Sunday, June 26, 2011

Portland, Oregon - a tale of dark and light

Murals by homeless youth in Portland, Oregon at Outside In Shelter. Copyright (c) 2011 Wendee Holtcamp

I promised I'd give my last Oregon update before long so here it is! When I first arrived in Portland for my recent trip to the coast and to my dad's cabin, I stopped by a place that held a lot of significance for me - Outside In shelter for homeless teens. These are murals painted by some of the kids in years past on a wall that is near a courtyard where they sit and hang out. I was not able to take a photo with any of the kids because they do not like their photos taken, and I was there visiting the donor relations person (I wanted to contribute a little back to a place that helped me in my youth).

So when I was in between my junior and senior year, my mom kicked me out of my house, and made me live with my dad in Oregon (the horrors). But since I'd lived there in Houston for two years, and had just formed friends and was about to start my senior year, it was devastating. Add this to the fact that my mom and stepdad moved me every 1-2 years throughout my entire LIFE, so finally I was in a place where I could graduate with people I'd known, and she decided she was going to teach me a lesson by rejecting me and telling me I was on my own, she was done. Now I love my dad to pieces, I do, but I hadn't lived with him except for summers since 1981 and I didn't have any friends there where he lived. I had a couple in Portland because that was one of the places I lived for one year in my vagabond youth.

The reason my mom kicked me out was because I was rebellious, disrespectful, and "on drugs" (so she thought). The reality is, I had been raped as a 14-year old, and went downhill from there, falling into behaviors of self-cutting and other things they may call "emo" today. Oh, and I guess I should add that I never told anyone about the rape, so I internalized it all into a big mass of self-hatred and angst, and that combined with the natural teenage rebelliousness against one's parents created a not-so-pretty family life. I should also add that (bless her heart) my mom was a "yelly mommy" and my stepdad was sometimes a "pushy, yelly stepdad" and it was not a safe, trusting, happy home anyway. I found my refuge in my friends, in partying, smoking, and other things that I am thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ that my kids are not in any way like I was as a teenager!

That summer with my dad was one in which I went deeper on the path that was not so good (and this is also why I would never, ever in a million years "kick" a child out of my house - it gives the absolute wrong message). At any rate, during one week of the summer, my friend told her mom she was staying with me at my dad's (who had no phone), and I told dad I was staying with her mom. And we lived on the streets for a week. In one sense, no I was not a "real" street kid, but I truly lived as one. We hung out with them. I slept on the streets - we took a train to an abandoned house with some other street kids and slept there, hung out in Pioneer Square, slept on park benches and God knows where, snuck into a club (Skoochies), and I took to shoplifting. It was not pretty. I remember that one of the street kids we knew had scabies (bugs that make marks on your skin). Seeing that had an impact on me.

Outside In had a "no questions asked" program where you could go and eat. You had to fill out some forms. I made up a name I think. But it made an impact on me and I've always wanted to go back there. I have overcome things that I just can't explain in words. I know in my heart that God was with me the whole time, even though I completely rejected him at that time in life. I was an affirmed atheist, but later in the summer, my dad sent me to a Christian summer camp - which also was eye-opening. I wouldn't say I "accepted" Christ at that time, though, because I'd argue with anyone about their Bible beliefs throughout college until I met Matt and started reading the Bible for myself.

Outside In has expanded and moved into a new facility and they do SO many great things! They have temporary shelter/apartment/transitional living for people ready to get jobs and get off the street. They have alternate schooling for kids that want to earn a GED. And they have a free clinic for people of low income, that I got a tour of and it includes homeopathic/naturopathic medicine which I thought was way cool. I want to pitch an article on this place. In truth, my life could have so easily gone a completely different direction. So many of these kids run away and then bond with one another and because of the security that comes from having a "family" and having total acceptance means that they would never go back home. I could have been there. And not all of them turn out happy success stories. Homelessness in kids is a terrible, terrible thing. So if you want to donate, check them out!

Walking up there is this "no violence" artwork that one of the kids made.
Blossoms falling in cracks... the theme seemed to resonate for me. These were on the block up, where I parked.
This is a door painted by one of the kids. I got a tour from Kelly Anderson, who manages the donor relations.I didn't get to meet any of the street kids but would like to if I report a story.
Another piece of artwork. Honestly I wish I had more images of the inner workings but people were everywhere and I just couldn't take any pictures. When I heard they started this new project called Virginia Woof Doggie Day Care, I had to go visit. It's at a different location. Some of the homeless youth work with dogs for a few weeks in transition to getting their own work and apartments and getting off the streets. It is the brainchild of Outside In's Executive Director Kathy Oliver, who I met in the hallway. I also met her dog!

