Saturday, December 31, 2005

12/31 Other things

Jim and Karen definitely aren't going to Quincy for New Year's. They're having a NY Eve party and birthday party for an uncle, so it's quite understandable. I'm invited to it. May get a wild hair and go, but I'm probably going to stay home.

I have a huge list of stuff I have to do over the weekend.

1. Begin the next level of Pimsleur Spanish. (This isn't a chore; instead it's quite exciting for me. If I hadn't have bought this, though, I could have gone home on the train. Ironic. Plus Rob/Beata are giving me Rosetta Stone for Christmas when they arrive in March, so I'm thrilled about that too.)
2. I have tons of photos to add to my websites--from last summer's Avon Breast Cancer Walk, my class reunion, working with the Red Cross in Florida, plus others.
3. Need to clean out my closet and get the clothes to Goodwill before 1/1.
4. Must complete receipts for my flex spending account and send them in.
5. Clean out my desk so I know what's in there.
6. Watch romantic comedies and musicals while I'm doing all the above.
7. Wrap presents for Jill's family and Rob/Beata. I'm having Christmas in Los Angeles in a few weeks, and will have Christmas with Rob and Beata when they come home from Japan in March. Lots to look forward to.
8. Work on my stand-up routine for our show in January at Giggles Comedy Club.

Guess that's enough. If I accomplish half of the above, I'll feel good. Oh, and tonight I'll eat too much while I watch movies. In the years when I stay home for New Year's Eve, that's a tradition.

Need to add some new info: I went to ComedySportz to pick up my paycheck, and Dick asked me if I could work tonight. So I'm going to do tickets for both shows on New Year's Eve. It should be fun, and I'm looking forward to it.

Update on Pimsleur Spanish too: I wasn't here to sign for the package so I have to wait until Tuesday because of the holiday. That kind of makes me mad. I'll call today and have it delivered to work instead of home. Someone will always be there to sign for it.

Now I'm going to treat myself and go out for a late breakfast.

Friday, December 30, 2005

12/30 Christmas memories

As I sit here and whine because I can't go home for New Year's Day, I've been thinking about holidays past.

One vivid memory is "the door." In our house (which Joe and Cindy now own), there was a pocket door in between the living room and dining room. The only time we ever used it was on Christmas Eve. After we went to bed, Santa would arrive, eat the cookies and drink the milk, leave the presents, and close the door. We never wondered how Santa knew it was there.

Early on Christmas morning we'd jump downstairs (didn't walk or run--we jumped), and anxiously stood in front of "the door." No way would we dare open it. (One year I did after everyone was asleep. I don't think I've told that to anyone before.)

When "the door" was finally opened it was magical. I think we stood there for a second in awe before we rushed to dive into the presents.

"The door" was one more way to make Christmas special. We were a big family, and never had money. Every year Mom and Dad would say that Christmas would be smaller that year, and there wouldn't be many presents. Yet every year the living room was full. Santa had a lot of help from our Grandma Bozarth (Dad's mom). Also, some of Mom's brothers and sisters would give her money to help out. When we were small we didn't know that. We just knew that Santa was generous.

No money. But we were the luckiest kids in the world and we knew it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

12/29 Doesn't look good!

No frequent flyer flights available. (I love alliteration. You?) A regular flight costs more than $500. And even the train is jacked up to $200. Drat holiday inflation!

So it's pretty darn positive that I won't be going home for New Year's. Haven't heard back from my brother in Aurora, so that avenue doesn't look good either.

I have tons of things to accomplish at home (Milwaukee, not Quincy), so a long weekend here will be a good thing. I'm just a spoiled brat and want what I want when I want it. Veruca Salt is my hero.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

12/28 Lots going on...

Worked through lunch yesterday and forgot to post. Same with today. So I thought I'd take a few minutes this afternoon to update the blog.

The family had a surprise party for my niece, Kelly, on Monday night. I almost posted about it earlier, but thought it would just be my luck that she would read the blog that day, so I didn't want to spoil the surprise. She said it was a wonderful surprise and a fun gathering.

Found out today that I don't have to work at the comedy club over the weekend, so I could go to Quincy if I wanted to. Don't feel like driving the 12 hours round-trip for a short weekend, but I also hate to miss New Year's Day with the family.

I've posted about it many times, and will post in detail on 1/1, but it's the day we celebrate our partents' lives. We go to the cemetary and have a beer with them. For some of you that may sound weird, and hell, sometimes it sounds weird to me too. But it's actually beautiful and touching--and fun. Yep. Who'd have thought it would be fun? But it sure is.

I may just talk myself into going. There's always the train.

Monday, December 26, 2005

12/26 Back home, alas!

I'm sad/glad to be home so quickly after Christmas. It's good to be here. I love my little condo, but it was hard to leave Quincy.

More about yesterday at Jan and Tim's. First of all, the food was absolutely awesome. They had crab legs, ham, and prime rib. Okay, now that I have the gross stuff out of the way, I can talk about the stuff I ate. :) I had a totally carb dinner--potato casserole, sweet potatoes, corn, pea pods, dinner rolls--oh and I had butter--so the butter was the only non-carb item. I was in carb heaven. We didn't eat dessert until much later in the day because we'd had so many appetizers besides the main meal. Delicious!

Then the games began. Besides Jan and Tim, their daughter Kristen was there. Jane, Pete, and their two kids Jordan and Sarah. A friend, Matt. And me. We first played a game of Pop Culture Trivial Pursuit. It's the one with the DVD. A really fun game. But some of the questions seemed more difficult than the other Trivial Pursuit games.

After a long game of that, we played Catch Phrase. It's a game I won at Mohonk a few months ago. Well, everyone got hooked on it, and we played it for hours and hours. We had dessert too--really great ice cream sundaes. Then played more. I think we played from about 6-10 PM. Couldn't believe it.

Matt's a smart guy, but I can give him a run for his money. What pisses me off is that I'm really used to winning at word games and games involving trivia. And the kupka can beat me. I'll get back at him though. Of that I'm very sure. :)

Today, while I was packing to leave, Jane copied some movies for me. So I'll have something to watch on New Year's Day. I'd much rather be in Quincy for New Year's. When everyone else goes to Joe and Cindy's house to celebrate the lives of our parents, and to drink beer at the cemetary with them, I'll be here. Sigh.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

12/25 Christmas--a cool one!

It seems so warm here in Quincy. I've not worn a coat since I got here. I'll have to check to see if it's unseasonably warm in Milwaukee too.

Jane and the kids are at Mass. We had a fun morning already. I got so many nice presents from them, and they seemed to like what I gave too. I think Jane's favorite gift from me is the Cancer Sucks! t-shirt. I got one for myself and Jan too. So all three of us sisters can wear them together at the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in June. I think Jan will like hers too.

I'm really looking forward to going to Jan and Tim's too. Will post later about that.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

12/24 A blessed Christmas Eve!

What a day! Woke up early as usual. For breakfast we had rolls from Underbrink's Bakery--a Quincy tradition. They open around six and are sold out by 10 AM. And that's normally; at Christmastime it's even worse. But my b-i-l, Pete, drove there and got a dozen rolls--that's all they'll sell anyone, because they say it's not fair to let someone buy several dozen and then other families don't get any. A cool philosophy. And delicious food.

Then we worked around the house. Jordan and I decorated the tree while Jane and Kristen finished cleaning and preparing food. Sarah sang in a choir at the mall to raise money for the Salvation Army so Jane and I went there for a while to listen and also to give Sarah a ride home. We also stopped and bought a few more items because a few friends were going to join us for Christmas Eve and we wanted to make sure everyone had something to open.

My sister, Jan, stopped by and picked me up. She and I went to 4:00 PM Mass this afternoon. Several others of the clan were there--Matt and Beth and their two little ones, and Joe and Cindy with their three big guys. Jane and the rest of her family will go to Mass tomorrow, and I'll be able to relax while they're gone. Jan and I had an interesting experience. It was standing room only, but Jan and I found some room to sit on some stairs. Very comfy and a good view. A young family came in and they had a little boy and twin five-week-old girls (we found out the ages later). We ended up holding the twin girls throughout the Mass, and it was such a fun treat. Matt and Beth were across the church and couldn't figure out who we were holding.

There are 47 members in our immediate family. Karen and Jim, Suzie, and Craig and Megan couldn't make it and neither could my kids and their families--Jill, Todd, Kayla and Hunter and also Rob and Beata. That left 36 immediate family. We also invited Matt, Deb, Olivia and Kara--and niece Jenna brought her boyfriend Josh, so we had a total of 41 people here tonight.

And it was a riot! The good kind. I love our Christmas Eves. Craig and Megan got engaged tonight and called us from Columbus OH to tell us about it. He gave her a pretty ornament and as she was going to hang it on the tree, he suggested she open it up to see if there was anything inside it. Indeed there was--her engagement ring. Nifty.

We talked to Jill and the kids via Yahoo Messenger. Then Rob and Beata called from Okinawa. It was great!

After we opened the hundreds of presents, some of us played team Trivial Pursuit. One by one people had to leave and soon it was me (alone) playing against Kristen and Matt (friend Matt, not relative Matt). I only needed one more pie piece and they needed two. By this time we were tired and the game kind of dragged on, so we called it a draw. We'll play more games at Jan and Tim's tomorrow. They're having us over for a late lunch/early dinner. I'm anticipating another fun day with family.

Here's hoping all your best dreams come true for the holidays and beyond.

Friday, December 23, 2005

12/23 It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I'm having a great time. Woke up at 6 accidentally and couldn't go back to sleep. The rest of the day we cleaned, went to see Harry Potter, went Christmas shopping and are currently drinking margaritas. Merry Christmas to all and to all a hiccup.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

12/22 Annual review; same day

Just noticed that I had my performance evaluation on 12/22 last year too. Cool. It went well. Will get a raise effective January 1, and that's never a bad thing.

Have I said publicly that I love my boss? I do. She doesn't micro-manage me. I have all the freedom I want and need to do my job, but she's always there when I need her. Even though there's always apprehension before an evaluation, everything turned out very well, and I'm grateful.

