Art, Inspiration & Fashion – April Johnson, Guest Blogger

Fall is in full swing, and I couldn’t be happier about it! Summer is great and all, but the older I get I realize I’m more productive in the colder months, and kinda like being a homebody! So yeah, I’m looking forward to getting i*sh done, but will definitely make
time to also step out in Vancouver to take in the beautiful fall colors!

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When I’m getting into ‘the zone,’ I’ve got my routine down – steep the tea, throw on the moccasins and sweats and light my favorite cedar incense. All this usually gets me ready to pour my heart into my photos, scripts and film ideas.

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However, over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking over in admiration at other artists more than I’ve been looking within, and although I want to get sit, sip and bring my ideas to fruition, I also want to celebrate the success of some kick-ass ladies working hard at that they love. Really, these ladies deserve a shout out!

Two people I’ve looked over to and found inspiration from are Joleen Mitton, Founder of Vancouver International Fashion Week (VIFW) and activist and filmmaker Rose Stiffarm. I met up with both ladies in Vancouver to discuss staying focused on art, inspiring others and indigenous fashion.

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Rose Stiffarm

April: What advise would you give to youth about staying focused and following their artistic interests?

Rose: I know that some of my mentors in the arts have told me to keep practicing; you’re only going to get better… and if one art form doesn’t work our for you, there’s always other art forms out there to help express yourself. I think a lot of what’s wrong out there in society is that we keep a lot of our emotions inside and we don’t have a way to express ourselves, but it’s important.

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April: What about your personal style? How do you feel fashion helps you express yourself?

Rose: I definitely look to trends to see what’s out there for fashion, but I don’t let it dictate what I wear. I add to it with other pieces that reflect more so who I am. It feels like myself isn’t necessarily reflected in mainstream fashion, and so it’s nice to have my own spin on things, and I noticed that because of that, I end up having a lot more interactions with strangers. In a way, it’s more about being seen in a society where we we’re not always seen.

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 Joleen Mitton, portrait by Thosh Collins

April: What inspired you to start Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week?

Joleen: I was a model for a long time, since I was 15 years old. I was working in really shallow industry and then come out of it and worked for the community; I was becoming really drained because I was a frontline worker for a long time. So I really wanted to do something with both my frontline work and my fashion identity from before, because both didn’t really fit my personality, but put together, they did. So, being able to help my community without draining my emotions with intergenerational trauma was something I was trying to do.

April: What fuels your ambition?

Joleen: A combination of things, like me making Canada native again…making it a safe space for First Nations to be in the city is really one of my main focuses. I’m trying to create native spaces all the time and I can’t help it. Making sure that the next generation coming up is comfortable in Canada, because it’s unceded territory is very important. The only way that we’re gonna survive is if we keep on doing stuff like that.

April: If you could describe Indigenous Fashion in a few words, how would you describe it?

Joleen: I might need more than a couple words, but: visibility, resilience, artisanship, reclaiming…

April: Any words of wisdom for youth about staying focused?

Joleen: Yes, I guess ‘don’t give up!’ (Laughs) I’ve noticed this with a lot of youth, some are great right out the gate, but sometimes it takes until you’re 30 to really get all your ducks in a row. And so it’s never too late to go get what you want. But do it slow, don’t do it fast, because once you do it fast, I feel like that’s when people slip up the most. Work on your relationships and work on yourself, and don’t take the fast road, take the slow road. It took 7 years to make VIFW. I feel that if you go at a slow pace and do things in an honorable way, and have the right relationships and nurture those relationships, you can succeed in anything. You don’t appreciate things you get quickly. You millennials out there stop that (laughs).

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— See what I mean? These ladies are great, and it’s awesome they’re sharing their gifts (and their wisdom) with the world. Just re-reading their interviews has me motivated to get crackin’ on the creative ideas buzzing in my head. With that said, I’ll gotta get to work!

 — april johnson


April Johnson is of Metis/Cree (Muskoday First Nation) and Settler ancestry and currently resides in Vancouver. She attended the Indigenous Independent Digital Film Program (IIDF) at Capilano University and has been working in media and independent film since 2015. Her interests include screenwriting, photography and promoting Indigenous women’s health. // stay in touch and connect: web: apriljohnson.net // insta: @aprilej

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No More Silence

I remember it vividly. Social class, 2007. Our teacher, Mr. P., was always great at starting class conversations and he was teaching us about World War II, and The Holocaust. I remember thinking about how ridiculous it was that the Nazi’s were able to “get so far” with their hate and that so many people died. It was unfathomable. It still is. I remember thinking to myself that people should have “done something sooner”. “Why didn’t people speak out against it?“. “I would.” Of course, people were. Good people. I also remember the message that we learned at an even younger age, “why do we have to learn about history?” “So we can learn from it.

