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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I was reminded again today that I haven’t written in a while.  I can’t tell you why not.  I don’t mean that it is private.  I just don’t know why.  Anyway, here we go again.  Please – be patient and read to the end.  It really does tie together and it is important.

Life has a way of weaving separate strands together to make a beautiful cloth.  That’s what has been happening lately for me.  I wrote about feeling homeless because my kitchen was being remodeled.  It’s done now and beautiful.  So beautiful that it makes me feel a tad guilty when I mention it on Facebook.  Why?

A number of my friends on Facebook are folks who live on Pine Ridge Reservation.  If you’ve read any of my prior posts (and if you haven’t, why haven’t you?), you know that conditions on Pine Ridge are very difficult.  90% of the people there live below the poverty level.  I have been poor in my life but I have never faced that kind of poverty.  And now, when I have accomplished something so wonderful, I almost don’t want anyone to know.

The fact of the matter is that, while I may have felt homeless, I wasn’t.  I was staying in motels by choice to avoid the chaos of construction.  I had a choice.  And I had a home!

That was thread number one.  Thread number two is my “brother.”  He has begun to work at a shelter, counseling domestic abuse victims.  He saw abuse as a child.  He has a frame of reference and I am so proud of him for putting that knowledge to use in such an important way.  It is such an important thing for a victim of domestic violence to have a place to go where there is no violence.  Safety is so important – especially for the children!

You probably know that I “work” for an organization that tries to improve lives on Pine Ridge by providing sponsors, food, wood for heat, youth programs and whatever else we can manage.  I match folks on the rez with sponsors.  I get to talk to a lot of folks on the rez.

I’ve talked to plenty of women who have been abused — when they were children or by a man as an adult.  They have all touched me deeply.  But no story has touched me like the story I was told by a woman I am currently trying to help.

Thread number three started for me a couple of weeks ago when I got an email from our director.  She had been on the rez recently and was approached by a woman who asked for our help.  She gave me the woman’s telephone number and asked if I would call her.  I did.  This is her story.

I’m going to call the woman Jane – because I don’t think I have ever spoken to anyone on the rez whose name really was Jane.  Jane had recently left Dick (if you remember Dick and Jane, you learned to read when I did and you are probably my age) . . . because Dick was beating her and the 4 children.  You may think he is aptly named – I do.  She did not want the children to grow up seeing that and she would not accept it for herself.

If you’re standing up and cheering Jane right now, that’s great.  But wait.  After I tell you the rest of this story, you’ll have to come up with something better than that.

Jane left Dick.  Jane took the 4 children and not much else.  No clothing, toys or bedding.  She hoped to stay with a relative.  But all of the relatives had full houses already.  (I’ve written about the severe housing shortage on the reservation before.)  The best they could do for her was to lend her a tent.  So she is now living in a tent with her 4 children.  They sleep on the ground.  They eat bologna sandwiches.  She has no refrigeration so she must walk into town frequently for the perishables.  She is an insulin-dependent diabetic.  She is keeping her insulin and perishable food in a styrofoam cooler.  (Did I mention the temperatures have gone as low as 50 degrees and as high as almost 100 degrees?  Did I mention the severe thunderstorms with hail and high winds?) Everything was in the name of the abuser, including the food stamp claim.  Control is another form of abuse, don’t you think?

Jane has a cell phone but to charge it, she has to go to a tribal office and settle in with the children while she plugs in the phone.  Oh wait, I see what I have forgotten to tell you – the ages of the children.  The oldest just turned 5 years old.  Then there is a 3 year old and a 2 year old.  The youngest child is 4 months old.  The youngest 2 children are still in diapers.

Jane had no stroller.  So every walk for every task means taking along 1 child, 2 toddlers and an infant.  As Jane told me, “We travel very slowly.”  Jane told me she is trying to make it an adventure for the kids so they will not have bad memories of the experience as they get older.  She is sure she did the right thing by leaving.  Still … it is hard.

The wonderful people who support our organization have responded admirably to the needs of Jane and her children.  A stroller and many other things are on the way.  When I told her about the stroller, she was so grateful.  She said, “I’ve never had a stroller before.”  (Don’t forget – the stroller is for her fourth child.)  Still,  it will be hard.  There is still no home.

That brings me to thread number four.  Cangleska.  That is the domestic violence shelter on Pine Ridge that I wrote about early on in the life of this blog.  It was a fantastic place and the program there was a model for domestic abuse treatment and prevention across “Indian country.”  They built a large, homey shelter.  Many, including myself, contributed to its furnishings.  (If you must know, I sent a crib and mattress.)  There was treatment for the offenders as well as the victims.  It had the potential to change people’s lives.

If you are wondering why I am writing about Cangleska using the past tense, it is because it no longer exists.  The non-profit that ran the shelter was composed of folks who lived on the rez.  They received many grants and other donations.  As I’ve written before, when folks who have nothing have access to serious sums of money, the temptation to dip into the funds is always there.  Your own family has needs, too.  And greed is sadly an universal human flaw.  The shelter was closed down following a forensic financial audit.

This weekend I discovered that there will be an auction of all the assets of Cangleska next week.  Everything will go (even the crib I sent).  The auctioneer’s website listed “highlites (sic)” including like new office equipment, computer equipment, digital phone system, office furniture, home furnishings, flat screen TV’s, kids’ playground equipment, new chain link fence, tipis, pick-up trucks, cars, minivans, trailers, building materials, construction tools and shop equipment.  Everything will go.  It breaks my heart.

There is now nowhere for victims of domestic abuse to seek shelter and safety on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Nowhere in the 2 million acres that make up the reservation.

That is why Jane and her family are seeking shelter where they can – in a tent!

I don’t know what this cloth will look like when it is complete.  I don’t think all the threads are in place yet.  For many months I thought I was weaving a different pattern.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Perhaps it is all part of a larger design that I don’t recognize yet.  I’ll keep you posted.

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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 would guess that some of you are wondering what kind of high I’m talking about. So let me assure you right now that this high is NOT from smoking anything. In fact, in the “goody-goody” world I have inhabited for over 58 years that is one experience I have never had. Some tell me that is my loss; others tell me I should be proud of that. The fact is that it was never an issue – it was never something that interested me much.

It’s probably a good thing I never smoked weed or anything else. Otherwise I might be having an even more difficult time today.

I guess I’m probably feeling high because I’ve let myself get so unconditioned aerobically in the past year. It’s been one thing after another – or perhaps I should be honest and say one excuse after another – that has kept me off the treadmill all this time.

We got back to the Denver area after a week in South Dakota just last night. I know from previous experience that it takes my body several days to adjust to high altitudes so it doesn’t totally surprise me that I am feeling it. But the degree does surprise me.

Yesterday afternoon, when we arrived at our hotel, I had to lie down for a while after walking in from the car.

Today ws returned the rental car at the airport. We took the luggage out and I rolled the 2 small bags to the shuttle bus. By the time we reached the bus stop (a VERY short walk) I was so short of breath, I probably sounded like a dog after a long run in 90 degree heat.

By the time the bus reached the terminal, I thought I was okay. It was a delusion! I got off the bus and walked the 20 steps to curbside check-in. I was winded again! By the time I walked through the labyrinth of taped lanes to reach the TSA agent who was checking boarding passes and ID’s, my chest was aching and I was light-headed.

I must have looked a bit off because he asked if I was okay. I told him briefly about my challenge with altitude. He asked if I needed a wheelchair.

Dilemma! Do I admit my shortcoming and swallow my rather miniscule pride? Do I allow someone to push me through the airport to the gate? Or do I tough it out and drag through the airport, gasping with every step and worrying my husband?

I have dealt with fibromyalgia for 45 years. I have learned when to push myself and when to wave the white flag. I surrendered and here I sit at my gate. My attentive husband got me something to eat and I’ve been writing this on my phone – a serious challenge itself.

I love the mountains! We are returning to Yellowstone National Park in September.

I guess that means I’m getting on the treadmill Monday!

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I am up to my eyeballs in packing, planning and preparing for our trip to Pine Ridge Reservation.  We leave Friday, June 2.

Last night, because I was starting to get a bit dizzy with all of this floating around in my head, I decided to make a list of the things I still needed to do.  While it might ultimately be useful, it is also rather overwhelming to have it all in black and white in front of me.

There is too much to do and too little time to do it in.

I have to pack the usual vacation items – clothing and the like.  I have to make sure I have all the necessary medications.  I could probably do that part of the packing in my sleep at this point in my life.

I have to make sure I have the electronics I need to take with me this time organized:  my new camcorder (which I also need to learn how to operate), my voice recorder, my netbook computer, the still camera, my phone, battery charger, cords . . . I’m sure I’ve forgotten something!

I have to make calls to persons on the rez to let them know when I will be around and hope that they will be available on those days.  Of course, there are so many people I would like to see in addition to our friends that I have to pare down the list a bit.  Since two days are travel days and the first four days of the visit will be used taking our friends to Salt Lake City to see my “goddaughter” then returning to the rez (about a 12 hour drive each way!), that leaves only four days to do everything else.

Everything else is a pretty vague term, don’t you think?  I hope so, because it’s meant to encompass a wide variety of activities.  There is a free concert by the youth involved in the Independence through Music project that we hope to attend.  The Veterans Powwow is happening in Pine Ridge on those days.  I have some people I want to visit to learn more about the kinds of assistance available to those who live on the rez.  There are more people I have “met” by phone when assigning sponsors to them that I would now like to meet personally – actually a lot more than I will likely have time to meet.

That’s not all.  My parish took a collection when they heard we were taking this trip so that we could use the cash to purchase art and crafts from local artists.  The plan is to put the cash into the economy on the rez now, then bring back the items and put them up for auction.  The proceeds will then go back into a fund to keep repeating the process — income rather than handouts.  So I have those items for which I need to contact folks.

I hope to be in touch with KILI, the Voice of the Lakota Nation — the independent radio station on the rez.  I’d like to visit the market so I can do actual price comparisons, not just say things are “much more expensive” when purchased on the reservation.  I’d like to locate some of the neighborhoods in the areas I serve that I’ve only heard of, never been to visit.

I also need to get out all the things we’re taking to our friends (clothing, toys for the grandchildren, etc) so they can be packed.

I have to figure out how we will keep all of our equipment secure when we are there.  I need to find out where I can buy some white sage before we leave (not holding my breath there).

If there was nothing else to be done, it might work.  But you know that’s never the case, don’t you?  (If things always get done easily and you are one of those talented multi-taskers, don’t talk to me right now!)

I just talked to a sponsor for about half an hour.  I really enjoyed the conversation, but . . .

I talked to a grandmother on the rez who needs sponsors for two grandchildren a little bit earlier.  I really enjoyed the conversation, but . . .

Time to get down to brass tacks here.  How many people did I call that were on my list?  Zero.

How many items have I crossed off my to do list?  4  How many items were on the list when I started?  24

At this rate, I’m going to be up the proverbial creek without a canoe by the time I have to leave for the airport.

My “to do” list is really a “too much to do” list!!

“Breathe!  Slowly!  Relax . . . . . .  you’re just getting over a respiratory infection . . . you don’t want the fibromyalgia to flare up, do you?”

Okay . . .

So I may not do much writing this week, but I hope you will forgive me.  I promise I will bring home stories, photos and video to share if you will be patient.  Deal?

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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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I am going to make a confession that may amaze some of my readers.  Others may not be as amazed, since I try to avoid politics, especially with regard to the people of Pine Ridge Reservation.  It isn’t that I don’t see that politics — federal, state, tribal and familial — play an enormous part in causing the conditions that exist on the reservation.  The fact is that the cause of the conditions means less to me than does finding ways to assist the people who must live in the third world conditions that are the way of life for far too many.

So I usually write about the people with whom I speak and the stories they tell about their lives.

But I do know some of the history.  I recognize the names that have been in the news.  I make no judgments about history.

I can judge truth and beauty, however.  I recently came across a poem that touched me on many levels.  It spoke to me on the universal level of human to human.  It also spoke of lover to lover.  I will not attempt to analyze or dissect it — I do not want to break its fragile beauty.

Instead I will share it with you.  You may be surprised, as I was, to see the author when you finish your reading.  I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

 

We are Not Separate

We are not separate beings, you and I
We are different strands of the same being
You are me and I am you
and we are they and they are us

This is how we’re meant to be,
each of us one
each of us all

You reach out across the void of Otherness to me
and you touch your own soul!

Tate Wikuwa (given name of Leonard Peltier)

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