Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trip to the VA

You’ve heard me mention going to the Minneapolis VA hospital for health care services on several occasions. Ever wonder how a health care system this big operates? I’ll attempt to give you a blow by blow day-in-the-life narrative. Hopefully, it might end some myths about VA healthcare and call attention to how it’s growing faster and faster with the return of soldiers that were called in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not every Veteran has the same experience. There are problems and I believe that is expected in a system this big.

Driving there

I have to get there. I live almost 40 miles away. There are no busses or public transportation. I can drive about half the distance, then take a series of busses to the new light rail system, catch that and it will take me to the VA. The ride takes a long time because of the three bus connections that have to be made. 

When I have an appointment for getting blood work early in the morning, there is no chance to catch busses and get there on time. Scheduling blood draw for later in the day would mean the blood results the doctor needs to treat me would not be available.

So, I drive my car. The Minneapolis VA hospital is located between St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN. I live East of St. Paul, so I have to get through the entire city during rush hour traffic. The 40 mile trip, when taken after 9:00 AM takes about 50 minutes. When I leave 50 minutes before my scheduled blood draw time of 8:15 AM, I am late because of the traffic. I can leave earlier, but then have to wait for my appointment at the VA.

I usually leave early, miss the big traffic rush hour and go sit and wait for my appointment at the VA. I also get a parking spot if I arrive early in the morning.


There is a very large parking area. Most of it can be used for outpatient and visitor, as well as employee parking. Without a handicapped sticker, parking could be as far as ¼ mile away from the outpatient entry door. There is a shuttle, but sometimes you could wait a half hour until it circulates around the parking lot and gets down the aisle.

I’ve been coming to this facility for a long time. Since before the second Iraq war and Afghanistan war even started, I’ve seen the traffic and parking get busier and busier. The VA now has plans on building a multi-story parking ramp, and to do so will take over 250 parking spots away until its completion in 2014.

So, I get there early and park closer, or get here late and walk a long distance, but only after I drive around and around the lot waiting for someone to leave and be lucky enough to be driving down the aisle and finding a spot. Some people follow Veterans that are walking out to the parking lot so they can claim a spot.

When I get to the door, I have to walk a long way to get to my appointments as the building is huge. And, there is more walking back and forth while waiting for appointments in the cafeteria or going to another clinic when two or more appointments are scheduled for the same day.

Checking In

So, I drove here and parked. I walked to the Outpatient Entrance and entered the building. I walk down the halls after taking an elevator to where my first appointment is. I swipe my Veterans ID card and the screen tells me either to sit down and wait for my name to be called or go to the clerk at the desk and stand in line. This choice seems to be random. Sometimes I stand in line, sometimes I get to sit down.

If I am real early, I go to the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee. If it is a fasting blood draw, I drink water. I get down to the blood draw room and check in, then I sit and wait for my name to be called.

Eventually, my name gets called and they verify all the information thoroughly that I am indeed the person whose blood they are drawing. I finish that and then wait about another hour or so for my appointment with the doctor. Now, I can go back to the cafeteria and eat something or have a cup of coffee.

On days when it is hard to walk, I just go to the next appointment and wait, sometimes over an hour. If I need to, I can request a volunteer come and shuttle me in a wheel chair. When I suffered with the Congestive Heart Failure and Atrial Fibrillation, I used this option.

I go to the clinic where I am to be seen and give my ID card to a clerk that scans it and tells me, “Okay Mr. Spado, you are all checked in. Have a seat and the Doctor will call you when he’s ready.”

I wait there. How long I wait varies, depending on how busy he is and how long the lab is taking to process the blood samples and report the results. Sometimes the Doctor is over-booked because here are so many that need services in a particular clinic.

Before I take a seat, I am given a list of all the medications the VA doctors and clinics have prescribed and I am currently taking. This is for my own reference. I am asked to check it over and make changes if I need to.

The Appointment

The doctor calls me in and goes over the blood report for the blood work I had done earlier that morning. This is the warfarin clinic. Warfarin, also called Coumadin, is a medication that thins the blood and helps to stop blood clots from forming in the veins and arteries. There is a certain level that is measured where it is desired. 

If I have achieved this level, I am sent away and another appointment is made for 4 weeks later to do the same check. If I have not achieved this level, my medication is adjusted and I am sent away. Another appointment is made for 2 weeks later to do the same check.

I go back to the clerk and she sets me up with another appointment. She gives me paper telling me when the next appointment will be after I agree with the date and time she gives me.

