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Mama’s Kitchen and USO San Diego

September 14, 2013

California – Tuesday, September 3

I rode along to drop Keira off at school so I could see her classroom – such an exciting time! It brought back lots of fun “first day of school” memories with my 3 girls. Then it was time for me to get loaded up to finish my California week after a wonderful weekend. Before driving too far, I got Tula out to walk in a park nearby – it was pretty warm in the desert-like, sagebrushy landscape, but we still covered a couple miles.

Then I had to take care of a few errands before making my way south to the San Diego airport, where I was going to make my donation to the USO. They recently expanded and moved into a new building, and are now the world’s biggest airport USO. Roughly 11,000 troops come through in a typical month, and last New Year’s Day alone, 1200 troops stopped by. Today was unusually quiet since it was the Tuesday after Labor Day, but there were still quite a few people around, including some fresh recruits who just arrived to start boot camp. Camp Pendleton is nearby, which is a Marine base, so most of the troops who visit this USO are marines. One of the volunteers had a small dog with her, and it was wearing a red, white and blue scarf. I thought it was just her pet, but it’s also a therapy dog for the USO. Another volunteer showed me and another lady around, and it was indeed a spacious facility. They have a storage room for bags and gear, a computer room, family room, lounge, and kitchen area with free food. Outside there’s a big patio complete with grill. It’s a comfortable place for all the troops passing through.

Then I headed downtown to make a donation to Mama’s Kitchen – a big organization which delivers food to families living with AIDS or cancer. They’re the oldest and largest meal delivery service in the area. They prepare and pack hot meals 3 days a week, and then also pack enough food to provide 3 meals a day until the next visit. They help about 1400 families, and also make sure to pack extra food if there are any children in those families. I met Aimee, the manager, and she showed me around – we went downstairs and I saw tables full of bags ready to be filled with food in the morning. Since I was there on a Tuesday, no one was cooking today, but they were all set for tomorrow. They have a nice big kitchen and about 800 volunteers who rotate in and out – for cooking, packing food, and drivers to get the meals where they need to go on 32 different routes. It’s quite an operation!

Then it was time for some more walking. I headed to Balboa Park, which was a wonderfully interesting place to walk for miles. I walked in an actual park setting, and passed a couple lawn bowling courts, although I don’t really know what lawn bowling is! Then I walked through an area which made me think of an old Spanish town, with ornate buildings and tiled domes and fountains, and then I found myself in a fascinating cactus garden – I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a variety of cactus plants before – from small little plants to bushes to trees! I also passed a nice outdoor auditorium area, and from the signs that were around, it looks like the San Diego Symphony performs there. After walking a little over 4 miles in all the different parts of Balboa Park, I headed back to the Seaport Village area, where Chris and I had noticed some tall ships yesterday. Tula and I got out for an evening walk along the waterfront pier, which has numerous old ships moored within an arm’s reach that are open to the public – kind of a marine museum. There were 2 submarines, some 3-masted schooners, and even the USS Midway aircraft carrier. The sun was going down, and it was really pretty to be walking by all the old ships in the rosy sunset colors. Past the aircraft carrier was a little park with a bigger-than-life sculpture of the famous end-of-WWII picture of the sailor kissing a nurse. And beyond that was a tribute to Bob Hope – with a sculpture of him entertaining a variety of troops. And there was a recording, in his voice, of one of his shows, and in the fading light the sculptures almost looked real, and it didn’t take much imagination to think it was all happening live. As we headed back to the van, I passed some people who were fishing, and I watched one of them reel in something that looked like a stingray, but they said it was some kind of shark. They simply took the hook out and tossed it back in. Tula was pretty curious about it!

And then I was ready to sit for a bit and drive a couple hours to San Bernardino, where I stopped for the night.

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