First Blog Resulted in 3 Unbelievable Opportunities!

Four years today… Blog Womaning bliss! The outlet for personal record became a portal of learning, teaching opportunities and making contact with the some of the greatest examples of human decency – and well, admittedly, an occasional dip toward the lowest. Luckily, those are very few, kind of like that deal I got to mull over not long after my first post back then…

teacher blackboard green irishI was really quite flattered when after I published my first blog, I received some attention from a fellow blogger with a message to follow his blog too.  I looked at his page and saw it was very well done. Quite sophisticated and up to date with all kinds of interesting media to flip through.  I liked, as in appreciated the post that was at the top of his published works. Nicely written, inspirational. Even more impressive was how young he was.  So, I hit the like button and even clicked on the blog ‘follow’ button.

Not long after, I started receiving inspirational emails from him that included ideas on changing my life, by changing my financial circumstances, by learning a really, super cool way to earn a living via my blog!  This guy did it and look, he’s only 18 yrs old and already retired in the Thai jungle of his retirement dreams – as demonstrated in his selfie-video telling me so.

The promo soundbites were right up my marketing background alley; though slight, the description sounded reasonable and plausible.  So, I followed the links as directed and got to a 45 minute video of two guys sitting casually in elegant chairs in front of a beautiful interior pool of an obviously expensive house.  My spidey senses began to web-out.

The guys opened their pitch with their personal histories and like young blog guy, they described their beginnings from nothing, with little prospects.  One had actually lived out of a van that cost less than the pen he was holding in his hand.  It was a pretty good looking pen.

The beautiful house was also his, and we wouldn’t believe that all he has now, was achieved after figuring out – are you ready for this – a simple, 3 step idea for making millions via the internet.

About 20 minutes into alternating the talk between how really hard life had been for them, yet so drastically changed with little effort into the still unexplained way they did it, another screen flashed up under their picture.  If I act now, for only $25, I will learn (finally) the secret 3 step plan for making millions – or as much as I am willing to work for, it’s all up to me – but I better hurry because there are limited spots left.  Ugh! Gut instinct confirmed, video turned off.

Pffftt! The not so secret ‘secret’ was revealed; original flattery flattened, thrill about having blog skillz fizzled. Hell, maybe I even did miss an opportunity to ‘retire at 18’, but I trusted my gut and I’m sure I’m richer from not doling out those bucks.

What this did do, was get me thinking about all these pyramid or multi-level marketing schemes that come up over and over. Sometimes they provide genuine product offerings, but mostly they’re about the quickest immediate cash grab for the idea guys.

I can’t begin to count how many of these pitches/ads/infomercials I’ve seen and you know what they all have in common?  Vans.  Ever notice that too?  Almost every one of these self-made from dirt poor guys who luck-out on the answer to millions, start out by living in vans.  Really shaky rickety vans too.

I’m re-thinking plans for my son’s formal education after high school.  I’m going to just shove him into a van when he’s 18 and say, “Go forth, my son, and prosper”!  Bring me back one of those great-looking pens when you’ve made it.

This lit up the third idea bulb – I’m going into the old van selling business.  Low overhead; at near break-down level anyway. We’ll sell ’em to these young guys who’ll eventually get rich. Win-win. Whose in? Time limited offer. Oh, and my son gets his half-price.

Top of the marnin’ ta ya, (sorry about that)

…and a round of green full-bodied gratitude with a heady froth of love for these awesome folks, each a very fine mug-O’-talent; thanks for the ongoing support and friendship over these years…

Cheers,
Ned Hickson
Le Drake Noir
Robert Hookey
Trent’s World
Joanne at My Life Lived Full
Lynne at Life After 50
Jill’s Scene
Dan Antion
Randall Willis

RL

With Lois, For The Win

I determined I’d open  2017 with a gratitude post, but to be honest, and this is no complaint, there were so many avenues I could go, I wasn’t sure where to start. I’m privileged enough to have most of my needs met and most importantly, I have pretty amazing family and supportive community.  It was in this, that I felt inspired to say how writing has played a role in winning me some of that love and support.

Years ago I reported for newspapers, later side-lined for an opportunity to make a bigger splash by managing the start-up of a non-profit foundation.  After that, a similar turn in the private sector, and then onto the biggest job ever, motherhood.

Throughout those years, I continued to write – scads of your basic business letters and mountains of personal journals. Then Facebook came along.  Once in awhile I’d wax on, and on…. and on and fill my status box with a full-page of opinion. I’d get pretty good feedback, but more likely, I’d hear from Lois.

loisWe’d met at a performing arts studio where our kids attended.  Lois was smart, an English major and she was a writer. A real one; which she practiced with a business blog.  I enjoyed her replies to my status comments – witty and smart. Sometimes, she intimidated me. Not in a bad way, she made me want to try harder.  Then she brought up the idea of starting a blog. She’d simply suggest it now and then, until one day after yet another of my Facebook essays, her inner- warrior firmly tapped out the order, “Blog, woman”!!!

And thus a new blog was born.

Lois continued the encouragement through my spotty and rough start. I do know I’m not above some clunky writing here and there. Anyway, she was always very kind about it all and this was just an extension of her amazing generosity and wonderful, thoughtful presence.  Our shared connections always gave her the highest marks for decency.

