Focus North

Good morning. We headed off to Fort Liard, Northwest Territories, yesterday morning after the kids headed to school and learned that the Elder we were going to see came to Fort Nelson, so we had passed him on the highway. Instead of turning around and coming home, as originally planned, we got to see family and friends we don’t often get to see.

On the way to Fort Liard, Greg and I talked about how he felt coming home and he shared he felt anxious. Ever since his dad passed away, he hasn’t gone to his home community very often. It’s usually only under my urging that we go or we go as a family for community events, but even those times, are few and far between. We probably only go once or twice a year, if that. I recall not going for about two or three years, and I think we went for a funeral.

I talked to him and told him how important his connection to his community is, for his healing and wellbeing and for our kids. They are a part of Acho Dene Koe (ADK); it is their family and community, too. I shared with him how much I love Fort Liard because it brought us together, and that had I never had the connection to Fort Liard, we wouldn’t be together. Fort Liard brought us together. I am so thankful for that.

My heart is connected to Fort Liard and the ADK people and has been for over 20 years now. It’s funny because I asked my Uncle Bonzo at the conference a few days ago if he had ever partied there, like I did, and he said he had. I think that’s funny that my uncle used to party there, too. He’s 40 plus years my senior. That’s how my connection started there, it revolved around partying, and through that I gained family and friends and the connection has since remained. Although those choices no longer control my life, I always love going back to Fort Liard; it will always be my other home.

We visited Greg’s elderly aunt and uncle at the Senior Citizen’s complex, got to take his Mom for a cruise, visited his cousin Derwin and got to meet his new baby girl, Dayna, stop in at his Band Office, and visit the craft shop. If you’re ever in Fort Liard, the craft shop and Liard Valley General Store are must stops. I love to just browse at all the items they carry. The ADK people are culturally rich and it shows in their traditional crafts. The craft shop has some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen. Wow. Before leaving, we bought a piece of Greg’s family’s work, a tiny Dene drum ornament made by his uncle Pierre Berreault. I got some earrings and we bought my Mom an ornament of a little pair of wrap-arounds. I wanted them to remind her of her Mom, my Grandma Mary.

So, that was our day yesterday, a little trip to Fort Liard and ADK territory, and our other home. Like I said, I’m so thankful for Fort Liard because it brought Greg and I together. Through years of partying to today, it was all meant to be and I have never regretted one day of my life, it brought me the best parts of that little community – my husband, Gregory.

Today is a new day. I am thankful.



Some of my Berreault family, Freda and Marsha (RIP)

More or Less

We made it home after three nights in Fort St. John for the Walk in Balance conference. Coming home is always a welcome sight. Now that our kids are older the puppies are the most happy to see us, haha. We love coming home to our kids, Mom’s dinners and fresh laundry, and these crazy puppies.

I feel like I should be writing more for you but I’ve been distracted so I recognize the importance of tackling writing first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh and alert. The ideal time is not laying in bed, on my phone, in my pajamas, ready for bed. My mind becomes jello at this hour, so my apologies.

Today marks my ninth year of sobriety, and I got to spend my morning in a women’s healing circle. That’s pretty swell if you ask me! I shared through some tears but not sad tears, tears of empathy. What we go through as women is often suffered in silence because we’re too busy taking care of everyone but ourselves. I heard the pain of the women in our circle and my heart feels that. I know what it’s like to lose a loved one and to fight addiction. I also heard the strength of those women who were still moving forward despite the struggles. Indigenous women are resilient and strong. We are the lifeblood of our communities.

I didn’t get to see everyone I’d hoped to see and talk to because we left right after the circle but all in all, it was a good day and great 3 days overall. I’m happy we were able to go with Shawna’s (and NENAN’s) help. Thanks Shawna.

Good night, relatives.


United We Stand

Day one of Walk in Balance 5 in Fort St. John with Greg comes to a close. We are both lounging in our hotel room after a great day. I can see the beautiful blue, orange and black sunset sky out the window. I feel content in my heart. Life is good.

It’s a beautiful thing to see so many Indigenous people united for the benefit of all. Our future generations depend on us to lay down the path for them and these conferences and teachings help us do that. Each of us has a responsibility to take these teachings back to our community and move forward in a good way. I am thankful for these opportunities.

