I started this blog to keep my church, friends and family updated on my year volunteering in Katrina recovery with the Presbyterian Church (USA). I've now signed on for a second year working in disaster recovery and another year living in Mississippi. It's getting good....

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Another good day....could this be a pattern?

Today turned out to be a great one. I went to a meeting where I didn't get what I wanted, but I got some creative ideas on how to move forward with what I want.

I stopped by Orange Grove to check in on a friend who works there with PDA and she gave me snacks! I love snacks!

Then I had some frustrating office hours where I didn't get done all of what I wanted to get done, but I did get a good lead on some other work and was flexible enough to change my schedule which allowed me to go on some really wonderful home visits this afternoon. Whew.

It is rare here that I go to some one's home and they need one thing and I have just that one thing to offer them. Today was that day. I think I found someone who we can really, really help. And that makes the helper in me feel great.

After work I had a play date with the pastor's 5-year-old daughter. Being around those kids helps me gain a little perspective. And they're just about as fun and as cute as you can get. Then Rebecca offered me dinner and it was yum!

Now I am home in my clean, comfortable, quiet house where we have Internet access which makes me happy because it means I can finally catch up on last week's LOST episode.

Oh, did I mention that it was sunny and about 72 degrees here today?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tidings of Comfort and Joy!


Sunday, February 25, 2007

One Great Sunday

Roommate is home, sun is shining, sermons hit the spot, music was strong, laundry is clean, new volunteers are happy, belly is full, friends sound happy, Girl Scout cookies have arrived, lil' smokies are cooking and the Oscars are coming!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Long week, fun night, good work.....

After what became a very long and stressful work week, I've had some much needed rest and release so far this weekend.

Last night I went out with the girls to unwind, listen to some live tunes and flirt with Mississippi boys. Wildly entertaining. Especially for me, as I was the DD and found a comfy bar stool up high from which to watch the evening's festivities and hear the band. Let me just tell you that I may never be able to top the story Lauren emailed to our pal Brenna last night:

From: PDA Houma Village 8 Assistant
To: Brenna
Subject: What you're missing in mississippi tonight
Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 12:33 AM
Rico is a contractor from michigan. Black-shirt works for him. Joe-jack is
his business partner. He's named after his fathers two favorite hunting dogs
and has never left the state of mississippi. Sweatervest is married, just
bought sue a drink, gave her five dollars and left the bar.

This morning, I woke up and went to visit some homeowners for whom I'm trying to find some money to rebuild their house. They were so sweet and caring and tired and confused and hopeful and scared. It reminded me why I am here.

Then I went to Waffle House with the girls. Can I just say- God bless Waffle House. They're the only thing rebuilding on the beach so far. Amongst miles of nothing but debris on Beach Blvd, those two little Waffle Houses give me hope. They're back! And they brought those tasty hash browns with them. Like I said, God bless Waffle House!

I am so lucky to get to work with homeowners like the H's. I am so lucky to get to live and play with roommates and friends that I have found down here. I am so lucky to get to witness hope and rebirth on the Gulf Coast.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I've been trying....

I've been trying to work more to get ready for all the volunteer teams coming to the Gulf Coast in March, but I am tired.

I've been trying to enjoy my women's bible study, but Beth Moore is making me want to throw my bible out the window.

I've been trying to have faith in the GCM process, but every drama-filled moment makes me want to run for the hills.

I've been trying to decide what I want to do after this, but I can't even imagine an after this. Maybe I should make more time to think on that.

I've been trying to post a funny blog about all my Mardi Gras experiences, but I can't get access to the Internet. Wait, I'm online now.....

I've been trying to write letters home to all of the supportive folks at DMPC, but whenever I find a free moment, my bum lands on the couch for some much needed rest.

I've been trying to get to the gym, but...well, see above.

I've been trying to remember to call good friends in far off places, but the time change keeps messing me up.

I've been trying to blame the time change for me not being a better friend, but I know that's not the real excuse.

I've been trying to believe that God has a plan here and that all of the frustration and all of the celebration is part of that plan, but I keep getting distracted by thoughts of expectation. Why would she plan for it to go down like this?

I've been trying to stay focused on my little part in this process/agency/house/program and to do that well, but I strive for the success of the entire process/agency/house/program and that makes it hard for me to keep out of every one else's business.

I've been trying, but I think I need to try harder. I'll sleep faster. I'll be sweeter. I'll pray more. I'll freaking show up at the freaking gym. Or at least I'll go for a walk. It's beautiful outside today. I'll delight in that. I'll forgive myself and I'll forgive others and I'll wake up and try harder all over again. I think that's all we can do. I think maybe that's all God asks us to do. Try, forgive, try again.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New Life

The past 72 hours have been a terrific whirl-wind of Gulf Coast spirit!
On Thursday I had several great home visits with people trying to rebuild that I think I can actually help! I went to speak with one man on Thursday morning, and by Friday morning we'd gotten him 15 sheets of drywall, one bag of insulation, and restored quite a bit of his hope and faith. His neighbor and my roommate helped deliver that joy, which renewed my faith in the possibilities of communities working together down here.