Yes, it’s a cliche’ when I say it feels like only yesterday, when I got that Lois smack-down to work up to something. it’s especially so now, because we lost Lois last October.  A brain tumour discovered a couple of years ago overcame her.  I was out of town when she passed and I wasn’t able to attend her service.  Not unusually, I struggled about what to say to her family, especially from a distance.

I wrote her daughter, Kathryn, a friend also and within that note, I ended up explaining how her mother’s influence affected my life in ways that I’d never told Lois. I asked for permission to print parts of that note here.  I thought my 2017 gratitude for writing couldn’t begin without my 2013 re-start from Lois.  What writing has done for me over the last nearly four years is inextricably tied to her…

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Kathryn… I’ve tried so many times to write something to you about your mother.  It’s hard to admit a loss for words, but it’s especially frustrating when you want to tell someone how sorry you are for their losses of such significance…

I want to tell you what a wonderful person your mother was… is.  But you know that – and I am so glad about that for you and your family.

I want to tell you how much your mother influenced my life.  I want you to know how she actually changed it.  I want you to know that her insistence, with that boot to the butt,  that I write for real, introduced me to a world I had no idea existed and yet there it was, waiting for me to meet dozens of amazing people who would then move me along into opportunities I never could have dreamed were waiting for me.

Even love was there in that new world.  I found all sort of love and that too changed me and grew me up some more.

I would never have found new work that challenged me to use every creative thought I could muster. I would never have found friends that stand like sentries whenever I need.  My whole world would not have been so beautifully enforced.

Initially, I think I found it hard to believe that a writer really thought I was a ‘writer’.  I was once a reporter, but somewhere along the way, I’d lost the idea that what I’d write in my journals could possibly be readable, or understandable, or maybe even helpful to someone else.

Your mother gave that gift back to me. She made me take a chance by offering a glimmer of confidence that I could claim for myself.

So, I want to say, I am so glad and I am so enriched in so many ways to have met Lois Wasstrom.

I thank God for, Lois.

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I’d also mentioned to Kathryn I was certain her mother would always be a guiding force for her family. I can only hope that maybe now and then, she’ll continue to lend a hand to this very grateful writer.

RL

I Would Die For My Words, But I’ll Stand With My Superpower

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“Why are you speaking out so much? You’re going to get hurt”.

Going to get hurt? I’ve been hurt my whole life, what don’t I already know about hurt?  I’ve been hurt deeply enough to have died.  Literally.  (Life skillz pro tip: I highly recommend dying near a handy defibrillator; CPR hurts like a bitch – for days).

As a matter of record, this year has been one of the most painfully tumultuous for me and yet, I’m still here and I’m still talkin’ – unflinchingly.

I wish to continue asking people to step out of what they’ve learned is ‘success’ and question if it truly makes their heart sing, keeps them at peace and benefits anyone/anything else outside of constant, immediate personal gratification.

Well known, feminist activist, Gloria Steinem said, women become more activist conscious and engaged as they grow older because they lose power. I agree with her, re: our current paradigm.  We are prized for our beauty, our ‘niceness’; especially our willingness to ‘pleasantly get along’ regardless of any inequity levels in front of us.

She also said, men gain power as they age; that many tend to become more conservative – because they become more fearful about losing that advantageous power and so will use whatever manner to constrict others to protect that cushion.

I believe her words. I’ve lived them, but I refuse to accept them for me and my son.

This year especially highlighted my weaknesses, particularly from a genetic disease that doesn’t allow me to march or dance in all the ways I love, and from profound losses that reshaped my life, but I found ways to help change old paradigms anyway.

I’ve been gifted words and words are a superpower.

My words burst or seep in all kinds of form. I’ll write statement after statement about injustices that ignite my passion or calls to fierceness.  I often confess my words can be a stream of the most colorful profanity, that I could be speaking 6 other languages I don’t even know. Sometimes my words just want to be heard in the softest tones of poetry.  Sometimes my words are filled with laughter, and sometimes my words can embarrass the hell out of me.

What my words mostly are though, are a life source; a critical part of my purpose.  It’s been said so since I first spoke (a string of 3 expletives). My family gleefully and variously confirmed it with all sort of eye-roll inducing teases.

So, in answer to my concerned friend that I may get hurt by my expanding work to speak up against injustice – yes, I may, but since when is stretching not painful? On a personal level,  I’ve turned that around. I now refuse to spend any unnecessary time with anyone over 30 who refuses to relate in a straightforward grown-ass manner. I can confirm, time is precious. As Betty White said, “Vagina up, man”. She explained, why say,  ‘grow a pair’, when testicles are really quite fragile? We’re talking about actual birth canals; talk about taking a beating”! Man, I love that woman! Anyway, maybe this’ll net me fewer conversations, but saving time and connecting with people in a more real way for purposes greater than myself seems in fact, to be the point of my life.

I know that’s not entirely the pain my friend is concerned with, but – I can speak with some fair firsthand authority now, to assure that the most painful hurt, is not harsh words or bruises, broken bones, CPR or even dying. Outside of losing loved ones, what hurts most, is indifference.

So, I’ll continue to ask, which of our success representations are truly so valuable that we couldn’t live without them?  We don’t have to die to learn most of what we fear losing is really, not so much after all, but many do die because we refuse to look at the question.

We do everything we can for the safety and comfort of our loved ones, but will we extend that to include those who have suffered on any level for that comfort? If you don’t know who that is, please, please seek to learn; we need to look beyond our own small space in this great big world. Indifference is the poison that is instantly diluted by even the simplest act of compassion.  Just do it. I know you want to.

