Navy honoring its history and heritage in New Orleans

It’s Navy Week in New Orleans.  Who knew?  I didn’t, until a representative from the U.S. Navy sent me an email.  Here’s an excerpt:

I’m writing on behalf of the U.S. Navy about Navy Weeks. As you may know, Navy Weeks are events hosted by Sailors in cities across the country as a way to spread the word about what the Navy does and to thank communities for their support.  After reading some of your blog posts that mention growing up in a Navy family, I thought you might be interested in learning more about the upcoming New Orleans Navy Week, which will take place from November 2-7, 2009.

The New Orleans Navy Week events, including Navy Band performances and Blue Angels F/A-18 Flight Simulator, will give the public a personal look at the men and women of the Navy serving throughout the world in different roles.  The involvement of Sailors will also be a major part of the week, including quite a few from the crew of the USS New Orleans. More about New Orleans Navy Week can be found here.

As part of the week’s events, a Joint Color Guard and 25 Sailors will unfurl the American Flat in the New Orleans Saints Military Appreciation game on tonight’s football game (Saints vs. Falcons).

See, I told you cheering for the Saints was patriotic!  Go Navy! Beat Atlanta!  Or something like that.

Here is my take on Navy Week and why I think it’s worth talking about.  I’ve not hid that I am from a military family, tend to run extremely left, and have pursued intellectual professions.  Sometimes, folks confuse these things, thinking that one can’t be liberal and supportive of the military.  Intellectuals (to my great frustration) tend to either ignore the military as some sort of unwashed mass or look down upon them as uneducated brutes.  But here is the reality: serving in the United States armed forces is one of the most honorable things a person can do.  Those who give the themselves and their families to duties that ask more than many of us (me included) can even imagine often do so for reasons based within the class, race, and socio-economic distinctions that divide and subdivide our country.  It’s important to talk about the sacrifices of service men and women — and the sacrifices of their families — so that we can be clear that taking care of those who give that much is a national priority.  It hasn’t always been, even by the most conservative of governments.

To give others a hint of what it is like to be a part of the service, each day this week I am going to post short interviews with various Navy Servicemen and Servicewomen.   The interviews come from the Navy (full disclosure) and feature individuals who are part of this week’s celebrations in New Orleans.  It’s hard to describe what being a part of a Military family is like without experiencing it first hand, but maybe reading a few profiles will help.  To that end, I give you:

Petty Officer First Class Tomas Davila


Petty Officer First Class is a “plank owner” of the USS New Orleans, meaning he was a part of the ship’s crew even before the vessel was officially commissioned. This strong affinity for the ship extends to its namesake, the city of New Orleans. Davila called the city home for a short time while serving in the Navy and ever since has had a fondness for the place he calls the “Queen of the South.” He currently manages 13 technicians onboard the USS New Orleans but will get a break from troubleshooting computers and repairing navigation system on November 2-7, when he takes part in Navy Week. Here are some of his thoughts on Navy service and New Orleans:

Connection to New Orleans:

“I had the opportunity to live in New Orleans for a short time while at the pre-commissioning detachment. While there, I was amazed at the city’s charm and the hospitable nature of her people. I consider New Orleans as the Queen of the South and will always keep her close to my heart.”

Most memorable experience in uniform:

“The day I came home after my tour in Iraq; the sounds of my mother’s tears and my father’s joy will always stick with me. That day my dad, a Vietnam veteran, told me how proud he was of me and opened up for the first time about his times in the Army. Our relationship has only grown stronger since.”

What Navy Week means to me:

“Navy Week is a great opportunity for me to show others what it means to be in the Navy. To demonstrate how our core values – honor, courage and commitment – are not solely military terms but life values for anyone. Additionally, these events give communities a chance to see firsthand what we do and allow Sailors to express our appreciation for their support.”

For more information on Navy Week, and to learn about events where you can meet Sailors like Petty Officer First Class Davila, visit: You can also become a fan of Navy Weeks on Facebook. Just search “Navy Weeks” or follow this link.


