Sunday, August 30, 2009

The City That Care Forgot

When and if I ever write a book about New Orleans, this is what I'm going to call it. As apt a title as I think this would be, I can't take the credit for coming up with it myself as its actually one of the dozens of nicknames New Orleans has earned for itself over its long and checkered life. Though probably not as well known as "N'awlins," "The Crescent City," or the ever-popular "Big Easy," I would argue that The City That Care Forgot is one of the more insightful names it is known by, and one of its most telling.

I looked up the history of the phrase and the best anyone can figure, this nickname came about sometime in the 1930s when it was used in a New Orleans City Guide to convey a spirit of light heartedness and relatively lax rules and regulations. It was an attempt to appeal to big businesses as well as private citizens to relocate here, by portraying a laid-back, generally carefree approach to life and business.

This is not exactly the connotation I would be going for if I were to ever use this as a title for a book. In fact, I have come to interpret the phrase in an entirely different manner altogether. In my short time here I've come to liken New Orleans is something of a beautiful reminds me of the hero in a tragic love story. There's so much good to be had here--the culture, the history, the charm and certainly the food. But for all of it's wonder and appeal, there are overwhelming amounts of crime and poverty and despair. There is such a marked difference between the "haves" and the "have nots" in this city. More so than I've seen any place else I've ever been, including rural Appalachia.

I think this fact, this colossal discepency, is what makes New Orlean's downfalls so hard to accept. This is a city and a culture where indulgences and extremes are not only tolerated but encouraged. There is an absolute gluttony for food and drink and entertainment here that it is virtually unmatched, but to me makes it so much harder to accept that just a block away there is likely someone who is homeless and starving to death. The copious amount of things that people waste here, while their neighbors have so little is somewhat sickening.

This weekend marked the anniversary of Katrina and in the past few years there have been constant speculations and accusations that more could have been done to help the city and its residents during that disaster. I wasn't here then, so I can't really comment on the validity of these things. The other day though, I wondered into this little bookshop over the in the Garden District, which had a whole wall devoted to books about this city, written by people from this city. One in particular caught my attention as I flipped through it. it was a photo documentary of the days and weeks after Katrina and the majority of the photos were taken by a man who is not from here, but arrived the day after the storm in order to begin capturing everything on film. His photos were devastating to say the least, some of them so graphic I could barely stand to look at them. There were pictures of the structural damage certainly, but there were also pictures of the victims; both dead and alive. As I continued going thumbing through the book out of gross fascination, the caption of one picture caught my attention. It was an arial shot taken, I assume, by someone standing on a piece of furniture in a living room in a house in the Lower 9th Ward. An old, old lady sat in the room below, in a torn and dirty rocking chair that appeared to be the only piece of furniture left in the house. Her living room floor was covered with garbage, debris, and dirty water, and the four walls that should have been surrounding her were gone. The look on her face was one of utter despair. In the caption, the photographer described how he happened upon this family who was guarding the dead body of one of its members. When he offered to stop photographing out of respect, they actually begged him not to. "Thank goodness you're here," they told him. "If not for you taking pictures for the rest of the world to see, no one would know or care about what has happened to us at all."

I can't find the exact picture I saw in that book but this one is similar. You get the idea.

Whether there's any truth to this belief or not I can't yet say but regardless, my impression is that many of the citizens of New Orleans have long since quit believing that the rest of the country, if not the world as a whole, cares about them at all. The City That Care Forgot. They feel as though they've been abandoned by their government and their fellow citizens in their hour of need, left alone to fend for themselves.

I don't know whether it is this sense of rejection by the rest of the country, or whether its just that the laissez-faire attitude of the city has been allowed to permeate every aspect pf people's lives, but sometimes I get the feeling that some of the people of New Orleans have given up caring about themselves. even parts of the city not touched by Katrina have been allowed to fall into a sad state of disrepair. Multi-million dollar mansions in the Garden District are slowing being covered in mildew and moss, their yards and landscaping having been neglected so long that its starting to obscure the house. The roads and sidewalks here, even in the wealthiest neighborhoods, are riddled with potholes and in some places, are missing altogether. Many of the public schools are in such a sad state of disrepair that I'm amazed they're allowed to remain open. Even the public cemeteries that the city is so well known for look abandoned and unkept.

Of course, as with most things, there are exceptions. There are parts of the city that have been fully restored and are in better shape than they've ever been. There are places here that are so full of life and excitement that it can barely be contained. There are people here so wildly passionate about this broken city that is their home that after talking to them you can't help but fall in love with New Orleans just a little bit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Embarassing!

Those of you who know me and know anything about my medical history are going to start rolling your eyes when you read this. That's ok. Truth be told, I'm kinda rolling my eyes at myself right now too. I did something incredibly embarrassing today but the sad part is that it's something that no one who knows me is at all surprised about. Somehow I think that makes it even worse.

I passed out. And not just once mind you, oh no, no, no. Cause where's the fun in that? No, I managed to pass out twice--in a span of about sixty seconds--during the blood drawing part of the physical I had to get done today. As part of the preparation to begin my new job I had to go in this morning and fill out lots of paperwork, take a drug test and get this physical done. I have quite possibly the world's weakest stomach when it comes to anything anatomical. I'm a complete wimp! I don't even have to see blood to get woozy either, that's what's so sad about all this. Just talking about it, or hearing someone else say anything about blood or guts or bones or nerves and I start getting a little light headed. I've been this way my whole life and I've taken no small amount of flak for it over the years. I'm that kid who passed out in the high school Anatomy class while watching a surgery. I'm the one who passed out trying to give blood so many times that out of respect for the poor nurses working the blood drives I just quit going. I'm sure they got tired of picking me up off the floor every time I went. I'm the one who, in second grade when my mom came to talk to the class about very basic health and wellness techniques, had to leave the presentation when she started talking about how the bones and muscles in the body work together.

Here's what happened today. The physical began innocently enough with a lot of paperwork and with the nurse recording my medical history. Then we moved on to the shot portion of the exam. The hospital requires all employees to get a flu shot, and she suggested a tetanus booster for me as well, so I just got pumped full of all kinds of good stuff. At this point I was still perfectly fine; shots don't bother me at all. Then (dum dum dum) she told me she had to draw blood...

I told myself as she was sterilizing my arm and looking for a vein that this time was going to be different. "You can do this," I told myself. "It's just three little vials--you're 23 years old for goodness sake. Suck it up!" She tied the blue rubber band around my arm, tapper my inner elbow a couple times and we were off to the races. I made a deliberate effort NOT to look at my arm when she was inserting the needle, or when the blood started to flow down that little plastic tube into the vials. It sounds so simple but I'm telling you, it doesn't take much more than that to get to me. I watched out of the corner of my eye as she removed the second vial and inserted the third...and the next thing I know I'm laying on the floor. Usually in times like this I can feel myself starting to get light-headed and I can lay down or at least put my head down and fight it off. This one came out of nowhere though! I didn't see it coming at all.

The nurse told me later that she had seen me start to sway in my chair so she had immediately taken the needle out of my arm and grabbed me in a bear hug to keep me from face planting on the tile floor. As I came around she pressed a band-aid onto my arm, and yelled for another nurse to come into the exam room to help her. Together they got me situated back up in my chair and the first nurse brought me a cold cloth for my face. Now at this point you'd have thought the worst would be over; the needle has been put away and I've even got a band aid on for crying out loud! But no. No sooner did the nurse turn her back to wash her hands than I wake up on the floor again. This time I managed to knock over a cup of water on her desk in the process.

I'm sure by then these poor nurses were getting pretty darn fed up with me, and I don't blame them a bit. I mean really, who passes out twice like that? They were super sweet though, and took really good care of me while I "recovered." They took me next door to lay down on a bed (which also happened to be where a nursing class was going on so thirty or so students got to see what a wimp I am--bet they got a kick out of that) and they brought me a can of Sprite and made me drink the whole thing, and eat a scone as well, before they let me get back up. They kept trying to blame the passing out on my not eating breakfast this morning but I assured them, this had nothing to do with low blood sugar and everything to do with my inability to stomach the mere thought of blood, period.

I've been analyzing this a lot over the years and i think I've narrowed the problem down not to the blood itself per se, because today I didn't even see any blood, but to the feeling of having that tourniquet on my arm cutting the circulation off to my hand and fingers. It makes me nauseous just thinking about that, even now. Yes I'm a wimp. And yes, I realize this is ridiculous of me. I'm sorry!!! I can't help it! It's not like I'm passing out on purpose you know. I can think of better ways to spend my morning than laying on the floor in a tiny little exam room down at the hospital. Plus I feel horrible about making those poor nurses' jobs that much harder this morning.

The one good thing about this though, is that with the exception of my propensity to pass out at inconvenient times, I'm otherwise as healthy as a horse. So there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


You know, this blog is really a very strange, borderline uncomfortable medium of communication the more I think about it. I've come to decide that I have very mixed feelings about the whole idea of blogging. On the one hand, there is a certain therapeutic value derived from putting every thought and feeling into writing and then laying it out there for the world to read. I think anytime you communicate in a form other than a face-to-face conversation with someone there is a certain amount of anonymity that you feel (real or imagined), which makes it easier to express your true feelings. This is the case for me anyway.

On the other hand though, its not always easy to write when you have no idea who your audience is...or for that matter, whether you've even got an audience at all. When I wrote papers in school I learned to write what my professors expected to read more than what I actually felt I should write about any particular assignment. When I write for the newspaper I'm writing for the community of people back home I've known my whole life and who all know me. But when I sit down and go to work on this blog, I'm writing for anyone and everyone out there in Internet Land who is either bored enough to spend their time reading my blog, or who actually cares that my floors grow dirt and that I'm afraid I might blow away in a hurricane. I have no idea who or what this demographic may include.

