Monthly Archives: November 2018


I saw the movie Green Book this week about a wealthy African American concert pianist and his Italian chauffeur. They are driving through the racially segregated southern United States in 1962.  The line in the movie that stayed with me was “the world is full of lonely people waiting to make the first move”.  

Dr. Don Shirley the musician in the movie is a wealthy man. He is incredibly talented, lives in a luxurious apartment  filled with fine art and beautiful furniture, and is cared for by a servant. He can speak eight languages, knows people in high places, and has been presented with two honorary university degrees.  

Yet he is a lonely man. He is estranged from his brother. He is divorced. He says he is too much a part of the white world to have many black friends and because he is black he nevers feels his white acquaintances truly accept him.  Will he make a move to get past his isolation and establish a bond with someone? 

The movie made me think of a music video recently released by my favorite Winnipeg band Royal Canoe. It is called RAYZ. The man in the video is also a performer- one of those living statue artists who poses for money.  Unlike Dr. Shirley he is poor, counting his pennies, living in a run down room, buying lottery tickets and going to bars alone. Sometimes he stares at people doing things together on the beach where he works.   Is he wondering what it would be like to make the first move to establish some kind of bond with one of them? 

There are lots of lonely people in our world.  Perhaps we should think about altering the movie quote from…. “the world is full of lonely people waiting to make the first move” to “the world is full of lonely people waiting for us to make the first move.” 

Other posts……..

Why Do We Still Like Dickens A Christmas Carol? 

Thanks Terry MacLeod

Time To Get Out of Our Holy Huddles

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window in indiaWindow  in Jaipur India. wall hanging by mary yuusipik singaqtiWall Hanging by Mary Yuusipik Singaqti at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
fields in vietnamFields in Vietnam. casa guadiTowers on a house designed by Gaudi in Barcelona Spain. window yunnanWindow on a building near the Tibet border. rice cakes drying in laosRice cakes drying in Vientiane Laos. field guide to fish in a marine park in borneoField guide to fish in a marine park in Borneo. artwork by new zealand school childrenArtwork by grade one students on display in Rotorua New Zealand. lace covering taxi cab kyotoLace slipcase on the seat of my taxi in Kyoto Japan.shadows on the floor frank lloyd wright house lakeland floridaShadows on the floor at a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Lakeland Florida. 

I’ve been going through all my photo files to organize and prune them.  From time to time I am going to feature collections of photos I’ve discovered that centre around a certain theme.

Other posts……

Inuit Fashion Show

Lessons From the Sydney Opera House

Lisbon by Design



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Coop the Great- A Book That’s Not Just For Dog Lovers

I was once bit on the nose by a dachshund and needed several stitches. My nose ballooned up to about triple its size.  I was a teenager at the time and was soooooooo embarrassed because my Mom made me go to school despite the fact that thanks to a dachshund I looked like a clown.

That’s important for you to know before I offer my review of Larry Verstraete’s new middle-grade novel Coop the Great.  The main character is……… you guessed it……… a dachshund.  You have to understand that I am not really a dog person and in particular not a dachshund lover.  

So the fact I enjoyed Larry‘s book despite my lack of affinity for canines should be an indication of just how good a story it is.  The novel taught me some very interesting things about dogs and I was amazed at how Larry was able to consistently let us see the world from a dog’s perspective. 

Coop is an ageing pet who struggles with health issues and some past problems with the families who have offered him a home. In that regard, he is not unlike his owner Mike who is getting on in years and is dealing with cancer and heart issues. Mike has lost his wife and is worried about his daughter Jess and his grandchildren Zach and Emma who are being threatened by an abusive husband and father. 

Larry’s publishing team from Great Plains Publications meet Darnold.

Coop enters Mike’s life from a dog shelter and when author Larry Verstraete launched his book at McNally Robinson he had a special guest, a dog named Darnold from D’arcy’s ARC, a Winnipeg shelter much like the one in the book.

Larry signs a book for one of our writing group members

Larry is a member of my writers’ group.  I respect Larry and am inspired by his success.  Coop the Great is his seventeenth published book for children.

I am lucky I get to benefit from his expertise and experience with regard to my own work on a regular basis. 

In some ways, Coop reminded me of The Littlest Hobo a television series about a dog that was popular when I was about ten years old- the age of Larry’s target audience for his book.  

Coop proves to be every bit as daring and brave as The Littlest Hobo but I liked him more than my childhood television hero. Coop is such a colourful, quirky and interesting character.  

On the cover of Larry’s book, Coop has some earbuds wrapped around his neck.  It’s a clue to the exciting climax of the story that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Larry’s book Coop the Great is an interesting, exciting and inspiring read even if you aren’t a dog lover. 

Other posts…………..

Writer or Palaeontologist?

A Glamorous Night For Manitoba Writing

Launching Not One Book But Three

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A Racist Statue?

statue lakeland florida

My husband Dave and our friend John walk up to the statue of a confederate soldier through a sea of Christmas decorations in Lakeland’s Munn Park.

On our recent visit to Lakeland Florida our friends took us to see a statue of a confederate soldier from the American civil war which is right at the heart of their hometown in a place called Munn Park.  The city has decided it agrees with folks from the local chapter of the NAACP and others who feel such a reminder of an army that fought to perpetuate slavery could be offensive to members of Lakeland’s black community and a troubling symbol of racism.  A decision was made in December of 2017 to move the statue erected in 1910 by a group called The Daughters of the Confederacy to nearby Veterans Park thereby giving it a less prominent position on the city landscape. 

confederate solidier lakeland florida munn parkThe statue remains in place a year later because now the city is divided over who will pay to move it. It will cost $225,000 and so far private donors have only come forward with $26,000.  While we were in Lakeland the city’s commissioners voted to use revenues from traffic light cameras to finance the move.  

Their decision may be further complicated by the fact a group called Save Our Southern Heritage are suing the city over the proposed move of the statue.  Protesters who want the statue to remain in its current spot held a rally in April of this year and enticed folks to support their cause by buying raffle tickets for a donated Derringer pistol. 


The legacy of Sir John A. MacDonald is a troubling one.

We have had our own issues here in Canada with removing statues. Just as recently as August of this year opinions were clearly and passionately  divided over whether a statue of Canada’s first prime minster should be removed from City Hall in Victoria British Columbia.  Sir John A MacDonald helped to found our country but he also was the architect of a residential school system that generated enormous harm to Canada’s First Nations people. 

We are not so different from our American neighbours and perhaps we have something to learn from each other as both our countries reevaluate our history and try to figure out the best way to commemorate it. 

Other posts………

The Great Statue Debate

The Strength of One

He Thought Buildings Were Alive

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And A Baby Cried

On Saturday afternoon I was at Canadian Mennonite University enjoying their annual showcase called Christmas at CMU.  The women’s choir under the direction of Janet Brennerman was performing The Magnificat by Z. Randall Stroope an absolutely divine musical interpretation of the hymn Mary sings while visiting her cousin Elizabeth. The birth of Mary’s child is imminent and in the words of her song she is imagining how her son might change the world. 

Stroope’s version of The Magnificat  has this lush and truly grand duet accompaniment and when the two female musicians at the piano and the fifty- three members of the choir reached the Glory section of the lyrics I got tears in my eyes listening to all those bold and talented young women proclaiming the powerful message of the text with their loud, strong voices.  

After the next line  “as it was in the beginning” there was this ever so slight pause in the music and just at that moment a baby in the audience cried.  Rather than detract from the performance it was the perfect accompaniment to the text as the choir continued “is now and every shall be.”

Sometimes I think about how difficult it must be in our present day to decide to bring a child into the world, a world racked with war and the approaching doomsday effects of climate change, a world where people seem so divided, where so many have lost their homes and lives to violence.  