I ask her for a travel voucher. She fills out  a small pink slip designed for this purpose and I leave the warfarin clinic.

If I attend a different clinic, I may be asked to get Xrays or a C/T scan. My Primary Care Physician will refer me to other Specialty Clinics as needed, like Podiatry, Hearing, Cardiology, etc.

Checking Out

In my case, and in the case of any Service Connected 100% disabled Veteran, I am compensated mileage for getting to and from the VA for scheduled appointments. I have this kind of Service Connected disability designation.

I take my Veterans ID card, the pink travel voucher and go to a room on the first floor. I get a number, like the kind you would get at an old fashioned butcher shop while waiting your turn in line, then I find a seat if there is one, or wait in the hall, standing. 

I have gotten through this line quickly and slowly. Last time I was there, I got number 82. They were on 68 when I got there. I find a seat and wait until my name is called.

The process goes like this:
I hand the clerk my ID card, the voucher and the number tab. The clerk throws the number tab into a waste receptacle and asks me, “How did you get here today?”

I answer, “I drove.”

Then, he or she types a few things into the computer and hands me my Veterans ID card. They verify the name and numbers, the date and time, throws the voucher into the trash, grabs a paper from from a printer, initials it with red ink and hands it to me. There is sometimes a salutation of hello/goodbye and a question asked or comment spoken, but that happens while the clerk waits for the paper to come out of the printer. 

I am usually told, “Have a nice day.”

I always respond, “Thanks, you do the same.”

I take the paper and proceed down the hall 40 yards or so to the cashier’s cage where I wait in a line. When it is my turn, I slip the paper under the glass and show my Veterans ID up to the glass where the cashier can see it.

The cashier verifies my name on the paper and counts out the money. They hand me the money under the glass. I put the money and my Veterans ID back into my wallet.

My next stop is pharmacy. I don’t always have to stop at pharmacy, but if I do, the process is to stop there BEFORE I go to the travel office and take a number. When my number is called in pharmacy, I go up to a window and identify myself with my Veterans ID card and tell the pharmacist that I need to fill a prescription.

The pharmacist verifies the prescription that the doctor has typed into my file when I was down in the warfarin clinic and tells me to watch the screen for my name.

I then go get my travel money and return to pharmacy and wait, all the while watching a small TV monitor. When my name appears on the TV screen, I get up and get in line by a window similar to the cashiers window and wait.

I get up to the window, and identify myself with my handy dandy Veterans ID card. The prescription is found in an alphabetically labeled bin system. I am asked my full name, full social security number and my home address. The label on the prescription is scanned and my name pops up on a handy device similar to a credit or debit card payment center at a store. I sign my name and the prescription is passed under the window to me. The usual salutations are made and I am now free to leave the building.

Going Home

I walk out to my car, get in and drive home. If I have any chores or errands to perform while in the big metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, I do so. I usually stop for a cup of coffee and a visit to my friend’s coffee shop, J&S Bean Factory in St. Paul. Sometimes, I stop in where my youngest daughetr works and chit chat with her a few minutes if she has the time

I head home and wait until the next appointment.

Currently, I am seeing the clinician for my Diabetes and another clinician for my Congestive Heart Failure. I am regularly attending the warfarin clinic every 4 weeks and also seeing the Podiatrist for some problems, stemming from Diabetes, with my feet.

Throw in a visit with my Primary Care Physician, the Dentist and the occasional Cardiologist appointment and I get to the VA as many as 6 times per month. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that my olfactory senses are gone and I have constant ringing in my ears. I’d also like to get permission to go to the gym to get some exercise as in Winter, it is very hard for me to breath the cold air and ride a bicycle outside. I have not sought referrals for these problems as of yet.

I also get treated for my eyes. Eyesight, cataracts and retinopathy. This is done at the University of Minnesota Eye Clinic on campus. Probably as far as the VA, but in a completely different place in the city.
To get reimbursed for travel here, I have to make a separate visit to the VA or wait until I am there on another appointment. If I turn in two vouchers on the same day, one for my VA visit and one from the University Eye Clinic, they only pay me for one and the other is automatically deposited into my bank account after the paperwork is processed.

There you have it. A blow by blow description of what happens at the VA. They do a fabulous job of taking care of the Veterans. Many complain, but usually, those that do don’t bother to learn the ins and outs and subtleties of the bureaucratic system that is needed to run an organization that is so huge and stressed to the maximum to care for Veterans.

In my opinion, the medical care is second to none, and great inroads have been made in hiring and training clerks to be patient, knowledgable and understanding to the problems and concerns of this large system.

My ID card allows me to go to any VA facility and be identified and get health care while traveling or living seasonally somewhere away from home.

I was told when I was nineteen years old that I would never have to worry about health care because I was a US Veteran and served my country.

That is the case at this point in my life and I am grateful. Thank you America.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Good Stone Woman

Monday Mystery Tour
October 29, 2012

I wrote about this motorcycle ride in a post from last week entitled “I Remember Crow Creek”. The following story was an experience that happened at the end of that ride and I want to share it with you today for my Monday Mystery Tour.

It was the first Crow Creek Commemorative Motorcycle Ride in June of 2006. We had done the four days and 1200 or so miles of the motorcycle ride and we were setting up camp on the shores of the Missouri River at Fort Thompson, South Dakota, on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.
There was ceremony and talk. The people of Crow Creek were out to greet us, many of them thanking us for remembering what had happened to them and their people when 1400 were exiled from Dakota land in Minnesota in 1863 via riverboat and rail car.

The trip took the lives of many and separated families from each other. The woman I was talking to was telling me the story that was told to her when she was a little girl. A story about her Grandmother, a Minnesota Dakota woman that was put on a boat near Fort Snelling at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers and shipped like cattle down to Hannibal, Missouri where they were then put onto rail cars and sent to St. Joseph, MO. From St. Joe’s, they were again placed on the riverboats and shipped upstream on the Missouri River to Fort Thompson where an Indian Reservation, Crow Creek, was created. 

These people were sent here to die for the sheer utter idea that the Minnesota Governor, Alexander Ramsey, didn’t want “Indians” in Minnesota anymore as they were causing a problem for settlers.

She told me these things from memory, as the narrative style of teaching the family tree was, and is, alive and well amidst many of the Native peoples of this land.

After she finished telling me the story, I gave her a hug. We both cried. I had no words, but felt in my heart that if I could, I would make it so these kinds of atrocities, and there were many all across our great land that had given much detriment to the Native Indigenous people that inhabited the United States long before it became the United States, never happen ever again.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a stone. I had been wandering around the outer limits of the parking lot at the historic site of Fort Snelling, our meeting place and point of embarkation, for this annual motorcycle ride to commemorate the forced removal of the Dakota people, and while walking through the grass, saw some pebbles on the ground in a small area where the ground was natural.

I picked one up, examined it and for some unknown reason, placed it in my pocket. It was this stone that I retrieved and rubbed in my palm for a moment, then gave it to the woman that had told me the horrific story of the plight of her Grandmother.

Some believe, and I am one of them, that stones are Grandmothers and Grandfathers. They have been around through all time and has seen everything that mankind has done. They hold all wisdom and by holding them in our hands, we can get answers to things from this wisdom

She looked at it, held it in two hands and cried even more. 

Then, she asked me a question for which I had no idea of what the answer might be. She asked, “Do you know what my Grandmother’s name was?”

I answered the obvious, “No, what was it?”

She very proudly told me while holding the small stone aloft, 

“Good Stone Woman.”


Saturday, October 27, 2012

En Roulant Ma Boule

Right around Spring of 1980, we sold our home in St. Paul, MN and moved into a small rickety mobile home on 20 acres near Pine City, MN. The land was at the water’s edge, right on the Snake River between Cross and Pokegama Lakes. A small dam at the East side of Cross Lake allowed the river to flow slowly past our home and be more like a lake than a river.

The view upstream from our home along the Snake River, Pine County, MN
The Northwest Company Fur Post Historic site is located right around the point that can be seen at the Left in the photo.

But a river it was, and back in 1803, a competitor of the famed Hudson Bay Company called the Northwest Company, opened shop along the banks of the Snake River, long before the dam was built. This place was a small structure of a line of rooms surrounded by a stockade and run by a partner of the company and his staff of voyageurs. It was a wintering place. A trading post used in Winter to gather fur hides for the hat trade in Europe.

Arthur Heming's untitled painting of voyageurs plying the rapids in a large Canadian birch bark canoe

These trading posts would have the local Native people do their hunting for food and the valuable furs and the voyageurs pack the trade goods in and the furs out, down stream and up stream via large birch bark canoes, using the waterways to get them to their ultimate destination.

Stock photo of the Northwest Company Fur Post historic site at Pine City, MN

So little is mentioned about fur trade history. But so much is available. You see, the partners that ran the wintering posts kept comprehensive journals of everyday goings on, the movement of beaver hide, how much was hunted and gathered for food, the weather, the terrain, personalities of the voyageurs and the Indians, everything.

