It’s the end of the year and I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!!   My last three weeks have been a wonderful adventure as those who have read the first Cherries Over Quicksand all know…. even though I am ultra girly… I would rather run from a  burn-out cloud on the drag strip than enter a looming strip mall.  My fiance is wonderfully understanding and my children are grown and understand the meaning of Christmas… a time for giving but not to the point of expecting Santa to mortgage his or her sleigh so they were simple.  Yea!  They gave me the gift of time.  I spent my Christmas/New Years season contacting out-of-town publishers who might be interested in a feed-the-homeless story… a very eye-opening and long adventure.  Then the best part was meeting the leaders at The San Diego Rescue Mission, about 100 volunteers and spending a day with hundreds of homeless people on the downtown streets and in the Rescue Mission.  It was a wonderful day and this is my story.  At the bottom is the link to the first publication to run the story with the donation site as I requested.  They also included my name which I told all publishers was their call but did not matter to me  either way, as this is a gift from me  to our homeless population and the wonderful leadership I met at the Mission that day.  Some ask why I went so far away to choose an organization to write about… it’s where my heart led me is my only answer… the physical pull was so strong to help these people I had never met that I just had to go… my family completely understood, I feel so blessed.  The SDRM needs millions in donated dollars and  items per year to run their extraordinary programs… so this is our gift meant to entertain and inspire from me, my fiance and my children…It might be a little large but like some publisher with less space available found… it can be worn with a belt.  Smile. ;D 

Have you ever wondered about approaching the homeless? 

Dressed in boots and layered oversized clothing I was welcomed into a group of four other volunteers.  I had purposely volunteered at an event where I would not know anyone to get a completely fresh perspective and I had succeeded.  Within fifteen minutes of walking in the direction of our designated streets we were two steps from a group of homeless women talking alongside a large building. “Have you heard about the free Christmas dinner at the Rescue Mission tonight?” the one man in our group asked, as he held out the three-by-five invitation.  “Tonight?” one woman asked, with her small hand over her smile.  He nodded as she took the invitation from his hand.  No one spoke as she read the words; San Diego Rescue Mission Christmas Dinner, Saturday, December 18, 2010, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., 120 Elm Street, SD, CA 92101, silently to herself.  “Thank you!” she said, with a nod toward her friends.  He then stepped forward and handed out more invitations to the rest of her group.

I thought back to the early morning when we realized rain threatened outdoors as about 50 volunteers listened to the directions for respectfully approaching the homeless people on the streets of downtown San Diego including, “Do not take pictures of the homeless. Many times it is offensive and makes the outreach difficult”. Michael Castaneda, S.D.R.M.’s Men’s Center Intake Manager thanked everyone, let us know we could expect to be serving meals to about 1500 people in need, then reminded us to stay in groups or with at least one other person at all times. 

Homeless singles, groups, couples, handicapped people of about every age and people with children mostly accepted our invitations with smiles and gratitude.  Some said they had to work and others wanted to share their stories and tell us the city or state they had traveled from or told us jokes; our group was all smiles and exchanged well wishes with each brief meeting. 

Just as I was thinking about how comfortable the homeless were to approach we heard yelling from across the street.  About five volunteer women from a local church were walking quickly away from a group of homeless people they had just invited to the dinner.  One homeless woman was yelling something about not wanting to get fat like volunteers.  With surprised faces, the volunteers quickly crossed the street to join us as we all picked up our pace.  We headed toward the next block and almost immediately met an elderly homeless man.  His face lit-up while he told us how much he would love to have dinner at the Mission. “Thank you,” he said, with sincerity as he folded the invitation neatly and put it in his pocket. 

About two hours later, we had handed out most of our invitations and were headed back to the Mission when we saw a young woman with a heavily worn stroller.  She pushed her baby carriage past us as one volunteer extended an invitation to dinner; all the while the woman’s gaze remained down.  She slowly shook her head as her reply to us, but then turned and inquired in a hopeful but drained voice, “Are there toys for children?”  I answered her, “Yes and other giveaways, please come join us.”  She accepted the paper invitation and slowly walked away.

Back at the Mission, I was offered a short tour of their facility that had once been a hospital with extremely productive and transferable functionability for shelter use then joined volunteers in the dining room including military men from the USS Makin Island (Ship) as they placed long sturdy tables throughout the room while other volunteers displayed gifts for men, women and children.  Later some of these same soldiers helped the Mayor dish-up meals in the kitchen.

