Sunday, January 31, 2016

Joseph Welsh Texada's Life Mattered Too

My ancestors on my mother’s side were originally from Castile, Spain; they settled in Natchez, Mississippi and then moved to Rapides Parish in central Louisiana where they were landowners and planters. One of those men was Joseph Welsh Texada who was a captain in the 8th Louisiana Cavalry and fought at Shiloh with the Crescent Regiment.

I have heard the stories of my ancestral family for years from my mother, especially, who was always very proud of her Southern heritage and of her family’s distinguished background. At Shiloh alone 23,000 lives were lost.

 My ancestor survived and he went on to serve as a state representative and on his local Police Jury. His life mattered.

 The nationwide move to remove all Confederate symbols, monuments, history is simply appalling to me. Joseph Welsh Texada's life mattered and so did the lives of the 23,000 lost at Shiloh and the thousands at other battles.

 In New Orleans, Governor Mitch Landrieu has won yet another battle to remove four iconic Confederate monuments in the city. Wednesday, January 27, an Orleans parish judge denied a request to halt removal of the monuments and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the decision the next day. And so the battle now moves to the Louisiana Supreme Court in what will be the last chance. Until all appeals are exhausted, a group supporting monument preservation is continuing to collect signatures on a petition which currently has over 28,000 signatures. The large majority of NOLA residents is strongly against the removal.

 New Orleans is, of course, not alone in this fight. All across the nation history is being erased. There’s even been a move to remove the stained glass windows commemorating Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee from the National Cathedral in Washington. It's also happening in Birmingham, and Atlanta. The University of Texas removed their statue of Jefferson Davis last year.

 Many on the side of removal have suggested that these statues and monuments be placed in a sort of interactive historic park where people can still see them and learn about the history. This guy, for example, suggest that these "objects of hate" be put into a park similar to Memento Park in Budapest where images of Stalin, Lenin, and Guevara can be seen "in their proper context." My concern with that is who decides what the proper context is?

I object to Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis being classified as an "object of hate" and in the same class as Lenin and Stalin. Quite a difference, I think. If that's the way these people view the Confederate generals, I have concerns about them writing "the proper context" for this suggested park.

 Again I ask, where in the world does this stop? Thomas Jefferson had slaves: shall we tear down Monticello? What of all the grand southern plantations still standing along the Mississippi River and throughout the South? Shall we raze those and put up condominiums in their place? Maybe we better stop the annual pilgrimage in Natchez.

 It all just defies logic.

 It makes me sad.

 It makes me want to fight harder to preserve my own heritage.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Braveheart Trial: One Year Later

It's been one year since "The Braveheart Trial." Jury selection began January 27, 2015.

I'm reposting my "Snapshots" from the trial for the occasion and to reflect on the progress we have made in a year.

I'll say this: that trial, and the experience of sitting through it, made a huge impression on me and one that has stayed with me almost daily ever since. The raw emotion on all sides was simply incredible. Even more important, I think, is that so many people in the area and across the country followed Braveheart's story and the awareness this dog has brought to the issue of animal abuse is unfathomable.

In the past year we have made a little progress in the animal rescue community; rescue groups such as LA Baby Mommas and many others are working tirelessly and have saved countless lives. The focus must also be a proactive one, however and the message to spay and neuter your pets doesn't seem to get through. You simply can't change the minds of adults set in their ways. I witnessed an adult adopting a puppy a few weeks ago and he didn't want to take advantage of the neuter voucher that came with the dog; the man insisted that it would not be necessary. He very nearly lost the adoption right then and there, had it not been for his wife's assurance that the animal would be neutered.

The key will be in educating the young, I believe. There has been change at the Caddo Animal shelter which hopefully will lead to good things there and to more animals being rescued. The euthanasia rate there is ridiculously high, but now that more animals are being approved for rescue, that should come down.

One program that is making a difference is PEP, or the Pet Education Project. This group goes into schools and teaches about responsible pet ownership: food, water, shelter, care and love. They've reached almost 60,000 kids in the area which is pretty awesome.

Another huge plus is the growth this year of Nova's Heart, an organization that helps the homeless care for, and keep, their pets.  Now associated with Hope Connections in Shreveport, Nova's Heart is very near being able to care for every homeless person's pet in the city; they provide leashes, food, blankets, and other items for the animals.

There is progress.

I hope that you'll read through this once again and relive the tensions, the compassion, the humor, and the love that we all felt as we all fought for Justice for Braveheart.

Today, Braveheart continues his mission as cheerful ambassador and educator in responsible pet ownership.  His Facebook page is filled with "Pittie smiles" and his expressions reveal the love he has come to know and gives in return.

He truly is a miracle dog and is truly a brave heart.

January 29, 2015:

"It's just a dog."


"Redirected aggression."  This is the defense attorney's explanation for why Gabriel Lee was on trial.  As I understood her explanation, he was a victim of "redirected aggression" which is primarily a feline condition and occurs when a cat sees something outside its reach that causes aggression; unable to reach the original stimulus, the cat will lash out at whatever it can reach.

Apparently, according to the public defender, "all these people" are lashing out at Gabriel Lee after seeing something so horrible (a clinically emaciated puppy near death) that they must have a victim for their aggression.

