Coming Clean

A couple of months ago I finished one of the three books I was reading, titled The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door.  I was in tears at the end of the book, for the victims of bullying.  I was quite familiar with how that feels.  And honestly, I can admit I also handed out the bullying as well.  Witnessing and living through how bullying works, I followed suit. Yes, sadly true, my friends.  I’m not sure when I started to stand up to bullying.  At what age do you start to think about how your behavior affects others?  I will need to watch that for my kids.

The book got me to think about my own childhood and adolescence.  It was quite painful at times.  Growing up with Navajo kids on the Navajo Rez, where school athletes were stars and school leaders, I definitely didn’t belong in the cool crowd before high school.  Why was I so different?  I probably wasn’t very different but if you weren’t a star athlete (or their friends), then you were an easy target for bullying.  It probably didn’t help that I made myself different by reading every single reading material I could get my hands on (example: encyclopedias).  Though some were required reading, I enjoyed reading John Steinbeck, Homer, Beowulf, Robert Frost, Christina Rosetti and Sylvia Plath. I did find solace in a few other friends I managed to acquire, probably because they were like me.  I was an easy target for bullying because I was different and usually didn’t defend myself.

High School was different.  The friends I made in high school still remain my friends at my age, decades later.  These friends have seen the worst and best of me.  They’re family.  I recently watched (again) The Jane Austen Book Club. And I thought about this line from the movie, “High School is never over!”  And I’ve heard a friend express the same sentiment some years ago (before I heard it in the movie).  I hardly remember high school.  I do have memories of not having to care about money, finances and having little to no responsibilities.  I know I was fortunate to have experienced that in my life.  Mostly, I was so bored out of my skull and couldn’t wait to get out of high school so much, that I started college early.

My mum recently dug out an old yearbook from Junior High.  It was bittersweet to look through the pictures, because of the bullying experience described earlier. Then I saw the program from my 8th Grade Graduation.  I had a speaking part in the program, probably because my favorite teacher Ms. Crumbaugh had aspirations for me to be great orator, leader, actor…  It meant the world that someone (outside my family) saw potential or something special, in me.  Either the program or the yearbook had a survey of the 8th Grade Graduates, of what their aspirations were.  There were teachers, construction workers, secretaries, doctors and lawyers.  I don’t remember what my response was.

I digress. Back to bullying.  In my job, there are times I witness bullying behavior.  I do not tolerate it in any form.  I also realized that I need to do a better job of realizing and nurturing potential.  I have so much more work to do and I’ve just been sitting back for far too long.

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Wendy’s Secret Life

I watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” the other night. It was an unexpected catalyst for me to start to assess my life. It was probably inevitable, the life analysis.

Growing up on the Navajo Rez is a blessing, wonderful, difficult, sheltered and makes you grow up fast, all rolled into one. I read a lot. Voraciously. And I read everything! Comic books, mysteries, magazines, big novels and at one point, I started reading the encyclopedia set. I got through “M”, by the end of summer.  I read about places and people the world over.

National Geographic was a favorite, because of all the pictures (it’s still a favorite). A couple of years ago, when I was plagued with a bout of Bell’s Palsy, we went home (Navajo Rez) for a ceremony. When we go home to the Rez, we usually arrive in the middle of the night (it’s a 7-8 hour drive from Tucson to Home). Looking out the window in the middle of the night just before you drift off (the curtains were still open), gazing out at the million stars of the Milky Way, I wondered how many times I did that in my childhood. A flood of memories came back about who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go. Walter Mitty echoes the same sentiment, “I used to have this idea of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do.”  I would imagine all the different places I would visit.  I’ve not traveled as much as I thought I would.

The cinematography is simply incredible in Walter Mitty movie, so get it on Blu-Ray if you can.  The sheer beauty of the desolation and isolation compares to the Navajo Rez.  It could be the Rez, during 1 week of Spring season, in all its lush green landscape.

In my assessment of my own life, I reflected on some poor choices I’ve made, as well as the high points, my good intentions, the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. I don’t have everything figured out but I have a very good idea of who I should be now. I need more contemplation on what I want to do now. I’ve been idle too long, to the point of complacency, thinking I have forever. I don’t have forever. I need to get off my duff. I can be cautious but unafraid (which isn’t to say, brave).  Sadly and to my own disappointment, my secret life is fairly simple and boring.  I’ve been here before.  I need to find my courage and strength once more.

I need to make a list. And my lunch break is over so I gotta go.