I'll leave in a few minutes to drive the six hours to Quincy. Can't wait. I absolutely love to be around my sibs and their families. Of course, I always wish my own children and their loved ones would be able to be with us. Perhaps next year Rob and Beatka will be at the, I mean celebration.

I love Christmas Chaos. Love it.

My car is full of gas; all the presents are loaded; the CDs with music, books, and "Learning Spanish" are in the front seat; and all's right in the world. I'm feeling a little better, by the way. The antibiotics must be working. Yay!

See you at my sister's. (Yep, I'll still post. What's up with that?)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

12/21 As I explode into fresh fatness...

The only downside to the holidays is the proliferation of foods on everyone's "no-no" list. I just ate a huge slice of carrot cake the owner brought in. Omigod--a few minutes of heaven followed by unrelenting guilt. (Hmmm--reminds me of something else.)

Last night was fun. Despite my non-contagious ear/sinus thing, I went to Maria's house with the other comics who performed in the stand-up show at Corner Pocket earlier in the month. Although it's weird watching yourself perform, I loved it. There were six of us, seven counting the MC, and I think I was one of the most relaxed people on stage. My timing was good. I waited for the laughs to die down before I went on to the next joke. I didn't pace or move unnecessarily. When I forgot a new piece I'd just written I made a joke out of it. It felt good. And we all gave feedback, I got some good ideas--especially from Tom. He knows how to cut out those extraneous words to make the routine nice and tight.

The other comics were good too. Out of the five of us there, only one struggled a little with obvious nerves, but still had some good stuff. We're going to perform at a comedy club in Mequon sometime in January.

On another note, I'm not able to go to Roger's memorial service tonight. Besides feeling like crap, I'm leaving tomorrow for Quincy and have to do my laundry and pack tonight.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

12/20 New drugs/no help

No help yet, but I know KNOW KNOW with every fibre of every cell I possess that I will be fine by Thursday. (Here's where being an incurable optimist pays off. Nothing to worry about.)

Was up for a few hours in the middle of the night. A rare occurence. Between 12:50 and 2:50 AM I watched the end of a horrific movie called You Light Up My Life. Dodi Conn (spelling?) was the lead. She's the girl to whom Frankie Avalon sang Beauty School Dropout in the movie Grease. Her? A leading lady? She even had a bit part in Grease 2--which, despite what the world says, is a good movie with good music. Reproduction is a song that is a cult favorite with my nieces Jenna and Jessi (and me too).

That was on MoviePlex. I get it for free with my digital package. I've never watched a movie on it until this morning. But I discovered Ice Castles is on tonight. My sister Jane and I used to love to cry over that movie.

Also watched the beginning of Yentl. Finally, I was tired again and slept.

Monday, December 19, 2005

12/19 Where did yesterday go?

I didn't go out Saturday or Sunday and the weekend just flew by. Slept a lot, so by all rights, and with all these meds, I should feel better. Alas...not so.

Will call the doc again soon. I need to feel good for the six hour drive on Thursday. I'm so excited about Christmas in Quincy.

Am helping to teach workshops today. A few moments ago I felt like I was going to pass out, so I came to my office where it's much cooler. I'll go back to the training room in a few minutes. It's my colleague's turn to teach anyway, so it's fine that I'm gone.

I need drugs.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

12/17 Saturday at home

Had a great chat online with Jill and Kayla this morning. I absolutely love webcams. I can see my kids and grandkids. Amazing. I'm grateful that I'm a technology geek (kind of--I'm not brilliant about it, but understand "stuff" and love new gadgets, etc.). My life is so blessed.

Speaking of life--I found out this morning that Roger had died at CSz last night. He's been the sound effects guy since 1984 and was in the original troupe. So sad. He was only 55 and suffered a heart attack about an hour before the show.

What a talented guy. He could do three and four sounds at the same time. Amazing. We'll sure miss him.

Last night I went to the Red Cross Holiday Party. Almost didn't go because I'm still sick. But I'm so happy I went. First of all, my friend Tony was there. He does PR and writing for the Medical College, and was a volunteer at the shelter set up in Milwaukee for hurricane victims. We've been friends for several years. We met through our writing, but the fact that we have similar jobs and both feel a call to volunteerism, kind of cemented our friendship. It was good to have someone there that I knew and could hang out with.

I was introduced to a guy name Paul last night who coordinates the mental health people for the Red Cross. I'm joining their committee. They were meeting this morning at 9. I got an invitation but said I didn't know if I'd go, it would depend on how I feel.

And my ear kind of feels worse today. I'm thinking that means it's getting better. Hey--it could mean that!

Anyway, there's a second group kind of loosely affiliated with the mental health group. And the second one assists in debriefing first responders. I would love to be able to help in both respects. I'm definitely going to join up. It will mean carrying a beeper every now and then, but Paul said we don't get many calls, so that's cool.

Those are the two reasons I'm glad I went last night. But here's the weird thing--as I was leaving the Botanical Gardens I thought I should drop by CSz, see people, and pick up my check. And stay for the show. I looked at my watch and thought--oh, it's too early to go for the show, so I went directly home. It was 6:30. According to Dick's email, that's about the time Roger died.

Friday, December 16, 2005

12/16 yuck ugh snort sniff

It sounds like everything is traveling down a tunnel before it reaches my ears. A really looooonnnnng tunnel. But I'm expecting a miraculous cure at any moment.

Tonight is the Red Cross Holiday Party and I really really really want to go. I'm wearing a Santa Claus pin and haven't turned on the lights in it yet. If I feel better, I'll do that. It will make me feel chipper. Now it would just make me feel sad.

Talked my sister and niece last night. Wish I was with them.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

12/15 Another quiz, just for fun

This is amazing! This picture looks just like me. (Found this quiz on a friend's blog, and thought I'd take it for fun. She was Bridget Bardot. I'm a stripper. Go figure!)

You are Lili St. Cyr!
You're Lili St. Cyr!

What Classic Pin-Up Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

12/15 Fun News/Bad News

The bad news is that I'm home with a sinus infection. I feel crappy, but can't rest much because I have so much work to do. My bed is now full of papers and files. At this moment I'm working on two hardcopy publications and two online newsletters. For some reason the deadlines are near the same time. I'm running a bit late because of my volunteering with Hurricane Wilma.

(Speaking of that--the doc said lots of people who volunteered, and also people who live in the Gulf and Florida's east coast, are getting an odd kind of pneumonia from the mold. She said my lungs are clear though, so I'm grateful for that.)

The fun news is that I just noticed my name is on the front page of the Milwaukee CSz website, because of my team winning the Brawl a few weeks ago. It won't be up for long I'm sure, but it's kind of cool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

12/14 Stuff

My team got its fourth member for the Rec League (CSz). Brainstorm now consists of me, Christopher, Stacy, and Curtis. This season's competition starts on January 22. I've really missed performing on Sundays. This, plus a performance sometime in January at Giggles Comedy Club, will keep my ham instincts satisfied. (Is it okay for a vegetarian to say "ham"?)

Am going to the doctor this afternoon. I believe I have a sinus infection; seem to get one a few times a year lately. No colds, no flu, just this stupid, stupid thing. I thought we could handle it over the phone, because the symptoms are the same as several months ago, but she wants to see me.

My house is a complete wreck. Usually it's just my bedroom and I keep the other rooms cleaned up. But with wrapping presents for 40+ people, the living room is strewn with paper, ribbon, tags, bags, tissue, boxes, and various other stuff I don't know the name for. So I need to call my housecleaner and tell her not to come this weekend. There would be no room for her to stand, much less clean.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

12/13 Two more birthdays today--and more

Today is my sister-in-law Cindy's birthday and also my niece Sarah's. As much as I love Cindy, I want to talk about Sarah a bit. She and I have always been really close, sometimes I'm more like a Grandma than an aunt. She and her brother Jordan call me Aunt Cheesehead; what a wonderful term of endearment. :)

Sarah is 14 today. I told her on the phone that I wanted to murder her mom when she was 14. Jane (my sis who is 7 years younger than I am) was obnoxious at that age. I lived away part of the time she began teendom, but moved back on her 14th birthday. So I warned Sarah to be careful or someone in the family would do her in if she behaved like Jane.

Of course Sarah is totally rotten in front of her mom and dad, but when she and I are alone she's a saint. That's a truism that all parents hate.

Jane and Pete adopted Sarah when she was three days old. There's a video of Jane and Pete picking up Sar at the hospital and Jane couldn't stop sobbing. I cry just thinking about it, having been through similar situations in my own life. It's amazing seeing Jane so happy that her emotions were gushing all over the place. Not only amazing but beautiful. She couldn't believe their good fortune.

This baby was perfect. As an infant, I could always make her laugh. We called her Buddha Baby because she had the most beautiful baby fat. As she grew she became involved in dance, gymnastics, piano, softball, and soccer. At 14 she still is involved in piano and soccer. She's a great defender in soccer and it's a joy to hear her play the piano. She loves to sing and act.

When I go to Quincy for Christmas, I always stay at Jane and Pete's. We all celebrate Christmas Eve together (about 30-40 of us), but I get to wake up and have Christmas with Jordan and Sarah. It's such a treat for me, since I'm not with my own kids. (Normally I have an early Christmas in LA with Jill and her family, and once even had an early Christmas in Japan with Rob and Beata.)

Anyway, it's been a joy to watch Sarah grow--from that gorgeous three-day-old infant to the gorgeous 14-year-old teenager who will surely test all of us this year. I love you, Sarah Barah! :)

Monday, December 12, 2005

12/12 My Beatka

My d-i-l Beata (Beatka is an endearment meaning "little Beata") sent me a story she'd written. First of all English is the fourth language in which she is fluent, so her way of expressing herself is delightfully unique. She knows the language very well, but sometimes says things in a way that makes me light up with smiles as I see her penning each word.

The story itself is tragic, yet made beautiful by the courage exhibited by the protagonist, Klara. I can't wait until this beautiful piece is edited and sent out for publication. I'd publish it in a nanosecond if it fit into the journals I edit and publish.

It's beautiful and it's haunting--made even more so by the fact that it's based on a true story and the heroine is still alive.

In the next year or so, if you see a short story or memoir called Carnations, do yourself a favor and read it.

