Strength

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today is the anniversaries of both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac, two storms that wreaked complete havoc in my state. Isaac less than Katrina, but still enough that lives and properties were lost and many things have still not been regained or re-established. Lots of people are posting remembrances today, but it’s a little more difficult for me to broach the subject. I was there, for work. With my husband, as he also worked for the same agency I did, and with my thin blue line family. Here is the short version I posted to my Facebook friends:

“8 years ago today I was on the front lines of one of the nation’s biggest disasters. Everything went to shit then got better. Trust that it’s something I won’t forget. The end.”

There is no way to describe the situation other than to say everything was terrible. If you’ve never experienced a natural disaster of that magnitude (which many folks around our planet have), then it’s hard to explain the feeling of loss that accompanies witnessing your entire life taken in as many minutes as years you’ve lived. Your town is gone. Your home is gone. Maybe your job is gone. And for the least fortunate people, your family members and friends are gone.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I feel fortunate. Not because today I will be experiencing the most severe PTSD ever, but because of what has been gained post-K. I’ve got a new home, new stuff, some of the old stuff that was salvageable( albeit a small amount), but most importantly I’ve gained a sense of what is most meaningful-the people I still have in my life. I was fortunate that I didn’t lose any family, even my cat and dog survived. The snake was lost, but I’m sure she slithered away in the water and is enjoying life in the woods somewhere living the life a corn snake deserves. I had a roof over my head, even though for some time that roof was that of the Cajun Queen, a paddle boat meant for short tours up and down the Mississippi River (Nothing like taking a shower with a hose on the deck of a boat in mid-October to wake you up!), and later a decommissioned ferry-boat where my husband and I shared bunk beds in an 8X8 cabin.

Trailer we lived in post-K from 2005-2007.
Trailer we lived in post-K from 2005-2007. We moved on up from the boat accommodations.
Me at the trailer in which we worked for many, many months post-K
Me at the trailer in which we worked for many, many months post-K

My thoughts and prayers and moments of silence go most to the less fortunate who did lose family members-some lost many in a moment, the people who couldn’t bear the burden that comes following such a travesty and took their own lives, those who weren’t able to recover and pined away for what was, and those who lived horrors worse than I and that I cannot even fathom. This empathy is not reserved for victims of Katrina or Isaac or any one particular thing. So many terrible events occur around the planet, and I agree with John Donne who wrote the words “No man is an island.”

I forget what's going on here, but it's something.
I forget what’s going on here, but it’s something.

I’ve long tried to accept the proverbial phrase “less is more”, and nothing has taught me to do that like Hurricane Katrina. What is stuff but meaningless collections of mass that can be lost in a matter of seconds? Katrina taught me what is most important to survival-physically, psychologically, and spiritually. My old home is gone, but I have a new home now. Man, am I thankful for that! I have food on my plate everyday. I have lots of great friends and family who are always there to help me, especially during the difficult times we more recently experienced after RB was diagnosed at 2 years old with brain cancer. Here is another short summary I shared on Facebook of what I was doing last year during Hurricane Isaac:

“A year ago today I was in Children’s Hospital, where we’d been for 8 months by then, during Isaac, in the dark going between trying to get weather updates on my phone and comforting RB who was still going through chemotherapy treatments at the time. Now we’re home, again things got better eventually. The end.”

Things have gotten better. RB is making progress everyday, and his scans have been stable for nearly a year. His next MRI is in September. There are no signs yet of the expected regression caused by the radiation and chemotherapy. He will soon get a homebound teacher and therapists who will come to our home and take over what I’ve been working on since February. He’s getting a stander and braces to help straighten his legs. We’re traveling down a very long path here, but there is an exit, and at this time, it is bathed in light.

RB in the physical therapy gym at CHNOLA. He will he receive a stander similar to this one.
RB in the physical therapy gym at CHNOLA. He will he receive a stander similar to this one.

So while today will be a day of reflection and bad memories, I would rather look forward than back. I would like to focus not on what was lost, but what has been gained, on what we’ve overcome and on our strength.

Hurricane Katrina Memorial  St Bernard, La. Photo by Edward via NOLA.com (http://photos.nola.com/photogallery/2010/08/st_bernard_parish_katrina_memo.html)
Hurricane Katrina Memorial
Yscloskey St Bernard, La.
Photo by Edward via NOLA.com (http://photos.nola.com/photogallery/2010/08/st_bernard_parish_katrina_memo.html)
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Faust

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For several days over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across the topic of Faust via different forums: Facebook, Twitter, etc. Anyway, this recurrence has reminded me of an occurrence that took place  when I was 15. My mom took me and a friend to a book store in an area mall, I forget which one. I’d just finished reading most of The Vampire Chronicles in which Faust is referenced many times. So, I wanted to read Faust. I really enjoy books that lead me onto other things, that reference classic literature or themes about which I can learn. One thing I enjoyed about Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles was her use of geography. I even did a report for my sophomore geography class, a project that required us to read a book and describe the different places written about in it, on The Vampire Lestat (I was already reading it at the time, so I figured, What the hell?).

This graphic novel is in pieces. It once belonged to my dear friend who is now deceased. It's one of the few keepsakes I have from her. Most others, including all photos, were destroyed in the hurricane.
This graphic novel is in pieces. It once belonged to my dear friend who is now deceased. It’s one of the few keepsakes I have from her. Most others, including all photos, were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.
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Is it apparent how many times I’ve read this book?

At any rate, I asked the bookstore clerk about Faust, as I wasn’t able to find it on the shelves. He rudely advised me I should have come as soon as I’d gotten my book list because they’d run out from other students buying them up. I was so confused, and I asked what he was talking about. He asked me if I were buying the book for school. I said, “No, I’m buying it for myself.” His response, “Wow, impressive.” I still took him for a dumbass.

The aforementioned book
The aforementioned book

Epilogue: He ordered the book, and I read it. Then a pen pal of mine sent me copy of the book written in both English and German, as I was studying German at the time. I still have both copies. They survived Hurricane Katrina in a plastic Rubbermaid container that, although it weighed at least a hundred pounds, floated inside my house. All of my books were left unscathed.

This container survived, as did my books inside it. Unfortunately, I lost many others that weren't in the container.
This container survived, as did my books inside it. Unfortunately, I lost many others that weren’t in the container.

 

My husband actually discovered them, and my cat, just a day after I’d written in my journal how I wished my books and my cat had survived. It was 33 days later. The cat has since run away, but the books remain.

Stewie the Cat, who suffered from PTSD after Hurricane Katrina and ran away just before Christmas of 2011.
Stewie the Cat, who suffered from PTSD after Hurricane Katrina and ran away just before Christmas of 2011. This photo was taken in the trailer we lived in after the hurricane.

Just Another 2012 Year In Review

Hello, Readers. Yes, Virginia, The Wordsmith does exist. It’s been a bit since I’ve written a blog post. I promise I’ve been working tirelessly on my novel the whole time. Really. I’m nearly almost halfway kind of completely close to being finished the first draft. My friend also recently invited me to join her writing group, for which I am glad. Because how is my novel going to become a best seller if experienced readers and writers don’t give me their input?

To all my bloggy friends, I have a backlog of your blogs to read. I swear I’m not ignoring them. Although, I might not get to everyone’s posts before the release of “Memos From Your Closet Monster 2.”
(If you haven’t read the original, give it a read. Also, I have no idea if there will be a sequel. Maybe. . . ??)

Anyhoo, since it’s nigh the end of 2012, and we’ve all apparently survived the apocalypse, I’ve decided to comprise yet another year in review.

Team AJ

Number 1: Cancer – If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up here. It looks like we might be almost closely completely finished most of RB’s treatment for now. No idea of when he’ll be discharged. It’s been a long ten months. Everyday is another battle. But, we started out 2012 with a sick child and no idea of what was causing his illness. We found out, and although it was a devastating diagnosis, RB’s been making it look like a cake walk, and for that I am very thankful. He’s recovered more than the doctors said he would, and he continues to improve all the time. That kid’s my hero.

RB Christmas 2011. Before we knew the alien was lurking in his brain.
RB Christmas 2011. Before we knew the alien was lurking in his brain.

Number 2: Related to number one. I was reminded of the kindness within my fellow humans at a time when I was certain there was no compassion left in the universe. People gave donations, time, and labor to help our family. My employer has been unbelievably considerate and understanding during this difficult time. My coworkers organized a fundraiser, as did my cousins-on both sides of the family. My mom’s coworkers organized a carwash at their store, and the Down South Rollers held a carshow benefit for RB. So many people went far beyond anything we’d ever expected, and there are probably folks I am forgetting. I sincerely apologize for that, but it only proves how many people were involved in assisting us that I can’t remember them all without a detailed list.

My friend Shannon helped organize a local Chili's Benefit for RB.
My friend Shannon helped organize a local Chili’s Benefit for RB.
Down South Rollers benefit poster
Down South Rollers benefit poster
Down South Rollers
Down South Rollers
Poster for my the carwash held at my mom's work
Poster for the carwash held at my mom’s work
Team AJ Carwash
Team AJ Carwash
Just some of my friends and coworkers who organized a softball tournament for RB. I won't give away which one is me.
Just some of my friends and coworkers who organized a softball tournament for RB. I won’t give away which one is me.
Team AJ softball tournament. Respect the 'stache.
Team AJ softball tournament. Respect the ‘stache.
A toybox for RB made by my uncle. It's gorgeous. He's very good!
A toybox for RB made by my uncle. It’s gorgeous. He’s very good!
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Carwash my cousin held to benefit Team AJ (aka Robot Boy)

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(I’m still missing some photos from one event held at Zaddie’s Tavern for RB by cousins. If any one of you have some of theses photos, please pass them along. Thank you!)

Me and Observations from an Overworked Momma back in the dizzle, yo.
Me and Observations from an Overworked Momma back in the dizzle, yo.

My very selfless friend at Observations from an Overworked Momma organized an online auction for RB. She even went so far as to acquire several children’s books, signed by author Cornell Landry even. She, along with some of our other friends, visited RB at the hospital for Christmas and brought us gifts and care packages. I love these guys, y’all.

Signed by Mr. Cornell Landry
Signed by Mr. Cornell Landry
Another of Cornell Landry's books, given to us by CHNOLA's Childlife Dept.
Another of Cornell Landry’s books, given to us by CHNOLA’s Childlife Dept.

My friend about whom I’ve previously written The Otherwordly Goddess of Script got me a giftcard to Walgreens. Those of you who have been following my blog long enough know the significance of this!

I’ve made friends since RB’s admission to CHNOLA, too. We are blessed with family and friends who are always willing to help out and support us, and without these people, I wouldn’t be able to function.

Number 3: Also related to numbers one and two. Through my blog, and because of our shared hope in finding a cure, I’ve met several wonderfully inspiring people who have helped me remain positive more than they probably know. Their optimism has helped me remember that I should stay hopeful even in the face of adversity. Kudos to you The Monster in Your Closet , Pinwheels and Poppies, and The Lucky Mom. (Sorry if I left anyone out. I love you all!)

Sept Childhood Cancer

Number 4: Reading Donna’s Cancer Story and realizing there is life after cancer. Thank you for sharing your story with us Mary Tyler Mom .

FTIAT Series image via The Monster in Your Closet
FTIAT Series image via The Monster in Your Closet

Number 5: Being included in The Monster in Your Closet’s FTIAT series. Writing my entry and reading the others has helped me, again, realize although times are hard, there is always something for which to be thankful. Plus, it’s a big deal to a writer who was only published one other time this year (and rejected many times). Oh, you missed it? Well, go on and read away at The Foliate Oak Literary Journal. (Deb, I’m adding your thing on future submission letters, by the way. Just to let you know. ;})

Number 6: In fiction, there is a point where the protagonist has a major change. It’s near the climax of the story, usually. Either there is a physical battle or an emotional one; it transfigures the protagonist. Somehow, after Hurricane Katrina, I felt the change a little. I was touched by the kindness we received, but was also tarnished by the derision to which we were subjected. Things are different now, and this is my battle. I know there’s been a metamorphosis, an evolution. The snide cynic in me still exists, but she is muted by the newly emerged optimist, the person who will still fight for what’s right but is more understanding and compassionate. In the words of Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) via Pulp Fiction, “I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.”

Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

Number 7: Fibromyalgia. Yep. I was diagnosed on the 29th of November. Because why the not at this point, right? At any rate, I’ve been taking my meds like a good little girl, eating right, exercising, and treating my body a lot better. I cut caffeine almost out completely, and I quit drinking. My doctor also decided I have depression and anxiety (can’t imagine why), and since starting my medicine and resuming my daily yoga and meditation, I’ve been feeling much better. I still feel like the Tin Man when I wake up in the morning, but after forcing myself to stretch and move my stiff muscles, I start to feel much more productive. My fatigue is somewhat better, but somedays are still rough. I will see my doctor again for a follow up in January, and I’m hopeful he will be able to help me with my unresolved issues. Fibromyalgia is the perfect example of irony, because it causes stiffness and pain that makes the patient want to be still, but the pain and stiffness is only relieved by moving around. Universe. You’ve one upped me again. But, don’t worry. You’re not putting me down that easily. “So I’ll do as I please like the well-tempered breeze, blowin’ which way I see fit. I’ll grey with the clay seven days till the day when they throw me on the potter’s scrap heap. But take my advice; you’ll have to bury me twice, ’cause the first time I won’t rest easily. But don’t let me die still wondering what it was I left behind.” “Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering” Flogging Molly

Number 8: I don’t know how many of these I should have, so I’ll just add another one. SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the 700th and final issue of the Amazing Spider-Man, don’t read this part. Peter Parker dies in an epic battle with Doc Oc; they somehow switch bodies, and Peter Parker dies in Otto’s body. Doc Oc takes over Peter’s body and receives all of his memories, thoughts, and feelings of responsibility-supposedly. He becomes the Superior Spider-Man. WHATEVER! RIP ASM. You’ve been part of my life for many, many years. I won’t forget you, PP. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Robot Dad and I with Spidey at Universal Studios Orlando.
Robot Dad and I with Spidey at Universal Studios Orlando.
Me (yes me) Halloween circa 2002 in my black symbiote costume made by a friend much craftier than I. The frog is Rupert.
Me (yes me) Halloween circa 2002 in my black symbiote costume made by a friend much craftier than I. The frog is Rupert.

Number 9: I lost 5 pounds.

Number 10: I wrote a blog post! Finally!

Auld lang syne, and all that, folks! May you all have a wonderful 2013 filled with health, happiness, and good fortune.