So God Walks Into a Bar…

I don’t know the protocol on re-posting or linking to other blogs, so I’ll just tell you where I got the post below. I thought it was great (and sadly accurate) and wanted to share it. Check out Peak Oil Hausfrau for some good posts on gardening, environmentalism, and living in the age of approaching peak oil.

http://peakoilhausfrau.blogspot.com/2009/06/so-god-walks-into-bar.html

So God walks into a bar…

God gets back from vacation and He sees that the Earth is in trouble. Forests are burning, animals are going extinct, and the oceans are covered in trash. The temperature is rising, the topsoil is being washed away and humans are poisoning the world with chemicals. Everything seems to be going to pot. God wonders what happened in the last hundred years while He was in the Omega quadrant, so He decides to go down to the Earth in disguise and find out what went wrong.

God walks into a bar and sees a scientist, an economist, and an evangelical Christian. He buys them a few rounds of drinks and then asks the scientist, “Why aren’t humans taking care of the Earth?”

Scientist answers, “Well, you see, very soon we are going to start colonizing space and so we won’t need this old planet any more.”

God thinks, “What a crock!” but decides not to argue since He is just down on the planet doing research. So He asks the economist, “Why do you think you aren’t taking care of the planet?”

Economist answers, “Well, you see, taking care of the planet is not our first priority. We need to grow the economy enough so that everyone is rich and then it won’t matter what shape the planet is in.”

God thinks this is an even bigger crock but holds his peace since there is no point in arguing with morons. So He asks the evangelical Christian, “Surely you want to take care of this beautiful planet God created?”

Evangelical Christian says, “Well, you see, very soon Jesus is returning and taking all the good Christians up to heaven, so we won’t care what happens down here.”

At this, God can’t hold his temper and He exclaims, “Are you kidding? I’ve seen how you trash YOUR home. There’s no WAY you’re moving in with ME!”

Bah dum bump.

Over the river and through the woods…

To Grandmother’s house we went!

We had a family emergency this weekend. My grandmother is suffering from mid-range dementia and has been for several months. She’s been falling a lot, having trouble with word choices and train of thought, and has been hallucinating for at least two months. She sees her own mother, who has been dead for 30 years. She asked me last week if I’d been there (I hadn’t). She also has been seeing people in her house who go up and down the stairs, sleep on the upstairs beds, drink beer and go in and out without talking to her. My mother and sister have been planning to go in July and spend several weeks cleaning out her house, selling and giving away furniture, and then selling the house and driving her to Temple, where my cousin has found an assisted living facility near their home, one of her daughters, and that branch of the family.

Well, turns out that while the visions of me and Nanny weren’t real, the other people very much were. My mother oversees her bank account and pays all her bills online (after the Great Jamaican Lottery Scam of 2008, she took control of everything), and she found a series of checks written for cash. There were checks for $20, $40, $60, and a lot of them. The check images showed that they had been made out in someone else’s handwriting and signed by Grandma. Friday, we caught her on the phone at the same time that an unknown woman was in her house, and we could hear her talking, so we knew she was real, and Grandma couldn’t explain who she was. Assuming this was the check-writer, my sister kept Grandma on the phone while my mother called the police. When the police arrived and knocked on the door, the woman realized it was a cop and ran out the back door before Grandma knew what was happening. Mom put Grandma’s maid, Martha, on call to come over periodically to watch for suspicious activity. The police said they would patrol more frequently, in addition to the welfare checks they’ve been doing.

Then while we were at Winstar for my mother’s birthday Saturday, we got a series of disturbing phone calls from her maid that comes once a week. First, she found that all of Grandma’s good jewelry was missing from her dresser. The large upstairs TV was downstairs on the kitchen table. Then, her giant keyring was missing (with keys to the car, house, and storage shed). Then, and this was the most disturbing thing, she found “a bag of cocaine” upstairs on one of the beds, or at least that’s what we got through her broken English. My mother had her call the police, and they came and found burned spoons and other paraphernalia. They did a test, found drug residues, and took it all into evidence. The frustrating part was that Grandma not only had no idea what was going on, but she didn’t see the problem in any of it. I don’t think she understood that these people were criminals; I think they “befriended” her and convinced her to supply them with cash, all the while turning her home into a crack house and emptying it of valuables, presumably to buy more drugs.

