Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve

I'm trying to keep alive a tradition that I did last year, where I take a picture of something around my church that I grew up in.  Last year was a bunny rabbit and Jesus. And this, year, it's not QUITE Christmas, (but then again, neither was the bunny rabbit last year).

So behold!  A picture in one of the nursery school classrooms, showing us Adam, Eve, and a very curious and perhaps slightly sinister snake:

Merry Christmas, everybody!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Do you need a dog metaphor for your sermon?

I’ve been dogsitting since December 5th, sometimes for two sets of dogs at once.  Every morning, at 6:30am, no matter what house I wake up in, I have to go run Pablo and Pepe.  Even this morning, when it didn’t LOOK like it was going to rain when we started, and then it totally did.

So my life has been dogs dogs dogs 24/7, right up until I leave to go home for the holidays.

And if you’ve spent any time at all in any church of larger-ish size, you will invariably run across a pastor who uses a dog story as a metaphor.

Why?  Well, because most people are dog people, and therefore most everyone can relate to dog stories, and starting a sermon off with on is a way to keep people’s attention for at least five minutes.

They are such obvious metaphors (dog is you, owner is God) that I bet I can rattle a bunch of them off the top of my head.  Let’s see….

(and it’s best if you say the following in your best Old Time Folksy Pastor Voice)

“So you know you can let your dog go running off if you want.  Sure you can!  Let your dog go off leash through the woods, let him explore, let him do his own thing.  But don’t be surprised if he comes back all muddy and his coat full of burrs, and maybe he’s even sprayed by a skunk.  Because that’s what happens when you go roaming off the path that God has set out in front of ya – you come back a dag-gum mess is what happens!”

“That’s the thing about dogs and leashes.  Dogs don’t understand why they gotta be on a leash.  But it’s because they don’t know everything like you know everything.  Like GOD knows everything.  Alls you seein’ is the ground in front of you, and you’re all hell bent to scamper down that road just as fast as you can and then God yanks your leash back and you’re all HEY!  WHAT’D I DO!?  You don’t get it.  And if you’d simply relax and let GOD take control, life would go a lot easier without you choking yourself all the time.” (I know that picture of Bella isn't really about her on a leash, but it was too cute not to include.)

“Dogs gotta eat.  But they can’t get to the dog food sack themselves.  Who do they depend on?  YOU.  YOU’re the one who’s gotta feed them, who’s gotta give them water, who’s gotta take them out on walks.  YOU’re the one who’s gotta give ‘em a bath when they get stinky.  They can’t do none of this without you.  That’s why they TRUST you.  Because you’re their MASTER.  So why can’t we as people trust our heavenly father the same way?  He’s gonna take care of us!  He’s gonna feed us, gonna take us out for some exercise.  Because WE ARE HIS, we are.”

And on and on and on. :)

I'm sure I could keep going, but you guys get the point, right?  We're all dogs, God is dog spelled backwards, he's our master, we need to obey him more.

You don't hear a lot of cat metaphors in sermons, do you?  know why?  Because cats are EVIL!  Minions of the enemy!!  Yarrrrrrrrrrrr!

Kidding kidding.  But seriously, pay attention to the next time a pastor busts out a cat metaphor.  And then come tell me about it. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Suspended Calendar

I’m dogsitting Albert and Abbot’s new puppy, and here’s where I should name him something old school and delightful, but because he’s a puppy (they got him from a shelter and they think he’s about 8 to 10 months), and because he’s got puppy energy out the wazoo, and we’re not just talking cute puppy I’m Adorable As I Gently Bumble My Way Over To You On Adorable Puppy Paws, but more of I’m A Hellion And I’m Way Smarter Than Anyone Gives Me Credit For, and I’m Gonna Tear Around The House At One Million Miles An Hour!!!, I’m going to name him Scampers.  Or Butthead. 

My first gig with Scampers Butthead was over Thanksgiving.  Just a few weeks ago, but already feels like a million miles away.  A whole month has passed since Dad died, and sometimes it feels like everything since that day has happened on a suspended calendar in an alternate universe, where time has taken on the consistency of taffy, pulling and stretching and expanding and drooping and pulling some more.

People send me emails and texts and phone calls and they always want to know how I’m doing.  And when they ask the question, I feel like I need to break down in tears in order to justify their concern in asking me.  They’re searching for signs of distress, because people would know how to deal with that – here’s a person who’s grieving the loss of her father.  Poor dear. 

People don’t know how to deal with someone who’s grieving a loss without any familiar signs of grief.  I’m not even sure if what I’m doing could be considered grieving.  It feels and smells like regular living to me.

But I’ve certainly got enough on my plate, what with dealing with Scampers Butthead, and also juggling a second gig with Pepe and Pablo at the Shabby Shack five minutes away.  So wake up, feed and get Scampers Butthead situated for the day, then drive back to the Shabby Shack to run Pepe and Pablo, feed them breakfast and get them set up for the day.  Go to work, come home, feed Scampers Butthead, go play with Pepe and Pablo, go back to Scampers Butthead house and go to bed.  Lather, Rinse Repeat.  It’s not easy to do these dueling gigs, but I couldn’t really say no to either of him, though I could’ve played the grief card.  But it seems wrong when I don’t feel sad, bad or morose.

It’s life.  Life happened.  A parent dying is not unique to the history of the world, everyone deals with it eventually.

