Saturday, November 16, 2019

Art From Within: Riverton Pop-Up Art Show at Brown Sugar Coffee

I had the absolute pleasure of attending Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery's "Pop-Up Art Show" on Friday, November 15.
The incredible local talent  here Riverton, Wyoming was unleashed and in action. Without further adieu...

BRUCE COOK











HOPE ABEYETA




TALISSA ABEYTA







JENELLE REYES






LETITIA BLACK




EUGENE RIDGLEY




ROBERT MARTINEZ





SCOTT SANDERS



SUZANNE GRAHAM






Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Nouns: Hate is (and has always been) the problem

People...places...things...

When I was a kid, I remember that going downtown was an event. I didn't necessarily have to dress up for the occasion, but my Mom told me to get out of my play clothes and dress in something nicer (and clean). She usually had several places to go...AD Martin Lumber, Bi-Rite, Safeway, the bank, the post office, etc. My favorite place was Woolworth's, mainly because of the fish and turtle aquariums, but also because of the myriad of knick-knacks and toys to wish for. If I was good, she'd get me a 7-Up at the soda fountain...I'd climb up on the stool and wait for that sugary drink which was, back then, a special treat. Nowadays, a "pop" isn't so much a treat, but back then (at least in our family), 7-Up or root beer was something that we were only allowed to have when we went on picnics or out to the lake on water-skiing weekends, or on special occasions. Same with potato chips...

Yes, I was one of the geeky kids who brought my lunch to school. Cheese and alfalfa sprout sandwiches on homemade wheat bread with soy mayonnaise...an apple, or vegetables from the garden (snap peas, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks) as a snack...and she'd send me with milk money. I usually had a big hearty breakfast, anyway (eggs, some sort of grain cereal, sausage/bacon, toast...and a horrible, homemade health drink called "Pep Up" that made me gag...oh, and a tablespoon of cod liver oil). Sometimes I was so embarrassed by my lunch, compared to the baloney sandwiches and Cheetos that other kids' moms packed for them...but in hindsight, I'm glad I grew up in a household where natural foods were the rule, rather than the exception. You know how your parents say: "You'll thank me later?" Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Okay, back to shopping...

Walmart is pretty much the only place in Riverton where you can get everything you need in one trip. Within the past year, they implemented a policy and procedure where beauty products (mainly makeup) has a separate check-out counter, and they had reconstructed the entire department for that very purpose. Why? Because shoplifting had become a problem...and (like Costco) Walmart has also started randomly checking receipts near the exits, brandishing scanners that "beep" the receipts. I had no problem with that, until...I found out that Walmart employees were whispering that it was because the "Indians" were the main offenders of the shoplifting problem.

Really? Really.

Photo by Rich Hoffman
So I decided to do a little experiment of my own. One afternoon, I decided to "dress like an Indian", and no, not in my Pow Wow garb. Being part Native, I can pretty much get away with it...and I completely own up to the fact that it is really sad that I know the stereotype all too well, but...for this experiment, it was paramount that I played the part well. So I wore very little makeup...put my hair up in a messy pony tail...wore sweat pants, an old t-shirt, a [more] ragged-looking jacket.  If I really wanted to "go Native", I'd braid my hair.

I didn't get a lot of items, just a few small ones. I went through Walmart's self-check, almost got to the exit and was stopped by the "Receipt Patrol". I saw others (white folks, I might add) go right on through, no problem. But I was stopped, was looked up and down with scrutinizing eyes, items in the cart and the receipt checked through, no smile, no "Have a nice day..."...then I was allowed through.

On another day...I went after work, in my work attire. Company shirt, black pants, phone holster. Impeccable hair and makeup. Bought about a half-cartload of items. Went through full checkout this time (with a cashier, who chatted with me like I was one of her best friends)...got to the exit. Was not stopped for any receipt or cart check...one brief look, up and down, and it was "Have a nice day, thanks for shopping at Walmart..."

Experiment concluded. What did it tell me? Nothing, really. Nothing has really changed. Discrimination is alive and well. That it has always been about Whites versus Indians. That we're decades behind the rest of the USA, where what Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his entire (shortened) life fighting for, falls on deaf ears.

