New Year’s Resolutions: New Year, New West

When I first started writing this post it was that awkward time between Christmas and New Years Eve when your mind starts to wander. Perhaps it was the extra chocolate, carbs or down time that got me thinking about the coming year. Either way, I’m writing today about New Year’s Resolutions my New West friends. (I know, insert groan here).

Ringing in the new year or starting it off with a drastic change is pretty common. At my local grocery store they are already stocking their aisle ends with low carb shakes, protein bars and granola. And I’m already reading posts from friends about 2019 being the year they lose weight or get fit for good.

Instead of “New year, new me,” how about flipping that script and doing more of the good things you did in 2018? Start with listing five important moments in 2018. Next: what did you do to get through those moments? Was it a tough project? Public speaking? Challenging family situation? Next: What did you do right to succeed or learn from those moments? For 2019: resolve to do more of those things.

For those struggling or wanting to consider some more solid resolutions I’ve put together an alternative list of New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Introduce yourself to your neighbour (especially if you live in an apartment/condo)
  • Give up buying coffee/lunch/snack etc for 1 day a week and donate those funds to a non-profit you support.
  • Commit to volunteering for 2 hours a month to a local organization
  • Make a goal of walking/running/cycling a certain number of times in the year
    • Note: I made a goal of running 100 days in 2017. The distance was not important, just the commitment. And I completed it!
  • Write one nice thing about yourself every day in a book
  • Every Friday (or another day of the week) send a compliment to each of your employees
  • Write a letter (with real postage) to someone (note: some prices go up January 14, 2019!)
  • Commit to recycling and composting/separating organics more thoroughly
  • Buy one grocery staple from a local vendor or farmers market
  • Try a new recipe once a week

Be creative – paint your resolution, draw out a goal in your bullet journal, add some colour.

My resolutions you ask?

  • Attend a weekly yoga class
  • Do a set number of burpees per gym visit (they’re that full body movement that gets you every time)
  • Read 1 book per month (I’ve been on more of a podcast kick this year)

Ultimately small steps and doing more of what I love and what I know is good for me.

So, New West, feel free to share your New Year’s Resolutions below in the comments (or your anti resolutions!)

Where The River Runs


I have been reflecting about home a lot lately, and what that concept means. Despite living in the lower mainland my entire life, I’ve never felt a deep connection to any place of residence. My comprehension of home is much more abstract. My home is my mum; she is the durable foundation of my being, her support creates the beams that hold me up, and her praise allows me to always feel valued. But if I was to think of a more concrete setting, the space that I have built a meaningful friendship with is the New Westminster Quayside neighbourhood. When I was a kid, my mum would take my little brother Andrew and I to the Quay Public Market (now known as the River Market at Westminster Quay) several weekends a month. The moment our car crossed the Pattullo Bridge over the Fraser River, I would shake with excitement.

These visits were more frequent during the summer when warm weather typically equals consistent ice cream treats. Andrew and I would press our faces against the glass and try to decide what flavour to get; it was always mint chocolate chip or blue bubble gumthe two flavours that generated the most prismatic mess. After ice cream, we got to play on the stationary tug boat. Our sticky fingers from residual ice cream blended with other children’s as we eagerly pressed the boat’s buttons together. Kids love pressing buttonstangible ones as well as their parents’.

Face painting was another activity that we were enamoured with. Bubbles the clown would be there on most Sundays with her collection of pigments, ready to take requests. My cheeks either became decorated with glittery rainbows or striped cats; a declaration of love to my tabby Lucky.

But the memory that is most clear to me is the trek to the “cool playground.” As an adult, that walk is approximately ten minutes from the market, but as a child, that walk feels like for-ev-er. On days that my grandma joined us on our riverside adventure, she would teach us the names of the ever-changing botanical arrangements that lined the boardwalk: rhododendron, fuchsia, chrysanthemum. My curious fingers always gently touched their petals, my way of saying hello. These greetings temporarily took our minds off of the time. After what felt like hours, the playground became visible to our impatient eyes and we ran. We were in a rush to make friends and collect scrapes and bruises: a sign of a successful summer. We’d play hot lava and sincerely believed the ground was viscous and would melt our light-up sneakers. This firm belief allowed us to jump far, swing long distances, and shriek; imagination is a powerful tool.

