Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ho Ho Ho Dat....and other thoughts.

The Saints won again! Dear Lord...could this be the year? And Dallas delivered quite the prettily wrapped package today by losing so spectacularly to Philly. First-round bye is OURS.

Anyway, the most important thing of all is that Christmas is finally over. No one I know seems to have been excited about it this year. I only shopped and made jewelry because I felt I had to do it. I was purely driven by the need to conform.

I didn't bring a single decoration to school this year. My classroom is now as it was weeks ago. My mom hung a wreath on the door, and we bought a tree on sale for $10 at Lowe's last Sunday after the Saints game. It stayed on the porch until Wednesday, then got brought inside, and has a grand total of zero lights and 8 ornaments on it. Those ornaments are the ones that were downstairs already based on the fact that we bought or received them this year. No stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and who really gave a shit if St. Nick would be here? We had dinner at home...mom, dad, Geoff, me, Mark. We visited Lance and Mimi, then the Cabin exchanged secret Santa gifts. We did Midnight Mass because my mom would cry if we didn't. We went to Pam and John's, but were late to that because we were coming in from Morgan City.

Yes, we got fairly decent things, but with no place to put them, it doesn't matter. Mark gave me a lovely necklace, but I don't deserve it.

But we were talking about it last night, and Geoff mentioned that he was shocked that he wasn't in the mood for Christmas this year, but was last year. I noted that last year, we NEEDED Christmas. This year, it seemed trivial and we really didn't need it.

Holidays are a joke.

Friday, December 15, 2006

100th post and a mystery.

I intended to do a poignant post for this one, my 100th, but instead, I have a mystery to solve. Perhaps you can help. I got a package in the mail today from an Internet store. In it was the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas movie on DVD. I am very confused. I didn't order it, Mark didn't order it, and neither of us has heard of this website. There was nothing else...no packing slip, no nothing. So, someone has sent me a gift. I want to thank that person. But I have no idea who I should be thanking! Please help!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Results are in...

So, the ultrasound showed that I do not have gallstones. This is a very good thing.

However, my B12 levels are very low. I have to start injections next week, five days in a row. Then I will go once a week for 4 weeks. Then I will go once a month for three months. Then they will recheck my levels and see if I need more.

Also, there are problems with my thyroid. They are referring me to my p.c. physician. If he's no help, then I will be referred to an endocrinologist.

I love aging and my parents' genes.

The good news is that I've got some diagnoses. The bad news is that I've been diagnosed. I'm not going to be able to afford myself much longer. I'm already paying $110 a month for prescriptions, and that's only because I've been skipping my Nasonex. I also will add the Zelnorm, and then who knows what I'll need for the thyroid trouble. Oy vey.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I saw it.

Yes, all of you who posted to me or e-mailed me or tried to call me, I got it. I just don't have much to say. Hence, my updates have become few and far between. I'm not ignoring you; don't think that at all. I just have no reply.


There was a delay in the loan application process that required a 30-wait period. Then they will resubmit. We do not know yet whether or not we have one.

We house-sat for my aunt and uncle this week. It was great fun...until we had to come back here. It only drives home how futile it all feels.

We have been told to get out Jan. 1.

My father's daytime help was murdered in New Orleans East in her FEMA trailer. He really liked her...she was a new hire who was happy working for him, and who was about to earn her own set of keys and alarm code when her nephew gunned her down over a senseless family argument. Dad wanted to attend her funeral but decided that under the circumstances (her friend and her brother were also murdered by the guy) he shouldn't. Who knows what the services would be like. But then, we still haven't seen any arrangements in the paper. They caught the guy, though. Now, in addition, he is overworked again. But our friend Chris works for him after school, and he's been a huge help to him. No new help has been hired.

I went to the gastroenterologist and was formally diagnosed with both IBS and Reflux. I am on Nexium and will be on Zelnorm. I can no longer take Advil products. I had to have an abdominal ultrasound to rule out gallstones and a hiatal hernia, plus bloodwork to rule out thyroid trouble. I have not heard back about either test. Hopefully, that is good. However, she wants me to have a colonoscopy in January. We'll see about that.

I am tired of waiting. I am always waiting on someone or something. I do not want to do this any more. I want some instant gratification for once. I wish carpe diem was possibly in Post-Katrina New Orleans.

I am so tired.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

And the walls come tumbling down

And when they tumble, they tumble hard.

I never, when I started up with Blogger a year and a half ago....which seems like an entire lifetime ago..... intended it to be a real-live blog. I never wanted to be all emo and sad and sorry on this. It was something I could write goofy observations on, and maybe share what Kate once called my "windbreaker" stories in one place without having to tell the stories orally.

But I feel that it had to take a serious detour less than 14 months ago. It served a purpose: a place to put down all of the bad thoughts and memories in order to get them out. A therapist's couch, if you will. A place where, if people didn't want to hear about it, they could just close, instead of feigning uncomfortable interest in what I had to say.

I finally catalogued all of the horror plus the small triumphs. It's all here; from the fear of facing death in the eyes to the reopening of my father's business in May, I've chronicled it.

And now, I don't know what to do. I suppose I need to keep it open. Because no one wants to hear what I have to say. It's too uncomfortable. I have a new gift in life: bringing people down.

At one point in my life, I'd venture to say that I was a fun person to be with. I am not that any more. And on the occasions when I try to talk about it, no one wants to hear it. Or they cut in with their own miseries. Or they get uncomfortable and change the subject. So I have shut down. They don't want to hear it, so I don't say it. Not even my family wants it any more. My mother loses patience and snaps at me, my father comes up with all of his trials and tribulations of the day, my husband is at a loss for what to say or do and goes to his computer while i sit and cry, and my brother...well...one of the last things I heard him say, just before he tried to slam my fingers in his car door and Mark tried to throw him from his car was, "I will not set foot in this house until they are out of it."

The amount of loss experienced in the last 14 months in this area is astounding. People try to say we're moving on, that things are improving, that things are looking up, that we'll all be okay once we settle down. And I just want to scream.

I face a new antsy these days. Antsy for me before was waiting in line to see a concert, hoping to see a test grade, wondering what my Christmas presents will be, hoping to get a job I applied for. But now antsy is different. I feel antsy at night. Like I have to do something, but am unable to. Like I want to run a million miles without stopping or looking back. I can't sit still, but it's all I want.

I may have developed reflux in the past year. If I am hungry, I get heartburn. I find that I must eat something every 4-5 hours. If I eat, I get heartburn. Fried, spicy, bland, raw, homecooked, prepared....it makes no difference. But if I don't eat, things are worse. And so I carry Pepcid AC at all times and eat and eat and eat, and I have added more than 30 pounds in all of this time. I don't know what I'll wear this winter. My pants do not fit. I bought one pair of jeans and one pair of pants. The rest do not even button. I saw a picture of myself taken about 3 weeks ago. I didn't realize it was me. My face is so round, and my body is distorted. I dont' know who I am any more. My shirts are tight, my underweart is uncomfortable, and I can't button my pants. Shopping makes me sad.

A friend said to me the other day that "We'll all do better once things settle down for us." For us. Us? I know not of whom she speaks. Yes, she has some very serious money issues going on. But she has all of her stuff and a place of her own. I have things I dont' recognize and am still living with my parents.

I go to bridal showers and feel angry and sad. I leave in tears. Sometimes, it's because it's a relative of Mark's, who was untouched and lost three, maybe four days of work after the storm. Nothing else. And I see things given to them that were given to us 4 years ago. And I ache, because I do not have them any more. I didn't even have to like the item. But I see it, and I ache. Sometimes, it's just because here is someone living out life, batting a single eye at the storm, if that, getting all of these items, dreaming, hoping, anticipating. And I realize that here are people who, four years after receiving this items, will still have these items. And if not, then it will have been a matter of choice, not a matter of necessity, to throw it to the curb. These people will not have to carry out every item they ever owned and throw it for the neighborhood and the tourists to see.

And what hurts even more is that when we were first married, we had nothing. We were dumb kids fresh out of college playing grown-up. People helped us. We had showers and a wedding. We were given almost everything and started our married life with a fully-stocked kitchen. Bedroom. Office. Bathroom. My God...people gave us everything from Tums to sheets, from Mr. Clean to sofas. And who will do this this time? This time, when we're starting out with even less than we had before? It's not a greed issue. It's an "Oh my God how will we survive without so much as a whisk?" issue.

Logistically, how will we? We got a whopping $9,000+ for more than $56,000 worth of belongings. It is nto possible to replace it.

People say, "Well, you ought to have a good bit stocked up, what with not having to pay rent and all." Easier said than done. Where has my year's salary gone? Breakfast and lunch items. Clothing and shoes and underwear and socks and pajamas and pantyhose and toiletries and everythign else you use in your daily life but take for granted. Do you know what it is like to stand there, owning a trunk full of photo albums and four days worth of clothes and your two cats? No, you don't. You go to shower, and you have nothing to put on. You have nothing to get clean with. You have to replace it all. More money went into my classroom. It went straight from school back into school. It went to four doctor's visits and tons of medicine each time. It went to gasoline, especially now that I have such a long commute to and from work. It went to having something to do.

My parents, I love. I can never repay them for these past almost 13 months that I have been here. And like 11 that Mark has been here. But we are not at home here. It may sound silly, but it's true. We have nowhere to go. We cannot do anything without being in the way. If we want to watch TV, we have to do it in the den, as we don't have a big enough stand for the tiny TV in our room. There's nowhere to sit and comfortably watch it. My father, who owns the house and the TV in the den, does and should take control of it. But even if we don't want to watch TV, we can't go in there and talk, because he is watching something. We can't sit at the kitchen table, because it connects to the den, and we also hear, "I don't know where you think we're going to eat dinner." My old room is an office, and has nowhere to sit. I wouldn't dream of going in their room. The dining room is full of things from my now-deceased grandmother's place, while the living room is full of the junk we've somehow accumulated this year. There is nowhere to go but this tiny, cramped, progressively dirty room that was my brother's. And the only places to sit are this hard chair at the computer and the bed. Neither is conducive to long-term sitting. But if we want anything to do, this is where we must be.

