‘sTrueth! A good time was had by all.

The Daily Life Text

Jim and I spent the weekend at the Trues’. I had a ridiculously busy Friday that involved a ton of networking (which, it seems, could be a full-time job even if you’re not actually following up on any of the networking with anything concrete); took some time off for lunch with a friend here in White Plains; and then bolted home to throw some final few things in a bag and drive up to Boston to squeeze in an overdue visit to an old friend before heading out to Melrose via the convoluted-but-beautiful Route 1. (Evans: Are you reading this? You are next.)

(Only in Boston would a relatively straight course end up looking like a misguided bowl of noodles.)

This route goes over the Tobin Bridge, by the way, which is stunning, to say the least.

photo: Estrip.org

Anyhow. We went to visit my friend Sarah, who had her baby boy, Jesus Jr., back in late December. I don’t know why there is only this photo of me, Jim and JJ and none of Sarah, me, Jim, and Jesus Sr. It seems people disappear when there are babies involved.

Baby Jesus is cute. He is just like the teddy bear he looks to be, warm and squashy and round.

Jesus and Sarah took us to the really great Village BBQ, where I had beef brisket, and Jim had…something I can’t remember. Jesus had hot wings whose flames could only be quenched by tequila, and Sarah had an entire rack of ribs. Have I mentioned that Sarah is but a mere waif? I never understood where she put the food. For that matter, I’m not sure where she put Jesus Jr.

Then it was off to the True household for a promised weekend of mountain biking.

That didn’t really happen. I mean, Jim and Colin went, and came back suitably muddy. The story is that Jim executed an awesome endo, but there were no photographs. However, as these were the photos that happened that night, I think it’s obvious that everyone had a good time. Indeed, Jim look properly relieved to have gotten out of the afternoon with nothing more than a good endo story to tell:

We girls went to hot yoga instead. It was very, very hot, although I know it wasn’t the 100 degrees on the thermostat. It was aggressive and I had some sort of aggressive woman next to me who flexed her hands wide open when she was doing Warrior and jumped back and forth with an annoying plip plopping noise whenever our instructor said to “jump or step back into upward facing dog.” You could see her tendons and she seemed to be very competitive. Anyway, Carli lost the lid to her WaterBox and it went rolling in a lopsided confused way underneath me before she caught it, which sent me into fits of snorting laughter that, thankfully, no one but Carli heard, I don’t think. This must be why Carli and I look so composed in this photo, because all of the giggling snorts had been sweated out of us.

Lily is a right proper angel.

Most days Carli is, too. I said most days.

Later on that night there was watching of the most ridiculously gleeful movie ever, The Hangover. Bradley Cooper has incredible hair in that movie. And that’s all I’ma say about that.

Photo: David Gabber, TopNews.in

Er. What happened just now? I got distracted. Oh, right, the weekend.

Perhaps one of the most cliché-and-yet-not moments of the weekend was when Colin dragged out his home videos, made back when he was, oh, I can’t remember, eight or so. People. You’ve never seen home videos like this. To be fair, they were shot by someone I think was an aspiring filmmaker (not Colin, but a childhood friend of his). There are sound effects and visual effects and great costumes and fake fighting and everything. They are from “Peter/Paul Productions,” with a proper nameplate, and they. are. hilarious. Seriously. I think I might have liked watching clips of those better than I liked.

Bradley.

Cooper’s.

Hair.

What? Ahem.

Okay, so we knocked off to bed shortly after that, as Jim had to get up the next morning to ride in the King of Burlingame time trial race. People. Watch the video. Sometimes I cannot believe Jim rides this stuff. Sometimes I am sick with envy.

King of Burlingame Time Trial

Other times I look at that and go, “Agh, mud, trail erosion…eeeEEEeee…bridges!” In this case, I was not around to see the actual race; I was inside the car, trying to get a head start on editing the newspaper. We left shortly afterwards, and stopped on the way home to consume what would eventually be The Bane of Our Existence.

Doesn’t it look benign? And lovely?

It was, at the time. And then, four hours later, it was not, as Jim and I were rapidly overtaken with horrible food poisoning. I still haven’t decided if I can write up a Yelp review of this restaurant. Jim has fond memories of it from his days working in Groton, CT at Pfizer, but…oh, le sigh.

