Sunday, May 31, 2020

History Lessons: That's Not Our "Way"

We all have our stories...our traditions and rituals. There is a story of how I received this mug.

Sundays include church-going for a lot of people, and it was for me for over 40 years. As an organist, pianist and/or Music Director for most of my life, Sunday mornings required a lot more than just showing up, playing/singing a few hymns, and socializing with family and friends we hadn't seen during the week. It meant prayerfully preparing service and worship music for the congregations who relied on being uplifted and inspired for the new week ahead. Pressure? (Insert a sarcastic "Nooooo!" here.)

But I'm not going to write about or speak for folks on the subject of what happens on Sunday mornings for the majority. No...this week begs for a perspective that may offend some, but...nevertheless, it's the truth. And we all know that the truth can be difficult to admit.

I attended via Zoom, the 2nd Talking Circle hosted by the Riverton Peace Mission on Saturday, May 23. The [timely] subject matter was racism. The question for discussion was: "What did you learn from your grandmother about racism?" Wow. That's a loaded question, because I had several Grandmothers. I kept my notes:

On the Starks side of the family (Lutheran/Methodist...basically Reformation). I viewed my Grandma Starks as a mild-mannered, gentle woman. It was on the family farm on Sunday afternoons/evenings where I developed my love for bluegrass music. My Uncles would brandish their instruments on the wrap-around porch of the farm house, and sing (in harmonies, I might add) the old traditional hymns, Depression-Era folk  songs, blues, etc. Most of the time, my Uncle Earl and Aunt Sharon would lead, but sometimes they'd all just spontaneously break out into some serious jams! My Dad would break out his ol' Horner harmonica. My Uncle Ralph would bust out in song, and though his singing voice wasn't exactly "American Idol"-type quality, it didn't matter. If he didn't know "Red River Valley" like the back of his vocal cords! I would sit on the my little Sunday dress and black patent-leather shoes, and listen...after running through the prairie with my brother Mike and my cousin Tim, who would tease me mercilessly about one thing or another. I would climb trees and spy magpie and robin eggs. I would run all over the lawn, barefoot, feeling the green grass under my feet. I would go upstairs and read my Grandpa Starks' collection of Peanuts comics and Louis l'Amour paperbacks. My Grandma Starks didn't even have to announce that the cookies were done. We could smell them from a mile away. When we'd leave, my Grandpa Starks would slip me an extra cookie and say: "Don't tell your Grandma."  I never did.
   My Grandma Starks was big on the Golden Rule: "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." Seemed simple enough. Treat others as you would want to be treated. "Great! Can I go out and play now?"

On the Lund side of the family (Lutheran, I think): I learned all kinds of things from my Grandma Lund. Most of to sew doll clothes. She was an avid doll collector (and that's putting it very mildly), and I would spend literally hours with her, learning how to make little doll blouses, shirts, pants, skirts. Seriously, I thought I would go insane. Until she would say, "Time for lunch!"...and she'd stop everything, go up into the kitchen and start on her homemade biscuits. She would get salad from the grocery store (mainly the seafood salad), but those biscuits?!?! O..MG. None compare, to this day. I have the recipe!
   What I learned about racism from Grandma Lund? A lot of derogatory swear words...and they were pretty colorful. I remained silent as she would talk about her views about [N-word], "Nips", and those "filthy Indian drunks". "Oh, but I don't mean you, dear." And I believed her....because I know that she truly did love me. But I was young, and the truth really don't say those kinds of things to a young teenage girl who is already greatly confused about her own identity.

On the Northern Arapaho side: My Grandmother, Loretta, gave me my Indian name: "Sweet Singing Woman". The amazing thing is...she had never heard me sing. I know that my entire Northern Arapaho family watched in silence as I was raised in a white, Mormon household. Yes, I am a product of White privilege. Whenever my (adopted) Mom and I would go out in public (like to Bi-Rite or Woolworths)...I felt eyes on me. I would hide behind her. But she would say: "Don't be afraid. Just wave and say 'hi'!" So I did. Little did I know that this was a White-Indian competition. I felt like an experiment.
   As I progressed musically (several piano and music competitions)...I didn't think about how I poured everything from my inner self, frustrations, emotions into the 88-keys before me. Music was the only avenue I had to express my confusion.
   I think my Grandmother Loretta knew this when she saw me for the first time in many years, on a Christmas Day when I was a pre-teen. She brought me everything she thought I would need as a Native Woman. A simple shoebox full of deodorant, tampons, toothbrush, toothpaste, pretty rocks, a strand of sagebrush with a ribbon tied around it. I've always loved the smell of Wyoming's sagebrush.

