It’s 1:48 in the morning and I woke up thinking about mamma again. I got up, drank some water and turned on the laptop and came across this piece by Jarvis DeBerry. For the last, oh, two or three days my mamma has weighed heavy on my mind. She died in June and the road […]
Category Archives: Women
On returning to New Orleans last night, after a week of visiting family in Oklahoma City, I was struck by a few things…
- Who told Norco’s refinery it could make like Mordor? We could see those flames from Manchac.
- I’ve never seen so many fireworks being shot off up and around Kenner, Metairie, and New Orleans like that. Then again, I’ve never driven into the area on New Year’s Eve, either.
- The parking situation on my block was insane. Really. One would’ve thought it was Mardi Gras time already. Or New Year’s Eve. In the French Quarter.
At any rate, here’s to a good, sweet new year for everybody. Hold onto your resolutions ’cause king cakes are coming in five days. On the last big leg of my drive back home, I played this album in the car and fell in love with this song all over again. I’ve never been a country girl, but there truly ain’t nothing like living in the South. This goes double for New Orleans.
(My apologies to those who read an earlier version of this post. Trying to post from a smartphone is fraught with insanity.)
Over an eighth night of Chanukah dinner, I got into a discussion about the horrible event in Newtown, CT, with a friend of mine who taught for many decades.
“Where are the emergency drills in local schools for this kind of thing? Why is the security at the schools here so lax?” she worried.
It was deemed a sad thing that lockdown procedures were even necessary at schools today, but some basic measures like keeping school gates and doors locked from the outside during school hours seem like afterthoughts here. I remarked that just after I learned about Newtown, I went to pick up my son from school and observed a school staff member head for her car just outside a school side gate, get what she needed from her vehicle, then head back onto school grounds without closing the gate behind her. It’s not like it couldn’t happen in New Orleans – it did nearly ten years ago.
“They do keep the main building closed from the outside, with the only access being via a buzzer and an intercom system,” Dan said, “but if you’re a kid or teacher in one of the portable classrooms, you’re on your own,” he finished half-jokingly.
The only drills anyone runs in the schools here are fire drills, and those not very frequently. I suppose, and hope, a lockdown drill or two will be a part of the school year. The trick is trying to give the kids a sense of safety without it feeling like a police state.
At the same time, schools across the country are being so defunded that to jump up and throw loads of money at security for impoverished schools seems cruel and ridiculous. I’d prefer that the long-term solution be more money to education and the proper treatment of mental illness, and better gun control laws…
…but chances are, we’ll be debating this stuff until someone comes into an infant daycare and opens fire.
Every year, my husband and I set a goal: the coming year will be better than the year before. I have this fear, you see, of getting stuck in a rut, of perpetually struggling in this life while living it on pause. I’m not sure where this fear comes from. I suspect it has something to do with my previous marriage. That’s my theory, anyway.
This year has been an incredible year for my mister, Emily, and me. The love, kindness, and acceptance we have been shown – not just by those in our everyday lives, but also by total strangers – has been, in a word, breathtaking. I’ve long since held the belief that kindness, love, and compassion for one another is an important rule to live by, and to feel all of those things important to me ricochet off the universe and land right back on us further cements in my mind that these really should be virtues that transcend into a way of life. Those three things – love, kindness, and acceptance – really can change lives.
We struggled with trying to figure out how we could pay love forward, particularly during the holiday season when the universe laughs as it piles on unexpected bills, unrealistic expectations, and inconvenient truths, leaving people panicked and stressed while scrambling to maybe just survive the season, much less actually enjoy it. And finding the meaning of the holiday in all of that stress? Sometimes that is mission impossible.
Inspiration came when one of my oldest friends, Jen, shared a link on her Facebook wall. The link led me to this incredible movement, Helping Hands, where ordinary people posted their holiday needs and other ordinary people fulfilled them. It was the brainchild of Momastery, an incredibly honest blog filled with nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. I read each of the posted needs, wishing I could fulfill so many of them.
It hit me, the thing I could do to help other families.
I talked to Emily and asked what she thought about my idea. She was thrilled, and then went on to help me to expand on the original idea and that is when she came up with the name Operation Hugs and Stitches.
Earlier this year, my oldest friend, Robin, made Emily a weighted blanket. This blanket is so special to us, mostly because it was made by Robin while she was away from work, kicking cancer’s ass, but also because the blanket has brought Emily such relief from the issues she has had with sleep and when her senses are overwhelmed. Therapist and doctors recommend the use of weighted blankets for those on the autism spectrum because it is believed the blankets provide deep pressure input that their bodies crave. They are often prescribed, but rarely covered by insurance companies. And they can be spendy. When we first researched a weighted blanket for Emily, a full-size blanket averaged at $379.
I can sew. Emily loves crafting with me. We decided to make weighted blankets for families that otherwise may not be able to afford them, or at least afford them comfortably. We found 16 families to make blankets for, 21 blankets in all. I don’t know who these families voted for, what religion they adhere to, or what their occupations are. I can tell you that they are spectrum families that have kiddos ranging from non-verbal to severely autistic to the higher end of the spectrum. They live in different states. Some are single parents. Some are military families. They can all empathize with each other on how difficult it is to know there is a tool out there that can help their children, but know the feeling of not being able to afford it. For a parent, that is one of the worst feelings in the world. I’ve felt it. I’m sure to one extent or another; you have felt it, too.
When we told our friends about our plan for Operation Hugs and Stitches, they donated bags of material and scrap material. Another friend offered me the use of her sewing machine. I placed ads on Freecycle and the response was great. Today, I received a box full of fuzzy green material from someone in Ohio. I received an e-mail telling me to expect a box of material coming from Texas. These are people I don’t know, but who want to contribute in whatever way they can.
Emily has been busy designing blankets (and a line of zombie rag dolls she wants to try to sell to save for a camcorder and laptop – moviemaking is her latest obsession) and we came up with a pretty brilliant idea (if I do say so). Even after sending boxes of Mardi Gras beads to sick children in different parts of the country, donating some to local organizations, and putting others away in her hope chest as keepsakes, we still have a lot of Mardi Gras beads from Emily Gras. Instead of using poly pellets for the weight part of the weighted blankets (on average 4 pounds), we are going to use the remaining beads from Emily Gras, giving everyone who receives a blanket a bit of one of the most perfect days we could have ever imagined. When we run out of those beads, we will get more, giving others, unknown to them, a bit of New Orleans, Mardi Gras, and the spirit of the city and the people that live here.
We are incorporating the making of the blankets into our homeschool curriculum, utilizing the math, geography, and skills involved in creating something out of nothing, sending them to different parts of the country, and every inch of fabric being essential to the final product.
It seems like such a little thing, making these blankets for those who will really benefit from them. The feelings we have for doing something for someone else, the memories we are making together, and knowing that our simple act of kindness will make ripples for others – you can’t buy that, not anywhere.
I’ll admit a couple of things, first off. Last night, I didn’t watch the second presidential debate. I’ve sadly become cynical about this election. I already have a darned good idea of how I’ll be voting, and it won’t be for the guy talking about…what was it again?… Women in bondage? A book of mail-order […]
Last night I was at dinner in someone’s home and the following is the abridged version of a portion of dinner conversation. I say abridged because I was so mad that one, the guest had the audacity to discuss politics in a room of people this person had never met, save one, and two I […]
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The author of this essay, a woman in the GNO, has agreed to allow the below to be published on the condition of anonymity. I’m what poverty in America looks like. While I am fortunate enough to have a home, the home is barely furnished. There isn’t enough money to eke out on a […]
Isaac just blew through southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi with a vengeance. He was cunning and wily, and decided to sit and stay for awhile, spinning over us for 60+ hours, dumping 20 or so inches of rain, swelling lakes and rivers and causing massive destruction to the electrical grid, trees, and unfortunately massive flooding […]
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Lorin Gaudin, aka NOLA Food Goddess, is indeed a Food Goddess Extraordinaire! She is the Food Editor/Writer for Where Magazine New Orleans, does foodie podcasts for GoNOLA Radio and is a contributor for The New York Post and Culinary Consierge. She bakes weekly with Chef Lisa Barbato of Rivista, both of whom can be seen […]