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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.

August 31, 2006

Bye Bye Miss (or Mister) American Pie

Listening to the radio on the way to work this morning I heard a song that cracked me up. It’s called “TheOKgoawayParisHiltonApparatus” and can be found at http://www.purevolume.com/theokgoawayparishiltonapparatus. Gives me an idea! We should make a list of celebs who, for whatever reason, we’d like to see just go away. What do you think? I’ll start. I’m SO sick of the whole TomKat and Branjelina thing. Those two couples are more than welcome to disappear from theaters, tv, tabloids, etc.! Really!! Enough already!! If you have a favorite someone, just leave a comment telling who it is.

While driving down Veterans Blvd. today a car with Texas plates inched his way into the intersection as the light was turning red, effectively blocking the cross traffic. Why am I constantly being confronted by IDIOTS????? I’m keeping my eye out at the toll booths for that one!

H2 is on his way back from Houston. He should be arriving in ½ hour or so, when I’ll leave work and go meet him for supper at Carreta’s Mexican restaurant. It’ll be great to see him again, if ever so briefly. I leave for Memphis from work tomorrow.

We finally have several days of good weather strung together. It looks like a nice weekend. It’s definitely a nice weekend to get out of town. The Decadence Festival is in full swing again this weekend. NICE. I’m all for letting your hair down a bit, but this festival is just a little (ok, a lot) overboard.

Welcome Kylee Ann Herrick to the family!! My nephew Bryan’s wife Bethany gave birth to a lovely daughter two days ago! Bryan’s sister Rachel should be next, then Patti will deliver Molly Grace on September 25th. This is my brother Bill’s first grandchild, and he is understandably bursting his buttons with pride!! Congrats, Bro’!!

Getting ready for the five-year anniversary of 9/11. I wonder what kind of specials the networks have planned.

And what about this FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) guy, Warren Jeffs? 40 wives? Is he INSANE??? By the way, the FLDS is not affiliated with the LDS folks.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day Weekend!!! God bless you!!

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August 30, 2006

Ol' Black Water, Keep On Rollin'...

Well, 8/29 (somehow it just doesn't have the same ring as 9/11) has come and gone. Even though I swore I wouldn't, Monday night I watched the NBC special about the first 5 days of the storm, followed by the local NBC affiliate's documentary of their coverage of the storm. It still brought tears watching it happen all over again, feeling the anxiety, the helplessness overwhelming again.

Tuesday morning I went to a memorial Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. It was an awesome Mass, with an excellent homily by Archbishop Hughes. All the big shot politicians were there... Congressmen William Jefferson (the one under indictment) and Bobby Jindal, Senator Robert Vitter, General Honore, Governor Blanco and President and Mrs. Bush. I've never actually seen ANY politician of significance up close and personal before. Sad it took a hurricane of such proportions to bring it about. "W" is shorter than I would have thought, and Laura Bush seemed as nice as I thought.

Tuesday night KenEllie talked me into watching the Spike Lee film about Katrina. Interesting film, but not surprising, considering who made it. Although I found it very biased and misleading at times, I'm sure it is exactly what Mr. Lee intended it to be. His focus was on the lower 9th Ward, and the African American community, especially those who took refuge at the Superdome or the convention center. His main interviews were wtih black activists, so their take was not unexpected either. I have nothing against Mr. Lee's right to choose his topic. I'm only sorry that it will probably be the main source of (mis)information about New Orleans after the storm that most people in the US will see. While images of 80% of New Orleans being flooded, it wasn't pointed out that a good bit of that flooding was to the tune of a foot or two of water and much of those areas is coming back to life. It also wasn't pointed out that 100% of St. Bernard parish, Chalmette, Arabi, Meraux, etc. was gone under 10-20 feet of water. 100%!!! Of course that wasn't mentioned, it was a predominantly middle class white community of closely knit families. Will the rest of the country hear about that? Not nearly as much as they should, I would reckon.

