Saturday, December 31, 2005

home town highlights

This trip to Houston was good. It was a vacation. I mentally put myself in vacation mode.

Besides the fires mentioned earlier (drove back through Cross Plains today - it's a charred waste land) and the greatest christmas gift ever known to man, I have only two things to mention here:

1) While making a pilgrimage to the spot where I proposed to Agent Wife (the water wall at the former Transco Tower, now the Williams Tower), we followed the ever popular "what the hell" thought process and visited The Galleria. We weren't on a money spending mission...just a casual observation. Well, for me that's what it was. The Galleria in Houston is The quintessential shopping experience within this country's 4th largest city. They have every big name New York merchant within one building. Some stores don't look like stores. More like avant garde art galleries titled with french words I can't pronounce and displaying a handful of ridiculously priced items on display. My favorite was the [A]bercrombie & [F]itch store with a window display for "casual jeans" that were all faded and ripped like most of my 7 year old pants. Price: $198. Guess I don't have the brilliance to be a merchant. This was a good observation assignment for me. Over time I have discovered that to better learn the culture I am immersered in, sometimes I need to spend a little time within a different culture. Mission accomplished.

2) We decided to enjoy some mindless fun and test drive mom's new DVD player all at the same time. At the advice of a friend we rented Napoleon Dynamite. Words cannot describe my feelings for this. I watched it twice. The best-ever movie made...ever.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

texas fires FYI

Tuesday en route to Houston we left the fair mother city about noon (way later than expected, but what's the rush) and reached the first city on highway 36, Cross Plains about 12:30-12:45p.

About half a mile before we reached the town (west side) all drivers including me couldn't help but notice the small, out-of-control grass fire on the side of the highway (driver's side left). As we slowly drove past it the heat was intense, which surprised me because the flames were only 2 feet off the ground. I called 911 and gave the best directions to its location. We could see the black towering smoke in the rear view mirror for another 10 miles or so.

I'm not saying that I "saved the day" by calling 911, because I'm sure many of the other dozen or so motorists did the same. But had we left the mother city any later, who knows what dangers may have fell on us...or at least delays in travel. Than you lord.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Monday, December 26, 2005

post christmas thoughts and logoff

Looking through hindsight view, our christmas season truly came from the CEO. 30 days ago we had no way of paying this month's bills much less hosting a christmas dinner or giving gifts to each other. My faith is maturing rapidly through this season. I am looking forward to 2006 like no other year. I will speak of things that "aren't" as though they "are" and I will take action towards the realization of my dreams and ultimate mission laid before me by the CEO. No longer will I mope and complain, hunker down in the storm and brace for impact.

I will brace myself like a man - Job forty/seven.


Things are holiday-quiet on Undercover Lane. Obi-Wan is still feeling weak, but happy as always. The Valdezes have been back and forth to Ft. Worth to see their niece with leukemia at the children's hospital. The Mackey's have their 2 kids, 2 kid's spouses, and 2 grandchildren visiting. Sebastian and Jenny are out of school, but I haven't seen them as they're probably visiting their grandparents. And I haven't talked to Mr. Buckley (my racist neighbor) in along while. Though he and his wife brought by a very nice christmas present for Agent Offspring. And the Sanford's are quiet. Tiger's working for Juan Valdez and the Bulldog just hangs around with friends.


As of now, I am officially considering myself "on vacation". We're heading for keeping-up-with-the-Jonesville (aka Houston) tomorrow and will be back in time for new years. I plan to have a better attitude about my birthplace, but probably calling it Jonesville is not a good start. I plan to hold all thoughts and thus not post again until 01-01. But if something agent-like happens to me in Houston, maybe I will.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas dinner - our house

It was a fun day. Tiring, but not ridiculous. The entire Franco family (the West African's that Agent Wife befriended, explained here) as well as Frieda & Manuel from next door joined us for turkey dinner. It was good. We're not stellar party hosts like the Valdezes, but the food was good. Plus...conversation for the most part was in French, which means I become the quiet host.

Unfortunately, Obi-Wan was unable to attend for the first time in three years. He's been feeling really weak and lousy for a few days, thus hasn't felt up to leaving his house.

Oh, the three gifts from Momo were these toy cars. Mine is the police car.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Party #2 - the Valdezes

In many ways...a repeat of last night. But very different and equally fun.

We actually started the evening gift exchanging with Obi-Wan. Then we slipped next door to the Juan & Miranda Valdez (who always host great parties). Like last night, this was their big family jamboree/gift exchange (with my family being the only "non-related" attendees). It was supposed to coincide with some Mexican tradition of having the kids reenact Mary & Joseph looking for room at the inn. But in Juan's words, "we skip the religious part and just go straight to the party".

It was pretty cool. Everyone was dressed up since they just came back from Catholic mass. Everyone except for the proverbial "drunk" uncle who wore a Dallas Cowboys jersey and a Santa hat and came in yelling, "where's the beer". I love that guy. I end up hanging with him through most of the kid birthdays we're invited to.