On the Welsh side: My Grandmother Richards (an Atheist) was a very intelligent, strong woman. From what I gathered from my biological father's side...there is a great affection for animals. My grandfather, Dr. Eugene Richards, was the Director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Cedar Sinai. My Grandmother, however...was an advocate for animals, and I remember her saying: "Humans have the ability and intelligence to look out for each other. Animals in this world, however, cannot. Who will speak for the animals? It is us."
  I've felt a crossover from my Native roots to my Grandmother Richards. She had a particular interest in my daughter, because she watched her, like my Grandmother Loretta watched me. We are all connected in some way, and we all hope for the very best for future generations. I sensed that, at the time I met my Grandmother Richards, she could tell that I was very conflicted...mentally, religiously and spiritually. I like to think that she and Grandmother Loretta connected in a way that only the generations of women can.

Am I a "Tribal Elder"? No. I wouldn't even, ever assume to be, in the Northern Arapaho sense. But am I an Elder of Life? Yes. Those of us who have lived out our histories know we have Wisdom to impart beyond our years. Time is all we have. 

So my contribution to all of the chaos that is happening right now is: "Didn't we tell you so?"

Didn't we tell you that racism and violence would raise its ugly head, over and over? Didn't we tell you we wanted peace instead of war? Didn't we tell you that the greed of money would not bring you happiness, and be the demising legacy you would not want for Planet Earth? When will this end?

I've learned, since being back home...that there is a certain definition that confuses the boundaries between the "Cowboys and Indians". Drunks, druggies and gangs. "Park Rangers". Not the Native Way!  One and several bad apples can ruin it for the entire barrel...but do not judge the entire barrel by those those bad apples! The WRIR struggles enough without the added conflict.

That goes for white folks as well! What is the "White Way"? We know full well that there are those who do not tolerate racism and the injustices against Natives. But we also know that there are organizations and religions that have doctrines that are steeped in racism from their very genesis. The Mayor of Riverton is a White, LDS (Mormon). I hope that he doesn't view American Indians as Book of Mormon "Lamanites" (dark-skinned) in need of "saving" or becoming "pure and delightsome". There will always be a resistance against such a Nazi-like theology/doctrine. But beliefs one should tell any Native culture what or who they are, nor what is and what isn't. This might make me a bit unpopular with religions that have shaded histories they aren't proud of (genocides, crusades, inquisitions, extermination orders),'s the truth. We need to end prejudice and division, once and for all. Be that person who breaks the chains of a slavery that has disparaged hearts, minds and souls for centuries. It starts with me, it starts with you, it starts with us. The time of burying heads in the sand and sweeping critical issues under rugs is over.

That said...I am glad to take a moment to remember what my Grandmothers taught me, good and bad.

I was recently told by a good friend: "It is the women of our societies who will save us."

I've read so many articles on the subject of racism lately...isn't it time that we are better, instead of bitter?

Be good. Don't be bad. Don't destroy.

Be nice. Don't be mean. Don't burn the bridges that generations before you have tried so very hard to build.

Be strong. Because the Nouns of Life are going to hand us all a lot more challenges than we know.

Don't despair. Karma is aware.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Coffee With A View: Trial and Error

Happy Mother’s Day! This morning I am enjoying a wonderful gift from my daughter…a rich, exotic Tanzanian Peaberry. It’s so very smooth, I’m drinking it black today, no cream or sugar is needed!

Yesterday, I planted my all of my flowers and herb pots. It’s been dipping into the 30s at night; had to take advantage of the sunny spots and be wary of any wind gusts. Last year, I forgot to bring my seedlings in, and when I came home from work, I found that the high winds had blown the starter flats all over the property. I salvaged and planted whatever I could find, but I have to admit, my garden last year was pretty pitiful.

Trial and error.

Next to my mug this morning is my daughter’s Navy Achievement Medal. When she gave it to me, she said, “Mom, you are the true Marine.” It is one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever been given, and when I take it out to look at it, tears fill my eyes as I ponder upon what a “true Marine” really is. My own daughter is my hero…she has been a little fighter from the day she was born and has become such a strong, beautiful woman. The NAM often reminds and humbles me.

My son served in Iraq, and when he came back, he went through many trials and errors of his own. “Life will kick you in the ass more than anything,” and sometimes that ass-kicking can generate positive results. He went on to get a degree in Audio Engineering; we’ve even recorded a few projects together. We “talk music” a lot…he sends me things to listen to, gives me sound and recording advice, recommends audio equipment, etc. We chat [most] every Sunday to catch up. I look forward to every call.

If you had told me about 30 years ago that both of my kids would become US Marines, I would’ve probably laughed in your face. I was so young when I became a mother and had absolutely no clue how motherhood “worked”. Sure, I got advice from my own mother and mother-figures throughout my life...but looking back, I can say right now that nothing ever really prepares you for it. I personally believe that it’s not fair, throwing mothers and children into the same soup of cluelessness. Then again…who ever said that Life was fair?

