Tuesday, September 29, 2009

White Otter Makes a Great Show at Conclave 2009

This was an interesting event this year. A few of the Lodges who have been traditional mainstays in the Pow Wow competition at Conclave were not there this year because our Section areas were adjusted. Last year, we lost two Lodges, Talako and Ut-In-Seleca, to the old W3-B Section (now called W3-N). In exchange, we picked up two new lodges, Ta-Heech and Toloma (formerly of W3-B) and now part of our newly named section, W3-S (don't worry if that's confusing, just know that it means that we still have 8 Lodges, but we've changed the makeup and geography).

What this did mean was that the Pow Wow competition was missing a few of its long time supporters and standard bearers, and we all had to decide the best way to set up and do the Dance Team competition in what we called the "20 minute committee meeting". Through it, it was determined that the three lodges that sent full contingents to dance (Esselen, Achhewan Nimat and Ohlone) would take on the responsibility of running the Pow Wow, doing the judging, and announcing the event. With that, my friend Scott from Esselen lodge became the M.C., I became the Arena director and Head Judge, and Charles from Achewan Nimat became the lead singer for the Northern Drum (while Esselen and their dancers sang as the Southern Drum).

With that, it was time for us to get suited up and hold our Pow Wow event. I have to admit I missed seeing my friends from Talako at this event, as I've come to know several of them over the years and looked forward to seeing them each year, but we made some new friends in the Ta-Heech and Toloma lodges, which was fun. As many of you may remember, while our official name is the "Ohlone Lodge Dance Team", we have taken to referring to ourselves as the "White Otter Dancers" in honor of our mascot "Otto", the grayish white California Sea Otter that is our Lodge's symbol. This year, White Otter fielded five dancers. One of our boys who had never participated in a dance event suited up as a Southern Straight dancer, two boys dressed in Grass Dance regalia, my son Nicholas donned the Fancy Dance regalia, and I decided for a change of pace to dress in Northern Traditional garb (it having been the only one I had not specifically worn in a Conclave as of yet :) ). The weather was very hot at the beginning of the event, but thankfully as the sun moved across the sky the field ended up mostly in the shade of the coastal redwoods, which was much better :).

During the competition phase of the events, we were pleased to see that our Southern Straight Dancer took 2nd place in the beginners category, and one of our Grass Dancers took 1st place in the beginners category as well. Nick took 2nd place in the beginners Fancy Dance category, and I took 1st place in the adult category (not really a scored event for the competition, more of a camraderie thing for the advisers and others so that we can get out and compete a little, too :) ).

We had a number of boys go out and participate in the Open event, and Nick was doing great until an unfortunate incident occurred. The choker that was holding his neck bustle in place broke, and the bustle went flying. In Pow Wow competition, losing any part of your regalia is cause for disqualification. He was bummed but he took it in stride. At the end of two songs, one of our Grass Dancers (my son's friend Nick D.) had earned a 3rd place finish. It was a great showing for him, especially since he was hemming and hawing the whole day that he didn't feel he should be competing because "he didn't know what he was doing". Well, I think it's safe to say that talk like that was stopped right quick after that finish (LOL!).

As we tallied up the scores, Esselen finished in 1st Place, Ohlone/White Otter finished in 2nd place, and Achewan Nimat finished in 3rd. This was a big deal for us because, frankly, we had never been able to field enough dancers to even get on he team board in the past. Being on the team podium is a big deal to me, and I'm excited that we made it to this point. My thanks to all of the guys that danced and participated at this event (since this is an Arrowmen event, my girls did not participate this time. With the event being held at Moffet Field next year, it's my hope they will be able to come out and participate (it'll be a lot easier to just bring them out for the Pow Wow event rather than have them have to stick around all weekend). Here's looking forward to future events and future travels of the White Otter Dancers :).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow 2009

As I mentioned a few days ago, over Labor Day weekend we have made a tradition to go to the CIHA Pow Wow held at Camp Pollock in Sacramento. This year, it was just me and my girls, and I will say that we had a great time :). The girls learn a bit more each year and fit in more comfortably each time they participate. they also really look the part now, thanks to the great outfits made by my friend Lauren (I can do the guy stuff just fine, but when it comes to women's outfits, I go with a pro :) ).

In addition to the dancing, they also held a number of workshops for the participants. this picture was taken inside of the main lodge during a class on peyote stitch (or gourd stich) beading. Yeah, I dig this picture, too :).

Amber got seriously intense with this workshop and she did a really good job, as did Karina (though Karina has to wrestle through my project and often deal with fixing things I messed up on (LOL!)).

This is a shot of Scott Sutton's wife Lynette and Amber. Scott, in addition to being the one who put on the workshop, is also the author of the book "Beadwork Techniques of the Native Americans" and it is a book that I very much would like to own (consider that a hint to any friends wondering what I would like for my birthday or Christmas this year (LOL!).

Labor Day weekend in Sacramento would just not be the same without 100 degree plus weather... well, this year, Mother nature gave us a break. It was about 85 while we were up there, and a bit cooler at night. Very doable and not at all withering like previous years, but the girls insisted on getting down to the river and playing around, so hey, I obliged :).

For those who say that girls are neater and more dainty compared to boys, please review Exhibit A and get back to me :).

Amber getting ready to splash me until I warned her that I was holding her camera (LOL!).

Karina frolicking in the American River.

Amber being her perpetual show-off self (what else is new :) ).

Karina venturing out as far as she was willing to go (the river was relatively calm, though).

I usually am the one who takes all of the pictures, so there's usually very few shots of me doing anything, but Karina decided to change that this year, so here's some shots of my outfit and some pictures of me dancing for a change :).

Amber just before heading out to the arena to dance.

Karina is all set and ready to go :)!!!

Here's a cute picture of Amber with several young Fancy Shawl dancers (Cheyenne Chisholm is in the middle of the picture and the only one of them I know by name at this immediate moment :) ).
Here's a great picture of Karina with her friend and mentor Lauren Wallace (CIHA Witiyapi Princess 2008). The last couple of years, Lauren had joked that Karina followed her around in the dance circle, prompting Lauren to say "hey, do I look like a Momma duck to you?". It was cute that this year Karina walked up to her after the dance and said "thanks for being my Momma Duck and letting me be your Baby Duck!" It was really sweet, but made slightly comical by the fact that Karina is now *taller* than Lauren is (LOL!).
All in all a terrific weekend. Looking forward to some of the quarterly events coming up, and I've already made plans to be at nexct years Pow Wow, too :).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

You're Welcome, But You Aren't Invited

This Labor Day Weekend, my daughters and I will be going to participate in what has become an annual event for us. This is the Labor Day Pow Wow that is held by CIHA (California Indian Hobbyists Association). It will be in the same place that it is most years, at Camp Pollock in Sacramento (just off the American River near the junctions of Interstate 80 and Interstate 5).

This is an interesting event, in that it's one of those things that happens, a number of people are aware of it, but very little promotion of it is ever done. I discovered my first year of attending that that is by design. The organizers of the event enjoy having new people come in and participate, but that's the key right there... they want to have people come in and "participate", not just hang out and see what is going on. When I came my first year, one of the organizers and long time participants said something that fascinated me, and I've thought about it ever since. He said "this is the type of event where you are welcome, but you are not invited". It took me a little while to absorb that statement, and after a few years, I think I'm understanding what he means.

Many things in life require us to be invited, or at least we feel it appropriate that we be introduced and some form of "personal contract" be made. We don't just show up at a job without filling out an application, and then being interviewed and subsequently hired. We tend to not just show up someplace and pick up a shovel and go to work on a project. For these examples, there's a social contract that says "we have to accept you as part of the community first, and then you can participate". My experience with CIHA was different. I came because I heard about it, and I asked if there was something I could do to assist, and they let me step right in and do whatever I could (which in this case consisted of helping clean up an area of grass for dancing and helping set up benches for the dancers to sit). After awhile, I was able to start talking to people, and getting to know a little bit about them and what they did and why they came each year. It was from that experience that I made some friendships, and committed to coming back and participating in whatever way I could.

How often do we hear the phrases "ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened"? So often, we wait for others to tell us it's OK to do something, or we wait until we are invited to participate. My example with CIHA was exactly the opposite. I had to make the decision to seek them out, and once I was there, I had to put myself into the fray and participate. If I waited to be asked to join them, I would have been kept outside. In this case, my just going up and offering to help gave me the in I needed. That has served as a metaphor for many of the things I do today. It may be seen as a strange re-rendering of the phrase "it is easier to beg for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission", but it is somewhat similar. Many times in life, if we wait for an invitation, we'll wait forever. At times, it is not only acceptable and appropriate, but expected that you need to make the first move. Will it always work? No, and in some areas it's disrespectful to be so presumptuous, but many times in life, the most interesting experiences are not the ones that you are invited to participate in, but the ones you make a conscious effort to see out and do on your own.

