Showing posts from May, 2011

Visiting home, the good list.

Pre-wedding sauna and massage with sister, right after getting picked up from the airport. Thanks mama!Saigon Towers vietnamese beef salad (comfort food of my childhood, was next door to my mom's store for a few years).Late nights hangin' with the fam, talking and laughing.Driving dad's huge truck around. *giggle* Gifts to my nephews. Rowdy boys. A big kiss on the cheek from my daddy.Shopping at Deseret Industries (found my shoes for the wedding!) Feeding chickens with mom in the morning.Awesome brothers. All three. So nice, helpful, loving, funny.Swinging on the big ole' swing-set my grandpa built a loooong time ago.Haircut from my sweet sis-in-law! Mom's new fruit trees and expanded garden!Being called dimples by a good family friend (long-lasting nickname from childhood).All my awesome extended family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. So nice to spend a day in their company.Cutest bridesmaid dress, ever. I need a fancy reason to wear it again please. Late n…


I am home, and oh the beauty of home. List of happiness ensues:
My very own apartment. Total freedom.A fluffy loving cat. Sunny Friday = crawled out of the loft window and waxed my legs on the roof, in the sun. Seattle sun. Take a moment to absorb the meaning of seattle + sun. Goodwill shopping for the first time in months. New (old) sewing patterns.Yarn spinning. Lots of it. Proof to come soon.Being on east coast time means waking up early. I love waking up to the sunrise without an alarm.Morning walks.Farmers Markets. Rhubarb + asparagus = spring. Expect preserves soon.Freshly vacuumed carpet.Sauna at the gym.Dim Sum.20 pounds down. 20 to go.The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (rhubarb ketchup, yes please! Nettle pesto? Yum!)Claw foot bathtub? The ultimate recliner.Old western music, dueling banjos and Cat Stevens on vinyl.1/6 of my first hand-knitted sweaterSilence. Sweet silence.Local smoked salmon. I love salmon. I want to eat salmon all the time.Feeling pretty. Feeling happy. Fe…

An insane month

Getting honest,

This has been a crazy month, just a bundle of emotions and experiences and huge life changes for myself and the people around me. For the entire month of May I will spend approximately 4 days in my apartment, the apartment that I am going home to in a few days to find half empty. In this month I will have said goodbye to a 2.5 year relationship and my roommate/best friend. I will have held the hands of family members as they whispered about death-- more personal stories of loss than I can count on my two hands. I will wish my little sister and her new husband well as they whisk off into the sunset after their wedding next week. I will have flown cross-country to Alabama and back to the northwest, then to Utah and back again. I will learn to live alone for the first time in my life.

I will get to the home I have built in Seattle and redefine my space (literal and figurative), and review how these experiences have defined me. I will go to Utah, my home of origin and reme…

Disaster Deployment Days 14 + 15

Yesterday the emotions of this work caught up with me. My Red Cross integrated care team has mostly finalized our work with hospitalized patients injured by the tornadoes and began stepping into more condolence visits with families that lost loved ones.It has been interesting to see and hear people in different stages of the grieving process two weeks after it began. It is hard to comprehend the stress behind the tired eyes of a mother whose child remains in intensive care, especially compared to the joyous celebration in other families whose loved ones have made strides in recovery. It is impossible for me to understand the impact of burying two grandchildren, knowing their mother is in the ICU. Or the farewell to the dreams and potential of a college student only weeks from graduation. Likewise, the thought of losing your elderly mother unexpectedly and losing any and all previous plans into the winds of a tornado, spreading important documents hundreds of miles away. One thing is c…

Disaster Deployment day 10, 11, 12 and 13

This will be a piecemeal entry because I had a draft post that was never sent. Day 10: Today is a beautiful day. I feel well rested, enjoy the team I have been working with, and my supervisor has been honest and available and kind. In the midst of chaos it's apparent who can handle the stress and who needs extra support. I feel very lucky that I could be honest with my supervisors and have some shifts in our team assignments to facilitate better communication and team dynamics. One of my teammates is from Massachusetts, a retired psychologist. And my other teammate is a retired nurse from Utah! We have had a lot of fun getting to know each other, learning working styles, and working hard together. We start our days around 7 am at headquarters in Birmingham (where we are staying) by sorting our previous day's paperwork, updating our packets, getting questions answered, answering questions for other people, and having meetings. Because of delays with that first part, we typicall…

Disaster Deployment Day 9

Dear Alabama, I thought maybe I would like to live with you someday because this is such a beautiful, sunny, humid state that has the cutest old ladies with their heavy southern drawl. But then I realized that you have deadly tornadoes and hurricanes, don't have sidewalks (which eliminates the idea of crosswalks at intersections), public transit doesn't run on Sundays, and googlemaps isn't even your friend-- they just sent me walking along an 8 lane highway, without sidewalks, to find a laundromat a mile away that doesn't exist anymore.

Today is my only day off and my clothes are dirty. The closest laundromat is nearly 7 miles away and I don't have a car. I hate the suburbs of Birmingham.

