Friday, June 17, 2016

About My Friend Billy

I haven't written this blog since I ran for office. I have a lot of catching up to do, and need to make my virtual book a real-life one, and yada yada yada, but my life has been crazy.

It's stable now. Normalizing. Feels weird. And awesome.

So I'm starting back by writing about somebody else, somebody who I just lost recently. Somebody who I can't get out of my head, but at the very least I know I can always find him deep in south Louisiana, in a place where almost nobody's heard of. I can always pull up a lawnchair next to his section of the wall and talk to him.

I met Billy after I had a broken neck and was helping BikeLafayette set a cycling route. He was helping too. I could not believe this tall lean muscular man had cancer! He told me that the chemo was making him sick, and so he stopped taking it. He wanted to enjoy the rest of his life. We became instant friends.

I was compelled to be standoffish with him at first. This is not usually my way; I'm usually full-forward gung-ho steamroll ahead and bulldoze down everyone. But, we were both in vulnerable spots. We both were struggling with our significant others not coping well with our ailments. I needed as little complication in my life as possible. It would be easy to fall into regret about that now; I missed out on a lot of time I could have spent with him. I can also say our friendship stayed healthy, and that is worth everything.

I ended up living alone with my son, and he ended up moving in with his parents. We did things with our kids; fishing, went out to eat, and to see movies. We went to Agave downtown Lafayette once. It was the first time he ever had fish tacos. He raved on them.

I haven't been able to eat fish tacos since. They remind me too much of him.

Rare photo when we took the kids fishing.
Billy was so busy hooking worms and unhooking fish that he
was the only one of us that didn't catch anything.

He stopped being able to ride his bike, or even travel all the way to Lafayette, and they came out with a different type of chemo so he started that. 43 is an awkward age to have cancer; your closest friends may shy away from it, and not be strong enough to handle all that you are going through. I think people get better in that respect as they get older.
I made it a point to go to his parents' house once a week. It was my Monday mornings with Billy. We were both crazy poor and I couldn't always make it. I ran for office to be able to stay in Acadiana, that started taking up all my time. I worked every other weekend out of state to stay afloat. I eventually had to move out of state. He died less than a month later. It was the saddest voicemail I ever got, Billy's dad letting me know he passed.

My heart is still broken.

But enough of the framework.

Billy took this. Hummingbirds on the back porch.

Billy died of colon cancer in the prime of his life; a loving father, avid cyclist, fisherman... He could fix just about any vehicle you put in front of him. He was so good he could fix them over the phone. He was so good he could take a girl with a broken neck to walk around a junkyard and find things to fix her truck.
He had tremors since he was born, I think they were "essential tremors", but he never got them officially diagnosed. He did all that stuff even with his tremors. He laughed at them.
My friend was sweet and loving through the end. Very loud and outspoken on the topics he felt strongly about. Never wanted anything from anyone; hard-headed even in his worst pain. He was definitely a Cajun boy! He didn't speak Cajun (most of us don't; our grandparents were beaten in school for speaking it) but his parents do. His dad has a good relationship with the squirrel in the backyard and I'd swear she speaks Cajun. Their little dang Chihuahuas are so cute and smart too. T-Boy sings when certain songs come on, and growls and bites you if you say, "bath." Ha! We'd drink coffee, watch the birds, talk about the weather, and anything else. I had started going there to visit Billy, and those visits became the only solace I had in my life. It meant way more to me than I ever consciously knew. Know this, Billy, and I know you know. I visited as often as I could. I wish my life then was as stable as my life is now, just a few short weeks later. I wish we could have gone to the haunted trails in Scott like he wanted, and other things... I remember him calling me and telling me he knew he was going to die soon. He just knew it. Billy is not drama; it's one of the reasons we got along so well. My friend was dying. What do you say? There's no sugar-coating reality. That sucks man. At least, everybody you love knows you love them. And we love you. I wish things were different. Life's not fair. We're not perfect, but still, can't worry about what we get wrong. Life's too short, so fuck the haters.