RL

Waking a 12 Year Old’s Dream, Part 1 – Short Story

The girl ran over hills and dunes, striving to keep up with him while holding back the hair whipping all around her face.  He urged her to follow, and hurry.  He made jokes about how tiny she was… how he could just throw her into his pocket and rocket them away. They were going to wherever their running legs would take them.  Who needed a plan when any direction was good enough? There wasn’t any need to determine a finishing point. Their companionship was the ultimate destination.

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Her 12-year-old heart laughed with his in complete ease. He told her she was the nicest person he’d ever known. He called her every name that he knew meant precious and he said that no one could ever be the best friend she was.  She was so happy to have found him; no one wanted her for their best friend like that – ever. She was somehow always lacking a certain something that said No. 1 material,  like the kids who always get picked last for every team.

She’d first sought him out when she caught glimpses of him in behind all the grown up discussions coated in angst, behind all the searches for adult contentment that had surrounded them for years.

At 12, he was still as shy as he’d been at 6, but she saw him when most barely acknowledged he’d even existed. He was taken off-guard when he realized he’d been spotted.  He was used to being ignored, often drowned out by back to back beers or wine or depression. When the grown up around him wanted company, the last person he chose was his 12 yr. old.

The boy didn’t know he was lonely until he’d been seen. He didn’t know he could actually even love. He came to adore her, first for her seeing, then for being.  He couldn’t bear to be away from her for even an hour.  He’d go to sleep with her fully enveloping his thoughts until he woke up to resume them.  Lifetimes of plans replaced empty, faraway dreams.

One night, after an effort of determined, careful planning, they got to share a room, snuggled within the safety of one another’s presence. They were startled awake though, in the middle of the night. The grown ups were fighting, loudly.  It terrified the boy and he bolted.  He ran as fast as he could. He left her behind.

Somewhere in the middle of his running he decided the grown up of his experience was right, the only way to be, the only way to cope was the head-on pursuit of simplicity, the eternal chase of a good cocktail and easy lovin’.  Safety ensured by familiar pattern.

When she realized he’d turned back to the shadows, she stumbled from the room, once again rushing, this time blinded by the tears coursing over her face… As she ran, she heard his grown up and his grown up friends laughing behind her.  They yelled out, “Ah, face it, kid you weren’t enough anyway”…

When she got home, her grown up cried with her as she rocked her.  She whispered, “I’m so sorry sweetie, but you were always meant for far, far more than simple”…

RL

Dedicated to one 12 year old heart that still doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about her or them; ever the bravest, of them all…

 
 

What Did You #%&*@* Say?

So, I was reminded not too long ago that my predilection for profanity was especially evident lately. Lately? Where hath these innocents been?

Yes, OK, I have a mouth and it’s pretty potty at times, but I believe I’ve earned it honestly. I’m sorry, but I cannot apologize for it.  According to even more recent studies than the ones that said swearing helps with pain, they now say my kind of swearing indicates genius level intelligence too.  I wouldn’t lie about that…. I’d swear to it….

So, in that vein, I (re)present an updated story I published a few years ago about passing the gift down…

For about a millennium now it’s been said that kids say the damnedest darnedest things. I know this truth first-hand and I’ve kept a journal to capture a good number of eyebrow raising, head scratching and -are you for real- statements that my son has spouted since he started spouting.

I always encouraged free and open speech with him and I’ve always adored hearing what comes out of that new and unfettered brain.  The only thing I’ve forbidden is swearing.  It’s not that I’ve pretended that swearing doesn’t happen; we’re all aware of its worldwide domination, thus he’s heard such a word or two in the homeland.

He had attempted to copy those words, but only once, (that I know of), OK, technically twice, but the second time was just a noun change.  It happened when he was two and a half.  We were on holiday and his dad was desperately searching our vehicle for the camera before the beautiful tall ships we were watching passed by.  While he was frantically throwing items left and right, he yelped, “Where’s my f*#kin’ camera”?

A couple of hours later, on our way home, I noticed my son frantically looking left and right.  I asked him what was wrong and he plaintively asked, “Where’s my f*#kin’ camera”? To be fair, his toy camera did, in fact, appear to be a missing casualty of his father’s earlier desperation.

About two weeks later we were playing tea party and he came out of his room with most of his supplies except one.  With hand on hip and grave consternation, he spoke. “Where’s my f*#kin’ teapot”?  We had a little chat and I have to say he’s been pretty good at finding alternative words of satisfaction ever since.

Actually, he would eventually become a little too efficiently aware; he grew into the Soup Nazi of potty-mouth alternatives. Our self-proclaimed lord of language decency worked his moral indignance to a level that drove me to drinkHe deployed a ‘swear jar’, a wretched vessel of confiscated loonies for every swear word he caught, thereby generously cutting into my own happy hour funding. Which also had me questioning my study-confirmed intelligence for having agreed to this insanity.

So, yes,  I can swear like a drunken sailor.  Actually, I feel that analogy is an insult; I’m certain my stupendous ability could teach a sailor a thing or two.  Lest you accuse me of hypocrisy, I look at it like being an artist of abstract art who had to first prove that she can paint a real-life landscape before delving into free-flow style. My swearing is not a replacement for regular speaking skill, just occasional, as required, colorful enhancement.  Certainly some days need more color than others.

Also, as a public service announcement, there have been recent studies that state hollering four letter words helps to alleviate pain. Think about that the next time you hammer your finger.  No really, look it up.

swearing hammer guy

OK, back to my son.  What I’ve always told him is profanity is adult language; he’s free to swear when he is 18 or paying the bills, whichever comes first, (not gonna lie – secretly hoping it’s paying the bills).

No, I don’t really believe he will never swear again before he turns 18, but I’m pretty sure he’ll have learned to speak several appropriate adjectives first. After that, if he wants to add a little color now and then, fine, but more importantly, maybe then I can earn some #*@kin’ coins back.

RL

Originally posted on by

Margaret’s Baby

During a year of upheaval, reflection and even amazing rewards, a walk back to beginnings can help to return a sense of balance, to find an equilibrium that helps make life make sense again. I’ve been going back to some significant and poignant moments for me for that purpose. One of those periods was returning home after time spent in child foster care. This story was also published a few years ago, but for anyone who hasn’t seen it, maybe something in this will resonate for you too…

Sometimes old memories float up in need of
a little light…
A soul’s whisper to let it go.

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I was 14 years old.  My mother and I were living in an apartment on the 14th floor of a basic downtown high-rise.  We were there because that’s where she was when I ran away from the last foster home I’d intended to live in.

I threatened to run away and never be found again if they made me go back to that home.  The Department of Social Services, and my unprepared mother, gave in.

My mother had been struggling with escape from an abusive marriage, alcoholism, and no way to fully support her daughters.  That’s how we ended up in foster care just after Christmas that year.

We were six girls, ages two to twelve years.  I was twelve.  They were my sisters, and because I was the oldest, they were also my beloved babies. There was no doubt that having already traversed a very rocky start together, we were a fiercely bonded ‘band of sisters’.

I was quite used to taking care of them, and the house as required, which it seemed was almost always.  So, the demand to relinquish responsibility to the social workers who came to take us away or to the people who were to foster us was incomprehensible.  It was shocking and infuriating and frustrating.

Many nights I’d lie awake planning our escape from that foster home and formulating the many ways I’d find our mom. I usually ended up crying myself to sleep immersed in the despondency of realizing how powerless I really was.

We were all together in that initial home, except the youngest who was instead taken to live with our father – another story for another time.  I was eventually to move to two other homes within a year and a half. Only one sister was allowed to go with me; they gave me one day to choose between the four faces that pleaded to be taken.  Despite everything that we’d already lived through to that point, it was then that I learned that a soul could feel fractured.

In short time, and with little choice, we adapted and carried on as kids are so able. Then two years later, suddenly we were all being taken to visit with our mom at her own new home. The visit went by as quickly as I’d dreaded. When it was time to say goodbye to her, it felt like the beginning of all the bad goodbyes again. I could not return to that pain; the next weekend I bolted for home, for her, for good.

So there I was, on the 14th floor in a small, sparse apartment, a temporary only child, but finally with my own mom.  Life definitely took another turn in my day-to-day. I spent less time with my friends and more with my mother’s.

She had a friend on the 7th floor.  Phyllis was one of those larger than life characters; a hard-drinking party girl, a queen bee who had great pride in being a full-time ‘player’.  She seemed to take my mother under her wing.  She was a louder than life distraction for a young woman bogged down with desperate problems.

Phyllis held court to an allotment of very proud and loud butch lesbians.  They called themselves the girbols (girl boys, hard g).  One of them was Margaret. She was pretty, a large woman, and very quiet. Though she liked to hang out with the crowd and indulged in the same drink and smoke, she alone remained quiet.

I came home from school one day, at the start of spring break, and went down to the gang. There was a brand new baby girl cuddled up in Margaret’s arms.  I hadn’t even realized that she had been pregnant. The baby was so tiny and delicate, and wrapped in a pink blanket.

Spring Break began on a weekend and as on all weekends, it was time to get the girbol party started. I was immediately designated the girl baby’s guardian. I took baby, and all of her required possessions, up to my apartment.

The ‘weekend’ turned into nearly two weeks, during which I had full custody of baby night and day. It’s awesome, as in really awe-inspiring, how easily you fall in love with a child, even as a young girl, and you immediately wish to be everything it takes to nurture them to perfection.

She needed me for everything and I reveled in that.  At night, I would wrap her next to me and listen to her breath and smell the top of her head until I drifted off in true peace. Every minute with her was another moment of reclaimed love. I was once again protector, friend, sister, mother.  For awhile I was me again.

Spring break was over and I’d already missed two days of school, I had to go back.  That morning, I reluctantly took her down to the 7th floor, gave her back to Margaret and left for school.  When I came home, I dropped off my school things and grabbed one of her blankets to collect her. I sniffed her baby smell all the way to Phyllis’s apartment.

When I walked in, I saw Margaret sitting by the window, staring out with the curtains blowing around her. The girbol group was strangely quiet. I asked for the baby and no one said anything.  I went to Margaret and asked. “Where’s the baby”?  She wouldn’t answer, and then I saw her tears.  I was instantly alarmed, even afraid that the baby had gone out the window.

“Where’s the baby Margaret”?  I was ready to cry, but not sure why.

“They took her”, she said softly.

“Who took her”?

“Social Services.  I phoned them today and they came to take her away”.

I know I asked her why, maybe a few times, but I don’t recall an answer.  I doubt she gave one.

I turned from Margaret and I looked at everyone else.  No one would look back at me; they kept their eyes on the floor or each other.  I turned to Margaret again and watched her silently cry for a while.  I walked to the door and quietly closed it behind me.

It was the last day I saw Margaret, or our baby.  I went to sleep that night holding that baby blanket. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.  Somehow, I knew in my heart then, that no matter how much I dreamed, I was never going to get my family, my  ‘band of sisters’, back in the same way again.

And, we didn’t, not ever in the same way again.

RL

Originally posted on, with original comments 

 

Half-Breed to Metis – My Return from a ‘Savage’ Wilderness; PART 2

 Click here to read part one – How I acquired the title of dirty Indian…

Aside from having to dream up a name to match any exotic ancestry I could claim, my real family history was more colourful than that anyway. We were the stereotypes of typical Indigenous life. Those lives scorned without understanding of the history behind the creation of those stereotypes.

It was a life loaded with issues around unsteady work, alcohol abuse, abuses under every heading, police visits, child apprehension, foster homes and a single mother on welfare. We moved a lot – always new towns, new friends, new crosses to bear.

So, by the time I could think a little for myself, I couldn’t wait to move on.  At nearly 16 yrs. I did move – onto a grown-up job and night school to get a better job, all in the name of getting as far away as possible from my childhood hurts.

Several years later my life had taken shape in a measure of success and definitely I thought I’d finally escaped being a poor and dirty little Indian. It seemed like I’d escaped the legacy of that drama. As it turned out, despite education and job titles, that wasn’t exactly the case. The various abuses never really ended regardless of the dressing I put up around them. I became even more desperate for a sense of value, meaning and peace. 

It was a bit incredible and maybe even miraculous from where the answers to my prayerful pleading would begin – searching the internet for a history project.

While I was doing that search, I stumbled across some family tidbits in the history records. It was astounding to me to see names I knew connected to others I’d never known about. Inexplicably I began to hear the call of my grandmothers in them and I quickly became obsessed with genealogy. Something was being filled in me that I’d been completely unconscious about missing.  I found the past. I continued in my search for years, able to trace my family back to the 1700s.

The uncovered voices of my ancestors undid the pain of my childhood humiliations.  Unlike the shame-based history the old input and my fearful imagination had originally filled in for me, I learned that we came from fiercely able, independent, inspiring Peoples.  I learned, in addition to Cree and Metis, my people were also Mohawk, among other nations.

I learned my ancestors were skillful and adept providers who worked the land, and they were warriors – from the war of 1812, to the Louis Riel uprising, to World War 2 and the Korean War.   They were explorers and guides for famous European explorers; they were leaders and treaty signors.

They were exactly what one might dream their forbearers are.  It was breathtaking discovery for me, but I later realized that, as wonderful as it was to feel the pride of their accomplishments, they didn’t need to be all that for me to feel found.

It would have been just as healing simply to find where I came from; to learn who my people were as a people, not as the butt of the jokes so common then on the western prairies.  Not as the people we learned about in school who were so low that even as kids, when we played cowboys and Indians, none of us wanted to be the Indians.

Fast forward some decades to when my son and I were going to a western-themed party.  We got all geared up in our cowboy boots and hats, jeans and checked shirts.  When we got home, my son was a little miffed.  His history lessons have been quite different from mine. He wanted to know why we hadn’t instead dressed up as Indigenous.  It was a good question, but I couldn’t find a good answer.

Although I’d identified as my Metis and First Nations ancestry for several years by then, I began to feel I was falling too short on the allegiance that my grandmothers deserved. Especially with the amount of public misinformation about the Indigenous still the norm in general.

However, despite the longing, I still had one foot out the door, just in case.  Old fears take a very long time to heal, if they ever do.  When I finally decided to stand up and be counted, I applied for a Metis citizenship card.

I’d like to set the record straight about how one goes about claiming that card.  Many comments in those newspaper and social media arenas revolve around thoughts like “well, pretty much everyone in Canada can claim some kind of Indigenous status now”.  No, they can’t.  You can’t just make a call and say, “Hello Government, I’m part-native, send me a card, thanks, and can I get free gas now like that Beiber kid”?

The application process took several months.  Actually, it took years counting the time it took to accumulate the various required records. I had to provide a genealogical history of 5 immediate generations of Indigenous ancestry with proof that included birth, baptismal, and marriage certificates.  It included scrip records, Hudson Bay Company work records, and other various historical records.  At a minimum, I had to link my direct ancestors to records known in western Canada at approximately 1860. Then all of this had to be verified by the society historians.

So that’s what I did, and now when I look into my mother’s eyes, I proudly see my history for thousands of years.  When my son looks in mine, he will see his own.  I turned away from that all those years ago when I thought I was meant to disown my heritage.

We talk a lot about how much the entire continent needs the true education on its own history, and that is absolute fact, but that’s just as true for many, if not most, of the Indigenous too.  We had our history taken from us long before we were even born and we know how terribly that changed us.

I can only feel sadness for that walk in the wilderness now, mine and all my relations of the last 5 generations who actually had our culture taken and even made illegal.  I know it doesn’t do any good to wonder about things that might have been, but sometimes I do.  I still have far too much to learn about them, and our ways.

On the day I received my official stamped Metis card, I stared at it and cried.  It was real, it was done, I’d stood up.  I really didn’t know then or even now, what difference in my life this official recognition will make.  I only know how I feel in those old wounded places in my heart.  I feel my grandmothers surrounding me now.   My grandmothers called for PiPiSiw and I’ve come home.

Grandmothers

kakiyaw niwākomākanak
(All My Relations)

RL

I want to add a little thank you so, so much to the people who have emailed me to tell me how glad they are for any of us able to speak out. You are a huge part of what makes these efforts meaningful. You are the people who allow my heart to feel full and worthwhile.
Hiy hiy….

With great gratitude to Dick Garneau, whose years of work compiling centuries of First Nations & Metis journal entries led me to more family discoveries than I ever dreamed I’d find. Hiy hiy, Dick. Thank you for your amazing work and generosity. May many others be as blessed as my family was with his work.  http://metis-history.info

21 things you may not know about the Indian Act – The Indian Act has been in place for 140 years:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/21-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-indian-act-1.3533613

Artwork credit, with permission: Grandmother’s Prayers:
Simone Mcleod, http://www.fisherstarcreations.com/simonemcleod-acrylics Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anishinaabepaintersimonemcleod/info/?tab=page_info

Half-Breed to Metis – My Return from a ‘Savage’ Wilderness; PART 1

(Originally partially posted in 2013 and revised 2016)

My name is Pipisiw.  That’s what my grandmother called me. I’ve loved her, all my life, even though she died when I was three yrs. old.  I sometimes imagine I can remember hearing her call out to me… “Pi-piiii-siww”.

Now it makes me smile, but after she died, when I grew a little older, I came to hate that name.  I hated when my mother or uncles would call me by it. It came to represent all that was shameful to me about myself.

metis-bear blue-edged2That shame was really about my childhood and it was deep and even unconscious. I blamed most of it on the fact that I had been born of “Indian” ancestry.

Whether or not being Indigenous actually was the overall reason for the issues didn’t really matter because it was what was driven home to me as a child. Whatever bad that happened, was mostly because of that, regardless of where we were.

Neighbours, strangers and even friends reinforced that belief by at times calling me racist names or treating me with a certain disdain reserved for those considered lesser. I overheard countless comments on the general uselessness of Indians.

As an adult, it was astounding to hear occasional comments in my business world that continued those views. I’d thought the more educated could be held to a higher standard of decency in general.

Although communications was always a major role in my jobs, and most definitely, a full-on accusation as a child, I never spoke up when anyone said anything like that.  Along with the shame I carried was a belief that, for the most part, those comments were true. I’d come to believe we were lesser and despite innate defensiveness, my heart still carried it.

It took decades and a long look back for me to heal enough from those wounds to feel like I could truly stand up in recognition of my history and my own people.  I made that recognition statement by applying for Metis status.  I didn’t have a home band to call my own for the Cree/Nehiyaw side of our family, but I did I qualify for our Metis recognition.

My decision to apply was partly spurred by much of what I’d read in the papers and on social media over the last decade on how Indigenous issues are somehow an old idea and we should all be over it by now.  I’d hear a voice in the back of my head saying, that’s complete bullshit; no one tells anyone to get over the Jewish holocaust, what about ours? And why then, does this continent still have government departments to oversee the ‘Indians’? Then that voice asked, so where’s your voice in this?

There was a burning anger building in me and it fueled me to face my fears and delve into my past to answer that question. When I did, I still got butterflies that a broad, official declaration, ‘I am Cree, I am Metis’, would somehow affect me negatively.  In the end, the sense of injustice overwhelmed the fear; if anyone were to come for me and my boy, I’d rather go with that than live in shame any more.  Mostly though, I was able to stand up with pride by finally learning I did not come from some shame-filled abyss. None of us did.

It’s true that there are many issues that need attending to in Indigenous communities, the road of healing from the consequences of long-term colonialist oppression is still too long. Part of that healing needs far more awareness by most North Americans that those same oppressive systems are still in place today.

On the personal side of it, I really wonder if any community can truly fully grow if its foundation is unintentionally made flimsy by too many of us that feel like I did, sub-par and lost in a kind of black hole.

It took that long trek into the past to climb out of that hole.  I had no idea that walk would be over three centuries long and the first steps began with some of my earliest memories of being an “indian” child.

Those earliest recollections of being told what I was, not by family, but other people who were around us was normal and many of those lessons were taught in school. In class, among the typical stories and songs we all regularly sang were things like, “One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians”, (apparently still popular with the uninformed). Right up there with Three Blind Mice. Hard to imagine that changed to 10 little Irish or Jewish boys.

At around Grade 5, at 10 yrs old, I remember being more conscious of learning about how those Indians who kept getting in the way of the settlers were really quite awful. It was that year that my relationship to those awful Indians was cemented after an incident with a non-Indigenous friend.  It’s here where I really started my journey back to the beginning…

“Get out of here, you filthy little Indian”!  The echo of those words screeched at me when I was 10 yrs. old never left the recesses of my heart. I was chased out of the home of my best friend by her mother, who accused me of doing something to dirty her home. I don’t remember the exact details of the crime, but I remember being very confused; I remember being made to feel dirty and small.

