Monthly Archives: December 2019

The Year in Review

Here’s a look back at some of the things I wrote about on this blog in 2019.

In January we were in Merida Mexico and I wrote about climbing a pyramid at the site of the Xcambo Mayan ruins. I am at the top of the pyramid with our friend Rudy. In February we were still in Merida and I wrote about swimming in a cenote with my sister. In March I wrote about a delightful chocolate making experience we had in Merida thanks to this wonderful woman named
In April I wrote about this beautiful blanket which my great grandmother made for my mother when she was born in 1925. My mother gave it to me when I had my first child in 1979 and in April of 2019 I gave it to my son and his wife when their daughter was born. My granddaughter shares her middle name with my great grandmother, the woman who made the quilt. In May I wrote about Joop, a former exchange student of ours from Thailand who came to visit us.
 In June I wrote about visiting my 96-year-old aunt in Saskatoon. In July I wrote about seeing a Fringe Festival play with my cousin Lynne. In August I wrote about celebrating our wedding anniversary with long-time friends. In September I wrote about a lovely evening in Dubrovnik with my sister and brother-in-law. In October I wrote about our cycling trip in Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula. In November I wrote about a great night with the members of my writing group at our condo.

with glenys and esther

Christmas 2019 with the T-4s

In December I wrote about celebrating Christmas with the T-4s, a group of friends I meet with regularly.

It has been a great year with great people and I’m looking forward to the adventures with friends and family that 2020 will hold.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reflections

Gifts or No Gifts?

Christmas 2019 with the T-4s

A couple of years ago the group of women I have been getting together with regularly for the last decade explored the possibility of discontinuing the practice of giving one another gifts at Christmas.  It was a very good thing to think about because all too often our homes and lives become so crowded with things there isn’t a whole lot of room, time and space for people and relationships.

Of course, as friends who have cared for and supported one another for years, we definitely knew what was important about our relationship wasn’t the gifts we gave each other but the time we spent together. We decided in the end to continue the tradition of giving each other presents and I have to say I love it.  Not because I need more things. I certainly don’t.  But because of the love and care my friends demonstrate as they select the gifts. 

This year I got a beautiful handmade card from my friend Debbie along with a box full of all kinds of different Christmas treats she had baked herself, including mincemeat tarts with a star design in the crust.  I can hardly wait to share them with my family. 

Esther went to Ten Thousand Villages, a store that sells fair trade items. Your purchase benefits artisans in developing countries who are trying to support their families.  Esther’s package for us included fair trade hot chocolate mix, some pungent and spicy cinnamon sticks to stir the hot chocolate and nuts from South America to nibble on as we did so. 

My friend Glenys had done some research and found out just how many  health benefits there are from having humidifiers in your home and so she had bought one for each of us. The small steamers were inside a lovely piece of glassware.  The gift was good for us and good- looking all at the same time. 

I had bought a book for each of my friends and spent a long time thinking about what would suit each of them.  Unfortunately, I chose a book for one friend that she had already read twice.  She accused me of knowing her reading tastes “too well” but happily traded books with one of the other women. 

It is certainly true people can go overboard with gift-giving and often we do receive things we don’t want or can’t use. I don’t have to get gifts from my friends to know they are my friends, but I have to admit a gift chosen with care by someone with whom you have a meaningful relationship is awfully nice. 

Other posts……….

What’s Happening With Those T-4s?

The T-4s Go Mennonite

Christmas Crafts with the T-4s

1 Comment

Filed under Holidays, T-4s


prayer installationA new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by artist James Webb is called Prayer.  The installation is an ongoing project that began in Cape Town South Africa in 2000.  The 10th version currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was created in the city of Chicago.  The exhibit consists of dozens and dozens of recordings of prayers spoken by people of many different religious affiliations. There are prayers said by Catholics, Lutherans,  Occultists, Episcopalians, Hindus, Bahai, Presbyterians, Mormons and Methodists.  There are prayers spoken in Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques and evangelical churches. 

james webb prayerVisitors can take off their shoes and walk down the red carpet listening to the prayers arising from all the different speakers or they can sit down in front of one speaker and listen to the variety of prayers emanating from it.

prayer james webbJames Webb is a musician and visual artist from South Africa and has a degree in comparative religions.  As he moves his project to one city after another Webb creates a collaborative community of people from many different faiths and provides a sort of spiritual and religious landscape of that city.  As I experienced the Chicago version of Prayer I thought how interesting it would be to create a similar installation with people from the city of Winnipeg.  

