Category Archives: Reflections

The Puzzle of Time

This is the latest jigsaw puzzle I’ve completed. As I worked on putting together all these timepieces I was thinking about a conversation I had with a group of women a couple of weeks ago. We talked about how hard it is to alter the way we use our time.

The women in the group were about my age or a little younger. We discussed how for so many years we had to organize our time as efficiently as possible so we could juggle our careers, our community involvements and our families.

We learned to prioritize things and plan our days in a way that allowed for maximum accomplishment. We considered very wisely how we spent each minute. Now that our children are independent and we have fewer career commitments it isn’t always easy to learn to slow down our pace.

One woman commented that she used to have her shopping trips to the grocery store planned for maximum efficiency and minimum time. She realizes she doesn’t need to do that any more. It is possible to move through the store at a more leisurely pace, stopping to talk to someone she recognizes, comparing prices and quality of items, appreciating the colours of the blooms in the floral department and maybe taking in the scent of the fresh bread coming out of the oven in the bakery.

Another thing we talked about was letting go a little of the need to accomplish set goals. One woman described how hard she had worked to get her PHD before she retired. But she has it now. Why does she need to keep pushing herself so hard professionally?

I talked about achieving a life-long dream to publish a book. I’ve done that. So why do I feel pressure to publish another one and feel badly when I don’t find time to pursue that goal?

I spend an endless amount of time watching my granddaughter walking up and down these steps in a nearby park and counting to ten as she does so

Several of us were grandparents and we talked about how our grandchildren are a gift when it comes to rethinking time priorities. When you are with them you are forced to abandon all thoughts of having a goal-orientated day or doing any kind of meaningful work other than caring for them and being involved with them.

Managing our time in all the different stages of life has its challenges. Doing a jigsaw puzzle that focused on marking the passage of time with such a variety of timepieces got me thinking about how I might keep working towards seeing time as a gift to savour and not a challenger to beat.

Other posts………..

The Passing of Time

Ageing

Light a Multitude of Candles

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Fueling Friendship

Julie Beck has been writing a series in The Atlantic about friends for three years. She’s interviewed more than a hundred groups of friends and shared those interviews with the magazine’s readers. The series is wrapping up now and Julie has used her experience to make a list of six characteristics that help friendships last and make them meaningful.

Lunch at a tea room with the women I work with at an MCC Thrift Store

Accumulation- by this Julie means the accumulated hours spent together. She thinks people need to invest time in a friendship and that between 60 -100 hours must be spent with another person to build a true friendship. This is why we often make friends with people we work with, go to church with, study with or do a leisure activity with on a regular basis. The friends in the photo above are other volunteers I work with at a Thrift Store for about four hours once a week. We also go to the same church so we have accumulated lots of hours together.

Chatting with members of my writing group during a meeting we held at my house

Attention- Julie says you have to pay attention to the people around you because you can find a friend in all kinds of places and situations. She encourages us to put ourselves out there and try something new and in the process make new friends. I was very nervous when I went to the first meeting of a children’s writing group almost a decade ago. Now the authors in the group have become good friends.

With my friends at an escape room

Intention- Julie says friendships take energy and thought, in other words, friendships take work. This makes me think of a group of former teaching colleagues I get together with regularly. We put work into planning special outings and get-togethers and buying meaningful gifts for one another.

I think this is 2007. We have been getting together with this group of friends for a long time.

Ritual- Making a point of getting together regularly. Although things have changed because of the pandemic we are part of a group of five couples who used to get together regularly- each couple taking a turn to plan our next adventure or outing.

One of my good friends just moved far away

Imagination- Sometimes maintaining a friendship takes imagination- thinking outside the box. Someone who has been a good friend of mine for several decades just moved to Newfoundland. We will have to use our imaginations to think of creative ways we can maintain that friendship despite the distance between us.

Grace- Julie says the final quality you need to maintain a friendship is grace. You have to forgive yourself when you fall short of being the kind of friend you should be and you have to forgive your friends when they fall short.

Other posts………..

At The Gates Again

We Never Stop Talking

Carrying on a Family Tradition With Friends

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The Purpose of Life

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is the great poet right?

Many say Princess Diana’s public support for the cause of banning landmines was a turning point in the effort- photo by Tim Graham

We know it is possible to live a useful life where you make important contributions to humanity and leave a lasting legacy but aren’t really happy. Think of the late Princess Diana whose sons have often verbally attested to her love and care for them, who made a difference in the world through her outspoken and visible support of AIDS victims and her advocacy for the banning of landmines. Yet if her biographers are to be believed she was a deeply unhappy person.

The poet Emerson might be wise to advise us not make happiness the purpose of our lives because pursuing happiness is fraught with challenges. How do we know if we have truly achieved it? Sometimes the things we were sure would make us happy don’t necessarily do so once we acquire them.

I have written before about my mother’s antidote for unhappiness- doing more to help others. There are lots of studies that show people who volunteer in some way are happier. I know Jesus advised us to truly love ourselves and then love others if we wanted to be happy.

So maybe Emerson got it a little wrong.

If we are honourable, compassionate, do useful things, try to make a difference and attempt to live well by building relationships, taking care of our health and being open to new experiences and new ideas I think there is a pretty good chance we will be happy even if that’s not our stated purpose.

Other posts……….

Volunteer and Live Longer

Two Lessons From Mom

Glass Half Empty? Glass Half Full?

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What’s Your Mouse in the Chest?

Mouse in the chest is an idiom from the Philippines.  A person’s mouse in the chest is a thing they fear.  Chloe, one of the talented students at the school where I taught in Hong Kong, did this clever visual representation of the Filipino idiom for an Advanced Placement art show. She has drawn a mouse in a shirt pocket and all around it are words for things she fears like needles and crowds and heights and clowns.

When I taught high school I studied a poem with my English students called Fear by American poet Raymond Carver.  In his catalog verse Carver lists many of his own mice in the chest including…………

Fear of a police car pulling into the driveway

Fear of telephones that ring in the dead of the night

Fear of being late and fear of arriving before anyone else

Fear of living too long

Fear of running out of money

Check out the ants crawling on the pocket watch in Dali’s famous painting The Persistence of Memory

While preparing to give a tour of Salvador Dali’s work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I learned the famous Spanish artist had a mouse in the chest for ants.  He confronted his fear of the insects by putting them in his paintings and having an anteater for a pet. 

Other famous people report interesting mice in the chest as well.

Actress Nicole Kidman is afraid of butterflies. 

Singer Katy Perry is terrified of the dark and admits she sleeps with the light on.

Singer and actress Madonna is scared of lightning and thunder.

My family went skiing together and exiting the chair lift petrified me

One of my mice in the chest is that I am scared every single time I take the first step onto an escalator. Our family used to go on regular skiing holidays and I was petrified every time I had to jump off the lift chair at the top of a ski run.

Some of my mice in the chest terrify me so much I am too scared to even name them here for fear that might make them happen.

What’s your mouse in the chest?

Other posts………

If You Are Nervous Why Are You Doing It?

Must We Live in Fear?

A Personal Dali

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I Thought You Were About 45

I was giving a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery yesterday to a group of teenagers from a high school in the Interlake region of the province. I told them about a piece currently on display in the gallery that had been retired from public view since 1953. I told the students it was the year I had been born. One young man seemed genuinely surprised. “I thought you might be around 45.”

Since I have a son who is almost 45 the young man’s comment was obviously erroneous, misguided and far-fetched. Perhaps he didn’t notice all my wrinkles with my face under a mask. But………. I have to say that initially, I felt pretty good about his comment.

But later I started wondering why. Why is it a compliment to say someone looks young?

Checking out some unique tree roots on a hike on Vancouver Island last fall

I certainly wouldn’t want to be younger than I am. I am enjoying this stage of life- where I get to be flexible about where and how much I work- where I get to experience the incomparable joy of being a grandparent- where I have had the freedom to travel and see the world – where I have time to explore new opportunities and develop new skillsand where I’ve been fortunate enough to feel pretty healthy.

Like too many of us, I have probably been brainwashed by our youth-obsessed culture and media and the industries that make massive amounts of money from people who are trying to look younger than they are.

I like my age and I shouldn’t need or want people to tell me I look younger than I really am.

Other posts……….

The Best of Birthdays

What An Inspiration!

Graduation- A Family Story

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Every Doorway Has A Story

Standing at the door of my grandparents’ home in Gnadenthal Manitoba in 1956. Grandpa and I are going out to feed the pigs.
With my sister in the doorway of the Baron Gautsch Guesthouse in Rovinj Croatia on a cycling trip in 2019
Standing in the doorway of a Buddhist Temple on High Island in Hong Kong with my husband and our two sons in 2004
With my mother in front of the door of our house on Dundurn Place in Winnipeg in 1954
In 2015 in the doorway of a St. Louis jazz club with friends from my Hong Kong days
By the back door of our house on Friesen Avenue in Steinbach in 1981
With my high school friend Ken in 2005 in the doorway of a thatched roof cottage on the Isle of Wight in England where Ken lives
With my grade four class in front of the doorway of the old Kornelson School in Steinbach in 1962

With my friends by the door of a historic house in Neubergthal Manitoba in 2016
With my friends Deb and Shirley Joy in front of the doorway of my parents home in Steinbach in 1973

Every doorway has a story. – Katherine Dunn

Other posts……..

The T-4’s Go Mennonite

Wedding Photos – A Different Perspective

Doors

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Broken Into

A story in the Free Press this morning about cars being targetted by thieves reminded me of how our car was broken into a couple of weeks ago. We came out to our parking garage to drive to church on Easter Sunday morning only to find the contents of the glove compartment strewn across the front seat. Although Dave had locked the car, no windows were broken so we are not sure how the thieves gained entry to our vehicle.

We knew our car had been broken into as soon as we opened the door

A quick check revealed that the only things missing were our garage door opener, a bottle of Tylenol and a pair of new golf gloves my husband had purchased in preparation for his upcoming season on the links. We had a compartment with a substantial amount of change in it but that was left untouched. Luckily the horrible weather has delayed the golfing season so our clubs were not in the trunk as they normally would be at this time of year.

The article in the Free Press and our own experience as well as that of friends and family who have had their homes and garages and cars broken into, has me wondering why break-ins and theft seem to be happening more often.

Are people unable to find jobs and so they turn to theft to make a living or to provide their families with basic necessities?

Is it because of the increased number of people addicted to drugs? Are people stealing to feed their drug habit?

I know some people steal just for the excitement of it – because the thrill of getting away with it fulfils some deep psychological need.

I read an interview with a police officer that said theft is up because thieves find it so much easier to sell stolen property these days using the internet to advertise the stuff they’ve heisted.

I wonder if there are young people who steal because of peer pressure from a gang or a bad group of friends.

Do people steal out of anger and jealousy because they feel it is unfair others have what they can’t have or have more than they do?

We have a pair of new garage door openers now. They are attached to our key rings so we don’t have to leave them in the car and they have a different code than the opener that was stolen. Luckily our car wasn’t damaged and nothing of consequence was stolen but it does give us a strange feeling to know that someone could so easily access our private property.

I have been thinking about what society needs to do to eliminate the need for theft. How do we address the underlying reasons that make people feel it is okay to rob others?

Other posts………

A Sad Story

A Stranger in the Woods

Stealing The Play’s A Thing

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Cedar Memories

The other day the word to solve in my daily Canuckle word puzzle was cedar.

That got me thinking about the gorgeous Chi Lin Nunnery in Hong Kong with its sixteen huge halls all built out of thousand-year-old yellow Canadian cedar without a single nail. You can smell the cedar the moment you walk on the grounds.

And the cedar at the Chi Lin Nunnery got me thinking about these towering cedar trees we saw along our cycling route in Croatia. They were so tall they dwarfed the church’s bell tower.

And the cedars in Croatia got me thinking about the cedar waxwings we saw a couple of years ago at Moose Lake where my brother now owns the cottage that has been in our family for three generations.

And those cedar waxwings got me thinking about the colorful cedar boards we had on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2016 made by artist Jordan Bennet who is from Newfoundland.  They were inspired by stories he heard about the land and the history of his people. 

And thinking about those cedar boards at the art gallery made me think of the beautiful yellow cedar tree the artist in residence last year at my church Lynda Toews painted when we were doing a worship series about trees.

And Lynda’s cedar got me thinking of the grade three class I visited at John M. King School where the children had painted replicas of Emily Carr’s masterpiece Red Cedar.

And thinking about the cedar trees the children had painted made me think about the Cedar Hill Golf Course in Victoria where Dave and I played nine holes last fall.

It’s amazing where the word cedar in my Canuckle puzzle took me.

Other posts……..

Lessons From Trees

My Annual Moose Lake Fix

Imitating Emily

All Boarded Up

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In Praise of Sensible and Human Things

I photographed the 9/11 memorial on a trip to New York City

I will never forget when the planes hit the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.  I was at work and my grade four students were having a class with their music teacher so I went down to the staff room at Mitchell School to get a cup of coffee. Some of my colleagues were gathered around the radio there and that’s when I learned about the catastrophe happening in New York. I went back to my classroom my mind reeling and my heart pounding.  What was happening to our world?

I didn’t want to let the children see my distress. I wondered how I would be able to concentrate and carry on for the rest of the day.  But……. no sooner had my students walked through the door coming back from music class than one of them threw up.  I dealt with that and then the kids were begging me for our regular read-aloud time which had been delayed and after that, someone noticed the hamster had escaped from its cage, and one child slipped and fell and was crying and needed a hug, and two girls who were best friends were having a fight and I had to mediate.  And then suddenly it was lunchtime, and I hadn’t really had time to think about what was going on in New York at all.

I wrote about all of that in my Winnipeg Free Press column at the time and said my students had been a good reminder that life goes on even amid a crisis.  And I think that is something we need to remember right now when we are faced, as many are warning, with the possibility of World War III.

This past week I did childcare for my granddaughter for three days, I visited my dad in his nursing home, I made meals, did laundry, phoned a friend for her birthday, met with my writing group, cleaned some kitchen cupboards, taught a course online, wrote my newspaper column, solved my Wordle puzzle every morning and went to a Winnipeg Jets game even though what was happening in Ukraine was never far from my mind.

C.S. Lewis

In 1948 as the world dealt with the threat of the atomic bomb C.S. Lewis wrote……If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. 

Yes, the world is in a dire situation, but life goes on and so must we. 

Other posts………

The Tsunami and the Pandemic

9/11- Putting Stories to Names

A Giant Baby and An Old Woman

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Your Own Personal Decision

We might not always understand the decisions other people make or even think they are the best decisions, but in most cases, it is probably a good idea to just be quiet unless our opinion is solicited.

I remember when my husband Dave and I decided to move to Hong Kong. Well-meaning people asked…….

Won’t you miss your children? Shouldn’t you be providing support to your ageing parents? Wouldn’t it be wiser to finish your career in Manitoba and receive the maximum pension? Have you considered how your life will change when you leave friends you’ve had for years, a house you’ve owned for a decade and a community where you’ve lived almost your whole married life?
We did think about all those things but ………. it was our own personal decision to make.

Outside our condo with my friend Beena

When Dave and I came home from Hong Kong we decided to buy a condo in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. Well-meaning people asked………….

Where will Dave golf in Winnipeg? Aren’t condo fees expensive? Don’t you want a big enough house to host lots of guests? Do you really want to deal with the traffic, crowds and parking problems in Winnipeg? Is a condo a reliable real estate investment? Won’t you be scared to walk downtown at night?
We did think about all those things but…………. it was our own personal decision to make.

Having often been on the receiving end of well-meaning advice I do try my best not to share my opinions about other people’s personal choices unless they ask for my input because what other people decide to do with their lives ………….is their own personal decision to make.

Other posts………….

A Lesson From My Grandfather

The Path of Life

Would I Get a Tattoo?

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