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Woods

Adventure takes a certain amount of bravery, so does staying the course. Life is chaotic, a perplexing trek through twists and turns, through silver tips, and underbrush intent on distraction. They work to ensnare us, intertwining our spirit – which should forever remain free – amongst the branches of its magnificent wood. Yet in this aiguillette, this thick of green, there is a clearing. A moment, in its solidarity, that is beyond perfect. It is a place called home.
You feel like home, the sure path through the uncertain wood. You harbor the light that entrusts safe passage, a beckon of what would be and what is. You are unbroken against the wind, an unfettered anchor rooted in the ones you love. You are all things; father, son, friend. Ever changing as the sunlight sieving through the sacred wood and wild as you ever were.

The “pin” is out

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I’ve done a lot of thinking – wow, how dysfunctional am I? You probably don’t realize the last blog I posted was in October 2013.  That was nineteen months ago! What was I doing those nineteen months, thinking about my family and all the emotions meeting them stirred up? Nope, I can tell you truthfully that I’ve spent most of that time efficiently and effectively avoiding all of it. And I’m very good at it. Most people disseminate information quickly. You want to get married? Well, let’s go get a marriage license and tell my family. The process is simple. Not for me. When it comes to my emotions, I compartmentalize everything. I “put a pin in it”, so to speak, then really try not to think about it again.

That’s not entirely true. I do think about things very much but it’s always on my time and in my own way. I have a very passive-aggressive personality. I may not tell you to your face I’m upset but my Facebook will look like a page from Psycho. Not pretty and truthfully, I’m not that bad. This inability to talk about my feelings has always been there. I can talk about anything on the surface – what I call “fluff” – church, my books, my family, and my friends. However, when you bring up my adoption or my biological family then you’re venturing into emotional territory and that’s an area under heavy guard. No one goes in there and sometimes not even me.

It seems a counter-productive way to figure things out but it works because I have gotten a lot of thinking done. Much has happened since the last time we spoke. My children and I drove to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving that year and I met three of my biological sisters. It meant so much to me because the information I got from the state said I had two older sisters only. That wasn’t true. In total, I have four sisters and a bunch of nieces and nephews. We kept the gathering small because it was very nerve racking for me and for them.

I got to see many more pictures of my mother, G, and found out that she too liked to write. I even read some of her poems and for me, that was a phenomenal moment. To know that not only did I look like her but that I took after her. I saw my family resemblance in all of my sister’s faces and found out the color of my eyes – which have always been unusual, not brown and not hazel – were exactly like my grandfather’s, Jack Buergey. I could go on and on with what I experienced but I won’t. It’s very personal. But I will tell you one more thing. I met an older lady. I don’t remember her name. She was in the kitchen at the Quapaw lodge and she was present when I was born.

There is so much that I still don’t know, about my family and my heritage, but I don’t think I need all the answers right now. I’m Indian but I was raised white, completely off the reservation with no concept of what everyday life is/was like on the reservation where my mother lived. I’m a child coming home and all the feelings I had as a kid are still there. What will they think of me? Will they like me? Am I one of them now? Who am I really?

That’s what I’ve been thinking about and I’ve come to a decision. I may not think of myself as an American Indian but I am one. I may not fit in there or anywhere but I’m going to try. I’ve had the paperwork to become a member of the tribe on my desk for a year. Last week, I filled it out and mailed it in. I got a call on Monday to tell me the tribe will meet at the end of the month, and at that time, I’ll be enrolled. This has been a long time coming for me, but it’s time.The “pin” is officially out.

This summer, my family and I are going back to Oklahoma and attending the annual 4th of July Quapaw pow wow where, for sure, I’m going to meet many, many more family members. And find out more information than I could ever possibly handle but I have a compartment for that. I’m sure nineteen months from now I’ll be ready to talk about it.

