Monthly Archives: January 2021

Lessons From Trees

Lynda Toews is the talented artist in residence at my church. During the months of January and February, her beautiful paintings will be adding an element of visual wonder to our series of online worship services on the theme of trees.

Yellow Cedar by Lynda Toews

Did you know that there is a yellow cedar tree in British Columbia that is 1835 years old? It is Canada’s oldest tree. Indeed trees are the oldest living things on earth. “As the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people” Isaiah 65:22.

Trees give us a good idea of where our short life spans fit into the vast scale of time. Trees grow slowly and remind us of what we can accomplish when we have patience and perseverance. Trees also are a prime example of what great things God makes from a very small seed or pinecone.

Trees Clapping by Lynda Toews

The title of this painting Trees Clapping makes reference to the Scripture passage in Isaiah 55:12. “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills, shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Lynda went out to photograph trees in her neighbourhood to use as models for this piece. She wanted the trees to have riotous colour and energy and show movement. We may not think of trees as being emotional like humans but poets have often given them human qualities. Think of Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem where the trees lift their leafy arms to pray.

Trees can remind us how important it is to express and share our emotions as we worship and work together.

Moonlight Sonata by Lynda Toews

Lynda illustrates the relationship between trees in Moonlight Sonata. Look at how the two trees are bent towards each other and how their roots intertwine.

Scientists tell us trees share food with one another. By working together trees create an ecosystem that moderates the temperature and stores water. If you look at the forest canopy you can see that trees respect one another’s space leaving openings between their crowns.

Trees even communicate through electronic impulses that emanate from their root tips. Studies show that one tree can be connected to as many as 50 others in this way. Their communication helps them grow in healthy and safe ways.

The communication and community found in trees can be an example to humans as we strive to communicate and live together in community.

The Bible tells us we are to be like trees planted by streams of water bearing fruit. Psalm 1:3

Lynda Toews
  • The tree paintings in this post are all by Lynda Toews. You can see more of her work here and here.
  • The ideas in this blog post come from essays and other documents Lynda prepared in conjunction with her visual pieces.
  • I have used her artwork and her ideas with her permission.

Other posts……….

The Tree of Life- Poems by Sarah Klassen

Two Trees and a Marriage

Dad’s Sacred Trees

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Filed under Nature, Religion

A Waterfall on the Library

Have you ever noticed the waterfall on the Millennium Library? himmer waterfall winnipeg

It is cascading off a ledge on the side of the building and glimmers and sparkles in the sunshine.  It appears to be moving and flowing.   The artist who made it out of plywood, plastic and sequins is Theresa Himmer. Theresa is from Denmark but works in Reykjavik, kind of fitting since Manitoba has such a significant Icelandic population. 

waterfall theresa himmer The artist says it “playfully investigates the relationship between artificial and natural landscapes. “

waterfall artOne of the things I love about Winnipeg’s downtown is all the interesting public art especially during the pandemic when art galleries are closed.   You can see a video of the waterfall moving here. 

Other posts…….

I’m Living in an Art Gallery

The Millennium Library

Katherena Vermette on the Wall

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Filed under Art, Winnipeg

My Grandmother’s Shoes

We found these shoes of my grandmother’s and a tiny box with a hooked instrument in it when we were cleaning out my Dad’s apartment after his most recent move.

Mom had slipped a little note into the box with the hooked instrument saying it had a pearl handle and had been used to hook up the laces on the shoes. She said the shoes had belonged to her mother when she was a young girl. Mom figured Grandma had worn the shoes around 1912 which would make them and the accompanying shoe hook more than a hundred years old.

I was very curious as to why my Mom had kept the shoes. Looking at the soles I believe they were probably handmade for my grandmother or perhaps for one of her two older sisters and then passed down to her.

My grandmother Annie and her older sister Marie. Perhaps the shoes were originally made for Marie and then passed on to Grandma.

I remember my mother telling me that when she was a little girl it was very important to their father that his children all have good fitting shoes and he spared no expense in that regard. According to Mom my grandmother’s feet were somewhat deformed because she had been forced to wear shoes that were too small for her when she was a child. My grandfather didn’t want that to happen to his children.

Photo of my grandmother’s family around the time my mother said Grandma would have worn the shoes. My grandmother Annie is the youngest in her family and is standing just next to her mother.

I looked at some photos of my grandmother as a young girl but you can’t really see her feet in any of them to see what kind of shoes she is wearing.

I am not sure why my mother kept her mother’s shoes and the beautiful shoe hook but they are interesting souvenirs from my family’s past and I don’t think I will be able to part with them either.

Other posts…………

My Grandparents Were At An International Exhibition in 1933

My Dad’s Cowbell

All Those Doilies


Filed under Family

Remembering the Holocaust Through Personal Experiences

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. As I read about the various ways the event was marked I thought about some of the personal experiences I’ve had learning about the Holocaust.

On a walk in Frankfurt Germany I photographed these stumbling stones in the sidewalk. They have been placed outside the homes of Holocaust victims.  You are meant to ‘stumble’ over them as you walk and then stop and read the names of some of the 11 million people who died in the Holocaust between 1941 and 1945.

The Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Museum – a memorial for Holocaust victims

I took a group of my high school students on a trip to Israel and Palestine. We spent one morning at Yad Vashem. It is a modern museum in Jerusalem designed to take each visitor on an unforgettable journey through the Jewish holocaust experience. The teenagers with me were mesmerized as they walked from room to room. Everywhere they went there were exhibits and screens that told the stories of Holocaust victims and survivors. I saw many of my students with tears running down their faces as they looked at photos of victims or listened to interviews with them. You can read more about that in my post Taking Teens to Israel and Palestine.

At the Anne Frank exhibit in Hong Kong with Silvain Gilbert

When we lived in Hong Kong I went to see an Anne Frank exhibit and heard a talk by a Hong Kong Holocaust survivor Silvain Gilbert. Silvain was a young Jewish boy in Belgium when the Nazis took over the country and began deporting Jews to concentration camps. A Catholic family in a small Belgium village took Silvain in, changed his name, taught him to speak their local dialect and even had him serve as an altar boy in the local church to make sure the authorities didn’t discover his true identity. At the end of the war he was reunited with his parents. You can read more about Silvain’s experience in my post Meeting A Holocaust Survivor in Hong Kong.

On Remembrance Day in 2019 I went to the Minto Armory here in Winnipeg to hear my daughter-in-law perform with the Polycoro Choir. One piece they did was called Arise, Cry Out by composer Norbert Palej. The haunting music commemorated the death during the Holocaust of the Jewish citizens from the Warsaw Ghetto including many children from an orphanage there. 

I only recently discovered the Holocaust Memorial on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature. It was created in 1990 and is meant to look like a broken Star of David. It contains the names of 3,700 Holocaust victims who have surviving family members in Manitoba. You can read more about it in my post Remembering the Holocaust in Winnipeg.

Alma was our guide on a walking tour of Nuremburg, Germany. She apologized so abjectly and so often on behalf of her country for what they had done during the Holocaust that I felt sorry for her. As this warm and lively woman showed us the places where Nazi war criminals had been tried and hung, her penitent and self deprecating comments demonstrated the burden the actions of a previous generation during the Holocaust has placed on present day German citizens.

I visited St. Stephen’s Church in Mainz Germany and photographed these stained glass windows created by Jewish artist Marc Chagall who fled France during the Nazi occupation. Chagall made these windows depicting scenes from the Old Testament, to help Jews and Christians remember the Holocaust but also to remember what they have in common and work at reconciliation. 

I have learned about the Holocaust in many different places and at many different times but there is always more to learn from reading, watching films, listening to music, studying art and maybe someday traveling again.

What have been some of your personal experiences learning about the Holocaust?

Other posts………..

Chagall’s Windows in Germany

Canada’s Great Poppy Discussion


Filed under Germany, History


Have you heard of Blursday? According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s a word that has come into its own during the pandemic. Isolated as we are, and in this perpetual state of waiting, one day just blurs into the other. I’ve been feeling that lately. When the pandemic first started my blog posts were more a diary or chronicle of my days. I thought maybe if I did that for yesterday it would make the day stand out a bit more for memake it a little less blurry.

Here are ten things I did yesterday.

Met with my middle-grade writers’ book club to discuss the novel The Mystery of Blackthorn Hall by Julia Noble a debut author.

Worked on a new puzzle I got for Christmas. It is very hard and it will take patience and perseverance to finish it.

Had a phone chat with my sister. Last week we moved my Dad to a new supportive housing unit and my sister had just done the final walk-through of his old place with the landlord. My brother and I cleaned out Dad’s old apartment last weekend. My sister said we’d done a good job. We only left one shower curtain behind.

Went for a walk. It was FREEZING! Explored a new part of a walking trail on the Red River.

Baked chocolate chip raisin oatmeal cookies.

I talked with my editor on Monday and there will be ample room at the end of my book for some historical notes and perhaps a teacher’s guide. So I started working on that.

Did my weights routine and meditation practice.

Put the finishing touches on the January newsletter for my novel. Will start sending it out today.

Had a lovely video chat with my little two and a half-month-old granddaughter. We sang Itsy-Bitsy Spider and Mr. Sun. My daughter-in-law sang a song she made up especially for my granddaughter. Little Nora is lucky to have two parents who are musicians who can create original music just for her. Nora showed me her play mat with its mobile and toys. She was smiling and waving her arms and legs the whole time.

Had our usual happy hour while watching Jeopardy. Dave my in-house barista and bartender decided to make Cesaers yesterday. We are still missing Alex as the host of Jeopardy but Ken Jennings is getting better in his guest gig. Made a broccoli quiche and salad for supper.

So there you go. That wasn’t really a Blursday. I know one of my acceptance goals for this year is not to worry so much about getting things done each day, but to accept ‘just being.’ I count the fact that I made this list after the day was over rather than making a to-do list the night before, as a step in that direction.

Other posts……….

Ten Ways We Can Try To Be Like Jesus During the Pandemic

Nice Guy- Not a Great Writer

A Custom Designed Meditation Practice

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

This T-shirt was one of the gifts I put into my eight-year-old grandson’s Christmas stocking.

As the T-shirt says, although science seems like magic because of the miraculous things it helps us to discover…… SCIENCE IS REAL.

So why is it some people don’t think science is real? Why don’t they believe in science or trust scientists? We have seen evidence of that during the pandemic when some political leaders and some members of the general public refuse to accept the validity of what scientists are telling them. They still refuse to believe that COVID-19 is dangerous. They refuse to stay at home, refuse to wear a mask, some even refuse a vaccination. They just don’t believe that scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying viruses might know more than they do.

Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on

I decided to do some research to find out why some people are so skeptical of science. I found out that………..

  1. Education makes a difference. The more people know about science and scientists the more they tend to believe them. A Pew Research project found that the higher your level of education the more likely you are to have faith in science.
  2. Politics makes a difference. The more conservative your political views the less likely you are to believe scientific truths. In the United States, for example, 54% of Democrats are confident scientists and their findings should be used as tools when determining public policy. Only 31% of Republicans feel that way.
  3. Religious beliefs make a difference. A major research study published in 2018 found that the more religious you are the more likely you are to have a negative attitude towards science and a lower level of scientific literacy.
  4. Social Media use makes a difference. Before the rise of the internet, our information came from scientific experts interviewed on mainstream media or we looked in an encyclopedia for what scientific experts had written. Now the internet allows anyone to publish incorrect scientific information and anyone in the world can read it. Having so many unqualified scientists providing incorrect scientific information damages people’s trust in science.

So what do we need to do to increase the public trust in scientists and science?

  1. Encourage and support quality science instruction in our schools and universities and make the study of science mandatory.
  2. Take science off the ballot by having all political parties support scientific endeavors.
  3. Promote the idea that science and faith can exist in harmony. Faith leaders and institutions have a big role to play in this.
  4. Regulate and fact- check the scientific information on the internet.

It was heartening to learn as I looked for reasons why some people don’t trust science, to find that research shows every year more and more people say they DO trust science and believe science and scientists benefit society.

Other posts…………

Galileo’s Grocery List

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

Where Are the Women?


Filed under Health

An Illustration For My Novel

With my cousin Carol

My cousin Carol is an artist. She is well known at Manitoba craft sales for her beautiful painted boxes, bookmarks, cards, and light switch plates. I asked her if she would like to try drawing some illustrations depicting scenes from my upcoming novel Lost on the Prairie. She agreed.

Illustration by Carol Schroeder

This is her first illustration. It shows my hero Peter in the boxcar of the train taking him to his new home in Saskatchewan. Carol has drawn Prince and Gypsy the two horses traveling with Peter. I love the way she’s included one of the gophers Peter befriends.

The character of Peter in my book was inspired by my own grandfather Peter Schmidt. He is also Carol’s grandfather. Our grandfather died when Carol and I were seven.

Carol’s illustrations won’t be in the book but I will use them in the educational resources I provide to go along with Lost on the Prairie. I am sure they will inspire young readers to try making their own illustrations for the novel. 

Other posts about Lost on the Prairie


Filed under Lost on the Prairie

Meditation – Custom Designed For Me

I want to learn to accept and appreciate my body. I want to accept the fact that it is good to spend time simply being. Those are things I wrote about when I chose my word for 2021 ACCEPTANCE. My niece Grace and my friend Deb have given me ideas for creating a personal practice that fosters those two kinds of acceptance.

With my niece Grace

Grace has a master’s degree in social work and is employed as a therapist and yoga specialist providing clinical counseling services. An idea for meditation she posted on her Instagram page really struck a chord with me. I have tried meditation before but find I don’t always have the patience for it. Grace suggested a body scan form of mediation that I figured I could handle. You slowly move up and down your body stopping to focus on different body parts and taking deep breathes. I tried it and really liked it.

An image from my friend Deb’s Instagram page that shows the setting for her morning gratitude journalling practice

My friend Deb is a professional editor and a member of my writer’s group. She has often posted on her Instagram page about her practice of gratitude. She begins each day thinking about the things she is grateful for and writing about them in a gratitude journal. I thought that was something that would be helpful for me too but wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time to write things down.

I decided to put together the ideas from Grace and Deb to create a meditation/gratitude practice of my own which seems to be working for me. I take time just after I wake up each morning to do some deep breathing. Then I move up my body slowly continuing to take deep breaths and pausing at ten different body parts to express gratitude for each one and think about specific gifts that body part has given me the day before.

my feet for the things that grounded me,

my legs for the places I went,

my waist for the times when I was flexible or someone was flexible with me,

my heart for ways I gave and received love,

my hands for things I was able to create or do,

my shoulders for responsibilities I fulfilled,

my mouth for things I tasted or words I spoke,

my nose for memorable smells,

my ears for good things I heard,

my eyes for things I was thankful I could see

and my forehead for things I thought deeply about.

I only spend a few minutes doing this although I am noticing that each day I seem to find myself spending a little bit longer.

The practice is helping me to be grateful, more focused and more accepting.

Other posts…….

Living Intentionally

Lessons From Leonard

Gratitude and Envy


Filed under Reflections

Two Excellent Movies About Children Who Change Adults

I just watched two great movies each with a young man at their heart. Both boys are dealing with difficult challenges.

The 2020 movie Summerland takes place during World War II. At its heart is a schoolboy named Frank who has been evacuated from London to escape the bombings there. He misses his parents terribly and is worried about his father who is an airforce pilot. Frank has been sent to live in a small seaside village with a cynical and self-absorbed writer named Alice Lamb who takes no delight in having a child underfoot while she pursues her scholarly interests in myth and magic. Of course the charming Frank eventually charms his cantankerous hostess and he transforms Alice into a person she had forgotten she could be.

Cinematically beautiful storytelling takes us back into Alice’s past to help us understand her transformation in a new light. Although this movie is certainly about Frank, it is really more about how Frank changes Alice. This film is a feast for the eyes and the heart. Even critics who call out its convenient plot twist near the end admit the movie tugged at their heartstrings in ways they hadn’t expected.

The 2017 movie The Children Act is about a court case. At its heart is a 17-year-old boy named Adam who has leukemia. Doctors insist Adam needs a blood transfusion or he will die. His parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and don’t want him to have the transfusion because it goes against their religious beliefs. Enter Judge Fiona Maye who must decide whether the hospital can provide treatment to Adam against his parent’s wishes. In order to make her final decision, Fiona goes to visit Adam in the hospital and talk to him personally.

The meeting sparks a friendship that Adam desperately wants to pursue once he recovers. Fiona whose personal life is a mess and who is totally absorbed in her work resists. Eventually, however, Adam manages to break through the wall around Fiona’s mind and heart, and in doing so he changes her in ways she couldn’t have imagined. This movie has some brilliant acting by Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci.

I can recommend both of these films. Children have the power to change the adults around them. Both Summerland and The Children Act make that point in a convincing way.

Posts about other movies with children at their heart……

Enola Holmes

Leave No Trace

Instant Family

Ethel and Ernest

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Filed under Movies

The Centennial River Trail- Beginning Middle and End

Last week we began exploring the Centennial River Trail which winds its way down from The Forks to the Hugo Dock. You can skate, walk or cross country ski the trail and it is lined with pine trees folks have donated.

One day early last week I went to The Forks where the trail begins.

My daughter-in-law sets off to skate the trail

While my daughter-in-law skated down the river trail

Two grandmothers along the trail actually offered to take this photo and then cheerfully chatted with me from a safe distance about the challenges of being a grandparent during a pandemic

I walked the trail pushing the stroller of my sleeping two- month- old granddaughter. The outdoors is the only place the pandemic allows me to see her and I take great joy in looking at her lovely little face over my mask and through the plastic cover of her stroller.

Signs along the trail trace the important work of the Winnipeg Foundation over the last century

This year the river trail is sponsored by the Winnipeg Foundation, a charitable organization celebrating its 100th birthday hence the name The Centennial Trail. Over the years the Winnipeg Foundation has supported so many projects that make our city a better place to live. Signs all along the trail inform you about the important work the Winnipeg Foundation has done.

Last year alone the Winnipeg Foundation distributed some $73 million to worthy causes.

The traditional warming huts that usually dot the trail are still there so you can admire their ingenuity and creativity but you can’t go inside them.

This unique warming hut is made out of snow shovels

There are a couple of warming huts at the head of the river trail that can be appreciated from a closer point of view.

The Trunk designed by Camille Bianche and Ryder Thalheimer

Later last week I went to the end of the Centennial River Trail down near the Hugo Dock.

Just before we set off on a long walk down the trail my husband I explored a little mini-art gallery that has been created on the wooded bank right at the trail’s end.

There’s a remarkable variety of art displayed on the trees and even in the snow.

Then yesterday we went down onto the river at the Legislative Buildings to explore The Centennial Trail’s middle section.

We saw some uniques warming huts

Members of the work crew were busy maintaining the trails.

It was much colder than it had been last week but that didn’t deter people from still enjoying the skating, walking, and cross country tracks on the trail.

The Centennial Trail is definitely a Winnipeg wonder and it is marvelous to see so many people out enjoying it. I have explored the beginning, middle, and end of Centennial Trail now and if you haven’t had a chance to do that yet I’d say, “What are you waiting for?”

Other posts about great winter walking trails in Winnipeg……….

Walking the Seine

Looking for the Spirit of the Woods

Winnipeg Walking Adventures

A Winnipeg Island Full of History

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Winnipeg