LifeBeat Follow-Up: Kendee Eusted
It’s time to get caught up with the spectacular Kendee Eusted who was the third guest on episode #7 (watch the episode) back in April 2021. Kendee fills us in on how her plants reflect her own emotional well-being, her recent experience of offering a land blessing, the latest about the Junio Giants, and so much more. This Q&A was conducted over email, and Kendee provided her answers on May 11, 2022.
Lizzie: I start all the episodes with “lightning round” questions and the first was about a go-to karaoke song. Now I’d like to ask, aside from live music and baseball, how do you unwind? What else fills your cup?
Kendee: Definitely, the time I spend with my hands in the soil and playing with my plants is a go-to “cup filler” for me. Spending time with my son, Ayden, and my family/friends is crucial to the volume of joy in that cup. I did return to Yoga once a week and finally was able to return to my gym (2 years and 2 months later) and am able to work out again and investing in that part of my health (physical, mental, emotional) has been a game changer for me in these past few months. I’m still struggling, a lot. But getting to return to what I know and what fuels me has been so pivotal to increasing the optimism and the passion I’ve been so deeply lacking. Serotonin is a helluva drug.
The next question was morning person or night person. You shared that you suffer from insomnia. Has that gotten better in the last year? What are some techniques you use to get some shuteye?
The insomnia hasn’t gotten any better and continual teleworking and the pandemic has exacerbated it and certainly not helped the circadian rhythm. But I’ve been dealing with it for so long I’ve just figured out how to manage on the sleep I get or creating a schedule where I can be asleep between 3am – 9am. I tried acupuncture and CBD gummies (which had the opposite effect on me 😊) and meditation over the past year but haven’t discovered any magical solution so far. I did foolishly try to cut caffeine out for a few weeks to see if that affected me at all. It did not help me sleep, but I did almost commit a couple felonies so I went back to my favorite vice.
Finally, I asked about your cellphone wallpaper, and you had a photo of plants. And in the episode, you’re surrounded by greenery. Talk about having plants and why they mean so much to you.
Wow. This could be a chapter all its own. Plants are crucial to my environment, literally and figuratively. I love every single thing about plants. Their leaves, their variegations, their texture, their colors, their ability to make and store their own food, their diversity, the way they give so freely yet require so little. I love their perseverance. I love the way the new growth unfurls off the stem. I love the way they bend and stretch and reach. I love the way the soil smells and how humid my house is on watering days.
But the thing I’m the MOST grateful for about plants is how they serve as a valuable thermostat for me on how well (or not so well) I am doing in my life. When I’m firing on all the cylinders and I’m prioritizing self and health, my plants thrive in all the best ways. But when I’m not prioritizing self, struggling and barely surviving, my plants will reflect that right in my face. It’s served as a pretty harsh reality check for me over these past couple years that I, in fact, was not doing ok. My plants rely on me for their survival and to create the best environment I can for them and the two times I noticed my plants struggling, I too, was at my lowest. They motivated me to do the simple stuff that is so important, which I was clearly not doing for myself. As I tended to my plants I couldn’t help but ask myself some things:
- When was the last time I drank water?
- Have I gotten outside in the sunshine today?
- When did I take my vitamins last?
- How rootbound am I (stagnant)?
- What kind of fresh air am I getting?
- When’s the last time you had a bath? Fer reals.
They helped me self-care because I don’t really require much more than my plants, none of us do really.
In our one-on-one conversation, you generously shared information about your tribe, the Honey Lake Maidu. I was surprised to learn how vast and varied the tribe is and that they are considered a landless tribe. Can you explain more about what that means? What do you think of land acknowledgements?
The Maidu tribes are incredibly unique and diverse and while many of them are federally recognized and have land held in trust (or fee), have reservations or rancherias, many of them are continuing to petition the federal government for recognition. This would not only create a sovereign trust status for them but afford them the support and resources of their sovereign brothers and sisters.
I think land acknowledgments are important and meaningful when done right. I cannot stress enough the value in reaching out to your local tribes PRIOR to doing a land acknowledgement and asking permission as well as how best to respectfully do so. This is a great resource to start with https://tribalaffairs.ca.gov/. Really think about what you’re trying to accomplish and what your intent is in doing a land acknowledgement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or admit ignorance. We don’t know what we don’t know and the best people to provide guidance and direction on land acknowledgements are the very people whose land you’re standing on. Here’s another great reference: https://nativegov.org/news/a-guide-to-indigenous-land-acknowledgment/
I recently was asked to do a land blessing for my friend’s wedding in Mountain Maidu country in Plumas County, and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I received so much incredible feedback from folks who were there, and they expressed how much it meant to them. It filled my heart to the brim.
Next, we learned about your job as the Native American Liaison with Caltrans. How is that going? Is there anything that Californians can do help? Are you working on anything in particular you’d like to share?
Yes, my work with Tribes in northern California is incredibly close to my heart and I feel fortunate and privileged to have the opportunity to “work for the man but help the natives” as I like to call it. It is so challenging yet rewarding; taxing and hard many days but the value in the work we’re doing cannot be overstated. A lot of focus and attention is being paid to equity, inclusivity, social justice, and tearing down systemic racist policies, regulations, and foundations but attention isn’t enough. I’m happy to be part of this incredibly important work but don’t be fooled, we have a long way to go. Regardless of the work you’re doing, there are always places where you can find space to improve inclusivity and engagement, meaningful engagement, especially to our historically underserved, underprivileged or disenfranchised partners. Are you getting diverse and BIPOC folks at your table? Why not? It’s not enough to just create an invite. You must make folks feel welcomed, valued, important, comfortable, necessary. Meet them where THEY are! There is always work to be done in this arena, and it is always important.
A few highlights from this past year would be:
- Spearheading the transfer of land back to a tribe I’ve worked with for years. It is still in progress, but we are closer than we’ve ever been!
- Incorporating tribal patterns and designs into our bridge projects for context sensitive inclusion.
- Executing the 2nd ever Joint Powers Agreement between Caltrans and a tribe, thus removing the need for a waiver of sovereign immunity (which was and is a huge obstacle in doing business with Tribes).
- Managing and executing five state and federal grants (FY 20/21) for our tribal partners in District 2.
- Working tirelessly for months with more than nine Tribes during the Dixie Fire which burned a million acres in my district as well as Butte county. Trying to get cultural monitors on the ground for both fire suppression activities and post fire recovery efforts is no small feat. Doing our best to protect the tribal cultural resources within the state right of way that were damaged by the fire or ones we were trying to avoid damaging with tree removal and emergency repair work. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for the toll this work would take on me. I am still recovering from it and will for years to come. The damage out there isn’t something one can fathom. You have to see it, and it is tragic.
Your work with Tim Flannery was our next topic. I know that he has been doing live shows since last spring/summer, and there are more dates scheduled. What extra things, if any, do you need to do to ensure that the musicians, venue, audience members stay safe in this COVID era? What other live music shows have you seen or been part of since we last talked?
Diligence and common respect are going to be the weapons we need to get live music back up and going strong again. We are not out of the pandemic although some folks are certainly acting like it. We cannot afford for venues and events to get shut down and canceled. The musicians cannot take that kind of hit. They need our support and commitment to creating safe and positive environments so we can get back to church (that’s what I call it).
Tim Flannery and the Lunatic Fringe just had a weekend run of shows [end of April] in the Bay Area which were incredible. Both were sold out and the fans were more than gracious and overwhelming in their love and open arms for us. Not to mention my band is on fire! It was the first time I was finally getting to hear most of the songs off of the new record which hopefully will be out by fall of this year. This might be my favorite album of the 13. We are slowly easing back into booking shows and we will post them up on our music page as they evolve. https://timflannery.com/
I recently went on the Willy Tea Taylor and the Fellership tour which potentially changed my life and since we last spoke I’ve also been lucky enough to see Possessed by Paul James, Mike Clark and the Sugar Sounds, Awahnichi, and Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra.
If you don’t know who these folks are, do yourself a favor.
Finally, please give us an update on your work with Jr. Giants.
Ahhhh, Junior Giants. My heart. We are in full swing with in-person play again this summer. The program is in active signups right now and you can find a league near you, play starts the second week of June and goes through the first week of August.
It is a free non-competitive baseball/softball program for boys and girls ages 5-14 and we serve over 25,000 kids annually in more than 90 cities in California. The foundation of the program is built on the four bases of character development: Confidence, Integrity, Leadership and Teamwork. We encourage literacy and healthy nutrition as well as have a strong emphasis on anti-bullying and creating a welcoming and safe space for all kids, all the time.
This will be my 15th year coaching and 10th as Commissioner and no matter what, I’m never prepared as the season approaches. There is so much to do and never enough time. Good thing I work well under pressure (as I tell myself in the 11th hour of almost everything in my life 😊).
I CANNOT stress it enough to anyone reading this, please volunteer, especially for youth activities. We are all hurting for good people with a little bit of time to spare. Every single program I know of is hurting for good folks to contribute and help build our communities. Please, I implore you to find something your heart is interested in, and get involved. We need all hands on deck in ways we’ve never experienced.
The most glorious thing about coaching is knowing you’re changing kids’ lives right in front of your very eyes through the sacred game of baseball. But the kids whose lives you DON’T know you’re changing, when they come back years later to tell you how you impacted and supported them… that is the platinum stuff right there.
All the work you’re doing, Kendee, is also platinum stuff! Thank you for your generous and indomitable spirit. And best of all things to you in your endeavors.
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