Long droughts

I seem to have a couple of fatal flaws when it comes to blogging. I go along for awhile, writing every day, and then I go completely blank.


Well, apparently I can’t write when:

I’m stressed out.


When I’m writing anything else.

One night, about 2 weeks ago, I had a Night-of-the-living-dead kind of night. It began with a bad television choice; the choice to start a movie at midnight. I quit just after 1:30. If the planets had aligned for the rest of the night, that one choice would have been able to right itself. But when a storm started up and kids got bug bites and now I can’t even remember what else went wrong, the time marched on and I was still up–as in, had not gone to sleep for the first time–at 4 a.m. That’s what you get, midnight movie watcher. Idiot.

And then, because you are wondering why I’m even telling you this stupid story, THEN….my great American novel came it me. In an opening sentence, which was followed by a paragraph.

It aggravated me at the time. I had just gotten them all settled. It was 4 a.m., for crying out loud. But I knew if I didn’t write it down, it would leave me and never return. So I grabbed my ipad off the floor and plinked out my opening paragraph in the dark. Then, I got 2.5 hours of sleep.

After that, I got overwhelmed by the summer schedule.

And the daily blog just sort of got stuck under the mire.

Since then, I’ve driven through Louisiana without incident.


It really deserves its own blog. Except where’s the fun in that? All the fun comes from the incidents. At least, after the fact this is true. When doing the real-time driving, I definitely prefer the “without incident” status.

I do have a blog coming that you’ll want to read. It involves a grisly skating accident.

Have a great day everyone.m:)

I didn’t think about Louisiana once today…

…until this moment.
Why is that, you ask?
Well, I’ll tell you. Today I did what I’ve been dying to do for years now: I flew over that tourist-devouring, swamp-sporting, traffic stopping state. Ahhh, life is good.

I am tired, but happy to be here. My oldest boy is already spending the first night here over at his cousin’s next door. This means I may have a prayer of the others sleeping in.

None of this is interesting, but I went to bed at 3 last night, so you don’t get interesting tonight. Sorry.

Happy thanksgiving week! I am looking very forward to traditional feast foods, the Macy’s Parade, a movie for the kids, and game playing a plenty.

Tonight the game is called Technology Table. It consists of 4 adults sitting around a table together. Two of them are using laptops; two are on iPads. The object of the game is to talk as little as possible, avoid looking up, and do a lot of grunting at the information you receive on the technological device. Phrases like, “huh” are worth 5 points. Accurate weather forecasts are worth 10 (points allotted the next day). And if you break a national story to the other adults at the table, you win the game.

I tried to win with “did you hear Demi Moore is divorcing Ashton Kutcher?” apparently that news came out on Friday.

If you attempt to win the game by breaking old news that is deemed stupid, you are docked 100 points, making it nearly impossible to win.

Go grab a device and get to playing…

(I have a feeling this is really going to take off.)

The Louisiana neti pot

There’s only so much one can say about a neti pot. I think I’ve probably milked this cow dry.

There is one more thing, though. One more.

I was alerted by a reliable source to a news story about a man who died of a rare brain-eating parasite that he contracted through his home water system. He put the water into his neti pot, put the neti pot into his nose, and gave the brain-eating parasite a new place to live.

Wow, that’s disturbing.
That’s beyond horrifying.

The news article pointed out that this is a very rare case. It also pointed out that it can be avoided by boiling your water first. Well, okay. I can do that. So yesterday I tried to perfect the art of putting pure water into the neti pot. For some reason, I thought it would take 2 minutes to properly heat 4 ounces of water. I put bottled water into a mug, put it in the microwave, and hit 2:00. When I went back to check the water, it was the temperature of the earth’s core. As dumb as I can be, I am not dumb enough to then flush with water that hot.
So I let it sit.
And then I forgot it. I went back to check it a while later and it was cold.
Smudge Monkey, let’s try this again.

So, this time–being much smarter than before–I entered 45 seconds on the water. It was still the temperature of molten lava. After my third attempt, at 25 seconds, I got it right and cleansed my sinuses with non-scalding, purified water.

And then, when I was looking back over that article, I noticed something. The article says, “LOUISIANA man dies of rare brain infection….” And the man recommending the purified water was Louisiana’s state epidemiologist.

