Monday, September 28, 2015

If Abby and Ann were Listening.

My late father always said, when you have a problem, don’t take it to God. Take it to Dear Abby. If she doesn’t respond, write to her sister Ann Landers. An avowed atheist, my dad didn’t read the Bible, he read the newspaper. Every morning, he faithfully studied the advice columns before work started at the Fisher Body Plant in Delray, Michigan. He retired from that division of General Motors in the late 1980s. That was more than thirty years of sage advice that Papa gathered from Abby and Ann!

Mom was barely a Creaster. She skipped services for entire decades, favoring church social events and mother-daughter parties. Yet, Mommie had some strong convictions. She taught me to pray, believing in the power and comfort of prayer. Never-the-less, for my first seventeen years, Dad’s teachings won out.

I eventually grew up, married and moved to the desert southwest like my dad’s sisters did. Following in their footsteps, I’m having a love-hate relationship with the desert. Like one of my aunties, I also travel between the Great Lakes and the west. I live in the desert during the school year, where I work two part time jobs: one in an office and the other tending elderly folks. Some of the senior citizens in the region are known as "snowbirds" because they move with the equinoxes, following the sun like migrating fowl. My seasonal jobs allow me to travel home to Michigan for months on end. I also get to do a few book signings along the way.

The reason I'm starting this series of posts, entitled, "If Abby and Ann were Listening," is that blogging is a great way for people to get things off of their chests. Additionally, some individuals enjoy my crazy family dramas; a few stories make people chuckle. (I hope they're laughing with me and not at me.) Many folks tell me that I need to get these tales down in writing. Most names and actual places will be changed, since some situations are difficult for me to get through and some of the people I'll be writing about are not very nice.

I will be telling you about the chickens and other critters on my porch. I will tell you about my crazy friends and my second job working with an older couple that comes down from Canada. I mostly want to share the Hell that my family puts me through. I have children and grandchildren. They can be a source of joy, but are frustratingly, maddeningly dependent on me. (A shrink told me not so long ago that I'm a co-dependent.) I will also tell you about my husband, a gentle man whose patience is often at a breaking point because of a few of these situations.

Mostly I would like to write to Abby and Ann, since my life is so stressed out. I could write a letter every week for a year, which is what it would take to get these frustrations out of my my soul. I don’t want to send an endless stream of correspondence; I would come out of this looking like a stalker. Also, my dad told me that, sadly, the Friedman Sisters passed away. The last sister died in 2013. My papa has also left this world. I bet Abby and Ann were up in Heaven standing beside my mother ready to tell my late father, “See, there is an afterlife and we’ve been waiting to tell you!” So, if anyone out there wants to give me advice, you can be my Abby and Ann. If the real sisters are up there listening, please, send advice. Send it right away! I think my dad would approve.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We are Hildale

Two large vans loaded with mothers, aunts and little children went on a drive. . .and never came home.

Monday evening September 14, in Hildale, Utah some adults rounded up the little ones to watch the flooding in their neighborhood. The mothers corralled the kids in two vans during an exceptionally heavy thunderstorm. They cautioned the children to stay away from the rushing water and asked them to remain inside the vehicles to watch the weather. They parked at a safe distance, parents standing in the rain, when in an instant, the water rushed from behind them, washing away the road. To the horror of onlookers, their vehicles were swept by the forces of water, down slopes and rocks. Their vans came to rest, twisted in the aftermath.

It could have been you. It could have been me. It could have been my children and grandchildren. Most people who have lived in the west for a fair amount of time know not to hike in canyons and washes (also known as arroyos) during rainstorms. They know to stay out of the swimming holes even if a storm is ten or fifteen miles away. The rain gathers from high plateaus and rushes down the sides of walls, converges to the lowest and narrowest points creating a swift running river where only minutes before sand and lizards baked in the sun.

Decades ago after some storms, my children and I stayed a healthy and safe distance watching water run down dirt roads in Southern Utah. Still, we were in a neighborhood, away from canyons. Thankfully the water from the storms never gained so much momentum to sweep us away.

Sadly, the focus in the media and amongst most people is the fact that the victims were members of the FLDS community, a renegade offshoot of the mainstream Christian “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (LDS). Many people poke fun at the FLDS manner of dress and isolation, joking about how many Polygamists it takes to fill a van before it stops floating. I wonder if people would say the same if this was a van of people from New York visiting from out of state. What if this had been a bus load of European tourists?

In fact, that same evening, hikers from California were swept away while traversing through Keyhole Canyon in nearby Zion National Park. As the crow flies, Zion is only fifteen miles away from little Hildale. Part way into the hike, the rain began. Within less than fifteen minutes, the Virgin River rose from fifty five cubic feet per second to over 2500 cubic feet. The hikers were hit with a wall of water which later slammed Hildale like a tidal wave. I don’t hear jokes about the California hikers.

At press time the total number of dead in both instances is twenty. As of posting this blog entry the search continues for little Tyson Black whose deceased relatives and the mangled van he was riding in were found a half mile away. Some bodies and debris were discovered as far as six miles away.

The mayor of the little polygamist community called this an act of God. I will agree that Heavenly Father created weather, but each of us chooses what course we take in life. The mothers chose to watch the flash floods at what they judged to be a safe distance, but the waters changed course and took them off guard. God did not do this. These communities are already struggling with their faith. They do not need to be angry at their creator.

My heart and prayers are with Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. I will stand with you.

Je Suis Hildale

(Photos #1 and #2 -- Vehicles and families minutes before the wall of water hit them, via John Barlow and Channel 13 FOX News, Utah)
(Photo #3 credit Saint George News.)


A Sideshow Journey by Liesa Swejkoski

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