Tag Archives: Winnipeg

Two Questions

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Two Questions

I usually travel a lot. Of course COVID-19 has temporarily grounded me here in Aguascalientes at the moment. But when I do travel to new places there are two questions that people ask me and quite honestly these questions annoy me. Why? Because the answers are complicated.

The first question is What’s your name?

I was twenty-one when I got married and that’s when I legally changed my maiden name to my married name. When the marriage ended, I had just published my first book. My publisher suggested I continue to write under my married name. And I still write under that name and I use that name on my Facebook author page.

However I decided to revert back to my maiden name when the marriage ended but thought I’d wait to legally change it until the divorce was final. By then I was living in Mexico where I had yet a different name on official documents. Here in Mexico your surname consists of father’s surname followed by mother’s maiden name.

I never did get around to legally changing my name back and the fun started when I arrived in Leavenworth four years ago. In order to volunteer in children’s ministry in the church, a criminal records check and child abuse registry check were mandatory. I can still see the puzzled looks on the two pastors’ faces when I pulled out my ID from my wallet and couldn’t find two photo IDs with the same name. Thankfully I remembered my passport that was at home in a drawer.

I prefer to just use the name Karen and totally eliminate all surnames.

The second question is Where’s home?

Actually that seems to be American Immigration’s favorite question. Once again the answer is complicated.

Undisputedly my hometown is Winnipeg. I was born there and lived there until ten years ago.

Culiacán with my Mexican family is home to me in Mexico. When I walk through the door of their home a wave of familiarity washes over me. This is definitely home to me, especially with my loving family surrounding me.

Four years ago I discovered Leavenworth, Washington and that also has become home to me. COVID-19 has screwed up my plans for my annual six month visit this year. But once things settle down I plan to return to Leavenworth. I miss my friends and I miss the volunteer work I usually do there.

But another place that has become home to me is where I stay here in Aguascalientes. I spent three months here last winter, intending to stay only three weeks initially. This winter I’m now in my ninth month and still counting thanks to COVID-19.

So……….Where’s home?

If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba

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If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba

One of the Facebook groups I belong to is called If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba.

First some facts. Manitoba is one of the prairie provinces in Canada. Winnipeg is the capital city of Manitoba.

Winnipeg is my hometown. I was born and raised there. My children were born and raised there. My son still lives there although my daughter has long since moved away.

Back to the Facebook group. Members post photos and memories of growing up and living in this city.

Here are a few recent posts. As you will see, there is a wide range of topics and I have just selected a few.

This photo is of the maternity pavilion at the Winnipeg General Hospital from back in the 50s when I was born.

Clock radios were popular back in the 60s and I had one on my nightstand back then.

In March of 1966 we had a blizzard that crippled the city for days. People were stranded at work and this milk delivery truck got hung up in the snow.

Assiniboine Park is home to the English Gardens in the summertime. This famous statue is known as The Boy With The Boot and greets visitors at the entrance.

This is part of a map of the City of Winnipeg that features the neighborhood where I grew up, River Heights.

These cookies were a chocolate covered marshmallow with a jam filling and a cookie base. Paulin Chambers was a customer of a business I owned. When I’d drop by for a visit I always enjoyed sampling one of these fresh right off the conveyor belt.

The Paddlewheel Princess was one of the boats that had cruises on the river during the summer. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire a few years ago.

TV tables were another item commonly found in homes back in the 60s. TVs were usually in living rooms back then, not in family rooms. We had these exact ones when I was growing up.

July 1 marks the celebration of Canada Day. When I was a kid all the neighbors would get together at the park on my street and pool their fireworks. This one was always the grand finale.

Other topics covered on this site deal with restaurants, night clubs and even dance and music schools. Someone put up a post the other day about learning to drive. Anything nostalgic goes on this site.

What I find interesting is that a lot of the reminiscing seems to be done by people who have left Winnipeg and live elsewhere now.

I don’t get back to Winnipeg often. It’s changed a lot in the last 10 years since I’ve been gone. When I do go back I see new roads and new housing subdivisions. Once familiar stores are gone and big box stores have taken their place. But what is most disturbing to me is that the crime rate has soared as the city has grown. And that makes me sad.

Dear Daddy

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Dear Daddy

Another Father’s Day without you today. We haven’t celebrated this day together in 44 years. You were taken from me way too soon.

When you died I lost my hero, my best friend and my sense of security. You were always there for me. I could talk to you about anything and everything. And there has never been anyone else in my life who could fill that void.

