Mar 29, 2012

Give Though it Hurts

I’m a giver. One of those people who does nice things all the time, always thinking of others. If you’ve read between the lines in my previous postings, I'm sure you've picked up on this already. If you haven’t figured it out even after reading my blog, then let me give you some advice – learn to read.

Anyway, the reason I tell you I’m a giver is because I’ve been spending a lot of my time doing charity work of late. No, I don’t help the homeless. I don’t donate my hard-earned money to dumb causes. I don’t work with children to teach ‘em stuff like acupuncture or whatever people teach little kids. I do something far more important – I donate my presence to the less fortunate people around me.

Let me give you an example that makes me proud. There are two women I work with, Kibbie and Dodie, who I've been helping, unbeknownst to them. They are scrawny, boring, and I’m pretty sure one doesn't have all her marbles. Both are pretty good looking, but the moment they start talking, you understand why people tend to avoid them. They are sarcastic and say horrible things to people. I’m just not like that. It’s not in my nature to be mean.

Anyway, one day I stumbled upon these poor saps eating egg-salad sandwiches on dirty crates outside the back door of the quickie mart, and I suddenly had a strong feeling that they needed someone like me in their lives. I felt the calling and answered, as they say. I immediately decided to stop eating lunch with the fun, cool people at work, people more like me. Now I eat with Kibbie and Dodie every day.

At first I didn’t want the two women to know I was taking pity on them, so I made an excuse to ask if I could join them, saying I wanted to eat in the fresh air. I have to clarify that the air isn’t fresh around them. They’re always smoking and the older one reeks of chewing tobacco.

Instead of being grateful, I sensed they didn’t welcome my presence. “Go away!” snapped Dodie, “We don’t want to eat with you.”

Poor Dodie. Time has not been kind to her. She said she’s in her 40s, but her face says 70 or maybe 90. The way she lashed out at me made me realize her mind is probably unclear. Her young sidekick, Kibbie, guffawed at her friend’s “cleverness” as she violently wolfed down a sandwich in a hungry rage.

“Listen, Dodie,” I said. “I’m trying to be nice to you guys because I know you don’t have much going on in your lives.” I’m a straight shooter, and I know people appreciate honesty. Not these two!

“Are you a guy or a girl?” Dodie said, looking at my short haircut.

“There’s no way that’s a woman,” Kibbie responded.

They laughed and high-fived. Dodie spat her chewing tobacco into an empty beer can. So crass. I could tell that being nice would be tough.

“I’m trying to help you out, so why don’t you drop the attitude?” I said, turning to Kibbie. I wanted to call her Kibbles because of the way she kept eating her food like a ravenous dog and looking up at me in between bites, but I’m just not mean spirited. I could never do that.

“Fine. Shut up and sit down,” Kibbles said. I watched as she tore into a bag of chips. After a storm-cloud of crumbs and saliva settled, the chips were gone -- they didn’t stand a chance.

As the ladies talked, I learned that Kibbles was knocked up. She was on her second baby and the two were laughing because she didn’t know who the father was -- again! “Who cares?” she said. “I’ll figure it out when I push this sucker out.” She laughed so hard that her heavy mascara streaked all over her face, like a clown after a car accident. I knew then that my work would be hard. How could I relate to these two?

As time went on, I realized that despite their unpleasant outer shells, Kibbles and Dodie had some fine qualities inside. I learned that the younger, very pregnant Kibbles is quite talented at archery, which is absolutely useless in the real world, but at least she found something she excels at. She’s also got a way with the young kids that come into the quickie mart. They enjoy being around her, not realizing that she’s only nice so that she can bum cigarettes off them for free. Her motives aren’t good, but at least she can relate to teens. Kibbie's smoking disturbed me, so I brought in a picture book that explained how cigarettes are bad for a developing baby. Kibbie looked through it and quit smoking the next day.

Likewise, I found that Dodie is a warm-hearted person beneath that rough exterior. She gave me her 60-inch TV set one night in a drunken stupor. They say that people’s real personalities are amplified when they are under the influence, so I think that means she has a very kind soul. The next day, she told Kibbles and me that her TV was missing from her house, and I chuckled. Turns out she’s quite the jokester too. She went on and on about how she filed a police report, and I was in stitches! If I wasn't hanging out with her, she probably wouldn't have realized how humorous she is. Dodie often speaks of her sons who are in college, but I quickly surmised that they are really in prison. Regardless, Dodie speaks fondly of them, though the poor thing can never remember their names. Sometimes she thinks she has a daughter, but I just overlook it to make her think she is speaking coherently. Poor Kibbie doesn’t ever notice. She really has trouble keeping up with the conversation. Kibbie talks a lot about strange subjects -- different uses for goat manure and how she's excited about the cow her family purchased to slaughter. Dodie finds it fascinating, but sometimes I yawn from boredom.

Sometimes the women revert to their cruel nature. One day I used a three-syllable word they didn't understand, and they began taunting me with cruel gibes like, "Go back to Uganda!" I jumped on the moment as a teaching opportunity to explain that I am from Asia, and that Uganda is in a different continent, but as I talked, their eyes began to glaze over. So sad that they don't have a thirst for knowledge.