Maybe I've got this huge, awesome, very loyal following who wait with baited breath for my next posting (unlikely), or maybe it's just a few close friends and family members who have an interest in knowing that I'm still alive and well down here in NOLA (much more plausible). Either way, since I don't know for sure I find it sometimes difficult to be completely frank about things I'm thinking and feeling at the risk of accidentally offending someone I don't even realize is reading. I think this self-censorship is both good and bad. On the bright side, I'm less likely to say something that will be taken out of context or misunderstood or in some other way come back to bite me later on down the road because I'm trying to be super careful now about what I say and how I say it. The downside though, is that I've come to pride myself on my candid writing style; on the fact that I am willing to speak frankly and honestly about my opinions, whether they're popular or not, and I feel like in trying to not offend anyone I may start to lose that a little bit.

So...yes. Certainly something of a dilemma.

In unrelated news, I go in tomorrow to fill out the paperwork and get a physical so that I can start my new job! Orientation is September 1 and I'm just terribly excited. I'm also nervous, but the excitement is the bigger emotion in the Nervous to Excited ratio so I think that's a good sign.

Zack started law school yesterday and so far, so good! He's already had lots of reading assignments but he has handled them really well and I've actually been pleasantly surprised at how quickly he's able to get through them. He's very lucky because he had a number of Political Science classes in undergrad where he had to read and brief court cases, so he already sort of knew how to do that. He says he still has to stop to look up every other word in his Law Dictionary, but they say that one of the hardest parts about the first year is just learning how to read a case effectively and since he's got that down cold, he's able to move pretty quickly. I knew he'd do really well at this whole law school game though, so I can't say I'm surprised. Get this though; when we went for our evening walk last night, I don't know how we got on the topic but he confessed that he thinks I am actually going to want to go to law school in a few years. If there is in fact anyone out there reading this, I'd love to get your opinion on that. It certainly came as a shock to me that he thinks this way. I mean, I thought about law school off and on during my college years but never with any real serious consideration and I've definitely never heard Zack voice this opinion before. So, I dunno. It definitely won't happen anytime soon--one of us has to have a job so we can pay the bills, but I guess it's an option worth thinking about down the road.

Well, how's that for a rambling, convoluted posting? I have to go play wife now and cook dinner before it gets too late.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Now for the other reason that the past few days have been so fun-filled and busy that I haven't had time to write...Leah and Jordan came to visit!!!

They flew in last Wednesday and stayed through the weekend and it was GREAT! Zack was busy with orientation during the day but I got to hang out with them and show them all over the city and then of course in the evenings, he was home and got to go play with us too. We did a little of everything while they were here but probably the activity that consumed the majority of our time was eating. Seriously. I'm estimating that we consumed an average of six thousand calories a day while they were here...and it was glorious. You just can't come to New Orleans and NOT eat I've decided, because this town is absolutely food crazy. We made sure that they got the chance to try as many of the "classics" as possible. We started out with Po' boys, then worked our way up to bar-b-q shrimp at Pascal's Manale and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. (And yes, I had to look up the spelling of beignets). We took them to get SnoBalls at the Snow Wizard and we had boiled crabs (it is crab season after all) at Deanie's. On Thursday night we ventured into the 9th Ward to eat at The Joint, which was not surprisingly this tiny, dirty, hole-in-the-wall cinder block building down by the river. It was also where we had some of the best bar-b-q I've ever eaten in my whole life. Zack learned about this place last week during his volunteer project and he insisted that we had to go back and try their ribs. For those of you who are fans of the Food Network, this place was apparently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives a while back and let me tell you, not only did it exceed my expectations, it blew them right out of the water. This place was incredible. We may or may not have been in grave danger while we were there but since we all came out of this experience alive, if not a few pounds heavier, I'd say it was definitely worth the risk.

Believe it or not, we did manage to squeeze in a few non-food-related adventures in during their visit too. The thing about having Leah here is that she's my best shopping buddy in the world. You better believe we spent some time getting acquainted with the shops on Magazine Street! And while you might think that Jordan would get sick of traipsing along behind us while we shopped, you'd be wrong. Ok, maybe he got a little bored with it but what can I say? He's a trooper! I took them via streetcar down to the French Quarter and we spent a good deal of time just driving around the Garden District looking at all of the big old houses.
Probably the best thing we did though, and by best I mean most awesome, was the swamp tour we took on Saturday. Zack was able to go with us since orientation was finished at that point, so we all got to experience the awesomeness that is the Louisiana bayou. Did we see any alligators you ask? Why, yes we did!
We saw a bunch of them actually. And these guys weren't the least bit shy either...they swam right up to the boat and a couple of them almost acted as if they wanted to climb aboard with us. The fact that our tour guide was baiting them with hot dogs and marshmallows probably had a little bit to do with their interest in our group but considering the fact that alligators can apparently jump vertically out of the water the length of their body, there was truly some amount of risk in having them get so close. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of large, man-eating reptiles, but I've got to admit, seeing those things up close was pretty sweet.

Riverboat houses we saw during our swamp tour.

A big old alligator!

