Saturday, April 26, 2008

A truck bed full of wood...

As you may be aware (from Jotting Ajar), I have a truck bed full of wood. I'm trying to be a little industrious here by making some outdoor furniture - it's coming along okay.

In regard to that, I was out yesterday with a handsaw making legs for an outdoor table I'd like to make. As an aside, standing outside of your truck bed with a saw and some cut tree stumps is a great way to meet neighbors in the city.

Everyone wanted to know what I was doing.
Some even suggested that I use a chainsaw.
My response, "That costs too much."
"But it's only $20 at the Home Depot!"
"I already have a handsaw though." *smile*

That kind of idea is lost in a culture of waste - theres no value in doing something by hand. No value in the care and attention it would take to do something slowly...purposefully. Part of this definitely feeds into our cityscape trash. Part of this definitely feeds into our city's rate of murder (less than last year, still climbing).

Either way, as I'm cutting Raheem (or, Rahim?) our new little from friend from down the street comes bounding up with a jump rope in tow. We met Raheem during our record breaking city wide cleanup a few weeks ago. Raheem helped us clean up the neighborhood and was probably a lot more enthusiastic that we were about it. We wave at him any time we see him and enjoy talking with him when we have the chance. Right now, he's training to beat his mom at jumping rope. He's in the second grade and his favorite subject is math (especially multiplication, division, and addition).

"Why you got all this wood in the back of the truck?"
"Well, someone was giving it away for free, so I just picked it up out of their yard on my way home from work."
"Oh. All this wood would be good for camping."
"Um...yeah, I guess that it would."
"So when we go we can make a big fire out of it."
"Uh...excuse me?"
"You know when we go camping..."

Now, this wasn't said with any presumptuousness. Really, it was said with a sort of innocence that I guess you'd expect from a second grader moving into the third grade. When I told La, she melted...

"So, whatcha doin' March 13th?" asked Raheem.
"What was that date again?"
"March 13th."
"I dunno."
"Well, next week, we're going to a farm!"
"We are?"
"No, we are."
"You mean you?"
"Yeah, me and my family..."

He went on to tell me how excited he was to go and to talk about the things he wanted to see when he went there.

I would like to go camping with Raheem. Maybe that's a little strange. La and I talked about how we could work in a trip with other folk from City Church or something - that way it becomes something that might become more palatable by his grandmother (who he lives with).

As always, this story is probably funnier if you here me telling it. Though, it was definitely worth sharing...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Slavin' Saturdays...

For the past few Saturdays, we've worked...a lot.

It's not necessarily uncommon for us to work on Saturdays, but the amount of work we've been doing has kind of been tremendous. No deep thoughts here, no introspective reflections tonight.

Nope - just exhaustion.

The past two Saturdays, we've worked at a community garden to try to get things cleaned and cleared so that other people can plant (and some people already are). Jason and I pulled, hauled, and stacked bricks. Later, I grilled up so burnt wieners and some not so burnt hamburgers. Laura planted bulbs and talked to a lot of passerby's.

Maybe later I'll talk about crossing the racial / gender / socioeconomic divide and the implications of in this garden. For the rest of the night, however, I'll be watching Into the Wild with my wife.

PS - There is a winner from our contest; I've been informed, however, that I have to hold on putting out the results until both Twilley's can write about it...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Our Back Yard

Your vote matters...

Laura and I are doing a little project in our "back yard," and need your help to make a final decision. The final results will be posted next week (when we will commence our work, weather permitting).

This is what we currently have:

Here are our choices:

Horizontal Wood

"In my design, I want to create simple backdrop that warms up the space. I want the plants to be the first thing you notice, not the woodwork."

(click to enlarge)

Vertical Beams

"In my design, I want to create a surface that warms and expands the space. I want the woodwork to create a functional space for some climbing plants while also encouraging the viewer to look beyond the garden itself."

(click to enlarge)

Now vote!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

"Stupidest thing...ever..."

I'm trying not to get sucked in to this...
However, I've noticed that some people complain seemingly for the sake of complaining.

In a class that I was teaching, there was a person who had difficulties accessing certain online courses (sorry to be so vague). In any case, I gave her the correct person to contact. She essentially ignored my advice, and then complained about how the people she called weren't helping her. I told/asked no less than 3 times if she had made any attempt to contact the person I told her to. The answer was no.

When the problem was fixed, she continued to complain about how hard of a time she's had in the past in trying to get it to work.


On the plane ride back from Manchester (on U.S. Air), the stewardess informed everyone during her safety speech that all the windows needed to be open for the sake of safety (albeit strange, it was not difficult to comply).

A guy behind me, when told to close his window, exclaimed "This is the stupidest thing ever."
On our descent, he was asked again to open his window and exclaimed a second time, "This is the stupidest thing ever."

Really? I should have turned around to ask.

Kind of interesting to look from the outside in to see how small inconveniences are literally ruining peoples lives and how, when it happens, they want to suck you into their world to be a complainer too...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hope through a valley named "Trouble..."

Lately...I've felt owned by the city.
I don't try to talk about that subject as much, you know?

Sometimes, people say, "It's so cool that you live where you do." While there's some truth to that, it's also so difficult to live where we do (at times). It's so hard to live where we do.

Sometimes, it feels like a lot of trouble.

The other night - really, at this point, about a week ago - Laura and I were sitting and I told her the same thing. We're coming up on our first full year in Philly. During that time, I've literally lost count of how many times my truck has been vandalized or damaged. I've lost count of the number of hours I've spent on the road for work (whether for travel or just commuting). I've lost count of the number of fights Laura and I have gotten in (no doubt, the burden of our city weighs on this). I've lost count of the amount of trash we've picked up off the street (sometimes, even placed in front of our house intentionally).

I've lost count of the fights on the street.
The number of parking tickets we've gotten.
The number of times I've had to contact the gas company due to their immense ineptitude.

Last week - March 25 - things even took a turn for the worse. If you know me, you know how much of an advocate I am for taking public transit. Come to find out, I may be the only one who uses it out of an office of 400. Seems SEPTA (Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority) has found out to - which is why they cancelled the route to my office - I now have to walk over a highway that definitely has signs forbidding pedestrian traffic and then 15 minutes at a clip to my office building.

Oh, by the way, I found this out after I sat in the bus for an hour.
Oh, and don't forget, I overslept that morning and missed my Amtrak out to my office's area and had to take a later train.
I left my bike helmet on that same train.
Too, work was really hard that day.

There have been a number of things (personal and public) that have caused me to question whether hope is lately. I don't write this lightly - because without hope, there's not much of a reason to continue forward.

At the end of the day, when I finally made it home (helmetless, cold, angry, etc.) I overheard a conversation down the street.

girl (questioning) - "You're in the fourth grade, right?"
boy (proudly) - "Yeah, but I'm supposed to be in the sixth. You know, they held me back for a while."

The same boy came walking down the street. As I struggled to get my bike into the house, the same boy walked up to me and asked, "Hey, can I ride your bike?"

me (incredulous) - "Where do you want to ride it?"
boy - "Around the corner to my house."
me - "That's a little far."
boy - "How about down the street?"
me - "The bike might be a little big for you."
boy - "It'll be aight."
me (hesitantly) - "Um. ok."

See, this kind of crap doesn't happen. This is the kind of stuff of naivety that leads one to losing their bike and never seeing it again. But...I felt compelled to do it.

So, he rode slowly on the bike, but only after switching it to the lowest (slowest) gear. He rode down one block. Then two. I locked my door - I thought to myself, "I can catch up if I need to - the shoes are okay to run in."

At the end of the 2nd block he turned around and began the work of riding the bike back. As he approached, two older boys rounded the corner.

older boy - "Where'd you get that bike."
boy on my bike - "It's not mine."
older boy - "Then whose is it?"
boy on bike - "My friend's over there."

He was pointing at me.

I was reading through Hosea earlier that morning and thought a lot about the pursuit of the Church by Christ. I thought a lot about how that pursuit of an individual part of a whole...looked.

See, I at the end of the day, I can look at my situation and feel like I've been owned. I can feel like there is no hope. But our feelings, by definition of a reality that has elements of ruin intermingled with the capacity of understanding, can stand erroneously and in contempt of what is.

More often than not, my problem is not that God is destroying me by my environment. More often than not, my problem is that I don't understand my circumstance to be subordinate to the hand of God - to His providence, grace, and mercies.

So when a fellow image bearer, who I've determined to be of ill repute in my own heart - to be of low standing, of little trustworthiness, and disparate motives - embraces me (whether literally or metaphorically), it strikes a cord. I've lent that same understanding to my environment too.

Instead of seeing the boy as an image bearer, I see him as a thief.
Instead of seeing the earth as a means of God's providence, I see it as a prison.

And so what is real is defined by me. I make myself a god. And for that, I deserve to believe that life is hopeless (as, in that context, it is).

Seriously though, thanks be to God - who can show me that through the Valley of Achor (trouble)...there's a door of hope.

Right now...I'm glad to be in this valley, because I know that this valley...this city...isn't the whole of reality. Right now...I know that it something be be engaged - something that I can grow to understand and love, or something that I can fear and hate.