Monthly Archives: October 2022

Overheard While Standing in Line to Vote

Photo- CTV News

“Are any of them anti-vaxxer, anti-science people?”

“Would any of them ban books from schools?”

“Are any of them homophobic?”

I was standing in line to vote in Winnipeg’s municipal election on Wednesday when I overheard those questions being asked during a conversation between a couple of people standing right behind me. I’m not sure if the two were partners or just friends but they seemed to know each other quite well.

The man said he had decided which mayoral and city counsellor candidates he was voting for, but he hadn’t had time to research the school trustees running for office in our area.

The woman beside him said she had done due diligence and had looked up information about each school trustee candidate.

That’s when he asked the three questions above. Were any candidates anti-science, supporters of book banning or clearly against rights for the LGBTQ community?

The woman said she had checked out all the trustee candidates and those three things wouldn’t be concerning about any of them if they were elected.

The man breathed a sigh of relief. “Then it doesn’t really matter which one I vote for,” he said.

Photo by Mike Thom for Golden West

At first, I was a little dismissive of the fellow who was basing his vote on such narrow criteria but later I realized I was really no different when it came to my voting behaviour.

My major areas of concern in Winnipeg are homelessness, poverty and public safety. I voted for the mayoral candidate who I thought would address those concerns best.

I know in the last federal election my voting decisions were made with certain issues front and centre-respect for women’s bodies, respect for gender and sexual orientation choices, and respect for the scientific research about climate change and pandemics.

In the next provincial election, I already know that adequate funding for education, health care and housing will be my three top concerns.

Essentially, I am the same as the man I overheard at the polling station.

I found the conversation I listened to in the voting line on Wednesday very thought-provoking. I think it provided me with a snapshot of how many Canadians vote.

Other posts……….

Mandatory Voting

I Like This Photo

May 24th- An Important Day For Canadian Women

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Filed under Politics

I Talk With My Hands

I’ve had people comment before that I talk with my hands and I know I do. Last week I was speaking at the Gaynor Library in Selkirk and a wonderful man named Earl Palansky did a photo essay about the event. He took lots of candid shots of me. Looking at them there can be absolutely no doubt I talk with my hands.

I know sometimes my hand-talking embarrasses my husband and he will give me a private sign when we were at a social event because I’m going overboard with my dramatic descriptions using my hands.

I decided it might be fun to do a little research into the science behind people who talk with their hands.

An article by Carolyn Gregoire explains that the Broca area of our brain which is connected to speech production becomes more active when we move our hands.

A blog on the Helping People Connect site offers some fascinating facts.

Our brains are wired to pay more attention to people who gesture while they talk and we learn more from them.

Young kids who move their hands while talking their way through tough math problems solve them more quickly.

A year-long study found the most popular Ted Talk speakers were the ones who used the most hand gestures.

People who talk with their hands have more friends and generally are well-liked.

Talking with their hands actually makes speaking easier for people especially when they are trying to explain complex or abstract ideas.

Although I’m sometimes embarrassed about the way I talk with my hands I think I’m going to embrace it from now on. It’s actually a trait that’s pretty positive.

Other posts………..

We Both Talk With Our Hands

Calculator Conversation

What is Your Body Saying?

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Filed under Lost on the Prairie

Stop the Spread and Invest in the Heart and Arteries

Images of old buildings in Winnipeg’s beautiful downtown. I took this photo of Caroline Dukes’ stunning artwork at the Millenium Library

There was a great piece in the Winnipeg Free Press last week about the fact that our city has been allowed to expand and sprawl outward into all these suburbs and that has put us in an untenable financial position. We’ve had to use our funds to provide infrastructure for all these new neighbourhoods and that means there isn’t enough left to invest in the core or heart of Winnipeg something which is so important if we are going to be a dynamic and healthy city.

I use Winnipeg bike paths faithfully for at least six months of the year but the city needs many more

Another piece in the Free Press on Saturday pointed out how this urban sprawl has contributed to the traffic problems in Winnipeg. People living in the suburbs need to use their cars to get everywhere and as we invest money in building roads for them we haven’t invested in a speedy, dependable, first-class transit system or safe cycling paths and safe bicycle storage which are actually the only ways we can cut down on the motor vehicle traffic which snarls up our streets, especially during rush hour.

