Thursday, August 30, 2007

Running Away

We're heading North again for Labor Day. Two full days in a glorious walled city on a river where the locals speak French, make crepes and have that je ne sais qua about them.

We're going to Quebec City.

We've done this for 3 out of the last 4 Labor Day weekends and the one year we "missed" we had gone the month earlier over the July 4th holiday. We love going there for a whole host of reasons but the main reason is it helps Amazing Guy (AG) and me forget Labor Day weekend of 7 years ago. We're building new memories and traditions to push out the others.

The Friday before Labor Day weekend seven years ago we demanded a meeting with the boys' medical teams.

Our sons were born the week before Labor Day, 2000, at 30 weeks and 2 days. "Normal" gestation for a pregnancy with one baby is 40 weeks so my guys were 10 weeks early. By Labor Day weekend the boys were not yet 10 days old and we were getting confusing information about their health.

The nurses had gleefully put them in the same isolette the night before so they could "be together" for the first time since their birth. The next morning one of our guys tested positive for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially dangerous skin infection requiring him to be quarantined with 2 other preemies who had also strangely acquired this. The other boy didn't test positive for it but since he had "spent" the night with his brother, he was sent to the quarantined room as well.

This meant my initial efforts to breastfeed were stopped (for the time being) since we were not allowed skin-to-skin contact with the boys. We could only hold them while wearing hospital gowns over our clothes, gloves on our hands and masks over our mouths and noses. The hospital claimed this was the first time this infection "got into" the neonatal ICU. They guessed it was spread from someone (patient or medical staff) being in an operating room and the "bug" (such a cute word for a horrid thing) traveled into the NICU.

While trying to get our heads around this diagnosis, change in care and even greater "distance" from our sons (it was bad enough they were in an intensive care unit, now my skin couldn't touch theirs?) another set of initials was thrown at us. The same guy who had MRSA was also diagnosed within hours with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). All I heard was "necro---" meaning "death of---" and I thought I would vomit on the spot. In 2000, NEC in premature infants was 50% fatal. I recently read that in 2005 that had dropped to under 30%. I'm not sure what the survival rate is today in 2007.

That means when my son was diagnosed with NEC in 2000, one out of two babies with NEC would die.

So AG and I were brought into a meeting room with a large cast of characters. Since it was a teaching hospital every medical staff person seem to have a student trailing him or her. Then it was the end of the month which meant the medical teams were "switching". And it was before a long weekend in which everyone was trying to be anywhere but at work. But none of that phased me. I knew we would be dealing with a cast of thousands since we were literally at the best hospital in the world for premature infants.

It was the presence of a certain woman with medium length brown hair that nearly set me over the dark edge no parent wants to go.

She was the "death" social worker. While not her official title she might as well have worn the hooded cloak and carried the scythe of the Grim Reaper because that is who she was. The mental health professional brought in when things didn't look good for your kid.


Our son got through the 14 days of treatment without needing surgery on his intestines that could have required a colostomy bag. He has a permanent scar on one of his arms from an IV blowing up under the skin. Suffice to say that our former little man - now in the 90th percentile for his age for height and 75th for weight - is the strongest and bravest person we know.

I still associate Labor Day with those wretched days in the NICU. The only person I can imagine surviving those days with is Amazing Guy. He was the strongest ally, kindest friend and equally scared new parent. Today, I'm grateful that AG wants to throw everyone in the car and drive away. To make new memories.

And run from the old.

Psst - I won't be on-line until next week. Have fun without me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I loved John Water's Hairspray of 1988. That would be the original. With Divine as Edna Turnblatt, the "big girl's" mama.

So there I am earlier this month at the Costco photo department selecting images to print. Two of my offsprings are running in the aisles while one is standing, mesmerized by the images on the humongous television screen (really a movie theater screen).

It was an advertisement for the new Hairspray. The one with Troy from High School Musical!

My son is glassy-eyed when I say, "That's a movie in the theater. Do you want to see it?"

Speechless head nodding is the response.

As the temperature neared 100 degrees this past weekend I took the boys to an almost empty movie theater. They were transfixed with the music and dancing. They were also confused why the "black kids" couldn't dance with the "white kids" in early 1960's Baltimore. And they fixated that the kids who were "black" weren't really black at all. "They have brown skin" my guys would mutter.

Fast forward to the evening after the movie. I downloaded the movie soundtrack from iTunes and even the little lady can do a perfect rendition of "Good Morning Baltimore", which she sang with much gusto as she descended down the minor league ballpark stairs the next night. We bopped around for over an hour to "Ladies Choice", "Can't Stop the Beat" and "Corny Collins Show."

But it was bound to happen. Yesterday, while getting out of the car one guy asked,

"Mama. What's 'Negro Day'?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Brillig threw down the gaunlet

Brillig sent me a nice e-note about Jenn and my new site, Looking In. She actually wrote "exquisite and fantastic" in the same sentence as the site. Giggle. I have her so fooled.

But this line struck me:

I'd love to hire you for a month to come out and show me how to take shots like these--though, I suppose you'd insist that I get something better than my disgustingly cheap digital camera from Walmart.
I replied:
Actually you can take good pictures with a cardboard box with a pin hole. It is all whether you have the eye to see. And you do. So maybe we'll have that lesson some day afterall.
She scoffed, scoffed at my comment about using a pinhole camera.

A cardboard box with a pin hole? HAHAHA. All righty, then. I challenge you both.... to take an awesome picture with a crappy camera--and not some pic from your collection, but something new that you take THIS WEEK.
So Brillig, I took a photo with my crappy camera at a minor league ballgame on Sunday night. And Jenn found some wicked cool looking chairs with her crappy camera. They are both up - happily sharing the space over at Looking Into.

The most important thing is always have your camera on you. Crappy is better because then you won't care if it gets banged up, has juice on it, or little people decide to "help" you with your photography.

Start snapping with that crappy camera. Anything and everything that catches your eye. Take pictures from weird angles - lay down on the ground or climb onto something - and don't put everything in the middle of the frame.

Look around, over, under and into what you are seeing. You clearly do with your writing, Brillig. You can do it with photography too.

Looking Into Photo Blog

"A photograph is usually looked at -- seldom looked into."
~Ansel Adams

Monday, August 27, 2007

The City That Care Forgot

According to CNN*, "the federal government has allocated nearly $27 billion for housing, rebuilding the levees, and what's known as hazard mitigation, the messy job of removing debris and repairing critical infrastructure, like broken sewer lines and potholed roads." Now before you get all hot-and-bothered about that dollar figure take a look at what the little ticker on the right side of my blog is saying.

Go on, look really hard.

As I type this it is saying $455,605,071,882. Let me put that in words. That is Four Hundred Fifty Five Billion. That means for every dollar spent to rebuild a great American city nearly $17 have been spent in a country that we invaded on false pretenses (don't get all conservative on me - there were no WMDs and the "terrorists" aren't following us home).

This is the week that the press will do its communal hand-wringing about the woe that is New Orleans and Gulf Coast. Hang-wringing that didn't have to be if we (yes, we because this is a democratic government in which we vote) had taken care of the levees, had listened to the warnings that a Category 3 hurricane could drown the city, and had acknowledged that not everyone has a car in the United States or money for gas and can get themselves out of a city on a few hours notice.

So before you faze out on me, before you say well that is our rotten government there are two things you can do.

1) Go read my friend, the Ambassador's, post today about K+2. And please pay attention to the news about New Orleans. This is one news story that cannot become a same old, same old piece. And ask questions as you hear/read the reporter's perspective (because that is what it is). Am I hearing the full story? Is it really all doom and gloom? What good things are happening there?

2) Spend some money there. Supporting the local economy goes a huge way in helping people have jobs, afford to live in houses they are repairing and keep the vibrant spirit of the city alive. Before you start thinking I can't afford to go there for a visit - what do you think the Internet is for?

Check out some of my favorite merchants:

Dirty Coast (the $20 option) - awesome t-shirts (among other things). Amazing Guy and I already own King Gator, and So Far Behind We're Ahead. The graphic above is the t-shirt NOLA Gothic.

Mignon Faget (starting at $35 but can go way up) - recall the promise ring Amazing Guy gave me 15 years ago? This amazing jeweler and business owner continues to create beautiful objects. She's a bit more than a t-shirt but I cannot wear her pieces (necklaces, earrings, pins and yes, that ring) without getting tons of compliments. And then I get to start in on the beauty of New Orleans. So it is lovely jewelry and a political conversation starter. What could be better?

Tony Chachere's - this, in all likelihood, is something you can find in your local grocery store. A locally owned company that makes the best Cajun seasonings. I put a little olive oil on pasta and sprinkle some Tony's. Yummy.

Of course, there are many worthy charities working to rebuild a great, fun city and I am not diminishing their good work. But those charities aren't buying jewelry, t-shirts or spice and those folks producing and selling them have living costs too. Many of them are not eligible for the assistance these good organizations provide. They are having to make do with what they earn.

So if you end up buying something from New Orleans, let me know. I'll highlight you. If you buy something from these folks, terrific. If you have other New Orleans-based merchants you adore or have discovered let me know and I'll do another post.

And if you go for a visit (like my dad is next month for his 67th birthday) I'll write about it here and even include a photo if you email it to me (but I have to like it so keep that in mind).

Now, doesn't that inspire you to do something for the City That Care Forgot?

* Feel free to give/find me a better number for what the federal government (not insurance companies) has paid for the rebuilding of New Orleans. That was the most current number I could find without a ton of digging around. And feel free to laugh that I cited a media outlet after my earler tirade.


Seriously folks, go show my Ambassador some love. Maybe even link to his K+2 post. He is someone you'll never hear about on the news who is makes New Orleans the wonderful, vibrant and caring place it is.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

SOS - Battle of the Lasagna

I skipped last week's collective bath hosted by Brillig and Walking Kateastrophe's . I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the flexibility they give us. Aren't they awesome? So go to their sites today to read their and other sudsy tales.

Here is another one of mine....

My mom has a recipe for lasagna from the North End. This is where Anthony ran through the neighborhood for Wednesday's Prince Spaghetti Day. The recipe came to her from a woman named Kathy Romeo (pronounced Row-meh-ohh, not as in Juliet's boyfriend). If I recall correctly, both Kathy's parents and in-laws were Italian immigrants who lived in the North End. The recipe involved making the sauce from scratch. I made it in high school and it tasted wonderful.

Fast forward a few years, to 1992. I'm out of college, living in an amazing city, working a job that is attempting to make the world a better place. I met a guy who proposed to me within months of meeting each other. When I said I needed to wait, he gave me a "promise ring" and told me he would wait until I said yes. The ionic column ring is on my right hand ring finger as I type this 15 years later.

My parents came to visit me in New Orleans for the first time about 8 months after I had moved there and 3 months after I met this amazing guy. Their first night in town my housemates and I invited a slew of friends, including amazing guy (AG), to join us for dinner to meet my parents. All of them were people who helped me survive teaching in a blighted inner city school and it was important for me to have them all meet my folks. I decided to make the lasagna that I grew up on.

