Ch-ch-ch-changes!

2004 was a pivotal  year for me. My youngest (of five) was turning eight, and the two oldest were out on their own.  With three children left at home and thoughts turning toward what I would do when they were all gone, my focus broadened from entirely on being a keeper at home. That is the year I wrote the book about wetland loss, completed captain’s school, received my U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license, and bought my first tour boat. By the end of that year, I was ready to embark on book readings, wetland presentations, and developing my educational Eco-Wetland tours. With my 13-year-old-special-needs son attending the public middle school, the youngest would be able to accompany me on all my day trips.

So, off we ventured into the bayous, marshes, lakes, and swamps that surrounded our home on lower Bayou Dularge.  The youngest son and I had some great times learning our way around, for back at that time, I had no GPS on my boat.  However, when I saved up enough to add that piece of equipment, it literally set us free from fear of ever getting lost and not finding our way back home. We travelled, we fished, took photographs, charted a tour route, and I bought field guides to teach me all the new plants and birds we would encounter.  It was a great learning experience for both of us.

We were going great guns in 2005, working toward developing just the right length of wetland tour, encompassing as much diversity of wetlands and examples of wetland loss I could show my future customers in a two-hour tour.  And then that fateful September day came when the firetruck idled down the bayou road, a voice squawking over the loudspeaker that a storm was in the Gulf and we must evacuate.  That storm was Hurricane Rita, and in some ways, it would change our lives forever. 

We were displaced to a small apartment in Thibodaux, thankful that the landlord was willing to give us an open-ended lease–just until we could get our home down the bayou repaired and livable.  So much infrastructure in our parish was damaged and the water so high that no one knew how long it would be before we could go back home.  While The Captain was out mastering a grocery vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, Lil Sis and I were trying to clean out the house, sanitize it, and put things back together.  Without electricity in that humid heat, those tasks were beyond challenging.  

It was during that time, I could no longer ignore the Captain’s memory lapses.  One day while removing baseboards from the den and hauling them outside to paint, The Captain asked, “Where are those baseboards?” To which I responded, “You mean the ones we just put outside to paint?”  It was an eye-opening moment, and I made him an appointment with his primary physician.  His doctor put him through some pretty easy memory quizzes, the results of which prompted him to send The Captain to a neuro-psychologist for further testing.  They gave him every kind of blood test, chemical test, and scan searching for any possible cause of short-term memory loss.  The results of all those tests were not what we wanted to hear–early onset Alzheimer’s.  He was 56 years old and began taking medication immediately, which helped.

After six weeks of being displaced, we were finally able to move back home; but things just weren’t the same.  The lack of flooring and the ever-present hint of the smell of mold and mildew were daily reminders that our lives had been altered.  We were happy to have a home at all, to be quite honest with you, and we kept our humble home clean and tidy and made the best of the situation that we could in spite of the odor.  Meanwhile, The Captain was still able to function at work, keeping his promise to the doctor that if at anytime he ever felt lost or confused, he would quit his job.  He was able to function well at his job for four more years.

During that time, I realized that Providence had planted those desires in me in 2004 to expand my focus to ways that I could contribute to the family income.  So I continued in my traveling wetland presentations and book readings, and started a business to officially offer wetland tours.  Getting the word out would take a while, even via the internet, but I plugged on believing I would be successful, making the best of making a living right here where I lived, not willing to give up my dreams to a day job in town. 

Then in 2007, Lil Sis convinced me to start this blog as Bayou Woman, because by that time, I had made my place in the world as a wetland educator, fisher woman, bayou blogger, and was living the bayou life, through and through.  This blog has never been monetized, and has been a labor of love, from which I’ve never earned a penny; but it has been a great source of pleasure for me and an outlet for sharing my thoughts, bayou life, and my photographs. 

Additionally, although the book sales were very good, people in the book business want to see a new book every year or at least every other year.  That is a pace I could not keep up with, given all my other responsibilities.  In 2008 I purchased a little old house for a great price with the idea to rent it out as a nightly fishing camp.  No sooner had I finished the renovations, than Hurricane Ike came along in the fall of 2008, flooding all my handiwork at the “camp” and our home.

By the time we were able to get back home again from that flood, fixed the camp again, elevated and started renting it, things were going along well with the rentals for the first four months when the dreaded affliction forced The Captain out of his profession; the summer of 2009.  He was angry for the next year while trying to find employment at some kind of job on land. Rejection after rejection caused him great mental anxiety, and I found myself wondering how in the world I would make ends meet.  One month after he lost his job, I enrolled my youngest free spirit, my deckhand and fishing buddy, into the public school system because I didn’t know how The Captain’s being home 24/7 without a job would impact the family dynamics  Plus, his home education might suffer because I would have to do more to support the family.

