Friday, May 29, 2015

Be a seed

They tried to bury us. They did not know that we were seeds.

There are some places nature should not go....

I had been planning to write a post about maintaining connection to nature is difficult living in the city.  I was going to write about how hard it is, without a car, to get out and be in wild spaces.  But then I had an experience last night that made me see that what I want is really a nice sanitized and controlled version of nature.  I want a "nature experience" not nature.

Mouse Woman by Dean Hunt
I woke up after feeling something crawling up my thighs and trying to burrow into my vagina, followed shortly by a cat hunting said something.  The cat clued me in that this was not the usual spider lost in the sheets but something more interesting.  I turned on the light to find a very confused mouse and annoyed cat. 
Mouse Woman with Dean Hunt
This experience made me think, that while I want more of a "connection" with nature, I do not want it in my bed or being dead near me.  I want lush landscapes not dry woodlands, I want, I want....I am expectation for "experience".  I am not open to take the wild as it comes.  Maybe bringing death or dryness or cold.  I want it to be tidy and not challenge me.  I realized that I am not open to the lessons that are there for me to learn.  I am not open to the cycle of nature and the circles it brings to us.  The circles we live out in our lives. I think that perhaps since I would not go out to nature, mouse woman brought her lessons to me. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Like a salmon egg

Photograph from the Blog "Get me Outdoors"
I am pretty down this week.  Lots of things to think about around work and family life.  Lots of things not working and I need to question carefully if this is my dark view on things or a need to change.   As a person with anxiety I have tried to keep close to my heart the idea that "today is not everyday".  To stay very aware that  how I feel in the moment is changeable and I can't always trust myself in the moment when the feeling are so big.  But on the other hand, I am paid for my skills to analyze problems and find solutions.  I can pull apart a problem and dissect it with vigor.

I am trying to think of myself as a salmon egg being buffered by the currents of the stream.  I am going to have to do something in the future, but at the moment I just need to be, to keep breathing.  I need to quiet those voices that I should be happy given how much I have compared to others.  Am I just being unreasonable in my expectations?  I just feel like there is so much more I can do.  I am just going to let the water flow over me...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Crying in the elevator

I finished "As I Remember It" by Tara Lee Morin on my walk to work this morning and entered the elevator in tears.  This book uses short paragraphs that echo the staccato nature of the story, the fear of love, the endless moments of choices where the story could have gone so many other ways, the loss and moments of realness.  I think this would be a book that could trigger some people. 

The moment that really struck me was when she talked about going to Expo with her adopted parents.  I remember that summer so vividly.  Joel and I sometimes wonder if we passed in the crowds over that summer.  I felt that same alignment to the author only a year older than me, did I see that girl in the crowd?  Would I have looked down on her?  Would I have looked at her and envied her family with two parents together?

Thank you to these authors who put these difficult stories down and bare so much to us.  These stories give me so much to think about and to learn from.

The dress is now in one piece

Now comes that finishing...... always seems the slowest part....

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sophie's dress now with more gears and tiny buffallo

The long weekend gave us lots of time to fabricate and I got the top of Sophie's dress done, until the cat helped and pulled out some beading.  How did the dresses with whole tops stitched like this last?  The first picture is the left arm detail.  The design is freehand but I used the same overall shape and colours as on the other arm.  On the weekend we also found some gears, so we added them on the front to match the one Sophie painted on the back.
As I mentioned in Tuesday's post, Runa added her own details with a portrait of her and Sophie.  She worked very hard to make this nice for her sister and I felt it was important for her to contribute to this dress as well.

I also got to work on the skirt where I am building up a teepee with a hummingbird, a deer and a tiny  - not sure why he is so tiny.  Maybe it is a new species of urban buffalo?  I was happy with how these turned out.  I had been planning to add more painting to the skirt, but I think I will leave it as it is for now and add more details later as appropriate to her life.

And my big work for the weekend was the fringe section at the bust line.  I built this up with silver infinity charms, gold painted bamboo sticks, jingles, shells and two beads that look a bit like teeth.  Over the row I brought in some smaller blue beads and did small flowers over the jingles.  I will take some close up pictures.

I am almost ready to sew this together and I am just debating how to handle the bottom of the skirt.  I have learned so much working on this project about how the different materials handle and respect for all the work of women before me.  I will post pictures when the dress is done.

Performative Indianess on Command

I wasn't going to get mad, but after thinking about it a while it is still there so here is my response to a call out by my employer for aboriginal employees to bring in their cultural items so that other employees could see them.  You know what?  I think it is offensive to ask for per formative indianness on command.

