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THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF SLIDELL

Vol. 81 April 2017

a triumphant return!

Bayou Bash Our Lady of Lourdes May 5 - 7, 2017 WE KEEP IT FRESH

SAY KEEP IT POSITIVE


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Editor’s Letter

The picture above is from Our Lady of Lourdes’ 1982 school yearbook. I’m ten years old. (It’s hard to believe I was ever that young and cute!) I had won first place in my age group for the “Hoop Shoot” Competition for the state of Louisiana. It was a basketball free throw competition sponsored by the Elks organization and held annually at all of the local grammar schools. I competed and won at my school, Our Lady of Lourdes. I then advanced to the district, regional, and ultimately, state finals, where I took the first place trophy.

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Kendra Maness - Editor/Publisher Editor@SlidellMag.com

Devin Reeson - Graphic Designer Graphics@SlidellMag.com Illustrations by: Zac McGovern www.HalMundane.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS EFOP, Charlotte Lowry Collins The Storyteller, John Case Jockularity, Corey Hogue Pet Points, Jeff Perret, DVM Crimmi-Mommly Insane, Leslie Gates Legal-Ease, Ronda M. Gabb Making Cents of Your Money, Mike Rich MikeRich@MyPontchartrain.com Racing Pigeons of Slidell, Donna Bush Donna.Bush@yahoo.com Our Lady of Lourdes, Kathleen DesHotel Crawfish Cook-Off, Kendra Maness

Kendra Maness

Editor/Publisher Slidell Magazine

The competition was simple - the most baskets sunk out of 25 attempts. However, it wasn’t made easier just because we were kids. We shot from the standard free throw line, and used a standard-height goal (10 feet). If I remember correctly, I won the State Championship by making 14 of 25. That’s a .56 free throw percentage for you sports buffs out there. To give you some perspective, the average player in the NBA in 2016 shot a .72 free throw percentage. So, not bad for a little girl. Especially if you factor in that I shot underhanded, granny-style. It was probably the single most ridiculous looking thing the basketball world has ever seen, but I was a short kid and it was the only way I could get enough velocity for the basketball to reach the hoop. After winning the State Championship, my mother and I were flown to Oklahoma where I would compete in the National Competition. It was the first time I had ever flown on a plane. Other firsts included my first city bus ride, first taxi ride, the first time I had ever stayed in a hotel, and the first time I had ever seen snow. Like I said, I was relatively short, and the girls in my age division, 9-11 years old, seemed to tower over me. All of those tall girls knew how to shoot over-handed, like the pros. I have pictures from the competition. I am wearing a white t-shirt with red ribbing around the collar and arms, and red super-short gym shorts that were popular in the early 80’s. I had white knee-high tube socks with two red stripes

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at the top. My mother had bought me a brand new pair of red and white Nikes to complete my outfit. Another first for me - I had never owned a pair of name brand shoes before, and the first that were made of real leather. I remember loving the way they smelled when I first opened the box. I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous in my life as when I stepped onto that gymasium court with everyone watching me. I walked to the free throw line, scared to death. I took my stance - legs spread wide, knees bent, back hunched, holding the ball between my legs. I was ready to make sports history. I had so much adrenaline I thought I could leap frog through the hoop. Then disaster struck. My knees were shaking so badly that one of them knocked the ball out of my hands, bouncing it loudly across the empty gym floor. Uuugh. I get butterflies in my stomach still now, thirtyfive years later, just thinking about it. I ended up making only 7 of 25 and came in last place. The girl that won had the most beautiful one-handed overhead shot I had ever seen. Smooth as silk. She sank 21 of 25 baskets. Arriving back home, the Elks had an awards ceremony for all of the competitors. They awarded me a trophy, a matching plaque, and a super cool jacket with patches on it that you see me wearing in the picture. I felt like a rock star. It’s a beautiful spring afternoon, a perfect day for some hoops. I think I’ll go outside and play. I know how to shoot like the big girls now.

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APRIL 2017

Extraordinarily Fascinating “Ordinary” People by Charlotte Lowry Collins

Jim & Gwen McGrath “Do your very best each and every day. You may win some of these challenges and you may lose some, but at least you know you gave it the best you could.” ~ Greg McGrath

Jim and Gwen McGrath live by the quote above. It is something their son Greg, an RN specializing in cardio intensive care, lives by. Once his parents began to deal with trauma in their lives, he passed on his mantra. It got Jim and Gwen through the amazing trials and tribulations they encountered in their life together. Through it all, they continue to face difficulties head on and pay it forward. I met the McGraths for the first time at their front door. We sat down at the kitchen table and I was immediately presented with a bag of home baked cookies the McGraths are known for. They bake them to bring a smile to those who need it; whether it is fellow pet rescue advocates, or senior citizens, or someone with a health issue. The McGraths let me know that there is always someone or some creature that has it worse than we do. They also know first hand that there is something one person, two in this case, can do to lighten the load.

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Soon, I was greeted by their rescue dog and cats. I felt immediately at home, being a rescue pet owner myself. I have learned that if damaged animals like someone, you can bank on the fact that they are a good person. These animals have a sixth sense, much more accurate than we humans have.

Next, I learned that the couple met in a diner, where Gwen was working. It was in the early 70’s and they fell madly in love, almost at first sight. Gwen had on an engagement ring, but Jim knew she was something special that he shouldn’t let get away. As he tells the tale, “I came into the restaurant with three buddies, we all decided to razz her, and she took it well. We were relentless and she dished it right back.” Jim smiled at the memory. Then Gwen gave her side of the story, “He was hot! After awhile he told me that, if it weren’t for that ring, he would like to ask me out. My beau and I weren’t doing well, and I realized I was wild for this guy. One day, I held my hand up and said, ‘Look, no ring.’ We’ve been together ever since,” and they smiled at each other. They had me totally at ease by now. Jim added, “We just clicked. I was actually happy again.” Now I learned that Jim had a thirty year career in the Coast Guard. At the time he met Gwen, he had asked to be released from the Coast Guard on a grievance leave after his first wife died at a young age. He had moved back home to South Bend, Indiana, and was driving a tow truck for a brief period. His new love with Gwen gave him the strength to enlist again. Jim spent the next 20 years

as a Special Agent in the Coast Guard Investigative Services. Gwen loved being a military wife, and was always willing to tackle new things. “I’ve always looked at life as an adventure. Everything’s new to you when you first do it. You’re not born knowing how to do everything. I taught the boys that all of the moving around was an adventure, you never look at it as derogatory,” she said. Gwen found interesting jobs wherever they were stationed. She was


a retail inventory control manager for the PGA Tour headquarters, and worked at the Coast Guard exchange in Kodiak, Alaska. “I sold guns and toys,” she laughs. Some of their best and most difficult times were in Alaska, where they were stationed in the mid-70’s, and again in the mid-90’s. In the 70’s, the young married couple climbed mountains together - literally! In the 90’s, they were stationed on Kodiak Island, the second largest island in the US, next to the big island of Hawaii. Jim says, “It’s huge. They have villages all over the island with ports and each of the different ethnic Eskimo groups had their own villages. Everything had to be flown out or taken by boat. There were no roads. There were only 15 miles of roads on Kodiak. That was it!” There, Gwen worked at the Safeway store. This was particularly interesting for Gwen because she shipped out EVERYTHING imaginable to keep boat crews and even entire villages fed and clothed - all through the mail. Gwen says, “You find out a lot about the village people that way. For this one village, we couldn’t send out anything for a burial that was metal or had metal in it. The floral arrangements couldn’t have any metal because it couldn’t go to their gravesite. It’s one of their beliefs, they get buried with all natural things. They go back exactly as they came into this world.” Over the years in service, the couple lived as far north as Alaska, and as far south as Florida, plus a lot of great states in between. They rattled off over 11 states in one sentence. The McGraths raised two sons - Greg, who gave the opening quote, and Jerry, who still lives in Indiana. Then they were foster parents to two boys.

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The family was exposed to radically different environments, and always found hobbies they loved, no matter the climate. From golfing in Florida, to fishing and crabbing in Alaska, the family learned about working and playing together. On the flip side, Jim dealt with harrowing situations, like being the Coast Guard Agent in Charge for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, dealing with suicides, sex offenders, criminal dumping, and armed robberies. “It is no different than regular society, there’s just a certain percentage that will do wrong if they think they can get away with it,” Jim summarized. “The Coast Guard’s job was to be sure they didn’t get away with it.” All in all the McGraths lived a good life, and helped a lot of people along the way. “Hopefully we helped,” Jim added. “Some of our foster kids over the years didn’t think so.” At this point, Gwen lovingly put her hand on Jim’s and nodded, “He is a perfect husband and a perfect father. Those boys knew we all had to pull our weight at home. Our goal was to set a good example of what a family is. They didn’t know what a family was, and how family worked.” Jim and Gwen had two foster children through the state foster system but had numerous others over the years. Jim says, “The police used to bring the kids to our house because we had a license to foster. So rather than throw them in juvenile detention, they would give them a chance and bring them to our house.” Gwen adds, “We would do whatever it takes.”

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the Coast Guard from the police department. Timmy would come by to make sure everything was OK and see if there was anything I needed. One time I asked him, ‘Would you make them clean their rooms?’ Five garbage bags later…” she laughs. Jim adds, “He would come in once a week after that and inspect their rooms. I could say anything to the boys and I was dumb. Officer Timmy would say something and it was gospel! Timmy would ask me, ‘What’s the problem this week? What do we want to get through to them?’ We love Timmy. He became a Coast Guard special agent and worked for a number of years until a car accident forced him into retirement.” Jim and Gwen are still in touch with him all these years later.

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“The kids would bring home most of the fosters. They would tell us that they knew someone whose parents were going through a divorce or they were having trouble,” Jim said. Gwen interjects, “Sometimes they just needed a place to come and escape the fighting at home and get a good meal. There were times that we would cook these huge pots of food, we had so many kids there. And, in the end, Jim and I would have to go out to eat because we didn’t have enough for ourselves,” they both laughed. “It was not unusual for us to have 6-8 kids at the house for a meal.”