This weekend, my girls and I will go up and renew that experience, and learn more about the friends that we have made over the years, and perhaps we will also meet some new people that have decided to just join the group and put in their effort. Either way, I'm looking forward to another memorable Labor Day Pow Wow weekend :).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Introducing "The Jello Belt"

No, this is not a post about some new exercise fad, or some odd choice of clothing. This is about an online friend of mine (she goes by "Janey" in the forums I frequent, I'll let her out herself if she wants to be outed ;) ), and her unique experiment with writing an online novel, geared towards an LDS audience, while deliberately steering clear of the many pitfalls and foibles associated with "LDS Literature".

To that end, may I introduce you to The Jello Belt: A Mormon Blog Novel.

To read in Order, go back to the earliest post and start with Chapter 1, then follow on with each successive post after that. Don't be surprised if you spend a whole day getting caught up.

This is the "book" back blurb:

  • Tracy Nesbitt has been running away for years, hiding in low self-esteem and junk food. If she doesn't find the courage to face her past, she risks ruining her relationship with her daughter.
  • Carly Simmons is the perfect Mormon. She has to be or she can't be happy. And to prove her worth, all her children are perfect. Except her oldest daughter, Danna. Only Danna stands between Carly and perfection, and Carly isn't about to let anyone stand in her way.
  • Nicole Benton is living an ordinary Mormon life. She's got a loving husband, and two healthy boys, until one day one of them isn't.
  • Amanda Grayson walked away from Mormonism years ago, right into the arms of the best husband a woman could want. But Mormonism puts down deep roots, and when Amanda feels the pull to return, she faces a husband who doesn't want her to go back.
  • Maria Anderson glided through life, smoothing away the rough edges, until a priesthood blessing persuaded her to be honest. As honesty peels away years' worth of facade, Maria faces a truth that will blow her family apart.

    Join the families of the Juniper Bend Ward as they grapple with the things no one talks about, and find their faith in the events that threaten to destroy them.

If you think this sounds like "Relief Society Desperate Housewives" or "The Real Housewives of Draper, UT", well, you're on to something there, but to say that that's what it is is to be correct and to miss the mark entirely. While the title may sound cutesy, what Janey covers here is anything but. This is a slice of "Mormondom" from the vantage point of an insider, and one who shows that "Molly Mormon's" and "Matthew Missionary's", while a common stereotype, are not really accurate. Latter-day Saints are a complex mix of people, even in what many may consider a very homogeneous Utah (and hey, that's where Janey happens to live, so it's going to be based on her areas of expertise and knowledge, plus she shows that Utah isn't quite as jhomogeneous as we all might want to think ;) ).

Still, the characters that she describes are real, their issues are real, and they are the issues that many of us have faced. While the stories revolve around the women, the men in their lives are just as real and as fleshed out. We know these people, they are familiar to us, we see them every week, and quite frankly, several of them are us (and one of the characters, Danna, is *me*, or at least, she is me when I was 15 years old, were I a teenage girl... where was I going with this (LOL!)?). Seriously, the characterization is rich, the people feel very real to us, and one of the things I like about Janey's portrayal is that she doesn't overdo the descriptions of the characters; she lets us fill in the blanks, and what happens is that we feel like we are reading about our friends, our ward members, and the challenges they face are our challenges, and in some ways, my challenges.

This is a great story, and it's a great return to the "days of Dumas"... if you ever wondered what it felt like to read a "book" in serial format,well, here's your chance. If you are a member, you'll find a lot to like in here. If you are not a member, some of the comments may feel like they are in code, but there is still a lot to like in here. More to the point, if you ever thought that "Mormons" were all alike, I think it's safe to say that this will help remove that feeling and you just may understand how unique and different we are when it comes to life and its experiences. We all have a common goal and a common focus, but how we get there and the challenges we face are as unique as each one of us is.

Come on, Janey, publish some more chapters now, please :).