Book Time

Saturday morning, the kid and I (and his friend) are helping the local soccer club with their fundraiser. Nope, not more volunteering-they are actually paying $10/hr, which is nothing really, but it's a nice way for the kid to make some money (since he owes me!) and it's a nice productive morning.

I am actually volunteering on Sunday though. We are making alphabet posters for a small school in Uganda. It is a very touching story-more on that after the event.

I am just about finished reading the book, "What is the What." It's been a very emotionally trying book. I enjoy the story, but it's heart-wrenching.
From Amazon:
Valentino Achak Deng, real-life hero of this engrossing epic, was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war-the bloodbath before the current Darfur bloodbath-of the 1980s and 90s. Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other "Lost Boys," beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life. He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps: he recalls, for instance, being robbed, beaten and held captive in his Atlanta apartment.

Hearing his life story of growing up in the Sudan during the war makes me feel like my entire life has been one of luxury.

I have never known what it is like to go a full day without food, much less a week.

I have never been walking with other children and had one of them disappear in the jaws of a passing lion. Seriously--a lion. I can't even wrap my mind around that.

I have never watched from a tree as my community was destroyed, people killed, houses burned.

I have never been separated from my family and wondered if they were alive or dead, never knowing if I would ever know.

I have never walked 100 miles in the desert with a group of 3,000 others, passing them by as they die one by one until the group has gone down significantly before reaching my destination.

I have never had to live in a one-room hut with ten other children for five years.

I have never had to barter my shirt to get a cup of rice.

I have never had to choose between being shot at or crossing a river laden with crocodiles.

I have had a very privileged life.

Conference Planning Fun

I'm planning a semi-small conference type activity at the end of summer for about 75 people. According to all event-planning guidelines, I'm approximately 6 months behind in schedule.

Today I brought up my concern of having to complete my regular job in addition to planning this conference and how I expected I would have a number of overtime hours, especially the few weeks leading up to it, as well as the day of the event. She said, did someone tell you that you're expected to be there the day of the conference??

Say what?

I'm the main person planning the conference. I'm the contact person for EVERYTHING. How would she figure it would work out that the event planner would not be present at the event to see that it runs smoothly, and to greet the vendors who I recruited and convinced to pay a good chunk of money in order to be there, and to welcome the guests, and to BE THERE!!! Why would I not be there??

She actually suggested that a faculty member could be there to make sure everything runs smoothly, so I wouldn't have to be...and what is Ms. Faculty going to do when Vendor #5 shows up and says he paid for the larger table, though my documentation says otherwise? Will she know the exact conversation I had with him? Will she know who is going to be difficult to work with and who has plenty of experience and can do their own thing? What is she going to do if there's a question on ANYTHING that I've planned?

And what are people going to think when they get there and Super-Planner Kaylen is not there? That seems odd. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that the event planner is the main contact person from the very beginning to the end of the event, all the way through to the bitter end.

A nice thing in my event-planning day today: The fancy-schmancy hotel downtown offered me a free room if I refer people to them for the event. I'm down with staying in fancy hotels for free. And if they tell me I won't be needed the day of the event, well, party in room 202!! Rock on Ms. Faculty. Enjoy your 5am wake-up call. Me and all my friends will just be getting to sleep at that time in our luxurious free hotel room. Enjoy your day of confusion and feelings of not belonging.

Swollen Tongue Syndrome

I don't eat a LOT of fruits-certainly not near enough if you believe the FDA food chart. 5 servings of fruit EVERY day??? Is that possible??
I sometimes have a banana for breakfast, if I can find one with NO brown markings or soft spots whatsoever. I LOVE grapes and asian pears and will have those any time they are on sale, but otherwise, not a lot of fruits for me.
I like apples, but I notice that every time I eat them, my mouth starts feeling funny....the roof of my mouth feels like it's been stung, my tongue itches and swells a little, and it's a bit hard to swallow without a little bit of pain.
We recently bought this yummy mix:

And I can't stop eating it...though I have about a 90 minute period after eating an apple that makes me wonder if it's worth it (it is!).

