Métis Identity: Past, Present, and Future

by Marcia Veldman
Athabasca University

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A Métis York boat brigade at Cumberland House, Sask., 1912. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada, PA-017395)

The Métis ethnogenesis was born from a confluence of identities both assigned by Indigenous nations and Euro-Canadian fur traders, as well as self-identified by the Métis community themselves.  The diaspora of the Métis across North America did not diminish the strong will of the Métis to collectively self-identify as a community, an identity that grew within the new generations of Métis as they continued to live on ancestral lands, practice their culture, and speak Michif when possible.

The act of Métissage (racial mixing) began when European immigrants established contact with the indigenous inhabitants of both the north and south Americas.  As France established settlements in the New World, they attempted to assimilate the indigenous people to the European life by “trying to use racial intermixing as an instrument of the empire”;  the attempt to create a French New World by producing offspring of French settlers failed as the generations began to self-identify as a New Nation: Métis.  However, the Métis were not restricted to being solely of French heritage: the European backgrounds were varied between French, Scottish, and English, and marriages to native women would occur among English fur traders and settlers on Hudson Bay as native women proved invaluable with their knowledge and skills navigating the local terrain.  Perhaps even more confusing was the fact that not all offspring of those in interracial relationships considered themselves Métis – some simply self-identified as “Half-breeds” or “country born Indians”.  It seems impossible to define the Métis identity as being comprised strictly of one component or another.

Geographically the strongest presence of Métis identity is observed in the Prairie provinces; although the identity of the Métis may be diminished in the Eastern provinces, Jacques Rousseau claimed that “forty percent of French Canadians could find at least one Amerindian in their family trees” and one can extrapolate that the supposed absence of Métis in these province may be due to the century old denial of historians of the existence of the Métis .  Despite Samuel de Champlain’s statement to the Indians: “Our young men will marry your daughters, and we shall be one people” , European settlers were reluctant to accept the existence of interracial offspring due to their post-Renaissance ideals of pure bloodlines.

While the Métis identity may not have flourished in Eastern provinces, the community continued to grow in the interior provinces and prairies.  The male Métis offspring became proficient as hunters, trappers, or canoemen, while the females learned traditional skills from their mothers such as constructing shelters and preparing food.  Many Métis men worked as agents for the Hudson Bay Company or North West Company, and they could be identified by their “blue capote (coat), beaded pipe bag and bright red L’Assomption sash”, creating a type of cultural uniform.  The Métis clothing would become a combination of European embroidery and utilitarian materials, creating a clothing conducive to life in the wilderness .  From within this community grew a fierce sense of independence, characterized in the Cree name given to them: Otipemisiwak, meaning, “the people who command themselves” or “the free people” .  As the Métis began to self-identify culturally as a distinct community, the Indigenous people and European immigrants acknowledged the Métis existence by assigning names and definitions of the Métis as a cohesive and singular group of people.

The identity of the Métis deepened as Michif, a language formed from the mixing of French and Cree linguistics and said to be “a unique outcome of Métis mixed ancestry and creativity” , became the primary language of the Métis.  Michif itself is likely to have begun upon initial contact between the French settlers and Indians, although there is little historical record regarding the evolution of the language .  Despite the undeniable existence of this language, Michif continues to be ignored, and attempts to introduce Michif as a language officially taught or spoken within reservations has been met with opposition as some believe Ojibwa and Cree should be taught in their pre-European state without reflecting the influence of European languages .

In 1814, Miles Macdonnell, Governor of Assiniboia, issued a proclamation prohibiting the Métis from selling goods to fur trade companies .  Other punitive proclamations would follow, causing tensions between the Métis and Upper Canada, and ultimately leading to a military skirmish in 1816.  Following this uprising, the Métis flag was flown for the first time, an infinity symbol representing the eternal synthesis of two cultures.  Despite the Métis having been recognized by as a distinct community by other Indigenous nations, Euro-Canadians, Europeans, and colonial United Kingdom, they remained ineligible for land grants and were excluded from the treaty systems .  Disagreements over the attempts to dispossess Métis from their land created a catalyst leading to further military action under the leadership of Louis Riel.

