Category: rural life

A New Beginning

It’s been over a month since my last post. A lot has happened since then. I got laid off. My last day at the Center for Small Towns was yesterday. I found a new job. I’ll be moving back to Wisconsin in a few weeks to direct Kinship Mentoring of Columbia County. I’ve found a place to live. I’ve been doing all the pieces that it takes to move from one place to another. All of this on top of my VNS implant, dad’s death, and just living in the reality of the COVID pandemic made for a very intense summer.

It’s been a challenging three years here in Morris. There are good people here, definitely some that I’ll miss. I loved working with my students and the community partners. But, the Center for Small Towns had been getting less and less university support for years. I was too optimistic thinking that it could be anything but frustrating to work in that type of situation. It feels freeing to be done and like I really am starting off on a new adventure and new phase in life.

It feels important to me to treat this moment like I would a new year and to name the things that I want to hold myself to as I launch this next phase. I don’t know that this list is complete or how long any of these things goes for. But, these are the things I’m thinking about to do for myself in this next phase.

  1. Getting back on track with my healthier eating habits (cut out that sugar)
  2. Getting the phone and computer out of my bedroom
  3. Learning guitar
  4. Learning Anishabemowin
  5. Becoming seizure-free
  6. Cutting my social media time and increasing my fun stuff time
  7. Keep my new home in a comfortable order
  8. Becoming an active part of my new community

I’m sure there will be more to add and to change as time passes, but that’s the list for now that I want to focus on for now. It feels good to be starting again.

Wishing you all good adventures!

Growing Clarity

It’s been almost two weeks now since my VNS device was turned on and nearly a week since my first increase in voltage. There will be six more increases in voltage until I reach my full dose that will, hopefully, significantly decrease if not stop the seizures that have been a part of my life for so many years.

Already the little device seems to have become a natural part of my being. This is so much different than medication. Sometimes I can feel the little buzz in my throat. I think of it now as a frog in my throat and it reminds me of Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppet Movie, one of the first movies I ever went to see as a child. It brings me good memories and comfort.

Where almost every medication I’ve tried has brought me rashes, tremors, fogginess, and just a general feeling of malaise, I am slowly feeling the curtain lift with this treatment. Buddy and I are back to walking about 2 hours a day. My focus is returning at work. I’ve been feeling good enough about myself and my direction to get myself a few household gifts, things I’ve needed for quite some time but just never got around to purchasing. I’ve returned to actually reading, not just listening to audio books. A lot of little things, good little things. I feel the world turning in a good direction.

I am once again beginning to move toward bigger questions. Walking through the small town where I live I’ve been seeing lots of Black Lives Matter signs. I have one in my own yard. There are very few Blacks who live in the community. I find myself wondering who the signs are for. Are they here in support of Black people facing discrimination and racism or are they here to make White folks feel good about themselves because they put up a sign? I don’t know. I keep puzzling and have found no easy answers, but it does seem to be a question worth pondering.

One Week In On The Fruits and Veggies Challenge

Well, if I made six cups of fruits and veggies today, it was just by the skin of my teeth. I took a trip to South Dakota this afternoon. It was the 152nd annual Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Wacipi (powwow) and it felt time to go. I am glad that I went. Powwows, however, are not the place to find nice, healthy fruits and vegetables. They are though the place to find the best fry bread known to humanity and that’s reason enough to go.

So, my food at home was good and healthy; yogurt with strawberries, mango, and banana, fresh green beans to snack on, things like that. At the powwow though I enjoyed a delicious Indian taco and some nachos with cheese. The day wound up a bit under 1600 calories, so not too bad even with some high carb indulgences which were well worth it.

The food was just one piece of the powwow. I’ve gone to many before and they are always good for the heart. There’s a special power in the drum. It’s good to feel the music. I find myself watching the dancers, thinking it’s probably nearly time for me to step away, but I can’t just yet after all it’s men’s fancy, my favorite dance. Then a few minutes later I think it’s near time to go, but I can’t right now, it’s women’s traditional, my favorite dance. This goes on through all the different dances. Each has it’s own strength. Each holds a role in teaching the children to be proud of who they are. It’s a gift to get to sit there on the sidelines and witness what remains, how the strength of generations continues forward never to be squelched by the colonizers.

I sat today on the sidelines when the older man sitting in front of me turned to talk with me. He asked where I was from when I answered and asked where he was from he told me, just down the road and then proceeded to speak to me in Dakota. I looked at him confused. He translated what he’d said for me. He told me he’d learned English when he went to school and asked me if I was surprised that he was Native. I was a bit, but I’ve known a fair number of blond haired, blued eyed Native people in Minnesota, so it wasn’t too big a surprise. Then he went on and told me stories of his life. He must have talked for at least an hour talking of his family, ancestors, speaking in both English and Dakota. He shared so many bits of wisdom. It was one of those life moments that cannot be anticipated and reaches in to do amazing things.

It was a good day and has been a good first week. Let’s see where next week goes.

It’s Been a Fair Experience

One of my favorite parts of summer as a child was fair time, specifically going to the Sheboygan County Fair at the end of August. It was a family outing every year. We’d do it all. Wandering through the barns, riding the rides, eating the best of the funnel cakes, ice cream, and the simple plethora of fair food. The best, to my memory was the building with the school exhibits. It was filled, floor to ceiling, with the works of school kids across Sheboygan county. If I was lucky, I might find a piece that I’d created.

Fair time was also a time for a bit of jealousy. Who could help but be jealous of the 4-H kids? Girl Scout camp was great, but these kids got to have horses and cows of their own and got to spend nearly a week going on rides, eating fair food, and hanging out with friends in the barns!

Years later I still love a good fair. Sadly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Sheboygan County Fair, but these days I’ve become a visitor to Minnesota’s fairs. It started with my work at Toxic Taters. Each year I’d go to Becker, Wadena, Hubbard, East Otter Tail, and Perham. One year I made it to West Otter Tail too and another year it was Cass County.

My time being employed with Toxic Taters is over, but my love of fairs continues. Already this year, I’ve been back to Wadena and today I was off to Todd County. I’m hoping for at least three more this year.

It’s a joy to watch those 4-H kids. I never realized when I was busy being jealous of them for their freedom and fun as a kid, that the reality was that they were learning, developing a base for themselves to work from into the future. I suppose the same happened in Girl Scouts, but I was too busy having fun myself at the time to notice.

Each county brings something special to its celebration. Today in Todd county, I saw their strengths in showing cattle and doing the barrel runs with the horses. Last weekend’s highlight in Wadena was definitely the tractor pull. Becker county is strong in the midway offering lots of rides and games for the kids.

None of the fairs have quite energy that I remember from those days at Sheboygan county. Today, I actually saw a large list of disbanded 4-H groups in Todd county hanging on a wall. It made me a bit sad. I wonder if 4-H might rebuild as we, as a society, come to recognize our need for healthy foods, the necessity of working toward environmental and economic sustainability if we are to survive, and if there might come a day in which we truly recognize our need for community such as that which is offered through groups like 4-H and events like the fairs. Could we become that dream community again that I imagine from my childhood? What would it take? What does the fair, the 4-H of the future look like? How do we continue to provide that base of learning and that simple freedom and fun?

Meanwhile, I’ll just keep going to the fairs we have and having fun with the simple things from wandering among the animals to checking out the demo derby!