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not an easy journey. After removing five ribs, a third of her lung, and a very large muscle mass, they told her they still couldn’t get it all. Bravely, Gwen tried what the doctors said may bring a miracle, experimental chemotherapy and radiation. She woke up in the night and blurted out, “Jim, the Lord just let me know that I’m going to have my life back, but he also warned me it won’t be easy.” Gwen described that it wasn’t really that she heard his voice, but just his words. They changed their retirement dream from moving to Florida and hanging out on golf courses, to moving back home to Indiana to be with Gwen’s ten siblings. “Whatever Gwen wanted, she got at that point,” Jim promised. “After four months, they couldn’t find a trace of the cancer, and after five years she was proclaimed cured!” he beamed. Once in Indiana, Jim went to work with Proctor and Gamble so he could be at home every night to take care of his wife. When the company offered to move


them to New Orleans, the McGrath’s jumped at the chance to move back to this area, choosing Slidell as their home base. “I used to be Agent in Charge for the Gulf Coast region from 1990-1993, and we lived in Metairie. So I knew the area very well and I knew we wanted to live in Slidell.” Jim worked for P & G until he suffered an injury in 2003, ripping the quadricep from his knee. Eventually, Jim would need both knees replaced, in addition to requiring a pacemaker for ongoing heart trouble.

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As it turned out, Gwen’s cure caused multiple repercussions. The chemotherapy that saved her life also scarred her organs, and she went through a double heart bypass, had two heart attacks, and had four heart stints placed. The removal of the ribs caused her shoulder blade to move into her chest cavity and attach to her lung. So she bravely underwent more and more surgeries. Through all of their medical obstacles, the McGraths continued to give back by volunteering, mostly at the Animal Shelter in Slidell. “We started off walking the animals. And of course, we ended up with four special needs cats and four dogs! We also raised funds for the Pontchartrain Humane Society, which is where we met Kendra.” Slidell Magazine Editor and Publisher, Kendra Maness, recalls, “Gwen and Jim were the most dedicated volunteers I had ever seen. They were helping rescue animals EVERY DAY at the shelter or at pet adoptions. They’re an amazing couple.” This was the next major phase in the McGrath’s life. At a CPR training for pets, they were fortunate to sit next to a couple who would impact their lives greatly, Sam and Lyn Bailey, founders of the Pontchartrain Humane Society. “Jim and Sam think they’re brothers!” Gwen laughs. The two men found that they had much in common – both were former military, and both had a huge heart for pets in need. The couples were kindred spirits and began rescuing animals immediately, saving countless lives. “We started volunteering with pets in 2002, while Jim was still working. We started gradually doing more and more. We did pet adoptions, volunteered cleaning kennels, a little of everything.” When Katrina came, they first helped to empty the entire Slidell City Animal Shelter and Pontchartrain Humane Society into vans and cars and transport the animals to safety. (Kendra owned a large boarding kennel in Mandeville at this time and sheltered 173 dogs and 49 cats during the storm.) Only after the homeless pets were secured did the McGraths evacuate - with FIFTEEN animals. They had eight pets, plus a mama cat and her six kittens that no shelter could take, as they were too young for shots. Amazingly, they found a good owner of a motel in Columbus, Mississippi willing to accommodate them all. The local paper wrote an article about their situation, and the local shelter managed to get the momma cat and all kittens adopted. Returning home, they found their house had flooded and was a total loss. Jim gutted the house and gave

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it months to dry. “After returning six months later, we quickly forgot about ourselves. The animal shelter staff was so overwhelmed, we started adopting animals and raising funds to repair the shelter. The city was so busy helping the people of Slidell, and the city rebuild. The shelter was low on the totem pole,” Gwen relayed. With his hearty laugh, Jim portrayed the well-orchestrated, controlled chaos by a wonderful staff. “All we had was blue tarp from the Red Cross to separate the felines from the canines. Mike’s Hardware, Pontchartrain Ace Hardware, Demco, and many other businesses donated materials, and Aldersgate Methodist Church provided the skills to rebuild the shelter.” Jim added, “We got Petsmart back on line, adopting cats. Through them, we adopted out all of our cats two years in a row, which is unheard of.” This actually caused them to go to other shelters to get more cats to adopt out because they were so successful at it. “People still talk about that,” Gwen laughed. Soon afterward, Jim began to have health issues. He is now on his third pacemaker, diagnosed with neuropathy, and Parkinson’s. “We don’t let it slow us down, we roll with it,” Gwen said. After rebuilding the house, Jim retired. Of course you know that doesn’t mean he retired from volunteering. They went though a period of time where they didn’t feel like good company after they each lost two siblings, but other than that, they have volunteered their entire adult lives. They eventually gained 75 volunteers by going to area high schools. Jim laughed, “We met some good young people, and still get invited to their weddings.” 12

Then the McGraths met veterinarian Dr. Kate Camp. “People say they have a hero that came into their lives, well she is ours! Dr. Kate set up a total vet clinic at the shelter - neutering animals, giving vaccinations, treating the sick, testing for diseases. This was never done before. It ensures that the unwanted pet population decreases which means less or no euthanasia at the shelter. And that the public is getting healthy pets when they are adopted.” One by one the McGrath cats began to make themselves known to me, even the shy ones. Some came up for pets, others simply cried a second for attention. But the dog and cats were curious about the new visitor in their home. If you love being around perpetual youth, this is the way to do it. Jim and Gwen described each pet’s personality, and how they effortlessly keep things in sync. I bet this is exactly how they raised such great boys that understood the importance of family, and their role within the pack as well as the parents do. Jim concluded the animal volunteerism with the happy news that the new shelter had been built. Because of their health issues, the couple has moved on to another volunteer opportunity. It all began when one of the volunteers at the Slidell Animal Shelter asked if Jim liked to play cards. Jim went to Live Oak Assisted Living and played cribbage with two other men. As Jim says, “Then I dragged Gwen over there. We answer phones on the weekends, call Bingo, and serve afternoon socials, or anything the residents want to do. But Gwen can’t give up the kittens. She loves to bottle

feed the orphans.” They also continue to raise funds for the Pontchartrain Humane Society. It’s been a lifetime of giving for the McGraths. He continued, “So now, Gwen and I have been together 45 years. It’s been a great life.” As we headed toward the door, Jim summed it up,“Gwen and I want to keep volunteering. She loves her kittens, and we both want to keep working with seniors. That grabs the corner of my heart that she and the boys don’t have. We don’t have to raise funds, walk, or do anything physical. We just get to have fun with the residents and the staff. They are really some dedicated people.” This touched me deeply. Only a few of my readers know that I recently retired and now work at Christwood Retirement Community. Somehow I feel this couple and I were meant to meet each other, and my faith in humanity has been restored just listening to them. It may take a village as the saying goes, but I feel reassured knowing that Slidell has a great village available. As we walked to the door, Gwen left me with, “You know, we have six canisters of ashes from our pets. We want them buried with us so we can walk the ‘Rainbow Bridge’ together.” Gwen concluded, “I want to see more volunteers get out there. Anywhere! At schools, churches, pick-up trash, work with pets. There’s so much you can do!” It is my hope that this article left you feeling that you can overcome anything, and that you want to give more than receive.


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SPECIAL TRIBUTE SHOW Featuring guest speaker Matt Cole and music by Witness

Kids Zone

Arts & Craft Show

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Car & Truck Show

TOPCATS

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APRIL

30

23

GRAND OPENING Iberia Bank • 3:30pm

18

GRAND OPENING Muah's World Boutique 3:30-4:30pm

11

4

TUE

19

12

5

Leadership Luncheon Trinity Banquet Hall 11:30am-1pm

WED

1

24

MAY

Ambassador Meeting Wine Market • Noon

Education Committee Chamber Boardroom 8:30am

2

25

GRAND OPENING Aubert Insurance 3:30-4:30pm 3

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Children's Wish Luncheon Slidell Auditorium Doors Open at 11:30am

Business After Hours Chamber Martketplace 5-7PM

Business After Hours NS Technical College Lacombe, LA 4:30-6:30PM

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Business After Hours Cinco de Mayo Party Silver Slipper 5-7PM

Free Long Term Care Seminar Office of Ronda Gabb • 10am

Business & Community Showcase Harbor Center • 3-7pm

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Regional Business Networking Night N.O. Babycakes Game Networking: 5:30PM Game: 7PM

20

13

6

THU

Good Friday

Relay for Life Heritage Park 12-9pm

22

Earth Day

Hospice Foundation Crawfish Cookoff Fritchie Park • 11am-6pm

Jazz'n the Vines Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys Pontchartrain Vineyards 6:30-9pm

15

8

SAT

6

Derby Day for SMH Foundation Wind Dancer Ranch • 3:30-7pm

OLL BAYOU BASH • May 5-7 • Our Lady of Lourdes

Randy Smith Golf Tournament Royal Golf Club • Noon

You Belong to Me: Patsy Cline Story • Cutting Edge Theater • 8pm Young Frankenstein • Slidell Little Theatre • 8pm

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10am-5pm You Belong to Me: Patsy Cline Story • Cutting Edge Theater • 8pm Young Frankenstein • Slidell Little Theatre • 8pm

STREET FAIR OLDE TOWNE

You Belong to Me: Patsy Cline Story • Cutting Edge Theater • 8pm Kid's Fun Fest 29 Heritage Park • 10am-6pm 28

21

14

Carey Street Crawl • 5-9pm

Public Policy Meeting Chamber Boardroom • 8am

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www.estchamber.com

3-7PM

Thursday, April 27 For more information, go to: free admisssion www.ESTCHAMBER.com

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10am-5pm Young Frankenstein Slidell Little Theatre • 2pm

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Cruisin' for a Cause Harbor Center • 8am-5pm

Bayou Jam Harvey Jesus & Fire Heritage Park • 5:30pm

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MON

FROM THE VAULTS OF NOMA Art Exhibit • March 22- April 28 • Slidell Cultural Center

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Bayou Jam Mario Sperandeo & Audio Beach Heritage Park • 5:30pm

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Storyteller THE REVIVAL “…so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark—the name of the beast or the number of its name. Here is a call for wisdom: Let the one who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and that number is six hundred sixty-six…” ~ Revelations 13:17 - 18

T

here was a lot about church I didn’t like when I was a kid. Ours was a small church with benches made from wooden slats. They were uncomfortable, but being a child, I did not sit still long enough for them to get painful. Some adults must have hurt badly because of those benches, compounded by their obesity. I remember Clovis Bankston. He probably weighed 325 pounds, and there was not much muscle. In fact, most of the weight was in his behind. One time, when I was about four or five years old, I was squirming during the service and worked my way to the floor. I could not believe that in

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front of me and only inches away, Mr. Bankston’s butt was protruding through the slatted bench. I suppose I was frightened, and loudly interrupting the service, I said, “Mama, Mr. Clovis’s butt is going to leak on the floor.” Mother rushed me from the sanctuary, as much to hide her embarrassment as to keep me from making additional insulting statements. When I say we rushed from the sanctuary, that meant we went outside. Our church only had one room; only the sanctuary. No nursery, no Sunday school, no baptistry, no restrooms. It was truly a one-room church.