We spent the afternoon amongst the slot machines, formulating a game plan. Mom coordinated with Martha, the maid, to have one of her trustworthy friends spend the night with her to ward off the criminals while we decided how to proceed. I think it was at this point that we got a call from Martha saying that a big, mean butch lady came up to Grandma, who was sweeping on the screened-in back porch, and started yelling at her. “Hey, Jane, you bitch, you owe me $20 for cleaning the garage yesterday!” The woman saw Martha just inside the door and, thinking she was Check Lady, started to come in. When she realized it wasn’t Check Lady, she ran off. Martha described the woman to the police, and they knew who she was, so apparently they’ve had problems with her before.

Lindsey convinced us to leave that night, as once the drugs were introduced to the equation, things got a lot more dire. We were afraid that once they realized their drugs were gone (and we weren’t certain if there had been a significant amount or just the residues), they would retaliate and hurt her. So we drove home from Winstar, packed clothes and a couple of guns, and my parents, Lindsey, her boyfriend Shea, and I left for Harlingen around midnight. It was a miserable night in the car. There was no traffic, and we stopped only 3 times, so we made it in 8.5 hours. Mom called Grandma in the morning and let her know we were around the corner so she could unlock the doors and let us in. We met the woman who had been there overnight, but she spoke NO English, so we got no information at all regarding anything that may have been going on. My mother paid her, and someone picked her up. As Grandma got ready for church, Mom explained why we were there, and that we were going to pack up her house and take her home with us. It was heartbreaking to see her face fall when my mother told her to tell her friends at church that she was moving. It’s hard to tell, even now that we’ve got her home, how much she understands about why she has to move, the danger she was in, and the fact that she’s not going back. Since we got back, I’ve gotten out of her that she woke up one day without her rings, which means they were stealing jewelry straight off of her fingers while she was asleep. We’re all a litte shocked that this was all going on without her understanding, and that there was no violence taken against her.

We got boxes and started packing things up – china, the jewelry they hadn’t taken, TVs, heirlooms, clothes, and medications. Grandma came home, and I went through her entire closet piece by piece, making her decide what to keep and what to take to Goodwill. She’s a packrat, and there were clothes she didn’t even know she had. I got rid of two large boxes full of clothes and bags and packed everything else.  She was incapable of even packing an overnight bag. Trying to get her to pick a pair of underwear, socks and a shirt to wear the next day was beyond frustrating. Dad rented a U-Haul, and we went to Los Fresnos (halfway to Padre Island) to pick it up. Shea, Dad and Lindsey loaded up the good furniture (including the piano!), which was no small task in 100-degree heat, especially the pieces that had to come down the narrow stairwell (PIVOT!).

We spent the night there Sunday. The lock was so old that the locksmith couldn’t replace it that day, so it was a little nervewracking to sleep right in front of a door the criminals could open at will. The next morning, we finished up the packing. There is a man in the neighborhood who owns several properties and who checks on Grandma periodically, and we chatted with him about the possibility of buying the house. We gave him a spare key, and he promised to check on the house every few days and look for broken windows. There’s also a man across the street who has cameras up on his roof to catch criminals in the act and help the police with evidence for their cases. He knew the large woman we described and said she’s just a rotten, mean, nasty person who goes around asking everyone for money and lives in some ratty apartments about a half-mile away. He said he’d keep an eye out and would be happy to look through his footage for any people going into/out of Grandma’s house. We left about 5 p.m., and surprisingly, Grandma didn’t put up a fight at all. Dad drove the U-Haul, Mom drove the Tahoe with Grandma and me, and Shea drove Grandma’s car with Lindsey. I took a turn at the U-Haul for a couple of hours, and it was really scary. With the drivable ones, you don’t have a rearview mirror, and it’s really disconcerting. We had to stop more than usual, and we couldn’t go as fast. We got back around 3:30 a.m., and we didn’t get to bed until after 5. We slept late Tuesday, and I didn’t get up until 1! Grandma slept until about 4:30 – we really tired her out. We spent the day unloading the U-Haul and finding places for boxes.

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It was completely horrible and exhausting, but she is safe, and that was the objective. My mother has been sorting things out – getting her a dentist appointment, getting her broken glasses fixed, finding all her medications, etc. We’re not sure of the next step; there will be a trip to the beach in July, and packing up the rest of the house before and afterward. We’ve really already done the hardest part, so the rest shouldn’t be too bad (relatively).

I’m really proud of my family. In a pinch, we did what we had to to, and we even entertained each other in the process. At one point, my grandmother showed us all how she dries her clean, washed underwear by attaching them to a moving ceiling fan. That was fun. Lindsey cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and gave away buckets of food to the Salvation Army. She also found about 3 large trash bags full of expired food, including about 50 Jellos. That was fun.

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I spent a good deal of time in the car with my dad, the day after Father’s Day, and we plotted kayaking and hiking adventures. We chatted about my future financial strategy – investments, savings, 401Ks, buying property, etc. It was amongst crappy circumstances, but I was thankful to not only have my father still alive, in my life, and married to my mother, but to have a father that is so willing to take cross-state car trips in the middle of the night, replace locks, find U-Hauls, move pianos, and so capably take care of and protect his family. Happy Crappy Father’s Day, Dad! Here’s to a better one next year!

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Community Garden: June

We’ve been busy watering and harvesting in the community garden! The ridiculous summer heat has settled in, so we’re trying to keep everything well-hydrated (and myself from fainting!). Mulch has helped keep moisture in the soil so we don’t have to water as much.

Rob recently planted two watermelon plants, which are taking over our new little patch of land given to us after someone dropped out of the garden. Here is Jon taking pictures of our adorable orange, bulby carrots next to the watermelon. We also started harvesting purple carrots, which are actually orange inside.

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Here’s a photo of the watermelon now – it’s taking over! Hopefully that means we’ll have lot of watermelon, although I don’t know how many a single plant is supposed to produce.

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We’ve got tiny edamame pods and hot peppers growing (not sure what kind, serrano, maybe).

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Some of the wildflowers Jen planted in these cinder blocks at the end didn’t take off, so Jon planted some beans (I think these are pinto). They’re getting pretty tall, so we stuck some bamboo shoots in to help them stand up. They would probably do better in the ground or a pot with more room to expand their roots, but we’re doing the best we can with the space we have. Just an experiment (as is all of this!).

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We’re very excited about our first cucumbers! Richie in the plot next to us has a big area full of cucumbers – slender, crescent-shaped ones with big wrinkles! Ours are more traditional-looking but, hopefully, tasty.

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Our crowning achievement, however, has been the zucchini. It rained a LOT this week (about 5 inches in 24 hours), so we got a couple of monsters. If this was in our back yard, I think it would be easier to keep under control, but between the 4 of us, our care for the garden can be a bit haphazard. We show up and things often are a little out of control, like these!

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We found out that certain flowers can help keep insects away, so this weekend we planted three marigolds around the plot. Petunias, Southernwood, and flowering radishes (just let them grow until the flower “bolts” up from the middle and leave it there) are also supposed to help. Those ratty plants to the left there are the spent broccoli we just dug up. Onions are also supposed to keep pests away, and we planted them all over the garden when we first took over the plot in February. Some are still tiny, but some are getting pretty big! We’re just taking one here and there to cook with.

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The asparagus bed is trucking along, hopefully building up a strong root system underground. I got a new shoot this week. The ferns look kind of dill-like.