As the first 200 people-in-need walked through the Mission’s door Deborah Williams, S.D.R.M.’s Volunteer Coordinator welcomed each person with the kind of holiday cheer one would expect after returning home from a long journey.  The festive atmosphere was complete as the band played Christmas music and guests were led to their tables already set with green salads.  The room literally bustled as people greeted new friends at almost every turn then silenced respectfully, with all heads bowed during the opening prayer.   

I went outside into the damp cool day to see where the rest of the hundreds of people were waiting be seated for the Christmas dinner.  They were lined up under protective awnings and across the street in the parking garage out of the elements but still in the cold.  The weather did not seem to affect anyone’s joy as I spoke to some of the people in line.  One group of men shared their gratitude for churches that welcome the homeless for various meals during the weeks but they all agreed there was not enough food or shelter.  They described their ongoing apprehension of being turned away on cold/ hungry nights like trying to avoid sickness to their hope.   One man said, “Sometimes the homeless feed the homeless.”  The men began to joke happily with one another the closer the line moved to the entry door where we could see volunteers in Santa hats skillfully carrying trays filled with delicious ham dinners piled with all the fixings.  

When I walked back inside, Mick Hartley, S.D.R.M.’s Men’s Center Chaplain was singing lead for one of the performing bands and volunteers were gliding throughout the room placing pieces of caramel cake in front of diners.  The children had classic wide-eyes-of-surprise when the very large and tasty deserts were set before them without notice. 

There were settings and salads for about 30 people on a table but I noticed something was missing.  “Where are the chairs for the first table?” I asked Williams.  She explained this was the easy access section for the wheelchair bound diners.  Within minutes, handicapped guests wheeled-in ready to join the celebration after receiving a warm welcome from Williams; Herb Johnson, S.D.R.M. President/CEO; Karen Clark, S.D.R.M. Community Relations & Events and volunteers.  The atmosphere was that of a safe and loving home, an obvious representation of the Mission’s leadership.

Dan McAllister, San Diego County Treasurer, Tax Collector expressed his respect for the Mission’s leadership and programs.  With all the activity surrounding us he summed up key programs for the homeless very well.  “It’s not just, ‘Show up and they will feed you’.  They can get you a new lease on life too,” said McAllister.  Then we passed San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders near the kitchen as he joined the volunteers to serve meals and happily shook the welcoming hands throughout the lines of tables.  Later I met Ronald Lacey, Community Outreach, Office of the Mayor, he also joined the leaders and now about 100 volunteers as we greeted and spoke with ultimately about 1,600 diners.  

I had read about the Missions extensive programs for men women and children including, twelve month recovery programs, an outpatient program, the Recuperative Care Unit program for homeless released from the hospital, the Partners for Hunger Relief program and the Emergency Overnight Shelter where each night, up to 60 battered, homeless, or poor women and children, 12 and under can receive food, shelter.  

A dark-haired homeless man who now lives at the Mission in their twelve month program told me he decided to stop making bad choices that could land him in trouble and to start making positive choices with the Mission’s leadership.  I thanked the man for telling me his story and told him how everyone I had met at the dinner had been extremely kind and gracious.  He looked pleased and said, “Just because you’re homeless, doesn’t mean you have to act like you are homeless.”  I said, “Those are powerful words, can I use them?” “Sure,” he said.  He pointed out that many of the homeless struggle with mental illness and do need the extra care, I nodded in recognition.

Johnson who is also a minister makes wearing his many indispensable hats look comfortable.  I asked him if the Mission is in need of donations.  “Yes, donations have been down for three years,” he said.  He further added they are a faith-based organization and do not receive government funding only donations from sponsors and kind citizens.  I thanked Johnson and as I headed over to the gift table to help out, overheard someone say a phrase I had heard many times that day; “No one expects to be chronically homeless.”

“Do you have any black socks,” a young blond woman asked me.  One of the volunteers answered, “We’re out of socks.”  She selected a gift bag filled with toiletries thanked everyone at the tables and left with her family who also had already selected their transparent gift bags.

Later I spoke with the Mayor.  I told him I had just learned teenagers 16 and older were allowed to volunteer at the Mission and asked him his thoughts on teens volunteering.  “It puts things in perspective, like their own problems.  It’s time to start giving back no matter how young they are,” he said.

