Friday, August 31, 2012

The Importance of Peace and Showers

How many people can say they rode out the SAME hurricane three times?

Well...actually...more than I would think.

People like those crazy folks on The Weather Channel, or crazy storm chasers...

And now I can add myself to this list.

My crew and I rode out Hurricane Irene in Tampa over the weekend...

We were then sent to Pensacola, Florida on Tuesday evening, which was a 7-hour drive for us...we pretty much drove through the hurricane, arriving at a motel at the un-godly hour of 3:30 am in the morning.

Waking up, we then drove to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where we rode out the Hurricane AGAIN...

What's it like?

Lots and lots of gusting winds...lots and lots of rain - the hard, pounding kind...lots and lots of flooding and road closures and giant puddles that you have to wade through to get where you want to get...and lots and lots of tornado warnings. Miserable, actually.

Especially when spent in an American Red Cross staff shelter - which is set up when there aren't enough motel rooms for everyone....That's what I've been in since Wednesday, since arriving in Hattiesburg - and there's no internet, no AT&T service, and NO SHOWERS!!! Okay. That last part isn't exactly true. To be honest...there are TWO showers....however...there were also 261 people in the shelter.

You do the math.

Of those 261 people in the shelter, approximately 82% of them snore.

I didn't exactly do a true scientific study, but that's my best guestimate, anyway.

That's what my evenings have been like. As for my days, I've spent them at the Hattiesburg, MS American Red Cross Headquarters...working 12-hour days. With no strong need for sheltering, I managed to get myself reassigned to "Logistics" - which is a fancy word for "Stuff."

All that "stuff" that's used at a cots, blankets, towels, food, etc... all that "stuff" that's used at office supplies, telephones, laptops, etc...all that "stuff" that's given to people affected in the tarps, clean-up kits, meals, water, etc...

...that stuff?

I get to order it. Or go shopping on the internet for it.

Really? Online shopping??!!


I'm getting stuff for the entire state of Mississippi...we've got ARC crews in Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Gulfport - and they are depending on ME to get their much-needed stuff. I am a happy girl.

Today, a "big shot" arrived at Headquarters that I worked closely with in Joplin, Missouri...and when he heard about the conditions at the staff shelter, he miraculously was able to procure a motel room for me tonight...and here I sit.

Alone. I don't have 260 neighbors in cots...

And no snoring. It is perfectly quiet right now, and I am in heaven.

And my own shower. And the water is hot.




Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Night Musings: Hurricane Edition

Hurricanes can be extremely noisy...especially during the night when the rain slams into the sounds like a hail storm that goes on and on and on...which drives me just a tad bit CRAZY.

Hurricanes can produce boredom while "hunkered down"...when boredom hits, playing a rousing game of Uno with new-found friends can be pretty entertaining....

That game of Uno can be even MORE entertaining when one of the players is totally color blind..."No, Steve - that's not green. It's blue. You need to play the OTHER green." "Steve - you played a red card - and you need to play a yellow card." Even Steve was laughing before the game was over....

Hurricanes produce heroes...the wonderful staff here at the Comfort Inn in Wesley Chapel, FL have bent over backwards in hospitality...providing us home-cooked meals every night as their way of saying "thank you" to the American Red Cross...We're spoilt.

Hurricanes produce tornadoes...and tonight was spent in the hotel hallway taking shelter. That same wonderful staff at the Comfort Inn rushed into action when the sirens went off, insuring that EVERY SINGLE GUEST was accounted for and safe in the hallway. That's kinda' ironic - the hotel staff "rescuing" the American Red Cross volunteers. It's normally the other way around.

Hurricanes make everything wet...including feet. Nothing is more blissful than peeling off wet shoes and socks and putting on a comfortable pair of warm, fuzzy slippers that one has packed away for just such an occassion.

Hurricanes aren't flexibility and patience is required when planning how to provide support and relief to the American people. When is our job here in Tampa done? When do we go to the Gulf coast? Is it even SAFE to travel right now to the Gulf coast? Questions for which I don't have the answers for right now...I am dependent on the administrators at Headquarters, and have to wait for their decisions....

Hurricanes bring out Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel...and if it's one thing I've learned, it's that you do NOT want to see Jim Cantore standing in your neighborhood, doing a live-feed on TV. If you DO see him? You're screwed. Really.

