Finding my passion: An Ameritale

I’m a little bored tonight, so I thought I begin a chronicle of tales from my year of service in Americorps with perhaps the most important story of all, how I became a farmer.

Our first spike (project) took us to the city of Baltimore and to The Samaritan Women, a nonprofit that was doing everything from an urban garden to a transitional residence program for former sex workers. Even though it was only an hours drive away, I fell asleep on the ride. Car rides have that effect on me in general and the prospect of leaving the 1079 and the Shewolves (my house and the point and my housemates) had been emotionally exhausting. I was terribly groggy when we piled out of the van in front of Hammond, one of the historical mansions on the site that would serve as my team’s residence for eight weeks.

I was amazed that we were still in the Baltimore City limits, because when I looked around all I could see was two huge houses surrounded by open land and trees. Sometimes driving or walking down the end of the street and becoming once again immersed in Baltimore traffic was a bit of a rude awakening, the Samaritan Women was this little island of peace in a chaotic metropolis.

We shuffled into the parlor of Hammond and, as we ate snacks (we loved the staff there, they always were giving us some form of munchies), Jeanne, Chris and Roy gave us an overview of the property and laid out the work we would be doing. The farm, which was to be our chief concern, was only in it’s second year, Hammond had just recently been mostly renovated and Ventinor (the other mansion) wasn’t yet habitable. There was enough work for ten teams and a professional chef who dropped off all sorts of goodies!

So here’s my confession of the day: I didn’t understand the concept of food deserts. Having lived a rather privileged life in a suburb, surrounded by grocery stores, until then I just assumed that people who lived in the cities were either lazy and liked junk food or just poor, in which case they should get a job.

The first thing I learned was that the nearest grocery store was two suburbs outside of the city, where the bus lines didn’t run. People in the city, if they didn’t have access to a car were literally shit out of luck when it came to produce.

The second I learned weeks later when I walked into a 7-11. There were some bananas by the cashier. The clerk didn’t know when they had come in and they were 79 cents each, while at the grocery store they were 69 cents a pound. Even the few places in the city that you could find a piece or two of fruits or veggies, you had no idea as to the quality and it was expensive.

The first big thing that surprised me was the first week Roy announced that at volunteer day that weekend he was putting me in charge of the volunteers at the Greenhouse. He could sense that I had a natural affinity for plants, he told me. That was news to me, I had never had a great interest in plants and was a city girl through and through.

But Roy was absolutely correct, some measure of my farming grandparents had made it into me and the plants and I thrived under Roy’s guidance and wisdom. Roy was a new convert to farming too and his passion was contagious. He was what some might call “Spiritual” and encouraged us to thank they bamboo stalks we cut down and only speak positively in front of the plants. I told stories and sang to the plants in the greenhouse, I helped pass the time in the field by telling Greek and Roman myths to my teammates

Sugar Snap Peas= The Best

, I became a seed planting fiend, I taught volunteers the right depth to plant different plant species, how to enrich their soil, how to build raised beds, etc, etc. By the second week volunteers held me in such esteem I might as well have been Demeter and by the end of the round I was supervising most of the planting operations.

I loved it. And beyond that I knew that this had to be the wave of the future, having learned my two lessons in why urban farms are essential to the health of the city. Jeanne, Chris and the rest of the board could probably wax eloquent about how their religion calls for them to have the farm and whatnot, but the part that stuck with me most is Roy telling me that if you give people good things to put in their bodies, you’ll get good out. At first, it seemed simplistic to me that good food could raise the standard of living and general health of an entire population, but in eight weeks I saw it in action and was convinced.

At the end of eight weeks, when I was asked what I wanted to do after Americorps I always responded, “Urban Farming” without hesitation.

And in this political climate, when the majority of House representatives see Americorps as a program not worth funding I remember all that happened in my year of service. How many Corps members walked in thinking that it would be a nice break from “real life”, like I did, and walked out with a new direction in their lives? Not only that, but how many people in Baltimore now have access to fresh, good food where they didn’t before? This is worth it. So very worth it.

