Monthly Archives: December 2016

Highlights of 2016

paul-shirley-dave-marylou-costa-ricaAmazing seven weeks in Costa Rica in January and February. 

A book research trip to Sisseton South Dakota in summer.

Going to Saskatoon for our older grandson’s birthday party in April and going again in June to meet our new grandson.

Marching in the Pride Parade in Steinbach. 

dad and dave walkSaying a final farewell to my father-in-law who died in June.

Being a finalist in a writing contest. 

Working on a Little Free Library project at our church. 

A family get together with our children and grandchildren in August. me and my cousinsReuniting with many cousins I hadn’t seen in a long time at my aunt and uncles’ anniversary party. 

Meeting so many delightful children on my art gallery tours and giving tours to adult participants in the Arctic Net Conference.

Monthly meetings with my T-4 group of friends and our church small group. 

Continuing to be able to write my newspaper column Viewpoint.
luncheon with student teachers

Working with the inspiring student teachers I supervise.

Seeing lots of great movies, theatre productions and concerts. 

Becoming power of attorney for my ninety-four year old  Aunt Vi. 

Having two sets of curriculum I authored published. 


Weekly get togethers with my Dad. 

Spending time with our children here in Winnipeg and attending all their musical performances. 

Hosting so many friends old and new for meals in our home. 

Reading all the Canada Reads nominees. 
marylou-and-lynne-ladies-lookoutMemorable two-week holiday and hiking trip to Newfoundland. 

A trip to Ontario in May that included our son’s Royal Canoe show in Toronto and a great visit with family in Leamington. 

Researching and writing stories from our families’ histories. 

Having so many people read my blog and the way it keeps me connected to interesting people and places and ideas.

Happy New Year!

Other year end posts……..

Happy New Year From Albuquerque

2015 on What Next

New Laws for a New Year



Filed under Reflections

Little Free Library

little-free-library-copyI am so excited about our Little Free Library. I am the librarian at my  church and one of the library’s  recent projects was installing a Little Free Library on our grounds. Our library will be one of nearly fifty found all over Winnipeg and one of 50,000 that have sprung up in more than 70 countries. Estimates are that some 200,000 books a day and more than 60 million books a year are exchanged through Little Free Libraries.

The mission of Little Free Libraries is to promote literacy and a love of reading and to build a sense of community. The movement began with two Wisconsin book aficionados Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. In 2010 they got the idea of building small simple libraries from recycled material and inviting people to donate books to stock their shelves. When people left a book they were encouraged to help themselves to others that had been donated.

Never in their wildest dreams did the two men imagine the movement would take off as it has. They now have a website where people who build Little Free Libraries can register their library and have it placed on the site’s world map. Little Free Libraries have been built on the grounds of hospitals, churches, police stations, fire halls, schools, businesses and private homes. 

front-little-freeThe library at our church features two reading benches and a cupboard that looks a little like a grain elevator. But each Little Free Library is different and if you go on the website you can see all the creative ways different people have constructed theirs.

I was so lucky to have Brock and Delmer willing to take on the Little Free Library project.

Having a Little Free Library at our church was my idea but I had no clue how I would go about building it. Luckily a call for help placed in the church bulletin recruited a young architect who had just started his first job with a design firm in Winnipeg and an experienced retiree who loved to build and had a well equipped carpenter’s workshop. The two collaborated and used some lovely burr oak provided by the widow of a man who had loved wood but died before he was able to use the oak to build something. Another man from our congregation who is a graphic designer agreed to do all the lettering on our library. little-free-libraryOur library was open for business at one point but then due to some fierce winter weather we had to close it for a little fine tuning.  Now however it is up and running once again.    

Since hundreds of people use our church each week visiting our food bank, taking part in our young parents’ group, attending the children’s clubs we operate, taking the English classes we offer, dropping off their youngsters at our daycare or visiting relatives in our senior’s residence we hope there will be lots of patrons for our Little Free Library.

Other posts……..

Book Lady

Great Aunt Marie’s Books

The Millenium Library



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Couldn’t Sleep

Here’s what I did when I couldn’t sleep worried my children and grandchildren’s plane wouldn’t make it to Winnipeg because of the blizzard.  



By the way nearly 40 flights in and out of Winnipeg were cancelled but not the one our kids were on.  The coloring calendar was a Christmas gift from my husband.  

Other posts……….

