Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Hello fabulous friends who continue to check this blog, and those who stumble upon it all the same...

I am writing from the middle of my 3 weeks of summer school. It has been an interesting past few weeks, and I cannot exactly find the appropriate words to express my combination of grief and anticipation. I managed to cry my way through the end of school and saying goodbye to my colleagues and fellow volunteers, but I'm still holding out on my last goodbyes for one more week.

This post will most likely be my final time adding to the website- at least for now- and I thought it was good timing, since I am sitting here with Ms. Daisa One Feather, the brilliant shining student and friend that she has become to me. I think it would be lovely to have her contribute a bit to my blog as a final farewell, knowing that this is an ending to one era of my life; concurrently it is also the beginning of a new era filled with the promise of remaining in touch with those students and friends who have touched my life. For my hope remains that when I leave, my heart will stay.

So, without further ado, I give you the wisdom and ramblings of one of the most inspirational students at Red Cloud....

Em: Daisa, how are you doing my fine lady?

Daisa: Hello miss emily!! i went to a powwow this weekend!! All weekend i hung out with Al, and Dom, and Duane. Miss emily!! did you ever smell Dom? He smells sooooooooo soooooooo good!! You should seriously smell him. And no we are not destined to be together FOR LIFE!
Soooo duane- hes sooo weird!! All weekend he just followed me around! You know what i think? he still likes me, but thats not surprising. And they, my sister and her buddies, were calling me and him Delmar and Lynda (my parents names) all weekend. So on saturday night me and my sister went to her friends house. And of course Dom was there and i was extremely happy because i got to smell him again (:

Em: I believe I have smelled Dom at your request one time. :) Of course it doesn't mean you're destined for life, but I swear I heard that before! (maybe Glamour magazine?) :) Hmm, the powwow was pretty exciting, huh? Tell me a little about the weather and how you did...

Daisa: It rained alll weekend!! and i wanted to go the carnival soo badly, but i had no one to go with. Saturday morning we had to go through that stupid parade... i got to drive though! it was awesome although my mom was being kind of Mrs. Krabs. And i didnt wanna say anything but she was waving at everyone trying to be all happy. So yeah OHHH OHH OHH!!!!! i got 1st!!! yayyy... and in womens traditional, my first time of winning the women's division!

Em: I know! I was so proud of you... you do look quite magestic when you're out there dancing- oh, and thanks so much for inviting me to dance with you during the inter-tribal dance! You're such an 'includer.' One of the many qualities I love about you.

Daisa: Yes Emily, although you know i did have to practically carry you out there. You being so paranoid about not being in an "outfit".

Emily: Well, that's true. I mean- my raincoat wasn't exactly as beautiful as most of the regalia that everyone else wears. And I did happen to be the only white person too. :):)

Daisa: (no comment, daisa just stands there and smiles)

Emily: Okay, I actually love being white, and love that Wyatt gives me so much crap about being racist... because I take it as a compliment. If he really thought I was racist, he would most likely avoid me at all costs.... Well, it's about time for you to catch your ride. Do you have any final words of wisdom for my friends?

Daisa: If you guys need any assistance with fashion planning im here to help!! (: ohhh ohh and umm YOU NEED TO SERIOUSLY DANCE ONCE IN AWHILE!!! better yet- with Emily (: soo again it was nice meeting you guys and i wish i could see your round cheeesy faces after reading this but unfortunately i cant ): jk!! im happy (: not sad!! so have fun and JUST DANCE!!!

Em: Thanks so much, Daisa, this is perhaps the closest some of my readers will ever come to meeting you, and that is most unfortunate, you're right. But still I have the hope that everyone interested in my pine ridge reflections will take time to visit here someday- and who knows, but you might have just opened your own boutique downtown for them to visit! :)

Okay, since I feel I couldn't sum up my time here much better than to share with you the relationships I have developed and how important they are to me, I shall leave this post with that- a candid conversation between Ms. Daisa One Feather and I. Who knows, perhaps I shall return to this blog with further news of the wonders Daisa is doing for her tribe and for herself. :)

Until you hear my wandering mind and thoughts again, I bid you a brilliant time of discovering the vast places of wonder our God and Creater has made. For me, Pine Ridge has been one of the most lovely and meaningful places I have discovered!

