Monday, July 6, 2015

Native Americans and a True Life Story

In the early 1940s, Nellie was forcefully taken from her family on the Navajo Reservation by Missionaries and placed in an Indian Boarding School.  Nellie's  ten siblings were also placed in the same boarding school.

The children were told to speak English, were punished for speaking in their native tongue. And taught about Christianity. We must not forget the Christianity!  They were also taught how to read, write, some basic math skills, and  most of all, how to do domestic chores like laundry and housekeeping.  The skills from the Reservation, like pottery, weaving, storytelling, healing, and so on were no longer desirable.

At 18, Nellie married Fred, a Navajo man with a similar background,  and soon after bore a son, my husband Alex.  As a young mother, Nellie got educated to be a practical nurse.  She and her Marine Corps husband lived in San Diego where he was stationed at the time of Alex's birth.  After serving in the Corps for 4 years, Fred and his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Fred worked for the City, and Nellie worked at Indian Hospital.

My husband's upbringing was a series of highs and lows because the relationship between his parents was usually turbulent.  Alex's two sisters were born shortly after they moved to Phoenix. A growing family, tight money and oppression linked with some alcohol and anger made for some unhappy times. Eventually, it got bad enough that the marriage ended, increasing the stress on all members of the family.

Alex spent summers on the Navajo Reservation with his family members who lived there.  From a fairly young age, he learned to walk between the two worlds, not as easy a task as one might think.  In the world of Phoenix, he was discriminated against because he was Navajo, and on the Rez, he was considered "an Urban Indian", and disparaged because he was not "Navajo enough" to be like his cousins.

Predictably, Alex got in some teenage trouble and decided to join the Military at a fairly young age.  That may have saved his life.  Most of his childhood friends are either dead or in prison.  A very disproportionately large number of Native Americans join the Military.  When I asked Alex why he thinks that is his response was "We have nowhere else to go.  We can't go back to Europe, to Canada or to South America. This is where our roots are."

I met Alex when he was 22 years old.  It was the night before he was leaving on a Westpac cruise and Alex would be gone for six months.  We exchanged addresses and began a six month friendship through two or three letters a week.  The rest (as they say) is history.

We try to visit the Reservation every couple of years at least.  Alex went alone this time to meet his family and receive a blessing from the Medicine Man.  The Navajo Reservation is a beautiful place.  Alex's family are always thrilled to receive us as visitors.  All of his "Reservation family" have jobs and seem to be enjoying their lives. None of them are wealthy, but they aren't impoverished either.  It's a different and more spiritual world than the one we live in.  The more I learn about the culture, the more I understand why there is a peace and harmony on the Reservation that is missing from many of our lives.

22a) Department of the Interior (DOI) letter, 2011:
The Department of the Interior has a solemn responsibility to uphold the federal government’s unique government-to-government relationship with federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, as provided for by the Constitution of the United States, U.S. treaties and court decisions, presidential executive orders and federal policies and administrative actions.
We recognize that a legacy of injustice and broken promises shapes the history of the federal government’s relationship with the American Indian and Alaska Native people. We are therefore working to turn the page on the federal government’s pattern of neglect of this community and, instead, build a strategy for empowerment that helps the tribal nations forge futures of their own choosing.
To chart this new path, we are restoring the government-to-government relationship between the federal government and these tribal nations because “self-determination,” “sovereignty,” “self-government,” “empowerment,” and “self-reliance” are not abstract concepts. Rather, they are the tools that will enable tribal nations to shape their collective destiny.
This is why Interior is committed to partnering with American Indian and Alaska Native communities to help them prosper by expanding education and employment opportunities for youth and adults, protecting lives and property by strengthening law enforcement, and building strong, sustainable tribal economies....

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Glorious Little Slobs

I have some expertise about teen girls.

I was one.  I have a daughter.  I have 3 sisters.  I have 4 granddaughters.  I have 3 nieces.  And I know all the really big secrets about teen girls.  They are glorious little slobs.

Clothes are left in piles on the floor and hanging out of dresser drawers and closets.  There are mostly parents who end up saying "I give up" when it comes to teen girls and their rooms.

The likely outcome is that parents eventually tell these glorious little slobs to close off their rooms when you are having company.    This solution never really satisfies the parents completely, but the alternative threats, tears, and trauma are much more dramatic and unpleasant than just closing a door. 

The amazing thing is that these glorious little slobs emerge from their lairs looking like the cover of glamor magazines.  How they find anything is a miracle.  How they get so perfectly "put together" is a mystery!  But they manage to do it.

