Nebraska

Oh, to be young again!

Or, in my case, for the first time. I spent most of my time as a child with adults, or at least older children. I would help my older sister with her homework. My brother took me to college when I was 13, got me drunk; and I still held my own in theological discussions with the divinity graduate students into the wee hours of the morning. I still remember the discussion nearly 50 years later! I was born old! This was not the case for Nebraska.

Even though Nebraska had had a pretty hard knock life so far, he remained childlike, cheerful, confident; just a downright happy guy and a joy to be around! We hosted Nebraska (yes, that is his real, first name) for a weekend in our home, while he was staying at Liberty House prison aftercare program in Schwenksville, PA, in 1986. I was Mennonite Chaplain and Volunteer Director with Liberty Ministries at the time and had helped reorganize the aftercare program there, after it had closed in Phila. Nebraska was one of the early residents. He was just 20, and had already been in prison. He had been raised in the foster care system.  Who knows if he actually committed a crime? He was a dark skinned, black youth. He was irrepressibly cheerful. That is enough to get one locked up in any number of towns and neighborhoods in Pennsylvania.

We had a great time with Nebraska. The one memory that sticks out is our trip to Ikea. We all went to Ikea together, all seven of us: Bethann and I, our four daughters and Nebraska. Now Bethann and I were about 30. The girls were 9 and under. In the store, we got a little spread out, but we could see each other. One or another of the girls would exclaim, “Mommy, come see!” or “Daddy, come see!” when they saw something they liked. Then Nebraska exclaimed, “Mommy! Mommy! Come see!” loud enough for the whole floor to hear, and they all watched Bethann answer. We have been tickled by that scene every time we have recalled it, in the 30 years since!

nebraskaWe don’t know what happened to Nebraska after that weekend. I was so busy overseeing over 500 volunteers in eight different jails and prisons and starting several tutoring and other programs. We never saw him again in prison or in aftercare, or on the street, so I’m taking that as a good sign. But I don’t know.

This I do know. Nebraska was not a thowaway. He was not a ‘taker’. He was, and hopefully still is, a beautiful human being, and our brother someplace.

Yin & Yang

"Yin"
“Yin”
yang
“Yang”

I decided to just have some fun with the paint today and paint a lighter subject, so I painted two daylilies. I used a limited number of colors. “Yin” is based on a Hilltown Pride Daylily, with a Kelly Green and Green Apple split background. On the “Yang” the colors are reversed. I think they make a fun, colorful set. They are each 12″x12″.

Yellow Split Pea Ham Soup

A couple of weeks ago I made the best split pea, ham soup we had ever had. We had a shoulder ham with a good joint bone in it. I went to Assi Market (a Chinese supermarket) with my daughter and granddaughters to buy some seafood, gluten free noodles and green tea. Rather than making another stop, we looked for split peas there. The only selection they had was a four pound bag of large, yellow split peas. I normally use green, but these looked healthy, and convenient, so I went with them. This was the second stop. I had already picked up celeriac, onions, fennel, and garlic at Produce Junction.

Start with the Broth. In a 10 quart pot, simmer:

  • 1 ham bone
  • 1/2 celeriac, cut in chunks
  • 1 large onion, halved
  • 2 tops & fronds of fennel
  • 5 cloves of garlic

Simmer until a nice aromatic broth is created. Strain the broth. Boil in the broth:

  • 2 pounds yellow split peas
  • 1 pound carrots, chopped extra fine in the Ninja
  • 1 large onion, chopped with the carrots in the Ninja
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed

Add ~1 Tablespoon turmeric and generous grinds of black pepper. Add cubed ham back to soup. Warm a bit longer. Serve. It is thick and hearty, and oh so tasty!

