Category Archives: Family

What An Audacious Statement!

“Today we see a form of selfishness…. people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. This denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.”

Pope Francis spoke those words earlier this month.  It seems somewhat audacious that an 85 -year- old man who has never had children is suggesting women need to get pregnant more often.  But even aside from that irony, the Pope’s statement is troubling on many fronts. 

I provide support for a 99- year -old single aunt of mine.  Aunt Viola never had children but contrary to what the Pope suggests you’d be hard-pressed to meet someone with more humanity. A dedicated elementary school educator for over four decades Aunt Vi spent her retirement years volunteering with all kinds of church and community organizations. Since I take care of her finances I am well aware of the many charities she gifted generously with donations.  

Helping my aunt move several years ago I packed up a stack of guest books signed by the literally thousands of people she’d entertained in her home over the past sixty years. Aunt Vi took my elderly grandmother into her home when she required support and cared for her till she died and then she opened her house to university students in need of affordable housing. I would never call my aunt selfish or lacking in humanity just because she didn’t have children. The Pope’s statement does a disservice to people like my aunt.

Waiting by Caitlan Connolly

I know couples who have struggled with infertility.  This is such a difficult and heartbreaking experience for those who hope to become parents.  Their situation is certainly not made any easier by pronouncements like the Pope’s.

Might I suggest he sell some of the billions of dollars worth of art at the Vatican and donate the money to fertility clinics so they can help every couple who wants to have children? Right now, at least in Canada, the services of fertility clinics are financially out of reach for many people.

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates says women being able to control how many children they have and when they have them is the key to overcoming poverty in many countries.

Pope Francis has been a champion of the poor, so it is surprising that he is not connecting the dots and realizing women have to be able to limit the number of children they have if we want to eradicate poverty around the world.  Being able to control their family’s size makes it possible for women to be more independent so they can contribute to the family income or further their education.

Limiting the number of children they have, allows them to properly care for, feed and educate the children they do have.  It is so important women have access to contraception so they can plan their families. The Pope’s words could discourage that. 

Chrystia Freeland Canada’s Finance Minister announces funding for Canada’s new daycare program

Raising children is hard and families need support. Parents in Canada are fortunate because their country is currently instituting an initiative to provide affordable, accessible daycare for young children. We have generous paternity and maternity leave plans but many countries, including our neighbours to the south do not. 

Here in Manitoba where we have the distinction of being the province with the highest child poverty rate in the country and the highest number of children in foster care it would be far more prudent for the Pope to be urging our government to provide additional support for families so they can care for the children already in this world rather than encouraging them to add more to the population. 

Pope Francis has a reputation for being a forward-thinking religious leader who listens to people.  On the issue of having children however he appears to be tone-deaf and mired in ideas and attitudes from the past. 

Other posts………

Universal Childcare A Wise Investment for Canada

A Book To Make You Feel Insanely Hopeful

Paternity Leave- A Winning Scenario

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Filed under Family, Religion

Romance on the Golf Course

I was a little sad to hear the recent news that the John Blumberg Golf Course will be closing because it holds a romantic memory for me.

On our wedding day

When we got married in August of 1973 my husband had a summer job on the greens crew at the John Blumberg Golf Course. In those days a good job with the City of Winnipeg could earn a young student like my husband enough money for his whole university tuition for the coming year.

Off on our one-night honeymoon after our wedding

We got married on a Friday and spent our honeymoon night at the NorthStar Inn on Portage Avenue. Champagne and caviar were complimentary with the honeymoon package and I tasted them for the first time that night. Dave and I were both enrolled at the University of Manitoba for the fall and needed to save our money for tuition and living expenses so a one-night honeymoon was all we could afford.

On Saturday afternoon we settled into the tiny suite we had rented for the coming school year on the second floor of a house on Rosedale Avenue just a block off of Osborne. Sunday morning my husband was scheduled to go in at 5 am. to cut the greens at John Blumberg before the golfers arrived. I didn’t want to be separated from him so soon after our wedding so I went along and rode on the greens cutter with him.

We were all alone on the course and it was a beautiful, balmy morning. We watched the sunrise paint the sky as we rode from green to green. It was quite romantic.

