January 2009

I tried my best.

Yesterday, I tried to do my civic duty to teach my kids about Martin Luther King Day and about the historic event of this Tuesday’s inauguration.

Or, rather, I showed Will a clip of the “I Have a Dream” speech.  Response: “Mommy, it looks… old.”  There was another comment, something related to the word “bored” but I’ve blocked it from memory.  We’re focusing on the positive in the Cold Spaghetti household.

Later, after a short description of what will happen tomorrow, I read the kids a book about the Office of President of the United States.

Okay.  What ACTUALLY happened was that I prepared to read them a book about being President.  Then I  waited on Kate while she went through the book herself, refused to share, and spent 2 minutes in time out after she ran away with the book shouting “WILL CAN’T SEE MY BOOK!”   Eventually we all sat down together to read it.

Little Betty Lou from Sesame Street sees the Big Black Car of the President go by and she dreams about all the things she would do if she were President.

Like give speeches to the United Nations.

And fly in Air Force One.

And work in the Oval Office.

And attend the Easter Egg Rolling on the White House Lawn.

And have a penis.

You think I’m joking, but I’m pretty sure I added that last part in, just to make sure they were listening.  And also because we’re all about honesty in this household.

But you know, maybe I’m wrong.  Granted, I’ve felt strongly that we would see an African American man as President before we’d see a woman in the same role.  But it happened so soon, and for a man who is approaching the Presidency from a rational perspective.  It’s wonderful and overwhelming and unbelievable. So unbelievable that everyone seems to believe that this IS a point of change, and that tomorrow, anything is possible.

I wanted my kids to understand that.

Instead, Will asks, “Mommy, is tomorrow a school day?”

“Yes, it is.  But when you come home, we’ll watch the new President speak on the computer.”

“Okay.  But can we play Lego Star Wars first?”


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Photohunt: Hats

Check out the Photohunt website for more information and photographs.

Art & Photography

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No Cheese with this Whine.

Based on my last post, a friend of mine pointed out this Washington Post article by Rebel Dad comparing Mommy and Daddy bloggers where he asks, ‘do Dads whine less than Moms?’

Rebel Dad prudently offers the conclusion that Dads, though more and more active in the rearing of children and in many cases taking over roles as primary homemakers, just haven’t “earn[ed] our stripes yet.”  He ponders that Dads don’t get to whine as much because the gulf between the responsibilities of Mothers and Fathers in raising a child is too wide for the discourses to be the same.

Well, yes.  But there’s a lot more.

Somehow, gender equality went down the road of ‘proving’ the sameness of one sex to another: I can do what you can do, therefore, we are equal.  So the ‘rights’ of women were earned by women adopting masculine behaviors to prove workplace equality.  (Consider the well-known statement made by Gloria Steinem: “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.”)   To be successful, women have adopted a model of education and work life that mirrors the single man.  Activities associated with being a woman (marriage, babies, mothering) are seen as weak and inconsistent with professional behavior.  No one will take you seriously if you have a baby during your PhD because a man wouldn’t (physically) have a baby while doing a PhD.

It’s not just a bum deal for women; strict gendered roles are insulting to both sexes.

Here’s the thing: women and men are NOT the same.  One sex bears children and the other one doesn’t.  That biological difference needs to be taken into account for both to be equal.

Rebel Dad is 100% correct when he says that Dads don’t ‘whine’ as much as Mothers.  Because they can’t.  That discourse is feminine, reflective of the assumed responsibility of Mothers as parents.  Consider: a woman is shopping with a small child who is not behaving well, crying, fussing, whining… standard stuff.  People judge her parenting, blame her for not disciplining the child (even if she is trying to handle the situation) and may even make overall judgments about whether or not she is ‘working.’  If the same situation were playing out with a man, the response would be more empathetic; Dad has his hands full and doesn’t know what to do.  Both are patronizing, but associated with very different cultural responses reflecting very different gendered assumptions.

