Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jonathan's Place

Ten or twelve years ago a man named Chris came to the clinic to talk with me. He was from Jonathan’s Place, a residential facility for children removed from their families because of abuse or neglect. They had lost their pediatrician and needed someone to do intake physical exams on the children (except for gynecologic exams, which were performed by REACH Clinic doctors at Children’s Medical Center). I said, yes, we’ll commit to that for the next year.
I found some of my notes from these times…
We started this week doing physical exams on children just removed from their family(s) because of abuse. Case workers from the residential facility where the children will live (Jonathan's Place) bring new children to Agape for their intake physical. There were 13 children this week, but I expect fewer next week. It's strong. Because in Texas, it takes a lot of abuse for a child to be removed from a home, what with all our "family values" and other filthy lies.
Chris and me at the doorway to the exam rooms at Agape
What follows is from an email I sent to my son after the first day: So when I was writing (to someone else) I was thinking I wanted to tell you... The people that were with the children were all young (of course): Katy has been at it for three years & is very intense & real; Keisha started two months ago, pretty, shy, nice; Ashley came in late – she feels really solid. Sometimes I wonder, what did I do to deserve this – to be around people like this. Not to lay religious on you, but it can't be anything but grace. And isn't that a beautiful idea. End of email.
The second day there were eight more children. This time Chris brought them, a young man, intense, sweet-natured, solid. And Ashley again. High compliment to say, I'd take her on patrol. Reality is they're taking me on patrol – lucky for me they're short patrols. Students & I trying to get up to speed on abuse-focused pedi exams, learning what we don't want to learn; the students are doing a good job.
And so it went. Most weeks for about a year there were 5-10 children. Ones that remain with me still today…
A girl about 11 or 12 who had been sexually abused by her father and who was taking care of her little sister, also sexually abused by him. I remember them sitting together, the older sister with her arms around the younger, protecting her. Jesus Christ.
A boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old with his genitals mutilated. That’s all I remember about him except he was kind of chubby and was in kind of a fog it seemed.
Another set of siblings, boys, with the older one being brave.
I saw children acting brave, children inconsolable, children numb, children fearful, children… I’d come home and spend time with David.
I asked someone I knew who had worked for a long time in Child Protective Services to spend some time with the students and me. I remember he said something to the effect that we didn’t have the luxury of feeling or being affected by what we were doing – at least while we were doing it. I remember thinking we were doing this for 6-8 hours/week while the staff at Jonathan’s Place, CPS caseworkers, sex crimes against children cops, REACH Clinic staff, and so on were doing it 40+ hours/week (like those kind of people ever worked a 40 hour week). It seems like we did this for about 1.5 years before they found another source with more pedi expertise.
There’s a folk belief among some indigenous people from Southeast Asia that psychic and other trauma can cause “soul loss.” I believe that too. We’re not talking about immortal souls here, but about the spiritual essence of people, their personhood. Gone, for now.
And so, here’s to you, Chris. And to you Estevan. And Katy, and all the beautiful people at Jonathan’s Place past and present, paying with heart and soul for the evil of others and being the hope of lost children.
http://jpkids.org/

From In Your Time. If you want you can click here to hear the song. Turn it up LOUD.

Feel the wind
And set yourself the bolder course
Keep your heart
As open as a shrine
You'll sail the perfect line

And after all
The dead ends and the lessons learned
After all
The stars have turned to stone
There'll be peace
Across the great unbroken void
All benign
In your time
You'll be fine
In your time


(a prayer)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

As a gesture of intimacy...


"The way in which [the internet] will dissolve boundaries is by making us transparent. To each other. I mean, I can imagine a child of the future, we all bring home our drawings to stick on refrigerators, and things like that—in the future we won’t stick them on refrigerators, we will stick them in our website. And everything will go into our website. And by the time we’re 25, or something, our website will be the size of the American Museum of Natural History. And you can wander through it. And as a gesture of intimacy you can invite someone else to wander through it. Well that’s who you are—it’s your imagination. And, I think, in a sense, I’ve said, at times, that: The cultural enterprise is an effort to turn ourselves inside out. We want to put the body into the imagination, and we want the imagination to replace the laws of physics." Terrance McKenna, 1995

I read what Terrance said, and I thought, "Yes, exactly." And so, as a gesture of intimacy, I invite you to wander through this blog - stories of wonder, of love, of war, of hope, of people sparkling in beauty, of death, of creating, of growing...

