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....

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gettin' it done.

I love lists. I love making lists and I especially enjoy checking things off the list! In my job I make a lot of lists but rarely get to check things off. Something always comes up that needs to be dealt with immediately while the rest of the day's list has to wait. Most of the projects I work on are long and on-going and never really have a check-point-ending. It frustrates the list checker in me to no end. Lately, I haven't been good about checking things off my personal/spiritual checklists either. So this week, I decided to step up my check marks- personal, spiritual, and professional!

On Sunday, church was awesome! I worshiped at New Life, where normally we only have about 5-10 folks in attendance. This week we had several visitors and a volunteer group show up. Those pews were packed! It was pretty great to sit among that gathering after all the quiet weeks of late. Then my bud Kerry stuck around to finish the deck building project started a bit ago outside my trailer. I was extremely helpful in that process. I forced him to teach me everything about it because I am still determined to pick up as much construction knowledge as possible while I am down here. Can you believe it was my first time using a power-nailer-thing? Oh darn, what is it called? And it only took three air compressors to get the job done. We ended up eating a late lunch sitting on my new deck with my dog. I'm really a trailer girl now!

My work week started on Monday with meetings and home visits galore. I've got some help for the next I-don't-know-how-long in the form of one of our long-term volunteers, Kaitlyn. Right now we're doing a lot of training and chatting and I am thrilled about it. On Monday Kaitlyn joined me for the meetings and home visits. That night I picked up a few pals and went to an 80s roller skating party hosted by a new friend who works for another recovery agency on the Coast. I'm still nursing a blister on my ankle and a sore tummy from all the laughing!

Tuesday brought the arrival of some PDA big-wigs and do-gooders for some planning and brainstorming. Now, I realize that I am running the risk of returning to my old Pollyanna ways, but I was encouraged and energized by the meeting. I was just there to listen, but they were thoughtful and asked good questions and wanted suggestions from ground staff. The crew stayed for dinner in the Village where we all ate with the volunteers who are in town this week from Missouri (which I always pronounce as Misery because my sister who lived there taught me that, but I don't do that now because these folks brought good food with them so now that state is cool with me).

Today I made arrangements to get my car into the shop next week for repairs from the accident I had right before Christmas. Then there were more long term recovery meetings and lots and lots of phone calls. Some of those phone calls worked out some details of jobs we've been stuck on for a while! I followed that up with some play time with Eddie, The Wonder Dog (that's what I am calling him now that he's figured out how to play soccer AND carry two tennis balls in his mouth at the same time), and dinner and a great movie with a great pal. (Have you seen Juno? I loved it!)

Tomorrow Kaitlyn and I have a full day of home visits followed by an attempt at a Mardi Gras parade (weather permitting). Friday I'll be working paperwork and phones at one of our Villages and then cleaning my trailer like a mad-woman to prepare for the arrival of my best buds for a visit this weekend!

So I still haven't made a dent in the 6 half-read books beside my bed, or found funding for all the homes on which we're working, or done my laundry, or cultivated world peace, but I did get a few things done this week and that'll due for now!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Good News!

The trailer furnace man fixed my heat today! It's been a week of cold nights in this tin box I call home. Eddie and I are quite happy and warm as we head for bed tonight.

Sweet dreams....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Home Sick

I've been nursing a chest cold for several days now. Today it proved too tough to fight so I stayed home from work. I've now spent more hours than I can count in my trailer and here is what I learned:

---I still love HGTV. The House Hunters marathon made my day.
---My trailer couch is not comfortable enough for a 4 hour nap.
---I was one smart cookie for buying that space heater yesterday.
---I will not let Eddie try wet dog food again. The gas fumes are too dangerous.
---Sometimes I really should break down and take the medicine. Just take it!
---11 daytime hours in a trailer is really too much.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A whole new level of geekiness

Just noticed that I posted that blog below on one laptop, while cuing up a DVD on the other laptop and checking emails on the Blackberry.


But I guess I'm okay, since all that was done from the comfort of my travel-trailer by the railroad tracks in southern Mississippi.


