Forward Momentum

Step Into the Light

Journal Entry 12 – November 30, 2022

By Steven Maisenbacher

Well hello again. November has been one hell of a month and a lot has gone on for me. It started with a bang with these people running out of my insulin. The obvious results of that fiasco you can see if you check out Chapter Nine, Who Cares?.  

Other significant things have happened since then – some wonderful, some not so wonderful, some just a pain in the hind end. The best part is I’ve finally been given a little more freedom and that makes me happy. The other day I was allowed to go to the post office to mail some Christmas gifts that Leontien, my wonderful sister in Europe, wanted me to send. It’s about eight blocks to the post office from here, so I decided to walk. I took the smuggle buggy (my walker) and proceeded on down 11th Street south to Monroe where I took a hard right and proceeded down the eight blocks to 4th Street to the post office.

While walking down Monroe it occurred to me that a very big building across the street looked hauntingly familiar. This federal courthouse is the same building that I was sentenced in and sent immediately to prison from 24 years ago. So I thought this would be a good time for me to take a break, sit down and reflect a little bit. I decided to take a couple pictures with my phone too.

After all, this is the first time I’ve been on this side of that building without being in a van, shackled and handcuffed, with a police escort on my way to a court appearance. I was free and I was doing a normal person’s business in a normal way. What a wonderful feeling! The people in every car that passed me had no idea of my tie to this building or the past that created that tie. To them I was just an old man with a walker heading somewhere. I’m okay with that.

I’m also okay with the fact that while sitting out front of that building across the street, I knew that I had done everything that building required me to do and now it is time for me to get on with my life and the everyday things that make that life worth living, one of them being sending something beautiful to my adopted sister, who’s a caring and giving human being herself.

After taking care of business at the post office, I turned to walk the eight blocks back to 11th Street. Along the way I stopped at the Cafe Moxo and ordered a Diet Pepsi. It occurred to me there as well that these people have no idea what I think or what I feel. To them I’m just another passing customer, perfectly entitled to be in their place of business for no other purpose than to buy something, and it felt damned good to be somewhere amongst people that didn’t know my past and didn’t care.

I happened to look towards the back of the restaurant in the cook’s area that’s open to the front and saw one of the guys that lives over here and is in the same program I’m in at the halfway house. I yelled back to him, “Hey, it’s about time you did something worthwhile.” He laughed and waved; I waved and went on about my business. On the way back to my domicile, I cut through the courtyard of the old State Capital Building, now a National Historical Site, and stopped to visit with an old friend and his family.

Now this was before Thanksgiving that I had this little walkabout to the post office. Then on Thanksgiving Day the Creator truly blessed me again, letting me spend time with my family. These are people I hadn’t been able to celebrate a holiday with in more than 25 years. To be sure, this fact wasn’t their fault; it was mine. But now it was my greatest pleasure as well to be there with them, to eat, to laugh, to see how they’ve all grown up and some of us old – well, old-er – but we’re not going to talk about that.

I have to say, Babs, that was the best day I’ve had in 37 years and it was all because of you! You kind of forced me out of my shell, my own self-imposed exile, worried that I really wouldn’t be welcome, or that my presence would make the whole day uncomfortable for some of us. But it wasn’t that way at all. Once again, you showed yourself to be the matriarch of our family and I thank you for that!

The food was awesome too and I wish I could have taken some back. But guess what? There’s going to be lasagna at Christmas! Some of you may not know, but my sister-in-law, Babs, makes the best lasagna in the universe and over the decades I have often dreamed of her lasagna. That dream will come true when I get to spend Christmas with my family.

One person will be missing on that special day, but that too is about to change. Since our long-distance reunion, things have progressed so far and so fast, but not fast enough. Janice, I can’t wait to hold you in my arms. But you already know that and I know you feel the same way. So I got to go to Thanksgiving and I came back and we moved on.

Now, I’m not griping about anything, which is somewhat rare for me. Well, not really…what a lot of people think are complaints are just my pointing out the simple truth. They just sound like complaints cuz sometimes the truth sucks. But it’s not bad, the truth. Maybe my delivery isn’t always the best, maybe it’s a little bit blunt. Maybe it’s because I love the Creator more than deception, I love my walk on the Red Road and my belief in my spiritual betterment more than I do candy coating anything.

So this morning, I was scheduled to go out to the college to keep two appointments. Late yesterday I was informed by staff that I had a follow-up visit with the doctor this morning. So I went in and raised hell saying that it’s obvious that if I fail this semester it’s because they’ve managed to keep me from going to college to learn how to use a computer and do the most simple things to submit my homework assignments every week. The powers that be then allowed me to reschedule my trip to the college for tomorrow. So I go to my doctor appointment this morning only to find out I had come a day early. Yes, staff had mistakenly given me the wrong date!

Now, long story short, my morning was shot but staff did give me a pass to go on out to the college in the afternoon. But while I was waiting to leave, the best thing happened. . . I called Walmart and was able to talk directly with the HR lady to ask why a pre-arranged phone interview for yesterday never happened. After we talked a bit she asked me to come on in tomorrow for a personal interview. She sounded very positive and I’m holding that thought. Then on the bus headed to the college, I had a call to come for another job interview. So for sure, things are looking up on the job search – and I really, really need a job.

On another front, since “the accident,” which is what they are calling what happened when I was getting back on my insulin after they failed to provide my doses for 5 days, they knew I had been seeking a personal injury lawyer. I just got an email from the attorney asking if I received her letter in regards to “the accident.” Surprise, surprise. . .no I didn’t. So I told her that and she’s now sending it again certified registered return receipt requested with my signature only. Smile, looks like somebody else sees the fault in things that have happened.

