Wednesday, February 28, 2007

2/28 Offer on my condo!

I am beyond thrilled. My realtor, Patti, called last night and said I have an offer on my condo. The woman's old condo will close on 3/31 and mine will close shortly thereafter. I'm now printing out the 29 pages of legalese to read on the plane.

Wow. This is excellent--to get an offer on the condo the day before I leave for my new job. I'm one lucky bug.

This morning Beata will drive me to the Raleigh airport. On the way we're stopping at Panera Bread so I can buy her a birthday breakfast. It will be fun to just sit and chat awhile before I leave.

Flying to Austin today for orientation, then will fly back to Raleigh on Friday night. Early Saturday I'll begin the drive to Biloxi. Am psyched.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

2/27 Almost done packing

Just returned from outside with the dogs where I fell into a big hole in the empty lot next door. Fell right on a small sharp stump. Yikes. I'm just grateful there's no real damage, except for scrapes and mud. What a dolt!

Today I went to Walmart to buy another tub to store things in. When I got to the parking lot, a truck started backing up and nearly hit me. The driver didn't even look as I was directly behind him. Luckily he was very old and very slow, so I screamed, "Stop!" and ran out of the way.

Seems like it wasn't a good day, but something good did happen. In the parking lot I saw Linda (Tom's sister). She said, "Oh, good. This will save me a trip." Then she went to her car and got a gift for me. It's a combined going-away and housewarming gift from Belk--six glasses that are adorable. Covered with different colored polka dots. I love them and can't wait to use them!

Okay, back to work. I actually only have to finish up with all my files, plus a few more clothes, and I'll be done packing. Yay!

Monday, February 26, 2007

2/27 Pictures of Quincy and sibs!

13 out of the 14 pups. Someone was holding the 14th. And here's me with a yawning Quincy at 10 days old. Isn't she beautiful? Hard to believe she's going to weigh around 70 pounds. Thanks to Beata for the pictures.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

2/25 Dogs galore

These are pictures of my sister Jan's new puppy, a miniature piebald (?) dachsund. The brown miniature is her other dachsund, Alfie. They are both so cute. Wish I could have a picture of them with Rob and Beata's blue-dappled mini-dachsund, Chilli. They are all adorable. BUT... as cute as they are, they aren't as cute as a dog I met today. Yep, I got to pick out Quincy, my puppy. She's only 10 days old, so it will be a while before I bring her home.

I'll be able to post pictures of her tomorrow. Beata, Rob, and I went out to Janae's parents' farm where we saw the 14 puppies. Haley, the mom, and Hunter, the dad, are both gorgeous yellow labs. Hunter is one of the largest labs I've seen, about 120 pounds. I picked Quincy because she's the runt (although very healthy), and has an almost white coat. Then we stopped by Tom's house and saw his lab, Holly. Holly was the runt of the last litter and is now about a year old. She's beautiful and about 70 pounds or so. That will be a great size for my dog. Here's hoping... :)

Before we went to see the pups, I got to go to Tom and Kathryn's for a fantastic meal. R and B were getting their pictures taken, and couldn't join us. As always, Kathryn made a very tasty meal and I did my best to let her know how much I loved it by eating two helpings.

Okay--tomorrow, pictures of Quincy.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

2/24 Details of new job

I spoke to Jan on the phone today and she said I'd been kind of cryptic about my job. Now that it's official I can say more. The company is LSSS (Lutheran Social Services of the South), based in Austin, TX. It's a not for profit associated with the different Lutheran denominations. They provide many social services in Texas including disaster relief, foster care, adoptions, group homes, adult day care, retirement homes, and more. In Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi they provide disaster services only (and it includes case management). I'm hired as the State Coordinator of Disaster Services for Mississippi.

With the Red Cross I've been doing kind of first responder work. With LSSS it will be long-term recovery work. We muck out houses, clean up, rebuild, and build from scratch. We house hundreds of volunteers in camps in and near Biloxi. I think there will be around 50 staff (at least that's what the Louisiana coordinator told me). I'll find out next week.

