Sunday, September 29, 2013

Extreme Service: Meals on Wheels Edition

Back in college, I was in Alpha Phi Omega (APO), which is a national co-ed service organization. We did all kinds of different projects. Some were hard. Some were rewarding. Some were really fun. Some were soooo disgusting. There are a few that still stand out in my mind all these years later. And since I like to tell stories, you get to read about them..

One semester, Lori (my main partner in crime APO activities and everything else) and I decided to sign up for Meals on Wheels. (Just to be clear, we signed up for DELIVERING meals, not receiving them.) We got put on the Wednesday rotation for the Bryan route that not only had the most deliveries, but was also the most geographically-spread-out...a.k.a, the "let the college kids spend all of their gas money route".

On our first day to deliver, the MOW director went with us to show us the ropes and where we were going. This was before the days of GPS directions, but I'm pretty sure that some of the places we went wouldn't have been on GPS anyway. Or Tom Tom would have said "Are you sure you REALLY want to go there" if we had been able to punch in an address. But I digress.

The MOW dude was, well, full of advice on that first day. He showed us where to pick up the ice chest full of hot meals, explained how to tell if anyone got a special meal, and then we got in the car and made the rounds. The first couple of stops were what you would expect. He'd say, "this is Mrs. So-so. She's got arthritis, she'll talk your ear off if you let her." Or "this is Mrs. Other Lady, she's diabetic, but her son checks in on her regularly, too."

At this point, I have to point out that the first couple of stops were in older neighborhoods; ones that would have been brand-new middle class homes about thirty or forty years earlier. Now they were a little rundown, but not the kinds of neighborhoods you'd be afraid to end up in if you got lost.

The next few stops were literally in "the projects". At this point the MOW dude checked to make sure we had the Meals on Wheels dashboard sign in the car. Why, you ask? He calmly explained, "Because this area of Bryan, particularly the housing projects, has gangs and they don't like outsiders. But they don't mess with the MOW people delivering their grandma's lunch every day." It's really too bad there weren't cell phones with cameras back then, because the look on Lori's face at that moment was great; big eyes, open mouth, "what the hell have we gotten into" expression. Or maybe that was my expression that I caught in the rearview mirror. I imagine we both looked a little freaked out.

It turns out though, that MOW guy was right. We pulled up to an apartment unit that had three or four guys sitting outside drinking 40's (it was roughly 11am on a Wednesday). They really looked at the car with absolute hostility and then saw the sign. Their expressions changed almost immediately. They didn't give us any trouble. Not that day with MOW guy, or any of the times it was just Lori and me. They just greeted us and let us do our thing. One day, one of them even asked what his Granny was having for lunch that day, because it smelled good. (Just FYI, that was one of the RARE days it smelled good. Some days I thought my car would never not smell like cabbage.) But I digress, again.

After the gang banger stop, MOW guy directed us to the next stop in a different housing project, Mr. Hernandez. He smiled, chuckled really, and said, "I don't suppose either of you speak Spanish, do you? Mr. Hernandez doesn't speak any English. You just have to take the food straight back and put it on the table for him because he's in a wheelchair. Oh, and be careful, his apartment is very narrow. He'll station his wheelchair right in the middle of the room so that you have to walk pretty closely to him to get by. He's been known to slap the female volunteers on the ass, so be prepared." Well, either Mr. Hernandez didn't think I was his type, or my evil-eye death-stare did the trick, because he was never anything but a gentleman to me. I'm not sure if Lori can say the same.

"At this point, we've done most of the route as far as number of deliveries, there's only a couple left, but they are farther out of the city limits," MOW dude informed us. "First stop off the highway is a sweet lady who, unlike everyone else, does not want us to drop off her meal inside. She doesn't want strangers in her house (good for her) and will meet us outside." The lady really was sweet like MOW dude said. She knew we were students so she'd ask us what grade we were in. If we answered freshman/sophomore/junior/senior she would get a blank look. She didn't understand, so we learned to say we were in 15th grade or the whatever F/S/J/S equated to. She would say she was proud of us for staying in school that long and send us on our way.

