Monthly Archives: June 2022

She Had A Baseball Bat

I caught the bus at the end of my block to go to work. The bus was pretty full so I took the nearest available seat I could find near the front.

Photo of Winnipeg Transit bus from Wikipedia

Across from me was a woman with a dirt-streaked face and tangled hair. She was speaking rather incoherently to no one in particular and drinking something and eating a piece of bread. As she reached down to pick up her bread from her lap a baseball bat which she had hidden up her sleeve fell out and clattered to the floor.

I was startled and a little frightened. I could tell from the looks on their faces that the people around me were scared too. The woman quickly retrieved the bat and pushed it back up her sleeve.

I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I call out to the driver or go up and talk to him? Maybe the woman needed the bat to protect herself if she lived on the streets. I didn’t want to get her into trouble. But what if the woman was struggling with issues that might make her lash out with the bat and use it on a fellow passenger. Might reporting the bat to the driver upset her? I just sat there afraid.

I was still considering what to do when the bus pulled up to the next stop and the woman got off. After she exited she took out her bat and whacked the glass of the bus shelter at the stop and swore loudly. Her actions showed me she was angry. What if she had expressed that anger on the bus?

I felt sorry for the woman. She was clearly struggling with all kinds of issues.

What could we do to help her, I wondered, and still maintain a safe atmosphere on the bus for the rest of the riders?

Bus shelter where people have been living. Photo by  (Sean Kavanagh/CBC )

After work, it was cold and rainy but I couldn’t wait in the bus shelter at the stop where I needed to catch a bus home. A man had set up a temporary living space in the shelter and it was full of his possessions and littered with garbage.

I felt sorry for the man. He clearly had nowhere else to go.

What could we do to help him I wondered and still maintain a safe, warm and dry place for riders to wait for their bus?

I know the answers to my questions require solutions that are long-term and expensive and HUGE. I know we need more facilities to help people with addictions and more housing for people who are homeless and more support for people struggling with mental health issues.

But in the meantime how do we keep the public transportation system safe and user-friendly for everyone who relies on it?

I don’t know the answer.

Other posts……….

What if God is Just a Stranger on a Bus?

Another Friend For the Moment

Bus Chat

Riding the Bus Alone at Age 5

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Filed under Winnipeg

Bennett Buggy Anyone?

When I visited the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon a few years ago my grandsons took a ride in the Bennett Buggy that was on display.

My grandsons taking a simulated trip in a Bennett Buggy

Bennett Buggies became popular in Canada during the early 1930s when the nation was going through the Great Depression. A Bennett Buggy was a car which had its engine and windows removed and was pulled by a horse. The unique mode of transportation was named after Richard Bennett who was the prime minister and was blamed for the poor economy.

During the 1920s many Canadians purchased cheap cars for the first time only to find that during the Depression they couldn’t afford to buy gas for them. This was especially true in the hard hit prairie provinces. So they got creative and turned their cars into horse drawn carriages.

With the high price of gas these days it looks like we may have to be just as creative as those Depression-era drivers. Although horse-drawn cars aren’t an option anymore we can be creative in other ways.

My trusty bike is my main mode of transportation these days

We can use public transportation.

We can go as many places as possible on foot or by bicycle.

We can car pool, plan trips carefully so we use the least possible mileage, and drive a little more slowly.

My husband just bought a brand new e-bike which he plans to use for longer city drives. He took it to the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Game last Friday and it was much less hassle and expense than driving our car across town to the stadium and trying to find a spot to park.

I am seeing more and more people on the sidewalks using skateboards, roller blades and scooters to get around.

Just like our grandparents and great-grandparents had to think outside the box in order to deal with high gas prices in the 1930s…… we too will need to be creative to deal with them in 2022.

Other posts……….

An Inspiration For Our Time

They Wore Masks Too

Mom’s First Day of School in 1931

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Filed under Canada, History

Letting Others Speak For Me

I have written many times before about why banning abortion is the wrong and most ineffective thing to do if we truly want the abortion rate in North America to continue its decline and if we truly care about children and the mothers who birth them.

So my readers will already know that the recent Roe v Wade ruling in the United States has left me heartsick and troubled. I find myself unable to speak about it without a great deal of anger, so I am going to let three others do it for me.

For nearly 50 years, women have had the right to make their own decisions about their bodies. Today, that right was stolen from us. And while we may be devastated by this injustice, we will not be silent. We will not sit back as the progress we have already won slips away. Tomorrow, we will continue to fight — for our daughters and granddaughters, and for ourselves — until all women can decide our own futures once again.- Dr Jill Biden- First Lady of the United States

We want those feeling the pain of today’s wrongful Supreme Court decision to know that you are not alone. God has not abandoned you and neither will we. We will do what we always do when the law loses its love. We will grieve with you and offer space for lament and mourning. We will work with you until the rights of every person are honoured in this land. We will stand with you in protest. We will kneel with you in prayer. And we will maintain our commitment to educate people about abortion access and safe medically supported reproductive healthcare. Now and always, we remain firm in the knowledge that all are beloved of God, and this cause is right and holy.

-Rev. Dr John C. Dorhauer President United Church of Christ

There are days when I can’t live in this country. Not the whole thing at once, including the hateful parts, the misogyny, the brutal disregard of the powerful for the powerless. Sometimes I can only be a citizen of these trees, this rainy day, the family I can hold safe, the garden I can grow. A fire that refuses to go out.

-Barbara Kingsolver- best-selling author of the Poisonwood Bible and Pulitzer Prize nominee

Other posts………

Canada is TRYING to Do The Right Thing About Abortion

Abortion and Summer Jobs

Sex-Selective Abortion

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Filed under Politics, Religion

Abusive Relationships and the Church

I just listened to a MennoCast program where Val Hiebert and Jaymie Friesen were being interviewed. Jayme and Val coordinate an Abuse Response and Prevention program for Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba.

The two coordinators who bring a great deal of experience and expertise to their work talked about how every community, including every faith community, has people who have been abused either physically or sexually and are living in relationships that are violent and scary. Traditionally the church has not been a place where people can talk openly about this.

The podcast moderators asked Jaymie and Val what are the root causes of physical and sexual abuse in faith communities and they mentioned three things.

The first was the patriarchy that is still so prevalent in many churches where men are the ones primarily in positions of leadership and power and where God is referred to most frequently in male terms even though the Bible offers us rich mother images of God.

Jaymie and Val emphasized the importance of NOT conveying the message that men are bad or they are the problem but rather helping men realize a patriarchal system really doesn’t serve them well and keeps them small as men. They talked about the need to encourage men to become agents for changing patriarchal attitudes and systems.

Jaymie Friesen- photo from MCC Manitoba website

The second concern they cited is a religious culture that emphasizes faith as an arrival point rather than as a journey or pilgrimage. Faith communities lay out what you are to believe and if you don’t stick to that you are ousted from the community.

This makes people vulnerable to abuse because they don’t feel they can ask questions or be honest about relationships that don’t live up to the ideal set out by their church.

A third factor they talked about is the church’s obsession with a kind of purity culture and their fear of having open conversations about healthy sexuality with young people. 78% of kids in our faith communities are sexually active and the church isn’t accepting this reality.

They also mentioned the issue of pornography and said many churches are hesitant to talk about the fact that people have been socialized to watch the violent and abusive sexual activity available on the screen rather than participate in healthy sexual relationships themselves.

Image by Melva Medina about the church and violence towards women. I photographed it while on a visit to the Medina Gallery in Merida, Mexico.

The podcast provided lots of food for thought not only about how to prevent abuse but also offered suggestions and ideas for how restorative justice can bring healing but not necessarily forgiveness after incidents of abuse are reported.

Although the problem of abuse particularly in faith communities seems monumental and disturbing Jayme and Val say they find hope in the fact that more and more victims are finding their voices and speaking out about abuse. They also talked positively about programs that are being offered to help perpetrators of violence find the help they need to change their behaviour.

I encourage you to listen to the podcast yourself. This is an area where we all have a lot to learn. One in six women will experience abuse before the age of 18 and that includes women in faith communities. Those of us who participate in those communities have a responsibility to learn more and become agents of change.

Other posts………

Silent Prey

Laughing at the Suffering of Others

Violence in Christian Families

Tender and Troubling

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Filed under Family, Religion

Walking Together

I’ve been reading Walking Together: Intercultural Stories of Love and Acceptance a new book written by Edith and Neill von Gunten who are members of my church.

Using the Ojibwe Seven Sacred Teachings as a framework they relate stories about what they learned during their nearly fifty years of doing peace and reconciliation work for the Mennonite Church.

What adventures Edith and Neill have had! They marched in Chicago with Dr Martin Luther King and shared housing with two of his organizers Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy.

For decades they lived in different communities around Lake Winnipeg where they built lasting and meaningful friendships with their Indigenous neighbours. The book includes many engaging stories that illustrate the things Edith and Neill learned about the sacred teachings of love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth.

There’s a story of a harrowing snowmobile trip during a blinding blizzard, another about Neill and a friend spending time living with the homeless in Winnipeg, a night where Neill’s pacifist beliefs were tested because he was called to intervene in a violent domestic altercation, a high stakes ping pong game with a gang leader and a delicate situation where Neill had to decide whether to report an illegal fishing operation.

Edith and Neill von Gunten- photo from a 2005 issue of the magazine Intotemak

I think my favourite section was the one where they talk about how eagles have appeared at various important times in their lives to provide direction, reassurance, comfort, celebration and affirmation.

Elder Barbara Nepinak and Elder Clarence Nepinak from the Pine Creek Ojibway First Nation provided a quote after reading Walking Together.

“The stories Edith and Neill share truly reflect how to create a good life journey with open ears and hearts.”

The book is available from the Common Word bookstore on the Canadian Mennonite University campus.

Other posts……….

Common Threads- Indigenous Spirituality

Common Threads- The Hopi

Doctrine of Discovery

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Filed under Books

Why Are All Those Holes in the Ceiling?

Young visitors to the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new addition Qaumajuq sometimes ask me why there are so many holes in the ceiling. I can’t be sure what the architect Michael Maltzan had in mind when he designed the building but Maxine Angoo an Inuk from Whale Cove Nunavut said in an interview that the ceiling’s many skylights remind her of seal holes in the Arctic ice.

I tell the children who visit the gallery that the Arctic Ocean is home to six kinds of seals- harp, hooded, ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon. In autumn and early winter, the seals must make breathing holes in the ice so they can come up for air regularly.

Some seals have claws up to 2.5 centimetres thick that help them make breathing holes. I have read that some seals use their teeth to make holes in the ice and can also butt against the ice with their heads or breathe on the ice to melt it.

The Inuktitut word for a seal hole is aglu. Seals remember where they have made their aglu’s so they can revisit them.

Unfortunately for the seals, polar bears also know about the seal holes and can be waiting at the edges of them when the seals come up for a breath.

Some visitors to the gallery have told me the holes in the ceiling remind them of the holes in the tops of igloos that allow for ventilation.

Of course, the holes which open to the sky and flood the new addition to the art gallery with natural light illustrate its name Qaumajuq which means ‘it is bright-it is lit.’

The stunning architecture of Qaumajuq is an artwork in and of itself that will always be on view even as the installations change in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new addition.

Other posts……..

It is Full of Stars

An Animated Whale Hunt

Seal Skin Astronaut

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

The Puzzle of Time

This is the latest jigsaw puzzle I’ve completed. As I worked on putting together all these timepieces I was thinking about a conversation I had with a group of women a couple of weeks ago. We talked about how hard it is to alter the way we use our time.

The women in the group were about my age or a little younger. We discussed how for so many years we had to organize our time as efficiently as possible so we could juggle our careers, our community involvements and our families.

We learned to prioritize things and plan our days in a way that allowed for maximum accomplishment. We considered very wisely how we spent each minute. Now that our children are independent and we have fewer career commitments it isn’t always easy to learn to slow down our pace.

One woman commented that she used to have her shopping trips to the grocery store planned for maximum efficiency and minimum time. She realizes she doesn’t need to do that any more. It is possible to move through the store at a more leisurely pace, stopping to talk to someone she recognizes, comparing prices and quality of items, appreciating the colours of the blooms in the floral department and maybe taking in the scent of the fresh bread coming out of the oven in the bakery.

Another thing we talked about was letting go a little of the need to accomplish set goals. One woman described how hard she had worked to get her PHD before she retired. But she has it now. Why does she need to keep pushing herself so hard professionally?

I talked about achieving a life-long dream to publish a book. I’ve done that. So why do I feel pressure to publish another one and feel badly when I don’t find time to pursue that goal?

I spend an endless amount of time watching my granddaughter walking up and down these steps in a nearby park and counting to ten as she does so

Several of us were grandparents and we talked about how our grandchildren are a gift when it comes to rethinking time priorities. When you are with them you are forced to abandon all thoughts of having a goal-orientated day or doing any kind of meaningful work other than caring for them and being involved with them.

Managing our time in all the different stages of life has its challenges. Doing a jigsaw puzzle that focused on marking the passage of time with such a variety of timepieces got me thinking about how I might keep working towards seeing time as a gift to savour and not a challenger to beat.

Other posts………..

The Passing of Time


Light a Multitude of Candles

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Filed under Reflections

Mandatory Voting

Should voting be mandatory?  In the recent Ontario election, only 43% of eligible citizens showed up to cast their ballots. It is one of the worst turnouts in a century for any federal or provincial Canadian election. Sadly, however, it is just part of an alarming downward trend in the number of people who care enough to vote in our country. 

What can we do about it?  Twenty-two countries in the world including Greece, Belgium, Australia, Argentina, Thailand, and Singapore have compulsory voting.  Citizens have to vote, or they pay a penalty. Should we be thinking about doing that in Canada too? 

When Canada became a country in 1867 only white men over the age of 21 who owned property could vote. Many people fought long and hard to get the vote for different segments of Canada’s population- women, Indigenous people, young people, incarcerated citizens, those who weren’t property owners, and those with intellectual disabilities. Now that every resident finally has suffrage why are so few using it? 

Perhaps Canadians don’t think their individual votes are important given the current first-past-the-post model of our elections.  Justin Trudeau in his first campaign for prime minister promised to reform our electoral system so citizens would feel their ballot made a difference.  Regrettably, he did not follow through on that promise. 

Perhaps people aren’t voting because of the poor quality of some of the candidates running.  But with all the no-holds-barred animus directed at politicians these days who would want to enter the political sphere and expose their families to the kind of toxic venom that is bound to come their way?  

When the trucker convoys were out in full force with their obscene Trudeau epithets splashed all around I kept thinking that the prime minister’s children were seeing those signs too. Why would quality candidates consider entering the political field when they know it means they and their families are going to be the objects of derision and hate? 

In 2015 former American President Barack Obama suggested that enacting compulsory voting in the United States would counteract the enormous impact of money in American politics and would diversify the voter pool.  

In a recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail Andrew Coyne said mandatory voting would eliminate voter turnout as a factor in the way campaigns are carried out.  He feels much of the poisonous bile that is currently a part of politics is rooted in strategies by various parties to affect voter turnout either by riling up their own supporters or depressing their opponents’ supporters. 

I voted in the most recent provincial election and I can’t remember an election when I haven’t voted

Some proponents of compulsory voting say it would promote political stability and make people take elections more seriously. Of course, the biggest plus is that it would improve voter turnout. When Australia implemented compulsory voting less than half of its citizens were going to the polls. Now 80% do. 

I think other strategies could be implemented to improve voter turnout like making online voting an option and spending more time in school teaching young people about voting responsibilities. In Los Angeles, they have tried to get citizens to the polls by entering the name of everyone who votes in a draw for a huge cash prize. 

Compulsory voting has critics who say it violates people’s freedom of choice and forces even completely uninformed voters to cast their ballot.

Compulsory voting may not be the best answer to getting more Canadians to participate in the election process, but higher voter turnout is definitely something we should be encouraging and promoting so democracy can work the way it was meant to in our country.

Other posts………

Thanks for Voting

Canadians Need A Civics Lesson

Why Do Men and Women Vote Differently?

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Filed under Canada, Politics

Good Bye Irene

My mother with four of her dear friends. Mom is second from the left. To her left is Lorraine, to her right Agnes and to the far right Irene.

I learned from Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press that one of my mother’s dear friends, Irene Rempel had passed away. Irene and my mother and the other two women in the photo above were such good friends and got together regularly. They were a wonderful support to one another through the ups and downs of their lives. My mother passed away in 2013, Agnes in 2017, and now Irene is also gone.

Irene did many things for many people and was a treasure to both her church community and the community of Steinbach, but I remember two ways in which she was a particular gift to me and my family.

When I was in my early twenties my mother was diagnosed with cancer and almost died. She had to go to Winnipeg for radiation treatments and Irene was one of the women who often drove her there. She was also one of the women who regularly brought meals to my parents’ home during that difficult time.

In 1999 Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach staged a musical based on a story about five women in the book of Numbers in the Bible. It was called The Daughters of Z. I wrote the lyrics and text for it. The music was by the composer Craig Cassils. The production was directed by Shirley Bestvater.

Irene was in charge of the costumes and she created amazing outfits for all the members of the cast. Irene was a night owl at the best of times but I don’t think she got any sleep as she worked to design and create all those costumes for us before our first performance.

In this photo my youngest brother who always had a special place in Irene’s affections welcomes Irene to a family celebration

Irene was a terrific lady- always smiling and full of spunk. My sincere condolences to her family on her passing.

Other posts………

Grace Mennonite Church

Being A Friend

He Made Things Tick


Filed under Family


I was about halfway through reading Kate Bowler’s latest book Good Enough when I watched her online interview with Winnipeg Free Press Faith columnist John Longhurst.

One of the words Kate used in her interview and uses often in her book is enoughness. She talks about her cancer diagnosis and treatment and how during that very difficult time of her life she felt the enoughness of being loved by so many people and by God. Kate says we need to be grateful for that love and not always feel like we have to earn it.

Kate’s latest book Good Enough has 41 devotionals that encourage the reader in all kinds of ways to give up the need to be perfect. We are encouraged to let go of our obsession to create material for a show and tell of our seemingly perfect lives on social media, and to realize that God is always beside us as we try to mitigate society’s constant urging to improve rather than be content with what is already ours.

Photo of Jessica Richie and Kate Bowler from the Kate Bowler website.

Kate wrote Good Enough with the executive producer of her podcast Jessica Richie and in the introduction, they talk about a good enough faith that doesn’t reach for the impossible but looks for beauty and truth in what is possible.

One thing you will quickly discover if you listen to Kate Bowler speak is that she has a marvellous sense of humour. Perhaps that is why she can get away with saying some hard and perhaps even controversial things.

She urges people from the Christian tradition to reevaluate the message they have often received from televangelists who promise them the best life now.

Instead of talking about having the best life Kate urges us to think about the precarity of our lives. Sometimes we are happy and have as Kate puts it the wind in our sails but at other times everything goes wrong and we feel like the unluckiest person in the world. She says God is with us at all places on the precarity continuum.

Kate in conversation with John Longhurst – photo from the McNally Robinson Booksellers Twitter page

In her interview Kate made me laugh out loud when she encouraged us to just do our best to transform one or two terrible things about ourselves before we die. Kate made me smile in her book when she encourages us to stop trying to have a perfect life and just aim for a mediocre one.

Each devotional in Kate and Jessica’s book Good Enough has a personal anecdote, a blessing and a good enough step we can take in our lives.

Listening to Kate’s interview made me eager to read the second half of Good Enough. I know I have lots to learn about appreciating enoughness.

Other posts……….

Your One Wild and Precious Life

Faithless? Definitely Not.

The Purpose of Life

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Filed under Books, Religion