Monthly Archives: March 2015

On My Grandparents’ Farm

My grandparents

My grandparents

On my grandparents’ farm in the little village of Gnadenthal I learned to….

carefully take a warm egg out from under a chicken’s body

grandma playing guitarsing German Christmas carols while Grandma played the guitar

put the food left over on people’s plates after dinner into the slop pail for the pigs

gently comb my Grandma’s waist length hair

make cold coffee to take out to my Grandpa in the field when he was combining

pick strawberries and raspberries on the hottest summer day without complaining

cousins at Christmasplay cooperatively  with my thirteen cousins

wait patiently for the adults to finish eating and it was the kids’ turn at the table

shoot a gopher

sit very still in the cab when they jacked the truck up high in the grain elevator to empty out the wheat

beautifully embroider tea towels

use a page from the catalogue as toilet paper in the outhouse

grandpa and me heading out to milkmilk a cow

pick peas from my Grandma’s garden and split open the pods with my fingernail

roll the dough for the little buns that fit on top of the zwieback

grandpa and melisten attentively to the stories about my grandparents’ life in Russia 

pedal my Grandma’s treadle sewing machine

look for the Easter baskets my Grandpa hid in the hayloft

eat halva and summer borscht and vereneki and sour pickles

pluck the feathers off a dead chicken

play hide and seek in the dark pantry

drive a tractor

walk barefoot down the dusty path to the village store to buy a treat

nod politely when Grandpa told me a hundred times how important it was to get a good education

My grandparents with their children and grandchildren some forty years ago.

My grandparents with their children and grandchildren some forty years ago.

say the table grace Segne Vater

quickly fall back to sleep after waking up every hour during the night when the clock chimed

take only a tiny sip of the Christmas wine

hum along with the songs the wind sang when it blew through the Russian olive trees that grew all around my grandparents’ farmyard

be very quiet while my grandma listened to funeral announcements on radio station CFAM

peters cousins dress up
invent endless games of make-believe with my cousins

know everyone was welcome in my grandparents’ home

understand nothing is more important than loyalty to God and family.

Off to my grandparents in Gnadenthal for a few days

Off to my grandparents in Gnadenthal for a visit

realize I was a person worthy of having someone love me without reservation

Other posts about my grandparents……..

My Grandfather

Whenever I Hear a Clock Chiming

Grandma and Embroidery Hoops

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India Inspiration

recycling workers dehli india

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it. – Lou Holtzcamel on the highway india

Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error.- Moliere
women with cows in indiaWhen you walk with purpose you collide with destiny. – Ralph Buchanantaj mahal at dawnMarble I perceive, covers a multitude of sins. – Aldous Huxley

little boys playing ball in india

Peace begins with a smile.- Mother Teresablind beggar in dehli india

“When I lost my sight…… people said I was brave……But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”- Marie-Laurie-a  character in Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot Seeman selling foot in dehli india

Presentation is everything.- Amanda Clarkmonkeys in india

Being a mother is an attitude, not just a biological relation. ― Robert A. Heinleinchild begging in dehli

Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not.. for of such is the kingdom of God.  Luke 18:6

woman in sari in india

Rest and be thankful.- William Wordsworth

I took all these photos on a trip to India in 2008.

Other posts about India……

 Seeing the Taj Mahal At Dawn

Indian Tiger Safari

Beggars Everywhere


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Filed under India, Inspiration, Reflections

Widow For A Week

dave at dunedinI’ve been without my husband Dave for the last week.  He is down in Florida visiting our friends Jeff and Anna and their three children. It is school break week in Florida so Jeff who is a teacher, has been free to golf with Dave everyday. Yesterday Jeff sent me the photo above of Dave at Dunedin where the Toronto Blue Jays have their spring training games.  

jeff and dave dunedinWe got home from Arizona the first week of March and Dave swung right into substitute teaching.  By the end of last week he’d already spent eight days in the classroom and figured he’d earned enough bonus cash to take advantage of a cheap flight to Orlando he found online. I couldn’t go because I was booked to give tours at the art gallery, had student teachers to visit and a writing deadline to meet.

It hasn’t been all work and no play for me though. I’ve had supper with a friend, enjoyed a lovely meal at the home of my brother and his partner, taken dinner over to share with my aunt who is recovering after having emergency hip surgery, and spent an evening with my writing group. 

