The Jail Break March 12, 2011

It all began sometime around dusk yesterday afternoon. As we left for church, my instincts were telling me to kennel the dogs in the garage; the other conscience (my husband) was telling me to leave them in the outside play yard. That is where they were, their outside pen. That was not where they were when we got back.

I have a little Garden House out back with a little white picket fence yard. The yard also serves as a play yard (pen) for our dogs. No dog has ever attempted a jailbreak – until now.

In order to acclimate Ryka (my three year old German Shepherd) to our yard and her new surroundings, I would put her in the play yard so she could spend longer and longer amounts of time outside alone and semi-supervised until I felt I could trust her.

Ryka on the stoop

Once I thought Calypso was big enough in size (she is 8 weeks old) to put in the play yard to have outside time, we divided the yard in half. Calypso is growing and getting very active so she has been enjoying being outside all day long the last few days.

The two dogs love playing through the fence slats and have been happy and content with the limited interaction, or so we thought (that is what we get for thinking like humans!)

Lately, Ryka has been sitting on the stoop to the Garden House and playing with Calypso even when her gate is open and she is free to explore the big yard. She has developed quite a mothering instinct towards Calypso. She hopped over the little makeshift wall once (Calypso was not in her side), so we raised it a little higher (obviously not high enough.)

My husband (who was an Accident Re-constructionist for the LSP) came up with the following scenario of what transpired last night. Last night was the first time we left them outside when we left the house and this was Calypso’s first time outside at dusk. He thinks that Calypso was probably calling to Ryka (in doggy talk – my husband’s words – yeah, I am still processing that one) and Ryka, wanting to mother her, chewed through two of the barriers (after first attempting to dig under) to jump over into Calypso’s side.

The Re-constructionist

Then, he thinks there was some sort of activity next door that got Ryka excited, and she hopped up on the back gate (paws up like dogs do) and was surprised when the action caused two slats to break loose (I learned that treated wood rusts nails – the entire fence is getting an overhaul today.) Jeffery thinks that Calypso saw the opportunity (freedom at last, freedom at last) and made the initial escape with Ryka following to protect and watch over her (which was what was going on when we found them.)

We arrived home from church (thank goodness they were not waiting at the front gate) and drove down the driveway. I still do not know exactly where they were and the angels must have kept them from crossing in front of the car.

As I got out of the car and was walking towards the little yard, I started talking to Calypso (before the break out was discovered.) I walked around to her gate and looking in to the darkened pen did not detect any sign of movement. Then, I heard a jingle (thank goodness for the rabies tags on dog collars) and looked up to see Ryka and Calypso walking across the driveway! I screamed (come on – you should know me by now!) Then, when I looked around, trying to process what was playing out in front of my eyes, I noticed that two slats were missing from the back gate and on the ground. That was the exact moment I learned about treated wood rusting out nails.

I do not know which was racing faster – my heart or my mind! Ryka and Calypso had been in the big yard together; and Ryka was taking care of the munchkin, and she was still alive (Ryka plays a little too rough yet to be unsupervised with Calypso.) Calypso was alive! And, perfectly fine! That phrase kept playing loudly in my mind for about sixty seconds while I desperately tried to process what was going on.

The Crime Scene

Ryka’s behavior was indicative of someone who knew something was not quite right, and she had done something a little wrong. She actually went into her kennel when we raised the garage door. She would not look at me for a while. She kept her head down and I had not even fussed her. I had to coax her out of her kennel to eat, and then I spent a little time with her so she would relax.

On the other hand, Calypso was perfectly fine to be free and could not understand why she had to go into her kennel.

I sat down to dinner a short time later and did not know if I should be laughing or crying. The scene kept playing in mind like a cartoon. Two dogs breaking out of the pen and yelping, “Free at last! Free at last!”

The moral of this story is I do not know what to do. I am still freaking out. One thing is certain, and that is, every fence board is getting re-nailed today. We’ll start with that and see what happens (hopefully nothing!) Oh! I will be listening to my own instincts from now on.

Hopefully, this will work

And, so ends the story of the jailbreak. I think I will go and check on the jailbirds. They are outside, and today is the day they will start having supervised play dates with each other.


Has Something Scarred You for Life?

I think we all have those moments in which we claim our parents scarred us for life; I know I have a few. I was having a conversation with a friend on Face Book and the conversation worked its way around to food (don’t all our conversations do this?)

