Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nothing Compares

Sorry I'm behind on my disaster deployment blogs from the South friends, this job has very limited wifi-data-cell coverage on the job so I am limited to posting from the wee hours when we get back from the job. More to come...
It was a busy day at the Red Cross shelter in Tuscaloosa, AL today. We had two special guests: Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News and University of Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban.
Brian Williams visited with clients and played cards on the shelter floor with children.  He talked and listened with awe as they each shared their amazing stories of survival.
Coach Saban brought along dinner and Alabama gear for all of the shelter residents and brightened the mood of the shelter ten fold. As he signed all of their new Alabama gear, shelter residents were a buzz with excitement and all smiles.
While damage in Tuscaloosa is furious- the spirits of the people of here is hopeful. Today Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles were finally able to navigate around rubble in neighborhoods to feed residents, first responders and clean-up crews.
The damage is just unreal. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I’ve been to other tornados and they don’t even compare. The destruction here seems to be at a different level…almost incomprehensible.  Cars crumbled like paper. Houses folded like a house of cards.  Neighborhoods unrecognizable.
There aren’t enough words to describe the emotions that rush over you when you see the things that you see in Tuscaloosa and many parts of the south this week.
It’s one thing to see it on TV, but totally different to see the destruction after you know the people who have suffered through it. Your heart breaks a little bit more.  I’m just glad I’m here to listen and to help make their life a little bit easier.

Monday, April 18, 2011

steel magnolias: there's no such thing as natural beauty...

last night i went to see steel magnolias at the omaha community playhouse with linsey.
for those who haven't seen the 1989 hit movie- you are in for a treat at truvy's salon. 
the firecracker southern women in this play are one of my favorite casts of the season.
i loved all of their witty wisecracks and laughter- as truvy said: 'laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.' and that's what you will do at this show.
and i always love a good strong southern woman's laughter (reminds me of my auntie fran).
this is definitely a show to take the ladies to for a fun girls night out.
be sure and catch it before the show ends on may 8th you can get your tickets here.
the only thing that could have made it better would have been a piece of the bleeding red velvet armadillo cake.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Every disaster that I deploy to with the Red Cross may be different but they are all the same. Actually there are probably more similarities than differences in most disasters. Sure the storm, location and situation are different; but the one thing that I see again and again is the resilience of the human spirit.
People who have just lost all of their earthly possessions not worried about themselves or how they will get by- but worried about their family, neighbors and friends. Communities banding together with one cause: to make it through the day.
Another common thread between disasters is the Red Cross. More specifically: the volunteers that are the Red Cross. The amazing people who drop everything and tramps through rain, snow, heat, mud, floods and ruble to offer assistance along with a warm embrace and a glimmer of hope.
I spent most of this week in Mapleton Iowa observing just this. Mapleton might not be big enough to be on most maps of Iowa, but this mighty town of 1,200 souls has left its mark on my heart. Nearly half of town suffered damage from Saturday night’s EF3 tornado that ripped through several counties.  Never in my life have I seen such damage. The only way I can describe it is mind-boggling.
One of the first things I noticed when I pulled on to Main Street was the presence of the Red Cross.  And I was told that it was the presence of the Red Cross’ volunteers everywhere they turned that made this town’s heartbreak a little more bearable. They knew that when they saw that Red Cross on someone’s vest that it meant help was here.  
I feel like the luckiest girl on this planet that it’s my job to get to experience this small miracle first hand. I have said it before and I’m sure I will say it again but I am always completely humbled by the human spirit in the times of disaster.
When I pulled out of town today to head home I drove past a hand painted sign that said, “The city of Mapleton thanks you.”  I immediately smiled thinking of the many wonderful people that I met this week and how I should be the one thanking them.
Thanking them for the opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself, part of their community of hope. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Very Blessed...