I was young, naive, and foolish. I found it inconceivable that something like that could touch us here in this day and age in Canada. I knew there were some racists out there, but I had yet to really have any experiences myself. I looked around at my “diverse” (or so I thought at the time) classmates. Less than 15 of us in our class. Of varying backgrounds. We had the Cree kids from the reserve, and the farm kids from the country. We all got along really well. I loved my classmates and my teachers and high school was one of the best experiences for me. Again, I was an inexperienced kid and just didn’t know about the real world. I had very little knowledge of World Wide events. Everyone didn’t have Facebook quite yet (hello, Nexopia), no iPhones, and our limited free time that we did spend online was chatting on msn messenger (at dial-up internet speeds).

Fast forward a decade. 2017. I have more experience. I have seen, experienced, and heard some horrible things. With Facebook, news travels as fast as our fingers can move. With the recent Charlottesville protests, it is quite clear that the hatred surrounding Second World War is very much alive. It’s terrifying. I cry for 17-year-old me. I cry for my daughter. I stay up late thinking about it. I whisper with my husband at night discussing it. Long drives with my sister talking about our disbelief, anger, disgust at the White Supremacists. Shock in the US President. Private discussions where no one can hear us. Then I realize that that is how hate groups gain momentum. Passiveness. Being “hush hush” about it. Looking the other way. Pretending it’s not happening. The mentality that “it’s not affecting me directly so I don’t need to do or say anything” OR “I don’t need to say anything because obviously I’m against the White Supremacists, because I’m not white” OR “Other people with louder and more important voices will speak out.” I’ve noticed a lot of silence on this topic via Social Media, and in-person with people. There seems to be a “don’t talk about it” attitude, and I noticed I wasn’t talking about it either, unless it was with the two people closest to me. Or maybe people just don’t know? For the sake of Love, I think we do need to talk about and acknowledge it. For my daughter’s sake, I need to acknowledge it. No more pretending it’s not happening and sticking our heads in the sand. Jimmy Fallon said it best when he stated that it was important for people to speak out, that ignoring it is as good as supporting it. That spoke to me.

How would I explain to Alba when she’s older that I didn’t speak out? In my minds eye, I see us having conversations, and I hope I can tell her I was stronger than I am. Less scared. More brave. Condemning the bad, instead of quietly watching it unfold, unknowingly in the middle of it. These groups also exist in Canada and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. So here I am, for my sake, my daughters sake, and for the future, speaking out. Raising awareness, and saying that it’s so very wrong. Opening the conversation. When Alba asks, “Mama, what did you do when the White Supremacists had their rallies with their torches blazing and their Nazi flags flying?” I can say with confidence that I spoke out against them, instead of whispering behind closed doors about it. It breaks my heart that this is happening in her lifetime, and I pray and will work towards a less intolerant future for her, full of more compassion, love, understanding, and acceptance.

I have hope.

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 – Claudine Bull

small town grads, big city dreams

I graduated in 2002. I was surrounded by my best friends, with my sweetie (at the time) by my side, and my parents and huge, extended family there to celebrate me. It was a good time, despite the fact I did not win the English Award (huge side-eye to my teacher, Chuck). I wore a pastel blue a-line dress with silver florals, white knee-length gloves, and a set of pearl earrings and necklace that I still have to this day. Somewhere. I may even have had on a tiara, I’m not sure.

Oh man, I found a picture.

Whyyyyyyyyyy?

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Okay, I’m not gonna lie, my hair was luscious. I miss that. I also did not have a tiara, but I did have “pearl” drops in my hair.

I can’t explain it.

It was 2002.

I am so distracted now, by the amazingness that is our grad picture. Our theme was something to do with springtime and forests, and we made sure the women had outfits that matched the decor, because obviously, and my first love is also in this picture (not naming names) and I can’t believe I ever thought I was fat.

Oh, memories.

Anyways.

For me, grad was a big deal. I had made it, and I had made it with my besties by my side. I remember the joy I felt in that day, and I remember the amazing food my family made, and I remember the crazy stories from the after-party around breakfast the next day.

But I also remember it being my first time in front of a professional camera. I remember being somewhat interested in photography – I still had a point and shoot that I carried arounds school – and I remember how rushed I felt with my 15 minutes to get 12 images of my family, myself, and any friends I may want. I sat on the hard bench, trying to imitate the moves he had made the other grads do, and I felt the awkwardness in my shoulders, and I didn’t want to smile, because this wasn’t good.

