Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bountiful Blessings

I am blessed.

Really...truly...completely blessed.

You wouldn't think so - after reading my little pity party that I threw for myself on my last post.

But in actuality, I know just how blessed I am...with good fortune, good health (for the most part, anyway!), good friends, good family, and good fun.

Yes - I have an upcoming surgery...but I trust my physician completely, and I know that I will be so much better off for it afterwards.

Yes - I'm separated from my family and friends...but it's temporary, and I am here in beautiful, sunny Florida where I watch the egrets and the sailboats and the palm trees....

I miss everyone back home...and it's been evident the last few weeks that they miss me, as well...and that helps with the separation. Phone calls, emails, and text messages arrive from family...friends...and even co-workers...requesting assistance or help or advice on something. And I like that. To know that I am needed. Doesn't everyone like that feeling?

Today is Easter Sunday...instead of waking up to the smiles and squeals from my kids after discovering their Easter baskets, I wake up to the sound of silence in the house...but that's okay. I can use the silence as a means of meditation before I head off to church - albeit a NEW church, for me, where I am a bit apprehensive at being the "new" girl....

My parents came down to visit me in January, and fell in love with beautiful Fort Myers...they closed on their own condo last week, and they are here now, happily ensconced in remodeling it to make it truly their "own." This is a blessing...for now they won't have to stay at MY house when they visit Florida - hee hee...but really, the true blessing is that I have family here with me...and I look forward to an Easter dinner there later.

Today is a beautiful is a is whatever we make of it.

Happy Easter, my friends.



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Miserable Me

I haven't died.


I AM still alive. Although I pretty much LOOK like death in the above photo.

And although I've certainly FELT like dying over the last few weeks... sum everything up in a nutshell, I got sick...very sick...couldn't get better...saw a doctor...saw another doctor...took lots of pills that didn't seem to work...and I now get to have sinus surgery in a few weeks. the meantime, I cannot fly back home to where my friends and family are...but am "grounded" in sunny southwest Florida as I await my surgery., I've been resting...recuperating...and writing (just not writing on my blog...which I am so sorry about).

...I've been enjoying the warm weather...the peacefulness...and...that's about it.

...I've been hating the solitude...the disconnection from friends and family...and the frustration of being sick. Still.

That is all.



Monday, March 18, 2013

No Longer a Nutella Virgin

A little known fact about me is that my middle name is "Impulse Buyer."

Yes. Really.

Okay. Not really - but it should be, as my patient Hubby can attest to.

Anyhow - today that label paid I found myself making a quick run to Target (which is an oxymoron if I ever heard one, because really? A "quick" run to Target? Bwahahahahahahaha. That does NOT exist. Ever. In ANY universe. Anyway. Moving on...)

...and while at Target, I came across a display that looked like this:

I had never tried Nutella. I had heard of all the hype - especially on Pinterest, which is practically an homage and shrine to Nutella.

And I thought, "Heck. I'm 50 years old. Why not live dangerously??"

Yeah, I'm kind of daring like that.

And so I bought my VERY FIRST jar of Nutella.

I came home and spread some on some bread...and after tasting it...all I can say is...

...Oh my.

It appears that the homages and shrines were well-deserved.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Take the Long Way Home


THAT deployment was certainly interesting. What was supposed to be a short, two-week stint in New York City, volunteering with the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, turned into a month-long odyssey that technically isn’t over even as we speak.

If a movie script were to be penned on what I’ve been through in the last month, there wouldn’t be a producer alive who’d take on this project, as every one of them would say, “It’s too insane. No one would believe it.”

But – here’s a quick synopsis of what that movie script would look like:

February 12: Sherri, our Drama Queen star, skips off to New York/New Jersey…as she checks in, she informs everyone around her that she will ONLY be here for two weeks…period. Her last day will be February 26, as she wants to fly back home to Kansas City before embarking on another adventure in Austin, TX. Her boss in NY laughs evilly…but does our heroine pay attention to that? Do heroines in movies EVER pay attention to evil laughs or ominous music playing in the background? Heck, no.

This would be mistake #1.

February 24: While working long and hard days in the warehouse, our heroine dreams of her upcoming last day in NYC; she has plans on flying back to Kansas City for a few days, and then fly down to Austin, TX on March 2 – for a week - to participate in a project with the American Red Cross. She is tickled because she was invited personally to partake in this project; it is an honor, and she is duly humbled. Her boss in NYC, meanwhile, twirls his handlebar mustache and laughs when our heroine mentions going home in two days. Sherri has come down with a bit of a cold, but ignores the symptoms for the most part, and pops a few ibuprofen.

This would be mistake #2.

February 26: Kansas City – and the surrounding Midwest – is WALLOPED by a blizzard and several feet of snow. The airport is completely shut down. No one – and I mean, NO ONE – will be flying to Kansas City this day. Sherri takes a phone call from the evil boss at NYC, who laughs and says, “I TOLD you that you weren’t going home! And you aren’t going to Austin, either! I called Washington, DC and yanked you from the project! You’re doing far more valuable work HERE and I can’t let you go!”

Well. Technically, the evil boss was right. I WAS doing good work in NYC, and it would have been a shame to leave it when things were going so well – and we were so close to finishing this. Sherri sadly informs the family that she won’t be coming to KC for awhile, and bravely pops a few more ibuprofen for the ever-increasing cold symptoms. Her new goal is to fly to Florida on March 9th, where she will happily reunite with her always-patient Hubby and kids.

March 7: Sherri wakes up with full-blown sinus issues…to the point where the left ear is completely blocked. A quick visit to an urgent care center in Staten Island, and our heroine walks away with a bottle full of antibiotics and stern instructions to NOT fly on a plane for at least a week.

Drat. This means no flying to Florida on March 9th.

Sherri is desperate, as heroines in movies sometimes are. Thinking quickly, she looks up train schedules – and voila! There is a train that will take her from Newark, NJ as far south as Tampa, FL – and then a bus will finish up the journey south to Ft. Myers. This will only be a 27-hour trip, but hey – it alleviates having to fly on a plane – so Sherri is happy!

March 8th: Our heroine bids everyone at the warehouse in NYC was a good deployment, and a lot was accomplished. She even gets a hug from the Evil Boss, who says, through gritted teeth, "You're awesome." Hey. She'll take it.

March 9th: Our heroine boards a train in Newark, NJ. She was lucky and was able to book the last sleeper car available (for a steep price, mind you), but she has privacy and a couch/bed to lay down on…she passes the time watching DVD’s on her laptop, reading her Kindle, chatting up fellow travelers in the Dining Car, and sleeping.

My bed for the night...

Pretty much my view for 27+ hours...

March 10th: The train finally rolls into Tampa, Florida – with a few delays, it ended up being a 27-hour trip for just the TRAIN portion – and we still have a 3-hour bus ride ahead of us. Sherri and 30 other passengers board the chartered bus and begin the journey south.

2:30 pm: The bus stops in Bradenton, and 1-2 passengers get off with their bags. Another two passengers run off the bus so they can quickly steal a few puffs on a cigarette before it’s time to hit the road again.

3:00 pm: The bus stops in Sarasota…and the same scenario plays out. A few passengers get off for good, while the same two smokers run off the bus and steal a few puffs of nicotine.

4:00 pm: The bus pulls off the road to a small gas station in Port Charlotte. The two smokers run off the bus – but THIS time, they take their duffel bags; it is obvious this is their final stop and they won’t be returning. Good for them – I wasn’t sure if their nicotine-starved bodies could handle much more. However, a curious thing happens…the bus driver gets off here, as well, and walks away. The bus passengers see him leaning against the side of the gas station/convenience store walls…and he looks in no hurry to get back on the bus. Curious. Perhaps he just needs a 5-minute break.

Five minutes turns to ten…then twenty…and the bus driver shows no interest in getting back on the bus. He is still standing there…just watching us…while we watch him. By now, grumblings are beginning on the bus, and questions are being raised, such as, “WHAT is he DOING??!!” as well as, “WHY is he just STANDING there??!!”

Our heroine is beginning to think she's being punk’d. She thought about driving the bus herself the rest of the way to Ft Myers, but she really didn’t want a charge/conviction of “stolen bus” on her pristine record. Besides – it was a really, really long bus – she'd probably wreck it trying to turn a corner.

She'd have called Hubby to come and get her at this point, but her luggage – and her purse – were locked down below the bus in the luggage hold.

What happened next, she can only blame on the fact that she wasn't feeling well. Or perhaps it was the drugs. Or perhaps it was just the plain fact that she had been trying, since February 26th, to see her family - whom she missed very much - and she'd pretty much reached the end of her patience.

I - oops, I mean "she" - burst into tears.

Yup. A full-blown crying attack, with little bits of whine thrown in for good measure.