My Great-Grandfather

William Victor Griffin was born in 1873. Everyone called him Vic. He was an orphan his father killed in a dispute when he was twelve. He was Quapaw American Indian. He was raised by his ‘Grandmother’ but Grandmother in Indian terms means ‘Elder’ and in this case meant his aunt, Mary. Mary Stafford was William’s mother’s sister.

Vic went to school in the Quapaw Indian schools where he was taught English at a time when Indians still wore their hair long but Vic wore his short. He was a fast learner speaking English more fluently than anyone else in his tribe. He spoke Quapaw and acted as an interpreter for the elders in the tribe through the years. As a young man, he got to meet President Roosevelt and spoke on many Indian issues in Washington but he spent his lifetime in and around a small town named for his tribe, Quapaw.

Vic was taught Indian tradition by his grandmother. He also learned the ways of peyote by John Wilson, known as Moonhead who was extremely influential in the movement known as the Ghost Dance. When the tragic end to the Ghost Dance came about at Wounded Knee in 1890 Vic was seventeen years old. He remembered what he was taught and was mainly responsible for incorporating the use of peyote as an Indian sacrament under the Oklahoma laws in 1911. It is still used today.

His personal life held some tragedy. He married twice before and both wives died from unknown illnesses. He married Minnie Track and had six children:  Martha, Sidney, Hayes, Wilfred, Ardina, Victoria. He was a member of the Baptist Indian church in Quapaw and was also a Mason.

When Vic was fifty-six years old, he became Chief of the Quapaw and remained Chief for twenty-nine years. He was known as ‘The Short-haired Chief’. He was one of the last full blooded members of the tribe. Toward the end of his life the Quapaw tribe had roughly 600 tribal members.

In 1956, he stepped down as Chief for health reasons and a Tribal Business Council was elected as federal Indian affairs officials thus making William Victor Griffin the last traditional Chief of the Quapaw Nation.

Vic died two years after stepping down surrounded by family and friends. He is buried in the Griffin family cemetery in Quapaw, Oklahoma. His daughter, Ardina Griffin Greenback Buergey was my grandmother. Her daughter was my mother, Geneva. I was given up for adoption in 1970. When my mother became ill in 2010, diagnoses with pancreatic cancer, she found all her children she’d given up except me. She couldn’t find me but now I know she was looking. My mother died August 2012.

All of Vic’s children have passed away save one, Victoria. My Aunt Victoria aka my new Grandmother.  I will meet her and the rest of my Indian family this November.Griffin

Testing the waters

I have had so many things happen to me in the last couple of weeks I’d be an idiot if I didn’t take a moment to really reflect on it all.  Yesterday after signing my contracts and sending them off I had to work. I don’t mix work with my personal life so I had to jump around in the bathroom and walk around with a Cheshire cat smile on my face all day without anyone knowing why.

My quiet time is on the bus and that’s when it all really hit me- what a bad time! It takes me a while to process things. I have to do it in my own time and in my own way and maybe God knows this. Yesterday the day was perfect, gorgeous weather testing the watersand the sun shining down on me making this moment even more precious- God really knows how to deliver, doesn’t he? Do you believe in signs? Since you are still the couch I don’t expect an answer so I can tell you, I definitely believe in signs. Signs have changed my life; street signs, horoscopes, fortune cookies and the stars in the sky. Yesterday it was the advertisements on the bus; Museum Day is coming up, 1 October bus route changes and Nike’s slogan – Just do it, Now!

I had an A-ha moment. It should have been when I found my biological family, but it wasn’t. It should have been when my family openly talked about my adoption and all the feelings I was harboring since childhood but it wasn’t. It should have been when I was offered my book contract but again, it wasn’t. Fear still holds me back and doubt is still a good part of my life.

Sitting there surrounded by strangers (bus buddies at most) I was touched by the Spirit and it broke through all my reservations and self-doubt. There aren’t many moments in our lives that are like the one I experienced and I was reduced to tears. I was afraid I’d been in the well of fear too long and if the light ever did shine down on me I wouldn’t see it; I’d be blinded by darkness but I saw the light and the promise of all I could have if I just hang on. Have faith.