Ergo, Gabriel Lee is the victim here.



Jury selection.  I'm watching the potential jurors as the public defender questions, grills, explains points of law, prods.  (I was not there for the DA voir dire).  Some are very interested; some look nervous, some anxious, and once the bailiff had to wake one of them up.  They are a true mix of our society.  It looks like the system is working...

The public defender is a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner. I bet she gets that a lot.

Is it intentional that voir dire is so repetitive?  That the attorneys repeat the same thing over and over?  The power of suggestion, perhaps?  Do they teach you to talk down to jurors in law school?  To be patronizing?  I honestly don't know -- I do understand that as an attorney dealing with jury selection you are dealing with all levels of intellect and it's important to gather as much information about your jury pool as you can.

Both sides scribble notes.  Sitting behind the public defender, I could see her legal pad (I couldn't read it!) where she had divided the yellow sheet into boxes - one for each potential juror.  I suppose the name of each one was in each box and copious other notes that I could glimpse.  Both sides wrote constantly.  Notes, notes, notes.


The judge was a large, serious man with a wonderfully expressive face which he kept in "poker face"
Ronda Spataro, left, with Brave hours after he was found, and Brave, right, now.
mode most of the time.  An occasional smile to the bailiff who brought his (coffee?  tea?) to the bench.  A directing glimpse from judge to bailiff, to a nodding potential juror...the bailiff draws water from the cooler and takes it to the juror who lifts head in another attempt at attention.

The judge had a wonderfully resonant voice and as boring as jury directions were when it came time to charge the jury, I listened.

He must have read those directions to hundreds of juries yet he still read with expression.


After voir dire, day two.  Sitting on the patio at Nicky's unwinding and looking back on the day with the Braveheart crew.  The courtroom had been freezing, absolutely freezing, all day.  The sun on the patio felt good.

The table is filled with chips, salsa, white zinfandel, Dos Equis, tea, ashtrays.

"What is that you're drinking?" Bo asked me.

"Dos Equis.  Here, taste it."

"I think I will!" and takes a sip.  "Hey, I think I'll have one of those!"

Ronda drapes her arm out of the wrought iron patio screen to keep smoke away from everyone; she wraps her arms around the rungs and takes a drag.  Spirits are pretty high and everyone feels good about the way things are going.

"This is the first time I've relaxed since Friday, since the phone calls started," Bo said.

Six jurors and one alternate have been picked.  Five females and one man.  Various ages and race make-up.  We are happy with the jury.  We think they were all pet owners which looks to be an encouraging sign.  We don't talk about the jury much; we talk about Doris's parakeets, the cleft palate puppy Ronda and Bo are fostering, about other ongoing animal cruelty cases everyone is following.

Ronda snags our server and they get into a Spanish lesson about how to say "heart worms" in Spanish.  "There is no word for 'heart worms' in Spanish," Ronda explains.  They eventually figure out something that will suffice.

We sit for several hours on the patio, late lunch, a few drinks, a little down time.

It is nice.


You cannot wear your glasses perched atop your head in the courtroom.

It is a rule.

Not even reading glasses.


Before the courtroom is opened each morning, it is inspected and cleared.  Everyone waits in a sort of holding cave in the basement of the courthouse.  There is no cell service in there.  Zilch.  Zero.

Obviously there is no cell phone use in the courtroom.

On the first day of the actual trial there were two girls sitting in observation.  One was from New Zealand and another from California.

"This is like going to the movies for us," one explained.  "We like to go to trials.  We have no idea what this one is about!"

Bo had turned to talk to them and find out who they were.  If it's someone who follows the Braveheart page or someone from a rescue group, he likes to acknowledge them and thank them for coming.

He gave them a very brief summary of the case and showed them a quick picture of Braveheart on his phone.  They were very relieved to know the story had a happy ending.

The girls were looking at pictures on their phones before court started.  The bailiff approached:

"You aren't taking pictures, are you?"

"Oh no sir!  I was just showing her a picture."

The bailiff smiled and moved on.


Court is a whole lot of hurry up and wait.

Court "begins" at 9:30.  Which means 9:45 or 10.  Except there are always procedural matters and so court begins with a sidebar conference.  Then another recess for fifteen minutes.

Everyone rushes outside to smoke.  We've learned that the handicap entrance/exit is the quickest way - no stairs to fool with.  We still have to go through the metal detector and take off belts when we come back in.

"Give me your lighter."

"Where are your cigarettes."

"How long is the break?"

"I'm freezing in there."

Because Ronda was on the list to testify, we couldn't talk to her until after her testimony.  She stood off by herself to smoke.

I forgot and thought she was maybe upset so I took a couple of paces over,

"You okay?"

She nodded yes.

Jean:  "HEY!  Get back over here!  She can't talk to us!"


Ronda stubbed out her cigarette and we went back inside.


Opening statements.  The ADA is tall, lithe, graceful.  She looks a little like Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.  She strides in her slim gray suit to the podium, makes eye contact with the jurors who look at her expectantly, and she smiles at them.  She holds their eyes a moment.  It's a warm, sincere smile and she has them.  She begins her statements which quickly became discordant and hard to follow with the multitude of defense objections.

