Hurricane Isaac Update 3

The Oreos are finished.

 

Yeah, ok, I had some help from a few people. So, ten out of the entire Oreos package I didn’t eat.

Ten.

That’s why we can’t have Oreos in the house.

Anyway! It’s Friday morning and my neighborhood has been without power since Tuesday around 1 a.m. I was not able to update on the hurricane since I was unable to get on the internet (obviously) and had to use whatever power was left on the computer to charge my cellphone once it ran out of juice. And since it was nearly impossible to call anyone on it and text messages were taking hours to go out, the phone was dead by Tuesday evening.

*Shout out to my amazing friend Jackie who let me spend Thursday night at her house where she’s had power the entire time. I would totally hate her petite, 5’1″ guts for that, except I’ve been able to charge my computer and phone at her house and take advantage of that silly luxury called light bulbs.

Tuesday  evening  I spent with my neighbors, Dan and Lex. We only had the radio to know what was happening with the storm. The most common thing people were saying on the radio was “we really didn’t expect this storm to be as bad as it was.” Isaac was a category 1, but it was moving between 5-8 mph over land and therefore was able to cause a great deal of damage.

There’s really nothing to do when you have no power and can’t leave the house. This is where Louisiana’s laissez faire attitude with booze comes in handy. I mean, if you’re without power for several days in the Louisiana heat, would you want to be sober? There was one bar in the Quarter mentioned on the radio that stayed open, even as 70 mph winds were wiping through the city. For as old as the Quarter is, it never floods and almost never loses power. Perhaps we should design the rest of the city as well as the 18 century founders? No?

At about 10 a.m. on Tuesday another neighbor was next door sitting by his grill, cooking meat and drinking beer. We took a walk around the neighborhood, even against the reports asking us all to stay inside. I was surprised by how much debris from the trees was strewn across the road along with power lines that had fallen down. It was good to take a walk, even with the wind and rain pounding us, especially since in the evening we were under a curfew. I didn’t want to be outside at night anyway; it’s an eerie feeling to see an entire city without light.

I was too spooked to go back into my place alone with the wind and no power still, so I slept most of the night at my neighbor’s house. We benefited from the winds being strong and kept the windows and the front door open to keep the house as cool as possible. It felt a little like sleeping outside camp style, we had the windows open for air and flashlights lighting our path.  I couldn’t help but think of the dangers  experienced by others during Hurricane Katrina. My neighbor a few houses down told me he stayed during Katrina and because of the looting at night they wouldn’t light candles. They were afraid people would know they were home and would break in to rob or hurt them.

Thankfully, Isaac has not been close to the destruction that was experienced during the Federal Flood. However, it’s hard to not make the connection, especially since it made landfall on the 7 year anniversary of the catastrophe. Even without power, we were blessed to be dry and safe inside. We have a gas stove and were been able to cook meals. Hearing about the damage from flooding that was caused in other parts of Louisiana, I can’t complain about anything.

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Hurricane Isaac: The Official Janine Julia Updates from New Orleans #2

It’s still only drizzling here. I took the dogs outside for their walk. There was no one outside, which is unusual since there’s always someone walking or driving by on the street. It was silent except for the whoosing sound of the wind whirling around us. The sucking of the wind was pretty strong and it felt as though the next wind would be the one to finally pull me up into the air current. We made it to the end of the block until I was finally spooked enough by the wind to make the dogs come back.

Hurricane Isaac will make landfall sometime in the evening or early Wednesday morning. The wind is going about 40-50 mph according to the local news.

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Hurricane Isaac: The Official Janine Julia Updates from New Orleans

ImageHurricane Isaac, Update #1

Two bloody marys in, I’ve finished a bag of potato chips (I had help, back off!), and listening to a hurricane playlist on spotify while my neighbor plays Wii Mario. It’s still sunny and the pets are sleeping on the couch.

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The pets are obviously very concerned.

It turns out that preparing for a hurricane (Isaac just turned from a tropical storm to a hurricane 1) is a lot like preparing for a snow storm up North.

Now it’s true that Yankees do not have the added stress of possibly evacuating before a snow storm. Let me tell you a little about what a pain in the ass that is.

Before it was even clear whether or not the tropical storm would force New Orleanians to evacuate, all the gas stations were out of gas. All of them. Every pump I went to was out. That was Sunday. On Monday morning I woke up at 5 a.m. to get gas and there was already a line.

An evacuation also means figuring out to where you will be evacuating. Some people book motel rooms and others are lucky enough to have friends and family in cities that are not below sea level- achem. But the thing about a hurricane is that no one knows exactly which direction it will head. Because of this minor detail, all the cities one would most likely evacuate to- Houston, Baton Rouge, Jackson- are also in the possible pathway of the hurricane. So after the hair pulling traffic that turns a three-hour trip into a seven-hour stand still, you could arrive in a city that also loses power. Bummer.

All of those reasons are enough to not evacuate. Now add an independent, moody cat who will definitely scream for the entire seven-hour car ride, and you can see why staying in New Orleans is the preferred choice.

So once I decided I was staying put in New Orleans, preparing for Hurricane Yitzchak was similar to what I’ve witnessed in PA before a blizzard. The kids get excited to have a few days off from school and the moms turn into combat experts, circumventing traffic laws in the street and cutting people off in the grocery store for the last loaf of Wonder Bread.

My first trip to the store was on Sunday. I bought a hand-held radio, AA batteries, and refilled my prescriptions. If the power went out I would use the AA batteries for the radio and anything else that I needed. I didn’t know exactly what else I needed that was at home and took AA, but I thought to myself, “all you need is AA.” I was pretty impressed with my master hurricane preparedness.

Then I went to the grocery where I decided to pick up a few necessities. $68 later I had in my apartment: oatmeal, cereal, bloody mary mix, Oreos, vodka, salad, ice cream, pasta sauce, bananas, edamame, almond milk, coffee, 2 jugs of water, a bag of ice, beer, and seltzer. The really important stuff.

Once I put the food away I realized, I should find my flashlight. Then it dawned on my that I owned one flashlight and that the flashlight took DD batteries and I had none.

So, I bought beer and vodka and Oreos, but no DD batteries or  an extra flashlight.

(palm to face)

Then I realized I should probably have a cooler too. In case the power goes out it’s nice to have a cooler to use when you want to quickly grab a drink and don’t want to let the cool air out of the fridge.

In other words, I bought all this beer and I damn well was going to drink it while the power is out.

So back to the store.

This time I went to CVS. I bought a foam cooler and toilet paper. Now I was using my head. The confidence came back until I found out they were completely out of DD batteries. I was reminded of my past failure.

I then proceeded to Walgreens. They were out of batteries. I bought another cooler that wasn’t foam because I started to question whether the styrofoam would hold up and this one appeared sturdier. To make the purchase feel more productive I bought two cans of Pringles.

Side note: I never eat Pringles. I also avoid Oreos because if Oreos are in my house I turn into a crazed woman looking for her next cocoa fix. But something magical happens in the panic before a storm. Profound thoughts such as, “But what if the storm is so strong and all I want is white frosting sandwiched by two beautifully perfect chocolate cookies?” Or, “This hurricane is going to suuuuuuck. I bet potato chips would really help me not fall into a tailspin of anger and depression.”

So let’s catch you up to where I am now. I’ve spent almost $200 getting ready for this showdown. It’s Tuesday, the sun is still shinning, but the wind outside is starting to make that “whooo” whirling noise it does when sh*t is about to go down. Since I was a kid I have always loved storms, so I’m enjoying the anticipation for whatever is to come. Everyone is either outside trying to soak up whatever good weather is left or parking their cars on higher ground. I’ve got the laundry done, I’ve showered, filled bags of ice in the freezer, walked the dog, put the outside stuff inside, and even picked out a few new books to read.

I say “bring it” Isaac. I’m ready.

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Fierce Female Quote #1

When I am restless and defeated and scared again, I tell myself this: that the greatest trip of my life came because I did not get the things I wanted.
–Sarah Hepola, Every Woman Should Travel Alone

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my hero

 

That is part of the beauty of all literature.

You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone.

You belong.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

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Hello my lovelies.

I’m very excited to report that the last blog post was SO popular that it was viewed over 200 times! Yes, 200. For postsecret’s stats that’s a fail, but for this girl that deserves a high five!

Even my dad liked it. And if you know anything, you know my dad doesn’t like anything.

But apparently everyone loves to hear about dating disasters.

Seriously, I can’t tell you how many people texted/emailed/facebooked/gchated/came up to me in person (yes, people still talk face to face, mom) to tell me their worst date story.

Even my sister called me during the unholy hour of 6 a.m. to talk about it on her morning show at Froggy 101.

yep. she’s kind of a big deal

People love dating disaster stories.

And you know what? I aim to please.

it’s like, my motto.

Any who…There’s just so many stories to tell, ya know?

So, my lovelies, grab some cookies.

Get me one too, you punk.

It’s mother f*ing storytime.

I just adopted a dog from Animal Rescue Shelter of New Orleans and life has definitely changed. I never thought I was a small dog kind of person, but this little guy stole my heart.

His name is Fitzgerald, after my favorite author, Ernest Hemingway.

Anyway, life has become very exciting. Having a dog opens you up to a new world of walks, dog parks, and cuddling on the couch whenever you want.

The unexpected perk of having a dog is that I now have to wake up early to walk him which has turned my notorious sleeping in habit into an early riser. Did you know there are people awake and outside at 7 a.m.? I didn’t either!

So this morning, during our morning walk, Fitzgerald and I headed out around the cemetery next to my house. Franklin, my cat, is now an outdoor cat (this happened a half a year before the dog came, so Franklin’s not a victim, he’s just a punk). Franklin plays a fun game of “let’s follow and taunt the dog while mommy tries to get the dog to focus on going potty”. This game goes on the entire time we are outside, Fitz gets so excited to see Franklin he refuses to do anything else but stand on his hind legs barking for Franklin who pretends he can’t hear him while following us the entire walk. Usually I’m outside standing, sans bra, hair pulled up in a messy bun, dressed in my night clothes, pleading with the cat to just give me a break.

This morning, however, Fitz was able to pull the leash hard enough that he got free. He then proceeded to run into the cemetery after Franklin, leash trailing behind him in a happy parade. By the time I caught up with Fitz I found him rolling back and forth on top of a grave (!) into a pile of gooey cat shit. Holy. F*ing. Cat. Shit.

Franklin just sat there, with that look only cats can pull off, a mix of amusement and shame as if to say, “Control your dog, biotch.”

I grabbed the clean part of the tainted leash and pulled Fitz down to the house and proceeded to spray him with the garden hose.

Good morning.

This morning’s debacle got me thinking about how far I’ve come in my anxiety. If this had happened ten years ago I would have been unable to grab the leash and get the dog out of the cat feces. I would have been paralyzed by fear. I wouldn’t have been able to clean him off or probably touch him again without panicking.

It might be because of the medicine. It might be because if I hadn’t grabbed Fitz he would have stayed in that cat poop heaven for God knows how long. But I grabbed the dog, some soap, some gloves, and went to town with the hose.

That’s huge.

I’m not cured. I’ll always have anxiety. But without even realizing it, today I proved how far I’ve come from the teenager who feared most things I touched would make me sick.

If you’re reading this, and you have anxiety, have hope. You will be able to function one day.

And then you’ll be so far into your progress that you’ll be cleaning cat shit off your puppy.

You lucky survivor, you.

Good Morning Anxiety

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Date Night Disaster and Some Dating Advice to the World

Let’s call him “Brian”.

His name isn’t Brian, because no, I’m not that cruel. Only cruel enough to shame him in the only way I can wield any power in this sinister world. Through the power of WRITING.

DUN…DUN…DUN….

watch out bitches

watch out bitches

So Brian and I met through a friend’s boyfriend’s friend. Which isn’t close enough in relationship for me to feel comfortable with Brian picking me up at my house. So when Brian suggested we grab something to eat, I told him I’d meet him at the restaurant. If things go well, we had a date. If things went south, he would have no idea where I sleep at night. Fool proof.

why yes, I am good looking and smart

Brian told me he needed to get started on the date early because he had to work early in the morning, but then when I was finished getting ready and called him he told me he still needed to stop at a friend’s house first to “pick up some money” his friend owed him.

Okkkk.

Two hours after he originally called me saying he wanted us to get together, “early” mind you, he calls me back to say he’s finally heading to the restaurant.

Now, in all my dating experience, I have never before been on a date where I knew from the minute he sat down at my table that this just wasn’t going to work. After he sits down I’m already rehearsing in my head how I’m going to close the night,

I had fun tonight, but I’m just not sure I’m interested in anything more than friendship. And by friendship I mean never call me again.

My cat hates you. I don’t think we can date.

I’m into robots.

You know, the normal excuses.

We order dinner and Brian turns to me and says, “So you work at the Jewish Center, yeah?”

“The what?”

“You know, the Jewish…place?…”

There is no such thing as a “Jewish Center” in New Orleans.

“Oh, I work at a congregation. Yeah. I’m the Education Director.”

Brian gets bug eyed, “Oh wow…You prolly think I talk all ignorant and shit.”

Hmmmm. Where do we go from here? I already decided I’m never going to see this guy again, so there’s just no need to teach him when to use “speak” rather than “talk”, right? Plus, I had to give him credit for the proper use of the word “ignorant”.

So I just smile and quietly reply, “No”, and then take a big, long sip of my mint iced tea. Oh boy. We’re in trouble.

The food arrives and as I take a piece of the pita bread and dip it into the hummus I notice he has his head bowed in prayer.

“Oh,” I say, embarrassed that I lunged at the food like a heathen. I look to him for further instruction. Brian says to me, “Do you give thanks?”

With my hand raised midair still clinging to a piece of torn off pita bread, I hesitantly reply, “Sure…”

“Thank you for this meal, oh God, and in the Lord Jesus Christ’s name we pray, Amen.”

No, I’m not against prayer. My whole livelihood is wrapped up in teaching children and adults how to connect to God through prayer and ritual. However, any guy who goes on a date with me should be wise enough to understand that I work for a JEWISH organization, because I AM JEWISH and BEING JEWISH is important to me and further more should be able to deduce from that information that JEWS do not PRAY TO JESUS.

I’m sorry. They just don’t.

It isn’t because we don’t like Jesus, not at all. In fact, Jesus is a cool dude. It’s just more considerate that when you pray with a person from another faith, you make it inclusive. Whenever I have dinner with my fantastic christian friends, they pray in “God’s name” instead of “Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior” out of consideration that I might, you know, be uncomfortable praising a form of religion that was used as an excuse to persecute the Jewish people for what? Two thousand years?

At this point, I’m pretty sure Jesus was sitting up there, watching this date, and burst out laughing, and said (probably to Paul) “Seriously? Did he really just say that?” Because, in my version of God and humanity, Jesus has a mother f*ing sense of humor.

Any who… dinner continues and Brian decides to tell me not only about his baby mama drama (WHAT) but also how someone in his family owes him money because he stole it from Brian and was using it for some inappropriate things.

***Let me take a break from this story to give you youngins a lil advice. When you go on a first date, or a second or even a third for that matter,  you NEVER, EVER reveal personal information like this. While it’s true that everyone has some ex they don’t speak to anymore, or maybe a family member who uses drugs, you still do not under any circumstances unload this on someone you just met.

That is, of course, unless you’re bona fide crazy.

I realize now, yes, this man is actually crazy and I need to get out of here without him following me to my car. The meal has ended and we are waiting for the check when he says,

“So what are you up to after this?”

“Um, I’m going to go home.”

Confused, and with an obnoxiously hurt face, he replies, “really?”

“Yes, really,” I say, “I have work tomorrow,” and to just end the possibility of him asking again, I add in for good measure, “Plus, I’m a good girl.”

“A’ight then,” He says. And with anger in his voice he looks at me and says, “Let’s split the check.”

Now, I’ve been on dates where the guy asks to split the check. That’s totally understandable and I never go into a date expecting to be “taken out” on his dime.

But this guy didn’t ask if I would be willing to split the check because he needed help with the bill.

No, my friends. He was telling me that we were splitting it because I was going home. Alone.

“Are you telling me that because I’m not going home with you that you want to split the check?”

“No,” Brian replies, infused. “I can just tell this ain’t gonna work. We different and you don’t listen, I’ve been saying all this stuff and you keep saying “what?” and you don’t understand. Nah, this ain’t gonna work.”

Now I’m incensed. Was this asshole really telling me that I wasn’t working for him?

“Look, did I do something or say something to offend you in anyway?”

“Nah, I mean, you beautiful, but I mean, I rushed out here to meet up with you, I turned my boys down tonight because I wanted to hang out with you. And you telling me you are going home. That’s messed up.”

***Youngins, another piece of advice. When you go out with someone, you should never assume that your date will spend the rest of the evening with you. A date is a date and that could mean a half an hour at the ice cream shop or a few hours at a bar or maybe, if everything is going well, a fun little sleepover. But you do not assume this person is going to forfeit their schedule to spend anymore time than they are willing to give, especially when you are ON A FIRST DATE.

“But we’re hanging out now.” I said, “You know, at dinner?”

He just sat there. In silence. Mother F*er was practically pouting. He kept looking off into the distance to avoid eye-contact.

So what could I do? I had cash (which I never have, another thank you to Jesus with that sense of humor. I gotchu buddy). I took out my sixteen dollars, which was all I had, and put it on the table.

Then, before he could say another word, I got up and left.

When I called my mother that night (because, hello? of course I called her), she said,

“Well, Janine. If it means he’ll never contact you again, that was the best sixteen dollars you’ve ever spent.”

And that’s why I love my mama.

In honor of upcoming father’s day

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So funny. So true.

Bird by Bird Excerpt

There’s nothing quite like the feeling when you are deep in a book and you read something that perfectly describes you. I always marvel at the relative ease with which certain authors can nail y0u (figuratively speaking, you dirty bird) on the page. How do they do that?

I just read an excerpt from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott that so perfectly describes who I was as a child. Anne describes how she saw her father, also a writer, when she was a child:

I suspected that [my father] was a child who thought differently than his peers, who may have had serious conversations with grownups, who as a young person, like me, accepted being alone quite a lot. I think that this sort of person often becomes either a writer or a career criminal. Throughout my childhood I believed that what I thought about was different from what other kids thought about. It was not necessarily more profound, but there was a struggle going on inside me to find some sort of creative or spiritual or aesthetic way of seeing the world and organizing it in my head.

I was a different kind of kid, in a lot of ways. I was emotional and considered my feelings very serious.   I am able to look back today and see that most of the strange ways I thought and acted which set me apart from my peers, i.e. not being able to sleep over at friends’ homes or checking the patio doors were locked several times a night, were actually signs of an anxiety disorder and not typical childhood stuff. Bargaining with God to let me live until I was at least a Bat Mitzvah (13) is not typical behavior of most American-born, upper middle-class white children.

But it makes for good writing.

I spent a lot of time alone creating stories in my head and acting them out in the front yard. My only sibling was ten years my senior and my parents were old school about parenting. They had me at 40, and unlike many of the kids I teach today, my parents didn’t fill in every moment of my weekend/summer vacation/holiday with activities. They were pretty hands-off when it came to most things and I was expected to take care of myself entertainment-wise. Now, to be fair, they did generously send me to summer camp and I never lacked toys to play with, but as for the agonizing moments of boredom that eventually comes to a child, I was on my own. There was no running off to Lego Land or American Girl shops. When we went to the shore we didn’t go to Ocean City to play on the beach. We went to Atlantic City. Because my mother loved to play slot machines. And I was elated to just have Nickelodeon for a few days (did I mention to you we didn’t get cable until I was thirteen?).

I remember once Andrea, my best friend and neighbor, was over and we had completely exhausted every game and toy and we were so out-of-our-minds-bored that we actually consulted my mom for help. My mother brought us two books, put two kiddy chairs outside on the deck, and said, “You will take turns reading to each other.” We sat in our mini plastic chairs and looked at her like she was crazy. She looked at us and said something to the effect of, “You don’t like it? Well then fine. But that’s all ya getting from me. Don’t ask again.”

They were my parents, there for guidance and (sometimes) love. They were not my day-planner.

I preferred the adult conversation to the kids’ table. I would even tell my cousins to “bug off” so that I could listen to what the adults were saying. I didn’t understand what they were talking about most of the time, but I found their conversation far more superior to the one taking place with the kids (unfortunately, now that I’m older and understand the conversation at the adult table, I realize how boring adults actually are).

Lamott writes about a struggle going on inside her to organize and make sense of the world around her in a creative and spiritual way. I too wanted to make sense of life. Even as a child I knew it was a chance that I received this lucky experience of being alive and  I wanted to know if I was living my life, this gift, correctly. I could never have explained to you what living “correctly” meant, only that it required of me a certain amount of awareness and appreciation of my life. I would lie in bed surrounded by stuffed animals, thinking, “Thank you. Thank you for the roof over my head. Thank you for this safe place with my parents and my sister. Thank you for this blanket keeping me warm.”

Around eighth grade I realized that I had a knack for writing my feelings, which is great because I was terrible at art and sports. I wasn’t writing novels, more like poems that rhymed rose with toes, but I was heading somewhere. I felt just like Anne writes in her book,

There was a moment […] when I began to believe that I could do what other writers were doing. I came to believe that I might be able to put a pencil in my hand and make something magical happen.

And once I began, “I wrote some terrible, terrible stories.”

 

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