Category Archives: Reflections

600 Million Moments

Our lifetime is made up of about 600 million moments. A moment lasts for 3 seconds. According to behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman each of us has both an experiencing self and a remembering self.  Our experiencing self is in the present actually living through those 600 million moments and our remembering self keeps score and composes the story of our life around the moments we choose to remember. My cousin Al suggested I check out the work of Daniel Kahneman after I posted a blog called Writing Is the Way I Think and Remember   

daniel kahneman

Daniel Kahneman

I watched a TED talk by Kahneman and now I know why Al made that recommendation.   When I write this blog my remembering self is at work choosing how I will compose the story of my life.  Kahneman says we have a choice about how we will remember an experience.  If we go on a holiday for example and choose to remember only the one terrible day where everything went wrong that can color our memory of the entire holiday and perhaps prevent us from going on another one.  But if we choose instead to remember the high points of the holiday then we will label our trip a success and be ready to set off on another one in the future. 

marylou ziplining in costa rica

Zip Lining in Costa Rica

On our trip to Costa Rica in 2016 for example I wrote 45 blog posts. Those posts represent the efforts of my remembering self.  I wrote about being terrified, having a horrible day where everything went wrong, and our trip being delayed by fourteen hours, but I realized as I re-read my posts that somehow I managed to turn even those bad experiences into positive ones in the way I wrote about them.


On a gourmet sailing trip

I also wrote about seeing an extremely rare bird, a gourmet sail and memorable hikes. So while there were some bad things that happened on our trip my remembering self turned the holiday into a good one which made us ready to set off for Iceland and Germany in 2017. 

Kahneman says our  experiencing self is actually a stranger to us and it is the remembering self we know.  It is our remembering self that decides upon reflection whether our relationships are worthwhile, whether our careers are rewarding, whether our passions are enjoyable, whether a trip is fun. There is a difference Kahneman says between living a happy life and being happy about your life.  

Thanks cousin Al for recommending the research of Kahneman. It is thought-provoking, a bit disconcerting, but also empowering because in many ways it puts the onus for living happily on us. 


Leave a comment

Filed under Reflections

Meditation For Kids

Many different news sources have reported that one reason the twelve members of the boys’ soccer team trapped in a cave in northern Thailand survived was because their coach, a former Buddhist monk, kept them calm by leading them in meditation exercises. Leah Weiss, a Standford expert taught by the Dalai Lama, said meditating played a key role in keeping the group alive. It improved the boy’s focus and compassion for one another. Apparently when the first British divers found the boys they were not screaming or crying but sitting calmly in the dark meditating. The oxygen supply in the cave was very small but meditation will have slowed the boys breathing and respiration and oxygen intake so they could survive despite the low oxygen levels. 

I have noticed on my visits to classrooms as a university faculty advisor that lots of teachers are using meditation exercises with their students to bring them back to a calm place, to get them to focus before beginning an assignment and to foster empathy with their classmates.  Teachers are using a whole variety of techniques involving music and breathing, assuming various body poses and looking at calming visual images. 

Children learning these techniques from caring teachers and mentors are being given a valuable and perhaps even life saving gift. 

Other posts……

Common Threads- Buddhism

The Temple of Dawn in Bangkok

Thai Traditions to End and Start a Year



Filed under Reflections, Religion

Knowing the Future

“I wish we knew a little more about the future.”  I was chatting with another church member about my age during the coffee hour after the service yesterday.  She said if she and her husband knew how long they were going to live they could plan a little better for the future.  If they knew they would die at a relatively young age they would use their savings to travel more now. If on the other hand they knew they would live several more decades they might have to save their money to cover their living expenses in their last years. I got the feeling from our conversation they were leaning towards living more in the here and now, enjoying some traveling and not worrying excessively about how they’d survive in their nineties. 

My grandmother once told me when she was a young girl growing up in Ukraine gypsies camped outside her village. They would tell your fortune if you gave them a watermelon.  She was glad she had never taken them up on the offer.  Her life had many difficulties and challenges and she was glad she’d only had to face those when they appeared and hadn’t had to worry about them ahead of time. 

walden pond signIn the early 1990s our family visited Walden Pond where the famous writer Henry David Thoreau made his home. We each wrote our dreams for the future on the rocks there. Supposedly the rain would wash our dreams into the water of the lake and they would come true.  The wishes I wrote that day still haven’t materialized but I’m glad I don’t know what my future holds because that allows me to live in hope that someday my dreams will be fulfilled. 

writing wishes at walden pond

Our son writing his wishes on a rock at Walden Pond

I think a lot about the future.  Like my grandmother I am glad I don’t know what it holds. It allows me to live in the here and now and enjoy life like my friend in church has decided to do. Not knowing my future also allows me to hold out hope that the dreams I penned at Walden Pond so long ago can still come true.

Other posts……..

When The Coin Rings Luck Springs

Lucky Locks

Making Wishes in Sedona

Leave a comment

Filed under Reflections

Looking For Love

Robert Indiana died on May 19th.  He’s the artist who created this iconic design of the word LOVE.  You’ve probably seen it somewhere in some form.  It was orignally made for a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and has been featured on postage stamps as well as in sculpture form in many cities, including New York and Philadelphia.

Love sculpture in JFK Plaza in Philadelphia

The news of Robert Indiana’s death had me searching through the media library on this blog for images described with the word love.  

Photographed at an April 2012 Earth Day celebration in Winnipeg this placard exhorts people to LOVE creation. 

This statue of Joey Smallwood the first premier of Newfoundland depicts him with his hand over his heart to show his LOVE for his province. Photo taken in Gambo Newfoundland in October 2016. 

This declaration of  LOVE was photographed on the side of a building when I was in Austin Texas in March of 2014 watching our son perform at the South by Southwest Music Festival.

A child made this drawing for me about her LOVE for art in August of 2016 after I had taken her on a tour of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I saw this statement about LOVE from Dr. Martin Luther King in Phoenix Arizona at a professional basketball game in January of 2017 on Dr. Martin Luther King Day.  I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden.  Bob Marley had a song called One LOVE. I photographed this image on his former home in Jamaica when I visited it in February of 2014

Thomas Edison was good friends with Helen Keller who autographed this photo for him with the words…..
Not loudness but LOVE sounds in your ear my friend. Helen Keller. I photographed it at the Thomas Edison Museum in Florida in February of 2014

I photographed Wayan in Ubud, Bali in March of 2008. Wayan is one of the main characters in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, LOVE.

This sculpture called LOVE of Learning by J.D. Lees is outside the site of one of the city of Steinbach’s first schools. I photographed it in October of 2013.

My husband made me give the sculpture The Bean in Chicago a kiss of LOVE in December of 2011.

Other posts…………

Meeting Wayan From Eat Pray Love

A Lovely Day in Steinbach

Holding Joey Smallwood’s Hand

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Culture, 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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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