Friday I head to Memphis to spend the weekend with Linda. H2 will return from Houston tomorrow, so maybe I'll get to at least say "Hi" to him before I cut out. He was contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They sent him an application packet, so he's going to apply to them to become a special agent. Prayers are asked for him as he tries to begin a new career in law enforcement. He's a great kid! We really love him and are super proud of him!!

Yesterday I arrived home to find the city removing the one remaining sycamore tree from the front of our house. We had two until the storm, which downed one, and broke off the top third of the second one. We've been trying to get the city to take them down for 20 years. Thank you, Katrina, my dark cloud with a silver lining. Now we can put up bradford pears, which should be a lot less destructive of the sidewalk, and shed a lot fewer leaves, leaving us, hopefully, with much happier neighbors.

If you've ever been to New Orleans, and have traveled from the West Bank to the East Bank across the Crescent City Connection, you will know that there are several toll booths that scan toll tags rather than collecting cash. You'll also know that for about 1/2 mile before the booths, the toll tag lanes have signs painted in the lane stating that it is a toll tag only lane. So why is it that EVERY STINKING MORNING the toll tag lanes come to a dead halt because someone stayed in the lane until they reached the toll booth, and only then decided to move over to the cash lane? Aarrrggghhhhhhh!!!! I think they're the same people who put on their turn signal (maybe) as they cut you off. Remember people, a turn signal does NOT constitute the right of way.

Which reminds me... After the tree cutters had left, two men returned with a stump grinder pulled behind a pick up truck. They pulled up in front of the house facing against traffic, put out cones, and started prepping the site for the grinder. A couple of cars came up and inched by. Then a woman from our church came by, inched rather quickly by, and left about a 3 foot crease in the side of her car. The next thing you know she's out complaining loudly about how the truck is going the wrong way, and was it a city truck, and who's responsible for fixing her car? I tried to explain nicely that the truck was parked, as in NOT MOVING, and SHE HIT THE TRUCK, not vice versa. She replies, "So you're saying it's MY fault?!? But they're going the wrong way!" Then she proceeded to go to our "out on bail for stabbing his roommate who was committing suicide to death" neighbor to borrow his phone to call the police. I wouldn't be surprised if she drives up to the toll booth before changing lanes, too!

OK. I'm tired. Gotta go to bed. I hope Big J is enjoying his trip to N. Carolina. Rumor has it that T&K went ring looking (not shopping). Please pray that their relationship remains on track and that God blesses them with much happiness.

Take care, good night, and God bless you all, too!

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August 28, 2006

H1 Should Get This

I read a joke in Reader’s Digest. It seems that a woman was preparing for a party. As the time for people to begin arriving approached, she realized she needed milk, but didn’t have any. She asked her husband to run to the store to get her a quart of milk. He returned a while later, empty handed. When she asked about the milk he answered, “They were out. All they had were pints.” - I don’t get it. Oh, and she also mentioned that her husband is a statistician. – I still don’t get it. (OK. Maybe I do get it)

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August 27, 2006

Has It Been A Year Already?????

Linda's visit is almost over. Tomorrow she heads back to Memphis. It's been a good weekend, though. Saturday we went to dinner with our good friends Keith and Chris. We don't see them nearly often enough, so it is always especially nice when we can get together. They joined Linda and I for Mass at our parish, then we went to Byblos for dinner. It was great, as usual.

Today I preached at both 8am and 10am Masses, then off to Chevy's for our traditional Sunday lunch with Patti and Jerrod (aka Snake Slayer)(it's a long story... something to do with dreams and rat terriers and snakes) and family. Supper was at their place, with SS making homemade pizzas. KenEllie joined us so it was a nice family (sans H1, DIL1 and H2) gathering.

It's hard to believe that the 1st anniversary of Katrina is only 2 days away. Some folks are really looking forward to commemorative events, others don't want to remember any more than they have to.