Go for a walk or do something physical, you say? No. I've tried. I want nothing more than to lose this horrible weight, but there is no way to do it. I leave home at 7 a.m. and get home about 11 hours later. And work doesn't end when I leave. I have things to prepare, things to grade, things to think about. A teacher's work is never done until summer vacation. And even then, it's not done. I spent my summer thinking about school-related things. I am physically tired when I get home. And then I am mentally tired, as I have to be on my feet (figuratively as well as literally) all day. And then I am emotionally drained, as I drive through Mid-City, City Park, and Lakeview, as I drive past FEMA trailers, as I drive home to this sorry little existence we've had to take up. Physical activity, of ALL types, is not an option for me.

As it is, I do not even socialize with people who A. dont live with me and B. don't work with me any more. We have nowhere to bring people. What do you want? " Sorry, mom and dad, but you can't be in your own home tonight. We're having friends over. Hope you can find something to do, especially after a long, hard day at work." We've lost touch with so many people.

Our other friends only ever hang out at "The Cabin" anyway. And they all seem happy and well-adjusted. Even the ones whose parents lost everything. Maybe they just conceal better than I do. I don't know. But it's like life never changed for them. And I am tired of both that and of the "same-old, same-old." As it is, that's my brother's house. I cannot go over there any more. I went when my cousin Kate was in town last weekend, but it was very hard for me. But since it's my brother's house, and that's where all of our friends hang out, I have essentially lost them as well.

All of this has left me feeling so very alone.

And so we go out to eat on weekends, we go to the mall on weekends, we go to Target and Best Buy and Wal-Mart and Halloween stores and the French Quarter, and all it leads us to is nothing. False happiness.

Some people will ask what's wrong, and I can't even verbalize it. Because I get told to cheer up. To just try harder. To wait it out, and it'll all settle. That I'm not the only one who lost something. That everyone has lost something. That things will be better. That things are looking up. That things will get back to normal. But it won't. As I think I wrote before, every time we try to get ahead, something happens to throw us backwards. One of us is laid off. A grandparent gets sick. A killer hurricane comes up and body slams the city, leaving us homeless and with nothing but, literally, the clothes on our backs.

I just finished the 13th and finally installment of Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events." And this passage struck me deeply:

"There is a kind of crying I hope you have not experienced, and it is not just crying about something terrible that has happened, but a crying for all of the terrible things that have happened, not just to you but to everyone you know and to everyone you don't know and even the people that you don't want to know, a crying that cannot be diluted by a brave deed or a kind word, but only by someone holding you as your shoulders shake and your tears run down your face."

There were actually a great many passages in these books which made me upset. Mostly, they involved the Baudelaires missing some part of their lives from before the Series began, and generally they involved Klaus looking at destroyed books. But usually, they were about extreme sadness.

But sometimes, not even someone holding you is enough.

I cry still. I cry often. I usually cry in the safety and solitude of the shower. Sometimes it spills into less solitary and safe places.

I still do not sleep well. I stay up later than I should because of this. But why not be productive in these hours instead of lying awake, staring at the ceiling?

I have no drive. I bought jewelry-making things, with the intent of making Christmas gifts for people. I am not interested. Mark offers to play chess or checkers, and I am not interested. I made a students give me homework, because I can feel myself losing my desire to read one again. I have nowhere to go. And I feel the urge to run, but cannot. I want to go out with friends but cannot. I want to do something spontaneous and fun, but don't want the effort. I feel urges to eat, and I do that. I want to sleep for a minimum of 8 solid hours, but do not. Six interrupted is the most I can hope for. Even this is a struggle. But if I dont' put this down here, I will not get it out.

Now for one metaphor-less translation of the heading of this post: A while back, I said that I hoped that our house would be torn down. I would not be able to handle seeing another family move in and have fun, because my closure was false and forced. People reacted strangely to hearing this, but if we can't have it, then no one can.

About three weeks ago, the day after we applied for a home loan, I drove home on my normal route, and there was a huge pile of rubble where our house was. The cranes were still there, but the men had gone home. I circled around, tears burning the backs of my eyes, my breath somewhere other than inside me, and drove up to the wreckage. I had my moment. I cried. I had my camera and took pictrues of it. I stopped my tears, turned off the car, and grabbed a brick. A souvenier of what was.

Today, it is a vacant lot filled with mud. And I am okay with that. No one else will have our house. No one else will throw a party and wonder A. where the guests will park or B. how to fit the guests inside once they have found parking spaces. No one else will haul laundry to the carport and have to balance the heavy basket while trying to unlock the laundry room door. No one else will sit in lawn chairs out front, dirty and sweaty from working in the yard, sipping on snowballs from Fireman Phil's. We were the last to do those things. No one can move into our place.

And I can almost pass without looking now. But I have to pass that way. If I don't, I panic. But at least I don't have to look at it.

We haven't heard back on that loan yet. I don't think we'll get it. SOMEONE has very low credit, and I think that will hurt us in the long run. I will let you know, though.

I need to be held, so that I can cry. But I can't do it without an audience.

I want my life back. I want my body back. I want myself back.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Dome Reopening

On Monday, September 25, 2006, the Superdome was scheduled to reopen, with the Saints playing a Monday Night Football game. Southern's band was to do the halftime show, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint were to do the National Anthem, and Green Day and U2 were to sing some songs pre-game. Businesses were shutting down, schools were closing early (ours didn't, but we all got to wear black and gold or Saints clothes). It was a special day.

We tried to get free tickets through WWL. We wouldn't find out about them until a few days before the game.

The game was sold out. The only way to get seats this year is through buying season tickets. Unless we got tickets through Mark's job, we would not be going.

The weekend before, we waited. We heard nothing. Monday came. Mark went to work. He heard nothing. I wanted to go only to BE there. And to see U2. And since Reggie Bush is singlehandedly keeping me employed, I felt I should be there for him. I'm no football fan. I hate that sport. I'm a Saints fan in the sense that I feel happy for them when they win, and sad for them when they lose, but other than that, I know nothing about them. But I wanted "to be in that number when the Saints came marching in."

It would be an experience to remember for eternity, I thought. I was there, watching the roof of the Dome fly off during Katrina. I saw the lines of people snaking around the stadium, before the mists began. I saw them desperately trying to get in as the mists and outer bands started coating the city. I saw the people strolling around outside after the storm had passed. I saw the truckloads of people being carted through the early stages of flooding to the refuge of the Dome. I almost was stranded in the floodwaters between the Dome and the New Orleans Arena. The Dome was one of my last glimpses of the city as Spud drove us to the safety of Baton Rouge. And I wanted to be there as it reopened.

People all over the world criticized us for putting football high on our list of priorities. There are other authors more eloquent than I am, so I won't say much on that subject. I will include links to them at the end of this post if you think that what I say is unsatisfactory.

But first, we have been criticized for using millions of dollars to restore it. Most of that money came from FEMA and insurance. All of you critics in other states -- if a tornado ripped through your town, or a mudslide, or a hurricane, or an avalanche...I don't know what your specific potential natural disaster is, but imagine it happening to your home and your business. Now imagine applying for FEMA and collecting your insurance check. What are you supposed to use it on? Your next door neighbor's house? The grocery store down the street that you don't own? A cruise? (Put aside those who falsely applied for funding after the storm and who were caught..they are scum and do not count.) No. You HAVE to use that money to repair or restore your property. Same applies to the Dome.

Also, we need something for tourism. Our blossoming movie industry is non-existent now. Our convention center has a tainted scar from Katrina, too, and people are afraid to plan conventions here now, especially from June 1 to November 30. We have lost a lot of revenue from tourists and from residents who are too afraid and have packed up and moved on. Many companies have also deserted us in our hour of need. Some, like IHOP and MAC cosmetics have come to us, have appeared since the storm, have put faith in us. But many have left, including the headquarters of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, which originated here. We need money. Desperately. And if we can get some tourists here for the games, then we'll take it. In addition, these tourists, these football teams with their entourages, can come here and see everything first-hand. They can see and they can go back and share.

And while this may seem even more superficial, we need something to DO. The parks are a mess. The Lakefront is a mess. Stores close early. Restaurants are still on the post-storm limited menus. The Hornets are in Oklahoma. The Voodoo haven't come back yet, but are about to. I have now been to two Saints games this season. I am a football hater. But being there was exciting, and it gave me something to DO. You don't know how important that is.

We also need a unity item. And if a bunch of overpaid athletes can give us something to talk about besides sheetrock, demolition, insurance, FEMA trailers, and places that have closed and friends that are gone, then goddammit, don't take them from us.

I've just given away the fact that we did, indeed, get tickets to that homecoming, er, DOMEcoming game. At 3 p.m. that Monday, I had a text from Mark. He just found out we had tickets. My friend Jen, who teaches down the hall from me, was going. She lives two minutes from school. I parked my car at her house, and the P.E. teacher picked us up there and dropped us off a few blocks from the Dome. We walked to it, then waited for Mark. He left the house at three. He did not get to the Dome and into a parking spot until 2 1/2 hours later. Jen and I met up with Over, who was recording Cowboy Mouth's set before the game. With no Mark in sight, and no other things to do, Jen and I accompanied Over to his car, which was all the way over at St. Patrick's Church, to put away his recording equipment. On the way back, Mark called to say he was there.

I tell you, it was more Mardi Gras than Mardi Gras downtown. People were everywhere. Everyone was in a good mood. Jazz musicians were on several corners. Block party ran into block party ran into block party. Booths were set up all over. Merchandise, contests, media broadcasts, food, the GooGoo Dolls, Cowboy Mouth... it was a madhouse.

