Northern Comfort

I finally started running again this week.  Hooray me!  I can almost hear the sigh of relief from the seams of my jeans.  Things were getting a little (okay – a lot!) tight.  Running usually clears my head, gives me time to process thoughts and sometimes sparks a great idea.  I think I have waaayy too much to process lately because running is just not cutting it.  My brain is such a jumble.  Maybe writing will help?  I don’t know.

I thought I would give it a try.  I sat staring at my saved list with my four or five drafts staring back at me.  I did not have a feel for any of them, yet I did not know what I wanted to newly write about.  I then glanced down the bed at my feet (yes, I’m in bed at 8 PM).  My feet clad in the biggest, wooliest, blue socks ever.  Don’t hold me to that, but they are pretty big and blue.  See my photo.


Big Blues

Now I tried to pose my feet in the photo so that it did appear that I have ankles.  No dice.  I do have skinny Nish ankles under there – I swear.  The socks are just that big.  Why am I wearing such big socks, you ask?

These socks were made by my Granny for my Grandpops.  Now Grandpops was not the smallest guy around.  He was well over 6 feet tall with a size 13 shoe.  He was one large dude.  He used to wear a hat that said F.B.I. which in the days before Facebook meant F@c$ing Big Indian.

Now I loved these socks since the day my Granny made them.  I am now wondering why I never just asked Granny to make my own pair for a 5’8″, size 8 shoed girl.  I guess I didn’t need to because my Grandpops passed not too long after the socks were made and passed on to me.  I’m also actually glad that I never did ask for my own socks.  For these giant socks bring me comfort.

I wear these socks when I’m sick.  I wear these socks when I’m sad.  I wear these socks when I’m relaxing in front of the fire knitting or reading.  You get the picture.

The reason that these socks are out again was because I was cold.  It has been colder than usual here in the GTA and my bed was freezing!  I got up and pulled on the socks.  I slid back under the covers and had the sleep only a child has.  That’s the power of the socks.  They bring so much comfort from a time when I was young and my Granny and Grandpops were still here with us.

Maybe that’s the true reason the socks are out.  I just need some comfort to ease my jumbled mind.



Taking it Easy

So I have been AWOL for more than a few weeks. As the title of this implies, I have been taking it easy. If you are a regular reader, you know that I am always on the go. However, I have been sidelined the last little while. Sidelined by a small little organ that sits just below the liver – the gallbladder. It’s job is to produce bile and aid fat digestion.

I had been having pain in my upper abdomen for a few days and went to the doctor on a Thursday. I was given a requisition for an ultrasound that I was to have on Monday. I didn’t make it to Monday and I had an ultrasound in the ER on Sunday. The diagnosis: multiple small stones in my gallbladder and elevated levels of alkaline phosphatase in my blood. The levels of alkaline phosphatase and the pain that I had was a result of passing a gall stone into the digestive tract. Ouch!

The diagnosis was surprising, yet not surprising. It was not surprising because studies indicate that North American Native people (particularly women) have a higher prevalence of gall stones. In fact, friends have often joked with me because I still have my gallbladder. The gallbladder is often removed when attacks occur on a frequent basis.

What was surprising to me was the reason why I had just started exhibiting symptoms now, since it was likely that I had the stones for awhile. I have been training for a 5K race. I’ve been using a Couch to 5K phone app and I was on week 6 when the abdominal pain started. I was running about 15K a week. Each time that I ran, my monitor watch was telling me that I was burning approximately 400 calories. Now add in the calories that I am burning by exclusively breast feeding my baby – up to 500 calories day! Now let’s assume I was burning the full 500 calories. That’s 3500 calories a week, just from breastfeeding. Add in the running and that is 4700 calories a week. There’s more. My basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories per day my body burns, is 2400. Therefore, on running days, I was burning approximately 3300 calories a day.

Now let’s talk about how much I was eating each day. To be short – not enough, and not enough of the good stuff. My daily meals typically looked like this: cereal with soy milk for breakfast, a leftover meal from the previous nights dinner for lunch, dinner and a protein shake after running. The meals were home cooked from an eat clean or Weight Watchers cookbook and reasonably portioned. If I was lucky to have a break from the kids, I would sometimes get fruit and cheese for a snack during the day. Around 8 o’clock every night I would be famished. And what did my body want? The most amount of calories that I could take in the shortest period of time…which normally meant craving high fat food: chips, french fries, pizza, etc. I most often than not caved into these cravings. I was literally losing a pound of weight off my body every day so I rationalized that I could eat those things and get away with it.

Wrong!! As my gallbladder so kindly reminded me.

I was losing a ton of weight, but I was not doing it healthily. I was becoming more healthy by running and eating clean but I was sabotaging myself by not eating enough during the day.

Now I really do not want to have my gallbladder removed, so I have been taking it easy. Resting more. Planning more. I have started cooking meals with a good friend every Sunday so I always have healthy food available. I have been watching my calorie intake more closely. I have been limiting the amount of fatty foods that I have been putting in my body. However, things are still not perfect. This week I’m dying to run but I have not been watching my calorie intake and have been eating poorly – it’s was Fuzz’s birthday. We ordered a ton of food from his favourite BBQ joint and had cupcakes AND cake! That kind of food will not fuel my body properly.

I am seriously thinking about hiring somebody to design an eating plan for me – so I can continue to lose the last of the weight while running and not have to worry about my gall bladder. Nutrition and physiology are such complex things.

The good news is that all this planning ahead has now freed up time to blog. Such a good thing when I have all these thoughts bouncing around in my head when I am running. I’d think it up then but then I was not writing to release it from my fingers. I’m glad it is about to change.


Where I Am From….

I am from the drumming heartbeat of Mother Earth and Catholic hymns.  From moose sinew and holy water.  I am from dream catchers and reciting the rosary.

I am from a house that was built on reserve land by my father and grandfather’s hands.  Before this I lived in a home that may have been overcrowded with people (a grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, aunt, uncle and brother) but filled with love.

I am from the land where water runs cold and deep, there are trees as far as the eye can see.   The air smells of wild flowers in the summer and wood smoke hangs in the air in the winter.  You can find relics of the past by the stream behind the old church.

I am from where my Grandpops’ gun is shot off into the air to celebrate the New Year.  My Granny’s pots, pans and other noisemakers are struck to frighten off the spirits from the Old Year.  Where we all dared the dancing spirits of the Northern lights by whistling at them at night.

I am from a last name that means HOPE.  While it is a language different from my own, it is mine and I am proud.  I will never change it.

I am from people who fought and adapted to stay alive despite continual oppression.  Women were strong and respected as leaders.  Men were not afraid to provide care and responsibility for their families.

From the black moss on rocks from Nanabush’s burns, the reason that the bear has a small tail and why dogs can no longer speak to humans.  From where you gather all snow, hail and rain in the month of May as it is water from the Holy Mother.

I am from Catholic beginnings but was taught to reclaim tradition.  While I may never go back to church, I will now forever carry my medicine bundle and feathers.  I grow my own medicines and smudge with my children.  My children will always know this, their names will remind them.

I am from the shores of Lake Helen and I am a proud Ojibwe woman.  Childhood meals included fried bologna and macaroni and tomato soup as well as Kraft dinner and hot dogs.  It was a treat to have an actual bun rather than just rolled bread.  I am also from rabbit stew, moose meat and porridge and freshly caught pickeral, potatoes and creamed corn.

I am from a family matriarch that was the first recognized female chief in Canada who always kept chocolate bars and candy in her desk for us at the band office.  She always had blueberry pie made for the priest every Sunday in the summer.  She had the best movie collection north of Superior.

I am from the long line of ancestors that now line my walls of my home.  From a great, great Grandfather that brought us hope.  From a Great Grandmother that lived in the community further up the lakeshore.  From two Grandfathers that survived residential school.  From a Grandmother that wrote and played me songs on her guitar and another Grandmother that will always be my mentor and best friend.  From a Father that was always there to put his children’s needs first.  From a Mother that maintains the long line of strong, independent women.

I am me.


Note: This blog was inspired by this writing exercise.  I would love to read your version.

No rest for the wicked….

…. or in my case the semi-obsessive compulsive that cannot sit still.

Today I got a lecture from Fuzz about slowing down and taking things easy.  I had cold symptoms all week (head ache, sore throat, burny chest) but it never quite developed into the full-blown cold that our kid, Whirlwind, just got over.

What did I do?  Well, I just kept going like the Energizer Bunny.  I still got up at 6:30 in the morning even though Fuzz has been home with Whirlwind.  I washed our couch covers.  I walked the dogs.  I went grocery shopping…twice.  I made PB and J cupcakes to accompany our Roast Beef Mango Chutney sandwiches.  I took Whirlwind to see Chimpanzee and Thomas the Train at the mall the next day.  I washed the baseboards on my main floor.  I preserved art projects with semi-gloss shellac.  I bundled cut tree limbs for compost.

Seriously.  It’s like I am physically incapable of sitting still.  The only time I sit still is when I am working my day job.  You know – the one I get paid for.  It’s just my physical respite as my brain is still churning, my ears are listening to meetings on speakerphones and my fingers are typing furiously.  Note: This is when I get the lecture that I should at least take a break to get up to eat and drink (will I ever win?!)

As for the brewing cold, I naively hoped that it would just have those muted symptoms that would eventually disappear.


As the day wore on today, my nose started leaking.  My chest burned like a molten field of lava.  My cough is now hacky and hoarse.  I sometimes get a stabbing pain in my left ear that is surprising not caused by Fuzz sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher.  Awesome…not!

I think it is finally time to rest.  It’s a good thing I bought paint for the nursery at lunch and re-potted my houseplants after work 😉


A Bowl of Cherries

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me why I was so lucky.  Cue laughter.  Lucky?!  The last time I checked, I did not win the lottery.  That would be so completely awesome but not likely to happen.  Upon further explanation, however, she thought I was lucky because everything seemed to go my way all the time.  That statement was almost as funny as me winning the lottery because I can certainly beg to differ.  After thinking about it though, it does appear that everything is always ‘coming up Milhouse’ in my life.

I think this charmed appearance is attributable to a few other things, rather than luck.  Risking sounding like an Oprah’s Lifeclass, I thought I would share some of the things that I use to just float on.  Coping mechanisms? Maybe….but they work.

  1. Optimism.

I ALWAYS expect a favourable outcome.  It may not be the outcome I was expecting, but there is always something favourable that I can work with.  Opportunities exist everywhere.

  1. Positivity.

Why am I being told that is not a word?  I’m sure a chemist or physicist would argue that one?!  Anyway, back to the topic at hand…I cannot stand negativity.  What is the purpose of constantly singling out what is wrong with something?  It not only brings you down but everyone around you that has to hear that crap.

  1. Resourcefulness.

This one is tied to both #1 and #2.  Work with what you have.  Expect a favourable outcome but if your expectation does not happen as planned, work with what you have.  Things can always be worse so focus on the positive and do what needs to be done to succeed.  I find this one applies to everything – writing a blog, working with fondant, plastering walls, stalking celebrities (maybe I will tell you about this one someday!)

Ultimately, I contribute this resiliency to my family and upbringing.  My parents and grandparents always reminded me that I could do anything that I put my mind to.  I believed them because they not only just told me that, they practiced what they preached.  Both my parents (and my grandmother) went back to school as adults and completed their education. They moved.  They traveled.  While they may not have had the best upbringing due to the residual effects of colonialism, they never let fear and doubt stop them from trying new things.  Learning new things.  Mastering new things.

With that said, the last thing that I always ensure I do is:

  1. Express gratitude.

Every night before bed I marvel at how good things really are.  I have a wonderful husband, son, family, house, job, friends, pets, neighbours….and the list goes on and on.  I am more than thankful.

So that is why my life often looks like a bowl of cherries when in fact it is often just a leftover bowl of half eaten cherries mixed with pits.  It is all just a matter of perspective.  My best advice is to never wallow.  Throw a mini pity party (maybe with a little ice cream) and move on.  Take a chance.  Do what you always aspired to do.  Believe me – if I can do it, so can you.


Walking in Two Worlds

Biindigen (welcome)!

You are now reading my very first post on my new blog.  Exciting?  Hmm…possibly for you but definitely for me.   For a few years now, I have been using other sources of social media to share my perspective of a First Nation woman living in an urban environment.  However, this is my first attempt at a blog.  I’m learning – bear with me.

Many people have encouraged me to start a blog but I have always been hesitant.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always dreamed about being that girl.  Sitting in a coffee shop posting musings that others find interesting.  Can’t you just picture me with my latte and black-rimmed glasses?

I just simply wondered if I could offer a perspective that actually WAS interesting?

Inspiration struck when I read a quote from the CBC series “8th Fire” website.  It made me realize that I do have an interesting perspective.  The quote is:

“We’ve seen so many strategies that were set up to assimilate people, and we’re still here. For me, we can be a native person that has a foot in the bush and a foot in town, but really be who we are and in a modern world.” – Edith Cloutier

With this quote, I realized that I am that Native person.  I have a foot in the bush and a foot in town (or in this case, a REALLY big city).  I grew up on a small reserve in Northern Ontario, left to attend university in a (relatively) urban centre and then moved to work in Toronto.  I definitely have a perspective worth sharing because there are increasing numbers of Aboriginal people moving to urban centres.   Leaving home to live, love, work, and raise their families away from their first influences.  I am not alone.

So there you have it.  My blog will be on my life bridging my background and culture with my new(ish) reality.  I’ve had some time to adjust so you will read some stories from past experiences, but you will also read some newly minted stories.  Believe me – they crop up everywhere.

Baamaapii (See you again).