Not to brag or anything, but I also became a master floor tiler at TSW

Roy, my mentor

The Hypocrital Oppression of Being Pro-life

[Consider this one of the long series of posts which I will entitle “Cleaning out my Closet”. A friend once told me that I give him hope because I once was a fundigelical young earth creationist but now I’m a found awesome Humanist. A leap that large though leaves some loose ends behind and I do my best to categorize and make sense of them, if only for my own peace of mind.]

The Hypocritical Oppression of Being “Pro-Life”

We all know someone who calls themselves “Pro-life”. As someone who was a loud, proud and obnoxious “pro-lifer” in my youth and have lived to regret it let me tell you about this breed from an insider’s perspective.

  • It wasn’t until college that I actually learned about sex. And it wasn’t in a class, but rather it was through a back-and-forth dialogue with my then-boyfriend that I learned about penises and he about periods and vaginas. Both of us had been pulled out of our school’s sex ed courses and didn’t have much of “the talk” with our parents that we could recall other than “don’t have sex”.
  • It wasn’t until I read the packet that came with my birth control that I learned how it worked. I didn’t need birth control because I wasn’t a “slut” and thus learning about it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t know that a huge amount of women take the pill because of medical reasons (not slutiness) until I became one. Junior year of college my periods became unbearable and I went through months of agony before my roommate suggested that birth control might help. It did.

Many pro-lifers don’t know how the pill works either. In many circles it is vilified as an abortificant. And, of course, the Catholic Church is opposed to any sort of birth control.

  • I was a conservative and identified as Republican. As I started high school 9-11 happened, with two wars following in quick succession and gave rise to controversies surrounding torture, the definition of “enemy combatant”, and all sorts of other things. My moral stand had no problem with being all for the wars, brushing off the atrocities that happened at Gitmo, the death penalty and a host of other things while still believing that a fetus should be protected from harm at all costs. I’ll even through in that I loved personal freedom and despised anything that reeked of chipping away at that for some further irony points.
  • I hated women. The word “feminism” was only a positive thing in my world if it happened before 1920 and paved the way for me to vote. Everything else was the work of “femninazis” who hated Jesus and wanted to ruin society. “Sluts” needed to keep their legs together and dress modestly and then they wouldn’t need a “Choice” (since we all knew that that was merely a codeword for “abortion”).
  • I hated men. Men couldn’t control their lustful urges around “sluts” who dressed immodestly. “Immodestly” means different things in different circles: tight pants, a bare midrift, mini-skirts, shorts, halter tops, pants and dangly earrings are all considered “immodest” to different circles.  Men were out of control sex animals and the stupid sluts deserved it. Men were not only irrational beings incapable of controlling themselves but also free of any consequences of their actions.
  • Babies are a punishment. The stupid slut deserves it and needs to deal with the consequences! Getting pregnant and being pressured to marry will show that young couple that they can’t act like married people without consequences!
  • I lived in a fantasy world. The only people who got pregnant and didn’t want to were sluts. If I lived purely, dressed modestly and never let any boy put his penis in my vagina I didn’t have to worry. My world was free of rape victims (who in my warped mind had it coming), victims of incest and ectopic pregnancies. If I had learned of what sociologists call the “rape culture” at that age I would have disregarded it as some fantasy of a man-hating Femninazi (also, note my fallacy that held that rape was a primarily sexual act). My world was black and white: you chose to open your legs or you didn’t.
  • I loved Jesus but hated his teachings. The social gospel was an evil plot against Jesus, a known capitalist. We preferred to mine the prophets for “end times prophecies” and disregarded all that shit about helping the poor, the alien, the sick and the lonely. The lesson of the women caught in adultery let us know that we could eat seafood because the law was a silly thing that Jesus disposed of then and there (the parts about gays, however, were still valid). We took the part where Jesus says “you will always have the poor with you” and ran with it, ignoring the rest. I claimed to love the Christ and his word but it was a lie.

 

Starting in college my fantasy world cracked open and my eyes slowly opened to the hypocrisy present in my moral stance. “If I believe that life is sacred, under what circumstances can it be taken away?” Was the first question I pondered as I considered the death penalty. I began not to call myself “pro-life” anymore because I believed in a just war. Surely the only real pro-lifers out there were the pacifists, I thought.

I devoured the Bible, front to back with no one telling me “what it really means” and the whole façade crumbled within a matter of months. I see now that I was blind and that the “Pro-life” movement capitalizes on the blindness of people. It is based on black and whites that do not exist in the real world, and upon a system that allows some to feel superiority over the others by demonizing them to certain extents.

