The Rose Hotel

Before I even started grade school, I spent most of my nights at a homeless shelter.

I grew up with a dreamer. My father saw opportunity no matter where he looked, and his kindness knew no limits. He was a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, a contractor by day, preacher by night/weekend, and a philanthropist by heart.  To me, he hung the moon. Try and convince me otherwise.

We never had much money, but he always found ways to give to others without his family’s suffering.

The Rose Hotel was an old dilapidated hotel located downtown in the city in West Texas where I grew up. My father managed to get a deal on cheap rent for the building and turned it into a shelter for the homeless.

the-rose-hotel -2

Every night, my mother made big pots of stew, chili, soup, etc, and we drudged downtown to The Rose Hotel to feed the hungry and offer as many as we could a warm bed for the night. Every night, I sat on a stool at a long cafeteria table and ate my dinner chatting with people from different walks of life. Alcoholics, drug addicts, a few prostitutes, people who were just down on their luck, and sometimes even children.

My parents never told me that the people who we helped were poor.  I never knew they were any different than us. We all ate at the same table. We all ate the same meal. My dad preached every night, and then we left and went home.

My dad hired one of the men to be his “supervisor” when we were away, which basically meant that the people who slept there had to follow the rules. No drinking, no smoking inside, and no swearing.

One night, as my dad preached to the adults, I helped my mother clean up the kitchen area. A woman and her daughter walked in, immediately grabbing mine and my mother’s attention. The mother wore a battered coat with holes and stains, some scuffed up white pumps and held the hand of a little girl, blonde with blue eyes wearing a hooded sweat shirt and pants that showed her mismatched socks that peeked out of the worn toes of her shoes.

For the first time in my short life, I felt something. An aching to do something. Perhaps it was pity.

Perhaps I felt compassion.

I couldn’t define it, but my heart went out to that woman and her poorly clothed daughter as they stood there in the doorway looking cold and very tired. After taking them to McDonald’s to get them a quick bite to eat since the shelter had run out of food for the night, my mother convinced me to give the little girl one of my barbies. I struggled and tried to argue, but my mother gave me the look, that look, so I handed over one of my barbies to this strange girl who would become my playmate for a few nights. Her name was Casey.

I made lots of friends within the walls of that old hotel. One will forever occupy a little corner of my heart. I met him when I was six years old. We called him Willy.

Willy came to us in the dead of winter wearing overalls and a dirty white undershirt, no coat , a worn out train engineer hat, and a partially toothless smile. I remember the first night he walked through the door. He smiled with his whole face. My dad greeted him with a handshake, but Willy pulled him into a hug and patted his back.

“Is this a church or a hotel? I hears there’s preaching here,” he announced.

My dad chuckled and said, “Yes, sir, there’s preaching. And a warm meal and a bed if you need one.”

Willy clapped his hands and said, “This ain’t no church. There ain’t no crosses. Gots to have crosses to be a church.”

I sat next to him that night at dinner. He made me laugh. When no one was looking he made cross eyes at me or opened his mouth to show me his chewed up food. He laughed when I did it back to him and said something I’ll never forget, “You and me, we is friends.”

Later that night, we sat on the floor and played checkers. He let me win.

I looked forward to seeing him every night. He was kind and always paid attention to me. He laughed, full body shoulder shaking laughs, at almost everything I said, and he always seemed genuinely happy to see me.

One night, he grabbed my hand and pulled me into another room. He whispered, “We’s about to do something, but you have to promise me you won’t tell you’s dad.” I nodded.  I trusted him. He put his finger over his mouth shushing me and guided me on tip toes to the room where my dad usually preached. He handed me a marker. I noticed he had one in his hand, too. “Ain’t no church if it ain’t got crosses. Can you draw a cross?”

I nodded then giggled as he drew a big cross on the wall. I watched him draw two or three more before he noticed I wasn’t drawing. “What you waitin’ for, girl? Draw some crosses on this wall.”

He was an adult, and I was a child, and I was told to trust and obey, so I pulled the lid off of my marker, and Willy and I drew at least a hundred crosses on the wall of the former lobby of the Rose Hotel. My dad came in as we completed our masterpiece. I heard him chuckle behind me and dropped my marker. I knew better than to draw on walls.

