Monday, December 31, 2007

12/31 What a year

Of course this is the time for reflection. My life has changed so much in the past year.

Toward the end of 2006 I quit a job I loved in order to do disaster work. Because the pay was low, Rob and Beata offered me a place to stay. So temporarily I went to NC and stayed with them while I did disaster mental health work for the Red Cross.

At the beginning of 2007, that's where I was. My "stuff" was still in storage in Milwaukee, but my body and heart were in NC. A friend recommended I apply for a job as the state director for disaster services for Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response in Mississippi.

Mississippi? I couldn't imagine myself living there. Mississippi? A horrible literacy rate, horrible poverty rate, horrible history of race relations. Mississippi?

But the job description intrigued me. So I applied.

In January they flew me to Austin to meet with the vice-presidents. Then they flew me to New Orleans and Biloxi to meet with the director of Lousiana and the guy who was leaving the Mississippi job.

In February I was working for the Red Cross at the Ground Hog Day Tornadoes in Florida, when I got the call offering me the job. By then I'd decided I wanted it, so I said yes.

March 1 I began by flying to Austin for orientation. The next weekend I drove from NC to Biloxi, MS. My home for the first week was an extended stay hotel, then for the next month I stayed in an RV. I bought a house immediately and closed on Friday the 13th of April.

The week prior to moving into my new home I drove back to NC to pick up my new puppy. Quincy is a full-blooded yellow lab and absolutely beautiful. I'd been able to pick her out when she was 10 days old prior to leaving NC. She stayed with me in my RV before moving into the house.

In August, I took Quincy to the Humane Society and let her pick out our next puppy--a chocolate lab mix named Cookie. It was so cool letting Q pick out her sister.

So many changes in such a short time--WI, NC, MS, Red Cross, LSSDR, hotel, RV, new home, puppy, puppy.

Surprisingly I absolutely love the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The view is absolutely breathtaking and the people are lovely and warm. It's so different from what I imagined.

The job is as well. I know how to do disaster work. I know how to manage a not-for-profit. But I think I was ill-prepared for this job. Tomorrow it will be 10 months since I began. After a lot of rocky places--some self-inflicted, some caused by others--I'm comfortable with the job. I finally understand more about the construction end of things, and I'm more familiar with how case management runs in long term recovery. There are four different boards of directors that I sit on, and this keeps me well-informed about what's happening locally and state wide. But I have so much to learn, and this job keeps dosing out humility in huge bunches.

Working for a faith-based organization is good in so many ways. We can pray anytime we want, and we often do before meetings. That's helpful because we deal with so many difficult situations. It's not just the lives of our clients that I'm talking about, although that is so very important. After all, it's been 2 1/2 years since Katrina and thousands of folks are still in the formaldehyde-infested FEMA trailers. Others live in unsafe homes that has mold everywhere. Still more are homeless--entire families who were barely scraping by prior to the storm are now without shelter. It's so sad, and there's so much work to do. It's especially hard because most of the US thinks that the Gulf Coast is recovered from the storm.

But I'm also talking about our staff members, many of them storm survivors too. They not only deal with their own issues of lives irrevocably changed but they help others as well. That takes such incredible strength.

The heartening news is that, even though many DROs (Disaster Relief Organizations) are gone because of diminished funding, there are still many organizations working to repair the damage. Nothing will ever be the same, but we're striving for the "new normal."

I live in hope. Hope that the remaining funds will be well spent for low to moderate income people, those without insurance or with cowardly insurance companies that refused to pay for wind and flood damage. Hope that current DROs will be able to remain beyond when the federal funding for case management stops on March 31. Hope that our dedicated and impassioned staff members take good care of themselves in preparation for more hard work. Hope that politics--both governmental and religious--doesn't get in the way of us providing good service to those in need. Hope that another hurricane season will come and go without event. Hope that courageous people, like those in the Steps Coalition, continue to stand up to injustice and hypocrisy. Hope that God answers our prayers.

