Thank you 2017

It’s been a good six months since I last wrote in my blog. I’m “resolving” to do better in 2018. I want to be more creative in general. There was a time (pre-motherhood) when I used to paint, bead, write, and even organize a variety of fun events. I need to get that part of myself back.

This year has been great because I started moving towards being more creative. I made my first podcast which aired on a local radio station, I continued to grow my own food and give it as gifts, and I also returned to a career I’ve always loved–communications.


In May I was laid off from an intense job–I was an executive director for the first time in my life. I worked about 60 hours a week. It was a great cause as I was responsible for ensuring that more than 22,500 children and teens across the province received access to nutritious food.¬† I was hurt but also thankful to be laid off, because that is a job I would have *never* quit.

I took the opportunity of being without a full-time job to go back to school–I signed up for a “podcasting” course where I would learn from an excellent teacher, journalist Noah Erenberg, on how to write a story for radio, how to record it, how to edit the soundclips, and then how to put it all together. It culminated in my very first radio story being aired in early July 2017 on the local CNJU FM radio station. It was so exciting to hear myself talking about the importance of increasing rates of organ donation in Manitoba. I clearly remember my family loading up the SUV to get ready for a camping trip, while having the radio cranked up on high so we could hear my story. I interviewed a man who had a heart transplant as well as another man who was on dialysis and waiting for a kidney transplant.

My beautiful family is my world. This photo was taken in November 2017 by our friend Steve Salnikowski.

My beautiful family is my world. This photo was taken in November 2017 by our friend Steve Salnikowski.

Throughout my career transition, I was supported by my loving, amazing partner. There are so many great things about this man, I could go on and on. To honour his wishes, all I will say is that I’m very blessed to have this man in my life. Thank you N.


In July I started working with a non-profit in a part-time communications role. It was great to ease back into the world of work. I went from running a non-profit with three staff to being the only communications staff in an organization with 800+ staff. I’m again working to support the health and well-being of children and youth. It’s a passion of mine, so I’m glad to be able to help. My new role has encouraged me to do more writing, publishing, research, editing, web management, video production, social media management, photography, and more. All of those are skill sets that I want to develop further. In October I received a promotion at this same non-profit, so I’ve now moved into a full-time role with more responsibilities that include developing relationships with Manitoba’s Indigenous communities.

In August, I found out there were thousands of First Nations people being evacuated from their remote, northern communities due to forest fires. They were being placed in hotels and shelters in Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, and Brandon. I saw a need. The First Nations people needed help and Manitobans wanted to help. I remember trying to figure out how to work with the Red Cross, who told me that the residents had everything they needed while in fact, they did NOT–some people had babies who needed formula in the middle of the night when the Red Cross volunteers weren’t around. I set up a Facebook group called “Helping Manitoba Forest Fire Evacuees in Winnipeg and Brandon” where evacuees could share their needs. The group quickly grew to more than 2,000+ members! The people who had joined the group were able to help hundreds of families get simple things like diapers, formula for babies, bus tickets, and more. I was able to develop new relationships with places like the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, and I’m very thankful for all of the wonderful people who came forward to help during this challenging time. You can read more about what I learned about the power of social media in this story I wrote about it in September.

These are some amazing women who helped me provide supplies to the people who were displaced due to forest fires in Manitoba. Photo taken at the West Central Women's Resource Centre by Olaniyi Adewole.

These are amazing women who helped me provide supplies to the people who were displaced due to forest fires in Manitoba. Photo taken at the West Central Women’s Resource Centre by Olaniyi Adewole.

The forest fires were dying down in September, so I was able to wrap up my work on that project. Good thing too because not only was I exhausted from organizing hundred of donations, it was harvest time in my three gardens as well as time to move homes. My son had moved onto high school, so we decided to move homes so that he would be within walking distance of his new school. I’ve always wanted my child to be able to walk to/from school if he chooses. We moved just about 2 kilometres away in October to enable my son to be closer to his new school.

My family supports my gardening obsession. On Thanksgiving they spent hours helping me plant bulbs at my dad's organic garlic farm.

My family supports my gardening obsession. On Thanksgiving they spent hours helping me plant bulbs at my dad’s organic garlic farm in Manitoba.


My son has remained the light of my life. He takes up a lot of my energy. I’ve always wanted to give as much as I can to my son. He is an athlete who played volleyball, basketball, soccer, flag football, and regular football in 2017. He also took speed skating and organized many “pick up” hockey games with local children/tweens. “Bright Star” was chosen as valedictorian for his grade six graduation, and I was so pleased to help him rehearse his speech as many times as he needed. His dad came from Toronto to see him give his speech, and it was their first time seeing one another in four years. I was thankful for that reunion. My son recently tried out for and was selected to join the provincial Manitoba football team called the “Manitoba Selects.” I continue to encourage him to volunteer and give back to community as he grows. My son is nearly the same height as me, with size 12 men’s adult feet and a very mature outlook on life. He is quickly growing into a responsible young man.

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My family and I didn’t get to travel very much during 2017, but I did manage to go to The Pas and beautiful Flin Flon for the first time, with trips to many remote communities such as Cormorant Lake and Moose Lake First Nation. It was great to go there. I went to explore nutrition issues in these communities. I was amazed at the poverty in some of these communities and was further inspired to be a change maker. For example, the community of Cormorant Lake doesn’t have a grocery store and is 1.5 to 2 hours from the nearest grocery store. How can families afford to feed their family healthy food if they aren’t employed with a middle-wage income? I thought about some of these issues in July, when we took the time to head west to see the mountains again, with a few days of visiting family in Edmonton along with camping in Jasper National Park. It was so nice to go white-water rafting for our first time! (yikes!)

Taking a selfie during a hike along Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Taking a selfie during a hike along Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Throughout all of this, I’ve been volunteering in different capacities. In 2017 I joined the Board of Directors for the Lord Roberts Community Centre as well as the International Association of Business Communicators. I was a volunteer storyteller for Community News Commons as well as a volunteer community gardener at “A Place to Grow” Garden in Lord Roberts. I was also a volunteer trustee for the Long Plain First Nation’s “Loss of Use” Trust.

After going through my experience of helping people who were displaced due to forest fires, I re-evaluated my volunteer efforts. I decided to resign from all roles where I did not feel that my efforts were being used to their full potential. I learned in 2017 that life is short and that I need to focus on volunteering for causes that truly drive me to make a positive difference in the world.

In 2017 I had some health challenges. Being unemployed provided me with time to seek out the help that I needed. I went to see a variety of specialists and had many tests done–after waiting months for them to happen. The outcome is that I’m mostly healthy but I do need to make some changes to ensure that I remain well in the longer-term. I’m blessed to have a wonderful doctor who is very helpful and supportive.

To stay well in 2017, I continued to practice yoga throughout the year, with a month off in July while I travelled. I did 143 classes in 2017, which averages out to about 12 classes per month. In other words, I did yoga 39% of the time. I love my studio Moksha Yoga and I’m thankful to them for having so many classes and so many wonderful teachers. In 2018, I hope to take things up a notch and become stronger. This year I might try something different while maintaining some sort of yoga practice, as it makes me happy and helps me feel balanced.

What are your hopes for 2018? My hopes include:

  • traveling more
  • being more active
  • being a “better” mom and partner
  • spending more time with Elders, in sweatlodges, and reconnecting with culture
  • spending time with my mom and my other family in Portage la Prairie
  • saving money
  • writing more
  • starting my own business
  • becoming a certified social media expert
  • starting a storytelling group for youth
  • starting a new community garden

Thank you for reading! I trust that you will all have a safe and happy 2018.

With my two main men at a wedding in spring 2017

With my two handsome men at a wedding in spring 2017

 

 

 

 

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To cycle, or not to cycle!

To be, or not to be! Is that the question?

It’s not the question for me. My burning, recurring question is, “Should I cycle or… drive my car?”

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My red bike is much cuter than my car will ever be!

I’m usually about 30 minutes away from some business meeting or something and trying to make the decision if I’ll make it there alive/in one piece if I actually ride my bike. Getting sweaty is never a concern for me as I LOVE to sweat!

This evening I had a class in the Exchange District. It’s only a five kilometer ride and it’s almost one straight line to get there by bike. The problem, however, is that I need to ride straight down Osborne Street in Winnipeg to get there. Osborne is notoriously bad for cyclists since there usually is congested traffic AND there is no bike lane.

I’m committed to getting exercise every day AND I also love the idea of saving the environment by choosing to cycle more. I’ve been a city cyclist since 2001, when an old friend insisted that I get a bike and learn to ride in the city. I used to rely on my bike(s) as my primary mode of transportation, but that was when I lived in Ottawa and Toronto.

Since coming to Winnipeg in 2011, I’ve purchased my first car. I tried being a full-time cyclist at first, but it just wasn’t feasible. This city is dangerous and scary for cyclists. It constantly feels like a WAR of two worlds.

I decided, in the end, to ride my red vintage bike to my class in the Exchange District. I am selling my bike soon and wanted to enjoy riding around in a nice dress with the sun on my bare arms. Cycling is great for your body but I think it’s even better for your mind. After I’m riding for a few minutes, my blood is circulating well and I’m feeling happy and as light as a feather. I feel like I’m seven years old again.

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Biking on city streets gets us ready to bike in the mountains!

The weather was so lovely that after my class ended, I decided to ride on some bike trails along the water, through the Forks, and along the rapid transit way in the south Osborne area. It was a meandering path, and it worked because I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. It was peaceful, as hardly anyone uses those paths and I can sing to myself, “dance” on my bike while listening to music, and generally feel on top of the world.

The thing I was thinking, as I rode past another cyclist, was how great it would be if cities could somehow find the money to give every person one bike that works for them. The people would be encouraged to ride bikes because: (1) the bikes are free, (2) we would install protected bike lanes that get people safely from point A to point B, and (3) we would also install bike racks to the front of every single public transit bus so if you get tired, you can just put your bike onto the front of the bus. You would also get a cheap or free bus pass.

Perhaps the money for the bikes and bus passes could come from putting higher taxes on cars, especially commuters who don’t carpool. Perhaps we could add some road tolls onto our busy streets for personal motor vehicles.

I kind of look forward to the end of fossil fuel, it’s kind of a sick thought, but I like the idea of everyone having to be forced into using their bikes. I feel like they would then realize they’ve been shortchanged by following this lie that we all need to drive our cars everywhere.

Cleaning out the basement

Changes are coming soon. My son is starting a new school in September in a new neighbourhood. I’ll be making changes when it comes to my work life. My partner and I are living together for quite some time now and have many discussions around purchasing a house together. I’m excited for the changes as I’m generally a person who loves variety and doesn’t like to let life to pass me by…

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Our garage sale happened today at the local community centre

One priority before these changes happen: I want to clean the basement. Downsize. It is no small task as I’ve amassed quite the collection of books, children’s clothing (my son’s outgrown clothes), children’s artwork (my son’s masterpieces over the past 11 years), bikes, CDs, my own editing and writing projects, photo albums, and clothes that I’ve somehow outgrown (or perhaps my sense of style just changed).

Like many, I connect memories and emotions to certain objects. To other people, a sweater is simply a sweater. To someone like me, who can have hoarding tendencies, my yellow cashmere cardigan might be stained and ripped but it might also remind me of the time when I was still breastfeeding my baby and went on a long walk down Queen Street West in Toronto during a beautiful spring evening more than 10 years ago! The milk stain might remind me of the close bond I felt when feeding my son his first food.

YIKES!

I’m trying to divorce myself from the strong feelings I attach to objects. They are simply THINGS and shouldn’t hold enough importance for me to carry around with me for 10 years after they have outgrown their usefulness.

In recent months I worked with a woman who has a spotless, very minimalist house. She also has two children, ages 10 and 12. I noticed that her children don’t seem to have any artwork on the walls, fridge, etc. In fact, I couldn’t see any trace of her children in the house at all! I asked my colleague about this and she says, “I look at their artwork and then recycle it.”

“Do you think that upsets them?” I asked.

“Yes, but they will need something to talk about during their future therapy sessions,” she laughed.

I found that to be a funny, yet perhaps extreme, perspective.

My partner inspires me with his own minimalism. He moved to Manitoba from overseas almost four years ago. He travels lightly. When we moved in together, we were able to fit almost everything he owned into my tiny blue Chevy. I want to be more like him, in so many ways, so today we held our LAST garage sale.

Why was it our last? I’ll tell you why; I wanted to help my son make a bit of spending cash by selling his nice wooden toys and Nerf guns (those things are expensive!). However, I also have made a couple of decisions (or perhaps I’ve simply set intentions) as I go through the motions of cleaning the basement AND the storage shed in our backyard.

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My son did a great job organizing all of his Nerf guns for the sale

My intentions:

  1. I’m going to think carefully before I purchase more objects. Do I really need this? How will this truly improve my life? I’ll think about these questions carefully.
  2. I’m going to value experience over things. My son is growing quickly and life is passing by. We’ve only travelled to a limited number of places. Since I never travelled ANYWHERE with my own mother, I’m hoping to travel and make special memories that will last far longer than any Nerf gun.
  3. When we outgrow our objects, I will pass them onto other families who can use them. I’ll try to think of people in the local community who will be happy to get more use out of some of our gently-used objects.
  4. One day, I hope to pack up and leave my current city. I hope that a wonderful opportunity for work or school comes to my son, my partner, or myself. When that offer comes, I want us to be ready to pack a few suitcases and JET!
  5. My final intention is to try to NOT be like my mother when it comes to objects. I’m not sure why, but my mom is/was definitely a hoarder. That’s a story (or several) for another time, but I can tell you I grew up around hoarding and it definitely has impacted my desire to NOT amass too many things.

We didn’t sell¬†everything¬†that I had hoped to sell at today’s garage sale, but we only had to make one trip with our car in the end (as opposed to the TWO trips we made to set up last night). We sold tons of things very cheaply, we donated a bunch of clothing to charity, we donated all the books we didn’t sell to the reading program at our local community centre, and we’ll sell our remaining big ticket items (bikes) on Kijiji.

In the end, my son is pretty pleased that he pocketed $147 after all was said and done.

When I ask what he is hoping to do with his money, he says with a shrug, “Save it.”

The little garden that could

My little garden is growing well. I’d like to give you a tour….

As much as possible, I try to grow a lot of food in a small space. I also try to reuse things that some other people might throw in the garbage, like the tires in the photo below. They were on my car and my mechanic said I should remove them and get new ones. Instead of throwing these out, I took them home, spray painted them, and planted food in them. This year, it looks like I have a few squash planted in there. I’m interested to see how they’ll grow as there might be too many in the small space.

Squash are growing out of my old tires

Squash are growing out of my old tires

In earlier years, my son would work with me to build small raised beds. We aren’t carpenters. We went to Home Depot, got some wood cut, and did our very best to build some little, functional beds that fit our small space.

A raised bed and planters

My son helped me build the raised bed on the left, when he was only 10 years old. It was his Mother’s Day gift to me!

We also grow food in buckets/pails that we purchased from Canadian Tire for about $5 each. We spray painted them, drilled drainage holes in the bottom, and we throw a few rocks into the bottom as well to help with drainage issues… I think having a good drainage system helps your plants avoid root rot.

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The pots pictured about have a hot pepper plant and a tomato plant growing in them. I also added a marigold flower as I’ve heard that flowers are a very important thing to add to your garden. Apparently they bring pollinators, which are an essential factor in getting our plants to grow.

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The last two photos are just here to give you some inspiration… when I’m cleaning out my home I often find little knick-knacks that are just gathering dust, like the above turtle. I happen to love turtles so I didn’t want to throw this in the garbage. I think the turtle looks awfully nice out in the backyard, keeping the onions, peas, and flowers company!

I also have this huge seashell that an animal once called home. I’d hate to throw it in the garbage, so this year I’m trying to grow a pansy flower in there. I’ve only planted it a few days ago, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. The seashell is sitting next to a small zuchinni seedling, which I have planted in a wooden crate (lined with a black garbage bag, to prevent anything from the wood from leaching into the soil).

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Now it’s the middle of June, not quite summer. I noticed my very first peas growing in the backyard today. I’m excited to see what other kind of goodies are on their way to our plates and bellies in the near future.

What are you MOST excited about when it comes to YOUR garden?

Birthday lunch

This week I celebrated a birthday. It was pretty low key. Before the actual big day, I enjoyed hosting (along with my hunny’s help) a small dinner party where a group of friends came over and played Cards Against Humanity.

On my actual birthday, my son and I went for lunch to Mongo’s Grill. We don’t usually go there but I’d like to say that I very much enjoyed my free stir-fry lunch. My son was on a lunch break from school so it was nice that we were able to get in and out of the restaurant within one hour.

I love having special little dates with my son. I know he’ll be all grown up soon and will probably leave the nest to pursue his football dreams. For now I just give him all the love I can so that he remembers it when he’s older–I will always be his number one fan! In exchange, my son blessed me by making me a homemade birthday card. “I hope it makes you cry,” he said as he handed it to me with a twinkle in his eye. My son is a real charmer.

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Our bill came to $7 including tax; the server charged us for one children’s lunch. That was one sweet deal. Thank you Mongo’s!