I am fortunate

I wake up every day knowing that I am very fortunate to have a good job that comes with lots of benefits such as good supervisors and educational perks. I learn amazing stuff that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to. Whenever I read or hear the news and learn of unfortunate events or circumstances people are suffering all over the world, I pray and thank the Holy People for my good fortune.

My current job is to work with teachers, students, scientists and community activists. I am fortunate. One of the hardest jobs I believe people have is to work with the less fortunate in less fortunate circumstances whether it is due to environmental disasters, poverty stricken areas, etc. To see people suffering everyday is something that is very hard for me to even think about. I am feel the pain of others on a metaphysical level, if that is the correct term, and I get very much depressed. I feel for people who are less fortunate. I don’t if what I am saying is selfish but I don’t know how else to say it.

Loss of Family

Lefty!A day and one night ago, our beloved dog, Lefty, left this earth for doggie heaven. It was a sudden departure my family and I were not ready for. I was not ready for him to pass on because I was convinced he was going to live forever. I was convinced I would have the time to say my final words of love and loyalty to him as I did with our other dog, Ca$h, who passed on earlier this year. To put it simply, I am devastated. I am heartbroken. I am grieving for one of my best friends who protected me night and day. He was always so happy to see my family and I when we returned home from work or a visit to the family on the Navajo Nation. Let me tell you how we met and fell in love with Lefty.

When my husband and I began dating, he already lived with a blue-heeler mix named Ca$h who he had adopted from a local animal shelter, Second Chance Center for Animals when he was a wee pup. After two years, my husband and I tired daily of keeping Ca$h entertained because he had so much energy even after 2 hour walks in the forest near our home. We decided to get him a buddy to play with because he needed someone to be with during the day and just to keep him company. So off we went to Second Chance and visited all the dogs available for adoption in the outdoor kennels. As we came into the yard, the dogs erupted with barks of excitement and we were a little overwhelmed. As we read the biography of each dog, I noticed one particular golden fur ball sitting quietly in his kennel. He had these small cute ears that folded over when at attention, and that he was round all over. He also had a lame right leg from when a vehicle hit him on the Hopi rez, and a kind passerby took him into Second Chance. I approached the kennel and the dog sat down near the gate and looked at me with his huge puppy eyes and licked my fingers. It was that moment that he chose us. I said to my husband, “He is the one. Let’s visit with him and adopt him. He is the one!” Naturally, my husband was less inclined to make a seemingly rash decision and said let’s sleep on it and come back the next day with Ca$h. Even then I was reluctant to leave him and I promised him we would come back to visit. The next day couldn’t have come sooner. We learned that another couple of hours, he would’ve been adopted by another couple who were trying to get permission from their apartment’s landlord. We came back to Second Chance and initiated a private visit with Ca$h and Lefty. They immediately got along well and no one growled. Just lots of butt sniffing. That was it! Lefty came home with us. We learned that Lefty was very timid when it came to be leashed and tried to duck out of it, and he did successfully a few times. On immediate arrival at our home, we took both dogs out to the forest for a walk. We placed a new collar on Lefty which he immediately wiggled out of. He was timid and would duck every time we approached to pet him or place a leash or collar on him. He was very skittish and jumped at loud unexpected noises, leading us to believe that he probably was physically abused at one point. He had every right to be untrusting of any human. We were willing to be patient and loving. That was over five years ago and Lefty came love and trust us. Eventually, he stopped being so timid and skittish, and loved his daily walks. He loved doggie treats and would use his big puppy eyes to his advantage to get more treats. Worked every time!

I mentioned that Lefty had a right lame leg, and when it came time to name him we went through a few names; Duece, Johnny, etc. Ca$h was named after Mr. Johnny Cash so we wanted to go with the same name theme. We already had a human friend named Waylon so that was out of the question. My husband also worked as a river guide and as a paddle boat captain so he thought of all the commands he would yell at people like “Left Paddle!” The name Lefty was perfect! It tied in with our other dog’s name Ca$h and from the Willie Nelson song, “Pancho and Lefty” and not to mention, when he sat down he would favor his “left” side. Isn’t that perfect?

