Sharing: A letter to Mary Landrieu.

Dear Senator Landrieu, 

How wonderful that we elected you, our progressive option in the Louisiana electoral, to represent us!

A question: Is your goal to promote the notion of the people of Louisiana as under-educated, unenlightened swampers who have such a limited capacity for morality and human rights that we are only able to parrot whatever our neighborhood megalomaniac bible-thumper tells us to? If so, you are doing a fantastic job!

Alternatively, if your goal is to represent the best interests of your constituents — and the very people who actually voted for you — then you best put on your big girl panties and do the hard work. 

I know. It’s tough to do the right thing in a red state. We, your true voter base, appreciate and sympathize with your need to work with what you have. But when has doing the right thing ever been easy? We elected you because we believed you had the experience and backbone to do the right thing in spite of it all. 

Climate change. Marriage equality. Gun safety. 

Do the right thing, Mary. Show the world that Louisiana has not only entered the modern world, but we have elected a Senator with the integrity and principle to stand and be a leader among her peers.



Sent 29 March 2013


Yes, she’s a Louisiana treasure.  But she can do better.  Send Senator Landrieu your own thoughts here.


Missionaries to the Gulf

Successful aid to others means respecting individual dignity and community authority within complex emergencies and disasters.  We’re so used to seeing the U.S. at the top of the world food chain that well-intended folks can take those ethical considerations for granted.  As someone who works in diverse communities with extreme inequalities domestically and internationally, this is a big topic of my profession — and something I write and think about often, particularly after living through the summer of 2005 and the experience of being in a community receiving aid.  The bottom line is that the arrogance and superiority of some well-intended folks can end up alienating and insulting the group they are trying to help.

AND… here is a perfect example.

“30 Oregonians with a wealth of compassion, community service experience and technical expertise, will show the nation what the Gulf Coast disaster looks like from inside the Gulf. We will shine a sustained light on what our neighbors need to survive and what the environment needs to recover.”

Yes, a group of folks from Portland and it’s surrounding universe are headed to New Orleans! (No offense to beautiful Portland and our friends doing wonderful things out there, this just happens to be where this group is coming from.) In any case, these folks are coming here to do 6 days of visits to Gulf Coast communities which:

“…will culminate in the production of a graphic travelogue of what we saw, learned and felt. Our experiences will be represented through the arts of drawing, writing, filming and making music. The images and voices we capture will be engaging, powerful and influential. And, most importantly our final documentation will contain a roadmap for individual action to minimize a second occurrence of this type of catastrophe. The proceeds from the sale of our book, and any other money raised, will be contributed to Gulf Coast and national efforts to educate children about this catastrophe and how we can do the best possible job of cleaning up after ourselves, plus prevent this from ever happening again.

Also, they are trying to raise $60,000. You can donate on their website. But no, the money isn’t for the Gulf… it’s to finance their trip. So that they can come to the Gulf, visit as “caring neighbors arriving to help,” spend 6 days capturing images and voices, and then put them in their book.


I showed this to my graduate students earlier today in class. In the words of one of the students: “I’m not even from the Gulf Coast and this insults ME.”

Check out their website. What do you think?

Here are are some lessons that these undoubtedly very nice, wealthy-with-compassion-Oregonians should have considered:

  • The disaster is not about you! No, really. I’m not kidding.
  • Please travel to share technical expertise where you are invited to share technical expertise.
  • If you want to “show the nation” what is happening in the Gulf Coast, then work locally to build partnerships with Gulf Coast organizations, and find places within your communities to make those voices heard. There are plenty of organizations, plenty of stories, plenty experiences — all existing without your collection, reorganization, and authority.
  • We also have artists. Many artists. Who have and can continue to creatively express the experiences of this region in a multitude of forms. We even have spaces to support them. They are very much able to “shine the light” on these communities, and would probably be interested in collaboration and partnership on projects.
  • Taking other people’s stories to publish in your book takes advantage of people who are suffering in a very unique and powerful catastrophe. Particularly when mischievously veiled within the scope of a “local gathering to break bread.”
  • Six days to “experience” the Gulf is tourism. You’re tourists. Good news — this is a fantastic place to be a tourist. Enjoy the area, tell your loved ones, friends, your contacts on your social networking sites about your experiences visiting this area. Just please don’t position yourself in a place of authority based on 6 days of tours.
  • If you want to contribute to Gulf Coast communities through service, then contact organizations and let them find ways to use your skills.

These folks are coming here with an agenda that is their own, focused on their own needs, their own desires. This does not help a situation, it only makes it more difficult.

(Hat tip to local bloggers, who found and shared the website.)

Road Racing, NOLA-style

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

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

Like costumes.