Beatka's a gem and so is the story.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

12/11 Richard Pryor, CSz and Channel 12

While working at CSz last night I heard that Richard Pryor died earlier in the day. I felt sad, thinking about his groundbreaking work and also his struggle with MS.

Well, Channel 12 came to ComedySportz last night to interview comics about Richard Pryor's death. There wasn't one player in the place who did stand-up. They were all on remotes (private parties, etc.), and none of the new players did stand-up. So they interviewed Dick and ME! Yep. Dick said, "Jer, you're a stand-up comic. We'll have them interview you."
So, along with my boss, I appeared on the local ABC news last night. It was so cool, and really made me feel like a professional comic. I said something like, "Although my humor is different than his, I think Richard Pryor, with his risk-taking and creativity, paved the way for all of us to be able to express ourselves comedically." And they accidentally had me at a good angle where I didn't look fat. I loved that a lot.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

12/10 Talked to Rob twice

A good day. I'm doing laundry and organizing my Christmas presents. There are tons of them.

Yesterday morning I called Rob and it was about 11:30 PM Friday their time. Beatka had just gone to bed but Rob said she was throwing me kisses. :)

And this morning Rob called me. We talked for an hour. But it was 3:50 AM their time when we quit talking. I hope he can sleep in on Sunday morning.

It was great. Both my kids are such awesome adults. Of course I can't take any credit in that, but they are a delight to me. I'm a lucky bug x infinity plus one.

Jan and Tim called me this morning too--right before Rob. I've complained recently that no one ever calls me except Jill and Beata. So today was a banner day.

I work tonight at CSz and won't be home until late. We're supposed to get more snow tonight, so my 20 minute drive will be much longer, but I don't care. I love snow. And I love having a four-wheel drive. (I've probably said that before.)

Wish I could be with my family tonight though. Most of them will be together at Joe and Cindy's and I know they'll have a ball.

Friday, December 09, 2005

12/9 Brother Jay's birthday

Can’t believe he’s 48, but yup, he’s ten years behind me candle-wise.

Jay has always been a comedian. Not that he’s funny, but he thinks he is and so we laugh. (Honestly all my brothers are funny. Their senses of humor are different, but what they have in common is that they’re sick. Me too.)

When Jay was 2 years old, he got glasses. He looked so adorable. Even with glasses he didn’t see well and would sit in front of the TV, so close that others couldn’t see over him. If the TV was perched high enough, then all was well.

When a deep voice in a public service announcement asked, “Do you wear seatbelts?” Jay replied, “No, we hold on.”

When we received an angel food cake from someone after our sister Jill’s funeral, Jay proudly told everyone that Jill sent it. He was a few months past four at the time.

I could go on and on about his comments when he was tiny, my favorite being what he said when he saw Mom taking a bath. But that’s not for public consumption.

Jay was born in his own little world and has lived there ever since. He’s a husband to Andrea and a dad to Suzie and Liza. They inhabit his world sometime; but float in and out to join the rest of us.

But what a wonderful cockeyed viewpoint he has—he makes us laugh a lot. He’s written some songs and played the guitar while we all sang them—my favorite was the Bad Burger Blues.

Happy birthday, Jay. I love you.

(It’s also my son-in-law Todd’s birthday and my ex-husband John’s birthday. But the blog the past few days is about my brothers, so I’m just talking about Jay today.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

12/8 Brother Joe's birthday

This is the third time I'm writing this...I keep getting kicked off, and I'm not happy.

Joe is 50 years old today. I can’t believe it. My little brother.

Every two years he and his wife Cindy drive to the Rocky Mountains. (Joe doesn’t fly.) They take their kids (Adam, Cody and Eric) and any other relatives available. They usually go to Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, and other points west.

I’ve never been able to make those trips, but a lot of other sibs and families have. They manage to have a lot of fun without me.

I did make trips with the big gang to Springfield, Indianapolis, and Lake Erie. Other than that, I’ve been busy with work or traveling somewhere else.

Joe and Cindy are always gracious about inviting the entire horde to their home. Sunday they’re having a big poker party for the family as a belated birthday bash. Wish I could get there. But it’s a six-hour drive and I’m short on vacation time.

So, Joey, have a fantastic birthday and a wonderful party. Win big. Love you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

12/7 Brother John's birthday

He used to be Jack, until he met Paulette. She's now his wife of 35 years, and when they met she began calling him John, and it stuck. People who've known him since he was a child still call him Jack and he lets them get away with it. But he always corrects the rest of us--I think that's why I sometimes call him Jackie. That's his nickname from when he was a little tyke.

He's 56 today, two years younger than I. And there's another kid in between us (Jan, who's 11 months younger than I). John and Paulette are the proud parents of Kelly, Matt, and Nate. (Well, sometimes they're just the parents of Nate, forget the proud part. Hi, Nate!) They're also the ecstatic grandparents of Drew, Noah,Aiden, Blake, and Tyler.

John went from someone who just squeaked through grade school and high school to become an executive at a major employer in Quincy. We're all proud of him.

Happy birthday, bro. You're a great guy, and I love you.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

12/6 Just for fun

You Have a Sanguine Temperament

You are an optimistic person who is easily content.

You enjoy casual, light tasks - never wanting to delve too deep into anything.

A bit fickle, it's easy for you to change plans or paths when presented with something better.

You enjoy all of the great things life has to offer - food, friends, and fun.

A great talker, you can keep the conversation going for hours.

You are optimistic and sure of your success. If you fail, you don't worry about it too much.

At your worst, you are vain. You are obsessed with your own attractiveness.

A horrible flirt, you tend to jump into love affairs and relationship drama easily.

You're very jealous - which just magnifies the craziness around you.

What Temperment Are You?

Yep, that's me--obsessed with my own attractiveness. :)

12/6 Nothing much

Nothing much to write about today. I'm ultra-busy at work, still trying to catch up. Rob wrote the family about he and Bea not making it for Christmas, so I'm glad about that. He also said they're leaving Okinawa in March and he has to report for duty on April 10. I guess they'll go to NC to find a place to live first and then will stop here, I don't know. I'm saving their Christmas presents and will have a very belated Christmas when they visit. Can't wait to see them.

Found out that the owner of Giggles Comedy Club will be at our showcase there in January. He's looking for new talent, so this will be a nice chance for people.

Okay, back to work.

Monday, December 05, 2005

12/5 What?

Sent five birthday cards today--three of my brothers have birthdays on the 7th, 8th, and 9th. Then one to a niece-in-law, and son-in-law. Plus my ex's birthday is on the 9th, but I don't send him a card anymore. :)

I wonder what cosmic occurrence happens in early March that causes so much mating!

Talked to a friend at length about my experience volunteering. Then spoke via email to two others. It's in my bones. It still resonates, inspires, haunts and cheers. So many conflicting emotions.

I'm very grateful for my comedy. Both Friday and Sunday helped take me out of my rational head, and put me into my silly one. Love it. I probably wrote this before, but I once took a test to determine if I was right- or left-brained. And my test came up 50/50. The tester said that it was very unusual for that to happen. People normally are dominant in one area. I already knew that I could switch from my linear, detailed, rational thinking to my creative, ultra-silly side without even blinking. Since I took the test, it's even documented.

He also said I'm probably very smart. I said, "Smart aleck, maybe."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

12/4 First annual BRAWL!

What a fun day! It was the first annual BRAWL at ComedySportz. Anyone from Rec League or High School League or anyone enrolled in workshops was eligible to participate. They drew names out of a hat to determine teams. So most of us were playing with people we didn't know or barely knew.

I was with Honni (a young man who works at CSz as Host and Ballet Parker, so we've worked together a lot), Al (who I just met today), Kesan (a high school leaguer who I'd met once before). And we ended up winning the championship. It was really cool how I got to participate. We won our first match, and in the second round (winners playing winners) they re-drew names. My original team ended up all being together except for me. My new team was fun and we tried hard but we lost our match. My old team won theirs. When it came time for my old team to play in the championship round, the three guys were playing against a four-person team. So they asked the ref if I could re-join them to even up the teams, and since I was an original member. The ref said yes, so I got to play.

It was a really close match, I think. And tons of fun. We won! We each received a ComedySportz Howie watch, and we'll have our names engraved on a plaque that will be in the lobby.

This was a great idea (it was Michele's), and everyone said they had a ball. Even people who lost their matches still really enjoyed it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

12/3 Wonderfully lazy day!

Last night's performance went really well at Corner Pocket. Out of the six graduates of the Advanced Class, I went second to last so that felt very good. Everyone did really well, although some appeared more nervous than others.

I forgot about 1 minute of my routine. It was new stuff I'd written and it just disappeared from my consciousness. Too bad, but no real loss except I thought it was funny stuff. I'll remember it next time when we perform at Giggles Comedy Club in January. Looking forward to it.

Today I just stayed in all day and vegged. Caught up with TV that I'd recorded while I was gone. Got some fun email from people I served with in Florida so that was cool too. I was dozing in my chair this afternoon when the phone rang. It was my grand-daughter Kayla, surprising me. What a treat! She'd lost her first baby tooth at age five. And she had another one going to be out at any time. Quite an exciting time for her.

Tomorrow I need to get off my butt and do laundry and other fun stuff. Plus will go to ComedySportz and play in the Brawl. That will be fun.

Friday, December 02, 2005

12/2 Tragedy tomorrow, Comedy tonight!

Love that line from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Tonight my Advanced Stand-Up class is performing at the Corner Pocket. It's a small bar in South Milwaukee that has a performance space in the basement. I'm looking forward to it, but have a lot of preparation to do. I haven't done stand-up since July, so of course the whole routine disappeared from my brain. And I have to change up some of it as well.

Got some great pictures from some other volunteers at DR 661-06. (It's disaster number 661 and occurred in the 06 fiscal year.) Anyway, I got email addresses of several people I wanted to write, so that's good. There are some I do want to stay in touch with.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

12/1 Where has time gone?

I mean it! It goes by so quickly. I made travel arrangements to go to LA in mid-January for a late Christmas with Jill, Todd, and the kids. Usually I go in early December, but that won't work this year.

Rob and Beata are supposed to move back to the states January 10, but they are trying to get an extension until February. I'm keeping their Christmas presents until I see them in person this year.

