My Mother’s Hands

I remember from my childhood good reasons, real reasons, for my mother’s hands to be red and swollen:

Doing dishes, doing laundry, pickling beets, washing and stewing fresh Manitoba strawberries and rhubarb for pie and spread;

(My mother’s pies are the stuff of legend. And there is no better breakfast in the heat of summer than rye toast, generously buttered, topped with a thick layer of sweet-tart, strawberry rhubarb goodness;)

Doing up skates for my brother and I, in the dead of a -35C Prairie winter, laces stiff and unyielding like frozen garter snakes.

Now, in her mid-seventies, my mother’s hands are red and swollen from a disease that has treatments, but no cure.

It’s rheumatoid arthritis, the crippling and deforming kind. Her immune system has rebelled, attacking her joints as if they were a virus.

RA hand
Not my mother’s actual hand but hers look like this.

I am convinced it is the result of stress. And I know that stress can bring on a host of inflammatory conditions, like RA, or Crohn’s disease, colitis, or MS:

Caring for my father, who had his fourth joint replacement surgery in 20 years last year, but refuses to be active;

Supporting my brother to get back on his feet financially;

(Nearly 40 years old, living with my parents in their apartment, letting my mother drive him to his 4am shift at airport security.)

We caught the signs before extensive damage could set in. It started in her feet with pain and swelling, moving to her knees, then her wrists and hands.

One morning she needed both hands to lift a coffee mug. And then she needed both hands to pour her evening tea.

We know what we’re dealing with. We have a diagnosis and a treatment plan. But oh, it breaks my heart and angers me that my mother has been dealt this blow so far into retirement.

I will be a healthcare advocate for her, I will be a support. I will gently hold my mother’s hands because they have supported so many others for so long.



Day 1: 3-Day Quote Challenge

I relent!

Thank you Frances at By Brighton Beach and Wendy at Greater Than Gravity for nominating me for the 3-day Quote Challenge. I accept.

This quote is one I found for work and loved the message.

Embrace Grace

I’ve met so many awesome people in the Blogging Meetup, and in life in general, facing big-time challenges.

So much of the struggle happens on the inside where nobody can see it. If we could turn our insides out, everyone would see our red, burning pain and black, empty despair.

We all have our battles. Embrace grace. Take care.

In response to the 3-day Quote Challenge I nominate the following bloggers:

Joy to The Winnipeg by Joy Balmana

Family Life CEO by Maria Boicova-Wynants

Things to Learn, Know, & Share by amosgirl

If you accept, post 1-3 quotes for 3 consecutive days, and nominate 3 fellow bloggers to do the same each day. Thank you so much.

Day Nine: Get Inspired By the Neighbors

Yesterday, you left comments. Remember how we asked you to remember where you left ‘em? We hope you did, because you’ll need one of them today.

Today’s assignment: write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Don’t forget to link to the other blog!

I am fortunate enough to live in a suburban area within walking distance of a true urban treasure.

The Bois-des-Esprits (or Spirit Woods) is a protected forest in Winnipeg. 100+ acres along the Seine River of natural forest and wildlife. Other local bloggers, like Eden in Winnipeg, have done a beautiful job of promoting the trails.

Bois signage

For yesterday’s assignment, I commented on a more recent post featuring the Seine, complete with a toque cam walking video.

I believe the video is from a portion of the river closer to downtown, but the sentiment is the same. Winnipeg Living raves, “You gotta try it. It’s a different world down there.”

And it truly is. That’s why I write about the forest so frequently in my community paper column, and why my comment linked back to an article about a residents’ walking group.

It’s a different world down there.

Which brings me to another post that drew me in and drew my comment. Stop Waiting to Change was about active effort, about taking that first step towards being the person you want to be. Training yourself to meditate was a concrete example.

For me, the post spoke to a deeper meaning of personal awareness and growth. How we get in the way of ourselves with excuses and doubts, that ungentle inner voice chiding us, holding us back.

I thought about both posts for today’s assignment. It struck me, whenever I interview my neighbours about the Bois-des-Esprits, there is always a heartfelt word for how the forest affects them.

Just a few steps into the woods, and the harshness outside and inside us fades off. Down the path and around the corner lightens the shadows of depression, of grief, of loss. Moving towards the person you want to be.

