The conversation has changed

November 18th, 2022 by Emma Durand-Wood

Well, Winnipeg’s 2022 municipal election was pretty… anti-climactic. A council with exactly one brand-new face; the others all incumbents from previous councils. There were some really exciting candidates who ran excellent races, but none of them secured a seat. But. While I went to sleep on election night feeling disillusioned and disappointed, with the benefit of a few more days’ perspective, I do think there are things to celebrate about this election.

In a post about the 2018 civic election and accompanying Portage & Main referendum, I wrote this:

“Throughout this election, I’ve not been particularly encouraged about Winnipeg’s ability to evolve. So many  conversations I think we need to be having are not happening (stupid pothole monopoly).  It’s been easy to feel bummed out and discouraged when reality is such a far cry from how you imagine it could and should be.”

This time four years ago, the election was hmmm…how do I put this politely? Uninspiring? (In a Vice article about “Winnipeg’s sad, weird election”, James Wilt noted that “the best Winnipeggers can apparently hope for is a spattering of very vague commitment to improve transit and affordable housing.”)

To the best of my recollection, during the 2018 election, no one was making campaign statements about building “a city for people, not cars”. No one was talking about bike theft. No one was talking about “fix it first”. No one was suggesting that maybe adding more roads and capacity was a bad idea. No one was talking about parking minimums.

I heard folks say the 2022 election was lackluster and boring, but I don’t agree. Candidates’ realistic chances of winning notwithstanding, I think we had a race with a huge amount of choice–maybe not in every ward, but certainly on the mayoral ballot. As my friend Lorraine put it, “This is an engaging election with a good number of decent candidates for mayor, at a time when we desperately need decency, vision and action from a new mayor and council. ” In fact, for the first time ever in a municipal election, my husband and I were so excited about particular candidates that we made financial donations to several campaigns.

Back in 2019, our local tree committee invited groups from across the city to join up to fight for better urban forestry funding in the forthcoming municipal budget process. Preparing for that first meeting of what would become the Trees Please Winnipeg Coalition, we wrestled long and hard with one particular decision: whether we should dare to suggest that a few million dollars from the roads budget should be reallocated to urban forestry. After all, we were living in an era of property tax increases we’d been assured would be used on roads and only roads (as if there were no higher or more worthy or needed expenditure). Despite knowing that the room would be full of people interested in trees, nature, and probably climate, we also suspected that the all-consuming-yet-never-sufficient roads budget might be seen as untouchable. Thankfully, though, they went for the idea, and I like to think that the Trees Please Winnipeg Coalition played a small role in shifting the local narrative away from car-centrism over the last few years.

In 2022’s civic election, everything related to roads spending was on the table and being said out in the open. Sure, the winning mayoral candidate was the one who wants to widen Kenaston and extend Chief Peguis, but there’s just no comparing the types of campaign concepts and promises that took place this year with those in 2018.

The pace of change is so slow, but I think it’s really helpful to step back every now and then and see that things DO change. I think about this every time I watch that timeline film that plays on a loop in the Winnipeg Gallery at the Manitoba Museum (I have been known to need a Kleenex by the end of it!). Year to year, it feels as though our city is hopelessly stuck. But when you look at the astonishing amount of social change that’s happened in the past century, it’s encouraging.

In this spirit, here are a few changes that have happened, just in the past few years, through the City of Winnipeg. Individually, maybe none of them is huge or groundbreaking, but each is a step in a positive direction. And critically, it reminds us that someone thought it was an important idea and championed it.

Are things happening alarmingly and discouragingly slowly, especially in the face of the climate crisis? Yes. Are they enough? No. But they’re something to look to, and say, progress CAN happen.

Maybe change hasn’t come yet, but at least we’re talking about it.

We’re on our own

October 18th, 2022 by Emma Durand-Wood

Note: I found this in my drafts folder. I wrote it in January 2022 and dabbled in it for weeks, but it felt too bleak to publish. I’m doing it now, partly for posterity, but also because in some ways things still feel sort of the same as they did then.

The last couple weeks have felt particularly hard and long in pandemic Manitoba.

Just a few weeks ago, before omicron took hold, life followed a certain rhythm: restrictions increased, restrictions relaxed; healthcare workers sounded the alarm, the government ignored. Promising vaccine announcements, frustration in the scramble that follows. Amazement that Manitoba is doing better than other places, disappointment that we’re the worst. Through it all, the daily 12:30 case numbers.

The predictability of it all is grotesquely comforting (?) in some way. I guess we look for patterns to help us know what to expect; good or bad, it’s helpful. Maybe another way to look at it is that reacting to announcements gives us a way to process and channel our worry, anger and frustration.