With all that said, being a pro-lifer and living in that fantasy world was easy. There were rules to prevent bad things from happening and never a need to puzzle out ethical dilemmas. It would have been easy to remain in that fantasy world too because I’m white and middle class. The specter of bad things which could have shaken my fantasy world was significantly diminished. It was even further diminished for the white men who helped propagate this way of thinking in my little world.

Kaydon the Dinosaur Writes a YA novel

This past November I was kinda bummed that I couldn’t participate in National Novel Writing Month because getting things done for America takes a lot of effort (which Republicans will never appreciate). So, to further help keep me from going insane here in the snowy wastelands of Minnesota I am going to work on the novel that I would have this November.

Its based loosely on the conversations that happened whilst I and three friends/fellow Corps members were working in the woods of the Sacred Hearts Seminary and Retreat Center in Massachusetts and for right now I am keeping all the names and stuff. I’ll change them later if I keep on with the project.

Title:

Vampire Hunters of the Sacred Heart

Basic Plot:

Four Americorps members are left behind at Sacred Hearts Retreat Center. Unable to reach their respective teams they keep busy doing odd jobs around the Retreat center and start noticing weird going-ons in the woods. One day, after waking up late they collectively realize that they cannot remember the night before and at first chalk it up to a wild party they must have held at the beach house. In the following weeks they come to find out that they each have a new-found superpower. As the weird going-ons in the woods becomes a vampire threat, Father Harvery enlists them to save the Center.

Cast:

-Father Harvey: Groundskeeper of the center. Rumor has it that he is a former disgraced exorcist. He enjoys the privacy the vaults in the basement allow him.

-Father Stan: Leader of the Center.

-Sister Helen: Nun of the Center.

-Kate: Pyromania. Small, cute and ferocious.

-Steve: Atheist and science lover. Working towards clinical immortality.

-Tommy: Former Madison, Wisc. Alderman and lover of politics. Nickname: “Gingerballs”.

-Deb: Thoughtful Vegan.

 

 


In a weird place

Watching the Superbowl (well, the few minutes I wasn’t asleep. American Football should barely qualify as a sport, if you ask this former rugger) I loved the Detroit ad and it got me really pumped up…until I realized that I was watching it in a house in the middle of nowhere MN and that I now was a resident of a state that I hate.

Yep, I pretty much hate Minnesota as it has nothing to offer but snow, mosquitoes, farms and dumb politicians. I hate that I technically live in a city but go two miles in any direction and you will find absolutely nothing but fields. I hate that what I have a passion for, urban farming is taking off in my hometown and I am stuck far away.

There are many more hates but if you were to ask the boy-who-makes-me-food, Minnesota is the greatest place ever. Which is exactly what you would expect someone who hasn’t lived anywhere else to say about their hometown.

But there is something bigger troubling me and that’s my status as a homemaker. The first week we got back from our honeymoon the boy-who-makes-me-food and I went to set up a bank account. The banker helping us asked what our jobs were and I said I was unemployed. She said it would help us more if she put down “homemaker” instead of unemployed because its more of  a hassle on the forms if I am unemployed but not picking up unemployment.

I died a little inside but bore it up because then we went into the whole question of what my name on the account is and blah blah blah (I die inside each time we get something in the mail to “Mr and Mrs Boy-Who-Makes-Me-Food because I have a name, and its not his…the further you get from an urban center the more backwards people get).

I have nothing against homemakers, hell my mum was one when I was growing up and I have a helluva lot of respect for her and what she did for me and my sister but its so not for me.

I’ve had some conversations with friends about how I’m totes awesome because I’ve completely left my past gross religious baggage behind and whatnot, but in many respects that cancer still infects me.  I find myself having knee-jerk reactions to things, places and people that, upon review, have no connection with who I am now and my worldview but its leftovers from my fundigelical breeding that have remained buried within me until that moment. Example: first round my team had the opportunity to help out at a drag show which benefited a nonprofit that my team loved to work for and where I got 40 of my required 80 independent service hours. Hearing what the event was going to be hit the pit of my stomach like a sack of bricks and the thought made me giggle like a 9 year old who just heard her parents use the word “penis”. A few hours later I really did some soul-searching because that reaction seemed out of character for me, and low and behold I found a leftover from the past. I worked the show parking cars and helping take tickets and had a fabulous time, something my fundigelical self would have missed out on.