At 5:30, they opened to doors and started letting people in. But not before they dropped a big black cloth off the Dome, revealing a sign that says, "Our home. Our team. Be a Saint." There was a huge countdown clock above the banner. It was like New Year's Eve, the way the huge crowd counted down together.

The pat-downs at the entrance were dragging, so by the time we got up there, the frisking before entry stopped.

Waiting in line to walk in was nerve-wracking. The anxiety levels and fear levels and sadness levels were high, but then, as soon as I walked in, it was like a triumph. Reopening the Dome is such a milestone. A small one, but one nonetheless. And I got teary-eyed. It was triumph, sadness, joy, fear, and awe all rolled into one.

We climbed to our free nose-bleed seats. We sat down in chairs that had (possibly) never been sat in before. We took in the view. It was still about half an hour before showtime, and the stadium was quickly filling up. The last Dome game I'd attended was when the Colts handed the Saints their rear ends on a silver platter. It was a dismal season, anyway, and it was so empty.

We saw them wheel out all of the stage pieces. The excitement level in the room was only rising. A voice came over the brand-new soundsystem. The noise level in the room dropped slightly so we could hear what was being said. Suddenly, on the new screens in the end zones, reporter Robin Roberts appeared. She is from the Gulf South, and has made it nationally. When her face appeared, the crowd erupted. If you saw the game on TV, you may have noticed she smiled wide while talking and then started yelling into the mic. This was because the crowd was so loud, you couldn't hear her at all. She introduced U2 and Green Day.

They played "Wake Me Up When September Ends," a song I can't ever hear anyway. Ever since we were evacuating and the song was stuck in my head, I haven't been able to hear it without crying. So, naturally, I did. Then they played their new joint effort, "The Saints Are Coming," which was raucous. Even the old people sitting around us were nodding their heads. They followed that with "Beautiful Day." Then Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint played the national anthem.

And then, after clearing the stage, the Saints arrived. They ran out of an inflatable Saints tunnel and down a line of first-responders from the storm. Again, I cried. And the game got off to an amazing start, staying amazing the entire time. I never thought I'd enjoy a football game. But the mob mentality of enthusiasm was too infectious. It was so loud in there, I was holding my cell phone, which was on vibrate, and I couldn't hear it when I got texts. You could barely hear anything but a roar.

I will spare details of the game. Those can be found anywhere. And you already know they won.

In more ways than one.

For further opinions on the game, go to these articles by columnist Chris Rose. He is amazing. http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-6/1159337420130960.xml&coll=1

Monday, September 11, 2006

Is it so wrong?

Is it so wrong of me to not bat an eye at today's date? September 11. Ho hum.

Am I a horrible person for no longer caring?

I mean, I care. I feel deeply for those friends and families.

But the 1-year of Katrina didn't get nearly the coverage and the national swelling of pride and patriotism that the 1-year of 9/11 did. And our 5-year will get even less. I feel like the 5-year of 9/11 did better, ratings-wise, than did 8/29.

Is it wrong of me to feel so jealous?

Is it wrong of me to feel so bitter?

I never proclaimed to be anything but me: a Bush-hating lapsed patriot who wishes we'd get something other than a redneck redstate cowboy in office. Perhaps that contributes?

But I never imagined I would ever not care about 9/11's anniversary.

Dear lord....don't let me ever feel so disenchanted about Katrina.

I still stand by Nagin and his hole-in-the-ground speech. I know what he meant. I get it. I even forgave him "Chocolate City" for that one. But....

Am I a horrible person?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


My brother made this documentary this past weekend. Before you go thinking that New Orleans is "back" or "recovered," go watch this hour-long footage.


Thursday, August 31, 2006


I decided to "back up" the saga by saving it as a Word document. It is, without the pictures, 76 pages long. I really could make it a book.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Part 20: It was a day

"Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans, when that's where you left your heart?... The moonlight on the bayou.......a creole tune.... that fills the air...I dream... about magnolias in bloom......and I’m wishin’ I was there" - Louis Armstrong

Yesterday was a rough, rough day. But it was a day. As our school president said at our staff meeting, "People keep saying, 'Do you remember what you were doing a year ago at this time?' And I do. It's all so clear." Here, everyone in the group nodded and murmured noises of assent. "And it raised my anxiety levels. And really, it's just another day."

Yes, my anxieties were raised. But the difference is, it's like what I imagine acid flashbacks and 'Nam flashbacks are like. Most of the people who say these things are not the ones who were here on the front lines. Most of these people don't have to drive through their rotted shell of a neighborhood to and from work every day. Most of these people left the city before, not after, the storm, and did it of their own accord.

This drive is killing part of me every day. It's bad enough that it takes half an hour to get to work in the morning. It's even worse that it takes an hour in the evening to get home. But to have to pass through my neighborhood.... and City Park.... retracing the route I used to take a year ago... and there's no way around it. At the very least, I'd have to pass through the Park or around the Park. My school is on the other side of it. City Park is a ghost of what it was. It looks like undeveloped land. It's not really grass -- it's the rough, nasty weeds that sprouted once things started growing again. The trees, the ones that remain, at least, are brownish. They all have missing limbs. The golf courses are a wreck, and you can see the New Orleans Museum of Art a lot easier than you could before.

The houses in my school's neighborhood are all tainted with X's. The same type of X that appears on my own home: the top bears the date the hosue was searched; the right bears the number of hazards found...or survivors, in some cases; the left bears the squadron which conducted the search; the bottom bears the number of found bodies.

I have not found one of those. I hear of them. I try not to look, but I also do look. My parents know where some are in Lakeview. Apparently, on Canal Blvd., near I-10, there's a house with a 2.

Several of the houses on my block have holes in the rooftops. Rescue holes? Holes people made from inside? Some look like they were from the inside. Others look like they were done with a tool from the outside.

I pass so near to my home, and if I am in the region, I cannot help but pass it. It's not ours any more. We got our deposit back. We pulled everything out. It has been gutted. We do not own the property. It is our landlord's house once more. But if I am driving nearby and I don't pass it, I HAVE to pass it. I cannot miss it. If I do, I get panicky. I have to schedule in a stop.

You know, I keep hearing from people how they admire me and my strengths. They tell me how strong I am. But I don't see it. I can't understand it. If I were stronger, I would be able to avoid the house. I would be able to drive to work without a "happy CD." I had Mark make me a CD of fun songs to listen to so that I can't get caught listening to something sad while I take the misery tour. He offered "Good Life" by Weezer. I love that song and said okay, but then panicked and told him he wasn't allowed to put it on.

"Excuse the bitchin', I shouldn't complain/I should have no feeling, 'cause feeling is pain/As everything I need, is denied me/And everything I want, is taken away from me/But who do I got to blame? Nobody but me...

"…And I don't wanna be an old man anymore/It's been a year or two since I was out on the floor/Shakin' booty, makin' sweet love all the night/It's time I got back to the Good Life/It's time I got back, it's time I got back/And I don't even know how I got off the track/I wanna go back…Yeah!

"Screw this crap, I've had it! I ain't no Mr. Cool/I'm a pig, I'm a dog, so 'scuse me if I drool/I ain't gonna hurt nobody, ain't gonna 'cause a scene/I just need to admit that I want sugar in my tea/Hear me? Hear me? I want sugar in my tea!"

If I am so strong, then why do I feel so down all of the time? Why do I break down in the shower where no one can hear me? Why do I have panic attacks? Why can't I sleep any more? Why do I lash out at everyone? Why can't I just feel happy for one day? That's all I ask.

I am no hero. Those with the boats who rescued even just one person, or as many as 200, those are heroes. The doctors and nurses who walked around on IVs so their patients could eat and drink are heroes. Those who stayed home and climbed into their attics or onto their rooftops, waiting in heat beyond heat for help that wasn't coming? They are brave. Those who stood up to looters are brave. Those who boldly came down here to help, be it gutting a home or serving food or patrolling our streets are brave and heroic.

I sat in a building with power thanks to a generator. I had to have help carrying a cat carrier down pitch black stairs. I had to seek a ride to safety from someone. I had to stand in lines for FEMA and Red Cross money. I had to live with my in-laws. I still have to live with my parents. I had to accept gifts and money from virtual strangers. I had to wear donated clothes. I had to argue with the Insurance people just to get a piddling amount on our renter's insurance. I am no hero. I am not brave.

"You've probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere. The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us" --Chris Rose, The Times-Picayune

I stayed because I had to. I came back because I had to. It is too scary to go somewhere else. Away from the family and friends who returned. Away from the food and the culture that I know. I cannot imagine a world with white gravy and bland crabs. I cannot imagine a parade where you just watch a float roll by, never interacting with the riders. I cannot imagine a state without politicians named "Junior" and "T-Boy." I am too afraid to meet normal. And so I stay.

We were instructed to keep the day as normal as possible for the students. We had a list of assigned journal topics, all with positive slants. The only special thing that happened was that we had a prayer service at school. It's a Catholic school, so it's almost required of us. We met in our Church at 2 p.m. They sang "Our God is an Awesome God." They read the parable of Jesus calming a storm (or something, I don't know. I'm not a practicing Catholic.). Children got up to read special thank yous in place of their intentions. Some thanked cities that helped them. Some thanked God that they were alive. They sang "Sing a New Song." They had another reading. They ended with some closing thoughts from the high school religion teacher. They closed with "I've Got That Joy." They sent us to the cafeteria for snacks. They gave 200 kids, most with ADHD, cookies and Coke. I don't know whose bright idea that was, but we had 20 minutes left to the day after that, and it was rough.

And that was it.

I went home. Traffic was easy. Many people may have stayed home. I wanted to, but I knew I couldn't. I would sit in front of the TV all day and relive it.

One local station aired 18 hours of continuous coverage. At our staff meeting, one of the teachers said that she thought it was wrong: OTHER STATES should have shown that much coverage. We have daily reminders. We don't need to be reminded.

