Monthly Archives: March 2020

Right Now It Is Like This

Winnipeg buses now flash a  PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING message alternately with their number and route name. 

In Central Park in New York, I knelt on the stone artwork that pays tribute to John Lennon’s song Imagine. One line in that song asks us to imagine there are no religions in the world. Something with definite religious connections went up in Central Park yesterday, field hospital tents for COVID-19 overflow patients from Mount Sinai Hospital. The tents were donated by Samaritan’s Purse, a religious charity headed by Franklin Graham. Graham has made  statements that the religion of Islam is wicked and evil and that Satan is the architect of same-sex marriage. The Samaritan Purse website makes their stand on same-sex marriage very clear.  New York City Hall is not worried about the beliefs of Samaritan’s Purse.  They say the field hospital will operate as part of Mount Sinai Hospital and will adhere to their discrimination policies. They claim what is most important is that the joint effort of Samaritan’s Purse and Mount Sinai Hospital will save New Yorkers’ lives.  New York Senator Brad Hoylman has called on Franklin Graham to publicly promise that LGBTQ patients will not be discriminated against at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital. 

On CBS on Sunday morning Dr. Jon La Pook said it is vital to develop an antibody test that can confirm whether someone has already had COVID-19.  He says a simple blood test can be developed to determine who has had the virus and is immune.  These people could take the place of those on the front lines who still don’t have immunity and help us understand in which communities the virus may have largely run its course.  Right now we are just testing to see if people HAVE the virus not whether they HAVE HAD it. 

Rebecca Babirye, a professor at a Tokyo university, recently wrote that this may be a good time to meditate on the Buddhist phrase, “Right now it is like this.”  

I thought about those words all day yesterday. “Right now it is like this.” 

The mantra encourages us to be realistic.  We need to acknowledge that what is happening right now is something we never would have expected, something we couldn’t have planned for, and something that has an unforeseeable future.  We need to forgive ourselves if the fact that “Right now it is like this”  makes us feel sad, or anxious or directionless. 

But we must remember the phrase includes the words “right now”  which implies that it won’t be like this forever.

I think in the coming days I will spend some time when I wake up each morning thinking and breathing and meditating on ……….

“Right now it is like this.” 

Other posts……………

Communication Ground Rules

Thin Places

Half-Empty of Half- Full?

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What Will Be Different?-Self Isolation Day 14

On Saturday it was my niece’s birthday.  She and I have been going to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and out to lunch every year for her birthday since she was about eight years old.  This year the art gallery is closed as are most Winnipeg restaurants and during this time of social distancing, we can’t be together. I hope we can still have our birthday lunch and art gallery visit sometime in 2020.  

One of the paintings featured in Stephen Borys’ posts this last week was Native Fires by Wanda Koop.

Every day the director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery Stephen Borys posts a painting from the gallery’s collection online  and tells people a little bit about it.  All the pieces featured so far have been popular works from our collection that I have had the privilege to share with hundreds of gallery visitors as a guide during the eight years I have been at the WAG.  Seeing them again each day on social media is like seeing old friends. 

We all need a break sometimes from the COVID-19 coverage we hear from morning till night. I have a subscription to The Atlantic and on Sunday they sent out a newsletter offering links to coronavirus free articles from their magazine. 

Dave and I did a walk down the Duff Roblin Parkway yesterday. We walked for an hour and only met one other couple with their dog. We gave each other a wide berth stepping into the fields beside us. But we did say hello. When your husband is the only one you talk with in person most days, a hello like that from someone who isn’t on a screen or phone is nice. We were still isolated but isolation outside is a whole lot better than isolation inside. 

We may be in social isolation until July.  A friend said in an e-mail yesterday that he wishes he had a remote control so he could just fast forward us to the end of June. 

A photo I took of the West End Cultural Centre through the window of the Feast Restaurant across the street.

My husband Dave is a regular volunteer at the West End Cultural Center. Of course, since they aren’t open now, he can’t help them out by giving of his time, so he sent them a donation.  It seems during this strange period when you have to keep your social distance the only way you can help causes and institutions that are important to you is with your money. 

