A By-gone Life at Haskell

I used to work at the Cultural Center and Museum at Haskell Indian Nations University.  I had worked with the Archives since I was an undergrad….a long time ago. My job consisted of making sure the research projects were completed; being a docent to museum patrons; and giving AMAZING tours to visitors.  I say amazing for a reason.

Most first time visitors to campus have no idea of the historic significance of the ground they are walking on.  I start most tours by allowing visitors to look at the beautiful exhibit in the gallery called, “Honoring our Children through Seasons of Sacrifice, Survival, Change and Celebration.”

Haskell Cultural Center & Museum

Next, we begin the journey back to a time before the doors opened at Haskell.  We learn to understand WHY our door were opened in the first place…as a response to the “Indian problem.”  I go on to tell them how our earliest students arrived at our doorstep…ripped from their families’ arms and thrust into a foreign world – alone.   When our students arrived on campus, they were not allowed to speak their tribal language, wear their traditional clothing, or fraternize with their siblings.  The youngest student was 3 years old – three. years. old. We then examine the starchy diet of mush, potatoes and gravy…every day.  It’s amazing how our students were being taught the art of farming…their goods sold or given to the local Lawrence community.

An unknowing  local community that celebrated with a parade the day that the City learned of their successful bid to land the NEW US Industrial Training School for Indians. It would be located on the 900+ acres that the school’s namesake, Kansas Senator Dudley C. Haskell had acquired.  It all seemed fitting, after all, the town’s founding “Free State” principles included provisions entitling all its citizens to fair education.

We move onto learn how families hunted for information for their children.  Many times, they searched without response from school or government authorities.  If they were lucky, they would be notified of their child’s progress, or death.  Students at the school had questions about the mysterious deaths…that went unanswered, as well.

Haskell Institute, circa 1889.

Before the turn of the century, the school raised the age limit.  The young were too fragile and died too easily.

The majority of students acclimated to life at Haskell.  They engaged in their classes.  Their bodies adjusted to the diet.  The found a fondness in the lush green campus that sits in the shadow of the Ivory Hallowed Halls of KU.  This became home.  Home became Haskell.  Mutual love and surrender.

Over the years, thousands of students filled the campus with dreams learning trades and skills to engage in a quickly changing world.

 

Dirty little flowers

I am blessed to be flanked by kids.  Most of the time, they do not belong to me.  I frequently babysit when friends need help, or time off!  While in tow, I freely tell them stories or tell them all about the wonders of the amazing world they live in.

One particular day in August, I had the pleasure of hanging out with two of my favorite kiddos.  We drove to and from around town and I told them all kinds of things that came to mind….including how excited I was that my favorite flowers of all time were in bloom.  I told them that they only bloom for a few weeks in August.  As we drove around town, I would slow down and point them out.

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These beautiful flowers are called a Belladonna Lilly.  However, I told these precious kids the common name that I’m familiar with, “Naked Ladies.”  We would all chuckle and point out, “hey look, there’s some more Naked Ladies!!”  It was a silly little joke all day.

Fast forward a week…

Those precious kiddos were driving along with their parents when one of them spies one of Lori’s favorite flowers.  Instead of saying, “Hey those flowers are called Naked Ladies and are Lori’s favorite!”  It came out like this, “MOM, DAD, look at those NAKED LADIES!  Lori loves NAKED LADIES!!”

AAAhhhhh…..I died when I got the the text asking if those flowers were really called Naked Ladies!

Lesson:

Be extra careful what you say to kids!  LOL

Hindsight

My daughter asked me a tough question the other day.  “Why did you have us so young?”  I was stumped.  But I eventually mustered up an answer….and it went an little like this:

When I was in high school, I believed I was glorious.   Not only that, but that I was headed to more (personal) glory in the future.  I wasn’t the most internally confident person, but by all outward appearances, I knew that I was certainly a force to be reckon with.  I was assertive and I knew where I was going in life….straight to Broadway.Me1980s

Now, I was still a good girl at heart.  I had dear friends (boys and girls) that I was fiercely loyal to.  I was always the first to help a person out, if I could.  I had a deep conscience.  That would be my saving grace.

In college, I was a volleyball player and a budding thespian.  I knew I had what it would take to “make it big” one day on the stage, on the screen or on TV.  I just knew it.  Again, I was my biggest fan…as most of us are in our late teens and early 20’s. 

To make things a little more interesting…I am a Leo, leo….LEO!  In my early years, I frequently teetered on the brink of a “self-absorbed” Leo and the caring, loving and loyal kind.

By the time I turned 20, I had achieved a great deal…including becoming a mother.  By 22, a mother of two.  I told my oldest daughter (after a looong pause) that I needed to have my children then.  If I had not, I would not have had them at all.  I was on a fast track to self-fulfillment and they became my fortuitous salvation. 

Misa and Nani1My children grounded me….more importantly, they humbled me.  I learned to become self-less.  I learned to love unconditionally.  I learned to see the world around me, through their eyes, rather than seeing only me in the world.misa nani2

Their lives aligned with my own journey.  As I look back now I see that our lives today could not be possible had I not become a mother at the time I did.  I fumbled, cried…..and grew as a US1mother.

As the day to celebrate Mom’s near, I want to begin the celebration by honoring my children, Chamisa and Briana.  I know, without a shadow of  a doubt, that I would not have matured into the person I am today without them.  US2

I read a poem a while back that said, “the love you have in your life is merely a reflection of the love you put out into the world.”  I can honestly say, that my world is filled with happiness, joy and an abundance of love.  Thank you, girls for allowing me to be your mother.Girls2013

Girls2013-2

Marching madness

Jayhawks Basketball baby!

Jayhawks Basketball baby!

The Kansas Jayhawks take the court tonight for their ninth game of the 2012-13 season.  We live in Lawrence, KS and I can tell you that we are a Jayhawk household through and through.  The games are blasted in our living room…or we join the throngs of other hawk-crazed fans at local eateries downtown.  As my love for my team has grown over the years, so has my understanding of the game.  But this wasn’t always the case.

I grew up in the high desert of the southwest.  There wasn’t much to do besides play basketball.  Driving down a dirt road, common landscape fare always included a beat up metal hoop with a square plywood backboard.  Most of the time, the rims didn’t have nets, but that didn’t really matter.  What mattered were that the makeshift courts were available at all hours for pick-up games.  Sometimes car lights were used to keep a hot, competitive game going until the wee hours of the morning…or until the car batteries started whining.

As you can imagine, every childhood dream included a stint playing professional basketball.  These dreams always began to blossom in junior high.  Everyone who was anyone tried out for their local school team….including me.

I was in the eight grade with my older sister (cousin).  She grew up with an actual basketball court just down the street…and no real curfew.  That meant, she was able to hone her skills all summer long and she was gooood.  I wasn’t so lucky.  But, that didn’t matter, I was determined to tryout for the team anyways.  And what do you know, I made it.

The girls practiced right after school.  It was fun getting to dress out in the varsity locker room.  My parents even bought me a new pair of Nike hightops for my budding basketball career.  That season, I learned the 3-man weave, the hi-post, low-post and an amateur version of the pick and roll.  I remember watching my sister and simply following her lead.  What she did, I did.  Practices were always “fun” and exciting.  Let me repeat…PRACTICES were fun and exciting.  But, the games?  Now, those were a whole other story!

I recall the first game I played in.  Well, I didn’t actually get much court time, but I did get to play.  My sister, on the other hand, was a super-star!  Remember, she came to the court with a summertime of practice in the bag!  When I eventually got to go in, I was sooo flustered.  I remember having near panic attacks because I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do.  Being 13 is awkward enough, but throw a little anxiety in the mix and you had a hot mess!

