Down on the Farm

In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass botany professor Robin Kimmerer talks about how surprised she was when she first starting teaching to discover how little experience most of her university students had spending time outdoors in rural settings.  They hadn’t ever explored a farm to see where their food came from.  They hadn’t been in a garden.  They hadn’t waded in a pond or climbed a tree.  Now at the start of her university courses, she takes her students on expeditions to make sure they experience those things first hand. While looking through some old photographs I realized that unlike Robin’s students, my sons and their cousins were blessed to have a really great introduction to living close to the land thanks to their grandparents.  My Mom and Dad maintained a large hobby farm just outside of Steinbach for several decades. It afforded their grandchildren all kinds of good experiences learning about where their food came from and enjoying the great outdoors.


Other posts………

My Grandparents’ Farm

My Annual Moose Lake Fix 



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Filed under Childhood, Family, Nature

Ten Reasons Why I Loved Christmas at Pemberly!

Delightful and charming!  Those are just two of the adjectives I would use to describe the current Manitoba Theatre Production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly. I am a huge Jane Austen fan but that isn’t the only reason I enjoyed the play. My husband wanted to know why I had liked it so much.  Here are ten reasons.

1) Mary Bennet, the heroine of the play is admired by her suitor not for her looks or money but…… for her brains. Arthur de Bourgh is enchanted with Mary’s ability to engage in interesting conversations about all manner of things whether it be history, science, geography, literature or the meaning of words.
2) I liked the idea of a minor character in a famous book being plucked from its pages and put centre stage so we can get to know her in a whole new way. Mary Bennet has a very secondary role in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. 

Photo Winnipeg Free Press

3) They played handbells. I was at the Canadian Mennonite University Christmas concert last Saturday and one of the things I enjoyed most was the talented handbell choir directed by Verna Wiebe. So it was lovely to see the handbells being played on the Manitoba Theatre stage during a carol singing scene. 

Photo- Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

4) There is a real bond between the sisters in the play. Even though they sometimes make each other angry and frustrated they stick together as siblings no matter what life brings their way.
5) The set is beautiful and has many small details that caught my eye as the play proceeded. The windows outside were often the scene of a gentle snowfall.

Photo – Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

6) I learned that even though a Christmas tree is an important prop in the story of Christmas at Pemberly it was considered something unique during the time period in which the play is set. Christmas trees were not popular in England till some fifty years after Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice.

Photo – Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

7) There is real chemistry between Mary and Arthur the couple at the heart of the play’s romance. Arthur proposes to Mary by giving her a map of the world as a symbol of the adventures he plans for them to have together. How romantic is that? 
8) I thought the dresses the different Bennet sisters wore really suited their personalities and I loved them.
9) The play has some genuinely funny scenes and dialogue that had me laughing out loud. 
10) One question in the script that got me thinking was- “Can you live large in your mind alone?” 

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly runs till December 21, so you still have time to see it.

Other posts………

Jane Austen Overload

Why Do We Still Like Dickens A Christmas Carol? 

High Drama At the Christmas Family Gathering


Filed under Theatre

Generation Lockdown

The other day I walked into a Winnipeg kindergarten class just as the teacher was instructing the four and five-year-olds in her room about how they should behave during the lockdown drill that was going to happen in a few minutes.  I thought how sad it was that such little children needed to be educated in the steps to take should a dangerous person with deadly intent enter their school building. How did it make them feel ? 

On Wednesday night we went to the Winnipeg Art Gallery for a special showing of the Cannes Lions International Festival film that features all the award-winning advertisements for the past year. One that really made an impression on me was a public service announcement by the organization March For Our Lives.

A school girl instructs warehouse workers in active shooter protocol

It shows a schoolgirl named Kayleigh giving adults in a warehouse work area a training session on how to survive an active shooter event. The employees in the advertisement at first seem a bit amused that a young girl has come to talk to them. But as she solemnly instructs the adults in how to recognize different kinds of gunfire sounds, how to hide from a shooter, how to barricade doorways and ultimately escape by breaking windows, the faces of the people around her register shock and sadness. You can tell they are thinking, “What kind of world do we live in that a little girl needs to know these things?”

The advertisement titled Generation Lockdown reminds viewers that lockdown drills have become commonplace in schools ever since the Columbine High School shooting twenty years ago.

The ad ends by asking people to learn more about a variety of gun control measures being proposed in the United States that would prevent dangerous people from getting guns.  The organization that made the ad says 95% of school kids beginning at age five are now trained in what to do in active shooter situations because they have to be prepared for them to happen at any time. 

You can watch Generation Lockdown here.

You can find out when you can see the Cannes Lions film at the Winnipeg Art Gallery here. 

Other posts……..

Duck and Cover

Best of the Cannes Lions

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Filed under Childhood, Education, winnipeg art gallery

I Want To See

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

Mark 10:47 and 51  

My friend Esther sorts and packs recycled eyeglasses once a week. She volunteers for the Lions Club, a service organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired. Distributing some twenty million pairs of glasses annually to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them is only one part of the club’s global vision initiative.

Lion’s Club members know developing nations are disproportionately affected by eye problems for a variety of reasons including environmental ones. Tibet has one of the highest rates of cataracts because of soot and pathogens from the dusty environment and overexposure to UV rays.

Doctor checking children for trachoma in rural Ghana – Photo from FHI 360 a non-profit human development organization

Trachoma another eye disease rampant in developing countries could be eliminated by addressing environmental concerns like the inaccessibility of clean water and lack of proper sanitation facilities. The World Health Organization believes that with support and intervention 80% of the world’s vision problems would be avoidable.

The Healing of a Blind Man by Duccio di Buoninsegna- 1308

The Bible passages I quoted at the beginning of this post are from a story about a blind man named Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus knows Jesus is nearby and calls out to him for help. Bartimaeus makes me think about the people around the world calling out for help with their vision difficulties.  Jesus restored sight to Bartimaeus. Our world has the resources to prevent blindness and improve the quality of life for almost all of the visually challenged in the human family.  

There are more than a hundred charitable organizations focused on hearing and answering the voices of those who are saying just as Bartimaeus did, “I want to see again”.  How can we help?

Read about an amazing project my cousin Dr. Stephen Fransen established in Nicaragua to help people whose sight has been compromised by retinal diseases

Read about a modern-day miracle worker who is doing the same thing Jesus did in Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the New York Times


Filed under Health, Religion

Christmas With the Nuns

nun's christmas st. boniface

Sitting on Santa’s knee 1959

When I was in grade one we lived in an apartment building for medical residents and their families on the grounds of the St. Boniface Hospital where my father was finishing his training to become a doctor. The Grey Nuns who had founded the hospital put on a Christmas party each year for the children of the residents complete with a visit from Santa, food, decorations and gifts. In the photo you can see the white-clad sisters in the background bringing in the presents. Santa is wearing a rather strange mask. Who knows? Perhaps he was also a nun in disguise.

I’m sitting on Santa’s left knee and the little girl with me is Candace Propp. Her family lived in the residence with us and our parents were friends. Later Candace and her family would move to Steinbach where her father would go into medical practice with my Dad.

Dad and his fellow interns at St. Boniface Hospital in the late 1950s. Dad is third from the right in the back row and Candace’s Dad Al is at the far right in the front row.

Our family of five lived in a very small one-bedroom apartment in the residence at St. Boniface Hospital and we didn’t have a great deal of money since my Dad was going to school and my Mom had quit her job as a teacher when she got married, because that’s what married women did in the 50s. So the lavish Christmas party the nuns hosted complete with food, games, treats, decorations and presents was a pretty big deal to us. 

Other posts………

Could I Have Been a Grey Nun?

The Children Are Watching and Listening and Wondering

Mennonite Nuns

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Filed under Childhood, Holidays

Overheard in Winnipeg Grade One Classrooms This Week

Bulletin board display in one of the schools I visit

Story 1

I am waiting for a post-observation chat with the student-teacher I am supervising when a child approaches her.  He is getting ready to go out for recess. 

Child:  Miss P could you please tie my shoes for me?’

Miss P:  Sure I can. 

She bends down and starts tying his laces.

Miss P:  It’s pretty cold and icy out today.  Don’t you have any boots? 

Child:  How long is a week?

Miss P:  A week is seven days. 

Child: Then I have to wait seven days to get boots because that’s when my Mom says the cheque will come.

A poster I saw in the hallway of a school I visited last week

Story 2

I am visiting with my student teacher when a mother comes in to talk to the classroom teacher. 

Parent:  I just wanted to let you know I have to move again but I will try to find a place close by so my daughter can keep coming to school here.  

Teacher:   I am glad you came in today because  I have a report that we have been waiting for a long time for you to sign. It is about a special education plan we want to put in place to help your daughter with her reading. 

Parent:  She read a book to me the other day and I nearly cried. 

Teacher: (Speaking softly and putting her hand gently on the mother’s arm) Yes her reading is getting a little better but she needs to come to school more often if we want her to make some real progress. 

Parent:  I know. I try.  But some days I just don’t feel that well and it’s too hard for me to get her ready and walk her to school. 

Other posts……….

The First Shall Be Last

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An Important Letter

Yesterday our daughter-in-law Karen Leis sent an important letter to the premier of Saskatchewan.  Karen is the province’s representative on the board of directors of the Canadian Paediatric Society. In her letter, she expresses her concern about a cluster of suicides in a Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation community near Loon Lake, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. There have been three suicides among young people there in a three week period and eight suicide attempts.  Karen notes that the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation is sadly not the only community to experience the pain of youth suicide. 

On behalf of the Canadian Paediatric Society, Karen urges Premier Scott Moe to collaborate with Indigenous communities and their elders to address issues of poverty, racism and substance abuse. Karen cites these as the root causes of the current mental health and suicide crisis.  She says a long term strategy to provide young people in Indigenous communities with effective, culturally appropriate and accessible mental health care services is imperative. Karen ends her letter by asking the premier to take action as soon as possible. 

Of course, the Saskatchewan story on this issue is not unique to that province, as the moving testimony at a special meeting of the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations earlier this week illustrated. National Chief Perry Bellegarde said action must be taken to stop Indigenous children and teens nationwide from feeling so hopeless they harm themselves.  

Karen’s letter on behalf of Canada’s paediatricians provides important support to the voices of the Assembly of First Nations on this pressing issue. It should inspire us all to speak out and take action in our own areas of influence, because as Karen notes so insightfully, the health of our children and young people is a key indicator of the health of our entire society. 

Other posts…………

Art That Makes You Feel Sick

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