Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's Been a Busy Week!

In somewhat of an attempt to recap the past week to illustrate why I haven't done hardly any blogging at all - either reading other blogs or writing this one - let me tell you what's been going on during the past week.

Last Saturday night was the annual employee party for my company which was held at the Lake of Isles Golf Course Clubhouse for which I took pictures. Technically it's called the "Holiday Party" but I've never quite figured that out so I call it the "Annual Employee Party" - either way, American is the only company that I've ever worked for that threw a party for its employees so I think it's pretty nice!

This was my second year taking the pictures and even though I enjoyed the party, it was also a lot of work.  Additionally it was a lot of work editing the pictures after the party but as a point of pride I couldn't just take them out of the camera, toss them on a web album, and call them "good to go". Maybe were I not such a finicky Virgo I could have but alas ... nope! Anyhow, if you'd like to take a look at all of that work, you can check out the Picasa Web Album and see everyone all dressed up and looking quite nice.

Following a rather late night of fun and frivolity at the party, Sunday's plans were for another trek back up to Massachusetts so that I could take Amanda back to Montserrat as her Winter Break had at long last come to an end.  As nice as it had been to have her home, I was ready for her to go back and I'm pretty sure that she was also!  She missed her friends at college and I missed having a living room that wasn't doubling as her bedroom!

The Resident Artist

After getting the car loaded up with what looked like a ton of stuff, we made our way north with a short stop at my Mom's house so that Amanda could tell her grandmother good-bye.  It was a beautifully blue day but it was bitterly cold and windy as we drove up the Mass Pike towards Boston and points north.  When we got to the exit that I normally take for I-95, traffic was ridiculously backed up so instead I decided to detour through Boston and head north on I-93 instead.  Normally I will avoid driving through Boston like the plague but I figured that mid-afternoon on a Sunday probably wouldn't be too bad and it really wasn't.  Amanda took this shot of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, one of the widest cable-stayed bridges in the world, through the dirty car windshield. It's not very good quality but that's what happens when your windshield is enduring a New England winter and boy, are we ever enduring a New England winter!


After depositing Amanda and all of her stuff at her house at the college and giving her a hug good-bye, Jamie and I then crossed the bridge over to Salem where we were going to be spending the night at my most favorite of all hotels - The Hawthorne Hotel!  Juli, the General Manager, had offered me a fantastic rate in case I didn't want to do the 5-hour round-trip drive to Montserrat and back and I was more than happy to take her up on her generous offer!  Heck, any chance to stay at the Hawthorne is fine by me!

CT FlagArriving at the Hawthorne, where by happy coincidence the State of Connecticut flag was waving in the extremely cold breeze as part of the Hawthorne's Flag of the Week Program along with the flag of Japan, I was greeted like an old friend at the Reception Desk and warmly welcomed back. I thought to myself that this must have been what it was like at Cheers when Norm would come through the door and everyone would know his name! Well ... maybe that's a bit of a stretch but I think you know what I mean! There's something to be said for going to an establishment as classy as The Hawthorne and being greeted like that; it just makes you feel good all over!

For our stay this time Jamie and I were given Room #408 which is called a "Derby Room" that has two queen-size beds and two full bathrooms with a view of Salem. To put it simply, the room is huge and if you don't have enough room in there, there's seriously something wrong!  Jamie absolutely loved having an entire bathroom all to herself and made good use of the full-size bathtub later that night.


Now what would a stay at the Hawthorne be without a pose by the door?!?


Of course no matter how cold it was outside, I just had to open the window and take a pictures of the view:

Salem at Night
Frozen Salem

Following that I then went exploring around the hotel a little bit with my camera as I knew there were a few spots I had missed during out last stay like the Library in the basement which is actually a nautical-themed meeting room:

Library 1
Library 2

... and an exercise room with what looks to be the Cadillac of all treadmills! If I had that thing at home I'd be svelte in no time! Well, not that anyone in my family would ever qualify as svelte but I'd be in a heck of a lot better shape!

The Exercise Room

Fool that I am, I even bundled up and wandered outside to take a few night shots around the hotel: 


With fingers that were probably more like icicles at that point, I finally went back inside and Jamie and I made our way down to the Tavern for a late dinner in front of the fireplace.  Knowing that I didn't have to drive anywhere but merely had to walk to the elevator and down the hall I decided to treat myself to a House of the Seven Gables martini which is made up of Pinnacle orange and raspberry vodkas shaken with pineapple, orange, and fresh lime.  It was yummy and went quite well with my grilled cheese with bacon and tomato on sourdough with a side of the best potato salad I've had in a long time!  Sorry, no pictures as I was just too hungry and forgot to take a few shots before I dug into my meal! 