Monday night musings...typed on an iPad in a cozy little motel room in a small town outside of Tampa...while the rain beats on my window...while wearing my comfy, cozy, WARM slippers.....



Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

There's an oft-repeated expression, "the calm before the storm...."

I'd like to meet whomever coined this particular phrase, because I'd like to think they must have been completely off their rocker. In my experience...there is no "calm" before the storm...nope.

A more appropriate expression would be, "the chaos before the storm."

Hurricane Isaac is playing Jedi mind tricks with us, as it zigs and zags in the Caribbean...will it go east? West? Will it get worse? In the meantime, while Isaac makes up his mind on his path, those of us who are possibly in his path are left to scramble and prepare.

Yesterday was spent in such preparation....

The "head honchos" at the American Red Cross headquarters here in Tampa spent the day in-processing hundreds of more volunteers...all the while trying to determine exactly where the most ideal placement of shelters will be. It won't make much sense to open a shelter in Tampa if the storm moves west and heads out to sea.... The Tampa ARC office is pretty small, and having hundreds of people filing in and out all day was extremely chaotic.

The residents here in southern Florida spent the day shopping...loading up with bottled water, canned meat, batteries, well as topping off their gas tanks. This created chaos at the grocery stores and gas stations, as you can imagine. Lines to check out were dozens deep...patience was required.

What did I do? the morning, I joined the thousands of other residents at those grocery stores...making sure my own personal supplies were well-stocked. Batteries? Check. Fruit? Check. Chocolate? Check. I also managed to snag a little $3.99 travel pillow which I was quite proud's a pretty sure bet that last night was probably my last night in a "comfortable" motel room, as it will be cots and shelters from here on out. A little pillow will sure bring some comfort.

I also picked up a few last-minute office supplies to make my life easier as a Shelter Manager...index cards...Sharpie pads...and file folders. Hey. If you know me, you know I'm all about organization - so there was a bit of "comfort" in buying those little things that will help me stay focused.

Then, time was spent meeting with my Shelter Team to insure that everyone knows their assigned roles once we open...a typical ARC shelter will have several positions: a Dorm Supervisor, a Kitchen Supervisor, a Registration Supervisor, and a Logistics (Supply) Supervisor. There's also a nurse, as well as a licensed mental health counselor. I've got all my positions assigned, and trained...they're ready to go. That's comforting.

Some time was spent in dealing with the rumor mill. It's inevitable that in times of impending disaster, people will latch onto whatever piece of information they may overhear - whether it's true or not. It can be dangerous to believe everything that is heard without getting confirmation first, and this came into play yesterday. My pet peeve is the "Well, somebody said...blah blah blah." My response is always, "Who is 'somebody?' - because whomever this 'somebody' is - they sure do talk a lot. And most of it is baloney.

Perhaps that's what the "calm" is all about, in the "calm" before the in, stay calm. Don't lose your head. Do things to prepare. Wait for instructions from the authorities (or Headquarters, in this case). Be smart.

So. That's what I'm doing.

The calm before the storm....



Friday, August 24, 2012

It's Just Me

The alarm rings at the ungodly hour of 3:15 a.m...and it's moments like this when I ask myself, "WHY am I doing this, again??!!" As in getting ready to head out on assignment with the American Red Cross.

Hubby and I somewhat stagger through our morning routine, with the intention of being on the road to the airport by 4:00 am. Our actual time is pretty close, give or take a few minutes...and we whizz through the darkened, empty streets of Kansas's amazing how there's no traffic at 4:00 am. Go figure.

Arriving at the airport by 5:00 am, I'm greeted by not one, not two, not three, but FOUR television cameras...each wanting an interview to present the story of local volunteers heading out to face the national threat looming in the Gulf region. I begin with the local CBS affiliate, and manage to sleepily mumble out what I HOPE are coherent thoughts. I've done media interviews before...and I've learned, over the years, that the trick to a good interview is to NOT look at the cameraman. Nope. Look directly at the interviewer and pretend that the big camera with a bright light that's blinding you in your eyes just doesen't even exist. If you EVEN look at the're doomed. The classic "deer in headlights" trance will envelope you, leaving you looking like a muddle-brained idiot. Wait. Interviewing at 5:00 am in the morning can leave you looking like a muddle-brained idiot, as well.