The fact that there were no restrooms had its advantages. If you got bored with the service, you could fake having to go to the bathroom. The outhouse was in the cemetery behind the church, across a very small stream, so it was at least a tenminute trip there and back. That gave relief from whatever boring service might be in progress. I would pray, probably my most sincere prayers, that the sermon would end by the time I returned, but it seldom did. Did I tell you there was no air-conditioning? None, nil, zero. Church services three times a week during summer were more sweat-inducing than a two-hour sauna. Our only comfort was what little stray wind the Lord would mercifully send breezing across rural Lincoln County. It seemed like far too little found its way through the openings of the church. The same window openings that let rain in when closed during the winter seemed to restrict the wind when open during the summer. At a young age, I wondered if this could be the work of the Devil; His attempt to introduce us to the heat of hell. There were some things about church I liked. I liked a few of the kids that went there. There were about six of us of similar age. We hung together, and when we got a little older, we sat together during the service. While waiting for church to begin, we would throw rocks from the gravel road at the insulators on the electrical power poles. That was fun, even though we did little or no damage. I liked the baptizings. We would go to a creek about six miles away, and the preacher and sinner would wade down into the water and get saved. I liked to watch, but I dreaded knowing that someday it would be my time. I was afraid of snakes and I had seen them there. I most always liked the music. We were an a cappella church. When you don’t have a piano or an organ to hide your mistakes, you learned to sing pretty well; or, if you couldn’t sing, just mouth the words and pretend you were singing. I liked those old spirituals, like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Up From The Grave He Arose”. I can still remember all the verses to many of those old songs. I also liked an event called Dinner On The Grounds. That is when everyone would bring something to share. It really was not served on the ground, per se. Boards were nailed between trees to make a table, and the food was placed there. Mother would go with me to serve my plate. As we passed down the line she would nod her head in approval or disapproval. I would dare not select an entrée where she had nodded negatively. That meant the dish was brought by someone who mother deemed as having a dirty kitchen.

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Others may have had similar reservations about one lady. I don’t remember a single person ever taking one bite from her dish. I don’t remember too much about her, except her clothes always smelled like mothballs, and her husband never got all the snuff cleaned from his mustache. The era this took place was in the mid-1950s. That was before TVs were common, and church was as much an entertainment venue and social factor as it was a religious gathering. I learned a great deal, good and bad, about both. A very fine-tuned religious doctrine rubbed off on me that continues to influence my life today. Again, some of it was good and some was bad. I did not learn a lot of religion there, but I did learn one very important thing. You met with the church. You did not go to church. This meant, of course, that the church was the people of Christ, not the building where we met. I learned that you don’t worship steeples. That has become important to me. I remind you, we did not have much of a building, and it did not even have a steeple. On the lighter side, I remember evening services in the summertime. Of course, the windows were open, and black, flying, beetle-like bugs would invariably fly toward the incandescent lightbulbs. These bulbs hung bare on a wire. The bugs would hit the glass so hard they would momentarily knock themselves unconscious and fall to the floor. As they came to, they would crawl crazily until they regained enough consciousness to fly again. My friends and I had to take advantage of this. We took thread to church, and sure enough, the bugs did the usual. We picked one up and tied the thread to one of its legs. We then tied the other end of the thread to a heavy hymnal. When the bug was sober enough to fly, he was forced to fly in a wide circle. Attempting to free itself from the confines of the thread, it pumped its wings fiercely, making a rather loud humming noise. Soon the entire congregation was either looking forward or had turned and was looking backwards at the bug and the commotion. We carefully timed our escape and had made our way to the outhouse in the cemetery. We decided to not return to the service that night. In the summer, after the crops were laid, each church would have a Revival meeting. Some called it a Protracted meeting, meaning it lasted a couple of weeks and services were held every night. It had a real purpose, as it gave the congregation a chance to hear the views of an out-of-town minister rather than their regular one. This was kind of fun. If you wanted a good attendance at your meeting, you would be expected to go to some other congregation’s meetings. You might be involved


in a church service almost every night for five or six weeks. That is a lot of meeting with the church. I remember a specific Revival. It was probably one of the first when I was old enough to understand at least some content of the sermon. The preacher was boring and his sermons were long. He did not relate well with kids, but he could scare the hell out of you. I mean, literally. He preached on the Book of Revelation every other night, and he had these large drawings he hung behind the pulpit. They depicted monsters with many heads and other scary things. He also talked about the Sign of the Beast. He said it was the number 666. He told us that Russia was putting that number on everything they made and tattooing it to the foreheads of their citizens. He told us that if you multiplied 6 x 6, you would get 36, and if you added the sum of the digits from 1 to 36, you would get 666. The next day, we tried to do the math, but we didn’t have a calculator and none of us could add a line of numbers that long. To this day, I don’t know if that is true or not. I do know that we decided to write the number 666 on our foreheads with a laundry marking pen. We wrote it in large numbers. Our parents did not think it was funny. I am not sure if they felt it was sacrilegious or they did not want us looking like Russians. We were ordered to wash it off. Well, it would not come completely off. Scum Burgess’s dad – we called him Scum, his real name was Scranton – threatened to scrub him with gasoline, but his mother intervened. They used Clorox. We hoped we wouldn’t have to go to church, but that would be too easy. Each one of us went to church that night with bandages across our foreheads. When asked by church members what happened, we were caught off guard and gave six different answers. I don’t think they believed us. I will never forget another Revival. A young minister came to conduct our meeting. We called him Brother Wells, and he was from Turkey, Texas. He could relate to kids and we liked him. His sermons were at least bearable and not too long. He told good stories and did not dwell on roasting us in hell. My friends and I asked him if he planned to come back the next year. That is when we got a lesson in church economics. He told us that he probably would not come back. He said that he was only paid expenses plus five dollars a day, but added that he was paid ten dollars for everyone he baptized. He had only baptized two on this trip. We could understand that. None of us wanted to be baptized, not just yet. When you got baptized, you got your sins washed away. Then you were expected 19


to quit doing bad things. We were not old enough to have had a chance to do some of the bad things we wanted to do before we had to give them up. We t o l d h i m w e h a d a n i d e a . We explained it to him and, at first, he said no. Then he did a little mental math, and said yes. Bert Davis had four wives; not at the same time, but it seemed as soon as one died, he would waste no time in choosing another. Between these wives, I am told he had 29 children. I heard daddy say he knew why the wives died, but he never revealed the secret when I questioned him. He just looked a little embarrassed. By the time Brother Wells was coming around, some of those 29 had children and grandchildren of their own. They all lived in a compound-like arrangement on the family property. We counted. There were 32 eligible unsaved souls to be had. That was $320. We knew Bert Davis, the patriarch of that clan. What he said went, and he liked money.

We told him Brother Wells would split the money with him. As planned, Brother Wells came back, and on the last night of the revival, he had only made a ten-dollar bonus. That’s when a county school bus rolled into the church yard. In a moment, another came in. There was no place to seat these people, and when it was learned that they just wanted to be baptized, the service was suspended. There was a problem; they wanted to be baptized that night as they had a conflict the next day. Also, Brother Wells wanted to leave to go back to Texas as early as possible. It was too late to go to the regular creek. The creek behind the church usually had only about a foot of water in it. Officially, it was known as Cemetery Creek; unofficially, it was known as Shit Creek as it was the same creek where the waste from the outhouse ran. Some of the men took feed sacks, stuffed them with anything they could find, and made a temporary dam. The water

rose to about three feet in depth. Cars were lined up with their headlights on the creek. The music was the best I have ever heard. In all, 50 people were saved that night. Mr. Davis said he thought he needed another go at it, as he had not understood what he was doing when he was a child. I think he wanted the five dollars. To this day, I don’t know where the church got the money to pay that preacher. They surely didn’t have an extra $500. I do know that from then on, they put limits on how much they would pay for baptism services, but no one has even remotely approached that number since.

 John Case April 2017

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“Your Estate Matters”

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LONG TERM CARE PLANNING

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So what is “Medicaid Planning” and how does it affect us, our parents and grandparents? As I have always said, being in a 24 hour-a-day skilled nursing home should not be our estate planning goal. Hopefully, our first goal is to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible and lessen our chances of being infirmed, or in the event we do become disabled, to have some kind of long term care coverage in place where we have the resources available to have someone take care of us in our own home. However, many of us do not have that luxury. Maybe we couldn’t qualify for long term care coverage, maybe we can’t afford it, or the most common scenario I see – the incapacitated person is about to make application to the Medicaid nursing home facility because they have already gone through all their money. Before qualifying for Medicaid one must practically be a pauper. If the applicant is single, her assets cannot exceed $2,000, but there are some “exempt” assets such as your home (with an equity limit of $560,000) and your car. And there are many legitimate ways to “spend down” what may be left of a person’s assets on things they will need before they enter the nursing home. In most cases, planning after one applies for Medicaid eligibility is too late. The best Medicaid planning opportunities need to be done before application, and generally the further in advance the better, meaning months or even years ahead of time.

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One of the best things to do for a person contemplating applying for Medicaid nursing home benefits is to schedule them (and their spouse/children/caretaker) a Medicaid Planning consultation with an attorney that has expertise in this particular area. The attorney can explain the pros and cons of the myriad of Medicaid planning opportunities as well as warn you about possible obstacles in the process. Clients often tell us that an attorney recommended they give away everything to their children and then apply for Medicaid. In most cases, especially if the gift to the kids was the family home, that gifting needed to occur more than five years earlier. We also hear that clients’ CPAs/ accountants tell them to “gift” up to $14,000 per year to each of their kids and grandkids because that is allowed. Yes, it is allowed by the IRS but not by Medicaid! About the Author: Ronda M. Gabb is a Board Certified Estate Planning and Administration Specialist certified by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization. She is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Governor’s Elder Law Task Force.

