it.

Monday already? Surely not.

In the aftermath of Rita, our family is all accounted for, even K's aunt and uncle who live in Sulphur (very close to Lake Charles), whose house is on the river, and who refused to leave. My dad said the big old pecan tree behind the house I grew up in got blown over and fell on his shed, causing some damage, and they lost some shingles off the house (the new house, where my dad and stepmom live, just a little way from the house I grew up in), but other than that, it was just a lot of high wind and rain. I'm sad about the pecan tree, although it was about half rotten anyway - it was a really old tree. K's parents are fine. My bio mom, who stayed in Lafayette, is fine - she didn't even lose power or phone. And K's bio family is still here, so they're OK, too. Well, his sister and brother aren't here, but they're all right. So in the grand scheme of things, Rita could have been much, much worse.

On another topic: I'm in a funk. I feel fat, lazy, undisciplined, and pretty useless right now. I see so many things around my house that need to be done, but I can't seem to work up the will to do them. Saturday night J fell asleep around 9:30. I was so worn out, I went to sleep as soon as I got him down, and didn't bother to pick up the toys on the living room floor or clean the dishes in the sink. Yesterday I was J's favorite plaything all day long (I don't think I even went to the bathroom by myself, except maybe once), and I didn't finish the dishes (I started them) or do any of the mountain of laundry. I know things need to be done, but when I find a little free time, I can't seem to muster up the motivation to do any of it. And I'm undisciplined - my eating habits are crap, lap band or no. I eat junk, and lots of it - I know I have things in the house that are better for me, but that requires time and effort to cook, and I don't wanna. I feel like a big fat slob, and I hate it. And I'm not sure I can dredge up the strength to do anything differently, at least not right now.

Today didn't start out much better than yesterday ended, with me being in such a crappy mood. I overslept. I was running around to get dressed, and found ants AGAIN, nasty little bastards - in the pantry and in my closet, in the laundry hamper. I had to toss all my clothes in the washing machine without regard to lights or darks, etc. I hope I don't get home to find that they've all turned some strange new color. On the bright side, I guess now I will at least have gotten some of the laundry done. And if the colors all mishmash together in the wash, well, that gives me a reason to buy new clothes, doesn't it? At any rate, I'll have to finish the wash when I get home - didn't have time to get it completely done this morning, and I didn't want to go off and leave the washing machine running (I have a fear of coming home to a floor covered in water from a freaked-out washing machine if I do that!).

Some word should come out on the internal position I applied for this week. Not sure if it will be an announcement as to who's been selected to fill the position, or if it will be a second round of interviews, but hopefully we'll hear something. I really, really, REALLY want this position. Even if I only had the job for six months and then the powers that be wanted me to move back into what I currently do, at least that would be six months free of phone time and proactives, six months where I could do my job without a lot of outside interference, six months where I could do something I could really EXCEL at. And right now, I feel mediocre at everything (in spite of my manager's assurances that I've made some positive improvements, I know I'm nowhere near setting the world on fire at this job), and I need some kind of break. I can't keep juggling things here at work, and there's no help to be had for it. Everyone who holds my same position has the same problem - we can't keep up with the work load and can't always keep track of things we're supposed to do, simply because there's too much of it. So I really want some good news about this internal job. I really, really, really, really want it. Have I said that I really want it? I just hope they don't think that, because of my education, that I'd be bored or that my talents would be "wasted". I hope I've managed to make them see that the talents I have, the things I'm really good at, are the things this position requires. And I like structure, it doesn't bore me, I work well with it. It's chaos I don't deal well with, and my current position has an abundance of that.

Once again, I feel like every major area of my life sucks. Finances suck. My job sucks. My marriage is trashed. And I love my son, but he's so very three that it's just tiring. I thought 2005 was supposed to be a good year, but I'm not seeing it. Maybe 2006 will be better, if I can hang on that long?!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Which way will it go?

So where will Rita end up? I'm thinking it's heading for Louisiana again, and I'd be very surprised if it hit any farther west than Beaumont/Port Arthur. Levees or floodwalls in New Orleans have failed, been breached, overtopped, whatever - water is pouring into the 9th Ward again, and they're predicting 8-9 feet of water for the area. And Rita isn't even there yet!

K's sister is back home in Covington, where they're predicting tropical storm-force winds, and of course there's the risk of tornadoes spawned by the hurricane. My bio mom is in Lafayette, and doesn't plan to leave - I talked to her yesterday, and she said traffic was already so bad on the main route out of town that she wouldn't make it far enough to do any good. She's probably right, but still, it makes me nervous that she's staying. My dad is in central Louisiana, as are K's parents - there are predictions of some pretty serious weather for them, 10 to 15 inches of rain and 70-80 MPH winds. My dad doesn't think it will get that bad, so they're staying. If it rains 15 inches, the bayou behind his house may be *in* his house. We can't get in touch with K's parents - cell phone calls don't go through, and they don't answer at the house. We're hoping they headed north to stay with family, but we don't know. And we've got other family all in that area - Lafayette, Sulphur, Baton Rouge, New Orleans. So wherever it hits, someone we know will be affected.

It's really hard to keep my mind on work right now, but I know I need to. I'd better try to get something done. More later.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Looks like Louisiana may be in for it again

Everything I've seen shows Rita heading more toward the northeast. There are reports that it's already raining some in New Orleans. The parish where my birth mom lives is under voluntary evacuation - and of course I can't get her on the phone, "all circuits are busy." AARGH. It doesn't matter where this puppy hits, K and I have friends and family all down in that area. I'm not getting anything accomplished at work today, I'm too busy keeping an eye on the hurricane.

On a different note - K and I probably have the most unusual relationship ever for people whose marriage is breaking up. He had a gift certificate for a massage that expires in October of this year. He said the stress of taking time to schedule an appointment and go was more than he wanted to mess with right now, so he gave it to me! :) I think that's cool. I'm going on Oct. 1 for a one-hour massage. And I also have the gift certificate J gave me for Mother's Day that will let me go get another massage. Yay!!!