Photo of John Blumberg Golf Course from the Travel Manitoba website

One less romantic aspect of my husband’s job at John Blumberg was that the week after our wedding he somehow caught his gold wedding band on one of the machines at the golf course and nearly lost his finger. That night when he got home he took the wedding ring out of his pocket and put it in my jewellery case where it has remained ever since.

Despite the lack of a gold band on his finger, my husband Dave has been a faithful partner to me for nearly fifty years.

Other posts…….

Engagement Memories

Wedding Day

Winnipeg Is Made Up Of Great People

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Filed under Family, Winnipeg

Thank You Kind Stranger

I was walking down Portage Avenue on an incredibly cold day last week my head lowered in the strong, fierce wind when a man walking in the other direction stopped in front of me and started talking to me in an animated way. He clearly couldn’t speak English and was holding forth in a foreign language. He seemed very agitated. I wondered if he needed help or money.

He began to point behind me and I thought he was asking for directions. I said I didn’t understand but he kept talking and pointing so finally I turned around. My red and white scarf was lying on the sidewalk some meters behind. I hadn’t tied it and the wind had blown it off my neck. I hadn’t even noticed.

I thanked the man profusely and ran back to get my scarf.

Skating on the river trail at the Forks

If you’ve seen winter photos of me you may have noticed me wearing that red and white scarf. I LOVE that scarf! It is exceptionally warm and is wide enough and long enough for me to wind around practically my whole face if I need to do that.

Walking in Kildonan Park on New Year’s Day

BUT…… the reason I love that scarf the most is that my mother knit it for me not long after I first started teaching grade school and needed to go outside on recess duty on some pretty cold Manitoba days. That scarf is over forty years old and every time I wear it I think of my mother’s love and concern for me. Mom died in 2013.

I would have been incredibly sad to lose that scarf. Of course, the Winnipeg stranger who took time to stop in that bitter weather and make sure I retrieved my scarf had no idea of its sentimental value to me. He was just being kind and courteous and helpful.

My mother was such a warm-hearted, caring, considerate person and it is good for me to be reminded as I was last week, that really the world is full of them.

Other posts………

Out With The Birds In Kildonan Park

Discovering Peanut Park

Winnipeg Walking Adventures

Kindness Therapy

Acts of Kindness and Love

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Filed under Family, Parenting

Love is Everywhere

Yesterday Kathy Kyle a blogger I follow did a post called Welcome with a touching image of her husband greeting their daughter at the airport when she arrived home for the holidays. It reminded me of an illustration I used in a sermon I gave last year about staying positive during challenging times.

This is the excerpt from my sermon.

One of my favourite film scenes of all time is the opening montage in the movie Love Actually.  It takes place at the arrivals gate in an airport and shows passengers being greeted by loved ones, friends, and family as they get off the plane. The narrator says something like this…. 

Whenever I get gloomy about the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. The general opinion is that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that in an airport arrivals lounge love is everywhere.

Often, it’s not particularly dignified looking or even newsworthy, but it’s always there – children greeting grandparents, parents hugging kids, lovers exchanging kisses, old friends embracing.

When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the last phone calls the people on board made before they died, were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love is actually all around.  

The writer of 1 Corinthians reminds us that these three things remain- faith hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. 

So, when I am struggling to feel positive, I try to remember that our world is full of love, love that has blessed each one of us at different times and in different ways in our lives.

Our son greets his grandparents after not seeing them for many months because we were living far away

You can watch the opening scene from Love Actually here.

Other posts………

Wild Grasses- A Love Story

Images of Love

Who Loved You Into Being

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Filed under Family, Movies

Light A Multitude of Candles

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

Those are the opening lines in one of my favourite novels, Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups.

Rebecca, the main character is a widow with four grown children who starts wondering if she is really happy. She begins to think about what her life would have been like if she had made other choices both professionally and personally. What is her purpose now?

Like Rebecca, as our life circumstances change, we often stop to reflect on what our new purpose might be or how the choices we made in life have impacted where we’ve arrived.

There are two key pieces of advice I always take away from Back When We Were Grownups when I reread it.

1. Don’t waste your time with regrets constantly thinking about what might have been.

Rebecca puts it this way. “Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be.”

