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.

Thank You!

I want to extend a huge thank you to the nearly 100 people who viewed the video I posted on Friday. It was my first attempt at making a promotional piece for a wholesaler to use as they try to entice librarians and teachers to buy my new novel Lost on the Prairie.

So many of you left comments on my Facebook page, sent me e-mails, sent me messages or forwarded texts with your suggestions. You thought I needed to look straight into the camera instead of down on it, that I needed to be less animated so it didn’t detract from what I was saying, and to remember that I was talking to adults not children. Some of you also made great suggestions for different content. I took that all into consideration plus many other tips you offered and today I filmed a new video.

For those of you who are interested you can watch it HERE.

I am so grateful to all of you who helped me out with this. I have the best blog readers ever!

Love

MaryLou

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Puzzling Jane Austen

I have been taking photos of the jigsaw puzzles I’ve done during the pandemic and the one I just completed is my 20th! It’s also my favourite!

I am a Jane Austen fan. I have read all of her books, many more than once, and I think have watched every movie and television version of a Jane Austen book ever made.

So I was delighted to find this Jane Austen puzzle at McNally Robinson Booksellers. I have been working on it off and on for the last two weeks and it is finally done.

The puzzle comes with a guide so once you have completed it you can find all your favourite Jane Austen characters in the puzzle.

Elizabeth the heroine of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice visits Mr. Darcy’s grand house Pemberly. Eleanor is in the white dress and Mr. Darcy is right beside her

You also get to see the puzzle designer Barry Falls’ vision of what the various houses mentioned in the novels look like.

Catherine the protagonist in Northanger Abbey sits in front of the house reading her book. Catherine is a brave young woman who explores the secrets of the house.

I like Jane Austen’s books because her main characters have an assertive and independent streak I admire. Another reason I like her books is that they always make me very thankful we no longer live in a world where women are of necessity dependent on men for marriage and financial support in order to make their way in the world.

This is Jane Austen herself in front of her home in Chawton, Hampshire working on her writing. Jane’s mother sits on the bench in front of the house.

It was great fun to do The World of Jane Austen puzzle and guess what? I’ve found another couple of puzzles online featuring Jane’s books as well. Since it looks like all those nasty variants might make it several months longer before life returns to its busy pre-pandemic pace another Jane Austen puzzle could definitely be on my horizon.

Other posts………

Six Things Jane Austen Books and Movies Have in Common

Pandemic Pastimes

Advice From Nick Hornby

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

Be A Critic Please !

Last night I watched the launch of two new books online hosted by McNally Robinson Booksellers who will also host my book launch. The featured books were Colleen Nelson’s The Life and Deaths of Frankie D and Deborah Kerbel’s Like A Duck. After Colleen’s introduction during which her many awards were listed, she mentioned how uncomfortable she is with what I think she referred to as “the braggy part” of being an author.

Colleen realizes however, as all authors eventually do, particularly during the pandemic, that promoting your book and ‘bragging’ about yourself is just part and parcel of finding an audience for your novel. It has to be done if you want people to read your book.

This week I had to do one of those ‘braggy’ things because……….

Monica Miller the marketing and publicity coordinator for my publisher Heritage House asked me to make a short video promo for my novel Lost on the Prairie that is coming out at the end of May. A library wholesaler who distributes books for Heritage House is asking for filmed book introductions from authors to use at public library conferences and other events in Western Canada during May and June.

The target audience is teachers and librarians who will purchase the book for schools and public libraries. This is a market where I definitely need to capture interest if I want to sell all those thousands of copies of my books they are printing.

It is awfully hard to pick what you want to say about your book when you have less than three minutes to do it. Do I mention that I have a personal connection to the story? Should I talk about the fact that a great deal of the story takes place on the Sisseton Wahpeton First Nation in South Dakota? Should I talk about all the research I did for the book. Should I mention the study guide that is included?

So I made my video and I need to have an honest evaluation of it. I could use technical advice about my pacing, the sound quality and lighting and advice about the content. Should I focus on other aspects of the book than the ones I have? Do I come off as too old fashioned or ‘braggy’ as Colleen so aptly put it? Any wardrobe or hair suggestions for a different kind of look?

You can make comments in the place provided at the end of this post, or if you read this post on Facebook or Twitter leave the comments there, or message me on Facebook or even send me an e-mail at maryloudriedger@gmail.com. I need really honest feedback so critique away!

The only reason my book is getting published is because of all the criticism I received from my writers’ group, the contests to which I submitted parts of the book for criticism, the editors I sent it to who offered critiques, my early readers who evaluated the book and the professional editor Deborah Froese who did such a great job critiquing my initial draft.

Criticism is key to an author’s success. So critique away! I will be ever so grateful!

PS: After all the constructive criticism I received about my first video I made a new one which you can watch here.

Other posts about my novel Lost on the Prairie can be read here.

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Does a Female Finance Minister Make a Difference?

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland

This is what you get when Canada appoints its first female finance minister-a proposal for a national system of high-quality early learning and childcare, that is great for kids, pays for itself in long term benefits to society, creates jobs, reduces poverty, assists parents in unprecedented ways and helps women remain in the work force. 

Last week, at the Liberal Party policy convention Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that a nationwide early learning and childcare system will be a key piece in the Liberal government’s COVID-19 recovery plan. 

The pandemic has made it difficult for women to continue working while providing childcare

Ms. Freeland pointed out that the pandemic has caused a frightening decline in female workforce participation. Literally hundreds of thousands of Canadian mothers left their jobs to look after children when schools and daycares closed.

Prior to the pandemic women were providing 40% of household income. They were vital to their families’ financial security and the nation’s economic health. Experts agree it is not possible, for Canada to have a successful economic recovery post-pandemic without women going back to work. A universal daycare system in Canada will be a huge incentive and support as women seek to return to their jobs.

A national plan to provide quality early childhood education and daycare almost became a reality in 2005. The Liberals had crafted a ground -breaking agreement for universal childcare in Canada that had been officially agreed to by every province.  Unfortunately, in 2006 Stephen Harper was elected and dismantled the plan. Since then, political expediency has stood in the way of bringing it back. 

Ms. Freeland says the pandemic has created a childcare crisis for women and this gives our country a window of opportunity to finally provide federally funded affordable quality universal childcare to every Canadian family that needs and wants it. 

Leah Gazan NDP Critic for Children, Families, and Social Development

I know the New Democratic Party will be behind the plan because last summer my New Democratic Member of Parliament Leah Gazan was circulating a petition calling for a universal childcare and early learning program in Canada. I not only signed her petition but agreed to make regular donations to help Ms. Gazan in her quest. 

Conservative Members of Parliament that are anti-abortion as identified by Campaign for Life

 I hope the Conservative Party will lend support as well.  The Toronto Star has reported that more than 40 members of the current Conservative caucus are publicly anti-abortion supporters. Ms. Freeland’s proposal is their chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Research repeatedly shows that two of the most frequently cited reasons women give for having abortions are financial concerns and the impact the pregnancy could have on their careers. It makes sense that the availability of quality childcare would help ease those concerns and could conceivably further lower our country’s abortion rate which is already at its lowest point in more than a decade. 

I am only speculating that one of the reasons the Liberal government is making a federally funded childcare program a priority is because we have our first female finance minister. But I am sure it didn’t hurt. Ms. Freeland spoke for thirty minutes at the recent Liberal policy convention and spent almost the entire time talking about childcare. Our Deputy Prime Minister is the mother of three and well knows the challenges of managing both parenting and a career. When she was negotiating Canada’s NAFTA deal, she told a reporter that sometimes figuring out childcare arrangements for her three kids was almost as tricky as figuring out a trade agreement. 

I will be thrilled if the Liberal party goes through with their plan for an affordable national childcare and early education plan.  It will be good for kids, good for women, good for families and good for our country. 

Other posts………….

Politics is Tough

Paternity Leave- A Winning Scenario

Pro-Choice and Pro-Life- What Might We Have in Common?

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Filed under Canada, Family, Politics

Teacher Can You Spare A Dime?

Brian Pallister the Manitoba premier was taken to task last week for offering teachers a 15% tax credit for the first $1000 they spend on their classrooms. Many teachers were insulted saying if education was properly funded by Mr. Pallister’s government it wouldn’t be necessary for teachers to spend their own money on supplies to enrich the education program they offer to students.

Cartoon by Chris Chuckry used by permission.

I was a teacher for 35 years and can attest to the fact that I spent a great deal of my own money to stock my classroom. When I taught elementary school I bought rugs, pillows, puzzles, bookshelves, magazine racks, charts, toys, maps, math manipulatives, puppets and hundreds of books for my classroom. I even had a sand table custom-built.

With a class of my students at Elmdale School in the 1980s

I bought food stuffs for baking projects, gifts for children at Christmas, stickers, craft supplies and in the age before digital photography paid for film and developing hundreds of photos each year.  In one school I kept granola bars and other breakfast items in my cupboards for kids who weren’t getting breakfast at home. I also paid for professional conferences, books and courses.  

Some of my students at the Steinbach Regional Secondary School in 2006

As a high school teacher I bought a huge coffee maker and started brewing coffee and baking muffins to lure late sleepers to my first classes of the day. I invested in magazine subscriptions and bought hundreds of used books for my classroom to entice my teenagers to read for pleasure. I never kept track of how much money I spent on my students. It would have been too scary.

The phenomena of teachers spending their own money on their classrooms is not unique to Manitoba. A recent survey in Nova Scotia showed the average teacher there invested some $500 a year in their classroom and American teachers were more likely to invest double that.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

A Huffington Post article points out that the pandemic has upped the ante for many teachers who have invested their own money in all kinds of upgrades to their technology to make teaching from home or online more effective for their students.

One thing that concerned me as a university education department mentor was how much money my students were investing in their practicum teaching assignments in schools. My students paid for printing costs for learning games, mittens for kids, books to read to students, costumes for plays, writing journals, prizes for contests, art supplies and one junior high physical education teacher bought deodorant for the students who needed it. Most of my university students were already struggling to make ends meet and were working at part time jobs to cover their tuition costs. They couldn’t really afford to be investing money in the classrooms where they were interning.

I spent a great deal less of my own money on my classroom when I left the public school system to teach at a well funded private school in Hong Kong

During the years I was teaching in Manitoba I never got a dime in tax credit for the money I spent on my classroom and most people were shocked to learn how much of my personal coin I was doling out. Mr. Pallister’s recent statement at least recognizes that teachers are investing their own dollars in their students and he is giving teachers some compensation for that investment. But it is not something he should be encouraging teachers to do because in an adequately funded education system teachers wouldn’t find it necessary to spend nearly as much of their own money.

About twenty years ago Time Magazine ran a feature called Teacher Can You Spare a Dime which talked about all the money teachers spend on their classrooms and what could be done to change that. It appears that in the last two decades nothing has.

Other posts…….

My Dad Was Once A Teacher

A Bathtub in My Classroom

5 Things I Believe About Learning

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Filed under Education, Politics

A Different Kind of Table

Is that a picnic table behind me? It is but…….. it is also a work of art called Table of Contents.

Viewed from this angle the table could be a sculpture but one lying down instead of in an upright position as most sculpture are

Located in Winnipeg’s Vimy Ridge Park just off of Portage Avenue the long steel table pays tribute to the people of the surrounding Wolseley neighbourhood who are the primary users of the park.

The words Our Place or chez nous in French reflect the sense of community and belonging the artists were striving to convey as they designed Table of Contents.

There are words or quotes etched onto the table’s surface. They were submitted by folks who live nearby and are frequent users of the park. They were asked to comment on the importance of the park, its natural setting, or the history of the area.

These quotes talk about the natural elements of the park like the elm trees, mosquitoes, autumn leaves and the sky

There are many different languages used for the words on the table. This is indicative of the surrounding multi-cultural neighbourhood where Tagalog, Portuguese, French and English are spoken. Even Braille is represented. The words are etched on the table in a way that gives you something to read no matter which side of the table you are sitting on.

Messages promoting a positive community spirit are etched in various languages and in Braille

Designed by Eduardo Aquino, a University of Manitoba architecture professor who originally hails from Brazil and Karen Shanski who is a practising Winnipeg architect, the table/sculpture is located at a spot where many of the walking paths in Vimy Ridge Park converge. Aquino and Shanski refer to the words on the table they created as a ‘landscape of language.’ It was important to them that the people who used the table would recognize themselves in the words on its surface. They hoped the table would be a place for people to gather to talk with each other and listen to each other.

Architects Eduardo Aquino and Karen Shanski pose for a photo next to another project they designed on the Osborne Bridge. Photo by Boris Minkevich from the Winnipeg Free Press

I am in the park frequently these days on regular stroller rides with my granddaughter whose home is nearby and I have seen people eating, visiting, sleeping, reading, smoking, taking a break from cycling and playing chess at the table. From what I’ve observed the table is fulfilling the purpose it was designed for.

Neat poem on the far side… Trees sway, children play, Hurray! I wonder if it was written by a child? I also like the sentiments A Place of Happy Memories and Always Love Those Beside You


Other posts………

He Looks Kind

The Guess Who

Between Dog and Wolf


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Filed under Art, Winnipeg

Don’t Speak German

“My father told us never to speak German when we were in town and to tell people we were from Holland.”

My Mom with her family around 1940

I was interviewing my mother for a story I wrote about her life. I was surprised when she said during World War II her Dad warned them not to talk German when they went into the nearby town of Drake, Saskatchewan, even though they routinely spoke German to their grandmother at home. If anyone asked them where their family was from they were to answer Holland.

Mom’s Mennonite grandparents had not come from Holland. They had immigrated to Kansas from Russia and Poland respectively in 1875 and then in the early 1900s they immigrated once again this time to Saskatchewan where the government was offering new settlers free 160 acre homesteads.

Through both migrations they maintained their mother tongue of German. But during World War II that became a liability since Canada was at war with Germany.

The Kansas School in Drake Saskatchewan

Mom told me that most of the Mennonite children in the Drake area went to the Kansas School, named after the state of Kansas where the Mennonite families had lived before immigrating to Canada. According to Mom children from a neighbouring school vandalized the Kansas School during the war because there was real antagonism towards the German speaking Mennonites.

Last week I was looking up something about my Mennonite family from Drake Saskatchewan and found an old newspaper article in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that corroborated Mom’s feeling there had been ill will towards the German speaking Mennonites in Drake.

The story said that a group of men from Drake called the Canadian Corps had paid a surprise visit to the Kansas School which claimed to be holding Bible classes after school hours. The classes were being taught by a young man from Rosthern Saskatchewan. When the Canadian Corp entered the school they found many of the books being used for the Bible class were in German and there was German writing on the blackboard. The children were sent home and the teacher escorted to the train station where the local men bought him a ticket to go back to Rosthern. They sang O Canada as the Bible teacher’s train pulled out.

Mom was definitely right when she said her family had been treated suspiciously during the war. I wonder if this happened in other small Canadian communities with German speaking Mennonite populations.

Other posts………

Blueprints of My Grandparent’s House

My Grandmother’s Shoes

My Aunt’s Autograph Book

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Filed under Family, History

Celebrating My Siblings

It seems that every year I am a day late to celebrate siblings day which was April 10th. Perhaps that is because I don’t need a special day to celebrate my siblings. I appreciate them every day. A day rarely goes by when I am not in touch with at least one of my brothers or my sister.

My mother to the far right and her siblings

I am very grateful to my parents who were terrific role models. They both had very strong and supportive relationships with their siblings.

My sister and I enjoying margaritas after swimming in a cenote in Mexico

My sister Kaaren and I are only sixteen months apart and during our teen years we had our differences, but as adults she is one of the people I count on most. She has a clear head and can see situations in a pragmatic way even when I can’t. Kaaren and her husband Ken have been our traveling companions on adventures in Iceland, Germany, Croatia, Mexico, Arizona, Vietnam and Fiji. My sister was an administrator in the health care field before she retired and now she lends her expertise to various boards and committees.

With my brother Ken in Kunming, China

My brother Ken moved to Victoria almost a year ago but we are in regular contact and I can hardly wait for COVID to be over so I can head out to the west coast to visit him and his partner Harvey in their new home just a short walk from the ocean. Ken says they have already planned many things we are going to do together. Ken has been one of my biggest cheerleaders when it comes to my writing career and is my first reader on many of my writing pieces. He is a retired teacher who reads voraciously, writes music, meditates, travels extensively and practices yoga daily.

With my brother Mark on a boat ride at Moose Lake

My brother Mark is an optimist. Right now we are on a pretty tough journey as we deal with our Dad’s health care needs. I can count on my brother Mark to see the humour in things and to offer practical help and support. Mark and his wife Kathy have bought the cottage at Moose Lake that has been in our family for three generations and they take wonderful care of it. Mark has a degree in agriculture and is the Sales and Marketing Manager for a large innovative company that researches, develops and manufactures feed technology

I am deeply grateful for my siblings and the way they enrich my life.

Other posts……….

Siblings That Get Along

Early Morning Walk At Moose Lake

Siblings -More Important As You Grow Older

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We Are Vaccinated But…….

Sporting my vaccination sticker just outside the vaccination clinic

We are now among the vaccinated. My husband Dave and I got our Pfizer vaccines yesterday at the RBC Convention Centre. I admit I got a little teary when they were giving Dave the vaccine. I hadn’t expected that. There is definitely a sense of relief that within two weeks we will be protected from the worst effects of COVID-19.

Dave chose to change his Winnipeg Jets hat into a I’m Vaccinated hat

Everything at the Convention Centre was very organized and each person who directed us professional. We were back on the street 20 minutes after our scheduled appointment time and that included waiting the mandatory 15 minutes after our injections to be sure we were okay. I know there have been many glitches reported at the mass vaccination site downtown but we experienced a smoothly run operation.

I am very glad to have been vaccinated but my anxiety has not really been diminished by much. With the variants on the rise and those variants hitting much younger people I now worry about my sons who have jobs where they interact with the public. My older son is a school vice principal in Saskatchewan where a third wave of COVID-19 has already hit. Yesterday nearly 300 doctors in the province, including my daughter-in-law, signed a letter to Premier Scott Moe asking him to start vaccinating essential workers like teachers. Mr. Moe is taking their recommendation under advisement. I would gladly have given my son my spot in the vaccination line if I could have.

Dr. Joss Reimer who is coordinating the vaccine effort here in Manitoba warned us yesterday that the third wave is upon us in our province and we need to be extremely vigilant about not spreading COVID-19. She suggested wearing masks even when we are together with others outdoors. Talking on Face Time with friends last night who have also been vaccinated, Dave and I realized we are not being as vigilant as they are, since we still go into stores with masks and take our masks off when we are outdoors. Perhaps at least till this third wave abates we need to go back to curb side pick up only, and wear our masks for outdoor activities with others. Dr. Reimer implied that if people don’t show more caution, the government will have to implement stricter regulations.

Last April I posted a picture on my blog of me ready for a bike ride on a chilly April morning. It seems like things haven’t changed much since then.

I am happy to be vaccinated, but even after two weeks from now when our dose will reach full effect, I think we will need to continue to be very careful as long is there is a chance we could still spread COVID-19. For over a year now I’ve kept thinking that a more normal life is just around the corner. But probably till many more people are vaccinated that corner is still down the road.

Other posts……….

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

Family Pandemic Firsts That Make Me Proud and Happy

My Polio Vaccines

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

Another Modelling Gig

Last week I wrote about how I had once served as a model for an art class. I had another modelling experience when Dave and I took a cruise down the Yangtze River on the ship The Eastern King. There were about two hundred people on board. There were ten American and Canadian school teachers in our group but the other travellers were all Asian. Our party was in great demand as photography models.

With a woman who asked me to pose with her on our boat on the Yangtze River

Our cruise mates all seemed anxious to return home with a picture of themselves in the company of one of us North Americans. Except for our party none of the passengers on board spoke English and so when our tour group arrived at a scenic site we were repeatedly asked via lots of gestures to pose with our fellow travellers. It seemed the ‘thing to do’ was to be photographed with your arm around a North American against the backdrop of China’s stunningly beautiful river gorges.

This woman found it very amusing when I asked her to pose with me

Once with the help of an English speaking member of the crew I asked a woman to stand beside me while my husband Dave took our photo. She laughed for a long time but finally obliged. It was interesting how it seemed perfectly natural for our cruise companions to ask me to pose, so their husbands or friends could snap our picture but when I requested the same thing they were surprised.

Other posts………

Wrestling Farmers

How Do You Like Living in Japan?

Bamboo Boat Trackers

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Filed under China