Monthly Archives: November 2021

Six Degrees

You’ve probably heard of the six degrees of separation theory that claims everyone is really no more than six personal connections away from another person in the world. Sometimes it’s fun to see just how many connections you can make. Recently I was involved in a conversation where people were trying to figure out how closely they are connected to our province’s premiers past and present.

I am only two degrees of separation away from three former Manitoba premiers thanks to my husband Dave.

Brian Pallister is standing at the very back in the middle- in a row of his own. My husband Dave is farthest to the right in the front row.

At the height of Brian Pallister’s fastball career, my husband Dave was a catcher for him on the ball diamond. Although they never played on the same team for an entire season Brian liked the way Dave caught and invited him to travel to some tournaments with him to be his catcher.

Gary Filmon was a member of the 1960 Varsity Boys basketball championship Team from Sisler High School whose members were inducted into the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001. In the photo, Gary is second from the left in the back row. – photo from the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame website

Once at a University of Manitoba basketball game Dave’s name was drawn for a half-time shooting contest. Two members of the audience were given three chances to sink a basket from half-court and win a gift certificate from the Manitoba Liquor Commission. The other audience member whose name was drawn? Former Premier Gary Filmon. He was a former basketball star himself and faithfully attended the U of M games to watch his sons play. So Dave and Gary stood side by side on the court. Neither sunk the required basket, however.

Kelvin Goertzen

It also just so happens that the recent interim premier Kelvin Goertzen was a former student of my husband’s.

Despite the fact they are currently involved in a court battle against each other, here Shelly Glover and Heather Stephenson seem quite friendly

I am four degrees of separation away from current premier Heather Stephenson. A family member once worked at a daycare where her political opponent Shelly Glover’s child was enrolled.

I am three degrees of separation away from Ed Schreyer who was the premier of Manitoba from 1979-1984. When I lived in Hong Kong I was a member of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing organization. It was a large group of women who were writers and journalists. We met every month for professional development sessions and socializing.

When I would tell people in our group I was from Manitoba they would often ask me if I knew Karmel Schreyer, our former premier’s daughter. She lived in Hong Kong, wrote books for children, was a journalist for the South China Morning Post, and had been an active member of their association. Many of the women I got to know at Hong Kong Women in Publishing meetings knew Karmel personally.

Photo of Susan Thompson by Nadine Kampen from the Susan Thompson website

I am two degrees of separation away from Greg Selinger who was our premier from 2009-2016. Both Greg and Susan Thompson ran for mayor of Winnipeg in 1992 and shared the stage for the major debate of that election. Susan is a volunteer at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and since I am employed there, she and I have sometimes chatted in the elevator as we go to our respective work stations.

Sterling Lyon

I am two degrees of separation away from Sterling Lyon who was the premier from 1977 to 1981. Bob Banman was a cabinet minister in the government of Sterling Lyon. Bob and his wife Joanne and I attended the same church in Steinbach as children. I knew Bob’s parents well and Dave and I have been good friends with Bob’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law for more than four decades.

I am sure if I looked hard enough and did enough research I could probably find ways I am connected to all the province’s former premiers. Do you have any premier connections?

Other posts………

Holding Joey Smallwood’s Hand

Why All These Old White Men?

Manitoba is Metis

 

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Filed under Politics

Empathy and Kindness Personified

Photo from the film’s Facebook Page.

Kímmapiiyipitssini The Meaning of Empathy is the name of a documentary film we saw last night that tells the story of the opioid crisis ravaging the Kainai First Nation in Alberta. The film was made by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers a young woman who comes from a Kainai community.

Kímmapiiyipitssini is the word for a Blackfoot teaching that says empathy and kindness are the keys to survival. And no one embodies that empathy and kindness more than Esther Tailfeathers who is a doctor on the Kainai First Nation. She is at the very heart of the film and will stop at nothing to help people deal with their deadly addictions. Her aim is to reduce harm to addicts in whatever way she can.

Esther listens to people tell their stories of addiction without any trace of judgment. She is literally empathy and kindness personified. Esther always remains encouraging and positive with her patients.

She collaborates with others in the community to train people to use naloxone kits. Naloxone is an antidote for fentanyl overdoses. Next, she introduces opioid replacement therapy despite the community’s resistance. Then Dr. Tailfeathers is instrumental in building a detox center that houses and supports a steady stream of addicts. In the film, we are given a window into the lives of some of these addicts who share their stories openly and honestly.

Image from the movie’s Facebook page.

I admired Esther Tailfeathers and the way she could connect with seniors living with the effects of their years at residential school, middle-aged folks who’d had traumatic experiences in foster homes as children, new mothers trying to kick their habit to get their babies back, and young men who had succumbed to peer pressure and started using drugs.