2. Live as richly and as fully as you can in the here and now. Rebecca tells this story to make that point.

When I was eight my aunt gave me a beautiful tall white candle with white lace around it in a spiral. I thought it was so elegant I saved it in my drawer to use on some momentous occasion. One day four years later I came across it in my drawer and it was all yellow and warped and the lace had crumbled. I’d never seen it burning and now I never would. Since then I light my candles any chance I get. I light them by the dozens, all over, all year. Multitudes of candles!

This Christmas in particular, when we may be feeling regretful that we can’t celebrate the season in the way we’d hoped to, or with the people we’d hoped to, it might be good to remember Rebecca’s advice to light multitudes of candles while making the very best of what life has given us right now.

Other posts……..

Another Year For Dave

The Big Picture And Finding Your Own Happiness

Astounding

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Reflections, Retirement

She’s 99

My mother’s family in the 1940s. My grandmother Annie, Aunt Viola, Aunt Leila, Uncle Earl, my mother Dorothy and my grandfather Peter. Aunt Viola is the only one still living.

Today is my Aunt Viola’s 99th birthday. Viola is my mother’s older sister and as long as my mother was alive she made sure Viola was included in our family circle for holidays and special celebrations since Viola did not have a family of her own.

Me and Aunt Vi playing in my sandbox in 1957

I have always admired my aunt and looked to her as a role model of an independent woman who led a rich and meaningful life.

Aunt Vi with the staff at Holliston School in Saskatoon where she taught for many years. My aunt is furthest to the left in the first row.

Aunt Viola had a long and rewarding career as an elementary school teacher.

She traveled the world and meticulously recorded her adventures in photo albums and scrapbooks.

For many years Aunt Vi volunteered with the Ten Thousand Villages stores that helped struggling artisans world wide sell their work for a fair price in North America.

Aunt Vi served her community in all kinds of ways. A strong supporter of the Saskatoon symphony she organized a sale each year of music and records and other materials that raised substantial funds for the orchestra.

When I began assisting her with her personal affairs a few years ago I became aware of the admirable scope of her financial generosity to all kinds of charities and non-profit organizations. I just received an e-mail yesterday asking me to pass on a word of thanks to my aunt who continues to sponsor two university scholarships for deserving students.

Aunt Vi grew gorgeous flowers and annually nurtured a productive garden. She enjoyed needlework and each member of her family has numerous stitched items that were gifts from her. She also made beautiful wall hangings, belonged to a book club, curled, cross country skied, took photographs and loved to do jigsaw puzzles, the more difficult the better.

Aunt Vi delighted in entertaining others in her home and when I helped her move into a personal care facility a number of years ago I found a large stack of her guest books where she had asked visitors to sign their names and make comments. It soon became clear that over her lifetime Aunt Vi had hosted literally thousands of visits to her home.

Aunt Vi hosts a great niece and nephew for a meal in her home

I also found a thick wad of note cards labelled with the names of people who came to her home frequently. She recorded the meals she served them so she wouldn’t repeat menus on return visits. There was a card for my husband Dave and me in the stack with lists of meals she had served us over more than three decades.

Aunt Vi with me and my sister and brother during a 1959 visit to Winnipeg. Vi made keeping connected to her family a priority.

I once read that every family has someone called a kin keeper. It’s the person who is the most committed to keeping everyone connected. In my mother’s extended family our kin keeper would certainly be my Aunt Vi. Even now at 99 I am often surprised at the wealth of information about her relatives she can recall.

A family Christmas gathering my Aunt Viola hosted in her home in Saskatoon.

Aunt Vi organized family get togethers at her house in Saskatoon and planned family reunions and paid regular visits to her sisters’ homes to keep in touch with their families. After my grandfather died suddenly in a car accident my grandmother lived with Aunt Vi until her own death some fourteen years later.

Aunt Vi was also very committed to her church. I could list a host of ways she served her congregation First Mennonite in Saskatoon from choir director to church council chair to Sunday School superintendent to volunteer secretary. Her strong faith has sustained her through the most challenging times in her life.

With Aunt Vi during a 2019 visit to Saskatoon

She is actually facing such a challenge now since she broke her hip last month, had surgery and is currently recuperating in the hospital in Saskatoon where they are trying to help her regain her mobility. During my daily phone updates from her nursing staff I have to laugh sometimes as they describe her responses to various things. Her independent and feisty spirit still shines through despite her current situation. I am so grateful to Elisabeth Reimer a friend of my aunt’s who visits Aunt Vi in the hospital regularly, does necessary errands for Viola, and keeps me up to date on her progress.