A beautiful 90-year-old lady walked up to me with her walker and her neighbors, they were not homeless but appreciated the hot meals.  The two younger men said they all took care of each other like family.  “I’ve never been here,” she said. “It was wonderful!”  Then she shared that her hat was 50 years old as her pretty blue eyes twinkled.

It was close to the end of the night when a family stood at the toy counter with their four-year old little girl.  She shook her damp golden-brown curls and stood on her tip-toes as she tried to see the toy selection.  She pulled a Christmas stockings forward, reached inside and slid the little toy animal out enough to see its face.  Her eyes teared up with happiness and disbelief.  “Is this for me?” she asked.  Her parents could see she had made her choice and nodded.  She looked at the little toy with delight.  Then the lady with the baby carriage from the streets walked by with the stuffed animal she had chosen clutched to her chest as she silently headed back outside amidst all the beautiful music, good wishes and gratitude inside the Mission and into the damp cold night with a new toy.

The San Diego Rescue Mission is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is qualified to receive tax-deductible donations welcome from individual citizens to large corporations and foundations.  Donations may be made at sdrescue.org

Please contact me at RhondaRicardo@hotmail.com if you would like to run all or part of this story, with the SDRM donation website, in your hard cover or online publication at no charge of course.

The link below is to the first publication to publish our story (from the wonderful people at sdnews.com) with one of my photos including the San Diego Mayor… over 365 hits so far… hopefully from some needing to make their year-end contributions!!  Happy New Year!!! 

www.sdnews.com

Second Publication:

sandiegonewsroom.com

Third Publication:

www.topix.com

I have talked to more people who have gotten back together after volunteering to be their ex’s date at a work function.  I enjoyed interviewing Ken for  Cherries Over Quicksand, I think he may have opened up a great way for other seperated couples to show they want to be there for each other… maybe forever …even after they had both dampened the spark for months on a daily basis; like when it rains on the tiki torches, the lights go out… so then, how can they move the party inside?  I’ll share part of his interview here:

“So you are both happy now that you are apart?” I asked, as he reflected on their marriage, like an artist not finished with a portrait.

            “I’m not,” Ken answered quickly, morphing into the posture of a love-struck pre-teen.  He said that he tries to hang around her while visiting the baby but she always has plans, so she lets him have quality time with their son, by himself.  Ken said he wants the three of them back together again.

            “So, what are your plans?” I asked.

             “I think I have already made a dent,” he said, with that kind of stare gamblers get when they watch their horse gain the lead in the race. 

            He said Regina needed a date for a company function and had asked him if he’d like to accompany her.  He had jumped at the chance to prove himself to her again.  Ken said he behaved like the perfect gentleman and had turned on the charm.  Later, Regina told him that her co-workers had enjoyed his jokes and even said he had a great personality. 

            “That whole day was a cool experience,” Ken said, nodding his head to an imaginary crowd.  The delight in his eyes revealed a man that was not telling his entire happy story.  Maybe they had an after party…No! I didn’t ask!

            I did ask Ken if he thought it would be worth doing his own laundry to get her back. 

           “Yes Ma’am!” was his answer.

So many stories of exhausted new parents trying to keep their romance alive but giving up… hope this story can help new moms and dads look forward to the candlelight at the end of the tunnel… maybe tonight! ;D

In about 17 hours I will be headed back to my roots and filling my life with more joy!   I know many of you will be able to relate to me because as I was out running errands yesterday I met others with same kinds of plans.

After years of volunteering with my children, I will never forget one event when my twin boys were about 16 years old.  They had just helped serve dinner to a room full of people-in-need then joined them to eat while I finished up in the kitchen with other volunteers.  The boys were sitting with an adult volunteer across from a lonely elderly man suffering from schizophrenia; they all listened to his stories like old friends and noticed the elderly man’s face as it changed from lost and sad to thankful for these caring dinner companions.  My sons look up at me from across the room and smiled with understanding far beyond their years.  

I happily smiled back as the kitchen volunteers filled more plates and we filed in to join the diners.  Then later the people in extreme-need had leaders who gently helped them back to their places.  We cleaned up the pots and pans and headed home feeling more joy with each event. 

My boys are now 24 years old and have thanked me, for their early volunteer experiences, more times than I could ever count.  As my sons have move up, down, around windy roads and on with their adult lives I marvel in their weekly words of inspiration… they joke that I started it, but I cannot even try to keep up with their studied wisdom. Yep, mom with three amazing kids and a full heart here!  ;D

For many years my children and I joined our church group’s feed-the-homeless events in our little town.  We met people from all types of living situations.  Some were just newly out of work, some had been in various shelters through-out their lives, some had children, some had battled many addictions and some had battled mental health confusion for many years but when we all sat down to dinner together at the designated church we were family.