"I'll make a lasagna too" said AG.

"Mine will be better. It's from the North End" I bragged.

He said nothing.

The night before my parents arrived I worked in the kitchen, making the sauce from scratch, prepping everything so all I had to do was bake it the next afternoon before everyone arrived. It smelled wonderful.

The next afternoon, 30 minutes before everyone was to arrive, AG shows up with brown grocery bags full of lasagna pasta, makings of white sauce and shrimp.

"That is going to be your lasagna?" I snorted as mine was bubbling in the oven.

He said nothing as he started to chop, mix spices and cook the shrimp.

An hour later there were two pans next to each other on the dinning room table. The one holding the white sauce and shrimp lasagna was empty as my mother was forlornly looking at the pan. My North End masterpiece had one slice taken out. One. Eaten by my dad.

Everyone, including my mother, raved about the white sauce and shrimp lasagna. Everyone, including my mother, asked for the recipe.

"I made it up" smiles AG.

In the ensuing 15 years we've been together I have not cooked a significant meal. It would be pointless.

But when amazing guy does cook, it is amazing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mommy's helper

Check out my photo today at

Looking Into Photo Blog

Friday, August 24, 2007

Birthday CDs

As the moms dropped off the kids for last week's birthday party at the ballpark (which ended up being rained out, causing one of my boys to declare "that was the worst birthday party EVER!" Phew. Glad we took care of the worst birthday by age 7) I told them of our family's custom, instead of "goodie bags" full of small plastic lead-covered toxic toys from China - and candy that rubs against them - we give out CDs with the boys' favorite tunes from the previous year.

"Oh thank goodness!" declared a mom who only the previous month had handed just such a bag of candy and toy crap to both my sons after her boy's birthday party. "I wouldn't want him to have more sugar!"

Gee lady. Thanks for being so considerate after your kid's party.

Here are the songs we gave after the rained out baseball game birthday party last week:

1. Opening Dialogue – Johnny Cash
2. Paul Revere - Johnny Cash
3. Welcome Table – Dan Zanes with Blind Boys from Alabama
4. Get'cha Head in the Game – Troy from HSM
5. I'll Make a Man Out of You – Donny Osmond from Mulan
6. I Don't Want Your Millions Mister – Dan Zanes
7. The Tide is High – ska version
8. Higher Ground – The Blind Boys of Alabama
9. The Battle of New Orleans – Johnny Cash
10.Hello My Baby – Ladysmith Black Mambazo
11.Big Foot – Johnny Cash
12.Reaching for the Stars – Johnny Cash
13.These are My People – Johnny Cash

For a select few there is an extra song (really because iTunes throws a fit after you make 7 copies thus requiring another song to be added to the playlist).

14. Sunday Girl - Erasure

And I always end the list the same.

Compiled by Mistress Mom.


Hey I have to ask - why did yesterday's post generate so few comments? Do you have something against iPods? Basing music purchases on advertisement? Is there a backlash against music from Puerto Rico (eek! they speak Spanish!)? Or reggaeton? Only the marvelous Jen from A2eatwrite commented (I told Jenn in Holland not to comment because I complained in an email to her. She honored that). Thank you Jen with one "n"!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I love this song

And now I have it on, yes, my iPod.

Mi Swing Es Tropical by Nickodemus & Quantic. C'mon, you love it too. Admit it. Even though it is an iPod ad you can't help but move a little to this one.


Looking Into Photo Blog

We have our first guest at Looking Into. The Ambassador has a photo that will make you smile, or squirm. But you have to come over to see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


This is one of those long posts. Skip it if you want to but if you have some time, indulge me. My boys turn 7 years old today. I wrote a letter for my daughter on her birthday in April. Just because they are twins doesn't mean they should share a letter and just because they are twins doesn't mean one should not have his letter on his birthday. So, two letters for two lovely boys on their shared day of birth.


Dear son,

This past Sunday you woke up having hatched a plan. The previous night your brother pitched a fit wanting the wallet back that you had traded with him. You planned to give it back to him if he gave you the $5 he still had leftover from the lemonade stand. While I didn't like the plan, I stayed quiet. He thought he got the great deal. But you knew who really did.

And what did you do with your new found wealth? You desperately wanted to buy your younger sister a toy kitty cat from the local children's book store. You begged to be taken on Sunday and wouldn't accept it was closed. You remembered it would be opened when I picked you up from theater camp and brought your sister into the store, holding her hand as you let her pick out a little Siamese cat.

You are even keeled and centered. Your birthday party at the ball parked was rained out and you didn't complain. Life is a song for you and currently the music is from Fiddler on the Roof. While watching any sort of singing on television or stage, you are lost in the music. You sway, bob your head and just become the melody.

You are devoted. Also at the rained out ballgame your brother tripped and skinned his elbow badly. It isn't healing properly but he won't let me or your father put disinfectant on it. We are having to hold him tightly while he screams and yells. You are right in there, defending him. First you try to reason with us that we are hurting your brother and need to stop. Since that won't work you get in and tear our arms off to free him from our disinfecting clutches. We then place you in the hallway and lock the bathroom door. So while your brother is screaming in the bathroom you are both yelling encouragement to him and condemnation at us.

You love us with all of your heart. We are all very lucky. And I am lucky to be your mom.

I love you,



Dear son,

For your birthday you received "Bunny Bucks" from our favorite independent children's bookstore. The entire drive (all one mile of it) you talked about buying your 3-year-old sister something. When you got in you panicked because it meant losing out on not getting everything you could get with such a huge gift certificate (all $15 of it). But after a while you settled into a few things and found you did have $2 left over. You bought her a lovely change purse with butterflies. You asked the owner to wrap it up nicely for her. You cried when you realized we weren't going straight home so you could present it to her, even though we were going to another friend's birthday party.

When you did get home you promptly and loudly woke her up from her nap. She didn't really understand your generosity. In fact the little purse is still sitting on the floor where she left it after tearing off the paper. But you don't seem to mind at all.

You are our little man with his heart on his sleeve. You hug the hardest and snuggle the tightest. Most mornings I wake up with you practically on top of me because you sneak into my bed in the middle of the night. You cannot contain your disappointment when things go wrong. The other night you were so upset about something that you were throwing objects and trying to hit your brother, even though he had nothing to do with whatever was bothering you. But then you settled down and helped your sister take her bath.

I am amazed with how comfortable you have become with people both old and young. Sunday evening we went to a church picnic and you answered all questions asked with a "yes" (with an actual "s" at the end of "yes") or "no" followed by a proper "sir" or "ma'am". You weren't bashful and spoke loudly enough so people could hear you. You actually can carry on a conversation, offering up stories about your day or week and asking questions about the person you are speaking with. You are truly pleasant to be around.

Tonight we were at your new school playground meeting other kids in your first grade class. Your sister's favorite pants are too small for her and she had a plumber's thing going on. Other boys were noticing and pointing. You very calmly went over and tried to pull up her pants. You helped her with the monkey bars and those boys didn't go near her again.

I look forward to seeing you become the man you will be. It is an honor to be your mom.

I love you,


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mrs. Sally Pond's Grave

Here lies Interr'd the Body
of Mrs. SALLY POND Con(s)ort
Departed this Life Janry 1st
1774 Aged 31 Years
Likewife of two of there Children. Viz
ABIGAIL Aged 20 & SALLY Aged 21 Days.
Under this Stone confin'd doth Lie
Three subjects of Death's Tyrany.
The Mother who in this clo(s)e Tomb
Sleeps with the ofspring of her Womb
Whereby we see Death's Cruelty
In cutting of both fruit and Tree
Yet all his mallice will prove Vain
For Tree and fruit shall spring Again.

In the old town cemetary.
Like this photo? Go visit Looking Into for even more photography.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Looking Into

"A photograph is usually looked at -- seldom looked into."
~Ansel Adams

While walking through Chinatown last week taking a few photos, I thought how I have hundreds of images and no forum to display my photographs. I enjoy that this blog is mainly about stories with a few photos thrown in and have struggled to find a place to show images. In the 1990's I used to print my own black and white photographs (yes, in a darkroom) but today the photos I take just sit on my computer hard drive or a disk.

I thought while passing dim sum restaurants about starting a new blog for photos. A place for my work, it would also be a venue for others to share their photos. A few hours later I emailed Jenn in Holland about it. I was thinking of pulling this together in a month or two.

I should not have been surprised upon waking up the next morning to find Jenn had a site set up in hours. Some of you may have read how she landed a job in, oh, 36 seconds. She pretty much created this site in same record time.

So, it is with glee that Jenn and I are launching our new site Looking Into today. The name comes from the Ansel Adams quote above. How often do you just look at a photo, not into it?

Jenn and I welcome photo contributions so please join us for this celebration of photography. But even if you don't want to submit a photo, do visit from time to time. I promise it won't disappoint you.

And don't worry, I'll continue to be in denial right here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Independence Day

Yesterday, August 15th, is Independence Day. The celebration of the end of Great Britain's rule as a colonizer and the start of a new democracy.

August 15th is Independence Day in India.

The Sunday before the actual day, the local India Association hosts an annual celebration at the same location as the local pops orchestra puts on a little 4th of July concert. It is only appropriate that both days of independence be celebrated in the same place.

Only this one is a little different than the latter extravaganza you may have seen on television.

There is something pretty amazing to see dancers in full Bollywood glamour at the Hatch Shell. And the food. Even this non-foodie loves Indian food.

This year though the kids and I took a risk. We sought out the tables in the back of the green space and watched the women create their art. Then we shyly asked if we could get some. One of them graciously welcomed us, patiently decorated our hands then gently applied a lemon paste on them after 15 minutes.

We got henna tattoos.

And we all brag about them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I'm an Ant

My parents love to tell this story from their younger days about how my mom, upon hearing her sister had given birth to a baby boy, announced to my dad,

"I'm an Ant! I'm an Ant!" That is the literal pronunciation of how she said aunt.

"You're a what?" He smirked.


I'm an Ant! I'm an Ant!

My little brother - who is 34 years old - is now a daddy. His wife bravely gave birth (read no drugs) to an over 8 pound little man. The newest member of our family arrived last night. My sister-in-law dealt with some additional issues post-delivery but I am relieved to say she is resting comfortably.

I have one picture of him on my phone. He is perfect. Of course he is. He's my nephew.

Last week when I told my husband (now called "Boo" by our new office assistant - she's Dominican and every time he calls she tells me "Your Boo is on the phone.") that I was going to be an Aunt, he took offense.

"But you've got three nieces and a nephew already!" On his side. Putting aside the infrequency we see those four kids, those are his blood relatives.

This one is mine. My side of the family. But then there is something else.

This is the first time someone I remember as a baby now has a baby of his own. I have an ever so slight glimmer of what it is like to watch your child become a parent. Of course, mine is tinged with the silliness of an older sister. An older sister who can still reduce a 34-year-old man into a writhing mess on the floor simply by threatening to tickle him. I'm so dangerous around him that my parents stood on either side of me when he got married to prevent me from wiggling a finger in his general direction during the ceremony.

An older sister who remembers his first forays into trombone playing in which he sounded like a dying cow. When he got a little better I told him he had really improved. He sounded like a cow in labor.

An older sister who was very frightened when he was rushed to the hospital with a kidney infection. He was there for a few days. If it had gone undetected any longer, the outcome was unthinkable.

An older sister who thinks it is amazing that the little boy who sat on my lap now runs marathons and trains for triathlons, is working on his Ph.D., is married to an incredibly talented woman and has a beautiful home in a cool city.

My little brother is a daddy.

And the baby's name? He is named after our dad.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Peanuts and Cracker Jack

Well I got the Cracker Jack. How can you not when in one of the most historic ball parks in the country? The other fans I was with got ice cream and cotton candy.

My dad and brother are part of a group of folks who share a pair of season tickets. Earlier this month my dad asked someone who sits next to him if he could have his two tickets so we could have four seats all together for one game.

Last night we brought the boys to their first game since they were 3 years old. That game they and their 3 month old sister had their photo taken with the team mascot. It ended up as our Christmas card photo because it was a really good photo and folks kept bugging me to make it our "official holiday" family photo. We're not that much of a sports obsessed family, and it was the year our daughter was born, so it was a bit odd to have that be the image for the year. I declared I would only use it if the team won the world series. I figured I was pretty safe since they hadn't won in 86 years.

Clearly the Christmas card goddess wanted to play a mean joke on me.

It was a perfect summer evening. Our boys of summer won the game. Our own boys made it through the entire game. A first for these little men. They got through the 7th inning stretch to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game and our own hometown tradition of 39,000+ people singing Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning.

Sweet Caroline (bahm bahm bahm)
Good times never seemed so good (so good so good so good!)
I've been inclined (bahm bahm bahm)
To believe they never would

But now I....

Sweet indeed.

The Blame Game

You know the ones we're talking about. Those bloggers with their memes, interviews, contests. You can't stop thinking about it. You keep on entering, or modifying your entry. You think about something else you want to say. You add to what you've written or submit another entry or find yourself tagged yet again for another meme.

Or maybe it's a quiz that you can't stop taking.

Or a post where the comments are fast and furious and you can't stop checking on what else someone else has said.

Suddenly, you find that this whole theme has taken over your thoughts while riding or driving, your quiet time when you should be working, your dreams at night, your blog! We (a self-appointed committee of like-minded bloggers) decided it was time to give credit where it's due and have developed this very special "Blame It On THIS Blog!" Award.

It is my distinct pleasure, along with Jenn, Ms. FA and Jami, to present the first ever "Blame It On THIS Blog!" Award to Leslie of My Mommy's Place. As Jenn wrote today "The Blame [Leslie] receives is well deserved as she caused me and many others some serious haiku grief these past few weeks as we scribbled and scrawled through the blogosphere in 17 syllables. She knows what she started and she is rightfully proud of the onslaught in 5-7-5 rhythm which began with a challenge at her place."

Leslie is to blame
For creating this big game
That spread like the flu

BTB button

This button is for you darling!

Awarded jointly by the committee formed to award such things as this.

Would you like to bestow the Wicked Witch button to someone? The rules are simple.

1. Sometimes we all want to blame someone. If you know of a deserving blogger, please submit your nomination and reasons for placing the "Blame" to the Award committee: Jenn in Holland, Soccer Mom In Denial, Not That Different and Fourier Analyst.

No one wants to be "Blamed" for everything, so please limit your reasons for nominating to specific and deserving instances where "Blame" should be given. Recipients of the "Blame" will receive the button to display on their blog along with their "Mea Culpa" at their own convenience.

The Award committee wants to remind all bloggers that they should not be discouraged if their nominee does not get an award the first time as there is plenty of "Blame" to go around and at any future time it may be deservedly placed!

2. Anyone who has received the "Blame" is also free to pass it on to another blogger, once! We hope all recipients of the "Blame" award will accept it in the humorous spirit in which is has been conceived!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Soap Opera Sunday - First (french) kiss

Brillig and Walking Kateastrophe's collective baths continue. Here is another one of my sudsy tales....

The summer before eighth grade, I worked as a Counselor in Training (yup a CIT) for a camp my brother and I attended for several years. I loved it. So much that I ended up working there as a counselor through my freshman year of college. But that isn't what this post is about.

Most of my school friends that summer enrolled in a summer sailing program that cost $1. Yup, $1 for months of sailing instruction, access to boats and members of what-ever gender you were attracted to. I'm sure the $1 fee was intended for more poverty-stricken youth but no one asked the kids from the suburbs what their parents' incomes were so they all went sailing.

A few times I joined them. Some of my girlfriends had become friendly with some boys from a different town. They were all a year older. They were going into high school.

One of them was Lew Root (not his real name). Lew was blond and tall (like 5'10"). And he was older than me. An entire year older. One of my friends started "dating" a friend of his so after the sailing program ended, we would occasionally double date.

Later in the school year, my friend and I went to a dance at, gasp, the other town's high school. We were the dates of our, tee-hee, high school boyfriends. The high school gym was dark and the DJ played early '80's songs because it was the early '80's.

Eventually, Lew and I made it to the far wall in front of the pushed up bleachers where other couples were making out. I was just so excited to finally, for the first time, kiss a boy at a dance. I lifted my chin, just like in the movies, closed my eyes and opened my mouth ever so slightly.