Here's what I have learned about my own tribe (Northern Arapaho), granted, in the short time I've been back home:
  • Not everyone agrees with what the Tribal Council says and does...nor does everyone agree with what our predominately white City and County government says and does.
  • There are many on both sides...Native and White...who wish that those in authoritative positions, Tribal and US Government...would just listen, but they don't.
  • There are many who are too afraid to step up and voice their opinions on change for the Tribe and on City/County government issues. So they remain silent, while the corruption abounds.
  • Not all Indians are drunk and on drugs, but many bad apples ruin the whole barrel...like with any community...red, yellow, black or white.
  • Money and control/power is and has always been at the root of the problem and the diversion of possible, good solutions.
Most of all...

It seems that no one really wants to take open responsibility/ownership for their bigotry...or they're in complete denial of it. Especially those in positions of power. In secret, sure...it's easy to be a hypocrite. I know plenty of church-going "Christians" proclaiming the love of Jesus...yet in the same breath, curse the Indians and call them ignorant, filthy drunks who should be eradicated from the map, and the Reservations plowed down to the ground. People might even say, "What are you talking about? I have a lot of Indian friends!"..."I have Native blood in my genealogy "..."You don't know me; I'm not racist" (but then privately share racially-motivated memes or comments on social media). Or talk about how gays are destroying the "family unit"...not taking into account their own abuse and neglect of their family unit. That's not a Black versus White versus Indian thing. That's a hypocrite thing.

So why deny it, if you're one of them? Why will law enforcement sit down at City Park and scrutinize the "Park Rangers", or an Indian woman who isn't doing anything but walking by...and not those who come out the cowboy bars on Main Street, drunk off their asses, keys to their trucks in hand? Because if you're an Indian walking down Main, you have to be stopped, because you must be drunk and/or high...or have a criminal record...or not "know someone who knows someone" who can get you (quietly) out of jail, because of the family name/reputation.

At the same time, I also see what alcohol, drugs and violence has done to the Native tribes of America. There are many Indians who are extremely anti-White, and claim that white folks just don't know the "Indian ways". But if alcohol, drugs, abuse, violence and murder of Native women...being drunk and disorderly...is being shown and known as the "Indian Way", who is really to blame for the prejudice, and what is really destroying the Native culture and families? It goes both ways.

I was told recently that a few of our [local] leaders actually want the division. They want the Whites and Indians to be separate...and they'll use every means and resource to keep it that way. Why? To what end? What possible thing could make something like this right, in a world society that would make Wyoming look so very bad on the planetary map?

Hate is alive and well in the place called Riverton, Wyoming...and plenty of other places on this planet called Earth...and it will be to all of humanity's destruction if it continues. Those who remain silent while all of this hate and bigotry abounds in ALL of our communities are no better than those who let the Holocaust happen in WWII. Because that is exactly what's going to happen if we don't eradicate hate in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, communities, towns, cities, states, tribes. What a slap in our WWII Veterans' faces.

There are good and bad things that happened in my childhood, as a Native raised in a white, Mormon household. There are good and bad things that have happened in my Second Life, too. But I will be damned if I'll let these sort of things just fly by in my Third Life. One of those things is to let hate and division abide.

And no, I'm not some weed-smoking, bleeding heart "Liberal" that joins marches and protests, because those have proven ineffective, too. No...I'm a human being with mutt blood running through my veins...like most Americans seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do believe in our Constitution...that our Founding Fathers left it up to us to make things better. There's a time for a massive Tea Party, a time to fight for what is right instead of what might be profitable for greedy politicians. There were Americans back then who knew slavery was wrong, and were silent...who knew what the KKK was doing, and were silent...and it has taken many, many generations of death and violence to get to a point where society is finally realizing that hate and bigotry is the ugly, horrible, intolerable thing that needs to be eradicated.

It's like my Mom always said: "Do it better than the generations before. Make it better than we did."

Anyone care to join me (people)...downtown (places)...for a nice cup of coffee...or a refreshing 7-Up (things)?

-----
MATTHEW 23: 23-26

Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees
23 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you [a]to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the [b]best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your [c]Teacher, [d]the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be [e]humbled, and he who humbles himself will be [f]exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [g]Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of [h]hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it. 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that [i]sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it. 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who [j]swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who [k]dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and [l]self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and [m]adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood[n] of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

From BibleGateway.com


Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Nouns: All We Need (and have ever needed) Is Love

When folks start asking when I'm gonna write my next blog piece, I guess it's time I got my butt in gear and start writing again!

