I am in a really bad mood.

Yes, I’m upbeat and if you ask I’ll be fine, but the truth is that I’m just really pissed off.

I’m pissed that it’s Mardi Gras. I’m not ready for it and therefore, it’s presence and pressure in my life is totally pissing me off. If you’re preparing for, thinking about, or planning for Mardi Gras, I can guarantee that it’s pissing me off. I’m sorry, really. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m pissed off that I’m not done, that I’m not asleep, and that my sheets aren’t clean. I’m pissed that I didn’t take my jeans out of the dryer and they’ll be short and I fucking HATE that because nothing is more ridiculous than pants that are too short on someone who is already clearly too short.

I’m pissed over the size of the piles of laundry yet to do. And every damn piece of clothing that is stained, inside out, twisted, or mis-organized (which means every damn article there) is each, individually, a source of pissing-me-off. Really, it’s out of control. If you saw it, I feel certain you’d find it pretty offensive. Chances are, it’d piss you off, too.

Every damn sign I see for Jay Batt pisses me off.

I’m pissed over work stuff for which I have no control and pissed over work stuff for which I do have control. I’m pissed that I’m distracted. I can’t stay on schedule and I can’t clear my schedule and it pisses me off. Every new tidbit of information to process, new detail to remember, new task to incorporate feels oppressive and stifling.

I hate feeling oppressed and stifled.

I’m pissed about people. I’m pissed about places. And I’m pissed that I’m even bothering to be pissed about people and places.

And I’m pissed that I really shouldn’t be pissed because horrible things are happening in the world and we’re okay so I don’t have any right to be pissed in the first place. By all rights, I should be bouncing out of bed every morning, eager to work to enjoy all we have going for us. I try to turn it around, picturing myself greeting the bright day with flowers in my hair and a smile for each moment but that image really gets on my nerves.

Try as I may, in my heart of hearts, I just feel pretty unpleasant.

Am I just a total whiny bitch? It’s okay, please tell the truth. It doesn’t matter because either way, my guess is that it will piss me off.

A good chaser is needed here. Something sickly cute. So cute it might even piss you off. I take no offense if it does. I know it’s not personal.

Mi Familia

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Balance is bull.

Try as I may, I just can’t get the job of independently wealthy woman of leisure.  I tell you though, I do a BANG UP GOOD JOB of it.  Quality work, I tell you.  But then reality hits and responsibilities cave in.  It’s trite, of course, but the whole run-but-can’t-hide thing rings bells.

So we’re home and I’m finally embracing the fact that I’m now running a nonprofit (I know, how in the heck did THAT happen?!) and still have an unfinished paper that hangs over my head like ballast weight on a fraying rope.  I figure that the rope can hold out until February or so, because it will take 2-3 months to get comments, submit more drafts, and get to the point where I actually can defend.  There is a lot going on in this program director role and an equal a lot going on with the research project — the third in my triumvirate of semi-paying professional activities — and some-days I am not so good about balancing and prioritizing.

So how do others do it?  What is your system of organization?  How do you allocate time for a variety of activity?  Do you use masterful discipline to stay on task appointed time?  Do you schedule big blocks of time for one activity at a time, or do several things slowly at once?  How do other people fit in all the random bits of work, knowledge, responsibility, volunteering, meal planning, home renovating, tantrum controlling, butt wiping, phone answering, bill paying, walking, talking and breathing?

Internets, I need your secrets.

Mi Familia

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Monday Mambo

A little bit of writing done tonight
A little bit of email sent, that’s right!
A little bit of nausea just set in
’cause I sent that big draft IN!

Yes, that’s right. I sent my committee chair a draft of my dissertation tonight… just in time to make it a Monday Mission.


Speaking of the Painted Maypole, we were able to see her LIVE! and IN PERSON! in PINKALICIOUS! this weekend. I promise, each of those words deserved both caps and excessive punctuation. The show was adorable and TPM is even more lovelier (and taller!) than her pictures. Bonus: the May Queen stopped by (on her birthday!) so we were able to get in a Girls Only photo.

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Since then, Kate has woken up “PINK!” each morning and picked out her daily outfits in accordance to how PINKALICIOUS! they are. Not that the show made an impact, or anything.


PS: Did I mention that I sent in a draft? Of my dissertation? To my committee chair? A draft? Sent? Draft? DRAFT?!?!?! My stomach is in knots.


