Category Archives: Reflections

Inspired By My Brother and the Dalai Lama

My brother was spending time at his cottage recently and posted some beautiful nature photos on Instagram.   Each photo was accompanied by a related quote from the Dalai Lama.  That inspired me to look for meaningful quotes from the Dalai Lama and find photos in my photo library that might illustrate them.

My husband and friend walking in Gross Morn National Park Newfoundland

People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.

I photographed this man sitting and thinking on the shore beside his boat on the Mekong River in Laos

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

I photographed these schoolboys in Vietnam

Look at children. Of course, they may quarrel, but generally speaking, they do not harbour ill feelings as much or as long as adults do. If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished. They can still play with that person the following day.

Ringing the peace bell in Hiroshima

Work for peace in your heart and in the world

With my Advanced Composition class in Hong Kong

Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.

Kissing my husband on the day of his university graduation

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

Hugging a redwood tree in Yalta Ukraine

Because we all share this planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. This is not just a dream, but a necessity.

My Dad in a garden he grew on the grounds of his condo building. He called it  The Dorothy Garden in memory of my mother

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation.

Our daughter-in-law with some of her patients in South Africa

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.

A capuchin monkey photographed by my husband Dave in Costa Rica

The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.

Other posts……….

Seeing Things In A Different Way

Chi Lin Nunnery- Hong Kong

Let Me Count The Ways

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Lagom-Just Right

I’ve been doing lots of puzzles since COVID -19 began and in the process, I’m coming to realize which ones are just right for me. grandma moses puzzleI did this one recently and although it was enjoyable it was too easy. lawren harris puzzleI attempted this one but it was way too hard. puzzle from kaaren food bowlsMy sister gave me this one and it was JUST RIGHT.  Enough of a challenge to keep me thinking and engaged but not so hard I became discouraged.  

There’s a Swedish word lagom which essentially means ‘just right.’  I love doing puzzles that are lagom for me. 

marylou tour winnipeg art gallery

Doing a music activity with kids at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of my job there. 

I am kind of the same way when it comes to working.  Before the pandemic, I had a variety of part-time jobs.  Sometimes when demands were high at all of them I felt way too busy.  But when demands were low at all of them or non-existent like at the height of the pandemic I didn’t feel nearly busy enough.  I loved the times of lagom however when my jobs kept me just busy enough but still gave me time to explore other things I love to do. 

Psychologists say lagom is the reason Sweden is usually listed as one of the happiest countries in the world.  People work hard but not to the detriment of other important parts of life. Swedish society operates on the principle that people should have what they need, but not too much or too little.  There is a Swedish proverb, “Lagom är bäst”.  It means, “The right amount is best”.  

How might I apply the quest for ‘just right’ to my life besides picking jigsaw puzzles that are the right level of difficulty?  

lunch at coyote gulch art village

A just-right lunch at the Coyote Gulch Art Village in Utah

Eating a moderate but satisfying amount- savouring and enjoying food as a sensory experience but not overeating. 

walking in iceland

A just-right hike near Selfoss in Iceland- interesting but not too difficult terrain and just the right length

Exercising enough so I feel energized but not so much that I am bone-weary. 

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I need lots of experiences like this to create a just-right balance with my computer time. 

Spending time on the computer writing, learning and keeping up with what is going on in the world but not becoming so immersed in that I neglect other ways to inform myself like viewing art,  reading, observing nature, visiting museums, listening to podcasts and talking with friends. 

Everyone’s lagom is different.  We each need to find our own levels in the various areas of life, levels that keep us feeling content and peaceful. We need to find that balance, that sweet spot, that just right place. 

Other posts…………

A Perfect Last Day in Utah

House With a View and So Much More

Hygge

Self-Care- What I Think It Is For Me

A Poignant Book

 

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Is Favoritism Just Another Kind of Discrimination?

On a recent episode of The Human Brain podcast titled How Favoritism Leads to Injustice, Mahzarin Banaji a psychologist who studies discrimination told the story about a fellow Yale professor who cut a long and deep gash in her hand when she dropped a crystal bowl she was washing.

Her partner rushed her to the hospital where the attending physician was kind and competent and said she shouldn’t worry they would take care of her wound.  The professor explained she was a quilter and really needed all the feeling to return to her hand and fingers.

As the doctor began to stitch her up one of her students happened by and recognizing the professor stopped for a moment to greet her.  The doctor listening to them talk asked his patient, “Are you a professor at Yale?”  When the professor nodded the doctor stopped his stitching rushed the professor to a different hospital wing, called the best hand surgeon in New England who along with a team of other doctors operated on the professor’s hand for several hours. 

Mahzarin Banaji says the professor was not refused service because of her gender, race or some other difference because that would have been discrimination. No, the emergency room doctor treated her in a professional and positive manner but……..when he knew she was a professor she received preferred and better treatment.  

Mahzarin wants us to consider whether favouritism is really an often overlooked act of discrimination. 

favoritismDiscrimination is illegal. Favouritism is not against the law even though the consequences can be just as unjust. 

In the workplace, favouritism might be a boss giving promotions to people who attend their church, or assigning the youngest most attractive people for high profile tasks, or tending to hire those of certain national origin. 

An article in the New York Times about book publishing during the pandemic suggested to me that editors will show favouritism towards agents and authors who are part of the inner circle in the industry, those they hobnob and lunch and have cocktails with. Getting your book published means “knowing the right people” and being favoured by them.

illustration by Liam McFadden of The Pitt News

Illustration by Liam McFadden of The Pitt News

A study by two American psychologists Tony Greenwald and Thomas Pettigrew found that most discrimination isn’t caused by an intention to harm people who are different than we are but by showing favouritism to people who are similar to us. They say we all have a kind of “in-group”- people who we feel comfortable with because they are the same age, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, live in the same neighbourhood or went to the same university.  We can identify with these people and so we will do favours for them and they will do favours for us.

But we also all have an “out-group”, people with whom we really can’t identify in most ways. By not doing the same kind of favours for them we are being discriminatory and prejudiced. 

I have been thinking about who is part of my “in-group” and how I might have favoured them. I have been thinking about how favouritism has influenced my life both in good and not so good ways.  How has favouritism played a role in my work life, my work as a writer and journalist, my community life and even my family life? 

How has favouritism impacted you and how has it influenced the way you treat others? 

Other posts……………. 

Are You A Performance Ally? 

Memorable Final Day

Two Lessons From Mom

 

 

 

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A Bad Choice of Words

On Monday I published a blog post called Thoughts on Police Abolition.  Abolition was a bad choice of words.  People who want to abolish or defund the police force say our current system isn’t working so we need to start again. But few are saying, as their words ‘abolish’ and ‘defund’ might suggest, that eradicating law enforcement is the answer.  

man riding on motorcycle

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

 Nicholas Kristoff’s Wednesday column in the New York Times was about defining terms like ‘defunding the police’  and his readers in their comments suggested all kinds of creative and improved ways to describe what needs to happen with policing. I’m using their ideas as headings in this post. 

Reimagining the Police.   Could we reimagine who we accept as police officer candidates? Canadian police officers only need a grade twelve education to apply. What if instead, police officers needed to have university degrees in criminology, psychology, social work or some other related field before they began their training. Norway, Finland and Iceland require police officers to have a university or college degree.  

a photo of a police car

In Germany, police officers train for over two years. Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Reforming the Police.  Could we reform the way we train police officers? A typical training period for Canadian police officers is seven to nine months.  Germany requires two and a half years of training. I looked at the RCMP website to see how cadets are trained. They participate in criminal investigation scenarios. They learn about physical fitness and how to drive a police car. They learn how to use weapons, handcuffs and physical holds. They learn personal hygiene and organization. There doesn’t seem to be much time invested learning about things like systemic racism, the cycle of poverty or the clinical aspects of addictions. 

Reinventing the Police.  Could we re-invent what policing looks like by adding other professionals to work alongside officers?  Perhaps social workers should be walking alongside police officers on the streets.  Perhaps nurses should be visiting schools along with police officers.  Perhaps psychologists should be going into family conflict situations with police officers. You can read here about a program in Eugene Oregon where social workers respond to 20% of the 911 calls and only very rarely have to call in police officers for backup.

photo of man laying on sidewalk

How might eradicating homelessness impact the number of police officers cities need?  Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Decreasing the Police. Could we decrease the number of police officers by thinking outside the box in regards to the problems police must deal with? On a tour in Portugal, I learned that in 2001, Portugal turned over police involvement in routine drug cases by small-time users to social workers and provided free methadone from roving vehicles. Their fatality rate for drug use is down to near zero.

Could we provide a basic living wage, and subsidised housing for everyone who needs it? Using innovative programming Medicine Hat Alberta has managed to end homelessness in its city. 

police men with a group of people in a rally

Do regular duty officers need to carry weapons? Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

Deescalate the Police. Could we deescalate the violence in police encounters with citizens by changing the enforcement techniques police officers are allowed to use?  Many countries and cities have banned chokeholds. A group in the American Congress is proposing a ban on the use of tear gas. At least a half a dozen countries don’t allow police officers on regular duty to carry weapons. 

I wish now I had used a different word than abolish in the headline of Monday’s blog. We don’t need to abolish the police force but perhaps we do need to reimagine it, deescalate it, decrease it, reinvent it and reform it.  And although law enforcement is front and centre right now, many of those same processes need to happen in education and health care and the other major systems that uphold our democratic society. 

Other posts……………

Is the Solution to Ending Terrorism Really This Simple? 

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Women Should Be Leading

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Are You A Performance Ally?

Are you a performance ally? A performance ally is someone from a privileged group who shows support for marginalized people in easy ways that make the privileged person feel good about themselves.  The Black Lives Matter movement has gained millions of performative allies since the death of George Floyd on May 25th.

protesters holding signs

Photo by Shane Aldendorff on Pexels.com

Being a performance ally for Black Lives Matter or for other BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) groups might mean sharing related links on Facebook or adding relevant hashtags on Twitter.  Perhaps you attend a protest and take selfies to post on Instagram. Maybe you write a blog post about your own personal struggle to understand racism. I have done some of those things but realize now they weren’t that helpful. If you don’t want to be just a performance ally but do something more substantive here are some ideas.

My husband and his cousin listening to a Huron leader near Quebec City

Listen. Don’t talk about discrimination if you are white and privileged. But do listen to others who aren’t white and privileged talk about the racism they have experienced.  When I first moved to Winnipeg, I had an indigenous hairdresser who had grown up in Steinbach, Manitoba like I had. She had been part of the sixties scoop and was adopted by a Mennonite family. She had good things to say about the people who adopted her, but the stories about the racism she had experienced in Steinbach at school, at church and on the street were heart-rending for me to hear. Listening to her made me realize that although we had grown up in the same town, at the same time, my white privilege had made our experiences completely different.

so you want to talk about raceLearn. Read about racism.  This last week books about racism have dominated bestseller lists. Clearly, people want to learn more. I have downloaded the book, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olua on my e-reader and ordered White Fragility by Robin Diangelo for our church library where I am the librarian.   

Donate. Although many organizations have good programs that address racism issues perhaps what is most effective is donating money to local initiatives headed by people from the BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) community. Here in Winnipeg the Bear Clan, and Mama Bear Clan, an offshoot led by women, are doing important work. They walk the streets of some of Winnipeg’s most marginalized and dangerous areas at night, picking up needles, distributing food and blankets, and being a positive and helpful presence on the streets.

Have you tried the BMC Market Esencia Latina Cafe on Osborne?

Shop.  Find out what restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons, art galleries, bakeries, clothing shops and other enterprises in your community are owned by people from the BIPOC community and give them a try. I know during COVID-19 we have ordered food from interesting restaurants that serve cuisine from many different countries.

How diverse is your workspace? How diverse are the places you volunteer and spend time in your community? Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

Step aside. Resign from something you are doing to give your spot to someone from the BIPOC community. I have taken a look at my work and volunteer commitments and asked some serious questions.  The volunteer committees I serve on right now are all white. The part-time jobs I had before COVID-19 employed some people from the BIPOC community but employees were predominantly white. What can I do about that?

Speak up.  Have the courage to engage in hard conversations. When you hear friends and family talking in a negative way about people from the BIPOC community say something.  Ask questions about assumptions they may be making.  Offer a different perspective.

The last few weeks have convinced many white privileged people to become allies for the BIPOC community.  But we can’t only be “feel good” performance allies.  We need to be true allies doing substantive things if we want to see a positive change in our society.

Are you a performance ally?  What ideas do you have for changing that.  I’d love to hear them. 

Other posts…………

Having A Feast For Breakfast

She’s Gone

Images of Apartheid

A Novel So Long It Took Us Through Eight States

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A Display of Racist Anger

coffeeI was in a Winnipeg fast-food establishment early Tuesday morning having a coffee when a man strode in through the doors and started yelling and screaming at the young clerk behind the counter. The clerk was Sikh and the angry man was liberally lacing his long and loud tirade not only with the f_____ word, which he used several times in each sentence but also vile racist references.  

The customer was upset because earlier he had used the drive-through of the restaurant to pick up a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee and there had been some syrup on his cup which had gotten onto his hands.  He basically accused the restaurant employees of deliberately putting the syrup on his cup.  