And the more time I log on this suspended calendar, the more I realize just how merciful God was working behind the scenes.  We had a year to get used to the idea of Dad’s dying.  We got to go home and see him before he went under.  Yes, it was quicker than we were originally led to believe, but ultimately, it was for the best, and God knows I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of other peoples’ parents dying where they didn’t have such gentle outcomes.

But Scampers Butthead consistently jockeying for attention is forcing me to cut this blog entry a little bit shorter.  It’s okay.  I’m not sure we were getting anywhere near profound anyway, ha ha h.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Paisley Bunny's National Debut

The weeks have been okay.  I remember when Tricia was going through the loss of her husband while jugging being a parent to their toddler, and how she told me once, over lunch, “Grief waits.”

And so I was going through these days with that image of Grief, sitting at a table with a big knife and fork waiting for me to sit down and dine, except I would be the main course.

But that hasn't happened yet.

Then there was a person at Thanksgiving, who told me just because I haven't been prostrate with grief doesn't mean I won't be.  This person, who lost their parent two months ago, shook their head knowingly in a way I found distasteful.   People are different, and their grief is different.  I'm probably not going to grieve in the same way you do, or how my sister does, or my Mom, because my parent's death wasn't the same as yours, I'm not the same as you, and it's kinda arrogant for you to act like you think you know how my journey from here will be.  If I want to know your opinion on your journey, I'll ask.  But don't condescendingly shake your head at me and say I've got some bumps in the road ahead of me.  We are all different.

Dad’s death wasn’t unexpected, it wasn’t a gut punch, the scenario of We Can Maybe Save Him! was never an option, so maybe that helps buffer the impact.  I don’t have children and don't have plans or urges to have children, so the lingering sadness of They Won’t Know Their Grandfather isn’t there. 

I’m still able to get out of bed.  I’m still able to go to work.  I’m still able to dogsit, and that’s good, because I’ve got dueling gigs next week, blargh.  I’m eyeing Christmas coming up, and I know that’ll be weird, if not hard.  But I’m also getting the sense that I’m not going to know exactly what it’s like until I get there, so I’m able to compartmentalize it and put it away in the metaphor dresser, ‘cause there’s certainly plenty of things to do in the meantime, like Christmas shopping, like rewriting a pilot, like la la la.

Dad was a Christian, so I know he’s in heaven, able to see all of this happening.  And maybe somebody else would be desperately looking for a sign that he’s up there, seeing all of this.  And maybe that sign would come in the form of a flower, a tree, sun breaking through the clouds, or something else equally Hallmarky.

But I’m not looking for those signs.  I’m taking comfort in the knowledge that he’s up there, watching all of this, and he’s okay.  Not in pain anymore, not weak or scary thin anymore.  He's healthy and happy and he’s okay up there, I’m okay down here.  And the days continue on, filled with Facebook messages, condolence cards, flowers, and one giant Godiva basket from my monthly prayer group (they know me so well)!

Paisley Bunny aired on TV this week.  I didn’t get the news about an airdate until after Dad passed, so there wasn’t a chance to tell him his daughter was making her national screenwriting debut.  But he knew it was in the works and again, he can see everything now, so he still knows, so there are no tears of He Didn’t Live Long Enough To See His Daughter’s Work!  If anything, he'll probably be able to watch the whole thing without falling asleep, as I imagine that nobody falls asleep during movies in heaven, because nobody's tired in heaven, they're not bound to earthly bodily mechanics or things like exhaustion or Ate Too Much At Lunch or Too Much Alcohol.  In my idea of heaven, you eat what you want, you drink what you want, you're happy and you sleep when you want to.  And perhaps most importantly, you're never bored.  For the right reasons, not because you're stressed.  There is no stress in heaven.  Says me.

If you read the original Paisley Bunny post, you know the most important thing to me about that script was the monologue that Bucky Bunny says toward the final third of the movie.  Because I wasn’t allowed to say “Jesus,” “God,” or “Bible.”  I wasn’t even allowed to show my rabbits hopping by a church in the background. 

(I also wasn’t allowed to say “poop” because on this particular channel that the movie was airing on, you can show syndicated episodes of crime shows where they kill people at the drop of a hat, but the word “poop” is too scatological.  WhatEVER.)

So Bucky Bunny says this monologue, and I knew they had at least shot it, it was still in the script supervisor’s book:

BUCKY - Universe!  Okay, I was harsh about your book, and the opening doors and the closing doors, and I’ve been mocking you this entire time even though my friends believe in your book!  There’s no reason you should help me!  But I’m asking anyway!  Because I love Dew Drop Bunny.  I love Dew Drop Bunny!  And love... that’s what you need, right, Universe?  Love?  Isn’t love worth it?  If you were ever going to help someone like me, it’d be for love, wouldn’t it?  Please?  PLEASE?!

The question was, was the monologue going to remain intact?  Or was it going to end on the very real cutting room floor?  Because plenty of other things DID land on the cutting room floor.  Ralphie Rabbit, (Bucky 's rival for Dew Drop Bunny)’s whole backstory about how he had gotten to Happy Dell, that was in the script, but didn't make it into the movie.  Plucky Duck's goal of decorating an underwater Christmas tree, did he actually do it?  Did he actually make it?  Does the Christmas Tree stay anchored underwater?  Well, yes, in the script, it did, but in the movie, just a loose end that's mentioned once and then never again.

So, future writers, when you're sitting in your seat at the movie theater and you think to yourself "HEY!  They never resolved that dangling plot element! (like, say, the discarded crown on a rock in Brave)"  What you don't know is that they DID probably resolve that element in the script, but it got cut from the final movie.