Prayer will be in Winnipeg till May.  Be sure to stop in and experience it on your next visit to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………..

A Prayer For a Golf Tournament

An Artist’s Prayer

A Prayer for the New Year

Two Artists on Prayer


Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Religion, winnipeg art gallery

An Eighty Year-Old Christmas Card

One of the things I love about writing this blog is the connections with people it affords me.  Recently I received a card and a letter from a woman who had known my grandparents.  She was going through her belongings and found this charming Christmas card my grandparents had given their friends and family.  It was not dated but from the apparent age of my mother and her siblings, I am assuming it was sent out between 1937 and 1939.  

The name of the woman who sent the card is Agnes Samson. She told me everyone calls her “Bunny” and she is the daughter of my mother’s older cousin Edna Penner. Edna’s mother Katie Ewert and my grandfather Peter Schmidt were brother and sister. Agnes was going through some of her belongings and found this Christmas card my grandparents had sent out in the late 1930s and thought I might like to have it. She got my address from Joanne Ewert another family member who is a musician at my children’s church in Saskatoon and a frequent reader of my blogs. Talk about connections!

The house my grandfather built for his family in Drake Saskatchewan where Agnes went to visit. 

Agnes writes about visiting her grandparents at their home in Drake Saskatchewan called Fairview Farm. It was just down the road from my grandparents’ house and when she was a little girl she loved to walk up to my grandparents’ farm to visit them.  She says everyone loved going to “Uncle Pete’s” and my grandparents’ extended family members were all very close to one another.  Agnes mentions how very fond she was of my mother and my Mom’s two sisters. 

Agnes sent me her phone number and said she would be very happy to meet with me on one of my visits to Saskatoon.  I will have to follow up on that.  

I love how my blog connects me to people in my extended family and helps me to learn more about my grandparents and parents. 

Other posts………

Two Stories About My Grandfather

Thirties Prairie Portraits

My Mom Starts School

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Holidays

Three Things I Couldn’t Get Out Of My Head While I Watched The Two Popes

We watched the movie The Two Popes. It depicts the relationship between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis during the time the papacy is shifting from one man to the other in 2013. The movie had some genuinely funny moments and the two veteran actors Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are excellent in their roles. I gained a greater understanding about how the election of a new pope takes place and I learned quite a bit more about the modern history of Argentina since Pope Francis was a cardinal from Buenos Aires and his past is chronicled in some detail in the movie.
But…………… I found it hard to concentrate on the story of the film because I was so bothered by…….

The two popes enter the Sistine Chapel

1) the astounding affluence depicted in the movie’s locations. The two men walk through the marble halls of The Vatican lined with thousands of priceless artworks or stroll in the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Pope’s lavish summer palace on the ocean and you think about how all this ostentatious wealth you are seeing could be used to feed the hungry and help the sick and find homes for refugees. Those are the kinds of things truly dedicated Christians are commanded to do and the two popes are supposed to be role models. 

The male cardinals gather to vote for a new pope

2)  the pious patriarchy depicted in the scenes of the film. All these self-important MEN file into a hall to elect the new pope. They have a say in the spiritual futures of millions of trusting people who have placed the running of the church in their hands, and yet they are the very same men who have betrayed their congregants’ trust in a whole host of ways including turning a blind eye to sexual abuse. The only women in the film were female nuns who had small parts and were mostly shown waiting hand and foot on all those self-important MEN. All I could think about was the damage that the patriarchal system of the church has done.
3) the crippling conservatism of the two popes in the film.  They are depicted as intellectual, thoughtful men of God but they both oppose legal abortion while at the same time do not support the use of contraception.  Both popes have refused to ordain women and will not allow priests to marry. Neither supports same-sex marriage or believes that gender identity can be fluid.  

Thinking about those three things was uppermost in my mind during the movie and I admit it prevented me from fully appreciating the film.

But……….. maybe part of what the director Fernando Ferreira Meirelles was trying to do was to make me think about exactly those things with the lavish locales where he chose to shoot the film, with the lack of a substantial female presence in the film and with his avoidance of discussing any major social issues. 

Other posts……..

My Husband and the Pope Are On the Same Page

Questions at the Vatican

My Former Church and the Pope

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Thanks Lindsey

I was looking through an old journal when I came across this drawing I had taped onto one of the pages. It is by Lindsey Banman and I think was made in 2000 when Lindsey was probably about nine or ten years old.  I still remember receiving it from her.  I had given the sermon in my church, Grace Mennonite in Steinbach one Sunday during advent and Lindsey was in the congregation with her parents. As I spoke she drew this picture of me behind the pulpit and after the service, she gave it to me.  I loved it! Lindsey had included so many details.  Notice the four advent banners on the wall behind me and the Christmas trees? She even has the cross on the pulpit and has drawn the microphone.  

I’ve always loved children’s art and that’s one reason why I’ve kept Lindsey’s wonderful drawing for nearly twenty years but there’s another reason too. As a child, I NEVER saw a woman behind the pulpit. Women weren’t allowed to give sermons.  I remember thinking after Lindsey gave me her drawing how glad I was that she wasn’t growing up in a church where young girls never had a chance to see women taking a leadership role in worship. Seeing Lindsey’s drawing reminded me of just how far we’d come. Thanks, Lindsey. 

Other posts………

Many Women Are Pastors But Our Language Still Excludes Them

Five Wives

Huldah. Have You Heard of Her? 

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

A Christmas Wish

Wishing a great holiday season to all my blog readers. Thanks so much for your support and interest. It means a great deal to me. I wish you peace and happiness this December 25th.

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays

God Rest The Children of This World

Arctic Madonna by Pitaloosie Saila

In December of 2001, I wrote a poem for my Winnipeg Free Press column inspired by Ogden Nash’s A Carol for Children which was published in The New Yorker in 1935. Although the references in my poem are clearly ones that relate to the news events of 2001, it is sad to note that its sentiments are as timely today as they were then.  

God Rest Our Merry Children– by MaryLou Driedger – December 2001

God rest our merry children, let nothing them dismay
Let nothing scar their pure young hearts, this blessed Christmas Day
May they still believe in magic, the tinsel and the tree
May nothing mar their happiness or taint their innocent glee.

Our children are the cherished ones, shielded from fear and pain,
We care for them and love them, their dreams and hopes sustain.
God rest our merry children, but may we not forget
Those little ones who have no hope, who only know neglect

The children of Afghanistan, so hungry and so cold
AIDS babies born in Africa who never will grow old
Teenagers in Ireland who’ve learned to fight and hate
The orphans of Sierra Leone, what shall they celebrate?
In Palestine and Kurdistan, the children cannot sleep
They fear the bombs and snipers, they hear their mothers weep
While earthquakes rock the cradles in El Salvador
Those growing up in Bosnia live with the scars of war.
Here in North America we need only look to see
The suffering of children who live in poverty
Little minds already numbed by their mother’s alcohol and crack
Homeless, hungry and abused, their future looks so black
And what about the boys and girls who watched their parents die
When the towers of New York City exploded in the sky?
God rest the children of this world, but may we feel dismay
That so many of our little ones are sad this Christmas day.
Let us pray that sometime soon all children everywhere
Will live in comfort and joy and never know despair.

God bless our merry children, but open our eyes to see
All of those who need our help, our generosity.
May each of us do our part, whether great or small
To let the children of this world, know that God loves them all.
We wish a peaceful rest this night for young ones far and near
A blissful bit of slumber free from doubt and fear
God rest the children!

Other posts……..

War is Hell Especially For Children

Standing Up For Children

9/11 Adding Stories to Names

Meeting the Street Children of Dehli

Leave a comment

Filed under Childhood, Holidays

My Globe Trotting Parents

When I was at my Dad’s yesterday he mentioned that his big map of the world was definitely something he wanted to move over to his new assisted living apartment.  He wondered if there would be room for it.  I assured him we would find a place. We gave the map to my parents in 2000 as a Christmas gift and they bought dozens of these little coloured pins and marked all the places in the world they had visited.  And there were plenty!  Mom and Dad travelled extensively.  Their trips usually had some service or learning component.  

After I was already married and attending university my parents travelled to Holland with the rest of my siblings and an aunt and uncle and their daughter.  

Dad and Mom spent considerable time in mainland China where Dad was a visiting lecturer at medical universities.

Dad and Mom took my two brothers to Haiti where Dad did a short term assignment as a doctor for Mennonite Central Committee.  

Dad did similar medical stints in Cambodia and Paraguay. 

Mom and Dad travelled to the Middle East and to Africa.  

Dad went on a trip with his father to the Soviet Union. 

Mom went on a trip with her sister to Belize. 

Mom and Dad came to visit us when we lived in Hong Kong. 

They went to Hawaii and Mexico for medical conventions. 

Mom and Dad came to visit us when we lived and worked on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona. 

We went on a trip with them to Disneyworld in Florida. 

Mom and Dad took our whole family on a ski trip to Banff. 

And then, of course, there were all the Christmas and summer trips when we were kids to visit our grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins in Saskatchewan. 

And family summer vacations to Expo 67 in Montreal, to Flin Flon Manitoba, to California, to the Grand Canyon and to the Black Hills. 

Sometimes people wonder why my siblings and I all like to travel so much.  Mmmmmm  I wonder who might have been our role models? 

Other posts………….

At the Farm

A Fern

Mom’s Hymnal


1 Comment

Filed under Travel

The Spirit of Solstice

Yesterday was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. 

 I first heard The Wyrd Sisters sing their  Solstice Carol at a Tom Jackson Huron Carol concert in the mid-1990s.  Tom Jackson is a well-known Canadian musician and actor. Every year in December he stages a series of concerts across the country to raise money for homeless and hungry people in Canada. The theme of the concerts is Defeating Hunger- Feeding the Soul. The Solstice Carol was a perfect fit for that theme.  It remains a favourite Christmas season song of mine. 

a fire is burning
the long night draws near
all who need comfort
are welcome by here
we’ll dance ‘neath the stars
and toast the past year
for the spirit of solstice
is still living here

we’ll count all our blessings
while the mother lays down
with snow as her blanket
covering the ground
thanks to the mother
for the life that she brings
she’ll waken to warm us
again in the spring

the poor and the hungry
the sick and the lost
these are our children
no matter the cost
come by the fire
the harvest to share
for the spirit of solstice
is still living here

People have been celebrating the winter solstice for thousands of years. It is believed the Roman emperor Constantine who began the celebration of Christ’s birth in 336 chose a December date because the Roman people were used to having a festive event at that time of the year.  

With my siblings around the Christmas tree- age 10

In Canada Christmas is a time when we celebrate the beauty of the winter world, get together with friends and family, and are inspired to give generously to people who need our help. All of those activities are beautifully expressed and encouraged in the lyrics of the Solstice Carol.  

To have the solstice spirit means being thankful for the beauty of creation, showing appreciation for the warmth of friends and family, and sharing that beauty and warmth with those who need it most. 

You can listen to the Solstice Carol here. 

Other posts………..

I Had a Moment

Christmas All Year Round

The Family of Jesus Portrayed in a Controversial Way

Leave a comment

Filed under Music