Despite facing systemic prejudice and racism, like their ancestors before, the Métis have survived hardships to emerge as a community with a stronger identity and a clear voice that demands to be heard.  Though their language is ignored, their history denied, and their existence diminished, the Métis continue to evolve and share their culture for those of us who need to hear their story.  The identity of the Métis does not rely on being of certain mixed heritage, but rather exists as a result of Métis ancestors making the conscious decision to self-identify as a singular nation and community of people rather than identifying as a mixed-race nation.  Today, the Crown- Métis Nation Summits have been a significant step in reconciliation between the Government of Canada and the Métis Nation.  The Canadian government has pledged to listen to concerns raised by the Métis Nation and work together toward reconciliation and a better understanding of what it means to identify as Métis in modern day Canada.

 

 

 

​Three Approaches: The Interpretation of the Numbered Treaties

by Marcia Veldman
Athabasca University

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This is an original photograph of the conclusion of negotiations for Treaty No. 3 at the North West Angle. It was taken by Wright Bros. Photographers of Rat Portage, now Kenora, Ontario. The photo shows a gathering of First Nations Treaty negotiators. In the front row are four men, three of whom are wearing medals that represent Canada’s Treaty promises. Two of the men hold pipes with long pipe stems of the type used to invoke the Creator as witness to verify First Nations‘ and the Crown’s commitments to the terms of the Treaty.

From 1871 to 1921, a series of eleven treaties were signed between the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the Crown, agreements describing exchanges of ancestral lands for varied payments in return.  Although the treaties inscribed on paper are preserved for examination in our current time, the oral promises exchanged between the Chiefs and Commissioners have attenuated and diminished with the passing of time.  In recent years, cases have been brought to the Supreme Court of Canada to examine whether the federal government has fulfilled its treaty promises to the Indigenous peoples, thus demonstrating how the addressed treaties are legally interpreted by Canadian courts.  There are three primary way wherein the treaties may be interpreted:  through the literal approach of studying physical documents, through the “spirit and intent” approach focusing on the Indian understanding and oral accounts of the treaties, and through the legal interpretations from Canadian and International courts.   

When considering the literal documents which were signed by both Indigenous Chiefs and Commissioners of the Crown, it is important to note the differences between the Euro-Canadian and Indigenous cultures Although the European settlers had used paper and coin currency as a means for payment for several hundred years, the Indians did not possess an understanding of the value of banknotes due to the recent introduction of it into their societies, therefore rendering the promises of financial annuities meaningless for many.  As stated in an interview with John Yellowhorn, “…no one explained to the Indian what this paper money was for.  They were told it was for trading, but they did not know its value…They did not know how to count it, what it was worth. .  Not only were the concepts presented by the Crown foreign to the Indigenous people—the treaties being written, and promises being spoken in English created another barrier to clear communication.  Interpreters were present at the signing of the treaties, yet not every dialect was represented, and the fairness of the interpreters was questionableIn 1877, the Cree brought Metis interpreter Peter Eramus to the signing of Treaty Seven to clarify the terms of the treaty.  Eramus later stated, “‘…my sympathies transferred to the Governor’s side.  From that point onward, Eramus was the main conduit through which information was passed from the Commission to the Indians” .  Finally, the Crown and each person involved with writing the treaties demonstrated a culture built from occidental philosophy, which included the concept of property ownership.  The British subscribed to the concept of private ownership, but the Indians cyclical philosophy led them to believe that land ownership was impossible as the lands belong to the Creator themselves. The Indians did not believe they could truly relinquish the property outlined in the treaties because “they were never given such unconditional ownership by their grantor (the Creator)…” . 