So after I raised hell about not getting to go to the college yesterday and having to cancel appointments, and another snafu this morning, these people were gracious enough to allow me to go this afternoon instead and I appreciate that. I was able to get some things done out at the school. Everyone was extremely helpful and understanding of my situation. I know they will do everything possible to help me succeed with my goals. The job front looks promising as well, so I can’t complain. The only thing I know for sure is November is almost gone. Today is the last day and I got to share that month with everybody that gives a damn about me – my friends, my family, and you, my beloved Mitiwan.

A very wise person told me just this morning things are going to be what they’re going to be. My interpretation of that is: it is what it is – no more, no less – the Creator has my back, so let’s get on with it. Some people here can’t really get anything figured out in regards to me but that’s okay because I’m going to keep pushing and that’s what I need to do if I want to be able to continue to look you in the eyes or tell you in this matter, I am Walks On The Grass and I Will Never Surrender.

Thanksgiving Truth

Step Into The Light

Journal Entry 11 – November 24, 2022

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

My earliest memories of this day are being in school. I might have been six or seven years old and the teacher had us all draw turkeys. What we did was lay our little fat pudgy kid hands on paper and trace around it with a pencil. Then we drew a little beard on the end of the thumb and an eyeball and made a little beak. Some of us even got adventuresome and tried to figure out if turkeys had ears and if so how did you draw ears on a turkey. At the end of the day we took our little turkey hand drawings home and proudly presented to mom. She put it on the refrigerator in honor of this day, Thanksgiving.

Now, universally, Thanksgiving is known as the day that the Indians and the pilgrims had a big feast and they were all friends and they were all happy. The truth of the matter is it didn’t go down like this but they didn’t want you to know that when you were a kid so what they told you was the pilgrims and the Indians had that feast and they were all happy and they were all friends that’s how everything went.

When the pilgrims came to this land after being thrown out of their own or left in exile, most were running for their lives because of their religious beliefs and the fact that they were being persecuted, jailed, beaten, put in stocks for what they believed, for their own approach to the Creator. They got here in the “new world” or what is now the United States and didn’t have a clue on how to cultivate food or hunt for meat in our lands, so they began to starve.

The Natives saw this and because we are a people of giving and understanding and kindness, we helped them. We welcomed them into our world, we fed them and we gave them food to take home to their families so that they would be able to eat another day. When spring came around we sent delegations of our people to their people to teach them how to plant and cultivate food in this new land they had come to so that they could praise and pray to their God without being persecuted.

Didn’t go over so well with them though. Too many were not willing to spend the work or the time to nurture the crops so when the crops failed and winter approached they began starving again in their villages. So once again we came to them with our arms open taking them into our world and feeding them, befriending them and making things right for them and again showed them the compassion of our God, our Creator or our concept of creation. Never once did we claim our way was the right way, only that we had learned with the help of our Creator how to live in harmony with the Creator and the land and learned to sustain ourselves with the crops that we grew with the blessings of our Mother Earth we were upon.

Again they were not satisfied, and as winter broached bringing its icy fingers and chilling winds, the pilgrims decided the best plan was to come and raze the villages of the Indians, to attack them and take what they wanted be it food, hides, tools or lives. After these raids the pilgrims went back to their village and they had a feast with the food of the people they had just attacked; the same people who fed them, sheltered them and taught them how with labor and care to grow their own crops, to hunt their own game, to sustain their own way of life in order to approach their Creator in their own way.

They don’t tell you this when you’re little; they don’t tell you the truth. After all, how do you tell a child that it’s okay to attack and harm another person just because they have more than you or they believe differently than you or they feel differently than you or they live differently than you even if the way they are living was right and just and fair and kind and giving and trusting?

I’m not trying to harsh your vibe on this of all days. Today I give thanks and you have no idea how blessed I feel today. I will go and eat with my family, my people who are good and kind, generous, trusting and flawed just like Indians. Maybe the first time I’ve been able to be with them in more than 30 years. I’m nervous and I’m scared. After all, the tables I have eaten around for the past 30 years were filled with people that act like pilgrims, including myself. With the help of the Creator, I brought about a change in myself. With the teachings and guidance of wise elders, I was nurtured like that corn plant; it grew up into a beautiful stalk and produced ears of corn that in turn fed all the other people around it, helping them survive and thrive.

That’s kind of how I feel now. I’m growing the ears of corn, trying to produce, to feed others with my knowledge, my understanding, my compassion. I just want people to know there are better ways than being like an ungrateful pilgrim, not that there’s a better way to approach the Creator but because the approach to the Creator is a personal Journey, there is no wrong way to go to God, humbly seeking enlightenment, whether it be the ability to help others and feel good in doing it or to help yourself and feel better when you do.

This is just an observation from an Indian who has spent over half his life acting like a pilgrim. This is my first Thanksgiving free of captivity in 30 years. Today I choose to be an Indian, in my thinking, my mannerisms, my approach to the Creator and most of all in my approach to you. I will give to you. I will feed you. I’ll take you into my home or into my world as it is, and I will protect you while you’re there with all that I am able. I will give thanks for you being there and thanks for me being able to be with you.

I won’t forget the sacrifices that it takes to be an Indian. I won’t forget the lives lost or taken on either side. I won’t allow the discussion to be about desperation or entitlement or selfishness. What I will do is say if you’re hungry come to me I’ve got some food. If you need shelter come to me, I’ve got three blankets. I don’t need three blankets, I’ll give you one of them. If you need someone to pray with, come to me. I’ll pray with you and be honored to do so. My approach might be a little different than yours but it’s still going to the same place – the same Being, the same Great Mystery. And if you trust me long enough I will show you that we can do this with kindness in our hearts, peace in our souls so finally we can give thanks together.

