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, July 27, 2008

The beginning of the end.

I've got 10 days left living on the Coast.

Today was my last worship service at New Life Community Church. I bawled through the last couple of songs. I said goodbye to Roberta and Harold, two church members who've welcomed me into their home time and time again over the past two years. I made plans to have dinner with the Castlemans this week to say goodbye to their family. I'm going over to their place tomorrow, but I don't know how I'll be able to leave.

Last week I bid farewell to my co-worker Wilf, who's tearful hug set me off crying instantly. I also had a goodbye lunch with two amazing women, SallyLodge and Grace, and because I couldn't bring myself to say goodbye to them, I invited myself over to their house next week for one more visit.

I've spent months and months saying goodbye to others who've left the Coast: one-week volunteers, long-term volunteers, roommates and friends. But me leaving here always seemed so far off. Saying goodbye to these friends, these permanent fixtures, these rocks of support and faith and love, is so hard.

And its just beginning.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gone Fishin'

(BEWARE- Horrible puns ahead! Proceed with caution.)

Let me start by explaining that I am no fisherwoman. Not at all. Fishing has never interested me. I love being on the water, being on boats, and drinking beer in the daytime, but the finishing part has just never appealed to me. I'm not good at being quiet or patient. I'm not careful enough to be trusted with sharp hooks.

The only memory I have of fishing during my growing up years was when my dad took us out off of Chincoteague Island. As I remember it, on that trip, after however many hours of us not catching anything, we returned to the marina where dad purchased some fish and threw them at me in the parking lot so I could tell mom that we caught the fish.

So yesterday, when I hit the bayou with Kevin and Virginia, I decided to just go enjoy the company and try not to get too sunburned.

Then I started fishing.

Um, okay, so those of you who know me at all know that I can be quite competitive, especially with myself. I caught a little perch my first cast out. We had to throw it back, but I'd caught it. I was pretty excited! Then I caught a bigger one. We kept it. Then another. Then a googly-eyed something. Then a few more big perch. Then a catfish. Insert wild on-boat dancing here. Then two more catfish. I almost caught a gator at one point! I don't know if Kevin is a fish whisperer or what, but he'd found the spot. We were catching all kinds of stuff. On nearly every cast. No boring. No quiet. It was active and exciting and just a whole lot of fun. I was hooked (I told you to beware!).

Virginia and I were catching them so fast (and refusing to take them off our own hooks) that Kevin had us open the cooler and he spent most of his time tossing our fish in from the other side of the boat. My spot on the boat was next to the cooler of caught fish.

That's where my perfect day (did I mention that it was a bit overcast for most of the morning so I didn't fry my skin?) went a bit off. I could hear the fish flapping around in the cooler, desperate for their watery homes. It was horrible. So now not only was I ripping apart live worms with my bare hands and jabbing them through with the hook over and over again, but I was also torturing these poor fish for hours as they struggled for life. Um, nice, Erin. Kevin promised me that we'd eat them all, so it wouldn't be a waste, and I decided that was enough to keep me from dumping the cooler over the boat. Also, I might catch something bigger, better. Must keep fishing.

We went on to Kevin's neighbor's fish camp. A true bayou gem. I mean it. So many antlers on the wall, a stuffed bobcat over the door, and a toilet that you flush with a bucket of bayou water. I know my photos won't do that place justice. But it was welcome shade from the noon-day sun and a chance to wash my wormy hands. Virginia and I took quick naps on the dock and then we all caught a few more fish and a couple of blue crabs and we headed for home. If I measured the day on the goals I'd set out earlier, to just to enjoy the company of my two good friends and to avoid getting sunburned, I'd completed a very successful day!

That night, we feasted on a dinner of fried fish, boiled crabs, and french fries. It all tasted so great. We talked about the killing of the worms, the catching of the fish, the slow fish death, and the eating of the meal. I told them what I always say when issues of morality and meat/fish-eating come up- science tells me that my teeth were made to eat meat. Also, I find meat tasty. I put those two together and I've always been okay with it.

But I've never had to catch/kill my own meat before.