So cut out whatever you want to, did Bucky Bunny's monologue that's actually code for talking to God, did it make it in?  Or did somebody finally figure it out and cut it?

So I watched the movie live when it aired, texting back and forth with sister Agatha on the East Coast.  And we cheered when we saw my name WRITTEN BY AMY THE WRITER in the opening credits.

And what they did do in the movie which wasn't how I wrote it, was fashion a bookend.  You know what a bookend is, it's when the movie starts with a scene where the characters are already in crisis, and then the rest of the movie spools out in a kind of flashback, until you get to that same scene in the pivotal third act, and then finish up the movie from there.  Executives and Producers often do this when they feel the movie isn't starting in exciting enough of a manner to capture audience's interests.  It's a bit of a cliché at this point, which is why I didn't write it like that.

But I'm not going to get upset about it, because the bookend they use as Bucky Bunny and Peepers Rabbit are hopping through Happy Dell, frantically looking for Dew Drop Bunny, and then there's this overhead shot from a crane, and Bucky Bunny stares at the camera suspended above him and says:

Universe!  Okay, I was harsh about your book, and the opening doors and the closing doors, and I’ve been mocking you this entire time even though my friends believe in your book!  

Not only did my secret God encoding monologue make it in, it's almost the very first thing you see in the movie.  YAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!

And the rest of the movie unfolds, and the actor voicing Plucky Duck rewrote all of my lines because he thinks he’s a writer, except his jokes aren't better than mine, but it's okay, the actress voicing Dew Drop Bunny said all of my lines exactly the way they were written, and I’d say about 75 – 80% percent of what I wrote made it into the final cut, which isn’t so bad at all, and then we get to the final third of the movie, we’re caught up with the scene that kicked off the movie, the rest of Bucky’s monologue.

There’s no reason you should help me!  But I’m asking anyway!  Because I love Dew Drop Bunny.  I love Dew Drop Bunny!   If you were ever going to help anyone, help me please?  PLEASE?!

Hilarious, huh?  The things they cut out of this coded monologue are not about the Universe (God), are not about the Universe’s book (The Bible).  They’re about love.  They didn’t say this line:

And love... that’s what you need, right, Universe?  Love?  Isn’t love worth it? 

And as much as I am cynical about Hollywood and the way things have gone lately, I don’t think The Powers That Be Over This Movie cut out those lines because they’re about love.  They most likely cut them out because they’re redundant.  Ducky already says he loves Dew Drop Bunny.  The rest is implied.

I now have my first national screenwriting credit.  And my Dad and my Father in heaven, are really quite pleased.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


My first memory is riding on a bike with Dad.  It was a yellow bike, later on, when my sister and I were old enough to ride it, we called it the banana bike. 

In my first memory, I’m about four, I think.  Dad was pedaling, and I was in a kids’ seat behind him.  I was laughing and laughing at the feeling of being on a bike, of being in motion, feeling the breeze on my face, and the neighborhood houses streaming by.  I remember him continually turning around to check on me, because my four-year-old laughter could sometimes sound like screaming hysteria. 

Dad was like that back then – continually befuddled by his role as a father, even though it was something he absolutely wanted.  He wanted us, but he wasn’t quite sure what to do with us once we showed up, and left a lot to Mom.  A classic story is him trying to dress my older sister into some sleepsuit that had a zipper on it, and he got her tummy pinched into the zipper.  She screamed bloody murder, Dad quickly gave her to Mom and never tried to dress either of us ever again.

When I got The Call from Mom at the Zombie Run, while other runners were screaming in the background as they were sliding down the water slide, she told me that Dad, who had been in the hospital since Tuesday, was not doing great, that it didn’t look good, and to “be prepared.” 

Okay.  Okay fine.  We knew this day was coming.  We knew it ever since the Stage IV colon cancer diagnosis of last year.  I sat on the ground and wiped tears from my eyes with a towel I had brought to clean off the mud and water and zombie grime.  If this is how it goes, then this is how it goes.  We had a year with him, which is much more than we thought we would have last year.  I thought we’d maybe have four months last year. 

So be prepared.  Okay.  Okay, fine.  I’m ready for action, I’m ready to book flights, to fill out the Leave Of Absence forms at the Unnamed Movie Studio.  I just need someone to say “Yes, go ahead.”  Mom is saying Be Prepared, but she’s not saying Come Home.  Dad’s supposed to be released on Tuesday, and we’ll know more after that.  But I am ready when she says that.

I’m prepared.  But Tuesday comes, Dad goes home, I even talk to him on Thursday, and he wants to see Argo, which he wants us to see together.  So the plan is that I would book my ticket for next week, and come home to spend time with him.  My sister Agatha is coming home too, so we’d be a family for a weekend again.

That is our plan.  We book our tickets (the airline industry is a pit of unholy vipers for charging more for last minute tickets and they will totally get theirs).  We are prepared.

I am so prepared that when Mom calls the following Tuesday to say that Dad’s back in the hospital, I don’t blink one bit.  I don’t cry, I don’t panic.  The tickets are already booked, and I’m expecting that he’ll probably be released on Thursday when we get there, and we’ll spend a very quiet weekend at home.  I call the producers of Violet Giraffe and Paisley Bunny to get rough cuts of the movies so we’ve got something to watch.  I am prepared.

So when Thursday comes, I meet up with Agatha at the airport and we take a cab straight to the hospital.  We figure out what room Dad’s in at the hospital, and take our carry on suitcases to the fourth floor.