Jamie opted for a grilled chicken sandwich and onion rings and followed it up with Amanda's favorite dessert from our visit in December - the Chocolate Crescendo:

Jamie and her dinner

Like every other time before, I slept like the proverbial rock so if there was any sort of ghostly activity going on anywhere at the Hawthorne I once again missed it completely! The only thing that Jamie and I noticed this trip was that there was a mysterious odor of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies wafting through our room around 11:00 at night!  When I told Juli about it the next morning she thought it as strange as I did but hey - if the place is going to be haunted by the smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies then I don't think that's a bad thing!  Unless you're really hungry though as then it could have bad repercussions!

Following a lovely breakfast at Nathaniel's (courtesy of the hotel!) and a chance to chat briefly with Juli, Jamie and I packed up to head back to Connecticut as I needed to be at work at 3:00.  It was colder than cold outside with a pretty stiff breeze and the temperature on my iPhone thermometer app reading a brisk -4 but I decided there was no way that I could leave town without taking a few quick pictures.  Jamie just rolled her eyes at me and said she was staying in the car!

First stop was at Winter Island where I took a dozen or so shots of Fort Pickering Light and another of the line of sailboats awaiting the return of better weather on dry land.

Fort Pickering Light
Frozen shipmasts

From there we made our way back towards Derby Wharf so that I could get a few pictures of the frozen Friendship and the old Salem Custom House.  If you look closely at the flags on the front of the Custom House, you can see the wind was definitely blowing! 

Derby Wharf
The Salem Custom House

The drive back to Connecticut was pleasantly uneventful and we pulled into the driveway a little after 1:00 which gave me plenty of time to get ready to go to work which is then what I basically did for the rest of the week - work and watch it snow.

More snow
And more snow

We had so much snow in fact that I spent Wednesday night at work sleeping on the not-horribly-uncomfortable couch in the main lobby as it was just easier to do that then try to play Nanook of the North to get home and back in a Nor'easter! Hopefully no one crept in during the night and took any pictures while I was sacked out as if they had, I probably never would have known it for when Andrew awoke me at 5:40 on Thursday morning I about near jumped out of my skin! Just goes to show, if you're tired enough, you can sleep anywhere!


Eventually the sun came back out but not after we'd had another foot-and-a-half of snow dumped on top of us - snow that we are running out of places to put!  Oh, and for the record, I believe this is the first time that I've seen the Thames River as frozen over as it is.  I know I live in New England and I know we're supposed to get snow and cold in the winter but we're breaking records all over the place this year and I'd just like to kindly ask Mother Nature to stop - please!!

Anyhow, that's sorta-kinda been my week with some of the boring details left out like grocery shopping and housecleaning and shoveling a lot of that snow!  Yesterday I drove over to other side of Connecticut to pick up Princess Patti for a Girls' Day Out exploring some of the frozen western half of the state and I promise pictures of that soon!  In the meantime, I hope you've all been well and have had a lovely end of January - hopefully with less snow than we've got!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Five on Friday - The "Time" Version

To say that this has been a busy week would truly be an understatement. I honestly can't tell you when the last time it was that I didn't do a blog post in almost a week and though it wasn't intentional, that's certainly what happened this week as there just wasn't enough time to get everything done that needed to be done.  Based on that, what better theme to use for this week's Five on Friday meme than 'Time'?  I couldn't think of one so that's exactly what I did!

Hopefully I'll find the time to do another post here pretty soon though I'm not sure if it's going to be today or even tomorrow - it depends on how well I manage the time on my days off!  In the meantime, I hope you'll find the time to listen to the songs below and then take a little more time to head over to Trav's Thoughts where Travis takes the time every Friday to host a very fun musical meme.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm outta time yet again and there is much to be done!

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Friend Offers Hope & Help To Haiti

Earlier this month I lost the guy who installs my air-conditioners for me in the summer, plows the snow off the driveway for me in the winter, and watches Tesla and the house for me when I'm out traipsing around various parts of New England. I lost him for almost a week while he traveled over to Haiti to help out those who are most certainly more in need of his services than myself.

