Author Archives: maryloudriedger

About maryloudriedger

MaryLou Driedger lives in Winnipeg Manitoba where she works as free lance writer, a tour guide in the school programs department at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and a faculty supervisor for the University of Winnipeg's education department. She is a retired teacher who moved to Winnipeg after living and working in Hong Kong for six years.

Winnipeg Welcomes the World

During the ten years I have worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq I have given tours to visitors from around the world.

I made a map with stars showing all the places the people on my tours came from last week

But this last week during the five days I worked at the gallery I think I set some sort of record for international visitors. This morning I sat down to list all the countries the participants on this week’s tours came from.

Central America -Mexico and Guatemala

Asia -Japan, China, Korea and Thailand

The Caribbean- Jamaica and Barbados

Africa- The Ivory Coast and Somalia

South America- Chile

The Middle East- Iraq and Afghanistan

Europe- Italy, Belgium, France, England

North America- Canada

Winnipeg artist Wanda Koop’s unique artwork showing the Manitoba Legislative Building at the Forks

This past week made me realize……..

Winnipeg really is a world class destination that attracts people from across the globe

International travel is back after its pandemic hiatus

The Winnipeg Art Gallery is an important place for people from other places to learn about Canada and its culture and history

Other posts……….

A Dream Day At Work

Oh What Fun!

What’s a Portscape?

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Filed under Art, Winnipeg, winnipeg art gallery

Safe Injection Sites

Photo by Alex Koch on Pexels.com

Should we have safe injection sites for drug users in our province? The current Conservative government says they believe such sites aren’t effective and may produce unintended negative consequences for the community.

Instead, they want to pursue a recovery-oriented approach and are promising to create up to a thousand new beds in drug treatment centres. The Conservatives have yet to give a timeline for when this expansion will happen or reveal how much money they will commit to the initiative. 

The New Democratic Party has promised to open safe injection sites if they are elected next fall. They call on the government to establish a panel of experts on addictions to provide guidance on the best way to address the current drug crisis.  

The two major political parties are offering different views on how to handle the drug addiction wave that is at the heart of so many other problems in our province including homelessness, poverty, and crime. Who is right? 

An October 5th article in The Scientific American cites research that indicates safe injection sites around the world reduce the risk of overdose, death, and the spread of infectious diseases. They increase public safety because addicts aren’t shooting up in public places like parks and libraries.   Supervisors at injection sites have an opportunity to offer users counselling and encourage them to pursue long-term solutions to their addictions. 

A safe injection site in Vancouver- photo Vancouver Coastal Health

Manitoba’s Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Sarah Guillemard disagrees. After visiting safe injection sites in Vancouver, she doesn’t think they are the best way to help those with addictions. 

Interestingly a Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Chabria who went to Vancouver in May to investigate the safe injection sites there came up with a different opinion.  The state of California was considering opening safe injection sites, so Chabria’s newspaper sent her to Vancouver to do the story.

Chabria says what she saw there left her convinced safe injection sites are necessary in order to prevent death and disease even though longer-term solutions must be found.  Chabria admits visiting the Vancouver injection sites was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. 

Last year I watched a documentary called The Meaning of Empathy. It told the story of the opioid crisis ravaging the Kainai First Nation in Alberta. Esther Tailfeathers a doctor there believes both harm reduction methods and detox and treatment centres are necessary. 

A public demonstration in support of safe injection sites- photo by Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press

That’s also the view of Shohan Illsley executive director of the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network which held a round dance at a busy Winnipeg intersection last week to highlight the need for safe injection sites in Manitoba. She said the Conservative government’s plans for increased treatment beds at some point in the future are a good thing but they won’t save lives today. Last year over 400 Manitobans lost their lives to drug overdoses. 

In the United States, only 30% of the public believes safe injection sites are a good idea.  In Canada, the rate is closer to 60%.  Why the difference?  More Americans buy into the notion that drug use is a moral failing while more Canadians understand substance abuse is a disease often connected to inherited genetic factors. 

Photo by Nick Youngson

The Conservative government is to be commended for recognizing the need to address the addiction crisis in our province.  Hopefully, their plan to increase treatment spaces will be carried out in a timely, adequately-funded way. But it would seem the New Democratic Party also has a point when they say safe injection sites are needed in our province.  The funding of both approaches may be wisest if we want to save lives and change futures. 

Other posts……..