And once I walk into The Great Stoic Wonder’s room, things become instantly clear.

This man is not leaving this room.  This is the Final Spiral.

He’s incredibly thin, I think I weigh more than he does.  I think my carry on suitcase weighs more than he does.  His skin is stretched tight over his skull.  How did he get this thin?  How did this happen?  I last saw him in June, he was walking, and talking and watching Jurassic Park on the condo TV in the Bahamas.  He was fine.  I talked to him on the phone less than a week ago, we were going to see Argo in the theater.  Now it’s an effort for him to speak. 

But he talks. “I’m so happy you’re here,” he says, smiling.  We hug him and sit by his bedside.  We chat for a little while, I show him pictures on my laptop about the Zombie Race, though I don’t blame him if he doesn’t get it.

The oncologist comes by later to examine him and to consult with us, “He’s terminal.  It’s a matter of days.”  She says outside his hospital room (not unkindly, she’s actually very compassionate).  He’s in a lot of pain and we can choose to switch him from morphine to Dilaudid, which will stop the pain, but also put him under until he slips away.  But if the choice is between him being conscious and in pain, or sleeping and not in pain, everyone agrees on the second one.  That’s what Dad tells the oncologist when she examines him, that’s what we tell the oncologist when she’s talking to us.

So we file back into the room, and Mom sits by Dad’s bed, “So, you’re not feeling great,” she says.  And then we all start crying.  We’re making this decision as a family, and I know this is more than what a lot of families get.  But my God, it hurts.

We take turns hugging him and telling him we love him and take turns wiping the tears from his face.  And he tells us he loves us and he’s ready, by GOD he’s ready for some new meds.  If he had his way, he’d take a rocket launcher of Dilaudid to zoom him off this earth, that’s how ready he is.

It doesn’t happen that fast, however.  The Dilaudid arrives after an hour or so, and they start him off with 1 mg/hour.  When we get there the next day, he’s conscious, but still in pain, and not talking a lot.  They increase the dosage by .5 mg. every six hours or so, and I think it was around 2 mg/hour when he started sleeping and stopped talking.

The next few days are a numbing blur of sameness.  We wake up, we go to the hospital.  We sit by his bed and read stories from the paper and what I can find on the internet to him, even though he’s not awake.  We hold his hand, we smooth his hair.  We ask Mom questions about how they met, their initial courtship, when she knew she was in love with him.  Questions that she might not have answered in such degree had Dad been awake.  But now she’s a fountain of details – he proposed in the car, without a ring, so that they could go pick one out together.  The car was named Bessie, she named it (so I’m not the only one who names my cars).  She went to his parents’ place in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, but his parents mailed her parents a handwritten invitation so they knew she was invited, and that Mom and Dad weren’t running off together.

Nurses keep bringing food trays that nobody eats (and I can’t imagine how good pureed waffle would taste anyway).  Other nurses keep asking us if we need anything, keep letting us know when there’s a fresh pot of coffee made, as though this was a hotel. 

I’m sure Dad would agree that those last few days weren’t necessary.  And I often felt like God was not in those days, that He had taken a backseat to pure biology, as the hours kept adding on, adding on, marked by nothing more than Dad’s breaths, his chest rising and falling as we all waited and waited and waited.

The past thirteen months have been marked by no less than five deaths of my dogsitting clients: Ginger Puppy, Pembleton, Basil Diva Dog, Hickory, and most recently Babs the cocker spaniel are gone.  (Before you say that I’m some Angel of Dog Death, know that four of them passed from old age.)

And when I was there taking care of those elderly dogs, I would continually watch them sleep, and sometimes stretch a hand out to touch their side, to make sure they were breathing, that they didn’t suddenly go, and I hadn’t seen it.  And the breaths would keep coming, sometimes with a longer space in between than I would like, and I’d freak out, and wake the dog client up, and the dog client would look at me all bewildered, huh?  What?  What happened?

I have had quite enough of death for awhile.

Dad passed on Election Day morning, so he was spared the endless exit polling reports.  He never got to see the rough cuts of Violet Giraffe and Paisley Bunny, though I’m sure he can see them now (he believed in God and Jesus, so the basics were covered.)  We stood by Mom as she appeared to shrink more and more into her coat and red head scarf, as we shepherded her through the paperwork at the hospital, at the funeral home, at the cemetery, as the cards, and calls and food started coming in, as the parade of kind-hearted Southern people with thick Southern accents started up, “I’m so sawwwwwwrrrreeee for your lawsssssss.”

The trees in Alabama are showing off their glorious fall colors, and on Saturday, I decided I was going on a bike ride.  Dad had bought a bike a few months ago, as he was getting agitated that he wasn’t getting enough exercise.  

One of my favorite pictures of Dad is on a bike, ironically enough, back during the Disney cruise of 2009.  He wanted to go ride a bike, which was unusual for him, but I was game and we both rode bikes all around Disney's Castaway Key island, and I took this picture of him one handed AND steering my bike.   

The bike that's in the garage now is a red bike.  The tires could use some air, but Mom and I couldn’t figure out how to use the compressor to fill them up (Dad would’ve just shook his head in dismay), so I did without.

And Mom watched me in her coat and red head scarf as I pedaled down the driveway and down the street.  Passing by the same houses that I did when I was four and Dad was driving.  Some of the people have moved, some of the houses have new additions on them, but they all basically look the same as they always did.