Much love- and of course, smiles for everyone. :):)


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Hello for the last time from the desk of Student Activities...

I am officially moving out of this office over the weekend, and I am full of sadness and the excitement of change. I found out earlier this week that the current HS office will be relocating into my office during summer renovations to the other side of the building, which gives me only through this weekend to finish up my business for next year. I did quite well last night, working away at organizing everything- and now my main task is compiling a binder full of info for the incoming Student Activities Director.

I have written a farewell note to each senior and member of the Student Council, and I wrote a general note to each student and passed them out- so it's my feeble attempt at saying-
'I would love to stay in contact, and I'm leaving- but my heart is still here.' Because that is absolutely true. My heart will always be here, not only because I have created a family here, but also because these students are the first group of students to teach me about the innate beauty of adolescents in a poverty situation... a lesson I believe will advance my future goals of loving as many young people as possible over the course of my life. What a daunting, yet fabulous goal in life, huh?

I'm sure I will post again to wrap-up my experiences here with some reflections, but this is the last time I will sit at this desk to write my ramblings. And I have to say- I've already had more tears over leaving than some, (AJ?) :) might think possible... truly, I feel good about leaving, for the fact that it has evoked a certain honesty between the students and I. I am real about my life goals, and the life-changing impact they've all had on me, and they are real about how much they're going to miss me.

It's so beautiful....for example.... a rather quiet sophomore student council member asked me on Monday to come to her 7th hour class- and when I got there I realized she had prepared a speech she wanted me to listen to, and at first it was about her father and the guilt she felt about his life decisions. (I was moved to hear such honest words, especially since they provoked unending tears from her). Her second speech was entitled, "My Dearest Emily"- and was a tribute to how much she's learned from me and felt my support. She mentioned that she knew how much I would miss it here, but she didn't want them (the students) to hold me back from pursuing my education... because they (the students) know already how much I love them. It was so moving, perhaps one of the most sincere displays of affection I have ever received!

A few of the student council members who read the letters I had written told me they cried and cried- and read it over and over. Some might think this type of emotion is sappy or something- but truly I can't help feeling the opposite. Sappy is something silly...and the relationships I've developed with these students are anything but silly. (I'm tearing up as I write)... and I guess I've never in my life felt more sadness at a life transition than I do right now. I'm leaving after two years... but the people I love here aren't moving on- they remain in their world here, which is so much different than any transition I've experienced. At college everyone is moving on, it is only a temporary setting... but here- this is more than preparation for life...it is life, and to be leaving people with whom I've shared life is so difficult!

Ah, to be entering another temporary world- I look forward to life at Princeton, I really do, but I know I will miss everything about this place and these people. My heart was reborn here, in a sense, and I'm leaving bits of my heart all over the place here! So, here's to anyone from my life at Pine Ridge who might be reading this- I will always love you, and I will always cherish the bits of my heart which I now leave behind.

Transition is great, but oh so difficult, but great. :)


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh, what a month!!!

Greetings from a crazy-busy and emotional student activities director~

The past two weeks have been so full of wonderful, saddening, and mostly memorable experiences... I will once again do a portrayal of past events in a picture slide-show. :)

Before I begin telling the various stories, I want to say that today was the final day for seniors in school. I am surprisingly unemotional. No tears. Weird, I know. However, I doubt I will be able to hold back the tears at Baccalaureate tonight, or at graduation on Saturday. This class is full of beautiful souls who have given me such joy (remember my uninhibited skipping from last year's posts?) Yes, these are the student catalysts. The students whom I feel closest to, with the exception of the Student Council. Alas, they are all excited and nervous, tentative and chomping at the bit. What a remarkable time in everyone's life, especially for students here on the Rez. At this point, they are the cream of the crop on the Reservation, and should be darn proud of it! At this point, only God can provide a path toward further success in their lives, and this is why I feel okay leaving them. I know they're still in good hands.

