Monthly Archives: January 2015

Arizona Days- Second Edition

We are coming to the end of our fourth week in Gold Canyon Arizona. The last two weeks were not so different than the first two weeks. 

golfing at superstition

More golf rounds with good friends

Reading more good books. I’m finishing House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Dave has finished All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.  I’m about to start The Weight of Water by Wally Lamb and Dave is starting 11/22/63 by Stephen King. 

Silly Mountain-003More hiking

More movies. We’ve seen A Most Violent Year, Alexander and the Horrible Terrible No Good Very Bad Day, Birdmanspaghetti dinner arizonaMore hosting friends for meals at our placebreakfast at sidewinderMore enjoying meals out with friends 

Some highlights…….

Spending a day at the Waste Management Open PGA golf tournament

Seeing Ron Janzen’s photos and hearing his stories about his trip with MCC to Syria and Jordan

Doing the Art Walk in Scottsdale

Getting a haircut and hearing the interesting life story of my hairdresser

Finding Tevas and Sketchers the only shoes I find comfortable on sale for about a quarter their usual price

Writing another chapter in my middle grade novel

Accepting a contract with Menno Media for curriculum writing

Visiting Butterfly Wonderland

Other posts about Arizona…..

Arizona Days- First Edition

Mailboxes of Distinction

Streets of Gold


Filed under Arizona, Family

Butterfly Wonderland

butterfliesThere are 28,000 species of butterflies. 

butterfly wonderlandButterflies live everywhere in the world except Antarctica. monarch butterfly

Those are just a few of the interesting things we learned at the Butterfly Wonderland in Phoenix.  3D glassesWe started our visit by donning 3D glasses and watching a film about the amazing migration of monarch butterflies. That migration spans a year and takes three generations of butterflies to complete. 

butterflies hatchingAfter the film we went into a gallery where we could watch butterflies hatching from their chrysalises.atriumThe highlight of the visit was spending time in this atrium where there were hundreds of thousands of butterflies each more beautiful than the other dave taking picsYou wanted to take photos of them all. butterfly wonderlandWe learned there are representations of butterflies in frescoes from Thebes in Egypt that are 3,500 years old.
butterfly wonderlandMost butterflies only live for two weeks.monarch butterfliesButterflies bodies are covered with scales that create the beautiful colors and patterns you see. butterflies eatingButterflies taste with their feet, smell with their antennae and have no teeth. butterfly world phoenixSkipper butterflies can fly up to 37 miles per hour. aquarium butterfly wonderflandButterfly Wonderland also had an aquarium. touching a sting rayAnd a tank where you could touch a stingray. butterfly wonderflandButterfly Wonderland was definitely worth the visit.  

Other posts about nature…..

White Tailed Deer Keep Delicate Their Counsels Wild

Flooding at Birch Point

Alligators All Around

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Filed under Arizona, Nature

A Memorable Meal

dinner citizen public house scottsdaleWe had the best meal of our vacation so far at the Citizen Public House in Scottsdale.  Dave and I shared everything and it was all just delightful. kilt lifter fondueWe started with the Kilt Lifter Fondue and a plate of olives. The fondue offered crisp pears, crusty bread and smoked meats for dipping. chopped salad citizen public housemoved on to the artfully presented Original Chopped Saladoriginal chopped salad citizen public houseexpertly tossed by our waiteramaro meat loaf citizen public house scottsdaleand finished with the Amaro Meatloaf- with smashed Yukon Gold potatoes, roasted zucchini, veal demi-glace and mushroom cream. 


Our friends had the dessert Pig in the Orchard – a bacon and apple bread pudding which they dubbed delicious. But we were too full. We’ll have to go back another time to try it. 

Other food posts……


Where are the Recipes?

Making Chinese Dumplings

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Filed under Arizona, Food, Restaurants

9 Questions After Seeing Birdman

After the movie Birdman was over I asked my husband Dave what he thought the movie was about. What was it trying to say? He said he knew exactly what it was about and what it was trying to say but……. he wasn’t telling me.

You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter. And you know what? You’re right. You don’t. It’s not important. You’re not important. Get used to it.

