Monthly Archives: September 2015

Mystery Sentences

dave readingDid you know it is international book week? One promotion of the event  instructs you to…….. Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, and post the fifth sentence. Don’t mention the title. Here’s mine! Can you guess what book it is from?
“Why they just don’t let on. Like she was a regular person.”

working in my office writing bookAnother promotion I’ve seen by fellow writers is to go to a current manuscript you are working on and post sentence 22.  Here’s mine.

“Mama’s worry snakes up two flights of stairs and ricochets off the sloping ceiling of our attic bedroom.”

Can you guess what I’m writing about? 

Other posts……

My Book Flood

The Writing Life

They Remembered the Books

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Was it Really 40 Years Ago?

dave college gradThis past weekend was the 40th anniversary of my husband Dave’s graduation from Canadian Mennonite University. We spent Saturday afternoon on the university campus reconnecting with college friends.  I was able to have a nice visit with a former roomate and Dave chatted with some guys who were his college basketball teamates.  Unfortunately only two other people from his graduating class showed up but we looked up the rest of the class in an old yearbook and talked about where they might be now.dave cmbc grad We had been married for two years in 1975 when Dave graduated. We lived at CMU, then CMBC in a small basement suite and shared a bathroom and laundry facilities with a half a dozen other couples.

dave graduates from cmuI was teaching kindergarten in St. James at Lincoln School and commuted to work from the college campus where Dave was finishing his Bachelor of Theology degree. 

dave at his cmbc grad

The community of people on our college campus played such an important role in our lives. After all Dave and I met each other there in our first year of college. It hardly seems like 40 years ago. 

Other posts……..

A Controversial Wedding Photo

She’s Done It Again

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Hat Inspiration

woman working in garden hkYou cannot hide in a hat.  You will be noticed. 

fiji hatA great hat can change your day. 

hat lower fort garryThe right hat may activate our imagination of the past

hat-prague-museumWith the right hat, nothing else matters

hat jerusalem man on cellphoneLeave everyone wondering which is more interesting…you or your hat.

woman in saigon hatThere’s just something special about a woman in a hat.

beach-vendor-baliA great hat speaks for itself

dave me grad hatsA hat can say more than words.

boy in india in red toqueKeep calm and wear a hat. 

Other posts……..

Friend Inspiration

Rumi Inspiration

Hong Kong Inspiration


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Construction Crazy!

construction on rorie street 2015What a mess! Winnipeg has been just a maze of construction sites the last few months as these photos taken on my street attest.  Our mayor Brian Bowman says his number one priority is fixing our streets and he’s dedicating a record amount of money to that effort. It is great to see our city taking its commitment to upgrade the infrastructure so seriously but what a mess!  Buses are late, cars are stuck in traffic for much longer than usual, and people are getting frustrated. rorie street construction winnipeg fall 2015Makes me very glad I’m a walker and biker so most of my transportation routes aren’t impacted to a great extent. And don’t look for this mess to end any time soon. I just heard on CBC all this construction will probably last till mid-December. Take a deep breath. 

Other posts……..

I’m Happy My Taxes Are Paying For This

Talking to the Mayor

The Most Beautiful Bathroom in Winnipeg

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The last two days both Dave and I have been able to reconnect with cousins we hadn’t seen for a long time. dave and cousin billDave’s cousin Bill was visiting from Alberta. He and Dave are nearly the same age and it was fun listening to them talk about old times in their home town of Leamington and at Bill’s parents’ cottage at Temagami. Dave was a best man at Bill’s wedding many decades ago. 
me and cousin carolI had lunch with my cousin Carol. We were born in the same year. It was great to catch up on our lives and those of our children. We talked about memories of our grandparents and how we are keeping busy in our retirement.  Carol is an artist and she designed the invitations for our wedding many decades ago.

A cousin is a little bit of the past that can never be lost.  

Other posts ………..

I Did the Limbo on the Golf Course

The Whoop Dee Doo Clan

One Day Late


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A City of Music

My sister just visited Prague and it reminded me of our time in the city. 

