Archive for the ‘Zest for life’ Category

I have been pretty “quiet” lately thanks to the work volume all of the wonderful folks who have been stepping up to become sponsors for children and elders on Pine Ridge Reservation since the 20/20 episode aired.  I literally have not had time to write.

That is about to change!

This evening I called an elder to give her a sponsor for the 5 year old granddaughter she cares for.  The longer we spoke, the more I knew I had to share this story.  I’m sharing it because I am so far past angry I can’t keep this to myself.  It is difficult to type when all you can see is red, but I will give it my best effort.

[scrape … scrape … scrape … sorry, the soapbox makes a bit of noise]

I asked Grandmother how her granddaughter, who is in first grade, was doing.  She told me that the girl was happy but having some difficulty in school.  She was told the child may be dyslexic.  That will mean a struggle for her.

I told her I had a sponsor for the girl and she was very happy with the news.  We continued to talk as I confirmed the address information.  It was then that I began to steam.

This little girl’s family had moved away and left Grandmother with a trailer to live in with the girl.  If you could hear me, I would tell you to close your eyes and picture it as I describe it.  Instead I will try to paint you the picture with my words on this page.

The trailer is in a group of trailers.  It is very old.  Grandmother worries that the roof will come off in the wind that comes with storms – and in South Dakota that is often.  It seems that the wind is always blowing on Pine Ridge Rez.

The trailer has no running water or sewer connection.  They were using a nearby outdoor faucet for water, carting several jugs a day.  Some of the neighboring men “rigged” up the sewer pipe so they could use the toilet, flushing by pouring some of the water they had carried into the tank of the toilet.  HOWEVER . . . there was some kind of water line break in the area and the tribal water department had to shut off the water.  Yes, the outdoor faucet that they were using to obtain water is now dry!  The tribe has not made the repair that would allow the faucet to be turned back on.  Now they have to go to someone else’s home to obtain the water they need and carry it home.

Following the dotted line . . . or broken water line, let’s see the additional results of the lack of water and sewer connections. 

The most striking consequence is that Grandmother cannot get a propane tank without the water and sewer connected.  Is that important?  It depends on your perspective, I guess.  Do you think eating is important?  Do you think it’s important to have heat in the South Dakota winters?  Personally I think they are both things none of us would want to go without.  So how does Grandmother cook?  She uses a hot plate or electric skillet.  How does she keep herself and her young granddaughter warm in the poorly insulated trailer?  She uses several small electric space heaters.  The pair sleep in the living room.  Grandmother has hung a blanket in the hall doorway to keep as much of the heat as possible in their small living area.

Picture two old-fashioned thermometers, the kind with the bulb of mercury on the bottom.  One of the thermometers is measuring the temperature outside the trailer.  The second thermometer is measuring the electric bill.  As the mercury in the first thermometer drops (actually plummets at night) during the winter, the second thermometer’s mercury is exploding through the top of the stem like a volcanic eruption!  By spring, the electric bill will be too high to pay – causing the electric to be cut off and a $250 reconnect fee to be added to the next bill.  This is what will happen this winter as Grandmother tries to feed and warm herself and her granddaughter.

Are you beginning to get upset yet?  No?!  Okay then, it’s time for the clincher.

Do you remember that flimsy roof I referred to above?  That roof has another serious problem – it leaks badly!  When it rains, the water comes in through the light fixtures.  It comes down the walls.  Grandmother’s mattress in the bedroom can’t be used – it’s wet.  Even if they had running water, the bathroom would be unusable – the flooring and carpet is wet.  Besides, after her granddaughter got a small electrical shock when turning on the bathroom light to brush her teeth, Grandmother decided it was better not to use the bathroom at all.  So all bathing and tooth brushing and laundry is done in the kitchen.

I asked Grandmother whether she had sought any assistance to get the problems resolved.  She told me that she had.  She told the folks at housing.  A man came out and made one small repair.  He never returned, in spite of her calls.  Her district representative to the tribal council has tried to help her out but he has had as much success as she has had.

[okay, breathe . . . in . . . in . . . in very slowly, then out . . . out . . . out slowly, control the breath to control the rising anger . . . again . . . okay]


Is this how elders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the wise people of the Lakota, should be living?  Is this how they should be treated when they ask for help?

We ALL know the OST has no money, though why they don’t is harder to figure out.  But the fact is they have people.  They need to be training more people to do the very repairs that elders need and can no longer do for themselves.  The tribe needs to invest in their own vocational school to train plumbers, electricians, construction workers, carpenters, etc.  These trained workers could be licensed.  They could form companies and do work for an income.  They could also, in exchange for their education, give back to their communities by performing the repairs for elders for free, as a sign of the respect due to the elders.  The tribe needs to work at making it easier to do business on the reservation — especially for registered tribal members.

Lakota culture and values state that elders are to be respected; that women and children are sacred.  But it is only lip service that the tribe gives.  They spend more time with politics and nepotism guiding their decisions than the truth of their ancestors.

So I am left with the question of how I can help this particular Grandmother.  But I am also left with the bigger question.  There are many more grandmothers on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Many do not have the energy or ability to lobby constantly for the repairs they need.  I am trying to use the steam I am still feeling about this to brainstorm ideas on what would help.

If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.  It doesn’t matter whether they are feasible or not at this point.  I just want to know that you think this situation is abominable and how you think it could be changed.


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Well, be careful what you ask for.

I asked for more sponsors and what did I get – more sponsors, of course.  I have that kind of life – often getting what I ask for or need.  I don’t mean an excess of anything – I’m not rich by any means.  I figured out long ago that whatever the universe has in store for me, it is not getting rich by winning a lottery or some other prize.

But I get what I need – including material goods like a furnace (another story, another time).  I have never lacked food, heat or clothing.  I don’t have much desire for material things anyway, so it works out well.

But sponsors?  I asked for them because I had not had any in a few weeks and was getting concerned.  Now I have 2 – actually 3, but one is already placed and I just need to get the information together.

I can hear you from here . . . So what’s my problem?  I should be happy and grateful.  I should be excited that I can call some families on the rez and help them with their daily life.  Why I am whining about all this?  Just shut up and get to work!

I think my problem is depression.  Someone I am close to has be dealing with it for a couple of years now.  So, my dear amateur psychologists, can it be that depression is contagious?  Oh, I’ve have a few hours of depression here and there.  But never have I felt like this feels – as I wrote in my last post, it feels as if someone has snuffed out the pilot light on my passion for life.

The work will get done soon.  The sponsors and families will be called and connected.  I will do my job.  But it will be done on a superficial, intellectual level if I continue to feel like this.  I will have to force myself to do something that I was doing for the joy of it just a week or so ago.

It makes me angry because I don’t think this problem stems from my work and I don’t want that to suffer.  I know my writing has suffered because I have no passion for it at the moment either.

I am on too many medications already to add anymore.  I am way past menopausal.  I know intellectually the kinds of things to try in order to dispel this deep gloom (exercise, proper nutrition and sleep, sharing with someone) but they have not yet had any effect.  I still have that feeling of something sitting on my chest (no, not a heart attack).

So if you are someone who prays or sends white light or whatever, I will take all of that right now!  I think I need a small miracle so I can get back to the joy of life I used to feel.  Otherwise I’ll have to list my soapbox on Craig’s list . . . I wonder what category I would place it in.

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For the past week or so, I have been unable to motivate myself to do anything creative.  I have been less than passionate about much of anything.  I haven’t been writing (so you’ve noticed), I haven’t been enjoying music (there are reasons), I haven’t been calling the rez much (I have no sponsors right now anyway).

Yesterday I took a day off for myself – a kind of retreat day.  I took everything I might need in case I found myself “awakened” by a muse hiding under a rock or behind a street sign.  I had the camera, a couple of books to read, my notebook computer and a regular notebook in case I felt compelled to write, my iPhone with musics and CD’s for music, a snack (I haven’t been very interested in food either – not a good sign) and a few other things.  I even remembered my reading glasses!

So what did I do?  Drove a while, sat in the car, shopped for 10 minutes and read for about twice that.  Not one picture taken, not one word written.  I did eat the snack though I was surprised that I was not even slightly tempted by the treats when I stopped for coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.  I did listen to a bit of music while I drove – but distractedly, not attentively.  I found my mind was unfocused, like a blurry photo.

I stopped for dinner before my class because I knew I had to or my blood sugar would fall through the car floor.  I wasn’t very hungry and didn’t really care what I ate.

I’m getting the chores done without problems – no piles of laundry or dishes hanging around.  I’ve even pulled some weeds.  But there is no passion inside that I can find.  I feel like the pilot light of my passion for life was snuffed out by someone and I am not able to relight it.

This is a puzzle for me because I have always been a very passionate person.  I guess I’ll have to keep looking for a spark for the pilot light.

Today my fibromyalgia has flared up in a way that it had not flared up in a while.  I’m trying to convince myself that it’s because of a poor night’s sleep.

The flare-up is the overall body aching deep inside every muscle kind.  If you have ever had the flu and felt the all over body aches that accompany it, you have an idea of what this kind of flare-up feels like.  I took my prescription of 800 mg of ibuprofen with minimal reduction of pain.  I can see a dose of my muscle relaxant in my bedtime future tonight, if I hope to get any sleep at all.  It doesn’t seem fair that trying to sleep should exacerbate pain, but it can.

Oh yes, what caused the poor night’s sleep last night?  It wasn’t pain.  It was the second night in a row that the stereo turned on “by itself” in the middle of the night.  I’d gone to bed about 11:15 pm – early of me.  At 3:15 am, I awoke to Taylor Dayne singing “Soul Dancing.”  Since the stereo is in another room and has not been used in days, at first I wasn’t sure what was going on.  Where was the music coming from?  Was I dreaming?

I finally figured it out and got up to go turn off the stereo.  Do you think I could fall back to sleep?  Of course not!  So I got up, wide awake, because I didn’t want to wake my husband who had work in the morning.  I sat here on the computer playing idle games until I was sleepy again about 5:30 am.  I waited though – my husband gets up at 6 am, so I figured I ought to let him sleep.

I took my morning meds and went back to bed at 6 am.  I figured, since my husband said he’d feed the cat, I would not be bothered and should be able to get a few more good hours.  Wrong!  I just tossed and turned, getting achier by the minute.  I finally just got up again and have been here ever since.

Could it be the weather making the aches and pains worse?  It’s a dank, dreary day and a thunderstorm has just rolled through.  Most doctors don’t think much of the weather theory, but they aren’t in this body.

I’m going to have to go now.  I need to turn on some lights because the sky has gotten grayer with the storm.  I need to take some more pain medicine.  The first dose never did much anyway.  It’s time to make dinner – bison burgers on the grill (in a thunderstorm?).

Here’s hoping things look brighter all the way around tomorrow.

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