First Day of School

Monday morning we got up bright and early. After breakfast I dressed my daughter in her new uniform. Then we got on the bike and rode on down to her new school.

Last year Persephone went to Pre-K3 at a Catholic school in Jefferson Parish on the West Bank. It was a good experience, I think, but not exactly the best fit: I’m not Catholic, and we live in Orleans Parish on the East Bank. We sent her there because that’s where Mama works. They were able to commute together, and that was a good experience for both of them, I think.

I like having her a little closer to home, enrolled in a school where I might see friends and neighbors, but there are many other factors at work with regard to our school choice. It’s complicated. I’d like to articulate those factors, so I’m working on a longer essay, which I’m finding surprisingly difficult.

Anyhow, Monday was her first day at her new school, her first day at a public school, and it felt like a pretty big deal to me. But it did not seem to be such a big deal to Persephone. She took it all in stride. She was neither excited nor anxious. She didn’t even say goodbye or notice when I left the room.

Which was great. Some kids had a much tougher time with the transition. The son of one friend of ours had never been away from home before, and he was still howling Wednesday morning when his mother left. I felt for both of them.

So far, so good.


OK, wanna see something freaky? Compare what I just wrote above to what I wrote last year.

The girl took it all in stride. She was neither anxious nor particularly excited. I thought it might be rough adjusting to a new and earlier morning routine, but it was all very smooth.

So far, so good.

The similarity is almost spooky. And here I was attributing the girl’s equanimity to her past experience. But perhaps it’s a character trait. Maybe she gets it from me.

Let Me Call You Sister

Funny thing happened last night as I was finishing up my dinner. Xy was fiddling with something in the back yard, Persephone was having an ice pop on the deck, and I was alone at the dinner table with a second plate of tacos and my second glass of Malbec and I was overwhelmed by a feeling which I can only describe as universal love. Mild intoxication, yes, but something more.

Do you know the feeling I mean? A feeling of uncritical, undifferentiated good will toward all. I suspect everybody feels this from time to time. At least I hope so. That would make it universal in two ways: a love for all and from all.

I did what any 21st century global villager would do. I grabbed my phone and posted up a tweet:

Not to get all sappy, but sometimes there’s so much love I’m afraid my heart will burst. I love my family, my city, my life.

We live in an age of universal connectivity, or so we sometimes pretend. In reality, access is stratified just like our social structures. And I wonder how sustainable this high-tech culture really is. But leaving aside these misgivings — I had to share the love. I had to throw that sentiment out into the mix. It was immediately re-tweeted on Twitter and liked by a bunch of folks on Facebook and one person even thanked me for posting it.

And that made me realize just how rare such expressions are. At least in my circles. And that seems like a shame, because there’s something profound and important at the heart of this that we need to reflect upon. I mean, does anyone really think we have too much love in our world?

And where does this feeling arise from, anyhow? And how did I get here, of all people? I, compared to a robot in my youth, unemotional, Spock-like. I, the misanthrope, so often sickened and disgusted by the folly of humanity. One evening not long ago, I remarked that as much as I decried our radical individualism, I also participate in it; that although some part of me years to be a part of a tradition one basic problem I have with any organized religion is that, in a nutshell, “People suck.” How have I come to this?

Sometimes, on our recent trip for example, I have felt uncomfortable — scratch that, I’ve felt downright bad — because I don’t seem to love my family as I ought. My sister is effusive; my parents, reserved; I take after my parents. But maybe I’ve got the problem backwards. It’s not that I love my sister less than everyone else.

At least for a while last night, I wanted to honor the whole human race as part of my extended family. Let me call you sister. Let me take the world in a love embrace. I don’t understand this mystery but I can feel it flowing through me.

If you’re still with me, here’s a blast from the past. Sorry, no Steppenwolf.

How We Celebrated the Summer Solstice

We went way up to the mountains of northern Alabama, to Monte Sano State Park.

Monte Sano

No elaborate rituals. No goat sacrifice. Just hanging out in the woods. Well, we did make those solstice stones earlier. But mostly we just hung out in the woods.

I don’t think we’ve ever done that, as a family. It was good.

We stayed at a cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. I’m fascinated by stuff built by the CCC and WPA, and I wonder why we don’t implement programs like that now, during this time of economic crisis. Anyhow, the cabin was small and charming. The stone floors are delightfully cool in the summertime.