Dave will be home on Sunday.  I’m happy he’s had a good time, but I’ll be glad to have him back. I guess after nearly forty three years I’m so used to having him around things just don’t seem quite right when he’s gone.

Other posts about our Florida friends Jeff and Anna…….

Fun with Naomi

 Yankess and Blue Jays

Making Chinese Dumplings


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It Must Be Spring

spring blnds richardson buildingThey’re up!  I walk through the ground floor of the Richardson Building almost everyday going to and from appointments and my various part-time jobs. spring blinds richardson building winnipegThey have these enormous blinds on all the high windows in the foyer area and they change with each season.  spring blinds richardson building winnipegEven if you never left the building you’d realize when a new season has begun because the former season’s blinds are gone and the new ones appear.  spring blinds richardson buildingThis morning it is nearly ten degrees below zero and there are snow flurries predicated but I know its spring because the spring blinds are up in the Richardson Building. Go and see for yourself! spring blinds richardson building
Note: With thanks to my brother-in-law Harvey for the idea

Other posts about Richardson Building Art……..

Tom Lamb

Seal River Crossing

North Watch

Tree Children

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Filed under Art, Nature, Winnipeg

Gift at my Door

recycle everywhere binYesterday morning I found this gift outside my door. There was a note from our condo management company that a organization called Recycle Everywhere was providing bins free of charge to all residents of multiple dwelling buildings in the city.  recycle everywhereInformation that came with the bin encouraged us to keep it in our kitchen as a handy container for recycling drink containers of all kinds.  I already recycle and have a bin in my laundry room so I’m not sure I need this. recycle everywhereBut since it was a gift I’ll store it under my sink and try to use it.  If this initiative  encourages more people to recycle it is probably money well spent. 

Other posts…….

A Giant Recycling Project

Tin Can Art and Feeding the Homeless

Embrace the Movement

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Filed under Nature, Winnipeg

Going To Pot

clay pots art project I played with clay!  There’s a huge exhibit of Greek and Roman art pieces being set up in the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now and the Education Department will be offering a raft of exciting programs specifically tailored for the Olympus collection from Berlin. Yesterday the training program for the guides began and we learned how to make clay pots the way they would have long ago in Greece and Rome, an activity we will be doing with some of the children who visit the exhibit. making clay potsSome of my fellow guides did such creative work.  But as the workshop leader noted kindly, “MaryLou seems to be struggling a bit.”  I was. Shaping that clay into something lovely wasn’t easy for me.  But I’m not worried.  clay pot projectMy fellow guides created lots of terrific samples I’ll be able to show the kids and I’ve already learned that all the children need from me in a workshop is the supplies, plenty of enthusiasm and affirmation, some suggestions and basic instructions and their creativity takes over and they produce something great. red figure paintingWe also did red-figure painting to recreate the kinds of designs you might see on vases from Ancient Greece.  I met with more success with this activity. All the art projects are going to be fun to do with the children!

Other posts……….

Learning to Print

Stopping by Woods- A Children’s Masterpiece

The Exquisite Corpse


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Filed under Art, Education, Winnipeg

Whose Shoes?

abandoned shoes on portage avenueI was walking to work down Portage Avenue quite early on Friday morning when I saw this pair of black shoes abandoned beside a building.  They were placed almost artistically against the wall and looked like a perfectly good pair of men’s shoes nicely polished.  Who could have left them there? The temperature dipped down around the zero mark on Thursday night.  I hope the shoeless person didn’t freeze their toes. I’m going to check if the shoes are still there this morning on my way to work.  

Other posts about Portage Avenue…….

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

The Paddock Restaurant


Filed under Winnipeg

The Writing Life

Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life was a gift from a good friend. Here are a few things I don’t want to forget after reading it.

anniedillard_thewritinglifeDillard begins her book with a quote by Goethe.

Do not hurry. Do not rest.

I know you can’t rush the writing process and I know you shouldn’t stop writing. This blog provides a kind of discipline to write regularly and collect and explore ideas and information that I can use in other things I write.

It can take 2-10 years to write a book. I’ve had a number of book projects in the works for a couple years now. I need to continue working on them and realize writing a book takes time. 

Only after a writer lets literature shape her, can she perhaps shape literature.

I love to read but often when I’m working on a writing project I neglect reading. This is silly because I know that one thing drives the other.

How many books do we read where the author lacked the courage to cut…

When I first started writing I went to a workshop with Fredelle Maynard and she said good writing was bare as a bone and clean as a whistle. That kind of writing requires the courage to cut. I often lack it.

hiroshima writing notesIt is easy after all not to be a writer. Most people aren’t writers and no harm comes to them.

It would be hard for me not to be a writer. Writing is how I make sense of the world,  how I remember things, organize ideas and is often the best way to express my feelings.

Although Dillard is right that many people aren’t writers I think they all could be. One of my goals as a teacher was to get all my students to believe they were writers. I wanted them to see writing as a valuable skill that could enrich their lives.

Thanks for giving me The Writing Life Esther. 

Other posts about writing…..

The Journalist’s Prayer

A Tribute to My First Editor

My First Published Piece of Fiction

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Getting To Know L.L

There’s a whole room at the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now filled with the work of L.L. Fitzgerald. Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald was the only western member of Canada’s famous Group of Seven painters. L.L. was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1890 which his father may have thought was lucky since the senior Fitzgerald was of Irish descent.  L.L’s mother’s family had immigrated to Canada from England and her parents had a farm in Snowflake, Manitoba.  

Farmyard with Fence by L.L Fitzgerald

Farmyard with Fence by L.L Fitzgerald

L.L and his brothers spent their summer vacations on the farm and L.L.’s ashes were scattered there after his death of a heart attack in 1956.  

L.L. had to leave school after grade eight and he got a job as an office boy but started drawing in his spare time. The first thing he ever drew was an oak tree.

Poplar Woods by Fitzgerald

Poplar Woods by Fitzgerald

He studied books about drawing and after he married his wife Felicia and had a son and daughter, he found work using his artistic talents as an interior decorator, theatre set designer and window dresser.  L.L. visited the Art Institute in Chicago in 1910 and had his first art exhibition in Winnipeg in 1921. He made enough money to go to New York to study art. In 1924 he began teaching art at the Winnipeg School of Art where he served as the principal from 1929-1947. 

Assiniboine River by Fitzgerald

Assiniboine River by Fitzgerald

L.L.’s work currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is all from his Impressionist period from 1910 to 1920.  L.L. was admitted to the famous Group of Seven in 1932 after the death of one its members J.E. H. McDonald. 

The paintings in the current exhibit feature prairie scenes and Winnipeg locations. A gold coin was issued by the Canadian Mint in 2003 featuring a painting of LL’s called Houses.

 I’m glad to have a chance to introduce the children on the tours I give at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to our city’s famous native son. 

Other posts……

Modern Day Group of Seven

Two Diverse Members of the Group of Seven

Western Canadian Female Artists

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Self Care- What I Think It Is For Me

What are the things you do to make your day better?  I follow the blog of Canadian writer Carrie Snyder and she did a post where she reminded readers to take care of themselves.  She said……..
Recognize what feeds you, what makes you feel good, what makes you feel cared for and loved, what challenges you to be your better self. Recognize it. And do it. I know this isn’t realistic advice for everyone. I know not everyone has support or financial resources or time. Maybe you’re in a whirl of despair or depression. This will sound naive and blinkered, this advice. Or maybe you’ve already figured all of this out!
What’s your recipe for self-care? What are the things you do that make your day better?

(I have been working hard on a writing assignment for the last week and my self-care has gone awry. I’ve had this post saved for a while and today seemed like a good day to publish it as a reminder to myself. )

Here’s what I think daily self-care looks like for me. 


Riding bike in Central Park

1. Getting  exercise.


2. Eating moderately and healthily. 

3. Reading something new.

4. Writing something new.

My brother and I sharing a coffee in Hong Kong

5. Connecting with  family members 

6. Having my surroundings organized. 

7. Doing something good for someone else however small. 

8. Prayer


Getting ready to swim with the manatees in Florida

9. Learning or doing something new.

10. Receiving some sort of affirmation. 

Other posts………...

Food Rules

Swimming with the Manatees

Thirty Days of Planking

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Filed under Reflections