The Comfort of Bird Songs

In these troubling times, it’s easy to lose sight of the good stuff in life and get caught up in all the fear and anxiety. I am not immune to such feelings and I think it’s quite human to be afraid and uncertain about the future right now.

I am guilty of checking Twitter and Facebook for updates on COVID-19 far too often throughout the night because I’m afraid of things like lockdowns and shelter in place orders. Mind you, I already don’t leave my house much because I work from home and don’t have a social life to speak of, but somehow the idea of not being “allowed” to leave my house is unsettling. However, no matter how much tunnel-vision I periodically feel when reading the news, there’s always something that widens my view: the continuing arrival of spring.

There’s one thing that always helps to ease the fears I’ve built up overnight and that’s the coming of a new day. As the sky begins to lighten with sunrise, and even before sometimes, the birds begin chirping in the huge maple tree and pine tree outside my bedroom windows. The first birds are always the robins and they’re followed closely by the eastern bluebirds which stick around all year on my property.

It’s not just in the mornings that I hear bird songs, I hear them all day long and I know who sings most of them. I have a nice flock of goldfinches that are always happily chirping away, some cardinals that sing “pretty, pretty, pretty” frequently, blue jays that sing/screech in their unique way, red-winged blackbirds, wrens, crows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, tufted titmouse, a variety of sparrows, and many more.

Some of my resident goldfinches from a few years ago.

I’m happy that I’ve figured out as many bird songs as I have because I remember growing up that my dad knew lots of bird songs. I remember walking through a park somewhere and hearing a rather distinct bird song and not knowing what it was. Without even seeing the bird, my dad said it was a Scarlet Tanager. We walked a bit more and sure enough, we eventually saw the bright red body of a Scarlet Tanager high up in the pine tree branches.

Scarlet Tanager image courtesy of All About Birds.org

I remember being so amazed that my father knew the bird by its song and I promised myself that someday I’d have that same ability. I’ve spent years listening to and figuring out bird songs and now whenever I go on walks with my girls I can tell them which birds they’re hearing. I feel an immense sense of pride knowing that I’ve managed to follow in my father’s footsteps in that regard.

Hearing my feathered friends singing brings me great comfort throughout the day and reminds me constantly that the world is still spinning and life continues to renew with spring. When the weather permits, I will continue to go on daily walks and take in and enjoy the beauty of nature around me. Nature is receiving a bit of a break with less people driving their cars and such and I’m sure it appreciates it. We must never lose sight of the blessings around us and the fact that we’re just a very small part of a vast, unknowable universe.

The Sun Still Shines

blue sky

With the state of the world today, it seemed like a good time to start writing in this blog again. There seems to be so much, fear, chaos, anxiety, and panic that I can only hope my optimistic words will help somehow.

I live in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York and yesterday I received the news that my girls’ school is going to close for a month. While this has been happening across the country due to COVID-19, there haven’t been any cases of it reported in this county yet. I can understand the school districts wanting to take precautions to protect everyone, but it’s just so hard to fathom that something like this is happening in my lifetime.

Having seen the chaos and pandemonium at grocery stores due to fears about the virus and self-quarantine, I headed to Walmart before the sun was even up yesterday morning because I just needed basic groceries. I was most worried that I wouldn’t be able to get milk for the week but when I checked their grocery app it was still in stock so I was hopeful.

Although I was anxious to get my milk and other essentials for the week, I still took the time to stop by Canandaigua Lake and take some pictures. I think it’s vital that in these “dark” feeling times we still remember and see the beauty that remains all around us and that the light still shines strong. The only eerie part about my visit to the lake was the abundance of seagulls circling overhead but that’s really not unusual for them and perhaps they sensed something amiss about the humans around them.

When I shop early on Saturday mornings, there are usually very few people in the store and as a well-practiced introvert, I’m okay with that.

But yesterday morning there were more people than usual and indeed, the toilet paper, tissue, and paper towel aisles were completely empty. Fortunately, I bought a package last week that will last me and my girls a couple of weeks. Hopefully, by the time we run out, people will have regained their sanity.

I was able to get my gallon of milk and the other essentials I needed for what I thought would be a relatively normal school week. There were odd things missing from shelves such as frozen pizza, pasta, dish detergent, and macaroni and cheese. But when I went to the vitamin aisle, the only vitamin that seemed depleted was vitamin C. Also the bread aisle was nearly as empty as the toilet paper aisle.

While I did my shopping, there were employees dashing around fulfilling grocery pickup orders and people filling their carts. There was a sense of nervousness and uncertainty in the air and I tried my best not to let it infect me. To perk myself up a bit, I bought a colorful spring-themed bedspread and some flowery bell-bottom pants that are far too young for me. But in these trying times, a girl does what she must to lift her spirits.

When I finished shopping, I headed to my mother’s house for the usual Saturday visit which involves doing laundry and watching The Good Witch or something else we can find streaming. I usually play World of Warcraft too and my mom and I have interesting conversations.

Neither of us is panicked about COVID-19, we’re just being smart and taking precautions. My mother is in her 70s and has underlying health conditions so she’s at a higher risk but I pray to all the powers that be every day that she stays healthy and that this all blows over eventually and life can return to normal.

As far as the whole social distancing thing goes, as an introvert, I’ve been doing that for years without an issue. I work from home already so I’m fine with having my girls home from school. I do worry that more people working online might mean less work for me, but time will tell how that plays out. I’m hoping the work from home surge will actually benefit Rev.com and their online transcribers like myself.