Dave to the Rescue

I Talked to Peter C. Newman

A Great House Haunts Me

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Life is Messy

with advanced comp classBefore I first started teaching high school English I was in regular e-mail communication with one of my future colleagues. He was trying to help me understand what teaching high school English was like. He concluded one of his letters with the phrase “Teaching English is messy!” And he was right! Juggling as many as a hundred students a semester all at different places in the creative process, all with different writing skills and different reading levels and different literary tastes, all with unique personal challenges and different attitudes towards learning, made for an extremely messy classroom hubris that I grew to love over a six-year period.

wai o tapu hiking trail Life is a lot like English class too. Relationships are usually messy. They rarely run the course described in fairy tales.  While the people we love often make us feel whole and cherished…… sometimes as they negotiate their way through joy or pain they can tax our resources of support and caring and we can easily wear their affection thin with our overt enthusiasm or droning complaints. Friendships don’t just begin and end, they taper off,  go through rough patches, are rejuvenated and many times bless us richly.  Goals and plans are messy. We seldom reach milestones or walk through a charted journey in the manner we’d anticipated but how great a feeling when we arrive! The path of our work life is almost certain to be winding and messy and full of detours yet our careers can be incredibly rewarding.  Daily life is messy too- full of grungy toilets to be cleaned, sweet babies to hug, dreaded appointments to keep, lovely gifts to open, cracked toe nails to cut, inspiring books to read, necessary shopping trips to endure, exciting new skills to learn and sometimes the need to spend a day in your nightgown.

stairs-skerwink-trailThe beginning of different stages of life open up so many messy possibilities we delight in the exciting maze of them. The end of life leaves a myriad of messy loose ends that need tending and tidying.

The messiness of life is challenging and rewarding and interesting and at this point for me definitely worth waking up for each day.

This post has been updated here. 

Other posts……….

And That Led Me

Thinking About Work

I’m Possible

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Question #10 – Friends and Family

The final question in my Christmas series is…… What is the best thing about Christmas?   For me it is the opportunity it provides to get together with family and friends.  In the last month we’ve had so many chances to do that.  We went to a Christmas banquet staged by the car dealership my husband works for as a shuttle driver.  I hosted my writers group here at our place for a Christmas potluck and gift exchange.  


My brother Mark and his wife Kathy hosted a lovely family dinner party featuring salmon my brother caught on a British Columbia fishing trip.

After the choir my husband sings in put on their Christmas concert there was a party to reminisce and celebrate another year of making music.


In the week leading up to Christmas we have been blessed to host our Hong Kong friends Meena and Anil for a week.

I had a lovely Christmas celebration with the T-4’s the group of friends I meet with every month. We  played the Christmas question game which I have been featuring on this blog.  Our friends Don and Marlene invited us out to Steinbach for a Christmas lunch and my cousin Lynne and her husband Rod had us over for a Christmas supper.  Because we are off to Arizona for a couple months we had a ‘good-bye for now’ movie and dinner with our friends Bruno and Caroline and took out our friends Beatrice and Jean for Chinese food in Steinbach. We had another Chinese dinner at our favorite restaurant here in Winnipeg Noodle Express with our friends Dave and Wendy after enjoying a play  at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. My friend Arlene hosted a special Christmas party at her condo for the group of ladies I volunteer with at the Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue. 


Our friends Bonny and Jim hosted the Christmas party for our church small group which has been meeting together for more than fifteen years.

And there are many Christmas get togethers still to come… an extended family gathering at my sisters, our own children and grandchildren arriving from Saskatoon to spend four days with us, a dinner tonight at my brother’s house and a Christmas movie this afternoon with our son and his wife.  

We feel very blessed indeed to have so many family members nearby and so many friends with whom we can share the joy of Christmas. 

Merry Christmas everyone! Hoping you too have some folks near and dear to share it with. 

Other posts………

Christmas in Hong Kong- Good Memories

Dali’s Christmas Card

This Will Be



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Filed under Holidays

A Forty-Five Year Old Necklace and Scarf- Christmas Question #9

What homemade gifts have you made for others? That’s the ninth question in my series for the month. 

scarf-and-necklaceThe first year my husband and I were dating we made each other Christmas gifts. He made me a blue and white beaded necklace, a skill I believe he learned from a friend he lived with in the Yukon, and I knitted him a brown and gold scarf with the help of one of my college dorm mates.  Although they may be a little worse for the wear we still have those gifts forty- five years later.

.Other posts……..

A Honeymoon Adventure

Engagement Memories

Bucket List for Marriage

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Filed under Family, Holidays

You Could See It For the Music Alone But You Don’t Have To

“I’d like to find out who was responsible for the music,”  said my friend Caroline.  She wanted to stay and watch the credits roll after we had seen the movie Manchester by the Sea.  I could understand why she was interested in discovering who had compiled the pitch perfect score for this beautifully acted film. 

As I watched Manchester by the Sea I was impressed by the variety of music from a haunting a capella chorale written expressly for the movie by Lesley Barber to jazz tunes like I’m Beginning to See the Light by the Ink Spots to sacred music like Handel’s He Shall Feed His Flock from the Messiah to rhythm and blues pieces like Let The Good Times Roll to Bob Dylan’s folky rock tune Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.  I was so taken with the music that the first thing I did when I got home from the theatre was to look for a list of song credits for Manchester by the Sea.  I’ve already downloaded the soundtrack into my I-Tunes library.  

manchester-2There’s a complex variety of music in the film and sometimes you wonder for a moment why a certain piece might accompany a particular scene, but as the scene rolls out you come to understand why the music was chosen. The music in Manchester by the Sea definitely makes it even more profoundly moving and that’s saying a lot because there are scenes in this movie so deeply sad and poignant you can hardly bear to keep your eyes on the screen. 

