About Me

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My passion is helping others defend themselves and their families. I am an NRA Certified pistol instructor, a NRA Chief Range Safety Officer, leader of TWAW Shooting Chapters - North Cincinnati, and the state leader of TWAW Shooting Chapters - Ohio. I also have a heart for the Lakota people and lead mission teams to the Pine Ridge Reservation each year, am founder and director of Backpacks For Pine Ridge,, and do various volunteer work in my own community. My greatest joy is being a grandma and hanging out with my husband of 30+ years.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I've Been Waiting For This

I put in my 2-week notice at work last night!

WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

In 2 weeks I'll be free!

I imagine saying goodbye to the ladies I take care of will be harder than I expect it to be but I'll manage.

I told one of my bosses this morning that I was leaving. She asked why and I said in a word, "L-----" ( our director who has been difficult to say the least). She said, 'Oh well yeah, that explains it.

There are lots of other reasons too ....

  • I'm really, really, really tired of the crap the company (L_____) dishes out.
  • I have my Jeep paid off now so I don't have to work
  • I'm really busy with my work at church and this will free me up more to do that.
  • I'm getting tired of working 3rd shift. It will be nice to have a normal schedule again
  • I rarely get to do anything with friends on the weekend because that's when I work. I've missed weddings, funerals, reunions, and countless parties because I'm always working.

Yeah, it's time to quit.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Victim of Crime

I am ticked off. Really ticked off. This morning Brian (my husband) was working out at the local Y when someone entered the locker room, cut the lock off of his locker and stole everything - wallet, cell phone, car keys, all of it. Strangely enough the thief didn't take the car or the computer that was in it. I suppose he wanted to go buy a brand new one.

When I called to cancel our credit cards we were too late. He had already purchased a $1900.00 lap top at Office Depot and charged $765 at Target. He made similar purchases at other stores and racked quite a bit of purchases in a very short time. I went to Office Depot and asked to speak to the cashier to get a description of the guy. They gave it to me along with his phone number (or the one he gave) when he purchased the service plan. (Idiot) I suggested they make a practice of asking for ID on such big purchases in the future. Duh.

I took the guys description back to the Y and they knew who he was so the police are hot on his tail. I am SO tempted to call his phone number and tell him a thing or two but I'm not sure how wise that would be. Still, it's tempting.

As I type a locksmith is changing out our locks since the criminal has our address and keys to our house. He's also changing out the locks on Brian's car.

The funny thing is ... I was supposed to be working on a lesson for The Micah 6:8 Group today instead of running down criminals. The lesson was going to be on "what are you putting your security in?" Pretty good huh?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's Goin' On

This is just going to be a endless ramble about what's been going on here for the last little bit. It is almost guaranteed to bore you to tears but it may get me posting again. Is that a good thing??

I've been working on Pine Ridge '08 stuff. It's amazing how this thing never ends but just continues to run on whether I'm ready or not. Just a few of the things I've been doing ...

  • Putting together picture CDs of the trip for the crew members

  • Making the trip video and burning copies for each crew member

  • Planning the "service" where we share with the congregation about our trip

  • Sending copies of the Picture CD and DVD of the video to the missionaries there.

  • Writing to the family on the Reservation that gave me a beautiful gift before we left

  • Contacting the local Neighborhood News to see about a free ad in the paper for the Backpack project

  • Contacting those from other states who want to help or want info about the Backpacks

  • Organizing our new "backpack room" where we will store and eventually pack the backpacks and school supplies

  • Collecting money and school supplies for next year. We are expanding to include the village of Wounded Knee and if we by chance get more money then we'll pick another village to get backpacks and school supplies.

  • Shopping for the backpacks/school supplies as money comes in. (Walmart is getting sick of me.)

  • Writing out Thank You notes for each donor.

  • Getting ready for the next Informational Meeting by putting together packets which means I have to ...