The above mandala and a lot more available from my friend, Chops Wanderweird at http://www.wanderweird.com/

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies (for Maeydelynn)


This recipe is from the Bouchon Bakery. I’ve baked and eaten quite a few cookies and these are the Best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever eaten. I use a different recipe for the chocolate chip cookies I bake for festivals. The photo below is of a few festival chocolate chip cookies with pecans. If you look you'll see that I added extra chocolate chips (always a good idea). 



Ingredients

All-purpose flour                          238 gm (1½ cups + 3 T)
Baking soda                                2.3 gm (½ tsp)
Kosher salt                                 3 gm (1 tsp)
Dark brown sugar                        134 gm (½ C + 2 T lightly packed)
Unsulfured blackstrap molasses)    12 gm (1 ¾ tsp)
Granulated sugar                         104 gm (½ C + 1 tsp)
70-79% dark chocolate broken      107 gm (2/3 C)
into 3/8” chunks*
Chocolate chips                           107 gm (½ C)
Unsalted butter room temp           167 gm (5.9 oz)
Eggs room temp                          60 gm (slightly less than 4 T)
Toasted pecans**                        ½-1 C               

*Use good quality chocolate for the dark. Hershey’s, etc. not the best for this recipe. For the chocolate chips I like Nestle. The dark chocolate melts more than the chocolate chips, so everyone gets chocolate on their fingers.
**Toasted nuts are generally much better for baking than raw nuts. Toast on cookie sheet @ 350 for 2-3 minutes, mix ‘em up and toast another 2-3 minutes – do this 4-5 times a few minutes past the time when you’re getting the fragrance of toasting nuts. I keep a freezer baggie with about 1# toasted pecans and another of walnuts in the refrigerator.
-----------------
Preheat oven to 325.
Measure flour into bowl. Sift in baking soda. Add salt (the pastry chef at Eatzi’s told me for a better cookie to not skimp on salt). Whisk together.
Place dark brown sugar in separate bowl and stir in molasses and granulated sugar – break up lumps (won’t be completely smooth though).
Break up the chocolate bar and eat any choc dust (if the dust is left in the cookies will be messier). Mix chunks with chocolate chips.
Use a hand or stand mixer to cream the butter for several minutes until it’s like mayonnaise and holds peaks. Add the molasses/sugar mixture and mix for 3-4 minutes until fluffy. Add eggs and mix for 15-30 seconds. Over-mixing eggs can cause them to over-expand and then deflate. Mixture may look broken, which is no problem.
Add dry ingredients (in two additions – I do it in the sink to minimize flour everywhere) and mix on low speed for 15-30 seconds until just combined.
Add chocolates and nuts and mix with wooden spoon. The original recipe calls for refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes and then letting it come to room temp, but I never have.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. (If you’re not already using parchment paper for baking it’s time to start. Clean-up is much easier.)
I put the dough on in about golf-ball or slightly smaller size portions (12 cookies/sheet). This recipe makes ~30 cookies ~2.5” diameter. Bake for 12-13 minutes for soft cookies, 13-14 for chewy, and 14-16 for crispy (rotate sheet ~1/2 way through because most ovens have uneven heat in different areas).
You’ll learn a lot with the first few sheets, like the actual baking times you like. I bake them one sheet at a time on the middle rack – even when I’m baking several hundred cookies for a festie. Doing it with Love. Although I bake these one sheet at a time, I use two sheets with one in the oven and one ready to go.
Let the cookies cool for ~5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then move to your cooling racks. Now the cold cold milk.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cambodian refugees

At 4211 San Jacinto
Here are photos (link to ~70 photos is here) from our work with Cambodian refugees 1981-86 (and afterward). Those were very intense times. They really were the best of times. They really were the worst of times. Thousands of severely traumatized people were dumped into rough neighborhoods in Old East Dallas with little to no help. We were there seven days/week doing whatever needed to be done – helping people get into the healthcare system; helping families get enough food to eat; hearing the stories of torture, concentration camps, starvation (“sleep, sleep, die”), and murder; sitting with people dying; getting the East Dallas Health Center started; all of that and more. Some of the story is told with the photos at the below link and other places in this journal; some of the story cannot be told.

At New Year ceremony
Those were the days when we did far more than we could possibly do. How our hearts burned, how we fought injustice and cruelty, how we wept, how we raged, how we did and became more than we had imagined was possible. The people – their lives, their pain, their strength, their beauty. Leslie said, “All of it was an injustice. And (regarding Rith) it was love at first sight.” And there we were. 