When I received my images back, there were no images where I felt beautiful. Where I felt powerful. I didn’t like the way I looked, I didn’t like the way I was posed, I didn’t like the cliché of it all. I didn’t see myself in this set of stock images.

I didn’t order any prints, and I think the pack of sample images is still at my mom’s place, somewhere.

Fast forward to 2010, and I was asked to document some grad images for my hometown. I had moved back from Vancouver earlier that spring, finishing my MFA and deciding what I wanted to do with my life. And somehow, the camera was going to be part of it.

So a few nights before the big event, I took my Grads down to the rivers, the valleys, the fields of grass, and laughed. I made them sit in down, spraying them down with bug spray as we were swarmed. I made them hug trees, stand stoic, grin at me with mischief in their eyes. I made them go down into the dam, go sit on the piles of chopped wood, and stand in the forests.

And it was good.

It was soooo good.

I’ve been photographing my Northern Grads going onto my seventh summer. I have worked in Beauval, Patuanak, Meadow Lake, Birch Narrows, Prince Albert, Rosthern and North Battleford. I have worked with my Métis, Dene and Cree kids while laughing at thick accents and the massive amount of family members that show up for ‘immediate family only’ images. I have eaten dry meat given to me as a gift, and smoked cigarettes with Elders even though I don’t smoke – because you don’t say no to tobacco – while trying not to cough. I have helped Grandma’s across fields of grass, and watched Uncles hop off the skiffs to join in on the family portraits.

I have marvelled at the absolute beauties that our youth are.

I hope they see these images and smile. I hope they look back at their stacks of prints, grin, and remember a good time, a good moment. I hope they feel powerful.

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 – tenille campbell

Journey to Motherhood (with a Birth Story)

Mid-February. We are curled up on the couch with comforters and coffee. By “we,” I mean my daughter and I. She is napping and I am writing. Surreal, I have a daughter. I am a mother.

In June, I did a blog post discussing me being pregnant (and my various thoughts on it), and announced that my husband and I were expecting our first child after Christmas. My baby arrived over a month early. I want to share why she arrived early and my experience with having the healthiest pregnancy turn high-risk (with me getting hospitalized at 35 weeks and having baby a week later), in hopes that others can relate to or just learn something from our story.

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The majority of my pregnancy was “quiet”, or as quiet as a pregnancy can be. I had next to no symptoms. No nausea, Braxton Hicks contractions, heartburn (yup, I have a bald baby!), or much swelling. I had an anterior placenta so kicks were even harder to feel. If I didn’t have a baby bump and get a positive pregnancy test so early I could have been one of those ladies who doesn’t even know she’s pregnant until she was 5 or 6 months. I did feel tired and get occasional headaches and leg cramps but, up until the end, it was a pretty uneventful pregnancy. I was grateful, because I didn’t exactly enjoy being pregnant.

Do not mistake my lack of loving the experience the wrong way. I was so happy to be pregnant, and that I was having a baby, but I really wanted it to be over already, and to be on the other side of pregnancy. And now that I am on the other side, I have to say I don’t feel any differently. I’m not one of those ladies that misses my bump or can’t wait to be pregnant again. It was an anxious, long eight months for me. Maybe it was the lack of kicks, maybe it’s just my slightly neurotic personality (ha), or maybe it’s just normal and people don’t talk about it often, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of that “something is wrong.” It was such a mental battle throughout my pregnancy. Despite gaining weight right on track, feeling pretty good, and having normal healthy OB appointments, I was so worried all the time that I would miscarry or have a stillbirth. It happens. I felt so guilty for not revelling in my experience, especially since I wanted to be pregnant for so long, and I know so many women who suffer from infertility. I kept thinking, “how dare I not enjoy this experience 100%.”

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Like I said above, I had an anterior placenta. I didn’t feel my baby kick until I was 23-24 weeks pregnant. I remember being at work when I was around 22 weeks pregnant, with my little bump, and a coworker asked “so you must feel her kick all the time.” Um, no. When finding out that I didn’t feel anything, not even a flutter she got this super worried look on her face and notified me that I should feel something by now. Cue panicked call to my OB to notify them that I hadn’t felt a kick yet. The nurse assured me that it could be awhile before I feel any kicks and that my placenta was in the front so it wasn’t anything to worry about until I was 28 weeks.  I even got an ultrasound the next day and sure enough, baby was kicking away and I didn’t feel a thing.

