Monthly Archives: December 2015

Three Strong Women

I’ve seen three movies so far during the holiday season and each has a strong and capable woman at its heart.

Daisy Ridley as Rey in The Force Awakens

The lead character in the new Star Wars movie The Force Awakens is the courageous, independent Rey. Unlike the Adam and Eve story where the woman is seduced by evil, in The Force Awakens it is a man who aligns himself with the dark side, and it is a woman who manages to defeat that negative power. Rey doesn’t care how she looks. She is loyal, skillful, resourceful and smart.  A positive thing about the fact that this film is set to be a gigantic, global, commercial success is that girls everywhere are going to be introduced to this strong young woman who fights for herself and has a good heart. Sadly there are still many places in the world where females’ bodies and minds are not their own to control and in Rey, the female Jedi, they will find a powerful role model, a fearless survivor.

 Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey in Brooklyn

The lead character in the movie Brooklyn, is Eilis(pronounced Eye-lish) an immigrant to America in the early 1950s. Eilis has a powerful role model in her strong older sister Rose who supports their family financially and emotionally in a small Irish community. Rose is determined however that Eilis will have a different life and facilitates her travel to Brooklyn New York. Here Eilis survives homesickness, develops independence, and adapts to her foreign surroundings. Unlike Rey in The Force Awakens Eilis does care how she looks and her beautiful clothes make her stand out, but so does her developing personal integrity, her willingness to try new things, and her ultimate decision to break away from her past and her Irish family and friends to start a new life for herself. 

Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Magano

The lead character in the movie Joy is gutsy and determined Joy Mangano.  Joy is an inventor and no matter what obstacles are thrown in her way she never gives up. She takes risks and looks for a way out of despair when none seems possible. She is a dreamer but her feet are firmly planted in the reality of her tough life.  Joy is the  financial and emotional anchor of her highly dysfunctional family and unlike Eilis in Brooklyn who eventually chooses her own fulfillment over family loyalty, Joy remains committed to, and supportive of her critical father, mentally unstable mother, unemployed ex-husband and jealous step sister even when they doubt her, betray her and take advantage of her. Joy is an inventor and using her bravado and brains she invents a new life for herself and her family. 

Three strong heroines. Three very different movies. Three very different women. Three films I enjoyed.

Other posts……..

Childbirth and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence

I’m in a Cinematography Textbook

My Movie Debut

Mennnonite Names at the Movies

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Filed under Movies

What Are People Saying?

Here’s what some of my blog readers have been saying about recent posts.

opa driedger white armyBrad thanked me for my post about my ancestors’ participation in World War I. He was in the middle of teaching a unit on WWI to his high school students in Estonia and my post was a perfect resource. He said the kids loved the photos of the old uniforms.

dave at winkler monumentJohn said my husband Dave Driedger’s name may be popular, but no more popular than my husband is himself. John had just read my post about finding my husband’s name on a memorial stone in Winkler.

ryokanAfter reading my post about sleeping in a Japanese ryokan Bill who lived in Japan for many years said, “Nothing quite like sleeping on a freshly aired futon with the sweet fragrance of tatami all around. Even the hi-tech expensive Western style mattresses don’t come close in comfort to the simple, humble futon!”

volcanoes national park- big island hawaiiMarie said as a grandmother she shared the same fears I referred to in my post Must We Live in Fear?

sitting-in-the-speakers-chairPat said I looked very regal in the Speakers Chair in the House of Commons after reading about my visit to Canada’s Parliament buildings.

SpotlightCharles suggested that “working to live” or “living to work” was a false dichotomy when he read my post about the movie Spotlight.

dave-guitarVal is very observant and in the background of a photo in my post about artistic golfers she spotted a painting by an artist Linda Nikkel Klippenstein whose work she knows and loves.

basket of children's christmas booksMargaret who is about to become a grandmother thanked me for my post about children’s Christmas books. She says she needs to start building a basket of books herself.

oma and opa's exit papers (1)Jodi , Joel and the Canadian Mennonite University Alumni Association said they appreciated my post Thoughts on Refugees and so they shared it on their Facebook or Twitter pages.

driedgers acting out shakespeares sonnet 138Brenda commented “what charisma” when she watched the video of my husband Dave performing a Shakespeare sonnet drama with me.  Ruth said we were very talented. 

being mortalJanet liked my post about the book Being Mortal. She said she had recommended it to many friends.

white wine toast quebec cityAfter reading my post about eating our way through Quebec City Diane said she had done exactly the same thing when she was in Quebec City and had been forced to go on a diet to deal with the consequences. 

they left us everythingAfter reading yesterday’s post about They Left Us Everything Dora said she agreed with me and thinks “it wiser to do the work of sorting, review, looking back oneself, if possible –not only to make things easier for the children but also to live well one’s own last years, perhaps doubling down on gratitude, perhaps working through unresolved matters, etc. Not leaving a mess!”

dream-of-plenty-luke-airutThanks to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Director Stephen Borys who pass on tweets about almost all my posts about art. 