Is the jury getting frustrated, too?  I wonder.

The ADA speaks very quietly, evenly and keeps going as the judge overrules one objection after
Caddo Parish Courthouse

She speaks maybe ten, fifteen minutes, and wraps up; her co-counsel whispers something to her and the ADA returns to the podium to point out to the jury some things she wants them to pay special attention to during testimony.  One of these things brings a quick objection from the defense which prompts a lengthy sidebar conference.

Another delay.

The jury is ready to get going, to hear the evidence.  This is frustrating.


Opening statements. The defense begins her opening statements.  She speaks with ease and with confidence; she's doing her job, but she sounds patronizing to me.  That's just me.  The jury is listening to her closely.

She has PowerPoint slides which she puts up to keep the jurors on track.

"Why Are We Here?"

Another one has the text of the statute the defendant has been charged against.  She explains very methodically what the charges are and spends a great deal of time telling them what the judge will say to them later.  She becomes repetitive and some jurors gaze off.  Looking around the courtroom.  Looking at the spectators.

Her co-counsel and the ADA scribble notes incessantly.

There is much strategy to all this!


The defendant is sitting in front of me at the table with his attorneys.  I can only see the back of him
Gabriel Lee: Braveheart's abuser
except for when he enters and leaves the courtroom.

He spends the entire trial in a black leather jacket with orange strips somewhere on the shoulders or arms (I can't see them), white dress shirt, and slacks.  All of his clothes, including the jacket, look much too large for him.

He listens attentively to the testimony and his attorneys who both whisper to him frequently.  He sometimes slumps down in his chair, his hands clasped in front of him.  Sometimes he sits up and snatches a tissue from the box in front of him and blows his nose.

During closing arguments, he shakes his head repeatedly as the ADA lists the numerous things he omitted doing for Braveheart, like calling a vet.  At one point he let out an exhortation of frustrated air:  "Pffffffffttt!"


During the defense presentation, the attorney called up at least three, maybe four, close family members to testify that the defendant is a great guy and "he loves dogs!  Very caring!"

"Yes, I would leave my dogs with him!"

I thought, "Well, of course they're going to say that!  It's his close family and his girlfriend of ten years for crying out loud!  Is this supposed to be persuasive?"


"Redirected Aggression"??


KSLA posted a news story after day one in which they referenced the wrong Braveheart page.  They referred readers to "Justice for Braveheart," a dog in another state.

How hard is that to check?


Subway for lunch on Day One.  The line is ridiculous, but it's walking distance from the courthouse, and it smelled really good.

Jean marshalls some tables together outside and homesteads them while we all stand in this line.  Mamma Patt and I eventually reach what we think is the front of the line and move to the counter only to be rebuked by the "sandwich artist" to move back in line until called.

My bad.

We eat quickly.  There is much sharing of cookies and talk turns to the opening statements.  You're dying to know what everyone else thinks, but Ronda is sitting there and she's not yet been recused from the witness sequestration order so she gets nervous about the trial talk and moves away.

It has come much too far for this all to be called a mistrial on some technicality.

She moves to the curb to smoke.


All the Braveheart crew carry tiny bottles of hand sanitizer with them that have purple, green, and yellow painted on the outside of them.  They are part of a fabulous fundraiser one of their young volunteers has created.  Bo told me that she has raised huge sums of money for animal rescue organizations.

After every smoke break or recess, out comes the hand sanitizer bottles and everyone slathers it on.  That's not a bad thing.

Youth can be so inspirational!


On day one of testimony there were plenty of seats in the courtroom.  People came and went through the day and the deputies kept the back couple of rows "reserved."

Because of the high emotional impact of this trial there was a very clear law enforcement presence in the courtroom most of the time.

But when the verdict was read?  There were at least 24 armed deputies in the courtroom.  There was one on each end of each row, lining the walls, several in front, one or two at the door, the usual ones behind the bar, and I'm sure quite a few outside.

It was like the OJ verdict was coming down.


One of the first witnesses was the vet tech who found Braveheart in the locker.  She and her husband owned the storage facility / buildings where Gabriel Lee had rented a slot to refinish cars.  The building he rented apparently had a concrete floor and a garage bay door at each end; you could drive right through it.  Testimony indicated that there was grease of some sort and a fine sanded dust all over the floor.

She testified that she and her husband told Mr. Lee not to come back on the property because he had not paid his rent; that was 9/10.  On September 11, 2013, the witness and her husband went to the locker to change the lock and found a light on and a radio playing.  Because no renter was paying rent anymore to cover these utilities, they went in to turn them off and that's when her husband found the dog.

You know the story.

They thought he was dead.

They were going to bury the dog "on the property" and she had a shovel to pick him up; that's when he blinked.  He was not dead.

Her first thought was to take him to the emergency vet clinic.

Wouldn't yours have been the same?


The defense made much ado about whether the facility was a garage, a storage building, a locker, blah, blah, blah.

I get her point - her point was it wasn't Storage Wars.  It was a "place of business," she said, where people came and went each day to work.

What difference does it make?

Did you see the picture of the dog?


"Redirected aggression."



Ronda Spataro was nervous about testifying.  She had come so far to get to this point.

This I noticed about Ronda:  she has the capacity to sit very, very still.

