Category Archives: COVID-19 Diary

COVID Hot Spot

driedger homestead

My husband Dave’s childhood home in Leamington. His brother and sister-in-law own it now.

I almost feel like Leamington Ontario is my second hometown because I have been there so often.  My husband Dave was born and raised in Leamington and we have returned to the area annually since our marriage in 1973. Many years we’ve visited more than once.

The Heinz factory in the heart of Leamington was taken over by Highbury Canco in the fall of 2013 and has become a thriving success

Last weekend when we chatted with family in Leamington I was surprised to learn that while many other places in Ontario are reopening businesses and services Leamington and neighbouring Kingsville remain closed because of their high number of COVID 19 cases.  My sister-in-law suggested I read an article in The Windsor Star to help me understand why there is such a concentration of cases in the Leamington area. 

tractor and tomato wagon

Tomatoes from a Leamington farm heading to the factory. Leamington is a vegetable farming area often called the tomato capital of Canada. 

According to the news story, most of the COVID cases in the area are in the migrant worker community, where the crowded and unsanitary living quarters provided by some employers has facilitated the spread of COVID-19. The more than 8000 migrant workers in the Leamington area from Central America and Jamaica say another factor is that not all employers provide personal protective equipment for their employees.

My husband’s family working in the tomato field in the 1960s. In those days family members did all the labour so migrants workers weren’t as common. Now it is hard to find people who want to do these jobs which is why farmers depend on the migrant worker population. 

On some farms and in some greenhouses migrants come to work even if they are sick or should be in quarantine because missing work means less money to send to their families or even worse job loss and deportation. If workers do test positive but have no symptoms they are encouraged to keep working because their labour is essential. The CBC says some 2000 of the workers in the Leamington area are undocumented and suggests their employers’ have not been eager to open their farms to government testers who want to evaluate the extent of virus transmission. The July 2 news story reported 175 new cases found on just one farm. 

My husband chats with some migrant workers in Leamington on a 2014 visit

Although the majority of the employers in the area run ethical operations and treat their workers well a few bad apples are causing what federal health minister Patty Hajdu calls a crisis. 

Hopefully, protocols will be soon be established to keep the migrant workers safe and the local year-round residents of the community safe as well. Local businessman Peter Quiring says this is a time for people to work together so that the important contribution the area farms make to providing food for Canadians can continue.

We have many family members and friends in the Leamington area and their health and future well- being depends on finding a successful way to deal with the COVID outbreak. We hope solutions can be found quickly. 

Other posts………

2015- Canada Day in Leamington

2016- Family Visit in Leamington

2018- Goodbye John

Getting Nostalgic and Just A Little Sad

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Who Am I?

I recently submitted an article to an anthology of pandemic reflections being published by Menno Media. On Tuesday the editor asked me to send a photo and a brief bio to include with my piece.  I wasn’t at all sure what to write.

I contribute to many different anthologies, magazines and websites and I’ve written lots of short bios.  But I haven’t had to compose one of those bios since the start of the pandemic.

My bio in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology where my work appeared

Usually, I write about being an educator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. But……….. I have been laid off from that job.  I often mention that I supervise education students at a university.  But COVID concerns influenced my decision to take a step back from that job too.  I sometimes say I am the librarian at my church. But……….. with regular services no longer taking place I am not in the library on Sunday mornings to help people find books and chat with them.  I could still say I am a grandmother.  But………… I haven’t seen my grandchildren now for six months, the longest stretch we have ever been apart.

dave and marylou wall of dubrovnik

On the wall around Dubrovnik on our trip last year to Croatia

I often talk about my love of world travel in my short bios. But………….. I haven’t been outside of Manitoba for months and probably won’t be any time soon. 

I have started some new things since the pandemic began, things I didn’t have time for before like joining a book club, editing a newsletter, participating in some online writing workshops, golfing weekly with my husband and submitting my manuscripts to more publishers. But those things don’t really seem to define me in the way my previous endeavours did.  

golf game

Dave and I are visiting different Manitoba courses on our weekly golf dates.

Who am I? I suspect many of us have had to reconsider that as our lives have changed dramatically in the last few months. 

Other posts……….