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23


Of Your Money By Mike Rich, CFP® Pontchartrain Investment Management

It’s your money…and your responsibility. My maternal grandparents came to America from Poland in the early 1890s. They spent some time in Vermont, where my grandfather worked in a shoe factory. When the factory closed, they moved to Chicago Heights, Illinois, where other family members had settled. My grandfather found work with a company that manufactured railway boxcars. He worked there, painting the lettering on the cars, until he died in 1950. I was born in 1951, so I never knew him. I knew my grandmother, however, and she was a special person. After my grandfather died, she moved in with my aunt and her husband, with whom my grandmother lived for the next 30 years or so. My mom’s family was large and close-knit. On most Sunday afternoons when I was growing up, many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather at my aunt’s house so my grandmother could hold court. The women cooked sausages and sauerkraut, the men drank Hamm’s Beer (From the Land of Sky Blue Waters…), and my cousins and I ran all over creation.

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When I was about ten years old, one of my grandmother’s friends came from Poland for a visit. During the friend’s visit, my grandmother took her to one of our local supermarkets. Mind you, this was during the early 1960s, long before grocery stores carried fresh-made sushi, artisanal cheeses, and 153 types of food for your cat. However, my grandmother’s friend was so overwhelmed when she saw the incredible bounty of food available in the store, she broke down in the middle of the produce aisle and cried. It was incomprehensible to her that such things could be had by anyone who simply had money to pay for them. Every aspect of her life in Poland was regulated by, in her words, “the authorities,” and the fact that the average American was so blessed – to be able to shop in a store that in her country would be open only to the elite – brought her to tears. I’ve never forgotten that story, and it now helps to shape the way I look at my own life and definition of success. As Americans, we’re lucky. We live in a land of opportunity where anyone who works hard has a good chance of achieving success. There are no guarantees of course, but America is still the place to which people want to come to escape oppression, poverty, and lack of opportunity. In my opinion, we, as American citizens, owe it to our fellow citizens to be responsible stewards of the blessings and opportunities our country provides its people. Part of that stewardship, I think, includes being responsible about the money that has been entrusted to us. As a financial advisor, I read articles nearly every week about how people are stressed out about money: “Can I afford this house? Why is there never any money left at the end of the month? How can I possibly pay off my student loans? Will I ever be able to retire? What’s going to happen if I’m old and sick and need someone to take care of me?” The list goes on, and the stress goes up. Our money lives can be like that. We know what we should be doing with our money to plan for the future, but we don’t do it for any number of reasons, some of which are important: busy lives, job demands, raising children, whatever. That’s bad. The good news, however, is that there’s a way out. There’s a way to become a responsible steward of your money. It can be done, and it’s within easier reach than you might think. It’s called “making a plan”, and here’s how it can work for you:


1) MEET WITH A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ BTW, that’s me. For many folks, this is the most difficult step in the process, primarily because it requires an active decision to get started. However, here’s what I have observed during my nine years as a financial advisor: the folks who take this first step have won half the battle. As for the meeting with me, the time commitment is minimal. Think about this: how much time did you spend planning your most recent vacation, or researching your purchase of a big screen TV, or picking your fantasy football team? More than an hour? I don’t ask for any more time than that. Here’s the deal: meet with me for 60 minutes. We can accomplish a lot in an hour and it won’t cost you a dime. At the end of our meeting, we’ll pretty much know if it makes sense to move forward. It’s that simple, and, even if you choose to do nothing more than meet with me to find out where you stand financially, you will be more aware of how to deal with your money going forward.

2) SET YOUR GOALS Of all the work I do with my clients, this, by far, is the most important step when it comes to helping people understand how to use their

money effectively. When we sit down to meet, I’ll ask a lot of questions, but they all boil down to four things: what you want to accomplish, how much money you’re willing to commit in seeking to make it happen, where it’s coming from, and your timeframe. I will listen carefully to your answers, dig in deeper where needed, and encourage you to make specific goals for what you want to achieve. With that information, we can build an investment plan. Making it work will require commitment from you, but getting a plan down on paper is a great way to start.

3) PROTECT YOUR ASSETS FROM BAD STUFF Part of our planning involves finding out what risks might try to ruin things for you and how we can deal with them. I’ll review your life, disability, and long term care insurance and, if I find a hole, will tell you how to fill it. Whether you want to fill it or not is your decision. For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve been a member of a men’s group at my church. We meet every Monday night for about 90 minutes. We typically study a scripture lesson or some other inspirational text and discuss how it applies in our lives. Every now and then, however, we take a moment to write

down five or ten things for which we are individually grateful. Interestingly, no one ever mentions his new car, the size of his investment account, or the fancy bass boat he just bought. Instead, my men’s group buddies are grateful for clean water that flows with the turn of a tap, a roof over their heads, good kids, or a full tummy. For me, I’m grateful to live in America, where I’m free to pursue my vocation, raise my family safely, and, sometimes, enjoy the incredible privilege of shopping in a well-stocked grocery store. So, here’s my offer. Call me today and schedule a complimentary, no obligation consultation. When you come in, we’ll discuss your goals and look at your numbers. If we agree that it’ll be good for us to work together, we’ll get started. On the other hand, if the chemistry isn’t there, or if getting to your goals is a bridge too far, I’ll give you the straight skinny, and you can decide what to do next. Seize the opportunity to be a good steward of your money. Call me today. Securities and Advisory Services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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25


History... Fellowship... Faith... Future... (and Festival Fun!) By Kathleen DesHotel

T

here’s a strong thread that holds the faithful together. As Pope Francis said, “We must live the faith, not only with our words, but with our actions.” Such appears to be the case with parishioners past and present at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Slidell, where everyone pulls together to overcome problems and celebrate their faith.

1933. The apparitions literally put Lourdes on the map. The town has subsequently attracted millions of visitors, the illustrious and the poverty-stricken. The Church has recognized many cures that have taken place after patients bathed in the springs, labeling them “true miracles.”

History of Slidell Our Lady of Lourdes Masses were held in Slidell as early as 1885 without a church building. Private homes and general stores accommodated services led by priests or missionaries who often arrived on horseback from neighboring towns. The first church

Lourdes, France For Catholics, Lourdes is the world’s most beloved Shrine. Nestled in a valley grotto in the southwestern part of the Hautes-Pyrenees in France is the scene of pilgrims gathering from all over the world. On February 11, 1858, the Virgin, dressed in white, revealed herself to a poor shepherd girl, Bernadette Soubirous who was born on January 7, 1844. Eighteen such apparitions were reported. Bernadette died in a convent in 1879. After years of examination of the life, vitrues, writings, and reputation for holiness of the servant of God, she was beatified in 1925, then canonized in 26

Left: Our Lady of Lourdes prior to 1915. Note: On the far left is the town hall and city jail. Right: The new church built on same spot along with a school and convent. It is now Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church on the corner of Second and Guzman Streets


building came via a land grant just south of City Hall on First and Bouscaren Streets and overseen by Father LaVacri. Since he was from France, it is likely that he gave the church its name on September 14, 1890. It was built with a tall iron crucifix for a steeple. The neighboring building became a school, but in 1915 a hurricane destroyed the church. Undaunted, in the fall of 1917 a new church was dedicated on the same spot. Then in 1929, a new school opened which was followed in 1932 by the convent. In 1962, due to a growing population and a need for space, Our Lady of Lourdes moved to south Slidell in Westchester Subdivision, where it existed happily until Hurricane Katrina took its toll on everything.

1940-1950’s: Left in this photo is the rectory. Front, center: The Shrine of “Our Lady of Lourdes.” Back, center: Lourdes School. Right: Lourdes Church. Behind the church is the convent which is barely seen in this photo.

Hurricane Katrina Our Lady of Lourdes church, school, and its entire parish, located just a few miles from the northeast shore of Lake Pontchartrain, sustained major flood and wind damage during Hurricane Katrina. It is estimated that floodwaters from the lake reached 5 feet in the rectory and 8 feet in the school’s lower elevation. The water tore a hole in the school’s gymnasium that was 5 feet wide by 8 feet high, and the roof of the parish church caved in as a result of more than 100 mph winds. After one side of the roof fell, the rest caved in. Ninety percent of parishioners’ homes were underwater. Many were forced to move away, thus affecting church membership and numbers of students in the school.

The empty lot where Our Lady of Lourdes Church stood served as a constant reminder of Katrina’s devastation. The first to return to the site found the stained glass window in the parking lot, the roof missing, and the bell tower leaning. The school was damaged but still standing, with mud everywhere inside containing turtles and fish that the fierce storm picked up from Lake Pontchartrain. The trauma of the experience and the aftermath of the hurricane caused people to feel that they had permanently lost their church. Eventually, however, they came back. The first mass after the storm was held in the hot sun on the street outside their destroyed church. Later, masses were held in the damaged cafeteria.

Left: Convent for the Benedictine nuns in the 1930-1960’s. It was located next to the school, facing First Street. Downstairs had a large dining room and a kitchen. Upstairs had five bedrooms and one bathroom. Right: Today the building is the home of G.O.S.H. ( Guardians of Slidell History ) and now faces Second Street.

Many members who remained reminisced about former OLL priest, Father Timothy Pugh, whose pet peeve dealt with people leaving before Sunday church services were finished. He would bellow, “It isn’t over yet.” This memory encouraged parishioners to believe they should not leave, but rather stay the course to recovery. Thus, worship returned to the school cafeteria and was emotional in bringing people back together in faith. The need to return to some normalcy led them back to their community, friends, and their church. They persevered with faith in their hearts and goals to achieve.

Painting of Our Lady of Lourdes In 2004, the church commissioned local artist Diane St. Germain to create an acrylic painting of Our Lady of Lourdes as she appears in the grotto in France. The catch was that the work of art had to include photographs from the past seventy-five years. St. Germain explained, “The gathering of photos from such a great span of time was daunting but exciting. The painting’s composition is modeled on the Lourdes grotto in France. The process of photo transfer onto canvas was new to me and quite time consuming. Consequently, I had to ask for help. In no time, a group of enthusiastic parishioners worked as a team on the painting to include photos on areas where the rocks are in the grotto.” Together the group gathered 27


photographs, transferred them using acrylic transfer paper, and placed each picture where rocks actually are situated in the grotto. The painting was completed and hung in the school office in August of 2004, just one year before the storm filled the school with eight feet of muddy water. It suffered the effects of flooding like everything else in the building, and Diane presumed it was lost. Three weeks after Katrina, two parishioners knocked at her door, and to her shock they presented her with the painting. There was damage, but with some work, she was able to restore it. It now greets parishioners from the foyer of Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Diane, who for many years volunteered her services as an art teacher at the school where her children attended, said, “My strongest feelings of faith and hope occurred when I saw that painting at my front door. I thought that if this painting can be saved, then the school and parish would come back stronger than ever. And that happened!”

