The Seven Oaks Library, located on Jefferson Avenue in the heart of Garden City, might be closing as part of a sweeping round of cuts proposed by the Winnipeg city council.
Before I tell you why this matters, and why I'm angry, I want to tell you a story about the Seven Oaks Public Library:
I don't remember feeling happy very often growing up, but I was always happy when we went to the library.
When I was little my parents enrolled me in Story Time, and every Monday they'd take my two brothers and I to the library to borrow a big stack of books and VHS tapes. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but the library gave us something to do, and look forward to.
As I got older and things got worse at home, my local library became somewhere I could go when I was upset, and where I could pass the time in a warm, quiet place.
I loved having a place where I could go and escape my life by diving into a good book.
I felt safe in the library, and accepted there.
I fell in love with reading, and became a writer, because of the Seven Oaks Public Library.
Without that library I wouldn't have this blog. Or my business. Or my sense of curiosity and eagerness to learn, both of which are the result of becoming an avid reader.
I wouldn't have any of that without my local library, and it might be closing.
But that's not why I'm angry.
I'm angry because our mayor and city council are lying to us about why they want to close it.
A few weeks ago the city released a budget proposal that says our city is so tight on cash that they need to make the following cuts:
- 5 pools closing
- 3 libraries closing
- 5 arenas closing
- funding cuts to all community centres
- all improvements to athletic fields cancelled
This is upsetting news on its own, but yesterday I read that even though all these cuts are coming, the city is quietly pushing through a $71 million dollar community centre called The South Winnipeg Recreation Campus in Waverley West.
What's included in this fancy new recreation campus being built on the very edge of our city?
- a lap tank and leisure pool
- a fitness space, walking/running track and gymnasium
- a community library
- community recreation program space with *multiple gyms* and multi-purpose spaces
- athletic fields and park space
- a twin arena
Our civic government is cutting and under-funding programs and community centres for inner-city residents, and literally building the same things in a brand-new, high-income neighbourhoods.
This is literally robbing from the poor to give to the rich.
Through this move, the Mayor Bowman and City Hall are saying that kids like me don't matter.
Kids like me, whose parents were strapped for cash and needed a way to keep their young kids busy by borrowing books and videos and signing us up for programs
whose home lives were negative and chaotic and stressful, and who needed a safe, calm space to be alone when things got tough
who found a sense of identity through reading and felt motivated to achieve more than we felt we were worth because of what we read
according to city hall, kids like me literally don't deserve these opportunities, because we need to make sure kids in wealthy suburbs get them instead.
It's no wonder we have a meth and violence crisis in this city. It's pretty easy to see which voters City Hall and the Mayor think are most important.
Oh, and if you're wondering why you didn't hear about this when the budget was made public?
It's because the city deliberately left the dollar amount out of the capital budget:
So not only is our city lying about not having money in the budget to fund these spaces and programs and pushing through a project to build literally the same thing in a rich suburb
they've also been hiding it from us and hoping we don't find out.
See why I'm angry?
I'd like to give a big shout-out to Dear Winnipeg for doing the deep-dive on the topic that inspired the post. You should read it.
It's okay if you feel sad. Feeling sad is normal, and even if it feels like you're sad more often than you're happy that's also pretty normal.
But that's okay! Because that means your feelings aren't that
as maybe you think they are.
I want you to know that pretty much every single person you see on the street, including me, gets scared and feels lonely and feels like a burden on those around us sometimes.
That's also pretty normal.
But that's okay, too. The world we live in tricks us into thinking technology connects us when most of the time it doesn't, and we're all trying to navigate this weird world that we've suddenly found ourselves in
that feels so connected, but can be so isolating at the same time.
We're all just figuring it out together.
I want you to know that if you've ever thought about disappearing, that the hole you'd leave in the hearts of the people who love you will never heal.
Every single person who loves you know would rather stay up night talking to you, or help you when you're in crisis, than live in a world without you in it.
But it's okay if you sometimes feel the opposite as long as you don't let those feelings, and the guilt you may have about them, to stop you from reaching out.
Please reach out.
I want you to know these things for a few reasons:
1. they're all true
2. sometimes we forget them
3. sometimes I need a reminder
4. maybe right now you do, too.
I want you to know that you're not alone if you feel sad, or stuck, or depressed, or feel like what you've been trying isn't working and there's no alternative.
Anxiety and depression are nothing to be ashamed of.
What matters is that we don't let those feelings define us, and that we remember that
it's okay to feel sad
you are not a burden
you are loved
everyone wants you around
and getting help is always the better option.
If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, or you think you know someone who might be, please call one of the numbers below:
Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line (24/7)
Toll free: 1-877-435-7170
Klinic Crisis Line (24/7)
Phone: (204) 786-8686
Toll free: 1-888-322-3019
it goes like this:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
It's a quote from C.S. Lewis (the guy who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia) and I've been thinking about it a lot because there's been a lot of
going around recently, and when things like death start to hit too close to home people start to do crazy things.
We become mean
and we start to push away people around us because the hole someone leaves in your life when they die is like a big, gaping maw that can swallow everything up if you let it.
So instead we over-react and become hyper-sensitive to
because the damage the distractions cause is better than facing what's in front of us.
We panic in the face of death.
And why wouldn't we? I want to. I'm scared shitless of dying.
My mind starts feeling like a level of Monument Valley the minute I start thinking about the idea of my consciousness not existing and the meat sack of my body rotting away and becoming hopefully part of a tree or some nice-looking edible plants like watercress or blueberries.
(I tried to lighten it up at the end there, did you notice?)
But panicking doesn't make anything easier. Not in the long run anyway.
And I've been thinking about that C.S. Lewis quote because I know a lot about how being afraid makes you say and do things you wish you could take back.
When you grow up afraid you lash out at other people as a way to make sense of, and to some extent, validate what you're feeling.
At least, in my experience.
Going through grief for the first time and watching other people close to me go through it
(in some cases way worse than I experienced)
made me realize that grief looks a lot like fear, just like Mr. Lewis said.
It's scary, but it's a reminder that in the face of that big, gaping maw that obliterates everyone we've ever known and loved
all we ever really had was each other.
So hold on tight.
We'd planned on going out but it was too cold so instead we stayed inside and snacked on leftover potluck food. In my younger years this would have stressed me out
what do you mean we're not going out to do something on my birthday
but these days it's nice to have an excuse to stay in my pyjamas and play video games on my day off (being born on Remembrance Day has its perks.)
Last night we hosted a pun-themed party where people brought dishes with names like:
Curry on My Wayward Son (There'll be Eats When We Are Done)
The Beaning of Life
The Lamb Before Thyme
and a whole bunch of other gooders that I can't remember
possibly because I'm old now.
But I'm not really old. Not proper old, anyway, like my Grandma or the lovely folks who lived in the assisted living facility where I worked in university helping residents write emails to their grandkids
(no joke, that was my job. It was sweet and wonderful and I loved it)
but I'm older, which means I have license to gripe about the usual things like aches and being tired and what have you
but honestly I don't have a lot to complain about these days.
I do cool stuff and have dumb problems like
waah I've been running too many workshops recently and I need a break
really, girl? I remember back when I used to daydream about having this problem.
I guess I could say that that's the reason I don't blog as much, but tbh it's because I spent a lot of time writing in my journal, or reading, and there's a flow between my brain and my hand when I write in a journal that I've been enjoying a lot recently
and though I firmly don't believe that blogging isn't dead
it's one of many creative outlets right now
and it's been nice to have the time to explore them.
Plus with all the workshops and startup stuff and etc
sometimes I don't have the mental energy to be witty or quippy or clever or smart
which I feel more pressure to be the less I write here, ironically enough
but goddamn it, it's my birthday, and I only have so many
so let the record show that this was a good one that was spent surrounded by people I love
and I'm thankful for it
and for them
and thankful for you, too.