After we ate (excellent food including bacon wrapped mushrooms...ooowww) Juan, the drunk uncle, me and all the kids went to the back yard to light sparklers and shoot roman candles...which is highly illegal in the city limits not to mention the burn-ban enforced Taylor County. But I won't tell.

Again, like last night the gift-giving frenzy somehow included us. As the youngest, Agent Offspring got a gift first. AO was placed in the special chair up front while the gift was given, then all kids were called up in ascending age. Gotta love the Valdezes. They even know how to throw a dress-up Christmas party.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Party #1 - the Sanford's

Man, this wasn't just a food & fun get-together. This was the Sanford's actual "Christmas", as in, their gift exchange festival. And we were invited. They even had wrapped gifts for us. The poverty culture always amazes me. They may not have much money and they may take every free assistance made available to them. But when it comes to gift giving parties, EVERYBODY gets a gift, even if it's a dollar store trinket wrapped in holiday paper. I could stand to learn from that level of generosity. Truly, the "thought" really DOES count.

The food was plentiful. The gifts were stacked to the ceiling. I couldn't get a good photo of the gift giving frenzy because their living room & kitchen is like 450 square feet and there were about 18 or 20 people crammed in there with furniture. My photos aren't all that great as it's hard for me to capture the mood when I'm suppose to be a participant in this party. Plus, flash photography stinks and no one will sit still for non-flash photos. So, after my defense for the unartistic, lousy's a few photos:

[L to R] The Tiger, his friend Pudge (that's his real nickname...I didn't make it up), and The Bulldog.

Uncle Jerry & Gramma.

Aunt Susie in the kitchen.

Frieda Sanford with Manuel.

Cousin Stone-Cold (Susie's son).

Party hardy.

Classic...The Tiger wearing his new workmen's coveralls (from the waste down) and Southpark bath slippers. His manly side and his soft side all at once.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

testimony #004

We received an anonymous card without a return address in the mail. It was post marked from here in the fair mother city. Inside was an encouraging note and a rather sizable gift card to a local store. In attempts to protect myself from "receiving my reward" before its time, I must refrain from mentioning the details that make this bizarre, if not ironic, or better yet...strait from the CEO himself. Chalk this up under "reap what you sow"...

And tonight, in a flash moment of realization that the CEO has provided all we need for this month (and then some), and in the thought process known as "what the hell?", the family & I decided at the last minute to go out to eat. This is a very rare treat. I haven't had a meal out since Jeff & Kellie's lunch treat in Lubbock last month, and before that probably since Dad visited us in September. So we go to our all time favorite local Chinese dig...owned, cooked, and operated by a REAL Chinese guy who studied in 5 culinary regions of China. All I can say is...mmm mmm duck. Oh...and thank you Lord.

Massive party weekend

The scoop: three Christmas parties/gatherings in three days on one block.

Friday (Dec 23) at the Sanfords (next door).
Saturday (Dec 24) at the Valdezes (across the street).
Sunday (Dec 25) at our house.

Expect photo reports from all three each night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Agent Wife brought to my attention the negativity that surrounded my December 17th post about kingdom financiers.

I explained to her that I am not at all hurt, wounded, or offended at our past dealings with those called to finance kingdom via missionaries. But I truly believe that if one is called to give in such a capacity, then please give...with no strings attached. And also, if you are a funder of some sizable ministerial organization, do not accept an advisory role to that organization because your money/giving will influence your leadership and generate personal agendas for said organization. God called ministers to be ministers. So let the ministers decide how to minister.

My apologies for coming across like a drunken, enraged sailor. My real life personality is much more docile.


To: the CEO - I thank you for the life you have tossed my way. I really like it and I don't tell you that enough. Thanks.

Thanks for giving me a life that I don't have to wake up to an alarm and join a hurried rat race every morning.

Thanks for giving me a life where I don't have to wear slacks. I hate slacks. I really don't even like button-down shirts much. Or dress shoes...ever. I was born a t-shirt and levis guy and I'll die a t-shirt and levis guy.

Thanks for this quirky, faith pushing life. It's weird to explain it to people, so I usually don't. And family is the worst when it comes to talking about it. But I never hung out with family much anyway. So, thanks.

Thanks for coffee...every kind (mostly). Thanks for Starbucks, even though I couldn't justify buying $3 coffee this year. Well, maybe once. Lord, I REALLY, REALLY miss El Pico. Please give the HEB managers 3 visions and a dream about stocking this coffee again. Not a fast moving ass. I bought a can from them EVERY WEEK and SOMETIMES they were OUT.

Thanks for Agent Offspring. You know...I never saw myself as much of a "kid" guy. But I guess that changes after having kids. AO rocks. Especially our little crawl on the floor, chase games.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Have yourself a Momo Christmas

In the midst of a mission doomed to failure, I ran into Momo (see here and here).

I was tracking down the fair mother city's most infamous homeless couple, the Reverend Jack and Annie. Jack is a drunken street preacher. Annie has followed him for at least 7 years. I was ordered to deliver wrapped gifts to them from another entity. After some phone calls I learn Rev Jack is in jail. Who knows where Annie is.

