Sunday, July 5, 2020

History Lessons: We The People - Our Independence Day

I had an awesome Independence Day with my "family" in Casper. A steak BBQ (cooked to perfection) with the most awesome potato salad...chips and dip...strawberry shortcake for dessert...and, of course, a 4th of July in Wyoming wouldn't be complete with out fireworks/firecrackers! These are the things memories are made of...past and present! I felt like a kid again...lighting fireworks in the street, watching the teens light fireworks for the first time (yep, we were "those neighbors", LOL!). Makes me so happy to be living back home. 

Independence Day means a lot to me as an individual with a mixed heritage, both Native and Immigrant. Every year I ponder upon whether or not America has become the kind of country our Founding Fathers would've truly wanted it to be, and I often hesitate to answer that...because their very dream of "a Perfect Union" seems to have become more of a nightmare these days, and it saddens me.

Election years always complicate things for me as a Moderate voter, and as I drove back home from Casper to Riverton, my thoughts turned to that very hope and vision our Founding Fathers had. The monarchical rules and laws that were broken...the aristocracies and politics that were born and escalated...the blood that was spilled...the costs that were paid. I think of the very opening line of the Declaration of Independence: "We The People..." and I stop right there.

We...the People.

What kind of "People" have we become? Where are our consciences, our minds, our hearts? Have we forgotten our histories so much that we deny and rewrite history to our own liking? Are we so focused on trade, power and the almighty dollar that we forget that so much has always been thrust upon the weary backs of those who have and still are paying the cost?

We talk about slavery as if it's non-existent...but it most certainly is not. It is, and has always been, alive and well. We are all slaves! We are not free...we are all still bound to the gods of money, greed, power and control. Those at top still care nothing about those who dwell within the prisons of "the bottom line". Problem is, we've just accepted it...downright "Stockholm Syndrome"-accustomed to it. Those who fight for true liberty and freedom are ridiculed or silenced. Those who are blinded by it, gravitate towards it for the sake of their own survival. As human beings for tens of thousands of years, we do have this innermost desire for peace; however, the hope and vision of our ancestors and forefathers has become a mere illusion.

But we still celebrate holidays and Solstices...birthdays and anniversaries. Why? Because of our Conservative or Liberal party affiliations? No. Because our skin is red, yellow, black or white? No. Because religious traditions, doctrines and beliefs dictate that we must? Still, no.

We do it because it comes down one thing: Hope.

We hope for something better. We hope for future generations, that they'll do it better than we did. In our pursuits of life, liberty and happiness, we hope for a better peace and prosperity for all of our tomorrows.

Have we failed? Yes...so many times. But is there still Hope?

Ah yes, there's always Hope! The other day, I was thinking about "do overs". If I could "do over" a few things in my own life, would I? To tell the truth, I'm not entirely sure. Some things, yes. Others? No...because I experienced valuable lessons on my Journey that I may not have learned otherwise. However, no matter what...it has always been The Nouns - the People, places and things - that I allowed into my life, yet also had to let go in order to learn those valuable lessons...in order to form a more Perfect Union of my own heart, mind, body and soul.

What if America could push the "reset" button? Do overs? How would we do it different than our Founding Fathers? Would we allow people to divide into political, economical or social parties? Tories and Whigs? Conservatives and Liberals? The Haves and the Have Nots? The Christians and the "Non-Believers"? Would all lives matter? Would we allow any type of slavery, in any way, shape or form?

In the grand scheme of things, how necessary have these divisions been in achieving [some sort of bizarre, chaotic] "balance"...and just how has that been working for us? Yeah, not so great.

United we stand; divided we fall...and great will be the Fall. We let so many little things divide us...whether we should or shouldn't wear a mask...whether we vote our party...whether we're Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic, Pagan......whether we're straight or gay, red, yellow, black or white...whether we eat meat or are vegans...whether we are rich, poor or middle class. Etc. etc. If all humanity were wiped out by aliens in huge spaceships, or by a tiny virus invisible to the naked eye...what would it all mean, in the grand scheme of things?