Just for Fun

I welcomed Eddie into my life (and my trailer) about a month and a half ago. Since then, we've had lots of fun and just a few little fights. He's already moved past his scared, calm days and is now in full high-energy, learning-new-tricks puppy mode. When I returned home from dinner tonight I noticed that he again had snuck into the shower and found himself a treat in the form of my face soap. I started compiling a mental list of things Eddie has eaten/crewed beyond recognition since moving into the Sprinter. The list cracked me up, so I thought I should share it here:

1. A loofah
2. My Life is Good flip flops
3. Two tubes of face soap
4. My sunglasses
5. Linda's computer power cord
6. About 12 rawhide bones
7. 1/2 a stalk of celery (a whole stalk fell to the floor, I was curious to see what he'd do- not much- apparently doesn't care for veggies)
8. My swim suit
9. The ankle zipper out of my favorite sweatpants
10. A razor he jumped for in the shower
11. The shower liner
12. 20 plastic grocery bags in one sitting
13. Two cardboard boxes
14. One ornament off my Christmas Tree
15. Seven socks, including Lauren's Christmas socks on Christmas morning
16. The corner of my couch
17. A plastic measuring cup
18. My copy of Into The Wild
19. An empty cigarette box he found by the street
20. HIS BED!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Down and Up Again

Mical left the Coast today. He's the second of three great pals/co-workers who are moving on this month. It breaks my heart to see them go, but I know they've all got great adventures ahead of them. I've been missing Lauren something terrible since she left last week. And I am just bummed.

But two things really cheered me up today:

First, I spent the day in the office with our new Interim Volunteer Village Coordinator who was really kicking into gear. She just arrived last night and has already made a huge impact on our operations. It is so great to have a strong new set of hands on the team.

Then, I got home from work to find my two great pals, Dan and Kerry, building me a deck. It was dark, and getting late, but they had the glow of the truck headlights to keep working! I've been the only trailer in the Village without a deck since I moved in and my grassy, wet feet are sad about that every day. Dan and Kerry went out of their way to get me a deck today- TODAY- because they knew how bummed I've been. And that's not it. They did it in style. You see, most of the fellas we work with here spend weeks without shaving. Mical was famous for coming up with fun facial hair patterns. For months I've been begging one of them to rock the mustache alone! None would do it. Finally, last week, Kerry challenged Dan and I on it and asked me to grow a sharpie-'stache in exchange for Dan's real 'stache. Well, when I arrived home today, not only were they building the deck, but they were building while rocking their mustaches! I haven't laughed that hard in months. Dan looked horrible. Really creepy. You could hardly tell that Kerry had a 'stache, but the gesture was well worth it! Dan made me promise not to put the photos up on Facebook, but he said nothing about this blog, so here you go....

And yes, I did come through with my end of the deal. Here's me with a Sharpie-Stache:

Dan, Kerry- I love you, love you, love you!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The start of a pattern?

Yes, another great day to report on!

This week was another doozey, but today I took the day off. Really off. All day! If was my first full day off since Christmas Day and it was very, very nice:

Slept in until 8:30.
Walked Dog.
3 loads of laundry.
Took down Christmas decorations, but left the tree up.
Taught dog how to catch a frisbee.
Sat outside in a t-shirt and shorts, soaking in the sun, with no bugs, while reading and petting the dog.
Margaritas in the sun with Dan around 2:30.
Kerry brought over new stairs for my trailer! No more falling for me and Ed!
Went out to watch football with the gang.
Came back to the village and watched more football with the gang.
In bed by 10:30pm.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

And now for a change....

...a good day to share with you!

I fell like I spend most of my blogging life whining. Do I? Wow, I sure hope not. So, in an effort to share some of the highs- here you go.

Today, after being woken up at 2:45 am by the call from one of our village managers who was reporting that they were evacuating the volunteers from their camp due to tornado warnings but that their designated safe location was locked and so they planned instead to ride out the warning time in a local Wal-Mart, and the subsequent wake-up call at 4:00 am saying that they'd made it back to the village and safely back to bed, tornado-free., and after saying good-bye to a great friend who moved away from the coast today, I shared in some minor successes that deserve some major celebration:

I had a productive meeting with a homeowner, volunteer, and long-term volunteer where we actually made a plan to make a home livable for the homeowner. We found resources to provide a skilled volunteer team with materials to finish out the work for one of the many, many homeowners down here who are so sick of waiting to get back into their homes that they are moving in before the work is done (read: electricity/plumbing).

Then I went to a long term recovery meeting where I think I finally, finally made the right connection to set some of our homeowners up with some real, tangible help in the coming months. This particular agency has been under some major changes in the past month and today I got to see the progress in action. It gave me some much needed hope.

I had lunch with our HQ team and our National Coordinator. Lately, I've been dreading our HQ meetings- they've been dragging on and tugging hard on the emotions. But today we spoke, joked, and got some business done. It felt good.

I had a good walk with the pup after lunch (always a treat).

I went back to the office and made a dent in my way-over-due paperwork pile.

I received an email from a departed volunteer who is considering plans to return!