“Preacher, we’s making you a church,” Willy said to my dad.

“I see that,” my dad said as he walked over and stood next to me. He reached down and picked up the marker I dropped. I looked down at the floor, ashamed of myself for ruining the building my dad worked so hard to keep up.

“You missed a spot, Willy,” my dad said and drew a few crosses on an empty space on the dirty wall of that dilapidated old hotel.

I  learned much later that Willy was mentally challenged. He had the mind of child, which is why he became my best friend. I only saw a person who smiled with his eyes, who enjoyed my company.

I don’t know how long Willy lived at the hotel. It seemed like years and also like minutes. One day, my dad sat me down and told me that Willy wasn’t going to be living there anymore. Already he had stayed longer than any other person. The shelter was supposed to be temporary. The goal was that my dad would try to help people get back on their feet, find work, find a home, but seeing the relationship I had with this kind man, my dad couldn’t turn him away. Plus, finding work for somebody with Willy’s disability proved to be a challenge.

He had found him something though, something that was perfect for Willy. A job with the circus. The next day, my parents took us to “The Greatest Show on Earth” and I watched my best buddy experience a whole new kind of happiness. He jumped up and down and clapped during every part of the show. After the finale, we went back to where Willy would be working. We met his boss, an old wrinkled man with a curled up gray mustache who greeted Willy with contagious warmth.

“This my new boss, Mandi,” Willy said shaking his boss’s hand.

At some point, my parents explained to Willy and me that he would be leaving town with the circus, traveling to different cities to help them get set up before the show and break everything down when the show came to an end. That meant Willy was leaving the next day.

We shared an emotional, and very tough goodbye.

The next year, when the circus came to town, my parents took me to see Willy. He walked us around like he was ten feet tall, introducing us to his friends, telling us all about all of his responsibilities. So proud and so happy. He asked me what my favorite part of the show was, and I told him it was the monkeys on the bikes. He disappeared for a minute telling us not to move. Then he came back with a little stuffed monkey. “I’s allowed to take this. It for you,” he made monkey sounds and chased me around with it before placing it in my hand. I still have it.

I never saw him again after that day, but I never forgot him. He lives in a little corner of my heart, and I see him in every homeless person I come across.

We helped so many people while we ran that little shelter. We also turned people away. We saw some really ugly things, but my parents never gave up. They saw the good in people, and they offered their assistance whenever and however they could.

That person on the street holding the “will work for food” sign is not just trash, littering up the view at your stop light. He’s a person. He’s somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, and maybe even a little girl’s best friend. Don’t look at him with irritation or loathing. Remember, he has a story, and maybe he made bad decisions, maybe that needle is the only thing that gets him through his day, but perhaps he’s just a man who needs a hand to reach in and pull him out of the darkness.

My dad is a dreamer, and his dream is to help people. He’s also my hero because he taught me that valuable trait we all need: compassion. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Waxing With A Happy Ending

I showered today and put on make-up. I know. Then I waved to my husband and headed out. I had plans to lunch with a girlfriend, but before, I wanted to get my eyebrows waxed.

I drove the one block to my place where I always go, where everybody knows my name. (Cue Cheer’s Theme song.) The girl at the front desk motioned me to go back to the waxing room. She used to walk me back there, but now we’re tight, so she just kind of looked over her shoulder like, “Well, you know the drill.”

I walked into the tiny room, placed my purse on the small folding chair and laid back on the table (noting that the sheet covering it was the same Southwestern pattern as the last time I got my eyebrows waxed and the time before that.) I waited for a few minutes listening to the zen music playing in the background, trying to ignore the potential germs residing on the unwashed sheet before a cute little Asian woman walked in. Continue reading

True Story…

According to my husband and my best friend (of thirty years), I’m a really good liar. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing, but it works well for me. I love to tell people outrageous stories and lure them into my web of lies, watching their eyes grow, their heads nod, that sharp intake of breath when they begin to trust my tale only to turn around and say, “No, I’m just kidding,” with a completely straight face. Continue reading

Well Slap My Ass And Call Me Sassenach

Most of the voices in my head speak with a Scottish accent.