And to my delight, Momo gave ME three small gifts each wrapped in newspaper, one for each member of my family. I look forward to christmas morning to see what they are.

Who said Christmas has to be about consumerism, malls, credit debt and family disfunction?

Monday, December 19, 2005

and on this day 7 years ago...

Agent Wife & I were married.

On that artic day in Saskatchewan in 1998, we had no idea what the CEO would do with our lives. That plan was slowly revealed four months later...and still unfolding.

It's been a great 7 years.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

file this under R (for "random")

*a gentle nod towards Gentry and his "Captain Random" posts*

1) I met with Agent S (aka the librarian) for breakfast last Friday. We joined together to toss ideas back and forth about possibly setting up some kind of shelter-type ministry. The fair mother city could physically use another shelter. The Salvation Army has been the only one available for years. We discussed the model used in Nashville called "A Room at the Inn", which is run by various churches across that city. I'm OK with most any model, as long as it's "relational based" versus "just meeting the need" or "yay us...look what we do for the poor". And, therefore, I am very cynical when it comes to churches in the mother city coming together for the common purpose of serving the poor...especially for a concerning relations with the poor. A relational-based model in ministry to the poor has no room for a sterile, "physical needs only" mentality nor is there room for media induced ego. Maybe the CEO put S in my life to cure my cynicism in the church. Which reminds me of a quote a heard today: "I love Jesus, but I can't stand his wife". HA.

2) I love December because of the quality of mail that arrives. Christmas cards rock. Instead of junk mail and credit card applications (which always earn a date with the shredder), we get personal notes and photographs. Which reminds me...sorry to you friends who usually receive cards from us every year. You won't get one this time. We're too broke and poor to justify the postage all for an ego stroking photo of us for your fridge. No christmas for anyone this year. But please, keep your cards coming to us. HA.

But in the midst of holiday cards (I meant that...don't fight me on the use of the word "holiday") we have also received some missionary support propaganda. I can't necessarily criticize this method of financial security because I use to indulge in it myself. You know, send letters, advertise what you "do for the Lord", diplomatically ask for money, etc. Now days, fund seekers send:
-cool trendy marketing brochures, thanks to new home computer programs
-fancy portraits for your fridge! (that's what christmas cards are for)
-hip newsletters to let you know the wacky day to day antics of said missionary family, complete with kids corner, web address, etc.
I cannot criticize this. How do I know what the CEO told them about funding themselves. But this flies in the face of the George Muller biography I'm slowly devouring.

3) Everywhere I turn, someone is talking about U2 and Bono. So now I want to get this new CD. Really bad. I haven't listened to U2 since Rattle-n-Hum (1989?). I never disliked them. I think you have to be a lyric kind of music lover to really appreciate them, and historically, as an instrumentalist, I always listened to the instrumental part of music.

4) We are traveling to Houston again. We will be there for a few days between Christmas & New Years. I originally thought I'd escape having to take another trip home. But now that I'm a parent, I realize this kind of thing means a big deal to mom. I need to get out of my selfish, isolated universe. I'm planning on enjoying Houston this time around.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Open letter: To all "financiers of the kingdom"

There are many followers of Jesus in this day and age who are convinced that the CEO has called them to "finance the kingdom". They can be anyone from joe-blow book store employee who supports a mission work monthly, to those with a "Joseph/Daniel" calling , as in - someone of supreme influence within the financial or political realm.

Financing the kingdom is very much a different calling from a guy like me, who is called to be a street-level, get-yer-hands-dirty, undercover agent. Although, if I had access to serious financial jack, I suppose I could do both. But spending my time chasing after finances takes away from my time on the ground level "doing the stuff". So I guess doing both wouldn't be feasible.

As an agent, I've been on the receiving end of these "kingdom funders" several times. And this is not necessarily a 'good thing'. Thus, my open letter:

To all who are called to (or contemplating) "financing the kingdom":

First of all, thank you for being willing to use your gifts of money-making to finance "the kingdom". That is very generous of you. Everyone has a gift and/or talent, plus sometimes it just takes physical resources (ie: greenbacks) to make some things happen. So without you, who knows what wouldn't get done. If making money is your true, God-given talent (and God knows it ain't MY talent), then by all means, go do what you do...and do it well.

Which brings me to my primary point. If your talent and calling is making money to fund kingdom initiatives, supporting missionaries, or relieving poverty, etc, then why the hell do you get in my way by trying to call all the shots?!?

Money is a powerful tool and it gives people (ie: YOU) the ability, if not, desire to control others. Example: you sit on the advisory boards of the ministries you fund. That's a conflict of interests in my book. We agents and ground troops DO NOT need financial carrots dangled in front of us. We agents and ground troops DO NOT need to be told WHAT to do or HOW to do it. The CEO of the universe gives us instructions. Your money and influence will NO LONGER control us. The CEO can provide for us with different means, I'm sure.

Do not create any more obstacle courses for us or hoops to jump through. If you are called to raise money to give, than RAISE MONEY TO GIVE. Otherwise, get the hell out of our way and shut your arrogant asses.