On Friday, the whole Gulf Coast Mission gang gathered in Gulfport for fellowship and fun. We missed my roommate Brenna dearly, but really enjoyed having some time to just talk and play together. Friday night was my roommate George's 21st Birthday Party, held at our house with a Mardi Gras Ball theme. George, and the whole crew, really seemed to have a great time. I loved finally having a home, a real home, with which to share with good friends.

Saturday was a day of great conversation and celebration. I had some good chats with some good friends here and then whooped it up at my first New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade. I returned home last night with a ridiculous bag of loot and an appreciation of what this holiday can do for a city that really needs the fun to return to their lives.

As I write to you now, I am sitting in the parking lot of Orange Grove Presbyterian Church. I came to worship here today because I needed an earlier service, so that I'd have time to make it to two more parades this afternoon. I know, I am out of control with the parades. But Orange Grove just happened to be a great place to be this morning. Orange Grove is a tiny church on the north side of Gulfport with a membership of 7 people. They petitioned to close their doors before Katrina hit, but the Presbytery kept them on. This past summer, linked with Handsboro, they called Pastor Scott and began their own rebuild. Today, they announced a name change for their congregation- to New Life Presbyterian Church. They are meeting now, as I write, to plan for how they can begin this new life as a congregation in this rebuilding community.

This week has demonstrated to me what a gift it is to be present to bear witness to all of the rebirth on the Gulf Coast. I have to remind myself to look at it that way sometimes. The view has been good this week.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Valentine's Day Timeline- for your viewing pleasure.

6:45am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.
6:55am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.
7:05am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.
7:15am Alarm goes off. Turn alarm off. Wait five more minutes in bed.
7:16am Notice that roommate is dressed up for Valentine’s Day. Tell her she looks cute.
7:20am Roommate leaves for work. Get out of bed. Stumble into living room. Join housemates in watching Good Morning America. Notice that this NEVER happened when we were living in the church. Huh. Very thankful for new apartment.
7:25am Check weather. Going to be cold. Various roommates leave for work.
7:30am Jump in shower. Get dressed. Head out to the church. Notice that I need to get gas today.
7:55am Arrive at work. Greet various volunteers and staff. Think about grabbing a snack. Remember that I need to get paperwork ready for this morning’s home visit. And directions. Need directions.
8:05am Try to get on the Internet. Nope. Sort paperwork until Office Manager arrives. Then get on Internet, for directions and quickly send some emails...some Valentine’s Day emails.
8:30am Run out for home visit. Talk with homeowner about how we can help. This house is just down the street from one of our volunteer sites. It would be a great rainy-day job for them. Decide to drive by the church and drop off this case file immediately so homeowner can get help soon. Say a quick prayer for the homeowner in the driveway before taking off.
9:40am Arrive at the other church. Greet staff. Get excited because the Internet is working here. Finish paperwork on this morning’s home visit and get it to housemate who works at this church. Minor glitch with the printing, but housemate helps me out. Notice that housemate seems to be in a good mood, must be because of all that extra sleep last night. Talk with site manager about another homeowner. Send a few work emails. Quickly check www.people.com to make sure I haven’t missed anything crucial in the celebrity world overnight.
10:20am Off to Handsboro. I have office hours there all day today.
10:30am Check voicemails. Return calls. Prep cases for Long Term Recovery funding committee. More phone calls. More paperwork. Deal with major office crisis of this day. Call happy housemate to verbally process said crisis. Neither of us too happy at the moment. Eat. Receive call from housemate who saw some guy at a restaurant (a guy who asked housemate to dance that night, several times) and today saw the same guy on a Mississippi’s Most Wanted poster. Yikes. Laugh with housemate. Get mail- gift from my sister, and a check from another sister. I love them! Run to the bank to cash check (gas money!!!). Notice that everyone at the bank has a dozen roses. Comment to bank staff about how loved they all must be. Run back to work. More phone calls. Organizing files. More phone calls. Scheduling home visits for next week. Receive phone call from housemate who went home this week for family emergency. Chat with her. Miss her. Say a quick prayer for her. Get word of some agency willing to pay for skilled labor (electricians, plumbers, HVAC). Make a few calls to hunt down info. Get excited!
5:45pm WHAT? Where did the day go? Quickly set up files for the four home visits I have scheduled for tomorrow. Sister calls as I am running out the door. Niece and nephew are cute on the phone- but I really can’t tell what they are saying. Love them lots, though.
6:20pm Pick up roommate at church down the street. Urg, I still need gas. Hope we don’t run out. Pick up housemate at apartment. Drive to church #4 of today- the Baptist Church down the street where another housemate is cooking the Valentine’s Dinner for the congregation.
6:35pm Arrive at church. It’s so cute! Housemate is in his element in that big kitchen! Visit with church folks. Notice that me and my three housemates drop the average age in the room down about 40 years. Vote for King and Queen of the Valentine’s Dinner. Eat. Wow! Remember what a great chef housemate is. Eat serving number two. Take prom-style photo with housemates. Beg housemate to get the photo by email so I can have a copy. Wash a whole lot of dishes. Wash silverware twice because church member accidentally dumped the clean stuff back into the dirty water. Laugh to keep from crying. Wash more dishes. Housemate spills blue all over the kitchen and another housemate’s white shirt. Laugh with her to keep from crying. Some dad comes up to me and makes his 3-year-old apologize for eating my bag of candy hearts. Grab leftovers and get ready to leave. Spill purple all over the floor. Clean floor. Laugh with blue-covered housemate to keep from crying again. Remembered that it was just about an hour ago, during the coronation ceremony and yummy dinner when I said that it was the best Valentine’s Dinner ever. Chuckle.
8:30pm Go home. Grrr- still no gas. Amazed that we're still running. Discuss whether or not to rent a chick flick. Can’t decide. Remember LOST is on tonight.
8:35pm Talk with roommate about the roses she received and another card she received. Happy Valentine’s Day to her!
9:00pm SHARP! LOST. Housemates gather. LOST is good.
10:00pm GOOD LOST. Thankful that ABC is one of the three channels we receive.
10:10pm Phone call. Talk with housemate in NJ about how good LOST was tonight.
10:20pm Phone calls. Talk with GCM friends about Friday’s Mardi Gras Ball. Good plans made.
10:39pm Settle in with housemate for some OC on DVD since we never went to rent a chick flick. I only have three episodes left in season two. Watch them all. Oops. Didn’t mean to stay up this late. But the show was good and I needed to know!
1:00am Turn off lights, lock doors and hit the bed. It was a great Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 12, 2007

