Saturday, March 31, 2007
I'm going to finish my taxes, put away my laundry, and then relax.
Here's what I'll miss about living in an RV park: Whenever I go outside there's always folks walking their dogs. I can pet animals and talk to their owners. It's so friendly here, and that's really neat. Even those without pets are outside a lot (heck, many of these RVs are small), and there's visiting going on. But your privacy is really respected. I mean no one knocks on your door or makes noise late at night. And this park is a nice combination of retired people and folks here to do disaster work.
Talked to Jill and Rob. Jill and her family are on their way to the Grand Canyon for a vacation while Kayla is on spring break. Rob is still really sick but won't go to the doctor. He sounds awful and I told him to consider himself nagged. It's probably a sinus infection or a throat infection. He says he's too busy to go to the doctor, but I don't think he realizes what a strept throat can turn into. His Aunt Janet had a strept throat in high school and it turned into rheumatic fever. She had to spend part of her sophomore year at home in bed, and has some minor heart issues as a result. Yeah, Rob, this is for you. GO TO THE DOCTOR. I love you.
Talked to Jan too today. She and Jane (and other relatives) are at a huge garage sale and they are raising money for our Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Chicago in June. By noon they'd already raised more tan $1200. I'm thrilled. Way to go!
Friday, March 30, 2007
The work week did fly by. We had visitors from Austin. And next week we have people from two different departments coming down to see us. I'm really glad, too., They're going to help us with some difficulties, and life will be a bit easier f or us afterward.
Tomorrow I'm going to finish my taxes. Haven't worked on them since last Sunday. Must get them done, especially because I'm going to get a nice refund. I can sure use that.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
And last night, I had to walk up to the shower building to use the restroom. Of course that was the night when I couldn't sleep and had use the bathroom all the time. But now, all is good.
It was so very busy again. I didn't get much of my planned work done because a lot of things kept popping up. Guess I just better get used to it!
I'm still smiling, though. Love it.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Today was busier than I could have ever envisioned. Didn't get any of the work done that I'd planned. One HR thing after another, and then one contract thing after another, and then one blah blah blah. You get the picture. I'm weird though--I love it.
Jill called me a few minutes ago. She's registering Hunter for kindergarten. It's so weird when your youngest goes off to school. I remember experiencing the same thing with Jill. My little one--all grown up; or at least she thought she was. Hunter is excited about being at the same school with his big sister Kayla. They are both so adorable...miss them tons.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Besides lots of work in my office yesterday, I drove over to Camp Victor. It's about 15 or 16 miles from my office. It was a good visit and I got a lot accomplished. Had lunch there which was great. They almost always have a vegetarian entree, and always have a neat salad bar. Spoke to the site director, the assistant site director, a long-term volunteer who does a bit of everything, and a newspaper reporter. The reporter loved the tour and the building. I basically tagged along for the tour because I want to learn everything I can.
While in the warehouse I found two tables that I'll be able to use for my home office. That's great and will save me some money. Of course, they aren't mine, but will serve me well while I work for LSSDR--hopefully for a long, long time.
Today the management staff and I went over our hurricane response plan. Hurricane season starts in June, so we have lots of planning to do in a short period of time. But this is a great group of people and I know we'll get it accomplished. (No, I'm not just saying that because some of them might read this.)
Tonight there will be no working from home. Why? Because I'm a reality show junkie and American Idol and Dancing with the Stars are on tonight, that's why.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Went to 8 AM services at Christus Victor. Since I was awake anyway I decided to go to the early one. Pastor Terri introduced me and had me stand. More than 100 people in the church were volunteers from Camp Victor and so it was good they could associate a face with my name. As I sat back down it really hit me about the enormity of this job. I just looked up at the cross and thought, "Help me."
In my travels today I drove along Beach Drive four times. There's a huge speedboat race going on and the roads and beaches are full of people. I could see from the road though and each speedboat had a helicopter right over it. How cool is that?
As I neared Keesler Air Force Base a C130J flew right over me. That thing is as huge as a small village.
I passed a clearing where a church used to stand. The people were having worship services near a big wooden cross they'd put up.
Our motto at work is Semper Gumby, standing for Always Flexible. Don't know who made it up, but I heard it from Henry, a retired Marine. I love it.
Went shopping, got my nails done, bought food and clothing. Went out to breakfast after church. Everyone is so friendly. We just chat while waiting in line.
Met some people from Luck, WI who are volunteering here.