I also get a strange reaction when I peel potatoes, not quite the same, butstill annoying and a bit worrysome. Every time I handle potatoes from the bag, I start sneezing and feel as if I have a horrible flu. Instantly. I can't remember when it started, but it's been at least five years. I know that I used to peel potatoes when I was younger without a reaction, but at some point, my body has rejected the idea of it.

I wonder what other unexplainable instant-body-reactions I have to look forward to...

Selfishly Selfless

The radio station I listen to each morning was reporting on a story from Hawaii of a mother who was diagnosed with cancer when she was five weeks pregnant. The way the story goes, assuming the radio show got it correct (which isn't always the story), the woman is a mother of two young children. She finds out she has cancer-a treatable one apparently-but also finds out she is pregnant, just over a month.

The doctors tell her that she has to have treatment for it immediately or she will die. She can not have treatment while pregnant, so she has to end the pregnancy or choose to die. There was no guarantee she would make it through the pregnancy, she was going to die if the cancer was not treated.

Quite the dilemma.

Two small children and a husband who love and need her...or a five week old fetus.

She chose the fetus. The baby was born, healthy I assume, and the mother died.
The debate was whether this was a selfish act or a selfless act. It's a bit of both, I'm sure.

It was selfish of her not to put her husband and two children first. Their needs come first. She might have woken up every morning sad about the loss of the child she'll never know, however, her children are now waking up every morning without their mom. She might have died a little inside from the guilt of what she felt was murder, but the child she gave birth to will die a little as it grows up knowing that the mother of the family is missing because of him/her. And how will the two siblings feel towards this child? And the husband? There is no way to avoid a slight amount of resentment towards the person who is alive because their mother/wife is dead.

It was selfless of her to believe that another life is more important than her own and the future-baby that will come from this five-week old fetus has more to offer the world than her own life.

I am not a big advocate of abortion, but that story was a hard one. It'd be interesting to see how the father copes in all this...left with his intense sorrow of losing his wife, and is now a single parent of three children, who are also feeling the intense sorrow of losing their mom (or in the baby's case-never even knowing its mom).

It's almost like one of those really hard questions you get when you play that game with someone to test how much they can push their boundaries, such as "would you give up a leg for the chance to have a million dollars" or "would you take off ten years of your life to be your ideal weight." My old officemate and I would play this game during a slow afternoon, with random people we met at work. It was always interesting to see how people justify things. I don't think we could ever have come up with the question as hard as the dilemma this woman faced. It's so tragic and sad.

Time Keeps Ticking

Wow, what a busy day today! I don't want to go into it again about how much my day has changed since getting this new job, but am working so incredibly hard each day. I've been carrying around 3 bills to mail for about 9 days now and just have not had a minute where I have had a chance to walk the two minutes to the post office on site here.

I love my job-I really do. However, I wish I had about 3 more hours in the workday so I can just get everything done. And it's not like I need three extra hours on ONE day to finish...I need three more EVERY day.

And my supervisor started talking to me today about a piece of my job I haven't been trained on yet. Another piece? Hmm....maybe I need four more hours every day!!
It's all wonderful though. I love being busy, I love being productive, I'm like a flower child now. I love everything and everyone.

Praise God

I miss the relationship I used to have with one of my sisters. For about 9 months or so, we would talk online every day. I felt like we were really close. Unfortunately, we apparently live in two different worlds and can not sustain that closeness. It's sad. I'm happy for her that she has something she believes in so strongly and which makes her happy...I'm sad that her world does not include me. She is very deep within a religion, one that I do not subscribe to or have an interest in, and it seems as if the gap between our worlds is too large at the moment to be close. We used to have some really fun conversations too....

One time we played this "game" we made up where you say something about you or your life and reveal something they didn't know before. Every line started out with "Did you know...."
It was all top secret, so I can't give real-life examples, but here's a version that might have been an occurrence between my two cats:

Boy cat: Did you know that yesterday I cried for 30 minutes at the Kids door and he threw two pillows at me, but I kept on crying?
Girl cat: Did you know that I had my tail broken when I was younger and I sometimes have nightmares about it?
Boy cat: Did you know that I spun in 11 circles chasing my tail earlier?
Girl cat: Did you know that I will not eat out of the food bowl on the left?
Boy cat: Did you know that one time the Kid shut the bathroom door and I was trapped in there and there was music playing and no one heard me crying and I was trapped for two hours?
Girl cat: Noway!
Boy cat: yep. Point for me.

