Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Magic Geranium

The geranium was magic! Yesterday I did a post about a get together with friends where we shared our favorite childhood stories.  One friend had chosen a short story called The Magic Geranium as her favorite It was a story I remembered fondly from my own childhood as well! The story comes from a book called Read Aloud Funny Stories by Jane Thayer. funny read aloud stories by jane thayerA woman named Mrs. Smith lives in a messy, drab little house. Her friend Mrs. Allen gives her a beautiful germanium and she places it on her kitchen table. The flower’s beauty provides a stark contrast to the old table on which it stands, so the woman paints the table. One thing leads to another and soon she has transformed her kitchen with elbow grease,  paint and new curtains. Her lovely kitchen looks so much better than the neighboring dining room and so Mrs. Smith moves on to tidy and redecorate other rooms in the house till finally the whole house has been turned from drab and dirty to clean and beautiful. She then makes a delicious supper for her family and sets the table in elegant fashion. Her family is surprised. What has happened? “It’s all because of the magic geranium,” Mrs. Smith says.

I can see why the Magic Geranium story was a childhood favorite. It describes the possibility for enormous change, just by doing one little thing at a time. Kids embrace that idea. They can take one small step and then another and another.  The cumulative effect of all those simple steps can be something big. The story’s message is that individuals are responsible for bringing about improvements in their own life. Kids like to think they can do things on their own too without always requiring the help of adults. Other people can provide inspiration but we need to roll up our sleeves and take action to fix things and accomplish goals.  

I’m glad my friend reminded me of the Magic Geranium. It’s a great story not just for kids but for adults too. 

Other posts about change……..

Georgia O Keefe Changed Her Life

Thankfully Times Have Changed

Game Changers- The Printing Press and the I-Pad


Filed under Books, Childhood, Nature, Reflections

A Childhood Favourite

At a recent get together with friends we talked about stories from our childhood that had left a lasting impression. One friend had loved Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White as a child.  She got quite emotional as she described her attachment to the classic novel about a pig that saves a spider’s life. The story not only connected with my friend, but also gave pleasure to hundreds of grade one students she read the book aloud to during her career as a teacher.

Another friend described a book she’d won as a prize in a school poster-making contest. The Janitor’s Girl by Frieda Friedman has a heroine named Sue. The girl moves to New York City when her father gets a job as janitor in an apartment building. As she takes the steps necessary to adjust to life in her new home, Sue learns lessons of friendship and the importance of accepting people regardless of their social class.

I chose the book Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. A young Irish girl from Boston marries a RCMP officer in the early 1900s and goes to live in a remote northern community. I loved the sense of adventure exhibited by the book’s heroine Katherine Mary Flannigan. She reaches out and establishes a circle of friends in her remote location. Katherine was spunky and took risks.  I loved that!

What was your favorite book during your childhood or teen years? 

Other posts about favorite books…….

Christmas Favorites

Perfect for Pre-schoolers

Great Aunt Marie’s Books 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Childhood

Mouse in the Chest

mouse in the chest by chloe lamMouse in the chest is an idiom from the Philippines.  A person’s ‘mouse in the chest’ is a thing they fear.  Chloe Lam, one of the talented students at the school where I taught in Hong Kong, did this clever visual representation of the Filipino idiom for an Advanced Placement art show. 

When I taught high school I often studied a poem with my English students called Fear by American poet Raymond Carver.  In his catalog verse Carver lists many of his own ‘mice in the chest’ including…………

Fear of a police car pulling into the driveway

Fear of telephones that ring in the dead of the night

Fear that what I love will prove lethal to those I love

Fear of my children’s handwriting on envelopes 

Fear of having too much – although  people will not believe this

While preparing to give a tour of Salvador Dali’s work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I learned the famous Spanish artist had a ‘mouse in the chest’ for ants.  He confronted his fear of the insects by putting them in his paintings and having an anteater for a pet. 

Other famous people report interesting ‘mice in the chest’ as well. Nicole Kidman is a lepidopterophobe. She’s afraid of butterflies. 

Walt Disney was afraid of mice. 

Matthew McConaughey is scared of revolving doors.

snow covered sidwalkOne of my ‘mice in the chest’ is that I am scared every single time I take the first step onto an escalator and these days because I walk everywhere I’m absolutely petrified of slipping and falling on the icy Winnipeg sidewalks. 

What’s your ‘mouse in the chest?’

Other posts………..

I Never Got Used to the Guns

Salvador Dali- I’m Scared

Between Dog and Wolf

Leave a comment

Filed under Reflections

Getting to Know Kevin Chief- My MLA

kevin chiefMonday night we got to meet Kevin Chief in person at a Residents of the Exchange meeting. Kevin is our member of the Manitoba legislature and represents the Point Douglas riding. The people who live in the Exchange District were invited to the Across the Board Cafe to meet Kevin, listen to him give a talk and ask him questions. Although it was a bitterly cold, icy night, residents of the Exchange District filled nearly every table in the restaurant.kevin chiefKevin told us his growing up years hadn’t been easy but he succeeded because all along the way he had people who looked at him and saw potential, who made him believe anything was possible.  Kevin played basketball for the University of Winnipeg and he talked about a lesson he learned from his coach Bill Wedlake. The coach told him it was okay to make mistakes as long as he was making mistakes while trying to get something done. 

Something interesting I learned about Kevin at our meeting is that Kevin is a square dancer. He is married and has two sons and the youngest is teething so he’s been keeping Kevin and his wife up at night. 