The only unhappy part of their whole visit came early Sunday morning when I had to take Leah and Jordan to the airport to catch their flight back home to Kentucky. I've missed them like crazy since we moved down here, and having them get to come for a visit only made me realize all over again just how much that is. Having lived with Leah essentially my whole life, its so weird not having her around all the time anymore. We text like 100 times a day which is great, but still not quite as good as seeing each other in person. Luckily, it rained a good deal while they were here (yeah I know, shocking huh?) so there were several things such as visiting the zoo that they didn't get to do. And we barely even made a dent in the surface of the culinary side of New Orleans. Guess they'll just have to come back for another visit soon!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Spouse of a 1L

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost a week since I've written. I apologize. The past few days have actually been really busy and fun-filled so I just haven't had a chance to sit down at the computer long enough to tell you all about it until now.

Zack's Law School orientation began last week. It lasted THREE WHOLE DAYS! I have no idea what in the world they did to fill up that much time, but I should say that at this point he and his fellow classmates have got to be some of the most oriented people out there. The culminating event (at least for Zack) was the 'Couple's Session' which took place Friday afternoon and which I got to attend with him. Essentially we spent an hour and a half listening to a panel of current students who are also either married or in a committed relationship, describe for us what to expect during this first year. They talked about the time commitment our partner will have to make to succeed. They talked about the workload and the stress they will endure for the next three years. They talked about handling household chores, how much free time to expect, and how to handle being kinda poor and massively in debt.

While I am very glad I went with Zack, I can't say that I found this particular info session to be especially informative. It was good, but it was also a lot of stuff I had already heard. And a good deal of what was discussed were issues that, if a couple hasn't figured them out by now, I think they might have bigger problems to deal with than just surviving the first year of law school. Who should handle which chores, for example. The panel spent probably half an hour talking about how to come up with a system for handling household chores. Maybe I just got lucky and married a guy who is really great about doing stuff around the house, but this just doesn't seem like a real big deal to me. The dishes are dirty? Well then, whoever has time to do it washes them. Ditto laundry and house cleaning. The wife of one of the law students on the panel told us about how she pretty much does all the chores and cleans up after her husband like he's a four-year-old. Now, I respect that law students are insanely busy and have a ton of work to do each day and a lot on their mind, but I find it almost impossible to believe that this guy is just so cramped for time that he doesn't have a spare five minutes anywhere in his schedule to pick his own clothes up off the floor and put them in the dirty clothes hamper. Needless to say, I don't intend to play that role in our little household!

What I did find interesting were the mixed accounts we got about just how much time law students really have to put into their first year. Some of the panelists told us that they treat law school like a job; they may still study at home in the evenings, but they go to class at nine in the morning and never stay at school past five in the evening. Others though, claim that there's just no way anyone could possibly manage to succeed without studying around the clock each day. Some painted a picture of gloom and doom and told us in no uncertain terms that we could expect to go weeks at a time without really seeing our spouse. Others told us they had successfully taken a number of mini vacations together at different points throughout the semester. So...I dunno. I'm sure like everything else, it really all boils down to how efficient one manages to be with their time, and how easily they are able to catch onto and learn the material. Good thing Zack is so smart and such a hard worker! We made a decision though, back when we were looking at apartments, to find a place with a spare bedroom that he could use as an office so that he can study here at home as much as possible. HOPEFULLY in doing that he'll at least be home some. I guess I can always slip him notes and cookies under the door when he holes up in his study for days on end.

Maybe the strangest thing we heard during our info session came from the Dean of Admissions there at Tulane Law. She claims that the next year or so is the ideal time to start a family.

Yeah, think about that one for a minute.

When she said that I seriously almost burst out laughing. Is she serious?!? Obviously, I've never had kids so I can only base this on what I believe to be true, but it seems like having a baby adds a whole new element of stress to a couple's life that I wouldn't think you'd want to have to deal with if you were trying to also get through the first grueling year of law school. Call me crazy, but I don't feel like 3:00 a.m. diaper changes and going days or weeks at a time on only a couple hours of sleep would be at all conducive to doing well at school. I find it hilarious that the Dean seemed to think otherwise.

So, all in all, even though the information was by no means ground breaking in its content, I'm glad we went. In the past couple weeks I've gotten the chance to meet the wives/girlfriends of some of Zack's classmates and so far, they all seem like really sweet girls...which excites me because I feel like I'm definitely going to need some new friends for the next few years to do things with while Zack is busy selling his soul to the Tulane College of Law.

Monday, August 17, 2009


That's right, yours truly has just landed her first real, big-kid job and I couldn't be more excited!