If you DO trip up on your words, or stumble, it's best to just move on and not think about it. I made this mistake in my first few interviews; I'd mess something up, and then I'd start mentally kicking myself...which then meant I didn't hear the next question at ALL. Oops. My bad. I've learned that the audience is forgiving...and they know, as well as I do, that I am NOT a professional speaker who's had a professional speech written for me.

Nope. It's just me. My words. My story.

After doing a quick interview with the NBC affiliate, followed by our FOX affiliate, I overheard the announcement that my plane was now boarding. I was not even through security - which looked to be about 30 people deep.


Thinking that the ABC affiliate would surely understand, as they'd already interviewed another member of our team, I headed over to jump in line for TSA and security. Wow - was I certainly surprised when I turned around and found the ABC reporter following me...where she proceded to interview and film me as I was going through the line. Other passengers were now turning to look to see who the television cameras were following, and I wanted to say, "It's nobody special. It's just me."

I managed to hop on the plane just as the "last call" went out...whew. So - on my way to Tampa.

Several hours later - with a beatiful sunrise over the clouds, a refreshing Diet Coke, and a brief stop in Chicago thrown in the mix - we landed in sunny and hot Tampa. An excited contingent of greeters began rushing up to us, ready to welcome us to the Republican National Convention. Not recognizing us as anyone special, they stopped, with looks of confusion on their faces....and I wanted to reassure them, "It's okay. It's just me."

After securing a rental car at the always-reliable Avis desk, a short drive to ARC Headquarters was in order...where we checked in, sat through several orientations, and then stepped out for a quick bite of lunch. Upon returning, I then discovered that I was miraculously promoted from Shelter Supervisor to Shelter Manager, of which my immediate response was, "Wait. Was I consulted on this promotion?!"'s just me. Am I ready to manage a shelter?

I guess I'll be finding out. I recruited five dedicated, committed ARC volunteers who will make up my Shelter Team, and we await our assignment in the morning. Where will be going? How many clients will we serve? What does the future hold?

A bit more paperwork...a long drive to our sparse, but comfortable motel room...a delicious dinner with new friends at a local steakhouse...and hopefully, a full night of sleep...

As I sign's just me. Just one of hundreds - wait, thousands - of dedicated volunteers who're ready for whatever happens.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Operation: Hope

If you haven't heard, there's an uninvited guest heading to Tampa this weekend, just in time for the Republican National Convention....

Isaac. As in Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac...barreling towards southern Florida as we speak.

We have a house in Ft. Myers, Florida. Directly south of Tampa. So...I've been glued to the National Weather Service and their "spaghetti" models for the last several days...eyeballing those squiggly little lines, over and over again, to see if I can "magically" move them away...away from Ft. Myers. However...I don't think I quite have the abilities to move a storm....

Last night, a fleeting thought zipped through my mind...

"Hmmm...I wonder if I'll get sent down by the American Red Cross....? Maybe I should pack."

Of course, that thought zipped in...and then zipped "fleeting thoughts" tend to do...and I didn't pack.

I'd pay for that.

So...this morning, the phone call came at an early 8:00 am - will I be available to head down to Tampa to supervise a shelter? And so...I've been running around like a crazy person today, getting things ready so I can take off at 3:45 am in the morning for the airport.

Prescriptions that must be filled...

Bills that must be paid...

Phone calls that must be made...

Appointments that must be moved...

Clothes that must be packed...

ATM's that must be tapped...

Batteries that must be purchased...

Gadgets that must be charged...

Family and furry children that must be kissed...

I've ridden out hurricanes before with the American Red Cross...they're never "fun" - although they're certainly an adventure.

Lots of wind...lots of rain...possible power outages for hours, if not supplies, especially food...heat...humidity....


Not to mention, non-stop 12-hour days, sleeping amongst strangers on a cot in a staff shelter, and eating junk food if you're lucky to eat at all....


Inconveniences are shoved aside temporarily when you put yourself out there to help's the nature of the beast when volunteering for a humanitarian organization. You put yourself in "overdrive" mode and go to work - doing whatever's necessary to make sure people affected by the storm are taken care of...with shelter, food, nursing care, mental health care...

...and hope.

Yup. I can do that.

