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Archive for the ‘Love’ 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.

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In all the chaos and hurry of trying to get everything cleaned up on my desk and in my inbox, I was stopped in my tracks a couple of days ago.  I was reminded of why I do the “work” I do.

I received a call from a Jane Doe, woman on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Okay, that’s nothing new for me.  I talk to a lot of folks there.  Jane is a woman I have actually visited and with whom I have spoken quite a few times.  She is a pleasant, soft-spoken woman who is  a wheelchair bound paraplegic, the result of being rearended in an auto accident by a drunk driver.

You would think Jane would be worried about herself and the fact that she lives in a small, non-ADA compliant apartment.  But several months ago, she told me the story of her two nieces.

Both her nieces are adults.  Both of them are mentally handicapped.  The two women had lived with and been cared for by their parents until the parents passed away.  At that time, one of their adult siblings was given guardianship over the two women.  The guardian decided to put the two women into a home of some sort, many miles away from the reservation and from all that was familiar to them.  No one from their immediate family visited them and, in fact, the guardian moved away to the East Coast and left them alone.

Jane Doe was the only one who visited her nieces, in spite of the fact that her car was constantly breaking down.  The women cried when she left and called her crying when she was at home because they were so lonely.

Jane, though disabled herself, was so concerned about her nieces that she went to the tribal court and sought guardianship of the two women.  They have been allowed to come to visit her — sleeping on the floor of her living room on top of sleeping bags and quilts.

Jane recently received guardianship!  However, they cannot come to stay with her permanently until she has a place for them to sleep that is not the floor. 

The living room is the only place in the apartment that they can stay.  Truly, Jane and her nieces need a proper place to live — one where a wheelchair will fit through the doorways.  But that is not likely to occur any time soon.

Jane would like to have her nieces home by the holidays, she told me when she called to ask if I could help her find a pull-out sofa bed or bunk beds for her nieces.  It’s so hard to say no to someone as generous and kind-hearted as Jane.  But it isn’t what we usually do, since a sofa bed, the best option, can be quite expensive.  I, personally, would hate to ask 38 and 40 year old women to be climbing into bunk beds, however.

We have actually located a sofa bed for $1000 that can be delivered to their home.  I’m not sure if that included tax — probably not, right?  But we don’t have a spare $1000 at this time.

I’m hoping that there will be a donor (or donors) who thinks that these 2 mentally handicapped women deserve to live with their aunt, who is so loving and giving in spite of her own needs.

If you know anyone who would like to help, direct them to ONE Spirit at http://nativeprogress.org to make the donation.

I, personally, am going to keep Jane Doe in my mind as I prepare for the holidays of giving thanks and giving gifts.  She is willing to give of what little she has out of love for her family.  She is a true inspiration to me!

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This is a sad story, so if you are already depressed, you might want to read it another time.  It is the story of an event in the lives of our Lakota friends.

I have met sister/cousin before – actually the first time we visited the rez over 6 year ago.  But I really got to know her better when I visited for the house blessing this past August.

I should probably explain the term “sister/cousin” because it is one I made up to explain the relationship between the woman I will write about and my friend.  My friend’s husband’s mother and this woman’s father were siblings.  So technically the two are first cousins.  However, as often occurs on the reservation, the two ended up being raised in the same household as siblings instead of cousins.  I have found that on the rez, the terms used are more reflective of the situation than the technical, biological reality.  Otherwise, how could I be “Unci (Grandma) Bee”.  I have no grandchildren but I am unci to my friend’s takojas (grandchildren).

So the two are sibling/cousins.  They care about each other as if they were sister and brother.

Sister/cousin was pregnant in August when I visited my friends.  She was expecting her 5th child.  She was happy about it, even though she worries because her husband drinks with his friends and he is not a pleasant drunk.  But I thought she seemed very swollen, like she was retaining fluid.  That is not a good thing for a pregnant woman to do.

Fluid retention can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a condition of pregnancy in which the mother’s blood pressure rises dangerously and her kidney function declines, resulting in the retention of fluid and build up of toxins in the blood.  It was at one time called toxemia because it was thought to be a toxic condition.  However, the true cause is not known.  It is associated with multiple pregnancies, poor diet, diabetes, cigarette smoking and prior hypertension in the mother.

If it continues to become more severe, the complications can include seizures for the mother, premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall (called an abrupted placenta) which leaves the baby with no oxygen or nutrients, and maternal and/or child demise.

As both a woman who has experienced mild pre-eclampsia in her own pregnancies and a childbirth educator who taught over 1,000 students over her 10 year teaching career, I can say that most medical professionals take pre-eclampsia very seriously.  They check your blood pressure frequently and work to bring down the hypertension.  Why?

The only cure for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby.  If the mother’s blood pressure cannot be controlled by diet or medication, labor must be induced or a Cesarean surgical birth must take place immediately.  Otherwise, there is an increased risk of complications, including death, for both mother and baby.

Sister/cousin, so I am told, had pre-eclampsia when I arrived to visit in early August.  My observation had been correct.  By October, her blood pressure was unable to be controlled, even with the hypertension medication she was given.  She was finally scheduled for an induction of labor.  However, there was a week that passed between her appointment and the induction of labor itself.  I cannot say why [or personally understand why] someone whose blood pressure was as high as sister/cousin’s was, for as long as it was, would not be induced immediately or taken to the operating room for surgical delivery.  She was sent home for a week — and never put on bed rest, never told to lie down on her left side to improve circulation to the baby.  She went home and tended to her other children and husband.

When she was finally induced on Halloween and after a long labor, she gave birth to a 6 lb 5 oz son on November 1, in the wee hours of the morning.  The little boy was born dead — stillborn.

The extended family who had attended her during labor, including my friend and her daughters, were devastated.  Sister/cousin was beyond consolation. I don’t know if she had been prepared for this possibility before the birth by the medical staff.  Sister/cousin called her husband, who was not there, to inform him that his son was dead.  Being drunk, he cursed at her, called her names that are not printable in this “PG” blog and refused to come to the hospital.  Sister/cousin then called her own mother to let her know that her grandson was “gone.”  Her brother answered the phone, repeated her husband’s behavior and hung up on her.  My friend said the pain in sister/cousin’s eyes doubled after those phone calls.

The doctor who examined the baby told sister/cousin that based on the physical condition of the baby, it appeared that the baby had been dead about a week.  The baby was sent to Bismarck, ND for autopsy, though no one knew why, since that was unusual.  The baby was buried at the end of the week.

Rest in peace, little one.  You had a very short walk on the earthly part of the Red Road.

 

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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’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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You know who you are.  Your animals are your children.  You abhor any kind of cruelty or abuse of animals.  Some think animals have rights, some do not.  But all believe that animals have intelligence and feelings.

I fit in there somewhere.  I have a cat who is 16 years old and just now has started to “act old.”  It has made me suddenly aware of his mortality – he has always been such a healthy, strong little guy.  It also has given me a reawakened awareness of what big part of my life he is.  No, I can’t say I will spend thousands of dollars to keep him alive should he fall ill.  Nor can I say I would spend more to keep him alive than I would to help humans in need.  But I do love him and will mourn if he dies.  And I would never let anyone harm him.

I can see you now, either nodding in agreement or rolling your eyes.  If you’re rolling your eyes, it might be because you think I fall short of deserving to be called an “animal lover.”  You might be right.  You might also be rolling your eyes because you’re thinking I’ve been self-serving, inviting all of you animal lovers to me melancholy musings.  You would be wrong.

I doubt any of you who have read my posts regularly would think to call me self-serving – at least I hope not.

I was recently told about a 66 year old elder on the Pine Ridge Reservation who is an animal lover.  I was speaking to her daughter, who told me about her mother.  The daughter was concerned because her mother takes in strays and cares for them, providing a kind of shelter in a place where no shelter exists.  Her mother is often given pregnant animals, so she ends up taking care of the mother and babies until homes are found for the puppies or kittens.  I use the word “given” very loosely here because sometimes people do actually give her mother the animals directly but more often the pregnant animals are just dropped off in front of her house because of her reputation.

I understand that very well.  My parents lived out in the country and people would often drop off pregnant cats near their land.  During one time period, my mother had 22 cats/kittens that she was caring for and feeding because of other people’s irresponsibility and “generosity.”  I have never understood why some people think it is okay to drop what they perceive as their problem on someone else’s doorstep.

My mother had the means to care for the animals that came her way.  The woman on Pine Ridge Reservation does not.  She receives her Social Security benefits.  With that money, she feeds and attempts to provide health care for the cats and dogs that come her way.  Her daughter is concerned because her mother often does not have enough left to get the things she needs for herself.

This is where you come in.  I’m hoping for 2 things as a result of this post.  I would like to find a sponsor for this elder who will supply animal needs so she can use her fixed, small income to get what she needs for herself.  I’m talking pet food and items like that.

The other thing I’m hoping for is bigger – I am hoping that an animal aid group of some sort, perhaps right in South Dakota, would be interested in working with the tribe to establish a humane shelter and a way for those who own pets on the rez to have their animals neutered and vaccinated at little or no cost.  The best thing would be a “roving” clinic – an RV set up for veterinary care.  The distances are so great on the reservation and many people do not have transportation, so even if there was a veterinarian on the rez, it would be difficult for people to get there.

There are many pet owners on the reservation.  And just like anywhere else, some are more responsible than others.  Some keep their pets indoors, take good care of them and enjoy their company.  Others, however, allow their pets to roam – there are packs of dogs as well as individual strays.  The tribe does not have the money to “police” that problem.  Some people realize they cannot afford to feed and care for the animal, so they set the animal “free” to fend for itself.  Many do not make it.

In the whole scheme of the problems faced on the reservation, the plight of stray animals may not seem like it is high on the priority list.  But I know that, to a certain group of you who are reading this post (and hopefully passing it on to kindred spirits), that means that the kind of thing you find very important is being given no attention or funds.

If you care about these animals that no one else cares about or if you care about the woman who, like you, hates to see animals treated like worn-out shoes, you can help!

There are several ways to help.

–Sponsor the woman for pet needs.  To do this, contact ONE Spirit’s Sponsor Coordinator Regina Hay at rhay@nativeprogress.org and ask to be connected with the Area Service Coordinator for the Pine Ridge settlement.

–Sponsor the woman for her own needs (food, clothing, cleaning products).  You can do this in the same manner as above.

–Make one time donations of pet food through the OKINI program of ONE Spirit.  To do this, go to the ONE Spirit website http://nativeprogress.org and contact the OKINI program director.

–Find an organization that would like to take on the challenges of the bigger problems regarding the animal population on the reservation.  There are surely people with more expertise in this area than I claim to have.

Whatever you do, let other people know.  You may not be the one with a solution, but the next connection . . . or the next . . . or . . . you know what I mean.

 

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Yes, we kicked off our visit to the rez with a road trip.  After all, we wouldn’t be doing much driving on the rez, right?  Not!

For the uninitiated, the rez is Pine Ridge Reservation in the southwestern corner of South Dakota.  As they say in real estate, it all comes down to location and that is true in this story because the rez is located near nothing.  That’s right, really, nothing is close to the rez . . .  and of course, nothing on the rez is close to anything else on the rez either.  With 2 million acres to spread out, I wouldn’t necessarily want close neighbors myself.

Our trip actually began in Hartford, CT the morning of Friday, June 3 when we boarded an early, non-stop (yes, a miracle) flight from Hartford to Denver, CO.  I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Southwest Airlines.  They do need more newer planes, as we discovered on our return flight, but this plane was new, clean and comfy.

We arrived in Denver much earlier than you’d expect — oh that’s right, there was that thing with the time changes.  Gaining 2 hours in your day can be helpful.  After gathering the baggage, we went to choose a rental car.  My husband, the rental car genius, had reserved an SUV that was going to cost us the exorbitant price of $20 and change per day.  You are not seeing a typo – we had a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee for that price.  Genius, right?

The drive to the reservation was going to take us about 7 hours, so it was good that we had gained those 2 hours crossing the country.  It was a pleasant drive for the most part.

On one of our stretch breaks, we happened to be passing Carhenge.  I did not misspell Stonehenge.  Carhenge is a quirky, arty adaptation of the “henge” idea.  Located right along County Road 59 in Alliance, NE (http://www.carhenge.com/), there is no charge to view the art – there is, however, a shop for snacks and souvenirs, aptly named the “Pit Stop.”  It was a good place for a break.

We entered the Pine Ridge Reservation from the south, which necessitated passing through White Clay, NE (of which I have written before), that bastion of sobriety and icon to American greed.  That last is sarcasm for those not familiar with White Clay, NE.

It took nearly an hour to reach our motel, the Lakota Prairie Lodge Resort in Kyle.  This is in the northeastern part of the reservation.  We checked in and settled in, then called our Lakota friends to let them know we had arrived.  They are now living in Allen and invited us over.  We drove to Allen (about half an hour) where we had a wonderful reunion.  They are the kind of friends you can pick right up with, even if you haven’t seen them in a year.  We finally left about 10 pm, realizing that our bodies thought it was midnight.  Since we had to pick them up in the morning to start driving to Salt Lake City, some sleep might be a good idea.

Of course, we had gotten one surprise when we arrived that evening.  Our original plan had been to take my friend and her husband to visit her daughter who is currently in a treatment facility near Salt Lake City.  She had not seen her daughter since Christmas.  Salt Lake City is a long way from home for a young Lakota woman.  We love my “goddaughter” and know how much she misses her family.  She has been through so much in her years, much of which I have written about and won’t repeat here.  Suffice to say here that her anger has real roots.

We knew our Lakota friends did not have a working car and could not afford to pay someone to borrow a car to drive there or pay for the gas.  So we had thought it would be something we could give them, what with the almost free rental car that, by the way, had unlimited mileage.  It would be like the honeymoon they never had, room and board paid for as well.  So we had thought.

Our surprise was that, in addition to our friends, we would be taking her 20 year old daughter and another daughter’s 5 year old son.  We had 3 adults and a 5 year old in the back seat.  Talk about tight quarters – especially since my friend’s husband is over 6 feet tall and wears 3X shirts.  Enough said?  I was particularly concerned over the lack of seat belt use and sort-of held my breath on this whole trip.  So grateful my husband is a careful and wary driver.

We stayed at Hampton Inns on this part of the journey.  Good prices and good accommodations.  They 5 year old particularly enjoyed the pool every evening – a rare treat for a rez kid.  Our first stop was Casper, WY.  Some might dare to drive the 12 hours in one long ride, but this gal, having fibromyalgia, knows her limits.  6 hours sitting in one place in a car or twisting around to converse with the folks in the back seat is plenty for this body.

We arrived at South Jordan, UT on Sunday, June 5, in time for a visit with my “goddaughter.”  It was a tearful reunion for mother and daughter.  I stood back and observed, not wanting to insert myself into what was an intimate and private moment.  I looked at my “goddaughter” – she’d grown since I’d seen her last.  She will be 16 years old in July and is starting to look like a young woman.  She looked healthy and beautiful.  Some of the stories she told were less than pretty, though.  When you are living in a center for troubled youth, many things can occur – fights, bullying, etc – that the staff cannot always control.  But she is working hard to learn what she needs to and hopes to be home soon.  I pray she succeeds.

Monday morning, June 6, we returned to the center for a final visit.  Then midday, we had to leave to return to the rez.  Although the initial reunion had been tearful, the leave-taking was stoic.  Not easy, to be sure!  But strong in a way I have seen many Lakota people endure difficulty.

We stayed in Rawlins, WY on the way back to the rez, then completed the trip back to Allen, SD  on Tuesday, June 7.  The return trip always seems to pass by faster, regardless of where we travel.  That certainly was the case here.

After we dropped our friends off in Allen, we still had about an hour to drive to get back to the hotel we would stay in for the remainder of our vacation.  Allen, as I said, is in the northeastern part of the rez and our hotel at the Prairie Wind Casino and Resort is just west of Oglala, in the southwestern corner of the rez.  If you could drive directly from one to the other, it would be a diagonal – the hypotenuse of the triangle, which we former math teachers know is the shortest distance.  But there is no road that does that.  As they say in Maine, “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.”  At least not directly.

We finally checked in to the hotel.  People who want to travel to the rez often ask me about accommodations.  Choices are minimal.  There are a couple of bed and breakfasts – which I have not tried yet.  There is the motel in Kyle and the hotel at the Casino.  I have written about the motel in Kyle before.  This was our first stay at the Casino.

The decor and bed were excellent.  The bathroom was . . . well, amusing.  The plumbing in the shower had been installed upside down and backwards somehow.  Typically, to turn on the shower, the lever arm is attached at the top of the regulator and is lifted to turn on the water.  In this shower, it was attached at the bottom of the regulator, was already in the lifted position and had to be pushed in to turn on the water.  It was a bit like learning a foreign language.  Amusing.  The water is very soft and it takes quite a while to feel that you’ve rinsed off the soap or shampoo properly.  Of course, that is only in part due to the soft water.  It is also due to the very low water pressure from the showerhead.  Between the soft water and low pressure, I’m sure it took me 3 times longer to shower than it usually does – which sort of defeats the purpose of water conservation, don’t you think?

It was a good night’s sleep that night, however.  After I stopped feeling like I was still rolling down the road in the car.  Strange feeling to be stopped after so many miles on the road.

Denver to Kyle                 371 miles

Kyle to Salt Lake City       717 miles

SLC to Kyle                      717 miles

Kyle to Casino                  79 miles

TOTAL for 5 Days          1884 miles   (approximately)

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