I was talking on the phone with Miss Eunice the day that Dad passed, and as I’m babbling about Dad and how I don’t understand those useless last few days we had to go through to get to the end, she says, somewhere in the middle of it, “I have a quote for you.”

It’s Miranda from The Tempest, and it comes toward the end of the play, Shakespeare’s last play.

And it’s this quote that I keep thinking about, as I pedal down the street of my first memory, looking at the fall leaves, seeing my Dad in front of me on the bike, continually looking back at me, making sure I’m okay.

O, wonder!
  How many goodly creatures are there here!
  How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
 That has such people in't!

O, wonder, o, wonder, o, wonder.  O Brave New World and O, Wonder.


I’m going to be taking a few weeks off from the blog.  I will try to come back at the beginning of December.  Here’s hoping.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Call

So!  There we were, at the zombie race (see last week’s post.)  The last stretch of the 5K involved walls to climb over, lumber things to crawl through, barbed wire thingies to scrabble under, and a wooden slide thing to climb up and slide down on the other side.  You plunged into a very very cold pool of muddy water, and you climbed out of that, did some more obstacles, dodge more zombies, and eventually staggered to the end.

We did all that, and then we went to the lake to rinse off.  Then we changed out of the wet gross clothes, into the dry clothes.  Got something to drink, got something to eat.  Met up with friends, exchanged war stories.  Laughed a lot.

And then we wanted to shift into a role as spectators.  So we headed over to the slide thing, to cheer the other runners as they were staggering through.

And it was there, cheering on a group of very beautiful muddy Disney Cruise line employees in red tank tops, that my cell rang in my back pocket.

It was my mother.  My father was in the hospital. 

And as the screams of the other runners continued to ring out in the background as they continued to go down the slide, continued to hit the water, my mother explained that things were… not great.

No, they were not great at all.

And now they are over.

(Continued next week)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Give Me Your Hand, I'm Right In Front Of You

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals for myself, some small (take a picture of myself doing aerial stuff and make it my profile pic on facebook) some that seemed so big that I didn’t really seriously work toward completing it until I kind stumbled into it (getting a new car).

And one goal was so simple and so vague that I kinda laughed when I set it, thinking I wouldn’t really take it seriously until it was like, December 27th, and I’d be all SHIT!  I gotta knock that one off my list in three days!


As it turns out, that goal turned out to be a 5K.  Which isn’t really anything awful or traumatic like a marathon, or a half marathon, or even a 10K.  It’s 3.1 miles.  It’s nothing.  Nothing at all, really.  It shouldn’t scare anyone.

But I hate running.  The thought of a 5K race DID scare me.  So I had to do it.

I’ve talked about how much I hate running long distance before.  I hate it SO MUCH that there better be a damn good reason for why I would spend money to enter a 5K race. 

And yes, there was.

And that reason was zombies.

The race was Run For Your Lives, and the concept is simple – you run a 5K course filled with 12 obstacles, with three flags tied around your waist.  And there are zombies on the course that try to pull your flags.  If you cross the finish line with one flag left, you’re “alive,” if you cross the finish line with no flags left, you’re “dead.”

Here’s the official promo video:

Now I hate running, but I fully recognized that I would have to run to train for this thing.  For the month of September, I was dogsitting Pepe and Pablo, and was running with them, but them pulling you is kinda cheating, and I’m not going to have them on the course on game day.

So for the three weeks of October I kept running up and down Los Feliz Blvd., trying to increase the distance each time, trying to get my endurance up.  I would alternate between walking, jogging, and sprinting, because I had heard other reports from other racers earlier in the year that said you could walk the course, and sprint past the zombies.

I downloaded this awesome ap Zombies, Run!  It helped SO MUCH.  Seriously, if you hate running as much as I do, this ap takes your mind off running by giving you a new identity as Runner Five, and plunking you down in the midst of an audio story about a zombie apocalypse.  It is so much fun that I’m still listening to it while back on the ellipticals at the gym. 

I was fully prepared to do Run For Your Lives by myself, but luckily I have like minded friends and a group of about 10 of us went down to Temecula to run the race.

And it was there that I gradually became aware that I may have been the only one training for the event.  Everyone else was pretty loosey goosey about it.  What!?  Come on!  I’ve been training for a long time!  I’ve been running up and down Los Feliz Blvd.!  I hate running!  What’s wrong with you people!

So on Game Day, here we all are.  Ready to get dirty (literally, the race in Temecula is at Vail Lake Resort, the trails are dusty, when they’re not watering it down with mud), ready to scream, ready to run, ready to block for others if we die first.

But I don’t think any of us were ready for the freakin’ HILL that greeted us instantly when we were let out of the pen.

Oooookay, so we’re NOT running up this hill.  It’s a great Kate Bush song, but we’re not doing it in real life.

While we’re hiking up this hill, we notice at the top occasional dirt clouds.  This indicates where the zombies are waiting for runners, and where the runners are sprinting to get away from them.   Because it’s not enough that there’s a gigantic hill to start the race, there has to be ZOMBIES at the top of the hill.  Great.

On the whole, it was an awesome, excellent time.  You made instant friends with fellow runners as it became obvious that there was Safety In Numbers.  Meaning if you tried to get past a zombie one on one, you were gonna lose a flag.  If you waited until there was 15 of you, and you all charged at the same time, you had a much better chance of getting through.

