Have you guys ever used a tongue scraper?  I read about them once in a Marian Keyes novel and also heard the term “fresh as a daisy” thrown around as an after effect from using one, so I got me one and put it to use a few times a week.  I guess it works but it’s not something I go around asking. “Hey,” hack directly into someone’s face, “do you notice that my breath smells like daisies?”  Talk about instant social ostracism, no matter how daisy fresh I am.

Anyway, yesterday I put it to use but apparently a little too enthusiastically because I gagged myself. It took an inordinately long time to recover from that.  I had to lie down.  Everything revolted for a long number of minutes and when I felt I could stand, I commenced to drying my hair and mentally disposed of any breakfast I had planned on eating.  I might be permanently off of trying to achieve that level of oral hygiene anymore.

That story really has nothing to do with anything but I felt I should share it.

I talk a lot about Martie here but I do have another sister, Squirt, who I talk about less. She’s just as great but she often lives far away and quite honestly, she is a terrible communicator.  She is significantly younger than me, so much so that if I were to date one of her friends I’d feel like a ridiculous wrinkled up old hag with a young whippersnapper type sugar baby.  If I shared funny stories about her I’d mostly be making them up because I don’t get to experience them for myself very often.  She’s a cute little thing, though.  Here, look.


One super cute story – when she was tiny, big enough to have hair and eat adult food but young enough to speak in her toddler language still, she asked for chips. Ruffles, specifically, and I’m only telling you this so you can recreate the picture in your head.

“Uh-ona jap, plz,” she said.

Fortunately, Martie and I spoke Squirt toddler and understood that “uh-ona jap, plz” meant “I want a chip, please.” Also fortunately, Squirt was amenable to repeating this over and over at our request while we flailed about on the sofa wheezing with mirth at the cuteness of it.

Anyway. After a time, we gave Squirt the bag of Ruffles which she protectively placed between her legs and against her body, effectively hiding herself behind the bag.  All we could see were two tiny toddler feet on either side of the bag, one blonde pigtail sprouting from both the right and left of the Ruffles, and a tiny hand reaching ever so often into the bag to pluck a single chip for her consumption.  We’d hear the crunch, watch the hand, and flail around wheezing until our stomachs hurt. Unfortunately for Squirt, we still have the same reaction when we tell the story now, which is often.  Poor kid. I don’t think she will ever be allowed to grow up as far as Martie and I are concerned.

I say that, but it isn’t true. See, Squirt just left two weeks ago for a stint in the Peace Corps. She’s in Paraguay for 27 months and it is unlikely that she will come back to the States during those months.  Martie and I were super excited for her until it came time for her to go.  Suddenly, she was leaving.  It was real and she was going and to say that we were distraught is putting it far too lightly.  We had taken her shopping for things she would need.  We asked a million questions about what she’d be doing.  We spent more quality time with her than we’d done in a while but two days before she got on that plane, we had a comeapart.  I say comeapart but what I really mean is comeaparts.  Ssss.  More than one.

Our small younger sister is in another country with people she only met at the staging session. We saw the group picture of the pile of Peace Corps, Paraguay, but we don’t know those people. We don’t know her host family.  We cannot visit for three months which feels like an eternity even though we might only see each other once a year sometimes and had no plans to go Paraguay in those three months anyway.

On the Tuesday before the Thursday that Squirt left, my boss came to my desk to give me good news. She said, “I have good news,” and when she delivered it, I burst into tears, much to the surprise of both of us.  She paused for a moment and said, “You heard the part where I said good news, right?”  I did that a lot that week.  I especially did that when Squirt sent a text from the plane in New York, right before they took off for Asuncion.  I called Martie and sobbed; then when I stopped Martie started.  Why? Why do we feel this way?  Squirt has been taking good care of herself for years now. She’s an adult.  She is more than capable. She loves meeting new people and moving to new places and most importantly she loves to give back. She always has.  Why is this different?  I have to stop asking these questions because I’m crying a little now and I have to drive soon.

