Mammy: Always have one good woman friend

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Lucille and Eddie Brown on their wedding day, February 1936.

My maternal grandmother, we called her Mammy, was a woman of many opinions and action. One of her pearls of wisdom is resonating with me tonight, and I’ll share it with you.

Always have one good woman friend.

Well, truth be told, I’ve always been given to friendships with boys and men. I love them. They are straight forward and communication never leaves you guessing.

When Mammy imparted this gift to me, I assured her she was my woman friend. “It doesn’t work that way. You are not getting off that easy,” she said.

I’ve been friendly with women, but I watched my Mammy, too. A strong personality, she could easily be on the outs with any of her women friends, or family, at any given time. Her discipline was abusive, and her relationship with my mother was both difficult and complicated. All of that is another story.

Tonight, I count more than one woman my friend, but there’s been conjecture that I’m feuding with one because we don’t share the same opinion on a single topic.

We live in a society of disposable convenience. Not happy with a relationship? End it. There will be someone new.

That’s not how I operate. I feel things deeply. If you are my friend, you are my friend for the long haul. I am, however, discriminating. I know the difference between friendship and acquaintances. I have a few fine friends and many acquaintances. Either place you find yourself on my spectrum, I’m loyal and it takes more than a difference of opinion for me to walk away.

If you are looking for a cat fight, move along. There’s nothing to see here. If I do get riled up, you can expect to hear another of Mammy’s phrases, “You want me to show you how the cow ate the cabbage?”

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Seeing independence through a new lens

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I love my nation and its history. Of late I’m in a pattern of learning that has caused me to view our history in a different way. Our 240 years of democracy is a small drop in the barrel of time, compared to the thousands of years this land has been home to its indigenous peoples.

Perspective is everything. Recently, I viewed a video where a Tribal young man explained that Abraham Lincoln was an emancipator of one group of citizens, but he began a policy of enslavement for Native Americans. I had not placed history in that context.

It is important to realize that as the nation was engaged in the Civil War and Reconstruction, Tribal people were being herded on to reservations or slaughtered. Sequestering these people was not enough, as forced assimilation broke families apart and removed children from their natural sources of support, strength and culture.

We are a nation that values freedom and bravery. Native Americans have shown great bravery throughout our history together, with a determined interest in freedom.

It surprises me that a melting pot nation that pays lip service to the strength of diversity, but take every opportunity to illustrate differences and drive people apart.

I’m proud of my nation and would defend it unto death. However, I believe there are some lessons from the past that can help us work better together moving forward.

It is not lost on me that I spent part of the day in Malin, where the waters of Tule Lake once lapped at the shoreline. The land was trod by Native Americans for thousands of years before the first white scouts made contact. Many interactions were tenuous, but our society didn’t take note of how to work well with others.

Throughout the decades there would be immigrants from Ireland and what is now the Czech Republic come to the area and tame the desert, making it produce crops. Each new group was met with discrimination and derision.

What surprises me is that in most instances we’ve moved beyond the fear of other cultures, but there is still anxiety associated with the Native peoples.

I can’t fix the past, but I can offer to be an ally. I respect the history of the aboriginal people of my nation, and I’m sorry that even today most Native youth are asked to walk in two separate worlds — one of their culture and the other the dominant culture.

I hope it won’t take another 240 years to learn how to allow people to walk their own path, alongside others, without forcing them to conform. Isn’t that the most essential form of freedom?

Kinetics is a special community unto its own

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Dawn Jennings Peterson, known in the kinetic world as Vixen, entertains the audience at the 2016 Klamath Kinetic Challenge Awards.

We all inhabit a subculture of one. None of us are exactly alike anyone else in the world, but  there are moments when you find those of a similar mindset with whom you can enjoy special moments.

The Klamath Kinetic Challenge was born of the dedication of Denise Currin. She’d seen the World Championships in Arcata, Calif., and knew Oregon Institute of Technology could provide a place for fun sculptures to be created. There were few better sights on campus than the tall-wheeled vehicle coming across the quad, during my last professional stint there.

Over the years, Denise grew tired of the responsibility and the Challenge was thought abandoned. Dawn Jennings Peterson, then a medical resident, saw the story in the newspaper and didn’t want the Challenge to die a premature death. She recruited volunteers and led the effort for a number of years.

Her leadership salvaged the Challenge and built relationships near and far. She and her family are known to crew for the Bedfords of Medford at the World Championships; Sam and Lily, the children of Peter and Jeri Wagner of Davis, Calif., have grown up together with the Peterson boys along the Challenge course; and the mutual admiration between the Vixen, as Jennings Peterson is known in kinetics, and James Brown is palpable.

Kinetics aren’t for the uptight or stuffy. Anyone who takes themselves too seriously will certainly find themselves alone in the span of a weekend. Run along, if you’re not interested in fun.

What is especially winning about Jennings Peterson is that her professional life could count for her community involvement. She delivers babies, helps families make difficult medical choices, and gently explains complicated information– often all in the course of one day. Her husband, Marcus Peterson, is a dentist who not only helps improve a person’s smile, but is able to encourage patients unto a path of better all-around health through better dental practices.

As Marcus began his own kinetic team, Vixen pulled away from being the local Supreme Organizer, but her contributions are still visible in the friendships and goodwill she’s built.

The 2016 Challenge is over, but the esprit de corps  continues.

Community reflected in funeral business

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I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, but I was a bit saddened to think that my mortuary of choice is being merged with another in Klamath Falls.

Ward’s was a place where I learned important lessons, in addition to trusting the owners for my mother’s final arrangements. I had imagined that Jason would take care of my final arrangements, too.

The merger with O’Hair’s brings two very reputable establishments together under one roof, but I am forever indebted to Jim and Jason Ward for their professionalism and dedication to the community.

Before Jason became my brother in Kiwanis service, his father modeled a sense of community I would hold ideal. During my stint a the Herald and News, a Native American toddler died from a rare pulmonary condition. Understanding the pain and suffering the family had already endured, Jim Ward would not charge them for his services. He saw no reason to profit from a family’s tragedy. Their ethnicity only matters, because they found some racism in dealing with other professionals. It was not a matter of consequence to Mr. Ward.

I was still reflecting on that lesson when Jason opened the family’s chapel for a service honoring a fellow Kiwanian. He thought it was wrong for the widow to be gouged for the use of a gathering room, and allowed the standing-room only crowd space to grieve and remember.

A few years later, I would visit the office and try to purchase a memorial book for Martha Anne Dow’s public service. Jim Ward refused payment and said for all Martha Anne had done for the community the least he could do would be provide a memorial book for her family.

Finally, in 2012, Jason helped me with my mother’s arrangements. Some in my extended family prefer another mortuary, but I knew the Wards and wanted the best for my mom. Jason walked me through the process, told me what needed to be done and was kind beyond words.

My spiritual belief is that death is not an ending, but a new beginning. I hope the merger is a new beginning for Jason and his family after four generations of professionalism and committed service to the community.

Klamath Kinetic Challenge results in glory for everyone

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Peter Wagner moves his German wheel, The Flight of Sisyphus, across the sand obstacle of the 2016 Klamath Kinetic Challenge.

The core of the local kinetic experience is the spirit of collaboration and friendly competition.

This year Peter Wagner, pilot of The Flight of Sisyphus, was honored for his contributions to the Klamath Kinetic Challenge with the Spirit Award.

Wagner and his wife Jeri are familiar faces at the challenge, and he is known for his amazing vehicles and willingness to help other pilots. He is also a spectator favorite who takes time to entertain and educate those on the sidelines.

This year, he traveled five miles on a flat tire to reach base camp at KOA, but stopped tending his punctured inner tube to check on another team having mechanical troubles. He scouted the mud pit to ensure safe passage of all, and provided crew support to Jeri in several instances.

A special award was presented by Queen Bubblicious (Rikki Beford) to James Brown, who in addition to being crowned Tule Kween Jamie, also does the fundraising and trophy building for the Challenge. In the past two years, he has also built a sculpture for Nicole Young to pilot.

Results from the Challenge include:

Pel Awards for completing the course, following all of the rules: Banana Flambe (Tom Bedford and Dave Neiman), The Flight of Sisyphus (Peter Wagner), Seas the Day (Jeri Wagner), and Sweet Toot (Tony Bunyard).

Pelican Brief Award for shortest time in contest before a breakdown: The Red Barons (Nicole Young and Katie Bozgoz). Sponsored by Hanson Tire.

Road Runner Award for completing the Challenge in the shortest time: Banana Flambe. Sponsored by Linkville Coin & Antiques.

Dancing Grebe Award for largest splash on water entry: Seas the Day. Sponsored by KOA.

Stuck Duck Award for finishing in the middle of the pack: The Flight of Sisyphus. Sponsored by Mia and Pia’s Pizzeria and Brewhouse.

Owl Award for best local entry: Sweet Toot. Sponsored by Ace Towing.

Dead Last but Finished Award: The Red Barons. Sponsored by Ed Tuhy, doctor of optometry.

Gizmomania Award for engineering excellence: Banana Flambe. Sponsored by Rick’s Towing.

Van Go Go Award for artistic excellence: Sweet Toot. Sponsored by Holliday Jewelry.

Spirit Award: The Flight of Sisyphus. Sponsored by Klamath Basin Brewing.

Eagle Award for all-around excellence: Banana Flambe. Sponsored by Sanford and Son Secondhand.

On cultural humility

My professional work is facilitating health equity of late. It’s been interesting to learn about some of the barriers individuals experience in receiving equity.

An area of discussion is cultural competency, but I’m of the opinion that competency is an arrival at a specified place. Being culturally humble is more in keeping with the theme of working well together. My personal definition is that I cannot walk around assuming my experience, or culture, is superior to that of others, nor can I assume that everyone has had the same opportunities.

Monday I attended a training sponsored by The (Oregon Health & Science) University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Carol French of Figure 8 Consulting facilitated the training, and it was very well done.

One of the first points Carol made is that we all have bias. The first piece of information our brain tells us about others is ethnicity. Second is gender, with age being third. We must acknowledge that our brains function in this manner and work to filter our reactions and judgments in a positive manner.

She provided a diagram to understand the numerous filters we use:

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These filters play an important role in the assumptions we make about life in general. Please note that M.S.U. means we Make Stuff Up.

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Depending upon how stressed we are and other factors, we are quite capable of making  bad decisions which we will later regret.

Carol showed us a film Jon Chu created as a student at USC’s film school, Silent Beats. With no narration, the movie had the audience appreciating the complexity of the internal mechanisms involved with cultural humility.

It would be easy to beat up ourselves over our bad assumptions and response behaviors, but empathy goes a long way toward making the world a better place. We must be empathetic toward others, but also practice empathy toward ourselves.

Brene Brown has a powerful animated video on the difference between empathy and sympathy.

In the end, perhaps the greatest lesson is we are all human. The world would be a better place if we acknowledged our own humanity and that of others.

Blessed are those who mourn: they will be comforted

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None of us gets out of this mortal life alive. This weekend two of my inner circle are dealing with different stages of grief.

Shari Goercke Jones’ sister Niffer died unexpectedly last week. The Goercke clan is together in Olympia making plans on how to move forward. I’ve heard it said that a parent surviving a child is an unimaginable grief, as it upends the natural order of things. Shari’s parents have weathered numerous storms in life, but this is a moment they never could have anticipated facing.

While the Goerckes come to terms with fresh grief, Mike Angeli will attend the California Peace Officers Memorial. His partner at the Riverside Sheriff’s Office Eric Thach died on duty in 1999. Mike wears a bracelet in memory of Thach, and the engraving there is not as deep as that upon his heart.

Last October, Mike wrote this on Thach’s memorial page:

16 years ago, my daughter was born into this world. 16 years ago, you were taken from this world, Eric Thach. Some would say it is how the world is balanced. I would say that we lose those that make this world great too easily and that we are very imbalanced.

We bring things back to center by working harder and trying to live up to the standards you have given us. We honor you by this and carry on your memory and story.

16 years is long. Eternity, may it be guided by your example.

We speak of death as a loss, but for those of us with an eternal, spiritual perspective no one is lost. We know where they are and that we will join them one day.

Both of my friends and their families have helped me through times of grief and helped me learn and grow in other areas of my life. I am blessed with my little circle, and I aspire to be of help and comfort to my people.

We are here for a mere instant in comparison to eternity. Perhaps today we can tread more lightly with others, because we don’t fully know the burden they carry.