Valentina, Monika, Manni (ICU nurses from Italy) and Andrew
Andrew, one of the paramedics I work with at American Ambulance, was part of a medical team led by Dr. Anthony Alessi of The William W. Backus Hospital that flew over to Haiti on January 9th to spend five days treating cholera patients.  The Backus Haiti Relief Team put their skills to work at the Saint Philomena Rehydration Center which is run by Father Rick Frechette as part of The Saint Luke Foundation for Haiti.  Father Rick is a Passionist priest originally from Wethersfield, Connecticut who went on to get a medical degree so that he could minister to not just a person's spiritual health but to his or her physical health also; you can read more about Father Rick here if you'd like.

Father Rick talks to Conan, his "right-hand man"
Norwich has a very large Haitian population and a lot of aid has been sent over to the decimated island since the January 12th, 2010 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 316,000 people; aid which has included the work of Norwich's Dr. Jeremiah Lowney and his Haitian Health Foundation as well as numerous trips by Dr. Alessi, a board certified neurologist and medical director of the William W. Backus Hospital Stroke Center. When Fred Potter, Coordinator of Emergency Medical Services at Backus Hospital, sent out an email for a group to be formed to travel to Haiti with Dr. Alessi to assist with the cholera epidemic that has broken out, Andrew knew that he wanted to be a part of that team but it wasn't until the original date to go was changed from December 8th to January 8th that he knew he would be going as that gave him time to get a passport and make preparations.

If you're lucky enough to know Andrew then you're lucky enough to know he's the type of guy who likes to help people so it really came as no surprise to me when he told me that he was going over to Haiti. Of course, I had to ask him why he chose to go and got the answer that I was expecting to hear, "I became a medic to help people and there is no one in the world who needs help more than the people of Port-au-Prince as they have absolutely nothing."  Even though this was going to be the first big separation of their marriage for Andrew and his wife Bethany (who is a nurse for the Plainfield Public School System), Bethany supported Andrew unconditionally in his choice to go over to Haiti for a week and provide what aid he could while she stayed home with their two children, AJ and Lea, and missed him every single minute of every single day.

Haitian neighborhood
But Andrew would tell you that this story isn't about him; he would tell you that it's about the people of Haiti who continue to suffer and live in abominable conditions a full year after the earthquake hit.  Millions of dollars have been raised for Haitian relief but for the people of Haiti, there's darned little relief at all as they continue to live in rubble and disorganization. It wasn't bad enough that there was a devastating earthquake but now there's an outbreak of cholera - a disease that isn't even indigent to Haiti. It was brought there by relief workers, care givers, and the military and then made worse by the rainy season.

Since October there have been over 2,000 cases of cholera - an infection of the small intestine that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting that will quickly dehydrate its victims and lead to death if left untreated. The best treatment is with an oral rehydration solution but in severe cases intravenous (IV) fluids are a patient's best chance at survival and that's what the Backus Relief Team was there to do. As paramedics and registered nurses put in more IV's than doctors do, it was decided they would be the ones to make up the Relief Team and travel over with Dr. Alessi to assist Father Rick at the Saint Philomena Rehydration Center.

The Backus Haiti Relief Team
On January 9th the team which was made up of Registered Nurses Manuela Lescault, Cindy Arpin, Cassandra Gryczewski, and Charlotte Horton along with Paramedics Eddie Dubois, Kim Kirchberg-Schmitt, Fred Potter, and Andrew Duval flew from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Haiti where they then spent the next 3-1/2 days treating over 150 patients which were the sickest cholera patients that other missions and doctors couldn't take care of. According to Andrew, each patient needed anywhere from 4 liters of lacated ringers to 8 liters if they were really sick. If the patient was still vomiting after 8 liters, they would continue with the lactated ringers until the patient would finally stop vomiting. He said that it wasn't unusual for patients to need between 15 to 30 liters of IV fluids.

A typical room at Saint Philomena's where cholera patients were treated
Before he went over to Haiti, Andrew said that he thought he was pretty good at administering IVs - a skill that's got to be pretty tricky in the back of a jostling ambulance - but after seeing a few patients, he wasn't so sure about his skills anymore. He told me that he'd never done so many IOs (an intra-osseous infusion where the injection is made directly into the marrow of a bone) and EJs (an injection directly into the external jugular vein on the side of the neck) as he was unable to find veins anywhere else on a lot of the patients he saw. Even when he could "hit" a vein, it would oftentimes collapse before he was able to get enough fluids into the patient.

