10K Classroom

This photo just turned over 10,000 views on Flickr.

New Classroom

This is the fourth such photo of mine to achieve such popularity — and thus far all of them feature Xy. Only two are sort of vaguely cheesecakey. One you can’t even tell if it’s a man or a woman or what. And in none of them can you see her face. So I tell her not to get a swelled head.

This particular photo, “New Classroom,” I took in December of 2005. I was helping Xy set up her new classroom at Eisenhower Elementary. She felt fortunate to have landed that job so shortly after all public school teachers here were fired. I didn’t have anything better to do than help her get set up, since the University where I work was still closed for repairs. Actually this photo was taken on a Saturday afternoon, but the point’s still relevant. I’d spent several days pilfering her old school for supplies to bring to the new school.

At the time, I was more excited about getting our generator hooked up, and so I never posted this photo here. But it’s been posted plenty of other places.

See for example:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As of this moment, it’s my 25th most “interesting” photo, my 4th most viewed and 3rd most favorited. As one might discern from that final link, the photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, allowing people to use it for whatever they like at no cost.

Sometimes Creative Commons is not enough. Flickr partnered with Getty Images some time ago, and I’ve had at least one request to license this image commercially. However, I found the paperwork to be onerous. A “model release” is easy enough; Xy will sign anything I stick under her nose. But a “location release”? Are you kidding me? Let’s see, this is a public school run by the Algiers Charter Schools Association. Xy no longer works there and the principal has moved on as well. Who would I even ask? Why would I even bother?

As for explaining the popularity of this image, I think it has to do with the motion blur. Not only does it lend a sense of energy to the photo, it anonymizes and generalizes. Xy becomes every teacher in this picture.

I wish I could say I planned it that way, but in reality I just hate taking flash photos. I knew if I turned off the flash and braced the camera on a solid surface I’d get a decent shot. It kind of bugs me that the desk legs are out of frame at the very bottom. But, all in all, I’m happy with this photo, and I’m curious to see if its popularity will continue.

Back to School

Instead of strengthening into a named storm, Tropical Depression #5 petered out and dissipated into nothing but a bunch of rainy weather. If it had played out differently, school might have been cancelled, but as it was today was the first day of classes at Xy’s new school.

Back to School

Yes, she’s teaching again, as I mentioned a couple months ago. Since then I’ve been joking that she needs to plan on working there for at least ten years. But it’s not really a joke; I hope she finds a measure of satisfaction and (dare I say it) peace in this position.

As long as I’m wishing, I’ll extend that to all teachers everywhere.

Some schools did indeed close today, including Persephone’s new daycare, a fact which I did not discover until I got there and found the place locked up and deserted. But “Dada’s school” is open so it’s an impromptu “Take Your Daughter to Work” day for me. It’s pretty quiet here, as summer sessions are over and the fall semester has not yet begun.

Xy Update

We’ve taken Persephone out of daycare for the summer. Xy’s finally having some time to bond with her, which is a refreshing change after this last school year.

Xy found a new job about a month ago. The bad news is it’s still classroom teaching. She’ll be teaching fourth-grade science and social studies at a small Catholic school on the West Bank. Remember it is the policy of this blog not mention our employers by name, so don’t ask. This represents a $20K pay cut but hopefully she will be happier or at least less miserable. While it’s been nice not to have to worry about money lately, I’ll take a happier spouse any day. A little belt-tightening won’t hurt us.

Xy says she’s going to look at the world through rose-colored lenses. Thus this picture:

Rose-Colored Lenses

In other Xy news, her rollergirl dreams seem to have run aground. She got a knee injury a couple months ago that prevented her from qualifying for the team or skating at all. As she’s healed up, though, she’s come to realize she can’t handle the time commitment. Most players practice at least twice a week, often three or four times, and then there are the bouts themselves. That’s a lot, but it’s what’s need to be competitive. She had a lot of fun but at this point it looks doubtful that “Smallpox” will ever make her debut.



It’s not quite official. Xy made the first cut and has been going to practice sessions. The rules are strict and harsh — you have to pass through many circles of hell before you can be considered a Big Easy Roller Girl. And it will be even longer before she sees any action in a bout, I think. For now she is aching all over from her last practice but the bruises so far are minimal. As busy as she is with teaching and mothering, she really doesn’t have time for this. Yet I’ve encouraged her every step of the way (including decorating her helmet last night) because I think it’s important for everyone to have some fun, and some “me” time. This might be the perfect activity for Xy. She’s got a lot of aggression that needs an outlet.