Then I thought some more, you want my indigenous items?  How about a copy of my Masters Degree? How about some links to the great creative online indigenous community?  The books by our writers?  How about a picture of my grandfather who was scarred through growing up in a church/government orphanage/residential school and the family dysfunctions that result from that?  How about his grandfather who died drunk and alone after spending all his money and time trying to fight the church who kept giving the land of the metis away to nice white people?  How about his father who lost half a year in prison for talking rebellion?  How about a copy of the government reports showing the ongoing gaps in outcome for aboriginal peoples?  How about a nice piece of beadwork that reads "genocide"?

But I suppose some drums and flowered bead work would make a more comfortable display than mine.  What would you put on your display?

What is beautiful?

Last night we were looking at pictures of dresses by a young designer and Sophie asked me to stop.  She said that the girl made her feel bad as she was so skinny and tall and blond.  This made me sad and it made me feel proud that Sophie could recognize how it made her feel and ask me to move on.

Meet Madeline Stuart.
I did move on, to Buzzfeed for a look at a bunch of different beauties to remind her that beauty is all different and blond and tall isn't the only thing.  Now I will note these people are all white and I need to rectify this, but I showed her Madeline Stuart a model with downs syndrome looking fabulous and one of her looking normal and we talked about how makeup and clothes and lighting change how anyone looks.
We talked about Tess Munster looking amazing and lush even though she did not meet the mold of beautiful.

There is so much more I want to show her.  Old Navy has recently added a greater range of their models with beautiful women all sizes.  I want to show her Aydian Dowling a very handsome trans-man

I want her to know that beauty, male or female is perspective and just a part of what makes us who we are.  I also fell like I need to aware of my role as a role model at this time and to practice loving myself, even when that feels unnatural and weird.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dirty crazy messes or creative disorder?

I came across an article the other day "10 easy tips to keep you kitchen clean".  This was written for me.  I live with a whole bunch of people who are not tidy, resist tidiness and act like I am crazy when I want to clean things up.  I also work full time and am sometimes resentful to have to do all the cleaning.  On top of this, while we could hire a house cleaner, either the house cleaner does not like us because we are too untidy or the family does not like the house cleaner touching our stuff.  So I feel a overwhelmed and sometimes it gets messy.

So finally.  Ten easy tips and it would be better.  I was sold.  But then I started reading and the first picture was something like the above where the person hadn't cleaned their breakfast dishes.  I gave up after that.  Dirty in our house usually involves some kind of science creation done in a part of the mixer you forgot you had being stirred by a naked Barbie and including lumps of glittered tissues.  Ice cream caked onto the side of something inappropriate like a sauce pan which had been eaten with a soup ladle (bigger is better right?).  Soap someone had been making in cup in the refrigerator that has now become sentient and is trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner. Breakfast dishes alone would be a delight.

I try to keep up, but get sick or hurt or tired and lose a weekend and it will all start to cascade.  People tell me I should be sterner with my children.  I have tried that.  I try to lead by example.  I try to set people up for success by getting rid of things in the house but it does not work.  But between Joel with ADD and chronic fatigue he rarely has the energy or focus to help out.  Sophie is often so caught up in her anxiety that it is impossible to get her to help and when she does she has a hard time.  Runa is willing but little.  So it is messy.

In reading about indigenous child rearing the responsibility of the child to contribute to the community - at an age appropriate level- is a key element.  I try to teach this to the girls.  Runa gets it, but Sophie doesn't and I don't know what to do.  She is almost 11.  I worry now about how she will live away from home when she cannot do basic clean stuff.  That even applies to herself where she does not naturally do things most kids do, like brush their hair regularly.  It is part of her conditions, but it is still frustrating.

I feel like I am being judged and come up lacking.  I am the mom with the dirty house.  I am the mom with the disheveled kid.  I am the failure.  I try to tell myself that I am doing the best that I can with what I have, but that doesn't help when you know that people are gossiping about you.  I feel like people are going to look at me and see me as fitting into their stereotype of an indigenous person.  Just another dirty lazy...

And the funny thing is that while people are judging me on my mess, they very often in the same breath will comment on how smart and engaged my children are.  What good judgment they have.  What interesting questions they ask.  But in my opinion these things come together.  My children are like that because of how we have raised them and who they are.  We let them make messes and try things.  Because of choices to spend my weekends doing things with them instead of cleaning.  They do not interact with the world in regular ways due to learning disorders and other disabilities and thus they just see things in a different way.

I am still thinking this through and thinking about how I treat myself on this issue.  I am going to try a new approach where each family member has a part of the house that they are responsible to keep orderly and we will have a contest to see who can keep theirs the cleanest.  I don't know if this will work, most of the time my systems fall apart, but I keep trying.  What do you think?  Are you able to keep things well ordered?  What works for you?

Reading together. Spears are awesome.

Last one on Eaglecrest books.  I have reviewed a couple of these earlier, but if you have a child in your life these are really good books.  The photographs are clear and show real indigenous children living their lives - choosing a kitten, going to school and learning about their indigenous culture.  The stories are simple, but with enough meat that there is lots to talk about when reading the story.  We read the dog sled story and were able to relate it to our dog and what it might feel like to have your dog pull you.  The element of the hurt dog getting to ride on the sled and the younger dog getting his first chance to lead a team was also nice.
We also read the book about spear fishing.  Runa thought this was awesome.  I liked how the dad reminded the boy to put down tobacco and say thanks when he caught the fish and telling him how they should give the first fish away.  Again there was lots to talk about, would it be hard to fish with a spear and who would you give your first fish to? 

This story also got me thinking about laying out the tobacco.  We try to do it every morning to start out our days in gratitude, but given that all the food we get comes from stores, should we be laying down tobacco before we go out to get our food?  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What is hard for you?

There are things in life you expect to be easy and are hard and the opposite.  I got thinking about this over the weekend.  I planned to use the shells we collected on our vacation on the skirt of Sophie's first moon time dress.  I thought shells would be easy to make a hole in and had a whole pile to use.  After trying with a dremel tool and then the big drill, I still had no holes.  My quick easy task had become daunting.  I gave up on making a hole and glued on hangers.  How did our ancestors do it?
Below is Sophie at the beach collecting shells.
I thought beading on leather would be awful.  Every time I worked with leather in the past I ended up with sore fingers and a poor job, but the beading on Sophie's moccasins came along.  It was not easy, but it was doable with a little extra focus and time.

I thought about being newly married, I thought not dating and being with one person forever would be hard.  That was never an issue.  I thought being married would be easy, but that first year had a lot of challenges.  I thought about having kids, how they challenge our conceptions of what is hard and easy to live through.  I though about the role that expectations play in these valuations.  I though about how much control I have over these expectations and how little control over some of the physical realities. 

Making this dress for Sophie has been a great learning experience.  I have gotten to work with materials that are new to me.  I have had to share a design process with someone else.  I had to let a little sister free with paints, to a certain trepidation, but to a joy to see the care she tool over her work and the portrait she drew of her and her sister.  Trying things can be hard in ways you never even imagined or unexpected new pleasures.  What is hard for you?

If you are in Ottawa you might want to check out the Aboriginal Awareness Week Artisan craft fair celebration which will take place in the lobby of 10 Wellington Street from May 19th - May 22nd. I went to the winter craft fair and it was really great.  My favorite was little portable smudge kits for your purse. 


Friday, May 15, 2015

Cat Bottoms

It is Friday and it seems like a long hard week to get here.  Lots of sad children.  Two psychologist appointments for Runa, two dr days for Sophie.  Nothing awful, just those little extras that take energy.  So today I have for you a cat bottom. 

Native American Encyclopedia - just browsing through looking at women.  It made me happy to read about their lives.

Metis stories from the Glenbow museum.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ugly beautiful awesomeness

Runa really like makeup tutorials and one of the people we have been watching is Kat Sketch who is an artist who also does makeup.  She usually does ugly beautiful things, a beauty makeup combined with something gruesome, Cinderalla as cut by her glass slippers.   I have been intentionally consuming more indigenous media, but I am also very pleased to come across indigenous people in all kinds of places just doing cool stuff.  Still here.  Still awesome.

Urban soundscapes

Yesterday on my walk home I listened to the Indian and Cowboys podcast "Stories from the Land" and as I listened to these stories, while moving through traffic, sometimes able to hear well and sometimes not, an awareness of the urban soundscape struck me.  I was conscious of the efforts to navigate this noise.  I remembered all the times that we choose one street over another as it was quieter.  How hard it is walking with the children as cars can sweep away their words.  The neighbor with the horrible moped.  I thought about what an intrusion this noise it.  The costs of the lack of silence.  The lack of natural noises of animals and wind and water.

Cityscapes Portraits-9B
Andres Conztantini
I also though about all those sounds that I like to hear - the children playing, the neighbors chatting or playing their music, the hum of the furnace coming on - even the reassurance of the refrigerator running.  The little noises my cats make as they run past me outside.  The little dog cries when a friend won't play with him.

Even in the city I can enjoy the crunch of the fall leaves and the squeaks of new snow.  I can enjoy the eerie silences on certain weekends where everyone has left town.  I have gotten used to just ignoring the noises around me, ignoring this input into my mood and my ability to concentrate and communicate.  I want to take the children for a sound scavenger hunt this weekend.  To challenge them to be more aware of the sounds around us.  To challenge myself to connect with this other space in my environment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What is work?

For some time I have been working through Maria Campbell's book "Half Breed".  Her descriptions of her childhood echo through me at times.  These last moments of metis life a time where things could have still been better if government and the church had cared. 

Campbell describes wash days, of going to the river with the clothes and the picknicks.  She paints the Kookums sitting in the shade teaching, overseeing the gathering of moss for diapers, berries and medicines while the children played in the water and the women worked talking to each other, stopping to sit in the shade and to share food.  She describes how the white settlers would pass and see only lazy Indians who did not know how to work. 

This highlights the white perspective on work as something that was very separate from rest of life, as something that was not enjoyable, that was continuous and "stopped" very definitively.  The patriarchal picture of the home as a retreat from the world.  All very Calvinist.  This has made me think about my relationship to work and the "work-life" balance that is very popular at this moment.  This often seems to be used as meaning you don't take work home and you take your vacations each year, but for me it is the opposite.  Nothing makes me quite so happy as working on my project in the sunshine at the park while my children play.  Analysis is not a linear thing and the metis/native way makes way more sense.

I am smarter and more productive when I work with others and share ideas, take breaks, fill in empty moments with other tasks, when I take time to listen to the elders, when I am challenged by children playing around me.  I am a better mother when my mothering is not squished into a few hours after work and when I can show my children what I do and we can talk about the challenges I face and how I deal with them.  I think about my children at work and my work at home.  They are a continuum in my life.  I don't want to go away from the children and elders, I want them there in the everyday.  They are life.

The separateness does not serve any of us.  I know that some people don't have jobs where work is flexible in the same way, but I have also been recently impressed by Uber, where people are picking up work where they want and taking the time they need to do other things and where work is not 100% or nothing.  The drivers are happier.  I met the older gentleman who just likes to drive and can do that and make some extra money.  The student who is working hours that fit around his classes.  I meet people who are happier and less rushed and it is really nice.  It is nice to be around people who like what they are doing and who are not angry and stressed.  I want to be that kind of person. 

Making things Wednesday - the first moon time dress

As I discussed in my post yesterday, I am really inspired by all the amazing work of native artists that the internet allows me to access.  I have been trying to pull these inspirations into the first moon time dress I am making for Sophie (this is the dress for after her seclusion period). She has been helping me make design choices and we are trying to pull from the traditional designs but also work with what we have.
I have finished the fronts with some leather medallions and fringe.  There is something very special about working with the leather and these were pieces we recycled from an old coat.   I like how the circle of the front has a sun feeling.   With just the couple of rows of lazy stich beading I am amazed about how much weight this has added.  The cats also seem to love it and have pulled the stiches out in a couple of places.   The gravitas of a whole top done this way would be amazing.

The second picture is the sleeve detail.  I have painted a mandala using fabric paint. The fabric paint is gratifying as compared to the beading as it is so quick.  I really love the colours that the paint comes in and the metallic options.  This is the sacred circle.  I am going to do the other side in the same colours and shape but trying not to worry too much about matching it up exactly.
Last weekend we worked on the back.  Sophie wanted the metis infinity symbol and she painted a cog in gold to reflect her tech side.  I included some metis style flowers and strawberries for the colour and the symbolism of the strawberry for girls in their first moon times.

I am enjoying the chance to bring all these inspirations together and to work on something with Sophie.  I hope that this will be something special for her to keep.  I hope like those Kookums who sat together and told stories about their beading triumphs that Sophie and I will be able to look back on this work together with good memories of time shared making something beautiful, making something connected to our pasts, making something for our futures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Are you wearing enough elk teeth today?

I had been debating elk teeth for Sophie's first moon time dress and enjoying the beauty of the dresses...

Apsáalooke (Crow) circa 1890. Her husband was a good hunter. Only two Ivory Elk Teeth per animal!
Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian

photos-web-1.jpgBut then I came across this collection by b.yellowtail

"elements of sacred elk teeth transformed into contemporary prints, artisanal floral beadwork reawakened into gorgeous fabrics,
this season honors the power of the supreme feminine."

