Squawk Radio

Monday, April 24, 2006


For anyone reading the blog who might have discovered us recently, Squawk Radio adopted a family after the hurricane devastation in New Orleans. Our family is a single mom named Leslie who writes historical romances with her mother Christine; their writing name is Christine Holden. Leslie and Christine evacuated from New Orleans with Leslie's new two-week-old baby, her three-year-old and nine-year-old daughters. We decided to better Leslie and Christine's experience -- of losing their home and finding themselves in an unfamiliar state -- as much as we possibly could.

Everyone reading this blog rallied together. We sent gift cards so that Leslie could buy clothes and medicine. We sent her a television, a VCR, plates, silverware, books, dolls, children's clothes, and those heart-warming "special" gifts that said: "Don't panic, girlfriend. We've got your back" -- soaps, perfumes, bubble bath and gift cards to Victoria's Secret.

Things were really tough for Leslie and her little family for a while, even with our help. She moved into a garage in Texas, where her "host" family demanded rent, but wouldn't give a receipt so that she could apply for FEMA help with the rent. Her insurance company back in New Orleans declared that they wouldn't pay because (they said), her house wasn't drowned by a hurricane, but by a flood, and they don't cover floods. She moved from the garage into an apartment complex paid for by FEMA that turned out to be drug central for baddies from the neighborhood.

But with perseverance, and strength of character and will, Leslie and her mom have created a new nest for the family. A wonderful advocacy non-profit down in Texas tackled the problem of her insurance company and got them to pay out to the mortage company. Meanwhile the mortgage company had decided they would really like to own the land under Leslie's destroyed house, so they put the insurance company check in escrow for "undisclosed" reasons and foreclosed on the house -- sending the notices to Leslie's old address in New Orleans! Leslie found a job, but her boss kept forgetting to come to work (and pay his employees). There has been set-back after set-back, but finally things have really turned around. Leslie and her family are out of the bad apartment complex and nestled in a little house right next to Leslie's relocated uncle. Gigi, their dog who swam out of the window to safety and was rescued by a terrific animal welfare group, has stopped nipping and seems to have recovered from the trauma. The children only have nightmares once in a while, and are as naughty as ever (which Leslie takes to be a sign of well-being!).

I just wanted to celebrate for a moment all of the people who escaped, like Leslie, from New Orleans with barely more than a suitcase or two. So many lives, like Leslie's and her family's, have been devastated in a personal and financial sense, and yet people rallied to new challenges without giving up. Leslie has a serious heart ailment, and stretched every dime before Katrina hit her hometown. To start over again with a two-week-old baby is exhausting to even think about, yet Leslie never gave up. So let's celebrate the strength of Leslie and her mother Christine!!

At the same time, we're choosing today -- the last day of the "Squawk Classic Blog Week" to post an update about Leslie because we want to celebrate the wonderful community that has build up around this blog. We aren't just talking about books -- although that's our favorite activity! -- we're also forging bonds and friendships that have touched everyone of the Squawkers. The kindness and generosity of the Squawker community shored up Leslie in her time of need...

Here's a cyber cheer for everyone of us!

P.S. If anyone would like to send Leslie a home-coming card, just let me know and I'll give you her address...eloisa@eloisajames.com

Eloisa James, 8:15 AM