Teen boys are much more likely to be neat and tidy in their quarters for whatever reason.  My son and grandsons and nephews are actually pretty organized.  It's the girls who are the "hot messes".  Almost all of the girls I know, including myself, get their neatness act together in their 20's. 

Men seem to go downhill from that point.  Or maybe that's just my experience.

It's a good thing teen girls are so gorgeous.  If they were not, I'd feed them to the lions.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


It's only one o'clock in the afternoon, but the dark skies make it feel like dawn or early evening.

The storm of the decade has arrived and brought with it pounding rains, hurricane force winds, fallen trees, power outages and mudslides.  Never mind.  I'm safe and warm in my lighted and warm house.  I have books on the kindle, hot tea and lemons,

I didn't sleep well last night partly because I was waiting for the pounding rain to come through our bedroom ceiling, or for a tree to come crashing through the house.  I had flashlights and candles stacked in every room because if there's one thing I am, it's prepared.  There was another reason I didn't sleep last night.  I'm sick.

One week ago today, my husband Alex came home after work complaining of a cold, a sore throat, a cough, a headache, and a hurting stomach.  Upon observation of him, I did notice that his eyes were a little more "glassy" than normal and he had a slight flush on his cheeks.  I insisted that we check his temperature and was unhappy to see that he was running a fever of 101 degrees.  I gave him some over the counter cold pills, and some Aspirin and told him to go to bed.

Alex enjoys being taken care of, and I am a good nurse.  The only part of this situation that isn't 100% fun is that I hate being exposed to illnesses.  Alex and I both have had flu shots, so I doubted that it was the dreaded influenza, but I still don't want to catch what he's got.  I wash my hands every time I touch him or anything he has touched.  I avert my face from him so he can't blow cooties on me.  I'm careful.

I make every effort to keep the man comfortable so that he has no reason to venture out of bed, or move for that matter.  I don't want him spreading his germs all over the place and if I can contain him, all the better for me.  The problem is that Alex does not like being contained.  He likes to walk through the entire house, and touch everything with his germy hands.  If he's not touching things, he's sneezing or coughing on, or toward, things in every part of the house.  If I bed down in one of the guest bedrooms, I am generally awakened when Alex crawls into bed with me and wants to sleep "with" me. 

Fine.  As a result of all this, of course I got sick with Alex's crud.  After 3 days of coughing fits and a sore throat, I have completely lost my voice.  I cannot make a sound.  I cannot yell at Alex for making me catch his germs.  I can't even whisper.  I have been struck dumb.

As of today, Alex is officially "feeling much better".  I, on the other hand, have another 4 or 5 days to go before I will improve.  In the photo above, it looks like I have a wonky left eye.  I assure you that is not the case.  Sleep deprivation causes it.  Not being able to talk makes it worse.

Much as I am tired of coughing my damn fool head off, I am even more tired of having to keep mum on how much I blame my husband for my condition.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Linda And Alex Have An Excellent Adventure

I don't travel.  I don't like to travel.  I dislike leaving my dogs so we usually drive and take them with us most places.  Alex flies a lot.  It's been several years since I have flown at all.  I always have found an excuse not to go.  I'm not afraid of flying.  I simply don't like flying.

We have made two trips via airlines in the last couple of months. 

One trip took us to Oklahoma City for my 92 year old Aunt's funeral.  Despite it being a sad event, we did enjoy visiting with my cousins and the trip was actually very enjoyable.

Our most recent trip took us to beautiful British Columbia where we spent several days at the Empress Hotel.  The hotel is glorious!  The people were delightful.  Canadians are lovely to look at and probably among the nicest people on the planet.  Even the custom's officer with his quick smile and "No worries!" comments was charming.

Canadian folks just seem to ooze charm, friendliness, and warmth.  I actually wonder if they might be aliens.  Adorable aliens, but aliens none the less.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  It was all great.  This is not a travel blog. 

We made the questionable decision to take a seaplane from Victoria to Seattle in order to accommodate our airline schedule.  I am not the adventurous type, (except when it comes to romance of course), but I overcame my hesitation and decided getting a seaplane ride would be the best way to get to our plane in time.  Never mind that I don't like to fly.  Never mind that I don't like heights.  Never mind that I don't even like water.  Yeah, it was one of those "what was I thinking?" moments.