Happy birthday to me.
I'm sitting at Espresso Junction in The Johnston Terminal, at The Forks. I've been coming to this coffee shop since I was 18, when my boyfriend Peter took me here on a date.
I'd never had a London Fog before, and he ordered one for me and told me "they're the best in the city" and I still agree.
After that I started coming here whenever I had time in-between jobs, or when I had a long wait to catch the 18 bus home to the suburbs. I've started, finished, and cried over lots of books here.
Boys, too, back in the days when relationships were volatile and immature.
I didn't come back here for a really long time because of something bad that happened
or rather, started, here
but enough time has passed that the wound I used to feel has become softer and less raw, to the point where it almost feels like a scar on someone else's body.
Memories that belong to a person who feels like a dream.
Coming here feels like looking through a yearbook, back through years of coffees and London Fogs, layered and blended over the years.
Winnipeg, through the virtue of being a Big Small Town, is full of these spaces.
Places you visited when you were a different version of yourself, that come to mean mean complicated and layered things just by the virtue of existing or staying in business long enough.
Places that look, sound, and smell the same; that are familiar in a way that almost feels like it's in your bones,
because maybe in some small way it is.
so now I officially own two businesses.
Or will soon, I guess.
We're building a company that does a really cool, unique thing and people are excited about it. Last week during a meeting with a beta tester they told me
"what you're building is wildly important"
which was a bit overwhelming but also...
I agree. It is an important idea.
I like solving problems (it's what I like about business) and lately I've been spending a lot of time working on a tool that solves a very specific problem in a really creative and useful way.
Best of all: it's efficient.
(I love efficiency.)
What I love more is working on something that makes people excited, and happy. Running a marketing agency is great, but solves different kinds of problem-solving than a piece of software and even though it makes me feel like I'm juggling a dozen balls at once
it's pretty effing exhilarating.
Wish us luck!
I woke up to my cat, who I love, stepping on my face and my partner snoozing beside me.
We rent a lovely place in a great neighbourhood.
We have some debt, but we have savings.
We don't own a car, but we live close to lots of major bus routes and can walk or bike to pretty much anywhere except St Vital Mall or IKEA pretty easily.
John and I spend our days working, making food together, puttering around the house on little projects, and laughing a lot.
I have good, kind friends who care about me and lift me up when I need it, and who set me straight when I let my anxiety to get the better of me.
I still get anxious, but not as much as I used to.
It's been years since I talked to my parents and even though I didn't ask for this outcome, I like it this way.
I see my brothers from time to time. It still feels a bit weird, and being around them feels familiar in a way I guess only siblings understand.
I like getting to know them as adults, away from the chaos, on our own terms.
I don't see my Grandma as often as I'd like, but we call when we can.
Life is simple; no drama.
I live in a city that (while imperfect) is home to so many incredible people, places, food options, events and music.
In a few months I'll be able to take the bus to The Forks, have a couple of pints of local craft beer while I work, and skate home along our frozen river all the way to my house.
Winter can suck, but Winnipeggers really do make the most out of it.
I'm thankful for the people in our city who continue to push for interesting, cool, and fun ways to celebrate unique the place we live.
John and I both own our own companies, and we've started a new company that one of our users called
and I really think it has the potential to go somewhere.
Most days I wake up excited to get to my desk and get my workday started. I've never had a job that makes me feel this way before.
I never expected to feel this way.
About my work. About my life. About anything.
10 years ago I would have laughed at you if you'd told me this is where I'd be today. I wouldn't have believed you because I didn't think this version of myself - this version of my life - was even possible.
To be honest I'm not really sure how I got here. I can go back and trace the steps. Note every big decision, every scary new risk taken but...
what matters is that I got myself here, somehow.
Sitting in my living room, snuggling my cats, watching the snow fall.
In a little bit John will get up and make some coffee and we'll putter around working on HeyAlfa, or our companies, or our Halloween costumes, or whatever we feel like.