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Sandman Slim

This week-end, some friends and I hit the road (only for 2 hours) to the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale. It was for a Book Signing and chit chat with my favorite Author Richard Kadrey. He’s the Author of the Sandman Slim Series, which you must check out. Ya, I know – we’re such geeks that we would travel 2 hours for a book signing. Hey, it’s my favorite author and it was a perfect opportunity to catch up with some friends (being trapped in a vehicle for two hours with me can be torturous).
We had such a good time.

I haven’t seen my friends in a long time. It’s like I crawled into a cocoon and nothing was getting me out of that for the past few years. I felt bad that I neglected my friends for so long. My life is busy with my immediate family but this week-end reminded me that I do need my friends (who are like family anyway). Mina, Melanie and I have the same or similar taste in music (Gee, I wonder why we’re friends). Picture it: the three of us singing The Smiths at the top of our lungs. Good times.

Q & A part of the session with Richard Kadrey – I asked him what was the target audience age range for his upcoming YA Book. What does YA mean for his publisher and him? Short answer: 14 and up. I explained that I have 10 and 12 year old nephews and I had been telling them about the Sandman Series (heavily edited) while we were driving to school every morning. And I wanted to know if the YA book would be appropriate for my nephews. I further offered that I had a different take on the Series than most people, because I approached the Series, with the viewpoint that it was all fiction: Heaven, Hell, Hellions, Magic, and Lucifer… So everyone and locations in the book were all characters and fiction since my philosophy and religion is based in a traditional Navajo Way of Life. I didn’t necessarily have the same history (nor reverence or fear) for the characters and places in the Series as most people who read the Series. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in God, which takes the forms of Earth (Mother), Water (Woman), Fire (Grandpa), Sky/Air (Father). I offer my prayers, often in the morning, that I make the right choices, for health and happiness, for my loved ones and inhabitants on earth to have/find the same happiness and peace.

I think I gave Richard Kadrey something to ponder when I offered that viewpoint. All in all, it was a good, lively discussion with him about almost everything under the Sun. We got in line to get our books signed. While I was in line, one of the guys standing in line asks me, “So you follow the Corn Pollen Path, huh?” I just looked at him (more like, stared at him) and I think it made him nervous so he doesn’t wait for my response but just continued headfirst with, “there’s a [Native American] Festival going in town. Why am I telling you? You should be over there than here.” At this point, I had to turn around with the pretense of forming a line so I wouldn’t be subjected to this guy anymore. What I didn’t appreciate was that he thinks by dropping “Corn Pollen Path” that I would think he has a understanding of my culture/religion/tradition, of which I have a rudimentary understanding myself (yes, it can be complex). Then to continue with, Oh you should be at _____ event because that’s an event for you (as a Native).

I was pretty miffed at the time it was happening. I admit I rarely have patience for these types of exchanges, which usually results with the other person telling me I’m mean. But now, as I’m writing about it – I can see that I can be such an Ass, sometimes. And the guy was probably just wanting to start a conversation about what I mentioned during the discussion with Richard Kadrey. That, or he was just trying to make conversation while we’re waiting in line. Either way, I have more respect if you can just talk to me, like – “Could you (or we) talk more about what you were saying earlier about the Navajo Traditional Way – Philosophy/Religion?” I know you’re genuinely interested in having a conversation.

Ya I need to just chill. Oh rats! My lunch is over so I gotta go. But go check out Sandman Slim. Some books in the Series are just $.99 via Kindle!

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Figuring It Out

Yesterday I spent a few hours (really, more than I intended), watching TV. If you know me, you know I usually watch/listen to morning news, and two shows (reruns): Big Bang Theory and Frasier. I needed to clean up at home but found every reason not to get this done.

So I was watching Princesses: Long Island. The characters are as far removed from me as you can think of. The gals on the show are in their late 20s, live on Long Island, most of them live a very privileged life. They might be living different lifestyles, but trying to figure out stuff still remains the same. Now, I’m trying to figure out different stuff. When I was 29, I was an Administrator for a large Tribal Program. I didn’t have time to think about, much less, worry about getting married, settling down, etc. These are some of the issues these gals on the show are facing/dealing.

Watching this show, PLI, I couldn’t help but think about how I got through my 20s. I definitely had my share of ridiculous decisions. I reflected on how some of those decisions could have been different if I had half of the confidence I have now. Oh let’s face it though, I still make some whopper mistakes. I am not half as wise as I think I am. I can still be an ass, and my behavior – sometimes borderline infantile. Then I thought about how I would handle some of these situations on the show. Of course, culture has a HUGE influence on how each of us would handle a situation.

