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!

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Overflowing Adventures – Driving, Riding, and Walking

Long Wharf compass rose

Casting my shadow over Boston.

My recent trip to New England was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. With so much to do and so much going on in the places I visit, I try to fill my time as much as possible with interesting things. I live a relatively quiet life in Upstate New York most of the time, so filling my road trips to overflowing is always something I enjoy.

I was blessed with beautiful weather driving out to my hotel in Seabrook, New Hampshire on Wednesday. It was cool at my house in New York when I left, but by the time I reached my hotel, it was 90 degrees and humid. It’s not unusual for that to be the case and I was happy just to arrive after a full day of driving. Following a small issue where the first room at the hotel hadn’t been cleaned yet, I was given a nice, clean, recently updated room that was bigger and far more comfortable.

I stayed at the Seabrook Inn and the staff were very friendly and accommodating, especially since I kept somehow rendering the key card to my room useless. I’ve stayed at the Seabrook Inn before and I’ll be staying there again as needed on future trips. They have a nice continental breakfast, they’re in a somewhat secluded location, but still right near plazas filled with everything I need. I spent Wednesday night unwinding a bit from the drive, doing some homework, catching up with friends, and grabbing what I needed from the nearby Wal-Mart.

Thursday I headed into Boston early by catching the commuter rail from Newburyport Station in Massachusetts. Although the train is a bit more expensive than me driving to the nearest T station and taking the subway into Boston, after so much driving, I enjoy just sitting on a train for an hour to get where I want to go. The train started out mostly empty, but by the time we arrived in Boston, I was squished against the window as the seats around me filled up. I still didn’t mind though because while all those people were commuting to work, I was just heading into Boston to enjoy myself.

Once the train arrived at North Station in Boston, everyone rushed off while I took my time. I didn’t want to get in the way of people who had somewhere urgent to be.

North Station Boston

People heading into North Station ahead of me.

I walked leisurely through North Station amid the crowds and patiently waited in line at Dunkin Donuts for some iced coffee to help me wake up since it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. Iced coffee in hand, I navigated out of the North Station and walked to a little park like area with an overlook of the bridge coming into Boston. Traffic coming in was thicker than traffic going out and I snapped a photo because I like that vantage point.

Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

Traffic coming into Boston on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

I then began my walking journey through Boston as it was a cool, breezy morning and I didn’t feel the need to use the T just yet. I walked through Quincy Market and grabbed a breakfast burrito to eat in the upstairs seating area of the building. There was only one other person sitting up there and she left shortly after I started eating. I enjoy being in Quincy Market that early before it gets so crowded with people you can barely move. At that time in the morning, restaurants and stores are still receiving their early morning deliveries, people are sipping coffee, and the full bustle of Boston hasn’t started yet.

Quincy Hall, Boston, MA

Looking out the windows on the upper level of Quincy Market

Once I finished my breakfast, I headed toward Long Wharf, one of my favorite spots to visit when I venture into Boston. The sunshine and breeze made for a lovely visit and I watched the whale boats and ferries fill with people heading out on the first trips of the day. From Long Wharf, I wandered south along the harbor trail and saw new areas I hadn’t explored yet.

Long Wharf Boston ferry

Ferry coming into Long Wharf.

Long Wharf compass rose

Looking toward Boston at Long Wharf

I discovered some very nice looking apartments/houses/condominiums/town homes, whatever they call them there, along the waterfront and wondered what it would be like to wake up every morning with such a gorgeous view of the harbor. Of course they also had to deal with the constant noise of planes taking off from Logan Airport (although not too loud at that distance) and the boat traffic sounds, but I imagine it’s a minor inconvenience. While I can understand the appeal of living in such a location, I know how much I like having a yard, space of my own, and not having to share walls with people. Certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of me having a weekend place in the city someday when I’m a famous author though. 😉

Boston harbor condos

Homes with a beautiful view of Boston Harbor.

 

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Boston skyline

Boston skyline view from the end of Rowes Wharf.

I ended up walking all the way down to South Station in Boston without even realizing how far I’d gone. It was just such a beautiful day for a stroll along the harbor! I stopped into South Station and grabbed a muffin for a snack before heading to the nearest T station to make my way to the library. For me, no visit to Boston is complete without a visit to the Boston Library to sit at one of the long tables with their green lamps and convenient plugs to charge my phone. Plus, it’s a nice opportunity to enjoy the quiet and rest my feet for a while.

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Once my phone had a better charge and I’d written down some of what had happened that day in the small notebook I always carry in my messenger bag, I headed to the Copley T Station and took the T back north in search of a restaurant I’d visited before. I really liked what I’d gotten there, but I was dismayed upon arriving to discover that they’d changed their menu completely. It was getting close to the time I wanted to get back on the train to return to Newburyport, so I decided to forego lunch until later and get back to North Station.

After getting briefly lost trying to find North Station (getting lost is sort of my thing), I found my way there just in time to board the train back to Newburyport. The train was a bit crowded when we started out, but more and more people got off with each stop and I was able to stretch out a bit and just enjoy the ride. I was very hungry by that point, but had a plan for lunch when I got back to the station, so I knew I’d be okay. Overall, I was very happy with my visit to Boston and suitably tired.