In some of the reviews of Manchester by the Sea  there is already Oscar buzz around the performance of star Casey Affleck. There’s no doubt that his portrayal of Lee Chandler is stellar. Affleck draws in the audience ever so slowly and surprisingly as Lee reveals his story.  But I hope the soundtrack for this movie gets nominated for an Academy Award too. It’s truly something special. 

Other posts……


Hacksaw Ridge

What’s the Best Way to Raise Children

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Filed under Movies, Music

Cool Stuff

I just finished another round of supervising student teachers in inner city Winnipeg schools. I get to see and hear about some cool stuff on my visits. Like …………………

  • grade sixes designing habitats for imaginary animals
  • grade sevens decorating ancient Greek vases with mythological characters
  • grade eights using graham crackers and Kool Whip to demonstrate all the different ways the earth’s tectonic plates move
  •  grade ones smelling lots of different containers and trying to figure out what’s inside
  • grade fives touching and feeling real animal furs and deciding what they may have been traded for at a Hudsons Bay Trading Postfriendship-poster
  • a teacher reading a bunch of modern fairy tales that encourage children not to blindly accept stereotypical gender roles but to be respectful of individual expression.
  • a physed teacher who collects used and new skates in his office so every kid in the school gets to go the rink
  •  grade twos designing and building houses for the three little pigs that the wolf can’t blow down
  • grade threes measuring objects with the footprints of a giantbe-what-bulleting-board
  • kids writing and illustrating their own fairy tales
  • kids who didn’t get breakfast at home being fed at school
  • a whole class making puppets, writing puppet plays and performing puppet plays
  • physed classes playing aboriginal gamesnarwhale-bulleting-board
  • a teacher making hot chocolate for the school patrols on a really cold day
  • small groups of students learning math games with playing cards
  • forty one kids in a school getting free glasses after optometrists volunteered to test the eyes of students the teachers were worried might have vision problems
  • junior highs playing this absolutely cool electronic learning game called Plinkers

I will miss my school visits and look forward to the the next round in spring. 

Other posts…….

Visiting a A Quaker School in Costa Rica

Visiting a School in Jamaica

Visiting Hopi Mission School


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Filed under Education

Peppernuts- Christmas Question #8

Do you have a Christmas baking memory?  That’s the eighth question in the series I have been doing this month. 

When I was teaching elementary school in Steinbach my mother would come to my classroom every December to make peppernuts with my students. These little round cookies are a German holiday tradition. Mom would come in and mix a batch of dough with the kids so they could see all the ingredients she put into the cookies. She would have prepared long round strips of the dough for each child ahead of time and they would cut their lengthy rolls into the tiny cookies. We’d bake them in the oven in the school staffroom and then the children would put them in plastic bags with a festive ribbon and card to take home to their families as a gift. Looking back I think of how much work it must have been for my mother to prepare for those annual cookie- baking visit to my classroom. I hope she knew how much the children and I appreciated it.

I couldn't find a picture of Mom making pepper nuts with my students but here she is baking bread with one of my school classes. She used to do that too! What a support she was to me in my profession.

I couldn’t find a picture of Mom making pepper nuts with my students but here she is baking bread with one of my school classes. She used to do that too! What a support she was to me in my profession.

Other posts…..

Stopping By Woods

Counting on Their Fingers

Feeling Nostalgic

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Filed under Family, Holidays

A Quick Five

My friend Kelly who lives in Chicago has taken a block of time off from her regular job to focus on writing and publishing a novel.  I am so excited for her!  It was something I always dreamed of doing when I was younger but I’ve waited till now to actually get serious about writing fiction. Kelly has started a blog to chronicle the experience of writing her novel.  One section of that blog is called Writers Quick Five and in it Kelly asks writers five questions about their writing experience. I was so pleased that Kelly invited me to answer her quick five questions about writing and featured me on her blog.  You can read what Kelly wrote about me here.  It is often good to stop and reflect on what is important when you are a writer and Kelly’s questions helped me do that, so I am grateful to her. 

Here are Dave and me sitting across from Kelly and her husband Aaron at a Quiz Night we used to go to together in Hong Kong.

Here are Dave and me sitting across from Kelly and her husband Aaron at a Quiz Night we used to go to together in Hong Kong.

I got to know Kelly in Hong Kong when we were both working at the same school.

Enjoying Chicago style pizza at Kelly's home

Enjoying Chicago style pizza at Kelly’s home

Five years ago we went to visit Kelly and her family in Chicago.  We hope they will make a visit to Winnipeg someday. 

Other posts………..

Chicago Hong Kong 

The Writing Life

What Makes A Best Seller? 

Back in Chicken Soup

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Filed under Writing