Monthly Archives: January 2020

January Past and Present

Today I will give two tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery one to teachers and one to university students and then in the evening, I will attend an amazing show at The Forks where my son’s band Royal Canoe will give a concert on instruments made out of ice!  It’s going to be a great day.

One of the interesting things about keeping a daily blog is the ability it gives me to travel back in time and see where I was and what I was doing on this date in the past. Here’s what I was up to in past Januarys.

In 2012 I was exploring a Lava Tree park on the Big Island of Hawaii.

In 2013 I was having a great time with my friend Esther in Gold Canyon Arizona.

 In 2014 I was working at a tutoring centre in Runaway Bay Jamaica. In 2015 I was hitting the links in Arizona with my friends Rudy and Sue.

In 2016 I was biking on a beach in Tamarindo Costa Rica.

In 2017 I was doing lots of hiking with my brother in Arizona.

In 2018 I was touring Lisbon in Portugal. In 2019 I was swimming in a cenote in Mexico.

I wonder what I will be doing as January comes to a close in 2021?

Other posts……….

Silly Mountain

Swimming in a Cenote

Biking on the Beach

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New Music- Jon Bryant

‘Listen’ is my word for 2020. This year I’d like to add a wider variety of music to my playlist so I can listen to some new tunes when I am writing, doing housework, driving places or exercising at the gym. That’s why I was happy to be going to a concert at the West End Cultural Centre last Saturday night featuring a Canadian artist named Jon Bryant. I wasn’t at all familiar with his recordings so I knew I was going to be introduced to some new music.  

Meeting Jon before the show

My husband Dave is a regular volunteer at the West End and one of his fellow volunteers let us into the ‘green room’ at the Ellice Street venue so we could say hello to Jon before the concert. We have a personal connection with Jon. Jon’s cousin Darren Bryant was a good friend of ours in Hong Kong. We had lots of fun times together with Darren and we even lived in Darren’s apartment for a year when he was in Canada pursuing masters studies. Darren had let us know his cousin would be in Winnipeg and encouraged us to go and see him. 

Me and Darren and friends at a Quiz Night in Hong Kong

There was a nice crowd at the West End for the show and many were clearly fans who knew Jon’s songs and shouted out favourites they wanted him to perform. Jon’s music is easy listening, many of the pieces with a sense of nostalgia about love and life. When we got home I added his 2012 album What Takes You to my playlist. I’ve been listening to it while I wrote this blog post.
One particular track that appeals to me is called David Livingstone. Some of the lyrics fit quite well with the time of my life that’s approaching faster than maybe I’d like to think. 

You be the walker and stay with me as I grow frail

You be the wind and direct me when I lose the sail

You can listen to Jon singing that song here

Other posts about music…………

Waver- A New Album From Royal Canoe

The Farewell

The Symphony Mexican Style

More

 

 

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Date Night

stone angel breweryWhen my husband Dave plans a date night for us I can always look forward to it being something unique.  Last Friday he picked me up after I had spent a long day doing stuff for my Dad and said we were headed for a literary spot.  

stone angel statue stone angel breweryI would never have guessed it was a brewery, but the Stone Angel fit the bill since it was named after the famous book The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence. The large statue in the brewery attests to the fact but just to be sure I double-checked with the bartender and he confirmed indeed the brewery had been named after Margaret’s book. 

brewery stone angelDave is part of a beer club that meets regularly to explore all the breweries in the city so he had been to the Stone Angel with his club members.  I don’t drink beer normally and since I was the only woman in the place during our entire visit I was a little intimidated but I had a good time.  

peanut butter stout and juicy kilterDave picked out two beers he thought I might like- a Kilter Juicy and a Peanut Butter Stout.  I tasted them both. The stout was a little too bitter for me but the Kilter Juicy had a nice grapefruity flavour and I drank the whole thing. 

tehran restaurantNext, we were off to the Tehran Cafe.  I had never had Iranian food before but it was wonderful. walnut stew iranian restaurantI ordered a walnut, chicken and pomegranate stew with saffron rice and green salad. So good. lamb shankDave had a lamb shank with rice and Shirazi salad.  It was great too. 

family in tehranian restaurantWe enjoyed the interesting art in the restaurant and the attentive service.  

tehran restaurant winnipegA literary brewery and a new kind of food were not what I was expecting for my date night but it was a fun evening. Even after spending more than 45 years together with him,  my husband continues to make my life interesting. 

Other posts……….

I Drank a Beer in Austria

Laughing Without An Accent

Visiting A Colorado Microbrewery and The Barry Manilow Concert That Wasn’t

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Books and Brushes – Please Join Me!

If you’ve been at McNally Robinson Booksellers recently you will have seen this attractive display of Margaret Atwood’s books. The display is advertising Books and Brushes a feature we run several times a year at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in cooperation with McNallys. Books and Brushes is a book club and an art gallery tour combined. On February 4th at 11:30 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, we will be discussing Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments which won the 2019 Booker Prize. 
I’ve been reading The Testaments and looking for artwork currently on view at the WAG that might connect with the novel. It hasn’t been hard to find lots of interesting pieces that relate to scenes in the book.

I’ll try to pique your interest in joining us by showing you four of the art pieces we will take a look at.

Afternoon Tea or The Gossips by John Everett Millais- 1889

Esther and Ahasuerus by Melchior Lorck- 1560

Tree Movement by Emily Carr 1937-1938

Delilah by Kent Monkman and Chris Chapman-2017

We will be looking at lots of other art pieces too and of course, having a lively discussion about the novel.  If you’d like to join us you can get all the details and register here.  Hope to see you next week. 

Other posts……………

Esther and Ahasuerus- A Storyboard in a Painting

Emily Carr- Talk About Defying Convention

The Family of Jesus Portrayed in a Controversial Way

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Filed under Art, Books, winnipeg art gallery

Olive Again

When I first started reading Elizabeth’s Strout’s book Olive Again I didn’t really care for the heroine Olive very much.  Olive is a prickly old woman, blunt and hard-nosed.  She isn’t easy to like.

Author Elizabeth Strout

In fact, Elizabeth Strout has said that Olive is so irritating and brutally honest that only some of the chapters in Olive Again have Olive at its centre because Elizabeth found it difficult to spend too much time with Olive, even though Elizabeth is the one who created her character.

Despite all her annoying behaviours……….. Olive can be extremely empathetic.  In one chapter she has the courage to spend time talking honestly and regularly to a neighbour dying of cancer.  Other people don’t know what to say to the neighbour and avoid her.  At a baby shower where one of the guests goes into labour, Olive is the one to take matters in hand and delivers the baby in the backseat of her car.  One of the nursing aides sent to look after Olive after she has a heart attack is a Trump supporter and Olive hates the American president with a passion.  Yet, she takes time to listen to the aide’s deeply troubling family story.

Illustration by Wesley Allsbrook for the review of Olive Again in the New York Times

The novel and its beautiful, beautiful writing made me think about how……….

Everyone’s life has sadness in it and if we really get to know people we will always find that sadness no matter what kind of cheery exterior they may project.

We all have regrets about the way we lived our lives and it takes courage to go on living and maintaining relationships with people when we have regrets about how we interacted with them in the past.

Everyone is lonely sometimes and we have a choice to stay that way or reach out to the people around us no matter where we are and change our lonely state.

Some people will like you and some people won’t.  That is just the way it is and there’s no use beating yourself up about it or letting it stop you from getting joy and meaning out of life. 

I was weeping when I finished Olive Again because at the end of the book Olive was in a situation I am getting to know oh so well as the members of my family in the generation just ahead of me near the end of their lives and as I get ever nearer there myself.  

Olive Again is a rich and moving novel and it touched me in ways I didn’t expect when I first started it.

Other posts……..

My Name is Lucy Barton

All That Belongs

Where Do the Crawdads Sing For You?

 

 

 

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A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

This afternoon I will be giving a group from my church a tour of the Kent Monkman exhibit Shame and Prejudice at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. One of the installations we will spend time looking at is a nativity scene that is part of an area of the exhibit called The Res House. In one of his lectures Kent Monkman explains how in this artwork he has set the birth of Jesus in a house on one of Canada’s First Nations’ reservations. Kent clearly shows the less than ideal condition of the housing. One of the first things you notice is that the Mary, Joseph and Jesus figures all have the same face and it is the face of artist Kent Monkman.  Kent explains that he was visiting the Natural History Museum in New York when he realized they had used one male face on all the indigenous mannequins in every single diorama, no matter what First Nation they belonged to, or even whether they were male or female.  So Kent thought “well, then I’m just going to put my head on everybody now.”

The baby is lying on a Hudson’s Bay blanket. The arrival of fur trading companies like the Hudson’s Bay in Canada changed the lives of Canada’s indigenous people forever. 

There is Coke in the baby’s bottle.  Could that be because the container of milk on the shelf costs nearly $20 on some reserves? Kent has food on the shelves in the house with their real prices.

In the background you can see a child being taken away to residential school.  Will that be the eventual fate of the new baby? 

There is bottled water in the house- a reference to the fact that there is still a boil water advisory in some Canadian communities and people have to drink bottled water because their water source isn’t clean or safe. 

Joseph is wearing a Chicago Black Hawks jersey and it can start a discussion about how professional sports teams have appropriated indigenous names and symbols.  Kent has replaced the face of the man on the jersey with his alter ego, trickster character Miss Chief who appears in many of Kent’s pieces in the Shame and Prejudice exhibit. 

The Mary figure is holding a rosary in her hand.  Instead of Jesus on the cross, there is a beaver. Beavers with praying hands look heavenward on the top frame of the exhibit which features Latin words that mean Love Conquers All.  

Adoration of the Magi by Jorg Stocker 1510

The placement of this installation is also interesting because just behind it in an adjoining gallery is another nativity scene that is very different from the one Kent has created.  

There are so many details in Kent’s nativity scene to notice and discuss. I think the tour I give my church will be the 15th one of the Monkman exhibit I have led and each time I learn something new from the visitors I show Kent’s work.  I am excited about what the people from my church may find this afternoon. 

Other posts………….

Incarceration

The Scream

Starvation

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Filed under Art, Holidays, winnipeg art gallery

The Last Scene Changed Everything

We saw the movie 1917 recently. Loosely based on an actual event from World War I the film tells the story of two British soldiers, Lance Corporal Tom Blake and Lance Corporal Will Schofield. They are tasked with delivering a message to a battalion commander at the front lines. This message directs the commander to call off a planned attack that will lead his men straight into a trap set up by the Germans. If the message does not arrive in time, nearly 1,600 soldiers will be killed, including Tom Blake’s brother. Unfortunately, Tom dies before they can reach his brother’s battalion but Will overcomes his initial cynicism about the assignment and due to his dogged determination finally succeeds in delivering the message. During the course of completing his mission, Will risks his life over and over again. He nearly dies on numerous occasions. He kills German soldiers.  He abandons a woman and baby who clearly want and need his help. He wades through a stream filled with bloated dead bodies. He runs through the heat of a battle to reach the bunker of the commander who needs to receive his message. A hero right? 

And then in one of the very last scenes of the movie he sits by a tree and pulls out photos of his wife and two daughters from his breast pocket. We have no idea up to that point that he is a family man. The director and script writer have revealed little of his inner life.  But seeing him look at his family photos made me think about what he would be like when he went home to them. The horror he has been through will have changed him in unthinkable ways.  Will his family even recognize the man he has become? Will he ever be able to be happy again? That scene changed everything for me.  I was angry Will had taken the risks he did, risks that could have meant his daughters would grow up without a father.  I wasn’t sure at all that he was a hero. 

Other posts……

Those Who Went to War and Those Who Didn’t

Wars Dread of Mothers

Why Is It Called Remembrance Day?

  

 

 

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Old Hat – New Hat

In 2008 my son’s girlfriend Alisa, who would become my daughter-in-law a few years later, knit a lovely green hat for me for Christmas.  I actually received the hat in July of 2009 because we were living and working in Hong Kong at the time and had spent Christmas of 2008 in Australia.  When we came home to Manitoba for the summer we had a Christmas lunch with our son and his girlfriend and exchanged presents. My husband took this photo of Alisa and me after I’d received my hat. Over the last decade, that hat has been on all kinds of adventures with me. 

I wore it when I was visiting the Colosseum in Rome. It kept me warm while I was hiking up to a glacier in Iceland with my sister

I wore it exploring the beautiful tablelands in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park.

Here I am skating the Red River in Winnipeg in my hat. It came in handy on a chilly fall visit to Quebec City.

I wore it while touring indigenous cultural and spiritual sites at the Ancient Echoes Museum in Herschel Saskatchewanknitted hatThis year my daughter-in-law knit me a beautiful new hat for Christmas. I love the new one and have already used it many times. I think I will keep my old hat though because it has so many good memories associated with it. 

Other posts…………….

The Myrdalsjokull Glacier Hike

No Christians Fed to Lions and Other Things You May Not Know About the Colosseum

Skating the Red River

 

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Growing Up Inclusive

Growing Up Inclusive is the topic I’ll address this coming Saturday afternoon at an event sponsored by Steinbach Neighbours for Community.  How do we help children develop inclusive attitudes, so they automatically look first for what they have in common with others and are quick to appreciate and learn from the differences they discover between themselves and other people? I’ll explore some ideas gleaned from my experience as an educator, parent, and community volunteer.  

I’ll look at the value of exposing children to a wide variety of experiences and people.  I’ll tell some stories about what our family learned when we lived and worked on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona but I also want to give parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents, church workers and other child advocates ideas for things they can do in their own community and province to give kids a chance to see the world from new perspectives. I’ll talk about the importance of helping children take responsibility when they use speech or display actions that show disrespect for people who may be different than they are in gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, age, body size or ableness.  I am going to tell stories about people I know who have done that with sensitivity and firmness. Children need help learning to monitor their speech and actions so they are inclusive, and we can guide them. 

Who are role models for our children?  It is helpful for kids to have a wide variety of adults in their lives who show them what it means to be inclusive. Their primary role models are their parents, but many other people can be examples for our children.  I will talk about people who have been role models for me and my children and what I learned from them. Who are role models in the world of politics, entertainment and sports we want our children to emulate?

There is such a wonderful diversity of reading material available for children.  How do we choose books that foster an attitude of open-mindedness, so our kids learn there are different kinds of families and different ways to express one’s spirituality?  What sorts of literature will help them appreciate differences in sexual orientation, race and cultural practices? Can books help them understand why some people are homeless or why a person facing physical challenges has great strengths we can learn from?

Mural of Canada’s children on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon

I will also look at ways parents can encourage their children to develop their own individual interests, personality traits and talents regardless of what society may say they should do or be like based on their gender, age, ableness, body size or cultural background.  Children whose uniqueness is appreciated will grow up to be adults who appreciate the uniqueness of others.

Finally, I will use examples from my own family to show why it is important to teach our children to be more than just witnesses to inclusive behaviour but true advocates for it.

I’ll be giving my talk Growing Up Inclusive on the second floor of the Steinbach Curling Club at 12:30 on Saturday, January 25th. I invite you to join me as we look at some of the ways we can work together to help children grow up to be accepting human beings who are active participants in making our communities places where all are welcome.  There will be an opportunity for questions and answers after my talk. An interesting session is also planned for the morning with Providence College Professor Val Hiebert and lunch is included in this free event.  You can learn more on the Steinbach Neighbors For Community Facebook page or website.

 Other posts………

Steinbach Pride- Homecoming, Forgiveness and Hope 

Include Me Please

Safe and Inclusive Schools

 

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Filed under Childhood, Education

Decisions That Change Your Life

I received Alice Kuipers book Me and Me as a Christmas gift. It has an intriguing premise. A seventeen-year-old girl named Larkin is in a situation where two people she knows and loves are drowning and she has to decide which one she will save. One is her boyfriend and the other a little girl she babysat. During the rest of the novel, the story flips back and forth between the two different outcomes. We see how Larkin’s life would have turned out had she saved the little girl and what would have happened had she saved her boyfriend. Her life is markedly different in each scenario. 
Reading the novel made me think about times like that in my own life. Not nearly so dramatic as Larkin’s but decisions I made that would have totally changed the course of my life.

Photo with my class when I was named Manitoba Teacher of the Year

I remember when I was in college and I was thinking about whether I should become a teacher or a nurse and my Dad came to have supper with me in my college dining room. We went into this little lounge off the dining room after our meal to visit and I told Dad I wasn’t sure what my career should be teaching or nursing. And Dad told me he didn’t think I would make a good nurse. I should be a teacher. I remember at the time I was upset with him for saying I wouldn’t be suited for a career in nursing but his instincts clearly steered me in the right direction. I liked being a teacher and I think I was pretty good at it. I still sometimes speculate though about what would have happened if I hadn’t taken Dad’s blunt advice. What would my life have been like if I had been a nurse?

Our family on the waterfront after the tsunami

In 2004 we were getting ready to holiday in Phuket Thailand and we decided at the last minute to switch to a hotel high up on a cliff instead of the one right on the ocean where we had planned to stay. The one on the ocean was totally destroyed in the tsunami and many many people staying there died. What if we hadn’t changed our mind at the last minute?

In the receiving line at our wedding in 1973

What if I had decided at age 19 that I was too young to get married as many people told me? What if I had decided after three lost pregnancies that I just couldn’t try again? What if we hadn’t gone to Hong Kong to teach because just after we signed our contract SARS broke out and many people thought we were crazy to go?
In each case, if I had made an alternate decision my life probably would have been markedly different. Alice Kuiper’s book made me think about that.

Other posts………….

A Christmas Carol Saved Our Lives

A Bathtub In My Classroom

A Walk in My Old Neighborhood

Vision and Voice

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