It's Thanksgiving Day here in Canada
and I sure do have a lot to be thankful for.
Image via the Prairie Theatre Exchange.
I met Ian Ross a lifetime ago. Or, rather, what feels like a lifetime ago.
We worked in the same building, and when we were introduced our colleague said something to the effect of:
"This is Ian. He's kind of a big deal" and the way he laughed it off and joked about it told me that
1. He was probably kind of a big deal*
2. We'd probably get along
I was in a really bad place at the time, and I leaned on Ian a lot to talk about what I was dealing with, and how frustrated and overwhelmed I often felt about the prospects of my future.
Ian, through the simple act of listening and asking questions (which no "adult" in my life had really done at that point) helped me work through my feelings as I tried to make sense of the world around me.
I was confused. I didn't understand how I'd gotten myself into the mess I found myself in, and I felt at a loss as to the best way forward.
So it was funny, and ironic in a way, that I found myself confronted with those same questions - "how did we get here?" and "what do we do now?" - through the lens of his most recent play The Third Color.
The play focuses on two spirits who have taken the shapes of Indigenous women: Head Full of Lice, played by Kathleen MacLean, and Agatu, played by Tracey Nepinak.
Through dialogue that manages to somehow be sharp, resonant, and often hilarious at the same time, the spirits explore Canada's history from pre-settlers to the present day.
Over and over again, the spirits butt heads (and, in some cases, got into physical skirmishes) over whether or not helping the settlers was, in fact, the right thing to do.
Agatu, who takes the form of an elderly woman, pities the settlers who are sick and need their help. She insists that, even if the outcome isn't what they expect, that it's the "right" thing to do.
Head Full of Lice, on the other hand, is furious. She sees the generational hurt and trauma inflicted upon Indigenous peoples and repeatedly states that she wants to "burn it all down," even going so far as to take out a Canadian flag and threaten to burn it out of rage.
"Where is the third color?" they both ask, looking at the Canadian flag.
Our Canadian flag is red and white. Red is symbolic of England and white of France... but where are the Indigenous peoples in our flag?
Where are their histories? Their stories? Their presence in the literal fabric of our country?
Through their dialogue, Head Full of Lice and Agatu represent opposing viewpoints in terms of reconciliation - should Indigenous peoples accept that "this is what we have" and try to move forward, or should they burn it all down and start again from scratch?
As a non-Indigenous person I have no real understanding of the feelings that Indigenous peoples must feel towards reconciliation in Canada. But through Head Full of Lice and Agatu's discussion I was able to get a glimpse of the complicated - and contradictory - feelings that Indigenous folks like Ian must be experiencing during this period in our history.
Which, I think, is what makes the play such an important contribution to the discussion surrounding the reconciliation attempts happening in Canada right now.
Through its comedy and drama and fierce bouts of emotion, The Third Color represents an important perspective that is timely, relevant, and challenging, while also leaving space for the audience to sit with their feelings, mixed and uncomfortable though they may be.
Art should challenge us to push the limits of our comfort zones, and that's exactly what Agatu and Head Full of Lice do throughout the play.
It made me think of the famous Duke Ellington quote that states: Art should be dangerous.
I couldn't agree more.
The Third Color is playing at the Prairie Theatre Exchange from October 2 - 20. I highly recommend checking it out.
**Big thanks to the PTE for the free tickets, and the chance to see and write about this important piece of art.**
A few weeks ago John and I performed an original song we wrote at the Rainbow Trout Music Festival open mic.
It's called "Manitobae" and it's about a particular kind of Manitoban man
many of whom were clearly sitting around Carpet Beach listening to us sing, by the sound of the cheers and clapping.
I don't have a great singing voice, and I sounded raspy af, but I'm really proud of our song and of our little band. This is Big Trouble in Little Wolseley's 3rd year performing!
I've experienced a few losses recently and I haven't been feeling the same connection to my community as I typically do.
But this video is a good reminder that there are like-minded folks out there, and instead of focusing on the weird, negative feelings still swirling around inside of me.
I'd like to share this moment in time with you because it makes me happy.
I hope it makes you happy, too.
I miss him like crazy.
Jack Layton was the second politician to make an impact on me and my political views.
The first was Barack Obama.
I met Jack Layton at a campaign rally here in Winnipeg during the election of 2011. He was shorter than I'd expected but his charismatic energy filled the room so much that it didn't matter. I still caught myself catching my breath.
He talked about ideas that make sense, like inclusivity, combatting climate change, and true universal health care, and that were grounded in an unwavering belief that by working together we could achieve much more than we ever could by competing against one another.
The room was filled with young people and people of colour and it felt good to be among hundreds of others who believed, like Jack, and like me, that we all become better together.
During his speech Jack talked about being a Canadian Idealist. I didn't know what that was, so I looked it up later, and this is what I know:
Canadian Idealism is a philosophical belief founded on three principles:
1. The Enlightenment (capitalism) has suppressed culture in our society.
Culture is how we make sense of our values and beliefs as a society. We need to invest in preserving and promoting our culture because it's how our knowledge and historically inherited ideas are passed down through generations.
2. Philosophy must include a study of history.
We need to thoroughly understand and study history and see where we went wrong in order to keep from making the same mistakes. This is the only way to build towards a society that can balance the civic unity (aka, the common good) with individual freedom.
3. We achieve freedom through the ethical life of our community, not in spite of it.
By participating actively in our society, and by putting social systems in place where people feel empowered to thrive and pursue their goals, we can build a society that is truly free (aka, positive liberty).
Turns out, I'm a Canadian Idealist. Who knew.
At the end of his speech Jack stuck around to shake hands and take photos, and I snaked my way through the crowd and ohmygod somehow wound up right in front of him. I felt overwhelmed and slightly sick, like meeting your idol for the first time. I blurted out something dumb like:
"I really admire what you're doing and I believe in you."
And Jack Layton took my hand in both of his hands and looked me in the eye and said
"I believe in YOU. We're in this together, and we couldn't do this without you."
I get misty thinking about how empowered he made me feel in that moment, and clearly it made an impact on others, too:
That election cycle, thanks to his leadership, the New Democratic Party more than doubled their seats in the House of Commons, and the NDP became the Official Opposition party for the first time ever.
Everything felt hopeful. Sure, we hadn't quite given the Conservatives the boot (yet), but the Orange Crush had come and the tides appeared to be turning. Canada, finally, started to look like it may become the kind of country that 30.63% of Canadians just like me wanted to see.
(Remember that the Conservatives won with 39.62% of the vote - just an 8.99% difference.)
Then, too suddenly, Jack Layton announced that he'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and on August 22, 2011, he died.
I still can't believe he's gone.
He was a beacon for the kind of person we should strive to be, and is someone I try to model myself after when it comes to how I live my life and advocate for the things I believe in.
You could tell that he was one of those rare people who got into politics because he believed passionately in the need for positive change. Not just through the policies he pushed for, but because he lived and breathed his beliefs in everything he championed, and everything he did.
He founded The White Ribbon Campaign, a movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.
He was one of the early advocates in the fight against AIDS.
He championed same-sex marriage.
He installed solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling in his house.
He rode his bike everywhere.
Even in his death, he managed to inspire so many of us with his last words.
As he lay dying, all that he could think to do, after spending his whole life in the service of others, was to leave us with a message of hope, forgiveness, and unity.
I'm going to copy/paste it from the CBC website below because you should read it. We all should. We live in scary, divisive, and uncertain times and it's important to be reminded of the good that resides in all of us.
So let's pour one out for one of the kindest and most compassionate Canadians of all time, our good friend The Honourable Jack Layton, PC MSC
Canada could really use you right now.
August 20, 2011
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.
A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.
To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best,