Monthly Archives: December 2020

The Year in Review

Kent Monkman’s The Scream which depicts indigenous children being rounded up and taken away to residential school

In January I was very busy giving tours of Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice exhibit. It was one of the most popular shows the Winnipeg Art Gallery has hosted during my eight years of employment there. I toured hundreds of people through the exhibithigh school students, members of my church, business people, seniors groups, teachers, scientists, friends, government workers, college students, university students, social workers and regular gallery visitors.

Golfing at the Star Fire Course in Arizona with Dave’s brother Paul and our sister-in-law Shirley

In February we were in Phoenix Arizona and had a great time hiking, golfing, swimming and sight-seeing with friends and family. A highlight for me was seeing the musical Beautiful about the life of recording great Carole King.

On the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg

In March due to the pandemic we were back home in Winnipeg, broken-hearted over a cancelled family vacation in Arizona with our children and grandchildren and isolating in our apartment. For weeks we ventured out only around sunset for walks on the almost empty streets near our home.

By April we had our bikes ready to hit the road and we bundled up in layers and broke our isolation each day with cycles that were several hours long. We found lots of cool places in Winnipeg we had never visited before including an alleyway full of Arctic wildlife.

By May restrictions had lifted enough that I could start visiting my Dad outside at the assisted living building where he makes his home. The isolation of the previous months had taken a heavy toll on him.

In June golf courses had re-opened and Dave and I began a weekly ritual of inviting another couple for socially distanced golf games and then enjoying a meal together on an outdoor patio somewhere.

In July we were invited to an alternate Winnipeg Folk Festival celebration on a prairie farm and I walked the maze our hosts had cut into the field behind their barn.

In August we celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. I found some old slides at my Dad’s and had them scanned into photos. I discovered many pictures I wasn’t even aware existed including this one of us setting off on our honeymoon in 1973.

In September we spent a couple of beautiful days on Hecla Island with friends, hiking, golfing and exploring.

In October we did a tour of a very unique exhibit of paintings by Van Gogh.

In November we went on so many wonderful wintery hikes on Winnipeg trails and Dave introduced me to the joys of his new birding hobby. We were so excited to welcome a new granddaughter Nora Dot to our family.

In December I packed up gifts with pictures of stockings and sent them off to our children and grandchildren in Saskatoon and delivered actual stockings to our children and granddaughter in Winnipeg. Christmas would be celebrated via Zoom and FaceTime.

On one of his recent radio shows my son said that someday in the distant future we will think about 2020 and say to people………”Remember the year of the pandemic?” We might have to jog our memories to bring it to mind. I hope that’s true. There were some good things about this year but I have no desire to have another one like it. I hope at least the last half of 2021 will be a brighter and happier time and that by 2022 my year-end review might once again be filled with images of personal visits and interesting adventures with family and friends, reviews of plays and concerts, and rich travel experiences.

Other posts………….

A Pandemic Summer

2011- A Year of People in My Life

Highlights of 2016

2019- The Year in Review

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Reflections

From Double to Half- My First Kijiji Experience

I posted an ad for an antique dresser on Kijiji at the beginning of December. It was my first time trying to sell something on the site so I was elated when within minutes we received a response. Our potential buyer offered to give us double our asking price. They would send a mover to pick up the dresser.

We bought this dresser in 1979.

We were asked to pay the mover two hundred dollars in cash for their services and then the buyer would send us a cheque to reimburse us for the moving charge as well as pay us double what we’d asked for the dresser. Sound too good to be true? That’s what we thought. A quick internet search revealed this is a common scam. The buyer does indeed send a mover who ends up with your item of furniture and $200. The cheque never materializes or if it does it bounces.

Over the month we had numerous inquiries about the size and condition of the dresser and whether we would deliver it, but no offers. We dropped the price and received even more inquiries none of them serious. However the number of folks who had viewed the ad kept increasing so we decided to give it a little more time.

Finally yesterday a buyer negotiated me down to half of what we’d originally listed the dresser for and said she would arrange for pick up. I took the deal. I needed to get rid of the dresser and the woman immediately sent me a valid e-transfer for our agreed price. Her movers are picking the dresser up this afternoon.

Lessons from my first Kijiji sale that might apply to life……

Be wary of things that sound too good to be true.

Be willing to modify your expectations to get the job done.

Be patient.

In a future blog post I’ll let you know why I had to sell the dresser. It is actually something I’m pretty excited about!

Other posts…………

Pumpkins for Sale

Calculator Conversation

Merchants Photographed Around the World

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Transcendent Kingdom- The Right Book At the Wrong Time For Me

The Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi has been included in many of the lists that name the top books of 2020. I just finished reading it and can see why it has gained such accolades and why several of my friends recommended it to me.

The novel is perfect for our time because it addresses almost every important issue making current news headlines. The complex and well-written story set in Alabama, California and Ghana is about immigration and racism. It is brutally candid in describing the effects of the opioid crisis and the lack of services for people with mental health issues. At its heart is the conflict between science and religion.

Because Yaa Gyasi is a wonderful writer these issues are not addressed in ways that seem forced into the story just to make a point. They are all part and parcel of our heroine Gifty’s life. And a troubled life it is indeed. Gifty is a brilliant neuroscientist trying to solve the mysteries of addiction and depression at the same time as she grieves the death of her brother from a heroin overdose, and provides support to her clinically depressed mother.

I was particularly taken with the book’s exploration of just how damaging and destructive evangelical Christianity can be. Gifty who was raised in its throes tries to turn her back on her religious upbringing but she continues to long for God’s comfort. She refers to it as the ‘knock of God’ on her heart. And she is constantly listening for that knock even when her scientific education makes the absurdity of her faith clear to her.

The family of Transcendent Kingdom author Yaa Gyasi comes from Ghana just like the family in her book and the Gyasi family lived in Hunstville Alabama just as the family in the book does.

I found this book hard to read. It may be the perfect book for our time but I don’t think it was a good pick for me at Christmas during a pandemic. I have found that when and where you read a book has almost as much to do with having a satisfying reading experience as the quality of the book itself. I think I should have saved this book for another time. It was too troubling and complicated a story for the troubled and complicated holiday season of 2020.

Yaa Gyasi does end the book on a note of hope but by then I was so saddened by Gifty’s life experiences, that I found the hopeful ending almost hard to believe.

Posts about books that might have been a better fit for Christmas 2020…………

A Book To Make You Insanely Hopeful

The Eight Pillars of Joy

Poles Apart

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Word of the Year- How Did I Do?

Listen was my word of the year for 2020. When I chose it last January I wrote that I wanted to get better at ‘listening’ in lots of different areas. I think I was pretty successful in some of them, but not as successful in others.

I said I wanted to start listening to more podcasts and I did. Some I especially liked and wrote about were Mobituaries with Mo Rocca, Heavy Weight with Jonathan Goldstein, 1619 with Nikole Hannah Jones and Through Line with Rund Abdelfatah & Ramtin Arablouei. Other podcasts I enjoyed quite regularly were This American Life and Hidden Brain.

I also wanted to start listening to more music and different kinds of music. To inspire me I subscribed to Apple Music and have added lots of new songs to my playlists this last year. Dave and I regularly listen to my expanded music library while driving although this has been the source of some debate.

My son with his band Royal Canoe just before their phenomenal show on ice instruments at The Forks in Winnipeg in January 2020

My son Bucky was actually largely responsible for the widening of my musical listening horizons in 2020. His band Royal Canoe got the year off to a bang with their Glacial Show. In January they played music from their albums on instruments made of ice to huge crowds down at The Forks in Winnipeg. That was certainly one of my most unique musical experiences.

Since his careers as a touring professional musician and a music booking agent came to an abrupt halt with the pandemic my son started all kinds of new ventures and one was a weekly radio show. The music he played on his program was almost all new to me and introduced me to many artists I had never heard before.

No matter the weather Dave and I have been heading out on walks during the pandemic. We try to get in our 10,000 steps every day.

I said last year that I wanted to start listening to my body and get enough exercise but I also wanted to learn to listen to my body when it told me to rest. The pandemic has certainly meant my body gets more rest since there aren’t lots of places for it to go. However, I have still tried to listen to my body calling to me to get outdoors and keep fit. My husband Dave has been a great inspiration encouraging me to walk or cycle with him every day.

Signing the contract for my book in June

Another goal for 2020 was to listen to critiques of my writing and take them seriously and act on them. I did that by submitting work to contests and editors and my writers group and getting lots of great feedback I took to heart. That resulted in a book contract.

A family conversation prior to the pandemic

I had one listening goal where my progress is questionable. I wanted to talk less and listen more and to be a more sensitive listener so I could improve my relationships with others. Not being able to get together with people to visit and not seeing them in person to sense their mood or body language has made listening in a more sensitive way a challenge and is something I will need to keep working on.

I haven’t picked a word for 2021 yet. I am still thinking about it. I’ll let you know when I’ve decided on one.

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Is God In Control?

Is God in control during this pandemic? I don’t think so.

A few days ago I wrote about how our family survived the tsunami in Phuket Thailand in 2004. I think that was the first time I truly realized God wasn’t in control.   

When we arrived home after the tsunami so many people told us they had been praying for us. They were thankful God had saved us.  I received no comfort from that idea at all.  

Our family on the waterfront after the tsunami

What about the 230,000 people who died in the tsunami?  Didn’t many of them have friends and family praying for them? Many of them no doubt cried out to God as they were being swept out to sea, but they perished.  I could not believe God had caused the tsunami, or that a loving God had allowed something as horrific as the tsunami to happen, or that God had chosen to protect our family and not someone else’s. No God had not been in control when the tsunami hit. I didn’t want to believe in a God who had anything to do with that kind of disaster.

Those of us who grew up in the church have heard the well-intentioned phrase so often. “Don’t worry God is in control.” I know the words are meant to bring comfort, but I think we need to stop saying them. If we say that God is in control, we are really saying we believe God deliberately made the COVID 19 virus that has killed many more people than the tsunami did and caused heartache and hunger and homelessness for millions. Is God in control of COVID-19? Of course not. 

Photo from Creative Commons

Some religious folks are saying God is letting the pandemic happen to teach us something. One certainly hopes the world learns many lessons from what is happening, but God does not choose pain and suffering as teaching tools.

I believe God is good and anything that isn’t good doesn’t from God. So, if God isn’t in control who is? Well unfortunately or fortunately we are.  Remember in Genesis when God gave human beings dominion over the earth?  Luckily however the goodness of God is still present, and we can act in partnership with it to respond to the pandemic with love and a desire to make better choices for our world in the future. Believing God isn’t in control is actually much harder than believing God is. Because it means we can’t just be bystanders, we have to get involved. 

Image from public domain photo library of the American Centre for Disease Control

The tsunami taught me that God does not control us or the things that happen in our world. God provides insight into how we should act through the Bible, through other people, through what we can learn from creation. God walks with us when we suffer like we are now in the pandemic through the actions of caring health providers, through the inventive minds of scientists who come up with vaccines, through our neighbours and family members who reach out to help us make it through these days. But God is not in control and it is dangerous and wrong to think God is. 

Other posts………

Prayer- A Kick in the Pants

What is Sin?

The Post Election Priorities of American Christians

Did Jesus Have A Wife?

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A Meal From My Book

A couple of years ago for our annual Christmas party, the members of my writers’ group decided we should all bring something to contribute to our potluck that was related to a book or story we had written. I used a passage from my novel Lost on the Prairie which is coming out in spring with Heritage House publishers to inspire my food contribution.

I chose a scene from early on in the book where my hero Peter is leaving on a long train trip from Kansas to Saskatchewan. He is riding in a train car with the family horses. As his parents say good-bye to him at the train station, his Mom gives him some food she has prepared.

Mama hands me an old sugar sack that smells of spicy pickles, smoked sausage, buttered bread and her dried cinnamon apples. Then she hugs me and her arms squish the air out of my lungs clear to my ribs. Two hot tears slip across her cheeks and slide down my neck.  I can tell Mama wants to say something. She gnaws her lips and opens them so wide I can see all of her teeth right to the back of her mouth, but only short gasps come up from her throat. Papa shakes my hand strong and steady and then he puts his arm around Mama’s shoulders and leads her away.

My contribution to the potluck- bread, sausage, pickles and dried apples. I had printed up the section from my novel it refers to and propped it up behind my four items.

I prepared the four items in Peter’s lunch and brought them to our party. In the teachers guide for my novel I might suggest bringing some of these foods into the classroom for a tasting party after finishing the first chapter of Lost on the Prairie.

Other recent posts about Lost on the Prairie

Hugo Bartel’s Puzzles

Mark Twain is a Character in My Novel

Thanks Aunt Alma

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers. Thanks so much for reading my posts and a special thanks to so many of you who have made comments and responded. Especially during this past year writing this blog each day has been a way to keep balance and perspective and maintain a meaningful routine for my pandemic life. I wish you peace and joy as you celebrate this festive season.

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God Rest The Children

God Rest the Children

by MaryLou Driedger

God rest our merry children, let nothing them dismay

Let nothing scar their pure young hearts,

This pandemic Christmas Day

May they still believe in magic, the tinsel and the tree

May nothing mar their happiness or taint their innocent glee.

God rest our merry children, but may we stop a while

And think about the little ones who have no cause to smile.

Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

The children of North Korea so hungry and so cold

Tiny babies born in Yemen who never will grow old

Child soldiers in Uganda who’ve learned to fight and hate

Abandoned orphans in Haiti, what shall they celebrate?

In Libya and Syria, the children cannot sleep

They fear the shells and snipers, they hear their parents weep

While violence rocks the cradles in El Salvador

Those growing up in Iraq live with the scars of war.

Photo by namo deet on Pexels.com

Here in North America, we need only look to see

The myriad of children who live in poverty

Homeless, hungry and forlorn, their future looks so dark

We need to light the way for them, ignite a hopeful spark. 

And what about the boys and girls who’ve had family members die

As the pandemic rages onward and infections rise sky high? 

Photo by Ahmed akacha on Pexels.com

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

Photo by Ahmed akacha on Pexels.com

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!

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Filed under Childhood, COVID-19 Diary, Holidays

The Tsunami and the Pandemic

This Christmas will definitely be memorable as I watch my grandchildren open their stockings on a computer screen instead of in my living room.  I’ll remember it as the Christmas I didn’t attend concerts or parties and the only person I hugged was my husband.

Photo I took of a Thai family on the beach after the tsunami

There is however another Christmas that was just as memorable for me, the Christmas of 2004. We were holidaying in Phuket Thailand when the tsunami hit. I learned two lessons from that experience that are helping me navigate the pandemic. 

What if?  I asked that question countless times after we escaped the tsunami.  What if we hadn’t changed our resort reservations at the last minute?  The first resort we’d booked was destroyed and five hundred people died there. What if we had gone down to the beach the morning of the tsunami as planned?  We rescheduled because our kids slept in. What if we’d been out on the snorkeling trip we’d booked for the next day? 

Our family on the waterfront after the tsunami

At first those what if questions crippled me. I wanted to stop traveling. I was over-protective of my children. I was hesitant to take chances. With time I realized continually revisiting what if questions wasn’t helpful. I needed to stop looking back at what could have happened and concentrate on the present and future. 

What if we had all started faithfully wearing masks in spring?

 What if?  We can ask that question countless times this year when COVID has touched our lives in difficult ways.  What if we’d chosen a career that thrived instead of ended due to the pandemic? What if we’d taken care of our parents in our own home instead of placing them in a care facility? What if we’d followed the guidelines rigorously when the pandemic first started?

From my own experience and observing the people around me I am learning that asking what if questions during COVID-19 is not helpful. We are living in the here and now and we can’t let what ifs cripple us in a way that makes our current situation even worse or prevents us from learning and looking forward. 

My husband and his friend John on the busy streets of Phuket in 2010

Life goes on. Six years after the tsunami we revisited Phuket and were surprised at how little evidence we saw of the tragedy.  Beaches littered with debris in 2004 were now dotted with sunbathers. Roads packed with trucks bringing in relief supplies in 2004 were now dominated by tourist buses. The airport which in 2004 was filled with injured people who had lost everything in the tsunami was now full of happy families beginning or ending holidays.

This small plaque was one of the few reminders of the tsunami I saw in Phuket when we returned six years after the disaster

During our stay in 2010 I did manage to find one small plaque on a building that paid tribute to the thousands who died in Phuket during the tsunami.  But life had gone on for the people there. 

Life goes on during a pandemic too.  We welcomed a new baby granddaughter to the world in November. Although we can’t see her in person she brings us great joy.   My nephew and his fiancée cancelled the larger family wedding celebration they’d planned and instead married in their backyard with only their parents present. But they are busy building their future. My son is a school principal and has just safely shepherded the teachers and students in his care through the first semester of the academic year. Life goes on despite tsunamis and pandemics. 

I don’t want to ever relive my tsunami experience, and no one would want to relive what we are going through right now.  But we can make the best of what is happening by not looking back and asking too many what if questions. Instead, we can remember that life goes on and set our sights on the future ahead. 

Other posts………..

Dad’s Sacred Trees

A Christmas Carol Saved Our Lives

December 23

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Thailand

Kin Work

An article in yesterday’s Toronto Globe and Mail talks about kin work. It is the work we do to keep our family members connected with one another. Although it is work that often gives us great pleasure it is still WORK because maintaining and nourishing family relationships takes effort and time and often creativity and ingenuity.

This photo which is probably about fifty years old was taken at a family celebration with my Dad’s extended family. I am in the last row furthest to the left. My grandparents did lots of kin work to keep us all connected. They hosted many family get-togethers each year in their home. They owned and maintained a lakeside cabin where the family could gather.

My grandmother wrote letters, made phone calls, bought gifts and sent birthday cards. She cooked and baked for us. I remember her coming over to our house with a jar of her famous chicken noodle soup and beautiful blankets she had made when my first son, her first great-grandchild was born. She had composed a thoughtful message in a card for me. She and Grandpa visited their children’s homes regularly even if that meant trips to another province or the United States.

A Christmas gathering with my mother’s family. As a child, I never thought of the work that my parents put into planning our December trips to Saskatchewan to see Mom’s family. Getting the car serviced for the journey, doing laundry and packing our suitcases, buying gifts for all of us to exchange and keeping in phone and letter contact with siblings to arrange for our family times.

I watched my parents do so much kin work. They cared for their parents and maintained strong connections with them. Later in life this meant taking both my paternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother into their home for periods of time. They maintained strong bonds with their siblings getting together with them socially in their various homes, going on trips with them, marking their birthdays, and regularly communicating through phone calls and letters and visits. This was work they wanted to do but make no mistake about it work was involved.

My parents with their family some two decades ago. They put great effort into keeping us a strong supportive unit.

My parents hosted celebrations for all major holidays and birthdays for their children and grandchildren in their home, preparing delicious meals, decorating for the occasion and purchasing gifts. They planned and paid for family activities and trips. They were always willing to babysit grandchildren. They loaned their children money, helped us with yard work and delivered flowers, garden produce and food to our homes on a regular basis. They took an interest in our careers and maintained a family cottage where we could gather in the summer. My parents did all kinds of kin work to keep our family connected and strong.

A family Christmas dinner in 2016 with my Dad and my siblings and their partners hosted by my brother and his wife

I know my siblings and I are trying to carry on the kin work our parents and grandparents taught us was so important with our own families and with each other. The pandemic has not made that easier since we are not able to meet in person but kin work is still required whether that is through taking time and making the effort for Zoom and Face Time visits, regular texts, photos posted on Instagram, conversations initiated in What’s App or sending parcels by mail.

Families don’t magically stay connected and strong. It takes a whole lot of kin work. During the pandemic, we have had to be extra creative and committed to get the work done, but doing it is perhaps more important than ever.

Other posts……….

On My Grandparents’ Farm

Thanks Mom and Dad

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