Someone put this poster up in the elevator in our condo building. I ‘m thinking about its message. 

A former colleague of mine who is currently teaching in southern Italy says gangs of people desperate for food during the lockdown have begun organizing raids on supermarkets.  Since millions of people in Italy earn money in informal ways they are not eligible for unemployment benefits and so they don’t have money for food. How can we keep this from happening in Canada at some point?

Yesterday was our last day of self-isolation. What will be different today?  Not much. We won’t be able to visit friends or family or have them over.  It isn’t safe. We won’t be able to go to work at our part-time jobs.  The places where we work have closed their doors. We can’t attend our church and I can’t go there to work in the church library where I am the librarian.  Our church is only open in a limited and restricted way for the folks who need to access our food bank.    I can’t go and volunteer at the MCC Thrift Store as I usually do. They have locked up.  Dave can’t go and play pickleball at the recreation centre or curl at the curling rink and I can’t work out at the gym. Those places are locked down.  The boards and committees on which I serve no longer meet and the place my writers’ group meets has canceled all events held there. The Manitoba Theatre Centre where we have season tickets has canceled all performances and the local movie theatres we frequent regularly are closed. 

We will be able to go the grocery store, the post office and the pharmacy. I think that will be the only difference. 

Other posts………..

Siloam Mission at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Paint Nite

All of my self-isolation diary posts

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Faith Hope and Love- Self Isolation Day 13

We Are Best Friends by Laura Gross-Acrylic – Millshof Hutterite Community

When I was a writer for the Winnipeg Free Press I once spent a day on a Manitoba Hutterite colony at the invitation of a Hutterite woman named Clara who said she read my columns and considered me a friend. My visit to the colony was an eye-opening experience that left me reexamining many of my stereotypical ideas about Hutterites.

Soccer Game – plasticine-by Grace Waldner-Decker Community

 An article I saw about how the Amish people in Pennsylvania are handling COVID-19 made me think about Clara, as well as the colony members from across Manitoba who were responsible for a wonderful display of Hutterite art I saw at Winnipeg’s Heritage Gallery in October.  How were their communities coping with the crisis? I knew communal living was at the very heart of their lifestyle.

Making Apfel Platz- water colour- Sofia Maendel- Fairholme Hutterite Community

A story on CTV news yesterday explained that Manitoba Hutterite colonies are being mindful of public health warnings. They have cancelled church services and school classes and they no longer eat communally.  Leaders believe that the support system the colonies provide will help them weather this crisis. They say that faith, hope and love will get them through this challenging time. 

Mennonite Church at the Mennonite Heritage Museum

I found an interesting article about Dr Glen Klassen a microbiologist who hails from Steinbach. He did a research project for the University of Winnipeg on why double the number of Mennonites died of the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 compared to other ethnic groups.  He thinks it was because of the way they attended communal church services held in different villages.  Today Mennonite churches, as well as people of most other Manitoba faith groups, are meeting virtually or online. 

We talked to our son and his wife on Friday and one of their Saturday projects was going to be recording some music for the online service their church was preparing. 

I’ve mentioned before that I make myself check Fox News every day to see how they are covering the pandemic.  Often I am incredulous at some of the things I see, like the newscaster who implied that women’s chief concerns during the pandemic are their inability to get their hair done or have a manicure.  

With good friends at a Dolly Parton concert in Winnipeg

However, I did find an article yesterday about Dolly Parton.  My friend Sandy once treated some friends to a Dolly Parton concert here in Winnipeg and I came away with a great deal of respect for Dolly who does amazing work to promote literacy in America. Dolly was interviewed about the crisis by a Fox reporter and she said, “I think God’s trying to hold us up to the light so we can see ourselves and see each other through the eyes of love, and I hope we learn that lesson. I think that when this passes we’re all gonna be better people.”  

A while ago I began a series on my blog where I looked for good things happening in our world and I practised the drawing skills I am trying to develop to illustrate them.  I need to get back to that. But if you’d like to see my Good News posts, you can check them out here.  I think there is probably no time when we have needed good news more.