The Northwest Company Fur Post Historic site, run by the Minnesota Historical society, was up stream from our little patch of land just a ¼ mile or so. Mrs. Spadoman wandered over there one day and before long, we found ourselves working there as tour guides doing costumed living history.
I used my own name, and took the liberty of making it French, to become Josef Spadeau, French Canadian Voyageur. This was just a day 'working' at the historic site in the 1980's 

Many times, we would paddle across the river to go to work. We were aware of the historical significance of using the waterway to get to our place of employment. In fact, we lived “in character” for some of the time even on days we didn’t work. It's been a while since I thought about being a tour guide and demonstrating fur trade history by living it. The title of this post stems from a widely known Voyageur song and these songs rang through our household on a daily basis.

Mrs. Spadoman played the part of Le Chienne, the Dog Woman, who was mentioned in Sayers journal several times as a female Indian hunter. Here she is giving one of the tours at the historic site

But talk about living “In Characrter”?  This special friend of ours that was the director of  the site, and was an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society when we met him, took his character seriously. Everyone called him Jacques, the name stemming from a voyageur, whose name was written in the original journal by the partner that ran the post in the winters of 1803 and 1804. Jacques Deseve is his name and he has been known as Jacques for the 30 plus years that we have known him.

Jacques was a working man, a voyageur on the staff of the partner, a Mister John Sayer, the writer and keeper of the journal for the Snake River wintering post in 1803 and 1804. Jacques grew up in St. Paul, MN and had a ‘real’ name, but I am not at liberty, nor will I ever be, enough to divulge his birth given name. Besides, he was known far and wide as Jacques and still is. Although he did take on the persona of John Sayer for a while. Long enough to be carried from a birch bark canoe to the shore of the Great Lake Superior at Duluth, so as to not get his 'fancy' shoes wet, complete with bagpipe accompaniment.

A bearded Jacque Deseve, on the left, breaking bread with my three children, my wife, (taking the picture), and myself. We enjoyed many a dinner  together, especially during the holiday season.

Jacques did presentations of fur trade history throughout the area, in schools and at civic functions. He was a teacher and entertainer extrordinaire. He is retired now, but still dons a costume of the era and now takes on the persona of a character from this historical time and mesmerizes us all with his wit, wisdom and charm. One thing that has never left him is that so many people only know him as Jacques and have for so many years.

Jacques is a self proclaimed hermit. When we met him, he lived in a hand hewn one room log cabin with a small sleeping loft. He had an outhouse, used a sauna to bathe, carried water, chopped wood and read his many and varied collection of books by oil lamp and candle light.

Nowadays, in 2012, he still lives in a log cabin, it is basically one room, a large one, and has a sauna built right inside. He has accepted electricity on the premises and a telephone line. He still carries his water in bottles filled from local sources, but uses an outhouse for other matters. He reads his now tripled in size hard bound book collection by electric light.

Jacque now has taken on the role of Charles Jean Baptiste Chaboillez, a senior retired partner of La Companie, The Northwest Company. He shaved his beard of 42 years for this occasion, but now it is in full growth mode again.

The wood stove is gone and has parlayed into a propane burning affair that is so much easier to manage than the gathering, (or buying), along with the chopping, cutting, splitting, stacking and hauling of fire wood.

He sleeps in a bed that is on the main level of the cabin now. A fall or two from the warmer nether regions of the loft helped him make this decision.

The reason I know all this about the more recent times in his life is because we got together and rekindled our close relationship just recently. Being with Jacques again is delightful. We continued our conversations, reminiscing, hockey discussions and silliness right where we left off when we left Pine City in 1989.

Jacque lives in Northwestern Wisconsin. Over the past ten years, I can safely say I drove past, or very near to, the township, or at least the County, where he lives several times per month. It’s not such a veer off of our fetching water trips that we couldn’t fit a visit in. I’m going to try to make that a reality as I realize how important having and sharing life with a good friend can be and how important it is to each other.

You know that saying that says People are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime? All three fit here. Jacques started being in our life back when we met him, and although we moved on and only saw Jacques now and again over the years, with the last time some 12 or 13 years ago, he never left our thoughts. 

But that’s what true friendship is. Always being friends. Not judging other’s actions and motives. Not forgetting them because our life’s journey has taken us far away and kept us busy seeking other adventures. Now, we’ll share with each other what we’ve been up to with our old friend. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Remember Crow Creek

Today's post is my contribution for the Art of Remembering. This time of year, around the end of October, just before Los Dias de Los Muertos, or, The Days of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd, the spirits are active and traveling. The spirits of the people of Crow Creek paid me a visit and I needed to remember them today.
More remembrances and similar connectedness can be found at Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon

What a dream. I was riding my motorcycle through the summertime breeze with a bunch of friends. Some I knew, some were new friends. We were along the river. The vistas were fantastic. Through woods and prairies, corn and beans, the river flowing at our side throughout the journey. Together, as one, we rode for days. Our stops at night for rest and food were at beautiful wooded campsites. It was hot and muggy, cool and rainy, calm and windy.

When we got to a place in South Dakota, there was a car parked on the side of the road. A man was holding a camera, an arm waved from the front seat, little arms, those of children waved from the rear. Then another car, and another, then a bunch all parked near an old cemetery. All with arms waving as we rode by.

We arrived at an overlook. A prometory with a view of a great river. We gathered there and people spoke. We rode again and after a short distance, two riders on horseback came out in front of us and led us into a grassy circle. The circle was full of teepee lodges with a great fire pit in the center. Over the pit was meat from Tatanka, the bison, hanging and drying. We were along the river once more. Spirits were all around us. Spirits of long ago and spirits of not so distant past. People were around the circle, standing around, some in their cars, some in lawn chairs in the shade of large cottonwood trees.

The mounted riders led us and we lined up one after another in the circle and got off of our iron horses. The people gathered and formed a line and came by each of us and shook our hands, Some were crying. Some hugged us. Some shook our hands holding ours with both of theirs. The children were there as well in great numbers and their shyness made them choosy about who they offered their little hands to.

A man played a small hand drum and sang a song in Dakota language. He told us the words to his song. He told us he wrote this song especially for us. The song sang the praises of a group of riders on iron horses that came to give him hope, give hope to all his people.

An old woman, an elder, sat in a lawn chair. She held a feather of an Eagle upright in her hand. The small children were gathered about her like a magnet would gather paperclips. A younger man held an umbrella over her to shield her from the hot South Dakota Summertime sun. She brushed him aside and got up and she sang and old song. An honor song, for us, the iron horse riders.

She beckoned, and each of us walked up to her one at a time. She sat there. Her eyes ahead, vacant, holding the feather. We put our hand in hers and she prayed, silently. Tears streamed down our cheeks as they have been since we saw the first car along the side of the road.

The people came by and shook our hands again. The children now less choosy, and more were crying, more people grasped our hands with two of theirs.

This was a dream. A dream I lived. 

A feeling so incomprehensible. A feeling of pride, honor, struggle, sorrow and peacefulness.

The removal of over 1700 Dakota Indian people occurred during the spring of 1863. This dark chapter in American history is scarcely a footnote in American history textbooks. 

The media vilified the Dakota for their actions and 303 Dakota men were sentenced to death by hanging by a hastily organized United States Military Tribunal. Then President Abraham Lincoln pardoned most of them, but the largest public mass execution occurred in American history with the simultaneous hanging of 38 Dakota warriors at Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862. 

The following Spring saw this Nation of people exiled from their homeland in Minnesota when they were forcibly moved by riverboat and rail car to an Indian reservation near Fort Thompson, South Dakota called Crow Creek.

Proud riders holding up the Crow Creek Tribal Flag

Our motorcycle ride was to remember this event in spite of the history books and a society disinterested in their own brutal past.

After we left the circle we ate a great feast of buffalo and cake, stew, soup, fry bread, lemonade. We talked and made new friends. Some came up again to talk and say thank you. Thank you for remembering us. Thank you for giving us hope.

I told them that I was the one to be thankful. I gave them nothing, they gave me the greatest gift. A smile at the end of my ride. They allowed me to honor them, the survivors, the self determined few.

Motorcycle arriving at Crow Creek on the First Commemorative Ride in 2006

The people of Crow Creek were happy, happy with tears that anyone remembered that they were there, remembered their ancestors from the boat rides in 1863. Remembered that they are a proud Nation of poor but forgiving people. People who were happy this day as the riders on the iron horses came to say we know you are here.


This narrative was written shortly after the First Crow Creek  Commemorative Motorcycle Ride in 2006. I took part in three more for a total of four years.

I chose this story as my Art of Remembering as it brings back some fantastic memories of an event that not many people knew about. I was a part of it. I experienced it and it taught me much. So much sadness and joy all at one time. So many feelings, all gathered together by people of different worlds. Unconditional acceptance of each other without judgement of politics, color, religion or personality.

These are the people I am remembering today. 

Peace to all

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Haiku My Heart
October 19, 2012

Haiku My Heart is a weekly event hosted by Rebecca. You can see more Haiku and join in when you visit recuerda mi corazon.

Matters in our hearts

Not at all unnatural


What do you consider to be a miracle? How about coincidence? And that saying, “There are no coincidences”. Serendipity? Is serendipity and coincidence the same thing?

I wonder about these things as I have had many experiences, right in a row lately, that can fall in either one of these categories specifically, or all of them. Let me explain.

I think I mentioned to you the story about the recent funeral of my friend, Gene. Gene, if you remember, was a Spiritual Elder in the Red Cliff Tribe and besides being my friend, he was my mentor and teacher. He was also a Vietnam Veteran.

When we got to the cemetery on the day of his burial, the color guard was there and after a 21 gun salute, a lone bugler played taps.

It was during the rendition of taps that all eyes were skyward and saw an Eagle soaring in large circles over the people attending Gene’s service. Then, the Eagle left and headed to the West.

Symbolic of so many things, the Eagle showed itself at that particular time, at that particular place, while that particular event was taking place. And to soar around, then retreat to the West. The color black designates the West. Blackness, or night, where the sun goes down. The West, the end of the day, before the new beginning of another day with the sunrise to the East.

One of Gene’s teachings was to tell us that we honor the Eagle because it might be the Creator showing himself to us. Eagles and Eagle feathers are an important creature in the lore of the Ojibwe as well as other Indian Nations.

With this said, I must tell you that the other morning, while sharing breakfast with an old friend that we hadn’t seen in a dozen years or so, I started talking about Gene to my friend, telling him the station that Gene held in my life and the lives of so many people.

As I spoke, we saw movement outside the window of the restaurant where we were eating. It was the restaurant of the Ike Walton Lodge  and we were on the shore of Yellow Lake in Burnett County, Wisconsin, where we had spent the night after attending a dinner function fundraiser.

It was at this precise moment that we all spotted an Eagle soaring, down low, close to the water, then land in the upper branches of a pine tree near the water’s edge, directly in front of the picture window where we were sitting.

I made reference to the fact that the Eagle decided to show himself to us when I was talking about Gene. After a few moments of conversation, we had changed the subject and the Eagle moved on across the water. We watched it as it flew away.

I’ve made up my mind already. That was no coincidence. As much as any faith based religion asks you to believe that passages in the Gospel are true and tell you exactly what they mean, I will tell you that the Spirit of my friend Gene follows me and tells me I’m on the right path by these showings of powerful winged animals that come around at precise places and at precise times.

Why not? Proving that this isn’t true is just as hard as proving it is.

The evening before, we attended an event at Fort Folle Avoine. This resurrected fur trade post from the early 1800’s is along the shores of the Yellow River in Burnett County, Wisconsin. The Burnett County historical society runs the site and presents living history and demonstrations seasonally. Saturday night, a dinner was held to raise operating funds.

The dinner was to be taking place in the year 1808 in a fashionable place in Montreal. It was a dinner attended by the prestigious Beaver Club, a fraternity of fur trade partners who rely on being voted in to be in this club.

As paid visitors from the future, 2012 to be exact, we witnessed the bagpipe rituals and mockingly funny bits about the upper and lower class of that fur trade era.

At one point in the program, Charles Jon Baptiste Chebroilles, also known as Jacques, our good friend for many years and the host of this dinner, recognized some of the people in attendance. He introduced me as Joseph Spadeau, a French Canadian name I used when I was a living history tour guide in the 1980’s working at another fur trade site in Minnesota. I got up to the acknowledged applause and told a short story. 

I introduced myself again and used my real name, the name I use in 2012, Joe Spado.

I told my story and sat down. The people in the hall resumed eating their dinner. It was during this time that a young woman came up to my table. She was one of the many volunteers that were there to help prepare and serve in the fundraising effort.

Since it was the first time I was there, I didn’t recognize her, but she spoke directly to me and said, “Are you Joe Spado?”

I answered, “Yes, I am.”
Then she turned to my wife and asked, “Are you Barb?”
Barb acknowledged that she was indeed Barb Spado.

The the woman started to cry and related to us that when she was around twelve years old and living in St. Paul, MN, that she lived in an apartment building next door to where we were living and that she had done some baby sitting for our children. She also remembered that her own home life was miserable when she was a child due to a Mother that wasn’t up to the task of providing a caring and loving home.

She recalled that it was Barb that fed her and her brother and sister. Barb had also given them warm clothing and shelter along with the meals she provided. Barb told me later how she remembers calling the  county welfare department to report the neglect in hopes of getting their mother to feed and care for them.

This woman’s name is Pam. And she remembered Barb for the good deeds she had done way back in 1976. I was proud to be there when this happened. The stranger part is that Pam was at this event as a volunteer. Her daughter has been a volunteer in the past and has helped out at Fort Folle Avoine before, but Pam had never been there and done anything like this. Her daughter talked her into coming along and helping out.

Had she never come to the event to help out, she would have never ran into Barb to thank her for the help and care she gave willingly to her and her family. Had we not taken the time and made the effort to go out to a dinner well over  100 miles away from home, we never would have met Pam and recalled those days back in 1976. I might remind folks that it was more than a casual decision to travel a long way from home, especially for dinner out, as I am still without teeth and eating is still quite the chore, and I’m not feeling my best yet and being away from the comforts of home were questionable.

Coincidence? Serendipity? Small world story personified? 

Being where we were supposed to be at the time we were supposed to be there? Yes, all of the above. Like that Eagle that came to listen to what I was saying about Gene.

We came away with a good feeling and were very glad we attended the dinner. It was a delight to see our old friend Jacques and another friend from that era, Angie, and to meet Pam and hear her tell how she remembers Barb’s kindness and how appreciative she was, and still is, to this day.

All this for being at a place in time. And I believe the forces that put all of us in this place at the same time were not of our choosing. These things happen because they are supposed to happen. It is serendipity.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Dream On

Haiku My Heart
October 12, 2012

Haiku My Heart is a weekly exercise on Friday. We gather and speak to each other with our minds and hearts, sharing the fabric of life through words, art, photographs and pleasant greetings. Join us at Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon.

Catching energy

Snatching it out of thin air

Saving the good stuff

Expecting pleasant

Thoughts, messages to appear

The bad sent away

Bold round energy

Keeping some, some discarded

Accepting my fate

Still expecting dreams

Confident that they will be

A gift in my life

Dream Catchers, Dream Nets, Spider Nets. These woven strainers, adorned with beads, feathers and leather, made of wooden hoops and sinew, are to allow the dreams that are sent our way to be filtered. The  good mojo passes right through to your soul, the bad gets held in the web.

There are stories that explain it. Here in the upper Midwest where I live, there are two dominant cultures, Dakota and Ojibwe. Each has a story about what a Dream Catcher might be and how they originated. Both are similar. This one is about the Lakota and their idea and an excerpt taken from a site namedDream-Catchers.org

An old Lakota Elder and Spiritual Leader was high on a mountain and had a vision. In this vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider. Iktomi spoke to him, and as he spoke, he picked up the Elder’s hoop of willow, which was decorated with feathers horsehair, beads and other offerings, and began to spin a web.

He spoke to the Elder about the cycles of life, how we begin our lives as Infants, move on through Childhood and on to Adulthood. Finally, we go to old age, where we must be taken care of as Infants, completing the cycle.

Iktomi said, as he continued to spin his web, “In each time of life there are many forces, some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction, but if you listen to the bad forces, they’ll steer you in the wrong direction and may hurt you. These forces can help or interfere with the harmony of Nature.”

As the Spider spoke, he continued to weave his web. When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the Elder his web and said, “The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the center. Use the web to help your people reach their goals, making good use of their ideas, dreams and visions. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will filter your good ideas and the bad ones will be trapped and will not pass.”

The Elder passed this vision onto his people. Now, many people have a Dream Catcher hanging over their bed. The good will pass through the hole in the center to the sleeping person. The evil in their dreams are captured in the web where they perish in the light of the morning sun. It is said that the Dream Catcher holds the destiny of the future.

The elder passed this vision on to the people and now, many Indian people have a Dream Catcher above their bed to sift their dreams and visions. The good will pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. The evil in their dreams is captured in the web, where they perish in the light of the morning sun. It is said the dreamcatcher holds the destiny of the future.

I like this story. It’s not such a matter of believing every word of it to be true, but rather the idea, the essence, is true, that there are forces of good and evil and they have to come from somewhere. Why not in your dreams? And then, why not try to filter this energy as it passes near to us? Why not attempt to protect ourselves from the evil. Why not seek the good?

And since life has it’s ups and downs, ins and outs and is not really totally rounded out evenly for every person, then the circle may not be perfect.

This is my interpretation. When I am influenced to weave a Dream Catcher, I see life this way and see the circles, or rather enclosures, are like our lives. No two are the same and all have their own unique twists and turns, but eventually do complete this cycle of life.

My Haiku today are a reflection of the Spirit in which I discover what twists and turns have been in my own life, and how the journey gets side tracked and moved off course at times. Then again, “off course” is the course. It isn’t off then, is it? And what is good and what is bad, and why do we judge what happens in life and put a label on any event? 

A lot to think about. The Dream Catcher allows me to believe the idea that the bad is gone and never reached me, and that all I live is good. All I need to do is to find it if it isn’t immediately evident.

With the advent of Fall, when cooler weather and shorter periods of daylight appear to take over our lives, as well as the convalescence period I’m involved with since my accident, leaving me with hours of sitting in one spot as I’m unable to be as physically active as I once was, I find myself creating these “Tools”, if you will. Plying my creativity in my choices of wood, sinew, beads, feathers, leather and findings.

I’m pleased to have this idea of Native American influence and this form of Folk Art in my life. With each circle I work with, I see places where life has twisted or turned, for good or bad, or what might have been perceived as good or bad, and the idea that the circle continues on its twisted convoluted journey and path and connects us all.

Mitakwe Oyasin


Monday, October 8, 2012

You're Invited

This year, our Annual Los Dias de Los Muertos Celebration will take place on
Saturday, November 3, 2012

You are all invited. Here's your invitation:

Click on it to see it larger and clearer.

 Los Dias de Los Muertos means Days of the Dead. It is a South American/Mexican celebration that brings family and friends together for an evening of fun, laughs, memories and remembrance of the loved ones in our lives that have passed on before us.

As the legend goes, On November 1st and 2nd, it is said that the spirits can move freely between our world and the spirit world. This is the time that the spirits, of those we love and have lost, might be traveling through the realms from the other side.

The celebration includes a large altar where pictures of our loved ones are placed. We also put a momento or two on this altar, something the person liked when they were with us, something that would bring a smile to their face. Our daughter Maggie, who left this world in 1991, loved Doritos and Diet Coke. There will always be a can of coke and a small bag of Doritos on the altar along with her picture.

Over the years since her death, we have been having this celebration on November 1st every year. Some years, if it is close to a weekend, we have the celebration on a weekend day so more people can make it to the party. This year, November 1st is on a Thursday, so we will celebrate Los Dias on Saturday, November 3rd. 
We will place some items on the altar that will welcome all spirits, what they might need to travel, bread, water and salt and candles to light their way. This is not a religious holiday, but if you are religious, all religions are welcome as well as all people of all Nations.

It is an open house. Bring something to share, like a pot luck. We will have some food and dessert as well as some beverages. Pop and Ice for sure, BYOB. We’ll also have great coffee from my friend Steve’s J&S Bean Factory Coffee Shop!

We will have a large altar set up. It will have flowers and pictures and momentos of our loved ones. You may bring a photo of the person or people you have lost and momentos of their lives as well to display on the altar. You may leave these items, or take them with you when you go home.

This is a celebration of life. We remember our loved ones all the time, but this is a special day of remembrance. Stories will be told as we sit around the living room and out by the fire pit. You may think about bringing a chair for outside by the fire and make sure to dress for the weather! We will laugh and we will cry. We will see old friends and meet new friends. We will learn about the lives of people both living and dead.

This year, the loss of my friend, your Dad, Gene Artishon, is fresh in my mind. He will join the other people that held a prominent position in our lives, our daughter Maggie, our parents and other close friends. We are looking forward to seeing each and every one of you at this gathering. 

Since it is a Saturday, we will start later in the afternoon, 4- 5:00 PM. Stay as long as you like. Tent space available in the yard, crash on the living room floor with your sleeping bag or get a motel. We do have a couple of sofas. I’m sure some kind of breakfast/brunch will be made for all that stay over.

Children are welcome and encouraged. Bring your spouses, significant others and partners, husbands, wives and children. Try to leave the pets at home. Above all, bring an open mind to live like the people we are remembering are in the next room. This is what this celebration is all about. The lives of those that will never be forgotten. This is how we carry their spirit with us until the next year when we will do it again.

Any questions, feel free to call, write, text or e-mail. Enclosed is an invitation to share amongst yourselves. If you need directions or more information get a hold of us.

Hope to see everyone here.

Joe and Barb Spado