Prague is a city of music. On our visit, Europe was experiencing an unexpected cold spell and everything was covered in snow. dave in the frankfurt snowTemperatures fell well below zero every day. Not exactly the kind of weather that is friendly for street musicians yet on nearly every corner in Prague one could find performers. violinist-in-pragueA violinist serenaded pedestrians with Dvorak as they walked over the Charles Bridge. musicians-in-pragueIn front of a statue of King Wenceslas, one of the Czech Republic’s most venerated saints, a New Orleans style jazz group of six decked out in toques and gloves entertained passers by. organ grinder in pragueAt another spot an organ grinder was asking for donations. He had replaced his real monkey with a stuffed one. It was a wise decision. The weather was too cold for tropical animals. At a subway station entrance a shivering string quartet played Bach.

Not only does Prague have street musicians. There are dozens of concerts in the city’s churches and halls every night. We went to a string quintet performance in the famous Rudolfinum, a huge palace-like venue built in 1885 that is the home of the Czech Symphony Orchestra.

rudolfinium in prague

Rudolfinum in Prague

We attended a concert performed by the Parnas String Quintette. They played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart, a familiar air by Bach, a suite from Bizet’s Carmen, excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Pachelbel’s Canon and a fair number of Dvorak pieces. The acoustics were great, the musicians talented and the setting perfect.  

culture show prague musiciansOne night in Prague we went to a cultural dinner where musicians entertained us with traditional Czech folk music. They played a wind instrument called the foovarah, Czech bagpipes, and the hammer dulcimer. Their music was so engaging it even got my husband Dave up on the floor to dance. dave-dancing-with-woman-from-latviaPeople were asked what country they were from and then men and women from different parts of the world were paired for dancing. I was surprised that my husband, who has never liked dancing, was enticed up to the front to do a folk dance with a woman from Latvia.

church in pragueBecause we were in Prague at Christmas time many of the churches were having choir performances of carols during our visit, accompanied by huge pipe organs. We walked into one such church where many audience members were joining in on the familiar Christmas songs.

Prague is a city of music and it makes you want to listen, sing, dance, applaud and go back to here more. 

Other posts…….

Musicians Around the World

Handel Meat Pie

Baseball Sing Along

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Saying Hello to People

Just smiling at people can make you as happy as receiving $25,000. For over a decade my mother and I went for regular early morning walks. During nice weather we’d walk outdoors and in winter we walked in a mall. In both places we encountered many other walkers and my mother never failed to smile at them or greet them, even when they were complete strangers.  

Me and my smiling Grandpa Schmidt

Me and my smiling Grandpa Schmidt

She told me she learned this from her own father. My Mom grew up in a small farming community in Saskatchewan where everyone knew each other and it was common to greet people you met. But Mom noticed that even on family shopping trips to the large city of Saskatoon her father would nod and smile or say hello to strangers on the street. Often he engaged them in conversation.

jean and beatriceIn 2006 my husband Dave and I sponsored a refugee family from Rwanda. They lived with us in Steinbach for their first few months in Canada. Our guests would routinely comment at the supper table how surprised they’d been as they walked through the streets during the day, to have people wave at them, smile at them, nod or greet them. This was not something they were used to.

I’m currently writing a religious education curriculum and one assigned passage is Matthew 5:47. “And if you only greet your brothers and sisters what more are you doing than others?” In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus clearly encourages his followers to greet people especially strangers.

thai guidesIn Islam acknowledging others by smiling at them is a form of charity for which the giver is rewarded. I lived in Asia for six years and noticed that images of Buddha frequently portrayed him as having a gentle smile of greeting. Traveling in countries with a largely Hindu population I learned the way to acknowledge strangers is with the word Namaste. It means, “I bow to the divine in you.” As you say it you place both palms together, fingers pointing upward and bow slightly.

Acknowledging those you meet isn’t only of spiritual value there is plenty of scientific research to prove that smiling or greeting people has a positive physical and emotional impact on both them and you.

In a 2011 TED Talk Ron Gutman references a British study that used MRI technology to discover that smiling stimulates our brains in the same way as finding $25,000 in cash. A team of German researchers concluded that when you smile at people you meet for the first time it makes them perceive you to be a few years younger than you actually are.

dave hs gradResearch has found teens that smiled for their school yearbook picture not only had happier lives as adults, but also lived on average seven years longer than teens that didn’t smile for their picture. A psychologist who did an experiment at the University of Chicago wrote that when we recognize another person as part of the human family with any kind of greeting, we are increasing their joy and ours, and doing something important to promote peace in the world.