My head hurts. This job makes my stomach hurt. Can I just win the lotto?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A big long day

Tonight has been busy. I stopped at the store to grab a few supplies on the way home - bottled water, granola bars, batteries - just in case the weather gets bad up this way and the power goes out. Picked up J, came home, fixed dinner, played a bit, put J in bed, read stories, laid in bed with J until he finally passed out around 10:00.

Then I came into my kitchen to find ANTS. EWWWWWWWWWW. So I sprayed and squashed, and squashed and sprayed, and even tried to light a couple of the little bastards on fire (that didn't work well, but at least I didn't burn the countertop - in retrospect, perhaps it wasn't such a good idea). Finally I figured out where they were coming in - a little tiny space between the backsplash of the stove and my cabinets. So I sprayed and sprayed in there, and I think that got them - for now, anyway. This is the third time I've had problems - once they were in my dishwasher, once in my trash, and now on the cabinet (where there was no food out, so go figure). I don't like ants. I see them and then I've got the creepy feeling that one or two or three are crawling on me for the next couple of hours. Ugh.

Then I loaded the dishwasher, did a load of clothes, wrapped a gift for my manager's baby shower tomorrow (it's a group gift, and we got a cradle swing - a huge box, now that's fun to wrap!), and now I'm very tired.

I'm trying to get some more info on Rita before I go to sleep. It's a beast - third most intense hurricane in the Atlantic Basin, I think, and the minimum pressure is now below 900 MB (I think it's lower than what the minimum pressure was with Katrina). Earlier today it was referred to as "dangerous" in weather advisories - now they're calling it "potentially catastrophic". The last I saw, it looks like the predicted landfall is now more to the east, closer to Galveston than Corpus Christi and potentially causing more problems for Houston. If it moves much farther east, New Orleans is bound to get some rain, and right now I don't think the city can tolerate *any* amount of rain. Can hurricane season please just END already?!

I'm going to sleep. Enough time to fret about all this tomorrow.

Just tired

I'm tired. More on that momentarily.

I had my interview this morning. It was supposed to be 30 minutes, we talked for 40, so maybe that's good. My biggest concern is that the hiring manager told me this was a very structured position, and that she was concerned I'd be bored with it, that it wouldn't be challenging enough. I said that my personality is such that I really do better with structure than the chaos of my current position (and everyone acknowledges that the position I currently hold is chaotic, not just for me but for all the others in the same job role). I know I'd do a kick-ass good job at it, but if they're worried that I'll be bored in the new position, that shoots a hole in my chances. Also, there are two groups on the team I'm trying to join - one core group of people who want to do nothing but what that team does, and another group of people who are basically taken on that team and trained for other roles (and the most common move they make is to doing what I'm doing now). If a spot opens up doing what I currently do, that pool is the first place higher-ups look for people to fill those openings. The hiring manager asked me if I'd still be interested knowing that in a short time I could possibly be sent back to my current position. I told her that I felt much better suited for what I was interviewing for, but that if I had to go back to where I am now, I could do that. (Biggest fear there: ending up on a different team than I'm currently on and getting a manager I might not like or teammates I might not like as much as the ones I have now.) There are other places to move to, not just what I currently do, but it depends on what openings are out there. I said I'd still be interested, though. If I do get the job, I just hope that doesn't come back to bite me in the butt later.

They're hoping to have the position filled by October 1, so an announcement of some sort will likely come out next week. Until then, I just wait.

Tired - I'm tired of my job. Tired of whiny people. Tired of phone time and phone calls and proactive contacts. Tired of the four million things clamoring for my attention each and every day. Tired of never going home at night feeling caught up and feeling like I've had a really good day. Tired of coming in to work every day knowing that a mountain of things to do awaits, and that every time I get one things done three more pop up to replace it.

I'm tired of power struggles with J - everything is a battle with him. I wish that just once in a while, he'd do what I ask without all the "I don't want" and "I don't like". I love him more than life itself, but I hope this phase passes quickly, because it's wearing me out. It's hard to stand your ground against a howling child - sometimes I think it would be easier to give in, but then that just lays the groundwork for trouble later on, so that's not an option. I just keep trying to hold firm and hope that my persistence holds out longer than his.

And I'm stinkin' tired of worrying about the weather. When Katrina hit, I worried about family. Now that Katrina has come and gone, I worry about the Gulf Coast getting rebuilt and what family will end up doing for the long term, how will they rebuild, will they be OK in the meantime. I worry that New Orleans will get hit again and fall right off into the Gulf. Now Rita is out there, apparently headed for Texas, and I've seen reports that it could still be a Cat 1 by the time it gets as far north as I am (and the coast is a damn far sight away from me, I don't generally consider myself anywhere *near* the coast). I grew up in Louisiana, and never got hit by a hurricane. Now one may make it all the way up to north Texas?! Somehow, that's just not right.

Besides that, I'm just TIRED. When your child doesn't go to sleep until 9:30 or 10:00 and wakes up at 5:45 (!!!) proclaiming, "It's time to wake up!", that means 1) I have very little time to myself if I go right to bed after J goes to sleep, or 2) I stay up stupid late just to have some time to myself. So I guess I have no one to blame but myself for my fatigue, because I do make the choice to stay up. But if I don't, then everything I do - work, things for J, fixing meals, laundry - is for the benefit of other people. If I don't get time to myself occasionally, where I can do whatever I want, I'll just explode. So I'm tired.

Also, my doc gave me a new prescription for Wellbutrin. I'd run out and not had any for about four or five days before I got the new prescription, and now I find myself very short-tempered. I'd read that agitation and anxiety can be one of the side effects of Wellbutrin (which I find ironic, given that some people, me included, take it to *help* with anxiety), so I'm hoping that's all this is and that it will pass in a few more days. It's just no fun. I don't like being short-tempered.

Only 3 1/2 hours until time to go home. Yay.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Oh, please....