Okay, now for a run-down of my life events... :)

Two weekends ago I went home for my brother's college graduation, and AJ came with me! It was a wonderful time, being able to see my siblings, grandparents, and parents. It was also great fun to be playing outside like I was 8 years old again! This time, with AJ pretending to throw me off his shoulders! The entire weekend was splendid and it made me anxious for more care-free summer days ahead!

This is a group of random volunteers along with past and present Red Cloud Students- we are all posing at the Senior Pow-wow (Inipi), even though none of us are seniors.

I spent last weekend with this darling girl, Daisa, whom I've spoken of often on this blog. She and I presented together at the Board of Director's meeting regarding the relational impact volunteers and students can have on one another. She is a gem, let me tell you, and she spoke with such openness and eloquence, I was so proud that she considers me a big sister. Last week she actually presented me with a huge collage she had been working on as a 'going away' gift of sorts, and she also wrote me a moving letter about the impact I have had on her life. Needless to say, this girl has brought me to tears more than once, and she continues to be one of the biggest delights I have encountered during my time here at Red Cloud.

Me, again, posing with a group of freshman-junior guys at the senior pow wow. Three of the students (to the right of me) are running for the top positions in student council next year. Let's just say that I hope they transform this (self-proclaimed) popularity contest into productive work next year!

Awe, my beautiful senior sister Saige and I at the powwow! I goofed up a bit on this one- Saige Pourier has been a really close student of mine, and she was one of the first students to really work at developing a relationship with me, which I appreciated immensely. Anyway- she had an honoring at the powwow- during which she intended to present me with a start quilt...only I was late, and missed it! Whoops! I felt horrible, and when I walked in late, she just shook her head at me in a sassy, 'I'm pretending to be mad at you" way. It was embarrassing for me, yet good to accept her forgiving nature as well. She truly is a beautiful beautiful young woman!

Ah, yes- the Student Council posters which were added one at a time to my office windows. I was really pleased with the campaigning for next year's slots- All the students running have really stepped up their efforts of advertizing, and it is so much fun... I thought I'd take a picture of my windows! And in case you're interested, we will be voting tomorrow in English classes for the new student council. Don't hold your breath, whatever shall be, shall be. :)

Back-track to my brother's graduation- here he is, along with the rest of us siblings (and Meggie and AJ- new additions to the family). My sister from Texas was even able to come for the visit- hurray for surprises which end up to not be surprises (I guess none of us are good at keeping secrets from one another). :)

AJ and my random "angry" faces. Who looks more upset? Probably me, but I do have to say AJ has a bit of ferocious in his face! I love being goofy with this guy... he's such a good sport with my family- oh, and did I mention we played football against Meggie and Clint- and totally cleaned house (with the help of our dear quarterback Alison)! :)

*Random story without a photo- I have another story which falls under the category of 'unfortunate events' in the life of Emily...or as my student Chandler said, "only a minor setback in life, Emily." whatever title it is given, here's the scoop. Two days ago, as Emily was lifting weights, the heat was intense, and Emily was lazy. Thus, she wore open-toe sandals instead of her usual tennis shoe apparel. Well, little did she realize that the very last lift of the day would reveal the mistake that was, 'wearing sandals'- okay, let me be forward. I dropped a weight on my big toe!!! And it hurt. Throbbed, mostly, and bled for about 24 hours. I was slightly concerned about the well-being of my toe nerves; however, these past two days- along with the miraculous work of a loving God- have produced amazing results! I no longer have pain, and although it looks a little funky- my toe is basically intact. Yey!!!

That's my life in a nutshell. I've also been busy with the student council cookout, house meetings, after-school program, getting blasted with water by some hyper seniors (in my office, nonetheless), and trying to balance my emotions of sadness at leaving these kids and the sheer joy of summer ahead.
Until you hear from my busy little heart and mind again, peace to you and your families. I am off to read to the 3rd grade right now. What a blast! :)
Love and teethy smiles,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's May....

This reality hit me quite hard a few days ago.

It's May, and with May comes so many events... 1. Saying goodbye to many of my dear volunteer friends and housemates. 2. Graduation & Saying goodbye to the wonderful seniors and fabulous underclass students I will be leaving. 3. Saying goodbye to the 30+ faculty I have come to love here at Red Cloud. 4. Saying goodbye to my sister who will be moving to Japan.