Recovery Rebuilding the parish cost $8 million, $6 million of which came from insurance and money from the U.S. Church; $2 million came from money raised in the parish and from private donations. FEMA provided the funds to replace the school, which cost $13 million and reopened in 2012 with 350 students, 100 less than pre-Katrina. Right after the storm, schoolchildren attended classes in a neighboring school for a year before the parish obtained temporary trailers to use as classrooms. Today, the goal is also to reestablish the 40 ministries that existed prior to Katrina, and according to current PTA President Kimberly Munster, “School parents give great support to shoot for the school’s goals. I’d like to help get the enrollment back up and to keep everyone upbeat and positive.” In 2010, the parish built a new church, designed by parishioners, a block away from the previous site. Parish members took a year to design their post Katrina church. They attended classes on Catholic Church architecture and visited other churches. Msgr. Lipps described it as a reflection of the people’s personalities and their homes, “It is traditional on the outside and contemporary on the inside.”

The painting by Diane St. Germain. Notice the historic photographs that comprise the rock formation surrounding the Virgin Mother 28

On May 15, 2010 the new Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Slidell was packed for the dedication led by Archbishop Gregory Aymond. He reminded everyone of Fr. Tim’s caution, “It isn’t over.” And, it was not over. The altar and bricks in front are made from recovered pieces of the old church. The old bells were restored, and the school gym was completed a few years later.

The entire OLL parish has been touched by Hurricane Katrina. She was kind to no one, but she taught several lessons. With tenacity and faith and love of community, even a violent hurricane cannot break a community’s faith and dedication. The church is based in its people.

Father Wayne Paysse OLL Webmaster Jim Langendonk shared, “Since its beginning, Our Lady of Lourdes has had the opportunity to spiritually nourish, educate, and reach out to this entire community. It has touched the lives of thousands over the history of its existence.” On July 1, 2015, OLL was fortunate enough to continue that tradition with the addition of Fr. Wayne C. Paysse to their faithful family. A graduate of Notre Dame Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, Father Paysse holds a Masters in Divinity as well as a BA in Philosophy from St. Joseph Seminary College. Father served as adjunct faculty at Notre Dame Seminary and spiritual director while continuing his ministry with the Pontifical Mission Societies as a full-time director. He also served as spiritual director at St. Joseph College Seminary. He commends Msgr. Frank Lipps for getting the parish through the tough time after the hurricane and the rebuilding of a school and church. In a recent sermon he also praised the congregation on their accomplishments since Katrina, and added, “We must look to the future and begin to dream of the rebirth of the parish.” Fr. Paysse is a man of vision and appreciation for the path of his life. He


Left: The front of Our Lady of Lourdes School as it appeared in the 1940-50’s. It was built in 1929 and faced First Street. Middle: The school became Slidell City Hall, with the back entrance on First Street (this photo is pre-Katrina). Right: The same building today, rebuilt. It still serves as the back entrance of Slidell City Hall.

feels that this parish is filled with loving people who step up and volunteer to make things happen. “I want people to be involved knowing that God has given us all gifts. Some run errands, do repairs, pray with or visit people who need them. I want to serve the community, keep an open dialogue, and to serve others. I am here for the spiritual and the temporal well-being of the people. God has given me a wonderful family at Our Lady of Lourdes. I like to know what people are thinking and then make my decisions,” he said. Amazingly, he said that when he was in second grade, he decided that he would be a priest. “I am grateful to God for where this decision has led me. I love people and working with people.” His life as a priest has led to his working with many people in many capacities. Being from New Orleans, he was happy many years ago to be assigned to St. Genevieve Church. He recalls that soon after his arrival in Slidell, Our Lady of Lourdes pastor, Father Howard Hotard, drove by. Father Paysse asked him if he had come to visit the church, and Fr. Hotard said, “No Père, I came to see how you were doing on our bayou.” Remembrances of past pastors of the church led Fr. Paysse to pursue an initiative to restore the campus with

beautiful trees and pristine gardens like those that Fr. Hotard so loved. Under Fr. Hotard’s tenure, buildings were added and improvements made to the property. Even harvesting the pear trees planted in front of the church became an annual tradition! After his time at St. Genevieve, Fr. Paysse went to Washington, DC and spent 9 years serving as the executive director of the national Native American, African American, and Alaskan-Native Mission Office. It was a hectic and busy time in a role that he relished. He travelled 3 weeks a month and was honored to give away 9-13 million dollars a year! Father Paysse’s role was to help bishops take up a national collection to fund evangelization activities in these minority communities. According to Father Paysse, the Black and Indian Mission Office uses the money for a variety of causes, such as paying salaries of missionaries, funding schools, purchasing catechetical materials, educating priests and support with special diocesan projects. “My time at the Black and Indian Mission Office taught me to be grateful and it taught me to be mindful of how I had to teach the people to continue to pray and to be grateful as well. I learned that we must be like the Holy Family. We must care for God’s family.”

The “Bayou Bash” Fair Parishioner Bob Abney says, “In my 71 years at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, it has grown from a small white country church, to the contrasting beauty of our church taken by Katrina, to the magnificence of our current Church and parish facility. Many goals were met through many challenging times.  Devotion and dedication of parishioners, leadership of outstanding priests like Father Tim, Father Hotard, Father Hall, Father Frank and Father Paysse have made it possible to rebuild and spread our loving faith.  We must continue to love, serve, and support our parish. Having our fair back is another step toward meeting more of our goals.” In 2016, the fair was revisited after a twenty-year absence. Sadly, it suffered a severe rainstorm and didn’t have the attendance everyone had hoped for. But this parish does not worry about setbacks! This year, all ages in the community are looking forward to holding a bigger-than-ever extravaganza. Parochial Vicar, Rev. Stephen Dardis, beamed in saying, “The fair is going to be awesome as another great opportunity for children, their parents and relatives, and all parishioners to enjoy.” Assistant Principal Steve Nichols explains the history of Bayou Bash, “In the past

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Principal Mike Buras said that school children will sing and dance. Also, with a nod to nostalgia, a cake walk will be held in the gymnasium. Classes will be putting together baskets of donated items for a silent auction, a plant booth, sweets, and food donated by restaurants. Activities will include bingo, hover boards, and corn hole bean bag competitions. Principal Buras concluded, “Bayou Bash is a wonderful annual event that brings the entire North Shore community together. The proceeds help our parish church and school continue our Catholic mission and service in the greater community. This fun-filled weekend offers something for everyone to enjoy: great rides, games, music, contests, and food!” It is with much gratitude that Slidell Magazine thanks GOSH Museum, City of Slidell, Diane St. Germain and, particularly, Ronnie Dunaway, for their photographs and history.

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Fr. Paysse is especially happy that the children in each grade level, from Pre-K to seventh, will be giving performances. He adds, “Children are our treasure. I see them as undiscovered galaxies. Kids are wonderful, and it’s nice to see them come back for joyous events.”

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27 years that I’ve been a faculty member of OLL School, we only had a one-day fair, called “Family Fun Day.” It was just for members of the school community up until about 20 years ago when our parent organizations wished to put on something that would be more inclusive of the Slidell community. At that time we embarked on the creation of a 3-day fair with rides and entertainment. We even had Irma Thomas as a featured artist one day. During these early fairs, the entire campus was involved with rides in the gym parking lot, on the playground gazebo, and game booths under the playground walkway. Local New Orleans celebrities such as television news anchor John Snell and Frank Davis conducted the live auctions and provided some BBQ dishes. This lasted until 1996 when we returned to a one-day fair due to construction. Recently, Fr. Paysse incorporated the parish ministries into the planning and execution of a 3-day fair. Now our Bayou Bash is considered a big Slidell event.”

CINCO DE MAYO!! Mexican Food, Frozen Margaritas MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT 6-10PM: The Phunky Monkeys 8:30AM: Henry J. Calamari Race (Following race, awards given on stage) 12:00PM: Cajun Band & Dancing 1:00PM: Dance Project MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT 3-5PM: 21 Frontstreet 6-10PM: At Fault 11:30AM: Pie/Cake Baking Contest Judging begins at 1PM ($5 entry fee) 12-3PM: OLL students & Religious Ed class performances 3:00PM: Practically Princesses 3-6PM: Bingo in gymnasium 4:00PM: Cornhole Finals MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT 6-9PM: Category 6

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lidell now has a new, exciting event to add to its Spring line-up: Derby Day, a Kentucky Derby viewing party to raise awareness for the SMH Foundation and the lives the organization touches in our community. Set in a fabulous barn at the Wind Dancer Ranch Equine Rescue, this party is sure to attract a fun crowd decked out in their best Derby attire. While mint juleps and souvenir Derby glasses will get everyone in the Derby spirit, all eyes will be drawn to capturing The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports on the big screen that the Kentucky Derby guarantees. The Derby itself is a 143year tradition, but Derby Day is the first of its kind here in Slidell. As an SMH Foundation Board of Trustees member, Mike Stedem wanted to create an event to bring attention to a cause near to his heart—helping friends, family and neighbors take care of their health.

One hundred percent of the donations the Foundation receives are used to fulfill its mission. Funds raised by past events were used to improve patient care through the addition of equipment, such as Infant Warmers to keep newborns warm immediately following delivery; Transport Monitors to maintain care of critically ill patients during transport to other hospital areas; and chemotherapy equipment and transportation assistance for patients battling cancer. “The Foundation is the vehicle to provide services and equipment that Slidell Memorial needs, wants, and in many cases, requires,” Stedem explained. “It’s only by our generous community and business support that the Foundation can make a difference.

“Healthcare is one of any community’s greatest needs. Here in Slidell, with the partnership of Slidell Memorial and Ochsner, we can offer state-of-the-art healthcare services,” Stedem said. “However, the hospital will always have unmet needs.” That’s where the SMH Foundation steps in, working daily to fund grants for programs and equipment to benefit SMH patients. Put simply, the SMH Foundation exists to help SMH change and save lives by raising money to fund the mission of the hospital, which is “to improve the quality of life in our community.”