At the photo site (link below), click slideshow. It defaults to 3 seconds/slide, so maybe need to adjust to more seconds/slide. If anyone sees a photo of themselves that they don’t want here, let me know and I’ll delete it. 

All the photos are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/109537175190450928722/CambodianRefugeesInDallas?noredirect=1

Posted from San Francisco

Sunday, March 2, 2014

In the garden (walking to the front door)


Standing on front sidewalk. Larkspur bottom left, New Dawn rose
on arbor. old-fashioned yellow iris further back, then a hint of rose 
Pull in the driveway, park, open the car door, get out, walk diagonally about 20 feet across the lawn, past rosemary and roses on the left, and on the right, lemon grass and tomatoes (everything depends on the season – like right now the only things blooming are daffodils and rosemary, so you wouldn’t even see some of what I’m writing about), a big sprawling hybrid musk rose (Buff Beauty, first bred in 1939) and Texas mountain laurel, and here are the steps, with more roses (Maggie, found rose, no date; Zephirine Drouhin, a bourbon rose dating from 1868; and New Dawn, 1930) and also Confederate jasmine with sweet-smelling flowers perfuming warm late spring nights with fireflies all around.
Larkspur and CK

The jasmine blocks the main front door, so go to the right, past the Buff Beauty that blocks the far edge of the porch, under the arch (four arches on this porch; how cool is that; it’d be insane to glass-in a porch like this), past the mailbox and various potted plants here, there, and everywhere, past the big hundred year old egg pot that a man at a Vietnamese store gave me, past the table I made >40 years ago, the one that David wrote his name on (which irritated me at the time, though I didn’t say anything and now, of course, I treasure it), past the bench to the door, first the screen, the one that Buddy busted through a number of times, now the door, with little double happiness characters taped to one of the 15 panes of glass and on another pane, a no smoking sign that I put there when my Mom died from lung cancer in her groovy little house behind ours. Looking through the glass the view into the house is blocked by Cambodian silk.
Texas Mountain Laurel. A single Buff Beauty rose peeking through...

Coming from the front/street, walk between two big clumps of lemon grass (again, everything changes with the seasons), past old-fashioned larkspur or Mexican tarragon or cilantro, past another old garden rose with small white flowers with a tinge of pink (Marie Pavie, a polyantha rose, 1888), past iris given to me by Don Lambert, jewels of Opar (a native perennial, named after a Tarzan book!), walk under the arbor overgrown on one side with a large climbing rose with fragrant cream/pink flowers (New Dawn, 1930) and if it’s night the many-colored lights on the arbor are sparkling, past wood sorrel (oxalis) on one side and on the other side, a red fragrant rose (Archduke Charles, China, before 1837) and then a fragrant apricot rose (Perle d’Or, 1884) and across from them the old-fashioned yellow Dutch iris that a long time ago the old woman at the Washington Place Projects gave me from her little garden beside her front stoop, past mint and rosemary and now we’re at the steps again.
Standing on the porch, looking back at walkway

Look sharp and see crystals hanging from oak tree branches and temple bells hanging from the roof peaks…

Here is a cottage garden webpage I put together sometime around 2006-2007 and have not updated in awhile: A cottage garden is what I’ve been describing in this post. Not all the neighbors think it's a good idea... one person said, "Interesting."  

New Dawn (front door far in background)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

War, refugees, Boom!, Leslie

In the spring of 1967 I was in what were called the “Hill Fights” (or First Battle of Khe Sanh), a series of battles along the Vietnam DMZ. I was in that deal for about a month and a half. I spent a few weeks of that time at Khe Sanh (which was kind of a rear), just kind of hanging out between operations.

Marine cleaning M-60 at Con Thien (not my photo) 
One day I was on the perimeter and we saw someone walking toward us. Nobody had ever done that before – just a person, alone, walking out of the forest toward the Khe Sanh perimeter. I’m guessing there were 30-40 automatic weapons trained on this person, and the claymores. We began to realize it was a man… a western man… a western man wearing a clerical collar. He was barefoot, with shabby clothes – maybe a cassock? I don’t remember. I remember he was a handsome young guy and his feet were pretty gnarly. He turned out to be a French priest and he was visiting us to talk about artillery and whatnot being careful of the villages he served near Khe Sanh.
Medevac Con Thien  (not my photo) 

I was impressed then, and remain so today, many years later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leslie and I visited Khao-I-Dang refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border around 1981-82. Bob Kramer, the beloved cystic fibrosis doctor at CMC, as well as some other doctors gave me a bunch of antibiotics and other medications to take. I had a sea bag completely full of good medications and to hide the goods I had one short-sleeve shirt folded on top of them – a few layers of cloth between the contraband and security. Sure enough, Thai security wanted to have a look in the bag. I said my first prayer in a long time and stood there trying to look bored as the man unzipped the bag, peeked in, and zipped it back up. Whew!

