I wasn’t nearly as proactive as I should have been with last month’s project. This has nothing to with my passion, which hasn’t dwindled in the least, I’m just having a time figuring out how to navigate between being charitable and just plain obnoxious. Because, like I’ve said before, I don’t expect everyone to just keep giving giving and giving, because hello burnout, paying bills, feeding your children, and…life.
Nevertheless, I’ve still managed to collect some really wonderful things; things that will go a long way in turning these houses into homes.
After the Coalition sent me a list of the items needed for each unit – things most of us never even think about – I put out the call and, within a week, had collected many of them!
Then, my sweet and talented artist-friend, Brittany, had the most brilliant, thoughtful idea: We should donate pieces of art to pretty up the walls of each unit.
Why didn’t I think of that?
So, for the past month she’s been putting her all into a happy, colorful, and beautiful drawing. I’ll get multiple prints, so that each of these earth-friends we’re lending a hand to will have one.
And, the dominoes continued to fall, sparking an idea.
Having been a long time fan of Storypeople (they are my go-to when I need inspiration, or a gift for a friend), I took a shot, asking them if they’d consider donating one or two of their inspiring prints to this cause.
Being that my name is not Dooce Zapata, I didn’t hold my breath. But, even still, they got back to me less than a day later.
We would love to donate ten matted prints of your choosing.
Enough for all the units presently being filled.
I scoured ALL of their art, but was only able to whittle the list down to about thirty…thirty that I thought would fit this mission. I sent those to the Coalition, and asked them to choose ten.
Within two weeks of my email to StoryPeople, the box was at my door.
I ripped into it.
The words on each of their prints always make me look like I just sliced 100 giant onions.
I usually have too much to say…too many words to write down.
But, this experience has affected me in a way others have not, hurling me into unfamiliar territory.
So, here I sit, speechless, before a blinking cursor that’s begging me for words.
I have spent my entire life looking away from the misfortune, hardship, and pain of others. I’ve found it too much to bear, so instead of dealing and feeling, I run away, back to my comfortable life.
What if everyone ran?
Last night, I surveyed young, homeless people. I gathered information for the heroes who run towards those without, rather than away from. Heroes who seek to better understand these young people, so they can help them get back up.
I was so nervous in the hours leading up to the count, my heart pounded through my chest.
I was nervous I wouldn’t know how to talk to them. I was nervous they would see me for what I am – someone who’s been given everything and lacks for nothing. I was scared they wouldn’t feel how deeply I feel for them, or how much I want to help them.
But, I forced myself to enter the shelter anyway, pushed through the doors with all of your beautiful words.
The first person who walked over to me was broken in so many ways; her soul was in pieces. I did my best to make her comfortable, letting her know she could say whatever she wanted, and hold tight to those things that were too hard to share.
I feared going into this that I’d break down right there in front of these young ones. Or, that I would detach too much, masking how much I cared.
But, sitting there in front of these beautiful humans, I felt at home. I managed to find a balance between being a sobbing mess and a robot.
Some shared very little of themselves. Some couldn’t let it out fast enough. One thing was evident – both hadn’t been listened to for a very long time, and have been swept aside by all of us…sweepers.
I shared with the ones who checked yes that I, too, had been to jail – for a DUI when I was 25. I needed them to know that bad choices don’t make you a bad person, and that they mustn’t define you.
I wanted her to relate to me, despite our different journeys.
I stripped my finger of it’s sparkly engagement ring, my ears of their small diamond studs, before heading over there.
I was desperate to remove the tell-tale signs of privilege, wanting them to see me for who I am underneath it all.
An insecure girl, who has fought, and continues to fight, the voices that have told me my entire life that I’m worthless.
A work in progress.
Someone who is just now learning that I’m worth so much, and more than capable of all those things that once seemed impossible.
I sat in awe before the 18 year old young man who’d been bounced around the system from the age of six months old, never having a mother, a father, or any family at all.
Despite it all, he wanted to be a counselor.
He told me he’d change the world.
And, he will.
With all that’s been handed to me, it still took me so long to find his kind of bravery. Sometimes, it still eludes me.
A young girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we could just talk.
She shared with me a life filled with pain and neglect…one void of love or kindness.
I finally asked her if she needed a hug (because I needed to hug her). She cried, and said yes.
I hugged her so hard I could have broken a rib. I was desperate for her to know that I loved her and believed in her, even if no one else ever had.
She asked me if I’d be back. I promised her I would.
I hope she’s still there for me to hug again.
Over the past few months, something has clicked for me.
The homeless epidemic that once seemed too big to tackle, now seems too big to neglect.
I’m tired of hearing people that come from trust funds say they’ve worked for all they have and resent those who “mooch” off the system.
I’m tired of others, that truly have worked for what they have, asking why everyone else can’t do the same. No two situations are alike. It’s absurd to compare hardships.
My problem has always been assuming that I can’t make a difference.
I’ve always thought to myself, “Why bother?”
We must bother.
We must try to be parents to the parent-less, sisters and brothers to the sibling-less, and friends to the friend-less.
We must do less judging and questioning, and more listening and loving.
We must remember that, one day, it could be us, our children, our parents, or our friends, that need a hand.
We must be softer.
And, most importantly, we must stop pretending that we aren’t part of the problem…or the solution.
I spend much more time stressing out about the things I need to do, than it takes to actually do them. And, I’m not talking about husband-sex, weirdos.
I showered (2 points!), got dressed, and slipped on an old ring I found. It’s bigger than my hand and older than both my kids. I think it is probably something I picked up from from Urban Outfitters, back when I was still cool. Sometimes, I feel like it gives me extra sass and bigger balls. Like a hipster superhero ring of sorts.
Also, I figured if something went wrong with the transaction over at Raising Cane’s (in Cypress), I could just coldcock the general manager, Mike Guido, in the nose really fast and run off with the gift cards he’d offered me.
But, luckily, I didn’t have to knock Mike out, because he delivered – and BIG TIME!
He walked out with a huge handful of box cards, and a smile – a very cute one at that (no disrespect to his wife, of course)! I would’ve been happy with a mere fingerful of cards, but Mike gave me way more than that.
*Cue the standard, awkward Allison interaction*
OMG. THANK YOU SO MUCH. CAN I HUG YOU? Do you mind if I take your picture? Because, you can say no, my husband does all the time. I get it.
But, Mike didn’t leave me hanging, or make me feel like a dork. He accepted my awkward hug him and let me take his picture. Then, he handed me their card and said he’d love to help out whenever we need it!
I thanked him again, and headed back to my car to check that off my list and plan my next move. I drove away from Cane’s, then did a U-turn through a bank parking lot, and pulled right back up to the Cane’s drive-thru for some grub.
I hopped back on the highway and immediately went into hungry-raccoon mode, ripping into the chicken strips with my bare-hands. They don’t make blue-tooth for chicken fingers, so it was risky, but I can be pretty crazy like that.
It was my first time eating there and it. was. amazing! In fact, these chicken strips are so good, that if I’d been PMSing I probably would have just pocketed all the box-cards and gone underground for a week or two.
It got me thinking…who even needs Chick-Fil-A (besides them, of course.)?
My friend Justin told me that Raising Cane’s was known for generosity and helping out in their communities. Boy, was he right.
The best part was that Mike replied to my public tweet with a private message. He didn’t offer his donation to be acknowledged, he did it just to be good.
Aside – I nearly published this post with that last sentence reading “Pubic” tweet. Yay for editing!
Thank you so much, Mike! You rock! Almost as much as Cane’s special sauce.
I drove over to the Texas Medical Center, where the oh-so-helpful George Irvin of McDonald’s had arranged for me to pick up the remaining 150 Arch cards at their Texas Children’s Hospital location.
Mr. Irvin has been a god-send getting all of this figured out. Especially since I sleuthed out his number and cold-called him out of the blue one day, asking him to process 1,000 cards in a one day.
And, then continued to text him things like this….
He’s taken me in stride and been so gracious, bending over backwards to get all of this done in time.
Back to yesterday…
I pulled up to Texas Children’s to get the last bunch of cards for tonight.
Aside #2 – The building below is located right next to Texas Children’s and I’ve always thought the architect must have somewhat of a boob-fetish.