She Had A Baseball Bat

I Slept Right Through It

From the Ashes and Getting Fired

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The Light We Carry

Amanda Gorman ended the poem she wrote for President Biden’s inauguration ceremony, with the words

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

I was reminded of Amanda Gorman’s inspiring challenge when I read the title of Michelle Obama’s new book The Light We Carry. In it the former First Lady says we all carry light and we need to share it, reaching out to genuinely connect with others and together doing the work to change the future.

Amanda Gorman talks about being brave enough to ‘be the light’ and really that’s what Mrs Obama is addressing in her book. She looks at what things can prevent us from sharing our light and how can we overcome those things. Here are just four of the things she says can stand in our way of ‘being light’.

Michelle Obama watching as her husband is sworn in as President for the first time

Don’t let fear stand in your way.

When her husband wanted to run for president he put the decision squarely in his wife’s lap. His family meant more to him than political office and if Michelle told him not to run he wouldn’t. Mrs Obama said she was utterly terrified at that point, incredibly fearful about what her husband’s possible presidency would do to their family, in particular her daughters.

What would have happened if she hadn’t overcome her fear?

She encourages readers to be comfortably afraid. “Be afraid of the things that can actually cause you danger, but be open to the things that can push you forward – there’s real powerful growth on the other side of that feeling of fear.

Michelle and Barack Obama with Queen Elizabeth in 2009 – Photo from Women’s Wear Daily

Don’t let physical challenges stand in your way.

Michelle Obama’s father had multiple sclerosis and in her book, she tells us his story emphasizing the way he never let his chronic illness stand in the way of providing a loving home and a strong, supportive family for his children.

She also talks about the way her physical height has set her apart and made her feel unattractive. She bemoans the fact that so many women are critical of their own physical appearance and uncomfortable with how they look. It is something she works at overcoming every day and encourages other women to learn to love themselves for who they are.

Mrs Obama knitting- photo by Merone Hailemeskel

Don’t let anxiety and worry stand in your way.

Mrs Obama talks about how the pandemic caused her chronic worry tendencies to bloom and flourish. One way she coped with that was to take up knitting. She says crafts like knitting can ease stress and help you escape from a negative mental space. Knitting helped her discover “how fulfilling it can be to turn small stitches into something big and beautiful”.

Michelle Obama speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention- photo by Anthony Behar

Don’t let your critics stand in your way.

Mrs Obama has had plenty of critics. She says that no matter how calm she tried to be, no matter how hard she worked as the First Lady, no matter how friendly she was or how often she opened the White House to everyone, certain people continued to portray her as an aggressive angry black woman unworthy of their respect.

In her famous speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention Michelle Obama coined the phrase, “when they go low, we go high,” as a way to respond to critics. She still believes that is true but reminds readers that the phrase does nothing if we only repeat it. It means committing ourselves to do the hard work it takes to bring about a brighter future and overcoming the influence of those who spread negativity.

There were so many nuggets of wisdom I collected from The Light We Carry and so many ways Michelle Obama’s experience connected with my own. I am sure you will find that same wisdom and sense of connection when you read her very relatable book.

Other posts………

5 Thoughts on the Netflix Documentary Becoming

It’s Harder To Hate Up Close

The House With the Obama Chair

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What’s a Glyph?

I play the game Wordle every morning and like many fans had a hard time solving the puzzle last Friday. The solution was ‘glyph’ and many people were complaining on social media that it was too uncommon a word and shouldn’t have been used.

I did know what a glyph was and immediately thought of some examples of glyphs I had in my photo collection. For those who may not be familiar with the word glyph, the Merriam Webster dictionary offers two definitions.

A symbolic figure or a character (as in the Mayan system of writing) usually incised or carved in relief

As it turns out I had a perfect example for the first definition because at a museum we toured in Merida Mexico we could have our birthdate printed out in Mayan hieroglyphics. This was mine.

The second definition of a glyph is…….. a symbol that conveys information non-verbally.

Turns out I had the perfect photo for that definition too. This was the label on a men’s washroom door in a ryokan we stayed at in Kyoto Japan. All the information you need is right there. No words are needed to explain this sign.

Here are some other glyphs I’ve photographed.

I photographed this fish symbol for Christianity at the catacombs we toured in Rome.

I photographed this calligrapher in Stanley Market in Hong Kong as he wrote my name in Chinese symbols.

I photographed these petroglyphs while hiking the Hieroglyphic Trail in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona

I photographed this skull and crossbones symbol that warned of landmines on a visit to Cambodia.