I’ve been spending time by myself for many years because on days I don’t have my daughters, it’s just me and my four cats and one dog. I tried being more of a social butterfly in the past but it really wasn’t for me. The only social events I seem to thrive at are the pow-wows hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) and I’m hopeful those will resume and continue when it’s safe.

One of the most important things I do for my mental and physical health is to take the time to stop and appreciate the world around me. I go for walks, I sit outside on my deck, or I even just watch the birds out my window. Today the sun is shining and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. The world hasn’t stopped spinning, the sun still shines, and I have a lot to be grateful for.

I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will hold, but I remain optimistic and hopeful and always try to find the upside of any situation. Just last week I was grumbling about the time change and how the early school mornings were dark again. Well now there is no physical school for a month and we can all sleep in until it’s light.

By the time school resumes-and it will resume, I have faith in that-the mornings will be light again, it will be spring, and life will begin its annual blooming. I don’t know about you, but I plan on enjoying every moment and focusing more on the light than on the dark.

One Pow-Wow, Two Seasons

pow-wow dancers

Saturday morning of the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow I woke early (as I always do, even on vacation), enjoyed the hotel breakfast, and worked on a beading project I’d brought with me. I never go on a road trip without some beading supplies, as I know I’ll always have some time to work on new creations. It was already humid when I got up and I knew the day was predicted to be just as hot as Friday had been during setup.

Once fed, washed, and dressed, I headed to the Marshfield Fairgrounds to help out at with the final setup of the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow. I arrived a few hours before the gates opened and helped the board members and volunteers that were already there finish setting up the MCNAA booth. The booth usually has three tables, one covered with free, helpful information about various Native American topics and the other two holding MCNAA merchandise such as shirts, patches, and bags. One of the board members was nice enough to say I could set up a little spot on the tables to sell my beaded jewelry and I’ll go into that more in a future blog post about my first experience as a pow-wow vendor.

I set my bag with some beading stuff by one of the chairs in the MCNAA booth and I enjoyed the shade of the canopy as the day quickly warmed up. There was a breeze, but it was still quite hot by the time the event started. In previous years, I have gone out and danced in the heat and the sun, but on that Saturday of the pow-wow I chose to remain in the shade of the booth to assist other MCNAA volunteers with answering questions, selling merchandise, and helping out however I could.

While the heat was too much for me to dance in, there were many dancers that went out into the Circle and danced. I have the utmost respect for them and don’t know how they do it sometimes. I was sweating just sitting in the shade, so I can only imagine how hot it was dancing in the sun in full regalia. (All images courtesy of MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow Page)

Despite the heat, I enjoyed my time volunteering at the MCNAA pow-wow on Saturday and made sure I stayed hydrated. When I wasn’t busy helping people who came up to the booth, I would work on my beading project and also on mending my fringed shawl that I accidentally ripped at a pow-wow the previous year. Overall, I felt it was a wonderful day for the pow-wow and that MCNAA received some nice donations, sold several shirts, and some patches.

We had a special meal that evening to celebrate Harry the Hawk’s birthday and it was nice sitting down with dancers, volunteers, and vendors to discuss various things.

pow-wow meal

The weather prediction for Sunday called for much cooler temperatures with a chance of rain and that prediction arrived quite accurately. While Saturday felt like late summer, the weather Sunday felt like early spring with temperatures in the 50’s, overcast skies, and a cool breeze. I welcomed the change wholeheartedly as it meant I’d be able to dance in the Circle that day without worrying about getting sunburned or becoming overheated.

As the morning was quite chilly and there were fewer attendees expected due to the weather, the grounds were quite deserted when I arrived in the morning. I sat in my car while myself and the other volunteers waited for people to arrive. I busied myself putting the finishing touches on the jewelry display I’d updated for that day (again details will follow later).

Eventually I ventured out of my car to see where I could help MCNAA that day. I asked one of the board members if I could set the booth up and she said yes and that was the first time I’ve set up the entire booth mostly by myself. I was thrilled to do it! I love volunteering because I feel needed, useful, and helpful. Being able to set up the whole booth by putting on the tablecloths, setting out the information, and setting out the merchandise made me feel like I served an important purpose. I may not have set everything out perfectly, but I did my best and was proud of what I accomplished.

MCNAA booth

On Saturday, I was too hot to wear my shawl, but on Sunday it was so much cooler that I kept my lighter shawl around my shoulders and used my heavier shawl as a blanket on my legs. I was happy with the cooler weather though and eager to get out and dance when the drums started. There were far fewer people in attendance that day and not many dancers, but that didn’t keep me out of the Circle. My two favorite dancers, Harry the Hawk and Lee Braveheart were out there dancing and I joined them whenever possible. They were happy to see me in the Circle and their smiles and encouragement always lift my spirit, and my feet!

I danced almost every inter-tribal song that day and found the weather pleasantly cool. I did realize that I was very much out of pow-wow dancing shape and vowed to work on that before the next pow-wow. When I wasn’t dancing, I was at the MCNAA booth helping where I could. Despite the low attendance, I felt it was still a good day and I was invigorated by the dancing.

sneak up dance pow-wow

Sneak up dance featuring my favorite dancers, Harry the Hawk and Lee Braveheart.