"I just want to see my family," our heroine she explained to a group of high-school cheerleaders sitting around her. They had enough time that she could tell them the whole story of why she was sitting on a bus, on the side of the road, in Port Charlotte, to begin with.

They were probably thinking, "Great. First we get abandoned by our driver, and we now have Crazy Crying Lady onboard. God help us all."

After twenty-five minutes, the cheerleaders' chaperone has had ENOUGH - of our heroine, of the errant bus driver, whatever - and makes her way to the front of the bus and begins laying on the horn.


Well. This certainly gets the attention of not only the bus driver, but every person in a 5-mile radius of the gas station. The passengers all swivel their heads over to the bus driver to see his reaction to this, and he graces them with a…shrug. A SHRUG???!!

Our honker decides that a longer honk is needed, so she does just that…lays on the horn for a good full 2-minutes…which is now starting to irritate the innocent people in the parking lot of the gas station. They all look like they’re going to start dialing 9-1-1 on the errant bus in the parking lot.

The passengers all look back at the bus driver to see what HIS next move will be. The first honk had been met with a shrug; what will the second – and longer – honk be met with? Now that they're gathering the attention of others?

The bus driver begins stalking furiously back over to the bus.

When he climbed back onboard, the Honker Lady and he got into what can only be described as…um…a loud discussion. Yes. A very passionate discussion. Ahem.

“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM???!!!” Honker Lady yells.

“I’m MAD!” Bus Driver Guy says. Duh. “I’m mad because every time I stop this bus, people run off to smoke.”

“It’s YOUR bus!!!!” Honker Lady shrieks. “YOU are in charge! If you didn’t like it, you should have SAID something! Rather than being passive-aggressive, and taking it out on the REST of us! And for your information, the smokers are now OFF the bus, you idiot!!!”

And she was right. The smokers were LONG gone.

Mr. Bus Driver looks around sheepishly, sits meekly back in his seat, and the bus was finally moving again.

So…two weeks…two days…and 29 hours later…give or take a few days/hours here or there…our heroine's deployment finally ended.

6:00 pm: When we pulled into the parking lot, I looked out through the bus windows and saw my daughter. Who saw me at the same time.

And we both burst into tears.

It must run in the family.

Bless those cheerleaders' hearts, though. They saw the tears on BOTH ends, and quickly yelled for everyone onboard to make room - that there was going to be a glorious reunion in a minute, and I was to get off FIRST.


What a ride. Literally.

And why isn't this over yet? Why are there no closing credits???

Because I'm now stuck in Florida. Yes. I was supposed to fly back to KC yesterday, but the sinus issues/ear problems are STILL here - so no flying until I get this resolved.

And if you even THINK I'll take another train or bus to Kansas City - you can think again.

Sometimes, the Heroine learns and doesn't repeat the mistakes she makes in the first part of the movie. And those, my dear readers, are the Heroines who live to see another day.



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hey, Look Kids! There's Brooklyn!

Just about everyone ever born has seen the hilarious movie, "National Lampoon's European Vacation", which follows the antics of the Griswold family as they traipse through Europe. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Clark Griswold, stuck in a roundabout in London, repeats, "Hey, look kids! There's Big Ben!" as they circle...and circle...and circle the famous landmark.

That scene makes me giggle every time, as we've all probably been stuck in a roundabout - or something similar in life - that we can't seem to get out of. Trapped, if you will, in an endless circle of driving....

Yesterday...was just such a nightmare for me.

Oh, it began innocently enough...when we loaded up two semi-trucks of materials and headed out to deliver them to Far Rockaway, New York, as well as Brooklyn, New York. I was in the "chaser" car - which follows the semi-trucks and provides additional manpower to unload the truck once we arrive at our delivery address.

We began our journey in the morning as we headed over to Staten Island, where we then traversed the Verrazano Bridge, landing us into Brooklyn. Our plan was to head to Far Rockaway first, as it is true to its's far, far, far away from just about anything...and we hoped to get there quick, unload, and then go to Brooklyn on the way back to the warehouse. Should be easy-peasy, right?


Trouble first hit once we hit Brooklyn...the idiotic highway department in New York had decided to shut down all lanes but ONE on a very busy bridge - during rush hour traffic - which bottlenecked everyone for at least 60 minutes....Three lanes...merging to one...and we have two semi-trucks trying to squeeze in. Tempers in New York City can be short anyway, but throw in aggravated and impatient drivers, and it was a nightmare.

After finally making it across the bridge, we began winding our way through Brooklyn...and then on through an attempt to find the food pantry that we were delivering to. There's a lovely road that would have taken us directly there - called the Belt Parkway - that is devoid of traffic, stoplights and pedestrians...but unfortunately, it's also devoid of trucks. Yup - NO trucks are allowed, which meant us. Drat.

Two hours and 45 minutes later, we finally arrived at the first stop, where we enlisted the help of several of the residents, and quickly unloaded the truck of two pallets of water, and dozens and dozens of boxes of supplies. One delivery down...two more to go.

We asked one of the drivers, Bob, where HIS delivery was to go, and he mumbled something about Far Rockaway, as well...and since that's where we were, we thought, "AWESOME!" We should be there in NO time and have two of our three deliveries down relatively quickly. Telling Bob to lead the way, since he had the GPS with the address, we jumped in our vehicles and began our convoy, once more.

Unfortunately, this is when trouble found us yet again...Bob made a few turns, and before any of us realized what had happened, we found ourselves on the Belt Parkway...and BOY, our fellow NYC drivers were NOT happy! Cars began driving up to the trucks, and fists and hands began shaking and gesturing at our drivers...not being up there to hear what was being said, I can only imagine they were telling our guys to get the HELL off the Parkway - trucks weren't ALLOWED. Period.

Once we found the next exit, we sat on the side of the road for a bit, trying to figure out how to get to our next stop without using the Parkway...which was difficult, because our GPS units couldn't understand why we had to avoid it. We jumped back in and then started driving...and driving...and driving...and as I'm looking around at the scenery...and the people...and the brownstones...and the little ethnic hits me....


Whatever happened to the delivery we had to make in Far Rockaway??!!

By now, it was very apparent that we were lost...and we were driving aimlessly around Brooklyn...I kept pointing out my window, and in my best Clark Griswold voice, I"d say, "Hey, look kids! There's Brooklyn!" over...and over...and over...again. Gah.


Being the good chaser car that we were, we didn't ask questions...nope. We just a little lost sheep...until the next unfortunate incident happened. We got caught at a stoplight, as the semi-trucks whizzed through...where they then proceeded to turn left on a street up ahead. By the time we got through the light ourselves, we had totally lost them. They had vanished into thin air, and we had no way of contacting them to see where they were my lovely (not) iPhone had last it's battery completely and was now only good to be used as a brick.

At one point, we had no clue as to where we were...thinking quickly, I grabbed my iPhone and checked on Facebook...who told me that I was in Southside Jamaica Queens...wherever that was. Another time, we were in "East New York, Brooklyn NY" - and yet again, we were in "Chinatown" - although the Chinatown was easy to figure out, for obvious reasons.

Leslie, the driver, eventually says, "We're done. Screw this. We're going back to the warehouse." She then points the car towards the Verrazano Bridge and we take off...however, as we approached the bridge up in sight, I made a startling observation.

I've only been in New York for three weeks, but I'm practically an expert now...and one thing I know - I know my bridges, and my tunnels. You HAVE to know these here to survive...and I said to Leslie, "Uh...that's not the Verrazano - that's the Manhattan Bridge...we're going to Manhattan!"

After Leslie recovered from the dead faint of the shock, she pulled herself together and did rather well. I knew enough that the Holland Tunnel would be on the west side from where we were, and so we drove straight across - through Chinatown - to get into the tunnel and get safely back to the warehouse.


We eventually found out that the two semi-trucks lost each other, so basically, the entire convoy was a bust. Everyone got lost, everyone was cranky, and everyone had seen enough of Brooklyn to last two lifetimes.

Lessons learned, though...

1. Know the truck routes...BEFORE heading out in a truck!
2. Never lose the chaser car - look out for your fellow convoy members!!!
3. Always use a bathroom before heading out, because they're pretty scarce in NYC, as I've discovered.
4. Have a good attitude...even while lost, frustrated and tired.

That's one thing Clark Griswold was always good at - having a good attitude when all hell broke lose.

Hey, look everyone! There's Brooklyn!!!


Friday, March 1, 2013

My Little World...for the Past Few Weeks...

5:30 comes early...

That's what time I roll out of bed, in preparation for the day ahead. Gah.

A lot of people have asked what I'm exactly doing here, volunteering with the American Red Cross - and so, I thought I'd share a typical day with you. Nothing majorly exciting, but certainly necessary, and always rewarding.

