It’s been six weeks since my last post. There’s nothing, really, to explain this. Since I last wrote, my semester has ended, the Arab spring is on the verge of becoming the Arab summer, we’ve had two American weather disasters, and we did our first triathlon of the season. I’ve also started reading and been unable to complete reading three novels, which might say a lot about both my attention span and my reading grade level, and I visited three whole new states.

1. Books I Have Loved

Well, books I have wanted to love, anyway.

  • Middlesex: First few pages not enough to hold my attention.
  • Moby-Dick: Started right before deployment to Arkansas. Rotten timing.
  • The Palace Walk: A must-read for class in August. I like it so far, but there’s not a whole lot of action.

You know what’s really sad about this? I might have to come to grips with the fact that I’m more an action-flick kind of reader, if that makes any sense. I’ll tear through mystery novels, crime procedurals, “chick lit,” YA, no problem. But give me an award winner and I’m like a fish out of water. Ugh. This is bound to shape my writing.

2. My semester.

Difficult, at best. Worse, I’ve got a middle-grade novel I really like that I don’t want to lose momentum on, and while one of my professors has kindly offered to walk me through it once I have a completed draft, I’m terrified of the time commitment involved in that. Summer is so short, and my thesis advisor is asking us to write over the summer, as well. I need to learn to take advantage of this time.

With the semester’s end I experienced an uptick in the need to be creative. (Perhaps all that macrame finally got to me; I made almost 50 of these bracelets for ShelterBox this semester.) While that was temporarily curbed by my trip to Arkansas, I had the bug worse than ever on my return a week ago, which has encouraged me to sign up for an commit to private art lessons with the very talented Janice Cianflone. My hope is that it will help me to gain a new perspective on creativity, and allow me a new way to record the things I see and experience in my daily life.

I’ve tried more than once to do this, but I was never very good at keeping up with things unless I was forced to. Likewise, there’s a definite bump in the road that I need to get over–I’m very easily frustrated with drawing, since I’m quite bad at things like perspective: all of my drawings, whether they be of buildings, dogs, peanut shells, or cubes, end up looking flat. I get discouraged, and I quit.

Even now, as Janice and I are talking about lessons, I’m considering asking her to let me come to lessons twice a week. Any less, and I fear I’ll never improve, and worse, won’t be keen on the assignments if I don’t have some input (I’d rather have been in a class, where students can feed off each other’s energy, but the timing wasn’t right).

Anyhow. I guess I’ll check in on that later.

3. Arkansas tornado

This is my fourth deployment for ShelterBox and the first time I’ve been first team in and team lead. It was harrowing, to say the least. We were deployed for nine days, and at least half the time I had nightmares about customs and mobile homes being blown away. I slept maybe ten hours total for the last four days. I’m glad no one forced me to operate a forklift, although there was plenty of driving involved (communities in rural Arkansas are very spread out).

We met amazing people and were blown away by the way the community tried to rally around itself. Folks who arrived at the tent demonstration to learn how their own ShelterBoxes would work showed up the next morning and worked tirelessly to set up other people’s tents before they received theirs. The Boy Scouts turned out in force–we had nearly 40 of them.

And one 84-year-old man, after denying that he needed help over the two weeks since the tornado had struck, moved promptly in after we’d done setting up his tent.

Here he is, on the far right, with our volunteers AC and Jean-Paul.

I’ve got an interview with a radio station tomorrow morning to talk about this deployment, and I’ve been trying to figure out if I’ve learned anything. I remember the frustration and the worry, surely, but these things are de rigeur when it comes to deployments, and I won’t count them as memorable. Weirdly–or perhaps not so weirdly–I remember being sort of struck by the desperation, the need, the good humor of these folks. One woman, as we approached her land with her ShelterBox (her husband had been helping us all morning), gestured to the area where her home had been and said, “Don’t mind the mess. Looks like a tornado went through it.”

Yeah. Pretty fricken awesome.

4. Triathlon bug. Three girlfriends and I have been training for the Sleepy Hollow Triathlon. It fell two days after I returned from Arkansas, so I wasn’t thinking about posting any times, and well I didn’t, cos my swim was sheer misery. I finished that at the bottom of my age bracket and ended up with a total time of 1:35. It wasn’t where I wanted to finish, but my expectations were low.

Two of the girls have already signed up for another triathlon, and I couldn’t be happier. I really hope they keep it up. One of them is attempting 30 days of bikram yoga, which just sounds unhealthy to me, but I’m tempted to try it, just to boost my routine a bit. Could be interesting. Next race on my docket isn’t until September, and then there’s a half-marathon and another potential half-IM in Taiwan, but we’ll see about that as we get closer. Swimming in the warm waters of the ocean just of Kenting brings to mind riptides and sharks…!

Okay. More later, maybe. For now, gotta bang out some work before going to guest bartend for Big Green Box Week, ShelterBox’s annual awareness campaign.


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