Monday, September 1, 2008

Balancing act

So... drumming every week beginning August 6 didn't happen. Again, work, life etc got to be a little too much. Mostly work. I've been putting in more hours, leaving less time for "life". I started thinking, summer's almost over. Days are getting shorter. When will I exercise? [Because surely the 24 Hour Fitness membership card is not going to drag my ass to the gym on its own.]

I found a personal trainer! Her name is Erika and she's doing the job that my membership card is not. She is standing over me while I sweat and is pushing me way harder than I do myself. I've only been to her twice but I already feel a difference in my muscles (at first mostly a dull ache but now its more like a stronger me. )

Had I not caught a nasty stomach flu which lasted through this Labor Day weekend, I would have attended her bootcamp on Sat morning. I plan on doing it this weekend for sure. I hope to be bikini ready by Christmas (which I am spending in NY... hmm... will have to figure out a way to model one while opening presents).

I've also begun searching for a charitable organization to volunteer my time with. I did the Habitat for Humanity build (see former posts) in June, but I need some regular "do good" time so I can feel that I am giving back to my community.

I came across an ad for the Peacock Foundation's "Spread the News" Wine Tasting event being held this Saturday (9/6). At first I wanted to go and taste! Then I realized that they need volunteers to help for set up and break down. Of course I have time on the weekend to help with this (and maybe they will thank me with a taste or two. )

I began searching the Peackock Foundation's website and became intrigued! This organization pairs children who have been through some sort of trauma with animals! Please see their well done PSA for a look into the organization and all the amazing work they do.

I look forward to working the event this weekend and hopefully offering my time with them in the future.

I'm really enjoying learning about myself as I push my body to the fullest while working with my trainer and also as I volunteer with a new organization that needs me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Creative Outlet

I was recently asked about my creative outlets - what I like to do to release all the work day stuff. I realized that I hadn't posted here on the blog in a couple of weeks and I really missed it! So this is one outlet that I am going to keep - it gives me a mental buzz, makes me feel good and has lots of anti-oxidants. :)

Music is another creative outlet for me - whether singing in the car, occasionally picking up my guitar and blowing off the dust to play the few chords that I know or tapping my desk with two pens. I want more! I think I'm going to start taking a hand drumming class in Sherman Oaks... it really seems like something I need to do! I've always had a fascination with drums - going way back to when I was a kid and I had a chance to play Max Weinberg's drums in NJ. But even last night just watching Blair Sinta play on stage at Hotel Cafe with Pedestrian made me want to start tapping. Also, I spent some time down at Venice Beach recently and those drumming circles that form down there really have amazing rhythm.

So, maybe by putting this out there for all to see will force me to stick to my word. Universal Drumming here I come!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Final Day in Taos

Today we got some disappointing news at 4:50 am...that due to strong winds, our hot air ballooning trip was cancelled... We were soooooooo bummed. We eventually got back to sleep and woke up for 8:30 breakfast.

At breakfast we discussed what we would do for the day now that ballooning was no longer in the picture. We decided to do horseback riding earlier and me, Sharon, Serena, Aimee, Stef, Betsy, Laura and Mel all took the 30 minute drive up the very winding road to Angel Fire (local ski town). What a beautiful, but scary/windy road to the trail! We could see clouds towards the top of the mountain and it was cool enough to wear a fleece. I think it was around 8,000 feet above sea level.

We all met at the trailhead, got our horses (mine was Willy Wonka) and headed up the trail with two wranglers, Bill and Brooke. Serena was very nervous as she is definitely a city girl and had only been on a horse once before and was thrown off. Well, within 5 minutes on the horse, it happened again. She was tense, the horse knew it and when another horse got too close, her horse trotted a bit and she fell off. Luckily she didn't hurt anything but her pride. Aimee stayed back with her and they ended up riding on flat ground with another wrangler. The rest of us took a 1.5 hour ride up into what can only be call God's country. Beautiful landscape and amazing forest. The smell was so fresh with juniper. We saw bear claw marks on some of the trees and ended up cantoring (scary!) Up to a pond so the horses could drink. I was a little nervous with my limited experience on horses but felt great once I was comfortable with old Willy.

Once we were done, we came back to the lodge and crashed for an hour or so. At 6 we heard from Betsy that she finished her accounting of the trip and we were under budget! So, to Joseph's Table we go. This restaurant has been on our minds all week because they had duck fat fries (among lots of other amazing sounding dishes) on their menu. We ate steak, scallops, beautiful salads and desserts. We reminisced about our week, we shared photos, we passed around our HFH hats for signatures, we presented Betsy with a gift (a beautiful painting of horses) and a card with two indian sisters on it, all signed by us. Betsy gave us each a certificate of completion.