And thanks to all of you for reading my blog and commenting on it. 

What Are People Saying?- January 2015 

What Are People Saying?- September 2014

What Are People Saying- September 2013

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They Left Us Everything

 I just finished reading Plum Johnson’s beautifully written memoir They Left Us Everything. Plum took on the task of going through the twenty-three rooms in her parents’ lake front house after they died. She sorted through their mountains of belongings. As she read hundreds of old letters, sifted through the contents of an attic crammed with  trunks, and prepared antique furniture and memorabilia to be divided up between her and her brothers, she learned so much she never knew about her parents and their fascinating lives. The experience also helped her process her relationship and feelings for both her mother and father.
they left us everythingPlum Johnson reaches the conclusion that as people age they need not clean up and sort through all their belongings. They should leave that task to their children who will find it therapeutic. Sifting through all their parents’ things will help children learn about family history and reflect on family relationships.
I don’t think I agree with Plum. She spent sixteen months living in her parents home and cleaning it out. Most children don’t have that kind of time or the financial and personal independence to dedicate to such a task. book table selkirk thrift storeI work at a thrift store and when I am unpacking boxes donated from a deceased person’s home I frequently find all kinds of personal papers, cards, letters, souvenirs, autographed and marked books, and family photos. More often than not I think the deceased person’s family disposes of things in as quick a way as possible. Few bother to do the kind of slow and detailed examination of family heirlooms and memorabilia that Plum did. In the process valuable family memories are lost. 

Silver letter holder, ink well and stamp holder I inherited from my maternal grandmother. She told me it was a Christmas gift from her sister in

Silver letter holder, ink well and stamp holder I inherited from my maternal grandmother. She told me it was a Christmas gift from her big brother Henry in 1911 when she was nineteen years old. 

I think it is better to keep your belongings to a minimum so your children aren’t left with a gargantuan clean up when you die. It is important though to find ways to preserve family memories in stories you write down or share orally with your children and grandchildren while you are still alive. Give them family treasures and tell them the stories related to them while you are still living.

Although I didn’t agree with Plum Johnson’s conclusion I did love her well written book and delighted in learning about her colorful parents along with her. The book includes family photos which is something I always enjoy.

Plum's family lived on Victoria Peak. I took this tram up to the peak many, many times when I lived in Hong Kong.

Plum’s family lived on Victoria Peak. I took this tram up to the peak many, many times when I lived in Hong Kong.

As well Plum writes about the years her family lived in Hong Kong. Since I also lived there I could identify with the places and people she wrote about.  Thanks to my friend Esther for recommending this excellent book. 

Other posts……..

I’m a Shop Girl and I Love It

A Lament for Letters

Sons and Mothers

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Filed under Books, Family

Whale Bone Sculptures


I was drawn to this sculpture by Manasie Akpaliapik in the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec because it reminded me of a sculpture by Luke Airut we have at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Dream of Plenty. dream-of-plenty-luke-airut

Both sculptures are by Inuit artists from Nunavut who come from families of carvers.  They were both created from whalebone which is a very difficult medium to use since it is fragile and must be carved slowly and carefully with hand tools. Both sculptures have a wonderful symmetry about them and both feature faces. dream-of-plenty-by-luke-airut-winnipeg-art-gallery
In both sculptures some areas have been left rough and others polished smooth. sculpture-detail-manasie-akpaliapikThere is a delicate balance of sections of detailed carving with areas of natural whalebone textures. 

The Winnipeg Art Gallery has another connection with the artist whose work I saw at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. The Inukshuk piece that is on permanent display in the roof top garden at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is also by Manasie Akpaliapik. inukshuk

Other posts……

Finding Two Old Friends
Inuit Interactives
Up On the Rooftop

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Filed under Art, Canada, quebec city, Winnipeg, winnipeg art gallery

Must We Live in Fear?

Do we live in fearful times? It seems since I became a grandmother my fears have been harder to quiet. I have more anxiety about what is going on in the world because the youngest member of our family will live his life in the future we are building now. wai o tapu hiking trail I am often fearful about what we are doing to our planet by putting economic concerns before care of creation. I am often fearful about what we are doing to the human family by emphasizing our differences and cultivating such a ‘them’ and ‘us’ dynamic rather than realizing we are all God’s children. I am often fearful because the citizens of the country with which Canada shares a border, continue to amass personal weapons at an alarming rate.       walk in the woodsDuring the Christmas season our church has been looking at how we can free ourselves from the fears that can overwhelm us as we walk down life’s road. Each Sunday we emphasize things people are doing that give us hope for the future and free us from fear, because they are signs of such great goodness. We can cultivate a sacred and positive spirit when we walk the road of life showing kindness, being fair, trusting, loving and serving others, and reaching out to include everyone.    canadian visitor with children at salaam barakk trust dehli   One Sunday a man who does lots of hiking shared stories about kindness and assistance received from fellow hikers.

One Sunday a woman who has been lobbying to have a Freedom Road built to the Shoal Lake First Nation explained why building that road is the fair thing to do.

One Sunday a woman who is blind talked to us about how often she must trust the goodness of others to make her way in the world.

One Sunday we were told our church complex had served hundreds of people that week through the various services we provide to our community through our food bank, our children’s clubs, our partnership with a neighborhood school, our tutoring programs, our English classes for new Canadians, our daycare center, our seniors’ apartments and our morning out opportunity for young mothers. At a Sunday evening concert we collected more than $5000 to help bring a refugee family to Canada.

i am malala book coverWhen I hear about so many good people doing so many good things my fears for the future are quieted. As we look forward to 2016 there is reason to be less fearful. We can be encouraged by the success of the Paris climate talks. We can be encouraged that despite exclusionary diatribes from some nation’s politicians many countries are turning a deaf ear to their noise and opening their doors to refugees. We can be encouraged that the American president publicly weeps and displays his anger at the loss of life in his country due to gun violence. Surely change will come. We can be encouraged that poverty, illiteracy and violent deaths from war are all on the decrease worldwide and life expectancy is on the increase.

copper image quebec city albert gilles

Photographed at Albert Gilles Copper in Quebec City

This coming year instead of being fearful I want to look for actions that alert me to the divine goodness in the world, and provide evidence that the sacred spirit embodied in the life of a tiny prince of peace two thousand years ago is still alive and well.

Other posts………..

The Freedom Road

She’s A Saint

Helping Refugees

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Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

My husband Dave sometimes has trouble sleeping.  It makes me wish we could set up a ryokan in our house.  When we were in Japan we spent four nights in a ryokan and Dave says those were the best nights of sleep he’s ever had.

ryokanIn the one hundred and thirty year old Matsubaya Ryokan in Kyoto we slept on the floor on a futon. Rooms in a ryokan are like those in a traditional Japanese house. Doors are made of rice paper and the polished wood floors are covered with tatami mats woven from rice straw. The main room of a ryokan suite effectively serves as the living room, bedroom, dining room and study.tokonomo in ryokan Our room had a little alcove called a tokonoma. The floor was slightly raised and there was a scroll with some Japanese calligraphy hanging on the wall. A simple flower arrangement was set in a vase on the floor of the alcove. The alcove was an area for quiet meditation.

tea in a ryokan in kyotoIn the centre of the room was a low table with cushions for sitting. We had tea or wine there in the evenings with our friends who had the room next to ours in the ryokan. On a tray in the centre of the table were a teapot, teacups, a box of tea and a metal container called a koboshi where we could put our used tea leaves.

kiminoes in ryokanAnother tray on the floor held our towels, a copy of the Buddhist scriptures and our kimonos. Each day after the maids cleaned our room, freshly laundered, neatly folded kimonos and kimono sashes, were laid out on our tray. We could wear our kimonos around the ryokan, including down to the compact dining room for breakfast. The eating area looked out onto a beautifully kept Japanese garden that featured ferns, bamboo and palm trees and a pool with gold fish.

shoes at front door of ryokanYou couldn’t wear shoes in our ryokan. These had to be left at the front door along with those of all the other guests. We went to our rooms in stocking feet. slippers for ryokan bathroomSpecial blue rubber slippers labeled Toilet and sporting pictures of little white ducks were carefully placed at our washroom entrance. The floor in the bathroom could be cold and wet so the rubber shoes came in handy. sign on toilet in ryokanA unique sign on our toilet door made it easy to locate. 

tea in royokanHundreds of years ago a powerful Japanese shogun named Tokugawa created peace by forcing each of his lords to come to Edo (modern day Tokyo) the country’s capital twice every year. The lords were so busy traveling back and forth to Edo they had no time to fight with each other. These lords needed nice places to stay as they traveled. That’s why ryokans were begun. 

