Friday, April 22, 2011

Clean or Not

April 22, 2011

My friend Lisa met me for lunch today and asked me, "How are things?"

I replied, "Oh, things are fine.  There are just so many of them."

And that's the truth.  There are just so many things these days.  Loads of things.

I am beaving along, though, knocking through the things one by one.  If I owe you an email, you will get one eventually.  If I owe you a work package, you'll get that too.  If you are my house, I'm afraid you're going to have to wait a couple more weeks.  If you are the dust bunny living under my bed, the ever expanding spider family working on the eleventh renovation to your loft-area web, or the luxurious weeds growing rampantly in my front, side, or back flower bed, that means you have a reprieve.  

If any of you are ahead of me on the spring cleaning schedule, we are about two weeks away from the 

Second Annual Erin Buenger Memorial Scholarship Fund 

I would so love to have any sell-able items you would like to part with.

  • We have a storage space if you want get rid of your things before May 6 (call, email, or facebook, if you want to take advantage of this option)
  • The Sale takes place at Jane Long Middle School on May 7
  • Set up the night before
We have great applicants for the scholarship this year!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Direct, Estimate, and Weigh

April 14, 2011

Rarely, does spending a couple of hours hard at work, feel so good.  At First Presbyterian Church-Bryan last night, about 130 folks of all ages pulled together to assemble, weigh, seal, pack, and load 20,002 nutritious meals for shipment to hungry people around the world. 

I had three jobs.  The first started soon after I arrived.  The director of the evening, who had flown in from California to coordinate our event, immediately recognized my leadership skills and ability to both follow and issue complex instructions.  After I donned my really cool work gear (plastic gloves and a hair net), I spent the next twenty or so minutes acting just like the high skilled airport workers who line the jumbo jets up with the jetway.  Picture me (without the handheld traffic directing lights) motioning people from the hatting and gloving area to the staging area for the food stations.  NO ONE GOT LOST!  

The project director then (as an extra test of my qualification) asked me to estimate the number of people in our crowd, so he would know how many people to place at each work area.  This was harder than it sounds, because I forgot to tag each person as they entered the staging area, and most came without their anchors, so they tended to drift around.

Once we started re-enacting the scene from "I Love Lucy" where Lucy and Ethel work on the candy company assembly line, I became a weigher.  My job was to make sure each pouch of food weighed between 379 and 384 grams.  I had a high-tech plastic spoon to make weight, adding or subtracting from the upper layer of rice to hit my target.  I then past my pouch to an impact sealer, who ensured the food would transport without spilling and stay fresh for up to five years.

If I can bum some of the action photos taken last night during the operation, I will insert them here.

If this sounds like a more worthwhile way to spend an evening than lying on the couch watching the NCIS back-to-back-to-back marathon, you can do it too:

Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief agency that has been fulfilling its commitment to end hunger for more than 12 years. Since 1998, the organization has coordinated the distribution of food and other lifesaving aid to children and families in countries all over the world.
Stop Hunger Now has provided more than $70 million dollars worth of direct aid and 34 million meals to 72 countries worldwide.
15 meals packaged graph

Stop Hunger Now created its meal packaging program, in 2005. The program perfected the assembly process that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs only 25 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of five years and transports quickly.
Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country. Stop Hunger Now primarily ships its meals to support school feeding programs, but also provides meals to our in-country partners for crisis relief. 
The packaging operation is mobile, (i.e. it can go wherever volunteers are located), and can be adapted to accommodate as few as 25 and as many as 500 volunteers at a time. One SHN packaging event can result in the packaging of more than 1,000,000 meals or product servings. The use of volunteers for product packaging has resulted in an extremely cost-effective operation while, at the same time, increasing awareness of global hunger and food insecurity issues across a broad cross-section of the US population.
Stop Hunger Now has packaged more than 34 million meals since the inception of the meal packaging program in Dec 2005. These meals have been used primarily to support school feeding programs in developing countries.  Stop Hunger Now and hunger experts agree that hunger is solvable and is the common thread among the world’s most challenging issues.  When hunger is targeted, specifically by supporting school feeding programs, you give leverage support to other causes including poverty, disease, education and the welfare of women and children

Monday, April 11, 2011

(Can't) Resist

April 11, 2011

Someone has a birthday today (#23), and I can't resist sharing: 

Saturday, April 9, 2011


April 9, 2011

I didn't know that friend was a verb until Erin.  

I'm not talking about the Facebook action where you make a connection and agree to give access to your wall, photos, and comments to someone you love, interact with regularly, just met, or never met but have some reason to want to interact with socially (but electronically).

I'm not talking about the concept of befriending, where you you find an injured bird and keep it in a cardboard box until it can fly away.

