Category Archives: Reflections

A Fine Balance


Giving folks from Siloam Mission a tour at the art gallery

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done…..

Come, my friends,

T’is not too late to seek a newer world….    –  Alfred Lloyd Tennyson

walking in iceland

Walking in Iceland


Earth’s crammed with heaven, 

And every common bush afire with God

But only those who see take off their shoes;

The rest sit around and pluck blackberries. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Those two quotes represent two different aspects of retirement, not necessarily in opposition to one another but requiring a fine balance.  

Beverly McLachlin

I read the first quote by Tennyson in a Macleans Op Ed written by recently retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin.   McLachlin who is some ten years older than I am, is certainly taking Tennyson’s words to heart.  She just retired in December but has already completed writing a novel that will soon be published and has accepted a part-time post as a foreign judge on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. She is finding ‘work of noble note’ even as she approaches the last decades of her life. 

mom and dad in their flower garden

My parents in their flower garden

I read the second quote by Browning on the Facebook page of a chaplain in a retirement facility.  Retirement offers us an opportunity to take a break from constant work and really notice all the beauty around us here on earth, to ‘take off our shoes’ and soak up the wonders of nature, the kindness of strangers and the excellence of a good book.  Browning warns that if we are so busy working we won’t have time to notice that beauty around us. 

The challenge lies in achieving a balance.  Doing some noble work so we have a purpose, so we still feel like we are making some small contribution to a ‘newer world’,  but also making sure we have time to revel in the beauty of the natural world, spend time with family and friends and enjoy literature, music, theatre, physical exercise, travel and art. 

It’s a fine balance. I often am tilted too far to one side or the other, but I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to try to continue to balance my life before ‘death closes all.’ 

Other posts…………

Self Care

Start and End Happy

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Filed under Poetry, Reflections, Retirement

What is Your Body Saying?

Shape_of_Water_3Non-verbal communication can be so powerful.   Actress Sally Hawkins playing a mute cleaning lady named Elisa Esposito, doesn’t utter a word in the movie The Shape of Water but she speaks volumes. In her unbelievably expressive face you can clearly see love and frustration, anger, humour and intelligence. All Elisa need do is shrug her shoulder, soften her eyes or let a tiny smile begin to play at the corner of her lips and you know exactly how she is feeling. Using only sign language and body language Elisa does her job capably and has won loyal friends. 

the shape of waterBecause she can’t speak the romance she carries on with a merman, an exotic water creature being kept in the lab where she works, is even more intense and emotional than it would have been had the love affair been conducted in words. 

As I watched The Shape of Water I was actually reminded of something actor Will Smith said in the movie Hitch where he is coaching a man trying to pursue the love of his life. “Sixty percent of all human communication is nonverbal body language; thirty percent is your tone, so that means ninety percent of what you’re saying isn’t coming out of your mouth.”

dave bargains with sellers in a saigon marketI was also reminded of this picture of my husband Dave carrying on price negotiations in a market in Saigon using only a calculator and his facial and body expressions.  He didn’t speak the women’s language and they didn’t speak his but Dave was so good at communicating with his body language.  Dave is a very funny man and he can be funny without saying a word. 

Sally Hawkins may not win the Golden Globe tonight for best actress but her ability to play a woman who speaks without speaking was exceptional and reminds us all that we communicate with far more than just our words. 

Other posts about communication…….

Heart’s Content- The Fishing Village That Changed the World

I Had My Toes Read

The Language of Flowers

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Filed under Movies, People, Reflections

A 2017 Retrospective

As many of you know I am a columnist for the newspaper The Carillon.  This was my last column of 2017.


Posing with the portrait of the MaryLou whose father built her a kitchy castle

I never thought I’d visit a castle bearing my name. I spent January in Phoenix and toured MaryLou’s Castle with my brother Ken It was the home of MaryLou Gulley who lived in the massive house her father built for her from recycled stone, wood, ceramics, brick, steel and well really just about any material you can imagine. MaryLou’s Castle has thirteen fireplaces, a pump organ once owned by a woman who murdered several husbands, and a huge camel painted onto the back of the sitting room couch. It’s quite the kitschy place!


My grandson made these rock renditions of  three coyotes Jean, George and Jack. They were the main characters in a story my husband Dave unravelled for our grandson every night under the stars in Arizona.

In February my two grandsons and their parents came to visit us in Arizona. We went hiking and swimming and visited the Phoenix Children’s Museum. We played endless rounds of Candy Land, did daily art projects and each night under the stars by our backyard fire pit my husband unravelled the next chapter in a story he created for our older grandson about three coyotes.


Visiting my Aunt Mary in Kansas.

