Fruit Baskets and Other Thoughts (Or Please Help Luis)

I grew up in Michigan. I went to college in Michigan. During the summer after my freshman year of college, I lived in Santa Barbara, California.

The reason for my relocation?

I was recruited to sell books by a Nashville-based publishing company. I ran my own business cold-calling clients by selling books door-to-door.

They weren’t encyclopedias; they were study guides that were essentially like having a teacher’s guide for subjects ranging from English to algebra, and the books spanned kindergarten through high school advanced placement levels.

I carried a 25-pound case on my back and biked through the city of Santa Barbara six days a week, working 80-85 hours per week. To this day, it remains one of the most challenging AND rewarding experiences of my entire life.

(I’ll tell the story of my visit to the ER another time.)

While, I was handsomely compensated financially for my efforts, the lasting reward of that job was the human aspect: the people whose lives I touched, the people who also touched mine.

After selling the books, I personally delivered them to each family at the end of the summer, and showed each individual how they could access the information inside.

I lived in a primarily white and privileged neighborhood in the San Roque district of Santa Barbara that summer, but I canvassed every neighborhood in the city, regardless of its socioeconomic status. I spent weeks in a Hispanic neighborhood in the city. I remember “white” people warning me not to venture into the Hispanic neighborhoods — especially since I was carrying cash.

I didn’t listen.

I’m incredibly glad I didn’t.

Those “dangerous” Hispanic neighborhoods brought me the most joy that summer. I was welcomed into so many homes, and my hosts fed me lavishly. I met warm, honest people with an incredible work ethic and a strong sense of family — the kind of generous, caring people who made me feel at home even 3,000 miles away from my own.

These were people working two and three jobs to support their children.

I will never forget a white man telling me later that summer the “lazy Mexicans were ruining everything.” I was livid. I wanted to shout at him and storm out the door.

I wish I had.

I regretted not doing so that night when I went to bed, and I still regret it to this day. I’d like to think I would do that now.

One of my clients was a gardener in the neighborhood where I lived. We would wave at each other every day as I rode off for work, and I will never forget the day I sat down with his sons to show him how to find their algebra answers.

Sure, it was a business, but for me it was a service.

My dad flew out from Michigan, rented a car, and helped me deliver the books. He was by my side as I delivered the books to the families and showed them how to use them.

That summer is one I will never forget, and neither will my dad.

20 years later, I find myself managing a sports bar.

Most of our cooks are from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico and so are our busboys. I can honestly say the same warmth and generosity of spirit exists with our staff that existed in the families I met in Santa Barbara half a lifetime ago. We have staff who have been loyally serving for more than 25 years.

Luis is one of those men.

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Here were are mugging for the camera.

Luis has hand washed dishes, stocked produce, and bussed tables faithfully for the San Francisco Saloon for more than 30 years. He rides the bus to work each day.

Now he is experiencing a life-threatening health issue.

In his absence, a few of us have stepped up to do his job ourselves, and I know I speak for all of us when I say it is incredibly hard work. It is the hard, thankless work that often goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

Initially when Lou’s daughter told us he needed a few weeks off, I set out to make him a fruit basket because his diet has been restricted of late.

My coworkers stepped up to contribute, and I assembled a nice basket.

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Fruit

Like duh.

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Fruit with a card.

Per usual, my helper didn’t exactly help.

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He was too busy throwing shade.

He isn’t into anything that doesn’t involve meat — or scratches on his big, boxy Boxer head. (I love him anyway.)

Nevertheless, I persisted.

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I finished the basket off with a bow.

(Duh.)

I brought it to Luis yesterday, and I met his wife for the first time. Though she doesn’t speak a word of English, and my Spanish is lame at best, I was blessed to spend time with them. She made me feel welcome, and she even gave me gifts.

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The basket was made in Oaxaca, and the bag is meant for grocery shopping.

I left their home wanting to do more.

Luis was admitted to the hospital hours after I left his home.

The state of California limits us as his employer to only 40 hours of sick pay, despite his 30+ years of loyal service.

That is why I created a GoFundMe for his family. I want to do more for my hard-working friend than a basket full of bananas. While I’m grateful to my coworkers for chipping in for fruit, I want to up the ante.

In less than 24 hours, I am proud to say we are already at 40% of the goal. I would love to demolish that goal.

I know there are many worthy causes, so no pressure… I will obviously still love you even if you don’t contribute, but here’s the link just in case: HELP THE RAMOS FAMILY.

OK, that’s all.

Goodnight.

 

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Bobby’s Birthday (Or I make another gift basket)

My friend Rob’s birthday was yesterday, so I set out to make it special. I conspired with his girlfriend, Mary, to make sure I picked up all of his favorite movie theater candy, and the boys chipped in as well — including Albus.

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He picked out the golf balls at Dick’s.

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There were a lot of options. 

I wanted to package the goodies in a practical way, so I picked up a collapsable organizer from Marshall’s.

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Here’s the pre-assembly situation.

I put a bow on the bag because everything is better with bows — even gifts for boys. (I think I’ve said that before, but you can never say it too many times.)

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Every item in here has a story, naturally.

For example, Rob loves sloths, so I bought one for him. I used my glue gun to put the AMC gift card in his hot little sloth hand. The weird man ballerina box contains Australian sour gummies. I made the Twinkle Toes sign because Tim calls everyone Twinkle Toes, and he was one of the boys who chipped in for the gift. (Matt was the other.)

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It seemed like the right thing to do.

Tim, Rob, Matt, and I are all dog people, so a card mocking a cat seemed like the right choice.

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Larry, Daryl, and Anita are our aliases.

Basically, we think they’re terrible names, so we call each other by them as a form of demented endearment.

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m blasting some Danzig and breaking out my book outline.

Bye!

Bubbas and Baby Nuggets (Or New Baby Gift Baskets)

I’m writing again — and not just on my blog. I’m back to figuring out the story points of my novel. Outlining is the tedious, necessary part I don’t always love, but you can’t build a house without a floorpan any more than you can write a decent story without figuring out its structure first.

So there’s that….

There’s also this:

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The Bubba made a gift basket for his Auntie Nicole.

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Okay, I did most of the work.

He doesn’t have opposable thumbs after all.

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But he took most of the credit.

(Like boys do.)

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In his defense, he did help with the clean up… of chicken scraps on the floor.

He excels at eating meat off of all surfaces (even linoleum).

Wanna see why he we made the basket?

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Because Albus has a new nugget of a cousin.

She is divine.

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And I got to hold her.

Because new moms have their hands full with breastfeeding, diaper changes, and watching nuggets sleep, I figured I should feed Nicole.

I made two kinds of tuna salad, a chicken salad, pasta bolognese, and buckeyes. (I don’t approve of anything that could be construed as pro-Ohio — particularly when I’m making a gift basket for a fellow Michigan alum, but peanut butter is just meant for chocolate — so I rationalized that Wolverines devouring Buckeyes is metaphorical… or something.)

Recipe links are here:

Green Goddess Tuna Salad (I omitted the tarragon because we don’t get along terribly well.)

Tuna and Artichoke Cooler Pressed Sandwiches (Meaghan and I used this recipe for Katy’s baby shower years ago. It’s divine.)

Pasta Bolognese (Full disclosure: I skipped the veal and used 3/4 lb of ground pork and 3/4 lb of ground beef because veal makes me cry — and because bolognese needs extra meat.)

Buckeyes (There are millions of variations of this recipe. The key is using some Crisco in the chocolate to help it melt evenly.)

I’ll do a proper post on the curry chicken salad another time, as it is my mummy’s recipe and can’t be found online.

Tim and I ate the rest of it for lunch on Monday. (It was a hit. #likeduh)

Now, it’s time to get back to my outlining. (Barf)

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Tower of Sierra (Or Overboard Beer Birthday Cake)

Last Thursday was Tim’s birthday. Because he’s one of my favorite people on the planet I decided I should embarrass him on the day of his birth.

So I made this:

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It’s a tower of Sierra Nevada. 

Tim loves Sierra and dogs, so it seemed like the perfect present. (Like, DUH.)

The thing is, making things for people is kind of like a present for me because it’s an excuse to get out my paints and my glue gun.

Glue guns are everything.

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I made this sign with watercolor paints and a fine tipped pen.

Then I glued it on with my gun.

“Two please” is one of our inside jokes.

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So is the Boxer’s sign.

It’s a reference to a rather ridiculous argument Tim and I had recently.

The layers between the bottles are cardboard cake rounds that I covered in gold foil.

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I couldn’t bear the idea of white cardboard sticking out.

Who could?

Anyway…

The topper is a weird watercolor thing that sort of reminds me of the eye of a hurricane combined with a rooster. I don’t know why it looks this way. It’s just what came out when I was painting, and I went with it.

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It’s pretty whacked, but whatever.

The nicknames on the topper are probably only funny to us, but that was sort of the point. (I’m “The Worst,” and none of us are actually named “Darryl” — just in case you were wondering.)

The pups’ party hats were cupcake toppers. I cut the stems off of them and then glued them on their heads with my gun.

See?

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I NEED a Dalmatian puppy like NOW.

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And probably a Lab puppy too.

MY puppy wasn’t so helpful in the construction.

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He basically slept through the entire process.

Did you notice his hideous couch?

It’s gone now.

Tim helped me haul it away today and now I have a shiny new one.

(More on that another day.)

Oh, and one last thing before I go — Tim’s birthday card.

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He loves Snickers.

He also has a Chihuahua named Baby who bit him on the face the day he brought him home, so this little Chihuahua is saying sorry on behalf of Baby.

Okay, that’s really all for now.

Couch post later.

Gift Wrap Goodness (Or Presents for People I Love)

I like presents.

I like giving them, I like getting them, and I LOVE wrapping them.

Since we’re just ending the holiday season, I thought I should show you some of my giftiness.

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This was a book for Dan.

Dan is from Minnesota (where the moose hang out). Dan likes Jameson, books, and bread pudding. I didn’t have time to make him dessert, but I did make him dinner on Christmas day, so there’s that.

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This was a bartening book for Tim. (He asked for it.)

Tim can be grumpy, but he always brings me clean socks, new shirts, and salad without tomatoes or raw onions because he knows I hate them. He has like 32,000 dogs, so I had to wrap his present in pugs. (Also? I garnished his gift with a lamb’s ear covered in liver paste for one of his beasts.)

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My boss, Brian, likes bread and recipes, so this was for him.

It was a soup recipe book because he’s bonkers for soup. I added some holiday flair in the way of bulbs to counteract his seasonal “Ba-Humbug” situation.

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This naughty nugget and his gift were for Lauren.

Lauren is my dog’s fairy godmother. She lets him sleep with her whenever he spends the night, and we both love her to death.

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This little mouse and his books were for Jody.

Jody and I have been friends since we were 19 years old. We met while we were having meltdowns in edit bays in Ann Arbor, and the rest is history. 20 years later, we’ve been together for funerals, birthdays, Christmas Mass, and everything in between. This is a stack of Narnia books for her son, Connor, who just happens to be my birthday buddy. 

Jody attended my church Christmas Tea in December, and I gave her a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Connor was HOOKED, so I bought her the rest of the series.

More on the church Christmas Tea later….

Birthdays, Bows, and Banana Leaf Jammies (Or Hedy’s Birthday)

Monday is my Aunt Hedy’s birthday. (It also happens to be Tom Cruise’s birthday too — in case you care.)

Hedy’s leaving tomorrow for her annual holiday in Hawaii, so it was imperative that I deliver her present today.

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OK, technically it was presents, plural, but whatever. 

I put shells on her plunder because she’s planning to bask on the beach for two weeks like a boss, and I like to be thematically appropriate when I can.

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I may have used a glue gun… and paint pens.

Also?

I made sure the ribbons matched the card because I’m me — and I care about things like that.

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Please ignore the dog toys on the floor. 

My attention to detail only goes so far; sometimes usually there’s an errant dog toy in my pics. (I’m all about gift wrap, but photography and I are NOT friends.)

So that’s the latest in my life.

Well, that and the super important thing that happened yesterday: my Katie Kime jammies arrived!!! They are a banana leaf print with a pink monogramed breast pocket and they are the absolute PINNACLE of bedtime fashion.

More on that later… I promise.

Now I need to kiss my beast on his gorgeous dog face 14,000 times before I go to work.

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Enjoy your nap while I slave to keep you in kibble, kid.

Just kidding!!!

He’s the best baby ‘roo who ever lived, and I’d do anything to make him happy.

Of Cancer and Gift Baskets (Or Smiles and Tears)

Friday my monster had surgery.

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His post-op lampshade situation was short-lived, however.

He figured out how to remove it because he is a canine criminal mastermind — even when he’s high on morphine.

I am supposed to find out this week if his cancer spread and if we’re facing the beginning of a battle — or the end. I try to put it out of my head as much as I can because I don’t want to waste time worrying until I know it’s necessary, but prognosis aside, his three big incisions break my heart. I almost cried when I saw them.

Full confession: I love my dog more than I love most people, so this isn’t easy. Maybe that makes me a misanthrope, or maybe he’s just a very special beast. Either way, I have been loathe to leave my house since bringing him home from the vet. I’ve turned down dinner invitations, hiking offers, and I bailed on book club. I just want to be home so I can watch him sleep.

Here he is crushing Cee Cee the Cancer Lion during a recent nap.

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Die Cancer Lion! Die!

I bought Cee Cee for him the day his initial needle biopsies came back positive for cancer. I cried so much that night that I woke up the next morning with my right eye nearly swollen shut. I had to ice my eyelids before I went to work. (It wasn’t awesome.)

I did manage to drag myself away from my patient this weekend to make an appearance at a baby shower, albeit, a brief appearance.

I probably spent more time putting together the gift basket than I spent at the shower, but I did what I could.

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I like presents.

That’s why I get carried away making them look pretty for people.

Like this one.

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Even boys need bows on their birthday. Fact.

Presents help me deal — and they help me express things I sometimes fail to communicate properly.

That’s also why I cook for people. It’s my way of saying I care about them even if I’m lousy at saying it sometimes.

Okay, enough rambling. I’m off to blast some Matoma remixes and make myself a quiche because I need to show myself a little love via my mouth now.