Saturday, November 21, 2015

Is Social Media making us Hardnosed?

It doesn’t matter to me what you believe about politics, religion, or finances. I don’t care who you support politically and I won’t hate you if we disagree.

So what if you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or a carnivore?  It simply has nothing to do with me. More importantly, if you’re Christian, Muslim, Atheist, or Agnostic, if we’re friends or family, I will look past our differences and look at what we have in common. Moreover, I will listen to you with compassionate and empathy.

You can post whatever you want, wherever you choose, and I am ok with that!  

That said, if I feel you’re open minded enough to have a debate, I might debate with you.  But trust me on this, I won’t unfriend, unfollow, or disown you if we disagree.  I enjoy a great debate and I won’t hold your opinions against you regardless how heated our debate might become.  The truth is that no matter what our differences might be, it has no bearing on me personally. I won’t take your opinion personally because it has nothing to do with me, even if your comments are directed at me. It is merely an opinion.

Since the Paris terrorist attacks on Friday, November 13th, 2015, social media have been flooded with personal opinions. There have been numerous comments on the event and the fallout on social media was swift. Many people have unfriended each other based on what these comments meant to them. To be sure, there were some very ugly comments in the newsfeeds. Emotions were volatile and by and large people held very strong opposing opinions. Terrible things were written, and shared widely, largely to people who didn’t even know each other.

Which begs the question, is social media making us inflexible and jerks?  Are we becoming more egocentric, in that we believe our opinion matters and is paramount? I think, yes we are and yes, we most certainly do. 

And, I also think social media gives us a false sense of courage, and ironically our anonymity online makes us feel important. The fact is because we are not face to face, looking into the eyes of a person, that we have the courage to espouse our unfiltered and sometime knee jerk reactions to something we have read online but really this can be an act of cowardliness. Furthermore, more often than not we are not held responsible for the fallout that ensues after certain comments are posted. We can simple disappear from the conversation or troll silently following the discussion thread, feeling self-important.

If we exercised a sober second thought about what we write on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, we might never even post online. For me, this is certainly true that I delete more comments I begin to write after thinking about it than I actually post. This is particularly true if I am commenting on something that has annoyed me.  Sometimes, I will read something online and say to myself, “OMG!” “idiot”, “Does that person not fact check”, “WTH”, etc. Then, I will quickly write a critical and judgmental reply.  But then, I have trained myself to pause and decide whether or not to delete my comment because my opinion on social media to virtual strangers in the greater scheme of things, does not matter!  

Thankfully, humanity is culturally diverse with varying points of view. I can’t imagine what this world would look like if everyone thought like me. Well, I can, and it would be pretty awesome.  But, I digress! 

On the whole, my opinion is that if you want a simpler life and keep your blood pressure in check, don’t take everything you read on social media as a personal affront to your character, integrity, morals, or ethics.  The more you let go of your ego, the freer you are and the less of a jerk you become.  And if you are tempted to lash out in haste, it is very therapeutic to put down in words exactly how you are feeling.  But take a deep breath and then delete it! 

The foregoing was my personal opinion and hopefully was not an affront to anyone who reads it. That said, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t comment. LOL

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Powerful Dene Woman

Therese Deranger 1919-2016
For mama's 95th birthday, I had this picture commissioned.

She was the oldest traditional Densuline of our community, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, in Alberta, until February12, 2016. She passed on peacefully with her family by her bedside.

My mom's parents Christine and Chris Adam 

Six Generations Sophie 1885, Christine , Therese , Dora, Donna, and Sandra.   

On Mother's Day 2008, I paid tribute to her life in a blog, which I kept adding to each year.  Although, it is long, I could have written it much longer if I were to document everything she means to so many of us.  


Therese Deranger - May 08, 1919 - February 12, 2016 

She arrived into this world at Old Fort, Alberta on May 08, 1919. Eldest child of 11 Children, 2 sisters and 8 brothers.Married just after turning 15 on July 1933 in Fond du Lac (Isadore Deranger) Widowed April 4, 1993 in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Born into an era where modern convenience was for others, she lived without electricity, plumbing, telephones, TV and many other amenities taken for granted by many for too many years.  Her life, in those days was about survival. 

Born and raised in the traditional Dene lifestyle in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, on the shores of Lake Athabasca.  It was those very conditions that makes her who she is, who I am, and who we are as family.

Mama is having an amazing life journey, from bush life to city dwelling, from dogsled to jet, from moccasin telegraph to emails and texting. 

Once, she told me that she wanted to go to school but her Dad would not allow it. Thankfully, after learning about what happened in these residential schools, it was a blessing her dad didn't send her to school.  However, I remember when I was a child, she went to continuing education for upgrading. She was so thrilled that she could do some rudimentary reading and writing, particularly when she was so proud to be writing the names of her children.

Mama was a teenage bride,  she was married at the tender age of 15 through an arranged marriage to a stranger who was in his twenties. This was not unusual in the Desesuline custom. She became pregnant almost immediately, and had her last child well into her forties. Earlier in her marriage she would run away back to her parents' home, but each time her Dad returned her to her husband. She still resents this.

Mama, big brother Rossi, Angelina 
She gave birth to nineteen healthy children; the majority of her children born without the help of a doctor, except for the youngest ones. During one of the pregnancies she had to walk about 10 miles to the nearest community in early spring with the ground snow-covered, so she could make it to the midwife’s home for the birth of my brother. There were no prenatal classes to help her cope with understanding the development of pregnancy and caring for babies. There were no nurses to talk about baby blues. No one to help her understand what her body was going through, no one to help her understand the emotions that comes with exhaustion after having a baby and being sleep-deprived caring for babies whilst living in a tent miles from the nearest town.

Can you imagine, there were no Pampers, no baby formula and no prepared jars of baby food. Everything was home-made, and all those diapers had to be washed by hand. Fortunately, as the babies grew they became helpers in the care of the younger ones.

Mama experienced many challenges in her life time.  We were very poor. My dad was a trapper and so he would leave her alone for extended periods. As with most women in her generation, she had to cope on her own. Some people would argue that many other women of her day were in the same position, and maybe this is so, but that does not minimize the hardship she endured.

She once told me a story about how she hated the sound of the wind blowing through the house because it reminded her of a time when she was living in a tent during the early years of her marriage. It was in the fall, and she had a head cold. Throughout the night the wind was howling and she was all stuffed up. She said she was alone with some very young children at the time. Sometime during the early morning her head was aching so much, that the increase pressure in her ears eventually blew her eardrums. She remembers the warm blood pouring out of her ears. She said that ever since then, she has had problems with dizziness (she may have damaged her inner ear). Another time when one of my sisters was just two weeks old with the wind blowing the walls of the tent, my sister took ill and died a week later.

How it must have been difficult for her to cope with the loss of a child when she herself was no more than a child. Later in her life she would lose five more of her children, as recently as in 2012 late December her son, my brother, Billy died of an apparent heart attack.

Indeed, that Christmas was a difficult time for her. Parents should never have to bury their children, it was heartbreaking to see her overwhelmed with grief.

In her thirties she had breast cancer and had to have a partial mastectomy. Over the years she has had eleven operations. Years later, I remember one incident where she was very sick in the hospital, I was a young child at the time, we all gathered in her empty bedroom in Doghead in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta and prayed for her to get well. She made it through that ordeal. Later, I remember her telling us that she had a dream that she saw a man surrounded by light standing at the foot of her hospital bed, and she asked him to not take her because she still had young children. She came home from the hospital, and in her mind it was God’s will that she survived.  And not for her sake but for the sake of the children who still needed her.

