Today is my birthday. I love my birthday. Absolutely and totally adore it. Who doesn’t really?
This birthday is extra special to me because it is the day that most of my nieces and nephews start back to school. As a young person, my interest in school evolved over the years. Most years, especially the early ones – say kindergarten to grade 3 - my interest was purely academic.
Gradually, I learned that school was also about new beginnings, new friendships, and new opportunities to learn about things that had as much to do or more with how people interacted with one another than merely meeting the requirements of curriculum. In fact – I was barely aware that there was a curriculum or method to the teaching. And truthfully – since the majority of my education did not occur at Six Nations, the content about the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Treaties was non-existent.
I know that schools here at Six Nations, and in other First Nation communities, are working to change what and how we teach our kids. I know many teachers who are committed to education, to lifting up their students, and helping them to be happy, empowered and self motivated learners who know who they are.
That’s not an easy task either. Today, I send all my best wishes and hope to our education community – our students and our teachers, and their families. I hope that they embrace life, learning and our ways.
But back to my birthday!
Turning 30 two years ago was one of the best birthdays I ever had. For many years I had looked forward it, imagining it would be a sort of milestone for the things I would learn about myself, what I liked, what kind of person I wanted to be and what kind of life and dreams I wanted to live.
It was everything I hoped it would be and more – mostly because I got to keep living, as challenging as that can feel at times. So this year, in honour of living and pursuing dreams, I have compiled this list of 32 favourite moments, things, inspirations, gifts, cards, songs, movies, you name it. These things helped me celebrate life in the moment, appreciate the living of the past, carry forward when life seemed insurmountable and be caught wondrously off guard by the beauty of this world while learning to live in a way that showed I care about the future.
1. Birthday Cake. Chocolate, delicious, baked for me by my Mom. The candles are in the shape of an S with a star. (I often sign my name with an S and a star because it makes me smile). So I loved how my nephew arranged the triumphant flames of 32. I blew them all out. One go.
2. This amazing ring that was a gift from my sister. It is a Herkimer diamond. I actually didn’t know what a Herkimer diamond was until yesterday. Herkimer diamonds come from the Mohawk Valley, ancestral lands then and now, and I nearly cried when she explained its significance.
3. This moment where Achilles (Brad Pitt) tells the Myrmidon to storm the beach with him. It’s just such a powerful moment. “Take it! It’s yours!” I feel that way about my dreams sometimes – like they are just waiting for me to jump in, grab hold, and live them.
4. This birthday card – for my 30thbirthday. It was an awesome card and was given to me by my lovely colleagues. I still have it and bring it out every year.
5. When my little sister won a national writing contest, because she wrote this incredible poem. This poem has seen me through some dark moments. I hope you follow the link because the poem is beautiful, incredible and lyrical.
6. The Vampire Diaries. Lol. I can’t really think of anything inspiring to say about this. Yes, it’s a guilty pleasure, however - it is also very captivating storytelling and has held my attention for the last three years. I can’t wait for Season 4 to begin.
8. Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech. Deserves it’s own number.
9. Firefly. I came to this show late – but it’s fantastic. Nathan Fillion right? This is a great reunion video at this year's ComicCon.
10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Longstanding role model.
11. A quahog necklace that was a birthday gift from my older sister. It's gorgeous and calming. Like both of my sisters, actually.
12. Once Upon a Time. The first season of this show was incredible. I love happy endings.
13. Joss Whedon. Because he’s an amazing actor in this debut role. And because of Cabin in the Woods. Reigning favourite movie of 2012. Also - Felicia Day. She is awesome too.
14. Nieces and nephews are the best. I’m really grateful for all of their beautiful spirits. Each and every one of them is so unique – and though they’re different, they love each other very much, and are happy to be family.
15. A lovely picture of my sister's daughters hiding from the camera.
16. This chessboard. We had one like it when I was little – but it got broken. So it’s cool to have this one, a recent replacement. I think it’s made of onyx.
17. My cat Lexie. She’s awesome and slightly ferocious. Clingy yet independent. Remarkably anti social at times. She is all black, tiny and came from Niagara on the Lake.
18. The moment when Gandalf goes riding out into the fields outside of the city of Gondor to help Faramir return to the city safely. It’s absolutely heroic. Helping whenever, wherever, however one can.
19. The music by this group/company – Two Steps From Hell. Seriously epic.
20. Learning about water and the importance of water has been an experience. Here is the beautiful Tiffany Falls. It was really fun to walk around and explore this area and I’m looking forward to more water related learning experiences.
21. Archery. The shooting of arrows. Not quite bow hunting yet, but definitely aiming at big pieces of Styrofoam and trying to hit with some semblance of accuracy and precision.
22. Yoga. For years I did pilates, and I still really like pilates, but about a month ago I began doing yoga more seriously. And wow. It’s incredible.
23. An introduction to Cayuga language class I took earlier this year. I forgot how much I liked learning in formal settings. It was good to be reminded. Here is a link to the Cayuga language project - COOL
Cayuga: Our Oral Legacy
24. Writing. Reading and writing have always been the favourite activity. I love them, just as I love playing outside, daydreaming and imagining things. The more I do it, the happier I seem to become.
25. Being read to. I was actually surprised to discover just how much I like being read to. My mom read my little sister and I, the Old Man in the Sea when we vacationed in the Yukon years ago. I truly think there is a distinct possibility that this will become my favourite form of storytelling/reading. We’ll see.
26. Running is another favourite thing. I have been a runner since I was little, when we would travel to other First Nations to run. There are pictures and perhaps I’ll find them some day. Here’s my Tom Longboat medal for this year’s run.
27. My bed. Sleeping and dreaming is really important. It helps everything so much to be able to get rest. I’m very grateful for sleep and for being to rest peacefully.
28. Letter writing. This is a new hobby I will continue to cultivate. I have sent two letters at the time of this post. I look forward to sending many more.
29. Finishing journals. In the last year – I finished two journals. It’s really cool and perhaps really self indulgent, but honestly, it has been a great comfort to be able to write about things freely and without the pressures of formality.
30. These amazing displays that the schools kids did for Solidarity Day this year (The same day I started the blog actually). It was incredible. Inspiring in the extreme.
31. This sculpture was a gift from my parents for my 32ndbirthday. Wow. I actually did cry over this one. My father is an incredibly gifted sculptor. He is also an avid learner, a rare and powerful force of creativity and someone who really strives to make good art. I have wanted one of his stone creations for a long, long time. And not only do I now have one, but the stone comes from beneath our community here at Six Nations. It's mind blowing how much I love this gift and how I will treasure it.
32. My awesome family. The number one favourite, the top of any list, in any year, always.
Wow. There were definitely more than 32 things that stood out as favourites, or experiences and friendships that I’m grateful, happy, excited for and about. I mean graduating was pretty cool too, lol. But if you stuck it out this long, you deserve to see the end of the epic birthday blog. It’s been a sensational 32 years. I hope everyone has a wonderful day this September 4th!
P.S. I tried to resist but couldn't. Education and school always makes me think of this video.