Month: September 2014

I Am a Father

When I heard that the Clinton family had added a baby girl as a new addition to their family, I remembered when I first became a father.

Those were the days of anticipation and what the future would bring when starting a new family. Our first child brought pleasure and excitement to our families. I was the first of three to deliver a grandchild to our parents. Those were the days. The sleepless nights, diaper changes, and the most fun initially was the daily bath. My wife was not fond of water so playtime with my infant was bath time. After the bath it was bedtime and I would sing a few repetitive songs as my little sweetheart faded into sleep.

Eventually, we moved into solid baby food and feeding was a messy challenge that continued until she could feed herself. 

Since we both worked, we were able to hire a nanny to take responsibility for the child while we were away. Those were the days. When our first daughter was almost four, we had our second daughter. By this time my wife got used to bathing the new baby and we were sharing the tasks of raising two lovely daughters.

As they grew older we put them into daycare. When they were of school age they started at daycare and were delivered and picked up from school by the daycare. When we finished work, we picked up the girls from the daycare.  Both girls developed good social and communication skills at an early age. I commend the daycare and elementary school for this development.

In 1992 with a 7 year old and a 4 year old my marriage collapsed. As a divorced father, I now only saw my girls weekly.

If you read my earlier blogs you would see that I became a terrible father.  I would miss my day with the girls regularly. The tears in their eyes would leave a lasting impression of the lousy father they had.

I regret those days, but fortunately they had a strong mother and the girls made it through middle school, and then completed high school at the University of Winnipeg. My oldest girl graduated from the U of W’s Public Relations and Management program. She has since moved to British Columbia.  My youngest just completed her Masters in Social Work at U of T and calls Toronto home.

I’ve tried to patch my wrongs with the girls and maybe I have…..or maybe I haven’t. I’m still there for them after all these years, and the communication is positive. They do know who their father is.

If I would have to do it all over again, divorce would be out of the question. After all, I am a father.

I don’t know who wrote the IF CHILDREN (written below) however, I wish I had the chance to read it 30 years ago. In closing, I will share it with you:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to find love in the world.

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Me playing with my oldest daughter at my parent’s house. Those were the days!

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14 Misconceptions About Winnipeg Part 2

Once again this week I have challenged myself to find a topic for my “Leonard vs Life” blog.  I have decided that since all of my 58 years of life has been spent in Winnipeg, it would be a piece of work to explain what Winnipeg really is. 

Last week I presented 7 points that if improved would help put Winnipeg on the map as a Destination City. Here now are the final 7 points that would make Winnipeg a better place to live, rather than leave.

8. Winnipeg is one of the largest cities in Canada.  Barely. Statistics Canada says: Winnipeg is the 8th largest city in Canada with a population of 771,221 (2013).

Winnipeg has a significant and increasing Aboriginal population, with both the highest percentage of Aboriginal peoples (11.7%) for any major Canadian city, and the highest total number of Aboriginals (76,055) for any single non-reserve municipality.The Aboriginal population grew by 22% between 2001 and 2006, compared to an increase of 3% for the city as a whole; this population tends to be younger and less wealthy than non-Aboriginal residents. Winnipeg also has the highest Métis population in both percentage (6.3%) and numbers (41,005); the growth rate for this population between 2001 and 2006 was 30%. The city has the greatest percentage of Filipino residents (8.7%) of any major Canadian city, although Toronto has more Filipinos by total population. In 2006, Winnipeg ranked seventh of the Canadian cities for percentage of residents of a visible minority. The population is 67.5% white as of 2011 (down from 73.5% in 2006), while non-aboriginal visible minorities represent 21.4% as of 2011 (up from 16.3% in 2006). The city receives over 10,000 net international immigrants per year.

9. The new civic government, which will be elected this October, will be saddled with debt, audits of severe overspending that borders on corruption, and debates over infrastructure and rapid transit just to suggest a few challenges. Questionable planning and urban sprawl has stressed budgets and taxes out of control. 

10. Economic activity is on the rise. NOT.

The city is saddled with limited opportunities for young adults. Many families have been fragmented since after graduating from college or university the kids leave Winnipeg for greener pastures. Both of my daughters have left Winnipeg with no plans of returning. My sister has 2 sons who have also left Winnipeg. This results in slow growth of young educated population and a sliding tax base.