Once we were done with our fancy dinner, Stef, Laura and I hijacked the van and drove to Walmart and Smith's to get a group photo printed and framed for her. We chose a picture from Madrid early on in the trip. She really appreciated it!

Anyway, this is my last email from Taos... We are up early tomorrow (5:45 am wake up call) so we can all get to our flights on time in Albuquerque. I have mixed feelings - happy to have finished our job, excitied to sleep in my own bed, sad to say goodbye to my new friends...I truly enjoyed sharing my stories with you...
I hope they were fun for you to read and maybe they even inspired you to do something for others, no matter how small. If we all do a little something it will all add up to something big.
Love to you all and see you soon,

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Build Day # 6 - so sad to be done‏

Today is our final build day and Serena started off our morning with a typical Serena quote: "I'll be crying in my mud". I think that is definitely how we are all feeling about today!
We also had a nice treat - Charles (the owner of the lodge) leading us in Amazing Grace on the piano which we all joined in as a sing along. It definitely set the mood - it's our last day of building. It sounds a bit hokey but it was a somber moment for all of us.

I was asked to write in the team journal today so I look forward to sharing my viewpoint with the group!

This morning we really pushed ourselves to finish wall #5. And we were done with it by 10:30. Even though we said we would take it easy for the rest of the day, we pushed hard and finished wall #6! I am so proud of myself and of the team for getting it done, especially since we started the day at 7:15 saying that we probably wouldn't even try to do that wall today. Roger has told us we have done so much great work he didn't want another group to "mess it up." I partnered with Roger for my last day and really felt like an apprentice learning a new skill. So if anyone is looking for help building an adobe style home, give me a call. :)

After our morning break we decided to push through in teams and do the second wall.. We were done by 2:20. We were nervous about rain...we could see thunder clouds in the distance and if it rained it could ruin one or both walls if they weren't dry enough. Luckily we heard thunder, but didn't see rain until our drive back to the lodge. We had an angel watching over us.

We also got to meet Seda today! What a treat to meet her. She was in the car and not very alert but we all took turns saying hello and touching her hand (she responds well to touch). She has to consume (through a feeding tube) a mostly high fat diet because of the threat of seizures - apparently that helps keep them at bay. Tom, her caretaker and a HFH volunteer was driving her and Althea from the farmer's market to stop by and say hello. Seeing her once again helped to reinforce how important this week of hard work has been and makes me want to do more for others and sign up for another build soon.

What an accomplishment on our last day to see such a difference in Althea's home and to know that WE have made a difference. While we were at the house this week, we finished one mud layer of all the external walls, plus a ton of sheetrock and internal framing work. We did a lot!

t was hard to say goodbye. Aimee burst in to tears when we said goodbye to Roger - it was definitely an overwhelming thought that it was almost over. At the end of the day we headed back to the plaza for more shopping - picked up a few souvenirs... Dinner at Graham's Grill - we have been so lucky to have such great food while we were here. Roger ended up surprising us and joined us for dinner. He told us we did the most work ever of any other group that's he's worked with for Habitat. We ate a lot (for a change...) And laughed even more. Serena presented a ceremonial cactus to Betsy to represent a typical Serena x-rated joke from the beginning of the week. We laughed our butts off!!

After dinner, 1/2 the group went back to the lodge while 1/2 the group went to the solar festival. Very cool hippie atmosphere - we stayed for about an hour listening to music and headed back to the lodge for a few hours sleep before waking up early tomorrow for the hot air balloon ride!

Things I will miss when I am back home:

1) Serena's many funny quotes said in her great New Yawk accent. As Stef said, Serena could be giving a eulogy and we would still be laughing.

2) Our morning stretches led by Betsy and Aimee.
3) Hearing Roger and Paul (from Habitat) tell us how proud they were of us and how we were such a fantastic team.

4) Starburst/granola bar/apple/tortilla chip breaks.

5) Stef's way of swearing PG style... "mother french!"
6) All the songs we broke into on the roof and around the house (We are Family, Hokey Pokey, It's Raining Men [Mud], etc).

7) Everyone gathering around the couches for breakfast every morning.