Kevin talked about his experience going into schools to read to kids during I Love To Read month.  He says it is important for kids to have good role models. He told us being truly generous means giving of that which is most important to us. For most people what is most important is their time.  Kevin encouraged us to volunteer our time to engage with our community to make it a better place. Winnipeg has a 29% child poverty rate so there is lots of work to do. 

Kevin told us that the Exchange District where we have our homes, is a very exciting area of Winnipeg, where all kinds of innovative things are happening. More people than ever before are living and working downtown. It was good to hear Kevin say that he realizes he needs to have a strong relationship with city government if he is to represent the people of his riding properly. questioning kevin chiefPerhaps the most difficult question Kevin was asked was about the recent differences within the NDP provincial caucus. A number of cabinet ministers have challenged the leadership of Greg Selinger and have since resigned from their cabinet posts.  “Can we still have confidence in the government?” someone wanted to know. kevin chiefKevin was honest in saying things have been tough the last while. But he wanted us to know that despite whatever was going on in party politics he was as committed to his constituents as ever.  “I still go to work everyday and try to get things done for you,” he assured us.  Political tension not withstanding Kevin said he is not wasting a minute in continuing to work hard for the people who elected him. 

I was impressed with Kevin’s positive attitude and his openness. He encouraged us to contact him with our concerns at any time.  He wants people to feel like “they belong” in Point Douglas.  I agreed wholeheartedly with his assertion that if people invest themselves in their neighborhoods and communities their neighborhoods and communities will thrive.

Other posts about Point Douglas……

Who To Vote For In Point Douglas

Neechi Commons Come For Lunch

Grain is King

1 Comment

Filed under Politics, Winnipeg

Launching Not One Book But Three

first three rebelight booksVast Imaginations is the first writing group for children’s authors I joined after moving to Winnipeg. On Sunday afternoon three members of that group launched books at McNally Robinson Booksellers.  The trio of novels were all published by a new Winnipeg press called Rebelight whose motto is crack the spine: blow your mind.  deborah froeseDeborah Froese one of the Rebelight founders, and a Rebelight editor, told us a little bit about the creation of  Rebelight Publishing and did a wonderful job of introducing each of the authors. suzanne costiganEmpty Cup is the name of Suzanne Costigan’s book.  Suzanne’s novel is about a seventeen year old girl named Raven whose mother kicks her out of the house after Raven experiences an abusive attack from her mother’s boyfriend. Will Raven find the inner strength to survive and create a better life for herself?

melinda friesenMelinda Friesen’s book is called Enslavement and is the first of nine novels she has written. Rielle James, the heroine of her futuristic story, has become a slave after her family’s arrest.  Will Rielle manage to escape and be reunited with her family? larry verstraeteLarry Verstraete has published more than a dozen non-fiction books but Missing in Paradise is his first novel.  Larry’s book is about a boy named Nate who has found a box of clues among his dead grandfather’s belongings that just might lead to real treasure. Will Nate find it? mcnally launchA good-sized crowd had come out for the launch. It was interesting for me to listen to Melinda, Larry and Suzanne read from their novels, since I had heard sections of all three of their manuscripts at our authors’ meetings as we read aloud and critiqued one another’s work.  authors signing booksThe three former Vast Imaginations’ members all thanked the authors in their writing groups for their help and support. I have also received so much valuable feedback and advice from other writers. Every time I share a manuscript with my peers my manuscript gets better. 

I hope that someday I too will be able to publish a work of fiction and have the opportunity to thank all the people who have helped me on my writing journey. On Sunday Larry, Melinda and Suzanne provided inspiration to me, and I’m sure many other aspiring writers, as they boldly launched their books out into the reading world. 

Other posts about writing for young people…….. 

Writing For Children is Hard

Writing Poetry For Children

What An Improvement


Filed under Books, Winnipeg, Writing

Our Weekend

Our weekend was a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve been experimenting with this Word Out program. So here is our weekend at a glance.Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 5.59.44 AM

Other weekend posts…….

The Weekend Go- Go-Go Weekend

Not the Weekend I Expected

Super Bowl Weekend

Labor Day Weekend


Leave a comment

Filed under Family

Opposite Profound Truths

The opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.

Niels Bohr-Nobel Prize winning physicst

Sara Wenger Shenk, the president of Anabaptist  Mennonite Biblical Seminary used that quote in her sermon in our church a few Sundays ago. She talked about how we must sometimes stretch ourselves to nearly the breaking point as we seek to create a spaciousness in our families, our churches and our world that will allow us maintain an attitude of respect and a peaceful relationship  with those who may believe in profound truths that are very different from our own profound truths. 

The Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral in Florence Italy photographed in January 2009

The Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral in Florence Italy photographed in January 2009

Tori Gate at Itsukushima Shinto Shrine in Japan photographed in March 2009

Tori Gate at Itsukushima Shinto Shrine in Japan photographed in March 2009

The Taj Mahal Mosque in Agra India photographed in January 2008

The Taj Mahal Mosque in Agra India photographed in January 2008

The Buddha in Hong Kong photographed in December 2005

The Big Buddha in Hong Kong photographed in December 2005

Baha'i House of Worship Chicago photographed in November 2011

Baha’i House of Worship Chicago photographed in November 2011

Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach Manitoba photographed in November 2011

Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach Manitoba photographed in November 2011

Maori Meeting House in New Zealand photographed in

Maori Meeting House in New Zealand photographed in December 2008

Westminister Abbey in London photographed in August 2005

Westminister Abbey in London photographed in August 2005

Other posts……

The Breath of Life

To The World Peace

Luau With the Mormons



Leave a comment

Filed under Religion, Travel