Peg Gratitude: Day 16 – The River

December 31st, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

Welp, thanks for tolerating my inadvertent hiatus from my “things I’m grateful for in Winnipeg” series. Turns out that planning to write a post every day in the busiest month of the year was a bit ambitious, but it’s my blog so I’m going to bend the rules for myself – I’ll complete my 31 gratitude posts as I’m able.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I have a cold and am happily spending a quiet evening with my computer and then hopefully finishing s3 of The Crown and then heading to bed. I’ve never been a NYE party kind of person and having small kids makes me even less enthused. Still, it’s the end of a decade and folks are being all thoughtful and nostalgic on Twitter and it’s put me in the mood for reflecting.

Shortly after I moved to Winnipeg I got a copy of In Search of April Raintree. I read it that first summer, on the bus, biting back tears. Apart from a few especially graphic scenes, I can’t remember that many of the story’s specifics, but I do recall that bridges and the Red River feature prominently. Every time I cross the Redwood on foot or bike, I look down and think about the book’s heart-wrenching tale and how it’s close to so many Indigenous people’s lives, and about Tina Fontaine and about the Drag the Red crews and the red ribbons.

I forget the river is there until I am crossing it. And when I’m there above it, suspended at a distance, it feels overwhelming, all-consuming. Standing looking out at the vast, endless brown waters I feel small and vulnerable; at the mercy of its might. In other parts of the city people may think of the river and think of an awesome skating trail. In my part of the city I think of the river as a stark and important reminder.

I struggle to know how to say this in a way that is respectful and sensitive. It sounds awful to say that I’m grateful for the river because it reminds me of a horrific aspect of Canadian society: missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. But in a way I am grateful because it reminds me that we must do better, we must work towards reconciliation. We must keep trying, try harder, do more to make amends for our actions. I’m grateful for the river as a constant, solemn reminder.

Peg Gratitude: Day 15 – Winnipeg Transit

December 17th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

I use transit a few times a week and it’s a breeze because I live close to a very well-serviced route – I’m grateful for that.

Being a transit operator can’t be an easy job (that’s probably an understatement), but in my experience, operators are unfailingly polite, often cheerful, and always professional – and I’m grateful for that!

I often look forward to taking the bus because it gives me some “me time” to listen to a podcast, catch up on texts or email, or read the news or Twitter and not feel guilty because I really should be doing something else. I’m grateful for those small moments of solitude. And I’m also grateful for the chance to spend time around people from all different walks of life – I think taking public transit has helped me be a more empathetic and aware citizen.

It’s been a rough year for Transit, but also a tentatively exciting one, with the announcement of a proposed new Transit Master Plan. I know that there are lots of folks working VERY hard behind the scenes to make transit as good as it possibly can be – and I’m grateful for that too.

Three cheers for Transit!

Peg Gratitude: Day 14 – The Exchange District

December 17th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

Who doesn’t love the Exchange? I sure do. It’s gorgeous, easy to get to and to navigate, has tons of cool places to shop and eats, is always putting on neat events, and did I mention it’s gorgeous? A while back I tweeted this photo of Albert and said I thought it was the prettiest street in the city – and promptly got nearly a hundred likes. What a beaut!

A few “only in the Exchange” things I’m grateful for:

Seeing movies at Towne 8 – this theatre feels nothing like a living room and that’s exactly what I love about it. It reminds me of what it felt like going to the movies as a kid. Never crowded, cheap tickets, good popcorn – heck yes.

Having coffee anywhere – a good portion of my young adult life was spent in coffeehouses, and when I’m sitting at Parlour or Forth or Miss Browns with a cup of delicious coffee, preferably looking out a window, it sounds cheesy but I just feel extremely like myself, in a good and comforting way.

Shoe shopping at Canadian Footwear – ok, so there are other locations around the city, but I really like this one because a) clearance centre! and b) easy-peasy for me to get to and c) top-notch service & really good quality footwear for my whole fam jam. I don’t think there are many free-standing shoe stores anymore, and that’s exactly what is special about this one.

I suppose I love the Exchange because it feels nostalgic and old school yet fresh and exciting – all at once. I’m so grateful to live close to such a great neighbourhood!

Peg Gratitude: Day 13 – Local Journalism

December 17th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

This one will be short and sweet. I’m so grateful for the outstanding local journalism we have here in Winnipeg, thanks to CBC, the Free Press, and other local sources!

One of the best purchases I made this year was a digital subscription to the Winnipeg Free Press. I’ve wrestled over the years with paper subscriptions – I love getting a physical paper, but I just can’t keep up with the volume, and I feel gross about how a lot of the sections are just going to go straight into the recycling bin (sports, autos, etc.). The digital subscription is perfect because I can get all the news I want, including the Canstar community papers, and none of the waste.

Speaking of Canstar, I love our local paper, The Herald. There’s always something interesting in it, and personally, I really appreciate how the paper has always been interested in what our neighbourhood association is doing – a lot of folks say they hear about our events through the Herald, so we know it has excellent reach!

I’m also very grateful for CBC online news and radio programs (nothing against TV news; I just rarely watch it!) as well as La Liberté for shining a spotlight on the Franco-manitoban community, and the Uniter, which can always be counted on for good hyper-local content too. And a shout-out to the independent local journalists doing important work, too.

Peg Gratitude: Day 12 – Elmwood Cemetery

December 17th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

Oh boy!! Do I have some catching up to do! For Day 12 of my gratitude project, I’m thinking about beautiful Elmwood Cemetery right here in Glenelm.

I guess it might sound kind of odd to praise a cemetery, but Elmwood Cemetery is such a special place and is huge asset to my neighbourhood. It’s gorgeous and tranquil, well-maintained and full of huge old trees and many new little ones.

With lovely smooth, wide paths that are shady in the summer and well-cleared in the winter, it’s the perfect place to go for a brisk or leisurely walk, especially in a group or with strollers or kids on bikes. It’s a picturesque, zero-stress partial connection to the Disraeli AT bridge, meaning it gives folks on bikes a way to avoid a big chunk of Henderson. And for Louis Riel Day, the Cemetery has a wonderful event: free sleigh rides, cookies and hot chocolate!

My favourite Elmwood Cemetery things are bumping into neighbours out walking or commuting (which seems to happen often!), exchanging a smile with other people on bikes, stopping to admire the river and the great view across to Point Douglas, and of course all the beautiful and fascinating headstones. There’s always lots of wildlife, too – one particularly magical moment was when we saw a small red fox dashing across the cemetery!

I’m so grateful to have a peaceful place that is also very useful and functional so close by. Three cheers for historic Elmwood Cemetery!

Peg Gratitude: Day 11 – Children’s Hospital

December 11th, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

There are really no words to accurately describe the quality of care that we received when one of our children had surgery as a newborn at Children’s Hospital. There is nothing that can prepare you for seeing your tiny, helpless infant hooked up to an astonishing number of machines, wires and tubes.

Even though everything went exactly as planned, and the outcome was excellent, being in the hospital with a six-week-old is very scary. But because of the outstanding support and ability of the staff at Children’s, we came away from it with an unbelievably grateful, positive view of the whole experience.

The doctors, specialists, Child Life staff, and especially the nurses seemed to us to be superhuman. Remembering their tender expressions of empathy for us as parents and their complete devotion to our tiny child still brings tears to my eyes.

When it came time to thank them, I felt that nothing I could say or do would really ever convey our gratitude and appreciation. It still feels that way.

Winnipeggers are incredibly fortunate to have such an outstanding health facility in our city!

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!