Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Cup, A Bone...Honest We Still Atone.

We had visitors at church today. They seemed very nice.

I mentioned yesterday that we had a "costume party" at church last night...well, it was a full blown Halloween party - which is fine with me, I never quite understood why churches used euphemisms to avoid saying pagan ritual is the same as the next.

However I'm not sure how the church visitors - you know folks who don't really know our little quirky bunch of Christians - reacted to seeing the words "HAPPY HALLOWEEN" scrawled in chalk on the walkway right in front of the church doorway. I'm sure they probably bypassed them without too much thought, yet had we not arrived a little late I probably would have hosed the words away before service started.

We ran out of coffee cups at the church last week and so we improvised a bit today - you know we're a quirky little bunch of Christians, sort of odd but really quite nice - some folks used cups left over from the party last night for juice or water. They were cute little cups...

I doubt the visitors thought much about those cups either....although seeing the Pastor taking sips of water from one of the cups during his sermon admittedly might have raised an eyebrow or two, but we're a quirky little bunch of Christians...we do messy church sometimes...okay a lot.

Luckily the visitors - being visitors and all - sat a few rows back...they might not have even noticed the cup that the Pastor was drinking from - although I probably didn't help matters by pulling out my tiny camera and trying to get a picture.

Anyway, I'm at least pretty certain they didn't notice the adorable little boy playing on the floor right in front of me. Before church, he and his buddies had been playing out on the land - you know our quirky little bunch of Christians have sort of a haven in the woods...there are lots of trees, tall grass, and great places for little boys to play. Occasionally they find some cool little boy stuff.

But still I'm not really sure if a little boy playing with an animal bone during the sermon where the Pastor kept holding up a Halloween cup might have left the wrong impression about our little church in the woods.

I hope not.

I mean we're a quirky little bunch of Christians...but we have a sense of humor.

God gave us that too.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ana, Monks & My Wife The Dog

First I should explain the last part of that title...we're all scrambling around preparing to go to a "Costume Party" at church. It's not a Halloween party because...well, I don't have time to go into that...anyway Ana convinced us to go as characters from her favorite TV show "The Family Guy."

I have never watched this show, but I am going as this guy:

And Amy is going as apparently the most intelligent member of the cast...the family dog:

All I had to do was buy a pair of green pants from Goodwill...I'm not quite sure how Amy is throwing her costume together yet. I haven't seen her, I've been running around all day.

Ana and I explored the San Antonio Museum of Art - specifically the exhibit featuring the Tibetan Monks who make intricate pictures called "mandalas" out of sand.

click to enlarge

Last night I wanted to find out more about the monks and this specific exhibit so I logged onto the museum's website and went to the press release area. There I was met with this notice:

Article Title Author Date
Tibetan Monks Return to SAMA! October 25-30, 2005

These are generally available for viewing for seven days. After the initial seven days, Paid Members only will have access to these files.

Seriously, they limit access to their publicity to paid members. I had to drop them a note offering my services as a Public Relations and or Common Sense Director.

Anyway, we saw the monks...which was very cool. Ana even tried her hand at sand painting.

We then debated taking the organized "tour" of the Asian art exhibit or running amok all over the museum by ourselves ...yeah, that was an easy call to make.

We saw a lot of fascinating things although perhaps we didn't always pay proper reverence...

We discussed many of the works and covered most of the museum...some of the works were uncovered...

For those, I decided it best not to say anything.

After all, there were a bunch of monks about...

And I'm a family guy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Pausing For Pants

I know, I know...I haven't been posting regularly. I've simply been caught up in a bunch of stuff and trying to make time for the little sleep.

However I have two seconds to mention this pair of pants.

They recently sold on Ebay... but I warn you that you might bust a gut reading about them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Making A Case For Cardboard

A little oddity to start your week. You want to be PC with your PC? Political correct that is...maybe environmentally correct is a better term.
Then maybe you should junk that metal and plastic case housing your favor of one made of...cardboard.

It's made by a Japanese company called Lupo

Make sure your PC has a good cooling fan.

Okay...if cardboard computers leave a bad taste in your mouth, I'll toss in this...a scale model of San Francisco...made out of Jello.

