Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook

Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud Indigenous woman with family ties to Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

In 2011 Shelley graduated (for the first time in her life!) from Red River College’s Creative Communications program. It was a milestone moment for the two-time high school dropout, who took a chance on post-secondary education as a mature student at the age of 28.

This was an opportunity that changed her life, and one that she is so grateful for.

While stumbling around the University of Winnipeg for two years, dabbling in a number of different courses, Shelley started volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest (Now known as Manitoba Harvest). There she met many wonderful people who made an impact on her life, including Donald Benham, a former journalist, city councillor and journalism instructor, who encouraged her to apply for the Creative Communications program, thus helping her find a career path that seemed to fit.

Shelley was the first recipient of the John W. Dafoe Free Press scholarship for Aboriginal students in 2009. This scholarship led to her first newsroom experience. She enjoyed a work placement at the Winnipeg Sun in 2010 to 2011 and spent the summer after graduating CreComm as a reporter for the Portage Daily Graphic in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

Shelley’s other notable work includes covering the 2014 JUNO Awards, concert reviews and a weekly Mix of Six column for Metro Winnipeg.

From 2012 to 2021, Shelley worked in marketing and communications at Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries as a social media coordinator.

Shelley is a mom and stepmom of three as well as a companion to two rescue dogs. She and her partner Chris co-parent and raise their kids with Donna, her stepkids’ mom.

Shelley has always been a good storyteller, a trait she likely inherited from her dad, one of the most engaging and interesting storytellers of all time. She tries hard, though she makes a lot of mistakes. Thankfully for her, making mistakes is a good way to learn and to grow and to try to be better. It also usually always leads to something interesting to write about.

Shelley still gets excited to see her work published in the Winnipeg Free Press. Having a column has been a dream come true.

Recent articles of Shelley Cook

No tricks, but mom a skilled magician

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

No tricks, but mom a skilled magician

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Monday, Oct. 3, 2022

In August, my mom excitedly planned to attend David A. Robertson’s book launch for The Stone Child at McNally Robinson. For her, this was as big as a Harry Styles concert or something. She’s a big fan of Robertson, often citing from his book Black Water; she is convinced that she knows the location of a party he attended and wrote about.

“I think it’s (in the area) where we used to live,” she’d mention every time we talked about the book.

On the day of the launch, she made her way to the bookstore more than an hour early and snagged the best seats in the house, using her scarf to hold them. When we arrived, she proudly showed off our spot and explained that she’d been there, waiting, for an hour. So, it was a lucky bonus when they removed the reserved signs on the front row, just before Robertson was set to read an excerpt from the book, and sit down for a conversation with local author, Colleen Nelson. You better believe my mom and a couple of the kids jumped at the chance for front-row seats. Like I mentioned earlier, this was my mom’s version of a concert, or something like that.

A retired teacher, my mom has a great love of literacy, a love that she shares with her family as much and often as she can. She often brings over copies of books she’s just read for me or my sisters. It’s always the same interaction — she’ll hand over the paperback and go into detail about the contents, or the author, like she’s giving a live book report. She’s thoughtful in how she shares, picking books that she thinks we’ll connect with.

Monday, Oct. 3, 2022

SUBMITTED

Authors David A. Robertson and Colleen Nelson at Robertson’s August 24 book launch The Stone Child: Book Three in the Misewa Saga at McNally Robinson.

Grief and gratitude in a powerful sea of orange

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Preview

Grief and gratitude in a powerful sea of orange

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

There were so many people who showed up at Oodena Circle Friday morning. The crowd was diverse in nearly every way, and most everyone I saw was wearing an orange shirt in honour of the lost and stolen children.

It was emotional to be in this mass of people.

As my daughter and I got ready to head down to The Forks, I asked her if she understood what the day meant. Did she know why we were going?

“In residential school, they took the kids away from their homes and cut their hair,” she explained to me, her little voice struggling to pronounce the world residential correctly. “They took away their clothes and sometimes they changed their names to something less Indigenous, or even just a number. Some of the kids got killed.”

