Je ne regrette rien

Bits of Randomness

Elizabeth Wurtzel annoys me. Really, she just does. Right now I am sentenced to reading each of her books and to get through them has been a pain-stakingly difficult process. I just want to tell her to buck up, make better decisions, and quit action like she is the voice of my generation because, dammit, she is not MY voice, nor is she or was she ever the voice of my friends. Excuses, excuses. That is all that I am reading. Someone needed to really hand her a life where she didn’t have the opportunity to make excuses, but had to be busy living so she could survive.  It isn’t that I don’t understand mental health or mental illness or addiction. I DO. It’ s just every book, every essay, and every article is the exact same thing.

Yes, I am over-dosed on Elizabeth Wurtzel at the moment.

Class today was great. The kids were so excited to see me today and gave me a great welcome back. I helped them with geometry, learning about symmetry, and did some correction of English – work on commas. I leave the classroom with a full heart, despite some of the difficulties and problems I witness, I always do. I am excited to go back tomorrow. Tomorrow is creative writing.

I thought it was interesting that the kids were talking about the murder of Wendy Byrne. Half the class is split that the parent’s turned the children in because it was the right thing to do, the other half believed the parents were sick of dealing with the children and didn’t want them anymore so that is why they turned them in. I think that is interesting, though I am too tired to look at what that really means. Another interesting thing happened today. My daughter came up to give me a hug and one of her classmates that has taken a particular shining towards me asked, “Do you guys do that a lot? Hug?” I told him that yes we do. He then told me that his family doesn’t. That broke my heart. I told him that my family wasn’t very affectionate either, which is why I make sure I am affectionate with my children.  I told him that he would have to make sure he did that with his kids. He said he was never going to have kids, not with how crazy the world was. I thought that was very astute from a nine year old, and a bit sad, too.

I am reading a book on human trafficking written by  Linda Smith, who served in the U.S House of Representatives for Washington state, and founded of Shared Hope, International. Shared Hope, International is an organization founded to fight human trafficking, being inspired by a trip to India and seeing young girls caged up and sold for sex. Her organization has done a lot of work. In reading the book, a short little number, it is difficult not to cringe as she describes what she has seen. If you can get past the calling-from-God-isms that she writes about here and there in the book, I suggest going to the Shared Hope website and request your free copy. More needs to be done. I am currently reading more about human trafficking in the United States, particularly in Louisiana, and the things that I am learning – it is disgusting that people are treated this way.

My daughter was very sweet tonight and left a card on my bed for me. It was a thank you card and inside she wrote:

“Mom, Thank you for loving me so much and everything you do from cheering me up to making me smile. I love you like a puppy and will take care of you every day. Love E”

I totally needed that tonight, as I was a tad bit cranky. I have the best daughter. I really do.

New Orleans: Out on the Porch

Posted in 100 Things, Book Babble, life, new orleans, Uptown, Writing by Amy on January 26, 2009

porch_1308Today is one of my favorite kind of days in New Orleans.  The street is quiet, except for those walking home from church. My neighbor is in her yard, raking. The sky is overcast and the temperature is cool. And I sit on my porch, with a throw blanket and cup of coffee, breathing it all in. This is the New Orleans I love, the New Orleans were strangers wish you well as they pass by, where you can feel the history and the struggle and the triumph that this city has faced with grace, standing strong and standing tall.

There are about a million things that I should do today.  Not thos fun things that adults are required to do, like laundry and dishes or mopping the floor, but those things can all wait until tomorrow. Today I am going to sit here, out on the porch, and curl up with a book, notebook, and pen, and just enjoy this.

For anyone interested, Blue Cypress Books on Oak St. is going to be having a book club meeting, their first, on February 1, 2009 . The book they are reading is Toni Morrison’s A Mercy. I am pretty dang excited about that! Y’all should take a stop down at Blue Cypress Books if you get a chance. I absolutely LOVE this book store and never leave empty handed. And you can trade books in for store credit, too! They just started a frequent reader program that awards a free book after the book mark is filled. LOVE IT.