“I held you before your mother did,” my Aunt Mary reminded me when I visited her in Kansas in March. My aunt was a nurse and stayed in the delivery room with my Mom the night I was born. After the birth, while the doctors attended to Mom, Aunt Mary held me. My parents used part of my aunt’s name when choosing mine. I loved seeing her again.

touring people from siloam mission

Giving folks from Siloam Mission a tour at the art gallery

They changed my stereotypical ideas about homeless people. In April I gave a tour of the Winnipeg Art Gallery to clients from Siloam Mission. They were so knowledgeable about the art and took such pleasure in it. I learned a great deal from them.

concert hall royal canoe

Royal Canoe performs with the WSO

I visited the Centennial Concert Hall twice in May. First to see my daughter-in-law leading two choirs participating in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Then later to see my son’s band Royal Canoe stage a full concert performance with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and sell out the hall.

little free library

Three great guys from my church, Brock, Ike and Delmar who helped me with the Little Free Library project.

June marked the official opening of the Little Free Library at my church. I spearheaded the effort to create a space where people in the community could get books for free.

cousins pelee

My sons and some of their cousins gathered on the shore of Lake Erie at sunset

Competitions, conversations and copious amounts of food were the trademarks of a four -day gathering of my husbands’ brothers and their families on Pelee Island. The island was one of my father-in-laws’ first homes after immigrating to Canada. It was fitting we held a July celebration there to honour my husband’s parents and have tons of family fun.

marylou and brother at moose lake

With my brother Mark on a boat ride at Moose Lake

In August I made my annual trek to Moose Lake. My brother and his family now own the cottage I have visited every year since my grandfather built it when I was seven. A summer never seems complete till I’ve been there.

group photo glacier vik

With my sister and her husband on Glacier Vik in Iceland

In September I went cycling through Germany, Austria and Switzerland for a week and then spent six days learning about glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes and rainbows on a driving trip in Iceland.

dee barsy four grandmothers

Four Grandmothers by Dee Barsy my favorite piece in the Insurgence Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

In October I celebrated my birthday and started giving tours of a ground- breaking exhibit of indigenous art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

black and white with bikeIn November I won a brand new bicycle at a fundraiser for Arts Junktion a warehouse in Winnipeg that provides free recycled art supplies for teachers and community organizations.

peralta hike 20

On a hike on the Peralta Trail with our friends Rudy and Sue

I ended the year on a sad note saying a final good-bye to my friend Sue Nikkel. We shared many travel adventures around the world with Sue and her husband Rudy and I will miss my conversations with her, our golf games, book discussions, glasses of wine, Sue’s wonderful cooking, her advice, and the interest and care she extended to me on many occasions. Good-bye Sue and good-bye 2017.

Other posts……….

A Prayer for the New Year

Highlights of 2016

My Grandmother’s Epitaph



Filed under Reflections


with the nikkels in japan.One night when we were in Kyoto Japan with our friends Rudy and Sue we went to a local market and bought fruit, vegetables, cold meats, bread, cheese and wine so we could have a meal in the dining area of the traditional Japanese house where we were staying. We arrived at our lodgings and dumped out our shopping bags onto the table. We were tired and hungry and began nibbling away silently at the things we’d bought when Sue said, “Wait a minute.” She gathered up our purchases and went into the kitchen, returning a short while later with all our foodstuffs cut up and arranged and presented beautifully on a tray she had found. Suddenly our meal took on a whole new tone. The lovely presentation of our food made us take time to savor what we were eating and really enjoy it and each other’s company. Even though it was the end of a long day of walking and sight-seeing we had a great time visiting, eating, sipping our wine and talking about our new experiences.

We all know appearances aren’t everything but my friend Sue taught me that the look of things makes a difference. Whether it was the artistic way she served the delicious meals she cooked, the comfortable way she designed the interior of her home, the creative way she could organize a vase of flowers or the classic way she often dressed, Sue had a flair for presentation. It made food taste better, rooms seem more inviting, flowers look even lovelier and simple outfits appear perfect for the occasion. Sue had a talent for arranging things so their innate beauty shone through.

My friend Sue died on Monday night.  She was a successful businesswoman, adventuresome world traveler, supportive wife, caring mother, loving grandmother, wonderful cook, avid reader, wine aficionado, first class social coordinator, experienced cyclist, hardy hiker, brisk walker, talented bridge player, serious golfer, easy conversationalist, empathetic listener and many, many other things to her family and to her wide, wide circle of friends. I count myself blessed indeed to have been one of those friends. I will miss her greatly.  

Other posts…….