I'm just going to leave that question out there for you to answer, and on that note, I will end today's blog post with a quote in the movie by "President Whitmore" (Bill Pullman) from the movie "Independence Day":

"Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind.

Mankind.That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom.

Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!

Today we celebrate our Independence Day!"


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Coffee With A View: "How Was Your Day, Dear?"

This next post comes from a friend I met many years ago, and, like many I've met along the way on my Journey, we've kept in touch solely on Facebook. I read his posts often because of his sarcastically-amusing sagacity that generates a depth very well worth the thought and consideration. I am most privileged to introduce him here on Coffee Pong, and hope that someday soon we'll be able meet again over the best java in Reno.

And now, I give you: Reno J. Dinero!

______

"How was your day, Dear?" I don't even have one of those at my house. In one sense, it makes answering all the more easier:

"Challenging."

For those of you who might not know (or even care) my business is entertainment. More specifically, business management of union labor for entertainment, conventions, special events, etc.

I have been in this business for almost all of my adult life. I have managed production for arenas. I have been a Technical Director for a university theatre; I toured as a Stage and Production Manager. I now am the Business Agent for IATSE Local 363 "The Mighty #363" in Reno, NV. I started in this business loading trucks at the Lawlor Events Center for $3.38hr. in 1983. I have done television, movies, live sporting events including two Super Bowl pre-game shows and Thanksgiving Day at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI, with Third Eye Blind. That was the first live televised performance at halftime of an NFL game, other than at the Super Bowl, by a major artist ever.

In all that time, and in many different capacities, I have seen a lot of things... but I have never seen anything like this. Period.

Our industry was shut down March 17, 2020, like no other.

Coincidentally, that was the day my Mom passed away. Suffice it to say, I will never forget that day for the rest of my life. But there are many days from my life that hold that same distinction. Both good and bad.

Right now, I have 300+ people sitting on the sidelines unable to work. There are countless numbers of my friends and colleagues around the world who are at home instead of being out on tour. Performers, production folks, ticket takers, CEO's, truck drivers, from top to bottom our industry has been affected like no other. We need large crowds, large working groups, many of us are in the high risk groups for COVID-19. Devastating doesn't even begin to crack the meter as to where we find ourselves today. Tomorrow? My crystal ball is on PAU as well. No one has an answer for us.

I understand my business. I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I know what it takes to be successful for just about any production you can imagine.

After 36 years in the business, like anyone who has been in their chosen field for that long, I kinda am getting the hang of things. I understand.

What I don't understand is all of you civilians out there who have become contrary. You fight about everything. Wouldn't matter who was in office, or popular in culture, which team is hot; you argue vehemently about trivial pursuits daily.

This is not public discourse. This is not standing up for civil liberties. This is not exercising your right to assemble or free speech. This is ignorance. Willful ignorance.

You talk about shooting each other. You argue whether to mask or not to mask. You rage at a percieved hoax or question each other's validity in the facts of your arguements. All the while, situations have gotten way beyond what's acceptable or should be acceptable. You lash out at those that oppose your viewpoint, or worse, take violent action against them. You riot. You damage innocent businesses. You steal. Then, you leave. It's out of control...and it's got to stop. Or be stopped.

Because the only thing I see stopped right now is my people. My industry. Your entertainment. Get it together. Think about someone besides yourself for a change. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. We have no time for sidetracks, if you want to ever return to seeing concerts or the Super Bowl or anything entertainment-related, ever again as you knew it, start doing. Or you can kiss that and "How was your day, Dear?" goodbye. This ain't about your or my day. This is about us our existence.

Reno J. Dinero


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Coffee With A View: Make No Excuses, and Rise Above

So today's "Coffee With A View" comes from an exchange on a childhood friend's Facebook wall. Let me tell you a bit about Cody...
  There are several people in my lifetime that I have admired because of their astonishing beauty. Cody is one of them. I've known her since grade school, and one of my fondest memories was when we partnered up for Mr. Breen's photography "class". I think I still have some old black-and-white photos from that...I don't know, I'd have to dig through some boxes. I know I have a few...