Agent B
(on behalf of all the CEO's agents world wide)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Legend of...Betty Cherry

This afternoon I tagged along with Agent Wife and Agent Offspring for one of their regular assignments. We drove 21 miles north to the city of Anson to visit Betty Cherry, who lives in a care home. Grandma Nelly is usually AW's partner in this weekly outing, but she is on vacation for the holidaze.

Betty Cherry is one of the last, if not THE last, remaining relationships with "the family" from the old izzy days. She is an 80 year old, mentally slow woman that talks with a slurred mumble that's difficult to interpret. She showed up at the izzy food pantry one Sunday night when we were cleaning. We couldn't make out a word she said, but figured she wanted food. Betty lived in the near-by drug infested, gang riddled apartment complex. But thankfully, the thug culture had an unwritten rule that Betty was off limits, so she lived there as peacefully as possible.

To the best of our knowledge, Betty has no family. She has never been married and has no offspring. We know of no siblings, relatives, or where she was born . We probably wouldn't have known her name if it weren't for her TX ID card. We once took her to our friends, the Carrs, who have farm animals out in Jones County. Every time a rooster crowed, Betty cried. But not in a scared way. I think the animals brought back repressed memories. She must have been raised on a farm somewhere.

Betty is funny. She has the mentality of a little kid. She likes coloring books and crossword puzzles (she can't spell - she just fills in random letters). Like a child, Betty has no social graces. If she sees something she wants, like the gum you're chewing, she'll yell out a mumbled, "Gimme one of those".

Betty is a diabetic and therefore must watch sugar intake...but she's worse than a crack addict looking for a hit when it comes to sweets. Like Oprah on a baked ham, Betty will devour anything sweet that crosses her path. At various food outreach functions, someone had to monitor her...usually after she downed three pieces of pie.

My favorite memory of Betty was about 5 years ago. The Bossman and I were in his office with the door closed. Betty peeked her head in and tried to say something with a mouth full of cookies and chocolate on her lips. The Bossman said, "Huh?" Betty kept repeating her garbled phrase, "awwwffffme meeenaaaa FFWWW?!?" over and over with cookies in the mouth. Fifteen minutes later I got off the floor from crying and laughing.

Since Betty is mentally handicapped and has no family, she is officially a "ward of the state", as in, Texas is her legal guardian. Her health got to where she needed assisted living and she can no longer walk. Betty's health care worker invited her to move in and be roommates. That worked out for about a year until that lady got married. With the new husband and all, Betty ended up in the care home in Anson. She hates it there. The workers are actually really good to her, but she can't stand being cooped up when she had freedom all these years.

I've been hearing reports of Agent Wife and Grandma Nelly's visitations in Anson. I was really honored to be a part of it today. I enjoyed our game of dominoes and the stroll around the greater Anson metro area.

Someone told me that in The Book it says something about "entertaining angels" as if heavenly beings come to earth disguised as people. I don't know if that's true and I don't care. But it wouldn't surprise me if Betty Cherry was one of them.

Betty with Agent Offspring - Nov '04

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

profiler quiz: Criminal Minds

OK, Criminal Minds probably isn't the greatest show in the world, but I still like it. And I think I'm finally figuring out why.

I missed my life's calling. I was meant to be a profiler.

I now know what I was meant to be because of my perfect score on the profiler quiz. It told me this:


I wonder if I could put this on my resume. Maybe the FBI will hire me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

the Muller files...

I'm getting more & more into the George Muller biography. Which is funny as I'm a slow reader. And this book is horribly written. But as an agent, I appreciate the "just the facts, ma'am" writing style. I think Roger Steer simply pasted together a 320 page timeline of Muller's journal writings. And this is a very good thing because I don't think miracles from the CEO need any dramatization. Just the facts, ma'am.

I was very encouraged by today's reading. Basically, Muller got these ophanages up and running on little money. The years between 1838 and 1846 were the greatest trials of faith. Money came at just the right moment each and every time. Sometimes it seemed delayed. Yet every orphan had no clue of the financial issues as each were clothed well and ate very well.

From page 88: " Muller's journal often hints at, but rarely attempts to analyze, why it was that God allowed this period of trial".

Muller says "...but only for the trial of our faith, our gracious Lord delays as yet, to send larger sums.' Muller saw a purpose in the trial similar to that in the Old testament story where God tested Abraham by telling him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on the mountain in Moriah. In one sense, the period was a test of Muller's obedience, and a time when his character was molded-prepared, in fact, for his life's work." (italics mine).

Being prepared for his life's work. That's exactly where I feel I'm at now.

My favorite passage on page 89, as quoted by the manager of one of Muller's orphan homes: "...the years of trial were 'designed by the Lord to deepen Mr. Muller's faith and to show him that prayer is no vain thing. Many years afterwards he faced his financial trials with scarcely a tremor".

Scarcely a tremor. That's where I want to be. Or at least start a cool band with that name.

Monday, December 12, 2005

testimony #003

Mental note to self: don't forget this moment. Ever. Especially when things look bleak.

I'm beginning to love the mail man. Today I open the mail. It was a chunk of christmas cards. And two of them had rather large, unexpected financial gifts. It's more than what I asked the CEO for, which will get us through December and allow us to help some others that we recently heard about.

And it came today...of all days, when I so desperately tried to cash this Canadian check, which is damn near impossible in the fair mother city. It has to be sent to a collections agency in Dallas to be cashed. It could take 4-6 weeks. Which will be in time for January, I suppose.

I've been the one who panics. Agent Wife, as always, has been calm & cool the whole time. She always is. She's low maintenance and never worries about money. She's the best wife ever.

Thank you for your provision, Lord. May I never whine about needs again...

did I mention that job hunting sucks?

Maybe it's my sick humor, but I find it funny when I log into the Texas Workforce Commision site and get this encouraging message:

Welcome Agent B!!

You have _0_ call ins.
You have _0_ new job matches.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The agent family christmas tree

Agent Wife & I started a holiday tradition several years ago. Some of the ornaments that we decorate our tree with are various trinkets that members of the family (folks from the old izzy days) and dear friends gave us. And these trinkets are not always christmas-ey things

One ornament is a long, dangly, native feather-looking earring that some homeless guy gave Agent Wife. I don't remember who it was. Then, we have about 100 glow-in-the-dark angels (the naked baby-butt kind) from a widow lady who use to come get groceries as well as help volunteer. Then there's a red plastic coin purse from Sissy (one of Jed Clampett's sisters). Oh yeah...from recent years there's the santa shot glass from Obi-Wan.

But my favorite is the GM ignition key on a shoe string. It was given to me by a homeless guy named Gentle Ben, who was in our lives for a whopping two weeks. He had a van that he talked about every day when he showed up for lunch. I never saw the van. It was giving him problems and he was tired of trying to keep it fixed. He decided to head back towards Odessa, TX and leave the van where ever it was...broken down on the side of some street here in the fair mother city. It was like a burden to him, I guess. He handed me the key, worn around his neck and made some profound statement...something like, "Here...I'm now free from this". I've never seen him since.

Lord...where ever Gentle Ben is...may he now be free.

Gentle Ben at "The Table" in izzy February 27, 2002

Friday, December 09, 2005

testimony #002

In George Muller-esque fashion, I opened the mail today and received a moderately large check out of the blue from an unlikely old family friend of Agent Wife who use to support us as missionaries through the izzy group.

Of course, the check is in Canadian funds. And banks in the fair mother city hate non-US dollars. It took us 6-8 weeks to cash the last one. And the wife & I have a Canadian account, but the check is in izzy's name, not ours. And Canada banks don't let you cash other's endorsed checks.

...but really...I'm not complaining one bit! I can make this work. Thank you God.

Agent Offspring #2 update

After almost a month of knowing Agent Wife was pregnant, we finally had our first visit with the doctor today. So it's official. She's pregnant (I don't have much faith in those dollar store pregnancy tests).

Our doctor is a new doctor, both to us and here in the fair mother city. The doctor is a "she"...and so far we really like her. She actually spent quite a bit of time with us (over an hour) rather than a 30 second "Good to see you. Sign here". She's also recently out of med school and is probably a few years younger than me. But I'm more than willing to give a rookie a chance, especially if she's willing to treat us like humans, and thus, not people who are funding a yacht payment this month.

We actually got to see a sonogram, which is pretty early for normal since AO2 is about 6-8 weeks right now. Nothing makes a pregnancy less fictional than the great invention of sonogram. The first time I saw AO1 in sonogram form, I cried. Wow...I help create that. I actually have a friend who was a full fledge abortion rights guru until he saw his baby's first sonogram. Amazing how an entire philosophy can be changed by viewing a grey & black blob on an old Atari video game screen.

At best estimate, Agent Offspring #2 is due to join us July 3rd. Which may pit my Canadian in-laws to hope for an early birth on Canada Day (July 1) against my family for a late birth on July 4.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Faith or reality (another faith rant)

To date, no bill is due or looming down our backs. To date, I thank God for the small, daily miracles, such as always having food on our table. Or never having to pay a late fee on a utility bill. Or my baby's amazing health and daily advancement.

In search of encouragement, I decided to reread a biography of the late, great secret agent George Muller by Roger Steer. This was given to me by a friend about 9 or 10 years ago. I read it with great interest back then as my life was just beginning a faith journey after my radical healing of mental depression.

The Prussian born Muller became a follower of Christ in his early 20's after living a playboy lifestyle. He eventually took the words of Jesus seriously...words like "sell all you have and give to the poor". You know, the parts of the gospel that make westernized Christians twitch nervously and invent contexts.

Throughout his life, Muller did great things to advance the kingdom of god, like start and operate orphanages with no business plan or serious financial backing. Just a heart for the people Jesus mentioned in Matt 25, and prayer. Muller preached all over the English countryside, refusing salary from any church. Eventually he refused to tell people of his needs, only asking God for his supplies.

...and also, I love this book because of my fascination with England. I hope to visit there someday, and not necessarily the trendy parts. My ancestors come from there, you know.