  • Estimate expenses for next year's trip

  • Write up a new booklet with all the info in it, and then print it out.

  • Print out all of the Team Member Information Forms and Emergency Medical Forms

  • Print out all of the labels for the folders that will contain the packets

  • Print out sample sponsor letters for each packet

  • Assemble the packets

  • And soon to be writing out checks to reimburse crew members for money not spent. (Brian has spent a good deal of time dealing with the bookkeeping - not a fun job)

Oh, and then there's Sunday School and my other job - the one that pays, that I have to go to.

Lest you think I'm complaining, I am not. I love it. Well, not the job that pays - but that one will not be around for much longer. And I'm thinking of ditching Sunday School too, but we'll see.

Brian's dad has also been in the hospital. Thankfully, he is out now and apparently doing better.

We've also been dealing with a bit of stress with our youngest son. He has a psycho ex-girlfriend who has been making threats. Think Fatal Attraction. No, actually I can't think of Fatal Attraction because visions of dead bunnies come to mind and I can't go there. In any case, it's been scary and stressful.

So one of these days I'll get back to regular blogging ...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Discussion Topics??

I "teach" an adult Sunday School class at my church. I despise the term "Sunday School" and I use the word "teach" very loosely because I much prefer to think that I lead a discussion. The thing is, a while back my co-teacher resigned leaving the bulk of the responsibility to me. I do have one man who will help out in a pinch but I am in BAD need of an extended break and it doesn't seem that I'm going to get one anytime soon.

The thing is, I'm fresh out of ideas for discussion so I thought I'd ask the folks who read here ... what would be some topics that could spark some interesting discussion? We're a pretty open bunch who are not afraid to disagree, so go for it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dispair and Hope

Please don't miss this.

This is from a man who so graciously allowed us to use his photos for a video project. This man is the real deal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Even more

There are more pics up on the Pine Ridge blog

Hey, be glad I didn't put all 2000 of them up.

Monday, August 13, 2007

$3.21

I've just had another "holy moment". There have been quite a few of those on these trips to Pine Ridge. Moments that humble me and emphasize the fact that I am there to learn more than to teach.
This year we did an African Safari theme for VBS. Along with all the fun and games we took time out to talk about Africa and the needs there - particularly the need for clean, safe water.
I felt a little guilty taking up an offering from the Lakota children who live in poverty themselves and are some of America's poorest children. In fact, I felt even guiltier after hauling water to a family that had no water in their home. Many of the people in the village we visit do not have water or electrictiy in their homes. I wondered at the wisdom of taking money from these people to give to build wells in Africa and yet, it seemed the right thing to do - the God thing to do. So we did. I knew I would be humbled but I was not prepared for what happened.
On the last day after the offering was taken Fred and I were emptying out the bucket that served as our "well". I noticed a small red plastic thing in the bottom and assumed it was a toy of some kind. I almost overlooked it until Fred said, "Amber, look at this". I pulled it from the bucket and found a child's piggy bank full of coins. One of the children had given their piggy bank - all the money they had. I cried as I showed it to our team.
And I cried again just a few moments ago when I broke it open. I didn't want to break it. It was precious. It was holy. I wanted to save it as a reminder but the only way to get the money out was to break the piggy bank. I was reminded that we all have to be broken if we are going to follow Jesus. The Lakota people measure generosity not by how much they give, but by how much they have left. As a follower of Jesus, I have to be willing to be broken and to give all I have. I have a long way to go to live up the example of this small child.
The piggy bank contained $3.21 - enough to provide 3 African people with clean water for one year. I wonder if that child knows what a gift she gave. Unfortunately we do not know which child gave it, but I trust that God knows and that He will reward.

What's Life Without a Little Adventure?

Oh my ... I am just recovering from our trip and am beginning to think about scheduling our Ireland vacation next year. Brian and I have wanted to visit Ireland for a long time and next year will be our 25th anniversary so it seems like an appropriate time to go. We've been debating about whether to take a tour or to try driving it ourselves. Since the driving laws are different along with the minor fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road from us Americans, the driving is sounding like a bit too much of an adventure for us.

