Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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Yes, I know.. it's been a long long time since my last post. Life is funny sometimes, it sends you down a road you had no idea you'd be taking until it happens. So are things in my life.

Through a series of events that began last summer, I have found myself making some changes to my life, good changes, scary changes, changes that have been long awaiting, and changes that even though are scary, are meant to be.

It started last summer with a sheet of paper being pushed into my hands by a librarian. She urged me to sign up for a free university level class called Voicing Hamilton. (I know I've mentioned this class in a previous post)

I was one of the chosen to attend the class and as this post shows, I loved the experience! As the classes progressed, I had to decide what my project would be about. What finally became my choice was the history of the native peoples of the area before and after the Europeans arrived up until today. I originally thought I'd write about it, but the more I researched the subject, the more I felt that I had to illustrate my findings. I had done traditional pictograph drawings in the past and was familiar with the method, so that became my medium of expression.

Waters Shining Brightly (Hamilton)
I could not afford a real deer hide so went searching the various fabric stores on Ottawa street for a substitute and finally came across this fabric in a upholstery store. The method I used was circular story telling but I pushed it one further by interlinking the various circular stories to make them a continuous story. I also made both wampum belts and the maps as well as all the babiche (I crocheted tan yarn into thin rope for lashings). The pole was a 15 year old cedar bough that my teacher had saved in his garage for a purpose he did not know but figured it would become apparent in time... and it did.
the handmade book
Even though I had intended on doing a written project originally, I still ended up adding a written component in the form of a book with the various pictographs explained as well as the wampum belts, the maps and the Tree of Peace depicted on the hide.

Once the hide was cut and suspended, I developed a bad case of blank canvas heebeejeebees. I was terrified of applying paint to canvas and making a mistake and not being able to fix it. I asked my spirit to help me get past this stage fright and finally it did pass. I also ended up letting my spirit guide my hand as to which pictograph I used, and how I used it. Any other way refused to work. I'm glad I allowed my spirit to guide my hand as I feel it produced a superior piece that spoke its message to many people in different ways and for that I am thankful.

Waters Shining Brightly
Graduation night came and went in December, the end of the class, but not the end of my personal voyage. I was asked to give the closing remarks at the graduation. Again, I allowed my spirit to guide me while I wrote my speech. After the speech, many came to me and told me they loved what I said. I was glad that I could send the message out for others to receive, that this program is the answer to so many people who have never had the opportunity to attend university.

January 2012 brought an invitation for the students of the class to display their projects at a local coffee house. In turn this brought an invitation to speak to a group of elderly who meet at the coffee house about my project and the program. This was followed by an invitation to speak to the university alumni alongside the professor who taught the class which was well received. And since then, I've been asked to do a guest blog post for the end of April, and also to speak to a group of women on the occasion of  Women's Day after the celebratory dinner (the occasion was delayed). I've also been invited to sit on the steering committee for the McMaster Discovery Program which I've accepted and I look forward to contributing to the continued success of this program. More invitations to display our art pieces have come, the next to be at the central branch of the Hamilton Public Library beginning of April in time for the Art Crawl. Again, I look forward to relating the history of the native peoples in and around Hamilton to as many as I can.

I came away from this program with a special friendship, one that I had not expected but am grateful for. One which I think surprised both parties but was also acknowledged as a natural progression from the class. I also came away from this class with several new friends with which I have kept in contact. And last but not least, I came away with a renewed love of learning, a renewed sense of wonder at finding new knowledge, of exploring areas of study that I had given up on or never knew about.  I also came away with a new sense of value, that I have a voice, that I matter and that I can be a student and do what I want. And all this is leading me towards finding out how I can go to university as a part time student. The field I'm interested in is Indigenous Studies, to continue my journey finding out who I am as a Métis woman. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Life's blessings

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Life is full of blessings, sometimes you have to look a little harder to find them.

Such has been the case for this year's Christmas for us.

Being on assistance meant not having anything for Christmas since we had no money to spend. But circumstances, friends, family brought home to us that the true Christmas is having friends and family and appreciating them. We already knew that, but we needed a good solid nudge to be reminded.

My darling sister soul gave us some very thoughtful gifts, of which my favorites are the book Crochet Master Class edited by Jean Leinhauser whom we lost this year. A great loss to her family, friends and the crochet indie design industry.

I first came across this book at our local library. Fell in love with it and it was moved to the top of my crochet wish list!  And now, lucky me, I have it thanks to my darling sister! She also gave me a second book, Bring Colour to crochet. A beautiful collection of stitch patterns done in colours that make each pop off the page!

After those, a new windup toy! Yes, silly things please me such as small wind up toys. This latest addition to my growing collection is a Santa Claus riding an old fashioned train. Love it! :)

My husbands favorite was the Belgian chocolate letter of course! quickly followed by new socks and warm mittens.

Then from a sweet friend we received some much needed supplies (paper towels, tp & tissues)... the super soft expensive ones! Two of her gifts also pleased my husband to no ends, Belgian chocolate truffles and cookies!

I also received windups from her! One is of a cute penguin and the other is a Santa and both were lovingly put to bed in a super cute Winnie the Pooh gift box. Love love love them!

And a surprise came to our door earlier this week. Someone I got to know in the class I was taking this past fall received a turkey as a gift from her job, but she already had more turkeys than she knew what to do with. She offered it to us! So sitting in my freezer waiting for New Years` is a lovely 15 lbs turkey! A most pleasant surprise since our hamper from the Salvation Army held potatoes, cabbage, squash, peas/carrots, but no meat. So there is our meat! :)

So for all those who despair and feel that this season has let them down, consider that there are people out there a lot worse off than you are. This season has certainly reminded us to be thankful for small blessings and wonderful friends.

So to all my friends, family, crocheters and knitters around the world; I wish you all a Merry Christmas (or a Merry Celebration of your choice) and keep the faith in your heart. When things look at their bleakest, open your eyes, look around and reach out, ask for help, you matter and that is the most important thing to remind yourself of.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

CBC's 75th anniversary - Childhood Memories

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November 2nd was the 75th anniversary of the CBC. Part of The National's news broadcast was a look back at the shows that people watched.

I had completely forgotten about these childhood shows until I saw clips of them. A flood of memories reminded me of the black and white TV we watched during breakfast, supper and the evenings. At that time, the TV was in the large farm kitchen, the better for my mother to watch over my brother and I while she did dishes, cooked and cleaned.
Most Canadians know The Friendly Giant, and Mr Dressup. But for the most part, only french speaking Canadians remember these 60's shows.

Bobino et Bobinette
A show about a brother and sister, the brother always good, the sister, not so good. He would help her out of whatever scrape she got herself into with lesson learned.

A puppet with his friend the bear who would only have one word menum menum. Today's generation would think we were nuts to love this show LOL

A doll who sat on a bit chair with a book of stories with a lesson learned from each. I watched part of an episode and can't fathom for the life of me what I saw in this show. LOL

La Souris Verte
Dix moutons Neuf moineaux Huit marmottes Sept lapins Six canards Cinq fourmis Quatre chats Trois poussins Deux belettes Et une souris Une souris verte! This was the intro song.

Sol et Gobelet
Two of the most hilarious characters ever seen. The show was live and full of ad libs which meant the studio cameras had to adapt quickly.

A Japanese show about a hero who fought invaders. Yes, even then I was a nerd and watched sci-fi LOL

I know most english speaking readers will have no clue about these shows. It's ok, I look at english children's shows from back then and don't get it :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Voicing Hamilton revisited

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Yesterday I had my third class at the library and it was fantastic. I'm absolutely rediscovering the enjoyment of learning and attending school that I had forgotten how much I loved. But I also absolutely appreciate and love not being harassed by ignorant/petty/bigoted students who parroted their parent's views on metis children.

The morning was spent listening to a short lecture by Daniel and then interacting with the author of one of the textbooks we received at the beginning of the class. I finally appreciate poetry in a way I never did as a teenage student. I also figured out why my appreciation has changed, experience, maturity. It's amazing how your mind suddenly finds relations and understanding where in the past, poetry was just words that didn't make a whole lot of sense and defied explanation as to their usefulness.

Once again, an amazing delicious lunch was served. I did not catch who had organized it, but kudos to them. It was appreciated and enjoyed by all.

The afternoon lab was spent in small groups reviewing the book of poetry and images and figuring out what each person saw in a lot of the poems and photographs. So much insight, so many ideas and interpretations and it was fantastic that everyone got to contribute to the sharing.

This reminds me of how different this teaching approach is to what I remember higher education being like 30 years ago. I love the interaction between teacher and student. The teacher is not so much a "teacher" as popularly defined but more of an elder sharing their life experiences, the influences that shaped their knowledge and allowing us to peek into their past. I also love the fact that we are all respected as individuals and that each of us have experiences worth sharing relating to what we are studying.

We also got a chance to discuss what our end of class presentation will include. In the group I was a part of, one of the students will be doing a series of paintings comparing several public buildings in Hamilton then and now and their final destination  in the 200 years that have ensued since their beginning. A couple of students in the study group will be doing a photographic presentation, but unfortunately did not catch as to the subject of these presentations. I love the selection of various medias that everyone will be using for their end projects. These will showcase Hamilton at it's best and at it's worse both current and historically.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Go the F**K to sleep!

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 I had to laugh when I came across this gem of a book. It will raise eyebrows I'm sure, but if you're a parent, you will recognise the mental soliloquy that is stuck on a never ending loop as you try and get your little one to fall asleep every night. It may not be peppered with swear words, but I'm sure we've all substituted or added some invectives along the way.

This is definitely NOT a book to read to your little ones, but definitely one you will want to read before you go to sleep. Great way to get rid of the frustrations and reminds you that you're not the only parent who wants their darling child to go the F**K to sleep!

The fact that it is read by Samuel Jackson just puts the candle on the cake LOL

There is even a Facebook Page you can love.

My darling daughter was one of those children who refused to go to sleep. She'd happily climb into bed but that was it. I would read Dr Seuss to my darling daughter, 1, 2 and sometimes 3 books and she'd be sitting there wide-eyed while my eyes were falling shut. One night I handed her the book and asked her to read it. It was quite interesting to watch a 3 year old reading a story that she'd heard so many times she didn't need to know the words. She'd just point to the pictures and tell me about each one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

All about her heart

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I have a daughter, a beautiful kind hearted wonderful courageous daughter.
She arrived in this world today, many years ago.
She greeted me with a smile and a sigh before going back to sleep.
She greeted me with love and trust in her eyes, that I promised to uphold each and every day.
She gave me her heart to hold, to love, to cherish and protect.
She gave me her soul.

I watched her grow up
I watched her figure out her way in this world,
I watched her crash and waited
I helped when she asked

I stood by, calmly and patiently waiting for the angel within her to grow and come out.
I hid my aching heart watching the difficult moments she lived through
I sent my love, on wings of angels, hoping that it would be felt and strength gained from it.

My arms are always open to comfort, understand, love.
My heart is always with her, every day a new challenge to overcome
My smile is always ready
My kiss, always warm on her forehead irregardless of what life throws at us.

To my beautiful daughter,
May she never be taken for granted.



The little girl in this video reminded me so much of my own daughter at that age. The quiet dancing, from the heart, from her soul. I had to share this as I only have the video in my mind which is much more difficult to share :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Voicing Hamilton

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I had my very first university level class today!

It is part of a pilot project that McMaster University has created to help those who cannot afford a university education get a taste of what being an adult student can be like. The course is in the Humanities studies and is called Voicing Hamilton. We will be looking at the history of Hamilton from the viewpoint of various native Hamiltonians who have written books, personal histories, photographed, and poems about it's people and the city itself.

The class is on every Saturday until the first Saturday of December. The morning session will be a lecture and discussion on the materials we had to read during the week leading up to the class. There will also be special guests who have been invited to share with us their viewpoint on Hamilton. The afternoon will be breaking up into smaller groups and beginning to work and develop the final presentation on our personal take of Hamilton, in other words, making our voices heard. We will have the assistance of McMaster arts and science students who volunteered to help with the course. These students will also enjoy learning alongside of us all about Hamilton. The nursing students graciously offered to cover for lunch and today's was excellent with 4 varieties of pizza along with a delicious mixed greens salad, coffee, pop, tea, and desert! cookies, squares, mincemeat pies, and apples.

The wide range of people who are attending this course will make it that much more interesting as we (they) cover a span of experiences from newly arrived to long time resident. The disparity in ages also gives the viewpoints an interesting twist which I feel will make the class that much more interesting as we have people in their early twenty's to people in their retirement years. The Spectator has a nice article in the Saturday paper about this class.

I am looking forward to hearing our professor speak about Hamilton. He is a well educated man, broad minded, and comes across as a receptive participant and is as excited as the rest of the students in the class, perhaps even more excited as at the end of the first day, the dynamics of the group were already becoming distinct and the various ideas, suggestions and as end of course presentation ideas were voiced, sparked even more discussions and created even more excitement as everyone realised that "Yes, we are doing this!"

There are 2 people who figure in this undertaking; the first is the coordinator, Jeanette Eby, she is the go-to person, the one who contacted various groups and urban cores to recruit students. She was also the face of Voicing Hamilton during the selection interviews, the scheduling and organizing the nitty gritty stuff that makes this class tic. The second person, which I first met during the Meet 'n Greet a few weeks ago is the professor; Daniel Coleman. I had no knowledge of this man before this class started, but from the moment I shook hands with him, I knew that there was a gentle soul, someone who truly cared about what information and wisdom he imparts to those who take the time to listen. He is an energetic man who loves to learn just as much as he loves to teach or maybe teach is the wrong word, but more loves to share what he has learned along the way with people. And by sharing, he also learns new things himself, so the class is more of a symbiosis than the typical teacher student relationship. He would be an amazing native story teller... perhaps he was in a previous life...

During the meet `n greet a few weeks ago, one of the things that was discussed was each of us choosing a subject and media to present our voice of Hamilton. I had 4 distinct ideas of things I wanted to further explore relating to the city of Hamilton and it's inhabitants. After today, I have narrowed my choices down to one, the one that I feel will satisfy my own curiosity and thirst for knowledge as a Métis person. What impact did the settling of this area have on the tribes and peoples already living here and where have these people gone in today's Hamilton. Now what remains to figure out is how I will present this research once it is completed. I found it very exciting that once I had voiced my choices, that I had several people already willingly contributing sources of information for my research. Just by that action, I knew that was the subject I had to do, not just for me, but for those around me, for the peoples and for Hamilton. 

I look forward to next week's class since by then I will have read several chapters in the book "Hamilton; A People's History" by Bill Freeman. and jotted down some thoughts. Hopefully by then, I will also have an idea of what media I will use to present my research. So far, I have a sense that it will be organic in nature; since I am a tactile and visual learner, I tend to present my findings in a tactile/visual medium. I know while I can write somewhat well, I'm always hesitant of writing a long involved thesis and have no one interested in reading it. Certainly, it would represent my findings as well as my feelings on those findings and possibly some conjecture, but in the end, would anyone else care? I feel that a more 'artistic' presentation may attract more attention and make people 'look' instead of glance.