Saturday, September 04, 2010

Again, already.

This morning, I had to meet my mom at the Cat Hospital. My sweet baby Nala, who is 16 now, was going into kidney failure. Given her age, the only real option was to put her to sleep. For the second time in 6 weeks, I watched a cat who I loved die.

We got her because in my freshman year of high school, I caught chicken pox from my brother. I missed a week of school right before Christmas break. I am horrible at math, but fantastic at standardized tests. As a result, I was wrongfully placed in Algebra I Honors. I struggled enough as it was, and then missing a week right before exams did me in. My homeroom teacher was my algebra teacher. I asked her for help, and she said, in her thick, unattractive Alabama accent, "You're an honors student. You can figure it out."

This lead to me get further and further behind. The Klumpp refused to help me. As a result, I failed Algebra I and had to go to summer school. In summer school, I had a great teacher. I understood almost everything and made straight As and Bs. The next year was geometry, and I made Bs and Cs with an okay teacher. But when I got to Algebra II, I had another amazing teacher and never got below a B. Senior year I took an extra English instead of math, because I was only required to take three years of math.

Anyway, the idea of summer school was mortifying. Only stupid people went to summer school. I wasn't stupid. I was not going to go to Rummel to take math classes in the summer. No way. Boys school? No thanks. Math? No thanks. Stupid people? No way.

Well, I was now one of them. Stupid.

To get me through it, my parents promised me that I could have anything I wanted. Figuring I could call their bluff, I asked for the one thing that I wanted that I was never supposed to have: a cat.

To my surprise and extreme glee, they said okay. I had to wait until after passing summer school, then until we returned from our trip to visit my relatives in Philadelphia.

We went to the SPCA and were led into a room full of cats. Cats of every color, size, and age. We found scared cats, ugly cats, pretty cats, friendly cats, and one who climbed onto peoples' backs when they bent over to pet other cats. Suddenly, there was my mom with a little grey stripey cat with a white belly. She had a pink nose with a small black dot right above it, a lioness face, and had chosen my mom. As she said, "She chose us. I couldn't turn her away." We brought her home, had her spayed, treated her ear mites, and fell in love. On that first night, she found her way into my bed. I couldn't believe it. I had a cat, and she loved me.

1994 was the summer that "The Lion King" came out. While in Philadelphia, my little cousins Crissy and Steffi wanted to see it, and we went with them. When we got my little girl cat, the only name that seemed to fit her was "Nala." Like the lioness in the movie.

When I had half days at school, she was what got me through being home alone. She was a moody little thing who snubbed my dad, loved me, and loved my mom. In 1997, when I went off to college, it was so hard on me. I missed her so much. If I had a rough day at school, or work, I couldn't hug her. It was all I wanted.

She hated Mark. She would growl at him, hiss at him...and when I brought Lily home between graduation and marriage, she hated her, too. Lily just wanted to play. When Nala was angry at Mark, Lily was there for him. But Nala always loved me.

In April of 2002, we were married. I had made the difficult decision to leave Nala with my parents. It was the only home she'd ever known, she and Lily didn't really get along, and my mom had taken care of her while I was in college. They bonded. No way could I tear her from her only home and the woman she loved more than me. It was hard, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

She'd been slowing down over the years. Had arthritis. She was as cranky as ever, but she would still allow me to hold her and love her. She was a creature of habit, sitting with my mom while she washed her hair each morning, drinking the water dripping from the faucet when mom was done. Waking my mom up every morning, curling up in bed with her.

Last night, my parents noticed she was twitching a bit. This morning, she didn't come in to wake my mom up. She wasn't eating or drinking. Mom brought her to the vet and found out that she was in kidney failure. Her numbers were off the chart, one kidney was enlarged, the other shrunken. She wasn't going to last long. They could treat her, but at 16, it wouldn't really be fair to her.

I'll miss her. I already do.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cinq ans après Katrina

I would like to refer you to my journalistic idol, Chris Rose, once more. He's moved on from The Times Picayune and can be found at the site of my college internship, Gambit Weekly. This column is making the rounds right now, and it's great. Unfortunately, it's not an original concept, because, if you are from an area affected by Katrina, you play this game on an almost daily basis.

Some of the answers are great. Others are not so great. I will start with the down sides, then end on the positive notes.

What if Katrina never happened?

I would have been able to keep living with cheap rent on a decent house in Lakeview and could have put away a lot of money.

Mark would have never had to work the morning show.