The clerk to his credit remained calm during the man’s foul and racist diatribe and even tried to interject with an apology,  offering to get the man a new cup of coffee and call his manager.   This went on for several minutes.  Part of me felt like I should do something, perhaps get up and defend the clerk, but the angry customer was a very large, very tall man wearing a camouflage type jacket and work boots and frankly, I would have been terrified to get in his way.

 I couldn’t stop thinking about the incident all day.   What makes someone become such an angry person? What had happened or not happened in the life of the irate man to make him so racist, so uncouth, so enraged about something so minor?  If this was the way he reacted to a little syrup on his coffee cup how might he react to members of his family when they did something that irritated him?  I worried he might have a partner or children who had to bear the brunt of his troubled anger. 

And I thought about the young man behind the counter too.  What must it be like to know you are constantly at risk of becoming a target for that kind of racist violent behaviour because of the colour of your skin and the way you choose to outwardly express your religious beliefs? I realized from my privileged position as a white person who belongs to the dominant religious group in Canada I had no way of understanding that. 

In the past Winnipeg has been accused of being the most racist city in Canada.  That has always upset me because I find Winnipeg to be such a friendly place to live and I love its diversity. But that incident on Tuesday exposed me to the kind of racism that does exist in Winnipeg and had me thinking seriously about what I can do about it.  

Other posts……….

Racism Pure and Simple

A Racist Statue

An Important Letter

 

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5 To Do List Alternatives

I still make lists of things to do almost every day. Sometimes at the end of a busy week, my kitchen counter which is also my writing and work area is littered with multiple lists of things I wanted to accomplish in a given day. Yesterday at the end of a very busy week of speaking, meetings, working, entertaining and beginning to get ready for a trip, I threw a wad of ‘to do’ lists in the trash. It had me thinking about whether making lists of things to do is really the best strategy for getting things accomplished. I decided to look for some alternative methods and found several that intrigued me.

Getting exercise should be my number one priority because it sets the tone for my whole day

In their book, The One Thing Gary Keller and Jay Papasan suggest that instead of making lists each day you choose the one thing that will have the most impact on your life and make sure to get that done. I think for me that is often getting exercise. If I make that a priority my whole day goes better. 

As a young mother I was so busy just doing the daily routine tasks of child care and home care in the evening I often thought where has this day gone and what have I actually done?

Reva Smith suggests in an article in the magazine, Fast Company that rather than make a ‘to do’ list at the beginning of the day you make a ‘done’ list at the end of the day writing down all the things you have accomplished.  I used to do that when I was a young mother and it seemed so hard to get anything done.  I was always amazed at the end of the day when I wrote down what I’d done how much I’d really accomplished. 

Writing in a house we rented in Iceland

Sam Bennett whose company Organized Artist caters to those trying to achieve creative goals suggests making a ‘could do’ list instead of a ‘to do’ list.  It sounds much less dictatorial and gives you the freedom of choice.  I do use this to some extent in my writing life often making lists of potential writing projects I ‘could’ tackle that excite me. 

A photo I took last year around this time of my calendar and lists

In an interview with Business Insider New York Stock Exchange Executive Betty Lui says she uses the 1-3-5 list to have a successful day.  Every day she writes down one very important thing she wants to get done, three things of average importance and five smaller tasks to accomplish.  By tackling the most important thing first she says she has renewed energy to get the others done too.  I use my day planner for this kind of thing- writing the most important task or event of the day in the actual square for the day on the calendar and putting smaller tasks in the sections for each day on the following pages. 

I spend far too much time scrolling through social media

Finally, there’s Chris Guillebea the author of the book The Art of Non-Conformity who suggests we make of list of things we are not going to do rather than a list of things we want to do.  By eliminating some things we don’t want to do we leave more time for the things we want to do.  My list would include playing card games online, watching silly television shows and scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram way too many times a day. 

Do you make lists?  What kind of list making works for you? 

Other posts……..

Making Lists

My Brain is Befuddled

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Decisions That Change Your Life

I received Alice Kuipers book Me and Me as a Christmas gift. It has an intriguing premise. A seventeen-year-old girl named Larkin is in a situation where two people she knows and loves are drowning and she has to decide which one she will save. One is her boyfriend and the other a little girl she babysat. During the rest of the novel, the story flips back and forth between the two different outcomes. We see how Larkin’s life would have turned out had she saved the little girl and what would have happened had she saved her boyfriend. Her life is markedly different in each scenario. 
Reading the novel made me think about times like that in my own life. Not nearly so dramatic as Larkin’s but decisions I made that would have totally changed the course of my life.

Photo with my class when I was named Manitoba Teacher of the Year

I remember when I was in college and I was thinking about whether I should become a teacher or a nurse and my Dad came to have supper with me in my college dining room. We went into this little lounge off the dining room after our meal to visit and I told Dad I wasn’t sure what my career should be teaching or nursing. And Dad told me he didn’t think I would make a good nurse. I should be a teacher. I remember at the time I was upset with him for saying I wouldn’t be suited for a career in nursing but his instincts clearly steered me in the right direction. I liked being a teacher and I think I was pretty good at it. I still sometimes speculate though about what would have happened if I hadn’t taken Dad’s blunt advice. What would my life have been like if I had been a nurse?

Our family on the waterfront after the tsunami

In 2004 we were getting ready to holiday in Phuket Thailand and we decided at the last minute to switch to a hotel high up on a cliff instead of the one right on the ocean where we had planned to stay. The one on the ocean was totally destroyed in the tsunami and many many people staying there died. What if we hadn’t changed our mind at the last minute?

In the receiving line at our wedding in 1973

What if I had decided at age 19 that I was too young to get married as many people told me? What if I had decided after three lost pregnancies that I just couldn’t try again? What if we hadn’t gone to Hong Kong to teach because just after we signed our contract SARS broke out and many people thought we were crazy to go?
In each case, if I had made an alternate decision my life probably would have been markedly different. Alice Kuiper’s book made me think about that.

Other posts………….

A Christmas Carol Saved Our Lives

A Bathtub In My Classroom

A Walk in My Old Neighborhood

Vision and Voice

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Filed under Books, Reflections

Word of the Year- 2020

I follow author Carrie Synder’s blog.  Each January instead of making resolutions Carrie chooses a word she wants to apply to her life for the coming year and blogs about her progress in doing so. 

I decided I would try to pick a word of the year for 2020.  It was hard. I toyed around with lots of different possibilities, but I finally settled on LISTEN. 

visiting with al (1)

I tend to talk a lot and so this year I want to try to talk less and listen more.  I want to really listen to what others have to say and learn from them.  

I want to get better at sensing how other people feel about me or when I may have irritated, frustrated or upset them, and so I want to listen in a way that helps me pick up on more than just other people’s words, but listen to their body language and unspoken emotions as well to figure out how I can improve our relationship.

walking in iceland

I want to do a better job of listening to my body and what it is telling me I need to do to keep it healthy and strong.  I also need to learn to listen when my body tells me it needs rest and quiet. 

I want to listen to different kinds of music and expand my music tastes. 

I want to start listening to some podcasts and be inspired by the new ideas they might foster. 

at the writing desk in icelandI want to seek out more advice about improving my writing and getting it published and I want to listen to that advice and take it seriously.  

Hopefully, I will make progress implementing my word and can report back to you during the coming year in some blog posts.

What might you pick for a word of the year?

Other posts…….

Words to Live By- My Grandmother’s Epitaph

Words of Wisdom on a Wine Bottle

Elegant Words

 

 

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The Year in Review

Here’s a look back at some of the things I wrote about on this blog in 2019.

In January we were in Merida Mexico and I wrote about climbing a pyramid at the site of the Xcambo Mayan ruins. I am at the top of the pyramid with our friend Rudy. In February we were still in Merida and I wrote about swimming in a cenote with my sister. In March I wrote about a delightful chocolate making experience we had in Merida thanks to this wonderful woman named Beatriz.baby-blanket.jpeg
In April I wrote about this beautiful blanket which my great grandmother made for my mother when she was born in 1925. My mother gave it to me when I had my first child in 1979 and in April of 2019 I gave it to my son and his wife when their daughter was born. My granddaughter shares her middle name with my great grandmother, the woman who made the quilt. In May I wrote about Joop, a former exchange student of ours from Thailand who came to visit us.
 In June I wrote about visiting my 96 year old aunt in Saskatoon. In July I wrote about seeing a Fringe Festival play with my cousin Lynne. In August I wrote about celebrating our wedding anniversary with long-time friends. In September I wrote about a lovely evening in Dubrovnik with my sister and brother-in-law. In October I wrote about our cycling trip in Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula. In November I wrote about a great night with the members of my writing group at our condo.

with glenys and esther

Christmas 2019 with the T-4s

In December I wrote about celebrating Christmas with the T-4s, a group of friends I meet with regularly.

It has been a great year with great people and I’m looking forward to the adventures with friends and family that 2020 will hold.

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