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October Awareness: Breast Cancer and Hispanic Heritage

Tina asked for bloggers to participate as guest bloggers for October, on the theme of Breast Cancer Awareness, in honor of her Mother, a breast cancer survivor.  Here is my cross-listed post.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It is also Hispanic Heritage Month.

And breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women.

The Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the United States.  Hispanic Americans make up roughly 14 percent of the U.S. population, but they are the fastest growing segment, estimated to reach 20 percent or more by 2050.

Even when access to health care is adequate, for Hispanic women in the United States, breast cancer is more often diagnosed at a later stage, when the disease is more advanced.   Further, approximately two-thirds of breast cancer found in Hispanic women is discovered by accident – not by screening or mammogram.

Actually, according to a Kaiser Permanente study, the news gets worse.  When compared to non-Hispanic white women, Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age, have cancer that has already spread beyond the breast, have tumors with cell type that have a poorer prognosis, have larger tumors, and have tumors that cannot be treated with some of the most effective medicines.

What’s the public health response?  Interventions aimed at increased screening, access, and education.  But is it enough?

If early detection and survival is the goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month – then there has to be a conversation about an individual’s ability to access health care information and services.  Central to that conversation is the reality that those very life-saving information and services are unjustly linked to one’s racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and immigration status.

How do these dynamics play out?  Here is a local example.  If a woman cannot demonstrate access to or eligibility for some type of insurance (or have the ability to pay) – programs can deny her a screening for breast cancer.  Why?  The argument is that it is unethical to provide a screening for a disease when the patient will not be able to access treatment for it.  In the past year, one of the screening programs in New Orleans was shut down for this reason.

What is more unethical?  Denying screening?  Denying treatment?  Or needing any of coverage or eligibilities in the first place?

The bottom line is that women in our largest ethnic minority group do not have a good outlook when it comes to breast cancer.   And improving the outlook is about more than screening programs and access to medicines.  Striking at the heart of a serious disease means a serious look at our entire system of care and asking where treatment for breast cancer and survival of women lie within our values.


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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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Maybe I’m wrong? Maybe we haven’t evolved?

One of the reasons I have been distracted lately is because I’ve been temporarily stunned to silence by the deafening sound of thousands of foreheads smacking into hands in despair and disappointment.  I’m sure you understand.  You heard the news, right?

Of the 192 countries represented in the UN General Assembly, only 66 (like, a third !!) are willing to support the phrase, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” And the U.S.A., with our fingers wagging at other countries whom we feel are not supportive of human rights (whatever in the world we feel they may be?), is in that pathetic majority.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, YEAH.  I hear all the cover-your-ass arguments about federal government and state jurisdiction and blahblahblah.  But you know?  Here’s the thing.  When you take these ridiculous “moral” positions and apply them to policy, it codifies a social dynamic of good versus bad.  In the policy forum, you build systems of inequality.  And in the social forum?  REALLY bad things happen.  Those who are seen as morally deviant are persecuted, seen as disposable, and not afforded the basic human rights to life and dignity*.  By refusing to support a document that recognizes all of us, with all of our wonderful differences and similarities, simply as human beings — it makes it okay to marginalize, penalize, punish, and destroy each other.

It is one thing to have personal or religiously-based reasons to struggle with different sexual orientations.  That is personal situation.  It is another thing all together to not recognize all people, regardless of differences, as human beings.  That is the fuel to the fire of hate, leading directly to the support of acts of violence, bigotry, and xenophobia.  The bottom line is, not supporting this document goes completely against our moving towards a more humane and just world.  (And means that we, the ‘human right watchdog’ U.S., are Big. Fat. Hypocrites.)

But hey, my Grandma taught me to roll with the punches, befriend the enemy, and make change from the inside.  The U.S. has a moral objection to homosexuality for no other real reason than some folks here just don’t like it.  So, since we’re on board for marginalizing people as non-human due to our own personal morals, I’d like to add some things to our “those not human” list.  Here are a few that offend my own moral sensibilities:

— Men who urinate in public.  Definitely against my morals.  Also, a threat to public health.

— People who hawk up snot balls and hork them in public places.  (See above.)