We Moms bitch more about parenting because when the chips fall down, the world looks to us to pick up the pieces.  Men can walk away, shrug shoulders in confusion, and just feign ignorance.  Women don’t have those options — or face harsh criticism when we do.  Coming to terms with being both a Mother and still be respected (as those hip, childless people we used to be) is a big part of Mommy blogging.  ‘Whining’ is one way to work it out.  Would Dads regain that same pre-fatherhood hipness if they whined in the same way?   No.  They work out their own parenting and gender conflicts in different discourse.

Moms are doing all we can, I think, to show that being a Mom IS hip and that the workplace, the academy, and society in general needs to accommodate our awesomeness.  All three are very slow in this acceptance, so pardon us if we feel the need to air grievances.

Just one more important point.  I remain deeply bothered about the initial questioning regarding ‘whining.’  Because asking whether Moms whine more than Dads is simply a thinly veiled open door for people to bitch about Moms.  AGAIN.  ‘Cause seriously, lady, you complain when you work and you complain when you stay at home.  Look, see?  Us men can handle either situation, and with less bitching!  So why don’t you just figure it out already?’

And that is the real whining we’ve all heard enough of.


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It’s cold here today.

Cold weather accessories taken out, as a rare necessity.  Also necessary: modeling them.

(The glasses influenced the Photoshop actions.)

Family Life in NOLA
Special Family Moments

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Just Posts for A Just World

Without a doubt, the best thing I have ever done for my career was have children.

Going completely against the words of my advisers (“no one will ever take you seriously if you have a baby while you do a PhD”) and in contrast to my departmental peers (almost all of whom are not only childless but single) — I got married and had babies.

And it was the best thing I have ever done, or could ever have done, for my career.

I work in Public Health, specifically in International Health, where I study things like poverty, development, gender, migration, and disparity.  In terms of methodology, I am a big believer in qualitative research in health; that we need people who actually unpack what all those health numbers mean so that we can be most effective in how we address health.  So when I walked into a rustic birthing facility with my visibly bulging 6 month pregnant belly to hold the hand of a young mother and help her labor — that woman gripped my hand and trusted me.  A year later, when Will crawled around the cement floor with other babies in the community meeting, women easily opened up to share stories of how they feed their children.  People approached me in buses and street corners, pushing Will in his stroller through the streets of Lima.  When I brought Kate into homes of newly arrived immigrants after Katrina, I compared nursing techniques with new Mothers struggling to figure out how to do it on their own.

What does it mean to be a Mother and work in International Health?  It means everything.  Being a Mother just breaks through all the differences that culture, faith, ideology, geography, wealth, and language build between us — although they may shape how we are Mothers, the visceral experience of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and simply having a child is universal.

So there are no better people in the world to speak about issues like social justice, responsibility, activism, and the work of creating a better world.

You know what light bulb brought me to this conclusion?  Reading Jenny’s line about seeing Alejna and baby Theo for lunch, during which the baby “audibly soiled his diaper.”  The universality of the experience struck me — how that could have happened anywhere with any group of women and all the Mothers in the room would know the sound and share the response.  It reduces us all to the most fundamental of our qualities, that which makes us human: our ability and responsibility to care for each other.

To me, Jen and Mad‘s Just Posts are the internet representation of the important and relevant words of regular folks — and particularly of Mommy bloggers, who are routinely maligned and discounted as unimportant.  I know that writing about my family is important.  The personal is political — and the work I do living here, in this wounded city, is as important as any news about town, if not more.  Seeing similar experiences, thoughts, and challenges from others through Just Posts helps me see those same personal and political actions in so many other communities.  Finding them was a gift and has become something that I look forward to for inspiration.

So that is why Alejna and I, with the gracious blessings of Jen and Mad (and also Su), have teamed up to carry their legacy.  We sincerely hope that people will continue to send us recommended reading from bloggers throughout the world who have written something that makes us all more aware, more committed, more involved.


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How I procrastinate, or deal with the blues.

I must be feeling a bit down.  That last post included the word “tight” twice with copious pictures of Paul working on the outbuilding, and yet, I let that golden opportunity pass.  Tight?  Golden? … aye, my heart’s just not in it.  So much for my reputation as the internet source for home improvement porn.

