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Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Okay, keep the noise down.  I know, I haven’t written in a while.  Where have I been, what have I been doing?  Not much that was different from before.  I was just trying to manage my energy.  Sometimes fibromyalgia requires that.  So I have been doing the most urgent things and putting the rest out of sight and out of mind.  But my energy seems to be returning and I hope to be “spouting off” on a more regular basis again.

To begin, let me tell you where I am.  I flew to Florida yesterday to visit a dear friend in Leesburg.  I’ve written about him before though you would not have known it.  But he’s having tough times and needs to be cheered and encouraged.  I flew into the Orlando airport from the airport in Hartford, CT.  This is only the second time I have traveled solo; the prior time was last month when I went to SD for the blessing of my friends’ house on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I will say that was easier, even though I had to cross the entire O’Hare Airport to make my connection.  Both flights were pleasant enough.  The difference is driving.

There are far too many drivers for my liking in Florida — definitely more than in South Dakota.  I’m not a big fan of traffic!  But I made it safely and not too stresses.

The images I’d like to leave you with are the ones that greeted me as I drove from the airport.

The first was the sun.  It was just above the western horizon as I left.  It looked huge, at least three times the side the sun usually appears.  Due to the slight haze in the sky, it appeared as a gigantic orange ball.  However, it did not have the glare that the sun usually has as you drive toward it.  So you could actually look at it and appreciate the beauty.  I wished my camera was not packed.  The sky was amazing shades of blue and what we, as children, had called “sky blue pink” for lack of more accurate color names.  Perhaps you know the colors I mean.

As the sun was dipping in the western sky, the full moon was rising in the eastern sky.  It, too, looked immense.  It seemed to fill the sky.  It was simply beautiful and very bright.

I am a big nature fan and it almost felt as if these beauties were God’s gift to me for daring to take this trip and travel alone again.  I knew I was grateful for the gift.

I think it is so important to accept the gifts we are given, especially when we aren’t expecting them.  When ;you are a giver, it is important to remember how to receive.  It helps you understand the other person, the recipient of your own gifts.

Time to run.  But I promise there will be more to read now.  I’ve missed writing.  That too is a gift.

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ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

Over a year ago, I was contacted by a researcher/producer for ABC News.  She had found one of my blog entries (in which I was chastising ABC for not paying attention to the disasters in the west, especially on the reservations).  She told me they were working on a Diane Sawyer prime time special in her “A Hidden America” series.  The prior one had been on life in Appalachia.  This time they were planning to profile Pine Ridge Reservation.

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that there is not much that fires up my hopefully righteous passion more than talking about life on Pine Ridge Reservation.  So talk we did, for almost an hour.  And we emailed – resources that they might find helpful.

I had heard that Diane Sawyer was out on the rez this past summer when I was there (no, we didn’t happen to cross paths traveling the approximately 2 million acres on the rez.  But I did here that she went up to KILI Radio one of the days I was there.  Try to keep that quiet when you’re talking to DJ’s.

I am giving you a link to the promo for the show.  Please, if you have ever enjoyed or been moved by anything I have written, I implore you to watch the 20/20 program on Friday at 10 PM.  See with your own eyes the good and the bad of Pine Ridge.  You may not find it possible but this place does exist.  I have been there and I suspect they will not tell you the worst story nor show you the poorest homes.  But it will still be worse than you expect.  After all, the living conditions on Pine Ridge rival those in Haiti and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge rivals that of Burundi.

I work for an organization that works to support self-sufficiency – not an easy thing to have on Pine Ridge.  Many of us work to keep the dam from breaking by trying to improve the life of one person at a time.  The big picture can be truly overwhelming.

If you can’t watch the show when it airs, record it or have a friend record it for you.

I will be honest.  I prayed for someone with greater reach than mine to focus attention on the needs of Pine Ridge.  I did not know (or care) who it would be.  I am grateful to ABC News because I know that if more people see the conditions, they will be moved to respond.  I believe in the American people and I know in my heart that things can improve.  I do not have the answers but I know it can be done.

Thank YOU for helping them to raise awareness.  You can do that by sharing this blog post with everyone you know.

Oh yes, here’s the link to the promo:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/hidden-america-children-plains-14708439#.TpOhj9LOE2E.facebook

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I spoke with a young mother last night to try to assist her.  She had moved from Oklahoma to Pine Ridge, SD to help care for her mother after her mom had some surgery.  Her mom has other medical conditions in addition to the one that required surgery, had been life-flighted off the reservation previously and certainly needed the extra help.  Her mom, however, has gone back to work early because of the dire need for income.

I said this was a young mother who moved back to Pine Ridge.  She did not come alone.  She brought her 4 children with her.  Her children range in age from 11 to 18.

It has been a culture shock moving from the Cherokee Nation, where her children are enrolled members, to the Lakota Nation, to which she has transferred her enrollment when she moved back there.

In Oklahoma, she was enrolled in a college program majoring in Criminal Justice.  Back in Pine Ridge, she is enrolled at the Oglala Lakota College, which does not have that major.  So she will have to choose something else to complete her degree.

When she and the children moved back, they were given her grandfather’s trailer to live in.  However, because neither he nor other family had a job, the electricity was shut off for lack of payment.  They were not the only ones, of course, so candles and generators in the neighborhood were the norm.  But generators take fuel, too, so they are run intermittently, as hot water is needed – not solely for TV or lights.  Apparently while she was at her mother’s home, the children had candle lit so they could see.  A neighbor had turned on a generator and did have the TV on while the water was heating.  So her children we to the neighbor’s house to watch TV . . . forgetting the candle.  Unfortunately, unattended candles can be a fire hazard and this one was no exception.  The trailer caught fire and burned down, taking all their possessions as well.  Even worse, they had some historic documents and items in the trailer which have now been lost to both the family and the tribe.  She is so saddened by that loss.

I explained to this mom that the family had been referred to us and explained both the sponsorship and OKINI programs.  I told her I would put them on both, with an emphasis on the OKINI due to their urgent needs.  She began to cry.  She apologized for the tears and said that it has been very difficult to get help through the tribe.  It seems that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, that no one communicates with anyone else and that there is “no money left” in any program.

She said that would never occur with the Cherokee Nation.  They are organized and it is easy to navigate their systems.  They are honoring and trying to maintain their culture while at the same time fitting in with the current day.  Moving back to Pine Ridge, from one Indian nation to another, has been a Native American culture shock!

She and her four children went to the tribe for assistance with housing after the trailer burned.  They were told that they qualified for assistance but it would take some time.  This young woman, who is strong and articulate, was not about to let her children be homeless.  They have moved into her great-grandmother’s “old house” that was built sometime around the 1900’s.  It is a house, but it is small!  It contains a kitchen and one other room.  The only furniture they have is a full-sized bed.  Since there are 5 family members, the 2 older children are going at night to sleep on their grandmother’s couch.  They have no appliances, no table or chairs, no food storage (no food for that matter) and very little clothing.  They do have someone who is willing to build another room onto the place if they can materials from they tribe (they are not holding their breath on that).

After we talked about all the hardships she and her children have been enduring, she proceeded to tell me the story of her pre-teen nephew.  Her brother, who still lives in Oklahoma, is the boy’s biological dad.  However, when the mother was pregnant with the boy, she left the biological dad and moved to Pine Ridge to live with another man.  She listed that man as the father on the boy’s birth certificate.  After a short time, she left that man . . . and left the boy with his non-biological father as well.

Apparently this boy has been abused since he was quite small — physically, mentally, emotionally (being told his biological father was dead after he found out about him) and perhaps sexually.  The boy finally called the police to try to find safety.  After a court hearing, they placed him back with the abuser.  The young woman fears for her nephew’s life and wants to help the boy.  But again she is frustrated by the lack of organization and lack of urgency she finds in the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  I have connected her to my Lakota friend, who has had a lot of experience with the juvenile system on the rez, as you know if you read my accounts on this blog.  I will try to give her other connections as I can.

This young woman is passionate, articulate, intelligent and driven to make a difference for her people.  I hope and pray that she will find a way to do that.

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A friend of my daughter’s just posted on Facebook about something that I’ve been saying since yesterday as well.

*scrape*  *scrape*  “Sorry for the noise, dragging my soapbox out.”

For many of us in New England, Hurricane Irene did not live up to her billing.  That isn’t to say that there was no damage or that there aren’t many folks who are still being inconvenienced by power outages.  There was damage and many are still in the dark.  But Irene had been billed as the “storm of the century” and hyped by every media outlet and government agency as nature’s version of Armageddon.  It didn’t turn out to be that way for most in the area where I live.

In my yard, for example, there were some very small branches that fell from the trees, leaves and a little bit of water in the basement.  We went for a drive yesterday afternoon and did not see much worse.  Yes, there were trees broken and fallen here and there.  Only one or two had fallen on or even close to a house.  Most of the fallen trees we saw either partially blocked a road, fell on power lines (hence the outages) or simply fell harmlessly in a yard or field.  Clean up work to be sure, but not significant damage.

If you were one of the few people who had a tree fall on your house, you did indeed suffer a catastrophe.  However, if you are out there just raking up leaves, you are in the majority and lucky.  We did not see roofs, shingles or siding blown off houses; we did not see signs blown down; we did not see shattered windows.

The problem is that people are complaining that it wasn’t “bad enough.”  After all, they went out and bought water and bread so they wouldn’t starve for a few days.  They were glued to their TV sets (til the power went out) watching for news of the devastation being wrought by the storm.  Perhaps some were realizing how tied to electronics they are when the power was no longer available.

I think folks should be grateful instead of complaining.  They should be acknowledging that we “dodged a bullet” on this one.  It was a HUGE storm!  We were lucky that it didn’t cause more damage here.  We were fortunate that the storm reduced in fury before it hit much of New England.  Mother Nature is notoriously fickle and change is one of her basic character traits.  She is also a bit of a trickster!  She loves to change a few small things to see how we respond (like taking some steam out of a hurricane or putting a tornado in an area which typically doesn’t have them).  Mother Nature revels in being unpredictable.  Just when we think we have her figured out with our knowledge and our technology, she throws us a curve ball to test us.

She isn’t always kind with the tests – there are plenty of times when things are worse than we had expected.  This time, in our neck of the woods, we got lucky and things were not as bad as expected.

So why are people complaining?!

Why are people blaming the weather folks for Mother Nature’s vagaries?  Why are folks unhappy that their homes were not demolished?  Why are they sad and whining about the fact that they prepared “for nothing?”

It wasn’t nothingeverywhere!  There were places where the predictions were spot-on.  There are places where people have been flooded out of their homes, where trees fell in the wrong places and where the winds tore up homes.

 

Personally, I think our society is in a sad state when people have so lost touch with Mother Nature that they expect to be able to perfectly know, predict and control her.  In the profound words of an old acquaintance,

 

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I’m very excited!!  I don’t usually get to go out to Pine Ridge from the East Coast twice in one year.  But that’s exactly what I’m going to do! And actually, within about 2 months of my last visit.

I wrote not long ago about my Lakota friends who had been waiting so long on the housing list (nearly 1o years).  Finally they had gotten a house!  I was so happy to get that phone call.

In the weeks that have passed since that call, my friend has changed.  She is truly happy for the first time I can remember in the 6 years I have known her.  I don’t mean that she hasn’t been happy about things that have occurred before.  But it is different now.  She is a happy person now, not just a tired, worn person happy about getting a package or seeing her grandchild.

I can hear it in her voice.  I can see and feel it in her emails and Facebook posts.  She has changed.  I think she finally believes that something really good can happen in her life.

It’s amazing what a place to call your own can do for your soul.

They are so happy to have this home that they are planning to have the home blessed and to have a celebratory meal afterward.  Of course, my husband and I were invited.  But since we had just been there, it really didn’t seem to be financially possible.

A minor miracle occurred when my parents’ house finally sold and I recently got a very small inheritance.  Small – but enough for me to do some good things for people and still have enough to do a few things for myself, like fly back to South Dakota for this celebration.  My husband won’t be able to get the time off from work, so I’ll have to go alone.  But a month or so ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that it would be possible at all.  Thanks, Mom.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at all nervous about traveling that far from home alone for the first time.  But it will be an adventure and there will be great joy waiting for me when I arrive.

There isn’t much more to say, except perhaps,

CELEBRATE!!

Sing it with me . . . http://youtu.be/3GwjfUFyY6M

 

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I thought yesterday I had a great new story about a Lakota woman who had some real dreams that were being hindered by life on the rez.  That was before today’s phone call from a sponsor who had distressing news from the elder she sponsors.  Now I had another story line.  What should I do?  Write 2 stories or try to combine them?

One the surface, it didn’t seem as though these stories had a lot in common.  But I never just stay on the surface, I guess.  The more I thought about the 2 women, the more I realized that both these women were being frustrated and stressed by the conditions on Pine Ridge.  In the words of the Law and Order narrator, “These are their stories . . .”

Story 1

Woman #1 is in her early 50’s.  She has been wheelchair bound about 15 years as a result of an auto accident – she was rear-ended by a drunk driver.  I have written about her before, describing the small, non-accessible apartment she lives in.

Yesterday, when I spoke to her, she told me about a house she yearns to have.  She wasn’t asking me for it.  She was just expressing a yearning for a home.  It already has a ramp entry and everything.  She has been making the rounds of the tribal offices involved, trying to find out what she needs to do to be eligible to the house.  She also told me the story of why it is so important to her to have that house – or one like it.  At the very least she needs something bigger than the apartment she is in.

She told me about her 2 cousins who are in their 30’s.  They are sisters who used to live with their parents.  They are also mentally challenged.

When they were young, they were in the “special education” classes at school.  They were mocked and called “retarded” by the other kids at the school.  Rez schools are small and they could not seem to avoid it.  They transferred to another school.  It was further away from their home in a different rez settlement, but they did not endure the same taunting and bullying there.  After their schooling was complete, they lived with their parents.  They helped with the daily chores and were capable of taking care of their own personal care.

Their mother died first and more recently, their father died as well.  The only family they had left were an older brother and sister.  The brother did not have much to do with the family.  The older sister was appointed guardian of the 2 handicapped girls.  She went to court to have them placed in a home with the stipulation that they must be kept together.  Then their sister moved away from the reservation.

The 2 handicapped sisters were placed in a kind of group home — in Hot Springs, SD (over 60 miles & one hour away), not on the reservation they had known all their lives.  They are the only Native American women at the home.  There is one Native American man who is much older than they are.  They are very unhappy to be so far from home and from anyone they know.

The woman I spoke to on the phone would like to have her cousins come live with her.  She is the only one who has visited them (a difficult trip for this paraplegic woman).  She has arranged with the court to have them visit with her for a couple of weekends, especially for the 4th of July fireworks.  The court has said it would give her custody if she had room for them to live.

And so we are back to the house this wheelchair bound, paraplegic woman desires so much.  It isn’t just that, as she said, “I’m 50 years old and want a place of my own.”  It is that she needs the extra room so that she can bring her 2 handicapped cousins back to the reservation, the only home they know, to live with her.  Officials have already told her it cannot be done while she is in the small apartment that barely accommodates her and her wheelchair.

She told me that she watches “that show with Ty Pennington” and thinks, “Hey Ty, I need your help.  Can you come to the rez and help me?”  She said she cries right along with the families that get the new homes because she knows how much it means to them.

She is a sweet, gentle woman with a lot of love to share.  I do not know how to find her a new home.  I usually deal with the smaller things, like toilet paper and school supplies.  So I will leave it to you, readers, if you know of any resources that can help this woman.

Story 2

Late in the afternoon I got a call from a sponsor.  She had just been speaking with one of the two elders she sponsored.  The elder was very upset because she was basically being evicted.

Apparently one of this elder’s teenaged daughters is acting out and getting into trouble.  The landlord, who is somehow related to the elder, “doesn’t want any trouble,” so he told the elder that she and her daughters had to leave.

I’ve written about this woman before as well, in fact quite recently after we visited her on our trip to the rez in June (the second story in “Two Amazing Lakota Women 6-24-11).  I had written about the crushing poverty I had found at her home.  Now she was to lose even that.  She had called the sponsor, crying, with nowhere to go.  She needed a home.

She told the sponsor that she would be forced to move to a shelter in Rapid City since she had no one on the rez who could take her in.  I thought of this woman whose health is so fragile, who depends on oxygen tanks for life, and I wondered how she would survive in a shelter.  What would her daughters do?  Would they take care of their mother or set out on their own and leave her alone in the world?

I do not have any way to get housing for people on the reservation.  There is a severe housing shortage.  The tribe needs thousands more homes if everyone who needs one were to have one.  I will make some calls to find out what is available to assist this woman.

My title with ONE Spirit is “Area Service Coordinator.”  But it means that I try to match people on the rez with the services that we, as an organization, supply — OKINI, food, wood, sponsors.  I am not intended to be a social worker for the two areas I serve.  I do sometimes feel like one.

Sometimes, all I feel is frustrated.

Frustrated that I am not aware of all the services and programs available to individuals on Pine Ridge Reservation.

Frustrated that the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) does not have the means to meet the needs of the Oyate (their people) and does not appear to manage what they do have well.

Frustrated that the OST does not have a better way to communicate with the people about resources that are available to them.

Frustrated that a culture which values family, which considers women and children sacred, doesn’t have ways to assist those very groups in their dire need.

As I always say, I don’t have the answers, just the questions.

Right now, I also have a lot of frustration that I would be happy to share.

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I wish I could have been here to get the call!  But I was out with a friend. I’m going to tell you what the message said but I do wish you could hear it as I did.  There was SO much emotion behind those words.

The message was from my Lakota friend and she said,

Beeee, guess whaaatt!!!  We got a house!!!!!!!!!  Oh my God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Call me back!!!!!!!!!!

That’s right!  My Lakota friends, who have been on the housing list for a home of their own for longer than I’ve known them (that’s 6 years), have finally and officially gotten a house.  A home of their own.

I called her back right away.  They were in the car on the way back from signing the papers.  I have never, in the 6 years I’ve known her, heard so much joy and excitement in her voice.  We talked about where the house is and what her new address will be.  She was going to be going through a cell phone “dead zone” (the rez has many!) so we agreed to talk later.

This is what I know:

The house is half of a duplex in one of the tribal housing areas.  They will have 3 bedrooms and space and heat.  Not like the house they rented before – that little blue house on the hill I wrote about and showed you pictures of before.  Now I don’t want you to think this one will be brand new or even in tip-top shape.  I’m sure it will need work.  But it will have running water and an indoor bathroom!  They’ll be able to shower at home rather than at a relative’s house.  They will have some privacy.  They will not need to rely on relatives for a roof over their heads.

She did say one thing that puzzled me then and puzzles me still.  She said, “Bee, what did you do?”  I asked her to repeat it because I thought I heard it wrong.  But she repeated the same thing.  I don’t know why she thought I had anything to do with it (I didn’t actively do anything that I’m aware of.) but she seemed to think I had done something to help.  I told her it must be all those prayers I’ve sent up over the years finally paying off.

They get the keys in a few days.  Then they can move in.  Right now it’s time to pack what little they have and collect some of the things we gave them when they were in the little blue house from those who had been storing them for the past year or so.

They plan to have a big dinner and have the house blessed when they move in.  I think that blessing part is an especially good idea given all the problems and heartache this family has gone through.

I don’t want you to think that this family is now on easy street.  They are still unemployed and living under the poverty level.  But not being technically homeless is an incredible step that they have long awaited — mostly patiently.

I think I’m going to see if there’s time to get an order in to the ONE Spirit food program so they will have some extras for the dinner.  I wish I could be there to celebrate with them!!

There is one lesson I learned with this wonderful call.  It is just as hard to be 2,000 miles away when you get a happy call like this as it is when you get a sad call telling you there has been a death in the family.

Hugging from a distance of 2,000 miles just doesn’t work!

 

 

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