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

Here’s our Gym Teacher, Coach Chrissie.

Allie is adorable.

Coach Chrissie warms us up.

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

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

Coach Chrissie was on us to keep sharp.

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

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

Others were in costume, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crescent City Classic Raises Funds for Nonprofit PreSchool

I’m doing a 10K in 10 days.

If you know me well, I suspect you may have just fallen out of your chair. I apologize. Let me clarify: I’ve been training for a 10K which will happen in 10 days.

If you’ve known me for a few years, you’ll not be surprised at why I’m doing this. I’m signed up for the Crescent City Classic, a run/walk through the streets of New Orleans, to support Abeona House — the much-loved non-profit Reggio Emilia-inspired early childhood education center that my husband, Paul, and I helped open almost 4 years ago.

When our childcare center did not open after Katrina-related damages and weeks of closure forced it to fold, together, with other working parents, we founded a pre-school.  Opening in September 2006, Abeona House was the first new school to open after Katrina.

I tried to go through my old blog posts and find some to mention here to show how special Abeona is — not only to us, and not only to all of the families, teachers, and children within — but to the community around it.

I had volumes to choose from… you could start at the beginning and read some of the logistics of opening and sustaining.  Like about that darn ramp we had to build (written by Paul) or when we finally got the 501c3 or the day we got the sign or teacher appreciation or about walks to the levee.

You could find the letter that we put in our holiday cards in 2007 or the article in the local paper.  You could see how we came together in tragedy.  And then how excited we were when Starbucks employees flew in from Seattle to lead a hand.

You could watch the fun in the kids’ exploration of Oak Street through tricks-or-treats or a visiting a senior center or riding the streetcar to the zoo.  You could see how Abeona teaches kids to give back.  And sets the example.

You could laugh at pictures from our first annual Krewe of Abeona Mardi Gras parade down Oak Street — or the second annual parade when our son was king.

You could go elsewhere, too.  Founding families wrote about their experiences here and here.  (Both are wonderfully written.)  A new family writes about Abeona here.

But no matter where you learn about our school, I hope that you’ll support us.

I’m asking everyone I know for $5.

I’m at about $300 right now in my fundraising (enough to send a teacher to a professional development training!) and I’d like to see this grow.  It’s as easy as can be… just visit the Abeona House website and click on the “donate” button.  Sure, we’d love you to give whatever you can, but I know times are tight so I’m asking for 5.

Abeona House is a wonderful organization worthy of donation — but even so, I consider your donations to be equally supportive of me, personally.

If you do, please let me know so that I can send a personal thank-you.  (You can make a note that it’s to support me — Holly — in the Reggio Run when you donate online!)  THANK YOU!!


Sunday Morning Mardi Gras Magic

I know what you think.

You think it’s not for you, this Mardi Gras thing.  Maybe you don’t see yourself as much of a drinker.  Maybe you’re a little put-off by the whole girls-gone-wild thing; you weren’t the type to want to do Spring Break in South Beach even when you were in college.  So you figure that Mardi Gras isn’t for you.  And also?  That city?  New Orleans?  Well, you saw the pictures and heard the stories and it’s a mess.  You can’t figure out why people would even want to live there, let alone visit.

You’ve thought at least some of those things, I feel certain.  I fully admit that until I moved here, I thought THE VERY SAME THING.  Actually, both Paul and I did.  And now we can say that we were very wrong.

New Orleans is an absolutely fantastic place to be, especially during Carnival season — and especially for families.  As an example, here is our family, enjoying parades this past Sunday morning.  Music, laughter, conversation, floats, horses, football, dancers, prizes, and of course, beads.

Krewes of Okeanos, Mid-City, and Thoth.  Vantage on Magazine Street.

(This post is cross-posted.)

Experience New Orleans: Palmer Art Market

Palmer Park Art Market is a regular feature in Carrollton.  Artists booths, live music, great food vendors, kids activities, library stand, local nonprofits, and of course the park’s permanent playground, gracious oaks, and open, inviting space. We went to explore.

art 1

My 6-year old son and I picked out books from the library stand, where the organization supporting our city libraries sell gently used books for around $1.  He asked for Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour and I pointed him towards some Goosebumps stories to cut his teeth on first (both are still outside of his reading realm, though he still carries adult novels around and has at least two tucked in his bed at any moment — currently these are Adrienne Rich’s Dream of a Common Language and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary). I picked up books 1 and 2 of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.  For this I am thankful.  Lyra rocks.