How many signs does a person need to change their life?!  (I’m sure that’s what God was saying) I need no other sign. This is it! THANK YOU GOD for everything you’ve given me. I won’t waste this chance and I won’t pass up another opportunity, I promise!!

I’m done testing the waters- I’m jumping in!

Taking a big Leap

take a leapMy mind was officially blown two weeks ago when I received an offer to publish my book. I didn’t quite believe it was real. I waited to tell everyone but until I knew for sure it wasn’t a bogus offer or the subtle offer to publish at my own expense (and as any hard-working author would agree- Never!) I self-published and it wasn’t as easy as everyone thinks.  When I received this offer I was hesitant.

When I first started writing (in 2009) it was to distract myself from my own pain. I wanted to fantasize about anything other than what I was feeling. No one really know about my private life because I didn’t share it and if I did, it was bits and pieces or I lied altogether but everyone could attest to the fact I was stuffing my face for some reason. They just didn’t know what.

In the midst of all this, a friend of mine told me to write the story of my life – for those who know me, it seems I am easily swayed by ‘friends’ – in truth, they can get me to do anything!  Just ask Karen! I got tased for a t-shirt! – My friend believed it would make a good book but when I started writing an auto-biographical story I would have gladly drilled a hole in my own head than continue writing. I was bored with my own story!  I’ve had an interesting life, I admit that, but reading it line for line, year for year it was killing me so after some thought I came up with Lara. She enabled me to relive my past enough to relay my feelings into my writing but not enough to plunge me back into my earlier depression.

Some people ask me what kind of books I write. I’m not really sure how to explain them. They are semi-autobiographical but I throw in some suspense with a little bit of mystery and wrap it all up with a happy ending.  Some authors start out writing romance novels (Iris Johansen) and other authors know their genre and write little else (Stephen King), I don’t know my genre yet. I want to complete the Lara Martin series and then write something different. What it will be I don’t really know but I’m excited to see what it is.

We are done with negotiations and I have signed the contracts. I have a deadline now.  It still blows me away! I was proud of myself when I completed Secret of the Kings and I certainly accomplished something when I wrote One Step Closer and followed up with Through the Darkness and published online, but in my mind (and probably others) I wasn’t a real author until I was picked up by a publishing company. I can now stand on the mountain tops and shout that it is real and it is happening!!

My sister says I’ve been writing all my life and it’s true. So let’s just see how far I can go!

If you’d like to read my books, follow the link below:

http://dmlvanheest.wordpress.com/

Rumors of war

be kind“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” ― Miller Williams

DON’T GIVE IN TO fear

alone 5I’m saddened every day by the number of people who feel they are alone. When depression strikes where do you turn? The sad part is most of us turn inward and that’s the dangerous part. If you’re not expressing your feelings then too quickly they become dark and if we can’t stop the flow of negativity it will build until it’s overwhelming. Depression isn’t a problem for most people and how stunned are we to learn that people die every day from it? Gia Allemand from the Bachelor took her own life. She was beautiful, fun, shy with a perfect smile, her smile hid her distress. And how good are we at hiding our distress? Some of us are very good.

I’ve told this story to my children but it serves to remind me of what fear can do if we let it: When I was in high school my friends and I foolishly played with the Ouija board. We thought it was a game but eventually it was freaking us out. Now I’m not going to say that we were talking to a spirit or some wandering entity but we were talking to something and it scared the crap out of me. One night I was asleep in my bed and I woke to find a black darkness spreading across my bedroom, I turned on the light but the light did no good, the darkness kept coming. I remember I woke screaming in the hallway with my Dad shaking me awake. I had awakened the whole house- my sister said it sounded like I was getting murdered. I’m sure she still remembers that night!