C Ray was on Meet The Press this morning. Man, can he dodge the hard questions. Tim Russert asked him one question three times, and never did get a straight answer. And it seems like Nagin can't open his mouth anymore without offending someone. Although, I have to say that I don't hold his comments about N.Y. against him. I think the journalist who put him on the spot by comparing the destruction of New Orleans to the destruction of the Twin Towers was way off the mark. Apples and oranges. No one is denying that 9/11 was a huge tragedy with terrible loss of life and property, but to compare it to the devastation of 80% of an entire CITY, plus surrounding communities as well, is simply wrong.

H2's considering a career with the Houston P.D. He's even gone so far as to take the civil service exam and be interviewed for the department. Although Linda and I will miss him if he moves to Texas, we wish him the best of luck and success where ever his career aspirations take him.

Hurricane Ernesto (or, as our pastor calls it "Er-nasty") is hopefully going to take a turn away from the Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf coast. We pray that if that happens that the people of Florida will be spared any significant damage from the storm. While praying that the hurricane doesn't come to us, we certainly are not wishing it on anyone else!

Let me close by wishing you all long life, much laughter, and lasting love. May God bless you with all that you need, and most of what you want. Praise God, follow Jesus, choose LIFE.

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August 24, 2006

I'M STILL HERE, BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

I had a job interview today. Now THAT was nerve-wracking!! I think I can count the number of job interviews I’ve had in my entire LIFE on one hand. Too bad. It’s a job I think I could do well, but don’t think I fit the picture of who they are looking for. Oh, well. C’est la vie. At least I’m fairly happy doing what I do now.

Big J commented at lunch that I haven’t blogged in awhile. Then Ellie, of KenEllie fame texted me with a similar comment. I can’t help it if I just get blogger’s block. It happens. I just hate to ramble on and on without having anything really substantive to say, although I have done so in the past. I try to keep it to a minimum.

The first anniversary of Katrina is only five days away. A whole year has gone by. I’ve shared some of my perceptions with you before, but I think as we get closer to the anniversary, we get more thoughtful about it. At least I do. And what I’ve been thinking about most is how much of New Orleans is still relatively untouched (repairs-wise) since the storm. At the rate we are going I would venture to say that the New Orleans of 2015 will be quite a bit smaller than that of 2005. This might not be so bad. There’s been much talk of “green space” over the past year. A few more parks and green areas, especially in some of the more blighted areas of pre-Katrina New Orleans might be a good thing. This is a great opportunity to beautify an aging city.

Katrina has brought about an unexpected opportunity to improve our school system. Many charter school associations have sprung up, taking over administration of many of the public schools. Hopefully this will result in better schools which will, in turn, be a selling point for bringing people to New Orleans, rather than a reason to not come to New Orleans.

It’s time I put behind me what was before, and get on with the new normalcy of life post-K. I don’t see any changes coming any time soon, so for now, life is a lesson in patience, perseverance, flexibility and creativity (after all, necessity IS the mother of invention, is it not?). For now, and for the foreseeable future, we do by making do.

Life is good. The alternative? Not so good. So be it. Let’s live life to the fullest, optimistic about the future and ready to pitch in to make the future a better place for everyone.

Take care, God bless.

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A Katrina Prayer

I received this prayer in an email today. It touched me and I hope it will touch you, too. - D³


Rewriting the History of August 29th: A Prayer

Thank you for letting me understand homelessness, living without power, without television, without cool air in the heat;

Thank you for letting me understand hunger, the leisure of dry clean clothes and the relief of a place to sleep.

Thank you for letting me understand the deep and overwhelming sadness when forces, beyond our personal control, take the loved, the familiar, the usual.

Thank you for my needfulness and for my newfound empathy for those homeless before the storm and homeless now and for those hungry anywhere, for those in need everywhere.

Thank you for the opportunity you provided to help my neighbor, to be my brother's keeper, to serve food, to patch roofs, to clean yards, and to start mending that which was broken.