Anyway. So our wonderful weekend fizzled to a stop, as we both, in separate rooms, moaned our ways through the night (we didn’t know if it was flu and didn’t feel like passing it back and forth to each other). Jim gamely went to work Monday morning and I moaned my way through all of Monday and into Tuesday morning and now finally feel 100%. I am convinced that the hot yoga which made me sweat out all of the water in my system contributed to a slower recovery time for me.

Anyhow, we’re already halfway through the week, and I ahve a ton of work to do, because I have a houseguest coming Friday and things to do in the city tomorrow evening, I think, and then I am going to Haiti on Sunday.

Yes, I’m going to Haiti on Sunday. More on that later.

Bradley Cooper’s hair!

What?

P.S. Carli made this thing out of WikkiStix. I have never heard of them until this past weekend, but I was suitably impressed:

Speaking the gospel

The Daily Life Text

Okay. I have been thinking about this post for a really long time. I’ve been speaking to audiences since I started ARFE, and now, as I’m working with ShelterBox, I speak at least once a week. And in January I gave one of the most important speeches of my life.

At first, this post was going to be very simple: I love public speaking! And then I was going to say a few words on why and all of that. But I let it roll around in my head a little bit more, and percolate (burble, burble) a bit longer, and then, on Tuesday evening, as Jim and I were watching The Biggest Loser, I had a brainfart: this is not just about public speaking, and why I love it. It is about all the things it can do for you, and how good it can make you feel.

I know, that sounds insane. Isn’t public speaking  one of the most common phobias, or something like that? I’m going to tell you briefly why it shouldn’t be.

1. You are speaking about something you care about.

Even if you’re terrified of public speaking, the fact that you’re talking about something personally meaningful to you is a huge boost. Take advantage of it. If you aren’t speaking about something you feel invested in, get someone else to do it. Really.

2. You know your audience.

This sometimes has to be accomplished on the fly. If you walk into a room and it’s all stern-looking suits, make sure you speak  their language. Likewise if it’s a bunch of college students who’ve just rolled out of bed.

Many speaking engagements are preceded by a meal of sorts, or at least some lag time. Get there early, and use the time wisely: Observe the people at the table; mingle; get to know the people in the room. Ask questions about the group. Engage from the first minute. And, for God’s sake, do your research. Take every advantage you can.

Learn to read body language. Reading people on the fly is immensely useful.

3. You are a role model while you are speaking.

At the very least, you are an expert on your topic. This is an incredibly powerful idea. For 45 minutes, or whatever, you are the end-all, be-all of the reason people are in the room. Use this knowledge!

4. You can only be yourself.

No one is asking you to be anyone else. Be casual. People came to see you. Surely, that’s worth something. Big public-speaking gaffes, like inappropriate jokes, or drinking so much prior to said speech that you’re woozy and slurring, happen because you’re nervous. Little public-speaking gaffes, like too many “ums” or “y’knows” happen because you’re nervous. Don’t be. It’s OK.

OK. So now back to the Biggest Loser. They do this thing on the show where, at some point during the season, they make it so that each contestant has an opportunity to become a role model. Last season they did it twice: once they made the contestants go round getting people to participate in a Biggest-Loser-led exercise class on the Washington Mall, and, later in the season, they had the contestants speak on what it’s like to find motivation for losing weight. They had them tell their own stories, in short.

And I think every contestant suddenly felt, after watching everyone applaud and give standing ovation after standing ovation, that they were worthy of something.

How precious is that?

At a recent ShelterBox event at East Woods School

Florida, and what I found there

The Daily Life Text

Almost exactly a week ago I began a long trip to Florida via Philadelphia. I met my friend Bill in Philly so we could catch a plane to Florida and ShelterBox USA’s winter workshop meeting. It was terrific to catch up with Bill and spend some quality time with him, and to see other friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and meet some people I’ve been communicating with on the telephone or by e-mail.

Really, really cool stuff. Of course, today the work begins–I’m back to scheduling stuff and just waiting, waiting, to go on deployment while I steal a few moments here and there to devote to my other clients.

“Other clients”–ha! as if ShelterBox is a client! Still, I find the work they’ve set upon me interesting and a natural extension of the work I’d be doing anyway. However, now that I know I have some folks depending on some productive results, there’s an added extension of pressure. At the moment, I’m itching to deploy. It seems all of my friends are going! Agh. Nothing to do but move forward and wait for the call.