  When you're a kid growing up in a small town in one of the most sparsely-populated states in the Union, you are [or at least, appear to be] wild and care-free. That lasts for a time, and then, as a teen, it's the age-old story. You feel awkward, geeki-ish...hope to find some sort of "acceptance" in some sort of clique or crowd. I've always been a music nerd, so along the way, it was inevitable that our "crowds" would separate. But also along that difficult "Teenage Wasteland" way, there were those who would gossip, backbite, look down their noses at me...be a total and complete bitch to me. I very well know I was the brunt of not all, but some of it...however, there were a choice few in high school who never did that. Cody was one of them.

   Being back home now, some things have changed, but I've run into just a few local "Riverton Lifers" who think they're still back in high school, suspended in time. The thing that is most refreshing for me is to see classmates all over the country, all over the world...living their own Journey...the rises and falls, the falls and rises. The trials, challenges and tribulations. The losses accounted for, but the amazing wisdom and strength gained.

  Cody is one of them...and I thank her for, still...after all these years, being a part of my life.

Cody:

"So sad that this great country is literally destroying itself. Now we want to rewrite history on top of it. I'm sorry, but every single American has the same opportunities upon birth. It's up to each and every individual to grab that American dream and take flight. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, or even what social class you're reared in. Make no excuses and rise above. I want PEACE above all else."

Carol:

I was just listening to a song that had the phrase, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride..." I didn't understand how profound that phrase was until I read your post. I believe it takes a lot of work to make that "American Dream" come true. Unfortunately, we have several generations who have been raised to believe that they can just get a free ride on the work horses. At the same time, there are those who have been raised in privilege (regardless of race) saying: "Let them eat cake." and have no clue or understanding as to what it means to be homeless, destitute and looked down on because of the color of their skin. Myself? I feel as if I've lived a thousand lifetimes in my meager [almost] 54 years, and Life has always come down to choice. Decide what you want to do, and what kind of person you want to be...and then do the work to achieve it. No one else is going to do it for you...and there is no shame in asking for help, as long as the goals and objectives of the Dream is clear to both giver and receiver. Two (or more) heads are better than one!

 But to "force" our government(s) and work horses to continually give and give without oversight and responsibility is insane and it only sucks the Life out of everyone! Then it's no longer a dream, it's a nightmare. Also...where are the corporate churches and "ministries" that take and take tithes and offerings...for what, a "feel good" sermon, inspiring music and pat on the head? The poor are still among us...and according to Jesus, always will be (John 12)...so what wisdom does the poor have to impart? I think it would behoove us all to at least finally listen and understand. Thanks for letting me comment...Miss ya!


Sunday, June 7, 2020

History Lessons: "The Ways" - A Paradigm Shift

I own about 45 coffee mugs, but today...I chose this mug for a reason. Not because I wanted to make a statement that the cup is mostly white and the base is black. Not because white is on top and black is on the bottom. I chose this mug because what I am going to put into this mug is going to be one of the most delicious cups of freshly-ground, brown-roasted coffee, with a bit of sweetness and half-and-half to start my Sunday morning with joy. Those who have visited my home know I have "'mugs of many colors." 

On the tail of my last post, I've had some time to ponder on solutions. In order to do this, I've had to go back and really think about where it all went wrong...go back in my own "time machine" and not grieve over what was or has been...but hope for what could be.

Many tribes, cultures and religions have a Genesis story. A story or legend of "how it all began", be it a story to tell children when they ask, a spiritual response to ease a troubled mind, or a question to spark an adventurous journey. Eventually, facts and truths are uncovered and emerge that either coincide with what we've believed all along, or put us in a rut of denial for our own comfort and, yes...survival.

Whatever you believe about humankind's Genesis...there was a point in time where "we" (humans) became aware of Powers greater than our own selves. A tornado, a hurricane, a volcano would indicate that Something...the "gods"...were angry with us, that we did something wrong. We would try to appease these gods with offerings, tithes and sacrifices. We would worship in fear, huddle in refuge.