As the season went on, I began to dread game days.  I would try to play sick.  But, only sick enough so that coach wouldn’t make me dress out and not so sick that I couldn’t go to the JV and Varsity games later in the evening.  It was a very tricky song and dance that I had going on.  The days that my excuses didn’t work and I HAD to dress out, I always sat near the end of the bench.  Waaaay down there, out of coach’s line of sight.  My mantra on those days was, “be still, no sudden movements, and don’t, at all costs, make eye contact!” It worked like magic for most of the season.  Until that one fateful day….

We had a home game and my mom and aunt came to watch.  I had tried to dissuade them by saying that my tummy hurt and I didn’t think I was going to play. But, they wanted to come and be supportive and cheer me, my sister and the team onto a victory.  I took my usual spot at the end of the bench.  The game was moving right along.  Halftime was a few minutes away and I hadn’t had made eye contact with anyone, not even my teammates.  I remember getting caught up in the court action and then it happened.  One of my teammates went down.  She went down hard with a twisted ankle.

Remember that anxiety??  Well a surge of it went through my body the very moment that I realized that I would most likely get thrown onto the court.  My heart felt like it had just been stabbed with an adrenaline shot!  I tried to run over to offer my help to the injured.  My thought was that maybe I could get her ice, or carry her home….but, no.  I was shooed back to the bench.

“Lori, go in.”   Those words came out of my coach’s mouth in slow motion.  And I just stared at him for what seemed like an eternity.  My  thoughts were that maybe I give him a few seconds to realize that he actually said the wrong name.

Nope.  It was, in fact, my name.  He threw a hand up and shrugged his shoulders as if to yell, “WELL??”

“Uhh…ok,” was all I could muster.

There I was, shaky and sweating, even before the buzzer even went off to signal me onto the court.  I was a mess.  And there was my mom and aunt, clapping and yelling, “Yaaay, Buntie.”  “Woo hoo, Loji!”  I couldn’t even look their way.

So, the game continues.  Time is ticking.  I manage to dodge the ball a few times as I trotted around the court.  I helped my defender defend me by keeping her between me and the ball.  But, as the game continued, I starting to feel a little at ease out there.  “I can do this,” was what I was thinking.  On a fast break, one of our girls was fouled.  She was sent to the side line to throw it in.  I can tell you that the defense on the other team wasn’t so great, because not matter how hard I tried, I kept coming up open!

http://stjosephsindianschool.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/st-josephs-indian-school-girls-basketball.jpg

And then she threw it to me.  I had the ball and my defender wasn’t anywhere in sight.  I had a clear path to the basket.  “I got this,” I thought to myself!  I began dribbling and gunning it down the court.  My bench was on their feet.  The crowd went crazy.  I laid it up and into the into the hoop like the star I was about to become. Man, it felt good to redeem my career.

I jogged to the wall and grabbed the ball to toss to the ref.  That’s when I turned around and saw my bench and the crowd staring at me with their jaws on the ground.  It took me a minute to figure things out.  I was so confused.

My shining moments fizzed quickly as I realized that I had just scored two points for the other team!

My old friend adrenaline slapped me in the face! I jogged off the court and into my mom’s arms in the bleachers. I was humiliated.  I remember her hugging me and then making me go back out there and sit with my team.  “They need you, shiyazhi. Even if you only cheer.”

Needless to say, that was the very last competitive basketball game I ever played….ever.  But, I did go on to be one darn good cheerleader the next year.

I survived the rest of at school year with minimal taunting.  I went to a Christian school, so I took every opportunity to chastise the fools who dared to tease me.  🙂   What I learned from that experience was to hold my head up, especially in the face of disaster.  I’ve used that lesson many times over in life.

These day, my hoops dreams are focused squarely on Lawrence, KS and one of my favorite teams, The KU Jayhawks.  I’m sure I fool many a fan by my fanatical love of the game.  I don’t mind.  Let them believe I come to cheer with a retired hoop career that fuels my college basketball obsession.  I’ll continue to be a die-hard with all the rest who live for  October and “Late Night in the Phog”…..and the annual start of our mad march to the Championship!