Imagine if you will, being on a battlefield where communication, Intel, strategy and tactics are pretty much useless or completely non-existent. Things can and will change, minute by minute. There are no reprieves; there is little, if any, real sleep. It’s 24/7, 365. You have to be alert, on guard and ready for whatever bullshit is thrown at you from the moment you wake up until you fall in a heap at night…and then it starts all over again. Like a “Groundhog Day” with recurring theme and variations…day and night.

I worked three jobs at a hospital…was a General Assignment reporter…a Columnist/Copy Editor of a local newspaper…the founder/editor of a daily news blog…served 30+ years as a Music Director for several Christian denominations (so Sunday mornings were always busy). I sat on several boards and committees of groups and organizations, causes I really believed in. Along the way, I've also seen and have been a part of a lot of trauma and drama in my life...failed marriages, relationships, friendships...choices that made me learn lessons the hard way...

Trial and error.

Motherhood in action is a juggling act with a myriad of glass plates thrown in the air, and needing to have the faith, hope, courage and strength that you can catch and place them all in order, nice and freakin' straight. Motherhood in action is lying awake at night, brain going 100+ MPH, wondering what fresh hell you have to face the next day…and the day after that...and the day after that. Motherhood in action is like throwing spaghetti on the wall, hoping it will stick: “Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot”…”Don’t skip class”…”Quit doing that”…”Homework much?”…”Great, how much is that gonna cost me?”…”You little !@#$%”! It’s ALL trial and error. We are not “trained” for Motherhood, and I don’t care what fluffy books by the “experts” you might read, what sermon you might hear, what "Life Coach" podcast you subscribe to while you’re pregnant and waiting. There IS no boot camp! There is nothing that prepares you and your children for the battlefield called Life.

Oh, believe me...I wasn’t the “perfect” mom. My own trials and errors spilled over into the raising of my kids. I was right there along with them...learning about what The Nouns of Life could dish out from day to day. Mistakes were made. Battles were lost. Retreat was necessary. But what has always been stronger in me has been patience, caring, loving, protecting…and most of all, hope. Sometimes, all it takes is a little cream and sugar when things go dark, and  you know they will. Sometimes the spaghetti will stick, and there comes a time when, as a Mother, you have to let go and watch your young fly on their own...experience their own trials and errors, and we know that it breaks our hearts, minds and souls. But that doesn’t mean you are not “present and accounted for…”

It means you have become the “true Marine”...and I share my medal with you.

My mother passed away July 30, 2005. She was also a “true Marine”. One of the most difficult things to do in my entire life was to sing at her funeral. I figured, if I could sing for an event like that, I knew I could sing for anything. I’ve had several women in my life who I call my “Mom” (you all know who you are)…and I am so richly blessed because I can continue to sing my own song of Life…because of you.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Friday, April 24, 2020

Coffee With A View: Angels in the Outfield

I call this photo "Rain Through The Branches". I shot this after a long day at work, after the Wyoming rains had their time. I know, no photo can do Wyoming's beauty justice, but...that evening, the droplets of rain...the branches on the tree...the wonderful sunsets I experience, every night...always applicable to my subject matter.

This is not a "usual" post on Coffee Pong. This post today deals with a few "reality checks"...

When a community’s economy is focused so much on tourism and local events, it can be challenging when something like COVID comes along and, quite literally, takes it down. 

So here are my thoughts du jour, right off the top of my head:
  • I’m bummed that I can’t frequent my favorite farmers markets, but…I’m a resourceful person, and have found local farmers who produce what I need and want. For eggs, milk and meat...
  • I love earrings, and I have Cheryl Payton of Dragonfly Beads and Kathleen Davis of ZeeBlings to custom-make my earrings.
  • I can’t have my monthly massages anymore, but I’ve remembered everything that Brandy LaRae of the Amador Wellness Cottage and LaTonya Dykes in Ogden, UT have taught me about relaxation techniques and essential oil combinations that really “speak” to me.
  • I have seeds to plant a garden…and space to plant it in.
  • I have candles, fuel and firewood.
  • I have plenty of coffee! LOL
  • I have a shotgun that I hope I never need to use. Let that be a warning…
  • I have a Hybrid Prius. Just filled it up for $17…after 2 months. Don’t need a fancy sports car or a gas guzzling truck. I’m good.
  • I thought ahead and developed my 72-hour kit, food and supply storage. There are still a few things I need to make it how I really want, but…all in all, I’m pretty set.
  • I want Pho in a restaurant that really knows how to make it, but I’ve learned to make it myself, and that’s ok! 
  • I wanted to attend a Holi Festival again, but every morning, I dance around my living room instead. Hail Cardio! LOL
  • I was and am very much happy to have not just one, but two Moms who have blessed my life with wisdom and guidance.
  • I am blessed to have a Dad who often says, “You might wanna…” I know, I know. Gosh...
  • Still waiting for my awesome, beautiful fire pit from my brother, Mike. Hehehe...check them out on Facebook at Dicks Customs Pits.

