Category Archives: Holidays

My Novel On The Thanksgiving Table-A Mystery

Yesterday around noon in Vancouver my phone dinged. I had an email from my friend Bruno. Bruno had sent me a photo. The only words in his accompanying e-mail were The Charleswood Thanksgiving Display.

Charleswood Mennonite is the church my friend Bruno and his wife Carolyn attend so I knew the table in the photo must be located there. The photo showed my novel Lost on the Prairie displayed on a lovely green patchwork cloth on a table with fresh garden produce, fall leaves, orange flowers, and other items. What was my book doing in that Thanksgiving display and who had put it there? Bruno didn’t say. It was a mystery.

It wasn’t too much later that my phone dinged again. This time it was a message from Lisa who is one of the pastors at Charleswood Mennonite Church. Lisa had sent photos of the Thanksgiving display along with a message.

Hi MaryLou. Happy Thanksgiving! I just wanted to tell you that I read your book this week and THOROUGHLY enjoyed it! What a great story, and so well-done. And then, I wanted to tell you that at Charleswood this morning, we had our Thanksgiving table up at the front, and people were to bring things they are thankful for and put them up on the display, and someone brought your book and put it up there! I took a picture to show you…

So now I knew that my book was on the table because someone was thankful it had been published. But who was that? I have quite a number of family members and friends who attend Charleswood Church. Which one of them had chosen to use my book as a symbol of gratitude? It remained a mystery.

Just then my phone dinged again and it was an e-mail from my Aunt Nettie, my father’s youngest sister. She too had sent photos of the Thanksgiving table featuring my novel along with a message.

I brought your book  for our Thanksgiving church display. Someone set some tomatoes in front of it!
We were asked to bring something for our display for which we were grateful!
Your book came to mind immediately- grateful for your ability as a writer, for getting a publisher and  for making the bestseller list for so many weeks at McNally’s and not least for the pleasure of reading your first novel!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Mystery solved. My thoughtful and supportive aunt had placed the book on the table.

Me with my Aunt Nettie on the occasion of her 80th birthday

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am especially thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given to share a story inspired by my grandfather’s life. I am thankful for my family who supported me in all kinds of ways as I wrote the book. I am thankful for my writers’ group the Anitas who gave me such great encouragement and advice. I am thankful for the good folks at Heritage House who bought my manuscript and published it. I am thankful for the wonderful staff at McNally Robinson Booksellers who helped me promote my book and sell it and……. most of all I am thankful to ALL the people who have bought my book and read it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Other posts……..

Aunts

15 Reasons I am Thankful to Live in Canada

A Thankful Weekend

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Filed under Holidays, Lost on the Prairie

My Family At Work

In honour of Labour Day, I have created a photo gallery illustrating the work my family has done and continues to do.

My mother was a teacher in several rural elementary schools and at Rosthern Junior College in Saskatchewan. Here she is with some of the alumni of the college in Rosthern. She is third from the right in the second row.
My father was a family physician in rural Manitoba. In this photo, he is the surgeon on the left.
My mother-in-law played a vital role in the farm operation she ran with her husband and sons in southern Ontario. Here she is in the tomato field.
My father-in-law was a pastor. In this photo, he is to the far right and has just officiated at a baptism ceremony.

My husband was a teacher in Manitoba before he retired. Here he is with a group of grade five and six students he taught.
I was a teacher in a small Manitoba city for thirty-five years. Here I am with a grade two and three class I taught.
Our older son is a teacher and assistant principal in Saskatchewan. He is to the far right with a championship basketball team he coached.
One of our daughters-in-law is a physician in Saskatoon. She has made an important contribution to the effort to vaccinate all Canadians.

Our younger son is a professional musician. Here he is with his band which is based in Winnipeg but travels the world. He is second from the right.

Our other daughter-in-law is a high school music teacher in Winnipeg. Here she is conducting one of her choirs.

On this Labour Day, I am grateful for the opportunities that have made it possible for people in our family to engage in meaningful and fulfilling work. I know that is a gift and certainly not one to be taken for granted.

