Monthly Archives: May 2017

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

Loving

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Filed under Media, Winnipeg

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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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

With Mom at Christmas a year and a half before she died

Having a rewarding and enriching teaching career

My class of 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 Indian Reservation 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 its over. Smile because it happened.

Other posts………

Better With Friends

The Station of Tears

Start and End Happy

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Servant or Slave?

atlantic monthlyThe cover story for the June 2017 issue of The Atlantic chronicles the life of an Asian woman who was an indentured servant for an American family.  The story is written by Alix Tizon.  Reading it I was reminded of a story I wrote about domestic helpers in Hong Kong for the Winnipeg Free Press. 

“I pray to God and the burdens on my heart are lifted.” I am visiting with some workers from the Philippines who have gathered along with thousands of their countrywomen in Hong Kong’s Statue Square. There are groups enjoying each other’s company everywhere you look. Some are eating, visiting, playing cards, styling one another’s hair and trading romance novels. Others are praying, reading their Bibles and singing hymns. There are an estimated 200,000 female workers from the Philippines living and working in family homes in Hong Kong. These ‘helpers’ (the common term for domestic laborers in Hong Kong) are expected to work twenty four hours a day, six days a week, but government regulations dictate they must be given twelve consecutive hours of free time each Sunday. Since the women cannot afford to go to movies or eat in restaurants on their day off, they gather in Hong Kong’s train stations and parks or outside public buildings.

maids hkOne Sunday morning I went down to the heart of Hong Kong’s business district to spend some time talking with the Filipino women in a central plaza there. One group readily agreed to let me take their picture and when I told them I was writing a story for a newspaper in Canada they were happy to answer my questions.

The ten women I spoke with all come from the same rural area in the Philippines. They work in homes in different sections of Hong Kong but on Sundays they meet at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. After mass they gather on the porch of the near by law courts building to spend the afternoon eating and visiting. They tell me their faith in God is what helps them survive the separation from their families in the Philippines and the sometimes cruel and indifferent treatment of their employers. “I pray to God and the burdens on my heart are lifted” one woman tells me passionately, as she lifts her hands and eyes heavenward.

As we visit I discover some of the women in the group have been here for as little as four months while others have lived in Hong Kong for as long as twelve years. Most have young children at home and are university educated. They are nurses, teachers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, computer programmers and businesswomen. They speak several languages. However they can make three times more money in Hong Kong (the government dictated salary is about $600 Canadian a month) than they can practicing their professions in the Philippines. They tell me they need money to pay for their children’s education. “To give our kids hope for the future”, one woman says. They all send a substantial portion of their salary home to their families.

maids hkNot all employers treat their Filipino maids as they should. “They really have incredible power over the women” says Sue Farley who works for an organization that provides support to foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.  She tells me sometimes the domestic helpers have already been taken advantage of by unscrupulous middlemen in the Philippines who charge them exorbitant prices for work visas and transportation to Hong Kong. As a result they arrive in the city already owing a large amount of money. If they land up with an employer who is cruel and abusive they hesitate to report them to the authorities. They need to keep their job to pay back their travel loan and send money home to their families who are depending on them. 

Farley tells me some women are sexually harassed. One maid confided she slips a chair under the knob of the door in her room before going to bed, to keep her boss out. Others aren’t as lucky because they have to sleep on a mat on the kitchen floor. One of the Filipino women I spoke to said she sleeps on the floor between the beds of the children in the household where she is employed. That same maid told me she is often hungry. “I can only eat what is left over after my employers have had dinner.”

“We want to go home”, the group of women I talked with told me. “We want to be with our families. But until then God is watching over us.”

Other posts……….

Stick Stick Men

Faithless? Definitely Not

Bamboo Gorge Trackers

 

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Filed under Hong Kong

I Love Cutting

I love cutting my writing down to size. Much of the writing I do must be a certain length.  Whether I’m writing my newspaper column, a reflection for a devotional series, a lesson for a curriculum contract or a submission for a writing contest, I often need to cut my writing down to a specific number of words. I love that challenge! 

When I write my newspaper column I  just write everything down I want to say without concern for the number of words.  I have a six hundred word column limit and sometimes my first draft is 800 or even 1200 words.  So I start the process of going through my column paragraph by paragraph. Sometimes I cut whole paragraphs. Then I cut sentences within the paragraphs.  Next I cut sentences down to size or rearrange the order of their words.  How can I say the same thing more succinctly? 

It always amazes me how I can cut a piece of writing in half without sacrificing meaning.  

I admit many of my blog posts could be ‘cut down to size’ too.  Often I write them in too much of a hurry. For some of my blog posts I need to confess as Mark Twain is purported to have said………”I apologize for writing such a long letter.  I didn’t have time to write a shorter one. “

Other posts……..

Why Do You Keep Doing This? 

Mystery Sentences

Shine

 

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Filed under Writing

A Tipped Caboose, A Black Eye and A Wedding

The caboose tipped over!  I was visiting my 94 year old Aunt Viola in Saskatoon on the weekend and she told me a story about a time her family was in an accident on the way to a wedding.  

mom and her sisters

My aunt Viola and my mother Dorothy. Mom is on the right.  

My aunt and my mother were asked to sing a duet at the wedding of their hired girl Tina.  Tina was a recent immigrant from the Soviet Union.  My grandparents had a farm in Drake Saskatchewan and my grandfather often offered to go to the train station in nearby Humboldt or Lanigan to pick up new immigrants from Mennonite communities in Russia when they first arrived in Canada. If they didn’t have relatives or friends to stay with he would bring them home till they could find work and a place to live.  This happened with Tina, but she stayed on for quite some time and my grandparents gave her a job helping with the housework and yardwork.  Besides her own four children my grandmother was also caring for her aging mother and blind brother-in-law, so Tina’s help was appreciated. 

Eventually Tina met a man whose last name was Buhler and they decided to marry.  My mother and my aunt were both very musical and Tina asked them to sing at her wedding.  My Aunt Vi said this was a little unusual because normally their parents sang duets together while my mother accompained them on the piano, but Tina wanted Viola and my mother Dorothy to sing so they agreed. My grandmother would accompany them on the organ. 

mom' s family sleigh

The Schmidt family poses beside their caboose. My Aunt Viola is to the left of her youngest sister Leila and my mother Dorothy is to Leila’s right. Behind them is my Uncle Earl and my grandparents Peter and Annie Schmidt.

The Schmidt family set off for the wedding in their horse drawn caboose, although my aunt said they usually referred to it as ‘the bus.’  The weather had warmed a bit and the roads were slushy and muddy and a real mess so my grandfather decided to go cross country across the land of their neighbor Hugo Bartel because his fields were still quite snow covered.  As they sailed across the field the thin runner of the caboose cut into snowbank and the caboose tilted and then tipped right over.  Everyone was thrown from their seats. No one was hurt too badly but my mother bumped her eye and it quickly became bruised and swollen. 

north star mennonite church

The North Star Mennonite Church where the wedding took place.

The family righted the caboose and continued on to the North Star Church. My mother and my aunt still sang at the wedding, although my mother was sporting a black eye during the performance.  Aunt Vi remembers that Tina had requested the song Keep On the Sunny Side  a popular hymn written by Ada Blenkhorn in 1899 so that’s what they sang.  

Later when the family looked back on the accident they remembered it with humour and often laughed about how they tipped over so suddenly and how my mother sang such a positive and upbeat song with a black eye. 

Other posts………

A Passport of Her Own

Wash Day Tragedy

Family Blueprints

 

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Filed under Family

See You At The Concert Hall

high school christmas choir

Our daughter-in-law conducting one of her high school choirs.

May is a big month for our family at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall. This Thursday May 18  a couple of choirs directed by our daughter-in-law will be singing in the MTS Rising Stars performance  of Carmina Burana. The Garden City Collegiate school choir and the Pembina Trails boys choir are two of the eight choral groups that will be joining the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for the concert. 

Royal Canoe performing at the Winnipeg folk festival.

Then the following Thursday, May 25 our son’s band Royal Canoe will be doing a full concert with the Winnipeg Symphony featuring music from their latest album Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit. There are still a few tickets left. After the performance there is a fun party planned in the lobby.  Our son will be doing some of the disc jockey duties for that. 

Would love to see you at the concert hall on both May 18 and May 25.  

Other posts………

Music to Soothe the Soul

Something Got Lost Between Here and the Orbit

Fun Evening in Toronto

 

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Filed under Music, Winnipeg