Monday, March 30, 2009

Fargo Floods: March 27

Events of Friday, March 27, 2009

Location: Fargo, North Dakota/Moorehead, MN area

Disaster: Red River Flooding

From 10:30 pm until 7:00 am, I am managing the shelter...our first night, we have a population of only 32. That's good. As I'm exhausted.

Two reporters show up at the shelter during the shift. One wants to film the clients in their beds. Uh - sorry, pal - that ain't happening. Against our rules, as we respect the privacy rights of our clients. The other guy just wants some quotes, and so we do a quick interview.

At 6:00 am, Good Morning America shows up to film. They are allowed to film outside the doors only, as again, we don't want cameras on our clients without their permission.

Finally, 7:00 am arrives - and it's time to head home. I watch a little of the media coverage of the flood - they've hit the 3 million mark on the sandbags - and now it's just a matter of waiting and seeing. I finally drift off to sleep, only to wake up at 1:00 pm. Oh, woo hoo - a whole 2 hours of sleep.

Before we leave to go back for our 10:30 pm shift, I get a call from HQ, telling me to tell my team they need to have at least 2 days of clothing and all essential medications with us at all times. If the levees fail, we may not be able to get to our hotel - so we must carry our supplies with us.

When we arrive at the shelter, our client population is now 60. BUT - we are warned that approximately 100 firemen will be arriving some time during the night. And we will need to shelter them. Sure enough - at 2:00 am, all hell breaks loose, as OVER 100 firefighters arrive all at the same time!!!! My team pulls it together, though - we only have 5 people, but we got the job done. And efficiently, too, I might add!

Frank, the site manager, asks my team to stay until 10:00 am that morning - to assist the morning team, so they won't be overwhelmed now with almost 200 clients.

We are seriously dragging...almost dead, actually - but the morning passes and soon it is time to go back to the hotel.

We get back and there is the local paper on the hotel registration desk. On the front page, there's an article about our shelter - and a quote from none other than - ME! I am famous! :-)

Time to crawl into bed...I'll sign autographs later when I've had more sleep.


Fargo Floods: March 26

Events of Thursday, March 26, 2009

Location: Fargo, North Dakota

Disaster: Red River Flooding

Happy 10th Anniversary to me!

Yes, it's my 10th wedding anniversary - and I wake up in Fargo, ND - to find it is STILL snowing (geez, does it ever stop here?) and it is STILL cold. The temperature is 16 degrees, with a windchill below zero.

We arrive at Headquarters at 8:00 we were told that our briefing would be at 8:00 am. So, we sit. No briefing. We sit some more. It is now 10:00 am, and we STILL have not had a briefing. Remember - patience is a virtue with the Red Cross. Finally, around 10:15, we get a briefing from Cliff, our Shelter Director. Not much has changed - we are still working with FEMA on setting up shelters...although Cliff warns us to be careful driving around the city, as we have had 2 Red Cross vehicles involved in accidents so far. With injuries. Not fun.

After the briefing, Cliff dismisses us - and says we are free to return to our hotels and await for deployment. Again, we are warned: team leaders need to have their cell phones handy.

I gather my team and we head to the FargoDome.

This is where Sandbag Central has been taking place. We walk into the arena and we are astounded at what we see. It looks like a giant anthill...we enter the arena from above, and on the arena floor are thousands of volunteers, filling millions of sandbags. There are semi-trucks, dump trucks, and other vehicles driving back and forth (almost a scene from a monster truck rally) unloading sand, loading sandbags, and creating a dust storm.

There is loud rock and roll music blaring from the speakers. And it is phenomenal. I stand in awe - as I see a community pulling together for a common purpose - to save their town. Young, old, black, white - volunteers working side by side, determined to get to 3 million sandbags.

I ask someone what the count is so far - and it is at 2.2 million - and rising. CNN is there, filming. Very, very interesting.

We leave the FargoDome at 11:30 with the intention of making a trip to Walmart for supplies - when my cell phone rings. It's Cliff, telling me to get my team and get back to HQ - within 30 minutes. We've been assigned.

We hightail it back - to find we're opening a shelter in Moorhead, MN - about 5 miles due east of Fargo. We will be based at Moorhead Senior High School - home of the Spuds (seriously) - and we will be able to shelter up to 500 people.

We carpool the 5 miles to Moorhead...and it takes 90 minutes. No joke. Apparently, we have to cross the Red River to get to Moorhead. And all bridges - except for two - are now closed, due to high water. So the traffic is horrendous. I don't think I've ever been so frustrated - 5 miles in 90 minutes???!! Come on, people!!!