Other posts………

The Work My Mother Does

Team Work

My Dad Was Once A Teacher

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Father

I decided to put the word ‘father’ in the search box in my photo library and see what images would appear. Here are some of the results.

My husband Dave taking his father for a walk during a visit to Leamington Ontario in 2014. Dad died in 2016.
I am going out to feed the pigs with my paternal grandfather Diedrich Peters in 1956 on his farm in Gnadenthal, Manitoba.
On the farm with my maternal grandfather Peter Schmidt in 1955 in Drake Saskatchewan
My father in 2014, wearing his signature apron after carving the Thanksgiving turkey at a family gathering at our house, enjoying a laugh with his grandson’s wife.
My father-in-law with our son on his first birthday
My Dad with two of his grandsons over thirty years ago.
Dad and me celebrating our fall birthdays at my brother’s house just a few years ago

My husband Dave with our older son Joel in 1979.

My Dad reads to my sister and me. We are holding the dolls we got for Christmas.
Dave with our older son at his university graduation
My husband Dave and our younger son performing at our older son’s wedding reception

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Other posts……….

Brothers

Sisters

Thanks Dad

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Images of Easter

Coloring Easter eggs with my mom. The curlers in my sisters’ hair and mine would insure a beautiful head of ringlets for church on Easter Sunday morning. 
Cherry Blossoms Along Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto, Japan
With my sister in Easter bonnets and dresses sewn by our mother
Eggs I photographed in Odessa Ukraine
Our son age 4 at his grandparents with a new baby chick
Easter lilies in the lobby of our condo in Winnipeg
Easter 1956- My sister and I in our Easter bonnets
Jesus on the Cross- I photographed this at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Our son with a personalized Easter egg on his first Easter
Easter breakfast with my daughter-in-law
Easter Morning by Mary Riter Hamilton- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
Some sketches I did of my childhood Easters
With my friends in Assiniboine Park
Holding bunnies with my sister

Other posts……………..

A Serendipitous Coincidence

A Life That Adds Up to Something

Easter- A Time of New Beginnings

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Thinking About Mary On Good Friday

 Perhaps because I am a mother myself, on Good Friday I am often preoccupied with thinking about Mary, Jesus’ mother. 

How must she have felt as they nailed her son’s hands and feet to the cross and she watched him slowly die? How would a mother feel watching that happen to her child?

Former Toronto Star columnist Michelle Landsberg writes in her book Women and Children First, “It is at the very moment we give birth, that we first begin to truly understand and fear death. ” Mary must certainly have experienced such fear for her child right from the beginning of her motherhood journey.

Rest on the Flight to Egypt- Francisco de Zubaran – 1659

She was just a young girl when she delivered her first baby after enduring the comments of those who thought it was scandalous she got pregnant before she was married. She takes her son to the temple when he is eight days old.  There a man named Simeon tells her the tribulations of her child will be “ like a sword that will pierce your soul.”  Later when Jesus is a toddler, Mary becomes a refugee because powerful people want to kill her son. To save him she flees to a place where the culture, language, and religion are completely foreign to her.

Jesus in the Temple by Heinrich Hofmann- 1881

Jesus is twelve when he is separated from his parents in the large city of Jerusalem.  Any mother who has ever lost a child in a crowd can empathize with the heart-stopping fear Mary surely experienced at that point.

Jesus Summons Matthew to Leave the Tax Office -Jan van Hemessen – 1536

Once Jesus began his ministry Mary must have lived in constant anxiety. Her thirty-year-old son does not marry or have steady employment. He wanders around with a member of a violent guerilla warfare organization. His other followers are men who have abandoned their careers and families. He travels with a tax collector and with Mary Magdalene, whose virtue is questionable. He is often seen with Joanna, a woman who has left her politically important husband, and a rich young lady named Susanna who is rumored to be squandering her fortune on Jesus.