Friends were making comments after reading my blog on eating oysters for breakfast and chasing them down with hot cocoa. This led to discussions on the general eating habits of our younger years where I admitted to being a finicky eater and feasting on mayonnaise sandwiches. I also remember spending hours at the dinner table hoping to outlast the admonitions of my mother and finally have her excuse me from the table for not liking what she had cooked that night.

To this day, I cannot look at or smell a can of Trappey’s Red Beans. My mother had a dish she liked to cook called Western Beans. As far as I was concerned, those beans should have stayed in the west where I am certain the cowboys were missing them. It consisted of ground beef, stewed tomatoes, and the red beans. As detested, as those stewed tomatoes were, one of those little chunks was inevitably going to end up on MY plate. At that point, I knew dinner was going to last an eternity. There would be no television that night. My nose would not be buried in a good book that night. My time would be spent sitting at the table, hoping and praying that meal would somehow vanish into thin air (just so you know, it never did.)

I spent an afternoon organizing my youngest sister’s pantry, and when I came across a huge can of those same red beans, I could not even touch them. I made her take them out and later put them back into the pantry!

What would eventually scar me for life was the day I got off the school bus only to find the air permeated with a horrid smell. All sorts of ghastly thoughts were going through my young mind, all of which seemed tame once I figured out the smell was coming from my house.

The closer my steps brought me to the kitchen door, the more frightened I became. It was worse than any horror show I might ever see in the future. I still remember the dread emanating through my little body as I reached for the doorknob and entered my house. My mother had decided to cook turnips and cabbage! I had never seen these two vegetable close up, much less smelled them; and now I had to eat them. If I could have run to church at that moment and confessed every sin my little heart thought it committed in the hope of returning home and having it all be a bad dream, my little legs could not have carried me fast enough.

My mom was standing at the stove and I could tell that she was anticipating dinnertime and the wonderful meal she thought she was cooking. How my little innocent soul longed for a mayonnaise sandwich. Dinnertime lasted a long time that night. There was not enough ice tea in all of China to wash down those turnips and cabbage.

It is funny how some memories stick with you.


The Morning Time Stood Still


As I was walking this morning, as I do most mornings, my thoughts began to wander as they so often do. We’ve all had these moments; a time when our brain is searching for something to think about. Before my mind had time to settle on a topic, a police cruiser zoomed by, racing south on the highway; its sirens jolting me back to the here and now, thus causing me to cringe until I remember that my friend is no longer teaching down the bayou. But, for that moment before the present sinks in, the piercing sound almost brings me to my knees as I fight the urge to cower and cover my ears. As they tend to do, the painful memories that have been suppressed come screaming back to the present.  The memories of that day, one year ago this month, never fail to make me catch my breath when I think of how close I came to losing my closest and dearest friend.

I realize these two words are synonymous, but I must use both in describing the special relationship I have with this young woman.  She is my best friend, my confidant, my mentor, my daughter, and without her, the void that would exist in my life and my heart is too vast to put into words.

That fateful morning in late May of 2009, which started off as any other morning, turned into one of the most horrific days of my life, and I know, hers as well. It was the 9/11 day in our lives just as the people in New York that fateful day had their world shattered by terrorists; our world was shattered by a lone gunman.

I woke up, made the bed, fed the dog, and began my walk. Sirens blaring as police cruisers speed up and down the highway are a normal part of the day, and this particular sunny day seemed to hold nothing unusual in its midst. A cruiser went by with lights and siren on; then, a second unit, followed by a third. I only thought that whatever was going on must involve a fellow police officer. I didn’t give it much more thought than that. Only a couple of minutes had passed before more sirens could be heard in the distance, and, as chills ran up my spine, I turned in my tracks to watch as Louisiana State Trooper units went racing by with lights and sirens blaring at speeds I had not witnessed before on our narrow two lane highway. A special force tactical unit soon followed then additional Lafourche Parish Sheriff Police cruisers as well as other unmarked units and ambulances. The air took on the eerie atmosphere of a haunted swamp.

Still, I only thought that whatever was happening surely involved a Lafourche Parish Deputy or a Louisiana State Trooper, more the former than the latter; history just repeating itself.  You see, true excitement rarely happens in our community and they are all known for loving a good chase.  I also remember being grateful that my husband had retired from the state police two years earlier, and just to put my mind at ease I phoned him to make sure he was okay. I also wanted to give him a heads up that something ominous was happening. At this point, neither of us had any inkling how this day would unfold.

