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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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.”

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.

 

All I Want

“All I really really want is our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you too.”

~Joni Mitchell, All I Want

Today I’m in love. I woke up feeling very relaxed next to my favourite guy, who was sleeping late and clearly enjoying it. I’m always torn when he sleeps late on a weekday, because I know he should get to the office but I also feel selfish; I want to keep him beside me all day. He’s hot and I’m cold; we’re the perfect match.

Next year our family will have two weddings. My partner’s baby sister and one of his closest cousins are BOTH planning weddings.IMG_4383 We were discussing our travel plans last night. It looks like we’ll have a trip to China in March 2018 and then another trip to Edmonton in June 2018. None of us have ever been to China so the idea of going there is certainly exciting. I found return tickets that are just over $900 Canadian, so it looks like the flights could be feasible for us.

There has been a lot of talk about marriage, because in my partner’s culture, it seems to be what is expected at a certain age and stage. I actually kind of like it when people ask us when we are getting married because I already treat my man as my King, my everything. He makes me into a better person and encourages me with everything I do. At this time of year, I’m particularly thankful for his support of my gardening pursuits, even though I know he’s really not all that interested in flowers or growing things.

That’s what good partners do for each other–support one another in their hobbies and dreams. I’m so glad I found my match.

“He’s my sunshine in the morning
He’s my fireworks at the end of the day
He’s the warmest chord I ever heard
Play that warm chord, play and stay baby
We don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall
Keeping us tied and true, my old man
Keeping away my blues.”

~Joni Mitchell, My Old Man

 

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.