Mary watches her son spend time with lepers, prostitutes, adulterers, dishonest government officials and those who are thought to be demon-possessed. People gossip about Jesus. Mary overhears her neighbors whisper “he has gone out of his mind.” She knows the church leaders hate her son.

Jesus Rejected in Nazareth by Jeff Watkins

Once when she goes to see him Jesus says, “Who is my mother?” as she approaches. Mary must have been hurt. Another time he is visiting at home and makes some radical and inflammatory statements in the synagogue in Nazareth . The congregation gets so mad they drive him out of the city. He narrowly escapes being pushed off a cliff. How Mary must have worried!

Igor Stoyanov’s Icon of the Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee

Yet Mary supports her son whole-heartedly. At the Cana wedding, Jesus is hesitant to perform a miracle. “Mom why should we worry about this,” he says in John 2:4. “Do whatever my son tells you”, Mary confidently assures the servants ignoring her son’s misgivings. Jesus lives up to his mother’s absolute faith in him. He turns the water into wine. Many people’s hearts are changed as a result.

Mary and John at the Cross by Ralph Pallen Coleman

And Mary demonstrates her unconditional love for her son at the end of Jesus’ life. People are making a circus of his death. They are spitting on him, jeering and gambling with his belongings. He is hanging between two common criminals. Most of his followers have fled, denying they know him, but not his mom. She is standing right at his cross. Jesus is so moved by his mother’s loyalty that one of the last things he does before he dies is ask his best friend to look after her.

The Bible makes it clear Mary never gave up on her son. Time and time again she extended her support and care. No doubt her faith in God sustained her through the most difficult trials of motherhood.

So give a thought to Mary on this Good Friday, because sadly there are still mothers everywhere in our world who are grieving for their children’s hurt and pain. Remember too that there are also mothers everywhere who are continuing to live in hope, who like Mary, never stop loving their children unconditionally.

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Filed under Holidays, Religion

International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day and I am going to celebrate by introducing you to some of the amazing women I’ve met on my international travels.

This is Wayan in her restaurant and health shop in Ubud, Bali. Wayan is one of the main characters in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love. Wayan opened her business to support herself and her daughter after leaving her abusive husband.

This is Por Ko, the principal of Goldstone School in Phnom Penh Cambodia. I volunteered at Goldstone and so admired how Por Ko ran a school in a huge old house where she had turned the bedrooms into classrooms and made do with limited resources and staff to provide the best education possible for 150 students.

These are domestic workers in Hong Kong enjoying their Sunday fellowship. They work a six-day week and Sunday is their only day off. They leave the Philippines to go to Hong Kong and work for wealthy families. Their earnings are sent back to help their families in the Philippines. Many of the women leave their own children behind to care for the children of wealthy Hong Kong residents. I interviewed a group of these women for an article in the Winnipeg Free Press. I so admired their courage, resilience and faith.

This is Beatriz a fellow grandmother and a fellow teacher in Merida Mexico who led a workshop we took about making chocolate. It was a delight to get to know her and visit with her. Her teaching supports her family and she is helping her son and his fiancee get their chocolate-making business off the ground.

Victoria was a university student from Odesa who served as our guide on a walking tour of Kyiv. Intelligent, articulate and engaging Victoria was studying languages and she and a friend came up with the idea of practising their English by giving free tours of Kyiv and then asking people to make a donation when the tour was over. Their self-initiated business had drawn the attention of the local television station and they interviewed my husband Dave to see how he had enjoyed his tour with Victoria. We took Victoria out for lunch after our tour and heard a little of her life story. I so admired her many talents and her vision for the future.

When I was volunteering at a tutoring centre in Runaway Bay Jamaica I went to visit an affiliated daycare set up by this amazing woman named Claudette Brown. She runs a daycare for 140 children on a tiny piece of land in a ramshackle old building with four small rooms. Six other women work with her. She receives no government support. Sometimes parents forget to pick children up at the end of the day so Claudette takes them home with her.

Dee Dee, a woman in her early 30s was our snorkelling guide on a trip to Boracay in the Philippines. Her sister cares for Dee’s Dee’s seven children while she acts as a guide on her brother-in-law’s touring boat. After our snorkelling trip, Dee Dee invited us to her home. Made from bamboo, with a concrete floor and thatched roof it does not have running water. Dee Dee’s Dad who is debilitated from a stroke lives with her. Dee Dee depends on the tourists who come to Boracay for her income. When I asked her what keeps her going despite the many challenges she faces, she said it was God. “I know God is always watching over me.”

We met this marvellous young woman Ayaka when we were touring a kaleidoscope museum in Kyoto. She was a museum worker and was very friendly. We struck up a conversation with her and she offered to meet us after her shift and show us the sights of Kyoto. She explained how the subway worked, took us to her favourite restaurant and spent the evening filling us in on what life was like for a young woman in Kyoto. Ayaka had big dreams and a desire for new experiences. We have kept in touch since our first meeting.

Rong was our bicycle guide on several of our visits to Yangshou China. She was an incredible young woman who biked into Yanghsou every morning from her home 15 miles away. The money she was earning as a guide would help her younger brother go to school and help with her mother’s medical expenses. Rong had lost the sight in one eye in a childhood accident but that didn’t hold her back from being a fabulous guide. I wrote a story about her for the Winnipeg Free Press.

These four women and I formed the high school English Department at an international school in Hong where I taught for six years. They were the absolute dream team to work with- dedicated, hard-working, innovative, caring and collegial. Meena was from India, Rebekah from the United States, Vanessa from Hong Kong, I was from Canada and Liz was from Australia. We were truly an international group of educators.

Other posts…………….

Meeting Wayan From Eat Pray Love

This Woman Should Be A Jamaican Saint

Faithless? Definitely Not!

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Human Rights and February Holidays

In February we recognize two important holidays.  Both remind us we are making progress towards respecting diversity, but each should also remind us we need to continue to be vigilant about protecting human rights. 

Lion dancer I photographed during Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong

We are in the midst of the Chinese New Year celebrations which run from February 12 -26th.  Canada is home to more than one and half million people of Chinese descent. I learned to thoroughly enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations during the six years I lived in Hong Kong. Some of my colleagues at the international school where I taught were Chinese Canadians.  I was interested to learn that their families had been in Canada longer than mine.  

Sculpture illustrating the important contribution Chinese workers made to the construction of Canada’s railroad at the Winnipeg Millennium Library

My Mennonite ancestors immigrated in the 1920s but in the early 1880s 17,000 Chinese workers came to Canada to help build the railroad.  Many stayed here and prospered despite the virulent racism they faced. Their families continue to make valuable contributions to our country in politics, culture, business, science, education, technology and sport. 

Sadly, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, in the last year more than 600 incidents of hate related crimes have been reported to Chinese Canadian organizations. Although some of these incidents are related to historical anti-Asian racism many are the result of the racialization of COVID-19. Vancouver police have reported a real spike in cases. They investigated seven racist incidents in 2019 and sixty-six in 2020. 

Dr. Theresa Tam- Canada’s Chief Medical Officer

Although it is easy to point fingers at the United States where their former president’s continual reference to COVID-19 as the Chinese virus has caused a massive increase in anti-Asian hate incidents, we have a similar problem in Canada. One need look no further for an example of such anti- Chinese sentiment than the comments of former Conservative Party member Derek Sloan. He accused Dr. Theresa Tam our country’s chief medical officer who is of Chinese descent, of being more loyal to China than to Canada. This kind of dishonest racist rhetoric has no place in a respectful society.  

I photographed Winnipeg’s Metis mayor Brian Bowman at the opening ceremonies for Folklorama in 2019

On Monday we celebrated Louis Riel day. Louis Riel was a staunch defender of the rights of Manitoba’s Metis people. The mayor of our capital city Brian Bowman is Metis as was a former provincial premier John Norquay. Think of hockey player Theoren Fluery, writer Katherena Vermette, artist Joe Fafard, actress Tantoo Cardinal and members of Parliament Dan Vandal and Shelley Glover and you will get some idea of just how many important contributions the nearly 90,000 Metis Manitobans have made to our province.  

