Category Archives: Reflections

Should We Visit Hong Kong?

hong kong landscapeDave and I have this ongoing debate about whether we should visit Hong Kong again, the place where we spent six years teaching.  He’d like to go back. I’m not so sure.  Don’t get me wrong I loved Hong Kong.  I loved living there and working there and I especially loved all the wonderful people we got to know there who enriched our lives so immeasurably. 

chestnuts roasting hong kong In some ways a visit would be great- we could walk along the harbour in Man on Shan, ride the crazy little buses that careen down smaller streets, take the tram to the top of Victoria Peak, go for fresh fruit shakes and won ton mein soup and Thai food at all our favorite little neighborhood street places, enjoy the noise and life and beauty of the wet market, take the ferry across the harbour, have a foot massage, buy some roasted chestnuts from the vendors on the street, visit our beautiful church at the top of a mountain, watch the swimmers in Tolo Harbour, spend a quiet hour or two at the Chi Lin Nunnery or the Sai Wan Cemetery and………………..


On our recent visit to Ontario I chatted with a woman who had just returned to Canada after decades in Hong Kong and she said we would find the city unbelievably changed from when we left in 2011.  

hong kong farewell

Farewell party for us by friends when we left Hong Kong

And that’s exactly what I’m worried about.  I have great memories of Hong Kong and the people we knew there. But Hong Kong has changed and when I look at photos like this one of a farewell party of friends for us in Hong Kong I know that most of the people in the photo no longer live in Hong Kong and the ones that still do have new friends and new interests and are incredibly busy with work and family life. 

I’d like to leave my memories of Hong Kong intact.  I’d like to remember it the way it was. There are lots of interesting places in the world I have yet to see, have yet to make memories in.  I already have wonderful memories of Hong Kong. 

Other posts………..

Tears for Hong Kong

Chi Lin Nunnery

The Swimmers of Tolo Harbour 

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Filed under Hong Kong, Reflections

Show Me What You Can Do

bank of ghana

In 2017 Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey’s picture was featured on the five cedis note of Ghana’s currency in honor of his educational contributions

Don’t tell me what you know, show me what you can do.  

On Sunday my pastor used that quote in his sermon. Its wisdom can be attributed to Dr. James Emman Kwegyir- Aggrey a turn of the century educational philosopher from Ghana. He obtained numerous degrees from American universities, was an educational consultant in many African countries and in the last years of his life served as the vice principal of a college in the Ghanian capital of Accra. 

Checking out Dr. Kwegyir-Aggrey’s impressive biography on various sites led me to a number of other quotes of his that were thought-provoking.  

About racial harmony he said…………If you play only the white notes on a piano you get only sharps; if only the black keys you get flats; but if you play the two together you get harmony and beautiful music.

On education for women he said…… The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women.  If you educate a man you simply educate an individual.  If you educate a woman you educate a family.

On getting along with others he said…..  If someone scowls at me I smile back. If they scowl again I just smile back. I don’t often find a scowl a third time. 

On contemplating one’s future he said……Be patient, don’t lose heart, don’t hate anybody and make yourself worthy of good things

Dr. Kwegyir-Aggrey died in 1927 but his advice seems very timely some ninety years later. 

Other posts………

Wisdom From Dr. Seuss

Things My Mother Said

Sometimes You Just Need A Dose of Precious

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Filed under Inspiration, Reflections

Are You A Grown Up?

Judith Viorst

What are the marks of maturity? How do you know if you have truly grown up? Many years ago I heard author and poet Judith Viorst speak at the Pantages Theatre in Winnipeg.  

I have long been an admirer of Ms. Viorst’s children’s books like…….Alexander and the Horrible Terrible No Good Very Bad Day  and The Tenth Good Thing About Barney.  Judith also writes poetry for adults most of it about coming of age, whether that age be 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80. 

The night I heard her speak she used a series of highly entertaining anecdotes to illustrate the signs we should look for if we wanted to determine whether we were truly a grown up.

According to Viorst being a grown up means………..

1. Realizing you aren’t necessarily everyone’s ‘cup of tea’. Some people will like you and some won’t. That’s natural and you accept it. 

2. Understanding you cannot be responsible for making sure all the people you love are always happy. Your friends and family need to bear some of the responsibility for their own happiness. 

3. Accepting the ‘dark’ side of your personality. Knowing you have faults but not being too judgemental of yourself. Admitting that despite your negative qualities you are still basically a good person. 

4.  Being firmly optimistic even when things go wrong in life. Always remembering that even when things appear catastrophic eventually healing will come and pain will diminish. 

5. Having the ability to comfort yourself and the grace to receive comfort from others. 

6. Committing yourself in some way to making the world a better place to live in before you die. 

What next?  Judith Viorst ended her talk by encouraging us not to worry if we hadn’t achieved her six marks of a grownup. She told us when we quit the ‘growing up process’ we may as well quit the living process as well. 

Other posts………..

Start and End Happy

Life’s A Symphony

Life Symbols

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Filed under Reflections, Retirement

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. 


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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

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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

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Filed under Art, Culture, Reflections