— Creationists.  (I should note that I find stupidity and ignorance to be morally offensive.)

I mean, if people simply loving each other is reason for being sub-human, then surely those on the list above qualify for the same (non)distinction.

Come on, U.S.A.  Come on, people of the world!  Our first job needs to be to protect and promote human rights without exception.  Period.  What are we, if we can’t do something as simple and clear as that?

* There is a good chance that something in one of those links came from Gentilly Girl, who is constantly linking to thoughtful and insightful articles on the topics above.


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Just ’cause I love it

h/t: Kate Harding

UPDATE: Stacy, you rock! YOU TOTALLY NAILED IT! Who can resist that catchy beat?


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Today is a hysterical day*.

My PapPap Charlie was the only child of a rough, Swedish woman. He was well into his forties, unmarried, and childless when he met my divorced Grandma in their jobs at the Department of Commerce. He was quiet, having suffered great abuses as a POW during the Korean War, and whether due to this trauma or his peculiar personality, was incredibly socially awkward. He loved classical music almost as much as he adored my vivacious, life-of-the party Grandma, who seemed to be the light that saved him from his Charlie Brown-like days and thrust him into the wild world of our family. He died of a massive heart attack when I was 10, but my Grandma tells me that before he died, I won his heart.

Oblivious to the awkwardness he had with children, I embraced him with the all assumed adoration of a grandchild. I followed him around, chattering through the sounds of gentle classical music, invading his space when he went to be alone in his basement retreat. Years later, Grandma Betty would tell me that these were the highlights of his life. That he would sit perfectly still and simply listen, puffing away on his cigar, terrified of doing or saying anything that might offend and cause me to leave. He was in awe of me with absolutely no idea of what to do or say, so he simply sat and took in all my chatter and energy with patience and surprise.

Later, when Grandma Betty and I became roommates during my high school days, she filled these stories with more intimate ones about their marriage. Describing how he made her feel and the things that made their relationship special. My favorite antic dotes were the ones that showed Charlie’s softer side, the jokes that made my Grandma laugh. He had a dry humor with a curmudgeon twist, and like my own husband, made jokes from words.

For example, a historical time or place, to Charlie, was an** “hysterical” time or place. Gettysburg, or the Fourth of July, or the Declaration of Independence were all “hysterical” parts of U.S. History. He described the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, the place where my Grandmother chose to have me, her first grandchild, baptized, as “a hysterical church.”

So when I approached the polls this morning and entered my vote, PapPap Charlie was foremost in my mind. I could not shake the thought of how hysterical the moment was, that I was casting a hysterical ballot on a hysterical day, a day that will go down in hysterics. I think about telling my grandchildren about what it was like to participate in the election of 2008, of getting to vote for the first Black President of our country. About how good it felt, as if our country and indeed, the world, was at a turning point and suddenly the winds were picking up to bring us back to a place of safety and honor. I wonder if they will be awed to think that I was a part of such a hysterical day.


* Just in case someone wonder about the grammar here, I looked it up. Using ‘an’ before a word starting with the letter ‘h’ is reserved for when the word has a silent h sound… ‘an honor’, versus ‘a horse’.

** Okay, I know the rule. But really, doesn’t “an” just sound better??


UPDATE: It seems my parents found the new blog. I know because they’ve called me several times a day over the past two days to dump on me offer rewrites for my posts. (Hi, Mom!)

My Grandma Betty was known to weave a few tails… and as the first grandchild and one who lived with her for a solid year to finish high school and then again off and on while I worked in the area after college… I was the one who heard her stories. Charlie worked a desk job in the Navy and never was a POW — these were Grandma’s embellishments. The whole thing is very Grandma Betty. I wonder if she wanted to jazz up his past for her own enjoyment, or to simply make a dull story more interesting, or if it was her way of making him seem more memorable to me. She knew early on that if anyone was going to keep our family stories alive, it would be me; Grandma was aware of the need to leave a verbal legacy through me.