He had a lot quirks too. See Ca$h was way more energetic and loved to play his version of fetch GE DIGITAL CAMERAwhich is when we’d throw the stick or ball, he’d run toward it and pick up with his mouth and then stand or run off with it and drop it off in a distance. So I figured it’d be only fair to throw Lefty a stick too, which I did, and boy did he run after it like he was going to beat Ca$h to it. Then he skidded to a sudden halt and stopped to smell some purple flowers. No joke! He literally stopped to smell the flowers! And he never attempted to run after any stick or ball that was thrown. He was happier to smell every flower and plant he came upon.

When I learned of Lefty’s passing, I lost my breath and just about fainted. I miss him terribly. We miss him terribly. The house is a little empty without the two dogs but our third dog, Willie (yes after Mr. Nelson) remains and he will be spoiled rotten. Perhaps we will adopt another friend for him but for now we will continue to celebrate Lefty and Ca$h lives. They gave us so much love and loyalty. My husband says to think of the good times, and the fact that they had such a good life compared to the alternate if they were still abandoned and homeless. I love them so much and will miss them! For now we will bask in the love of Willie, our dog, and Juno, our formerly obese cat (she was very fat when we adopted her).

Best job in the world

I have the best job in the world and it is always the hardest job, and that is being a mother. I really think it is the best job because you have someone who loves you back unconditionally and wants to learn and do everything you know and do. Of course, this is my personal perspective because I know that not everyone feels the same way or has the same experience. Motherhood is very hard and it has taught me immense patience and discipline. I did not realize I was so selfish. I thought I was not that selfish but when my daughter was born, I quickly learned that I had to put my personal wants aside and focus only on the needs when it was absolutely necessary such as personal hygiene and food nourishment. The days of sleeping in and going to an impromptu movie were gone. Gradually, I learned that having my daughter on a routine helped me rest and get some necessary things done. Now as she grows older I find that I can do a lot of stuff with her so she feels like she is helping instead me making her feel like she is in the way.

I do admit that it is nice to get time away from my daughter so she can be with her playmates, and her father and I can work and get necessary chores and errands completed. I currently have a wonderful job where I work with some amazing educators, students, scientists, and activists.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

If I could have any job in the world, I would love to live on the Navajo reservation in my hometown, DSCN1261and I would love to work as a combination of farmer, sheepherder, and run my non-profit, Fifth World Discoveries teaching and sharing traditional and cultural knowledge with youth and adults from all over the nation. I want and need to be near my home on the Navajo Nation. When I was born part of my umbilical cord was still attached, and so when it finally broke off, my parents buried it in the ground so as to keep me connected to the earth and my homeland. So that is where I am connected; physically and spiritually. I really do not have the desire to live elsewhere in the world because home is home, and I want to stay there.

But if I had to dream…perhaps working with Native Hawaiians in Hawaii or aboriginals in New Zealand and Australia on traditional preservation projects.

Is this stability?

I have had the most fun and amazing job since early last year. I applied for the job because I felt I was very much qualified for just about everything on the list especially the preferred qualification of reading and speaking the Navajo language. Why yes, I do know how to read and speak the Navajo language and in fact, I am a fluent speaker, reader and can write some. To say the least, I got the job, which was very exciting because I was not expecting to get a full-time job that encompassed science and working with the Navajo and Hopi tribes. And it happened at the right time because I was looking to move on from my then-current job where I was in turmoil with the some co-workers, and I was not happy. In addition, the job was running out of funds and I was not looking to obtain additional funding to support a place I was not starting to enjoy. So with this new job, little did I know that it was going to be a huge but gradual transition. In short, in my new job I was allowed to move forward and take on responsibilities I was not allowed or rather given the opportunity to do. At my old job, I realized I was stifled and felt very much…stuck. Or perhaps I did not ask for the opportunity to learn these things. Maybe I just felt like the place I was in was where I belonged and someone else would take care of big budget and administrative stuff, and I would do what they told me. You know what? The thing is that I was worth more than that. I was a valuable asset to the organization I was working for and I was severely under appreciated.

Anyhow, my current job is just awesome, and I have learned so much in what seems like a short amount of time. I wish it would last longer but it that is the risk you take when you work in the university world based on soft money. And I am okay with it. I am not panicking nor am I losing that much sleep over what will come after December 31st. But my husband and I have some savings and I have job prospects that might keep some income coming in. I have never been without a job since I was a junior in high school, whether it’s part or full time. It is a scary prospect but then again, I am excited at the idea of having some time to concentrate on some things like do-it-yourself projects or my new non-profit I am starting with a good friend of mine. I like having a full-time job but then again I like being creative and having time for my family and friends, and community projects and events. It is kind of scary going into what seems like the unknown. Well it is the unknown for me because I have never been without a job while having a kid and a few more bills to pay. But then I read Tammy Strobel’s (of the amazing blog Rowdy Kittens) book, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)” and she talks about some of the same fears and her journey into self-employment. I really admire how she loves her life and she loves what she is doing for work and enjoyment. I want to feel like that. I want to feel the way her blog and her words make me feel…good, motivated and happy. We shall see where this journey takes me but I’ll be sure to let you know.

Relax or Keep Going?

My relationship with my husband, through dating and now marriage, I have really changed as a person…for the better of course. I did not realize it but I was a very tense person and I didn’t know when to stop…working, partying, playing or socializing. In looking back, I realize that I was a very tired person who was also physically and mentally unhealthy. I was young. Plain and simple. Young and stupid and careless. Of course, I am not saying that everything I did was unhealthy because I made some really great friends and went on some amazing adventures. I learned so much back then that it has made me a better person. That leads to present day where I have been happily married for five years but together for seven years. In the early years, I worked hard at my jobs and often brought work home to the chagrin of my husband. He was very helpful, accommodating and understanding but after a few years he saw the damage I was doing to myself and to our relationship. The damage to myself was more disconcerting than the relationship because it was obvious we were very much in love (and still are) and that we’d work through those issues. I was stressed quite a bit and overwhelmed so often that I would cry or vent so often that I was it pained my husband. That is not fair nor is it respectful.

In the years that followed, I became painfully aware of certain things, people and organizations I had to detach myself from because the effort became one-sided. I felt unappreciated and I was treated very unfairly and disrespectfully be several people I thought were my friends and comrades. My husband helped me tread these dark waters and dark times because I was reluctant to give them up because I felt obligated. I was shamed by these people for doing things the way I did. The point of this story is that I was always on the go and I did not know how to say “no.” I was not very good at relaxing or letting things roll of my shoulders. I let things and people get to me.

It was a long and hard journey to get to where I am now. To relax, I read a book, watch a funny sitcom, feed and care for my daughter’s hens, have a conversation with my husband, clean and tidy up our house and tackle DIY projects. I love my life and I love the fact that I can consciously make myself relax because a stressed and overwhelmed me would not fair or respectful to the people around me especially my husband and daughter.

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Hard Worker?

I like to think I work hard enough to accomplish the allotted tasks but I also feel I could always work harder. There are times where I feel like I worked too hard and can usually tell by the long hours I worked and the fact that I dream about my to-do list at work. Then again, I do not agree with the notion that the more hours you clock in, the more you are considered a hard worker. That is because I, personally, can get a large amount of tasks done in a short amount of time. Of course, there are days when I am sitting in front of my computer for hours on end and ready to pull my hair out trying to reach a deadline.

I know I work hard because I come into my office each morning and I have my to-do list I need to accomplish. I am physically and mentally conscious of what I need to get done for the day. It is not always easy because there are somedays I am just plain tired or overwhelmed. And that is the reality of being an adult, right?

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Sharing Your Knowledge

Do you enjoy teaching others? Talk about a time you taught someone how to do something.