I wasn't going to post them, but then I thought...there's always room for Jello.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Time After Time

Working Saturdays is not something I relish, but I almost never turn down the opportunity because it is literally like stealing money...except it's legal. I get paid overtime and I do less - much much less - work than during a normal workday. It's become impossible for me to resist even though with so little to do the day seems to drag on forever.

The other attraction to working the Saturday shift is that it's with only one radio station and it's actually "live." The truth is - outside of major disaster coverage - working Saturdays is the only time I get to do "live" radio anymore.

I work for so many radio stations now that everything I do is "pre-recorded" which takes a lot virtually all the fun out of it.
There is no interaction with anyone I work with and I'm for the most part a writing/recording machine for 4 or 5 hours straight every morning....interrupt me for 5 minutes and you've discombobulated my "time." It can take hours for me to recover.

I applied for a job as a corporate P.R. flak the other day on a whim simply because radio - the radio I'm doing now - has become so mechanical.
For the record, the corporate folks didn't want me which I expected - I only made a half-hearted application - making that jump for real will take a lot more thought and prayer...a lot more time.

I've already mentioned it in passing to my boss and I have some ideas I'm going to pitch - when I have the time - which I think would make the job more fun and improve the product on my primary radio station too.

Anyway I've been thinking a lot about time lately.

Time is something the importance of which Amy and I have increasingly come to recognize and cherish. We are trying to "make time" for ourselves, as well as "set aside" time for us and the Gomez family. Plus I truly want "one on one" time with John and Ana to show them things and let them show me things. Amy wants the same...which essentially means we're stretched for time.

I wish I had some answers...but I don't have time to search for them right now.

I have only enough time to write this...any more writing and I'll have taken up the time I set aside to wash our stinky little dogs.

That's something that can't be put off any longer...but I suppose it will make the rest of the time we have a little a lot more enjoyable.

Maybe that's all there is to it...make sure you make enough time to keep life from stinking...

Somehow that doesn't seem philosophical enough. Maybe I'll polish that thought...another time.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future - Ecclesiastes 7:14

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Boy, The Bus, And The Bird

We're in the middle of one of those "kid" things we thought we were done with...a kid who missed his bus home. I wasn't too upset about it, until I drove to the school...drove around the out and walked around the school...drove around the school...and still couldn't find him. I drove back home.
Right now Amy has gone to go find John' although his mom has told him to walk home...that would be my approach too, except I'm not positive he knows the way. I know the exact distance - 2.9 miles. It's a nice day. I hope the next time he misses the bus will be a nice day too because he will definately walk home then.
Driving people to and from bus stops and school is nearly a full time job in our house and it's made having a normal life virtually impossible for me and Amy. We were hoping we'd get folks on a schedule by now but that's not working. We've got to find a way to make this work because it's interfering with the few hours we have...we being Amy and me. Today we're both worn out from driving to Waco and back to pick up Lisa who reminded us that selflessness is not taught in college, so this wasn't a good day for John' to be a goofball.

I'm working tomorrow to earn extra money so we can survive, that means Amy and I only have a few hours together before I'll need to sleep.

We'll work on this other stuff tomorrow I suppose.

God help us prevent John' from growing up to be a bird brain.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to -- all because of Larry Bird.

The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird's jersey number 33.

``He said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird's jersey,'' Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said Wednesday. ``We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he could be.

``I've never seen anything like this in 26 years in the courthouse. But, I know the DA is happy about it.''

Thursday, October 20, 2005

For Every Thing There Is A Reason...

The reason they shear sheep.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Random Thoughts

My writing has been sporadic lately because I still haven't figured out a sleep schedule. So I find myself trying to knock out something witty, insightful, or at least something that fills a few lines when I have a moment to spare. This is one of those times...and I'm feeling the pressure.

I do have some random pieces of clutter I might string together. For instance, if you're looking for a free email service to store every email on earth you can try which offers a free terabyte of space. My first computer hard drive was 4 megabytes I think.

I should also mention for anyone whose going to be in San Antonio in about two weeks that the Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India are visiting soon. They're the guys who make those painstakingly intricate designs out of individual grains of colored sand.

It's pretty amazing...I hope to take Ana to go see them.

I hope we don't sneeze...although, as I recall, they always blow their masterpieces away when they leave...demonstrating the fleeting nature of beauty or something insightful like that.