I am also considering trying to form a writing group in the Carrolton/Oak St. area. If anyone would be interested please e-mail me at theharpy@live.com

New Orleans: Thoughts on… Home?

heart_prison_349I love New Orleans. The REAL New Orleans. The New Orleans that you don’t see  on Girls Gone Wild Mardi Gras or any snapshot taking by a bunch of sorority girls on Spring Break hitting up Bourbon. I love the New Orleans that represents strength, pride, tradition. I like the New Orleans that fosters creativity, that holds the Audubon Park and Zoo, that makes up City Park. I love the shotgun houses, the slave shakes, and the fact that on Fat Tuesday, every single business is closed. I love the New Orleans that represents good people, hard working people, people who love and live.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t see much of that New Orleans right now. This is probably my own fault, still adjusting to life in the Big Easy, life away from my small pond in small Wisconsin where I was a rather big fish. It is really different. Very different. And, unfortunately, I haven’t fully allowed my roots to plant deeply in the ground, wander too far away from my home Uptown. And I allow myself to read nola.com – the comments, the stories, the articles – and it makes me very, very afraid. This isn’t to say New Orleans is a bad place to live. Again, I love New Orleans – it just scares the hell out of me.

Maybe it is because I haven’t allowed myself much time to really get to know New Orleans outside of my comfort zone, to meet people, to make friends, to get involved. Maybe it is becaus I don’t know how I get involved or where to even start. I would love to be able to feel comfortable going out for the night with my husband, hanging out at Carrollton Station or Maple Leaf Bar or adventuring out to some other part of town and taking in a play or seeing an art exhibit. What stops me from doing this? Well, I can count on my hand the number of people I know in this city,not related to my occupation,  and I couldn’t ask any of these people to please watch my daughter for the night. It is a cycle for me, you see, and one that I find plenty of excuses to keep running in circles.

Maybe it has to do with being mugged at 4:00 in the afternoon, walking my daughter home from school on Carrollton Avenue. Or maybe it has to do with going to bed, looking out the window, and seeing someone on my porch, attempting to still my plastic lawn chairs that I bought for $4 each at Dollar General. Or maybe it is the comments made to me when I pick my daughter up from her publis school. Or maybe I am just not cut out to live in the city, any city. I have developed the coping skills for living in a city, especially this city. But I love this city. I really do.

Do you see the battle that is constantly raging inside of me?

Let’s move.

No, let’s not.

Yes, I need to get out of here.

No, you don’t – this place is your home, remember how you felt driving into the city with your possessions packed in your car, excited?

But that was before the crime.

Crime is everywhere.

But not like this!

In some places it is worse, you don’t know what you are getting into.

Someone was murdered near my home.

Her son did it.

You can’t count on the police.

Avoid situations where you need the police.

People die in the jails here! People are beaten!

I can’t argue with that. That is very true.

It is like having two people inside my body- one going to the right, the other to the left – ripping me entirely in half.  In some ways, it feels like being locked away in a prison, almost afraid to leave your home, no matter at what time of day.

Am I being over-dramatic?

That is entirely possible. It really is. I am from an unincorporated town in Wisconsin. I milked cows, fed chickens, and took care of rabbits growing up. We left our doors unlocked. We rode our bikes after dark. Our neighbors knew one another, looked out for one another, and cared when things happened.

So, New Orleans, how do I embrace you – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and fully bloom where I am planted, without the whispers in my ear of Hammond or Robert or Baton Rouge? How do I walk outside, not afraid, and explore?

Probably one step at a time. Courtwatchers. Maybe a book club. Perhaps starting a writing club. Something. Anything.

New Orleans, I so want to call you home, but at what cost?

My piece-of-mind? My daughter’s education?

