June, 2011 Archives

26
Jun

LSS: Tales of a Governor

by Jan in Uncategorized

Edwards was convicted back in 2001. I moved here about that time. Therefore, I never lived in Edwardian Louisiana.

However, I’ve talked to enough people to be convinced that, aside from his extended encounter on the wrong side of the law, the four-term governor definitely has some magic attached to him.

Edwards stories have long fascinated me—the Free Edwards movement. George W. Bush’s refusal to pardon him. The love and affection many die-hard Republicans still feel toward him, regardless of the circumstances. And now, that he has served his state and his time—the throngs of people flocking to be his friend on facebook is another indication of the support he continues to enjoy.

By Thursday night, in about a week’s time, Edwin Washington Edwards had accumulated 2,631 friends. In facebook speak, that’s impressive.

Born way back in 1927, Edwards will celebrate his 84th birthday in August. Judging by the speed he confirms facebook friends and answers messages, he’s a very computer-savvy

83-year-old fellow.

Here’s what he wrote about himself on his profile page:

“I have had a long and interesting life. I went from a sharecropper’s farm in the depressions days of the ’30s to the halls of congress and the governor’s mansion in Louisiana. I have been to the depths and risen to the heights as the only 4-term governor of our state. I am now retired and will be traveling the state during the coming months for scheduled book signing events; to meet and greet old friends and make new ones. In spite of my age I have no disabilities and I am in reasonably good health for which I am very thankful.”

Plenty of people on the page are urging him to run again, displaying “Edwards for Governor” buttons and much enthusiasm for the state’s prodigal son returned home.

Frankly, I find the whole exchange fascinating and so very Louisiana on so many levels.

Interestingly enough, two years ago, another “Edwin Washington Edwards” send me a facebook friend request. At first, I presumed it was a prank of some sort. Then I noticed some of the people friending this Edwards seemed to have legitimate ties to the former governor. So, I sent him a

message.

At the time, I was teaching in a local high school. I was confused as to how someone serving time in a federal prison could have access to Facebook when I couldn’t get it at the high school where I was teaching. So, I asked the person on the other end of the screen that question.

The reply: Silly. There’s MUCH more freedom in prisons (with the sole exception of having the choice to leave) than in schools.

Even though that and the other replies seemed quite reasonable, I wasn’t convinced the former governor was on the other end of the connection at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale.

Shortly after our exchange in February 2009, the Edwin Washington Edwards Facebook page was gone.

For the sake of curiosity, I hung onto our exchange. I thought it to be good fodder—regardless of who wrote it.

This week when Edwin Washington Edwards and I became Facebook friends again, I decided to ask him about it.

His reply: Two years ago, I was in prison and had no access to the Internet so it was not me.

I sent him the exchange and he again assured me he had not created a Facebook page while serving in federal prison. For some reason, I found this news comforting.

Additionally, he was curious to find out who had done it.

I decided to ask for his advice on staying in good health.

Here is his reply verbatim: “I’ve heard You’re only as young as the woman you feel … if that’s true I’m only 32. That’s the only advice I have to give you on staying young! *smiling*”

He also mentioned he’d be stopping in Lafayette at some point soon to sign copies of his book.

Godspeed, Edwin Edwards.

Only in Louisiana.

24
Jun
19
Jun

LSS: A red-letter day

by Jan in Uncategorized

Today is a red-letter day,” the high school principal said over the intercom system long, long ago.
I was a high school junior back then. I didn’t notice the kids around me snicker when he said it. Maybe they did, but more than likely, the folks in my homeroom weren’t paying attention. Later that day, I realized the principal’s “red-letter day” comment had legs.
In the way high school students can turn an innocent comment into a cult phenomena, many students were repeating the phrase over and over.
I didn’t get it.
I thought, “In fact, it is a red-letter day. We’re playing our archrival in football. We’ve got a big pep rally. It’s crazy dress day. What’s not red letter about it?”
My friends, who were enjoying the red-letter silliness, noticed that I didn’t get it and, to their credit, they tried to shield me from it—the way people try to shield the innocent.
Not that I was innocent, but still, in this one case, my friends went above and beyond the call of duty and tried to have their red-letter day fun when I wasn’t around. Perhaps more than I realized myself, they knew the high school principal and I had more in common than was cool for me to admit or acknowledge.
I suppose I had heard the principal use the expression before.
A red-letter day. The expression comes from medieval times. Even back then, calendars had special days and dates printed in red ink.
In lots of ways, I suppose that my high school principal taught me a lot about embracing occasions. He tried to teach students the beauty of turning blasé moments that could have passed without anyone thinking twice into moments that could linger for a lifetime. He was one to take bold steps, rarely holding back. For me, watching him pull off crazy stunts no one else would have tried was contagious.
I couldn’t help it. I had to try them too.
The truth was that I had been paying attention to that particular high school principal for a lot longer than the morning announcements lasted.
He was my dad.
I knew the cold hard fact of the matter was that students were going to rib the principal to some degree. I thought it was kind of sweet that my “red-letter” friends realized a split-second too late that they were having good-natured fun in front of me. They tried to cover up the way kids do, but we all knew the score. I wanted them to know I didn’t mind. However, I didn’t want to betray my dad either. We all silently agreed to agree that I didn’t hear it.
In the weird way these things work, because of that flash of a red-letter moment that no one else likely remembers, the phrase has stayed with me much more than it would have.
Today is a red-letter day. That high school principal taught me that turning just another day into a red-letter one was energy worth spending—no matter what anyone else thought about the effort. He knew how to drum up excitement. He knew how to organize something and get other people on board. Truth be told, making an occasion or a party out of something that could have been boring or humdrum is a gift that served him well throughout my growing up years. That ability is a gift that continues to serve him through to this very day. Though my efforts often pale in comparison, the perspective of age has taught me what my friends probably realized back then—my dad and I have a lot in common.
In my house, like the one where I grew up, we are of the mind that there is nothing wrong with having a celebration whether it be organized to the nth detail or spur of the moment.
And on this day, I have all the faith in the world that celebrating my dad and his day will be a red-letter day too. We will make it that way.

16
Jun

Long Story Short: details on my quest to find the girl in Japan

by Jan in Uncategorized

Faithful readers will recall our March effort to fold 1,000 origami cranes to send to Japan. In Japan, 1,000 cranes strung in 25 strands of 40 creates a senbazuru, which represents hope and recovery.
Our family’s effort quickly gained momentum. For the five days before we mailed the cranes, someone was knocking on our door every hour or so throughout the day and evening dropping off bags of cranes.
If you’ve ever tried to fold a crane, you know those were little bags of love.
Many people came in and sat at our table and folded more cranes. It was beautiful. When we reached our goal of 1,000, the cranes kept coming. All in all, we mailed 1,873 cranes from Acadiana. The Bezos Family Foundation, through Students Rebuild, donated $2 to the Japanese recovery for each of those cranes. Within a few weeks of our cranes arriving at the Students Rebuild office in Seattle, people from around the world kept sending them.
All in all, the organization received one million origami cranes—900,000 more than their target goal. Organizers are partnering with Architecture for Humanity and shipping the cranes to become an art installation in Japan. They’re using the money to build an orphanage and a school in the Sendai area.
Skip a few weeks forward.
In April, my 13-year-old daughter, Greer, and I visited England. We made a trip to the English city of Bath, a city first settled by the Romans. The city, so named, because it was loved then and now for its warm healing waters. In fact, Greer and I toured the bathhouse the Romans used 2,000 years ago.
The entire structure has been excavated down to the very stone floor the Romans used. We entered on the street level and toured the upper portion of the building before going down steps to the stone floor surrounding the warm green pool, still fed by the same spring. When we stepped out onto the smooth and polished stones, I was in awe.
Upon entering the area, we practically bumped into two Asian girls. One tall and one short. I asked them if they would take our photograph by the bath. As I handed my camera to the shorter girl, I realized their English was marginal. That always makes me happy. I love speaking with people learning our language.
After the girl took our photograph, she motioned to ask if I would take a picture of her and her friend. I did. When I finished I counting to three and taking the photograph, I asked the girls where they were from.
“Japan,” one answered.
I asked, “Where in Japan?”
The tall girl said, “Tokyo.”
Because of what happened next, I cannot remember where the other girl said.
I smiled and in the way I speak with my hands, arms, legs and toes when I’m trying to communicate with someone who’s trying to learn English, I said, “In March, we folded 1,000 origami cranes for a senbazuru for Japan.”
I knew they would recognize the word sebazuru.
They did.
Both girls put their hands together and began bowing to us saying, “Thank you,” over and over and over.
Greer and I recognized their sincerity immediately, but they kept saying, “Thank you.” Then, I saw a single tear roll down the check of the taller girl.
Followed by another.
I know well the reticence of emotions in the Japanese culture. If you were watching, you probably saw on television families who, after four days of searching, reunited in the ruins of the tsunami after, simply stand and bow to each other.
No tears. No embrace.
The taller girl’s tears began to fall in abundance and within a moment, she was sobbing uncontrollably. I opened my arms and she fell into them, silently sobbing. We stood there the four of us.
They didn’t know our names.
We didn’t know theirs.
Still don’t, in fact.
Tears began to roll down Greer’s, the other girl’s and my own cheeks. It was one of those experiences you can’t believe even as it’s happening—powerful and compelling.
Finally, the Japanese girl regained her composure and we began to smile and laugh.
She said one more, “Thank you,” and the four of us posed for a photograph. Arms locked.
I don’t know why our tale of a senbazuru touched her the way it did. I don’t know if she had or lost family in the tsunami. I don’t know if it was just that moment of realizing how connected our lives are and that people in one place genuinely care about people in another.
Whatever it was, the four of us shared a remarkable moment that will stay with me.
I wish I knew her name.

13
Jun

A quest…not quite so large

by Jan in Uncategorized

Do you know someone who may know someone who knows one of these Japanese girls?

13
Jun
13
Jun
12
Jun

I wish I knew her name.

by Jan in Uncategorized

12
Jun

LSS: I wish I knew her name.

by Jan in Uncategorized

Faithful readers will recall our March effort to fold 1,000 origami cranes to send to Japan. In Japan, 1,000 cranes strung in 25 strands of 40 creates a senbazuru, which represents hope and recovery.
Our family’s effort quickly gained momentum. For the five days before we mailed the cranes, someone was knocking on our door every hour or so throughout the day and evening dropping off bags of cranes.
If you’ve ever tried to fold a crane, you know those were little bags of love.
Many people came in and sat at our table and folded more cranes. It was beautiful. When we reached our goal of 1,000, the cranes kept coming. All in all, we mailed 1,873 cranes from Acadiana. The Bezos Family Foundation, through Students Rebuild, donated $2 to the Japanese recovery for each of those cranes. Within a few weeks of our cranes arriving at the Students Rebuild office in Seattle, people from around the world kept sending them.
All in all, the organization received one million origami cranes—900,000 more than their target goal. Organizers are partnering with Architecture for Humanity and shipping the cranes to become an art installation in Japan. They’re using the money to build an orphanage and a school in the Sendai area.
Skip a few weeks forward.
In April, my 13-year-old daughter, Greer, and I visited England. We made a trip to the English city of Bath, a city first settled by the Romans. The city, so named, because it was loved then and now for its warm healing waters. In fact, Greer and I toured the bathhouse the Romans used 2,000 years ago.
The entire structure has been excavated down to the very stone floor the Romans used. We entered on the street level and toured the upper portion of the building before going down steps to the stone floor surrounding the warm green pool, still fed by the same spring. When we stepped out onto the smooth and polished stones, I was in awe.
Upon entering the area, we practically bumped into two Asian girls. One tall and one short. I asked them if they would take our photograph by the bath. As I handed my camera to the shorter girl, I realized their English was marginal. That always makes me happy. I love speaking with people learning our language.
After the girl took our photograph, she motioned to ask if I would take a picture of her and her friend. I did. When I finished I counting to three and taking the photograph, I asked the girls where they were from.
“Japan,” one answered.
I asked, “Where in Japan?”
The tall girl said, “Tokyo.”
Because of what happened next, I cannot remember where the other girl said.
I smiled and in the way I speak with my hands, arms, legs and toes when I’m trying to communicate with someone who’s trying to learn English, I said, “In March, we folded 1,000 origami cranes for a senbazuru for Japan.”
I knew they would recognize the word sebazuru.
They did.
Both girls put their hands together and began bowing to us saying, “Thank you,” over and over and over.
Greer and I recognized their sincerity immediately, but they kept saying, “Thank you.” Then, I saw a single tear roll down the check of the taller girl.
Followed by another.
I know well the reticence of emotions in the Japanese culture. If you were watching, you probably saw on television families who, after four days of searching, reunited in the ruins of the tsunami after, simply stand and bow to each other.
No tears. No embrace.
The taller girl’s tears began to fall in abundance and within a moment, she was sobbing uncontrollably. I opened my arms and she fell into them, silently sobbing. We stood there the four of us.
They didn’t know our names.
We didn’t know theirs.
Still don’t, in fact.
Tears began to roll down Greer’s, the other girl’s and my own cheeks. It was one of those experiences you can’t believe even as it’s happening—powerful and compelling.
Finally, the Japanese girl regained her composure and we began to smile and laugh.
She said one more, “Thank you,” and the four of us posed for a photograph. Arms locked.
I don’t know why our tale of a senbazuru touched her the way it did. I don’t know if she had or lost family in the tsunami. I don’t know if it was just that moment of realizing how connected our lives are and that people in one place genuinely care about people in another.
Whatever it was, the four of us shared a remarkable moment that will stay with me.
I wish I knew her name.

9
Jun