Trial by Water

I wasn’t feeling quite right. When Xy offered to take our daughter with her on a shopping expedition I assented. It was just starting to rain so I urged her to drive carefully. Off she went.

We’d heard the weather reports the night before talking about a possibly severe “rain event” but I thought that was over. Wrong. I puttered around the house (feeling much better after relieving some gastrointestinal pressure) and after about an hour I sent the following text to Xy:

Jeez it’s raining heavily. I wish y’all had stayed home now. Be careful! Love!!!

Little did I know her phone was sitting on our bed upstairs.

About 45 minutes later I opened the front door and stepped out on the front porch. Loud and profane language began issuing spontaneously from my mouth. Our front yard was under water.

Banks Street Flooding

I texted Xy:

Our street is flooded badly!

I also tried calling her. In fact I called her repeatedly over the next couple hours. She never answered. Little did I know her phone was sitting on our bed upstairs.

And so I puttered and worried. Twitter indicated street flooding was occurring all over New Orleans. Michael Homan and his kids waded by for a visit. After they left I puttered and worried some more and continued to call Xy’s phone, wondering why on earth she didn’t answer and fearing for the worst. Little did I know her phone was sitting on our bed upstairs. Why didn’t I at least tell her to leave our girl at home with me?

And then the kitchen ceiling sprung a new leak. It’s becoming obvious that we need a new roof for the addition.

Finally, about three and a half hours after she left, the doorbell rang, and there she was on our front porch, soaked to the skin and holding our daughter on her hip. She’d driven the car into water and pushed it to start three times, but on the forth time it wouldn’t start. She had to abandon it on Airline Highway and walk home through flooded streets and pouring rain — carrying a toddler the whole way. Luckily she only had to go about a mile and a quarter.

It’s amazing to me no one offered help. She tried flagging down a cab but they didn’t stop. Plenty of police passed by but they didn’t stop. C’mon, a diminutive woman walking through a commercial/industrial zone in knee-deep flood-waters during a “rain event” at night in New Orleans with a baby — are you kidding me?

I of course had no idea they were in trouble until they showed up on the porch. The whole thing shook me up quite a bit. Sometimes I don’t dig living in New Orleans so much. I think I need a drink.

Semisweet Sixteen

Xy and I are celebrating our 16th anniversary today. This might be a good time to revisit our infamous puppet-show wedding. Or if you’re in the mood for music rather than video, here’s sixteen tracks for sixteen years together — mixed with a minimum of saccharine because, like the song says, true love is not nice. Including music by Bad Manners, Ghostface Killah and Hot 8 Brass Band.

Happy anniversary, baby. (Strangely enough, there is no traditional gift for the 16th anniversary, but I got her a purse she wanted, and a bracelet with some owls on it.)

Job Hunt

Xy’s job hunt is in full force. She had a interview at a nearby elementary school last week. Yesterday I came home for lunch to look after the girl for an hour while she did a phone interview with another school. And this morning she went in to teach a sample lesson at the first school.

I’d say it’s fairly important to Xy’s self-esteem to find a job, and teaching is what she knows. So I am hoping she’s successful.

But, boy howdy, is our education system messed up. Over the years — for generations now — we’ve piled all our hopes and dreams for a better future on the education system, to the point that we’ve totally overloaded it. It’s like as a society we expect education to solve all of society’s problems — and it can’t.

Teachers are asked to do the impossible, anymore. Sometimes I think it’s impossible for teachers in our current system to find fulfillment and satisfaction in their work. I’ve watched Xy try for years. She is an excellent teacher, and I am proud of her. But it’s like watching someone bang their head against the wall.

I believe very much in the value of education, but I also recognize that deep societal issues won’t necessarily be solved in the classroom. In fact, it’s fair to say that the classroom will mirror the problems in society. Education can surely play a crucial role as we strive together for a better world, but it is no panacea. We need something more.

Looking for Work

Xy is officially looking for work. She’s been teaching over in Algiers for six years, pretty much continuously, with a little interruption for that storm we had a few years ago. However, the principal that inspired her so much retired a while ago, and she’s decided she’d like to work on this side of the river. Personally, I’m about ready for Xy to quit teaching entirely and find some line of work that is less stressful, maybe something in the educational field but not on the front lines. But teaching is what she knows and what she’s actively seeking. She’s been teaching 6th grade science for a while, plus reading, but in her career she’s taught a number of different grade levels and subjects. She’s got a natural rapport with kids, works hard, and thrives under progressive leadership. Also she’s become quite handy with an interactive whiteboard and blends technology into her teaching in a way that’s impressive to me. I mention all this because the best jobs are usually found through word of mouth. If you know of any opportunities please get in touch.

Déjà Drama

Yesterday Xy’s school informed her that she would be attending a workshop today, rather than teaching, so she had to stay late making plans for a substitute. This morning she felt so poorly she decided to stay home. She almost never takes a sick day. Actually she’s been sick all month, but she keeps working, working, working. Anyway, just before noon she called me at work and said she was feeling so bad she needed to see a doctor, but also feeling too bad to drive. So I rode home. On the way I realized this wasn’t going to work. I had too many obligations with preparing for the Beyond Jena forum tomorrow, including a 2:00 appointment to test the audio-video setup which I absolutely couldn’t miss. When I got home I told Xy she’d have to drive herself. I felt bad, but I was also frustrated because I’ve seen this is a pattern before, too many times. She pushes herself too hard, neglects her health, and finally hits the wall. Usually it’s a cold that she can’t kick, which leads to a sinus infection, which leads to a persistent migraine. In this case I’m convinced she had the same bug that Persephone and I got. We got better; she didn’t. She probably could have shaken it if only she’d taken care of herself. I rode back to work. Xy called her neurologist, described her symptoms to a nurse, who relayed them to the doctor, who wrote a prescription. She had to drive out to Oschner to get the piece of paper. Then she took the paper to Rite-Aid, but they couldn’t fill it. By this time I was home again, so I took the paper to Walgreen’s. Xy hadn’t even looked at it. Turns out it’s for Demerol and some other drug I’d never heard of. They wouldn’t fill it because it’s a controlled substance. I needed Xy’s ID. Also, they needed the doctor’s DEA number, plus the doctor is supposed to write specific dosage instructions and hadn’t. They told me to take the paper back to the doctor. By this point it was so late we gave up. Xy’s got an appointment with her GP tomorrow.

Xy = XL

Forty tracks to rock her fortieth birthday (which is today):

(Starts off mellow and ramps up. Contains plenty of my favorite songs by Xy’s favorite bands, and cover versions of her favorite songs, as well as a few topical selections. And buried deep in there is a bit of standup by Patton Oswalt that is not safe to blare out your speakers at work unless your co-workers are very tolerant.)

You might wanna watch this slideshow (full screen, natch) while you’re rocking out.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Back to School

Classes begin today at Xy’s school. So soon? Well, yes. There’s no longer a single big “back to school” day in our fractured system. All the schools are on different schedules now. Xy’s school year starts earlier than most. They also end earlier, unlike the Recovery School District, where they’re going for a longer school year and a longer school day.

Back to School

Xy’s car-pooling with Guy and Sue. They made fun of her this morning for not wearing her school shirt.

Mother’s Day

I couldn’t afford a genuine Punic Persephone coin but I did find a cool pewter pendant. The face of the goddess is surrounded by a sheaf of wheat, representing Demeter, her mother. The perfect gift for Persephone’s mother on her first Mother’s day.

Xy calls it an amulet.


Also, my Mom and Dad are visiting from Indiana. Seems like I haven’t seen them forever.

Baby Dreams

Xy has had a trio of weird dreams over the last couple nights.

In the first, she dropped our girl three times in a row, banging her little head on the floor. She was weak from the c-section and couldn’t hold her properly.

In the second dream, Xy was nursing a tiny baby (not our girl) and accidentally bit the top of its head off.

And in the final dream, Xy was nursing an absurdly tiny baby (again, not our girl) and accidentally ate her. I guess the baby just jumped in her mouth and got swallowed.

And Now the Screaming Starts

Trying to bring this journal up to date…

We spent two nights in the hospital and were discharged on Saturday just after noon. We got home less than 48 hours after the birth.

As I was running errands to the pharmacy, Xy of course overexerted herself. She was excited to be home and started trying to do things like she hadn’t just had surgery — not to mention the pregnancy. Plus she’s breastfeeding, and that evening she reached full engorgement. So she’s in three kinds of pain and barely able to function.

This is where our individual quirks come to the fore. Fortunately Xy has always had a talent for copious sleeping, while I don’t need much sleep at all. She stayed in bed most of the day Sunday and hopefully today too. That leaves me to care for both mother and daughter and everything else around the house.

And it seems to be working. (Though I have to confess, if I didn’t have my sprained ankle and sore lip I’d be in a much better mood. Plus I’ve been dealing with a truly aggravating communications meltdown — more about that later.) Despite the title, our daughter has been pretty easy so far. She sleeps a lot and has only had a few real crying fits. Then again, she’s only four days old, so she hasn’t had much chance to prove what her lungs can do. My dad always tells me what an easy child I was. Here’s hoping our daughter takes after me, and not Xy, in that regard.

Lest I forget: Many thanks to all the friends who’ve helped us out and offered their support in big ways and small. We are very grateful.

The Story of Her Birth

Xy woke up around 3:30 Thursday morning and discovered her water had broken sometime during the night.


This took us by surprise just a bit, because we expected to have a couple more weeks.. Xy racked her brain and remembered what the doctor said: “Three reasons to come straight to the hospital: 1) blood, 2) contractions of a certain intensity/frequency and 3) your water breaks.” No need to call, just come in.

So we did. We packed a few things first, of course. No panic. Xy took a quick bath, just as I was reading in some reference book that if your water breaks, you shouldn’t take a bath. Oh well.

Then we got in the car and drove. I still could hardly believe this was happening. It was rainy, and the roads were slippery, but there was very little traffic at that hour. By 4:45 AM we were at the hospital (Tulane Lakeside) where we checked in and were assigned to Labor & Delivery Suite #3.


They had a hell of a time getting Xy’s IV in. Three people took stabs at it, poking her repeatedly and painfully. This was actually the most difficult part of the whole day. When they administered her epidural Xy lost the ability to move her left leg, much less feel anything.

Xy reached maximum dilation very quickly. But the baby was still riding high, not descending into the birth canal much at all. She tried pushing, for over an hour, with very little to show for it. Hard work.

So then the doctor made the case for a Cesarean birth. He indicated that Xy might continue to labor for a very long time, pushing pushing pushing, and there might still be complications. We had an expectation that the baby was large, but the ultrasound to determine size had been scheduled for next Monday and thus never happened.

In any event, Xy took the doctor’s advice and — wham/bam/thank you ma’am — they cut her open and had the girl out in amazingly short order. I held Xy’s hand through the whole procedure. There was no pain, but she could feel them wrasslin’ her innards.

At one point the surgical team invited me to take a look. I peeped over the screen and saw my daughter’s head sticking out of her mother’s belly. The next thing I knew, they had her whole body out, with twisting umbilical still connected. I was stunned, and nowhere near as sick as I thought I would be.


Turns out she’s not big at all, just barely six pounds. A number of people remarked that a Cesarean hardly seemed warranted for such a small child. This made me wonder if we made the right choice.

Later that evening I held her in my arms. I’ve held very few infants in my life, having always shied away from people who asked me if I wanted to hold their baby. Shortly thereafter I learned how to change a diaper. First time ever. It’s good to know I can still learn a few new tricks.

Those are the facts as I remember them. It’s a little trickier to pin down how we felt about it all. Jeffrey the Lover of Ellipses wrote, “Let me guess. You are proud… and thrilled… and scared out of your wits.” That’s a reasonable guess, but not quite on the money. If I had to sum it up in three terms, I’d say we are relieved… exhausted… and dizzy.

Latest Entry in the Annals of Idiocy

This morning, Xy was sitting in our car, waiting to give a ride to some co-workers. A short time later, I got a text message: “u have the car.” I looked out the window and saw, sure enough, Xy was gone but the car was still there. Must have been a mix-up about who was giving a ride to whom.

Then came the follow-up text: “oops, keys r n car.” So I went down and checked it out. Yup, the keys were in the ignition. Not only that, but the engine was running. And the doors were unlocked.

The first reaction most people have when I relate this story is, of course, that “it’s because she’s pregnant.” It’s a compulsion. Go ahead and say it; you know you want to, and it will make you feel better. But I can’t help recalling what Xy’s mother said when I first met her 15 years ago: “If she had half a brain she’d be dangerous.” And, for the record, she wasn’t pregnant then.

This is the silliest stunt she’s pulled since smashing out the kitchen window or flushing her keys down the toilet. In fact, it’s so stupid it seems like something I would do.

Any Time Now


Xy’s in the ninth month of her pregnancy now. She’s tired of carrying the extra weight and all the other many attendant discomforts. Pregnancy is quite a physical chore, and it’s all on her, with very little I can do except try to be helpful and supportive. She’s more than ready for it to end.

Yesterday the doctor told her she’s dilating to a point where she could go into labor any time now. Could be tomorrow, could be four more weeks. Her official due date is March 8, which of course is just and educated guess. The doctor recommended that, if she hasn’t already gone into labor, they should induce it two days before that, to reduce the possibility of her petite body being ripped asunder by the travails of birth.

I think he’s just filling a hole in his golf schedule on March 6. Ha! No, I’m kidding. This guy has delivered over 10,000 babies so I think he knows what he’s doing.