Thursday, June 29, 2017

How to do Good, but Better

Hello all! I hope everyone is having a fantastic summer thus far! I know, I know, I haven't posted much lately. I blame a beast of a move, pure post-graduation from grad school exhaustion and prolonged illness.

What has brought me back to writing here today is a topic that is more personal to me than your parents showing your significant other that embarrassing picture of you as a kid wearing your underwear as a hat. Not that I have any pictures like that (she says not making eye contact).

But first, I should probably provide a little background. I have been in social work for the better part of a decade, working mostly with homeless populations and those in homeless shelters in particular. Shelters are funded partially by things like grants and endowments, but we also depend heavily on the community for support and donations to help meet the tremendous needs our populations face.

For the most part, the community support the shelters I have worked for have received is incredible. People donating time, money, and much needed supplies saves lives and helps countless individuals get off the streets and into a better place.

There is a darker side to that community dependence, however. This is that darker side:

That veritable wall of boxes is what I walked in to work this week to see: Over 300 lbs of juice... that had expired in 2014. Not only was the juice expired, but it had been left out in the Arizona sun so long that some of the bottles had melted and fused together.

Someone had dropped off a wall of, essentially, toxic waste to a shelter that serves medically fragile homeless people. Not only is that callous, but it is dangerous! I'm grateful I had a chance to check out this anonymous donation before anyone drank any!

This is a problem that a lot of people in non-profits don't want to talk about, because we truly do need donations to survive and we don't want to discourage anyone who wants to help. However, there are times when the donations that we receive, like the wall of contaminants pictured above, goes beyond being unhelpful, they become a burden on the agencies. Not only was the juice dangerous to the health of my clients, but it meant that I then had to figure out a way to dispose of it all. Essentially, I spent most of my morning, time where I could be looking for housing opportunities for my clients, hauling boxes across a massive parking lot in 111 degree heat to a dumpster.

Sadly, this isn't a one-time thing. A month ago I received a donation of 800 pounds of rice and dried beans that had expired some 13 years ago. You read that right, 13 years! Destiny's Child was still together when that food expired.

I once worked at a shelter where a box truck drove up and dropped off 16 pallets of yogurt that had gone bad to the point where it had liquefied. I can't even count the number of times someone has dropped in with a take-out box they had dug out of their fridge after a few days and decided that they didn't want it, mold included.

Homeless shelters need more support now more than ever. Funding for necessary programs has dwindled significantly in the last 5 years, and current trends are indicating that what little funding is left will be facing challenges and cuts soon. Please, we need your generosity. No, let me rephrase that, we need your mindful generosity.

Donate to non-profits, but before you drop off that thing you don't need anymore, here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Is this appropriate for the population it is going to?

I work in a men's shelter. You would be amazed at how many bras, tampons and sanitary napkins we get donated (I also get women's thongs on a regular basis, and nothing will break your sanity faster than having to confiscate one from a client who is using it as a slingshot to shoot other clients with wads of paper). These items would be much better used at a drop-in center that serves women or a domestic violence shelter.

2. Would I eat this? Would I feed this to a loved one? Is this something that someone could conceivably wear without it falling apart?

If the answer is "no," then don't donate it. I know it is hard to believe, but homeless people are still, in fact, people. If it would give you food poisoning, then it will give them food poisoning too, and believe me, their lives are hard enough already.

The same things goes for clothes. I once opened a donated trash bag full of clothes to find that not only they were moldy, but a family of mice had moved in. The bag was inside the shelter when I opened it, so we then got to pay for exterminators to come take care of our donated mice problem.

3. Am I just making something I don't want to deal with someone else's problem?

At one homeless shelter I worked at, I once took a donation of six used hamster cages. The person who dropped it off said, "I just didn't want to be bothered with them anymore and I couldn't figure out what I should do with them. So... Here you go."

This may come as a shock, but as I am a social worker, and not the owner of a hamster circus, I didn't know what to do with the cages either. What I did do with them was spent over an hour on the phone trying to find a thrift store that could sell them, drove all the way across town that day and dropped them off, before Febreezing the interior of my car to get rid of the "essence of hamster" scent.

