Sun on my Face

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I hate waking up most mornings.

Simply for the fact that my thyroid levels are at their lowest in the mornings and I’m achy, I’m moaning, I’m shivering.  Also because I obviously haven’t had any coffee.  This morning was no different.

I was snuggled deep inside my covers smugly thinking about the awesome things I pinned last night on pinterest and how my pins are better than my friends. Then I realized I was lame awesome and got out of bed. By the time I hit the door to leave my house I was irritated and running late (like always).

That is the typical morning for me. Rushing out the door because I had a hard time getting out of my bed (it’s not even comfortable), shoving sausage links and eggo pieces into my kids’ hands and speeding away in my Ford Taurus. Don’t judge me! Like you never owned a Ford Taurus! Once I owned a neon green Volkswagen Rabbit convertible. It had no brakes but it was schweeeeeeet!

My home is 5 miles from work with no traffic. Jealous? I drive through a small stretch of desert before coming into town. It’s a pretty drive but I’m usually too busy to pay attention. The sun wasn’t even up all the way.

At about the half way mark I noticed a man, in a red sweater, standing on the side of the road near his bicycle. I was primed for a winning, “hey Darby, that’s your man” remark. This red sweatered man was standing perfectly still looking towards the East. I slowed down a little. He must have been about 75 and in obvious good health. Standing perfectly still, facing East. It was odd and yet I felt a sense of anticipation while watching him. There he was, standing still when I started to pass him at the most opportune time: he moved.

The man in the red sweater clasped his hands in front of him, raised his face and smiled the most serene smile as a line of golden sunlight washed down him. He was waiting for the sun.

I watched him from my rear view window, smiling. All of a sudden I felt shamed for going so fast, for moving in a rush, for pushing my children out the door with breakfast in hand. I wondered what it must feel like to anticipate the morning rays on the side of the road while everyone else is rushing by. And I wondered what his thoughts were and if he greeted every sunrise thus. But I also felt as though I had intruded on an intimate moment.

This consumed me for the next few minutes as I zipped past buildings that kept the sun from directly hitting me. I intentionally turned down a road that was free of buildings, chasing the sun. It hit me, full in the face. It wasn’t the same, it wasn’t right. I felt like I had missed out on something.

I obsessed for another hour before I was able to write this entry and that’s when I remembered. I have been there. I’ve seen the sun and felt it warm me as it rose in the morning. My mind was flooded with memories of going to my grandfather’s farm at 5 in the morning and working as the sun came up. I can remember watching it hit the outer edges of the fields and move closer and closer to me, warming me in the winters and punishing me in the hot summers.

Then I no longer wondered what he thought because I had the same thoughts and I can’t even put them into words. It’s an experience, an understanding of nature, a sense of accomplishment, an acceptance of a new day, a celebration of life. An epiphany.

Public Health Official Sickens Family

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Public Health Official Sickens Family

 That would have been the title of a news story about me 5 years ago on Thanksgiving.

I bought this turkey. This huge turkey. I mean, this thing was massive and gloriously beautiful. It was 2006 and the first time that I was going to make a Thanksgiving dinner for my family and I was very excited. Not the whole family, just my immediate family that consisted of me, a soon to be ex-husband, my daughter and my son who was barely eating solids. Yes, I was woman/mother of the year and this turkey was mine to cook! It was also frozen.

As the public information officer for a rural county health department I know the food safety message because I preach it to others during the Holidays. Proper preparation of the turkey is important in order to prevent foodborne illness. We know this right? And what is the proper way to defrost a turkey? In the fridge. Good answer! Did I do this?

Hey! Don’t judge me! This gloriously massive turkey was still frozen and my family wanted to eat so I did what no good public health official would do… I defrosted it outside. All. Night. Long.

Some of you are swallowing that little bit of vomit that comes up when you think of something gross. Don’t worry, it gets better.

The next morning I dressed up the turkey (it looked great in tie dye) and threw it in the oven to cook for oh, about 1 hour less than it was suppose to cook for. Starved, I begged my soon to be ex-husband to carve the turkey. Let me tell you, this was the moistest turkey ever. I served up the kids and dug right into my gloriously moist turkey. My son turned his nose up at the meat and ate the potatoes instead. My daughter declared that the turkey looked funny and refused to eat it.

Fast forward to the next day at work and me doubled over in stomach cramps. I was in denial, I was hurting, I was crapping like you wouldn’t believe. Like really bad. I played it off pretty well but it was awful and nasty. The smell was freaking gross.  My soon to be x-husband was sick too but not my kids. No, they didn’t eat the turkey. They were fine.

You know what I was most upset about? I had this huge pile of leftovers of turkey that I wanted to eat. Actually, I convinced myself that the turkey was fine and I served my soon to be ex-husband a couple of cold turkey sandwiches. He got even more violently sick than the first time around. Mmmwwaaaahahahaaahhhaaaa.

So I just shredded the remaining turkey and deep fried it as turkey taquitos. No more massive diarrhea.

Now, 5 years later, I’m reminded of the dangers of defrosting a turkey outside and not cooking it to temperature. Mostly because I have a daughter and a co-worker (I’m talking about you Dave) that won’t let me forget. I haven’t cooked another turkey since.

This year I’m heading to my mothers (oh boy, that is a whole other blog entry) and she is cooking the hell out of the turkey. On a side note, I hope she covers it with bacon.

Happy Safe Thanksgiving everyone.

An Awkward Diet (also about Meth)

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I carried a watermelon

I walked out of lunch today feeling extremely full. So full that it was uncomfortable to walk so I turned to my boss who was next to me to complain about. I’m very good at complaining.

Me: You know those poor Ethiopian children who are so starved their poor tummies are distended?

Boss: Yeah I’m involved in programs that sponsor them.

Me: Oh, well I ate so much that I feel like my stomach is distended. Just like the poor Ethiopian children only not hungry. Cause I think I ate enough for 10 Ethiopian children. In fact, I probably consumed the volume of at least 2 Ethiopian children. Maybe 3 if they were very small.

I then had a flashback to dirty dancing where Baby complains about all the food being wasted and said something about starving children in Africa and her dad (Daddy) calls over the waiter to have all the food shipped to Africa and they all share a silly smile that is meant to be this bonding moment when children really ARE starving in Africa. This all happens before that really awkward moment when Baby carries that watermelon in to the sexy dance party and says, “I carried a watermelon.” Yeah. That is the most awkward moment ever. Anyways… back to me.

So I decided that I should go on a diet to save the starving children of Africa and avoid any watermelon carrying moments (although I wouldn’t mind dirty dancing with Patrick Swayze). I turned to our resident expert on diets, the office Epidemiologist (whom I love by the way).

Me: EPI, what’s the best diet?

EPI: Eat right for your blood type.

Me: What if I don’t know my blood type?

EPI: Siiiiiilence. She is on to me.

Me: You should do the Meth diet with me.

EPI: Meh

Usually I can trap her into a riveting conversation about strange things like this but she was too quiet. So I called my mom.

Me: Mom, you should do the Meth diet with me.

Mom: Katie, you shouldn’t even joke around with stuff like that. You could get in trouble and get fired.

Me: But I would be skinny right? Riiiiiiiight?

Mom: Is that the only thing that matters to you?

Me: Yes. That and avoiding watermelons.

Mom: Well you could just take up smoking. Smoking made me thin years ago.

Me: MOTHER! I am appalled that you would suggest something so dangerous to my health!

Mom: I smoked when I was pregnant with you. It was OK back then. That’s why you are so messed up.

Me: I could smoke Meth right? That’s how it’s done? Then I could be messed up and thin.

That conversation didn’t carry very far. Apparently meth is just as bad as smoking tobacco. But I’m thinking that if someone could invent something like meth without all the crazy bleach, brake fluid, chicken blood and dragon scales then we could lose weight quickly, without all the work of a real diet. We could avoid the pock marked skin from constantly picking and we wouldn’t develop the strange tweeker walk that looks like a Monty Python silly walk contest gone bad. Did you know that in Arizona 24.7% of adults are obese? That means a body mass index or BMI of over 30. Yeah, that’s me and about 1 out of every 4 of you who are reading this. Do you know what that makes me want to do? Do you? It makes me want to eat a burrito. Seriously. It does. Cause I’m addicted to food. Not meth, just food.

 At this point I could continue this blog post and go into some of the devastating thoughts in my head about my body image and my love of food or I could give you more facts about obesity or drug abuse and turn this into a feel good public health message but I don’t wanna. Instead I’m going to go into self denial about my fat and laugh about what a funny blog post I did about the Meth diet. And make you all feel slightly uncomfortable reading it. Just like Baby felt when she carried that watermelon into the super sexy dance party and declared it to the hottest guy in the place: Patrick mother loving Swayze.

Charles Poopie Hand

Charles is in here... or he should be.

My family is interesting strange totally freaking awesome! We have characters like  Charles and cool sayings like “off like a dirty shirt” and “banging” (not what you think… OK, maybe what you think… Hey, I don’t know what you are thinking right now!)

Charles Poopie Hand was not an actual person in my family’s interesting strange totally freaking awesome life, but Chester was. Chester was a river rat in Parker, AZ. For those of you who live in Parker you might have a mental picture of a current River Rat or neo River Rat. Lose that image. Chester was much more natural than that. He was tall and skinny with shaggy 70s hair that was never clean and never styled; it was epic. There was a beard (of course).  I was 8 when I met him and he was probably around mid 30s. Honestly he was probably the first real hippie I ever met and I wonder if he helped shaped my fascination with the culture. Oh, he was also a horse owner since my father would always go to see him when he was “seeing a man about a horse.” (That’s an entirely different story.)

Chester had this really old tiny trailer tucked away by the river. Back when the Colorado River in Parker, AZ was a bit more wild, restless and overgrown with brush. “Living in a van down by the river!”

Trade the van for a trailer and you have Chester. Chester also stank. You would think that living right on the river would provide Chester with the means to bathe but the river can not help laziness though it does sometimes encourage it. Needless to say, Chester stank!

So one day, my mother tells it, she and my dad were joking around on the floor of the living room when he pinned her down and covered her mouth with his hand. That is when she smelled it.

 She says the smell was so horrible that she screamed to get him off of her and asked, “what the hell is that smell Jimmy?”

 He couldn’t smell it so he took his hands, alternately shoving his hands in her face saying, “this hand, or is it this hand, or maybe this hand.”

To which my mother replied, “that smells like Charles! Charles Poopie Hand!!!”

But there was no Charles, there was only Chester. Apparently my mother was trying to say Chester but was so caught up in the smell that she blurted out Charles instead of Chester.

So since that incident Charles Poopie Hand has lived with our family. On the door knobs, the toilet, the phone and the dishes. He is blamed for our sicknesses. His name is a warning and sometimes a catch-all phrase for something incredibly disgusting.

“How are you doing mom?” “Ugh, Charles Poopie Hand.”

“Don’t eat that! Charles Poopie Hand!”

“OMG, that was totally Charles Poopie Hand.”

Now I work in public health and hand washing is one of our biggest messages. Maybe the biggest message. Yes, let’s go with that. Hand Washing is the biggest (most important) public health message. Charles Poopie Hand travels with me to work as a constant reminder to wash my hands. He is also a reminder about how easily illnesses can spread when you don’t wash your hands. It’s called the fecal-oral route and yes, it means that if you don’t wash your hands after you poop you risk eating whatever is on your poopie hands. It’s the main way diseases like Hepatitis AShigellosis and Cryptosporidium spread. Crypto may be my favorite public health word ever by the way. Just thought I should let you know.  I would also like to use Charles as a public health spokesperson but everyone wants zombies right now. Ugh, zombies are so last spring.

So there you have it, you have been introduced my interesting strange totally awesome family and to Charles Poopie Hand… just don’t shake his hand.

Remembering 9-11

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The Town of Parker didn't put up Flags so my friend and I put one up for them.

As I mark the anniversary of 9-11 I take a moment to reflect on that typical statement of “where were you on 9-11.” I remember being a child and hearing my grandparents and other relatives talk about where they were on significant dates: Depression, Pearl Harbor, JFK. They spoke of their feelings, their clothing, and their actions that day. Never did I think that I too would have a similar event that I would always be able to remember with such clarity.

