Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Different View of the World

jackson beardyEverything is connected! During the treaty training session I attended at the Manitoba Museum last week, along with the rest of the education staff from the Winnipeg Art Gallery, we spent some time studying a painting by Jackson Beardy that offers a unique First Nations perspective on the interconnectedness of living things.

Version 3The bear represents the animal world.Version 4The flowers represent the plant world. Version 2The thunderbird symbolizes the rain, thunder and lightning. Version 5Here is Mother Earth’s heart beating. 
Version 6The grandmother and father moon represent birth, nourishment and protection.Version 8

The human being is the smallest element and is using the pipe to give thanks to all the other beings that give the human life.jackson beardy

In Beardy’s painting all the facets of the world are joined together -plants, animals, heavenly bodies, natural elements, the earth and human beings.  Beardy illustrates how we are all interdependent. 

Other posts……..

Parfleches For the Last Supper

A Bandolier Bag

Bear Witness

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Filed under Art, Canada

Back Porch News- Before the Age of Facebook

back porch news 1

Before there was Facebook my extended family kept in touch with Back Porch News.  It was a yearly newsmagazine begun by my cousin Connie and then edited by various family members for over a decade.  I haven’t kept all my issues, but the earliest one I have is from 1989 and the latest from 1999.  Every year most of my seventeen cousins, my father, and  each of his five sisters would write a letter detailing what had been going in their lives for the last 12 months. That usually amounted to around twenty letters. family-news-letterThis was before computers and e-mail so the letters were printed, hand written, or typed, and mailed to the editor for the year who then photocopied them, collated them all into booklets and mailed the finished newsmagazine out to all family members. familiy-newsletterSometimes the newsletters had themes. After my grandfather died we all included memories of him in our annual letters and we did the same thing after my cousin Connie died sharing our family memories of her. In one issue we all included lists of our favorite books. back-porch-news

In the issue shown here I found out that cousin Robert and his family had a new cocker spaniel named Sage. My brother Ken wrote about the six weeks he had spent in Peru working on an international development project. My cousin Fred was in Brussels doing editing work for a variety of non-profit organizations. My parents and my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Dave had just come back from a trip to Venezuela together. My cousin Bernie was teaching on a Hutterite colony. My sister Kaaren had been in San Fransisco presenting her ideas for nursing research at the National Cancer Institute. During the past year my cousin Charlotte had made trips to New York, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Miami and Philadelphia. My Aunt Helen reported that her wine making had gone well and there were plenty of bottles still in her basement if we wanted to try some.  I announced the news that our family was moving to Arizona for a year to teach on the Hopi Indian Reservation. 

back porch news 2Nowadays when I want to find out what my cousins are doing I just check their Facebook page.  But before there was Facebook I read Back Porch News. My copies of our family newsmagazine hold great memories and provide an interesting record of more than a decade of family life. 

Other posts…….

Drama at the Family Gathering

The Passing of Time

My Mother’s Button Box


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Rap, Re-Imagining Winnipeg and Designing Fishnets

I visited three classrooms last week as a mentor and supervisor for university student teachers.  I’ve only just begun several jam packed weeks of school visits and report writing but I’ve already had a great time.

rapper public domainIn a grade nine language arts class I listened to the music of Canadian rapper Shad for the first time.  I must admit rap isn’t necessarily my genre and I knew Shad only as the host of the CBC program Q.  But together with the students I considered the lyrics of his piece Remember to Remember and heard kids discussing among other things alcohol and drug use, life goals, if it is better to be rich or poor and whether we can rise above our past.  Later in the class the kids used Shad’s lyrics and a black out technique to create poems of their own. 

800px-Winnipeg's_City_Hall_buildingI also watched grade twos working on a list of things they’d like to do to improve their neighborhood. They are preparing to visit their councilor at City Hall in a couple weeks to present their ideas to him.  One idea they have is to create a butterfly garden on their school property to help save the monarchs, but they’ve got lots of other great ideas too. Those seven years olds made me take stock of what I’m doing to make my city a better place to live. There’s a new book just out called Re-Imagning Winnipeg.  It is written by adults who have a vision for our city.  I wonder what a similar book written by kids would look like?

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 4.23.25 PMI visited a group of grade ones who were designing fish nets.  My student teacher had a table full of supplies, pipe cleaners, plastic bags, straws, string, wool, popsicle sticks, tape ……  She talked about volume and porisity with the kids and showed them the little foam number fish swimming in a tub of water they would need to catch with their nets.  The little designers and engineers all went to their seats to draw plans for their nets and then they built them.  They were AMAZING!  Each one unique and all except one able to trap fish. 

My first week of classroom visits has me all excited about the visits that remain.  It’s going to be fun!

