"Bring in three of your strongest nurses."

That was what my pediatrician said whenever I came to his office as a child and needed to get shots. I discovered today that our five year old son has inherited my fear of needles. It took two of us to hold him down and another to give him the needles. He screamed and cried and I cried watching him cry.

We all went for a treat afterward. Mommy needed a treat as much as the kids. Our daughter was a little less dramatic about the whole thing in spite of being in tears in the car on the way to the doctor’s office worried about what might happen.

The day has passed and the mood has lifted.

Phew… I’m glad yesterday is over. I didn’t expect to be hit with the wave of emotions that seemed to plague me throughout the day. Fortunately, today is a new day.

I watched Oprah yesterday and she did her entire show on Hurricane Katrina Two Years Later. It was interesting, but as usual, only scratched the surface of the challenges. Anderson Cooper was on and said something quite thought provoking. He said something along the lines of – “If you have a disaster in your town, city or area, expect to face the same challenges as people in New Orleans are facing and to be treated the same way.”. I thought about that and wonder why Mississippi seems to be doing so well with their recovery efforts and why Louisiana – New Orleans in particular – is still struggling so much. Why have only 60% of people moved back to New Orleans while towns along the MS coast have 90% of their population back? Is it recovery, or is it because the people in MS had a better situation to begin with. I don’t know the answer, it just seems curious to me.

One comment Oprah made was that Anderson Cooper should be recognized for his efforts in keeping the story alive. He has done a good job – but so has Brian Williams and NBC news. CBS and ABC will cover it when there is something to cover, but NBC has been fairly consistent in doing pieces on New Orleans as well as running ‘The long road back’ pieces for so long in spite of people from around the country sending correspondence saying they didn’t want to see it anymore.

I thought about the people in Kansas who had their town wiped out earlier this year, and the flooding in the midwest. What struck me was the lack of ‘Well, maybe we shouldn’t rebuild’ talk that surrounded those disasters. Kansas lies in tornado alley and will most certainly get a tornado again, and much of the midwest lies in a flood plain. Why don’t people suggest that people get up and move elsewhere like they did when the Gulf Coast and New Orleans flooded? Perhaps, now, many are walking a mile in shoes similar to those worn by those in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast two years ago yesterday.

'Happy' Anniversary?

Two years ago today, Hurricane Katrina pounded its way across the Gulf Coast. We lived in New Orleans at the time, but had evacuated early Sunday morning. It was an event that changed many lives forever. Many died, innumerable people lost their homes, their livelihood and everything they owned. It was a sad, sad time.

Today is a sad, sad day for me. I suppose the recollection of where we were this time two years ago is hitting harder than I thought. Our family evacuated to Austin where the Staybridge Inn in Northwest Austin became our temporary home. We watched the news almost all day and thought that everything was going to be okay based on early reports. Little did we know that would change dramatically early Tuesday morning when the news of the flooding of New Orleans hit the wires.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had finally managed to fall asleep – exhausted from the emotions of the day and the stress that had overwhelmed me that day. Gibbons came in around 2 in the morning and woke me to tell me that the streets of New Orleans were flooding. The levees had been breached and there were whitecaps being reported on Tulane Avenue. My heart sank. In an instant, everything changed and we were swept into the vast world of the unknown. We had no idea whether our house was flooding, we had no idea whether everything we had left behind (that which we weren’t able to pack in the back of the car) would be gone. It was clear that we wouldn’t be heading home anytime soon.

We were extremely fortunate and had been blessed. Our decision to purchase our home that sat along the Metairie Ridge had saved us from the terrible flooding. The fact that our house was a few feet off the ground on piers was also a saving grace. We suffered absolutely no damage. Our house was even spared by looters (though I suspect that was a result of the National Guard troops setting up a command post on the bridge about 1/4 mile from our house).

Other than about 6 weeks in a very nice rented apartment in Austin, Katrina turned out to be a minor blip on the radar for us. Not so for our family in New Orleans. The damage ranged from some minor roof damage to one sibling losing their house entirely and everything in it. Two years later, everyone has pretty much settled except for my in-laws who are hoping to move back into their home shortly.