On To Be a Kid At the Fringe Festival

Up On The Wall in Dubrovnik

Writing is a Healing Art


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Assiniboine Park

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” Kahlil Gibran

I went for a walk in Assiniboine Park with my long time friend Esther on Friday morning. We went early to avoid the heat and strolled through the English Gardens. I took a couple of photos of the dew on the flowers. Esther and I had a lovely visit and on my bike ride home I thought there was a quote by Kahlil Gibran that might describe our morning. Gibran was hugely popular in the seventies but I have given away the volumes of his poetry I once owned. I was able to find the quote above online.

As Esther and I walked down to Portage Avenue to get a coffee we saw all these little painted rocks lined up artistically down the whole length of the footbridge in Assiniboine Park.  Some enterprising children must have created a sort of pop up gallery of artwork. I loved this one with its cryptic message to ‘be happy.’ This sparkly bright pink one provided a lively contrast to the leaves around it. Check out this contemporary design.  This one reflects a message especially relevant for our current circumstances.

With my parents and my sister in Assiniboine Park in the 1950s

It seems that every time I go to Assiniboine Park I discover some little treasure to remember or I tuck away some new memory.  My parents got engaged in Assiniboine Park. 

Here are just a few photos from the many I have that were taken in Assiniboine Park. How grateful I am especially during this time when being indoors with people can be dangerous to have beautiful outdoor spaces like Assiniboine Park where we can meet friends and family in a safe way.

This photo was taken with good friends in Assiniboine Park 2015

I took this photo of my friend Meena with the Winnie the Pooh statue in Assiniboine Park in 2014

Our grandson checks out the polar bears swimming at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in 2018

Clouds reflected in the water in a pond in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park. I took this photo in 2016

Posing with Lady With the Book statue in the Assiniboine Park English Gardens 2018

Dave and me on a bench in Assiniboine Park 2012

Posing with my friend Beena by a statue of Moses in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in 2014

Other posts…….

Go to the Park

A Quick Visit to Assiniboine Park

The Qualico Family Centre- Assiniboine Park



Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary, Nature, Winnipeg

I Left My Golf Tees in the Bathroom

On Saturday morning Dave was getting ready to head off to the golf course. He was looking for a few special golf tees he has been using lately.  I do have a drawer in our bedroom reserved exclusively for golf paraphernalia I find around the house.  If Dave is missing a golf ball, tee, glove, ball marker, club headcover, water bottle, golf towel, or old scorecard he knows I’ve probably picked it up from wherever he plunked it down in the condo and put it in that drawer reserved for his golfing stuff.  

During the pandemic, partly because we have had no company, I admit I have become very lax about tidying up our condo.  On Friday however, I was fed up with the state of our home and whirled through it putting away lots of stuff including Dave’s golf tees which I tossed in the golf drawer in our bedroom.  During the pandemic, Dave has become accustomed to me leaving things wherever he drops them. So on Saturday, he couldn’t figure out why his golf tees weren’t beside the sink in the bathroom where he had left them when he emptied his pockets after his previous golf game. “Where are my golf tees?” he fumed. “I left them in the bathroom.” 

His consternation made me realize there are lots of little collections of his scattered about our living space that would have irritated me in the past and I would have itched to organize and clean up and put away.  Now I just let things accumulate.

Case in point his hand sanitizer collection nestled in amongst a display of treasures from our time living in Asia. Dave bought hand sanitizer from Farmery Brewery near the beginning of COVID-19 because it was unavailable in stores. The sanitizer came in beer cans and needed to be transferred to other kinds of containers. He scoured the house for various suitable bottles, bought funnels to help him fill them up and then covered the containers with black duct tape because he’d heard exposure to light decreased the sanitizer’s effectiveness.

Normally I would consider a display such as this an eyesore and would have whisked all these lovely containers into a cupboard.  But now I’ve just let it be.

We must own more than a hundred CDS and one of Dave’s pandemic projects has been trying to listen to them all. On his regular trips to Steinbach to golf, he will take a stack out to the car to listen to as he drives. He brings them back in after each trip and piles them in various places around the condo. Normally I would return the CDs scattered around the condo to the drawer in our living room shelving unit I have designated for them, but because I’m pretty sure all of Dave’s CD piles represent some sort of organized system in his mind I have just left the stacks alone. 

I don’t know if I will be able to restrain my itchy tidying up fingers from putting away Dave’s various COVID collections once we can have visitors in our home again, but I am thinking one of the reasons we have been getting along so well during our time of relative isolation is because I haven’t been cleaning up as much and he can create collections of stuff wherever he wants to. Maybe one of the lessons I’m learning during COVID-19 is that a happy marriage partner is more important than a tidy house. 