I started taking little part-time jobs and writing freelance for magazines and websites.  The pay wasn’t all that great, and I was always having to weigh whether working away from home for a guaranteed little paycheck was worth abandoning my business of wetland tours, fishing charters for women, renting the camp, my hopes and dreams.  How in the world could I balance it all, while watching my husband sink deeper and deeper into the depression that resulted from not being able to get a job and feeling worthless?

Staying busy was the only thing I knew to do, having grown up with a work ethic that you did what you had to do to get by.  So, it seemed I did just about anything and everything I could to help out without taking a full-time job in town.  Looking back, although things were tight, I made the right choice, because my spirit was all I had left, and doing so would have killed my spirit for sure, leaving me no hope at all.  

We all know the day is coming when The Captain will require more care than I alone can give him at home.  We also know the day is coming, unless God says otherwise, that he may be in a care facility, which will require all his social security income.  That day is also the day that I must be completely able to financially provide for my son with Down’s Syndrome and myself.  

In 2011 I added a part-time outdoor radio show co-host of “Hunt Fish Talk” to my list of odd jobs.  The show has done so well that I have been asked to do the show once a week next year rather than once a month.  The only catch is I have to find 3 major sponsors within the next month, for that is how I will get paid. Granted, it will be a dependable source of income, and I see it as God’s provision for us.  So far, I have locked down one of the three needed sponsors.  

me-forumIn June of 2012, I launched my first Bayou Woman Adventure, wherein I could use all my resources to entrench small groups of weekend over several days in bayou life.  We had a great time, and I really hoped those would take off and become my main source of income. Such was not the case, sadly.

In January of 2013 I started a part-time job as Executive Director for Keep Terrebonne Beautiful. That brings me to my confession:  I have no health insurance; haven’t had since the end of The Captain’s career in 2009.  Yes, it’s been a worry, but I just don’t earn enough money to pay the outrageous premiums for a self-employed person. However, another opportunity presented itself to me about six months ago–running for School Board in my district. With the position comes a monthly stipend, and combined with the radio show, Exec. Dir. job, and my businesses, I can finally stop worrying about having to take a regular day job in town, (which would require a sitter for The Captain, by the way, and very counter productive financially).  But the real clincher and icing on the cake is that group health insurance comes along with the School Board position.

It was a no-brainer, although I did think it through.  I qualified to run for the school board seat in September and have been working on the campaign ever since.  Between writing articles, taking care of The Captain, the camp, running the occasional wetland tour, and running a campaign, I have not had time to be out on the water recreating, taking photos, and writing appealing stories for you, my dear reader friends.  And now you know why.  

The election is November 4th, and it can’t come soon enough for me.  I do believe that if this is God’s provision for me, that I will win, and I can stop worrying about how I will make ends meet.   The position requires two nightly meetings a month, and I can get back to doing more tours and charters and blog writing–the things I love most.

While most of my friends are retiring, I am embarking on two new career opportunities.  I’m looking forward to doing the radio show weekly; and I ask for your prayers for those last two sponsors to come on board.  I also ask for your prayers as I walk down this path of running for office.  I definitely need all the support I can get, and I’m grateful for the supportive friendships formed here.

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve been able to put together a great story for y’all, and I look forward to reading your comments in my spare time—your reactions–your advice–your thoughts.  

miah-signsSo, does anyone believe in lucky numbers?  Because I am . . . .

 

#77 on the ballot for District 7 School Board seat!

BW

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Comments

Ch-ch-ch-changes! — 22 Comments

  1. Whoa…. That’s quite a lot to be carrying on your shoulders for the past few years.

    I understand why you’ve kept all of this quiet for as long as you have. They are very private and personal things and not to be bandied about to just anyone and everyone. The time has to be right to go public. If at all. Each person is different that way.

    I’m rooting for your success with the weekly show and with the school board election.

    You have always struck me as a very determined and strong woman. Though there’s a rough road ahead of you, with God’s grace and the help of family and friends, I’m sure you’ll get through the coming challenges.

    • Gue`, well, I’ve not known for a long time if there ever was a right time to share some of these things. But I’ve spent so many hours/years sharing our lives on the bayou with my readers that I felt it was only right to finally let y’all in on why I’m not consistently able to write interesting post, as in weekly. Truth is, some days I’m so busy wearing so many hats that by the time the sun goes down, all I can do is get ready for the sack, and can’t even think about sitting at my desk putting together cohesive thoughts! This blog is probably the one most important and fulfilling thing I’ve done for the past seven years of my life; and while my desire to continue to do so hasn’t changed, circumstances that dictate how my time is spent have changed. If elected, I will have to let something go, but if I’m able to lock down two more sponsors for the weekly radio show, I can stop worrying about income and direct more of my thoughts and time to writing and photography about life in the La. wetlands, which truly is my passion. Thank you for sticking by me and being one of my cyber supporters and friends. Occasionally, a reader will write me privately asking for prayers for themselves or family members, so I thought it only right to go ahead and let y’all know what’s really going on and ask for your prayers and support, for which I am very grateful!