I look forward to these next two days. I’m proud to be here, among our people, learning and growing. I am proud to be exactly who Creator made me to be ~ a Dene woman.

Life is good in the North. Good night.


You’re Worth It

When is the last time someone told you you matter? You do.

As my husband and I drove down the highway, headed south on our adults-only adventure, I got to asking him about the things he values and what he has to offer this world and it stunned me to hear he didn’t feel he brought value. My heart physically hurt and I started to cry. He held my hand as I spoke through the tears.

I cried because I know he has so much to offer this world and Creator gives each of us, including him, purpose when we’re born. He brings value to everyone around him but I also realize he’s not alone in those thoughts. For so many years, I thought that about myself, too. I felt I wasn’t destined for much more than where I was in those dark times.

Growing up on the rez with alcoholism everywhere we looked, experiencing traumatic ordeals regularly and enduring grief and loss endlessly, it is hard to see value, hope, and light at the end of the tunnel. It is hard to see our worth or purpose. It is there, though. No matter the hell we’ve been through, we all have a purpose here on earth, to teach, learn, grow, heal, help and love others.

No matter the hell we’ve been through, we all have a purpose here on earth, to teach, learn, grow, heal, help and love others.

I talked to my husband through tears about post traumatic stress disorder and the symptoms around that and how often we are reminded physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually of the damage caused to us by all the traumas in our lives. Moreover, that we have choices to let those experiences control and dictate our lives or not. I told him how much he has to offer this world, his kids, family and community. I told him how proud he should be of all that he’s overcome. He is of great value to me and our kids.

To summarize it all, I want you to know how much you matter. You, you and you, too. We all bring great value to this world just by our presence. I hope you feel that deep in your soul. No matter your circumstances, you matter, and don’t you dare let anyone tell you different. The world is a better place with you in it.

Thankfully we made it safely to our destination and get to spend some quality time learning and growing with one another over the next few days. Good night.


Late Night Thoughts

As I lay here in the dark, husband sleeping next to me, washing machine making noises down the hall way, I wonder what the future holds for us. Particularly, my husband and I.

By 2019, both kids will be graduated high school and making their own plans but what does that mean for us? I’ve struggled with that in these last few months, especially after Unleash the Power Within. What’s my future hold? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What’s going to make me happiest? What am I going to do to make shit happen? I keep seeing and hearing the quote in my head:

“Who were you before the world told you who you had to be?”

I feel like I’ve never really lived my life for me. I haven’t even really lived life at all yet. Growing up, I lived under my parents rules and guidance, as most kids do. I started doing my own thing early on in my teens, which lead me to a life of drugs and alcohol for many years, resulting in my life being ruled by addiction. During those years, I was wasn’t living at all, more like barely surviving. Then when we had kids, addiction continued, and still we weren’t really living. Once in sobriety our lives became fully and completely about our kids. So as you see, our lives were never really ours to live, until now, as our kids have gained more and more independence over time. Funny how that works, the older they get, the less cool we become. Go figure!

That’s not to say we haven’t had some really amazing experiences with our kids because we most definitely have. Choosing sobriety allowed us to save money to take them places we only dreamed about, and experience those people, places and things, as a family. We all got to go to Disneyland as a family for the first time together. What a memorable time! That was living. The excitement. The challenges. The adventure. The first-time experiences. That was living!

As I’ve gotten older and with each death we experience in our community, I’ve realized how limited our time on earth is. In less than 20 years, I’ll be 60, I am running out of time to do all the things I want to do. I want to live fully! So many years have been spent coasting through life while it passed us by. It’s time! Time to saddle the fuck up, get my shit together, and get on with living! It’s not enough to say it or write it. It’s about getting shit done!

So with that, the hubs and I are off on a little Mom and Dad-only adventure this week to kickstart our get busy living or get busy dying plan. I choose the get busy living option! Each day is a new day to start fresh and get living! Let’s live! Whooo!

I don’t even know if I made sense but in my head and heart it does. I just know it’s time for us to wake up every day, embrace life and choose to give it our all. We deserve so much yet we expect so little from ourselves that we cheat ourselves from really living the lives we want and deserve.

Good night.


Celebrate Every Day

Today marks my husband’s eighth year of sobriety. It has gotten much easier but it hasn’t always been so. We struggled through a lot of shit to get to today. We made it here together.

