Thursday, May 31, 2007

5/31 Off to Chicago

I've been up since before 5. Q had to go out, and usually we go back to sleep, but I kept thinking of everything I had to do before I left town. I'll work until 3 or so and then catch a plane for Chicago. This is the weekend for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk and I can't wait to be with my sisters, nieces, and friend. This is always our special weekend every year. We don't need to check in until 1 PM on Friday so Friday morning we will go to the Designer Outlet Mall, where I always buy lots of Christmas presents. Since I'm flying, I'll either have to buy a few small things or convince Jane to take them back to Quincy in her van where I can pick them up later. In any case, the most important thing is that we'll be together. We'll be in a hotel Thursday and Friday nights, then camp out on Saturday during the walk, then a hotel on Sunday night as well. Everyone is so tired after either walking or working that it's hard going home on Sunday. It will be much easier on everyone to spend some time in a pool and/or jacuzzi. Shoot--I forgot to pack my swimsuit. Also forgot my Avon Crew hat and my jacket. Yikes. Guess I'll make a trip home before going to the airport.

Jane, Jan, and I always do the Avon Walk together. Jan walks the 40 miles, Jane is a team leader on the medical crew, and I'm Operations team leader working in Incident Response. This year our friend Deb is working on the medical team, and nieces Kris and Beth are walking with Jan. Kris is Jan's daughter so this will be even more special for them.

Quincy will spend the long weekend at doggy day care (and boarding). If she's the only one being boarded the owners will take her home with them so she doesn't have to be alone. That's wonderful.

I forgot to blog yesterday--the past few days I've been in non-stop meetings and this is the first time I've been at my desk since a few hours on Monday. We've been busy going to the Long Term Recovery Committee meetings in the three counties that we cover. It's been really interesting and I've learned so much.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

5/29 My baby

My baby, Jill, is 33 years old today. It seems like just yesterday that she came into my life and changed it forever. When I called her this morning I got teary-eyed, just thinking of the beautiful bundle of joy she's been all these years.

Wish I had more time to write. But, Jill, I love you so much and am so grateful to be your mom. Happy birthday, sweetie.

Monday, May 28, 2007

5/28 Memorial Day

Most people are off today but not the Mississippi and Louisiana branches of my company. Why? Because the staff voted to have off on Fat Tuesday instead. Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and is of course Mardi Gras. They celebrate it all over the Mississippi Gulf Coast and is not just a Louisiana thing. I look forward to seeing the parades and such next year, and it will be nice to sleep in my own bed after the shenanigans, and not have to pay for a hotel.

Any relatives and/or friends are welcome to visit during Mardi Gras.

The reason I'm writing now during my work time is because of something that just happened. I was working on my computer and Quincy was eating. (She's with me today because the doggy day care is closed on Mondays, so I bring her to work with me.) All of a sudden she started choking, trying to cough but unable to do so. I said, "Sandra, come here please." Sandra is the deputy coordinator and is next door to me. She's also someone who Q loves passionately. Sandra said she heard urgency in my voice. I did remain calm, however.

I did one abdominal thrust on Q, and could hear the food being expelled into her mouth. She of course chewed it and swallowed it.

Guess how I knew what to do? It's amazing. Yesterday at Walmart I bought a little book about Labrador Retrievers. And it showed how to do abdominal thrusts on dogs. I don't even know if I did it right, and will check the book tonight. All I know is that it worked. And I'm so grateful. (Thank you, God.)

Q is my companion and family member. I do appreciate her, but it takes something like this to make me realize how much.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

5/27 A great Sunday

Quincy and I had a really good day so far. We went for a walk, and we played fetch at least three separate times out in the yard. She loves chasing and retrieving her pink ball. Plus I put away another boxful of stuf, and took myself out for lunch before I went grocery shopping.

A good day.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

5/26 More work

Tommy and Tom came back today and put up another ceiling fan and did some other work too. We didn't get as much done as I'd hoped but I can do some of it myself. My favorite thing is that I have a fan on my back porch. That will be great for warm evenings when I still want to sit outside.

Q is acting the fool right now. She keeps jumping on me with a toy in her mouth. She'll come right to my face then turn around and put her butt in my face. I swear she's laughing while she's doing it. What a character.

All my brothers and nephews are out at John's land for the weekend. They do this every Memorial Day weekend and it's a nutso experience. How do I know? Because I'm the only sister who was allowed to partake of the weekend a long time ago. I loved it, but it is indeed a surreal time. They'll come back with tons of stories and lots of inside jokes. All part of the family mythos.

Friday, May 25, 2007

5/25 Working at a different site

Yeah, I'm working from home today. Someone is here to put up three new ceiling fans (office, guest room, and back porch). He's also going to hang my big pictures for me and do a few other things, but I doubt he'll get done today. So many little projects.

Because my electricity is going off and on because of the work, there won't be 8 hours of work done for my company. So guess, I'll make up for it tomorrow.

Q is happy to have more people here--Tommy brought his son, Tom. They "belong" to my real estate agent, Paula. I'm grateful to have someone to be able to do these chores for me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

5/24 It's been rough

It's been a rough few days, but things are looking up. We're re-organizing things, and long story short, some positions are being eliminated. Can't really say more than that, except I'm exhausted. Am working from home tomorrow and I know that will energize me because I'll have Q with me all day. I'll love that.

And, on a completely frivolous note--So You Think You Can Dance begins tonight, and I just love it. There will be no work done from home tonight because our email goes down at 6 PM and won't come back up until early morning. Hooray for that!

Got a haircut today and it improved my mood tremendously. It's amazing what a good haircut can do for a gal.

Will be back to my old self tomorrow. Some of you will be sad to hear that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

5/22 Meetings and more

Meetings at 9, 10:30, 12, 1:30, 3, and 4:30, some 20 miles away. And that was the easy part of the day!

The hard part is confidential, but I'm just glad this day is over.

Monday, May 21, 2007

5/21 Americorps and Habitat for Humanity

Even though yesterday was Sunday I had to work a little bit. We received an invitation to go to a special Americorps and Habitat joint celebration. Although it wasn't easy to drag myself out of my house, I'm so happy I went.

It was the last day of the national Americorps week and the first day of the Habitat Buildathon. Habitat for Humanity International is building 20 homes this week and it's a huge deal. Plus it's a celebration of the fact that they just built their 1,000 and 1,001 home in the Gulf. You're probably familiar with Americorps, the government program that allows young people to give up to a year of service in the US. VISTA was there too (Volunteers in Service to America).

Thousands of people filled the Gulf Coast Coliseum, and lucky me got to sit in the reserved section so was in the second row. The talks were mostly by Americorps members and Habitat volunteers and were so impressive. I can't begin to tell you the emotions that welled in me, and wish I'd taken notes so I could more accurately represent what happened.

I'd encourage all young people who may not know what they want to do with their lives to check out Americorps. The youth were exuberant about the experience and the travel.

What a great job I have!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

5/20 A great reward

I went to buy groceries at WalMart yesterday and when I came out there was a note under my windshield wiper. (My car has Lutheran Disaster Response magnetic signs on both sides.) Here's the note:

May God bless you for blessing us! Thank you, Dave Brown

It brought tears to my eyes. Yes, we get thanked a lot by people who live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but this was so unexpected, so random, so loving. It made my day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

5/19 New....

Yesterday I bought two plants, two ceiling fans, and a refrigerator. Yep. It'll be delivered today after 4, so I have to clean my kitchen. The guy who lived here had an old refrigerator in the kitchen. It doesn't match anything else--it's black and all the other appliances are white--plus the freezer door keeps popping open. So I bit the bullet. It'll be great because I'll get filtered water and ice in the door as well.