I ran from her and with each step my humiliation and devastation deepened.  Her words continued to boom loudly behind me as I raced up the street.  She made sure that everyone knew what I really was. She very nearly made sure I’d know what I was for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been called some pejorative statement about my ancestry.   I heard them before I even began school: half-breed, squaw, redskin, savage…  The incidences lessened around 11 or 12 yrs. of age.  By then we’d learned to call each other squaw and savages anyway.

The name calling decreased more when I was about 15 yrs. old.  I’m guessing it was because it was becoming more largely politically incorrect in the late 1970’s. It wasn’t a daily or even weekly event anymore, but I wouldn’t be completely free of it at any time in my life, so far.

As I aged people would often ask me what I was and in return I would ask, what do you think?  They would give me all kinds of guesses, usually something Mediterranean, sometimes Eastern European, or even Eurasian when I moved to the coast.  I would always tell them, yes, that is correct – good guess!

One time someone asked me if I was Greek.  Of course, I said.  Well, what’s your name then?  Oh great, I had to come up with a Greek name.  I just barely found out what tzatziki was!  My panicking wit managed to squeeze out, “Athena” – that goddess of love kind of thing.   “Athena what”?  Oh, good grief!   “Acropolis, I am Athena Acropolis”!

I’m pretty sure it was then that he knew I was lying, but I just kept eating my tzatziki and pita as though it had been the first solid food fed to me as a baby by my definitely Greek parents…

Click here to read Part 2 – …What a search through history solved and  finally gave me… and it didn’t include a Greek anything…

RL

With great gratitude to Dick Garneau, whose years of work compiling centuries of First Nations & Metis journal entries led me to more family discoveries than I ever dreamed I’d find. Hiy hiy, Dick. Thank you for your amazing work and generosity. May many others be as blessed as my family was with his work.  http://metis-history.info

A short note just to add some context to how the Stereotypes began:
21 things you may not know about the Indian Act – The Indian Act has been in place for 140 years:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/21-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-indian-act-1.3533613

Artwork credit: Bear/Woman portion- Bear: Clan Mother, 2012  Jordan Thompson, mohawk-art-design.com;  Metis addition – Robyn Lawson

The Mirror – {short story}

A foray into fiction…. or is it possible this is the truth for many who love among us?

Robin

God made me a Mirror…. No, not a mirror that you check your hair or lipstick with. I mean He made me into a Mirror – of souls.

He made me a reflector of a number of the issues, the personality and character traits, of pain. For people with reason to hurt another and who do, but will never work to undo that sorrow; for those who never grow with pain’s lessons.

We’re here in various ways to make it better for the masses… I’m to diminish the agonies of the collective unconscious. To lift higher, toward the light of awareness and peace of spirit. Some of the informed call us the 7th Muse, the agents of change.

It’s what the angels whispered to me, finally,  in yearning answer to why my heart got crushed again and again. I don’t know if this knowledge made it any easier – ever.

I’m not sure that it even lightly eased the melancholy that now grows in me without effort, spontaneously, like how other aspects of nature grow – weeds, trees, the clouds. No, I don’t think so, upon contemplation, that knowing about Mirrors made anything easier at all.

Mirrors live on feelings, at extraordinarily keen levels. It’s a necessity; a critical part of the role needed to detect the next mission. To sense the disguised, sometimes deeply buried scars of the walking wound-ers.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising then, that I’d fall in love with my fated protégés, some quite deeply… Maybe it’s part of the job – a requirement for the sake of ‘authenticity’… I’ll never be sure, but I do know that each time, it killed off part of me… always withered a small piece of my heart, permanently.

It’s part of my obligations to absorb the very pain I’m so adept at finding. I siphon off the excess as much as I can to ease misery, like a cool, water-soaked cloth laid upon a fresh burn.

I will clear the minds and hearts of the suffering tormentors, enough for them to see the cause and effects of their own actions.

I find them easily – those who, for whatever the cause, cannot see past their unattended damage that injures further. Those unable to see that the reasons for their self-pity are not an excuse to share it indiscriminately and without care.

They always fall for me intensely… they adore me madly. They revel in the alluring self-image that my purpose shines on them… Until that day… when I have to unpack the tools of revelation. When the burst of my anger lights up their core and in the disorienting exposure, their emotions within the poisons come flooding out.

It’s during this time that my own inner light flickers in uncertainty and plaintive regret… because I know they will never forgive me for it. For this unexpected part of the love, the lancing, the purifying, and it always compels them to strike out vigorously, to shatter the Mirror.

grey feathers on lawn2

My sorrow grows as they strive to re-bury the revealed gash marks of their own words and decisions. When they’re desperate to silence the released howls of their unmasked rage. When they especially want, to shut me up.

This strife, our trial by fire, can last for weeks, sometimes years, but – not long after the tenderness of debrided cells heal, they move on with renewed willingness to love honestly, more gently, generously. They have always loved again in greater humanity.

Despite profoundly possessing the desires of any romantic, I’ll never share in the satisfaction of a lover turning back in sincerity to say,  I’m sorry. I’ll never be the one who rides off into the embrace of redeeming understanding granted by the dawning of true empathy.

No, there are never those type of third acts for Mirrors; Creation has determined my purpose and I can only hope It’ll maybe consider my collection of dreams.

So, what’s my reward then? I don’t know and may never know, but I dream someday I’ll finally feel every drop of joy and comfort of true cherishing and at least every bit of peace as equal to those as I have pulled suffering from.