PETA asks Attorney General to charge LSU with animal abandonment in Katrina aftermath

PETA asks Attorney General to charge LSU with animal abandonment in Katrina aftermath

01:48 PM CDT on Tuesday, September 20, 2005

BATON ROUGE -- Animal rights group PETA has written to state Attorney General Charles Foti asking that LSU officials be charged with cruelty for abandoning 8,000 animals in the university’s labs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, according to a spokesperson for the group.

State law defines cruelty for abandoning as "completely forsaking and deserting an animal previously under the custody or possession of a person without making reasonable arrangements for its proper care, sustenance, and shelter."

PETA alleges Larry Hollier, the dean of LSU Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, and Joseph Morschbaecher, the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the LSU Health Sciences Center, admitted that they euthanized only a small number of animals before staff fled from the buildings, leaving the rest of the animals to face death while they were trapped in their cages.

PETA said it fired off a second letter to the USDA, asking the agency to charge LSU with failure to abide by the minimal requirements as set forth under the federal Animal Welfare Act. PETA said it first wrote to the USDA two days after the levees broke to ask that emergency teams in the affected areas ensure that animals were not dying in laboratories.

According to PETA, additional letters were sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, asking that LSU not be given federal funds to rebuild animal laboratories in high-risk areas, and to LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe, asking for the dismissal of both Hollier and Morschbaecher.

"We're not going to rest until LSU is punished for leaving these terrified animals in cages as the waters rose," said Mary Beth Sweetland, director of PETA's Research and Investigations department. "It's clear that LSU's attitude was 'they're just animals,' as the only lamenting we've heard is over lost research data."

PETA attorneys said they will file a more detailed formal criminal complaint within the next ten days. PETA's letters in behalf of the 8,000 animals that died at LSU are available upon request.

So if I understand PETA correctly, the staff should have put themselves in harm's way to stay to euthanize 8,000 animals? Don't get me wrong, I do love animals, and I was sorry to hear that so many had lost their lives. I had pets all my life, and it broke my heart when one had to be put down. But this, to my mind, is why PETA and other similar groups get branded in many instances as a bunch of nuts. They're apparently suggesting that it was criminal for the staff of the Health Sciences Center to heed the mandatory evacuation warnings. How long would it take to euthanize 8,000 animals? Should all the staff have stayed? If they'd done that, how many people might have died? Yes, animals can be companions and friends, and in many cases a pet is another family member. But it just seems ridiculous for PETA to ask for the Health Science Center staff to be charged with and convicted of a crime for evacuating. I say this knowing that animals other than rats are used for lab research. But if it were you, would you stay in the path of a Category 4/5 hurricane to take time to put the rats to sleep?

Wish me luck!!!

I have an interview for the internal position tomorrow at 9:30! I talked to my manager this morning and let him know I was going to apply. Of course he'd be disappointed to see me go elsewhere, but at least here we are encouraged to apply for internal postings if we're interested. If I don't get this new position, it won't come back to bite me in the butt with my current manager that I applied.

I'm just really, really excited about the possibility. I know I would kick ass at the job. I'm just concerned the hiring manager may think I'm overqualified. (I've never understood that concept, but that's a whole 'nother topic.) So we'll see how it goes. I would SO love to get this position. No more proactives, no more phone time, no more of the things about my current job that I think are icky. So y'all keep your fingers crossed, and I'll update tomorrow!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday, Monday

Well, now family won't be going anywhere. N went to the doctor today. Her BP is still way up, like 180/90. The doctor told her that under no circumstances was she to go home, especially not with another storm brewing, and that even without the storm, she doesn't need the stress of going home, seeing the mess, worrying about cleaning up. She's supposed to go back to see him in two weeks, so they'll be here at least that much longer. We really haven't seen them that much - they've spent most of the time over at K's. N's medicine makes her sleep, and the new BP medicine the doctor gave her today is supposed to make her sleep even more. The doctor said it's better for her right now to sleep and to heal than to be up and worrying and stressed out and sick. Sucks that they finally get over here (they hadn't seen J since he was little bitty), albeit under rotten circumstances, and now they've not gotten to spend much time with J because of health issues. It's no one's fault, it's just one of those shitty things that happens. I just hope she gets better - the doc said that if she hasn't improved by the next visit, he may put her in the hospital. YIKES. That's just scary.

And speaking of other storms - Rita, what the hell?! I know it hasn't taken direct aim on Louisiana, and it may give Louisiana a miss. The track looks rather creepily similar to Katrina's, though. And if it hits anywhere on Louisiana's Gulf Coast, it's going to cause problems. If it hits the southwestern part and lots of people evacuate, there'll be a challenge finding shelter for them, since plenty of people who left when Katrina came in are taking up a lot of available shelter space right now. If it hits the southeastern part, well, let's just say that would be less than beneficial for New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Ray Nagin is already calling re-entry into the city to a halt, and I've seen some information saying that the levees/floodwalls couldn't take more than a 3-foot storm surge at this point. AACK. I love my home state, but I wouldn't move to the New Orleans area for love or money. No way.

My wrist hurts. I was cleaning up in the kitchen tonight, and picked up one of J's sippy cups to get the lid off, when I felt/heard something pop. Ow. If it gets any worse, I'll go see the doctor.

Oh! I found out today about a position in another area of where I currently work. I think it's something I'd be very, very good at. I'm just afraid they'll see me as overqualified since I have a law degree. As long as they pay me the same or more and I'm doing work I enjoy, I don't care if they call me kitchen wench - I don't give a fat crap about titles. I'm afraid others won't see it that way, though. This position is generally seen as a stepping stone to what I do now. But I know I'd kick ass at it - it requires that you be able to read and interpret legal documents, and that's a huge chunk of what I did for four years at my previous job (besides having that handy law degree). I can't tell you how many times I've found provisions entered incorrectly in summary form on the system (this is important, because they tell us not to take the time to always go back and read the full document, but to rely on the summary on the system for our information - um, how does that help if what's on the system is wrong?). I plan to bring that up in the interview - if it's attention to detail and the ability to read and interpret documents they're looking for (and if they're serious about that and not having interviews as a formality with a candidate already in mind), I don't think they can find anyone better than me. We'll see how it goes.