With the concepts presented in the written treaties lacking clarity, and the language used inaccessible for the Indians, the second approach to interpreting the treaties is invaluable to understanding how the spirit of the treaties was interpreted by the Indigenous peoples.  The Crown and Euro-Ccanadian settlers valued the power of written contracts and agreements but failed to understand that the Indians viewed oral promises in the same light:  as legal contracts andwhen oral communication takes place, it is understood that men are literally bound by their words” .  Logically, if the bands valued oral promises as strongly as written contracts, it would prove difficult for the Commissioners and agents to create an understanding that only written documents bore any legal weight with the signing of each treaty.  Though they attempted to clarify the contents and significance of the treaties, “there are serious doubts that the Commission was ever successful in explaining this concept to the Indians.  It was a constant problem associated with the negotiation of every Indian treaty” Intertwined with the importance of oral contracts was the spirituality wherein the Indians approached the treaty ceremonies:  the smoking of the peace pipe was a ritual of seeking guidance from the Great Spirit .  The Commissioners and agents, however, did not grasp the spiritual significance of these ceremonies to the Indigenous people; the spirit with which the Indians approached the treaties and the cultural philosophies they celebrated were significant to themselves but were not understood by other parties present.  These cultural differences are the fundamental reason why the spirit and intent with which the Indigenous people interpreted and participated in the treaty signings should be accounted for when considering the legality and content of the treaties. 

Finally, the third approach to interpreting the treaties is through international and Canadian laws, which differ significantly.  Though the Royal Proclamation of 1763 confirmed aboriginal rights and recognized “Indian title to land as having its source in Indian ownership from time immemorial” , the numbered treaties initiated by the Crown with Indigenous nations belied this proclamation.  The treaties were based upon the European doctrine of discovery, which held that the first European country to land on unexplored land held rights over the property , and they sought to nullify all Indian right to the land.  Today the Supreme Court of Canada does not recognize the Indigenous people as a sovereign nation and continues to hold land as Crown land even though the treaties were signed between two nations.  The proprietary approach that the Crown has exhibited towards all Indigenous nations is rooted in the English law system and does not adhere to the standards of international law .   

On reflection of the three approaches to interpreting the treaties, it is difficult to definitively state which approach is the most accurate.  The treaties were written by a party with a philosophy and culture that was dissimilar from those of the signing parties, creating an inherent cognitive dissonance.  Each approach is vital to interpreting the treaties, and therefore the written and oral contracts should be considered when examining the history and standing legalities of these treaties. 


References

 

 

 

 

Silenced Voices: The Systemic Suppression of Canadian Indigenous Women

by Marcia Veldman
Athabasca University

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Life on the reserves was difficult for Canada’s indigenous peoples such as these Cree women and children near Maskwacis (formerly known as Hobbema), ca. 1890s. They tried to adopt an agricultural lifestyle on land that they did not own or control—land that often was not suited for agriculture. Poverty was common throughout the reserves. Source: Glenbow Archives, NA-682-3

 

The cessation of Indian status for indigenous women who “married out” of Indian society or into other bands has caused exceeding socioeconomic, cultural, and personal harm, to both the affected women and those around them.  Although many laws, treaties, and acts laid basis for the paternalistic treatment of Indians and the discrimination against Indian women in particular, The Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869, which defined status Indians for the first time , and the Indian Act passed by federal parliament in 1876 were highly restrictive in the daily regulations of Indian lives and communities.  In 1985, Bill C-31 (Bill to Amend the Indian Act) was passed into legislation, legally entitling Indian women to gender equality as laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  While Bill C-31 was created to empower individual bands to become self-governing and autonomous, the power structures that remain intact today do not reflect the structures of band society that existed prior to colonization, specifically with regards to the status of Indian women.

To truly understand the negative effects the Indian Act and previous treaties had on Indian women, one must consider the sociological history of the various indigenous tribes and bands.  Despite the current Euro-Canadian patriarchal culture that Canadian society functions within, the indigenous societies were unique in often being matriarchal of nature: Indian women, specifically senior matrons, were both highly valued and carried vast responsibilities and authority within their bands, as the male members, known as hunters and gatherers, were frequently physically absent for long periods of time .  While the men followed the migratory patterns of buffalo, caribou, and other types of resources across vast spaces of land on hunting expeditions, the bands were managed by the women who remained behind with the elderly and young children.  Many First Nations were also matrilineal:  a family’s descent and inheritance were traced through the female for generations and senior matrons were empowered to elect chiefs and depose them when so desired .  Although certain bands may not have been solely matriarchal, traditional roles would have been egalitarian in these bands , and women would have been recognized as equal in status to male band members.  When considering all the roles that Indian women assumed within their families and bands, it is clear that they were valued as an integral piece of their indigenous communities, even as the maternal being was honoured in indigenous spiritual beliefs.

