30 01 2011

A year ago I had an overwhelming and frightening pull at my soul to go to Haiti. There were calls going out across the world for volunteers, supplies and help. I felt that I had something of value to give and I could actually provide something worthwhile. They need Physical Therapists. I thought, I can do this… I can help.

And I talked about it. And thought about it. And I researched some organizations with various opportunities available. One of the orthopedic surgery groups in town has several surgeons who volunteer their services in trips to Haiti throughout the year, so I got my name on their email list. I scoured the American Physical Therapy Association website for information about organized missions. Friends passed along Facebook pages and blogs (The Greene Team in Haiti, etc) chronicalling groups of medical professionals making their way to make a difference in Haiti. I was excited and ready and I really wanted to go too.

Then… well, I don’t even really know what happened… it just sort of faded away.

Until now.

My friend, a fellow PT, shared a link that had been posted on Facebook (what a remarkable social media outlet!) with another call for PTs to come to Haiti. I can do this… I can help. This plea comes from an organization called Physicians for Peace in collaboration with their Walking Free program on a new campaign in Haiti. The Walking Free program donates prostheses and adaptive equipment as well as provides rehabilitation and training by a volunteer medical staff including prosthetists and PTs.

I’m starting to feel that pull again. I spent the better part of last night poring over the Walking Free blog posts from PTs and other volunteers, absorbing every word and every emotional tale. It wasn’t enough. I can’t even begin to fathom the logistics of a trip like this. But there’s a 10-day trip at the beginning of April. I’m excited and ready and I really want to go too.

Obviously there is a lot more to this than just booking a plane ticket. I have a full-time job here, and a very limited amount of time-off available to me. Is there a little-known benefit for a humanitarian sabbatical? Will they drain my banked PTO hours, in effect ruining the rest of my meticulously planned year? Will they let me take a week off without pay? Can I afford to take a week off without pay? (What a bittersweet dilemma of luxury!) Would they even consider me “qualified” with the little experience I have with prosthetics and amputees? Is my desire to help great enough to overcome my inexperience?

Time to make a list…

1) Contact the volunteer coordinator at Physicians for Peace to express my interest and determine my eligibility and qualification to make this trip.

2) Contact HR at Piedmont for answers to questions regarding use of PTO, leave of absence, employee assistance for humanitarian missions, etc.

3) Contact my former boss. I had spoken to her candidly last year about my desire to go to Haiti, and would value her insight as to the steps to take as well as advice and recommendations for contacts in the organization who may help me to facilitate my plans.

4) Contact my supervisor and manager. I want to have as much information and as many answers in my hands as possible before approaching them. Past experiences here have taught me that I will get a “no” unless I already have a “yes” from someone higher up the ladder. So that “yes” is absolutely vital to my cause.

I know there are at least 47 more steps in this process… but these four are the beginning of something just incredible. And in this, The Year of Kristen, I don’t want to pass on this amazing opportunity a second time.


My Sweet Carolina

23 01 2011

I am so lucky.

Not only do I have the best nuclear and extended family, but I have had the great fortune to have become part of several other families throughout the course of my life. The initial connections were made over classes and cadavers and grew into holidays and my own room in their homes. Now I simply just belong.

I just got back from another wonderfully fun and far too short weekend with two of my other families in Morganton/Shelby, NC, and despite the 4-hour drive, I am still feeling happy and loved and almost overwhelmed by the words that Laura’s mom said when she hugged me goodbye… “You are the sister that Laura never had until now.” There was plenty of “sister” conversations in the past two days as Lily is getting a baby sister in June, but I will never forget those words.

The other role I get to play, and one that I so adore, is Aunt Kristen. Though to Lily, I’m still just “Aunt K.” My friends’ kids are hilarious and so smart and cuddly and loving. And though I’m not able to be around them (or their parents!) as much as I would like, somehow the closeness of our relationship has not been affected by distance or infrequency of our visits. It’s very special.

I am so lucky!


16 01 2011

Today’s victory is to embark on my first ever computer file back-up plan.* I bought an external hard drive (it is so tiny, it’s obviously magic that allows it to hold a kajillion bytes-of-some-unrecognizable-denomination) and am currently in the “Initial Backup” phase, which is likely to take the better part of the rest of my weekend.

*Thanks to my sister Jill for her strong encouragement toward this project!