Walking around the booths, I came across an artist who reminded me of another artist.  Both artists are similar in age and used themes and materials in a similar manner, so I wondered if they came from similar backgrounds or training?  Turns out, no.

art 2

Lorriane Gendron is a Louisiana native.  Her work reflects it.  She characterizes herself as a folk artist and uses a themes from Louisiana life as her subjects.

art 3

The Mardi Gras dancers collection is wonderful: full of spirit and detail.  I love that Santa — no, Papa Noel — is holding an alligator.

art 4

My son liked the Cajun Nativity scene.  So much so that he took this picture of it.  I love the musician and bayou animal mix.

art 5

Another photo by The Boy, of a Mardi Gras rider.

art 6

Here is the artist, Lorraine Gendron.  She has a website, too, just in time for that holiday gift!  She added that you can just call her and she’ll make you what you want.  (Note: she also has a really great streetcar piece and works on commissions.)

art 7

My pictures reflected my love of Ms. Gendron’s tent, but there was so much more to see and do.  We saw several friends and ended up playing with the kids on the playground.  We shared snacks and took turns kid-watching and food-retrieving.

Finally, when we were sure we were going to get a good nap out of our two, we started the walk home. Lots more Louisiana-themed art was there to delight.  My son adored this painting and ordered that I take a picture of it.  He’s become partial to art involving seafood.

art 8

And maybe other kinds of sea things, too.  I blame The Little Mermaid.

art 9

My 3-year old daughter, however, was much more interested in land-dwelling creatures.  The conversation went like this: “Mommy, can we get that doggie?” “No, he has a family.” Mommy, can we take a picture of the doggie?” “Let’s ask…” Then after getting the alright, “It’s okay, we can take his picture.” “Mommy, NOW can we take the doggie?” And so on.
Something for everyone.

art 10

Palmer Park Art Market is held every last Saturday of the month (unless of rain, in which case, it may be Sunday) at Palmer Park on the corner of Carrollton and Claiborne.  There will be another special holiday art market in December (19th and 20th).

It’s free, full of open space, entertainment, food, and wonderful atmosphere to get on your Joie de Vivre!

Applications available for NOLA health program

Make Your Life Your Argument!


The New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program, a program of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship™ with partnership from the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) provides service opportunities and support for aspiring health professionals who seek to help the underserved in New Orleans.  With the generous help of contributors, the New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program proudly announces its third year of uniting a diverse range of students, faculty, and community-based providers who share a commitment to public service.


In the spring of 2010, approximately 15 New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows will be selected from applications submitted by students in a diversity of fields, including but not limited to medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, social work, psychology, pharmacy, education, physical therapy, law, nutrition, art therapy, dance/movement therapy, music, and acupuncture.  We seek Fellows from an array of disciplines to contribute to the health of our communities.


Fellowship projects include the following:

  • a minimum of 200 hours of direct service through an existing community based organization in the New Orleans area;
  • a supervisor, or Site Mentor, at the host organization and a Faculty Mentor at the student’s school;
  • monthly progress reports on the Fellow’s project;
  • a written report at the conclusion of the project, including recommendations for ways in which the most valuable aspects of the Fellow’s project and experiences can be replicated or sustained;
  • professional development in skills related to working with underserved communities;
  • an opportunity to be part of an interdisciplinary group of students committed to working in underserved communities.


In addition to the service project, Fellows work in groups to organize public symposia on pertinent public health topics or community service outreach activities.  Fellows are required to attend monthly meetings, all symposia and service days, an introductory meeting on April 16th, 2010, a weekend orientation May 22-23rd, 2010, a mid-year retreat, and the annual Schweitzer Fellows Celebration Event in May 2011.


Students are welcome to submit proposals for an original project that reflects Dr. Schweitzer’s ethic of Reverence for Life or for the continuation of a project initiated by a previous Schweitzer Fellow.


Fellows receive a stipend of $2,500 (paid in three installments) both to underscore the seriousness of their work and to ensure that students who are already struggling financially are not discouraged from participating. Any student enrolled at least part-time for the 2010-2011 academic year in a graduate-level-degree-granting program in the New Orleans area is welcome to apply.   Applications are due via online submission by 5pm February 5th, 2010.




Prior to Applying: Interested students should investigate and reflect on the unmet health-related needs that exist in New Orleans and its communities and on the ways in which their own energies and talents might contribute, even in small ways, to ameliorating one or more of these problems. In proposing a project, keep in mind how your idea addresses those unmet health needs and might be of enduring value to the community. For guidance on national and local health priorities as established by Healthy People 2010, please visit:


Prospective applicants are encouraged to attend information sessions about the Schweitzer Fellowship at their Universities and visit the program website at:


For more information, or to set up an information session at your school, please email or contact Holly Scheib, the New Orleans Schweitzer Program Director at 504-208-7368.

Navy Week: Meet Johanna Mudge

The last featured sailor on our Navy Week series is Johanna Mudge, who is the only female in this collection.  It made me wonder how many women were active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Here is what I found.