I am now in my late twenties. I walk riverside every weekend on my way to work. The walk is made exciting once again as I reflect on my childhood memories. Each time a community member waves, smiles, or nods hello, I momentarily pause my nostalgic thoughts. I like to start my stroll from Pier Park where I stop to sit on a hammock and watch the mighty Fraser move. As I grow older, I am critical of selfishness. The Fraser watched me grow up, but it was, and is, a sustainable friend to many before me and will be, after me. I think about its tributaries and the Indigenous communities it has traveled through since time immemorial: the Coast Salish, the Nlaka’pamux, the Tsilhqot’in peoples and so many more. The river communicates through movement.

How can I practice reciprocity to this prosperous body of water? I reflect on author/poet/activist Rita Wong’s relationship and camaraderie to water, her poetry, and her collaborative paper with Dorothy Christian’s untapping watershed mind: which encourages folks to embrace the intrinsic value of water instead of practising commodification. I can begin by offering my stories and express gratitude. I stand by the river and introduce myself: who I am, where I am from, and what I want to be. I promise the river that I will always acknowledge the land and do my best to take only what I need. Land extends to the plants, trees, animals, water, the wind, the sun. This land has allowed me to collect countless memories that I so deeply cherish. My mum will always be my home, but Quayside and the river will always be where my memory resides with countless other stories.


When We Go For A Walk



Photos Courtesy of the City of New Westminster

With the weather we’ve had this winter, writing an article about the benefits of walking in New Westminster feels a little awkward! However, it is the New Year, a time full of opportunities as well as challenges, and prioritizing walking is a big theme for the City of New Westminster in 2017. So, off we go!

The simple act of walking somewhere together brings so many benefits to the family. It’s a chance to get some fresh air and clear everyone’s head; a bit of exercise to boost everyone’s energy (without sugar or caffeine!); opportunities to make choices and share tasks (such as choosing which way to go and carrying groceries); the chance to make new discoveries about your neighbourhood; the chance to actually talk (always easier when there are no screens ); and, the opportunity to teach or learn new skills, such as road safety. And these are just some of the benefits.

Walking is what your four-legged family members also enjoy most, which makes it an ideal multi-tasking activity that packs a great dose of daily learning and enrichment for everyone involved. It’s also free, which makes it one of the most family-friendly activities there is.

In New Westminster, we are lucky to have a highly walkable city. Walk Score ( is a data-driven program that analyzes “walkability” information for destinations such as grocery stores, parks, schools, and cultural and entertainment destinations. Analysis of this data produces a Walk Score between 0 and 100. New Westminster has an average Walk Score of 70, which means that most errands can be accomplished on foot, and we also have good public transportation.

Walking is free, family-friendly, fun, and challenging all at once. It is also fairly easy to build into our busy lives, because the city is quite compact. Walking can take many forms in New Westminster; walking to school, walking to local grocery stores, walking to the park, or just walking around the block in your neighbourhood after dinner. The city has lovely destinations to walk to (think the Quay and River Market, Sapperton Landing, or Port Royal’s Riverfront Walk) and it can be easily combined with other ways of travelling, such as taking transit or driving, but parking further away from your destination.

We lament the transportation situation and threats to the liveability of our community, complaining of noise and air pollution, traffic gridlock, and transportation inconvenience such as a lack of parking, and rightly so. The stress and strain of getting around can be bad in New Westminster, and indeed in the Lower Mainland as a whole. But how about cutting one car trip a week and walk together instead? You could also just shorten a car trip and walk the rest of the way. “Weird!” you may say, but this is mindful walking and it is good for you, for your family, and whole community.

It is ironic that we are so excited when our child learns to walk, but we very often spend the next 18 years driving them everywhere; to the shops, to school, to appointments, and activities. Children sit passively in the car as we drive to all our own obligations as well. How can traffic gridlock, stress, and pollution be a fair trade-off against family health and wellbeing and setting both you and your kids up for a successful day? What defines “quality time” in your family? You have to concentrate on the road when you are driving, so you cannot focus on your kids. But when you and your family are walking, you can all take in the sights and sounds along the way, notice other people and connect a bit with the greenery (or the snowy vistas) around you.

There is already lots of walking going on in New Westminster. About 17% of commuting trips (to work or school) are on foot, as opposed to 14% in Metro Vancouver overall. Likewise, 25% of errands are completed by walking or cycling here, as opposed to 20% in Metro Vancouver overall. (*Source: New Westminster Community Health Profile, my Health my Community survey, by Fraser Health Authority/Vancouver Coastal Health/University of British Columbia, 2014). And yet we can walk more.

You may say that it is impossible for you to walk more because you are too busy or it is too inconvenient. However, if you want to get a little closer to that wonderful goal of being a healthy, happy, grounded, and connected family, you should look to increasing the walking you do in your community. With a long list of health and wellness benefits such as increased fitness and flexibility, stress reduction, and feeling more connected to the people and place where you live; simple walking should not and cannot be ignored as a worthwhile activity to build into your family’s daily routine. There is coverage everywhere of how our sedentary lifestyles are making us sick and weak. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity are inactivity-related, as much as they are related to an unhealthy diet and other factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, stress and genetics. Today’s car-centric patterns and behaviours can and should be challenged at every level for the good of us all. What do we need to be able to walk around more? Is it more flexible work hours, some infrastructure improvements, a good shopping trolley, a helpful map, or just a genuine intention? Find out by walking somewhere with your family and get involved in the walking conversation that is starting in New Westminster at

New Westminster could become the walking capital of the Lower Mainland if we fully engage with being pedestrians here. Putting pedestrians first makes roads safer, public spaces more numerous, and promotes public transport for everyone’s benefit, young or old. This is exactly what the City of New Westminster is focusing on through our Master Transportation Plan and Official Community Plan during 2017 and beyond (

So what is the City doing to make the city more walkable? Last year, we worked on improving routes to school and made several intersection and pedestrian crossing improvements. In 2017, curb extensions/letdowns, sidewalks, and spot improvements to improve walking connectivity are just some of the projects planned. Alongside Fraser Health, the School District, and the community, we want to raise walking awareness and engagement in our city, starting in February with a Walking Mythbusters series, followed by an eight-week Walking Challenge in the spring, that we hope everyone will take part in.

It takes courage to commit to a set of values and actually live by them, to “be the change you want to see in the world,” as Gandhi said. But as individuals, parents, and caregivers, isn’t it time to start doing things a little more mindfully, for the benefit of ourselves, our kids, and our future? There’s a simple way to make the first step towards changing our world for the better: discover walking in New Westminster this year.


The Great New West Fitness Quest – Part 1

Are you making new year’s resolutions that involve fitness? Here’s the perfect series for you. Two women, one epic search for the perfect fitness regime. Will they meet their match? Or will they be left watching infomercials about fitness equipment, dreaming of fitter days?

The Heroines:

Laura Sunnus has lived in New Westminster for 3+ years and is looking for her fitness soul mate. Previously an avid soccer player, Laura is looking for a fitness routine and facility that will keep her entertained while keeping her fit enough to chase after her German Shepard-mix, Goose.

Nadine Nakagawa dreams of one day being a ballerina. But in the meantime, she enjoys an intense workout or a leisurely stroll out of doors. She needs a fitness routine that can keep up with her busy schedule.

The Quest:

Our two heroines journey through the wilds of New Westminster and best a number of obstacles, including kettlebells, gold $ necklaces, and cycle straps. They then rank the obstacles on a number of factors: the exquisiteness of the facility, the muscle-building capacity, getting your sweat on, and becoming agile like a peacock.

The Obstacles: 

The new kid on the block: Viva Tu Vide Fitness

#202-627 Columbia Street
First timer cost – $5
Drop-in cost – $15
Have a variety of monthly and punch-pass options


Laura says—This class would be perfect for a “rest day.” It woke up my muscles without much strain. I will definitely be back for a drop-in class to try their disco light Zumba.

Nadine says—I like this yoga/dance studio and would definitely try other classes here. Prices are pretty good, it’s a beautiful heritage building, and the location is good. The class was relaxing and I enjoyed it.

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-01 Laura says—This class had my muscles working harder than the Glowdess class as we leaped and twirled across the studio floor. A great class for people looking for a low intensity workout.

Nadine says—My not-so-secret fantasy is that one day I’m going to be a ballerina. As a result, I enjoy ballet classes of all levels and feel like a graceful swan. This class was a bit too simple for my liking (hem, hem intermediate level over here) but would be great for a total beginner. There was some leaping and there were some sit-ups so a little bit of dance, a little bit of fitness.

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-09 Laura says—This class was so fun I didn’t realize how great of a workout I was getting! The instructor pumped the studio with Latin music that encouraged shoulder shimmies and hip thrusts. Add multicolour lights and you have a winning formula for a party-infused workout.

Nadine says—So…this was really fun! I thought the disco lights would bother me (sensitive to lights), but they really did make it more fun. Totally will do this again. We grooved hard.

The women’s boxing gym: 30 Minute Hit

425 E Columbia St
First timer: free!
Monthly and ongoing packages

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-18Laura says—This facility eliminates many of the barriers that might keep me from working out: workout anytime within their hours of operation, free parking in front of the gym, and the workout only lasts 30 minutes. I enjoyed the workout and found the trainer encouraging when my muscles felt weak. I wish they had a drop-in option as I’m not willing to invest the $65/month (plus $99 registration fee) for a month-to-month membership. Too bad, I could have been the next Ronda Rousey.

Nadine says—The noise level was a bit jarring in the morning, but I got used to it once I was giving the punching bags a hard time. I really dig that they have spaces for little ones while mom is working out. They are near transit and having free parking out front – a big plus in New West! The trainer was really encouraging and I felt energized after the workout.

The ratatouille option – a little bit of everything: Move Yoga Pilates Dance
237 Nelson’s Crescent
First-time 2 for $30
Monthly & punch passes available 

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-24 Laura says—Mariah. Mase. Missy. Need I say more? This class started as a dance-infused workout then turned into choreography that was hilariously attempted by yours truly. The instructor, Sergio, had a great personality that made you feel comfortable with the unfamiliar dance moves. I’ll definitely come back to this class, if only for the music.

50cNadine says—This is definitely outside of my wheelhouse. But since Laura wanted to pull out her 50¢ gold chain, we decided this would be on our list of classes to try. There’s a warm-up then we moved on to choreography. I had more fun than I expected. I definitely recommend stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes – I might even go back for more grooving to 90s tunes.

screenshot-2016-12-16-11-24-30 Laura says—I was wary about the pilates class as I previously found pilates boring but tough. This class completely changed my mind about the boring part…unfortunately (fortunately?) it is still tough. The instructor, Jenni, engaged with the class as if she was catching up with friends after spending some time apart. Although my muscles were burning, Jenni talked the class through the moves, including calling out the nasty looks that we inadvertently gave her while pulsing our legs an additional 20 times. Great workout in a comfortable environment.

Nadine says—I like pilates and I really like the owner/instructor Jenni. She makes the classes – even the painful ones when your abs are burning – really fun! This pilates class isn’t quite as intense as some I’ve taken in the past, but it’s definitely good for building some core strength. And I always feel taller after pilates.


Stay tuned as Nadine and Laura try on other activities and classes in New West! 

This is Your Time

it-is-your-time-39For years, I denied myself. I walked around wounded, feeling like a victim, not nourishing myself spiritually. Recently, this came crashing down on me as I realized I’m not getting younger and my life isn’t going to figure itself out, unless I help myself. Take responsibility. Claim my happiness. Claim my time. Celebrate my awesomeness.

I’ve always been a very creative person. From an early age, I crafted, took pictures, painted, drew, knitted, sang, and danced. You name it—pick any form of art and I was into it. Then something happened. The opinion of others sank deep into me, like an anchor. It remained lodged there. It told me I was mediocre, told me to study business, to work in government, and that art does not make money. It encouraged to “go with the flow” and be “normal,” just like everyone else. I died inside, in a way. I became a shadow of myself. I walked around knowing I could be so much more, yet I refused to allow myself  to open up and embrace the possibilities that lay before me.

One day, I visited the craft fair at River Market at Westminster Quay, and saw talented artisans and artists selling their goods. Some incredible, some ok, but most very doable. It suddenly struck me: I can create like this! Why am I not?

I realized it’s fear. Fear of being criticized. Fear of not being “good enough,” of not “making it,” of failing miserably. Yet here I stood, surrounded by simple beauty. I asked myself, “is it not time to step into the darkness, towards the unknown, the uncertain?” A long-silenced voice whispered, “perhaps it is…”

it-is-your-time-40I planned on starting small, but then I did a big thing—I applied for an arts job, just … because. I didn’t think I’d get it—-art school was 21 years ago. Fast forward, six months later and I’m now an art teacher. I create and things are flowing, I love who I am again and I’m filled with a constant stream of ideas. I’m starting to celebrate every little thing I create because—let’s face it—a few short months ago I did nothing. I am celebrating my own strength, the journey that led me to here, to the point where I am feel I can do it. It is my time. My light will no longer be dimmed. It is my time to celebrate all that is alive within me and let it shine.

Even when I was anchored down, I collected pretty things. I’m using them to create collages. Deep down, I must have known I would resurface. I started taking pictures again, I started crafting again.

I love living in New West. It’s so beautiful. A lot of my photography is local and the inspiration just keeps on coming, from the epiphany at the quay, to every market I attend, every Pinterest page I visit, every photo I take. So much of it comes from nature, and so much of it comes from within. I’m finally on the brink of something big. I’m finally celebrating what I’ve always been, but was too afraid to show—an authentic, creative me.


One in Five

1-in-5-19I am one in five. A statistic so familiar to me, it’s as if it has become part of my identity. Thanks to my seven years battling depression and an eating disorder, I became one of the thousands of Canadians who personally experience mental illness in their lifetime. One in five.

The ‘why’ behind my mental illness is fairly typical. Shifting from high school to university, low self-esteem, and a family history of mental illness was the perfect storm, allowing depression to rule my life. I’d miss classes, cancel plans with friends, and even forget to shower. I began to turn to food in order to self-soothe and numb my feelings. I went through the motions of life but never really lived.

It’s true what they say about depression feeling like a heavy fog. It weighs down on you until you feel as though you can no longer breathe. The eating disorder was just as bad. I would blindly eat until I felt sick, and then continue to eat some more. My days were a continuous cycle of sleeping and eating, eating and sleeping. It was an attempt to protect myself from pain, but ultimately it was just hurting me further.

The decision to heal was not easy, and I didn’t come to it quickly. Mental illness, no matter the specific diagnosis, has no logic. Wanting help didn’t mean I would get myself help. Getting help didn’t mean I’d put in the work required to heal. Finding help wasn’t easy.

1-in-5-20The stigma surrounding mental illness was the biggest obstacle I faced in overcoming my depression. This wasn’t because I was ashamed every time someone invalidated my lived experience by telling me to “just snap out of it.” It wasn’t even because I had been told I “simply lacked willpower” or needed to “just exercise more,” despite having completed a half-marathon while battling my disorder. The real problem was the lack of education, awareness, and social stigma, which made it so difficult for me to move forward.

I didn’t know where to get help, and I didn’t know what help to get. The idea of medication frightened me because of stigma. Counselling intimidated me because of stigma. Because of stigma, I thought those were my only options.

The reality is there are countless ways we all can care for our mental health—and there is no shame in doing so. One problem is not many people talk about how mindful methods can work in conjunction with supportive counselling and/or medication. We close off from discussing what supports the most important part of ourselves: our minds.

Ultimately, the first step I took was counselling, as terrifying as it was for me. But after two or three different counsellors, I knew it wasn’t enough. No matter how hard I seemed to try, I put up a wall the second I entered a counsellor’s office. To be completely honest, I never really knew what to talk about. I had numbed myself for so long, I had become completely disconnected from who I was.

1-in-5-21To truly make a difference in my mental health, I had to reconnect with myself. This realization was the turning point that completely changed my quality of life. I started to explore so-called alternative methods, from yoga to meditation to essential oils. I began to see life through a holistic wellness lens, and how I felt about my life finally began to change.

1-in-5-22In 2013, I was put on medication, with my doctor and I in agreement that I would maintain a low dose that simply worked to support my brain chemistry. I use medication as one part of my overall treatment to this day. But a very effective tool—one I couldn’t go without in caring for my mental health—surprised me in the end: acupuncture. I never saw that coming!

My battle with mental illness lasted for seven years–30% of my life. There are still days where I struggle with old emotions, but they are becoming few and far between. I wouldn’t change that period of my life for anything. I no longer allow my mental illness to define me, but I cannot deny how it influenced me, shaping me into who I am now. Because of my experiences, I began The Vibrant Lives Foundation, a non-profit that engages youth to end the stigma.

Because one in five will experience mental illness, but five in five have mental health.