As time has passed and as one would expect, some of the details have been forgotten, much like the scrawling in the sand as the water washes up and splashes onto shore to fill the crevices; and I cannot recall exactly how I found out about the shooting at one of the schools down the highway from our house. I remember making phone calls, calling first my brother, who worked with an ambulance service, and then a close friend on the police force. Both began their own inquiries, and eventually I received word that it was the middle school. I then heard from a neighbor that shots had been fired at a teacher but the teacher’s identity was yet unknown. One source reported a gym teacher had been the target, and I remember breathing a sigh of relief because the gym was located at the opposite end of the hall from my friend Jessica’s classroom.

There are events in our lives that we are destined to remember. We are able to recall down to the last detail where we were, what we were doing, how sound around us ceased to exist, how the world stood still. This is one of those times that will be forever ingrained in the recesses of my mind. I remember exactly where I was standing on the driveway when I found out that the classroom the gunman had entered was indeed Jessica’s. Then, the realization penetrated my denial that Jessica had been the gunman’s target.  We have all felt this way at one time or another. Everything around us goes still, our body folding unto itself, blackness surrounding our perimeter vision, things happening in slow motion, the deafening silence. This was one of those moments; the moment that marks someone else’s life, not our own.

Full-blown panic set in. My first thought was to call my husband. I remember thinking that he can fix anything. He can find out about her for me. I thought, “I need to get to school” but because I am not a blood relative, I knew that my chances of getting anywhere near enough to see or speak to Jessica were less than zero, and I was positive there would be utter and complete chaos. All my thoughts were jumbled together. I remember thinking I’ve lost so much in my life; I can’t lose another person so dear to me. I thought that after all Jessica had been through in her short life and survived, that it wasn’t fair for her to be taken from us; not by a gunman, not like this. I thought of her young children. All I could think was no, No, NO! God you can’t take her; she’s too special. No!

As additional information became available, I was able to find out that Jessica was unharmed, at least physically.  It was a relief, but I knew that I would be filled with anxiety until I could look at her and touch her and speak to her.

I had so many things on my to do list that day, but all I accomplished was turning around in circles. My mind could not focus. The minutes turned into hours, going by one by one. I remember thinking I have to go to the market to get bread and cold cuts for my husband’s work crew but I couldn’t concentrate enough to gather my things and go. My thoughts were consumed with Jessica. Was she alright? How was she coping? Did she need me?

During the afternoon I was able to speak with her husband. Only then could I feel my breathing begin to stabilize. Minimal focusing became possible. I made the decision to go to the market so I could focus on something where I felt some semblance of control. I do not remember getting into the car and backing out of the garage, but as I rounded the drive, I saw Jessica’s car coming down her driveway, which runs parallel to mine. I vaguely remember stopping the car and getting out and going through the gate. But I do remember the look she gave me when she exited her car and turned towards me, it was the same look mirrored on my own face. Neither one of us is an outwardly huggy type person other than with our children, but we walked toward each other with our arms outstretched and then just held on to each other as though the other were an anchor keeping us grounded to the earth. I had no words to describe what I was feeling at that moment.

I sometimes think of my own mortality, but before that day, I never thought of Jessica’s. The memories of that day will always be in the back of my mind; and they tend to surface at inopportune times. It was months before I could think of that day without breaking down and crying, and still longer before I could do anything other than listen to Jessica speak about it. I am still overwhelmed with emotion at times. I eventually worked up the courage to ask, but not without fighting my tears and emotions, if my fear about that day was true. And, it may sound strange to some, but before I could put the nightmare to rest, I needed to know the truth.

The statement issued by the sheriff’s office led one to believe that the shot had been fired randomly above Jessica’s head. Having had experience with shooting a gun, I knew that a person, especially a young person, would be caught off guard when the gun was fired and the aim would not be accurate. What I believed to be the truth was the student had intended to kill her but due to his lack of experience with a gun, was unprepared for the kickback that in the end spared her life. This was indeed what happened.

My days are peaceful now, but I still worry about Jessica.  She has her good days and she has her bad days. She is still caught off guard at times and is overwhelmed with memories and the bad dreams still invade her sleep. I am hopeful as new days dawn and her children fill her life with laughter, her good memories will always far outnumber the bad. As for me, I receive such joy from watching the three of them together that sometimes it’s easy to forget that day. And, as Jessica has told me on different occassions, you want to forget but if you do, then chances are, nothing will be learned from this horrible experience.