Yet it doesn’t take long to find stories about Metis people being discriminated against in many different areas of society.  In September of 2020 a CTV news story reported that David Chartrand the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation had sent a letter to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission alleging systemic discrimination against the Metis people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Chartrand said the provincial government had been unwilling to work with the Metis nation in an information sharing process that would have benefited both the Metis and the Manitoba health care system.  

I photographed this sculpture titled Manitoba by Metis artist Joe Fafard at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

In 2018 almost the entire Manitoba Hydro Board, whose members had all been appointed by Premier Brian Pallister, resigned to protest the decision the premier made to not honor an agreement the board had negotiated with the Manitoba Metis Federation. Clearly there is still work to do in addressing discrimination against the Metis community. 

A pair of holidays we celebrate in February recognize the rich contributions of two diverse communities in our country. Those holidays should also remind us we need to continue to work at respecting the human rights of those communities.  

Other posts………

Making Chinese Dumplings

Manitoba is Metis

It’s Louis Riel Day

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Filed under Canada, Culture, History, Holidays, manitoba, Politics

Images of Love

In honour of Valentine’s Day I decided to look for images from past pages of this blog that were associated with the word love.

I married the love of my life in 1973.

I love these three friends who have provided me with so much affirmation and support over the years.

This water-colour of a recently married couple was featured on the thank you cards they sent out to guests for the wedding gifts they had received. Dave and I attended their wedding in Toronto.

I photographed this sign at a Winnipeg Earth Day celebration where we were encouraged to show our love of creation by protecting it and caring for it.

I love my sister and brothers. They have added so much care and concern and FUN to my life.

I loved being a teacher for over 35 years. Here I am on the rooftop of the school I taught at in Hong Kong with a group of students who were in my advisory. I mentored them throughout their high school years.

I absolutely loved this film about a woman who loves giraffes, scientist Anne Dagg. She did groundbreaking research on giraffes in the 1950s but because she was a woman her work wasn’t recognized by the academic world. Recognition finally came when she was in her 80s and that made it possible for her to go back to Africa to visit her beloved giraffes.

I loved the way my niece Olivia who is a professional chef expressed her love for her family by preparing the rehearsal dinner meal for her cousins’ wedding many years ago. I loved the amazing food she prepared!

My mother LOVED her grandchildren. She told me once being a grandmother was the best thing in her life. She said she LOVED the way each of her grandchildren was so unique and special. Mom died in 2013 but the love she had for her family lives on. I have the joy of knowing what she meant about a grandmother’s love with my own four grandchildren.

A child made this and gave it to me after I had led her class on a tour of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and had done an art workshop with them.

I photographed this declaration of love on a building in Austin Texas. I was there to watch our son perform in the South by Southwest music festival.

The birth of my first child brought a kind of love into my life that was different from anything I had ever experienced before. Now I marvel as I watch my sons parenting their own children and the way they love them and care for them.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Love is all around.

Other posts……..

A Culinary Masterpiece

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

Our Wedding A Different Perspective

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Happy New Year

Welcome to 2021.

Let’s receive it with open arms.

Arms that open to share our love with friends and family

Arms that open to welcome new people who are different than we are into our circles.

Arms that open to embrace adventures that will lead us to explore unique territory .

Arms that open to offer hope and healing to others and in turn give us hope and healing.

Arms that open to let light and optimism and enthusiasm wash into our hearts.

Other posts………

Beginnings

A Prayer for the New Year

Christmas at New Years

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers. Thanks so much for reading my posts and a special thanks to so many of you who have made comments and responded. Especially during this past year writing this blog each day has been a way to keep balance and perspective and maintain a meaningful routine for my pandemic life. I wish you peace and joy as you celebrate this festive season.

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