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....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A little perspective.

Tonight as Judi, Virginia and I were watching the Oscars, actually, it was as we were watching the red carpet coverage of the Oscar arrivals, we were doing what everyone does---ripping to shreds all the women who wore too-tight satin dresses, or poorly suited colors, or horrible-curtain-looking concoctions.

Then, Virginia smartly noticed that we were three poorly-dressed-in-PDA-blue-t-shirts-women, sitting in a travel trailer in Mississippi, eating Klondike bars, evaluating, critiquing and judging these movie stars and their terribly moronic fashion choices.

And I can't remember the last time I washed my hair....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just call me Bagel Live Oak...

Okay, I needed a good laugh today and this one got me! Feel free to leave a comment with your own new name!

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME (first pet, current car): Pepper Cavalier
2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME (fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Cookies n' Cream Sneaker
3. YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN NAME (favorite color, favorite animal): Green Dog
4. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME (middle name, city where you were born): Eileen DeeCee
5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME (the first three letters of your last name, first two of your first name): Couer
6. SUPERHERO NAME (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Orange Sweet Tea
7. NASCAR NAME (the first names of your grandfathers): Joe Maxton
8. STRIPPER NAME ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Soap Fudge (that one is NOT okay)
9. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME (your fifth grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): I really can't remember my fifth grade teacher's name. Not one bit. Yikes.
10. SPY NAME (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Autumn Black-eyed Susan
11. CARTOON NAME (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Apple Sweatshirt
12. HIPPIE NAME (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree): Bagel Live Oak

Thank you.

Read this.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One of my favorite days of the year!

I love the night before Valentine's Day. I love it!

Tonight I was really tired, but my fridge was empty. Around 7:30pm I gave in and went to the grocery store to replace the moldy grapes I'd found in my fridge this morning (why do I always let fruit go bad??). I'd forgotten what day it was.

Then I parked my car.

Men everywhere, buying the last few cards, half-dead flowers, horribly ugly balloons (and really, what woman over the age of 9 wants balloons?), and already discounted boxes of candy. It was awesome.

I love the last-minute-oh-crap-I-totally-forgot-it-was-Valentine's-Day-and-now-what-the-heck-can-I-get-my-wife/girlfriend/partner-for-cheap-but-so-she-doesn't-think-I-forgot trip to the grocery store. There were no less than 5 nervous men in the greeting card isle at any one time while I was in the store.

Just when I had written all these fools off and considered getting some popcorn and a camp chair to sit in front of the store to enjoy the quality people-watching, I was approached by a man in a suit in the dairy section. He was holding his son's hand asked me if I could explain the difference between butter and margarine. We chatted for a bit and he explained that he and his son were trying to bake his wife some cookies from scratch for Valentine's Day but that he had no idea what he was doing. I gave him a few tips and walked away chuckling and smiling.

Seriously, my favorite day of the year....and I almost missed it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Freakin' state of Maryland and their broke down voting records system.

They lost my voter registration.

Freakin' Maryland!

A few weeks ago I sent away for my absentee ballot. It never showed. I called today, they have no record of me ever voting or registering to vote in Maryland. Seriously?? I can't tell you how many elections I've voted in over the years in the Old Line State. Yet, I don't exist in their system. Since 1996, minus a three year break when I voted in Colorado, I've been punching the democratic ballot in every primary and general election. But not this year! And it's too late to register to vote in the Mississippi primary. The very helpful election worker answering the phone at the Frederick County Elections Office informed me that my only option would be to go in and vote provisionally at the elementary school....in Frederick, MD. Right.

I was livid.

I called my mom- she'd be outraged and stage a protest for sure. Not home.
I called my sister Rainey. She was outraged. She told me that my good friend Liz was also denied by the voting Nazis in the city of Baltimore. Liz changed her registration from Independent to Democrat in September, but they didn't process it until December, which is too late, so now she can't vote in the party primary. I was mad for Liz, too, now.
Then Rainey shared with me Liz's projected vote and I realized that if we'd both had the opportunity to participate in our nation's great democratic process, Liz's vote would have canceled out my vote.

I guess it'll be okay then.

But I'm still fuming mad. In my trailer in Mississippi...looking for something to do to stick it to the man!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hoping and hoping....and hoping some more.

Back one sunny morning this past June, I went with two roommates to get a little ink. I had the word HOPE tattooed on my wrist. Brenna put FAITH on her ankle and Linda put LOVE on her arm. It was as important for me to share that experience with those two amazing women, as it was important for me to toss a little scripture on my person, as it was important to mark the theme of my year permanently. I debated over where to put that word and how to write it. I ended up placing HOPE inside my left wrist, facing me, in my own handwriting because I needed to be a constant reminder. I needed to be able to see it all the time. And in my handwriting, I hoped (good pun) it would remind me to have hope in myself.