It has been a few years since I have volunteered at a large feed-the-homeless event, and by large I mean I was expecting to find an event serving, at the most 500 people.  Tomorrow will be a new experience as I have been blessed to find an event where volunteers will be serving a Christmas Feast to an expected 1,000 and 1,500 people in need… but there is another reason this event will be extra special for me.

I called The San Diego Rescue Mission after searching the internet for feed-the-homeless programs.  When I called the volunteer coordinator to volunteer I knew I had found another special group to not only join at their event but to go a step further and write (and donate) a story to get their donation site further out to the public.  At first I thought I would just write a little story and donate it to a few publications in the area but as I found out the Mission does not take public or government funding only donations from caring citizens and found out more about their amazing people, caring services, and needs I decided to offer the story to any publication, with or without my name published at no charge of course.  They sent me over their press release to forward to publications to get their donation site further out to the media, and are so thankful for any assistance.  We are all told to use the gifts we are given to help the world…and well, I am ready spend the next few days writing their fabulous story to open more doors for our wonderful-giving society to want to get involved… so this is my Christmas gift to as many as my story can help.  I can be reach by publications at rhondaricardo@hotmail.com.  

Tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., I will be at The San Diego Rescue Mission.  I am told we will first be going out on the streets to gather those in need for the Christmas Feast.  I’m not sure how they are currently set with volunteers but you can go to www.sdrescue.org. to find information about their needs and also to donate.  If you are volunteering or dropping off donation items it is supposed to rain so be prepared …and if you see me please introduce yourself…I can’t wait! ;D

When is Silent Sexy?

December 15, 2010

Does your man come home, sit on the couch and stare at the television with his mouth open and finger in his ear or bellybutton?  Oops! Sorry if that image was too close to home.  Can your man sit through a meal and not hear a word of conversation around his head?  Guess what?…That’s completely normal.  He’s relaxed and feels safe and happy at home so why not enjoy his meal and zone out a little?  He’s probably had a hard day, so as long as he compliments the chef or helps with the dishes he figures everything is just perfect.

Then a new movie starts on television with a strong Clint Eastwood silent type and your man seems to really enjoy the character, and so do you!  So what’s the difference between Clint being silent and Happy Husband/Boyfriend being quiet?  It’s all in the technique, and not impossible for the everyday man to duplicate if he really wants to try.

Tom Selleck, Antonio Bandares, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp have all played the silent type and the ladies fell in big love with them so why do we complain when our men are quiet?  I’ve done a little research and found that it is all in the attitude!

Tom Selleck has a silent humor about him that makes him delicious in just about every movie where he plays the slightly confused but confident guy like in Three Men and a Baby.  It is difficult for the leading lady not to want to rescue him while she is letting him rescue her too!  His face and eyebrows can say volumes and create weak knees with no words.

There is Johnny Depp’s silent, like in Chocolat, Benny and Joon  and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape where he can speak to his leading lady with his eyes, deliberately not answer her with words and make her swoon… not make her angry.

Antonio Bandares in Desperado and The Mask of Zorro talked to his leading ladies with his body.  Hey that man can strike a pose and it is nowhere near feminine!   Are there unsexy ways a man could use his posture to turn his woman off?  Oh yah!   If men could strike that balance of ‘I’m barley containing my manliness’ and  Bandares’, ‘You are the only woman for me’ stance, men would be way too powerful, but as long as they use it for good, I’m all for it!

When Brad Pitt talks it seems everyone listens but when he played Tristan in Legends of the Fall it was his masculine energy that commanded every scene, and that was okay with the ladies because it was more of a sensual presence not an angry or egotistical energy.   If his stare came in a spray can, the world would be filled with smiles!

I have met men who do not look anything like these movie stars but still bring all these strong silent talents into the house and others who leave their camping catalog on the floor in the bathroom so they can easily get back to reading where they left off; not sexy.   Men say they love physical attention.  Have they had the power to get what they want by watching these leading men and just changing their demeanor from slug to home run but just not try?

Why do men do the silent-thing but not use the masculine allure (attitude) we would all love in our lives?   Is there anything women can do to get their guys back on the flirt/romance track?  Also, how can guys show their ladies they will be onboard if she gets back on the flirt/romance track?