Have been working on my taxes. Am almost done with my federal ones. Will get a nice refund this year--that's because I had CPI take out more money than I needed. I'm a terrible saver and didn't want to be caught unaware with a high tax bill.
I know there's more, but I'm tired.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Talked to both Jan and Jill today. It was nice. And I keep going to my brother Joe's blog because today it is even funnier than usual. Our family is odd. Weird, sick, funny, loving, sarcastic, smart, and well...odd. That's part of our charm. If you're into weird families read Joe's blog today.
After my shower I went to Joy's for coffee and a bagel. Then down to the Gulf. I walked for 40 minutes then took a drive around the peninsula. Past all the many casinos, but through small, devastated neighborhoods too. The difference between the two is astounding.
Now I'm doing laundry and will soon start on my taxes. I won't finish them right away though because I'm going to PetSmart to buy some puppy "stuff." Then to a late lunch/early dinner.
Living less than a mile from the beach is AOK with me. Wow, what a blessing!
Friday, March 23, 2007
Got a lot done today. Then went to lunch at Camp Biloxi with Sandra and Maria. Afterward we drove out to Woolmarket where we checked on a warehouse operated by IDTF (Interfaith Disaster Task Force). Since Woolmarket isn't too far away from my new place we drove by there on the way back to the office.
It was such a beautiful day that I left work at 4:30 and walked around the RV park a little bit.
There are boat races on the Gulf this weekend. Maybe I'll stop there. It will remind me of the races on the Quincy bay. :)
Oh, I got an email and everything is set with my home loan. Can't wait.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Lots of people are excited about the Starbucks that's coming in. (We currently don't have one.) I'm excited too, and but won't go there unless I'm with someone else who wants to go. Does this surprise you? I'm the gal who posted about stopping at Starbucks every morning in Milwaukee on my way to work. At the same time though, I frequented Alterra coffee which was a local coffeehouse, but only went there on the weekend because it was far from work.
Local businesses need to be supported. Every morning on the way to work I stop at The Joys of Coffee for my decaf Americano. After Katrina, Joy came right back in, cleaned up the place and started making coffee. That's a great story. And Joy is such a welcoming and friendly person. She, Matt, Sloan, and the young woman whose name I don't know do a great job there. And I'm greeted every morning with, "Good morning, Miss Jeri." How can you beat that?
They're closed on Sunday, so then I drive to Ocean Springs to Mocha Moose for a coffee. I sit on the porch and read or watch the world go by.
I love Mississippi. (We'll see what I say when summer comes.) But how can I not love a location where palm trees grow?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
When he first approached me about this a few days ago, I told myself not to get my hopes up, but they are really going to do it. They'll stay at Camp Biloxi because it's only about a mile from my office. I'll be able to go to the mess hall every night and have dinner with him. We provide a place to sleep and all meals for our volunteers. A lot of staff have meals there as well. I went there for lunch today in fact. They had baked chicken, mixed vegetables, homemade rolls, broccoli cheese soup, salad, and cake. So I sure didn't have to eat much for dinner tonight. (Ate a pre-packaged bean and cheese burrito.)
I spent time at FEMA today to get my packet so I can sign up for a FEMA badge, but I'm afraid they gave me the wrong one. They gave me the one for staff instead of an affiliate agency. So I'll go back tomorrow, but luckily it's less than a mile away. Our office is really centrally located for Biloxi. Too bad it's a little distance from Camp Victor but that will get better once the bridge gets rebuilt.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I hope that means warm weather for my relatives and friends back in
What a day I had. First of all I found out that the Director of Case Management and the casemanagers/caseworkers read this blog. At first I laughed, and then I got scared. Had I said anything nasty about anyone? Had I been negative at all about this job? I don't think so, because I tend to not write negative things, but also because I haven't felt negative about this job--except for the great amount of work we need to do. I could work 24 hours a day and still not be finished. That's something I need to watch out for. People in disaster work tend to overwork and to not count the cost. Our staff is so wonderful that I want to make sure they're here for a long, long time. So get out of that office and go home.
At some time I'll explain what the caseworkers do and how they relate to whether we rebuild a home or not. It's pretty interesting.
Let me tell you about the rest of the day. I didn't get much office work done. As soon as I'm finished with this, I'll make dinner, then sign off my personal computer and sign back on to the work one. (Yep, it's a laptop too, and I can connect to work via a VPN--a virtual private network.)
