My granddaughter and I were on our way out into the hallway of our condo on Sunday. She likes to play with the stones that surround the beds of plants on the second floor of our building. She is always excited when we are heading there. But despite her excitement as we neared the door of our suite she took my hand and said, “Grandma- mask.”
She is only one and a half but she is a pandemic baby and from her life experience she has learned that when adults are leaving their home they should be wearing a mask. This is not the first time she has reminded me to put my mask on as we’ve headed out the door.
This morning’s newsletter from the New York Times has an article that suggests mask mandates aren’t helpful. While research continues to show that wearing masks reduces the risk of getting any strain of COVID, mask mandates don’t lower the incidence of COVID in communities.
Strangely wearing masks helps, but forcing people to wear them doesn’t. Government mandates may not be helpful in getting people to wear masks but in my case granddaughter mandates certainly are.
I know I blog a fair bit about the nearly addictive puzzling habit I’ve acquired since the start of the pandemic. I thought it might abate as the pandemic eased but it has not. And as I do one puzzle after another I am learning new things.
This latest puzzle was unique in that it was the first one I’ve done where each piece had an alphabet letter on the back of it. The puzzle had been divided into 9 sections and the pieces from that section all had the same letter on its back. I only noticed this after I’d completed the puzzle frame. When I divided the puzzle pieces by alphabet letter the puzzle became incredibly easy to complete. I did one section at a time.
And that’s how lots of things you take on as projects can be. You organize the things you need to complete into doable sections and then tackle them one by one.
I’ve gone back through my old puzzle blog posts and I’ve found lots of ways that puzzles have helped me learn about life.
Connecting the different sections of a puzzle takes hard work just like connecting diverse groups of people.
Sometimes it’s great to puzzle with others but other times it’s good to puzzle alone just like we all need alone time as well as social time.
It can take awhile to find a missing piece to a puzzle just like it can take awhile to figure out what’s missing in a relationship or in your life.
You often start with the frame when you do a puzzle. How you frame things is important. Experiences you have in life can be interpreted so differently depending on how you frame them.
You don’t have to finish the whole puzzle to feel satisfied. Every piece you put in gives you a small sense of accomplishment. The process of doing something can be just as rewarding as the final product.
Some puzzles are too hard and some are too easy. It takes awhile to find the ones that are just right for you. And it’s like that with determining the sweet spot between other extremes like whether you are too busy or not busy enough.We have to find what’s right for us.
I am sure I will learn more lessons as I keep indulging my puzzling habit. The next one is already purchased and ready to spread out on the dining room table.
On our trip to Saskatoon last weekend we got to see the school where our son is the vice-principal and next year will be the principal. He has been at the school for several years now but since it is in a small community a bit of a drive from the city of Saskatoon we had never had the opportunity to visit it.
Our son gave us a tour of the building. We saw his administrative office, the staffroom, the gym, the various classrooms and walked the halls of the school. We met teachers on the staff and some of the students.
I was so happy we could visit our son’s school because as a mother I like to visualize where my children are when I think about them. When they are traveling or are in some unknown place it is hard for me to do that and also harder for me to pray for them in a specific way and send my hopefully helpful and positive thoughts winging their way.
I like to visualize where my children are and last weekend I got to see the place where my older son spends many of his days.
My younger son just got a new job a few months ago and I realized while we were touring the school in Saskatchewan that I hadn’t visited our younger son’s new office here in Winnipeg yet. I have to do that soon.
One day this month a work shift got cancelled just hours before it was to start and I decided to pamper myself with a pedicure during my suddenly free afternoon. I hadn’t had a pedicure in over two years thanks to the pandemic. I quickly searched on the phone for a spot near our home and found a place called Blacksmith. They had an opening and I booked a deluxe pedicure complete with a paraffin wax treatment.
It should have struck me as strange when I arrived that the other patrons in the place were all men but it didn’t for some reason. When I was sitting in a chair with my feet soaking I asked the esthetician where the nail polish was so I could pick my colour.
That’s when she informed me this was a men’s nail salon and so they didn’t have polish. She reassured me however that they were happy to have me in the salon and proceeded to give me an absolutely fabulous hour of much needed foot care.
Later I looked on the website again and saw that the company logo clearly states they provide nail care for men. It says NAILS FOR MALES.
Now that I know I made a mistake I won’t be going back to Blacksmith Parlour but if you are a fellow and you are looking for a great pedicure I can definitely recommend them highly.
If you had been living here in Winnipeg in the 1870s there is a good chance you would have received your mail via a dog team. Mail from England came to York Factory by boat and then was transported by dog sled to Fort Garry.
Dog sledges were also used routinely in the fur trade here in the Red River Settlement beginning in the late 1700s. Dog sledges carrying furs travelled in convoys of up to twenty-five with each team following the track of the sled in front of it. Teams could pull loads of up to four hundred pounds.
In summer the dog teams were sometimes used to transport bison meatusing a travois.
The Metis who were the primary residents here in the Red River Settlement were very proud of their dog teams and often dressed them in an ornamental way.
A collection of ornate dog sledge regalia is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in their exhibit – A Hard Birth. Check out the gorgeous dog saddle with its intricate Metis beadwork and row of bells.
Dog sleds could also carry people. Passengers sat in a cariole and passengers wrapped in furs glided in comfort over the prairie. Dogs could eat up to a pound of pemmican a day and were sold for as much as $20. A good dog could be more expensive than a horse.
Dogs responded to the driver’s whip for direction changes. In this alternate view of the Metis dogsled regalia currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery you can see the whip in the foreground and the driver’s gloves to the side.
If you had lived here in Winnipeg/The Red River Settlement a hundred and fifty years ago you might have seen dogsleds on the street instead of buses, cars, trucks or bikes.
Yesterday I saw the matinee performance of the current Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production The Rez Sisters by playwright Tomson Highway. Here are five things I liked about it.
1. I thought the set was absolutely stunning. That round orange circle in the back with a prairie grass image in it became a place to showcase various actors and scenes. In one scene a woman hangs her wash on a line strung across the circle. In another, the trickster spirit Nanabush does a haunting silhouetted dance in the circle and in still another, the circle fills with stars to escort a character into the next life.
2. The cast of seven main female characters each had such interesting and unique personalities. Whether it was a sense of humour, a palpable vulnerability, an optimistic attitude, a busy- body nature, an appreciation for the little things in life, a quick temper or an acceptance of the inevitable, each woman stood out from the rest and endeared herself to the audience in a different way.
3. My favourite scene was when the women are participating in various fundraising activities to earn money to make a trip to Toronto to play the biggest bingo game in the world. They did a highly choreographed sequence of activities that reminded me of an intricate dance as they made items for bake sales, babysat, took in laundry, carried out a bottle drive, did home repairs, washed windows, picked and sold blueberries and performed music in order to earn the funds they needed. It must have taken endless hours of practice to get that scene to flow so effortlessly and engagingly.
4. I really liked the props in the play too. They weren’t real and many were two dimensional. They were so artistically created out of cardboard and other materials. I’d love to learn more about how they were designed and made.
5. I liked the way we slowly found out about each woman’s unique personal back story as the play proceeded. Each story was unbearably sad but learning about their pasts helped us to understand each woman better in the present and empathize with her.
I really enjoyed The Rez Sistersas did the friend who attended the performance with me.
“I’m so tired of you America.” Those words from the song Going to Town by Rufus Wainwright came to mind yesterday when I heard about the school shooting in Texas.
I am tired of hearing about one mass shooting after another in America. Onegrows weary of the continual news about gun carnage because there is a way to stop the endless senseless killings. So many other countries have managed to do it. But in the United States, the right to bear arms trumps protecting the lives of innocent children. I find that totally incomprehensible.
Guns overtook car crashes to become the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers in 2020.
David Frum quoted Isaiah 1:15 in the Atlantic yesterday in his article about the Texas shootings.
“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!”
Frum pulls no punches. He says everyone in the United States has blood on their hands because they have failed to elect politicians who would curtail gun violence like so many other countries have done.
There is no point in Americans saying they are praying for the victims and their families. Those prayers are meaningless. God won’t hear them. Political change, not prayer is needed. David Frum calls on people of decency and kindness to bring that change about.
I know many people of decency and kindness in the United States but are there enough of them left? One wonders.
May 24th is a very important date because, on this day in 1918, the women of Canada were given the right to vote in federal elections.
It is hard for me to believe that when my grandmother got married in 1917 she still didn’t have the right to vote.
Prior to 1918 women in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba had earned the right to vote in provincial elections but it would take women in the other provinces longer to win that right. In Quebec, women couldn’t vote in provincial elections until 1940.
It is also important to remember that Asian women, Indigenous women, Inuit women and incarcerated women would have to wait much longer to achieve suffrage.
The right we Canadian women have to vote should never be taken for granted. Many women worked long and hard and made great sacrifices to obtain suffrage for us. We need to remember that rights can be repealed. By responsibly exercising our right to vote we can ensure that women’s rights are respected and advanced.
Since today is Victoria Day I thought I would post about some connections I have with the name of the monarch Queen Victoria whose birthday is being honoured today.
I once went to a church service at Westminster Abbey in London. Queen Victoria’s coronation service was held there in 1838.
Last October when we visited British Columbia’s capital city of Victoria which is named for the Queen, my brother and his partner who make their home in Victoria took us for a walk along the ocean.
During the six years I lived in Hong Kong I took this tram up to the top of Victoria Peak countless times. You could walk all around the mountain named after the Queen and have marvellous views of the city of Hong Kong.
Keeping birthday books was made popular by Queen Victoria. I have my grandmother’s and my great aunt’s birthday books both more than a century old.
A wonderful young woman named Victoria was our walking tour guide in the city of Kyiv during our trip to Ukraine. Funny, smart, knowledgable and well-spoken I often think now about Victoria and hope she is okay.
In 2013 we visited Victoria Beach named for the Queen. Victoria Beach is 100 kilometres or so north of Winnipeg. We walked through the interesting community.
When we lived in Hong Kong we took many our guests down to Victoria Harbour to see the light show there at night. Here we are on the harbour named for the queen with my sister and brother-in-law.
This beautiful 1997 wall hanging by Victoria Mamnguqsualuk Kayuryuk is one I have talked about with many visitors to the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Outside a wine store on Queen Street in Toronto while on a walking tour of the city. Queen Street was named after Queen Victoria.
Our family once attended the Regina Folk Festival. Regina is Latin for ‘queen’ and the city was named after Queen Victoria when it was founded in 1903. The Folk Festival was staged guess where………in Regina’s Victoria Park.
So many things have happened with my novel Lost on the Prairie since it was announced as the nominee for two awards earlier this month that I needed to do a blog post just to draw everything together so I don’t forget about anything.
When Lost on the Prairie was published a year ago it made the bestseller list at McNally Robinson Booksellers for thirteen weeks in a row. Yesterday thanks to the news about my award nominations it was there again.
When I was shopping at McNally Robinson Booksellers last week I stopped to take a photo of Lost on the Prairie in a special display with some of the other Manitoba Book Award nominees. I feel honoured to be in their company.
I had such a good time on May 12th when I was invited to talk about my novel in a presentation to a group of seniors at my church Bethel Mennonite. I brought along some family memorabilia related to the novel and was delighted at all the folks who came over to chat with me about the various items and buy my book.
Esther Matz a successful novelist in her own right wrote this lovely article for our church newsletter about the event.
May 16th was British Columbia Book Day and my publisher Heritage House which is based in Victoria included Lost on the Prairie in one of the graphics they used to publicize the day.
Bob Armstrong was kind enough to give my award nomination a mention in his weekly column in the Winnipeg Free Press.
My wonderfully supportive publisher Heritage House created this graphic to announce the news about my award nominationsand ………….
the Manitoba Book Awards created a great graphic as well to announce my nomination for the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award.
Jordan Ross from The Carillon did a feature about poet Sarah Ens and myself. Both of us grew up in the regional area the newspaper serves and both have been nominated for Manitoba Book Awards this year.
I have been learning how helpful becoming an award nominee can be. Prior to my awards nominations being announced The Winnipeg Public Library had only three copies of my book. But………. now they have 22 copies of Lost on the Prairie and those copies have 18 holds on them.
I am so grateful to my publisher Heritage House and in particular my marketing manager Monica Miller for all the work and effort they put into creating the submission documents for these awards, and to all the great organizations and groups who fund both the Manitoba Book Awards and the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards.
I am grateful to McNally Robinson Booksellers, Common Word Bookstore, and the gift shop at the Steinbach Heritage Village Museum for selling Lost on the Prairie and of course to all the people who have bought my book.