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Pregnancy isn’t a set in stone, must follow “this template” experience. Every pregnancy is different, as I was learning. My anterior placenta acted like a squishy cushion between me and my baby. It made it really hard to feel (and see) movement from her throughout my pregnancy. It caused me to visit the ER in a panic a couple of times in my third trimester because she didn’t kick x amount of times in x hours. I felt like a crazy lady! Was I normal? Everyone talks so much about the physical discomforts of pregnancy. That was what I was expecting (which didn’t really happen for me). The throwing up, the swelling, the waddling (okay, I definitely waddled). Women talk about that. What isn’t talked about is the mental health aspect of it which made me feel so much more isolated and wrong. I felt guilty for my unborn baby that I was worrying so much. Because I didn’t feel normal I didn’t talk about it much with anyone. Even when I was hospitalized with health complications I STILL didn’t talk about how worried sick I was.

On Monday November 7, 2016, (I was 33 weeks pregnant*) I went to my regular OB appointment and my healthy pregnancy started to take another turn. I had borderline high blood pressure which the doctors informed me is a symptom of pre-eclampsia. They ordered for blood tests and urine tests to see how my organs were functioning. They wanted me to know that I was high-risk for developing pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a “pregnancy disease.” The only way to “cure” it is to get the baby out ASAP. It is characterized by high blood pressure which can affect the mom’s organs as well as the baby’s placenta. If left untreated, it can turn into eclampsia which can result in death. My mom had pre-eclampsia with all four of her pregnancies. I was born at 31 weeks gestation, my brother at 33 weeks. She almost died. We weren’t taking this lightly and I went home with a blood pressure monitor and religiously checked my blood pressure. My OB appointments were increased. I was terrified.

*Just a quick aside. My doctors and I went with different due dates. They had my official due date as January 2, 2017, based on my first ultrasound. I went with December 24 as I felt this was more accurate, based on LMP, conception, and my gut mama feeling. That, and baby was always measuring really big at the rest of my (many) ultrasounds. This matters, as it affects induction schedules, and the “premieness” of a baby.*

IMG_9067.JPGI got a call from my OB office on Thursday asking me to come in the next day. They wanted to see how I was progressing, and to check my blood pressure. If everything looked good they would post-pone my next appointment. I was feeling positive that everything must be looking good on my blood tests.

Friday, November 18, 2016. I drove myself to my appointment (50 mins), I thought it would be a quick in and out and then my plans were to head over to my mom’s house to prepare for my baby shower that was the next day. My husband was at work. All I could think about was getting out of my 9:00 am appointment quickly so I could go decorate. I was excited. I was also excited to take my 35 week bump picture the next day, what would I wear?  My bump was getting big and my clothing options were limited. Was baby kicking enough? I wonder who will all come to the shower. I was itchy last night, I should tell my doctor. My mind kept going back and forth between my appointment and the baby shower.

My blood pressure was higher than ever at this appointment. We also did a test because of my itchiness for another pregnancy disease called cholestasis (which has itchiness as one of the only symptom). I was disappointed. The doctor ordered more blood tests, and an ultrasound for that day at 2:00 pm to do a biophysical profile  and NST (non-stress test) on the baby and make sure she was doing good in there. Okay, I guess I’ll have to decorate in the evening. I did my blood tests and waited around for my ultrasound. The ultrasound was neat, baby looked great, and we got a 3D look. Baby was measuring at about 6lbs.

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The nurse informed me that the doctor would come talk to be about my results and that I could wait in the hospital room that my non-stress test was in. The doctor didn’t make it in until after 6 pm. She came in, informed me that my urine and blood pressure indicate that I do indeed have pre-eclampsia. I may need to be induced that night and they were transferring me to the Royal Alexandra Hospital 3 hours away via ambulance to be admitted there, as they did not have the proper NICU facilities to handle a 33 week premie (as they thought I wasn’t as far along as I thought I was). We got steroid shots to get the baby’s lungs to develop more. I was shocked, scared, nervous, unprepared. I guess we were postponing the baby shower! All my “plans” for the birth were thrown out the window. I wouldn’t know what it would be like to have contractions start at home, or have my water break and rush to the hospital.  I was terrified but also excited to meet my baby.

New doctors, another ultrasound, and a new hospital. My new doctors agreed with me that my original due date was wrong and instead I was given a due date of December 21, 2016. This is almost 2 weeks further along than my previous doctors thought! They also decided that because my blood pressure went down and baby was doing great that I would just stay there to be monitored until it was time to have baby. That was good news. The bad news was that my tests came back for cholestasis and I did indeed have it. Another reason to monitor me and baby throughout each day.

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I had a team of liver specialists visit me daily. The goal was to keep baby in as long as possible until it became too hostile for baby. They informed me that because I had cholestasis there was a chance that my baby could be stillborn. I was heartbroken. Terrified. All my greatest fears. Stillborn. Every day I had multiple blood tests, and urine tests to check my bile acid levels (the liver does not function properly because of the cholestasis). Multiple medications (which increased a tri-fold in the time I was there) to keep my bile acids down and keep the baby in me as long as possible. My arms were bruised from so many needles. Non-stress tests every morning and before bed to make sure the baby was doing well. Non-stress tests if she doesn’t kick enough. During a non-stress test they strap on monitors to my belly that show if there are contractions and also record the baby’s heart rate. It tells us how much she’s moving. They have expectations for what a baby should be doing in utero. Too high of a heart rate, too low of a heart rate, or not enough movement (heart rate accelerations) and they may make the decision that the baby is too “stressed” and would preform an emergency C-section. Some non-stress tests would take a bit longer because the baby would be sleeping and I would have to drink some really ice cold water to get her to wake up. Mostly they were all good and reassuring. I wished that I could be strapped to the monitor the entire time, to ease my anxiety.

Despite it being a fairly quiet stay, and grateful that I was so far along, I couldn’t shake my fear. Every night I cried. I wanted my baby out now. I know inside is good but I didn’t want her to die in me. Every morning when my OB would visit me I’d hope that it would be induction day. My sister Nicole visited me every day and kept me sane. We watched Grey’s Anatomy and she brought me junk food. She is amazing.

November 23, 2016. My 27th birthday. Still in the hospital. I did get a pass to go out for supper with my family. It was exhausting. I bought some tiny newborn clothes for my little baby that I would be meeting soon. I felt so unprepared! I had nothing that would fit a 6 pound baby. I was expecting a 10 pounder (like my husband was). The next day before bed my nurse informed me that my acid levels were really high. I may get induced really soon! My doctor would decide in the morning. I was so excited (but also scared of what the high acid levels meant).

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November 25, 2016. Possibly induction day! I woke up feeling so positive. Usually my doctor visits at 9:00 am, after breakfast. I waited, and waited. Finally at noon another doctor visited me. I didn’t recognize her. She informed me that my doctor was sick but that I would be getting induced that day anyway. We just had to wait for some space to clear up. I was elated! I messaged my husband that it was almost baby time and to get to Edmonton after work. The doctor said induction can take days so I told him to finish his shift and to not rush.

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Right after finding out I was being induced I took a shower and took my last mirror bump selfie.

Finally at 5:00pm I was induced (using foley bulb and cervidil). My mom was with me. She brought me food and we waited. Still so excited. The nurses informed me (again) that it could be days, and it could take 36 hours for the cervidil to get me to start dilating and contractions started. Husband arrived. It got late and I tried to convince him to go sleep at the hotel. Nothing would be happening that night. He insisted on staying with me.

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November 26, 2016.

1:00 am. I woke up. I had a back ache. Annoying. I wanted to try get rest before my contractions started. Back ache kept coming (and going). I decided to go walk, maybe that would help. I noticed a rhythm to my back ache and started timing it. The nurse noticed me walking around and asked me what was wrong. I told her I had a back ache and that it kept coming every two minutes. She informed me that I very well might be contracting and they hooked me up to the machine and sure enough the contractions were lasting about 30 seconds every two minutes. 2:30 am, they checked and I was 3 cm dilated. The pain started to really be (what I thought was) painful. I cried. They gave me a little morphine and that took the edge off and I slept until the pain woke me up again at 5:00 am. I texted family member and gave them updates.

6:00 am I felt a huge POP. I knew my water broke, but there was no water. I sat up, called for my nurse. Shifted a bit, and then there was water flowing out. A LOT of water. How exciting! This show was finally moving! They checked me again and I was still only 3 cm. How disappointing. But still, water! I thought it would take days! Lucky my husband stayed with me.

This is when things really started to get painful. Right after my water broke the contractions were faster, lasting longer, and more painful. I moaned and groaned and cried through them. No more texting or looking at my phone. I asked for the epidural almost immediately. They moved me upstairs to wait for a delivery room.

7:30 am. The pain was unbelievable. Breathe. Where is my epidural? The anesthesiologist was in surgery so it would be awhile before he could get to me. They checked me and I was 5cm dilated.

8:00 am. I finally arrived in my delivery room. The pain is making me crazy. I shake the bed, I cry. I don’t want to be talked to or touched. Where is my epidural? I want relief. I screamed. I’m sure the entire floor could hear me. I was one of those ladies from the movies. My nurse informed me that it could take hours to get to 10 cm. I tried to mentally prepare myself for a marathon, but the pain was very overwhelming. All in my back. Wasn’t my uterus in the front? I kept thinking.