Given the testing situation here has more or less fallen apart, the daily new case counts are no longer meaningful, and the focus is primarily on hospitalizations and deaths. When the focus was on case numbers, I’d think about who they were, try to imagine the faces of those unlucky folks. Then quite suddenly, I didn’t have to imagine those faces because they were people I knew. They were neighbours, friends and family members–a lot of them. Covid came to my household, too.

Thursday, January 13th was easily one of my lowest days of the whole pandemic. I was reading reporting on Stefanson’s comments during the previous day’s presser, where she said we were on our own, and that the days of public health guiding the pandemic response were done, and prevented journalists from asking questions to the top docs.

Then I saw Dr Roussin’s comment that “we haven’t given up and neither should you.” Tears came to my eyes. What is this, if not throwing the towel in?

Judging from my Twitter stream, I’m not the only one who has felt really low this past couple weeks. I was lying in bed thinking about it. Is it the relentless cold? The isolation and uncertainty? There haven’t been any major press conferences or announcements or crisis-level covid news stories (though certainly there’s been other horrifying news – the family who died trying to cross the border on foot in a blizzard). I pondered this out loud and my husband replied “it’s because we’re on our own – and this is what it feels like.”

He was right. The government has come right out and said, “We’re done” and this is what it feels like, knowing that. This tweet–exactly.

We’re out there, adrift in the covid sea, and somehow everything feels very quiet. Too quiet. We know things are not okay. We know doctors and nurses have almost nothing left. Yet you wouldn’t know anything is wrong. It’s just the slow burn of deaths and hospitalization rates, the insistence of the government that everything is fine.

Shelley Cook tweets about the blanket of sadness. No context, yet we just know.

We’re allowed to do all sorts of things. We can go out for drinks (until 10pm), we can go to the mall, we can go swimming. But all of these things feel somewhat foolish to me. We spent ten days in isolation over the holidays and I am terrified of winding up there again.

I think back to my younger days, before kids, before being responsible for anything other than myself. I used to be obsessed with language and dictionaries and knowing things like the difference between an acronym and an initialism. I look back now with both nostalgia and mild self-loathing. There were just as many awful things going on in the world, just as many big systemic issues that needed dealing with, but I was blissfully unaffected by them, or at least engaged only to the degree that I was aware of them, and falling short of actually doing anything about them.

In different times, I would have suggested to someone struggling with the blues or finding a sense of meaning to focus outwards and do something that’s bigger than themselves. No better distraction from your troubles than thinking about others, and all that. I tell myself to take my own advice, but I’m too tired. I’ve been parenting young children for almost 12 years. For the latter half of that, I’ve given almost all my free time to volunteering and advocacy work. To be brutally honest, I’m tired of caring for and thinking about other people.

It is rich and pointless to complain and whine. You think you’re tired of this? Tell that to a nurse or a teacher. We have every material comfort and privilege we could reasonably ask for. And we have our health. Winter won’t last forever. Think of the unexpected gifts and simple pleasures. Discovering a new show. Remembering old music I loved. The Saturday paper. A freshly ploughed sidewalk on a mild blue-sky day. Something real in the mail. Watching squirrels from inside the warm house. Looking up my favourite 90s commercials and sharing them with my kids.

I feel both a palpable sorrow at the state of disconnection from my friends and family members and a compete lack of energy to do anything about it. Early on, when in retrospect, we’d hardly even had any time to miss anyone, I remember seeing this tweet and thinking, “hm, this is poignant but also maybe a little exaggerated?” But covid has gone on long enough now that I know it’s true in the grand scheme.

I miss my friends. I miss making normal plans. There are moments when I think I should write a text or pick up the phone or write an email and I don’t.

There’s nothing to talk about. No one has anything new to say. There’s only covid. Talking about covid is all there is to do, yet makes everyone feel worse. It feels easier not to talk at all.

I’m an introvert with many years of forcing myself to practice the art of extroversion to get by in the world. Making small talk, keeping a conversation going… they don’t come naturally for me, and require a not-insignificant amount of emotional energy. Even though in some ways I am proud of myself for coping regularly in situations that are out of my comfort zone, I’m not sure I’d call this an achievement. But to my dismay, nearly two years of “cancel everything” I can feel my imitation extrovert (ex-faux-vert?) skills are waning. It basically feels like a holding pattern, stuck somewhere between depression and languishing.

I’ve always felt it’s an act of love and respect to follow the public health rules. We get to carry each other. It’s an honour to be both “we” and “other.” We got our shots and our boosters, the kids are getting theirs. But most of the world hasn’t even had a chance to do that yet. The vaccine was supposed to be the way out, but we’re still in deep trouble and now we’re on our own to figure out what the end of the pandemic might look like.