I suppose I wrote the oral hygiene story because it’s a silly moment in my life, one that I would have shared with Squirt during one of our many beach visits. We would sip on champagne, because why not, and tell stupid stories and laugh. Sometimes cry.  But we connected. And if she comes here to read my life, she’ll see it and know what it would feel like if I were telling her this perched on my beach towel with a cocktail in hand while I cooked myself into bacon in the hot sun.  This is our connection.  I hope we don’t lose it.  We aren’t going to lose it.

Love you, Squirt. Always.

I Know You Want To See Me Naked, But Why?

When I was in high school, I was asked repeatedly by all the boys “to please, pretty please, I’m begging you, please enter a wet t-shirt contest and let me be a judge.” I was breastacularly blessed, remember.

Then when I was in college I got myself and all my friends free admission into an all-male review by promising to enter the wet t-shirt contest they were holding before the show. Not only was our admission fee waived, but we all got free t-shirts. Somehow the one they gave me was a size too small. I’m sure that was an honest mistake on their part.

A few years later I had breast reduction surgery which took my hoots down from “don’t lie on your back for any length of time or you’ll expire from suffocation” to “still larger than normal but no longer a freak show.” I’ve been thrilled with that change ever since as I like air and not having a hunchback.

Now that I have reached the age of 42 and gravity has begun its work and my hoots are of a size that allow me to breathe regularly, we’ve cycled back to the “please post a video of yourself in public in a wet t-shirt, I’m begging you.” I don’t know why everyone wants to see that but it seems they do. Sort of.

I was nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. And like I’ve done every single, solitary time I’ve been asked (I lied to those people at the all-male review – I never entered the contest), I’m denying you your wet t-shirt.

I’ll give you instead $100 spread over five charities that can really use the money.

ALS – because they started the whole thing

Parkinson’s – Robin Williams, I’d take every laugh you ever gave me and give them all back to you if it would have made you happy inside

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund – for Erica, a woman I never met but one I called friend

MS Society – because my ex-Roomie who is also my still-Cousin is pedaling his ass off for this

San Diego Children’s Heart Institute – for Emily, Woney’s daughter, who died at age eight

I won’t challenge anyone for the ALS Ice Bucket but only because I want to challenge you for other things. Find something you are passionate about and give your time and money there. No matter what your story, you are better off than someone else. Prove it. Go give a donation. Go make someone’s day.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

If you are new to me, you need to know that I do some volunteer activities that involve me taking a group of people out for dinner once a month in a big old 15-passenger van. Every so often I write about it, giving fake names to my people, of course. You can always do a search over there on the right hand side, in the box that is cleverly titled “Search”, if you want to read other posts I’ve written about it. Just type in “senior citizens” or “volunteer” and all related posts should pop up. In news that has absolutely nothing to do with volunteering, if you’d like to see pictures of hot guys who are my friends, type in “Tony” or “Javier” or “Quan” or “Dammit Todd”. That ought to keep you busy for a while.

I had dinner with my senior citizens on Thursday night.* We skipped November and December as most of us have a lot going on and I get maybe two people who sign up in those heavy holiday months. For a while two people didn’t seem enough to merit a trip but when we met in January after our two-month hiatus, I was talking with my group about what they did for the holidays and Lillian said, “Christmas is just another day for me.”

I asked, “You didn’t spend it with your family?”

Lillian replied, “I don’t have any family. When you have no people, it’s just another day.”

I don’t need to tell you that I got a little misty-eyed as I vowed to never skip another month again, and I’ll urge you again, please find a way to give your time to a cause, whatever flips your skirt. Somebody, somedog, somecat out there needs you and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how much you need them in return.

