Monthly Archives: March 2017

Gone With the Wind, Goals and A Manitoba Blizzard

I led the last meeting of our children’s writers’ group The Anita Factor .  I decided we’d spend some time writing answers to a series of questions that would help us reflect on our own reading and writing experiences. As we shared our responses we learned more about each other.   Here’s how I answered three of the questions.

What is a book that made you cry?

I cried buckets when I read Gone With the Wind.  I was about thirteen at the time and happened to be at a particularly sad part of the book during a private concert my mother was hosting.  One of her good friends, a composer and musician was debuting a new piano work and Mom had invited a livingroom full of women to serve as her audience for the premiere. Mom had prepared all these lovely tea sandwiches and dainties to serve after the performance and I was to help her serve them. I was up in my room reading Gone With the Wind and crying during the concert so when Mom came to get me to help her serve the food my face was red and splotchy and my eyes swollen from crying.  I had become just a puddle reading about all that Civil War devastation. Mom took one look at me and told me to just keep on reading.  She would serve the guests herself. 

What would literary success look like to you? 

After I retired from teaching I set myself a goal of having a fiction piece published because up to that point I had only had things like newspaper columns, magazine articles, curriculums, meditations, travel pieces and essays published.  I achieved my first goal when a short story I had written was published in Rhubarb magazine. Now I have set myself a goal of having two children’s books published. I’d like to publish a picture book and a middle grade novel.  If I achieve that goal I will feel like I’ve been successful.  I have ideas for other writing projects I’d like to try but for now the children’s books are my goal.

What is the first piece of writing you ever had published?

The first piece of writing I ever had published was a story I wrote in grade five after we’d had a major blizzard in Manitoba.  I wrote about how the storm had effected our town. My fifth grade teacher Mr. Klassen thought my piece was so good he submitted it to the local paper and they printed it.  My Mom cut out the article, created a background out of wrapping paper and framed it for me.  I still have it in that same frame. 

Other posts…….

I’ve Been A Newspaper Columnist For Decades

In Chicken Soup Again

Writing For Children- Not as Easy As I Thought

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Hopeful Diversity- An Elementary School Class So Different From Mine

kornelson school steinbach grade three class mrs. kihn

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach

I was guiding a group of students from a school in my hometown through the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently. At one point during the tour I watched the children busy making clay sculptures. Suddenly it struck me how very different this class looked than the classes I’d been part of in that same community as a child. Check out the photo above of my grade three class taken on the steps of Steinbach’s Kornelson School in 1962. All forty students in the photo are white. I can still remember the surnames of almost every child in my class. Virtually ever one was of Mennonite heritage.

The group I was touring at the art gallery fifty years later was incredibly more diverse.  The children came from a wide variety of racial, cultural and religious backgrounds.

I’m glad the community I grew up in has become much less homogenous in some important ways. Children are receiving a more realistic, balanced view of the world right in their own classrooms as they interact with youngsters who come from very different backgrounds than their own. That gives me hope for the future of our country and our world.

Other posts……..

Kornelson School

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Skin Color


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Filed under Education, winnipeg art gallery

Artists in Action

artists at work marylou debbieWouldn’t it be something if you could see a Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Monet, and Klimt painting all in one room?  Well on Monday you could have, if you had peeked in on the T-4s the group of women I get together with regularly for fun and friendship.  

glenys and her klimt

Glenys works on Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life

We met at my friend Glenys beautiful home to use the present she gave each of us for Christmas- an art kit called MasterKitz that would guide us through the making of a reproduction of a famous painting.  kandinsky profileEach kit came complete with a story about the artist’s life, a set of instructions and inspirations and every single thing you would need to complete your work of art.  

esther starry night

Esther works on Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Each of our pieces was very different and it was interesting to watch while some of us used oil pastels and others water colors or oil paints.  

debbies water lilies

Debbie works on Monet’s Water Lilies.

Some of the paintings required rollers, other sponges, and some brushes.    

marylou kandinsky

I worked on Wassily Kandinsky’s Black Lines.

One painting had stickers to adorn the work while I put the finishing touches on my artwork with carbon paper and a pencil. 

debbie's birthdayWe started off the afternoon with a celebration of our friend Debbie’s birthday and of course the art project moved along every so much more smoothly with the wine, fruit, cheeses and sweets Glenys had provided. 

esther's starry nightWe had a lovely time and we each went home with our masterpiece as well as enough supplies in our MasterKitz  to create another one if we wanted to.  

my kandinskyDue to my two months in Arizona I hadn’t seen the T-4s for quite some time so it was lovely to spend an afternoon catching up and being creative together. 

You can read about more T-4 adventures here.  


Filed under Art, T-4s

Agatha Christie’s First Trip on the Orient Express

Aleppo has figured prominently in the news of late. We are used to seeing pictures of the devastation the war in Syria has caused there. But did you know that Aleppo is also where writer Agatha Christie wrote her famous mystery Murder on the Orient Express?