And speaking of good news my cousin Cindy posted on Facebook yesterday that together with his students her son-in-law Landon Grace who is an engineering professor at North Carolina State University has figured out a way to design and produce a face mask for doctors and nurses that provides a great deal more protection than the N95 masks they are currently using. Landon and his students at the university plan to make 5000 shields in the next few days.  You can read the news article about that here. 

me and esther

My friend Esther inspires me with her optimism

I had a long phone chat with a good friend yesterday and she said she has faith that God will get us through this crisis. I told her I think God is just shaking her head at our stupidity. We were given this beautifully created world and we didn’t look after it and messed it up.  We were given intelligent minds to be used in ways that would improve the lives of everyone and we used that intelligence to make better weapons. We were given ample warning that this day was coming but we stubbornly refused to listen. My friend replied,  “But look MaryLou, despite that God still gave us this gorgeous sunny day to enjoy.”  What can you say in the face of such optimism?   

Other posts…………….

A Photograph in The Mennonite

Hutterite Artists

Could I Be A Hutterite?

Dolly Patron or Patron?

 

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Tears For A Missed Opportunity- Self-Isolation Day 12

Our family lived in Arizona for a year from 1989-1990 and I was really looking forward to all of us being there together again. 

I shed a few tears this morning. Today is the day our whole family was to join us in Arizona for a holiday we had been planning for nearly a year. This was the first time everyone’s winter work schedules aligned so we could all be together. We spent a month looking for the perfect house for us to all share. When Dave and I left for Arizona many weeks before our children were to arrive, I had packed the car with toys and games and books and activities for the grandchildren. At Christmas, we had given the kids and grandkids gift certificates for various outings we had planned for the family. We were going to celebrate our granddaughter’s first birthday together. But………..there will be no holiday.

Celebrating our son’s university graduation was very special. Many families will be denied the experience this spring.

I know my sadness about a cancelled family holiday is nothing compared to the sadness of all the people who have lost their jobs, the people who will not be able to graduate from their university programs and the athletes who have trained so hard only to have the Olympics cancelled. I know my sadness about our missed vacation is nothing compared to the sadness of the people who have a family member dangerously ill with COVID-19, the families that can’t visit their elderly relatives, or the medical personnel who must leave their families and enter workplaces filled with risks. 

Despite my sadness about our lost holiday I know I should be counting my blessings.  Right now Dave and I, as well as our children and grandchildren, are safe and healthy. We all have comfortable homes in which to maintain our physical distance. Each household has at least one income to rely on even during the crisis, and each household is filled with the love it needs to sustain it. Blessed indeed!

From Facebook I found out my great-niece Chloe had asked her Mom what COVID-19 means.  I realized I wasn’t exactly sure either, so I looked it up. CO- is for corona  VI – is for virus D- is for disease and 19 – for 2019 when the pandemic began. 

I loved riding in my grandfather’s truck. Here is a picture of me heading off from Winnipeg to my grandparents’ farm in Gnadenthal Manitoba in Grandpa’s truck, to spend a few days all by myself at my grandparents’ house. What a treat!

On Thursday I told my grandson a story via Face Time about going to the grain elevator with my grandfather when I was a child.  I loved riding in my Grandpa’s truck and when we took a load of grain to the elevator, we drove into the building and they hoisted the cab of the truck up high so the grain would slide out of the bed in the back and into the storage area of the elevator. I thought it was such a thrill to sit in the cab as it was hoisted up. My grandson didn’t know what a grain elevator looked like so I sent him a picture of one.  It started me thinking about how many things that were a familiar part of my childhood are unfamiliar to my grandchildren. 

Sometimes my Dad has trouble remembering what is happening to him right now, but he remembers the past oh so well. Last night I told him about explaining grain elevators to my grandson and Dad and I had a great conversation about grain elevators.  He told me stories of going to the grain elevator in Plum Coulee Manitoba with his father. 

I also told my grandson about how my grandmother had a pail under her sink where we threw all of the kitchen food scraps and then later I would take that pail of ‘slops’ out to the pig barn and feed my grandparents’ pigs.  I was trying to explain ‘slop’ to my grandson and he said,  “Oh it’s like the stuff we put in the compost.”  

 

In an article in The Atlantic this week writer Ed Yong says that children conceived or born during the COVID-19 experience will be nicknamed Generation C.  He speculates when they are growing up they won’t dream of being sports stars, or movie icons or wildly successful businessmen and women they will all aspire to become scientists and epidemiologists because they will understand those are the true heroes who save the world.

I am reading and making notes on The Five Books of Miriam by Ellen Frankel. It offers a female perspective on the first five books of the Bible. I am supposed to be delivering a sermon based on a section of the book at the end of May.  Not sure if that will happen although I may be asked to give the sermon online during a virtual service. That should be interesting. One of the questions the book asks is why the Bible so seldom shares the wisdom of women and why the church has only just begun to listen to the wisdom of women.

Dr Theresa Tam- Canada’s Chief Medical Officer

As I pondered the ideas in the book it struck me that during this COVID 19 crisis we are very much depending on the wisdom of women here in Canada.  Many of the chief public health officers in the various provinces are women as is Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Theresa Tam. Women are playing important roles in leading Canada through the pandemic.  

Other posts………..

Many Women Are Pastors But Our Language Still Excludes Them

On My Grandparents’ Farm

All my Self-Isolation Posts

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Single Use Elevators and Peeking in the Neighbours’ Windows- Self-Isolation Day 11

The elevators in our building got new signs yesterday stating only one person can use them at a time. Dave and I are together twenty-four-seven anyway, so we figure it is okay to share the elevator.  Dave takes along the cane his cousin John made for him when we ride the elevator and uses its foot to push the buttons so we don’t have to touch them.  

Dave also takes his cane on our walks and says he can use the cane to keep away anyone we meet who won’t maintain their physical distance. Of course, that never happens because when you walk between 9 and 10 pm. you meet practically no one and everyone we do meet is very careful about staying far away.

Dave walking in Steve Juba Park with the cane his cousin John made for him after he had hip surgery.

Dave used his cane last night. After one day of not walking, we knew we couldn’t sustain staying indoors around the clock.  We both need to be outdoors and breathe some fresh air to stay sane and we don’t have a yard like many other people.  Walking so late at night is interesting because now many apartment owners in the downtown leave their blinds up and so we can look inside and see their living space.  With the normally bustling streets of the Exchange practically empty people don’t feel the need to lower their blinds in the evening anymore. It makes our walks really interesting.

A photo of my father-in-law tending his greenhouse plants

We told stories to our grandsons again yesterday.  Dave told them a story about saving his father’s life when his Dad passed out while fumigating their greenhouses to get rid of aphids.

Playing dress-up with my cousins on my grandparents’ farmyard.

I told them stories about going to visit my grandparents in Gnadenthal-going to the grain elevator in Grandpa’s big truck, the slop pail under the sink whose contents we fed to the pigs, playing dress-up with my thirteen cousins and the baby fawn my grandfather once brought home and cared for in his barn after he found it beside its dead mother on the road. 

Some of the many issues of Rejoice I have contributed to in the past

Rejoice is a publication I have contributed to annually for twenty-seven years. It features meditations and reflections for each day of the week. Our editor is putting out a special issue with personal stories from the writers about their experiences during the pandemic. Each submission is supposed to be illustrated. I wrote a story about how some birdseed attracted a crow to the window ledge of our downtown apartment. Since I hadn’t managed to get a photo of the crow, I sketched one to illustrate my submission. 

Yesterday I was telling someone during our phone conversation how impressed I am with all the creative and cool lessons my teacher friends are posting online for their students.  They asked……..but what about kids who don’t have computers.  I hadn’t thought of that. What about them? How will they keep up with their lessons during the pandemic? Then I read an article in the New York Times about the thousands of children in New York City who live in homeless shelters.  Their schools gave them i-pads to take home but the homeless shelters don’t have internet connections.  Will the pandemic motivate governments to think about whether internet access should be provided as a service to everyone? 

Dave going up to place his order at the Dairy Freeze

When we visit Dave’s family in southern Ontario a stop at the local Dairy Freez is often on the agenda. Sad to read yesterday that the business opened as it always does in spring, in spite of the pandemic, but not just for appropriate physically distanced take out and delivery as the government has recommended.  Someone posted on Facebook they saw more than 60 people on the grounds enjoying icecream and not at all worried about physical distancing. I saw a similar story on Trip Advisor. I honestly hope this story is ‘fake news’. 

Is anyone else finding they are only eating two meals a day during isolation?  Since we aren’t as active as usual we just don’t seem hungry at noon. So we have a nice breakfast, our cocktails at 4:30 perhaps with a piece of cheese or fruit, and then dinner at 7 or so. 

Dave has a big book of New York Times crossword puzzles.  I have my own book of much easier crosswords.  I try to do two a day. I am systematically working my way through the book and have already completed 22 puzzles. 

I was excited to hear the birthday present I sent my granddaughter arrived at her house yesterday.  I was hoping the postal service would stay operational.  I have two more grandchildren with birthdays in spring so now I can start to get their birthday parcels ready too. 

Other posts………….

A Visit to Dairy Freez

A Puzzling Achievement

Eighteen Years in Rejoice

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What A Rigmarole! Self-Isolation Day 10

  • Dave and I enjoy entertaining. We normally host lots of people in our home. But if health experts are right we won’t be entertaining for a very long time. I hate doing housework but what always motivates me to embark on a cleaning spree is inviting guests and knowing they are coming over.  Now that we won’t be having company, probably for months, what is going to inspire me to vacuum rugs, dust furniture and wash my floors? 
  • Kyle Penner, the son of friends of ours, and a pastor at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach suggests adding another beatitude to the list Jesus gave us during his Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are those who flatten the curve for they shall save lives.”
  • Most days a number of lengthy phone and Face Time conversations make the hours pass by pretty quickly. It is nice to have plenty of time to talk to people who are important to me. 
  • A friend has been questioning whether it is ethical for Dave and me to go for evening walks outside while in self-isolation and on Tuesday’s walk I nearly fell on an icy patch of sidewalk. This motivated us to try to get our exercise inside our condo yesterday.  I walked in and out of the various rooms in our house for the length of an entire This American Life podcast, about an hour.  Dave walked for half an hour and then did 100 step-ups on a high bench we have near our front door. 
  • I was happy to get an e-mail from the staff at my aunt’s personal care home in Saskatoon. Now that the residents aren’t allowed any visitors they are encouraging family members to send messages and photos via e-mail and they will share them with the residents, especially those like my aunt who can no longer use the phone.  Today I wrote a letter to my aunt with lots of family photos inserted.  I ended with this photo and these words. 


I have been going through some old photos I found while helping Dad move and I love this one of you and Mom with a chicken. Had you just killed it? You both look like you are laughing. I love remembering how often you and your Mom and your sisters used to laugh together. During the hard time we are facing now laughter will be especially good for us. Thanks for being such a good example.

My husband Dave and I with my Dad on his 90th birthday.

  • My Dad isn’t allowed any visitors at his assisted living place so I try to call him twice a day. Although he doesn’t understand the nuances or details of the pandemic he has some idea that strange things are going on in the world right now and during each of our calls this week, he’s asked, “So what do you think of this rigmarole MaryLou?”
  • I did not vote for Justin Trudeau’s party in the last election but as I watch his daily messages to the Canadian public on my Facebook feed, I am surprised at all the hateful comments people post about him during his press conferences.  Whether or not we agree with him politically, I think we need to acknowledge we are lucky to have someone sane and articulate at the helm of our country, someone who says his government is making decisions based on SCIENCE, and we need to remember our prime minister is single parenting three children at the same time as he is leading Canada during perhaps its most challenging hour.  I think just for now we need to set aside our differences and remind ourselves of the bunny Thumper’s line in the Disney movie Bambi. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. ” 
  • I remember when we lived in Hong Kong, temperature scanning at the airport was routine. We took off any headgear we happened to be wearing and walked under an electronic bar that took our temperature. If you had a fever you were pulled aside and either sent to a medical facility or given a note that you needed to seek medical attention and should notify authorities that you had done so. Might this be helpful in all airports? 
  • It was a little frightening to read this Macleans article about a woman whose surgery for breast cancer has been postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 crisis. How many other people will have life-saving procedures postponed until it is too late for them?  Patients with coronavirus will not be the only medical victims of this pandemic. 
  • A former pastor of my church shared this story yesterday on her Facebook page.  A man was walking in a wilderness. He became lost and was unable to find his way out. Another man met him. ‘Sir, I am lost, can you show me the way out of this wilderness?’ ‘No,’ said the stranger, ‘I cannot show you the way out of the wilderness, but maybe if I walk with you, we can find it together.” by Emery Nester. 

Other posts………..

Supporting Each Other

Looking For the Positives in the Election

90 Years

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My How The World Has Changed – Self-Isolation Day 9

Yesterday I thought about some of the places we’ve been in the world and did a little research on how they are being impacted by the pandemic. 

My husband Dave is picking out a pastry for his breakfast in Madrid.  Bakeries are one of the few kinds of businesses that have stayed open in Spain where the death toll from the coronavirus jumped by 514 yesterday.

In Dehli, India I am visiting a shelter for street children.  Yesterday Dehli was placed on a complete lockdown by the government. What will happen to the three million people who live on that city’s streets? 

Dave snapped this photo just after we toured the Colosseum in Rome. The Colosseum and many other tourist attractions in Rome are closed to the public now as Italy fights the coronavirus. It is predicated Italy will lose about 30 billion euros in tourist revenue because of the pandemic. Dave taking part in an elephant show in Thailand. I read in yesterday’s New York Times that many elephants used for tourism in Thailand have just been abandoned by their owners because the coronavirus has left their businesses without clients. Owners can no longer afford to feed or care for their elephants.  I am under a kiwi tree in a kiwi orchard in New Zealand.  It is harvest time for kiwi right now and orchard owners have been getting out the word that they would be happy to hire people from New Zealand’s hospitality and tourism industries who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Normally 25% of their harvest workers are backpackers from around the world who need part-time work. The backpackers have all gone back to their home countries so there is a shortage of labourers. Dave and I stand near the harbour in Stykkishólmur, Iceland.  Yesterday Iceland had 648 confirmed coronavirus cases the highest number per capita in the world. An article I read yesterday says the extensive testing and population screening in Iceland has revealed there are 40 mutations of the coronavirus in Iceland alone. Mutations make the virus more contagious but less dangerous to those who get it. We toured Croatia on bicycles.  But on Saturday people were warned not to go on bike rides in Croatia after the country reported 78 new coronavirus cases in one day. Buses, trams, railways, cable cars and ferries all ceased operation. People were even discouraged from taking walks.  A message from the government said only immediate family members could attend funerals and all children’s playgrounds would be closed.

On a misty morning, Dave and I stand in the rain forest in Costa Rica. A spokesperson  for  The Alliance of Peoples and Forests in Costa Rica says the destruction of the rain forest can encourage the emergence of diseases like the coronavirus.  Loss of habitat has brought wild animals into closer contact with humans allowing diseases like COVID-19 to jump the animal-human barrier and spread through human-to-human contact. 

Dave stands in front of a wall at the United Nations in New York with the verse from Isaiah 2:4 that speaks of a time when the world will not learn war anymore. On Monday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres urged all warring factions in the world to lay down their weapons so everyone can join the bigger more important battle against COVID-19.

I pose beside the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. This is where Jesus is said to have healed a lame man. This morning The Jerusalem Post reported over 2170 cases of the virus in Israel. I know there won’t be an instant miraculous cure for the coronavirus like the one Jesus provided to the lame man. But I do think if we act on Jesus’ teachings about what it means to be a neighbour, if we obey his injunction to care for the least of those among us, and if we follow his guideline to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” we will get through this crisis and our world will be better because of it. 

Other posts…………

Our Heads in the Clouds

The Pool of Bethesda- Personal Connections

Meeting the Street Children of Dehli

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