Yeah---there are points, it IS a game you know. You get a point for every time you illicit a reaction from the other person. AND we allowed three chances for the other person to ask questions about something we said, so if Boy cat was curious about Girl cat breaking her tail--he could stop and ask her a question before moving on, otherwise, you reveal your "did you know" statement and it is just a statement, not a chance to start a conversation. It's fun. It's a good way to get to know someone. And it's easy to play online while you're doing something else, like working (me) or cleaning (her).

I miss the good ole days of chatting with my Sweet Sister Susan from the South.

Love What Ya Got

Five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

My new phone is no longer. It seems to have had a malfunction and will cost as much as its worth to get it fixed. I'm back on my old phone with the battery that lasts approximately 1-20 minute phone call. The new battery is online for a great price. Maybe I'll just have to go that route for I really need a couple hundred dollars invested in a tool that is made to make my life easier by being available 24/7? It would make my life more simple, but sometimes I feel too spoiled. I have too much when others have so little.

My favorite quote:

Color Me Blue

Easter was fun-more so than last years event I think.

The Ronald McDonald House of East Portland at Emmanuel Hospital is just an amazing place. The tour guide gave us a great overview of what they do. She had some great stories about families who have stayed there. One was about a family who was referred to them after their child was life-flighted in from Alaska. She only had one room available so they got the Hawaiin themed room. They came into the room with her and both had tears in their eyes as she showed them around. She thought there might be something wrong with the room and was worried that it would cause them more emotional the end of the tour, she apologized and said it was the only room they had and they said it was Perfect! They used to live in Hawaii, had just moved to Alaska and with the emergency with their child-the room felt like they were coming home.

She told us about the mom whose child was life-flighted in from southern Oregon and arrived just appearing "lost" to the world and she showed up in bare feet with nothing but her wallet and keys. The helicopter came for her child after an emergency at their house and she rushed off with the child, without even grabbing shoes. Nike donates shoes for such things though...yay large corporation donations.
We met a few families. One was a dad and his 11 month old, Isabella. She was a perfect little girl. I held her for a bit while her dad was loading their car (the mom was at the hospital with their 1.5 month old who had just had heart surgery...a preemie who only weighed just under five pounds). He talked to us about the surgery and how Isabella being at the house with them was the only thing really carrying them through this hard time.

And then there was a special lady from the North Pole, Alaska. It was her third stay at the Ronald McDonald House. She had a sick little girl-I didn't actually hear much about her daughter. The woman approached me several times to tell me how great my Kid is and how I should cherish every moment with him and how she loves his personality and he's so fun, etc. She eventually told us that she had a son who would have been the same age, but he died last year playing the choking game. She told us how he was so similar to the Kid that she just loved being around him-it felt just like being around her own again. And then she mentions her sons name....and it's the same as mine. Creepy....same ages, same personalities...same name? Odd coincidence. Great lady. Sad story.

It was quite a relaxing day overall. There is something about working together with a group of strangers to help another group of strangers that makes you feel good inside.

My volunteer group:

We had plenty of eggs to color:

Voted most original egg:

Which was made in a non-traditional coloring eggs fashion:

The Kid's prize winning cake:

Working hard (and some of us worked hard at decorating each other!)

Genius Ideas

Wouldn't it be great if you knew that you were only going to sneeze a certain number of times your entire life? Let's say for instance that human beings only sneeze 5000 times over the course of their lifetime.

I sneeze about 15 times a day during allergy season (maybe exaggerating a little, but not much!). I would hit 5000 in approximately 334 days. How AWESOME would it be on that 335th day when I wake up and know that I will never have to sneeze again??

How great will that 5000th sneeze be? You would hear people sneeze and then start celebrating....passing out special gifts when they hit their 500th-kinda like a cigar when a baby is born (which is a ridiculous tradition).