My mother knows me very well (no matter how well I think she doesn’t) she asked me what was wrong and it all came out. Talking it out in the bright light of my bedroom it sounded silly to me but my fear was very real. I’m not sure exactly what she said but the gist of it was, there is only one force on earth that feeds on fear and emotions like it (depression, anger and negativity) and that’s the Devil. He’ll use any weapon he can to turn you away from light. Don’t give in to fear, face them.

That lesson back then is the reason I remain resolute in my decision to fight my fears. Listening to that negative voice in your head telling you that no one will understand, no one will listen to you, no one will be there, no one can ever understand what you’re going through- you’re listening to the Devil and as long as he has your ear the Lord does not.

Families were put on this earth for one thing to support each other and when family isn’t there you have another one. Every parent out there knows that children are only home for a short period of time and then they face the world and unfortunately they don’t face the world with you beside them, they go out on their own so they must be prepared by giving them the absolute best chance for survival. Arm them with everything you can so they are strong against the world because we all know the world can be an Ugly place.  Look at what happened at the Navy Yard and murders and abductions that happen every day.  The Church is your other family. Any church in any city will listen if a stranger walks in and needs to pray. That’s what they are there for, for you in your time of need!

You are Not alone! Don’t give in to fear and doubt! You have angels all around you so stop listening to that voice. I’m here and I- will- listen!

What the past will reveal

who am iMy family history has always been a mystery to me. When asked about my medical history I can say ‘I don’t know, I’m adopted’ generally about twice a year. I’ve never known but now I do.  I have gotten more information on my lineage in the past few weeks than I could ever have imagined. My sisters have been supplying the information.

They have been shining a light on our mother’s history and leading me on a path back through time. Knowing who my family is has always been important to me but only recently has the past come to light. I found my family August 22nd and I have a family tree that goes back hundreds of years. My poster board and markers haven’t even begun to crack the wealth of information my extended family can provide me on who I am.

Some people don’t need a family tree to tell them who they are. Some will never know it and until recently I was one of those people and I can tell you that it didn’t affect me much. I was confident I would never know and that part of my life would go unanswered. How wrong was I? I am working on my family tree but the Indians will know more. My sisters have informed me that the Quapaw have kept a very good genealogy record that one day soon I hope to be added to. I am related to the Quapaw by blood. My mother was half Indian and depending on who my father was will determine how much Indian blood I have.

I have sent away for my original birth certificate. Soon I will the last piece of information needed to become a member of the tribe and my children will be given the same opportunity.  You need two things to obtain membership: an original birth certificate and be able to trace your lineage by name to a full standing member. Meaning you have to be related by blood to someone who has a roll number. My mother has a roll number as did my grandmother.

My sisters do too and I love the tidbits of Indian everyday life I glean from our conversations. My sister Season tells me she is busy making moccasins and purses and was pleased to know that I loved fry bread (my Mom made fry bread a couple of times growing up, it is good).  Most of what I know about Indians is having known a couple of them throughout my life. It is respectful to give something when you first meet an elder either tobacco, sage, or sweet grass and you never know when you’ll meet an Indian. I met Samuel Holiday, one of the last Navajo Code Talkers, back in 2005. I met Marcy Tiger, Muscogee Creek Nation and his lovely wife, Sandy, last year when I arrived in Washington.

As I said you never know when you’ll meet one so I keep a stash of sweet grass with me at all times. I’m sure if anyone saw it, in the trunk of my car, they would think it was marijuana but no one has ever asked me yet, what the heck is that?!

I think history is as relevant as you want to make it. For instance, you might not want to dwell on history if you happen to uncover a serial killer, but medically it can be really revealing. You might find depression runs in the family. You might find schizophrenia there as well or diabetes or cancer. Things you might not have known were hereditary and therefore you should be watchful of.  My mother died of cancer. My Mom’s family has a history of breast cancer so each year my Mom, my sister and eventually my niece get preventative check-ups.  I will have to do that too.

Now not only do I have a medical history but I also have names for unknown faces for family living in and around Oklahoma. My ancestral tree resembles a Redwood! And guess what? It includes a Chief, the last traditional Chief of the Quapaw Nation. How cool is that?