Where were we?
Chicken fingers….boobs….Oh, right, Arch cards!
This past Friday, they processed 850 $5 Arch cards at the same location, ringing them up one by one through the register, which took the manager her entire shift.
I offered to help speed things up this time around and they let me slide and activate the cards one by one.
This takes so much longer when you have to pee.
LaToiya Harris was the unlucky one who got stuck helping me. She put up with my very bad jokes throughout the entire process. Like, when we were nearing the end and I told her, with a fake cry, “I’m really gonna miss you when this is done.”
She was amazing, quick, efficient, and so gracious! Not an easy feat considering the woman behind me was yelling at her, “I JUST WANT ONE MORE BBQ SAUCE!”
I’d also like to take this moment to apologize to her for leaping over the counter to bear-hug her on my way out.
Juliette, the manager, came out to see how things went, and handed me a STACK of free sandwich coupons. So wonderful!
I told her I was going to tweet her and she looked at me like I had just offered her a weird sexual favor. So, I explained to her what Twitter was, as best I could.
I walked out with an unmarked, white paper bag of coupons, feeling like I’d just made a very important sausage biscuit drug deal.
With not a minute to spare, I booked it over to the homeless shelter to get trained for tonight’s youth count.
It’s not in the nicest part of town, so I ended up handing out a few coupons along the way.
Cities are required to take part in the annual point-in-time count. Per the Coalition, “The point-in-time count is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the local Continuum of Care funding process which brought over $23,000,000 to the Houston, Harris County and Fort Bend County homeless assistance programs in the FY2011 application process.”
In other words, the PIT count allows the government to know how much money and what types of services are needed in each community.
This year, there’s a pilot program – Youth Count! – in nine cities (including Houston) across the country. They’re trying to come up with more efficient and comprehensive means of tracking and counting homeless youth in America, and get answers to questions like…
Why are these young people homeless?
How did they end up there?
What do they need?
I was saddened to hear that up to 40% of homeless youth here are gay. Some of them have been kicked out of their homes for simply being who they are, making their parents despicable monsters in my eyes.
Tonight, I’ll be stationed at a homeless youth shelter from 5-10 pm, where they’ll send in young, homeless people for me to interview.
The final numbers will measured and sent to HUD.
I shall slip into my professional pants and try not to adopt anyone tonight, but I can’t promise I won’t try to hug them.
Me removing an elephant off my chest: I need to let you know (because it’s a weird feeling when people start sending you money) that my intention in writing these posts isn’t to ask you guys to give me money. Because, that seems icky to me, even if it’s for a good cause. Like, I’m not a put a Paypal link on my blog kind of gal (not that there’s anything wrong with that…people need help sometimes, and, shit, more power to them).
I think it’ll feel less weird when I get a non-profit approval? Will I put a Paypal link on the official Project: We See You webpage? YES!
These posts are merely my attempt to plant a seed in your mind, to nudge you on the shoulder, and to whisper psst! psst! in your ear; a reminder that you (and ME) can do a better job seeing people and their problems, instead of avoiding them because they make you (ME) feel so sad and helpless and guilty.
Put your hand out and help someone up.
With that said, I’m obviously not going to turn donations away…because I know how much of an impact they make. You are helping real people, in real time, in a very real way, and that’s real awesome.
Anyway, this is a learning process for me, but I’ve hired someone to help make sure I’m doing it right. Numbers and math make me panicky and sweaty and nauseous and, man, it’s a good thing I married a numbers guy.
* * *
Now, on to the main course…
I had previously designated January as Metro Pass Month for Project: We See You! And, while I’d still like to collect some of these, I’ve now shifted my focus towards collecting coupons and $5 gift cards from McDonald’s.
You see, January is when the 2012 Houston Homeless Count takes place.
It’s just as it sounds. They send people out, four to a car, all across the city to literally COUNT the homeless population of Houston and surrounding counties.
Teams are assigned to different areas throughout the city, and are deployed by 5:30 P.M., remaining out until the assigned territory is completed or until 11:30 P.M.
Why 5:30? Because, that’s when the homeless shelters in the city close their doors for the night. The shelters hand in their numbers, which are added to the Count.
