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....

Thursday, May 31, 2007

All the ups and downs one woman can manage...

Today (after 3.5 hours sleep last night) I....

... had the pleasure of visiting with four amazing homeowners.
... unfortunately had to confront a co-worker who'd been speaking ill of our agency and me personally to other groups working on the coast.
... stumbled across a new contact who has grand plans of coordinating folks in NC to send volunteers and materials to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild!
...spent two and a half hours trying to find a way to help some one with serious mental health issues.
... spent that same two and a half hours simply being the listening ear that some one hadn't had in quite some time.
... joyfully received a gift of a hand-painted humming bird feeder from my two and a half hour new best friend.
... processed a bit of paperwork.
... received word that the much anticipated donation of furniture for a child's bedroom had arrived in town!
... risked my life traveling in a nearly-dead-truck down Hwy 10.
... realized how happy I was to be working with a co-worker this week, and not all alone, for a change.
... was welcomed into the hearts and (albeit temporary) home of an amazingly faithful couple we've worked with for a while- and was again reminded of their strength, hope, and love.
...joyfully received a gift of freshly caught fish and the loaned use of a fry-daddy.
... heart full of love, went to visit a roommate at work.
... beside myself with frustration, locked myself in my room for the night.
... sat quietly and worked on some prayers of thanksgiving, that today I had the chance to experience so much joy and really loved my job.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Photos Up!

For those who miss the days when friends would come over and torture one another with endless hours of boring vacation slides.... I've posted a few new photo albums from the past month for you to hate, er, enjoy!

Check out four new photo albums here!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

On vacation....

All's well in S. Carolina....We've been on the boat, the beach, the mountain, the pool, and Tiger Town Tavern- of course! The kids are a blast (especially when they wake us up at 7am with a heafty pounding on the door) and the weather's been perfect. Today, Brenna and I hiked at Whitewater Falls and took some interesting Dharma Initiative-style photos of our trip....can't wait to get those online. Carrie and Jay, as always, are the perfect hosts and we've really had a full, but somehow perfectly relaxing break. Tomorrow we drive back to Gulfport. The latest plan is to get on the road in the mid-morning and force a stop every 2 hours just to see what we can find along the way!
I love and miss you all,

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What's your campaign song?

Okay, so I stumbled across Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign website today and realized just how committed she is to solving the most pressing political problems facing the nation today......

Hillary Clinton is holding the final round of voting for her official campaign song, and I've just made my choice. Listen to the song choices and be sure to vote! http://www.hillaryclinton.com/campaignsong

My question to you is.....what would your theme song be?

When we start printing the Erin for President t-shirts, will you all join me in dancing to Bon Jovi's "Livin' of a Prayer"? The "prayer" shout-out might help me trick some conservatives into voting my way. Oh, but if we went with Dolly's "Working 9 to 5" we'd be sure to carry the South! Tough choice for me, huh?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Just Because.....

This is an email I sent out to the entire Gulf Coast Mission team today and thought I'd share here, as well:

Does anyone else feel like working in disaster recovery is making them bipolar? I mean it. We live the highest highs and the lowest lows and very little in between. And most of the time, I don't feel like I have any control at all over these emotions.

Well, I've been feeling that way a lot lately. And many of you have to hear me complain all the time about the lows. But I loved Lauren's idea on Friday about sharing our celebrations! This morning at work was pretty good, so I'm on a mental upswing and I feel like celebrating:

- God, for the fantastic weather we've enjoyed this week!
- Lauren, for reminding us to celebrate one another, and for being there for me all the time! Even when she's counting the days to her home vacation.
- Jaymie, for growing that garden and literally planting hope in Houma! I can't wait to see it.
- Melodie, for bringing the Dirty game to my house and laughter into a rough day. A lot of laughter! Oh, and yummie dip, too.
- George, for getting his license! Hurray! That studying paid off!
- Mical, for saving Mondays for me. Also, sometimes I give Mical jobs, he takes them and works them. Volunteers show up and work gets done. This doesn't happen when I give jobs to other site managers/worksite assignment managers. It's simple, but also difficult and I know how much work it takes. He does it with a smile. Yesterday he took one and I just know it will get done. I love that!
- Ling, for participating in and enjoying the all-site, even though she was off to wedding-palloza-2007 in Texas- many hours in the other direction!
- Kerry, for getting volunteers and materials to Ms. Catherine's house. I never thought we'd see progress there and you made that happen! I don't know how you did it, but it gave me a whole lot of hope that there's still good work going on in the presbytery.
- Sue, for interviewing and hiring new construction staff! Wow. Where would that church be without you?
- Brenna, for a great year at Andy's Club! I can't say it enough- you created something original and wonderful and those kids will remember you forever. I'm so excited for the summer field trips!
- Becca, for being so patient with those volunteers. I don't know how you do it, but you do, and with such grace. Maybe patience is an attainable virtue?
- Rhodes, for remaining hopeful at work. That must be hard, and your celebration of working through frustrations inspires me.
- Linda, for throwing one heck of a Festival only to turn around the next freaking day and start planning methodist-adventure-#2. You've got a lot on that plate of yours, woman. Bravo.
- Sarah Ann, for all the work she is doing with homeowners in Biloxi and with one roommate in particular in Gulfport!
- Greg, Irvin and Amelia, for putting together a fun canoeing trip! I had a really great time on Friday. Thank you!