You make me laugh

I got a good laugh this weekend. Y'all may remember me talking about C - we worked together for about four years, I had a rather horrific crush on him for a good little while, and after we both left the job we had in common, we'd gone out a couple of times. Went out one time back in the summer of 2003, he kissed me, and promptly freaked out and disappeared from view. Late 2003, early 2004, he reappeared, and we went out again. Same thing - he flipped out on me (bothered by my belonging to the uncertain relationship category of separation) and disappeared again. So I said, fuck it, I don't need to be involved with a man-child who's not even grown-up enough to *tell* me what's going on in his head before he bugs off. And I went on my merry way. I'd heard through the grapevine that he had a girlfriend (and a small mean part of me did chuckle when mutual friends were less than enthusiastic about her). Goody for him. Well, here's the good laugh - my cell phone rang on Saturday. I had the ringer turned down and was in another room, so I didn't hear it. K was standing where he happened to see the light on my phone come on, so he told me it was ringing. I went into the kitchen, saw the caller ID, rolled my eyes and snorted, and hit the reject button. It was C calling. (K knows about C, so it's not like this was some big deal for him to see that C called.) K said he figured that would be my reaction! LOL I listened later to the voice mail that C left - he said he was working on something where he may be doing some work with my company, and he was just thinking about me, blah blah blah. I'm thinking, OK, you just dropped off the planet for a good six months or so, I had to pry the reason for your running away out of you (because you just disappeared, didn't do me the courtesy of telling me you really couldn't handle my uncertain marital status right now - yeah, running is better than honesty any day of the week), and now you're calling saying you were just thinking about me?! Whatever. That ship has sailed, baby. Even if he'd broken up with his girlfriend (I have no confirmation of this, but the fact that he called makes me wonder), I wouldn't be interested in going out. He's freaked out on me twice and doesn't seem to be emotionally mature enough to have the difficult conversations sometimes necessary for a successful relationship (I mean, if he didn't have the nerve to tell me how he felt at a point when we were really not in a serious dating situation, how much more might he not be able to be forthright if there was a serious relationship at stake?), and I so do not need that aggravation. He and I have each had just one real serious relationship (his engagement, my marriage), but apparently I've grown a lot more and learned a lot more from my experience than he has from his. He sent an e-mail, too - found that when I got online last night, and laughed again. Let's just say I'm not in a real big hurry to write or call back.

Other than that, it's a Monday. I've got a real bad case of the don't-wanna-do-crap today, and that's not good. I've got to find the motivation to get a lot of things accomplished today, and I'm not sure where that will come from.

Family may be going home this week. No definite plans yet, but it's looking like that's what will happen. There's still one sibling that, to our knowledge, no one has heard from. Hopefully she's OK. Some family members are now having to fight with insurance companies - K's brother was told that his homeowners' policy didn't cover the damage, they should have had flood insurance. Um, 'scuse me, if the water damage is from rising water, that's a flood. If the damage is because rain came in after the roof was smashed by two falling trees, that's storm damage and should be covered by the homeowner's policy. I saw that the state of Mississippi is suing a bunch of insurers over this issue, so maybe K's brother won't have to hire his own high-dollar lawyer. But what a sucky position to be in - you have a destroyed house that you still owe a mortgage on, insurance won't pay, you can't go back to work yet, and you still have to find some way to pay for the destroyed house and for someplace to live right now. Ugh, that makes my stomach hurt, just thinking about it.

I'd better make myself do some work. I'm just having a hard time caring right now.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Why am I still up?!

It's stupid late. Almost 2 AM. I may get five hours of sleep if I get to bed in the next five minutes and if I'm lucky.

I watched The Wall tonight. A co-worker loaned it to me - I'd never seen it before. Interesting. Very intense. I'd only had a couple of glasses of wine, and I can see where a little pharmaceutical assistance would make it downright freaky.

I got both a voice mail and an e-mail from C today. When I saw his number on the caller ID of my cell phone, my first response was, "Yeah, right." I didn't answer. (A little reminder - C is the guy I worked with, had a huge crush on for a while, went out with a couple of times after the separation, and then had him totally wig out and disappear on me.) He left a message. Then I saw he'd sent an e-mail after he'd called. A big, big part of me says, "What nerve, I haven't heard boo from you in six months [give or take] and now you're wondering how I'm doing?! Whatever." But a little part of me is kind of sad, wondering what might could have been if we'd never gone out until things were officially settled between me and K, and if C hadn't needed to grow up quite so much.

I'm going to bed. Tomorrow (today) is going to be a serious coffee day, I can tell you that.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Happy Friday

I'm in a better mood than I was last night. I think I was just really emotional, and that's why J's comments hit me so hard. Usually if he says he doesn't want mama, I tell him that's too bad, that I'm it at the moment, so he'd better just deal. LOL I got my Wellbutrin refilled yesterday and started taking it this morning, so I'm hoping to be on a more even keel in a few days.

It's my late night at work. Oh, bliss. There are not enough words to describe how very much I loathe phone time. I'm praying that it's quiet and that I don't get any nutball phone calls. I wish we'd just cut out this late shift nonsense - that's what voice mail is for. But apparently someone up the line thought we got enough calls from 5:00 to 7:00 to justify staying open those last two hours. Blech. So I'll be here for another hour and fifteen minutes.

I'm sure I've got more thoughts rolling around in my head, but they aren't making their way from brain to fingers at the moment. I should start carrying around a notebook to jot down thoughts as I have them, so that I can write about them when I have time.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hitting where it hurts

How is it that children know, even at an early age, how to say things that will cut their parents to the core? Tonight I was seriously wondering if J had some kind of sociopathic tendencies. After his bath, J went into my bathroom. K is staying here for now since family from N.O. is at his apartment, so he's got stuff in the bathroom. J thinks daddy's disposable razors look like hammers (which he loves, thanks to Bob the Builder), and he grabbed one, with his hand wrapped around the blade. I freaked out and raised my voice telling him to give it to mama, we didn't play with that, and he just started screaming. I got down on the floor and hugged him and told him I wasn't mad, asked him to look at me, and he said, "No, I don't WANT to look at mama!" He said he was mad, and I told him I was sorry I'd yelled, but that razors could cut and I didn't want him to get hurt. He was howling so much that it was hard to understand what he said next, but finally he got it out - "I cut mama." "You want to cut mama?" "Yeah." And on and on in the same vein, he didn't like mama, he didn't want to hug mama, he wouldn't say he was sorry. I stood in the bathroom and cried. I know he didn't *mean* what he said - this is the same child who asks me at bedtime if I'll be right here for him and wants me to hold his hand until he goes to sleep. But still, it hurt like hell, especially him saying he wanted to cut me. If this is a preview, the teenage years should be loads of fun.

And tomorrow morning I have the whole "I don't want to go to school, I don't like school" routine to look forward to, before I even get to the big load o' crap that is my job. Oh, and tomorrow is my late night, too, so I get the privilege of staying at the office until 7:00. Forget the margaritas, just give me the bottle of tequila and a straw....

The incredible shrinking woman, Part 1

Today was my first weigh-and-measure day at Curves - I've been going for a month now, and I'll do this once a month. The scale went up 2 pounds, but I lost 5 inches overall (1/2 from bust, waist and each arm, 2 from abdomen, and 1 from hips) and my body fat went down almost a whole percentage point! WOO!!! :-) So I'm pleased. I'm enjoying it a lot. The workout is fun, it's something I like, it's obviously having some effect, and it doesn't take out of my limited time in the evenings. I don't care what the scale says - if I can tone up, shape up, get smaller clothes, and be in good health, I'm good with that.

Too much fun for one person to handle

It's only 9:30, and it's already been a day. J woke up at 6:00, saying he didn't want to go to school. I got him settled while I took my shower, and when I got out, he was again telling me he didn't want to go to school, he didn't like school. We got dressed and got everything together, finally, and it was time to go. J prostrated himself in the floor hollering that he didn't LIKE school, he didn't WANT to go. I told him I didn't like work, either, but I had to go and he couldn't stay home by himself. He wouldn't get up off the floor, and when he doesn't want to get up and is dead weight, I can't pick him up from laying flat on the floor (not without risking some serious damage to my back, anyway). I was so frustrated I was ready to scream, so I just walked out of the room. At that point J realized mama really was pissed, so he jumped up and came running, saying he was ready to get in the truck. Finally.

All the way to school he told me how much he didn't like it and didn't want to go. At school he told me he didn't want to go. He wanted me to carry him to class, and he hung onto my leg for a bit. But then one of his little friends got there and J was then OK with giving me a hug and kiss and going on to play.

Then I spilled coffee on myself, dropped a big armload of stuff, and had to go to a committee meeting just about as soon as I got to work. My day sucks ass already, and it's not even close to noon. *SIGH* Dinner tonight: tequila and a straw.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

One technical glitch down...

My printer (an HP Photosmart, which I'm quite pleased with) suddenly started printing ve-e-e-e-ery slo-o-o-o-owly. I tried everything I could think of, looked for info on the HP website, even uninstalled and reinstalled the software and printer. All to no avail. Then tonight I noticed a message on the printer screen saying that black ink cartridge #56 had failed. I popped in a new black ink cartridge, and voila! Good as new. Now I'll know what to try first if it whacks out like that again.

Now, if I could just get my iTunes problem resolved. I got an iPod several months ago (a Mini, which apparently is on the way out - oh well, I was never much of a trendsetter anyway! LOL), and there for a bit, it worked wonderfully. iTunes burns CD's at amazing speed, so I really liked that. Then I split my AOL screen name off from the account that K and I had shared and set it up as my separate account. To do that, I had to reinstall AOL 9.0. That's when the problem started. Now every time iTunes starts, I get an error message saying iTunes has encountered an error and had to close, sorry for the inconvenience. I tried using the "send error report" feature, but that didn't do any good. I checked out the message boards on the Apple site, and found some info that I thought might help. I scrupulously followed the detailed instructions for uninstalling and reinstalling iTunes - several times. All to no avail, I kept getting the same damn error message. I have no idea what's causing the problem, why reinstalling AOL 9.0 would be an issue when I already had 9.0 on the computer before I split off my screen name and it was working fine, or how in the world to FIX IT. All I know is, I want my iTunes back, dammit. I want to be able to actually use my iPod - never mind that it takes a good 45 minutes to download one song on my poky-slow dial-up connection, I want to be able to do that and to have the songs on my iPod instead of just on my computer. If anyone has any thoughts, please share. I'm about to call Apple and say, HELP!!!!

I found a listing on a local bar association website for a tax attorney position with a firm that used to do some work with my previous employer. It's in the same general area as my current job, so the commute wouldn't be any longer and I could still walk to Curves on my lunch hour. The pay would no doubt blow what I currently make right out of the water, and I might even get paid parking, too. The only possible snag is that they want someone with an LL.M degree, which I don't have (and which I have no real interest in getting - too much expense, it would probably take me several years going to school at night, and where would I find time to study?). I'm hoping my experience will count for something, because right now my current job just seems to drag me down more by the day. I know this isn't what I went to law school to do, that there's got to be something better out there, I've just got to find it. We'll see if this tax attorney position is it. I've sent my resume and cover letter, now I just wait.

I'd better go on to sleep - I've been oversleeping every morning, and that's not good. More later!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Monday night - do you know where your brain is?

I think mine must have gone on vacation without me. I'll think of all sorts of things I'd like to write about at times when I don't have time to come here and post - deep, profound, meaningful things, no doubt. But now that the house is quiet and I could take the time to write, well, the possible topics of discussion have just leaked right out of my ears.