Weenie Roast

We did our cooking over an open fire. Hot dogs and s’mores. Yum.

Early in the morning of the longest day, Persephone and I made a short hike to a nearby playground.

After horsing around for a while, I tried doing a chin-up. Maybe I should have limbered up first or something, because I pulled a muscle in my shoulder and neck. Ouch! I was practically immobilized for half the day.

Actually I was able to move around and even go an a slightly longer hike later in the day. We hiked out to a firetower only to find it was locked up. But at least we got to see some wild creatures along the way.

Black Snake

For me, anyhow, this was the best way to celebrate one of the most sacred days of the year.

So this is how our summer vacation began. After a couple nights Monte Sano, we made our way up to Indiana.

Venus in Transit

Mirror Rig

I was mighty excited to see the Transit of Venus this past Tuesday. I set up a tiny mirror on a tripod in our back yard, which reflected the image of the sun through our kitchen and down a short hall into my darkened office.

Sun Spot

This is called the reflected pinhole method, which is a safe and simple way to observe solar events.

Continue reading Venus in Transit

To My Aunt

BART, you probably haven’t read about this [forwarded message: Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin?] ––––– you are so brilliant, and I understand how your mind was to reject Jesus, but He is the only way to salvation, He is the only God who died on the cross for our sins–––statues of buddah, baal and Hinduisms and islam and everything else is NOT the way to anything===go back to reading the Bible and before each reading ask God to help you understand. In these last days, you want to be prepared for heaven and the final judgement–––I am so serious, I really hope you understand that I love you and Christy and Persephone––––wouldn’t be much of an aunt if I didn’t at least tell you how important you are.

Continue reading To My Aunt

Unmasking

Ancestor’s Dinner

A bit discombobulated and disconnected for this recent holiday. Perhaps that’s because I was traveling just before — the POD Network traditionally has their conference at the end of October, and this one was combined with the annual conference of the HBCU Faculty Development Network, and we mustered our biggest contingent (four) ever. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I got back to New Orleans last Sunday and immediately baked some pumpkin bread. Persephone came home from a friend’s with a Disney Snow White costume on. “Uh oh,” I thought. Sure enough, she refused to wear the costume lovingly made by hand by her grandmother (an Air Princess) because she was dead set on Snow White for Halloween. It’s amazing how much Disney princess stuff has infiltrated our lives even though we haven’t bought any. Truly, we live in the Age of Cheap Crap.

Even so, it was magical to follow my daughter around on a short jaunt through the neighborhood. It was her first night to ever do this and she was enchanted, as befits Snow White. Many of our neighbors were waiting on their porches, enjoying the flow of kids in costume. It’s a tradition to cherish, even as rampant commercialization threatens to spoil it and everything else we celebrate.

Masking

But I have to wonder: How many of my neighbors understand what Halloween really is? The “een” part gives us a clue. “E’en” is a contraction for “evening,” as in the evening before. So many of these ancient holidays begin the night before. The actual event is the next day. Christmas Eve has always seemed to me one of the most magical nights of the Christian calendar. How many of my neighbors celebrate the day after Halloween?

Well, actually, quite a few. This is New Orleans after all. The next day used to be a holiday at the University and dammit, I took the day off. It should still be a holiday in my opinion. When I passed by St. Patrick #1 on a quick errand that morning I saw plenty of people tending their family crypts.

My main activity of the day was masking of a different sort: covering up some lead paint. There were two strips on either side of our porch, about one inch wide and maybe ten feet tall, which the painters missed. I’ve been meaning to address these areas for a couple years now, ever since I noticed them. I used duct tape to remove as many paint flakes as I could. Then I covered everything up with a thick coat of high-quality primer, and ultimately a topcoat of paint.

Given that these two strips face outward to the sides of the house, where we never spend any time, this was probably not a critical fix, but I certainly feel better now that it’s finally done. I’m confident the lead paint will stay contained for years, by which time Persephone will be past the most vulnerable phases of her development.

Ancestor’s Dinner

That night we shared a delicious family dinner. Corn and tomatoes with bread. Our special guest: Glenn Dee Petty, 1923-1990, Xy’s dear departed grandmother. The main dish was one which Xy remembers Glenn Dee preparing. We had a place set for her with a photo on display. As we ate, Xy shared various memories. Since Persephone never met any of her great-grandparents, this is the only way she can really come to know of them. For that matter I never met Glenn Dee either.