The pow-wow wrapped up early when it started to rain and the cooler temperatures made it much less exhausting during take down of the pow-wow. Everything that we had put up Friday had to come down and usually the taking down goes faster than the putting up. It was still a small but determined crew of volunteers doing the work, myself included, and we got things down relatively quickly. I said my good-byes to Harry and Lee and promised them I’d try to make it to the September pow-wow at Plug Pond in Haverhill, MA.

When everything was down and the MCNAA crew was ready to head out, I said goodbye to everyone and enjoyed the hugs and well-wishes. As I drove back to my hotel for the night, I was beaming with joy and my spirit was soaring from the pow-wow atmosphere. For me, nothing compares to volunteering for the MCNAA and being able to dance in the Circle. It is a much needed reminder that I matter in this world and that we can all make a difference, if we’re just willing to make the effort.

Setting Up the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

Pow-wow grounds before people start arriving.

When I first started attending the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) pow-wows, I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. I just knew that I enjoyed every aspect of being at the pow-wow including being among the people, watching the dancing, listening to the music, sampling the food, and strolling through the vendor booths. I would just go, set up my chair somewhere near the circle, and watch.

Not long after I started attending MCNAA’s pow-wows, I felt compelled to do more. I’d made and brought some baked goods to share with the MCNAA volunteers and dancers, but I hadn’t fully stepped into what would become a very fulfilling volunteer role for me. I was actually reluctant to offer too much help at first because I thought they might wonder why I was being so helpful. An odd thing to think now that I know how much help MCNAA needs and appreciates, but it’s kind of how my mind works.

As the years passed, I went from making baked goods, to helping with a few setup things on the weekend of the pow-wow, to going to the grounds on Friday morning to help set up the area for the pow-wow and then volunteering in the booth during the pow-wow weekend. The main reason I went out to Massachusetts during Memorial Day weekend this year and the past couple years was to help MCNAA as much as possible with the Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow. I always find it to be a very rewarding experience and as anyone who knows me understands, I love being useful!

To help with setup this year, I headed down to Marshfield, MA from Seabrook, NH in the morning. I knew from previous years that there would be a lot of traffic due to the holiday weekend, especially the further south I went because people were heading down to Cape Cod. As I had nothing pressing holding me in Seabrook, I headed down earlier than necessary to the Marshfield Fairgrounds where the pow-wow was taking place. Even with the slowdowns of traffic I encountered around Boston and as I neared the Cape Cod access, I arrived at the grounds an hour earlier than I was expected to be there.

It was a beautiful, breezy day on that Friday, but quickly becoming rather hot and humid. I’d thoroughly sprayed myself with sunblock to avoid getting burned and was stocked up on water and Gatorade to stay hydrated during the day’s work. I parked my car in the shade at the fairgrounds and finished eating the breakfast sandwich I’d grabbed from Dunkin’ Donuts in Seabrook. The Marshfield Fairgrounds have permanent outbuildings setup for food during the Marshfield Fair and a few larger buildings around, one with a nice little pond and waterfall out front. There’s ample parking at the grounds and the restrooms are quite large and always clean.

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

Grounds before the circle and canopies are set up.

Although I was there earlier than expected, I was not the first to arrive, as one of the board members who lived nearby was already there. I chatted with him and one of the vendors who always arrives early until the rest of the MCNAA board members arrived with the Uhaul full of pow-wow necessities. In hindsight, I wished I’d gone to help load the Uhaul because I obviously had time and it’s usually only a few people loading it up, most of them MCNAA board members. Perhaps next year I’ll think of that sooner.

This year on the grounds a mother fox had decided to have her babies under one of the outbuildings and there were signs up telling people to keep out. I saw the mother fox once during my time there, but never saw the babies. I love foxes and considered them a good omen and sign of good luck, so I knew it was going to be a great weekend.

fox sign

Setting up for an MCNAA pow-wow requires setting up the canopy the drum groups play under, putting up the dance Circle, assembling the canopies for the MCNAA booth, and making sure the vendors know where to set up when they arrive. Vendors arrive all throughout the day to set up and there’s a master map showing their spots, although many of them have the same spots every year and know where to go.

One of the biggest things to set up is the drum canopy because it’s so long and tall, but myself, a board member, and another volunteer got it set up in record time this year. Although I’ve been helping with setup for a couple of years, I was called a “newbie” a few times this year, which actually made me feel good because this newbie learns her way around pretty fast!

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

A small but mighty crew of volunteers and board members.

Once the drum canopy was set up, I helped with the dance Circle. There’s always a discussion about how large the Circle should be and it usually goes from too small to too big or vice versa before it’s just right. I just help by carrying stakes or rope because I’m not that great at pounding the wood stakes into the ground. By the time I was done helping with that, the other volunteers and board members already had the MCNAA canopies set up and the folding tables out and in the usual pile until they were needed the next day. I paused to eat some of the lunch wrap I’d bought at the store that morning and drink some Gatorade before looking to see where I was needed next.

I then spent some time trying to help set up the canopy that goes at the main gate to the pow-wow, but we didn’t have much luck because the canopy was on its last legs. After that, I hung around with the board members as more vendors came and we chatted about various things. It was quite hot by that time and I spent some time in the air-conditioned Uhaul enjoying the cool air and shade. Although I was hot, tired, and sweaty, I was happy because I was being useful.

Volunteering my time to help the MCNAA always makes me feel so fulfilled, wanted, and needed. It’s always a rather small crew setting up the pow-wows, despite various requests for volunteers before the events. I come all the way from the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York to help them out for their pow-wows and it’s always well worth the trip. I truly wish more people would come to volunteer with set up and/or during the pow-wows, but I don’t know what the magic spell is to make that happen.

