On our visit last week to my brother and sister-in-law’s cottage at Moose Lake we took my 89-year-old father out for a boat ride. As we circumnavigated the lake in my brother’s sleek, spacious boat we recalled the other boats that had been at the cottage in years gone by. When my grandparents owned the cottage in the 1960s we had an old yellow and white wooden boat called The Pepper. It was named after my father’s youngest sister Nettie. Her family nickname was Pepper no doubt because of her lively, fun-loving personality that added plenty of spice to our family life.
My father and our older son fishing on the KenMark
During later decades when my parents owned the cottage my father purchased a more modern motorboat he called The KenMark. It was named after my two brothers Ken and Mark. I had not remembered any family controversy about The KenMark name but my siblings had vivid memories of it. Apparently my mother was not consulted about the boat’s name and when she saw it emblazoned on the hull she confronted my Dad.
My mom at the cottage with our younger son
Why had he not named the boat the DoMaKa? My mother’s name was Dorothy, my sister is Kaaren and if you combined the first two initials of their names with the first two of mine MaryLou you would get DoMaKa. I’m sure Mom’s response was partially humorous. She was not really a confrontational person. But it’s kind of neat to know that although the boat remained The KenMark throughout its decades of use at the cottage at one point my Mom stood up for the women in the family and suggested an alternative.
My Mom with her only granddaughter on her last visit to Moose Lake in 2011
Many Women Are Pastors But Our Language Still Excludes Them
What a Difference
Dora Dueck ended a recent post on her delightful blog Chronicles of Aging with the statement “writing is the way I think and the way I remember.” I could resonate with that completely! Writing about an event, a book, a movie or a trip helps me to process it and to remember it. During a recent clean up of his home my father found two small daily diaries that belonged to my maternal grandmother. Grandma’s journals made me suspect that the need to write about life experiences is something I may have inherited.
Writing in a house we rented in Iceland
Someone I know who is trying to help a partner struggling with memory loss is encouraging them to keep a journal. There is evidence that journaling not only improves memory but also helps your emotional and mental health.
I often consider whether it may be time to stop writing this blog, to end a nearly 35 year assignment as a newspaper columnist or to take a hiatus from other long standing writing gigs. But I think even if I did give up those public forms of recording and reflecting I would need to journal privately in order to keep on living in a meaningful way. I know many people who have other ways of thinking through things and remembering them- whether it is through photos they take, sketches they do, discussions they have, songs they compose, collections of memorabilia they treasure, time spent in meditation, scrap booking or prayer. But for me writing is the way I think and remember.
A Honeymoon Adventure
Mailboxes of Distinction
I was once an eighth grader myself and I parented two sons through that phase. Those experiences however have little in common with what it is like to be an eighth grader today in a world dominated by technology, where navigating relationships on Instagram and Snap Chat is perilous and where trying to figure out who you are apart from your social media presence seems impossible. The movie Eighth Grade which I saw on Monday night with friends does an amazing job of taking you into the world of young teens and showing you just how strange and difficult and awkward it can be to find your way through that social milieu.
The young girl at the center of the film Kayla lives with her father who has been her single parent since she was just a toddler. He is such a good dad! Concerned, caring, trying to give his daughter space to make choices but at the same time letting her know he is always there for her. Kayla is at a point of such low self esteem but her father makes it clear he thinks she’s a great kid!
The father Mark Day played by Josh Hamilton clearly believes being a good father is the most important thing in his life. He has a job but he doesn’t appear to let work or his social life interfere with his clear priority to just ‘be around’ so whenever his daughter does want to talk or she is upset he’s there.
The movie is great on many levels- from fifteen year old Elsie Fisher’s amazing performance as Kayla- to wonderful but cringe worthy scenes like the one where Kayla has a date with a loveable but totally nerdy boy she met at a party- to the truly scary scenes like the one where a highschool guy tries to take advantage of Kayla’s need to be liked and accepted.
I’d recommend the movie first and foremost though for parents of young teens because the Dad in this movie although he is bumbling and gets it wrong sometimes, and can drive his daughter wild, is basically stoic and caring and provides a textbook example of how to parent an eighth grader with unconditional love and a reassuring presence.
Why Adults Are Reading Teen Fiction
Why Do We Share Our Worst Selves With the People We Love the Most
My grandparents bought a cottage at Moose Lake in 1960. Later my parents owned it for many decades. Now my brother and his wife own it. This week my siblings and I gathered there with our Dad and some of our partners to plan my father’s 90th birthday celebration this fall.
Where I’m From – Moose Lake
At the Lake
Lord You Have Come To the Lakeshore
Posing with a statue of dissident artist Ai Weiwei at the Art Gallery of Ontario
The news on Saturday that dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing was being demolished by Chinese authorities without any notice reminded me of visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario I made five years ago to see a stunning display of Ai Weiwei’s work.
Ai Weiwei has curried criticism from Chinese authorities with exhibits like this snake he made with school bags to commerate the children killed in the Sichuan earthquake because of shoddy construction of their schools. The Chinese government refused to investigate or release the names of the children who had died so Ai Weiwei launched a citizen’s investigation project to compile a list of the victims. They were on a paper covering an entire wall in the exhibit I saw.
These Han Dynasty Pots are more than 2000 years old. By decorating them with bright industrial paint Ai Weiwei reminds viewers of the wholesale destruction of artifacts from China’s past during the Cultural Revolution.
Here he decorates a pot with the Coca Cola logo to show how globalization is changing China, making its history of less value and perhaps hinting at some of the health concerns created in China because of globalization.
Called Brain Inflation this piece shows the x-ray of Ai Weiwei’s head that was taken to determine the physical damage he suffered when he was beaten by Chinese authorities prior to his arrest and imprisonment in 2009.
In this famous photo the artist gives the finger to Beijing’s iconic Forbidden City. Work like this is probably why Ai Weiwei has been living in exile in Germany for the last three years ever since his four years of house arrest in China ended. It may also be why his Shanghai studio was demolished by authories in 2011 and maybe even why his Beijing studio was reduced to rubble last week without any prior notice, although government officials claim it was all just part of a program to get rid of unsafe old buildings in order to make room for new rental properties. Sadly other Chinese artists’ studios were destroyed as well.
Ai Weiwei with an installation in New York called Fences Make Good Neighbours. It opened in October of 2017 and is a commentary on the refugee crisis.
What has happened to Ai Weiwei is a good reminder that freedom of artistic expression should never be taken for granted.
Thoughts on Hope
A Controversial Statue
The Family of Jesus Portrayed in a Controversial Way
From the mournful strains of The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond performed by a group of talented singers and fiddlers to the upbeat drumming and bag piping of the Transcona and District Pipe Band the show at Winnipeg’s Folkorama Scotland Pavilion was a delight.
I loved the non-stop grin on the face of the youngest drummer in the pipe band. You could just tell she was proud as punch to be performing. I loved the Scotch egg I tried for the first time. Delicious. I loved it that two of the emcees for the evening said they had been working at the Scottish Pavilion with their families for over 15 years.
I went to check out the display of different kinds of tartans. These are just a few of the many that were on show. My favourites? Was it the MacQueen or……….
the Blue Dress MacPherson? I listened to the wool spinners describe their work and…….. watched a delightfully diverse group of craftspeople chatting while they knitted and purled.
Statue of the first Manitoba settlers from Scotland located at the end of my street.
The folks at the Scottish Pavilion certainly displayed the kind of spirit Melissa Martin describes in her excellent op ed about Folkorama in yesterday’s Free Press. One of the people she interviewed for the article talked about Folkorama as a way “to learn the importance of diversity and multiculturalism and really loving your neighbour.” That perspective has the potential to have such a positive impact on our community if we all take it to heart.
Brave Heart in Winnipeg
Matching Canada and Scotland
A Saskatchewan Great Plains Grizzly Ends Up In Scotland
What if you could no longer do the one thing you believed you were born to do? That’s the question at the heart of the movie The Rider. Filmed on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and directed by a young Beijing filmaker Chloe Zhao the main characters are all played by local people of the Lakota Sioux nation and not professional actors.
Brady the young man at the center of the story is a professional rodeo rider who can no longer ride because of a devastating head injury. His best friend has suffered a life altering injury as well and Brady’s kindness and care for him as well as for his autistic sister Lily make him such an appealing character. His mother has died, his Dad drinks and gambles too much and the family lives in poverty. Brady has a lot on his shoulders.
The scenery of the South Dakota badlands in this movie is breathtaking, the relationship between Brady and his horses magical and there is a religious aspect too that is thought provoking. Brady really believes God has put him on this earth to ride, but now that he can’t ride what is he to make of God? How can life still have meaning?
This is a profoundly sad movie with no uplifting Hollywood solutions. I chatted with a woman who is a concert pianist on the way out of the theater and she was wondering what she would do if she could no longer play the piano. I wondered what I would do if I could no longer write. What do you think would happen to you if you were no longer able to do the thing you love the most?
We saw the movie at Cinematheque and there are still a couple more showings this week.
The Audience Applauded For Her