I got a call from Tulane Medical Center this morning (during my daily sweeping party no less)with a job offer to be the new Assistant to the CFO and VP of Finance. Wow, it makes me feel kinda important just to say that. This is the job I mentioned the other day that I had interviewed for and was really really interested in so needless to say, I'm really really pleased that they wanted me too. To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely positive about what my duties will include. I know there will be a minimal amount of clerical work (answering phones, making appointments for the CFO etc.) but I also know that with my background in Accounting they're planning to let me really do a lot of super fun financial stuff too. The best part is that this is just an incredible opportunity for me; it's going to be a learning experience unlike anything I would get anywhere else, and a chance to work directly with the top execs at a HUGE health care company. Plus, during my interview the CFO told me in no uncertain terms that if I work with them for a couple years and do well, he and the CEO will see to it that I end up in whatever position I want when it comes time to move onto bigger and better things. How awesome is that? Maybe not quite "too good to be true" because I know that I have a lot of hard work ahead of me and a huge learning curve to tackle...but its pretty darn close. I don't think I could ask for much more in a first job.

I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, especially when I know the situation with the economy and how so many other people who are just as qualified as I am are struggling to find work. Certainly God has been looking out for me big time. Thank you so much to those of you who have said a little prayer for me (and Zack) in the past few weeks; it means more to me than you know.

I don't actually start until September 1, so I've still got a few days of "summer vacation" before I get to enter the real world. Now that I know I've got a job waiting for me though, I think I'll find it much more enjoyable than I have for the past few weeks when I was frantically scouring the internet for job postings. Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers...I'll keep you posted on how things go once I start!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finally Meeting People!

So, the big news of this week is that Zack and I have finally begun to meet some people here in NOLA! If you've been following my posts you already know that he participated in a volunteer project this week as part of his orientation, so actually he has gotten to spend several days now with some of the people in his class. He was in a group with two other guys, one of whom is married, which excited me because Zack said the guy was really nice and his wife seemed to be as well. I think he really enjoyed the week, if for no other reason than he got to learn a little about the city and get to know a couple of people.

So last night there was a happy hour get-together for all of the students (and their families) who participated in the volunteer project. I've been kinda lonely being by myself all week with nothing else going on to speak of, so we went. It was great! Happy hours aren't typically my thing but this turned out to be a lot of fun. Quite a few people showed up and we got to meet several other couples, which thrilled me, because we seemed to have a lot in common with them and I can see us becoming good friends with some of these people. It was nice too, to talk to the wives of a couple other guys who are about to begin school and hear that they're in the same boat as me; tough time finding a job, don't really know anyone, etc. Just kinda made me feel not so alone I guess.

In other, not-so-fun news, still no word on the job front. I was really, really hoping I would hear back from the people I interviewed with last week but it didn't happen. Is this good or bad? I have no idea. I'm going to assume its good, or at least not bad, since I haven't heard back that I didn't get the job. Hopefully this means I am at least still a candidate. If you all could keep your fingers crossed just a little while longer though, that'd be great!

My sister, Leah, and her boyfriend, Jordan are coming this week, so if there is a silver lining to the not-having-a-job cloud, this is it! At least it's looking like I'll get to spend more time with them during their visit than I would if I had already started working and had to be in the office all day. I CAN'T WAIT for them to be here!!! I miss them so much since we've moved and I'm really excited to show them the city. Zack and I have a list of places we want to take them. There's no way we'll be able to fit it all into this trip but that's ok; gives them a good excuse to come back soon.

This is completely unrelated to anything but the Saints won their first pre-season game against the Bengals last night. Zack is determined that we're going to become Saints fans while we're here and insisted that we watch the game. Admittedly, I've never been real into pro football (though I LOVE college football), or any pro sport for that matter, but this seems like as good a time as any to start following it a little more closely. And I definitely want to go to at least one game while we're here if for no other reason than the experience of watching a game in the Superdome.

Alright, that's all I got. Byeeeeee!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Interesting Reading

Here's an article from yesterday's New York Times. I found it interesting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I really need to find a job soon. For the income certainly but also because I'm about to drive myself (and Zack I'm sure) absolutely crazy being stuck in the house with nothing to do day after day. I'm not good at sitting still. I'm not good at enjoying time off and relaxing when I know that I could or should be working. And I'm really, really not good at just doing nothing. I've cleaned the cottage to within an inch of it's life (a necessity, given what I already told you about the floors and the moisture in the air). I've applied what for feels like every job in the city that I'm even remotely qualified for...and several that I'm not qualified for at all. I drew the line at "Bikini Housekeeper" and "Lingerie Model" per Zack's request, but otherwise, my resume has been sent to pretty much every business in the city. I've gotten a library card and already read several books. These things are all fun I suppose, but they're not exactly paying the bills. The good news is, I have a job prospect that is looking pretty promising. I had a second interview on Friday with the CFO and Assistant VP of Finance at the Tulane Medical Center and they seemed pretty interested. I know I am! Supposedly there were lots of qualified applicants and its very competitive but I'm hoping that my background in Accounting and the MBA will make me a front runner. We'll see. I'll keep you posted but in the meantime, anyone who wants to say a little prayer for me and keep their fingers crossed that this works out, well, I'd sure appreciate it.

This is the first time since we've been in New Orleans that I've been home alone all day. As part of his law school orientation activities Zack is participating in a week-long volunteer project which means he's gone all day and I have the house to myself. It's kinda fun to get to watch what I want to watch on TV but I had gotten pretty used to him being around all the time so now I miss him too. The whole point of this blog post is that I wanted to tell you a little about his volunteer project. I don't know many details yet, but he's working with an organization (no, I don't know the name, sorry) that is trying to figure out how to get information to the city's very poorest citizens. There's something like a 40% illiteracy rate here, which means that a large percentage of the population is not only not utilizing government aid and free assistance programs that are available, but they don't even realize such things exist. These people have no phone, no TV and certainly no computers or Internet. These limitations, along with being unable to read or write has really created a very despondent demographic in this city. He said he really learned a LOT about New Orleans yesterday just from being in meetings with this group, and he shared some of it with me. I won't go into too many details yet because I don't know much at this point, but I'm hoping that by the time he finishes up this project he will have learned and shared with me a whole lot about some of the inner workings of the local government, the demographics of the city, etc. From what he was told yesterday a lot of the allegations of corruption here are true and the amount of underhanded wheeling and dealing that goes on is just outrageous.

Like I said, I don't know enough yet to get too into it but I hope to share some of what he learns with you all at some point. Just wanted to give you a heads up to be on the lookout for the low-down on NOLA at some point!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Political Rant...kinda

Anyone up for a good political rant? Me too. Here goes...

There's another blog that I loosely follow, written by a girl I kinda sorta used to know way back in the day. And by way back I mean waaaaaaay back, like elementary school or so, when she came to our church for awhile. Anyway, I read this girl's blog from time to time, mostly out of a gross fascination at how completely different people can be from each other, and how ill-informed some people truly are. I'll stop short of saying I read the blog purely for comic relief because that's not the case but she continually writes things that simultaneously enrage me and yet make me feel sorry for her because of how blatantly wrong she is about a lot of stuff. She was homeschooled...that's all I'm sayin'.

Just recently she posted this blog about how "HORRIBLE" our current President is, what a "TERRIBLE" job his administration is doing and how "TERRIFIED" she is about the future of our country. She actually said that; she's terrified for her life. (The good news is, at least she's not melodramatic). You know what though? Whatever. I'm so sick of hearing uneducated, ill-informed, judgemental people criticize our President about things they have absolutely no understanding of that I don't even listen to it anymore. I could really care less. Her naivety and lowbrow tirades only serve to make her look silly and aren't worth even addressing. Besides all that, she's a Sarah Palin supporter which means that she lost 99% of her credibility with me before she even started writing.

What infuriates me though, is when people like this who are uninformed and ignorant of the topics at hand start trying to pass off their own twisted opinions as fact. That's just not cool. For example, trying to convince your readers that the Obama administration is pushing for socialization, or comparing America in the hands of President Obama to Communist China is just taking things a little too far. Certainly we're all entitled to our own opinions here but that doesn't give anyone the right to just make up falsehoods and spin them as truths. You know what I'd really love to do? I mean, I just think this would be awesome beyond belief. I'd like to round up everyone out there who thinks that we either are now, or are becoming a socialist nation, put them on a boat and send them to Communist China for awhile. Oooooh or better yet, North Korea; I hear its lots of fun over there! I'd let them chill over there for a few months, see what a true Communist or Socialist government is like then I'd dare a single one of them to have the guts to come back and even hint at the idea that the United States can be compared to places like that.

This girl is just one example, the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" if you will, but I've heard the Socialism and/or Communism argument from enough people recently that I'm starting to get just a bit fed up with it. The problem is that Socialism has become like a hot button; its just a buzz word that people hear and then repeat (thinking it makes them sound super smart--like no one's going to put one over on them) without really even knowing what it means. Is the government telling us how many children we can have? No. Does the government own or otherwise control all of the utility companies? No. Do we give everything we earn to the Government to be redistributed between all citizens equally, thereby effectively creating a classless society? No. So can we all just agree here that the U.S. is in fact still a healthy and thriving democracy where even the most uninformed citizens have the freedom to spread political slander?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm sure this will come as a huge surprise to you all, but it rained here today. Stormed actually. Much like it's done every single day since we've been here. I've never been in a place where it rained as much as it does here and I think I may be starting to mildew just a little bit. Zack and I did get something pretty cool the other day though, in an effort to try to offset the effects of all the moisture in the air down here. He's actually the one who found them when he was at Lowe's the other day; I've never seen or heard of anything like this before, so I'm thinking it must be a regional product. Anyway, it's called DampRid and its this little bucket of white flakes, vaguely reminiscent of instant mashed potatoes, that you just sit out somewhere in your house and it pulls moisture out of the air. Similar to a dehumidifier I would imagine, only way cheaper and much less obtrusive. And it really works! We put one in each of the upstairs bedrooms and its crazy how much water they've already pulled out of the air. See?

The flakes just sort of melt down and dissolve into this mushy-white-pasty-looking stuff as they take on more water until eventually I guess they just disappear altogether and you know its time to replace them.

The water that's been pulled out of the air in just the past couple of days. I estimate that to be a couple of cups at least.