I treasure the memories I have in my heart. I can still see you assembling the swing set in the backyard on Brock Street. You were so patient in teaching me how to ride a bike and then later on teaching me how to drive a car.

I remember the day we were at Ashdowns buying tools and I fell in love with a pink pyjama dog. I cuddled with Pinky every night for years.

I absolutely adore this photo of us at Van Kirk Gardens. You always sculpted a beautiful garden around our house. You knew my favorite flowers were marigolds and there was always a special place set aside for them.

Sometimes you’d go back to the office to work in the evenings. I’d take along my homework and go with you.

At Christmas we’d go for rides to see the lights and always check out the Carlings display. It was such a magical place with a nursery rhyme theme.

We had intense conversations when we went for rides or walks. Two of your favored phrases have stuck with me through the years. Honesty is the best policy. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

You instilled a set of values in me that have made me the person I am today. And I have tried to pass these on to my children, the grandchildren you sadly never had the chance to meet. They have missed out on having an amazing grandfather in their lives.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of you.

Sending you lots of love today and every day.

Happy Father’s Day!

June 17 Memories

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June 17 Memories

Aguascalientes has now changed from red to orange on the virus map. Trudeau is keeping the Canadian border closed. Leavenworth seems farther away now.

But I’d rather be where I am today than where I was seven years ago on this date.

Seven years ago today I was having surgery at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg, my second knee replacement.

Another memory. Eight years ago today I was also in Winnipeg. It was the day before my first knee replacement.

Today I just returned from a short walk to the Cocina. My fridge is now full of fresh vegetable and fruit salads, chicken and pasta.

Today is June 17 and I am living in Aguascalientes in the midst of a pandemic, creating more memories.

Who Am I?

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Who Am I?

I’ll be honest. I’m still trying to find myself. Yes, I know that this expression is decades old. But so am I, and I still crave adventure and who knows what else. I have been so many different people throughout the years. Baby to child to teenager to adult to wife to mother to name just a few. Babysitter to bookkeeper to manager to business owner to counselor to social worker to motivational consultant to teacher to writer to fitness instructor to name just a few. But who am I really?

Many followers of my blog know me personally. However there are others from around the world who read my posts and have never met me in person. So this post is dedicated to you. Here is a glimpse of who I am as I travel through this journey of life in an attempt to find myself.

My name is Karen and I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is the capital city of the province and is smack dab in the middle of the prairies. It is infamous for the brutal winters and has justly earned the nickname of “Winterpeg.” Other than a brief few years in Oak Bluff, Manitoba I lived in Winnipeg all my life until November of 2010.

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I still vividly recall the day I left. First stop was Grace Hospital to say goodbye to my daughter, who was a nurse there at the time. From there my son took me to the airport where another tearful goodbye transpired. I was on my way to my first ESL teaching job in Mexico. I had never been apart from my children for more than a couple of weeks at a time, and this was going to be a ten month separation. I cried all the way to Minneapolis and my first layover on the journey to Culiacan. And I must admit that I am still tearful as I don’t see my children often enough. I love them, I am so very proud of all their accomplishments and I miss them terribly. But we are all adults and we all have our own lives to lead. 

I returned to Winnipeg in July of 2011 and halfheartedly began looking around for a job and a place to live. I also had legal issues to deal with as my divorce decree was nowhere in sight although the marriage had ended in January of 2009. And then I received the phone call.

Are you interested in coming back to Mexico? We have a job opening in our private school here in Irapuato. Really? Hmmmm, teaching in Mexico was to be a one year plan. But the Skype interview went well and a couple of weeks later I was on my way back to Mexico.

It is now February of 2018. And I have retired from teaching. I’m into my third year here in Mazatlan after a few years in Guadalajara. I have also discovered a new summer home in Leavenworth, Washington where I lead an active life including a fair amount of volunteer work. Yes, summer home. Mazatlan is far too hot in the summer.

I have published two self-help books. “When Glad Becomes Sad” deals with depression and anxiety. “Alive Again” deals with separation and divorce. I am currently working on a book of fiction and enjoying writing it immensely. I have contributed articles to books published by other authors, and hope to publish more of my own poems and short stories in the future.

When I’m not writing, my favorite pastime here in Mexico is attending music and dance performances. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people. I belong to a Red Hat group and I play Hand and Foot regularly. I spend hours walking along the malecon. I love the ocean. That is what influenced my decision to leave Guadalajara. I like to watch movies and am hopelessly addicted to Candy Crush. I also take hundreds of pictures with my smart phone. And I have more recently begun volunteering at a Christian mission. And as an aside to my friends in Leavenworth, yes I am still coloring.