However, as the number of European settlers multiplied at a steady rate, European ideals and practices became the normative basis of life in Canada, which included the ideology of women being viewed as property of their male counterparts .  Victorian culture promulgated the notion that women were fragile gentle creatures, not built for physical labour or leadership; with these ideals, European settlers would have found any farming or various labour tasks Indigenous women performed vulgar and inappropriate.  The independence of Indian women economically, politically, and even sexually, did not reflect domestic Euro-centric ideals .  As the nineteenth century government of Canada became intent on “civilizing” the indigenous peoples, the true intentions of the Canadian government and the Canadian Indian Department would be exhibited and imbedded within legislation:  assimilation.  To successfully assimilate, the government introduced the concept of enfranchisement in the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869 to male Indians, which involved terminating one’s Indian status and receiving full Canadian citizenship, thus ending any fiscal benefits an Indian may have received, as well as their cultural identities .  Although the concept of enfranchisement may have seemed feasible to the Canadian government, the notion of abandoning one’s community and identity was rejected by most male Indians, much to the government’s consternation and surprise.  Notably, married Indian women not offered sole enfranchisement without the permission of their husbands , and with that action the government arbitrarily relegated Indian women to a lesser status beneath their male equals and built a foundation of how Indian women would be treated and viewed for decades to come.

Indian women could no longer choose freely who they wanted to marry without the potential threat of being ejected from their community; those who did opt to “marry out” of their bands were displaced and disallowed from returning to live with their families on the reserves .  Any Indian women who married into another band were forced to sever ties with the bands they were born into, automatically relegated into their partner’s current band.  Section 6 of the 1869 Act, which reaffirmed the Victorian ideal that Indian women were to be submissive to their husbands while recognizing that their offspring would legally be his ,  would eventually become the cornerstone of Section 12.1.b of the Indian Act passed in 1951.

Despite 82 years passing between the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869 and the Indian Act of 1951, the status of Indian women did not improve on the passing of the 1951 act.  The membership status of Indians became more complex, and the subsequent changes to the status of Indian women were deleterious. Prior to the 1951 Act, Indian women were discouraged from marrying outside of their societies with the threat of being removed from their communities; however, if they chose to marry outside of their society or into another band, they would still maintain Indian status and receive their lawful annuities.  With the passing of Section 12.1.b, Indian women who married a non-Indian would lose their status, band rights, treaty and health benefits, the right to live on their reserve and inherit property, and finally, the right to be buried with their ancestors . Section 12.1.b effectively removed any autonomy or legal rights of Indian women, placing them under the guidance and care of their husbands in a paternalistic act.  Although the 1951 amended oppressive sections regarding cultural Indian practices such as potlatch and wearing ceremonial dress, Indian women continued to be discriminated against even as the world was evolving and civil rights movements were gaining interest and popularity among the Canadian public .

After years of fighting for recognizable status, Bill C-31 passed in 1985 with three goals:  to address discrimination against Indian women within the Indian Act, to restore Indian status to those had lost their status due to discriminatory enfranchisement, and to create autonomy within bands regarding band memberships .  Bill C-31 amended the discriminatory legislation of Section 12.1.b from the 1951 Indian Act, but despite the changes to legislation and law, the decades of injustice perpetuated against indigenous women have caused grave social and psychological consequences that are impossible to measure definitively.  Decades of injustice and institutionalized mistreatment of Indian women has permeated native identity and communities with band governments failing to make the wellbeing of their women a priority .  A 2009 General Social Survey performed by Statistics Canada revealed that Aboriginal women were almost three times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than a non-Aboriginal woman .

There is no doubt that Aboriginal women have faced egregious harm since the beginning of Euro-Canadian colonization in Canada, having been stripped of their legal rights, identity, and independence for decades.  Although the Government of Canada has attempted to make reparations for racist and misogynist legislation that shaped the view of Indigenous women for decades, they continue to face discrimination, violence, and prejudice within their own communities and Canadian society.  As awareness continues to be raised regarding the history of Indigenous women, there remains hope that education and empathy will lend to building respect for the culture and identity of all aboriginal women, along with an empowerment and ability to raise their voices and finally be heard.