I understand that some Native people want to call this a national day of mourning but I think we should call it a national day of celebration for I have something more to be thankful for today. After all that’s been done to our people we have stood strong in our resilience. We have been able to produce loving families, doctors, lawyers, educators, writers, artists, entertainers and so many others who have helped our people in so many ways.

So you can mourn if you want to. That’s your business but this is coming straight from the heart of an old man. I choose to celebrate who I am and what I am. I’m tired of falling back on the same old stories, the same old angers, the same old excuses. I choose to celebrate my people and who we are and how we heal.

Please understand, I’m Walks On The Grass and I will never surrender.

Giving Thanks

Step Into The Light

Journal Entry 10 – November 17, 2022

By Steven Maisenbacher

Family. They say you can’t pick your family. I don’t know if that’s absolutely true; sometimes your family picks you. I know that recently I’ve gone through some real serious events and those that reacted with words of compassion and anger against the machine that created the situations were family. They didn’t falter, they didn’t run for cover or opt out of helping me; they stood their ground over what had been done and what had not been done. They have gone through all the hoops, contacted people and encouraged me to contact others. They have given me strength when I really just wanted to curl up in a little ball like a wounded animal.

You know who you are but I want to name you anyway cuz you are my family: Bob and Babs, Mike and Karen, Janice, Leontien, and Sings. And there are others as well, special people who sent messages with words of encouragement or to express their outrage at what had happened.

Sometimes we take our families for granted; sometimes our families take us for granted, but one thing is certain they’re still your family. You don’t have to like everything they do or have done; they don’t have to like everything you do or have done, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that they are family.

I’ve learned that families mean unconditional love and forgiveness. I’ve learned that families mean encouragement in the face of all odds. I’ve learned that families are really all that matters outside of love, but that’s what the word family means to me – love. Often times I reflect on the sad person that I was and then I’m amazed that my family has stayed with me throughout.

Whenever I needed a helping hand they were there. Whenever I was being wronged they voiced their outrage and did whatever it took to make someone hear their screams of anger. Because they are my family and they love me and they care, just as I love them and care. I’m thanking the Creator in this moment for allowing me to finally have become the man that can realize what family even means.

In this time of holiday seasons we must let the past be the past. Nobody guarantees the future so we had better live life now. In this world that seems so full of anger and selfishness and disappointments, one thing is for certain, you always have your family and you can always cherish and nurture the love in your heart for them. When you gather for Thanksgiving dinner, smile and tell each one that you appreciate being able to be with them and to share this meal. And when you give your thanks to the Creator for this meal, give thanks also for your family.

Families will sacrifice, say things you don’t want to hear, say things you need to hear, and be there when you need them; that’s what families do. I know I’m truly blessed by the Creator to have my family and I’m very proud to be one of them.

In spite of all the madness of the past, they are still my family. I can think of no greater blessing, no greater reward for having finally found my way through the Creator, back to my family. I want you guys to know that I love you. I want to tell the whole world I love you. Just like I put all my heart out in these chapters, I want you to know that my love goes out in this chapter as well, to you with thanks for all that you do.

Bob and Bab you guys are some kind of special. I don’t even know how to put my feelings for you guys into words; all I can do is tell you that I love you and know that you’ll find your understanding of that in your own ways.

Mike and Karen you guys also are the best kind of family. You’ve always been there for me and you always will be. Just knowing that brings peace in my heart. I love you and I thank you.

Someone that I love deeply, dearly and profoundly told me this morning that she was humbled and honored to be loved by me. I need you to know, Janice, that I’m the one who has received the blessings in this; you have finally come back to me and we are family. Our love endured for more than thirty years. Even when we were apart, we were together. There is no stronger bond than that kind of love and I cannot wait to hold you in my arms again.

Leontien, you’ve been a sister to me for more than a decade. You stepped into my life just when I needed you. I had lost my sister years before and still grieved for her. You never had a brother so with your love and kindness you made me your brother and you shared your family with me. I’m glad to know your brilliant husband and it makes me proud when your beautiful girls call me Uncle Steven. You came across the oceans to see me while I was in prison. You said it was no big thing, but for me it was a very big thing. Your warmth radiates from your smile and your love illuminates the world around you just as you’ve illuminated my life and those around you and all you touch. Goes Far Woman, I’m so honored to call you my sister.

And to Sings, I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I’ve said it before but it’s still just as true in this second. In this moment you make me be a better man because I never want you to be disappointed in me so I will do everything in my power to keep that from ever happening.

There are a few more people that I want to mention. To me, they are family too. Even though some of my other family do not know them, you have heard their names from me often because these friends have stood by me for years. They have helped me and done so many things for me. They’ve kept me sane! Paints On The Rocks, you’ve talked me off the ledge more than one time. Karen, yours has always been a voice of reason as well. You guys have never denied me anything that you knew I needed. For all of this, I want to tell you I love you and I’m thankful to have you as family.

My love to Jessica and Cat In The Forest. Cat, you’ve been one of my best brothers for all these years. When you went home I felt like a piece of me had been torn off. But then you met Jessica and formed your own family and what a beautiful family it is! Jessica is a wonderful woman and a good mother. I know she loves you dearly with the unflinching love that only comes from family. I no longer feel a part of me is missing; that part of me has found its home too. You two have welcomed me into your family with open arms and I want you to know that I love you and I thank you for it.