This is a sign outside the facility. People bring their dogs for the day. They work with two kids at a time, but only one is ever there with the other staff at a time so they get personalized training. They teach them everything from working with people to working with the dogs.
I am not a big dog fan and the dogs all started barking like crazy! They separated out the big dogs from the small ones so I didn't have to get mauled - ha ha.I got a kick out of the fake hydrant! Laughing! Other than that, I organized another writer gathering, this time at The Press Club. It was great fun! I'd never been there. It's a cool place with good food. They had all kinds of magazines and literary journals on one wall. If you can believe it, it does not actually have a website. Susan Hess, Terri Hansen and me! Old friends reunited! Fuzzy because I took it with my phone.Cassandra Profita, Christy George, Lizzie Grossman, and my dad's wife Bev! Bev and Dad came out to join us. To their right is Susan again, and her husband Juergen. Great folks! Fuzzy pic but the only one I got of Orna Izakson, a writer and naturopathic physician. If you're in Portland and need a naturopath look her up!
I'm sure I'm going to have to put money in the cuss-jar for this, but it cracked me up!! Look closely at what the doomed dinos are saying... It's a wallet. I almost bought it for my friend, but decided she probably had a wallet!
One of my days in Portland I got to spend with my 7th grade BFF Kelli, an amazingly talented artist! We stayed at this B&B, The White House, which was really fancy!
A view inside.
We walked from The White House to a restaurant down the road and shot a pic at the flower market on the way.
Later, Kel playing piano at The White House. It was a really fun night of catching up and girl time!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wild, Wild Wetlands!

Sunset on the Oregon coast. This is in Florence. Wish I was back there!
Copyright (c) 2011 Wendee Holtcamp

I'd like to say I've been incommunicado because I'm traveling through the jungles of Peru but to be honest, I've been doing routine domestic goddess duties - doling out the kiddos' chores, supervising the carpet cleaner, surviving a visit from my mom and stepdad (no really it was actually fun), dealing with a car losing its AC in 100 degree weather, working out, planning a summer trip with the kids to California (L.A. and San Francisco/Bay Area), and trying desperately to keep up with my work. I finished an article that will appear on in July about Texas' dam plans, and am doing grant writing for the American Scientific Affiliation - a fantastic organization dedicated to MY life mission of reconciliation between science and Christianity. I'm also starting up a new blog that I'll unveil soon - hopefully in the next month before I leave on my trip to Cali. I have intentions of creating at least one or more posts about Oregon - the one where I visited the Outside In shelter for homeless youth and their Virginia Woof Doggie Day Care Center and my visit with my 7th grade BFF Kelli, but... that will have to wait. It's midnight and i just wanted to post a short note with my latest articles! So without further adieu...

  • I'm really proud of this article in the 10th annual Water Issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine - Wild, Wild Wetlands. I actually wrote part of this lede back in 2005 while working with Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) but it never saw the light of day, so I combined that past amazing adventure with new info on the incredible wetland restoration project they have going on, since this upper Texas coast is losing wetlands faster than anywhere in the U.S. (along with Louisiana, which is contiguous of course). I reported this trip while traveling with my good friend Cheryl Reifsnyder, and blogged here about the fun adventures we had. Here's an excerpt of my lede:

    The moon is full, the night is warm, and I’m sitting in the high seat of an airboat, like a queen on a wetland wildlife safari. I feel like a firsthand witness to the springtime creation of new life.The deep glunk-glunk of a bronze frog, like a banjo, creates the song of the night, and baby marsh birds are everywhere. Two black-necked stilts guide their chicks, beige fuzzballs on stick legs, across a mudflat. A 6-foot gator slithers perilously near as a downy moorhen chick submerges itself, and I gaze in awe at the glowing orange eyes of what seems like a hundred of the reptilian beasts down the watery slough. It is so beautiful and wild that this could be Africa’s Okavanga Delta, only we’re a mere hundred miles east of Houston.

  • Almost Meatless: How one woman decided to change what she ate. A different, longer version of the article that appeared at The Daily Climate. This one has totally different quotes, more about Meatless Monday and some animal rights issues that piqued my interest in a way they never before had after reading the amazing book Eating Animals.

  • Louisiana Pine snakes piece in Forests Mag online (pub of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, FSEEE) - reprint of an article from Texas Parks & Wildlife (The Snake Underground). They edited it down quite a bit to fit their format but it's cool to get more mileage (and pay) out of an article. And these very rare snakes need all the coverage they can get!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Crackerbox Palace

Window into my childhood ... my dad's log cabin where I spent some of my younger years
Copyright (c) 2011 Wendee Holtcamp