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This Fall.

From now until the end of October:

— Three conference presentations: one in New Haven (this one is a poster/talk about my still un-finished dissertation); one in New Orleans (this is is a presentation about the PAR Photovoice project); one in Chicago (a presentation about health and health-related work in NOLA).

— Program director’s meeting in Chicago.

— One week plus one day of fall break for the kids in mid-October (cut short by the Chicago meeting and conference).  Will we take the kids to Disney as originally planned?

— School events.  Parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school picnic, nightly homework, open houses.

— NOLA Aids walk Sept. 20th (Schweitzer group is participating).

— Doctor visits for Will’s casting and re-casting and eventual cast-removal.

— Doctor visits for Paul and I (we’re trying to Be Good).

— Weekend workshop for Photovoice project in October.

— Continued work on Photovoice project and Schweitzer program.

Laying it all out seems to help me think through it.

All this is like constant background noise that floods out my ability to focus, think, and write.  I know what I have to do, I know what I want to say.  I have outlines and the starts of each chapter… I just need to flesh each one out in draft.  (And make a beautiful poster about it.  The poster doesn’t require the draft being done, but I’ve never made a poster for this kind of event before, and the attendants are my Academic Heros, so I’m way nervous about it.  I’m talking about the poster during a cocktail hour where all the speakers will be milling around talking and asking questions.  And did I mention that the conference organizer is one of my brilliant teachers/advisers from Michigan, whom I respect and adore?  Oh, and my committee chair?  Yeah, he’ll be there, too.)

I know I *can* do, each thing, and do them relatively well.  I mean, right?  But how?  I’m trying to figure it out.  Suggestions welcome.  *gulp*


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While waiting for files to copy.

TO DO, before August 1st.

— Apply 4 years of ethnographic research to roughly 60-80 pages of unwritten manuscript, comparing to (approximately) last 50 years of research on relevant topics.
— Hire desperate computer-savvy person to enter several hundred sources into new software and tie them into ongoing drafts.
— Hire or beg help to improve terrible translations… currently over 20 pages of them.
— Draw two portraits.
— Wean Kate from the pacifier before she gets herself into (more) trouble.
— Get glitter for the coming tooth fairy return.
— Finish one major grant submission.
— Be okay with putting all other work tasks on hold… cancel meetings, apologize, explain, and try to delegate.
— Have a least one meeting that would not go on hold from above.
— Finish lodging reservations for Scotland.
— Arrange camera rental for Scotland.
— Presents: mail wrapped b-day gifts for C, W, and R… and just cuz present for W. Figure out birthday present and send to B. Order/ship wedding present. Belated b-day for brother and anniversary for brother and sis-in-law, too.
— Find house/cat sitter.
— Make beach decisions.
— Prepare two 2-hour classes with lecture and discussion… bonus points for being alive to deliver them.
— Freak out over all the things I’m forgetting.


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Work, Writing, and Wanderings.

— Since last weekend’s writing retreat, which took place in an out-of-town colleague’s apartment, I’ve been able to fall into a much more productive writing schedule.
— My dissertation is fleshed out into 10 Chapters. All currently have written sections… none of which are finished. I’m guessing 1/3-1/2 of it is written… and of that, the majority ranges from “okay” to “crap.” Somehow it all makes sense in my head but makes no sense on paper. Hmmmmm.
— I know what each needs to say and getting them to that point really scares me.
— How come I’m freaked out by my own visions for The Thing? I thought I’d feel better at this point in the game.

— We’re spending the first week of August in Scotland. One my best friends from college is getting married in Ayr… in a castle… on a cliff… by the sea. We’re going in a few days early to check out the Western Island(s) and Highland area before the wedding.
— When we get back from Scotland, we’re going to the beach with the kids. Paul will be working then, but we’re hoping to manage it all to get in some quality family time before the school year starts.

— My committee chair is back in town in a little over a week. We’re meeting on the 30th. YIKES.

— Work is still overwhelming, but I had a few learning moments and realized that I needed to let go a bit until the dissertation draft was done.

Seeking….? Advice on Scotland. And the post-Scotland beach. (Did I mention we’re flying direct in and out of ORLANDO?) Ideas on balancing. And strategies for sustained writing inspiration.


