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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Two Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is upon us...

The second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was a couple days ago. For some time, I've been kind of quiet about the whole thing for a variety of reasons. After two years of news coverage related to Katrina and New Orleans, I decided to use this time to speak out.

In 1995, we moved to Biloxi, MS. My husband was in the Air Force and we were transferred there just before my youngest son's first birthday. Sadly, he spent his first birthday in TLF and his birthday cake was a Hostess Cupcake with a candle in it. But he doesn't remember it, just his father and I. But I digress somewhat.

In the nearly four years we were there, I absolutely fell in love with the area. Living on the Gulf Coast was the single happiest time in my life and it was the first time I was happy about where I was living, rather than missing where I had just come from and wishing for the next location we would be living.

Biloxi is am amazing place. There are small festivals most weekends, the fishing is probably the best I've ever experienced, the seafood is fresh from the Gulf and inexpensive and the people there are the friendliest you'd meet anywhere. For the duration of our stay there, we were always "outsiders" given we weren't from THERE, but we were always treated well by everyone we met. There are no strangers there, just people you haven't met yet. My husband was raised in Memphis while I, born in the Deep South, was raised in Ohio. I tell my husband all the time that the difference between the North and the South is this: In the North, if they hate you, they hate you and aren't afraid to let you know. In the South, they may hate your guts and have a voodoo dool with your name on it, but they'll greet you like a longlost friend, every single time they see you, even if you just saw them ten seconds ago in the previous aisle of the Piggly-Wiggly. True Southerners will DIE before they treat you badly whereas people in the North seem to thrive on it.

While we lived there, we experienced three hurricane near misses. Now, the sea level in Biloxi is about 12 inches... It didn't take much rain to make it flood there, and there were plenty of times I had to drive my Nissan Pathfinder thru water high enough to lap the sides of the hood so I could make it home. But, a little bit of flooding aside, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is nothing short of heaven.

Each time we had to "bug out" due to hurricane warnings, we would drive to Memphis where my husband's family is from. We lived in Base Housing when we were stationed there and it's mandatory all military personnel and their dependants evacuate, each and every time. But we had two dogs and there was no way I was leaving them behind in the unit, since they weren't permitted in the shelters. Because of this, we headed up to Memphis, where we knew our dogs would be welcomed. Each time we made the seven hour drive, we'd turn on the Weather Channel as soon as we arrived and would hear the hurricane had made a sudden turn to either New Orleans or the Florida Panhandle. Too bad for them, really, but I was angry we had to drive all that way, AGAIN. See, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has some barrier islands out from the coast and these have a tendancy to cause smaller hurricanes to divert. Not always but somethimes.

After this happening enough times, you can become complacent to the fact a hurricane is actually going to hit. After too many false alarms, you can feel less stress when you're being told to leave. I think that's what happened during Katrina... The people there had heard so much, "It's the Big One, Ethyl!" and probably didn't take it seriously. There are a tremendous amount of people who ask the question, "Why didn't they just leave?"

Folks, this is the land of hurricane parties. This is the land of easy-going, fearless people who have seen more than their share of false alarms when it comes to hurricanes. But this is also the land that seem to have learned nothing from Camille...

Now, New Orleans... I've been to New Orleans more than once. We usually went to a mall that is built next to a barge channel, on a pier, that took us past the Superdome each time. New Orleans is a filthy city. The overpass across the street from the Superdome is filled with homeless people, their cardboard boxes and their shopping carts. Every time we drove past that, I would lock my car doors. Though I was born in Louisiana, I hate New Orleans. I'll take a Mardi Gras Parade in Biloxi or D'Iberville over one in New Orleans. For one thing, it's not as dangerous attending a parade in Biloxi as it is in New Orleans. The Krewe are the same groups as New Orleans, it's the attendees who are better. I love the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Now, the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are an extremely special group of people. The people of New Orleans suffered some tremendous losses and if you were to total losses and compare dollars by the per capita breakdown, I'm sure you'd find the two areas to be pretty even... But, there are tremendous differences between the two groups...

