March 2010

Eiffel, the last moments.

Taken seconds before the tower is destroyed when they try to see who can sit on the others head and pass gas first.

Art & Photography

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Where the water heater exploded, part two. Bad poetry edition.*

A water heater from 1996
Chose Thursday night to go ker-frix.
Two times it rained in the kitchen
Using lots of towels and bucket switchin’.

All night long Paul stayed to bail
The quickly refilling basin pail
When no more water was falling (plop!)
He left for the coffee shop.

Francisco (a contractor) was there, too,
And told Paul he would see him through.
Frantically Paul drove through town
Tracking a water heater down.

The truck clutch gave out, what? More bad luck?
But to come was the biggest ‘oh my, f*ck!’
Because when the monster tank was finally inside
We discovered it was much too wide.

Francisco saved the day there, too,
The owner picked it up – thank you!
Plumbers arrived and made a fix
(Though the water now looks like brownie mix)

The old heaters that run on gas
Have clearly kicked our ass
So with the advice from the crew
A tankless system we will debut.

Later this week, the plumbers most pragmatic
Will return and install it in the attic.

All and all, we feel quite lucky
Because what if Paul had been in Kentucky?
Only minor damage in the house
And big-time help from a friend of my spouse.

Only one more tip to share
Something of which to be aware;
After spraying insulation under a home
Make sure drain pipes are free of clogging foam.

*With thanks to Rassles, whose post (of much, much higher quality) inspired this one.

Home and Renovation

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Where the water heater explodes, part one.

If I hadn’t been in the tub, Paul wouldn’t have been in our room with Kate.

If Kate hadn’t resisted sleep for nearly 2 hours, Paul wouldn’t have left the study.

And if Paul hadn’t left the study to be in our bedroom, he probably wouldn’t have heard the sound.


From the tub, I heard him shout, “WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY” and then take off down the hall. Kate came into the bathroom as I finished up and threw on a robe.  It was a miracle I didn’t break my neck as I walked around the attic ladder and into the kitchen — WATER.  EVERYWHERE.

It was dripping down from the lights in the center of the kitchen, dripping all over the cabinets, fridge, and pooling on the floor.  I ran back for towels and basins.

We still don’t know exactly what happened.  But the bottom line is that water leaked from one of our two water heaters.  They are from 1996, so they were getting old in water-heater-years.  Perhaps it rusted and started to leak?  Either way, it appears that the catch basin under the water heater overflowed — and had slowly been sending water down into the drywall over our kitchen.

Paul bailed out the basin as a first step.  We investigated the problem in a variety of tests, turning off and on water in different spigots and at the main house water line.  The bottom line is that we don’t have water, at least for now.

Can you see the water dripping from the light and ceiling?  (See how the drywall seam is raised?  It’s not suppose to be like that.  Soggy to the touch.)

After thinking it was just the lights, Paul noticed that a dishtowel on the counter was wet… uh, oh… a few seconds later, we saw that the range was flooded as well.  We had to take the cabinet below apart for it to dry out.

The water is pretty gross.

As of this moment, Paul is staying up most of the night to empty the basin in the attic as it fills.  The water heater… the 30 gallon water heater… is slowly draining.  We’ve tried a few tricks but after having to do the entire clean-up a SECOND time already tonight, we admitted that we were going to just have to watch it… for awhile.

To be continued…

Home and Renovation

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What’s your morning routine?

“But it’s not FAIR!” Will says as he throws around his school pants.  “I don’t WANT TO TAKE OFF MY SHOES!!”

He’s gotten dressed in green corduroys instead of his blue school pants, again.  I’m not concerned that he has a turtleneck under his school shirt on a day that will reach the low-70s, but I do need him to wear his navy school pants.  I’m cool on bending the rules (e.g.: the royal blue pants with baggy pockets from yesterday) but responsibility holds me from breaking them completely.  Hence the angry outburst from my child.  “Good morning, son!” I think to myself, “like most mornings, today I’m greeting you with demands that make you miserable!”

Kate, on the other hand, is pleasant as can be, setting up intricate bedding for assorted dolls and stuffed things.  Large items have bedding made up from blankets she’s unpacked from Will’s room, which makes me sigh as I consider having to fold and put back each one.  Then I notice that the small items have bedding made up of Kleenex.  Suddenly re-folding blankets seems like a joyous task.  Fifteen minutes of badgering, directing, undressing, re-dressing, cajoling, and general focused power are what it takes to get the child into actual clothing.  It’s a delicate balance between listening, encouraging, directing, offering choices, and provoking total meltdown.  At least this child still needs enough help in the morning that I can play to that balancing-act.  The boy is pretty much in misery full-time.

I figure that morning chaos isn’t unique (right?)  But here is where my morning both brightens and narrows into envy:

While I’m wetting my son’s hair and trying to comb it while he eats breakfast (by the way, water is akin to hot oil — the child is screaming under the sizzle of the luke-warm water on the brush), while Kate is being asked for the 18th time to PLEASE put on her shoes, and while I watch as the cat jumps up on the table to lick out of a cereal bowl that wasn’t put in the sink…. Paul waltzes in the door.

Yes. Waltz.

He glides in, shiny and perfect, all rested and perky, having enjoyed 2 blissful hours of work in the coffee shop.  He’s had plenty of perfectly prepared caffeine and gotten through enough work to feel a bit accomplished before the rest of our time zone has put on pants.  And now he’s home to kiss his darling family and send them off to school.

Is it okay that I both love him and …. hate him for this?  Damn perky perfect husband, forcing himself out of bed extra early to put in hours to spend more time with us and help me more in the afternoon!!

And just like that, my warm underbelly is exposed and all my weaknesses laid out for display: I suck at morning routine.

I’m looking for the reality check here.

SHOULD I be just as perfect and have the kids ready and waiting for his return?  Or is this just too Stepford?

Is it more reasonable that my husband come home to the gum-in-my-hair wife wielding two screaming, half-dressed children and a kitchen full of dirty dishes?

Could my morning madness just be karmic balance?  Or am I not fulfilling what should be a sort of equally-impressive display of responsibility to my mate?

Help me out, folks.  How do you do it?


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Reggio Run 2010 — 10K, but only $5.

I’m doing a 10K in 10 days.

If you know me well, I suspect you may have just fallen out of your chair. I apologize. Let me clarify: I’ve been training for a 10K which will happen in 10 days.

If you’ve known me for a few years, you’ll not be surprised at why I’m doing this. I’m signed up for the Crescent City Classic, a run/walk through the streets of New Orleans, to support Abeona House — the much-loved non-profit Reggio Emilia-inspired early childhood education center that Paul and I helped open almost 4 years ago.

I tried to go through my old posts and find some to mention here to show how special Abeona is — not only to us, and not only to all of the families, teachers, and children within — but to the community around it.

I had volumes to choose from… you could start at the beginning and read some of the logistics of opening and sustaining.  Like about that darn ramp we had to build (written by Paul) or when we finally got the 501c3 or the day we got the sign or teacher appreciation or about walks to the levee.

You could find the letter that we put in our holiday cards in 2007 or the article in the local paper.  You could see how we came together in tragedy.  And then how excited we were when Starbucks employees flew in from Seattle to lead a hand.

You could watch the fun in the kids’ exploration of Oak Street through tricks-or-treats or a visiting a senior center or riding the streetcar to the zoo.  You could see how Abeona teaches kids to give back.  And sets the example.

You could laugh at pictures from our first annual Krewe of Abeona Mardi Gras parade down Oak Street — or the second annual parade when Will was king.

You could go elsewhere, too.  To Chrissie’s story.  Or Emmy’s.  (Both are wonderfully written.)

But no matter where you learn about our school, I hope that you’ll support me.


I’m asking every friend I’ve got for 5 bucks.

I’m at $150 right now and I’d like to see this grow.  It’s as easy as can be… just visit the Abeona House website and click on the “donate” button.  Sure, we’d love you to give whatever you can, but I know times are tight so I’m asking for 5.

Abeona House is a wonderful organization worthy of donation — but even so, I consider your donations to be equally supportive of me, personally.

If you do, please let me know so that I can send a personal thank-you.  (You can make a note that it’s to support me in the Reggio Run when you donate online!)  THANK YOU!!



UPDATE: Last night, Emmy sent me this message regarding the donations received:

Quite a haul for one day. I’m able to send a developing teacher on a conference now. Unbelievable…thank you.

In other words, you all were so generous in ONE DAY that enough money was raised that she is able to send a teacher to a professional development conference — a very direct experience that will improve kids’ experiences at Abeona everyday!  AMAZING what $5 can do!  THANK YOU ALL!!

If you haven’t donated, it’s not too late to contribute to the Reggio Run!

Life in New Orleans

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And then my brain flew out of my head and bounced around on the floor.

“The dance class was great.  E and R were there and we got to catch up… I think we need to follow the class with dinner afterward.”

“Do you want me to cook for next week?”

“Actually, I was thinking that maybe we should make it a girls’ night dinner.”

“Sure, leave me at home with the kids.”

“Do you want to make a dinner, for real?”

“Will you make me wear the Chippendale’s outfit again?”

“You can wear either, Chip or Dale.”

“Well, either way you get my nuts.”


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One of these is not like the other.

Today was Fete Francaise, the yearly French Block Party that serves as the major fundraising event for scholarships for our kids’ school.  Each year, all the kids perform at Fete.

Remember how the last time Will performed at school, he exceeded his previous stage-related penchants of yawning and nose-picking in favor of giving out wet-willies to other kids?  Right.  Well.

I’ll show you how it went.  Let me set the stage, so to speak.

There’s a lot of people there.

And the kids are all lined up on stage with parents crowded in as close as possible.

Cameras are everywhere.  All kinds of  Serious.  Cameras.

And it’s Fete, the most important day of the year for the school, so folks are really into it.

The kids are lined up on stage, ready to sing all sorts of deep philosophical things about Sartre and Voltaire.  All in French, of course, which is important because, as Fancy Nancy says, “everything in French sounds Fancy.”