When Aunt Vi turned 95 I planned a birthday party for her and the amazing crowd of folks who dropped by to wish her well certainly attested to the myriad of friendships and connections Aunt Vi has established in her life. She even got up to make a little thank you speech as the party drew to a close, ending it with a reminder to us to show kindness to others even in the smallest of ways.

On one of my visits to her when she was already in her 90s I noticed two lone flowers in a vase on her table. She told me at the beginning of each week she ordered a full bouquet and then each day she went to see someone in her senior’s complex whom she thought might need a visit and brought them a few of her flowers. Kindness to others has always been a watchword of my aunt’s life.

I am hoping to go and see Aunt Vi after Christmas. I wonder if in 2022 we won’t be celebrating her 100th birthday.

Other posts…….

An 80 Year Old Christmas Card

Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book

Thanks to Aunt Vi

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Where Were You in 72?

The thrift store where I volunteer is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022. To prepare for events marking that milestone one of the managers of our shop asked us to submit a photo of ourselves in 1972. This is the one I sent her.

This photo was taken during the summer of 1972 after I had just completed my first year of college. I was working for the Mennonite church leading work camps. Teenagers from across Canada and the United States signed up to work for three weeks in a certain location and college students like myself provided leadership to groups of eight teens who lived together during their time of service.

I led three such camps during that summer. One was at a large mental health institution in Denver Colorado that housed hundreds of children and adults. Our group members did music therapy with the residents. I also led a group at a church in Winnipeg where we’d been asked to build a playground. I led the third group at a camp in Mississippi where we actually built a cabin.

I don’t seem to have kept many photos from that summer experience but did find these two from my third work camp group in Mississippi where we built and painted a cabin. In the photo of me eating in my granny glasses, I notice I have embroidered a flower onto my shirt, and peeking out of my shirt is a string of beads, my boyfriend, now husband had made me as a gift

I traveled from location to location by plane but flew standby in order to save money. The whole thing was a growing and eye-opening experience for sure.

I was already dating my husband Dave and he was working in Coaldale Alberta that summer. We exchanged letters almost every day and I still have all of them.

Where were you in 72?

Other posts……….

Where Were You?

A Lament For Letters

I’m A Shop Girl And I Love It

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Filed under Family, New Experiences, Reflections

Fine Free Libraries

When I visited the main branch of the Calgary Library recently I saw this sign announcing that their city libraries are now fine-free. This means patrons will no longer be charged late fees for not bringing back items in a timely manner. Winnipeg libraries have had a similar policy since January of 2021.

One of the reasons libraries have implemented this policy is that once families owed money to a library in late fees they simply stopped coming and that meant their children no longer had access to library books. In Calgary, they figured some 19,000 children had stopped coming to the library because of late fees.

Studies have shown children from low-income families are the ones most impacted. Their families can’t afford to pay their fines so they stop coming to the library even though these are exactly the same families who might not be able to afford to buy books for their children to read at home. Libraries should be places of equitable access and late fees undermined that.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Surprisingly research shows that when libraries eliminate late fees there is actually a higher return of books, circulation increases, as does library use. In most libraries that have eliminated late fees, 95% of the materials checked out are still returned. Of course, eliminating late fees does not mean eliminating all responsibility. If people lose books or damage them beyond repair, or never return them, they are still charged a replacement fee.

Patrons in a sitting area at the Calgary Library

A CBC report in February of this year indicated some 300 library systems in Canada have eliminated late fees. Some started doing this during the pandemic for obvious reasons and then decided not to reinstitute the fees when services returned to normal. Although eliminating late fees does represent a loss of revenue for libraries, usually about 1% of their budgets, most have found creative ways to balance those losses.

Late fees may soon be a thing of the past at all libraries. I think that’s a good thing.

Other posts……….

A Waterfall on the Library

What A Library!

My Childhood Reading Heaven

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Filed under Books, Canada, Education, Family

Rejected by Chicken Soup- Barrelling Down the Mountain

I mentioned in an earlier post that from time to time I’d post stories on my blog that have been rejected by the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers. I’ve had quite a number published in their books but an equal number of submissions have been rejected. Here is one that I submitted for a book featuring stories about Winter in Canada.