I don’t know whether this should be called family or thankful but what I do know is you are my family – ALL OF YOU – and I’m thankful.

I’m Walks On The Grass and I Will Never Surrender!

Who Cares?

Step Into The Light

Journal Entry 9 – November 12, 2022

By Steven Maisenbacher

I’ve been going through it here at this place, we all know that, but the last few days have been over the top. For the second time since I’ve been here they ran out of my long-acting insulin. I take two kinds, a short acting and a long acting as well as Metformin. Last Saturday morning I alerted staff to the fact that I did not have insulin for my next dose. One of the nurses office staff, who’s actually very helpful and a pretty good guy, got right on it and called the supervisor.

She then called and got the prescription ordered through the pharmacy and I thought that that was going to be all it took. How wrong could I be? Afterward, when they called to ask if the prescription was ready and available to be picked up I was told I needed to call the pharmacy. So I called and gave them the numbers they needed, then they told me they could fill the prescription but it could not be picked up without the proper insurance forms or $357 in cash.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t happen to have an extra $357 laying around nor am I required to pay for my own medications while I’m officially still an inmate in custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The people here at the halfway house are under contract with the BOP and it is their duty to handle all ordering and paying for all my medical needs. The person at the pharmacy then went on to inform me in a most disdainful manner that the medical card these people had tried to use for insurance was not only invalid but void.

Question of the day: Where and how am I supposed to get my insulin?

So I call the Medical Center where they took me for my physical check-up and prescriptions and spoke with the on-call doctor. She told me that yes the prescription was written and yes it was ready for pickup, but the insurance card provided by the facility was no good. I asked if I could do without that long acting insulin until Monday as I was told to do by the supervisor who handles such situations for the facility.  That’s right! The supervisor’s exact words were, “Oh you’ll be all right, you’ll just have to tough it out until Monday.” This coming from a woman who is herself a diabetic and has had many complications with her disease. Who should know better what diabetes can do to you if not properly taken care of?

The on-call doctor told me that the people here needed to do something and highly recommended that I not go without this long acting insulin. She said in fact it is more important in my treatment than the fast acting insulin and told me that Walmart carries emergency dosages that can be purchased over the counter for around $25. All I had to do was get there and pick it up. I would have to pay for it myself, of course but I’ve got to do something.

When I went back up to the desk and informed staff of this I was told that they were not going to call the supervisor back and that her instructions were, and I quote: “If his sugar level reaches 500, put him in an ambulance to the hospital. Don’t bother me anymore.”

So even though they have a van sitting outside for the purpose of taking people where they need to be for medical care, no one was about to approve transportation  for me to go purchase the emergency doses myself. That’s what happened so I had to go without adequate meals and tough it out until Monday. What did I do? I sent an email complaint to the BOP Community Corrections Management Coordinator who supervises the halfway houses in this district concerning the abuse and neglect.

Next question of the day is: Who cares? I’ll tell you who cares, Sings cares, Bab cares, Karen cares, my brothers care, Janice cares, my whole family cares, and I care about the situations they have put me in.

In situations like this I’m helpless. I can’t just walk out the door and go to Walmart myself. Nor do I have money to pay for insulin even at Walmart over the counter for emergency purposes. I don’t have a job and I’m having a hard time finding any place that will hire me…that’s another issue. In fact, on November 5th, I sent a letter to the editor of the Illinois State Journal Register newspaper describing my plight. So far I’ve filled out 35 applications and been to 11 interviews. Still no job. The sad thing is people see a 62-year-old with a walker and no computer skills and I don’t get the job. It doesn’t matter how many skills, experience, and abilities I have, I’m never given a chance.

That’s a shame. I want to work. I have to work. I have no money. How will I support myself? I’m enrolled in Lincoln Land Community College as a full-time student with my first semester day being January 9, 2023. I can’t wait to start. It’s one step closer to my dream of becoming a certified alcohol and drug counselor, one step closer to my dream folks, but three steps behind how will I get there.

To date I have spent  more than $80 on bus fares because this facility refuses to provide bus tokens. “Oh, we don’t have the funds for that yet,” they say, when I know they get $54,000 per year from the BOP for every inmate they house. I’m not begrudging them that money but I would think that out of that they could certainly afford to see to it that I had my insulin and some bus tokens to help me look for work.

So Saturday and Sunday go by and still no insulin but they did promise I would have it on Monday morning. Wrong again! By 3:00 pm on Monday still no insulin had been purchased by the staff. However the woman who said they should “Send him to the hospital if his blood sugar got over 500 and not to bother her,” was extremely cordial for the first time ever when I confronted her about the situation. I assured her that unless I received my evening dose on time my family would be contacting an attorney. Still no insulin on Monday evening but promised to have it Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning family had had enough and started making phone calls, leaving messages insisting on immediate attention to this huge problem. I reached out to my senator’s office as well and started my search for an attorney.

With seeming ignorance of this unresolved problem, the supervisor went out to work in the field. By 1 pm I asked a staff member who likes to play big shot why I didn’t have my insulin. He said he would call the boss and then reported to me that I should call the pharmacy myself to see if the prescription had been filled. So I did.

I talked with Chris, the pharmacist. Chris told me that my prescription was ready but the insurance information they had was not valid. He was sympathetic to my situation and told me to tell “those people” that they need to get their business together.

I relayed the message to this staff person and told him I had already called a law firm and insisted they make getting my insulin a top priority. After a while I was informed that the boss did give permission for staff  to take me to Walmart to purchase an emergency dose with my own money, so that is what I was finally doing at 2:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon.