After that nice lady, MOW dude informed us that our route "saved the best for last. We'll turn off the highway here. We'll go down this road a bit. There's a railroad crossing up ahead. Crazy women drivers need to be sure to look for trains." Again, this would have been an excellent time to have a camera, because the "WTF? Did he really just say that? I can't believe he said that" expressions on Lori's and my faces would have been priceless. And at that point, I was so caught off guard by his chauvinism that we could have easily been hit by a train. Jerk.

So, the crazy women drivers managed to get safely across the railroad track, and MOW dude directed us to turn off the road onto a blink-and-you'll miss it unpaved "road" surrounded by trees. His directions at this point included the words "see that burned out hull? That was a crack house before it went up in flames. We'll turn just past it." I can honestly say that "turn left past the burned-down crack house" had never been used in casual conversation for me. EVER. Until that day. After that, it was used every Wednesday because Lori and I would remind each other "turn left past the burned-down crack house" when we got there.

After we managed to make our last delivery, pass the ghost crack house on the way out and get back to the MOW office, I really think MOW dude expected us to quit right then. But Lori and I were made of tougher stuff than that. Or maybe we were just naive. Whatever we were, we were MOW drivers from that point on.

Friday, September 27, 2013

My chocolate milk theory for saving the world

Today's news headlines are depressing. Terrorists shooting up malls. Republican/Democrat deadlock that could shut down the country. War in the Middle East. Turmoil in Africa. Jimmy Kimmel and Kanye West in a rap beef. I'm so tired of it.

At the heart of all these problems are people. People who are mad. People who are hurting. People who are just plain assholes. We need to fix the people before we can solve anything else.

Clearly, I wouldn't be bringing this up if I didn't have a plan. And I do have a plan. One small step to improve everyone's foul dispositions.

I propose that every day each person on the planet should drink a glass of chocolate milk. (I bet you expected me to say wine, didn't you?) It is almost impossible to have a shitty attitude when you're drinking a glass of chocolate milk. (Unless you're lactose intolerant, then more than your attitude will be shitty. In that case, you're welcome to substitute a juice box or Capri Sun.)

Will a glass of chocolate milk save the world? Of course not. Will it make one person's attitude a little better? Possibly. Will that one person's improved attitude possibly improve the attitudes of the people they're in contact with regularly? Probably. Will the dairy industry support my theory? Incredibly likely...if they actually hear about it.  (Drafting an email now....)

So, go enjoy your weekend. Have a glass of chocolate milk and start saving the world.

p.s. Daily Oreos might also work.

p.s.s. Or maybe daily viewing of cute cat gifs.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Assembly required

I was just about to brag about how I made homemade pulled-chicken alfredo with angel hair pasta tonight. But I realize that by "made", I mean I opened a package of pasta and boiled it. And I opened a carton of pre-cooked chicken. And then I opened a jar of alfredo sauce and simmered it with the chicken.

So, I suppose I didn't "make" dinner, so much as I assembled it. Now I just need to find a way to "assemble" clean dishes.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My debit card was probably just afraid to go back in my purse.

If I ever go a whole week without temporarily losing my debit card, the skies will probably open up and swallow me. I spent an hour getting groceries at Sams only to realize I didn't have my card. I got home and dumped my purse. I did not find my card, but I did find:

1 change purse
1 credit/debit card holder (that was one card short)
3 hand sanitizers
3 chapsticks
3 lipsticks
2 lip glosses
1 hand lotion
3 hair clips
3 Sonic peppermints
1 USB cigarette lighter charger thingy
11 Coke lids
3 mechanical pencils
10 ball point pens
2 Sharpie pens
1 highlighter
$1.09 in loose change that should have been in the change purse
1 iPad
1 pair of headphones
1 digital camera
1 tape measure
1 cheap pair of backup sunglasses in case I lose the cheap ones that are usually on my head holding my hair back.

1 purple Mardi Gras necklace that I got at Summer Mummers in July during my wonderfully f'ed up weekend.

I didn't "earn" them. James did.

I think I have a problem.

p.s. I found the debit card where I always find the laundry with the jeans I was wearing last time I used it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

These are my online friends. I'm mostly sure they're real people. (updated)

Becoming a blogger introduced me to a whole new community - the blogging community. We are a wonderfully weird and diverse bunch of people who, individually, are funny and/or intelligent and/or crafty and/or sporty and/or geeky, but as a group would make for the worlds' most awkward dinner party. EVER.

Anyway, you should check out their blogs. You might find your new online happy place with them.

According2Robyn -  a professor writing about nerdy stuff like comic books and biology and whatnot. I don't always know what she's talking about, but I feel smarter after I read it.

Robyn Straley - a different Robin. She about using her gold for making the world a better place, or something like that. She says it more eloquently than I just did, though.

Sweet Southern Love  -  my young friend Christy who I used to babysit years ago. She is tackling life with style and lots of love for Texas.

Confessions of the Professional Drama Queen - a student who I'm pretty sure lives in the UK because she uses "colour" and "favour" when she posts. Or she's just a pompous American (you need to see Drew Barrymore in  "Never Been Kissed" if you don't understand that reference).

Sports Junkie and Female - Miss D is probably the only gal I know who likes football as much as (probably more than) I do. 

And of course, the woman who inspired me to start my blog, The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson.

Go read their stuff. And keep reading mine. (Thank you, for reading, by the way.) And if you like what you read, share some link love with a friend. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why can't I just dream about The Rock?

Last night I dreamed that the orthodontist removed my braces and my teeth came out with them. They unrooted (uprooted? derooted?) themselves one-by-one as he pulled the wire away. It was disturbing, to say the least, so today I Googled dream analysis and got a few potential explanations for my dream.  (Because Google is clearly the place to go when I think something serious is going on in my brain.)

The most common analysis is that I'm afraid to look foolish, either in my actions or my appearance. Yeah, that hits the mark pretty close. That's why I got the braces in the first place. I want to have pretty teeth and not occasionally unintentionally whistle when air passes through the gap in my front two teeth. (It happens more than I like to admit.)

Me before the braces.

Another theory went into menopausal women and I just stopped reading. I am not menopausal. No, really. I'm not that old yet. I'm just cranky.

Stop. We're not going there.

The last (hopefully) applicable source said that dreaming of losing teeth is tied to receiving money and the tooth fairy legend. You know, your tooth falls out, you put it under your pillow and the tooth fairy brings you some dough. And if the tooth fairy looked like this, I'd pull my teeth myself to get to meet him:

The Rock as the Tooth Fairy. A myth I could really sink my teeth into.

I like the idea that this weird dream is a premonition of coming into money. But not at the expense of my teeth. I don't want to have to spend any potential windfall on dentures.

What's your weirdest dream? (And just to be clear, this isn't my weirdest dream, it's just my most recent weird dream.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

On dragons and princesses

Once upon a time, a big green dragon decided to kidnap a princess. He flew up to her turret of the castle and went in the window. Just as he was about to grab the princess, she pulled a sword out of the skirts of her gown and chopped off his head.

The princess had the dragon's head mounted over the fireplace in the castle's great hall and turned the rest of the dragon into a really cute pair of sling back shoes, with matching purse and luggage.

The end. 

Lesson #1: Long skirts are good for hiding stuff.
Lesson #2: Don't mess with princesses; they kill for the right accessories.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Adventures in babysitting: giggle-screams and magic water

My friend Christy has been posting childhood pictures of herself and her sister Cymbre on Facebook. And these pictures (like pretty much everything else) REALLY take me back. You see, I know Christy and her sister because way back when they were little girls (around four and six years old), I was their babysitter. I babysat for a handful of families when I was a teenager, but Christy and Cymbre are the source of my very favorite babysitting story. They are the reason that every time my friends and I would trade babysitting horror stories I would ALWAYS win. See, Christy and Cymbre were really sweet and well-behaved little girls, but somehow the planets just seemed to line up against us.

Flashback to 1986 or so: Christy was probably about six and Cymbre was about four. My job as babysitter for that night was to watch a little TV with the girls, make sure they got a bath, put them to bed and then read on the couch until their folks got home. Easy peasy, right? Yeah…not so much.

The evening started out okay-ish. We watched the taped (this was WAAAAAYYYYY before DVR) episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse they hadn’t seen yet. In case you don’t remember Pee Wee’s Playhouse, during every episode, Pee Wee would give a “word of the day.” When you heard the word of the day, you were supposed to scream. I’m pretty sure the word of the day was “THE” because Christy and Cymbre pretty much giggle-screamed for an entire hour. And then it was bath time.