Those benches are hard.  As Doris said, "It's like sitting in a Baptist church all day!"

The first day I sat next to Ronda and I fidgited; crossed one leg and then the other.  Shifted my weight.  Sat on my hands.  Leaned forward.  Rocked my head from side to side to crack the stiffness out of my neck.  Looked around ... the jurors....the judge...the bailiff.....the attorneys.....what time is it?

Ronda sat motionless.  Her expression set ("poker face"), staring straight ahead, hands folded in her lap, leg crossed.  Never moved.  Sometimes she would pull the arms of her sweater down and fold the sleeves around her arms and resume position.

How can anyone be that still for that long?



When Ronda finally was able to testify, near the end of Day One, she brought tears to my eyes.

The ADA:  "We've spent all day talking about the puppy Braveheart.  Do you know Braveheart?"

Ronda:  "I DO know Braveheart!"  and she smiled.  It was pure love.

It doesn't sound like much, but there was absolutely NOTHING in that room at that moment except her love for Braveheart.

It was everything.

The jury was riveted.


Loraine does most of the posting to the Braveheart Facebook page and on breaks would try to mange texts and put up a quick post about the proceedings.

Loraine has the sweetest face and smile; she's the most positive person I've ever met.  She radiates peace.

Obviously the Braveheart t-shirts were taboo, but did you know that orange is the symbol color against animal abuse?

Loraine and I both showed up in orange on Tuesday.

She carries a prayer rock in her purse.  As we went through these metal detectors and purse scanners multiple times each day, once she pulled this rock out of her purse and showed it to me.  It was a gift someone had given her.  It's a palm sized dark grey smooth rock with silver painting on it.

On the first day of testimony the media was there at the lunch break.  It was KSLA who had erroneously directed folks to the wrong Braveheart page (they corrected that later).

Loraine spoke to them for the group; she's always so eloquent and kind.

Bo:  "Loraine, when have you ever not known exactly what to say?"

She cuts her green eyes at him, smirks, throws a sassy comment his way and then writes pure eloquence on the Facebook page.


Loraine works with Nova's Heart - an organization that helps feed and care for the pets of the homeless in the area.

Walking to lunch one day, Bo spots a familiar face: a homeless guy with his dog.  Bo shouts and waves at him from across the street.

After lunch we see the guy and his dog in front of the courthouse and we stop to visit.  Loraine recognizes a woman with him and her dog.

These people: Bo, Ronda, Loraine, Jean, all of them, do so much good, so much work for both people and animals that it simply defies logic when people on social media decry all the fuss about "just a dog."

They have no idea the depths to which these people reach to help others.

When the verdict came in, this guy had someone watch his dog for him so he could come in and hear his friend Bo's verdict.


Doris on verdict day: She drove from MS to support Braveheart
Ms. Doris came from Mississippi to see this trial.  She is involved in animal rescue and has been for her entire life.  She's a fireball!

Ms. Doris was staying in a hotel in downtown Shreveport which caught on fire thus ruining her clothes for then they smelled like smoke.  She woke up to what she thought was an alarm, then looked out her peephole, didn't see anyone about, opened her door, and saw smoke.

Me:  "Oh my gosh!  Did they evacuate y'all?!"

Doris:  "Well!  I evacuated myself!"

She gathered a terrified young boy and his mother and out they went.

After sitting in the courtroom all day then she went back to the hotel to wash her smoky wardrobe and try to recover her items from her now sealed hotel room.


Closing arguments.

The ADA again strides up to her podium.  Elegant.  Cool.  Her confidence level has improved and her body language indicates a certain degree of confidence.  She has been chatting and smiling more with her co-counsel and seems more relaxed.

Her closing argument was made for television.

As she went over the possible verdicts the jury could consider, she reminded them that the defendant was charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal.  A lesser charge they could find is "simple cruelty to an animal."

She held up the now famous picture of Braveheart curled up, waiting for death, in the storage locker.

"There is nothing simple about this," she said.

She listed like bullets a lengthy list of things the defendant "omitted" to do.

"OMISSION:  He omitted requesting veterinary assistance" from the vet tech from whom he rented the locker and who had previously offered to give him medicine for the puppy's obvious worms.

"OMISSION," she said again:  he didn't tell anyone there was a dog in the locker when they told him not to come back on the property.

"OMISSION!"  she said:  he didn't give the dog proper food or water - he was clinically emaciated and dehydrated.

She went through at least ten of these...


It was a made for TV delivery.


The law for aggravated animal cruelty in the State of Louisiana:
Any person who intentionally or with criminal negligence mistreats any living animal whether belonging to himself or another by any act or omission which causes or permits unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain, suffering, or death to the animal shall also be guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals.


"Redirected aggression"  



"There is NOTHING simple about this."


"OMISSION":  he FAILED this dog in every sense of the word.


The public defender's closing arguments were basically that the defendant found the dog three days before he was found, he only checked the box that said he was the legal and rightful owner, or had custodial discretion, on the animal control release because he wanted to take care of the dog and he knew it would have a better life!  

He was giving it Gatorade!  To replace electrolytes!

He was giving it "proper" amounts of food!

