On Leaving Manitoba

Life is full of surprises. A month ago, if you would’ve asked me when or if I was planning on leaving Manitoba, I would say no way! I wasn’t planning on leaving. I wasn’t hoping to move on anytime soon. I knew I wasn’t going to be here in Brandon forever, but I was hoping to stick around for a little bit. But then, life happens.

I won’t really go into the long and short of it, but due to some unseen circumstances, I have decided that my time here is up. I’m packing up and actually heading to Edmonton, where I’m hoping a promising opportunity awaits. It’s going to be hard. I’m dreading saying goodbye to certain people. But also looking forward to a new adventure that is upon me. I’m young, not tied down, and I’m looking forward to writing a new chapter.

Manitoba, and Brandon was an interesting chapter to say the least. It had its good times and its bad times. I think it may be the place that gets me to the place where I need to be. It introduced me to the West, and I’m certainly not done with the West. And at this point, I couldn’t imagine going back to Ontario right now. Someday, maybe.

What will I miss the most? My friends, obviously. Couldn’t have asked for better ones. The weekends up at the lake. The fun trips into Winnipeg. Getting lost in Winnipeg. All the kids at the Humane Society (yes, we call them kids). Doing things I would never do in Ontario, like…going to hockey games or going to the Winter Fair or  grooming a horse and even help a friend look around to buy one. Oh, and the minute drive to work. There are so many other things, but my brain is in crazy packing chaotic mode, so I’m not quite thinking straight!

And now, I’m moving on and I’m going to Edmonton. Very soon. And my cat and dog are going to learn to love each other on that road trip, let me tell you! Fun times in close quarters. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I guess that’s the exciting thing for me. And I may not be Maude in Manitoba anymore, but I’ll still carry Maude’s motto around (Harold and Maude, 1971 movie – if you’re wondering), which is:

“Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE!”

So, as I close a chapter here, it just means that I’m going to start living out another chapter somewhere else. Thank you, Manitoba. You’ll always be a part of me and I’m sure I’ll be back for multiple wedding seasons!

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Dogs, Cats, Manitoba and Me

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to have a dog. I always, always, always wanted a dog. Or any kind of pet, really…other than fish. However, this was always a problem, because my mom was allergic to the fur and hair on the fuzzy animals that I wanted. So really, it was always out of the question. This meant I had fish growing up. I loved my fish and all, but I always wanted more.

Circa September 2010. I had come back from a month long backpacking trip in South East Asia and the cutest orange cat I had seen prior to my trip was still on the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA website. I was going to get her. Enough is enough. That day, Trixie became Beatrix, and the rest was history. Of course, I was like, “it’d be so nice to get a dog”, but I was in a little one bedroom apartment and I really didn’t want to get a dog in such a small space, although many of my neighbours had dogs in their apartments. Beatrix was just the right fit at that time.

Beatrix

Fast forward to September 2011 and I’m moved into Brandon, Manitoba. It took so much hard work and a very lucky and unexpected connection to find a place that would even accept Beatrix. I found a great apartment, but I had to pay a ridiculous pet deposit, which I just didn’t understand – I didn’t even ever have to pay a damage deposit in Ontario, let alone a pet deposit! It was all just so new. I didn’t know why wonderful dogs and cats weren’t allowed in homes and apartments. But I quickly learned that Manitoba is one of the least pet-friendly places I have ever seen. I know I was lucky to find my apartment and have my cat.

I still longed for a dog, and I just wanted to spend more time with animals in general, so in August 2012, I started volunteering at the Brandon Humane Society. I think it might have been the best decision I’ve made since moving to Brandon. It has brought so much positive stuff into my life, that I just can’t complain. It’s brought me community, friends and care, and dogs and cats that I absolutely love. And it brought me Josie! But first…

At the end of September 2012, a year after I had moved to Brandon, my friend wondered if I would consider being her roommate. She wanted to get out from under her mom’s roof, but she had a dog, so we had to find a pet friendly place that would allow both cats and dogs. It was like magic, a pet-friendly house showed up on eBrandon and we went to the Open House soon after. And at the Open House, what do I learn? That my landlord volunteers at the Brandon Humane Society! Of course this house is pet-friendly. There were a lot of applicants for the house, and we thought it was a longshot, but my friend and I ended up getting the house and we couldn’t have been more excited!

Now a dog was a real possibility. I didn’t want to rush into anything, because it wasn’t a decision I was going to take lightly. No way! Plus, I wanted Beatrix and my roommate dog to get accustomed to the house and each other (which they are still working on, I will admit). However, I was pretty sure I knew what dog I wanted from the Humane Society. It was a process of elimination in terms of who would be good with cats, and I also knew I wanted a black dog, since they are always the last to be adopted. Josie was it! So mid-January, I decided to take that girl home. It hasn’t been perfect. There have been tiffs between the dogs, and Josie is still a little timid of Beatrix. There is still so much for me to learn and for Josie to learn, but it’s working out amazingly well.