Monday, May 21, 2007

On Pain

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity: For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen, And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This is how you make a great weekend.....

Start on Friday with canoeing with the GCM gang on the Wolf River and visiting with Ty then sprinkle with all-you-can-eat fried dinner at Aunt Jenny's and top off with a Sex in the City marathon back at home. Let chill over night.
Then, on Saturday add in- a full morning walking along the beach with one of my favorite people in the world, mixed with a spontaneous BBQ lunch at my place, complete with water-mellon-seed-spitting contest, several table spoons of pool time with the girls at the Beau Rivage with fruity drinks as if we were on vacation, a dash of volleyball with our boys. Grab some Coronas and stir well.
Finally, on Sunday, sift worship at New Life Community Church well with a hodge-podge of volunteers and locals, follow separately with a big breakfast at home, beach time with the gang, and a heaping bowl of chili with the roommates. Finish with great discussion and you've got it all complete!
Serves one, or six, depending.
0 calories.
0 grams fat.
100% fun!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Bridge is Back

The Bay St. Louis Bridge re-opened today. We went to the celebration to see the new bridge, the Governor, the free food....but mostly to see people excited about living on the Gulf Coast, to see these residents celebrate their progress, and maybe to let some of that joy and hope rub off on us as well.

Click here for more about the Bridge Opening from WLOX.
Click here to see Bridge Opening photos from the Sun Herald.
Click here to see more of my photos from the Bridge Opening!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Something that made me laugh yesterday....

It was as I was running down the highway to pick up sheets of insulation that had fallen off our over-packed truck on the way to a client's home and blown all over the road when I had another one of those, how on earth did I get here moments. Me+mississippihighway+insulationexplosion+monsterbugs=lifefullofsurprises

Monday, May 14, 2007

This is what I heard today while eating my way across the Mississippi Gulf Coast...

First in Pascagoula at a Case Managers Round Table meeting with the county's long term recovery agency, while examining the powdered doughnuts:

"Well you need to talk to your boss," said angry lady at the table, head tilt and chair swivel included.
"Ooooohhhhh," cried the entire room, a la seventh grade.

Then after eating a bowl of raisin bran in Gautier:
Me: "Hey, what's on fire over there?"
Mical: "I am...." (insert cheesy visual of Mical using both hands to point his fiery self out)
Me: "No really, what's on fire back there?"
Mical: "Oh. That's our neighbor's burn pile."
Hilarious laughter ensues.

Next over lunch at Diamondhead:
"Why is it so freaking hot here," asked a sweaty Erin.
"You shoulda been here last week," said an even sweatier Kerry, while sporting some serious John Cusak hair and wearing a PDA shirt with the sleeves ripped off, a la 1983.
"Where's your T-top Camero, Kerr," questioned my internal dialogue.

Late in the afternoon, while munching on girl scout cookies in Pearlington:
Volunteer number one: "Hey Becca, where do we recycle these?"
Becca: "We don't recycle"
Insert Erin's knowing glance.

30 seconds later:
Volunteer number two: "Hey Becca, is 504 the area code for New Orleans?"
Becca: "Yes."
Volunteer number two: "Oh, because I can't get through on my cell to this number in New Orleans......(blah, blah, blah).....sooooo"
Becca: "Sorry."

another 30 seconds later:
Volunteer of the day: "Hey Becca, do we make coffee at night here?"
Becca, to volunteer : "Um, sure. You guys can if you want to. "
Becca, to me, as if I were the volunteer: "Um, you're in charge here. "
The voices in my head, to me: "Becca's a freakin' saint!"

Finally, at our weekly Monday night BBQ, back in Gulfport, safe and sound, while trying to eat some delicious Wavy Lays potato chips:
"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH," shrieked Brenna and Erin as an extremely dangerous set of love bugs attacked our chip bowl.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I love my mom!

Happy Mother's Day to all moms, grandmas, aunts, sisters, friends, babysitters, teachers, mentors, coaches, pastors, care-givers, and mothery-types!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oh crap!

