Friday, July 28, 2006

Hello From Houston!

I'm not feeling as enthusiastic as the exclamation point in the title implies. My co-worker, "A", and I have had a very long day. Here was our agenda:
8 am - 10:30 am : Strategic Planning
10:30 am - 1:00 pm: Fiscal Management (eww)
1:00 pm: lunch (yes, it's true, there were no breaks in there)
2:00: Implementing Primary Care in Social Work Settings
4:30 - 6 pm: Networking with gross "heavy" appetizers

This has been a challenging leadership training to say the very least. We were flattered that we got the scholarships (plane ticket, 3 nights in the Westin, and most meals) to come in the first place - now, after the grueling pace and freezing conference room, we're feeling more trapped than flattered.

It all started when I registered us for an NMAC Leadership Training (National Minority AIDS Council). I didn't expect us to get funded because, you know, we're white and all...National MINORITY AIDS Council. I guess it is true that we serve mostly minorities. When we got the acceptance letters I'd actually forgotten about the application process back in September.

We got here yesterday, or was it a week, I think it was yesterday. Straight from the shuttle to the training. Dinner, sleep, training again at 8 am.

"A" kind of saved the day with her delightful little WonderWord puzzles that her partner, "B" clips out of the newspaper for her. We've been doing them to keep our minds active at difficult points. "A" may have more difficulty with paying attention than I do! I'll cut her a little slack, after all, I am medicated.

So now we're in the lobby, pecking away, trying to keep our eyes open. We have one more day - Grant Writing and Accessing Primary Care. I really do like the presenters, which makes it easier...and even if the long hours are killing my's also getting me really psyched to get back and implement some of this stuff. NMAC also gave us the most useful and comprehensive collection of books for fiscal and strategic planning. The only downside is that we got it in a bag bigger than our carry-ons. Now, we have three bags on the way back - one of which contains 8 textbooks!

One interesting thing I've learned about Houston: In a mall that's reputed to be one of the largest in the country, and has it's own ice rink - NOT ONE BOOKSTORE! Strange, do Texans not read?

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Storm

As most of you realize, St. Louis is now a disaster area. Wednesday night we got pounded by thunderstorms and tornadoes, knocking over 500,000 homes off the electrical grid.

I was out in the county at a meeting, but we got kicked out after the power shut off at the facility. Now, I'm horrible at math, but I calculated my chances of traveling home on the highway unscathed.

Storm in Eureka (traveling SE in my direction) X 4 miles to the interchange going 80 mph = Yeah, I can probably make it (again, my calculations are imprecise)

I began the race to the ramp, bright orange sky to my left, dark and lightening to my, drive, drive. I began anticipating The Boyfriend's lecture when I drove up. "Why would you think it's safe for you to race a storm with 85 mph winds?" I had my rebuttal all but perfected, "Because you left your cell phone in the car and I was concerned you couldn't call for help if a tree fell on you." It was a little off topic, but distracting enough to take the spotlight off me and my questionable judgement.

My hairs felt on end on the back of my neck, my adrenaline pumping...just a few more miles...scary lighting...winds...whoa - TREE!

I made it home.

The Boyfriend was sitting on the front porch watching the bolts spread like spindly fingers across the stormy sky. Instead of a lecture, he smiled, gave me a hug, and told me he was so glad I was home. Even big strong scientists like a little company during the apocalypse.

The power in the whole neighborhood was out, but the weather had cooled, so the evening was pretty enjoyable. We lit candles, played cards, read our books, and slept.

It had been an exciting, yet serene evening. We'd assess what hand we'd been dealt by the storm in the morning.

(The photos above were taken the night of the storm and posted on the news site. The top one was taken in my neighborhood, the bottom from Westport, which is in the county.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Texas - Yee-Hawww!

Hello, I'm in Texas and it's really hot. I'm in Hurst (between Dallas and Fort Worth) visiting my brother and sister...and apparently eating lots of food.

I got here yesterday, and for our first full day, my brother, J, took me to the place of his internship - The Cooper Institute at Craig Ranch. This place was amazing. I am not even kidding. Their philosophy on wellness, the equipment (each cardio machine had its own TV and headphones!!), the locker room...incredible. But it's for rich people, so I'll enjoy it while I'm here and head back to my substandard gym.

We went to a yoga class, which I desperately needed. I'm all cramped up looking for relaxation. This was not relaxing. This class was like a power yoga class on meth. I rolled my eyes in embarassment when I noticed my front hand quivering during warrior 2. Who'd have thought that the Texans can do yoga? Not me. My brother, who's known for his weightlifting prowess, put forth a valiant effort and did a really good job. There were a couple poses he couldn't get into, which was certainly fine with him after the teacher announced to the class, "oh, your biceps are too big to do eagle pose. The more muscular you are, the less flexible," as she gave his torso that was straining against his tight and sweaty t-shirt a once-over. I guess it was a little more than a once-over.

