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Choose Life

H1, H2, & Big Boy Life on the (L)edge

Begun in the aftermath of Katrina, this blog was a way to keep family and friends updated as the family struggled to return to a semblance of normalcy. Now, more than four years later, the memories are still strong, the family is, to some extent, scattered. However, life did go on, and this is our story.

April 25, 2006

LETTING OFF SOME STEAM, IS ALL

I’m back in Memphis while Linda is in New Orleans for the week. The Tennessee state special election was overturned last week. That’s the election where one candidate, a member of a politically powerful family, won by 13 votes, 12 of which were definitely proved to be fraudulent (dead people back from the grave to vote, convicted felons voting, etc.). It made me think about the recent NOLA elections. With all the hubbub and hoopla, this just may have been the most fraud-free election in New Orleans history!!

Speaking of the election (I know, it’s over, get over it!) I still get bugged every time I hear someone complain about the “disenfranchised voter”. Who are these people? What cave do they live in? We have a system of voting that provides for ANYONE who merely THINKS that they might not be around on voting day to exercise their right to vote using the absentee ballot. This is not new. And, with the advent of the internet (available to ANYONE at local libraries) acquiring an absentee ballot is easy. Still if you can’t get to the internet, a phone call will do the trick. The phone number and web addresses were made public in newspapers and on television nationwide. Pretty much the only people who may really have been disenfranchised would have to be both deaf and blind. I’m not sure a satellite voting location would have done them much good, anyway.

It’s a shame that some respected local political analysts are still bemoaning the lack of those satellite voting locations. “Iraq is the blueprint”, they say. BALONEY!! It took two years to set up the Iraqi elections. We should wait two years when we already have a system in place to handle absentee situations? I THINK NOT!! “But some votes weren’t counted because of errors,” they say, “like choosing more than one candidate, or not getting the ballot notarized or, alternatively, signed by two witnesses.” I’m sorry, it’s about time ignorance and stupidity were removed as reasons for special treatment. If you can’t read the instructions, get someone to read them to you. The ballot wasn’t that hard to understand, and the instructions were clear. I know. That’s how I voted.

Sorry, I had to get it off my chest. This weblog is a great venue for venting. I promise to get over it (until the next election in May, I think). Until then, you remain in our thoughts and prayers.

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April 22, 2006

Dark Clouds/Silver Linings

What an upside down world we now live in!  As we were driving back to NOLA this morning, Linda commented that she feels like she’s going on vacation.  She’s taken a week off from work and is going to stay in NOLA, in our house.  It’s a sad state of affairs when staying in a hotel is like home, and staying home is a vacation.

It’s still a dirty city.  The highways are littered and unswept.  Garbage remains evident everywhere.

And it’s like coming into East Texas, if you look at all the license plates as you drive around town.  Did you ever notice how cities, or different areas of cities, have a certain flow to the traffic?  It’s different in different parts of the city, and even in the same place, but at different times of day.  There’s a rhythm to it, and a certain quality of driving etiquette (or lack of).  That rhythm, that etiquette is gone from the traffic here.  It’s as if the city is full of drivers who don’t really know where they’re going, and aren’t aware of others around them.  Driving in NOLA these days is a lot like one of those arcade driving games.

Today is also the election, so it wasn’t surprising to see that campaign signs, like dandelions, have popped up all over.  It looks like most candidates don’t have as many signs out as in previous years, but there are so many more candidates that there as just as many signs.

The silver lining in all this is, of course, the time I get to spend with my sweetie!  We talk and talk and just sit and enjoy each others company.  That, to me, is one very positive outcome of this otherwise very negative experience.  

Another is getting more in touch with nature.  Watching the changing of the seasons, seeing the fields of white cotton, then watch as they are harvested, then barren fields and trees, then snow covered, then the glory of spring and the blossoming of the Bartlett pear trees, followed by dogwoods and azaleas.  That, too, has been a wonderfully positive experience.

The downside is being away from home, family and friends, of having to drive six hours each way from Memphis to NOLA and back,  of not being able to serve every week at my church, and losing our pastor to another parish.