Oh, get this! Zack killed a cockroach in our living room last night! Eeeeeeeeewww!!! We were sitting there watching TV after dinner and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something moving along the base of the TV stand. Zack said he didn't see anything and tried to pretend like I was just imagining the whole thing so that he didn't have to get up and go on a bug raid right in the middle of his show. I kept watching though and sure enough, a few minutes later a big old cockroach came crawling out from behind the TV and scurried across the floor! I don't really get too hot and bothered by bugs or spiders or lizards or anything like that, but seriously, is there a dirtier or disgusting bug in the whole world than a cockroach? I don't think so. I've seen them all over the place down here since we moved, but this is the first one I've seen in the house. Now I'm kinda paranoid that they're really all in the walls and under the floorboards and everything and we just don't realize it yet. Uuuuggghh!

On a completely unrelated though probably no more exciting note, Zack and I went to Baton Rouge this afternoon. Several people have told us that New Orleans is so unique its really not a good representation of what the rest of the state is like, so I was very curious to see what it would be like to get outside the city. I liked it! Of course, it was pouring down rain the whole time we were there so all we could do was drive around and sight see from inside the car but from what we saw, it looks like a nice city. Definitely much more moderna nd commercialized than NOLA. We drove through LSU's campus (and while it pains me to say this about another SEC school) it was actually very pretty. It will never compare to UK in my mind of course, but nice nonetheless. We also saw the state capitol which was a really weird looking building. It's actually very pretty too, but I've never seen another capitol building shaped like this at all; its really tall and skinny. Kentucky definitely wins out in that category too.

I left Zack downstairs doing the dishes so probably I should go check on him. I hope everyone feels sufficiently caught up on the nitty-gritty details of our life now. Happy Saturday!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cookie Monster

I've got to write about this because its one of those things that when I heard it, I literally thought at first that it had to be some kind of joke. I really did. As I was driving home from the park yesterday there was a morning talk show on the radio discussing a segment of The View (as in, the tv show) that I think had aired maybe the day before. The topic of conversation was Cookie Monster (of Sesame Street fame), and how he is now being blamed for childhood obesity in America. Wait...what??? I seriously thought that the radio show was doing some kind of spoof of The View, maybe making fun of some of the ridiculous arguments those ladies get into because otherwise, how does saying that make any sense at all?

Apparently there was recently an episode of Sesame Street where the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture came on to teach Cookie Monster the benefits of healthy eating.

People do lots of things that I find irritating, or silly, or at the very least I just don't understand. This falls into all three of those categories. I think to blame a fictional character, a fuzzy blue puppet no less, with the obesity epidemic that our country is facing is more than just a little absurd. Let's think about this argument for a second, and all of the holes there are in it. Here, I'll just make a list; that'll be easier.

1. I looked it up; Sesame Street is aired in 77 countries around the world, but we here in America are the only ones who keep getting fatter.
2. What about all the kids who grew up watching Sesame Street and didn't get fat?
3. By that same token, what about all the obese people out there who never watched the show at all?
4. Sesame Street has been around since 1977. If we're going to pin the eating habits of Americans on cartoon tv shows, then I think we ought to consider a few others. Bugs Bunny (who incidentally was voted the greatest cartoon character of all time) has been around since 1940. Popeye first debuted in 1929. Garfield the Cat in 1978. the Flintstones in 1960.

My point with comment #4 is this; there have always been cartoon characters with a penchant for eating. If the argument being made against poor old Cookie Monster were true, then why didn't we have a generation of kids obsessed with eating spinach like Popeye, or carrots like Bugs? And if this is really such a problem, why don't Garfield and Fred Flintstone and Scooby Doo get to share some of the blame? Those characters are defined by their eating habits just as much, if not more than Cookie Monster. Why just Cookie Monster, and why now all of a sudden?

Here's what I think. I think obesity really is a problem but rather than people accepting the blame for their own poor diet choices, or those of their kids, they need to find a scape goat to blame. It's no different than blaming video games for school violence or rap music for underage drinking and drug use. The people making these arguments are people who have been to lazy, or too ignorant, or just too indifferent to see what was going on with their kids, and rather than admit that maybe they weren't quite as great a parent as they could have been, they're looking for an out. This irritates me to no end.

When kids are overweight (barring any medical problems) it's 100% the parents' fault. That's it. There's no two ways about it. Of course kids would rather eat cookies or a happy meal than vegetables! Come on! I'm 23 and I'd rather eat cookies than vegetables; cookies taste good! But I don't make that choice because growing up, my mom and dad made me eat vegetables and fruit and other healthy stuff and taught me that cookies are fine in moderation, but that can't be all I eat or else, before long, I won't be able to fit into any of my clothes anymore. Let's think about this; little kids can't drive themselves to the grocery store or through a fast-food drive-thru; they don't have jobs so they don't have money; they can't cook for themselves. Basically, until they're probably 10 or so, kids eat exactly what their parents give them to eat. End of story. The argument against Cookie Monster is that he makes kids think its ok to eat an entire box of cookies all at once. Well my question to any parent would be, why in the world would you even give your kid an entire box of cookies at one time in the first place?

