Saturday, July 11, 2015

O'odham Humor - Rosella at the Movies

My mom now lives in an assisted living place on The Rez (Archie Hendricks Assisted Living).  She wasn't happy about it at first, which is understandable.  I think it's hard for people to admit that they need help, especially someone as stubborn as Rosella.  It took her some time to adjust.  She's been there for almost two months now, and she is now happier with her new digs.

I've been out to visit her a couple of times and I try to give her a call every few weeks.  I plan to call her more often, now that she's more adjusted to living there. 

There are only 10 or so other residents in her building, and she gets a lot of individual attention.  She has a daily visit from a nurse practitioner which has proved to be invaluable.  Many of the constant minor complaints that she previously ignored are getting addressed.  All of her meals are prepared for her and they cater to an O'odham pallet.  She was very excited to tell me about their plans to serve tamales one weekend. 

They also have a lot of programming for the elders.  They keep her busy.  She does lots of arts and crafts, which she loves.  They take the elders on field trips and out shopping, which is one of her favorite things in the world to do (other than gambling).  She takes walks with a buddy around the facilities every morning and every evening and takes advantage of much of the daily activities.  She especially loves being around other O'odham elders and speaking O'odham.

Rosella's arts and crafts project at Archie Hendrick's

They sometimes take the elders to go see movies in the theaters in Casa Grande.  She was happy about going to see, "Hot Pursuit" in theaters.  She couldn't remember the name of it, she just told me the entire plotline, until I guessed the title (Now I don't need to see it).  Popcorn is also her favorite thing to eat in the world, which I can't emphasize enough.  I'm sure that them giving her movie theater popcorn is 50% of the reason she finally decided to like it there.

One of the times I took her to the movies. 

Her assisted living place is right next to the Archie Hendricks Skilled Nursing Home, which is where the elders who need more care live.  The elders who live in her facility often walk (or roll) over to the Nursing Home next door for church services, presentations or movies.

Recently she went to the nursing home for their "movie day" to watch an old John Wayne movie.  

My mom's first language is O'odham, so she uses the same sing-songy language emphases that she would in O'odham when she speaks in English.  Sometimes I find it really difficult to translate her way of speaking on paper for a general audience.  If you're accustomed to the way that O'odham elders speak, you may be able to hear her voice.  

Here's Rosella's story:

"The other day I walked next door for a movie. They were John Wayne mo-vie, I don't REmember the title, it was an OLLLD one.  AND... " she says in a whisper, as if she got special treatment "they gave free POPcorn."

"There was this OLLLLD ke:li (old man)."  She paused, then asked her self, "HAS cegig?" (What's his name?)  then answered herself, "Oh ya, I think his name is... JOHHHN." (Not his real name).

"We were watching the movie... AND JOHN was JUST SLEEPING!" she said, outraged. "His caretaker tried to wake him.  She shook his shoulder and said,  'John! Are you going to watch the movie?" and HE didn't wake up!


He was sleeping reaaaaal DEEPLY.

He didn't EVENNN wake up!
She tried AGAIN.

Then she said, 'JOHN....JOHN.... Do you want some POPcorn?'

Finally, THAT woke him up.  She asked, 'Do you want some POPcorn? and he woke up and yelled right away, REAL quick, 'NO, I WANT RABBIT!"

Then she said, matter-of-factly, as if it was perfectly understandable "He must have been dreaming about rabbit."

"Then he said, 'I don't want your POPcorn! I WANT RABBIT!"


I hope if we ever get a movie theater on The Nation, that they'll have popcorn and rabbit at the concessions, you know, for the elders. 

More blog posts featuring Rosella:
Rosella's New Haircut
Nuns and Non Dairy Creamer
Confessions to My Mom
Crepe Paper Flowers 
Eee! That Cat!
What The Heck Is That Noise?
Purse Shopping with Rosella
Rosella, the Music Aficionado
Rosella's REO Speedway Adventure
Adventures of Rosella: Lost and Found

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Peaceful Father's Day

Yesterday, Ryan encouraged me to write a blog.  He listened as I told him how many stages there are to me writing a blog; conceptualizing, creating a writing space, narrowing down my topic, beginning a draft, (often) deleting my first attempt, committing to a more narrow topic, changing my angle, committing to the piece I'm writing, even after I've decided it's awful and not at all what I want to convey, finishing it and finally sharing. 