We arrived at the terminal of Kenmore Air in Victoria about an hour before our scheduled flight.  They thoughtfully had coffee and bagels set out for passengers, many of them looking like daily commuters.  While Alex with his cast iron stomach opted to eat and drink, I sat and wished I could remember what a rosary was and how to pray on one. 

Several of the pilots walked into the terminal with their dark glasses and pilot gew gaws on their shoulders.  They looked cocky and about the same age as my 18 year old granddaughter.  Confidence inspiring for some I'm sure, but I began to feel a bit nauseous with nerves.  I watched the tiny seaplanes take off and wondered if I could still change my mind about this mode of transport.

Then she walked in.  She was a small woman, perhaps 30 years old, and gorgeous.  She wore tailored trousers, shiny boots, and a windbreaker jacket.  Her dark slightly curly hair was tied back in a ponytail.  There was something about her that stunned me.  Besides her obvious beauty, she radiated a quality of utter confidence and competence.  I sort of fell in love with her at first glance.

When our flight was called and we were told to gather outside the terminal and wait for our pilot, I was feeling a tiny bit shaky.  But then I saw her walk toward us.  She said good morning and introduced herself as "Anna".  She was leading our group of four people to a tiny plane.  Alex asked me when the pilot would come out, and I told him "Anna is the pilot".

Alex commented that she was probably just the person who helped with the luggage and such.  (Silly men.)  We got on the tiny plane and Anna told us to strap our seat belts and warned us not to get out of our seats during the flight.  Anna jumped into the pilot's seat and started the plane's engine and eased out onto the water.  She picked up speed and before long we were airborne in the smoothest take off  I have ever experienced.  We flew low enough to really see the channel islands. 

It was a beautiful flight.  I never experienced one second of trepidation.  I've never enjoyed a flight more! 

In fact, I've never enjoyed a flight at all before come to think of it.  All too soon, we were landing in the water in a totally smooth transition. 

Oh well done, Anna!  If I were a rich woman, I would hire Anna to take me everyplace! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Second Time Around

It was August and I was 22.  My husband John and I met a lovely couple who were visiting San Francisco and they invited us to visit them in British Columbia, Victoria, to be exact.

We were looking forward to our road trip, despite having a year old baby with us.  It would have never occurred to me to leave my son with anyone.  He was the most important person in my life from the moment of his birth.

We drove from San Francisco to Portland where we spent the night with a relative of my husband's.  The next morning we drove on up to Washington State and drove on to a ferry headed to Victoria, British Columbia.  The baby gurgled and smiled at us as we all admired the scenery and the ocean waves.

We arrived mid-day and called our friends who gave us directions to their home.  We were very happy to see them and looking forward to a really fun week.  Jim and Edna were an "older couple", meaning that they may have been 50.  (When I was 22, anyone older than 30 seemed like a grandparent.)  They showed us to our room and everything was charming and comfortable.  Jim and Edna said they had a surprise for us.

After we got settled, and the baby was left sleeping on our bed, we joined them in the living room where they had prepared cocktails for us all!  They said they were going to make us very happy and looked at each other and sort of giggled.  "Oh come on!  Tell us!" I begged.

"Well," said Jim, "We realized that having a baby with you would be an inconvenience and keep you from being able to relax and have fun.  So we have paid for a Children's Hotel for the baby for the week!"  I was struck dumb (as in speechless, not stupid) and must have had a very peculiar look on my face.  My husband said "Oh my God!  What a great idea!  How can we ever thank you enough!" and pretended not to notice that I was looking at all of them with daggers in my eyes.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I did hire the occasional babysitter for my son.  I did leave him for an hour or two occasionally when I couldn't avoid it.  But I'm in frigging Canada where two people I've only barely met are talking about sticking my baby in a kennel for a week.  And my so-called husband is "fine" with it.

I stormed out of the room and went to the bedroom where my baby was sleeping.  I must of slammed the door because my son awoke and started crying.  I picked him up and tried to calm him down, although I may have needed calming down more than he did.  My husband came in the room and said "What is wrong with you?  These people have done something really nice for us, and you are acting like an ass!"  I joined my son in crying at that point and told my husband I would never forgive him if he didn't take us out of there right that minute.  I just wanted to go back home.  John put his arm around me and said "Oh let's just try it for a day.  Then if you still feel upset, we'll go get the baby and either stay in a hotel or go back home."  I was trying very hard to be reasonable so I agreed.