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I am forever indebted to former Tlaquepaque housemates Omar and Sean who encouraged me to begin writing a blog on WordPress. And I am flattered that so many people take the time to read my posts. And I now have the time to read other writers’ blogs.

Now that I am retired, my focus will be on my writing, especially my current work in progress.  I have no idea what my next post will be about. I hadn’t anticipated this one until the words began to flow. So we’ll all be in suspense until the next one.

OK. Here It Is!

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I’m often asked what I miss about living in Winnipeg. I’ve had many curious Mexican students over the years with aspirations of going to Canada. My friends in Leavenworth want to know what the big attraction is other than the bitterly cold winters. Other people I have met on my travels are from all over the world and know very little about the prairies or even Canada in general. So aside from the obvious of missing my children and my friends, here are a few things I do miss about living in Winnipeg.

I’ll begin with the change in seasons. Although frost often occurs as early as August, and it has been known to snow in June, the transition from summer to fall is resplendent with colorful leaves and Indian summer days. The slushy streets in the spring, although quite dirty and messy, were always a sign of warmer weather to come. Cracking thin ice on sidewalks to reveal puddles was always a favorite pastime. And that first sprinkling of snowfall was magical.

Assiniboine Park has a zoo, a conservatory, The English Garden and the Leo Mol sculpture garden. Lyric Theater is an outdoor theater featuring a variety of performances from ballet to rock concerts. The Pavilion hosts an art gallery. It is possible to take a ride on a miniature railroad. There are cricket fields and barbecues. There are bike trails and picnic areas and a duck pond. And in recent years restaurants have been added.

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The Fringe Festival in The Exchange District featured a variety of entertainment on the open stage. Delightful children’s programs were held in the daytime. Different venues offered plays and concerts. Needless to say the beer tent was always extremely popular.

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The Forks holds a lot of memories for me as well. When my children were young we attended several events and ate at the restaurants. When I come back to visit I often meet friends there for lunch and then we sit by the river and visit. It’s always fun to browse through the shops and of course pick up cinnamon buns and fudge to take home.

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There are amazing performances at Rainbow Stage in Kildonan Park. The Concert Hall is home to The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Manitoba Theater Center offers interesting productions. There are also a handful of smaller theater companies. And Folklorama was an annual event not to be missed.

As you have gleaned by now, the bar scene was not my thing although there are an abundance of them in Winnipeg. While I did enjoy the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball games, I was never a big Winnipeg Jets fan nor a Blue Bomber fan. But I always enjoyed watching my own kids play baseball and soccer!

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I enjoyed checking out thrift stores and tea houses in the neighboring small towns in Manitoba. Flea markets and antique auctions were also favorites. And the fall suppers were awesome.

Occasionally I have a craving for the moussaka at Nikos or a salad at Sorrentos or a burger at VJs or a steak at Hy’s or the butter chicken at Clay Oven. But those cravings are satisfied when I come back for visits.

So there you have it. There are things I do miss. But it’s also a trade-off, as I have traveled and discovered new places and developed new interests. I now have new favorites. And I will definitely take the mountains in Washington and the ocean in Mazatlan any day over the snow in Winnipeg.

Nomad On The Move Again

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Nomad On The Move Again

The weekend at my son’s flew by all too quickly. The highlight of the weekend, and of my entire visit to Winnipeg, was spending Mother’s Day with Kyle. I am so glad that I listened to that gut feeling I had back in November and booked a flight to Winnipeg. But goodbyes are harder each time as I have no idea when we’ll see each other again.

Nonetheless, I found myself on an early morning flight to Vancouver on Tuesday. And with the time change I gained two hours. Another short flight to Seattle, and I was on the Wenatchee Valley Shuttle into Peshastin, minutes away from Leavenworth.

My friends are always telling me that they envy the traveling that I do. Yes, it’s enjoyable and even fascinating, but there are times when I wish I could just put roots down somewhere and stop searching for somewhere to settle down.

Flying has become a tedious form of travel. I remember the days when I loved flying, especially the magical moments of taking off and landing. But that was back when two hours wasn’t required to clear security and customs, although the free WiFi does help pass the time.