I really don’t know the answer, but feel much better saying it out loud than keeping it buried inside.

My heart is in this city, but it is held prisoner by the thug mentality. In that respect, the fear of my safety and that of my child, they win.

They fucking win.

Book Blabber: Latter Library Sale and Mr. Book Hoarder

Posted in 100 Things, Book Babble, life, new orleans, research, Uptown by Amy on January 25, 2009

latterlibrary18 lib 1I love Wednesdays and Saturdays for one reason and one reason alone –  the book sale the Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue.

I am like a little kid on Christmas morning, waiting anxiously for Mom and Dad to wake up so I can tear into my gifts, seeing what surprises are hidden inside each beautifully wrapped box. I look at the clock, tap my foot, look at the clock some more, try to wake my husband up, watch the clock, try to wake my husband up again, and as soon as it hits 9:45 am, I am waking him up with an edge in my voice, wanting to go see what treasures I can find. As soon as I get there, I follow the same routine. First I look in the books that have had movies made from them, then the award winning books, then to the children’s section, self-help section, and ending with the trade paperbacks. I never leave empty handed, leading to the problem of too many books, not enough space that I am trying to tackle in my house now. Everyone wins with the book sale: owners get rid of old books hanging around, I get new books to hang around, and the Friends of the Library raise money for things needed in rebuilding the library system. The way I look at it, the more I spend, the more I am helping, right?

It may seem like such a simple thing, a library book sale, but how many of you get to go to a library that was once the mansion of a silent film star? Yeah, I didn’t think so. *sticks tongue out*

There is only one thing that burst my bubble on library sale day. PMS, Whiney Child, Cranky Husband, More month than money, illness, rain, sleet, snow

Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book – Hoarder.

You see, every time I go to the book sale, which is nearly every week, twice a week, Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book -Hoarder gives me and my husband the stare down. He sees us coming, he clutches onto his books a little tighter, starts searching a little harder, and douchebags it up a little better. He has watched us, my husband and I, and has studied us. He knows that I look for classics, while my husband looks for first editions of local and regional writers. He knows that I have a fetish when it comes to old, hardcover books. He knows this because, we intimidate him. Why? We could potentionally scoop up something that he missed.

He will hover over those work the sale, watching as they bring new books out, making sure he is the first person to see what is newly in place to be sold. While he is busy preying, his books sit on the stairs, and he will not be afraid to let you know that “Those. Are. Spoke. For.” as he pushes up the glasses on his face that have slipped down. Normally, I browse around him, knowing what his gig is, preferring to simply not acknowledge him.

Until today.

You see, Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book Hoarder is too busy hovering and preying and hoarding to wander into the back rooms where the memoirs and the trade paperbacks call home. Me, well, I prefer the back areas – less people and more time to truly consider your choices! Today I came upon a heck of a find – Surprised By Joy by CS Lewis – Second Impression – from England – from 1955.

As we were in line, behind him, he noticed the book. My husband happened to be holding onto it, as I wanted him to check it out and my hands were full and books were close to falling out of them.

“Can I see that?” he stammered.

“Uh, yeah, sure man, ” my husband said, looking at me.

“Is that a first edition?” he asked, hovering over my husband, like a striped hyena hovering over a bird egg. I swear I saw him wipe the corner of his mouth, a direct result from the salivating he was doing at the thought of a first edition C.S Lewis book.

“No. It’s second impression, unfortunately.”

You could see the color drain from his face. He was clearly disappointed. Why, I am not sure, since my husband was holding onto the Holy Grail, clearly intending on bringing it home to the Promised Land.

“It is still quite a find, ” he said, almost like he was waiting for us to tell him to go ahead and take it.

“Honey, ready?” I said to my husband, waiting for that final book until our transaction could be complete and we could be on our way home to laze away the afternoon and read our new finds.

As we walked away, I looked at my husband, who was looking at me.

“Can you believe that guy?” my husband asked.

“No kidding, right? Every single week it is like this. You know, I really wish it would have been a first edition so I could have seen the look on his face as we walked away with the one that got away.”

Moral of the story: Don’t be a Mr. Pseudo-Intellectual, Book-Hoarding Type. There are enough books to go around for you to hock on E-Bay and for the rest of us to enjoy.

Stealing Sleep

Posted in 100 Things, Alcoholism, Crime, life, new orleans by Amy on January 24, 2009

sleep3For a very long time, months after I left my ex-husband, I could not sleep. I would nap for an hour or two, wake up, put effort into getting tired once more, then sleep for another few hours. The first good night of sleep that I had in probably a year was the first time my current husband spent the night at my house, me camped out on the floor, falling asleep during a movie, him on the couch, hanging around to make sure I was ok until he fell asleep himself.  That night of sleep felt so good. I remember waking up the next day, actually feeling rested. I felt safe with him there, secure, and I knew that thoughts that chased sleep away for me were now being chased away by him, whether he knew it or not.

We had this silly routine at first – stuck in that weird little stage at the beginning of every relationship that spawns from friendship, when we were dating, kind of, maybe, not for sure, but I think so – where he would come over to my house to have supper and watch a movie or a television show that we both liked.

“You don’t mind if I lay down while we watch this do you?”

“No,” he would say, “That’s fine.”

“Just to warn you, I might fall asleep.”

“You don’t mind if I hang out here a while, do you?”

“No! That’s fine.”

And eventually I would fall asleep and he would fall asleep. Gradually we made it to sleeping next to one another, cuddling.

Then things took a turn. He began self-medicating with alcohol and we didn’t sleep anymore. He passed out, I would dance a line between sleep and consciousness, worried about him, and what would happen or what he would do while I allowed myself the freedom to rest.  This went on much longer than I would have liked, too long, but eventually the self-medication faded away and sleep found me again.

Except for times like tonight.

My mind is awake, thinking about this city, wondering about what is happening out there when the lights are down and the world has gone quiet, except Bourbon St. Lately there has been a lot of senseless acts of violence, and it frightens me. Being from a small town, I’m not used to this, not that I think I would ever want to get used to it. So sleep escapes tonight, and my mind thinks of the lives that have been lost that didn’t need to be.  I wonder what I can do to help foster change? What can I do to make this city that I do love genuinely safer for my daughter and myself. Is there anything that I can really do, aside let my voice be heard?

The net of my husband’s arms around me cannot capture sleep on a night like tonight. A night when I probably need sleep the most.

Court Watch

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy on January 24, 2009

My neighbor moved down to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina. Like me, she is a Midwest girl, hailing from Iowa. She worked with the rebuilding of the city, leading crews that were gutting homes. She since has left her job, stating that the emotional toll was just too much for her to bear, leading her into a depression over all of the people she wanted to help but logistically couldn’t. Her and I were speaking the other day about things that were hard for us adjusting to down here – the violence, the judicial system, the police department, etc. – and she told me about the court watcher program.

The court watcher program trains individuals to go observe courts, fill out forms on how the court is doing, and then they publish the reports. They have their training the second Saturday of each month at the Latter Library on St. Charles. I am going to the next session on February 14, 2009.

I was prompted to get involved somehow after seeing how a courtroom was run! It was like stepping into an episode of Jerry Springer. I don’t say this to be rude or an elitist, but while I was there, I was approached by an employee of the court for my phone number, there were crying children inside the courtroom, and the inmates were mugging up to their family and talking to them while the judge was trying to hear municipal cases. It took me twenty minutes to figure out who the public defender was, and watching her handle her client’s cases was like watching the Dunkin Donuts man enthusastically saying, “I’ve got to make the donuts.”

I was horrified.

I love this city, really I do, despite my recent qualms and worry. I need to do something instead of staying in and worrying. This is the first step into doing something positive to help this city that has meant so much to me in the short time I have been here.