When we came back out to join our hosts, Edna assured me that the children's hotel was run by two very nice British nurses and that the place was very highly regarded.  I tried to smile and act reasonable over the whole thing, but I really wasn't going for any of it.  I wished that Edna, Jim, and my husband would also somehow magically drop dead.  But alas, they didn't.  In fact, I was told that "It's all arranged.  We'll drop the baby off at 4:00 PM and then go out for a bite."  I cannot describe the horror I felt as I clutched my first born son even tighter in my arms with tears running down my face.

The three of them seemed a bit amused by my rage, but we went on to the "children's hotel" at the appointed time and dropped off my son with people I didn't know from Adam.  I hated their British accents.  I hated seeing the place out in the country where the two British nurses would be attending to my baby.  I was not allowed to tour the facility but everyone assured me it was quite nice and I wondered what they did with the kids dropped there.  I had seen kennels.  I would have never left my dog at a kennel.  Was this place the same principle?   Oh who the hell knows.

The entire week was a living nightmare for me.  We went salmon fishing.  We went to the beautiful Empress Hotel for lunch.  I saw the magnificent Canadian Mounties mounted.  We went to pubs and restaurants. If I had not been so horribly distraught, I would have loved the place.

I went from teary to bitchy with every waking hour.  I'm sure I wore on everybody's patience.  Being a complete pain in the ass to everyone all the time is exhausting.  When we finally picked up my son at the end of the week, he had a runny nose.  I was enraged.  Two British nurses couldn't keep my son from catching a cold?

So I'm going to Victoria, British Columbia again in a couple of days.  This time will be better.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

La Vida Loca

I went to prom with a Chinese guy when I was 17.  He wasn't really my boyfriend, but he was a good guy and cute too.

I had a boyfriend who was African American when I was 19, (right before, and okay, right after  I got married to my first husband). I also dated a Japanese man.

I had an Arab boyfriend from the Kingdom of Saudi, and an Israeli boyfriend who gave me a ring. 

I've dated, lived with, and married a few men. 

I've dated, lived with, or married doctors, lawyers, cops, criminals, firemen, scientists, rich men, poor men, business men, arms dealers, bankers, bikers, truckers,  sailors, soldiers, pilots, drunkards,  professional athletes, and the occasional silversmith.  I have enjoyed every version and color of the rainbow of men.

But now, I've been married for 25 years come September to my Navajo husband..

Do I ever miss the variety factor?  Well, of course.  But the truth is, I'm content most of the time.

I am serving on a Jury.  I think I'm lucky that I actually  feel no hesitation to say that I really think people are pretty much the same regardless of race, station in life, economic status, and so on.

I was surprised when I was selected for this jury.  But when I thought about it, who better?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Bullfight

In 1974, I was in Mazatlan, Mexico for a short honeymoon with a short-term husband.

I saw the posters for the bullfight posted all around the Plaza, and decided that it was a spectacle that I really wanted to see at least once.  My blue-eyed blond husband wasn't particularly enthusiastic about the venture, but I finally wore him down and he got us event tickets for the next day.

The seats we got were in the shaded area of the stadium and we were not exposed to the blazing Mexican sun.  The first ten minutes were full of pageantry   I was enjoying the marvelous colors and the ritual of the opening ceremony, and enjoying myself until I became aware of the first sighting of blood on the bull.  I expressed dismay, but my husband insisted that he had "shelled out good money" and said we were staying for the entire bullfight, like it or not.

I stopped watching the travesty in the ring, and began watching the other attendees.  Most of the local Mexicans had the cheaper seats in the sunny area of the arena.  They were keeping hydrated with copious amounts of tequila, swallowed directly from the bottles they were pulling from pockets and backpacks.

Since it looked pretty unlikely that the bull would gore the matador, I excused myself for a restroom break.  I did take a moment to touch up my lipstick and then headed for the bar.  I ordered a margarita and was soon approached by a handsome young Mexican guy.  We chatted in both Spanish (mine is halting) and English (his was abysmal), and spent about 15 relaxing minutes getting acquainted.  I saw my husband walking in the crowd looking for his bride with a touch of fury in his eyes.  I bid Angel (pronounced Ahn Hell) adios and hurried over to meet my spouse.

I explained my delay by saying that the brutality of the sport really had upset me and I was just trying to compose myself before I returned.  (Actually, I had considered running off with Angel, but I doubted that he had serious intentions toward me beyond an hour or so of entertainment.)

My husband was angry.  We left the arena and the bullfight.  I got my wish..  Even better, I got a divorce.