11. Winnipeg has a low poverty level.  NOT.

The number of families and singles living below the poverty level in Winnipeg is stunting it’s growth and in  my opinion the result of limited opportunity.  The busiest days for the economic activity in Winnipeg are limited and predictable. Most families living in poverty have 2 to 5 children.  On or around the 20th of every month Winnipeg comes alive when the Child Tax credit arrives. Shopping for groceries, spending on social activities and taxis are taxed to the limit. Three days later, the money is gone.  At the end of the month the 60,000 or so on Social Service support to get paid. Seniors get their pensions and it’s payday in Winnipeg. For 5 days economic activity spikes, bars and stores are full, taxis are in short supply, and then the money runs out.  Agencies like food banks, and shelters carry the impoverished until the cycle repeats itself. Without the government support Winnipeg would look like Detroit.

12. Winnipeg has a lot of taxi’s.  NOT. 

Compared to other cities Winnipeg has almost half the number of taxis it should. Statistics show a range of 1 taxi for every 600 to 1200 of population in all cities. Winnipeg has 1 taxi for 1750 in population. Considering the demand, we are way out of line.  It’s a little known fact but in 1945 Winnipeg had 300 taxis. I’m 1947 we added 100 cabs to employ war veterans. That brings us up to 400 in 1947. In 2014, Winnipeg has only 410 taxis and 41 accessible taxis. So in 67 years of growth we have only added 51 taxis to the Winnipeg fleet of 451 taxis. 

No coverage for urban sprawl. Hours of waiting at certain times of the day. I could go on but what’s the point? Better take your car to the Airport.  You might have to drink and drive.  Blame the province! Manitoba is the only province to control taxis in a city. In other cities the civic government controls the cabs through a civic taxi commission. It’s time to look at taxis as civic Infrastructure.

13. Civic planning is right on.  NOT

Did it make sense to build a football stadium at the south end of the city?  Did it make sense to move the Red River Exhibition to the West Perimeter?  Does the University of Winnipeg expanding on prime downtown land make for good planning? Why are we wasting so much money on rapid transit? Is Winnipeg really big enough to afford the billions it costs? How come we aren’t building up the downtown to increase density to support downtown as a vibrant community? These are my thoughts and I think you get the message. Civic planning is a FAIL.

14. Finally, as good as the media in Winnipeg reacts to stories that sell, I would like to see a little more effort on focus to create a Winnipeg that works.

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14 Common Misconceptions About Winnipeg Part 1

This week I have challenged myself to find a topic for my “Leonard vs Life” blog.  I have decided that since all of my 58 years of life has been spent in Winnipeg, it would be a piece of work to explain what Winnipeg really is.

1. Winnipeg is one of the largest cities in Canada.  NOT.  Winnipeg is smaller than Toronto, Montreal,  Ottawa, Calgary,  Edmonton and Vancouver.  Those cities have populations in excess of 1.3 million citizens.  Winnipeg, is a slow growth city of only 760,000 residents.

2. Winnipeg has always been a city of urban sprawl.  NOT.  Winnipeg was a small city mostly centrally located around the downtown area until 1971. Before that it was surrounded by many smaller cities; each with their own mayor, council, city hall and police/fire departments. They included the cities of West Kildonan, East Kildonan, Transcona, St. Vital, Fort Garry,  Tuxedo, Charleswood and Brooklands. All of these cities were merged into a Unicity called Winnipeg in 1971.

3. Winnipeg has always been a railroad center.  NOT.  The CPR originally was to be located north of Winnipeg in the City of Selkirk but Winnipeg enticed CPR to locate in Winnipeg by giving them tax free land in the center of the city for rail yards. To this day they are still located in the heart of Winnipeg obstructing growth.

4. Winnipeg has a vibrant nightlife.  NOT. Winnipeg is a weekend city. Most bars and clubs are closed or empty on Monday through Wednesday.  The city will come alive Thursday through Saturday.

5. Winnipeg has a vibrant downtown.  NOT. With the exception of the NHL Jets and the odd concert. The downtown of Winnipeg is empty after dark.  Fear of gangs and personal safety plays a major roll in this phenomenon.  Hardly like big city action.

6. Winnipeg has a large downtown population.  NOT. Although a few thousand residents  live downtown there hasn’t been any major residential development of housing in Downtown Winnipeg since the 70’s.  All major cities have 25 to 100 high-rise condo or apartment complex areas each holding 1000 or more residents. Not Winnipeg. We have subsidized apartment blocks or housing built in the early 1900’s cluttering downtown development. The Waterfront area is the only recent area of downtown development and that is low density.

7. Winnipeg is too cold for homelessness.  NOT.  Winnipeg has a large homeless population, with missions and food banks a major industry.  This has furtherstifled downtown development.

Next week I will conclude with the final 7 misconceptions of my city that I call ‘Little Winnipeg.’

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Up, Up and Away

Finally, after a vacation that took me on a 10 day ride throughout the paradise province of Canada,  British Columbia. I am in awe, from the mountains and valley’s of Pemberton and Whistler,  to Vancouver and the hustle of Granville Island market. From the suburb of Coquitlam to the quiet coastal playground of the wealthy at Deep Cove, suddenly I’m at the amazing Vancouver airport, climbing aboard the Westjet, for the flight back home to Winnipeg.

Now I’m in a position that I’ve never been in. After 17 years of living in hotels or communal rooming houses, I’m coming home without a home.

I’m not homeless. During my holiday I had no fixed address. I moved out of my hotel room of 8.5 years which was across from a former employer and began my vacation.  During that time, I took possession of an 8th floor apartment in a quiet Winnipeg suburb. 

When I arrived back in Winnipeg, I had no keys, no furniture and no food. That was on September 3rd. Since I lived in communal homes of sorts since 1996, I had to start with nothing.  I owned the clothes on my back plus and a few possessions that I had stored in my father’s garage.

I had previously purchased all my new furniture and made arrangements to get set up and delivery for September 5th. For the first time in 40 years I was back at my childhood home with my parents who are in their 80’s, and still fully active seniors.  I spent 2 nights with them just a few blocks from my new digs until my delivery.

On the morning of September 5th,  I was dropped by the apartment block that contained the 8th floor studio suite that was to be home. The cable guy hooked me up with the  HD and Wifi.  The furniture delivery soon followed. 

Once again my life had changed for the better. Being disabled with limited mobility, I am unable to crawl on the floor to assemble the furniture kits. My 85 year old father was a godsend.  He worked with me for a few hours and without him I would still be trying to assemble that TV Stand.  Amazing man, amazing father.  We got it done.

Since I’m not driving, my father volunteered to take me to shop for all the accessories and groceries needed to call my new place a home.

It’s done. I have all the extras  and I just have one more shopping trip to tie up the loose ends. The cost was almost $4000.  Seems like a lot of loot but being disabled and on a pension at 58 years old, I have a benefit of subsidized housing that keeps my 8th floor rent at only $302 per month.  I should be able to recover my investment in 6 months just in rent savings alone.

It’s exciting to finally after all these year’s close another chapter of Leonard vs Life, and start a new chapter.  Up, Up, and Away from the transient society that I was part of since 1996.

Finally, I’m home.

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Facebook & Twitter Limits

Firstly I am still trying to figure out why the word “Status” is used on Facebook to post.  The word status doesn’t fit most posts however, that’s not the issue.

I received a call from a friend informing me that I was posting too much about the Middle East and it’s various war’s. I was doing too much for my friends comfort.  So what? I don’t complain about my friends regular posting of family pictures of grandchildren, wives,  and family.  It’s very nice and some people enjoy those posts.  

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Some people enjoy my news related posts.  Just as much, as a matter of fact.  Then we have the the jokes, cartoons, recipes,  favourite restaurants and whatever.  If you Like a post, hit Like.  If you want to comment, make a comment.  That’s Facebook and unlike Twitter there are no limits.  If you just don’t want to see someone post then unfriend them. SIMPLE.

On Twitter the issues are different. Very few twits actually tweet. Many twits retweet and act like a baby more in a tweet.

I tweet globally, locally and nationally.  My favourite subjects are dependent on where I’m tweeting but I’m an opinionated in all events. I’ll start with a retweet or reply and try to get debates going on my subject matter that I enjoy.

It seems that I get more action on the global side. The local politics in my city of Little #Winnipeg is harder to get twits tweeting. Winnipeg has always been a little backwards. Tweets are mostly complaints about infrastructure, etc…

Twitter will not allow you to follow more than 2000 twits unless your followers exceed that number by 5%. That is a random number and not really correct if you are looking internationally for a following. As such the follow trains are useless. 

Anyways, Facebook and Twitter,  I am what I am and I love the action. Keep it up and don’t whine! 

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