It's been a great month thus far. I LOVE Autumn! I've looked forward to Fall since, well...last Fall! September 22 is my birthday, and ushers in the season; I know there's a connection there. Sweater weather...leaves on the trees turning colors and falling...more rain, snow in the forecasts...harvests going on everywhere...the last big hurrah of Farmers Markets. I know The Big Crush happened this weekend, in Amador County. I can envision the cool crisp air, the beautiful vistas of vineyards covering the hillsides in brilliant reds and yellows...

There are so many "nouns" I love in this, my Third life. I love the new people I've met in my travels...my friends who keep in touch with me...finding new destinations, traveling to new places, shopping in new shops...buying things that are more meaningful than faddish, trivial or commercialized. That's why I love Farmers Markets...people, places and things, all in one!

I love my family, my community, my co-workers. It's one of the reasons I moved back home in the first place. It's been two years since moving from the people I've loved in California, to being a part of the community in my hometown again. I've joined the RHS All Class Reunion and have met some awesome folks who have known me (or at least my family) all my life, and it's truly a Homecoming gift to settle into a great town like Riverton, Wyoming.

I do have a somewhat difficult time adjusting to life when I come back home on the weekends, after traveling. I have this tendency to "soak in" others' energies and troubles during the week, so sometimes I need time to retreat, relax, refocus and regroup. Sometimes I'm so saturated, I need a good wringing! LaTonya at The Lotus Dawn takes very good care of me each month. This time, though...she did some shoulder/back work and said, "Girl, what have you been doing to yourself?" Brandy LaRae of the Amador Wellness Cottage used to say the same thing! Answer: "Well, that's why I come to YOU!" I love, and will always invest in, someone's healing hands and caring touch.

I've said the word "love" several times so far. Love is a noun. It's a person, place or thing. If we think about the nouns we love, more than the nouns that suck the energy and goodness right out of us, could changing the world really begin with us? I think so...because, I believe in love.

I believe that Love can and should change the world. I like to look for and bring out the good in people. I believe in compassion, forgiveness, in righting wrongs, but I also believe in allowing and helping others to right their wrongs. And I expect people to tell me if I've wronged them in any way, so I can try to make it right.

The obstacle, in my opinion...is pain.

We as humans, cultures, races and societies have not learned how to deal with pain. And I'm talking about the deeper pains...the kinds of pain that grow like cancers from infancy to childhood...to teenhood...to adulthood. We have found plenty of ways to hurt each other, demean each other, bully each other, control and manipulate each other, kill each other...but we have not found enough ways to love each other. We seek counseling, therapy, drugs, religion, motivational speakers, gurus. We look to social media, comedy and entertainment for band-aids and quick fixes...some sort of sarcastic humor to get us through the day. We go to church, hoping to find some solace and comfort there, maybe some sense of belonging...but eventually find that there are cliques, gossip, bigotry, politics and judgment rampant there, too.

But we don't look inside our own selves to address the real pain(s), and the truth of where those pains originate. Instead, we take it out on others when we experience a flashback, a relapse, a pang of the pain that we thought was gone, but resurfaced through just one trigger. That's all it takes. One trigger to pull the trigger.

I watch the news sometimes, and wonder, "Who the hell have we become?" I watch our leaders, our government and Wall Street making deals out of our sights and control, affecting our economies and livelihoods, but...today, I just bought a jar of honey pecans for $5. I see the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" on social media and the pages of tabloids at the check out counter...yet today, on my way to the Salt Lake City Farmers Market, I passed several homeless people, and several piles of human feces (yes, feces) in the alley way. I saw a guy with [clear] mental problems on the street, jumping over the cracks in the sidewalk.

We all see the hate, the injustices, the bigotry, the discrimination. Yet, do we take a moment to think about which wolf we feed?

My purpose with Coffee Pong is to bring out the love...the good...the laughter...the hope. To speak to, look for and bring out the good in people, even if they may have done some bad things in their past. Doesn't matter to me. Because there may be a deeper hurt, a deeper pain that you do not see or know about...and the world has yet to find a cure.