Right now, I'm almost at the place of keeping my needs from being known by people (except the obvious act of writing about it on this here blog...but I swear, I have no intention of soliciting anyone. You don't know who I am or how to physically reach me, etc.). I'm trying to shut my yap to people and only consult the father. I don't always do this, but old habits are hard to break.

Then there's my confusion about how, "he already knows our need before we ask". Well...if you KNOW my needs God, then why do I have them? And why must I pray about them? Are you bringing me to some kind of uncharted faith territory in my life??

...and then there's my American surroundings and workaholic motherly upbringing that punches my faith in the groin. I justify this by calling it "reality". So today, I go to the Texas Workforce Commission to register for work in Texas (since "reality" tells me I have no money). I figure, maybe they can find me a job since I'm obviously inept to do so my damn self. This place is a joke. It's nothing more than a room full of computers with free on-line access to register on their website. I could have done that from home. But I feel like I accomplished something by burning my own gasoline to get there to apply online.

Plus, every employee I engaged there asked me for my SS# before they'd answer my question. Revelation 13 has come true. I am nothing but a number on a forehead. However, the elderly lady who helped me get started praised my abilities: "seems like you're good with computers". Hey - right now I'll take any encouragement I can get.

And btw, I'm not very gung-ho about typing my personal info & numbers onto web sites. But if I suddenly have massive credit problems, why should I care. I don't use credit anyway.

God - is "reality" a lack-of-faith thing? Even Paul made tents. Well, I never liked Paul anyway. Yea, sure...everyone quotes his writings. But so what. That jack-ass promoted celibacy. Like I'm gonna follow THAT "advice". As if..

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

gimme shelter

It's very cold in the fair mother city today. It's been cool for a while, but today the high was 27F and the low will be around 10F.

On average, it only gets below freezing (for a whole day or more) about 3-5 times a year. That's laughable to my Canadian inlaws. And I've been in Saskatchewan during one of their winters. We Texans have no idea what cold is. But days like this always makes me feel like I'm supposed to be working...overtime. I guess it's kind of nice to be able to relax when it's cold.

50 year old houses like mine have no insulation in the walls. And my house is mostly updated (except the wall insulation) in comparison to my neighbors. Obi-Wan heats his whole house with this gas furnace that he sits by. It scares me. So...most poor people's houses around here aren't designed for extended, sub-freezing temps.

A homeless person can survive the elements in these parts quite easily. It's warm or hot 8 months a year. Then cool the other 4 months with about 5 days of freezing. But who am I kidding...those freezing days are miserable. So are the hot ones (ever go camping in a Texas summer? Not good).

Back in the old izzy days, freezing temps meant work. We usually had a once a week shelter on Thursday nights. But if the forecast called for real inclement weather, we'd call in the reinforcements and open up whenever possible. There was no way to advertise this. Just word of mouth on the street.

I remember camping out in the building during a 2-day snowfall back in '01. The whole city shut down so we might as well play card games with our homeless friends and hot coffee all day. A big black guy named Chris decided to trust in Jesus during that campout. I haven't seen Chris much since. Hope he is well.

Also, I don't know if there are any other make-shift shelters in the mother city at this time. I hope there is. For years, the only place in town has been the Salvation Army. They started charging $8 a night a while back. But if temps are below freezing they waive the admission fee. I don't have very many positive comments about that. I understand budget crises (my life is a budget crisis). But I'm not too impressed with our local Salvation Army. They also charge for dinner now (breakfast & lunch are still free). Which is why I'm anxious to get a dinner thing going...someday (my dream gig...more on that some other post). I have a few contacts in the Sally and I'm fond of their founders (William & Catherine Boothe - they were radicals) and I'm most impressed with their nearly 150 history...but our local Sally is your basic institutional operation. I wish that would change.

I wonder where the local homeless go for shelter these days. I use to know, but I don't anymore

update: tool shed

Last night I told Obi-Wan of my delay to his request of me picking things out in his shed. I finally decided on 3 things only:

1) 35 year old motorized roto tiller: I borrow it at least twice a year. The best one in town, imo.
2) Pitch fork: Again, I borrow it for garden related purposed. Shovels don't work at the city's wood chip mulch recycle pile
3) 3 gallon gas can: It's metal and has a cool closing top. They don't make them like that anymore.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

PMS - poverty's monthly system

Monday December 5th I went to HEB (a local, TX chain grocery store) for an errand. I had time to kill and walked around. I enjoy doing that at HEB. There's a well rounded slice of life that shops there: rich & poor, black, white, Hispanic, young & old, etc.

This particular day I noticed the large amount of poor people shopping. Boom. It hit me...the date. Social security and disability checks come through on the 3rd of every month. Since the 3rd fell on a Saturday, they probably got paid Monday the 5th...

Two women caught my attention. Both had "single mom" written all over them. They were together with their carts filled with 5 kids. Probably only had one working car between them, so they car pooled to get groceries. One woman barely looked 18. The other, probably 25. She had a black eye, I swear. Probably boyfriend or husband's doing.