  2. As the son of a board member, school boards and elevator boards, I can tell you’ll do fine. My Dad was president of the high school and the grade school boards (friends, this here is Illinois we got more political districts than most of rest of US combined.) We had a crate of school code books right below the wall phone right by the front door.
    Dad almost graduated from 6th grade so if you had a complaint you better have read the code book or it would be given to you as the door closed.

    You got my support and prayers. You are a remarkable person in an amazing place. I’ll continue pulling for your family as my decline seems to increase and I struggle to keep up with the mess that is my life.

    Not that I am totally familiar with names down that way but seems to me Billiot there would be as good a ballet name as an Irish name in Chicago politics.

    You go , girl.

    • You may be right about one thing, Blu–Billiot is a great name on a ballot down the bayou! I might be saying way too much here since anyone can read our comments, but I look at like this: Folks walk into the voting booth and see two names. If they’re satisfied and want more of the same, they can flip the switch for the incumbent. If they want something different, they can take a chance on me. It’s pretty simple, right? Your vote of confidence means a lot to me, because I know you are a very well read man. You must eat right and rest well so that your body can fight this thing. Everyone here who has followed your comments through the years has a vested concern in your well being, and when they say they are interceding on your behalf, they truly mean it. So you hang tough and ask for that help when you need it. And thanks for being such a faithful follower all these years!

  3. My prayers are with you too. I would vote for you if I could. I have always believed God will not place more on your shoulders than he knows you can bear and with all you are doing and have been through, it shows me he believes you are one strong lady.

    You need a sponsor such as Bass Pro. The show you will be doing is right up their alley! God speed.

    • Bass Pro would be a great sponsor, but I’ve learned that the larger the conglomerate, the harder is to get their ear. I’ve been working on Rouse’s grocery store giant, but I just can’t get a sit down with those folks. Seems in this electronic age when contact is so easy and information abundant, it is more difficult to get someone’s attention, to get them to read and acknowledge email. and phone calls? Voice mail seems to be what I get most and never a return phone call. I guess it’s come down to cold calls . . . knocking on the door and hoping I can get a receptive audience. Thanks for the prayers and encouragement, Cammy!

  4. My friend, I have no doubt the school would benefit from your tenacity, intelligence and loving soul. It is my prayer that this door be opened for you.

  5. You know you’d have my vote if it were possible. I think you’ll make a wonderful school board member. I just hope the voters in your parish can see what a hard working person you’ll be for their children.
    Good luck!

    • I just remembered…my friend’s (you met her at my home) daughter lives in Bourg. Terrebonne Parish, but is it in your district? Even if it’s not, I’ll make sure her mom lets her know you’re running.

      • No, Bourg is not in my district, and she will have three choices from which to pick. She can contact me if she would like, and I’ll tell her where I stand on important issues facing the school board right now. Thanks for letting the mom know about my campaign!

  6. Dear Readers, did you stumble upon this post or did you get your usual email notification? Seems we still may have a little glitch in the notification system. let me know, please, so we can sort this out!

    • Stumbled. I check several times a day to see if someone has made a reply. I think I used to get emails about replies as well as new post from you, but I haven’t gotten them in a very long time.

      • Perhaps a redundant question, but have ye added yer email to the list (using the subscription form on the right column)? Ye might try doing that and see if it tells ye yer already subscribed.

      • When you weren’t such a Big Shot (7 yrs ago), you used to post almost everyday. LOL! I really miss those “everyday” post about the family, the pets, cooking, fishing, hunting etc. AND… we can’t forget Bayou Fabio.

        • HEY, that wasn’t a very nice thing to say! Just for that, a new post on Sunday!
          Maybe it’s because I have to work so much I don’t get to cook, fish, hunt, visit with Fabio, etc like I used to. Big shot my hind foot, LOL!!! If I was truly a big shot, I wouldn’t have to work, and all I would have to do is have pets, fish, hunt, take photos and blog about it with y’all!!!!

          • LOL!!!!!!!!!!!! Unless that post comes early, I won’t see it till Mon. night. Going to Ms after church and I generally don’t have time to get on the computer before we head out.
            BTW, what was the raccoon’s name?

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