Yes, we got dirty.  Yes, I even got shocked on the top of my head under the electric fence (drove my skull down into the dirt, my jaw clicked.  NOT a good time)

I sprinted, I screamed, I gasped for breath.  I did something I had never done before that scared me (a 5K race, not zombies)

But perhaps what was most profound about the whole thing (and believe you me, I was NOT expecting profound) was the mud pits. 

There was about three or four of them, mud hills and giant mud puddles in between  You had to slog through the mud puddles (which were waist high) and clamber up the mud hills, three or four of them in a row.

You couldn’t stop in the mud puddle to marvel at how gross it was, because you’d start to sink.  You had to keep going, and scrabble scrabble up the mud hill, which was, well, muddy, and more than a few people would start up, and slide back down.

I was crawling up the mud hill, wishing that someone at the top was there to lend a hand.  There wasn’t anyone (I had gotten separated from most of my group at this point). 

But once I got to the top of the hill, I decided that I was gonna BE the thing I wished was there for me.  Instead of grumbling about it.

So I turned around and, bracing myself at the top of the hill, started pulling people up.  I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me.   It didn’t matter.  They had hands, I had the stable ground.

“Give me your hand,” I said over and over again, “Give me your hand, I’m right in front of you.”

They weren’t looking because they didn’t know me.  Help was right in front of them, and all they had to do was look up. 

“Look up.  Look up!  I’m right in front of you!”

Finally, most of them did.  They grabbed my hand and I pulled them up.  And I kept pulling people up.  Some of them would actually stagger around to my other arm, and provide even more ballast so we as a human chain could get to the bigger guys.

Sure, it ate up a ton of time.  I ended up finishing the 5K in an hour and a half (still the first out of my group of friends).  But it was totally worth it.

And I survived with a lone single red flag.  That I’m totally taking with me for next years’ race.  Wait and see, ha ha ha.

But this video makes me laugh and laugh.  This wasn’t the Temecula race, this intrepid Panda was running in Baltimore’s race.  He is awesome.  More awesome than me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weird Stuff In The Bible #6 - David and the 200 foreskins (gross!)

Hey!  We're back in the OT, back in the coo coo crazy world o' Saul, he who hired the witch of Endor to consult ghost Samuel back in Weird Stuff #1!  This story came BEFORE the dealings with the witch.  I probably should've gone in chronological order, huh.  Ah well.


Saul, David, Saul's daughters Merab and Michel, and 200 Philistines, who are about to become, gulp, unexpectedly circumcised.


1 Samuel 18:25-30


Okay, in the broadest strokes possible, so we can get to the weird stuff quickly:

Samuel is a prophet, and he's a pretty good one, leading the Israelites.

Samuel gets old and his sons aren't fit to take over as leader of the Israelites, so the nation Israel asks Samuel to ask God to give them a King.

God cosmically shrugs His shoulders (can't you trust ME?) and gives them Saul the warrior, who while a good warrior, turns out to be a pretty lousy dude (Be careful what you ask for, Israelites), does a lot of things that displeases God, who rejects Saul as King.  (Saul's son Jonathan is a decent guy, though.)

Once God's presence (Holy Spirit, perhaps) leaves Saul, a demon (evil spirit) comes to dance on Saul's head and make him miserable.

God tells Samuel to go visit Jesse of Bethlehem, God will show Samuel who He's picked as the new king.  Turns out to be David, who can play a mean harp, utilize a mean slingshot, and kill Goliath, meanest, biggest guy of the Philistines.

Now David grows up and hangs in Saul's court, leads his troops in battle, becomes besties with Saul's son Jonathan (and perhaps more than besties, depending on your interpretation).  All the Israelites LURVE David, and the evil spirits Paranoia and Jealousy who are tangoing in Saul's brain get Saul all riled up.


Saul wants David gone, but he can't kill David himself, since the Israelites LURVE David, and would hate anyone who killed him.  So Saul figures he'll send David out into the heat of battle against their local enemy the Philistines, and let David get killed in battle by them.  So Saul tells David he'll give his daughter Merab in marriage to David if he'll lead a specific campaign against the Philistines and come back successful. (Saul had actually already promised Merab to the one man who killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25), but one you hit chapter 18, nobody’s remembering that.) 

David either 1) sees through Saul's plan.  2) isn't a big fan of Merab or 3) is really THAT humble enough to say in response "I'm not worthy enough to be your son-in-law.”  So Merab is given to someone else and tries to bolster her self-esteem at being passed over by the hometown hero.

Meanwhile, Saul's OTHER daughter, Michel, has a huge crush on David, and Saul sees opportunity number two to get rid of David in a Philistine battle.  So he has his advisors talk to David and they try to persuade David that being Saul's son-in-law is an awesome thing, despite being the exact same set-up as last time, only with a different daughter.

David starts off saying the second verse of the Humble Pie song, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law?  I’m only a poor man and little known“ (1 Samuel 18:23).  Never mind the fact that David kinda IS well known, he did slay Goliath, and just 16 verses ago, when Saul and David were coming back to town after David killed Goliath, the women of the city danced and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)

Yet if David rightly thinks this is a trap by Saul to kill David in battle, it apparently doesn’t bother him the second time around, and he accepts the “price” for marrying Michel which is to go to battle against the Philistines and bring back 100 Philistine foreskins.

Which is totally gross.  (don't try google image searching the phrase "David and the foreskins," you will NOT like what comes up.  So enjoy these images from the way awesome website The Brick Testament , which is the Bible illustrated in Legos.  Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Back in OT times, it was acceptable to cut souvenirs from the people you killed, so everyone would know what a barbarian, SORRY what an alleged bad-ass you were.  So people would take heads, scalps, hands, if you’re Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, you take ears and wear them on a necklace around your neck, la la laaaaaaaaaaa.