8) Laura and Mel playing the guitar

9) Getting sweaty and working our butts off combined with laughing til our stomachs hurt day after day!
10) Working every day with this group of women I am happy and lucky enough to call friends.
Each morning someone reads a quote that is meaningful to them. Today because it was our last day, we had three:
Mary: "No WOman can help others without helping herself." - ralph waldo emerson
Laura: "Today was good, today was fun, tomorrow is another one." - Dr Seuss
Deb: "A leash cannot hold your mind from running." -zenpuppy. (She had this message on a tank top she brought with her).

All is good in NM... Tomorrow we get back from hot air ballooning at 12 then horseback riding in the afternoon. Our final dinner together and we head to the airport on monday! Have good night.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Build day # 5 - No Pain, No Gain!

Some of you have asked... "Lisa. You say these lovely things about your experiences, but you don't talk about wanting to stop because you are hot, tired, sore...". Sure, I haven't focused on that too much but yes, we are all hot (it's in the 80s most of the day), tired (we wake up most mornings at 6 am- I don't even get up that early for work!), and sore (did you know there is a muscle between your thumb and pointer finger? Yeah, even that muscle hurts). But we only stop when we need food, bathroom or water. We really want to see that we have made a significant difference. Wait til you see the rest of the pictures! :)

We worked today from 7:30-12 and we had free time this afternoon. At work we finished walls #3 + 4. There are actually 6 walls as the house is typical adobe style - a section juts out forming the additional walls. Again, Roger asked me to partner up with him to assist. He either has a crush on me or he really digs my mudding technique. ;). Once again new muscles are hurting. This job has shown me how lazy I've been at home on my free time and has inspired me to spend more time outside being active.... Because I can!

The remainder of the day we picked up our tickets to the solar music festival... A three day mini- woodstock-esque festival with booths selling t-shirts and handing out info about how to be more environmentaly aware (interesting as this community does not recycle plastic, only glass and metal). Each day there are bands playing (the BoDeans, Susan Tedeschi, Collective Soul are the headliners plus lots of smaller and local bands). Looking forward to that!!

We went to the Pueblo again for shopping and photos. Each shop typically had one pueblo indian running it and they sold their crafts (pottery, including horsehair pots and hand made jewelry) and little statues called "fetish" which at first scared me off because of the name (a little weird to walk into a store called New Mexico Fetish), but we found out that fetish are objects that are believed to have magical powers. Typically they are small handcarved pieces of wood or stone in the shapes of various animals (the Indians are very into earth, fire, sky, mother nature, etc). So learned at least one new thing today. We got some great shots of the Pueblo and tried blue corn fry cakes (basically funnel cake but they are just patties of dough placed into oil). Yum!!

We also bought some home made bread made in clay ovens on the Pueblo. We will have that at lunch tomorrow.

For dinner we had New Mexican food at Orlando's which was amazing...the main difference I see between new mexican and mexican food is that in new mexico they use red and green chile sauce on everything. Otherwise its a lot of the same stuff - enchiladas, tacos, etc. We had the most amazing dessert - chilled avocado pie... Sounds so weird but it did have avocado and a lot of lime juice in it and the consistency of ice cream and a taste similar to key lime pie but better.


Before bed a few of us hung out at the pool and talked about our day. I feel like we have known each other forever and have no doubt that I will see many of these women again.Tomorrow we have our last build day. Parting with the house will be hard!

Thanks for reading and have a great night!

With love,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Build day #4 - mud fight!!

Today we began applying the first of three layers of "mud" (concrete) to the house....this was tough tough work on a hot hot day.