Thousands of years go by, and in that time, other "Powers" evolve. Acquisition. Commerce. Greed. Hierarchical classes and regimes...which evoked battles and wars that resulted in great suffering for the masses. There were no considerations for civilian casualties (to use military jargon, "collateral damage"). Pillage, plunder and destroy (often in the name or names of Diety), and those who survived would be in servitude to those Powers That Be. All races, cultures and religions are guilty of this.

Eventually, so much bloodshed and violence gave rise to Revolution. I think of the French Revolution and the American Revolution off the top of my head, but there have been many renowned revolutionaries who have made history...however, many will and may never be known in humankind's chronicled history. Nevertheless, they all fought for truth and justice...only to be suppressed and silenced by the Powers That Be.

I love Marvel and DC movies. I'm no comic book collector, but when I was a kid, I did watch Saturday morning cartoons with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. The Justice League! I even had a blue blanket "cape" that I'd safety-pin together and run around the house and yard. All I lacked was that golden lasso! Wonder Woman was one of my heroes. Why? Because I admired her power and strength in a world of men.

As children, we grow up in our families and households, knowing some, but little truths about the world outside of our little Petri dishes. We believed what were taught because we believed and trusted those who taught us. We've prayed to distinctive "Powers That Be", because that is what the history of humankind programmed us to think and do. But now, in an Information Age...we are short-circuiting because the ways that the "Powers that Be" have been doing things are no longer working. The "Christian Way". The "Jihad Way". The "Indian Way". The "Republican" or "Democrat" Ways.

We are at the cusp of a great Paradigm Shift of "The Ways". How will this all pan out?

At the core of every human being is the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Even if you've been in horrible, abusive situations, you "know" and "feel" what is right and what is wrong...and if you chose "wrong" to simply survive in your environment, who could blame you? You were a child! It's not your fault. I myself was in a situation where I thought it would be better to die than to live. I didn't know who my "friends" were. I didn't know who I could trust. But I knew what was right and wrong, so I started trusting my heart, mind and soul, and made decisions in my life where the Journey would eventually lead me home.

Some think I've become Atheist. Not true. Some think I need to be "saved" (again). Not true. Some think I'm a "fence-dweller", a "coward", "milquetoast", " ...because politically, I'm a Moderate, neither left nor right. If categorizing me as such helps you sleep at night, then at this point, I hope it gives you insomnia. Because for me, it's not about politics anymore. True love has always been my answer to hate. Too many...in my own history, and human history...have taken advantage of that love and have minimized it, twisted it and have nearly destroyed it and my faith in humanity. Can you blame me, or those who feel the same?

I made a promise to myself that I would "Be good (don't be bad). Be nice (don't be mean). Be strong. (Rise to the challenges.)" I'm certainly not perfect by anyone's definition, but that is my "religion", and it gives me hope in a world that continually insists on the "definition of insanity". It all comes down on how we are and will BE. Not because or our race, culture, religion or species...but how we are to each other as creatures that crawl upon the same Planet.

This Paradigm Shift...this Revolution...is now the epic battle between good and evil. Between what is right and what is wrong. This is a challenge for the "Powers That Be" to finally have to deal with. I actually feel a [tiny] bit sorry for all of the "leaders" of the world right now. The weight of wrong decisions have finally caught up with us all, and it's not a pretty sight.

If they had only studied their history lessons...






Saturday, June 6, 2020

Coffee With A View: The Time Is Now

Hello, Coffee Pongers! I love to read my friends' Facebook posts on current issues and events. Sometimes I comment, sometimes I don't...

I recently posted a Candace Owens video on my own Facebook wall, and didn't expect anyone to comment or message me about it (a hot topic). It's been very tough being a Moderate these days. But my beautiful friend, fellow musician, and thoughtful writer, Lisa Montes, recently posted something on her own Facebook wall that sparked a response, and I wanted to share it with you all this weekend.

Thank you, Lisa, for putting up with my rants du jour! I love and respect the heck outta you, too!

____________________________________________________

Lisa:
"Trump... Candace Owens... people praising and supporting both...

