Category Archives: Reflections

The Breath of Life

maori greeting by marylou driedger

I visited a Maori meeting house in New Zealand and learned a traditional Maori form of greeting. Two people shake their right hands and at the same time place their left hand on the other person’s shoulder. The head is bent, eyes closed and their foreheads touch as their noses are pressed together twice. The two people are said to share the breath of life with one another.

Although we may not greet people in the traditional Maori style, perhaps the way we speak or act towards others when we meet them can breathe life into their existence. Research shows one effective way for high school teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students is to simply greet them by name whenever they meet them in the school hallways or classrooms. It lets students know someone recognizes them and appreciates their presence in the school community. Could this be exactly the ‘breath of life’ some teenagers need?

I used to take daily early morning walks with my mother. I noticed how she made a point of saying a friendly hello or ‘good morning’ to each person we met. I sometimes wondered if perhaps my mother’s cheerful greeting was the one warm kind word some lonely people received that day.

outside a maori meeting house

Maori Meeting House in New Zealand

The Maori exchange the breath of life when they greet others. We too have the opportunity to ‘breathe life’ into someone’s day when we greet them in a warm and friendly way.

Other posts………..

A Maori Jesus

Taonga Treasures

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Filed under New Zealand, Reflections

Readers Have Lots to Say!

Here’s some comments my recent blog posts have garnered on various social media.

Erwin one of my most faithful readers commented that my grandson’s portrait of me is an excellent likeness. 

Lynn thought my brother had died when she read the title of my post about going hiking with him. She was relieved to discover that wasn’t the case. 

After Rob read Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot he told me he had recently walked by the statue at the MTS Centre and rubbed Mr. Eaton’s foot.   Esther said during her childhood her family met at the clock at Eatons when they were shopping because there were always too many people at Mr. Eaton’s statue. 

Bonny read the post about my mother’s sayings and recalled what a kind, gentle and patient woman my mother had been.

Heather cried after reading my post about the little boy from Iraq.  She says he represents the best of the human experience.

Lorraine said the photo of my grandmother doing laundry on the back porch brought back memories of her mother doing the same thing.

Mitch always tells his granddaughter that most people in the world are good, they just make bad choices. After reading my post about acid attacks in India he thinks he may have to revise his statement. 

Fran told me that Anish Kapoor the artist whose work I saw in Phoenix had created one of the warming huts on Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River skating trail.

After reading my post about Agatha Christie writing Murder on the Orient Express in Aleppo my brother-in-law John recalled his own visit to Aleppo. “I stopped in Aleppo on my train ride from Ankara to Damascus. The men I met on the train took me to a spa for a little bean soup and a hot bath. I remember taking advantage of the occasion and washed some clothes in the marble vats.”

Arlene said she is often the recipient of grammar corrections from her husband just like the ones I wrote about in a post. 

After reading about my icy walk to work Elsie commented she had fallen on the ice that same day but thankfully only her pride had been hurt. 

Patty appreciates my blog even more because I was vulnerable enough to share a poem that helped me during a sad experience in my life. 

As a trained architectural technologist Ruth was very interested in the post about the blueprints for my grandparents’ house in Drake Saskatchewan. She scrolled through the post many times looking for details in the drawings.  

Nicole one of my art gallery colleagues informed me the reason a Lawren Harris painting I wrote about was missing from the Winnipeg Art Gallery is because it is on loan to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, Ontario. 

“Amen” MaryAnn commented after reading my post about Member of Parliament Ted Falk. 

Some of my posts about the American election prompted one American reader to write “I’ve been very troubled by the justifications I’ve heard from people for a Trump vote. To me, it was simply unconscionable to promote a person of such low moral, personal, and professional character for what is arguably the most powerful and influential role in the world. How could I look my child in the eye and say “Yes, I helped elect him, but don’t ever talk or treat people the way he does”? 

Alison thinks artist Wanda Koop would love to know that a young viewer called her paintings on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery portscapes.

My cousin Al added some additional information to my post about the conscientious objector wall in Winkler, Manitoba. “The Conscientious Objectors Memorial Wall has one brick for each of the COs. There are intentionally no names on the bricks. However, the bricklayer’s father was a conscientious objector so when he laid the wall, he inscribed his father’s name on one brick and laid it with the name to the inside, invisible to all visitors but meaningful to him.”