And thought my tongue was going to be ripped out.

This may also have been Lew's first attempt at a french kiss as well. He seemed to think that you sucked really hard on the other person's tongue. With a lot of force.

So I pulled away, fortunately with my tongue still in my mouth, and ran back to my girlfriend (a chaste Catholic who wouldn't go near that wall, much to her boyfriend's dismay) and yelled to the group they were standing with,

"Lew kisses like a vacuum cleaner!!"

The entire group, mostly 9th grade boys who were classmates of Lew's, burst into hysterical laughing. We didn't see each other after that night.


Three years later I was the Head Drum Major for our 100+ marching band. Drum Major. Not Majorette. I wasn't some girl in a little skirt twirling a baton. I led the band on the field during performances. I conducted the music and co-led rehearsals (you haven't lived until you've conducted Sweet Georgia Brown). I yelled commands ("Atten-hut! For-ward march!"). I will admit I did some twirling. It was a three foot long mace with a big spike at one end that I threw into the ground with a grand, forceful jab. I could've killed someone with that thing. I most definitely wasn't an ornamental majorette.

Our high school football team had a pre-season game against Lew's high school team. The band went as well. I hadn't talked to Lew since that night in his high school gym. He was a senior by then and I noticed he was walking around with a camera. Turns out he was the yearbook photographer.

After I had lined up the band I turned around to face the field with my chin up and shoulders back (standard Drum Major stance). Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lew then heard,

"Hey Hoover! We need you to take a picture over here!" He winced.

Hoover? HOOVER?!?!? This kid, for the last three years had been carrying the nickname "Hoover" (which in case you don't know is the name of a brand of vacuum cleaners).

I am apologizing that my outburst as an 8th-grader led to such a mean-spirited nickname. While it is funny, it was a horrid name to bear during the cruel years of adolescence.

I just hope his 20th high school reunion last year didn't use nicknames on the name tags.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

C'Mon! Vote for Jenn's Photo

As some of you know, my dear friend is back from China. I have been nagging her to publish her stunning images in a coffee table book, or at least a calendar.

The next best thing is being included in a group coffee table book but we need to vote her into the book. Click here and vote for this photograph

Entitled Year of the Pig, click the third button once you are on the site and after you vote see how she's doing in the poll.

This is how she explained it in an email to me:

My photo was posted on this blog, which is creating a coffee table book of China photos for charity. Each week photos are posted and the ones that win the vote will be kept in the running to be in the coffee table book! You don't have to sign up or anything to vote. Just go to the link and click [my] button!

So go click! Give Jenn your pick! Nice rhyme huh?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Happy Blog-iversary

This little experiment is one year old today. On this day in 2006 I put up my first post explaining why I was jumping in. Mainly because at my then-job I was having to ask low-income - some homeless - women to blog on our non-profit organization's website. I didn't want to ask them to do something that I didn't know about.

And what a year I have had.

I spent the first few months really writing for myself. I didn't know the games, err, repeat commenting, that were done to ensure "readership". Never mind the concept of linky love. But then I jumped into my first Blog Exchange, started visiting blogs of people who left interesting comments and I found a group of folks I really like. They are listed on the side. Go visit them if you haven't.

I've been thinking of the all the new people I've "met" (or e-met) this year. Of all the experiences, personal stories and perspectives you have shared. Some of you have even become close email buddies (doesn't that inspire you to leave your email address when you comment?). I'm grateful for all that you have taught me and inspired me to be as a blogger.

I've gone back and looked at the 226 posts from the year and these are some of my favorites (note some - I started with a much longer list):

The Red Balloon

Yaz: Medicine or Music?

Because You Asked

National (Public Radio) Exposure

For Good

Paris 1990 and Part Deux

Tongans, Fire and Sugar

Talking About It

Channeling the inner black Diva

Saying Goodbye

Those of you that have been regular readers, do you agree with the list? Was there one (or nine) you particularly liked that I didn't mention? Please let me know.

Thank you for being part of this journey, whether you comment or not. It's nice to have all of you out there.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Fake lettuce and red raisins

I swore never to lie to my children about the food I gave them. Ever.

I remember the restaurant buffet clearly. I was being a total, complete, irritating nudge of an 8-year-old as my mom was trying to fill plates for me, my four-year-old brother and herself.

"What's that?" I'd ask in an irritating voice while pointing at foods I knew perfectly well.

"What's that?" I pointed to carrots.

"Carrots" my mom replied.

"What's that?" I pointed to cucumbers.

"Cucumbers" she said more tersely.

"What's that?" pointing to leafy green things, expecting her to say lettuce.


"Oooo yuck!" I declared. "I HATE spinach!"

"No you don't," she practically snarled, clearly at the end of her rope. "I've been putting it in your salad for years and telling you it was lettuce."

I nearly dropped my plate in horror. My mom lied to me. I felt betrayed, let down.

But I love spinach salad to this day.

Thirty years after that evening in the restaurant, I now have a daughter who will only eat carrots for her vegetable and raisins for her fruit. I take comfort that she eats tomato sauce with pasta and on pizza and just loves guacamole. I'm so desperate I count the jelly in the fruit bars for a serving of fruit. I'm grateful she loves orange juice. Watered down, of course.

So imagine my surprise when she started picking the blueberries and cranberries out of my multi-berry muffin and happily eating them. She called them raisins. I didn't correct her.

I bought dried cranberries at the store and told everyone they were "red" raisins. She bawked at first but now eats her "red" raisins.

So how do I break the news? Hopefully I'll have a few years to continue the tradition of motherly betrayal.