I am re-inspired to explore using these in dress design.

The same day I came across this elk teeth t-shirt by Sun Rose Iron Shell (Sicangu/Oglala Lakota)

Warrior Status Elk Tooth Tee by Sun Rose Iron Shell (Sicangu/Oglala Lakota) -  Beyond Buckskin BoutiqueThanks to all the sisters and brothers creating such wonderful things.  You are an inspiration to me.

Keeping perspective - using my struggles to remember

I have been working at another location for the past week.  This is has been a source of stress and challenge for me.  It is not far, just across the river.  Not that different, just another government building and another work station.  But it is hard, everything just a little bit different and thinking about that personal struggle has brought to mind how many times our people have been moved.  How many changes those moves made in their lives.  All those children moved to schools away from the lives they knew.  All those families packing up to move on - move further west, move onto a reserve, move to the city - all new.  As I walk a different path to my work I am trying to remember those others.  To put my change in perspective and to make the remembering real.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A thousand tiny challenges

I am not a patient person.  I like things to be fast.  I like them to be easy.  With my learning disabilities things get backwards and upside down and wrong very easily.  That is why I am not quite sure why I am still beading.  It is not easy or fast or for the impatient.

I started last spring from a book wanting to reclaim this little part of being metis.  Each bead is a little challenge to me.  I can do things the faster way, the way that might not work or the slower more methodical way.  Each bead I must make this choice again and those thousands of choices add up to the finished piece.

I like feeling the echo of all my kookums.  Wishing they were there to teach me.  I keep going as it all feels like a puzzle that I can just figure out if I keep at it.  I enjoy working with the colours and the leather or cloth.  I like to think of all those women who made things 150 years ago that I now Pin onto my boards.  I like how their work continues to live and inspire.

I like that I can make beautiful things for my family. I like to feel each of those little balls roll in between my fingers - they are a whole world and a moment in one.  I like that this activity challenges me.  I like that I create something real when my job is all theoretical.

What challenges and delights you?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Am I a bad rock?

I am out of sorts.  Children who are a little sick and not quite right.  It is hot.  My partner is cranky.  I am working someplace different this week and it is not quite right.  It is so easy to fall into the cranky spaces.  The looping internal dialogue that it is always like this, why me, why are children so crazy.......  But really that is just life.

I am thinking about rocks some more.  Walking through a gravel lot the other day I was thinking about rocks and the seashore and then sea glass.  Given the high traffic at the beaches in Vancouver, sea glass is hard to find.  You have to determine the precise point between broken glass and sea glass and compromise a bit or it will be picked up by somebody else.  But that fascinates me.  One moment it is broken glass that nobody wants to touch and in the next state it is something beautiful that people want to take home as a memory of their holidays.  I was thinking about whether we treat people this way?  You are broken and too dangerous.  You are something broken that has come through.  One we will touch.  The other is garbage.

The analogy does not quite work, but I have been thinking about it every time I see a homeless person.  I don't want to get involved or touch.  I want to "help" and be a good person - but not that other.  I want to help the person who is now sea glass with the edges polished off.  And what does that make me?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Making things Wednesday - Communal Swords

Building on little acts, people have been bringing more things to be shared at the park.  Someone had left four swords that got very heavy play and broke.  We decided to bring some more swords and see if we could make some more. 

We brought pipe insulator, tape and scissors to the park and let the kids make their own.  They enjoyed being able to personalize them and try different configurations.  I really enjoyed watching them make them and share ideas.  We left the extra swords at the park and see them getting played with.  I hope this was a good opportunity for kids who don't get to make things to try something new.  My kids got fancy and made a radar detector and scabbards.

Picture from the Blog "SheKnows"

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Picking Flowers - Eaglecrest books

This week at the library I found more of the Eaglecrest books for early readers.  I was really glad to see that the library had purchased more of this series.  We used "Picking Flowers" for our circle time.  While the text is very simple this book was very good for the circle.  We started out discussing why the boy might be picking the flowers and then identified the flowers as we read.  As the book used common flowers we were able to name them all and the simple text meant that pausing for discussion did not interrupt the flow of the book.  We also talked about the different uses for each flower, which one's we could eat, use for medicines etcetera.  We also tried to think of another flower the same colour that had a use. This book is from the same publisher as "Powow" which I previously reviewed.  These books are simple and nice, but sophisticated in layout, text and storyline.  I love that they use actual photographs of native children in easy to recognize environments.  They are well thought out and support good discussions.