Monthly Archives: June 2021

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes

I was smitten with the story of Canadian giraffologist Anne Innis Dagg after I saw the movie The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. I wrote a blog post about how the film inspired and moved me. So when I heard there was a new children’s book about Anne Innis Dagg called The Girl Who Loved Giraffes I was so excited. Now Anne’s story would be accessible to a younger generation of Canadians.

I was even more excited when I heard that Kathy Stinson a Canadian children’s writer with a long and successful career had written The Girl Who Loved Giraffes. Kathy Stinson classics were favourites in my sons’ book collections when they were young as well as in the libraries of the elementary schools where I served as a teacher. At one point I probably could have recited any number of Kathy Stinson’s books by heart, because I had read them so often.

So when CANSCAIP (the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers) of which I am a member began to advertise the launch of The Girl Who Loved Giraffes by Kathy Stinson I signed up immediately.

The launch was terrific because not only did we get to hear from Kathy Stinson the author, but also from Anne Innis Dagg herself. I also enjoyed listening to Francois Thisdale talk about how he created such beautiful illustrations for the book. He put so many details into each drawing.

He explained for example that in this one where Anne sees a giraffe for the first time at the Brookfield Zoo he added a vintage ticket for the zoo and the numbers on the ticket are Anne’s birthdate.

Anne Innis Daag

One of my favorite things about The Girl Who Loved Giraffes is that it is really two books in one. First of all, we can read Anne’s story about how she went to Africa to study giraffes and became one of the world’s foremost experts on the animal only to be rejected for teaching positions at Canadian universities because she was a woman.

A gIraffe I photographed at the Taronga Zoo in Australia

But… we also learn all kinds of interesting things about giraffes in the notes on each page. Did you know a giraffe’s intestines are as long as a football field or that they eat 90 different kinds of leaves?

I can hardly wait to share The Girl Who Loved Giraffes with my grandchildren. It is a top-notch autobiography- a fascinating compendium of information about giraffes and it contains many beautiful works of art.

Other posts………….

Where Are the Women?

The Matilda Effect

Show Us Where You Live Humpback

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Childhood, Nature

Art To Taste, Hear, Smell, See and Touch

We often think of art as just something we can see but sometimes we can also experience it with our other senses.

Hearing

Animikiikaa by Scott Benesiinaabandan

During the exhibit, Insurgence-Resurgence at the Winnipeg Art Gallery visitors were invited to enter a dark room created by Anishinabe artist Scott Benesiinaabandan. When you stepped inside you heard this rhythmic sound like a heartbeat and then a woman started talking in a poetic and soothing voice in an Ojibway language. I liked to imagine the heartbeat belonged to a child in the womb and the woman talking was the child’s expectant mother soothing her unborn offspring.

Tasting

Here I am at the Art Institute in Chicago helping myself to some candy from an art installation by Cuban artist Felix Gonzales Torres. The work actually has a very sombre theme. Gonzales Torres made it as a tribute to his partner who died of AIDS. The weight of the candy when the installation first opens is 175 pounds the healthy weight of the artist’s partner Ross who died of AIDS. Gonzales Torres is a Catholic and just like mass participants are invited to eat the body of Christ here visitors can take candy to participate in the sweetness of Ross’s life but they also diminish the pile until bit by bit it disappears just as Ross did when he finally died.

Smelling

St. Cecilia by Giuseppe Puglia- 1630

Every other year the Winnipeg Art Gallery hosts an event called Art in Bloom. Floral artists are invited to create arrangements to compliment different works of art in the gallery. The whole gallery is full of beautiful flowers and you can also smell the blooms of course. There are unique scents for each painting depending on what kind of flowers have been chosen. Here sweet-smelling pink roses grace a painting of the patron saint of music Cecilia who has turned her head to speak to the cherub holding her music.

Touching

Ejjnda-Push by Tsema Igharas

Tsema Igharas is an Indigenous artist from the Tahltan First Nation.  Her work Ejjnda-Push is a stretched caribou hide on a wooden frame with an amplifying speaker behind it. The skin can be played like a large drum and that is exactly what art gallery visitors are invited to do- use their hands to create a beat on the skin of the drum. We had this piece on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2017 and our younger visitors especially enjoyed this tactile work.

Seeing

Of course, the way we usually enjoy art is through our sense of sight. Here I am with Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic Starry Night at the MOMA in New York. The MOMA was one of the first galleries that didn’t forbid photos, but in fact, encouraged patrons to take pictures with the masterpieces in their gallery and post them on the gallery’s website.

There are times when visual art can be experienced with one of the other senses as well. I am excited to look for more examples once we can visit art galleries again.

Other posts……….

Art in Bloom

Chicago- Day 3

Visit to the MOMA

Leave a comment

Filed under Art

Patio For Breakfast

We were so excited about patios being re-opened on Saturday that we decided to try a breakfast place that was new to us. We were feeling pretty confident after getting our second dose of the vaccine but were happy to note all the serving personnel in masks, a sign-in system before we were seated, and tables placed at a generous distance from one another.

We biked over to The Juneberry in Old St. Vital and used the contactless digital menu to choose our breakfasts on our phones.

The Juneberry menu is an interesting mix of more traditional fare and some Asian influenced offerings. Dave went for the classic breakfast and was especially happy with the generous portion of Saskatoon jam.

I tried the breakfast banh mi, a nod to a Vietnamese classic I had enjoyed on our trip to that country. It was served on a fresh fluffy baguette and stuffed with scrambled eggs, housemade lemongrass pork sausage, sauteed mushrooms, zingy pickled carrots and cucumbers, thin radish rounds, seeded jalapenos, cilantro and spicy mayo. It was fantastic but I could only eat half of it.

We opted to share some baby potatoes made with chermoula- a kind of Morrocan relish.

The service was great and it was uplifting to hear the joyful chatter at the tables all around us. One didn’t want to eavesdrop but most of the other patrons were clearly delighted to be going out for breakfast again on a beautiful Saturday morning.

We’ve had a weekend restaurant breakfast tradition for years. It was nice to reclaim it.

Other posts……….

Having a Feast For Breakfast

A Walk to Breakfast in Mexico

Last Sunday Breakfast

Leave a comment

Filed under Restaurants, Winnipeg

Elisapee, Shelley and Oviloo

During the eight years, I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I had the privilege of getting to know the work of so many talented and inspiring Indigenous female artists. Since this is Indigenous history month I thought I would showcase three of them each with a major work they created. I photographed all the artwork in this post at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Elisapee Ishulutaq has used oil sticks to record the history of the community of Pangnirtung in her colourful mural Yesterday and Today.

For five days in 2014, Elisapee slid along the floor in her apron, seal skin boots and knitted sweater, with her wire-frame glasses perched on her nose, creating a vibrant scene of life in her home community of Pangnirtung, Nunavut. You can see what life was like in Pangnirtung, generations ago, as well as today.

Elisapee is a renowned artist, who was awarded the Order of Canada. She is known for her expressive, autobiographical images of daily life in Canada’s Arctic. She died in 2018.

Shelley Niro made these huge woodcuts on woven paper in 2001 for a series she calls Resting With Warriors.

Shelley Niro’s art is very much influenced by the bead, birchbark and carving work she saw being created around her while growing up on the Mohawk Nation near Brantford Ontario. With the Resting With Warriors series, she wanted to give young girls an alternate image of Indigenous women, one not usually seen in the mass media.

In 2017 Shelley won the Governor General’s Award for excellence in visual art.

Oviloo in Hospital by Oviloo Tunille 2002

Over more than a decade Oviloo Tunnillie, an artist from Cape Dorset created a series of serpentinite sculptures to illustrate her experience of being sent to a sanatorium in Manitoba for two years when she contracted tuberculosis at age 5.

Oviloo in Bed by Oviloo Tunille

She was taken away on a ship and separated from her family. Her treatment at the hospital included periods of bed rest during which she was tied to her bed and she was sexually abused by a doctor.

Nurse with Crying Child by Oviloo Tunille- 2001

When Oviloo was finally returned home she felt like she hardly knew her family anymore. She had forgotten much of the Inuktitut language, was used to eating different foods and had learned new cultural ways.

Oviloo with her granddaughter photo by Jerry Riley

Although the experience of being taken to away to a TB hospital was not unique to Oviloo, she is the only Inuit artist to have referenced it directly in her art.

Oviloo is noted for defying convention and cataloguing the story of contemporary women in the North. She is one of only a few female Inuit carvers to gain international success. She died in 2014 of cancer.

Other Indigenous Female Artists.…….

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

And Mary You’ve Seen Hard Times

Four Grandmothers

1 Comment

Filed under Art

Graduation- A Family Story

My paternal grandfather’s opportunity to attend high school was stolen by the Russian Revolution. The plan was for him to follow his older brothers to the high school in Nikolaipol, the one nearest the Mennonite village of Gnadenthal where he grew up. In the photo above I am standing in front of the Nikolaipol high school on my visit to Ukraine. My grandfather never got to be a student there.

Instead of getting a high school diploma Grandpa was forced into military service where he spent time in prison for refusing to do weapons training since he was a conscientious objector. Eventually, he ended up in a bakery making bread for soldiers. Losing his chance for higher education made Grandpa very determined his children and grandchildren would have a different outcome.

This building now a private residence was the schoolhouse my grandmother attended in Gnadenthal

My grandmother had loved school too and was very sad when she graduated from the elementary school in Gnadenthal, Ukraine and couldn’t go further with her education because she was a girl. She wanted things to be different for her daughters.

Thanks to the financial priorities of my grandparents’ their six children all graduated from a private Mennonite high school and then went on to university or college earning degrees in education, fine arts, medicine and nursing. Their seventeen grandchildren all went to university too achieving degrees in many different fields.

My Mom at her college graduation.

I grew up in a family where education was valued and was seen as a privilege and a responsibility. So graduations were important.

My parents at the high school graduation of their granddaughter

When my Mom was really ill in the last years of her life she said one of her goals was to be alive for all the high school graduations of her grandchildren. And she was!

I was lucky indeed to have parents who valued education and paid for my university tuition which afforded me the opportunity of becoming a teacher.

During the early years of our marriage, I worked as a teacher to support my husband Dave as he completed his university degree.

Celebrating our older son’s university graduation.
Our younger son at his university graduation.

We were pleased that our sons chose to spend time furthering their education after high school. We observed the way their years at university expanded their worldview, helped foster a concern for important issues, garnered them a wide circle of friends and served to train them for their future careers.

Celebrating the graduation of twin sisters who were my students

Since I ended my career as a teacher in a high school I had the privilege of participating in the graduation festivities of many of my students.

As I have been going on my bike rides around the city I have been seeing these graduation signs on lawns, a way to recognize graduates in a year when other kinds of celebrations aren’t possible. Earlier this week I was in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden at Assiniboine Park and saw so many graduates in their gowns doing photo shoots with their families. On social media, I have been observing the unique and interesting ways high schools and families have found to celebrate graduations even though indoor ceremonies aren’t possible.

Even in a pandemic graduations are important because they are one way we show that our society values education and we recognize the benefits it affords not only to students but to the social, cultural and economic fabric of our country and the world. My grandparents knew the value of education already a century ago and their family has been blessed by that.

Dave and I ready to attend the high school graduation ceremony at the school where we taught in Hong Kong.

Other posts……….

Graduation Photo- Dad’s Treasures

Look What He’s Doing Now

A Prayer For the New Year

2 Comments

Filed under Education, Family

Should There Be Mandatory Vaccinations for Long Term Care Workers?

In the latest update from the personal care home where my father is a resident, we were informed that visiting privileges would be expanded to include anyone who is two weeks past their second vaccination date. Previously only two designated family members could visit and now others will be able to visit as well, as long as they are fully vaccinated.

All visitors however will still need to wear masks and goggles, do a covid questionnaire, have their temperature taken before entering and stay six feet away from their loved ones.

Ironically another section of the same newsletter responded to numerous inquires from families about whether all the care aides who look after people in the personal care home have been fully vaccinated. The administrators of the home simply don’t know.

Vaccination is still voluntary according to the provincial government and employers cannot ask if a worker is vaccinated. They can offer on-site vaccinations, encourage employees to get vaccinated, and educate employees about vaccination, but they can’t terminate their employment if they aren’t vaccinated.

Image from an excellent Policy Options article about what needs to be done to improve compensation and working conditions for long term care workers.

I would be the last person to criticize long term care workers. Every day when I visit my father I see the vital and very challenging job they do. According to a Canadian Health Care Institute-funded research paper long term care workers are generally middle-aged women, with a high school diploma, who speak English as their second language.

They are paid on average in Canada $18.95 an hour and 25% of them work in more than one care facility for financial reasons because they can’t get enough hours at a single placement. This despite the fact experts recommend long term care facilities should have a lower patient to caregiver ratio than they currently do.

I understand that much needs to be done to improve long term care workers’ salaries and working conditions. We are not treating them fairly given the extremely important work they do. But is it fair to require them to be vaccinated?

A City News story earlier this month said Ontario is making vaccination mandatory for all long term care workers and British Columbia is considering it as well. Is it something Manitoba should consider too?

Other posts……….

A Realistic Look at Aging?

Growing Old is Not For Cowards

We Are Vaccinated But…………

3 Comments

Filed under Health, Retirement

The Best Thing About School

When I taught elementary school one of my class projects in the last part of June was making a book with the children called The Best Thing About School. We would brainstorm for all the things we had done together as a class during the previous year and then each child would pick one item to write a short story about and illustrate.

I would photocopy all their stories and collate them into a book for each child to have as a keepsake of our year together. Going through some old files I came across several of these Best Thing About School books that I made with various classes I taught. Here are some stories that a grade two/three class during the 1991-92 school year wrote.

The best thing about school this year was learning about Manitoba. We did Manitoba projects. My project was on La Broquerie. Everyone in our class wrote letters to different towns in Manitoba. We asked questions. They sent letters back to us and then we did our projects. We learned songs and poems about Manitoba. We read books about Manitoba. The best thing about school this year was learning about Manitoba. – Matthew Funk

The best thing about school this year was having visitors. We had firefighters come to our class. Another visitor was Eric’s Mom. She is a nurse and she came and talked to us about the heart. We had lots of teachers from different schools come to our class to watch how we do things. At Christmas, six Moms came to our class to do crafts with us. Mr Dueck our principal came and took us on a tree walk. He showed us lots of different trees and leaves on the school yard. It was fun! The best thing about school this year was having visitors. -Amber Gadsby

The best thing about school this year was learning about Space. In space, there are nine planets. Some of their names are Mars, Neptune, Pluto and Jupiter. I like space because it is scientific. We did murals of the solar system. We designed space ships. We did projects. My project was about Pluto. We made a space gallery and showed it to other classes. The best thing about school this year was learning about Space. – Michael Loewen

The best thing about school this year was cooking and baking. For Christmas, we made candy houses. We made cornbread. For our St. Patrick’s Day party we made cookies with green icing, green popcorn and green Kool-Aid. We baked chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies. The best thing about our school year was cooking and baking. – Erin Martin

The best thing about school was learning about the digestive system. We made books about the digestive system. We drew pictures of the digestive system. We learned songs and poems about the digestive system and watched movies and film strips about it. We did experiments like the Sugar Cube Experiment and the Cracker Experiment. The best thing about school this year was learning about the digestive system. – Christy Loewen

The best thing about the school year was learning about bowling. We learned how to keep score. We practised bowling in our class. We read all about how the sport of bowling got started. Then we went on the bus to Deluxe Bowl in Steinbach. My Mom came along too. I had 76 points. The best thing about the school year was bowling. – Tim Muehling

The children who wrote these stories are all nearing the age of 40 by now. I follow a few of them on social media and they have careers and families. These little stories of theirs brought back lots of memories for me. I wonder if my students still remember anything about their year in grade four?

Other posts……….

A Bathtub In My Classroom

I Taught Chisanbop

Overheard in a Winnipeg Classroom

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Paris/Ojibwa

Paris/Ojibwa by Robert Houle – photographed at the Art Gallery of Ontario

During this time when the world has been dealing with a deadly virus, I have been reminded of an art installation I saw at the Art Gallery of Ontario in the summer of 2017 that illustrated the impact of a deadly virus on a group of Indigenous dancers.

Created in 2010 by the renowned Indigenous artist Robert Houle who is originally from Winnipeg, the work titled Paris/Ojibwa is a moving memorial to Ojibwa dancers who died while entertaining the French Court in 1845.

The story starts with American artist George Catlin who travelled extensively in the west painting hundreds of portraits of Indigenous people.  He decided to bring his ‘Indian Gallery’ to Europe and display it there. He thought he might attract more viewers for his exhibit if he brought along an Indigenous dance troupe organized by George Henry Maungwudaus an Ojibwa interpreter.

George Henry Maungwudaus the leader of the Indigenous dance troupe that went to Paris. His wife and three of his children were among those who died on the trip to Europe.

The troupe performed in London and at the royal court in Paris where King Louis Philipe presented the dancers with medals.  Unfortunately, six of the troupe caught smallpox in Europe. They died never to return to Canada

Robert Houle, Paris/Ojibwa (detail) image from an essay by Shirley Madill for the Art Canada Institute

Robert Houle has included the names of some of the dancers at the very top of the installation. He has shown the dancers as a Shaman, Warrior, Dancer and Healer respectively and they are seen looking out at the horizon of their home in Canada. Each horizon has a specific physical reference. They are views of the prairie from the Sandy Bay First Nations cemetery near Lake Manitoba. Artist Robert Houle is a member of the Sandy Bay First Nation.

Robert Houle, Paris/Ojibwa (detail) image from an essay by Shirley Madill for the Art Canada Institute

Underneath each portrait is an image of the smallpox virus that killed them.

Robert Houle has created the portraits on the walls of a reconstructed Parisian salon with a marble floor. There is a bowl of sage on a pedestal at the front of the salon and I could hear soft drum beats as I viewed the installation. 

According to an April CBC article Indigenous people make up 10% of Manitoba’s population but account for 70% of COVID-19 infections. It also states that American First Nations people are dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of the white population.

Robert Houle’s artwork reminds us how the effects of colonization have impacted the health of Indigenous Canadians for nearly two centuries.

Other posts…….

Art That Makes You Feel Sick

Old Sun and Emily Carr

Locked Away

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Canada, History

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

“A celebration of the wonder of whales and the connections we share with them” are the words on the back of a beautiful new picture book for young children called Show Us Where You Live Humpback by Beryl Young.

A mother and child see a humpback whale with her calf as they walk along the ocean and a lyrical story begins to unfold where the lives of the two children, whale and human are described and compared. As the baby whale grows and learns so does the child.

Photo of a page from Show Us Where You Live Humpback by Beryl Young and Sakika Kikuchi published by Greystone Kids

Show Us Where You Live Humpback is a feast for the eye and ear. Illustrator Sakika Kikuchi has created gorgeous images of the whales under the sea all awash in different shades of blue while the cadence of Beryl Young’s text brings to mind the lapping of rolling waves on the shore.

I loved the page where the whale is shooting a plume of spray out from its blowhole and the reader is invited to make the accompanying sounds- Whoosh- Fwissh- Wow! This is contrasted with lively colourful illustrations of the child in the story blowing out birthday candles, blowing bubbles and blowing away the white fuzz of a dandelion.

There’s lots to learn about humpback whales from the text in the story itself and in a short information piece included at the end of the book which compares the knobs on a humpback’s head to the bumps on a dill pickle and the size of the baby whale to a compact car.

Author Beryl Young

Beryl Young the author of Show Us Where You Live Humpback has written all kinds of books for children including biographies and middle-grade fiction. This is her second picture book. Illustrator Sakika Kikuchi has a degree in children’s book illustration from Cambridge University and lives in Japan. This is her first picture book.

Illustration by Sakika Kikuchi from the book Show Us Where You Live Humpback

The book is published by Greystone Kids which specializes in nature books for children. At a conference in May, I listened to a presentation by Sara Gillingham who is a consulting creative director for Greystone and she talked about working towards more inclusivity in the visuals in children’s books. I could appreciate that in Show Us Where You Live Humpback where the illustrations depict the child in a way that leaves gender and ethnicity open to suggestion.

I have become friends with author Beryl Young through our connection with Heritage House. They published my novel Lost on the Prairie and have also published one of Beryl’s novels, Miles to Go.

I have never met Beryl in person but am hoping to rectify that with an autumn trip to British Columbia where I’d also like to go on a whale watching tour to meet the fascinating creatures featured in Beryl’s beautiful book.

Other posts……

What An Inspiration

Two Breathtakingly Beautiful Books

A Book I’ve Loved For Fifty Years

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Childhood, Nature

Father

I decided to put the word ‘father’ in the search box in my photo library and see what images would appear. Here are some of the results.

My husband Dave taking his father for a walk during a visit to Leamington Ontario in 2014. Dad died in 2016.
I am going out to feed the pigs with my paternal grandfather Diedrich Peters in 1956 on his farm in Gnadenthal, Manitoba.
On the farm with my maternal grandfather Peter Schmidt in 1955 in Drake Saskatchewan
My father in 2014, wearing his signature apron after carving the Thanksgiving turkey at a family gathering at our house, enjoying a laugh with his grandson’s wife.
My father-in-law with our son on his first birthday
My Dad with two of his grandsons over thirty years ago.
Dad and me celebrating our fall birthdays at my brother’s house just a few years ago

My husband Dave with our older son Joel in 1979.

My Dad reads to my sister and me. We are holding the dolls we got for Christmas.
Dave with our older son at his university graduation
My husband Dave and our younger son performing at our older son’s wedding reception

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Other posts……….

Brothers

Sisters

Thanks Dad

2 Comments

Filed under Family, Holidays