Agatha christie and husband public domain

Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan at one of their archeological digs.

Agatha and her second husband archeologist Max Mallowan spent a great deal of time in the Middle East. Agatha helped with photographing, data keeping and restoration at her husband’s sites and continued writing her novels while she and Max worked and traveled. She was spending time in an Aleppo hotel while she worked on the manuscript for Murder on the Orient Express. 

woman on the orient expressI just finished the book The Woman on the Orient Express by Lyndsay Jane Ashford. It is a fictionalized account of Agatha Christie’s first trip on the famous railroad in 1928. In the novel she visits an archeological dig where her future husband is at work.

The book should probably have been called Women (plural) on the Orient Express because it is told from the point of view of three British women, Agatha the mystery writer, Kathleen an archeologist, and Nancy a young woman  running away from personal problems. Kathleen and Agatha try to help her.

As we hear Agatha, Nancy and Kathleen’s stories we learn a great deal about what life was like for women in the 1920s. Divorce was scandalous and almost always blamed on the woman. Unmarried pregnant women faced dire social criticism and discrimination and there was absolutely no broad understanding of the science of genetics or gender identity.

I learned so much about social history, Agatha Christie and the way the Middle East has changed from reading this book. I have downloaded Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie on my e-reader. I have never read it but Ashford’s novel has got me interested. 

Other posts………

A Book That Mirrors A News Story

Great Reading and Great Writing

A Novel That Took Us Through Eight States


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Cossack Connection

William Kurelek’s painting Zaporozhian Cossacks has been added to one of the collections on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The title Zaporozhian Cossacks immediately connected with me personally. We stayed in the city of Zaporozhia in Ukraine during the week we were exploring the places where our grandparents had lived before coming to Canada as refugees.

Posing on a cossack horse in front of the historic oak tree near Zaporizhia Ukraine.

We also took photos at a giant oak tree that was a gathering place for cossacks in the Zaporozhia area hundreds of years ago. 

In his painting William Kurelek tells the story of a Zaporozhian cossack named Taras Bulba.   While a student in Kiev Taras’s son Andriy falls in love with the daughter of a Polish noble.  Andriy returns home and his father orders him to take part in a military campaign against the Poles.  During the battle Andriy discovers the girl he loves is among the Poles starving to death inside a city the cossacks have surrounded. Andriy smuggles food in to her.  His father kills him for his treasonous act. 

I think the man in the colorful clothes at the centre of the painting is Taras.  I am speculating Tarus is talking to a man named Yankel who was the informer that told Taras of his son’s betrayal. But he could also be talking to his own son Andriy who is begging for mercy. I think these are the cossacks dancing and singing on one side of the paintingwhile on the other side in the background we see the starving Poles inside the besieged city.  Could that be Andriy’s executioner in the left foreground wielding a sword?  I was particularly drawn to the group of men to the right of the executioner. They seem unperturbed by the chaos around them as they play music and pet a dog. I wish I could talk to William Kurelek about the painting and ask him what he has depicted in its various sections.  But as I always tell the children I guide at the gallery each viewer finds their own story in a piece of art. That’s what makes visiting an art gallery so interesting. 

Like me artist William Kurelek was from a Canadian Ukrainian immigrant family. Kurelek lived on a farm near Stonewall Manitoba as a child and when he was a teenager his family moved to Winnipeg where William studied art at the University of Manitoba. Later he took classes at a fine arts school in Mexico where he was influenced by muralists like Diego Rivera. He painted  Zaporzhian Cossacks as a tribute to his father in 1952 just before William moved to England.  William is probably best known to Canadians for his illustrations of the books A Prairie Boy’s Winter and A Prairie Boy’s Summer. 

Other posts…….

Another Chortitza Oak

The Dark Side of William Kurelek

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Life’s a Symphony

We went to see the Second City comedy troupe perform with the Winnipeg Symphony last weekend.  One of the pieces they presented was called Life’s A Symphony.  I liked the idea of comparing life to a symphony but after the concert I couldn’t remember the specific lyrics of the Second City rendition.  So I decided to write my own thoughts about why life could be compared to a symphony. 

A symphony is divided into four movements or sections. Our lives are divided into sections or stages as we journey through childhood, the teens, adulthood and old age.

The music of a symphony can be loud and bright and/or soft and melancholy. There are times in life that are exciting and happy and other times that are solitary and sad. 

The music of a symphony can move at different speeds adagio (slowly) andante (at a walking pace) allegro (fast) presto (very, very fast).  Parts of our life can just whiz by but in some seasons of life we think things are moving very slowly. 

To perform a symphony many different musicians playing many different instruments need to work together. To get through life we all need the help of many different people. 

There are sections during a symphony when some of the instruments take a rest. Sometimes we have to do that too in life. We need to take a rest and let others carry on while we rejuvenate and get ready to participate again. 

Symphonies have a beginning and an ending and so do our lives. 

Other posts………..

A Little Shameless Family Promotion

Music to Soothe the Soul

Dolly Patron or Parton?

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Could I Join the Conservative Party?

I have never voted for a Conservative party candidate in my life. My world view, social sensibilities and faith stance are more in line with the policies of other political parties.  However a political candidate campaigning at my door this week made think about  joining the Conservative Party even if only for a short time. 

I live in Point Douglas, a provincial riding that will hold a by-election in the near future due to the resignation of our MLA Kevin Chief.

Jodi Moskal is running for the Conservative nomination for Point Douglas and I have to say she has an impressive resume. A licensed electrician, who helped to run a family business, she has served as chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Winnipeg Construction Association.

When Jodi came to my door to campaign this week I had a good discussion with her about my concerns and questions regarding some of the current Conservative government’s policies and plans. I also talked to her about issues in our riding that are important to me. Jodi was a good listener, knowledgeable and open- minded.

I told Jodi I applauded her for running for the nomination. Deciding to open yourself to the kind of public scrutiny and criticism politicians face can’t be easy. I really wanted to support Jodi because we definitely need more qualified women in politics and I think its great she is taking on the challenge. I could almost see myself joining the Conservatives briefly just to help Jodi get nominated.

Unfortunately her party is not one I can support ideologically. I have however started following her on social media. I’ll be curious to see how she does. Kudos to her for entering the political arena!jodi moskal

 Other posts………

There are People in Provencher Who Aren’t Unsavory and Ignorant

Giving Up Donald Trump For Lent

I’m So Tired of You America


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What Courage

His face just lit up!  I was visiting one of my student teachers at the beginning of the week and met a six-year-old boy originally from Iraq. It was his second day in a Canadian classroom.  He had never been to school before.  His family spent a number of years in Jordan after leaving their home country.  The boy couldn’t speak a word of English and the school hadn’t found anyone who could translate for him, since his family does not speak Arabic, but a minority language.  Apparently the boy had cried for nearly an hour after his father dropped him off at school in the morning.  The little fellow sat at a table by himself looking sad while the rest of his class gathered on the carpet at the front of the room for a lesson.  

I went back yesterday and what a difference. The little guy now sat with his classmates for a lesson on Egyptian hieroglyphics. Each child had a sheet with a simplified hieroglyphic alphabet. It showed the Egyptian symbol for each English alphabet letter.  Together the class was decoding a message written in hieroglyphics on the board.  My student teacher asked for volunteers to come up and write a corresponding English alphabet letter under one of the hieroglyphic letters on the board. After watching two of his classmates do so,  lo and behold the little boy from Iraq put up his hand.  My student teacher beckoned for him to come up and put the marker in his hand.  He looked carefully at the hieroglyphic symbols on the board, looked down at his reference sheet and then painstakingly wrote the English letter A under the correct hieroglyphic symbol.  The teacher and his classmates exclaimed and clapped and his face just lit up!  

I almost cried. Faced with two alphabets he was unfamiliar with and instructions in a language he didn’t understand, this little guy had the courage to get up in front of a roomful of kids and several adults and take a risk he could write the correct symbol on the board.  I thought to myself,  “This kid is going to be okay.  It might take time but he is going to make it.” 

Other posts…….

What’s A Portscape? 

Standing Up For Children

Freedom’s Child



Filed under Education

Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

This statue of Timothy Eaton stands in the concourse of the MTS Centre. I remember this statue well from my childhood because it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which used to stand where the MTS Centre is now.

The former Eatons Store on Portage Avenue

When my family was shopping at Eaton’s, we would often rendezvous at Mr Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999.  Later the statue was officially designated a part of Manitoba’s history and a decision made to display it in the MTS Centre. Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with department stores in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr Eaton also had a nationwide mail-order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. I looked through it many times picking out things I dreamt about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers during her childhood in the 1930s longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas.

This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented in December of 1919 on the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to express gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I.  Eatons’ employees who enlisted were promised their jobs back after the war and continued to receive a salary while they served overseas.  Military employees received care packages of store products during the war. 

Although I am sure some Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for this massive statue, I am somewhat sceptical if they all did, because during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this five hundred walked off the job. Eatons also supplied horses and baseball bats for the police force dealing with the strikers.

The 3,500-pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department.  A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum.

I’ve learned recently it is good luck to rub the left foot of the Timothy Eaton statue. I’ll have try that the next time I walk by the statue of Mr Eaton at the MTS Centre. 



Filed under History, Winnipeg

Thanks For Voting

I want to thank my many, many readers who took the time to vote for their favorite pictures of Newfoundland.  I asked last week which photos I should print up to display in our home.  I couldn’t believe how many people responded on Facebook, by e-mail or on my blog. Since you voted for such a variety of choices I decided to make a whole wall of photos.  Here it is!  And thanks ever so much for reading my blog and voting. 

Other posts………

Help Me Decide

Who’s Right My Husband of Me? 

They Left Us Everything

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