Hurricane Sandy struck the northeast coast in late October...and the ARC immediately mobilized forces in at least 10 states, up and down the coastal areas. Each state will assign it's own headquarters, as well as volunteers, and initially, I had been assigned to the Maryland operation - way, way back in October. Maryland cleaned up rather quickly, and I was re-assigned to New Jersey for two weeks, back in early November.

Eventually, I went home, but the operations in New Jersey continued, as well as operations in it's neighboring state, New York. When I came back out here in February, I was assigned to the New York operation. This means that everything I do - or give away - is given to - or done on behalf of - the people of New York.

For this particular assignment, I was sent to the warehouse...which just happens to be in Jersey City, New Jersey. However - everything in our warehouse goes to New every time we leave our warehouse with the trucks, we head straight across the Hudson over to New York. Tricky, huh?!

A view of our warehouse...

Here at the warehouse, my specific job has been to do Inventory's very important that the folks back at NY Headquarters - which is in Manhattan, btw - know exactly how much supplies we have at the warehouse. Every day, I have to count - how many supplies came in, as well as how many went out - and I turn my report in to management by 3:00 pm each afternoon.

My work area...

One of the first things I did when I got here was organize the warehouse...of course. I wanted all "like" supplies together - and I then went around and labeled the products with large signs, which would help the warehouse crew when they needed to fill an order.

Respirators, anyone??

...or how about some buckets, to clean with??

Quite a bit of our supplies were donated to us by large corporations; for instance, we had thousands and thousands of cases of infant diapers, all donated by Kimberly-Clark. Headquarters will send us a requisition to deliver these diapers to a particular non-profit agency in New York, so they can be distributed - free of charge - to people affected by Hurricane Sandy.

These requisitions come in all day long...and we have a crew that drives around the 100,000-square foot warehouse in forklifts, picking up the requested products and loading them into several semi-trucks we have stationed nearby. Sometimes, if my counts are up-to-date, I'll assist in the pulling and loading of the trucks.

Once our trucks are loaded, we jump into them and head over to New York, maneuvering through the constant traffic, the bridges, the tunnels, the toll booths, the pedestrians, and the ever-present aggressive drivers that make this state so unique. Driving a semi-truck in the nation's largest - and most densely populated city - has been extremely interesting; streets are narrow, our trucks are long, and we've been extremely fortunate that we haven't wiped anyone - or anything - out. Yet. Knock on wood.

Once we (finally) arrive at our destination, we have the lovely pleasure (not) of unloading the trucks. We were able to use a forklift at the loading end; we usually aren't so fortunate to be able to use a forklift at the unloading end. It's normally done by hand - box by box, water case by water case. And that water is HEAVY!

Once our trucks are empty, and we've spent a few moments talking with the local people that we're serving, it's time to jump back in the trucks, fight our way back through the city, cross the Hudson, and come back home to the warehouse. Here - we start all over again, as there are most likely new requisitions that have been rolling in during the day.

Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

And meanwhile...I count. How many diapers? How many 1st-Aid kits? How many flashlights? Et cetera. Sometimes, I've no sooner counted a product when someone is coming in right behind me and moving it with a forklift...I often feel that my job is to count thousands of moving cats, which is pretty much impossible.

If we're lucky - and if we have time - we may get a bite of lunch. Sometimes not. It depends. And if we're REALLY lucky - we can get a bathroom there's nothing worse than bouncing like a pinball in a giant semi, on extremely rough roads, when you are in desperate need of the facilities. I speak from personal experience. Ahem.

Our days begin at 6:30 am, when we report in - and end at 4:30 pm, if we're lucky and our routes are finished. At that time, we all drag ourselves out for a quick bite of dinner, head to our respective motel rooms, and crash. Exhausted.

Six days a week...over and over and over again...

I'll's not all work. Every day, our warehouse mascot, Miss Lucy, comes in with her owner to visit us and give us some much-needed attention...or perhaps, it's the other way around...??!!

She's a sweetie...

Although breakfast and lunch are provided for us, I keep a little stash of stress relief at my desk at all times:

Chocolate. Of course.

I was originally supposed to just put in two weeks on this deployment, but I've extended my time for at least another week, as we are SO close to cleaning out the warehouse. When I first arrived, this warehouse was stacked to the ceiling with donations - but we've really made tremendous progress in getting it cleaned out.

What it used to look like...maze upon maze of products....

So...a typical day...with a few surprises thrown in, such as emergency meetings, phone calls, or issues. Or dropped pallets of water on feet. I really couldn't imagine doing anything else right now,'s my own little way of helping with the relief effort.