Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I wish I knew the person to whom I could attribute this...

I had someone send me this. It's kind of a neat perspective.

Also, thank you, listeners of WIBC in Indiana, for inviting me to tell a microscopic portion of my tale to you this morning. I hope it helped bring things into perspective, and if you've found your way over here, I thank you. Please, stay a while...and stay tuned.

And, if you would like my brother's perspective, visit him at . He has a link on there to the documentary he made last year.

That's it from me today...I have some more thoughts, brought up by my students' journals...but here's the poem or meditation or prayer or whatnot. If anyone can identify the author, let me know, as I'd like to give credit where credit is due.

Thank you for letting me understand
homelessness, living without power,
without television, without cool air in the heat.

Thank you for letting me understand
hunger, the pleasure of dry clean clothes and
the relief of place to sleep.

Thank you for letting me understand
the deep and overwhelming sadness
when forces, beyond our personal control,
take the loved, the familiar, the usual.

Thank you for my needfulness and
Thank you for my newfound empathy
for those were homeless before the storm
and homeless now, for those hungry
anywhere, for those in need everywhere.

Thank you for the opportunity you provided
to help my neighbor, to be my brother’s keeper,
to serve food, to patch roofs, to clear yards,
and to start mending that which was broken.

Thank you for the chance to change ourselves,
from a reprieve from the normal commercial day,
for teaching us to make do, to get by, to improvise,
for drowning our conceit, complacency, callousness
for silencing the noise , for stopping the clock,
and for the chance to act our best when the worst occurred.

Thank you for the people who reached in
pulled out the living, cradled the dead,
comforted the broken and torn apart,
wept for the splintered and uprooted.

Thank you for the people who didn’t wait
who came right away, who opened their homes,
who emptied their shelves, their closets,
who cleaned, fed , healed, held us,
who told us our spirit was amazing,
and who keep on coming.

Thank you for people who measure
their faith by their actions, and measure
their action by its consistency with their faith.

Thank you for all the people we have met,
who are new friends, new loved ones,
new brothers and sisters, new neighbors.

Thank you Katrina. Not for wind,
not for water, but for the appreciation
of the things no storm can shatter,
no water can wash away,
no wind can move.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A P.S.

I wish I'd seen this article before blogging. That's what I get for putting pleasure before responsibility.

Everyone has always had a list of "I miss..." in this city. It's part of our charm. Mark has found it annoying, asking why we can't let go of things. We can't. I guess that's the best reason as to why we're here, all of us returnees. From my childhood, but before Katrina, I miss K&B. Rite Aid is CRAP. And, most importantly, they don't have a color to call their own or the best damned ice cream you've ever tasted.

I miss McKenzie's. Thank God Tastee has picked up the recipe they had for king cakes. I just wish they'd bring back the cheesecake, the yellow cake with chocolate icing, the petit fours, and those awesome cookies that only came out at holidays...the large orange and black stripes...the Christmas trees....oh, what I wouldn't give for those. And Thanksgiving isn't the same without "pocket books," the Parker House rolls. Brown-n-serves are just nasty.

And D.H. Holmes and Dino's frozen yogurt and Maison Blanche and Fitzgerald''s just a bygone era.

But those have been gone for a while. Sure, every Mardi Gras, we mention McKenzie's, and while I've cultivated a taste for Blue Bell, I miss K&B. I remember that time when I was a senior, proudly sporting my purple senior sweater and my school uniform, and having a lady tap my shoulder and ask me where something was, thinking that I worked there.

We even lost local characters, from Nash Roberts and his grease pencils (take that, Super Dopplers!) to Buddy D, a man Mark was lucky enough to get to know before his death.

But nothing tops what we've lost. Some of it has come back, and soemtimes it's different. But it's not quite the same. I miss walking into Bayou Bagelry and having them start my order for me before I got to the counter.

I miss the funky handwritten and misspelled signs with "clever" sayings on them in Charlie's Deli on Harrison Ave. Touché Café is nice and all, but I miss the old seediness of my favorite neighborhood po-boy place. I mean, "What goes slap thud, slap thud, slap thud? My mama's hand upside your head if you throw away our trays!" and the playing card order claimers are nowhere else in this city.

Bubby's has a decent snowball, but it's no Phil's Firehouse, also known as Fireman Phil's. When I told people I lived across the street from it, they knew right where my house was. My friend Jeff lived in New Orleans East, and HE knew where it was. What about that day we had a bunch of my coworkers over for a party, and Kevin and Keith and Alex showed up with extra large stuffed "ice cream" snowballs with condensed milk on top? While Bubby's carries that, and has updated and improved upon the facility, I have a harder time describing where my former house was. I just say "Fleur de Lis in Lakeview, a block from Harrison Ave" now.