I know that people are busy with this, that, and the other thing, but I also sometimes think that everyone just expects “someone else” to do what needs to be done. I think this because I used to be one of those people. But now that I volunteer regularly for the MCNAA pow-wows and whatever else I can help with, I know that I’ll never think that way again. There is always a need for help and if a shy, semi-introverted girl like myself can put myself out there into unfamiliar territory, so can anyone else. I promise it’s a truly rewarding experience that renews the spirit, energizes the soul, and warms the heart.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the MCNAA (no matter where you live), visit this Volunteer Opportunities page on the MCNAA website. The MCNAA needs grant writers, office volunteers, volunteers for special events, volunteers to serve on the MCNAA fundraising committee, and volunteers to serve on the pow-wow committee. Native and non-Native are welcome to help!

The Trip That Almost Didn’t Happen

massachusetts-welcome-sign

One of the welcome signs for Massachusetts.

Every May for the past few years, I’ve headed out to Massachusetts on Memorial Day weekend so I can volunteer at and attend the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow at the Marshfield Fairgrounds in Marshfield, MA. I love helping out and dancing at the pow-wows and I arrive in New England a few days before the pow-wow to embark on other adventures, such as spending a day in Boston or heading to the beach to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scent of the ocean.

However, with the various problems I’ve had these past few months such as major plumbing repairs and needing a new transmission and clutch in my Matrix, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make my annual Memorial Day trip. Thankfully, through something almost akin to divine intervention, I am actually able to make the trip. Today is finally the day I head out to New England where so many people, places, and events happen that lift my spirit and I’m so excited!

My last road trip to Massachusetts was last August with my girls and we’ll be doing our annual summer vacation out there again this August, but my solo trips are always a different adventure than family trips. These solo trips have been one of the many things that have helped me better understand who I am as I expand my horizons and bravely adventure alone. My first ever trip out to Massachusetts and into Boston in November of 2011 was one of my most memorable experiences and was the start of my New England adventures.

The weather for my trip as predicted now is supposed to be beautiful. There’s a chance of rain on the weekend during the pow-wow, but I’ve danced in the rain before and I can certainly do so again. If you’re in the area of Marshfield, MA, I urge you to come to the pow-wow because it’s always an amazing, educational, and memorable experience. It got a semi introvert like me out dancing in front of people, so it’s obviously capable of great things! You can find information about the pow-wow on the MCNAA website or the MCNAA Facebook event page. If you have the time, we can always use more volunteers too!

As I head out to New England this morning, I’ll probably pinch myself at least once to make sure I’m not dreaming. Even though I’ve made so many of these road trips they’ve become almost second nature, they will never become old to me. Every trip out brings new and unexpected adventures and I revel in every moment of it! After the past few months, I feel like I definitely need and deserve a bit of fun and I’m certain I’ll have much more than a bit!

Water is Life. I Stand with Standing Rock.

Water is life. I stand with Standing Rock. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you check out the following websites and Facebook pages. From these you can find others and a lot more information that you’ll ever see on the nightly news.

Indigenous Environmental Network: Facebook Page, Website

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: Facebook Page, Website

Standing Rock Protectors – Pipeline Protest Facebook Page

Sacred Stone Camp: Facebook Page, Website

Indigenous Life Movement Facebook Page

http://billmoyers.com/story/need-know-dakota-access-pipeline-protest/

I am usually a quiet person who tries not to make waves and looks for the positive in all things. I’m still that person, but recent events in North Dakota involving my Native American relations have brought the warrior out in me. I am Onondagan but we-all humans, all living things-are all related, no matter our ancestry. What’s happening in North Dakota right now saddens, angers, confuses and astounds me. I already knew that Big Oil ran the world, but this horrible violation of the human rights of peaceful unarmed Water Protectors sickens me even more. There are multiple sides to every story and I’m not there to see firsthand what’s happening, but I support the Water Protectors and in my heart I know they are right to protest the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

There is no Planet B and unfortunately, we humans continue to do a wonderful job of destroying the Earth. I am not innocent of such destruction as I drive a gas-powered car, use propane as a heating source and buy all sorts of products that wouldn’t be possible without Big Oil. However, I do my best to help protect and preserve the planet by recycling, supporting Native American organizations and limiting my energy consumption wherever possible.

For anyone thinking this is just a Native American issue, you’re wrong. This is everyone’s issue. We need water to survive and the more we pollute, poison and deplete that water, the worse it gets for every living creature on this planet. I have a deep understanding of how important and precious water is because I get my home water supply from a well. That well periodically flows with sulfur water due to the slate and shale ground where I live. Although research indicates that sulfur water is more nuisance than actual health hazard, I don’t drink my house water unless it goes through a filter.

The water from my faucets comes out black sometimes and when I shower in it, I don’t exactly feel clean. I get a majority of my drinking water by refilling plastic gallon jugs at my mother’s house. I don’t buy flats of bottles water because I feel that’s extremely wasteful and I only replace the gallon jugs when they start to leak. To water my outside plants, I gather rainwater because it’s a natural resource that should never be wasted or taken for granted.