There are 3 teams assigned - and Frank, our site manager, takes myself and the other 2 supervisors, on a quick walk through of the school. This school is only 5 years old - and it is HUGE. And it has not one, but TWO ice rinks inside. (It's Minnesota, after all). We're setting up operations in the gym - and now the fun begins. Our first clients are expected to arrive within 3 hours - so we must get registration tables set up; trucks unloaded; cots set up; blankets set up; a "kitchen/canteen" area set up; signage put on the walls; an information desk set up - are you getting the picture here? And we have 15 volunteers and a site manager. Time to bust our butts.

It's now time to set up shifts. My team has voted to take the night shift - it will be quieter and a little less stressful - so we are dismissed at 6:30 pm and told to come back at 10:30 pm to work a 8.5 hour shift. Not much time to sleep, huh?

Getting back to the shelter that night is much easier. The local law officials have recognized the traffic situation, and they have closed the roads to everyone but emergency personnel - so we breeze through.

Arriving at the shelter, a bus pulls up - with a busload of clients. It's somewhat crazy for awhile, getting everyone registered and assigned a bed...but eventually, it gets done, and our shift continues until 7:00 am. We're exhausted - we're not used to staying up all night - but it's a good exhaustion.

We stumble back to the hotel - and when I open the door to my room, there's 2 dozen roses! And 2 boxes of chocolates! Michael remembered that it was our anniversary! I am overwhelmed!

I crash into bed and try to sleep.

The adventure will continue....


Fargo Floods: March 25

Events of Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Location: Fargo, North Dakota

Disaster: Red River Flooding

We arrived in Fargo around 12:30 am...and it was snowing. When I wake up around 6:30 am, I am amazed to find 9" of snow on the ground. Yikes. And it hasn't stopped - it's still snowing, and the wind is blowing around 20 mph. No wonder I don't live up here.

Upon arriving at Headquarters, I run into some Minnesota volunteers who I have worked with in the past. Another fun thing about volunteering with the Red Cross - every disaster is like a family reunion. You will always run into people you've worked with - and it's always fun to figure out what disaster(s) it was that you worked together before on.

At 9:00 am, the Director of Operations (DO), Bob, comes out to give the assembled volunteers a quick briefing. The Red River is expected to crest on Saturday at 42 feet, which will set a new record. Currently, the Red Cross has volunteers out feeding the volunteer sandbaggers, as well as giving them hot coffee.

Our teams our all put on stand-bye, awaiting further instructions. This is where the fun begins. The assignments can be given in the next 5 minutes - or it may take days before an assignment is given. Patience is a must with the Red Cross - as you may be sitting awhile. I use it as an opportunity to conserve energy, knowing that once assigned, all hell will break loose and I'll need every bit of strength and energy I've got.

Our team is told that Red Cross is waiting on FEMA (what a surprise), as FEMA is deciding on whether a "mega" shelter should open. A mega shelter can hold thousands of people - it's what the Superdome was during Katrina.

We do manage a quick stop at Chili's for lunch - you never know when it will be your last hot-cooked meal.

Evie, myself and Patty - at Chili's

Then, it's back to HQ, to sit. And wait. After more hours of waiting, two more briefings, one Orientation meeting, and much snacking - our teams are dismissed to the hotel rooms around 6:30 pm. But - we are told to have our cell phones handy - as deployment can come at any time - and we need to be ready to go.

Because it is STILL snowing when we leave HQ, we decide to go straight back to the hotel and hunker down. The road conditions are horrendous - heck, the people conditions are horrendous. I was smart and came all the way to Fargo without a coat...what the heck was I thinking??! Luckily, a quick trip to Walmart around lunchtime solved that problem - but, still - it's just down right brutal in the frigid air and strong winds.

In the hotel room, it is interesting to watch the Weather Channel and see them filming from where you are at the present time. The river is still rising, and the sandbagging continues. These people are determined to save their homes. I say a prayer, and then, it's lights out.

The adventure continues....


Fargo Floods: Day 1

Events of Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do you ever have one of those days? So - I'm home Tuesday morning, waiting for the Cable Guy to come and hook up a high-def television at home. My "window" of opportunity is any time between 8 and 11:00 am. Since I'm going to be home waiting for the Cable Guy, I figure I can kill two birds with one stone - and so I schedule the Geek Squad to come by and do some tinkering on our home computer network. Efficient, yes?

So, it's 9:30 am and the Cable Guy arrives...he's tinkering away, when the phone rings. It's the Red Cross. And it's time to go to Fargo, ND to assist in the flooding with the Red River. And - I must be packed and ready to go by 1:30 pm that same afternoon. Yeah, right.

About that time, the doorbell rings and it's the Geek Squad. A guy has shown up, but when he sees that part of my network includes a Mac, he has to call another Geek to assist him. So, I am running around the house, grabbing a suitcase, sleeping bag, and other essentials, trying to dodge the strangers that are in my house. Crazy times, indeed. They all promise to be out of my house and on their way no later than 12:00.