So Saul is saying, in effect, that if you wanna marry my daughter with the weird misspelled boy’s name Michel, you gotta kill 100 Philistines and bring me back proof.  Hoping hoping hoping that David dies while trying to complete the task.

Yet David is an overachiever, or perhaps really obsessed with male genitalia (see those theories about him and Jonathan) because not only does David survive the battle, but he brings back 200 foreskins.

Which is totally gross.

So Saul’s forced to give Michel to David to marry.  Despite Michel’s ginormous crush on David, Saul still hates David and plots to kill him.

So David leaves Michel, goes on the run, takes two more women to be his wife while on the run, after seven years goes back to Michel so he can be King (she’s not impressed with him anymore).

David gets to be King, runs into Bathsheba, and borrows SAUL’S EXACT SAME PLAN to Kill The Ones You Hate By Sending Them Into Battle (i.e. Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband.) Luckily, Uriah doesn’t have to bring back any foreskins.  I guess David had enough left over from his days o’ war.

Weird, huh?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weird Stuff In The Bible #5 – Jesus, Demons, and Pigs, Oh My!

Why doesn’t the Bible like pigs?  They are entertaining!  Does God not like Porky Pig?  How could anyone hate on Wilbur from Charlotte's Web?  Miss Piggy is awesome!  They taste good!  Has nobody in the Bible experienced the wonders of bacon?  Pigs in a blanket are soooooo yummy!

What's the deal?  Why no love for the oink oink in the Bible?

The first dietary laws were handed down in everyone's not-favorite starchy book of the Bible Leviticus.  Specifically chapter 11.  There's other animals that the Israelites are not allowed to eat besides pigs (camels, rabbits, birds that ate flesh, not grain, reptiles and insects, so put that locust down!).  There's a bunch of different theories as to why (hygienic reasons because even in the Bible, people could see what those pigs were rooting around in, additionally, pigs were used in pagan rituals), but probably the sanest theory is that God set down these rules to distinguish his people (the Israelites) as distinct and different than other people.

And pigs figure prominently in today’s weird story.


Jesus, his disciples, a demon-possessed man, and a herd of pigs who unfortunately don't know what's coming.


Mark 5: 1-20 (it's also mentioned in Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:26-37, though Matthew says there's two demon-possessed men, not one.  But in all accounts, there's demons, there's pigs, and there's a cliff.  This doesn't end well for the pigs in any book.)


Right before this happened, in Mark 4, Jesus taught a large crowd a bunch of parables about farmers sowing seed, lampstands, growing seeds, mustard seeds, and later that night, Jesus calmed a storm that was threatening to swamp the boat that he and his disciples were in as they were trying to cross a lake.


Jesus and the disciples make it to the shore of Gerasenes after Jesus calms the storm.  When they get out of the boat, they’re greeted by the Gerasenes welcoming committee, NO, it’s a demon-possessed man who lives in the cemetery, which apparently is the only place he could exist without hurting other people.  Now he lives among the tombs, hurting himself, and busting any chains or irons that they try to bind him with, and basically existing as his own 24/7 Halloween Horror Show.

He sees Jesus coming, and runs down to say hi, NO, he doesn’t, he runs down and the demons possessing him engage Jesus in a conversation that quickly turns into a bargaining session.

Interesting facts to note here:

  1. There’s more than one demon in this guy.  There’s Legion, meaning “many,” not the awful Paul Bettany movie from 2009, one of the few movies I’ve seen that I don’t remember one thing about after I saw it, that’s how forgettable it was.
  2. The Legion of demons (Let’s just call them the Legion of Doom, mmmkay?) call Jesus The Son Of The Most High God.  It’s actually the first time that Jesus is called the Son Of God publicly (as opposed to when Satan tempts Jesus in the desert, and it’s just those two by themselves).  Irony, right?  Jesus’ enemy acknowledges who he is, and the people Jesus is walking among don’t get it.
  3. This is the only place in the New Testament where Jesus has a conversation with demons.  There are other places where Jesus talks to demons and says, “Come out of (that person).”  But this is only place where there’s verbal give and take. 
So Jesus is about to cast out the Legion of Doom Demons, but they don’t wanna go “out of the country” (in Matthew’s retelling, the demons don’t want to go into “the abyss”), and they beg Jesus to send them into a nearby herd of grazing pigs.


Well, they know they're getting kicked out of the demon-possessed guy.  They know they can't stop Jesus from casting them out.  Jesus is the Son of God, and has power over them.  And they're not gonna get anywhere with Jesus if they ask to be cast into, say, the disciples, that's a no-go. 

With no clue from the Bible in any of the retellings to guide us, my personal theory is that the demons thought they could outsmart Jesus.  That the Legion Of Doom demons were planning on starting a Pig Uprising, that as soon as they got control of the pigs, they’d turn around and charge Jesus, the disciples, and it’d be Death By Bacon all over the place.

But the joke’s on the demons (either because demons and/or pigs are… well… not smart), as once Jesus casts the Legion Of Doom Demons out of the guy(s), they enter the pigs, who immediately go crazy because there’s demons in them, and all the pigs charge down the cliff and drowned themselves in the lake.

