Saturday, April 02, 2016

New and Different - March 2016

Though I seek out new and different experiences all the time, this year I decided to document everything. It's kind of a pivotal year for me, and this is my digital diary. This is more stream of consciousness, so I may need the assistance of the grammar police myself...

First Flight

Though my husband and I had taken our son on a 30-minute tour around Moosehead Lake, Maine, when he was about 3 years old, our boy doesn't remember it. It was aboard a noisy "prop job" plane that freaked him out. After all that overstimulation, he fell asleep for the last 10 minutes of the sightseeing tour.

Our family vacations have been road trips, so our son has never flown on a commercial flight. (My own first flight was by myself, at age 22, to the Caribbean.)

My son already knew that I was going to visit a friend in Florida to escape the Northeast winter. For his 18th birthday I surprised him with his own plane ticket. He enjoyed flying--and viewing everything from the window seat. Only one time did he ask, "Is that normal?" when we hit some turbulence.

Our emphasis was on visiting with friends and relaxing. In the process, we had some nice meals, bought some art, saw a bit more of the landscape, and had a special treat kayaking among the manatees. (That was my son's first kayaking adventure that included getting in the water, a picnic in the kayaks, and watching the antics of the other men in our group on the Stand-up Paddleboards, It was a great day.) This was our first vacation together, just the two of us. Still, we were happy to get home to reunite our family.

Red Cross Disaster Institute

This year I became a volunteer for the Red Cross's Disaster Action Team. As part of my training, I was invited to participate in the regional Disaster Training Institute to help gain skills in assisting with and managing a disaster relief effort. By completing some prerequisite training online and attending classes at the Institute, I was certified in food safety and as a forklift operator. Though the skills don't seem directly related, I had an interest in both, and having that knowledge would make me a more valuable teammate if and when a disaster does strike. The Red Cross paid for all this training.

Disaster Kitchen, I was told, had probably never been offered as a training course in our region before. After a full day of classroom discussion about food safety, we put our knowledge to work. The next day we went to work in the self-contained mobile kitchen, one that is actually used in disaster relief situations. It was 26 degrees and windy outside with a threat of snow. Happily, we never got the snow, though it would have certainly added another challenge to our experience.

 Almost immediately there was a problem. As two of us were set to work opening large cans of vegetables with dull can openers, our kitchen supervisor discovered that we didn't have any water. None. Two runners went inside the nearby community college only to discover that the water coming out of their faucets was brown. Plan C took our instructors off campus to a grocery store, where they purchased gallons of water for us to cook and clean with. Not a moment too soon, because the clock was ticking.

Our task was to feed 300 people by noon. (In actual disaster situations, there usually is no time constraint, since people who have lost everything tend to be happy to receive a hot meal whenever it is finished.) Half of those meals would feed the participants at the Institute. The other half would be transported off-site where another charity was feeding people in need.

Our team rose to the challenge. The meal consisted of a small green salad, chili, rice, bread, green beans, and pineapple for dessert. While some of our kitchen mates went off to serve the food, a couple of us stayed behind to clean up then pack up the kitchen. My body was exhausted, but my mind was alive with the sense of accomplishment and ways we could do even better next time. When our team met to discuss our performance, one of our instructors, who had spent his career in the US Army's 82nd Airborne, told us that he was proud of how we worked as a well-oiled machine and that he'd gladly serve "anytime, anywhere, anyplace" with us. I was humbled by the generosity of his spirit and the camaraderie of our team of many colors.

This, I thought, was the real spirit of America, people of all walks and races and beliefs working together to help others.

The next day I switched gears and was certified as a forklift operator. That was fun too, but I was still riding the high from the success of the Disaster Kitchen.

Hand Lettering Project

One of my colleagues at work is getting married soon. She recently asked me if I knew anyone who does calligraphy. I sent her a sample from a friend, but the style didn't seem to fit her wedding vibe. Instead she asked me to do it. "It doesn't have to be fancy," she vowed, having seen my handwriting. "I just want it to be nice and legible."

This was my first paid hand lettering project. Details are distorted to protect the identities of the recipients. It looks easier than it actually is, especially when you're writing "big," on an envelope, as opposed to taking notes on a sheet of paper. It demands greater control of your hand.

I think I'll take a calligraphy class sometime later this year and see where it leads.


Some people may think this is no big deal--after all, I'm not pioneering anything. These are things that contribute to a full and rewarding life, though, and that's a pretty big deal in my book.

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