As I try to rev up for this year’s Mardi Gras season (we’re still working the Devo theme, despite Will’s ever-changing cast of character requests: Spider, Cowboy, Knight, and Luke Skywalker), I’m attempting to clean out my Aperture folder and properly archive and organize the photographs.  But you know?  It’s way more fun to play around studiously learn Photoshop techniques.

Remember Kate’s New Year Tai Chi?  Where she is terribly lit in intense direct sun?  The moves are so classically Kate that I wanted to see if I could improve the quality of some of the pictures.  Work with the captured moment, so to speak.

Here are the originals:

Then I decided to try and soften the harsh light and overall brightness of the image.  I played with curves, brightness, dodge and burn, and levels.  What I should have done was used one set of commands that I liked and then just applied the actions to the rest.  I didn’t.  I just went all willy-nilly and did whatver I liked as the mood struck.  Don’t expect anything earth-moving.

Yeah, I know.  Is that all?  Then, because I’m reading all of these artsy books about black and white photography, I decided to play around some more.

I think I like these last ones best.

Here’s hoping I get around to backing them up before Mardi Gras!

Art & Photography
Mi Familia

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Just how tight is tight in New Orleans?

Meanwhile, the saga to save the outbuilding continues.  The hardie was on the corrugated metal sheets, which was taking up room where Paul needed to set up his saw, which he needed to finish the interior walls… etc., etc.  The bottom line is, work continues on getting the exterior done.  He’s almost done with one side, which he’s been doing from our neighbor’s yard.

Will loves Paul working next door because it means he can show off his climbing skills.

We’re venturing into the wild, now.  (Think it looks like a jungle?  Well, it’s like a cement parking lot compared to what it was before Paul cut it all back to work on the building.)

Yikes!  That is the tiny space between our outbuilding and the outbuilding of our neighbor behind us.  When we started, Paul couldn’t even get between the buildings (vines filled the space).  At least metal is an easy install.

Home and Renovation

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Bloggies? Really?

This blog has been thrown into the hat for bloggie nominations!


Who knew that just anyone could even get nominated?  Not me.  But then again, Ben Affleck won as Oscar, so maybe anything is possible?

The nominating process involves going to http://2009.bloggies.com/ , writing in “Cold Spaghetti” and the website (http://www.coldspaghetti.org/blog/), and giving your email address for a verification message.  When you vote, you have to nominate 2 other blogs for consideration for each category you vote within.

Here are some blogs that I nominated:

One Plus Two.  Jen writes eloquently about her work as director of a nonprofit agency serving the homeless, and she’s preparing a move to a jungle village in Central America.  I don’t think you need any other information for why she’s on my list of favorites.

Collecting Tokens.  Alejna is witty, eloquent, and very funny.  She also likes kick-ass women and pants.

The Show Must Go On.  Kitty writes beautifully and has great photos.  My favorite photos of hers are ones she posts from her film camera days — they have that deep, creamy feel that only comes from film (in my opinion).  Also, I’m buttering her up so that one day maybe she’ll come and work on some crazy health project where we are desperately seeking a nurse.

LaLoca.  I don’t visit the Washington Post site much anymore, because I trust that if something of interest is happening up there, Jenny will point it out.  Plus, her photography is creative and striking.

Liprap’s Lament.  Leigh reads more websites than anyone I know and somehow seems to do so before the posts are even published.  Then she compiles them all into summary posts on her own blog, with her own commentary.  Or, at least, that is what it seems like.  These days, I’ve come to prefer the first hit of local news through a good filter.

UPDATE… Oh My Heavens.  I forgot to mention Lisa, of Left Coast Cowboys, who I nominated in a bunch of categories, because I love Green Acres.  And because she makes me want to move to San Francisco, possibly to grow grapes and raise terriers.  She makes it all sound so beautiful!

Nominations END JANUARY 12th! So please consider going over and voting soon!

If you’re up for a little more, please consider visiting my friend, mentor, and all-around amazing Emmy… she wants to gather up her Honduran family for a big reunion and you can vote to help her do it.