We spent the day split into 3 groups... Mixers, applyers and assistants. I was an "applyer". We had to first put up scaffolding and start from the top down. Some of this group started on the roof, I started at the top of the house with peggy, mel and Roger (the foreman). Mixers mixed cement in the mixer, assistants handed buckets of "mud" to us on the scaffolding, we took the heavy buckets and emptied them onto a piece of wood and scooped it up onto what we called palettes but there is probably a more manly name for it (*we did find out later that they are called hawks).. We used a trowel to spread the mud up on the house. Awkward at first to balance up above and to spread the mud onto the house but it was literally like icing a cake after a few tries. We finished one layer on one wall by lunch time. We finished another wall by the time we left for the day - even working a little overtime in order to get it done. Learning these skills has been a priceless experience.
Lunch was pizza from Outback Pizza where we had dinner a few nights ago. The pesto parmesan dressing is something I need to learn how to make. :)
At 5:45 we got home, covered in cement mud, exhausted, sweaty, smelly and sunburned and had to quickly shower and join Althea (the homeowner) and HFH worker Paul and his wife for dinner at our lodge. Althea made frito pie - think what sloppy joes are to burgers... Frito pie is to tacos. It was basically spicy chili over fritos covered with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Unfortunately, Seda was unable to join Althea and our team for dinner, but her mom was able to tell us a little more about her: Althea did not know that her baby would be born without a brain until she was born and the doctors told her she had two choices: the staff could withhold food and water from the baby or Althea could take her, knowing that she would likely die at a young age and would always be severly handicapped. Althea said there was never a choice in her mind.Seda's full name is Seda Agua McClunky... Seda is the spanish name for silk (Althea used to work with silk on a loom). The man who fathered her was hispanic and Althea wanted to be sure Seda was connected to her heritage even though her father was not a part of her life.
Seda attended regular public school through 2nd grade. She attended regular classes with regular kids. Sadly, the aide that worked with her, was inappropriate with her and Althea chose to pull her out of school to be home schooled.
Seda sleeps only 3-4 hours in a night and typically only sleeps 2 nights a week. So she is up for the remaining 160 hours (thus the need for 24 hour care. She is prone to seizures and sleeps in her mother's bed with her so she can deal with the seizure if Seda has one.It is amazing to me how genuinely happy Althea is even though she has such a difficult life. She is happy, appreciative, and has so much love for her daughter and her life in NM. She volunteers with an advocacy group for the disabled and travels around the country to share her stories.The new house will have handicapped access, a specially set up bathroom and a bedroom with room for TWO beds. We were so happy to spend this time with Althea and each story she told made us want to be advocates for her and Seda.
Let this story remind us all how lucky we are. Our lives are good! I hope these stories will help you to want to do something, even something small for someone who needs it. It's great for them but you will get such a boost, too.
Tomorrow an early (7:15) start, working a 1/2 day with a 1/2 day of free time to shop or attend the Solar Music Festival.Very sleepy so I must go for now.
More from me tomorrow....XxooLisa

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Build Day # 3 - Women rule!

Last night, we had dinner together at PizaƱos (even the Italian restaurants have a New Mexican flair). The gang bought me a cool t shirt from the local brewpub and some pretty soaps. It was a very sweet gesture and it reinforced my decision to do this build over my birthday. I ate way too much and had a great day overall.

Today nothing crazy happened. No one was sick, no one hurt themselves at the site. Maybe the craziest thing was that it was my turn to drive the mini van (whew, I can take that off my list of "must-do's")...What I did notice and appreciate today is the power of women and the power of team work. I was wondering when I heard that this trip would be all women, whether there would be complainers, bitchy personalities, weaklings. What I have found instead is that we are a group of strong, smart, helpful, nurturing, interesting women with great stories, from varied backgrounds, locations and ages (16-60) who all want to "do good". I am so lucky to be part of this group and one of the HFH Taos '08 builders. I will never forget this experience and wouldn't have been able to do it without support from all of you.

Today we installed a great deal of sheet rock inside, but some of us also worked on adding lathe to the outside around one of the doors. We clipped strips of a metal mesh material (lathe) then nailed these strips around the doors so that the stucco has something to hold onto (we apply the stucco tomorrow! Mud Fight!!). We also met Mary, a 22 year old college student off for the summer who has worked on this house for the last month. She has known Althea ( the house's owner) for 12 years and works her butt off to help. Lunch was donated to us by Applebees today...Another local bought over two homemade sheetcakes. This community is very generous and genuinely appreciates the work we are doing here...

One of our team-members, Serena is a 53 year old Brooklynite with one of the funniest personalities (and accents) evah! She keeps us in stitches all day with her hysterical random thoughts "Wow, that guy is a real live New Mexican!" (If you picture it with her accent, it is REALLY funny). She calls us all her sisters. I tend to agree - we've all really bonded. Today Serena told me I'd meet my future husband soon. She always has "a vibe" about things...we shall see.

Tonite we went to the Rio Grande Gorge (aka the grand canyon of New Mexico) which was beautiful. We saw an amazing sunset and we got to purchase some jewelry and crafts from the local Native Americans who set up tables there. I also got some alone time with Betsy. We agreed that her first all woman HFH build worked out so well that we want to figure where are we going next year!! I suggested Alaska or Norway (somewhere cold, I guess)...

Anyway, off to bed now. Tomorrow another full day of work followed by dinner with Althea and a bunch of HFH volunteers.