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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Last winter I got myself a pair of mukluks from Manitoba Mukluks. They are toasty, they are comfy, and they. are. gorgeous.
Intrigued by the name, I researched the company before I made my purchase, and I was thrilled to learn that many of their products are made right here in Winnipeg. Those that are made internationally are clearly marked as such; the company is transparent about its international production policies and is committed to ethical sourcing of leather and fur. Manitobah Mukluks is Indigenous-owned, and when I had to made an exchange for a different size, I was delighted to discover that their headquarters are located in North Point Douglas, just a stone’s throw from my neighbourhood. Talk about local!
This year I asked Santa for a pair of Manitobah Mukluks moccasins to wear as slippers around the house, and lucky for me, I got my wish. My feet have been super toasty and the subject of many compliments ever since.
I’m grateful we have such a wonderful local footwear company in Winnipeg. Seeing the cool footprints left in the snow by my mukluks always makes happy – something I am extra-grateful for in the long, cold winter!
When I moved to the ‘Peg 11 years ago, I believe there were only two local breweries: Fort Garry and Half Pints. A few years back the liquor laws changed and craft breweries began popping up at an impressive rate. At first I could keep track of all the new additions (thanks in great part to the Beer Winnipeg blog and the beer proclivities of Winnipeg Twitter) but now there are enough that I’ve lost count. It’s awesome. To me this is a better indication that we’re becoming a cool big city than any piece of sexy infrastructure or big box store.
One Great City, Nonsuch, Torque, Barn Hammer, LBJ, Grain to Glass, Farmery… there are so many great options to choose from. Whether it’s a cool location, beautiful branding, delicious food at their brewpub, awesome collabs or supporting a great cause, I love that so many local brewers have something unique about them, and I appreciate all these things. And, not to overlook the original two, it’s hard to beat a Stir Stick Stout or Fort Gary Rouge.
I’m grateful for local beer!
(Now, can we please get Pedal Pub to come set up here??)
(And can someone please buy Hamilton House and turn it into a brewpub? Please?????)
(No seriously. That would be amazing.)
I got the most stunning, perfect Christmas gift from a dear friend this year: a print from Nice Art People of an elm tree ring, from Elmwood no less, like this one. I’m so excited to hang it up.
It joins my small collection of lovely Winnipeg-themed or Winnipeg-made artwork. I treated myself to the Ty Johnson “Great City” print at Tiny Feast (RIP) several years ago, and to a cool Guy St. Godard watercolour print of 1960s Portage Ave at the Signatures Show last year. For my birthday this year I got a beautiful print of a succulent that had been for sale at Sam’s Place (can’t remember the artist and too lazy to open up the frame!). I’ve got my eye on a few poignant Kal Barteski prints. And the Manitoba Dainty Tray print from Happyland Print Shop has been in my etsy cart off and on for far too long – one of these days, it’s going to look great in my kitchen.
Winnipeg is home to an astonishing number of talented artists who make my life and all Winnipeggers’ lives more beautiful with everything from paintings and prints to sculptures and murals. So grateful for Winnipeg artists!
I’ve always been a library fan. I was a massive bookworm as a kid — one of my fondest childhood summer memories is getting stacks of books from the Lac du Bonnet library while visiting my grandparents at their cottage. As a teen in a just-before-the-internet world, the Lethbridge Public Library was my gateway to all the worldly books and authors I could possibly want.
When, after completely messing up stints at both the local university and college, I stumbled into the Library and Information Technology program at SAIT, I felt like I’d finally found “my people”.
All this to say, I love the library — and Winnipeg has a good one! My local branch, Henderson, is one of the busiest in the city and I love that it’s easy to get to and has decent hours. Whether it’s browsing, putting books on hold for pickup at my convenience, using the online databases for research, downloading eBooks or attending programs, I appreciate all the awesome services and programs happening at the library.
At the budget delegation meetings last month, many people came out to protest cuts and closures to library services. One person’s remarks stuck with me. He said something like, “The Westwood branch is not dead wood. It’s a branch of a living tree, and a tree that connects our community to a greater forest.”
It’s a tough time right now, as we await the fate of the Westwood and Fort Garry and West Kildonan branches of the WPL, and to see whether the discriminatory security measures at Millennium will be replaced by inclusive supports.
The proposed cuts remind to be grateful for the access that I am privileged to have. While we’ve still got a library, I want to say thanks to WPL for all it offers to me and my family.
I am so grateful to live in a city where parents don’t have camp out overnight to get a spot in French immersion, or take part in a lottery to get a spot in their catchment school. Coming from BC where this seemed to be the norm, I never take it for granted that our kids are able to go to a Francophone school with terrific teachers and staff, with no hoops to jump through!
I know several people who work in the education system, and from what I understand, it is not an easy place to work, with ever-present budget constraints, large classes and inadequate resources to meet student needs. In this stressful and challenging environment, the hard work and dedication of the personnel never ceases to amaze me. Teachers and elementary school staff are the unsung heroes of society and I’m extremely grateful to the staff at École Taché!
Because it is not our neighbourhood school and a little far for everyday biking (in great part due to a lack of infrastructure, not necessarily distance), we have (free!) school bus service and have always had terrific bus drivers who do unexpected, thoughtful things like give the students Christmas gifts or make donations in their name. I’m very grateful for this, as well.
And although my kids don’t go to the neighbourhood school, Glenelm School, I am also grateful to have this institution in our neighbourhood. It’s a special little community-minded school that is beloved by its students’ families. From welcoming a fledgling pickleball league, to participating in our GeNA tree planting ceremony, to hosting an epic community BBQ every June, this school is a huge asset to our corner of the world. I am lucky to consider myself part of the extended Glenelm School family!