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Stuff to store, stuff to treasure?

My family’s brand of crazy is less of the run-around-the-house screaming variety and more of the subtle wear-you-down-until-you-snap variety.  Like most families, we take turns in the crazy seat.  We find it spreads the love around a bit more that way.

My Dad has been in and out of work for a few months now and after a few experiments finally decided to do what everyone has been smartly telling him to do for years: start his own company.  A few days before Christmas, he did this.  Now he is in the game of stop and go as details like insurance, office space, and equipment all get sorted out.  There is no lease on office space quite yet, which means my Dad is spending a considerable amount of time at home… in the crazy seat.  This is figurative, of course, because my Dad is a machine.  The man cannot sit still for a moment.  You know how Kate was so active during her first year that her weight dropped dramatically and we had a hundred tests and sleepless nights and worried, worried, worried… until finally no one could find anything wrong and was left us with the conclusion that she was burning several hundred calories a day simply because she was So Unbelievably Active?  Well, turns out Kate did get it from somewhere.

So in his attempts to ready my Mom for her turn on the crazy seat, Dad decided to empty the attic.  This is a HUGE endeavor.  The attic is actually includes normal attic space in the eves of their house, plus an entire room they left unfinished so they’d have more attic space.  Our entire house could fit in there, with room for the outbuilding.  Not that we are being critical: Paul and I have used this to considerable advantage.  We storage much of his pinball manuals and equipment there, as well as several boxes of non-essential ‘stuff’ that came from Michigan that we’ve never retrieved (things like high school yearbooks, old framed posters, and bins of artwork I did in elementary school).  There are also several dozen boxes of things from my Grandma Betty and Grandma Alice (my Mom and Dad’s mothers, respectively).

Dad decided he was ready to purge.  The boxes were waiting for us when we arrived on Friday afternoon.

Our stuff is one thing.  That is easier to identify both practically and emotionally.  But the things from my Grandmothers, I’m struggling to place.  Am I okay with letting these go, these little ties to forgotten memories?  Plus, so much of it is just unique and kitschy and cute.  And some of it involves birds and/or swans, on which I have an addiction that runs so deep I’d trade you my last bar of dark chocolate for a one-of-a-kind tchotsky with little other purpose over dust collection.

But really, milk glass is so creamy and wholesome!  And those bumps feel cool and interesting.  Also?  I have glass plates that are similar (with bumps along the edges) that were also my Grandma’s.  (Okay, I admit it.  My cabinets reflect that I’ve been led down this path before.)

See this little teacup?  It was my great-grandmother’s and now it’s all alone.  Just one tiny cup and saucer.  It’s too small for two lumps and would have a tough time taking cream.  Perfect, really, for the dainty shot of gin.  Isn’t that what tea parties are about these days, anyway?

I can’t decide which of these I like more.  Instead of laying my earrings on the bathroom counter, wouldn’t they look cute in one of these?  (Please no smart comments about the jewelry looking best where it goes… in a drawer… I’m trying to be realistic here.)

Did you know milk glass GLOWS?  Sure, it’s glowing on the bottom, but how cool!  My Mom told me that Grandma used this on the kitchen table as a place to put receipts and keys.  In other words, if I took it home and Kate used it to mix plaster of paris, I wouldn’t be completely disowned.

Ah, but this!  Your heart will just break.  I have another for holding my rings while I do dishes.  But not quite as adorable as this little sweetie…

Little touches of my Grandmas.  Definitely worth finding a place for at home… and then packing up and evacuating with once a year.  Right?

Art & Photography
Family Stories
Mi Familia

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Photohunt: Aftermath

Aftermath. That’s the Photohunt theme for this week.  Do I have pictures of aftermath?  Does the Pope wear a funny hat?

I thought about just skipping the week all together.  I’m not really in the mood to think about aftermath.  But here’s one.  Of many.

Also, I’m linking to pictures, and more, of aftermath.  They just scratch the surface.

Both the ugly.

And the recovery.

Art & Photography
Recovery and Rebirth

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