Wednesday, February 3, 2016

To My Sweet Grandmother Laura Grossi, Rest in Paridise

I wanted to write a  little post tributed to the sweet life of my  loving grandmother Laura Grossi. God willing I was able to get down to Clearwater Florida for the wonderful memorial service. Growing up, my interactions with my father's extended family was few and far between. It's just been one of those classic American, working-class family stories, where the dream has stretched the family geographically far apart. It was an amazing service and the whole family together was a true honor and treat that we did not take for granted,
The Grossi family is large, italian and more importantly a bunch of  loud New Yorkers with personalities you'd never forget.  My father is the second oldest of seven; five daughter and two sons, of his two wonderful parents Laura and Tony Grossi. Born and raised in Brooklyn and Long Island they got married fairly young, ended up raising seven beautiful children in Long Island New York.

 How the heck my grandmother raised all these kids is a mystery that although sounds very rewarding, I hoping I don't have ever fully understand... In other words, God bless my grandparents, but I could handle that many kids. But people, life, and society was different back then, I truly understand that! There was a great sense of self sufficiency due to need more than desire in those days. What you could and could not buy at the local corner store was a totally different story back then, and with minimal interactions between Industrialization and global markets for supplying goods to for even the most modern cities, life was literally more simple whether people wanted it or not!
    Current day, we live some of the most complicated and busy lives, through a constant stream of media grabbing every second of attention, an impersonal health care system overloaded with paperwork and policies for a one night hospital visit, or the chaotic and overwhelming never ending options of shelved processed foods, and let alone labor systems that run people so tired and exhausted that there is very little energy left for quality social engagement. With humility I will admit, I dream what it would be like to live in this country in the mid 1900's.
   My grandparents raised their kids in a day where McDonald's still sold a decently grilled cheese burger. Where church sunday picnics was a tradition, along with home cooked meals around a common table with the family. Hand-me-down clothes was a common occurrence, and a barrel of crude oil was probably not much more than a high priced gallon in today's market! So yes, it was quite a different world that they came from. But love meant the same thing then as it does now, that's one thing that never changes! And years of hard invested love on 7 children has moved on to multiple generations now and livings in her offspring such as myself.   
  With large family gatherings there can always be a concern bringing the whole family together may sparked disagreements, and some potential conflicts would rise. But to be honest there were several very holy moments in which I saw the truest form of the love between a family. A love that set aside differences and opinions, and remembered there sweet mother's legacy of treating others with respect, care, and dignity always. She was a wonderful women, and the lives she's left behind are a mere testimony of her goodness in the life that she lived.
I am sorry grandma, that our time together was brief. That you didn't get to see my children, and that we won't be able to knit together into my old age. But your spirit I believe left a piece within side of each person you touched, and that will live forever. Thank you Grandma, I love you! Grace and peace to you in paradise. Look at your beautiful family!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reflection on the November Potluck

At the Lords table, all are welcome! Come few and the many, come small, come big and your families too. This still stands to be one of the greatest assurances of salvation in my life.
 The J.W. Johnson garden is a welcoming space, that brought me into the family, and my dream is to continue in every step of the way to pass that invitation on any others who cross its place. Although it is a selfish  dream, the idea of this being a central hub of the neighborhood is not a far stretch given that the Johnson school has a long history and the location is by far one of the most popular corners. So I have always thought it fitting to eventually have barbecues and potluck meals open to the community.
  Well I finally got all my ducks in a row to plan our first P-Town J.W. Johnson community garden potluck! I sucked it up to learn some basic tools to online social networking, stuck my neck to invite as many people as I knew who are involved or invested in the garden, and made a pretty decent flier to advertise the event around the neighborhood.
     I will be honest for an idea that I have had for quite a while, I only decided to attack the idea into a real event two weeks prior. Which  although gave enough time to get people invited and  informed, it would have behooved me to have a couple more weeks to plan things fully through.
    For instance, planning an outdoor event in an uncovered space should probably have a backup plan for the likely or unlikely chance of rain. Well... the forecast had been 40% chance in the beginning of the week and I swear I heard a weather forecast for no chance of rain over the weekend, so of course I just keep plugging away at inviting folks and publicizing. Well, when does it rain the most?..When you have 13 people plus 8 house mates who RSVP'd and over 120 flyer hung and passed out, a great local chef reserved to come out and prepare a wonderful kale salad and grill up some marinated pork, a load of fresh smoked smoked turkey from a buddy at St.Charles, a buddy's borrowed truck filled with  borrow picnic tables from a sister church... This is when it rains: (
     After setting tables up and several people get to the garden with side dishes, I find myself frantically searching for pop-up tables. Finally I get a call from Layne, with a very supportive suggestion maybe to just quit fighting the reality of  the weather and shoot for rescheduling it for the next day where it was scheduled for a beautiful sunny day! So I let go of my pride, we loaded up the tables, took all the food back to the Gentilly house and then proceeded to throw out a heads up to people on the RSVP.
Well it all ended up working out pretty well. We heated up the food back home and brought it all back out to the garden. Layne brought the boom box, we had a spread of food and it was a beautifully sunny day. My wonderful YAV family was so supportive and there were several families that came!