I hope I've spent the big bucks and that everything else is small. I bought a refrigerator, washer, dryer, fence, lawn service (to get rid of the weeds, fire ants, and mole crickets), and various other smaller items. The house is new so I don't expect too many repairs and things like that. So here's hoping....

Oh, and big news--Quincy slept eight hours straight the last three nights. I think my little pup is growing up. It's made a big difference in my energy level, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

5/17 Radio Interview

Today I was interviewed by a radio station in Michigan. It was a lot cooler than I thought it would be. The guy was interesting and had volunteered at one of our camps last summer. He promised to come back this July with another group, and gave out our phone number for other interested volunteers. One thing that was funny was that he was pissed because New Orleans got most of the press, and he wanted to make sure Mississippi got its fair share.

Also today was the end of the Mental Health Summit. I didn't get to attend much of it, but it was enlightening. Learned a lot.

My boss arrived today. Tomorrow we have individual meetings with each manager and then an all staff meeting. I'll be glad when the day is over.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

5/16 A woman

She's a manager at a family-run Italian restaurant. Someone messed up my order, so she stopped to apologize and offer a free gelato for dessert. She asked about my job. When she found out what I did, she told me her story.

I'll skip the details, but this young woman lost absolutely everything. Everything. When she described the loss of her home and possessions, she was stoic. But the tears came when she spoke of her three dogs.

That was the piece she concentrated on, and cried about--her beloved pets. She detailed the personalities of each of them: one shy, one overprotective, one playful. After 20 months of living in a FEMA trailer, she cried about those dogs.

I went home and hugged Quincy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

5/15 I learned something

At the meeting this morning with FEMA and some of our construction guys, I learned that if a structure is estimated to have less than 50% damage then it doesn't need to conform to the new elevation requirements. That's critical when it comes to an organization such as ours. If a house needs to be elevated, then we basically have to start from scratch and do a "build" rather than a "rebuild." Lots of complications, not to mention lots of money.

I also learned a little about flood zones. AE means that it's a special hazard flood area. A plain X means it's not a flood zone. An X in a shaded area means it's a 500 year flood zone, so we're still okay there (as long as it's not the 500th year). :)

Quincy slept well again last night, and is at doggy daycare today. She was thrilled to arrive and see her buddies. Hope I can afford to keep this up. It's hard to keep her at home when I work since her "condition" requires she goes outside every hour and a half or so. I'd leave her in the fenced yard but she's a digger and would be to China by the time I got home from work. That worries me--she could easily dig an escape route while alone and bored. Doggy Daycare is $1.50 an hour or $10 for the day (and night). So I'll give up something else to be able to keep taking her there. What can I give up? DSL? Nope. Digital cable? Nope. Fattening food? Nope. Cleaning team? Nope, don't have one here--yet. Lawn service? Nope--gotta get rid of those fire ants and mole crickets. Hmmm...I'll have to think about how to economize.

(Am taking a few minutes this afternoon to post since I only took a 2o minute lunch....)

Monday, May 14, 2007

5/14 I'm slow...

...but I'm learning.

There's so much to know here. So many details. So many people on the Gulf Coast I haven't met.

It's getting better however. The major piece I have to set in my addled brain is how the construction process begins.

I know it starts with case management and the Long Term Recovery Committee of the respective county. But I haven't been able to attend the LTRC meetings yet. My education there will start next week.

This week is full of meetings. My next one is at 1:30. I took a break and ran to McAllister's Deli to pick up a Spud Ole--a HUGE baked potato with cheese, jalapenos, onions, and veggie chili. (You can have regular chili as well.) Oh my it was great. But my office now smells like a Mexican restaurant. Not a bad smell as smells go. But the onions are STRONG. When I walk into the next meeting people will notice I'm there. My breath will enter before I do.

Quincy is sleeping by my chair. She's been just about perfect today. Just a few little barks but nothing to blog about (except I already did). When I go into a meeting I close my office door and she sleeps while I'm away. Works great.

Tomorrow she'll go to doggie day care, but they're closed today, so I have my buddy with me all day. Not a bad thing at all.

(Editing to add that Quincy slept 7 hours last night--got up, went outside and did her business, then let me sleep another hour. Life is so good.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

5/13 Mother's Day

So the day started out perfectly. I spoke to both my kids and grandkids. They said such loving and wonderful things. I miss them all so much, but am gratified that both Rob and Jill are in loving marriages and are so happy.

Later, the most exciting thing that happened was that Quincy and I took a nap.

In the middle of the nap, the phone rang. It was our alarm system company and the alarm had gone off at work. They called the police and I said I'd be there in less than a half hour. When I got there, no cops, no anything. So Quincy and I went inside and I put in my alarm code. Everything worked normally, until I tried to put in my code to leave. Everything went haywire again.

So I quickly called the alarm company and they told me how to fix the problem. At first I thought it might have been the thunderstorm that set off the alarm. But I looked around and noticed there were some balloons floating around. That's what the problem was. Someone had left balloons in the lobby where the motion detectors are. So I put them in the kitchen for now, and will send an email to all staff reminding them about the motion detectors.

Happy Mother's Day to all.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

5/12 Nothing

Nothing going on today. Q and I are enjoying our time at home. Early this morning we walked on the beach. Quincy doesn't like the sand much, so we spent the most time on the sidewalk. Now she's been sleeping most of the day. That's okay with me because I'm able to get some work done without a puppy underfoot.

She loves the fenced yard, but still doesn't want to be outside without me. I'm kind of forcing her to be out there alone for a few minutes. She'll get used to it soon.

Friday, May 11, 2007

5/11 Quincy and I are home

After a long, challenging meeting in New Orleans, I picked up Quincy from Pampered Pets. They'd given her a bath because she and her puppy friends had gotten really "crusty" while playing. She apparently had a ball. I'll be happy to be with her all weekend, but will take her back to Doggy Day Care a few days next week. Gotta run now, but will post more tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

5/9 Well worth it

Even though I was away from the office for two full days, it was well worth it. I made so many contacts--great people involved in disaster work. Plus I learned so much. The EOC is awesome and it's good to know we'll be in good hands should another disaster strike.

In a real emergency I wouldn't be at the EOC in Jackson...I'd be implementing our own Hurricane Response Plan in Biloxi. We'd have to evacuate all our volunteers first, then staff who aren't "mission critical." Other staff would be deployed with our trucks and other vehicles to a staging area further north. Additional folks would "batten down the hatches" in Biloxi and Ocean Springs, doing the best we could to ensure our property would remain safe. It's very serious business, but I'm so confident with the great staff we have that we will do the best we can.

I'd be the last to go. And because of that, I'll make sure everyone else gets the hell out of Dodge, so I could leave too. (Of course, this is only in case of a severe hurricane.)

There is one very small cool thing about all of this: I get to use a satellite phone. Oh, sure, I'm immature, but can any of you say that you wouldn't love to use a satellite phone. C'mon now. Be honest. (Not you, Rob. You get to use them all the time.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

5/8 Emergency Operations Center

Wow. This place rivals the American Red Cross DOC in Washington, DC. Walls are lined with HUGE screens full of weather reports and breaking news. We are running a hurricane drill--Hurricane Zora--hitting the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And it's so very realistic. Since we're below ground we can't tell what the weather is really like outside.

The room is full of MEMA personnel (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency) and people from FEMA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, police, firefighters, private agencies (like mine), and many government agencies like Department of Mental Health and Department of Education.

It's quite an interesting experience. I'm learning so much, and am looking forward to tomorrow.

Monday, May 07, 2007

5/7 Not about Quincy

I forgot to write that Friday night I went to Backwater with Jane and Jan, and some of their colleagues. When the manager found out that I was a comic, she asked me if I wanted to introduce the second comic and said I could do a few jokes. Of course I said yes. The first joke didn't go over well, but the second one killed. That felt good.

She doesn't like to emcee, so I'm sure the next time I go home I can get a gig being the emcee there.

It was fun.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I'll be in Pearl, MS at the EOC (Emergency Operations Center). I've heard it's underground and is ultracool. Can't wait. We're doing a hurricane preparedness exercise. A huge fake hurricane will hit and we'll direct the response from the EOC. Since it's 3 1/2 hours away, I'll have to stay overnight, which is why Q is staying at Pampered Pets. Then Friday I have to go to New Orleans for the day, so I won't pick her up until Friday night. I'll sure miss her, but she was so happy to see that she could e with a bunch of other puppies. They are all in the same room and spoiled rotten. It made me smile to see her cavorting. She didn't even notice that I left.

I'll report about the EOC later this week.

5/7 Medical update

Short version: Quincy has a congenital defect affecting both bladder and kidney.

Long version: She has a pelvic bladder. Instead of her bladder being near her stomach, it's in her pelvis. This causes all kinds of problems, including incontinence and bladder infections. First course is to see if she'll "grow out of it." If not, then we go to medicine which has some rotten side effects. Then finally surgery. The professor at Mississippi State said something else about one of the kidneys, but my vet and I didn't quite get it, so she's going to wait for the written report and then will tell me about it. They advised that I have Quincy spayed because it wouldn't be good for her to get pregnant. Would be too hard on her kidneys and bladder. I'd already decided to have her fixed, so that wasn't a problem.

For right now, I know she "leaks" like some women after they've given birth. And they might have to do a bladder tuck to fix that. So if you come to my house and it smells like pee, remember that it's not this old lady who did it (yet), it's my beautiful, semi-incontinent, puppy.

She's so beautiful and sweet. I sure hope she gets better--for her sake.

Friday, May 04, 2007

5/4 Last day in Quincy with Quincy

Since I returned from Chicago I've been having such a relaxing time in Quincy. It's hard not having internet access all the time, but my Blackberry works pretty well. Right now I'm at my niece Kris's house, pirating wireless from my brother Joe's across the street.

Last night more than 20 of us gathered at Tower of Pizza for a great meal. Jeff and Deb even drove in from Carthage. I loved the noise and the chaos (and the margaritas). Thanks, Jane, for organizing it.

Tomorrow Q and I will head for home. I'd like to start by 7 or 8 since it's such a long drive and I want to do it in one day again. I'm anxious to get much to do there. Plus my fence should be up by the time I arrive. Hooray for that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

5/2 Happy Birthday, Kayla!

I'm in Chicago so I can't post any pictures of my sweet granddaughter, but she's a very grown up seven years old today. I remember the day of her birth. Todd called me and said, "Hello, Grandma." And I started crying.

Kayla is not only beautiful and smart, she is funny. Isn't it great when kids can make you laugh with their wit? She's great at that!

Her birthday present is sitting on the front seat of my car, parked at the train station in Quincy. Sigh. Late again.

Hope your day is as special as you are. "You're my girl, Pearl."

Got up at 4:30 yesterday morning to catch the 6:15 train in Quincy. The train ride was nice and smooth, but had to take another train from Union Station to the western suburbs, then take a bus, and walk a few blocks to the hotel. I'm glad I only had luggage for one night. :)

The gathering was interesting and fun yesterday and we had an ejoyable meal last night. I was beat and didn't join the group at the bar afterward--I hit the sack, so of course woke up early this morning.

We'll finish up around noon and then I'll reverse the travel procedure to get back to Quincy, IL. My brother-in-law Tim will pick up my dog Q at the kennel and will have her waiting for me. :)

My sister, Jan, is a saint. Meant to write that yesterday. And I promised her I wouldn't visit again until Quincy is housetrained. :)