So sweet.

Wait.  Except.  What?  That kid on the end?

Right, that one.

Yes, that’s the same one.  Good.  I’m glad he can be seen from all sides, then.  Just so everyone can experience it.  Who is he, anyway?

Oh, WILL.  Good thing he has that notebook so clearly marked.  Just so EVERYONE can know EXACTLY who he is.  No question, then.

Okay.  So, what’s that kid, Will… what is he DOING?

What is he doing indeed.

Okay.  Click on the video below.  Sound recommended. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

That kid on the end of the school performance. from Cold Spaghetti on Vimeo.

Still, I’ll take this over wet-willies. I’m calling it a success.

Life in New Orleans

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Soundbite Favorites

I’ve heard that PhDs are granted approval to graduate once their committees are satisfied that all love, inspiration, and idealism for their field of study is beaten out of them.  Largely, I find this to be true, which is why I’ve found so much enjoyment out of the job holding the largest portion of my part-time work pie.

I am program director for a small nonprofit in New Orleans where I get the pleasure of supervising and mentoring roughly a dozen graduate students who dream up, design, and implement service projects in underserved communities.  Simply put, they rock.  Yesterday, we had over 20 interviews to narrow down our finalists to the dozen we decided we could take for the next Fellowship cycle.  Of the ones I co-conducted, these are some sound-bites that inspired me (or made me laugh).

— “I had never really thought about Tulane for Medical School.  Then, as I was reading about different Medical Schools in the AMA guide, Tulane was the ONLY Medical school program that distinctly and specifically says it is focused on training physicians within a community health model, and requires community service from all Medical students.  That is when I knew it was the only school I wanted to attend.”

— “I’ve lived my whole life in California and never thought I would leave.  Then I visited New Orleans… and I was blown away.  I guess the rest of the country has no idea, because I had no idea… I had no idea how great life here was…”

— “I was worried.  I mean, it’s the SOUTH.  But wow, I mean, it wasn’t so bad after all!”

— “Everyone here is SO HAPPY.  I mean, was it like this before Katrina, too, or is it all that medication people talk about?”

Life in New Orleans

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There’s a post coming about our wonderful Saturday morning volunteering in the garden of the Edible Schoolyard at Samuel Green School.  But while I fix the photos and think about how to write about the morning, where all the Fellows came, where we spontaneously met up with other friends and families who came out, where we gardened and then shared a community meal…. and then while I figure out how to describe the amazing garden, the inspirational school, and how it all grew out of ideas and work and people — while all that is in process, I couldn’t resist sharing just a little something.

Here is Kate, taking a break from weeding and watering.  Kate, sporting her fancy gardening hair.

Life in New Orleans

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VOTE HERE! Just Posts for a Just World : Best of 2009

It’s here!

Alejna and I are proud to share with you, the FINAL SELECTIONS for the JUST POSTS : BEST OF 2009!

Writing that was so very exciting that I had to supress the urge to animate the text with flashing rainbows and dancing bears… let’s break out the iced coffee and Jameson, y’all!  WHOO-HOO!

Please vote! And spread the word to others to vote, contribute, nominate, write, and read!  And most importantly — Thank you thank you thank you for your interest, support, and involvement in the Just Posts!


Right here, in THIS POST, you can vote for your favorite finalist by category.  You can also write in a favorite overall post.  Fancy!

  • Vote within as many categories as you like, but please vote only once in each category.
  • There’s no need to vote in all categories at once–come back as often as you like before voting ends.
  • We’ll have the polls up and open for one week.

At the end of Monday night, March 22nd, we will close the poll and start to tally the results. The top votes in each category will receive a hand-made tile from a New Orleans artisan with a few trinkets thrown in for good measure. Using your votes and any additional written input, we will recognize a post (or two, we’re not ruling out ties) as the Best of the Best Just Posts. We’ll do something extra special for this.

Just scroll on down and start voting if you’re ready!

For those that are interested, here is a run down of our imperfect process:

Using your comments and ratings we narrowed down the long list of finalists. From there, we created categories that reflected all of those 130+ posts. Then we went back to the comments and ratings and narrowed down the categories (our goal was 3 in each category; note some have 4). We made great efforts to represent a variety of voices, writers and experiences.  In no way is this list or these categories representative of the broad theme of “Social Justice.” It represents what we’ve been able to gather, write and have nominated.

Based on those finalists, we narrowed down to 4 broad categories, with topics under each:

  • POLITICAL/LEGAL: Gender Equity, Sexuality, Race
  • HEALTH/WELLNESS: Food and Nutrition, Disease and Illness, Child Welfare
  • SOCIO-ECONOMIC INEQUALITIES: Vulnerable populations, Education, Social/Societal Values
  • ADVOCACY/SERVICE: Service and Action, Information and Advocacy

(Plus a HUMOR category as the lagniappe!)

Now all that is left is the VOTING!  Did I mention that we hope you’ll vote?  And spread the word?

Thank you again for your support of the Just Posts!



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