So y'all get to hear the excitement of the evening - I managed to get a sleeping J out of bed, change poopy pants, and get him back in bed without waking him up. I was pleased. My life - it's a thrill ride every day, I tell ya.

Family is now staying in K's apartment and K is staying here. How's that for God having a sense of humor? We worked and waited for so long to get things situated to where he *could* move out, and now he's back here. Not permanently, to be sure - it's not like he's moved back in, lock stock and barrel, he's just staying while family is here. I'm glad we get along well enough to do that (it's funny, we're still really good friends, we just bring out each other's worst when we try to fit into the "marriage" mold), and while family is here, we'll no doubt take advantage of their offer of a night of free babysitting and go out to dinner or something. (How stupid would we be, not to take free babysitting when it was offered? LOL) But I do miss having my space to myself (well, as much as you can say you have space "to yourself" when you have a three-year-old who follows you everywhere, including into the bathroom). I know I won't really have a "free" weekend (as in, a weekend where J is with K and I have some true alone time) until family leaves, and I don't know when that may be - it may be weeks yet before they're allowed to go back home on any kind of permanent basis. I'm glad we're in a position to help them, but boy, I miss my own space. What a time to run out of Wellbutrin, huh? I'd better get that prescription refilled ASAP, or my head might just pop off.

What really bothers me is that K's mom (the mom who raised him - it's his birth mom here now) is thinking/hoping that all the goings-on with family and the hurricane will somehow work to get K and I back together. Ugh. So when that doesn't happen, she may be hurt and upset and disappointed all over again, just like when K told her about the separation. I hate that, but I can't think of any way to avoid it.

I'm going to sleep. I've got to find the energy to slog through another day of work tomorrow. Double ugh.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Photos of Katrina

This is a slideshow of photos taken by someone in New Orleans before, during and after Katrina. He's included commentary along with the photos, and it's really fascinating. You have to register and sign in to see the photos, but it's worth the little bit of time it takes to do that. There are 197 photos, and they paint quite a picture of the situation.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Another day, another dollar, part deux

This topic started with my little tear about gas prices. It's going to continue on the topic of my job.

Found out today that our CEO got an $18 million bonus this year. Well, how nice for him. How many of us poor schlubs got no bonus and no raise so that he could be rewarded so handsomely? The CEO owns boots that probably cost more than what my car is worth. He gets an 8-figure *bonus* (wonder what percentage of his salary that is?), and I don't even make enough to make ends meet. I have to debate whether I can afford to get take-out from Jack in the Box on the way home occasionally, or if that would just blow my budget.

We're asked to do more with less, and more for less. And it's not only the sheer volume of work that makes me crazy, although it really is more than any one person can do (but that's a topic unto itself) - a lot of times, I don't agree with what I'm asked to do. It seems like, just like with the oil companies, that the most important thing in the end is the bottom line. We may hear talk about making our clients happy or about the company wanting to keep their employees happy, but when push comes to shove, it seems to be the profit that counts. If that means trying to convince people to keep business with us even though it means they're just breaking even or losing money instead of earning it, that doesn't seem to matter - we're supposed to be able to sell them on the idea of keeping their business with us. I've had clients ask why they should keep their business here when they could earn more elsewhere without being charged so much in fees, and you know what? I don't have a good answer for them. And if that means paying employees way below market and not caring enough to change it, well, then, that's what gets done. People aren't loyal to companies anymore like they were 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. Maybe that's because so many companies aren't loyal to their employees. Companies don't necessarily reward experience anymore - one of my co-workers is at an age where he'd be hard pressed to find another job if he left here because of his age. Companies would rather get someone right out of school for half the price than pay someone with years of experience a salary that's commensurate with that experience. (I realize I'm speaking in very general terms, and I'm sure there are companies out there that are exceptions to this. I just haven't had the good fortune to work for any of them.) If I were making a fantabulous salary, at least I could say I was whoring myself out for the pay. But as things stand now, I'm just getting screwed. And I wonder why I can't seem to drag myself out of bed in the mornings. It's not like I've got a whole lot to look forward to during the work week.

I understand that companies need to make money to stay in business. But when company profits keep going up and up, and yet we're told that the last couple of years have been lean (given as a large part of the reason for low bonus pools and pools for raises) - well, that's pushing the limit of credibility just a tad as far as I'm concerned. It seems like those higher up the food chain are forgetting that the people farther down the food chain do a lot to help those profits increase.

All things considered, I think I'd rather go back to a government job. At least the politics there are pretty straightforward.

Another day, another dollar

I've talked a lot lately about hurricane Katrina and topics related to that, and I'm sure I'll talk more about it in the future. But today it's time for a change of mental scenery. As Monty Python would say, "And now for something completely different."

This post in Return to Happiness is partly responsible for the new train of thought. I clicked on links and read about how the increase in gas prices is due to profiteering, saw illustrations of how larger companies work to reduce supply and increase their profit margins, apparently not giving a fat flip about how the consumer is affected or what hardships it might impose on people. And it made me sick. Is it all about the almighty dollar now, and nothing more? And if it is, what is ultimately gained?

I've got more thoughts on this, going in another direction, but I'll have to share them later - it's almost time to get out of here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What a difference a year makes?

Looks like relief comes a lot more quickly if there are votes at stake. I've found another article on this that I'm curious to see, but it's in the Seattle Times archive. I had to register to get to it, and I won't be able to get to the e-mail response telling me how to active the account until I get home.

Where There's a Will
Paul Krugman's column in yesterday's New York Times argues that the Cheney administration's lackadaisical response to Hurricane Katrina is a symptom of a much larger problem -- the GOP contempt for government:

At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures.
I was thinking about posting something along those same lines -- along with a modest proposal to chaingang all the conservative pundits and politicians who've spent the past twenty five years trashing the federal government, and put them to work stacking sandbags down in Louisiana. And while we're at it, we could take all the think-tank libertarians and corporate bunko artists who promised us their blessed free market could and would solve all human problems, and use them as filler for the sandbags.