Disabled or Daring?

COL GadsonI got to meet a very impressive man today. His name is COL Gadson and he is currently serving as the Garrison Commander at Fort Belvoir, VA. In addition to this, he played football for West Point and looks like the toughest guy I wouldn’t want to meet in any alley! He is also a Wounded Warrior having lost his legs in Baghdad. I, of course, didn’t know this. I just recognized him from the movie ‘Battleship’ and asked for his autograph.

I was blown away by his accomplishments before and after the injury. He is an advocate for people with disabilities. I am not disabled but I have a very good friend who is, Anne. She is an inspiration having been born with Spina Bifida. She had to suffer surgery after surgery when she was younger and spent half her youth in hospitals. I can’t imagine what she’s gone through. But she’s not disabled, she’s daring! Today she can walk but who wants to walk when you can ride? She owns a Segway and you can see her racing up and down the hallways of the Army Materiel Command any day of the week.

When she tried to board the metro using her Segway she was almost arrested. Her case along with many others were key in reforming the WMATA. New guidelines have been established making it legal and safe for handicap people using Segways to enter the metro. She is awesome! If you’d like to read more about her read the article in the Washington Post:

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-257254.html

How best to show my gratification for our friendship than by placing her in my book as one of the main characters, Gina Grails. Which is why I asked COL Gadson to sign a copy of my book. It was great meeting him and it’s an honor knowing people like him and Anne- so brave in their every day challenges!

What do you see in Silence?

Postal receiptIt is done. I don’t think there are very many times in our lives when we knowingly change our fate. We make decisions willy-nilly often without thinking of the consequences. I think if we really thought about each decision we made before we made it we’d all be very predictable people, Lol.

I am not predictable. I wish I was….sometimes, but more often than not I am content to be just a little off.  If I was twenty years older the term might correctly be ‘eccentric’ but for now I prefer weird. I gripe so often of rigid, narrow-minded, inflexible people that I think I’ve become one without even knowing it.

I’m hard on people and I don’t meant to be. I pray a lot on my own weakness and I try to follow my mother’s advice, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. I find myself quiet A LOT.

I do try to fit in. I do lunch dates with friends and night at the movies, attend church- you know, all the usual stuff people usually do but then I withdraw. I like going to the movies alone. I don’t mind staying at home and skipping lunch and sometimes I do play hookie from church (btw, it never fails when I do skip church my Mom calls me – sheesh!)  When I was younger, I was never alone.  Is being alone so bad, so taboo that you absolutely need someone with you all the time in order to do things?

I found out something about myself recently, I don’t mind eating alone. I’ve been opposed to eating alone all my life. When you eat alone you look lonely and pathetic. Who wants to be that? But lately I’ve shed a new skin; I am officially one of those people. Why should I miss a good meal just because I don’t have anyone to join me? So Sunday afternoon after not going to church I went to Ruby Tuesday’s and ate alone. It felt good like I’d accomplished something I didn’t even know I was trying to achieve. Was it a test? I don’t know but I sat there and ate a very nice meal.

For me, my life has been a blur. I’ve been going non-stop for so many years that complete silence turned out to be a good thing. The silence put me in tune with the off things I needed to see in myself (and it’s an ongoing process. No one is perfect). Now I have no trouble sitting quietly reading, writing or just drinking a cup of coffee out on the balcony. Silence was a nice change of pace for me from the drama of the last few years.

But I guess I’m made for drama because I’ve done something again that will cause the waters to stir. I just mailed my court order to OKDHS to open my adoption records with the sole purpose of obtaining my original birth certificate. If I don’t do it, I’ll never know and I need to know everything now. It might shed some light on who my father is but for sure I need it to become a member of the Quapaw tribe.

Have you found yourself in the silence? or does the silence hold secrets even you don’t want to hear?

‘Silence might be a foreign land to you but sometimes it is good to leap into the unknown. Practice leaping’- Macrina Wiederkehr