 

References

Chinook Multimedia. (2018). 1985 – Bill C-31. Retrieved from Canadian History: The Many Histories of Canada: https://canadianhistory.ca/natives/timeline/1980s/1985-bill-c-31

Crey, K. (2009). Enfranchisement. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/enfranchisement/

FemNorthNet. (2016). How Colonialism Affects Women. Retrieved from Feminist Northen Network: http://fnn.criaw-icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/LWM4_ColonialismWomen.pdf

First Nations Studies Program. (2009). Bill C-31. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/bill_c-31/

Hanson, E. (2009). Marginalization of Aboriginal Women. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/marginalization_of_aboriginal_women/

Hanson, E. (2009). The Indian Act. Retrieved from Indigenous Foundations: https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_indian_act/

Harry, K. (2009). The Indian Act & Aboriginal Women’s Empowerment: What Front Line Workers Need to Know. Retrieved from Battered Women’s Support Services: http://bwss.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/theindianactaboriginalwomensempowerment.pdf

Jamieson, K. (1986). Sex Discrimination and The Indian Act. In J. Ponting, Arduous Journey: Canadian Indians and Decolonization (p. 113). Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Sayers, J. F., & MacDonald, K. A. (2001). A Strong and Meaningful Role for First Nations Women in Governance. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada.

Statistics Canada. (2009). Violent Victimization of Aboriginal Women in the Canadian Provinces. Statistics Canada.

 

 

 

The Couple Next Door | Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorThe Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Imagine you decide to leave your baby sleeping alone in their crib and go next door to have drinks with neighbours you don’t even really like…

What’s that? No, you couldn’t imagine doing that? Well no, because no one in their damn mind should imagine doing that after what happened with Maddie McCann. And as you can guess, that sets the premise for what is yet another incredibly stupid thriller probably written in the space of three weeks on a subway.

The book doesn’t get much better.

So now you know. The two main characters (I can’t even remember their names, that’s how unremarkable the book was) decide to go have drinks with their neighbours and leave their baby at home. Bringing the monitor will be just fine (no it won’t, don’t even do it), so off they go.

Naturally HE gets White Girl Wasted and makes out with the wife of the neighbour. Meanwhile, SHE, sits politely and thinks about how much she doesn’t want to be there. Eventually they return home and tada! Baby has disappeared.

Thus ensues the usual trite thriller ridiculousness. SHE punches a mirror, cuts her hand, vomits, forgets what happened that night, HE is obviously caught in something somehow.

Slowly the family starts to unravel (naturally) and things begin to catch on fire (not literally though obvi).

Here’s the biggest problem with this book.

The most likeable character is the missing baby.

That’s right. The cute six month old baby girl who doesn’t make a sound or say a word the entire novel is the best character there. HE and SHE are horrible annoying people who are self-involved and legitimately crazy (won’t say who and I’m not mental health shaming here).

Not only that, the surprise moment or whatever you call that in these types of novels was predictable. I could write all the spoilers here, but honestly, you’ll probably already have guessed them if you’re reading this book at the moment.

There are many better thrillers out there with more interesting characters. This was like a Gillian Flynn novel, which I utterly despise. Where are all the good writers in the world anymore?

2/5 stars. Never again RIP.

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Some Great Thing | Lawrence Hill

Some Great ThingSome Great Thing by Lawrence Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have followed Lawrence Hill’s works avidly. I was first introduced to his writing through Book of Negroes and have since read *almost* all of his works. I have never found myself to be disappointed by his works. Unfortunately, I was unable to rate Some Great Thing higher than 3/5 stars.

Some Great Thing is the story of Mahatma Grafton, a young adult man living in Winnipeg, dark skinned without knowledge or interest in his heritage. He rolls his eyes at his father’s proselytizing over their shared heritage and the discrimination that black people face in Canada.

Unfortunately, Mahatma is not very well fleshed out. He is a journalist for a Winnipeg paper and spends his time chasing stories as we are introduced to several other “funk” characters. Despite Hill attempting to grow his large cast of characters, I felt that having so many varied people with different characteristics spun out of control quickly. I wanted to enjoy the characters and learn more about them, but there were just too damn many.

Furthermore, on top of the characters being too confusing and poorly rounded, the plot was lacking. Mahatma spent his time attempting to break a story on the French culture in Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba, but nothing really comes out of that. Some random tragedies occur that you don’t care much about. People die quickly and you’re left scratching your head.