10 years ago I was in a completely different mindset than I am now. Weren’t we all? I had just left my husband and returned to my childhood home with a 3yr old in tow to live off the good graces of my parents. My days were filled with the humbling work of cleaning rooms at a local hotel and my nights were filled with tears and sobs of failure. I was, in short, a pathetic mess of a girl tending her wounds in glorious self pity.

But, that morning…

I was sleeping on the living room floor of my parent’s house. There wasn’t a lot of room with four kids and one grandkid. My mother came rushing down the hallway, maneuvering around me sprawled out on the floor and turned the TV on. I remember our conversation something like this.

Me: “What are you doing.”

Mom: “I’m turning the TV on. We are at war.”

Me: “We aren’t at war mom.”

Mom: “Look, right here. That is the World Trade Center. Katrina called me. We are at war.”

As a 23 year old girl consumed with her own life and with a limited small town education, I had no idea what the World Trade Center was. Pathetic, I know. I got up, went to the bathroom and got dressed, came back out and stood next to my mom who was as close to the TV as she could get.

Mom: “Terrorists flew a plane into that building right there.”

Me: “I’m pretty sure this is just a movie or something fake.”

Mom: “We are at war.”

Just then we watched as the second plane hit the second tower and listened as the broadcasters on the new erupted in shock and a little panic.

Mom: “see Katie, we are at war.”

I don’t remember what else happened that morning as I got dressed for work and fed my daughter. I only remember going about my day, room to room at the hotel. Turning on the TV in each room so I could watch and listen as events unfolded and the experts analyze what had happened.  

When I came home I noticed a few things about me. My situation in life wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it was. Our world was changing and I knew very little about it. I noticed that people immediately put the American Flag up at their homes. And I had the overwhelming urge to do something.

10 years later I’m in a program that manages public health emergencies. My days are now filled with preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. My nights are filled with “what if” scenarios.  I am doing something. Something local. Something important. It’s consuming and I absolutely love it.

Now my conversations with my mom go something like this…

Me: “Mom, the use of social media in emergencies is crazy. You should get on twitter.”

Mom: “I am not getting on twitter. I don’t want everyone knowing my business.”

Me: “Well how about a blog?”

Mom: “What would I write about? Charles Poopie Hand?”

Me: “That’s a great idea. Do it mom. Charles is a legend.”

Mom: “Don’t you put that on twitter!”

What will the next 10 years bring?

Do you inspire?

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I’ve been thinking about inspiration lately. Where does it come from, who has it and how is it passed on? Does inspiration infect others like an outbreak of influenza or does it happen randomly, in spurts. Recently I’ve watched some inspirational individuals do things that are…inspiring! They’ve inspired me to create this blog, to organize others, to offer my services, to continue the inspiration. Sort of like the pay it forward movement. Inspire others movement? Yes, I think inspiration can be infectious.

I GOT A FEVER AND THE ONLY PRESCRIPTION IS MORE COWBELL!

So what is the formula for inspiration? I’m just rambling here since I don’t really know but I look for:

Ideas: something grand and attention getting.  Services: an expert offering their knowledge.  Selflessness: giving of time or money to help someone else.

Overall I’m inspired by positive, exciting people. People who have an idea and go for it. People who don’t say, “we can’t. I can’t. Why even try.” People who jump up and join and are excited to try something new.

There are some people who inspire me right here in Parker: Hemet Productions, Mary @ParkerAZ with Parker Chamber of Commerce, Josh Savino @bikerbachelor (Hemet and Biker Bachelor), Jeremy Davalos (young pilot).

There are people who inspire me from Arizona: @PIOGreg with his words, @hiBrie with her eat local campaign, @thefabulousone who donated a kidney, @caseargamez for using his profession to help others, the folks who organize and promote #buzzcation and the organizers of @gangplank

There are people who inspire me from all over: @monicavs for her love of the pre-raphaelites, my Uncle John who is my age but a plastic surgeon, @sweetsoaps for her crazy soap ideas, and the hundreds of people in the #agchat and #smem hashtags

But who am I inspiring? And who are you inspiring?

Do you have ideas? Let’s make the reality. Are you a professional? Do pro bono work.  Are you excited about something? Share with others, share with me, share with Parker but please… Share.

Rural Girl vs Urban Girl

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A community garden in Seattle, Washington. I went there once on vacation.

Sometimes I feel like an urban girl stuck in a rural girl’s body.

I don’t know if I’m the country girl walking into the city market wearing boots or the city girl walking on the farm in high heels. Or since I’ve actually done both…

I’ve lived most of my life in a small town… this small town. Parker to be exact. With the exception of a small stint in Blythe and Long Beach, CA, I can say that I was born and raised and settled in this small town. It’s great. I love going to the store and being able to stop and chat with at least 2 people whom I know well. I love being close enough with people to understand their hopes and dreams. I love being a part of the community. I love: The Rural.

Only, lately… I’ve noticed. I want sushi. I want community gardens. I want networking and brainstorming. I want brown bag lunches on how to throw an awesome pitch (business pitch that is). I want to see people eat, shop and play locally. And lately… I’ve been going into Phoenix a lot and I’ve noticed. The people are vibrant and caring. They are doers and creators. They are networkers and community driven. I want: The Urban.

I don’t want to move to Phoenix. That’s not what this is about. I do want to capture that exciting spirit of creating and bring it here, to my town. When is the last time we, the community, did something amazing? How long is it going to be before we, the community, do something amazing again?

Maybe these are just my frustrations speaking for me. You must understand that my brain is full of ideas. Exciting wonderful community benefitting ideas. But I’m just one Rural/Urban girl who doesn’t know where to start, who doesn’t have the resources, who wants to ignite others with the same excitement to DO!

Who wants to ignite with me?

Pushing Limits

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Yo Yo Yo! I’m pushing limits here. Yeah, it is not as cool as I just made it sound. What? I didn’t make it sound cool? Yeah, I know. Most of my coolness is found on other sites and copied on my twitter feed and facebook page and now here. But whatever, I’m still cool. A dork… a cool dork.

I’m nearing that fine line we call limits. When you think about it all the time and you start to feel a little (lot) stressed out and you are not sure if you are going to follow through. Oh please! I wish I was talking about a new sexual position or something but I’m talking about projects. Too. Many. Projects.

Work projects, family projects, social projects, town projects, personal projects. But yet I am feeling more alive than I have ever felt. Watch out rural Arizona, I’m feeling feisty and I’m out to change your world. Pshaw, I don’t care if you don’t want your world changed because I’m one fire. What? You want your world rocked? Well, that would be pushing my limits but…. OK!

Some Fleshy Ideas

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Yesterday I told someone I had some ideas to flesh out and I watched their face cringe a little. Gross huh? Fleshing out ideas. Each time I say it or hear someone else say “fleshing out an idea,” I have this mental picture of a woman in a white lab coat and safety goggles applying thick clay to a figure head. Like they do in CSI.

“Hm, yes, this fleshy idea looks good… oh wait, I don’t think I want this fleshy section right here. Yes this is better. This idea sure is fleshy.”

So, for the rest of the week I will work on fleshing out my ideas. I’m seriously considering making some paper mache heads since I prefer paper mache to thick clay. Pinata anyone?

Half A Dozen

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I’m sitting here with half a dozen thoughts in my head at once. No, I am not ADD, just excited. Most of my thoughts revolve around projects that I want to accomplish. Accomplish? Hell I just want to start them. Perhaps a blog will keep in on track and motivated. OH COFFEE! Coffee will keep me motivated!

1. Start a blog (Done)

2. Start a website or turn my blogsite into a proper website

3. Write social media policy for work

4. Learn how to use photoshop (gah, I admit that I have no clue)

5. Learn flash. Not how to flash (although…)

6. Create tweet-ups/meet-ups for the Parker area

7. Make soap (wait this is more than half a dozen)

Well technically with the posting of this…uh…post, I will have the first down which would leave only 6 more to go. Now, who wants coffee?