He listened to me talk about how I often choose laundry over writing a blog, then he encouraged me again.  So today's blog is all for him. 

My daughters are away at an Advanced Astronomy Camp at Kitt Peak, they're staying up late, looking through some of the largest telescopes in the US, one day they'll be going up to Mount Graham and looking through the largest telescope in the world.  They're with other high school kids, sleeping in dorms designed for full-time astronomers.  The astronomers they're with are incredibly passionate about when they do and the science they're learning is absolutely incredible.  It's an amazing opportunity.  We're so grateful that they were accepted

I do have to admit, however, that when we saw the dates of the camp, six months ago, our hearts sank a little.  We knew what was coming.  We knew my husband would be spending his first ever Father's Day away from his daughters. 

A few weeks ago, my father-in-law had to make an emergency trip to Michigan to be with his mom, so Ryan is also not seeing his own dad today either.  Don't worry, we'll celebrate once everyone comes home.

But I thought I'd celebrate him today by recording who he is as a dad today.  Or at least what I can manage to write down in a few hours, while he's out golfing (New Father's Day tradition).   

Ryan became a dad at age 18.  

By the time this photo was taken, Ryan had read at least 15-20 books relating to babies, birth, development, twins and raising children.   

He has changed as many diapers as I have and given just as many baths. 

We both fed our children and kept them safe.  We both read books to them.  He took them on more walks.  I taught them more songs.

We started building family traditions.  One of our most favorite is going to the Tucson Saint Patrick's Day Parade as a family and trying to get the people in the parade to flash "peace fingers" to us as we wave our peace fingers to them. 

"Peace fingers."  Ryan has taught and still teaches our daughters to believe in Peace.  This started at a young age, and continues anytime we talk about the things around us and the world.  

Although we've taken turns being the "primary caretaker" of our children.  Ryan has almost always been the one to take them to school.  Each day he gets out of the car, walks over to each daughter, hugs her and says, "Be peaceful" before sending her into the world. 

He's done this everyday that he's ever dropped them off anywhere, since kindergarten. 

As a dad, he had to make some sacrifices.  Much of that included him working in places he didn't want to work, in order to support our family.  Some of that meant breaks from school so he could help support me. 

We took turns.  He supported me.  I supported him.  We supported each other.  Sometimes it was literally financially, but most often, it was a plate of food wordlessly being handed to me as I frantically typed out a 30 page paper.  Or it would be the words, "You got this.  You can do this" on the phone as someone is crying on the other end or we're both crying together.  Sometimes it would be drinking up a cup of coffee at 2 in the morning as the other finished up a paper. 

It took him longer than he wanted to graduate from the UofA, but he did it.  His persistence was incredible.  Ryan was a first generation college graduate.  Part of his drive was to give his daughters a better chance at their own college-experience, when their times comes.    

For us, that time seems to be coming lightening fast.  It seemed that our daughters just turned 10, then 12, where did 11 go?! Now they're at a camp with upperclassmen?  They'll be going into their freshmen year of school. 

Four more years will be college.

We've had a lot of people tell us, "You'll be free." as if we've been in prison and we're coming up on parole.  But for both Ryan and myself, it's a feeling of confusion.  We feel fear and loss and excitement and worry.  

We're trying to give our daughters the freedom to be individuals with the skills they'll need as adults, but it's hard because we're parents, and they're our children and that's what parents do. 

It's just surprising that we're going through what others go through at such a young age.  We'll be 36 when our kids graduate from high school.  Many of our friends will be taking their kids to kindergarten or first grade when they're that age. 

Our family spends a lot of time together in different ways. 

We can be noisy.  We can laugh and yell and blare music or the TV.  We like to watch movies and eat popcorn and always, always, always, someone wants to play a videogame.

But we're also extremely comfortable in our family's silence.  We share a bubble of space while we're all in the different worlds of our books, yet still connected by the quiet sound of breathing and the occasional flip of a page. 

Usually, it starts with only one person reading.  Then, a second person joins, because they're trying to be quiet for the first person.  Then a third person joins with their book.  Then finally the fourth.  All of it is done without talking.  It just happens.  It's magic.  It's not exactly rare, but it's not exactly common either.   

Most days we're rushed and flustered and school projects are left half finished and we're scrambling to figure out what to have for dinner. 