On a brighter note, I watched tv and that was mind-blowing. I'm glad I don't have that crap in my home because I'd probably never leave. On an actual brighter note, the sun is nice. And I walked to a nice grocery store and bought lots of fruits and veggie…

What day is it?

I'm losing track of the number of days I have been here and the day of the week. Apparently it's Friday, which means today is day 7. Half my time is done. Crazy. I feel like I am just getting started on the work.Today I made a few important realizations for myself that I would like to share. The first is that I feel lucky to have been trained in casework the way I was (which I think should be the standard :)). My understanding of the importance and value of community partners and referrals is especially useful in this situation and I am glad that our chapter (especially my amazing boss-lady and amazing coworker) has taught us to spend time with clients to understand their needs. It's important to connect people with resources. The second thing I realized is that I am extremely lucky (and challenged) to watch this new model and approach we are using for integrated care be implemented. It's what we do (to a different extent/arrangement) at home so its familiar yet so new…

Day 6

A quick check in.In terms of my spirit and attitude today was the best day I have had since leaving Seattle. The hard case I worked yesterday came full circle and I found closure in the way the family was coping with their loss. I've had more hard cases. It's not easy to hear about death, or see injuries in the hospital. I understand my purpose here and today I felt fulfilled.Now if we could just manage the pesky communication problems and different work styles within my small group...All is well. I love the staff shelter; it is my home away from home and I will be sad when I am asked to leave and stay in Tuscaloosa for my work. As it is we have been driving back and forth so it will be nice to eliminate the commute.Signing out,AmandaPS. Today one of our clients that had a fatality in the family sincerely thanked us for visiting, for providing the listening ear and support during their hardship. And then I knew that this person saw the true colors of my heart. My plan worked! …

Disaster Deployment, Day 5

Nationally, the American Red Cross is busy. "Since operations began on March 31, the American Red Cross has served 513,873 meals and snacks, opened 122 shelters with 8,322 overnight stays; made over 6,206 health and mental health contacts, and distributed 122,234 bulk items. These operations have been supported by 3,750 volunteers and staff, 153 ERV's, and 11 Emergency Communication Response Vehicles."


And today my field work began. Casework has started and I met with families today, including families with seriously injured and deceased loved ones.

Words cannot really explain the experience. My heart is open and full of compassion for these clients but nothing I did (or could have done) prepared me for the depth of sorrow I would see and feel.

Multiple generations are affected by this. There is loss of property, homes and personal belongings; loss of the past (pictures, memories, etc); loss of future plans and stability; loss of life.

The stories and details I h…

Day 4

A new kind of tired settled into my bones today, the type that comes with the uncertainty of what will happen next (and the kind that happens after 3 nights on a cot in a room with over 300 other people). I am learning so much about what it means to wait patiently in this context, how important flexibility is as plans can change. I've also been trying to watch what types of snacks I am eating as an overload of sodium and sugar can leave me feeling yucky. Water intake is on my radar.I didn't expect to feel so tired without leaving HQ at all. I noticed myself feeling frustrated and snappy at the end of the day so most of us ICT caseworkers made the decision to cut out early (around 5:30 pm vs 7 pm) for a dinner out. Since I arrived I have been eating food I had packed for a small dinner, opting to save my time for rest instead of restaurants. And man, the massive salad full of vegetables and fruit I had for dinner, plus the humor and camaraderie of my coworkers left me feeling m…

Disaster Deployment Day 2

Another day has passed, day 3 of my 14 day deployment. The weather here is nice, 80 - 85 during the day, 70 in the evenings. We are expecting thunder and lightning in the next couple days with potential tornadoes so are getting prepared to take shelter if needed.We are still in wait mode. After our job introduction and orientation my friend Sandra and I helped with administrative tasks today until lunchtime (newsprint org charts and staffing the desk, forms, sign in, etc). I also helped another volunteer a bit with calling agencies to identify resources and referrals in the hard-hit counties. We are guessing that face to face case work with impacted residents will start tomorrow. The FEMA disaster declaration has been issued in 7 counties so far (last I heard) and this response has been upgraded to a level 6 operation in Red Cross terms (max is level 7, katrina style). In the picture I attached you can see what's happening from our end and it is inspiring. I just keep thinking how…

Disaster Deployment, Day 2

An update for my friends and family...Trying to write down my experiences...Hi mom,Not sure if my text went through earlier but you can see what our sleeping arrangements kind of look like with about 300 in the staff shelter. It is interesting trying to sleep this way, very hard with all the sounds and movement. I have much more sympathy for our clients in shelters now-- I am glad we provide cots, blankets, etc but they are truly a last choice. Wait lines for the bathrooms (2 stalls for the women) can be long and we have ample showers. We are staying at a university outside Birmingham and the campus is beautiful and green.Today was a long day. Part of being deployed is the test of patience because waiting can be the name of the game. Casework (my job here) is just ramping up so most caseworkers today were shared with Mass Care, meaning they went out and distributed food and water to people, churches and shelters in affected areas.I was asked to stay behind and do some computer work to…