Well, since putting that on my arm in permanent, black ink, I've been seeing hope everywhere, and nowhere, all the time. I have great hope in the church teams that come down here and change lives- those lives of the people they help, and their own lives as they experience a new kind of service and community. I see hope in home dedication ceremonies, church re-dedications, new business openings, bridge openings, and increased tourism. I see hope in the commitment and continued efforts of folks who've long past burn-out, but keep working and moving, powered by the grace of God.

But I lose hope every day too. Hope fades in the knowledge that funds are running out and agencies are shutting down while there are still so many homes to rebuild. Hope fades in volunteer villages sitting empty for weeks at a time. Hope fades as homeowners become more and more frustrated with the process that's gone on for far too long. Hope fades in another twister in Alabama, flooding in the Northwest, fires in California, and disaster upon disaster. Hope fades in the smog of agency and church turmoil. Hope fades in my own failures and limitations and feelings of burnt-out-edness.

For the past year and a half I've attempted to manage the ups and downs of my journey in hope with prayer. I've never been a good pray-er and it was something I decided to focus on upon accepting life as a churchy-worker-type two Augusts ago.

The thing is, I desperately want to be a prayer warrior. And not just for the awesome costume I imagine I'd get to wear. I admire the women in my life who will stop and pray any time any where. A man here once prayed with me over the phone and it blew me away. Folks that I've befriended on this journey really, really believe in this prayer stuff. For me, it's something I've always done because I am supposed to do it- like making my bed. I don't really believe in that either. I mean, you're just going to mess it up again later in the day, so what's the point! But I say my prayers at night, before meals, in church, when an ambulance passes, and whenever someone else asks me to pray for them or their family. And I mean it. I think. Kinda.

I tried prayer journaling last fall. It lasted about a month and a half. Wasn't for me. Then I tried prayer walking. I was just a freak talking to myself and almost getting hit by cars all the time. I attended Handsboro's weekly prayer meetings. I let Linda talk me into praying with her whenever she wanted. I sought guidance from my favorite religious leaders. I started doing morning devotions. I tried it all, but remained unconvinced.

Recently, I survived another rough fall. Another season that challenged me- professionally and emotionally, but more importantly, spiritually. Lately, I've been feeling that I'm failing that challenge. This prayer problem has been kicking my butt.

I called Lauren this week, because she's that church friend that I can ask anything- no matter how ridiculous or blasphemous or vulgar or ignorant- without freaking her out. I asked her if I don't really believe in prayer, if that meant that I don't really believe in God. She told me a hippie story about prayer as molecules of energy that made a lot of sense, but in that warm-fuzzy hippie way that you really can't argue with, since there might be a flake of truth to it and anyway you want it to be true because it would be so beautiful. But I'm still not convinced. Then Linda wrote a blog about people who don't believe in prayer. Then I started reading Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert talks and talks and talks about prayer.

So the whole prayer thing is being thrown in my face big time. And I still don't have an answer. But I've decided to have hope. Hope in prayer. Hope in my prayer. I don't know if my prayers are really appropriate. I don't know if it makes sense for me to ask for specific or general guidance in prayer. I don't know if my prayers are silly. I don't know if my prayers are truly genuine. And I really don't know if my prayers are really heard....

but I hope so. I've decided to hope so.

I really, really hope so.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lost Day

Today began just as calm as any other day- no heat running out in the middle of the night, no evacuation calls at 3 am, no cat-fight at a long term recovery meeting- but sparked up before lunch then just kept rolling.

We're having major changes at one village that needed to be dealt with immediately. I missed a going away lunch with two friends to tend to some of the changes. Then a few jobs I thought we lined up for another village fell through, so it is back to the scramble of finding more funded work for the massive (awesome) amount of volunteers coming in next month. I know- it is a terrible problem to have, right?

I ran home at 5pm to walk the dog and make an attempt at sorting my insanely large collection of Mardi Gras beads when I looked up and realized that it was time to go for dinner. My bud Kerry and I went to Handsboro (the church where we both lived/worked/worshiped last year) for dinner. We followed that with some quality play time with the Castleman kids and 4 hours of watching LOST on TiVo with Scott and Rebecca. We'd held off watching the premiere last week because Rebecca was out of town, so we all had to catch up.

Now it is after midnight and I am goofing off online in hopes of releasing some of the knots in my stomach before settling into bed.

Where did the hours go???

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Psalm 51
Miserere mei, Deus

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother's womb.

For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked,
and sinners shall return to you.

Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.

Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday!

Just got back to Gulfport from spending a long weekend in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. My buds Emily and Nick came down to celebrate with me and the PDA gang. It was four days of friends, food and fun and I loved every bit of it. As Eddie and I watch election returns, we're uploading photos from the weekend. I'll get 'em out to ya ASAP.

Happy Mardi Gras!