Friday, Sep. 30, 2022

Photo of Annie Cook (Prince), a residential school survivor, and her husband, Colin Donovan Cook. (Shelley Cook / Winnipeg Free Press)

Whiteshell petroforms, ancestor site hold deep spiritual meaning for Diane Maytwayashing

Shelley Cook 12 minute read Preview

Whiteshell petroforms, ancestor site hold deep spiritual meaning for Diane Maytwayashing

Shelley Cook 12 minute read Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

“Is it OK if I make a smudge?” Diane Maytwayashing asks on a mid-Monday morning in the kitchen of her home in Seven Sisters Falls.

She leaves the room for a moment before returning with a large shell packed with sage. She lights the medicine with a wooden match and begins to smudge herself, washing her body with the plumes of white smoke that coil from the shell and evaporate into the air, filling the room with the sweet smell of medicine and prayers.

Then, she offers a smudge around the table, patiently and humbly waiting to share her story and the story of the land.

The kitchen is quaint and tidy. A streamer of dried medicine bundles hangs over the sink between two sets of open cupboards. Boxes of fresh harvested vegetables from her garden sit on the floor by the back door. They were just picked the night before amid a frost warning. Maytwayashing loves seeds and gardening. She is most comfortable in nature.

Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

For knowledge keeper Diane Maytwayashing, walking around and listening to teachings her friend gifted to her about the Bannock Point petroforms was a profound experience.

Medicine of beading joins seekers of their place in Indigenous culture

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Medicine of beading joins seekers of their place in Indigenous culture

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Monday, Sep. 26, 2022

My sister Christina gifted me a beautiful, beaded orange shirt pin she made. A small tribute to recognize and remember residential school survivors leading up to National Truth and Reconciliation Day and in all the days before and after Sept. 30.

The pin is a reminder of the thousands of Indigenous children, like our own grandmother, who were taken from their homes and forced into residential schools. It also symbolizes a connection my Anishinaabe sister has made to our culture. One she sought out, to learn herself several years ago, and which has become a source of peace and joy.

For her, beading is medicine.

With every poke of the sharp needle into the leather hide, positioning beads to create a mosaic of art, she reclaims and revitalizes a little bit of our family’s lost identity, while creating her own. She has spent countless hours cultivating her craft, and becoming more skilled with each stitch of a bead.

Monday, Sep. 26, 2022

SUBMITTED

Beaded poppy and orange shirt pins by Christina Cook, granddaughter of Colin Donovan Cook (Don), and Annie Cook (Prince).

Complex feelings wrap days of remembrance, mourning

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Complex feelings wrap days of remembrance, mourning

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Monday, Sep. 19, 2022

When I was a little girl, I remember sleeping at my Amma’s house and waking early to watch Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson get married and, of course, all of the extravagance and custom that a royal wedding brings.

My grandmother gushed about the royal affair, talking about Fergie as though she knew her in some way, and ohhing and ahhing over the opulence of it all.

(This, of course, was well before the disgraced prince, who had ties with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, was accused of sexual abuse against a 17-year-old girl.)

In 1986, the Royal Family seemed like a real-life version of the characters in my bedtime stories. I never thought much of them outside of big events, and my grandmother wasn’t a die-hard loyalist in her everyday life. It was only when the big things would happen within the monarchy — weddings and babies — she jumped on the royal bandwagon, and I happily rode along with her.

Monday, Sep. 19, 2022

When I was a little girl, I remember sleeping at my Amma’s house and waking early to watch Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson get married and, of course, all of the extravagance and custom that a royal wedding brings.

My grandmother gushed about the royal affair, talking about Fergie as though she knew her in some way, and ohhing and ahhing over the opulence of it all.

(This, of course, was well before the disgraced prince, who had ties with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, was accused of sexual abuse against a 17-year-old girl.)

In 1986, the Royal Family seemed like a real-life version of the characters in my bedtime stories. I never thought much of them outside of big events, and my grandmother wasn’t a die-hard loyalist in her everyday life. It was only when the big things would happen within the monarchy — weddings and babies — she jumped on the royal bandwagon, and I happily rode along with her.

Glimmer of light during a family’s darkest moments

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Preview

Glimmer of light during a family’s darkest moments

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Monday, Sep. 12, 2022

Team Brody Foundation is a non-profit organization started by the family of a boy named Brody Birrell-Gruhn.

