Tag Archives: hunting

free stuff

When we arrived to the Mission Arlington conference Saturday morning, Tillie was quick to put us to work. What better way to see what is going on there than to experience it first hand? Works for me, I’m ready! She quickly found drivers for the three buses filled with garage sale leftovers. She then asked for volunteers to go with the drivers to take these buses to specific apartment complexes to give it away. I have no idea what other jobs she had, as Christine and I jumped on this one.

We headed out to our bus with Mark and Joan. Mark was driving and we figured we would just get in the bus and go. The bus, an old handicapped city bus, was packed so full there was no place to sit, much less get in. We decided to sit on the steps of the bus and ride along. Probably not the safest thing, but it’s God’s work and to me, it made perfect sense.

None of us had a clue that MA did this kind of stuff. They go to garage sales that are over and pick up all of the remaining items. What an awesome way to get this stuff to people that can use it, not to mention it’s a great way to be green and help others.

When we arrived, we found a grassy area by the office and mailboxes to unload the bus. Storm clouds were rolling in however it was not raining yet. Our instructions? Unload the bus, knock on doors to let everyone know that we’re there with free house wares, clothing and other free stuff and give it all away. Honestly speaking here? I did not want to knock on doors. I quickly offered my services of unloading the bus. Turns out we all started unloading the bus before knocking on the doors.

I’m not sure what got into me at this point… well, it was obviously God, but after about ¾ was unloaded, I said, “I’m going to knock on doors.” I quickly ran off to spread the word: free stuff. It was about 10am? Not a lot of people answered their doors, probably one in four or five. I was also reminded yet once again that I don’t speak Spanish and should really learn just a little bit.

As I was going door to door, my brain was on overdrive. This is not a world I am familiar with, yet it felt very comfortable, like I was meant to be there. Some of the million thoughts running through my head… I didn’t plan on doing this today. What was I planning? I need to learn some Spanish. These people can cook, that smells good. I wonder how many times this building has been painted? These doors are heavy and have a lot of locks. My knuckles hurt. I wonder what these people are thinking when they look through the peephole and see me? It’s chilly in these hallways. I wonder how many people are over there getting stuff from the bus? How do we do something like this in Frisco? I live in a palace. I have a lot of stuff. How can this world be a 40-minute drive from where I live? Why haven’t I been here before? I worked for a low-income property management company, could I have done something to help people? Can I still contact them now and do something? Wow, many of the apartments that opened the door have a picture of Jesus on the wall, some with candles. Okay, you get the picture, through my ADHD eyes.

Mark came looking for me, apparently I just kept going and knocking. Well, I hadn’t gone to all the doors yet, right? I knocked on a few more and went back. The area was swarming with people! How incredibly cool is that?


As people were shopping, or as I like to call it, treasure hunting, it began to rain. Just a little bit at first, but that didn’t slow down the hunters. Tillie had told us before we left the we might have to do the rain plan since it was going to rain. So what was the rain plan? It was the same as the dry plan. Always was, still is and will continue to be that way. Helping others doesn’t stop with a little rain, or even a lot of it. I’m guessing when we have a few snowflakes and all of Texas goes into an unnecessary panic-shut-down mode, Mission Arlington does not.

While I was knocking on doors, a gentleman that sells taquitos came by and left a food package for us. We didn’t have anything to drink, but they smelled so very good. As the shopper traffic died down, we sat in the bus and ate our food. There was a baggie of green chili sauce that smelled so good, I could have just opened the bag and ate it all by itself. Without drinks, if it was spicy, we were all in some trouble. I decided to try it. It was not too spicy, but it did have a little kick to it. The others declined the green mystery sauce. I had some left over, and yes, I packed it up and placed the green liquid gold into my backpack to finish later.

It started to rain much harder, so we moved all of the stuff onto the sidewalk under an eave. The few shoppers that were there stopped to help us. We moved everything right in front of the mailboxes so we were hoping the mail person didn’t come anytime soon.

We got a chance to talk to some of the later shoppers before we packed up to leave to go back and be assigned to our next adventure. We only brought back maybe a fourth of what we had. As we were about to drive away, the mailman showed up. God’s timing is perfect.

There are so many lessons to be learned here, and this was only the beginning of the weekend. I suppose besides the obvious lesson of always helping others, it was weighing on me a lot of just how wasteful we be. I’m not judging anyone here because I can be wasteful too, purchasing things I don’t need, getting sucked into the strategically placed retail ‘impulse’ items and buying things to make my life easier without thinking of the consequences.

After this experience, I’m even much more intentional about shopping at thrift stores, not retail stores. I’m trying to be better about not being wasteful and teaching my kids that as well. And don’t get me started on impulse purchases. My kids and I have a plan. If it’s something we didn’t plan to buy when we went to the store, we walk away for at least 24 hours. If we remember the item and we still want it (and can afford it), we can go back and get it.

I’m not sure what the shoppers were thinking about this whole process, maybe a subconscious appreciation for the people that bought the stuff in the first place. Maybe they were happy to get some free stuff, needed and wanted. Maybe they didn’t even think about it at all. Either way, I hope they felt loved.

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Christmas -4 days.

Christmas is done for the year.  We took our tree down, hauled it up to the attic and all the evidence of Christmas is gone, as if it never happened.  We each left an ornament out to remember the changes we want to make this Christmas and throughout the next year, but in our house, that’s not really out of the ordinary.

What is out of the ordinary?  Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it.  My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me.   They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away.  They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together.  After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.

Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor.  No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events.  Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens.  Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again?  I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.

After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting.  No, not shopping, treasure hunting.  Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores.  Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank.  My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys.  I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.

I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50.  Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms.  My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.

Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.

As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys.  I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do.  I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids.  “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.”  I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation.  I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism.

As we neared the front of the store, Joe didn’t seem to bothered that he didn’t find anything.  That is, until he turned the corner to find a kid-sized guitar, complete with stand and strings.  His little face lit up and I knew that guitar would be coming home with us before he even asked.  I don’t know much about musical instruments, but just the stand alone probably would have cost $19.99, which was the price for both.

We stood in the very short line at the checkout, quickly making it to the register.  The lady at the counter was very nice, talking to all three of us as we were paying for our purchases.  The last item rung up was Joe’s guitar.  The lady asked who it was for and I pointed to Joe.  I explained to her that he has been wanting to learn how to play, but the full size guitar I bought a while back, still has no strings and was really too big for him.  She told me, with a very sad face, that this guitar belonged to her son… her son that had passed away six years ago, and she finally had the courage to part with some of his things.  I promised her that it was going to a home where it would be appreciated and loved.

As we were leaving the store, Joe asked me if the guitar belonged to another kid, as he overheard part of our conversation.  A little uncomfortable with his completely appropriate question, I tried to shuffle him out of the store so I could explain about the previous owner.  The lady heard him and said, “It belonged to my son and he’s in heaven now.”  What does anyone say to that?  There are no words that could have lessened her pain or brought him back.

As we climbed in the car, there was grief-stricken silence.  A silence broken only by discussion of the young boy that we never knew, yet felt so attached to at that moment.  Both kids had many questions about the boy, “How did he die?  Are you sure he really died?  How old was he?  What happened to him?  Why did his mom still have his guitar?”  They were asking questions I would never have answers to, and questions I’m not sure they thought would be answered.  I had the same questions in my head, but speechlessly saying a small prayer that the lady would have some peace around her son’s death, a situation where I cannot comprehend a peace could possibility exist.

We tend to surround ourselves with things we like, stuff that entertains us or makes us happy.  Material things are not evil, that is, unless we order our lives around them instead of people and relationships.  I don’t see a problem with a bound portfolio for artistic inspiration, a book for imagination and fantasy or a guitar to learn self-expression through music.  Inanimate objects are visual triggers for remembrance, things that pull memories from deep within our minds, surfacing them as current thoughts for enjoyment, reflection and sometimes necessary action.

Are all of my non-essential possessions useful or meaningful?  Not entirely, but I can honestly say that most of them have some meaning or story behind them.  I don’t do new year resolutions, but I will challenge myself to be more aware of my attachment to belongings.  I guess belongings is a good word for this, as it is broken down to ‘be longing’.


20 days until Christmas…

I have to say, committing to write everyday until Christmas is taking a lot of time and energy, but I’m enjoying it. This blogging idea started out as a fun way to share my funny photo finds of crazy Christmas yard decor, but turned into more than that, I wanted to document the process of what an upside-down Christmas looks like for me and my family.  These blogs are a bit more wordy than I had anticipated, but it they do tell the story, and in great detail.

The idea to write everyday was inspired by several people.  Hank Stuever, for the way he can write about something controversial, yet word it to not be offensive, while painting a picture of the truth.  The book Tinsel really has to make a person evaluate how they do Christmas.  My assesment?  If this book doesn’t give you some food for thought, then you need to find something that does.  Allison Harrell, for her amazing writing skills.  I will never type as fast as her (she has a letter jacket for typing), but I want to enhance my communication skills.  Writing is not an easy thing for me like it is for her, or easy like photography, graphic design or altered art, but I do enjoy it with a sick kind of love / hate relationship.  Another person is Jackson Robinson.  He has committed to doing a painting everyday and he blogs it.  These tiny masterpieces are painted by him every morning and look like they should be hanging in a gallery.  Unbelieveable detail!  And Robert Leahey, who took on a challenge to write a novel in one month, and successfully accomplished his mission.

Words are my friend.  I feel better after journaling pages of handwritten words, I love doing typography art and my opinionated side loves to share my views with words.  Even with all of those positive word attributes, words are also my enemy.  I struggle to find them, I have a difficult time articulating them and my brain thinks in pictures, not words.

Turning Christmas upside-down has been a wonderful experience so far, but it came with some unexpected returns, deep feelings and a better understanding of my life and the way I live it.  An experience of which I hope to put into words.  Besides taking the money I would have spent on gifts for people and giving it to great causes, I still want to give something meaningful to my family and friends for Christmas.  Something that is an expression of how I feel about them and something that inspires their creativity.  I came up with the perfect thing, but I’m still in the creation process.  It’s my little Christmas secret.  I guess you’ll have to keep coming back and reading to find out what it is, or wait until you get one.

I guess I must really love words because I’m a book junkie.  I have five bookcases in my house filled with books, an no, I didn’t pay full price for any of them.  Over the years I have made several trips to Gladewater and there’s a small mom and pop type bookstore I’ve always wanted to visit.  Most of the time I was there on Sunday and the bookstore was closed.  Friday, it was open.  I like buying books that have had previous owners, not only to save money, but for the chance of finding a book with a personal note in it, handwritten sentiments to someone I don’t even know.  It’s like getting two stories in one, the story in the book and the found mysterious story.  I love creating the rest of their story and incorporating it into my own.

As I was shopping in there for gifts for some of my close friends, I realized the books didn’t have any prices on them.  I brought a stack to the front and asked where I could find the prices.  The man at the counter said, “I’ll look them up, tell you the prices, then you can argue with me.”  I immediately took a liking to him.  I shopped a little longer, taking in the pleasing scent of old books, then finally made my way to the counter to argue with Pete.  Pete and I talked for a long time about books, photography, art, Bible translations and people.  I was telling him I could never work there because I would want to take everything home.  He said I was too interesting to work there.  That made me smile, as I like the word interesting more than quirky or weird.

Toward the end of our conversation, Pete was looking up a few books for me.  I asked, “What did we ever do before Wikipedia and Google?”  He replied, “We argued.”  Now I’m really liking this guy.  Pete, being of a slightly older generation than myself, and from what I could tell, progressively embracing the electronics age, I had to ask.  “So, are you on Facebook?”  Unfortunately he is not there… yet.  He’s about to purchase a new digital camera and wanted some tips so I gave him my email address.  He said, “I’m going to contact you and ask you camera questions.  I guess you could just ignore my emails if you don’t want me bugging you.”  I replied, “Nah, you’re too interesting to ignore.”

I gathered my new-old books, and headed for the car.  Pete told me about an abandoned church right up the road, so of course, I had to stop there before heading home to Frisco.  Words… books… what does any of this have to do with deep feelings and understanding life?  I’ll tell you.

Shopping, or as I prefer to call it, treasure hunting for meaningful books made me think a lot more about the relationships in my life.  Not just my friends and family, but in a deeper sense, people that are close to me, people that are acquaintances and people that I don’t even know.  I’m not one of those crying, emotional types, as a matter of fact, I missed that line when God was passing out those genes.  My face leaks about once a year, just to clean out the cobwebs in my tear ducts.  I don’t express emotion through tears, I do it through art.  Words are an art form, one I am learning, just like learning to have more meaningful relationships in my life.  I have a deeper appreciation of the people I know, an admiration of their uniqueness and an understanding of what an important role that plays in all of our lives.

I don’t know if it was the death of my cousin or searching for meaningful gifts, or maybe it’s just the loneliness of the holiday season, but I have experienced some life change.  It’s a feeling I have never felt before and one that I cannot put into words.  I have a desire to live differently.  This isn’t a passing thing, I have acted on it and am reordering my life around it.

The icons of Christmas that started this writing adventure are not the plastic Santa statues or the many strands of mismatched colored lights.  The icons of Christmas are people, from the impoverished guy on the street corner with his ‘need help’ sign to my closest family and friends.  The most important Christmas icon of all is Jesus, and I don’t mean the plastic one.  The eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus that was born on December 25th.

Words to sum this up?  If you are planning on turning Christmas upside-down, you better put on your seatbelt.  It will turn your life upside-down.


a portrait of society

I have several friends that are job hunting right now, searching for an opportunity in this non opportunistic economy.  Although I’ve been very blessed by having not only having a job, but one that I love, I still feel the stress.  Stress for them and their situations and stress knowing it could be me.

Last week, I received a forwarded email from a friend with a job listing she received from an online job search site.  Before I respond to it, I’ll let you read it.

Category: Writing, Editing & Translation
Description: Single white male seeking open minded creative female writer please, to edit and rewrite some internet personal datng ads.  That can attract and convey that I’m a multi dimensional open minded male with a caregiver overall character.

I’ve been fortunate to have some long term relationships with some beautiful openly Bi women that lead to some SAFE unforgettable fun times. I’ve been very open with those I date.  I believe in having open honest communication rather than playing games and wasting time.

So my point is I don’t necessarily need to walk on that side but would like to have about 4-5 racy different ads that are very candid in letting the reader know that I don’t judge people and if they are, OR were straight, bi or curious with mild to wild desires now and then, that’s fine. But among other things point out that I’m a very accepting, financially and emotionally secure, non jealous type of person.

I would like to place the ads onto various sites and have the ads be tasteful yet a bit edgy.

My first uttered word after picking my jaw up off the floor was “wow”.  Is this for real?  This clearly combines everything bad about the dating world and everything bad about job hunting, creating a disturbing portrait of our society.

The single white male that posted this has not only put a lot of time, effort and thought into this, but also spend a good amount of money doing it.  I would love to hear his definition of some of the words he’s chosen here: caregiver, long-term, safe, emotionally secure…  It’s not really the ad that makes me uncomfortable, it’s the fact that he’s looking for a professional writer to make his personal ads, and making all of this sound fun and acceptable.  I know this world exists and there will be plenty of women that will respond to his “well written” ads, but I suppose the part that bothers me to the point that I’m writing this, is that it’s intersected with my world.

I’m not a very judgmental person, and if this is the lifestyle he has chosen and he has women choosing to participate as well, then that’s his business.  I’m a single mom, not very actively dating, but let’s say I want to change that at some point.  I would not like to run into this guy, or anyone like him.  Seeing online dating through the eyes of friends, they have run into this type of single white male.  The problem?  These friends have similar values to mine and yet they are getting matched up with men or women that in no way resemble what they are looking for.  Do guys like this lie on their profiles or are the people matching software programs written that poorly?

Now let’s talk about my friend that received this and other friends I have that are job hunting.  (I suppose hunting is a good word since you have to gear up, find one, then fight for it)  I have several friends that desperately need a job.  Imagine the job hunt…  You wake up in the morning to check your inbox and you have four or five emails from job search sites.  Out of thousands of jobs, you get the four to five responses.  The above listing was one of many like that, a listing for questionable freelance work.  I seriously doubt any of my friends would ever consider replying to a listing like this one, but the fact that this type of listing comes up and they have to weed through stuff like this, well, it just has to be frustrating.  Where is the real job they need?

I do call this a disturbing portrait of our society, despite that, I plan to be a speck in the corner of that portrait that represents goodness.  Goodness in God and goodness through positive influence.  I know there are many good specks in the portrait and when you stand back and look, those specks make a beautiful impression, overlaying the sometimes unfavorable reality.


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