The bottom line is this. We as a country are getting fatter, because we're lazy and we're ignorant about what we're putting in our mouths and we're making our kids that way too. Now leave poor old Cookie Monster alone. Sheesh.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Hurricane Dilemma

Do you ever have one of those moments when you realize something for the very first time, something that is probably painfully obvious to everyone else around you and thus, should have been to you too? You feel so confident about something, you don't even pause long enough to think about second guessing yourself, and then out of the blue...WHAM! It hits you that you may in fact be a complete and total retard and all you can really do at that point is utter a very shocked, very defeated, "Oh."

This happened to me the other day. Zack and I were leaving the grocery store when I noticed a magazine rack by the door with stacks of Hurricane Evacuation Route brochures. They were free, so I quickly snatched one up and proceeded to thumb through it while Zack loaded the groceries into the car. As he drove us home, I read aloud to him the lists of emergency supplies that they recommend keeping on hand at all times. "I can tell you right now," I informed him rather earnestly, "you might as well go ahead and get ready; if I hear even a hint of a warning of a hurricane within five hundred miles of Louisiana, I'm gone. I'm packing up and getting out of here so fast you won't know what hit you." I meant it too. I'm no dummy. I can think of approximately six thousand things I'd rather do than wait out a hurricane down here, going days, maybe weeks without electricity (read: A/C) or fresh water.

"And what exactly are you going to do if you've got a job?" Zack asked.


This is where the big DUH moment came in. I'd never even thought about that. In hindsight I guess that I just assumed most people down here felt the same way I do. I truly figured most jobs offer "Hurricane Days" or something like that as an additional benefit. You know, you've got your PTO, your sick days, and your inclement weather days. This makes soooo much sense to me in my head that I'd never even considered for a moment that it wasn't a reality.

So now I have quite a dilemma on my hands. What am I supposed to do if a hurricane really does come? You'd think after what these people went through with Katrina they'd be more gun-shy and ready to flee at the first sign of bad weather; I know I sure would. Heck, I am now and I wasn't even here four years ago. I can't decide if this makes me respect the locals down here more for their resilience and their refusal to let a natural disaster like that get the best of them, or if it makes me think they're complete lunatics because they didn't learn their lesson the first time around. All that aside though, I've given this a lot of thought and I've decided, job or not, I'm getting the heck out of dodge if another hurricane comes.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Family treasures

Zack and I got some incredible wedding gifts when we got married last month. I can't even begin to express how thankful we are for the generosity of so many friends and family. It kind of blows my mind to think about it to be perfectly honest because we certainly got way more than we deserved. I think one of my very favorite gifts though, is one that came just yesterday from my Aunt Becky (Mom's sister) to our new house here in New Orleans.

She sent me a collection of all of the old family recipes she has collected over the years. Some of them are ones that my Nanny gave her when she got married, some have been passed down through the years from as far back as my great grandmothers, and still others are ones that my mom has shared with her at some point. As I flipped through the stack of index cards, I saw recipes for some of my favorite foods in the whole world--things I've grown up eating for years, and probably taken for granted because Mom, or Nanny, or whoever was preparing them at the time, seemed to cook them up with such ease. There's a recipe from my great grandmother for her paper-thin sugar cookies that actually no one in the family can make quite like she does, there's a recipe for my Nanny's Italian creme cake that has become a Christmas staple in our family, and the light-as-a feather angel biscuits that my mom made for me and Leah all the time when we were growing up. How awesome is that?!?

Maybe its because I do have a teeny, tiny sentimental side (I know, I know--who would have thought, right?), or maybe it's just because I like to cook and bake so much, but I'm terribly excited to have all these little pieces of family history to keep and share in the years to come. I think there's as much emotion and memory tied to food as there is to anything else in life. How often do we associate milestone events with the food that we ate that day? At least in my family, certain foods just mean something and there's nothing else in the world that can serve as a proper substitute. Sunday mornings before church mean cinnamon rolls. Thanksgiving is turkey of course, but more importantly it means Nanny's homemade yeast rolls and stuffing. Christmas is country ham so salty you can't eat more than a tiny slice without swelling up like a balloon (Zack made the mistake of eating a bunch of ham right before bed the first Christmas he spent with my family and he woke up in the middle of the night with his tongue dried to the roof of his mouth). My dad always has a homemade pound cake on his birthday, and a football season just isn't a football season without my Grandad's fried chicken at at least one tailgate. There's as much of my family history and comforting childhood memories in this little box as there is in anything else I own. I have no doubt that its going to take years and years of practice on my part to obtain the level of expertise with these recipes that I'm so accustomed to from eating them over the years, and some I may never be able to master at all (Grandmother's sugar cookies most likely fall in this category). But I'm ok with that. If these things were that easy to make, they probably wouldn't be nearly as delicious as they are and luckily, Zack is a very willing taste-tester for me so I should be able to get lots and lots of practice.