Peg Gratitude: Day 10 – Plain Bicycle Project

December 10th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

I’ve said it here before, but getting my bike through the Plain Bicycle Project changed my life. Sure, it maybe could have been another bike, but when I heard about the project, I just fell in love with the beautiful upright bikes, and could really see myself riding one. I loved the idea of a bike that I’d never feel the need to wear a technical fabric on, because technical fabrics are totally not my jam.

My bike is super comfy, gets me where I want to go, is fun to ride with my family, starts conversations, leads me to encourage others to bike, and inspires me to see cycling as an everyday, normal part of life…and part of the solution to the challenges our city and planet face.

I’m grateful for the Plain Bicycle Project!

Peg Gratitude: Day 9 – Twitter Pals

December 10th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

This is an easy one. It’s easy to slag social media, and while it doesn’t always bring good things to our lives, or bring out the best in us, for the most part, I really love the Twitter community I’m part of in Winnipeg.

From posting tips to commiserating over our city’s challenges, celebrating small successes to sharing perspectives, I am always learning new things from local people I follow on Twitter! To my great delight, my path is starting to cross with many of these folks in real life, but it’s still great to have this broader online community of like-minded individuals to swap information and ideas with. For an introvert like me, having this tool as a way to get to know people a little before or after an IRL encounter is especially valuable!

The general awesomeness of this community was really brought home for me a couple weeks ago, when I posted a long, discouraged thread a couple weeks ago. I was mostly just venting to get some feelings off my chest, but I was floored and right away, a bunch of people replied with words of genuine support and empathy and encouragement.

I’m very grateful for the many neat contacts I’ve made through Twitter and all the eye-opening things I’ve learned from them (along with all the great local beer tips, too!).

Peg Gratitude: Day 8 – Local Businesses

December 10th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

On Sunday (Day 8 of my December gratitude project), my son and I had a fun little Christmas shopping date. We took a quick bus ride down Portage to DeLuca’s Specialty Food Store to procure some gifts and stocking stuffers for some of our loved ones who are food enthusiasts. We had a great time wandering through the aisles looking at interesting products and drooling over the many, many choices.

This reminded me of the many other independent stores that I’m grateful for here in Winnipeg – just off the top of my head:

  • The Scoop n’ Weigh – I could spend hours & hours here, looking at all the interesting food products and kitchenware. And I’ve said it a few times on Twitter, but I’ll say it again: Scoop n Weigh has the best email newsletter I’ve ever received, hands down.
  • Toad Hall Toys – my kids are at prime birthday party age, so it seems we are there a couple times a month to pick up gifts! Wonderful staff, interesting games & toys, and a great books section.
  • McNally Robinson – a little piece of heaven on earth. I wish I lived closer so that I could also take advantage of all the incredible programming they offer.
  • Tara Davis Studio – such a wonderful place for a local treasures, with ridiculously friendly service and beautiful, interesting items.
  • Bikes & Beyond – I’m lucky enough to have a bike shop within a short walk of home – perfect for all our bike needs (and wants!) On a broader community level, I especially appreciate that Bikes & Beyond brings fat bikes to Elmwood Winter Fun Day every February!

What local businesses are you grateful for?

Peg Gratitude: Day 7 – My Neighbours

December 10th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

Oh sheesh… playing catch-up on my gratitude posts after a busy weekend! For Day 7, this past Saturday, I can’t think of anything more fitting than my neighbours.

About nine years ago, my at-the-time next-door neighbour invited me to a “ladies’ Christmas party”, a tradition that had been going on informally among Glenelm women for some years. I’m by no means a extrovert or a party person, but we were still relatively new to the area, I was on mat leave with a six-month old baby and I was keen to meet some new people, so I accepted the invitation. It turned out to be a fateful decision as it was there that I met one of those “connectors” that Malcolm Gladwell talks about – a person who knows everyone and facilitates connections freely and generously for everyone. To my surprise, she had been reading my blog, so we quickly found common ground and she left quite an impression on me!