That said…
  • I don’t need video games. I don’t need books; got plenty already in my own library to catch up on!
  • I don’t need a decorative doohickey or a functional thingamabob to keep up with “The Jones”. Never had that mindset, anyway. I don’t care what you have that I don’t. Never have. Never will.
  • I don’t need the latest phone upgrade.
  • I don’t need another refrigerator magnet, another coffee mug, another product branded with your marketing logo.
  • I don’t need alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, I want alcohol! LOL But I don’t need it. Now, Amador County wines? Temptation to the max...damn you, Amador Vinters!
So let’s admit what we, as consumer-driven societies, don’t want to admit:
This caught us ALL off-guard…sometimes even our own very own local shops didn’t and never did see this coming...and they didn't, never did and still don't carry what we needed or wanted in the first place.

Let's face it. We really don't want to dress in a mask or full PPE to go to the only place in town we can get everything in one fell swoop: Walmart. Costco. Sam’s Club. Grocery store chains. Pain in the ass, (but another "reality" these days.)  Does anyone really want to do this? Raise your virtual hands. Not that I'm counting...LOL.

So...are we really going to judge those who do commerce online? Sure, we may be scrambling around to find local producers who offer what we want, whether online or "six feet apart", but...

You know what really matters to me right now?
  • Communication & The Internet. That I can communicate with all of you, right now, via this blog and on Facebook.
  • Electricity. Solar power sure is becoming a thing now, isn't it?
  • Emergency and health services. Goes without saying.
  • Transportation, not just for me, but our truck drivers, our delivery services. I can spray down my packages with Lysol, or set them outside for a few minutes/hours. No big deal. Do not discount those who deliver products via your doorstep.
  • Music. That I can make and create it.
  • Family and friends, who come by and check up from time to time.
  • All essential workers! I have family, friends and friends of friends in assisted living communities, and I truly worry about them. If your State calls EMS services “non-essential”. I would totally beg to differ right now.
  • Prisons. Yes, that’s a touchy subject, but it’s a reality of what we have done as far as the incarcerated...and have ignored.

This is a short list, folks. All that said…
  • This is a time of testing of us as human beings on Planet Earth.
  • There are so many who don’t have what they need. So many who have so little and need so much.
  • There are those who are desperately looking to the systems that have repeatedly failed us all…through every election, every court hearing and every tax season.
  • There are those looking to “family” and “friends” who turn their backs on them, abused them, failed them miserably. Shame on you.
  • There are so many who say that they will “pray” for them…and do nothing more. Out of sight, out of mind. What are your prayers really worth?
  • There are so many who have multiple holes in what they thought were their “safety nets”. Who will repair them?
  • There are so many who truly want to help, but can’t because of governmental or corporate rules and legalities.

So what is to be done?
I readily admit...I don’t know. All we can do right now is examine what kind of human beings we really are and be a leader in those capacities, Because you can’t make someone not go out into public. You can’t make someone wear a mask. You can’t make anyone do anything that may help or hurt during these times.

Yes, we as Americans are “free”. But free to do…what, exactly? Time will tell.

“This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System…”

If you believe in angels, guess what? Now is the time to become one. And the road is and will be difficult, I’m telling you right now. We need to be Angels in the Outfield...because the Outfield just became pretty damn important.

But do not despair in the mission you may be, are or will be called to. And please, I don’t mean “angels” in any religious sense whatsoever. The faith of Atheists is just as powerful.

Think about that…

Sunday, April 19, 2020

911 & The Single Life: A Beautiful...or Terrible Mind

I recently shared this post on my Facebook wall (from the "I Might Be Funny" page):

There have been thousands of gifs and memes joking about social distancing and self-quarantine/isolation. Most know me as a very social person...I love to meet friends for coffee and catch up, occasionally "get outta Dodge" for the weekend, shop at my favorite stores. But I've also created a haven here in my home...I love to cook, love to enjoy the fantastic view of the mountains and valley from my back deck. Like I've said before, I'm the most "extroverted introvert" I know! So at first, I was thinking: "C'mon, bad can this be?"

Jokes aside, the mind can be a beautiful...or a terrible thing. When this outbreak first began and was confined to a closed-door office, I thought "Maybe now I can finally get some work done!" Days went by, and it wasn't too bad. I did get a lot of work done. A few weeks go by and I've realized just how much I interact with the crews on a daily basis and how frustrating it is to have limited, direct communication and limited visibility on station ops. Now it's been over a month, and as I look back and the ups and downs of my mental state, it told me a lot about how my mind works, to the point of thinking: "Ok, bad can this get?

There was an incident here in Riverton, Wyoming on April 15 that was made public through our local media. I sat listening to the dispatch radio, worried about the crews on-scene. I know that it was just another "day in the life" for them, as they're always called to shootings, stabbings, assaults, domestic violence situations, etc. But now, with situations intensified in correlation to this outbreak, my worry for them that day increased to a certain level of fear.

For personal reasons, I rarely talk about the subject of the crimes of abuse and domestic violence, but I feel it appropriate now. In my past Lives, as a survivor of domestic violence, I had been diagnosed with clinical Depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and PTSD. I've attempted suicide, twice. On top of that, I had crippling Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which was devastating for me as a pianist. I've had several surgeries throughout my life. So to say the very least, my mind has not always been a "beautiful thing".

In my Third Life, I've promised myself that I would learn from my History Lessons and listen to the wisdom gained from the previous Two. Judging from my experiences alone...if the rate of abuse and violence was high even before this outbreak, it is - and will be - even more intensified now.

Our police officers, EMTs, firefighters, First Responders...all have a very great burden on them. They may or may not have known the extent of it when they signed up for the job, but nevertheless, they take every 911 call seriously because (believe me!) they never know what they're going to see, find or witness when they arrive on-scene.

I believe that this outbreak is revealing the best and worst of human behaviors and mentalities. The beautiful and terrible minds. Today, if I was in a situation with an abuser, I would find a way to escape and call 911 immediately if it were physical abuse; I would call a domestic violence hotline if it were prolonged mental/emotional/verbal abuse.

There are programs and resources available in every community. Looking back, I wish I would have thought about my own self-worth and actually used those resources. But I would always end up thinking: "It's all my fault...he's just tired...I should've done what he said...but I 'love' him...I can't make it on my own..."  Stockholm Syndrome-type thoughts that were short-circuited by a weary, abused, depressed and poisoned mind. At the very least, I needed to have a safe place to go and figure it all out later. I needed to have a friend who was aware of my situation and would be there to help me if it ever got to the point where my life was at risk.

COVID-19 is doing its thing; humans are doing theirs. This past month has been a challenge, even for this single lady! How we interact with our family, friends, loved ones, employers and co-workers ultimately shows how we truly are as human beings. We need to help, not hurt...but if you've been hurt, get to a safe place and call those who are there to help:

CDC: Daily Life Coping

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Child Advocacy Centers of Wyoming

Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Call 911 when...
  • When you "feel" a situation is escalating. If you are fearing for your life, call. Immediately.
  • You've been physically assaulted/injured. If you can't, tell someone to do it. Immediately.
  • If you are witnessing the abuse. Call anonymously if you need to, but call. Immediately.
A final note...
It is better to try to escape an abuser or domestic violence situation and call 911 than to fight back. If you fight back, you may become a part of a situation that only gets more complicated. You could die...or you could go to jail, right along with your perpetrator. Remember, First Responders aren't there to determine guilt or innocence; they're there to do their jobs and report what is happening, on-scene.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Nouns: Three Wolves

HAPPY EASTER MORNING! Yes, I do still celebrate Easter. My Christian traditions are still very much a part of who I am. The good traditions, I should say. As a Director of Music & Worship of several different denominations of Christianity, of my very favorite celebrations to prepare music for has always been Easter. "He is risen, as He said!" My ancestral Celtic roots (Welsh) meld with the hope and promise of Spring and New Beginnings; however, Wyoming's weather hasn't quite yet cooperated with that! LOL

Then again, you all know that I celebrate every day where I can watch the sun rise and set. I witness the buds on the trees; the grass really trying to green up. The robins are out in full force...the deer have their scruffy Winter coats and raise their heads above the tall, dry grasses and fields...

The photo is of my grand-puppy, Emma, on a walk by the Little Wind River. It was such a beautiful time of day, so I just started snapping photos of her walking along, sniffing everything. As I went back through the photos, I noticed the sun's rays on the river formed a cross. I've waited four months to post this photo!

I also call Emma my "little wolf". She's the best dog in the world and a little darlin'; I love her so very, very much. But I know that deep down, in her ancestral line - in her DNA - lies the wolf inside of her. She may be sweet, loving, very well-behaved and downright adorable, but...she's also quite the bad-ass! Yes, she sniffs the air and senses danger. Yes, the fur on her neck rises when she gets into protective mode. Yes, she has killed things. But she always knows who her pack (family) is.

We all have a little "wolf" inside of us. I have happen to have Three...a Red Wolf, a White Wolf, and a Brown Wolf. I was born a Red Wolf (Northern Arapaho) a Brown Wolf (Hispanic), and a White Wolf (Welsh), raised in a White wolf pack. I have come to embrace all Three Wolves in my Third Life, however...I can rightly say that all have been snarling at each other for a very long time...hungry to know which one of them will be "fed" by the Alpha of the pack: Me.