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I’m really happy to see – and eat – some fruits of our labor. It’s getting to the part of the year where I try to hide from the sun as much as possible, because it’s just too hot to live, so it’s nice that most of the actual work is already done. All the growing has already been set in motion, and now we can just monitor, maintain, and enjoy the summer’s bounty! Several of my friends have started gardens this year, too, and it’s so cool to see pictures of how other people are doing it and what they’re harvesting. I know we’ve made mistakes, missed opportunities, lost some plants, and are not making the most of our limited space, but we’re trying our best. Luckily, nature can be kind sometimes. It still amazes me that we can drop these tiny little seeds into the dirt – dirt! – and something nourishing grows out of it; life honors our attention to it with produce to sustain us.

I go to this great little emergent community church, and I loved this reflection on the ancient practice of walking a labriynth printed in the bulletin on Sunday. Between the thunderstorms pouring down rain on our ground and into our water containers and my continual amazement over the growth I’m helping take part in here in the garden, it really struck a chord in me.

“How does one walk into a Mystery?

Reverently…

Let us go with a sense of awe,

a feeling of approaching the powerful holy

whose lightning slashes the sky,

whose persistence splits concrete with green sprouts,

whose miracles are present in every place and moment.

Hopefully…

And with the knowledge that God meets us in the center.”

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Top Five Fabulous Things of the Week 6.13.09

1. I went out of town last week for a shoot, and I got to explore Kansas City for the first time. I found a great organic restaurant, had BBQ at Arthur Bryant’s, and checked out their tiny riverboat casinos. It was a really fun trip, and it was nice to be on the road again. It’s a new industry I’m dealing with, and despite the learning curve associated with that, it felt just like it used to. Fun adventure, great work, good food, and good people.

2. On said shoot, I accidentally set my alarm for 5:20 PM instead of AM on my first day of shooting, but I got up at exactly 5:21 anyway. I was pretty impressed with my ridiculous conscience for waking me up at the right time!

3. I walked by Pauly Shore in the KC airport. He was all covered up with a do-rag and sunglasses to keep people from mobbing him, but I could tell it was him. He kind of had that frat-boy saunter, as did the really big dude walking next to him. Kind of fun.

4. I bought Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food while I was there, and it’s really good. I’m also in the middle of his The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is also a really interesting read, but it’s definitely very technical and a lot of information. In Defense is much more of what I had hoped for with Dilemma – it’s the theory and common sense and every day how-to behind the technical issues, if that makes any sense. Check it out!

5. I recently discovered YouGrowGirl.com, a gardening blog from a girl in Canada who grows all her on food. She’s got a lot of helpful information and pretty garden photos.

For the Bible Tells Me So

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I just finished watching a documentary I wanted to share with you! I’ve heard about it for a while, I but I finally got around to watching it. It’s called For the Bible Tells Me So, and it’s about the experiences of American Christian families with gay children. It’s told from the perspectives of the children and the parents. One of the families is that of Gene Robinson, the first openly-gay, Episcopal bishop. Another is the family of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephart, whose gay daughter accompanied him on the campaign trail. There are some powerful images and stories, and it’s both saddening and uplifting.

There are lots of places to go to hear what you want to hear on whichever side of this issue you fall on. And the documentarian in this case clearly believes that homosexuality is no more a sin than being blonde, and that is made clear. But that said, what makes it special, in my opinion, is that it’s not a ranty movie. What I love about it is that it tells some important stories from the inside of the Christian church in a very moving, intelligent and honest way. I grew up in the church, I remain in the church, and I love the church.  I’m also really tired of some Christians using the Bible as an excuse to exercise their prejudice and discomfort. The movie takes the Biblical references, Old and New Testament, to the “abomination” of homosexuality and explains their context, the historical details surrounding the culture and time frame, and debunks every last one of them as an excuse to treat people badly. The interviews are with normal families, as well as very educated people, including Biblical scholars, doctors, pastors, priests, psychologists, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Please put it on your Netflix or Blockbuster queue, watch it, and share it with someone who needs to see it.

http://www.forthebibletellsmeso.org