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Garden Volunteers Perspective

This past summer I was invited to write a response for an article written in the Presbyterian Outlook, here's a link if anyone is interested..... A big thank you to Jill Duffield, the editor of Outlook, for  welcoming me into this continuously relevant conversation, and the privileged opportunity to share my small but valid perspective on this life I am living. Enjoy!...

Monday, October 12, 2015

Call it Fall... Call it Winter... It's getting Cooler Down in the Big Easy

Alright, well here we are again not proud to say that it has been this long since my last post, trying to get better at small updates more often. I have tons of pictures I'll include of some of the current events that I've been up to. For starters, getting back into the garden has definately had a different feel this fall.
 I showed up to the garden the first week of September and to be honest it wasn't as bad as the last September. But weeds sure did take control, and it has taken persistence to start the clear out job that is needed to be ready for fall planting. I am attempting to get most of the beds that need to be direct seeded planted this week, so that hopefully  harvest can start by Thanksgiving. We'll be planting the classics this fall; cabbage, collards, mustards, carrots, beets, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce.  There is a goal to build a new fence line bed so as to really utilize the solid fence structure for my benefit, while also creating that much more cultivable space.
 My buddy  Macon went down to a plant nursery on the westbank  picked some different varieties of   cauliflower included a cheddar orange, graffiti purple, and the eccentric romanesco. I threw a bed full of cauliflower and another half broccoli half cauliflower. Including this oddity!
This is the romanesco broccoli/cauliflower! Definitely an alien abduction of a vegetable, and I really think people in the  neighborhood will get a good kick out of it.

Irrigation Project

Well as I believe I had made mentioning last year, a huge goal since last spring was to get an irrigation system up and running. This process although will dramatically change our growing, has not been the easiest step to hurdle over! Luckily, I have had my garden buddy Macon's continuous support puzzling out the design and lending me parts to experiment with. I have been using three strips of drip tape on a bed of collard transplants for the past several weeks, and it seems to be the most efficient form of water retention. This is the ideal image I'd like to see on each of the eight new front beds! The water can drip for over an hour with no puddling out the bottom of  the bricks, which implies a solid absorbed soak... A beautiful thing, that will definitely give us healthy plants this winter!
The goal is to order the rest of the materials by this upcoming week. And I realized the only way for me to tackle this goal at the front of my brain with all the other things to be working on is to set a realistic deadline! This is a dream come true to see this picture for me, its a sign that this project is at a place of growth, and I will continue to press for great steps of transformation like this.

Fall October Bizarr at Ephipany Luthern Church
  I had been hearing from some local neighbors that the church down the street was a local festival where any member of the community could pay a small donation to the church and set up a table of stuff to sell be. Of course the garden is just getting stuff planted, so there would be no actually food to distribute besides a bag of jalapenos. But I figured it would be a fine a way to meet a local church and spread some of the work that we're doing. So I set up a table with the garden banner, a handful of pictures from last year and the year before, a note for compost donations, a sign up sheet with space for email/phone numbers, and an area for transplanting/seeding demos using some leftover collard and cabbage plants.  There were probably 5 other tables that were almost all selling prepared meal of crab gumbo, barbecue pork, red beans and rice and some popcorn and candy apples. A young man named Lucas who seems to be the church's main cook was grilling up some hamburgers and barbecue pork!
The table was pretty useful to at least get some contacts going and have some great interactions with a couple of kids from the neighborhood helping bump up some plug tray plants into the 4 inch pots. Great kids, that seemed very interested and excited to be engaged in something new. I encouraged them to come back to the garden to check up on their plants, fingers crossed that they may come back. But I have become more willing to work very hard for small moments of success, so I consider these interaction worth every piece of effort to get us here. One of the mothers did give her contact info and hoped to be out in the garden one of these upcoming weekends.  It dawned on me the second that I had taken the table apart that I didn't get a photo on my phone of the whole set up, but another gal definitely tooks some pictures of it, so I'll try and get a couple shots of it posted when I get those photos.

This last little girls name is tonia and she is in the first grade. I had a particularly impactful interaction with her while we were trying to put this little collard plant in the pot. As we were working beside the table, my host mom Charlene had come to visit and was interacting with some of the other kids. This first grader ever so carefully just speaks her mind as she holding this plant," There are white ladies that live in this neighborhood?", she asks me. I said yes, and hispanic women and black women. "I am a black person, and my mommy is also black person, but it's ok that you are a white person, that;s ok. "...... In the moment it was fairly difficult to respond, not knowing what to say, but  I just went with it and confirmed with her that she was totally correct and that it;s just the color of our skin that is different. She poured some water in her plant and returned to playing with some of the other kids. Like that, the moment was over...
  Moments like these seem to leave an imprint on my heart. They remind me of the power of human interactions and the ability to truly listen to people with an open heart. You just never know when God is approaching you as a first grader, african american girl.
Here's some other photos of our recent progress.
 Our first mustard green bed, direct seeded and pretty decent germination!
 D'Ron seriously should think about joining a  spicy food competition in the near future, the boy's got some tough taste buds to be munching on these jalapenos!
 Our Collard green bed, transplants and they have just started to take this past week!
 The carrot bed had me worried with a pretty late germination, looking pretty empty. In the past few days these little babies have taken off, so thrilled!
         Cauliflower anybody? Purple, cheddar orange, snow crown, and romanesco!
Jayla managed to get out the other day to till up her bed and put in some carrot lines, and some cabbage transplants!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Vacation in T-town then back to the Big Easy for another round!

Sure enough..... I have procrastinated to the point of having to entitle this blog with an added intro. The majority of this entry was written while I was still home in Tucson for a whole month. It was a true breathe of fresh air to come back to the great desert lands! I spent some great time with my grandparents and parents, got to stop in for a great service at Southside Presbyterian, and  went camping and trips to the farm with my girlfriend Laurel. It was a perfect set up because my best friend Zach had just come back into town after finishing college in Virginia. Shout out to my gal Laurel and my  main man Z, you guys are up to some awesome stuff for the community of Tucson, grace and peace to you always, I love you both so much! Not to mention I had a fantastic weekend catching up with my older brother Jovon on a  trip to san diego with our folks. And of course the wonderful new phoenix extension of the Grossi family; Nick, Lisa, Maryana, and Alfred spent several thursday nights at the parents house, and tagged along on friday morning taking Maryana to school. We are not a perfect family by any means, and sometimes things do get rough. But there is a whole lot of love in this family and I am blessed to have all of them. I love you all so much and can't wait to be reunites for Christmas! Anyways... with all the fun behind here it a recap of some things I was meditating on while back home....

Well, once again... here I am righting a blog post a month after the last one! Two debrief on some new events, first off, I finished my first year as a YAV in New Orleans pretty well. We had a great final retreat in Gulf Port, Mississippi where we did some reflecting on the goals we had made earlier on in the year. It was a great time to finish with these 6 people who I spent a year living with. I will miss and love always my dear YAV family of 2014 blessings to you Bennet Alldredge, John Kupar, Katherine Norwood, Hannah Mills, Colleen Ames, and Jennifer Hallberg. I wish the best to you in your new adventures, so much in store for all us! Thank you for all the support, patience, wisdom, quality time, and great house company!
    Well I don't know if I have made this official, but I signed up for another year, yeah you may already know that, but here it is just in case; I will continue running the J.W. Johnson Community Garden and  furthering the community network of local resident who want to be committing to this project. In a change of pace,  I will also being working alongside of Bayou Blue Presbyterian to give Wetlands Conservation presentations to volunteers who come to work with Project Homecoming. It will be a nice switch up, and it'll be great to get a little more personal understanding of the history, current issues, and events surrounding the Wet Lands and their relationship to New Orleans and southern Louisiana.
      I am excited for the next year; set up new goals for the new year and get ready for surprises, challenges, and some great adventures in learning from myself and the people I will be working with. Lately I have been meditating on the reality of what makes for a healthy, meaningful work. It is my opinion that a good dose of challenge itself is on the path of a healthy growth in the work environment. But it must be a challenge that is stretching each of us in ways that are beneficial and supportive, not oppressive or depleting. There is a big difference between work that is abusive and work that takes us out of our comfort zone from time to time.
        My comfort zone is being on people's good side. I often am faced with this very irrational mindset that assumes if I show an assertive or confident behavior in a project that it will lead to failure or worse disappointing  people who I respect. There are several components of this unrealistic thinking that I plan on debunking this year. One of which, it this,  it is not my job to be a people pleaser. First off, I am setting myself up for failure no if the success is based on meeting other people's standards. And pleasure that comes to both me and to anyone else I am working with is a direct product of respect, love, and support. It is a true privilege to see work not only as a means to an end, but a means to a healthy lifestyle filled with confidence, satisfication and joy.
       A mentor of mine gave me some advice when we were talking about vocational  discernment one day. I had mentioned that I wanted to make sure I was doing good work in the world no matter the job. He told me, " I think the better thing to think about is not what you need to do for the world, but rather what are you truly passion about. Because I believe what the world needs is more passionate people.". This is a very refreshing perspective to hold, that at the time I really needed to hear and even to this day struggle to remember. So now when I begin to get overwhelmed by all the problems in society, I tend to refocus the priority on my personal passions in life, what brings me joy and challenges me to grow.
  The garden is a fantastic class room for all these things in my experience. Sure there is a whole lot of hot, uncomfortable, and very monotonous tasks like picking weeds or turning compost. But the process of seeing the seed of labor and care create actual nutrition that gives us fresh energy to go out in the world often times just seems like a magic trick that I can never get enough of. And I am passionate about spreading this magic to all who are interested, no matter how old these tricks get! Looking forward to this upcoming year, thanks to everyone for the prayers, positive thinking, and support! Grace and Peace!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer is here... And so is the heat and humidity!