Anyway, I had dinner with my group and this month I picked Whiskey Kitchen* as our restaurant. I have no idea why I picked it. Probably it was the first name that popped into my head and at the time, it sounded like a marvelous idea because a lot of my people get pretty excited about Golden Corral, and I’d like for them to be a bit more adventurous than that. Whiskey Kitchen is in the Gulch (sort of downtown Nashville), and you can discern just by the name and the area that this was going to be a painfully trendy night. I’m not big on trendy at all. I find that trendy places typically have difficult and expensive parking options, that the waiting time is awfully long and that there is stuff on the menu I cannot pronounce, usually consisting of raw onion and duck liver. My group, in a unique turnaround, was very excited about Whiskey Kitchen, and for the first time in a year I had a full van and a waiting list of people desperate to go. It seems that a whole slew of them have always wanted to go but no one wanted to brave the awful traffic, the ridiculous parking and the long wait time, at least not alone. If I was driving and I was parking and I was there to entertain them, everyone wanted to go (unlike the time I took them to Suzy Wong’s House of Yum – also a painfully trendy place and every one of my group turned up their noses in a sneer at it). I guess it’s time to revisit the trendy places. It seems we have progressed.

As we were leaving the center for the restaurant, one of the directors walked out to the van to see us off. He poked his head in the back and said, “Really? Jimmie AND Jan are going? I might need to chaperone – this night could be interesting.” I was indignant! Well, I was indignant for about 30 seconds. After giving it some thought, I realized he was probably right as Jan is me in 30 years and neither of us ever suffer from boredom or lack of something to say.

I’ve told you about a few of my favorite people before, Lillian being one of them, Jan being another. I’ve got a new favorite – I’ll call her Nancy. Nancy is exactly what you’d expect a typical 70-something type grandmother to be. She’s soft spoken, gets her hair done once a week, wears her heirloom jewelry. She’s very sweet and kind to everyone and, as I learned, just chock full of surprises. I’ve known her for a few years now but I’m learning to never underestimate any of these people. Nancy was talking about a book club she joined online in which she pays a small fee and get wads of books sent to her for almost nothing. She was telling us about a book she recently got: “It looked like it was maybe a romance book, I like those, and once I got into it, I realized that it was a romance book but it was about two men. I thought maybe I should stop reading it but do you know what kinds of things two men get up to in the bedroom? Well, I didn’t and this book told me all about it, so I read it. I wanted to know. I learned a lot.”

And Marge sat there listening to every word with her mouth hanging open, entranced. “Did you finish the book,” she asked.

“I did,” said Nancy. “You want to borrow it?”

“Yes!” yelped Marge, and I just sat there a little stunned. I never . . . .

As we were leaving that night, stuffed full of food whose names I could pronounce, the van was very quiet. It always is on the ride home, a 180 degree turn from the trip to the restaurant where the chatter is so much I cannot hear one conversation over another. We passed Déjà Vu, the strip club on the corner of Demonbreun and something (I’m not so good with directions), and I said “Who’s up for a stop at Déjà Vu?”

Jan piped up from the back seat, “Not tonight, Jimmie. I don’t work there on Thursday nights. Only Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They wouldn’t be expecting to see me with my clothes on.”

And that right there is why I do this. I love these people. I guess next time the center director will have to say, “Jimmie AND Jan AND Nancy AND Marge? I might need to chaperone – this night could get interesting.”

*The group I volunteer with is Fifty Forward. I Highly Recommend it if you know anyone aged fifty and above who needs some excitement in their life. Fifty Forward offers weekly trips, daily activities, health and wellness classes, jewelry making classes, international travel and a lot of camaraderie and companionship. Many of the members are widowed or alone for various reasons, and many, many friendships stem from their meeting at the center. While I’m Highly Recommending things, I’ll also Highly Recommend Whiskey Kitchen. Aside from the man wearing a bow tie and fashionably ugly glasses at the table behind us who hollered “MF-er!” and “F-er!” during his entire conversation, the experience was fabulous. The chef was accommodating, the food was fantastic and the staff was just lovely. Brave the drive and the parking and go. Totally worth it.

Random Acts Of Kindness, In Practice

Thank you to everyone who shared a story with me.  I’ve copied the comments from yesterday here plus had a couple more to add.  Warm fuzzies abound. Read on.

A new mother (Mommy One) has taken advantage of technology innovations and purchased an array of baby monitors designed to ensure her baby breathes well through the night.  I can only imagine the kind of rest this allows for new parents.  I remember Martie and Coach getting up all night every night to check on their babies’ breathing for years.  I have to confess I still do it when I spend the night and Pooh and Tigger are ten and seven.  Anyway, Mommy One tested three different monitors before deciding on the one she wanted to use full time.  She is a member of a mommy message board and interacts with other new mothers there.  One such mother (Mommy Two) was expressing her sadness for a friend who lost her baby to SIDS and in doing so expressed her fear of the same fate for her baby.  She gets very little rest because of her worry and mentioned that the monitors were too expensive for her.  Mommy One sent Mommy Two one of her extras, the exact monitor she wanted as a Christmas gift today. 

FREDDIE’S RAK – I keep hearing that the most precious gift someone can give you is their time, and in this fast-paced world we live in, I firmly believe that’s true. I have a friend who has an amazing family, runs an office with little help, volunteers what little time she has to professional organizations and her church, and still takes the time to sit and have lunch with me and focus on me and my life. She is an amazing individual and I am truly blessed to have her in my life.

I also have this other amazing friend who works a job she has learned to enjoy, is writing a book that is going to be on the shelves of every woman in the US, is an amazing aunt and sister, and took time last Saturday to help me shop for my little sister’s birthday gifts. I am so blessed with people who are so giving of their time!

A woman has two children, ages ten and fifteen. Today she was struggling over how to provide Christmas gifts for her children.  She and her husband were counting on a bonus that did not materialize and all of their other money is earmarked for medical bills incurred this summer.  She was teary-eyed and mentioned it to a co-worker who in turn mentioned it to another who in turn visited every executive in the office and collected $350 in three minutes.  The mother was presented with the money in a closed office meeting and left the workplace, overwhelmed. 

STUDIO BUKOWSKI’S RAK – Probably one of the kindest things I have ever experienced happened after my dad passed away. A friend gave me the book (to help comfort me in my grief) that was given to him after his beloved wife passed away. He said it was time to pass it on to someone else who needed it and the note he included brought tears to my eyes.

Jimmie was discussing her Random Acts of Kindness with her boss today and mentioned her own good fortune with the plane ticket and the pedicure and the grocery money.  Her boss asked how the return flight was paid for and then offered the Southwest points to get her home. 

BOOTSIE’S RAK – Last Christmas our office had a tacky holiday sweater contest with a $50 gift card prize. One of my friends won the gift card. Later that afternoon that very same gift card was placed on my desk in an unsigned card. The only reason I know it was the same gift card is because I was on the party committee and had seen the gift card before it was awarded. My friend knew we were struggling and wouldn’t take an outright gift, so she “anonymously” gave me the gift card. She still doesn’t know that I know it was her and I won’t tell her because I think that “random acts of kindness” make everyone involved feel good.

Needless to say, Jimmie did a lot of nose-blowing today.

If you missed your chance and have something to send in, please still do so.  My cheeks hurt from the smiling but I’ll take that pain any day.  I love this. 

Also, who is proud to be a Titan now? 

Chris Johnson

Adios, Amoebas! (Or, Tying Up Loose Ends Before I Leave For A Month)

Well, guys, this will be my final post before leaving for a month.  I’m going to miss you.  I wonder how many times I’ll want to make fun of myself over the next 30 days when I won’t be able to share here.  I’ll try to save them up for my 30 days of blogging in December.

I will check in periodically to post my guest slots and to give you updates on my word count.  50,000 is the goal.  To know me is to know my love of words so you know I can reach the count.  Let’s just hope they make sense.  You know, I signed up for NaNoWriMo two years ago.  I wrote 250 words on November 1, 2010 and then got a phone call from a friend.  We started talking about boys and that was all she wrote, literally.  NaNoWriMo was dead to me.   