We were starving, but after driving 40 miles to his stomping grounds, we had to stop at his dorm room...I mean, his apartment. It was a very nice space. It's clear that he isn't staying there longer than 3 months, which is why I can excuse it's lack of decorations and organization. I'm so proud to see my baby brother (yes, the one with the huge biceps and 5 o'clock shadow) out and living on his own. What's even more exciting is to see how much he believes in the job he's doing. He lights up when he talks about the future plans of the institute. I love that all three of us are passionate at what we do.

On the road again (that phrase is an inside joke for my mom's benefit)...we stopped at IKEA (he promised to go back when he has a more permanent residence), then came home. Our domesticated sister, T, had made lunch...a lunch of crap...a lunch of my dreams! Spinach/artichoke dip, onion puffs, pasta salad...why did we work out? I guess I should be glad that I worked out to counteract a little of what we consumed.

Tonight, I think we may lie around - probably do manicures and pedicures. Tomorrow - we shop!

(Tomorrow, I wear my snappy Bush t-shirt! If I'm still alive at the end of the day, I shall provide an update.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Never a Dull Moment...

Life has been hard lately (oh waaaa, I have a house, an amazing partner, three beautiful kids...I mean cats, a job, a functional family...but sometimes life still feels a little rough).

The Boyfriend and I found the strength to "get outside ourselves" for a few hours on Friday night to go see a movie (Da Vinci code, it was far less than we'd expected). Feeling relaxed and content, after stuffing our faces with ice cream, we began our drive back to the city. We were only 10 or 12 miles out, but became worried when his dash lights started coming on...such as the battery, temperature, check engine, etc.

We drove slowly, hoping if we didn't jostle the vehicle too much we would make it home. The headlights started dimming, the dash lights blinking...complete pandemonium.

We'd just passed Plaza Frontenac (a really hoity mall), thinking it best to stay off the highway and take back roads instead. As our brilliant idea of a back road became darker, our headlights and all interior lights shut off. We had to pull to the side.

Just as we were coasting into a gated community, the engine died. You have GOT to be kidding me! If I were to be honest, which I am right now, I would admit that I sometimes judge people in the back of my mind when they randomly get stranded on the side of the road. "Be responsible, maintain your vehicle, respond to warning signs...blah, blah, squawk". Ok, folks, cars break down for joke.

Back to our story...

The Boyfriend did what every person would do, he called his father. He explained the situation and got his advice. We called one of our friends, H, who agreed to leave in two minutes to retrieve us.

I thought we should be polite since we were in this hotsy-snotsy community - I took off my bottlecap necklace with the shiny shull on it, and walked up to the nearest "compound" and rapped on the gate. No answer, although I maintain to this day that I saw a shadowy figure lurking behind the flowing drapes, illuminated by the blue flicker of a TV. I left a polite note:

I apologize for the inconvenience. Our car broke down at the end of your driveway. We will have it towed tomorrow (7/1). Carolyn (and left my phone number)

I walked back to the car and The Boyfriend and I sat inside, alternating between giggling, "I can't believe this happened", and outbursts of anger.

And then the police showed up.

The squad car pulled behind us and kept his lights on the back of our vehicle (we were hoping he wouldn't notice the expired plates). I bounced out, as I usually do, knowing that men are perceived as more of a threat than women, and not feeling submissive enough to wait patiently in the car to be approached (my brother-in-law would hate that...he's a police officer).

I told him our car broke down and we were waiting for a ride. He was very polite, admitted it was a strange place to park and make out, took down The Boyfriends info, and drove down the road (undoubtedly to calm the chicken shit in the fancy house that called them in the first place). Seriously, if we were any race but white, we'd have been chin deep in finely fertilized and manicured grass.

H showed up, we got home. Tired, frustrated. The Boyfriend called CarX in the morning and had it towed...they put in a new alternator and it was approximately one million dollars once the labor was included.

A Couple Thoughts:
1. Always have friends that are willing to come get you at 11:00 at night.
2. Be sure to pay attention to all blinky and flashy lights inside the vehicle.
3. We'd have been in a WORLD of inconvenience if the lovely Z hadn't called us to volunteer his Blazer for our use while he and M were out of town. That was so felt great to be able to get groceries and not be stranded and foodless.
4. I feel really butch in a Blazer.