My First Mardi Gras Parade....and My Second

This weekend I learned why the Gulf Coast loves their Mardi Gras parades!
They're fantastic!

Free beads. Free frisbees. Free cups. Free candy. Funny costumes. Silly hats. What's not to love?

Above: the Krewe of Who Dat float and at right: Linda, me and Tyler at the Orange Grove Mardi Gras Parade. For more photos, check out my photo page!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Ups and Downs of This Girl's Week.

I'm still in my jammies. Love it!
My belly is full of twizzlers, ice cream and pancakes. Love it!
It's noon.
I am writing this morning from my new favorite place in Gulfport: Casa de Teel. We had a ladies only slumber party last night. My roommate Brenna received some really bad news about a family member yesterday (please keep her family in your prayers) and we needed a ladies night to keep up the spirits. We went out to dinner at a fantastic BBQ joint in Ocean Springs, MS called THE SHED. It's a dumpster-diver's dream, fully of junk, characters, and great food. Then we rented movies, bought snacks and ice cream and loaded on to the couch. We had a full scale production of Moulin Rouge while watching the Moulin Rouge at 1 in the morning! I woke up this morning to pancakes and coffee worked up by one great Teel! Can you tell that I loved it?

The past 24 hours has been characteristic of the past week for me- full of ups and downs.
The highlights:
UP- The best Super Bowl party I've ever attended, complete with projection TV, watching the game outside, sitting by a fire, surrounded by great friends and fantastic volunteers.
DOWN- Crazy volunteers trying to move into my bedroom before I even moved out.
UP- Enjoying our new house with family (my roomies) and friends.
DOWN- Finding places to store all my junk in my teeny new apartment. How did I collect so much stuff all over again? Urg.
UP- Meeting new families, and getting to work on their behalf in order to secure funding for a new home!
DOWN- Detailed paperwork creates roadblocks.
UP- Fellowship Dinner and Prayer meeting with Handsboro this week really made me feel close to God and my Mississippi church family.
DOWN- There were only 10 people there- the rest of the congregation missed out!
UP- Making a new house covenant with my roomies- setting us up for 6 great months.
DOWN- Missing the Houma Mardi Gras parade.
UP- Spending time with three fabulously fun ladies in a warm, welcoming home.

Today, I am off to my first Mardi Gras parade. We're taking the Castleman kids to check out one of the 5 parades running here today. Happy Carnival Season, everyone...