The “not knowing” has always been the hardest part of the pandemic, but this time it seems extra hard. Because we are doing the things we’ve been told to do, yet it feels like things have never been worse.

I’ve got Bo Burnham’s “That Funny Feeling” on repeat (alternating with Phoebe Bridgers’ version) and it reminds me of teenage me discovering Dan Bern’s music. The song’s about a million things, and maybe not even covid, but the ending lyrics sit with me.

“Hey, what can you say, we were overdue
But it’ll be over soon, you wait”

When will it end?

And just like that, summer is over.

September 27th, 2021 by Emma Durand-Wood

Hard to believe September has come and almost gone already. Am I the only one whose sense of time is still completely distorted? What a strange summer it’s been, tacked onto the end of many tumultuous months of pandemic. I haven’t written anything reflective here yet this year, which I guess is par for the course these last many years.

Last summer, we didn’t know how good we had it. We never even really had a first wave, but even though we were “allowed” to do a lot last summer, I never felt completely at ease. Last October I wrote that we’d be lucky if we had a normal-ish Christmas 2021, but that seems up the air now too. It feels like a good time to capture the experiences of the last couple months. So voila: a semi-stream of consciousness recap of Summer 2021, not necessarily in any particular order.


The kids start remote school in early May. This necessary evil was announced on Mother’s Day; I listened to the presser in the car after I’d received my first jab. I feel relief and dread at once. They say it will go until May 30 but does anyone actually believe that?? I give the lunch kits a deep clean and put them away.

Getting the shot is the real gift on Mother’s Day. (That, alongside the brand new tablet I open that morning, which turns out to be immensely helpful for a household with two kids in remote school and two parents who work at home.) I am not expecting to get emotional – I’m just impatient by this point – but in the moments that follow the jab, I blink back tears as I stare at a tree outside the window and think about how I’ll probably remember this moment for the rest of my life.

Thankfully, “school from home” goes really well, beyond expectations, really. The teachers at my kids’ school are on it like a bonnet, total pros, adapting quickly and beautifully to the new format, so the kids do, too. Still, during those last few days of school at the end of June, when you’d just be watching movies and going on field trips anyway, it feels so good to turn off all the reminders and put the devices away.

I get my 2nd dose the day before my 40th birthday. Summer begins with a sliver of optimism. Things are starting to reopen but it feels like society has forgotten that there’s a huge demographic (kids under 12) who can’t be vaxxed yet therefore life can’t be “normal” for many families. We debate whether to go to Alberta to see my family, something we didn’t do last summer. We haven’t seen my brother and his family since summer of 2019. We decide to wait to see how things go post-Stampede, and book off the last two weeks of August as a placeholder. It feels very strange to be contemplating a trip to stay with family in another province when we are not even allowed to be inside anyone else’s house here in Manitoba.


Climate change has never been on my mind more. You can literally see and feel that it’s real. It adds an extra layer of worry and hopelessness onto the pandemic. It feels particularly real because we are doing all socializing outdoors, at least in the first part of the summer. You can’t escape the heat or the smoke or the bugs.

The late spring/early summer kicks off with frost warnings and extreme heat warnings within a week of each other. I will lose my mind if I heard one more jovial discussion on the radio about how darn crazy this weather is, without citing climate change.

Then at long last, after months of various stages of social restrictions, we are finally allowed to see people outside, but it is literally too hot to do so. Thanks, heat dome. A town in BC sets a Canadian heat record and then days later literally burns to the ground. What is happening?

The aphids are far and away the worst I’ve ever seen them since I moved to Winnipeg in 2008. There are times where it literally seems like it’s raining. The ground stays sticky and smelly for weeks because there’s been NO RAIN. At least there are basically no cankerworms, or mosquitoes.

By mid-summer, it’s the smoke from forest fires keeping us inside. When the heat breaks suddenly, mercifully, it’s only because there is so much smoke in the air. The thick, cool, quiet air feels feels vaguely apocalyptic.

Then the desperately-needed rain arrives. This is great, but also crappy because it ruins various much-anticipated summer plans.

Eventually, temperatures become bearable, the rain chills out, and air quality is okay. Time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer. But wait! Now wasps ruin every meal or drink we have outside. They are the worst I can remember them ever being. But maybe I’m only noticing because we are eating and drinking more often now than we ever did before.


My sourdough starter, Bill, is somewhere at the back of the fridge, just waiting.

I’m not turning the stove on much in the heat, anyway.


At the end of July, I take a quick solo trip to see my family in Alberta. In a touristy gift shop in Waterton I’m agog seeing throngs of children walking around maskless in close quarters. I tell my family that after the distinction of being the worst pandemic hotspot in North America, I can’t believe believe Manitoba is being so careful and restrained with its reopening. (The cringey “4-3-2-One Great Summer Reopening Plan”.)

A few day later I eat my words when Manitoba goes “full Alberta”, abandoning masking and rendering vaccine cards useless unless you care about going to a Bombers game (not me!). The province says school will be nearly normal this fall.

Disbelief and discomfort rise. Why would we throw away all the progress we’ve made? It is patently obvious to me, a college grad who got Cs in biology, that in the face of the delta variant, abandoning masks and restrictions is a terrible, terrible idea. Universities, school divisions and institutions scramble to devise their own policies to protect the public and particularly children, when the province fails to do so. There are many days when it is hard to focus, just waiting for the public health update at 12:30pm.

We look at Alberta’s rapidly rising numbers and decide to stay put. Now that our case numbers are down and our vax rates are good, we can socialize more freely here. We enjoy BBQs with friends, long nights on the porch, go tubing in Pinawa, see planetarium shows, go swimming and to the zoo. We ride our bikes a lot, and have an awesome time doing some group rides. The kids all go to art camp, and sleepovers at my in-laws. We spend our travel dollars on lots of restaurant meals and local beer deliveries. My oldest remarks, “The summer is actually turning out to be a lot funner than I was expecting.” Music to my ears. I have never had any length of vacation time off here at home until now, and my two-week staycation is relaxing and enjoyable.


Having forced said employers/institutions to make the hard choices they perceive to be politically unpopular (but are they??) the government reverses course three weeks later, bringing back masking mandates and requiring vaccines or ongoing testing for many employers and venues. Hurrah? Relief?


We keep up with our Friday night take-out tradition to support local restaurants, dubbed “Commandredi” in our bilingual household. My pantry overfloweth with resuable takeout containers that I imagine someday having the energy to fill with baking for friends and neighbours.

We discover the show Manifest. It is gloriously addictive, mindless garbo-tainment. The script is so trite and predictable, we consistently beat the characters to delivering their own lines. Perhaps this is why we love it so much. It feels like soothing certainty during a time that feels out of our control.

We binge Line of Duty on Netflix and then take a free Britbox trial to watch the last season. Bent coppers and amazing accents: what more distraction could anyone want?

The first day that vax passports take effect, we go on a double date night. We ride bikes to the Exchange and drink fancy cocktails at Patent 5 then eat supper INSIDE WITH NO MASKS at Nonsuch. Feels like normal, and also like a dream.

At the same time as most of us are celebrating a return to some normal, the privileges we have because we’ve been able to get vaccinated, anti-vax/anti-science lunatics mob cancer patients and healthcare workers entering or leaving hospitals. In Canada. Big Apocalypse Energy.

I am so thankful that everyone I know is on board with vaccines–no divisions or rifts in my family or social circle and I don’t take this for granted.

My neighbourhood is full of orange t-shirts and other expression of recognition for the growing number of unmarked graves identified at residential “school” sites across the country. At first, seeing the shirts and teddy bears gives me a good feeling, but then I wonder if they really accomplish anything.

Our awful premier, the one whose likeness appears on street art around town with the words “Winnipeg Variant” beneath it, resigns. I debate buying a PC membership so I can vote on our next premier, hoping to perhaps tip the scales to someone less dangerous. My finger hovers over the “purchase” button for a long time before I take the advice of a wise friend and decide it’s better to let the PCs self-destruct.


September comes. Five days into the new school year, I already know two people who’ve already had to take their kids for Covid tests. Thankfully both come back negative. Of the testing site, one friend reports that it was very sad: mostly little kids, a lot of crying. I am so angry that Manitoba doesn’t have the gargle test for children like they’ve had in BC for a year already. I have first-hand experience with how awful it is to take a scared and resisting child for testing with the nasal swab. I have been the parent taking up one station at the test site for 45 minutes. The crying and screaming coming from our cube. I can’t be the only parent who struggles with this.

I watch as Alberta, my home province, where several of my loved ones are teachers and health care workers, descends into chaos. Surgeries cancelled, morgues exceeding capacity. I feel sick just thinking about it. Yet I have trouble turning away from the news.


I request a mail-in ballot for the dumb federal election because I know the polling place will not be at the neighbourhood school and it might be a hassle to get to wherever they choose instead. The next day they announce it will be at the church on my street–even closer than the school! On election day I watch the line-up with a pang of envy. I love the act of voting and am sorry to be missing out on that experience. Even in a pandemic.