  1. The people of New Orleans had their hands out for a hand-out as soon as the hurricane hit land. The people of Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Waveland, Gulfport and others came out of their houses as soon as the hurricane cleared and started taking care of themselves and their neighbors. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, however, the people there didn't attack each other, they hugged each other. They hugged each other and then they helped each other.
  2. The day after the hurricane left, the National Guard as well as the Federal Government started sending in helicopters filled with food, water and supplies. In New Orleans, they were shot upon by people on the ground who didn't want them to land. (see here and here, for the second link, do a page search for the word 'shot' and it will come up). Precious supplies were kept from the people of New Orleans because the criminal element didn't want them to land. Why? Because they had already broken into the stores put in place by the City and the Parish and were selling them on the black market, or trading them for drugs. I guess it's true that even roaches can survive a nuclear attack.
  3. I saw an article once focusing on this next one, but I can't remember where and now I can't find it, but the essence of it was this: The people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast were significantly more likely to sue their insurance company for refusal to pay the claims than their New Orleans counterparts. I don't know why there was this disparity but it was there. Were the people of the Gulf Coast better educated or less afraid of going up against "the man"? Were the attorneys of the Gulf Coast more aggressive in finding and helping the people of the area? I don't know, I just know, the population of the Gulf Coast seemed to be more proactive in their recovery. If people really wanted to help, they needed to get about 250 lawyers into New Orleans immediately, offering free legal representation, to start the ball rolling on the legal rights of the people.

There are naysayers who say that New Orleans isn't bouncing back as quickly as the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of a lack of federal funds (see here). Federal Funds do play a big part in this, and Mississippi got funds as well as New Orleans. I feel the difference is that Mississippi didn't WAIT for the help to come from the outside, they started it from within their communities.

When we are children, our parents work towards our gaining independance. When that happens, a parent can trust their children to handle things. However, as adults, to stand there, while your world falls down around you, and do nothing to take control of your own situation, is a big part of the problem in New Orleans.

Rush Limbaugh took a big hit a few years ago when he compared the Welfare state to a park of apes in Africa. The reasoning behind his correlation was declared to be bigotry by the media. That's what sold papers... But the actual meaning behind his correlation was that the Welfare State creates a psychological state called "Learned Helplessness". In the animal world, when animals are in a contained, semi-contained or wild state where food is readily available from an outside source, they forget how to fend for themselves. Though the correlary Rush used was what inflamed people (the media said he was comparing "black" welfare recipients to apes) his point was sound. That's why you see so many, "Don't feed the bears" signs in our national parks. Like animals, people can forget how to take care of themselves if all their needs are met by those around them, The people of New Orleans are so used to their government taking care of them, they felt that was the only solution when presented with this catastrophe.

I had a good friend while I lived in Biloxi who owned a string of delis along the coast. When one of his stores was damaged badly by the hurricane, it took him about 30 seconds to start yelling at people to bring their BBQ grills and any firewood they could find. The food in his restaurant was going bad due to loss of power and he might as well feed it to everyone, rather than let it go to waste. Before it was all over, word had spread and he fed about 500 people that day, all from a handful of grills. Someone else had brought a generator so he could plug in the soda machine and others had joined him with food of their own to serve, rather than let it go to waste. Others had gone to the water less than a mile away and started catching crabs and fish... By the end of the day, it was a party. Tomorrow they could start cleaning up, but today, well, for today, let's enjoy the fact we're alive and we're full...

In the same timeframe, the people of New Orleans were too busy crying over the federal government not being there (because of the criminal element on the ground keeping them away)

Now, I'm not completely heartless. I called the Red Cross the day after the hurricane and went through emergency training to become a crisis worker. I was ready, willing, and able to go there and help. I cried when I saw the devastation Katrina had left in her wake. It was horrible and I didn't know the area would ever recover from that kind of maiming.

But it is recovering, in spite of what everyone else is saying. New Orleans hosted Mardi Gras the following February, it's biggest tourism draw and one of its largest moneymakers. The Mississippi Gulf Coast is recovering at a more rapid rate, however, and I feel its because of the personal responsibilty the people there felt for themselves. They didn't wait for the hand out from anyone but themselves. They helped themselves, they helped each other, and I think that made a difference in their world.

I get it too, that New Orleans was dealt an incredibly harsh blow, but two years is long enough to feel sorry for yourself. It's time to start taking some responsibility. Your insurance company didn't pay up and the government isn't coming thru? Get a lawyer, let them do your fighting for you. Is the job market bad there and you can't find a job? I've moved and started over more times than I can count. Re-locate for a while and save your money so you can go back to New Orleans and re-build, a little at a time, until the insurance money comes through. Did you lose your pet and you don't know how you'll go on? I've lost dogs and cats over the years to old age and illness and I miss them all, but I always go to the pound or a rescue group and get another. There are tons of animals out there in need of someone to love them and they will love you right back, tenfold. Did you lose all your personal possessions? That may be, but you have the most precious thing of all, your life. You survived. There are hundreds that didn't. You're already ahead of the game and each day you're still alive it another day to move forward instead of stagnating in your misery.

