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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WLAE Interview is up!

After numerous failed attempts to upload it in whole to Google video, Paul shrugged his shoulders, chopped it in half, and put it up on youtube.  The second part overlaps a little with the first, I’m told.

Feedback is that it was a good interview.  I’ve sort of tried to see it once, but I’ve learned something… the agony of listening to myself speak is nothing when compared to the gripping torture of having to WATCH myself WHILE I speak.

Part One:

Part Two:


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On the dangers of dissertating outside the Ivory Tower.

It is very difficult to buy into the apathetically correct wisdom of the meaningless of the dissertation exercise.  Specifically, this becomes difficult when I am confronted several times a week by people who actually, really, and truly care about it.  People who thank me for talking to them.  Comment on how I’m the first to have asked and how much better it feels to talk.  Who act at first surprised that I want to know, then hesitant that I should listen, and finally rest on the relief of sharing.

A few weeks ago, I dragged my Schweitzer cohort out of the comfortable confines of our usual space within the Louisiana Public Health Institute.  From the bright steel and chrome finishes of the modern downtown offices down a hard-to-find narrow road lined with modest World War II-era slab homes, to a damp and crowded trailer turned community center.  The Harahan meeting place for a small Hispanic Church.  There, several parishioners made us fantastic baleadas and coconut bread while we held our monthly meeting.  I gave a short talk based on my prospectus defense about race, racism, acculturation, and the health of immigrants from Latin America.  Then, our chefs joined the meeting and spoke about their lives.  Although I’d planned the logistics of the meeting, I had no idea who would come or what they would say.

By happy accident, Paul and the kids were there and ended up providing some companionship for another child (daughter of one of the church members).  Will taught her to play games on the Ipod, she supplied markers and Jesus coloring sheets.  Kate played the faithful sidekick, thundering up and down the small hallway past our meeting space.

Since that meeting, where some of my peers cried and all expressed deep thanks and appreciation for my risk-taking in how I’d conducted the session, several fellows have written to tell me about the impact of the night.  One specifically described how it had changed her interactions with patients in her current med school clinic assignment.  Another said that my talk was one of the best she’d had in graduate school and made her re-think how she looks at health research.  Other fellows have asked if I could bring members of the community to future events so that we can give larger voice to their experiences.  Maybe linking theory to practice isn’t as elusive as it seems.  Maybe it’s just a point of asking and listening?

And then there is this dissertation.  The one that matters to no one.  The one that is a means to an end, a task to be finished so that I can move on, hopefully, to more important things.

What a mess of information I’ve got!  Transcripts are en-route, surveys from last weekend’s health fair sit boxed on my desk, and somewhere on my computer is the prospectus… that document I defended as my research plan, my approved manual for what I was going to do to finish this degree.  Did I do what I intended to do?  Did I answer my question?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I think I’ve strayed from my original purpose.  Perhaps because I keep getting distracted by what matters to someone.

Does a dissertation that matters to someone count?  How esoteric must I be to contribute to knowledge?  And whose knowledge, exactly, must be furthered for a dissertation to qualify as a quality document?  I used to understand the situation and was comfortable with it.  Now it makes me feel unsettled and unsure.  Whom do I disappoint?  My informants, the community I’ve worked so hard to be a part of, to show my support within?  Or my committee, who doesn’t care?


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Love that bean town!

We’re back from Boston and wicked exhausted.

Even without the kids, we still managed to make typical blunders and put Murphy’s Law to the test.   We had memorable moments without a camera on hand (like seeing a friend of mine from Junior High that I hadn’t seen in 20 years), were tripod-less in the moments when we really needed it, and had excellent weather only on the days we were stuck inside for the conference.  But all that really didn’t matter because in the end, we really, Really, REALLY loved Boston.  (Don’t even get us started on how much we loved the North End.)

Although we admit having a bit of 4-year moving itch (just try moving after 4-or-less years for your whole life and see what it does to you) we have no grand illusions about moving to Boston.  I don’t remember the area much from our days in the late 70s Boston burbs, but my parents nostalgically relayed some of the key points for us.  Like when I almost lost my thumb to the big, heavy, steel-interior front door.  And The Fourth of July when they gathered wood for a fire to keep out the night’s chill.  But if we had to spend some time for, say, a post-doc or something?  We’d at least consider it, with excitement.  The more likely scenario is that we’ll have to move up there since Massachusetts is the only State to offer Universal Health Care (something so tremendously important that it gets capitalized).

As is the case when we return from any foreign country, our re-intry into the Gret Stet of Looziana has been a bit rough.  Tomorrow is coming hard and fast, filled with teaching English, Doctoral Seminar, late working lunch, and then swimming practice.  My parents were extra awesome for helping with the kids AND leaving leftovers for dinner tomorrow.  Seriously above and beyond the call of duty… especially when you consider they came here directly from the airport after spending a week in Vegas, having at least four car break-downs during the weekend (including one half way between here and Mobile), and with today being the first day of my Dad’s new super-CEO job.  (Go, Dad!)