“The point-in-time count is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the local Continuum of Care funding process which brought over $23,000,000 to the Houston, Harris County and Fort Bend County homeless assistance programs in the FY2011 application process. This funding provides transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and supportive services to our communities to assist homeless persons and families toward housing stability and self-sufficiency and provides homeless person with greater self-determination.
Each staging area will have highly trained volunteer Captains and Co-Captains who will be available throughout the night for questions and assistance during the count. There will be at least four people per team: one driver, one navigator and two counters. A map, with grid, will be provided to each team to follow along with a lighting devise, clipboard and all necessary forms.
Each team will have at least one homeless services person or formerly homeless person who is familiar with the population being counted and to ensure the safety of the team.”
This is amazing to me.
I hadn’t a clue it even existed.
I’m hoping to go out on count night and maybe chat with those willing, about the things they need the most…for our next round of bags.
So, back to the goal. The Coalition is interested in handing out 400 $5 McDonald’s gift cards on Count Night. I’m making it my mission to collect at least this many. I’m also going to try and get in touch with McDonald’s to see if they’d be willing to contribute a few coffee/breakfast coupons.
I will beg and say pretty please and put the biggest cherry you’ve ever seen on top. If they end up sparing some, even a few, to help Houston’s homeless, I’ll be forever grateful.
I played peek-a-boo with a baby and my heart ached.
The baby, of course, has no idea about financial status, homelessness, or where he’s temporarily living. And, evident by his happy face, sweet smile, and the way his parents interacted with him, he is loved. But, still, it killed me, because who knows what his future holds.
I’m just grateful that services like this exist for him and his family…and for all the families who have no place else to go.
Have a lovely weekend, everyone.
And, p.s., you can totally still bitch about stuff, just remember to also be grateful you have a place to call home.
I’ve been trying to write this post for over a week. I have thoughts-a-plenty swirling around in my head, but not nearly enough words to express or do them justice.
But, I’ll do my best.
The night before the ceremony found me sitting on my butt, with so much left to do. The all too familiar procrastinators’ panic set in, and I kicked myself for not having managed my time more efficiently.
My dear friend, Zach, showed up at my door earlier in the week with a neon green bag of new underwear. Oddly enough, not the weirdest thing to happen since we’ve been friends.
Also, Ruben came through in the bottom of the ninth, over-nighting me fifty pairs of new socks. I would later learn socks are amongst the most cherished items for people living on the streets. And, not just during the winter months. In the summer, fungal infections of the feet are quick to set in.
Then, Kendra sent me packs of q-tips to complete our supply, and Claire, a very generous monetary donation.
The goodness train could not be derailed.
Finally, the pedicure kits arrived. I was worried they wouldn’t get in on time, so…phew.
I slipped on rubber gloves, complete with a loud SNAP, to freak my husband out. Much to his disappointment relief, I was just finishing up the shampoo details.
That morning, I went through the bags making sure each was complete, and separated them according to gender.
My dog was a huge help.
A few hours before set-up, it dawned on me how perfect it would be to slip $5 gift cards from McDonald’s into each bag. Angry at myself for not having thought of it sooner, I hauled ass to see what I could do with so little time left.
The manager, Yolanda, shut down an entire line to process the gift cards, running each through the register one by one.
After inhaling my Happy Meal, and screaming, ” WHAT THE HELL? I ASKED FOR THE GIRL TOY!” on my way out, I hauled even faster ass to FedEx to print out fifty copies of the letter I’d written. I wanted more than anything for those that received them to know they were not haphazardly thrown together, but that they came from a place of love and thoughtfulness….from all over the country.
Besides that, I wanted to apologize for the times I failed to treat them as my equal…as a human being.
I spent two, kid-free, hours at my coffee shop pouring everything I had into that letter. It was a rare moment of writing for me, filled simultaneously with the passion I always feel and the skill that often escapes me.
I saved it and slammed my computer shut, not bothering to turn it off.
Later that night after the boys were in bed, I sat down to edit.
But, the letter? Had vanished.
It was just…poof…gone.
Such a gut-punch.