I'm out of time, so I suppose my attempt at wisdom should be considered fleeting too...that insight might apply more often than I'd like actually.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Raised On Robbery

It's been a little more than a month since members of the Gomez family moved into our home and in truth it's been easier than I thought. Don't get me wrong...there are issues, but we've been able to roll with most of them and are getting help with some others.

Today Ana began college. She's taking two courses but she'll be going every day which means trips to the Park & Ride to drop her off and pick her up.

Right now I'm actually killing time until I can go pick her up. Her last lesson of the day was that the bus she planned to catch back home left before she could reach the stop...she's also getting an education in the bus schedule as are we.

Besides transportation, one other significant issue Amy and I are grappling with is figuring out our roles...primarily in Johns' life. Ana is 18, anxious to please and eager to learn. She doesn't need a lot of additional parenting - although I've promised to teach her how to drive. John is another story. Amy and I want to make certain John' knows Lee is in charge so we are trying to find and then walk a fine line in determining when we step in without overstepping the parenting boundaries. Right now we're limiting our input to matters that truly involve us - like his schedule or behavior - when it effects our schedules or behavior.

I believe 14 is the toughest age in parent/kid relationships. Not that I'm an expert by any means, but that seemed to be the age when our kids started to get a whiff of adulthood. At 14 they began to test boundaries...challenge us more. Yet they also realized they were too young to work, to drive, or to really be independent so some frustration set in and on rare occasions was let out.

I'm glad we've had some practice at this because I'm sure John will do likewise, although I don't think he'll necessarily wait until he's 14.

I think what is bothering me most is the realization that John is going to be robbed...robbed of part of his childhood. It's inevitable. I know that because it happened to me. When your life takes a dramatic turn at such a young age, you are forced to look at the world a little differently, perhaps a bit more cynically...maybe more realistically. Katrina certainly gets much of the blame but there are other factors too, but finding fault doesn't really resolve anything. The fact of the matter is John is gradually realizing that he's the lone "man" in the Gomez family trio and I don't think - despite sporadic moments of teenage bravado - that he necessarily wants that role quite yet.

So maybe that's where we'll fit parental figures. Amy and I want Lee to be John's parent...the adult he is guided by the most...but perhaps with our help, John might be allowed to stay a child a little while longer.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Arresting Developments

Saturday morning silence and seven hours seems like those haven't matched up for a while. I can't remember the last Saturday morning I was awake and the household was sleeping, except for those Saturdays I've opted to work to give us a little more cash.

At this moment these is not a sound in the house except that my fingers are making on the keyboard.

If only I had something to say...I suppose I could scan the weird wires.

I could write about the arrest in Iraq I'm sure the world will be buzzing about....then again catching Al Qaida's "barber" doesn't really cut it for me. However you know he's in for a heckuva interrogation because, "Only his hairdresser knows for sure."

Then there was the guy who got busted after he got canned from a job at a bar in Pennsylvania. It's sort of comforting to know petty thieves recycle.

I could draft a quick line or two about how the Army is still looking for a few good men...and apparently one 85-year old woman.
It's nice when the government screws up in such cute little ways...the big screw ups are the ones we need an Army for I suppose.

However I think I'll simply stop writing for now...perhaps go back to bed for a bit. Maybe it's something in the air.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Any Kobe Bryant Fans Out There?

Okay, that's a silly question...however I thought I'd put in a blatant plug for a couple of NBA player jerseys which belong to John' who asked me to sell them on Ebay. So far there are no takers, and time is running out.

If you actually have an interest in such stuff, you can see all the details by clicking here or on the "My Junk For Sale On Ebay" link on the sidebar.

Remember you're not supporting Kobe Bryant, you're helping a 13 year old get spending money I guarantee he'll waste on stuff he doesn't need whatsoever...which is exactly what I hope he'll do with it.

Not A Moment

And not a moment too soon
Without a minute to spare
You touched my heart
When I didn’t have a prayer
In my darkest hour
With my world filled with gloom
Your sweet love saved me
Not a moment too soon

Those are the lyrics to a country song and I believe they are meant to be interpreted that the love of a good woman helped some guy turn his life around. Whenever I hear the song though I think of my life...and God.

