Category Archives: COVID-19 Diary

Gandalf Is Right- Heather Stefanson is Wrong

Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.  -Gandalf in The Hobbit by Tolkien

Gandalf from Wiki Art

I have been thinking about that quote from The Hobbit recently in connection with the great evil of this seemingly endless pandemic that continues to upend our lives. How does one keep the darkness at bay?

We tend to look to our governments for leadership and direction about how to hold the pandemic in check but sadly often that leadership and direction is politically motivated, uninformed by science, or influenced primarily by economic considerations.

Contrary to the belief that the great powers of this world will ease the threat of the pandemic Gandalf’s wisdom implies that what will really stem the tide of COVID-19 are simple acts of kindness and love.

Like….. getting a vaccination, wearing a mask, social distancing and isolating when we are ill. Doing those things isn’t just following mandates that may or may not be the rule of law where we live. It is demonstrating that we love our neighbours and will do our part to achieve the best possible outcomes for our communities.

Photo of Heather Stefanson from her Twitter page

On Wednesday Premier Heather Stefanson told Manitobans that the government can’t protect them any longer from the effects of the Omicron strand of COVID. She said, “people have to learn to protect themselves.” She is wrong. We have to do far more than protect ourselves. We also have to help protect those around us.

I see folks doing that all the time.

I know people who are offering child care to young parents who have to continue to go to work. Some parents are feeling apprehensive about daycare and school settings right now especially for children too young to be vaccinated or children who have medical conditions. Grandparents and other seniors are stepping into the breach to care for little ones and protect them.

I have retired friends who are working as assistants to direct traffic and collect data at a vaccination clinic.

I know people who are leaving meals or groceries outside the doors of neighbours and family members who are isolated due to COVID.

On social media, I see announcements that people are willing to share their stock of N95 masks with others.

So many people I know are taking a temporary hiatus from their sports activities, friend gatherings, indoor restaurant dining and other social activities to slow the spread of Omicron so hospitals won’t get overwhelmed.

The Winnipeg Free Press ran a story on January 10th about retired Steinbach pharmacist Hans Epp who is volunteering at a vaccine clinic on Osborne Street

I know people in the health field who are coming out of retirement or using their days off to staff vaccination clinics.

People are donating money to programs that are trying to get vaccines to vulnerable populations both here in Canada and in other countries.

Gandalf said, “It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”  

Gandalf realized the enormous potential in simple acts of kindness and love. We would do well to take his wisdom to heart right now.

Other posts………

Boosted and Optimistic

One Reason I Am Hopeful

Could You Get A Vaccination For My Dad

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Bopping Around My Condo

Since Dave and I began limiting our social contacts in deference to the latest wave of Omicron I am confined to our condo for the major part of the day. To keep from getting claustrophobic and feeling too trapped I have placed things I like to do in every room of the house. This gets me up and moving throughout the day.

Puzzling in the Diningroom

My latest jigsaw puzzle is always on the dining room table. I just finished one about board games and now I’m doing one that was a Christmas gift from my friend Wendy depicting a version of Renoir’s Dance at Moulin de la galette. It is TOUGH. But I am making daily progress. When it’s time to eat I just cover the puzzle with a tablecloth.

Exercising and Watching Television in the Livingroom

I have a few workout routines I follow while I watch television in the living room since I haven’t been able to go to the gym. During Jeopardy which we watch every day, I do exercises with my weights and while we are watching movies or a television series, I pedal my little cycle. The latest movie we watched was Don’t Look Up. We are about to start the series, Anxious People.

Embroidering and Writing in My Study

I am embroidering in my rocking chair in our second bedroom/study. I did a post a while back about how my grandmother had taught me to embroider and I wanted to try it too. I ordered a beginners kit and I am working on learning the different stitches as I complete it.

My study is also my main writing spot. I write my blogs, newspaper columns, speeches and novels here at my desk. It is also where I have my zoom meetings. This afternoon I will be the guest at a book club via zoom. They are discussing my novel Lost on the Prairie.

Crosswords in the Kitchen

For some reason, I like to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper at the kitchen counter. The light is great and I usually have my breakfast and coffee on the side as I tackle it.

Napping in the Bedroom

I must admit I like to nap more these days, especially after we’ve gone for a long walk, I’ve had a glass of wine with a meal or I’ve spent the day caring for my adorable one-year-old granddaughter. I can shut the door to the bedroom and turn out the light and catch a few winks. It’s one of the benefits of being retired.

Reading in the Bathroom

No disrespect to author Andrew Unger who is a friend but his latest book is in my bathroom. It is the perfect place for this anthology of posts from Andrew’s hilarious blog The Daily Bonnet. Andrew pokes fun at many traditional Mennonite cultural customs and stereotypes in his blog and more often than not uses humour to get his readers to think about the news of the day or current social issues from a new perspective. I can easily make time to read one entry from his book on a visit to the bathroom.

I am waiting for the pandemic to end so I can go to the gym to exercise, read in a comfy chair at the library, write at my neighbourhood coffee shop, do a puzzle with my sister, and go to the Free Press Cafe or Salisbury House on Saturday morning to attempt the crossword over a delicious breakfast. But…….. until then bopping around to a different room for different activities seems to be one way to keep me from going stir crazy in my condo.

Other posts………

The Missing Piece

A Crossword Puzzle Achievement

What I Liked About the Novel Once Removed

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Mr Schuler Is No Champion For Liberty

“Liberty has a price. Today I paid for mine.”   

Message from MLA Ron Schuler’s Twitter page

I was intrigued by this very dramatic tweet from Mr Ron Schuler member of the Manitoba legislature for Springfield-Ritchot, after Premier Heather Stefanson removed him from her cabinet on December 30th.  Although the premier did not give a reason for her decision it is widely believed, and Mr Schuler’s tweet seems to reinforce this, that the former Minister of Infrastructure was ousted from his post because he refused to reveal his vaccination status.  He had repeatedly stated that such medical information was personal, and it was his right not to make it public. 

I wondered why Mr Schuler had chosen the word liberty in his tweet. John Stuart Mill, a venerable source on the word’s meaning, said when he penned his famous book On Liberty in 1859, that liberty meant individuals ought to be free to do as they wish unless they are causing harm to others. 

Was Mr Schuler causing harm to others? If he hadn’t been vaccinated and had been encouraging his constituents not to be vaccinated a clear case could be made that he was deliberately causing harm. But was he causing harm by merely withholding his vaccination status? 

Imagine the Conservative Party took to heart Mr Schuler’s belief that citizens should not be forced to disclose their vaccination status.  It would mean the elimination of all restrictions imposed on the non-vaccinated because no one would be required to reveal their vaccination status for any reason. With Manitoba Health’s most recent data showing that you are twenty-six times more likely to be admitted to an ICU if you are not vaccinated and seventeen times more likely to die, it is clear that allowing unvaccinated people to gather without restrictions, which is what would happen if we followed Mr Schuler’s line of thinking, could cause enormous harm.  

Another consideration is that Mr Schuler is in a position of power, especially in his own riding where he is popular.  His unwillingness to reveal his vaccination status could be seen as a way to avoid being forthright on an issue that could save the lives of some of his constituents who trust him and would follow his example if he were to publicly admit he was vaccinated. Stuart Mill in On Liberty notes that sometimes inaction is as harmful as action. 

If we use the Stuart Mill definition of liberty then Mr Schuler’s liberty has not been violated because his stance could lead to harm for others. 

Public Domain photo of Mr Schuler from Wikipedia

Mr Schuler has not been arrested.  He has not been removed from the Conservative caucus or banned from the legislature.  His liberties have really not been compromised in any meaningful way.  He chose to take a stance that was contrary to the official stance of his political party and was removed from an appointed position in that party because of it.  The same thing would happen to any of us if we directly contradicted the policy of an organization that had admitted us to its ranks with the expectation we would follow its dictates.

Mr Schuler is still at liberty to keep his vaccination status private, at liberty to run for the legislature again, at liberty to remain a Manitoba citizen, at liberty to avail himself of our health care system and at liberty to leave the Conservative Party.  Exactly what liberties has he lost?  

Despite his overly dramatic assessment of what his removal from the provincial cabinet signifies Mr Schuler should not be viewed as some stalwart champion of liberty.  He may want to consider what the word liberty means before using it again. 

Other posts………

Life, Liberty and Family

In New York We……….

The Berlin Wall in Toronto

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Have You Played Wordle?

I read about the online word puzzle Wordle from an article in the New York Times on Monday. It was created by an engineer from Brooklyn named Josh Wardle for his partner Palak Shah. Palak loves word games so during one of the pandemic lockdowns, Josh set this one up for her. Palak enjoyed it so much Josh decided to share it online so others could play.

You get six tries to figure out a five-letter word and after each try, you are told which of the letters you guessed are in the word and whether or not they are in the correct position.

I’m not great at word games. I’ve never beat my husband Dave at Scrabble in almost fifty years of marriage and as he flies through the New York Times crossword puzzle every Saturday I struggle to finish the simpler one the Winnipeg Free Press carries on the same page.

So…….. I wasn’t sure Wordle would be for me. I tried it on Monday and Tuesday and didn’t even come close to guessing the word of the day. But…….when I tried it this morning I SOLVED IT !!

Part of the appeal of Wordle is you only get to play it once a day. When you are done a timer tells you how many hours it will be till a new puzzle is posted.

There are 12,000 five-letter words in the English language but Josh and Palak have figured out which are the 2,500 most common ones and those are the words being used on Wordle.

During this new pandemic phase when I am not socializing and spending most of my time at home WORDLE is going to be a neat way to start my day!

I did take a screenshot of my winning solution to today’s puzzle but then I realized if I inserted it into this post that would mean you couldn’t play it. So give it a try and let me know if you solved it!

Other posts………..

A Puzzling Achievement

Learning A New Word

Extra Crispy

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Boosted And Optimistic

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

We got our booster shots for COVID 19 on Thursday. It was quite a different experience than having our first two vaccinations because this time we didn’t need to go down to the Convention Centre and stand in line with hundreds of other people.

Posing for my requisite photo after vaccine number one

We just walked around the corner to the Exchange District Clinic and Pharmacy near our home. The medical office is located in a beautifully restored heritage building and the staff were efficient and friendly. We were on our way back home in no time. No fancy stickers were handed out and we didn’t take a selfie to share on social media like we had after our first two shots. This was getting pretty routine.

While we were in the clinic waiting room a man walked in who didn’t have an appointment. He was wondering if they might have an opening so he could have his first vaccination. The receptionist told him they were fully booked. He seemed quite anxious. “If anybody cancels or if you have any shots left at the end of the day could you call me? I work just down the street.” The receptionist took down his phone number and assured him they would let him know if an appointment opened up or there were some extra vaccines available.

Photo from the University of Manitoba website

I was very curious about what had prompted this person who up till now had not bothered to be vaccinated to suddenly seem in such a hurry to have his first shot. Had someone he knew come down with COVID and that frightened him? Was he planning a trip and would need to be vaccinated to travel? Had a family member or someone he loved finally convinced him to get the shot? Was the news about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant scaring him?

I hope the young man who walked into the clinic was able to get his first vaccination later on Thursday. Seeing him reminded me that hard as it is to change people’s minds about getting vaccinated there are still people making that decision for the first time and that boosted my optimism that we will eventually get out of this pandemic.

Other posts…….

Admitting I Am A Mennonite on the Golf Course

They Wore Masks Too

One Reason I Am Hopeful

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In The Winnipeg Free Press

A couple of weeks ago I was venting to a group of friends about how frustrated I was feeling at the people in Southern Health who aren’t vaccinated.

My Dad had just received an award for his outstanding service to the health region and yet I felt the failure of so many people in that region to get vaccinated was one of the reasons Dad was virtually trapped in his nursing home and couldn’t have any genuine interactions with his family. One of my friends said……. “Have you ever thought of writing about that in your newspaper column in The Carillon?”

Her words kept rattling around in my head so for my Carillon column last Thursday I did write about it. I had hesitated out of a desire to respect my Dad’s dignity and our family’s privacy but encouraged by some family members I went ahead and wrote the piece and then posted it on my blog as well.

In just twenty-four hours over a thousand people had read the blog including John Longhurst who was my successor as the faith page columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. He called and asked if he could do a story about why I had written my Carillon column about Dad.

John had interviewed me for a Free Press article when my novel first came out and having followed his work closely and chatted with him on occasion I felt I could trust him with telling the story.

And this morning it is in the Winnipeg Free Press. I am still not sure I did the right thing…… but there it is….. and my brother told me if even one person gets a vaccination because of the article it will have been worth it.

Other posts………

Dad’s Sacred Trees

Aren’t They Holdable?

When Will We Be Ourselves Again?

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Could You Get A Vaccination For My Dad?

My Dad on the left doing surgery at Bethesda Hospital in Steinbach

Recently my father Dr. Paul Peters received a Physician Emeritus award from the Southern Health region. He was honored for his contributions during his nearly forty-year career as a doctor. Dad was chief of staff at the Bethesda Hospital and a founding partner of the Steinbach Family Medical Centre. He represented Southern Health on the Manitoba Medical Association Board and mentored medical students for fifteen years.

Dad delivered hundreds of babies, performed thousands of surgeries and I can’t begin to count how many times I heard him get up during the night to make house calls. He often spent our family supper hour on the phone with his patients.

Once Dad retired, he volunteered as a health advisor on the Steinbach settlement committee for new immigrants and chaired the Eden East committee during the construction of Penfeld Court Housing in Steinbach.  

Dad was a Hanover School Division trustee for eight years and a board member of Steinbach Seniors Housing Incorporated for a decade.  He was recognized for his work on the executive of the Steinbach Garden Club, volunteered at the Steinbach Heritage Village Museum, and served Steinbach’s Grace Mennonite Church in dozens of different capacities. 

Dad with his award

We took the award Dad received from the Southern Health region and gave it to him in his nursing home.  I think he knew it was something special but didn’t really understand what the award was all about because the pandemic has caused my dad to decline into dementia.  We have had to move him several times in the last eighteen months to find a suitable placement that can accommodate his needs.  

Visiting Dad this summer. Even when we are with him outside we must wear a mask and plastic shield.

Since Dad has been in care there have been periods when we couldn’t see him at all due to pandemic restrictions, and now it has been almost a year since he has seen anyone in his family without a mask and a plastic shield hiding our faces.  We can only take dad out of his care home for medical appointments.  

Dad sometimes looks at me in my mask and shield and asks when people will be themselves again, or he asks when he can visit the village where he grew up. He looks at photos of the two great-grandchildren he has never met and asks why he can’t hold them.  It breaks my heart. 

I know that if everyone in Manitoba was vaccinated, they would eventually be able to ease the strict regulations which keep dad a kind of prisoner in his nursing home.  But of course, some people are refusing to be vaccinated and in a cruel kind of irony, many of those people reside in Southern Health.  Some of the very people my father dedicated his entire career to serving so they could have better, healthier lives are now refusing to have a vaccination that might allow dad to have a better life. 

In 2007 Dad was the honorary marshall at the annual Steinbach parade after he won a special award from the premier for his volunteer service to his community

Dad’s community in the Southern Health region has honored him in many ways.  In 2004 the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce gave him their Community Service Award and in 2007 Mayor Chris Goertzen nominated Dad for a Premier’s Volunteer Service Award. And as I noted he was recently named Physician Emeritus for the Southern Health region. 

All these awards are very kind and as his family, we are certainly appreciative of the way the community has recognized our father’s contributions. But we would ask that if you really want to honor our dad and do something that would make whatever is left of his life just a little more positive and meaningful, that you get vaccinated. Dad made so many sacrifices to serve the people of Southern Health. Could you get a vaccination for him? 

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Still in Too Much Pain

Earlier this week one of my Twitter contacts who is a member of the clergy asked when people would be ready to start healing the divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated in their communities. What could we do to start that process?

By far the majority of the responses indicated that people of faith realize they are called to have forgiveness in their hearts and be agents of healing. They even appreciate being reminded of that but……they just aren’t ready for forgiveness and healing right now.

Many of the tweets were later deleted from the thread but the ones I saw were very similar to the stories of pain I hear every day.

In Manitoba more than 130,000 surgeries have been cancelled due to the pandemic

The pain of those waiting for canceled surgeries and important medical procedures and tests that are vital to their future health.

The pain of seniors who remain virtual prisoners trapped in their care homes, only able to see a few masked, visor-shielded family members at certain times.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The pain of young parents who are juggling the impossible-trying to figure out how to continue working when their children are sent home from daycare and school with the tiniest sniffle or the littlest cough. They know it is necessary, but the stress of trying to keep their jobs, not lose pay, and also care for their children week after week has left them endlessly weary.

The pain of people who have ongoing health conditions and are trapped at home because it is too dangerous for them to be out in public.

The pain of those who have lost study and career opportunities, have had travel to see family canceled, or have had to close their businesses.