Even though I didn't get much regular work done, it was a superb day. Ken, the PR guy from our corporate office, visited from
Then we took Ken on a grand tour. Several of us went and it was well-worth the time. I met some homeowners where our volunteers were working. Oh my--it was the coolest thing ever to see folks working hard, most on their spring break from college. Following that we went to two brand new homes that we'd built. The owners, a father and daughter, gave us tours of their homes. They were both fantastic, and were well-furnished and obviously well-loved homes. The dad had a shrimp boil for the volunteers last year, and he said he's going to have another one this year and I'm invited. Well, I found out that you don't have to have seafood to love a shrimp boil. I can have corn and other vegetables boiled in that good tasting sauce. I'm looking forward to it.
This is already so long. There's so much other news but I guess it'll wait for tomorrow.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Tom sent this picture of Quincy from a few days ago. He titled it "Quincy after chow time." Looks like she's just waiting for me, doesn't it? Also, with that dirty snout, it looks like she was eating dirt. But I think she's beautiful.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
This morning I went to church at Good Shepherd Lutheran which is Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Next week I'll go to Christus Victor which is ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Today's service was so much like a Catholic Mass that I could say most of the prayers without looking at the book.
Afterwards I moved all my stuff from the hotel to the RV. In doing so I broke Rob and Beata's TV they'd loaned me. I left my big one at their house and took a smaller one with me--no room in the car for the big one. So I had to go buy a new TV today too. Plus towels and pillows--things like that. No problem because I'll use them at my new house.
I feel great...work is only about a mile down Pass Road, and the coffee shop is only a mile in the other direction. Yay.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
I took a tour through one of the heavily damaged neighborhoods. There are 200 houses in this neighborhood and we're going to rebuild 175 of them. It's a project that may take up to two years, but we're so excited about it.
Also, I went to Ocean Springs late this afternoon to see Miss Ruby's house. She's an elderly woman who uses a walker and sometimes a wheelchair. Her home was completely destroyed, so we built her a new one from the ground up. Tonight they're having a housewarming for her. I got a sneak preview of her home and it's adorable.
These things make me feel good about what we do.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
At 3 had a conference call with my boss in Austin and the other state directors from Louisiana and Texas. We worked on the the evacuation plans. Wow. So much to think about. I have 50 staff and usually around 400 volunteers, plus tons of vehicles and equipment. This is going to take a while to finish, but will be very valuable. Hurricane season starts again in June and lasts through November. Never know what Mother Nature has in store for us.
Worked until around 6 and now I'm sitting here eating and typing. :)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
At 2 I went to my house for the home inspection. I followed the guy around so I would know everything about the place. Afterwards the inspector said, "I don't think I ever had a house where I didn't write anything on the comment page." So needless to say I feel really good.
The house was built by Adams Builders and apparently they have a really good reputation. Yay for that!
Tomorrow I have lots of meetings and a conference call with the Senior VP in Austin, my boss.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
This is me in a C21, commonly called a Lear Jet. John and I went to Keesler Air Force Base, just a few miles from our office. We met with Chaplain (Captain) Mike Howard and got the grand tour. We saw a huge flight simulator for the C130J. Amazing. Then to a hangar where we saw the C21. Even though the one I was in is a very tiny plane and the C130 is gigantic, they have exactly the same control panels. So they have pilots requalify in the smaller plane. Plus they use them to transport VIPs. I met some great guys there, including some other chaplains. The chief one is a priest and is retiring next month. What a nice guy. But I really liked Mike. As part of the tour we went by the base housing--more than 2/3 of the houses had been destroyed by Katrina. Only 600 are currently in use. More than 2/3 of ALL the buildings on base had been damaged also. But the post is coming back...one chaplain said you can hear kids playing now, and that's such a hopeful sign. Oh, and I kept getting introduced as a Special Forces Mom. :)
John and I stopped for lunch with his wife OkHee. She made a great salad in their RV. When they leave Sunday, I'm moving in. It's a new-ish one that is quite large. I think it will be nicer than my hotel room, so I'll stay there until I can get in my house. Plus I can have my puppy there when I pick her up.
After lunch I had a meeting with two of my senior staff members to discuss our Evacuation Plan. We have to refine it because hurricane season begins again in June. So there's lots to do. Thursday I have a conference call with Austin about it, and another meeting after that.
Tonight we had a dinner meeting with a married couple who travel all over the US teaching construction classes to volunteers and staff. They're here for a week to help us catch up with our estimations. So it was fun meeting them over a Chinese buffet.
Tomorrow I'm going to a luncheon with the mayor. So tons of other people will be there too, but I'll still have lunch with the mayor. After that it's time for the home inspection on my new place.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Went to dinner at John and OhKee's tonight. Amazing what you can make in an RV. :)
I'm going to move into their RV when John moves out. That way I can save a little money for the company until I can get into my house.
Talked to my mortgage guy today, and everything's a go even with the new price on the house.
I'm really tired tonight, so will turn the computer off early.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Afterwards I drove to Gulfport and had lunch at a Cracker Barrel. Then went over to Ocean Springs and toured the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Beautiful. Walked out to an old fishing pier. But there's even damage there. Most of the pier is gone and will be rebuilt. The visitors center is devastated and visitors are greeted in a large trailer instead. The campground is closed because there are FEMA trailers and RVs for people who have lost their homes and haven't rebuilt yet.
Following that I stopped at Mocha Moose for a frozen mocha drink. Delicious. Then went to Walmart for a pedicure and manicure. Felt great after that!
Then out to my house where I took a drive by picture. The tenant's truck is in the driveway and the house appears smaller than it really is...but at least you get an idea of what it looks like. It's dark red brick with white vinyl siding around the upper windows and soffits (is that how you spell it?). There's no second story; the upper windows allow a nice cathedral ceiling in the small living room. As you can see, the neighbor on one side is close, but there's much more room on the other side of the house.
Yesterday I talked to Rob, Beata, and Jill. Today I spoke to both my sisters. It was nice!!
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Lutheran relief group welcomes new leader
BILOXI — Lutherans working to help rebuild Katrinadamaged homes passed their leadership torch — wood from a 500-year-old oak tree — to Jerilyn Dufresne of Milwaukee on Friday.
She succeeds retired Army Chaplain John McRae, who took on the job 11 months ago as state coordinator for Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response and now says “it’s time for me to go home and be with my wife.”
McRae said he is excited about what’s happened here. He praised those who stepped up immediately after the storm and started helping, and the thousands of volunteers who have taken time away from their lives and used their own funds to come here. He said every week 300 new volunteers come in.
Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response has housed, fed and organized more than 15,000 volunteers and done more than 5,300 minor repairs to homes and 600 major repairs, according to LSSDR statistics.
A donation of $18,843 was presented from St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Devon, Pa., collected by people there who had been here to work after the storm. The sum incudes $4,000 from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. So far, said Terry M. King of Slidell, a Thrivent consultant, Lutherans have spent $16 million on Katrina recovery from Texas to Alabama.
Dufresne is a licensed social worker who was working with the Red Cross in Florida helping with tornado recovery when she was notified of this job.
In response to questions about her plans, Dufresne said, “I’m buying a house and getting a puppy. I’m here to stay until I’m not needed any longer.”
PLUS--I'm in the Biloxi Sun Herald. The article is a quarter of the page. Took that much room for my picture--big butt. :) Will try to post the article. And was on the news last night on the local ABC affiliate but I fell asleep about 5 minutes before it came on. I heard it was good. Sigh.
Friday, March 09, 2007
I'm really sad. Loved that house.
So back to square one. Sigh.
The ceremony first of all honored John McRae. He's such a good man, a retired Army chaplain. When he was called by a friend to do this job he said he could give it a few months. Well, he's been doing it for 10 months. Finally he's going to be able to go back to Maryland and be with his family. His wife OkHee is here and only bought a one way ticket. She's riding home with him in the car to ensure he actually makes it.
The staff gave John beautiful gifts, but the real beauty was what they said about him and how they feel about him. It was very touching. Around 30 people attended the ceremony. They also had this awesome symbol made--it's hard to explain. But a staff member named Tony climbed a dead water oak tree (dead from the storm), and he cut off a piece of a limb. The tree has been determined to be 500 years old. Amazing enough, huh? Then he burnt our company name in it--Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response. It was put into a base, and on the base it says "Turning Tragedy Into Triumph." On the side it says "John McRae May 2, 2006 thru March 9, 2007." Next to it is another sign, "Jerilyn Dufresne March 9 thru ___." I get to keep it in my office. What an honor.
What a moving symbol of what we do here--the 500 year old tree has been here long before we came, but we're here now and will continue to be here until we're no longer needed. I'll post pictures Monday when someone gives them to me.
It was awesome today. People who are here because they feel God has called them to do this work. It's a privilege to work with them.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
We also talked about the plans for the big ceremony tomorrow. John had the idea to have a "passing of the torch" so that people would know when he's bowing out and when I'm taking over. The media will be there, and all staff will wear their Lutheran Disaster Response polo shirts. I'm quite excited about this. I'll report tomorrow night about how it went.
Because of a tragedy in the selling agent's personal life, I'll hear tomorrow whether they accept the offer or not. Keep your fingers crossed.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The place is only 18 months old. Brick, 3 bedrooms, two bath. Master bedroom is big. The other rooms are small. Nice sized back and side yard. Will post pictures if they accept the offer. Couldn't find a condo that I could afford (and that was in a good neighborhood. But these houses are just right and in a nice area.)
Work was good. Drove with John to Long Beach, MS to meet with a pastor, then stopped at a great pizza place for lunch. Tomorrow I'll be going to Camp Biloxi for the first time. (Yesterday's visit was to Camp Victor.) Am really looking forward to the visit tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Later we went over to our camp in Ocean Springs for a tour. Again, I was amazed. This place houses 200 volunteers at one time, as well as a distribution center, kitchen, and dining room. Such a dedicated group of people. Many of them are from other states and are living here as staff members. Others are volunteers from all over the US. Even five people from other countries. We ate lunch there and it was amazing. They had veggie corn dogs too. And I ate two of them. Yum.
At one, my realtor picked me up and we looked at houses. No condos are available. Well, one is, but it's in a rough-looking neighborhood. I found two houses that I really liked. One is in Ocean Springs about 1/2 mile from the Gulf, and the other is in north Biloxi. We'll look at a few more tomorrow.
The devastation is still everywhere. Many people are working hard to rebuild, but others either don't have the resources or the inclination--or maybe both. My heart just hurts for all the damage and loss.
Now I'm tired. G'night.
Monday, March 05, 2007
The day went by quickly. There are so many appointments, meetings, and meals between now and when John leaves. Lots of things are on weekends and in the evening, but as things progress I'll be able to take time off during the week to make up for it.
My office is really nice. The whole place is nice, but because it's so new it hasn't been decorated yet. That will be fun to work on with other staff.
Gotta run. Have more clothes to unpack.
When I talked to John last night he said that the Deputy Director is expecting me at 9. Omigod, I'm having such a hard time waiting until then. At least tomorrow I'll have a key and will be able to go in early if I wake up early again.
There's just so much to do, and I'm anxious to get started.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Then I drove through some residential neighborhoods and felt the same two emotions.
Finally was able to check into my hotel. The room is small but wonderful. A bed, two nightstands, TV, bureau, table, three chairs, kitchenette with stove, refrigerator, microwave, and a full-sized bathroom. I should be fine here for a month.
Spoke to John MacRae, the guy whose position I'm taking. He has strept throat plus has to have a root canal tomorrow. So I won't see him tomorrow morning. Am meeting with my deputy director and a few other staff. Then will meet my realtor at one. Finally, John set up a dinner for tomorrow night with a few of the managers. I'm looking forward to it.
Gotta run. Must go to the store to find "stuff" for dinner tonight. Love to all.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
The orientation in Austin went by so quickly--so much to learn and lots of paperwork to complete. Everyone was really nice, and I am psyched to begin this next adventure in Biloxi. Tomorrow I check into an extended stay hotel, and can stay there for 30 days which is what I need because it will take that long to close on a condo or house. My realtor is picking me up Monday afternoon and we're starting the search. I'm really excited about the possibilities.
The other day the Red Cross emailed me and said they really needed mental health people to work with tornado victims in Alabama and Georgia. Had to decline, even though I'd love to help.
While driving through Georgia so many memories flooded--I'd lived there for seven years, and passed by many towns I was familiar with. I called an old friend while passing through. Carolyn and I met in 1978 and were best friends for two years before I moved back to Quincy. We've stayed in touch over the years, and it was neat talking to her.
Enough for now.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
He's got a masters' degree in criminology and a wife who is a doctor. She's finishing her residency in Africa and their two children are living with her. He's a citizen now, as are his kids. But his wife is experiencing some difficulties with her green card, but they're confident it will be resolved in a few months.
He quit his government job as a probation officer. Enjoys driving a cab, and teaching at a local college.
He just returned from Africa after going home for his father's funeral. His father was the mayor of their (large) city. He showed a picture of the entire family standing in front of their home--a gorgeous mansion surrounded by coconut palms and banana trees.
The trip to the hotel passed by so quickly.