I'm going to keep chronicling life in the New New Orleans. If I stop, you'll think we've stopped and that everything is okay. But it's not. We have so far to go. In Jefferson Parish, life is almost back to normal. My parents, for example, got their new roof, their bedroom sheetrock, the molding in their bedroom, the walls freshly painted, the den ceiling crack repaired, the fence restabilized, and their sidewalk and driveway replaced. We're pretty much down to waiting on carpet. It took 11 months to get that far, but it happened. Stores are staying open later, and restaurants are bringing back more of their pre-hurricane menus. You may remember I discussed how restaurants have been operating on shorter "hurricane menus."

But east of the 17th Street Canal, it's a whole other warzone. My dad is still pretty much the only game in town. The houses are still pretty much empty. My friend's parents just knocked down his childhood home in Lakeview last week. I can't imagine what that was like. They went to watch it. He said he overheard someone say, "I bet there are a lot of memories in those bedrooms." Dammit. How can you only think of that as you are watching a family's hopes and dreams get bulldozed into oblivion? I bet there were a lot of memories in those bedrooms...and front yard...and porch...and hallway...and kitchen...and den...and bathrooms...and back yard....and shed....and each and every spot of land.

You try watching the sum of your married life pile up on your front lawn, where curious people stop to stare and see what you had. It's all a big soggy pile, taller than you and as long as your house, then wraps around to the front of the hosue. And this is after it's already been picked up once. You find the dress you wore when your husband proposed to you discolored and moldy beyond recognition. You find that book that was your favorite as a child, that is now a soggy cover filled with brown pulp in the muck that was your office/guest room. You find that picture of your brother and brother-in-law still hanging on the wall somehow, but that now looks like a swirl art painting. You find your childhood stuffed animals in a puddle of God knows what. And then you stand there and say "I bet there are a lot of memories in those bedrooms." And then you throw yourself into the lake because you have no soul, so why bother living, scumbag.

We watched, or tried to watch, Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" last night. We were recroding it. Forty minutes into the first hour, we lost electricity. No reason. Was Entergy trying to commemmorate the day all of the lights went out? Cruel joke if they were. I made Mark bring me to get ice cream. It was one of those days.

But they're all one of those days. I lost 5 pounds immediately after the storm. Then I gained about 25. I don't look like me. I don't like it. I could work out at the JCC. But I can't motivate myself. I am too tired, mentally and physically, and too upset over my long drive home. We get off duty at 4:15, and then I have to drive an hour home. At that point, I just want to be home.

And I turn to food.

I don't want Katrina to define my life. I want to move on. But it is so hard. I want a happy day. I want a blog that's zany. But my life is defined by her, and try as I might, I can't separate from her. I am reminded every morning that it happened from the moment I open my eyes, and I keep it up all day. Sometimes, when I sleep, I move on. Sometimes, she still haunts my dreams. She will be with me forever. My albatross.

I want to go home.

"She is a New Orleans girl and New Orleans girls never live anywhere else and even if they do, they always come back. That's just the way it is." -Chris Rose

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I was in the midst of a very good post, if I do say so myself, and it was time for dinner. Crawfish Etoufée, if you must know. So I got up midpost, and then started watching Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke." About 40 minutes into the sob-fest, we lost electricity.

It is now about 11:37, and I still have to shower. I will post as promised tomorrow. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Part 19: The era they call "K+1"

We are, officially, in the era called "K+1." We had a child psychologist speak to us during staff workshop week, and he used this term. It's been popping up everywhere lately. Ad nauseum.

But it's here, and I don't have to like the name any more than I don't have to like those cutesy celebrity coupling names. (Look, I actually have paid attention to some of the rest of the world in the past year...) But it fits what I'm discussing, and so use it I will. Nyah.

Tomorrow is it. 8-29-05. Numbers I will never pick in the lottery. If I ever decide to have a child (and shoot me if I do), and the due date is that date, I will schedule a C-section just to not have it happen. And I'm not a fan of people doing that. But I can never celebrate anything happy on that date whole-heartedly.

I have a friend...a former camper...whose birthday is tomorrow. He said he wasn't even thinking about celebrating this year. He's a senior in high school this year. That made me sad to hear. On the one hand, there's that part of me screaming, "You're young!!! Do something fun!!!" But then there's that other part of me that says, "Hey, I understand." He didn't even lose anything, and his house damage was minimal, and he still feels that way.

What a day to be born.

I have a lot of other friends whose birthdays are this week. Chanukkah and Christmas presents, I guess, haha. Anyway, even they feel down about their birthdays. You have to figure: most lost a fun day. If their birthday was in the week before, they had a fun time. If it was that day, or the couple days before that involved evacuating, that is miserable. And if it was immediately after, then how could you really have fun? Those were horrible days.

One friend is turning 30 this Thursday. She's already not happy because of the Big 3-0. But her birthday also falls on Katrina week. And now, as a weird side effect of this whole Katrina debacle, she is being evicted.

She lives in a studio apartment in Metairie. Not bottom floor. Her patio was damaged heavily, but otherwise, she's fine. In May, they said that they were turning the complex into condominiums. Her 500 square-foot studio is selling for about$87,000. As a single teacher, that is not an option.

She's been searching ever since, but rent is so high, and she needs a roommate but can't find one. She asked us to go in on a house with her, but we cannot do it. We need to be alone again if we are to survive. No roommates for married people who have spent a year living with their parents in a medium-sized one-story house. That can only lead to worse trouble. And for that, I feel awful. But what can you do?

364 days after the storm, and I'm still dealing with Allstate. They gave me money for my poor little car. I signed the check over to the dealership when I bought my new car. I signed all of the Power of Attorney papers involved before my check came. Back in January or so, Allstate called me to say that they didn't have my papers on file, or something, and could I please meet a notary somewhere to resign the papers. At the end of the school year, they called me again, saying that the papers were all so backlogged that they missed sending in the papers by the deadline set for the company, and could I please sing them a third time? I blew up on the phone. I just want to try to move on, but so long as they keep making me sign papers, I can't. I apologized to the lady, letting her know that I know she is the messenger and not the responsible party, but gave her an earful to pass along to whomever. Everytime they called me to do this, it was inconvenient...7/8 class trip...exams...moving schools...starting camp...a Houston trip that ended up not happening....starting school again.... Finally, on my way home from work today, the actual notary called me to say he'd meet me anywhere. I told him I'd be home in an hour, meet me there. Now my car is, hopefully, officially no longer mine and will be crushed and my license will not be flagged.

Again, I'm reliving the loss. I'm not feeling very happy right now.

I haven't been happy in a while again. I'm also taking it out on everyone around me, and I know this. A lot of it has to do with the anniversary. A lot of it has to do with my half hour morning commute that becomes an hour or so afternoon commute, and includes several stops on the misery tour, including City Park, Lakeview, and Mid-City. A lot of it just has to do with our situation in general.

I need a vacation.

We have a prayer service tomorrow at school. (It's a Catholic school, remember.) They are focusing on the religion department's self-imposed theme of gratitude. I know that that is one of the topics for the journal tomorrow. It may be the hardest, yet the easiest one of the three.

I said this wrap-up would be tomorrow. But, as I told my students, I don't give them an assignment until I know I can do it, too. And they gave us a list of suggested journal topics for tomorrow. So tomorrow, I will do the entire list, as opposed to whichever one I assign my students.

Anyway, some of our students will be at a special Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The rest of us will have a quasi-normal day. I had a few students tell me that they will not be in school tomorrow.

I know it will be hard for me, too. I intend to treat it as a funeral. I will wear a black skirt with a cream and black top and black heels. I will wear my Anniversary Amulet from Mignon Faget. I will shed many a tear. I will try to celebrate the life that we once knew. It will not be to the extreme of my grandmother's Irish wake, but I will try to do as they are instructing us to have the positive come out.

But don't hold me to that.

Some people say, well, it's got to be better, right? Some aspects, yes. Everything west of the 17th St. Canal is coming back. More restaurants are open, and places are starting to extend their hours and menus. Traffic is awful as ever.

But that's all to the west.

To the east, my father is still pretty much the only game in town, which is both good and bad. Good, because he's got a sort of accidental monopoly on Lakeview services. You figure he has $1,300 day sales in soft drinks alone. Each drink is about a dollar apiece, if you average them. Which means he is selling roughly 1,300 soft drinks a DAY. It's a bad thing, though, because of the long hours he's putting in.

It's also a bad thing on a less personal note. Where is everyone? I bought a T-shirt this summer that says, "Lakeview: If you rebuild it, they will come." Well, some of us are trying, and it's just oh-so-slow.

I'm sure by now you've heard the latest Nagin "bon mots." In a national interview, he was being hassled about "why can't we get our acts together and be better recovered?" His reply, and again, I'm paraphrasing, was to the effect of, "Well, in New York, you guys still haven't done anything with just a big hole in the ground, and you've had 5 years."

You know what? I stand behind him on that.

When 911 happened, it was a horrendous national tragedy. I agree there. Many people were affected and killed that day. But it didn't destroy an entire city. People didn't sit there debating the sense of rebuilding New York. It didn't leave people homeless. It rallied a nation around itself and won the Dub some major brownie points.

When Katrina happened, it was a larger surface area. People were killed. People were left homeless AND jobless. It separated families and scattered them across the country. People lost their pets in this storm....and if they survived, they were euthanised in hospitals (as my friend Anne reminded me in an e-mail today), or they were shipped across the country and adopted by other people. People rallied until they lost interest. They said it couldn't be so bad as we made it out to be. They said we shouldn't rebuild. People in high positions lobbied against rebuilding our home, calling us a lost cause. They said it couldn't and shouldn't be done. But most of all, appointing "Brownie" cost the Dub a lot of points.