However, Brian has found a tour that might work. It goes through Northern Ireland and visits Derry, a place Brian (and I) really want to see. It's one of the few tours that do go to Derry so we may not have a lot of choice in which tour to take if we want to go there.

So I've just checked the web site and see that they use Jeeps rather than buses. Here's a bit of the description from the web site:

This is not a bus tour of Ireland, it's a Four Wheel Drive Adventure using
a unique type of 4x4 Land-Rover, or ‘Vagatron’ like the ones shown in the
images.




We can take mountain passes, short cuts along beaches
and explore remote areas of extreme natural beauty, far beyond the reach of
mortal tourists.




No other tour company in Ireland (or the world) uses these
unique vehicles, they add a spirit of adventure to any tour right from the
start

There is loads of space and the seats are soft and comfy and because
we believe in fresh air - you can open every window.



Among the "highlights" mentioned for this tour are:


  • Conquer your fear of heights on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge


  • Clamber over the cliff-top ruins of Dun Luce Castle


  • Take a Black cab tour of the fascinating Belfast city


  • Hill-walking amongst some of the most remote and stunning scenery in Ireland


  • Try Surfing in the North and north-west


  • Horse-riding on breath-taking endless beaches


  • Learn the A walking tour of Londonderry/Derry city


  • Explore the nine Glens of Antrim


  • Walk in the Mourne Mountains


  • Climb Knocknaree Mountain to Queen Maeve's tomb


Did I ever mention that I'm afraid of heights?

And did I ever mention that I'm getting older and am not in the best of shape? This sounds like something for 20-something extreme thrill seeking people.

Oh well..... Hoka Hey!



*Hoka Hey in Lakota means, "It's a good day to die". It really means more than that, it means that "if I die today I have no regrets". It's become my new mantra.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rambling

I'm homesick tonight. I miss South Dakota, specifically Pine Ridge Reservation and even more specifically the village of Allen. I really feel that it is my home away from home. I always look forward to my first drive through the village each year. It's when I get to see old friends. It's a good feeling to know these people, to know where they live and to know their names and to know that they also know me. I miss almost everything about it.
I miss the sky. The sky there is just amazing. It goes on and on and at night there are more stars visible than you can imagine. I miss the people. I miss the missionaries who are now our friends. I miss the way of life there. Things just go at a slower pace there. There is no traffic, no congestion, people there are not rude to you because they have to live with you. Out there you can go to a grocery store and the people there know you by name and they carry your groceries to your car for you. I miss seeing horses run wild. I miss the "rez dogs". I miss the Lakota way of life that put so much emphasis on respect of self and others. A year just seems too long to wait.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Holy Moment

This year we experienced a real "God thing" or a Holy moment when we visited the Wounded Knee Memorial. The previous evening we had visited Melda's place and had been so graciously welcomed and given the honor of being invited to participate in a sweat lodge.

That evening sparked some serious discussion among our crew. There were those who wanted very much to participate in the sweat and others who had serious reservations about it and felt that we would be partaking in pagan ceremonies if we participated. Complicating the issue was that we had youth with us. We ended the group discussion with an agreement to pray individually about our participation and for the youth to wait for further word from me after I had a chance to talk with the youth leader and do some praying and thinking of my own.

Then an extraordinary thing happened. On Thursday evening we visited Wounded Knee. I had tried for months to find a Native person to go with us to Wounded Knee to tell us the story from their perspective. Nothing had worked out. One many wanted $1500 to do it and the other man who had agreed to go with us was drunk and in jail the evening we went.