Basketball Mecca - Allen Field House, KU.

Basketball Mecca – Allen Field House, KU.

Smiling souls

Give a look

­deep into a soul.

Then slowly…smile

teeth are a must.

Watch the reaction

uneasy at first.

Their eyes will avert-

don’t break the gaze

or the grin.

They will return a few quick looks, most likely.

Offer a “hello, or “hi”

or heck, “how’s it going?”

Shoulders will drop.

Eyes will soften.

Corners of the lips will curl.

a smile returned

a day made

souls connect.

No worries…no commitments

simply give the gift of…a smile.

Of youth

I was like most youngster in high school.  I listened to all the latests music.  Watched the matching videos on MTV (back when they played videos).  I also was a pretty good dancer.  Most importantly, I was “cool.”  I came to college and carried on in the same “cool” fashion.  I remember once being asked by an admirer, “where’d you learn to dance like that?”  I just shrugged as I broke into a another fit of rythm.  I took it as a compliment.

But, something happened when I had kids…I stopped dancing.  My inner Material Girl, gave way to Barney, Kidz Bop and Blacklodge Kids’ Pow Wow Jams.  I had stopped feeding the “me” that knew what cool was.  There was point at which I remember thinking “who are you and what did you do to that dance diva named Lori?!”  Yeah, it was bad.

My kids were in middle school when a friend invited me to go dancing with her at a local latin club.  That night, I danced and danced….so good!  It felt wonderful to find “me” again.  I didn’t stop.   I was there twirling and swaying on the dance floor as often as I could…and I looked and felt amazing!

There were times after that re-awakening that I used to try to teach my girls to dance.  Or, I’d tell them about how I used to dance like a maniac in high school.  They’d just giggle.  They didn’t believe me.   I don’t blame them…they hadn’t ever seen me “do” such things.   And they could hardly even imagine it either.

I saw a post card once that had a quote by William Purkey, ““You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.”   There is only one part missing….make sure your kids see you doing it all….as proof!  haha

I wrote this poem back then about conflicting perceptions:  theirs and mine.  Today, they still giggle when I try to” bust a move”….if they only knew!

——————————————————————————

I guess I always thought I’d be cool
down with the latest dances
up with fashion
know the music scene
speak the speak
Apparently, I’ve been slipping a bit…
I step on toes
my wardrobe suffers from time warp
isn’t “Bow Wow” what a dog does?
…and COOL just isn’t cool for me to say anymore!

According to two young hip chicks on the verge of life…
I’m old…I’m outdated…I’m over!

But, little do they know…
when the night matures
I unbutton to please
and slip on my shiny, slick black heels
that move with ease
to the hot latin beat
that melts the years from
my mind…my body…my soul.

A yeti named Nora.

I went to a rough elementary school in Albuquerque…imagine that?  If you recall, when you were in 3rd grade the 4th graders seemed like teenagers and the 5th graders seemed like adults.  You had to respect their seniority.   Well there was a near-college aged girl in 5th grade named NORA.  She was very respected…or feared.  In elementary school those two are synonymous.

The last day of school was a celebration when I was a 4th grader…summa time!   I remember this day vividly.  Before beginning my walk home (about three miles…up hill), I stopped to race a few kids on the monkey bars.  I did a few tummy turning spins on the tire swing.  I watched some kids gather for some kind of sports practice on the other side of the huge playground.  And then, after exerting all of my energy, I wiped the sweat from my brow and began the long migration home with all of the other kids who lived in my apartment complex…including NORA.

Nora and her gang were way ahead of me.  She walked ahead of her pack of friends.  She looked more like a chaperone than a peer…kinda yeti-ish (not to offend yeti lovers).   I kicked rocks and tried to waste time so that they could get far enough ahead of me…just in case of…you know…anything.