Here’s why…Jamie Fraser, my fictional husband. 

Diana Gabaldon (one of my all time favorite authors) introduced us about six years ago, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Last night, I got to meet him on the big screen when I attended a private preview of the show “Outlander”, which will be out for everyone to see August 9th on Starz. Take a minute to go set your DVR’s. I’ll wait. Continue reading

Gonna Sip Bacardi Like it’s My Birfday….

It’s my birthday! *throws confetti*

Funny, actually my birthday is never really a big deal for me. Ever. I grew up in a family where if we said “happy birthday, so and so,” that was enough. It was a BIG deal to get a card, and gifts..pfft. Who needs ’em?

But this year, wow. This year, people, a lot of people, came together and made my birthday a big deal. A really big deal, and I am floored, gobsmacked, honored, and humbled to no end at the thought. Continue reading

Leapin’ Lizards

“Mo-om!” My three year old daughter called from the bathroom. I slowly shuffled to where she was brewing with excitement with what awaited me. I helped her get herself in order. Then I washed my hands, dried them, and started heading out into the small hallway by my bedroom. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement in my bedroom. I quickly completed a status check in my head. It took me about half a second to realize son and dog upstairs, husband in his office, daughter and I in the doorway of the downstairs bathroom, but something moved in my bedroom.

I turned my head quickly and held my hand flat against my daughter’s chest to keep her in the bathroom. Just then, I saw a tail. Continue reading

Aside

I Wanna Know! Do You?

Do you ever wonder?  I know you do.  You wonder. I wonder…What the hell is he thinking?

Well here’s your chance to find out, ladies and gentleman.  I have three very brave men (who shall remain anonymous for now) who have agreed to answer our questions. That’s right, we can finally learn what’s going on in those purty little heads of theirs, so here’s your chance. You have the floor.

What are your questions for my Fab 3? 

Submit your questions here in the comments, or tweet them to me @MandiCLBT with the hashtag #whatmenthink.

I will pimp your blog with your question. If you don’t have a blog, you’ll still get a shout out, so let’s get this party started! Shall we?

The answers will go up on Tuesday, May 27.

Disclaimer: My guys are sweet but also very cool. They get to choose if a question is let’s say too…provocative.  Ask anyway, and let them decide.

My Milkshake Brings All the Boys To My Blog

I know the drill.  The writer’s mind starts whirling, spinning around a plot of vicious characters, or piecing words into a brilliant, moving, sometimes even hilarious blog post.  We sit at our computers, typing vigorously, creating magic word porn for the world to see, while often sipping coffee (or wine), eating whatever is closest to our quickly moving hands, and piling wrappers on wrappers a top our already messy desks.

It’s one of those things.  Once we start, we cannot be interrupted, unless that Ding Dong is calling from our pantry, or maybe that bag of sour cream and onion chips…nah…those get the keys greasy.  My biggest vice while writing is hot tamales.  I always keep a movie theater box in my underwear drawer, and before heading to the computer, I grab a handful.  The problem is, hot tamales aren’t good fuel for my brain.  In fact, they do just the opposite.

“So what then?” asks the writer.

I have a solution, and it just so happens to be delicious and nutritious, a super easy recipe.  Don’t click the X yet.  Trust me…this is good.  Disclaimer:  I am NOT a cook.  Notice I didn’t even use “good cook” because I cannot cook.  I was banned from bringing anything that requires heat to Thanksgiving this year. I give you today’s lunch…

My omelette.  Shuddap, it tasted good.

My omelette. Shuddap, it tasted good.

And Tyler Florence's...or the husband's.  WTF?

And Tyler Florence’s…or the husband’s. WTF?

 

So here’s a treat that anyone, even this uncook can make.  Let’s just call it a milkshake cuz smoothie sounds way too *good for us*.

Things you’ll need…

  • Frozen blueberries, strawberries, or really any fruit that you like (I always get blueberries)
  • Bananas (I like to use the bananas that have started to spot and soften.  I chop them up and put them in the freezer for these…milkshakes)
Perfectly freckled

Perfectly freckled

  • baby spinach/fresh kale (or both)
  • FAGE plain 0% yogurt
  • Sweetener (I use Stevia, huz likes honey in his)
  • Milk (can use soy, almond, rice, coconut or good ole cow’s milk.  I use 0% organic milk)
  • A blender

All of these things can be found at your local grocery store…or even Wal-Mart if you’re brave (husband saw a huge rat in the gardening section yesterday at Wal-Mart while shopping for fertilizer, so we’re pretty much boycotting)

  • Add about a cup of milk (adding the liquid first helps to blend the solid ingredients more quickly).
  • Then add about 1 1/2 cups of blueberries (I never actually measure this stuff)
  • Add one banana (the riper, the better)
  • Add about a cup of the yogurt
  • Grab a handful of the spinach or kale or both, and throw that in the blender (or leave this out all together, but it’s a great way to get some greens without having to taste them)
  • Add your sweetener (if my bananas are really ripe, I go without sweetener)
It should look like this

It should look like this

  • Blend to desired consistency. (bartender trick: blend until the liquid makes a tornado with a visible hole in the middle.)
"There's no place like home."

“There’s no place like home.”

  • Pour it into your favorite glass, throw in a straw, and enjoy while you type
Bendy straws make it more fun

Bendy straws make it more fun

Here’s what you’re doing for your body. First, you replace a sugary snack with something that tastes sweet but will actually fuel your writer’s brain.  You’re offering yourself potassium, which will help you think more quickly while keeping your fingers from cramping.  Your ingesting antioxidants which not only help to slow the signs of aging (who doesn’t want that?) but also aid in cognitive functioning, and are just in general really good for the body.  In addition, if you add the spinach or kale, or better yet both, you’re providing your brain with iron which helps to replenish memory and aids in oxidative metabolism.  You’re getting fiber, which not only helps with your metabolism which is necessary because…sitting at a computer all day, but also fiber boosts your brain health in general.  Finally, you’re getting 23 grams of protein alone in the one cup of the Greek yogurt.  Your brain is made up of these things called neurotransmitters.  They communicate with each other to make you feel the way you feel.  They are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of… Protein.  Also, think about it…when you have a good quality meal high in protein and low in carbohydrates, you’re fueled for that writing session, but when you down that Double cheeseburger and fries, you have to pick your head off of your keyboard.

So there you have it, a milkshake that might just hold you until dinner.

Side Note:  sometimes I skip lunch when I’m writing, and this is a great meal replacement so that I don’t crash before dinner.

Side Note #2:  My kids drink these every day, so they’re getting all this good stuff, too, all the while thinking they’re drinking a milkshake.  Score one for mom.

 

The Beast Inside

They say, “You’re not good enough.”

They say, “You’re not smart enough.”

They say, “Quit.”

They say, “What’s the point?”

They say, “If only you were…better.  If only you were funnier.  If only you were prettier.”

They say, “No one cares.”

They start off whispering little messages of doubt.  They quiet for a bit and allow the negativity to marinate, to percolate on their acrimony.  Then they start again, louder, full of malice and greed, seeking to pull out every ounce of self respect and esteem, pursuing to leave me buried in self-loathing and malevolence.

Then they scream, “Just run away.  You will never be enough…”

“Shhhhhh.”

I take a deep breath.   I see myself in the mirror.  The girl staring back at me is strong, smart, beautiful.  She is fucking good enough.

I look around at my surroundings.  I count my blessings.  I reach out to my daughter and pull her into an embrace where she wraps her chubby arms around my neck and squeezes me until I can hardly breath.  I listen to my son tell me joke after joke and relish in his sense of humor and the joy that he gets from making me laugh.  I take the hand that my husband stretches out to me and wrap my fingers around his, holding on to the foundation that we’ve created.  And I smile.

For a while, the voices will quiet.

They will return.  They always do.  But they won’t win.  I won’t let them.

Because I am strong.  I am smart.  I am beautiful.  

I…am…fucking…good…enough.

Continue reading

Boys, Booze, a Benz, and the A-Team

It was a Saturday night.  I spent an hour in my bathroom, spinning my short blonde locks around a small curling iron achieving Carrie Bradshaw bounce.  I threw on a low cut purple top over a white cami and my favorite pair of jeans, pulled on my  black high heeled boots and made a quick quality check in the mirror.   Continue reading