My husband drops a coin into the Toronto mural

Two images came to mind as I read these articles. One was of a mural made of nails we saw in the lobby of Toronto’s City Hall. It represented the heart of Toronto and illustrated how the city’s suburbs spread out from that heart. If you dropped a coin into the mural anywhere it quickly and efficiently travelled a unique route through all those nails to the mural’s centre making a lovely musical sound all the way. That’s what we need in Winnipeg, ways to travel to our city’s heart that are easy and efficient and perhaps even scenic.

Resting during our walk along the wall around Dubrovnik

The other image was of all the cities I’ve visited around the world that were in ancient times encircled by walls, many of which remain standing. Maybe that’s what we need to do. Build an imaginary wall or line around the current outskirts of our city and simply refuse to extend that wall any further rather thinking of innovative ways to use and reuse the space that is already inside that wall, particularly its heart or core.

As I decide who I want to vote for in Wednesday’s civic election I am looking for candidates who are interested in investing in the city’s heart and arteries rather than expanding its spreading perimeter.


Filed under Winnipeg

A Great Grandmother’s Prayer

My six-year-old grandson and I were drawing different kinds of flowers together at the kitchen table on my recent visit to his home when he suggested we look at the flowers that were part of a picture in his room and perhaps draw a flower like the ones in the picture.

He took me upstairs to his bedroom and I realized the picture he was referring to was one that had been made by my mother-in-law for our son, my grandson’s Dad when he was born more than four decades ago.

My mother-in-law meeting her grandson for the first time

My mother-in-law Anne flew out to Manitoba from Ontario in 1979 to spend some time with us after her grandson’s birth and she brought a framed needlework prayer she had stitched for him. It hung first by our son’s crib and then his bed and he often used it as part of his nightly bedtime prayers.

When we moved to Hong Kong years ago we needed to downsize and so I gave my son boxes full of his belongings that included the framed prayer his grandmother had made for him. How lovely to see it now in my own grandson’s room a kind of message of love from a great-grandmother my grandson never had a chance to meet since he was born five years after she had passed away.

My mother-in-law Anne died in 2011 but the prayer she stitched in 1979 is still blessing her family.

Other posts………..

Anne Driedger 1923-2011

Stitched with Love


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Filed under Family

Childhood Homes

Yesterday I was speaking to a group at the Gaynor Library in Selkirk and during the discussion time after my presentation, we talked about researching our family histories.

Earl, one of the gentlemen in the group said he had been exploring his family’s history by visiting the homes he had lived in during his childhood. This fascinated me because I’ve been doing the same thing. I still have a couple of homes to go but I’m making progress.

Two years ago on my birthday, I visited my first home on Dundurn Avenue in Winnipeg which is where my parents were living when I was born.

I’ve also been to our old house on Home Street where my family resided till I finished kindergarten and since the home had been resold recently when I was writing about it I could even use photos of how it looked some sixty years after I had lived there.

The year I was in grade one my family was settled in an apartment building on the grounds of the St.Boniface Hospital since my Dad was an intern there. Although the building is being used for something else now, it is still standing and visiting the site brought back many memories I could write about.

I was happy to find that the house on Beaverbrook Street where my family lived when I was seven, although quite changed on the exterior, was still there. I was able to find quite a number of old photos that showed our family’s life in that home so I could compose a blog post about it.

When I was eight my family moved to Steinbach. I have photographed the first home I lived in there and have written about it but I shared two other homes in Steinbach with my parents and I need to revisit them too.

One thing that Earl, the gentleman at the Selkirk Library had done was actually knock on the doors of his childhood homes and said the current owners always very kindly let him come inside to look around. That isn’t something I haven’t been brave enough to try but it sure would be interesting.

In our discussion at the library, we talked about the value of learning about your family’s history. Visiting your childhood homes is certainly a fascinating way to do that.

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Filed under History, My Old House

The Audience Makes All The Difference

I am currently preparing for what I just figured out will be my twenty-third presentation about my novel, this time to a group that meets at the Gaynor Library in Selkirk. I very much enjoy engaging with people about my book but one thing I am discovering is how much the audience matters as I prepare.

Speaking to a group of women in Carmen who meet to learn new things and discuss them

I naively thought when I first began these presentations that each one could be more or less the same and I could use the same slide show and talk for each one. No way! Each presentation must really be prepared anew as I consider my audience.

Meeting with my son’s grade six class last week

If I am speaking to a group of grade sixes or a group of senior citizens I have to prepare very differently considering the age of my audience.

Meeting with a book club in Steinbach

If I am speaking to a writing group whose main focus is to hone their writing skills or to a book club whose main focus is to discuss literature I have to prepare very differently considering the purpose of the group.

Speaking at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach

If I am speaking to a group who are primarily interested in general Canadian history or a group that is primarily interested in Mennonite history I have to prepare very differently considering the interests of the group.

Poster for my presentation at the library in Drake Saskatchewan

I even find that if I am speaking to a group in a small town in Saskatchewan or a group in Winnipeg I have to prepare differently considering the geographical location and the way that impacts the group’s familiarity with my novel’s topic and content.

The audience’s age, focus, interests, and location make all the difference and I have learned if I don’t consider my audience very carefully as I prepare I probably won’t do a very good job.

I am currently working on a manuscript that was intended for an adult audience when I originally wrote it and now I am rewriting the entire thing for a middle-grade audience. It is an enormous and incredibly challenging task and rightly so because…………………. the audience makes all the difference.

Other posts………….

I’d Like to Visit Your School

She Believed She Could

Meeting My Readers in Person

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

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Filed under Lost on the Prairie

Should Buses Be Free?

Yesterday I took the bus from my home in the Exchange District of Winnipeg to the MCC Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue where I volunteer. It is a very short trip but I counted THIRTEEN people who got on the bus and didn’t pay.

Some just blatantly walked on. Others said things like, “I’m only going two blocks,” or “I have to go to work and I don’t have money,” or “I had a transfer but I lost it.”

The young woman driving the bus made no comment and really what was she supposed to do or say. She couldn’t physically remove people from the bus or refuse them entry if they were determined to board.

Two of the men who hadn’t paid sat down near me and one said, “My Dad would be pretty upset if he knew I didn’t pay for the bus, but times are hard, no one has money. What am I supposed to do?”

Shaun Loney thinks he has a way to deal with people who don’t pay bus fares

Shaun Loney one of the candidates for mayor in the upcoming civic election says he will hire transit peace officers who will ride on every bus and ensure people pay their fare and behave reasonably. These officers will also help connect vulnerable people on the bus with the support and services they may need.

Lots of students use the bus. -Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I have questions about the feasibility of Loney’s plan and wonder if instead, buses shouldn’t be free. Since so many people aren’t paying anyway why not make them free for everyone? I ride the bus a lot and the main demographic that uses the bus from what I’ve observed are seniors, young parents, people with life challenges, new Canadians and students. The riders aren’t wealthy middle and upper-class folks. Perhaps those who need to ride the bus could use a financial break?

A free Orbit bus in Tempe Arizona

When Dave and I rented an apartment in Tempe Arizona one winter we often used their free bus system which had been very successful in getting people to leave their cars at home and use public transportation. It ran at little cost to the taxpayer and was good for the environment.

Should buses be free? Right now they are for some people but not for others.

Other posts………..

Another Friend For the Moment

Riding the Bus Alone At Age 5

Bus Chat


Filed under Winnipeg

But I Did Have Children!

Visiting Aunt Vi on Sunday

While I was in Saskatoon on the weekend, I paid a couple of visits to my Aunt Viola, my mother’s older sister who will be turning 100 in December. Viola lives in a nursing home. She never married and didn’t have any children of her own so I take care of her affairs and look after things for her.

By writing messages on a notepad I can communicate with my aunt even though she is almost completely deaf

I am so fortunate that Elizabeth a second cousin of mine who lives in Saskatoon visits Aunt Vi regularly and keeps me up to date on how she is doing. Since Viola is nearly deaf and has trouble seeing, Elizabeth has devised a communication system of writing messages to Viola in large capital letters with a black felt marker.

If my aunt looks at these carefully she can read them and responds. There is nothing wrong with her voice and she was eager to talk on my visits. You can really have a very meaningful conversation with her since her mind is still alert.

Aunt Vi with my grandson a decade ago. He is her great-great nephew and she had stitched a lovely needlework piece as a gift for him when he was born.

During our visit, Aunt Vi asked about my children and grandchildren and I wrote her messages to tell her about what they were doing. Then she said, “People often ask me if I am ever sorry I didn’t have children. But I DID have children.”

Aunt Viola is on the far left in the first row with the teaching staff at Holliston School in Saskatoon.

Aunt Vi then proceeded to talk about all the children who had been in her elementary school classes during her nearly forty years as a teacher, the children she had worked with as a volunteer in Washington D.C. neighbourhoods, the children in the many choirs for kids that she had conducted, and the many, many children she had taught in the Sunday School and summer Bible school programs at her church.

Me and Aunt Vi 1957

And of course her nieces and nephews. She always took such an interest in us all and remembered us with Christmas gifts, took lots of photos of us, made us afghans and needlework pictures and sent us cards. She hosted us in her home on SO many occasions.

Aunt Vi working as a volunteer in Washington DC

I realized Aunt Vi was right! She had indeed had lots of children. Her comment was a good reminder to me that we need to appreciate all the people who may not have children of their own, but who make such an important contribution to the lives of all of our children.

Other posts………..

Thanks to Aunt Vi

Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book

Happy 95th Birthday Aunt Vi


Filed under Childhood, Family, Inspiration

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

Last Friday I was a special guest in my son’s grade six language arts class at Walter W. Brown School in Langham Saskatchewan. His students are using my book Lost on the Prairie for a novel study and are about halfway through the story.

Showing the students a photo of my grandfather who inspired my novel

My son invited me to talk to his students about how I’d written the book and the process of having it published. The kids had lots of questions for me which was great. They were an alert and lively bunch and so interested in my book.

I told them all about my grandparents Peter and Annie Schmidt, who inspired my novel’s story. I had brought a number of things with me that had once belonged to my grandparents and they were so interested in them.

Message from the students

After I talked to the class and answered their questions they had a fifteen-minute break and during it, one of the boys in the class took the initiative to make me a card. He wrote a special message to me on one side, and then got his classmates to put their signatures on the other and make comments about the book.

Reading aloud from my novel to the class

After the break, I read the class another couple of chapters from the book and then the young man who’d engineered the making of the card presented it to me.

I was nearly in tears. As my son arranged his students for a photo with me I thought, “Does it get any better than this? Here you are talking about a published novel you’ve written in your own son’s class?”

Definitely one of the most memorable moments on life’s journey so far.

Other posts about Lost on the Prairie……

History Hunting in the Cemetery

My First Interview

At the Top of the List


Filed under Lost on the Prairie

Moose in the Canola

Outside a little restaurant in Grenfell, Saskatchewan. It was so windy I had trouble pushing the car door open.

On our drive to Saskatoon on Thursday, we stopped at this little bakery/restaurant in Grenfell Saskatchewan, a small farming community to have some lunch. The proprietor a woman who had immigrated to Canada from Syria eight years ago told me she loves living in Grenfell because people are so kind and her business has been so successful. Indeed a steady stream of folks came in for lunch or to buy baked goods while we were there.

Young moose walking in the canola field- photo from Think Stock

Two women who were waiting for the proprietor to box up the cinnamon buns they had ordered were having a conversation loudly enough we couldn’t help overhearing them. They were discussing the fact that the combining of canola was in full swing on their farms AND what a problem they were both having with moose in their canola.

The one woman had come upon a huge moose resting in the field who was seemingly unfazed by her combine approaching. The other woman’s husband had needed to contend with a group of moose who appeared to be having a little party in the canola field and were in no hurry to leave so he could keep combining.

Photo by Adrienne Moul

On previous drives to Saskatchewan Dave and I have noticed moose in the fields and  I learned that more and more moose have been leaving the forested areas closer to the Rocky Mountains to live on the prairies. Apparently, there is a real problem with moose eating cereal crops like canola.

And now they are proving a hazard and a nuisance during combining season. I found a video online a farmer had shot from his combine while harvesting canola. A herd of moose were in the middle of his canola field and had already trampled quite a bit of it.

The moose many of them with huge racks of antlers appeared to be little fazed by the approaching combine. They did move out of the way but they were in no big hurry to do so. Everything I’ve read online indicates the very size of a moose makes it dangerous to humans and moose should always be approached with caution.

Moose in a canola field near Unity Saskatchewan- photo by James Fisher

Clearly strategies will have to be developed for moose and prairie farmers to coexist as the changing climate brings moose into territory where they have never lived before.

Interesting what you can learn about in a little bakery in Grenfell Saskatchewan.

Other posts……..

Wild Grasses

Wild Life In Winnipeg

On My Grandparents’ Farm


Filed under Nature