Monthly Archives: April 2016

This is just to say….

wall in the hague william carlos williams creative commonsThis famous poem by William Carlos Williams is imprinted on a wall in The Hague. 

When I taught high school I used to ask my students to write their own poems using the Williams poem as inspiration. The Williams poem is said to be based on a note his wife left on the fridge for him. I asked my students to think of place where they might leave a note and what they would say. 

Here is a sample I wrote for my students about a note left by me on student work ………

This is just to say

the F

on your assignment

is for real

I’m sorry

you probably thought

I wouldn’t

figure it out

but you plagiarized

and I am


than you think

Other posts………

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry

Dancing in Shangri-la

Poetry and Teenagers



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Filed under Education, Poetry

Photographed Just in Time

winnipeg strike mural 2

On September 15, 2012, I took photos of this Winnipeg Strike Mural on the south wall of what was then the Whiskey Dix nightclub on Main Street.   

I captured the artwork just in time because later that same month a wicked rain and wind storm ripped the vinyl mural from the wall and damaged it. 

winnipeg strike mural

The mural painted by Tom Andrich told the story of perhaps the most memorable event in Winnipeg history, the strike of 1919. In May of that year some 30,000 workers walked off the job because of poor working conditions and a lack of employment opportunities, especially for World War I veterans.

Union organizers wanted an eight-hour work day, collective bargaining and demanded employers pay a living wage.  

men and women winnipeg strike

These are the strike leaders who were imprisoned. The only woman pictured is Helen Armstrong. Nicknamed Wild Woman of the West she was a union organizer who championed the cause of working women. Born in Toronto she moved to Winnipeg in 1905 and became the leader of the Women’s Labor League.

Her leadership helped bring a minimum wage to Manitoba. During the strike, Helen organized kitchens to feed female strikers and harassed strike breakers who were crossing the picket line. She encouraged women to boycott stores where the workers were on strike and challenged them to join the men on strike.

She was arrested and jailed for inciting people to strike, for disorderly conduct and encouraging the abuse of strikebreakers.

britons shall never be slaves

Winnipeg business owners organized a Citizen’s Committee of One Thousand to oppose the strikers. They blamed foreign immigrants for the strike and many were deported. The majority of the strikers however were British.

toppled street car winnipeg strike

On June 21, 1919, war veterans organized a parade to protest the arrest of labour leaders. They were also upset at the government edict that the labour movement newspaper could no longer be published. 6,000 people gathered in front of City Hall. When a streetcar, operated by strikebreakers came by the protesters overturned it and set it on fire.

north west mounted police winnipeg strike

The federal government had sent out the Royal North West Mounted Police to help put an end to the strike. Carrying clubs and firearms the North West Police charged into the crowd after the street car was overturned. They began to fire their weapons.

mike winnipeg strike 

June 21, 1919, became known as Bloody Saturday, because the North West Mounties killed two strikers, wounded thirty-four and made nearly a hundred arrests. The mural on Main Street has a portrait of one of the men who died. His name was Mike Sokolowski.

After Bloody Saturday the strike organizers fearing more violence called the strike to a halt and the strikers went back to work on June 26th.

Other posts……..

1000 Nails A Musical Mural

David Bowie in My Neighbourhood

Discovering Sacagawea

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Filed under Art, History, Winnipeg

Teaching Kids About the Diversity of Families, Gender Identities and Sexual Orientations

Last week The Carillon, the southeastern Manitoba newspaper where I work as a columnist,  reported the Hanover School Board had said no to a request from a parent to include discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation in younger grades.

The parent voiced her concerns because her child was being bullied at school for having two mothers. She proposed that more open discussions in younger grades about things like families with same-sex marriage partners might help change the attitudes that led to the bullying. The school board decided to continue their policy of saving such discussions for high school classrooms where they are part of the mandated provincial curriculum.

This means parents in the school division who want their young children to be accepting of a diversity of family arrangements, gender identities and lifestyle choices, will need to teach their kids those values at home. Luckily there are plenty of great books that can act as helpful resources for parents.

The Pilgrims is a group of people in my church who meet regularly to explore how our faith community can respond supportively to the spiritual pilgrimage of LGBTQ people. Since I am our church librarian a group member approached me recently wondering if I might be open to having them donate some books for children to the church library.

These were stories that introduced the idea that all people are unique and make different lifestyle choices, and that all families are unique and some include two mothers or two fathers. I said I would be happy to have these books in our church library. The request sent me off on a search of my own and here are some good books I found that parents of young children might want to consider.

 morris and the tangerine dressMorris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino is about a little boy who loves to wear a dress from the classroom’s dress-up box. His friends say he isn’t welcome in the spaceship they are building because astronauts don’t wear dresses.

TangopenguinAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell is a true story about a pair of male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who adopt an unwanted baby penguin and provide a loving caring family for it.

donovan's big dayDonovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman captures the joy and excitement of a family wedding through the eyes of a boy who is acting as the ring bearer for his two mothers.

great big book of familiesThe Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman has colourful illustrations that depict every kind of family; single parent, two-parent, blended, multi-cultural, multi-racial and families headed by same-sex couples and grandparents.annie's plaid shirtAnnie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy Davids and Rachael Balsaitis is about a girl who loves her plaid shirt and is upset when her mother says she can’t wear it to her uncle’s wedding and must wear a dress instead.

These are just a few of the books available for young children. There are also many well-written novels for upper elementary and junior high kids that address gender identity, lifestyle choice and same-sex marriage in thoughtful ways.

In a Carillon editorial last week the Hanover School Division was characterized as “doing nothing to advance a more compassionate response to discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Parents however can help their children have just such a compassionate response by sharing with them some of the great books for kids that celebrate and explain diversity.

Other posts……

Perfect for Pre Schoolers

Why Adults Are Reading Teen Fiction

Can Spirituality and Sexuality Dance Together

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Filed under Books, Education, Family

Images from Ru

yoked merchant in vietnam

“The merchants stepped into the modern era still carrying the weight of the yoke on their shoulders.”

That’s a line from the book Ru by Kim Thuy.  I just finished reading her poetic and haunting novel about life in Vietnam and a family much like her own that immigrates to Canada.   The book was a beautiful reminder of my own visit to Vietnam. Kim Thuy’s non-sequential narrative moves from one scene to another each describing a different time or event in her protagonist An Tinh’s  life.  Certain sentences in Ru seemed almost to have been written as captions for some of the photos I took in Vietnam.  

Photo I took of a Vietnamese mother sending her son off to war in the Vietnam Military History Museum in Hanoi.

“The women let the sadness grow in the chamber of their hearts. They were so weighed down by all their grief they couldn’t pull themselves up……bowed under the weight of their sorrow.”   

children on a boat in hailong bay vietnam “the little girl who was swallowed up by the sea after she lost her footing” 

artillery vietnam“I was born in the shadow of skies ………….. shot through with rockets and missles.”

man in garden saigon“I was lucky enough to have parents who were able to hold their gaze steady”

irrigation vietnam“people are too preoccupied by their day-to-day survival to take the time to write their collective history”

woman's face vietnam“Aside from his mother’s teeth laquered black he had forgotten the faces of his parents.”

cu chi“He had slept in underground tunnels.”

family eating supper“She mixed the pork with steaming rice in a blue and white bowl”

woman in saigon hat

Other posts……..

Hearing the Red River Valley in Hanoi

Sliding on the Sand

Elegant Words



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Filed under Books, vietnam

Brenda and Annie

photo of annie moose and brenda longclawsMeet Annie Moose and Brenda Longclaws.  Their portrait is currently featured in the exhibit We Are On Treaty Land at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Annie was 113 when she died in 2007.  She was an educator and the mother of 15 children, grandmother of 63, great grandmother of 214 and great, great grandmother of 80.  

In this photo taken in 1996 by First Nations photographer Murray McKenzie, Annie poses with Brenda Longclaws, an assistant principal at Gordon Bell Collegiate.   

 Annie’s obituary in the Montreal Gazette quoted her as saying that she believed her longevity might have had something to do with her love for her family and her ability to take hardship in stride.  Brenda Longclaws says, ” I like to get people smiling and see them in a good light.” 

Annie and Brenda represent two very different generations of aboriginal women.

Other posts about We Are On Treaty Land………

What’s a Bandolier Bag? 

Bear Witness

Abstract and Frustrating

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Hong Kong Connection at a Winnipeg Church

all saints churchWhile visiting the All Saints Anglican Church at the corner of Osborne and Broadway here in Winnipeg I was surprised to find………hong kong veterans all saints church

this banner with Chinese style lettering saying Hong Kong Veterans hanging from the church’s ceiling. I knew  a regiment from Manitoba, The Winnipeg Grenadiers, had served in Hong Kong during World War II and that many Manitobans had been killed there when Japan attacked and captured Hong Kong. I also knew many more Winnipeg soldiers had died in Japanese prisoner of war camps.sai wan war cemetery hong kong

Many Manitoba soldiers are buried in the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong and it was a place I visited frequently during the six years I lived in Hong Kongcanadian soldiers grave sai wan

I even wrote an article about the cemetery for the Winnipeg Free Press. winnipeg grenadiers veterans
This plaque  is on the wall at All Saints and pays tribute to individual members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers regiment that served in Hong Kong. I learned that for many decades after the war veterans of the Manitoba regiment got together for an annual memorial service and meal at All Saints Church.all saints church winnipeg 2It was intriguing to find evidence of a connection between a church in my home city of Winnipeg, and a cemetery in Hong Kong, the city that was my home before I moved here. 