But we always have dinner together.  The four of us at our dinner table.  Every day at dinner our children say "thank you" to whoever prepared or purchased the mean.  If they helped, they'll say, "Thank you for dinner, me." or "Thank you to everyone who helped make dinner." "I didn't help." "Then thank you for eating it." or "Thank you for putting the napkins on the table."

We like to eat out.  Ryan has taught my daughters to be adventurous eaters.  They like chilies and sushi and other things that I'm not a fan of.  They'll try anything.  Every time they try something that I don't like, I'm awed because I had absolutely nothing to do with it. 

All of that comes from Ryan. 

We don't have a super serious household.  We spend a lot of time being silly and goofy.  We don't take ourselves too seriously.  Yes, we can have really deep, important conversations, but we can also just laugh and have fun.  We try to think outside the box.  We try to surprise our kids by saying yes to things they think we'll say no to. 

Ryan has a really amazing connection with our daughters.  He often talks about how much he misses their "need" for him, now that they come to me with most of their questions and their problems.  But, I can't stop a teenage-meltdown from happening or cheer up a sulking teenager because I don't have the patience.  Although I constantly try and feel like I'm making progress, it's usually Ryan who can resolve the issue and get things back to our family's normal.

Ryan is a hilarious man, especially because he doesn't seem to really care about what others think of him.  He doesn't care if he comes off as a dork.  He doesn't think that there are "males only" or "female only" things. 

Ryan will go to a birthday party and wear a tiara.  Ryan will go to a babyshower and enthusiastically win prizes.  Ryan will buy pads and tampons at the grocery store without batting an eye.  Ryan supports his daughters and I as women and as human beings.  

He's an incredible father who is constantly, intentionally growing as a father and a husband.  Even now, after being together for 15 years and with our children about to go into high school, Ryan is thinking and talking about ways he can improve as a parent and a spouse. 

It's amazing to be around someone who isn't afraid to apologize to their children.  It's amazing to be around someone who takes the time explain things and to engage our children in important conversations, then five minutes later, make them laugh by quoting a cartoon they saw together on TV.   

She asked him a question about sports.  He was so happy he pretended to cry. 

Chess Dad

Here's a photo of Ryan showing off his old school Nintendo skills to a group of 13 year olds.  They were playing Mike Tyson's Punchout.

Proud Chess Dad and his Daughters right after they both qualified for the State Chess Championship. 

Peace Fingers from our family to yours.

The laundry that I've been putting off while writing this piece has been yelling louder and louder for me to get off my auth. 

I could gush about Ryan Kelly all day, everyday and it still wouldn't do him justice.  He's been an amazing partner and an amazing parent. 

I'd just like to wish him a peaceful Father's Day. 

I love you. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Early Saguaro Blossoms

My head is in the clouds that haven't formed yet.

The saguaro blossoms are early again at The Papago Café.

Seeing them used to illicit a feeling of awe and giddiness because they mark the beginning of the careful watching of the saguaros.  We're waiting for the bahidaj.  ("Saguaro fruit")

My heart sinks to see these blossoms in April. 

We're seeing the effects of global warming on O'odham jewed.  

We're worried about the short harvesting seasons. 

Early saguaro blossoms mean early fruit bahidaj which our people have harvested for hundreds of years.  Harvest.  Food. Rain. The O'odham New Year.  All of it is tied together.   

The elders are talking about global warming.  There are rumors that fruit has not only already formed, but that it's already ripened in some places on The Rez. 

Politicians are still debating whether or not it's really happening. 

Meanwhile, O'odham are worried and the saguaros are confused. 


These photos were taken on April 1st, 2015. 

Saguaro buds getting ready to bloom at the
Papago Café in Sells, Arizona.

Early Saguaro Blossoms at the Papago Café.

These photos were taken at the end of April, 2014. 
End of April, 2014

Friday, April 3, 2015

Watch For Cows and Few Other Signs on the Tohono O'odham Nation

I like signs.  

I came across one I really, really liked recently one evening near Sil Nakya. 

I liked it so much that I decided to drive back through that area just for a photo of it. 

You'll know which one is my favorite the minute you see it. 

Entering Tohono O'odham Reservation

Santa Rosa Ranch turnoff

Indian route 35

Protect Tohono O'odham Nation
Buckle Up?

Watch for cows

Heading towards Highway 86

There were warnings for cows, but I only saw free range horses.

Indian route 34

The cracks and potholes on this road are intense, but you'll likely have the whole road to yourself.

Apparently, they have a parachuting cow problem in Sil Nakya.