I have never claimed outright that I am an expert at anything but there are many instances that I have stood up, raised my voice and said, “I have experience in this area and I am willing to take this on.” Having said that it has been quite a journey into adulthood, and I recall the turbulent navigation called my late teens and early 20s. It was not pretty, it was not always fun but most of it was worth it, because it helped shaped the person I am today. I say “most of it” because I made some terrible decisions like smoking and drinking too much, and the one instance where I was rude or mean to someone because someone else was or rather I was just in a foul mood. In those cases, I regret my actions and attitude.

I have ultimately benefited from others sharing their knowledge or their teachings, and most have shared willingly and enthusiastically. Again, I say “most” because I have worked a job where some folks who had been there longer were not always so generous with their time, patience and knowledge. I know what it is like to be treated like and made to feel like you are at the bottom or you are the “new person” therefore you cannot do or say certain things. This might be in large part due to my Navajo upbringing where being humble is an important trait of a Navajo man, woman, boy and girl. I do not like to brag about myself but I do appreciate when people recognize my hard work. It is also important to share your knowledge or teach others things that will benefit them in their personal and professional lives. Of course, that is to say that there is a fine line we must all be aware of when we offer personal and/or professional advice to someone, because they may not want it or may not like what you have to say.

To answer the question, I love to teach or share my knowledge! As I said before, I benefited from others teaching me what they know and without their generosity I would still be trudging up the sand dune in my 30s. I remember many instances where something just clicked and I went, “Ohhhh, that’s what they mean,” or “That’s how it’s done!” It is a very gratifying feeling when you accomplish a short or long term goal.

For example, I delved into the world river rafting or in my case, river guiding, when I was 19 years young, and I worked as an assistant on a Grand Canyon river trip. There I met river guides that are still my friends and mentors today, but I didn’t know that back then. In the years that followed river running became an annual adventure where I would do one or two trips a year until I graduated and the summers were filled with 5+ trips. I was hooked. I loved and dreaded being on a digital sabbatical or on just a plain sabbatical from the world I was so familiar with. Down in the Grand Canyon, you are away from “civilization” for 1-3 weeks at a time, and you are treading waters that can be unpredictable based on weather conditions or unforeseen physical accidents. And if you are a river guide, you are working 12-14 hours a day with 2-6 other guides/assistants in 100+degree heat cooking, cleaning, hiking, rowing and entertaining clients. You know what? That part is easy…for me at least. I am proud to say I am a people person. I love being around people, meeting new and old friends, and sharing with them a place so wonderful, spiritual and grand. This is not the case for all river guides…trust me!

In the beginning of my river guiding career, I had to literally learn to navigate the strong currents of the Colorado River including pulling into shore for camp or avoiding strong eddy currents that wants to take you for repeated spins. And the rapids, oh the rapids. They are beautiful but unforgiving if you do not respect the power of water. Navigating through rapids is not always easy but it is very much doable with patience, respect and determination. Imagine, trying to steer 18 foot rubber rafts loaded down with food, gear and people through rapids! Daunting but doable! Fortunately, I had the guidance of many river guides including a tall blond, cheeky Australian woman I’ll called Fazy, who would yell tips or instructions right before going into mouth of rapid. Although she was taller, stronger and more of an advanced boater than I was, she treated me like an equal, and gave me tips that will last a lifetime. And then there is my lovely friend, Kris, who would perch behind me and guide me through a rapid, and would discuss what I could improve on or what I did good. She and I are the same height with a fairly similar build although I am not as petite as she is.

All of their teachings and sharing of knowledge led me to co-found the Native American River Guide Training Program where we recruited students, a majority of whom were Native American and Indigenous to Canada, who wanted to learn about the river rafting world. We taught them the very basics of a river trip, the fundamentals of being a good river guide and all while maintaining and sharing traditional cultural knowledge from each other and our elders. To date, we have helped train over 40 Native and non-native folks and hope to do more in the near future. I love sharing what I know with people who are eager to learn something they never would have otherwise had the opportunity to. Now it is I, who perches behind someone at the helm of a raft and visually and orally guide them through a rapid or even a stretch of the river. It is an honor to share my knowledge. I love to teach in hopes they will do the same for someone in the future.

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One of my very first female Navajo students now an accomplished river guide in her own right.