Now the pigkeepers, who are suddenly don’t have a herd of pigs, and have just incurred a staggering loss of income, run back to town to tell everyone what just happened to Halloween Horror Show and all their pigs.  Everyone in town comes out to see that Halloween Horror Show is in fact, now a perfectly normal not-demon-possessed man, and there’s a bunch of pig carcasses bobbing in the lake.

The townspeople then beg Jesus to leave, as they’re scared of a man who can cast out demons, send them into pigs, and ruin a large source of income for their citizens (though Jesus didn’t tell the pigs to kill themselves, they did that on their own.) 

And thus appears the REAL reason for the story’s inclusion in the Bible, the theme that usually any pastor who draws the short straw and has to preach on this story will tell you – pay no attention to demons bargaining with Jesus (though that’s what I found most interesting), pay no attention to the fact that a whole town has lost their bacon supply, what you’re SUPPOSED to be paying attention to is the fact that when confronted with Jesus and the power he has, you have your choice of reactions:
  1. Damn you, Jesus, get out of my town, you ruined these pigkeepers’ lifestyle, and now they’re broke – you’re worried about financial concerns, money, etc.
  2. Damn you, Jesus, you scare the hell out of me, and I’m worried you’ll do something awful to me – you’re worried about yourself.
  3. Damn you, Jesus, those pigs didn’t do anything to you! – you’re worried about moral issues.
  4. Wow, Jesus, you saved that poor Halloween Horror Show from a life of being tormented by demons.  That’s pretty awesome and amazing.  Who are you, that you can do that?  The Son Of God?  Do I believe that?
Ultimately, Jesus, and who he is and what he can do/what he did, requires a response from us all individually.

Jesus, incidentally, loved bacon.  Because he says in Mark 7:14 - 19  that nothing outside a man (bacon-wrapped shrimp) can make him "unclean" by going into him (chowing down on said bacon-wrapped shrimp). " Ratherm it is what comes out of a man that makes him "unclean."  (V15) and although the fifth grader in us all might directly go for the gutter jokes on that, what Jesus really is talking about is to pay less attention about kosher and non-kosher foods, and more about your character, your conduct, and are you loving God with all your heart, and are you loving your neighbor as yourself?

And actually, Jesus said that AFTER the demons drove the pigs off the cliff.  So maybe Jesus felt slightly guilty?  Maybe?  Or he just REALLY wanted applewood-smoked bacon.  That stuff is the bomb.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Weird Stuff In The Bible #4 – Jesus Doesn't Like Goats

Okay, maybe they're not bad.  But when Jesus needed to make a point, guess who was the scape-er-goat?


Jesus and his disciples.  And a bunch of metaphors!


Matthew 25: 31-46


The disciples have asked Jesus  when will the End of the Age come, and what will the sign of Jesus' return be. (You would think that Jesus reappearing would be sign enough, but the disciples, as most of us today, are not that bright.)

Jesus has replied, in his lovable Jesus way, not by directly answering the question (because that would be too easy) but by telling them a series of stories.  First, he talks about what will probably happen during that time - people claiming to be him who aren't,  wars, famines, earthquakes, etc., and nope, I'm not gonna give you a day or hour, because you should be prepared and live every single day of your life as if it was your last - not in a drunken orgy kind of way, but in a Daddy Jesus Is Coming, I'm Gonna Be GOOD and I'm so EXCITED to see him again kind of way.

Jesus then talks about the parable of the ten virgins (always be ready for Jesus' return, and skip over the part where one husband has ten bridesmaids waiting for him), and the parable of the talents (If you're not going to do anything with your money, at least put it in a bank where it'll earn interest.)


Well, let's just go right to the source, shall we?

Matthew 25:31-46

31"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?'

40"The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' 41Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'
44"Then they will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?'
45"Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.' 46These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

In short, Jesus here is separating sheep (good righteous Christians who lived righteously and took care of those less fortunate than them) from goats (people, possibly Christians, depending on your interpretation, who didn't live righteously and didn't take care of anybody.)

But why use a goat as a metaphor?  What does Jesus have against goats?  Why couldn't he have used another metaphor, like separating recycling from regular garbage, or the one bad carrot in the bag of baby carrots, or brown M&Ms out of the big bag of other color M&Ms?  It's not like goats were inherently bad - people in the Bible ate both, and sacrificed both on altars all through the Old Testament, so why make a scapegoat out of a goat, huh?

I mean, if you do research, you quickly learn that sheep eat everything close to the ground, so if you let sheep go first, they'll eat everything and leave nothing for goats.   Sheep are more adept to stay in a group (and thus be easily herded by any Biblical shepherd), while goats are natural explorers and wanderers, stubborn, obstinate and don't group so well.  If you wanted to be a spoilsport, you could easily point out that God/Jesus like sheep better because they're dumber, and easily to manipulate, where goats are independent thinkers so into the eternal fire with YOU!

BUT!  Goats have been mentioned in the Bible as an example of leadership in leading flocks.  Check out Jeremiah 50: 6 - 8 "“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray  and caused them to roam on the mountains.  They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place.  Whoever found them devoured them; their enemies said, ‘We are not guilty, for they sinned against the Lord, their true pasture  the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’ “Flee out of Babylon;  leave the land of the Babylonians,  and be like the goats that lead the flock."

So you can't necessarily condemn an entire species just because Jesus put 'em on the left.  I mean, THAT'S a whole other entry, how the right side is considered more valuable/important than the left side.  I'm not touching that one, no thank you.

I think Cake has done a lot of thinking about this as well.  Check it out: