Monthly Archives: May 2017

Story Sticks

 On Monday Angela Roulette taught the Winnipeg Art Gallery tour guides about story sticks.  Angela began by using her own stick to tell us her life story.  We learned her mother was from the Sandy Bay First Nations community and her father was from the Ebb and Flow First Nations community.  We discovered her former husband liked to sew and that her son-in-law was from Jamaica.  We heard interesting stories about her grandchildren and the diverse group of people she came to know while participating in the Standing Rock protest. In all her stories Angela emphasized the four things we can do to change the world …….. be kind, be honest, be strong and share what you have. 

story stickAfter Angela had told us about her story stick it was our turn to make our own story sticks.  My story stick had many items including three beads to represent my siblings, feathers for my sons and a shell for our family’s lakeside cottage.

Story sticks are a great way to reflect on the important and influential people and experiences in your own life and to share your story with others. 

Other posts……….

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

Stitching a Story

The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre


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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Where I Live Now

I was sorry to miss the Sharon Butala reading at McNally Robinson in April. Luckily my friend Esther shared her copy of Sharon’s new book Where I Live Now with me, so I have been savouring Sharon Butala’s wonderful writing this past week.  

where i live nowWhere I Live Now describes how Sharon began a new chapter of her life after her husband died and she made the transition from her isolated farm on the Saskatchewan prairie to a condo in Calgary. Many of Sharon’s words really resonated with me. 

Sharon writes……..”When I was a child we moved a lot, yet I don’t ever recall the sense of having lost a home, because wherever we went ……..”home” still went with us everywhere, as long as we were together. “

By the time I finished high school my family had called seven houses “home” but I too don’t remember feeling a sense of loss about leaving those places although experiences in each remain very vivid to me. As long as I was with my family I was home.  

Outside our house on Beaverbrook Street in Winnipeg, ready to go to the lake with my Auntie Millie and her children. I was seven. 

When Sharon moved to Calgary she thought…… “my connection with nature would be only in my strolls along asphalt paths through manicured parks with hundreds of other people.”  Sharon was surprised to discover several wilderness areas close to her home where she could enjoy the beauty of the natural world. 

We felt the same way when we moved to Hong Kong thinking it would just be a place of skyscrapers and pavement and hordes of people. We discovered to our delight great wilderness areas perfect for hiking within easy distance of our apartment and school. 

Wilderness hiking with my students in Hong Kong.

Sharon also writes about a trip she and her husband made to Slovakia to discover the place her husband’s father had come from. She describes it “as the most fascinating of all our trips.”  

Dave and I have traveled extensively but I would have to also say that “the most fascinating of all our trips” was the one we made to Ukraine to find the birthplaces of Dave’s parents and my grandparents. 

I stand beside the tombstone of my great, great grandfather Daniel Peters in Nikolaipol Cemetery Ukraine

Where I Live Now helped me think about how my past experiences can inspire me to remain truly alive as I age. 

Other posts……….

Nature in the City

The Crazy Man

The Station of Tears

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Four Things You Can Do To Be More Empathetic

I wouldn’t have thought that exercise could make you more empathetic, but that’s one thing I learned from an excellent sermon in our church last Sunday about the Golden Rule.  You know the one, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. ”  Matthew 7:12

Our pastor, suggested the Golden Rule is basically asking us to be empathetic. 

He turned to psychological research to find steps we could take to become more empathetic. dave-runs-az-baseball

  1. Exercise.  A good workout where we push ourselves and our bodies makes us physically and mentally tough and more sensitive to what pain feels like. By stepping out of the relative ease of our modern life here in North America during a hard run or strenuous bike ride we connect in a small way with the struggle faced by many people around the world who are less fortunate. 

    woman praying at the wailing wall in jerusalem

    Woman meditating at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

  2. Meditation.  In particular LKM (loving kindness meditation) that involves spending quiet time each day sending loving and compassionate thoughts to ourselves, our family and friends, our enemies, people around the world who are suffering. This kind of meditative practice sparks the neural connections in our brains linked to empathy. Our pastor suggested it sounded an awful lot like praying.


    My Dad examining patients in Haiti

  3. Volunteering.  Regularly setting aside time for charitable work strengthens the empathetic wiring of your brain as you do your part to help someone who is less fortunate than you. 

    Dave and his friend Rudy taking time to listen to each other

  4. Slow Down. Being empathetic means we make time to truly listen to others and consider their concerns.  If we are rushing around from one commitment to another we may not have space for empathy. 

    Golden_Rule_by_Norman_Rockwell public domain

    The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

    Our pastor said every major faith has a commandment something like the Golden Rule.  Following it appears to be pretty basic to understanding how we should treat each other no matter what kind of spiritual framework guides our life. I think empathy is the key to a better world.

Thanks to Phil Campbell Enns for a helpful thought-provoking sermon. 

Other posts……….

Something Simple

Saying Hello to People

Must We Live in Fear? 

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Filed under Reflections, Religion

A Lot More Than We’d Like to Think

We saw the film I Daniel Blake last night.  It documents two stories, that of a widowed 59-year-old carpenter named Daniel who’s had a recent heart attack and doctors have ordered not to work, and a single mother named Katie who has been forced to move to a different city to secure housing for herself and her two children. Try as she might Katie simply can’t find work in her new location.  As the two are stymied time after time in their attempts to negotiate the welfare system they become friends and offer support to one another. 

I Daniel BlakeBoth the young mother and the woodworker are good people, who honestly want to be self-sufficient. Circumstances and a rigid and less than compassionate government bureaucracy make it difficult for them to receive needed benefits. It drives them both to take some demeaning actions to survive. 

The film illustrates just how easy it could be for hardworking, affable and intelligent people to become homeless and how reaching out to someone to make a connection can make a difference. 

This is not a ‘feel good’ film or easy escapist fare. We overheard a man exiting the theatre say to his companion in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Thanks a lot for taking me to such a cheery movie.”

As we walked to our cars I asked my movie companions how many people like Daniel and Katie there could be right here in Winnipeg.  “A lot more than we’d like to think,” one of them said. 

Other posts………

Siloam Mission at the Art Gallery

Homelessness- Meeting With the Mayor

My Husband and the Pope Are On the Same Page

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I’m Shattered

“I’m shattered,” said a grade twelve art student when we were about half way through a tour of the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  “I knew Picasso was a great artist but now I’m finding out he wasn’t a very nice person and I’m not sure I can still like his art work.” 

It is nearly impossible to talk about Picasso’s art without examining his relationships because they greatly influenced his work. Picasso had what many would consider a highly dysfunctional personal life.  He was rarely faithful to one partner for more than a short period of time.  

Picasso’s portrait of 17 year old Marie Therese Walter

One of his long-term relationships was with Marie Therese Walter. She was only 17 when their relationship began. Picasso was still married to his wife Olga at the time.  Marie later committed suicide and Olga had a mental breakdown. Pablo and Olga’s son Paulo was a young child when his father’s affair began. As an adult Paulo became an alcoholic who went begging repeatedly with his children to his father’s door for money.  He was ignored.  One of his grandsons and Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline also committed suicide.  

Picasso’s portrait of his partner Dora Maar

His long time partner Dora ended up in a mental institution. He left no will when he died so there have been ongoing law suits amongst his heirs.  Numerous sources talk about how cruel and cold Picasso could be to his family.  

Would it be better to show Picasso’s art without talking about his troubled personal life?  Not with teenagers and adults.  High school students are old enough to do some serious thinking about whether we can separate a person’s private behavior from their public persona and achievements.  I think it is an important discussion to have.  In that way the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery serves double duty, introducing visitors to a man who changed the world of art but also making them consider the price his family and those who loved him paid for his genius and whether it was worth it.  Can you wreak havoc in so many people’s lives and still be considered ‘great?’  Art should make us think deeply about things and the current Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery certainly does that! 

Other posts………

Are All Artists Troubled?

Picasso Acrostic

Using the Other Side of my Brain

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery


This past week I’ve been together with four of my aunts.  Last Thursday night I went out to dinner with my Aunt Louise and Aunt Nettie.  The two of them were just back from a trip to Holland to see the tulips in full bloom and they told me all about their adventures, the things they learned, the people they met and the sights they saw.  I told them all about my weekend in Saskatoon celebrating my grandson’s birthday. Aunt Nettie and Aunt Louise have always shown an interest in my life and that of my children.  I enjoy spending time with them.  noodle shop hong kong louise and nettieAunt Louise and Aunt Nettie came to visit us when we lived in Hong Kong and we had a marvelous time showing them the city.  

marylou and viWhile I was in Saskatoon last weekend I visited with my Aunt Viola who is turning 95 in December.  The personal care home where she lives was hosting a mother-daughter tea.  Since I no longer have a mother and Aunt Vi has no children of her own the two of us went to the tea together and had a lovely time.  

aunts in aprons

Four of my aunts dressed up in their mothers old kerchiefs and aprons. From left to right Aunt Helen, Aunt Margaret, Aunt Mary and Aunt Nettie.

On Sunday I went to see my Aunt Margaret in the Winnipeg nursing home where she lives.  Aunt Margaret is a person who ‘thinks outside of the box.’  She is very knowledgeable about what is going in the world and has opinions of her own.  It is always a pleasure to visit with her. 

auntie-mary-and-marylouSome of you might remember the post I did about my Aunt Mary who I had a chance to visit in Kansas in March.  

When we lived with the Hopi First Nations people for a year I learned that in their language the word for your mother and your aunts is the same. 

Since I lost my own mother I have developed an even greater appreciation for my aunts who are interested in me and care about me and family.

Other posts………

Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book


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Who’s Twiggy?

“The women are all bigger and well rounded.”  

Three Women at the Fountain by Picasso from Creative Commons

I was showing a group of teens through the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  After the students had spent some time examining a group of  prints by Picasso I asked them what they had noticed.  One girl said, “The women in Picasso’s art works are often bigger and well rounded. Why?”

I asked if she knew who Twiggy was.  She didn’t. Neither did any of the other teens on the tour.  I told them the current notion that women must be thin to be beautiful hasn’t always been the norm.  Failuresque_Twiggy_drawingIn the 1960s a super skinny model named Twiggy popularized the idea that women should be thin.  Before that women with more rounded figures were considered attractive.  Picasso painted ‘well rounded’ women because in the early 1900s that was more the norm.

The teens on my tour were surprised.  Tbey weren’t aware that what is considered the ideal body shape for women has changed over time.  I’m glad they know that now.  Perhaps it will help them become more accepting of their own body shapes in all their variety and unique beauty. 

Other posts………

Skin Color

Pray Naked in Front of the Mirror

Modeling Career- Different Perceptions



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Filed under Art, History, winnipeg art gallery

Too Tough or Not Tough Enough?

A drunk driver who may not receive a tough enough sentence and a mother who has received a sentence even the judge feels is too tough .  Those were the two contrasting cover features in the City section of the Free Press on Saturday.  free press city section

The first story was about a young Steinbach man found guilty of dangerous driving causing death.  Columnist Gordon Sinclair seems worried the convicted man may not receive the sentence he deserves because he’s had a religious experience and his recorded testimony of repentance  is popular on the website of Steinbach’s largest church.  Will this influence the court to be too lenient? The mother of the girl killed by the intoxicated young man behind the wheel, says if he was truly sorry  he would have pled guilty and not put the girl’s family through the grief of a trial. True repentance should have motivated him to ask the family of his victim for forgiveness.  

The second story is about a young mother convicted of smuggling painkillers into Stony Mountain prison for her boyfriend, a gang member with a criminal record. A victim of childhood abuse she was susceptible to the manipulation of her boyfriend who demanded she smuggle the drugs. She has no prior criminal record and court evidence suggests she is a good mother.  Her kids will have to be placed in care while she is in prison. The judge wanted to be lenient saying the woman’s story had ‘touched his heart’ but mandatory sentencing introduced during the Harper era means he must send the woman to jail for two years, a sentence he feels is too tough. 

So two young people.  One may receive what some worry will be too light a sentence and another has received what even the judge feels is too harsh a sentence.  Both stories are heartbreaking. How sad for all the families involved.  One story makes you wonder if the courts have too much discretion in deciding on sentences and the other makes you wonder if they have been given enough discretion. 

I’m assuming Free Press editor Shane Minkin purposely chose these two contrasting stories for the front page of Saturday’s city section.   Their juxtaposition was thought-provoking. 

Other posts about court cases………

A Novel So Long It Took Us Through Eight States

Red Bows for Michael’s Geese


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Two Nests

I just finished reading two books called The Nest and they couldn’t be more different. The first by Cynthia D’ Aprix Sweeney is a cautionary tale for adults about self-sufficiency and the folly of counting your eggs before they are hatched.  Three siblings must decide what to do when their oldest brother makes a horrible mistake that jeopardizes the inheritance they were to receive in their middle age from their parents. They’ve all rather foolishly planned their futures around that money.  The siblings aren’t living what I thought were very meaningful or productive lives and their relationships weren’t healthy. They whined and felt sorry for themselves.  These Americans with their sense of entitlement helped me understand why so many of their countrymen and women feel left out of the American dream and resent those who have inherited access to it. I found it very difficult to like the characters in Sweeney’s The Nest

On the other hand I really liked the young boy Steve at the heart of The Nest by Kenneth Oppel.  Oppel is a children’s author. I’ve read his book Silver Wing aloud to many classes of elementary school students. The main character in Silver Wing is a bat. The natural world plays a role in The Nest as well. Wasps are the antagonists.  Steve is the protagonist who must save a new baby brother suffering from all kinds of medical issues. Steve has problems of his own to battle before he can come to the rescue.  While I liked this book I found it to be pretty dark and scary and I am not sure I would recommend it for anyone under twelve.  I admit my patriotic bias in my evaluation of this book because Kenneth Oppel is a popular Canadian author and The Nest is illustrated by Jon Klassen an equally popular Canadian in his field.

Other posts……..

Getting to Know Emma Donoghue in Person

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

A Book That Mirrors A News Story

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Filed under Books

Wisdom from Dr. Seuss

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.        Dr. Seuss

I’ve been thinking about that Dr. Seuss quote often during the last while.  I’ve had to say good-bye to many good things in my life. Sometimes it’s hard not to be sad about ‘what was’ but it is important to put that sadness into perspective because our lives change and if we keep being melancholy about what we once had and have lost we sometimes can’t appreciate what we have now.  This post is a personal reminder to not be too sad because some good things are over and no longer part of my life but to smile because I was fortunate enough to have such good things happen to me like………………

Teaching in Hong Kong for six years

Farewell party staged for us by friends when we left Hong Kong

Having a fabulously supportive, affirming and caring mother

Me and my sister with our Mom at my sister’s wedding

Having a rewarding and enriching teaching career

With my grade two students at Elmdale School in 1982

Having so many memorable family times at my grandparents’ house in Gnadenthal Manitoba

Playing dress-up with my cousins on my grandparents’ farmyard.

Having the opportunity to study and expand my world view exponentially at university.

Having the privilege to parent young children. Having a chance to live on the Hopi First Nation for a year. 

Having such a kind and supportive mother-in-law.

With my mother-in-law Anne on our last visit before she passed away

Having been a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. 

Having the chance to explore so much of Asia in our travels. 

On the great wall of China

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

Other posts………

Better With Friends

The Station of Tears

Start and End Happy

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