Friday night I have a stand-up performance at Corner Pocket bar in South Milwaukee. I'm still in my reflective mood, but think I can snap out of it. In fact I know I can. Being on stage will completely change my mood. I'm looking forward to it, but need to rehearse some new material. Guess I'll have to do that during commercials on Survivor and Apprentice. :)

ComedySportz didn't schedule me this weekend, so I have Saturday at home. I'm glad because there's so much stuff I need to do--but I'll probably laze around all day.

Sunday is the Brawl at CSz. I'll play in that and it should be fun.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

11/30 Caught up blogwise

Yesterday I got to work at 7:30, anxious to dig in to the pile of stuff waiting for me. Having email delivered to my mobile phone did help a bit, as I took care of some matters while gone.

So much work to do. People remark on my tan and ask if I had a great vacation. I've been telling them about the volunteer work. Not bragging, but trying to implant seeds in other people's brains. Regular folks like me can help. They can help as well.

Here's something I posted on my writers' bb after a friend called me a "saint":

Omigod, charlie, don't you ever call me a saint again, PLEASE! I'm so very flawed that I think I may do volunteer work just to make up for my many failures. Sad but true.

And to charlie and nancie, thanks so much for the welcome back. I'm finally feeling like I fit in my skin again. It was so different there--when you are volunteering you really don't have a care in the world (about yourself). I didn't care if I ate or when/where I slept. My bills didn't bother me. Didn't care if Survivor was on or not. (Of course I had my dvr record all my favorite shows while I was gone...) Almost had a wild hair to join the Peace Corps immediately after talking to Pam (see blog). But when I heard you're there for two years without a trip home in between I knew I couldn't leave my grandkids for that long. So I thought--why wait until I retire, I could join Doctors Without Borders right now. Could come home every six months, visit the family and then go back.

Of course that was just a pipe dream. I don't think I have the courage to do that while I still can work here. But who knows. I'm going to wait until after the "glow" of the experience wears off and then see what I want to do when I grow up. If I grow up.

Got a postcard yesterday from the Red Cross inviting me to a celebration for all volunteers. It's going to be December 16 at the Boerner Botanical Gardens. I can't wait.

They closed the postcard with a quote from founder Clara Barton, "You must never so much as think whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except need, and how to meet it."

Now SHE was a saint.

11/28 Leaving on a jet plane (singing it)

I set my alarm for 3 AM because the shuttle was picking me up at 4. At 4:15 my phone rings saying the shuttle was getting ready to leave. I begged the person to give me 15 minutes. Brushing my teeth was the only hygienic thing I attended to (luckily I'd taken my shower the night before). Then I threw water on my recalcitrant hair(s). Made it downstairs in 15 minutes to encounter an angry van driver who said, "Why don't you get a wake-up call?" I said, "Thanks, I'm 58 years old and never thought of that."

Okay I really didn't say that, but I wanted to. I just smiled and thanked him for waiting. He said the other two passengers convinced him. I gave my profuse and sincere thanks to the women in the van. We made it to the airport with time to spare. I tipped the guy big-time because I was indeed grateful that he waited.

US Air is not my airline of choice, but the trips were uneventful--which is a good thing to say about flights. From Charlotte to Milwaukee I sat next to a pilot who worked for Midwest Airlines--Milwaukee's hometown airline. He was so sweet--asked me if I got this tan on vacation.

I told him no, and that the tan didn't extend anywhere but my face and my forearms, and that I got it mostly from walking through neighborhoods in the sun. Then I told him some of my story. When I got up to leave, he said, "Thank you so much for doing what most of us don't." He made me cry.

There's so much for me to think about, to process. Without sounding melodramatic, I want to say that this trip changed me. Really changed me. It's not just the feeling guilty because I have so much--I've felt that many times in my life. But it's a feeling of responsibility to make things better. In little ways.

I've come away from this grateful. Gratitude is something I feel every single day of my life. I wake up and say Thank You. Don't know when that started but it's just something I say outloud. (Yes, I talk when no one else is there. We can talk about my idiosyncrasies later.)

So I am grateful. But I've lost the sense of optimism I always live with. People who know me will tell you that I'm so freakin' optimistic that it's sickening. But the poverty, the hopelessness, the filth, the energy-drained people, the dead eyes, the manipulation, the drugs, the anger--it affected me.

While there, I kept up my optimism and cheer. Everyone remarked that I was always smiling. Smiley became a nickname. Maybe I'm just tired. I feel so overwhelmed by the societal changes that need to be made. The macro level. I can't help that except through my vote and my voice. I need to concentrate on the micro level--I can indeed make a difference for one person, one family, and must think about the best way to use what small influence and power I have.

Am thinking about that hokey starfish metaphor--it's so true. I can't save all the starfish on the beach, but made a difference to the one I just threw back into the sea. Maybe thinking about that will help.

11/30 Just for fun

Your Blog Should Be Yellow

You're a cheerful, upbeat blogger who tends to make everyone laugh.

You are a great storyteller, and the first to post the latest funny link.

You're also friendly and welcoming to everyone who comments on your blog.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

11/27 Last working day

I woke up knowing this was my last work day--the last time I would go to the Flagler office. Normally people go through outprocessing and that's it for the day. But by this time Diane (my supervisor) and I were the only MH people left. Mary got deployed to Broward County, Marieanna went home, and I already mentioned that Marcia and Tracy were gone.

So I thought I'd be in the office helping Diane debrief people during outprocessing. Instead she asked if I'd rather go out with my team one more time. You betcha I would!

I went through outprocessing very quickly and joined Bill and Fred in Fred's car. Again we were in the same section of town and Luis was with us part of the time. A guy named Frank went too, he transferred from another team. Because things were starting to wind down, they began combining teams as people left.

We went to a city shelter and it looked as bad as some of the damaged homes we'd been to. While we were standing in the parking lot waiting for a client, an elderly gentleman walked up and began talking to me. He said he'd volunteered with the Red Cross during the Mississippi Flood of '93. I thanked him and said my home town was on the Mississippi and had been affected by the flood. He asked where I was from and I said Quincy Illinois.

His face lit up. He said, "That's where I was deployed." Then my face lit up. He began talking about his experience and also mentioned some small towns near Quincy. His name is Ernie and he absolutely made my day. I'm so grateful I went out in the field on my last day.

In retrospect I wish I'd asked him why he's in the shelter now. He was returning from church and was dressed up for that--but to be in that shelter must mean his home was destroyed or badly damaged. At the time, I was just concerned with folks on my list. My hope is that someone showed him as much compassion as he showed the folks in Quincy Illinois in 1993.

There's so much more I can write about--Diane, clients, missed lunch again, Eric, and many more. Perhaps I'll write about them on another day.

I told Bill I'd meet him for a final beer at the pool bar. When I arrived he was there talking to Pam. She's an interesting character. She's leaving for Thailand soon with the Peace Corps. She'd been in the Phillipines for three years, came home, worked with Katrina and Wilma, and will be heading off again. I certainly admire her.

Bill bought me a Heineken and I can't believe I didn't reciprocate. What a dolt I am sometimes! All wrapped up in my own emotions at leaving.

Others joined us--Fred, Diane, Eric and more. I enjoyed my last time at the pool bar.

It was bittersweet saying good-bye. Maybe I'll be deployed again with some of these folks, but never again will we all be together in this unique combination of talents and energy. This mixture--changing daily because of the ebb and flow of deployement. This looking at the sunrise over the ocean and the sunset behind us. This laughing, crying, complaining, courageous bunch of heroes--making a difference in their own way. I'll miss them. Yep. I will.

11/26 They're leaving!

Tracy left today--it was her assigned day to leave, so no surprise. I'll miss her though. She's a good mental health worker and fun too. But the bad surprise was that Marian and Bill left. I really became attached to them and hope that we can stay in touch. They have my card, so I guess the ball is in their court. A really nice couple.

I rode in with Bill M and spent the day riding with him and Luis in the dangerous section again. The first family who met the criteria to receive aid caused me to be sad--living in a condemned building because the mother had been hospitalized because of Wilma. When she got out of the hospital she had nowhere else to go except her condemned apartment. All the other residents had gone to shelters or to a relative's house. Her two teenage children lived with her. The smell of mold was overpowering, causing us to stand in the doorway instead of entering fully into the apartment.

When I saw the woman's grandchild--a one-year-old with dimples and shining eyes--I wondered, "When will that sparkle go out?"

I still wonder what I can do to help that baby not become like his aunt, sitting there with dull eyes and no smile.

I'm pleased we could give a CAC to this family and hope the woman uses it to find safe housing. But when her teenage son lifted the couch to find a toy for the baby, I saw what looked like a crack pipe. I had to step outside because that really hit me.

This was far from the first condemned building we went to, but because of that smiling baby it affected me the most. Luckily the baby didn't live there, and the teenagers were going to stay with an older sister, so I felt no obligation to report the pipe.

The baby's mother already received assistance from us, but when she came in with the baby she asked for more--then pretended it was a joke.

It wasn't.

We worked through lunch without realizing it (a fairly common occurence), and by the time we finished I was famished. Rode back to the hotel with Bill, and threw some junk food into my mouth. I relaxed in my room for an hour or so and then went to the pool bar to say hi to folks. Brenda was the only one there. I'd not worked with her before today. But early this morning I went with Mary (another Mental Health worker) to visit one of Brenda's clients and do a lethality assessment (for suicidal ideation, etc.). Brenda is a postal employee--energetic and fun, but also deadly serious about the work we do.

So I spoke to her a moment and then went to the Italian take-out restaurant in the hotel's lower level, and took some delicious pasta to my room. Then sleep.

Monday, November 28, 2005

11/25 Another day in the city

Some of us again spent the day in the part of town where the FEMA workers got robbed. In the middle of ___ City there's a street that divides the area in half. On one side reside the Haitians, who speak Creole, and on the other side live the African Americans. And believe me, never the twain shall meet.

Of course we serve both populations.

Today we had lunch at the Creole Chef, on the recommendation of a police officer. It's not a place we'd ever choose on our own, but boy was it delicious. There was a big array of Caribbean foods, but almost all had meat or seafood. I had beans and rice and friend green plantains. Wow, it was a great meal.

They had no working bathroom but said we could go across the street to a Haitian barber shop and use their facilities. A nurse with another team really had to go and took off on her own. I chased after her and I yelled at her. We're never supposed to go off alone when in the field, but especially in this area. Although I never once felt threatened or anxious, I know that the police escorted the workers last week. We didn't have them with us, so we needed to be extra careful.

Bill M and I rode with Luis, from the Dominican Republic--Boca Chica near Santo Domingo. This was a very interesting day, with lots of running around and lots of poverty. But we had many laughs too. Bill and Luis kept me amused.

Went out to the pool bar in the evening, although I didn't have anything but a coke. It's like our outdoor living room where we gather after work.

The work days aren't as long as we expected, but I'm still very tired at the end of the day. Guess it's a combination of getting up at 5 AM and the roller coaster of emotions I experience in the work.

11/24 A happy, and unusual, Thanksgiving

What a glorious day.

Woke up at 6:30 and ate the free continental breakfast in the lounge. Normally we don't get to eat it because it doesn't begin until 7 and we're usually gone by 6 or 6:30. Wendy and Reg came in and said they were going home; that they were released early because the need for caseworkers has diminished.

The same can't be said for mental health specialists, since none of us are being sent home early. I'm sad to lose Wendy and Reg.

I went outside after breakfast and spoke with some of the hotel staff about our planned carry-in dinner at 2 PM. Jerry, the pool guy, ended up asking the hotel manager if we could do this because normally they don't allow anyone to bring in food from the outside. Patty the bartender got us some table cloths, and Jerry put up umbrellas to shield our food from the sun.

About 30 people showed up, and that was a great turnout. This picture shows about 20 or so of us. It was great fun and people got very creative in making dishes to share. We had baked turkey with dressing, salad, sweet potato casserole, cole slaw, rolls, butter, veggies and dip, green beans, macaroni and cheese and TONS of desserts.

We began with a prayer of sorts. I didn't want to offend anyone by saying a Christian prayer, because we were from so many different places, so I asked us all to think about why we were there, and to think about our time sleeping in the shelter--how it was by choice and that the people we serve do not have a choice. We looked around the table at each other and were grateful we were there.

Henrietta (Henri) emailed the picture to those of us who gave her email addresses. We found a tourist from Germany (I think) to take pictures. You can tell by our smiles that we were in a festive mood.

What a wonderful blessing the day was. And I'm so happy that Tracy thought of it, and that I was able to help organize things.

I thanked everyone for helping me to NOT think of my family during the meal. That was a momentous feat.

11/23 Alone at last

Up at 5. My roommate, Marcia, left on a 5:30 shuttle for the airport. I now have a room to myself. Yippee! I went from sharing a room with 200 people to sharing with one to just me.

Had my usual Cuban breakfast with Marian and Bill. Then to our 8 AM meeting. Lots of changes, because the operation is winding down. I guess HQ is closing and our Center is becoming the hub of operations in Florida. Some folks are being sent to Broward County because they haven't finished their canvassing yet. Others are being kept in our center--Miami-Dade County. I worked out of our Center today because the Red Cross shelters were closing and we expected a few hundred clients to come in who were being displaced and needed paperwork done.

The large influx didn't take place but I was abale to work with several people and it felt good. Tracy and I were released from work early because we had to shop at Publix on the way home. It's closed tomorrow on Thanksgiving and we need to buy lots of food for the potluck we're hosting at our pool in the afternoon.

Marian and Bill are going to visit her brother for the holiday and are leaving tonight. Before they left though, Bill stopped by and gave me a Thanksgiving present. It's a red Nike ball cap. I love it. There's one at home sitting on my bed that I meant to pack. The sun is brutal when we're out all day, and I'd complained about it. They thoughtfully gave me one. And I really needed it. Such sweeties!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

11/22 New teammates

Up at five-thirty. Spoke to Marian and Bill while waiting for Marcia and Tracy. No time for breakfast as we arrived at Flagler just in time for the 8 AM meeting.

Instead of riding with Bill and Marian I was assigned to work with Bill M, a probation officer from Minnesota originally from Fargo. A nice guy-- laid back and funny. He's always teasing about his accent.

We teamed up with Wendy and Reg... originally from England but living near Seattle. He retired from Boeing. They only wrote one 901 all day (which resulted in a family getting a CAC). But it was still a very worthwhile day and I spoke to lots of families with children.

Had a beer and cheese quesadilla at the pool bar and visited with Marian, Bill, Bill M, Tracy, and others. It seems like we are there a lot, but we're pretty isolated, or if not that, we are too tired to go anywhere.

As usual, an early night.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

11/21 continued

Did laundry again and met Delfie (Delfina). She owns three of the efficiencies in the hotel and said next time I should stay in one of her units. She is an x-ray tech from Cuba and is trying to learn better English.

After I put away my laundry I donned my new swim suit-- $29 at a discount beachwear store. The rain stopped and I jumped in the ocean. It was warm and perfect. I swam back and forth in the waves until my arms about gave out. Then I swam a few laps in the pool and relaxed as I read email. And JUST LIKE THAT the rain came pouring down. Instead of running inside like most folks, I ran to the Pool Bar. Patty, the bartender, has a story to tell. I sat there for a while,
safe from the horrible downpour. About 15 minutes later the sun came out. Amazing!

Met three Red Cross shelter workers and they talked about people in the shelters who need assistance and haven't completed any paperwork. She didn't have the phone number for the outreach office. I told her I'd call her with it 'cause I had it in my room.

Also met three guys from Baltimore who were here for the last NASCAR race of the year. They're heading home today and are having their last drinks. Funny guys and they celebrate, and flirt, well.

In the small world department I sat next to Ernst from Germany. He has lots of relatives in Milwaukee. Had a great conversation. The NASCAR guys bought me a beer, gave me a beer cozy from one's bar, and their beer cooler with beer in it, since they couldn't take it on the plane. I made out like a bandit.

When it was almost dark the wind came up and the rain returned. I ate leftovers in my room for dinner and read before my usual early bedtime.

11/21 A day off!

A momentous day! I've been in Miami since November 12 and today I'm off. I slept until 7 and feel incredibly guilty. They literally make people take a day off. They didn't have to do that with me. I see how crabby people get without relaxation--me included.

The bad news is that we are supposed to have rain and then thunderstorms all day. Guess it's the remnant of Gamma. I bought a swim suit but don't know if I will be able to use it.

Heard on news that FEMA workers got robbed at gunpoint in a certain area. I believe that's where my team is today. I called my team leader and let him know.

(Written on my phone in the pool bar on Thanksgiving.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

11/20 Sunday

Rode in with Marian and Bill again. We didn't see as many people as we did yesterday, but feel so good. We found a four-unit apartment building where there were no signs of damage, except Marian noticed some furniture piled by a dumpster, one of the signs we look for. So we went to the two upstairs apartments and couldn't believe what we saw. In each one, the master bedroom's ceiling were about to fall. And in the children's bedrooms the ceilings HAD fallen. These were pretty decent apartments and all inhabitants had jobs but didn't know what resources were available to them. The landlord said he would fix the roof but no one believed it would happen soon. They were overjoyed with our ability to help.

Then we decided to go to the two apartments on the bottom. One was a particularly sad situation. They had so much mold and had a son with asthma. He couldn't live at home because he kept having attacks. He was staying at Grandma's, but every day Mom had to driver there and take son to school which was a few blocks away from his own home. It was a real hardship and son wanted to come home so badly.

We gave her some resources but couldn't do much else. We started to drive away but it didn't feel right so we called our boss and explained that the bottom apartmens had some water damage but not enough to meet our criteria plus they had mold. He said that if the top apartments lost entire ceilings then the next big rain, due tomorrow, would probably do the same to the bottom apartments.

We went back in with big grins on our faces. The mom with the asthmatic son practically whooped with delight. Her husband had been in another room caring for their one-year-old daughter. They both were so grateful they cried. Marian and I teared up a bit too. My oh my I love Red Cross.

After work I went to Publix and bought a bunch of "stuff." Had a cheese sandwich and chips for dinner and cookies for a snack. Laid in bed, watched tv, and vegged. I am exhausted, but very very happy.

11/19 Cuba and Little Haiti

Up at 5 AM. Tracy and I rode in with Bill and Marian because Marcia had a day off. Had breakfast at a Cuban restaurant. Excellent toast and coffee. Yum.

Then Marian, Bill and I were assigned to Little Haiti where whole apartment buildings had been condemned and families were given 24-hour notice to leave. The caseworkers wrote nearly 60 901s and gave out that many CACs. 901s are the forms they fill out if we've assessed their homes were damaged enough from the hurricane. (Duh, a no-brainer on this one.) CACs are Client Assistance Cards--the Red Cross doesn't give money but gives a debit card with money on it. Very smart, I think.

I gave out so many stuffed animals and coloring books and played with so many children. There was only one who I thought should be formally evaluated but Mom and kids disappeared after I said that. Most likely they are here illegally from Haiti and Mom was frightened. We don't care about that, but I can understand her fear. Fortunately I had already talked to her about how she can help her daughter, so I'm sure it will turn out okay. It was obvious the kids were loved and well cared for.

I got to use my sign language skills today as well. That felt good. When we got home I had a beer with friends overlooking the ocean, got a grilled cheese sandwich to go and went to my room. As usual I went to bed early.

11/18 Long commute

It took us from 6:30-8:30 to get to work today so we missed the morning meeting. Normally it's kind of fun. The Director of the site (Will) gives out joke gifts and we do a rah-rah before we take off for our trips.

I went with Team 7 again and we finished the area we started yesterday. Hard work but worthwhile. In a very economically depressed area. Sometimes it's difficult to determine if the damage occured because of the hurricane or was already there.

The people in this area reflected what we see every day. Every person is so gracious and patient. Of course there are a few who'll try to scam us, but that is so rare.

The gratitude is sincere and a lot of the gratitude comes from us, at their kindness.

Went to dinner with our team leader, Bob, and met Angelo there. We had a great time and laughed a lot.

To bed at 10.

11/17 Ah, a shower!