Watch for cows on the Tohono O'odham Nation! They come out of nowhere.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Little of What I Know About Toka

On the Tohono O'odham Nation, everyone knows what "toka" means.  Ask any O'odham; from the east end or the west end, man or woman, young or old and everyone will tell you the same thing: It's a traditional game that women play.  Often, people compare it to field hockey, but they'll always make sure to tell you that you can't buy the "sticks" or the "puck" from a store.  No.  Everything comes from the desert. 

Usaga (singular)
U'usaga (plural)
Made from mesquite branches

30 or 40 years ago, that might not have been the case.  30 or 40 years ago toka was in our distant history, not something that was current.  It was a game only our elders talked about and the idea of a "toka demonstration" was more prevalent than a "toka game."

It isn't that way anymore. 

The game starts with a song.  All the players form a circle and pound the earth with their usaga (stick) and sing the toka song.  In a tournament setting, the circle is usually formed around the first two teams.  (No, I will not post the toka song online - if you want to know it, go ask a toka player to teach you.  Keep in mind that you will then be expected to become a player.)

The rules are simple: Two teams with the same number of players line up across from each other, alternating the placement of their usaga on a field.  There is no standard number of players for each team.  There is no standard size for the field, it varies with the terrain.  Lines are drawn in the dirt on either end as the goal, and the teams begin in the middle.  A facilitator holds the 'ola (what others might call a puck, but looks nothing like a circular hockey puck) and begins play by throwing the 'ola in the middle of the u'usiga. 

The 'ola
Mesquite and leather
Photo courtesy of April Ignacio

Women use the sticks to hit the 'ola as far as they can towards their end of the field.  Once the 'ola passes the line, it is still considered in play until it is picked up.  It cannot be picked up before the line.  Kicking the 'ola is not allowed.  The teams alternate the direction of their goal after every match.  Usually, best out of 5 or 7 wins, though that number can change. 

There is no such thing as "out of bounds."

There are no timeouts. 

Game play doesn't stop if someone falls or someone starts bleeding.  Game play doesn't stop if the 'ola falls near the audience.  Game play doesn't stop if you have to jump over a barb wired fence or the 'ola goes into a patch of prickly pear cactus or under a tree with sharp thorns.  Game play doesn't stop if the 'ola falls near someone's shiny new truck.  Game play doesn't stop if the 'ola crosses the goal line. 

Game play doesn't stop until the 'ola gets picked up.   

I liked these photos of the 2014 Wapkial Ha-tas Toka Tournament because it shows that the players will not even stop for an expensive camera.

At this point, the 'ola had crossed the line, but no one had picked it up yet, so the game continued.

There goes that expensive camera.  I think this guy was from Indian Country Today. 

Injuries occur, but intentional injuries are not tolerated.  The game demands respect on all sides.   

No matter how intense the game is or how seriously the game is taken, hands are shaken at the end of each game, and if in a tournament setting, at the end of the tournament as well. 

Listening as the winners are announced

The circle folds onto itself and everyone shares a moment with all who participated.  This is a time for high fives, handshakes and hugs. 

In the 70's, 80's and 90's, a small number of people, many of whom were recently honored at the 2015, 77th Annual Wapkial Ha-tas (Cowboy Days) event in Sells, reignited the passion of toka within the O'odham community. 

Verna N. (Morrow) Enos, a teacher, then later, the Vice-principal at San Si:mon Elementary School spearheaded the campaign to revitalize the game.  By the time I attended that school in the late 80's, toka was commonplace on the whole west side of the reservation. 

In the backyard of Verna N. Enos-bat's backyard, were these metal-women, perpetually running.  Looking at Verna-bat's metal-ladies and the human ones in the background, kicking up dust, made me smile. 

I didn't learn until years later, that traditionally, only women, not girls, played toka.  I grew up in a time where it was common to have a pick up game at school during lunch.  I even remember a few teachers extending the lunch break by a few minutes to let us finish our games. 

Toka was always treated as something important within the community.  Because I grew up around it, I assumed everyone played.  Even as an adult, it still surprises me when I meet an O'odham woman who has never played.   

Boys never complained that they couldn't play.  They watched, they cheered us on.  But in the end, it was something special that only us females had. 

When I was in the seventh grade or so, I remember one of my close friends telling me about her weekend.  She told me about all the things she had done over the weekend; a trip to  Tucson, watching a movie with her family, going to church on Sunday, then, what she had been waiting all weekend to do,  playing a game of toka until the sun went down with her cousins.  I remember distinctly because she told me there were only four players.  I laughed at how small the teams were, only two against two.  She said they did it all the time.  She wanted to play, no matter how many players there were.  It was her favorite thing to do.  

Teams constantly formed throughout the Nation.  Some were new, some had really good reputations.  I can't remember if I learned how to play in my village or at school, but I was often surrounded by other young girls who were around my age.  Players on the team my village formed were anywhere from 10-15 years old, I was shocked (and immediately intimidated) the first time my team played another team with older women. 

Being a 12 year old and watching strong, confident women in their 40's, 50's and 60's solidly running while expertly handling their usaga was a moment that took my breath away.  Grandmothers, with headscarves were able to hit the 'ola halfway across the field, where their fastest runner was waiting to take it over the line.  I remember one woman was wearing a dress just like my grandmother's.  

Wide eyed and clumsily in comparison, we didn't stand a chance.     

I remember getting absolutely crushed by those women, but at the end of the game, they shook our hands and gave us hugs and told us how proud of us they were for coming out.  They had nothing but encouraging words for us as we shared a meal with them, as their guests, as is the custom. 

I haven't played in a long time (a detail many of the women like to remind me), but I do enjoy going to the tournaments and watching the games and the people who come to support the players.

The Pisin' Mo'o team and one of our wins. 
I'm in the back with the messiest hair. 
I think I was around 14 years old.  1996?
I was the worst one on the team

Thank you, Kaleena for the photo 

A dad holding his daughter, and a mom sneaks in some cuddle time with her daughter in between games.

In recent years, I've noticed how many families come out to support one another.  As a woman's game, naturally, there are many young children around.  I've noticed also, that there are many husbands and dads around to hold babies and cheer on their wives or their daughters.  Brothers are around to cheer on their sisters and everywhere, there is community and support. 

Toka is still growing.  Now there are teams from our sister tribes, Ak-chin and Akimel O'odham.  There's also a whole toka season where players and their families travel from village to village, both on and off the Tohono O'odham Nation to play. 

The largest tournament I've seen was held this year during the 2015 Wapkial Ha-tas, Rodeo and Fair.  There were 13 teams, including two from Akimel jewed with more than 200 women and girls participating!

HUGE trophies went to the 5-year reigning champions: S-we:pk U'uwi, 2nd place winners were: Tas Tonalig and 3rd place winners were: Gewkidag

All participants got t-shirts. 
A new shirt to wear to the next tournament. 

Packing up to go home.

The following is an excerpt from an email that was sent out to the participants of the 2015 Toka Tournament, written by April Ignacio, organizer and daughter of Verna N. Enos, "The Toka Lady". 

This past year, at the 25th Anniversary Tournament, 13 people were honored for their role in revitalizing the game:

The Nation will be recognizing 13 individuals who have played an instrumental part of this 25th Annual. Through my mother Verna's records and notes, her research on Toka started in the late 70's in the villages of San Simo:n and Gunsight. In 1990, The Tohono O'odham Nation Rodeo and Fair included Toka as a demonstration against two teams; San Xavier and the San Simo:n women's team. In 1992 she created the Nation's first ever Toka League that included the key individuals who helped spread Toka throughout the Nation and the schools, this included young girls from 4th grade to participate in toka. (Before then, the game itself was only played by older women).  These women and man are elders now, 3 of them have passed on; 

Agatha Miguel- San Xavier 

Carolynn "Shorty" Reyes- San Xavier
Helen Manuel- Hickiwan village
Avella Baptisto- Hickiwan- deceased
Charlene Jose- Kaka village
Alexine Francisco- Kaka Village
Marlene Francisco- Charco 27- deceased
Virginia Montana- GuVo Village
Phyllis Montana- GuVo Village
Norma Domingo- PisinMo'o Village
Verna N. (Morrow) Enos- San Simo:n School- deceased
Rosie Geronimo- Topawa Intermediate School
Elizabeth Joaquin-Johnson- Topawa Intermediate School
Cathy Ross- Santa Rosa Ranch
Helen Ramon- Santa Rosa Ranch 
Andrew Lorentine Sr.- Rodeo and Fair Committee Chairman in 1990 (advocated to have Toka be apart of the Rodeo and Fair, permanently).

Since this email was sent out, Andrew Lorentine-bat has also passed on. 

But still, the game persists.