There were times of difficulty involving alcohol during the sixties and seventies. I can recall bits and pieces but mainly because I was too young, I was oblivious to what really was happening. Thankfully, she stopped drinking. We, her children, did okay for ourselves, being educated and becoming contributing members of society. I definitely believe we survived because of Mama, and not in spite of her. Her guidance allowed us to be strong individuals much like her. I am amazed at her will, whenever she decided something she did it. Like to quit drinking, and then later she actually stopped smoking cold turkey too.  She just decided she was not going to do those things anymore and that was that.

Mama’s life is not all gloom and hardship. She enjoyed life and loved to travel. Visiting with her grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and her friends.

Indeed,  helping others made her happy.  Her joy, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, which number over a hundred now. Her passion was beading and sewing things for her family before her eyes failed her.

She says that she enjoyed keeping busy. Her Dene beaded jackets are distinctive and recognizable all over the territory. She did the most beautiful beadwork. When I was a little girl she looked at my long thread as I was beading and she said, “Don’t be lazy, make your thread shorter.” She was right of course because when your thread is shorter it does not get tangled up. It takes longer to bead, but the results are perfection.

If things were not done right, be it sewing, cleaning or anything, she also had you redo it until it was done properly. I don’t know how many hours were spent cleaning, even when the house was already clean. Her standards are high for all of us.  People nowadays don’t take enough care to do things right. Rarely do we find anyone that actually takes pride in their work.
Until a few of years ago, she enjoyed the yearly pilgrimage to Lac St. Anne, one ofCanada’s largest Indigenous healing pilgrimage. She enjoyed visiting with old friends and family who also have travelled a long way from isolated communities to attend. There she always bought Holy Water, blessed statutes, and pendents like St. Christopher, which she gave away as gifts. I still have a few she has given me over the years.

When I was younger I always enjoyed the fresh bread, and bannock she baked in the summer. The wood stove was moved outside because it was too hot in the house. At Christmas she made the best bread pudding I have ever tasted. I also really enjoyed the fun we had making homemade taffy in the winter.
        Mama's 92 Birthday
I honour Mama. Her gifts to me are strength, courage and reverence. When I’m worried or upset, I clean, clean, clean, I know she gave that to me too. She welcomes work, and keeps busy all the time. But most of all, she gave me life.

Mama turns 93 and makes the local news!

May 2012
Liz & Mama
With her four daughters 2015

The last few years after a fall that resulted in a broken hip and shoulder and was no longer to take care of herself, she lost her independence 
and had to move into an extended care facility.  I know it was difficult for her to accept that after all these years of care taking children, grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren she now had to be dependent on the good will of family and friends for her basic needs. 

Although, her body is weak, her mind and memory are strong. She is an incredible woman and I love her dearly. 

I could not resist adding a story, as told to me by Margo  

"My story of Mama.  Mama grew up in a hard life and she did the best she could. Yes.  Many times I could see the stresses in her life.  With so many children how would anyone not understand her.  I only have a couple, and my God I get stressed, then I think I now fully understand mama.  I have always had a great respect for mama. 

One day long ago, I took mama, my mom, and Adeline TripdeRoche to Lac St. Anne with my old car.  My car had holes on the floor, which I tried to cover with a cardboard paper.  Hight 63 was not payed yet back then.  I tell you each time I hit a bump puffs of dust would fill the car.  The ladies sat in the back seat and they all had polyester suits on.  We would stop on the way a couple of times getting out to stretch.  My goodness they all would brush the dust off their suits, all the while laughing about it.

As we were getting closer to Grassland, my mom said in Dene, "Oh, not too far now we will be stopping in this place called "Greengrass".  Mama then said in Dene "No, it's not called that, it's called "Gasline" and here is Mrs. TripdeRoche with her high pitched laugh practically rolling with laughter in the backseat. This was so hilarious.  I couldn't stop laughing too.  They were all so cute.  Mama is a very strong woman and inside mama she is very loveable, and I love her."

Thank you Margo for sharing this story!
Mama's 96th Birthday, with great granddaughter, Kirstie

Mama's 95 Birthday!

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