I was 14 when my parents died. It took me the next 20 years to realize I was rebelling, raging and or retaliating against God...and then another year or two to realize He was gently trying to call me to Him all along.

I think this is why I am watching John' so closely. I fear his future could well be determined by how he acclimates to an entirely new world...a new home in a new city in a new state along with a new school, new people in his life, etc. He's only awkward age when everything is normal in your life, but Katrina picked up this young life, spun it through a rinse cycle, and spit it out tangled, tumbled, and turned inside out.

I don't think John' has mourned the losses he's endured and I'm certain that will manifest itself in new ways.

I'm hoping to steer him away from some of the paths I've already explored and found to be dead ends.

Somedays I feel like God has used my entire life to prepare me for this...I pray I am able.

He's only 13.

I was standing at the end of my rainbow
With nowhere to go and no pot of gold in sight
All my wishes were just way too much to hope for
But when I saw you I knew I’d seen the light

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Best Of Times The End Of Times

It happens every time...someone says, "I think this is an indication the 'end times' are upon us."
Every time there's an earthquake.
Every time there's a hurricane...or two.
Every time there's a tsunami.
Every time there's a human tragedy too big for us to comprehend, it makes us think of other things that are too big to comprehend I God and the end times.
In truth God is too big for us to truly fathom, yet many of us...then again maybe it's only me...have a mental image of God. I suppose that helps us to have relationship with Him.

Some of us picture Jesus with piercing blue eyes and long dirty blonde hair.

Although that seems highly unlikely considering what we know of the world and the times of His earthly ministry, but I see no harm...I see Jesus in many ways.

There's a televangelist in San Antonio who has made a good living selling books, tapes, and other end time tschokes...the times haven't ended though and surprisingly either has his non-profit church status.

There are hate groups that thrive on tragedies such as the recent earthquakes in Asia and hurricanes attracting people of like minds. They have a place to call home. It's not exactly warm and inviting, but I suspect they'll get enough warmth eventually.

So my point in this rambling is that I don't buy into it when someone tells me that this event or that event is a sign of the least I didn't until now.

Yes, I'm a believer now.

Unless someone can give me a rational explanation for it all.

Oh...not for the hurricanes, tsunami's and earthquakes. No, sorry if I misled you.

I believe the four horsemen are about to cross the horizon for one reason and one reason only.....

The Cincinnati Bengals are in first place in their division.

Let us pray.

This Will Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Okay while I'm scanning stories this morning...this one caught my eye...and made me want to keep my mouth shut.

I searched all over but couldn't find a photo of any of his paintings...probably just as well.

Apparently tongue painting is something best done in private...blah!


Life got too busy yesterday to have time to write and I'm too busy to write this morning, but in scanning on line newspapers I noticed this headline in the San Antonio Express News:

Christ known as Mr. Santa Claus for many years

It's the paper's lead obituary for a man whose last name was Christ who died recently after spending years dressing up like Santa Claus.

Well, I found it weird.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Someone Else's Elsewhere

"Someone else's elsewhere"... those are the words my friend Erin wrote in an email to me nearly a month ago when we had finalized plans for the Gomez family to move into our home. Erin had only moved out of our home a week or so beforehand after living with us for a number of months.

I had mentioned to Erin, probably more than anyone else, the feeling I had that God was calling me to do "more," not in the sense of more work at the church (in fact I felt pretty strongly that God was telling me to refocus those efforts) but more of the work of Christ. To get down and dirty, out on the mission field, or feeding the hungry, or something. I really didn't know. Erin became a likely target for my mental wanderings because she had actually been a missionary in China for a year.

When Katrina hit, Amy and I immediately decided to open our home, something made more feasible by the ironic fact that Erin had only days before found another place to live. One other thing that might have stood in the way of providing such help was that until recently we were a one crappy car family. Back in August when the financial dragons were about kick in our door I sold Amy's van. However recently, some very generous friends literally gave us a car. It's difficult to get everyone where they need to be now, with one car it would have simply been impossible.

So I see God's hand at work in this in many ways.

This morning I received an email from Suzan - the woman who along with her husband - picked up Lee and Ana in Baton Rouge, drove them to New Orleans and helped them sort through their memories and mementos and then drove them all the way back to San Antonio. Their's was an amazing sacrifice. I started to write her back and realized the words I was writing were not mine, they were in essence the words Erin had written to me, and it all hit home. Someone else's elsewhere.