Pfizer announces the vaccine for 5-11s is almost ready to go. Surprisingly, Manitoba is doing pretty well with vax uptake, but geographic pockets with low rates keep the virus active. The longer we drag out vaccination, the more the virus mutates.

I read a thread from a pastor in Steinbach who points out how we’ve crushed the vaccination targets and more people are getting their first shot every day. The vaccine mandates and passports are working. Folks in other provinces on Twitter are pointing to Manitoba’s QR code/app setup as something to emulate!

So this was our second pandemic summer. On any given day, my mood oscillates between despondent malaise to cautious optimism with gratitude for how things could be so much worse, but aren’t. There are moments I realize I have forgotten momentarily about Covid. There are others when I can’t turn my mind off of the horrors that could still unfold.

We tell the big kids they might even get their shots by Christmas, and with any luck, their little sister will get hers soon after that. That maybe, just maybe, Summer 2022 might be pretty close to normal.

Strange how we can go from the envy of the continent, to worst per capita, and back to something that feels like hopeful again.

A Little Something (Local) Under the Tree

November 13th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Anyone else finding a little bit of enjoyment/distraction in starting their Christmas planning early this year? Full disclosure: I started picking up the odd thing here and there in September!

Even though it looks like we’re headed for a household-only Christmas this year, it’s still nice to think about the perfect gifts, especially for the kids who are being such troopers during this year of endless cancellations and disappointment. And ok, I’m also hoping that if I hit on JUST the right presents, it might buy me an extra hour of peace & quiet to enjoy my coffee and Baileys.

It’s pretty clear: small businesses need and appreciate our patronage this year, more than ever.

One of the coolest things that’s come of this pandemic has been watching these local businesses pivot and adapt so quickly. The availability of delivery has been a game-changer for me, since we don’t have a car and aren’t taking the bus any more than absolutely necessary.

Sometimes it takes a little more effort to buy from a smaller retailer than from a big box store, but it makes a massive difference to our community, our local economy and the environment.

So, today I am sharing some of my favourite places to shop locally and safely and conveniently this holiday season!

McNally Robinson
For books, music, movies, games, baby books/toys/gifts and so much more great stuff! Grab a Reader Reward Card while you’re at it and save 10% on all purchases, which will get you $5 Canada-wide shipping so you can send gifts to your loved ones elsewhere, no post office trip required.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Toad Hall Toys
For toys, books, games, art & craft supplies. Lots of items in their online shop but only a fraction of what they actually have in stock so call or email to be sure. Honestly, something for everyone here!
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Tara Davis Studio Boutique
One of my favourite local shops. She doesn’t have an ecommerce site, but she’s doing phone/email sales! Check out her Instagram or FB page for a glimpse of the gorgeous soaps, textiles, ceramics, jewelry and other beautiful treasures she’s got in store, then let Tara work her magic.

Kite & Kaboodle
Giant selection of toys, games, puzzles, and much more. This is one of the only places you can buy LEGO from a local independent business!
Taking phone orders for curbside pickup at St Vital Centre and The Forks.

Across the Board – Board Game Cafe
For a massive selection of games & puzzles of every kind and for every taste.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

MB Children’s Museum Gift Shop
For science & craft kits, toys, books & more.
Free local delivery over $25.

Local breweries
For beer & gift cards, obviously, but lots of them carry cool merch, too! Most offer local delivery and/or curbside pickup. Neat to see breweries offering goods from other local makers in their online shops.

Nonsuch – beer, glassware, art prints, sweatshirts, enamel pins, etc
Sookram’s – beer, tees, hats, glassware, jerky, etc
Kilter – beer, coffee, soap, patches, tees, hats, glassware, etc
LBJ: beer, glassware, local maker gift baskets, etc
Half Pints – beer, tees, hoodies, hats, glassware, etc
TCB – beer, hats, hoodies, tees, soap, etc
OGC – beer, hard seltzer, apparel, etc
Torque – beer (their own + 5 other local breweries), hoodies, hand sanitizer, etc
Barn Hammer – beer, apparel, candles, honey, coffee, etc
Stone Angel – beer, glassware, jerky, apparel, etc
Oxus – beer, glassware, jerky, hand sanitizer, etc
Fort Garry – beer, apparel, hats, bottle openers, etc

Plain Bicycle Project
Bikes (new and used) and every bike accessory you can dream of. Plus fun t-shirts, masks and new for this winter, KICKSLEDS!!

Fromagerie Bothwell
Way more than just cheese. Order online from hundreds of products from 80+ local makers. Cheese, charcuterie, preserves & sauces, olives, baked goods and too many other categories to list. I’m definitely going to be adding some goodies from Bothwell to my gifts of home baking this year.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Parlour Coffee
For coffee, cool shwag, honey, brewing gear, cool mugs, chocolate and other stuff that will make you feel extremely cool.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Forks Trading Co
This is a place I have to drag myself away from IRL. So many lovely things! Lots of nice Christmas stuff, and plenty of items from local maker. Thinking I may be getting stocking stuffers from here.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

Little Sister Coffee Maker
Coffee, chocolate, cute mugs, totes, cards, tees, etc.
Curbside pickup & local delivery.

That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head, and there will almost certainly be many more innovative and creative offerings to come over the next few weeks. Just this morning I saw the West End BIZ has launched a gift box initiative that looks amazing!

Other recommendations?? I welcome your suggestions in the comments!

p.s. For grocery delivery, don’t forget Diversity Foods (I’ve ordered from them many times and their produce quality and service are excellent), King’s Head, Pineridge Hollow and Gimli Fish (much more than fish!),

A pandemic event of no fixed duration

October 30th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Years ago, during a particularly long, cold March, I wrote a post called “A Winter Event of No Fixed Duration“, in which I tried to embrace our inability to know how long winters will last.

This week I find myself thinking about our current “pandemic event of no fixed duration”. I sensed in March, when things happened so quickly, that we would not be going back to normal within weeks or months. I bit my tongue when people expressed hope that the kids would be back in school before June. For a while, I thought maybe we’d have things under control by Christmas 2020. Now I know we’ll be lucky for a normal-ish Christmas 2021.

It’s the not knowing how long that’s hard. My mum and siblings live in Alberta and BC. I have no idea when we might get to see each other. If I’d been told at Christmas 2019, “ok, you’re not going to see your family for two entire years”, it would suck, but by now I’d be thinking, okay, we’re almost halfway done. Instead it’s just, I have no idea.

I alternate between feeling extremely low, like I’m moving through molasses, and like that reaction is a selfish, privileged one that I should snap out of.

In my head, I compose thoughtful letters and emails to friends and family who’d love to get a letter. And lengthy, reflective essays for posterity. I debate firing up the ol’ LiveJournal or posting here more often.

Instead I pour a glass of wine and pick up a cozy mystery, which I have learned is an actual genre, and escape to a world where people can pack into shabby chic bistros and host boisterous dinner parties where the killer may or may not be among them. (OH THE IRONY)

My mind is exhausted from the never-ending calculations of morals and risk and reward and trying to apply public health principles to real life.

In the early days it was figuring out the answer to “should I bake with this flour? because what if I run out and can’t get any more?”

And “should I spend a little extra money supporting local business, or should I be saving in case one of us loses a job?”

And “can I hold my newborn nephew in good conscience”?

Now it’s “Should I be spending money on local small businesses and breweries and restaurants that I really want to survive the pandemic? Or should I donate the money I would normally spend on wants to organizations that will provide the less fortunate with their needs?”

And “Am I bad parent if my number one priority is for the kids to be able to keep going to school?”

Despite our rising case numbers, I’d just started feeling like I could let out the breath I held for all of September. School is going ok. The kids are used to masks and everything. They are amazingly resilient. Yes, there are cases in schools but it doesn’t seem to be spreading at school. I think they are safe on the bus and in class. They are so much happier there than they are cooped up at home, bickering nonstop and driving me up the wall.

But then in the span of 24 hours I found out that two friends are in isolation because a close contact tested positive. I don’t have any friends or family or acquaintances who’ve tested positive yet, but the degrees of separation are decreasing. It’s getting much closer to home. And with winter on the way it feels like the walls are closing in. I find myself having regular mini teary breakdowns. My pledge to get more sleep so that I’m better able to cope with the stress lasted exactly three nights.

24 hours later and another two people I know personally, including a close family member, are in isolation for potential exposure. All of them because of school.

They’ve just announced the ICU at St B is over-capacity. Doctors are sounding alarm bells.

This week feels like that week in March when everything changed so quickly and drastically, almost hour to hour, and it was impossible to focus on anything.

The words in the earlier part of this post, which I wrote two days ago, seem like an underreaction. It seems likely we’re on the verge of code red and now I’m second guessing whether school is a good idea.

The “lockdown”, if you can call it that, we had this spring was an emotional trial for me. On Twitter people were talking about what series they were binging, all the sourdough they were baking, what hobbies and skills they were taking up with all their spare time. Or how lonely and isolated they felt, longing for human connection and hugs.