Oh, I chose a football team!  I know you’ve all been waiting to hear that.  It took me a while. I had lots of input from you and most especially from Coach, who taught me how to look at stats and how to look up helmets and logos.  What really helped me, though, was Martie.  She said, “You can’t be a fair weather fan.  You pick a team and you support them through the good and the bad.  No waffling and changing to the team that plays better.”  And then Coach chimed in with the same advice.  He’s a long time Alabama fan and a longtime Cowboys fan, rabid even through the lean years.  So, okay.  I have no choice but to be a Titans fan.  Nashville is mine.  The Titans are mine.  They play like doody most of the time, and even though the lean years will last for ages, I will support them.  I was never more proud in all my life than when they beat the Lions and then the Steelers (!).  I realized I really want them to do well.  So call me a Titan. The end.

Except it isn’t.  I also have a secondary team.  I just can’t seem to get over the Ram’s horns.  Seriously.  Those helmets with the horns just slay me, and so those of you who lecture me about perpetuating the stereotype, get over it.  I picked a team because of a helmet that turns me on.  At least I didn’t pick a team because of a hot guy.  For the record, I also read the team’s history and would like to share with you that they were the first  NFL team to add a logo to their helmet (swoon) and also the first NFL team to add black teammates after the WWII era.  Suck on that, haters! (And also, while I’m being Fickle Fanny over here, I really want to see the Texans win the Super Bowl.  The longhorns!  Those uniforms!  It’s Texas, y’all.  I am moved.) (And yes, I realize that the Texans were not even on my nominated list but I hadn’t seen the logo yet.  I had no idea . . .)

And just because I can, because you expect it, and because this is me we are talking about:  

Hottie Titan

Hottie Ram

Hottie Texan

I haven’t talked about my dinners with my seniors in a while either.  I had dinner with them last week and as per usual, had a blast.  I love those people so much.  I want to tell you about a couple more of them.  JoAnne, who has only been two or three times, just embarrasses me to death every time she attends.  She’s adorable. She wears a fall (a chunk of hair you attach to your head to make you look like you have more hair) or a funky hat every time and so you look at her and think, “Well, isn’t she cute. Full of spunk, that one.”  And then she opens her mouth and proves it and you could just slam your forehead into the butter dish, you are so horrified. 

“NO! I don’t want a SALAD!  I have GALL BLADDER issues!  Take it AWAY!“

“This is the WORST coffee I have ever tasted!  I can make better at home! BRING ME more sugar!”

“Those CHILDREN need to be SPANKED!  My meal is RUINED!”

I can honestly say that I agree with her in nearly every instance but I prefer to keep my opinions if not to myself, at least confined to the guests at my table.  Not JoAnne.  Everyone knows where she stands.

The other person I want to tell you about is Bob.  Bob has only missed maybe one or two dinners the whole time I’ve been doing this.  He’s in his 60s, I guess.  He’s never been married.  He purchased his house in one lump sum, no payments, ever.  He’s terrified of being late and being left behind.  He ends every sentence with an “uh?” 

“Hey, Jimmie-uh?  Do I have enough-uh money-uh for dessert? Uh?”  He brings $28 to every dinner and we figure out what he can have for that price and still leave a fair tip.  He’s the gentlest soul and I love him.  He was the first of the group to realize that I knew how to work a standard cell phone and so asked me to program some numbers in for him.  Now we all spend the first ten minutes of every dinner shuffling phones back and forth to me so that I can clear out voice mails and add contacts.  Once a month everyone gets squared away.

I probably have so many other things to share but I’m out of space and time.  A whole month.  What will you do without me?

For those of you who are helping me this month, THANK YOU!  Boss, Prom Date Will, Jonquil, Esteban, Woney, and Studio Bukowski – thank you!  Boss and Esteban have already sent goodies over and I just hee hawed.  I cannot wait to read and post your stuff.  Anyone else in?  I still have a full grown cat up for grabs. 

Philanthropy, Take Two

Welp, I’ve been working with my supper club for six months now.  I have yet to see my man with the curved spine to invite him to dinner, but I’m ever hopeful.  Still, I’ve met some great people and in typical Jimmie fashion, I have a favorite.

I’ll tell you who it’s not. It’s not Bill.  Bill likes to ride up front with me and critique my directions (which is a little bit fair as we all know how handy I am with a map.)  Bill also likes to critique drivers, particularly those of the female persuasion.  On the last dinner we did, I had had enough.  It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him where he could stick his opinion but right as I opened my mouth, I backed into a pole.  Granted, it was a very short pole that no one could have seen as high up as we were in the van, but my credibility went out the window the precise moment we all felt the jolt.  Thankfully at dinner Bill had one of those fishbowl beer steins full to the brim of some heavy stout beer and he mellowed quite nicely for the ride home. 

I’ll tell you another it’s not.  It’s not Anna. Not that there is anything wrong with Anna.  I quite like her.  She’s spunky and loud and does not meet a stranger; in short, she’s me in 35 years, except I don’t smoke or eat pig knuckles (both of which she does with great regularity).  She once asked me if I would ask one of the guys who joins us on occasion if he’d ever had sex in his life.  Apparently they all wondered but no one had the guts to ask.  I joined the ranks of those who don’t have the guts.  Poor Anna.  She will always wonder I suppose. 

I’ll tell you some more it’s not.  It’s not Judy and John.  Remember them?  The couple who had just started dating?  You can read about them here.  They are still dating, I am elated to report.  I’m even more elated to tell you that they are now engaged and have set a wedding date of Valentine’s Weekend 2012.  It makes me so happy, so hopeful! 

It’s also not Bobbie and Doug, although they are pretty great.  They’ve only been with me once so far and they fought like cats and dogs the whole dinner. 

Doug would ask, “Did you eat that pork chop I made you?” 

Bobbie would reply, “No, you didn’t cook it right.  I told you how to cook it.  It was awful.  I fed it to my dog.”

And Doug would say, “Your dog!  But why?  I grilled it just right, with garlic and herbs. What was wrong with it?” 

And Bobbie would reply, “You fry pork chops.  You don’t grill them.”

I was getting a bit concerned until the waiter brought the check and Doug whipped out his card to pay for himself and Bobbie.  Turns out they have been dating for eight years and are as happy as clams. After dinner they snuggled in the van and when I took a wrong turn (I know!) they informed me that I was on Love Hill and they had been there many times.   

My favorite isn’t Gordon either, although I like him a great deal despite the fact that he is as deaf as a post and tells me the same story I just heard from the backseat from another passenger two minutes before.  He’s funny, though, and just a perfect sweetheart.

Nope, my favorite is Lily.  She’s gentle and sweet and has been on every adventure we have tried even if the restaurant is weird or overpriced and even if it is raining.  Last week we had our December dinner and I took them to a fancier, higher end place in Nashville.  The center I volunteer for said that we should try to do nicer things for dinner so I went for it.  When we got there, we all realized that while the food was good, it was not really worth the price and decided that higher end is only alright for very special occasions.  I was apologetic but then Lily said, and I’ll probably cry a little when I type this, “Jimmie, it doesn’t matter where you decide to take us.  I’ll go every time as long as it’s with you.” 

You guys, I encourage everyone out there to volunteer in some way and to do so year round.  You may go into it thinking that you will bless someone, give them something they need or can’t do for themselves.  You may give money because you have it or because you feel led to do it.  Those people and organizations will be blessed, but I’ve gotta tell you, when someone like Lily says she likes you, just because you are you, your heart will grow three sizes that day, and you will be blessed beyond all measure.

(It should come as no surprise to you that I called it.  Yep, I totally teared up a little.  I’m such a GIRL!)