I can smile...I can hug...I can give someone a bit of hope when all seems lost.

So, Isaac...looking forward to meeting you in the next few days...

Bring it on.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Art of Listening

For the last year or so, I've volunteered once a month at my local "job", ostensibly, is to cover the receptionist's desk while she - and the other church personnel - have their monthly staff meeting. Some months, it's pretty quiet...with just me and the dust bunnies in attendance...but other days, it can be downright crazy.

Yesterday was such a day...for three hours, the phone rang nonstop, and there was a steady stream of visitors through the front door, with various questions, requests, and drop-offs. I hardly had an opportunity to greet my beloved dust bunnies, as it was just...insane.

The UPS guy with packages...a lady dropping off flowers...a gentleman dropping off tomatoes...someone with memorial envelopes to drop off...someone to pick UP memorial envelopes...someone needing directions to the church...someone else needing the name of the was a revolving door of human contact. I was being pulled in a hundred different directions, and I was beginning to get a bit...frazzled.

And the craziness of dawned on me what my real purpose was in being there.

It's to listen.

Whether I'm listening to the woman on the phone, who is planning her late husband's service...or listening to the elderly man ask when his Meals on Wheels lunch will arrive...or listening to the plumber trying to entertain me with his plumbing horror stories as he works on the church's leaky pipes...I was there to listen.

In our day-to-day encounters with others...whether it's at a volunteer opportunity, or a workplace, or a school, or perhaps at a grocery store...sometimes, all people want is someone to listen to them. And I need to remember that, and not be worried that I'm not getting the "rest" of my work done because of such encounters.

So...I took a deep breath...and opened my ears to what people were really saying.... Instead of feeling the craziness swirling around me...I focused on the people in front of me...and it was good. It didn't seem so crazy, and I wasn't so...frazzled.

I hope I remember this lesson I learned yesterday. I hope I remember to just stop...take a deep breath...and listen...whether it's to my family, my coworkers, my friends, or even the birds in the sky....

Shhh....just listen.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Free-Spirit Birthday

She's always done things her own way, regardless of what anyone else may think...

At the age of three, she was setting her own fashion style - refusing to go along with the trend, but experimenting until she found her own unique look. While all the other 3-year old girls were wearing sparkly pink and glitzy purple, my daughter was wearing all black. I would just sigh and shake my head. Where did she get this?

At the age of eight, she was developing her own unique music tastes...while all the other 8-year old girls were swooning and sighing over Justin Bieber, my daughter was listening to Fairy Tail and K-ON, who sing and produce Japanese anime music. I would just sigh and shake my head. Where did she get this?

At the age of twelve, she was developing her own unique literary tastes...while all the other 12-year old girls were swooning over The Twilight Series, my daughter was reading Brian Kittrell and James Patterson...again, I would just sigh and shake my head. Where did she get this?

She swoons over kittens, red velvet ice-cream, and visits to the spa.

She's fiercely stubborn and strong...and yet wants nothing more than a hug and a cuddle at the end of the day.

She can sit for hours, scribbling in her sketch book, which is never far from her side. The drawings that she produces from her fingers enchants me and mystifies me and astounds me, as I have no artistic background whatsoever. What I create with words, she creates with pictures...and it is good. Where did she get this? I have no idea....

She's pockets of sunshine and deep pools of teenage angst, wrapped in a package of feminine mystique.

She's my miracle baby...the daughter I thought I would never have...and she's turning 13 today.

When you are the mother of a free spirt, you learn to sit back, watch them grow, and enjoy the ride. You never clip their wings, but you encourage them to use their very unique and very different wings to fly....

My daughter is soaring...and I am left shaking my head, and wondering where she will end up in this very unique journey of her life....

Happy birthday, Mickey.



Saturday, August 11, 2012

What If?

Teaching has always been one of my passions, whether it's teaching kids about tornado safety, or teaching adults how to prepare for a it's no surprise that one of the things I love best about volunteering with the American Red Cross is pursuing that passion.

The other night, I taught a class of brand-new Red Cross volunteers the fine art of responding to local fires. This is a four-hour class that has a very intense and very crammed curriculum...there's a video, a PowerPoint presentation, a walking tour...and tons of paperwork.

I've never seemed to master keeping this class to the scheduled four hours, and last night was no exception. I had one particular student who wanted to play the "What if.....?" game...and I, unfortunately, got sucked right into it and played right along. Argh. normal situations...people are going to have questions...especially when being trained in something that is brand-new. The class is designed for responding to the "average" house fire, but as we all know, "average" is a very relative there really ARE no average house fires. Every single fire is different; every single response is different...the setting, the atmosphere, the conditions, the emotional response of the affected - how can you put "average" on any of this? You can't.

I expect questions along the line of, "Well...what if the people have pets?" That's a common question, and certainly something we will run into....another common question is, "What if the people don't have any transportation to get to the motel?" Legitimate "what if?" questions are fine...I don't mind taking a few minutes to answer those.

Thursday night's questions, though, were a

"What if the guy has to wear a suit to his job tomorrow morning...and all of his suits are now ashes?" I told the student, "If all of his clothes are burnt, we provide a nominal clothing allowance." The student continued.... "Well, this allowance won't buy a suit. What if he HAS to wear a suit to his job?"

Um. Really?

Another question...."What if the homeowner won't let us do a damage assessment of their clothes, because maybe they have drugs in their pocket?"

Left field, I'm tellin' ya'. These questions were coming from left field. And they just kept coming.

As I was driving home late that night, I mentally reviewed what had happened...and how I could have handled things a bit better. Every teacher knows that you can't get sucked into the "What if?" game, because you can "What if?" things till the cows come home. Not only can the game run into infinity, but it can become very annoying to the other students. Not to mention, it can cause the class to run over and it can cause ME to not get home until almost 11:00...which is WAY past my bedtime.

So...lesson learned.

Reasonable questions? I'll answer. Far-fetched questions? We're moving on.

This teacher needs her beauty sleep.



Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dichotomies of 7th Grade

It was always about trying to be fit not stick out and draw attention to oneself...and yet...wanting attention from the right people.

The year was 1974, and I was entering 7th grade...junior high, as it was called then...and I would carefully dress each morning in my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, stick a giant comb in my back pocket, slip on my platform shoes, and head out for another day...

I felt so...mature. At the age of 12, no less. The freedom of being able to walk in the hallways between classes...chitchat with girlfriends...the freedom of choosing whom I sat with at was a fantastic feeling, and yet somewhat scary and intimidating at the same time, to have this much independence. So many conflicting emotions....

My girlfriends and I would stealthily watch the boys, determining who was the cutest and most popular and who would make the best boyfriend. Inevitably, the boys that I liked wouldn't give me the time of day...and the boys who DID give me the time of day weren't on my "chosen" list...more conflicting emotions....

When one of our girlfriends actually managed to "snag" a boyfriend, the rest of us would watch in a bit of awe...envy...and yes, the two would hold hands as they made their way down the school hallways...what was it like, we wondered, to have an actual boyfriend? We were drawn to it...and yet, we were fearful of it. We wanted a relationship...and yet we were repelled by the thought of it and what it would, more conflicting emotions....

The physical changes going on with my body were awkward and parents would tell me that one's looks didn't matter...and yet, I could see with my own eyes, that at school, at least, one's looks most certainly DID matter. Conflict.

It was inconsistencies such as that, that had me thinking my parents weren't as smart as I had thought they were over the years...and yet...and yet...they were who I would turn to when it seemed like the weight of the world was crashing down on me. Conflict.

It was such a confusing time, with all of these conflicting emotions and situations swirling around.

As I took my own 12-year old daughter this week to register for her own upcoming 7th grade year, these thoughts and memories came rushing back like a runaway freight train...especially when I saw the fear and apprehension in her eyes when she walked down the enormous school hallways, attempting to memorize her schedule, and attempting (without much success) to open her locker. I wanted to reassure her that, as confusing as middle school may be, it DOES get better.

The conflicts that surround you eventually work their way out...and the questions you have eventually get answered.

What seems so important when you're 12 will seem minuscule a few years later...

I tried. I talked with her. I told her of some of my own thoughts when I was 12. I told her of my own conflicting thoughts and emotions and observations. I told her I would always be there for her, always ready to sit down and listen if she wanted to talk.

Did she listen? I hope so.

Sometimes she looks at me like I'm the smartest parent, EVER. And sometimes she looks at me like I'm the biggest idiot. Ever.