Except for love. Love has always been the answer.

EMTs can give you something in an emergency. Doctors can prescribe medications. Counselors and therapists, programs...may be able to help. Religion may be able to set one on a good path. But what will help the lingering, deep-rooted pains? The kinds that make one feel helpless and hopeless? The kinds that are so deep as to make one lash out and hurt others. The kind that makes one retreat and lick wounds until they're worse than ever before.

I was asked once: "If you had billions of dollars to spend, what would you spend it on?"

Answer: "I would spend every dollar for whatever Love could buy." I would create tiny home communities for the homeless. I would actually solve the problem of world hunger. I would strive to give every human being the opportunity to find a place in their community where they are valued and appreciated...where they are called by name, not a number. I would rid the world of greed and selfishness, of political corruption.

But...that's just me.

Two of my favorite binge shows have been Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Both, because of the depictions of good and evil. I also like watching any Marvel or DC shows or movies for the same reason. I think there is a reason we are drawn to such entertainment...we hope that there are some superheros to save us, to save the world...to save humanity.

What if that superhero...is you?

My boss has cancer. Her 3-year-old grand-daughter also has [inoperable] Ewing Sarcoma.The outpouring of love from the communities of Fremont County has been tremendous. My own mother died of pancreatic cancer. Cancer is a bitch, and to me...it is an "evil" that must be eradicated. There are so many good people in the world who are working for a cure for that evil...but it also makes me wonder what evil is preventing that cure and healing to millions of those suffering, all because of...the almighty dollar? Those who can afford it, live? Those who can't, die?

These are just my thoughts...on one of my weekends away. I guess until we figure out how to give larger doses of love, compassion and forgiveness,we will never solve the problem of ANY evil in this world. But it sure makes me smile when superheroes do step forward and take action.

If you are in Riverton, Wyoming tonight...stop by. (see flyer below)

If you are where you are in the world...give a dose of love to someone. You never know who you will cure.

"A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
- Jesus Christ

“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.”
- The Prophet Muhammad

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

“As rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, do not burden your heart with judgments but rain your kindness equally on all.”
 – Buddha

"Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence."
– Mourning Dove Salish

“At heart we are all powerful, beautiful, and capable of changing the world with our bare hands.”
― Dianne Sylvan



Sunday, August 11, 2019

Coffee With A View: "Heil Jesus"

I was going to write something a little more trivial and light this weekend...something about "Rules of the Road"...(drink coffee)..."Chew What You Bit Off"...(drink more coffee)..."Garden-Variety Weeds"...(don't ask)..."There are bats (no, wait...wasps) in the belfry"...

But my weekend took an interesting turn, not just because I got on a cleaning spree (it was cleaning weekend...my bedroom never looked better, LOL)...but because what I was watching and listening to as I was cleaning my very own house rang true...so loudly that I couldn't ignore the message that my soul's gut just couldn't ignore.

As I was cleaning, I was catching up on a series that I love: Gotham. It's the pre-Batman stage-set, and I got through the last season's finale, where Batman "begins". So of course, I had to watch Batman (1989) and I did. My own time clock is all screwed up this weekend, anyway, so I started watching "Batman Returns", but my Internet was doing screwy things, so I perused Netflix, and a docu-series caught my eye:

The Family.

So at about midnight, I started watching this series, and...to tell the truth, couldn't stop watching it. Finally, at about three in the morning, I had fallen asleep, but did resume watching the series with my Sunday morning coffee (and continued house-cleaning...)

Here are my thoughts:
Yes, I was born into this world as (quite honestly-speaking) a Native American half-breed. I was adopted and raised in a white, Mormon (LDS) household in the good ol' town of Riverton, WY.. The opportunities I had to excel in music and writing would have never been realized had I not been adopted into a family who could afford to give me the kind of love, support and dedication it took for me to excel as I did throughout my formative years and more...grade school, Jr High, High School. I will be forever grateful to my adopted family, as they made it a priority to keep in touch with my Native family. They knew my heritage was very important, and they respected it. Because of this, I can be proud to say that I AM a "half breed"...yet, the negative connotation for those on both sides of the Native-White controversy remains.