Josie

I never thought that my dream of having a dog to call my own would happen in Brandon, because of the lack of pet-friendlyness here. But I guess life is full of surprises, right?

Thoughts on the One Year Mark

Wow, how time flies. I can’t believe that about a year ago (Sept. 16, 2011 to be exact) I drove into this province and into Brandon with my dad and my U-haul, parked it up at my friends place on “Bannock Bay” and stayed there until I could move into my new place, way on the other side of town. I was off on a new adventure and I was questioning it the whole time.

I remember in August 2011, when I wrote my closest friends an ESSAY about how I was moving, and how I loved them, and how I couldn’t believe I was leaving them…but that we are all going to go in our separate directions at some point in life, and that I may be back in Ontario at some point – as we sometimes wanted to live the dream of living beside each other, and raising our children together, and making them marry each other.

I wondered what I was doing. I was a little impulsive. Manitoba held my heart since I was 18 years old, ever since coming up to Boissevain to work at a camp that summer. But sometimes, summers are so different than the rest of the year, right? Either way, I moved here. And I knew I had to. One of my best friends said, “Sheri, you need to go, or else you will regret it and always say ‘What if?'” And she was right.

I thought finding a good job wouldn’t be too hard. It was hard. I succeeded eventually, then things fell apart. And here I am, still looking for that opportunity. I know it will come, I just hope it comes sooner than later. If anyone sees a girl living in a ditch anytime soon, you’ll know it’s me!

So sometimes, I look back on this year and I ask, “What in the world? Has this turned into the biggest failure of my life? Did I do the right thing?” And then sometimes, I miss the city. Like, a real city. I miss sirens. I miss people. I miss crazy people. I miss people going the speed limit, or a little more. I miss independent coffee shops, and a snobby arts and culture scene.

Through thinking all of this though, I realized that moving to Brandon just opened up more doors and opportunities for me in the long run. I realized that if I had stayed in Hamilton after school for a few years, I would have easily settled down there. Get a dog. Another cat. Buy a house. Stick with my stable job. By moving here, I realized that those things probably won’t happen, because Brandon isn’t my total comfort zone, unlike Hamilton. Hamilton was my “Under the Bridge” city, thank you very much Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was there when I had nothing else. Brandon certainly isn’t that, and that’s not to say anything bad about this small town city. I know that by being here, I’m going to eventually go somewhere else, while looking back on my time here fondly, even though it’s been a struggle.

Throughout this past year, I have gained new friends. I have had the greatest and sometimes life altering experiences with them. I have been able to reconnect with friends from the past. I have been able to take care of people I love the most. I have learned patience and humility. I have learned to rely on others. I have learned a little more about what I want in life. I learned about my love for bunnies (I am The Mother of Rabbits, as my friend says). I have learned that Ontario is not the center of the universe. I have learned that I really love trees and rocks, and that I actually miss them dearly. I have learned that I really like warmer weather and don’t know if I can handle the winter that’s coming up – but know that I will survive, because I’m from Manitoba now. I have learned that I am content here, for the most part.

Most of all, I have learned that life doesn’t always go as planned, but wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you will learn and grow and eventually conquer. So I can say that I’m thankful that I moved here, despite it not being perfect. I can’t wait to see more of Manitoba, and see where life takes me from this one year mark. Thanks, Manitoba!

Discovering the North

This past weekend was a little nostalgic for me. I realized it when I was driving from Brandon to Flin Flon and I said that we were “going up north”. Saying that phrase is second nature to me, as I would regularly go back up north while I was living in Hamilton to see my parents and friends in the Sault Ste. Marie area. And then came the trees. The long lasting evergreen trees that were practically suffocating the highway – I loved it. Then came the rocks. I loved that even more. I didn’t realize how much I took rocks for granted until I saw them again near the Flin Flon area. Needless to say, I loved going up north and discovering some different parts of Manitoba this past weekend.

I was up in Flin Flon for a friends wedding, which was at the beautiful Bakers Narrows Lodge. The surroundings were just gorgeous and I couldn’t have asked for a better long weekend! It was so refreshing to see how diverse different parts of Manitoba are. Oh, and another interesting quirk of the north…the roads are a lot better up there than they are down here! Just putting it out there…

My friend and I also ended up camping for one night at Duck Mountain Provincial Park near Swan River, which was a great experience as well. Once again, it was just beautiful and awesome to see some of the amazing lakes that Manitoba has to offer. We stayed at Childs Lake, but also took in the multitude of other lakes within the park. I can be a little bit of a lake snob, having lived in northern Ontario and having Huron right at my feet, but the trip this weekend gave me a little more respect for Manitoba and what it has to offer in terms of its natural scenery.

Next trip up north? Churchill!

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Manitoba is teaching me…

…how to be taken care of.

I’m one heck of an independent spirit and I generally don’t like people doing things for me. I don’t like asking for help either. And yet, the past few months have shown me how good people are in this province and how much of a family I do actually have here. I’ve been unemployed for awhile now, and I just can’t believe how much people have taken care of me during this time! I know things would be slightly different if I were in the same situation in Ontario (not because my friends aren’t amazing – but because we’d probably all be broke together, living a struggling post university career life)

But really, here, in the land of the friendly, they have taken care of me. Whether it’s buying a coffee for me, or a meal. Or giving me the leftovers from awesome Man-family meals, or filling up my gas tank (thank you to my real ‘rents and my Manitoba ‘rents!) Then there’s just the positive vibes going out for me, the prayers (this is Mennonite country), the thoughts, the searching the web ceaselessly for potential jobs. People that don’t even know me have given concern to me, and they 100% have my back.

I’m just not used to this kind of love and care! Friggin’ Manitoba, you rip my heart out sometimes. I feel so grateful for the incredible people that I have in my life (even if I apparently don’t know them, but they got my back), and although during times like these, I miss my people back “home”, I don’t think I would want to be anywhere else right now.

Thanks, Manitoba, for teaching me how to be cared for.

Just Sayin’…

So, for a couple months, I worked for the Government of Manitoba. Of course, there is Inter-Departmental Mail, which re-uses envelopes. The envelopes easily make it all the way through the province. Once I was finished my term there, I needed to get some things from HR. They sent it through Inter-Departmental Mail, and all I can say is that I feel semi-important because I got an envelope that was used by the Premier himself! (Or his secretary…same difference!) Check it out…1 to 5!

Department of Holidays

It’s that time of year again. The snow has gone (knock on wood!!!) and summer is arriving (ish). That means that the roads are, well, painfully awful. In lots of places anyway.

I was in Saskatchewan yesterday (obviously, just to get my hair done by my amazing friend who is a hair dresser – why else would I go to “The Gap”? Kidding!), going through Virden, then Melita (where the creepy banana man lives, who me and my friends affectionately call “Lester the Molester”) then onward to Carivale. The roads. Oh the roads. Especially near Melita, which is a notorious spot for flooding. There were “surface breaks” everywhere…thank you orange signs for telling us to go 40km/hr when the term “surface breaks” is so ambiguous anyway, as my friend pointed out.

My friend’s dad actually used to work for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation and she said that he liked to call that department the “Department of Holidays”. How incredibly true! Anyone who has spent even a little time in Manitoba knows how awful some of these roads are. I’ve spent the majority of my time in the South Westman area and the highways are certainly not impressive. The roads in Brandon are always needing improvements. Pot holes, pot holes, pot holes. I think Manitoba must be the pot hole capital of Canada. I whole heartedly agree about the joke of the “Department of Holidays”.

I understand Manitoba isn’t made of riches. There isn’t tons of money. But I think we can all agree that if more money was spent on Manitoba’s infrastructure, it would make all of our lives easier and more enjoyable. I’m certainly not trying to get political. It’s difficult trying to balance out what is needed for the province, but the infrastructure doesn’t only help us who live here – it gives an impression to those who don’t live here, but are driving across the province to their respective destinations. Don’t we want to make a good impression? Just a thought!

Recently, CAA told a poll to see what the worst roads in Manitoba were (totally coincidental with this post!), and apparently St. James Street in Winnipeg got the most votes, along with several other Winnipeg streets. Understandably, most votes came out of Winnipeg, and there are many bad roads in Winnipeg, but I can tell you, highways in the Westman area are crumbling and main roads in Brandon aren’t any better. When I went back to Ontario in February, I could really tell the difference between the roads there and here.

I hope that the CAA poll will make the government pay a little more attention to what the road conditions are like all across the province.

Home

While life is getting more settled here in Brandon (even with a million things up in the air), I’m becoming more comfortable being here and not always telling people that “Oh, well, I live in Brandon, but I’m from Ontario – just moved here”, or something along those lines. A lot of people I’ve worked with or met DO know that I moved here from Ontario, but I sometimes mention my education, or mention some logistical things while filling out forms that may be different, etc.

Truthfully, I am becoming more comfortable with the idea that Manitoba is my home now. Of course, I’m always thinking about my next adventure and where it may take me (meaning, I HAVE already thought about where I’m moving next, preferably overseas). But while thinking about that, I thought, “Wait, I’m finally calling Manitoba my home. I haven’t even lived here for a year…but there’s a wanderlust spirit in me that wants to go and explore and work and live in other places…”. It’s a confusing time, for sure! I will certainly be staying here for awhile, I just never know how long. But the point of this is that it makes me stop and think, because I don’t know if I want to leave “home”.

So, the novelty is finally wearing off. It’s becoming normal and good being here. That’s probably why there is a lack of blog posts, to be honest! Manitoba will always have it’s quirks, and I intend on posting about more…but I don’t feel as alien here anymore. I’ll always be “from Ontario” in some sense, but now I’ll be “from Manitoba” as well. I can’t wait to confuse people with my life when they ask me where I’m from! It was hard enough having two hometowns in Ontario…

Getting Lost in Winnipeg

I recently flew out of Winnipeg to Ontario. My friend and I decided to go in the night before and stay at a friends house for the night. Needless to say, we had a crazy time, without intending it to be. We got lost. We had Thai food. We met Confusion Corner. We got lost again. Oh, and again. Oh yeah, and we almost got in a car crash (summer tires…) And you know, we experienced that city vibrancy that we’ve been missing. Here is a photo document of that night.

First, we hung out downtown for a little.

I loved that there were snow sculptures all around the city!

So after hanging out downtown, we were on our way. We accidentally ended up at the Forks. It wasn’t even intentional! I had never been there, and even though there was no one there and it was dark and snowy, I could tell that this place is awesome! And I found some Ontario type things while there…so I couldn’t resist…

Okay, then we got lost again. We went looking for our friends place…and we ended up on the other side of town. However, the great thing about getting lost was finding a street sign that bore my last name!

We FINALLY made it to our friends place, and of course, her place just happens to have an elevator. In the house. This is not an apartment building. Proof below.

Needless to say, our evening in Winnipeg was full of fun and adventure – most of it being unintentional! I can’t wait to get back to the city. Many more adventures to be had!

Louis Riel Day? A Brief History.

I support statutory holidays, even if I don’t know anything about them. Ontario has Family Day, some weird put together holiday just to get another stat holiday for the year. Now here in Manitoba, it’s Louis Riel Day. I’ve heard of this man here and there in the classroom, but don’t know much, to be honest. In fact, I’ve heard from a lot of Manitoban’s that they don’t even know that much about him. I decided to brush up on my history today and learn all about the man who gives us a well appreciated statutory holiday.

THE MAN: Louis David Riel, born October 22, 1844, near modern day Winnipeg. He was from a prominent Metis family, and was interested in the priesthood during his younger years, and attended a seminary in Montreal before his father’s death in 1864. After that, he was less interested and became a little rebellious and was asked to leave the seminary. He returned to the Red River Settlement in 1868. Riel was described as a fine scholar and gifted student, but a little odd and moody.

THE ACT: Things were getting messy here in Manitoba, or what would be known as Manitoba eventually. There were “eastern” interests and the influx of Anglo’s in the area increased tensions and anxieties among the First Nations and Metis people. Needless to say, stuff happened to create lots of unrest and Riel wasn’t putting up with it. Riel and others seized Fort Garry. They created a provisional government, and were so not letting Canada take authority over them and the land without any discussions.

Many people, even Anglo’s, were in support of Riel and what he and others were doing. However, the “pro-Canadians” were plotting against the provisional government during this time and in the end, one of them, Thomas Scott, was executed by firing squad. Lovely.

Then, the provisional government made their way to Ottawa in March of 1870. These talks between the provisional government and MacDonald led to the Manitoba Act, which created the province of Manitoba as a part of Canada.

THE AFTERMATH: There was a bounty on Riel’s head. Awesome, right? So, he had to flee. This was the effective end to the Rebellion. Riel fled to the States. But just because he was there, didn’t mean that his popularity disappeared. Even though he wasn’t even in Canada during election time for the Manitoba seat in Parliament, Riel was elected. Of course, that didn’t exactly work out and he was kicked out when he showed up in Ottawa.

The following years were interesting for Riel, with visions from God, and questionable actions like tearing his clothes off all the time. His mental state was certainly questioned at the time.

THE RETURN: Riel, with the request from others, mobilized another rebellion-type action in Saskatchewan (or, what was the North West Territories). He tried the peaceful way, but of course that didn’t work out. Things got violent and the government certainly wasn’t pleased. More troops were sent this way, and in the end, Riel surrendered.

We all know what happened after that. Things were looking down, and Riel was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885.

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It’s so incredibly interesting that Manitoba chooses to celebrate Louis Riel. Certainly during his life, he was despised by the majority of Anglo-Canadians and was considered insane by most, and some to this day think he was a nutjob. And of course, he was executed in the end for his actions, yet remains to be the prominent founder of Manitoba. Oh Manitoba, how you intrigue me. In the end, I will gladly take a day off in Riel’s honour. And I mean, how cool is it to be a part of a province where the prominent founder was as hardcore and awesome as Riel?