In the meantime, here’s some of what I saw in Florida.

nickjimmies

Erica picked me up from the Winter Workshop. We got locked out of her car–it was still running!–and E’s brother Nick tried to make it right. Three older folks (we were in Florida, after all) stopped by to help, and two hours later, the locksmith showed up.

This bird seemed to think it was such a good sight that it stuck around to watch how we did.

birdWe had lunch and then we went back to Erica’s place, where we walked Russell, Erica’s dog, and I met all of Erica’s various pets and friends:

erussellstarThere is no photo of either bunny, the cat, or the fish cos, respectively, I am a bad photographer; the cat and I had a raging fight and I have started to referring to it as North Korea, a la Erica’s boyfriend Kevin; and I did not want to scare the fishies with the flash on my camera.

Anyway, E and K went off to Tampa to celebrate Valentine’s Day and I proceeded to spend the rest of the night editing, watching the Olympics, and fighting with the cat.

I went to volunteer at the ShelterBox USA offices the next day. Good fun. Busy. Crazy.

The following day E and I went to the Ringling museum to check out the Norman Rockwell exhibit. It was way, way cool.

eringlingCool, right?

And then I go to meet Lindy for lunch! Lindy! Lindy! Lindy from my ARFE life! Crazy! She’s started up her own company based around Nordic Walking…we had a really lovely day on Siesta Key, and I realized that I need sunglasses if I’m going to do this kind of thing. I mean, I have them, but I’ve been wearing my spectacles a lot, and I wanted to see everything crystal clear, so I went without on this bright day. What a moron. Needless to say, I went and ordered a pair of photochromic glasses then next morning.

melindyWe walked about five and a half miles along the incredible sands…they were beautiful. I was so grateful and happy to see Lindy. It’s not that I had despaired of ever seeing her again, but I didn’t know if we would stay relevant to each other after she left her job and I left ARFE. But personalities don’t change with jobs, and I always liked Lindy. Along the way we did this:

shadowand saw a bunch of terns lined up like a runway:

ternrunwayand also discovered these things:

seablobLindy says they’re “seablobs.” Jim is informing me over my shoulder that they are actually jellyfish, and that he and his friends used to throw them at each other when he was growing up in Rhode Island. Yuck!

That night I had dinner with some ShelterBox USA board members and then drove home to hang out with Erica, read, watch some Olympics, and have a glass of wine.

Next morning, last day of my stay in FLA, Bev, another SRT, came and picked me up. We had lunch at Simon’s, a lovely little whole-food joint. I had some gorgeous haddock wrap thing with smoked gouda and a mango salsa. Yum.

mebeve

it was an hour ride to the airport filled with terrific conversation, then, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I had a great time. It was well worth the effort to go down there. If I hadn’t, I doubt I’d be either as energized or as overwhelmed by the work ahead. In the end, the added energy and sense of cohesion about the organization–and face time with key folks, friends, and admin alike–make it all worth it.

Oh, look, I’ve gone and disappeared again.

The Daily Life Text

And now it’s almost the end of the January. It’s been a remarkably busy few weeks. While I’ve been gone from these pages, I’ve been very busy taking care of a little project I’m so proud of. Most of you have already heard me speak about this, but I’ll say it again: I think ShelterBox is the best thing that ever happened to me. Well, aside from Jim and Sprocket, anyway. And my friends. And, um, being born and stuff.

I was telling my brother, in somewhat of a dazed state after a ton of activity, that I finally understood what it meant to him that he was a Peace Corps volunteer. No matter what happens, no one can take that away from him. He walks taller because of it. When I am wearing the ShelterBox shirt or pin, I walk taller. I know that.

These past few days have been incredibly taxing. We’re literally in the middle of a huge earthquake that I think did even more damage than the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that leveled Taiwan. Haiti, which had no real infrastructure to begin with, is buried in rubble. ShelterBox is there helping, and we’ve got a ton of attention now because of it. Because our goods are so tangible and so easily trackable—do you see a big green box here? Yes? Well, that’s your money, at work—CNN is following a big shipment from Newquay until they get to their destination in Haiti. It’s my hope that they’ll follow the shipment until it gets delivered into the hands of the Haitians. Our tents are now being used as medical tents in a makeshift hospital, so that amputations and treatment can be carried out in more sanitary conditions than they have been previously.

medicaltent

It’s incredible, how fast we mobilized. As a result, I am completely knackered. Here’s the schedule since the earthquake happened:

Tuesday evening. Earthquake happens while I’m at a meeting with Adam Stone, publisher for the Examiner newspapers, for whom I’m doing some copy-editing.

Wednesday. I spend all morning and the early afternoon organizing efforts to get ShelterBox top of mind with Rotarians and tweeting about our efforts, just in case anyone else is watching. My girls at Rotaract of the UN spend some time organizing a fast happy hour, to take place on Monday. I send a quick note to a buddy at Pepsi who knows some folks who live in the city who might go to the fundraiser. I go out Wednesday night and drink too much, feeling a lot of pressure and not believing that such a horrible thing could happen to such a defenseless country. I get a note back from my buddy saying that his Haitian friends at Pepsi have taken an interest. The thing begins to take form.

Thursday. Our teams arrive at Port-au-Prince. I wake up hungover to an e-mail from Pepsi asking if I’m available for the next week to demonstrate the box at Pepsi headquarters. Jim calls to tell me that it’s actually going to be a whole week-long promotion, with bake sales, raffles, and presentations. I go to do a taping for the middle-school kids across the street. I get home to urgent requests for a conference, a phone conference at least, the next day, to arrange all the details for this promotion.

Friday. Conference at Pepsi. Interview for the Examiner’s Business of the Week feature. I get notice that the Westchester Tweetup Group is planning on making the following Thursday’s Tweetup a benefit for ShelterBox. I get a lot misty at the thought of so many people rallying around. I finish up my personal statement for an MFA application and send it in. One step closer to being done. I also file my story.

Saturday. I wake up to a tweet from a local green enthusiast who does cooking demonstrations with local ingredients at the Katonah Farmer’s Market. She wants to make one of her demonstrations a benefit for ShelterBox. We agree on the following week. I spend the rest of the day editing The Examiner. Jim and I head to a friend’s house in New Jersey for the evening—some good conversation and much-needed decompression occurs, although, as we’re walking the dogs on the beach, I’m taking phone calls, trying to arrange coverage for the Farmer’s Market.

Sunday. I can’t remember Sunday. At all. I only remember that Jim and I went to Aileen’s for BACON EXPLOSION. Have you ever had bacon explosion? It is a veghead’s nightmare. For me, pudgy little post-Ironman me, it’s not so good, but it was OH SO GOOD. Anyway. Oh, right, I also did a lot of editing on Sunday.

bacon

Monday. More editing. And a happy hour. Some long-lost friends came out. I was all verklempt to see such support. And really happy to hear that we’d raised enough money for a whole box. Awesome. All that from a $10 open bar and passing the bucket. Fricken awesome. We go to a sushi dinner with friends to celebrate.

lookit my new double chin! wow!!
lookit my new double chin! wow!!

Tuesday. Big, big day at Pepsi. People were in awe. I was in awe, as I am every time I unpack the tent. Probably the crowning achievement was hearing the cafeteria manager say that she and her crew were taking up collections to help Haiti and that we were going to be it for them. The chef came out. I almost cried.

box

Wednesday. Big day at Pepsi R&D headquarters. Full presentation this time. Awesome to hear all the questions; great to see peoples’ faces again as they saw the tent. They did a raffle. The company matched. We had donations from $10 to $750 that day. I almost cried, again. I went home and struggled to pack and work on my critical essay. But I’ve been very disjointed lately.

pepsidemo

Thursday.  I’m away from my desk, of course, but still tied up in ShelterBox stuff. I have a feeling I’ll be tied up in it for quite some time, don’t you?

Lost: Mo, size large.

The Daily Life Text

Sigh.
I do hate losing my mo. One of my favorite lines to trot out about having chosen writing as a career is that you can find inspiration in whatever you do or say. You wake up every day knowing that something is going to strike you as worthy. Everyone has something to offer you. It’s a very lucky thing, knowing that you’ve got that on your side. Inspiration’s not a problem. It’s motivation that’s the issue, motivation to get up and outside and look for inspiration. You don’t find it in a cubicle, although a good friend mentioned the other day that I am the type of person who would do better in a box, entirely closed up, if I am to really focus. Sigh.
Take today, for instance. We went to bed last night at a reasonable hour and I decided that this week was going to be the week that I get back to being physically fit. Yes, yes, I really have done nothing since Ironman. I did this jog on Monday:
mapgrab
and it took me FOREVER. I ran the loop six times, for a total mileage of 1.8 miles, and it took me 21 minutes. Argh. Speed isn’t really an issue–I’ve become quite pokey since I started distance training, and I’m okay with that–really, really–but what I was really struck by was how much my legs ached on Tuesday.
At any rate, I thought, OK, let’s just get back on the bandwagon, do cardio three days a week this week: Wednesday you’ll do the same loop six more times, maybe 7, do the same thing on Friday. By week two you should be working out six days a week, strength training on the days you don’t run.
Guess what? It’s Wednesday. I have not yet gone for my jog. Later, though, later.
The weekend was strange. Friday night I took Jim to Horsefeathers with Peggy, since he’d never been. We got home kind of late for my 5:15 wake-up call to get to the U.N. in time for U.N.-Rotary Day. It was a nice day representing ShelterBox, but I ran, as predicted, on all six cylinders that day and was totally wasted by the time I got home for dinner with Kate. Still, it was awesome to see her, and nicer still to have yet another friend in our home.
We didn’t take any photos with Kate (why not? why not? morons!), but I’ve been charged with a Flat Stanlina until after Thanksgiving, and she got her photo taken at the U.N.
yi@un
Lucky girl.
I spent all over Sunday on the couch. Totally exhausted. It was a gorgeous day, and I read Wuthering Heights and watched the BBC film version, which was unexpectedly moving.
Anyway. So here I am, flabby and unexercised. In other news, though, I’m finally beginning to wrap my head around finishing my applications for the MFA programs I applied for (really, it’s just sending in manuscripts and essays and things), I wrote close to 3000 words yesterday for NaNoWriMo, I just found out my good friend Jody is going to be Chicago the same time I am over Thanksgiving, and I think I am *this* close to convincing my brother that he needs to come out early for Christmas so we can have some quality time before the holidays take over.
I think I might actually have most of my shopping & making-stuff (I do hate the word “crafting,” don’t you?) done, too, believe it or not. Most of it.
Here’s a gratuitous photo of the United Nations building. I’ve always loved this building. It’s due to be gutted, though, because it’s way out of honking code. Asbestos and everything.
U.N.bldg
I forgot: Flat Stanlina and I had coffee together. She ate most of my egg sandwich, the little so-and-so. coffeeandsandwich
More writing now. Some exercising later. Bleh. I have a horrible hankering, by the way, to be back on Dartmoor. Wannh!
Shelterbox SRT Training 103

NaNoWriMo, Day Six

The Daily Life Text

…the first three days were brilliant. But then the end of day three came, and I was a good two days ahead, and now I am actually a day and a half back. Awful.

To distract myself I will post some totally writing-unrelated photos. (I tell myself that they are writing-unrelated, but we know better: EVERYTHING is writing-related):

On Wednesday, the day the wheels fell of the bus, Sylvia and I went to Rockefeller Preserve. I thought I’d been there before, but I was wrong. I got that confused with Roosevelt State Park. (Captain of industry, President of the United States…it’s all the same.) We saw some pigs there.

pigs

It was a beautiful fall day, and people were out with their horses and things, but it was still really, really quiet. We walked by a lake.

sylwiasprock

Sprocket pooped a gazillion times. I think this is because it has been quite awhile since we went for a full-on rampage in the woods like that, even if we weren’t trail-running. He was just so excited that…never mind.

Then we had a very nice lunch at Horsefeathers. Sylwia has those photos.

I forgot, though, the day before,  a grey day (and election day, I might add, without any more commentary), I went for a stroll down to the library and got distracted by the local Arts Council, which hosts cool exhibits every once in awhile. It’s in a building that used to be a bank, and they keep the vault wide open so that they can stage exhibits in there. I really like it. Here are a couple photos.

bankvaultcloseup

There is something very soothing about the shapes of these doors. And their materials I find to be very pretty.

While I was there, and before I ran into my friend Blake, whose Mom‘s office is in the same building, I spotted some artwork about Taiwan!

artabouttaiwan

The exhibit was about global warming. I believe I will look up the artist and see if I can find the entire work of art, which is not mentioned here. Maybe I will give it to my Dad for Christmas.

Last night, which was Day Five of NanoWriMo and the third day of falling-behind, Jim brought this home:

ringpops

Yes, it is an enormous bucket of RingPops. Last night was bad. I had eaten a couple handfuls of candy corn, a RingPop, and consumed two pint glasses of grape juice and a pint glass of cola. This is more sugar than I have eaten in one day in, like, years. It was awful. I was jittery and confused, and also, I wondered what Colin would say–he is on a sugar fast until Thanskgiving. What a nut. Of course, I am only jealous because Colin has accepted a position with WaterBox, a company that manufactures innovative water bottles, and there is a pub next to his new office and a ski lift right outside of it. We are not sure if Colin and his family will move. If they do, we will miss them. colinjim

For now, it’s back to Horsefeathers to meet Peggy for dinner. Jim hasn’t been, and I want him to see the beer list. Tomorrow is a full day of ShelterBoxing for me at the U.N., so I need some fuel.

On perspective after Typhoon Morakot

The Daily Life Text

…I should really have a think about that headline. Is this really going to be about perspective? Part of me is tempted to troll the web for other disaster-relief volunteers, see how their perspectives changed after their first real-life experiences, but that would be cheating.
The other part of me is just temped to lay the whole thing out in schedule terms, see if that helps me to make any sense of it.
Overall, I’m deeply impressed with the ShelterBox operation. I knew that we were fast, but I wasn’t aware of the real-time pace of work. My team lead, David Ray, only just graduated from the 9-day course a year ago, and has already been on four deployments, to Pakistan, Sudan, Somaliland, and Sri Lanka, I think. He’s itching to get one more in before class starts, and I can understand why.
In many cases, I know we’d have moved faster, if it weren’t for the lifetime pace of Taiwan itself. We really do work 24-7 when we’re in the field, whether it’s working to create plan As, Bs, and then Cs and Ds or actually delivering ‘Boxes and finding the best ways to get them to their destinations. We didn’t see other aid agencies until a full week after our team first landed on the ground.
This isn’t giving anyone a really good idea of what happens during a ShelterBox deployment, and maybe that’s just because it’s largely impossible to describe. We get in, we establish partnerships, we find some way to recon the areas, we ensure the ‘Boxes are cleared of customs and ready to go, then we deliver the boxes. Following that, we set up a couple of tents, make sure everyone’s all set, and we’re off to either the next area, if it’s that kind of disaster, or off home, if it’s that kind of disaster. In my first three days there we recce’d four sites and established need in two.
The fact that I had a language advantage was great, but it added to my feeling that I’ll need at least three deployments under my belt before I consider myself fully competent in the tasks that make up a ShelterBox deployment. I could read between the lines, which made for some frustrating times, and I could also tell when things were sliding downhill.
Anyway, here are some photos.

Sometimes we carry our boxes by hand
Sometimes we carry our boxes by hand
Uploading them by excavator is easier, though.
Uploading them by excavator is easier, though.
I love this photo, of the local police chief of Lai Chi and the demo tent we set up for them.
I love this photo, of the local police chief of Lai Chi and the demo tent we set up for them.
I like this photo of the hound of one of our Rotary Chia-Yi people. She's just had pups, which is why she looks a little disgruntled.
I like this photo of the hound of one of our Rotary Chia-Yi people. She's just had pups, which is why she looks a little disgruntled.
What kind of vehicle was this?
What kind of vehicle was this?
we saw a lot of this
we saw a lot of this
the villagers of Ruei Tai were terrific teammates and quick learners
the villagers of Ruei Tai were terrific teammates and quick learners
Mr. Lai (no relation), to my left, is the kind of neighbor you want--although his own business and home weren't damaged, he called for help for his neighbors in the village of Ruei Tai, just up the street.
Mr. Lai (no relation), to my left, is the kind of neighbor you want--although his own business and home weren't damaged, he called for help for his neighbors in the village of Ruei Tai, just up the street.

More later, I suppose, as I process this thing. Lara sent a note that listed, although I know she didn’t mean it to sound this way, a number of ways in which something like this could change a girl. I may have to drag that out and use it as a rubric.