But maybe she'll love craisins well into her 30's.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My job (explained by the Daily Show)

I must thank Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore, the Senior Black Correspondent, for explaining subprime loans. As Mr. Wilmore says "they are the menthol cigarettes of loans."

A part of my job is to work on state policies impacting housing, small business and asset development. And the foreclosure crisis raging through the United States is a prime (pardon the pun) example.

Now don't glaze over here (I see you over there thinking this doesn't concern me). All kidding aside, did you know:
  • A Federal Reserve study found that 55 percent of blacks and 45 percent of Hispanics received home loans with rates exceeding Treasury securities by at least 3 percentage points; only 17 percent of whites received such loans.
  • The Federal Reserve, in testimony last month before the subcommitee on Oversight and Investigations for the Congressional Committee on Financial Services noted a list of financial institutions they have referred to the Department of Justice (don't laugh) for discriminatory practices. For instance, one institution had two discriminatory policies - one that prohibited lending on Native American lands. The other policy restricted lending on row houses, which resulted in discrimination against African-Americans.

And don't assume these are folks, like in the parody above, who are refinancing their homes to buy motorcycles or buying homes that are too big for them. We are hearing some heartbreaking stories:

  • a couple who didn't want to put their adult son in a nursing home after a devastating car accident. They refinanced their mortgage to pay for modification to accommodate his health care needs to keep him at home. Jobs were lost and the institution refused to renegotiate the terms of the loan. Until a large daily newspaper called about the family.
  • family members going in on a home together assuming both will be employed.
  • homeowners buying two- or three- family homes (e.g. double or triple deckers) assuming rental income will help with the mortgage.
  • and the most insidious - homeowners who are fraudulently tricked into signing for a loan they can't afford. We have seen documentation of income numbers being changed without the signatory knowing and people being bullied at the signing to agree to different conditions.

Some of these are issues that only the federal government can address since the issues cross state lines. However, one legislative option in my state is forcing mortgage companies to be graded on the same type of "report card" that banks have dealt with for over 30 years. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was an attempt to address racial discrimination by banks. It forced them to publicly acknowledge what type of products (including mortgage rates) are being made available across neighborhoods.

There was a time when you bought your house from a local realtor and got your mortgage from the local bank. The banker was often someone you saw at the grocery store. It was someone who knew your family. Now loans are "owned" by large companies that don't care if a disabled son will end up in a nursing home or that entire neighborhoods are collapsing because everyone was hit with rising interest rates.

This is an example of how bigger isn't necessarily better. Of how people with little understanding of financing or banks but want to own a home for their children to grow up in are being taken advantage of. Or of how mortgage lenders are intentionally engaging in documented discriminatory practices.

This is an example of how we need to pay attention to how big business and our government (remember it is OUR government) treat us.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Baby Coming Back to be Right by Your Side

Would you believe I found this because the kids asked to see Annie Lennox on YouTube?


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Soap Opera Sunday

One of my favorite bloggers, Brillig, has been writing her sudsy tales and is now organizing a collective bath with her friend Walking Kateastrophe. Fortunately, they are not requiring weekly commitments. They let you play when you want, as often as you want.

So here is one of my favorite tales to tell.

I hopped on a plane Sunday after the holiday break to return to New Orleans. I had spent the holiday hanging with family and went down to New Jersey to ring in the New Year. I had been teaching an Emotional Disturbed Behavior Disordered first through third grade class in a predominately black school (there was one Latino student). The year I started teaching David Duke, the former Klu Klux Klansman leader, was running for Governor. The students spoke of their fears that he would be elected.

But first I had to fly through Houston.

While waiting for my connection to New Orleans, I saw Phil*. Phil was one of the trainers at the health club I worked out at. Health club being a bit too fancy a description for it really was a storefront with gym equipment.

Phil looked awful. He was with a group of guys who were all in various states of awfulness. But there was one who was bright and talkative. Phil waved and walked over while his buddy followed. I learned that all these New Orleans guys were in the Army Reserves and returning from a weekend training. Apparently, they all went to a strip club the night before and Phil became, shall we say, friendly with one of the ladies. He was nearly passing out while talking to me.

We all got on the plane and I was seated in the row in front of Phil and his friend, Jack*. To this day I'm not sure how he did this but somehow I ended up sitting next to Jack and Phil had my seat. Jack was very talkative. We had similar tastes in music and talked about bands we had seen in concert. While talking about his fiancee he commented "She's a Yankee just like you. Can I have your number? I know she'll like you."

The plane landed and while we were collecting our luggage Jack brought over his fiancee for us to meet. They insisted we have dinner together. I thought nothing of it.

Jack called me Tuesday evening to join him, his fiancee and a friend for dinner that Saturday. He gave me directions to their house and it was easy to find that night.

I walked in to the shotgun-style house to find Jack and his fiancee, Susan* setting the table while their friend was furiously cooking in the kitchen. While I don't remember everything he made, there were these stuffed bell peppers that came from heaven. If heaven has stuffed bell peppers. They were a charming group but I don't remember much of the conversation. I remember the bell peppers.

We decided to go hear some music but first had to visit Jack's parents' house. I think a cousin was visiting before leaving for a tour of duty in Korea and both Jack and the friend wanted to say good luck. Shortly after I was introduced to Jack's father it became apparent he didn't like me.

His only daughter had just announced her engagement to a man from Boston, my hometown. His girl was marrying a Yankee.

The worst part of the visit came in the family room. I was sitting on the sofa next to Jack's dad when he went into great detail about another son's mugging. He kept referring to the assailant as "a Democrat".