Based on this, showcasing 1 woman out of 5 sailors in this week’s feature is a very realistic sample from the U.S. Navy, where approximately 15% of active duty personnel is female.

Happy Navy Week, New Orleans!


Petty Officer Third Class Johanna M. Mudge


(Unfortunately, no photo was readily available for this officer.)


As an air traffic controller for the Navy, Petty Officer Mudge guides planes and helicopters to safety on the runway. A native of Belle Chasse, La., she’s proud to be helping celebrate Navy Week in her hometown of New Orleans from November 2-7. Here are some of her thoughts on being a Sailor and what Navy Week means to her:

Where it all began:

“ I joined the Navy to see the world.  I also felt the need to do my time and serve my country.  I’m proud of the United States of America.  We live in the best country there is!”

Most memorable experience in uniform:

“At the 2009 N’awlins air show a small boy approached me and we talked about planes and what his favorites were. Near the end of the conversation, I asked him if he wanted to meet the Blue Angels. I introduced him to pilot #7, and he lit up like a Christmas tree. This small moment made my 10-hour day enjoyable and worth it.”

Personal definition of “Navy Week”:

“For me, Navy Week is more than just a few days, it’s a 24/7 job. My Shipmates are like family to me, and I look out for them as if they were my own. Navy week is every week in that sense.”

For more information on Navy Week, and to learn about events where you can meet Sailors like Petty Officer Mudge, visit: You can also become a Navy Weeks fan on Facebook. Just search “Navy Weeks” or follow this link.


This post is cross listed.

Navy Week: Meet Ensign Timothy Gressett

Continuing our ‘meet a USS New Orleans Sailor’ posts, here is a (very recent) graduate of Tulane University.


Ensign Timothy Gressett



For Ensign Gressett, a graduate of Tulane University whose time as an undergrad was punctuated by Hurricane Katrina, serving on the USS New Orleans has a special meaning. For New Orleans Navy Week (November 2-7), he’s returning to the city where he spent so many years as a student and is thrilled to be participating in events throughout the week. As an auxiliaries officer on the ship, his days are focused on managing maintenance and repairs on anything that’s “hydraulic, mechanical, operates wire rope or is in the galley.” During New Orleans Navy Week, he’ll get to spend some well-earned time on dry land, reconnecting with the city and culture he loves. Here are some of his thoughts on what Navy Week in New Orleans means to him:

Where it all began:

“Both my father and my mother were in the Navy, as well as both my grandfathers, so it’s a big tradition to my family. I am the first to be commissioned as an Officer on both sides.”

Most memorable experience in uniform:

“I distinctly remember riding into San Diego harbor in a small inflated boat – with the wind and sea spray in my hair and the sun on my face – following an arduous three-week underway training period. That was a great feeling of satisfaction.”

Best thing about New Orleans:

The best thing about going to school in New Orleans is the culture. New Orleans is one of the most colorful – literally, colorful – cities I’ve ever been to. I’ll walk down the street and see a house painted purple. It’s like someone gave a child a coloring book and said, ‘Have at it!’”

Personal definition of “Navy Week”:

“Navy Week is an opportunity to show a little bit of what the Navy does to non-Navy folks. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this event.”

For more information on Navy Week, and to learn about events where you can meet Sailors like Ensign Gressett, visit: You can also become a Navy Weeks fan on Facebook. Just search “Navy Weeks” or follow this link.

Navy Week: Meet NOLA native Devon Dejoie

Seaman Devon S. Dejoie


If it’s on the deck of the USS New Orleans, Seaman Dejoie, a New Orleans native, has it covered. As a Deck Seaman he maintains equipment, operates a crane to lower small boats into the water and hoists stores and supplies onto the ship. He joined the Navy to travel, but he’s very glad to be coming home to New Orleans, where he will take part in Navy Week from November 2-7. Here are some of his thoughts on his military career and his hometown.

Where it all began:

“I have wanted to join the military since I was a small child. I chose the Navy for the travel experience and better quality of military life.”

Most memorable experience in uniform:

“In December of 2008 I traveled to New Orleans on leave to visit family for the Christmas holiday. While visiting, I went to my old elementary school in uniform and talked to the kids there about the Navy.”

What Navy Week means to me:

“I am always proud to be a U.S. Navy Sailor, but to go back to the place I am from and get a chance to represent the Navy and the USS New Orleans is a huge honor for me. I believe it will be one of my proudest moments.

For more information on Navy Week, and to learn about events where you can meet Sailors like Seaman Dejoie, visit: You can also become a fan of Navy Weeks on Facebook. Just search “Navy Weeks” or follow this link.


This post is cross-listed.