I remind him often how much I love him, how thankful we are for him, and how grateful we are for this life we have. The one thing we don’t do as a couple is celebrate our successes enough, though. The little successes matter just as much as the big ones.

Like tonight, just so happened we got tickets to Green River Revival, a CCR Tribute Band, and so we invited family to come along and we had a good time, with lots of laughs and loud tunes. I don’t remember the last time him and I went out anywhere together, gussied up and had fun with other adults. Made me realize how important it is to celebrate more often, no matter the occasion, just celebrate. Celebrate our lives, happiness and health. That ought to be enough, to celebrate every day.

Back in the day, we’d get drunk and high to celebrate and celebrate getting drunk and high, it was a lose-lose situation. Now, we can enjoy the good times without drugs or alcohol and remember the whole night. YES! I don’t miss those old days. We have a really good life and I am happy to celebrate that, every day. We deserve it.

I love you, my Lomens. I love this life with you. I’m grateful every day that Creator gifted me with the three of you.Good night.


Why Don’t We Dance?

“Head, heart, feet move me,

Beautiful, sacred prayers,

Drum danced till late night.”

#DeneHaiku by R. Lomen

Dene Tha Assembly 2017

Today I got thinking about the Dene drums and dancing and how proud, strong and happy I feel when I dance, especially when it’s alongside my family. I believe dancing to the Dene drums heals us; it is our medicine.

Then I got to thinking about other things, such as why don’t our members dance, or drum? Some do but very few do. Why is that? Why do some communities have many drummers and dancers while others do not? What’s different about the communities?

I remember when I was a child, unsure of my age at the time, but drummers from Alberta came to our community and we celebrated Treaty Days with tea dances at Old Reserve. The only memory I have dancing in those early years was when an Alberta Elder drummed on my grandparent’s lawn for a few of us kids. I’m not even sure who the other kids were but we danced around in a circle as he drummed, having innocent fun, no cares in the world.

Fast-forward to my early teens when we still had Treaty Days Princess pageants and girls vied for the title… remember those? I recall dancing but it wasn’t something that I felt comfortable doing. I didn’t grow up around the drums until those early years so it wasn’t something that I was born around. I guess I felt insecure and unsure of my footing, shy, fearful of judgment or criticism.

Later on, I became involved in drugs and alcohol and Treaty Days became something else to me; a party, the weekend to hang out at the drum dance and then go party afterward, usually missing days two and three. All those years of participating in our traditions wasted.

Now, going on nine years of sobriety, I’ve danced at most community dances and traveled with my family to other drum dances and gatherings just to dance and be surrounded with others that like to dance, too. I can’t imagine not having the drums in our lives. Even in the last two or three years, I’ve been witness to my husband picking up the drum more often to help drum and had the blessing of dancing while both my husband and son drummed. My heart overflowed with pride in that moment.

So, back to my question: why don’t people dance? I guess it’s a culmination of many things, both internal and external. We pay to bring drummers in for special events and pay thousands of dollars to have 20-40 people dance while at other communities there’s 100s of people dancing together, celebrating, having fun, showing pride in the ways of our people. They often dance until the wee hours of the morning and still the dances could go on if the drummers didn’t need their rest. There is something to be said about Elders out dancing people our age. They’re still trying to teach us the ways, yet some of us don’t see the lessons. It’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of. I wish more of our own people danced but in time, with healing, that will come.

Nothing is more healing than dancing alongside your family, kids and friends to drums so powerful that you can feel them deep inside your soul. I missed out on so many years of that because of the choices I made when I had the opportunity. I’m thankful my kids grew up around the drums at an earlier age than I, and that they get up and dance with and without me. They know they don’t need drugs or alcohol to dance and participate in their traditions and that makes me proud. They respect the drum and the dance.

With summer coming, there will be more chances to get those feet moving. I hope more people get up; show their pride and DANCE to the drums. It’s healing. Don’t worry what others may think or say, dance for you, dance to heal your heart, dance for the pride you feel, dance because you can! Dance because your future generations are watching you, waiting for you to lead them.

Close your eyes and imagine the day when all of our community dances together.



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Check out my “Live from DTFN Assembly” Youtube video of a drum dance in Chateh, AB!