– line of dialogue from Birdman

 Birdman is basically the story of an actor famous for playing a super hero who is putting his reputation and wealth on the line to stage and star in a Broadway play. Two of my Facebook friends and former teaching colleagues who are movie aficionados had vastly different  opinions on the movie.  One said he’d walked out after a few minutes because he felt it was a complete waste of his time and another said it was one of the year’s best movies.

I wanted to write one of my usual five things I’ll remember about the movie blog  post but in this case I’m going to write a list of questions I have after seeing the movie, because mostly that’s what Birdman did for me. Made me ask questions. 

1. What things in life truly bring  joy? Is it possible for me to figure that out definitively,write a list and use it to prioritize what to do with my time?

2. Do actors become at least in part the characters they play?  Do writers become at least in part the characters they write about?   

3. Might it be worth it to sacrifice family life, at least in part, for professional success and/or fulfillment?

4. Who decides what is good/great literature or drama or film?  

5. Should we care more about our opinion of ourselves or others’ opinions of us?

6. What is love in the end?  What is the purest form of love?

7. Are human beings important in the whole history of this planet? Do we matter?

8. Is death truly the best option for some people? Are there times in people’s lives where there is simply no other way out? 

9. If you want a relationship to last and be healthy for you, should you be able to write a list of good reasons to love someone? 

Other posts about movies……

Winnipeg and Mennonites in Gone Girl

Love in a Lunch Box

Five Things I’ll Remember About American Sniper

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Filed under Movies

Dave Driedger- Nature Photographer

dave photographerCould this be my husband?  Normally my husband Dave doesn’t like to take photos.  I have to beg or blackmail him to do so.  However on our visit to Butterfly Wonderland here in Phoenix he said wistfully as he watched people snapping photos of breathtakingly beautiful butterflies, “I wish I had a camera.”  What could I do?  dave photographerI turned over the camera to him and watched him at work for the next forty five minutes or so.  The pictures in this post were all taken by him. butterfly butterfly wonderland phoenix

yellow butterfly butterfly wonderland phoenix

moth butterfly wonderland phoenix

butterfly wonderland phoenix

butterfly wonderland phoenix

butterfly wonderland phoenix

butterfly wonderland phoenix

butterfly wonderland phoenix

butterfly wonderland phoenix

butterfly wonderland phoenix

Other posts about Dave….

Bending Over Backwards

Dave’s Vision Quest

Happy Birthday Dave


Filed under Arizona, Family, Nature

Australian Inspiration

turtle in australiaLove makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. -Zora Neale Hurston

ship in the sydney harborIt is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. – George William Curtis

man falling off surf board in australiaThe greatest accomplishment is not in never falling but in rising again after you fall.  – Vince Lombardi

sydney opera houseGreat buildings that move the spirit have always been rare. In every case they are unique, poetic, products of the heart.- Arthur Erickson

aboriginal art australiaMake a joyful noise-  Psalm 98:4flowers in sydneyThere are always flowers for those who want to see them.-  Henri Matisse

koala in taronga zoo Rest is not idleness- John Lubbock

sydney harbor bridgeI am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed.-  Oprah Winfrey

I took all the photos in this post on our trip to Australia in 2010. 

Other posts about Australia…...

Edge of the Trees- An Aboriginal Perspective

Lessons From the Sydney Opera House

A Curious and Troubling Nativity Scene


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Filed under australia, Inspiration, Reflections

The Missing Wife

My husband Dave is playing on a slow pitch ball team during our months here in Arizona. Once a week he heads off for four or five hours to play a game and then unwind at a social gathering at one of the player’s homes.   There are fourteen fellows on Dave’s team and he tells me thirteen wives  show up for each game to cheer on their husbands and then join them for after-the-game refreshments. I’m the only missing wife. 

My husband during his ball playing days for the Steinbach Stealers many years ago- photo courtesy of the Carillon

My husband during his ball playing days for the Steinbach Stealers many years ago- photo courtesy of the Carillon

Truth be told I’ve always enjoyed watching my husband play ball but he is such a social butterfly that my days here in Arizona fill up quickly with all kinds of activities he organizes for us.  His ball-playing Tuesdays are my opportunity to have some uninterrupted time to tackle a myriad of writing projects I had hoped to pursue during our  winter hiatus in the south. 

I will get to one of Dave’s games yet before we leave Arizona but for now I will continue to be the missing wife. 

Other posts about wives…..

The Aviator’s Wife

A Man Affectionately Deplored by his Wife

Alfred Hitchcock’s Wife- The Making of Psycho


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Filed under Arizona, Sports

Five Things I’ll Remember About American Sniper

american sniper1. The advertising for the film was misleading. I saw the trailer for American Sniper and thought it was going to be a movie primarily about a man trying to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after his tours of duty in Iraq.  Instead it was a war movie primarily about various military engagements  and the role in the war of an American sniper who became a legend because he killed so many people.  

2. All Iraqi people are evil in American Sniper. They colluded with the ‘enemy’. They force children to throw grenades. They use electric drills to amputate people.  We don’t meet the thousands of Iraqis who fought alongside the Americans or the  thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians the Americans killed.  The one Iraqi family who invites the soldiers to supper turns out to have a cache of arms upstairs which our hero discovers halfway through the meal. 

3.  The movie glorified guns to such an extent that I wondered whether the film had been financed by the National Rifle Association.  Chris Kyle the sniper is taught to use guns by his father as a young boy.  After his recovery from PTSD Kyle takes his own son out hunting to give him his first experience in Kyle’s own words, “of stopping a beating heart.”  Our hero gets sexual with his wife by holding a gun up to her and ordering her to take off her pants.  He helps Iraq war vets who have been wounded by taking them out to ranges to shoot guns and in the vets’ words, “get their balls back.” (You restore your manhood by shooting guns?)

*Note- The widow of Chris Kyle, the man on whom the movie American Sniper is based, did speak at a 2013 National Rifle Association leadership forum in support of 2nd amendment rights.  

4. American Sniper  doesn’t paint a realistic picture of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our hero experiences a miraculous cure from PTSD. When Chris Kyle comes home from Iraq he is spooked by loud noises, attacks the family dog, can’t communicate with his wife and is sent to see a psychiatrist.  Then miraculously he is cured, but we don’t see how that happened or what the process involved. At the end of the movie when Kyle is killed by a fellow army veteran suffering from PTSD Clint Eastwood the director chooses to just write the words on the screen and not to show us that scene.  Eastwood has no problem showing us the bodies of Kyle’s Iraqi victims, including women and children ripped apart by bullets but we aren’t shown Kyle’s death caused by a fellow vet with PTSD. 

5. The role of religion in the movie is concerning .  Chris Kyle carries a New Testament into battle. The Old Testament with its countless wars and a God who is sometimes portrayed as angry, might have been more appropriate, but as he kills more than 160 people Kyle carries the gospel stories about the Prince of Peace in his breast pocket, the accounts of Jesus who instructed his followers to love their enemies and forgive them 70 times 7. In the movie when a psychiatrist asks Kyle if he is troubled about the number of human beings who have died by his hand he says he will meet his Creator at the end of his life with a clear conscience about those he killed. 

I found the movie American Sniper troubling. I am even more troubled by its huge popularity with the American public.  The Arizona movie complex where we saw it was showing it every hour in two different large theatres and every performance was sold out. I almost wish I hadn’t gone to see American Sniper.  I feel like my presence in the theatre suggests I support the message of the movie. I don’t. 

Other posts about violent movies……


All Those Birds- The Making of Psycho

Mayan Human Sacrifice- Just a Hollywood Myth?

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Filed under Movies

Javelinas and Hummingbirds

     “It’s a javelina family!” We’re spending a couple months in Gold Canyon, Arizona. Last week, along with a group of friends, we were invited to the home of Eric and Joyce Peters from Steinbach. The women were chatting in the living room, waiting for the guys to return from their golf game so we could have dinner. Suddenly I noticed what looked like five dark colored pigs in the Peters’ backyard, four adults and a baby. “It’s a javelina family,” Joyce told us. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen them on their property.

Javelina look like hogs but are really members of the peccary family. You do have to exhibit caution around them especially when they are with their young. They may charge at you and their sharp teeth can inflict a serious wound.

 There’s a written notice in our Arizona garage reminding us to keep the door closed at all times since snakes like to come inside especially on cold nights. We haven’t seen a snake yet but there are warning signs about them on some of the hiking trails we frequent and we’ve met hikers with guns who say they are ‘packing heat’ on the trail just in case they meet a snake.

One night when I couldn’t sleep I was downstairs in our living room reading. Suddenly I heard a terrific racket. I thought maybe my husband was having a sleepless night too and had turned on the television in our upstairs bedroom. Then I realized the noise was coming from outside the windows of our house. I opened the sliding patio doors slightly and the sound was deafening. It was a pack of coyotes howling in the moonlight on the golf course fairway that runs behind our home. We’ve noticed coyotes observing us from a hill when we’ve been golfing and they’ve run across the highway in front of our car numerous times.

gambel's quailOur backyard here is a haven for birds. We’ve seen roadrunners and gambrel quails, gila woodpeckers and cactus wrens. I’ve been taking photos of the birds and sending them to my friend and bird expert in Landmark Fran Giesbrecht for identification. He tells me some are birds I’d see in Manitoba in summer. IMG_2173 - Version 2The mouring doves, sharp-shinned hawks and ruby-throated hummingbirds have migrated to Arizona for winter. Our friends John and Chris Neufeld from Steinbach, who are renting a house with us, have put up a hummingbird feeder, so we can sit outside and watch hummingbirds to our heart’s content.

big horn sheepOn a cruise around Canyon Lake we saw a herd of big horn sheep grazing high up on the surrounding cliffs. It seemed impossible for them to be navigating such steep and rocky terrain. Our cruise commentator told us that the sheep have adapted to their desert environment and can go without water for long periods of time.

 The animal we see perhaps the most often here in Arizona is the desert cottontail. They are everywhere, scurrying out from behind the cactus along the trails and roads. They have so many predators, coyotes, snakes and owls that most are killed in their first year of life.

driedger family with merle coalmine driedger family merle - Version 2Our family lived in rural Arizona for a year in the early 1990s and we contended with visits from black widows, centipedes, scorpions and tarantulas as well. That’s not as imminent a threat here in our more urban Arizona setting.

humming bird in arizonaLearning to appreciate and live with the creatures in any new location is part of what makes it interesting. I’m enjoying the opportunity to observe everything from the tiny beautiful Anna’s hummingbird to the large ugly javelina.

Other posts about Arizona….

Arizona Days

Arizona Golf Reunion

Hiking to Weaver’s Needle

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Filed under Arizona, Nature

Writing My First Amazon Review

I wrote my first Amazon book review recently. I’m wondering if formulating reviews might not be an excellent way to keep track of the middle grade and young adult novels I’ve been reading in my attempt to try to learn as much as I can about the craft of writing for the middle years and teen age group. Compiling a review forces me to summarize succinctly what I’ve learned from reading the novel.

enslavement melinda friesenThe first review I wrote was for Melinda Friesen’s young adult novel Enslavement. I was impressed with the way she didn’t make it easy for us to pigeon-hole her characters. Even the antagonists exhibited some good qualities and the protagonists had a number of characteristics that weren’t ideal. I want to try to include characters that aren’t easily labeled as good or evil in my own writing.

Friesen also does a great job of throwing us headlong into the drama of the novel from her opening paragraph. She reminds us how important it is for a writer to engage readers right from the first page.

Enslavement raises some great questions which would make for excellent discussion starters with teens. Although I know a good writer shouldn’t ‘hit readers over the head’ with moral platitudes and life lessons I want my writing to provide my readers with challenging questions to think about.

Finally I think the novel would be a good fit for use in high school classes and it is meant to the be the first in a series. Looking realistically at the market for middle grade and teen novels any aspiring writer realizes that if they want to make a profit they will need to sell their book to school libraries. If their novel is a hit they will also benefit financially from writing their book in a way that makes sequels possible.

I tried to summarize all the writing lessons I got from Enslavement in my Amazon review. Check it out for yourself to see how you think I did.

Other posts…….

Art Tours Inspired by Books

A Flood of Books

Have You Met Mark Twain

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Filed under Books, Writing