Right now, the Gomez family is getting ready and soon we will drive to church together to worship God. A God who makes all things possible. Who allows a family with limited resources to realize they have everything they need - even enough to provide a family who really has nothing a place to be someone else's elsewhere.

This same God reunited us with generous friends who gave us a car in our exact moment of need. The God who provided people like Suzan and Tommy in Athens, Texas who rearranged their lives to love the Gomez family and demonstrate God's love in such practical ways....and the God who inspired Erin to write these words to me almost a month ago:

I know you've mentioned your and Amy's desire to serve and "do missions" or whatever...I hope you realize you're right in the middle of it. Hospitality is a great gift you've been given that I can see has blessed many (personal experience can testify!) and will continue to bless many. Perhaps you will never "go" elsewhere to serve, but being the light and love of Christ and "home" in someone else's "elsewhere"...that is also true service.

I will feel good about worshipping God today, for He is never elsewhere...He is always here.

Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Psalm 105:4

**artwork by Paul Crimi

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Out With The Mold

Lee and Ana returned from New Orleans this morning...and it was about as bad as we expected. The house is unlivable and getting more so every day. It will - by everyone's estimation - have to be torn down. Lee was able to salvage what she wanted most...her family photographs. They got some clothes (I'm about to go to the Laundromat and wash those en masse), and some other items, but almost every "thing" they had was destroyed. They are starting anew and now there is no lingering doubt.

This was a chapter that had to be written in this little family's life in order for the next chapters to be started.

Ana came rushing in the door and hugged me saying, "I'm so glad to be home."

Thank you God for Your many blessings, I pray I am worthy to live up to them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Remembering The Family, Guy.

"The one thing I've learned about teenagers - God didn't create them, we did." - Gerald Mann

I woke up the other morning and John' was on my computer at 1 a.m. - doing a report on rabies which I'm sure was either due that morning or the day before. I didn't worry too much about the hour because the afternoon before he had come home from school, sprawled out on the couch and drifted into a state of unconsciousness I don't recall ever reaching even in my best pharmacological experimentation days. I've forgotten how teenagers can sleep...and sleep...and sleep.

I came home from work today and Ana proudly marched down the hall to show me a water color she had completed depicting the cast of "The Family Guy" - her favorite TV show. She was deservedly proud of her work and I was thrilled she wanted to share it with me.

I've never watched an episode of The Family Guy and wouldn't know one character from another but that doesn't matter...especially since I haven't told her that.

In about a half hour John' will be home from school and if there is a test grade or other achievement he's proud of he'll be anxious to tell me all about it.

Yesterday, I took Ana to enroll in classes at a local community college. I was hoping to get her set on a Tuesday - Thursday schedule coinciding with the classes her Mom takes at a different school on the opposite side of town. I suppose that was a partial success. Ana will go on Tuesday's and every other day of the week. Her classes will also be at times that don't jive with her Mother's at all. That means more trips to drop her off and pick her up at the local bus system Park and Ride...mercifully I think I'll be able to handle that task - Amy has taken on more than her share of duties as the family chauffeur as of late.

It's okay brings back memories and - as with many things - the distance of time seems to focus my vision only on the good parts. On the wall in front of the desk where I'm now sitting hangs an "award" my kids gave me for Father's day in 1998 that reads: "The Members of the Judkins-Main Siblings certify to all that Michael Douglas Main has achieved a world record of most miles driven for his step children." It's one of my most prized possessions.

Ana's courses are designed to bring up her reading and math skills. They'll start in about ten days and run eight weeks - an accelerated semester. She was brimming over with excitement as we left the school, peppering me with questions about what will be expected, talking a mile a minute about how nice everyone was, and asking what type of books she'll be reading, etc.

Friday night, Ana and Lee will still be wrapping up their work in New Orleans so John' will stay here with us. For the first time in weeks, he's not going to his school's football game with the band - a small issue of keeping his grades up in "Health class" due to not turning in assignments on time....ah yes, more and more of the teen years are coming back to me now.