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Racing Pigeons of Slidell Story and Photos by Donna Bush

Chances are you’ve looked up in the sky and seen a flock of pigeons flying in a formation much like the Blue Angels. These are not your ordinary pigeons, but racing pigeons, probably members of the Slidell Racing Pigeon Club formed over 20 years ago. This group of five members pools with other New Orleans area clubs and is known as a ‘Combine.’ Together, they total 30 members and hold races twice a year, spring and fall. Pigeon racing dates back to the empires of Carthage, Egypt and Rome. In those days, only aristocrats were allowed to

We hope you enjoy this installment from award-winning outdoors photographer and writer, Donna Bush. Inspired by life... Curiosity seeker... Inviting all Slidell Magazine readers to join her.

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own pigeons. Not just used for racing, they were the ultimate communication tool. Knowledge is power and before modern technology, the quickest method to send a message was by carrier pigeons. The Rothschild banking dynasty drastically increased their wealth during 1815 thanks to knowledge of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo delivered by a carrier pigeon. Having this news prior to anyone else in England enabled Rothschild to make critical decisions that made possible an enormous fortune. Julius Reuters founded the Reuters News Service in 1850 as a line of pigeon posts delivering stock prices between Brussels and Germany. Even though the telegraph existed, there were gaps in service leaving the railroad as the only other route for news. With the establishment of

Reuters’ pigeon covey, information was delivered in 2 hours instead of 6! In 1886, Belgium’s King Leopold II gifted the Royal Family with racing pigeons, which were used to start their own racing loft at the Sandringham Estate. The loft still exists today and is known as one of the best breeding centers in the world. In fact, Royal pigeons were enlisted in both World War I and II as carrier pigeons. They were utilized extensively by the military as a reliable means of communication, particularly when radio and telephones could not be used. Of the 56,000 birds trained for combat, only 32,000 were used, many who received military medals of honor for their services, saving numerous lives. Pigeons were carried by ground forces, bomber crews and onboard military ships. If a plane or ship was shot down, they would dispatch a carrier pigeon with


the last known location in hopes that rescue would reach them.

utilized hawk handlers to release birds of prey to attack the pigeons.

During WWI, “Cher Ami” was awarded the French Croix de guerre for his delivery of 12 important messages within the American sector at Verdun, France, despite injuries received by enemy fire during his last trip. His messages led to the rescue of 194 American soldiers, known as the “Lost Battalion,” a portion of New York’s 77th Division of the U.S. Army.

Hawks are still the number one predator and will often capture a tired pigeon when it arrives home after a long flight. If a flock encounters a hawk, they will chase it from their territory in an attempt to keep their loft safe. I witnessed this while capturing images when a cooper’s hawk came into the area and actually landed in a tree above the loft. The determined pigeons pushed him to leave their space.

“G.I.Joe” received the esteemed British Dickin Medal, which recognized heroic acts of animals in combat. His WWII action was crucial to saving the lives of almost 1000 soldiers in Calvi Vecchia, Italy. British troops had just taken over the town, which was scheduled for bombing by allied planes. Communication lines were down. The only chance was “G.I.Joe.” With a hastily written message attached, he was deployed to Allied Headquarters, flying 20 miles in 20 minutes, arriving as the planes taxied down the runway. Disaster was averted with five minutes to spare. Our feathered heroes were so mission critical that opposing forces

Pigeons are recognized as among the most intelligent of all bird species. Most of us are aware that carrier or homing pigeons have their own builtin GPS of sort. Pigeons have long been thought to navigate by using the earth’s magnetic field and the sun for distance. A pigeon’s ability to find it’s way home differs from migration patterns of other birds which typically follow a fixed route at fixed times of the year with more seasoned birds. Homing pigeons can be crated 400600 miles away from home and find their way to their loft within a day.

Little Known Pigeon Facts The pigeon can recognize all 26 letters of the English alphabet. They can learn relatively complex actions and response sequences. They can differentiate between different photographs and even between different human beings in a photograph. They can remember large numbers of individual images for long periods of time, even years. Pigeons are better life-savers than humans. They can see color as humans, but they can also see ultra-violet that humans can’t see making them instrumental in rescue operations. Pigeons can pass the mirror test or self-recognition test. (One of only a few species.) Pigeons are renowned for their outstanding navigational abilities. They are highly social animals and will often congregate in flocks of 20-30 birds. Pigeons mate for life and tend to raise 2 chicks at the same time. Both male and female take part in caring and raising of the young. Pigeons have superior hearing. They can detect far lower frequency sounds than humans. They can fly at altitudes of up to 6000 feet and an average speed of 77.6 mph, with the fastest recorded speed being 92.5 mph. 35


In a New Zealand study, pigeons learned to distinguish four letter words from non-words. They were taught common two letter combinations found in many words, such as ‘TH’, ‘EN’ and ‘AL.’ They were trained to peck a four letter word on a computer screen when it was an actual word and to peck a symbol when it was a non-word, such as ‘USRP.’ New words were added one by one until their libraries were built up to 26 to 58 words and over 8000 non-words. In order to verify that they were learning to distinguish words rather than memorizing, words were introduced that the birds had never seen before. In another study, it was discovered that untrained pigeons could distinguish a person’s face even with a change of clothing. The experiment took place at a park in Paris, with two researchers with similar build and coloring, wearing different colored lab coats. One ignored the birds after feeding. The other harassed the birds by chasing them after feeding. In the second session, both researchers fed and ignored the pigeons. The flock continued to avoid the original hostile researcher. The researchers even exchanged their uniquely colored lab coats. It was obvious that the pigeons facially recognized their antagonist.

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Slidell Club president, Vic Corso, has had pigeons off and on since he was a kid growing up in Gentilly. At that time, it was quite common for neighborhood residents to own them. They were even sold at the local grocery stores. When Vic was 8 years old, he fell in love with a pair of white pigeons at the grocery. He arrived home from school to discover that his Dad had purchased them for him. Fascinated with his new pets, neighbors taught Vic about racing pigeons. “There were probably 120 lofts around New Orleans. It was a big deal and race results were printed in the Times Picayune, which had a loft on the roof of their building.” How are these birds trained to race? Vic explained, “The bond between owner and pigeon is crucial to the success of the racer. Like any other pet, a bond is created as time is spent together, handling them, and working with them.” Pigeons are very territorial. They have their designated spot in the loft and don’t like it when another bird tries to take over. The owner/bird bond and the territorialism bring them home. Training begins at age 2 – 4 months by teaching them to enter the loft. The entrance has a trapping system where they can enter but not leave. They are fed each day in their spot. Once they master entering the loft, they are released to fly around the area. Per Vic, “Pigeons can fly really well and they enjoy flying. On a cool morning they can stay out for hours!”


As they begin flying further away, it is time to step up their training. Birds are placed in crates and driven to a safe release location one to two miles away from home. They are timed to see how long it takes them to return. As they progress and return quicker, the release point becomes 5 miles, then 10 miles and so on in small increments. Vic reveals, “It might take 6 weeks to work up to 80 miles from the loft. After that, the increase can be 30 miles at a time.” This allows them to stay in shape, see new sights and familiarize themselves with routes for when they are racing. “Remember that the racing pigeon has been bred from the fastest and smartest pigeons, generation after generation, for hundreds of years, which makes them truly the thoroughbreds of the sky.” - Greater Melbourne Pigeon Federation. There are two seasons of competition. The first season in the fall runs from September thru November and is for young birds – those born that year. These birds are just learning the ropes, just getting started. The young bird season is sort of like maiden racing with horses. No birds have won and it gives the owners the opportunity to try out the bird to see how good it performs, if it improves or if it’s a dud. The second season is old bird season running from March thru May and any age bird can fly, even those that just

competed in the young bird season. There are 2 or 3 groups, labeled A, B, and C in each race. Each group is released an hour apart from the same starting location thirty minutes after official sunrise, weather dependent. If there are foggy conditions, release could be delayed. The night before the race each club in the combine gathers to log their competitors for the event. The combine has a truck that will travel to the four clubs in the New Orleans area to pick up the crated birds and continue to the starting location. Each club is assigned a set of numbered bands from the American Racing Pigeon Union (AU). The club president assigns a group to each member to be used for his/her birds. If a pigeon is found, the unique number can be used to identify the owner. The bands have a slot for an RFID chip used to scan the birds into the electronic clock system, which is double-checked by the flyer before each bird is loaded into a class A, B or C crate. The exact location of the owner’s loft is entered into the system. The bird lands on a landing plate (think runway) with an RFID scanner that scans the arrival time. This, along with the exact time and location of the release, loft location and ‘clocked’ arrival time allow the velocity of the bird to be calculated. A time factor is applied for those lofts south of Slidell to calculate an

equal race. There can easily be mere nanoseconds separating the finish line times. Once all are loaded in the crates and picked up for transport to the racing start line, members kick back, tease each other about who’s gonna’ win and wager a burger (or a steak) to up the ante. There’s no money in this pigeon racing. However, there are big-ticket races in Vegas, some in Texas, South Africa and various other locations. In case you think that pigeon racing is a has-been sport, Google search ‘International Pigeon Racing Barcelona’ where a European race is held each year with thousands of contenders. Birds lift off from Barcelona to fly to their homes in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Luxembourg, or France. There are amazing videos of their release! Pigeon racing is an inexpensive sport. It has a small footprint in your own backyard. There are many in Slidell and surrounding areas willing and eager to teach you about the ancient sport. Later this summer there will be a show and fundraiser for the local Slidell club with a banquet and auction. It will be posted on Slidell Magazine’s Event Calendar. For more info about pigeon racing and the Slidell Racing Pigeon Club, please contact Vic Corso, president, at 985-960-7555.

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If part of your New Year’s resolution was to get more fit and active, but you’re unsure of how to do that or you’re more into the “baby steps” method, I encourage you to start looking into sports-like fundraising events. These will not only encourage you to participate and get some exercise in, but will also contribute to something bigger than yourself by donating or representing others who are less fortunate than yourself. If walking to raise money or awareness doesn’t make you feel good and motivate you to keep going in your health goals, then I don’t know what will. There are dozens of these types of events around the Northshore and in New

Orleans, you just have to do some research. You can Bowl for Breast Cancer, play golf for Rotary, race for HOPE Charities to help families living with chronic illness, Zumba your hiney off for St. Jude, and so much more. One such event that I felt was important to cover was the Autism Speaks Walk to support individuals and their families that have been affected by this broad exceptionality. Now I know what you’re thinking - this is a sports article! You want to read about sports! Just stay with me and I promise you will feel more motivated to go out there and be active by the end of this than you did five minutes ago. Trust me!