And, although I remembered most of what I’d said, writing it based on memory, rather than the heart-words that had flowed so easily just hours before, felt regurgitated, robotic, and insincere.
But, with so much to do, I had to settle for writing a quick, more condensed version…something I’ve felt deflated by ever since.
If you’re interested in reading what I wrote, or you wish to learn more about how this all got started, you can do so hereHERE.
Moving on to what’s important, though…
I mentioned I’d include a photo of a bag in it’s entirety.
So, here it is, minus a few things.
It was go time, so my husband and I loaded up our cars and headed downtown to the steps of city hall.
When I pulled up, a pack of friendly faces raced over to help me unload the loot.
I approached the area where the ceremony was held, and before me was a long, winding line of people, quietly waiting to get their mouths on a meal.
In a city with over six million people, I’m used to spotting the homeless everyday. But, even so, I was not prepared for this. It’s not until you’ve seen 500 homeless people, all at once, that you can truly grasp just how enormous the epidemic.
I swallowed my shock and sadness, shoving it deep down to be felt later on, and jumped right in.
They gave me the choice of simply dropping off the donations and leaving, but, hell no, this is not what the project is about. Dumping the bags and driving away was too easy and not an option. I needed to feel the discomfort that I’ve run from all these years.
So, I threw my whole-self in and began talking to anyone who would listen, extending my hand to those people I usually speed passed, because I’m in a hurry to make it to my oh-so-important pedicure appointment.
I had a lengthy conversation with an older man. I asked him how long he’d lived on the streets and what led him there. He told me he’d been an addict for most of his life, but had finally found his way to sobriety. Then, beaming, he pulled out a thick, folded-up, piece of paper from his pocket.
This is my new apartment lease, signed on December 10th. I have a home again. But, I cannot turn my back on all my friends out here. I have to remember where I came from, and all those who are still there.
He stuck out his hand and I bear-hugged him – an awkward habit of mine that often catches people off-guard. But, not him. He was all about the bear-hugs.
The bags were unloaded and placed behind a long, white table, to be distributed following the ceremony.
The many volunteers were busy setting up for the memorial – the reading of the homeless who’d lost their lives in 2012.
Nightfall came on quickly, but as the sky turned dark city hall fought back, glowing beautifully for the lost souls we had gathered there to honor.
I stood around for a while, not knowing quite what to do with myself, when one of the organizers motioned for me to go over. He asked if I’d like to read a few of the names.
As much as I hate the way my voice sounds over a microphone, of course, I said yes.
They gave me a list of five names. Five people I never knew existed until that moment. But, after reading their names over and over again, wanting to make sure I pronounced them correctly, I realized that I did know them.
They were someone’s son, brother, father, and friend. They were one of us.
And, even though they didn’t have a house, or much of anything else to call their own, it didn’t mean they shouldn’t been remembered and given a proper farewell.
After the last of the names were spoken, the bags and other donations were handed out.
I wanted to capture this moment, but without invading their privacy or making them feel like an object, so I quickly snapped a picture and walked away.
There was some minor squabbling from those that wanted more than one bag, and others who were too far back in line to even receive one.
This killed me, because despite all we did, it simply wasn’t enough to help everyone.
I said goodbye to those I had the pleasure of meeting, and headed towards my now empty car, once filled with the things I never think twice about having.
Before leaving, I bummed a smoke from someone (I know, surgeon general, I KNOW), and found a secluded spot to sit and process.
It was so cold outside, and a part of me felt guilty for getting back into my car. The car with the heated seats and toasty air, that would take me back to my warm, safe, and food-filled house.
I watched people, the bags slung over their shoulders, walk away…to nowhere…and I sat sobbing on the steps, knowing that something inside of me had changed that night. I would no longer bitch about what I want, instead I’d be more appreciative that I have all I need.
A week later, a friend posted this on Facebook…
A few days after that, I went to the Apple Store to get a first world problem repaired. On the way back home I, too, spotted a man with one of our bags.
This week has been a wet one. New Year’s Eve brought with it heavy rain and thunderstorms, making it hard to tell the booms of fireworks and thunder apart.
I’d been pretty down that I wasn’t able to help as many people as I’d hoped. But, that night, I realized there were fifty people warding off the rain with their ponchos, and fighting off the cold with their socks, warm hats, and blankets.
And, THIS, I reminded myself, is what it’s all about – helping one person at a time whenever we’re able.
Below is the video of the memorial. It cuts off right before I read my names – pssshaw! – but you can spot me towards the right shuffling back and forth, and fidgeting as usual.
I’ve been asked about my future plans for this project.
I’m still bouncing ideas around, but I think I’ve got a grasp on where I want to take it.
Would I love to hand out these giant bags every month of every year?
But, realistically, I fear burnout, and I simply don’t have the supplies for it.
So, tentatively, I’d like to distribute these larger bags a few times a year, maybe once each season, while focusing on individual items to hand out each month.
For example – January: bus passes; February: grocery gift cards; March: Umbrellas – and so on.
Project: We See You is still a work in progress, but one I will not abandon, like I do with most things. Commitment is not my strong suit.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank all of you who took the time to make this happen. I’m positive I’ve left people out, and for that I am sorry, but please know that I never could have done any of this without you. Whether you donated supplies, time, money, or encouragement…it all mattered so much to me.
I still have so much work to do: more sorting, more sealing, more stuffing.
Yesterday I spent the morning going through the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.
After cleaning the bottles-with-the-strange-hair-on-them, I did a little redistributing, so each set would be like new.
Luckily, I had a helper.
After five minutes he declared, “This is hard work. mommy, I just need to relax.”
He gets small pieces of what we’re doing, but the number of people living without is hard enough for an adult to wrap their mind around, much less a four year old.
But, yesterday, on the way home from the zoo, we spotted a homeless man and Luca asked me if we could buy him a house.
I wish we had enough money to buy everyone a house, but we don’t, so we just have to do what we can, when we can, to help make their situation a little more bearable.
On Friday, I picked up fifty of these reusable water bottles from Dollar Tree, to add to the bags.
And then on Sunday….
I just need to zip up the bags so the little people in my house will stop nabbing the tasty treats. And, by little people, I mean me.
I still need to print out the We See You flyers, with our area’s homeless services printed on the back. So, if anyone knows of a good online template or print resource, let me know.
I’m also hoping to pick up a Metro Bus card to slip in the bags.
I’ll post pictures of all the items in each bag, once I’m done filling them.
You guys have been so amazing.
One of my best friends even bought new underwear to put in the bags!
And, another friend has started her own bags, which led her sister to start her own.
Uplifting to me, in so many ways, during such an awful time for our nation.
Thank you for being so damn good.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
When I began planning Project: We See You, I didn’t think far enough ahead in regards to how I would get these bags into the hands of those who need them most.
My usually always supportive husband was super excited about the idea of the bags, but much less excited at the thought of his wife aimlessly wandering around Houston, searching for people who needed them. And, while this is something I would do, I totally get his concern and where he’s coming from. I’ve got to do this the right way, and the safe way, for everyone involved.
I spent the weekend stepping over enormous bags of toiletries and toilet paper, searching for ideas as to how I was going to pull this off.
And, then, life threw me a bone.
Well, it was actually my friend Kelly who threw it.
She sent me a text early this morning, letting me know she’d just dropped off a newspaper article on my front porch.
I got home, turned on some Bubble Guppies for Leo, and sat down to read it.
And, I’m so glad I did.
The article shined a light on Houston’s very own, Marilyn Brown, President & CEO of Coalition for the Homeless of Houston, a wonderful organization dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness.
The tone of the article struck a cord with me, particularly this…
“So, who exactly are the homeless, you may still wonder? The answer is simple and sad: they are us.”
So, I put on one more episode (okay, two more) of Bubble Guppies and sat down to write Marilyn an email, asking her what my next move should be.
An hour later I received an email back from the coalition’s Community Engagement Director, Gary Grier, who had the perfect solution to my dilemma.
“We have a wonderful suggestion. On Friday, December 21, 2012, we are hosting the In Memoriam for the National Homeless Memorial at the Steps of City Hall, 900 Bagby Street, Houston, Texas 77002. At the event, we are expecting up to 400 homeless persons to attend as a reading of the names and memorial service is conducted from 5:30 to 6:00pm. Set up is starting as early as 3pm. We will have tables and an area set up for donations at the event and you could give out the items that evening…”
And the spiral of awesomeness continues….
That means I have ten days to get everything in order for the event.
More great news: I just received the bags, so I can finally start loading them with essentials.
That’s not all.
(My UPS man is working his ass off this week.)
My sister-in-law’s shipment of fifty, brand new, long-sleeved Old Navy t-shirts arrived today, too!
Along with fifty new blankets from my awesome friend, Vanessa…
…who also sent fifty rain ponchos, which are en route to my house as I type this.
A few days ago, my cousin Celina dropped off these items…
THESE are the things I never even think about. But, homeless women get their period, too. Can you imagine not having the products to deal with your time of the month? I can’t.
And, because there are so many times I see a homeless person with a dog…we can’t forget food for their furry friends.
I ordered gloves and winter hats today, and I’m waiting for the dental hygiene kits to arrive.
Yesterday, I was chasing a naked baby around the house, scolding a four year old boy who was being more naughty than nice, and on the phone with a tech who was trying to restore my wonky internet service (gasp!first world problems!).
So, of course, our wannabe-ferocious dogs began barking at someone on our porch. I toddler-stomped to the front door, myself prepared to bark at the Girl Scout or Jehovah’s Witness I expected to find on the other side of it. But, I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved I wouldn’t have to yell at a Girl Scout), because it wasn’t someone trying to sell me something, it was someone trying to give me something. My dear friend Shonali was dropping of supplies for We See You.
Shonali is an amazing woman. Every time I’m feeling down or overwhelmed, and I run into her, she has a gift for making me feel instantly at peace. She’s has a special spirit and a kind soul, and I’m so grateful to have her in my life.
(Oh, and I failed to mention that just the day before I received a paypal donation from my sweet friend, to go towards supplies. She’s known to many of you as the pee-your-pants-funnyLady of The House, but she’s known to me as a kind-heart and good friend. THANK YOU, lady.)
Anyway, Luca and I jumped in the car later that day and headed over to Hilton Houston to pick up their donations.
Of course, in Houston traffic, a short drive is as common as a snowstorm around here.
We sat stopped on the highway five minutes too long for a four year old, who quickly went into angry dragon mode.
Houston has a huge homeless population, especially downtown, so it was no surprise that we saw many people camped out in nooks under the woven highways.
Luca pointed out a man to me, huddled beneath an overpass, and I told him that is exactly why we were doing all of this. He then handed me his half-eaten bag of goldfish and said, “Mommy, I want to give the rest of these to someone who doesn’t have enough money to buy goldfish.”
Finally, I thought, it’s sinking in.
Then, this song began playing on the radio…
So fitting, because Tere and the rest of the Hilton gang have hearts of gold, and I’m so grateful for them.
We reached the Hilton, pulled up to the loading dock, and waited.
Tere met me outside and let us in to the area of the hotel where all the magic happens.
Luca was impressed.
(I was, too.)
She told me that someone from Housekeeping was on their way down with the donations.
I waited, expecting someone carrying a couple of bags to approach us.
Then, I saw this.
I wanted to cry, but instead I just kept saying thank you thank you thankyou.
We went to my car and a nice, quiet-but-strong, man began loading it.
Bags of bar soap. Bags of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. Bags of toilet paper.
I told them I was preparing 50 bags.
They gave me enough for at least 200.
I unloaded the bags and set them in our backyard. My husband then walked out to this…
Which would have been weird to some, but my husband has been married to me for too long and is seldom caught off guard.
And, then? It began to rain.
I ran inside screaming at him to help me carry the bags inside, hoping to avoid a bubble bath in our yard…and wet toilet paper.
We ran in and out, rescuing the bags as fast we could. We were drenched and exhausted (bar soap is the heaviest thing I’ve ever lifted), and we were laughing so hard our stomach’s hurt.
I hugged him and reminded him, as I often do, that he knew what he was getting into when he married me.
So, today, I sort.
…placing aside all that will fit into the We See You bags, and donating the overflow directly to local shelters to be put to good use.
You know, I’ve talked so much talk for so many years, but I’ve never actually gotten off my lazy butt and done anything.
So, thank you all so much for inspiring me to walk the talk, and for reminding me that people are so, so good.
Some call it crazy, and to them I say, it probably is but fuck you anyway.
But, there are two living things on this earth that fall under my Do Not Resuscitate clause. Which sounds much nicer than my original I kill those motherfuckers dead clause.
The unlucky ones that make up this list are cockroaches and mosquitoes.
The latter, I kill in self-defense.
The former, because vomit barf gross scary ewwwcrunchy.
Unfortunately, I live in Houston. Which is technically a swamp that some dumb-ass decided to build this city on, so there are massive amounts of each.
Building a city on rock n roll is so much cooler and less icky.
Inside our house, we’ve never had a roach problem. Sure, some manage to sneak in occasionally, but nothing worth burning the place down over.
My backyard, however, is an entirely different story.
In the giant pecan tree, that must be something like 304 years old (I tried to count the rings one day but lost interest at around 19 so this is a rough estimate of course), reside what I imagine to be one million tree roaches.
They are about two inches long, or twenty if seen by me.
They aren’t scared of light.
THEY FUCKING FLY.
Anyway, I don’t see them too often. Sometimes in our garage, sometimes in the yard, and oddly enough, there is always one sitting on the outside of my garage in the same spot every. single. night.
I assume he’s like the night watchman for his clan. Or maybe they trade out, because it’s hard to be sure it’s the same one. He’s pretty standoffish, thus far refusing to let me shake any of his 200 hands.
ANYWAY, my point…
Sunday, we were all getting ready to hop in the car and meet my mom for lunch. The kids were being shits and I was in total bitch mode, so at the last minute my husband tucked his tail between his legs, unbuckled Leo from his seat, and declared he would be opting out of this super fun family outing.
After throwing a several minute long temper tantrum, my four year old consoled me, and then we were off to meet my mom, two less in tow.
Three blocks from my house, in mid-turn onto a busy street, it happened.
I saw something move quickly across my steering column, hop onto my stick shift, and then jump up onto the volume dial of my radio.
No. No. No. This isn’t happening.
But, it was.
I rubbed my eyes and shook my head, but it was still there, sitting inches from me.
Mind you, I was operating heavy machinery complete with a toddler in it, you guys.
If you’d had the pleasure of witnessing this from the outside, you would have dialed 911 immediately and reported a serial killer rapist car-jacking in progress. Not realizing it was much, much worse.
I screamed louder than I even thought possible, froze like a statue so it wouldn’t fly at me, and nearly turned the none drive-thru CVS, into one with a drive-thru.
My car ended up sideways, blocking the entrance to the parking lot, and I jumped out.
I scanned my car quickly for some kind of weapon.
Random Cheerios on the floor?
A four year old boy?
Finally, I spotted one – an empty, giant sized, Sugar-Free Redbull can.
That shit is lethal.
I began speaking in tongues and somehow managed to coax it into the cup holder, where I proceeded to smash it continuously until I was sure it was dead…and not in any pain (it’s still me, you guys).
And thankfully so, because if I’d missed, and it had escaped under a seat, someone would have had to tow my car.
I realized my back door wasn’t shut properly over night, so I am hoping this is how it got in.
But, I’m now terrified every time I get in my car. I pound on the seats, and turn the air on full blast for a few minutes (in case one blows out), before taking off.
Now, not only do my neighbors think I’m smoking meth, but my four year old has acquired an extreme phobia of roaches, adding them to his already lengthy list of extreme phobias, which includes…everything.
And, I’ve concocted this theory that they have made my garage their primary residence and they send their night watchman out to stand guard against the short blonde chick who savagely murdered their friend with an energy drink.
I picture them saying, “He just wanted to turn up the tunes. Why’d you have to go and off him like that? That’s really cold, man.”
And of course, as usual, Google hasn’t helped ease my paranoia.
I know, I KNOW.
I’m being dramatic.
It’s just a roach.
JUST A GIANT FLYING ROACH.
It is pretty crazy, though, when you think of it.
I mean, how in the world can a girl be this terrified of something so small?