Billy's dad and his squirrel

I miss that guy more than I ever thought. We don't have one picture together, never thought about it. We knew each other less than three years. Life for us was always about living, not reflecting. He was so so much my partner-in-crime, my stability, my rock that was as tough and loving as me. Now I'm all alone. Without even me realizing it, he was the one person that shared everything I went through: all the pain, hurt, abandonment. Trying to be a parent and dealing with our children's feelings. How to still stay effective when society unknowingly casts you aside.
I don't know why I miss him so badly. I'm trying to figure it out; we saw each other at most once a week. There were other people in our lives. But for whatever reason, though I moved away and things are finally okay for me, I have a huge crazy void in my soul. I guess it's love. Whaddaya do. Love ya, Billy. I love you.

I'll always know where to find you now. So, we still have that.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Dr. Monique Koll, a local veterinarian and author, announces her candidacy for the District 5 Lafayette City-Parish Council seat. 

Koll, an Independent, currently serves as a volunteer member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the city-parish president’s Awareness Committee for Citizens with Disabilities and the Lafayette Consolidated Government Bicycle Subcommittee.

She was the first executive director of BikeLafayette and is president of Bike Walk Louisiana.

“My background is in helping people,” Koll said. “I have the tools and passion to be really good at identifying and implementing what is needed and wanted by the people in my district. I am fully prepared to really understand the issues and work together to solve them.”

Koll worked full-time as a clinical, emergency and research veterinarian until October 2012, when she was struck by a vehicle while on her bicycle training for a triathlon.

She was hospitalized in New Orleans for two months and suffered a permanent spinal cord injury that left her partially paralyzed. The driver of the vehicle that hit her was unlicensed and uninsured.

Four months after the accident, Koll was able to cross the finish line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans.

The following year, she walked the same marathon on her own.

“Acadiana has helped me so much during my recovery, and this is a way I can serve the same community that helped me,” Koll said.

Since then, Koll has earned a real estate license and become a Category 3 triathlon referee.

She recently published a book, Determinational, detailing her journey of recovery from the horrific crash.

Koll said when elected, she would like to work on the “dissonance” that consolidation has brought to city and parish government, as well as address the drainage issues in her district and continue her work on parishwide transportation.

Koll has one son, Liam, who is 8 years old.

“I know that I can work with anyone and believe we need someone who will communicate, collaborate and work with the rest of the council and the administration,” Koll said. “Working together is the only way we will continue to move District 5 and all of Lafayette Parish forward.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Need Your Help! And you can pre-order my book.

Pre-order here! Kindle Book Determinational

A great friend took me to lunch last week. We met just a little bit after I was hit when we did a KRVS radio show together. Our situations were so similar - he was riding bikes with his friend Roxanne when she was hit from behind by an unlicensed driver, breaking her neck. She died. I didn't. The world isn't fair.
BikeLafayette hosts a memorial ride every year for her. This year it's May 2nd. You can sign up here: Ride For Rox 2015

I told him life is *almost* good now. It still sucks that exercising doesn't feel good anymore, it just feels wrong because the wrong muscles are always pulling, and they always feel sticky and tight and just bad - it's a limiting factor and I'm out of shape because of it. What do you do when feeling good is out of the picture, where's motivation to work out then? Besides for that though, the only thing missing - financial independence. I feel like I keep saying this, but he said to make sure everyone knows that I need a job; his opinion is not everyone knows that. So this is me telling you: I need a job!

YES, I am a veterinarian. But there is no opportunity to do that full time here right now, or even steady part time. I do relief work - filling in when others are on vacation - but this is not sustainable just fun.

YES, I am the Executive Director of BikeLafayette. But this is not full time, we don't have the money. I'm working on it, but it may be a few years before the can have a full-time employee, and even then it may not be enough to cover my vet school loans. PLUS, we have over 2000 followers, but less than 100 paid members. Join BikeLafayette! Yall know I love this, I will always have time for it even if I have a full time job (this is how I normally operate, I never have only worked 40 hours a week), but it is not sustainable to me personally. YES to the community and I'm not quitting, but NO to it paying the bills.