The Dakota Access Pipeline and all existing underground pipelines can leak without anyone knowing and seep into the underground water supply. I highly doubt there’s any sort of Brita or Pur water filter that’s going to effectively remove such poison from the water. The proposed last stretch of DAPL is set to go directly under the Missouri River. There are already several gas and oil lines running under water sources across the country and the companies who build them insist that they make them “as safe as possible.” How about not making them at all? There have already been numerous pipeline leaks over the years and a very recent one in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. I fully understand and stand with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock as they fight the completion of another “Black Snake.”

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Although I fear that it may be impossible to win against Big Oil until there is no more oil left and the planet is nearly destroyed, I will always fight the good fight for myself, my daughters, future generations and every living creature on this planet.

I ask you to Stand with Standing Rock and help the Water Protectors in any way you can. Visit the following websites for information on how you can help!

Indigenous Environmental Network: Facebook Page, Website

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: Facebook Page, Website

Standing Rock Protectors – Pipeline Protest Facebook Page

Sacred Stone Camp: Facebook Page, Website

Indigenous Life Movement Facebook Page

Changing up my New England trips

This bridge over the Hudson River is one of my favorites on my New England drives.

When I cross this bridge on my New England road trips I know I’m close to MA.

When I started making frequent trips to New England, the dates I would visit were mostly random and didn’t usually coincide with any particular events. That all changed after I attended my first Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness pow-wow and realized I wanted to attend as many as I could. To that end, I’ve planned my trips around the dates of the MCNAA pow-wows for the past two years and I continued that tradition this spring with the Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow, their first pow-wow of the year. It was after that most recent trip that I realized it was past time to change things up a bit.

As usual for my most recent trip, I drove out on a Wednesday, stayed in a hotel up in Seabrook, NH, stocked up on a few groceries from Market Basket, visited Newburyport and Amesbury and took a day trip into Boston. I’d told the friend I’d known the longest from New England, and who was one of the main reasons for my first trip out that way, that I wanted to see them and they said they wanted to see me too. It had been a year since we saw each other and I thought a brief chat and a hug wasn’t too much to ask.

Unfortunately, when it came down to it my friend made excuses for why they couldn’t see me and we never saw each other. Although I tried to shrug it off at the time, it hurt my feelings and made me realize it was time for a change.

As it turned out, I did get my chat and my hug during that last trip, just not as I’d expected. I gave one of the MCNAA Board members a ride home after helping out Friday before the pow-wow and she and I had a nice chat while navigating the stop-and-go Memorial Day traffic. I received several hugs from familiar friends at the pow-wow and an especially tight one from Harry the Hawk, one of my favorite pow-wow dancers. So despite the hurt caused by someone I had called friend, the universe reminded me that I am a valued friend to others.

In the spirit of change and taking a different path, the main reason for my upcoming New England trip is to volunteer at and attend the MCNAA Summer Moon Pow-wow in Danvers, MA. I won’t be making any trips up to New Hampshire, northern MA or into Boston, not that there’s really time anyway. I will be heading out Thursday evening instead of Wednesday morning because I watch my girls for my ex Thursday and don’t want to miss time with them. Plus, heading out in the evening should help me miss a lot of the usual traffic I encounter in MA.

My hotel is a less than 10-minute drive from the pow-wow location at Endicott Park, which will be a welcome change from having to drive down from Seabrook, NH. I’ve never stayed in Danvers, only visited there for pow-wows so I’ll have to learn a completely new area, but I’m sure it will be good for me. It’s past time I explore more of Massachusetts than just the few specific locations I’ve visited and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of interesting experiences just like always. I’ll probably get all sorts of lost too…just like usual. 😉

“Beauty Tips” from a Semi-girly Tomboy – Hair, Nails, Vitamins, Exercise & Diet

Curls and Star Wars shirt by JulieAnn Corbin

Curled hair and a Star Wars shirt because I’m awesome like that 😉

As a continuation of my previous post, here’s what I do to care for my hair and nails long with the Vitamins I take daily and what I do to eat healthy. This is all what I’ve found works for me and everyone is unique so always do what is best for you.  I do actually use every product I mention and the ones I provide links to in this post are ones I want to help promote because they’re sold by Native American owned and operated businesses. The only “compensation” I receive by linking to them is the hope that others purchase and enjoy these great products.

Hair care

I’ve been growing my hair out for a few years and it’s now down to the middle of my back. This is the longest it’s been while still being natural, i.e. no hair color or perm. To help my hair grow and remain healthy, I take 10000 mcg of Biotin every morning along with my other vitamins (which I’ll cover later). For deep conditioning, a couple times a week I apply coconut oil to the lower half of my hair, put it in a low bun and wrap saran wrap around the bun, letting it sit like that for a few hours before washing it thoroughly. I’ve tried other mixtures of egg yolk and honey and such to help nourish my hair, but they’re rather messy and I’ve found coconut oil works fine for me.

Although I did try the no shampoo route a few years ago, I discovered it just didn’t work for my hair and so I went back to washing my hair every other day. My favorite shampoo is Sister Sky’s Sweetgrass and Yucca Root Shampoo because it’s free of Parabens, Sulfates and Phthalates. I follow with their Sweetgrass and Horsetail Herb Conditioner through the bottom half of my hair. I find that the shampoo and conditioner makes my hair very happy and create wonderful smell that lingers.

After I rinse my hair, I then wrap it in a 100% cotton t-shirt that says “Mom” on it in big, pink sparkly letters. A plain 100% cotton t-shirt would work fine too, I just grabbed that one to add a little “mom glam” to my routine. I wrap my hair in a cotton t-shirt instead of a towel because I read that it’s better for my hair than scrubbing a terry cloth towel through it. I’ve found that my hair is much happier when I use the shirt.