It’s a different world down there.


Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World

WordPress Blogging University logo

Hello everyone! I’ve signed up for WordPress’ “Blogging 101.”

Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on your blog.

The best explanation is my Twitter profile , because I started on Twitter about the same time as my blog, not quite a year ago.

Passionate about writing. Foodaholic. Late-nite cookie baker. PR under-bulldog meets cat lady. Kill ’em with kindness. Toute stweet. For the pun of it.

Yes, I am passionate about writing. I have maintained a community correspondent column in a local neighbourhood newspaper for more than four years on a freelance basis.

I am restricted to my area for content. No school, no community centre, no resident’s association. Each month is a creative challenge that I relish. I research, pitch, interview, photograph, write, in addition to a regular full-time job.

That is the main reason for starting my blog. I continue to come across stories I can’t use. I want to bring profile to the little guy. People and projects flying under the radar of mainstream media.

Foodaholic is pretty self-explanatory. I love to eat. I have been told on several occasions that I “really get into” my food. When I was a child, I took so long to eat my lunch the classroom monitors turned my desk to face a corner because they thought I was spending too much time talking versus eating. It didn’t make a difference. I savour my food. Here’s some sushi from my favourite spot, Meiji.


I also love to cook, the less of a recipe the better. Hence late-nite cookies. If they don’t turn out, I blame it on the hour.

PR under-bulldog is a reference to PR underdog. On Twitter and in my blog, I enjoy getting the word out about people and organizations not currently in the media. The bulldog piece means I don’t let go of a story.

And yes, I am a cat lady. Ann is 15 1/2 and lives with arthritis and kidney disease. My whole life I wanted a cat. Due to allergies, I could not have one. Finally my husband surprised me with the Fudgeford more than ten years ago. I adore her. Irresistible white belly.

Ann yawning

Kill’em with kindness means that I believe in being kind and considerate. It’s a pretty strong leg to stand on when faced with opposition.

Toute stweet is a play on words in French, “toute suite”, pronounced toot-sweet, which means “right away,” and well, there’s the pun.

Winnipeg Arts, Hearts and Smarts is about the little guy. In Winnipeg. Doing cool creative stuff, doing good for others, and takin’ care of business.

I look forward more of WAHS’up stories this year. Keep sharing and reading as I make my way through Blogging 101!


A look back at the year in Royalwood

Hello everyone! In addition to the blog, I write a monthly column as a community correspondent. Here is an overview of the past year including links for more detail. Enjoy!

Republished from the Dec. 23, 2015 issue of The Lance, a Canstar Community News publication.

Republished from the Dec. 23, 2015 issue of The Lance, a Canstar Community News publication.

We’ve had a great 2015 in Royalwood!

The themes that dominated many of the columns I submitted in the past 12 months were Royalwood residents staying active and visitors to the Bois-des-Esprits enjoying everything the forest has to offer, in all seasons.

Here’s a quick run-through:
• While their namesake animal was asleep below the riverbed, Team Turtle of Trail Run Manitoba laced up for a winter run through the Bois;

• On a warm and muggy summer evening, more than 60 participants enjoyed a guided botany walk. Led by botanist Charles Burchill, the event was part of Save our Seine’s 25th anniversary celebrations;

Botanist Charles Burchill leads a guided botany walk along the Seine River
• This fall, Royalwood resident Dee Dee Budgell kicked off weekly Sunday afternoon walks through the Bois trails. The walks continue all winter and into the spring, wrapping up at the end of May 2016;

Dee Dee Budgell leads weekly walks through the Bois-des-Esprits. City councillor for St. Boniface Matt Allard gives his support

• Two Royalwood women were profiled for their community fundraising efforts in walk-based events;

Connie Robertson led her Cure of Duty team in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in memory of her brother-in-law.  One month later, Danielle Denny and her Boston Terrier, Martha, took part in The Fairmont Winnipeg Paws in Motion;

• Recently, readers met Wally MacKey and her mother Erna Leipert, both living with arthritis. The daughter-mother duo take walks in the Bois and do warm-water arthritis aquatics at Boni-Vital Pool to stay active and manage pain.

