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Story #20

Today the Times-Picayune is running the 20th story in their series on the renovation of our home. If you can score the print version, there’s a fun picture of Xy on our front porch.

Saturday, May 26, 2007
By Stephanie Bruno
Contributing writer

NOTE: Christy Paxson and Bart Everson have been so busy with other life pursuits that neither has had time to devote to keeping their house renovation moving.

In the past three weeks, not a bit of work has taken place on Christy Paxson and Bart Everson’s Mid-City house. None. But neither of them has had much time to notice.

As the school year ended for Paxson, a sixth-grade science teacher at Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary in Algiers, she found herself caught up in school activities rather than renovation.

“The end of the school year is always hectic,” she said. “By the last day of school, we’re pretty exhausted. We have to pack up our classrooms, move a lot of books around, and in a few months we’ll be doing it all again, in reverse. My classroom will be used for summer-school classes, so that means extra work getting the room ready.”

Paxson notes that her students have just finished their first full year of school since Hurricane Katrina. And though the storm happened almost two years ago, many of her pupils are still caught up in its aftermath.

“A lot of our students are living with relatives, sometimes in very cramped conditions,” she said. “Some are staying with grandparents because their parents aren’t back in town yet. Grandma might have different rules about getting snacks out of the refrigerator, or they may have to compete with others for time to bathe. It might seem like things are normal, but they’re really still in crisis mode.”

Paxson and her colleagues wanted to make sure that there were at least some signs of normalcy for the adolescents, so they staged a dance, complete with a disc jockey, near the end of the school year.

“The kids are resilient, but little things like that mean a lot to them,” she said. “They are acutely aware that things aren’t the same as they were before, so they feel a lot of pent-up frustration. The dance was an everyday kind of thing that helped them feel like things might be getting more normal.”

While Paxson was absorbed with end-of-the-school-year activities, Everson was away in Cambridge, Mass., at a leadership forum at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He was joined by Latoya Cantrell of Broadmoor, Patricia Jones of the Lower 9th Ward and 58 others from around the world.

“It was thanks to Harvard’s involvement with the Broadmoor recovery effort that we were all able to go, and I am still trying to digest everything that happened,” he said. “We spent intense, 12-hour days in talks and exercises. The group was incredibly diverse. There was a mayor from Ohio, a congressman from Mexico, a guy from Ireland. My roommate was from Nigeria.”

Everson said the Harvard faculty members were skilled at eliciting responses, and sometimes in making participants feel adversarial so that the group would wrestle with the results.

“At one point, a faculty member starting increasing the pressure on the group, producing tension,” he said. “A faction arose that tried to take over the class and have a revolution. It was defused, and later we learned that it happens all the time, by design. They helped us realize that there are important lessons of leadership that can’t be learned intellectually, but have to be internalized on an emotional level.”

Although the couple’s involvement in their separate pursuits meant little progress was made on their house in the past few weeks, renovation activity nonetheless has picked up in their Mid-City neighborhood.

“For one thing, the leaning tower of New Orleans is now under renovation,” said Everson, referring to the house next door on North Salcedo Street.

“The word is that the two-story house has been leaning rather substantially for the last decade or so. Fortunately for us, it leans away from our house rather than toward it. It sat empty since the storm, but now the owners have decided to repair it rather than tear it down, and I hear they’re going to try to straighten it out.”

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Stephanie Bruno can be reached at

Published inLife with XyNews & MediaOur House

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