On the employment front, despite all this hassle, I did keep one last appointment with an agency on Monday morning. We discussed my issues about being automatically turned down due to age, disabilities and lack of computer skills despite outstanding qualifications & experience in many areas. The consultant said she would re-submit my resume with a strong suggestion to a couple of companies that need employees with my skills and suggest that in-house computer training would be in the best interest of the company. Don’t know if that will do any good, but I’ve had it. After purchasing my own vile of insulin I was left with $2. In my pocket. So be it. They hassle me for selling my jewelry, but I wonder what they expect me to do for income?

Next and final question: Who really does care? After all I’m just an ex-con, in a world that seems to turn its back on men that are coming home after paying the price for their committed crimes and want to do the right thing to become productive citizens, to make a difference and to make their lives count for something. I don’t know what happened to the world while I was gone, but folks, I am not impressed with what it is now that I’m home.

Nothing changes when no one changes. I once wrote a song about this. One of the lines went, “If you don’t like the way the world is, then change it, just change it. It’s your obligation to change it but do it one step at a time.”

I’m not ranting, I’m not even mad or upset, more in disbelief than anything but I promise you this I will not lose my faith in the goodness of humanity. I will not lose sight of my goals or my dreams, nor should you lose sight of yours. Wish somebody could tell me if my perception of the world now is inaccurate. The Creator knows I wish they would tell me that I was wrong about this.

Thursday – Last minute update. As of Wednesday morning, the big guns from headquarters were in the house. Everyone was being extra polite or ignoring me all together except my actual case manager, Ms. Hughes, who had never been informed of any of this. When she asked if I planned to go out to the college on Friday to start working in the computer lab to learn how to use it before school starts in January, I responded that indeed that is my plan. She told she would see to it I had a box lunch to take with me so I wouldn’t have to buy my own lunch.

Not long after that conversation, it came time for me to take my insulin. I knew it was dangerous to just stop taking the long-acting insulin and had not felt well, so had cautiously started back on it with smaller doses. So after taking my first full dose after dinner, I went to sit outside on the seat of my walker. The last thing I remember was getting choked on a sip of water and then waking up with my face plastered on the cement. My friend called for help and the next thing I’m in an ambulance headed for the emergency room.

Day of Injury Nov 10, 2022

After assessing all injuries to head, arms, hands and wrists, the doc tried to figure out what happened and why. My blood sugar was at an ok level, so he asked me to relate everything that had happened. I was told in no uncertain terms that no diabetic should ever just stop taking their long-acting insulin even if the need is minimal. The dose should be gradually reduced over a two week period or it will cause the body to go into shock. So the doc felt that between the shock of my insulin level being so erratic and hyperventilation from coughing, that the momentary lack of Oxygen was all it took for me to pass out.

Day 2 – Nov 11, 2022

So there it is. . . Fortunately, I had another pair of glasses since the ones I was wearing were smashed between my face and the concrete. Looks like I won’t be going to the college to work on my computer skills for awhile though. Got some healing to do first.

Thanks for caring. Walks


Day 3 – Nov 12, 2022

To a Gracious Southern Lady

Barry Standard – Keeper of Traditions

By Edna Peirce Dixon

Yes, Barry! This is about you! And thank you once again for yet another beautiful birthday card with a newsy hand-written note. Congratulations on your first great granddaughter after all those great grandsons and so glad you are keeping up with things on Facebook. . .

Every November for more than 60 years, when my birthday rolls around, there has always been a card in my mailbox. Inside, a hand-written note wishing me and my family well and filled with news of family and activities that would brighten my day. It did not matter that I failed often to respond or even to remember her on her special day, Barry was constant and I’m quite sure she was equally as thoughtful of many others as well.

Macon Hospital School of Nursing 1956-57 – Vibrant young women of the fifties (Barry front 2nd from left)

Though our paths have seldom crossed since our days in nursing school together, the times we did have were significant and memorable. We were not particularly close in school, but within a few years after graduation, circumstances would bring us together in a time when we both needed a connection. We had both married and each had a child. Barry’s husband was in the military stationed near Columbia, SC and my husband was a fulltime student at the University of South Carolina.

I had taken my first job working evening shift in the premature nursery at the old Columbia Hospital and Barry came to work evenings as well in a different department. I will never forget what a harrowing experience Barry had on her very first day of work. Without even a cursory orientation to the department, Barry was assigned as charge nurse, and among her charges, a critically ill patient. Not even the most experienced nurse ever wants to lose a patient, but we learn to take death in stride. Not so much when you are young and on your own in a strange environment with little support. This was my time to comfort Barry in her great distress when her patient passed that evening. I know she thought about quitting right then and there; I would have too, but no, this intrepid young woman came back and built a great nursing career.

Our friendship grew during that short time together. Barry sewed a darling Easter dress for my little girl. It was a beautiful aqua blue with ricrac trim. She made it with an extra deep hem that could be let down, so my tiny slender girl wore that sweet little dress for several years, long after our paths parted again and we each moved on to other places. The cards and letters continued – Barry’s regular at birthday and Christmas; mine haphazard, though my intentions were always good. But this is not the end of Barry’s thoughtfulness.

Several years ago, along with her newsy letter in my birthday card, she enclosed an envelope with a letter I had written to her in 1970, 45 years earlier, telling of our family activities in Texas and reminiscing about our time in Columbia. Oh, what a magnificent gift to have that letter to share with my now grown children! I asked that same little daughter who wore the sweet aqua blue dress with ricrac trim to read the letter out loud at a family gathering. We were all so touched.