I have another recommendation. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? You can see it coming from your end of the 17-mile bridge. You can see it through the miles and miles of backed up traffic in Baton Rouge, can’t you?

You know I can’t NOT say this. There’s another answer that is quite obvious to even the non-seasoned traveler.

Stay out of Louisiana.
Avoid the water in Louisiana.
Don’t catch a cold in Louisiana.
Don’t use a Louisianan neti pot.
If you absolutely must cross the 17-mile bridge, roll up your windows and grip the wheel with white knuckles. It’ll be over in 90 minutes or so…

Only in Louisiana.

Did I tell you I’m flying OVER Louisiana next week? Oh, that feels good. Feels like revenge. Except that it isn’t. Because no one cares.

I’ll continue using purified water in my neti pot on the off chance that Florida has a few parasites, too.

But I bet they don’t.
It’s a Louisiana thing.

Day 3 – Dark Circles

I look like someone delivered bad news to me last night and then I spent the entire night wringing my hands over it. None of that occurred, except for the looks part. Not sure why I look so much like Halloween today. I thought I was sleeping okay.

At any rate, I have only high marks to give the Best Western Richmond in Baton Rouge. The breakfast was a Thanksgiving feast and there were only three people in there eating. For once, we weren’t annoying people. Well, we might have annoyed the three people already in the dining room, but there was enough room for them to move if they didn’t like us. One guy actually did. Whatever, dude.

We were on the road by 9 and I was challenging Louisiana to do its best. It had already thrown the pool in my face and I have a nasty, festering wound to take me through the rest of my vaca to remind me of the ongoing feud. It seems like Louisiana always wins. When we have an altercation, I come away with a speeding ticket, or a festering wound, or a suspended license. Why can’t I win? All I have is the sound of my own complaining and the support of the victimized masses.

Oh well.

We stopped at the big braggadocios welcome station as soon as we crossed into Texas. i felt hugged by it. It was as if they were saying, “Congratulations. You just survived Louisiana. We know how you feel…”

I’m just joking. I don’t know why I’m talking here. I shouldn’t be. I’ll try to come up with some better material for later, I promise.  I will also try to post pictures of the trip thus far, but I am in a valley and I cannot get the pictures to upload.

Have a great day!


Louisiana’s Revenge

It is that time of year. The time of year when we climb into our minivan singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and drive like mad dogs through Louisiana, hoping against all hope that we can gather enough momentum to combat the evil that lurks there under all that soupy marshland.

I told Todd in 1994 that I would never drive through Louisiana again. Ever. I said that I would ONLY fly over it and that I would spit toward the ground each time I did. What stupidity. Spitting toward the ground only hits the plane carpet or, if you are lucky, your own feet. I would be that lucky.

We had four kids.

I retracted my “I will never again” statement. And I am typing these words from a hotel in Baton Rouge. Louisiana. And I drove here. Voluntarily. And I did not spit a single time.

It was a long day, which began with a whopping 3.5 hours of sleep. I slept from 12:30ish until 4 a.m. That’s dumb. Really dumb. But with prayer and the most diligent efforts of my life, I didn’t have any sleeping or safety issues. Twelve long hours later, we pulled up to a very comfy hotel with lots of room to frolic and be inappropriately wild. Full kitchen (not that I need it. I don’t use the one I have in my actual house…), pull out couch in the living room, and a bedroom with two plush queen beds. The bathroom is also swanky-doodle.  There were issues, however. Most of them relate to SnuggleMonkey. She gets the Bull in a China Shop Award for the day.

It was all going pretty well until we stopped at the Dufuniak Springs exit get gas. We were still in FL at this point. It takes a good 6 months to get out of FL. After that, you actually feel like you are going somewhere. I pulled into the Raceway to get gas. If you are ever in Dufuniak Springs and are faced with the choice of BP or Raceway, just swallow that Gulf Oil Spill thing and go to BP. Trust me. In addition to all of the other unsavory things associated with this gas station, on this day, SnuggleMonkey fell out of the van and did a face plant on the concrete. Yikes. I’ve heard that sound before. You never get used to it either. Human head on concrete is just icky. She got over it before the drug lords walked out of the store to check on us. And off we went. Besides hours of kids bop, High School Musical 3, and some loud, uncalled-for noises from the back of the van, the rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. It felt like we stopped 13 times while still in FL. But we made up for it by driving a solid 5 hours through AL, MS, and LA.

And then we arrived and checked into our temporary little Utopia. The plan was to eat Subway by the pool and let the kids burn off the last of their fumes and hit the sack early. It was going perfectly until the bathroom requests began pouring in. First it was the girls needing to go. Then Mama’s Boy. When Mama’s Boy needed to go, I stood up to take him and about the time I did that, SnuggleMonkey stepped off the stair and into a part of the pool where she can’t swim. I could see the panic on her face in slow motion. I dropped the towels in my hands, ran across the pool deck in 4 strides and leaped into the water, wearing a white t-shirt, black capris, and my keens. I am not the right person to go swimming in a white t-shirt. Few people are, truly. But definitely not me. That was awkward. Let’s just say I plan to  hit the sit ups harder this week…

Poor girl. She was screaming when I scooped her into my arms, but she wasn’t coughing up water. She had been holding her breath. I held her in the water, trying to comfort her and tell her she handled it well. AG had jumped in with me, but I was faster. He was right by my side, talking to his sister, making sure it was all okay.

We were impressive.

No, we weren’t.

While I was in the water, I was very aware that my leg was sort of adding to this whole conversation. I hit something when I went in. I don’t know if it was the side of the pool or one of the stairs. Whatever it was, I hit it hard. When SnuggleClumsy finally calmed down, I took a look at the complaining limb. I had a nasty goose egg and a bloody abrasion.

It was at this moment that I had my AHA moment. I am in Louisiana. Of COURSE it would happen around a peaceful pool with Subway on the table. Think you can catch me unawares, do you? Think I’m not onto your slimy aggressions? Well, I am. You won’t water log us today.

We slopped back to the hotel room, with my squeaking shoes, and we talked the whole way up the stairs about what a person would or would not do to save another person. My kids asked me, “Would you jump in after us if you were wearing a fancy watch?”

I don’t own a fancy watch, but yeah. For sure. FOR SURE.

Would you jump in after us if you were wearing church clothes?

I would jump in after you if I were wearing a wedding dress, I said.

Would you, could you, with a fox?

Maybe, Baby, with a fox. In a tree, with a flea. You and me.

And because I know tomorrow’s 17 mile bridge will take me 16 hours to cross and I will have to merge 46 times in 2 hours, I am going to bed. Also because if I don’t, I will pass out.

I know this is not my best work. But it’s all I have today. Hope you are all blessed in other states of the union.

The Louisiana Lawman

If you suffered through the first installment of Why I Hate Louisiana and You Should, Too, then this is technically Volume 2. I don’t know if I can properly tell this story. It seems less and less funny to me as I age, for some reason. But this is the story my friends seem to like best. Perhaps everyone thinks that jail is really what I deserve. The more I run into lawmen, the greater the chance I’ll land in the slammer.

It was some year, early to mid nineties. If you really get curious about the date, you can probably look me up in the county records. I’m sure there’s a record of this incident. I do know I was married, so it was post-1993. And I didn’t have children, so it was pre-2001. So there you go. I’m guessing it was winter of 1995.

Again, we were driving to Texas. Since we didn’t learn our lessons from the out-of-gas fiasco, we found ourselves on the long stretch of bumpy concrete that Louisiana tells you they are fixing when they merge you into one lane. Don’t buy that one. They never fix their roads. I’m not sure what that merging thing is all about. Maybe it’s some sort of cover for a drug ring or something.

At any rate, it was well after midnight and this time, we were driving from Tampa. The trip was now a sixteen hour trip, at best. About 2 a.m. I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror. Well, pooh. Todd was reclined and sleeping in the passenger seat. I was reclined and sleeping in the driver’s seat. Going 73. OK, ok. 73 in a 65 zone is still speeding. Let’s just get that one out there. But it isn’t CRAZY speeding. So I was a little surprised to be seeing a cop. I pulled over and Todd and I tried to straighten our weary attire and look presentable and innocent.

The lawman came to the window, which I had rolled down.

“See your license and registration, ma’am?” He asked, tipping his wide brimmed hat. Nice touch, officer, but your manners mean nothing to me right this second. I handed him all the proper documentation. He walked back to his car, did the whole checkity-check thing, and then came back.

“Do you know how fast you were going?” He asked.

“Um, 70ish, I think,” I answered.

“73,” he answered. “Do you know what the speed limit here is?” He asked again.

“65,” I said again.

“No ma’am,” He said. “It’s 55 in this section.” Nice, I thought. A speed trap.  How very Louisiana of you. Why am I surprised?  “I’m going to have to write you a ticket,” he said, not sounding the slightest bit human as he spoke. Of course you have to write the ticket. Because to get a warning, I’d have to be either in Texas or Mississippi. Nothing can go well in Louisiana. I sighed and slumped forward, waiting for him to write the confounded ticket. My conversation with him was over. I would speak when spoken to and that was it.

Ten minutes later, I rolled the window up , threw the ticket into the back seat of our Camry as angrily as I could at 2 a.m., and got back on the road, driving much slower this time around.

I don’t remember anything about the rest of the trip or the trip home. And because it was the middle of the night and I threw that ticket into the back seat, I don’t remember what happened to the ticket, either. I do know this: I didn’t pay it. I thought about it a time or two. I even thought about pursuing a copy of it. But I couldn’t even remember which law enforcement agency had endowed me with it. So I did what any stupid 20something year old in denial would do: I just went about my business and forgot about it.

And then one day, 6 months later, I needed to be in Tallahassee on business. I liked these business trips. I worked from my home. My co-workers in Tallahassee were my friends. I liked going up and working with actual people. So I was excited about the prospect. But my car, which was a 84 Nissan Pulsar, wasn’t driving so great. My company was going to pay for me to rent one. You know where this is going, don’t you?  The day before my trip I was standing at the car rental counter with my license, ready to pay for my car and drive away with it. They took my license and were gone for a few minutes. When they returned, the lady said, “I’m sorry ma’am (there’s that ma’am thing again), but your license is suspended. We can’t rent you a car.”

“What?? What do you mean my license is suspended?” I was in disbelief.

“You have an unpaid speeding ticket in Louisiana from back in November. ”

Ohhhhhhhh no. All that forgetting I did was now coming back into focus and forming a distinct memory. Being pulled. Throwing the ticket into the messy back seat. Somehow losing the ticket. Deciding it didn’t matter. And here we were now.

I honestly don’t remember what I did from that point on. I did not rent that car. I’m guessing I drove my dumpy little Nissan up to Tallahassee. And yes, I drove it without a valid license. There were no getting to the DMV that day. I tried that. I was told I needed to talk to Louisiana. Awesome.

My co-workers in Tallahassee thought the first installment of this story was really fun. It’s fun when someone else gets and refuses to pay a speeding ticket. I personally wasn’t giggling so much. But I finally had a phone number to call to straighten the mess out. So the first chance I got, I sat down in someone else’s cubicle and dialed that number. I still remember what the person’s desk looked like in that cubicle. And I remember the sound of the voice on the other end of that line. That phone conversation made quite an impact on me.

“Yessir, I need to inquire about an unpaid speeding ticket I got last November.”

“Hmm,” the guy said. “November.” Don’t you just love it when you can tell someone thinks you are a loser? “What’s your full name, ma’am?” He asked.  I told him. He typed stuff. There was silence. More typing. More silence. And then,

“Ma’am, are you aware that there’s a warrant out for your arrest in the state of Louisiana?” When he said these words, I sort of got that dark and fuzzy feeling you get when you think it might be best to just go ahead and pass out. For the most part, I was a rule abider. If there was a grade to be made, I made an A. If there was a game to be played, I aimed to win it. If there was a ticket to be paid, I didn’t usually toss it into a place where it would never be seen again. But I had. And this man had said the words. So I came to my senses enough to speak and said,

“What does that mean?” I know that seems obvious, but to me it wasn’t.

“Well, that means if you were to drive through our state and get pulled over again, you’d be taken to jail.”

Alrighty then.

“So then what do I do to fix this?” I asked.

“Well, the ticket was $92. And the fee for non-payment is $50. So if you pay $142, you’ll be in the all-clear from us.”

Fair enough. I paid $142 that day. I was thankful it wasn’t $142,000. With my luck with Louisiana, it really could have been. I drove back to Tampa, paid another fee to re-instate my license. And then I went and sat in a corner for like 6 weeks. Not really, but I did think about it.

Naysayers have told me this entire ordeal was my fault. I can accept that in a court of law I could not convict Louisiana of any crime here.

But this whole ordeal started with a speed trap.
And a speed trap is evil.
And evil needs to be purged.
Therefore, I draw my former conclusion.
Louisiana should secede from the nation.

Thank you very much.

Dear Louisiana – Facebook Statuses

I have found a very cool tool. I don’t know if I can recommend it, because enough time needs to pass for me to see that men in black will not show up at my door with guns or that some seedy hacker hasn’t just now stolen every last bit of personal information I have. But my guess is that it’s all okay and I found a tool that hooks me up with all of my old Facebook status updates. I wanted to see what I had said about Louisiana.

6/23/2009 — continuing to write congressmen to get Louisiana to secede from the nation and am singing “the stars at night are big and bright”…clap, clap, clap, clap…

6/28/2009 — I’m boning up for her return fight with Louisiana. This time, I’m armed and ready.

6/30/2009 –I have  come to a place of acceptance with the unchanging hazards of Louisiana and am home at last.

7/23/2010 — Safely and happily in Austin. With NEWS TO REPORT. Hear this: We made it through Louisiana WITHOUT INCIDENT for the first time. EVER. I may have some love in my heart for that state after all…

8/3/2010 —  Home. Scarred slightly more than last year, but nothing a little plastic surgery won’t cover up. Oh, and BY THE WAY, Louisiana can eat rocks FOR GOOD. I don’t have time or energy to describe the new ways in which that state managed to ruin lives this time around. Really. I will not forgive this time. It’s over. Feud is back on to the death.

I do wonder what this summer will bring. It’s now a part of the game.

Dear Lousiana – Volume 1

This is the first of my hypothetical harshly worded letters. It seems more than apt that Louisiana would occupy the first slot in this department, because my history with the state is thick with rancid details and run-ins with traffic cops, thunderstorms, merging lanes, so-called construction, and really bad rest areas.  Did I just say traffic cops? What year IS it anyway? This is a story of unrequited love.  Louisiana has tried, in its abusive and demented way, to love me. I unrequite.  In fact, I reject to the fullest extent of rejection. And furthermore, I write harshly worded letters. If you are from Louisiana, love someone from Louisiana, are obsessed with Harry Connick Jr. or his wife, Jill Connick Jr., or just enjoy suffering to the point of hospitalization, then you should just forgo this post entirely. You won’t be happy here today. Also, should you have a really strong reaction I will give you a chance to email me an “I love Louisiana” rebuttal and if you do a good job with it, I will post it, with my therapist’s number at the bottom of the post. You obviously need him more than I do.

Chapter 1:

I call this my BKHM period. I pronounce that like David Beckham’s last name, in case you want to do this right and not read the entire first Harry Potter book reciting the name Hermione as Her-mee-OWN, like I did, or reading Wicked with the name El-FAH-ba in your head, instead of the correct EL-fuh-buh. I won’t even say who messed up that Wicked one. He’d make me pay. Bad.

So anyway. I was a BKHM, which stands for Before-Kids-Have-Money. The Informinator tried to correct me, saying I was a DINK. That sounds a little too easy, doesn’t it? No thanks. Freedom was something I also had. Todd and I were young professionals. I have never understood what he does. It’s highly technical. Probably he’s actually a government sniper, but the cover-up seems to have something to do with computers and networks and stuff like that. I was a tech writer, writing the software manuals that brought people sweating and cursing into managers’ offices because they couldn’t understand a word of it.

We had vacation time. We used it. And at least three times, we made the unfortunate decision to drive through Louisiana on our way to Texas. We could afford to fly. But we were choosing to save money. We just had no idea how high the price was to drive allllllll the way through L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-A.

The very first memory I have of driving through that state was when I was about to turn 21 and Todd was 20. We had just secured the worst car ever from a seedy car dealer at a seedy car auction. On the way back from that auction, the dealer hit something in the road and said, “What was THAT? That sounded like a human head or something.” I’m not making that up. I wondered how exactly he knew what a human head sounds like when hit by a Toyota Corolla.  We didn’t ask any questions. This same 2-tone, vinyl-topped Toyota Corolla is the car we chose for that first trek. We were engaged to be married. We wanted to hang with his folks for Christmas break. It was supposed to be a 12 hour trip from Tallahassee to Houston.

Two things happened in Louisiana. The first one happened as we were entering the state. In a very hard rain storm, the driver’s side windshield wiper flew off. Just flew off. It was gone. Well that’s precarious, now isn’t it? Just beautiful. A driver’s side wiper is not a luxury. You pretty much have to have that. So we found an exit with a Pep Boys and we wasted 45 minutes solving this problem. The trip was now closer to 13 hours.  And then there was a long, long stretch of darkness and swamp. There were no restaurants and no gas stations. There was nothing. And we had no gas. Because we were not accustomed to the Corolla Crown of Shame, we didn’t realize the gas gauge would fall from 1/4 tank to empty in an eye-blink and that in that eye-blink the situation would go from “maybe start looking for gas” to “YOU JUST RAN OUT OF GAS!!!” We also didn’t realize that the state of Louisiana has entire exits that are just there for scientists that are studying swamp behavior and looking for the Yeti. We took at least two exits without a single sign of life. And those two exits used up the last of our gas. And the car started popping and skipping and hiccuping and then it just puttered to a stop. Right in front of a long bridge. In the dark. In the rain. Oh, and it was 1991, so no one had cell phones.

We had no other option but to get out and start walking. So Todd got in front, up on a concrete border that spanned the entire bridge, and I walked in back holding on to his belt loop. And quite stressfully we walked, single file, at least a mile on that teeny little concrete thingie, in the rain, while cars zipped past us with full tanks of gas. And then, not too far past that horrible, horrible bridge, we saw the exit for a rest area. And we walked down that ramp and sat down by the pay phones to figure things out. When we’d talked it out, we called Todd’s parents, who were expecting us by 11 that night and told them we had hit some snags and to go to bed. We didn’t tell them the story. We were talking collect on a pay phone. Go to bed, Mom and Dad. We are in Louisiana. We’re in GOOD HANDS!

Then we hung up that phone, still with absolutely no idea where a gas station  was or how we’d get there.  That’s when two people walked up that had seen us walking and had even overheard our phone conversation.  They sheepishly admitted to stalking us with the best of intentions and offered to take us up the road until we found some gas. We could not get our “yes” out fast enough. So they walked us to their vehicle, which I became thoroughly convinced was going to be my tomb. It was a VW van from the 70s. The front had two seats. The back was gutted and spread out with sleeping bags. They lived in this van. They were civil rights activists. I was sitting on their bed as we looked for gas. 5 miles later, we found some. That would have been quite a walk. So as frightened as I was to be in a gutted van with slightly crazy people, I was more grateful than frightened.  And as it turns out, I too became a civil rights activist and live in an old van by the river.  Not really. But it sorta sounds nice.

2 hours later, we were back on the road.  And at 5 a.m., we pulled into Todd’s driveway and found his worried parents sitting at the kitchen table waiting for us. At that point, we told the story. And then we went to bed. Separately. For a very long time.

When I woke up I still hated Louisiana.

The trip home did not have any car issues. But because it was a holiday weekend, Louisiana decided to merge 3 lanes into 1, just to scientifically test how long this would delay a weary traveler. It delayed us precisely 6 hours. That’s right. S-I-X H-O-U-R-S. That’s like a thousand billion years when you are stuck in a Toyota Corolla with only a cassingle of Annie Lennox, “Walking on Broken Glass”, Curtis Stigers, “I never saw a miracle”, and Jude Cole, “Start the Car.” How many times can you play “I’m thinking of an animal”? A 12 hour trip home took 18 hours. Just that math alone could cause me to write a harshly worded letter.  And I will, LA. You haven’t heard the half of it yet.

Someday soon we’ll do Volume Two: The Louisiana Lawman.

Until then, I’m going to go meditate on Mississippi and try to get some sleep.