Erin looked for the friend in almost everyone she met--even people, who on the surface didn't seem that friend-able or friend-ly.  I think most people who met her felt that warmth of friendship with her.  

Beyond that, though, the verb "friend" also applies to the many, many demonstrations of friendship that the people in her life extended to her on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis over the course of her entire epic illness.

Her friends (too many to name and too awkward to risk leaving someone out) embraced her early and often.  They included her in everything, not as an afterthought or on instructions from some adult to be nice to the cancer kid.  They did what we all want people to do to us.  They took her as she was--sometimes pale, occasionally bald, often just different.  They willingly spent long, dull days with her at the clinic, tolerated the long drives and heavy traffic, and contented themselves with whatever unfolded.  They never made excuses, but showed up ready for whatever she was up for.

In December of 6th grade, she had to make a powerpoint (in Spanish) about her family, but she couldn't resist including this (not all of her friends, certainly, but the ones she could find photos of on short notice):

And the concept of friend didn't have an age cut off.  Her adult friends were just as stalwart, and I think, valued her friendship just as much as she did.

Walter and I, too, grew in our understanding of friend, and we could not have functioned during Erin's illness nor after without the incredible love that our friends (and I count this broadly to include our friends who are related to us, those who we see often, those we rarely see, and in some cases, those we have never met face-to-face) have extended at every bend in the road and every moment we have needed them (and in the many moments we did not know our own need).  

I have heard people say that in illness and tough times their friends were not there for them, but for us that has not been the case.  Our friend circle has grown and strengthened.  They (you) have stood by us, even when it would have been easier to shed us from their (your) lives and move on.  Friend--an action that can not be underestimated.  Thank You!

And brooke, thank you:

Friday, April 8, 2011


April 8, 2010

We all have our own reasons why we would prefer the government not shut down at midnight tonight (which probably means that while we don't all love everything the government does, we all do love some, if not many, of its involvements).  

For me, the fact that medical research at the NIH Clinical Center will shut down matters.  New studies (seven are scheduled to kick off next week, including two for children with cancer) won’t begin and ongoing trials won’t enroll new patients, ABC News reports.

I shall have faith that Barry Jackson and David Krone (the two crucial staffers negotiating between the House and the Senate) work something out so we can avoid the shut down.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Trato, Tratas, Trata, Tratamos, Tratais, Tratan

April 7, 2011

I signed up for Word of the Day at  I figured I could supplement my Rosetta Stone efforts and expand my vocabulary incrementally, doing something I do every day:  read my email.  Little did I know that somewhere, embedded in the terms of agreement, I gave permission for the company to explore my subconscious and harness my brain so that they could customize my daily email to my own learning proclivities.

How else do you explain what happened?

The first word I received was quien:  who, whom.  Ha!  I knew this one from Bill Murray's skit on Saturday Night Live from years ago:

¿Quién es más macho? Fernando Lamas or Ricardo Montalban?

[NOTE BENE:  Of course, Ricardo Montalban (he of Corinthian leather fame and Kirk's ultimate nemesis, Khan) won every comparison (Lamas, Lloyd Bridges), until he fell to Desi Arnez.]

My confidence in learning Spanish strengthened on that entry.  The next day, I hit a snag:

tratar:  to treat, to have contact with, to process

Not only was I unfamiliar with it, but it required conjugation to use properly.  I practiced a bit, and thought I had it.

SpanishDict didn't think so.  The next day, bright and early I received my word for the day.  

Tratar (again)

I glanced at it and thought it looked familiar.  And worked on it some more.

Apparently, it wasn't enough.  The following day when I checked my email, tratar had arrived again, a third time, for good measure.  

Finally, on day five I got a new word:  el fin 

I think the joke is on me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Process (Slowly)

April 4, 2011

I started the day not firing on all cylinders.  Perhaps I was emotionally exhausted from watching the Lady Aggies come-from-behind, final-seconds victory over Stanford in the Women's NCAA semifinal basketball match up last night.  Maybe I should blame Teddy, who commuted around the bed continually during the night as she got too hot then too cold then too hot again.  I also dreamed vividly about Walter and I getting married last night (not a re-play of the original, but instead a new wedding ceremony being held at Kyle Field). 

I spent much of my dream running up and down the ramps to the various decks, visiting with friend and making sure they found their way to their seats.  I was also having a hard time finding where I left my gown.  Luckily, I discovered it all laid out for me in one of the women's bathrooms under the west side lower deck.  I had multiple styles of each item of clothing to choose from, each hanging from one of the stall doors.  I quickly picked bikini underwear (TMI?), but couldn't decide on which gloves or hat to wear.  I also couldn't remember whether I had my hair and makeup done before I arrived at the stadium, and there were zero mirrors anywhere for me to check my look.