My own life path took me back to school in the 80ies. This was when necessity called for a typewriter for my papers, but my husband insisted I needed a computer. I thought home computers were just a useless fad, but I went along with his better judgment, and nearly went bald from pulling my hair out trying to learn how to use the damned thing! But learn I did, and my skills grew as the internet grew, so this mode of communication is as automatic as breathing to me. I do understand, however, why many of my generation are still uneasy with computers, and sometimes I’d like to scream over the waste of such marvelous communications technology on utter nonsense as we now see all too often on Facebook.

After her retirement, and I’m sure with the encouragement of grandchildren, Barry got herself a FB page. And though she doesn’t use it much, we connected and lazy ole me… I start sending her online e-birthday wishes. Despite this, I still get the handwritten letter in a traditional birthday card. Old habits are hard to break. Then, once again on my birthday, another of Barry’s cards arrived right on time. And once again, it included an old letter she found. This time it was one I wrote to her on February 15, 1985. It started with an apology that it would be late for her birthday… (so what else is new?) The rest of the letter goes on to tell about having an empty nest with all the boys gone off to college, and my decision to go back to college. Oh, my, what fun I was having, how I loved going to school. I didn’t mention that I was still working part time at the hospital but talked about the new raptor center I was volunteering at and told her I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

In her note, Barry asked me if I ever finished school. Barry, I can honestly tell you I never did and never will. To bring you up to date, after taking every course they offered that interested me at my local community college, I went on to U.T. After a couple of semesters taking only courses I wanted, they kind of kicked me out when I balked over some of the less palatable required stuff. So the counselor suggested that if I wanted to write, that I should start writing! Duh! So, since I was not looking for a career, that’s exactly what I decided to do.

Barry, you also mentioned in your note that the present generation will not have letters to hold their memories for future generations. How sadly true this is. So my sweet friend, this transplant, this adopted southerner, salutes you for your lifelong friendship and thoughtfulness. It gives me great pleasure to write this little piece about you. When I think of you and our classmates as well as many of my childhood friends growing up in middle Georgia in the 40s and 50s, one thought comes to mind: You are the epitome of the perfect Southern Lady – far more than a fictional Steel Magnolia – a strong, loving, capable woman of faith and dignity who has faced difficult circumstances on your own terms and made enormous contributions to all that is right and good in the world. I love you and hope you will keep using that computer to write down your own remarkable story for future generations.

Thank you for being you!



True Names

By Edna Peirce Dixon

When I was growing up, I thought my name, Edna, was the ugliest name in the world. I wondered why my parents couldn’t have given me a pretty name. It sounds so harsh at best, and with me being me, from the tone frequently heard, Edna rang in my young ears like a “four-letter” word. Still today I wince a little when someone calls me by my name.

I liked my middle name well enough, Catharine, a tribute to my grandmother. Over the years I had seen enough of the “Edna-mother-in-law” jokes and cartoons and thought about making a switch. But somehow I never mustered the will to start introducing myself as Catharine and no nickname for it worked for me either.

By the time my mid-40s rolled around I had enrolled in college, and here, rather late in the game, I discovered a love of language and creative writing. At some point I had already read the works of Edna Ferber and Edna St. Vincent Millay and wondered how they felt about their names. Only when I began thinking of myself as a potential writer did I begin to realize that just maybe my name might be seen from a different point of view, as a strong woman’s name, perhaps. It would take some time for me to actually feel confidence enough to emotionally claim the power in my name, but it was a start.

As I would later learn, in Native American traditions, names also hold power and meaning. Throughout a person’s life, as they grow from a child, through adulthood, and on to become a mature elder, there may be several name changes which reflect the growth and attributes of the individual. Most special of all are names gifted to honor earned positions of valor, good deeds, or wisdom of individuals within the community.

In my late 50s, when I first started working with my friend, Bearheart, founder of the Perdido Bay Tribe. I knew nothing about Native naming practices when he gave me the name, “Wordweaver.” I liked that it reflected the work I did in service to helping him build his dream. The people I met in the Creek Indian community came to know me as Wordweaver. After some ten years I asked Bearheart for a name that spoke more to who I was as a person, rather than the work I did.

He said he would think about it. Months passed; I thought he had forgotten. Then one day his answer came in an email. “Sings Many Songs” was the name Bearheart gave me. He said the name was to honor the prayers (as in songs) I had lived out in my dedication to his people who were not my people by heritage. His mission was to help all people better appreciate Southeastern Creek history and culture and the name he gave me honored my part in the many educational projects I worked on.

Living at a distance, there was never an opportunity for a formal naming ceremony. No introductions of any kind were made and I truly didn’t know what to do with this name so filled with beauty and meaning. To the people I knew I would always be Wordweaver so I gently packed the name away and waited. In fact after Bearheart crossed over and I retired, I packed both names away thinking that era of my life was over.

Wasn’t long though before fate brought me in contact with Ghost Dancer and life took a new direction and new purpose. This would be a spiritual journey – a time of learning, reaching for deeper knowledge, venturing into strange new territory on a warrior’s path headed toward controversy, activism and action. Only then did the new name start making sense but this was not the time for such concerns. My voice would need to be as strong as possible; I needed my power name, Edna.

A few years later, Ghost introduced me to another warrior fighting his own battles, Steven Walks On The Grass. His friends all call him “Walks.” The purpose of the introduction was the discovery that Walks’ late mother and I happened to share the same maiden name. A little genealogy research proved we are indeed distant cousins through our shared Pennsylvania Quaker Pierce/Peirce family ancestry. Walks and I hit it off from the start and somehow I just knew the time was right, so I told him my gifted Native name was Sings Many Songs. In my mind at least, I hoped he might let me stand in for the mother he so loved and lost; maybe fill that hole a little bit. Walks immediately responded by calling me “Sings.” Together we have been walking a path of trust, friendship and kinship ever since, and every time I hear Walks speak my name I feel honored.

