Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘America’ Category

As I began my vacation in the Canadian Rockies, thrilled that for 2 weeks I would be unreachable by phone, I received an email message from a friend that was utterly disturbing.  Suddenly being thousands of miles from home in a country where I had no phone to contact my friend was not quite as wonderful as it had been moments before I read the email.

My friend had to go away on business for a few days.  Her husband and teenaged daughter drove her to the airport.  That trip was perhaps the last “normal” moment she will have for a while.

I should interject that her teenaged daughter is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen in person, with long dark hair, piercing dark eyes and a figure “to die for” as the saying goes.  She has been approached to work as a model and I think she could make real money doing just that.

On the way home, after they dropped off my friend, her husband stopped and bought alcohol (the drinking kind not the rubbing kind) for his underaged daughter.  I suspect he had some himself.  He then proceeded to make sexual advances to his daughter!!  Yes, you read that right!!  His daughter was able to fight off the advances, so there was no physical damage;  however, the psychological trauma was devastating.

This incident is what led to my title.  I discussed the whole thing with my husband, since he is a man (big surprise there, I know), and he was as puzzled as I was.  How could a man do something like that to his own child?

Yes, the alcohol provided some fuel, to be sure.  But the alcohol did not put the idea into this man’s head.  What is it with men?

If you think about the sexual abuse of children (at any age), the offenders are most often men.  Women (sane ones, at least) do not damage children – especially their own.  Women protect their children.  In the culture of the Native Americans I work with, children (and women) are considered sacred.  They are the ones who carry life into the future.  I’m sure it has occurred, but I have never personally heard about or read about a mother who has sexually molested her child.  I have heard about many men who have done such things!

Again I ask, what is it with men?

Yes, I’ve read the clichés about men thinking with their penises rather than their brains.  I can see how teenaged boys can get carried away, when the strength of those urges are new and unfamiliar.  But a man who is old enough to have a 17 year old daughter is a man who is old enough to have learned how to control his sexual urges.  A man who is a father ought to be the protector of his family, not the one who damages his family!

My friend is a strong woman who is very protective of her children and her family.  She would often speak of how much she loved her husband and her children.  She is such a positive person and a role model for those around her.  Now she is trying to figure out how to explain these things to her teenaged children — and to herself.

I am so angry for her.  I’d like to slap this man upside the head and ask him  what on God’s good earth could have made him think this was okay to do, alcohol or not!  But I know I’d get the typical answers:  I didn’t know what I was doing; the alcohol made me do it; I just couldn’t control myself.

Baloney!

You all know what I’d really like to do to him – I don’t have to spell it out, I’m sure. . .

Maybe I should put the soapbox away for the time being, before I get carried away.  After all, I’m a woman – I know how to maintain self-control.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

And when I say short, you know I mean short!

Ever since the 20/20 Program aired last Friday night, I have been swamped with work.  In the 48 hours after the show, I received more sponsors from my coordinator than I typically receive in a month!  It is an example of “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”  It is a wonderful problem to have but with my fibromyalgia I have to be careful.  If I let myself get stressed by all the work, I’ll have a flare-up and then I definitely won’t be able to get the work done.  I am trying to balance it out but it isn’t easy because I care so much about the work I do.

I knew, when this program was first discussed over a year ago, that it would bring about the kind of interest that it has generated.  I knew that, if someone with a large enough following would bring the conditions to the public so they could SEE for themselves what it was like, the people in this country would respond.  I tried the networks and Oprah and everyone I could think of to DO SOMETHING.  Gratefully, ABC News came through.  Why, I even wrote an open letter to Bill Gates on this blog.

So now I am working night and day to contact sponsors.  Then I have to contact people on the reservation.  Actually, that can be the hard part.  Phone numbers on the reservation change more often than the weather — or so it sometimes seems.

Also, as I begin to assign more sponsors, people on the rez are telling me about neighbors who could use one.  Perhaps one day we will have all of the people on Pine Ridge matched with a sponsor.

If you don’t see a new post for a few days, do not think I have abandoned my crusade or forgotten to write.  I’m just up to my eyeballs in sponsors at the moment!

Read Full Post »

I received a call from a grandmother on Pine Ridge Rez the other day.  She was calling because she wanted to know if we could help her daughter, who had only days to pay her electric or it would be shut off.  There are 2 adults and 5 teens that live in the home.

I think Gramma was a bit embarrassed because they have always been able to manage before.  Her daughter had gone to the tribe to ask for assistance but was told there would be no money available for this until November.  I unfortunately had to tell her that ONE Spirit, the group I work with in their sponsorship program, did not include utilities in our program because of the vast amount of money it would take to do that.  We shared my vision of a wind farm on the plains there that the tribe could build.  The tribe could then supply free electricity to all residents and probably still have electricity left over to sell back to the electric company.  What a relief it would be to residents of Pine Ridge to have free electricity!  Paying over $200 per month when you have no source of income or live on Social Security is a huge burden.  It would be a blessing for the tribe to be able to accomplish this for their people as well, a place where they could begin to rebuild the hope and confidence of their people as well.

She told me about her health, which has improved since her back pain was finally properly diagnosed and treated.  She told me that her daughter, for whom she had requested the help, had been diagnosed with Graves disease in 1996.  That surprised me, because her daughter is full of drive and works harder than anyone I know to help others on the rez.

Gramma also told me about the windows on her trailer (which I have visited).  Apparently one of the severe thunderstorms this past summer blew out all the windows on the rear of her trailer.  The weather, including rain, now comes in her windows.  She said that she had managed to get a board across her bedroom window; however it doesn’t cover the whole window, so rain still comes in.  I asked if she had talked to the tribe about getting help to get them fixed.  She said that, since the trailer was not “tribal housing”, the tribe has no funds to help with things like that.  She noted that she had also contacted a non-profit group that is known for doing work like that all summer.  The group, Re-Member, hosts volunteer groups all summer.  Their last group was last week.  They would not be able to help until spring!  So Gramma will have to go without windows until next spring unless she “finds the money” to hire a private contractor to do the work.  I’m afraid it will be a cold winter.  Unless Santa decides his sleigh has the room and brings windows.

I told Gramma that although ONE Spirit did not have the resources to run a program for utilities, I would see what I could do among my contacts.  Gratefully, we were able to come through for this young woman.

The daughter called me crying when her mother told her I had found a way for it to be done.  It shouldn’t have surprised me, but I am still a bit surprised when strong people cry.  The tears, you know, were tears of joy and relief, not self-pity and woe.  That attitude is something that never surprises me about Lakota women — they never show self-pity and they are always trying to help a neighbor/daughter/sister/cousin instead of themselves.

Lakota women are so inspirational!

Read Full Post »

I have owned cats all my life and I have seen cats do some odd things.  Eat spaghetti sauce with mushrooms.  Burrow under a pile of blankets to sleep.  But last night my 16 year old male cat did something I have not seen before.

I should point out that this cat is not feeling well.  He stopped eating while we were on vacation last week and has lost 2 lbs.  Not good for a small, 9 lb cat.  He has been losing muscle mass and is weak and slightly uncoordinated now.  I am worried that there is something seriously wrong and will be calling the vet in the morning.

Still, it was almost funny to watch this cat decide to take a shower.  We have a walk-in shower.  My husband was in the shower when he called me to quietly come in and look at the cat.  I expected to see the cat sitting on the toilet lid waiting for my husband to finish.

I did not expect to see the cat IN the shower.  He wasn’t there to drink the water.  He was wandering around in there because he apparently wanted to be with my husband.  The cat was in the end of the shower away from the shower head and there wasn’t a lot of water hitting him in that area.  Then he started to walk around a bit more, seemingly oblivious to the water sprinkling him.

Frankly I just stood there with my jaw dropped.  I knew for sure the cat was not well after that.  I put a towel in there for my husband to dry the cat when he was done, then shut the door and left them both there.

**********

I took the cat to the vet 2 days ago and they could not find anything obviously wrong.  We would have to wait for the blood work.

Yesterday we got the results of the blood tests.  It was not good news.  My cat was experiencing kidney failure without the presence of any infection.  There was nothing to do and nothing to treat.  My cat was dying.

I had 2 choices.  I could allow the cat to starve as all of his other organs shut down.  Or I could allow him to die quickly and humanely.  If there had been a way to cure whatever his problem was, I’d have done it.  But I could not be cruel and allow him to die a slow death.  So we opted for the second choice.

My husband took him back to the vet last night and buried him today.  I could not go this time.  I have taken a prior cat (at age 22) for the same procedure and could not do it this time.

But it still hurts.  I told my husband I had the cat longer than him.  I have never been without a cat in the house — in 59 years.

I’m going to try to focus on that image that made me smile just days before – the cat walking around in the shower.  Wish I’d taken a picture [my husband might not agree 😉 ].

Read Full Post »

Today was the last day of vacation, after a week of relaxing in Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area.  Yellowstone is one of my favorite places in the entire country — and having been to all 50 states, I have seen some wonderful sights.  But Yellowstone is a place that is continuing creation in a way, since it sits atop a volcano and has incredible geothermal features.  It has an inexplicable energy that permeates the park.  So I was rather reluctant to leave.
Another reason for my reluctance to leave was the long drive ahead of us.  We had to travel back to Salt Lake City, UT.  Tomorrow we will fly from Salt Lake City back to the East Coast . . . and home.  We decided to take the “low roads” back instead of the highways we had traveled to get to Yellowstone last week.  We prefer being able to take breaks as well as having more interesting sights to see.  We began by exiting Yellowstone through the south gate, which led us into Teton National Park.  The mountains there are breathtaking.
However, after a long morning of driving (we left at 8 AM and it was now 12:30 PM) we arrived at Afton, Wyoming.  We had taken this route on our first trip to Yellowstone and I remembered the antler arch that stretches across the street (see photo above).  The town is quaint and historic.  You can read more about it on Wikipedia (search Afton, WY) or at the town’s own website http://aftonwyoming.net .
This story is not about the population (about 2000), the income levels, unemployment rates or any other demographic statistic.  It is also not about how scenic Afton is nor about the activities available.  It is not even about the fact that Afton, WY boasts an Olympic gold medalist (Rulon Gardner).
This story is about people behaving well, showing kindness and compassion and bringing a warm smile to me after a long ride.
We stopped at the Burger King located in Afton for one of our stretch breaks and decided to have a quick burger to hold us until we got to Salt Lake City for dinner.  While my husband ordered, I chose a table and sat down.  I chose the right table as things turned out.
There were 3 elderly ladies in front of my husband.  As they got their orders, they were assisted by one of the Burger King employees to get their food to the table they chose directly behind me.  As the party went past me, I noticed that the Burger King employee who helped them was a young woman with Down’s Syndrome.  When the ladies realized that they needed ketchup, she offered to get it for them and returned with 3 small cups of ketchup on a tray.   After the ketchup was delivered, one of the elderly women tipped her (no, I don’t know how much) and she was so pleased.  So was I.  I admire a place that respects handicapped individuals and I respect people who do the same, as the 3 elders did.  They did not patronize this young women.  They treated her with respect.
It was the next event that really solidified my respect for the people of Afton.  After assisting the 3 women, the young woman sat at a nearby table to do a task that many would find tedious.  She was stacking numerous, loose little paper cups used for ketchup into a bin.  She was taking great pains to be sure the stacks were straight and neat when she accidentally bumped a stack, scattering several dozen paper cups across the floor near her feet.
The young woman was momentarily flustered.  I watched in both pleasure and awe as 2 children, obviously siblings, looked at each other and then went to work.  The boy and girl, in the age range of perhaps 8-11, picked up all of the stray cups off the floor and returned them to the grateful young woman.  Then they simply went into the playroom to meet a parent and left.
Perhaps it seems a small thing to you.  Or perhaps you expect unattended children to act like the ones I described.  Personally, I don’t expect it in this day and age.  I have seen far too many children who pay no attention to anyone or anything except their own interests and desires.  So frankly, I thought this was a big thing.  I thought to myself, “Those parents have done a terrific job of raising their children!”
There may yet be hope for the future.  If parents in Afton, WY can do it right, perhaps more parents can start to figure out how to raise children who are kind, compassionate and respectful.  I looked for the children and parents after I finished eating but they had already departed.  I really wanted to tell the parents how proud they should be of their children.  Since I couldn’t find them, I’m using this post to say what I would have said.
You must be very proud to have children who show respect and caring without being told to.  They did what was helpful and kind.  It may have been a small task but it was done without a second thought.  They didn’t debate if they should help — they just did it.  It really brought me joy to see it and I want to thank you for raising such “good” children. 
If the other children in Afton are raised as well as the 2 I watched, then Afton must be a special place.

 

Read Full Post »

I am not in California but I have had my fill of California drivers.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I like people from California; I even have friends from California.

But California drivers DO NOT BELONG driving in the country.

I am on what should be a relaxing, pleasant vacation in Yellowstone National Park.  It is not my first time visiting Yellowstone.  I am back for the third time because it is one of my favorite places in the country.  I traveled all the way from the East Coast to be here.

Since I am familiar with Yellowstone, I am familiar with the “rules of the road” as well as “bear jams,” “buffalo jams” and “any other animal or interesting sight jams.”  Typically, people are relatively courteous about where they park and how they drive.  But not the California drivers we’ve seen in the past 3 days.

There are many RV’s and campers traveling through Yellowstone.  Yes, they can be a nuisance since they take up so much room on the roads and in the parking areas.  However, most campers are very courteous.  They use the many pullouts that the National Park Service has created to avoid traffic back-ups due to hill-climbing large vehicles.

Apparently, this rule of courtesy does not apply to California RV’s and campers.  The only vehicles we have had to follow at speeds well under the speed limit, often in caravans of a dozen or more cars, have been vehicles from California.  I’m all for taking the time to smell the roses but this time I could have walked ahead, picked a bouquet of roses and gotten back into the car when it caught up to me!

California drivers are the only drivers who have cut us off when pulling out of turnouts.  They are the only ones who have not signaled their turns.  I have seen California drivers nearly cause numerous rear-end accidents.  Some have done this by suddenly jamming on their brakes to see an animal.  Others have done it by paying more attention to the sights than the car in front of them.  Either way they have caused the kind of adrenaline rush that is not supposed to occur at Yellowstone.

Yesterday we were driving through a herd of buffalo – they were on both sides of the road.  There was a convenient pullout that most others had used to stay clear of the buffalo while still having an excellent view.  Then a car from California came barreling along.  The folks in that car jammed on the brakes at the end of pullout in the center of the road, jumped out of their car and ran up to within 50 yards of the buffalo.  You might as well wave a red flag in front of the bison.  Then they stopped, took pictures and literally ran back to the car.

It is the kind of moment that gives park rangers nightmares.

When you enter Yellowstone National Park, the ranger gives you a newspaper, which has really good information on how to behave around various animals, as well as information on their temperaments.  Either these folks from California cannot read or, more likely, they did not take the time to read and learn about what they were seeing.  If they did, they’d have known that buffalo can run as fast as horses, have hair-trigger tempers and fall tends to be mating season for most of the large mammals, making them more irritable than usual.

Today put the exclamation point on my opinion regarding the California drivers.  In the morning, on our way into the park, not one but two vehicles from California could not be patient.  They decided they had to pass the vehicle in front of them (gratefully we were behind them).  That would not seem to be very irresponsible — unless you saw that they were passing on curves!  They did just that.  Two fairly close calls occurred.

The topper was the young woman from California whom we followed out of the park this evening.  She tried to pass the first time but had to pull back into her lane because there was a curve and the road was quite narrow.  She passed three other vehicles, one at a time, all on curves.  She made a right turn from the left lane.  She attempted to pass again on a straightaway — right at a pullout where many cars were stopping to view the elk along the river.  Fortunately she was able to pull back into the lane before she hit the car that was several vehicles ahead of her.  It was making a left into the pullout and she’d have T-boned the driver’s side of the car.  She exited the park about 10 seconds before we did.

I was glad when we no longer had to follow her.  I could breathe again!

I will add a final disclaimer, of course.  I am definitely speaking about vehicles with California license plates.  They could be rental vehicles with drivers from anywhere.  But then why would it be only California vehicles making these rude and foolish moves?

Ah well, at least we know which cars to watch out for when we’re on these roads.

Read Full Post »

Okay, technically Labor Day is tomorrow.  But it is Labor Day weekend, the final big holiday of the “summer season.”  And what am I doing?  Laboring!!  I guess I can at least be grateful it isn’t the kind of labor that comes with a baby at the end – been there, done that.  But yes, I am hard at work for the past 2 days.  I will be tomorrow as well.

What am I doing to take up all this time?  As usual, I am calling the rez.  Specifically, I am calling as many of the 44 households who were to receive food orders last weekend in the 2 areas I serve to determine whether the food was delivered or not, whether it was in good condition when it arrived and if there were any other problems with the delivery.

I had tried to meet with the food delivery volunteers for my areas when I was out visiting my Lakota friends a couple of weeks ago.  We were never able to connect (phone tag, even on the rez!).

You would think this would be an easy task.  You would be wrong.

I have not be able to reach 25% of the people on the list because their phones have been disconnected or are “no longer a working number.”  Do 25% of the folks you try to call lose their phone numbers because they can’t pay their bills?  I doubt it.

Another 25% are not reachable for a variety of reasons:  no one is home; they have never set up the voicemail box; the box is full; they don’t have a voice mail box; they are “not available” which can be code for “they have no signal where they are” or “they’ve turned off the phone to save power.”

There is a small percent, perhaps 10%, in which someone answers the phone but the person I ask for is not there.  So I try to check anyway, “Do you know if the food was delivered last Sunday?”  Nope, no idea.  It always puzzles me.  You are obviously at home enough to answer the phone for someone else but you don’t know if they got food.  (Pausing to shrug my shoulders – I know how loose home life can be on Pine Ridge).

Now we come to the rest, the calls where I actually reach the person I am trying to call.  It should be a simple task, a few quick questions.

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you will know there is no such thing as a “simple task” when it comes to the rez.  There are the people who want to know when they will get a sponsor.  Answer:  I don’t know.  The economy is bad, there a more natural disasters than we can keep up with and more people are torn among many places to be philanthropic.

Next question:  Can you give my sponsor a message?  Answer:  Absolutely!  A related question:  Do you know why I haven’t heard from my sponsor in “x” number of days, weeks, months?  Answer:  No, but I will try to find out.

Most people do not respond to the East Coast direct manner of completing this task.  They want to chat a bit, tell you about their lives and what’s been happening around the rez.  It takes time.  It’s probably something of a blessing in disguise that I can’t reach everyone.  If I did, with the average call lasting at least 20 minutes, I would have been on the phone for at least 15 hours!  Talk about labor!!

There are occasionally calls that take longer than the 20 minute average.  Like the call I made yesterday when I connected with a grandmother who had not received her food delivery.  Not a good thing, in and of itself.  But she proceeded to tell me about her 5 year old grandson who is just starting kindergarten.  He had no shoes that fit.  He needed school clothes.

She told me she had just been diagnosed with diabetes on top of her problems with asthma.  She thinks (and I suspect she is right) that the black mold in her home is responsible for the asthma problems.

She went on to tell me more about the house.  The heating vents are not in the holes where the heat comes out.  When the housing authority folks came over to fix them, the “fix” they proposed was to duct tape them in.  Okay.  She has so much trouble heating the home in the winter that she uses her oven for heat.

She moved on to her finances.  She is on Social Security and receives about $600 per month.  She must pay for everything out of that money.  She gets no support except for food stamps for her grandson.  That means she must pay for electricity, heat, clothing, cleaning supplies, phone, cable and the inevitable food and personal hygiene supplies not covered by the food stamps.  She told me her electric bill is around $250 per month and the cable is $50 per month.  She confided that the bundle – cable, internet and phone – was $113 per month, way more than she could afford.

With half her income used up by just 2 items, you can see how a food delivery that did not appear would be a disaster.  She is very worried.

I have one more day to complete this task.  Then I will send a report to the persons who direct the food program with the information I have gleaned.

But there will be no rest from my labors.  There is always something to be done for the rez.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »