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.

Job Insecurity and Silver Linings

At the Museum of Modern Art with Van Gogh’s Starry Night

I had such a terrific time when I visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York. So I was heartsick to read that the MOMA has terminated all of its educators. The gallery says the devastating impact of the coronavirus on their city means it could be years before they will be able to offer education programs again.  Shortly after I began my job as a learning facilitator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I took an online course from the MOMA called Talking With Children About Art.  It was led by the MOMA’s gifted education staff. I loved the course and enjoyed doing the assignments. I particularly appreciated the interactions with other art educators from around the world who were enrolled in the class with me. 

Photo of me doing art with children on the Winnipeg Art Gallery site

Hearing that the MOMA has terminated its education staff makes me wonder about the fate of the education programs at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  I LOVE my job as a guide and workshop leader in the WAG’s education department. The Museum of Modern Art is one of the wealthiest art galleries in the world.  If they have been forced to let their educators go what will happen at smaller, less well-endowed galleries? I am going to be positive and hope for the best. 

I took this photo of the New York Stock Exchange on our visit to New York. It is hard to believe what is going on in the city right now. 

I should have had more Kleenex along. On one of our walks, I listened to a This American Life podcast episode called The Test. It was about people in New York being put to the test because of the coronavirus.  First, there’s a paramedic talking about how heartbreaking it is to be a first responder in New York these days.  A young father breaks down as he describes caring for his active 2-year-old daughter in a small apartment.  Both he and his wife are very ill but they haven’t been able to be tested for the virus.  Finally, there is a woman who is a lifeline for her severely disabled mother in a nursing home. She is no longer allowed to see her mother. I cried during each tragic story. 

I also have a part-time job as a faculty supervisor for student teachers in the education department at the University of Winnipeg. I just received instructions from the university about storing all my student files, records and reports in a central location. “In case you get sick, we need to be able to access your files readily,”  the university informed us. We have never had to do this before but during the current crisis, it makes sense. 

On the weekend Dave and I got out the crokinole board.  We inherited it from my aunt recently. It once belonged to my grandparents.  I suspect the board is some fifty years old.  But it still works very well.  Dave said he was quite surprised at how good I was at crokinole. I didn’t beat him but I gave him a respectable run for his money. If we are in isolation long enough I will have lots of time to perfect my skills. We have been unable to find hand sanitizer anywhere but now we have plenty! The Farmery Brewery has switched production to hand sanitizer and yesterday we lined up with lots of other folks to pick up the sanitizer we had ordered online. My cousin sent me a video about the importance of looking for silver linings right now.  Here’s a tiny one of mine. With lots of time on my hands, I gave my purse a thorough cleaning and discovered a thin slit in its lining. Before I sewed it up I found out an earring of mine had slipped through the slit. I love these earrings which Dave bought for me when we visited architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s House Taliesin West in Phoenix on Valentine’s Day in 2012. The earring’s design is based on a window design by Frank Lloyd Wright.   For months I have not been able to find that earring but had saved its partner just in case it turned up. Now it has! A little silver lining. 

Other posts…………

Visiting Taliesin West in Arizona

Visiting the MOMA- Are All Artists Troubled?

Seeing my Students in New York.  So Proud of Them!

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Thankful for Billy Collins, Farmers, Sunshine and Mary Oliver

It’s Sunday so let’s start with a little COVID-19 theology from American evangelist Franklin Graham. In a FOX interview yesterday with Jeanine Pirro he said the pandemic has arrived because “men have turned their backs on God.”   I am so happy and relieved to know women are off the hook. Graham goes on to claim we are in our current crisis because we have “sinned against God.”  May I suggest we are in the current crisis because we didn’t use the brains God gave us. 

My sister’s church has been zooming on Sunday mornings with nearly a hundred different households from their congregation. I think after the pandemic is over we will need to expand the definition of the word ‘zoom’ in the dictionary.  Right now it says it’s a verb that means to travel quickly or to change a camera shot. We will need to add that it also means to visit with multiple people online.

With my siblings, their partners and my Dad at Christmas a few years ago

I zoomed with my siblings yesterday and we had a great visit. Canadian writer Carrie Snyder blogged this week about how zooming with her siblings has been lifting her spirits and making her heart feel lighter.  I can echo that. 

Going out to feed the pigs with my grandfather when I was a child. The agricultural industry has come a long way since then.

“And thank you for the farmers.” When my brother says grace before a meal he always includes a note of gratitude for the farmers who produced the food we are about to eat. My brother is in the agriculture industry and unlike some other industries that are shutting down during the pandemic, the farming and food production sector is operating in full gear. People are working hard to feed Canadians. Apparently, for the most part, resources and supplies are being shared and not hoarded. My brother reminded me that the agriculture industry has been employing high standards of biosecurity around food sources for a long time already. Even before the current situation, they had many important safety protocols in place.  As the Agriculture Canada website says “agriculture and the agri-food sector play a critical role in distributing safe, high-quality food to Canadians. Maintaining the integrity of the agri-food supply chain during an emergency is essential.” So a big thank you to the agriculture industry and the farmers of Canada! billy collins
I am a huge fan of Billy Collins’ poetry. There are some lines at the end of his poem Aimless Love which seem quite fitting in this time when soap has become so important.

gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Every Saturday my husband Dave does the New York Times crossword puzzle with his friend Les at the Salisbury House just around the corner from our home. Yesterday they got creative and used Skype video to solve the puzzle together despite their need to each stay in their own homes. 

My friend Hans just sent me this photo.  It is hard to believe that only a month ago we were in Arizona enjoying a desert hike in the warm sunshine. We had planned to start driving back to Manitoba today.  Due to the pandemic, we left almost a month early. Dave and I went for a walk in the beautiful Manitoba sunshine yesterday afternoon and I was reminded of a program I watched on the Canadian Mennonite University website on Friday night. College president Cheryl Pauls was interviewing some of the students about how they are handling the current crisis.  One young woman mentioned that since experiencing the physical touch of people can actually be dangerous right now, she has grown much more appreciative of the warmth and touch of the sun on her face and body.

It brought to mind some lines from a poem by Mary Oliver called The Sun. 

and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

Other posts………….

Two Poets on Prayer

A Puzzling Achievement

Wild Flowers and a Lost Camera

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John Prine, Bill Gates and Staying Connected

With my friend Marge

 Yesterday we facetimed with our good friends Fran and Marge for an hour enjoying a glass of wine together and visiting non-stop.  Fran and Marge were our neighbours in Landmark over forty years ago and we have been close friends ever since.  Not being able to get together physically doesn’t change that. 

We also facetimed with our one-year-old granddaughter who had a birthday yesterday.  Because they couldn’t host a big extended family birthday party, her parents and brothers decided to make the occasion special by dressing up in their Sunday best. My grandsons were even wearing bow ties!  Our son has had to become a barber during COVID-19 since salons and barbershops are all closed.  He had cut our oldest grandson’s hair in a unique style.  I suggested he call it ‘the covid cut.’

Requests for advice on how to cut your own bangs were part of a zoom conversation I participated in earlier this week. I will definitely have a very grey, very long head of hair by the time salons open again. 

Winnipeg Free Press staff will vote tomorrow on whether to accept a 20% pay cut to keep their paper going.  The newspaper has lost so much ad revenue during the pandemic that it may not be able to sustain itself financially till federal aid for journalism arrives sometime in May. An article in the Columbia Journalism Review says local newspapers in North America are facing an apocalypse due to COVID-19.  Many regional newspapers will be forced to discontinue publishing. For the past 35 years, I have been a columnist for The Carillon a regional Manitoba newspaper owned by the Winnipeg Free Press.   Will this be my last year? 

Do you want to hear an honest and clear explanation of what’s going on with COVID-19?   Are you interested in a hopeful and thoughtful forecast for the future of the current pandemic? Then I can highly recommend  Trevor Noah’s interview with Bill Gates.  The Gates Foundation is putting its financial resources behind helping to fight COVID-19.  If you’ve watched the Netflix series Inside Bill’s Brain you’ll know the billionaire tech giant has been using his considerable intelligence to address many of the world’s most pressing problems for quite some time.  We are lucky to have him applying that brain to one of THE biggest problems humanity has ever faced and one he has long predicted.  

Hiking in Portugal with our friend Rudy.  I asked him for some musical advice. 

You may have heard that singer/songwriter John Prine is in critical condition as a result of contracting the coronavirus. I wanted to know which John Prine song might be most relevant during our current situation so I texted my friend Rudy who is a John Prine fan and listens to more music than almost anyone I know.  Rudy suggested Hello in There and not just because Rudy’s name is mentioned at one point in the lyrics.  I listened to the song and Rudy is right. It really resonates with today’s reality.   

Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello”

Those lines from the song make me think of all the elderly people who because of COVID-19 are isolated in their houses, apartments, assisted-living suites, care homes and hospital rooms without any of their friends and family to visit them.  What kinds of creative ways can we use to reach out to them to say, “Hello in there.” 

Other posts…………

A Book To Make You Feel Insanely Hopeful 

A Soundtrack for Daily Living

I’ve Been a Newspaper Columnist for Decades

 

 

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Beer in the Kitchen, Travel Apathy And New Music

My husband Dave has always done some of the cooking in our household but now that his busy social and sports life is on hold he’s really embracing the kitchen. Last night we had a pot of delicious stew that he had slowly simmered in the oven for the whole day. There is enough of his signature chilli in the freezer to last for quite some time.  He’s played around with lots of different varieties of pizza, used bacon as the secret ingredient in egg salad sandwiches and is wondering if he could make chicken noodle soup.  He has also taken over primary responsibility for loading the dishwasher, experimenting to try and find the best way to arrange things in it for maximum capacity so we don’t have to run it as often. It won’t be long before he has it down to a science. A side benefit of this is I am not allowed to load the dishwasher. 

My friend Pat makes notes as the rest of us critique a novel synopsis she has written. I’m in the upper left-hand corner. 

I zoomed with my writers’ group last night for nearly two hours.  We were discussing writing work we had sent to each other to read before our session.  Seven of our eight members showed up for our virtual hang out and it was very productive.  During our first post-pandemic meeting two weeks ago we seemed to need time to just catch up with one another and see how we were all handling the isolation, so we didn’t do any manuscript critiques.  But yesterday we were ready to get down to work and focus on our writing.   My husband Dave had a long Zoom session in the afternoon with the members of a committee he serves on at our church.  On a cold snowy day, it was kind of nice for him not to have to get in the car and drive to church for a meeting but rather to have it barefoot, in his shorts, at our kitchen counter while enjoying a beer. 

 And speaking of beer Dave was very excited to learn that a local brewery Farmery was delivering beer.  He ordered enough to last him a long time.  Dave is part of a beer club that meets regularly to explore all the different local breweries.  As with most things his beer club meetings are on hold for the time being. Farmery is also making hand sanitizer now and Dave has ordered some of that as well. 

Having breakfast with Donna Janke in summer

I got to meet fellow Winnipeg blogger Donna Janke in person this past August. We had a delightful visit sharing ideas and experiences about blogging.  Donna is a travel blogger and in her most recent newsletter, she said she has stopped publishing new travel stories.   People just aren’t reading travel stories right now and even Donna who is passionate about travel and travel writing has found her own interest in reading and writing about travel waning.  Donna was set to attend a large convention for North American travel journalists in early May. It has been cancelled. In her latest newsletter, Donna asks whether travel will still be on people’s agenda when the pandemic is over.  Perhaps we will travel for business or family reasons but travelling for pleasure may not be affordable or even desirable for most of us. You can check out Donna’s blog here

My son with his band Royal Canoe at their phenomenal show on ice instruments at The Forks in Winnipeg January 2020

My word for the year is LISTEN and I had a new listening experience yesterday.  My younger son is a professional musician and owns a music booking agency. As you can imagine the pandemic has had a huge impact on his career and business. But he is exploring new things and one is hosting a music radio show on CKUW 95.9FM.  I listened to the whole show yesterday.  It featured music that is quite different than what I usually listen to.  One song that I really enjoyed was Home by Caribou. It was lovely easy listening and included the line “I’m home” many times. Home is where we all should be right now. 

My 91-year-old father said in one of our recent phone conversations that when his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are his age they will be telling their children and grandchildren stories about how they survived the pandemic of 2020.  Indeed I hope we do all survive and that this rather surreal time becomes the stuff of legend and story.

Other posts…….

What a Delight!

So Cool

Word of the Year- 2020

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A Different Way to Say Good-Bye and Love of Fate

My family gathers at my mother’s grave just before her memorial service.

It struck me yesterday how saying good-bye has changed in just the last few weeks. When people die we usually say good-bye with church services and shared meals and hugs for grieving family members. It is a time of drawing close together for comfort. Not now. In the Winnipeg Free Press yesterday a pastor wrote about how very strange it is to conduct a funeral during a pandemic.  There is no church service and families gather around the grave standing the designated number of meters apart.

Our son’s university graduating class. Celebrations such as this probably won’t happen this year.

High school seniors and university graduates normally say good-bye to their friends and teachers and professors with ceremonies and celebrations.  Not this year when most Canadian provinces have closed schools indefinitely.   

Someone I spoke with recently said they were going to their friend’s retirement party that evening. It would consist of two couples having a glass of wine each in their respective homes, talking to each other via computer screens.  They would drink a quiet toast to the retiree, a woman who’d had a very successful and accomplished career in the financial field and was retiring after decades of service.  Normally there would no doubt have been a big retirement dinner for her with gifts and speeches and tributes but in the time of coronavirus, those kinds of things don’t happen.  People are working from home and retirement celebrations aren’t a priority right now.  

I think my husband Dave felt a little of that when we dropped off our car, which had just travelled all the way to Arizona and back, for an oil change at Birchwood Motors. For years Dave has had a part-time job as a shuttle driver at Birchwood Lexus, picking up customer’s cars for servicing and later returning the cars to customers’ homes or workplaces.  He had planned to work for the month of April yet, and then step back from a post- teaching retirement gig he has really enjoyed.  Now the shuttle service has stopped operating.  There is only a bare-bones staff in the service department. He won’t be going back at all. 

A tea party with the T-4s in 2016

I re-read a set of four long chatty letters the members of my friend group the T-4s have shared over the last week or so.  I have met regularly with these former colleagues of mine for almost a decade for conversation and support and fun.  I don’t know when we will be able to meet again in person but e-mail is helping us to keep up to date on one another’s lives- books we are reading, movies and television shows we are watching, concerns about family members, and how our jobs have changed. We are still giving each other encouragement in this strange time. 

Yesterday Dave and I went on a 20 km. cycle through the city, along the river, by golf courses, through parks and cemeteries. We met lots of people out walking their dogs, enjoying the sunshine with their children, running or biking.  Everyone was being very cautious though and giving one another a wide berth, moving to the other side of the street when necessary, stepping off paths to let us by at a safe distance when Dave rang his bicycle bell and slowing down to keep a proper distance between themselves and others. The fresh air and exercise sure felt great as did saying good morning to everyone we met,  but I wondered if in the future even outings such as this will be curtailed. 

My friend Gabriele Goldstone signing copies of her book Broken Stone during its launch at McNally Robinson.

My friend Gabe reading my blog post called Right Now It is Like This said it reminded her of the idea of amor fati .  I didn’t know what that was so I looked it up. Amor fati is a Latin phrase that means ‘love of fate’.  It describes the attitude and idea that everything that happens in your life, including suffering and loss, is necessary and has the potential for good.  

Amor fati is often associated with the work of Nietzche who wrote about the idea of eternal recurrence.  Over time everything recurs infinitely.  That is almost exactly what Margaret Atwood said in her op-ed in the Globe and Mail when she compared our current situation to other similar events in the last century and said we need to take heart and learn to appreciate what is good about our current fate. 

Other posts………….

At the Gates Again

Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore

Broken Stone

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Unorthodox Grocery Shopping And Abbey Road

My husband Dave crossing Abbey Road

I read that they’ve just repainted the iconic Abbey Road crossing in London.  Apparently, it’s often hard for city workers to have a chance to do that uninterrupted during regular work hours because the pedestrian crosswalk made famous on the cover of the Beatles album Abbey Road is usually crowded with tourists. Not anymore. The self-isolation of Londoners ordered by the British prime minister and the dearth of tourists in the city these days made it easy for workers to repaint the lines. 

We went grocery shopping for the first time since our isolation ended.  We arrived at 7:00 in the morning when most grocery stores are open exclusively for seniors.  A young man at the front door invited us to use the hand sanitizer dispenser while he disinfected the handlebar of a cart for us. Folks in the store gave one another a wide berth.  We lined up for the cash register on big X’s marked on the floor that kept us the proper distance apart. The clerk was behind plexiglass.  I also went into a drug store where I had a similar experience, except here between serving each customer the cashier wiped down the counter and the credit card machine with copious amounts of disinfectant and she was wearing a mask and gloves. 

I did some coloring. Lisa, a talented colleague of mine at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is creating freehand drawings of classic pieces from the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection and posting them on the gallery website.  Since the gallery is closed and you can’t visit in person, you are invited to print up one of Lisa’s drawings and experience the paintings vicariously by coloring them.

The Farmer’s Daughter by Prudence Heward. I took the photo during the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Art in Bloom event which accounts for the blossoms and branches on the left-hand side. 

I colored Lisa’s version of this work called The Farmer’s Daughter by Quebec artist Prudence Heward. Prudence was a contemporary of Canada’s famous Group of Seven and like Emily Carr was one of only a comparatively few women who tried to make a name for themselves in the male-dominated Canadian art world at the turn of the century. 

Dave with his brother Paul on the golf course. He still reminds his brother periodically about how he made him miss the moonwalk. 

We had a long Face Time session with our son and his family in Saskatoon. We told our grandsons stories again. Dave told them a story about how he missed watching Neal Armstrong walk on the moon on TV because he heard a loud crash outside just as Armstrong was about to take his first lunar step. Dave ran out the door to see what had happened. His older brother Paul who was driving their family car had been hit by an oncoming vehicle as he turned onto their farmyard.  Paul was fine although the car wasn’t.  But in the ensuing drama, Dave missed watching the moonwalk. 

My grade two class at Sir John Franklin School. I am standing in the back row on the far left right next to our principal. My teacher was Miss Ushay.

I told my grandsons some stories about my grade two year at Sir John Franklin School in Winnipeg. How I was late for my first day of classes because I was chased by a big dog on my way to school, how I cried when I got 7+7 wrong on a math test, and how one day when I came home from lunch a car had driven right into the living room of our neighbor’s house. 

Our grandson told us he is going to be continuing his violin lessons virtually with his teacher starting this week since it looks like the music studio where he normally goes for lessons will have to remain closed for several months yet. 

In the last couple of days, I have been watching the Netflix series Unorthodox about a young woman who breaks away from her conservative Hasidic religious community in New York to find a different life for herself.  Unorthodox brought to mind a book I read called Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs which is her memoir about escaping her life in a Fundamentalist Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sect. Unorthodox also reminded me of the book Women Talking by Miriam Toews which tells the story of a group of Mennonite women in Bolivia who are trying to decide whether they should leave their very religiously conservative colony.  We think we are living with restrictions on our freedoms right now but many women have experienced restrictions far more troubling and challenging imposed by their religious communities. 

Other posts………….

More Visible But Not Equal

Attending A School Named For an Explorer

Almost Too Troubling to Read

Portraits in Plasticene

 

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Right Now It Is Like This

Winnipeg buses now flash a  PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING message alternately with their number and route name. 

In Central Park in New York, I knelt on the stone artwork that pays tribute to John Lennon’s song Imagine. One line in that song asks us to imagine there are no religions in the world. Something with definite religious connections went up in Central Park yesterday, field hospital tents for COVID-19 overflow patients from Mount Sinai Hospital. The tents were donated by Samaritan’s Purse, a religious charity headed by Franklin Graham. Graham has made  statements that the religion of Islam is wicked and evil and that Satan is the architect of same-sex marriage. The Samaritan Purse website makes their stand on same-sex marriage very clear.  New York City Hall is not worried about the beliefs of Samaritan’s Purse.  They say the field hospital will operate as part of Mount Sinai Hospital and will adhere to their discrimination policies. They claim what is most important is that the joint effort of Samaritan’s Purse and Mount Sinai Hospital will save New Yorkers’ lives.  New York Senator Brad Hoylman has called on Franklin Graham to publicly promise that LGBTQ patients will not be discriminated against at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital. 

On CBS on Sunday morning Dr. Jon La Pook said it is vital to develop an antibody test that can confirm whether someone has already had COVID-19.  He says a simple blood test can be developed to determine who has had the virus and is immune.  These people could take the place of those on the front lines who still don’t have immunity and help us understand in which communities the virus may have largely run its course.  Right now we are just testing to see if people HAVE the virus not whether they HAVE HAD it. 

Rebecca Babirye, a professor at a Tokyo university, recently wrote that this may be a good time to meditate on the Buddhist phrase, “Right now it is like this.”  

I thought about those words all day yesterday. “Right now it is like this.” 

The mantra encourages us to be realistic.  We need to acknowledge that what is happening right now is something we never would have expected, something we couldn’t have planned for, and something that has an unforeseeable future.  We need to forgive ourselves if the fact that “Right now it is like this”  makes us feel sad, or anxious or directionless. 

But we must remember the phrase includes the words “right now”  which implies that it won’t be like this forever.

I think in the coming days I will spend some time when I wake up each morning thinking and breathing and meditating on ……….

“Right now it is like this.” 

Other posts……………

Communication Ground Rules

Thin Places

Half-Empty of Half- Full?

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