My garden buddy Macon Fry has a famous memory of sitting in a bar one night next to a highly intoxicated gentlemen that preceeded to inform him of a helpful fact, " The one thing about New Orleans in the summer time.... It ain't the heat that kill ya, it's the humility!" Well I'm down here in the Big Easy keepin my humility alive and not trying to test myself with the humidity and heat that seriously returned to this city since it left in October.
   I suppose it is a lucky reality that there is not more than 4 months of the year that I will have to endure this heat, but I'll be honest a day seems to travel slowly in this weather. I have to set some new hours of operation for the  garden and continue to inform local member of such changes. I believe in the summer time it will be from like 6am-noon or 1 then brake till even like 4 and I'll be back out there from 4-6/7pm. The sun doesn't set at this point till around 7 or 8 anyways and those evening hours are important for watering and planting.
   Currently we are harvesting Cucumbers, eggplant, basil, scallions, green beans, and cherry tomatoes. Still on way is okra, peppers, watermelon, honeydew melon, zucchini and yellow squash, and yard long beans. These are great veggies that are great to grow and show people who have never seen them. I must give a great kudos to this season's cucumbers for their abundant harvest and longevity! We just pulled out the last harvest for this summer, but luckily the cukes have just started rocking over at Macon's garden The Gathering Tree community garden!
Quick side note, don't know if I've mention the Gathering Tree garden Statis. So Macon Fry is an excellent gardener and his skills are just as useful as his pragmatic realism! At this point in his long endeavor of gardening here in New Orleans he's just about thrown in the towel to summer garden, it's just takes a huge toll on one's sanity. Which is logical from my perspective in being a young garden who even in my youth and vitality question how many more summers of ridiculous heat I will consciously be able to bear?... But for now, I'm not quite sick of sweating gallons at a time trying to get vegetables to grow let alone stay alive. So Macon has thrown most of the beds under plastic and is allowing me to grow a row of Okra, cukes, butternut squash, basil, and some sun jewel melons. And because they're in my hand he's giving me the freedom to bring the harvest back to Pigeon Town. So cukes, squash, melons, and okra will all be available later on!
     This past week I had a over 30 young abled volunteers in the garden working on a number of projects. The group was from a  Presbyterian church in Houston TX. and come to New Orleans for a  biannual mission trip working with non-profits doing home restoration. Well with my ties to the St. Charles Ave. Presbyterian they through each  group to me for a handful of hours at the end of the day. Is 1:30- 4:00 the worst time to be out in a New Orleans Summer?... Of course it is! But with these groups traveling outside their own states, they put themselves ready for anything... and they work like champs! I'll put some  new pictures up of what they have done, but for now here's a couple of  the groups photos!
Thank you again so much Memorial Drive Presbyterian church for coming out and supporting this project!

Friday, May 22, 2015

U.T. Volunteer Videos

These are links to a video that the U.T. Austin volunteers group made while working in NOLA. There were two groups, one in the garden and one building a home with Habitat for Humanity.