It was a festive and sweet moment. I think we will expand on this concept and do it again next year.

Unmasking

Several weeks ago, a friend and co-worker, Dr. Mark Gstohl, was planning to shut down his Facebook account. He was finding some of his interactions more aggravating than enlightening. He has a wide gamut of friends across the political spectrum, and he was experiencing a lot of negativity. I offered to swap accounts with him. At first I made the offer in jest, but I became more intrigued as I considered the idea, and so I offered again. We agreed to give it a try just for the month of October. We briefly discussed the ethics of such a maneuver, but the issues at stake didn’t seem very serious. So we went ahead. We continued to use Facebook as we usually did, but we were logged in to each others’ accounts. So, Mark (who is an ordained Baptist minister) was posting Bible verses in my name. Further muddying the waters is the fact that we both have numerous third party services tied into Facebook. We didn’t swap any other accounts, so both our Facebook feeds comprised a mix of items generated by one or other of us. At the end of the month we took off the masks and reverted back to our real selves. Most people laughed it off, or scratched their heads in confusion, but my old high school chum Georgie said she felt “betrayed and tricked.” Maybe we should have taken the ethical issues more seriously. For what it’s worth, I apologized to Georgie and I think she’s forgiven me. This episode raises some questions about identity and expectations in the age of social media.

Forty-Three Months

Lumps

Dear Persephone,

You are forty-three months old today.

You’ve just completed your first full month of school. Every day you are coming home full of songs and dances, art and ideas. You learned a new favorite phrase there too: “Everyone makes mistakes; that’s how they learn.” I had to point out that your mother learns a lot.

The only real sticking point has been lunch time. One day you wouldn’t eat the pasta that was served in the cafeteria. “It’s not Tuesday, and I only eat pasta on Tuesdays.” Since then the situation has deteriorated. You rarely eat much of your cafeteria lunch. It seems most of the three-year-olds are in the same boat. I’ve been offering you stickers as a reward — stickers are like gold to you — but so far no dice. If you don’t start chowing down soon we’ll have to start packing a lunch for you.

Speaking of mealtime, one evening at dinner I stretched to pick something off your plate, and you were amazed. “I didn’t know you could reach all the way across the table!” Out of sheer curiosity we got out the measuring tape. My arms are still more than twice as long as yours: 17″ vs 36″. That bears out the general principle that armspan is roughly equal to height. I’m 6’4″ while you are just half an inch shy of three feet.

Also on the topic of eating, one evening at bedtime you told me that “I don’t want to eat and drink anymore because I’m tired of going potty.” Fortunately you forgot about that resolution by the time breakfast rolled around.

One morning you ended up sleeping in our bed. I noted at one moment you were sound asleep, and then the next thing you were smiling and giggling. But your eyes were still closed. You were having a dream. You were laughing so loud I had to wake you up and ask what the dream was about before your forgot. You told me you were dreaming of a chipmunk. The funny part? Her name was Pencil.

You still love singing nonsense songs. You also like speaking in your own special language. You tried to pass this off as Spanish at first, but you’re actually learning Spanish at school, and this is distinct from that.

Special Language by Editor B

You’ve also started inventing your own exclamations. The first one I heard you say was “Oh, suckers!” But you’re happy to incorporate anything in your line of sight. “Oh, bicycles!”

Your favorite game right now is, without question, pretending to be lost. This follows a pretty strict formula. You’ll hide somewhere, under the table or in the bathtub usually, and start calling, “Help! Help! I’m lost.” When your mother or I come to your rescue, you’ll explain that you left your old home because your mother was mean. That’s standard fairy tale stuff — lots of mean mothers in those old stories. We offer to take you in and let you live with us. In your scenario, I’m a fisherman and Xy is the fisherman’s wife. I think you got that from the myth of Perseus.

You had a day off school recently, but Xy did not, so I took the day off work. We made a picnic lunch and took it to City Park. That was great fun. While we were eating, I saw an animal climbing in one of the huge live oak trees. I thought it was an anteater at first, but I didn’t say anything. I just pointed to it. When you saw it you exclaimed, “It’s an anteater!” Of course, it wasn’t. But it sure looked like an anteater, or else we have a shared congenital propensity to misrecognize raccoons.

Later, you asked me to tell everyone that you’re brave. “I’m not afraid of coyotes or werewolves or African wild dogs.” You are aware that I use my phone to send messages “to everyone,” i.e. the public internet, i.e. Twitter. So I posted that on your behalf. My network was very impressed.

After lunch, we went to the playground and you frolicked with some other children. You seemed to have a great time, but on the bike ride home you told me one of the girls shushed you. Apparently you’d made a loud noise that scared away the pigeons. “She said shhh!” You kept repeating this story. I asked how it made you feel. “Rotten,” you replied. It’s the first instance of social anxiety I’ve seen from you. There will probably be a lot more of that in your future if I know girls.

One day I got home from work, walked in the door and announced, “I’m home!” Your immediate reply: “Thanks for the warning.” I laughed pretty hard at that one. This could well be your first expression of sarcasm, though I’m not sure you really understood what you were saying. You might have just been repeating something you’d heard at school. Nonetheless it’s heartening. We have a friend who calls you “sassy,” and though she means it in a good way, it reminds me of how often I got called out for “sassy backtalk” as a kid. I honestly never understood why I was getting in trouble. I don’t think “talking back” will ever bother me. In fact I encourage it. The challenge for you will be to understand that not everyone feels the way I do.

First Day of School

Today was Persephone’s first day of school ever.

First Day of School

She’s going to a small Catholic school on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. I never thought I’d be sending my daughter there, but it’s the same school where Xy teaches, so the convenience is unbeatable. There are precious few publicly-funded pre-K3 programs in town. We don’t get any price breaks thru Xy, but it so happens that tuition is cheaper than daycare. We could pay $7K for another ten months of daycare, or $4K for school. Easy choice, really.

The girl took it all in stride. She was neither anxious nor particularly excited. I thought it might be rough adjusting to a new and earlier morning routine, but it was all very smooth.

So far, so good.

Welcome Home You Blue-Haired Freak

Twenty-five years ago —

Welcome Home

I came home from Sweden with blue hair, much to my parents’ shock and my sister’s delight.

At least I think she was delighted. Kind of hard to tell in this photo. Certainly I was glad to be back home. It was a great experience, my year abroad, but it was also hard, the hardest year of my (admittedly easy) life, in fact — until 2005 rolled around.

The blue was already beginning to wash out by this time, revealing the bleached blond underneath.

I’m wearing a gray flannel three piece suit I picked up at a secondhand shop in Stockholm. In this getup I felt like a rock star, and I pretended to be one on the flight home. I’m not sure anyone was fooled except maybe myself.

Snow White

Here’s Persephone’s directorial debut.

Cast:
Xy — Snow White
Persephone — Nice Fairy
Michael — Grumpy
Therese — Dopey
Nicole — Flower
David — Prince

Cinematography by yours truly.

Obviously this was mostly improvised, but Persephone engineered the basic situation. She assigned roles and costumes. She didn’t want a Wicked Queen in her movie, for example, and she inserted the fairy and flower characters. She said she wanted to make a version of Snow White no one had ever seen before. Of course, with no Wicked Queen, she insisted that there would be no poisoned apple. I’m not sure how the story would have developed. But when the players started improvising, they couldn’t resist taking the story in that direction. Also, any student of folklore could tell you that the prince didn’t revive Snow White with a kiss. That was Sleeping Beauty. But who could argue with this prince’s roguish charm?

One Full Revolution

Lammas is rapidly approaching. It was last year at Lammas that I began making an effort to observe each holiday in the Wheel of the Year with my family. Now that we’ve seen one full revolution of the wheel, I’m taking stock and reflecting on what it means.

It’s my understanding that the Wheel of the Year is a mashup of sorts, combining Germanic and Celtic traditions. The result is eight holidays more or less equally spaced throughout the year. These consist of the solstices and equinoxes plus the four cross-quarter days, which fall approximately halfway between the solstices and equinoxes. As far as I know, putting these two sets of observances together is a modern invention, originating in Wicca. Practitioners of Wicca generally call the festivals sabbats.

The Wheel of the Year is so beautiful and compelling that it’s been embraced and adapted outside of Wicca, which is what I’m doing. It lends itself to endless variation and interpretation. Even though I’m not Wiccan, I admire many aspects of the religion, the wheel most especially. I like how the cycle of holidays connects to the changing seasons and the cycles of nature. This should come as no surprise; after all, the very first sentence I wrote here when I started this online journal was, “I’m fascinated by cycles, including the cycle of seasons.” That was over seven years ago, long before I ever heard of the Wheel of the Year. I also like how these holidays connect to the past, as they are all rooted in antiquity. Each one resonates with its own meaning and traditions, the accretions of centuries. I’ve been trying to understand how to celebrate each one in a way that is relevant and meaningful to me personally and to my family as well.

So that brings us back around to Lammas. It’s a cross-quarter day, partway between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. Another name for the day is Loaf Mass.

there is some evidence of the Christian Anglo Saxon harvest festival of Loaf Mass, which is likely to have been built on a pre-existing pagan ritual of the same time, as the festival is one of the harvest…. July was commonly the hardest month of the year for a pre-industrial farming economy, and many of the poor, who could not afford to buy bread and had run through their own stocks, died during July. So the bringing in of the harvest was the first time in months that most people would have a good meal and drink.

So it’s a day for bread. My daughter loves bread.

Bread Mask

It’s our good fortune as a family not to worry about running out of bread in July. The supermarkets around here are fully stocked, year-round. In fact, in our society obesity is a bigger problem than starvation. We also consume vast amounts of fossil fuels to ship food around the world. I certainly don’t romanticize the past, but I don’t believe our current divorce from seasonal cycles is entirely healthy.

A discussion of such matters on the naturalistic paganism group got me curious about what is really being harvested at this time in this area. I did a net search for “Louisiana harvest season.” Isn’t that a sad comment on how disconnected I am from the cycles of nature and agriculture? I have to search the net to figure out what’s in season around here! Anyhow, I found a “Louisiana Harvest Calendar” from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry.

And so I learned that fruits and vegetables currently in season here include acorn squash, butternut squash, cushaw, pumpkins, yellow squash and zucchini, apples, figs, muscadines, peaches, pears and plums, banana peppers and hot peppers, butter beans and southern peas, cantaloupes, melons and watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, okra and sweet potatoes. (Interestingly enough, my spellchecker doesn’t recognize cushaw or muscadines.) Of course, it seems something is always in season here in the subtropics. But this gives me some ideas for a seasonally appropriate Lammas feast.

I am planning to take a day off work for Lammas, bake a loaf of bread in the shape of a person, and make some corn dollies with my daughter. We’ll save them for burning at Candlemas.

Demeter is associated with the harvest, and I associate Demeter with Xy, and she’s a teacher, and this is the time of year teachers are gearing up to go back to school. My daughter will also be beginning her first year of school. So I’d like this to also be a time to honor them (the women in my life) and mark the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Maybe we’ll make two loaves for mother and daughter.

Lammas is probably the least well-known of the eight holidays. As such, it seems like a fine starting point for learning about all this — a happy accident, but it will always have a special place in my heart. So, for me, it’s not just a celebration of the agricultural harvest but also a time to think about how we stepped into the spiral and where we’ve come since and where we’re headed. Right now I feel pretty happy that Xy has played along so far, as the interest in these holidays is primarily mine. Rituals and traditions gain power over time, as associations and resonances build. Simply doing the same thing at the same time of year can be richly rewarding. I’m looking forward to deepening our experience as we continue to move around the wheel again.

Thursday Off

Posting has been a little thin here lately, for good reason: I’ve been on vacation. My plan now is to back up in time and recreate these ten days in excruciating detail. So here we go. My in-laws rolled into town on Wednesday, June 15, but my vacation officially began the next day, when I took Thursday off.

Tearing It Up

My vacation got off to a cracking good start with these guys ripping up our sidewalk. They actually dug a smaller hole the day before, then came back on Thursday morning with bigger equipment for further excavations. Something to do with the gas line to the house next door, which is under renovation. (Eleven days later, the hole is still there.) I am hopeful that the repair include their crumbling driveway and that the whole situation will end better than it was before. Still, I’m a little irked cuz we just had that concrete poured nine months ago.

My first order of business for the day: a fresh haircut, which I got at my new barber shop, Loose Endz.

Haircut

When I posted this photo online, I got an immediate reaction from my academic mentor, Thom G.:

Editor B I sure hope you aren’t paying someone for that hair cut. If it ain’t a Sears hedge and hair trimmer you been robbed. 😎

Ouch, Thom, you really know how to hurt a guy. Personally I was quite happy with the cut. I now felt ready for the beach.

But, of course, there was some more business to take care of before our departure. Xy insisted that we needed to run by the grocery, despite the fact that we would be hitting the road the next morning.

A fool’s errand, I thought. So naturally I volunteered.

I hopped on the bike. On the way to the store I took a gander at the Lafitte Corridor. I like to give it a look whenever I can, and I’ve been taking particular note of the section of the future greenway where the Mid-City Market is planned. It’s not looking too good. Some of the weeds are higher than my head, and junk is piling up at an alarming rate.

Red Couch

So that makes how many couches here now? Plus a gas tank and a lot of tires. Someone is using the greenway site as their personal dumping ground. All I know is the red couch wasn’t there a week earlier.

Back at home, my mother-in-law was unpacking a few heirlooms. We inherited a deluxe crucifix from Xy’s late grandmother Pauline. I quickly added it to our collection.

Crucifix Fest

This model features holy water and hosts in the secret compartment. (It’s my hope that having all these Catholic icons on display in our kitchen will inoculate Persephone against her coming year of Catholic school. With all respect due the Magisterium, there are certain dogmata down with which I cannot get. I don’t know if they touch on these in Pre-K3 but I’ll be monitoring the situation.)

That evening we went to Crescent Pie & Sausage for a fabulous dinner. I think this is one of the best restaurants in the city right now, and it’s just across the street. I’d love to eat there more frequently, but our budget don’t allow. Here’s my daughter and my father-in-law enjoying the mac & cheese and the mixed grill respectively.

Crescent Pie & Sausage

I had some sort of tomato and okra tart, a special, which was extraordinary.

Though we were sitting inside, they do have a large porch and ample outdoor seating. I noticed a jar suspended from a string, an elegant variation on the old plastic baggie trick.

Jar

We can see our house from their front porch. We could see our house from our table by the window, for that matter. Midway through dinner we saw a distinctive red truck pull up in front of our house. I ran out and said hi to DJ and snapped this picture.

DJ

He was dropping off a package of hair bands for Persephone.

What else? I guess that was it. So ended my first day of vacation. More to come!

Discipline

Discipline sleeps on La Rambla

This morning Persephone smacked me on the chest as I was carrying her into her bedroom to get dressed. I don’t remember why. She is so tiny I don’t think she could hurt me even if she hit me with all her strength. So in some ways it was no big deal, but I decided to make it into a big deal. Not at first, actually. First, I asked her for an apology. I asked her repeatedly. But she refused. I told her she’d have a time out if she didn’t apologize. Still she wouldn’t say it. So then we proceeded to have the longest damn time out we’ve ever had. It was not easy for either of us. I told her that she’d have to sit there until she apologized, and for her part she fussed and cried but mostly just sat there in silence. It seemed to me that our conflict had become an absurd contest of wills, a mere power struggle divorced from any notions of right and wrong. I kept explaining and re-explaining that if you hit someone you should apologize. And despite my misgivings I’m pretty sure Persephone understood exactly what this was all about. At one point, when I’d reiterated for the thousandth time that she could end this absurd standoff by saying sorry, she whined, “But that’s not truuuue.” She knew what I wanted but she did not want to give in. She stuck to her guns. I admire that. And of course I was feeling the pressure to get ready for school and work, and she was not, but I stuck to my guns too. I was seriously considering the expediency of spanking, but I stuck to my guns. And finally I won. Er, um, wait, no, this wasn’t about winning and losing. I mean finally my daughter saw the error of her ways and embraced right behavior. “I’m sorry.” Was that so hard? Apparently so. It sure took a while to get there. I’m not sure how long it was. Twenty, twenty-five minutes, I guess.Afterward I was wondering if this was a sick and pointless exercise in dominance and submission. But a subsequent incident makes me think it may have been worthwhile. She took an old doll down to the breakfast table. She noticed it had a hole in its chest. I almost dropped the granola when I heard her say “I’m sorry” to the doll. “I’m sorry I made the hole in your chest.” So maybe she did learn something after all.

Discipline sleeps on La Rambla / Chris Beckett / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mardi Maigre

Or would that be Mardi Mince?

I never completely recovered from the cold I caught in late January. I only missed one day of work, and I felt well enough that my general routine was not disrupted, but I could not quite kick that last stage. I kept coughing up little bits of phlegm, but it seemed pretty minor.

Last Friday morning, I felt a little hoarse and a little off my game. I thought it was just the aftereffects of Thursday night’s parade-going, but come Saturday I could tell something was happening in my chest. I was coughing quite a bit, and the coughs were getting more productive.

That didn’t stop me from riding way way uptown Sunday morning to take Persephone to see some more parades: Okeanos, Mid-City and Thoth. But on Lundi Gras I played it cool and stayed home while Xy took the girl out for a day of fun and more parades. I whipped up a big batch of white beans and brown rice. I drank lots of tea. I still held out hope that I might recover before the big day.

But when I woke up Mardi Gras morning, I was feeling worse than ever. Damn, I thought, we’ll just have to stay home today. But once I had a little breakfast I started feeling better. Meanwhile Xy was dealing with her own issues (don’t ask) and so it looked like maybe Persephone and I would head out by ourselves. Actually we got on the bike and made it one block before we decided to come back. We demanded Xy get ready and come with us.

So we all three rode our bikes down Esplanade to the Marigny/French Quarter, and we spent maybe an hour at the most just wandering about in the vicinity of the R Bar, gawking at the many spectacular costumes. My favorite had to be the Voyeurinal. Alas, I have no photo; I was going to snap a picture when Xy ran into a long-lost co-worker and the moment of opportunity passed. So just let your imagination run wild on the Voyeurinal.

Oh wait, I see that Wendy got a photo.

DSC05701

And speaking of photos, here’s the proof we actually did make it out of the house.

Royal Ghost Family

We reprised our ghost royalty costumes. If we’d been feeling better, if we’d really done it up, we would have taken a wagon and featured our original Brewster watercolor, which would have added a whole ‘nother dimension. But alas it was not to be.

Persephone was plenty tired, and neither Xy nor I were in top form, and it seemed like it might rain, so we decided to head back before the Societé de Sainte Anne arrived. Didn’t even have a drop of alcohol! That has to be a first for me.

So yeah, it kinda sucks to curtail the fun on the most transcendentally festive day of the year. But it’s far far better to get a little flavor than none at all. When we got back home, my situation deteriorated rapidly. It was almost as if my body had been holding out for me as long as it could. I’m pretty sure I’ve got bronchitis. If it’s viral (as most bronchitis is) the main treatment is bedrest. Oops. Not exactly consonant with an eight-mile roundtrip bike ride.

So I spent Ash Wednesday in bed, and I’m trying to do the same today.

I can’t help but note that this was my twelfth Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I also was somewhat under the weather for my first Mardi Gras back in 2000. Our cat Bilal died on Mardi Gras 2002. We missed Mardi Gras in 2004 out of sheer lethargy, and also in 2008 because of a sprained ankle and advanced pregnancy. Mardi Gras 2009 was compromised when Persephone came down with a fever. Not a great batting average so far.

Next year the pressure will really be on, because Mardi Gras falls on a certain someone’s fourth birthday. I welcome any and all suggestions on how best to celebrate.

No Number

Glowing Blue Numbers

I took Persephone to the doctor yesterday for her three-year checkup. I was going to ask the doctor about getting a lead test, even though it was my understanding that standard protocol doesn’t call for it.

A brief recapitulation of her numbers might be in order. These are all expressed in µg/dL (micrograms per deciliter of blood).

The supposed level of concern is ten, but that’s a fairly arbitrary threshold, and there’s plenty of reason to suppose it should be lowered. Since she scored below that level at her second birthday, I didn’t think the doctor would recommend another test. I was going to ask for one anyway, but I was not looking forward to it. I agonized so much over those numbers in the past. I didn’t look forward to waiting for results to come back from the lab again. Also there’s the whole insurance issue; our pediatrician is on our health plan but the lab she used was not, which led me to write an angry letter to Humana last September.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when the doctor suggested the test herself and revealed they were now able to do it in-house. No lab, no waiting. Persephone didn’t enjoy having her finger pricked, of course, but she took it like a champ and I was very proud of her.

But the best thing of all, the best news I’ve had in a good long while, was the result. Her lead levels are “below anything detectable.” No little number to fixate upon and agonize over. No number to keep me awake and haunt my dreams. I was so happy I just about cried. Even now, a day later, I can’t hardly think about it without choking up, which is making this a surprising difficult entry to write.

Pardon me while I collect myself.
Continue reading No Number