The girls didn’t argue or cause any problems when I told them it was bath time, which should have told me something catastrophic was about to happen. They jumped in the bathtub, washed and giggle-screamed some more and then got out of the tub. They didn’t actually bother to grab towels and dry off; they just went straight to their bedroom and started digging out pajamas. And this was when things got fishy. Literally. 

See, the girls shared a dresser. A dresser with a fishbowl on top. Christy opened a drawer to get out underwear and a second drawer to get pajamas. Cymbre opened a third drawer to get out underwear and a fourth drawer to get pajamas. Neither girl, however, actually closed a drawer. Can you see where this is going? Four open drawers caused the dresser to lean forward. And the fish bowl slid right off and spilled into the open drawers that were full of previously clean and dry clothes. And the girls went bonkers.

The giggle-screams changed to terror-screams. The girls started running around, totally freaking out. And they were still wet. And still completely naked.  It was pretty much every babysitter’s nightmare.

Finally, the girls calmed down enough for me to figure out EXACTLY why they were freaking out so badly. It wasn’t the fish water that spilled all over their underwear (which would have been MY particular problem); it was the fact that the fish itself was nowhere to be seen. So I had to paw through layers of wet clothes while trying to talk the girls into getting dressed in order to save a $1.99 goldfish. 

Finally the fish was found, and by some miracle it was still alive. I am eternally grateful for that, because I was in no way prepared to have a fish funeral at that point. I put water back in the bowl, tossed in the fish and turned around to smile at the girls and assure them that everything was okay. I expected them to be happy; possibly even look at me with a little hero-worship going on at that point, but no. They weren’t smiling. They were BAWLING. What the hell? Cymbre informed me that the fish was going to die because her mom gave him “magic water.” Magic water?  Once again, what the hell? (Laura or Preston, if you read this, please know I didn’t say “what the hell” in front of your kids, but I was certainly thinking it.) I assured the girls that the fish would be fine until their folks got back and their mom could hocus pocus the water. I don’t think they believed me. I probably wouldn’t have believed me either if the tables were turned.

Finally Christy and Cymbre calmed down and got in bed. That little “emergency” must have worn them out because they crashed hard. I didn’t read (as planned) until their parents got home because I was just too frazzled and a little worried about trying to explain the events of the evening. Preston and Laura were pretty cool about it and just laughed at me. I mean, they laughed with me. No. They laughed at me, because I wasn’t able to laugh about it myself until a few years later.

Monday, September 2, 2013

College football season has begun. Let's reminisce a little and then talk again in February.

I love football. And just to be clear, for the purposes of today's blog, I am referring to American football...aka...the kind of football where only a couple of players actually use their foot on the ball. But whatever. 

Once again, I love football. I'll watch any kind. Pee Wee football, high school football, arena football, semi-pro, NFL...but my favorite football is college football. I grew up in West Texas, just 30 miles from Ratliff Stadium's "Friday Night Lights," so I thought I knew what big-time football and being a football fan was. And then I went to college. 

First Aggie football game. Sweaty, sunburned and loving every minute. This was before the days of the maroon outs, which is good because I probably would have had a heat stroke in maroon.

In case I haven't actually mentioned it before, I went to college at Texas A&M University back in the early-to-mid 1990s. Back then, the Southwest Conference still existed, and the Aggies were the biggest dogs in the yard. We won the conference my first three years there. It was such an electric atmosphere. I can still, very vividly, remember going to my first home game at Kyle Field. As freshmen, we had "the worst seats in the house" that were actually still pretty good seats. We could see everything...because we were on the third deck, with only three rows behind us...which means we were as high up as you could possibly get without being in the blimp that would occasionally fly over on game days. We were high enough up that there were birds flying BELOW us, which is kind of a trippy thing to experience. But it was awesome. I've never been part of something so BIG. It was humbling and empowering all at the same time. Around halftime, they flashed the game's attendance on the screen. 66,281. Twenty-two years have passed and I remember that number. 66,281. It was approximately SIX TIMES the population of my home town. That was hard for me to wrap my head around.

Over the years I went to a bunch of football games and I still remember some of them specifically. (I only missed one home game in four years because at Midnight Yell the night before I "fell off Kyle Field" and broke my foot.) Of the games where my foot wasn't broken, some of them have some great stories. In fact, one game has such a great story that it will NEVER go on this blog because my parents read this. 