Hurricane Katrina changed our lives in its driving force for us to leave New Orleans. We did go back after Hurricane Katrina and tried our best to be part of the recovery efforts. After about 6-7 months of watching the city try very hard to recovery, we also saw a great deal of stagnation in many areas. We watched a handful of parents start numerous Charter Schools in order to jump start the education system while the local and state governments showed little to no progress in their attempts to reopen public schools. Those in charge of the recovery efforts for schools warned of the proliferation of charter schools. Sixteen months later, the Committee tasked with rebuilding the education system was still looking to hold town hall meetings to ask what was wrong with the education system and how it needed to be fixed.

The Committee tasked with looking at the Levee failures and what needed to be done wrote an extensive report that was presented to the Mayor. In spite of the Mayor selecting those on the Committee and establishing the Committee, he didn’t implement even one of their recommendations.

Then there was the Mayor. Here was a man who stalled and used a fear of being sued as a reason for not calling a mandatory evacuation, a man who moved to a hotel near City Hall in order to be safe during the storm (while most of the staff required to stay for storms like these rode out the storm at City Hall), a man who sat in his hotel room IMMEDIATELY next door to the Superdome – 23 floors up – and even Governor Blanco (no prize herself) managed to get to the Superdome to try and reassure the people there that help was on its way. She had a significantly longer trip than Nagin given that she was in Baton Rouge. Nagin was showing some pretty strong similarities between himself and Colonel Kurtz from ‘Apocalypse Now’ having people climb 23 flights of stairs to come and meet with him since power was out in the hotel. Somehow, in spite of 6 months of complaining about Nagin, he was re-elected. In yet another act of blatant irresponsiblity, Nagin – only a year into his second term as Mayor – is building up the coffers to run for a more prominent political office (which has yet to be stated). If I still lived there, I’d be knocking on his door reminding him that he was voted in as a leader to work toward resolving the issues of the city during a time of crisis, not further his own political career.

We felt frustrated and inable to participate in an effort to help implement change for the better. We felt depressed and stressed and anxious while driving through the city and seeing the waterlines on the homes day after day. We made the choice to leave. We miss our friends and family, and we miss many aspects of our life in New Orleans.

Its been just over a year since moving out of New Orleans and its been a good year. We love our house, our kids are in a wonderful public school, we have a wonderful parish, and have made many new and wonderful friends.

Is it all good – for the most part, yes. If I could just shake this nagging fear and anxiety I’ve had about leaving my kids anywhere since the storm, it would be a lot better. On days like today where the emotions are a little raw, its more difficult than others. Hopefully that will improve with time. I have seen it already, but it still comes and goes.

Mother Theresa – What is faith?

There is a new controversy as letters regarding Mother Theresa’s ‘dark times’ of questioning and belief are being revealed. Time Magazine produced an article on the book of letters.

The interesting thing about this revelation is the intrepretation that seems to be based on beliefs. Christopher Hitchens, an atheist, suggests that ‘See, even Mother Theresa wasn’t so sure.’. This is a great oversimplification. The article goes on to further suggest that she wanted to say she questioned – but she ‘couldn’t’. Oddly, an analogy was made to people in the Soviet Union knowing it wasn’t working but not being able to say so. The idea that one can draw comparisons between belief in a higher power and belief in a political state is absurd. If the people in the Soviet Union said it wasn’t working, they were killed. Mother Theresa, on the other hand – if she truly didn’t believe – she would have walked away from being a nun and might have, as the Primitive Radio Gods suggested, been ‘working for the mob and happy with her fulltime job’.

Rather, I would argue that Mother Theresa displays an extreme act of faith by continuing to live and act in a manner worthy of her deserved beatification – all the while wondering and questioning. I haven’t met a spiritual person who hasn’t wondered and questioned. Sometimes questioning happens during dark times in one’s life, and sometimes it takes place even while the blessings flow endlessly (though, admittedly, perhaps a little less so then).

In the past few years, with my own spiritual journey drawing me toward converting to Catholicism, I have found myself questioning. I question a lot of things. It seems odd, but I believe in the idea of transubstantiation – but I do watch the eucharist being prepared at mass and wonder, quite simply, ‘how’? Just because I wonder, doesn’t mean I don’t believe. But, as a mortal human, I want to understand the ‘how’. Isn’t faith defined as belief without reason?

What will be interesting to see is how Catholics and others who believe in God interpret what has been revealed about Mother Theresa. My suspicion is that their attitude will be along the lines of, ‘who hasn’t wondered?’. Those who aren’t believers or followers of any type of spirituality will more likely make an issue out of it to try and attempt to use it as evidence for the lack of existence of God.

Believe or don’t believe what you will. I am a firm believer in respecting others for their beliefs as you would have them respect you for yours. Does it matter to me that Mother Theresa questioned and wondered and felt disconnected from God and Jesus during her life? No. I respect her even more for her continued commitment and her continued work in His name all the while feeling somewhat disconnect from her own spiritual journey. To me, that is faith and worthy of sainthood.

The lady at the horse race and her daughter.

Some time ago, I was driving along with my 4 year old son. We passed a flat-bed truck on which there was a Jeep that had obviously been in accident. I asked my son where it was going to which he promptly replied, “The Children’s Museum.”

He then went on to ask me about the lady who was at the horse race. I was a little puzzled at first, but then he said ‘She’s in charge of that place’. I realized that he was referring to Queen Elizabeth II and the Kentucky Derby. He and I had watched it together and he really enjoyed seeing the Queen.

At this point, I was unclear on where the conversation was going until he said, ‘Its like the car that her daughter died in.’.

Absolutely blew me away.

Sweetwood is sweet wood.

My brother is an artist. He’s always been very creative and has enjoyed doodling and generally being visually creative. In the past few years, after being a car salesman, selling heavy construction and farm equipment, owing and operating an outdoor clothing and supplies store, he has returned to his gift. He’s a wonderful father to three beautiful children and is a great husband to a fantastic and outgoing wife.

Sweetwood Creations, Inc. is his baby these days. It all started with a mask. He started carving a mask and getting into wood carving as a hobby. The creations grew and grew until they began to take on mammoth proportions carving entire trees and dining tables made of solid blocks of wood.

Perhaps I’m a little bit swayed because he is my brother, but his work is beautiful and displays a true talent and gift.

Rock on brother!

"Buy more stuff!"

Today we received a promotional piece in the mail for a popular home store telling us that ‘bronze is the new stainless’. Apparently, society is now supposed to trash their expensive stainless pieces of anything and purchase everything anew in bronze.

The sad part of it is that we fall for the changes in style and trends in spite of the fact that we are well aware that we are being completely played as consumers.

If fashion trends were never ‘set’ – and make no mistake about it – they are ‘set’ by the fashion industry that needs to keep itself in business, would we have any need for new clothes? How often do we purge and trash items just because they look so passe.

Apparently this has become quite commonplace in expensive big ticket (and even medium ticket items for your home. Boy, are we dumb.

A return to written word.

With the controversy, confusion and emotional rollercoaster this past weekend as a result of blogs, comments and public versus private comments it occurred to me that we have spent a lot of time concerned about the loss of the value of the written word which may not actually be the case. With the advent of the television and then the addition of enough cable channels that it can take as long as an hour long television show to surf through all the channels to determine what you’d like to watch people seemed to be spending less time reading and writing (well, except if you counting writing for one of the millions of television shows out there, but then reality television took away from that didn’t it!).

I heard a piece on NPR this morning as I drove home from my run about a guy who wrote a book about the typewriter. Since my drive was only about 7 minutes, I didn’t get to hear the entire piece. The gist of it was that he was commenting on the fact that how we write and what tools we use can affect that which is written.

Blogging means that anyone can now write and be ‘published’ in a manner of speaking. The fact that we can remain nameless and often faceless on the internet perhaps affects what we are willing to say. We may be more willing to write more freely, or perhaps – considering that anyone can read what we have written and can search for it quite easily given the power of the search engines available to internet users – quite cautiously.

What I like about the idea of blogging is that people can share thoughts, ideas, considerations virtually instantly and to anyone with internet access. Combine that with the ease of sending written correspondence to someone via email, and perhaps we are actually returning to a resurgance of the written word.