The Sweetest Story and a Hopeful Wish

A while ago I mentioned that when I found a philanthropy I would let you know about it.  This is me, letting you know about it – mission accomplished.  I have a new volunteer activity and we all know it wouldn’t be mine if I didn’t have a story to go with it. 

Those of you that know me know that I have a tender heart, sometimes ridiculously so.  One thing that gets to me (as it does many others, I have learned) is watching people eat alone, particularly senior citizens.  It feels sad to me, to see someone shuffle into a place and sit down for a meal all by themselves.  I do know that some people relish that, and that some of it is just perceived loneliness.  Still, it would be a lie if I told you it doesn’t make me cry on occasion. 

A few months ago I was in my little café and I saw an older man alone, having dinner.  He suffered from a curved spine and thus, he hunched.  Maybe he was thrilled to be away from a nagging wife or rambunctious grandchildren, just able to enjoy a meal in peace, but the picture that I saw was a man crouched over his food, alone and seemingly miserable.  Yes, it was the spin that I put on it, but it just broke my heart.  I cried and whimpered over it for a couple of days, and then I had a conversation with Jane about it. 

You know what?  You should have conversations with friends about these things instead of bottling them up.  You know why?  Because often your friends have answers!  Jane works at a non-profit community center for active seniors and lo and behold, their supper club leader had just retired.  She offered me the position, did my background check (I passed – as if) and brought me in for the driving test (I passed). 

Once every month I will leave work early, drive over to the senior center, load up the 15-passenger van with people and take off to various locations for dinner.  I’m so stoked about it! 

Two months ago was the first dinner.  The location was chosen before I ever signed on.  We had nine people show up for Suzy Wong’s House of Yum.  Nashville natives know that Suzy Wong’s House of Yum serves very tasty food and they also know that it is located directly in between two gay bars.  I should clarify: Nashville natives younger than 65 know this.  My group did not.  I dropped them off at the door, they entered the restaurant, I parked the van and went in to find them looking around in bewilderment at the décor asking questions like, “What’s that next door?”  I am merely the organizer and the chauffeur.  I let them wonder alone. 

This month we went to the Old Spaghetti Factory.  Apparently this was a favorite as the van was packed.  Again, I dropped them off at the door, they entered the restaurant, I parked the van and went in to find them safely ensconced at our table in the back.  Unlike the last visit where they ate like birds, plates were cleaned, wine was ordered and a grand time was had by all.  Our table was pretty long and I only got to converse with people on my end but I noticed that we had added some new people to our little party, a couple of men which is slightly unusual.  And I noticed that one man had a certain aura about him, a little something I call Swagger.   

Swagger. This man had it in spades.  He held out the chair for the lady on his right.  He served her first.  He was Dressed.  He had the solid white hair, the pinky ring, the pressed short sleeved dress shirt, the pants with the tabbed closure, and an air of class.  I was fascinated.  I wondered briefly if there was a romance a-brewing between him and the woman on the right.    I think I flushed a little because the lady next to me patted my arm and asked, “Honey, are you alright?”

After dinner we all packed up in the van, full as ticks, and meandered our way home.  It was about 7:00 – dinner comes early at the retirement center.  The man and his lady thanked me profusely, and then walked off to his car where he held the door open for her, closed her in and then motored off.  I was certain – it was a romance.   

In typical Jimmie fashion, I yapped about that potential romance to all my friends.  I told them all about the Swagger, breathless and with flushed cheeks.  I certainly was hopeful for them.

On Saturday I wandered into my café.  I plopped my stuff down and wandered off to get some tea.  As I was wandering around procrastinating (I love writing but sometimes it will not just come already!), and who do I see?  Swagger and his lady.  I promptly went over to their table and sat down for a good chin wag.  Here they get names: 

Jimmie: Hi guys!  Remember me?  I drive the van for the Supper Club.

Judy:  Well, hi darling.  We remember you.  I’m Judy and this is John. 

John.  Hi.  <swagger>

Judy:  We like to come into this café.  It is where we first met, first starting dating. 

I knew it!  Never doubt me, people.