I'll be in a hotel for up to 10 days, and then will move to an apartment temporarily. I've also got a realtor who is already looking for condos for me. It's odd--everything used to be so cheap there, but now it's more expensive than up north because there's still a lack of housing. Apartments are so expensive that it will definitely be cheaper to buy a place. One downside is that the prices may go down as more places are rebuilt. Another downside is that homeowner's insurance is extremely expensive. We'll see how everything pans out.

Won't be long now.

Friday, February 23, 2007

2/23 NC weather

It's so beautiful here today--cool, sunny, with a lovely breeze. The smell of pine trees is lovely and adds to the beauty. I'm going to miss this place.

Taking the dogs outside in the morning is always fun. They stay in the yard, but Chilli runs around from Bella to Bobby, back and forth, trying to get them to play. One or the other always succumbs to his teasing, and the fun begins. Chilli bounces like he has springs on his feet.

A few days ago Bobby and Chilli both jumped on the couch with me, and I swear they had a pact to tickle me. I laughed so hard that I could hardly breathe.

Besides missing this place, I'm going to miss those dogs too. (Of course, I'll miss Rob and Beata. That goes without saying.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

2/22 Oops

Sorry I haven't blogged in the last two days. Tuesday was busy and I didn't get home until late. Rob and I stopped at our favorite Thai restaurant in a Raleigh suburb and bought TONS of food. We got three entrees and FIVE orders of sticky rice with mango. Yep, five orders. I had one and Rob and Beata each ate two.

We did this to surprise B after her first day at her new job.

Speaking of jobs, things are moving quickly. On 2/28 I'll fly to Austin for two days of orientation. Will get back here on Friday night (3/2) and will drive from Sanford NC to Biloxi MS, and start work there on 3/5. The company is putting me up in a hotel for a few days while I find an apartment.

Found out today I'll be going to Albuquerque in April for a conference. A good friend lives there, so that's an extra bonus.

And GREAT NEWS! My puppy was born a few days ago. The dog had 14 pups (had 13 the first time). Wow. Anyway, I'm thrilled and am going to visit over the weekend. Will be able to pick her up when I'm back here for Easter.

Can't wait for the job to start!

Monday, February 19, 2007

2/19 Going home tomorrow

Yep, found out this afternoon that I'm going home tomorrow. Am thrilled, because I have so much to do to prepare for my move to Biloxi next week. Wow, it's happening so fast.

Will write more about this Red Cross Florida experience when I get back to Rob and Beata's house tomorrow night.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

2/18 In an almost paradise

I'm now at the Daytona Beach Resort and Conference Center and my 5th floor room overlooks the ocean. Took some pictures with my phone. The one of the ocean view looks too bright, but you get the idea. The one of the pool looks good. There's also a pool right below my room. The hotel has an inside pool and spa too, great for cold days like this one. This is my fourth hotel and the only really nice one. I try to not complain because we work with people who have lost everything but this place is AWESOME, especially compared to hotel number 2.

The thing that stops this from being totally paradise is my roommate. No one told her she would have a roommate and she walked in after I had been here a few minutes. "WHAT?" she yelled. Then said, "They told me I wouldn't have to have a roommate." I said, "Sorry no one told you. I'm moving back to headquarters from the service center." Her: "How long will you be here?" Me: Until the end. Her: No! Well, I guess you're kind of cool.

I replied, "Kind of cool?" She said, "Yes. Kind of cool."

Help me. I want to go home.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

2/17 Time goes by

Today we closed the service center in Lady Lake. I'm off tomorrow and Monday will work again at the temporary HQ in Daytona Beach. My hotel there is on the beach. It will be great to see the ocean--haven't seen it yet this trip. The Daytona 500 is going on tomorrow so Daytona Beach should be an absolute zoo.