But after thinking about it, I realized Krugman got it wrong -- or at least partially wrong. This catastrophe isn't a product of the anti-government biases of the conservative true believers; it's a product of the uses to which government has been put by the Mayberry Machiavellis and their GOP ward heelers in Congress.

Even the legally blind can see the Rovians are serious about the essential functions of government. It's just that in their value system, funneling federal money to sympathetic interest groups while simulatenously redistributing the tax burden away from those same groups are the two essential functions of government.

Likewise, the Bush family is prepared to spend almost unlimited amounts of federal money on preventative measures -- that is, on efforts to prevent them from losing an election.

It's instructive, on that score, to compare the current response to Hurricane Katrina (in which the Three Stooges apparently have seized control of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a bloodless coup) with the administration's efforts on behalf of the voters of Florida following last year's triple storms -- Charley, Frances and Ivan.

True, the 2004 disasters didn't completely take down a major metropolitan area by turning its urban center into a bowl of shit soup. But the difference in the federal goverment's performance before, during and after those storms had passed is stlll rather striking. It appears there's something special about years divisible by two -- and particularly every other year divisible by two -- that can inspire amazing feats of bureaucratic energy and competence, at least in large, populous swing states.

Here then, are some of the highlights from last year's relief efforts in Florida:

Gov. Jeb Bush sought federal help Friday while [Hurricane] Charley was still in the Gulf of Mexico. President Bush approved the aid about an hour after the hurricane made landfall.

By Monday afternoon, the cavalry seemed to be in place . . . Cargo planes were shuttling FEMA supplies from a Georgia Air Force base to a staging area in Lakeland, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had shipped 11 truckloads of water and 14 truckloads of ice. The first assistance checks to victims were to be shipped Monday night.

St. Petersberg Times
Unlike Andrew, aid's right on Charley's heels
August 17, 2004

Just weeks after Hurricane Charley tore through Florida, Hurricane Frances aimed for the Sunshine State Saturday morning [September 4, 2004] packing winds of 105 mph and bringing the potential for up to 20 inches of rain.

Hurricane Frances weakens slightly
September 4, 2004

FEMA has positioned a powerful list of disaster response personnel, equipment and supplies to help those who are displaced or suffer losses after Hurricane Frances continues to move across Florida. The advance preparations include:

FEMA's [national and regional operations centers] are operating around the clock, coordinating the pre-positioning of assets and responding to state requests for assistance.

FEMA has deployed an advanced emergency response team to the Florida State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to facilitate state requests for assistance. In addition, three rapid needs assessment teams have been pre-deployed to Florida.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at FEMA's request, is coordinating the staging of 100 truckloads of water and 100 truckloads of ice at operational centers in Florida.

A first shipment of 30,000 tarps is en route to Atlanta, Ga., to be pre-staged for delivery to areas affected by Frances once the storm has cleared.

FEMA is working to provider 10 trailers of generators at the request of Florida that will be used to provide power to critical facilities affected by the hurricane . . .

Four urban search and rescue teams are deployed to Florida -- two in Miami and two in Jacksonville. Four teams are on alert.

Two disaster medical assistance teams (DMAT) have been deployed to Florida to support medical facilities and hospitals that are not fully operational following the storm . . .

Five pharmaceutical caches, containing emergency medical supplies, are being pre-positioned, and are currently en route to Atlanta and Tampa.

FEMA's Mobile Emergency Response Services (MERS) communications staff and equipment are available to provide telephone, radio and video links in support of response and recovery efforts . . .

. . . FEMA is working with the General Services Administration to analyze vacancy rates of various safe housing options . . . as part of pre-planning temporary housing strategies for those whose homes are severely damaged or destroyed.

Press release on advance
preparations for Hurricane Frances
September 4, 2004

As of noon Monday [two days after Frances made landfall] FEMA and other Federal response agencies have taken the following actions:

About one hundred trucks of water and 280 trucks of ice are present or will arrive in the Jacksonville staging area today.

900,000 Meals-Ready-to-Eat are on site in Jacksonville, ready to be distributed.

Over 7,000 cases of food (e.g., vegetables, fruits, cheese, ham, and turkey) are scheduled to arrive in Winter Haven today.

Disaster medical assistance teams (DMAT) are on the ground and setting up comfort stations. FEMA community relations personnel will coordinate with DMATs to assist victims.

Urban search and rescue teams are completing reconnaissance missions in coordination with state officials.

FEMA is coordinating with the Department of Energy and the state to ensure that necessary fuel supplies can be distributed throughout the state, with a special focus on hospitals and other emergency facilities that are running on generators.

The Army Corps of Engineers will soon begin its efforts to provide tarps to tens of thousands of owners of homes and buildings that have seen damage to their roofs . . .

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Defense together have organized 300 medical personnel to be on standby. Medical personnel will begin deployment to Florida tomorrow . . .

White House
Responding to Hurricanes Charley and Frances
September 6, 2004

The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency . . . is preparing for Hurricane Ivan’s landfall, which could affect multiple states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Intense planning and immediate actions are underway today in anticipation of Hurricane Ivan, including:

FEMA personnel remain in Florida working with the victims of the two previous hurricanes. However, some staff has been repositioned to respond to state requests for assistance with Hurricane Ivan.

In addition to the supplies provided for the two earlier hurricanes, the Army Corps of Engineers is standing by with 100 refrigerator trucks of ice and 500 trucks of water to meet immediate needs as part of the Hurricane Ivan response.

FEMA is using every available means to move supplies to where they are most needed, including pre-positioning supplies and using alternative means of transportation such as ships, air transport, and railroad.

Hurricane Ivan Preparations Underway
September 14, 2004


As I'm sure you can imagine, this display of the good old American can-do spirit didn't go unnoticed by the people of Florida -- nor did the millions of dollars in disaster relief and damage insurance checks that were cut by various federal agencies with record speed. FEMA officials must have been deeply gratified to see the effect their heroic efforts had in the place where they were most desperately needed -- Bush's poll numbers:

Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan may count as some of the biggest political contributors to President Bush's reelection campaign, according to a poll.
The post-hurricane survey shows Bush surging ahead of his Democratic challenger by 49 to 41 percent -- an about-face from August, when Bush trailed Sen. John Kerry 41-47 percent, Quinnipiac University reported Thursday.