I called my friend/pastor from MD and stumbled into the middle of our church mission committee meeting- so I got to share this great day with folks from home that I miss so dearly.

I hunkered down in the trailer, tucked in with the pup and watched a really good movie.

I'll take a Wednesday like this one (minus the early morning evacuation stuff and the friend leaving me stuff) any time!

Sunday, January 06, 2008


The Redskins ended an inspirational run for the playoffs with a thud last night by losing thier Wild Card game in blazing fashion. Eddie and I are pretty shaken up by it, but the 70 degree weather outside today sure is helping to heal our broken hearts.

This weekend I am spending most of my time helping to prepare Villages for the return of volunteers while also helping one of our long-term volunteers (and a dear, dear friend) pack to leave the Coast. She's moving to Chicago. I hear it's a bit colder than 70 degress there. Think she knows?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It doesn't get easier. Why don't they tell you that?!

How DO you spend the day on the third anniversary of your little sister's death? I wish Oprah would provide a show on this so I wouldn't have to muddle through it without a guide. Since The Mighty O didn't spell it out for me, this is what became of my today:

6:30 am Alarm clock goes off. Hit snooze.
6:33 am BlackBerry alarm goes off. Hit snooze.
(This set repeats for another 11 minutes.)

6:44 am Rise. Back very sore. Eyes are puffy from crying last night. Not a good start. Dear friend who slept over is still kind of asleep. Quietly dress and take dog out for morning walk, convinced that if the day is kicked off with quiet, reflection, and prayer that it will go well- calm, cool, collected--- not raging and crying. Right. Good plan.

6:47 am Outside. Realize that I am way under dressed for this frigid Mississippi morning. Decide not to go back to the trailer- convinced that once moving will be warmer.

6:48 am Crap. It's so cold. Tuck face into hoodie and hands into sleeves. If I cry while walking the tears will freeze to my face. That won't be pleasant. Talk myself out of crying. I mean it. Oh, remind myself to bring cups to morning meeting as requested. Must remember cups.

7:35 am Return from morning walk completely frozen. Feed frozen dog. Shower, if only to thaw out. Flip the TV on to SportsCenter while trying to talk myself into the day. Laugh when the SportCenter guy sings the Snowmeiser song while covering last night's outdoor hockey game. Good- laughing- Good.

7:51 am Receive email that my ride to my morning meeting will be late. Find 17 other things to do to keep busy for 15 minutes, as not to have empty time and space for mind to wander. Delete emails from BlackBerry, clip toenails, straighten up living room, pile laundry, organize mail, etc. Busy, busy, busy. No crying. Good.

8:15 am Meet my ride to go to the meeting. Can it really still be that cold outside? Pile into giant truck for bumpy ride to Pearlington. This oughtta be good on the sore back. Break out the BlackBerry for the morning round of emails while in the car. What did people do before multi-tasking became popular? Their minds must have wandered and then they cried. Silly single-taskers.

8:30 am Freak out when sappy Kenny Chesney song comes on the radio. Remember that Chesney is lame and that you should not ever cry during one of his whiny songs, even if it is the one that always makes you think of your sister. Try to stop crying. Look out the window. No crying. Turn the radio dial. Chesney is on every station. How is that possible? Find a station with no Chesney. It's Big and Rich and they're screaming about saving horses and riding cowboys. Sing along about riding a cowboy- it is a sure way to stop the tears. Chuckle when sweet, 6'5", non-country-loving friend who's driving the truck starts singing along about riding a cowboy so I don't feel bad. Good friend.

8:58 am After arriving in Pearlington, sit in the truck a moment to pray for patience. Remember that it is not all about you today, even though you wish it were. The world goes on. This day and every day -- for all of us. Deal with it.

9:00 am Meeting with Village Staff in Pearlington. We have to meet in the kitchen because it is the only place warm enough that we can talk without teeth chattering. Meeting's not great, but there's no crying. Feeling a bit accomplished.

10:10 am Overnight guest is driving out of Mississippi, stopping by to say farewell in Pearlington. Mumble awkward goodbye before escaping to solitude in the truck to wait for driver to be ready to go. No room in my heart for drama, goodbyes, or other people's emotions today. I've got me and mine to worry about.

10:20 am Drive back to Gulfport with sweet, 6'5", non-country-loving, cowboy-riding-song-singing friend who tolerates my insane bursts of crying, anger, laughter, ridiculousness, gossip and rage. Tumble out of the truck to get supplies for a new volunteer and to check that someone is going to make a propane run today so I'll have heat in the trailer tonight. Welcome back a fun friend who's been out of town for a while. Proud of self for having pulled it together to appear normal for a bit. Get annoyed with myself for being proud of having pulled it together. It's been three years. Get over it and move on. Sheesh.

11:30 am Head to the office. Sit in the car emailing on BlackBerry while waiting for co-worker/confidant who will join in to carpool to lunch.

11:48 am Head to lunch with co-worker/confidant who is also having a bad day, week, month, etc. Listen to her share her bummer of a New Year's Eve. She receives a call that we both need to be on an important conference call in 30 minutes, wherever we are. Good thing we've got BlackBerries. Crap! Forgot the cups this morning. Frustrated with self for being forgetful today. Make arrangements for some one else to take care of The Great Cup Crisis of 2008.

12:30 pm While enjoying THE BEST sweet potato fries ever made, listen in to conference call where a huge bomb is dropped on our agency. Sit in shock. Marvel over how The Church sometimes just doesn't get it. Wonder how I can be involved in such a church. Feel totally powerless to help. Waves of frustration and confusion seep in. Finish fries. Head back to the office - very deflated.

1:30 pm Spend the afternoon in the office working on creating training documents and standardized paperwork. Don't have what I need to finish. Boil with frustration. Turn on radio, turn off radio. Get up, sit down, get up, sit down. Nothing is comfortable, nothing is working. Phone and email ringing off the hook. So quick to anger. Prayer for patience earlier needs repeating. Not interested in prayer currently. Wow. Push through.

4:30 pm Give up on working. Run out to pick up a cake for tomorrow's all-staff meeting and to buy some utility knives for new staff. Home Depot only has one Husky knife. Lowes has none. Urg. Irrational anger at the sub-par stocking habits of home repair supply warehouses consumes me. Decide after bad luck there not to try get the cake tonight. Decide to be done with the day. Just done.

5:20 pm Arrive back in the Village in time to set up car pooling for tomorrow's meeting, quickly walk dog, check the mail, and snuggle in with Charlie Gibson's Iowa pre-game. Suddenly problems of the nation/world seem silly. I'm the one with real heartache. Idiots.

6:00 pm Heat up departed overnight guest's leftover calzone and teach Eddie to play fetch while watching Hardball at the same time, a trick every dog should master. Matthews does everything he can to test the attention span, but Eddie fetches on. Try to remember the last time work ended in time to catch Hardball. Getting frustrated with thoughts of work so give up trying to remember. Channel surf during the commercials and wonder if Monster.com really does hear my calling calling or if I should quit my current job and try out for CMT's Ultimate Coyote Ugly Contest. Decide that today's not for that kind of thinking.

6:30 pm Give up on TV and the outside world. Slap on the flannel jammies and bunker down in bed with the new laptop and three of the six books that usually just sit, half-read for months at a time, next to the bed.

6:32 pm Soak in the sounds of Eddie gnawing on his bone in the living room while waiting for the computer to fire up. Thank my lucky stars that there is a gentle, loving beast in the trailer tonight. Decide that the gentle, loving beast might could break the rules tonight by receiving permission to sleep IN the bed.

6:35 pm Start preparing a mental list of things to do tonight to occupy a wandering mind. Review the list of things already done today that occupied the wandering mind successfully. Turn that list into a blog. Decide if it is selfish to post such a blog, especially given general inability to talk to live people-style-friend-types about feelings today. Prepare to post it anyway, in an effort to be honest.

7:10 pm The call of the Internet is too tempting. Succumb to the Google to check if Molly's funeral site guest book is still available online. It is. Read through some of the entries. How can it be that it was three years ago when it hurts like it was today? How can there be no more answers, no further closure? Why do people say that time heals these wounds? They make you feel self-indulgent for still hurting after three years; for talking about it too much and crying too much; for allowing it to continue to change a life your trying to survive. Calling family doesn't help because they don't grieve the way you do and don't understand how you feel and you can't relate to where they are in the process either because you're too caught up in yourself anyway. Sit in it. The aloneness is overwhelming. Cry, cry, cry.

7:45 pm There's the noise of the loving beast chewing his bone. He knows nothing of life before or after the event that changed it all. He just chews. Ah, to be a dog.

8:00 pm Give up trying to make sense of anything and hit the lights. Throw on the Gilmore Girls Season 7 DVD to drown out any pangs of reality and try to drift off to sleep without re-opening the meaning of life debate. There's always tomorrow.....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Wherever you are, whomever you're with, whatever you are doing.....

May you be blessed with love, work, friends, peace, joy, laughter, football and fun!

Cheers to 2008!!!