In addition to being an intelligent grown-up decision (baby steps!), this backup device will also help to ease my anxiety regarding my laptop and the current economic state in which people are brazenly and assily (word of my own creation) helping themselves to the personal contents of my neighbors’ homes. I have unfortunately been sensing a slow decline in my laptop’s function and performance over the past 6-12 months. It started with a sudden and seemingly random loss of speaker output. They worked one morning, and did not work that afternoon. And they have not worked since. So I got some external speakers, significantly decreasing the portability factor of the laptop! But at least I have sound. Likely a related issue, the microphone feature has also been rendered defunct. This came to my attention as I was attempting a Skype call with my friend Paula in Portland. I could hear her (through the external speakers only, obviously!) but she couldn’t hear me. Nor could she see me, but that’s understandable as this ANCIENT laptop (circa 2005!) does not have a webcam. Solution: break out the old hands-full microphone! Portability factor now even lower.

Next break-down was the Power button. Does not work. At. All. Push it, and nothing happens. Really jam it down in there (probably a really bad idea actually), and nothing happens. Luckily this machine has a “media quick start” feature in which a swipe of the touch pad at the top of the keyboard will directly open the media menu. I simply close that menu to access my desktop. Roundabout means of access, but effective. Of course, I recently made the “mistake” of shutting down my computer one morning instead of closing it up to put it to “sleep,” and the damn thing ran the “Shutting down” screen for more than 15 hours. It would probably still be running if I hadn’t disconnected the battery to force it. I realize this is not likely the finest technological solution.

I also have a very finicky CD-ROM drive. As in, it may or may not register to the computer that there is a disk with a program to run or a song list to play/input. This is increasingly frustrating since I just bought TurboTax 2010 and can’t get it to install or open. Somehow I intend to win this particular battle. Hopefully with a simple tactic such as restarting the computer.


A Macbook is looking more and more enticing. If only they didn’t cost DOUBLE what a PC laptop does! Of course, if I would stop buying cross-country plane tickets every few months, I’m sure I’d be amazed at the balance of my checking and savings accounts, and the prospect of paying double wouldn’t be so daunting!

For now, I’m making do. And the file backup is a good start on the road to protecting information, past projects, future endeavors, and some really great music.

Coming to you LIVE from 35,000 feet!

17 12 2010

This is a great day. Not only am I en route to Portland for a good old-fashioned Grbavac Family Christmas (6 for 6 ZG’s this year!!!), but I’m actually EN ROUTE as we speak… type… whatever. Delta flights have free onboard wi-fi for the holiday season. Merry Christmas to ME! This little nugget of free-ness feels like such an incredible luxury! I’m getting spoiled… I’ll probably have to budget some extra cash into my travel plans to accommodate my new onboard wi-fi addiction!

The Portland itinerary is definitely coming together… arrive late-ish Friday night to an already full Grba-house (Mom, Dad, Scott, Mark, Cousin Mike, and Cousin Katie)… Saturday will very likely bring a trek to the DuckShop for pictures with Santa Duck! (how can I pass that up this year?!)… Saturday night is the always epic Glug Party… Sunday night a new Cousin Christmas tradition will be born: Cousin Bar Night!… There’s Grbavac family Christmas supper at Mary Ann’s and a Ladies Day lunch and Nutcracker matinée downtown and meet-ups with friends and tons of great sibling togetherness time.

THIS is what Christmas looks like.

Fall 2010 Project: Photography

10 10 2010

This year, I’ve really started tapping into a more creative, more artistic side of myself. I bought a sewing machine and have completed quite a few wonderful projects: bags, aprons, baby dresses and burp cloths… And I have several ideas and plans for more projects in the textile medium.

But lately, I seem to be more taken with photography. I love turning my digital images into photo books with Shutterfly, and I think they (the photos and the books!) turn out pretty good! At least my friends and family all enjoy looking through them!

So it was really exciting when my friend Sunni asked me to take family photos of she and Brian and their (absolutely adorable!) 8 month old daughter. They have a really nice camera, which made me a little nervous, seeing as how this extremely amateur photographer barely utilizes the functions on my Kodak point-and-shoot! But I’m a quick study, and after a few test shots (while baby Sydney was getting into her first outfit!) we headed out to Glenwood Park for their Fall Family Photo Shoot!

As if there could even be a “bad” photo taken of this darling family!

Turning Broken, Trapped and Restless into Complete, Liberated and Fulfilled

28 07 2010

There is a new Plan for me. And yes, The Plan, is spelled with capital letters.

It is a multi-step project, which historically does not bode particularly well for Kristen of Instant Gratification. But the grand scale of The Plan necessitates organization and accomplishments made in several stages.

Baby steps.

And, I’m happy to report, the simple relinquishing of myself into the realization of The Plan has already made all the difference in me. I feel it. I am lighter, more optimistic, motivated toward this goal, even in the small baby steps I take.

And so it begins. Stage 1: Sell the House.

591 Warwick St SE – Atlanta, GA – 30316 – FMLS#: 4098583

The “good news” is that I’m not actually in a pressing must-sell situation, so I have the luxury of sitting back to just see what happens. If it sells in a week, GREAT! If it sells in 3 months, GREAT! If it’s still on the market in 6 months, well, it’s probably time to pull it off the market and revisit my selling strategy… But let’s focus on GREAT, shall we?!

Still the Best. Family. Ever.

25 07 2010

…. Sorry for the delay, there are big changes afoot for me… but that is a story for a later date…

Event #5: Zarosinski Family Graduation(s) Celebration – Vancouver, WA – Sunday, June 13

After we had ambled around Portland’s Saturday Market, indulging in cinnamon elephant ears and Isabella’s first taste of fresh lemonade, we headed north on I-5 to Vancouver (Washington, not Canada, to clarify!) where there was to be a Zarosinski mini-reunion. Although it turned out not to be quite so “mini” as we were only missing two of the 30 Don-Z’s.

“There is nothing worth sharing / like the love that let us share our name.” – Avett Brothers

Not too shabby! We were all here together celebrating FOUR cousin graduations: one college (Mark), two high school (Tom and Ian), and one 8th-grade (Anne). Not to mention Fathers Day, several birthdays, and Grandma and Papa’s Anniversary. In our family, the traditional Paper Towel Banner marks special occasions, usually holding court via some masking tape on a kitchen cupboard door. Thanks to cousin Kieran, the tradition stands… 

The weather was absolutely PERFECT, and we spent long hours outside with a delicious spread of food, great beers, and of course an obligatory basketball game.

Event #6: Cousin Michael’s Graduation from U of O – Eugene, OR – Monday, June 14

(Too) early Monday morning we headed back down I-5 to Eugene to attend yet another graduation ceremony. Once again, the weather was stunning, but I was quickly reminded how a sunshine-y summery day in Eugene will wreak havoc on my sinuses. I probably sneezed no less than 284 times in the 6 hours we were in town. But it did give me a great excuse for my watery eyes as graduate after graduate took to the stage at Mac Court (*oh, you sweet old Pit, how I adore you!) to announce their name, major, and a joyful burst of thanks and love to their families in the stands!

“Michael Klaas Zarosinski vanBronkhorst”… it’s a good thing everyone said their own name!

After the ceremony, we met for a reception on the patio at Excelsior. I spent four years at school in Eugene, and never had I once even stepped foot inside this darling Inn! It’s really a beautiful place. The restaurant and kitchen take up several rooms on the main level of the building, with 14 guest rooms tucked away upstairs. I think I’ll definitely be returning here, whenever the next Eugene-event occurs!

Event #7: Visiting Mary Ann’s New House Project – Lake Oswego, OR – Tuesday, June 15

The next day was my first Non-Pre-Scheduled Event Day of the trip, and unfortunately my last full day in town. So, naturally, I filled it right up! First up was an “After” tour of Mary Ann’s project at “Millie’s House,” where I had lived (when it was in its “Before” state) before I bought my townhouse. Then it was off to Lake Oswego to see the new house project. Very, VERY “Before.” But knowing MA, she’s going to do wonders and amazing things with this little place!

Event #8: Happy Hour with the Girls and NoPo Reunion with an ATL buddy

My last night in town, I was able to meet up with two of my oldest friends (Emily and Sarah – and Shawn!) at McMenamins for a bite to eat and a fast catch-up session. It wasn’t long enough to even scratch the surface, but it’s worth it to me to have even a few minutes at a time to stay in each others’ lives. Jill and I then met up with cousin Zach at his sweet condo for a whiskey and downtime. The east-facing wall is entirely windows, and though we didn’t get the 3-mountain view, we were treated to a full-rainbow spanning I-84 instead!

Then it was once last stop in North Portland to see an old friend of mine who had recently moved to Portland from Atlanta, no less! We had a slice of pizza and a couple of beers at Mississippi Pizza Pub, which is one of my absolute favorite spots in town. They have a great, cozy live-music spot and host the Portland Spelling Bee on Monday nights! It’s fantastic.

It was yet another fun, full, happy trip to Portland. And I found it much harder to leave this time than I’ve experienced in the recent past. I still get a little misty-eyed when I think about the breakdown I had when saying goodbye to my brother Scott. It had been two years since I’d seen him last, and it’s hard not knowing when the next time will be. I am so very grateful for the close relationships that the four Grba-siblings have built and maintained, despite the physical distance that continues to separate us.

There’s nothing better than LIKING your family just as much as you love them.