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Pondering Fate

Rounding out the triumvirate of part-time employment I have distracting me from writing That Damn Paper (the new official title of my dissertation) is a teaching position in the School of Social Work.  Last week I lectured alone for the first time, on material new to the course and to me.  I’m one of three with teaching responsibility for these classes, which is an absolutely fabulous set-up; low stress and interesting all at the same time.

On Tuesday, the students will have an in-class simulation of a UN Global Humanitarian Forum based on a variety of readings on Human Development.  To give them a primer of what is expected, one of my colleagues sent out links to videos from last year’s UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Bonn.

This is the sort of stuff that gets passed around my collegial circles all the time… climate change, gazillions impacted, always the lowest on the totem that get sunk… yeah, yeah.  It buzzes around back there as we focus on whatever tiny section of the Global Health pie we’re devouring.  It’s not that we’re not interested, it’s just that well… sometimes it feels like folks in this field tire of the gore and horrors. And sometimes you get so caught up in just doing a job and just getting ahead that the senses get dulled. Passion is not something easy to sustain. Then, sometimes, an ear picks up a few words and slowly lifts the head around to attention.

The discussion of the Himalayas, and the ONE BILLION people who live on either side, is what turned my head. Because that’s right, of course. One third of our roughly 6 billion earthlings call either India or China home, so it’s right to throw those numbers out there. At least a billion people live to the north and south of the Himalayan range and rely on it’s freshwater runoff.

I know. His tongue is a bit serpent-like. I hope it didn’t distract too much from his arguments. By the way, this guy, Yvo de Boer, is the Executive Secretary of the UFCCC. Like most folks at the UN, I feel like he’s caught in a battle of conscious and politics… wanting to get tough and present vision and do all those hard-line things that Greenpeace (et al) slam him on, but having to deal with arrogant leaders (ahem, GW) who aren’t having it and would simply shut it all out if he did go that route. I dunno. Maybe this is me dreaming? I always want to believe that people long to do more than they are able.

A statement made by 17-year old Rishika Das Roy, from Kolkata, India, was also sent to students. Here are some photographs of her community, the Sunderbans. I wonder what her statement would have been if she had attended the meeting as the Executive Director of the UNFCCC for the day, rather than a “witness”?

Watching the two speakers — their different roles, ages, positions, passions, intents, and approaches — the hierarchies in it all just stood out. This young woman is poised to be a leader in some capacity. Will 30 years of working with International organizations dull her passions, force her to recognize the compromises in politics, shake her down to broad numbers of impact? Is this fate for all go-gooders? That we become jaded, pessimistic, burnt out, fed up?


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Boston Boston Boston.

This is not the city I visited last week.  But it’s on the way.  Doesn’t it look quaint and, yes, maybe even compact, from up in the sky?  And the strange colors?  The polarizer on my camera and the polarizer on the plane windows got realllll friendly-like and made these colors.  Groovy.

Spending four days in Boston was a dizzying, unsettling experience.  Not because of the long work days.

And not because I embarrassingly bought the first “Twilight” book to read during the trip (*seriously blushing*).

I stayed in two incredible communities (Jamaica Plain and Brookline) both architecturally and historically rich.  It was like being surrounded with the beautiful architecture of an old city, yet with the added bonus of public transportation, roads, and sidewalks wide enough for bicyclists.  I heard that the improvements were made to facilitate use of the public transport by folks with limited mobility.  There were no clogged sewer drains.  The streets were paved smooth — not one hole, bump, or even an unmet seam to mar your way.  The gutters were clear of dirt and debris.  Public spaces were clean, with plentiful information centers, bathrooms, and historical markers.  Traffic was constant, but moving and managed.  Police popped up to move traffic and pedestrians along.  And those were all happening in the parts of town where parents don’t want to live because the schools are bad.

If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it, either.

Really.  It was like people got together, agreed on the things that made a nice urban environment, and then made it happen.

It was fantastic.

And also?  A bit creepy.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all intellectual and deep-n-stuff.  I can totally hang with my erudite academic peeps.  But I think, after awhile, the nirvana-like perfection stresses me out.  Sometimes I just want to hang out in generic flip-flops, drink from the bottom shelf, and chase it down with Folger’s from a Styrofoam cup.  And I want to do it with six other people who couldn’t care less about it just as long as they get a swig.  I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it.  I guess I love that my city can say the same thing.

But I’m happy that Boston is so nice.  What a great place to have in our country.

Even in the construction zone of a church, being rebuilt after a fire destroyed it almost 2 years ago, kids were playing in the relative safety of the yard.  Right beside a trailer set up for community services.  Just, nice.