At the end of the book I paused and I couldn’t place my finger on *what* exactly this novel was about. Yes, your eyes are opened to the fact that minorities in Canada face discrimination (and that’s important to raise awareness of), but other than that, the comparison of the French discrimination and the black discrimination was confusing and didn’t segue well into each other.

In my humble opinion, Hill writes best when he focuses on a smaller cast of characters in his novels versus a large jumbled assortment of people that he tries to draw together in a forced way. I still enjoyed this novel though…just not as much as his other ones.

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Sea Prayer | Khaled Hosseini

Sea PrayerSea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have loved all of Khaled Hosseini’s previous works, specifically The Kite Runner. Even though Sea Prayer is a short book with 48 pages that only hold a few sentences, I did not find myself disappointed yet again. As I read to the last page, I was somewhat surprised to find such a short little book, perhaps even more aptly described as a poem or prayer, would overwhelm me with so much emotion. Again, I was surprised to wipe some tears out of my eyes.

My husband asked me if it was an appropriate book to read to our 3 year old and I didn’t know how to respond. The illustrations are stunning and the book raises global awareness. Though there are heavier nuances to it, can the raising of awareness to the plight of those around us ever be wrong? I have not read it to him yet and I probably would not read it ad verbatim as some of the language might be scary or overwhelming, but this is a stunning book that should be instituted in schools.

I hope those who complain about the cost of the book compared to the size of it’s content are aware of two things. One, the book is being sold to raise money for a charitable cause. Two, the quantity of a book does not measure it’s quality and vice versa.

Sea Prayer is the first novel I read in 2019 and I believe it will set a good tone for the rest of the reading I do this year. Please buy this book to support UNICEF and to enjoy something beautiful and moving.

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A Season of Grief

For a few weeks I have been struggling through something I finally feel ready to share with you, my friends.

At the end of November I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. A pregnancy had not been planned, it wasn’t in my life schedule. I had lists and calendars–pregnancy wasn’t on it. My instinctive reaction wasn’t welcoming. How could I cope with pregnancy and a baby on top of the whirlwind known as Des, work and pursuing post secondary studies?

Over the next few days, I grew excited. Babies are a gift, a blessing. It wasn’t easy for me to conceive, so this was a good thing. We would make it work. I began to envision the baby–would he or she look like Des? What would they be like? I found myself thinking about tiny baby clothes, the little socks that fit on your finger like a glove. Des played with his cousin and I imagined him doing the same with a sibling. Life was so bright.

Through the awakening excitement, I also became aware that something didn’t feel quite right about my pregnancy. I couldn’t articulate it well. I reached out to my family physician to express my concerns and I was dismissed, told that “every pregnancy is different” and “your body is just changing”. I waited three weeks for my first ultrasound, moving from excitement to fear. The day of the ultrasound I let myself hope that maybe everything was alright, even though in my heart I was still inexplicably and deeply worried.

At the ultrasound there was no fetal pole in my uterus. I felt almost a sigh of relief at knowing I wasn’t crazy. There was something off, but it didn’t end there. There was no viable embryo in my uterus, but there was a mass outside my uterus, near my tube.

The doctors were confused. What was the mass? From there I descended into a whirlwind of invasive exams and blood poking. I felt that I was accepting of what happened, but in retrospect, I was numb. After multiple ultrasounds, margins still weren’t clear, but the pain I had been feeling pointed to an ectopic pregnancy, heterogenic due to the second egg in my uterus which wasn’t viable.

The day the doctors became decided on my diagnosis, I was rushed into surgery a couple hours later. The operating team gave me such compassionate care, rubbing my arms, holding my hands and telling me they were so sorry about the final diagnosis. “It’s okay, these things happen,” I replied, trying to convince myself with my calm responses. Post operatively the surgeon told me the egg had implanted in my ovary (which is rare) and it could have been fatal if I had continued on without surgery. I had a D&C to remove the second empty egg as well. I went home two hours later, early morning on December 17th and I carefully lay down on the couch and stared at the Christmas tree lights.

Christmas passed by in a whirlwind. My coworkers knew what had happened and sent me the kindest messages. Other friends who were aware of everything kept checking in on me and showed me their love and compassion. My family supported me from the distance with gifts to make up for missed work shifts. We had a quiet Christmas with a few siblings, but Desmond’s elation at learning how to open gifts filled my heart up. I was okay. I was moving on. On December 26 I went back to work for a short shift.

But grief is funny. Suddenly in this past week, especially the past two days, I changed. My hormone levels dropping probably have affected me, but I began snapping at my husband, who has only supported and helped me through it all. Flashes of anger I couldn’t control came over me. Tuesday night I had a panic attack in a grocery store and had to walk out, shaking and trembling, deeply afraid for no reason. Last night I sat on the couch with tears rolling down my cheeks, unable to control myself. I fell asleep crying. This morning Des knocked my coffee over and I exploded on Matt without reason.

What am I mourning? Something that was never meant to be? Am I truly grieving, or are my hormonal changes affecting my emotional state? Can I feel sad about something I never truly had? Is the mourning for what might have been, the hope I had cherished? Or am I indulging in self-pity?

Therein lies the mystery and conundrum of being a woman, being a mother, being pregnant for even only 7 weeks. Everything is speculation. Specialists say women who suffer a miscarriage/loss can experience moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety after loss, even to the point of being diagnosed with PTSD. There hasn’t been much research done, because when you have your D&C and your levels return to normal, your medical care ends and you are often left to seek treatment for your emotional stability on your own. Or not.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this, except maybe to share my experience with you, which you may be able to identify with if you have gone through loss yourself. Maybe this is another way I grieve. Maybe I needed to write this to work it out in my head and heart. Maybe I need you to tell me I’m not alone and slowly it will hurt less. Maybe I’m hoping to open up dialogue about miscarriage and loss, normalize it so it’s not something we whisper awkwardly about, unsure of what to say. Maybe I’m over-sharing and this will make you feel awkward.

But if you’re quietly going through this alone, I’m there with you. I walk beside you on the same path. I feel your hopelessness and grief. Who knows where we’ll end up with our hearts. All my heart knows right now is fear and sadness, but life carries on and time heals along with love–the neverending love from my husband and son which has held me up. I pray we will one day be healed, or even just more whole.

❤️

The Zookeeper’s Wife ~ Diane Ackerman

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War StoryThe Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read The Zookeeper’s Wife after seeing the movie trailer. It seemed as though the book would be a fascinating read.

Sadly, I wrong.

First off, I was confused by the book I was reading. I originally believed it to be fiction, for some reason. I knew the movie was based on a novel, wasn’t sure if it was a true story.

As I started reading the book, I realized it was actually probably a non-fiction? I wish I had known that before beginning the book, as I would have lowered my expectations. (I have read excellent non-fiction books, but generally they are on a different level of writing that your standard historical fiction.)

So I settled myself into the fact that this was actually a biography of sorts, but then I began to become even more annoyed with the fact that author apparently decided it was important to fluff out entire chapters with zoological tidbits instead of writing about the actual historical figure, Antonina Z.

In a quick summary: Antonina and her husband Jan lived through the Nazi/German occupation in Warsaw, using their zoo as a stop for the Underground which concealed and kept Jews and other wanted persons safe until the end of the war.

Frustratingly enough, the book rarely actually delves into what happened. It seemed as though the writer was almost taking liberties writing about what she *thought* Antonina’s state of mind would have been during those times. She also digressed into talking about random Jews and what ended up happening to them–and these are people who one has no idea WHO they are or why they were included in the book.

The potential to write a fantastic book about Antonina was sadly thwarted by the author’s flights of fancy into descriptions of animals and their lives, instead of focusing on Antonina and her family. There is very little description of EXACTLY how the zoo was run as a stopping point for the resistance.

Admittedly there were some very interesting parts to the book, especially when the author explained about the lives of Jew living underground, but I feel that the story of the Zabinskis suffered and was neglected due to these useless tangents.

At the end of the book, I had a small realization of why the author chose to inject all these other seemingly useless and random information in her work. She described meeting Antonina’s son Rys in Warsaw years later and she asks him questions about his mother, but he does not have answers. He cannot remember as he was a young boy at that time…and certainly he would not have a grasp of the machinations of the zoo with an adult mindset.

So I believe that the author was simply unable to procure enough research to write a well informed enough book. If you want to attempt reading a WWII biography, I highly recommend Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. In fact, the thought flitted through my mind while reading–that I wished Hillenbrand had written this book as I believe she would have done it more justice.

2/5, wouldn’t attempt read it again.

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The German Girl ~ Armando Correa

The German GirlThe German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The German Girl explores an interesting facet of WWII that I hadn’t read much on — the escape of German Jews to Cuba. Unfortunately, according to historical documentation, Jews were turned away from the country and refused entrance.

This novel is the story of Anna and Hannah. Yes, the writer chose to use some literary prowess and make the names of the two main characters similar. We get it, how clever.

Sadly, despite the fascinating subject, the writer does not do justice to the story. This is a historical fiction novel so naturally one can expect the writer to take liberties with their story telling. However, the novel in itself was boring and the characters were not likable in the slightest.

It seemed some of the main character met their ultimate demise in ways that were basically assumptions. I felt much was left up in the air. I struggled to finish this book.

Just pass it by.

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Chicken Parmesan Squash Casserole

recipes

 

 

Hi all!

It’s been too long since I have posted!   Life has this funny talent of getting in the way of our best laid plans.  Our son has begun his journey into toddlerhood which has been both awe inspiring and exasperating to experience.  Keeping him busy and occupied (leave him for a minute and our place is turned to dust!) means I don’t get nearly as much time to sit down and organize my thoughts.
But now!  Here I am, enjoying some quiet time as my husband picks up some eggs with little D in tow–and I felt it was important to post this recipe.
First off–I have reverted back to my “dieting”, although I use quotation marks as I prefer not to think of it so much as “dieting”, but rather a life style adjustment.  Getting married, being pregnant, dealing with the new demands of being a mom…well, all these things truly knocked me off track of my healthy eating and that’s partially because, as I said before,  life gets in the way of our best intentions.

What’s done is done. Here I am, trying to approach our meal times with a balanced and holistic approach.  We have certainly saved money meal planning and avoiding the easy way out:  take out.

This casserole though…will amaze you.  I will warn you–it’s fairly labor intensive, but if you’re low carb, keto or Atkins, this recipe is a must try and…it is so worth it.

So once again, I have embraced spaghetti squash to create the bulk of this meal.  You want to start out with cooking your squash, whether roasting or in the microwave.  I opted to roast, cut in half, face down brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Once the squash is cooked through, pull out the strands with a fork, drain what you have gather well and set aside.

Of course, you’ll see below that almond flour was used for breading as opposed to regular flour. It is lower in carbohydrates than all-purpose grain flour and I wanted to cater this dish specifically to a low carb audience–myself.

Chicken Parmesan Spaghetti Squash Casserole

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Satisfyingly close to the Real Thing

Ingredients

    For the Chicken
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ___________

    For the Casserole

  • 4-6 cups cooked spaghetti squash
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp parmesan
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • fresh mozzarella

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  • Beat egg in small bowl and set side
  • Mix together almond flour, parmesan, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper
  • Cut chicken into 2″ strips and dip into egg, then breading mixture. Lay to the side
  • Heat olive oil in non-stick frying pan until hot. Cook breaded chicken until brown and then remove off heat onto paper towel on plate
  • Toss strands of spaghetti squash with olive oil, parsley, salt, pepper and parmesan
  • Spread squash in 9×13 casserole dish. Lay chicken pieces on top, cover with tomato sauce and then mozzarella
  • Back in oven for 30-45 minutes until dish is warm and bubbly
  • Serve hot and enjoy!

__________

    Notes
  • Do not be afraid to cook your squash longer if necessary. My biggest mistake has been moving the squash from the oven before it is completely cooked and having to eat it a bit crunchy. Fork a piece of flesh from it if you are not sure and try it out.
  • Consider using a keto tomato sauce (you can easily make your own) or splurge on a low sugar sauce to keep carbs low
  • Use parchment paper in your casserole dish to keep the dish cleaner. I always use parchment paper when baking food in the oven–it makes the clean up so much easier and keep my pans from staining.

There you have it! I promise, this recipe is worth the time and effort to make. Of course, I didn’t think of this recipe all my own–I was inspired by I Breathe I’m Hungry and you can find the recipe here.