I promised I'd share some photos from my visit to my dad's log cabin and here they are! So in 1975, a couple years after my mom and dad divorced, dad moved from L.A. to Oregon - somewhere halfway between Rainier and St. Helens in the middle of no-man's-land, built this log cabin from the trees on the land, and he lives there still. My mom had moved me and my brother to Eugene and I would go back and forth between her and my dad until 1978 when I went to live with him full time for 2 years before realizing it was too isolated for even me (as a young kid) so I moved back with my mom but spent every summer here. Back in the day, the really early days, we had no electricity and used kerosene lanterns. Dad had no running water until I was in college. We would collect up spring water in plastic Igloos for drinking, and collected rainwater for washing and bathing. Although dad got running water for the rest of the house back when I was in college, he has always had an outhouse (see below) and still does although before you know it, it will be gone! They have installed a septic system. This is the "back" view and this is actually the bathroom extension off of the main cabin which is one large room with a loft. Dad started to build the bathroom from the start but never finished its roof for many years and we never used it when I was a kid. I'm not quite sure why there's a ladder on the roof but I guess he's fixing the shingles! This is the sign for Canaan Road where the turnoff to my dad's cabin is. This is in the nearest town, and it takes about 20 minutes from here up winding roads... I think that the name Canaan has a lot of meaning to me now that was lost on me then. It's absolutely the perfect name for what this place did for my soul and spirit. Land of milk and honey. Literally! OK dad never had dairy cows but he did raise bees for a while.
A black and white view of the corner. I shot most of these with my phone's Vignette app - love that app. Dad decided to call it the Crackerbox Palace actually fairly recently. It's sort of a joke but it's from the George Harrison song. When I lived there we called the 24-acre property Running Springs Farm. But I am rather partial to the Crackerbox Palace.

"I welcome you to Crackerbox Palace
We've been expecting you
You bring such joy in Crackerbox Palace
No matter where you roam know our love is true

While growing up or trying to
Not knowing where to start
I looked around for someone who
May help reveal my heart - someone said"
Another shot of the bathroom from the outside. Just because it's a bathroom doesn't mean it has a toilet!
Dad has always had tons of cats mostly because I think they're not neutered or spayed! He worked on that a while back I think... but anyway this is Dodger. I love long hair cats!
Dad rototilling the garden. Dad and Bev love to garden and the soil is very fertile!
After I helped plant some baby veggies we picked some fresh kale from the garden and made raw kale-avocado salad - yum!

This is a view of the "front" (although the door we enter from is in the back). It looks bigger than it is! The whole front area is a "greenhouse" with plants. The land has several fruit trees and rose bushes and there's a huge vegetable garden to the right of the picture. In the old days this was all covered in forest - it was very close to a coastal temperate rainforest though it may not technically be that exact habitat. When I go hiking in the Pacific NW the forest I experience is exactly what it was like when I was a child. I spent so many hours in those woods, pushing over the dead trees full of rotting rich red wood (we thought we were so strong!), playing with tree knots for toys, making tree forts, picking wild huckleberries, peeing in the woods...

Or, of course, if you have to go #2 you use the outhouse. Most everyone just pees in the yard or back when there were woods all around, in the woods, for #1. Mainly because the outhouse is stinky and gross! Because of the prominence the throne has played over the years I am going to have the following series printed and framed for my dad as soon as his actual flush toilet goes in! This is the "dreamy" look.
Same photo but in a Parisian hue - highlighting some colors and fading others.
Vintage outhouse, modern era.
The outhouse, straight up.
The stairs leading to the loft. When I was a kid these were Veerrrrry steep! They're still pretty steep actually. One time I was sleeping in a sleeping bag up there as a kid, and I fell off... lucky for me, I happened to fall onto the couch. Dad was still downstairs and I woke in my sleep but didn't remember it in the morning. Go figure!
We always used wood stoves to heat and cook. Today, he has a microwave and stovetop though. This isn't the same stove we had when I was a kid. Back then the potbelly stove we used to heat was named Smaug and the cooking stove was Gandalf.
This is the affectionately named West Wing. It was only added back in the 90s I think and is mostly for storage but there is also a guest room which is where I stay.
My dad!
The wall next to his favorite armchair. Malcom X and a Cross on the wall. I believe the painting is one that my grandmother did (his mom). Oh dad informed me grandma didn't do this painting but she did paint (as does my stepdad's mom Jane Leonard - who is/was a very talented artist).
A view of the back porch leading into the mud room. On the right is the West Wing which wasn't there when I was a kid. My brother and I used to climb onto the little flat roof over the porch here and just sit and hang out.
This is the door inside the mud room leading into the cabin. It has a plaque on the door that says "Peace to all who enter here"
We always had jars to keep things in - beans, pasta, etc. This is in the "mud room" on the way into the house through the back door.
This is what happens pretty much every night at the Crackerbox Palace! Dad and Bev asleep in their armchairs. Love these peeps! Just to give a little history - here is a photo of me and my older brother Tom (now called Lazer - yep that's right!) in the old garden down the hill - by some big strawberry plants. Wasn't I cute! My nickname was urchin because I was frequently grubby!
A rare snowfall on the cabin. Looks very "little house in the big woods" a la Laura Ingalls Wilder doesn't it? I was a big fan of those books. Dad and me when he was building the bathroom "addition." I look like I was about 7 there or so. That's about right before I went to live there. Dad the lumberjack! I very much remember being in the woods with him when he was timbering trees with a chainsaw! Here's a link to an old post - hippie log cabin memories with a couple of other photos and stories.