Sometimes you sneeze and it just feels good-a release of pressure, the end of a sinus build-up. Sometimes sneezes hurt. Sometimes they are really inconvenient, such as when you just put something in your mouth and feel it coming on. Or when you are giving a presentation. It's just never a good time to sneeze. Sneezing sucks. And don't even get me started on how I feel about hearing "bless you" every time I sneeze!

Or wouldn't it be great if you knew your life was going to end after so many sneezes? Like, 500,000 sneezes and your body just shuts down. It would be hard in a way because every time you sneeze, you would feel as if you were just one sneeze closer to death. But---isn't that how life is NOW anyway?? Every birthday we have, we're just one year closer to death. **excluding unplanned for deaths of course, like car accidents, etc. But if you knew that you only had 10 sneezes left until your last day on earth, you could plan a bit and be ready for it, say goodbye to loved ones, prepare your finances, bungie-jump off the highest waterfall in Africa, sell your old furniture that your family is not going to want, tell someone you love them and tell someone else you have always hated them, etc.

It would be hard on the family though, knowing you only have 3 to go until they have to say goodbye. Everyone would always be on edge, waiting to hear Aunt Judy sneeze that last time, wondering if they will be there for it, scared they won't.

Or even better, what if your body is somehow in-tuned to your behaviors and does something similar, but just for certain body parts? Like once you hit another human being ten times, your hand falls off. ha, that would be awesome. Or if you kick an animal three times, you lose feeling in your foot for a month. If you use a racist term, you lose your voice for a week. If you shake a baby, you can not move your arms for six months. If you snort cocaine, your nose seals itself up for a month. Genius!

Oh--here's a good one---if you are overweight, by a medical standard, not by your relatives standard, your body can be programed so that once you hit a certain calorie amount in a week, you can no longer keep down any food. So if you eat your 13,300 calories in a week (that's 1900 calories a day for seven days) in the first four days, every time you eat after that, you just vomit it back out. OR even worse, you just FEEL like you're going to vomit it back (we don't want people thinking bulimia is okay). I'm not sure about the logistics of it all, but hello---GENIUS!!

Some may call me a genius, yes, but modest, no.

Happy Saturday!

Our local library reopens today! It's going to be in a temporary location for the next 16 months while they rebuild ours to be this bigger and better and amazing place. The old library is fairly small and unwelcoming. The designs for the new one look amazing.

I didn't plan very well for the big move. The library has been closed for two weeks now. I KNEW it was going to be closed---we volunteered to help pack it up! But I am so busy at work these days, I come home and barely think straight. I am just realizing all the personal stuff I used to do during work hours at my old job. So I ran out of books from the library about 10 days ago. And for the first time in the last year or so-had to actually buy one! Two actually....just stupid novels, but quick and easy reads.

I am going through the book I need to return to the library today (Three Cups of Tea) and reviewing all the pages I folded over. I found so many things I wanted to remember while reading it...some are arabic words that I wanted to remember, like "As-Salaam Alaaikum", some are people I wanted to look up-like Galen Rowell. I marked a page with the title of a book I want to read: Where the Indus is Young, a book about an Irish nurse who crossed the Himalayan mountains in the winter, on horseback, with her five-year old daughter.
There's a quote from a king of Bhutan: "The true measure of a nation's success is not gross national product, but gross national happiness." I like that....I'll think more on it later.
More arabic: Kafir, which is the ugliest term used to describe an infidel. It's always good to learn insults in other languages, right? Not so much because I want to use them, but more so I know if someone is insulting me!

I marked a page that talked about American hostages in Teherean back in 1979. I've never heard of it, though I was only 5 at the time, so why would I remember that?

There's a school in Pakistan called the Darul Uloom Haqqania that is nicknamed the "university of Jihad" that I want to read more about....sounds like a bad place.

And there are a few pages that are marked that I have no reason why they are marked. I don't usually dog-ear pages as a bookmark. I am more apt to grab a piece of paper and throw it in the book, which is probably how I lose some important pieces of paper, or why they come to be in places they wouldn't normally be.