Ryokans are great. I wonder if we could re-create one here in our condo in Winnipeg. Anyone looking for a king sized bed?  Maybe we should replace ours with some tatami mats and a futon so Dave could get a good night’s sleep. 

Other posts……

Take Me Out to the Ball Game Osaka Style        

Japanese Surprises

Japanese Pancakes

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Christmas Carol Inspiration

Dave plays Santa for refugee kids in Hong Kong

Dave plays a Santa game with refugee kids in Hong Kong

Santa Claus is coming to town.

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Van Gogh’s Starry Night at  the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Silent night

Women, including my students and I praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Women I saw praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

O Come All Ye Faithful

Angel on the sidewalk in Ashville North Carolina

Angel on the sidewalk in Asheville North Carolina

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Christmas in the lobby of our apartment block in Hong Kong

Christmas tree in the lobby of our apartment block in Hong Kong

O Christmas Tree 

Dave with the children on the Bolaven Coffee Plantation in Laos

Dave with the children on the Bolaven Coffee Plantation in Laos

Ihr Kinderlein Kommet – O Come Little Children

Dave with friends at a Christmas party

Dave with friends at a Christmas party

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Mongolian bells in the Music Museum in Phoenix Arizona

Mongolian bells in the Music Museum in Phoenix Arizona

Hark How the Bells

Dave pushes his Dad through the snow to a Christmas party. They are singing Leise Reiselt Der Schnee

Dave pushes his Dad through the snow to a Christmas party. They are singing Leise Reiselt Der Schnee

Leise Rieselt Der Schnee-Softly Falls the Snow

My Mom with one of her grandchildren just after they were born

My Mom with one of her grandchildren who is just a  few days old. 

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Other posts……

This Will Be My First Christmas Without My Mom

Leise Rieselt Der Schnee

My Mother’s Childhood Christmas

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Christmas Connections With Mom

schmidt family with sleigh

On Tuesday a post I wrote four years ago about my mother’s childhood Christmases was viewed hundreds of times and I received e-mails and facebook messages from people who had known my maternal grandparents and had enjoyed the post.  I wondered what had led so many people to something I wrote in 2011.  Although I can’t figure out why that particular post suddenly received so much attention it was lovely to know that it helped bring back memories for people about their connection to my mother’s family from Drake, Saskatchewan. I miss my mother so much at Christmas and hearing from people who knew her and her family was a gift. 

If you’d like to read the post yourself just click on the photo of my Mom’s family above. 

Other posts…..

 My Mom

When My Grandmother Was Twelve Years Old

Why Was This Special?

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Holidays, Writing

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry


Two men siphoning sweet water

On a steaming Thai day vying to be the one

To suck the final dregs from nature’s cup.

I just finished reading the Giller Prize winning book Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. The author traces the life and death experiences of fifteen dogs given human thought and speech capabilites by the gods Hermes and Apollo as a result of a bet the two mythical Greek brothers make in a modern bar in downtown Toronto.


Using the Caradec pattern Alexis writes poems where the name of the dog is not legible but can be heard when the poem is read aloud. For example here is Alexis’ poem for the dog Prince. 

Longing to be sprayed (the green snake writhing in his master’s hand)

Back and forth into that stream

Jump, rinse: coat slick with soap. 

If you read it out loud you will hear the dog Prince’s name at the end of the word jump connected to the next word rinse.  

The poem that starts this blog post is one I wrote for my husband Dave using the same  pattern. Can you find his name? He and his friend Hans were having a drink in Phuket Thailand. (check out the words day and vying)

Here’s a poem in the same pattern using my name MaryLou. It is about me setting off on a motorcycle trip in Taiwan. riding-with-dirk-in-tawain

Putting my fate in the hands of my cousin Dirk

Will I be merry, lose my life

Will I be hurt, lose my inhibitions

I buckle my helmet and we fly.

( check out the words merry and lose)

Can you write a poem in the same form?  I’d love to hear it. Post it in the comment section below. 

Other posts…….

King David Was A Rapist

The Poetry of Boxing

 A New Poet


Filed under Books, Poetry

Best of the Cannes Lions

Goth Girl , the story of a young teenager whose Dad is incredibly supportive was my husband Dave’s favorite amongst the great line up of advertisements featured in the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. We saw the compilation of prize winning television ads at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Sunday afternoon.  

Of the more than fifty advertisements included in the show my favorite was This Girl Can which celebrated active British women doing their thing no matter how well they did it or how they looked doing it.  

The 2015 line up of advertisements from the Cannes Lions is one of the best ever.  It’s a great 107 minutes of entertainment! 

Other posts…….

Super Bowl Ads A Woman’s Perspective


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Filed under Media, winnipeg art gallery