Category Archives: COVID-19 Diary

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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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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This Week……….

Human life is as short-lived as grass. Psalm 103:15

During the pandemic, it often seems my weeks flow by and on Sunday I think what did I even do in the last seven days? The calendar in my day planner is usually pretty empty, with at most one thing a day jotted down for me to remember. It used to be jam-packed, especially at this time of year when I was busy visiting my university students in their schools and giving lots of tours at the art gallery. Sometimes at the end of the week, I just need to write things down so I know what I did. It is always more than I thought.

Went on a long bike ride probably 24 kilometres or so. It was chilly but invigorating.

Took our granddaughter for a nearly two hour walk in her stroller.

We went out to Landmark to the home of good friends Fran and Marge for a marvellous meal around a fire in their backyard. They had made a delicious pork roast on the barbecue served up with two delicious salads and a blueberry cheesecake for dessert. My friend Marge has been working on all kinds of sewing projects during the pandemic. She’s made a quilt to commemorate Covid-19 and is working on denim picnic blankets as graduation presents for two of her grandchildren.

My most popular blog post this week was about my Mennonite great grandmother who was born in a Jewish village.

Wrote a blog post everyday.

Got Easter baskets and birthday presents ready to send off in the mail. Normally we make a spring trip to Saskatoon to celebrate Easter and the three spring birthdays of our grandchildren there. Of course, we can’t make the trip this year so a box of gifts has to take our place.

Worked on a new jigsaw puzzle, a trade with our friends Tom and Donelda. It features all of these interesting gnomes engaged in various activities. It is tough but I never sit down to do it without finding at least a few pieces to slip into place.

Lots of talks on the phone and via Zoom with my three siblings as we try to plan for the best kind of care for our Dad and share the joy of a new addition to our extended family.

Biked to a Ukranian deli we hadn’t visited before to pick up some perogies, perishky and cabbage rolls.

Read a chapter I had written for my work in progress 60s Girl to my writers’ group in our Zoom session. Overall they liked it but as always had some good suggestions for me to think about.

Baked a batch of cookies. Before the pandemic, Dave and I often didn’t have dessert but now we seem to need something sweet to go with our evening cup of tea.

Did the crossword puzzle in the Saturday paper.

Almost finished reading We Are All Perfectly Fine by Jillian Horton which is the book being discussed by the Winnipeg Free Press book club on Monday.

Went for a refreshing but slightly chilly walk at Oak Hammock Marsh with our son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Arranged some of the items I’ve had published over the years on my dining room table so my husband Dave could take photos with his camera. This is for the new author website I am working on for the release of my book in May.

Attended a book club via Zoom where we interviewed the authors of the new middle-grade novel The Fantastic Zed Watson.

Went grocery shopping.

Wrote my Carillon column.

Watched two movies The Present and Super Nova. They both made me cry.

Wrote a talk I am going to give via Zoom next week at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach about my life as an author.

Another week starts today. I wonder what will fill its days?

Other posts…….

Missing the People We Used To Be

On the Boardwalk

Puzzling My Way Through the Pandemic

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Breathe

You constantly hear his breath going in and out. 

Breathe stars Andrew Garfield and Diana Foy

My friend Gwen recommended the Netflix movie Breathe to me.  It is the touching true story of Robin Cavendish who contracted polio in the 1950s while living and working in Africa. He and his wife Diana are determined that despite his paralysis he is going to have a quality of life. How they go about doing that provides a lively and inspiring story of love and courage.  

The Cavendish family maintains a wide circle of friends

Not only does the couple manage to carve out a rich and full existence for themselves they help many others along the way.  The film is especially meaningful because it was made by Diana and Robin’s son Jonathan who is a successful British movie producer.  

Diana and Robin raise money to provide wheelchairs for many other polio victims

Jonathan said in interviews that he hadn’t really realized till he was making the movie how his parents’ example had brought about significant changes for people who were physically challenged, especially those suffering from the lingering effects of polio. 

Breathe is a particularly fitting movie for our current situation when a contagious airborne disease is impacting the lives of so many just as polio did.

One thing I found interesting is that throughout most of the movie there is this background noise of Robin’s ventilator breathing in and out for him. I could still hear it in my head even after the movie was over. It is a vivid reminder to the viewer that every breath we take is precious. 

Robin and Diana’s options and choices were severely limited because of Robin’s polio but they made the most of life anyway. They made Robin’s every breath count.  During a time when our options have been limited by COVID-19, we would do well to follow their family’s example. 

Other posts………

The Breath of Life

The Salmon Saved Him

What is Your Body Saying? 

 

 

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Television Talk

Before the pandemic, my husband Dave and I had busy social and work lives that often kept us apart for most of the day. We both had very different part-time jobs. We were each involved in a host of our own community, sports and service ventures, and we each pursued unique interests and passions. Although we had lots of friends as a couple, we each had our own circle of friends as well.

The great thing about being apart for most of the day was that in the evening over supper we had all these interesting things to talk about because we had both done such different things during the day.

However, during the pandemic, we have been together almost ALL THE TIME! Granted we’ve had some wonderful adventures together and our time cooped up in our apartment with one another has gone pretty peacefully and happily. But with our lives so intertwined, what do we talk about at supper now?

Our television shows! Dave and I have very divergent tastes in viewing preferences and so while he is watching a show on the television in the living room I am usually watching something completely different on the computer in my study.

Recently he has been intrigued by a series called The Walking Dead. It is not my cup of tea at all but Dave says if you can get past the brutal killing of zombies in each episode the series is really an insightful reflection on the meaning of life and is especially relevant to our current pandemic situation. He loves telling me all about it.

I have been watching New Amsterdam a Netflix series set in a modern hospital. Each episode raises one or more important issues in the health care field and while these problems are usually unrealistically resolved by the end of each show, I find the drama entertaining and thought-provoking. I love telling Dave all about it.

I have to admit I am looking forward to the end of the pandemic when each of us will once again be off pursuing our own activities and we will have had all kinds of interesting individual experiences from our days apart to talk about with each other at the dinner table, but until then we are keeping the communication lines open with……………. television talk.

Other posts………..

Four Ground Rules for Good Communication

The Twilight Zone

Is It Good To Be Lazy?

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The Long Year

Getting ready to hit the links at the Star Fire Golf Course in Arizona just before the pandemic started with Dave’s brother Paul and our sister-in-law Shirley

Exactly a year ago today my blog post was about how we were heading home to Manitoba cutting short our stay in Arizona by three weeks. We were so disappointed!! Plans had been made for our children and grandchildren to join us in Arizona at the end of March and now that wouldn’t be happening.

On a wild flower walk in the Arizona desert with friends

Some of our Canadian friends in Arizona thought we were being hasty in leaving but it wouldn’t be long till they followed us. We were basing our decision on the advice of the Prime Minister as well as that of our daughter-in-law’s brother Jerome Leis who is the medical director of infection prevention and control at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. He had been treating the first Canadian COVID patients.

Dr. Jerome Leis Sunnybrook Hospital- photo from the Windsor Star

This week Jerome gave several television interviews about what it had been like a year ago to realize the COVID virus had reached Canada. He described the changes that have happened over the last twelve months in the field of health care and commented on how the vaccines have given him reason for hope.

It made me think about how long this last year has been for me and all the changes in my life it has created with no travel, no family hugs, no parties, no plays, no concerts, no sporting events, no church services and no employment. It made me think about how my Dad’s dementia has spiralled, how my oldest three grandchildren have grown since I saw them last and how we haven’t had a family reunion for any of the important holidays.

Taking my new granddaughter for a walk down at The Forks

I am also well aware however of how important it is for me to count the many blessings of the past long year. We have a beautiful healthy little granddaughter that we didn’t know was going to come into our lives a year ago. During the months our Saskatoon grandchildren were out of school we were able to have regular story times with them via the computer screen. What fun each week to think of incidents from our family history to tell them about!

Discovering the Madeleine Vrignon public art piece Maple Seeds at St. Boniface College

We have walked and biked so many scenic trails we didn’t even know existed in Winnipeg and discovered all kinds of wonderful public art we’d never noticed before. I signed a book contract and my life-long dream to have a novel published will come true in 2021. I could go on and on.

One year ago today our lives took a pivot we hadn’t planned. I am sad about the things that year has stolen from me, happy about the gifts that year has given me, and hopeful for a future where what I have both sacrificed and gained will remind me to take one day at a time and accept that equal measures of blessing and loss are a part of the package that makes up a meaningful life.

Other posts……..

Wildflower Hike

Cenote Swim

Pandemic Grandparenting

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A Puzzling Speech in Parliament

I listened to the speech Provencher Member of Parliament Ted Falk gave last week in the House of Commons. He called on the federal government to end pandemic restrictions.  Mr Falk talked about the negative effect of lockdowns on businesses and families.  He demanded the Liberal government provide timelines on vaccines, the lifting of restrictions, and the recovery of the economy.  He said we need to protect the vulnerable, provide vaccines to those who want them, and let everyone else live their lives. 

I suspect Mr Falk was voicing the frustration of many of his constituents when he talked about closed businesses, lost jobs and the inability to visit elderly loved ones.  And while there may be value in airing such frustration, I found everything else about Mr Falk’s speech truly puzzling.  

The federal government has implemented travel restrictions. They are supported by 90% of Canadians according to a recent poll published in the National Post. All other restrictions, like business and church closures, and a ceiling on the number of people who can gather in a home, have been imposed by the provinces.  Interestingly the majority of provinces have Conservative governments. They belong to Mr Falk’s political party.  Wouldn’t it be more productive for him to discuss restrictions with his provincial Conservative colleagues instead of the members of Parliament? Most restrictions fall under provincial jurisdiction.  Surely Mr Falk knows this. 

Secondly, Mr Falk is not speaking for most Canadians.  That poll published by the National Post showed 65% of Canadians support restricting people to their homes except to avail themselves of essential services or to provide them to others. 71% agree we should have to carry a health card proving we have been vaccinated. Mr Falk’s suggestion that we open everything up, let people choose without accountability whether to have vaccines and simply allow everyone to live their lives, does not resonate with the majority of Canadians at all. Surely Mr Falk knows this. 

Everything about this pandemic is new so it is impossible to produce definitive timelines for when it will end

Mr. Falk’s demands for timelines regarding the lifting of restrictions, vaccine roll out and economic recovery just aren’t realistic. We are in the middle of a pandemic of a kind never experienced before. The vaccines that have been developed are brand new and so problems with production and distribution are bound to happen. It will be some time before we fully understand just how effective vaccines can be in the long term. Scientists can make educated predictions about when the pandemic may be under control, thus allowing for the lifting of restrictions and the beginning of economic recovery, but there is no way to produce a definitive timeline like the one Mr. Falk is requesting. Surely, he knows that.  

Mr Falk’s final statement is truly puzzling.  He wants us to protect the vulnerable but let everyone else live exactly as they like.  Yet we know that if everyone lives exactly as they like we will not be able to protect the vulnerable. That has been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic and in quite a dramatic way in Mr Falk’s own riding which was the only one in the province that had to shut down schools before Christmas because of the high infection and death rate amongst the vulnerable.  Surely Mr Falk knows this.

Mr Falk probably had a limited time for his Parliamentary speech, but it would have been much more effective if he could have backed up his entreaties for a quick end to restrictions and his lack of a hearty endorsement for vaccines, with some sort of scientific research, expert opinion or facts that supported his views.  Surely Mr Falk knows this. Or does he? 

Other posts……….

Life Liberty and Family

Human Rights and February Holidays

Candice and That Hat

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Stuck!

My husband Dave has been on a quest to walk every single meter of the Seine River as it winds its way through Winnipeg. At the start of this week, we had almost accomplished his goal.

Monday we traversed the section near the Niakwa Country Club and yesterday we were going to finish the last two small sections that had alluded us till now. We walked one, but I was just a little nervous because the weather was so warm and sometimes the ice creaked and crackled beneath our feet and there was some water on the surface of the river. Dave walked ahead banging the ice with a stick he carried to be sure it was still solid. Eventually, I grew too faint of heart and moved to a path beside the river while Dave ploughed on down its centre.

I was all for giving up our quest once the first remaining section was complete, but Dave was determined to walk the one last small part of the Seine we had missed during our winter walks. So we drove to it and Dave went down a nearby residential street to park. At the entrance to the street was an open field lined with signs inviting you to park for a two-hour limit so Dave pulled over. When I wanted to get out of the car a wall of snow met my door. Dave was puzzled but said he’d move the car so I could get out.

It wasn’t going to happen. A narrow ditch ran along the side of the road where we had parked and it was full of snow. The passenger side of our car had sunk into it pretty deeply. No matter how Dave tried to drive forward or back the car was STUCK!

Dave dug around the wheels with his hands. I drove and he pushed. We were STUCK!

Dave had to listen to a lecture about his poor driving skills before obtaining a shovel to try and dig us out

I spotted a snow shovel leaned up against a nearby house and Dave went over and rang the bell to ask if he might borrow it. The elderly gentleman who answered was crotchety and irritated. He told Dave he was only one of many people who had been stuck in that ditch and blamed Dave for his poor driving and poor judgement. After Dave had listened patiently to his irate lecture the man finally begrudged him the use of his shovel. However, no amount of shovelling helped move our car. We were STUCK.

Our eventual saviour spread sand under our wheels

Finally, another nearby resident came out of his house with a pail full of sand. With the help of the sand under our wheels and the kind man’s strong back and arms helping Dave push the car, we managed to back it out of its snowy trap.

As we drove down the street heading home we could see where several other cars had gotten stuck just like we had

By this time I needed to leave to take my Dad to a medical appointment so Dave’s determination to finish our winter conquering of the Seine was not to be. I am afraid with warmer temperatures making river conditions even more trepidatious today if Dave does decide to finish his quest I won’t be accompanying him.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lucky twist of fate may have caused us to get trapped in that ditch thus preventing us from making a final river walk that might have proved even more disastrous than getting STUCK!

Other posts……..

Walking on the Seine

Looking for the Spirit of the Woods

Burning My Toes

Nature’s Artwork

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Paint By Number

My maternal grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt

My grandmother Annie Schmidt was fond of doing paint by number projects. I can remember being fascinated as a child as I watched her work on them.

After I finished my last puzzle- a timeline of great art pieces, I was looking for something a little different to try that served the same function as a puzzle does for me. I needed something I could work on with my hands, that got my eyes away from screens and was calming and interesting.

My friend Marie told me she had completed a paint by number picture of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. That sounded like what I might be looking for, so I ordered one too. I found filling in the canvas a great stress reliever and an enjoyable project.

With Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art

I have seen Van Gogh’s Starry Night in the Museum of Modern Art in New York

and I caught a glimpse of it again when we went to the Van Gogh show at the Convention Centre here in a Winnipeg in October where they projected a huge version of Starry Night onto a screen.

My version is quite different but it was a fun project to complete over the last week or so.

We are living in a time when we are confined to our homes a great deal and Van Gogh painted Starry Night during a time when he was confined to the building and grounds of a mental hospital where he was a patient. Painting brought him peace and equilibrium. Doing a paint by number version of his masterpiece brought me moments of peace and equilibrium as well.

Other posts………

Are All Artists Troubled?

Imagine Van Gogh. Thumbs Up or Down?

Advice From Nick Hornby

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Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary

Crying Is Required

As the pandemic wears on I will be the first to admit that I cry much more easily and more often than I did before. I know that my situation is not unique and that I am better off than many. But when I think about how long it has been since I have seen my three grandchildren and my son and daughter-in-law in Saskatoon I get teary. I realized the other day that I have not hugged my son and daughter-in-law here in Winnipeg for over a year. Their little four-month-old daughter only sees my face on a screen or with a mask on.

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

I have not gone back to the Winnipeg Art Gallery since I was laid off from my job there because I think as soon as I walked through the doors I’d start to cry remembering how much I loved being there and loved talking about art with our visitors.

When I let myself think too much about the impact the pandemic has had on my father’s dementia the tears can flow before I know it.

The other day I watched one of those Flash Mob videos where a crowd of musicians gathers slowly to perform an instrumental and vocal rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and I was weeping by the end thinking about how long it has been since I have sung a hymn with others or have listened to a choir perform in person.

I photographed the Tear Drop Temple in Jerusalem

When I visited Jerusalem I went to the Dominus Flevit Temple. It is also known as the Tear Drop Temple because its roof is shaped like a teardrop. The temple was designed and placed on the Mount of Olives in memory of Jesus’ tears.

Inside the Dominus Flavit Temple

The Bible records two times when Jesus cried. Once was at the death of his good friend Lazarus and another was when he was overcome with sorrow because he knew what was going to happen to the people of Jerusalem. The Tear Drop Temple is said to be built on the spot where Jesus wept.

There are times when we all need a good cry. There is nothing wrong with tears. They are not a sign of weakness. Tears can relieve stress and provide a good emotional release. Tears are a healthy sign of our humanity and vulnerability. During these pandemic times, a good cry should probably be a regular requirement.

American writer Rita Schiano says “Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow.”

Jesus knew that. We need to remember it too.

Other posts………

Tears in A Bottle

Dad’s Sacred Trees

A Peaceful Mind and Heart

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