Khao-I-Dang refugee camp  (not my photo) 
I also had two sets of money – $500 or so dollars that had been given to me for whatever I wanted and several thousand dollars from various refugees in Dallas to give to relatives in the refugee camp (all mail was opened and all money stolen, so delivery was the only way to get money into the camp). I gave the drugs and part of the $500 to Pere (Father) Robert Venet. Pere Venet was a Jesuit priest who spent 50-60 years serving the poorest Cambodians and after the war, working in Site 2 and Sa-Keo refugee camps. Really a hero. It was pretty funny to show up unannounced at the monastery with cash and a bag of drugs. They were happy to see us.
Torture chamber Tuol Sleng - bed used as rack

We changed the money that refugees had given us from dollars to baht (yielding bigger stacks of bills). We didn’t want to attract attention so we went to different places to change the money – walking around Bangkok, changing $300 here, $500 there. I divided the baht into two stacks and put a stack on the bottom of each foot and a sock over it and then my shoes, which fortunately were lace-to-the-toe shoes. A tight fit, but it was only a 100 or so miles from Bangkok to Khao-I-Dang.

Mass graves at Choeung Ek
Before we got to the camp, we had to stop at Task Force 80 (the paramilitary beasts who ran Khao-I-Dang) and go into an office to have our papers examined. Uh-oh, it was one of those offices where everyone leaves their shoes at the door. So I’m walking in, kind of mincing-like with the stacks of bills crackling under my feet – Here come old flat-top, he come groovin’ up slowly. He got ju-ju eyeballs, he thinkin’ how he gonna do this shit? Come together. Right now!

Cave where bodies were thrown (near Battambang)
Pieces of fabric like prayer flags from sarongs from the dead
But all’s well that ends well and we got into the camp – beyond the hospital and clinic where foreigners were supposed to stay. We walked all over K-I-D with help from two young people who led us to the various people on our list of relatives of people who were sending money. I had a pocket of 100 baht notes, a pocket of 500 baht notes, and one of 1000 baht notes and we’d go into these little refugee camp hooches and hovels and do a pay-out and move on to the next place. In the end we were something like $50-100USD off. The extra money that we’d been given made up the difference and was also a nice payment to the people who helped us.

Khao-I-Dang hospital  (not my photo) 
We stayed one night in a two-story house in the countryside somewhere near the border. As far as I know, we were the only people in the house. Artillery rounds were exploding a mile or so away – Boom – and except for those flashes of light it was very dark. Leslie and I talked and I told her what tree to rendezvous at if we had to get out fast and were separated. She was just like, “Okay” – and I was thinking something like, “Incredible. What an amazing wife!” I remember there were lots of lizards on the walls and ceiling of the room we were in and I was reading a book about Edie Sedgwick, one of Andy Warhol’s tragically hip “superstars” who died way too young. I saw a weirdly brightly colored amphibian clinging to the wall of the shower (that we didn’t use). Boom. It doesn’t get much weirder than all this. I don’t remember if we were smoking at the time, but what a great time and place for a cigarette. I’d like one right now just reading this.
In the garden (outreach)

We stayed at K-I-D just a few days, mostly hanging out at the clinic, talking with doctors and nurses about providing healthcare for the Khmer people. That was our official purpose and I think we accomplished it. I wrote a report for Church World Service and for the US Dept of State – both of which no doubt pretty much ignored it. But more to the point, out of that visit and the work I was doing with refugees in Dallas, I was able to inform many people through articles I wrote for professional journals and presentations I made locally and nationally. LOL, I gave a consultation this afternoon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leslie on bus in Burma 2007 and Leslie waiting for bus in Nepal 1978 
I’ve been with Leslie in refugee camps, spending countless hours on some mean streets and alleys and in too many seriously run-down slum apartments; I’ve seen her comfort women who’ve been raped, people in pain, people who are dying, people past the edge of grief, pain, madness; I’ve watched her work miracles – going up against The Machine and winning, time and time again; I’ve seen her go where no 60 year old western woman has ever gone – the back stairs of the Chungking Mansions; I’ve been with her on buses rattling all across Asia, on trains into the Vietnam mountains, on boats in the Gulf of Siam, in donkey carts in Burma, on Royal Nepal Airlines with the cockpit door swinging back and forth, on crazy bus rides; we’ve slept together in a little grass shack on the Gulf of Siam, in Burmese guesthouse rooms with walls that went up ~6 feet and then chicken wire, in a tiny low-ceiling room in Nepal sleeping on a straw mattress with a giant wool blanket and a wooden latch on the door, in rooms smaller than prison cells, in a brothel, in a little shack in Oklahoma with tornadoes roaring all around, in a really old hotel in a mostly deserted town in Nevada where we lived for a few months, on trains, boats, buses, all over the place.
Leslie at Butt Fast Foods in a hallway at the
back of Chungking Mansions