*Another story from my current deployment from Mapleton, Iowa-Enjoy

Dorothea Bachmann could be described as the Grandmother of Mapleton. Townspeople told me that she had the Community Center opened as a Red Cross shelter ‘before the wind stopped blowing.’
When I asked the seventy-three year-old Red Cross Volunteer about this she laughed and told me, “Oh- no dear… I checked to see if my neighbors were ok first.” And that she did.
Dorothea’s house was one of the few that survived last Saturday nights EF3 tornado that ripped through Mapleton, Iowa affecting 220 homes. As soon as the storm ceased she grabbed a Coleman lantern, ventured out to check on her neighbors then headed to open a shelter at the Mapleton Community Center with help of local law enforcement.
Her motherly instincts, and Red Cross training, kicked-in as she knew people would need safe place to stay that night. Dorothea has been a Red Cross volunteer for over 15 years but has also lived through more tornadoes then she can count. 
“This was both the largest and the quietest tornado I have ever experienced,” Dorothea said. “Mapleton is very very blessed. There were no injuries, no deaths and ample warning.”
Dorothea has been seen all week walking around the Community Center distributing many things- the main thing being hugs. “It’s a good feeling to be able to help,” she said. “It’s really no different than helping at any disaster, but it's great to be able to serve my friends.  I think this is what the Lord wanted me to do with my life.”

The Lucky One...

*A story from my current Red Cross deployment to Mapleton, Iowa...

Fifty-two year old Cynthia Bursaw says she is the lucky one. Some might disagree by looking at her situation.

To the eye Cynthia just lost everything: her home split in half, its roof peeled off and her belongings thrown across not only her front yard but the neighborhood. But it wasn't the things in the house that mattered to her. It was the people.

When Saturday nights tornado sirens went off in Mapleton, Iowa Cynthia quickly ran outside to pull her cars into the garage. As she got out of her car she saw the EF3 tornado coming down the road. She quickly joined her two sons and their cats under the staircase in their basement.

They held on for-dear-life as the tornado sucked the roof off of thier house and took most of their belongings with it. After the dust and the skeleton of their home settled around them- they quickly realized that the were trapped under the rubble. Luckily she had grabbed her cell phone before she went into the basement so she was able to call 9-1-1 for help. Around 45 minutes later emergency responders came to dig them out.

Cynthia said they are the lucky ones. They can salvage a few of their belongings...but that wasn’t what is important to her. "I got my kids and that's all that matters," Cynthia said.

So what's next for the Bursaws? When asked Cynthia teared up and said she had no idea. She was taking things one-step at a time. Her first priority was taking care of her boys. Finding them new clothes was next on her list.
When Red Cross client caseworkers Kate Ellrich and Susan Schwartz, from the Heartland Regional Grouping, told Cynthia they would help make sure her family had what they needed- she cried with relief.

Kate and Susan didn't only offer her Red Cross assistance today- they offered compassion, love and hope to a single mother who repetitively thanked them for it.

"Thank you so much," Cynthia kept saying. "This was so much bigger than what I could do alone. It's so great you are here to help."

That is what the Red Cross is here for. To offer hope in heartbreak and compassion in your time of need. As the impact of disaster is still unfolding, the Red Cross is there. 

You can help those affected by the disaster by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Food Blog 6: Mama's Goulash Remixed

  • This food blog goes out Liz Clausen who requested this recipe. 

    Inspired by meeting Elizabeth Gillbert, the witty author of Eat, Pray, Love, I decided to take my mom's classic Goulash recipe and doctor it up to be a little more italian. (I also had to sneak in the fresh basil and mozzarella that I had just bought...) This is a quick and hearty meal that is sure to please. 


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups pasta- I used rigatoni here
  • 1 quart stewed plum tomatoes- diced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • A few fresh mozzarella pearls
  • A few leaves of fresh basil- diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt as needed


  1. Bring water to boil and add in pasta and cook as directed then drain.
  2. In large saucepan brown ground chuck, drain.
  3. Stir pasta and browned grounds beef together with tomatoes, garlic, pepper, basil, macaroni and mozzarella. 
  4. Eat and be happy.

sidebar: how rad is it that she signed my new cookbook!? I love that she wrote Eat, Eat, Eat! I loved meeting her. I told her my favorite parts of her book was the food (the pizza in Italy to be specific) and how I long to go to Italy! She signed my cookbook and said I hope you do go!
This is my secret photo of her that I took with my cell phone. I was super disappointed that her table had a bunch of signs that said 'no photos' being the rebelrouser I am- I snuck this one. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Food blog 5: Spinach Orzo Salad...Danelle's style

This food blog goes out to Heidi!

This is probably one of the easiest and tastiest pasta salads around and is always a hit at parties.

My recipe was inspired by this recipe that is also just as tasty. I just love fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella (if you haven't learned already) so I have modified it to include them too.


1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta
1 bag of fresh baby spinach leaves
8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls halved
16 oz cherry tomatoes halved
A couple of fresh basil leaves sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in all of your ingredients. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate and serve cold.

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