Anyway, Three Cups of Tea----GREAT book. Very inspirational, it shows very clearly how just ONE person can make a HUGE difference in the world. It should be a required book for all high-schoolers.

I have to go finish planning the big Easter project tomorrow.

More Office Situations case it wasn't clear--that is NOT my desk in the pics. I took those pics while sitting at my desk. That was a typical day at my co-workers desk. Papers and files everywhere.
It's an office that gets a lot of traffic too, students, doctors, men in suits, the media a couple times.

My new desk is pretty nice. It's new and clean and organized and I love it.

I'm in a new building and it is very well taken care of. In my last job, we had to take care of our own trash and recycling. There was no cleaning service except for the bathrooms. Now there is someone who dusts, empties the bins, vacuums, etc. There's even this Stromboli like thing that comes through every other week and buffs the floors in the hallway. It's quite a nice change.

And today I got my database on the server for the first time. It's lovely. I don't want to slip into geekdom, but it's awesome. I can make a change online and it's instantly on my computer. If someone adds a record, which hopefully will be happening soon, it's imported immediately and I can run reports on the data very easily. I love it I love it I love it. Filemaker Pro is my best friend. And I don't care who knows it. Where do I buy the "I heart Filemaker" t-shirt?

Messy People

Yes, I'm messy. It's not a big secret that I would rather not stress out about cleaning up every day and just enjoy hanging out and being fancy-free, much to the chagrin of my family. I have gotten much much much better as I've aged, but still-I'm no neat freak. I never leave dirty dishes out overnight, the living room floor is always clear before I go to sleep, my bed is always made. I vacuum two or three times a week, I wash my floors (or have someone else do it!) as much as it seems like it's needed.

I noticed that I became MUCH more aware of being clean when I shared an office with a woman who was WAY beyond messy. I tried to hint around about it, I tried to be subtle, I tried to be direct, I talked to others....nothing worked. She just didn't see a problem with the way things were.

This is how it was on a normal day:

She collected cans for recycling for her boy scout troop. They typically were in our office for about a week. This is the view from my desk. The door to our office is just off to the right. Yep-that's mold on the wall. I complained for five months before they did something about it. It had been there for two years before I got there. All the folders and papers on the small desk are overflow from her desk. This is a NORMAL day. Seriously.

I felt like Martha Stewart while sharing an office with her. It was a good experience to see things in a different life. I'm sure many people might see my house that way now....though it is fairly clean to me. Freshly vacuumed, the kid just dusted, not a lot of piles of papers laying around (something I'm known to have tons of...). I'm okay with my home today. It could be cleaner. But then I would have had to given up the hour I spent hanging out with the kid, the hour we spent at the gym and the 30 minutes I spent blogging, the hour I spent answering emails about my volunteer projects, etc. My life is good, my life is busy. My house is clean enough for me to continue on with a smile on my face.

Introductions Needed...

THIS is the new addition to my life.
Everyone, please give a warm welcome to....

My New Phone!!

Not the latest model, but my Treo 650 (as of yet unnamed) is beautiful.

I needed to upgrade my palm pilot, which I use on a daily basis, and my phone-which was at the end of its days (after 25 good months with me).

The Treo 650 combines both the palm and the phone and saves me from carrying around two electronic pieces. It's very fun. I love it.

I have a few issues with it, but nothing that I won't get used to. I don't fully know how to use all the features yet, but I have figured out the main things, like text messaging and how to operate the camera functions. I now can carry around video of my cat!!
...I had planned to insert the video of Ginger but I'm not quite ready to figure out how to do that. Maybe next weekend. I'm trying to convince the kid to do a little lip-syncing video but he's not really interested in being part of it.

If I still had a slacker job, I could read up about video embedding and transferring files from the Treo to my computer while at work. Fortunately these days I have a job that needs me to work every minute of the day and I can't possibly take seven and a half minutes to look up something online because the entire building would crumble at my feet if I didn't stay on top of things.

Okay, maybe not crumble, but I would have people asking me if things are done yet.

Off to bed-another busy day tomorrow.


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