After a short but wonderful night's sleep, I experienced the wonders of having a shower a few steps away frommy bed. We left the hotel at 6:30 and made good time. So much so that we were able to eat breakfast before reporting in.

The workday started weirdly. As usual, I signed up for Team 6. The first thing the team leader, Carrie, said was that 20 of us were being dispatched to Team 1 to help with a serious situation that required a lot of extra people. My roommate Marcia was the other MH person who went. As we were being briefed, the MH manager came up to me and said that there was an urgent request for a MH person, then it seemed like she said I was requested. I told her that I had just been pulled to Team 1. She replied that it was urgent and that I should go to Team 7.

Somewhere there was a miscommunication and the request wasn't urgent, but I do what I'm told.

Turned out it was a GREAT day. Met some super people. Tom, a farmer from Fresno, and his wife Cindy; Dorta from Denmark; Marian and Bill from Boston, and Bob--the team leader. (Also Wendy and Reg from London and Bill M. from Minnesota and Sean from I don't remember where.) Marian and Bill have turned out to be dear friends--what a treat that is!

Then HHS (the feds) called to see if I was okay. I told them I was happy with the Red Cross but for them to keep me on their list.

Overall it was a really good day working with a new team. Nice people.

Had a beer after work with Marian and Bill--we have a beautiful pool and a bar near it.

Then I went to my room and watched Survivor and Apprentice. Then to sleep at 10.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

11/16 Up at 2 AM--oh NO!!!

Up at 2 AM, yep a new batch of snorers entered the shelter. So I was able to get cleaned up before the crowd.

We went to some really depressed areas with significant damage. There was some political stuff going on too because PR folks went along. The good news is that I was able to see so many people including 13 children.

I met a PR person who asked me if I'd like to write an article for the weekly newsletter. I told him I'd have it for him tomorrow evening. He asked me this after he heard me say, "Now I know why I'm here."

After a non-productive morning, the afternoon was near perfect. We worked really hard and it was so worth it.

Then Tracy, Marcia and I were moved out of the shelter and moved to the Ramada Inn Marco Polo. It's at the very northern tip of Miami Beach, actually in Sunny Isles Beach. Soon I'll have a day off and this will be a great place to spend it. Plenty of beachfront and a huge pool. And beer. :) We are supposed to get one day off for every seven we work, but it doesn't always happen.

Beata called and had good news and bad. The good news is that Rob finally got his orders and they'll move from Okinawa on January 10. The bad news is that they won't be able to come home for Christmas...and the Army has decided that Rob is in such good shape they aren't going to medically retire him after all, but rather are sending him to Fort Bragg NC to teach in the Special Forces School. I'm happy and sad--more later about it when I'm not paying 59 cents per minute in the hotel business center.

11/15 Tired

Up at 5:30 because of someone else's alarm. Re-arranged all my piles of papers in the portfolio I bought last night at Walmart. We have to carry lots of "stuff" with and books for the kids, and candy of course. And also tons of paper and brochures for informational purposes, in both English and Spanish.

Marcia, Tracy and I got to the center by 7:50 and were assigned to our teams. I was on Team 6 again at my request.

We went to another neighborhood today...and I finally felt valuable. I was able to communicate in Spanish a little. Certainly not fluently, but enough that I helped some people. Tu necessitas ayuda ahora? Do you need anything now? The Red Cross Disaster Teams give money for immediate and urgent needs--not just because people are poor. It's very difficult to say no when you see how people live. We do give them lists of other resources, though, and that's something.

I was finally able to find some neighbors who could interpret for us. (Names changed for confidentiality.) Mariana, who works for the city as a bus driver. She is from Costa Rica and was an immense help. Then I found little Clara. Don't know why she wasn't in school but I didn't care. Was just grateful for her help.

A colleague was able to find Consuelo from Colombia who helped with another family. And I really was able to use my counseling skills today.

It certainly is a wonderful feeling to be able to help people. I know that the situation is different several weeks after the disaster. For example, most people are out of the "shock phase." But it doesn't mean their needs have lessened.

Most of the folks have been seen by FEMA personnel. But they have fallen through the cracks for other services.

People are so gracious and welcoming. A grateful man gave us all water and also Cafe Cubano. Even though I'm not suppposed to have caffeine, I couldn't say no. Delicious. Without exception we felt that we were in the right place. Yesterday there were a few people who wouldn't answer the door. Fear? Most likely--because many don't have any papers, and are afraid they will be deported. We make sure to tell everyone that we are not the government, that we are just here to help and will not turn anyone in.

It's awesome seeing absolute joy when we say we are giving them money as a gift from the American people. A pure gift.

In the afternoon we drove through another neighborhood looking for blue tarps on roofs--the sign that there are leaks and that we can offer help.

My favorite line of the day--from Fred: Jeri, hurry. We need an interpreter. Muy bueno.

Hit my first real "bump in the road." After work the team leader called me aside and said that the driver of the van I'd been in said blah blah blah blah blah. And so I explained blah blah blah and felt I'd been misrepresented. I was doing what I'd been told to do by the MH people. Other workers weren't aware of the directive I'd gotten (give food and water to clients). No big deal but I just hate it when a person has a complaint and doesn't say it directly--instead going over your head. Secondly it showed that YES, people do need a day off. Not me yet, but after seven days I will find myself a nice pool and a nice internet cafe and veg out. The crabby guy is way overdue for a day off.

11/14 Finally to work

Met Marcia and Tracy at 7:30 and drank a cup of coffee on the way to the office, just a few blocks away. Had an 8 AM all staff meeting for Miami-Dade resource center. I was assigned to Team 6. There were six of us deployed to certain neighborhoods, and I was their MH support.

We had a hard time finding the place and didn't start working until 11 AM. Everyone hates when that happens.

In the short day today, I discovered that I have an affinity for this work. I'm not surprised, because this is what I trained for. The children especially tug at my heartstrings. They are so grateful for the little toys I bring. The MHS bring a stuffed animal for little ones, and a coloring book and crayons for the older ones. The coloring book is called After the Storm and is available in English and Spanish. It's an excellent way to talk to kids about their fears and to see if they are developing signs of stress. I certainly don't diagnose people out here, but evaluation comes easy with kids. They are pretty open to speak to a "grandma" type lady with toys and candy. :)

Rob is 34 today. I sure miss my own kids when I see other families in dire straights. I asked Jill to make sure and call Rob with my love.

Back to the shelter and much needed sleep.

11/13 continued

Please ignore the typos. I'm paying for internet access by the minute. Hope Suzanne doesn't post this too. I sent it a few days ago.

Two other newbies were assigned iwth me. Tracy, Marcia and I went out for lunch to an Olive Garden and then reported to our site.

Today was basically just orientation to the job. At Miami-Dade outreach, we DMHS (Disaster Mental Health Services) will go out with the outreach teams. They will see people who may need immediate help, and I'll do "evaluations by schmoozing." Marcia, Tracy and I are the new MHS folks at Outreach.

Went to dinner with John. His wife Kathy got sent to Key West and so did my other pals, Dave, Carlotta, and Christine. I've heard they have to live in very rough conditions down there. Still--rough in Key West beats easy in many other cities. :)

Home to the shelter by 9. Showered, moved my bed to a quieter area, and slept like a baby.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jer in FL continued

10-12 continued
Christine was with k and j. We rented a car and headed for the Sheraton HQ. Met up with a few more new people- Dave and Carlotta. Went to Quizno's for a quick bite. The shelter is on the third floor of the conference center. There are at least 200 cots in the staff shelter. We take showers in the hotel fitness center. Crossing through the hotel lobby gives one the a glimpse of the difference between steerage and first class. :-) No complaints though. We were told ahead of time that we would be in a shelter.

Lights are out at ten thirty and come back on at six thirty. But not all the lights are off. Christine slept right under one of the lights. I should say tried to sleep because neither one of us slept at all. A married couple sleeping right next to me were playing the hand of dueling snorts and noises. There was a veritable symphony of snores that kept us awake.

10-13 Orientation

Got out of bed at six to escape the snoring couple. What is it about snoring that brings out my evil twin?

At eight we were able to get in line for in-processing. Ken, you were right about so much. Tons of lines. We went through the lines and signed the proper forms, got special badges for Hurricane Wilma, and then I had to leave my new friends as we all had to go to our respective specific orientations. I was the only MH person in my group.At DMHS I met up with several other LCSWs. Ken Lee gave us our orientation and he kept saying some of us would be dispatched to Key West and would stay there. I was feeling lucky, and felt sure I would go. He sent four down there. I wasn't one of them.

I'm stationed with Miami-Dade Outreach, so I'll continue to stay at the Sheraton staff shelter. But I'll definitely move my cot. Definitely. More later.

Hey Ken, write because I lost your address.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

11/12 Jer in FL

Met Kathy and John at the airport. They are on a different carrier. Said they would wait for me so we could ride to HQ together. Nice folks, I really like them. Although they're near my age, they're retired already. I'm jealous.

I'm really looking forward to this opportunity, and only hope I'm up to the challenge. I think this journal and blog will help me relieve stress.

Wish I could have found a wireless keyboard so I could type into my phone instead of using this keypad. It will be hard to write this much without a keyboard. Maybe I'll be lucky like Ken and be stationed across the street from am internet cafe. :-)

Wish I could have talked to my kids before I left home though. More later. Jer

Saturday, November 12, 2005

11/12 I'm off!

I'm checking in before I finish getting ready. The shuttle is picking me up at 8:35 and it's 7:10 now. It seems like I have lots of time, but my house is a wreck as I threw things out of closets while trying to decide what to take with me. As it is, my duffel is way too full. It's huge anyway, but it contains my sleeping bag and mat and everything else I think I'll need for two weeks.

Because I don't know how often I'll be able to do laundry, I brought lots of clothes, but maybe I won't need so much. Indecision. I have to be able to carry my duffel from one shelter to another and I can do that. But my daypack is chock full too. Yikes. Wish I could pare down a bit more. Maybe I will. I'm so excited! And thanks again to Suzanne for helping with my blog. If I get to an internet cafe I can do it myself. Otherwise, she's going to post from an email I'll send via my phone. Hooray for wireless mobile phones!

