Life in New Orleans

Recent additions to the family dictionary may explain.

BP.  Proper Noun. Big Oil company who sought out Gulf Coast fisherman and families reliant on the biodiversity and abundance of the Gulf Coast and wetland areas, offering to pay them sums of $5,000 for waving the right to sue the company shortly after an offshore rig exploded and days before it was confirmed by media that oil was actually pouring out of the well and into the sea.

Celebration of Service.  Proper Noun, in certain circles.  Big event for local nonprofit.  May occupy mind of program director for months and completely consume life for weeks.

Dispersants.  Noun.  Chemicals used to break up oil in the sea.  Use stems from catastrophic events, which occur when big business decides personal profit is more important than public safety.  Exact chemical compositions are considered “trade secrets” to minimize the ability of scientists (and others) to assess the impact on health and the environment.

DIBELS test.  Noun; that thing where capitals imply words that describe the test.  A test done in English that requires each student to spend 15 minutes alone with the teacher, during which time parents are asked to sub.  Test has significance somewhere and is likely related to some requirement.  Jazz Fest (see entry, below) may impair parents’ ability to process significance of testing.  Or else, the experience of subbing for a class of 1st graders may destroy the brain cells holding that particular set of information.

Jazz Fest.  Proper Noun.  AKA: Fess.  Like most things about New Orleans, highly misunderstood.  Seven days over two weeks, hundreds of musicians, artists, and food vendors.  This is not your Northern California “Jazz Festival” where erudite folk sit around and sip wine from fancy glasses while listening to the gentle smoothness of elevator music.  It’s more like Woodstock sobered up just enough to put on pants and then hooked up with a Louisiana girl who knows how to cook.

Pink tea. Noun.  AKA: Crystal Light.  Made for child’s birthday play-date/tea party.  Easy to clean up when spilled on crinoline and other costume material.  Served with petit fours and fruit salad.

Race Day.  Proper Noun, according to school emails. Day(s) when students are hauled out to open space to run long distances which increase with age.  All kids finish, all kids win, emphasis on participation, exercise, and drinking lots of water afterward.  Usually happens right in the middle of Jazz Fest, see entry above.

Life in New Orleans

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Jazz Fest 2010, First Sunday

People wonder if they should bring their kids to Jazz Fest.

You should bring them one day.  This is why.  You relieve yourself of any possible guilt when you bring them to see the Imagination Movers; you, yourself, get to party down to the Movers without feeling like that creepy adult dancing among strange children; and most importantly… you enjoy every Fest Day following so much more so, because you’ll be free!

This guy below said it best.  “Jazz Fest with kids sucks.”

Also, we owe this Mover guy thanks for hooking Paul up with a backstage access pass to Allman Brothers.  Thanks!

Here is my volunteer location of choice, and where we spent a lot of the day with the kids.  A bonus: it’s right across from the kids area and within a great spot to hear music from Fais Do Do and Gentilly.

Our kids day had me in the kids area quite a bit.  Nice shade.  Plus, this dixieland band was pretty darn good.  And the guy dancing?  He was really giving his all.   It reminded me of the Designing Women segment where Julia Sugarbaker discusses “crazy people” in the South.  The kids loved him.

Here’s the view at Gentilly.

One of the activities in the kids area.

Will and friends had a great time.

And tomorrow?  The kids are in school and we’re at the Fest.  Freedom!

Life in New Orleans

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Jazz Fest 2010, First Saturday

Today’s Highlights:

– Weather report was horrific (thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, damaging winds).  We went anyway.  It was windy and overcast and looked like it *might* rain for a good part of the day… but it didn’t.  Then around 4:30 the sun came out… and that was that.

– Muddy field from yesterday’s big rain = wellingtons… the best Jazz Fest attire, ever.

– Hooked up with the front row pass for part of Simon & Garfunkel… awesome!  Thanks, Chrissie, Cade & family!

– Having friends around take the whole already amazing Jazz Fest experience to a whole new level.


— Jazz Fest Wellingtons, an awesome assortment, here.

— Art Garfunkel had laryngitis.  It made for a slow start to their set; things picked up with Paul Simon played a few solo (Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes, etc.)  Then, they did Bridge Over Troubled Water.  Poor Art struggled hard, and then, right around the “I’m on your side, when times get rough…” Paul walked over and put a hand on his shoulder.  They finished the song together and stood, with hands clasped, to the applause at the end.