Saturday, August 4, 2012

Travel Edition: Random Observations

Random observations on a rainy Saturday evening (the Travel Edition):

1. It's good to be back home after almost 6 weeks of being gone...

2. The house has been a 'bachelor pad' - and it looks it, indeed...guess what I'll be doing tomorrow? I guess this pleases me, as I know that I am indeed, needed...if nothing more, than to keep the house from looking like a pit....

3. My furry children were very happy to see me...with the exception of the black & white tuxedo, Romeo, who is letting me know - in NO uncertain terms - that he's not happy about my absence. Or possibly my return?

4. I'm becoming quite the pro at receiving pat-downs via TSA in's my own little personal protest against the invasive body scanners and assuming "the position"....I also like standing up for my civil rights by saying, "I opt out." Go, me.

5. I was bringing nothing back with me from Florida, so I told my daughter she could borrow my suitcase to bring her OWN stuff back from Florida. It weighed a shocking 46 pounds!!! When I unpacked it tonight, I found that she had packed my barbells that I keep in Florida. BARBELLS!!! What was she thinking???!!!

6. We left the airport this afternoon and went immediately to my favorite Mexican restaurant...six weeks is a long time to go without Mexican food. I was in serious withdrawal...not only was the food delicious, but we ran into some old friends. And that's what's special about "home" - your friends.

7. I have a six-week pile of mail to weed through...and being the great procrastinator that I am, who knows when that will get done? Some invitations (which some are too late), some bills, and lots of political junk mail. I didn't see any windfalls or Publisher's Clearing House checks, so nothing to get excited about....

8. I'm hearing crickets tonight...I hadn't heard crickets in six weeks....Growing up in Kansas City, hearing crickets on a hot, summer night is a staple of childhood...and so I truly feel like I'm home.

9. I'll have these warm, fuzzy nostalgic feelings for about a week...and then I'll get restless again...wanting to go on a trip, travel somewhere, have another's the hobo/gypsy in my soul, and I've learned to accept it. It's just who I am.

10. And it feels really, really good to "somewhat" be getting back into my routine...including blogging. If I'm home - I'm blogging.



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Did Ya' Miss Me??

Well, look at that.

I'm back.

Sort of.

I DID go off and pull my usual summertime disappearing act...that's pretty par for the course for me. Summers are just too special to sit inside on a hot computer, and blog. They're meant to be outside, chasing fireflies and having picnics and going to the beach and swimming and gardening and looking at clouds and drinking lemonade...among other things.

This summer...although technically not "over", is winding down. The kids start back at school in two weeks, and so we've started focusing on all of that "school" stuff. Shopping for new clothes, new supplies, etc...getting haircuts and doctor appointments completed...picking up school schedules and bus schedules. Fun stuff. The kids are SO excited. Not. But Mama is. Hee hee.

It WAS a great summer...we were blessed to go on a Mediterranean cruise, where we did magical things like conquering the Colosseum in Rome, climbing the Leaning Tower in Pisa, visiting David in Florence, eating pizza in Naples, drinking ouzo in Greece, and nibbling on Turkish Delight in...well...Turkey. We met an amazing amount of new and special people and we have memories to last lifetimes...

No sooner had we finished that, then Dear Daughter and I went on a short Caribbean cruise, where we visited St. Thomas and St. Maarten...we didn't meet as many people, but we had fun getting to spend time with just each other. She'll be 13 in two weeks...I have to take these moments when I can, as I know she'll be gone soon.

When we weren't cruising, we were just chillin' in our Ft. Myers home...enjoying the pool, the tennis courts, and the beach. We won't mention dealing with a/c repairmen, plumbers and satellite dish installers. Or weeding out nut grass for three days, while getting eaten alive by pesky mosquitoes and chiggers. Or dodging the black snake that insists on living in my back yard and will NOT go away, regardless of the amount of praying I've done. No. We won't mention that stuff.

It's been bittersweet, though...I've missed my family and friends back home...I've missed my furry children... I've missed my volunteer work...and I've missed the familiarity of what "home" means.

We head home on Saturday, and I am a tad bit excited. It will be good to get back in the "routine." The routine of housework, bill-paying, lunching with friends, volunteering, and - most importantly - blogging.

I'm back.

Almost, anyway.