I'm off!

Friday, November 11, 2005

11/11 Whew, I'm tired already!

And I haven't even left yet. Guess I should have prepared ahead--just in case I'd be deployed. The organization of the Red Cross DSHR (gosh I can't even remember if those are the right initials). :) What a goon!...Anyway, they are so organized. I got the call and a few hours later everything is arranged, including a debit card and an ID. They no longer give cash, but everyone gets a debit card. How cool is that! It will be so much easier to deal with.

Even though I'm a bit antsy about the work I'm leaving behind, I know this is the right thing to do. My boss, Diana, is a real jewel and is so kind about taking over some of my responsibilities. I've gotten most of my writing and editing done, so she'll need to take media calls and also follow up with a reporter at a daily paper about an interview. She hasn't complained at all about me going. Like I said, she's a jewel. (And I don't think she ever reads this, so I'm not trying to butter her up.) :)

My daughter Jill and her family are in Lake Tahoe but I was able to reach her by phone to let her know I'm going. Haven't heard from Rob and Beata, but I assume they got my email. I'll try to reach them via Skype tonight. Internet phones can't be beat when you're calling Japan.

Because everyone is telling me there's a lot of "hurry up and wait," I think I'll take the new Scrabble book with me. It's got lots of exercises in it and should be a great way to pass the time while I'm waiting. It's signed by John, the author, though, and I don't want to get it all gross. But if I do, I'll just have him sign another (or maybe I'll just ask his wife, Jane, to sign instead). That would be funny.

I'm still working on the manuscript for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I'm way behind, but perhaps can do some writing freehand. (What in the world will I do without my laptop? I'm jonesing for it.)

Gotta run and get some work done. More later.

Checking in from PA

I followed Jer's instructions and here I am, posting a note to the blog. Very exciting!
My name is Suzanne, a friend of Jer's who will be uploading her blog notes while she's on duty in Florida.
Nice to meet you all.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

11/10 More on deployment

Just got an email from HHS saying I'm scheduled for deployment on 11/14 for Louisiana. Wish I could practice bilocation. Had to write them again to say I'm already going with ARC to Miami. This makes me sad.

11/10 Somewhere else--

I'm not going to the Gulf after all, I'm going to Miami to work to work in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma. And surprisingly enough, it's a hardship tour, meaning I'll most likely stay in a shelter. I was told I couldn't bring my laptop, and that I should bring my sleeping bag and mat. So I'll take the big old duffel bag that I take to the Avon walk. Plus I have to bring lots of other little "stuff" like flashlights, insect repellant, etc. Wonder if I'll have any room for clothes? The nice thing is that it'll be 80 degrees and we are allowed to wear shorts if the conditions allow. And T-shirts.

I'm flying there on Saturday, November 12 and coming back Monday, November 28...all the flights home were full until then. As it is I'll fly from Miami to Dallas and then to Milwaukee--the scenic route.

Since I won't have computer access, or will have it infrequently, I'll have to email the blog info with my phone and then will ask a volunteer to post it here for me. That'll be the easiest way for my family and friends to know what I'm up to. Or not.

I'm psyched, and ready to start packing. Unfortunately I have tons of work to do here at the office, and laundry to do at home. But I'm smiling.

11/10 I'm definitely going!

The Red Cross called while I was at lunch. My friend, Bill, took me to PF Chang's for a very belated birthday lunch, and April called during dessert.

I'm going to a meeting at the Red Cross office at 3:30 today, and I'll post details when I return. I forgot to ask her when I'm leaving and where I'm going. Do you think I'm a little excited?

(I sent an email to HHS saying that ARC got to me first. They won the door prize.) :) More later.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

11/9 Update on deployment

Got an email from the Department of Health and Human Services saying they still needed MH Specialists and would I be interested. Of course I said yes, and then sent an email to the Red Cross saying I'll go with whoever contacts me first with definite deployment information.

More later I guess.

11/9 A meme from anne

anne challenged me to think about my quirks, and then to list them. This isn't as easy as it sounds. On her blog she wrote some cool things. But my quirks aren't as much fun.

1. I'm not a good roommate because I like my own bathroom. If I ever get married again (slim chance), we'll have two master bathrooms. Someone told me recently that their marriage has lasted so long because they have two master baths.

2. I'd rather play games with my family (brothers, sisters, inlaws, outlaws, children, nieces, nephews, my own kids, and our friends) than with anyone else. We have so much fun together.

3. The person in the mirror isn't who I am. I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. That old, fat woman is someone who is stalking me.

4. No matter my age or situation, I must have adventure in my life. Boredom is my enemy.

5. Performing has always been an important part of my life whether it's singing, acting or doing comedy. I absolutely love ComedySportz--it's fun, people are crazy, boss is wonderful, and I get to perform. What's not to like? I do have a fantasy of sending my headshot to a casting director I met in LA. I mean, Kathy Bates has to be busy sometime, right? They'll need another um... woman in our demographic.

6. I really really really really really really like being smart. It's not bragging, because it's a result of genes, God, and luck. But I love it.

7. I'm so curious it's scary. While I wouldn't snoop in anyone's "stuff," I do want to know everything about everything. I'll check on the internet, get a book on the subject, ask a lot of questions, whatever. I like to use the word "curious," because I hate the word "nosy."

Okay--these are the first seven of my thousand quirks. Hey, Bron and Strange David, I think you both would have interesting lists.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

11/8 Hurry hurry hurry hurry and wait

Absolutely TONS of work to accomplish this week. Am editing a journal (90 pages) and re-writing an article for someone who isn't available to do it. Plus the other bits that have to get done before I leave. If I leave.

ARC told me today that I still probably will go, but... they are cutting down on the number of people there because of course the need isn't as big as it was. Because I'm going as a mental health specialist there's still a good chance I'll be deployed.

This doesn't sound at all like what I heard Thursday, so now my anxiety is up. Yeah, me the "what, me worry?" kid. It's difficult not knowing if I'll be gone for two weeks or not. But I really want to go.

If I'd known this, I would have definitely gone with HHS.

The ARC officer told me that if I don't hear from her by Friday that means I'm not needed this time. Aaarrrggghhhh!

11/8 Meme from Bron in UK

Name 5 of life's simple pleasures that you like most, then pick 5 people to do the same. Try to be original and creative and not to use things that someone else has already used. Tag 5 people on your list.

Life's Simple Pleasures (I'm having a really hard time limiting this to five.)

1. Seeing my grandkids run toward me at the airport screaming, "Grandma, Grandma!!"
2. Spending time with either one of my children. Since they live so far away it doesn't happen often enough.
3. Winning at Scrabble, Texas Hold'em, or basically any other game. I love to play. (I am a good loser though--the game's the thing.)
4. Making people laugh when I'm on stage at ComedySportz.
5. Being snug and cozy in my little condo when it's snowing. (No, it's not snowing here yet.)

Tagging: Beth, anne, strangedavid, David F., and Pat B.

Monday, November 07, 2005

11/7 Tired

I woke up at 4:30 (3:30 AM Central Time) and so I'm tired. Got to my office by 2 PM and stayed until after 6; it's been a very long day.

It was one of the best weekends ever, and tons of fun. I'll write more tomorrow about it. For now, here's a picture of me with Suzanne (my roomie), and Monkling (another from our writers' group). Suzanne and I had a great time together and got along surprisingly well. She's a honey. And Monk drove up from Queens with her husband, Frank, just for the day on Saturday. It was so sweet of them to do that and it was great to visit with them.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

11/6 WOW, what a day!

I'm flying. My presentation was at 10 and it went so well. It seems I started and then it was over. Never has 45 minutes passed so quickly for me. I loved having an intelligent group of people who paid attention and asked good questions. Participants also laughed at the right spots. Yay for that.

Gloria made me cry with her introduction. What a great way to start a presentation, huh? But it was so sweet.

The feedback I received was certainly wonderful to hear. People not only loved the information (which I was able to use, courtesy of the company I work for--CPI), but they had such lovely things to say about me personally. Yep, I'm flying.

I made my reservation for next year--and so did nearly everyone else. The reason is that because it's the 25th anniversary next year, Mohonk is giving us a 10% discount if we reserve before we leave.

There are so many people I really enjoyed spending time with. I know I'll be friends with Jane Williams (and I'll tolerate her husband, John--sure hope he reads that line). Jane and I just clicked immediately. She's beautiful, bright and fun. Some of my favorite things to have in a friend. (Okay, I like John too...)

The closing piece was fun--Gloria and Larry gave away so many games that had been donated by game companies. An unbelievable amount. I'm going home with six or seven games. I received some because of being a speaker, some for solving puzzles correctly, and one just because Glo and Lar like me. :) I'm a lucky bug. (But they like everyone. All participants received a really nice game at check-in.)

After the end of the WOW weekend, and after saying good-bye to some great people, Suzanne and I took a walk outside. Unbelievable vistas. And a handsome man from Colombia and his friend stopped and offered to take our picture together. My first thought was "he's going to take my camera and ride away on his bike." But that paranoia didn't last long (Suzanne, you are really rubbing off on me--normally I'm not suspicious at all.) :)

Then we went to the Lake Lounge and played games with other late-stayers. One by one individuals left, until it was just us and David from Wisconsin. (This is not my old friend DF, but another DF. Just as handsome and just as nice.) He drove here from WI and had to drive back home, but says he stays until everyone else leaves--that this only happens once a year, so he's going to play as long as he can. We experienced some games I'd never heard of but boy did I have a blast. He has games nights in Madison, and I'm invited. It's going to be worth driving the 90 minutes to get there. And he also said I could drive out with him next year. He's very sweet.

Guess that's it for now. I'm tired and haven't edited this at all, so please ignore the typos and poor grammar. Suz and I leave at 5:30 AM for the airport. I'll get to Milwaukee at 1 PM or so, and then will go to work. Hope I can sleep on the plane.

Did I mention I had fun? Did I mention I like these people? Did I mention being around smart people makes me smile? It's all true.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

11/5 Saturday at Mohonk

We went to bed at 1 AM after working on our puzzles. Up at 6:30 and went to the gym. Another beautiful day on the Mountain. Can't believe how perfect the weather is. Warm, sunny and we don't even need to wear jackets. Amazing.

At the fitness center I did my half-hour on the elliptical and Suzanne worked on the treadmill. Then we sat in rocking chairs on our porch and looked at the mountains while we drank our coffee. Following that we enjoyed breakfast with other WOW (Wonderful World of Words) folks and sat at the leaders' table, then out to the expansive veranda overlooking the lake to work on our puzzle packets.

At 10 AM John Williams spoke. As I said earlier he's the exec of the ScrabbleTM association. His presentation was hilarious and also informative. We learned that a new ScrabbleTM dictionary is out and the new words come into effect in 2006. One new one is qi which will make tons of people happy. It's always nice to find a new q word, but a two-letter one is a real gift. Qi is a variation of chi as in tai chi. Another new word is za. Short for pizza. I love that one too.

Afterward our friend, Dave, drove Suz and I into town so I could get some shoes, since you can't wear sneakers into the dining room for dinner. Found some fairly inexpensive ones, stopped at Starbucks and then made our way back to the mountain to meet everyone for lunch.

Will Shortz (puzzle guru for the NY Times) gave us some Mental Olympics in the afternoon and pitted one side of the room against the other. Great fun.

At 4 they had booksignings and I bought John's book. I already owned all of David's (except one). Will and Dan had signings too but there was such a crowd I didn't even really look at their books.

At 6 the speakers and guests were invited to Gloria and Larry's suite for tails before dinner. Really fun and most folks took lots of pictures (not me, I'd left my camera in our room).

Finally, after dinner we had Games Night which I absolutely loved. My table consisted of Jane and John Williams and Suzanne. We played Thryme. Every table played different games and the winner at the table got to keep the game. Let's just say there will be one extra box in my suitcase tomorrow. :)

Had drinks with Dave and the folks at my table, then went to bed around midnight. Another wonderful wonderful day at WOW. I present tomorrow morning. More later.

EDITING to say, I can't believe I forgot to mention Monk(Joanne) and Frank. They drove all the way from Queens to spend the best part of Saturday with us. It was so awesome having them here. Wish they could have stayed longer, but I know they'll be here next year.

Friday, November 04, 2005

11/4 Mohonk at last!

I only slept two hours last night, but I don't even care. I'm having such a wonderful time. A stretch limo picked me up at the airport. My friend, Suzanne, was late--her plane was rather. So I went in the stretch by myself. I did take a picture with my new phone and mailed it to my family. When I figure out how to get it here, I'll do so.

Glo gave me a tour of Mohonk and it's even more gorgeous than anticipated. I walked for a while, waiting for Suzanne to arrive and the sights around here mesmerized me. Time passed very quickly.

We all met for dinner at 6:30. Suz and I had a drink first. Oh, and our room is huge and is a tower room. It's like a castle turret. Way cool.

I met one of my word heroes--John Williams, the Executive Director of the National Scrabble Association. He's a really nice guy as well. And I LOVE his wife, Jane. She's adorable.

After dinner, Dan Greenberg gave a presentation. He's written 66 books--isn't that amazing? He's like George Plimpton--only he does extremely dangerous things. An interesting, and funny, presentation.

Then we all played Scrabble Scramble. We had teams of seven. Suzanne was on my team--as was David Feldman, another good friend. And John and Jane Williams. No wonder we won. :) We all won the game Quickwords, which looks like one my family will like.

Then one person in each group had a paper taped to the bottom of their chair--it was me, and I won a puzzle.

Suz and I are going to our tower now to work on the puzzle packet. It needs to be done by tomorrow evening.

The plan is to wake up early and go to the fitness center at 7, breakfast at 8:30, go to town and buy shoes at 9:30 and first speaker is at 10. It's John Williams and I'm looking forward to hearing him.

My presentation isn't until Sunday morning, so I can play for a while.

Oh--why do I have to buy shoes? At dinnertime you can't wear jeans or athletic shoes, and men must wear a sport coat or suit coat. My dress shoes are sitting on my bed, waiting to be packed. Duh!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

11/3 New phone, new headaches

I'm so excited! My new wireless phone arrived today. It's so cool and can do everything under the sun. I can get my email, surf the web, write my blog, whatever. And I finally have text messaging included.

BUT...and here's the thing, it's so hard to decide what kind of service I want. I really thought I wanted unlimited internet access (includes email) and a small amount of text messaging. But he tried to convince me to get the MediaWorks package which included 1,000 text messages per month (does he think I'm a teenager?). And that included 5 mb of internet. I know that sounds like a lot, but I live on my computer normally, so it doesn't seem like enough. So I went with my original order of unlimited MediaNet and 200 text messages per month. As usual, we'll see if I'm right. Or more likely, if I'm wrong.

Besides my excitement of my phone, I'm trying frantically to get so much work done since I leave at 6 AM tomorrow for New York.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

11/2 Keep on keepin' on

I've been working until about 7 every night. I will be caught up when it's time to go to the Gulf, so that relieves any work anxiety.

And I'm nearly done with my Mohonk presentation--that should be fun.

But my mystery manuscript is sitting on the cocktail table at home just calling my name. It's NANOWRIMO time and I'm in the mood to write. Unfortunately real life often intervenes much too forceably.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

11/1 Good and good and YUM!

This morning I got to talk to Jill and the kids, and Jill turned on her webcam so I could see the kids. They are adorable and I am such a lucky bug.

Plus, I'm getting a lot of work done. I was here until nearly 7 PM last night and expect to work late every day this week. Since I'll be in Mohonk on Friday, I have lots to catch up with prior to that. Additionally I have to finish (start?) my presentation. Sure hope Gloria doesn't read this because that last line will make her nervous.

A colleague and I went to the Noodles and Company up the street which is so new that it's not even officially open yet. But last night I noticed that people were in there eating, so I thought they probably were in the stage of "we're open, but not announcing it yet." So we get there and there's a sign on the door that says "Private Party." As we started to turn away a young woman came out and said we could come in. They had invited guests but weren't busy so we could come in. And the best news--everything was free over lunchtime. A nice surprise, and a tasty one.

Back to work--with a smile on my face.

Monday, October 31, 2005

10/31 Clarification from Red Cross

Okay. I finally know what's up. The guy (Ron) I thought was a deployment specialist is actually a temp in the Wisconsin office. He was finding out my availability, not telling me I was going. Boy oh boy, was I on the wrong track with that!

I wrote an email to the Red Cross DSHR (Disaster Services Human Resources) person (April), and she called me to clarify. And it looks like it's almost 100% sure I'll go, if I go in disaster mental health rather than public relations/communications. That is absolutely fine with me because I can hit the ground running then--I'm confident in my ability to provide sound treatment services in mental health. My training and experience are much more powerful in trauma social work than in PR. Yay.

So April put mental health as first choice and PR as second choice.

The funny thing is that they don't call you until one or two days prior to deployment, so you never know if you're going or not until immediately before. That must be hard for some very structured people. As for me, my motto is Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

10/30 HHS Email

An email just arrived from HHS saying they need mental health specialists this week for a two week rotation. I can't accept it because I'm giving that presentation in New York next weekend. I'm sure disappointed. But I will contact Red Cross tomorrow and verify my assignment. If it's not 100% sure, then I'll contact HHS and give them my availability. I'm definitely going to go with one of those agencies.

HHS needs help in Shelter, Primary Care, and Hospital Augmentation, and said the current mental health specialists are due to rotate out.

More tomorrow on this.

10/30 Pajama Day

I loved it! Stayed in sweatpants and T-shirt all day. Didn't venture outside of my condo--although I may decide to exercise and empty my trash later. :) This was such an unusual day and I don't feel a bit guilty.

I spent most of the day watching football (poor Packers) and working on a rough outline for the NANOWRIMO work.

It was a good day.

For your viewing pleasure--here's a picture of how I looked last night at ComedySportz.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

10/29 Halloween at CSz

We had great prizes for fans, but not one of them wore a costume. Odd. Many staff did, but of course we weren't eligible for the prizes. I had a good time though. I put some real thick white stuff on my face--it looked like old-timey cold cream. That, coupled with my wig, slippers, pajamas and robe, ended up making a fun costume.

I took a few pictures and will post one or two tomorrow. Right now I'm playing online poker. A great way to unwind. :) Yeah.

Friday, October 28, 2005

10/28 Work Halloween Picture

I told everyone to make a silly face on this one. I especially like the faces on the Candy Stripper (4th from left) and the Deviled Egg (far right).

It was fun. Sister Reada Thesaurus won for funniest, Deviled Egg won for most creative, and Corpse Bride won for scariest.

10/28 Panic and such

I just realized that November 1 is Tuesday. That's the day NANOWRIMO starts. I don't even have an idea for a new manuscript, much less carved out time to begin writing. Panic ensues internally.

One thing was decided. I'm putting my laptop in a backpack and taking it everywhere with me. You never know when you'll be able to take a few stolen minutes to write. (God, it almost sounds like an affair.) I'll type over lunch at my regular job, when it's a bit slow at ComedySportz, on airplanes, and at home (while reality shows blare away on the TV). And I always have my handy-dandy notebook in my purse so I can jot down notes. My laptop is big and heavy and I find I have laptop envy when I see these lightweights that still have plenty of power. All I really use it for is writing--and email when I'm in a hotel.

Okay, my panic has subsided. Now on to the "such."

Best news ever!!!! Aiden was given a clean bill of health today. What a blessing.

And today at work is just plain fun. We're having a costume contest, which I entered with no expectation of winning. (I just got a magistrate's wig and judge's robe from CSz. It looked cool, but very easy.) Lots of people put great effort in their costumes and it really paid off. We'll find out later today who won in three different categories. And our chili cook-off is still running. From 11-2 there are crockpots of wondrous smells in the conference room across from my office. And this year there were two vegetarian entries. Usually I'm the only one in that category. :) So this year I got to eat two kinds instead of just my own. There are around 15-20, I can't remember the number. People circle the table and put a bit from one crockpot, eat that, and move on to the next one. It's actually quite fun.

Tonight I work at CSz, tomorrow night too. Tomorrow night will be their Halloween celebration. I know it will be fun--I worked it last year.