Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

There's been a few steps of beautiful inlaid wood, but plenty patches of worn carpet and wood so thin it threatened to collapse beneath me. Some were basked in sunshine; others, not so much. There were times (OK, much of 2007...and 2006.. and maybe 2005) when I would spontaneously start crying while my mind wandered when I was driving. There were times I feared I would never get a "real job," and times I wished I were still in college.

But these times ain't so desperate.

I've dropped some of the baggage. I've made plans. I'm not there yet, but I've gone up a few steps. (In fact, I walked 44 miles in three days. Lots of steps...) I've finally found the right pace of vaguely knowing where I'm going, but not putting too much pressure on myself. I still stress about the details, but I would say my staircase is starting to spiral. And the carpet is starting feel thicker.

So, I don't need to make resolutions. I know where's I am and have a good idea of where's I'm going. And that's enough. When I finds it kinder hard, I'll just keep climbing.
I've hemmed. I've hawed. Walking in the Washington, D.C. 3-Day took months of preparation - but it helped me get in better shape, introduced me to some amazing women, and challenged me to try things I normally wouldn't try. Oh, and I raised $2,300 in a horrid, horrid economy to help advance breast cancer research, give cancer patients access to treatments they otherwise couldn't afford and raise awareness.

Do it again?

Sorry, after some careful considerations: Not this year.

I walked in 2007 in Chicago, crewed in 2008 in Chicago, and obviously walked this year in Washington, D.C. Some of the other Ms. America Tatas have dedicated themselves to walking in San Diego in 2010, but I need a break from traveling, training and WHATEVER IT WAS THAT CAUSED THOSE BLISTERS. (Despite the 3-Day medic's advice, I haven't yet been to see a podiatrist. But if I walk again, I will.)

So, I'll be crewing in Chicago in August. I hope there will be a costume involved. Perhaps driving a sweep van or working at a Grab 'N' Go.

And I'll continue to blog about the 3-Day and babble about it to anyone who shows a remote interest. (Consider yourself warned.)

(If you're a 3-peater and on the fence about what to do in 2010, read a few of the comments on this old post. I know a lot of walkers find creative ways to raise the money year after year, while others are inspired to lead training walks, crew, and otherwise support those who keep walking.)
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The first ones stirred about 4:30. They wanted a cigarette break and a cup of coffee, which was strong and peppered with wayward grounds. About 18 shapeless figures slept on pads in the church basement, a lattice divider sectioning off an area for women.

In the kitchen, one volunteer commented on the age of the stove and range as he piled chopped potatoes, onion and margarine into a skillet. The second volunteer arranged two pounds of bacon on baking sheets wrapped with aluminum foil, not realizing the bacon strips would bake together in the oven. They would make eggs to order (most seemed to like them over-easy) and let the "guests" arrange their plates with bacon, potatoes and toast.

This church is part of a network of area churches that take turns hosting homeless men, women and children throughout the winter months. The guests get dinner, a place to sleep, a place to shower (in some locations) and breakfast. They need to be out the door by 7 a.m. with a sack lunch in hand.

The volunteers are broken into three shifts a night, and most only work one night a month. But the general rhythm of repetition held the schedule together. (That, and the typed instructions hanging, laminated, on the cupboard door.)

A regular guest popped into the kitchen, announced he'd help out this morning, took inventory of the sack lunches, set out some cream and sugar for the coffee and popped out as quickly as he popped in. The first volunteer set the steaming potatoes on a table outside the kitchen pass-through and took his first egg orders from still-groggy guests. The second volunteer tackled some dishes left in the sink and dug around for stuff to put on toast: real salted butter, grape jelly and - upon one guest's request - Miracle Whip.

The bits of conversation that wafted from the dining area into the kitchen seemed akin to what you'd expect at a church lock-in, a train station waiting room before the morning rush, or perhaps a campground picnic area. Some were groggy. Some were joking. One asked another to rinse out an empty orange juice jug and fill it with water he could take with him that day. Some wished others Merry Christmas.

It wasn't obvious if any suffered from mental illness. It wasn't obvious if they had been homeless for a day or for years. It wasn't obvious if any had criminal records. It wasn't obvious how many exemplified or disproved the stereotypes of the homeless, but I'd be willing to bet money both sides of that coin were represented.

But I can tell you, this volunteer (the one who baked the bacon into a crumbly mass, the one who wouldn't have been confident cooking eggs for 18) was kinda sad she was distracted when they passed out the Christmas bags -- lunch bags decorated by school kids and filled with candy, microwave popcorn, toothbrushes and other goodies.

Sometimes there's no need to ask questions when the details are fuzzy. The gifts - breakfast and candy - seemed small in light of what I assume is a daily struggle to get by. But sometimes, it's enough to give when there's a need.

It was a good way to start Christmas Eve.

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... unless I was so pretty no one cared that I couldn't cook :)

To recap the last three days: I baked three loaves of pumpkin bread on Friday. BlackJack got one - sadly, not the one that caved in while it was cooling because I took it out of the oven too early. But I didn't find any mushy, unbaked spots in the third one when I dissected it. And one out of three ain't bad, right?

Yesterday, I did two loaves of a new eggnog break recipe I found online. No drama there, other than the fact that I've never eaten anything like that before, so I have no idea if anyone will like it. I made two loaves of gingerbread, and both split down the middle when I was taking them out of the pan. I guess in a way, I now have four loaves of gingerbread. (Sigh).

Just now, I may or may not have burned another batch of pumpkin bread. It smells burny -- not so burny that the smoke detectors went off, but definitely not a spicey kinda smell normally associated with pumpkin bread. We shall see.

Now, it's time for a batch of homemade dog treats. Pretty sure those will go quickly even if they're a little brown ...

Who wudda thought that something like this:

would come in a bag like this:

I was the LUCKY person that got the INFAMOUS wreath at my book club's white elephant exchange. Surprisingly enough, no one chose to "steal" this from me over opening an unwrapped white elephant.