I was told by my Mom, over and over, “do not go off of the normal way home.  Don’t use the shortcuts.”  I didn’t understand why it mattered.  I was gonna get home no matter what….right?   (spoiler alert:  always listen to your mother!)

By this point, I had let NORA and her pack of wild hooligans get so far ahead of me that I didn’t see them anymore.  I thought for sure I was home-free.  I also realized that I very late.  So, I took the short-cut.  I was the only kid walking that way and it was kinda nice.  I had the street to myself.  I could dart back and forth across the empty street if I wanted…but, of course I didn’t.

I rounded the corner to an open field that sat below the street level of the busy road that I had to cross to get home.   As I rounded the corner, I heard the sounds of kids talking and laughing.  I didn’t want to look…but I did.   And yes, it was NORA and her mad posse.  They were hiding in the bushes and trees…boozing and smoking I assume.

“What are you looking at?”  She yelled.  I replied in silence.  I turned my head and sped up my pace.  If you recall, I used all of my energy earlier, so my “speed” wasn’t quite up to par.   Regardless, I think I only sped up in my mind, because they caught up to me in a split second.  Have you ever seen the movie Lost Boys?  You know the opening scene where the pack of hot vampires swoops down onto a car with two teenagers in it and rips off the roof and then devours them?  Yes, that’s what happened…except there was absolutely nothing appealing about this pack of blood-thirsty animals and I wasn’t old enough to drive a get-away car yet.

It was swift and quick.  I escaped with a few scrapes, a little bloody and pretty shaken.  Apparently, I must “looked” intimidating, since they kept saying that I need to watch how I looked at people.  But, I think it was a lie.  They were probably done with their pack of smokes and bored.

The cross-guard came running to help me up the path that led to the street.  She held me for a little bit before asking me where I lived.  I told her that I could see my apartment building from where we were standing.  Then I ran home….to my Mom.

I remember telling my Mom all about it through sobs and tears.  And she just stood, holding me and making sure that I wasn’t broken, externally, at least.

Fast forward to summa time.  Me and my Mom were going somewhere…but, first we had to stop and get something to drink at the 7 to 11 on the corner.  We pulled up right in front and then I saw her….NORA!  I slid down in the seat as far as I could.  I knew that she’d attack us both if she saw me!   I didn’t want to tell my mom…but, I think she had an inkling that something wasn’t quite right.  I finally managed to tell her from my near-fetal position on the floorboard that the woman/child in the 7 to 11 was, in fact, NORA.

“Which one…which one is she?”   she demanded.  I felt like saying, “the tall furry one with fangs!”  But, instead I reluctantly pointed her out with trembling hands.  She was in the store with her aunt…who, actually looked quite normal.

I kept low…like literally low…in the seat of the car while my mom marched in and had a few words with them.   She was in the store for what seemed like forever!  And then… it happened.  I heard a knock on the window.   My Mom and the aunt were standing behind a sobbing NORA!  I slooowly sat up and rolled the window down even sloooower.

“I’m sorry for what I did to you.”   She said.  I was speechless.  All I could manage was a nervous half-smile and a shrug.

But, what I was thinking was, “WHAAAA???  My Mom made NORA cry?!  YEEES!”

Actually, what my Mom did that day showed me how fierce, passionate, strong and gentle a Mother’s love can be all at once.  She’s always in my corner.  She’s always “got my back.”  She’s a source of my strength.  That is what I’ve learned from my Mom.  If I can only be a smidgen of the same to my daughters, then I’ve been successful as a parent.

To this day, if I tell her about how someone/something “did me wrong”…she’s the first to say, “tell me who it is and I’ll show them!”  And, I’m not kidding.  But, then we both chuckle at the thought of my little 4’11” Mom coming to “show them.”

I never did see Nora again.  I’m sure she’s grown now and has a pack of lovely children.  Oh and my Mom let me go to Rehoboth the next year when I was in 5th grade.  I eventually graduated from there with some wonderful memories.   Thanks, Nora!

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