8:30am. 2 hours after my water broke they finally checked me again. 9 cm. I couldn’t believe it. Wasn’t this supposed to take hours? The nurse then informed me it was too late for an epidural. My heart sunk. The pain was so unbearable. She gave me fentonyl to take the edge off. It helped a little, but made me feel so loopy.

9:00 am. Epidural man came! The relief was almost immediate. I could breathe. I could talk to my mom and husband without snapping at them.

10:00 am. I was 10 cm! But, the epidural was too strong. I couldn’t feel anything and they wanted it to wear off a little so I could push.

10:53 am. Finally, time to start pushing. My nurse again informed me that it could be a few hours of pushing. Every contraction I had to attempt to push for 10 seconds, 3 times. My husband and mom were the counters. They didn’t count in sync. At the time it wasn’t very funny but looking back I can’t help but giggle. Pushing was exhausting in its own way. Branden would wipe my brow and leave a cool cloth on it (which would fall and cover my eyes while I pushed, again, not funny at the time, hilarious now). My sister arrived to help coach me to push. “I can see her head, Claudine! She has black hair,” Nicole told me excitedly. Doctors flooded in because she was almost here. NICU came in on standby because she was a 36 week premature baby.

11:23 am. With the loudest, most indignant cry – my daughter was born. NICU left immediately because her lungs were so strong. Her papa cut the cord and up she came to my chest. What a gift. Surreal.

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Alba Mae Bull weighed 6lb 3oz and was 19.5 inches long. Perfect. Healthy. She is mine and I am hers. I am a Mother.

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Alba is now 3 months old. I am so excited to share my experiences as a mother in my future posts. It’s wonderful, messy, terrifying, and the best role I’ve ever had.

 – claudine bull

Epic Summer Road Trips: #AuntiesDoPortlandia2015

This summer, I travelled to the Yukon, Saskatchewan and Toronto throughout June and July and wrote a bit about it here on Tea & Bannock. Now that I’m home for a bit in Ottawa, I’ve been thinking about past Road Trips and how they are an essential part of my summer experience.

Exactly one year ago, I was on possibly one of the best road trips of life. It’s one of those once in a lifetime trips that I still wonder if it actually happened. Good thing there’s pictures to prove that it did!

Background: My cousin Leah and I were roommates when I lived in Saskatoon, and Portlandia became a big part of our lives. Like, it was always on. Constantly. We became obsessed and started memorizing every episode. We closely identified with the Feminist Bookstore characters, Toni and Candace. So much, that we started dressing up as Portlandia characters for Halloween. Don’t judge.

One night after indulging in some wine health juice, we dared each other to apply to be extras on the show. Nothing much came of it. Fast forward to a year later, I was living in Ottawa, and Leah got an email – she had been accepted as an extra on Portlandia!

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Leah’s actual email

We freaked out, I kept checking my email but never got one. We decided to contact them and see if I could go too. Once they gave us the go ahead, I booked a flight to Calgary where we met up to drive the rest of the way to Portland, a dream come true! We even got some local media coverage! We also ran a gofundme campaign which helped us get to Portland, thanks everyone!

So, we hit the road …

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Driving Dolores, photo credit: Leah Arcand

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When we got stopped at the border for having a banana in the car. Declare all fruit, kids!  Photo credit: Leah Arcand

We got to see some Portland landmarks and places they have filmed in the show,

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Keep Portland Weird! photo credit: Leah Arcand

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Weirdos

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Voodoo Doughnuts!

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This place!

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Where they shoot Women and Women First!

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The famous chalkboard

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Still from the show

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Inside the bookstore

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Exterior shot, photo credit: Leah Arcand

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City Hall, where many scenes were shot, photo credit: Leah Arcand

We waited patiently for our call time on Saturday Aug. 9, 2015. Everyone was so nice to us, we were known as the cousins from Canada who drove 13 hrs (+ 5 hr flight for me) to be on our favourite show!

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Here we are on set with Adam Rosko, the guy who made it all happen, the coordinator that cast us as extras! Thanks Adam! photo credit: Leah Arcand

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Taking selfies while waiting for our big moment! photo credit: Leah Arcand

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Cast and Crew! If you look closely you can see producer Lorne Michaels! photo credit: Leah Arcand

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We got to meet Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen! The highlight of the trip! photo credit: Leah Arcand

I wanted to write about this trip on Tea & Bannock to mark the 1 year anniversary, but also because I wanted to share a lighthearted story about dreams coming true, as cheesy as that sounds. Celebrating silly moments and celebrating friendships is sometimes all we have. I look back on this trip and it gives me life! So often media portrays negative stories about Indigenous people, the fact that this story was picked up by media makes us giggle, but we also see the importance of it. It is my hope that this story lifts others up too! Be yourself! Do what you love and accept who you are, even if it’s being Portlandia fan girls, no shame in that game!

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Writing thank you postcards in VooDoo Doughnuts! photo credit: Leah Arcand

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#deeplysilly #auntiesdoportlandia photo credit: Leah Arcand

 

-jt arcand

 

 

Regarding my Uterus

This post is going to be quite personal and long, just a warning 😉

On June 19, 2016 (Father’s Day of this year) I announced my pregnancy on social media. It will be my husband and I’s first child. What an exciting time of my life, for sure! We told my family on Mother’s Day, and my husband’s family the following weekend. Our sweet little baby is due shortly after Christmas (around New Year’s 2017). I did get a few “finally!”s after I announced the news and it reminded me of something that had been on my mind during these first three months of my pregnancy.

First, I want to start off with saying that I do realize and understand that for the most part people are well-meaning with good intentions. I also realize as my body becomes more publicly pregnant, people will feel free to share their well-meaning advice and comments more openly. I am trying to mentally prepare myself.

Ever since I was 20, I had been asked the question, “when are you and Branden having kids?” (I’ll be 27 when our baby is born). The question popped up more frequently as the years went on. The question itself is innocent enough. I get it, babies are so beautiful, wonderful, and exciting. Everyone loves babies, as they should. The problem was, after awhile I felt so much pressure and guilt  and thought that I SHOULD BE PREGNANT RIGHT NOW, even though (until this year) I didn’t really want to be. [Quick side note: as soon as we decided we were ready to have kids that turned into I WANT TO BE PREGNANT RIGHT NOW, naturally.]

I will admit, there was definitely peak in when I felt the most pressure to become pregnant, and it was when I moved home from Edmonton to the reserve. When I lived in Edmonton, almost all my friends my age were not at that point in their lives of getting married and expanding their families. When I got home, everyone had babies and I didn’t and I often heard from these beautiful people the age old question of when I was getting knocked up. I felt like it was a club of mothers. Mother’s are amazing. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s okay to choose to not be a mother if that is your path.

Women are also beautiful, sacred and powerful beings, and mother and woman are not synonymous nor do they have to be.

I can’t help but feel some resentment for my adult years that I wasn’t a mother. I wish I had been able to enjoy it more without the pressure. There are so many reasons why people may not have children at a time.  Perhaps a relationship (or lack of), or they are going through painful fertility issues and either are having trouble getting pregnant, or are losing their little loves through miscarriage(s). Maybe they just don’t want kids at that time of their lives, they have other things they want to focus on. Whatever the reason, I am very aware of it and it breaks my heart how unaware others are of it. It wouldn’t have been so bad at all if I was able to answer with “maybe next year,” and it was left at that. More often than I care to admit I was given sage advice such as “the clock is ticking,” “don’t wait too long,” “you’re getting old.” Or being asked with incredulity in their voice, “what are you waiting for?”

My least favourite was being told that I won’t be able to have babies because I work out too much, or I’m too skinny, or I needed to gain weight before getting pregnant (of course all not true).

Basically, the advice I was getting throughout my 20s was this: “get pregnant right now because you might not be able to tomorrow.” And it stung, and it sucked, and of course it has riddled me with so many unnecessary fears about my body and what it could do (or not do). I just wanted to yell out to people to leave me and my body alone and that if and when my husband and I both decided to have children, then it is our business, and only ours.

My uterus is mine, as if every other woman’s. What I do with it or what it chooses to do is my business.

I didn’t want the reason for my husband and I to deciding to have children to be “because we were young and fertile.” I really wanted to to be a decision we made without outside influence and pressure, and something that we felt was right for us at that time in our lives. A deep fear was created because it seemed everyone was getting pregnant, either planned or unplanned. I’m going to be honest and say our birth control methods weren’t 100% great and it made me wonder how so many people could get pregnant “accidentally” (I hate that word for little unplanned miracle babies) but we never did. Did it mean we were infertile?! Ridiculous but it seriously ran through my head and I even brought it up to my husband. Ha, silly me, but the culture of fear is there and it exists for young women.

I was lucky and my husband was never one to pressure me and beg me for children. He let me enjoy my passions and pursue whatever I wanted to pursue at anytime, be it weightlifting, photography, computer science – he seriously he rocks. We often talked about children, and hashed out pseudo-plans, daydreamed, etc., but until this year it just never felt like the right time, and I respected that about him and he respected that about me. We were in no rush to grow up, despite being together for over 9 years. It has been so beautiful and wonderful to grow together. To focus on ourselves and building our relationship to what it is. Seriously, it has never felt better and I love that man more deeply than ever.

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12 Weeks Pregnant – more of a food baby belly than a baby belly.

March of this year rolled around and suddenly we were both ready. Maybe it was the Banff mountain air, or my new job that was inspiring us. Whatever our reasons, now was the time we were ready to start trying to grow our family and we were blessed right away. I am sad that I did get an, “Oh! So you CAN have kids, I thought you were broken” comment after I announced my pregnancy. It made me so sad and reminded me of what I had been fighting in my mind these past few years.

It reminds me that people will always have opinions and pre-conceived ideas about what I should and shouldn’t do with my body. Not only my uterus, but every aspect of it. And it’s something many women face.

I will try remind myself that people just love us and love babies and they truly mean no harm, but folks, please try put yourselves into other people’s shoes and try think of things from their perspective. It may be a little enlightening. Please don’t misread my resentment. It is solely geared towards opinion and some unchecked comments by a few that I needed to be pregnant for the past 7 years “or else” mentality. I love mothers and babies and seeing people sharing their pregnancies. In fact, I soaked it right up these past few years. I love seeing beautiful women sharing their stories with their lovely children and their challenges and triumphs. I L-O-V-E it <3.

I do hope to share more of my pregnancy journey on the blog. My due date is January 2, 2017, and I hope I can add a pregnant nehiyaw woman’s insight to this beautiful space of ours. 

 – claudine bull

A Cree Weightlifter

A year ago today I competed in my first weightlifting competition, the OPF Open in Edmonton, AB. OPF stands for Olympic Power and Fitness and they are the club that I joined in early 2014. Stepping into that club literally changed my entire life, in the best way.

I’ll never forget that first day at the club. My good friend Lori-Lei had texted me and said we should go check out Olympic weightlifting, only a couple blocks from where I lived at the time. I remember almost telling her I couldn’t go, that I was too busy. Honestly, I had nothing planned and I was just terrified, terrified of meeting new people, and of trying something new. Although I had been playing sports since grade 9, I thought I was lanky, uncoordinated (as people constantly feel the need to remind me), and not naturally athletic. I thought I wouldn’t be able to weightlift.

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My first weightlifting meet, with my cheering squad in the top picture.

That first day the coach Kevin Z., who is the kindest, most wonderful coach ever, worked with me and introduced me to the two lifts – snatch and clean and jerk. In a weightlifting competition you get three attempts at each lift, and they take your best snatch and your best clean and jerk to make a total. The best total in each weightclass (generally) wins. Needless to say, learning the technique was (and still is) an intense learning curve.

Four months after joining the club I was done University and moved out of the city and back to the country. It didn’t take me long to invest in a weightlifting bar and some weights, because I was addicted to the sport. Eventually I built my own platform in the garage at home and have been training in there since.

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My garage training gym.

It took me over a year to enter in my first competition, the OPF Open which was on May 30, 2015. I was happy with how I did at the time (55kg snatch, 65kg clean and jerk). Since then I have competed in two more, the Gordon Kay Memorial in October 2015 and Alberta Provincials in December 2015. It has been challenging, both physically and mentally. The most difficult part is training on my own, without my coach and teammates from OPF. Watching my body change, and numbers go up has been so rewarding. I am so in awe sometimes of what my body is capable of and then sometimes I’m daunted my how much farther I have to grow (but also excited by it). I cannot wait to compete at nationals (first step is to qualify). I have so many goals, and I just take it day by day, and step by step, inching my way closer.

The best part of weightlifting has been the people. I have met so many wonderful people in this sport and they both inspire and encourage me. It has been fun to grow with fellow athletes. Although this is an individual sport, the support from my teammates has been tremendously beneficial to my improvement and I am forever grateful for the community that exists in weightlifting.

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So far I haven’t met any other Aboriginal Olympic weightlifters in Canada. I plan on getting certified to coach soon and one of my goals to to get more First Nations kids introduced and into weightlifting. I didn’t even know that weightlifting existed until that January that I stepped into the club. The benefits of it are amazing and it has transformed me into someone who is so much more confident and sure. I sometimes view my life as “before weightlifting” and “after weightlifting”. I just see it as such a bright point in my lift. I have young girls coming up to me and telling me how they’d never be able to be as strong as me or do what I do but how much they want to and I just want to shake them and scream at them that they CAN, that they can do anything they want. I was lucky enough to find a coach who is helping me realize my potential, I hope to one day to that for someone else. Weightlifting is now a part of my identity.

If you want to follow me on my weightlifting journey, you can follow my instagram http://instagram.com/claudine_bull to see updates. I frequently post clips from my training.