YES, I am a Realtor. Who hasn't sold a house yet. I know it's off-season, and even still I've shown a few houses, but nothing has come of it yet. It's something to be patient with, but something has got to start happening for me. Here's my Facebook page: Dr. Monique Koll with Titan Realestate Services

YES, I do professional speaking! I have to start getting paid gigs. The hard part is not the talking, it's the getting connected to paying jobs. It's a market that needs breaking in to, I just have to find it.

SO, I need a job! I'm open to anything. I've developed a lot of skills that can be put to use for a lot of different things. It's the one thing that keeps me from a functionally full recovery. Please keep me in mind!

ALSO, I've committed to writing a book. Yay! Also, scary! It is fun to write, as I can be myself and as silly or sarcastically nerdy as I want, and it also churns up a lot of emotions as I go back through the things that were really bad and hard. Due date is May 20th. You can pre-order the Kindle version here! I'm going to have a hardcopy available too because I love books, and I think I'll do a Kickstarter for that in 2 months.

Recognize the pic? it's the great Cecil Fuselier. And the title is through a conversation with my friend Elise Gaudet - shout out to Elise!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Limitations Are Not Real, Blind People Can See

I don't have time to write this post. I had my first successful day working as a vet again since I got hit, and that feeling is so overwhelming that it's almost taxing. Same sense of accomplishment as those half marathons. Maybe more. The fact that I can really and truly reclaim my life again...

And tomorrow I have a talk for Kiwanis that I'm not even prepared for. I probably won't get to sleep much tonight, If you're bored call me ;) But I want to be ready for it. They contacted me yesterday for a 45 minute speech on BikeLafayette tomorrow...awesome but the time I thought I would have was spent working this last-minute vet shift. Same day that I officially took chair of our Louisiana bicycling entity. Feeling a little over-busy at the moment. Ah well, so is life, and I have got to financially be independent in order to finally be okay with everything.

Rambling. Sorry. Tired.

SO, why am I writing this? Because my very dear friend Crystal Place requested that I listen to this podcast, which I did while working, and it so accurately explains exactly what I have learned from this broken-necked experience.

It's true, true, I'll never say it's good what happened to me. You can find blessings in everything though. And what I have learned:

My reality will always be too limited to really be reality.

Profound right? I'm so so serious though. I've accomplished more that anyone thought I could. I plan on accomplishing more than that. You can't tell me no. I guess it's my punk attitude that is what does it. Wouldn't that be terrible, if I got all this way just because I'm a punk rebel? My sweet caring self that loves all of you hates that fact! I'm a professional, I live a very structured life, I am very "type A" in making sure things get done correctly. Rules (well guidelines) shape m life. But srsly, "you're not the boss of me" is what does it. 

AND NOW THERE IS SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. That blind people can see. I didn't need this as guidance, but it sure served as affirmation. Whenever people trust God, refuse to accept their situation, fight the system, that's saying that reality is not what we think. These kids didn't let other people's fears (read: beliefs) limit them. This blind man's brain shows he is seeing. Listen to this:

It's a whole new way of understanding coming out now. Epigenetics - our behavior CAN change our genetic expression,and that change can be inherited. Your mind can control chronic pain. I can freaking practice veterinary medicine with a broken neck. Blind people can see well enough to ride a bicycle. Mind over matter. Will over reason. When the imagination and the will are at odds, imagination always wins out. I think there will always be limitations. But never believe in anything. If you don't believe in the stars, they will still exist. Same with "real" limitations. No sense in artificially creating more.

Rules are for the irresponsible. -ME

Thursday, January 8, 2015

In Memory of My Cousin

When I was a kid, this long-haired hippie cousin of my Dad's would come stay with him in New Orleans. He was so crazy and full of life...I always looked forward to his and his daughter's visits. He gave me my copy of The Little Prince, and when I was older Anne of Green Gables. He always gave books away - maybe that's where I got that habit from - but I kept those. I visited him at his place in San Jose del Cabo, where the trailer I stayed in got broken into and all my stuff stolen in the middle of the night. I had dreamed of a cattle stampede that night. My Covington High duffel bag was found months later by Mexican authorities, I still have it. I don't remember him always being the most responsible, but I will always cherish my memories of him, and his crazy reckless life-loving freedom I've kept more than a little bit of.