You know when you have a bad week, or month, or season, and just feel all that anger, frustration, and tiredness building up inside you and there's no place to let it all out, so you end up just being a little bit rotten to everyone you know all the time? Okay, maybe that's just me. But that's how I've been lately. I'm starting to get nervous about the big blow that will come when I finally release all of that emotion.

Or maybe I don't need to be worried.

Apparently, my apartment is going through the same problem, only it finally decided to blow!

All of the liquids (and a few solids) that go through my apartment are now sitting in my back yard. It's a mess and it smells. It is not okay. But so far, it isn't killing me. It's just crap in my yard. And boy, are we having some good laughs about that!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A whole new kind of fog

Somehow May has snuck up on me and I find myself lost in a buggy fog. This morning I awoke early to try and start my day with a little walk- some fresh air, alone time, and sunshine. I forgot about the bugs. Now my legs look like they've contracted the mumps, due to all the bug bites.

Today is going to be a big one here. Wednesdays I spend the entire day at the church holding office hours to catch up on paperwork and also give homeowners a chance to actually find and get a hold of me. Oh, and add in 3 meetings just for fun.

But today we have a big meeting. Yesterday the Presbytery met and reviewed an disaster recovery administrative commission and task force proposal to redesign the disaster recovery office structure and personnel. The administrative commission is sending a representative to our church today to meet with all current disaster recovery staff and long-term volunteers to explain the changes. Rumors are everywhere and I have no idea how this will all play out, but my hope is that enough smart folks have chipped in to this process and that we'll all be better off for it. Maybe this will bring us out of our chaos fog as well.....

Monday, May 07, 2007

Lucky Dog

My sister and aunt are here spending a long weekend with me. We've Jazz-Fested, dined out, toured New Orleans, BBQed at The Shed, ripped out insulation, hung with roommates, installed insulation, drove Hwy10-Hwy90- Hwy10 again, and gabbed a whole lot in just three days. They leave tomorrow and I don't know how I'll have any fun without them. Join me in praying for their safe travel back to MD Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A note to Z

Today a dear, dear friend from my Colorado days wrote and asked me how things were going down on the Gulf Coast. As she is such a dear friend, trusted mentor, and spiritual rock, I quickly jotted back the most honest answer to that question that I've shared with anyone not working on the Gulf Coast. It felt so good to get that out, that I thought I'd share it here. I've left out the juicy Boulder County Gov't gossip and details about Z's dog, but here is my most honest answer...

Things here are alright. It's been a tough year. This working in a disaster zone business is not easy. Every bit of the work is emotional, personal and messy. People are over-worked, underpaid and have no support....reminds me of government work sometimes. Except minus the structure. There's no structure here. I love structure. Somehow I still believe that structure can breed flexibility by giving you that base line from which to begin. We don't have a baseline down here. And I know it seems odd to call it a disaster zone after almost a year and a half, but it just is. There is still so much work that needs to be done...so many homes to rebuild and not enough time, volunteers or money to get it all done as fast as we'd hope. The obstacles are huge and I find them everywhere. I have yet to feel like I've really helped anyone. Red tape is everywhere and then no where at the same time, if that's possible. The experts plan too much and don't leave room for exceptions or flexibility. The newbie volunteers don't have enough experience to do things efficiently or even well sometimes. It becomes, over and over again, the blind leading the freaking blind.

But people still need help and some one has to show up and to try to do it.

So it is messy. Most days I don't know if I am (we are) helping or hurting myself or others. I'm trying to have faith that God leads me (us) the right way in most of this and that when I (we)miss Her directions, she'll leave room for grace, and take care of those who suffer because of my (our) ignorance/arrogance/confusion.

But with all of that, I am continuously surprised at how much I love living down here. The folks are so friendly, the Gulf and beaches are beautiful, the food is fantastic, they have festivals all the time, and some one placed me with some pretty wonderful roommates.

I never thought I'd be able to live in the South, but I am actually considering staying for a bit longer than my one year commitment- if not only to enjoy this beautiful and fun nook of the South a bit longer.

Seen and heard at Jazz Fest this weekend.....

"Where should we park?"
"I can't believe this apartment!"
"Did anyone get the blankets?"
"Um, you got a ticket."
"They're leaking. The Ziplocs are leaking."
"No, we're over by the flying pork chop."
"Wanna go see that Billy Joel daughter girl?"
"Ling knows all the words."
"I can't go out."
"No, I'm gonna rally."
"Do you think they'll play Bon Jovi?"
"That's too many stairs."
"I'll just sleep here."
"Who's sleeping outside?"
"Is some one out there singing? It's 7am!"
"My car's not there."
"He kicked the chair! Jerry Lee kicked the chair!"
"2:00 was not a good hour for us."
"Are you by the underwear flag?"
"We're not at the same stage!"
"My foot smells like a sewer."
"I'm not going back for the grapefruits!"
For more photos, click here!