Donna also blogs at

A Love Letter to my Husband

Today is Valentine’s Day and of course, my first thought was of my husband (it could be the snoring alerted me to his presence and that is why he was my first thought.) He truly is my Prince Charming. He literally rode in on a white horse fifteen years ago (his police cruiser was white) in the darkest moment of my life and swept me off my feet. He brushed the tears from my cheeks and made me smile.



My husband.


I met this wonderful man six months after I separated from my first husband. I had been devastated by the divorce and by the events that had transpired over the course of six months. I was in a deep dark place and falling rapidly. I was definitely in need of a savior and God sent one. I guess it was not my time, and God had other plans for me.

This wonderful man that I am so very fortunate to call husband, has loved me through some of my worst times; and I hope he would tell you, some of my best times. He is the light of my life and I often tease him that God gave him just enough faults to prevent my worshiping the ground he walks on.

He has been there to hold me as I have sobbed my heart out. He has been there late in the night when I have gotten the giggles in bed. We have even made the dog howl (Sentry slept under the house) when the laughter got uncontrollable. My husband puts up with my incessant talking and rapidly changing topics, and my extreme quietness. He rarely complains. That may be because I have loved him unconditionally and have spoiled him rotten in return.

It is a blessing for me to have this wonderful man in my life and I love him with all my heart. This is my love letter to him on Valentine’s Day, a day of love, and a day of reflection. Happy Valentine’s Day to my husband, Jeffery.

Life After Divorce – The Bar Scene – Take 1

I have a friend who is going through a divorce, and she was thinking about going out to a bar with her cousin. She was quite young when she married and expressed curiosity about the whole “going out” bar scene.

Just talking to her brought back some funny memories of when I went through my own divorce. I was not interested in the bar scene (was not interested in the man scene), but my sister managed to convince me I needed to quit moping around and go out with her. She had a friend who was going through a rough time and needed company. So, after much cajoling, I gave in (against my better judgment but sitting around crying every day wasn’t good either.)

I remember meeting her and her friend at a bar. When I walked in, they were horrified to see my attire (NOT what you are thinking), I had on my work clothes; navy plaid shorts (long) paired with navy stockings, navy loafers, and a yellow turtleneck (if I was going to be uncomfortable and out of my element, then I was at least going to wear my favorite outfit.) And, if they did not already think that was bad enough, they nearly broke a blood vessel laughing at the little angel pinned to my turtleneck. I definitely was not giving off the vibe of “trolling.” Not only was I sorely out of place at their table, according to the two of them, I looked like a nun in the middle of a bar.

They ordered drinks; so did I. Once again, their mortification was complete when I ordered water with lemon. I do not know what they expected; they knew I did not drink, and I thought a glass of water (on the rocks) with a slice of lemon at least looked like a drink. According to the “trolling bible,” I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself.

As time went on and I grew increasingly uncomfortable, I dared not even people watch. The music started and they were excited when a good-looking guy came over to the table. I was sitting there trying to guess which one of them he would choose to ask to dance. After all, that is what her friend was there for, not me, not my sister. Have you guessed where this story is going yet? Imagine their gaping mosquito traps when the guy asked me to dance. Then, imagine me trying to foist him off on them because I had no desire to dance with anyone, much less a stranger. Remember, I was there under duress. Men need to learn that no really means NO.

I at least provided entertainment for the two of them that night (and that was the point of this excursion.) Neither of them could get over the fact that anyone approached me, especially the way I was dressed. Apparently, some men like the harlot nun look. I remembered something else as well; they keep the lights turned down for a reason. People are much better looking in the dark.

My sister had an interesting encounter of the family kind. She accompanied her friend to a bar another evening and struck up a conversation with a good-looking guy while waiting for her drink. They started talking, and one question led to another; he was from out of state and in town calling on clients, etc. Then, things got crazy. It turned out this guy, whom my sister’s friend was salivating over, was a cousin of ours that we had never met. Bar life can be quite interesting sometimes.

Thank goodness, I did not have to endure too many episodes of bar life; I only had so many turtlenecks and angel pins (and my sister was on the brink of hysteria). I was definitely not going to be responsible for sending my sister to the loony bin!

The New Additions to our Family

We have two new additions to our family; Ryka and Calypso. Ryka is three years old and Calypso is six weeks old. You’ll be seeing a lot more of them as time goes on. They are already providing material for stories. There are additional pictures on my picture page.

Ryka Vom Nobleheim