Even though Saint Philomena's has a death rate of less than 2%, not all of their patients survived in spite of the Team's best efforts to provide them with much-needed fluids; Andrew said that he knows of at least three that died while they were there. If there is no family to consult or if the family of the patient who has died wishes, their body is taken to the chapel located at Saint Luke's where a funeral mass is said the next morning. The patient's body bag is covered with a cloth that has been decorated with a cross or holy picture and flowers are placed on top. After the Mass they are cremated at the complex's own crematorium.

Preparing for a funeral in the chapel
In addition to treating the cholera patients that they saw everyday, the team spent some time visiting the children at Saint Damien Hospital which is the premiere pediatric hospital in Haiti that provides free high quality medical treatment to disadvantaged and sick children and is part of Father Rick's complex. Andrew said that all of the children were happy to see them as they handed out small toys like Matchbox cars and Silly Bandz. Andrew's daughter, Lea, had asked him to take one of her favorite dolls, Granny Garbanzo, with him to Haiti to give to a child who had no dolls so Andrew did just that making one little girl very happy in the process.

Granny Garbanzo gets a new owner
Andrew's son, AJ, had also sent over one of his toys in the hopes that it would make another child happy and it found a new owner, too, in the hands of the little boy below.

A gift from AJ to another sick child
On one of the days that the team was there they took a drive into Port-au-Prince and had a chance to view firsthand the devastation that the earthquake left behind.  Buildings are still piles of rubble and large tent cities are the home of many of the island's residents.

The remnants of the Cathedral of Notre Dame
The Ministry Building
The Presidential Palace
Part of the tent city across from the Palace with UN Peacekeeping Forces
Tent City on the grounds of the former park across from the Presidential Palace
Tents built up on top of rubble
Looking at these pictures, it's very easy to ask where on earth all of the money that was raised for Haiti has gone to as it sure doesn't look like it's gone to Haiti.  One year later and it certainly appears as if nothing at all has been done.  I get the distinct feeling that were it not for people like Father Rick and volunteers like those in the Backus Haiti Relief Team, the residents of Haiti would still not be getting any assistance at all.

Charlie, Sarah, Manni, Father Rick, Andrew, Eddie, Fred, Dr. Alessi, Cindy, Conan
Having witnessed the devastation firsthand, Andrew told me that there wasn't a single day that he was there that he didn't cry and that he also cried a lot on the plane trip back home, too.  The memories of all that he saw will stay with him forever and he hopes that perhaps he'll get the chance to go back and offer his help again.  I hope that if he ever does, he'll notice at least some sort of improvement to the living conditions.

If you'd like to see more of the pictures that Andrew took while he was in Haiti, please visit the Picasa Web Album where I have posted them for him. Some of the pictures don't have captions but hopefully you'll be able to tell what it is you're looking at. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them here in a comment and I will make sure that Andrew gets them. Also, if you'd like to help any of Father Rick's programs, please visit where you can find information on all of the programs at Saint Luke's.  Unlike the government of Haiti, Father Rick and his staff are doing something positive for the people of Haiti and I'm sure they'd appreciate any and all help.

In the meantime I'm going to continue to be very proud of my "handyman" and very, very honored to have him as a friend.  Andrew is definitely one of the good guys!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Five on Friday - The "Meme Turns One" Version

Blogging funk or no blogging funk I couldn't miss this special edition of Travis' Five on Friday meme. After all, memes only turn one once and today marks the first anniversary of the musical meme where you pick five of your favorite songs whether they be in a set, following a stream of consciousness, or just randomly pulled out of your head and then share them with your readers as well as the others who participate in Five on Friday.  It's hard to believe that it's been an entire year since the first Five on Friday appeared over on Trav's Thoughts but it has been; I guess time really flies when you sharing something that you love.

In celebration of this auspicious milestone I decided to create a set using the word "One" as my central theme.  I had a couple of songs in mind when I started this set and then the rest came pretty easily after that.  Chances are good I could have listed a lot more than the five below but this week I really wanted to make this FIVE on Friday!

I hope you enjoy this week's five songs and I'd also like to say a big thank you to Travis for this meme.  If you haven't joined us yet then I can only ask why not??

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