I am disappointed with both because of how they choose to speak about important human values and humanity issues (often times with great callousness and condemnation towards populations and people, and seeds of prejudice or words that elicit that in others,) and I am disappointed with those that praise them and praise people like them who choose division over unity.

Everyone has the right to their opinion and beliefs, yes. And this is mine.

So many people just missing the point about true injustice and the history of racism and inequality and brutality that has lived and breathed and been acted upon for years upon years and is perpetuated and encouraged by people like these public figures with their words 😔... and then inevitably domino effect trickles down and is spread by those who support and believe in the same words these two speak... whether intentionally or not, it spreads. I just can’t...😢

-----

Carol:

"The problems ARE on both left and right, and there is so much the public does not see! Murder is a horrible thing. Rioting and destroying is a horrible thing. Injustice is a horrible thing. The White House "Resident" is the worst one ever. I agree and disagree with Candace Owen on some things, but one thing I do agree about is stark REALITY.

Races and cultures cry "Injustice!" and march, riot and murder...yet there is a truth that no one wants to deal with, and that is: Too many do not look inward. Too many use "injustice" as an excuse and not a spark for solutions. Too many watch Corporate media for their position on prejudice and racism. On the Wind River Reservation, I tend to observe those who are silent more than those who are in protest. Why? Because I know of the horrors every single DAY that our EMTs and Paramedics are called to...Native AND White! The media doesn't actually "see" the abused babies and children. The media doesn't actually "see" how women are treated by drunk, high Native [and white!) men with fists, knives and guns. No, they can only speculate and empathize. Then the media spins and influences, left or right to appease their advertising bases; the public blindly swallows their pills.

The public and voters DO choose the wrong people to put on pedestals! Several.bad apples...even just ONE...can ruin it entirely for EVERYONE. How are true, solid solutions supposed to be put into play when African Americans ignore the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.? When Native Americans ignore the wisdom of their ancestral chiefs and their Elders who actually experienced abuse and injustice, first-hand? When Native American Tribal Councils themselves reek with alcohol, drugs and corruption? When so many white folks glorify a "Resident" that openly embraces a Nazi-like character [and] "values"?

No...it's not about what is unjust. It is about what is TRUE! And no one wants to deal with the TRUTH and admit they very well may be a part of the problem than the solution. That's why we are where we are, time and time again...in protest, riots and murder. That's why the problems of injustice never get solved. No one wants to look in the mirror and say, "Am I a part of the problem or the solution...and what is the best approach to SOLVING the problems and contributing to the solutions?" Because we don't vote for leaders who are true and just! Because no one actually reads and studies their voter handbooks, they just get on bandwagons and blindly follow their party choices. They are easily persuaded by corporate media and some random Facebook posts. Marching and rioting has been historically proven to be UNproductive. Not a solution anymore. It has been proven to make things worse; not better. I'd rather actively focus more on those who bringing peaceful, positive solutions and make a difference for the cause of [what has apparently become a matter of] human survival. They are out there. (Thanks for letting me rant on your page!)"

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Lisa:

I hear you and I respect you.

I think you speak and feel the emotions of so many of us who are frustrated in so many areas of what is happening in the world and to people.

And you’re right, there is a lot many of us don’t see or have access to so we may miss a portion or half of the story or miss it entirely if it’s not put in our focus.


Frustrations produce anger, and if used correctly anger produces desire for change and action - hopefully in the positive sense.


I think precisely because so many are ready for change and vision and justice in all these different areas, we are all expressing ourselves and taking the actions we see best to use.
Are our efforts always fruitful? Perhaps not always in the way we wish, but they are efforts and first steps, and they are evoking discussions and thoughts and actions towards positive change.


People who don’t feel heard or seen...want to be heard, seen, and counted when decisions are being made on their behalf or that affect them and others. So efforts are now being made by many in all ways and methods and directions to make that happen.


These are challenging times and if we are being completely honest with ourselves they always have been challenging times... we simply have not done the intrinsic and external work to truly always learn from them and make change. The time is now. 

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 porch...in 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 all...how 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 is...you 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 aside...no 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), but...it'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!