John:  <swagger> 

Jimmie:  Oh!  I was so hopeful that I was right.  I wondered if you two were dating.  I just love it!

Judy:  We are and we are madly in love. 

John:  <swagger>

Here they make google eyes at each other.   

Jimmie:  <swoon>

John:  I’ve never met anyone like her.  I’m so blessed. 

Jimmie: (once she recovers from her faint on the floor) You guys have made my day.

Y’all, John is 72.  Judy is probably 63.  They are GORGEOUS together.  They are like teenagers in love.  Every look is special.  Every sandwich they eat together is special.  They get dressed up in three-piece suits and heels and lipstick and go to church together.  What a hopeful, beautiful story.  This will go down in history as one of my all time favorites and I’m so happy that I get to be a tiny part of it.   

I so look forward to next month’s dinner.  I look forward to interacting with all of these people:  the woman widowed six years ago who told me that yes, it is very hard to eat alone; the other woman who said that now she is active in the community center but for a while she just wallowed in depression; the twinkly man who talks excitedly about his son and his grandkids and wonders if they would like a plate to go.  I’m excited to see where the romance goes.  I’m excited to see if another one will brew. 

Mostly, I’m excited to be able to invite someone I see eating alone out for our monthly excursions.   I hope I run across the man with the curved spine again.  I would love to take him out and hear his story too, in the company of new friends. 


Homelessness is everywhere.  I know this.  It is hard to see, and it is hard to ignore, especially in downtown Nashville when you are faced with someone on every street corner, every single day.  I see these people at every intersection on my drive home, selling the homeless paper and asking for money and food.  A lot of these men and women have physical disabilities.  A lot of them don’t and pretend they do.  Sometimes, though, these people are easy to ignore and that is the part that really gets to me. 

Last week Kindle and I took a brain refresher walk around the block.  No reason really, other than to get up and give ourselves a bit of a break.  As we walked down Broadway we saw a pathetic-looking man sitting on a stoop, his hands folded in the pleading gesture, asking people for water. 

“I just want a bottle of water.  It’s all I want.  I don’t want alcohol.  I just want a bottle of water.  Please.”  

A lot of people walked past and ignored him.  Again, very easy to do.  Homeless men do not always tug at your heart strings.  This man had the looks of a man who really would prefer the alcohol and had chosen it for a good chunk of his life.  He was likely smelly and was considerably dirty.  Most probably there was some sort of mental illness or addiction that contributed to his homelessness – the slur in his voice certainly sounded that way.  But for whatever reason, this guy struck a chord with us and there was no reason in the world to be unkind.

We walked into the ice cream store, bought him two bottles of water and then walked them back to him.  We held them out and he looked up, took them, and bowed his head.  I’m not sure if it was relief or thankfulness or if he was just overwhelmed.  After a moment he looked up at us and said in the most thankful gut-wrenching voice, “Thank you.  It was all I wanted.” 

I don’t need to tell you that I cried.  Crying does no good, though.  And honestly, buying water every time I’m asked for it doesn’t either, although it is a nice thing to do and can help for a short time.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had my heart broken by homelessness. And more than once I’ve offered food only to have it angrily rejected.  It makes it hard to want to be nice.  Sometimes something will hit me with the most poignant clarity, though, and I realize that the problem is much bigger than hunger or thirst or needing a place to sleep. 

I’ve volunteered at homeless shelters before.  I listened to the men and women talk about their lives and how they ended up in the shelter.  I served food.  I connected, if only for an evening or two.  I don’t think my calling is to work with the homeless, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t help out when the need arises or the opportunity presents itself.

This really isn’t a plea for help.  This is only a commentary on the things that I see and a bloodletting, if you will, of some emotions that the homeless man evoked in me last week.  I’m looking for additional philanthropies and when I settle on them, I’ll let you know about it.  In the meantime, I’ll buy a meal when the chord is struck and give water to a man who is thirsty.  And I will most likely cry with the heartbreak of it, every single time.