I wasn’t able to make a solo trip into Boston last May when I made this annual road trip, so I was glad to have accomplished it this most recent trip. There was more I’d wanted to see, but I just didn’t have the energy and I know I’ll be able to see it next time. Some people might get tired of Boston after a while living, working, or visiting there, but I don’t see that ever happening for me. It will always have a place in my heart and call me to it for new and interesting adventures.

Birthday Gifts To Myself

calendar page Lidancie Arts

Today’s the day!

Today I turn 41 years old, but honestly, I’ve already felt 41 for a while. This year I was fortunate enough to have my girls the weekend before my birthday and I’ve been essentially celebrating my birthday all weekend long. On Saturday, my mother treated my girls and I to birthday lunch at Olive Garden (one of my favorite restaurants) and then we spent the rest of the day just relaxing at my mom’s house in the lovely weather. As a continued celebration of my birthday yesterday, I took my girls to see the new Star Wars movie, Solo, and treated us all to overpriced movie theater snacks. We all enjoyed the movie and then went to ice cream afterwards.

I’m quite sure I’ve never celebrated my birthday over more than one day, so I’ve been enjoying this unusual treat this year. For me, the best gifts are spending time with my girls and family, having good friends, and being able to do what makes me happy. If I need material items, I can just buy them for myself, so wrapped gifts aren’t really necessary anymore. Thus far, 41 is off to a really good start!

As I continue to celebrate my birthday today on the actual day I was born, I decided to give myself a very important gift. This year’s birthday gift to myself is that I will spend the entire day while the girls are at school writing. Writing future blog posts, writing in my Warcraft fan fiction, writing outlines for future stories, whatever I want!

When I was a teenager, I promised myself I’d be a published author by the time I was 30 years old. That deadline came and went without realizing that goal, but I haven’t given up on that dream. I do have one self-published Kindle book, but it’s non-fiction and while I think it’s a good story, my heart is really in fantasy fiction writing. I love that anything is possible when magic is involved and that type of freedom helps my writing go wherever it wants to take me. My muse is very much alive these days, but I have trouble making the time to let her out. Hence, today’s birthday gift of writing!

I think like any writer, I doubt my own abilities to tell something new and different in my own interesting style. However, as I’ve read in many inspirational writing quotes, although something might have been told many times before, it hasn’t been told by ME and with my voice. Therefore, I feel like I still have much to offer this world as an author. At my core, despite the many paying jobs I’ve had and have in my life, I am and have always been a writer. The universe gave me this crazy imagination for a reason and today I’m going to channel it into my keyboard and onto pages and pages of new adventures!

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!

The Only Gift I Need

girls eating ice cream

My girls eating ice cream and showing their personalities.

Every year my daughters ask me what I want for Mother’s Day and every year I struggle to come up with something. Sometimes I’ll say maybe a new wind chime or a hanging plant for outside (which will subsequently perish because it was too hot or too cold or I forgot to water it or I over watered it). The reason I struggle with ideas is because I already have the only gift I need. That gift is my daughters and the blessing that I’m their mom.

I’ve said this many times, but I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I liked being a mom to my dolls, stuffed animals, and pets growing up and I thought being a mother to my own children would come naturally. Which it did. I’m still a mom to my three cats and one dog too, of course. Yes, I’ve had my share of challenges just like all moms, but I wouldn’t trade being a mom to my girls for anything in the world. My girls always have and always will come first in my life.

During the days I have my girls, I enjoy every moment with them. When I don’t have them because they’re with their father, I miss them immensely. I use my time without them to work on transcription and college assignments, so I can just focus on my girls when I have them again. I look forward to when I get to pick them up again, as I will be doing later this morning.

I’m sure all mothers think this, but my daughters are exceptional human beings. They’re both smart, clever, creative, and funny in their own way (as you can tell by the picture above) and I love watching them develop. It is bewildering to me that they’ll be turning 16 and 12 this summer as it seems like I gave birth to them just yesterday!

My oldest turning 16 sounds like such a monumental thing because she’ll be able to start driving and thus developing more independence. Fortunately for me, she’s not overly excited about driving (neither was I at her age), so I’m not too worried about that aspect quite yet. I’m daily amazed by what a mature and respectful young woman she is and how far removed she is from today’s “typical teenager.”

My youngest turning 12 and being on the cusp of being a teenager is also monumental. I’ve heard many people say, “Oh, wait until they’re teenagers.” But they don’t know my girls. My youngest is still the sweetest ray of sunshine, with a little clever wit and spiciness tossed in, and I don’t foresee any slamming doors or teenage tantrums. It’s actually impossible to slam bedroom doors in my house thanks to really thick, shag carpeting. 😉

I don’t consider myself an expert mom or a perfect mom, but I do the best I can. I love my girls and I make sure they know I love them. I spend time with them, I listen to them, and they always know that I support them and believe in them.

My advice for any mom would be to enjoy every single moment, even the tough ones. Because someday you’ll blink and your babies will be young adults and you’ll wonder where the time went and if you cherished it enough. I wonder this myself, but I know that I can’t reverse or stop time and that I just have to soak it all in and love my girls and the gift of motherhood with all my heart.

Renewed Love For My Little Car

Toyota Matrix

My little tank, my Matrix!

This past Monday I took my 2006 Toyota Matrix to a transmission clinic for transmission work. I’d known the transmission was having issues since late last summer when the much louder aspect of driving it was narrowed down to “something inside the transmission” by my local garage. I hadn’t really noticed the noise getting louder, but it was loud enough where I had to turn my radio up to drive in relative peace and I knew transmission noise couldn’t be a good thing.

So having booked a rental car for the week, I dropped my car off at the transmission clinic pickup location and my mom was nice enough to drive me to the rental place. I’d reserved an economy car for the week, but they were all out of them, so I was given a Nissan Murano. Compared to my little Matrix, the Murano seemed huge! It was a very nice looking car in a deep red color with beige upholstery inside. It was a 2017 model so had all the bells and whistles including a huge front display that had a navigation map and displayed the backup camera. It was a free upgrade from economy to what I consider luxury and I felt I’d be content with it for the week.

Nissan Murano

My rental car, a Nissan Murano

Nissan Murano

Interior of the Murano. Very fancy!

Like most of the cars I’ve owned, my Matrix is a stick shift. Stick shifts are a dying breed these days, which is sad because I find driving standard so much more fun! The Murano of course was an automatic transmission and it rode nice enough, but I missed my clutch and the ability to shift as needed. Plus, the Murano felt so much larger and higher up than my little car that I was afraid I was going to run into things. My little Matrix is small, low, and maneuverable and the Murano seemed like a tank in comparison.

While driving the Murano was an interesting change at first, I quickly began missing my Matrix. I didn’t feel at home in a rental car because it’s not mine so I had to be careful to keep it clean and I was worried about people banging doors into it. My Matrix is scratched, dinged, a little rusty, and has a “lived in” interior. My little car has gotten me through a lot, including some rather scary and unpleasant winter driving. Despite it all, my car kept chugging along, but I knew the transmission had given me all it could and it was only a matter of time before it gave up on me.

I don’t consider myself a materialistic person, but wow did I miss my car this week! Although I had the rental to drive, it just wasn’t the same and I didn’t feel at home in it. I was hoping my car would be done earlier than later, but it took until Friday afternoon for it to be totally fixed. The rental car sat in my driveway without going anywhere for two days and whenever I’d look out the window, I’d be taken aback by the red instead of white.

Another thing I learned during all this aside from how much I miss my car when it’s gone, is how anxious I get when my fate is in someone else’s hands. Having to wait for the garage to fix my car so I could resume my usual routine was very uncomfortable to me. I may not have the most exciting life, but I like being able to hop in my little car and go wherever, whenever. I didn’t feel the need or desire to do that with the rental. Especially since I couldn’t have animals in it, so that meant no little trips with Jazzmin into town. By Thursday I was chomping at the bit to get my car back and when they called me Friday to say it was done, I nearly whooped with joy! My mom was once again nice enough to get me from one place to the next and I owe her for being my chauffeur this week.

I love my Toyota Matrix and I tell it that pretty much every time I get in it. It’s been the most reliable car I’ve ever owned and until this transmission issue, had needed only usual maintenance like oil changes, brakes, and some exhaust work. I call it my little tank for good reason and I foresee it getting myself and/or my daughters through many more years of driving. While I already appreciated my Matrix immensely, I love and appreciate it even more now. With the new transmission, it’s so quiet and shifts so nice and it’s like having a brand new, broken in, and well-loved tiny tank!

A Day That Snuck Up

My father and I in the Adirondack Mountains. My favorite picture of us.

With the prolonged winter weather, plumbing issues, and car trouble I’ve experienced this year, I’ve often lost track of days as I work through it all. The late arrival of spring has me thinking it’s still April some days and therefore I was surprised to realize that one day in particular snuck up on me unawares: today, my father’s birthday.

As my mother said incredulously yesterday, my father would’ve turned 77 this year. That’s mind boggling to me because in my mind, my parents don’t really age. My father left this world when he was 68. His health had deteriorated in the last years of his life. But fortunately with the passage of time, I usually remember him as the healthy, fit man he was in his 50s. That really is a blessing and something I’m certain makes his spirit happy.

In past years I’ve felt sorrow in the days leading up to his birthday and on his birthday, but not this year. Admittedly, I’ve been stressed about getting my car’s transmission fixed, dealing with yard work, and so on, but even without those things, I don’t think I would’ve felt sad.

I miss my father every single day and I wish he was still here to help me with so many things, but overall I feel like I’m in a good place in my life. I’m content and happy and don’t feel as lost as I used to. I believe I owe that in large part to everything I inherited from my father. He taught me to always see the bright side of life, to look at things from different angles, and to appreciate all the blessings I have.

Life isn’t always easy, but it’s always a gift. So while I no longer have my father here to give gifts to on his birthday, he continues to give me the greatest gifts of love, strength, faith, gratitude, acceptance, and determination.