Pictures are by Paul and me…

Art & Photography
Life in New Orleans

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Jazz Fest 2010, First weekend Friday

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2010 started today — Paul and I arrived early where I joined other workers in the volunteer entrance and Paul entered with the crowd.  In between running to supply me and my fellow gelato volunteers with Jazz Fest food favorites (cochon du lait po’ boy, rosemint tea, alligator pie, etc.) he took these pictures.

Fais Do Do always has a crowd dancing.

Also, locals wear great hats to Jazz Fest.

Dr. Bob’s work on wheels.

And up close.  (That’s Comanche Indians with guests in the background… see close-ups below.)

Mardi Gras Indians.  This little fella is the Spy Boy for this tribe.

He’s singing with the elders — everyone dressed up.  The Indians work all year on their suits — traditionally they hand-make them, developing the symbols and pictures, then making each stitch by hand.

Paul tells me that several Chiefs were brought in to usher in this Jazz Fest together.  He reports that several in the crowd were choked up at the moment… they gave a great performance with some specialized lyrics.

Gospel Tent.  Always where it’s at.

Little Freddie King.

Dudes with fire.

I’ll get a picture of the beautiful La Divina booth to post next time.  Until then, we’ll have to stick with the goods.

The gelato I was helping sell at the Fest… I recommend getting it affogado; which is gelato served with espresso poured over it.

Renee, desperate to get out to hear some music, suiting up in trash bags…

… because just before 2pm, the skies opened up.

We have a babysitting share tomorrow with plans to lay out in the sun in front of Acura Stage, watching the acts and waiting for Simon and Garfunkel.  Unfortunately… the weather is not looking good.  “Thunderstorms, damaging wind, hail, and tornadoes.”  Rain gear, anyone?

Art & Photography
Life in New Orleans

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Crescent City Classic: Over 5K for 10K!

The day before Easter, I joined the Abeona House Team for the Crescent City Classic 10K, to raise funds for the beloved nonprofit pre-school that Paul and I helped open near 5 years ago.  (Thank you to everyone that support me!)

The CCC is 6.6 miles winding through beautiful New Orleans, from Jackson Square to City Park — with special New Orleans touches.

Like costumes.

With inspiration from “Heathers,” here are Emmy and me.  Afterwards, she took me to a Remington party.

Here’s our Gym Teacher, Coach Chrissie.

Allie is adorable.

Coach Chrissie warms us up.

Group photo taken by random race person who focused on Muriel’s.

The crowd of 30,000 or so.  We were back, waaaaay back, from Jackson Square.

Coach Chrissie was on us to keep sharp.

Finally!  The start line!  We ended up reaching it about 8:30 minutes after the gun shot.

The Hornet mascot was out right before the starting line, hooray crowd.

Others were in costume, too.

I managed to get them from the front, too.  This is one of 3 I took of them… and the only one in focus.  I’m learning that it’s hard to take a picture while bouncing.

I put away the camera after this and focused on the road.  I tried, but failed, to get pictures of the Jello-Shot group.  They run through the crowd pulling coolers full of Jello Shooters and hand them out among the racers.  Their shirts?  Front: “Jello Shots” Back: “It’s not like you’re gonna win.”

I did sneak in one more photo, of the prisoners… who were chained together.

So we got through those 6.6 miles in under 2 hours.  I felt fine, except my feet, which developed hot spots by mile 3.  I realized later that I wore old regular cotton socks on the morning of the race because I’d not done laundry to wash my good moisture/wicking socks.  I’m certain that this made a difference; I know better then to wear crappy socks on a hot day.  Still, I felt fine after some airing out and moleskin application.

We all had lunch at Felini’s after — where Paul, Will, and Kate joined us.  We found out that the team raised over $5000 for Abeona House!

Thank you to everyone who supported me in this!  It was a great experience and a wonderful morning!

Life in New Orleans

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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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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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Joyeux Noel

Hail the holiday school party!


The report:

Girl child remained preciously cute and worked the tables for multiple brownies.  Papa Noel brought her a little snow globe, which is protectively located three inches from her face, lest it become stolen in the night.

Boy child remained the kid on stage who, while 20 others stand calmly and sing, proceeds to pick his nose, scratch himself, swing around, randomly throw in extra-loud lines of song, and even — oh yes, even this — lick his finger and stick it into the ear of his friend beside him.


I suspected tar and feathering were in the works, and though I did take pause for a moment, decided a getaway was better.  We snuck quietly out the backdoor, where a friend picked us up for the escape.

Life in New Orleans
Mi Familia

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