But then I think about how some of those children coming into our world right now are going to change it, make it a better place just as Mary imagined her child would. Maybe it will be that baby who cried out during the performance of The Magnificant on Saturday who will bring about some of those positive changes. 

Could it be that  as it was in the beginning for Mary as she waited for her child’s life to begin it is now and every shall be for new parents and the rest of us who wait expectantly for God’s peaceful kingdom to become a reality here on earth?

Other posts……….. 

Right to Have Children?

Must We Live in Fear?

God of Eve and God of Mary

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Huldah- Have You Heard of Her?

Huldah- Elsbeth youngHuldah is shown here in a beautiful painting by Elspeth Young.  She is a woman from the Bible you may not know.  I didn’t really learn her story till a couple of years ago when I had been contracted to write a quarter of Sunday school material for a religious publisher and Huldah played a role in one of the lessons included in my assignment. We find her story in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34. Huldah played many roles. She was a daughter and although the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly who her parents are we do discover from rabbinical literature that she is believed to be a direct descendant of Rahab’s. You may remember Rahab as this daring woman who hid the Israelite spies on her rooftop when they were about to be discovered. Pickersgill_Rahab

In this 1881 drawing by Frederick Pirkersgill we see Rahab opening the door and sending the spies to her rooftop so they won’t be discovered on their secret scouting mission ordered by Joshua just before the battle of Jericho. Rahab is in fact one of only a few women listed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew. So in Rahab, Huldah had a pretty awesome ancestor to claim as her own.  huldah

Huldah was a wife too. She was married to a man named Shallum. The Midrash relates what an incredibly kind person he was. He would often sit at the gates of Jerusalem providing water to weary travelers. He also had a very important job as the keeper of the Israeli King Ammon’s wardrobe.  I like to think this beautiful bronze plate of Huldah from the 1800s shows her and Shallum discussing the Scriptures together.

Huldah had a job of her own.  She was a teacher and everyday she sat in the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem with her students, young girls and older women who wanted to learn about the Torah. 

Hulda_JerusalemI have been to the Temple in Jerusalem the site of two huge gates, one with two arches and one with three, gates that would later be named after Huldah, I could just imagine Huldah and her eager students there. I like to think of the women gathered in a circle oblivious to the chatter of other temple goers as Huldah spellbinds them with stories from the Torah and they eagerly discuss how those stories might apply to their lives.

elspeth_youngHuldah was also a mother. She had a son of her own named Hanamel but according to the accounts in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and the Midrash, a second century Hebrew commentary, Huldah and her husband Shallum also played the role of guardians or foster parents providing care and keeping and teaching to little prince Josiah.  We can imagine Huldah fulfilling that role in another beautiful art piece by Elspeth Young. 

Josiah was the son of King Amon and Queen Jedidah. Amon was a pretty cruel and corrupt guy but under Huldah and her husband Shallum’s influence Josiah, Amon’s  son grew up to be really good man completely unlike his dad.

Huldah_gateHuldah was also a prophet a very important prophet it turns out.  In this 19thcentury etching she is prophesying outside the temple.

She was a prophet at the same time as Jeremiah but according to traditional rabbinical literature he did not resent Huldah or take offense to her prophesying because they were distantly related and he respected her. Josiah-Law

And Jeremiah was not the only one who respected Huldah.  Josiah, her former ward did too.  In this 1897 drawing by W.A. Foster we see an adult Josiah and Huldah talking together. After his father King Amon died young Josiah who Huldah had been caring for, became the king of Israel. At one point he decided the Temple in Jerusalem needed cleaning up and during that process an ancient scroll was discovered that hadn’t been read for a long time.   And whom did Josiah ask to figure out what that scroll’s message meant for his people? Not the great Jeremiah who was the most popular prophet of the time, not Hilkiah who was a wise priest with a huge reputation and was Josiah’s most highly placed spiritual advisor, no………

1989 huldah the prophetess dina cormick

As we see in this colorful 1989 art piece from Dina Cormick an artist from South Africa Josiah sends his men to seek the counsel of his former caregiver the prophet Huldah.    Huldah could have hemmed and hawed and tried to be diplomatic about what the words meant in the scroll Josiah had found but no………

weigel christian huldah.jpg

as we see in this drawing by Christian Weigel a German artist popular in the mid 1800s, Huldah told Josiah’s men straight up honest and direct that the words in the scroll he had found made it clear the people of Israel had strayed far from where God wanted them to be and that if Josiah tried to turn things around he’d have a happy and prosperous reign as king. Josiah followed Huldah the prophet’s advice and her predictions about his time as king came true. 


I am so intrigued by this art piece of Huldah done by Ilene Winn- Lederer in 2009. Ilene is a Pittsburgh artist whose illustrations have appeared in many major American newspapers and magazines.  She says that the name Huldah means weasel and as you can see in her art piece Huldah is holding a weasel.  At first that doesn’t seem very flattering till you learn that in many cultures weasels are symbols for the model woman, one who possess both great beauty and great intelligence.  In fact in Greek myth a weasel is the midwife at the birth of the hero Hercules. In her art Ilene says she has portrayed Huldah near the end of her life.  Ever the prophet and scholar she still holds a scroll in her hand to show she continues to read and study and look to the future for her people. 

Huldah played many roles. She was the descendant of a famous and daring woman, she was a wife to a kind and important man, she was a mother and foster-mother who raised honest decent children, she was a teacher who shared her wisdom with women. She was a student of the Scriptures trying to discern their meaning, and a prophet who it turns out had a big influence on her nation. 

imagining huldah by sara ronnevickIn this linoleum block and watercolor print by Minnesota artist Sara Ronnevik Huldah is displayed as women were in ancient art produced by people living near the Agean Sea. 

The Midrash names Huldah as one of the most upright and righteous women ever to come out of Israel.  I found evidence that Huldah has been sited again and again throughout history as an example by those who were fighting for equal rights for women in both the church and society.

As I work to do the best job I can of fulfilling the many different roles I have to play in life, Huldah is a real inspiration. 

This will be the last in my series of blog posts about women in the Bible featured in presentations I gave at a women’s retreat at the end of October.

Other posts in this series………..

Mary’s Childhood

Meet Priscilla

Five Sisters

I Want To be Like Anna

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What’s the Answer?

Before I went to a writing conference in Toronto earlier this month the members of my writers’ group here in Winnipeg helped me to come up with questions for a panel of book editors from various publishing house who were going to field questions about getting your book in print.  I submitted the questions and the moderator of the panel used almost every one as she led the discussion.  I promised my writers’ group the Anitas, that I’d provide them with the answers – so here they are. 

The panel of editors that talked about getting published.

What is hot in books for children, teens and young adults rights now? 

For teens and young adults it is gothic, horror, ghost stories, fantasy and science fiction. Nothing is too edgy to write about for the young adult audience.

What’s popular comes in waves. Editors are looking for books about diverse experiences and unique characters. Historical fiction is a little flat right now.  A book in that genre works if it hits a modern-day nerve.

For picture books editors want stories that aren’t too long, that are humorous and based in reality or personal experience. They don’t have to be about some big important issue to be meaningful.

Middle grade books need to tell diverse stories and publishers are seeking unique and diverse authors as well.  In non-fiction for kids social justice issues are big right now and its important to make sure that although your book addresses an important topic it is written in a way kids can relate to and understand. 

What chance is there of a new author getting published?  

It’s tough because publishing houses need to honor the commitments they have to authors they have already signed and promoted.

You can go the self-publishing route and then hope a big publishing house will love your book and pick it up for wider distribution. Some publishers however receive a dozen self-published books a day and may pick one a year to publish.

Some publishers only look at things they get from an agent, others tend to use their contacts in the industry to find new authors but there are some publishing houses who actually do go through every single manuscript that is submitted to them. 

Does an author need to have a social media presence in order to get published? 

Publishers will look for people who are active on sites that appeal to school markets because it means they can reach out to schools.

They do want to know about your social media contacts and your activity.  It is very important that your online presence is something children can see and read without their parents worrying about your online content.

Sometimes they do publish books by people because they already have lots of great online content that appeals to kids and they have established a group of specific, dedicated followers.

You should follow authors and illustrators, publishing houses and professional writing groups online if you are looking to get published so you can see what is trending and what is going on in the publishing  world. How do you know if a book is going to be successful, if a book is one you want to publish?

If it makes me laugh out loud!  

If after I read the book an elevator pitch for it  just pops into my head.  

It’s a gut feeling but it’s always a gamble.  You never know. Sometimes you publish books you think will be big successes and they’re not and other times you publish books you are worried won’t sell and they are a huge success. 

Does an author need to have an agent? 

You can survive in Canada without an agent.

About a quarter of the authors we publish don’t have an agent.  

An agent can make your relationship with a publisher easier in some ways and more difficult in others. 

Other posts………

Relentless Persistence

Writers All Around

A Top Ten List from a Top Ten Speakers


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Historic Churches Continents Apart

We have been visiting our friends John and Barb in Florida.

tao fong shan
John was the pastor of Tao Fong Shan the Lutheran church complex where we attended services in Hong Kong for six years.  Tao Fong Shan was founded in 1929 by Norwegian missionaries. Tao Fong Shan translated means Mountain of the Christ Wind.  The name of the church building on the Tao Fong Shan campus was Christ Temple. 

Christ Church Episcopal Fort MeadeNow John is leading services in a small church in Fort Mead Florida. It was founded in 1886 by immigrants from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Canada. The name of the church is Christ Church Episcopal. tao fong shan front of churchThe front of our church in Hong Kong looked like this.  The altar table had been rescued from a Christian Centre in Nanjing during the 1930s Civil War in China. john church in floridaJohn does a ‘pastoral pose’ for the camera at the front of his church in Florida. Note the Christ the King emblems on the altar cloths. tao fong shan mountain of the christ wind church hong kongDo you see the octagonal windows on either side of the front door of Christ Temple in Tao Fong Shan? octogonal window church in floridaThe church in Florida features an octogonal window as well. This was the bell on our church in Hong Kong. You had to hit it with a mallet to make it ring.  Members of the congregation took turns doing this each Sunday. This is the bell tower on the church in Florida. The bell was cast in New York in 1891.  It is the only church bell in the community of Fort Meade. Russell the  hospitable man who opened the church for us showed us the bell rope in the small room off the sanctuary. Dave is checking out the hymn books in the church in Florida. Here is our family singing a hymn in our Hong Kong church on Christmas Eve in 2004. Christ Temple has a second entrance that you reach through a lovely courtyard and a rounded doorway. The Tao Fong Shan complex in Hong Kong was designed by missionary Karl Reichelt and Danish architect Johannes Prip-Moeller who wanted to create a place where the Taoist priests, Tibetan lamas and Buddhist monks who came there to study would feel right at home. Christ Church in Fort Meade Florida has a second entrance as well at the side of the church. It was designed by architect Rev. J.H. Weddel in a Carpenter Gothic style which was familiar in Florida.  The architect also wanted however to maintain the essentials of the Anglican tradition as found in English churches. 

We felt fortunate to attend Christ Temple in Hong Kong served by our friend John who was a caring and compassionate pastor as well as a thought provoking and interesting speaker.  I am sure his parishoners in Florida at Christ Church Episcopal  feel equally blessed. 

Other posts………..

 A Christmas Carol Saved Our Lives

Ubi Caritas

Do Buildings Have Souls?



Filed under Florida, Hong Kong, Religion

He Thought His Buildings Were Alive

Waiting for our Frank Lloyd Wright tour to start with our friends Barb and John

I didn’t feel much like a father to my children, but I did feel like a father to my buildings.”  We took a tour of some of the eighteen buildings on the Florida Southern College Campus in Lakeland that were designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Apparently Frank thrived on being at the college campus and loved to hang out with the students and get to know them. 

Statue of Frank Lloyd Wright

Unfortunately his love for, and interest in, the young people at the university did not extend to his own children.  Frank  was so busy with his career he had little time or understanding for his eight children, the result of three marriages. I first learned about Frank Lloyd Wright from reading Nancy Horan’s book Loving Frank which details an affair he had with a married woman who left her own children for him, and I must admit it left me with little respect for how he conducted his personal life.  Dave and I had also toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesan West campus in Arizona and his Oak Park Home in Chicago so we were interested to learn more about the famous architect and the work he did at a Florida college. 

windows frank lloyd wright house

Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes like this one called The Usonian without curtains to let the ‘outside in.’  The way the sun reflected shadows onto the floors in  patterns was also important to him. 

Wright believed buildings were alive which is why he used the color Cherokee Red in so many of his buildings- it reminded him of blood.  Check out the red floor in the Usonian house above. 

Our friends Barb and John sit in chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright while our guide shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the designer and architect.

We learned many fascinating things about Frank Lloyd Wright from Paul our knowledgeable guide who told us he’d ‘drunk the Kool-Aid’ when it came to the unorthodox and often controversial American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.Frank not only designed buildings he designed their furniture as well.  Here I sit at a diningroom table he designed.  The place mats are based on window patterns in Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

Frank drew the blueprints for houses like The Usonian for faculty and staff of the university to live in. Wright also designed this Water Dome fountain at the centre of the campus which shoots water up to 45 feet into the air. It uses a great deal of water however so the full force of the fountain is saved for displays on special days on the campus like graduation. The various buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on the college campus are connected with over a mile of esplanade. The supports were to be reminiscent of the orange trees that once grew all around the campus. Each of these beds of green shrubs are exactly 10 feet apart which is how far orange trees are generally planted apart in an orchard. Frank Lloyd Wright also designed the campus library. Frank was always trying to imitate nature in his buildings.  He designed the ceiling of the library to look like the sun. This overhang on one of his buildings features a butterfly design. Check out the Cherokee red steps on the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel which Wright designed. Inside the church- the facade which partitions off the choir and pipe organ from the sanctuary is decorated with origami shapes and re-creations of the First Nations symbol The Thunderbird.  Unfortunately the church like many other buildings on campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t turn out to be as practical as they are beautiful. They have lots of construction problems and are constantly in need of repair. It is hard for the university to keep up financially with all the  work that needs to be done.

Standing on Frank Lloyd Wright Way on the Florida Southern College campus.

We learned from our guide that Frank Lloyd Wright was not one to take advice from ANYONE not even his clients.  You did things his way. Maybe that’s why one of the streets on the campus is named Frank Lloyd Wright Way. 

What Will You Be Building When You Have To Go?

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The Strength of One

with barb and john in lakelandWe are in Lakeland Florida this week visiting our friends John and Barb.  We went for a walk in downtown Lakeland yesterday and came upon an interesting statue. strength of one statue lakeland floridaThe artwork pays tribute to electric linemen and linewomen as first responders and national heroes during times of natural and accidental disasters. Interestingly the design for the statue was the work of three local highschool students who created a prototype for the statue in their art class. lineman statue in lakeland floridaThey said they were inspired by the linemen and linewomen who came to Lakeland as volunteers from all over the United States to restore power after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September. The three students traveled to Pittsburgh to see their design turned into a stainless steel sculpture. The lineman is surrounded by people on lightbulbs who were helped because of their service. senior citizen lakeland floridaA senior citizenfamily on statue lakeland floridaAnd a young family are two examples. 

At the base of the sculpture are the words “The strength of one will energize many and be the light of hope.”

Other posts……………

The Sculptures of Singapore

Whalebone Sculpture

Inuksuk or Inunnguaq?

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