Lessons Learned:

The power of a strong name is the challenge to become stronger as you strive to live up to it. I am grateful my parents gave me a strong name.

The joy of holding a gifted Native name is in knowing it’s a sacred honor with deeply personal meaning. It isn’t meant for everyone to know or speak. Hearing such a name spoken with loving kindness by one who understands makes the old heart sing.

The important thing is, whatever name or names we have been given, it is incumbent upon all of us to give that name meaning and to bring honor to those who gave it to us. It is for us to learn who we are and honor our journey by telling our stories with truth and loving kindness.

Edna Sings Many Songs


on the hopes and dreams of a lifetime…

By Edna Peirce Dixon

September 12, 2014

I have reached an age when society thinks of me as old, and in truth, with each passing year the realm of possibilities seems to grow smaller and smaller; the obstacles in my path grow larger and larger. Even as I strive to be content with what is and to be grateful for the good memories, I sometimes remember with bittersweet tears, the promise of what might have been – those youthful, nebulous dreams of long ago, so impractical, so vague they held no value to any but me alone – never fostered, never honored, never fulfilled, and never will be.

But then again, I consider more carefully the gifts and abilities I use every day and a new reality comes clear. It occurs to me that just maybe a lifetime of trials and errors, passions formed, and skills developed was itself the preparation needed to bring focus to that nebulous goal of my childhood. Just maybe the promise of that dream IS indeed the selfsame path I walk after all these years. Have I come full circle or am I just beginning?

November 5, 2022 – Old musings from 76. . .still finding new beginnings at 84.

Truthfully, I’ve had this in my queue for months and forgot about it… So I’m forgetful sometimes. Don’t judge… I’ve been busy.

Choosing Happiness

By Eric R. Dixon

I like waking up at Reflection Tree Art Farm and saying Hi to the neighbors

At this point in my life I don’t feel the need to be someone else. I do not need to pretend to be younger or smarter or wealthier than I am. I have lived an amazing and interesting life and I have built many wonderful memories. Having lost my wife with whom I would have blissfully spent the rest of my life, I could retreat into my shell.

There is a fear of moving forward that could close all doors. Fear of losing again, fear of pain that might happen blocks the doorway. Fear is a poison that I can choose whether to drink or not. I will not engage it. I will not drink that poison. I will take care of my fear and soothe it like a crying baby.

I will choose to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind. I can be and have been miserable in the most amazing places and full of joy in the worst. Unhappiness can create a terrible wall around you that separates you from what you most desire. Happiness is the key to the door of that wall. When you have that key you can swing the door open. With the door open you do not have to seek anything. It will seek you.

In loving memory of my beloved Aimee.

Happiness is what we both wanted for one another.


Step Into The Light

Journal Entry 8 – November 3, 2022

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

I want to talk this morning briefly. I’ve just concluded my prayers and I’m sitting outside. It’s 5:39 a.m. I want to say something about being skeptical. I’m rapidly finding out here in this world that everyone is skeptical and suspicious and paranoid about almost everything and everyone. It’s almost as if when you walk by somebody you’re a suspect or they’re a suspect. You never know what their agenda is, you never give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s crazy.

I’m finding this in everyday life too. I go to the bus stop and people look at me crazy. I look at them crazy, wondering if this person is going to try and rob me. Is this person a bad person? What was her life like? Where are they from and who are they? What do they believe? Do they have love in their heart? Do they have love in their life or have they loved? Have they suffered tragic losses, devastating shames, oppression or have they had a content, purposeful, fulfilled life?

Me, I would say that although I’ve suffered, I brought it upon myself. Although I’ve been shamed, that too I brought on myself. But I can’t walk around being skeptical and suspicious of everyone and everything. It’s just not my nature. I guess deep down somewhere inside my old grouchy Walks’ heart there’s a bounding love, the kind of love I was talking about the other day, the same love that motivates everything at its root. Do we question love? I guess. Do we question our commitment to love? Sometimes. Do we feel that as hard as we love it’s returned? Not always but then again that’s the nature of love.

It’s also the nature of suspicion. Are the people that I look at with suspicions suspicious of me? Do they wonder who I am, what I am, where I’m from, where I’m going, what I’m about? I don’t know cuz I’m too suspicious to ask. I’ve been led to believe that the world is a terrible place with terrible people, but in the same breath, when I walk into a store I smile and say, ‘Good Morning’ I mean it and I’m pretty sure that the people that return that smile and that good morning greeting mean it as well. Even in that fleeing moment there’s the back hint of skepticism somewhere in my dark little mind. I wonder if they really mean it. Are they worried about me or wondering about me?

Yesterday was a red banner day for me. I really need to work and was asked to come to Walmart for an interview. I spoke with the man and it went really well and I believed I had the job. But then he told me to go back and fill out the application online which I’ve had problems doing, so there, even in that moment of self-celebration for having accomplished something else that needs to be done, I was skeptical knowing that the website is almost all but unnavigationalable. I don’t even know if that’s a word but we’re going to say it today, so today’s word that might not be a word is unnavigationalable. Enjoy yourself use it somewhere and when you do, trust that whoever you use it on is going to be skeptical as to whether it’s a word or not.