And we've only had one year, to do it alone. The amount of debris is staggering. I was looking at roadside debris today. Mangled fridges, stained and faded toys, soggy appliance boxes. All still in Lakeview.

Ok, so it cost Dub some brownie points to everyone but this one guy from Chalmette. He made a replica of his FEMA trailor and drove it to DC. People were excited about this. We figured Bush wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole. Then I heard the man was granted his audience with the "president." All RIGHT! I thought. Then I found out why he was allowed in: the man is an ardent fan of Bush, and he went up there to THANK HIM. WHAT?!?!?!?!? Of all of the regions to be from to do that, Chalmette would be one of the last places I would expect that.

I'm moving from melancholy to anger, in case you haven't noticed. I haven't even seen the Spike Lee movie yet.

I want to see it, yet I don't. I hear that one of the main "stars" in it is Garland Robinette. Remember him? He's the talk show host who stayed on the air as the WWL windows were blowing out, and he ran through the building to continue broadcasting, even though the ceiling was sucking up and down due to the pressure changes. Apparently, he has a beautifully, painfully moving portion of the movie. I want to see his version of the events. When you watch the movie and see him, remember what you've read here. His story, essentially, is our story back in the first installments of this portion of my blog.

God, I really can't wait to see the day when I can do a totally random and silly blog again. I hope it happens. I want it to happen soon, but I doubt it will. Someday, as the wounds heal. But that day is not today.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Part 18: A summer of fun tinged with trepidation...

June 1 is the official start of hurricane season. So, naturally, a lot of fear crept into the city's psyche. Even though the world's weather patterns don't have an alarm that rings and says, "Oo...June 1. Time to go to work!" we still feared the date more than usual.

When camp started, I was happy yet sad. I was happy because it is my favorite time of year. I also was going to be the assistant camp director. But I was sad because my beloved travel camp was laid to rest, a late casualty of Katrina. I was going to be stuck in town all summer. And, while I was back at camp, it was the first year I didn't have a group.

As camp director, I had to keep track of attendance, create flyers and notes, generate the camp newsletter, take pictures, spend time with the groups, set up and clean up for our morning breakfast staff meetings, handle discipline problems, set up staff functions, visit each group, keep track of schedules, and chaperone field trips.

In July, Pam, the new camp director, who used to be my supervisor for travel camp, asked me to accompany the oldest groups to Houston for their annual trip. However, the Monday before we left, I developed my FOURTH sinus infection since March. I packed and went to work Wednesday morning, and Pam took one look at me before telling me she didn't want me to go. It took a lot of phone calls to the assistant director of the JCC before I was told, one minute before the buses pulled out, that I was to stay back. Pam even drove me home, because my dad brough me to work so that I wouldn't have to leave my car behind all week at work. She wanted me to get in bed and stay there. So I did.

At the same time, I was supposed to be in a murder-mystery-comedy-musical-improv-dinner theater production at my grammar school. My friend is the theater teacher there, and she asked me to do it. I was very excited about it, because I hadn't been in a play since doing Dracula at Nicholls back in 2001 (I was Lucy!), and had found that I missed theater immensely.

But I missed a lot of rehearsals for work, and for illness, and, finally, I bowed out of the production.

It bothered me to have to do it, but along the way, I realized that I did not have the energy or the heart or the state of mind for an almost entirely improv show. I'm not who I was a year ago. None of us are, any more, but I have changed dramatically. I'm even starting to look closer to my age now. I don't get carded any more since "The Thing," as one local columnist calls it.

Come to find out, it was a good thing I didn't go to Houston. I was very sad, as it was as close to my travel camp as I would get. But, between Wednesday afternoon and Friday at 3 p.m, more than 10 kids caught a stomach virus. The last 6 kids? ON THE BUS RIDE HOME. More people ended up sick over the weekend. It then continued to run rampant through camp, knocking out almost half of our staff and many of our campers.

Camp is 9 weeks total: 1 week of staff orientation, 8 weeks of camp. It was so sad to have to end it. Our staff, for the most part, was absolutely amazing. I realized early on that, while I didn't technically have a group of campers, I actually had a group: the staff, which included my younger cousin Kate as a CIT. And she was amazing. She is only 15 (as of this week), and our age gap made us not very close. But I really got to know her and enjoy her.

The end of camp also found us watching, nervously, Hurricane Chris. Luckily, he fizzled out and did not pose any problems for us.

I had the weekend after camp, plus Monday through Thursday, off before reporting back to school. On Monday, Mark and I brought my friend Jenifer to see Houma and Thibodaux. She is also a Nicholls alumna, and she hadn't been back since graduating in 2000. We drove around, ate donuts at "Mr. Ronnie's Famous Hot," went to the Southland Mall, visited Student Publications and the bookstore, had dinner at Pepper's Pizzeria, and went to Rene's Bar. (They both used to love it there.) We met up with brother-in-law Phil, who graduated from Nicholls in May and now works in Thibodaux. We even made a pitstop over at Mark's (then Phil's) old apartment before heading home. It was a lot of fun.

Tuesday was school supply shopping. Wednesday I got my oil changed and did a few things in my classroom. On Thursday, we were supposed to have lunch with Anne and Ricky, who were in town, but that fell through. Friday found me back at school for orientation.

I can't begin to describe what it's like. We're back at the first campus. Every day, I drive 35 minutes to work and over an hour home from work. But I drive through my old neighborhood, which is still pretty much in ruins, and through City Park. It's so very sad. I practically retrace my steps of one year ago. My classroom looks great. I'm teaching 7th and 8th grade reading and writing. My schedule stinks (six classes, plus afternoon and recess duty, plus a club that meets twice a week, and my only off period is 2nd period. Blech.). The kids are fun, and I teach all 54 students in my grade levels this year. I don't have a home room.

But every day....through the desolation. The area around school is coming back faster than Lakeview is, but it's not great. Plus, it sustained less damage. School was fine, if you remember.

I had Mark make me a CD of "happy songs" to listen to on my commute. It's to take my mind off of where I'm going and what I'm looking at.

But it doesn't work that well.

And now today is the anniversary of that last Friday. As I sat in traffic, I couldn't help but think about how a year ago, I was running errands with Melissa, preparing for our class pet, which was to be a hamster. We tried to get Caroline and Keith to get dinenr with us, but they were hungry right then, and we were going to be a while, so plans fell through. We ended up going to dinner with my friends Carol and Sam, from the JCC. Then we hung out at Sam's apartment complex. We were in the courtyard, and my friend Ilyse and her girlfriend Claudia were there, because they lived in the same complex.

That morning on my way to work, a huge raccoon walked out of the park and into Harrison Ave. We had a staring match; not even my horn deterred him. He finally moseyed back into the park. I had my radio on on the local modern rock station. They discussed Katrina having hit Florida, then the theory that she was going to loop back, hit Florida, and leave us alone. That afternoon, our principal, Mike, had gone around to wish us all a nice weekend and see if we had plans.

Saturday, we woke up late, then dressed and went to Lakeside Mall for lunch and shopping. It was closed and we were turned away. We found out Katrina was headed for us, and spent the rest of the day cleaning and packing.

The rest is history. Infamous history. History I wish I could erase.

And now, we are full circle.

But this morning, there was no raccoon. Animals are only starting to return to the park, and none are as large as a raccoon. In fact, there generally aren't any other cars as I drive through.

Tonight, Mike was not there to wish us a happy weekend, as he was at the act of sale for his new house, having lost his home in Arabi last year.

Today, I am wearing my Mignon Faget Anniversary Amulet (www.mignonfaget.com). It's a silver circle with a hurricane in the middle, with a fleur de lis engraved on the front and 8-29-05 engraved on the back.

Tonight, we will celebrate our friend Chris' 21st birthday.

But we will, once again, keep our eyes on the Weather Channel, as Tropical Storm Ernesto continues to strengthen and heads to the Gulf.

Keep sending us goods thoughts.

Next time, I will "close" with a tribute wrap-up. Assuming Ernesto doesn't have other plans, of course.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Part 17: The Borderline Merry Ol' Month of May

In the first week of May, things did not seem so bleak. We took our 7th and 8th grade class trip concurrentl with the high school retreat. The retreat was scheduled to leave New Orleans the DAY that Hurricane Katrina hit us. Thankfully, they cancelled the trip ahead of time. Could you imagine having a brand-new high school, open for 8 days in all of history, and have every student ten hours away in Mentone, Ala., where cell reception is non-existant? Luckily, we had paid attention to the news enough that they got on the phone and alerted parents ahead of time.

This trip ended up being fun. Having the now significantly smaller high school with all of our 7/8s was more fun than we expected. We stayed at a sleep-away camp, where we split the two schools into two different areas. We only had the 8-hour train ride and 2-hour bus ride, as well as our closing-night campfire together. It worked out well, except for the sheer amounts of rain we had.

On the Wednesday of our trip, we had a surprise visit from Patty, the school president, and Mike, the Academy principal. Wiley, the high school principal, was on the trip with us. They interrupted all of our activities and called a meeting in the lodge. This is where we learned about our new patron Saint, Reggie Bush. Students and teachers and administrators alike wound up in absolute tears over the news. Happy tears, mind you...tears of relief....and we were all in absolulte shock over how wonderful he was. I managed to place a collect call home to Mark from a landline to share the news with him. And George W. thinks he's the Bush who's got the term "Shock and Awe" down pat.....he's grossly mistaken!

Melissa, who was my original teaching partner, was picked to go on the trip with us ot replace another teacher, Kerrie, who had daycare issues and was unable to join us. That also made the trip pleasant....especially since our train ended up being about 3 hours late arriving back in New Orleans.

Besides being a place where we learned fantastic news about our school's future, and a place to bond with my students, and a place where I got royal treatment by planning the trip with two other teachers (royal treatment being used here as a term to mean "sleeping in a special teacher building and getting chocolate ice cream one day"), as well as a place where I didn't have to work much with my current teaching partner, it was a wonderful escape. We left Louisiana. It was my first time out of state since my trip out West last summer with my travel camp. I stayed in New Orleans for the storm, evacuated to Baton Rouge and Morgan City right after the storm, went to school in Thibodaux for a few weeks, then came back to Metairie. I did not get the luxury of straying far from the destruction the way most people, my parents and brother included, did. I was able to leave the area and watch as the destruction levels decreased....until it reached an untainted perfection in, of all places, Northern Alabama. Until, at one point, on the train ride back to New Orleans, it started creeping back into our psyche and lines of vision.

There's really nothing more depressing than leaving the mess, going somewhere tranquil and beautiful, and then being faced with the stark reality of returning home.

On the train ride home, though, I was informed of the most excellent news I'd heard since August: my father's business was open again!!!! He was open for mild automotive services, like nails in tires, and had the convenience store open again. In a matter of days, they would start pumping gas again. The darkest days were over. A different mood came over the house. While my father came home very late, and usually aggravated, it was all very different from before my trip. He had some of his old complaints -- cranky customers, high gas prices (yes, even service station owners hate the raised prices!), and long hours. Each day was a new record high for gas, for service, and for food sales. The first day he opened, I drove almost 9 miles out of my way to get gas from him. He was the only person I would go to once again. I will fill up on Friday without needing to just in case I drive a lot on the weekend need gas, all because they close early on Saturday and are closed on Sunday.

Thank God.

Suddenly, the end of the school year was upon us. The week after the trip was the eighth graders' last real week of school. The next week was their exam week. Then, they graduated, leaving my classroom with a whopping 6 7th graders, assuming we had perfect attendance. Graduation was really nice. We were able to go to the church on our old campus to hold the Mass and ceremony. They all did so well, and it was a lovely day of happiness combined with sadness. Mark came to the graduation, because in April he switched from the overnight shift to 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. After the ceremony, we went to lunch at Semolina's. We tried to go to P.F. Chang's, but due to Katrina, they are still closed on Mondays. Ah well. I had the rest of the day off, which was nice. Then, it was back to the 7th graders to prepare them for their exams. Once those were over, we had to do report cards, and then we had to pack the entire school and the entire high school and move back to the other campus. We were being evicted, and the administration rearranged the school structure, really, to make us all fit in on the New Orleans campus.

The day of graduation, the school borrowing our campus, St. Dominic, was packing up. It was strange seeing them there. Good strange, though. Their campus had been repaired enough for them to move out. They will have a normal school year in the fall.

Also the week of graduation, we held our Annual Gala. It was a '70s theme: "Stairway to Heaven." They had a band, a silent auction (the adirondack chair my students painted and our room mother designed went for a couple hundred dollars, if I may say so...), and lots of food and spirits. They also worked out a deal for reduced prices on hotel rooms. Naturally, we took them up on that. It was a lovely hotel, and it was a nice break from our cramped quarters in my parents' house. The next day, we wandered around the French Quarter, giving local shops some business. They had given us the next day off, and Mark had taken the next day off, so we made good use of it. It was a nice distraction from the daily routine.

The following week, we had a barrage of parents and students needing service hours help us pack, caravan, lift, reach, and unpack. In a matter of three or four days, we were completely moved over. All that was left was unpacking and organizing.

However, in the midst of all of this, my maternal grandmother took a horrible turn. This is the grandmother who was in Houston for months and had been transferred to Hammond, La. She was 87 years old and suffered from Alzheimer's. She fell ot the bed and had a HORRIBLE black eye. My Uncle Mike flew in with his oldest, my cousin Cristina, who was going to be a college sophomore this year. He had been in around Easter with my aunt and their younger daughter, Stefanie, to visit, and he wanted Crissy to get one more visit in. One week later, roughly, he was back in town to say good-bye.

The last day I was supposed to report to school, I had a frantic call from my mother. Her youngest brother, David, called her to say that Granny would not make it through the night. My mother had already spent the weekend in Hammond watching over her. She needed me to bring her an hour away to Hammond, because my father could not leave work, and my brother had started a new job on the Westbank and couldn't leave. I ran downstairs, told Patty that I had to leave for the family emergency, and ran to my dad to get gas. I ran home, changed my clothes, freshened up, grabbed a snack, and flew out the door with my mom. When we got to Hammond, my grandmother was in horrible condition.

Part of Alzheimer's is that your body shuts down. As a result, your body undergoes physical changes. She was already working on being unrecognizable; with her black eye, vacant and glassy stare, and constantly open mouth breathing shallow, rasspy breaths, she wasn't even a shadow of what she once was. At one point, she was a hearty 5 foot 7. Over the course of her almost 10-year batle with the disease, she seemed to shrink in height, stature, and definitely weight. When the nurses came to turn her, she was literally skin and bones. She looked like the Civil War prisoners you see in pictures of the Andersonville camp. Barely alive and hardly human.

My brother got our messages and drove down, too. He met us there, and we bought food for my mother for dinner. She was staying the night in Hammond. My Uncle Dave came by for a while, too.

A few times, there were some freaky moments. She would seem to stop breathing for long periods of time, and then would start again. A couple of times, she tried to sit up, made a strange noise, and feebly lifted her arm while staring over our heads. What was she seeing?

I went to follow Geoff home, but he missed the turn to head back to New Orleans, and I didn't. I remembered where to turn. Nerd.

The next day, my grandmother was still alive. My mom's three brothers worked together to persuade her to go home, that maybe Granny was hanging on because she was around. Dave brought her home, and my mom was as okay with that as she could be. Sure enough, on June 7, my grandmother died. They checked on her hourly; the last time was 6 a.m. Mike called the Assisted Living Center a little after 7, and when they checked on her, she was gone.

The phone call came minutes before I had to wake up. I had just started back at JCC Camp, as assistant camp director, and it was our orientation week. Yet I got up, got dressed, and went to work feeling relieved.

Am I inhuman? No. If you had seen her....

In addition, my grandmother was not a very grandmotherly type. We were not close at all. She and my mother had a rotten relationship until Alzheimer's altered her personality completely.

The stresses her illness and longevity placed on our extended family was astounding. My mother and her oldest sister were no longer on speaking terms. But my grandmother's looming death ended most of the bitterness, and they were able to make up.

All of this was just in time to celebrate the birth of the fourth generation at the end of April. My oldest cousin, Erin, and her husband, Jim, had a baby...sweet little James. We met him at the funeral.

On June 9, we held the funeral at St. Philip -- the church I grew up in and was married in. In fact, our wedding was the last time our whole family had been in that church. Before that, it was Geoff's christening. We buried her in Greenwood Cemetery, then had an "Irish wake" at my Aunt Maureen and Uncle Lance's house. This means that from about 2 in the afternoon until midnight, my entire family ate, drank, and laughed. Everyone from my older aunts and uncles to my 15-year-old cousin was drunk. Even Erin, Jim, and James stayed until 11 p.m. He's a great baby. So good and so patient... It was a raucous time. All of my mother's cousins were there, and at one point, Geoff's two roommates and all of our friends showed up.

The day ended, at it was Saturday, June 10. My birthday. I didn't realize it was coming until about 2 weeks previously when Mark mentioned he was out birthday shopping for me. I was confused until i realized how close the day actually was.

We spent the day at Audubon Zoo. It looked good. A lot of trees were down, but otherwise, it looked okay. Almost all of the animals there survived Katrina, unlike the Aquarium, which lost almost everything. We went with Geoff, Alicia, Kurt, Mike, Jean, Crissy, and Steffi. That night, we set up Chris' inflatable waterslide at the Cabin and had a fun party. In all, it was a pretty nice birthday.

Monday was the first day of camp, which meant my days were fun and action-packed.

Stay tuned for the Summer months....

Monday, August 14, 2006

Part 16: More thrills, chills, and spills than Disney World.

Recap: Last time, we had a smaller, but (mostly) very fun Mardi Gras experience, and things seemed to be looking up.

But now it was April, and we were still moving my dad's reopening date back. He had originally expected to be open by mid-February. And now it was April. Things felt bleaker once more.

And it was my second sinus infection of the year. It was right on the heels of the first. Fun.

April 1 was on a Saturday. Apparently it was a tradition at school to really "get" the principal. He went to Tulane University and is, therefore, a huge Tulane fan. Tulane fans tend to not be LSU fans. So, since his children's school was destroyed by the storm, and they were attending our school for the year, his children were pawns in the game.

One of the teachers had a pet snake in her classroom, and the youngest son loved it. So she had him pose with a picture that said, "Tigers" and wrapped the snake around him. The older son was handed a sign that said, "Geaux."

Quick lesson in south Louisiana culture: Many Cajun surnames end in "-eaux." Boudreaux, Thibodaux, Gautreaux, etc. This letter configuration makes an "o" sound. And so, many people find it "fun" to make words that end in an "o" sound end in "-eaux." One such instance is LSU, which has signs and merchandise labelled "Geaux Tigers!" End note.

The older son was only in 4th grade and didn't know the "Geaux" thing. The younger son was in kindergarten, and he couldn't read "tigers" yet. They had no idea what they were being asked to do.

A big banner, decorated by the teacher's clss was hung outside the building, anf the two pictures of the sons with the signs flanked it. His office was covered in taunting handmade signs, courtesy of that class. He was a better sport about it than his sons, who, upon being told why their pictures were hanging up, went to the teacher and yelled, "YOU USED US!" Haha.

April 6 was our 4th wedding anniversary. I went to work and had a normal day, and then came home. My mom had stayed home from work that day with an intestinal problem. I got home from work and found her car gone. I called her cell and had no answer. Mark and I were going out to dinner somewhere that night, and so I set about getting ready after leaving her a voice mail, accusing her of being a faker.

As I got out of the shower, the phone rang. It was my father, informing me that my mother had been passing blood, and she called the gastroenterologist, who told her to get to the emergency room. She had to drive herself there because my dad couldn't leave work. Something big was going on. He met her there later. Come to find out, all of her digestive problems, which developed in the last month or so prior, were being caused by, not only acid reflux, but an ulcer. Neither condition was around more than a few months. Once more, my family felt the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. My mom was being kept at least overnight for observations, we were not to worry, and we were to have a nice time at dinner.

Mark came home with news of where we would be eating. His radio station is a news-talk-sports format, and they have a food critic, Tom Fitzmorris. He asked Tom for a nice restaurant in a certain price range in Metairie. Tom immediately named Impastato's. What's more, he called in the reservations for us. So at 8, we went to enjoy our evening.

First, they had a nice table ready for us. Then, as we were ordering dinner, one of the staff came over to congratulate us on our anniversary and to present us with a bottle of champagne. It was very sweet, but very good. A little while later, they came over and presented me with a dozen red roses. The food came and was absolutely delicious. It sort of reminded me of Tony Angelo's, a place that was cattycorner from our house. It was a multiple-course Italian meal that was to die for. I still remember my meal: an appetizer of shrimp au gratin, a salad, panéed veal topped with crabmeat, artichokes, and shrimp and crawfish with a divine sauce on it, pasta alfredo, and, for dessert, a slice or Oreo cheesecake. I don't remember what Mark had...I think it was soft-shell crabs with a topping similar to mine. Either way, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. All night, there was a jazz combo with an elderly man singing for them. While we were waiting for our desserts, the old man came over to our table, carrying a single peach rose, which happens to be my favorite. He greeted us, wished us a happy anniversary, and asked if he could sing a song for us. He asked if we'd ever seen "Sleepless in Seattle," then told us that the song was in that movie. He sang, "When I Fall in Love." It was a highly embarrassing moment, as he made us hold hands across the table. We wanted to die from holding in our laughter. It was all very nice, though, even if I could have done without the serenade. In all, it was a very lovely evening. My dad left me a voice mail asking if we could stop by the hospital to bring my mom's car home, so we did.

My mom ended up with some trouble, so she stayed in the hospital a little longer than expected. She didn't come home until either Sunday or Monday. It was a gloomy period, yet again.

Ah, April. Formerly a month to enjoy, now tainted with my mom's illness, as well as living with my parents, still. And then, when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I almost lost one of the most important parts of my being able to go on after Katrina.

We'd had our observations and performance reviews. We were supposed to have our contracts soon. But the contracts never came.

They called a staff meeting, and things seemed bleak. Through my friend, who was on the high school staff, I learned that the Archdiocese wanted to "restructure" the school, and that the principal for the high school, a man I was excited to be working under the next school year, would be leaving. See, in my evaluation session, I was awarded the chance to stay at the High School's campus. Same president, different principal. And as much as I enjoyed working for the Academy's principal, I'd heard good things about working under the High School's. And now that I knew which campus was employing me the next year, we could look at neighborhoods to move to.

However, a lot of speculation lead to a lot of fear. All we knew was that when the superintendant of Catholic schools came, trouble was ahead. What made it worse was that our administration honestly didn't know what was going to happen to us. They were kept out of the loop.

The day of the meeting finally arrived, and no one was in a good mood. We knew people were getting the axe. But who?

The meeting happened, and it was worse than we thought.

Our president called the meeting "one big, not funny episode of 'Seinfeld.'" She rules. Anyway, it was, as you may have guessed, a meeting about nothing. But it wasn't exactly nothing. It was a lot of bad stuff, but we had almost as many questions after as we did before.

Fr. M started the meeting saying how much he admired us, blah blah blah...and how he loves the program and always supported it 100 percent (note: he called us a program instead of a school, and he used past tense. He continued to use past tense for the first half of the meeting.)

For the first 10 minutes of talking about nothing, really, it sounded like everyone was out of a job. This is where we learned that apparently the administration was telling us the truth, because they had genuine reactions to everything he said.

Then he said that what he was saying wasn't affecting the majority of the room. And we started suspecting that he meant the high school. And he was.

They opened the school this year. No building costs, per se, because they took over an abandoned school. But it needed Internet wiring, phone lines, fire drills, P.A. system, paint, remodeling in places, repairs in places, etc. Plus furniture. Plus supplies. Grand total of opening costs, post-Katrina? 1.5 million. Not bad, right?

Well, in the Post-K world, huge deal, apparently. However, you gotta spend money to make money. Pre-K (Katrina, not the grade level!) the HS had 50-something kids. Post, they had 32. Here's where the president officially stopped liking him: he said, and I quote, "That makes the per-student cost over $57,000. If you can meet the lofty goal of 65 students for next year, and that's if, then you will have a per student cost of $21,000, approximately."

First off, he said we had only 29 students. So, he was wrong there. We had 32. Second, we had accepted 66 students already for next year. I'm not so good at math, but I am pretty sure that that means that we are pretty much above that "lofty aspiration."

Second, when the Academy opened, there were 36 students. The next year, they doubled it to 60 something students. The next year, they doubled it to 120 something students. They decided doubling at that point would break them, so they took in another 60. The following year, they tried to keep it the same, but ended up with 204. This year, Pre-K, we had 230-something. Post, we had more than 100, but less than 200. We even took in a lot of students whose schools were nonexistent Post-K. And when people came back at the end of the school year from wherever they'd evacuated...who knew what would happen. Plus, we always, apparently, end up with new students registering after the first day. My 3/4 class grew by 3 kids before the storm. That was 2 weeks of school. So, the growth potential IS there.

Third, the budget projections had us paying off the start-up loan by the 5th year of existence. They told the Archdiocese that they would have it paid off by year 6, but that was a just-in-case cushion. They were expecting it no later than year 5, but, barring any more major national disasters, possibly year 4.

So he talked in circles, told us that they couldn't offer contracts to any high school employees, that it would take "several" weeks to come up with a solution. Meanwhile, our administration had been kept in the dark about everything. EVERYTHING. They truly did hear it all for the first time that day.

At this point, many people were crying. We passed around a Kleenex box. The rest were seething.

He said they were "looking at several options for a possible solution," but only told us one. And it wasn't a good one:

They wanted to make us a "School within a school" at 5 other Catholic schools in the area. Um, NO. Our kids are with us because they can't hack it in a regular learning environment. They learn differently. They need to be taught differently. And if we're a school within 5 schools, the kids will be divided. Two are single sex schools. So that right there divides them. As does geography.

Plus, where would that leave us? Yeah, we'd all find some sort of job, somewhere, eventually, but what about those kids? Who would help them? They would be labelled and ostracized. Not necessarily by the schools, but definitely by the kids. They would be looked at as special ed. And they are NOT.

So one of the teachers, whose son has dyslexia and was in 6th grade at the Academy, asked what the other options would be, because she had a very personal interest in the school. She made me cry when she asked where her son was supposed to go. She's one of my friends, and she is such an eloquent speaker. She had several people crying.

Only other option was to go K-12. But that wouldn't work. We'd need new space anyway. We're too needed, and our presence is growing in the city.

Did I mention that they cancelled a parents' meeting at the request of the Office of Catholic Schools? They feared the parents. I said unleash the parents on them. They'd see how important we are.

So then he told us he can't really answer a lot of questions and gives us about "10-15 minutes." People ask a lot of questions. The parish priest, a man he called by the wrong name the entire time, got up, near tears, and plead to let us be part of the planning process.

He also, let me note, referred to the H.S. principal by the wrong name the whole time.

He left after 5 p.m., Pres walked him out and came back. No one moved, but everyone was upset and/or angry. She came back and watched out the window as he walked away. She slammed the door on her way in. She was raging. At that moment, I truly loved her.

She said, "I told him I would be e-mailing him corrections for all of his inaccuracies."

Boo and yah.

We talked about how blindsided and hurt we felt. We started thinking of solutions. We raged. We united. It felt a little better.

Then she said that apparently, the Academy is to remain as is. And that anyone hired to teach 7/8 at the High School will slide to the Academy, so apparently, I, too, was safe. Where I'd be, I didn't know. And we wanted to start looking at houses, but couldn't apply for a loan until we knew what my salary would be next year.

As a staff, we followed Dylan Thomas' words.

We left at 6 p.m. Father was STILL THERE. Sitting in what would have been my classroom if I had stayed 3/4. When he left, we learned that the woman he talked to was a REPORTER. We assumed she was with the Archdiocesan public relations newspaper. How ballsy of him to leave us to interview, most likely about us, on our OWN CAMPUS.

They had the H.S. current staff stay behind. There is a letter. I find out later that it is basically a condensed version of what was just said regarding how the H.S. can't get contracts yet because the school and its budget are under review. Something the admin didn't know about until the meeting. Pres's eyebrows shot up when he said that.

This letter was not on letterhead. It was on regular paper. No signatures or seals or logos or anything. They passed out copies to the staff. When they finished, Pres let hers drop to the floor, while the H.S. principal crumpled his and threw it behind him.

I love this administration.

So, we didn''t really know any more than we knew that morning, other than I apparently would be employed...but where?

I was sad and furious all at once.

Jazz Fest is very close to my school, and as it falls on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we use Jazz Fest as a chance to raise money. We sell our parking spaces for $25 per car. This is cheap, actually. We don't have school those two Fridays. We filled 88 spaces in less than 2 hours. We did it again the next Friday. And everyone who was there seemed positive that we would beat this. We just weren't sure how.

So they had the parents' meeting the next Tuesday night, and the parents, understandably, were outraged. They pulled out their checkbooks. A contractor offered his comapny's services to hold a raffle for a house gutting and sheetrocking (this, if it happened, would have been a huge success, as many homes still have not been gutted post-K). By the end of the evening, over $50,000 had been collected.