Having a child in my life with autism, it is a condition that hits close to home. For those of you who are unfamiliar, autism refers to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Most people hear autism and think one or two very specific things, but it truly is a spectrum. It encompasses diagnoses of autism, asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, and childhood disintegrative disorder. The characteristics of these disorders include features such as social deficits and communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviors and interests, sensory issues, and in some cases, cognitive delays.

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Familiarizing yourself and learning about autism can be quite a challenge at first, as I have learned from experience. But, once you change your perspective, it is easy to see there are challenges, shortcomings, and difficulties, but there are also incredible strengths for people diagnosed with autism. Getting involved in learning about and supporting the ASD community is much easier than you think, if you ever feel so inclined. In the United States, 1 in every 68 people are born with features considered on the autism spectrum. Around one third of those people remain nonverbal and certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. In June 2014, researchers estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism is as great as $2.4 million. Talk about an overwhelming diagnosis! A person who has or lives with someone diagnosed with ASD suddenly finds themselves with lots of considerations to make, including: therapy, education at school, dietary concerns, and how best to raise your child in an environment that encourages their growth and considers their challenges. A lifestyle change happens, one that involves understanding and patience. Let me tell you, I have a whole new outlook on children that scream and cry in public. Imagine trying to communicate something to someone, something you want or need, and they have no idea how to understand you. And I mean on more than a foreign language level. Traditional ways of parenting, maybe how you remember being raised, don’t always translate well to a child with autism. Planning in advance, adaptation, and compromise are familiar to parents, but essential to those with autistic children. All the while, you want them to grow, to learn to communicate verbally, to function in a self-sufficient way. It is extremely overwhelming. And without help, parents can feel alone, alienated from what many describe as “normal” life. For anyone who feels this way, I have the best news in the world for you: life is in no way, shape, or form normal from person to person! Everyone has their own definition of normal, and you will too, I promise. I have seen it, read it, and enjoyed it. Children with ASD have incredible strengths and still have the potential, like every child, to live a great life. People with ASD still have opinions, are still very smart (in some ways much smarter), and many have the potential to live independent of their caregivers. Consider that people on the spectrum are many things, including:

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exceptionally honest, have deep passions and intense interests, can be very detail-oriented, may have very good memories, rarely have “hidden agendas”, are typically punctual and follow schedules, are often rule-bound and will not break laws, can be especially gifted in one or more subjects, and are typically very good at visual thinking. Yes, they have challenges, but, as you can see, they have incredible strengths. Some, in fact, to even be jealous of!

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There are local organizations that understand autism and the challenges that it includes in life. These organizations are great ways for people to get involved and help, while also providing a great resource to those who have difficulties with ASD. Probably one of the most prominent ones here on the Northshore is SOAR (Strengthening Outcomes with Autism Resources). They began in 2010 as a project of five moms wanting resources, services, and support for their child on the spectrum. They have succeeded, building an organization that provides these resources to parents and those diagnosed with ASD. They hold meetings and events along the Northshore, including here in Slidell. They are hosting their own walk, the 7th Annual Awareness Walk and Family Fun Day on April 1st from 10am to 2pm.

Another large organization associated with Autism is the Autism Association of America. The New Orleans Chapter’s aim is a little different from SOAR’s. Their positioning statement declares that they exist to empower, educate and support individuals affected by autism. They provide educational opportunities, information and referral services, and support services. Their aim is to build communities that are “accepting, understanding, supportive, and inclusive of individuals affected by autism, and that value the skills, employment and contributions of all individuals throughout their lives.” A worthy and powerful cause indeed. Their 13th Annual Autism Awareness Festival will be held on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at First Baptist New Orleans (5290 Canal Blvd., NOLA 70124). A fundraising event, it is aimed at raising awareness for ASD. Autism Speaks is a massive national organization dedicated to advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions both through direct funding and collaboration, increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorders, and working toward solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families across the spectrum and lifespan through advocacy and support. Started in 2005, this organization has absorbed other organizations and evolved over time. One of the biggest events they hold annually is their Autism Speaks Walks. Considering that it is a fundraiser, they do not have a mandatory registration fee. They encourage individuals, groups, and businesses to help raise funds for the walk to help their organization continue their mission. You can register on the day of the event or pre-register on their Walk Day website, www.autismspeaks.org. This walk in New Orleans is at UNO on April 8th from 9am to 12pm. Along with the obvious benefits of going to these events, like food, fun, and fellowship, these are fundraising events to advance help for autism in

our community and on a national scale. These organizations are dedicated to those families and people that live with the challenges associated with ASD. All things considered, these organizations are trying to advance the lives of people living with autism. Autism does have its challenges, and without help, it is easy to become overwhelmed and overlook the strengths of those with autism. With our community here in Louisiana, on the Northshore and in New Orleans, no one has to feel alone with regards to ASD. Please, I encourage you if you are interested, to get involved with one of these organizations. Attend their walks and their fests. Get off your butt and work on your health and resolution in a way that lets good times roll for all!

AUTISM WALKS 2017 4/1/17 • 10am-2pm 7th Annual Awareness Walk & Family Fun Day Lakeview Regional Medical Center

4/8/17 • 9am-12pm Autism Speaks Walk UNO

4/22/17 • 10am-1pm 13th Annual Autism Awareness Festival First Baptist New Orleans


IT’S CRAWFISH COOKOFF TIME !

The Hospice Foundation of the South will soon be hosting all of Slidell and beyond at Fritchie Park for their 14th Annual Crawfish Cookoff!

This March, Hospice House celebrated its third year providing final care for 115 patients and their families in our community. The house cost about $400,000 to build, and through the generosity of our communty, is owned outright by the foundation. Events such as the Crawfish Cook-Off help Hospice Foundation of the South continue the excellence of care in their daily operations.

This signature event for Hospice Foundation of the South has become an annual April tradition, combining all of things we Louisianians love best - crawfish, music, family and philanthropy!

For more information on the Crawfish Cook-Off and the great work that Hospice Foundation of the South is doing in our community, visit them at www.hospicefoundationofthesouth.org.

The largest one-day event on the Northshore boasts over 45,000 pounds of crawfish, boiled by over 50 teams competing for the title of “Best Crawfish in St. Tammany Parish”. Celebrity judges, as well as the teams themselves, decide the winners. Four bands entertain the crowds of 8,000 plus people. Admission includes all the crawfish you can eat and the concert event. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at gate. Children 12 and under are free. Kids Zone tickets are only $20. Proceeds from this event comprise the majority of the funding for the non-profit Hospice House. This beautiful home on the outskirts of Slidell helps terminally ill patients live in comfort, self-respect and peace in their final days. The home also helps the families of those patients cope with their difficult situation. Frequently, trained nurses, social workers, chaplains, certified nursing assistants and hospice volunteers visit terminally ill patients in their homes to assist with their final needs. However, sometimes the Hospice patient does not have a home environment or a family member that can provide for them. Hospice House in Slidell now gives patients a home where they can live out their last days with dignity and the care they need after hospitals can no longer help them.

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“The mission of Hospice Foundation of the South is to provide resources for medical and emotional care for terminally ill patients and their families,” explained Kathy Busco, executive director. “The Hospice House is a home designed to allow terminally ill patients who are in a preferred hospice program a place to stay during their final days at no cost. Caregivers are in the home 24 hours a day to stay with the residents.”

Crawfish for SM 030517.pdf

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Benign Neglect People have a tendency to assume that, when two things occur at nearly the same time, they are related; often, there’s also an assumption that one of the events caused the other. Sometimes, of course, the events are indeed related, maybe even causally. If you eat a sandwich that’s been sitting on your dashboard all day in the direct sun, and you get sick, blaming the sandwich for the illness seems reasonable. Of course, it’s possible you were destined to become sick anyway, for some other reason altogether. But in this case, a cause and effect relationship seems likely. But if you wave your hand above your head in a big figure eight, and then that same night you win the lottery, there’s no way

that stuff is related. Although our brains really want to believe your little ritual led to the big money win, you know (hopefully) that these events are totally unrelated. Our propensity to link unrelated events like this (described by the Latin phrase post hoc, ergo propter hoc – meaning “afterwards, therefore because of”) is the cause of much human misery and suffering. It can serve us pretty well at times; for instance, by helping us avoid that dashboard sandwich once you’ve been burned. But often it’s really just superstition. Scientists have a phrase that warns against always assuming that two events have a causal relationship: “Correlation does not equal causation.” In other words, just because two things

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happened together, or in quick succession, one didn’t necessarily cause the other. This tendency to misinterpret the causal relationship between events is behind many of the irrational things that we humans do, and it is also behind many of the crises facing modern medicine (of the human and veterinary variety). The placebo effect, the adherence to ideas and therapies that have been proven useless or false, the utterly unshakable belief that any patient with a fever MUST always have antibiotics – all arise because of this tendency we have to link unlinked events. Many people believe that all fevers need antibiotics, because the fever resolved after the course of antibiotics began. Not every fever needs antibiotics,


because antibiotics only work on bacteria, and there are many causes for fever that aren’t caused by bacteria, such as viruses, cancer, and immune-mediated disease, among others. Many pet owners raise an eyebrow when I suggest waiting and watching to see if a subtle, non-threatening symptom, such as an infrequent sneeze or a mild, one-time cough, goes away on its own, instead of running a battery of tests or prescribing medications. The tendency to overmedicate is real. If we have a stable, comfortable patient, sometimes - not every time - waiting to see if the condition is self-limiting, is a reasonable option. If there’s anything in the picture that’s alarming, say a fever accompanied by abdominal pain, or history of weight loss, then further workup and intervention make sense. Even when my best judgement tells me that it’s appropriate watch and wait an approach sometimes referred to as “benign neglect” - some pet owners aren’t convinced. For these owners, some form of action may be more helpful for them than for the patient. In those cases, I try to proceed so as not to make things worse, in the spirit of the classic admonition to physicians to “first, do no harm.” In many cases, my preference might very well be to wait and see, especially if some basic diagnostic tests indicate no serious issues. Benign neglect confuses the occasional pet owner. Watchful waiting can’t be applied in all instances, of course. Clearly, inaction can be disastrous when applied to the wrong situation. To use it properly, clinicians must weigh experience, data, and the wishes of the pet owner. It requires a sense for what state the patient is in, the owner’s ability to perceive signs of worsening, and their ability to come in for follow-up care if needed. The one-year-old indoor cat with a barely watery nose, who’s still eating, and has observant owners who’ll come back immediately if things get worse, may be in for a few days of watchful waiting before a full work-up. The 12-year-old cat with a high fever, who lives 90 minutes away, with, shall we say, less perceptive owners, probably won’t. I hope it goes without saying - but I’ll say it anyway - that none of this advice should be taken to mean that pet owners should overlook anything that concerns them, or decide on their own that a given symptom is nothing to worry about. ALWAYS MAKE THE PHONE CALL, GET AN APPOINTMENT, and let your trusted veterinarian be the judge. Then, if your vet talks to you about carefully waiting to see whether a minor symptom progresses or not, give it consideration. If your pet is not in a crisis, is still eating, active and not in pain, it might be a reasonable option. And if the problem resolves without major intervention, thank your vet. Sometimes knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do.