You can imagine how sluggish I was when I popped up to walk the dogs this morning.  I actually felt like I sleep walked my way around the lake.  A shower left me feeling soggy groggy.

I thought I felt livelier by the time I left the house for the ten minute drive to work, but clearly I was still processing at subspeed.

As I slowed to make a left turn, I glanced into my rearview mirror and noted the car behind me following a tad too closely.  I also noticed a pert, youngish woman driving the car and that the car had vanity plates.  I usually appreciate vanity plates and try to make a connection between the message and the driver.

Admittedly, I was reading the letters backwards in my mirror, but I was puzzled by the disconnect between the driver and BL INKR. 

"Inkr, inkr, inkr," I thought, "Does that mean tattoos?  Does the woman I see really get into tats so much that she bangs out the bucks for a custom license plate?  And if she does love tattoos that much (and given the non-black color of her car), wouldn't she prefer color rather than black?"

"Oh," I tell myself, "I got it wrong.  She's really a banker or accountant, who prefers black ink over red.  I must really be processing slowly this morning to have missed the obvious, particularly consiering my profession and the fact that I'm approaching the business school building."

I started my left turn, and she passed by on my right, so that I could see her license plate once more, this time forward rather than backwards:  BLINKR.


And so I just accepted my brain was still on impulse drive while the world moved on at warp speed.

Friday, April 1, 2011


April 1, 2011

I guess my April Fools Day joke is to turn the noun "verb" into an actual verb.  Not that funny.

Anyway, I have been struck with the number of emails and other encounters I have had lately with people celebrating the way that Erin inspires them.  At least four of my friends (Jennifer, Brooke, Spencer, and Kathryn) are celebrating their Relays for Life with Erin in mind.  Thank you dear friends.  That is a lovely thought.  Erin loved Relay and always looked forward to going round and round (and round and round and round) the track, complaining bitterly when I made her leave to get some sleep.

I ran by the meat market after lunch this afternoon, and stood in line into a dad I had know briefly when Erin was at Jane Long.  This lovely man greeted me like a long lost friend and went on to tell me that his son Jason, who had only known Erin for about seven months before she died, had started growing his hair out for locks of love shortly after her death, and had only recently gotten to the needed length.  I think the dad (who is a minister) was really proud of his son, but also really glad to have a clean cut son again. 

I also received this note yesterday morning:

Since I have been a fan of your Erin Buenger page, I thought I would share with you something about myself. My 16 year old son Nate was interviewed for a local PBS station on bullying. If you go to, find the show Experience, and watch the show on bullying. My son Nate Bowden and myself were interviewed for the piece. We are taking your advice…we are using Verbs to live our lives.  

Here is the link: 

Nate is fantastic (so's his mom):  so articulate, so composed. 

Another one of my cyber friends Nikki has started an Etsy store (I'm not positive I know what that is, but it sounds daring and important.).  Here is how she describes it:

Disney Princess Autograph Books/Journals for YOUR Princess!
“I can make that,” the Disney-loving owner of new etsy store, Paper Diva Designs, said when she saw someone selling journals online. “I can make that AND make it uniquely creative AND OOAK.” Since designing her own upcycled journals, the Diva uses recycled papers and book covers whenever possible. 
Paper Diva Designs features an array of handmade upcycled journals, including Disney Princess Autograph Books/Journals and Vintage Ephemera Journals as well as Vintage Collage Packs for every artist’s need! Collages and Custom Disney Journals are soon to follow.
Her current featured product is an Upcycled The Little Mermaid Journal/Autograph book. It features all 10 Disney Princesses. It's wonderful for journaling or for getting your favorite princess's autograph at Disneyland or Walt Disney World!
To celebrate the Grand Opening of Paper Diva Designs, on April 1st, 2011, coupon code UBP11 will give you 20% off your entire order April 1 – 9!

I'm pretty sure I am forgetting other folks who do verbs in so many other ways:  those who run, dance, sing, clean, write, play, and just find ways to Do It!  Thank you!

Now for a real April Fool's email, 

Here is what Walter sent to his department of 50 plus faculty and assorted grad student and staff today:

Members of the History Department:

Scientific advances in DNA analysis have now made it so cheap that Israelis are utilizing it to identify the dogs whose owners do not clean up after them:

This same technology will now be used to assure that our "self-cleaning kitchen" becomes truly self cleaning.
It is unconscionable of those who leave dirty cups and behind, expecting the secretaries to do a job that they were not hired for.

Therefore, I am asking each of you to come by Mary Johnson's office to take a cheek swab next Monday or Tuesday.

If you prefer, you can arrange for her to come by your office with a swab. The procedure is perfectly painless and harmless and takes only a few seconds.

Many thanks in advance for your cooperation.