Suzanne was so inspired by the Artists In Action post she said she’d like to organize something similar. 

One reader wondered if the most meaningful days might be ones when you are at rest, at peace with yourself and you meditate to clear your mind. This was suggested as a contrast to the busy list I included in my post about meaningful days.  I think they could be right!

There have been so many more comments and I am grateful for each and everyone.  Responses from my readers are a big reason I keep on writing.  Thanks so much to all of you. 


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Filed under Reflections, Writing

My Husband And The Pope Are On The Same Page

When my husband Dave encounters someone on the street asking for money he almost always stops to chat with them and then gives them some cash. pope_francis_photo_2-wiki-commonsThis is exactly what the Pope recently recommended we do during Lent. The pontiff urges us to smile and talk to beggars and homeless people and then give them money. He says we are not to worry what the needy person spends the money on. He stresses the importance of making a personal connection with them.

Pamphlets available at various downtown Winnipeg businesses suggest a different strategy. They say we should donate to local charities like Siloam Mission and the Salvation Army and then refer panhandlers to those places.

I often encounter four or five people asking for money on my way to work downtown. Since I’m usually in a hurry I give the first one I encounter coins and then say ‘sorry’ to the others.

My husband’s strategy and the one the Pope suggests are probably more compassionate and in keeping with Christ’s example. Perhaps I should try it during Lent. If I make sure I leave in plenty of time for work I’d have enough minutes to stop and say hello to each person I meet who is asking for money. It certainly wouldn’t hurt me financially to give everyone I meet some change. I could even make sure I have change in my pocket each time I leave the house to facilitate this. I’m going to try and get on the same page as my husband and the pope. 

Other posts…….

Questions at the Vatican

My Former Church and the Pope

Beggars Everywhere

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Filed under Reflections, Religion, Winnipeg

During This Past Week

golf with Paul and ShirleyDuring this past week in 2012 I wrote about the four different golf courses we had been to in Phoenix with Dave’s brother Paul and our sister-in-law Shirley.

The bell outside the school we taught at on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.

The bell outside the school we taught at on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.

I also wrote about going to visit the Hopi Mission School where we used to be teachers. 

uncle and nieceDuring this past week in 2013 I wrote about going out to dinner with my Uncle Herb who was holidaying in Phoenix. golf teamI also wrote about a golf reunion with Dave’s Manitoba golfing buddies and their wives at the Arizona home we had rented in Gold Canyon. 

making chinese dumplingsDuring this past week in 2014 I wrote about making Chinese dumplings in Florida at the home of our friends Jeff and Anna.

Dave gets suited up in the dive shop.

Dave gets suited up in the dive shop for our manatee swim. 

I also wrote about going swimming with manatees in Crystal River on a trip Jeff had arranged for us. 

at the handlebarDuring this past week in 2015 I wrote about a fun night at our favorite Phoenix restaurant with friends. dave and marylou at the grand canyonI also wrote about our visit to the Grand Canyon.  

waterfall-spaDuring this past week in 2016 I wrote about going swimming in a waterfall pool in Costa Rica. dave bamboo pole vaultI also wrote about a musical walk we took in a bamboo forest there. 

You’ve already read on my blog what we have been up to this past week here in Arizona. I wonder what I will be writing about next year at this time. 



Filed under Reflections, Travel

Should I Be More Real and Messy and Honest?

“Your post was FANTASTIC!  I loved it.”  One of my readers responded to my blog Real and Messy and Honest with those words. He told me people get far more enjoyment from reading stories about how things went wrong than they do from reading stories that include lots of details about how great and interesting and enjoyable everything turned out to be. The post Real and Messy and Honest was certainly the most popular thing I have written in a long time, garnering many views and comments.

snow-stormMy cousin Carol said this was my funniest post yet. My cousin Fred took time to write a humorous personal reflection on Facebook about each thing that had gone wrong for us. His funny responses ended with a link to the Monty Python video of the song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from the movie Life of Brian.

Reader Lori says my post was recognizable and real and she is well aware no one has a perfect life, but she still appreciates writers who highlight the positive.  Anita, who started following my blog when we holidayed in Costa Rica says while my blogs always have lots of great facts and pictures this post provided a change she loved. She suggested it is good to try and see the humour in the messy side of life.

Other readers said they appreciated me exposing the underbelly of my life. It proved I was real.  Fellow writer Dora said she had loved my honest messy blog post but she also likes the usual cheer in my posts. My highschool friend Sandee reminded me that good things can fit into the mess of life too and my friend Arlene said my positive energy lifts her spirits so I should put a smile back on my face and keep looking at the positive side of life. A former pastor of mine thanked me for sharing and said it can be a good at times to recognize the messiness in our own lives and those of others. Many readers said the post had resonated with them because they have had very similar days to mine. One of my former teaching colleagues said the post made her laugh out loud because it was so familiar.

marylou hiking quail trailFellow writer Suzanne told me not to pay heed to people who criticize me for being too positive.   According to Suzanne looking for a silver lining is a gift to be admired not a fault. She loves my positivity and is glad all my posts aren’t written like Real and Messy and Honest.  It would offer far too depressing an outlook on life.

One of my faithful readers Ruth said she was glad I wrote about the downside of my day. It made her laugh and realize that she and her husband aren’t alone in having heated discussions sometimes when they travel. She said she truly enjoys all my positive and enlightening posts but this realistic post was a great way to begin the year of 2017.

Heather Plett the life coach who inspired the post by asking her followers to write a real, messy and honest report about a day in their lives told me I had done a good job of completing the assigned task.

The response to this post made me think I do need to try and write my posts in a more humourous fashion and not be afraid to write about conflict or negative things at times.  It also made me realize I shouldn’t change the way I write too much because most people who follow my blog do so because they like it’s positive tone and direction.

Writing Real and Messy and Honest certainly got a lot of response from my readers, response that has given me lots to think about.

Other posts………

What Are People Saying?

An Attitude of Gratitude

Higher Ground

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Filed under Reflections, Writing

Real and Messy and Honest

Heather Plett is a life coach I follow on social media. On New Year’s Day she did a Facebook  post encouraging readers not to pledge to be shinier, happier, better versions of themselves. Instead she wrote….Let’s just pledge to be real and messy and honest.  Then Heather asked her followers to share a non-shiny version of their first day of 2017.  I decided to try that especially in light of a comment someone made over the holidays regarding my tendency to always look on the positive side of things rather than be realistic.  So here is an honest gritty version of my start to 2017.  

sunset-new-mexicoWe spent New Year’s Eve in a pretty seedy hotel in Albuquerque New Mexico on our journey to Phoenix Arizona.  My husband who had made the reservation said the hotel had received a four star rating on Trip Advisor but the threadbare towels, lack of security lock on the door, beat up woodwork and a loud rattling heating system that either left the room boiling or freezing belied the fact. Dave and I had a little dust-up soon after we arrived.  We discovered we had left the cord to plug in Dave’s I-pad in our hotel room in Colorado the night before.  We both thought the other person should have remembered it and Dave was only slightly less upset by my supposed negligence when we were able to find a replacement cord at Walgreens. It was $22 and after Dave made a sarcastic comment about the cost I retorted I wouldn’t order any food at dinner to make up for the $22. I stuck to my word but Dave got a pizza for dinner which he shared and he even ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio for me. The alcohol helped ease some of the tension crackling between us. 

snow-stormNaturally there was no coffee available in the hotel lobby as promised on New Year’s morning so we set out in search of some, only to realize that on New Years Day almost everything was closed so we drove on without coffee.   About half way through the morning we encountered a blinding snowstorm.  We crawled forward in a long line of cars on the icy, curvy, steep mountain roads.  It was pretty intense!  Things weren’t improved by the fact that Dave had a throbbing toothache. It’s been an ongoing issue that I thought he should have taken care of before we left home so I wasn’t very sympathetic. We decided to listen to the new Leonard Cohen CD I bought Dave for Christmas.  I wanted to have a discussion with him about what the lyrics meant but he said as a former high school English teacher I should be able to figure out what the lyrics meant without his help.   We didn’t talk much after that. 

saguaro cactus pinnacle peakWhen we got to Phoenix our GPS went crazy and kept wanting us to turn left at places where there was no road  just rocky areas of cacti.  Finally we stopped at a Starbucks to go online and look at a map to take us to the house we have rented.  Soon after we arrived Dave realized he had forgotten to bring his hair cutting clippers.  He said he had put the clippers out on our bathroom counter at home so he would remember to pack them but someone must have put the clippers away before he could put them in the suitcase.  Dave spent the evening watching American football on TV while I unpacked our luggage and all the groceries from my first visit to the nearby Basha’s store. I forgot to buy toilet paper.  

Lots of good things happened today too but I am going to grit my teeth and not mention them in this post.  How did I do with being real and messy and honest? 

Other posts……….

Your Own Critic

Words of Wisdom on a Wine Bottle

Its A Personal Decision


Filed under Reflections

Living Intentionally

Jane Heinrichs is an artist and illustrator who grew up in my hometown of Steinbach. I follow Jane on social media and on her blog because I love the beautiful daily sketches she does of her family’s life in London, England.  jane-and-her-momJane gave me permission to use this sketch of her and her mother out for coffee. They are talking about what it means to live intentionally.  Jane asked her Facebook followers to share what living intentionally means to them. I decided to make that my first post of 2017. 

During most of my teaching career I had Socrates’ words the unexamined life is not worth living displayed somewhere in  my classroom.  I wanted to remind myself and my students to take time to reflect on what we were learning together and to make connections between that learning and our lives.  

hiroshima writing notesI examine life through my writing.  Keeping journals, maintaining this blog, creating stories for children, compiling family history vignettes, writing my newspaper column and completing free-lance writing assignments, helps me to try to live intentionally- to think about what I am doing and to reflect on whether the choices I make are in line with what I value and believe. dave and rudy

I know there are many other ways to examine life.  My husband reflects on his life experiences by talking about them with his friends, with his clients, with his golf buddies and sometimes even with total strangers. My brother meditates and does yoga.  A friend is part of a book club that discusses their personal connections to what they read.  My daughter-in-law takes beautiful photographs and compiles them into books.  My son composes music. My father gets up at dawn to read the newspaper and his Bible and think about how the two might connect. Jane Heinrichs does sketches. 

Examination and reflection are the first step to living intentionally.  But you can reflect and examine endlessly and still not live intentionally. What else needs to happen?  Here are a few of my ideas.  

  1. Set goals.  These can be short-term goals like organizing your desk drawers or they can  be long-term goals like attempting to get a book published. 
  2. Expand your comfort zone.  It can be doing something spontaneous like walking across a swinging suspension bridge you encounter on a hike or something bigger like applying for a job at an art gallery when you aren’t an artist and haven’t had any academic training in art history. my-version-of-bill-browridge
  3. Settle for imperfection.  I knew when I decided to take my first sketching course I’d have to settle for imperfection and I still do every time I pick up a pencil to sketch.  Cooking is not my forte and every time I try a new recipe I know I have to be willing to settle for imperfection. Don’t let imperfection stop you from trying new things.
  4. Simplify and organize.  I have been trying to do this with my possessions much more intently in the last couple years but I know there are other areas of my life still crying out for organization and getting  back to basics like getting more sleep and being more fit and focusing on simple healthy foods.  In addressing these issues I would be living more intentionally. 
  5. Be thankful.  I have so much to be thankful for including health, love, friends, family and meaningful work and I need to turn my attention to that every single day.  I need to intentionally list the things I am thankful for and name them and be sure to include them in my prayers along with my petitions. 
  6. Try to make the world a better place.  My Dad reminded us of this in his Christmas prayer at our family gathering.  While recounting our family blessings he encouraged us to think about how many people in our world are suffering and to remember it is our responsibility to address their needs in a very intentional way. 

I know that living intentionally means something different to every  person.  Hopefully in 2017 we can all get a little closer to figuring out what it means to us.

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard

Other posts……….

When Did You Stop Drawing?

Off to the Circus

Gratitude to Start and End the Day


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Filed under Reflections