Oddly enough, we have an iPod on random, and it's playing "The Saints Are Coming" by Green Day and U2. Eerie.

I hate driving past Plantation Coffee House every now and then. It's so sad and decrepit looking. I remember the last time I ate there, when mark had a tire changed at the tire place across the street. We ate lunch there after we picked up his car. It was such a lovely afternoon.

Thankfully, amongst the places that have returned are my father's service station in Lakeview and Tony Angelo's, also across the street from where I lived. My parents ate there recently, and they said it was as good as ever. But Dino's pizza, down the block, is gone. I found a flier that we'd grabbed when evacuating (we took all of our mail to pay bills) and was sad that I didn't get to redeem that coupon.

Most of the places, if not all, that I have listed are food-related. In fact, the grocery store next to my dad is gone. I often think to myself that I'll stop there while getting gas, and then remember that I actually have to go far away. But this city, allegedly built on jazz, was built on food. It is a symbol of family and friendship, two things we cherish deeply here. You gather over a meal for births, weddings, funerals...and every occasion in between. You bond over food. You talk about food. You worship food. At St. Patrick's Day parades, you catch cabbage and potatoes and carrots, and at St. Joseph's Day, you make an altar of food...tons of Mardi Gras, you gorge yourself silly before you abstain during Lent. You eat a turducken at Thanksgiving, go to a crawfish boil at Easter, and barbecue year-round. In the case of my parents, you even barbecue during a tropical storm. Hey...we had to eat! At a wake, you celebrate with food and wine, and there's always a trip to the Roman Candy cart when you go to the Zoo.

Houses of friends we knew and neighbors we knew are gone. Aunts and uncles, best friends and casual friends...many of us never could go home again.

But we're making new homes, by purchasing some, by rebuilding some, by renovating some. But it will never be the same. All of those things you bought when you got married, all of those gifts from long-dead relatives, the memories of childhood and teen years and college years and adulthood are gone, decomposing in a fetid pile somewhere. And there's nothing you can do about it. At times it hurts more than you think you can bear. At times you beat yourself up for feeling materialistic. At times you are numb and don't care. But we press forward, because we have to. We must.

To remember those people and places. To remember those things. To heal our lady, our love, our temptress, New Orleans.

I say 'Hey! What's going on?'

A new school year has fallen upon us, to the chagrin of the scholastic aged everywhere. Or, at least, those in the south. Which brings up an interesting question. Hold on while I wipe that bead of sweat rolling down my back.......ahhh. Oops. There's another. Ok.

Anyway, WHY THE HELL DO THEY MAKE US GO BACK TO SCHOOL IN EARLY AUGUST WHEN IT'S SO FRIGGIN'HOT HERE!?!?!?! There are a million and 12 days better to start school than August 14. I mean, really. I don't mind getting out in early June if it means we start in September. I had two window units, two ceiling fans, and a bottle of deodorant in my desk, but I sweat profusely. Part of this is because they're rewiring the school for better Internet capabilities. "Gee, what does that have to do with you sweating?" you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I am on the second floor. Heat rises, right? Well, it also tends to filter down through missing ceiling tiles from the attic of the school and into my cooler classroom. More specifically, right above my desk! Thank God last year's rodent problem was solved. Mmmm...Post-Katrina Mid-City New Orleans! God, if this had been last year... Ugh. I'm grossing myself out.

Other than that and the way they keep tinkering with our schedules, school is the best year yet. No evil bitch teaching partners. Nothing but helpful teaching partners who get involved as far as my eyes can see this year. People splitting journal-reading duties, no one treating my like I'm incompetent...I am teaching just as many classes, plus working on updating the school website, plus running a club by myself, plus having a homeroom this year...yet I'm so much more relaxed. I'm ENJOYING myself again. This is what it's supposed to be.

First, my homeroom is amazing. I love, love, love them. I had half of them last year as 7th graders for both reading and writing. This year, they are 8th graders. Got a bunch of cool new kids and the 6th graders who moved into 7th this year are awesome. Including a former camper from the Day School. Love her. Everyone agrees that my homeroom is the best. They enjoy having them. I think I may get back into baking at holidays. I did that my first year for my homeroom. Last year, I didn't care and was stressed too much to be bothered. This year, it's a whole new ballgame.

Also, they listened to me. Do you know how much it means to have a boss who listens to you and takes your suggestions to heart? It's so rare to find in today's world, where everyone is replaceable, and if you don't like the way it's run, you get a pink slip. But last year was rough. Let me backtrack to every year until last year:

Our student-teacher ratio is 18:1. Sometimes, after the storm, we've gone over that. We co-teach in many subjects, and the two teachers split the room into two groups and teach on opposite sides of the room for reading and math, (with a 9:1 ratio) while one does science and the other does social studies to the whole class. Their co-curriculars and religion classes are together, too. Writing would be half and half, but the ratio there is 9:2.

Then, last year, we departmentalized. We had two reading and two math teachers co-teaching in the same room at the same time the same subjects. In reading, this is hard. The reading teachers tend to be dynamic. If we were in different books, or different parts of the same book, even, it was very disrupting to hear a round of "HUZZAH" from the other side of the room. And for writing, it was two teachers, as usual, but 18:2. Not the 9:2 we'd had before. And it was impossible to keep up. I'll be the first to admit that our students were cheated. As you may recall, we teach children with learning differences. These differences could be ADHD, Dyslexia, OCD, Asperger's Syndrome, and a billion and one other things that hurt you in "regular" school, but keep you out of special ed. We're the bridge between. Our low ratios are paramount to the success of our program. And it wasn't working last year.

This year, we have two rooms available for reading. Two teachers, two rooms, 8 or so kids per group (since we aren't at capacity yet). It's peaceful, relaxing, and "noncompetitive." This year, we are still putting all of them in one class for writing, but a third teacher filters in. For two of those classes, we have an extra room available, so we can pull smaller groups out for individualized attention.

Again, it's a whole different atmosphere. I feel like the kids are going to get the attention they deserve this year, and that they will learn a lot more in the process.

I'm moderating media club again, so that's good. And, Sabrina, a fellow teacher, and I are going to coach the bowling team. It's our first year of sports! We finally have a senior class, after 3 years of steady growth and hurricane interruption. There's 7 of them, but by golly, we have a senior class!

The house is at a standstill of sorts. It is too hot to do anything else outside. Gardening will have to wait, as will painting the rest of the outside. Dad put mortar in the brick gaps and we painted the front, but we are afraid of heat stroke. It's slowly starting to cool off here, though. In the next few weeks, we can move back to the outside.

Inside, we just got a garbage disposal this weekend, and our dishwasher is being delivered Friday. I grew up with both of these luxuries, plus we had a dishwasher in our old house. I have had enough of plastic and paper goods, as well as dishpan hands. I won't use gloves. Sorry. Just a few more days.

Started up at UNO again last week. One class on Tuesdays this semester. They only offered one of my three available, remaining classes. Joy. Well, three plus the third "internship," followed by the capstone internship/student teaching semester. Maybe 2008? But this frustration over this formerly great university has halted my master's pursuit. I have given it up in favor of only my certification. Maybe someday, if they get their act together, I'll get that hood I covet so badly.

The anniversary of Katrina, number 2, is this Wednesday. I can't tell you that it weighs heavily on my mind. There isn't a day I don't think about it. There's still so much work to be done. Lakeview at night is great, simply because I can see how many places have lights on. Mid-City, where my school is, is largely back. Sometimes, I'll sit in the house and feel content, but then I remember what got me here. The other day, we were unpacking a box that was in our attic, and I found the most inane keepsakes from college. But did I throw them away? Hell no. They're all that remain of a former life. They're going nowhere, no matter how useless they seem.

When Dean was making a beeline for the Gulf, I had the worst sense of losing it all again. God...can I put up with that? I don't think so. I mean, this time, we're homeowners, so the insurance would be way better. And Mark refuses to stay again. So we'd get to load both cars. But two cars of stuff is ridiculous. I really questioned our decision to return. But then I realized that to leave would kill me slowly. I have to stay right now. I have to help revive my city. Call me crazy if you will, but can you truly dedicate yourself to any one place? There's something about her...something so seedy and sultry and splendid and swampy and steamy and tons of other things my lisp won't let me say. Call me crazy, but I love her.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hahaha my mom would hate this

Here's what my belief-net quiz told me. It's the religions I most closely associate with, according to my personal beliefs.

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Neo-Pagan (93%)
3. Liberal Quakers (90%)
4. Reform Judaism (90%)
5. Mahayana Buddhism (79%)
6. New Age (77%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (75%)
8. Theravada Buddhism (73%)
9. Sikhism (70%)
10. New Thought (66%)
11. Bahá'í Faith (64%)
12. Jainism (63%)
13. Orthodox Judaism (63%)
14. Hinduism (61%)
15. Scientology (61%)
16. Secular Humanism (59%)
17. Islam (56%)
18. Orthodox Quaker (46%)
19. Taoism (46%)
20. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (44%)
21. Nontheist (42%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (35%)
23. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (33%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (32%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (27%)
26. Roman Catholic (27%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (24%)