Turns out, this lovely woman lived across the back lane from  me, and she asked if I knew the new mother who lived a few doors down from me, who had a baby almost the same age. I didn’t; in fact, I didn’t even have a clue who lived there. Within a few weeks, she’d orchestrated a small get-together at her house so that she could match-make us. This was the beginning of two beautiful, cherished friendships with people who both live within a stone’s throw from me.

Well, fast-forward almost a decade and the three of us are still getting together: sometimes in small groups, sometimes one-on-one, and sometimes at larger neighbourhood events. This past Saturday (Day 7), we were all together again for what has become an annual holiday tradition: a lively evening of (indoor) carolling along with many more neighbourhood folks.

And though over the past few years I’ve been involved in helping to organize tons of neighbourhood events, this one is especially dear to me because it’s all about my deepest neighbourhood relationships, and the shared connections many of us have formed. As I looked around the music-filled room, and caught the eyes of and shared a smile with many dear friends, I felt almost overflowing with gratitude and peace. It is such a lucky thing to have neighbours who take care of each other when times are hard, and to celebrate with when times are good. Neighbours you could ask for help anytime, and who know they could ask the same of you. I try never to take it for granted.

There have been lots of changes to the street over the years. Sometimes these changes are good and exciting, other times they’re hard and overwhelming.  We’ve lost wonderful neighbours when they passed away, or moved out of province, or just out of the neighbourhood. We’ve also dealt with difficult situations related to criminal activity; though I don’t wish that on anyone, nothing brings you closer to your neighbours that knowing that you’re watching out for each other and you’re in that tough situation together.

I hope you have neighbours like mine…and that you’ll do something special with them over the holidays!

Peg Gratitude: Day 6 – MTYP

December 6th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

When I moved to Winnipeg and people were baffled, there was one indisputable fact I knew I could trot out to quell some of negative comments: Winnipeg has an incredible arts scene.

11 years in, I can’t say I have really partaken much of the arts lately. I seem to have been sucked into a world of begging for budget scraps and pushing for system change. It can be a serious downer, and when combined with the climate crisis, it’s really put a damper on my spirits.

But: tonight I took my kids to see A Year with Frog and Toad at MTYP. It was the first time any of us had been to MTYP and we couldn’t have picked a better show to see. Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books were a staple of my childhood and now I love reading them with my own kids. That doesn’t quite sum up how important these four little books are to me. I absolutely cherish them.

So, many months ago, I saw that MTYP was going to be doing a show based on Frog and Toad, and so I put a note in my calendar reminding me to investigate tickets once the season had started. After having some trouble with the MTYP website, I called the box office and was assisted by the loveliest, most helpful person, who found great seats for us, on opening night no less!

We’d looked forward to tonight all week (and honestly, I’d been looking forward to it for months!). The kids and took the bus to The Forks after supper, got hot chocolate and poked around Kite & Kaboodle, then went to the theatre where we found ourselves in “Frog Centre”. From the moment the show began, I was grinning ear to ear. It was a marvelous production with terrific songs (I now know the show debuted on Broadway – and it shows). It incorporated many of the stories from the four books including many of our personal favourites (like mine, Alone–which totally made me cry–and Cookies but sadly not Ice Cream) and tons of delightful special effects. Afterwards everyone was invited for milk and cookies in the lobby – I don’t know if this is a usual thing, but it was so fun and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

I wish I could go see the show again – it was that good. I can’t wait for my next trip to MTYP, whatever the show!

I’m grateful for this lovely evening and the discovery of the joyful gem that is MTYP in the heart of our often discouraging, struggling city.

Peg Gratitude: Day 5 – The Crusty Bun

December 5th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

Today’s “Winnipeg thing I’m grateful for” is an easy one. I *love* The Crusty Bun bakery café on St Mary’s.

Over the years it’s been a go-to place for breakfast meet-ups with the wonderful women in my extended family. Their bread is amazing (the pumpkin seed bread is my all-time fave) and I enjoy every meal, whether it’s a small German breakfast (2 crusty buns, ham & cheese, house-made jam) or a scrumptious pastry and coffee.