Other posts…….

Matching Macau and St. Boniface

Hong Kong Inspiration

The Amazing Race Canada- Where They SHOULD Have Gone in Hong Kong

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Filed under Hong Kong, Religion, Winnipeg

Hammock Inspiration

dave in hammock fiji

Dave reading in a hammock in Fiji

The word hammockable (describing two trees that are the perfect distance apart between which a hammock can be hung) is not in the dictionary, but it should be. ― Dan Kieran

hammock borneo

Dave getting his hammock ready for a night in the Borneo rainforest 

An optimist is one who plants two acorns and buys a hammock -Jean De Lattre De Tassigny

hammock in merida mexico

Dave trying out a hammock in the home of a friend in Merida Mexico

While sleeping in a hammock……….. we remember why we are in love with life!― Mehmet Murat ildan

dave in hammock costa rica

Dave in a hammock in Monteverde Costa Rica

You should spend ten minutes everyday in a hammock unless you are too busy. Then you should spend an hour. Seth Haber

Other posts……

Visiting a Teacher in Borneo

Fiji Inspiration

Mayan Human Sacrifice- Just a Hollywood Myth?


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Seeing the Queen

queen elizabeth public domainAll the publicity about the Queen’s birthday this week reminded me of the time I saw her as a little girl.  Queen Elizabeth was visiting Winnipeg in July of 1959. She drove through the city in a motorcade.
I was five years old and my Dad was a medical intern at the St. Boniface Hospital. Queen Elizabeth’s motorcade was going to go right near the hospital. The streets were lined with people and it would have been hard for a little girl like me to see with such a crowd all around. So my Dad took me up on the roof of the hospital and from there I had a great birds-eye view of the Queen as she drove by waving her hand.

Other posts……..

The Queen Who Couldn’t Bake Gingerbread

Marrying an Heiress- Gilded Prostitution



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Filed under Childhood, History

The Week Whirls By

art project Monday I was at the art gallery for a professional development meeting. My colleagues and I tried out one of the new art projects we are going to do with our school age groups. It was lots of fun! 

flowers from dinner guestsTuesday two of my aunties and a cousin came over for supper.  Lots of good visiting.  They brought me these beautiful flowers. 

Homer Watson Near the Close of a Stormy Day public domainWednesday I gave a tour to grade ones at the art gallery.  They loved looking for signs of the passing storm in Near the Close of A Stormy Day by Homer Watson. We had fun creating a noisy storm of our own with the art gallery’s cart full of musical instruments. 

luncheon with student teachersThursday I hosted a luncheon at one of the schools where I’ve been visiting student teachers.  What a great bunch!  We had a lovely lunch and a good visit. 

birthday giftsThis morning we have a 6 am. departure time for Saskatoon to celebrate our grandson’s fourth birthday.  I’m ready!!

Where has the week gone? 

Other posts………..

Paint Nite

Lynch Family and Lead Belly

Early Morning Walk in Saskatoon

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Filed under Family, Retirement, winnipeg art gallery

Introducing Kids to Abigail

Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante abigail and david

Abigail and David by Juan Antonio deFrias y Escalante

Have you ever found yourself in the role of peacemaker or diplomat trying to make amends for the rude or angry behaviour of someone else?  That’s the position Abigail was in.


Abigail Presents Gifts to David by Juan de la Corte

Her boorish husband Nabal had insulted David, the future king of Israel. David was so angry with Nabal he was going to kill him. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, intervened bringing David a pile of presents and asking him to please forgive her husband’s impolite and insulting behavior. David was so impressed with Abigail he did as she requested. 

the meeting of david and abigail peter paul rubens

The Meeting of David and Abigail by Peter Paul Rubens

Abigail’s story is much more complex than the summary I’ve given here but she was an intelligent, strong woman who got between two men acting foolishly and rashly and made them calm down.  Abigail was a peacemaker whose actions can be a role model not only for kids but for me too. 

Other posts……

The Ten Commandments for Kids Well Maybe for us Too

This Story was Troubling

King David was a Rapist

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Filed under Religion