What, if any, would you do differently now?

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My Good byes

I had to make a hard journey to Utah and Colorado.  My Nali (paternal) Grandpa passed away, at age 91.  I made the trip with my Mum and we picked up my brother who lives on the Rez.  It was difficult because my Grandpa Ben was my last living grandparent.  Navajos believe your true wealth is measured by the number of living Grandparents you have.  It was still hard to believe he’s gone but the gathering of all my paternal relatives was proof that he left.

I was able to see my Aunties and Uncles.  I don’t know my cousins very well, but have recently connected with at least one cousin via facebook.  Cousins = Paternal cousins.  Maternal cousins are brothers and sisters since they are the same clan I am.

We took Route 5066 from Aneth, UT to Cortez, CO, which was the preferred route to Cortez while visiting my Grandparents, when we were children.  My brother and I went down memory lane as we went through the Valley and piedmont of Ute Mountain.  It was Grandpa’s plan for us to see his country again.

My brother, Mum and I did our duty for the rest of our family members.  We visited for a short while with relatives.  We had to leave after a while since we had a 3 hour trip back to my brother’s house on the western end of the Rez.  The rest of the trip was uneventful, thankfully.  I was just exhausted by the time I got home the next day.

When I got home, I tried looking for a picture I took years ago, of Nali Grandparents, at my brother’s wedding.  I couldn’t find it so I need to continue searching for it.  My lunch is over so I need end my blog here.

Here are some pictures from the Utah/Colorado trip-

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Ismay

to CO

UteMtn1

UteMtn2

UteMtn3

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February 2013 Update

I am currently reading Louise Erdrich’s The Round House.  I had started Sherman Alexie’s latest book Blasphemy but somewhere I lost interest.  It was probably because I had read some of the poems in that volume in other volumes.  It didn’t really draw me in, like other books written by Sherman.  My favorite will always be The Summer of Black Widows.  I think that’s his best work, imho.  I am thoroughly enjoying The Round House.  It’s a little slow for my pace but it’s making me read at the pace set by the Author.  Very deliberate.

I’m surrounded by books. Literally piles of books.  I got six boxes of books so I unpacked and sorted these books.  I ordered some pretty awesome books.  I don’t have an ILS so I have to wait to circulate these new books.  I need to prepare them first anyway- barcodes, cover the book jackets and add them to the catalog.  Most of the books I ordered, I want to read.  As I was preparing the book jackets, a fleeting thought entered my head- Wow, I went to Library School and got my Master’s Degree to do this work?  And then I punctured the ego and deflated my head.  I’ll do a good job, no matter how mindless the task.  Often I get myself into trouble because of my ego and pride.  I don’t always do a good job of keeping that in check.  People sometimes get hurt when it escapes from me.

In other news, I’ve been to two Specialists for my hand, wrists and elbows.  Turns out that I don’t have Cubital Tunnel like I suspected.  I have a mild case of Carpal Tunnel, but nothing severe or damaged.  Next, my blood work ruled out other diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.  That’s the good news.  The bad news- Doctors (Specialists) don’t know what is causing the severe debilitating pain in my wrists and elbows.  Doc said there’s something else going on in my system, masking itself as a musculoskeletal pain, affecting the nerves.  Oh great!  Meanwhile, somedays I survive only because of 800 mg of ibuprofen and my sheer will to get through the day.  I need patience as we cross off some possible causes for this problem.  I’m just tired and I get cranky when I’m tired.

Continuing on my stream of consciousness rant, earlier this week, I received some sad news of a fellow Indigenous Librarian Scholar’s passing.  Whenever someone we know passes onto into the next realm, I think it’s automatic to think of ourselves, a sort of assessment of what or where we are in life, making us pause and think about ourselves. Or perhaps it’s just me and my self-centered nature.  I was reading various e-mails about how wonderful this person was.  It’s natural to think or say wonderful things about someone who has passed on but in Ally’s case, all the kind words and descriptions were spot on.  I tried looking for a photo I know I had of Ally and I at a poster session she presented.  As a librarian, I’m ashamed to admit that my personal photo library is just messed up.  No meta-data, hardly any organization so I couldn’t find the photo I had of Ally and myself.  She was a really nice lady with a ready smile.  When I first met Ally, I wasn’t the nicest person.  Let’s face it, I’m normally not the warmest or nicest person.  I’m very cautious of who I let into my weird little world so I will be borderline standoffish and occasionally crossing over into “jerk” territory.  It’s a defense mechanism – I reject you first before you have a chance to reject me.  Yeah, I need to grow up.  So, back to Ally (see how it’s all about me again), even after I was kind of a jerk to her, she was still nice to me.  We did a project together in one of our Grad classes and I discovered what a wonderful human being she was.  I’m sad I won’t see her open and welcoming smile again in this world but I’m sure she had to move on to the next world.

With that ending, I have to re-affirm that I hope to see you sometime soon.  I urge you all to be good to each other and yourselves.  Hug and laugh and enjoy each other.

A totally unrelated photo below-

Image
This picture was taken from the Walk Track near my office.  Vultures were circling overhead and I thought about what poor creature died.

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Weather and snow

For the first part of my life, I experienced snow in the winter and so, a White Christmas wasn’t that big of a deal.  When I worked for the Navajo Tribe- for my local community, snow = work.  Lots of work.  Since I was the administrator for the local community, I was responsible to make sure the roads and sidewalks were clear after a snowstorm.  So if the snowstorm was on a week-end, then I had to work.  Many times, I had to shovel the snow from the sidewalks in front of the Administration Building (Chapter House).   So I usually equate snow with hard work.  Hard work is good for everyone from time to time.

So, you can see how much I appreciated the 60+ degree weather during the days leading up to Christmas Day.  I enjoyed the warmth tremendously.  Picture me driving through Tucson, with the car windows down, warm wind blowing through my hair, radio blasting “Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow…”  I only get to watch a snowstorm on TV now, which is more than fine with me.  Most Christmases, we cook outside, in our shorts and t-shirts.  It dips below 50 degrees and fb posts are littered with “it’s freezing!”  Just for kicks, I checked the temperature in Shonto, about a week ago.  It was 0 degrees in Shonto at 7am and so 50 degrees is a heat wave compared to that!

I’m on a nostalgia trip.  My sister, sister-in-law and I were talking about our best Holiday memories.  What was your best Christmas gift ever?

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Traditions

As I sat at my desk, popping a salted peanut into my mouth, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Holidays from my childhood.  Mum gave me her bag of hard candy, peanuts and an orange, the other night.  This combination of goodies reminds me of my father, specifically, my dad being happy with my mum.  Then I started thinking about Dad, remembering Holiday Traditions with Dad. 

Dad hardly ever verbally expressed his love for Mum, in front us (kids).  I think I had heard him only a couple of times, during a ceremony, tell Mum that he loved her.  The same thing with my Mum, toward my Dad.  In my youth, I had only heard my parents tell me they love me, about a handful of times.  I knew they loved me, no doubt.  It’s just something that wasn’t expressed often in my house.  If it was said, it was in a formal and somber setting (ceremony). 

Back to the bag of goodies, both parents loved this combination of goodies (fruit, mixed nuts and hard candy), which was usually abundant during the Holidays.  Dad’s favorite was a good mix of nuts – Brazilian, Acorn, Pecan, Peanut, Walnut, Almond and Cashew.  I shared Dad’s absolute favorite nut – the Brazilian, which is also the hardest one to crack (if there was ever a metaphor…).  And the hard candy with the chocolate or soft filling in the middle was the best.  Even weeks after the New Year, Dad would have a bag stashed away somewhere in the house.  Mum enjoyed this combination of goodies so much that one year, she bought enough candy, mixed nuts and fruit for the entire extended family (about 70-75 people).  That was her Christmas gift to everyone. 

Reflection in general-

I tell my kids (nieces and nephews) I love them, and often.  We kiss and hug and snuggle (even the 21 year old niece).  I give my 2 nieces kisses goodbye when I leave for work.  I’m the ENFORCER (read: disciplinarian) for the family kids.  This means I have to make an extra effort to demonstrate and reinforce my love, because I’m often the “bad” guy so the parents can be the good guys.  I think it’s especially important for kids to hear that they are loved, even though they’ve heard it many times before.  I’m glad to start a new tradition of expressing and demonstrating love, and not keep the old tradition of expressing love only during ceremonies.

Back to Mum-

Mum hasn’t given this combination of bagged goodies in a long time, not since Dad left this world 11 years ago.  I’m certain she is also reminded of my Dad when she sees this bag of goodies.  I randomly text my Mum that I love her.  I think it’s still hard for her to say the words, but I feel it – like, when she gave me her bag of goodies.  I also want to continue an old tradition- give a bag of goodies (all of Dad’s favorites), to each family member.

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I need an “off” switch for my brain.

Sometimes I can’t explain how and why my mind wanders to topics or memories.  I remembered a trip I took sometime last year.