I photographed these 10,000-year-old petroglyphs on a grandfather rock near Hershel Saskatchewan when I was touring the Ancient Echos museum site there.

I photographed this sign for a school zone in obvious need of repair outside a school in St. Ann’s Bay Jamaica.

I photographed these petroglyphs on a rock at Taliesin the former estate of architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I photographed this symbol on the jeep of the tour company that took us on a four-hour trek to learn all about cork and how it is grown and harvested in Portugal. The owner of the tour company is a fan of the children’s book Ferdinand the Bull. In the story, the bull sits under a cork tree and we see an allusion to that story in the symbol.

I wasn’t upset as many Wordle fans were when the word on Friday was ‘glyph.’ I was interested however and had fun looking for photos of glyphs I’d seen.

Other posts………..

Spending the day with Antonio and Jose

The Catacombs- Myth and Reality

Discovering A Grandfather Rock

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A Life Line Then and Now

On Saturday the New York Times Magazine ran a story about how vital the railway system in Ukraine has been to the war effort. The article was titled The 15,000 Mile Lifeline and talked about the heroism of the country’s 230,000 rail employees who often at great risk to themselves have somehow under the most challenging of conditions kept rail travel open as their country is under siege.

They have provided free passage to hundreds of thousands of evacuees fleeing war torn areas and brought 140,000 tons of food, and 300,000 tons of other relief supplies into the country distributing them to communities in need. They have moved weapons and goods and soldiers and kept Ukraine’s mail system in business moving over 3 million parcels.

My husband viewing the Ukrainian countryside from the window of our train

When my husband and I visited Ukraine we saw the country via that railroad. As we traveled from Kyiv to Zaporozhye to Lviv and Odessa we always went by train. Every train we took was on time and the service was efficient and pleasant. It was a great way to see the country.

It was also via train that some 20,000 Mennonites left Ukraine in the 1920s to immigrate to North America fleeing war and famine.

My husband’s mother’s family just before leaving Ukraine from the Lichtenau train station.

My paternal grandparents, my husbands maternal and paternal grandparents, and his own parents who were small children at the time, all got out Ukraine via the train.

My husband stands beside the tracks at the Lichtenau Train Station in Ukraine where his grandparents began their long immigration journey to Canada

Our relatives all left the country from the Lichtenau Train Station and when we were in Ukraine we visited it.

We sit on a bench outside the train station in Ukraine that served as our grandparentsdeparture point from the country

In the 1920s the railway system in Ukraine provided a life line to thousands just as it is doing now a century later.

Other posts……….

Ten Things I Can Do About the War in Ukraine

A Sad Memory At Winnipeg’s City Hall

Thinking of Kyiv

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Filed under Ukraine

Single Young Women Are the Problem

“These women need to get married,” said Fox television commentator Jesse Waters as findings from the exit polls in the recent American election were being discussed. Waters was referring to the fact that single women in the United States voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. Another finding from the exit polls was that young people voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.

Waters proposal for getting those single young women to vote Republican was to get them married to men. Marriage to a man would bring these radical women to their senses.

Political commentator Mollie Hemingway went even further. She blamed the lack of support for the Republicans among single young women on the Democrats. She claimed the Democrats support of abortion rights and LGBTQ rights had encouraged women not to marry men and have children with them.

Chart from the Washington Examiner

Writing about the voting patterns of American young women in the Washington Examiner another conservative political commentator said women’s independence and equality is to blame for the decline in the marriage rate and this is a bad thing for the country and its future. Is he suggesting we need to curtail women’s equality and independence?

Can you believe that in the year 2022 there are still people who think this way? It boggles the mind and is frankly pretty scary.

To me it makes perfect sense why the vote was skewed along gender and age lines. If you are a single female parent struggling to get by you won’t vote for a party that wants to cut social services, take away your affordable medical plan and force you to have another child you can’t support financially.

If you are a young single woman who has just graduated from university or college of course you will vote for the party that wants to help you with your student loans, so you can start your career without crippling debt.

Although I couldn’t find particular statistics for single young women in Canada we have a definite gender divide when it comes to voting. The Liberal Party gets twice as many votes from women as the Conservatives do. Now why would that be?

Other posts……….

Why Do Men and Women Vote Differently?

Mandatory Voting

An Important Day for Canadian Women

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Never Too Old Or Young to Read

I found this meme online and loved it. You are definitely never too old to be reading as these two white-haired women enjoying themselves under their dining room table illustrate so graphically.

The meme reminded me of this photo of our son when he was about five and had built himself an elaborate fort under our table and was ensconced there reading a book. You are never too young to be reading either.

Right now I am reading four books……….not ideal I know, but I’m loving them all and you will be seeing blog posts about each of them in the near future.

Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman

The Russian Daughter by Sarah Klassen ( I was lucky enough to receive an advanced review copy)

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It by Colleen Nelson and Kathie MacIsaac

Other posts………..

Reading a Photo Story

My Childhood Reading Heaven

Reading Aloud to Teens

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Killing My Little Darlings

I told the children in one of the classrooms where I made an author visit that a memoir written by my grandfather’s little sister Alma had given me the idea to write my novel, Lost on the Prairie.

A girl named Julia put up her hand and asked me why I hadn’t put that little sister Alma into my book. I told Julia I originally did have Alma as well as the rest of my grandfather’s nine siblings in the book.

However, during the editing process, it became clear there were way too many characters to juggle in my novel and I had to get rid of some. That meant six of my grandfather’s siblings had to exit the book. It hurt me to do that. Writers refer to the process of eliminating characters from your novel as “killing my little darlings.”

It’s not always easy to remove a character from your manuscript

Each character a writer develops becomes real to them. As they write about the character they get to know them and love them, The characters become the writer’s ‘little darlings.’ So when a writer is forced to axe characters from their manuscript they sometimes say, “I’m killing my little darlings.”

In my next novel, which will be coming out in the spring, one of the main characters had two sets of grandparents. While working on the manuscript my editor and I agreed two sets of grandparents were too confusing for readers. That meant I had to axe one set of grandparents from the manuscript. I hated to “kill my little darlings’ even though I knew why it was necessary.

Of course there is always the possibility that a writer could include one of the ‘darlings’ they’ve been forced to kill in a future manuscript or project and thus bring them to life again.

Other posts……….

Pantser or Plotter?

Parents Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Writers

Relentless Persistence

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On Page One Hundred! I’m Excited!

This week a book called Kent Monkman Life and Work by Shirley Madill arrived in the mail for me. Kent Monkman is an internationally recognized Indigenous Canadian artist whose work has been displayed in galleries across North America. His art pieces tell the story of the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous people and colonizing settlers in unique and graphic ways.

In September of 2019 an exhibition of Kent Monkman’s work called Shame and Prejudice opened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. This exhibit was hugely popular and it meant I was very busy working as one of the tour guides for the thousands of visitors. Some days I was giving three tours back to back. You can read about that in my post Memorable Final Day.

I wrote many blog posts about the exhibit.

One installation I photographed and wrote about was called Starvation . In it Monkman graphically depicts the way the Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A MacDonald purposefully starved Indigenous people in Canada in order to get them to move off their ancestral lands so the government could build a railway across the country.

The Starvation exhibit area in the Kent Monkman show at the WAG.

When Shirley Madill was writing her biography about Kent Monkman, she sent me a request to use one of my photos in her book. Since the Winnipeg Art Gallery is my employer I asked their permission to share the photo. A colleague on the collections and exhibitions staff suggested I ask for a free copy of the book in return for the use of my photo. So I did.

This week the book arrived.

And there was my photo on page 100.

And my photo credit on page 101.

I was pretty excited!

One of the interesting things about writing this blog is that I have often been asked to have my photos used in other places. You can read about some of them in my post My Photos Find New Homes.

These connections have made it possible for some of my photos to be shared with a wider audience and have enriched my learning and my life.

Posts about Kent Monkman’s Work………..

He’s From Winnipeg

Ten Things About The Scream

Incarceration

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

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Filed under Art, Books

Thanks Harriet and Shannon

I don’t often blog about cooking or food because meal creation is not one of my talents. But sometimes the stars align and I make something that’s really good as was the case with this squash dish we enjoyed for supper recently. It was all thanks to two of my friends.

We were at a dinner party at my friend Shannon’s not long ago and she had squash from her garden placed by the front door for the guests to take home with them. I took one to be polite but wasn’t sure what I would do with it.

Shortly after the dinner party my friend Harriet featured a delicious looking squash recipe on her popular cooking blog North End Nosh. I decided to try it.

My attempt at the dish turned out great and even elicited some positive comments and a compliment from my husband Dave an excellent cook in his own right.

Thanks to two friends I can add another item to my modest list of culinary successes.

Other posts………..

Authors Who Bake

A Meal in a Box

Dinner on a Board- The Ultimate Food Experience

Marvelous Meal by Mike

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Filed under Food