Other posts……

Learning Cool Things

Popping In and Out of Schools

Feeling Nostalgic

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Filed under Education, Winnipeg

They Inspire Me

gym-room-pixabay - public domainI exercise at a YMCA five or six times a week.  It’s a great place to work out.  People of all sizes and shapes and nationalities and ages use the facilities.  I particularly admire the many octogenarians who show up everyday from a nearby seniors residence.  There is one man, tall, black and wiry, who sings hymns softly as he moves from one weight machine to the next.  There is a tiny Asian lady who can’t speak English but gives me a warm smile and an enthusiastic wave every morning.  There is another white haired woman who comes onto the exercise floor with her walker.  It isn’t easy for her to maneuver onto the seat of the recumbent bike or the rower but she has a system figured out and she manages independently.  One day I was rowing beside another elderly woman with a considerable stoop in her back.  We started chatting and she said, “My children have given up on me and so has my doctor.  They think I should be in a wheelchair.  But they can think what they want.  I’m not giving up on myself.” There’s a man with a shock of white hair who reads the Toronto Globe and Mail as he bikes and another  woman in her eighties who swims, walks and bikes everyday. There’s a First Nations man with a white cane and a grey ponytail who told me he’s keeping fit because his girlfriend likes him that way. 

If I don’t feel like exercising, all I have to do is look at the people twenty or so years my senior at the gym who show up everyday so they can stay as fit and healthy as possible.  I admire them. They inspire me.  

Other posts…….

What Will You Be Building?

Being Mortal

Sitting is the New Smoking

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Filed under Health, Sports

Easter Retrospective

Easter 2008- on holiday in Bali, Indonesia

Easter 2008- on holiday in Bali, Indonesia

Easter 1961- Coloring Easter eggs with my siblings

Easter 1961- Coloring Easter eggs with my siblings

2009-Playing bridge in Koh Samui Thailand with our friends Rudy and Sue

Easter 2009-Playing bridge in Koh Samui Thailand with our friends Rudy and Sue

Easter 1956- My sister and I in our Easter bonnets

Easter 1956- My sister and I in our Easter bonnets

Easter 2010- With my two amazing brothers at an Easter family gathering

Easter 2010- With my two brothers at a family party in Winnipeg

Easter 1960- Ready for church with my brother and sister

Easter 1960- Ready for church with my brother and sister

Easter 2011- With my great niece at a family party in Leamington Ontario

Easter 2011- With my great niece at a family party in Leamington Ontario

Easter 1957 - With my sister in dresses sewn by our mother

Easter 1957 – With my sister in dresses sewn by our mother

Easter 2015- With my good friends in Assiniboine Park

Easter 2015- With my good friends in Assiniboine Park

Other posts……

The T-4s Welcome Spring

Easter Inspiration

Easter A Time of New Beginnings


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Blood Upon the Rose

I See His Blood Upon the Rose
by Joseph Plunkett

winter in exchange district winnipegI see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

flowers-on-the-beachI see his face in every flower;                   
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

waves on rocks costa ricaAll pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea, 
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

The choir I’m part of this Good Friday morning is singing this poem in an arrangement by composer Hugh Robertson. It reminds me of St. Bonaventure who said that every piece of creation is another footprint, another fingerprint, another revelation of the mystery of the divine. The whole universe….. it’s all sacred.

Other posts……

Thinking About Mary on Good Friday

A Life That Adds Up to Something 


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Filed under Holidays, Poetry

I Sure Picked a Couple of Winners

I can’t believe it! There are only two books left in the Canada Reads contest and they are the two I chose for my first and second picks in previous blog posts. My favorite book was The Hero’s Walk and my second choice was The Illegal. One of them will win today.

a hero's walkI have to say that even though I liked The Hero’s Walk the best, Clara Hughes, the Olympic medalist who is championing The Illegal is my favorite panelist. She is so well prepared, has thoughtful opinions, and is gracious  about the other books. She looks for good in them all. I find her more articulate than Vinay Virmani who is advocating for The Hero’s Walk although they both are passionate about their books. 

the illegalIn past years I haven’t watched the Canada Reads debates as faithfully but because this year I’ve read all the books I can hardly wait to see it every day. One thing I’m really appreciating is the variety in the panelists. They are athletes and business people, entertainers and social advocates all excited about the value of reading fiction and the pleasure it affords. 

I truly believe reading fiction makes us better people, enriches our lives, and offers us an avenue for solace and salvation.   The fact that our country has a sort of annual national book club that sparks such interest and enthusiasm for books by Canadian authors reflects what a civilized, sane and progressive country Canada is. 

No matter which book wins today I think anyone who watches Canada Reads, or reads one of the books in contention is a winner! In the meantime till I get home from work around 3:30 and watch the show I’m keeping my fingers crossed for The Hero’s Walk. 

Other posts……

On Reading Lila

A Flood of Books

The Orenda

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Filed under Books, Canada

A Different Perspective

As part of the Treaty Training workshop I participated in at the Manitoba Museum on Monday we looked at some of the museum’s exhibits and tried to see them from a First Nations’ perspective.  

non such at the manitoba museumI’ve toured the Nonsuch ship in the museum many times.  As I’ve explored the cramped living quarters below deck I’ve thought about what it must have been like for the sailors who lived aboard the vessel in 1668 as the ship made the 118 day voyage from England to Canada to trade for beaver pelts with the Cree. I’ve wondered at the ingenuity of the ship builders and thought about the historical importance of the crew members because the success of their voyage led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company. I’ve wondered how the sailors might have spent their very first winter in the cold of James Bay. 

nonsuch manitoba museumOur guide asked us to look at the ship again however and imagine what might have been going on in the minds of the First Nations people who first saw the Nonsuch when it arrived in Canada on its maiden voyage. Aboriginal Canadians might have been thinking………

Who are these men?  Will they be the same or different than their people who have visited us before? How did they build such a massive ship out of wood?  What do they want here?  How can they expect to spend the winter here when they don’t have the things they will need to survive?  We may need to help them make it through the winter. Why have they traveled without any women?  Why are our furs of value to them? What will they do with a ship full of beaver pelts where they come from?  How will their presence in our community change our way of life? Should we be afraid of these people or should they be afraid of us? Once they leave will we ever see them again?

first nations village manitoba museumIt was interesting to look at the Nonsuch from a different perspective. 

There Must Be 50 Ways To Use A Bison

Sleeping with Torpedos

Who Are the Wendat?


Filed under Canada, History, Winnipeg

Canada Reads Day One

I watched day one of CBC’s Canada Reads as soon as I got home from work yesterday. As my blog followers know I have a vested interest in the contest this year because I’ve managed to read all five books nominated. Some reflections about the show yesterday….

a hero's walk


My personal first place pick is The Hero’s Walk. It almost got eliminated but was saved by Olympian Clara Hughes’ passionate defence of it. The Hero’s Walk reminded Clara so much of her own family that she absolutely loved it so……. when she had to cast the deciding vote about which book to eliminate she chose Minister Without Portfolio which kept The Hero’s Walk in contention.



I liked Farah Mohamed’s comment about Birdie when she said she was hoping for a story about an aboriginal woman who could be a hero rather than a victim. Birdie may be a realistic depiction of the violent and troubled lives of many First Nations women, but Mohamed proposes that it is time for a book about a successful, confident First Nations’ woman, because there are many. I agree. Why not a novel about an aboriginal woman who is a prosperous business owner, an inspirational teacher, a successful artist or an effective political leader? 


minister without portfolioI agreed with the elimination of Minister Without Portfolio. The story just wasn’t believable. Henry the main character escapes death or injury so many times that finally you start thinking of him as the cat with nine lives. It just never stops. He is in a fiery accident in Afghanistan, a mining disaster in Alberta, nearly loses his stepdaughter when she gets locked in a car, faces every roadblock imaginable when it comes to restoring an old house in Newfoundland, and then there is the incinerator fire, and the whale that nearly flips his boat, and getting lost in the fog……. I could go on. I know the hero of a book needs to face problems but Michael Winter went overboard in Minister Without Portfolio giving Henry one too many close calls. I did like the Newfoundland setting and was intrigued by the idea that we all have a sphere of a hundred people in this world for whom we are responsible, but it wasn’t enough to make this book a winner for me. 

the illegalInterestingly none of the panelists talked about the book The Illegal.  Clara Hughes, who chose the book defended this saga of a young refugee passionately  at the outset, but when the panelists were asked to reflect on…….. a book that surprised them………. a book that is most relevant to Canada today……. or a book they thought did not reflect the 2016 theme of ‘starting over’, no one mentioned The Illegal at all. Not sure what that means. 


Looking forward to today’s show.  I have to work all day again so I’ll have to wait till I get home to find out which book gets eliminated tomorrow.  I hope it’s not The Hero’s Walk. 

Other posts……

The Illegal

The Hero’s Walk

Bone and Bread


Filed under Books, Canada

A Musical Weekend

carmina burana ticketThis weekend it was all about the music! Friday night we went to hear Carmina Burana performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with the Mennonite Festival Chorus, the Canadian Mennonite University Chorus and the Winnipeg Boys Choir. 

I was introduced to composer Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in a music class at university.   Coincidentally my professor for that course Henry Engbrecht was directing the choir I heard sing on Sunday morning.  faith and life choirMy husband Dave is in the Faith and Life Male Choir and they were performing in a church in Altona. Henry Engbrecht conducts the choir.  My father and I went along to Altona to hear the choir sing. 

Then Sunday night Dave and I were at Home Street Mennonite Church to rehearse with a choir that will be performing on Good Friday morning.  Our daughter-in-law is the director. We’ve never had the opportunity to sing under her talented direction before and it’s a treat. 

singers idolOur daughter-in-law was also the drawing card for the musical event we attended Saturday night. It was a fund-raiser for the Winnipeg Singers.  Our daughter-in-law  was participating in their Singers Idol competition. Members of the choir formed groups and performed all kinds of entertaining numbers that delighted the audience. By buying tickets we could vote for the winning group.  Naturally all our votes went to our daughter-in-law’s group The Sirens. 

Via Facebook we were also be able to keep up with our son’s musical performances in Austin Texas where his band was part of the South by Southwest music festival. 

Yes. It was a musical weekend and a good one.

Other posts…….

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Music?  

Exploring Austin During the South by Southwest Music Festival

All That Jazz in Kansas City

I’m So Tired of You America

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Filed under Music, Winnipeg