She referred back to the emergency vet who said it was "very surprising" that Braveheart showed an interest in food at all in those early hours.

It was all because the defendant "gave her a head start!" with his care!

This poor fellow, this victim of "redirected aggression," saved the dog's life!

He's a hero!


He did not tell the owner of that storage facility that he had a dog locked and chained inside.


I'll be honest.  I was incredulous at the defense closing arguments.  



The jury is charged, the judge reads pages of jury directions, and trial is in recess until verdict.  The Braveheart crew is exhilarated.  The prosecuting attorney are beaming.  Not celebrating, but confident.  

The back row is filled with deputies and the row before them filled with media.  As we leave the courtroom the media linger in the hallway afraid to venture too far.

Bo Spataro, always, always pleasant and polite, offers to call them when he gets word about a verdict so they, too, can go eat lunch.

We all file out the side exit, through the garage, and the smokers fire up.

We will have lunch at a place right next door to the courthouse on Texas Street, on the corner.  It's close.  

There are about eight of us; we sit down in the nearly empty restaurant, order drinks, peruse the menu, place orders.  

We see our courtroom bailiffs picking up lunches for the jurors.  Our lunch is delayed until the juror orders go out, which is fine.  We want them happy!

As soon as our food starts coming out Bo's phone rings.  

"They have a verdict," he says.  

The waiter, about to place a platter of red beans & rice in front of me pauses:

"You want us to just hold this for you?"  he asks as Bo says "We need checks."

All bundles of butterflies and wondering what this quick verdict means, we dash out.  They promise to hold our food.

Now that's service!

We rush to the side entrance of the courthouse and get through the metal detectors and scanners as quickly as possible.  

Nobody has eaten.  Nobody could eat, now.  

Walking briskly down the hall to the courtroom, Loraine stops:  takes deep breaths, and her green eyes look a little alarmed.  

"Are you okay?"  someone asks.

Her eyes fill with tears.  

"Yes."  she says.  

It's fine - everyone has been saying.  Braveheart is already a winner.

But there must be justice, right?

Deputies everywhere.

The tension is incredible.

Doris:  "I've never seen such a police presence in my life!"  This from a woman who attended the Casey Anthony trial.

"What do they think we're going to do?!" she said.


The attorneys and defendant are all in place.  People are rushing in.  Bo kept his promise and let the media know the verdict was in.  They are here.

Finally, the judge enters.  

The jury files in.  I think about Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird, who said that a jury never looks at the defendant if they've convicted him.  

Jean is on one side of Ronda and Bo on the other.  All three have hands clenched in Ronda's lap.

The foreman passes in the verdict.  

The judge looks, scowls, motions them back to the jury room.  

Some technicality.

We stand and sit every time they enter.

The come back in within a few moments, we stand again.

The bailiff reads the verdict.

Guilty of Simple Cruelty to Animals.

Simple Cruelty.


"There is nothing simple about this!"


"Redirected aggression!"


Whispers ripple throughout - 


"It's simple, isn't it?  Is that what they said?"

"Simple cruelty!"


The defendant is handcuffed; it's still a conviction although a misdemeanor and not a felony, now.  Handcuffed and taken away.


There is relief that it's not a "Not Guilty" verdict but much frustration that it's not "Aggravated."  The difference in the language is so close - whether the abuse was intentional or not.  

I suppose the jurors believed the defense's theory that the defendant was trying to help the dog by bringing him into the "shade, out of the elements."  


Media everywhere.  They all want to hear from Bo and Ronda.  

Both need a moment to gather thoughts.  

The media complies.

In a few minutes, Bo and Ronda give a statement to the media in front of the courthouse; the frustration is obvious.

"What do you want to say to Mr. Lee?"

"I don't think we have anything to say to Mr. Lee at this point."

How do you feel about the verdict?

It's not what we wanted, but we will live with it.


It's not what we wanted, but we will live with it.


"Redirected aggression."


Obviously, Braveheart is a winner.  And the Spataros are winners because at the end of the day they get to go home to a beautiful Braveheart.  They are winners because they are good, kind, caring people who are doing good in their community and who have a loving network of friends and family.  
Whatever the verdict was today, they are all winners and there is nothing but positive, good things ahead of them. 

And many more dogs to save!

Go, Brave, go!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stitch Fix Review: My First Fix is Fabulous!

It's like Christmas!
It's here!

My first "Fix" from the online styling service, Stitch Fix!

I love everything in it.  At the bottom of this post is My Basic Blurb about how Stitch Fix words and here is the post I did with some reviews of the company.

So this Fix was filled with some really basic things that I wanted and had pinned to my Pinterest board and reflects exactly what I wrote in my note to my stylist when I scheduled the order.

First and foremost, I got the Kut From The Kloth bootcut jeans which fit better than any jeans I've ever owned.  They are exactly perfect in length and waist.  They are perfection and very, very comfortable.  Total love.  I will live in these jeans.  Forever.

Next was this black, jersey Dolman top - absolutely perfect.  I love the length and it is as soft as it can be.  I had requested a black top and the stylist delivered.

41Hawthorn Queensland Dolman

I love the fit!

Next out of the box was this gorgeous dark green tab-sleeve blouse.  I indicated on my profile that green is a favorite color and a fondness for jewel tones and again, the stylist listened.  This is a medium and is a little snug, so I'm swapping it out for a large; I have broad shoulders. It's polyester and the color is perfect for me. This photo washes it out a little, but it's a lovely, rich dark green.

41Hawthorn Colibri Solid Tab Sleeve Blouse

I also got this beautiful checkered infinity scarf which is great because I needed one.  The colors are a beautiful orange, cream, and gray; it's not too bulky when you put it on, and it's absolutely the softest material ever.  I can wear this with a lot of things I already have as well as with the black top I received today, or even the green one.

Octavia Tina Checkered Infinity Scarf

Finally, this fab grey cardigan - they call it Gino Mixed Material Cardigan, and it's perfect for me.  The color will go with almost anything I have and it's light enough to wear well into spring. I love the drape front and the sleeves are plenty long without being too long on me.  If it looks bulky in this picture, it's not; it's lightweight and very nice.

Skies are Blue Gino Mixed Material Cardigan
I'm not into selfies but here is the cardigan on:

Everything I received in this fix (except for probably the scarf!) is hand wash, hang dry, which is great.

Stitch Fix also includes a styling card for each piece and a note from your stylist with suggestions.

The best part -- since I love all five items, I'll get a 25% discount on the entire order!

So, I know some of my Facebook friends are thinking about trying it and my recommendation is to go for it.  I'm totally ready to schedule another Fix!  From here, I'll update my Stitch Fix Pinterest board; when I schedule my next box there is a place for me to leave a note for my stylist about what I'd like to get. For example, if I want another pair of jeans but in a different wash, or some trousers for work, or just all tops, they'll do that.

When I originally signed up, I signed up for a once a month box, but I may change that and request another one in a couple of weeks and then settle into a once a month thing. If you don't want to make that kind of commitment, you can absolutely schedule just one box at a time.

At any rate, I'm quite pleased with the things I got and the quality is better than I was actually expecting. I'm already looking forward to Box #2!

Go to the Stitch Fix site and fill out a personal profile.  You can schedule a "Fix" at any time or set up a recurring date if you wish. You pay a $20 "styling fee" for each box which applies to your purchase should you keep anything in the box. If you buy all five items in the box you also get a 25-percent discount on the total. 

The box includes a pre-paid bag for you to return what you don't want to keep. For each referral, or friend you get to sign up, you also get a $25 credit to your account once their "Fix" ships.  The service uses your profile that you fill out as well as access to a Pinterest board you give them (optional) where you have pinned styles and clothes you like.  

If you Google "Stitch Fix Review" you'll find lots of blogs with lots of women sharing photos and reviews of their boxes.  There are also multiple Facebook pages/groups where people buy/sell/trade and discuss their boxes.

Comcast Heard Me Loud and Clear; Shows Up to Make Things Right

Fred Levy is my new best friend.  

If you've followed my Twitter and Facebook, you know I've had some Comcast issues this week; the short version is that the company is trying to clean up the lines around town in order to provide better service and so they showed up at my house this week and told us that some cable needed to be replaced.  

We unlocked the back gate and gave them access to whatever they needed to do whatever they needed to do and when they were done, we had a bizarre install job that defied all reason.  

I called, went through the frustrating automated customer service maze, finally got a human and was told that they would call me within the hour to tell me when they'd be out to fix the mess.  No call came.  

I called the next morning, went through the frustrating automated customer service maze again, got a human in Michigan who told me that there is no way to speak to a supervisor unless she puts in an expedited ticket and has one call me, which she would do, and that someone would call within the hour. 

No call.

So I took to Twitter and posted pictures.

Customer service finally reached out to me and after a series of phone calls and direct messaging on Twitter, we got a guy out here last night and an hour later another guy came.  It was this second guy who finally pronounced the install job to be "jacked up" and said it needed to be redone. 

Now.  I have heard, and experienced, horror stories with Comcast. In fairness, I'll say that once they actually heard me, they responded.  The problem is simply in getting heard, and getting to a local human that can help you -- at least, in this case anyway. There is no local number in the phone book or online that I could find; it all goes to a call center.

This morning, Fred Levy showed up and said he heard me "loud and clear" and was here to help. He is the local Technical Operations Manager for Comcast and, bless his heart, is tasked with smoothing out these snafus that are giving Comcast such a bad reputation. Levy stayed here until the entire job was redone and didn't leave until he was sure it was done right and we were satisfied.  

I told him that I didn't want the two original guys fired, but I felt badly for them that they weren't better trained and that they just didn't know what to do. They just needed more training and supervision -- their supervisor that first day gave them instructions and left them; he didn't follow up on their work, which is what they needed. I don't blame them.

Anyway, it's all fixed now and they've now run the line under the house as it should have been, instead of wrapping it around the house.

To Comcast, I will say this: Mr. Levy is your best asset. He explained in detail to us what was going on, what went wrong, and listened to our concerns. He answered our questions. And he genuinely wants to improve the customer experience with Comcast. He gave me three of his cards with his local contact information and told me "You don't ever have to call that computer again," and told me to share it with my friends who have trouble, too.  We both agreed that a communication breakdown was the major component in this experience on several levels.  