Take charge, New Orleans! Instead of looking for someone to blame, which is an enabler's attitude, take control of your life and re-build without relying on "someone else".

These views might be unpopular but I've lost all I had to crisis and I found my way back again, where I was better than I was when I lost it all. I'm not saying you have to do it ALL by yourself, just more than you have been. With a can-do attitude vs. a can't-do attitude, I think you'll find more growth in the next twelve months than you've seen in the previous twelve.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Charlie Sheen and his ex-wife - Wow, is his fiancee in for it...

I couldn't believe this when I saw it, that Charlie Sheen's ex-wife, Denise Richards, had it written into the custodial agreement that "she" had to provide day care of "their" kids when they were with their father.

What a controlling, manipulative witch she is... But then, she's a lot like most custodial parents across the nation, where they feel "they" are the only ones in the world who can care for "their" kids. (*Note I didn't allow the use of any type of text which would signify both parents are actually the parents of these kids. After a divorce, moms tend to get pretty possessive of the kids, feeling they no longer share any DNA with their father.)

And then, as if she hasn't acted bizarre enough as it is, she contacts him about his fathering a third child with her, via a "donation" to the cause.

See Here to read an article about that

I have to say this about Denise Richards, she's creative in her attempts to manipulate Charlie Sheen.

The following, in my opinion, can be considered truisms in relation to all of this:

  1. Denise thought Charlie was such a bad husband she needed a divorce from him while she was pregnant with their second child. Denise Richards Files For Divorce
  2. Denise thought Charlie was such a bad father she took extreme measures to keep him from his children. Sheen and Richards Custody Battle Turns Uglier
  3. She seems to believe she can get him back whenever she wishes, given he came back once to attempt a reconciliation, seemingly for the sake of their children. Back Together Again
  4. She worked HARD towards forcing him to take full responsibility for the problems in their marriage, as though living with her was a carnival. Princess Wants an Apology
  5. In order to reunite their family, he made all the compromises... He's Anal, She's Not
  6. If she wants time with "her" children, she's being a good parent. If he wants more time with "their" children, he's being spiteful. Denise Disgusted at Legal Action
  7. If she's unhappy with him, he doesn't see his children. If he's unhappy with her, he has to file a legal document. Denise invites him to lunch so he can see his kids
  8. Sheen files paperwork with the court to allow him more time with his children, sans appointed nannies. (see link below) It also seems he's not permitted to see his kids when he's supposed to, either. Richard's mom seems to be undergoing chemo and needs more times with "her grandchildren". Okay, sorry about the cancer, been there, done that, but if he hadn't seen his daughters in two weeks, I think Mom can go without them for a few days. She's undergoing Chemo for a pretty serious illness. Give her a rest.

The article at this link has Denise saying the following: "This is disgusting. He is doing this now because he's not happy with me and the custody arrangement."

Uh, duh!!!!!!!!! If Denise Richards were any kind of parent at all, she'd understand he IS their father and instead of raising her daughters to be man-haters, she'd allow them to spend time with their father. Also, her mother is sick with a potential life-taking illness. Children as young as Sam and Lola don't need to be exposed to that kind of death. My father died of cancer several years ago and my then seven year old son didn't understand it at all. It's manipulative to use her sick mother as an excuse for keeping the girls from Charlie. He's their father...

Also, let's put the shoe on the other foot, shall we? What if it were one of Charlie's family who were sick with cancer. Would she allow him to have more time with the children so they could, in turn, spend more time with the Sheen who was ill? Nope, nope, and more nope. See, manipulation only works if it benefits the person who is doing the manipulation.

To be honest, Charlie should ask for a custody evaluation. Denise is tee-totally nuts and she's narcissistic enough to believe she is above reproach. Custody Evals are done by an independent third party, usually a family therapist, and are ALL about the best interest of the children. When my husband's ex got nuts on us (and it doesn't take long, usually about as long as it takes to put an engagement ring on another woman's hand) we had one. The evaluator strongly recommended we get full custody since mom was so crazy. By the time it got to this point, though, the kids were so PAS'd they were barely talking to us. And mom wouldn't bring them to their family therapy appts. so we had to stop everything. They were the ones suffering for it all, not us, not their mom.

Charlie'll never see this. He isn't in the habit of surfing people's blogs, but he needs to take control of this situation by filing for full custody and asking for an evaluation. Do it fast, do it now...

Denise'll never see this either, she's too busy surfing "bad mommy" sites. But she needs therapy, intensive in-patient therapy. Do it fast, do it now.

Just my two cents. I'm out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And now, let's touch on the whole Owen Wilson thing...

Okay, I have to admit, I was kind of stunned yesterday when I first heard the news that Owen Wilson attempted suicide Sunday.

My first response, my first knee-jerk reaction, was, "What the heck does this guy have to be unhappy about? What's so bad in his life he feels he can't live it any longer?"

My second response was more empathetic, however, when it occurred to me, anyone suffering from depression would have a similar response to any kind of stress. Who knows what drove him over the edge?

Was it his breakup with Kate Hudson? Did a movie of his not do as well as he thought it should or would? Did his dog just die? Was he just having a really bad day and the thought of another one was too much?

The truth of the matter is this - none of us will ever know. Depression, and a person's reasons for committing suicide are all personal. But, as personal as something like this is, I believe the following to be true: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Like it says in the bible, this too shall pass.

I had two friends from High School commit suicide after graduation. Suicide is one of the most extremely selfish things to do to the people left behind. You can leave a note if you wish, it still won't answer all the questions you'll plant in the minds of those who love you. It can be a note the size of War & Peace and it won't answer all the questions...

That being said, Owen, I hope you get better. I hope you get the help you need to become as whole as someone with your condition can become. My husband suffers from depression in a pretty big way and it's not easy to contend with. Get better... Do everything you can and live a long, healthy life.

But, and this is a big but, don't do this to your family again. These people love you, no matter what, and your death won't change that, it enhances it, the memories of what they had with you as a part of their life and the angst that goes along with a life cut short. Every birthday, every Christmas, every Easter, everything, revolves around the lack of (fill in the blank). People might not say it out loud, but they're all thinking it, and it dampens the joy of the occasion.

Clicking on the headline to this post will direct you to a more recent article about this.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick finds Jesus...

I know, I know, I just posted today, but after reading the article on CNN about the whole Vick fiasco, I HAD to post something about it.

First, let me say this, I never saw all the hype about Vick. Okay, he was a good QB, but the NFL is full of good QB's. But I always had a feeling about him. He was too open about his past, which tells me someone wants some attention, poor me, boo hoo, I was able to rise above the quagmire of my life... Blah, blah, blah...

In the CNN article ( Vick says the following:

Vick also said he was sorry "to all the young kids out there for my immature acts."
"What I did was very immature so that means I need to grow up," he said.
He said that he was "disappointed in myself" and that "dogfighting is a terrible thing and I ... reject it."
"I take full responsibility for my actions,"
Vick said. "Not for one second will I sit right here and point the finger and try to blame anybody else for my actions or what I've done.
"I'm totally responsible and those things just didn't have to happen."
He said, "Through this situation I've found Jesus."

Let's take a look at this, shall we?

He's sorry to all the young kids. Good for you, Vick. Let's see if we can't get Nike to bring back that lucrative contract so we can get these shoes on the young kids by Christmas.

What he did was immature and it means he needs to grow up. If I may quote Homer Simpson, "DOH!" Okay, he needs to grow up, but will he? Or will he just get better at hiding his dogfighting operation when he gets out of the big house, if he even goes to the bar window motel. People like him tend to squirm their way out of a jail or prison sentence. Seems justice is only available to the highest bidder.

He takes full responsibility for his actions and isn't going to point any fingers. Could this be a dig at the underlings he employed at his kennels? Is he chastising them for ratting him out when they were ALL caught dead to rights? Seems to me Vick needs to take a harder look within himself and figure out why he's so ready to say nothing when presented with the evidence he has committed some pretty unspeakable acts. Okay, he didn't kill anyone, but all sociopathic serial killers started out maiming and killing animals. Vick wasn't too far removed from the likes of Ted Bundy, IMHO.

He found Jesus in all of this... I'll bet he did. Seems a great deal of the celebrity jailbirds, when presented with the consequences of their actions (see the coverage on Paris Hilton, while she was in jail) find Jesus. Honestly, there are more alter calls in the Baptist churches across the country than Carter's has liver pills, but apparently, walking into a court room is where the real religious conversions happen. Perhaps instead of attorneys becoming judges, we need to look at our local seminaries for dispensing justice.

Vick admits he financed the operation, but didn't benefit financially from the illegal gambling... PUH-LEEZE. So he willingly throws money at the operation and gets nothing in return? Wow, is he a bad investor. Hey, Vick, I'd like to start a business where thousands of dollars change hands every day. All you have to do is provide the start-up money and I'll do the rest. Oh, yeah, and you get nothing beyond the ability to say you helped me get started. Wow, that sounds like a good deal to me!

I think this guy DESERVES a permanent ban from football, as should have Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis... I think their KIDS should be banned from playing any kind of football, and their grandkids, and their great-grandkids... I think you see where I'm going with this...

Tomorrow, I'll talk about the apparent suicide attempt of Owen Wilson... I'm waiting for more on the story to rise to the surface before saying anything about it. Right now, it's just speculation...

'Nuff said, I'm outta here...

Updates and meanderings...

I had my high school reunion and while I had a fantastic time, I'm glad to have the break now. My son commented after I came home that he saw my health deteriorating over the course of my planning, and subsequently implementing, my reunion. I'll do it the next time, in 2012, but I can't let it take as much out of me as it did the last time.

Anyway, my reunion...

I had a wonderful time and seeing everyone, some for the first time since graduation, was amazing. It was completely low pressure and one of my classmates, Corinne, mentioned to me afterwards, that she enjoyed the fact that there was no talk of, "What do you do?", "How many kids do you have?", "What are they doing now?", "Where do you live and in what size house?"...

I have to say, the playing field was definitely level, with old friends catching up with old friends. Since I've been sick, I haven't been able to work, and I was concerned that I would be judged by the fact I am pretty much a stay at home mom now. I didn't have to worry about that in the slightest. Everyone looked the same to me, except one classmate who had to remind me who he was, which was surprising because once he told me, I saw it right away! The same smile, the same face, the same eyes, the same incredibly full beard he had in high school! (He was an early bloomer, it seems, and had a full beard since, oh, tenth grade?) We danced, we drank (way too much!), we ate, we laughed, we caught up after too many years apart.

I had so many people tell me how much they appreciated my doing this, how much work it must have been, and how much time it took away from my normal life. I didn't say this at the reunion, and I should have, but my reasons weren't alltogether altruistic.

December of 2005, we lost one of our more well-known classmates, Doug Proctor, to side effects of Multiple Sclerosis. He was young, only 40, and in high school, he lit up a room just by walking into it. He was funny, intelligent, lively, active and I didn't know anyone who didn't like Doug. We HAVE lost other classmates to deaths that were essentially their own fault. I'm not saying anyone should die because of stupidity, etc. I believe all life is valuable... However, these other classmates were lost to their own drunk driving, suicides, drug overdoses, you get the drift. Doug was the first one to die not as a result of his own actions but as a result of nature; and it hit me kind of hard.

The class I graduated from, Tecumseh High School Class of 1982, was a small class by some standards, roughly 350 people, and we grew up together, pretty much. We were a small, rural school district, and a handful of elementary schools fell into two junior highs (this was in the days before middle school, and the first year our school district changed things was in my senior year, when freshmen began attending our high school) and everyone ended up at the same High School, Tecumseh. However, we all went to the same places, shopped at the same stores, attended the same churches, our parents worked at the same places and, in the case of those who had older siblings, our brothers and/or sisters knew or dated each other. The point I'm trying to make is this: We all truly knew each other, from kindergarten to graduation, and beyond given some of us went to the same colleges.

Here's what I didn't tell my class... I took charge of this reunion for one reason and one reason only: I love you all. I even love the ones who don't like me at all, because that's the chip on their shoulder.

I didn't want another five years to go by and hear of another person leaving this plane, to pass onto another, more mysterious world. I didn't want to read about the death of another classmate, yet again being reminded that our time on this earth is too short, by any standards. I didn't want to berate myself for not seeing these people yet again and hear we were reduced in numbers. I knew all the people in our class who have died before now. I knew some better than others, some barely, but I knew them all, and it saddens me to know they are gone. I miss Doug. I missed his presence at our reunion, knowing he would have been there, had he been alive.

Matt King's wife made a comment to me about her last high school reunion. She graduated from a high school in Dallas, a member of a class of about 900. She told me that at her last reunion, that she didn't know half the people who were there and the same cliques were still in place after two decades of living in the world. I explained to her that we also had the same clique in place, that of our class. We were one large clique, all united in the understanding of being a family, having grown up together as we did.

So, yes, I will take charge of the next reunion in 2012 and the reason will be the same, because I selfishly don't want another five years to go by without one more chance to let the people in my life have fun and see each other again.

Except this time, I think I'll tell them this.