I was recently included in the Wind River Mutual Aid project, and created the initial stages of Wind River Community News. The COVID-19 pandemic has created many problems and concerns on the Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR), so I stepped forward as a part of this newly-formed Pack and offered the one thing I could: Media and Communications. There are so many wonderful people out on the WRIR who have shed the politics, the prejudice and discrimination issues, and are ready and willing to offer their hearts, minds and souls for the betterment of the Tribes...willing to lay down their differences for the good of the entire Pack.

I recently posted this on my Facebook wall:

You know that ol' "United we stand, divided we fall" thing?
Wherever you stand politically needs to take a back seat, and We The People of the United States need to support and help each other.
Like a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, wild fire, etc. this pandemic doesn't care if your red, yellow, black or white, about gender identity, whether you're Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist...
We have the power to make a difference, right where we are.
So if you're trying to point fingers and place blame, or complaining about whatever is on the news du jour...take a moment to think about which wolf you are feeding.

I must say that it was my White Wolf speaking at that moment...and my Red and Brown wolves stood with her in agreement. Division, arguing, fighting, snarling at each other...will never be a solution to the harsh reality of impending Death.

So if there is to be hope, a promise...a Resurrection of Life...wouldn't it behoove us all to break down the walls that divide us, and come together as a True Pack? Wouldn't it be better to embrace Life and all that it promises to "all creatures, great and small"?

Throughout my life (my past Two Lives) biggest hurdles to get over, as the leader of my own Three-Wolf Pack, has been distrust and conditional love. These two Nouns have been honed into me as a Tri-Breed, and have made me build walls that truly need to be broken down. But I've had a difficult time with wolves in sheep's clothing. I've had a difficult time trusting people who have hurt me or have done me wrong. I've had a difficult time with people who require me to be something I am not in order to gain or "earn" their love or acceptance.

Don't get me wrong; I'm very sweet, loving, well-behaved, and yes...I can be downright adorable. LOL! However, I've survived this Journey long enough to have the senses and smarts to smell danger...feel the fur rise on my neck when I get into protective-mode. But at least I know who to let into my Pack...and I also know who and what will weaken it.

Trials, past mistakes, regrets...should not weaken or define us. They need to refine us. I believe that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the kind of land and peoples that America has become...where the Nouns of Politics, Corruption and Greed rule and reign. Where Opportunists and Thieves suck the very life and resources out of us. Where Hypocrisy is rampant, and Falsehood drowns the truth. Many Wolves have died because of these Nouns. We are, again, living in a time where the very reason the Boston Tea Party...the American Revolution...happened. History has repeated itself, and it's time that We the People of every nation - every Pack - stand up for what is right and good...a true Resurrection of "all things bright and beautiful".

Happy Easter, and Happy Spring...raise the glass to a New Beginning! 🍷

Sunday, April 5, 2020

What Would I Tell the Little Girl...?

Lisa Montes
What would I tell the little girl (me) growing up back then about the situation growing up and living with today?

Books, schools, patriotism lessons have always informed me and others to believe that a governing leader of our country -and the people he/she surrounds him/herself with -would be the unifying force of leadership, with the capacity for instilling calm and positivity, while taking timely and equal actions to help ALL the country’s people in times of need.

So as a kid, I always envisioned this leader to be someone whose manner of addressing the nation and people, whose manner of communicating with the people, whose manner of taking actions to protect and help the people...would be one I could turn to and trust in...and not just find pride in their everyday manners, communications and actions... but especially in times of crisis.

I have great respect for men and women who have the ability and capacity to see everyone as equal and worthy of compassion, help and support, regardless of where they are economically, socially, culturally... and who communicate with all people with respect and kindness and professionalism. But here I am, one of billions of people living in a time of crisis like we never imagined we would have seen.

I am listening to words spoken out of a leaders own mouth on television, words by a leaders own hand over Twitter, and words by the mouths and hands of his family members, and some of whom he’s surrounded by...

...and I am no longer that little girl who believes the same way as I was taught to believe about this group of people.

Because these very people in those very important leadership positions that I was taught to trust and who are supposed to be leading by example - don’t act or speak like someone a child, an adult, or an older adult is or can be proud of.

Instead of leading by example to unify everyone and calm everyone and assure everyone of their support and actions... they rather constantly call people absurd and awful names, criticize the very people they are meant to support, they make fun of groups of people and rally for others to do the same, they fight and bully and publicly put down just about everyone who isn’t them.

They teach lessons of prejudice and bullying I don’t believe in at all. And then find it more important to talk about ratings and popularity, in a time when they should be talking about leadership actions helping the people of the country, and taking actions to help and encourage ALL people not just “their people.”

Instead of seeing shortages of supplies they can come together to help distribute and manufacture and transport to the people... they call those that are so desperately turning to them for direction and help “complainers” who should have thought of supplying themselves before a crisis (a rather hypocritical statement considering they themselves are now running low).

My point is this... a crisis is a crisis because it is most often unforeseen, and even with the best planning ahead no one can always be prepared to the fullest extent. Which is why we turn to leaders to help unify and find ways to mobilize and assist all the people together.
And during this crisis - the very leaders I have seen unify, mobilize, and take actions to help everyone, regardless of location, economics, social status, or culture... are, in fact, THE EVERYDAY PEOPLE OF OUR COUNTRY... not necessarily those in government.

We see local businesses and people across the country making hand sanitizers, masks and gowns, sharing supplies, food, finances, and resources with their neighbors, with strangers, working and supporting each other in whatever ways we can and being on the front lines to protect each other.
And they do so with respect for one another and kindness - no bullying or excluding in their equations.

And THEY are the ones who make me proud in times like this and everyday!

So what would I tell little girl me?
I would say you do not have to be the President of the United States or in public office to be a leader or someone to be proud of. You don’t need to look to government to find someone to trust to care or take care of you and our country...

BE EXTREMELY PROUD to be: A nurse, a CNA, a doctor, a veterinarian, a dentist, a police officer, a firefighter, a mailman/woman, a grocery store clerk/bagger/stocker, a seamstress, a cook, a dishwasher, a waiter/waitress, a housekeeping staff, a garbage man/woman, a teacher, a dog walker, an admin assistant, a receptionist, a salesperson, an entrepreneur, a driver, a warehouse fulfillment worker, a security specialist, a social worker, a counselor, a translator, a physical or occupational therapist, an interpreter, a news reporter, a construction worker, a handyman/woman, a farmer, a gardener, an author, a musician, a songwriter, an artist, a videographer, an IT specialist, a volunteer, and someone in the military or a veteran. And so many more jobs!

BE PROUD to be you because YOU ALL are what’s making this country run and thrive everyday, and in times of crisis.

Thank you for all you do for everyone!

Lisa Montes

Friday, April 3, 2020

911 & The Single Life: Fall Prevention

And now…I’ve decided to continue my series, as planned. As you all know, there is an over-abundance of information and resources on the subject of COVID-19.  but the best bet is to go to the Center for Disease Control’s site, which is always being updated with the latest:

Here in Wyoming, we’re all hoping that Winter will be over soon, and that Spring will be “springing”. As usual, we get those freak storms here and there (like we just had), but for the most part, I think that from now on, we’ll be seeing more sun that snow. At least I hope so, because I’ve had a severe case of cabin fever for the past few months. Not quite to the point of “Heeeere’s Carol!!” but…close. Very close!

Looking back on this past Winter, I’ve had a few “snow-and ice combination” near-flips and misses in the driveway, in parking lots, at the station, at the mailbox. Fortunately, I’ve been able to grab something and catch myself. Honestly speaking, there were a few times where  I probably looked like a cartoon character…arms flailing, legs whirring out of control as the fall was possibly (and probably) anticipated and witnessed by several web cams and "Facebook Live" hounds wielding their smartphones.

But falling is no laughing matter. Once I had my “Humpty-Dumpty” moment in the hallway, believe me, I was not laughing. If anything, my awareness for Fall Prevention only increased.

Many would be surprised at the “Fall Call” volume that our EMTs and Paramedics respond to, year-round…in addition to the COVID-19 calls. And believe me when I say that age is not the problem! The causes of falls - ranging from impulsiveness, to intoxication, to falling off a ladder while Spring cleaning - to just being plain stupid and thinking you're invincible...stopping and focusing on what you’re doing is perhaps the most important first step before the "first step" in Fall Prevention.

The Most Common Causes of Falls

According to our Paramedics/EMTs, the most common causes of falls are: 1) Intoxication, 2) Area rugs, and (believe it or not), 2) Pets. In my own case, my big toe caught on the hem of my baggy sweatpants...but to be completely honest, it was my own fault of rushing around that started the whole chain reaction. Nevertheless...

Let's look at the top reasons for Falls:

My admitted weakness - Spinetta Wines
Especially their Black Muscat
IntoxicationEven a little alcohol can impair your balance and reflexes. A lot of alcohol? Well, that goes without saying. It’s a slippery slope towards bad judgment, and ultimately, unconsciousness…because once you’re at that point, you won’t even know if you hit your head on the corner of a table, or how you found yourself at the bottom of the stairs. That is, if you even wake up from such a fall.
   Sure, it’s nice to enjoy a glass of [California] wine, or a nice cold beer in order to unwind after a long day at work…but drinking alone can be an unhealthy risk. So, if you do drink alone…do it in moderation and set boundaries for yourself. And, of course, never drink and drive. Better to just go straight to bed-or-couch and sleep it off, than “decide” in an impaired state to do something inarguably stupid.