Anyway, if not for my kind nature, I would never had taken the time to impact the lives of Kibbie and Dodie. Despite our differences, I have come to really enjoy their company. The point of my posting is to tell all of you to reach out to those around you. I have a great life and have a lot going for me, but I still remember to give back. Sure, I miss my real friends, the normal people, but that’s life.

Be a giver. Be like me.

Jan 6, 2012

Liam Neeson Strikes Again

A few days ago, the doorbell rang about 5:30 p.m. We weren’t expecting anyone, so my husband grabbed his shotgun in case it was a salesman. The boys quickly gathered round, but when Joe looked out the peep hole, he froze in his tracks. “Shhh!” he whispered frantically to all of us, “It’s Liam Neeson again. Pretend we’re not here.” Liam sometimes overstays his welcome, so we hid from the windows and tried not to make any noise.

Half a minute later, Hans looked through the peep hole to see if Liam had left, but he was still there. However, Hans spied a beautiful bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Liam’s hands. “He’s got food!” Hans exclaimed. Call us sentimental, but as soon as we heard there was chicken, we swung the door open, giving Liam an especially warm welcome.

“Come in, my old friend,” my husband said to Liam, putting the shotgun back in the umbrella stand and giving our guest a hearty slap on the back. Liam returned the gesture with a harder punch to Joe’s arm. Grimacing, Joe turned to grab the shotgun, but I stopped him, mouthing the word “chicken.”

Liam waltzed into the kitchen, plopping the bucket of chicken on the dining room table. “I’m starving! Being a movie star sure makes you hungry,” he said. He dug into the bucket, handling each piece of chicken until he carefully picked out all the white meat for himself.

“Ewww,” one of my sons said.

“Be quiet. It’s free,” I reprimanded.

When his plate was full, Liam invited the rest of us to dig in. The boys and Joe immediately descended upon the bucket like vultures. Nothing was left for me but a broken biscuit. Seeing that Liam had most of the chicken, I politely asked him, “Can I have one of your drumsticks or something?”

“No, it’s mine!” he shouted, baring his teeth. He ate voraciously and proceeded to drink one can of Dr. Pepper after another.

“Take it easy, Liam,” I said. “That’s loaded with caffeine,” but three cans of soda later, Liam was wound up and giggly. I didn’t want the kids to see him like this, so I had him wash the dishes and vacuum until he got rid of some of that extra energy.

When Liam settled down a bit, we retired to the living room to chat. He told us wonderful stories about his recent movie, all the while speaking with that beautiful accent. I don’t know what part of Asia he’s from, but I could listen to him speak all day.

“Enough of chatting about me,” Liam said. “Let’s have some entertainment!” Thinking that was their cue, my sons immediately jumped up to retrieve their musical instruments. Liam quickly stopped them, saying he was talking about watching a movie. The boys fought back tears of disappointment while they put their instruments back in their cases. Liam faked a cough, simultaneously muttering “girly boys.”

“Don’t listen to him, sons,” I said. “That’s the Dr. Pepper talking.” I shot our guest a dark look, so Liam apologized.

He changed the mood by telling the boys he had a surprise for them. He said he brought a movie about some llama. We love animals, so even Joe and I were quite thrilled. Liam then held up not one but TWO versions of the same movie, one in VHS and one in Beta. I don’t like when celebrities flaunt their wealth, but I gasped in disbelief despite myself. Even when George Clooney comes to visit, he has to rent a DVD. We’ve never met a star who can afford two different media formats.

We popped in the film, and I was captivated from the beginning. The name escapes me, but the movie was about a German guy who spent seven years in Tibet. Within minutes, however, we realized there was no llama in the movie at all. Nor was there a half-man, half-llama character, as we hoped. Soon we realized that there were no martial arts either. No Bruce Li. No Jackie Chan. What kind of a movie was this? Joe and I began finding excuses to scatter, but Liam paused the movie and told us that if we dared to leave, he would ask the boys to play their instruments. Frightened, we quickly returned to our seats, and Liam hit “play” again.

Anyway, let me “fast forward” through this story. The movie was about a man who gains wisdom after living with the grounded Tibetan townsfolk and the Dalai Lama until the Chinese attack and occupy the country. Liam watched the movie so many times that he knew all of Brad Pitt’s lines, which he recited throughout the whole movie. We didn’t mind. It was like having surround sound.

The movie made us think about the simple way of life these Tibetan folks live, and by the end, we were all inspired to find ways simplify our own lives before the Chinese attack us. Liam said he would start by staying in four-star hotels instead of luxury resorts. My husband said he would stop going to the barber since he is bald anyway. The boys said they would ride their bikes to school and college instead of hitchhiking. I said I could buy prepared, prepackaged foods instead of cooking from scratch and wasting time and money. Liam pointed out that prepared foods have preservatives to make them last longer, so that means our bodies will stay healthy longer too. It was all making sense.

Liam left, but the impact of his visit stays with us, and we started 2012 on the right foot. Best wishes to all of you as well, and I hope each of you can achieve a simpler, grounded way of life before the Chinese attack you too. Happy New Year!

Jackie S. Phillips