My family on our ski trip to Lake Louise

I couldn’t stop. Trees, snowboarders, rocks, and the colourful toques of fellow skiers flashed by me as I plummeted down the mountain. Then just ahead on the horizon, I saw a ledge that seemed to drop off into an abyss. This is the end I thought. I’m going to sail over that edge and plunge to my death.  So I did the only thing I could think of. I sat down. My bum banged painfully along the slippery slope for a few meters, slowing my descent. I swerved sideways and then my extended skis hit a tree. My downward flight had come to a crashing halt. 

 I was on a Christmas skiing holiday at Lake Louise in Banff Alberta with my extended family. The vacation was our Christmas gift from my parents. It was the first time skiing for many of us. The rest of my family took naturally to the sport, but I was very apprehensive. I decided to start on the beginners’ slope where a patient coach named Jason instructed me in basic ski techniques. By the end of the first day, I was riding the T-Bar up the hill with ease and swooshing down the small hill confidently. 

The next morning my two brothers encouraged me to try the big mountain. 

“You’ll be just fine,” they said.  

I did have a sense of foreboding when I launched myself out of the ski lift chair at the top of the hill and promptly fell down. The workers had to stop the lift mechanism while they dragged me out of harm’s way and helped me stand up.   I stood at the top of that massive mountain for quite a while just staring at the long winding descent and wondering if I could really ski all the way to the bottom.  I couldn’t even see my final destination.

But with my brothers’ shouts of “You can do it,” echoing in my ears I finally pushed off and started down the slope. In just a few seconds I was picking up speed at an alarming rate. I flew past other skiers, my sister, my sister-in-law, my nephews and my two astonished brothers. It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t know how to slow down much less stop. I was in for the ride of my life.

 It was when that ledge loomed ahead that I figured our family Christmas vacation was about to end in disaster. With death staring me in the face I simply plunked down. My butt would be black and blue the next day but my speed slowed and when I saw a tree approaching I stuck out my skis. Although they made a crunching sound as they hit the bark miraculously both my skis and my legs remained in one piece. 

My brothers picked me up, helped me take my skis off and stayed by my side as I walked all the way down that mountain. I was far too afraid to put the skis on again. I thought I’d never make it wading through that deep snow but my brothers kept telling me I would and I did. I spent the rest of our ski holiday on the friendly beginner’s slope. I’d had enough thrills. I’d been to the mountaintop and I didn’t need to go back. 

Many times during the rest of that Christmas vacation members of my family would burst out laughing for no apparent reason. When questioned they’d admit somewhat apologetically that a picture of me flying down the mountain had popped into their head. During future Christmas ski trips, I did become a fairly confident and competent skier but I suspect my family will always remember my first attempt at downhill skiing the best.

Other posts……..

Canada A Country For All Seasons

Water-Skiing

My Mennonite Grandmother’s Chicken Noodle Soup

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Filed under Family, Writing

A Sign of Affection From Grandpa

When I was visiting my brother in Victoria he and I were recalling the way our paternal grandfather showed his affection for us. We both remembered how he would rub his scruffy beard against our cheeks in a playful way. It hurt a bit and made our cheeks red but we didn’t protest.

On our trip home, I was reading Carla Funk’s memoir Mennonite Valley Girl. It is a collection of essays about the author’s teenage years in Vanderhoof, British Columbia. Carla is a poet and that shows in her detailed and descriptive writing. I was surprised to find in an essay titled Holding the Flame that Carla’s Dad used to show his affection for her in the same way my grandfather expressed his for us. Here’s how Carla puts it…..

He clamped my shoulders in a soft bear hug. He smelled like he always smelled in the evenings: sweat, smoke, and whiskey. His stubble chafed against the side of my face, like it did when I was small and he would pull me close and say, “What you need is a good whisker-rub,” then scrape his cheek against my own until my skin burned and pinkened and I begged him to stop.

I wonder if anyone else had a grandparent or Dad who showed their affection in that way? Was it a Mennonite thing?

Other posts………….

On My Grandparents’ Farm

Grandpa and Me

A Lesson From My Grandfather

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Family