Area rugs. Even “anti-slip” backing may not always solve the problem on slick wood floors (be careful about how much you clean/wax those floors, by the way). Rugs on carpeted floors need to be secured down, somehow. If you do slip and fall on such flooring, you might want to think about how our EMTs might be “slip-sliding away” as well, just to get to order to help you.
   Also, be wary of the edges and corners of the rugs you have in your home. Even finish-edged rugs on a carpet base can cause problems; over time, those edges can bend up, or get frayed. So be careful how you enter the rooms that have such a situation or layout.
   You know your home the best. Always think safety first when planning your interior decorating!

My Grand-Puppy, the N. Arapaho Pow Wow, Sept 2018
PetsWe love our fur babies, but let’s face it…they can sometimes be a bit, well...unpredictable. There’s really nothing you can do to prevent your pooch from running up and jumping on you. OMG, they’re SO happy to see you! But a medium to large-sized dog could push you right over, or at the very least cause you to lose your balance. Small dogs and cats can suddenly appear right in front of you, so be aware of where your pets aresurvey the area or rooms before you proceed. Train them to “sit” or “stay” on command.
   Okay, so...cats are a different story; they pretty much go wherever they please…however they please! 

Other causes of falls…

Impulsiveness: “Slow down, you move too fast…” Made you sing it! Thank you, Simon & Garfunkel. Seriously, though…impulsiveness was one of the factors that led to my own fall. I looked at the time, started rushing around, not being mindful of my actions and surroundings. Even though my sweat pants were too large, I may not have fallen if I had walked, instead of bolted down the hallway.
   Get up slowlyWalk, don’t run. Life is not a sprint (even if your morning-caffeinated drink would tell you otherwise). I would rather be late to work and still be in one piece…than not make it in at all and have to explain the story to my boss (even though she probably wouldn't be surprised). The fortunate thing is that my boss and the crews know my work schedule and when to expect me. So, if I didn't show up without any word or explanation, they’d probably know something was wrong.
   Watch where you’re going in public places. Look up at bubble mirrors in order to help you see what’s coming around the corner. They’re there for a reason.
   Feelin' groovy...

Slippery SurfacesThis is becoming just a tiny bit irrelevant now, since Wyoming is (finally) experiencing some of the first thaws of Spring. But the nights can still get down to very cold temps, so still be cautious of potentially icy walkways and sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Even the slightest slips can cause injury as you try to compensate to maintain your balance.
   Clear all sidewalks and driveways! Falls on your tailbone, bracing a fall with your hands…all can be prevented if you just move slowly on a clear, dry path. Wear shoes or boots with good sole traction.
   Know that any wet floor surface can put you at risk for a slip-and-fall, so use and READ “Wet Floor” signs!

Carol's basement stairs.
Yeah, you don't wanna go down there.
StairwaysI have a particularly steep stairway that leads down into a dark basement where I store the bodies (just kidding!)…so I’m always sure to turn on the light, grab onto the handrails and use them all the way down. Same with outdoor porch and deck stairs, especially at night.

Ladders. Spring is teasing us here in Wyoming, but you know…there are always those "over-achievers" who want to clear out those rain gutters and inspect what damage has been done to the roof during the harsh Winter. I don’t care if you fancy yourself as Spider Man with “Spidey-senses”…you’re not going to impress our EMTs when they have to be called out because you decided to climb an old rickety ladder…alone. So, yeah...don't do it alone. Be smart; get a friend to help steady that ladder, and can celebrate your accomplishment(s) over a nice, cold one. Later. See "Intoxication" above...don't make our Paramedics have to save your ass for two reasons.

Flip-Flops. I know, they’re popular Summer wear, and I do love ‘em, but…they can also leave you wide open to a myriad of foot injuries. Never run in flip-flops. If you can’t walk in them properly (and slowly) consider closed-toed or tight-fitted sandals.  Be sure-footed! Wear correctly-sized shoes and slippers (I admit, an ironic name for footwear, LOL)

A History of Falls. Our EMTs/Paramedics get many, many "fall calls". Never would they ever minimize the urgency or importance of such calls, but...when there are other calls that are of priority...especially now,  during this COVID-19 would help them greatly if they knew the extent of pain and injury due to the fall. In my case, I have no history of falling, but even if I did have such a history, I'd probably drag and drive myself into my car and make the less-than-one-mile distance to the Riverton ER to get treated. But...that's me...a single, stubborn woman. For many, that is not the case.
   If you have a history of falling, it's time to consult your doctor as to what to do. There is no shame in this, and you should never take your own health lightly. You know yourself better than anyone, so take control and have medical professionals on your side.

Keep your phone with you, make sure it’s always charged. Take your phone with you, even into the bathroom. Keep landline phones in their cradles, charged, visible and unobstructed.

🚑 When to call 911…
If you are in extreme pain.
If you are bleeding (more than a little scrape).
If you fell because of an onset of dizziness, light-headedness, blurred vision or vertigo.
If your over 55 and/or taking blood thinners.

CDC: Preventing Falls
Life Enriching Resources
Tai Chi Foundation