Other posts……….

Can Your Marriage Survive Lollygagging? 

Why Do People Collect Things? 

Marriage Advice

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Family

Insight and Wisdom From My Daughter-in-Law

My daughter-in-law Dr Karen Leis was on CBC News yesterday offering some important perspectives on sending Canadian children back to school in September.  Karen is the Saskatchewan representative on the Canadian Paediatric Society Board of Directors.

children sitting on brown chairs inside the classroom

Photo by Arthur Krijgsman on

It is still more than two months before schools will start their fall semesters and Karen reminds us two months in the COVID world is a long, long time. There is always new data coming out that may provide additional insights into how COVID-19 relates to children.

 Karen says what we have learned so far is that children around the world have not been as negatively affected by the coronavirus as adults. In Canada, they account for less than one per cent of hospitalizations and there have been no deaths. Researchers will continue to discover more about if and how children may be transmitting the virus asymptomatically as well as symptomatically. 

Dr Karen Leis is the Saskatchewan representative on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Paediatric Society

Karen says the Canadian Paediatric Society is asking governments to carefully consider the balance between the need for public health measures to combat COVID-19 with the risks that social isolation can present for children. While Karen was careful to point out that some children have thrived in isolation with their families she has also seen patients with anxiety, moodiness, behaviour problems and sleep issues related to the current crisis. She reminds us that for some at-risk children school is their safe space where they have relationships with adults they can trust.

Not all parents will feel comfortable sending their children to school in the fall, particularly children who may have chronic illnesses and families will need to make those decisions, perhaps in consultation with their health care provider. 

school children in taiwan channel news asia photo

Karen was asked about children using masks in her radio interview and she said while they are recommended for children over two years of age for short periods in specific situations, masks may not be as effective for children as adults because children tend to touch their masks more and adjust them more frequently. Masks also hinder children from seeing other people’s facial expressions and those expressions play a key role in effective communication. 

In her radio interview, Karen emphasized that governments need to consult teachers as they plan for school re-opening and must make sure schools are provided with the resources they require to implement health guidelines. 

Karen is a fine example of how dedicated health care providers are working hard to learn all they can about COVID-19 and offer the best advice possible to the public.  I’m very proud of her.  

Other posts………….

An Important Letter

Watch Schools and Daycares for Signs of Reopening

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Education, Health

The Gym in a Time of COVID

Photo by William Choquette on

I went back to the gym this week and I have to say the new experience there is one I am really liking.

Before the gym reopened, every member was asked to download an app on their phone that allows them to book appointments. Only a certain number of people are allowed in the gym during any given 90-minute slot. There is a half-hour between each 90-minute slot for cleaning.

When you book your appointment you can see exactly how many other people have booked appointments during that time slot.  If the number is too large for your comfort you can choose a different time slot with fewer people booked.

So far having an appointment has made me more conscientious about showing up and not postponing going to the gym. Also, the app sends me two text messages to remind me about my booking and keeps track of how many times I visit the gym so I have a record. I guess this would also come in handy should there be a COVID-19 case amongst the gym members. It would be very easy to track who had been at the gym with that person. 

We can use the elevators, one person at a time to go to the fourth floor of the building where the gym is located but are encouraged to use the wide spacious staircases instead.  I have been doing that and it adds another little kick of aerobic exercise to the beginning and end of my workout. 

The showers in the locker room are closed

They aren’t as fussy about street shoes as they used to be since they want you to come dressed to work out. You can use the lockers but only every third locker is open so it is not crowded in the dressing room spaces.

My gym is spacious, relatively new and has huge windows for sunlight to pour in.  Its huge size makes it possible to space all the workout equipment far apart so you are not close to anyone else.  I like this sense of privacy for my workout. Because there are a lot fewer people in the gym you never have to wait to use any of the machines.

You need to check out small weights and other accessories at the front desk so they can be sanitized after every client uses them. In the past, we were always encouraged to wipe down the machines after we used them, but people weren’t always very diligent about that.  Now they are! I wipe down the machines before I use them too just to be extra safe. 

Because there are fewer people in the gym and our photos are included with the app we needed to download the staff remembers each of our names. They come around to encourage us by name during our workout and to give us a reminder when the time slot we have booked is coming to an end.  It makes things more personal. 

