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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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….

Sad Sushi and Book Recs (Or Random Procrastination)

I have a confession: SugarFish has basically ruined all other raw fish for me. Today I thought I’d make a feeble attempt at frugality, so I walked to the Sushi Stop up the street for lunch instead. I saved myself a sad $18 and ended up with salmon I wanted to feed to the dog because it just wasn’t on a bed of warm, sticky rice.

Albus will now have albacore for dinner because I just couldn’t choke that down…

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And because I love the goofy bastard more than I love people.

He really is, like, literally a bastard. He doesn’t actually have a daddy — a truth that troubles my grandmother during the rare, lucid moments when she remembers who I am.

She recently asked me no less than four times in the span of a 15 minute conversation if I had a boyfriend. Each time I simply answered, “no,” while my aunt sniped at her in the background a) for repeating herself, and b) for caring more about my relationship status than my career. My grandma finally said, “Hedy said I asked you that question five times.”

“It was four. Tell her she can’t count.”

We are not nice people.

I don’t mean to mock dementia because it’s awful watching the woman who used to send you care packages full of homemade cookies forget how to turn on her stove, but if I’m being honest I must admit we ALL feel like we’re losing our minds with the situation. It’s hard on everyone — including her.

The whole thing has given me an idea for a novel, though, so I’m starting to outline the story beats.

I have procrastinated by reading other people’s books long enough. It’s time to try to write my own.

But before I do that, here’s one last ditch effort at procrastination:

A short list of the best books I’ve read recently while not writing my own stuff.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – This book is super disturbing and you may not want to be my friend any more after you read it, but I promise you won’t be able to put it down. I finished it in 24 hours.

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall – This is one of most delightful books I’ve read in absolutely forever. I devoured it in four days and was devastated when it ended. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Polly. The woman shoots blanks at squirrels, doesn’t understand why her daughter’s Jesus doesn’t let her drink margaritas, and brings a falcon to a parent-teacher conference. I want to be Polly when I grow up.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – This is not to be confused with Still Alice, which I can’t bring myself to read because of the whole-my-Grandma-doesn’t-know-who-I-am-thing. Coincidentally, it also deals with memory loss, but in a charming, Moriarty kind of way that leads to love and stuff.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – Yes, Liane again. This woman can write. Trust.

And now I really will work on my outline because I’m not trying to wait tables for the rest of my life.

Also?

I need to make more money so I don’t have to make any more sacrifices that involve cold sushi rice.