Today, on the way back from work I stopped for lunch and as I finished a couple stopped me and said they just wanted to thank me for all the Red Cross has done down here. They were obviously fairly well off, but lost most of their house and furnishings. Yet they said they can't complain. They had insurance, but many of the people didn't. Plus there were 20 deaths, and they weren't even injured.

I walked away from the restaurant feeling really good.

Friday, February 16, 2007

2/16 I said YES

Just got in and am way too tired to post. But I called Austin and said YES! Will post details tomorrow. It should be a short day at the disaster mill.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

2/15 A Big News Day

I got the job. In the middle of talking to Beata on the phone, I took another call. It was David Y. from Austin offering me the position. I asked for a few things, got a yes on one, a no on another, and a maybe on the third. They want me to start March 1.

Will call him back tomorrow with my answer. What will the answer be?

I really don't know yet.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

2/14 Another busy day

The only reason I knew it was Valentine's Day was because some people had flowers delivered, and we also had candy all over the place. I ate way too many chocolates.

Looks like the service center might close this weekend. Our work is drawing to a close in this area. When that happens I'll drive back to HQ in Daytona Beach. I hope it's after Sunday--the Daytona 500 is making traffic crazy over there. Makes me glad I'm further west.

Even though I'm told things are winding down, we were sure busy today. Clients are still coming in to see us...some of them for the first time. Others were having problems still, and came back to talk about them.

Tonight I picked up my dinner from the hotel restaurant and will settle in for the night and watch American Idol. Then beddy-bye.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

2/13 Very relaxed

I went to Bob Evans for a very late breakfast, then to Barnes and Noble where I picked up several paperbacks for the road. Then to the mall where I got a horrible haircut. The thunderstorms were supposed to start by 2 PM so I came back to the hotel. Turned on the TV and promptly fell asleep until 4:30. Woke up and the storms had passed. Nice way to spend a storm, I guess.

Spoke to Pete who took my place for today. He sounded very busy and even a little frazzled, so I'll wait until tomorrow for details. Met a nurse at dinner tonight who said three of her comrades were sent home today. Sounds like things are winding down a bit.

I got plenty of rest so am really looking forward to going back to work tomorrow.

2/13 I'm free

...just for the day. Will go back to work tomorrow.

Slept from 10-7:30. Feel decadent. After my shower and a very late breakfast (brunch) I'll go to the mall for a while. I hear there's a big bookstore. :)

Then after "lupper" at Cracker Barrel or another gourmet restaurant I'll come back here for some computer games.

Yes, my life is exciting and I know you envy the fun I'll have today.

Some people go to Orlando on their day off. I just want to sleep; and am forcing myself to get cleaned up and out of the room. :)

More later.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2/12 More tomorrow

I'll write more tomorrow since I have a day off. Right now I'm just beat. The work continues, people are being well-served, and overall I feel so good ab out what we are accomplishing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

2/11 Still tired

Just got home and ordered dinner from an Italian place. I really don't care what it is, as long as there's no meat in it. Am that tired. Love to all.

2/11 Up early

Today I don't have to leave the motel until 11 AM; we've been given a half day off since it's Sunday. Everyone is supposed to get one full day after working seven days, so I'm making sure my folks are getting a full day in addition to this one. I'll take a day when I can.

Instead of sleeping late I got up at 5:30 to do my laundry. There are only two washing machines and I knew they'd be busy. Now my laundry is done and I can relax for a while.

Anyway, someone in my writing group asked me for details about what I do here, so thought I'dc post the answers here.

Here's are my functions:

1. Coordinate disaster mental health services--sending out mental health workers with Outreach Teams. Teams consist of two client caseworkers (people who determine financial need, based only on this disaster, not previous need), a health services worker (nurse or EMT), and mental health person (at least a master's degree and license to practice independently). Normally you can only practice in the state in which you are licensed, but when the president declares a state of emergency that rule is waived.

2. Assess need--all of our outreach people do this, but when a client comes into the service center I do this as well. We try to have another MH person with me so I can do the managerial stuff, but yesterday everyone was out all day. So I was able to interact with clients. It's a privilege.

3. Assist volunteers and paid staff--it's a stressful job and sometimes people need to go home. We help evaluate volunteers and staff and ensure they are doing okay. When people are due to rotate out we also speak
to them to make sure they'll be able to re-integrate into their community. Sometimes we see horrific things and need to be debriefed, just like cops and firefighters.

4. Respond to emergencies--we do "hot shot" calls when we hear of emergent needs. These happen fairly often, and a mental health worker and health services person usually respond together.

5. Compile reports--the Red Cross strives to be a transparent organization, one that has no secrets. After the Gulf storms of 2005, which caught all agencies unaware, the RC has put in many safeguards. So I have to do tons of reporting. Not a bad thing, and certainly important, but I'd rather work with folks.

I do love the job I have though. Other than being tired, I could do this all the time. The people in this area are so grateful and so kind to us.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

2/10 Stopped by a cop

I have a 30 mile drive to the service center. Today a cop stopped me. I was nervous, knowing how I usually speed. But luckily he stopped me to tell me my brake light was out. No ticket. Whew. Tonight on the way home from work I stopped at an Auto Zone and said, "I need a hero." This nice guy said he was one. Actually it was cute. He made muscles in his arms and jumped up like a super-hero. Really great guy and I appreciated it so much.

Today was the busiest day ever. But I feel so good. I was able to help so many people affected by the tornadoes and also talked to several staff who were feeling the strain. It was a really good day.

Got home and called Rob, then called Jill. Got to talk to Kayla and Hunter too, so my day is made. But the best news ever is that my roommate moved somewhere else. Although she was nice, I have a room to myself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, February 09, 2007

2/9 A good day

Today was my first day at the service center. Lots of nice people doing lots of good work. I know I'll enjoy my time there. The woman I'm replacing took me on a tour of the affected areas. It's funny how different it looks from the aftermath of a hurricane. But thousands of homes were destroyed---yet you can see where the tornado jumped or how it arbitrarily hit one million dollar home and left the neighbor untouched. This time we saw so many wealthy people displaced. The difference is that they have resources and insurance. The trauma remains, and money alone can't fix that.

I did an intervention with a dog today. A guy in a wheelchair was coming out of his house and his dog snuck around him and took off down the street. A big dog. I sweet talked him into coming my way (the dog, not the man). Then I "dog-whispered" him into going back into the house. Felt good.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

2/8 An acting gig

I just got an acting job offer in Chicago. It pays well and would last four days. So I emailed my friend and asked for the timetable. If it fits with this DR ending, then I can do it. Otherwise no. I sure hope I can do this commercial because it will not only be fun, it will be lucrative. :)

2/8 A brief respite....

I'm driving from Daytona Beach to Ocala where I'll be staying for a while. I'm now going to be the Disaster Mental Health Supervisor at the service center at Lady Lake, FL. After a while I'll go back to HQ, but for now this adventure will be fine.

So I stopped for lunch at a Barnes and Noble Cafe where I could sign on to the internet. What a major treat!

The Daytona 500 is happening soon the Daytona Beach is becoming a madhouse. Yikes. I'm so glad to be moving to Ocala for a while. This new job will be challenging because I've never done it before, but it really makes me happy to do it. I've learned so much at HQ. It's amazing.

So many people are being helped and so many good things are happening. It's such an honor to be part of it. I'll write more later. But for now, I've got to get going. Love to all.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

2/6 Daytona 500

Because of the big race we have to get out of our hotel rooms by Friday. I'm lucky enough to be moving to another hotel today. Otherwise I'd be in a staff shelter. They're not horrible, but a room with only one roommate is a bit better for getting enough sleep.