I call Hubby to tell him I'm hitting the road for Fargo at 1:30 that day, and bless his heart - he drives all the way home from work (NOT a short drive, by the way!) and insists on taking me to lunch.

After a quick lunch, he drives me down to the Red Cross headquarters, where I meet up with the other four members of my team. We do a quick media interview with both Channel 41 and Channel 9, and then we climb into our 2 rental cars and start driving north - up I-29 - to Fargo. It's 2:30 pm before we hit the road - and Fargo is 600 miles away.

Such is the life of a Red Cross volunteer. Always having to be ready to go at a moment's notice. Always having a suitcase and essentials nearby.

We drive and drive and drive...stopping only for fuel for the car and fuel for our bodies. Around Sioux Falls, we hit sleet - and it gets worse as we drive north.

We arrive in Fargo around 12:30 am - where we are told at headquarters to head to the luxurious Motel 6 (ha!) and get a room. And be back at Headquarters by 8:00 am Wednesday morning.

So begins the first day of the Fargo Flood Disaster of 2009.

The adventure will continue....and I will add photos to these posts when I am back home and can upload my photos to my OWN computer and not a borrowed one!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Three Days of Heaven

Another Monday morning...the beginning of another work week...the ending of another weekend.

But what a weekend it was.

The original plan for our family was for the four of us - myself, Hubby, 15-year old Son, and 9-year old Daughter to head up to Lawson, Missouri to Camp Wilderness. It was our church's annual "family mission" trip - where children of ALL ages are encouraged to come up and participate in a mission trip - so they can get a taste of that awesome feeling of stepping out and helping others. We've done this for the last few years.

What actually happened? I drag myself home late Thursday night - after spending most of the day (and evening) at Red Cross - I was exhausted. No, wait - make that beyond exhausted. Don't know what that word is - but I was there. Almost dead? Yeah, that would be pretty accurate. And we were scheduled to leave early Friday morning for Lawson, and I had yet to pack. Ugh.

So my blessed Hubby says to me Thursday night, "What if just Daughter and myself went to camp? Why don't you stay here with Son for the weekend?" Are you kidding me? Did I just hear those wonderful words come out of my Hubby's mouth?! Don't get me wrong - I normally enjoy mission trips...but this year, what with my health issues and such, I was really dreading this trip. Not to mention, the introvert in me wasn't looking forward to being in a crowd all weekend. I didn't think too long (what - 2 seconds?) before I said, "Okay - sounds like a plan."

So - Friday morning, Hubby and Daughter head to camp - and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the weekend with just my son. I've actually never had this opportunity before to spend 3 uninterrupted days with him - just him - and I have to tell you - it was great. My son is the middle child - he is normally lost in the sea of other kids and issues. But not this weekend. He was the ONLY child. We talked; we laughed; we watched basketball games together (go, Mizzou!); we went to a movie together; and we talked some more. It was awesome. I think those 3 days were some of the best days that I've had in a long, long while...and I hope my Son agrees. He would never admit it, but I think he had fun.

I learned some things this weekend. I learned some things about myself - but more importantly, I learned some things about my son. I also learned how important it is to take advantage of these opportunities if they arise - and if they don't arise - MAKE them! Take the time to sit down and spend some time with your kids - one on one - and really talk with them.

So, Hubby and Daughter got home yesterday, and all I could say to my Hubby was, "Thank you. Thank you for those 3 days."

I think he knows...he gets it.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Fishin' in the Dark

Do you ever listen to a song that just makes you happy?

I'm sitting here, on a Saturday night, listening to some songs on my Ipod - and on comes "Fishin' in the Dark" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

I don't know what it is about this song - but I smile every time I hear it. Maybe it's the "bouncy" beat - or the lyrics - but something just makes me smile. And that's a good thing.

So, sing along with me!

Lazy yellow moon comin up tonite,
Shinin thru the trees,
Crickets are singin and lightning bugs
Are floatin on the breeze
Baby get ready.....

Across the field where the creek turns back by the ole stump road
Im gonna take you to a special place that nobody knows
Baby get ready.....ooooooooooo

You and me going fishing in the dark,
Lying on our backs and counting the stars
Where the cool grass grows.
Down by the river in the full moon light,
Well be fallin in love in the middle of the night
Just movin slow...

Stayin the whole night thru, feels so good to be with you...

Spring is almost over and the summers come
And the days are gettin long
Waited all winter for the time to be right, just to take you along
Baby get ready.....

And it dont matter if we sit forever and the fish dont bite
Jump in the river and cool ourselves from the heat of the night
Baby get ready.....ooooooooooo.

You and me going fishin in the dark!

