TGIF! I have never worked so hard in my life at work these past few weeks. My first big event for United Way is next Friday and I feel permanently frazzled! One of the girls at work invited me to join her book club and our September meeting is at a cabin on Lake Winnipeg all weekend – perfect way to unwind – with friendly strangers on the beach!

Favourite day at work – tour of the Jets arena:

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Favourite fall treat:

PSL

New favourite musical duo:

Favourite touristy Winnipeg moment:

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Favourite breakfast:

pancakes and peaches

 What is one of your “favourites” from the past two weeks?

news

I have always felt it is important to know and understand what is going on in my city, province, country, and the world around me. Or at least attempt to. Sometimes politics and history feel like awfully complex issues to tackle in the morning when you’re getting ready for work or at night when you have barely managed to put dinner on the table for yourself. But I remember times in university when classmates would honestly say, “I don’t know the name of our Prime Minister”. I don’t think this is okay.

So I read the local newspapers online every morning. I follow the latest stories on Twitter. I attend candidate debates as election times near. And at night, I hang out with Peter Mansbridge as he hosts The National. It’s important to me to watch the news as often as I can. I find that if I just read the news online I only click on the headlines that interest me or are simple to understand. I end up selectively informing myself and remaining ignorant of very important topics.

I loved social studies in high school and political science in university. I liked having a prof who would update us on all the news stories and then explain the history of them. Even if personal bias came out, at least everything made more sense. I wish every serious developing world news story came with articles like this one from the Washington Post: “9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask“.

So I keep on reading and asking questions. I’ll never know it all, but if I can follow the stories and discuss them with friends it will help me take on a more active, engaged role in the world around us.

Do you watch/read the news regularly? Are you okay with staying in the dark or do you wish you were more informed?

Last week I finally had the chance to volunteer for United Way of Winnipeg’s Poverty Simulation. Living on the Edge is a unique experience giving participants a glimpse into what life could be like living in poverty. It is designed to reflect the experiences and expenses as accurately as possible for the city the simulation is held in. The simulation is a fairly complex and intensive planning process requiring a full-time staff member at our United Way office who recruits approx. 15-20 volunteers per session and around 40+ participants.

The experience takes about three hours to complete. One hour for set-up and an overview so participants know what to expect. For some, the experience can feel goofy and silly acting out their “characters”, for others it can be emotional and overwhelming as they face multiple barriers trying to survive. The second hour is divided into four 15-minute weeks so participants experience a full month living in poverty. The last hour is a chance for volunteers and participants to share their experiences and debrief the process.

Participants are all given characters and some have families while others begin the process as homeless and living in a shelter temporarily. They could be pregnant, employed/unemployed, addicts, single/married, disabled – just like me or you. They could be kids, parents, or seniors. Everyone starts out with a bit of a story – maybe a dad became injured and can’t work, a kid recently got into trouble and is in jail, someone was evicted, etc. As the weeks go on, participants are randomly given “surprise” cards with good or bad news, just as life sometimes throws you for a loop. Everyone has different tasks they have to complete – go to work, look for a job, attend school, and pay the bills on time.

I have desperately wanted to participate in Poverty Simulation for awhile now. The experience was created in Missouri and there are very few United Ways in Canada actually it – still pretty cutting edge! Even though it can be much simpler to fall into a life of poverty than people tend to think, it is still very difficult to convey the hardships and barriers people face through a brochure or speech. Living on the Edge gives United Way the chance to engage our community members further than we have before and show them the impact their support can have. In no way can we accurately convey this life in just an hour, but hopefully a small portrayal will help deepen the community’s understanding.

Some of my favourite comments I heard during the debriefing:

  • People often forget about the “working poor”. Many people are working very hard – even more than one job – but they face so many barriers to move themselves out of poverty.
  • There is a very real stigma that comes with this life. People automatically think you are irresponsible because of the situation you are in.
  • Services are not as accessible as people think. Paying bills online is simple when you have a laptop or computer skills, but often people living in poverty end up standing in line or filling out endless paperwork that takes valuable time away from their family or job search.
  • The way you think can change as time wears on and life becomes harder.  People lose patience quickly and the temptation to steal increases, but once you get a bad name for yourself it is difficult to find a job. One mistake during a tough time can have a long-term impact.
  • Having a family made the experience bearable. Even though it would have likely been simpler to survive as one, having people to come home to and discuss problems with made it easier to keep going.

Can’t attend a poverty simulation yourself? Try a different online version offered by the Urban Ministries of Durham.

I actually had pancakes for dinner tonight so that is my excuse for posting this later in the day than usual. (They were delicious by the way!)

beallthere2

I have had a pretty excellent past few weeks. Making new friends, exploring new places, and laughing every single day at work. I am reveling in the decision I made to move here and appreciating all that my life in Winnipeg has to offer. I think this is a conscious choice I make every day to settle down here, some days it can be harder than others.

When I am meeting new people, I can’t be wishing I was sitting at a coffee shop in Kamloops talking to my best friends. When I am hanging out with my family, I can’t wish I was at home with my parents and sisters, playing with my nephew. When I am collaborating with my team at work, I can’t wish I was walking into our United Way office in Kamloops and catching up with all the girls. If I live my life in Winnipeg constantly comparing it to what I had before, I will never let myself be happy here.

It is not a matter of just going through the motions and letting time slip by, I need to actively live my life here everyday.

Do you find yourself thinking the grass is greener somewhere else?  Or do you remember to be present in all that you do?

 

It is Burger Week in Winnipeg right now and I thought I should get into the spirit of things! My mom made these cookies for my sister and I growing up and we would often bring them into class or to our Girl Guides meetings. Now that I’m all grown up, I like to make them every summer for my colleagues as a little sweet treat.

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They are super simple – all you need is Nilla Wafers, Chocolate Buttons (I prefer halving After Eight mints, but these are hard to find when it’s not Christmas time), green and yellow icing (for lettuce and mustard), and sesame seeds to top (sprinkle some water on the “bun” to make them stick)!

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They are always a popular dessert and so simple to make it is worth it! Someday when I am really craving sugar I’ll have to try these Brownie Burger Cupcakes…

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Do you have a unique style of dessert you like to surprise people with?