The poverty class generally follow a monthly cycle (I wanted to title this "poverty's monthly cycle", but PMS sounded better). The cycle goes like this:
- 1st-3rd..get paid, buy groceries, pay bills
- next week or two...all is well, maybe
- last week...out of money. Visit church assistance and social services

In the old izzy days, the volume of people tripled during the last week of the month.

I love going to HEB around the first of the month. You get to see poor people feeling dignified, buying groceries like everyone else.

Monday, December 05, 2005

transcript - 6:16p

OBI-WAN: Agent B, I want you to go out to the shed and make a list of things you want.

AGENT B: Make a list?!? Things I want? Why?

OBI-WAN: The people that handle my affairs will need to know what to give you after I pass on. I want you to pick out all the tools you want.


I can't fathom doing this. Very vulture-ish. I mean, I'm honored Obi-Wan would give me anything, much less a list of things I choose.

I wouldn't mind if some lawyer contacted me in the future and said, "here, Obi-Wan wanted you to have this". But picking things out ahead of time...(shudder)...I don't know...I don't think I can do it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Tiger Tales

As written here before, Tiger Sanford (aka The Tiger) is my 16 year old next door neighbor who lives in generational poverty (a term from Payne's "A Framework for Understanding Poverty"). Before we moved next door, Agent Wife & I knew The Tiger and his extended family from the old izzy food pantry days. The Bossman has known him since he was 6.

The Tiger loves to work, especially if the work involves some sort of loud, manly, motorized power tool. Especially if that tool is a chainsaw.

I miss hanging out with The Tiger. He and his brother and sister used to play board games at our house every night after dinner. They're too cool for that now, so I don't get to see him much, unless I'm in the back yard running motorized equipment.

My dear friend Grandma Nelly, who has kept me somewhat employed doing odd jobs during this desperate time in my financial life, needed a limb cut up that fell from a 2 story cedar tree. Sounds like quality time with The Tiger, I figure. Especially since I don't own a chainsaw and he has five...and begs for opportunities to use them.

I learn so much about the poverty culture by hanging out with a teenager who knows nothing outside of the poverty world in the fair mother city.

Grandma Nelly lives two blocks from ACU, which is within (what I call) the ACU Biosphere. The houses are older than my neighborhood, but it's kept up fairly well since it's a college neighborhood (lots of money-making rental properties, etc). We turn onto the main drag, Washington Blvd, and The Tiger says, "This is a rich neighborhood". So I say, "Well, actually it's about 80% college kids which makes it a rental neighborhood. And I guess those kids go to an expensive private school and their parents might be rich, so you're right. It's a rich neighborhood".

Then we drive by a car full of people all dressed up. So he says, "Look. They all wear nice suits around here". I reply, "They're probably going to church or a social club function or something. We're wearing flannels because we're about to chop up a tree".

In The Tiger's world view, you're either "rich" or "poor". Rich means your things look nice. Poor means things look crappy. It's all based on looks and there's no middle ground. No "how much or little" you own. No "how many friends you have". Just "does it look nice".

But yesterday his mom Frieda gave us two nice dress outfits for Agent Offspring #1 that she bought in a garage sale. They were brand new (still had tags). And they find nice stuff like that all the time for themselves too.

I'm a little confused on The Tiger's definition of rich and poor. I suspect being "poor" is kind of a tough-guy identity he's embraced.

Friday, December 02, 2005

of death and agents...

My assignment in life has me deal with death more often than I'd prefer.

Before I was placed in a deep cover role, I was assigned to a public benevolent operation for the working poor and homeless (the izzy group). During this assignment I discovered that the best way to "get in tight" with those we served was to become friends with them (see John 15 in The Book) as opposed to some sort of sterile director/client relationship.

I grew close to a number of people. And unfortunately, the people I grew close to typically have short life spans due to various habits and circumstances that the poor fall victim to: substance addictions, lack of health care resources, outdoor elements, mental disorders, etc.

I'm not a preacher but I've conducted two funerals, both for close friends of mine. It sucks. I can think of at least a dozen or so funerals I went to during the years of the izzy operation and about 3 in recent years.

All death sucks. No one enjoys it. Death snuck up on most all of my friends. They were happy and normal one day. Then the next day they were dead by some bad batch of drugs or they unknowingly had a disease or God knows what. Boom. They're here one day, gone the next. They weren't dying in a hospice for days where you have time to say 'good bye' or anything like that.

One really close friend of mine was mysteriously missing from our big food outreach one night. He was suppose to run the thing. I get a call that he's in the emergency room and things don't look good. I get there and the doc was just about to let me in to his room. As I touched the door knob those flashing lights on the wall go off. They push me out of the way and a chaplain ushers me into a "counseling" room. He dies.

I missed seeing him by 5 seconds.

Another guy I met was once homeless and living in the mesquite scrub brush camps by the tracks. He had come in for various help for months. Then he disappeared for months. Then he shows months later to tell me he's got a house and a job and just wanted to "thank" me for all the "help" and to invite me and Agent Wife over for dinner that week. We came and ate and had a good time. Five days later I read his name in the obituaries. He had unknowingly developed pneumonia while living out in the camps.

Now, as a secret agent, I'm dealing with death in an entirely different way: the slow, day to day, natural digression of an 88 year old diabetic. And this sucks just as bad as the others if not worse.

I watch Obi-Wan struggle with his body more and more daily. His blood sugar gets dangerously low because he forgets to eat or take his insulin. His breathing is sounding harsher than normal. He moves much slower and stumbles more than ever.

But I wanna tell you something, bastard...I'm not scared of you. Anymore.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


At Obi-Wan's the other day, he received a phone call from his 20-something year old granddaughter who he's only seen when she was a new born. She's never called before.

Obi-Wan went into a polite-attack mode. "Why haven't you come to see me?". I thought he could have been a little nicer and more inviting, not just "dammit, where have you been all my life...I'm an dying old man" kind of talk. The granddaughter kept saying she plans to come see him, etc. She lives in Temple, TX - only 3 hours away.

I've only met one of Obi-Wan's relatives (he has none in the fair mother city). A niece of his came from Waco one afternoon to visit for a few hours and invited him to live with her. He declined the offer. He also griped about nobody coming to see him and the niece said, "well...if you'd quit being so MEAN to everybody". Her comment bordered on sarcastic, but I think she was serious. This took me by surprise, but it made sense. Obi-Wan is a great friend and the nicest guy I know. But I've been baffled at how his children and grandchildren never come, therefore they must not know him the way I do.

I've long suspected the CEO put Obi-Wan in my life for several reasons. One of which I now understand...Obi-Wan is a parallel to my own grandfather, who I hardly know. I am almost like the granddaughter who called.

Grandaddy B... father's dad and my last remaining grandparent, Grandaddy B lives off lake LBJ in the Texas hill country (NW of Austin). He is a two time widower: my grandmother died in 1988 and his 2nd wife passed a few months ago.

I can count on one hand the times I've seen him since I was in 6th grade (1982). I couldn't remember why I wasn't close to him. The first time I saw him was in 1997 on a vacation from my job at a TV station. I was taking some kind of crazy, hippie, God-lead-me-somewhere kind of journey and my only agenda was to spend a certain night of that week in Austin to visit some friends. I packed up my old honda with tent, food, map, and a mission of solitude. There was no planned route. Just wander between Abilene and Austin and see what I find. I took photos of all the people I met, including some elderly couple that broke down on the side of the road. That guy trusted me to take his wife & her wheel chair to the nearest town while he waited with the car...

Anyway, I decided to go and find Grandaddy B. All I knew was the little town he lived in, his street had the word "Castle" in it, and that he was remarried. Well dammit, all 25 of the streets in that little berg had the word "Castle". No joke. I didn't have a phone number. The guy at the corner store never heard of my grandfather. So I go driving in hopes to recognize the cabin he lived in from my youth. After three or four streets, I see the cabin. That's it. But it's obviously vacant. Frustrated, I pull up into the driveway of the neighbor across the street to ask the man sitting in the front lawn if he heard of my grandad, Grandaddy B.

"Yes. That's me"

He had gotten married to the widow across the street and thus moved in with her, leaving the old cabin vacant. "I'm your grandson, Agent B". I can't remember much after that. I think he was in initial shock and said few words the rest of the visit. His wife did most of the talking over the noise of the Nashville Network.

I saw Grandaddy B again earlier this year, after Agent Offspring was born. My dad was in from NY so we went down and spent the night, he met my wife, got photos of the four generations, etc. Still...I don't know him.

Two months later his wife died. I drove down for the funeral, where after 25 years I see my Uncle Lenny, the black sheep of the B family. Grandaddy B wasn't in the mood to talk and I understood.

So back in August, about two weeks before I began this here blog, I decide to go visit Grandaddy B alone and spend the night there. I've never in my life done that before - spend time with him...alone. I've always had my parents with me.

I had a lot of questions I wanted answered. Who was I. Where did I (we B's) come from. What was your life like? Where did you serve in WWII?? I had plenty of them. Unfortunately, like me, he's not much of a talker...even though I was the only other person in the house all night.

I must have broke through to him when I offered to pay for the dinner I was going to pick up. After dinner, he finally told me where all his old photos were kept. I've been begging to see them since 1997. There were photos of everything, his war years in the South Pacific, pictures of my dad as a kid, ones of me that I've never seen, etc.

I finally heard about his WWII years: how he was a simple farm boy near Teague, TX, married his high school sweetheart, got drafted, had a daughter, about to have a son (my dad) then went over seas for three years, turned into a killing machine, received the purple heart award, etc. I found newspaper clippings of his heroic deeds. He helped liberate a concentration camp in Manilla run by the Japanese. To this day, he hates "japs" and anything made in Japan. No wonder he never liked my Dad's cars.

I finally remembered why I had no relational bond with him. He can be a mean jack-ass. He rarely has anything positive to say. Upon my trip home he did say, "thanks for coming to see me".

There's still a huge chasm between us in terms of relationship. I'd like to think that I did my part.

I need to go see Grandaddy B again. Soon.