While I don't condone fallen grades...especially in health...I confess I'm not too distressed that I won't have to sit in the parking lot of the high school late into the evening Friday waiting to drive him home after the game. John' seems like he isn’t too broken up over it either.

Of course I leave the parenting to Lee, but I must admit I'm relishing this time...even if it involves a lot of driving or scrambling around at 1 a.m. looking for a pair of scissors which are suddenly desperately needed in order for the final touches to be put on an overdue report about rabies.

Teenagers....they are indeed mystical creatures. They manage to bring both joy and consternation, to confound me and challenge me.

On this one I think I'll have to disagree with Gerald Mann though...teenagers seem like the ultimate example of God's handiwork to me.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

One Day

When Amy and I were first married I wondered what my role would be in my step-children's lives. I eventually decided that I would be the "parent" who would lighten things up. I'm not sure how well I did, but the kids turned out okay despite me.

When Lee, Ana, and John' moved in, I recognized quickly what my role was going to be - I was going to be the guy who reminded them that we all had to live one day at a time for a while...perhaps a long while. After all they've been through there are a myriad of things to consider, school, jobs, transportation, government aid, future plans...the list is endless, if we allow it to even form into a list. It can be and is overwhelming despite our combined best efforts, so I am often heard saying, "Let's focus on what we can do today."

Today we finalized plans for Lee and Ana to go back to New Orleans to salvage what they can from their home. They have no idea what to expect and we've tried to prepare for the best and the worst. I suspect this will be a critical juncture...a collision of time and emotion...of loss, mourning...and movement. It will be a painful step forward which can't be accomplished without going back...for one day.

It took a lot of prayer, communication and strong hearted individuals to pull it off, but I'm feeling fairly confident we've got it mapped out. It wouldn't be possible without the financial help of ReallivePreacher readers, and the amazingly generous gift of time and travel by a couple I've yet to meet from Athens, Texas. Amy, Gordon and I will put Lee and Ana on a bus to Baton Rouge and then - some 12 hours later - the couple from Athens will pick them up and drive them into the sea of unknown...back to their home in New Orleans.

The plan is to get in, get what they can, and get out before curfew. One day to face their fears, grab hold and turn their backs on their memories, and then turn around toward to a new life and a lot of uncertainty. That will be a long day, even for those of us staying here awaiting their return...but it too will only be one day.

Sometime Saturday they'll drive back into San Antonio, no doubt road worn and emotionally spent. Ana told me this afternoon she knows she's, "gonna be mad" when she sees her home. I suspect the gamut of her feelings will cover an almost unfathomable an a day.

The couple from Athens will spend Saturday night with us but will likely have to leave before church in order to be able to meet the demands of their own lives. Theirs is an astounding sacrifice of time and energy of which the arduous driving is only a small portion. Their role providing emotional and spiritual support during that ride back to San Antonio may well start the formation of the cornerstone of the Gomez family's future. A lot may be riding on that ride...that one day.

The body of day at a time.

It's startles me sometimes.

One day at a time sweet Jesus
That's all I'm asking from You
Just give me the strength to do ev'ryday
What I have to do
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus
And tomorrow may never be mine
Lord help me today show me the way
One day at a time

Friggin' Frigerators & The Iceman

We've been working with Lee and Ana to figure out a way they can go back to their home in New Orleans simply to see if there is anything salvagable. Logistically it's complicated since they don't drive, Amy's back won't allow her to drive, and I can't really leave my work, or my wife at this time. Some folks in Athens may be able to help and we can likely get them close by bus either way.

What to expect is the thing we don't really know. I do know one thing...the thing most returning Katrina evacuees dread the most - cleaning out their refrigerators.

While shopping with Lee and Ana yesterday we were discussing what supplies they should take with them, and I mentioned Vicks Vapo-rub to put under their noses because the smell might be pretty bad.

This morning I came across this story of the Iceman.

What really intrigues me about this story is that the guy not only married, fathered a child, but has since divorced and remarried.

If you live in a do you go about dating?

I really want to see pictures of the wedding...that would be icing on the cake.

Monday, October 03, 2005

On A Lighter Note

I don't know if these products really will make it to the market, but I wish they would.

First...the duct tape bandaid.

I found a couple of articles in overseas papers claiming this was a real product but I couldn't find it on the Nexcare company website...I tried though.

This next product so far is not out...but they do have a website where you can pre-order the Latke Larry doll because Jewish kids miss out on Santa Claus. Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann has created Latke Larry -- a singing rabbi doll with a bushy beard and a pan of latkes -- and has faith it will be "the kosher Santa Claus for Chanukah."
In his words, "He is one funky rabbi if I do say so myself." As an added bonus, Latke Larry's voice is supplied by Jerry Stiller

Sunday, October 02, 2005

One Family's Story- Partially Told

First - The disclaimer.

We were going to watch a movie last night but I started asking Lee and Ana about their experiences in New Orleans before, during and after Katrina. Soon they were talking up a storm...I was soon taking notes. I'm going to attempt to write about some of what this family has endured, but from the outset I tell you I can not do it justice. There are so many details I can't include without writing an entire book. There is so much sorrow and fear.

Also, although this is going to be an unbelievably long post, I plan to write only up to the point where the family reached safety, so please remember this is only one part of the story. The rest is still being written and it is full of hope...and promise.

The photographs embedded below were taken by Ana Gomez and you can click on any of them to enlarge them. Ana also allowed me to read her personal journal where she wrote about what happened to her and her family. She has given me permission to quote from her writings* which are raw with the emotion and honesty of an 18 year old girl caught in the swirl of one of the worst natural and bureaucratic disasters in our country's history. I have paraphrased some of her thoughts, and polished some of her grammar for the sake of clarity.

The story begins...

There are five members of the Gomez family: Jose - the Dad, the Mom - Norma whom we call Lee, Michael - their 20 year old son, 18 year old Ana and 13 year old John'. They own their fully paid for home in mid-city New Orleans, the heart of downtown.

In late August of 2005 the Gomez family was preparing for a storm they heard was coming without ever imagining how bad it would become.

*Nobody ever went through a real hurricane before like a direct hit in New Orleans. Most of New Orleans Parish stayed home...Bob the TV weatherman said you're crazy if you don't leave, he wanted to scare people out...he knew how bad it was going to be.

The family did prepare...they prepared to be without power for a couple of weeks, but they didn't realize until it was too late that they would have to flee their home. They considered going to the Superdome but there were thousands of people already there and they thought better of it. Michael called local hotels who told him they had no room.

We went to church that Sunday (August 28th) one was there. My Mom asked our priest if it got bad if we could use the rectory for shelter since we've been going to that church our whole lives. The church was brick and high, we should be safe. The priest told her, "No" for insurance reasons. My Mom got mad. I told my Mom, "Don't worry you can't get mad, just forgive him and move on."

It got bad...very bad...very fast. Water was rising so fast the family scrambled to put their most cherished possessions in high places in the home.
On August 29th, Katrina's full force hit and the flooding had become widespread...the water rose around the Gomez home

My big brother Mike started to panic cause Bob the weatherman was scaring him...Michael got mad and kept saying, "We're going to die...but he got over it."

As the day wore on, water started to leak into virtually every room of the Gomez home. The winds tore off boards and shingles. The gutters flew off too.

I heard stories on the radio already about people trapped by water which reached all the way up to their ceiling. No one could come and help them either. It was sad we chose to stay or had no choice...and they had no help to come save them.

When water started coming in under the floor of their house, the family started packing. Lee and the kids tried to walk through water up to Ana's neck to a building near Broad and Tulane, but there was no one there to let them in, so they walked back to their house, and found it filled with about a foot of brown and "orangish" water.

I always saw people's houses flood on TV but never in my life did I think it would happen to us.

As the water rose the family tried to decide where to go and eventually opted to try to make their way to the courthouse building on Tulane street...near the jail. They grabbed what they could and walked back into the dark, murky waters.

I was scared. I did not know what was in that water. The last thing I told my Dad was, "Come with us!"
He said, "No." So we went on our way. That's the last time I saw my house...

We noticed that the water was getting higher and higher. Mike said, "Look the water is to our top step."

By the way the dogs were in the back room....April and Kiki...they did not make it.


The walk to the courthouse was a nightmare in itself with men in upper floors of motel rooms trying to lure the family - along with their few possessions and small amount of money - inside. Everything they now owned was in garbage bags stuffed in a big green garbage can that Michael carried hoping to keep the contents dry.

Around eight that night the family reached the courthouse where they found other people huddled on the steps. Cold and wet the family abandoned modesty and changed into dry clothes as Michael tried to provide some privacy by holding up a towel.

Several hours later the family ventured inside the courthouse which was being used by police, and sheriff's deputies as a shelter for them and their families, but they were offered little or no aid. The families staying there had mattresses.

...we slept on the hard cold cement floor. I couldn't sleep much - it was wet all around us and cold. I started to shake and couldn't stop.

Eventually the family went back outside to the courthouse steps and watched their city flood.

Soon the family members say they felt unwelcome at the courthouse. They were refused food and told it was for the jail inmates.

"This is not a shelter, you should have evacuated." That made my Mom mad. They did not even give us water.

The family stayed on the steps of the courthouse until they realized they would have to go somewhere else if the people staying there would not share food and water with them. Deputies also ignored their pleas to go rescue Jose. Eventually deputies in boats started moving people to the Broad bridge in boats...the Gomez family members were among those people.

When we saw the boat I was so happy. The Gomez family jumped in that boat! I could not believe that we only went around the corner, that's where the bridge was...but it was dry.

The family spent a full night and day on that bridge, occasionally hearing promises and rumors that buses would be coming to take them to a shelter. No buses ever came. They tried their best to find comfort. Ana told me that some people they were with "started doubting God" but the family watched the night sky and decided the stars above them were "angels watching over us."

The family eventually began sharing the bridge with evacuated jail inmates. Buses did come, but for the prisoners, not the people who had been displaced.

We...realized even the big pretty buses were not for us, but for the prisoners. I was disappointed.

Still they were a family without food, water or shelter. As the days wore on they attempted to get to the Superdome on a couple of occasions only to be turned back. They eventually made it to the New Orleans convention center where again they were met with rumors of buses coming to take them to safety. There were other rumors too, rumors of giant walls of water about to sweep the city. Ana was petrified.

There were additional events that were far more frightening. The family witnessed police shoot a man who jumped on a squad car. According to Ana they left the man's dead body in the street.
At night there were gunshots and screams and one evening the family members, which now included several friends and their children - four of them under 6 years old - huddled together on the street and witnessed what they feared was a rape.

I saw a male figure walking fast with a small girl crying...He held her by the hand telling her to shut up. They went all the way to the back of the lot. I heard the man say, "Sit down and shut up!" We yelled out, "Are you okay?" about three times. We could hear the girl crying softly. When we asked the girl if she was okay, the crying one would answer. That made me nervous. About five minutes later the little girl and the man passed by the crowd. I had a bad feeling. I think he raped that girl and I did nothing about it. A little girl's life was one saved her.

There were other things the family saw...street justice - a man beaten to death by a mob wielding pipes after two kids accused him of rape. Ana says the kids lied. There was looting too and members of the family admit taking part in a limited way, only to get things they needed to survive, Ana told me, "I thought God was gonna be mad at me for taking cookies. I wondered if God was gonna understand. I said, ' Please God forgive us, but we've got to have clothes.'"'

Eventually the family left the convention center and made another attempt to reach the Superdome. They were again turned away but were told by a soldier to stay on the side streets, a couple of blocks from the Convention Center. He said buses would be coming but the drivers were afraid they'd be mobbed.

On September 3rd...buses came.

They let us on a bus. I felt like hugging the bus. I felt like I won the lottery. I was safe. I was on the bus...I was getting out of here.

They eventually ended up at a shelter run by the 1st Baptist Church in Athens, Texas

We were so happy to finally have a bed. Everyone was so nice and helpful. Showers...I turned on the felt so good, like I was washing away all the things that happened to me in the past week, washing it away. Not forgetting, because I can't...but washing it away.

Eventually kind people in Athens helped track down Jose Gomez who had been evacuated to San Antonio. The giving people of Athens agreed to drive the rest of the family to San Antonio to be with him. As it turned out, Jose has thus far opted to stay at the shelter. Michael stayed with us for a few days and then initially planned to go to Houston, but ended up staying in San Antonio where he is getting his own apartment. The rest of the Gomez clan remains at our home, and we are quite blessed to have them here.