Thank you for the chance to change ourselves,
for a reprieve from the normal, commercial day,
for teaching us to make do,
to get by,
to improvise,
for drowning our conceit,
complacency,
callousness,
for silencing the noise,
for stopping the clock,
and for the chance to act our best when the worst occurred.

Thank you for the people who reached in, pulled out the living, cradled the dead, comforted the broken and torn apart, wept for the splintered and uprooted.

Thank you for the people who didn't wait to come right away, who opened their homes, who emptied their shelves, their closets, who cleaned, fed, healed, held us, who told us our spirit was amazing, and who keep on coming.

Thank you for the people who measure their faith by their actions, and measure their actions by its consistency with their faith.

Thank you for all the people we have met, who are new friends, new loved ones, new brothers and sisters, new neighbors.

Thank you, KATRINA.

Not for the wind,
not for the water,
but for the appreciation of the things no storm can shatter,
no water can wash away,
no wind can move.

- Tom Teel and Reilly Morse, Gulfport, MS

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August 15, 2006

*Three Days, Man... Three Days... We just love you...

* With apologies to Max Yasgar and his farm, Woodstock, NY, 1969.

I went to the movies with H2 and FL1. We saw "Pulse". It was $5 and 1 1/2 hours of my life I will never get back. It was definitely a "wait until it comes out on video and get a friend to rent it" movie. Oh well, the company was good.

Going to the Pit Stop tomorrow night and then maybe out for some hot wings and celery stalks. Hope the weather holds up. We've had a lot of rain lately, so a couple of days without is nice. Still very humid, making any outdoor activity sticky and uncomfortable.

It's tomorrow night already. I'm back from the Pit Stop. H2 is getting ready for his trip to Houston tomorrow evening. It will be very quiet around here while he's gone. Maybe I'll finish season three of Alias.

A close friend of ours has a large, fast growing lymphoma in his chest. He begins his first round of chemo this week. Please pray for him, and for his family. We met them soon after moving into Algiers Point, and have been friends ever since, with his boys attending Holy Name of Mary school, and Holy Cross High School with my own sons.

We're starting to see houses bulldozed in Lakeview. More than I would have imagined. It's an older neighborhood anyway, so pre-K people would buy homes, demolish and rebuild. I guess Katrina was nature's way of encouraging the practice.

Hmmm. I guess I'd better save this and continue later. My mind is like mush and I can't think of anything else to write. Maybe tomorrow.

So what's up with this JonBenetRamsey thing? A teacher confessed? From Thailand? What's he doing in Thailand? Is that not bizarre? And he said it was a kidnapping gone bad. If it's true, I'm sorry the mother didn't live to see it, or to see her husband and her finally out from under the dark cloud of suspicion that had enveloped them for the past 10 years.

Not to be outdone with bizarre, our legislature recently passed a law making it illegal to smoke in an automobile that is carrying a child under 5 years old. While I'm all about not smoking, I find this a little unsettling. Hasn't it already been established that a car (or truck) is an extension of one's home? If that's true, then how soon will we be looking at legislation to regulate smoking in households with infants? We can't legislate ourselves into a society where no one ever gets sick, no one ever has an accident, no one ever dies prematurely. Stuff happens. Regardless of our best efforts. It's part of life, part of living.

Enough of the soap box. It's taken me three days to finish this. Take care, God bless, we love you.

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August 12, 2006

Saturday Morning

Linda is home. H2 is home. I'm up after letting Maynard out for his morning u-m-m, you know. Fed Maynard, fed Gumbo, fed Evil Greenbird, fed Craig-er. Prepped two pots of coffee, made one. Checked my emails. Now I'm blogging, sort of. All's almost right with the world.

The day is young. Not much to say. I'm not even sure my mind is fully engaged yet. Maybe I should go get some of that first pot of java and see if it gets me going. It's decaf, but hey, it's the thought that counts, right? Mind over lack of caffeine, that's what I say!

I spoke to DIL1 a couple of times last week. She seems VERY happy with her "Xbox". I'm thinking she won't be TRULY happy until she takes it on a, say, 6 hour or so road trip, probably easterly. H-m-m-m? I guess that'll have to wait, since H2 is heading to Houston once again on Thursday and will be there for two weeks.

I don't know if anyone read much after Katrina about people (notably police officers) "borrowing" new vehicles from lots in downtown NOLA? Apparently a LOT of cars, and fancy ones at that, managed to evacuate the city. Well, now there's a billboard that cracks me up every time I see it. It's basic black, no pictures, and all it says is "New Orleans' Finest Drive Sewell". (Sewell Cadillac was hit pretty hard). I love it!

The day has dawned brightly, so I'd better get out and run errands before the afternoon showers and T'storms start developing. Happy Linda's Home!! Day to everyone. Take care, and of course, God bless you.

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August 11, 2006

TGIF

It’s Friday in NOLA! Guess what that means? It means that Linda is coming home, or she’s not. SHE IS!! SHE IS!! SHE IS!! Yep, she’s making it home every other weekend now, and this is the weekend!!

Add to that that H2 has been in P’Cola all week and returned today, AND it’s Friday, to boot, and you’ve got yourself a hum-dinger of a weekend starting. The weather is beautiful. Hot, but beautiful. No rain today (so far).

With H2 gone it was pretty lonely and quiet at the ol' hacienda, but Patti and Jerrod took good care of me. They had me over twice for dinner. One of the dinners was cooked by Ian. The boy can do porkchops, let me tell you. KenEllie checked on me from time to time, and texted me with encouragement. All in all it wasn't too bad a week, but still I'm thrilled that H2 AND Linda are both going to be home tonight.

Oh, I almost forgot, I did have to call the plumber on Monday, and the A/C guy on Wednesday! But all is well now. Pipes are flowing and house is cool again. Just in time!

I’ve been meaning to update you a little bit on NOLA, “post-K” as the saying goes. I wrote a bit about it a blog or two ago, but I wanted to add some pics. I took these last week, so they’re current.This is the old Coast Guard station on Lake Pontchartrain. The new one was completed and moved into last year. Pretty timely, eh?

The next two are of Lakeshore Drive, usually well kept as it is in a pretty pricey neighborhood, and is used by lots of people for recreation. As you can see, it's not a pretty sight any longer.
And finally a couple of homes along Pontchartrain Blvd, a major thoroughfare that leads out of Lakeview toward the I-10/610 split.

Hopefully you can see from the photos that New Orleans, the Big Easy, the City that Care Forgot (I've never really understood that one) has a long, long way to go. I think people are surprised and a little dismayed at how little recovery, overall, has actually been accomplished. And little by little it looks like more people are opting to stay away than was originally thought.

Well, we're still here. Come and visit anytime. We'd love to see you!!

Take care, and God bless!

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August 6, 2006

Pray, Pray, Pray

Oh, I forgot.  H2 is going to Pensacola tomorrow for work, and he’s driving the NEX van.  Please, PRAYERS people!!  We need to pray him safely there and back.  Thanks!

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What the.....?!?!

Where in the world do people get the idea that if they put their directional on it automatically gives them the right of way?!?  Happens every day!  People are so self-absorbed that God forbid they have to slow down and get in behind someone! You know the ones.  As you approach your exit, someone comes zooming up in the lane next to you and cuts you off at the exit.  Of course, there’s no one behind you for half a mile.   I just want to yell at them, “Hey, wake up and get in the correct lane early enough that you don’t have to cut someone off!!”, but I’m sure they’d not have a clue.

Our trip to The Shed turned into a trip to Outback.  The weather forecast called for a 60% chance of showers, so several people decided to stay home.  Finally H2, FL1, SIL and I took a leisurely ride in the “country” up River Road.  Just as we reached the I-310 spur, we entered a storm front that had been approaching us.  I-310 quickly took us out of it, and the rest of the trip was sunny and nice.  When we got home we gathered up Patti and the kids and went to Outback.

On the way back we passed through part of the Lakeview subdivision.  It amazes me still now many homes in this affluent neighborhood remain virtually untouched since the storm, now almost a full year ago.  And I’ve been getting emails from my former parish, Christ the King, in Terrytotwn, that report this person or that person is moving to the North Shore, or out of the state.  A slow but steady trickle.  At work, too, the contractors we work with are slowly moving to new jobs in areas other than New Orleans.

And I can’t say that I blame them.  We’re experiencing overcrowding in the areas that are habitable.  People seem to be always on top of one another.  Common courtesy has long since left our town.  Tempers remain short, while lines remain long.  Still, everywhere you look people are trying to live as normally as they can.  Driving down the street you can smell the backyard grills fired up and cooking.  The restaurants that have reopened are booming, as people seek to put aside the realities of their lives for a few moments of social pleasure.

Yet, the specter of Katrina and Rita remain.  Everyone is sort of looking over their shoulder as they try to get on with their lives, waiting , wondering  and hoping that last year was it for the next century.

And oh, by the way, Linda is in Memphis and I’m in New Orleans and that pretty much SUX!!!  Whew.!  Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.  Venting is good for the soul, I think.  I guess I just need to, in the words of my friend Tom from Houma/Covington, “Give it to Jesus!!!”  

That’s it, I’m done for tonight.  Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!  Take care and God bless you all.

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August 5, 2006

NASCAR!!! REDNECKS!!! BELLY LAUGHS!!!

Talladega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Go see it! It was hysterical! I don’t remember when the last time I laughed out loud in a movie theater, and last night it was several times throughout! Even if you aren’t a Will Ferrell fan, go see it!!

If you’re keeping up with DIL1, then you know that H1 bought her a new Scion. She loves it. I hope they’ll bring it to NOLA soon so we all can “OOH” and “AHHH” over it. I’ll bet it would be a perfect car to take to The Shed for a bite or two of BBQ.

It was a good week. At work I received my annual evaluation, and it was GREAT!! I am really pleased with it. Wednesday night I stopped by P&J’s before heading over to the Pit Stop with H2 and FL1. Jerrod served up some outstanding red beans and rice. I commented on how close to Popeye’s his recipe was. Turns out, it WAS Popeye’s. Damn, I’m good!! Sunday, H2,FL1, RB, NEXCarl and I are planning to go to The Shed. KenEllie can’t join us, they are going tubing. Mom, H1/DIL1, we MISS YOU!!! It’s about time for P&J, Ian and BB to join us, too!! We need to make a family trip to The Shed!!!

Last night we went out to the Eastern Restaurant for a late evening (8-ish) dinner, then on the the movies for 10PM. It was a really good time. KenEllie, H2, FL1, and a couple from H2’s work whose names I can’t remember. Good times. Only wish Linda and H1/DIL1 could have been there, too.

Please, PLEASE pray for Fr. John’s grandmother. She’s been diagnosed with what appears to be the first recorded case of West Nile Virus in New Orleans. There’s no vaccine for the virus, so she’s got to try to fight it on her own.

Fr. Deo is off to Beaumont, TX. He should be back for most of the month of September. He is such a character! He’s really a great person, and represents Uganda, and the Archdiocese of Tororo well. We’re looking forward to when he finishes his studies in Rome and returns to New Orleans to teach at our seminary.

Speaking of Ugandans, I’ve learned that the new seminarian, Vincent, has arrived in the States, and he brought Africafé!! I was never much of an instant coffee enthusiast, but after our trip to Tororo last summer I developed quite a taste for Africafé. I mentioned to Deo just last week how much I enjoyed the coffee, and voilá!! Africafé will be arriving soon!

And last but not least, for planning purposes, Herrick Family and Friends Week at Deal’s Gap 2007, July 21 – 29th. Come for the whole time, or for a few days! See the Smokies!

God’s love to all of you!

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