12/31 Family stuff

Sorry I haven't posted for several days, but I'm staying at my sister, Jan's. She lives in the country and has dial up connection. She's ordered DSL but it hasn't been turned on yet.

So I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Quincy. Free wi-fi is a good thing. :)

I'm catching up on some work while Jan is working at the clinic this morning. Jane is off, but don't know what she's up to. I've been here since Friday and everything is going beautifully. Jan and Tim are always so welcoming and loving to me. It's such a treat to stay in their beautiful home. Friday night we just relaxed and played some games. Saturday we went shopping with Jane and her daughter Sarah. I got a few after-Christmas bargains. Saturday night all the siblings got together, without kids. We ate at Sprouts. It was a lot of fun. Several of us went to the Elks afterward, where we met up with True and Pat (a cousin and her husband).

Sunday Jane, Jan, and I went to Mass together. Then last night Jane and her family came for dinner, and so did Kris and her boyfriend, Brian. Kris is Jan and Tim's daughter. Also, Tim's Uncle Bill joined us. Caught up with the cast of characters? Just wait--there will be tons more tomorrow at Joe and Cindy's house.

Tonight Jane and her family, and Kris and Brian are coming again for dinner and games. I'm looking forward to it. But of course the reason for my visit will happen tomorrow--on New Year's Day. More on that later.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

12/26 Home again

Flew into New Orleans and drove back to Biloxi. Woke up at 2:30 AM (central time) so I've already put in a full day. Am catching up on some email at the office, and will pick up the puppies at 4. Looking forward to that. I've really missed them.

Yesterday was a great Christmas. Beata, Rob, and I all took part in the cooking (with Bea doing the most). Tom, Catherine, and Beata's friend Tina came for Christmas dinner. It was delicious and I'm still full.

After they left, I packed up, then Rob and I played some more cards. I had trouble sleeping, and when I woke up I heard Dr. Tran crying for me. I'm really going to miss that kitten.

I'm also going to miss the rest of the zoo--Bobby, Bella, Chilli, and Billi. And of course--Rob and Beata. They were so sweet to me the whole time I was there--making Christmas extraordinary.

(Oh, I talked to Jill and the kids yesterday too. Can't wait until my trip to Los Angeles so I can hug those sweeties.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

12/25 Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas to all! We had a delightful evening full of good food and lots of presents. I woke up at 6 AM, because Dr. Tran was purring and was sitting on my chest. What is this kitten going to do when I'm gone and she can't wake me up any more?

Here's hoping that you and yours have a wonderful and blessed day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

12/24 Achoo

My eyes are watering and my nose is running. Nope I'm not sick. It's just that a certain cat slept on my face for a while. It happened this way...

At 6 AM I got up to goo to the bathroom and Dr. Tran kept putting her paws under the bathroom door and crying. I let her come back to my room with me. She climbed on my bed and sat on my face. Just as happy as she could be. I moved her, but she ended up sleeping on my cheek. And she purred so loudly that I couldn't go back to sleep. So here it is Christmas Eve and I couldn't even sleep in. Fine with me though, because I love that little kitten.

Yesterday was another good day. We left at 12:30 to go to Linda's house for Sunday dinner. Tom, Catherine, and Judy were there--everyone from when I lived here. And Linda's son and daughter-in-law, Jason and Christy, were visiting. The food was tasty and the company was fun. I really enjoyed meeting Jason and Christy. They have two dogs--a yellow lab and a Newfoundland. They foster dogs for two rescue organizations, and the Newfie was a rescue that no one wanted. They said he's just a perfect dog though.

Their lab Rocky does what's called "dock jumping." It's a contest where the dog jumps off a dock after a toy, and the distance covered is measured. I'd never heard of it but Rob said I can catch it on ESPN 2. I know that Quincy would love it, the way she feels about water. Cookie is so dainty when it comes to getting wet or dirty, that she wouldn't go for it at all.

After the get-together, Rob, Beata and I went to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. It was quite interesting and covered the beginning of Special Ops (the OSS during World War II) up trhough current times. We also saw a few movies, one was made like a ride where the chairs go up in the air, vibrate, and it's like you are actually experiencing what's on the screen. It was a good afternoon.