I admit that the in-depth look at the opioid epidemic in the film gave me a pretty bleak view of the chances for a healthy future for the Kainai First Nation but……. I was also left with a sliver of hope because with an amazing woman like Dr. Esther Tailfeathers as their champion a more positive outcome does seem possible for the Kainai.

Other posts……….

My Grandsons Teach Me About National Reconciliation Day

Acknowledgments are Important

Clean Water

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Filed under Canada, Health

What Gift?

Opening presents at my grandparents’ house in Drake Saskatchewan in the late 1950s

I’ve been browsing through the old newspaper columns I wrote in the 1990s. My mother used to cut all my columns out of the paper and save them in photo albums, so I have hundreds I eventually took out of those albums and stored in envelopes according to their topic.

I wrote this reflection in a 1994 column as I began Christmas shopping for gifts for my sons who were nine and sixteen at the time.

Mom reading to us. My sister and I are in dresses Mom sewed for Christmas. You can see the stockings are hung.

What Gift?

Someday our children may travel faster than the speed of light to destinations we can only dream of

They will no doubt, sail stormy seas that are completely foreign to us

As young people have for generations, they too will boldly venture across the boundaries so carefully established by their elders

They are sure to see things that are beyond our ability to imagine

What gift can we give them for such a journey?

For their trip to the unknown landscape of the future no toy or game will do

We must give them a gift of lasting value, a gift we have hopefully received on our own life’s journey

A gift that is the product of our deep sense of responsibility to them and our unwavering faith in them

That gift is an unconditional love they can never question

In time, everything will change for our children

But not the construction of their hearts. 

Other posts………

The Advent Books

God Rest the Children

Two Movies About Children Who Change Adults

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Filed under Childhood, Holidays

Way Ahead of Their Time

Amelia Earhart and Mary Pickford in 1933- Photo from the J. Paul Getty Museum

I am working on a writing project that involves Amelia Earhart the American aviation pioneer and discovered in my research that she was friends with movie star Mary Pickford. Mary was born in Toronto and grew up there before moving to the United States where she had a successful career in the American film industry for five decades.

Mary was a huge star during the silent film era and co-founded the United Artists film studio as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was still a Canadian citizen when she died in 1979.

Mary Pickford welcomes Amelia Earhart to her home

Amelia who in 1932 became the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland made a short film with Mary Pickford in which they promote women’s rights and encourage women to take on any career they like.

Mary thanks Amelia for being a role model and encouraging women to break through the limitations that have been placed on them for centuries. This is in a time when many professions were still not open to women and long before the women’s equality movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

Amelia Earhart with Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks- Associated Press photo

The movie clip of Mary and Amelia’s conversation which you can view here is less than a minute long. At the end of it, Amelia Earhart’s husband George Putnam a famous publisher, author and explorer and Mary Pickford’s husband Douglas Fairbanks, a famous actor and movie producer enter the scene and introduce themselves as Mr Earhart and Mr Pickford.

Quite astounding since in that era women almost always went by both their husband’s first and last names. My grandmothers for example were called Mrs Peter Schmidt and Mrs Diedrich Peters.

I think it’s terrific that these two famous women and their partners were using their notoriety to encourage independence and personal achievement for other women.

Other posts……

Three Determined Women

Thankfully Times Have Changed

What Does Your Mother Do?

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Filed under History, People

Where Were You in 72?

The thrift store where I volunteer is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022. To prepare for events marking that milestone one of the managers of our shop asked us to submit a photo of ourselves in 1972. This is the one I sent her.

This photo was taken during the summer of 1972 after I had just completed my first year of college. I was working for the Mennonite church leading work camps. Teenagers from across Canada and the United States signed up to work for three weeks in a certain location and college students like myself provided leadership to groups of eight teens who lived together during their time of service.

I led three such camps during that summer. One was at a large mental health institution in Denver Colorado that housed hundreds of children and adults. Our group members did music therapy with the residents. I also led a group at a church in Winnipeg where we’d been asked to build a playground. I led the third group at a camp in Mississippi where we actually built a cabin.

I don’t seem to have kept many photos from that summer experience but did find these two from my third work camp group in Mississippi where we built and painted a cabin. In the photo of me eating in my granny glasses, I notice I have embroidered a flower onto my shirt, and peeking out of my shirt is a string of beads, my boyfriend, now husband had made me as a gift

I traveled from location to location by plane but flew standby in order to save money. The whole thing was a growing and eye-opening experience for sure.

I was already dating my husband Dave and he was working in Coaldale Alberta that summer. We exchanged letters almost every day and I still have all of them.

Where were you in 72?

Other posts……….

Where Were You?

A Lament For Letters

I’m A Shop Girl And I Love It

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Filed under Family, New Experiences, Reflections

Acknowledgments Are Important

One of the progressive things Kelvin Goertzen did during his short time as the premier of our province was insure there will be a treaty acknowledgment at the start of Manitoba legislative sittings in the future. It will recognize the fact that the land on which the legislature meets was once the home of Indigenous people. 

Kelvin Goertzen

Right after his appointment Premier Goertzen struck a committee to provide a report on the best way to carry out such an acknowledgment and admitted as House Leader he probably should have made that happen sooner. In a CBC interview, Goertzen said the discovery of the unmarked graves at residential schools was a significant event for him and his family that crystalized the need for a treaty or land acknowledgment. 

Of course, many organizations and institutions have been doing these acknowledgments for a long time.  My church instituted the practice about five years ago.  After we began to have a treaty acknowledgment in our bulletin, on our website, and frequently announce it at the start of our services, we created a colorful brochure to explain our rationale.  I was asked to write the text for the brochure, and it was a good exercise for me. 

I had to research the history of our province and find a way to articulate our church’s goal to recognize the important contributions Indigenous people have made to the geographical area where we worship. In my text, I expressed our church’s desire to learn from the spirituality and culture of our Indigenous neighbors and to work at building a strong respectful relationship with them that would result in reconciliation.        

An art piece called Treaty One by artist Robert Houle – photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I am employed as a guide by the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and we have done treaty acknowledgments at the start of each of our tours since 2016.  The gallery staff participated in training sessions where we learned all about Treaty One signed in 1874 between Indigenous leaders and the British Crown. 

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn shows indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipeg- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

The two groups had very different ideas about what the treaty meant. While the Indigenous leaders thought it would protect their way of life and provide a framework for sharing land, the British thought the land was being ceded to them. I was glad for this training because it helped me provide an explanation when gallery guests asked me why I did a land acknowledgment before my tours. 

In my job with the education department at the University of Winnipeg, I visited many schools in the Winnipeg One School Division which began to do treaty acknowledgments each day in all their schools beginning in 2017. 

Land acknowledgment sign at the Morinville Community High School in St. Albert, Alberta

It was good to read recently that the Hanover School Division where I taught for decades has approved a treaty acknowledgment statement as well. Superintendent Shelley Amos says it is a way to show honor and respect for Indigenous people and their land and express the division’s desire to move forward in constructive ways in their relationship with Indigenous people. 

While school divisions like Winnipeg One have made treaty acknowledgments a requirement Hanover will leave it up to individual schools to decide on what occasions and in what situations the division’s official acknowledgment statement would have the most impact.  A plaque with the acknowledgment will be placed on all properties owned by the school division. 

We have been hearing land and treaty acknowledgments at sporting events, cultural events, business events, and religious events for many years now. It is good to know that both the Hanover School Division and the Manitoba Legislature are joining the effort to recognize the contributions of our Indigenous neighbors and to express our willingness to work towards reconciliation in our province. 

Other posts…….

Indigenous Canadians and Mennonite Canadians

Old Sun and Emily Carr

Who Are the Wendat?

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Filed under Education, History, manitoba

Embroidery

When we toured artist Emily Carr’s house in Victoria we saw these gorgeous heirloom fire screens that had been embroidered by Emily’s mother.

I have an heirloom piece of embroidery as well from my grandmother Margareta Sawatsky Peters. (1900-1999) I keep it on my bedroom dresser to remind me of her.

I was usually at my grandparents’ home in Gnadenthal Manitoba with my siblings or my thirteen cousins but occasionally I went there all by myself and have distinct memories of my grandmother teaching me to embroider on those visits.

I just ordered myself an embroidery kit for beginners online. Inspired by Emily Carr’s mother and my grandmother I’m going to reintroduce myself to this art form which I tried in childhood.

Other posts……..

Stitching a Story

All Those Doilies

Stitched with Love

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Filed under Art, Western Canada Travels

Fine Free Libraries

When I visited the main branch of the Calgary Library recently I saw this sign announcing that their city libraries are now fine-free. This means patrons will no longer be charged late fees for not bringing back items in a timely manner. Winnipeg libraries have had a similar policy since January of 2021.

One of the reasons libraries have implemented this policy is that once families owed money to a library in late fees they simply stopped coming and that meant their children no longer had access to library books. In Calgary, they figured some 19,000 children had stopped coming to the library because of late fees.

Studies have shown children from low-income families are the ones most impacted. Their families can’t afford to pay their fines so they stop coming to the library even though these are exactly the same families who might not be able to afford to buy books for their children to read at home. Libraries should be places of equitable access and late fees undermined that.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Surprisingly research shows that when libraries eliminate late fees there is actually a higher return of books, circulation increases, as does library use. In most libraries that have eliminated late fees, 95% of the materials checked out are still returned. Of course, eliminating late fees does not mean eliminating all responsibility. If people lose books or damage them beyond repair, or never return them, they are still charged a replacement fee.

