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!

I Heart Manitoba

Sometimes while writing this blog, it seems as though I talk about some of the negative things or weird things about Manitoba. I try to express that I’m not trying to take a stab at Manitoba, but it may not come off that way. Isn’t it funny how it’s always easier to critique rather than share the love? Well, I’ve realized that, so this post is dedicated to the things I love about Manitoba!

1. I love my friends from Manitoba. I know, total cop-out for this one to be first, but it’s true! I have made some of the best friendships right here in the friendly province. I don’t know what I’d do without some of these people in my life. They ground me, on many different levels, but I can just as easily let my hair down with them! You all know who you are 😉

2. I love the sky. The sky that goes for miles and miles. This morning as I was walking to my car, I just looked in awe at the sky which had streaks of pink, blue and orange in it. Going for miles and miles. Because of the landscape (nature and urban) in Ontario, you simply don’t get to see the sky in this way, and it’s such a bonus to living in the Prairie’s!

3. I love the genuine friendliness. I recently started a new job, and with what it is, I was expecting people to hate their jobs and hate each other. Nope, I was wrong. Everyone is too nice and friendly. Too supportive. Too helpful. It’s mind-boggling to me, but I love it! I think Manitoba has certainly earned the title of “friendly”.

4. I love the intentionally tree-lined streets. I first found this when I came to Manitoba for the first time about 7 years ago to Boissevain. What beautiful streets! The trees were canopies over the streets and were just perfectly lined up. It’s the same way in a lot of towns here, as well as many streets in Brandon. It’s just gorgeous. I wish this existed more in Ontario!

5. I love how much money I save living here. Yup, you heard it. I love it. Insurance is the huge thing. Coming from Ontario to here – wow. It’d be such a huge shock to move back and have those huge expenses again! And let’s not forget to mention hydro and gas prices lightning the load of bills!

6. I love (or do I?) how all the Sheri/Sherry/Sherrie’s are coming out of the woodwork. Completely and utterly random. I don’t have a common first name…unless you live in Manitoba/the Brandon area. It’s crazy! In the last 3 weeks, I’ve come across at least 5 different Sheri’s (a.k.a Sherry/Sherrie) on some level. This is something I have never experienced, and obviously something that Manitoba has brought into my already insane life. Woo!

Some true and sweet, and some kooky. But that’s a good thing! In time, I’m sure there will be many more things I “heart” about Manitoba. I’ll keep you posted 😉

The Heart of the Matter

“And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness”
― Sylvia Plath

Whenever new adventures and risks are taken, there can be negative consequences. I quote Sylvia Plath above because that’s sometimes how one feels after moving to a new place, having to leave behind everyone and everything they know. And sometimes, that someone is me. It’s not just me though, because my friend who recently moved here from Alberta feels the same way. So, we’re alone, together?

Moving somewhere new can easily bring loneliness into someone’s life, and especially around this season, it’s easier to be lonely. Usually, I’d be having lots of festivities with friends – birthdays and Christmas parties, and then I’d see my family soon enough and celebrate Christmas with them. Truthfully, my university friends made me like Christmas again. It’s not a favourite holiday of mine (as my one friend calls me “Scrooge”), but with them, Christmas turned into something great. Fun and stress-free. Not having that this year is hard, to be honest.

But of course, moving to a new place (or for that matter, starting something new, doing something unconventional, etc.) brings about sacrifices. Hopefully those things will create growth, strength and character, but it’s still always a risk. I know that I would have regretted staying in Hamilton and not coming out west to experience things here and just try something new. But what do you do about the loneliness that you sometimes find yourself in? I try to occupy my time with hobbies, my idealist ideas, work, and of course, friends.

But no matter what I do, I still left it all, just as my friend from Alberta did. We miss the places we come from, and the people we surrounded ourselves with. We talk about it. We go can on and on about it, but still try to encourage one another during the tough times of transitions, and try to see the greater good from our experiences.

In the end, although hard to admit, I think the danger that comes with the move toward new horizons and far directions is worth it, even if we can’t see it at that moment. So, here’s to new things, new places, new people, new traditions and a new journey.

Easing Myself Into Manitoba “Pride”

I’ve been a long time proponent of Manitoba. I have loved it here for several years, spending summers here since I was 18. Spending the summers here at a camp near Boissevain is what made me fall in love with this province in the first place, so I’ve always felt like I had the love, but did I have the pride? I was still an Ontarian at that point and I love(d) my former city of Hamilton fiercely (partly due to the fact that it has a terrible reputation – love you, Hamilton – always will). But the more time I spend here, the more comfortable I’m getting with the idea of being a “Proud Manitoban”. I think in my head, I will always still consider myself mostly Ontarian…at least at this point in my life. That could very well change in the years to come.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge sports person, but find myself getting going to more sporting events and even watching sporting events (ahem, Grey Cup…). When that game was on, I was obviously rooting for the Bombers. Why wouldn’t I? It made sense. But really, it was one of the first times that I actually felt a sense of pride to be a Manitoban. Our team was in the Grey Cup, and we gotta represent! Ha! Despite the loss, and the poor play throughout the game that got me all riled up and a little mad, I had to step back and say “Woooah. What are you doing? Are you coming to terms with the fact that you’re a Manitoban now?” Weird how those transitions happen when you don’t really think they will.