Wally MacKey and her mother Erma Leipert live with arthritis. They manage pain by staying active.
Matt Allard, city councillor for the ward of St. Boniface, was highly engaged and active in Royalwood this year. From hosting a spring town hall, to advocating for improved transit service, to promoting community initiatives like the weekly Bois walks, Allard’s support made a difference;

• Finally, readers met a trio of Royalwood business owners: Lisa Chapil of WedLife Photography, Jamie Robertson of United Therapies STRIVE Rehabilitation Centre, and Colin Flockton of redroc Drywall and Renovation.

Everyone has a story to share. The people and organizations involved in our neighbourhood make it a great place to live. Sincere thanks to Royalwood residents and everyone who participated in this column.
A big thank you to my husband for all his support.

I am excited to share more stories of Royalwood people and places in 2016. Contact me by e-mail at with your feedback and ideas!

Building Her Case Against Homelessness

For Janarose, the evidence was clear.

I moved to Winnipeg in August 2013 and the amount of diverse homeless astounded me.

Originally from Thompson, Janarose was starting her undergraduate degree at the University of Manitoba. Her ambition is to attend law school.

Faced with Winnipeg’s homeless, Janarose chose to take action, independently and alone.


Every time she came across someone in need, she would run to the nearest drugstore and grab the necessities for them. Hand sanitizer, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, condoms etc…spending anywhere from $50.00 to $100.00 per person.

Janarose quickly realized that as a broke student, she couldn’t afford to keep paying out of pocket every time someone needed her help. 

It bummed me out that I knew what I was doing wouldn’t help on a large scale and that I wasn’t being efficient, with time, money or the amount of persons needing aide. So I set up a gofundme account.

By late November, a total of $220 had been raised. Janarose assembled her team. Janarose, her boyfriend Pierce and his sister Olivia purchased winter gear for the homeless. Their plan? Hand out socks and mitts in front of Siloam Mission.

Janarose and team
Janarose, Pierce, and Olivia

Through social media, Ryan Thorglisson, vice president of Chicken Chef Canada Ltd. and owner of the Portage Avenue location came forward. He donated coffee, cream, sugar and cups for the day.

Janarose describes the response.

It was an absolute hit. People LOVED it. We got a really positive feedback from passerbys and even those who worked within Siloam. We reached more than 100 people, distributing socks, mitts, and hot coffee.

Janarose is building her case against homelessness in Winnipeg. She’s still raising funds to purchase winter gear and basic necessities.

Winter is coming. You wouldn’t want to go to bed hungry, homeless and cold, please don’t make them. A little bit of love goes a long way.

Janarose socks

Ryan Thorglisson is on board to provide more donated coffee and tea. Janarose’s team is ready. Why does she continue her efforts?

I’ve always grown up putting others before myself. As long as I’m somewhat comfortable, I’ll give until I can’t.

May your heart find a way to give now, and all year through. You can make a difference. Wishing you health and happiness,


Heart In Lens – 42 Chefs, 280 Walkers and 100 Princesses & Princes – Part 4 of 4 – 100 Princesses & Princes

100 Princesses & Princes: Princess for a Day – Children’s Wish Foundation

Final post of 4-part series. Christina Summers and her dedication to supporting Winnipeg charities with her photography…

Christina recently photographed Princess for A Day – Children’s Wish Foundation Manitoba. Stella Mazza, the former owner of Stella’s Bridal Salon, who is herself a cancer survivor, established the event 10 years ago.Princesses

Held at the Manitoba Legislative Building, which is transformed into “Castle  Chavella”, participants receive the royal treatment.  Volunteer princesses help with makeovers, gowns and tiaras.
Primping Princess
Cinderalla and Sleeping Beauty
A grand reception features Disney Princesses Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and more, followed by lunch in the royal dining room. The annual event takes place every October as a fundraiser for the Children’s Wish Foundation.

One hundred girls and boys attended – including 34 special guests – little girls battling life-threatening illnesses or chronic conditions.

This event touches my heart. It means the world to me to be involved. My dearest lifelong friend has a beautiful son who has had his wish granted by Children’s Wish Foundation. He isn’t well right now, but thanks to the caring people at Children’s Wish, miracles can happen even in the darkest of times. They genuinely know what it means to these children to forget about the sickness for an afternoon.

Princess volunteers

All photos by Christina Summers Photography.