I felt the opposite. Intensely envious of anyone who was busy running out of things to watch on Netflix while I was juggling work and devices and school video classes and running out of toner and paper for all the worksheets, while defusing yet another sibling spat and trying to figure out how and when I might be able to get groceries next, watching our TP stash dwindle, and honestly wondering we should maybe start rationing food and supplies a little bit.

And simultaneously, as an introvert, feeling like I was drowning in people and noise and contact but still feeling like a bad friend and family member if I didn’t make time to check in with my loved ones who may actually be feeling lonely/isolated/overwhelmed/scared to see how they were doing. The days felt unbearably long. The novelty of video chats wore off in about a week (it’s always nice to see people’s faces, but does ANYONE truly enjoy an awkward group Zoom??) We stopped setting alarm clocks. From the moment I got out of bed in the morning, I was counting down to bedtime.

People would ask, how are you managing? And honestly, the answer I usually gave was, “it’s hard, but we are so lucky compared to so many others, that we are actually fine.” In the big picture, we really were. But still.

As we waited for the case numbers that never really came, and the days got longer and the trees began to bud, we had things to look forward to. Nice weather. School wrapping up for the summer. Bikes. Beer on the porch. And then even in-school classes starting in September. Some activities re-starting. Routine.

But now it feels like there’s nothing to look forward to. In retrospect I wish we’d travelled to see family this summer. And now we know it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

I try to remind myself of all the ways we are still so lucky, through privilege and chance.

I try to focus on the little things that will bring joy to us and to others over the coming months. Pleasurable things to distract and delight. Christmas music and baking. Sledding and seeing a fresh layer of sparkling snow on the naked elm canopy. The fun and satisfaction of finding the perfect gifts for each person on my list. I do this while trying to quiet the voice in the back of my head that scolds me for indulging in these luxuries while people are worried sick about their loved ones, sitting ducks in care homes, and dread the prospect of bringing the virus home from their healthcare job and infected their families.

I try to use my long-standing mental trick for easing nerves or anxiety about an upcoming event or situation: by reminding myself that “by this time tomorrow/next week/next month, it’ll be over”. The problem is, there is no end date for this.

When things first started getting crazy in March, I surprised myself by immediately adopting a “no fixed duration” mindset. I knew it would be easier to do that than to get my hopes up only to have them dashed. Somehow, I knew that in order to cope, I had to have zero expectation of how long it would last – whether it was months or even years. And in some ways I think has helped.

But that was a lot easier to do six months ago. I was about to say that six months in, I know what life in a pandemic feels like and what I’m in store for, but it occurs to me that I really don’t. It’s clear now that we didn’t even really have a first wave here in Manitoba. Horrors may well await.

And now today (it’s taken me days to write this post) we are indeed in code red, a state of semi-lockdown for at least two weeks. Obviously it’s what needs to happen, but it might already be too little too late.

And while I shake my head wondering what on earth the government was doing with that 6-month headstart on pandemic planning, I am asking the same thing of myself. How did I fail to make my own plans to endure more of this pandemic event of no fixed duration? As we head into winter, no less. I don’t know.

By this time some day, it’ll all be over. Or it won’t really be. We’ll have to get there to find out.

As ever,

Good Things Yet to Come

February 20th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Well, we are closing in on March and I think I should put my Winnipeg Gratitude series to rest, even though I fell short a few days.

This is the last post in my series of reflections on the people, places and things I’m grateful for in my adopted hometown of Winnipeg. This one is easy, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind all along. I’m grateful that there are so many wonderful experiences yet to come, the many fun adventures that I can look forward to, and the progress our city can make. Some things were on my mind because of the recent holiday season (like making 2020 the year I will see the RWB’s Nutcracker – something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a child!) and some are things I’m dreaming of doing once the weather warms up (like checking out Back Alley Arctic in Wolseley). Or going to a migration supper at Oak Hammock Marsh, seeing a Planetarium show, canoeing in the Seine, biking to Birds Hill…the possibilities are almost endless. There are dozens of only-in-Winnipeg things that 11 years in, I still haven’t experienced.

I embarked on this project because I wanted to feel less crappy about this struggling city, with issues and challenges that seem insurmountable. I found 26 things that I’m truly grateful for – some of them serious, others less so, but all of them, a special part of Winnipeg life.

Today I will add one final thing to the list. Millennium for All just unveiled a massive surprise: a new song from John K Samson & co.:

I’m grateful, and brought to tears, by seeing, hearing, and even just thinking about this.

I’d been feeling tired, so tired of trying my hardest to fight for change in our city, while balancing my family, friends, personal interests and activities. I had been feeling awful, like I was trying and failing (or not trying hard enough, or at all, and so of course, failing) at all of it. But seeing this video reminded me that I am not alone, that others are working relentlessly, that a better future is possible if we stick together.

Peg Gratitude: Day 26 – The Big Red Church

January 25th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

In my neighbourhood there is a big beautiful church, officially named Gordon-King Memorial United Church, but known fondly as the Big Red Church. It is home to some of the friendliest people I have ever met and it is rapidly becoming a vibrant community hub for Glenelm.

What can I say about this lovely congregation? These folks are truly walking the talk of “loving thy neighbour” and it’s a boon to our neighbourhood that they are so committed to this principle. From knitting clubs and all-ages/instrument jams, to climate strike delegations and parents morning out, to the community gardens and bulletin board, and the famous Gordie’s Coffee House, there are so many great things happening that that have nothing to do with religion. While I’m no longer a church person, and my spiritual beliefs are not as straightforward as they once were, I grew up in the United Church so this place feels very familiar and comfortable to me. That said, I believe that many find this space as welcoming and free of agenda as I do.

Oh, and the sight of this majestic building brings me joy every time I pass by. Simply beautiful. I especially love seeing on a Thursday night, all lit up with the coffee house crowd inside, glowing in the night.

I’m super grateful to have such a great neighbour in the Big Red Church!

Peg Gratitude: Day 25 – Sidewalks

January 25th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

Oh hi. It’s me again, still plugging away at my “31 days of gratitude” series that will have taken me more like 60 days to write.

For my 25th day (should I just call it number 25?) I’m reflecting on how sidewalks are awesome.

I really didn’t think too much about them or what it’s like to live in a neighbourhood without sidewalks until we were visiting family in Ladner over the holidays. We had an absolutely wonderful time getting to know this sweet little place and walked into the village from the Port Guichon neighbourhood almost every day. The only part of that I didn’t love about that were some residential streets without sidewalks, where we had no choice to walk on the road. Maybe (?) not terrible if you’re an adult and there’s plenty of daylight, but with a gaggle of young children it really changed the feel of our pleasant stroll.

In my neighbourhood not only do we have sidewalks everywhere (except for one connector with sidewalk on one side only – blarg), in most places the sidewalks are buffered from the street with a wide boulevard, which hosts our magnificent elms and a growing number of diverse young trees!

They say you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone, and man, I came home from that trip with a newfound love and appreciation for the humble sidewalk. Sidewalks or bust!

Peg Gratitude: Day 24 – Grassroots Groups

January 11th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

If there was a theme to my 2019, it was finding ways to put my dreams for a happier, healthier, safer city into action by getting involved with grassroots groups. From our boulevard tree project and trees coalition to Safe Speeds Wpg to YIMBY Winnipeg, I’ve found so much optimism and hope in meeting other folks who share a common vision, and trying to take concrete steps towards making that vision a reality.

Not only am I grateful for the opportunity to create change, I’m personally grateful for the relationships I’ve formed and, somewhat unexpectedly, the chance to learn about myself and about working in groups as a result. It’s been quite a journey exploring what my strengths are, identifying or confirming what my weaknesses are, and sometimes challenging myself to step outside my comfort zone.

Volunteer work isn’t always easy and often feels futile, but when it’s good, it’s great. I’m grateful to be in such good company. And I’m grateful for all the grassroots groups in our city pushing for critical change, like Functional Transit Winnipeg, Millennium 4 All, Manitoba Youth for Climate Action, Bear Clan — and so many others.

Peg Gratitude: Day 23 – Thermea

January 11th, 2020 by Emma Durand-Wood

My sister-in-law and I have been taking each other to Thermea – Winnipeg’s amazing outdoor Nordic spa – for our birthdays for a few years now. It is truly one of the most relaxing, enjoyable experiences I can think of!! I used to feel a little sheepish raving about Thermea – it seemed a little lavish, excessive, indulgent, something. Spending 70-odd dollars for a day of lounging and pampering? But my frame of mind changed when I thought about it compared to another popular leisure activity that many of my peers seem pretty cavalier about doing: going to Jets games. Suddenly my splurge of choice seemed completely reasonable.

From the eucalyptus steam room and impressive aufguss rituals to the fancy infused waters and the thrill of a cold dip in the Polaber pool, every second at Thermea is a serious treat that I look forward to for weeks ahead of time. And I love that every season brings a different experience! I’m grateful to have the opportunity and the means to take advantage of this marvelous facility a couple times a year – it is such a restorative way to care for myself, and a cherished opportunity to connect with a dear friend in a peaceful, unhurried setting.

Thanks, Thermea!