Again, I don't want to discourage anyone from donating to good causes. However, just donating any old thing and patting yourself on the back can not only be unhelpful and counterproductive, it can be downright dangerous. If you don't know what you can do to help, ask someone who works for the agency. Every non-profit has a "needs and wants" list they will happily provide you with. Shelters are always in need of things like clean socks, toiletries and donations of edible food. What we don't need is to be designated as your alternative to paying to drop your stuff off at the landfill. Please, don't just do good things for your non-profits, do better things.

As always feel free to follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Instagram (@AtillatheHawn) and my books can be found for your reading enjoyment here!

Friday, May 19, 2017

On Melted Brain Cells and Foggy Thoughts

Hello everyone! I hope you are all having a splendid month!

I did warn you that my posts might be a touch light on the ground in the foreseeable future. However, I also promised that I would, at least attempt, to post more frequently.

In case you have been wondering what I've been up to, I just graduated with my Master's Degree! I am thankful to all who supported me and to the gallons of coffee that selflessly gave up their existence to help me reach this goal.

Of Course I Graduated in a Kilt, What Would You Expect?
What people don't tell you about major accomplishments, particularly ones that take so much focus, dedication and grey-hair inducing moments, is that once you are finished it is much less like reaching the end of a 5K run. At the end of a 5K you get a cup of water, an orange slice, and happily wander off to recover and go on with your day. And that is the key, your recovery is often simple, quick and doesn't inhibit your basic functions.

Unlike a 5K, an accomplishment that takes this much time and energy leaves you feeling as if you just completed a marathon, which you finished at the exact moment that the length of your leash ran out yanking you off your feet like an overexcited dog. There is no orange slice, there is no victory lap, there is only you, lying on the ground panting and trying to figure out how much energy it will take to scrape yourself off of the grass and stand up again.

Don't get me wrong, I am pleased as watermelon punch that I got my Master's Degree, my thesis was accepted and that I had this incredible educational opportunity and experience, but let's face it folks, after working 4 jobs to support myself, pursuing a full-time athletic training regime and topping it off with school, I am beyond toast. In fact, I am so toast, I often think about what kind of jam I can be paired with.

 I graduated last week, and while I have been functioning at work and out and about in the real world, I spend a majority of my free time right now kind of dazedly wandering about in a delirious state, fruitlessly attempting to recover what brain cells I have left and organize them into coherent thoughts.

This is why, of late, my presence on social media, and indeed this blog, probably have seemed to be a bit less frequent than normal. I apologize. I have sat down to write so many times and found myself staring at the computer screen in a near comatose state. It is a miracle no one has labelled me a vegetable yet.

Indeed, I haven't even had the presence of mind to think of a topic to write for weeks now. And so, as I sat pondering what to write, I decided to sit down and write the truth: I am still me, I still plan on writing, but if I am going to turn out anything of quality, I had better let my mental batteries recharge for a second. I want to bring you all the same quality (whatever you deem that to be) that you have come to expect of me.

So, as I let my little synapses and energy levels recover, I ask for your patience. There are many more stories and adventures I have stored up to relate to you all, it may just take me a moment to scrape myself off the grass, grab an orange slice and decide to start jogging again.

Thank you, my dear readers, for all of your support, and I promise, there will be more soon.

Until then, you can find my existing books here, and my adventures can be followed on FacebookTwitter (@AllisonHawn) and Instagram (@AtillatheHawn)!

Friday, March 10, 2017

I Swear, I Haven't Died... Which Is Kind of a Surprise.

Hello everyone! I realize, as evidenced by the dust swirling around my blog's header, that it has been a bit since I have been on here. (Yes, yes, I know. Bad author! No author cookies for you!)

First, thank you to everyone who read Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx, the feedback I have gotten has been rad!

One Amazon customer wrote, "This is the first book I've read by Hawn, and I loved it. Her wit, sense of imagery, and use of irony carried through each story. While I typically don't read short story compilations, I enjoyed her most recent installment from cover to cover. Whether I was looking for a quick break between studying, or comedic relief during a long work day, or to snuggle up with a good read before bed, "Life is a Roller Derby..." hit the mark story after story."


So why has it taken me so long to post on this blog again? To be truthful, life over the past few months kind of hit me like a tsunami comprised of hornets and terrible European club music. 

What have I been up to? Well, here a few bits and pieces.

1. I've been kidnapped by a project known as a thesis. 

I'm not sure when it happened, I don't exactly remember it happening. But somewhere in the midst of trying to complete this Master's Degree I was knocked over the head and awoke to find myself writing a 220 page monster of research and academic integrity. 

Just One Draft of the Monster
The thesis itself, which is on portrayals of women in domestic roles in American advertising, has taken a majority of my free time in the past few months. Not only because to get a decent data set I ended up watching over 2,000 American TV commercials (I will never get some of those jingles out of my head), but then I had to write about them. 

It got to the point where I had done so much research and writing that Word popped up with one of those "helpful hints" while I was editing one day suggesting I "Justify the Text," and I lost it, ranting at my computer screen about my 9 pages of sources and the research I had done, before it dawned on me what it was actually asking for. Thank heavens I defend next week.

2. I've been working 4 jobs. 

Education isn't cheap. And in a bid not to be in debt for the rest of my natural life (and maybe even after I've died), I have been working on average 50 to 60 hours a week on top of my Master's Program work to both pay tuition, and, you know, eat. 

The picture, by the way, is from a security gig that I worked out in Arizona's heat. Your eyes are not deceiving you, my shoes melted, like the Wicked Witch of the West, to the pavement.

3. I've been competing as a sponsored athlete. 

As I have written about previously, I am a Highland Games athlete. For those who don't know what that is, I put on a kilt and throw heavy things. Sometimes I throw them far, sometimes I throw them high, sometimes they get stuck on my shirt and I throw myself with them, but I make heavy things move. 

This past year I was picked up for sponsorship by D.W.A. Lifestyle (D.W.A. standing for Determination, Willpower, Attitude). Over the past year I have competed in Highland Games competitions throughout Arizona and several other states. It has been a fun and wild ride thus far, but a lot of work. 

4. I got into a PhD Program!

I have spent the last several months pouring my efforts into applying for PhD programs, and it paid off. I will be starting a PhD program in Communication at the end of this summer!

5. I have been volunteering at a community garden that provides food to homeless shelters. 

This past year I discovered that I'm actually not terrible at gardening (this is surprising since I come from a long line of herbicidal maniacs).  

But hey! I managed to actually grow zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and a variety of other veggies and herbs and no one (including myself) died! It's like a sign of the Apocalypse.  

This of course is not an exhaustive list of my activities over this past year, but I think provides at least a snapshot of why, maybe, just maybe, I may have let this blog slide. 

Going forward, I promise to try to post more regularly, however, I cannot promise it will be with the weekly regularity it once was. However, if you are wanting to still follow my adventures (of which I have many) follow me on Instagram (@Atillathehawn), Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and Facebook! My books can also be found on Amazon!

Friday, August 26, 2016

No One Panic... But It's Out!!!!

That's right ladies, gentlemen and cats walking across their owners' keyboards! Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx is out!

Grab your hard copy or your digital copy here!

A huge thank you goes out to cover artist Anthony Carpenter, graphic designer Paul Brand and editors Raquelle Potts and CarolBeth Hawn! Also, a huge hug and hearty high five to my readers, thank you for your patience in waiting for me to get this book out in print!

As always, I would love to hear your feedback through reviews and you can always find me or contact me through Facebook, Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and instagram (@AtillaTheHawn)!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Cookie Monster (Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx Preview!)

Hello everyone! I hope you have all had more fabulous weeks than the thought of the Democratic National Convention reenacted by William Shatner impersonators. 

Well, we are getting close to the release of Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx and so this week I wanted to give you a quick taste of what is to come. So for your reading pleasure, ripped directly from the pages of my next book, is Chapter 27: Cookie Monster.

27. Cookie Monster 

Some children are lovely little gifts from heaven. Other kids are more like trials sent to test parents’ perseverance, cunning and ability to get crayon off of a variety of surfaces. 

         I was more of the latter; I pretended to be a dinosaur during church, thought I was a Power Ranger and World Wrestling Federation wrestler all rolled into one (that poor furniture) and built very elaborate spaceships from everyday items and sometimes essential machine parts. 

         Not only was I handful, I was a rather clever one. I had learned to read at an early age and by the time I turned four I already had most of the Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys under my literary belt. Add in the fact that I watched as many episodes of Murder, She Wrote and Matlock as I could find, and I was a regular criminal mastermind in the making. I gobbled up mystery stories faster than the newest Lone Ranger movie bombed and was forgotten.

Out soon!!!
         Of course, with my rambunctious little brain, I began to wonder if I could pull of a caper that not even Nancy Drew or Jessica Fletcher could solve! 
          I plotted, I planned, I drew schematics, I built models of vaults and banks out of Legos.

           Now keep in mind, at four years old you really don’t have to have an exact goal in mind. I wasn’t out to steal the Hope Diamond or ransack a museum for priceless art. I was just plotting crime in general.
           My parents, knowing I lacked the income and resources to pull off a liquor store robbery, much less a fantastical heist, weren’t too concerned about my little ‘flights of fancy’ into the heinous world of crime.
           I knew that my plans could succeed, as a Brain without a Pinky could, if only I had a goal to focus them on.

Then came the day my mother made her wonderfully delicious peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies. These cookies are melt-in-your-mouth good. If we could give these cookies out to every world leader simultaneously, there would be World Peace, because it’s impossible to feel aggressive or angry while eating one. 

She baked an entire batch in the afternoon, and I had been granted one cookie. The rest, she informed me, would have to wait until after dinner. I tried to reason with her, dinner was a full two hours away. My pleas went unanswered. I watched sorrowfully as my mom put every remaining cookie into the giant strawberry shaped cookie jar far back on the kitchen counter and wandered off to do something else. 

I stood in the kitchen staring daggers at that cookie jar, reveling in how unfair the situation was. I could still smell the cookies, and still had the taste of peanut butter and chocolate in my mouth. 

Suddenly, it hit me like a Mac truck hits a sleeping armadillo, this is what I had been scheming for! This was my crime of the century! Well… at least crime of the day… let’s be real here. 

I ran back to my room digging through my catapult designs, ideas for a mind-control laser and blueprints of someone else’s house that I had found while playing outside one day. None of it seemed to help my cookie situation. 

I snuck back towards the kitchen to do some reconnaissance. Crawling, army-style on my belly, I crept down the hallway, listening intently for any adults. No one was about. I stood up and wandered towards the kitchen counter, realizing that I was far shorter than it was and the cookie jar was all the way back on the counter near the wall.nMy thoughts turned to the kitchen chairs, which could be drug over, but I needed to determine where my mom was first, in case the noise would alert her. 

I found my mom in the living room folding clothing. I nonchalantly wandered in, “Hi mom, you don’t have any reason to go to the kitchen anytime soon do you?” 

My mother’s eyes narrowed, “Why?” 

“No reason,” I said as I darted away, congratulating myself on not making her suspicious at all. 

Back in the kitchen, I planned my route of entry. The chair would be too loud to drag, but if I opened the drawers like stairs, I could probably climb up relatively easily. 

I wandered back down towards my mother, who, still folding clothes, was now surely listening intently for something to explode. Again, as casually as I could, I asked, “Hey mom, you don’t have a reason to be in the kitchen, right?” 

My mom blinked at me a couple of times, “Is there something on fire in the kitchen? Should I be in the kitchen right now?” 

“Nope! Was just wondering!” I said, skipping back down the hallway, again impressed with my own dramatic non-mom-worrying skills.

I checked to make sure the coast was clear, and then I opened the first drawer. I looked around; no one seemed to be rushing down the hall. I slid open the second drawer, nothing. I flung the remaining drawers open with wild abandon and stepped up onto the counter.

There it was, the strawberry cookie jar, in all its red glory.

I lifted the lid and found a veritable dragon’s hoard of amazing luscious little treats inside.

I’ve never been a dainty person. The cookie carnage I unleashed would have made the Cookie Monster seem civilized by comparison. I stuffed, I crammed, I smeared. I had chocolate on my face, cookie crumbs in my hair and peanut butter residue on every piece of clothing I was wearing. The spoils of my crime were sweet, soft and delicious.

I was about halfway through enjoying cookie number seven when I heard it, “Allison, what are you doing on the counter?”

          Turning, my mouth absolutely stuffed with cookie, I blinked at my mother. How had she caught me? I had made sure to fool her into thinking that nothing was wrong in the kitchen! Why was she here!? There was still thirty minutes until dinner!

         She stood, hands on hips, surveying the disastrous scene, “Allison, did you eat cookies out of the cookie jar?”

        I blinked. Interrogation was not something that Nancy Drew, Jessica Fletcher or any of the others had ever prepared me for. Mostly they just caught the criminal, the criminal confessed and then they would get a sad, disappointed look from Angela Lansbury. I knew my mother’s punishment wouldn’t be a sad, sympathetic, yet also disappointed look. So I came up with the best Hail-Mary answer I could think up.

         “No!” bits of cookie spraying from my mouth, “No! It wasn’t me!”

         My mother let out a tiny snort, then collected herself again and said, “Now,” small amount of laughter, followed by a throat clearing, “I’m going to ask you again. Did you eat the cookies?”

          Don’t ask me why, even at the age of four I knew there was no logical escape, and yet, I found myself answering, “Nope! Wasn’t me!”

          My mother instructed me to come down off the counter and stand there for a minute, she would be right back. I obediently, for once, climbed off of the counter and stood, waiting for my punishment as my mom took long strides towards the hallway.

          I realize that she was trying to hide the fact that she was laughing, but I could still hear her. To this day, I will never forget her pained attempts to be a seriously upset parent as she snorted out from behind the wall, “Go,” chuckle, “to your room! Bahahahahahaha!”

         So what crumbs of knowledge can be extracted from the cookie jar of experience?

1. Laughter may delay punishment, but the punishment is still forthcoming.

2. If your child is planning heists at the age of four, you might want to pay closer attention to her behavior.

3. Sometimes the best-laid plans end with cookies and grounding.

If you want news on the upcoming book you can get updates by liking me on Facebook, following me on Twitter (@AllisonHawn) and follow me on instagram (@AtillaTheHawn)! You can also snatch up my previous two books here!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Behold, the Majesty!

Hello all, I hope you have all been having a more fabulous summer than the thought of a lemur reenactment of the Republican National Convention.

Well, I have some exciting news. Thanks to the amazing artistic powers of Anthony Carpenter my soon-to-be released book has a cover!

And here, to whet your literary appetites, is the blurb for the back cover!

Some people refurbish classic cars, others make quaint quilts, and a few still gather together to play Dungeons and Dragons in basements. 

Author Allison Hawn doesn’t have time for these pursuits. Instead, she spends her days dodging every weird, dangerous and surreal happening that the universe can fling in her direction. Follow Allison on her “bizarre magnet” life as she narrowly escapes the clutches of a giant territorial raccoon, barely avoids death by “burrito bomb” and pulls off the chocolate heist of the century. Find a hilarious escape from your reality by stepping into hers. 

There will be more news on the upcoming book soon! So sit tight, and while you're sitting, come find me on FacebookTwitter (@AllisonHawn), Instagram (@atillathehawn) and my books can be found here.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Laundry Room Blues

Hello all, I hope you have all had a more fabulous start to your summer than the thought of an elephant dressed as Elton John (he could be called "Elephant John," and this is why I probably need adult supervision).

Well, the summer here went from too hot to run in to too hot to breath in pretty quickly. This is particularly troublesome because my apartment's laundry has no air conditioning.

"Why don't you leave your clothes in there and come back when they're done?" you might find yourself wondering.

Unfortunately, like every other aspect of my life, the laundry room is yet another place where I cannot be a normal person and do normal things, like leave my clothes to wash and dry while I go back to my apartment to be a normal adult. Here is why:

One of the first months that I moved into my apartment, I thought just as you all do, "I can leave my gym clothes in the washing machine, no one will want to mess with dirty gym shorts..." and so I left my clothes, confident that when I returned they would be fresh smelling and ready to pop in the dryer.

Instead, I returned to find the washer I had been using open. My dirty gym shorts were still there, in fact, most of my clothes were still there. What wasn't there was any of my underwear.

Now let me clarify; women, have two different types of underwear. We have our "good" underwear and our "smeh" underwear. Our "good" underwear is flattering, form fitting, cute and relatively new. Our "smeh" underwear is what we wear to the gym, when we're lounging around alone at home or going somewhere we are relatively sure we won't be injured and have a possibly cute EMT see them at any point.

This load of laundry, being primarily full of gym clothes, was not just my "bad" underwear, it was the "three seconds from being thrown out" underwear. Add in the fact that the washing machine had started the cycle when it was interrupted, so everything in there was soaking wet, and you have quite the caper on your hands.

So, someone stole my dirty gym underwear straight out of the washing machine. As I asked others in the area to see if they had witnessed this, I found out that apparently this was an epidemic. There was a panty plunderer in our midst. As such, I did the responsible thing, and called the police, not because I wanted them returned, and I knew they wouldn't investigate, but I wanted them to be aware of the pervert wandering around who may escalate from stealing women's underwear to something worse (like stealing bras, those things are expensive!).

So, after giving the most ridiculous police report of my life. I went back to resolutely guard what remained of my laundry. It was then that things got weird.

Okay, things were weird already, but then it got to the "watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show while sleep deprived" level of weird.

I had been standing by my washing machine, suspiciously eyeing anyone who approached, for about five minutes when this short woman ran up to me and, while speaking rapid Spanish, thrust her baby into my arms before running off to fold laundry.

A quick note for those who don't know me. I don't like babies. I think they are cute from a distance, but even when it's a baby of someone that I know, I have little to zero desire to hold it. She apparently spoke no English, as I repeatedly tried to return her child to her, she would just ramble something in Spanish and return to folding laundry.

 So I stood there, with a child that I not only did not know the name of, I actually had no clue of its gender, wondering when this Hell simulator might end.

Apparently the Hell simulator was on "shop demonstration" mode, because out of nowhere this guy, with clean shaven head, beard that qualified as "ZZ Top length" and a giant swastika tattoo wandered up to me, "Hey... I heard your underwear got stolen... that really sucks..." 

So, a quick recap on the situation. I have had all my underwear stolen, I am stuck holding a baby of unknown name and gender and I am now being consoled about stolen underwear by a Neo-Nazi.

At this point, I figured, "Well, it can't get any worse, right?"

The universe loves to laugh at these thoughts. The Neo-Nazi suddenly changed subjects, "So... are you busy Friday night?"

I was about to attempt a reply when suddenly the baby hiccuped and puked down my arm. Granted, if there is ever a time to puke, it might be witnessing someone being asked out by a Neo-Nazi in a laundromat, but I still didn't appreciate the gesture.

Finally, after fending off my Neo-Nazi Nitwit, managing to give back the baby, and most of the puke, to the mother and gathering up my finally clean laundry, I was able to leave.

Now I go to the laundromat armed with mace. Excuse me, not "mace," I meant "a mace" as in one of those medieval weapons with the chain and the spiky ball on the end. It has the benefit of both occupying my hands so unknown babies cannot be thrown into them and keeping unwanted advances at bay.

So what socks of knowledge can be pulled from the laundry basket of experience?

1. If an officer asks, "What would you like me to do about your stolen underwear?" Responding with, "Well, nothing really, I mean if you see a guy wearing panties on his head, you might assume he's the culprit and talk to him. I just thought you should know about the creeper..." will make the responding officer nearly snort his coffee all over his notebook.

2. Apparently baby puke repulses Nazis, if only we had known this in WWII.

3. Laundry day is a dangerous day.

As always my adventures can be followed on FacebookTwitter (@AllisonHawn), instagram (@AtillatheHawn) and my books can be found here! Keep checking in for more news and details about my upcoming book "Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx!"