"And the Democrat hit him on the head..."

"And the Democrat kicked him..."

Strange, I thought, that he would know the political affiliation of a mugger.

"Oh that's right," Jack's father sneered, "you're a Yankee. Down here we call them n*ggers Democrats."

Right then all the struggles of my black students came crashing down on my shoulders. How the hell could they get ahead when this man, an acknowledged leader of the community, spoke so ill of others? I literally felt my vision narrow. I could see Jack, Susan and their friend huddled in the kitchen. I later learned they were in a panic trying to figure out how to extradite me from this drunk, angry man.

The extraction, drive and settling into a table at the music bar are a bit of a blur. What I recall next was going on a pure tirade about racists, the struggles of poor blacks in New Orleans (of course, I was such an expert at 23 years old having lived there for 5 months), stupid white men, etc. etc.

The friend, who was half-Cajun and half-Italian, agreed with everything I said. He even said that when he married, he was going to take his wife's last name. Eventually I calmed down. We danced, drank and even hatched a plan for the four of us to go to the friend's parents' house "in the country" the next day.

That morning I got a call from the friend that a visit to the country was scratched but he asked if I would go out for drinks the upcoming Wednesday. I agreed.

The first bar we went to was the hotel where the movie Pretty Baby was filmed. An old-style hotel. The bar was paneled with dark wood and the bartenders knew my date by name. Once we sat down for a drink he started telling me about this book he read about welfare policy in my home state. He had read a book between Sunday and Wednesday.

I got home an hour before I was to report to school that morning. Needless to say I wasn't the most effective teacher that day.

I later learned that the Tuesday phone call by Jack, inviting me to have dinner had preceded the call to the friend. Apparently the subsequent phone call was "Man, I met this girl on the plane and you HAVE to meet her!"

Also, Jack didn't like the friend's girlfriend. The day after we met, the friend broke up with her.

I married the friend three years later.

*Phil, Jack and Susan are not their real names.

We're still in touch with Jack. He and Susan never married and eventually broke up. He did marry and his family had to leave New Orleans and resettle elsewhere after Hurricane Katrina.

Phil was killed in the late 1990's in a bar fight. I'm forever grateful that he introduced me to Jack, who introduced me to my love, all because he didn't like the girlfriend.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

So I was discussing Haiku with the train conductor

Yes, I showed the train conductor the Haiku poems I was working on.

He was walking up the aisles, preparing for the final stop on the line when he did a double take and stared at me.

"I thought chu were gonna stab me which yor pen!"

"No, I was sounding out syllables.... I can't believe I was about to tell you this. Never mind."

"Wha? Wha?" He walks over to my bench and looks over my shoulder.

Now I'm done for. "I'm writing a Haiku about Sudoku. Do you remember Haiku from English class?"

"Yeah, yeah" as he starts to read what I wrote:

Hurry line up one
through nine in boxes and rows
before my stop comes.

"I have a friend who is doing these and..." this is sounding bizarre. And now I'm plotting to kill her. Even though we haven't met in person, yet.

Then he reads another I wrote in honor of Norm,

One day may we find
acceptance for all of us
With love, hope and peace.

"So you gonna go home tonight and make dinner for yor hubby right?" he asks. He looks like he is hatching a plan.

"No, he works late. I'm making dinner for the kids."

His look clearly conveyed I wasn't getting this. "You need to write one of them poems for yor husband so he'll come home early!" he winks.

That particular Haiku will be a private one. But in honor of tonight's train conductor:

Who knew a train fare
would lead to poetry talks
and lovers' advice

Yup, more haikus for Leslie's Haiku Buckaroo contest. Come on. You know you want to enter. You've got until August 10th to do it. And you don't need a blog. You can send it to her via email. So all you lurkers, make Leslie happy.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Such a loaded word. Perfect. It implies no errors. Somehow above others. Without flaws.

Feel free to giggle at this being associated with me.

Original Perfect Post Awards – July 2007

Jenn in Holland gave me a gift of Perfect Post for July for what I wrote about Norm. This from a woman who wins more awards, and reads more blogs, than humanly possible. To get this from her is an honor. To get this about someone I admire even doubly so.

[Thanks to Momma K and Lindsay for hosting the Perfect Post awards. Check their sites for more Perfect Posts.]

But we also had a perfect weekend. Or as close to one as you can get. We journeyed to the capital of a neighboring state. It is a city on the move. We couldn't believe all the fun we could have a mere 40 minutes from home.

We saw a 5 day old giraffe (apparently we were following Alex Elliot's various men. They were visiting the baby the previous day). The zoo staff were begging people to be quiet in the "barn". My kids were silent for over 10 minutes. They didn't want to leave the baby. I didn't want to leave the silence.

We all rode on an old-fashioned carousel, complete with blinking lights, mirrors and the tinny 19th-century music. Then the people under 80 pounds each had a turn riding a real pony.

But the main reason we went to this town was the WaterFire. A combination of music, performance art and, yes, fire. It started with a half hour of ethereal music playing from speakers in the middle of the river.

Then a woman came out on a low boat, banging a gong.

Then a boat full of people in black clothing lit each pile of wood floating above the water. Soon the rippling water reflected the orange, red and yellow of the fire. The clouds parted and a full summer moon appeared.

Mr. SMID took the babes up to the hotel room and I got to sit in silence, again, listening to the music and crackling wood.

Fire dancing bright
Over rippling dark water
White, yellow, orange

Yes, I finally broke down and entered a Haiku for Leslie's Haiku Buckaroo contest. (As Jenn in Holland repeatedly asks "did you enter yet?")