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Crimi-Mommly INSANE slie GatesGovern e L y b y r c Sto by Zac M ns

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So far, it’s been a rough start in 2017 for the Gates’ household. It also happens to be the ONE year we decided not to take an expensive vacation during the Mardi Gras holidays. We made this decision in the middle of 2016 to simply save up some money, and as tempting as it was to want to look up cabins in Gatlinburg, TN, we stuck with that mission to reach some long-term goals. The reality was, the kids were out of school, and they needed SOMETHING to do. So did I. My friend, Meagan, ALWAYS has ideas. She had been telling me for months about the campground she reserved at Little Black Creek. She is a pro at camping, having everything you can possibly imagine, and she fits

Camping it ALL in the trunk of her small car. This includes the comforts of an air mattress, heater, and heated blanket. When I think of camping in a tent, I go back to my Army days. Basic necessities. Sleeping bag on a cot, a flashlight, some MRE’s, and 2 hour intervals of “fireguard duty”, to keep the heater going all night in the tent. I don’t do camping in the cold very well, that’s why I avoid it. Especially after getting frostbite on my toes after a training exercise when I was 19 years old. But desperate times call for desperate measures when you’re a Mom with no plans during a school holiday, so... if you pack enough fuzzy onesies for everyone, PLUS sleeping bags, then you’ve got it made in my opinion.

Without much thinking or planning, I agreed to this camping trip. I knew if the situation became more than expected, I had an appointment the next day. Being only an hour away, I could come back with whatever items were desperately needed. My cousin TJ and his family came along as well. We hadn’t camped together since we were kids. Of course, this was back when our parents handled all the details while we ran around with all the other cousins until dark. The older ones watching out for the younger ones. TJ and I were the youngest, and only 2 months apart in age. If anyone was getting in trouble, it was us. Always. Back then though, there was a lot more order.


Someone always brought a pretty tablecloth for the concrete picnic table where all our snacks lay neatly on top. Chip bags had clips and we all had our own plastic cups with our names on them for the day. God forbid you lost your cup and had to waste another one. There was a trash bag, and we used it. If not, our parents had a way of tracking that single piece of trash right back to the guilty party… it just wasn’t worth the earful when we could simply walk a few feet to throw it away. No food was allowed in the tent; the tent had to stay zipped after going in or out; and our area stayed neat inside the tent. I’m all about these rules. Moreover, we had our grandfather overseeing things from his woven throne… the hammock. He totally earned that throne because he worked his butt off setting up, chopping his own wood, and helping to cook. My grandparents had it down pat. All of this made a peaceful camping trip for the adults, and I don’t ever remember being unhappy because of it. As a matter of fact, it is one of my happiest memories as a kid, if not THE happiest. Because of this, our recent camping trip was very nostalgic, but a little rough around the edges in comparison. Day One: We arrived. I asked Meagan if she had my tent because it wasn’t at my house. She did, thank God. It was in the trunk of her car. Along with two other tents and a large canopy. Now that my family had somewhere to sleep, we started pulling sleeping bags out of my truck. Brian was working so I only brought four. Plus, four pillows and four fuzzy onesies. Warmth… CHECK! We grabbed the snacks, ice chest with drinks, clothes, fishing poles, a small container of bait, 5 bundles of wood, two folding chairs, and one bike. It was all that I could fit in the bed of my truck. At least until my appointment the next day. Meagan, still pulling large items out of her trunk, had me admiring her packing skills. After the area was set up and we sat down to relax, one of the kids ran up to tell us that the kayak had been abandoned and was floating away. In the lake, not the creek. I saw this as a good thing because it would float slowly; but still bad, because it would go VERY far out. I ran through the beach area accounting for all the kids while stripping myself of shoes, socks, and hat. The adrenaline didn’t allow me to feel the cold, shallow water at first. It was when I dove into the deeper part that I realized, yep, I’m gonna die. Front stroke, back stroke, brain stroke, I did it all, yet, I still wasn’t even halfway there. I had many

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thoughts during my last moments on earth, like, can a shark please eat me so I have a reason to give up, and, I REALLY AM almost 40. The latter thought was much more painful. Finally making it to the kayak, I looked back to see the kids, plus some guy standing there in a concerned fashion, holding a beer, and talking to Meagan. He didn’t think I would make it. Meagan assured him that, “Oh, SHE WILL. One way or another.” Grabbing ahold to look inside, I realized there was no oar. Not lucky for me, but lucky for the kids, because all I wanted to do was beat them with it when and IF I made it back alive. I took my time on the swim back, mainly because my speed options at that point were either superslow or float. Reaching land, I pulled the boat up, stumbling like a drunk one-legged pirate with two eyepatches and an annoying parrot on my shoulder saying, “BAAAAWK! YOU’RE OLD! BAAAAWK!” 48

The oar mocked me too as I tripped over it walking through the sand. Day 1 (late afternoon): I needed about 10 things that I didn’t bring, all of which, not surprisingly, Meagan had in her trunk. That was the point we officially named it the “Clown Car”. My clothes were still semi-wet, but it wasn’t cold out, so I decided to let them dry on my body. I decided this because, well, I had NO other clothes. My appointment could not come fast enough. Day 1 (evening): Meagan pulled 6 boxes of Christmas lights from the clown car and we hung them around the campsite, making everything bright and cheery. The picnic table had now become a catch-all of food, empty soda cans, and Meagan’s trunk. Immediately, I started cleaning it out of habit, while making a mental note to get cups with names on them. About this time, out of nowhere, the wind blew HARD, taking items from the table with it. Then, just

as quickly, it started POURING. We ran for the tents. I looked down at my very recently dried clothes with self-pity, then heard, “I have some clothes in my trunk.” The rain lasted about an hour… enough to flood one tent containing the kid’s clothes and some open bags of chips. The onesies were safe though. Good thing, because the temperature dropped 20 degrees. My husband called, letting me know he took off work and was on his way to camp with us… Him: “Do you need anything?” Me: “Um, kinda. Could you bring a tent?” Him: “You didn’t bring a tent?” Me: “YES I BROUGHT A TENT! Well, technically, no I didn’t, but that’s not the problem! Please just bring a tent!” Day 1 (bedtime): My three kids had a blast and Brian had an uneventful night. They were all sound asleep with sleeping bags and pillows… FOUR of them to be exact.


R R R, AS F ADERS & TION.

I ended up in a hammock. Wearing a tiger onesie. Day 2: APPOINTMENT DAY! After I woke up to hear my son tell me, “You look like Einstein,” I started a list of items we all needed. When I left at noon, I had a list on paper, one on my phone, and a small one in my head. I forgot the one in my head which included a pretty tablecloth and cups with names written on them. I did retrieve the 30 other items though and returned at 7pm. I’m sure it was a great day. Day 2 (bedtime): My oldest was sleeping in the backseat of my truck, my daughter was snuggled next to her Dad in the cozy part of the tent and my other son was freezing. I gave him my super warm sleeping bag and I crawled into his child sized one, now with a broken zipper. Day 3: Everyone is up and about. I’m just waiting to thaw out so I can move. As the other adults discuss sausage and eggs, I’m like, here, I made Pop Tarts, and dropped the unopened box on the table. My son tells me, “You

look like that guy from the movie we watched…” I was really thinking I needed to look in a mirror. This day turned out to be a relaxing day. The weather was beautiful and the kids were happy. Riding bikes, fishing, playing games... it was the same feeling from 30 years ago, with a new generation making the same memories that TJ and I did as kids. That night was a different story, however. A couple of folks nearby decided to partake of some adult beverages and play a game of Who Can Talk the Loudest. We played the same game the night before, so while we tried to sleep, they were determined not to. It was all pretty entertaining until the cold snuck back in. I think it was around midnight that the weather bottomed out around 40 degrees, not freezing but freezing to me. I had convinced my Colorado-born man to share sleeping bags with me, but his snoring and my rolling around kept me awake and chilly. At some point, I realized my daughter was out of her sleeping bag, laying on the

tent floor shivering. She, my two boys and I all ended up in the pickup, took a drive till it was toasty in the cab, then went to sleep. Mr. Colorado slept through it all. It was mostly a tired bunch that returned home the next day. Eventually, I managed to get my hair under a bit more control so that it didn’t remind the kids of Einstein’s iconic do, but I’ll bet the memory is burned into their brains. Hopefully, they’ll also look back and remember the bike rides, catching fish, meeting and making temporary friends with the kids in the campground, spending time with their cousins and neighborhood friends, and of course, how amazingly organized everything was. As I search deeper for that innercamper inside of me, I know exactly where I will find it… Within the blood that runs deep inside me from my grandparents, passed on from generations… Who am I kidding? It’s in Meagan’s trunk.

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Slidell M

81-April

Slidell Magazine was EVERYWHERE this month! Here are just a few of our adventures!

ent atop OOOOPS! Kendra and Mary Clem how to out re figu to ng tryi the SWCC float float out! fix the garage door to get our ) (We had a little float/door collision

WE DID IT! The float was successfully ret rieved, decorated and ridden by the crazy ladies of the SWCC for St. Patrick’s Day

A GREAT CAUSE! POWER COUPLES FOR rity bartenders were eb cel , you Ba , At Bubbly on the Mayor Freddy Drennan n, an ufm l. da l-r: Fire Chief Chris Ka Fan ndy Ra and Police Chief Sheriff Randy Smith l wives od were their beautifu go k loo m the g Makin nia Da d , an l-r: Pam, Glenda, Adele

Slidell Mag’s award-winning photographer and writer, Donna Bush, struts her stuff at Arts Evening

2017

greets Mayor Freddy Drennan g in nin Eve s Art at one and all ne Slidell our beautiful Olde Tow

you to benefit Bubbly on the Ba s an awesome wa re Ca ild Rainbow Ch like board members event thanks to on! wt Ne n ro ar and Sh Ellen Lamarque

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