Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Future of Books

ken roberts at the millenium libraryI went to hear Ken Roberts speak about the future of books at the Winnipeg Millenium Library on Monday night.  The death knell is ringing for the printed book. Surprisingly Ken predicts that even the e-book as we know it today may soon give way to the next big thing in reading.   Learn about it in my post on the Vast Imaginations site. 

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Filed under Books, Winnipeg, Writing

A Mural For Bill Norrie

bill norrie mural winnipeg - Version 2I discovered a new mural on Sunday night that pays tribute to a respected Winnipeg mayor. Read about it on my Destination Winnipeg site. 

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Filed under Art, History, Winnipeg


wave by sonali deraniyagalaThe pages of Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala grew heavier and heavier. Half way through the book I almost couldn’t bear to turn them.  Sonali’s grief is palpable in every sentence and the weight of her anguish made it impossible for me to read more than a chapter of her story at at time. 

We learn right from the beginning of the book that Sonali, a professor at Columbia University in New York,  lost her parents, husband and two young sons in 2004 when the tsunami swept through the Sri Lankan resort where they were holidaying.  She survives by clinging to a branch after being swept for miles in a torrent of water. Later she can’t fathom why she ever grabbed onto that branch. With so many people she loved dead, she wishes she was too. Her friends and family are on suicide watch for many months.

Photo I took of a Thai family on the beach after the tsunami

Photo I took of a Thai family on the beach in Phuket after the tsunami

The section of the book that resonated with me were the passages of ‘what if’s.’  Sonali thinks of all the alternate decisions she and her family could have made leading up to the tsunami that would have kept them safe. My family and I were in Phuket when the tsunami struck and I too spent months grappling with the ‘what if’s.’  There were so many decisions big and small that we had made which kept us safe. Any one of those many choices, which seemed unimportant at the time, could have placed us right in the path of the wave like Sonali’s family. 

Sonali’s story goes forward year by year after the tsunami and with each passing one she is able to resurrect more memories. But the story also goes back because as she remembers we are given a window into what her life was like before the tsunami and we come to know her husband, parents and children with all their gifts and foibles in an intimate way. This makes their death seem all the more tragic and Sonali’s grief becomes even more real to us. 

Workers cleaning up in Phuket after tsunami 2004

Workers cleaning up in Phuket after tsunami 2004

For many years after 2004 our family members were frequently identified as tsunami survivors. Even now a decade later people will ask us about it. I suspect being a 2004 tsunami survivor is something that marks you for life. It certainly has marked Sonali with a heavy burden. It is a burden that weighs down anyone who reads her book because Sonali’s evocative and spare writing style leaves you no choice.  Hopefully sharing her story with others has lightened Sonali’s burden at least a little bit. 

Other posts about books……..

Four Reasons To Read The Light Between Oceans

The Long Song

Flight Behavior- I’m Back in the Barbara Kingsolver Fan Club

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Filed under Books, Thailand

It’s Okay to Cry

Jesus wept. John 11:35

In the city of Jerusalem I visited the Dominus Flevit Temple. It is also known as the Tear Drop Temple because its roof is shaped like a teardrop. The temple was designed and placed on the Mount of Olives in memory of Jesus’ tears. 

The Bible records two times when Jesus cried. Once was at the death of his good friend Lazarus and another was when he was overcome with sorrow because he knew what was going to happen to the people of Jerusalem. The Tear Drop Temple is said to be built on the very spot where Jesus wept for his people.   

 There are times when we all need a good cry. We may be moved to tears because things aren’t going well in our personal lives or in our work place. Sometimes our tears are a reaction to the loss of someone or something we love or because we’ve lost an opportunity we may never have again. I often cry when I know I have done something wrong and I am feeling remorse and guilt about my mistake. My tears are especially abundant when I realize my error or bad behavior has hurt someone else or made them angry. 


 We may cry out of sympathy for someone who is experiencing hardship or tragedy. We may cry because we feel helpless and frustrated at our inability to bring about positive change in the life of a person we care about.

Sometimes our tears are bittersweet. We may cry at a child’s wedding or graduation. We are happy for them but at the same time we feel sad that they are growing up, becoming independent and that our relationship with them is changing.
 There is nothing wrong with tears. They are not a sign of weakness. Tears are a way to express our emotions, a sign of our humanity and vulnerability. American writer Rita Schiano says “Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow.” Jesus knew that. We need to remember it too.

Other posts about tears……

Collecting Tears

Tears for Hong Kong

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Filed under israel, Religion

The Oak Park Connection

What do Carol Shields, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway all have in common? They all lived in Oak Park Illinois. 

In February I visited the home of writer Ernest Hemingway in Key West Florida. I wrote about it in a blog post called Six Toed Cats, A Spanish Birthing Chair and His Last Penny. I was surprised to learn on my tour that the Nobel Prize winning writer had been born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. 

Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park

Frank Lloyd Wright Studio in Oak Park

I had visited Oak Park in December of 2011 and toured the studio of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I wrote a post about that visit during which we saw many of the beautiful homes Frank Lloyd Wright had designed in the Oak Park neighborhood.  

I had written a newspaper column about Carol Shields shortly after her death.  I discovered that she was revered, not only in Canada, but also in Hong Kong where I made my home at the time. I later posted a version of that column on my blog and realized that like Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway, Carol Shields too had lived in Oak Park, Illinois. It is where she was born.

That seemed too much of a coincidence to me so I decided to find out if any other famous people had called Oak Park Illinois home. Was I ever surprised to learn that……

Comedian Bob Newhart was born and raised in Oak Park. 

and so was Ray Kroc the founder of the McDonalds franchise. 

comedic actress Betty White was born in Oak Park too

and Edgar Rice Borroughs who wrote the Tarzan series of books was raised there. 

And that wasn’t all. Wikipedia listed more than a hundred people who made a name for themselves in politics, sports, entertainment, literature and science and spent part of their life living in Oak Park. 

I’m not sure what made Oak Park such a breeding ground for successful people. Perhaps most cities produce their share of the rich and famous. Taking a look at the Wikipedia list for famous people from Winnipeg, I discovered it’s even longer than Oak Park’s!

Other posts about famous people…..

Getting Up Close and Personal with Thomas Edison

Dikembe Mutombo Has My Book

Meeting a Famous Children’s Author

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Filed under Reflections

Helping Children Become Writers

naomi's storyWhen I was in Florida this winter we spent time at the home of friends who asked if I’d help their six-year-old daughter write a story to enter in a local writing contest.  I was happy to do it and it was lots of fun.  Recently her Dad sent me a copy of the final version of the story all illustrated and ready to be sent off to the contest.  marylou and naomiNaomi, the little girl I worked with, didn’t need much help because she’s very bright and creative and had lots of great ideas for her story. However our writing time together reminded me of some suggestions I’d put together for parents when I taught elementary school.  It was a list I supplied when parents asked me for ideas about what they could do to help their child become a better writer. 

• Exchange notes with your child. Stick a note in their lunch box. Put a note on their bed. Hide a letter in their school bag. Encourage them to write back to you and leave a note hidden for you somewhere you are sure to find it
• Have them write out a plan for a party or family outing and then carry out the plan
• Ask children to write captions for photographs you are placing in the family album or on your family blog or website
• Have children keep a journal of a trip or holiday or a special time in your family’s life
• Have your child write thank you notes to people who have given them gifts or done kind things for them.
• Encourage them to write and e-mail letters to friends and family.
• Play games like Boggle, Spill and Spell, Scrabble, which help build vocabulary
• Crossword puzzles are also great for adding new words to children’s vocabularies
• Encourage children to look up words they don’t know in an online dictionary
• Have them keep a response or reflection journal when they are reading a book or you are reading a book to them
• Start a blog for your child where they can publish their poetry, stories and other writing pieces
• Take an interest in the written work your child brings home from school- poems, stories, paragraphs on tests. Give praise and encouragement.

My Dad reading to me and my sister

My Dad reading to me and my sister

• Reading fosters good writing because children are being exposed to the work of good writers when they read and they are constantly learning new vocabulary and gaining new ideas they can use in their own writing.

Finally it is important for your children to see you being a good role model. Your children need to see you writing and observe how writing helps you in your daily life as well as at your place of employment.

Ray Bradbury, the great science fiction author said about writing, “Quantity produces quality.” The more your child writes the better writer they will become.

Other posts about children and writing……

 A Published Author At Age 10 

Writing For Children- Not As Easy As I Thought

The Traits of Good Writing

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Writing

Dave Bends Over Backwards

waterfall laosAll the rushing water around here now that the snow is melting reminded me of a flooded path we encountered while attempting to hike up to a waterfall in Laos during our visit to that country. waterfall in laosNormally you can choose to hike up to the falls either using a tree lined forest path or a paved roadway. hiking through rushing water laosWe reached the foot of the hiking path and Dave offered to be the trailblazer. He’d forge on ahead and see if the forest path was feasible. 

walking through flood laosHe plowed forward for quite a while, gingerly lifting his shorts to keep them from getting wet.

dave rushing water laosIt wasn’t long however before he did an about turn, came back and suggested we use the paved roadway.waterfall laos

 We could hear the deafening roar of the water long before we reached the falls.

waterfall in laosThere was water cascading from about four different places high above. It came crashing and splashing down to the rocks below creating a fine but soaking mist. marylou in laosTraversing the bridge at the base of the falls you were guaranteed to get wet. 

taking photo at waterfall in laosI call this photo ‘Bending over Backwards’ and it makes me laugh. Dave doesn’t like to use the camera and I often have a hard time convincing him to take pictures of me. However when these two young and beautiful German girls requested that Dave snap a picture of them in front of the falls he couldn’t have been sweeter. I thought he might fall backwards over the bridge as he tried to get into just the right spot to take the perfect photo of them.

no swimming area laosThis rather cryptic sign says it all. The base of the falls was quite definitely a DO NOT SWIMMING AREA.

Other posts about Laos……

Fair Trade Coffee and Hope for Laos

Eating Sticky Rice in Laos

Kayaking in Laos


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Filed under laos, Nature, Travel