The common thread is saying goodbye, which is one of the most difficult moments in life for me. I know that I have been processing this transition for months now, and I anticipate that I will be as ready as I can be- but the moment of goodbye is excruciatingly painful- albeit relatively brief- and I never look forward to its arrival.

I have grown so much in my two years of life here among many faithful Lakota friends, Jesuits, volunteers, and students. Honestly my growth has been extremely relational, which is why ending the relationships as I now know them will be the hardest part of my end here at Red Cloud. I will miss the freedom of my position here, but not as much as the students who delight me with their presence. I will miss my living conditions, but not as much as I miss the gracious folks who taught me to be a better, more sincere housemate. I will miss the Lakota traditions, practices, and language- but not as much as I lament the loss of daily presence among my good Lakota friends.

I am also experiencing such a contrast of feelings, since I am thoroughly excited for my future- the craziness of a summer spent in many places- and getting to meet my first niece and spend the first 7 weeks of her life by her side. I am also highly anticipating my new experiences at Princeton Seminary in the fall; however, I know the transition to student life will be a bit tough at first, and I will dearly miss the start of school here at Red Cloud. All things considered (like the NPR radio program!) :):) I will be grounded in joy and thanksgiving through every change, but I hope to be open to feeling the totality of my emotions, as I believe that is the best medicine for change.

My life is also taking on new direction since being in relationship with AJ Munger. I have been learning so much about being a supportive, fun, and sincere girlfriend (and a LOT about how I need to grow yet as a person). I have also learned the many differences between males and females! :):) Now, if you know me at all, you will agree that I am a proponent of seeing the commonalities between genders. Lets just say this relationship has been a bit of a reality check, coming to understand that despite the many similarities, some differences definitely stand out more than I was previously willing to admit! :) This new dimension in my life will also be helpful through other changes, as I know that AJ will be supportive and loving through everything.

Finally, I will also be more than a bit sad to be ending this blogsite. I can hope that someday I will re-visit this "Pine Ridge Reflections" in another era of life, but the future is so unknown, and no promises can be made. I will continue through June to post, as I have plans to work with the RC summer school program.... but after that, this blog will continue to exist in its current state, without the addition of further pine ridge exploration. Sad thought. I know.

I also want to express my unending appreciation of your support as readers and occasional responders to my blog. I know this has been a great tool to update friends and family with my life- and I'm not anticipating this for my seminary experience (come on, how much does everyone really care to hear about my systematic theology course?) :):) But I would be interested in giving updates to those who are excited about reading them...I currently don't have a clear understanding of who that would be. (Okay, those who respond to this, I do know you!)- But Sas, I imagine you'll forego the systematic theology, huh? :)

This is the ending of my introspective post. Thanks for living inside my mind and heart today... I always appreciate the ability to share my thoughts. :) You are all rockstars in your own way, so never give up living on stage! :)

Sending my love and smiles,


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why if it isn't my lovely friends, reading this photo-filled post...

I have included some pictures of my past few weeks... which I will summarize by saying I have celebrated all the events (a successful prom- complete with abundant dancing!, a dear friend's wedding, and a junior day of service), without being excessively pleased with my own health. However, I have joined the recovery group called "32 days is 32 days too long to be sick." It seems to be helping, as my symptoms have improved immensely! :)

Oh, and I must say- I went to the doctor. Yep- four weeks was long enough time to self-justify a medical opinion (other than webmd) which is why I'm now smelling the flowers...

Hmm, that just gave me the idea to narrate my past week underneath photos, because past experience reveals that my typing gets all jumbled together at the end, anyway, when pictures are present...

Junior Day of Service: Although I was slightly reluctant to attend this day-event with the junior class, I ended up chaperoning the group to a local church in town- and I must say, what a silly idea to NOT want to go- it was GREAT! The students pitched in with extra effort, and I had a marvelous time organizing the food pantry. (if anyone knows me, you know that's my kinda work!)

This picture of Henry and Anita reveals the varying degrees of excitement my group maintained about picking up trash! :) Ha, actually Anita was wonderful to work with, she just got a whiff of something nasty, I think. :) Henry couldn't have been a bigger help that day... what a guy!

Delia, Tess, Blaine, and Amber- posing during a break in our service to Sacred Heart Church. Again, I was very impressed with their maturity level during the day- okay, and I let them eat at Taco Johns, plus I cleaned up the mouse poop in the pantry... so that probably made them happy!

Delia and Tess sporting the rakes we used to clean up the yard where kids play during the weekends... all the yard work reminded me of my childhood, and I even started picking up sticks! (Mom- some things really stick with you- no pun intended)

So this picture is perhaps a little disturbing for you- don't worry, it was for me as well. However, Kelso, Henry, and Anita really enjoyed that we moved this coffin from the old church into the garage (I really don't have a good explanation why)...so they tried to fit into it- and found it to be a fun- albeit slightly dismal- photo op!

Ah, my great friend Denise!!! AJ and I were able to visit her at her current place of work (and residence) at a boy's ranch called Rawhide in WI- enroute to my friend Jody's wedding. It was wonderful catching up with her and seeing where she's spent the last 1 1/2 years of her life! Oh, to put her in context- she's my 1/2 marathon running partner- and she recently completed another one...I, however, could hardly run a mile with the shape my lungs are currently in!

This is my wonderful, charming, and thoughtful boyfriend AJ. He good-naturedly mingled with my NWC crowd during the weekend- but don't worry, I shall repay the kindness by attending his friend's wedding this weekend! What's with all the commitment lately, gosh! :) (btw- I do have a dress on in this picture, if anyone was wondering. :) I guess my arms were not-so-strategically placed, so you wouldn't actually know this)

And THIS is the fabulous wedding party of Jody's (the bride)...several of the girls are my friends and roomates from college. So, needless to say I had an amazing time catching up with everyone and getting to share in this beautiful day of love and joy.

Unfortunately I DON'T have pictures from prom, although I do have a link to my co-worker Peter's online photo album- so feel free to check out the "Above the City Lights" prom- which, according to all accounts, was fabulous, often called "The best prom ever!" because "Everyone danced, it was great!!" This, although I couldn't be physically present, makes me infinitely happy!
I hope the above link works! That's all for now, my beautiful friends. If I can get a bit corny for a minute, I'd like to give a little shout out to the good Lord of all, who has carried me through this sickness- and has now led me to a place of immense joy in health. I can't really contain my smiles, since I haven't felt this good in a month! Yeah, God. That's right.

Until the next fateful time my blogging persona hits the airwaves of the internet (did that even make sense?) I shall leave you with a grateful farewell and many smiles- even a kiss blown your way!
Love, Emily

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sickness and Emotions

Why Hello Brilliant Audience!!!

You may have wondered if I forgot about this ongoing story of Pine Ridge which I have been creating for nearly two years now.... but in fact- I haven't forgot at all! And to prove it, I'm posting pictures for you of our Senior Retreat!!! *Warning- the pictures make all the following text scrunched together. This was definitely not on purpose! :)

Senior Guys taking seriously the prayer walk at Devil's Tower

The whole senior class posing in front of a half-hazy Devil's Tower

Ryan and Richard showing off their rapid 'cup' skills at the retreat center

Mike devising a new plan to win a snow ball fight

The class working hard on the 'chair' competition: result? 40 students on 11 chairs!
Alright, those are a few of the great memories I will hold from our senior retreat. Ultimately it was a beautiful time (despite my undying wish for sunshine on each rainy day)... and the class really bonded, in addition to finding means of reconciliation and sharing gratitude amongst one another. I absolutely love retreats with the kids, and I realized that this will be my final retreat experience here at Red Cloud. I will miss this group of student terribly; I feel particularly close to them, since I've seen them grow in the last two years, and we will be leaving Red Cloud together. But, alas, despite the many emotions of sadness, I am mostly grateful for the opportunity to have interacted with this amazing group of 43 students. Oh, and I cannot forget how much I've enjoyed being with the faculty of Red Cloud as well! What a humor-filled work environment I've been blessed with!
I have to let you know that a part of the reason it's been awhile since I've posted is because I was gone for Easter, but also I have continued to fight this crazy illness that I've had for over 3 weeks now! I am self-diagnosing as having the flu for a week, and now the past two weeks I've had bronchitis. I seem to fit the descriptions and likelihood as described on webmd. Please don't tell me I need to go to the doctor, either, because I've heard that a million times, and really, I think it's most likely a virus, especially since it came after I had the flu. In any case, every day I wake up assuming I'll be better- so my spirits haven't broken yet!
Easter vacation was absolutely wonderful! I won't go into detail, since I realize it has not much to do with Pine Ridge (except for my prom shopping and making the sashes for prom royalty). :) But my time spent with family and friends and AJ was beautiful! :)
Now, after a chill weekend of trying to kick this bronchitis (drinking plenty of liquids, sleeping, cough drops, taking expectorants, ect.), I am trying my best to get everything ready for prom- but see, it's a bit tricky, since everything around here works 'last minute'- and I won't be around for 'last minute'- which means I have to rely on things getting done by Wednesday, since I'm leaving for my friend's wedding in Wisconsin in two days! First of all, that's incredibly exciting- to be able to meet up with my college friends again and such, but also I'm sad to be leaving for prom- moreso since I will be missing all the fun- (I'm not entirely sad to be missing the stress of the event). I do have people in place to cover my responsibilities, but the decorations are in question, since so many people are busy after-school. We shall see, it is the Junior's prom, after all, and we will see how they pull it off! :)
It's nearly lunch-time now, and I have to say... I am ready for this day to be done... especially since I'm getting antzy just waiting around for people to turn in permission slips for post-prom, to sign up their dates for the grand march, and getting nervous about all the decorations. But I cannot allow my concerns to override my sincere delight in being with these students. After all, I only have a little over a month left, and that's all that's left of this treasured experience.
Until the next tear-filled time I write (perhaps I'll include pictures people send me of prom)...

Friday, April 3, 2009

April Hopes

Hello Dear Souls...

I am writing you now as I struggle to overcome this silly (actually, serious) influenza I've had the past 6 days. Today I am on an up swing, except for the light-headed feelings and severe cough. All in all it has been a miserable week... yet Monday and Tuesday, Mother Nature came through and gave us two more snow days. And since I wouldn't have been in school anyway, do to the flu, I was thankful for the recovery time. I also didn't come into school Wednesday, but Thursday I did- even though it was terribly overwhelming, with such little energy. Today I am still lacking the energy I need... but I'm beginning to see through the fog of the flu... which is the hope I need.

Today is a pretty exciting event- the Cardinal from Washington D. C. is coming to visit Red Cloud. Now, if you're a little unsure who a Cardinal actually is, don't be dismayed... I had to think for awhile before I could recall what position a Cardinal held. Basically, there is a council of just over 100 Cardinals in the world who elect the Pope...so in terms of Catholic hierarchy, the Cardinal is a pretty big deal! And he's having pizza with the Student Council today. That's right, represent! :):) I will be there to mediate their presence, but overall the Cardinal seems like a pretty cool guy who will be interested in the students.

I had intentions of attending a silent retreat with a few friends this weekend, but that is not happening now- since they left yesterday and I had to be in school today. In addition to the Cardinal's visit... I need to meet with students about prom ordering, etc. Gosh, I am so excited for prom, but as one of the coordinators, I also cannot wait for it to be over! :):) I'm sure you'll hear more about that as the month progresses... I think we're only 3 weeks out from Prom though, which means I need to get on this ordering business asap!

The Prom invites are in, and I'm busy assembling them. Why did I order ones which require work? Not too sure, but let me know if you're in the business of stuffing envelopes, since that's the next step in the process. :)

Easter break is soon upon us! I'm not sure if I will write again before then... I should, but you know- sometimes time simply flies by! I am ending this post early, since my foggy head hasn't allowed for too great of writing, and I'm guessing there's no further hope of it today.

My April hope is that you all are doing well, enjoying the spring (we are suppose to get another blizzard this weekend, FYI :):), and living life to its fullest!