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And in 5, 4, …, …, …!

The “Greater New Orleans” interview airs tomorrow on WLAE channel 12 at 7 and 9:30 (and I think again at 2:30am?)  I feel certain that Paul will pull it from TiVo and put it online to ensure maximum embarrassment on my part; my parents pay him well to keep me tortured in this regard.


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The Recap.

The last three weeks.

We had a week-long visit from:
Nana. Who brought presents, time, patience, and recipes. The day she left, Kate wandered around calling “Naaaaa-Naaaah, Where ARE youuuuuuu?” (Subtext: “Save me from these crazy people!”)
Having a third adult in the house was a huge relief. It was also well-timed, because the day she left and returned us to a house of two adults, we downloaded a child.

He was thrilled to be spending almost a week away from home, his parents, and his particularly his sister. In Will’s words: “Mommy, I needed a break from that crazy girl. She’s too much for me.” I dropped Will off with my Mom in Gulfport (our half-way meeting place) and he joined Granna and PapPap on a trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law. (My incredible sister-in-law, who by all accounts spent 5 hours a day on the floor re-reading the same books and cards so patiently to the-ever-curious-Will, has posted adorable photos from the trip.)

While Will was away from home for the longest time ever, Paul turned 38 on May 5th. This is remarkable only because I told at least 3 people that he was turning 36. I also wrote that I was 30 on a doctor’s form a few months ago and only realized the mistake because “date of birth” and “today’s date” were close enough together to make me do the math. I’m not forgetting little things, I’m actually forgetting years. It must mean that it’s time for us to have some sort of life crisis.

Also on Cinco de Mayo, our friends Alex and Dawit were married. (The wedding date was chosen because it’s Alex’s birthday, too.) In between a day of picking up tiles, switching cars, dropping off kids, and buying paint, I took photos of the event and you can see them here.

Meanwhile, back at the station, the house continues.

Drywall took a long time. There were delivery problems. Supply problems. And daily layers of drywall dust… dirty, gritty, drywall dust… ALL OVER the bedrooms and hallway each evening to mop, dust, polish, and wash off. And, we’re back to no washer and dryer. Still, the crew (comprised of a husband and wife) did a very good job.

Here’s the site of the future cat-door to Scout’s litter-box “room” under the washer and dryer.
Outside, Paul spent a good 20 hours on the roof over 2 days. It’s done, although these pictures show it as still-in-progress.

Now that it’s done, I’m thinking we may finally be able to remove the ever-present can of Goo Gone from our shower?
We discovered that Kate can work the garden hose. WATCH OUT.
Note that Will’s head is soaking wet. Coincidence with that last picture? I think not.
Kate also discovered an obsessive love of ice. Workers (read: Daddy) must carefully guard their precious cups ice water, lest it be plundered by the Sweet Pea with the dirty hands.
Also: Kate loves Crabby Jack. Oysters. Shrimp. And duck. (Domilise’s for Roast Beef, though, of course.)
Kate turned 2 and got presents. Including ELMO UNDERWEAR from Gwen & Co. Here she is, putting on Every Single Pair.
And dancing.
My Fellowship Year officially began with our Orientation Retreat. At first it was going to be an overnight event, but it was shortened to a Really Long Day in Baton Rouge. Who knew the LSU campus was so darn pretty??? The group is inspiring and interesting; I left the day feeling an unexpected excitement for the coming year. We did a variety of team-building exercises, including ropes. I surprised myself by having fun, and realizing that my recently-developed fear of heights is more extreme than I thought. I was Very Impressed with the folks that climbed the 60 foot pole, stood up, and jumped for the trapeze. Here’s Jonathan, the only one to touch the bar, in one of my favorite pictures from the day:
This one of Kemi is probably my favorite:
Meanwhile, back at the station, drywall finished. Tile started.
Tomorrow, the base of the washer/dryer platform will be grouted and trimmed… so we’re hoping to have these back by Wednesday?Paul ALMOST finished the plumbing today while I wrangled kids and house. The tub plumbing is hooked up and tested perfectly. The ONE LEAK in his intricate shower plumbing? It wasn’t from a failed joint… it was a failed PIPE.
The darn elbow had a crack and hole. When Paul went to Lowe’s to get another elbow, he came home with the wrong kind. When he went back to trade, they were closed. As was Home Depot. Plumbing to Paul is like Cryptonite to Superman. Utterly defeated and forced to wait until the morning… because, after all, tomorrow is another day.

Family Life in NOLA
Home and Renovation
Special Family Moments

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