Patrons in a sitting area at the Calgary Library

A CBC report in February of this year indicated some 300 library systems in Canada have eliminated late fees. Some started doing this during the pandemic for obvious reasons and then decided not to reinstitute the fees when services returned to normal. Although eliminating late fees does represent a loss of revenue for libraries, usually about 1% of their budgets, most have found creative ways to balance those losses.

Late fees may soon be a thing of the past at all libraries. I think that’s a good thing.

Other posts……….

A Waterfall on the Library

What A Library!

My Childhood Reading Heaven

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Filed under Books, Canada, Education, Family

Have You Watched Ted Lasso?

Be a goldfish! That’s one of the mantras you’ll hear from soccer coach Ted Lasso when you watch the highly acclaimed series that bears his name. We just finished the last episode this past weekend. Ted is an American football coach hired to manage a British soccer team.

Ted Lasso is an Apple TV series

Although Ted doesn’t know anything about soccer he knows a lot about people and is able to bring together a franchise of squabbling, self-centred, unsuccessful, hurting players and staff and meld them into a supportive, caring, successful family. Ted has a sign over the door of his office that says BELIEVE in capital letters and that’s maybe what sets Ted a part. He BELIEVES in the basic goodness of people and their potential to achieve any goal.

Image from artist Blake Stevenson– Jetpacks and Roller-skates

The ‘be a goldfish’ mantra is only one of many Ted Lasso has made famous. He says when you make a mistake, or have a fight with someone you need to be a goldfish, because they only have a ten second memory. ‘Be a goldfish’ means don’t dwell on your personal errors or conflicts with others but move on and be happy.

Some other wise things Ted has to say are……

Be curious not judgemental.

There is something worse than being sad and that’s being alone and being sad.

Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you are comfortable doing it, you are probably doing it wrong.

The harder you work, the luckier you get.

If you care about someone and you have a little love in your heart there isn’t anything you can’t get through.

If all this sounds a little too inspirational and uplifting to make a riveting television series, I assure you it is not. The characters in Ted Lasso all have major flaws and that causes all kinds of problems and conflicts.

Critics are saying the reason for the success of the Ted Lasso series, which won seven Emmy awards in its first season, is that in these difficult and often negative times people are hungry for a character like Ted who is positive, compassionate, humble and kind no matter how mean people are to him. He remains hopeful despite his own personal struggles. Ted sees the best in people and tries to get them to recognize their own strengths. It does the heart good to imagine a world where everyone did that.

Other posts……….

A Television Series Senator Plett Should Watch

Winnipeg and Mennonites In Gone Girl

Watching Bear Town

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Filed under Media

This Grandma Is Happy

I was so excited on Friday when it was announced that children ages 5-11 can be vaccinated against COVID-19. I have two grandchildren in that age range and I am beyond grateful to the scientists and health care professionals who are making it possible for them to be protected.

My daughter-in-law giving vaccinations

Just before Friday’s announcement my daughter-in-law who is a paediatrician put up a social media post about the vaccine approval announcement and asked that everyone spread the word about why giving kids the vaccine is a good choice. This post is my way of honouring her request.

My daughter-in-law highlighted six good reasons for vaccinating children.

  1. It protects them from illness, hospitalization and death.
  2. It protects them from the impact of long term COVID.
  3. We can’t predict which children will get sick from COVID so we need to protect them all.
  4. Vaccination will allow kids to get back to doing the things they love and will make it far less likely that their schooling will have to be interrupted.
  5. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
  6. It will help reduce transmission in the larger community thus providing a quicker path back to normalcy.

Last night I attended the launch of my friend Harriet Zaidman’s new novel Second Chances. It is about the polio epidemic in the 1950s. One of Harriet’s guests was Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens an infectious diseases physician and a professor at the University of Manitoba in microbiology. He talked about the horrible and constant fear parents and grandparents lived with during the polio epidemic never knowing whether their children would fall ill or die.

Harriet described what a saviour and hero Dr. Jonas Salk had been when he invented the polio vaccine and relieved those fears about children’s health. Manitobans expressed their profound gratitude to him by sending Salk a mass telegram that contained 8000 congratulatory signatures, was 200 feet long and took eight hours to send.

Winnipeg Tribune 1955 photo showing the story of the telegram from Manitoba being covered by a CKY news reporter- from the University of Manitoba Library archives

Just like those happy parents and grandparents in 1955 now in 2021 Canadian parents and grandparents are celebrating another great scientific achievement that will not only make life richer, safer, and healthier for children but for us all.

Other posts……….

Missing the People We Used to Be

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Together Again

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary