By Forrest Robert Stepnowski (From soon to be released “Broken Beautiful”)
How much more are we willing to tolerate?
How many more heartbreaks must our tribe endure?
We’ve become reclusive
Self-care becomes, a mystery
Almost a pipedream
We are glued to the news and social media
Witnessing crimes against humanity
Witnessing deaths from the virus, suicide, and violence
Violence on people who look different from the heteronormative Anglo-Saxon “beauty”
When does the chaos end?
When will the reality check finally sink in?
When will the political system stop apologizing without action?
Today, George can find peace
His truth has prevailed, and his family can find comfort
Today, justice has been served after many decades of cover ups and “justifications”
The system has started to correct itself
But this is not enough
Where are our points of light?
Where are those individuals who brought us joy, encouragement, and inspiration?
You knew them well…
Points of light are the prismatic stained-glass windows of our soul
They gleam positivity, hope, and unconditional love
They radiate a rainbow that touches our souls, hearts, and minds
In our isolation, we have lost our light
When will our society begin to heal and find comfort in one another?
No matter what differences we are perceived to have
No matter our culture
No matter our skin color or shape of our eyes
No matter our differences
We all bleed red
We need to abolish the chaos of hate and indifference
We need to inhale commonsense deeply and exhale the toxicities our forebears “taught us”
Our history is not our broken crutch or “story of victory”
Our history is our journal, so that we may learn from our mistakes
And move forward into a journey of discovery and progress
Our history is a tool to do better and not our “how to live life for dummies”, or a roadmap
Roadmap to travel down the same yellow brick road, just because Aunty Dorothy did
She would expect more from us
She would expect us to ride the rainbow away from the dark
She would expect us to continue the stories and help others grow, in solidarity
To tell stories that share both good and bad
To reach the human heart in order to achieve greatness and innovation
Honest dialog, not whitewashed…
It is not our history that holds us back
But our belief that its education is our pathway to our future
We the people…
We the people were born from immigrants, with different skin colors, religions, and experiences
We the people were misogynists, slaves, slave owners, masterminds of genocide, or interned captives
We the people must learn that our past is NOT our future
The past are the bricks that our forebears laid on our cobblestone roadway
The roadway we continue to march on in protest, in celebration, and in unity
In search of our points of light, once again
Thank you for stopping by! Please stay tuned for the upcoming release of my new poetry collection “Broken Beautiful”. “Broken Beautiful” is a poetic reflection of our lives over the past year. The collection is filled with positive affirmations, perceptions on the state of our society, and reflections on our well-being related to living through COVID-19.
My site “Forrest takes a journey” is a safe place for all to explore their feelings about recent events, self care/positive affirmations, and other controversial topics. Please feel free to comment below, but please remain respectful and accepting of others who may have differing views.
Stay tuned for the next #Vlogcast “Forrest takes a journey” Episode 2 ‘Say Their Names” on Saturday April 24, 2021 on both YouTube and IGTV. Look forward in talking with you all!
As some of you know, I have on a journey to become healthier and more fit after a long year of making poor eating choices. In reality, it’s been a lifetime of making poor choices, just saying.
Today, #Noom had me do an assignment related to “writing my story”. One would think this would be right up my alley, however, I found it more difficult than one would expect. I had to publicly become vulnerable, which I think is hard for many of us.
Noom had the story assignment broken up in three parts- below is what I wrote today, and I hope my truth resonates with all of you as you read it.
“While dealing with the rapture of Covid at my facility I work at, I made food choices that were convenient instead of healthy and became significantly obese. I became ashamed at myself and couldn’t even look in the mirror.
My long distance partner lives three hours away, my coworkers and care team I manage, and my housemates friends have all become supportive of my decision to become healthy. They are positive cheerleaders right now. I am my own worse critic however. I have allowed my own thoughts get the better of me and fooled myself into thinking what I believe others thinks of me. Unfortunately, I did received some criticism about my journey to promote healthy living and help inspire others. They said, “you are a joke”, or “you are not accomplish your goals”. I had to return back to a quote I used to live by, “other’s people perception of me is none of my business”. This quote comes from Author and motivator, Lisa Nichols.
It’s not the fear of failing that hinders me, it’s the fear of success. I find myself trapped in a world that comes from the negative voices from my past. The ones that said, “you can never make a difference”, “you will never become a writer”, or “you will never become an innovator and motivator”. I believed these voices for a very long time. Even though I have two poetry anthologies published, even though I run a healthcare program that many said could not be achieved that specializes in long term care behavioral memory care, and even though I have survived so many things in my life, I still await the past to drop a hammer on all that I have achieved. Even though I am now 248lbs from 307lbs, I still have the fear of “what will happen when I get to my goal weight and fitness goals? In reality, I have a great support system. In reality, I have forgiven the people from my past who abused or verbally scarred me. This is about the scares themselves and not the control others had on me at one time. It’s about not being afraid to publicly and privately celebrate the accomplishments and embracing my strength that has always been there to not fear, but embrace the positives.”
Reflection: Some people may wonder why there is not a conclusion to this message. That’s because my story is still moving forward. My story does not end just because one chapter has ended as another begins. For you see, life is a revolving door and although there are some who try to close the door on you, keep walking through that doorway . My journey to health and well-being does not end with me reaching my goals. It ends with all of us by continuing the the stories we jointly hold in our hearts, minds, and souls.
As some of you know, I have been on a journey to become a healthier person. This is more than becoming physically fit, but mentally fit as well. I have survived much in my life, but this does not mean I am not broken sometimes.
I have fought depression and PTSD most of my life. Some of my junior and high school friends can vouch for some of this as some of them saw me at the worst time of my life. I have even entered in toxic relationships because I was fearing loneliness and silence. Silence sometimes is the best medicine.
At 46 years old, this is probably the first time I have truly focused on my own well being. I take medications, and have been to the therapy a few times over the years, but now I am practicing what I have preached for a long time. Self care…
This is me telling my story not for pity, but to spark inspiration and to show others they are not alone. To inspire others to treat themselves with kindness and self respect. I do this through my poetry, blog posts, and coming soon, my vlog YouTube posts.
My hope is that I am laying groundwork for my friends, family, and loved ones that are struggling now with either mental illness or physical illness, so that they will do what they need to do to take care of themselves. For those who do not know how to start, there are resources for you. I am always a call or message away.
I hope you are remaining safe and healthy. This past year brought many ups and downs for all us. Many of my friends and colleagues have struggled with loneliness, depression, and anxiety for many different reasons. For me, I began a new journey on February 1 and have started the Arbonne 30-day health challenge. I have also joined NOOM to assist my journey this past week. I have even cut out dairy and gluten, which has surprisingly increased my energy levels, and my own battle with depression.
At the end of January, I weighed the heaviest I have ever weighed in my life, peaking over 300#. Last week, I reweighed myself and was happy thus far with the result, weighing in at 292#. I am still a work in progress and have a long way to go. My health, wellness, and mental state are my priority, and for the first time I do not feel selfish about it.
I have been writing a journal about my path, and plan on sharing the excerpts as time progresses. I know I am not the only only one going through this struggle, but my hope is to inspire others to take the challenge and focus on their own well being.
On another note, I have almost completed the first draft of my new poetry collection, “Broken Beautiful.” For those who have been asking when it will be completed, it should be out sometime this spring. I will keep you posted. #shamelessplug
I hope everyone has a blessed day. Be kind to others, but above all else be kind to yourself. There is only one of you and I can guarantee there is someone or someones in your life who look to you for positivity, love, and support.
New poet works- hope you enjoy. It’s a little bit of inspiration for all of us.
Year of the Fire By Forrest Robert Stepnowski
I sit here wondering my self worth, gifts, and strength Fighting demons that once tried to tear me down Fighting my past failures Fighting my present doubts and mental fatigue So I may rise up in my future Am I beautiful? Am I sexy? Am I intelligent and compassionate? Am I a voice of reason, hope, logic, and power? Yes I am the reimagined flame that fuels change and opportunity I am all the colors of the rainbow, vibrant and filled with the auras of confidence and competence I am the written word that inspires many to greatness I am the Phoenix who has risen from ashes and dust, over and over again I am the guardian of the silent and vulnerable I am the year of the fire The fire that burns away sadness, darkness, and negativity The fire that destroys and defies the bullying voices of time wishes it could forget The fire that ignites within my body, mind and soul Yes Queen! I am THAT fire
Welcome to Coffee Chat with Forrest, as we talk to two wonderful authors from Fresh Ink Group, Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun!
Take it away Marcha and Pete!
The Perfect Novel to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!
“The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits”
by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun
“An exceptional novel complete with conspiracy, intrigue, and murder that will enthrall everyone who has an affinity for suspenseful thrillers with just a smidgen of the paranormal.” –Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review
Charlie Littlewolf knows there’s something suspicious about the accident that killed his best friend. Determined to solve the mystery, he must return to a way of life he’s shunned for decades. Will the Cheyenne grandfather spirits respond before a black ops team kills him, too?
In this scene Charlie conducts a sweat. Rocks the size of cantaloupes are heated for an hour and a half in a raging fire until they’re red-hot, then transported into the lodge and sprinkled with warm water to create steam. The ceremony’s purpose varies, but is always of a spiritual nature intended to cleanse both body and soul. Normally there are others to assist, but in this case he’s alone and must do everything himself.
Charlie stripped down, then wound the deerskin around him twice, covering him from waist to knees. He tied it in place, hung the eagle bone whistle around his neck by its sinew cord, then gathered up the badger hide and pipe bag from the kitchen table.
When he got to the sweat lodge he hesitated. A sweat represented returning to the womb, further emphasized by the shape of the lodge itself. In most cases sweats were community events when the tribe banded together to support one of its members in achieving a specific purpose.
As when he built it, once again he longed for home, surrounded by his Cheyenne brothers and sisters. He promised himself that as soon as whatever he was there to accomplish was complete, that he would return to the reservation.
He spread the badger hide on the roof over the door with the tobacco and pipe on top, bowl facing east. After securing the door open, he picked up the bucket by its wooden handle and set it inside, then went out again to start fetching the rocks.
Heat blasted his face as he carefully pushed aside the smoldering logs with the choke cherry branch. Rocks glowed among the embers like miniature suns. Sparks flew as he edged the branch’s fork under the initial stone, careful not to disturb the stack.
He lifted it slowly, flashbacks crackling as the fire. He turned and lowered it carefully to the ground where he rolled it in the dirt.
The first time he was fire keeper he’d forgotten, resulting in a cloud of ashes and debris riding the steam and irritating everyone’s eyes, himself included.
He never forgot again.
Or the soul-scorching look his mistake earned from Eaglefeathers.
When all the residue was removed, he took it inside and set it down on the east side of the pit. He repeated the process, moving clockwise until a red-hot stone resided in each of the cardinal directions, plus one in the center. By the time he knelt down, eyes closed, sweat already dribbled from his temples.
The rigors and memory-fraught emotional toll of setting everything up alone produced a dissonant hum that disturbed both mind and body. He breathed deeply, waiting, until stress yielded to the peace radiating from his grandfather’s stones.
He broke off a piece of sweet grass braid. Raised it high above his head in each of the cardinal directions. Lowered it in four steps, then placed it on the center stone. Blessed the others in similar fashion.
He smudged his body with the gathering smoke, directed it over the bucket, then throughout the lodge. Next, the eagle bone whistle and buffalo rattle each made four passes through the vapors. After a prayer of thanks to Maheo for the ways of his grandfather, he retrieved six more stones from the fire.
At last he closed the door and took his place to the left, sitting cross-legged on the man sage.
Where Eaglefeathers always sat.
A sultry red glow lit the lodge interior.
He closed his eyes to declare the sweat’s original purpose: To understand how he should avenge Bryan’s death.
The words refused to come.
Other thoughts flowed, their source outside himself.
All things, even tragedies, have a purpose. Maheo is the Creator, you are the created. His ways are not your ways. Maheo is truth. Walk with a prayer for patience, guidance, protection and wisdom. Your grandfather is a very strong medicine man with powerful prayers. Netsevoto, who you know as Eaglefeathers, was chosen by his grandfather as he has chosen you to have his medicine.
The words struck Charlie’s heart with the harsh sting of truth. No matter how much he tried to deny it, deep inside he always knew.
For the first time he not only understood, but felt how much his arrogance devastated the old man.
Did he die of a broken heart?
How much longer would he have lived if he’d been willing to listen?
To learn? Been more humble? Accepted the honor of being chosen?
Instead, he’d seen it as no more than a lot of trouble and bother, an intrusion on his life for something he wasn’t sure he believed in. Forced and trapped, his response was that of a cornered badger.
His heart ached as it split open and words flowed in Cheyenne.
“Maheo, I have forgotten who I am. I pray for your guidance to honor my grandfather’s spirit medicine. My heart is ready. Teach me. I stand before you, pleading for strength and courage to make it right with you.
“I present to you the purpose of this sweat: It is to purge my past and help me live as an honorable Tseteshestahese man, as my grandfather did.”
He dipped the buffalo horn cap in the bucket, then closed his eyes and prayed as he dribbled its contents over the rocks. Vapors issued forth, felt rather than seen, the pre-heated water producing softer steam that didn’t burn like the explosive effects of cold.
He lifted the eagle bone whistle to his lips and blew, inviting the grandfather spirits to join him, then picked up the rattle and sang the Grandfather Song in welcome. Four songs accompanied each round, chosen by the lodge keeper. The words sent moisture from the corners of his eyes, down his cheeks, and onto his chest.
After a time he exchanged the rattle for the man sage switch to coax the toxins from his mind and body, alternating between the two. He sang the Badger Song. Wolf Song. And Buffalo Song.
The rocks grew dark.
He got up to retrieve the next eleven, one by one. He banked the fire, got a drink, then went back inside and blessed the stones with sweet grass.
It took a few moments to get settled again. As the heavy cloak of seething humidity folded around him, he remembered savoring those breaks of fresh air and a drink when he was door keeper. This time he would have preferred his prayers to be uninterrupted.
Again he blew the whistle, repeated his purpose, then shook the rattle and began to sing.
MEET THE AUTHORS
Marcha Fox earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Utah State University in 1987, which facilitated a 20+ year career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Her interests expand far beyond the world of aerospace and hard science, however. The esoteric realm of metaphysics and all things weird and wonderful hold her interest as well.
When her attempt to debunk astrology backfired, she pursued knowledge in that field. She graduated from the International Academy of Astrology’s professional development program in 2012 and is the sole proprietor of ValkyrieAstrology.com. Much of the popular website’s content can be found in “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology.”
Her previous fiction work includes her epic Star Trails Tetralogy series, which has been highly acclaimed for its family-oriented plot as well as its palatable and STEM-friendly science content described in detail on http://www.StarTrailsSaga.com.
Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family of six children, now grown. Besides writing, she pampers her two cats, maintains an active astrology practice of international clients, and tries to keep up with her home, yard, friends, and family.
Pete Risingsun is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who has served as a spirit helper to medicine men in ceremonial sweat lodges. He’s a proud fifth generation descendant of Chief Iron Shirt, who was a lodge keeper and powerful medicine man.
Born in 1950, he was raised on a small ranch east of Busby, Montana. He attended Montana State University, then worked for Exxon in Billings, Montana for a year before returning home to the reservation as adult education director for the Northern Cheyenne tribe where he also raised black angus cattle and bred championship Quarter horses. He has served as a Tribal Council member and was the first Northern Cheyenne elected to serve as a Rosebud County Commissioner.He’s the proud father of one daughter and grandfather to two. Pete is currently retired, but in addition to co-writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” he makes and sellssweet grass braids, a sacred plant used in various ceremonies.
A year ago to the date, an unfortunate event occurred in my life. One that would leave me with temporary ambulatory and balance issues due to a significant head injury, impaired ability to walk, exacerbated PTSD, and unfortunately, permanent hearing loss in my left ear. At the time, I did not know I would endure months of therapy, strengthening of both emotional and physical functioning. I had hoped for a quick recovery, but that was not in the cards. I have slowly recovered over time. In some ways, I am still recovering from the incident, as I am still receiving therapy and treatment. Those who saw me in November saw me with a cane and having to adapt to noise and large groups of people around me. I struggled greatly but was happy to see many of you. As of December, I was able to walk without the cane. In the beginning of January, I was able to resume full duty and return to work.
I am not writing this today for empathy, pity, or compassion. I hope that all who read this see this as a reclaiming ritual. Today, I find myself reflective over the past year. I have been focusing on healing, not only by the incident, but from past failed relationships, abuse, and history of self deprecation and doubt. I am in the process of finding my strength, joy, and inner peace again. I have come very far in this effort, but I still have a long way to go.
Over the past year, I have discovered who my real friends are, and also discovered who are not genuine. It never ceases to amaze me how a traumatic event can give a reality check. Whether we are aware of it or not, we often need reality checks to determine the difference between toxic relationships and positive ones. We become aware of other lunacies and manipulations, when we are at our most vulnerable. However, I digress. This is not an essay on the dysfunction of toxic relationships. This is my reclaiming ritual. A review or the progress and healing. To acknowledge that my broken pieces are still beautiful.
The hearing loss has taken sometime to adjust too, and at times can be quite frustrating. That being said, it could be quite worse. I acknowledge, I could have permanent issues with walking, and my activities of daily living. The hearing loss may be sad, however, it has not unmanageable. My story is not one of martyrdom; it is one of survival and strength.
We all have baggage we carry from our past, but when we focus on the present we are able to achieve great things. When we dwell on our past hurts and fixations, we fail to become successful. Today, I reclaim this moment with positive energy, and deny the scars of this incident to take control ever again.
Say their names Not because they are another news statistic Not because they are yet another young black man who was slain in the streets by mad men Mad men whose bias and ignorance have “justified” their psychosis and unrealistic fears Don’t let their deaths be another statistic lost in the headlines How sad it is that Martin Luther King, who created a “Dream,” is nothing more than another name we need to report Remind us of their humanity
Say their names George Floyd Ahmaud Arbery Breonna Taylor Michelle Cusseaux Gabrielle Nevarez Sandra Bland
Say their names Not because their gender identity was different than what society deemed fit Not because they were identified as another “deviant” whose life ended too short Too short because “hate” is taught more than prayers and the act of loving thy neighbor Don’t let their deaths be silenced any longer and remember who started Stonewall… thank you, Martha P. Johnson! To remind us, that “We the Different” still have a voice
Say their names Dana Martin Ashanti Carmen Claire Legato Jordan Cofer Muhlaysia Booker Bailey Reeves Nikki Kahnhauser Tony McDade
Say their names Not because our tearful cries are being ignored as we constantly sing a chorus of “we shall overcome” constantly… while it falls on deaf ears and muted tongues Not because our trail of tears resembles blood stained cracks on the floor of the murdered and oppressed Yes, murdered and oppressed, while the privileged dance a waltz of “innocence” to the tune of “I didn’t know what I was doing” And society embraces them and asks forgiveness when they, the surviving families, grieve the loss of another child
Say their names Trayvon Martin Michael Brown Alton Sterling Eric Garner Laquan McDonald Monica Diamond Dustin Parker Johanna Metzger And the list continues…
Say their names Not because we lost another brother and sister, cause of death…death by cop, death by hate Not because the media is asking us to protest against hate and bigotry Bigotry that has transpired over centuries because it was “carefully taught” by overly projected stereotypes, mistruths, and white nationalistic propaganda
Say their names because they are new guardian angels who will attempt to watch over all of us in an effort to keep us safe Safe from history constantly repeating itself, over and over again Like a never ending rollercoaster that has lost its breaks