And many people rightly or wrongly are laying the blame for their pain at the door of the unvaccinated. They may feel sorry for them because they have fallen prey to misinformation, or because they have a troubled history that makes them averse to vaccination, or they are being led astray by money-hungry conspiracy theorists, but they still blame them, thinking if only everyone was vaccinated our pain could abate.

The clergy member who had asked the question about healing soon realized it had been premature and cut off the Twitter conversation. People weren’t ready for healing or forgiveness. They were still in way too much pain.

Other posts…………

When Will We Be Ourselves Again?

The Unvaccinated Hair Stylist

Snitches Get Stitches

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Be Inspired!

National Youth Choir of Great Britain performs Walk Out on the Water- photo from National Youth Choir Facebook page

Yesterday I watched a video released by the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. They are performing the song Walk Out on the Water written and originally recorded by the Canadian band Royal Canoe and arranged for choral groups by a very talented Winnipeg composer Geung Kroeker-Lee. Our son is a member of Royal Canoe.

Since Geung Kroeker -Lee adapted Walk Out on the Water it has been performed by a whole variety of choral groups, all marvelous, but none moved me like this version by the British Youth Choir. I was in tears by the end of the performance. Why?

National Youth Choir of Great Britain performs Walk Out on the Water– photo from National Youth Choir Facebook page

Perhaps it was because I was thinking that this may have been one of the first times these teens who obviously love singing had been able to perform together since the pandemic lockdown began.

Perhaps it was because the words of the song are so appropriate for what is going on in the world right now. We are living in a time when one crisis after another seems to wash over us but yet these young people sing about walking on water and declare, “I’m not going under.”

In an era where many young people are struggling to be honest and proud of their identity be that racial identity or gender identity these young people bravely and emphatically sing that they “own the space that I occupy.”

National Youth Choir of Great Britain performs Walk Out on the Water- photo from National Youth Choir Facebook page

In a time when many opportunities for young people to express themselves and grow artistically have been cut off because music performances, art shows, drama productions, and writing conferences have been canceled these teens vow to “spread my wings like a butterfly.”

If you need a little inspiration this morning watch the National Youth Choir of Great Britain sing Walk Out on the Water. It will get your day off to a great start!

You can watch Royal Canoe’s amazing video for Walk Out on the Water here.

You can watch composer Geung Kroeker-Lee conduct the Prairie Voices Choir singing Walk Out on the Water here.

Other posts……..

So Cool

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Music

This Grandma Is Happy

I was so excited on Friday when it was announced that children ages 5-11 can be vaccinated against COVID-19. I have two grandchildren in that age range and I am beyond grateful to the scientists and health care professionals who are making it possible for them to be protected.

My daughter-in-law giving vaccinations

Just before Friday’s announcement my daughter-in-law who is a paediatrician put up a social media post about the vaccine approval announcement and asked that everyone spread the word about why giving kids the vaccine is a good choice. This post is my way of honouring her request.

My daughter-in-law highlighted six good reasons for vaccinating children.

  1. It protects them from illness, hospitalization and death.
  2. It protects them from the impact of long term COVID.
  3. We can’t predict which children will get sick from COVID so we need to protect them all.
  4. Vaccination will allow kids to get back to doing the things they love and will make it far less likely that their schooling will have to be interrupted.
  5. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
  6. It will help reduce transmission in the larger community thus providing a quicker path back to normalcy.

Last night I attended the launch of my friend Harriet Zaidman’s new novel Second Chances. It is about the polio epidemic in the 1950s. One of Harriet’s guests was Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens an infectious diseases physician and a professor at the University of Manitoba in microbiology. He talked about the horrible and constant fear parents and grandparents lived with during the polio epidemic never knowing whether their children would fall ill or die.

Harriet described what a saviour and hero Dr. Jonas Salk had been when he invented the polio vaccine and relieved those fears about children’s health. Manitobans expressed their profound gratitude to him by sending Salk a mass telegram that contained 8000 congratulatory signatures, was 200 feet long and took eight hours to send.

Winnipeg Tribune 1955 photo showing the story of the telegram from Manitoba being covered by a CKY news reporter- from the University of Manitoba Library archives

Just like those happy parents and grandparents in 1955 now in 2021 Canadian parents and grandparents are celebrating another great scientific achievement that will not only make life richer, safer, and healthier for children but for us all.

Other posts……….

Missing the People We Used to Be

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Together Again

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