They also put lots of workouts online during COVID which you can still access at home if you aren’t comfortable going to the gym. You can join some of the virtual classes which they continue to run on Zoom and there are some classes I believe being held outdoors in parks. There are lots of options for exercise. 

I really think the effect of the COVID-19 threat has improved the gym experience.  I wonder if we might not find that in other areas as well.

Of course, I know that operating the gym with limits on the number of members allowed on-site means my gym may close because it isn’t financially feasible for it to stay open. With COVID it seems there is always a price to pay. 

Other posts………

Exercise is a Celebration

Into the Wilds of Winnipeg

Let’s Play Ball

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Sports

Pick a Scene and a Perspective

I have been continuing to work my way through Lynda Barry’s book Making Comics.  Our latest assignment is to do four-section journal entries illustrating specific scenes from one day. We have to write about each of the four sketches we do. Here are my four entries for Sunday. singing in church

lunch with alisa

visit with Dad

on the rooftop

I am enjoying this particular exercise in the book because it makes me review my day and select the events from it I want to illustrate. I also have to decide what I want to write and there are many different options for what I could say about each drawing.  I am realizing that my days are filled with many more scenes than I might think and each one can be viewed from different perspectives. 

Other posts………

When Did You Stop Drawing? 

My Day in Comics

Thanks Lindsey



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Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary

Mind the Gap

please mind the gap sign on a hong kong train By Andyhyleung wikipedia by

Sign in a Hong Kong subway train. Photo by Andyhyleung

“Mind the gap!”  Those three words were something we heard thousands of times during the six years we lived in Hong Kong.  As you entered and exited subway trains a woman’s voice reminded you to mind the gap, the space between the train floor and the station floor.  Not doing so meant you could catch your foot, twist your ankle or otherwise injure yourself.  Hong Kong is a former British colony hence the use of the word ‘mind’ in the phrase and the reason you will see similar signs in subway stations in England.

mind the gap sign wikipediaYesterday in his sermon our pastor talked about a mind the gap sign seen in a London subway station, and remarked that during the pandemic we have all had to mind the gap in order to stay safe. We have needed to maintain a two-meter gap between ourselves and other people.

winnipeg art gallery keep your distance

Two of my Winnipeg Art Gallery colleagues Rachel Baerg and Colleen Leduc demonstrate ‘the gap’ using one of the most popular paintings in our collection The Story by George Agnew Reid- photo from the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Just like you can injure yourself if you don’t mind the gap in the subway station, you can get sick if you don’t mind the gap during COVID-19. We are having to think about relationships in new ways as we keep a physical distance from people. How can we still show care and empathy and maintain personal connections while ‘minding the gap?

Gaps, like the ones in the Hong Kong subway and during a pandemic, can be scary but we know with thought and care and mindfulness we can handle them.

It occurred to me that we are all constantly ‘minding the gap’ in our lives. There is the gap between what we expected our lives to be and how they turned out. There is the gap between what we know we should be doing in terms of things like our physical fitness or financial management and what we are currently doing.  There is the gap between having a dream and actually achieving it.  Rather than being fearful or anxious about these gaps we can embrace them and see them as opportunities to learn and grow. 

Other posts………….

Images of Hong Kong 

My Photograph is in the Supreme Court Building in London

Is it Good to be Lazy?





Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Hong Kong

Storytelling, Easing Out of Isolation and Writing

kayaking trip

Our kayaking group. Dave and I are second and third from the right. 

I told my grandchildren a story yesterday about a kayaking trip my husband Dave and I went on to see orca whales in British Columbia. When I was finished my four-year-old grandson said, “You should make that story into a book Grandma.”  I have been trying to get some of my stories published in book form for quite a few years now but maybe its time I start doing that on my own.  In recent weeks I have been exploring how to get my writing out to a wider audience in a variety of ways. 

Business Insider is reporting that researchers have determined the lockdown in the United States probably prevented about 60 million coronavirus infections in that country and another study shows that some 3 million lives were saved in eleven European countries because of the lockdown. 

As people begin to return to more normal routines, the New York Times has published a list of Five Rules to Live By as you ease out of your isolation but still try to be as safe as possible.  The first one is to look at coronavirus data for the area where you live and let it guide you as you make decisions about interacting with other people.  

Image from the Manitoba Government website

If you live in Manitoba where we have had only seven deaths, have no one in the hospital with the virus, have only nine active cases and few if any new cases reported each day, that means we can start cautiously returning to more normal activity with some sense of security.

The other rules in the New York Times article encourage you to favour outdoor contact, keep indoor contact to short periods, limit your number of close contacts, and continue to wash your hands, practice social distancing and keep a mask handy. 

I used material from my blog post on a unique Winnipeg sculpture to write one of my reflections published in a new anthology.

I’ve contributed to another series of meditations about the pandemic published online by Menno Media.  You can download the anthology called A Time Enduring for free here. My contributions are on pages 19 and 20.  A third series is being planned and will include authors reading their pieces. The first anthology called A Time Such As This had writers’ reflections on COVID-19 in its early days.  A Time Enduring looks at how long term isolation and the ongoing pandemic threat have impacted people. The next issue A Time Under Pressure will examine the easing of the lockdown and the current racism protests worldwide. 

Next month will mark eight years of writing this blog.  I have nearly 500 followers and should reach a million views before the end of this year. Those aren’t great statistics in the world of blogging but I am grateful for all my readers and appreciative of the way the blog helps me reflect on my life experiences and interact with others.  That has never been more important to me than during recent months. 

Other posts………

Kayaking in Laos

The Great Assiniboine River Canoeing Adventure

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

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Thoughts on Police Abolition

Dave and I went to the Justice4Blacklives demonstration at the Manitoba legislature on Friday evening. We viewed the protest from across the street because we were uneasy that not everyone was wearing a mask or social distancing. 

The size of the crowd that had united behind an important cause was impressive. The Winnipeg Police said not a single troubling incident was reported during the protest. The organizers of the demonstration not only managed to bring together a diverse group of between 15,000-20,000 people but also made sure the protest was peaceful and purposeful.

Photo by Kelly Lacy on

A petition people were asked to sign at the rally demanded the immediate defunding and abolition of the Winnipeg Police Department.  We didn’t sign the petition because the idea of eradicating the police force was something we hadn’t ever considered and needed to think about. 

I agree there is a need for innovative well-funded solutions to our city’s challenges associated with poverty, alcohol addiction, domestic abuse, homelessness, hunger, weapon possession, court case waits, drug use, the foster care system, incarceration rates and family violence. Much of the need for the police force stem from these issues. What we have been doing so far isn’t working very effectively and we need to start thinking outside the box.  Defunding the police department would certainly be a revolutionary and novel approach to getting the money we need to address these major problems. 

Police officers are often called upon to act as mental health specialists, family therapists, social workers, medical experts, addictions counsellors and youth mentors after only about 9 months of basic training.  This is not fair to them or the people they are assigned to serve.  

Clearly, we need to find ways to relieve police officers of some of these responsibilities and hand them over to professional people far more qualified to address them. But should we completely defund the police force before we have evidence about what kind of police services might still be needed even after concrete effective programs to address our city’s social ills have been put firmly into place?  

Are there cities that have totally defunded or abolished their police departments?  What were the results? What successful ways have they found to deal with the problems that would normally require the services of a police force?  I’d like to know more before I sign a petition. 

In a discussion the day after the march with another attendee, they suggested perhaps a place to start would be having police officers be unarmed when on patrol. In Britain, Ireland, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand, police officers don’t carry weapons when they are on regular duty. Other ideas are having police wear body cameras and making sure reviews of the use of force incidents by police are open and transparent and public. 

A substantial increase in resources and funding for daycares, inner-city schools, addictions treatment, community recreation and programming, housing, mental health support, and a living wage would also be possible first steps. The recent COVID-19 crisis has made it clear governments can find money to help people if they are forced to do so.  They may not need to abolish the police force to find the funds. 

Devon Clunis

Devon Clunis the former Winnipeg police chief who was Canada’s first black police chief wrote on Facebook that he would be at the Black Lives Matter march.  Clunis has found many police officers to be caring and compassionate. He says they are not the enemy.  Clunis claims police officers want to stand together with citizens to help make things better.  

Photo by ksh2000 on

The recent demonstrations worldwide in protest over the violent death of George Floyd by a police officer have started many meaningful discussions about how to improve safety and protection for people from the BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of colour) community. A radical solution is necessary and perhaps abolishing the police force completely is the way to do it, but I think we need to plan carefully and take time to listen and learn as we move forward. 

Other posts…………..

The Bombers Grey Cup Victory is Exciting But…………….

Black Days in May

Bloody Sunday


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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Politics