Anything I Want

I’ve sent in my final books to the printers and I feel this amazing sense of relief. A million pounds have been lifted off my shoulders.

I have two finals things to do before I can officially list “master” on all things me (resume, social media, etc) – and that’s hand in my books to our program director and attend graduation.

That’s it! My book received high marks in the original turnaround and my presentation went pretty well, followed by successfully defending some of my choices.

I’m {unofficially} a master!

I defended back on the 15th and here’s some thoughts on that whole thing:

1. Naturally, I wasn’t completely freaked out until the moment the floor was mine. Then the nerves built up out of no where. No matter how many times I reminded myself that “this is my baby that I’ve been working on for over a year, I got this,” I still felt uneasy.

2. Related – I’m not a very gifted public speaker and that’s been identified as something I want to work on in the future. I’m already tapped to talk to some Buffalo youth about my academic/professional journey thus far. I took a public speaking course at Buff State… looks like it’s time to brush up and just keep practicing.

3. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I can’t contain myself when I’m experiencing some extreme emotions. My panel went ahead and told me that I passed, explained the kind of revisions they want to see from my book, and complimented which aspects of marketing communication I’m particularly strong in. THEN BOOM. I got a wiff of my Dad’s cologne that I spritzed on for good luck (I did the same thing on my last official day of undergrad) and my face got hot and my eyes welled up. I tried so hard to hold it in but no such luck. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person whose ever cried because they were told that they passed. This degree, all the work, all of it was as much for Art and Zenna Nephew as it was for me. I just wish I could’ve waited until my drive home to realize this and just cry to Mark. C’est la vie.

This past weekend, I did some decompressing by cleaning a little bit and basically staring at the TV while marathoning through Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. My poor husband. He’s not a big fan of sitting around and watching TV and is probably starting to get a little sick of the hospital drama (while commenting the whole time about how bad these doctors are at their jobs – even knowing it’s not real life!). He’s being a trooper and he knows that this transition will be kind of difficult for a career student/busy body like me. For better or for worse!

And now, I get to enjoy the holidays, time with my husband (which will be interesting in itself because in our 4.5 years together – I have always had a million and one things to do. Now? Yeaaa…), and reacquainting myself with myself, basically. And read the books I want. And craft. And decorate.

And do anything else I want.



Finishing the Race

Pre-[event] jitters.

I didn’t experience this before the wedding. I didn’t ever feel jittery before the first day of school or a new program. Excited? Yes. Jittery with nerves and adrenaline?

Barring a few traumatic moments in my life, the last time I felt what I’m feeling now was in the pool.

Surprising to some, I was a competitive swimmer in high school. I was even the captain my senior year, which looking back is like “how?” My strongest stroke was the freestyle but I got lumped into doing the individual medley and 100M butterfly because I was the only girl on the team who knew (and cared to know) how to do it by regulation standards.

Hey, it was a Buffalo Public School. Practices lasted an hour after school and we weren’t expected to keep any kind of regiment on our own. I think I utilized the weight room for swimming purposes three times in my three years on swim team. At Lafayette, it was a resume builder and a great way to do something other than go home and do homework (which I ended up doing anyway when I got home even later — overachiever since way back when…)

But it was fun and when I did practice, I practiced hard. Did I think I’d ever be an Amanda Beard or even a D3 collegiate swimmer? No. I had fun and I filled my time.

But have I ever mentioned to you that I’m super competitive? I’ve eased up on it since I was 15-16-17 years old but I was SUPER competitive at things I knew I wasn’t even that good at.

My parents used to tell me that being competitive like that was a waste of energy because “there is always going to be someone who is better than you at what you’re doing.” Well that might be true but it’s not going to be true about the person who I’m swimming next to. So there. Sass.

In BPS, we had these All-High meets wherein all the schools got together at ECC City where we’d compete amongst every other school at the same time. And it was nerve-wracking because it was the capstone of the swim season and I would invite my mother who was there every year. Friends from other schools and at least a hundred of the other competitors parents and so were there.

And I remember seeing my name on the list for the 100M butterfly. And my heart sank. I’m basically a spaztastic impostor of a butterfly swimmer and they want me to go up in front of City Honors, DaVinci, and Hutch Tech as their butterfly swimmer?

via {Google Search}

via {Google Search}


You’re probably wondering “And I’m telling you this story why?”

Last night, the last three presenters from my cohort presented their plans and defended their campaigns to the panel. The capstone of our graduate program. The last three presenters before it’s my turn, that is.

When I looked at my phone last night and it was 9:45, I knew that their defenses were done. And it was my turn. I’m on deck. And as unfortunate as it is, my mind automatically blanks and I’m suffering from impostor syndrome. They want me to defend what? How? Yeah I know the material… but do I know the material?

And as weird as it may sound… for a brief second I swore I smelled chlorine. And I started shaking my hands and bouncing side to side like I used to do at the starting mount. Time to psych myself out. I’m not an impostor. I’ve put in the work, I know what I know, and it’s time to own it.

Hopefully this works as well as it did then because all I remember from then is hearing the starting pistol, jumping in the pool, and I’d focus on my strokes. Going as fast as I can because I’m never more prepared than I am in this moment.

And at the end, I’d come out glaringly average. Not the best in the pool but not the worst.

But my parents always said that they were proud. And without fail, each time, said “at least you finished the race, Sam.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant then. In fact, it kind of made me feel a little mad when they said that. That’s it? But since its been almost 7 years since my last time in the pool (for competition) I think I know what they mean.

Tomorrow, when I go into my presentation, I have to believe in myself. I have to do what I’ve been working on for months. I know this.

And at the end, if I’m not the top student — at least I finished the race. I still have my master’s degree. And 7 years from now, it’s likely no one will care who the top student was (less our program stats/records and the person who was top).

It makes sense. I couldn’t tell you who won the butterfly race. Or who lost it the worst. Or even what place I came in. I finished my race.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing my high school swim meet to my graduate degree here. And I am taking my program a bit more seriously than an hours practice per day. But it’s a lesson I’m carrying over in dealing with nerves. I’m 24. I’m being critiqued by a panel of seasoned experts in the field. And I’m trying to convince them of a plan that utilizes all the elements of marketing communication that they could pick apart in seconds if it’s wrong.

Time to psych out. Shake my hands and bounce side to side, if need be.

I’m never more prepared than I am in this moment.

Time to go practice a little more so I’m more prepared in that moment than I am now.

Time to finish my race.


Love is… {It’s a lovefest.}

Love is love is love.

If two consensual adults can make the decision to love one another, then why not let them get married?

And I am 100% against this “…because the bible told me so,” nonsense. I could go into some length but the point here isn’t to point out the obvious fallacies of this argument.

Marriage is a significant symbol that people want to use to show their commitment to one another, to the world. I’m not a religious person, and Mark was raised Catholic (and a litany of other things), but isn’t very religious either. But we feel strongly about being married. We’re excited to be married! It’s important and it’s not because we’re pledging ourselves to some creator. We’re pledging ourselves to ourselves. // And for the record – it was once illegal and morally irreprehensible for an interracial couple to marry. And yet… here we are!

So tell me, if that’s what it means to a large number of people, then why not let two people, who just happen to be gay, do the same?

I really hope SCOTUS comes through with this. I’m sick of hearing the religious conservative banter about how this will affect the moral landscape of our great country and countryfolk. Blah, blah, blah… moral turpentine  (Hairspray movie reference).

I am a proponent of equality, in all its forms. I was raised to look at a subject and think to myself, “How would I feel if someone did/imposed this to/on me?” The important tenant of life, which we all learn as kids, is to treat others as you’d wish to be treated.

Just remember these things:

  • Gay parents does not equal gay children. Just like straight parents does not equal straight children.
  • Gay marriage is just marriage. It will not ruin the sanctity of marriage. I think Britney Spears, Donald Trump, and anyone else with 3+ marriages took care of that a long time ago.
  • Gay marriage is not natural.” Right. And neither are the invisible braces I have in my mouth. Or the contacts in my eyes. Get over it.

I can’t wait to look back at this when I’m older, and either my gay children (hey – you never know!) or my children’s gay friends are marrying and living life unimpeded, and we can recall how ridiculous this whole argument sounds.

Much like how I view the interracial marriage thing. Silly.

Love is love is love.

Light at the end of the tunnel…

It kind of took me aback that today is March 18th.

Seriously, how is it two weeks until April? I feel like I was just in Spain, celebrating New Years Eve, drinking too much cava and freezing my ass off in a Madrid public square.

I counted the months until graduation in mid-December, and I have 8 left until it happens. Seriously, it will be the most bittersweet moment to date when I’m recognized for completing my program at St. Bonaventure.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already envisioned our small reception-style recognition (I can’t really call it a graduation ceremony, can I?) and thought of how incredibly hard it will be to hold back tears. Education has always been one of my mother’s highest wishes for us girls, and here I am, completing my master’s degree. Completing something at 24 years old, that same something my father wanted so badly at the ripe age of 48 but just couldn’t fit it into his lifestyle.

After I graduate, I’ll have considered my duties as a grateful daughter almost completed. That sounds weird, I know, but I mean it. I still have the more vague things that I can complete, as in, paying it forward, being a leader, and being a strong, Native woman. But those things weren’t as succinct and finite like “get your bachelor’s degree, get your master’s degree…”

And in 8 months, that specific list is done.

And it’s incredibly bittersweet.

After this next 8 months, it’s up to me to figure out ways to continue fulfilling my “duties” as a grateful daughter and remembering/honoring their spirits. And I’m sure I’ll find a way. They continue to be my motivation to do great things.

To M&P, keep me strong these next 8 months. I’m going to need all the will, self-determination, and focus to get through the demands of my life.

The one where I consider law school…


I am perpetually seeking punishment. I am sure of this.

After stressing for nearly TWO whole weeks on a written campaign for my Integrated Marketing Communications class, I am looking at another program in the future. I’m a year away from fulfilling my requirements for a master’s degree, and I’m already hungry for more.

This past Monday was our company holiday party and I had the opportunity to speak with quite a few people who are on the higher up of Seneca governance and business. One in particular was a professor of law at a prestigious school, and his lesson/lecture to me sounded like one straight out of a college classroom. I was intrigued and incredibly mentally stimulated. As a former practicing lawyer, this guy knew his stuff. And I was keeping up in conversation. Maybe not to the best possible extent, but I was asking the questions that I needed answered.

Since then, when I take breaks from creating my IMC plan, if I’m not perusing the Twitterverse (and keeping up with Indian Country/#idlenomore) I’m staring at the Cornell University Law program.

Just for background, I’ve been enrolled at Cornell before. I’ve met amazing people who have done amazing things. I wish I could do it again. And I’ve always said (since my short 5 years since high school) that if I were to go for an advanced degree, I’d do it at Cornell. Unfortunately, you don’t really go to an Ivy League (unless you have money, a lot of money) for an advanced marketing degree. But since this inkling of law school has come up, I’ve been thinking of The Slope, the libraries, and of course, Collegetown Bagels, ever since.

(I’ve already told Mark that our babies’ cribs will be donned with Cornell University apparel. If I can’t go, my offspring surely will.)

One of my main goals is to be able to make life better in Indian Country. I feel like being able to better navigate these manmade laws, such intricate things, could help. I don’t need to practice it, so much as I need to understand it. I’m a communicator at heart. See where I’m going with that?

I feel like a background in American Indian law/marketing would be beneficial for when I finally become Dr. Sam Nephew, PhD in American Indian Studies.

So many details to hash out. What’s possible and what’s not? What can I handle now and later?

I have a lot more thinking to do. But more importantly, I have a lot more thinking on my current assignment. I am most definitely graduating from St. Bonaventure with my IMC degree, so I need to make the most of it.

To the campaign book!

When 20,000 Thank You’s Aren’t Enough

This is what I mean by having a strong community. A strong pillar of support for people when they want to reach their goals. I am lucky.

I am so incredibly lucky and so, so, so fortunately placed, to have this opportunity.



Normally, I’d be a little hesitant to share these kinds of numbers, for any reason. But holy mother f@#king sh!*.

There is no way in hell I could afford this on my own. I was willing to take loans. Oh so hesitantly, was I willing to take loans. But $20K is a lot of money. Anyone with any kind of educational debt can understand, and for a lot of people, it’s that very understanding that keeps people from advancing their degrees.

I am so incredibly thankful to have a community like the Seneca Nation having my back. Sure, I have to deal with a little of this…

Ass baring jeans that has beading that looks similar to the Two-Row and Hiawatha Wampum belts, very sacred meaning to the Haudenoshaunee people. But who knows, Urban Outfitters would deny (or would they?) selling Indigenous ideas for a profit.

But that’s okay. That’s why it’s such a perfect fit to have done media studies and will eventually go on to marry American Indian studies with that.


So there it is. The Seneca Professional Scholarship which awards $20,000 for each year of studies.

My parents would have never been able to afford to help me to school. I hate that excuse, the one that says “your parents should pay for school.” No, my parents came from poverty and built their way up as much as they could. Supporting the essentials and paying for school? Not an option. This takes me back to sophomore year of high school when my Mom would say, “Work hard and get into a good school. But you have to work hard and get a lot of scholarships, because just so you know, your father and I aren’t helping you.”

Now, as an adult, I see it wasn’t just that they wouldn’t. They feasibly couldn’t. C’est la vie. I hope they’re proud of me 😉

The biggest stipulation of receiving this award is being required to work for the Seneca Nation in the field of your studies.

Yeah… I’m already the Marketing/Communications Specialist for Seneca Holdings, the investment arm of the Seneca Nation of Indians. I’m solid..

I am so relieved tonight. This scholarship was the last bit I needed for grad school to be completely paid for. That’s right. paid for. Between the Dean’s Scholarship from SBU and this… I’m set. I really, really do not mean to gloat in front of people who face a mountain of debt, and I promise that I feel for you. I do. But I understand your stories and I understand the strife that comes with it. And I am not missing the fortune that I have by accepting this scholarship. Believe me, I do not take this in vain!

I wasn’t feeling well when I got home from work, and I’m still not feeling well, but this was a relief. This was one hell of a relief.

I cannot believe I will graduate from St. Bonaventure University with a master’s degree, debt-free.

I am in awe. I am forever thankful to the Seneca Nation.

Indian Country, 8(a) Contracting, and Preserving Community

On September 11, 2012, I had the opportunity to travel to Capitol Hill to speak with various legislators about the 8(a) Program, facilitated by the Small Business Administration, and what it means to Native American people and communities. I traveled with other 8(a) impacted Native women and men from Nebraska, South Dakota, Idaho, and Alaska, and spoke with representatives from each of those states.

Our mission was to express, and put faces to stories, on how the 8(a) affects individuals, families, and communities. A member of the Ho-Chunk tribe from Omaha, Nebraska, and works for Ho-Chunk, Inc., is getting the opportunity to move into her own home through a program funded by the Ho-Chunk tribe. Ho-Chunk is able to serve their community with this kind of opportunity because of their 8(a) contracting capabilities and revenue from that.

Countless of us were granted the opportunity to go to college, and graduate, without accruing ginormous and, often times for those living on reservations, stifling debt. In our communities, especially the isolated ones, these opportunities are far too valuable. That’s why the 20 of us represented the Native American Contractors Association on Capitol Hill in efforts to keep any blockade of this (“handout”) program that the opposition feels is unfair. Unsurprising, it’s representatives from states without any Indian Country that feel that this program is unfair.

You know what’s unfair? 

Assuming that all Native American nations need are gaming facilities. Alaskan Native Corporations don’t have that luxury as there isn’t enough sustainability for Class III gaming there. And when these gaming facilities are operational, they’re met with heavy opposition.

You know what’s unfair?

When New York State threatens the sustainability of legally run Class III Gaming Facilities (under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and threatening 8(a) contracting when we’re not even sure what’s going to come of this standoff.

You know what’s unfair?

Attacking American Indian 8(a) contracting when it makes up less than 1% of all government contracting deals.

You know what’s unfair?

Belittling the countless families who depend on their communities to help get a lift out of the furthest depths of poverty.

My story, which I was met with gracious consideration, isn’t unique, but is an example in community involvement in individual success.

Four years ago, my father passed away. We were fortunate when he was around and making enough money to be comfortable. When he died, it was up to my mother to make ends meet. She traveled an hour, each way, for work with Seneca Construction Management, an 8(a) program. A year later, she also passed away. When that happened, my first-hand experience in what our community does for one another was the burial assistance my sisters and I received to help bury her, next to my father, just 13 months after we laid him to rest. I have been fortunate to receive aid from the Seneca Nation of Indians, which left me without debt after graduating from my four-year program. I am now receiving 90% of my tuition for graduate school, and will be the first in my family to graduate with a master’s degree. Most people may ask me, “why would you care now? Everything is taken care of.” The threat and opposition faced by my nation in this gaming compact cannot be ignored, and I refuse to allow these opportunities pass in the event that my children, and their children, need it. The 8(a) program is an incredible tool that our Nation would fully utilize in making sure that our people are taken care of. That’s what a community should do.”

Now, I didn’t say all of that verbatim with each representative. In fact, this is what I wrote down prior to going into any meeting, and elaborating with each meeting. By elaborate, I mean, I cut it short in my first meeting because my heart tends to lump in my throat when I talk about my parents. C’est la vie. I’m just happy I mustered up the courage to speak about such a subject which was ultimately met with great care by those on the Hill.

That entire experience was necessary, painful, and informative. I was relieved in meeting people who support those in Indian Country, meeting Native Americans in positions of power on the Hill. I learned of the lack of any Native representation in some facets of government. I was told a story of a Superior Court Judge, whose name escapes me, who expressed his contempt of Native American preference by saying, “What’s so special about Indians?” And I didn’t know that there was any opposition to 8(a) programming before meeting with NACA, but now I know that there is and who is against it. I was reaffirmed by Non-Indian representatives that there are definitely racial motivations to some of the opposition. I like to try to believe the best in people, but this helped to reiterate the point that it isn’t always the case. The best in people is just the worst sometimes. 

Traveling to D.C, learning all of this, becoming a better, well-informed citizen, of both the Seneca Nation and of Western New York; all opportunity granted to me by my company. My company that deals primarily in 8(a) contracting.

So, while New York State continues to break their promises, and city mayors continue to make idle threats to the welfare of our businesses and people (and coincidentally, their own citizens), I’m going to continue to help in Holdings’ mission to diversify our economy. I’m going to continue to learn about how to effectively disseminate messages. I’m going to learn about our history, our laws (internally and with the federal and state governments), and our heritage.

Because when people say bad things about me, whatever. But when you speak poorly of the Seneca Nation of Indians as a whole, I take it as an attack against my family, my mother, and people like her.

Back to work…

The only picture I have of me in the mix at the NACA Emerging Native Leaders Summit in Washington D.C.

Marketing and the American Indian: Grad School Week 1

For the last three hours, I’ve been reading the “Culture Code” for my first graduate course. Already, the mental juices are in overdrive as I set out to understand these concepts and how I can apply them to my work.

However, the book tends to overlook the depth of American culture, continuously noting that the American dream began back before “we” settled and began to use this “undeveloped land.” I’ll grant you that the writer of the book, a native Frenchman, wouldn’t necessarily look to the history beforehand, but it’s still irksome. I feel as though that this book, that is used with such high authority in positions of graduate study, continue to undermine the position of the American Indian in the greater context of American culture. Surely, it has to be positioned to foreigners/immigrants that America is relatively new to the world. However, there was a history long before that and although the people have been left with little to fend for (speaking specifically to land, though it’s not limited to that in today’s context). Surely, they know about us? I’m not speaking specifically to Seneca or Haundenoshaunee culture (there are many others, though, the Haudenoshaunee was a powerhouse in their heyday) but to the entire presence of the “American Indian.”

Beyond my contention for this chief idea that the American culture is so homogeneous (because we’re all so new and shiny!), I began to question something. The drift of the book takes us to what America means in other cultures. What is our “code” when cultures around the world think of us?

My idea is this, “What do the 500+ American-recognized sovereign American Indian nations think of America?”

“Indian Country” as it’s known within the larger community of American Indians, is recognized as an entity within a larger entity. Not a superior entity, but considerably larger. I, for one, would be the first to admit that I recognize myself as a Seneca before I would ever say that I am an American. In terms of National pride, I would be first, “A Member of the Seneca Nation of Indians,” and second “An American.” I have no doubt that many other people within “Indian Country” feel the exact same way.

So, what to do with this in a marketing perspective? Well, that should be a new goal of mine. How would a company market to the American Indian? What are the specific codes in relation to the different Nations across the country? The French code for food differs greatly from the American code. Is this the same for a member of the Cherokee Nation? What about from the Mohawk Nation? What about the difference in code just between the Cherokee and the Mohawk?

I don’t know how many companies are distinctively marketing to American Indians in this country. As such a small contingency relative to the rest of the country, and largely destitute, why specifically send messages to us?

There is something to gain from this, and it will require much more thought that what I’ve been able to assert in this short and spontaneous post.

I don’t know much about it yet. But what I do know, is this.

I have walked miles in just the two days I’ve been in graduate school.

I may not be excited to market cheese, but I am excited to take the methodology in marketing cheese, and finding a way to leverage that in marketing and marketing to the American Indian.

Marketing to the American Indian is not the same as marketing to an American. Though we are close in proximity,  the culture of the various American Indians, continues in different patterns than that of the “typical” American. It’s a unique space to say the least.
(Photo taken by Mark James)

Roar, Ladies. Roar

So I was reading an article this morning about female athletes at the Olympics challenging the femininity stereotype, and the story in the beginning prompted me to really say, “dafuq?”

Gini Dietrich writes about a time her father took her to the side to scold her for being “unladylike,” because she burped to make her brothers laugh.

This kills me. I can’t imagine a family that is uncomfortable with this. In my house, growing up, a burp was a normal bodily function. My parents warned me about doing it in public (because, ew) but I was never reprimanded for doing it at home. As child-hooligans, my sister and I would take pop cans, drink the carbonated deliciousness, and continue to engage in a burping contest. My father would join in every now and then. We weren’t any less lady because we did this, we were just a little less decent if we did this in public (because, ew.)

Apparently, being sweaty, exercising in public, and weight-lifting are also little nuances that make one less feminine. I don’t know how many girls that complain to me about being fat or wanting to lose weight fast. So I tell them, weight lift! Calories burn and it heightens metabolic rates. But over and over, I hear this, “Ew, I don’t want to be all muscle-y and buff.” Face palm. Face-banged-against-the-wall.

I just don’t get it because I wasn’t raised to be dainty (we all know Mom wasn’t), subservient (we all know Mom wasn’t), or helpless (we all know Mom wasn’t). I was raised to stand up and be heard, I was raised to ask for things (“You will never get what you don’t ask for”), and to be a leader.

These ladies at the Olympics are leaders and they’re damned good ones. Yes- that’s right, they’re definitely ladies. They sweat, they toil, they train, and could certainly kick my ass. And in my eyes, they aren’t any less ladylike for it.

And to be clear, who cares that one of the weight lifters, Holley, is 300lbs? She can lift 600lbs and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to mess with someone like that.