Anyway what I’m trying to get to this morning is a simple fact that I think we should start giving people more of the benefit of the doubt. If we prove to be wrong, it’s called a mistake. I’m pretty sure you make them too. I know I do almost on an hourly basis but that’s all right because I’m skeptical as to how long that will continue out here in your world… oh wait a minute… it’s now my world too! Don’t know why I was skeptical of that. I have as much a part to play in it is you do and today I think I’ll choose to give people the benefit of the doubt, even the people that I know who have proven to me every day here in this halfway house that they’re really not on my side and they’re really not trying to help; they’re just trying to get a paycheck and going about their business of being skeptical and suspicious of me. I’m praying for you this morning and praying for them, All My Relations.


Reflection for Native American Heritage Month

By Ghost Dancer

Native peoples have a hard time dealing with some of the practices and understandings of other peoples. By this I mean, most Native feel that other people must not think for themselves and are programmed as a whole rather than in freedom of the individual. I would like to share some reflections on these concepts and in hopes it will unlock some minds and hearts to be free.

First, when did anything become born evil? Does anyone honestly believe that the Creator purposely created anything to be evil? Then why, throughout history have people labeled certain people, animals, plants, winds, water, etc. as being evil? Now don’t sit there and say, oh it is just an expression. Really?

Well let’s look at history. How many places in books, movies, teachings, and religious belief is the wolf portrayed as being something of the devil or just evil? Now, I personally have lived with real live wolves, have hunted with them, laid down and slept with them and eaten with them. No wolf targets out humans or wants to hurt or eat a human, yet the wolf has this label on it. Many religious beliefs portray the wolf as being this evil spawn. When native peoples honor the wolf they honor its loyalty to family, loyalty to the pack, its loving ways. Every wolf gives love to every member of the pack each day. They mostly live by hunting deer, elk, buffalo, rabbits, mice, birds, or fish, but they are never cruel and don’t torture what they hunt. They do this for food only.

Wolves do fight to protect their families, territory, etc. and for their food. The wolves taught us Native peoples how to hunt as a group, how to hide, evade, and even how to live as a group of people. They also taught us how to reaffirm our love for each other every single day, how to play, love our children, and teach our children. Every member of the pack protects and plays with the pups. Traditionally, no Native will hunt a wolf or harm one.

Now let’s look at some other examples. A child is born deformed, has a disease or is mentally handicapped. Many cultures throughout history have labeled such a child a devil’s child, and would order the child killed. Even now some teach that this child is born evil, or in sin etc. So I ask you, did the Creator create this child as evil?

I say no. Is this the child’s fault? No. Some children may be born this way because of what the parents have done – drugs or alcohol or exposure to chemicals or radiation. So why label the child as something evil as many religions have done throughout history. Traditionally, Native peoples believe such a child is a special child and is here being taught or teaching us through their lives what Spirit wants us to see and learn.

Children born as homosexual would be evident at an early age and would be noted. Sexual preference was their choice; their free will. War women usually were very dominant women and would be accepted in the men’s societies. They usually had women or even a male who chose to be a woman as a mate. Not all males were strong, some had feminine ways and would not be accepted in the men’s societies, but they would be accepted in the female societies. These too were special people and fully accepted as members of society.

Now let’s look at a problem that really gets me upset: Women! Throughout history and even today, religious and social propaganda programs us to believe that women are lesser human beings, subservient to men. This is totally insane! Many even label the woman as cursed by the Creator and say she has a curse on her because of what a book and religions say because she has a menstrual cycle, what we Native peoples call a moon time.

Now let’s look at this closely. The Creator chose women to bring forth life into this world, by blessing them with the Love of giving Birth! Not a man who is so egotistical that he could never be responsible enough to carry the life in his belly for 9 months or have the love to willingly be able to endure so much pain. Creator is wise and knows the true gifts and abilities that we all have. Creator chose women to be able to do this – NOT men – because their strength in Love, beauty, enduring patience, forgiveness, humbleness, and generosity is what they have to offer to bring forth in the child.

Now when I hear or read that women are inferior, weak, or evil, or meant to be silent, or to be subservient, it makes me wonder on whose authority is this ordered? Who proclaimed that women must be treated this way? I know for a fact the Creator surely did not. So who wrote that in the religious books and told religious leaders to preach and proclaim this to be truth? Whose agenda is this?

Many proclaim that a woman is cursed because of her moon cycle, but really it isn’t a curse; it is a gift from the Creator. It is a gift to purify herself from within that no man has ever been given. Now traditionally, many tribes had a moon hut. This was so the woman who is on her moon would not OVER POWER a man’s spirit or his medicine, or power bundles, weapons etc. because a woman who is on her moon is very powerful. Her body is in pain, yet is aroused at the same time. Her medicine is so strong she becomes aggressive, same as doe or a mare in heat. To protect her and the men, she goes to the hut to rest and learn more about herself. Many times an elder clan mother is there to teach her of these things.

Now many others don’t believe or practice the way traditional Native peoples do, but we had a system that worked beautifully. We had Clan Mothers, representing all the clans; we had our Beloved Women, we had our councils that listened to the needs of the clan mothers and made sure their wishes were fulfilled and met. No wars, no actions, could ever start or happen unless the clan mothers ordered it! All life revolved around the tradition of the clan mothers and all females being in control. Men, ALL MEN, took their orders from the clan mothers. Even the Miccos all answered to the clan mothers. All the kings answered to the clan mothers!  Even those people who had special gifts conferred with the clan mothers in all matters.

Everything worked for the benefit of the people to maintain order, balance, love, and happiness for all. Justice was issued out by the clan mothers – true justice – not like today. Every action and every decision was designed to restore balance and harmony. This was all done by the women. The women owned all the property, homes and gardens and the women were responsible for dispersing the crops and trade goods. If all could be this way today the world would be a better world!

Respectfully, Ghost

%d bloggers like this: