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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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?

Gardening as community building

This is the third year that I’ve been involved in the local community garden. This year it seems that we have about 10-15 gardeners who have varying levels of commitment/interest in growing food communally.

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Digging weeds is therapeutic and a good way to keep active

I’ve always wanted to garden as an adult, but I rarely ever had any space as I was either an apartment dweller or renting a house where I didn’t want to invest too much into digging up and spending money changing a yard to support my gardening visions.

For the past four years, I have lived in an area of Winnipeg where we generally have quite small yards/lots. I’m no exception and with an active son, my ability to use much of the yard for growing things is impacted–he needs the space to run and kick a ball around, build fires, and do hands-on experiments.

The lack of space to grow is probably one of the main reasons why I’m interested in being a part of a community garden. I also love the idea of working together, learning from gardening experts (the garden “stewards”), and growing new things that I wouldn’t try at home. Our garden also has a social justice connection, as we donate about one-third of our produce to local soup kitchens, assisted living residences, etc.

Our community garden is unique because we ALL work the various plots. Some gardens use a model where each individual or family signs up for ONE small plot of gardening space. Our model will have it’s pros and cons for sure. The main concern for most people who know about what I do is, “How do you know that everyone is putting the same effort/amount of work into growing the food?”

Gardeners learn to compost, mulch, and we use this cube of water to tend to our plants

Gardeners learn to compost, mulch, and use this cube of water to tend to our plants

The truth is, there is no way to track how many hours a person puts into gardening. You basically just have to try to find a group of equally passionate gardeners who have a stake in seeing their produce grow well, and who are okay with splitting the bounty equally.

The biggest PRO, for me, of our style of communal gardening is definitely getting to try a wide range of vegetables and fruits. Our garden has produced things that I would have never tried if I didn’t find them at the garden: horseradish, collard greens, mustard greens, and patty pan squash!

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How it looks after beds have been weeded

I’ll be posting more updates and information about the community garden efforts as the summer comes and goes. The last thing I’d like to say about the garden is that it’s one of my very favourite places to be in my spare time!

The herb spiral

The herb spiral is one of the highlights

Privacy and the peas

I’m growing a garden in a tiny yard in an urban space in Manitoba. We have a very short growing season. I’m trying to grow things in unusual containers that had been laying around the yard and storage shed.

In the springs I planted peas in an old recycling bin.

The peas are now about four feet tall. As you can likely see from this photo, we have a very small yard with little privacy from our neighbours. I’ve now precariously extended the climbing poles using duct tape, with the hope that the peas will get to five feet or higher and create a tiny (wee really) bit of a fence between me and my lovely neighbours.

 

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Another part of our yard faces a (somewhat) busy back lane.In that space I planted some more peas with the hopes of creating a tiny wall providing some privacy from the outside world.

I had a nice red pail and also an old water jug that I found in my mom’s old house. I cut off the top and voila! Now it’s a planter. These peas were planted later that the ones in the recycling bin, so they aren’t quite as tall.

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Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to be creative and use things that may be destined for the landfill.

Once we get actual peas, I’ll post another update. We now just have little blossoms where the peas will grow.

 

Gardening progress for June 2017

My garden is getting on quite well. I love seeing the changes. Here is what is planted and recurring in my small, urban garden:

Food:

  • Basil
  • Carrots
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Lettuce mix
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Peppers: Sweet ones and Jalapeno peppers
  • Spinach
  • Squash: Not sure what kind but I’m hoping for butter squash or zuchinni!
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes: Several varieties including yellow tomatoes, pineapple tomatoes, and regular heirloom tomatoes
  • Watermelon (it’s really on the edge of death right now)
  • Yellow beans

Flowers:

  • Geraniums
  • Marigolds
  • Pansies
  • Petunias
  • Sweet peas
  • Wildflower seed mix

I’m being diligent about watering my seedlings regularly and have even used some fertilizer in the form of sheep and cow manure as well as some tomato fertilizer that you mix with water. My seedlings didn’t do very well so I went and bought some. They are rather pricey and I’m sad that the Swiss chard and watermelon is struggling to stay alive! Ouch!

If you are growing a vegetable garden, don’t forget to ensure you add some flowers into the mix. The flowers are helpful in attracting bees, which your vegetables will need. Some of my favourite flowers are geraniums and marigolds, not so much for their looks, but mainly because they seem pretty hardy.

My garden is mostly just a hobby, but I’m pretty sure it’s my favourite one. I don’t produce TONS of food, but enough to make it satisfying. The best part of the food, however, is knowing that you’re eating something from your own backyard that hasn’t been sprayed or shipped thousands of miles.