I will cling to those first moments of mad adoration that my charges give me. I will rest my fatigued heart on those heady, wistful memories… until my own days of pain and loneliness are blessedly extinguished with the final covering of my reflection.

I am a Mirror, pleased to meet you, and your soul....

RL

Next post scheduled for April 11th.

The Reason: 
Defies death, but requires hard lessons in humanity.

With a Little Help From My Friends; Karen Kelt, “In Pursuit Of Normal & Stirrup Pants”

While I’m off restoring my inner warrior, some friends have stepped up to bat to help me out by sharing some pretty amazing stories of growing triumphs of their own. 

This guest story is from a dear friend of mine who has been, and continues to be, on a remarkable and sometimes unrecognizable, journey of  transformation …

I went on my first diet in grade 5, at about 10 yrs old.  I wasn’t huge; I just needed to lose 10 lbs or so – ‘to be normal’.  My mom bribed me with a pair of the then popular stirrup pants because, “you can’t wear those if you’re heavy”.  Of course I did it.  Starved myself and lost the weight, but it only creeped back over the next few months plus another 10 lbs.

Karenpic 1 BeforeI only ever wanted to be normal.  It’s been my goal for as long as I can remember.  I didn’t need to be thin or beautiful, just normal.  What I wanted now was for people not to stare at me as I walked through the mall.  To avoid having children at the grocery store or hair salon ask their mothers, “Why is that lady so fat?”   To be able to go on a bike ride or run around on the soccer field with my kids.  Things that “normal” people do.

Of course, that was then and my idea of ‘normal’ has changed drastically since I started this journey…

There was never any reason for it, the constant weight gain.  I came from an amazing, loving family who had high expectations of me, but nothing crazy.  The truth is, I just love food and hate exercise.  Always have, always will.  Unfortunately, I eat when I’m happy, sad, or stressed.

quotation mark 1When I’d go on a diet , it wasn’t just my stomach aching for food, but my heart tooquotation mark 2.

I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds and had asked for help so many times, it was embarrassing.  The answer was always, “Why don’t you try weight watchers and cut out the fried food.”  Um, thanks for that…why didn’t I think of that?  In fact, I was always an extremely healthy eater.  I just ate too much, too often.

After 28 years of yo-yo dieting, using every program, supplement, clinic and cabbage soup recipe, someone gave me the courage to do something different.  My two sisters-in-law, to whom I will always be grateful, finally stopped tiptoeing around the problem by stating outright that I needed medical help.  I’d already known this, but I was always just too scared of what people would think to make the call.

From the time I finally did make that call, I spent over 18 months on a wait list before I was contacted again for an orientation about my options. It took another 6 months of several follow-up appointments, journaling, exercise, counselling and more before I was approved for the surgery I’d chosen.

On February 5th 2015, I had gastric sleeve surgery.  I weighed 280 lbs after already losing 20 lbs by then.  They cut out most of my stomach and left a pouch about the size of a banana.  Yes, it was painful, but I had a goal and normal finally felt like it was within my reach.

quotation mark 1One of the most interesting things I found after surgery was that I learned I had never truly felt full before.  The feeling in my chest, even after swallowing only small amounts of liquids now, was a completely unknown sensation.  I’d honestly never felt full in all my 39 yearsquotation mark 2

The results since have been amazing physically, emotionally and in general growth.  From my orientation of August 2014 to September 2015, I lost a total of 135 lbs, most since February 5th.

The transformation was apparently equally startling. I was surprised by the number of people who didn’t recognize me and the looks of shock on their faces was comical.  Quite a few people literally did not recognize me; they thought I was my own sister.

Karenpic 2

From August 2014 to September 2015, I lost a total of 135 lbs

Shock aside, I’ve seen something beautiful happen too.  When I show my before and after pictures to the people who really know me and love me, they are always surprised that I was ever that big.  The one thing I’ve learned is that those people never saw the outward person that I was always embarrassed about.  They just saw me.

The extended pluses:  I can now do any exercise I want.  My debilitating back pain is gone.  I don’t need an afternoon nap.  I walk in public and don’t constantly wonder what all those staring people are thinking of me.  I really don’t care anymore, which is weird for me.  I’ve always cared.  Always worried about what everyone else thinks.  I’m also more comfortable around my husband in our more intimate situations.  That’s a huge step for me.  I even gained the courage to apply for and get a new job.

Reality check – it’s not about perfection…

Karenpic 1 AfterYou’d think with all this joyous news I‘d be happy, complete, & unconcerned about the future.  Well, the reality is that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Despite the overall success, I have one unusual drawback. I am still constantly bombarded with hunger and cravings – gnawing, painful hunger.  Like my stomach is trying to eat itself, and while I am now more able, exercise is a daily mental struggle.  I wish I was one of those people who started loving it, but I’m not.

Worse than all of that, is the fear.  I am terrified of gaining the weight back and having everyone know I failed.  After all the amazing people who helped and supported me, is it possible that I could allow my brain to derail me?

But, in a way, isn’t this what normal is?  Aren’t we all afraid of failing…no matter what our goal or accomplishment? If only we could learn and truly believe success isn’t about a number on the scale, the level of education we’ve achieved, or the amount of money we have in the bank.

And so, this is the next goal for me.  Learning to be happy with Karen, regardless of how much I weigh, or more importantly, what other people think of me.  This is what should be ‘normal’.

-Karen Kelt