10 Years ago this week

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As the 10-year anniversary of Katrina approaches, I’ve taken to thinking about things like, “What would my life be like if it had never happened?” Not because I regret the way the details of my life have played out. Even as I still mourn the devastation wrought on this city and its inhabitants. It’s more of an idle wondering. I suspect we wouldn’t live here, but where we would be and what we would be doing is another question. I was also inspired to dig up my blog posts from this week in 2005, back when I lived in Honolulu and blogged on a regular basis. I’ll probably post another batch next week.

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August 26, 2005

Realization

Having grown up in New Orleans, where the French influence is definitely tasted and felt in breads and pastries, I am often disappointed when I bite into what looks like a yummy brioche, only to discover that the French influence did not reach all corners of the globe.

Posted by Shokufeh at 01:54 PM | Comments (1)

August 28, 2005

‘Cane, ‘cane, go away

Growing up in New Orleans, one of the messages I got from school was that my hometown would, at some point in the not-too-distant future, cease to exist. It would be a slow and steady process leading to its obliteration: continued sinking of a city that’s already six feet below sea level, in conjunction with continued erosion along the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the process would be helped along by the Mississippi River finally jumping the bed in which we humans have forced it to flow by an extensive system of levees. As an elementary school student, I envisioned a time in the future when my parents would be forced to migrate from New Orleans. Somehow, big bottles of Kentwood water are tied into the memory, but I’m not sure how. Maybe I had the idea that part of the pressure to move would be lack of potable water? Thinking about it now, it’s also interesting to me that even from a young age, as much I loved (and continue to love) my hometown, I didn’t imagine myself living there as an adult.

More than twenty years have passed, and during that time my anticipations for the city have changed. A few years ago, I read something that indicated that I’m not alone – the experts that were responsible for shaping the message I got as a child also changed their tune: New Orleans was not slowly sinking into oblivion.

But now I’m sitting up in the early morning hours, watching forecasters talking about Hurrican Katrina and the flooding that will submerge the city of New Orleans. They say things like “the pumps will fail,” and “water will remain standing for six months.” They don’t speak in mights and maybes, except in relation to the integrity of the levees. And that scares me. It makes it hard for me to hold on to the belief I’ve held for the past 10 or so years – that there is something geographic or meteorologic that prevents New Orleans from recieving a direct hit from a major hurricane. That even when we think one is going to hit, this natural force that we’ve yet to understand causes the hurricane to shift directions.

I’d like to think that we’ll be able to take our children to New Orleans in the future, and that it will be a sightseeing adventure with many of my childhood haunts intact. And not akin to the sights I saw in my younger years – driving along the Gulf Coast, seeing years-old damage left behind by Hurricanes Camille and Betsy. I’d like to think that the future I’d envisioned as a child isn’t coming true in a more abrupt fashion. I’d like to think that all my family and friends, and their possessions (and ours, left in my parent’s house) will be okay. I guess the next 36 hours will tell.

Posted by Shokufeh at 08:38 AM | Comments (5)

August 29, 2005

Home

So, if the reports are true, the worst case scenario did not come to fruition, and my Home exists. My parent’s house and its contents are another question, as they evacuated to a couple of hours away and have not yet been allowed to return. But, the city of New Orleans is still there, despite the flooding and broken bits. Thanks to all of you for your good thoughts.

Over the past six months, I’ve come to a greater recognition of the attachment I have to New Orleans. No matter how much I love my husband and the feeling of home we’ve created, New Orleans will always be Home. From the early days of my pregnancy, I felt homesick – it wasn’t just a longing to spend time with my parents, it was a longing to return Home, to New Orleans. I finally had an understanding of those stories I’d read in the past, of women who would place some dirt from their hometown under the bed while giving birth, so that their children would be born over southern soil. No, I’m not going to do that, I just have a greater understanding of that mentality now. Something about being pregnant has brought out my attachment to my primordial home.

It’s not an attachment that requires me to move there. (Which is good, because one thing we discovered on our recent visit is that we can’t afford to do that). It’s an attachment that makes me never want to go longer than a year between visits. It’s an attachment that makes me glad I got to see the city in its intact state a couple of weeks ago. It’s an attachment that makes me wish I could go there and help pick up the pieces. It’s an attachment that makes me glad the place I call Home dodged what could have been a lot worse.

Posted by Shokufeh at 04:40 PM | Comments (7)

August 30, 2005

Losing hope

Yesterday, I was feeling like we’d dodged something horrible. Now I’m not so sure.

Last night, I stayed up late watching CNN, hoping for more information on the break in the levee at the 17th street canal – two blocks long. Two blocks long of letting Lake Ponchartrain into the city. All reports pointed to water rising in New Orleans. I debated staying up until daylight hit New Orleans, in hopes of getting more accurate information and maybe some visual indications. But rationale won out and I went to sleep, only to dream of torrents of water sweeping through New Orleans.

Now, the next morning, I don’t feel significantly more informed. Except that the levee break has been confirmed, without the solution I was hoping to hear about. And I’ve heard the weariness and sadness in the Mayor’s voice as he lists all the issues going on.

And one of the scariest indications that virtually every belonging of my family’s (including those of Sam’s and mine, stored at my parent’s house) is destroyed is a headline from a local television station:
Jeff Parish* President. Residents will probably be allowed back in town in a week, with identification only, but only to get essentials and clothing. You will then be asked to leave and not come back for one month.

Yes, I know the important part is that my family and friends are okay. But how do you rebuild from such destruction?

The neighboring parish, or county, as the rest of the country calls them

Posted by Shokufeh at 03:38 PM | Comments (2)

I’m with Sam

My husband has a thing for comic books and superheroes. Within the past 48 hours, more than once, as we watched Katrina coverage on TV, he uttered, “I wish superheroes really existed.” I responded with my typical my-husband-is-so-weird-yet-so-endearing, “I love you! I love you so much!” I also added a, “Our kid is going to be lucky, having a dad who wishes superheroes really existed.”

Before Katrina hit Louisiana, we discussed how Superman could have just used his freeze-breath to cool the Gulf waters enough to reduce the force of the hurricane. After the levee break, it was easy to imagine that he, or someone with similar powers, could drop a long steel sheet across the gap, allowing mere humans the opportunity to make more permanent repairs.

And as I read that they’ve given up on trying to stop the flooding from the break, and that pumps are expected to fail soon, and that the entire east bank will be covered by at least nine feet of water in the next 15 hours, I’m with Sam: I wish there were superheroes.

Posted by Shokufeh at 08:21 PM | Comments (3)

August 31, 2005

The comfort of coffee

As I look around the apartment, I’m hard-pressed to find anything that wasn’t acquired here, that dates back to my life in New Orleans and other cities. When Sam and I arrived here, three years ago today, six weeks after our wedding, it was with just a few suitcases and boxes. We left most of our belongings at my parents’ house, with the idea that we’d be gone for only a couple of years. Every spring, I would think, “If we can just make it through this year’s hurricane/flooding season….” On this most recent visit there, I didn’t even bother to go through my things to see if there was anything I wanted to bring back, thinking I would be reunited with them soon enough. I guess the soon enough wasn’t soon enough.

But just now, as I got some ice from the freezer, my eyes fell upon a bag of coffee from PJ’s, a New Orleans business I grew up with. Even though I’m not drinking coffee these days, it’s comforting knowing it’s there. And it’s made all the more (bitter)sweet thinking about the fact that it was given to us by my brother when he was working at one of the cafes, which is likely now flooded.

Posted by Shokufeh at 11:17 PM | Comments (3)

 

 

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42

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I have 42 days until I’m 42 years old. I’ve been looking forward to this year ahead, as I’m sure I’m going to get some answers. In process, I’ve started a little project of self improvement: 42 to 42. More to come.

So much for that

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Well, I guess I didn’t need to worry about it being just the first day of November that lacked a post.
This week, I’ve been trying to insert a little more physical activity into my days. That’s obviously a good practice in general, but it’s also a specific assignment from my doctor. I’ve spent the last months exhausted. My labs came back normal. Actually, pretty marvelous. So I’m supposed to log my physical activity – aiming for 30 minutes a day (something I’ve been slacking on) – for the next six weeks and call my doctor with a report on my energy levels. That’ll be around the time when I’ll also get off the hamster wheel that has been this semester.
I’ve been feeling pretty peppy today. I chalk it up to not only the activity, but doing it at the start of the day. I like to think I can achieve that again a few times next week.
I don’t know if my doctor pegged my personality in giving me this prescription of exercise and logging it, but ohmygosh it appeals to this Type A girl. It’s like I cannot not do it.

Just in case

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November 1 – the siren call of NaBloPoMo. A funny thing, since I haven’t been a regular blogger in years. And, while every November is busy, this one promises to be more so. Yet, as it hit me that it was November 1, and that the day was coming to a close, I felt compelled to post. Just in case I’m struck by such an urge for the next 29 days. Wouldn’t it be sad if it had been only the first day of the month that I didn’t post?

My sock is still dry

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This morning, I started my new routine for the semester: up by 6:00, out the door by 6:40, catch the first shuttle. Right before I left the house, I realized it was raining, so shoved my feet in my rain boots and grabbed an umbrella. Backpack on, umbrella in one hand, coffee in the other, walking in the rainy half-dark. Once I started walking, I realized there were a few pebbles in one of my boots, but figured I’d endure.

Halfway to the shuttle stop, my time was good and there was an even stretch of sidewalk under a street light – I decided to take a moment to dislodge the pebbles.

Coffee and umbrella in one hand, pulled a boot off with the other, balancing on one foot. What could go wrong?

Things were fine until right after I shook out the pebbles. Then, my balance was no longer. So, I’m under a street light on a major street, jumping on one foot to try to maintain my balance. My other foot is up while I try to keep my sock dry and the boot for that foot is lying on the ground. I’ve still got the open umbrella and my coffee in my hand. And coffee on my shirt. And coffee in my hair. And coffee in my ear.

With each of my numerous jumps, coffee was splashing out of the sipping hole of my cup. Once I was thoroughly coffee-scented, I gained enough control to stand still on one foot and pick up my boot and put it on. Over my dry sock – yay me. Also yay, I wore dark clothes today. And if I’m flagging, I can just drop my nose down and take a big whiff. And maybe I provided some early morning amusement to the random passerby.

Eight

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Dear MrMan,

You are now eight. A fact momentous enough to warrant a post. Eight is just such a legitimate age to me – I can remember not only specific instances from that time in my life, but the thoughts and emotions that went along with them. I’ve really enjoyed watching and helping you grow thus far, but I suspect it’s about to get real. I’m already getting glimpses of that. That the good is going to be so much better – we’re having more deep and meaningful conversations involving more of the grey and less of the black and white. But it’s also going to be so much more challenging – figuring out how to respond when the questions aren’t easy, working through challenges when you aren’t as docile, feeling like the stakes are higher as your character is shaped by more subtle experiences. In some ways I feel so ill-equipped and not ready. At the same time, I wonder if this is when my parenting skills are going to shine. Luckily you’ve prepared me enough that I’ll probably fall at least somewhere between those extremes.

I’m so proud of who you are. You’re kind and thoughtful, sensitive to the feelings of others. Last night, as I asked you about the best part of your day, you answered, “The presents!” (Duh.) I pressed, “What about the phone calls?” In the few hours between coming home from school and going to bed, mixed in with your requested dinner – mac and cheese (with butternut squash), kale chips, salad (lagniappe), and strawberry shortcake – and present opening, were at least seven phone calls from family members who love you. You chatted with each, not just answering their questions – because you’re old enough to do that. (Craziness.) When I asked about the phone calls, not really expecting they’d be a favorite, but just wondering, you answered, “They were kind of annoying.” Which I totally get. And I love that you revealed that to me, because it let me know that your conversational skills were an even greater sign of your maturity than I realized. It wasn’t necessarily how you wanted to spend your time, but you were perfectly pleasant and even enthusiastic in speaking with each caller.

You’re not only emotionally intelligent, you’re academically intelligent. You’ve got this school thing down. You know what you’re supposed to do and get it done. You’re not phased by tests, you do your homework as soon as possible each day. When I ask about your day, I get a lot of, “Nothing interesting. Same as yesterday.” But I also, eventually, get details that let me know you’re paying attention and learning. You have amazing teachers, for which I’m so thankful, helping you with critical thinking skills that will serve you well. Writing workshop, the scientific method, the beginnings of algebra… I’m fairly certain I wasn’t learning these things in second grade, but you’re totally winning it all. If I could only get you to not rely so heavily on the Venn diagram when conveying your thoughts… but I feel lucky to have such a gripe. You’ve recently discovered the magic of reading for pleasure. I love this!

Your art skills continue to shine, both at school and at home. This weekend, we wanted you to go toa basketball clinic. You claimed you didn’t want to go, but I had a feeling that your fears were speaking up, rather than your desires, and told you that you needed to do it. That morning, a paper airplane flew into my room. When I unfolded it, I saw you had drawn a basketball, crossed it out, and written, “You can’t make me go.” Fifteen minutes later, a wad of paper bounced in. It was colored like a basketball, with a red X taped to it. And a while after that, a three-dimensional paper basketball pierced by an arrow appeared. I almost relented in response to your creativity. But I held firm, telling you that you needed to go for 15 minutes and if you still wanted to leave, you could. Big surprise: two hours later, you came home raving about how awesome it was. I like to think this was a good lesson for me and for you.

It’s hard to believe that eight years ago, you were tiny enough for me to hold in one arm or that you could sleep on my torso. Now, I can’t even pick you up. And it’s getting harder to tell our clothes apart in the laundry. In some ways, this is heartbreaking. But, as I’ve told you, time and again, you’ll always be my baby.

Love, Mee

Oops

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Last night, I was thinking how I should be pouring my writing energies onto end of the semester assignments. I guess my subconscious took this as instruction not to blog or tweet. But when I realized my mistake this morning, I still didn’t commit to giving up NaBloPoMo, even though the string is broken. And even though I’m not posting much of consequence, as I Swype on my phone, and I never even officially signed up for NaBloPoMo…. But it’s more about my trying to build a habit, even if I’m distracted by, and distracted from, looming school deadlines. I wish they loomed farther.