Now - aren't you smiling??!!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My 15-Year Old Son's View of his Mom

Okay, another Facebook "quiz". This quiz requires the participant to "interview" their child/son/daughter for their answers and thoughts on you, the parent. So, I interviewed my 15-year old son (who will be 16 in three weeks - yikes) only because he was closest at hand. Lucky for him, huh.

1. What is something mom always says to you?
She says, "I love you." (that is so true...)

2. What makes mom happy?

3. What makes mom sad?
Not being in Guatemala.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
Stupid things she does, like showing off her Tae Kwon Do. (and here I thought I was good....!)

5. What was your mom like as a child?
Fun and cute and really talkative with the boys. (hmmm.....don't know where he got that?!)

6. How old is your mom?
44. (I'm really 46)

7. How tall is your mom?
5'10 (I'm really 5'6")

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Talk about Guatemala or watch Top Chef.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
I don't know; how would I know that when I'm not there? (that is a good point)

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
She'd be a world-famous actress starring in a movie about Guatemala.

11. What is your mom really good at?
Doing mission trips.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
Nothing. She's good at everything. (yeah, he's sucking up)

13. What does your mom do for her job?
Red Cross something. (love it)

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
Chocolate. No - wait - taco soup.

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
She really helps out with people when they're in need and she's really nice - when she wants to be.

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Minnie Mouse - it was the only one I could think of.

17. What do you and your mom do together?
We go to Sunday School together.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
We're both good at sports, especially baseball/softball.

19. How are you and your mom different?
Mom's cute and I'm not. (that's not true)

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
She just says it.

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
Church. She really loves to go to church.

23. If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
I don't know....I don't know anything I would change. (again - sucking up)

24. What is one thing you hope never changes about your mom?
How much she loves me.

25. What is your favorite thing about your mom?
She's funny and she's really weird sometimes. (He wouldn't elaborate on the "weird.")

Four Things

Facebook has been enlightening...I've never seen so many "quizzes" since I was back in college. Yikes. Every day, there's another one...if anything, not only have I learned many things about my Facebook friends, but I've learned lots of things about myself. So - here's the "Four Things" Quiz....!

Here are four things about me that you may or may not know, in no particular order, of course ...

Four names that people call me:
1. Mom
2. Sweetheart
3. Superwoman
4. Martha Stewart

Four jobs I have had:
1. Carhop
2. Functional Analyst
3. Paraprofessional
4. Missions Director

Four movies I would watch more than once:
1. Roman Holiday
2. North by Northwest
3. Raising Arizona
4. The Italian Job

Four books I really enjoy:
1. Anything by Linda Howard
2. Anything by Sandra Brown
3. The Other Side of Everest
4. The 19th Wife

Four places I have lived:
1. Portland, Oregon
2. Grandview, Missouri
3. Lenexa, Kansas
4. Lee's Summit, Missouri

Four places I have been:
1. on the top of a volcano in Guatemala
2. California wildfires of 2007
3. in a shelter in Louisiana during Hurricane Gustav
4. watching live lava ooze in Hawaii

Four people who e-mail me:
1. the dispatcher from Red Cross with the daily fire report
2. Dwayne - my friend who I met while in Hawaii
3. Marca - with the daily prayer list from church
4. Joe - with every joke he can find

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Potato Chips & French Onion Dip
2. Potatoes
3. Salmon
4. Chocolate

Four of my favorite drinks:
1. Cherry Coke Zero
2. Diet Dr. Pepper
3. Chocolate Martini
4. Chocolate Milk

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. sailing on the ocean
2. getting a massage in a spa
3. laying on a beach under a palm tree
4. Yellowstone National Park

Four TV shows that I watch:
1. Good Morning America
2. Hell's Kitchen
3. Top Chef
4. NFL Football games

Four Things I'd Still Like to Do:
1. Watch my kids grow up
2. Become a grandmother
3. Get my black belt
4. Go to the Olympics

Four things I don't like:
1. Spiders
2. Flying in airplanes
3. NBA basketball
4. Spicy food

Well, there you have it...silly, huh? But kinda' fun. Makes you think a little if you have to 'limit' your responses to just four! So, have fun with it...what would YOUR four things be?


A Pity Party for Me


Frustration. Struggling. Impatience. Stress.

I try not to complain...but these are my feelings lately, and it's been very difficult. I am normally a very positive person - I like to see the glass half-full, rather than half-empty. I try to remember that I am very blessed - I have a nice home - I don't have financial issues - I have a wonderful husband and an awesome family - but.....

Lately it has been hard. I think a lot of it is my health - and the "issues" I've had for over the past year with my stomach...the constant pain, the difficulty sleeping because of the pain, and the frustration for not having answers for so long. And now that I have the answers - I am frustrated for not having a quick cure - I wanted it "fixed" - and that's not happening. No, it's a chronic condition - and per the doctor, I must now learn to live with it - learn to manage it - learn to accept it. And that's not easy.