Angela Maiers is a schoolteacher who always asks all her students on the first day of school to write down the most important things they are looking for in a teacher. After 20 years of doing this she compiled a top ten list of student suggestions. Number one was “Greet me each morning.” Number 2 was “Smile at me.”

Smiling and saying hello are such simple things but they are important and are proven to make us all richer and happier.

Other posts……

The Beatitudes Come to Life

His Kids Made Him Cry

What are Kids Looking For in a Teacher?

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The T-4’s Solve a Mystery

t-4s mystery night enigmaOn Saturday my friends and I met at Enigma Escapes a new kind of entertainment option in Winnipeg that is really fun.  We were locked in a room and had exactly one hour to find the lost jewel of Zanzibar. We had to unearth many different kinds of clues in the room and figure out how they all fit together.  We needed to follow maps, solve riddles, break codes and decipher puzzles to locate the jewel.  We were a pretty good team and even finished a few minutes before our hour was up.  I can’t tell you much more because I don’t want to spoil your experience if you decide to try to find the lost jewel of Zanzibar. 

Other posts……….

Make New Friends But Keep the Old


Pine Ridge Hollow


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Portraits in Hope

This weekend I’m busy preparing a sermon for next Sunday on the theme of hope. I will tell stories about three grandmothers from our family who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine.oma and opa's exit papers (1)My husband Dave’s Oma Margaretha Friesen Driedger shown here with her husband Abram, daughter Agatha and son Cornelius just before leaving Ukraine for Canada

My husband's mother's family just before leaving from Lichtenau. His mother Anne is the little girl on her mother's lap.

Dave’s maternal Oma Gertrude Unrau Enns shown here with her husband Heinrich, four sons Peter, Henrich, Johann and Diedrich and two daughters Gertrude and Anne just before leaving Ukraine for Canada gm hired girl friesens_1024 (1)and my maternal grandmother Margareta Sawatsky Peters shown here with the children from a family for whom she worked as a nanny just after coming to Canada.
Preparing to tell these stories from a new angle is helping me gain an even greater appreciation for the strength and courage of my family’s female ancestors.
Other posts…………..

My Grandmother was a Guitarist

Heinrich and Gertrude Enns- A Family Story 

The School for the Deaf- My Father-in-Law’s Birthplace 

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What Are Kids Looking For In A Teacher?

I am retired now but when I was still teaching high school one of my first writing assignments each fall was asking my English classes what they were looking for in a teacher. 

advanced comp classFirst I told them what I was looking for in a student. I am looking for students who enjoy reading and writing and want to take creative risks in the area of self-expression. I’m hoping the people I teach will share their ideas freely, be ready to work together, have a positive attitude and be honest about letting me know what I can do to make our classroom an interesting, rewarding place to spend time. I want my students to learn to think more keenly and critically as they read, listen and view. I want my students to learn to communicate more effectively as they write, speak and represent. I fully expect that being their guide in that process will help me learn and grow in all those areas as well.

with advanced comp classThen I would ask them to write about what they were looking for in a high school English teacher. 

My highschool journalism class in Hong KongMany  encouraged me to make class interesting so they could look forward to coming. They told me I should try to be imaginative, joyful, spunky, outgoing, lively and enthusiastic. Some students felt fairness was the most important quality in a teacher, while others said they appreciated a sense of humour and an easygoing attitude. I was urged to smile, be patient and exude confidence.

high school students and teacher in spainQuite a number of students emphasized the need for restraint when giving assignments. “Please remember that LIFE often gets in the way of school”, they reminded me.

advisory picI was asked to provide opportunities for all students to get equally involved in the class, no matter what their talents and abilities and some expressed the hope that I would respect everyone’s beliefs and have the ability to “think outside the box”.
tour group in israelI received a myriad of valuable tips! Be organized. Make assignments enjoyable. Explain things clearly. Know when to step in and when to step back. Be passionate about learning. Help students appreciate literature. Teach us some lessons we can apply outside the classroom. Be ready to give second chances. Share good advice. Reward us for participation and effort. Encourage creativity and artistry. Don’t insist things be done your way only!

Although I am no longer a teacher I think many of the pieces of advice I received from my students are helpful in other relationships as well. 

This post has been updated here. 

Other posts about education……

It’s the Principal of the Thing

Stopping By Woods-A Children’s Masterpiece

Feeling Nostalgic

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