The first security clearance was in Winnipeg. Long lineups of harried travelers. Laptop needs to go in a separate tray from my backpack and my purse. My state of the art supersonic knees always set off alarm bells, but it’s a small price to pay for being able to walk pain free. Now if only the body scanners were ever up and running at 5:30 am in Winnipeg………

To my delight Starbucks was conveniently located close to my gate. It’s amazing what a jolt of caffeine does to the body so early in the morning. By the time we boarded, I actually felt human again.

I slept through most of that flight and groggily sauntered through the Vancouver airport and stumbled upon a Carl’s Jr. A breakfast sandwich and another coffee soon revived me and I began the long trek to the wing housing the international flights and USA Immigration.

I lost track of the countless times my boarding pass and passport were checked. And then there was an additional security clearance, although I was already in a secured area. This check was a lot more thorough than the on by the Canadians in Winnipeg. Shoes off. Laptop and cell phone to be checked separately. Once again the knees performed their magic. Next was the computerized passport check. And I always manage to chop part of my head off in the photo.

And now it was time for my two favorite questions——–Where’s home? How long will you be in the USA? The answer to the first, according to my son, is that his mother is a nomad and has no real home. My reply to the Immigration officer was that Winnipeg was my home. The answer to the second question is in actuality until the snow flies. My reply to the Immigration Officer was that I’m really not sure, but at least one month.

Thank God there was another Starbuck’s close to my gate, although something a little stronger was definitely in order. But I knew that there was a Mack n Jack with my name on it in Washington. And I was getting closer. Just another short and uneventful flight to Seattle.

I was amazed that my bag was first off at the carousel and headed outside to get some fresh air. The sun was shining and it felt good after all that stale airplane air. But it soon clouded over and the rain began. The ride on the shuttle was rather interesting weatherwise. The rain turned to fog and then to freezing rain and then we drove for miles through a blizzard. Yes…….SNOW and lots of it! But at that altitude it isn’t uncommon. As we got closer to Peshastin, once again it was rain and then tapered off to heavy cloud.

Steve met the shuttle and loaded my bags into his SUV. We went in to Cashmere and had a wonderful dinner. I chose the chicken pot pie, quite suitable for a cool and rainy day, comfort food.

I woke up in Leavenworth this morning and did something rather rare for me. I unpacked my suitcase and my backpack! Maybe it was the brilliant sunshine that inspired me, but I smile because I know that I am finally somewhere that I want to call “home” for a few months. 

 

Winnipeg Part 3

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Winnipeg Part 3

I arrived at Carolyn’s early Monday afternoon. She lives in an apartment in North Kildonan with a spectacular view from her twelfth floor balcony.

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We chatted away for hours. After all we had two years to catch up on. The next day we went out for lunch with our friend Brenda. The three of us met when we were doing physio at Concordia Hospital after having knee surgery five years ago.

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On Wednesday Carolyn and I went out to St. Vital Center. This is another tradition when I visit Winnipeg. Lunch at Moxies. My friend Joan also joined us.

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Thursday found us back at Concordia Hospital. Carolyn has recently had knee surgery again and was having physio. We had a short visit back at Carolyn’s after and then my son Kyle picked me up. I’m staying with him for the weekend before I fly out to Seattle.

He had a rec room built since my last visit and it is amazing. My son has been a fan of the San Francisco Forty-Niners since he was a child, and he now has his dream retreat in his home.

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I have begun the enormous task of sorting through photos and albums. It just isn’t practical to haul these heavy items along with me to Mexico or Washington, so I am selectively taking photos of photos. Quite emotionally draining as I recall when many of these were hanging on walls or displayed on shelves in another lifetime when I actually had a home here in Winnipeg.

I’m looking forward to spending Mother’s Day with Kyle and only wish that Kimmy were here too. 

Winnipeg Part 2

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Winnipeg Part 2

I can’t believe that a week has gone by already. On Thursday I moved again. Donna drove me to Audrey’s where I dropped off my suitcase. We visited over a glass of wine and then headed to my favorite Greek restaurant on the Corydon strip. I have been going to Nikos for years, and it’s always a must when I visit Winnipeg. The souvlaki and moussaka are outstanding, and I have yet to find Greek food in Mexico.

After dinner, our destination was a Immanuel Pentecostal Church for an event sponsored by Bridges For Peace, a Christian organization that supports Israel and promotes relationships between Christians and Jews. The featured speakers were fabulous and the two hour program felt more like two minutes.

On Friday Audrey took me out to the Shaarey Zedek Cemetery. It was a warm  and sunny afternoon. The flower beds were being prepared, and it was nice to have a real visit with my parents rather than virtual one which is the norm for me in Mexico.

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Our next stop was VJs Drive Inn on Main Street, another must when I come to Winnipeg. This is the home of the best chili burgers and most awesome fries. Lots of memories of coming here over the years when I lived in this city. We sat at a picnic table outside and I have fond memories of sitting on the hoods or on the trunks of cars when there were no picnic tables.

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Saturday was an incredibly special day. I had lunch with my son Kyle. He informed me that it was the first day off he has taken in almost four months. Because he is an accountant, the income tax deadline in Canada means he is deluged with work. His work as an auditor also finds him flying to Toronto today for a meeting with  client tomorrow. Later on this week I will be staying with him for a few days, and I am really looking forward to spending time with him. The main purpose of my trip is to spend Mother’s Day with him. Kyle despises having his picture taken, but I did snag this one and he won’t notice as he tells me he never reads my blog.

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Today promises to be a leisurely day and this evening I’m going out for coffee with another one of my friends. And then, you guessed it! Packing! Moving again tomorrow! 

Winnipeg Part 1

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Winnipeg Part 1

Back in Winnipeg. It’s been almost two years. I had an enthusiastic welcome from Immigration. Yep. Spot check. Searched my backpack, went through my suitcase, but surprisingly didn’t check my laptop. Tons of questions about what I’ve been doing for the past two years. And how long will you be in Winnipeg?????

And people wonder why I choose to travel to other places rather than return to Winnipeg regularly. Oh well…………..

Amazingly there was no snow on the ground when I arrived. Of course 15 degree heat wave in Winnipeg means nothing to me. I’m used to 30’s. But the sunshine quickly lifted my spirits.

David picked me up at the airport. For the first few days I’m staying with Donna and Loris in the Westwood area. I felt like I had come home when I stepped through the doorway. Although I talk to Donna on the phone often when I’m in Mexico, there is just always so much to talk about once I’m back. And it feels like we’ve never been apart. We went out for pizza that night and began our catching up.

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With no snow on the ground, the next day we decided to venture out for a walk with Tessa, Donna’s golden retriever. The path along Sturgeon Creek goes by Donna’s son’s home, so we picked up her granddaughter along the way.  Ella is a delightful four-year-old and was only too happy to ride her bike with us. Here is a shot of Donna along with Ella and Tessa.

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The water level was very low. I recall other years where the bridge going over the creek was flooded in the springtime. They have extended the walking paths for several kilometers and it was nice to see so many Winnipeggers taking advantage of the seasonably warm weather.

We went for a drive and I was astounded by the the growth and development of new housing and roadways in the city. Once desolate areas are now crowded with homes on small lots. The quiet area where I used to live now has condos and a higher volume of traffic. I wonder where all the people are coming from considering that population growth here is not really increasing.

Winnipeg is also home to a new outlet mall opening this week. I’d like to pass on that one. I’ll be back in the USA in a couple of weeks and I prefer to shop there. But for Winnipeggers this mall will be a big draw.

We went out for a drive to the north end of the city to a sprawling new grocery store that features a variety of ethnic foods. I checked out the Mexican section and chuckled at the Old El Paso products. But I do recall when I used to think this was real Mexican cuisine before I moved to Mexico.

I’m sitting here sipping hot cocoa in an attempt to warm up. While Winnipeg may think 15 is warm, to me it is cold. Loris went out to work in the garden in shorts. I’m inside bundled up in long sleeves and jeans. Yesterday Donna even turned on the gas fireplace in the family room for me!

It’s now three days later. How the time has flown by! I’ve had such an amazing time staying with Donna and Loris. I’ve enjoyed listening to Donna’s students when they come for piano lessons. Loris is retired and is quite talented in the kitchen. Here is a shot of him when he prepared some rosemary for me so that I could bake some bread. I had given Donna my breadmaker when I moved away, and nostalgically recalled that the last time I used it I had made rosemary bread for Thanksgiving a few years ago when Kyle and Krista had come over for dinner.

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I’ve enjoyed visiting with my friends. David and I had a relaxing Chinese dinner the other night.  Glenda, Ethel and I had lunch at Daily Grind yesterday. Last night Donna, Elinor and I went to a movie. And today I find myself once again packing! Later today I move from Westwood to Crescentwood and will be staying with my friend Audrey.

I will finally get to see my son over the weekend. He adores it when his mother comes back to visit during tax time. He’s an accountant deluged with work at this time of year, but unfortunately this is always the best time for me to come for a visit.

Stay tuned for Winnipeg Part 2.