We had originally planned to go there on Monday evening because it's a good way to kick off the week there but this year our schedule didn't permit that so we went on Thursday. When we arrived I was exhausted from the week and I've seen the Memorial before and always like to have a quiet moment by myself there to reflect on what happened there. I stood near the entrance of the mass grave while the rest of the crew wandered throughout the cemetery. An American Indian man stood nearby having just finished speaking to a group. Of all the times I've been to Wounded Knee I've never seen a guide speaking to a group before. In fact, I'm thinking that the Indians do not normally condone this, but I could be wrong. In any case, the man approached me and asked if I wanted him to speak to my group. Even though I didn't know the first thing about this man I immediately I felt this was a "God thing" and said, "Yes, I think I do. Let me see if I can round them up". He waited patiently as our group gathered, then entered the area of the mass grave and began telling the story.

His explanation of the history of the Lakota people and their relationship with the white man was amazing, but then, he did something else. He began sharing his faith. He was a Christian and shared about Jesus Christ unashamedly. He also talked about the traditional Lakota religious beliefs, explaining the symbolism in each and how they compliment, rather than compete with Christian beliefs. It was odd. He had answered so many of the questions our group had wrestled with the evening before and yet there was no way for him to know what had transpired before we met him.

When we parted ways he chuckled at our request for an address leaving some in our group to wonder if he was for real or if we had been visited by an angel. We may never know for sure.








Prayer Request

It seems like there is always something that happens to make it hard to be away for a short-term mission trip. Our team this year was spared any loss - other than one member of our crew had a brother living in Minn. and was understandably upset when we got news of the bridge collapsing. She quickly found out that he was fine and was put at ease.

Right now we have a team in Haiti and one of the men who went on that trip got news that his mother passed away. He is currently trying to get home from Haiti to be with his family. His wife is also in Haiti - she is the team leader. I can only imagine how hard it is to be away from home and get news like that. Please pray for this couple and especially for Scott.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Melda's Place

Several months ago I purchased a book called Being Lakota which was written by a lady who lives in the village of Allen on the Pine Ridge Reservation - the village I visit each year. I bought it for two reasons, 1) I was interested in reading it, and 2) I had anticipated meeting the author, Melda Jane Runs Along the Edge Red Bear Trejo, when we went to Pine Ridge this year.

When I got it and began reading it was a strange experience. Reading about a place I have come to know well felt surreal. Last week, I got to meet Melda and had her sign my copy of the book. After dinner last Tuesday the missionary said, "Amber, come with me for a minute". We climbed into the 4-wheel drive and headed off to Melda's place so I could meet her. After a ride up a rutted gravel road we came to a place that was truly beautiful. A large cliff overlooked woods, grassland, and a pure spring of water. Melda was in her garden and greeted us with a smile and handshake. She welcomed our group to come for a visit the next evening.

Wednesday evening we piled into the Bronco and the back of a pick-up truck and the whole group headed off to Melda's. It was a wild ride and we all ate a lot of dust and dirt but the evening was far more than I could have hoped for.

Melda, her sons Marcus and Reuben and her grandson Santanna walked us to a clearing in the woods and brought out fresh currants and choke cherries grown on their land to share with us. As the evening wore on they built a huge bonfire and we sat around and visited more. They told us stories and explained some of the Lakota sacred ceremonies. We went into Melda's home, a 100 year old cabin, and saw pictures of very old Indians, but these were not just any old pictures of old Indians - they were her family.

Before the evening was over they had done the unthinkable - they invited us to participate with them in a sweat lodge. For a Lakota to invite outsiders to share in their sacred ceremonies is a honor and is very, very rare. Melda explains in her book that they (her family) believes in "making relatives through prayer". She says, "praying with 'everybody' is the only way you're going to heaven". I saw it as a genuine request to agree on the things we have in common and pray together to our God - the God we both worship and serve.

I was also humbled when Marcus extended an invitation to come to visit them anytime. He said, "anytime you are here and want to put up a tent and camp or build a fire and visit a while, just come. You don't need to ask - this is your land too". Pretty gracious words coming from an Indian to a white person, considering that we've taken almost all of their land and left them with very little. Yet they are willing to share even that with us because they consider us friends.