All of these pictures were taken in Jamaica Plain last Tuesday night, the day I arrived.  My Boston College colleague and mentor walked for several hours around the neighborhood with me — we stopped in a local bookstore, walked around the ‘pond,’ had a fantastic feast of Indian cuisine, and polished it off with ice cream from the local dairy.


There were messages like this all over…


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The week Kate potty trains.

I leave tomorrow morning for 3 1/2 days in Boston.  I figure since Paul can do almost anything I can (and better) that by the time I get back, he’ll have Kate playing piano etudes, Will writing verse in Spanish, a half dozen herb plants thriving on the porch, the rain water harvesting barrels up and catching, and two week’s worth of dinners frozen for future meals.

The meeting days are long and there isn’t much free time, which means I will have plenty to feel guilty about when I get back.  Because just by virtue of being out of the house, shouldn’t I be writing around the clock?   Chemical support is looking really tempting; I’ve gained a new appreciation for why cocaine was initially a suburban drug popular among Moms.  ’cause If I could just cut out sleep, I would be able to keep my self-imposed, mostly unrealistic deadline.  (Hi, NIH?  Just kidding!  I’m TOTALLY going to be done then.)

Please be sure to send Paul some support this week.  Because now?  Kate has decided she is potty trained and does FUN things like take off her pull-up and pee all over the floor and half her toys.  OOPS.  Paul has a much harder time with the whole accident scenario.  And?  I want him to feel rested this week.  Because when I get back Friday night, I’ll have just enough time to sleep all day Saturday in preparation of going out  Saturday night with the girls (Indigo Girls at Tipitina’s, whoo-hoo!)

P.S. I’m missing the kids already.

Mi Familia

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Currently Playing in Monday Mission

I’ve been trying to come up with some sort of creative, literary fancy-pants-writer way of recounting all the random craziness going on here.  Listing has felt too random, too quick.  Instead, I’m taking a page from Jim Croce, who famously used music to express emotion.  Borrowed, of course, from the Internet’s favorite Helena, TPM with 80s inspiration from Mad.

Here it is, the soundtrack to our lives as of late, 80s style.

— Friday, girls night out at The Bead Shop, followed by drinks and hey, Let’s Dance to the Sultans of Swing, ’cause Girls Just Wanna Have Fun but also, we need to prove that we, Mamas?  Yeah, we still Got the Beat.

— That Sweet Child O’ Mine, Baby Kate, turned 3.  A bunch of our friends came over and we had fun while 13 kids ran around our house, beat a pinata, and screamed “I Want Candy“!

— Tomorrow morning, I’m going to Photograph the Abeona kids for a school fundraiser.

— The social work class I’m teaching starts tomorrow night.  I don’t expect anyone to be Hot for Teacher, but it would be cool to form a Cult of Personality.

— The uncertainty around my parents’ move has us feeling helpless, but I guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues.  Explaining to Will why his Grandparents are moving means a lot of Sad Eyes.

— I got a Visiting Scholar appointment at a big Northeast college which is cool and wonderful and awesome because the folks there took me as What I Am.

— My SMA conference proposal was accepted and I’m Walking on Sunshine that at least an abstract of the dissertation is of interest.

— Next week I go to Boston for the Schweitzer Fellowship.  I have to leave a day early to be there on time because we live In a Big Country.  The program director’s retreat is a 3-day all-day event, yet I am hopeful to have some quiet time to myself to write.  My greatest dream is to have a full, uninterrupted week alone in a place that isn’t my house to work on nothing but my dissertation… Save a Prayer for me.

— Two friends and I have made a walking pact for regular exercise and stuck to it now for over a week.  When I feel like there is too much going on and I can’t manage to get away, I Whip It.  Not that this is helping me look at birthday cake and manage not to Eat It.

— The firehose went from bone dry to full blast, as Paul is Back on the Chain Gang (or maybe the Morning Train?) with several projects and overtime.  Combined with my income and his guarantee of at least 10 weeks more of work, we’re fine.  There is no more Livin’ on a Prayer.  And yes, New Orleans is still tough place to live and work but it’s our American Dream and we love it and there’s no place like it and I Still Believe that it’s worth sacrifice to raise our kids in this amazing place.

This has been a Monday Mission.

Family Life in NOLA
Mi Familia

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