We got home around 7:30 or so--after Rob and I went grocery shopping. We have all the food we need for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so Rob and I don't have to leave the house today. Yay.

Poor Beata has to work. I'll be napping, trying to make up for the early rising caused by the nefarious Dr. Tran.

Catherine and I at Linda's house

Me, Beata, Tom, Judy, and Linda

Rob and Judy

Beata and I at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum

Sunday, December 23, 2007

12/23 Another wonderful day

We had fun yesterday and hardly left the house. Rob and I played games most of the day, including online poker. And we played lots of cards, especially Spite and Malice.

Beata had to work from 11-7, so we went to Maurice's so I could buy a pair of jeans. Beatka is a great salesperson. I left with five items--jeans, shirt, camisole, necklace, and earrings. And no buyer's remorse.

I made dinner. At Rob's request I made sloppy joes. Yeah, a real gourmet meal. Made some vegetarian sloppy joes too. We stayed up until after midnight playing poker.

And I didn't wake up until 9:30 this morning. Can't believe I slept 9 hours.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

12/22 Yesterday was a long day

It's the last time I'm going to drive to the New Orleans airport to save $150. It wasn't worth the aggravation. I had to get up at 4 AM and drive in horrible fog all the way. Plus it took me more than 20 minutes to walk from my car to the ticket desk. Nope. Not again.

But it was all worth it in the end. My flights were on time, and we experienced no problem. Flying on Friday was smart because Saturday was supposed to be the most crowded flying day. Everything was comfortable for me.

Rob and Beata were at the airport when I landed, so I didn't have to wait. It was wonderful to see them. We stopped at the Something Shiny Diner for a late lunch. (Forgot the first word of the name.) It's an old-timey railroad car type diner, the outside made of metal, and shiny as all get out. The inside was old fashioned too with cool booths, and miniature jukeboxes in each one.

When we got home I was so happy to see the zoo. Bobby, Bella, Chilli, and Billi were all happy to see me. And Rob made a deal with Beata on the way home--she could keep the kitten if they named her Dr. Tran.

Beata said yes of course. When we got there it was neat to meet the little cutie. Then I saw the Dr. Tran videos on You Tube. Oh my they are hilarious. If you're interested just go to You Tube and search for Dr. Tran.

Rob keeps quoting the videos and now I know why. I'm quoting them too. :) And what a hilarious name for such a little kitten--she's only about six weeks old.

Last night Rob and I played Sequence. He won. Then we played online poker. We both won. Pretty cool. He came in 5th in his tournament and I came in 3rd in mine.

Today Beata works from 11-6. I'm going to her store later to buy some jeans. I definitely need some.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

12/20 Rain rain go away

Wow, it's been pouring all day. There's hail right off the coast but that hasn't hit us. Thank God. I've done a lot of driving today (and eaten a lot of holiday fare). But luckily I managed to traverse the worst of the huge puddles without problem.

The roads are hazardous too. But the good news is that it's almost done. And when I take off tomorrow morning for North Carolina, the weather is supposed to be perfect. That certainly makes me smile.

The puppies are at Pampered Pets and I miss them already. Tonight I must do laundry and pack. And clean dog hair off the Christmas presents I'm taking with me on the plane.

Can't wait to see Rob, Beata, and the zoo. It'll be great!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

12/19 My office

I stopped by my office today for a millisecond to pick up some papers. As I walked in I noticed a sign on the Director of Case Management's office that said, "Office for rent. For details, see State Director." I laughed so hard and thanked Willie (our Admin Asst) for making me laugh.

Then I got to my office and saw another sign, "Office for rent. For details, see Administrative Assistant."

That really cracked me up.

Normally I am in the office a lot more than Maria. She supervises people in three different locations (in two counties) and is always on the go. Since the holiday season started however, it seems like I'm always traveling from one meeting to another. I look forward to a day after New Year's when I can sit in my office and work.

Today, in two separate meetings, I pulled out my laptop and answered some emails. It really helped reduce my stress level, and I caught up a little bit.

Tomorrow I'm in my office from 8:30-9:30 and that's it for the entire day. Then the next day I leave for NC. (Yay for that.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

12/18 Good, bad, sad

The good is I'm just about done with my Christmas shopping. Also, it's good that I'm leaving in a few days for Christmas with Rob and Beata.

The bad is that I was in meetings all day and didn't get any real work done. Am too tired to do any tonight.

The sad is that Dan Fogelberg died. I fell in love with his music (and him) in 1978. The first album I bought was the one he did with Tim Weisberg--Twin Sons of Different Mothers. It remains one of my favorites, even though it's mostly instrumental.

He wrote one of the most romantic songs of all times--Longer Than...
(Sorry, I know I don't have all the words right.)

Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there've been stars up in the heavens
I've been in love with you.

I'll bring fire in the winter
You'll send showers in the spring
We'll climb through the falls and summers
With love on our wings

Taller than any mountain cathedral
Truer than any tree ever grew
Deeper than any forest primeval
I've been in love with you

Sunday, December 16, 2007

12/16 Christmas presents

Just returned from Caroline's. It was fun, and I made out like a bandit.

Genia me a beautiful blue silk scarf. Can't wait to wear it--it's gorgeous.

Cyndi gave me the cutest stone coasters--they have Texas Hold'Em and cards on them. Love them.

Caroline put together a bag of goodies--what a nice surprise. Bones for my dogs, candy, a Christmas kitchen towel, two decks of cards, a huge cookie, some chilli sauce, a magnetic shopping list, Santa earrings, and a "casino collection" which included six hors d'ouerves picks and a holder for them.

What a fun evening!

12/16 Funny video

Thanks to Dave. I stole this from his blog. Be patient--you have to watch nearly two minutes before it gets funny. :) - Watch more free videos

Saturday, December 15, 2007

12/15 Google Reader

I meant to talk about this last week. My friend, Dave, mentioned how much he likes Google Reader, so I subscribed. It's a way to organize all the blogs you read. It tells me when they are updated. That way I don't have to go to Rob's blog every day to see if he posted, when we all know he does it once or twice a year. (This year he made a liar out of me and posted three times, I think.) Anyway, now I can subscribe to more blogs and other things, and it doesn't take any time at all to keep up with them.

12/15 No more anonymous

No more anonymous comments for me! I turned on the new Blogger feature where anyone with an "Open ID" blog ID (from Blogger, AOL, Wordpress, etc.) can leave a comment. And anyone with a Google or Yahoo ID can leave one too. So if you have a blog identity anywhere, or you have a gmail address you can leave a comment.

Please don't let this stop you from leaving a comment. It's quite easy to register. This is one way I can stop spam comments without having folks go through the confirmation process of trying to figure out what the heck those letters and numbers are.

I've been wrapping presents to take to NC and to Quincy. And also a few to take to a gift exchange at Caroline's tomorrow night.

Soon I need to get the dogs out for their walks, but right now they're both sleeping, so maybe it would be a good idea for me to lie down too!

Friday, December 14, 2007

12/14 Meetings

Spent all day, yes all day, in meetings. Luckily the ones from 10-4 were in a building one block from the water with an unobstructed view, so I was able to do some dynamite daydreaming. One week from today I'll be in NC with Rob, Beata, and the zoo. Can't wait.

But I already feel guilty about leaving my pups for so long. As I sit here in my office they are both asleep at my feet. Just like kids they are so cute when they are asleep.

Tomorrow night I have a Christmas party at Genia's and Sunday night there's a gift exchange with my card playing buddies at Caroline's. Monday night will be the only night I'll have free after tonight. Guess that'll be a gonzo laundry and packing night.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12/12 Busy and nice

Today was a decent day. I had to attend a training in the morning and give a training in the afternoon. The good news is that the afternoon training was cancelled, and in the morning training no one else showed but me. So the instructor taught the 4 hour class to me in 2 hours. I had plenty of extra time today.

Then it was a case manager's birthday so I joined a group for lunch.

Tonight I rushed the dogs home, then went to choir practice. It was cut short too because the organist couldn't make it.

So time was my friend today. I like it when that happens.

Now the doggies and I will watch the finale of America's Next Top Model.

Monday, December 10, 2007

12/10 Summertime

That's what it felt like. It was nearly 80 and after the early morning fog lifted it was so clear you could see forever. Driving along Beach Boulevard all the way to Bay St. Louis was an even bigger treat than usual.

And when I got to the funders' table at the Long Term Recovery Committee it was rewarding when my company was the only one that could pay for a certain item. It was only $300, but no one else was authorized to purchase it. It was the high point of my day.

Tomorrow is a Christmas party at Camp Biloxi. Everyone's bringing a gift and we're playing Dirty Santa. (Sounds naughty, huh?) But it just means that you can take a gift that someone else has already chosen.

Then tomorrow night it's cards at Caroline's. That's always fun.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

12/9 Presents

I shopped for more presents today. Chose two angels from the Salvation Army in Bay St. Louis, and bought presents for two girls. One is very young and wanted a Bratz doll, so I got her that and a beautiful, fluffy pink robe to surprise her. The other girl is a bit older and wanted a DVD of High School Musical. They won't be in the stores until Tuesday, so I got her a gift card for it, and also bought her a beautiful pair of pink pajamas.

This felt better than all the other shopping I've done. There's so much need all over the world, but we really see it up close where we live. (A collective "we," not just me.) It's everywhere, isn't it? We can't fix it all. But the little bit we can do is at least something....

I loved Mass today. We sang some beautiful songs, and afterward we drew names for our Christmas party. I won't be here for it, but wanted to participate anyway. After that I went to the rectory to meet Brother Gene's Labrador Retriever, Pepper. Pepper is 10 years old and is so calm and well-behaved. Some day.... :)

Planted some pansies while my dogs were being walked. Hope they "take." They've been sitting outside waiting to be planted since Jan was here. Today was actually hot--not warm, hot. So it was a good day to be out.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

12/8 It's those days....

Yesterday was my brother John's birthday. Today is my brother Joe's birthday. Tomorrow is my brother Jay's birthday, and my son-in-law Todd's birthday, and my ex-husband's birthday.

Here's a general HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all!!!

Genia came over tonight and helped me wrap presents. Sorry, guys, they weren't birthday presents.

Time's passing so quickly....

(Oh, it was 80 today, and will be in the 60s overnight. Not too shabby.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

12/7 I've been absent

Sorry for the scarcity of blog entries, but I've been working late every night. It just seems there aren't enough hours in the day. And when I am finally finished working, I play with the dogs. They miss me. And I sure miss them. Wednesday night they had to stay at Pampered Pets because I couldn't get there before closing. So last night I made sure I picked them up and brought them home before going back to work.

These pictures are of my dining room and kitchen. The table isn't my regular one but the one I put up when people are coming over to play cards. Rob put up the shelf which contains some of my lovely items from Okinawa, including two beautiful tea sets from Rob and Beata.

Monday, December 03, 2007

12/3 In the 30s tonight

Guess I should stop bragging about the weather. :) It was in the 60s and sunny today, but tonight is supposed to be about 35. I brought my outdoor plants inside, just in case. And Quincy ate some of them. Yeah. Luckily I don't have any poisonous ones.

This is the closest I've ever come to smacking her. Boy was I ever mad. Then I found the plant in another room. She hadn't eaten it; she just played with it. I was a little less mad, except now I have mud strewn about. That's nothing new of course.

Have been working tonight (work-work stuff), so I better get back to it. More pictures tomorrow.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Saturday, December 01, 2007

12/1 70 degrees in December

My home office was basically just a big closet until Rob came and helped me organize it. I'm grateful beyond words. (The TV, printer, and phone are on the desk. Everything but my laptop.) Still some boxes under the desk, but I'll take care of that soon.