Turmoil does lie within me today; I've been here before. When I left the LDS church, I went from the frying pan into the fire of Evangelical Christianity. I even wrote a book about it; I did a book/singing tour. I was overwhelmed with people asking me many questions about what it was like being in a "religious cult." I did radio interviews, wrote for Christian publications...told everyone that I was "born again"and "found Jesus"...

All it took...was time. And here are my thoughts:

I don't care about cabals, religion or cults. I care about my family, my community. I care about First and Second Constitutional Amendment rights. I care about the separation of Church and State. About what really makes "America great". Free speech. Free press...to address grievances. Freedom of religion, to believe what you will...whether it's in God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna...or little space men that came down to build the pyramids. I might have been born into the Northern Arapaho tribe...but I'm also proud of my Welsh immigrant heritage. I believe in the US Constitution (we actually have one, yes), and what it had, does and said it promised.

Those promises have been broken.

So what now? Here comes US Christianity, promising prosperity, justice and explanations done to [what they called] "heathens"..."filth"...

Still, no explanations.

Here comes Christianity, saying they're all about love, justice, peace, mercy and love. And there is still no justice, peace, nor love. Epic fail, without explanations. And just what is the "evil" that is defined here? You expect me to believe in some "Jesus Christ" that makes such awesome promises...but doesn't ever deliver? How does that "save" ANYone?

I've been saturated in Christianity all my life...on so many fronts, for so many years. I've seen the good and bad. I've seen the hurt and pain. I've seen the rich and poor, the joy and the angst. And now I come to realize that the MEN who have risen to power with a "Jesus" I have never known, nor would ever support...have been knowingly and secretly ushered in. And not only that...TAX dollars are spent spreading their "Word".

It makes me want to puke. And I haven't felt this way since leaving the LDS Church. Think about that, those of you who thought Mormonism was a cult. So many Christians point the finger at the LDS church, saying they're not "real Christians"...yet, so many Christians are not real Christians!

Where is the love? Where is the faith? Where is the hope? Where is the justice for victims? Two thousand years, and we still haven't figured it out.

I recently posted on a good friend's Facebook wall that, if you vote for Trump, and you claim to be a "Christian"...you're a hypocrite. Yes, you are, and you know it! Given my long-life history...because the Jesus (I thought I knew) would never condone imprisonment of children, Jesus would never backbite and call good evil and evil good. The Jesus I know even spoke against such! Jesus would never condone the building of a "wall". The Jesus I thought I knew would never justify killings or abuse of any kind. The Jesus I know would never condone anything less than "love God, love your neighbor, love your enemies."  Jesus would never condone what Trump is doing, and everyone knows it!

But, oh...who cares? We've become so desensitized, NO one cares, anymore. We just care about what we're told...what's on our phones, on TV, on social media...whatever is "out there".

I don't know who your "Jesus" is, but...Trump's "Jesus" certainly isn't mine. Gift of the silver tongue or not, he certainly has his way with things...because the masses give him the power to do so. And that's on us, as "We the People". We voted him in. Just as We the People voted Obama in...and every President in our lifetimes.

But it's not about the Presidency, and I hope that "We The People" can get that. We don't have to agree on everything, but...can we at LEAST agree that we don't want World War III happening any time soon? That we don't want a Hitler-like figurehead controlling our thoughts, our lives, our every move?

Wyoming. One of the last of the "frontier"states, one of the most sparsely populated US states, only second to Alaska.

What do I want out of life?

I want to roam the prairie. I want to watch the stars in the big sky. I want to watch my garden grow, my corn get past my own shoulders...I want to come home from a good day at work and say, "Hey, I had a good day." I want to help my neighbor, my friend, my co-worker. I want to give peace and love and hope, wherever I can.

But I can't do ANY of this if the leaders of the United States of America will not...and use "Jesus" as a cloak and device for the ignorant...for someone's agenda.

In hindsight...I wish Batman could swoosh down and save the city...

This is Coffee Pong. Because good coffee deserves some balls.

(Hey, ya got that out there, Big Brother? I just put garlic powder on my asparagus spears...)

Say it. I welcome your comments.

Carol Harper

South Pass on a sunny day...

Thunderstorm out of Rock Springs, Wy