Still, the blessings will always outweigh the “curses”.  God is like that.  Sometimes we just have to sit quietly and think about what we need, what we want (not the same thing), and what we have.  God gives us what we need, not always what we want.  Everything we have is a gift from God.  It is what we do with those gifts that really matters.

You are all gifts, and we love and cherish you and pray for you.  Take care, and may God’s blessings be yours in abundance!!

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April 19, 2006

Is There A Relationship Between IQ and Common Sense?

Linda and I exercised our duty as good citizens by completing and mailing in our absentee ballots for this coming Saturday’s elections in New Orleans.  Now we can sit back and see what happens.  I’m curious to see just how forgiving people will be of C. Ray when push comes to shove.

There’s a group called “IQ” that is running for the seven assessor seats.  IQ stands for “I Quit”.  They (the IQs) say that if they win, six of the seven will quit, leaving one assessor.  Sounds good in theory, but who decides which one stays?  And what if only 1 of the “IQs” gets elected?  Or only two, or three, or…  you get the picture.

Remember the tornadoes that passed through our area two weeks ago?  It seems that FEMA has brought in some of the trailers originally intended for Katrina-hit areas.  Now everyone want to know why we have trailers, but no one is living in them.  Hey, it’s only been two weeks!!  After seven month, there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of still EMPTY trailers in New Orleans.  Never forget, anything that comes from the government (ANY government!!) comes with an ample supply of “cinta roja” (red tape).

And have you noticed how the TV networks bring in their fall lineups, give you a chance to settle into a routine of watching your favorite programs, then either cancel one of your favorites, or move it to a “new day and time”, invariably opposite another show you always watch?  (Whew, was that sentence complex enough?)

Back to New Orleans…  I mentioned in an earlier entry that we’re already seeing increases in our property taxes.  At the same time we’re seeing a decrease in city services.  Trash pick up has gone from twice a week to, theoretically, once a week, but even that is sporadic, at best.  It is not uncommon for trash pickup to occur once in two weeks or more.

The Louisiana insurance commission just approved a rate hike for Allstate Insurance.  Predictions are that New Orleans residents may see as much as a 52% hike in home owners insurance.  And apparently Allstate, and others, is levying a one time 15% fee to help them “get well” since the storms.

Gas prices.  Anyone notice how quickly and how high they are going?  It’s being predicted that gas will average $3.50/gallon by summer.  We’re being told that it’s due to high cost of crude (maybe so), development of alternative fuels (what is the connection here?), and some suggest it’s simply supply and demand.  When I read about oil company executives who retire with a $400 MILLION retirement package, I have to wonder just how many oil company employees have hyper-inflated salary/bonus/retirement packages, and how much this, coupled with HUGE oil company profits posted annually, are the actual reason behind high gas prices.

I’m really looking forward to April 29th.  H2’s commencement from Loyola University of New Orleans will bring the whole family together, including H1 and DIL coming in from Houston!  That in itself is reason for a party, but we are SO proud of H2 and his accomplishments, so we will have to party twice as hearty!!

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April 17, 2006

Vote Early, and Vote Often!!

Two weeks ago we sat in horrendous traffic trying to cross the Crescent City Connection from the West Bank of New Orleans to the East Bank. What brought this about, you ask? It was a demonstration, led by none other than the Reverend Jesse Jackson, himself, trying to highlite the gross unfairness of Louisiana's electoral situation. Signs that read "Iraq has better democracy than Louisiana" proliferated.

The news reported several thousand people participated. And how did they get there? They were bused in!! Bused!! Why is it that some people refuse to do ANYTHING for themselves? Why do some people want EVERYTHING handed over on a silver platter? I expected more from the Rev. Jackson. Hasn't he ever heard of the concept of "absentee ballots"? Every single displaced eligible voter has the opportunity to receive and submit an absentee ballot for the upcoming election. So, why the demonstration? And why bus all these people in? If you must bus, Reverend Jesse, why not bus the voters in for election day? Hmm? Or why not send buses full of absentee ballots to various locations throughout the country where people can go to pick them up? Hmm?

I wonder how many of the people who are ranting and raving about their lost right to vote will never return to New Orleans anyway. There's no way to tell at this point. A recent special election for a state representative here in Memphis was wrought with voter fraud (ineligible people voting, dead people voting (how much more ineligible is that??). It appears to me that the situation we are now faced with in New Orleans offers not only the potential for, but the opportunity for mass voter fraud. How can you prove or disprove someone's eligibility to vote when faced with "Yes, I'm a citizen of New Orleans, but I lost my home and all my id during Katrina."?

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Ren and Gimpy

Gosh, it’s great to be back at work on a balmy Monday! The sun is shining, the air is sweet with the smell of freshly cut grass, flowering dogwoods and azaleas. It is absolutely beautiful outside. I’m SO glad to be inside, in a cubicle, away from any windows, sitting at my computer. No sun block needed for me, no sir!!

Easter weekend was terrific! Linda and I drove to New Orleans on Friday, after work. We arrived around 10:30PM, had a late night dinner of cheese pizza (Thanks, H2!!) and then called it a day.

Saturday was laundry day. Two weeks worth of Memphis laundry buildup occupied my time, while Linda tried, in vain, to pick up the license plate sticker for our car. For being the only title place open on the West Bank, the place does NOT have its act together.

We got together as a family for dinner at 5PM at China Doll Restaurant, one of the BEST Chinese restaurants anywhere. Then most of us went to 8PM Easter Vigil Mass, which was lovely. It begins with the blessing and lighting of the Easter candle, then a procession into the church in total darkness, except for the Easter candle, and the congregation has small candles that are lit from the lighted Easter candle, as well.

After the entrance processions, yours truly sang the Exultet, a cappella mind you. It is a good 7 ½ to 8 minutes long. Talk about “dry mouth”!! I think it went pretty well. Several people commented that it was good, one person adding that it was “a VAST improvement from last year.” I said, “Wait, I think I did it last year.” To which she replied, “And this year was a VAST improvement!” So, I think it was a compliment, sort of. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Easter Sunday we had dinner again as family, this time at Patti and Jerrod’s house. It was wonderful, the food was delicious, and everyone had a great time.

Last week, BB tripped while she and Ian were running down the sidewalk and apparently cracked a bone in her ankle. This weekend she was cute in a floral dress, cast, and little crutches. At her age I think the cast got more of a workout than the crutches. Pray for a speedy mending for both her and Patti!

Wishing you all the best of health, love, life. May God’s blessings be on you this Easter week and beyond.

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April 15, 2006

Holy Week - 2006

What a beautiful Palm Sunday we have had in Memphis!! The sun shone, temperature was around 70 degrees and no wind. We went to a very nice Mass at Holy Spirit church, then on to Outback for a nice dinner. It was excellent, as always. Outback is pretty good for a chain restaurant.

Although it hasn’t been kind to my waistline, being forced to dine out so much has been a real blessing. The time I’ve spent with Linda has been wonderful, not at all like it was pre-Katrina. Linda or I would come home from work, make something for dinner, then plop down in front of the “tube” while we ate. It’s really great to sit and think and talk and just be together with few distractions.

My sister, Sara, is coming for KenEllie’s nuptial Mass!! We are SO excited. It is always the greatest of pleasures to see her. And, we will be in Pennsylvania two weeks later for the wedding of Sara’s daughter, Jen, so we get to see her AGAIN! YES!! Sara’s a pretty amazing woman. She’s a nurse who goes on church missions to Alaska. As much as I’d like to see Alaska, I’m afraid I’d rather limit it to a cruise.

It’s Holy Satuday and 5 more days since I started this entry. Wednesday we met “The Governor” from New Orleans, and his wife, for dinner. He’s really a retired NO Fire Chief, but my daughter always said he was such a neat dresser he looked like the governor. We went, of course, to Texas de Brazil! They had never been, and I think thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

After dinner we walked the two blocks to Beale Street (a smaller and much, much cleaner version of Bourbon Street) where a Wednesday Night bike night was in progress. It was very interesting to see all the motorcycles lining both sides of the street as we wandered up and down a three-block area of restaurants, bars and such. There was even a motocross jump demonstration set up so we watched some motorcycle acrobatics. It was really exciting to watch, as these young riders shot high up into the air, then did various acrobatics before landing on the down ramp.

Job update… No change for Linda, still job hunting to get back in NOLA, with a few possibilities in the works. As for me, as our project delivery date has moved way to the right, the plan is to bring everyone home in June, so I asked my boss for a firm date commitment. As of today (subject to change, as we are SO well aware) I am scheduled to return to New Orleans on June 2nd. We’ll see. A lot depends on whether our work spaces currently being renovated are really ready to go by the end of May.

Please keep Linda and her job situation in your prayers. It would be really nice to bring her home with me! Also, continue to pray for Chloe, the baby with Leukemia.

We wish you all an over-abundance of God’s blessings during this Holiest of Seasons. Happy Easter, everyone!

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April 7, 2006

Hershey Is My Favorite Chocolate*

*Has absolutely nothing to do with what follows.

Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote. It’s been a pretty quiet week here in Memphis (except for the weather). Let’s see… Final Four action: I was sorry to see LSU lose to UCLA, but glad that UCLA lost to Florida.

H2 came to Memphis with Angelica on Monday. We went to Texas de Brazil for dinner and had a great time. I think H2 will back me up when I say that TdB is awesome (I know, I’ve said it before). He seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself, going so far as to say that he would come up twice a month so we could go to TdB. We’re just waiting for other family members to visit and share in our fine dining experience. I guess H2 will be going with H1 and DIL the next time he goes to Houston, as they have not only TdB, but also several other Brazilian restaurants, as well. Chabuca’s comes highly recommended by a coworker.

Work is still work, but I think the stress level has decreased a little since the target delivery date of our product has slipped. That’s good news for everyone working on the project. Too much stress leads to errors and rework which end up costing the project and potentially delaying it even more.

My going home date remains a total unknown. Originally I was asked to stay until the project finished to help move everyone back to NOLA. That would have been early June. Now that the project has been extended to sometime between Sep-Dec, it looks like some will go back early, some will stay, but no one has been identified yet. Will those that remain do so until the end? That, too, is a mystery. So basically I will probably return home to NOLA sometime between June and December.

Linda’s job in Millington is still going away. We’re hoping she finds another in NOLA soon, but if not, that at least she will be able to keep her old job until she’s eligible for retirement. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it all works out and we both get to come home together. To make things even more strange, my friend, Young Wade, who works on the NSIPS project has returned to New Orleans. They have relocated into the same offices that Linda and her coworkers vacated.

This has been quite a week, weatherwise. Today we’ve had several bands of strong thunderstorms going through the area, with tornadoes a constant threat. I was home (in the hotel) all day today because I wasn’t feeling well, and listened to the tornado warning sirens going off several times during the day. What a totally eerie sensation!

Although it’s nice to not be traveling this weekend, we really REALLY miss BB and Ian! They are just the sweetest kids and a joy to be around. Easter can’t come too soon for us. We’re looking forward to getting together, although the whole family won’t be there. Still, it’s one more grasp at some normal moments.

Speaking of Easter, we wish you all the best during this most Holy of holidays. May be Peace of our Lord be with you and those you love.

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April 2, 2006

Toto, I Don't Think We're In Kansas Anymore

Good trip back to Memphis. Taking about 5 1/2 hours, which is really good time, we arrived at 7:30PM. The weather was sunny and warm the whole way, starting at 86° and dropping to about 81° by the time we got to Memphis. As we approached Tennessee we could see ominous looking clouds from storms that were approaching the area. Watching "The Sopranos" was a little eerie as we listened to tornado sirens, our area being under a tornado warning. We've been fortunate so far, mainly thunder and lightning locally, while to the North communities experienced 1 1/2 inch hail, and there is a large tornado being tracked while I write this.

We had a nice visit, but it's getting more and more difficult to make this trip and remain upbeat. It's good to be home for the few hours we are there, but there's so much to be done and almost no time to do it on a Saturday once or twice a month.

As we follow the news out of NOLA, it's beginning to look like those of us who still own homes that are in good shape are going to pay a steep price as part of the rebuilding process. We will be the tax base to support the entire city, paying for rebuilding and city services. The New Orleans School Board has just increased their property tax cut, and the city is about to pass a 9% property tax increase, as well. It looks like water and power will soon be following suit, with rate hikes in the offing. Time to put out the old "For Sale" sign? I don't know. The city will HAVE to find another "cash cow" to tap for the long term rebuilding, or people will lose their homes because they can't afford the increased cost of ownership.

Again, Happy Birthday to Aunt Pat, who's b'day is TOMORROW!! I hope it's a great day for you!

Easter is only two weeks away. As you color Easter eggs, and buy/give/hide chocolate bunnies, peeps, etc., please try to keep in mind the real reason behind Easter... Think of the CROSS, where God's infinite love met and conquered man's sins. Christ died a painful, yet willing, death so that you and I might receive the hope of eternal life as Children of God, brothers and sisters of our Lord and Savior. May the grace of God be with you all this Easter season. May the Holy Spirit fill you with faith, hope, and above all charity, that charity that manifests itself in a demonstrable love for our neighbor.

Peace and love to you all. Happy Easter!!!

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April 1, 2006

Random Acts of Mindness

We’re back in New Orleans for the weekend. Actually just for one day. We arrived at 11:00PM last night and will leave tomorrow morning as soon as we can pack up and load the car. It’s going to be one busy day today!!

First on the agenda is doing two weeks worth of laundry. I did one load last night and the second load is in the dryer. Once that’s done we need to get over to a title place to have the title on our car transferred from Major Dad to us, now that he’s finally received the title from the state. (It only took months to get!!) Then it’s off to a tuxedo rental place in Metairie to get fitted for KenEllie’s Nuptial Mass.

Around 1-ish we’ll be heading to Oschner hospital to visit with Brett and his kids (please, keep praying!!) and then Deacon Ernie and I will baptize the twins at 2PM. Either 4PM Mass at Christ the King or 5PM Mass at Holy Name of Mary. Don’t know which one, yet. Finally dinner with most (if not all) the family (H1 and DIL will be in from Houston) at an as yet undisclosed location (Can you say “D’Itali’s Pizza???)(I hope!).

All of Algiers Point is having a “garage sale” today. People everywhere are putting their “stuff” out on the sidewalks and traffic is heavy. If we’d been in town to get ready we might have been able to divest ourselves of about ½ ton of our own stuff, but alas, not to be. Our house still looks like a “u-store-it”, the bulk of the clutter being self-inflicted.

Happy Birthday to Aunt Pat!! Picture me singing the birthday song with a birthday hat and one of those things you blow into and it unrolls and whistles. (In case I don’t blog on Monday). I hope you have a great day and wish you many, many more!

Our nephew, Bryan, with his bride, Brittany, celebrated their marriage with family and friends last weekend. I noticed from photos that Bryan and Bill wore kilts. Maybe now I can find out the answer to that age-old question of what do Scotsmen wear under their kilts? Bill?

Only two months until the start of the next hurricane season. This should be interesting, as I now understand that the city plans to order evacuations, even for tropical storms now because so many people are living in trailers. Another active hurricane season will certainly cause chaos in the business community as they shut down to allow employees to evacuate over and over.

And now government experts are saying that it will take at least 25 years to rebuild New Orleans! It’s an opportunity to do things over, and do them right. But, it also looks like that isn’t going to happen. Politics and graft “as usual” are already resurfacing in the Big Easy. The city is trying to contract to have all the old, flooded, abandoned cars removed. And where is the company they’re trying to contract with? The address listed is an abandoned, flooded out HOUSE (as opposed to business) in one of the devastated neighborhoods. You go, Ray-gin!

I guess I’ve roamed and rambled enough for one Saturday. Take care and remember, God loves you!!

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