''The ill winds of the hurricanes have blown some political goodwill for President Bush,'' said Clay F. Richards, a pollster for the independent Connecticut university.

''You can't underestimate the impact of a president coming down and promising all this federal aid to people who need it,'' said Richards, noting that Bush toured hurricane-ravaged parts of Florida three times.

"It's like Rudy Giuliani at ground zero on 9/11. The commander in chief is there, on the ground, saying help is on the way.''

So you can see that when the chips are down, and the need is absolutely dire, this administration can still deliver the kind of coordinated emergency response that once made the U.S. government the envy of the world -- just as it cooly and capably protected the Iraqi Oil Ministry from the chaos and looting that trashed every other government office in post-invasion Baghdad. As is usually the case in public service, it's just a matter of having the right incentives.

The comparison between the TLC showered on Florida last year and Bush's initial "What, me worry?" response to this year's disaster no doubt will go unnoticed by the amnesia patients in the corporate media. And since I'm lucky enough to live in a swing state that is also coveted by GOP political strategists, I probably don't have to worry about it either -- that is, as long as any future disasters around my neck of the woods happen in one of those years divisible by two.

But for the citizens of staunch, deep red Mississippi and slightly less staunch but still red Louisiana, the lessons are painfully obvious. If you're going to insist on living in a hurricane alley, then you need to take personal responsibility for your own actions, stop whining about government incompetence, and embrace the free market solution to your problems -- by moving to Florida.

Posted by billmon at September 3, 2005 05:09 PM

Do you know what it means to lose New Orleans?

Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

07:32 PM CDT on Saturday, September 3, 2005

Anne Rice

What do people really know about New Orleans?

Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?

The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L'Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840's, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.

This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city. Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged.

Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.

Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.

The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.

Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy. Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn't want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn't want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn't want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn't want to leave a place that was theirs.

And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely - home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph's altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city's civic affairs.

Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what "modern life" with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.

I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. "Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"

Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds. Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees. And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.

I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs. Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

More good news

We found satellite photos of Metairie last night - we found N&J's house on the photo, and it looks wonderful!!! The roof doesn't look to have any damage, cars are still in the driveway, the shed is still there, and there's NO water around it. You can even see the attic fans on the roof and the little awning on the front of the house. Amazing. We all had a good fit over that. :-) We scrolled down to the 17th Street Canal, and the difference between the Jefferson Parish side and the Orleans Parish side is just mind-blowing. Houses on the Orleans Parish side are under water up to the rooflines, and the Jefferson Parish side is dry as it can be. On the Jefferson Parish side, at least the little chunk we looked at, the worst looked to be some roof damage and trees blown down. It didn't even look like the water went up and then receded - there wasn't any debris or junk like you'd expect to find if floodwaters had been there and then started to go away. So that was happy, happy news indeed.

We also talked to N's sister - N's mother and all her siblings are fine, with the exception of one. No one has heard from one sister, but if anyone can make it through this unscathed, it's this sister - she's wrestled an alligator and punched a cop, so she's no shrinking violet. I know we'd all feel better knowing for sure that she's OK, though. But still - this has been fabulous news!!!!

J is now trying to decide if he likes N&J's pit bull or not. The dog is just as sweet as can be, she's more likely to lick you to death than anything else, unless she thinks you're threatening her people. But J freaks out when she comes close to him. Silly boy. I'll bet by the time they leave, he'll be riding the dog like a pony and crying to see her go.

It's bedtime, more later!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Some good news

K went to Louisiana yesterday to pick up N and J, his bio mom and her fiance. He took some gas, money and food for them, and they're on their way back to Texas. They spent last night at K's parents' house, because they were just wiped out. They'll be staying there tonight, and then coming here tomorrow.

I've been talking to them a lot today, and K's mom said N just can't tear herself away from the TV. She hadn't seen the pictures of the damage, and Mom said she just cries and cries. I did talk to N just briefly, and she sounds so very, very down. With good cause, too. I can't even imagine. She's worried sick about her mother and her siblings.

Some good news, though - I'd posted on a forum looking for her sister and brother-in-law (the only ones whose last name I could remember, and a fairly unusual last name at that). I got an e-mail from the brother-in-law's cousin - he said N's sister and brother-in-law are safe, their house is safe, and they could be reached by cell phone. I cried when I read that e-mail. We've got four other siblings and a mother still to track down, but at least we know one bunch is safe. I e-mailed the cousin back and gave him a bit of info about who we had over here, and asked him if they had any info on other siblings or on their mother. Hopefully I'll hear back. I called to let N and J know, and they were just crying. 'Scuse me, I'm going to go cry some more while I clean my house - I've got company coming!

Thursday, September 01, 2005


One cousin and his family are safe. Still no word on K's aunts and uncles and cousins in his bio family, and no word on his grandmother. He's on his way down to pick up his bio mom and her fiance - they're safe, but in a town with no power, no water, no gas, and looters on the loose with guns. K is bringing them some gas and money, and then they're headed back up here.

I'm hesitant to make my Labor Day trek to Louisiana like I'd planned. For one, K's family needs someplace to stay - he doesn't have the room, and it would be foolish (and not very nice) of me to tell him to pay for a hotel to put them up when I've got a perfectly good house. For two, I'm starting to hear rumors of gas rationing - if not to consumers, then to retailers, and all I need is to get to someplace in east Texas and find that I can't buy gas anywhere. I know my dad is really looking forward to the visit, and I so hate to disappoint him. But when I made these plans, circumstances weren't what they are now. I'm going to reschedule for Columbus Day - I hope his feelings aren't too hurt.

It's time to dash. I've got to go try to make the house fit for company. I know they won't care, but it's for my own peace of mind. If I do end up going to La., I won't be online until sometime after we get home on Sunday.