So what does this have to do with homemakers? Oh, so much.

You see, there was always this deep divide within me when it came to what I was told I could do and what I was expected too. My mom might reject this title but she is one of the greatest feminists I know. She encouraged my quest for knowledge about whatever interested me at the time and instilled in me a great skepticism and independence. It wasn’t a question if I would end up in an scientific career or something else equally intellectual, it was a question of what field it would be. She never really taught me anything too domestic, cooking is still a mystery to me, Americorps taught me how to clean a stove and I don’t understand how to sort laundry, I suspect that this was her way of sticking up a middle finger at certain homeschooling sects that believed that you shouldn’t waste too much time educating your girls, as they’ll just marry and pump out babies no matter what.

Compare this with what was pontificated at church and youth group. The best women were those who stayed home, raised a brood of Christ-loving babies, let her husband make all the hard choices and always, always had time in the morning to put on make-up and style their hair. Women who didn’t want such a future were looked down upon as something of a freak of nature or were in denial (Satan caused both conditions). A good girl was modest, smart enough and chaste until she met the right god-fearing man and married.

I didn’t fit, not at all. I was nerdy (and not in an overly endearing way), I had little interest in the opposite sex during my school years and had little interest in children, even though I tried, via teaching Sunday school and camp counseling, to force myself too. Hell, I even felt “called” to the ministry (a whole ‘nother set of baggage there that I deal with regularly), and showed up the boys when it came to Biblical knowledge and zeal. I was the youth group outcast and it suited me fine.

At Calvin I looked down upon those who were there for their MRS (and I still do) and I remember a girl from my orientation group who I quickly lost respect for when she confided that although theater was her passion, she wouldn’t mind simply finding someone to marry.

As I walked away from the faith I had been raised in I found myself not only dealing with the baggage from the years previous but I also kicking back strongly against how I had been raised. I cussed way more than what was probably necessary, I liked offending the sensibilities of those around me, I had no problem shaving my head and “looking like a boy”, etc. Dating, of course, was out of the question, thankfully and I didn’t burden myself about it.

Then I met the boy-who-makes-me-food and he had no problem dating a loud and proud non-believer. Even then, I went out of my way to prove that I wasn’t some poor sod hunting an engineer and I even cussed out an MRSer one day after she stated that “isn’t it nice that we’ll never have to work at all?”

Even after we got married I made it clear that no children would be forthcoming, there would be none of this taking his last name or even hyphenating my last name nonsense. How much of this is a kickback against what was always expected of me and how much is deeply rooted in my own sense of self I probably won’t know for awhile (I can’t ever see taking the boy’s last name though, its sooooo boring and lame).

Going on a month without finding a job and I am finding myself in a homemakers role, I clean the apartment and clean up after Mike, I make dinner, etc, etc. Its boring but one can only apply to so many jobs a week (my limits about 40 before getting burnt out). I wish there was something, some group or volunteer work in the area but interested me, but I truly am in the middle of nowhere and our car is too much of a piece of shit for me to take it down to the cities in the middle of winter. I know that if I get out, whether by a job or something, I will probably feel better about life.

So, I feel pretty worthless and I think I will start killing people for sport if I don’t find something by next week…or I may just run away to Detroit and work at Taco Bell to support my urban farm.

In my head I’ve already titled this past month “Mistake”. Marrying the boy was all fine and dandy but moving to the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter wasn’t.

On a daily basis

 

One of the reasons why I don’t have a job

Every time, every single damn time I start actively job hunting my alma mater does something utterly retarded and gets on the news. Last year it was Memogate and a few months ago there was a fiasco over the name of a band.

When I first heard that Calvin had invited and then cancelled on a band called The New Pornographers my first thought was, “Oh good, somebody is doing the music scene there a solid and taking a stand against all that indie shit.” Because that’s what the band is, an indie scum band with a faux-clever name.

Because it was a slow news day, the story spread like wildfire and hit all the major news’ networks websites.

A day or two later the administration declared that they had canceled it because they take porn addiction seriously.