While we were on the boat, Virginia asked if this was the kind of dominion we were supposed to have over all the animals and beasts and fish and creeping things? I'm not sure. I'm also not sure my old answer to the meat eating question is going to continue to work for me.

Got a lil' more fishin' to do....

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Praying for folks in Dolly's path.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Seriously, FEMA?

Okay, if you have a minute, read this article (AP, via WLOX) about FEMA's new disaster housing "plan". Here's my favorite part of the story:

"There is a 60-day comment period for the draft strategy, which is important because FEMA did not consult with many interested parties - including the National Emergency Management Association, the organization which represents state emergency managers, during the past two years when it was working on the strategy."

The WORST part about the disaster "industry" is that we stink at working together. I know that there are some more veteran professionals in the field who would tell me that things are so much better now than they were in 1967, but, come on?! Organizations will say they have learned from 9-11 and Katrina, and are now committed to building relationships, partnerships and coalitions, but I am looking at the Iowa flooding response and seeing a lot of the same mistakes being made. In an effort to respond quickly, everyone acts without talking things through. No planning, visioning, systems, partnerships. Half of one agency is acting and the other half doesn't have a clue what's going on. And if you don't like the answer one agency gave you, start your own agency and do whatever you want. Accountability, schmaccountability. It's irresponsible and I can't stand it. Especially when promoted my our government...aren't they the ones who should be getting folks to work (or at least talk) together?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sometimes a list says it better....

This was my week, in numbers:

0... passports received back in the mail from the US government. I'm no good at waiting.

0... lost trailer keys found.

0... times I retired from professional football (and cried while announcing said retirement) and then tried to get back in the game, setting up major drama in the city that's supported,loved and worshiped me for all my adult life.

1... new blackberry received in the mail, replacing the old one I'd drowned over the weekend.

1... Episcopalian priest surprised on the pulpit when I popped up to worship with him and his new congregation 160 miles north of here. It was so good to see him again.

1... congressional staffer attending a community long term recovery meeting (actually, the only one I've ever seen at one of these meetings) who was informed, engaged and getting involved. Quite refreshing.

1... exit interview with my boss from Louisville. I really, really only have three weeks left on the Coast!

2... suitcases packed for the move to come in three weeks. In case you haven't heard, when I finish up here on August 6th, I am moving to Chicago to live with my friend Lauren. Eddie and I are looking forward to city life for a bit.

2... computers I nearly killed. One was spared, the other, still undecided. Need to get it back to the Geek Squad tomorrow.

2... grant applications I am trying to push through on behalf of homeowners before I bust out of here in three weeks.

3... restful, entertaining, rejuvenating days spent with Em up in Jackson. We ate breakfast in bed, hung by the pool, discussed everything from possible VP candidates to the new Pope's influence on American Catholicism to whether or not the Bachlorette picked the right guy on that ABC reality show (side note: we're both fine with anyone from Breckenridge!), snuck into the MS State Capitol after hours, watched the Black Rodeo Parade march through downtown, played a killer one-on-one game of Trivial Pursuit (I'd never mention who won and who lost, though, eh, eh) were mistaken for Southwest Airlines flight attendants, drank some good wine and ate some wonderful meals, and generally confused several security guards and hotel staffers.

3... amazing women who accompanied me to opening day of Mama Mia the movie! It was awesome. If you haven't seen this movie, grab your girlfriends and get to the cinema pronto. "here I go again..."

3... agencies with whom we had successful meetings to line up the transition of some cases to make sure folks aren't dropped when myself and another case manager leave next month.

4... Daily Show episodes enjoyed online in one fabulous sitting. He's so much better without the commercials.

6... vaccinations injected into my arms via four shots. I'm getting prepped for travel season. For those who don't know, I am going to India in August to visit my pal Kerry. I am now somewhat protected from Hep A, Hep B, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, and Polio. There is no shot, however, to protect me from Kerry's corny jokes.

9... times I thought about putting together a resume but stopped before firing up the laptop, not because the laptop is broken, but because I still don't have an address or phone number to list on the resume. Um, need to get on that.

764... times I lost my temper and lashed out at some poor unsuspecting soul. Stressed about moving, E?