She would not go to Tuol Sleng or the “killing fields” – those places were done. She would have gone if people were there, but not now. Not just to see where they were and what they looked like.  

I’ll have some photos up in another few months. I’m going through slides atm and am struck by the sheer volume of what we did with Cambodian refugees and the incredible number of people who were served.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baking bread


Rustic sourdough cheese bread
I started baking bread about 1969. The Tassajara Bread Book (Edward Brown, Shambala) was my guide to rustic crusty whole wheat loaves, to creating my own sourdough starter, and to other baking adventures and a few misadventures. The Bread Book took me through the bread making process step by step, do this, do that, and then the magic of bread. Learning a right way allowed me to learn my own right ways. But I generally follow bread-making recipes more closely than other recipes.

Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help, with imagination running through you, with dough under hand, you are bread making itself, which is why bread making is so fulfilling and rewarding. Brown
Whole wheat, like I used to bake from Tassajara Bread Book

I baked all our bread from ~1969 until 1975, when I started back to school. Those were formative years – Leslie and I were married, I started gardening, started baking bread, and I started the healing journey for myself and for others. Then, along with our marriage I was caught up in career and mission and had little time for baking. Then the joys of parenthood – what a time that was! And years of working with Leslie. And then the tiredness of the end of my work and then retirement and now for the past 4 or 5 years I’m baking almost all our bread. My favorite is a rustic sourdough from Artisan Baking (Maggie Glezer, Artisan), which goes like this…
No-knead bread baked in a glazed clay pot. Fully fermented dough at left

About a week ahead of time, I start refreshing the sourdough starter I started about four years ago. To refresh I mix 10-12 gm starter with 25 gm warm water, then mix with 45 gm bread flour and knead (in the bowl) just a little to make a little ball of dough. The dough ferments and rises for ~24 hours, getting bubbly and having that sourdough fragrance. I take 10-12 gm of that, mix with warm water so on and so forth. After a few days it comes to a full ferment in ~12 hours, and then fewer hours and it’s about ready.
Using a bench knife/dough scraper

The starter is combined with water and flour and left to ferment overnight to make a levain. The levain is combined with water and barley malt (syrup) and yeast and bread and all-purpose flours and smaller amounts of whole wheat and rye flours. I knead it for about 10 minutes (enjoying the kneading), then there is a process of fermenting, folding, shaping, proofing, and so on and in the end I end up with 6 loaves of as good a bread as I’ve found (I finally matched SemiFreddie’s in the Bay area). Usually I bake four plain loaves and two pepper jack cheese loaves.
Kneading 
Coarse, crusty
With rich true-spirited flavor
That one soon learns to love and crave. Brown

I bake bread on a stone, a piece of slate, well-heated in the oven. The man at the rock yard had never had a customer who wanted only one piece, so he just gave me the slate. The hot stone helps create a crustier crust. In the bottom of the oven is a pan with rocks and chain in it. The stones and chain also preheat and when I put the bread in, I spray the stones and chain with water from a garden sprayer – all this with the goal of creating a lot of steam, which also helps with the crust. 
Whole wheat and some cookies

As others have said, good bread is more – magically more – than the sum of its parts! The process is good and healthy. It’s good and healthy like working in the garden is – mixing, kneading, folding, dividing, shaping, baking, and then eating the bread – sometimes just the bread, sometimes with butter or olive oil, sometimes with almond butter and homemade preserves, and always with appreciation.

Here is a link to a recipe for no-knead pot bread:
http://ckjournal.blogspot.com/2010/02/more-bread-and-so-on.html


A bag of fresh-baked rustic sourdough bread