There was a family of 4 people: Mom, Dad, a girl and a boy who were waiting to get on the same plane I was going to board.  I normally don’t mind travelling with kids, unless they’re screaming and crying the entire trip (which has happened to me).  These kids were probably about 5 and 4 years old.  The girl was younger than her brother.  It was obvious they were leaving on vacation.

The kids were excited and very animated.  The boy kept counting down, “Five, Four, Three, Two, One, BLAST OFF!”  This prompted other passengers waiting, to ask the family’s destination:  Cabo.  Nice to leave the cold behind, which was what I was doing also (travelling home to my family in Sunny Tucson – no beaches though).

I was just observing the kids, and the little boy was loud enough to catch the attention of most of the airport passengers.  I was thinking about my own kids and how that type of loudness would not be permitted by any of the parents (my brothers and sisters).  And I went further and thought about how and why that is acceptable for the little boy to hold such attention of a busy airport.  The kid wasn’t overly obnoxious but how he was commanding attention was obviously a source of the parents’ pride.

I wondered if this was an example of White Privilege.  Is that why their pride was so acceptable.  I thought about how acceptable or unacceptable it would be if the kids/family were a different color/race/ ethnicity other than white.  For some people, I want to believe the kids’ color/race/ethnicity wouldn’t make a difference but for others (how many or what % of those in the airport, though), this behavior would not be acceptable if the kids were not white.  Then I started to think about, just even the fact that I was thinking about this issue and yet it probably would not occur to most white people to think about this issue, was an advantage for white people (White Privilege).  Or it could just be a sign that I’m completely nuts.

Further perspectives of a Native woman-

When I walk into a room (anywhere), I automatically note how many people are similar to me to in color/race/ethnicity.  Information stored, which could be useful later.

More musings-

This morning, Sherman Alexie tweeted:

My Thanksgiving shopping list: Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green olives, pumpkin pie, and a can of genocide.

I laughed.  Then I thought about why I laughed.  Because the alternative is too depressing so you have no choice but to laugh.  The alternative is to cry and cry for everything lost, given up, abandoned, stolen or simply taken.  We can remember the past and know that it can be useful for our tomorrows or even how it can be useful so we can move past the genocide and atrocities.  I am thankful for today for tomorrow is not promised but God willing, we may see it.  Enjoy your todays and your family and friends.  And I need to stop thinking so much or I need an “off” switch on my brain.

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Food &/or Memories

We were sitting around the dining room table a couple of weeks ago (My Mum, Brother and Mum Sue).  I don’t recall how we got to talking about our favorite food memory.  I asked My Mum if she knew what my favorite food was.  She was pretty quick to answer, “Yeop! It’s Nitsidigo’i’.”  Tranlation of the word is Kneel Down Bread.  Here’s a recipe:

http://www.recipegoldmine.com/regnativeam/kneel-down-bread.html

It’s the Navajo version of the tamale.  It’s my favorite because it’s quite tasty but especially because I have fond memories of both my paternal and maternal grandmothers making this food for me.

We didn’t visit my paternal grandparents often (several times per year).  They lived in Utah about 3 hours drive from our house.  My paternal grandparents led a pretty traditional Navajo lifestyle.  They subsisted on the meager oil royalties for oil taken from around their homestead.  It was just enough to cover payments for Grandpa’s truck (usually the latest year’s model truck).  The rest of their earnings were earned from their livestock (hundreds of sheep, cows and horses).  Visiting the Grandparents usually meant we’re going home with mutton.  Grandma Lucille was quick to make sure we took something home with us.  They lived near the San Juan River so there was usually plenty of fresh produce.  Grandma Lucille must have known my favorite food also because she usually made a special variety of Kneel Down Bread for me, mixed with Sheep Blood.  Sounds disturbing but it was the most delicious food I’ve ever had.  My Grandma has been gone for more than a decade but I see her easy smile and kind eyes in my nephew Kyle.

My Brother’s favorite food & memory was my Dad’s recipe of corn and squash with tortilla grilled over coals.  My Dad left us more than 10 years ago but this recipe is something each sibling cooks for their kids now.

My Mum’s favorite food & memory was her Mum’s crepes, made fresh every morning.  I remember my Grandma’s daily routine, included milking the sheep or goats to make the crepes.  She ate this daily, which is probably how she reached 99 years until she left us last year.

I remembered my Grandparents and Dad when I saw a picture of Monument Valley Mittens this morning.  MV Mittens are visible from the mesa near my Grandparent’s Summer homestead.  I need to visit my Grandpa soon.  It’s been awhile since I last saw him.

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