So, in the end it is a happy resolution.  There is no cable to be seen anywhere out there and they even cleaned up some wild cable left behind by Direct TV. (At one point Comcast thought the entire mess that I posted was Direct TV cable, but once they put actual eyes on it, that soon was rectified.) 

If you need a local Comcast contact number, hit me up.  Mr. Levy will help you.  I promise.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Clothes on Your Doorstep? Yes, Please!

I've received a couple of messages about Stitch Fix and how it works, so I've gathered a few reviews for you.

My first box won't arrive until Monday but for those still curious about it, I've rounded up a few links and reviews to aid your research.

This one from Business Insider touches on the algorithms that help the stylists pick your "Fix."
The company uses that feedback to better inform an algorithm that helps stylists select items for me and customers similar to me, Stitch Fix founder and CEO Katrina Lake later told me. "The algorithm will often be better than a stylist in determining what a customer will like," Lake said. The technology understands written feedback, in addition to rating systems. 

 This one from Buzz Feed explains the numbers behind the start-up company:
It’s the first “fix” that’s the hardest. After that, the experience becomes addictive. So says Katrina Lake, the 31-year-old Harvard Business School graduate who founded Stitch Fix, the buzzy e-commerce startup that mails users five items a month pegged to their tastes, as determined by a combination of algorithms and human stylists. Seventy percent of people who get their first Stitch Fix box end up getting another within 90 days. The company’s goal is for customers to keep at least two of the five items, a conversion rate that would draw the envy of the most successful brick-and-mortar retailer
Here is a Q & A with company founder, Katrina Lake.

This New York Times piece discusses various e-commerce options including Stitch Fix.

Forbes has also reviewed the company.

In all honesty, it's not for everyone.  I know plenty of people who get a major thrill out of bargain hunting and finding a 75% discount on a pair of jeans, but then there are people like me who hate to shop.

So, I'm going to give it a try.

Want to give it a shot with me?

Here's my basic blurb about how it works:

Go to the Stitch Fix site and fill out a personal profile.  You can schedule a "Fix" at any time or set up a recurring date if you wish. You pay a $20 "styling fee" for each box which applies to your purchase should you keep anything in the box. If you buy all five items in the box you also get a 25-percent discount on the total. 

The box includes a pre-paid bag for you to return what you don't want to keep. For each referral, or friend you get to sign up, you also get a $25 credit to your account once their "Fix" ships.  The service uses your profile that you fill out as well as access to a Pinterest board you give them (optional) where you have pinned styles and clothes you like.  

If you Google "Stitch Fix Review" you'll find lots of blogs with lots of women sharing photos and reviews of their boxes.  There are also multiple Facebook pages/groups where people buy/sell/trade and discuss their boxes.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Glenn Frey: 1948 - 2016

Such a sad January.

David Bowie.  Jerry Beach.  Glenn Frey.

Talk about a Rock n Roll heaven....

I don't have any words or anything profound.  I saw the Eagles once, in 2002.  They were here, in Shreveport, this past summer and I didn't go.  The tickets were sky high.

My brother went and they blew his socks off.  I'm glad he got to go.

Every song comes with a memory and I can't single out one single one of them.

Nothing profound here....just sadness.

Rest in peace, Glenn.  Thanks for the music.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Heartbreaking Removal of the New Orleans Confederate Monuments

General Beauregard Monument
I have a "Facebook friend," Roy Guste, whom I have never met in person but who takes stunning photos of New Orleans and the people there. Roy has a true love for the city and the people and it comes through in his work.

With all of the controversy surrounding the Confederate monuments and their impending removal at the hands of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Roy has been photographing the monuments because that's the only way he can preserve them in their current, and rightful, settings.  This one is one of my favorites.  (I'm not posting it -- it's his artwork and sale of his photos provides income for him. But visit his page - his work is stunning.)

What in the world is Mitch Landrieu thinking?

There is a federal lawsuit pending to halt the removal:
Opponents of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plan to remove Confederate monuments at Lee Circle and three other locations filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday (Dec. 17), just hours after the City Council approved the mayor's proposal. The suit, allotted to U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, asked for an injunction to stop the city from removing the monuments. It argued removing the historic markers would violate a number of federal and state laws, including the Louisiana Constitution. 
Meanwhile, the city is moving ahead with plans to remove the monuments as can be seen in this photo by James Karst of the Times-Picayune.

Photo via James Karst: The Times-Picayune.

The removal of the monuments is not something the majority of NOLA citizens want; they are, in fact, out protesting this morning. There is a group marching around Beauregard Circle as I write this.
As a student of history, this whole brouhaha confounds me. I've tried to see both sides of the issue. I read the position, for example, of the Southern Poverty Law Center who filed an amicus brief in this case which basically comes down to the fact that the statues must go because they glorify white supremacy and slavery. I find that position short sighted and uninformed.  You can't erase or rewrite history just because it is unpleasant and that perception of the monuments is only your opinion and discounts the opinions of others who see the issue differently.

Perhaps we need these statues to remember what happens to a country when differing opinions and perceptions tear us apart.

Perhaps the SPLC, who advocates tolerance, should practice what they preach.

The plan, as I understand it, is to put these monuments in a museum someplace where they can be "seen only by those who choose to do so."

Who is personally offended by these monuments?  Did anyone ever really walk by Lee Circle and say, "Damn, that statue surely offends me"?  Because if that's the litmus test, I've got a few monuments that I'd like to put up for removal, too. The ball goes both ways.  Where do we stop this ridiculous "offended culture" where we now find ourselves? Must politics rule everything we do and feel?

In my research and work on my book about Cammie Henry, I can't help but wonder what she and Lyle Saxon would have to say about this.  Cammie worked to preserve history all of her life in whatever way she could, through preservation of buildings or record keeping in her scrapbooks.  Lyle Saxon was known as Mr. New Orleans and loved the city deeply. I would love to hear their thoughts on this issue.  I can almost hear Cammie's anger and frustration that these monuments are being so disrespected and maligned.

Mitch Landrieu, it seems, has plenty of other more important issues on his plate as mayor. Crime in New Orleans is at a staggering rate right now; that seems like a much more important problem.

I hope I can get to New Orleans in time to see these monuments and appreciate their setting one more time before they are gone. Soon we will only have photos, such as those of Mr. Guste, to document our history.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Stitch Fix Box No. 1 Headed My Way!

Okay so I got a notice today that my first "Fix," or box, is on the way from Stitch Fix.  I'm pretty excited!

As I posted last week, it works like this: you fill out a profile, pay a $20 styling fee, and schedule your Fix.  You receive five hand-selected items and your $20 applies to the price of anything you keep. If you buy all five, you get a 25% discount on the entire box. You send back what you don't want in the prepaid bag.

No more long, wasted hours at TJMaxx or Belk thumbing through racks of clothes! And with Stitch Fix, if you have a special event coming up, just leave a note for your stylist when you schedule and you can request specific things.

I literally have need needing a new pair of jeans for six months.  I can't make myself go shop for them.  Hate it.

Since I posted last week, I've discovered a couple of Facebook boards where people buy, sell, and trade items that they decided not to keep.  You might, for example, hang on to that one top that didn't fit just right so that you could get your 25% discount by keeping all five. Then you can go to the boards and sell the top; or perhaps you wore it a few times and decided you didn't like it after all - you can sell your gently used items there too.

I'm not sure how much of that I will do, but I've had fun just reading some of the posts - it never occurred to me that you might return a top because it "clashed" with your tattoo.

I've done some research, too; this seems to be a very popular service and there is an entire cult of people on the web posting pictures of themselves in Stitch Fix clothes because if someone signs up using your referral link (see how I did that!?) then you get a $25 credit toward your next Fix.  It's a perpetual cycle! You get enough people to sign up through your link, you can get free clothes!

So yes, I'm here hawking my referral link, but really I figured why not try it?  What do you have to lose but maybe $20, and that's only if you hate everything they send you.  I'm thinking it could be fun.

My box should be here soon, so I guess I'll join the cult of Fixers and post pictures of what I receive. I requested jeans (with flared or bootcut being my preference).

If some of my local buddies would try it with me, we could swap and trade, if we got something we didn't love, without dealing with Facebook boards!

Sign up and try this with me!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Who Wants to Try Stitch Fix With Me?

I'm going to try a Stitch Fix box.

Who wants to try it with me?  Here's your link!

There is nobody on the planet who hates to shop more than me; hate hate hate.  That's why 90% of the time you'll see me in jeans from Old Navy and a TSR LA Baby Mommas t-shirt.  If it's cold, jeans and my LSU hoodie.

It's not that I don't care what I wear, necessarily, but that I just don't care enough to go among the masses and thumb through sale racks and shop.  I hate trying things on. I hate putting outfits together.  When I do back-to-school shopping (if I have to...), I buy khakis and whatever goes with khakis.

So a good friend told me about Stitch Fix.  I did some online research and found both good and not so good reviews.  Further research showed me that your best results are going to require your honest communication with your stylist and a realistic Pinterest board of styles that you like that you set up for your stylist to review.

The way it works is that you pay a $20 styling fee. Fill out the questionnaire about your preferences and then you can schedule just one box.  You can schedule boxes however you want - just one box, one every month, one every two weeks, whatever. They send you five items, from accessories to outfits and a style card that shows you how to mix, match, and style what they send you.  You can keep any or all of the five items. If you keep just one, even, your $20 applies to the cost.

It's not a subscription service; you can do just one box, if you want, without having to go back in and cancel.  One and one.

Also, each person who tries Stitch Fix with your referral number is a $25 credit to your account.  So who wants to try it with me?!

For a girl like me who hates to shop, this is great.

Don't expect WalMart prices (nor WalMart quality) though. The average price for each piece is about $50. You fill out your price preferences on your initial profile.  The bonus here is in not having to go shop and in getting your own personal stylist who selects items based on what your profile indicates, and having it delivered to your door.

So, bored with my khakis, and with a serious aversion to shopping, I'm going to try it.

My first box will arrive January 25.  Expect a review.

Click here and give it a shot with me!

Monday, January 4, 2016

C. B. Forgotston: 1945 - 2015

Incredibly sad news.  C.B. was kind to this blogger back when I was political blogging more heavily. I was always a fan of his straight talk and clear assessment of issues.  This is a terrible loss.