I don't want to accept it. I want to fight it and "beat" it. But that won't happen. Sigh. It's almost as if I have to accept defeat, and that's not easy for me. And everyone tells me to not look at it in that way - but it's hard. I think with time, I'll learn acceptance, and I'll learn how to manage things better. It's just difficult to do things a certain way for 46 years and now have to re-learn things - how to eat healthier and how to manage pain and how to do biofeedback to manage the stress which just makes the condition that much worse.

Sorry for venting - but if a blog is a diary, and a diary is used to record feelings and such, I felt it was only fair to record my honest feelings - no how whiny or pathetic or self-pitying they may be.

I'll snap out of this...I know I's just a matter of time. I think that's why I like to go on mission trips - they "snap" you back to reality and make you realize just how blessed you really are. I'll be heading to Camp Wilderness this weekend for our annual family mission trip - so it couldn't come at a better time.

Let the whining cease. Enough.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Space Shuttle Launches

My husband has been in Orlando this week for business. Last night, he called, and said that he and his co-workers had planned on watching the launch of the Discovery space shuttle yesterday...but unfortunately (or fortunately?) the launch was postponed due to a gas leak.

His comments brought up a bad memory for me. Hubby and I were in Orlando back in 2003 - and we were one of the thousands who excitedly watched the launch of the Columbia space shuttle. Shortly after the launch, we visited Kennedy Space Center, where we snatched up some t-shirts, pins, and other merchandise to commemorate our viewing of such a historic event. We also got to "listen in" on communications between ground control and the shuttle - it was pretty exciting. Because I had personally witnessed this launch, I felt ownership of this space shuttle - it was "mine", so to speak.

Imagine my horror, then, when the shuttle was destroyed upon re-entry on February 1...We were back home by then, and I was watching the news unfold on television, telling myself over and over that surely it couldn't be as bad as what it looked like on TV. My heart and prayers went out to the families and friends of the astronauts...and I cried. I felt like I knew those astronauts - they were "mine."

A photo of the astronauts from the Columbia

I am glad NASA decided to postpone the launch last night. Hubby is coming back home today, so he won't get to witness this launch. He's disappointed. But that's okay. They did the right thing.

If I learned anything during that time in 2003, I learned to treasure the moments you have with your friends and family... treasure every day, every minute, every laugh, every story...give your loved ones an extra hug and a kiss.

Treasure the day.


Monday, March 9, 2009

I've Discovered the Secret to Longer Life

Yes - I confess. I've found that elusive secret to a longer, happier life. The secret actually involves four things...are you ready?

#1. Let the sunshine in.
Two recent studies found that people who have a positive outlook on life when they're younger live longer than those who don't. Simple, huh? Even at the age of 50 - which is fast approaching for me - just feeling upbeat about getting older can snag you an average of seven more years of life. So - cheer up - chin up - be sure to always look at the glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.

I know that, having done extensive travel now through the American Red Cross as well as mission trips, I have seen how "the other half" lives...and I have come to the realization that my life is definitely blessed and I am VERY lucky. It's easy to get caught in the "woe is me" attitude, until you get out there and experience true suffering - whether brought on by poverty, natural disasters, or illness.

#2. Say a prayer.
A study done by the University of Texas found that people who regularly attended worship services averaged a longer life span of 7-14 years. Attendance alone is not the key - it's the underlying belief system that provides comfort and improves health.

I confess that I wasn't always a regular church-goer. I think that after I had children, it became more important to me to raise them in the faith. However, what began as a belief in going "just for my kids' sake", became a journey deeper and deeper into my own faith. Now - I can't image a Sunday without being at church. It's what keeps me centered and balanced the rest of the week.

#3. Socialize
Another study found that people with strong social connections enjoy better health - which translates into longer life. But - the relationships must be good - and healthy - to benefit you. And marriage is the best relationship of them all - studies have found that married people live longer - 4 more years for women, and a whopping 10 more years for men!

I could have saved a study and told the researchers that friends are definitely important. I love seeing my girlfriends - whether it's for a quick lunch or a long, leisurely dinner - I like the laughter, the fun, and the joy of sharing stories and advice with a strong circle of other women. And, I know it keeps me young - I sometimes feel like a 10-year old girl again when I'm giggling over something funny that a friend said - especially if I accidentally snort my drink through my nose from laughing so hard!

#4. Do Good Works
Ahhhh....the best for last - my personal favorite - the one near and dear to my heart. People who volunteer at 2 or more organizations have a 44% lower death rate than those who don't do any charitable work. I'll repeat that - 44 percent!!! 44% is comparable to exercising four times a week...seriously! Like working out, helping others seems to boost antibodies.

Although I "dabbled" in volunteerism for many, many years - it wasn't until the last 5 years or so of my life that it became more than a hobby and became a way of life. And it has been truly life-changing. When I put myself out there for others, it's me who benefits - as these studies show.

When I had an epiphany many years ago and realized that life wasn't all about me - but was about others - that's when the secret of life was revealed to involved putting feet to my faith and putting God's love into action.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to make a difference in the world by doing one thing at a time, one day at a time. You'll live longer - and happier!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Reverse Spin Crescent Kick Sucks

Confession: my reverse hook-spin-crescent kick really sucks. I'll explain.

I've been doing Tae Kwon Do now for about a year. Some people have asked how I got started...well, first, it was because I missed my daughter. Seriously. I was taking my DD - who's now 9 years old - up to TKD classes for the last 18 months. She goes 3 times a week. That meant that I wasn't getting to spend my evenings with her those 3 times a week - and I missed that. The other reason is simply that I can't say no. I was up at class one night, watching DD practice, and the instructor came around and said, "Why aren't YOU out here - doing this?" And I'm like, "WTH? I can't do that stuff - I'm too old!" He said, "You come to my next class and give it a try." Well, that was all it took.

So here I am...a year later...slowly working up the belt chain, determined to get my black belt before I'm 50. I think it's a good possibility that will happen. I'm at a green belt now - so I have a ways to go...but I'll get there!

In the meantime, I have my very first tournament this Saturday. I've got two events I'm competing in - one is on my form, (I'm doing En Wha 2), and one is weapons. And that's where the trouble is - I have all of my moves down, down well, actually - except for that troublesome hook/spin/crescent kick in my weapon form. It's my worst kick - I can't get lift on it, and I almost fall every time I land it. So, understandably, I'm a little nervous. It's not so much that I want to win, I just don't want to do too badly. (okay - I admit - I DO want to win, damn it. I'm competitive, I'll admit it.)

I enjoy TKD class. It's good exercise, that's for sure. Besides working on our forms, and working with weapons, we're also doing a lot of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks - even the splits. We work on self-defense moves, sparring, and board breaking.

When it comes to board breaking - I'm pretty good when it comes to using my arms. They're strong. But when I have to break a board with my foot? Uh, yeah...that hurts. My toes aren't so strong - and it just takes one little bit of wrong positioning - and yikes - another broken toe. I would skip breaking boards with my feet if I could.

Self defense is pretty fun, as well. I look pretty tough in this picture - but I don't really know if I'd look that tough if I was actually attacked in real life. I'd probably look a little more freaked out. Oh well.

Sparring is a little more difficult - it's when we put our blocks and punches and kicks all together and use it to "spar" with a partner. I've got some good bruises and cracked bones to show for sparring. It's one of my least favorite things to do...but the kids in my class love it. I guess this means I'm getting old.

I also enjoy going up with my daughter. It's fun doing something together - so many times, as parents, we're sitting on the sidelines, just watching...but this is something we can do as a team...we can push each other, coach each other, inspire each other. I hope I'm teaching her that it's never too late - and you're never too old - to follow your dreams.

Now - excuse me while I go work on that hook/spin/crescent kick. It really needs a lot of work....sigh.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm A Kindle Addict

I love technology.

I love gadgets.

I can't imagine life without my (not one, not 2 - but THREE) i-pods. My pink i-pod is my favorite.

I can't imagine life without my Mac laptop...I WISH I had the pink one, but mine is actually black. Darn.

And my i-Touch is pretty cool, too. I like to play games on it.

BUT - my favorite gadget of all? My Kindle. I LOVE my Kindle. Love it, love it, love it. Did I mention that I love it?

Kindle came into my life about 5 months ago. It's what I take with me now on mission trips, Red Cross assignments, and vacations. In the old days, I would have to pack 5-10 books in my suitcases, being the avid reader that I am. Those books would be heavy! And I would always have this secret fear of running out of books to read while I was away from home - the horrors of it! It would almost bring on a panic attack!

But - with my Kindle - those fears are gone. I have dozens and dozens of books with me on my trip - and if I "run out" of books to read? A quick few keystrokes, a push of a button - and I can have dozens more books to read within a minute. Cool, huh?

So what's on my Kindle? Good question....

"The Girl With the Pearl Earring" - by Tracy Chevalier... good book; although it was fiction, it has a lot of art history. I like Tracy's books - I have more uploaded, ready to read...I'll review them later.

"A Room with a View" - one of my favorite books of all times...I'm re-reading it in anticipation of our trip to Italy this summer.

I think I have every book ever written by Sandra Brown, one of my favorite writers.... well as every book ever written by Linda Howard....These books are great "fillers" - don't take a lot of time or effort to read, but they're enjoyable.

"Devil's Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy" - very riveting, as well as heartbreaking. I think this is one tragedy that could have been avoided.

"The Audacity of Hope" - by President Obama. Haven't read this yet - will get to it one of these days. I have all of Obama's books on my Kindle.

"The Shack" - I'm reading this right now - haven't formed an opinion yet. I think this is one of those books you either love or you hate. We'll see.

I also have the Bible on my Kindle - it's nice to take my Kindle to Sunday School class at church and have easy access to what we're studying...

I have dozens and dozens more...a lot of true crime, a lot of historical stuff, some romances, and a few inspirational books. One of these days, I'm going to sit down and do nothing but read all day. (yeah, right - that will never happen in this lifetime!)

So..I have my Kindle and my world is a good, safe place. I will always have my books with me. is good.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today is my mother's birthday. She's turning 39 today. :-)

I love my mom. It was a little tough growing up, though, because I think we're a lot alike - two strong-willed, independent, stubborn women..."alpha" females, you could say. You can't have two alpha females in the same household - won't work, no way, no how.

So things got much better when I got married, moved out, and became the alpha of my own household. Our relationship grew stronger and deeper - even more so when I got pregnant with my first child. Suddenly, my mom was a wealth of much-needed information and could help calm my fears of becoming a mom for the first time. I realized just how smart she really was.

Today, my mom and I have a pretty good relationship. I realize how blessed I am to have her in my life -and to have her close by - just a 20-minute drive away. So, in honor of her birthday, here's 10 things you should know about my mom.

1. As much as my mom tries to come across as proper and prim - she was probably a holy terror growing up. She was the youngest of four sisters - and I think she did a lot of things that she'll never admit to. That's probably a good thing - too much information about your parents isn't good.

2. My mom is very social - she loves to have people around her and she loves to talk and she loves to socialize. Some people think I take after her because of this - because I like to have parties, too. But - parties exhaust me. I have them out of necessity. I think my mom has them because she genuinely likes them.

3. My mom was a pretty good bowler. She bowled for many years with my dad in a league; some of my earliest memories are being at the bowling alley every week. I remember Mom having a pretty good average, and bringing home many trophies. I haven't bowled in 20 years...unless you count bowling on the Wii. I don't think that counts.

4. My mom now bowls on her own Wii. She also did the fitness test on the Wii and came out with some "age" that was like, 20 years younger than her real age - which just thrilled her to death. So, of course I had to do this fitness test on the Wii and came out with real age...that sucked. Obviously, my mom cheated.

5. My mom loves to quilt. And quilt. And quilt some more. She has an entire room in her basement that is devoted to quilting. She is constantly trying to get me interested in quilting. I'm not interested. My sister quilts...even my daughter quilts. That's enough quilters in the family - so leave me alone already. (Kidding)

6. My mom makes the best pot roast in the world...and the best ham and beans. (hint, hint)

7. My mom used to be a smoker many, many years ago - and then went to a hypnotist and quit. Just like that. I know it's been many years since she quit and I've been very proud of her ever since. Cheers for Mom!

8. My mom taught me to give volunteering and making a difference. When we were little, she volunteered with the Muscular Dystrophy she's very active with other organizations, such as the Fox 4 Love Fund for Children. She's making a difference in the world, and that made an impact on important it is to leave a legacy for your children and your grandchildren.

9. My mom has six grandchildren and four step-grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. She accepted my stepkids and step-grandkids with open arms and never made a differentiation between them. They all get "grandma kisses and love" when she sees them.

10. My mom showed me that it's okay to be a strong, independent woman who can love their children and STILL be active in the world...volunteering, working, and pursuing hobbies and interests. She's my mentor.

I love you, Mom. Happy birthday to you!


Monday, March 2, 2009

Working In Hawaii - A Tough Job

A year ago today, I was in Hawaii.

For 19 days, no less. Almost 3 weeks. And even cooler? It was a mission trip. An opportunity to put myself out there and serve. To make the world a better place. To put my feet to my faith and to put God's love into action.

It was a trip sponsored by the United Methodist Missouri Volunteers in Mission...I was one of a group of 11 people, all from various parts of Missouri, that met on the trip and traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii to work at Camp Mekokiko. "Mekokiko" means "Methodist" in, huh? If you google "Camp Mekokiko", you'll find the website of the camp. If you go to the Photo Gallery, and pull up the Missouri VIM team of March 2008, you'll see a plethora of photos from our trip.

We worked some...and then we played can you not play while in Hawaii?? I mean, get real. We're only human. Our work projects included a lot of work outside - landscaping the camp and getting it handicapped-accessible. There was a group of Easter Seals children coming in a few weeks after we were there, and our goal was to make the camp ready for these children. Now - how rough was that?! To work outside in Hawaii? I will admit - it was one of the nicer mission trips I've been on! And the views were out of this world!

In between the work, we took time to visit several tourist attractions.... We took a Sunset/Stargazing expedition to the top of Mauna Kea, where we got to see snow (in Hawaii?!) as well as be above the clouds....

We also visited South Point, which is the southernmost part of the United States, and was breathtakingly beautiful....

We also spent some time at Waipio Valley, where they filmed some of "Jurassic Park"; we hiked around Volcano National Park; and we went deep sea fishing one day. (almost had a blue marlin...but it got away....seriously.)

Midway through our trip, Kilauea began spewing lava where you could actually see it, so once the authorities deemed it safe, we waited in a traffic line for 2 hours and then hiked 2 miles to see the live lava. Was it worth it? YES - it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be 3 feet away from oozing lava....

We also flew back to Oahu on our last day so we could see Pearl Harbor and visit the Arizona well as spend some time at Waikiki Beach.

We also spent some time getting to know some of the people in Hawaii. We visited two local Methodist churches - and the people were so generous...they even had the ubiquitous potlucks for us that make being a Methodist so wonderful. The food was delicious - I don't think I lost any weight on this trip, darn the luck.

I enjoyed this trip. I enjoyed getting to learn about the Hawaiian's history...the people of Hawaii...the people from Missouri who went on this trip with me... I think the only thing I didn't enjoy was the plane ride over and back. Ugh. Actually, I didn't enjoy being away from my family for so long - that was hard.

Would I go back? Certainly. The camp is still in need of help. Ted, the director of the camp, is always ready for more volunteers to come in and assist with the camp. I'm somewhat feeling the tug of leading a trip from my church there next year - in 2010 - and see what else we can do. As long as I get to work outside, I'm in!

Be sure to do YOUR part today to change the world - even in a paradise like Hawaii! One action at a time, one day at a time.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sleds, Angels and Snowmobiles

It snowed yesterday.

It snowed quite a bit yesterday. I think I heard that we got more snow yesterday than we have in any other 1-day period this season. It was beautiful yesterday morning - when I woke up and looked outside, big giant snowflakes falling down.... very pretty.

Santa Claus had brought my daughter a big, giant sled this year for Christmas. Bless her heart, she hadn't had an opportunity to use it this year...until yesterday. After her basketball game, it was all she talked about on the way home - she was practically quivering in excitement at the prospect of getting that sled out and heading over to Chipman & Douglas, our local favorite sledding hangout. So, DH and DD got all bundled up and headed over - with hundreds of other kids - to "fly" down the hill.

The "Hill" at Chipman & Douglas in Lee's Summit

When I was a little girl, I loved the snow. It meant sledding down our driveway, and it meant building snowmen, and it meant creating snow angels in the yard. I also loved to make snow ice cream. With raw eggs. Yum. (Just the thought of that now makes me queasy.) Snow also meant the likely possibility of school being cancelled - there is no greater joy than being a kid and hearing that school is cancelled for the day due to "inclement" weather - whatever the heck that meant.... I just knew it meant sleeping in, and then heading outside to explore the possibilities of fun in a white winter wonderland.

Now, as an adult - I guess I've changed. I tried to find the joy in yesterday's snow - I really did. I did appreciate the beauty of it. But...I couldn't help but cringe as we were driving, seeing numerous cars skidding off the road. According to our news this morning, we had over 175 accidents yesterday - NOT the typical Saturday morning around here. I kept praying, as we were going back and forth to basketball, that we wouldn't become one of those statistics.

And then today - it was my turn to drive the church shuttle bus...which meant driving in some slick parking lots. I was praying again - hoping that cars wouldn't slide into me, or vice versa.

And walking in snow? Ugh. DH and I went to Yellowstone a few years back for a snowmobile trip - the first day of the 2-day adventure was AWESOME - one of the 10 best experiences in my life. It was cold, for sure - but the scenery, the wildlife that we saw - all the while zooming around on a zippy snowmobile - was beyond beautiful. However, on day #2, a light snow began falling...and I made the mistake of climbing off my snowmobile, and slipping on some black ice - hidden by the light layer of snow. Down I went - snap, snap, snap. I knew it before I saw it - that I had broken my arm. In three places. That was the end of the snowmobile trip. The rest of our time was spent in a hospital in Idaho. Not so fun.

So, when I walk on snow now, I am understandably a little hesitant and nervous. Too many memories of pain, a cast, and weeks of painful physical therapy.

But, I will look at the joyful...the positive...the beauty of God's world around me...and appreciate the snow and all of the potential fun that it brings. I will look at it as the little girl that is still inside of me sees it - the possibility of sledding, of snow angels, and maybe - just maybe - no school. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


A close up of yesterday's snow - to show how deep it was