Oh, and let’s talk about the Twitterverse being all abuzz about “#snow” or “snow in Toronto”. I had to laugh. My Manitoban side was coming out. Really, Toronto? Really southern Ontario? We got snow in the beginning of November and no one was crying about it (except me – but that subsided, as did the snow). At that moment, I got why people dislike Toronto out West. It really DOES seem like anything that happens in Toronto/southern Ontario is the be all and end all and all other Canadians must be experiencing the same thing. So I found myself slightly annoyed, and slightly amused at everyone’s freak out. Through this small process, I also found myself becoming a more “Proud Manitoban”.

So here it is: I think I might be a Proud Manitoban. I say think, because I don’t want to commit to anything too soon. Also, this isn’t without its hardships, which will come in an upcoming post. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not Proud Ontarian either.

How about Mantario Pride?

Has Moving Made Me More “Canadian”?

I’m definitely not one for stereotypes, but I somehow find myself being engulfed by the stereotypical “Canadian” character that so many think about when they think “Canada”. Leaving southern Ontario has certainly changed me a little, or maybe it’s just me doing my best to adapt to the surroundings. Either way, I find myself being more “Canadian” since I’ve moved to Brandon.

First, the friendliness. Generally, I think a Canadian stereotype/expectation is friendliness, and I’ve actually seen that stereotype in action here. I’ve found that I’ve had to change and adapt my ignore-everyone-one-the-street thing. I find people here just don’t do that as much, and although I can do some ignoring sometimes (and I really try my best to – southern Ontario habit), it’s harder to do since there is that small town, friendly vibe to Brandon. I remember when I was younger in southern Ontario, walking on the streets and saying hello to people; however, that changed awhile ago. People are so entranced in their own worlds and aren’t interested in interacting with people they don’t know, just to say hi on the street. It’s weird to see that friendliness in southern Ontario. So here I am in Brandon, trying to get rid of my lack of stranger friendliness and just saying hi, or smiling.

And then there’s hockey. Okay, I will admit, I’ve only been to one Brandon Wheat Kings game (they won, by the way!), but the fact that I have even been to one is a huge accomplishment. Also, the fact that I’ve contemplated buying a ticket before for other games is another big accomplishment. See, I’m not a sports person. I don’t watch any sports on T.V., so why would I want to go to a hockey game? But there I was on Friday, enjoying the game and quietly (and secretly) getting into it, although I could do without Willie the mascot, as I have the obviously common fear of mascots and anything that looks like them.

Then, Tim Horton’s. The Canadian staple. In Hamilton, I would never spend any time at Timmies. If we’d go get a coffee of some sort (usually a chai latte or a frap) it’d be at Second Cup or Starbucks. None of this plain-jane Tim Horton’s stuff. Admittedly, I spent a huge amount of my time in high school at Tim Horton’s when I lived in northern Ontario in a small hick town in the middle of nowhere, but that was only because it was literally the only thing to do in town. That, and car tag. Now in Brandon, I find myself at Tim Horton’s a lot, enjoying a coffee or french vanilla with friends.

I’m certainly not complaining about my changes since moving here. It never hurt to be more “Canadian”, even though these are just stereotypes…but they maybe have a little truth to them?

Responses About My Move to Manitoba

Since I’ve been here for about a month and a half, it’s been interesting to see the different responses from people about me moving here. People love to put their two cents. Below, you’ll find about 20ish cents.

1. (Before I moved here – while working at a camp near Boissevain) – “OH MY GOSH! YAY!”, “This is so great!”, “I’m so excited that you’re moving here!” etc, etc. You get it. My camp people were excited.

2. Some, just curious and respectful, albeit confused. “Oh, what brought you to Manitoba?”, “What brought you to Brandon?”, “Do you have family here?” I’m used to this general response from people, and I have my memorized answer in my head.

3. Others were dismayed. “WHAT?!”, “You lived in Ontario and you moved HERE?! There’s nothing here! Why did you move here? I want to move to Ontario! It’s not cold there!” This is generally my least favourite response, as it doesn’t help with the fact that I miss Ontario and am still trying to figure out what in the world I’m doing here – although, like I said, no regrets.

4. Of course, there is the “jokey” response, “Oh, Onterrible? You’re better off here!” I roll my eyes, but grin and bear it.

5. And probably my favourite…”Oh you just wait until the winters! It’s get to -50 here! You sure won’t be used to that!” Of course, Manitoban’s can go on and on about their winters. Maybe I’ll be one of them after my first one. Bring it on 2011-2012 winter.

Things I Have Learned So Far

This is my month end report. I’ve been living in Manitoba for about a month and a half, and here you’ll find a compilation of things I have learned so far.

1. If there is any construction going on at the Superstore, the world stops.

2. Even if it’s not winter yet, many Manitoban’s will dress like it is.

3. People drive slow here.

4. People always think they have the right of way while crossing any street, anywhere.

5. No one says “dinner” in regards to supper. It’s more a lunch thing here, and it’s a little weird to me.

6. My health “card” won’t be a card. It will be a piece of paper. I was shocked when I learned this, but it will be okay. I’ve accepted it.

7. Laundry detergent is a lot more expensive here than in Ontario.

8. Gas is a lot cheaper here than in Ontario.

9. The weather is actually warmer to me than it appears. Less moisture in the air means that I am warmer in general. When it’s 8 degrees out, it actually feels like 13-14 degrees to me. It’s a wonderful thing.

10. Although I sometimes feel like I’m in in the middle of nowhere, and a little lost and lonely sometimes, I haven’t and will not regret my move to Brandon, Manitoba. Ever.