Texas A&M vs LSU. First stop: New Orleans. What happens on Bourbon Street, stays on Bourbon Street..

So, on to a family-friendly story. My freshman year, after going to all of the home games, my roommate Jennifer, her hometown friend Trey, Trey's weird roommate Dave and I all decided we were true Texas Aggie fans and as true fans we needed to support our Aggies at an away game. Pretty much the only away game left that wasn't too far to drive to was TCU in the first weekend of November (1991). We got our tickets, crammed Dave's nearly 7-foot-tall self into my little Cavalier and we hit the road. 

Now, just before we had left town that day, news of Freddie Mercury's death had broken on MTV. (That was when people still watched MTV for music and music news.) Dave was distraught. As a self-proclaimed "music-phile" (who said he loved ALL music, but refused to listen to country, the big hypocrite), Dave mourned Freddy Mercury's death all the way the TCU. If I had a dollar for every time he said, "I just can't believe he's DEAD," I could have bought him a bus ticket for the ride home. By the time we got to the Amon G. Carter stadium on the TCU campus, I was ready to tell him to "man up, there's no crying in football" or whatever, but instead I just made sure to sit on the other end from him so that I didn't say something mean. Or punch him in the throat. 

Before I get on to the game, I feel like I need to share something I learned on the drive there (beyond the names of every song written or co-written by Freddy Mercury). I learned that when you're in traffic and you really need to exit RIGHT NOW to get to the stadium, and you have a Texas A&M sticker in your window, other Aggies will slow down and let you exit. Or they'll be gracious and take turns letting other Aggies out when leaving a packed parking lot. This was eye-opening to me for two reasons: first, it was the realization (again) that "I'm part of something bigger than just myself." Second, it was the realization that this courtesy was only extended away from home. Back in College Station, the same person who just let me cut in because I missed my exit in Fort Worth wouldn't think twice about cutting me off at home trying to get to the Dixie Chicken. 

Now, back to the game. It was a blowout (the final score was something along the lines of 52-7). And it was cold. Like, windchill-factor-of-negative-nine cold. And then it started snowing. Almost everyone in the stadium left. But not us. Oh no. We were true fans. We just moved down closer to the field once all the seats started clearing out. We were literally right behind the team benches before it was all said and done. Now, being that close to the field in a practically empty stadium, we could hear almost everything that happens on the field...the play calls, the cursing, and the hits.

A&M had a ginormous player on defense that year named Quentin Coryatt. And on a play towards the end of the game, he managed to sack the quarterback. But he didn't just pull him down. Oh no. He hit him. HARD. The sound of the hit in the almost-empty stadium was alot like a gunshot. That quarterback was down forever. When he finally came to, they carted him off the field. We found out later that Coryatt broke that quarterback's jaw with that hit. I'm glad I didn't know that at the time I heard the sound. It might have made me sick. 

Eventually, the second-longest football game of my life was finally over. (TTU vs LSU is the longest, but we don't talk about that one.) I guess the ride home from the game was uneventful. I don't remember much about it except being glad my car had a heater. 

Top left, 1st home game. Second row right, TCU game. Bottom, first A&M vs t.u. game

So, back to the present day. Now, I still love college football.  But I don't only cheer for the Aggies. I've worked at TTU twice as long as I went to school at A&M, so I'm a Red Raider fan, too. I catch alot of crap about it from my Aggie friends, but TTU is where I spend my days. It's where I actually come into contact with the players that end up on the field. It's my home now. I may wear red and black, but I will always bleed maroon. (I'll even occasionally cheer for Texas when they're playing against a non-Texan team in a bowl game or something. It's hard, and kind of leaves a vinegary taste in my mouth, but it seems like the right thing to do. I REFUSE to wear burnt orange, though. That shit's just ugly.)

These days when I watch college football, I do it from the comfort of my couch at home, or occasionally at a sports bar when I can talk my girl friends into watching with me. I don't have the patience for the heat or the people the way I used to, so I rarely go to the games. But no matter where I watch the game, or even which team I root for, it's still great being part of something bigger than myself. 

So, during the Fall, if you don't hear from me on the weekends, don't worry too much. I haven't been kidnapped and I haven't slipped and cracked my head on the bathtub. It's just that the Aggies are playing. Or the Red Raiders. And then on Sunday the Cowboys. Or the Texans....