It fills the gaps for parents of children who have cancer. It helps with everything from paying rent, gas or vehicle repairs so families can get to and from their child’s treatment, buy groceries, gifts or pay for parking.

Recently, they’ve paid for a tutor for a child who has missed school and helped a family cover funeral expenses for their son. They’re taking care of rent for a family who was told their child’s cancer is terminal and were advised to make the most of her remaining time.

They are a glimmer of light during a family’s darkest moments.

Monday, Sep. 12, 2022

SUPPLIED

Brody Birrell-Gruhn and mom Tori Gruhn: ‘He was just one of those people,’ says Sheena Gruhn.

Poolside near miss reveals quick, quiet danger of drowning

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Poolside near miss reveals quick, quiet danger of drowning

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2022

Earlier this summer, my sister invited us to join her and her girls at a friend’s home for a swim. She was watching the place while they were away, and they’d given her the go ahead for the gathering.

The children splashed around in the pool, doing cannonballs off the diving board, and exploring below the water with nose plugs and goggles. As a group, they had our full attention, though at times one of them (usually one of the youngest) would demand all of it.

“Watch this,” they’d beckon, followed by a jump, splash and some kind of bow or thumbs-up when they resurfaced, indicating they were OK, before making their way to the side of the pool, climbing out, and doing it all over again.

This particular night was perfect for being in the pool. The sun stayed out well into the evening, and the air smelled like summer. We made full use of our invite, going back and forth between the pool and hot tub, which were in close proximity in a backyard we all wished was ours.

Tuesday, Sep. 6, 2022

Earlier this summer, my sister invited us to join her and her girls at a friend’s home for a swim. She was watching the place while they were away, and they’d given her the go ahead for the gathering.

The children splashed around in the pool, doing cannonballs off the diving board, and exploring below the water with nose plugs and goggles. As a group, they had our full attention, though at times one of them (usually one of the youngest) would demand all of it.

“Watch this,” they’d beckon, followed by a jump, splash and some kind of bow or thumbs-up when they resurfaced, indicating they were OK, before making their way to the side of the pool, climbing out, and doing it all over again.

This particular night was perfect for being in the pool. The sun stayed out well into the evening, and the air smelled like summer. We made full use of our invite, going back and forth between the pool and hot tub, which were in close proximity in a backyard we all wished was ours.

Business owner’s honest post about hardship strikes chord

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Business owner’s honest post about hardship strikes chord

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Monday, Aug. 29, 2022

“I wish I never opened this store,” Katrina Tessier began the status message for her business Scout Coffee + Tea on the morning of Aug. 23.

“Instagram is full of highlights, and I usually try to keep it positive, but today is calling for some real talk. The last couple (of) months have been really hard.”

The post, which showed a picture of a building with a yellow sign with the Scout logo that said “Opening fall 2021” went on to talk about the setbacks the business owner has faced since opening a second location.

It was a hole, she described, that was becoming too deep. Her words were vulnerable and real.

Monday, Aug. 29, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Scout owner Katrina Tessier, here at her Rothesay location, admitted in a social media post that she was struggling. ‘It made a huge difference for us. ... It made me proud to have a business in Winnipeg.’

Making road trip memories with the kids

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Preview

Making road trip memories with the kids

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Monday, Aug. 22, 2022

We took our kids on a road trip. We drove through three provinces (four, if you count Manitoba) and three time zones, bought snacks and wandered through what seemed to be about a thousand gas stations from Winnipeg to Vancouver, all part of one hell of an adventure.

We reasoned that our kids are getting older, and the opportunities for piling into our minivan and venturing on this kind of family vacation are numbered. We’ve never done anything like this before, and we figured if there was ever a time to do this, now is that time. So off we went, with my partner, Chris, driving, and me — as the 1990s group TLC sang in their hit song No Scrubs — hangin’ out the passenger side of (my) best friend’s ride.

We encountered a lot of nostalgia along the way. The Fuddruckers restaurant in Saskatoon looked the same as the one in Winnipeg in the 1990s. Memories hit us as we chased the sunset west. While trying to give our kids some incredible memories and experiences, we were sprinkled with the ones our parents gave us when we were young.

I’d never done this trek. My partner had. Every once in a while, as we drove that long stretch of highway, he’d tell a little story, or imitate one of his parents’ mannerisms that he remembered from the backseat of a vehicle as their family made their way across Canada.

Monday, Aug. 22, 2022

We took our kids on a road trip. We drove through three provinces (four, if you count Manitoba) and three time zones, bought snacks and wandered through what seemed to be about a thousand gas stations from Winnipeg to Vancouver, all part of one hell of an adventure.

We reasoned that our kids are getting older, and the opportunities for piling into our minivan and venturing on this kind of family vacation are numbered. We’ve never done anything like this before, and we figured if there was ever a time to do this, now is that time. So off we went, with my partner, Chris, driving, and me — as the 1990s group TLC sang in their hit song No Scrubs — hangin’ out the passenger side of (my) best friend’s ride.

We encountered a lot of nostalgia along the way. The Fuddruckers restaurant in Saskatoon looked the same as the one in Winnipeg in the 1990s. Memories hit us as we chased the sunset west. While trying to give our kids some incredible memories and experiences, we were sprinkled with the ones our parents gave us when we were young.

I’d never done this trek. My partner had. Every once in a while, as we drove that long stretch of highway, he’d tell a little story, or imitate one of his parents’ mannerisms that he remembered from the backseat of a vehicle as their family made their way across Canada.

Practice doesn’t always make perfect, The Rehearsal shows us

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Practice doesn’t always make perfect, The Rehearsal shows us

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Monday, Aug. 8, 2022

I’ve been watching a show on HBO called The Rehearsal. It’s written, directed and stars Nathan Fielder (from Nathan for You and This Hour Has 22 Minutes). It’s a docu-comedy type show that you’ll either get and subsequently love, or that you’ll hate because it’s so far out there. That’s sort of standard for Fielder, because his comedy is so awkward and quirky, but it’s also genius. At least in my opinion.

On Friday nights after we get the kids to bed, my partner and I usually get a chance to watch something we want to watch. If I’m being honest, it’s one of the more exciting parts of our day, because that means it’s time to wind down and take a load off. (Also, my kids are into watching some shows that grind on my eardrums, so I welcome the reprieve.)

This is the stage of life and level of excitement we’re in.

Anyway, the show features Fielder, known for his deadpan delivery, who is on a mission to help ordinary people rehearse difficult conversations or life events before they actually go through with the real conversation or life event.

Monday, Aug. 8, 2022

I’ve been watching a show on HBO called The Rehearsal. It’s written, directed and stars Nathan Fielder (from Nathan for You and This Hour Has 22 Minutes). It’s a docu-comedy type show that you’ll either get and subsequently love, or that you’ll hate because it’s so far out there. That’s sort of standard for Fielder, because his comedy is so awkward and quirky, but it’s also genius. At least in my opinion.

On Friday nights after we get the kids to bed, my partner and I usually get a chance to watch something we want to watch. If I’m being honest, it’s one of the more exciting parts of our day, because that means it’s time to wind down and take a load off. (Also, my kids are into watching some shows that grind on my eardrums, so I welcome the reprieve.)

This is the stage of life and level of excitement we’re in.

Anyway, the show features Fielder, known for his deadpan delivery, who is on a mission to help ordinary people rehearse difficult conversations or life events before they actually go through with the real conversation or life event.

Wanbdi Wakita has been patiently listening all his 80 years

Shelley Cook 13 minute read Preview

Wanbdi Wakita has been patiently listening all his 80 years

Shelley Cook 13 minute read Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

It’s a hot summer day and Wanbdi Wakita sits at a patio table on the deck of the St. Andrews home he shares with his wife, Pahan PteSanWin.

The sun is beating down intensely and the air is thick with heat. The sound of birds chirping is briefly interrupted every so often by small airplanes approaching and departing the nearby St. Andrews airport. From the patio table on the deck, you can see a meticulously kept yard with a trampoline, a swing set, and a slide that’s built right off the deck for the grandkids. He has a large family, 12 kids (six who are adopted) and 32 grandchildren.

His voice is quiet, but his words are strong. For him, words are very important.

“We’re not calling ourselves elders, we’re calling ourselves grandfathers and grandmothers. In our language it’s different. Ocinye or Hotokiye (in Dakota), first voices we’re called — ’cause every time they’re (the ancestors) going to talk, it’s always to the old people. So that’s what we go by,” he says.

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sharing a ceremony experience devoted to weather, Wanbdi Wakita says he’s concerned ‘we’re not listening to our ancestors. We’re not listening to Mother Earth.’

For the love of dogs: helping to care for pets in fire zone

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Preview

For the love of dogs: helping to care for pets in fire zone

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Monday, Aug. 1, 2022

When 2,000 residents of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation were forced out of Pukatawagan because of a wildfire in July, they had to leave their beloved pets behind.

“Sometimes people are evacuated for two weeks to past a month, and they’re not allowed to bring their animals and it hurts them and it’s upsetting,” said Jennifer Medlicott, a volunteer with Manitoba Animal Alliance.

Eight people stayed behind. One resident, Desmond, has worked tirelessly to care for his animals, including the ones left behind in locked homes. His efforts have undoubtedly saved lives, but the situation is far bigger than what he can do on his own.

“We thought: what can we pull together to help? It’s chaotic, but somehow we all manage to work jobs and still put in a ton of hours into helping these dogs,” said Medlicott.

Monday, Aug. 1, 2022

SUPPLIED
Manitoba Animal Alliance pulled 31 vulnerable dogs out of the community of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Pukatawagan, and have fed and cared for hundreds more in the community.

After months of painful stillness, a mother finds solace in a return to her art

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Preview

After months of painful stillness, a mother finds solace in a return to her art

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Monday, Jul. 25, 2022

The smell of medicines fills her tiny North End home on this warm Thursday morning. Candy Volk sits on the corner of her sofa, while three of her grandsons — all teenagers — sit around the dining room table using their devices in the other room. Occasionally, the sound of cars whizzing by on the fairly busy side street outside drowns out the sounds from inside this home. The TV murmurs in the background, offering just enough noise to be present. Fresh air wafts in through the open screen door, blocked by a baby gate so the small dog doesn’t escape. The walls are filled with photos of the close-knit family, and there’s a shelf stuffed with knick-knacks and mementoes that hold memories, sometimes too painful to say out loud.

Volk pulls out a small plastic bag from the table beside her. The bag contains about 20 pairs of individually packaged beaded earrings she and her niece, Jessica Bird, have made.

“I did a lot of beading before. It was just something to do,” she says, dumping the earrings on the couch beside her and sorting though them.

Volk picked up the hobby about 10 years ago after taking a workshop at Ka Ni Kanichihk. Back then, she would mostly bead the brims of ball caps, taking orders from people on social media. She’d sell her work for little more than what she paid for the supplies, because she said she didn’t have the confidence to ask for what it was worth.

Monday, Jul. 25, 2022

After losing her daughter and tiny grandson in a car crash two years ago, Candy Volk found it too painful to practise her beading art. Now, she’s returned to it with a deep feeling of connection. Volk is hard at work creating earrings for an upcoming sale at Club Regent Casino. (Supplied)

Frazzled fun at Fringe

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Preview

Frazzled fun at Fringe

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Monday, Jul. 18, 2022

This year is the first year I’ve attended the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

As a lifelong Winnipegger, I feel a bit of embarrassment about this. The festival has existed for nearly as long as I have (35 years) and I had been meaning to maybe check it out one day, though never quite getting around to it.

This year, however, was the year. I reviewed five shows for the Free Press and was blown away by how great the experience was.

On the first night of the festival, I reviewed The Paladin (sci-fi action comedy) and Civilized (drama about Canada’s legacy of racism and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples). I went to both (one after the other at venue 23 at 188 Princess St.) alone because we didn’t have a babysitter.

Monday, Jul. 18, 2022

Supplied
Charlene Van Buekenhout in Minoosh Doo-Kapeeshiw.

Table at heart of women’s centre and community

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Table at heart of women’s centre and community

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Monday, Jul. 11, 2022

It’s a place to gather, connect and take refuge in the shade from the summer heat or block wind from a winter chill.

The yard of the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre is a meeting spot for people in the community and, until recently, so was the rickety old wooden picnic table at its heart. The table is now gone, succumbed to time, use and Winnipeg’s extreme seasons, replaced (for the meantime) by a couple of stumps someone donated when they cut a tree down.

“There are so many ways that people use this spot — it’s a super popular spot for people in the community,” said Khalida Benedictson, office administrator of NPDWC, adding many would connect there with neighbours for coffee and conversation.

What’s more, Benedictson explained, the table outside was an accessible place for the centre to cater to clients in wheelchairs and with mobility issues, as the building located at 221 Austin St. N. (a former corner store) doesn’t suitably meet those needs of some.

Monday, Jul. 11, 2022

It’s a place to gather, connect and take refuge in the shade from the summer heat or block wind from a winter chill.

The yard of the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre is a meeting spot for people in the community and, until recently, so was the rickety old wooden picnic table at its heart. The table is now gone, succumbed to time, use and Winnipeg’s extreme seasons, replaced (for the meantime) by a couple of stumps someone donated when they cut a tree down.

“There are so many ways that people use this spot — it’s a super popular spot for people in the community,” said Khalida Benedictson, office administrator of NPDWC, adding many would connect there with neighbours for coffee and conversation.

What’s more, Benedictson explained, the table outside was an accessible place for the centre to cater to clients in wheelchairs and with mobility issues, as the building located at 221 Austin St. N. (a former corner store) doesn’t suitably meet those needs of some.

From baby steps to an enduring bond

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Preview

From baby steps to an enduring bond

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Monday, Jul. 4, 2022

In September 2019, Anroup Patti saw an Instagram post that would change her life, and the life of a married couple — Mat Arye, a software engineer, and Jeremy Tse, a financial analyst from New York.

Patti, a speech-language pathologist, was scrolling through Instagram when she saw a photo by local photographer Sunny Szpak-Holly. The woman in the photo was smiling, with a beautiful fall day as the backdrop. She held a letter board that read, “This stork will be delivering a special bundle for a deserving couple, May 4, 2020.”

The caption went into more detail about how the woman had decided to have a baby for another family.

“I had just had my daughter in April of 2019 and I was very intrigued. I thought it was fascinating and just became curious about what it all entailed,” Patti said of the photo, and the woman’s journey.

Monday, Jul. 4, 2022

SUNNY S-H PHOTOGRAPHY
From left, Mat Arye, Anroup Patti (holding baby August) and Jeremy Tse met and built a family through an incredible surrogacy journey.

Mothers on mission to create safe space for parents

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Preview

Mothers on mission to create safe space for parents

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Monday, Jun. 27, 2022

Sixteen years ago, two mothers, Alba Lopez Gomez and Naomi Finkelstein, met at a meeting of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

“I went… because my son had come out, and I had never gone to a support meeting for anything,” explained Finkelstein. “This was one thing that I really knew that I had to do. I knew I was going to support my child, but I wasn’t quite sure how.”

At the same meeting, Lopez Gomez, whose son had come out as transgender and was around the same age as Finkelstein’s son, was trying to navigate how best to support her child. In fact, Finkelstein said, the boys had probably met one another in high school when they attended the same group at the Rainbow Resource Centre.

The women hit it off. They were the only two parents at the meeting whose kids were transgender. They formed a tight friendship almost immediately. At that time, there wasn’t a lot of support or resources for parents.

Monday, Jun. 27, 2022

Alba Lopez Gomez (left) and Naomi Finkelstein help each other to help their transgender kids. (Shelley Cook / Winnipeg Free Press)

Bumping into new friends in a cemetery

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Preview

Bumping into new friends in a cemetery

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Monday, Jun. 20, 2022

It was a warm Saturday evening that I was making my way home from Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. The sun was still hot in the sky and there was no sign of nightfall in spite of the numbers that were moving forward on the clock — this was the kind of hot (nearly) summer evening that Manitoba is notorious for.

I took a right on Highway 59, making the detour through Selkirk. I had enough time and daylight left to make a quick stop at St. Clements Cemetery to pay my respects to my family members that are buried there, before making my way home. I always try to stop in when I’m in the area. It’s the only place I’ve ever remembered visiting my grandparents on my dad’s side.

I pulled into the cemetery. It was mostly still, though I immediately saw a woman wandering around the graves. At first I thought she was just there to do what I had come to do — visit her loved ones. However, I noticed she wandered to various graves in different spots with a watering can in hand, with no particular spot or grave that she was visiting.

Maybe she worked there. It seemed like weird hours for a caretaker, but then again I don’t know much about the hours people keep besides my own.

Monday, Jun. 20, 2022

Cook graves at the cemetery in St Clements in Selkirk

Capturing a moment in Indigenous elders’ lives

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Preview

Capturing a moment in Indigenous elders’ lives

Shelley Cook 6 minute read Sunday, Jun. 12, 2022

Gerald Kuehl has been creating beautiful pencil portraits of Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers from all over Manitoba and the Northwest Territories for 25 years.

The drawings are meticulous and detail every wrinkle, spot and hair, and the exact texture of that person in the exact moment. They are nothing short of mesmerizing.

Kuehl, a self-taught artist and photographer, invited me to his home to see a glimpse of the world of portraits he’s created. We’ve been friends on Facebook for a while. I’m not sure exactly how long, but he shows up on my feed, and I show up on his. When he posts pictures of his work online, I fall over myself to hit the “like” button as fast as I can, because they are stunning.

Kuehl’s portraits, beautifully framed and matted, are hung on walls throughout the home. They are a powerful and exquisite monument to the people he’s met and the stories he’s heard. Most of them hang there only temporarily, until Kuehl can meet with the person he’s drawn to present the gift to them. Each work takes hundreds of hours because of the painstaking attention to detail. In all, he’s drawn about 290 portraits.

Sunday, Jun. 12, 2022

Harriet Redhead (Facebook photo)

Working from home tilts the balance

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Working from home tilts the balance

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Monday, Jun. 6, 2022

When the work-from-home model became mainstream during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was new and a bit scary.

Those of us with school-aged children were also participating in (and often failing at) home learning and trying our best not to drown in the hectic and foreign dynamic.

I remember how hard it was to adapt to this change, though I knew early on how privileged I was to be able to secure myself and my family during a pandemic.

I missed that work version of myself — the one who did her hair and wore red lipstick; someone who wasn’t being asked for a snack or a glass of chocolate milk every five minutes. I remember how sorely I missed my work friends and our cubicle and lunchroom chats. It felt isolating to be away from that building I spent nearly every single day going to and from.

Monday, Jun. 6, 2022

When the work-from-home model became mainstream during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was new and a bit scary.

Those of us with school-aged children were also participating in (and often failing at) home learning and trying our best not to drown in the hectic and foreign dynamic.

I remember how hard it was to adapt to this change, though I knew early on how privileged I was to be able to secure myself and my family during a pandemic.

I missed that work version of myself — the one who did her hair and wore red lipstick; someone who wasn’t being asked for a snack or a glass of chocolate milk every five minutes. I remember how sorely I missed my work friends and our cubicle and lunchroom chats. It felt isolating to be away from that building I spent nearly every single day going to and from.

Troubled past provided lessons Charlotte Nolin needed to transform

Shelley Cook 13 minute read Preview

Troubled past provided lessons Charlotte Nolin needed to transform

Shelley Cook 13 minute read Monday, May. 30, 2022

The first time Charlotte Nolin met her birth mother, it was Christmas 1966 and she was 16 years old.

Nolin, a ’60s Scoop survivor taken from her family when she was only six months old, had navigated her childhood through the child welfare system, alone and unaware she had a family.

At one point, a foster parent told her that her parents had died in a car accident. Nobody ever mentioned that she, the youngest of eight, had siblings. It was a social worker who eventually connected her to her brothers and sisters, many already adults.

“My mom came over to my sister’s place for Christmas dinner… and as she was coming up the sidewalk, my older sister goes, ‘Oh god, here comes our drunken mother.’ ‘Cause mom had an alcohol problem, the same as dad,” Nolin recalls.

Monday, May. 30, 2022

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press
Charlotte Nolin, an Oji-Cree, Métis two-spirit knowledge keeper, is a ’60s Scoop survivor.

Visiting sister provides insight

Shelley Cook 3 minute read Preview

Visiting sister provides insight

Shelley Cook 3 minute read Monday, May. 30, 2022

My youngest daughter and I travelled to Vancouver to visit my sister on the May long weekend.

The city holds a special place in my heart. It was a whirlwind of a trip, though we made the most of our time there, packing in as much as we could.

On the last day, we were driving through the tree-lined streets of a neighbourhood just outside of downtown Vancouver, talking and listening to music. I was high on that feeling of being in vacation mode and filled with fantasies of what it would be like to live in this big, vibrant city, and my sister was basking in our company. There was a bit of sadness in the air, knowing the visit was winding down. I miss her terribly.

The conversation flowed about regular sort of things that happen in our daily lives, and we somehow ended up talking about our goals and hopes for the future — some which seemed impossible or just out of reach. It was easy for both of us to point out the things we lacked or the things we felt defeated in. Looking forward, we were at the beginning of our current journey.

Monday, May. 30, 2022

My youngest daughter and I travelled to Vancouver to visit my sister on the May long weekend.

The city holds a special place in my heart. It was a whirlwind of a trip, though we made the most of our time there, packing in as much as we could.

On the last day, we were driving through the tree-lined streets of a neighbourhood just outside of downtown Vancouver, talking and listening to music. I was high on that feeling of being in vacation mode and filled with fantasies of what it would be like to live in this big, vibrant city, and my sister was basking in our company. There was a bit of sadness in the air, knowing the visit was winding down. I miss her terribly.

The conversation flowed about regular sort of things that happen in our daily lives, and we somehow ended up talking about our goals and hopes for the future — some which seemed impossible or just out of reach. It was easy for both of us to point out the things we lacked or the things we felt defeated in. Looking forward, we were at the beginning of our current journey.

Memories make old toys more than just plastic pieces

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Preview

Memories make old toys more than just plastic pieces

Shelley Cook 4 minute read Tuesday, May. 24, 2022

A few weeks ago, I gifted some of my kids’ large plastic backyard toys — including a tower slide and pool combo, a small picnic table, a Little Tikes playhouse and a water table — to friends who have smaller kids.

These toys have taken up so much space in our backyard — a heap of colourful plastic telling everyone in the neighbourhood that yes, we have a bunch of kids who live here.

These structures have been well-loved throughout the early summers of my kids’ lives, though less and less. They have been the setting for some of the most fun days outside in the sunshine, and the backdrop and stage for core memories they’ll take with them into adulthood.

I can’t tell you how many times my kids have had water fights in that old pool, or about the countless dance parties that took place on the top of the tower slide. The water table brought so much joy to my toddler, who grew up too fast.

Tuesday, May. 24, 2022

A few weeks ago, I gifted some of my kids’ large plastic backyard toys — including a tower slide and pool combo, a small picnic table, a Little Tikes playhouse and a water table — to friends who have smaller kids.

These toys have taken up so much space in our backyard — a heap of colourful plastic telling everyone in the neighbourhood that yes, we have a bunch of kids who live here.

These structures have been well-loved throughout the early summers of my kids’ lives, though less and less. They have been the setting for some of the most fun days outside in the sunshine, and the backdrop and stage for core memories they’ll take with them into adulthood.

I can’t tell you how many times my kids have had water fights in that old pool, or about the countless dance parties that took place on the top of the tower slide. The water table brought so much joy to my toddler, who grew up too fast.

Grieving mother to get high school diploma at age 57

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Preview

Grieving mother to get high school diploma at age 57

Shelley Cook 5 minute read Monday, May. 16, 2022

Fifty-seven-year-old Vivian Ketchum will walk across the stage in her cap and gown and accept her high school diploma on June 30.

She’s been working toward her diploma since last October.

“Last year, I applied for a really good job. I was qualified and had all the technical skills, except they wanted the transcript of a Grade 12,” she said.

Ketchum decided to look into getting her high school diploma. When she walked into the Winnipeg School Division offices, she wasn’t sure where it would lead, but a guidance councillor had her fill out forms.

Monday, May. 16, 2022

Vivian Ketchum poses for her high school graduation photo while holding the moccasins of her late son, Tyler.