It’s a bustling place, so there’s always a risk you may not get a table, but it’s homey and warm and there are display cases and baskets full of mouth-watering baking to keep you dreaming while you wait.

Happiness is a bag of soul sticks or salt pretzels from the Crusty Bun, shared with a family member or dear friend. Can’t wait to go again soon!

Peg Gratitude: Day 4 – My Winnipeg Roots

December 4th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

Today’s my dad’s birthday. He died in 1998, a few days after I turned 17.

I have a distinct memory of sitting in the computer lab at the community college in Lethbridge around 2000, looking at Craiglist ads for apartments in Winnipeg. There were photos of apartments or suites for rent in the West End, I guess in close proximity to the U of W campus, where I yearned to go but did not (yet) have the guts to do on my own. It looked like a dreamland: canopied streets, cool old houses, a little bohemian and shabby… right up my alley.

I had been to Winnipeg many times at that point but it wasn’t anything about those visits that was appealing to me. It was a romantic idea of the place my parents had lived as a young couple, where my brothers were born. Winnipeg was an almost mythical place steeped in family memory and lore. (Carol Shields didn’t help either.)

My Winnipeg training began young.

As I’m sure was the case for many Canadian kids, Fred Penner was a constant in my childhood. I knew he was from Manitoba, because my uncle had once mentioned that he walked to school with Fred (trying to impress his young nieces, I guess? Seems funny now… and like exactly the kind of thing I would pull out to try to impress my own kids. Yikes!)

Once when Fred came through southern Alberta, we went and saw his show. Upon meeting him afterwards, I excitedly informed Fred that he used to walk to school with my uncle… only Fred had no recollection of my uncle at all…embarrassing!

I recently asked my mum why we had so many Fred Penner albums but only one Raffi album (many other kids my age seemed to be all Raffi, all the time). Her response was part offended, part baffled: Well, we just didn’t need Raffi. We had Fred! It was like he belonged to Winnipeg, and therefore to us, even though our family now lived two provinces away. And now, I have Fred too; he’s a living legend, Winnipeg omnipresent in a way that’s always charming and never grating. (A new favourite Fred memory is hearing him do Pete Seeger’s “Garbage” at the David Suzuki Blue Dot tour.

I grew up hearing frequent references to the various streets and places where my parents and various family members lived and worked. Lenore (the frozen pipes), Kings Drive (Grandpa designed the house so you could see the river from every side), and how could I forget Univillage student housing (with milk delivery from a dairy on St Mary’s). And Great Waste of Life, of course.

Items around the house also held their own connections to Winnipeg, like the bikes that were procured at my Granddad’s sporting goods store. I recently discovered that a partial ghost sign for River East Sportsland exists, it turns out, just a short piece (as my Grandma would say) up the road from where I live now.

I’d look at my dad’s old yearbooks and say the name of his high school over and over, Vincent Massey, Vincent Massey. I’d pore over the town history books for Minnedosa and Neepawa and look for all the references to my family. When I moved here there were so many familiar place names that it already seemed like home.

And people, too: Reg Skene’s name was mentioned often enough that I took note of it; when he died in 2016, my first instinct was to call home, even though my dad had been gone for twenty years. My parents met, I think, through the theatre program at the U of W – my mum doing costumes and my dad doing music. To this day, I have an impossible-to-shake impression of the U of W as infinitely cooler than the U of M.

The Fort Richmond Zellers, RIP. One of my all-time favourite family stories is my mum’s description of the good(?) old days in the Zellers cafeteria smoking cigarettes with another young mum, while the kids ate fries. 30 years later, my husband and I bought a set of patio furniture at that same Zellers shortly before the chain went under.

As a teen, I loved the story about my dad and his bandmates jamming (along with other almost certainly illegal activities) with Pink Floyd after a chance post-concert encounter in a downtown Winnipeg diner. (I’m now sheepishly thinking about how heavily I traded that story as social currency, and for how long!)

The thing that brought me to Winnipeg was my roots.

Although I’ve built my Winnipeg life here in Elmwood, the stories and references to places throughout the city that I grew up with have no doubt given me a deeper appreciation (if not understanding!) of my new hometown as a complex, enduringly interesting and special place.

Happy birthday, Dad. I’m grateful for giving me half of my Winnipeg roots. Thanks for helping me find my home.

Peg Gratitude: Day 3 – Winnipeg Nonprofits

December 3rd, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

When I woke up this morning and remembered it was Giving Tuesday, I knew Winnipeg’s many amazing nonprofits would be the theme of today’s gratitude post.

Throughout the city, volunteers give generously of their time, energy, resources – their all, really – in support of nonprofits, foundations, and charities that support almost every cause imaginable. Because of all this effort, my life and all Winnipeggers’ lives are a lot better than they might be otherwise.

This year, my family is giving to several great organizations. Some we’ve had personal experience with, others are simply groups that we think are doing something really important for the city.

On our local giving list this year: The WRENCH, Women’s Health Clinic, Lake Winnipeg Foundation, Children’s Hospital Foundation of MB, Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, Ma Mawi, Green Action Centre. I look forward to someday being able to give time to some or all of these groups as well!

If you have the means to do so, I encourage you to make a donation to a group you’re grateful for this holiday season. For today, Giving Tuesday, if you make a donation of $25 or more via Canada Helps, they’ll tack on an extra $5! There are over 2000 Winnipeg-related nonprofits, organizations, institutions, etc., listed on CanadaHelps.org.

Peg Gratitude: Day 2 – Trees (& Tree People)

December 2nd, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

I can’t, I won’t imagine my neighbourhoor and city without trees! Winnipeg is fortunate to have the largest remaining urban elm forest in North America, thanks to our amazing urban forestry department, Trees Winnipeg and previous councils who recognized the importance of funding the fight to protect our elms.

I am grateful for every tree in our city and every remaining moment we have with the ones we will inevitably lose.

And I’m also incredibly grateful for the relationships I’ve built with Mellanie Lawrenz and Lisa Forbes (my fellow Glenelm tree ladies) over the last year, and all the other smart, energetic, passionate people I’m getting to know through the Trees Please coalition.

p.s. Have you signed at SaveOurCanopy.com yet? If not, I’d be grateful if you would!

Peg Gratitude: Day 1 – Rainbow Barricades at Portage & Main

December 1st, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

It’s been a long month. I’m not feeling great about Winnipeg these days, and I know I’m not alone in this. Although Twitter has been an invaluable place for connecting with other like-minded folks, it’s also the place I turn to for venting. Between me and the other adult in my household, there has been an awful lot of venting and grumbling lately. Over the last while, I’ve tried to embrace a mindset of “don’t just complain, do something” — and as such I’ve wound up involved in all sorts of groups and projects and whatnot that involve a lot of pushing back against the status quo. It’s tiring but it’s important and I hope I’m helping to make a difference.

Still, earlier this evening I found myself thinking that I should try to give just as much mental space to the good things in life that I’m grateful for. I’ve kept what I call “three things journals” off and on over the years, where I write down three good things that happened during my day. I found this practice really helped to recognize and be grateful for all the big and little good things I’m lucky to have.

In this spirit, over the month of December I’m going to share a little about the many places, people, and things I’m grateful for in my adopted hometown of Winnipeg.

Day 1: Rainbow Barricades at Portage & Main

Something wonderful happened at our most famous intersection, Portage & Main. The barricades that prevent people from crossing the street at Portage & Main are hostile and crumbling and ridiculous and must go, but I LOVE that they were painted in rainbow stripes for this year’s Pride, and that the colours are still up six months later. I honestly thought they would probably paint over them after a few weeks, but they haven’t yet.

And so, every time I pass these joyful, colourful cement walls, this absurd juxtaposition of free/not free, I feel happy that while we wait impatiently for the day they’re jackhammered out, we have something beautiful and symbolic and hopeful to look at. And I’m going to appreciate them even more in the dead of February, when they’ll really pop against all the snow and grime.

Thanks, rainbow barricades!