A Serendipitous Sail

Hecla Island Inspiration

Getting To Know A Famous Inventor




Filed under Reflections

Happy Birthday

It was my birthday yesterday. I had a lovely day. In the morning my son and grandsons called from Saskatoon to sing Happy Birthday to me. My sister took me out for lunch and we had a great visit. My one brother is in a very remote place in India but managed to find an internet connection so he could send me birthday wishes. My other brother who is on a business trip in China sent me a birthday text. Dave and I went to a movie in the evening with a friend and then out for cake and chai.  My Dad called at the end of the evening to wish me a Happy Birthday. I received lots of messages and cards and phone calls and e-mails and texts wishing me a Happy Birthday. It was a good celebration of another completed year of my life. Here are some highlights from that year. 
marylou-and-lynne-ladies-lookoutOctober- Great trip to Newfoundland with Dave and my cousin Lynne and her husband Rodlittle free libraryNovember- continuing to work on our church’s Little Free Library with these three great guys

meena-and-meDecember- Hosting our Hong Kong friends Meena and Anil

ken-and-meJanuary- hiking with my brother in Arizonaarrivederci-dinnerFebruary – Good times with family and friends in Arizonaartists at work marylou debbieMarch- creating our own great masterpieces with my T-4 friends’ groupat the manitoba book awards (1)April- Attending the Manitoba Book Awards with friends from my writers’ group

marylou and viMay- Visiting my Aunt Viola in Saskatoonchinese tour group at wagJune- Giving a Winnipeg Art Gallery tour of the Picasso exhibit to a group from Chinamarylou and alisa board walkJuly – trip to Ontario for a family gathering marylou and brotherAugust- time at Moose Lake at my brother and sister-in-law’s cottageStykkishólmur, Iceland September- Trip to Iceland

My 64th year has been a good one. Thanks to so many of you who sent me birthday wishes and affirmations about my blog posts.  Looking forward to the adventures the coming year brings and sharing them with you. 

Other posts……..

Birthdays Past

A Sunny Birthday on a Rainy Day

Happy Birthday with the T-4s


Filed under Reflections

Acts of Kindness and Love

There’s a Canadian Broadcasting Report about a young woman named Heather who after the mass shooting in Las Vegas stayed with British Columbia victim Jordan McIldoon as he died and later phoned his parents and girlfriend and made sure his body wasn’t left alone till she was certain his family would be able to find him.  She says that what she did wasn’t heroic compared to what she saw others doing.  

“People were running into the … line of fire and finding bodies and finding people and trying to save their life.”

That quote reminded me of another.

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

It is frustrating to read the platitudes of American politicians who say they are praying for the victims and their families.  I want to tell them, “Open your eyes and get up off your knees and do something to stop this carnage in your country.”  But they won’t.  Since the great powers of the United States seem impotent it will be left to ordinary people to continue to carry out small acts of kindness and love that provide a glimmer of hope for their nation.   


Filed under Reflections

Things That Are True

At our last meeting my writers’ group discussed a recent Ted Talk given by writer Anne Lamott entitled Twelve Things I Know To Be True. I could really resonate with many of them.  Here are three I particularly liked. flat-iron-sunset

1.  Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes.  That includes you.  

When I am really stuck on a writing project or work assignment the best thing to do is just leave it for a while and go for a hike, take a nap, have a shower, read a book or go to a movie. Invariably while I am doing something completely different the solution to my writing or work dilemma reveals itself. Everyone needs to take a break sometimes and we shouldn’t feel guilty about just unplugging and giving ourselves down time. 

february baby 19792. Family life is both astonishing and hard.  

Welcoming a new child is astonishing.  Saying goodbye to a parent who has died is incredibly hard.  Watching your child accomplish something and knowing that in that moment they are truly and utterly happy is astonishing.  Watching your child go through illness, or disappointment, or loss is heartbreakingly hard. Having a family member affirm and support you is astonishing.  Accepting the criticism, silence and correction of a family member can be humbling and hard. 

hiking akaka falls state park hawaii trees

3.  God means goodness. God is a loving, animating intelligence.  Emerson said…… We learn from nature the lessons of worship. Go outside often and look up when you need to find God. 

I too think of God as good.  Bad things don’t come from God but God does send people to help us when we human beings mess up and bad things happen.  And I do feel the most worshipful and close to God when I am outside, looking at stars, walking in a forest, wading in the ocean, or tracking a bird in flight. 

In her Ted Talk Anne Lamott talks about nine other things she knows to be true.  You can hear about the other six on the Ted Talk site.

Other posts……….

Hawaii Inspiration

Thoughts on Hope

And That Led Me


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Filed under Books, Family, Reflections