When I take my hair down out of the shirt, I then comb it out with a large tooth comb and if it’s warm weather, let it air dry. I have to blow dry it in the winter to avoid getting a chill, but in the nicer weather, I air dry as much as possible to avoid heat damage. Most days during the summer I wear it in a braid or a bun but sometimes when it’s cooler out, I curl it with my Automatic Hair Curler, making sure a apply a heat protective spray to my hair first.

Nails

I have never received a professional manicure or pedicure in my life because I can’t justify spending money on such things, but I imagine they’re nice things for those who like them. I have very healthy nails, always have, and they grow quite fast. I tend to keep my nails rather short and trim them with nail clippers because they interfere with my typing, beading, housework and yardwork otherwise. If I do grow them long, I like to use one of the colorful nail polishes made by Native War Paints.

Vitamins

Every day I take a certain set of vitamins as I’ve found them beneficial in supporting my health and immune system. I take a daily women’s formula multivitamin, the 10,000 mcg of Biotin I mentioned earlier, 1000 mg of Vitamin C and 400 IU of D3. I believe the Vitamin C helped me avoid any cold or flu this past winter and the D3 helped stave off the winter blues that used to plague me. I’ve also been using a tablespoon of local honey in my morning cup of tea (one bag of Celestial Seasoning’s Morning Thunder and one bag of Bengal Spice) and I haven’t had an issue with allergies in over two years. If you struggle with allergies, I strongly suggest adding local honey to your daily diet as a natural alternative to allergy medications. It took about a year for the full effects in my case, but it was well worth it! Plus, I rather love honey so it was easy to do.

Exercise and Diet

To stay fit, I walk my dog Jazzmin whenever I can and lift weights. I curl 20-pound weights to work my biceps, use 12-pound weights for tricep extensions and 5-8 pound weights to work my shoulders. As an additional aerobic workout, I practice pow-wow dancing or do a Zumba routine. I know that to increase my weight loss I need to exercise more frequently and eat less but that doesn’t always happen.

Having a healthy body is also about what you put in it and while I don’t eat a perfectly healthy diet, I do make an effort. During the week I have a smoothie for breakfast and it consists of a Greek Yogurt, apple slices, carrots, kale, blueberries, strawberries, raw bee pollen, raw chia seeds, turmeric, light vanilla Silk soy milk and vanilla protein powder. This smoothie usually lasts me until lunch. If I’m home for lunch, I make a salad or wrap with chicken and cheese and drink a shake made of soymilk, chocolate protein powder, 3-4 ice cubes, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. For an afternoon snack, I’ll either have 6-7 Triscuits with cheese or toast half a whole-wheat pita pocket and dip it in hummus. Dinner changes daily but I try to stay healthy. Desserts and going out to eat are usually my downfall.

So there you have it! A glimpse into the “beauty routines” of a semi-girly tomboy. Thank you for visiting my blog and feel free to ask questions or add comments. =)

Another Whirlwind Tour of New England

 

Massachusetts hills by JulieAnn Corbin

Tomorrow morning I head to New England once again and I’m so looking forward to it! Last time I visited was at the end of March/beginning of April and I had the misfortune of driving through an unexpected snowstorm on the way home. As it’s now May and very summer-like, I do hope that won’t be happening again!

As usual, I’ll be cramming a lot into my visits and it’s all of my own choice. My days in Upstate New York are relatively predictable, but I don’t consider that a bad thing as I’m quite happy and never bored. However, driving out to southern New Hampshire/northern Massachusetts offers me new, interesting adventures not possible where I live. I’ll be spending a day in Boston, hopefully visiting Newburyport and Amesbury, helping set up for the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow in Marshfield, MA and attending the event on Saturday. I love visiting with my friends from the MCNAA, helping out however I can and dancing in the circle. I’m sure I’ll have a wonderful time!

One thing that surprises most people about my road trips is that I actually enjoy the drive out. The drive home always feels a bit longer, but on the drive out, I love watching the scenery change as I move east across New York State and enter the tall hills/mountains of western Massachusetts. I always know I’m getting closer to MA when the hills grow taller and the road becomes more winding. There are some who don’t do well in thruway/interstate traffic, but I’ve become accustomed to it and I set my cruise at a safe, reasonable speed.

So tomorrow morning after my girls get on the bus and head to school and I’ve dropped Jazzmin at the doggy hotel, I’ll be stopping at Dunkin Donuts to grab my usual large coffee and breakfast sandwich before hitting the thruway east. Look out, New England, here comes another whirlwind tour by yours truly! 😉

 

Wings of Arrows

See if you can spot the hawk...

See if you can spot the hawk…

The weather yesterday made it feel like April instead of February and I took advantage of the mild temperatures by taking a nice long walk with Jazzmin. We went up the big hill, which we haven’t in many months and as we neared the hill, I saw a hawk sitting in the bare branches of a tree alongside the road. I’ve become really good at spotting hawks from a distance now and I slowed my pace knowing he would fly off as soon as we got close. As soon as we were within 20 feet, he took off just as I’d expected. I can’t take decent distance pictures with my camera phone, but I snapped a couple photos as he flew out of the tree and across the field next to the road.

A bit further down the road I saw another hawk soaring in the sky and I stopped to watch his graceful movements as he rode the wind. I see hawks quite often and I know they’re one of my spirit guides/spirit guardians/animal totems. Seeing one is always a good omen and I take them as a sign that I’m headed in the right direction with my life, my feelings and my thoughts. Hawks are like arrows pointing me on my way with their graceful, beautiful wings and I feel so blessed that they watch over me.

Although today wasn’t as warm as yesterday, I took Jazz out on a walk because it’s my duty as her pack leader and it’s good for both of us. I’d just reached the end of my driveway when I heard a hawk cry in the sky. I stopped and turned back toward my house, peering into the sky for the source of the cry. After a few moments of searching, I saw the hawk soaring high up amid the clouds and blue sky and I smiled.

Happy that I’d seen a hawk so early on our walk, I headed down the road and glanced toward where the hawk had been. Much to my surprise, I realized there were two more hawks flying with the first hawk. By the time I reached the end of my road, there were four hawks circling in the sky and they had broken up into two couples. I stopped again and just watched them in awe because it had been quite a while since I saw four hawks flying together.

When we returned to my house, I felt even more blessed as I saw that the four hawks continued to circle near my home. The couples had broken apart, one set soaring over the road down the hill and the other soaring over the field behind my house. I was honored that they remained nearby and I’m certain they’re an indication of positive things yet to come in my life. With my future traveling on wings of arrows, I know that everything will be just fine.

Another New England Adventure Awaits!

 

Wampanoag post at Plymoth Museum

Informational sign at Plymouth Museum

As I don’t have my daughters for the upcoming school break, I’ll be heading to New England Wednesday morning on another adventure! It will most likely by my last trip out that way until next year so I plan on make the most of it.

My plans include attending The National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, MA, heading into Boston for a day and attending the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Annual Inter-Tribal Potluck Social. While I’ve visited Boston several times, this will be my first time attending the two Native American events. I’m eager to partake in these new experiences and further expand my knowledge and understanding. I urge anyone in the area to attend one or both events as everyone is welcome.

It was only a few months ago that I uncovered my own Native American ancestry and I’m constantly working on learning more about the culture that was kept secret in my family for generations. To that end and to acknowledge what this time of year means to Native Americans, I started reading The Mourning Road to Thanksgiving by Larry Spotted Crow Mann last week. I saw Larry Spotted Crow Mann at the very first pow wow I attended at UMAss Amherst in Spring of 2014 and I found him to be a very engaging storyteller. Although I’m only a few chapters into the book, I’m finding it very educational and interesting and I feel it’s something that everyone should read to help learn the truth about this time of year.

I am a solo traveler and to some, the idea of being alone in a hotel room during this time of year might not appeal, but as my days will be quite full of new and exciting experiences, I’m sure I’ll happily collapse into bed every night I’m there. I’ve been making these road trips out to New England since November of 2011 and while I didn’t know during the first trip that it would become a regular thing for me, I’m very happy that it has and I look forward to every single one with the same excitement of my very first trip!

 

 

Unexpected Answers

hawk cloud

Soaring hawk cloud in the sky

I don’t ask for signs every day, but I ask for them quite often, especially when I’m struggling with something. Sometimes I receive signs without even asking. For example: last summer (at least I think it was last summer) I was having a bit of a rough day and doubting my self-worth. It was a day I was going to mow so I opened the shed doors, but was too distracted by my thoughts to hook them open. Amid my negative thoughts, the breeze picked up just enough to move the door so it whacked me upside the head. I remember laughing because I realized that it was my father and the universe telling me to snap out of it!

I had a similar experience another time when I was distracted by thoughts of self-doubt as I mowed the lawn. I was going by the shed and one of the many pinecones that fall from the tree there bounced off the shed front and bonked me in the head. Again, I laughed and shook my head at myself as the universe reminded me that I was being silly and that I was worth so much more than I believe sometimes.

Yesterday, I was worried about something and so I asked for a sign to help abolish my worry. I like to keep my options open sometimes so I asked to see a monarch, hawk or heron (three of my spirit guides) and if I did, that would reassure me that I was right in believing in the situation I was currently having doubts about. Alas, I didn’t see any of those three things on the way to or from my mother’s yesterday and my doubts closed in. Even so, I still wanted to believe and so I tried convincing myself that I’d just missed the sign. Nevertheless, one doesn’t miss signs, either I see them or I don’t.

Still filled with uncertainty, I came home and started getting the girls ready for bed. When I returned to the living room I realized that the sky outside seemed an odd pinkish color so I decided to walk out onto the deck. The sky was ablaze with the colors of sunset and I smiled at the clouds swirling across the horizon. As I looked up at the clouds, I realized that one of them strongly resembled a hawk in flight. I smiled as I realized that the universe was giving me my answer, just not in the way I had expected. Sometimes the universe knows that if they don’t show me something in a way that resembles a bright, blinking neon sign, I might miss it. Yesterday was apparently one of those times.

I know that I should just let go of my worries and believe, but I’m not perfect and it’s an ongoing challenge for me. I spent so much of my life feeling secure and confident in so many things that eventually slipped through my grasp that my faith and trust waivers. Yet I always believe in my signs and I know they’ll continue to reveal themselves to me as I continue on the journey to believing in the element of my life I so often ask them about.

Belief and Bald Eagles

bald eagle in field

Bald eagle in the field behind my house today.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m a huge believer in signs and I actively look for them every single day. Sometimes they appear when I’m not looking and sometimes they happen at exactly the right moment to lift my spirit. Today was an example of the latter.

Quite often I ask to see some sign in particular as an indication that a particular wish will come true, that I’m on the right path, or that someone I’m thinking of is thinking of me too. Several months ago I asked for a very specific sign to show me that something would happen within a year’s time of when I asked for that sign. The sign I requested was very big because the wish I had was just as big. I figured if the powers that be saw fit to send me that sign, then I couldn’t doubt anymore and I’d have to put all my belief in that wish coming true. The sign I asked for was to see a bald eagle.

While driving home from New England after my last trip in October, I saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree. Or at least I think it was a bald eagle. I glimpsed it so quickly that I wasn’t exactly sure. Well, today the powers that be saw fit to erase any doubts from my mind.

This afternoon I was looking out my kitchen window toward the large farmer’s field behind my yard and much to my bewilderment a bald eagle swooped down and landed in the field. I’m quite sure my mouth dropped open to the floor and I completely forgot the issues I’d been dealing with in that moment. I stared in disbelief and the bald eagle sat there with his back to me and his head turning periodically to survey his surroundings.

bald eagle sitting in field

bald eagle in New York State

sitting bald eagle

I quickly grabbed my Canon PowerShot camera and took a couple of pictures through the kitchen window. They were blurry due to the screen so I decided to try going out onto my deck to take some pictures. I crept as quietly as I could out my deck door and stepped lightly across the deck to the railing. The bald eagle remained where he was with his back to me, though I’m quite sure his gaze turned in my direction. Despite the high winds, I held the camera steady enough to take several pictures. Unfortunately, the zoom on my camera isn’t strong enough to get good detail at that distance. Hoping to get better pictures, I went back inside, loaded film in my dad’s old Olympus OM-1 camera, put the longer lens on and crept back outside. Looking through the viewfinder on that camera I was better able to see the details on the bald eagle and I took a few pictures. I won’t know if they came out until I have the roll developed who knows when, but I’m hoping I got at least one good one.

Curious to see how close the bald eagle would allow me to get, I put my shoes on, grabbed my Canon again and walked slowly out into my back yard. I paused to take more pictures as I walked and I made it as far as my back pine tree before the bald eagle decided that was close enough and took flight. He flew across the field and disappeared into the trees and I was awestruck by the enormity of his wingspan and the palpable power of his spirit.

bald eagle in flight

bald eagle flying

As I walked back toward the house I was smiling in pure joy and just thinking about the entire experience still makes me smile. It’s no small thing to see such a beautiful creature in such an unusual location. Though I live near a lake, it’s miles away and there isn’t any water with fish very close. To have a bald eagle plunk himself down in my back field was a sign bigger than any neon billboard. I feel truly blessed by his visit and it was the universe’s way of reminding me of the strength of belief and bald eagles.

Lost truths of history

Image courtesy of NativeVillage.org

Last year I learned the truth of Thanksgiving for the first time. The truth of Thanksgiving bares almost no resemblance to the “fairy tale” I was taught in elementary school. What I learned and what they still teach children today does not properly honor the Wampanoags, the Native American people who aided the Pilgrims of Plymouth. This lack of knowledge about the true story of this American “holiday” has to be corrected.

I do not believe that my words can do the true history justice so I implore you to read the articles I have linked. Then you too will know one of the many lost and mis-told truths of history regarding Native Americans. The more education there is about the true past, the better everyone’s future will be.

How Do Native Americans Really Feel About Thanksgiving?

Exploring Thanksgiving History in Massachusetts

Do American Indians Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Captured: 1614 – New Exhibit Focuses on Wampanoag Story

THANKSGIVING: THE NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING

Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians

It’s in the cards – Being less of a hermit

Sentinel Sculpture photo courtesy of RIT Big Shot. This was near the building that housed tonight’s event.

During my tarot card reading, she told me that it was time for me to get out more and be less hermit-like. Perfectly reasonable advice, but something I often have trouble with. When I’m in New England, I’m not in my hotel much unless the weather is bad and even then, I find somewhere to go and something to do. Where I live in Upstate NY isn’t nearly as exciting in my opinion, so I spend a lot of my alone time at home working, hanging with my pup Jazzmin, and now that I have Angel and Daisy, snuggling with kittens.

I’m happy in my own little comfort zone but the tarot reader insisted I really need to get out more and share my light with the world. As a step toward following that advice, I drove to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) this evening for an event entitled “Onondaga Land Rights/ Two Row Wampum Film Screening and Discussion.” I just learned about the event a few day’s ago but as I’m on an eternal quest to increase my knowledge of everything pertaining to Native American past, present, and future, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to escape hermitism.

I will discuss the event in more detail when I’m less tired, but I’m very glad I went! One of the many reasons I decided to attend was because I’m trying to figure out a topic for my research paper in the Composition II course I’m taking. I know I want the paper to deal with Native Americans/First Nations People but my ideas were too broad and I was having trouble narrowing them down until I attended tonight’s event. Some of the topics discussed at the event were right in line with one of the directions I was thinking of taking for my paper, which confirmed that it is a universal issue among Indigenous People.

Something I’ve discovered as I learn more about Native American/First Nations People past, present, and future is that once you open your eyes to the truth and begin expanding your mind, there’s an infinite amount of knowledge out there to be found. I know with great certainty that I can’t properly share everything I’ve learned and continue my education by remaining a hermit, so I will be making a conscious effort to get out in whatever way required to shed light on topics that are near and dear to my heart and spirit.