That day, there was a meeting telling us that they came up with a comprehensive plan to let the Academy return the High School's favor by hosting them under one roof for one or two years. Money was the only obstacle, other than Archdiocesan approval. Then they collected money that night, and donations were in full-force.

At the teacher appreciation luncheon, they announced that money was no longer an obstacle to moving and keeping us operable next year. The only issue is having the Archdiocese okay the plan to move us together. As one teacher said, "He'd better have a damned good reason for teling us no."

However, it would take a few million to keep us at our current site. Sigh.

The next week was the 7/8 grade class trip. Our high schoolers were supposed to go on a school retreat in Alabama near Tennessee at a sleepaway camp. The were scheduled to leave Monday, August 29, 2005. The day Katrina hit New Orleans. Obviously, they cancelled the trip. Thank goodness they were smart enough for that...

Our 7/8 trip was supposed to be swimming with the manatees in Florida -- something I would have killed to do! But they feared parents wouldn't be able to afford a trip like that, so they picked a less-expensive idea: joining the high school in Alabama. Two seperate trips at one location at the same time.

The trip was a lot of fun. We took a train for 8 hours, which was followed by a two-hour bus ride. It was in the mountains, and it was so nic to see green spaces and trees that weren't creacked or twisted or dead from hurricane-force winds. It was like paradise. The last night of the trip, we had a campfire with a singalong, and the rain held out just long enough for us all to have a magical night of bonding as one.

But I'm a little ahead of myself....

Our president and the Academy's president DROVE to the camp to hand-deliver some news.


First off, we were all going to be okay. The parents and several corporations/anonymous donors stepped up. I don't know the total now, but the $100,000 it would take to move the High School to the Academy was no longer an issue. The H.S. would occupy the second floor of the Academy with 7th and 8th. The lower grades will take over some storage space and church-owned rooms downstairs. We would all be together again for one, maybe two years, and then, the Archdiocese said we can pick a campus to move to.

That in and of itself is incredibly amazing. BUT....

We got our very own patron Saint. Yes, I capitalized that one word for a reason. As you may have heard, the Saints drafted Reggie Bush this year. He is committed to helping rebuild our city, and wanted to help a school damaged by Katrina. While our physical campus was fine, our school itself was falling victim 8 months later. One of the kindergarten parents got in touch with the Saints and Reggie, and he checked out our website and talked to people, and came to the conclusion that a school like ours, which was open for a grand total of 8 days before Katrina hit, could not fall victim to her again. He pledged matching funds for most of what the parents have raised, and also a long-term commitment/partnership to our school!!!!!

WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE OKAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 15 was a special day....Reggie Bush Day....we were covered in ESPN, the Associated Press, MSN.com, Yahoo.com, local news outlets, and other national news outlets. We even had a big mention in the Washington Post over the summer. Reggie came out and presented teh first of what will be many checks: this one for $50,000. He was so humble and so wonderful. We all took a huge group photo with him, and the NFL channel used the positioning as stock footage in a story about him over this past weekend, when the Saints played their first pre-season game.

I hate football. I usually hate pro-athletes. But all of a sudden...I'm a pretty big fan of Saint number 25...

Stay tuned to the month of May...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mardi Gras...or...bust?

Recap: We had gotten through a fairly solemn Christmas, Mark's stomach virus, and a much-needed New Year's Eve...made all the more sweeter by the fact that none of Geoff's neighbors were back home yet, so we could be as loud as necessary outside as we raised our middle fingers in salute to 2005...

This was followed later in the week by me missing my first day of HRA because I had a much less severe form of Mark's bug. And there we were, hoping that this year would be better than last year.

For Mark's birthday, I wanted to replace his Mignon Faget Fleur de Lis tie tack. We'd found his matching cufflinks in the sludge in our bedroom, but the tie tack was gone for good. However, when I went to buy them, there was an 8-week wait because New Orleans-themed EVERYTHING was in such high demand at the time. I decided to wait...possibly until our anniversary.

January passed otherwise uneventfully. Although, MLK weekend brought me a phone call I didn't think I could survive.

I've discussed already how my "teaching partner" and I were horribly mismatched for each other. Well, she called me that Sunday to tell me that, while cooking broccoli, she burned her face. She singed off hair on her arms and face. It's a horrible thing, really. But I had to bite my tongue to keep from crying with laughter. A freak incident, if you will. She missed the next day. And drove up on Tuesday in a brand new car. Purchase date? MLK Day. Hmmm....especially interesting considering you couldn't really see any major damage unless she pointed it out to you.

February crept up. Then roared to let us know she was here.

February 2, 2006. I woke up, dressed for work, carefully walked down the wet sidewalk to my car, and went to work. When I got there, I saw the principal and many faculty members standing in front of the school. That's where we had arrival and dismissal. I panicked and thought, "OH MY GOD, I'M LATE FOR WORK AND EVERYONE KNOWS!!" I parked in the lot, then walked up, where the prinicpal was telling another teacher some news: The bad weather I'd slept through the night before brought horrendous tornadoes to the area, and we had no electricity and some roof damage. School was cancelled for the day, but we had to stay from 7:20 until 9 a.m. to chase off parents who, like me, hadn't watched the news for the school closure.

I called my parents to tell them, and heard some more distressing news: the tornadoes really hit Lakeview. My former neighborhood. The neighborhood where my father was trying to restore his business. A business my uncle checked out, and discovered damage. A window was broken. The hardware store next door lost its roof. The A/C units up top were gone. And the houses across the street were destroyed. A roof beam from one of them impaled an office upstairs. Houses all over the area, already ruined from flooding, had their coffin nails firmly pounded in them...any chance they had of restoration was gone. My dad made out the best of anything in the area. Driving along, it's easy to follow the tornado's path. A huge satellite tower on Veteran's Blvd. blocked the highway. National news crews flooded the area. Hmm..perhaps that's a poor choice of words...

I got off work, went home, napped, then went with Mark to get lunch. We visited my dad in Lakeview, saw all of the damage, and got the last bit of stuff out of our attic. We were done.

I started classes again at UNO. I quickly realized that I'd overloaded my schedule and was in way over my head. Tuesdays were the worst, with me teaching from 7:20 (morning duty) until 3:30, then grabbing a quick coffee, fighting traffic on Veteran's Blvd., getting a coffee when I was lucky, and then being in class from 4 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. IF my professor remembered that class let out earlier than she kept thinking it did.

It was the first year I've been with a school and been able to celebrate Valentine's Day. Not kosher at the JCC. I was pretty excited and baked some cookies to mark the occasion. I had class that night. That was the big Valentine's Day living with the parents and going to school while Mark worked until midnight. Fun times.

We had spirit week and the Winter Formal. I got into the spirit of Spirit Week, and dressed for all of the special days: from Pajama Day to Dress Like a Rock Star Day. I chaperoned the dance. I got group pictures with my students. I had a blast. It was nice to have some fun things to do in the midst of all of the not-so-fun things.

And we were in Mardi Gras season. We had to attend the Krewe of Hephaestus' ball in Morgan City. Mark's cousin Anne was the returning queen. We had good seats and got to dress in formal-wear. I thought we were in for a night of fun, but it turned out to be a rough night. It all started with a student confessing to me that she had been anorexic for the past 5 years. I knew she was very thin, and I had suspicions, and she decided to let me and another teacher be the first two adults she told. Of course we got the guidance counselor in on it, and we set her up for recovery, but it will be a long and hard journey.

Then, at the ball, all of the Morgan City relatives asked painful question after painful question. The only person who asked questions that didn't sting, and who seemed like he was truly concerned, was Anne's fiancé, Scott. We'd never really had much time to know him. After all, the first time we knew of that they'd gone out was one year earlier, when he was Anne's escort to the ball. I never appreciated him more than that night. His concerns over us and the city seemed truly genuine, and not at all as though he was looking for morbid gossip, or just something to talk about, and he seemed to understand us and the situations.

As the prying questions and the, "Well, gee, why hasn't your father reopened yet and why are you still with her parents?" questions flew at us, I got more and more depressed. The famiy had its own "open bar" setup at the table. I drank a lot of rum and Coke. It only took off some of the edge. I then started drunk texting. It was a not-so-good thing.

That week was a week off at school. On Lundi Gras, I went with Jenifer to the Quarter. We caught a free Better Than Ezra and Bag of Donuts show, walked through the Quarter, and caught some of the Lundi Gras on the River Zulu celebrations. It was amazing. We went to the Orpheus parade and stood in what would normally be a rotten neighborhood. But all of the rotten had evacuated and wasn't quite back yet. There were families...parents with smiling babies. No fear of guns. It was strange, but in a wonderful way.

The next day, we went to Royal Street to Kevin's parents' balcony. We threw beads and befriended an Australian guy, who we dubbed "Rosie Cheeks." We also got hassled by creepy smelly crusty guys. We had a ton of fun. We ended up at Sav-A-Center to buy dinner stuff, then we all hung out at Geoff's. I spent the rest of the week with Mark as much as I could.

It was the first time we'd ever been able to walk down Bourbon Street as a pack, instead of a single-file line that flowed with the crowd, and wherever it spit you out was going to be your destination. It was empty. It was sad. But oh, was it ever wonderful!

And then I started with the sinus infections. The first one, I think, never really went away. Two weeks of antibiotics did nothing. It came back with a vengeance. A woman in one of my classes got up in the middle of the class, walked over to me, and put a cough drop on my desk, casting a sympathetic glance in my direction.

In March, Pam informed me that she would be the camp director of Metairie, and asked if I would be her assistant camp director. Now that I teach, I have every summer off. I am theirs indefinitely. I was supposed to run travel camp again, and we were supposed to go to New York, but they were afraid people couldn't afford it this year. However, ACD was a pretty sweet replacement gig.

The second sinus infection came in March, and then was gone with more antibiotics.

The third one came in April. More antibiotics.

But, April is our next installment. It includes our 4th anniversary, Easter, Sinus infections #3, and an era of panic...