Kenny

missionaymentalitySKenneth Cobbs challenged me and instructed me like few other persons in my life in such a brief time. I can count on one hand the people who have had this kind of impact in this short a time, and they all seem to totally, irretrievably disappear. At least Kenny left me with a couple books of his poetry, including one poem about me. It is not particularly complimentary toward me. I was alarmed when I read it. Kenny and I discussed it. He stuck to his guns and defended it. This was how he felt. It cut me to the quick. I was grateful for the critique and thanked him for his honesty. I asked his forgiveness, for that was not how I wanted to come off or how I intended our ministry to be perceived. At the time, I published it in The King’s Jubilee newsletter as a confessional, with an appeal to help please, let’s all do better.

Kenny had given me two booklets of his poetry that he had typed up. He managed to photocopy several copies and staple and fold them. He would sell them for $5 each to raise a little cash. I made some copies for him. I told him I would retype and reset the booklets in nicer fonts, with full color covers. I did this. He never showed up to retrieve them or the money for the copies that I sold for him. I never saw him again. I contacted the nuns who he said he was visiting that week. they had not heard from him. I left my phone number. I have searched for him every couple of years, since, to no avail. That was in 1998. I keep hoping that he chose to disappear and become a Buddhist monk somewhere. He was an intense person, wise beyond his years, yet I fear the world was too rough for him. He had been part of the MOVE family and had not recovered from the terrorism inflicted by the city, and the lies and machinations to frame Mumia Abu Jamal for killing a cop; after Mumia dared to report sympathetically about MOVE.

Kenny took me down a peg. I was glad for it. He did it with honesty, in the spirit of true brotherhood and love. I have gone back again and again to our conversations and his critiques to see how I measure up “according to the Kenny scale.” If he knew, he would laugh so loud!

kennyI painted this from emotional memory. Kenny’s skin was darker. I have a hard time with painting dark skin tones and still getting feature definition. Sorry. My counselor and I talked about this painting today. This is the first time I have obscured a part of a face. I think this is because both of us were blocked in some major ways. He was dealing with PTSD from Mayor Goode’s bombing of West Phila. I was a recovering fundamentalist; had been abused by clergy, yet still playing the clergy game. Kenny’s right eyebrow is raised. This was done subconsciously on my part, but it makes perfect sense. Whenever I think of Kenny, I think of our conversations and his piercing, unflinching criticism. It is rare that I can find someone who can give as good as get. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Prov. 27:6) I measure my progress on stepping down from my “god complex” and getting over being a “white knight” on the “Kenny Scale”. This is the raised eyebrow and slightly more open right eye. (his right) The background color of orange and shirt as bright red were chosen because of the MOVE fire on Mother’s Day, 1985. My missing front tooth is from that night, as well. But that’s another story.

I think I’m doing pretty OK on the “white knight” problem. I’ve been invited to events by black friends. When I have shown up, I was the only white guy there.  I overhear their friends ask, “You didn’t say he was white.” My friend says, “Oh, I forgot.” At one party, they replied, “You forgot?!” My friend said, “Yeah. Chill. Just get him a beer. Talk to him for a while. You’ll see he forgot, too.” I think Kenny would be just OK with me now.

Franklin – Steampunking My Bathroom 6

tiles_completeAlmIt may not seem like much, but it was a huge undertaking for me. I finally finished painting the lines for the tiles on the upper vanity wall of the bathroom. There are five accent tiles. I painted the background color on these. It is taking me so long because my health has been not so good. I had a severe TIA a few weeks ago. We thought it was another stroke. I am still suffering some deficits from it. At any rate, it landed me in the hospital. They did all sorts of poking around and found that I have some major heart valve issues. This explains why I am exhausted all the time and fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

franklin
Franklin considers his grandfather to be the wisest man he knows.

The latest cartoon character to join the collection is the Peanuts character Franklin. He is Charlie Brown’s African-American friend. He is Charlie’s most loyal friend. He admires his grandfather and considers him the wisest man he knows. He is located to the right of the clock.

Of the four remaining accent tiles, only two will be cartoon characters. The other two will be dedicated to Bethann’s and my passions: sewing for her; art for me. They will be a challenge.