Gotta run. Work is calling. I love you and hope to write more Wednesday night.

Monday, February 05, 2007

2/5 10,000 meals

Yep, that's how many meals were served yesterday to people impacted by the tornado. Pretty darn wonderful.

Just got in and have to wake up way too soon. Just wanted to sign on so you know I'm alive and well and tired. More later. Love to all.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

2/4 Tired, but tired

Wait, I meant "tired but happy." Nope, I really meant tired but tired.

I finally got the deployment call yesterday at 3:10 PM. We wanted to leave home by 5 in order to run some errands and get to the aiport between 6:30 and 7, after an hour drive from Sanford.

I'd already cleaned out my "go bag but hadn't really packed anything until I got the official call.
So those two hours were a bit frantic. Rob and Beata were awesome though. Beata packed up a great CARE package for me full of granola bars and candy. Rob helped by looking up some info on the internet for me and some other things.

We had a funny drive to RDU. I kissed R and B goodbye and was gratified to hear how much they'll miss me--and this being after I've been there 2 1/2 months. :) I'll miss them too.

At the airport I remembered to call Jill to let her know about my deployment. She and the kids are visiting her dad and his family near Fresno.

Rob was surprised to find out that, until I landed, I wouldn't know if I was staying in a hotel or a staff shelter, or even if I had to drive to Daytona Beach immediately or wait until the next day. How it works is that as soon as you land you call the DR Info Line and get all the pertinent information. You don't get the info ahead of time because things change fast, and the information might be out of date by the time you land.

When I arrived I was put with some other folks in rental cars. We stayed at a hotel at the Orlando airport last night and drove this morning to Daytona Beach. I can't even begin to describe all the work we did today, but will try to talk more about it tomorrow.

Right now I'm at a Days Inn--connected to an IHOP. Could even heaven be better than this? (No need to answer, it was just a joke.) I am so incredibly tired, and this is only Day 1. Pancakes tomorrow and then back to work. (Today I woke up at 5:45 AM and got to my hotel at 9 PM. But it's all worth it.) Love to all.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

2/3 Florida bound...

I'm leaving tonight on a Southwest flight from Raleigh to Orlando. Will have to drive to Daytona Beach where the HQ is. I imagine I'll be working from HQ, but won't know until I get there.

Once I arrive, I need to call the Disaster Info Line to find out where I'll be staying, and where I need to report for duty.

I'm excited, and hope that I'll be able to help. Will try to blog as often as I can. I'm taking my laptop, even though it's at my "own risk."

Friday, February 02, 2007

2/2 The Red Cr oss calls...

Tonight I received a call from the Mental Health folks at the Red Cross DOC (Disaster Operations Center) asking if I was available to go to central Florida to work on the tornado disaster. I told my pal, Peggy, "Oh yeah. I've been hoping you'd call." She was pleasantly surprised and said she's recommending me and it will go to the staffing department tonight.

So it looks like I'll most likely get called tomorrow. If so, I'll be in Florida by tomorrow evening.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

2/1 Beata got her snow!

Our backyard view. One is off our deck. The one that has a very white section is the path on the way to Adi's grave. The path doesn't contain any leaves so the snow looks lovely.

Right now it's freezing rain and Rob had an errand he had to do. We tried to buy some sandbags last night for the back of his truck. Well, even Lowe's hadn't heard of that. They said they had bags and they could sell us sand and we could put the sand in the bags. Rob tried to explain the concept of selling full sandbags so people with trucks and rear wheel drive vehicles could drive on the bad roads. No luck. (We're not in the north anymore, Toto.) So he decided to put his lawn tractor in the back of his truck. Pretty darn smart, these Samoans.

All schools were either closed or had delayed starts today. Even Ft. Bragg is closed. Amazing. We probably had 1/4 inch of snow. But I do agree the roads may become really bad if the freezing rain stays frozen on the ground.

Beata took her dogs outside, but they didn't think it was as fun as she did.