Mark would have risen the ranks instead of losing, then regaining, his job at entry level. With few hours. Bad hours. Low pay. Loss of benefits.

I would have waited a while to buy the first Rav and would have saved a lot of car notes.

We would still have things from our childhoods that meant a lot to us.

I would have a sunnier demeanor, not one prone to dark phases. The ones that crop up this time of year are worse.

We would have had no need to replace all of our furniture.

We wouldn't have lived with my parents for two and a half years, which strained our relationship. A lot.

We might have kids.

My father wouldn't have had to rebuild his business and sit and wait on other people to become available to repair it.

My father wouldn't have been so depressed due to his loss of his whole world.

My friends wouldn't have lost their childhood homes in Lakeview.

We wouldn't have had to accept charity, Red Cross funds, and, in parents' case, unemployment.

Maybe my school wouldn't constantly be in danger of closing, and we would have our own campus.

It wouldn't have taken 4 years for me to get certified.

Our population wouldn't have dwindled.

Maybe I would have been able to complete my masters at a local university instead of spending time looking into online out-of-state universities.

Maybe my depression wouldn't have lead me to seek comfort in food, and I would still be super skinny.

Maybe things would be easier all-around.

But maybe I would still be stuck in 3/4 and never would have moved up to high school English.

Maybe I wouldn't be the drama person, or the bowling person, or the yearbook person.

I definitely wouldn't have met some of my friends... Sabrina, Jenn and Chris, Katie and Kurt...people who felt drawn to our city, to our cause, and fell in love.

Maybe the Saints wouldn't have their line-up....or their Lombardi...

Maybe we wouldn't have gotten this house.

I wouldn't be the camp assistant director.

I wouldn't have been able to pretend like I was on "What Not to Wear" and replace an entire wardrobe....and then again after gaining weight...wait...this sucks...

I wouldn't

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Went to Target tonight. Was in the market for some new "ball of foot" cushions from Dr. Scholls to stick in my school shoes (gotta rebuild those callouses after a summer of flip-flops and tennis shoes). In this particular Target, the foot care products are across the aisle from the condoms. Two young males (teens) were perusing the selection. One was on the phone with his mother asking her for money. I guess she was asking why he wanted it, and for what, because he kept saying, "I just need it."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What a long 6 months...

So I've finally got some time to sit and post. I return to school on Thursday (the kids arrive on the 11th), and camp ended on Friday. Not a full week off, but I will take what I can get. It's given me time to do this.

First: I've changed the look of the blog for the first time...well...ever.

Second: Here's a preview of topics for this post.

1. Super Bowl
2. Saints parade
3. Greece
4. Portland
5. Oil spill
6. Shazzy
7. Camp
8. St. Petersburg
9. Things that are good.

Super Bowl

My last post was written the day of the Super Bowl. Guess you know we won, right? I was downtown that night, high-fiving strangers (all while pushing aside my inner Howie Mandell), hugging strangers, drinking Dom with my mom, alternately giggling and crying, watching people dance to "Halftime" in the streets, yelling "Who Dat" like an idiot... amazing. I can't properly describe the energy in the city.

My friends and I were reminiscing about it last night, and we were talking about what a long three months of Thanksgiving, Christmas, title games, Super Bowl, victory parade, and Mardi Gras itself. Poor livers. Long, but so very upbeat, positive, and memorable.

Saints Parade

We got out of school early that day. A group of fellow teachers walked to the end of the Carrollton Streetcar line and rode it as far up Canal as we could. We stood out in the (for New Orleans) freezing cold with a minimum of 800,000 of our closest friends. The lines for the streetcar after the parade were ridiculous. We decided to start walking down Canal, because we figured the cars would start emptying out, and we could hop on further down the line. FAIL. We walked the whole way back to school. We stopped at a great pizza place on Canal near Carrollton, rested, re-energized, and made it the rest of the way. My friend Michelle stayed behind because her husband works downtown, and his car was there. Well, our looong walk got us home around the same time their car ride did. Unbelievable.


Lucky me got to go on the school trip as a chaperone. We went to Greece. I hate flying and thought I would never have a chance to go to Europe, and I was very anxious. But a few Benadryl later, and that trans-Atlantic flight wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

It was an amazing journey. The weather was perfect the whole 9 days. The food was delicious. Being in the presence of the ruins devoted to the mythological beings I've loved since I was about 7 years old was breathtaking, as was the countryside. Athens itself is pretty funky, but the other places we visited: Delphi, Olympia, Cape Sounion, and three islands: Aegina, Poros, and Hydra, were gorgeous. In Delphi and Epidaurus, I stood in ancient Greek theaters. Me, a theatre nerd and drama teacher. I was speechless, especially in Epidaurus, where the amphitheater has naturally perfect acoustics. We rode donkeys in Hydra, an island where donkeys are they only means of transportation. No vehicles are on the island. We ran a race in the original Olympic stadium. Words cannot do this trip justice. And now, I have a travel bug. I want to see so much more of the world. It's so big, and I am so small, comparatively.


I went to the Journalism Educators Association Convention about two weeks later. It was my first trip to Oregon, and I fell in love with the city. Public transportation in the form of the light rail is amazing and I realllllly wish we had that here. Or if the streetcars had more lines, that would also do. I learned a lot at the convention, but most importantly, I took a very difficult exam: the Certified Journalism Educator exam. And a few months later, I learned that I passed it and am one of 4 CJEs in the state of Louisiana.

Oil Spill

Over 100 days ago, my state was met with more problems when the Deepwater Horizon Well exploded and started leaking no...pouring... oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

I am so tired of people thinking that this is no big deal or that it won't affect them. Well, to you, those same people who complained when our children overcrowded your schools, our people invaded your towns, and our adults looked for work...guess what. Those areas where the oil, fishing, shrimping, crabbing, and oystering communities thrive...most of whom have known only these trades, who have done this for generations, who will lose their livelihoods, their ways of life, their homes...they will move out and invade your lives again. The jobs, the schools, the towns....all endangered. That seafood you eat? Where does it come from? Already, we had dinner at two seafood and po-boy restaurants where oysters were not available. The brown pelican, that beautiful, graceful bird which represents our state, was endangered. Recently, it came off that list. Guess what? This oil spill is sending it right back. Here's 100 days of tragedy, animated:


My sweet man, my Shazbot Schmoo, stopped eating and started hiding. Two Sundays ago, he could barely walk and wasn't interested in food. He let out a horrendous yowl and vomited bile all over the hallway. There was so much. I didn't know a cat could have that much vomit...especially when there was no food in his belly. Mark was not home, and I called him, scared. We went to an emergency vet center, and they kept him overnight. He was dangerously anemic, and he needed an emergency blood transfusion.

The next day, he regained interest in food, seemed livelier. We were supposed to pick him up that night, but they diagnosed him with feline leukemia, probably picked up in 2008 when he escaped while we were getting our dishwasher installed. It is a virus, and you can go two years after contracting it.

He was never sick a day in his life until that horrible weekend. He started having respiratory distress and they had to drain the area around his heart. He stopped eating. They kept him overnight. The next day, we picked him up, and immediately knew we didn't have much time with him. They thought maybe he would eat in familiar surroundings, but he didn't. Around midnight, we knew he was in too much pain, was unable to breathe well, and was refusing food, water, and medicine. He'd soiled a duffel bag he'd been laying on under the guest bed in Mark's office.

We brought him to the emergency place again, and the doctor agreed that there was only one way to end it. He was in my lap as it happened. I really can't write about it.

Shazzy was 6 years old when he died on July 22, 2010. I love you and miss you, my little man cat.


Spent my 15th year at camp. The success of it lies in Jessica, our fantastic returning camp director, who amazes me continually. Even more amazing? Next year will be the official marker of me having been there for half of my life. Zoinks. It was a good summer. We ended Friday, and I can't wait until next June.

St. Petersburg

I also spent a weekend in St. Pete (Florida, not Russia) at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. I earned a spot (one of 22 people in the country) in a workshop on bringing your high school media online. It was absolutely awesome, and I learned so much. I have a million and one ideas for the journalism class I teach, and I am very excited about implementing them. In addition, we had a mini-getaway. We saw the Dali Museum, which was fabulous, ate some good food, and enjoyed being away. We never get to take vacations together, and so this was great and long overdue.

Things that are good

Lily has stopped living in fear. She is playful, highly visible, and using the litter box for the first time in 6 years. This is so very bittersweet.

I am teaching things that I taught last year, all of which I enjoy.

I am looking forward to being with my "school friends" again. I've missed them the past two months.

I'm sure there's more stuff, but I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I'll try to update again faster than 6 months.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Who dat.

I hate professional sports of all kinds. I hate that they pay their players exorbitant amounts of money to play a game, when people with real jobs that matter in the world get nothing. I hate the endorsements, the pomp and circumstance, the inundation of every medium for 20 weeks, and the way that I don't exist to my husband when the season starts. And I really hate that it takes place in winter, because I hate winter.

But, as you may have gathered from reading this blog, I love my city. I love the colorful history, the culture, the people, the architecture, the food, the life experiences, the costumes, the pomp, the circumstance, the sultry steaminess, the Siren's call...sure, there are things I hate, but this post is not for that.

I love when my grand old lady of a city is positively highlighted on a national or global front. It doesn't happen often, due to all of those things I don't care for about my city. And so when there's something that can elevate our reputation, well, I adore it.

And so, I love the Saints.

It was hard growing up. Saints games meant I couldn't ask friends to come play, because my dad was hitting the floor and saying words 7-year-olds shouldn't hear. There were mornings when I'd be woken up to him blaring his Who Dat 45 and "dancing" around the house. During a Saints game with a particularly bad outcome, my pregnant mom and I were in a car accident. He was so frustrated, between the game and the accident, that he threw the telephone and broke it.

My father is not a violent man. I was spanked once in my whole life. And I deserved it. He's actually an incredibly generous, kind-hearted, slightly grumpy, amazing person. His quirks prevent people from seeing this, but there's a reason why he's Stan the Man: because he simply IS.

But his Saints were hard to love. It took forever for them to get a winning season. It took longer to get to a playoff game, then to win one. After Katrina, they had an abysmal season and looked like they were going to San Antonio. This did nothing for my feelings about Texas. Or Saints owner Tom Benson. Or football. SO many other people had abandoned our city. Citizens, retailers, restaurateurs, the feds.... And then a miracle happened. We got to keep them. And we got Fujita. Brees. Colston. Bush... Mark scored free tickets to every home game that they won that year. I was there for all of them. Including when he scored tickets to the home opener in the Superdome after Katrina. I bawled walking in there. It was one of the first times I'd been downtown since I was taken out in rising floodwaters from the building next door. I'd watched the roof peel back and fly away during Katrina. It was physically difficult to be there. I bawled when proceedings began. I bawled when Green Day performed "Wake Me Up When September Ends," a song I haven't been able to hear since it ran through my head as I locked my door for the last time as we vertically evacuated. I bawled hysterically as U2 joined them and performed "The Saints Are Coming," especially when my Irish musical idol Bono said my drowned neighborhood's name. I kept bawling through U2's performance of "A Beautiful Day," because it truly, truly was. The national anthem didn't dry my eyes, and the opening kickoff, with all of that crowd noise....I ran out of Kleenex. When Steve Gleason blocked, man. Amazing. Then they won. And kept winning. When they finally made it to the NFC championship game, it was a brief moment where you could forget what we'd just been going through.

But then Bears fans yelled things at our Who Dat Nation, threw batteries wrapped in snow at them, and held signs that said, "Let's finish what Katrina started." Classless. Chicago, we will not forgive that. You performed penance by beating the Minnesota Brett Favres and solidifying our 1st place status, but you are not through yet. Don't feel too pleased with yourselves.

And then they lost. But our fans turned out in droves to welcome you home at the airport. It didn't really matter. Well, that's not entirely true.

We saw players come and go over the next few seasons, saw some hope, but lots of injuries. And then came this season. 13-0. A franchise first. Most wins ever, longest winning streak, black and gold fever. A pathetic home field loss to the Cowboys (DAMN YOU, TEXAS!!!!!!!!) followed by a heartbreaking home loss (at which I was a first home game losing experience since the Saints were blown away by the Colts at my first ever game in the earlier part of this century), and a game where we phoned it in because everything was locked up. Mauling the Cardinals, sending Kurt Warner to retirement. Beating the Vikings and seeing Favre on the ground over and over again, possibly sending him to his 44th retirement. And now, the Super Bowl. For the first time ever.

I have never watched a Super Bowl before. But that's because I hate football and it has never mattered to New Orleans before. And we'd be saying "Katrina who?" right now if the media would let us forget her, and if Colts fans would stop making Photoshopped pictures of Katrina satellite footage with horseshoes superimposed on them. Hey, we may make fun of how lame Indiana might be, but at least we aren't mocking something were thousands died, millions were displaced, a city was destroyed, and people lost everything they owned. You're about as classy as Chicago, and your quarterback is a normally beloved son. Not today. His high school alma mater even has decided to cheer against him. Today is the first day this city will cheer against a Manning in a Super Bowl. Sorry, Archie, Olivia, Cooper, Peyton, and Eli. We'll go back to loving you after tonight. If we lose, it may take a few days, but give it time. If we win, we'll love you instantly again.

But today, I am watching. I am excited. My mom is making drunken brisket, potato salad, and brownies from Thomas Morestead's mother's recipe. We're busting open the Dom Perignon her boss gave her at Christmas, win or lose. We're going out to the French Quarter, win or lose, to celebrate after the game. If it's possible, I'd like to be at the airport, win or lose, to greet them.

Schools and businesses are closing Monday. We had a black and gold day Friday at school. You could pay $2 for Haiti relief and wear clothes to support the Saints. The day ended with the seniors getting permission to play our unofficial state anthem, the Ying Yang Twins' "Halftime" over the intercom, then a few seniors second-lining down the hallway with decorated umbrellas, while chanting WHO DAT! All with the administration's blessing. I ended all of my classes on Friday with, "Ok, you're dismissed. Have a good day, a great weekend, stay safe, and enjoy the Super Bowl, the parades, and Monday. Geaux Saints, WHO DAT!" It was always answered by raucous cheering. We broke out black and gold pom poms from storage at school, from back when Reggie Bush used to support us financially and would visit. I have a ton in the back of my car, ready to hand out in the Quarter and to share with my parents tonight.

Years ago, local broadcast legend Buddy D. promised to wear a dress if the Saints ever made it to the Super Bowl. He died a few years ago and missed it. His successor, former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, carried out Buddy's promise, and thousands of men joined in the Buddy and Bobby's Brawds drag parade last weekend. This came on the heels of the whole state getting up in arms over a faulty claim by the NFL that they owned a public domain statement and the fleur de lis. That public domain statement? "Who dat?" Everyone came together in support, the NFL retracted their claims with watery excuses, and the Who Dat Nation triumphed.

Win or lose, there is a parade on Tuesday night for them. It's Carnival anyway, and many krewes have Saints themed floats. They're all donating their Saints floats to the cause. It's downtown, and a bunch of faculty members are leaving our cars at school, taking the streetcar downtown, and enjoying the evening together.

We can't wait.

And it's all because of how much we love our city.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

An open letter to Brett Favre

Dear Brett Favre,

I have hated you since I first heard your name. "Farve." But you don't pronounce it the way it should be pronounced, as documented on "There's Something About Mary." Should be "Fahv," just like the bishop -- Bishop Fabre (Fahb).

I have nothing personal against you for being 40 and playing football still. What I have against you being 40 and still playing is your random forays into retirement. What do you think this is, a real-life version of Ben Folds' "Steven's Last Night in Town?" No one finds that funny. Listen to his lyrics. Retire or play.

You do ads for Wrangler jeans. While there is a funny spoof online of Wrangler's Really Short Jean Shorts that I find hilarious, I have to say your commercials are the lamest. No one plays football in the deep South in jeans during the summer unless he wants heatstroke. You want heatstroke, old man? Go ahead. Be my guest.

And that stubble. Jesus, what's with that stubble? Greying, kinda sparse, always at one particular length....either grow a beard or shave. That's not attractive. You look like you should be in an old Vaudeville act with face paint, patched pants, and a seltzer bottle.

You can't help being from Mississippi any more than I can help being from New Orleans, but Mississippi is 2nd place on my list of states I hate to visit. Texas is first.

You played for Green Bay, which, while I LOVE their cheeseheads, I must say has one of the ugliest team color combos, second only to Denver's Blue and Orange.

For some reason, the Sports media blows off my awesome Drew Brees in favor of riding your jock 24 hours a day. Your team was losing games, the Saints were undefeated, and STILL they called you better than Drew.

And now...your Vikings (I'm sorry, the Minnesota Favres) are coming to OUR house to play OUR boys in the NFC Championship Game. That makes you the enemy, even if you do secretly love the Saints.

But all of those things could, in theory, be forgivable. But go and do this.

And for this, I cannot forgive you. That is not a funny moment in pop culture. Mildly amusing, but not funny. You're too old for American Idol, just like this guy was. We are done. If you ever thought you could make me like you (Especially if, say, you lose to my Saints next week and send them to Miami), you missed your chance. My list of grievances is too long.

Wait...maybe that parenthetical situation COULD be enough to make me move from intense hatred to strong dislike.....