As I am home now and closing up all the "business' of the trip I am also dipping back into Melda's book and again, it's like reading about an old and dear friend.

Here are some pics from our visit. Click on the picture for a larger view.

On the way to Melda's


Left to right: Marcus, Debbie, Santanna, Melda & her great grandchild



Reuben




Melda's place viewed from atop the cliff




Melda's home




Melda, Connie, and Me sitting by the fire



Our group listening to Melda tell stories


The 2007 Video

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Not in Vain

Sometimes I am tempted to wonder if our work at Pine Ridge makes any difference, if it matters at all. It's a tough trip and never an easy one. I wonder sometimes if it's worth it all or if we're just another bunch of well intentioned people who trample over the sacredness of the Lakota people.

But the past two years have led me to believe that maybe there is something to this effort. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope that things will change. There is a lot on the reservation that will never change. Poverty will always be a plague to these people. There will always be drunkeness and abuse and a general lack of the things we in middle-class society take for granted. But I believe there is reason to believe that the Lakota people have a hope. I believe they will retain the most valuabe things of all, Faith, Hope and Love.

This year our trip seemed to have a theme that was only in part planned. We wanted to have fun with the kids - to have a Safari Party and a Water Gun Fight. Along with the Safari theme, we talked about Africa and the need for clean, safe water. We took up an offering to be sent to Blood:Water Mission to help build wells in Africa. We also had a lot of fun with the water fight.

Water seemed to take on a special significance this week. I'm not yet sure just what the significance is, but it's there. I think it's been happening for a few years now. Here are some of my observations that I am trying to put together and figure out what God is saying.

2004 - Rich Mullin's song "Crying Out Your Name" struck me as a theme song for our work at Pine Ridge. I particularly was drawn to the lines, "Run wild with the hope. The hope that this thirst will not last long, that it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain. I feel the thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain, and I hear the prairie calling out Your name".

2006 - Brian put together a video Let it Rain, as a prayer for the children of Pine Ridge. Part of that was inspired by the words of Black Elk, a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux who wrote, "The chief of all the heavens was riding … I saw the slant hail falling and the long sharp rain and the earth was bright again" I don't believe it was just a physical rain that Black Elk was speaking of.

2007 - We decide upon the theme for the trip - an African Safari with emphasis on water

Sunday we arrived and almost immediately the missionary grabbed 3 of us to come with him to deliver water to a family who did not have running water in their home. We began the trip with - water.

Friday we ended the week with a water fight - and it rained. There was a downpour like the village has not seen in a long, long time. We gave out backpacks and said goodbye to the children amidst a drenching rain.

Then there's the words of a little four year old girl who had been at the mission during part of the week. Her mother had been arrested and sent to the drunk tank leaving the little girl in the care of the missionaries. On Saturday evening she sang a song she had learned in Bible school. The words were not exactly correct, but they couldn't have been more right. She sang, "Our God is an awesome God, He rains on everyone".

He does indeed. I'm not sure what this all means. Maybe it doesn't mean anything at all. I'm too exhausted and beat up to think about it too much right now ... it just strikes me as ... odd... in a good way.




Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob's stairs
Yeah, they danced on Jacob's stairs

There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer
The whisper of a prayer

And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

I can feel the earth tremble
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves
And the fury in the pheasant's wings
And there's fury in a pheasant's wings
It tells me the Lord is in His temple
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring
And I've seen love make heaven ring

Where the sacred rivers meet
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever 'til you see
What time may never know
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope

The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

And I know this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

~ Rich Mullins, Calling Out Your Name

Home!

We're back. It will be a while before I can get time to catch up on blogs. If you want to hear the Reader's Digest version of our trip and see a few of the 2000 pics I'm sorting through, you can check out this post. Don't worry, I didn't put all 2000 pics up.