So Grandma made up information about Charlie’s past. Really, I think it’s sweet. A testiment to how much she cared for him, that years after his death she would weave danger and mystery into the gentle, quiet, and reserved man she loved. So Charlie wasn’t a POW, he didn’t become ill in Korea (the story was that he contracted some type of illness and was denied medical attention while a POW), and had job with a Navy supplies department. That’s one story. The other one is of an ordinary man who was loved so much by a vivacious woman who saw him as her hero. That’s the story I like best.

Family Photos
Family Stories
Mi Familia

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Palin Punk’d

Maybe she would have caught on earlier if she could see France from her house?

I haven’t been privvy to many calls between heads of state and potential heads of other states… but even if you forgave her missing the incorrect names of various Canadian officials, wouldn’t you start to get suspicious when the conversation decends into wife hotness, porn tapes, and dead animals?


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In support of the S word

The election has much of our attention these days.  The disbelief over the undecided (really, people, grow a pair), the shock over those who think Palin is just the best thing since sliced bread (wow, just… wow).  And now, after all the ‘Obama pals around with terrorists’ and ‘Obama hates white people’ and blahblahblah ridiculousness, the McCain campaign keeps throwing around socialism as if it’s some sort of anti-American voodoo.  Watch out for those socialists, folks.  They spit on apple pie, stomp on the American flag, and really, really hate baseball.

As a socialist, or at least a libertarian socialist, I admit that my feelings are a little bit hurt.  What in the world is so un-American about socialism?

Maybe my left-leanings come from the fact that I grew up in a socialist system: that of the US military.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of functional socialism: housing, universal health care, even shopping controlled outside of the ‘civilian’ system (no tax on military bases).   Still, the US military is a bit too authoritative for me; I am more of a fan of respecting individual liberties… which, doggone it, seems pretty much like pro-American values to me.

Of course this house is a pro-Obama house.  (I’m working very hard to hold any further snide comments on that issue.)  But it doesn’t mean that he’s my dream politician.  I am fascinated and excited that he has been able to bring people together, excite youth, and make a jaded grump like me feel that maybe there is a way out of this authoritative tunnel of doom we’ve been on for 8 years (I’d argue we’ve been on it since 1980, but that’s another story.)  The hope I have for the Obama mission of change is that he can slowly turn us around, so that our politics can find middle ground in a place that is truly center.  Then maybe us voodoo-welding anti-American socialists can come out and play.


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Are You the Very Model of a Modern Vice-President?

Violet sent me this interesting video, and while watching it, the catchy title above caught my eye.  You see, I can’t resist the urge to recite “I am the Very Model of Modern Major General”.  Once I clicked over, the article itself was so fun and so very-meme worthy, that I couldn’t help but re-post it:

Are You the Very Model of a Modern Vice-President? (By Katha Pollitt)

From Salon’s War Room comes this quote of the day, from Iowa’s Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, a Democrat:

“Sarah knows how to field-dress a moose. I know how to castrate a calf. Neither of those things has anything at all to do with this election. But since we know so much about Sarah’s special skills, I wanted to make sure you knew about mine too.”

What cool things can you do that have nothing to do with being Vice President or, Lord help us, President? It doesn’t have to involve animal bloodshed. Can you write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform? I can’t, but I can whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense, Pinafore. And leap tall buildings at a single bound. Plus, I’ve been to many foreign countries, to say nothing of New Jersey, which I can actually see from my house.

Maybe I should be Vice President!

Your turn.

Here’s my go:

I can recite the words to “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” in time, with appropriate breathing, for at least two verses (I’m not sure if I remember all the words to the third verse).  I can look into a field of clover and quickly spot 4, 5, 6 and yes, even 7(!) leafed clovers.  I can feed, dress, groom, and brush 2 children and have them out the door, on time, for school in less than 35 minutes.  AND, I have traveled extensively through Alabama and Mississippi and emerged every time with all of my natural teeth.

Maybe I should be Vice President, too!

Your turn?

(Anyone? Bueller?)

(True song begins around a minute in.)


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Graphic Brilliance.

Trying to grasp the scope of the bailout?  Here it is, plain and simple.  There’s even a black and white if you want it clarified on that level.

With a hat tip to Liprap, who made my day by posting this.


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