Let me break that down for you: “Shit, we just realized that what we do has consequences and people are looking at us so what are we gonna do? Oh yeah, let’s blame a fictional addiction!”

This blaming of a make-believe addiction, of course, made everyone laugh harder and me wish even harder that I had gone to a normal school that I wouldn’t be ashamed of putting on my resume.

And let me break it down further for you: I have been in a relationship where porn was an issue and maybe even the other person involved was “addicted”. It was terrible for the relationship and left me with a lot of shit I had to work through. But you know what? None of that background makes the band name a trigger for me. It doesn’t do anything for me on an emotional level. It’s bollocks and it cost me, and probably many others, opportunities.

So, moral of the story. Stupid, ridiculous moral panics cost more than they are worth. Hopefully this third round of resume sending and interviewing doesn’t get marred by my alma mater being retarded.

And now I really enjoy The New Pornographers, thanks Gay Byker. I may have to turn in my hardcore badge in now.

This guy is not in The New Pornographers, thank the gods

Alright, so here we go again

Its been awhile but now it seems as though I have wandered back, driven by how boring MN is. Minnesota! What?

 

Ok, lets step back a bit. I graduated from Calvin in August ’09. They tried to Dutch me (can we make that a thing? I like it so much better than “gyp”) into giving them more money, even though all signs pointed towards me having the all clear to graduate. This ended when Mr Munchy threatened the registrar with various things. Moral of the story, I love my dad, who has some shady ass connections.

That January the Boy Who Makes Me Food and I got engaged. Then in February I left to serve a ten month term of service in Americorps NCCC on the East Coast.

I got strangled, fell in love with farming, dealt with a psycho on my team, beat back depression and graduated in November. I will never wear grey and khakis again.

In January the Boy Who Makes Me Food and I got married, making him Mr Kaydon Who Makes Food.We moved to Minnesota so Mr Kaydon could finish school. Calvin tried the same tactics with him, but since he has no shady connections he decided to transfer to St Cloud State instead.

So that is where life stands currently and what has precipitated my return.

This is where I live now. It blows.

The administration is stepping up its game this year

Firstly, I apologize for sucking at life and not updating. My summer has been quite full since I am a quasi-alumni now looking for a job. But my last paper was handed in at the beginning of the month and I am now officially done with Calvin forever!

…That was, until the “Memo”.

Some background: The administration is always finding ways to fuck with the college, some years they focus on the students (note the “controversy” over every issue of the spoof and even going so far as to try to shut it down or threatening the writers with expulsion) and others they like to focus on the professors (the booting out of Dr Isom last year). These shenanigans usually occur right before the end of spring semester, probably with the intent then that they would soon be forgotten.

This year, the administration decided to up its game and mess with the college early…way early, during the summer. Towards the end of this summer all staff received a memo telling them that it is “unacceptable” to advocate for gay marriage in any way. The board claims that it is only a clarification of previous decisions, but we can safely say that judging by the “WTF?” responses by most of the faculty that this is not so.

It appears that some faculty actually attempt to think for themselves and form their own opinions outside of what the synod says. Gay marriage joins the long list of things that the board is very passionate about, including:

  • believing that the Belgic Confession, Hiedleburg Catachism and Canons of Dordt are way rad
  • attending a CRC church (a list of acceptable churches is available upon request)
  • putting their kids into Christian schools
  • make the college look good
  • be all that they can be in regards to being decent human beings

As you can see from the list, the Calvin board is all about addressing all sorts of controversial topics, just like the synod is (the issue of women clergy/women participating in synod not included).

The board is clearly wistfully looking back on the days (circa 1920, the board members must be ancient) that they had control over the minute details of student and faculty life. Gone are the days when you could simply order a professor to stand outside the movie theater to catch students coming out of The Covered Wagon. Now everybody wants academic freedoms and shit like that.

And the fact that professors quit after the Isom incident and others might surely think twice about staying at Calvin after this is just icing on the cake to the board! And, if it stirs up all sorts of outrage amongst the student body then that’s cool too!

I think that everyone still at the college should be on their guard this year, after such a strong start so early surely they have a big surprise for the college in the winter/spring.

The Covered Wagon was one of the greatest films of 1923

"The Covered Wagon" was one of the greatest films of 1923