9768... (approximate) new freckles gained while out walking Eddie the wonder dog. Puppy walks are good for de-stressing the Erin!!

And back to
1... times I counted the the days I have left on the Coast- NINETEEN!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008


This weekend my Blackberry took a dip in some water and is now fried. This totally cripples me professionally and personally as it is my main contact to the world outside my trailer. Then, last night, my personal computer melted down on me as well. I may have lost every document, file, photo, and song I have. For good.

I'm bummin' right now....

Around 3:30 this afternoon, my work computer alerted me to a virus it had acquired. When I went to fix it, the anti-virus software bubble told me that the software had expired and I needed to renew it online. While attempting to renew the software, the Internet connection at the office went down.

I am not making this stuff up.

Can some one please look.....do I actually have a black cloud over my head?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Peace it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -Unknown

Why did no one bring this quote to my attention BEFORE I started in the chaotic mess that is disaster recovery?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The (not so) Great In-Trailer Retreat

I've been a little stressed lately with the return from a long vacation, catching up on emails/voicemails, preparing for my transition at work, apartment hunting in Chicago, preparing to pack out of Mississippi, attending weddings, planning fall travel trips, searching for my birth certificate, dealing with insurance issues, trying to schedule doctor/dentist appointments before losing my medical benefits, job hunting, saying goodbye to my friends, etc., etc. I don't say this to complain, because many of these stressors are very exciting, positive happenings, but they do, however, all require a lot of planning and preparation, which does stress me out. In order to chill a bit, I decided to take this weekend to myself and enjoy a retreat in my trailer.

It was perfect timing. It's been super hot here lately and the trailer has some high powered a/c. We're very low on volunteers, so all weekend working isn't necessary. It's a holiday weekend so most folks are busy with family/friends and won't notice my absence. Oh, and it was Wimbledon Championship weekend and Swimming and Track Olympic Trials time.

The problem with spending a retreat weekend in your trailer, I found, is that too much time in the trailer makes you lose sight of the outside world. When that happens, it just bumms me out.

Here's what I mean:
Example #1: Four cans of soda in one day is never necessary. I'm not sure my teeth will forgive me.

Example #2: I forget that I doesn't take 4 Gilmore Girls episodes to dry one load of laundry, so when I arrive back at the laundry room, someone else has already taken my semi-dry, wrinkly stuff out of the machine (and I'm sure I've pissed them off). Curses!

Example #3: Three 1/3 read books does not equal one completely read book no matter how you try to relate them. That means there is still a stack of semi-read books next to my bed, judging me, taunting me, and generally telling me I'm an idiot. Now my books are mocking me and, oh crap, I'm in the grocery store, buying more soda, talking to myself out loud about how I can get the books to leave me alone.

Example #4: I took a daily break of the trailer to take Eddie for a walk and totally forgot that it is 4th of July weekend. Big family picnics and street fireworks are not good places for hungry, friendly, but scared-of-loud-noises dogs.

Example #5: Three days of critically over-analyzing your life can be very bad for your mental health. If you are an over-analyzer who's also prone to emotional eating, this bodes poorly not only for the elastic on your mesh shorts (official trailer retreat wear) but also for the ice cream and cheeto stashes in the main dining tent.*

Example #6: Normal people don't watch Old School twice in a row. I'm just sayin'.

Example #7: I left Eddie in the trailer for about 25 seconds unattended. He jumped on my bed and found the secret stash of chocolate chips by my alarm clock. (Hey, you wake up to coffee, I say goodnight with chocolate...I don't judge you!) When I came back in the trailer, he jumped off the bed and left the slobbery bag of chocolate chips on the floor. While picking them up, I thought twice about picking out the not-slobbery ones before throwing the bag away. I was going to eat already-chewed-by-a-cute-but-filthy-dog chocolate chips!

Example #8: I'm pretty sure that none of my 'real world' friends received work emails on a Sunday afternoon with a subject line that reads, "fire ant bites" requiring immediate response. This thought gets me spinning on what I now consider to be the 'real world'.

While these examples are listed here in hopes of making you laugh, they were also moments of my weekend that made me a bit sad. Being down on the coast for nearly two years has left me out of touch with the rest of the world. As I prepare for re-entry, I'm a bit stressed about that transition. I have no shortage of books and friends and wild travel plans to help me through this transition, but that doesn't mean I won't stress about it. However, the next time I get all stressed and think a weekend alone will make me feel better, someone please remind me that there's a whole world of things to do outside my metal trailer walls...

*I will note that at my lowest point in the self-inflicted retreat saddness, I made a call to an older, wiser confidant (who for reasons about to be revealed shall remain nameless) who listened to me whine and then told me that she had, this very weekend, taken a quick break from wimbeldon/olympic trials watching and walked to her local grocery store to buy not one, not two, not three, but four Dove bars. No word on how many she actually polished off today, because I would never ask, but yes, it did make me feel better to know I wasn't alone!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Omaha Update!

While I sat on my trailer couch eating cheetos for the second night in a row, Dara Torres spanked a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings and WON the US Olympic Trials 100 Free.

I'm making the Go Dara t-shirts now. Let me know if you want one.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The thing about Omaha is...

....my friend and future roommate, Lauren, is dating a guy from Omaha. That means, obviously, that over the past several months I have spent quite a bit of time making fun of Omaha. Did you know they have a zoo?

Then the American swimming world set up camp there for the US Olympic Trials this week and I'm thinking there must be something about that town!

So far (5 days in), US Swimmers have set 6 World Records, 12 American Records, 14 US Open Records, and 33 Trials Meet Records.

And with all of that, tomorrow night is when the big drama starts:
Dara Torres, a 41-year-old mother, is competing in the finals heat of the 100 freestyle. In a sport dominated by teenagers, this woman, this veteran of 4 olympic teams, will be standing on the blocks next to 6 swimmers who weren't even born when she competed in her first olympics (1984).

INSANE! And, yeah, pretty stinking awesome, too!

I think I need to get my now 30-year-old behind up to Nebraska get in on some of that Omaha magic! Oh and yes, I'm done making fun of Omaha, Plank...at least for the rest of the trials.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

While I was on vacation...

I arrived back in Gulfport today. I had been on the Grand Erin Vacation Tour of 2008. There were no groupies, but there were some pretty fine buses. Here's what happened over the past 12 days (photos to come)....

... I saw Stevie Wonder perform live at the Taste of Chicago.

... I totally fell in love with Park City, Utah.

... I taught countless little munchkins how to fly by their ears on our family vacation.

... my oldest, dearest, most amazingly talented friend married the sweetest man I've ever met, on the most beautiful day New England had to offer in the most fantastic setting possible. I cried. Lots. It was so perfect.

... I dipped my tootsies in the Provo River, the Atlantic Ocean, and Lake Michigan.

... Lauren and I found an apartment in Chicago! It's amazing- perfect size, heat included, located in the heart of Hyde Park, just 3 blocks from Lake Michigan and the express bus downtown stops out our front door. Now, if I can just get Eddie's weight down so we can be accepted as legal residents under their pet policy...

... my brother-in-law and I hiked a mountain, starting at 10,000+ feet, and were greeted at the top by not one, but two herds of mountain goats.

... I sailed on the Charles River and saw the lights of Fenway from the boat!

... while roasting marshmallows around a campfire, my nephew introduced me to the phrase, "Ponce Pon a time...." which is how I will now be starting ALL stories.

... I toured a Smart (Green) House, a Fairy Mansion and a U-Boat at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

... I got to see my college roommate in the house she now owns- all on her own!

... I rode the world's fastest zip line (50 mph) while visiting the Utah Olympic Park!

... I was transported about on 7 planes, 10 trains, 7 buses, 1 cab, and 1 fifteen-passenger van with an overheating problem.

... I enjoyed ZERO slurpees!?!?! AH! What happened? In each of the three states I visited I'd planned to hit up a 7-11 (we don't have 'em here in Mississippi) for my favorite slushy treat, but some how it never happened. What was I thinking?

... I started planning two big, international trips for this fall! I can't wait to have some time off when I am done on the coast to let loose and travel again!