Category Archives: Reflections

2022 in Photos

January- We began a six-month stint of providing regular childcare for our one-year-old granddaughter. What a privilege and a joy!!

Our oldest and youngest grandchildren heading down the hill on a sled together.

February- We enjoyed a belated Christmas gathering in Saskatoon at our son and daughter-in-law’s lovely new home. They were great hosts! We had a wonderful time being outdoors together and enjoying good food, music, games and visiting as a family.

March- I was working on one of the more than a dozen jigsaw puzzles I completed this year. Puzzles were my meditation practice and my therapy in 2022.

April- We enjoyed another fabulous meal at the Amsterdam Tea Room one of our favourite restaurants in the Exchange District of Winnipeg where we live.

It was so lovely this year to return to dining out at all the diverse and excellent eateries in our neighbourhood after a hiatus during the pandemic when we had to be satisfied with ordering take-out from local establishments.

May- We went crocus hunting on an ATV in the Sandilands as guests of our good friends Bill and Marie. We have been friends for more than twenty years.

We had so many terrific times with friends in 2022. We feel blessed and lucky to have all of them in our lives.

June- I attended a lovely luncheon hosted by my friend Marge. Marge organizes a group of Bethel Church attendees who volunteer on a regular basis at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue, cleaning, organizing and pricing goods for sale. I so enjoy both the work I do there and the company of these women.

July- Our son helps his nephew check out some birds during a family vacation at a house we rented in Oak Lake Manitoba.

August – We went to Leamington, Ontario for our niece’s wedding. Here I am celebrating with my four wonderful sisters-in-law.

September- Standing on the southern tip of Canada with my sister during a week-long cycling/wine trip in Essex County Ontario, including a four-day stint on Pelee Island.

October- We celebrated my Dad’s 94th birthday at our home. A big part of my 2022 was spending time several days a week, with Dad, at his nursing home.

November- On Mondays, I taught a course about women in the Bible and how they have been portrayed in art across the centuries in the McNally Robinson Community classroom. I had such an enriching time with the participants.

On Tuesdays in November I presented sessions on the same topic to the residents of Bethel Place, a seniors home connected to my church. It was lovely to connect with these folks and hear their stories.

With my aunt Viola and my son at her birthday party.

December – I flew to Saskatoon to celebrate my aunt’s 100th birthday with her. I have been uniquely blessed in the aunt department on both sides of my family. My eight aunties have been role models, encouragers, supporters and an inspiration to me throughout my life.

With my Aunt Nettie celebrating her 80th birthday
My Aunt Louise with the five copies of my novel she bought
With my Aunt Mary whose name I share as well as her love for family history and good books.

2022 was not all happiness and light. I could readily make a list of the challenges, difficulties and sad events that also marked this year, but I am choosing today to focus on what made this last year a joy and perhaps this post can help you to do that too.

Other posts……….

She’s Lived For a Century

Conversation and Memories

Join My Class At McNallys

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Treat the World Better Than It Treated You

On my last visit to Saskatoon I noticed this quotation written on the blackboard in the back hallway in my son and daughter-in-law’s home.

When you have a bad day, a really bad day, try to treat the world better than it treated you. -Patrick Stump

My daughter-in-law told me it was a mantra often used by her twenty-two-year old cousin, a nurse, who was tragically killed in a car accident in October.

Those words on the blackboard reminded me of something the great American poet Maya Angelou once said……….

Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.

Anyone who has read Maya’s books knows the world was incredibly cruel to her particularly in her childhood, yet she went on to inspire millions with the power of her poetry and its message of love and resilience.

And then there are the words of Michelle Obama spoken at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. When they go low – we go high.

In her new book The Light We Carry she explains that phrase a little more. It means being committed to decency and dignity in everything you do- how you treat others and how you act especially when your back is up against the wall. Some people will always want to take you down but don’t stoop to their level. Go high.

All three phrases remind us to be kind even when others aren’t kind to us.

It’s a tall order but wouldn’t our world be a different place if we all acted on it.

Other posts………

I Almost Saw Maya Angelou in Person

It’s Harder to Hate Up Close

Acts of Kindness and Love

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Run Towards the Danger

I was thinking a lot about Canadian film director Sarah Polley last weekend.

A few days before I flew to Saskatoon on Friday I watched Sarah Polley being interviewed on the Stephen Colbert show about her new book Run Towards the Danger. She talked about experiencing a concussion in 2015 after a very large fire extinguisher fell on her head.

Sarah Polley on the Stephen Colbert show- image from You Tube

For three and half years Sarah had brain fog, headaches, sensitivity to light, anxiety and could not multi-task. Sarah is an award winning Canadian film director. After her concussion she thought she would never direct a film again.

All the medical experts she consulted told her to avoid stress, spend time resting, dim the lights, essentially retreat from life so her brain could heal. It wasn’t working.

Then she went to see a Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh who gave her completely contrary advice- run towards the danger. Don’t retreat. Go out boldly and confront the very things that scare you, that cause you stress.

Writing the essays in her book was one way for her to do just that- honestly and openly sharing some of the most difficult experiences of her life.

It worked! Sarah recovered and is now being lauded by critics for directing the brand new film Women Talking.

I was thinking a lot about Sarah’s book as I boarded a plane for Saskatoon last weekend. I was headed there to help my aunt celebrate her 100th birthday.

In October when I was in Saskatoon I was in an accident that totalled our car. I was driving and alone in the vehicle when a truck crashed into me. The accident was my fault. I made a hasty turn at an intersection where the truck had the right of way.

The people in the truck were unharmed. I was pretty bruised and shaken up. It took me more than a month to summon the courage to drive again after my accident. In light of that my husband suggested I take taxis or ubers while in Saskatoon last weekend rather than rent a car.

I desperately wanted to follow his advice but knew I shouldn’t. I needed to confront my fears and drive in Saskatoon where I’d had my accident. So I rented a car. I ran towards the danger in my own way just like Sarah had.

Was I scared? You bet. I was terrified every time I stepped into that rented car all weekend and when I finally pulled it safely into its spot at the airport on Sunday night just before I flew home I nearly wept with relief.

But I was glad I’d done it. I even went back to the intersection where I’d had the accident and made the same right turn that had been so disasterous for me.

I find as I am getting older I am letting my fears and anxieties direct my life more than I should. I know I am going to have to push myself much harder to be like Sarah Polley and run towards the danger as I age.

When I got on the plane on Friday night to fly to Saskatoon the woman who was sitting beside me asked me to hold the book she was reading while she buckled her seat belt.

Guess what book it was? Sarah Polley’s Run Towards the Danger.

Other posts………

What’s Your Mouse in the Chest?

Don’t Be Scared to be Creative

Terrified Times Three

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Falling Back

I like the fact that I am falling back into my regular routine of writing a morning blog post on the same day as we are falling back into standard time.

I am going to make sure to cherish my extra hour this morning as a gift and savour it.

I might…………..

Finish the crossword puzzle in Saturday’s paper which I’ve only just started

Pick out some colourful paper to wrap up a gift for my granddaughter whose having a birthday party today

Read another chapter in Lucy by the Sea a new book by one of my favourite authors Elizabeth Strout

Have a second cup of coffee with my breakfast

Sketch a bit

Start a new jigsaw puzzle

Go for a walk or……………

Go back to bed for a little nap before church.

After a bit of a challenging period when I had to take a breather from writing this blog, I’m regaining my emotional and physical balance, my head is clearing, and I can actually look ahead more than one step at a time.

Today my fall back in time coincides with a feeling I am moving forward in my life.

Other posts…………

Sunday Morning Worship With Quakers in Costa Rica

Thin Places

Is It Good To Be Lazy?

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Making God Laugh

You may have noticed in the last while I haven’t been blogging every day as I usually do. My life has gone a little off the planned path of late and there have just been too many things to juggle. When I organized my schedule for this fall I booked myself into lots of presentations for schools and seniors groups and libraries to talk about my first novel Lost on the Prairie.

I decided I would continue working part-time at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, continue doing several different kinds of volunteer work connected to my church and I would teach a class in the McNally Robinson Community Classroom as well as do a series of talks for another group. That plus a whole variety of other more minor commitments would fill my fall.

I like to be busy and by now I have a pretty good idea of what I can commit to and still leave time for family and friends and exercise and entertainment. In August looking over the way my fall was shaping up I thought I had everything in hand.

But then..…..

I got a contract for a new book. I wasn’t expecting it and it is very exciting and I will be able to share more in just a few days, but it has meant that hundreds and hundreds of hours of editing needed to fit themselves into my schedule.

And then……

I was in a car accident. I’m fine but it was pretty traumatic for me and I am still dealing with the emotional fallout. My head space for writing and other endeavours hasn’t been the same as usual and I’ve had to cope with that.

And then……..

There have been a whole series of little family and personal emergencies I hadn’t anticipated that have left my head spinning.

My balanced plan for the fall has flown out the window. There are days I can hardly breathe when I think about what needs to be done and wonder how I will manage it all. Some things had to give. One was writing regularly for this blog.

At one point after I had described all the challenges that had come my way to my brother, he sent me a letter that included a very apt quote from Woody Allen. “If you want to make God laugh, tell her about your plans.”

I hope I’ve learned my lesson. Especially as I age I need to LEAVE SPACE in my plans for the unexpected. I need to have days and days in my schedule that are free so when the unexpected happens I can still maintain some equilibrium, so that when God is laughing I still have the capacity to at least smile a little bit along with her.

I hope to get back to blogging on a daily basis soon.

Other posts………..

The Puzzle of Time

What’s Your Mouse in the Chest?

Life is Messy

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Where Were You?

One of the great things about having a blog is that it makes it easy to look back and see what I was doing in the past. What was I doing in September in other years?

In 2013 we were exploring the city of Toronto on our bicycles.

Dave and his Dad look at pictures of his great-grandson on the computer

In 2014 we were visiting Dave’s Dad in Leamington Ontario.

In September 2015 we took my Dad to Saskatoon to visit his grandchildren and great-grandson.

With my cousin Lynne on the top of Signal Hill in St. John’s

In 2016 we were spending a few weeks in Newfoundland.

In 2017 we were visiting Iceland.

In September 2018 we were enjoying Burger Week in Winnipeg.

In September of 2109, we were visiting Croatia. Here we are on our walk on the wall around Dubrovnik.

In 2020 my friend Esther and I were enjoying a fall birthday party hosted by our friends Debbie and Glenys.

Last year my friend Esther and I took a boat cruise down the river at The Forks in Winnipeg.

This year I was on a cycling/ wine tour in southern Ontario.

I wonder what I will be doing next September?

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Some Things I Could Have Written About…….

I have been so focused on blogging about our cycling trip in southern Ontario that I didn’t have a chance to blog about some other things like………..

With some of my students at the international school in Hong Kong where I was a teacher for six years.

Labour Day which was on September 5th. I have been fortunate to labour at a variety of jobs in my life. I’ve been a counsellor, a waitress, a teacher, a journalist, an art gallery tour guide, a childcare worker, a university mentor, a workshop facilitator, a librarian, a playwright, a lecturer, a newspaper columnist, a novelist, a curriculum developer, a camp cook and a cashier. I liked some jobs more than others, but each one taught me important lessons.

Our granddaughter helps her grandpa blow out his candles.

My husband Dave’s 70th birthday which was on September 8th. We were actually in the car driving back to Manitoba on his birthday. Shortly after we got home we had a little party at our children’s home and our granddaughter helped her grandfather blow out his candles on the pineapple upside-down cake I’d made for him.

Seeing my Dad again on September 10th. I was gone on my trip to Ontario for over three weeks and was wondering if my father who has fairly advanced dementia would recognize me. He did!

“It’s MaryLou, one of my girls,” he said when I walked into his nursing home room. Shortly after we arrived home Dave and I took Dad to Kildonan Park one afternoon. He loved the flowers there.

My first day of school in 1958

The first day of school on September 7th. Even though I am no longer part of the education system the first day of classes in September remains a special one for me, a day when I remember all the nervousness and excitement of my first days as a student and a teacher. Now I look forward to the moment when I know my daughter-in-law will send me the traditional photo of my three grandchildren in Saskatoon on their first day of school.

September has brought many other great experiences already- giving a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to an interesting group of University of Manitoba medical graduates from the class of 1969, doing child care for our granddaughter for a day, receiving some exciting writing news and working on a brand new writing project, reserving a lovely apartment in Capetown, South Africa where we will spend the month of February, writing and publishing a new issue of The Friends of the Library’s monthly newsletter and having two different sets of friends over for dinner and going out to the movies with other friends.

We’ll see what the rest of the month will hold.

Other posts………..

Another Year for Dave

Lessons Waiting Tables

Mom’s First Day of School in 1931

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Three Things I Am Thinking About This Morning

First Thing

I was waiting for my bus near the art gallery where I work and two men who I suspected from their slurred speech and uninhibited behaviour were either inebriated or high were sitting on the ground leaning against a building right near the stop. They were in torn dirty clothing and barefoot. I was alone at the stop and they began whistling at me, telling me I was beautiful and asking me whether they could come home with me. I ignored them but felt extremely uncomfortable as their compliments became more effusive and their suggestions cruder.

An elderly Indigenous woman with a cane who had been standing quite some distance away waiting for the bus under a shady tree came over to me. She didn’t say a word. She stood right beside me till my bus came. With her at my side, the men became completely silent and didn’t speak again till my bus arrived.

I’ve been thinking about why the woman’s presence had such an effect on the men.

Visiting my cousins in Taiwan

Second Thing

We had my cousins who make their home in Taiwan over for supper last week. They talked about whether American Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi would follow through on her intention to visit Taiwan. We know from our own visit to Taiwan that the country is deeply committed to its independence from China and Pelosi’s support of that position has clearly angered Chinese officials who are making all kinds of threats. I have a subscription to the New York Times and one of their columnists praises Pelosi for standing up to a bully while another says her visit there is utterly reckless.

I’ve been thinking about who is right.

The Doctrine of Discovery made slavery or death the only option for indigenous North Americans who didn’t convert to Christianity.

Third Thing

My friend John has been blogging about The Doctrine of Discovery. It was a 15th-century papal edict that said Christians could lay claim to any land they discovered that was not already inhabited by Christians. If that land was home to pagan people, attempts could be made to convert them. If these conversion attempts failed the pagans could be made slaves or killed.

Some people think the Pope should have clearly and openly repudiated that edict during his time here in Canada. My friend John contends that the statements the Pope did make during his visit seriously undermine the legitimacy of the doctrine.

I have been thinking about whether I agree.

Other posts…………

What is The Doctrine of Discovery?

Learning About the Chinese Cultural Revolution From Fifth Graders

She Had A Baseball Bat

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The Puzzle of Time

This is the latest jigsaw puzzle I’ve completed. As I worked on putting together all these timepieces I was thinking about a conversation I had with a group of women a couple of weeks ago. We talked about how hard it is to alter the way we use our time.

The women in the group were about my age or a little younger. We discussed how for so many years we had to organize our time as efficiently as possible so we could juggle our careers, our community involvements and our families.

We learned to prioritize things and plan our days in a way that allowed for maximum accomplishment. We considered very wisely how we spent each minute. Now that our children are independent and we have fewer career commitments it isn’t always easy to learn to slow down our pace.

One woman commented that she used to have her shopping trips to the grocery store planned for maximum efficiency and minimum time. She realizes she doesn’t need to do that any more. It is possible to move through the store at a more leisurely pace, stopping to talk to someone she recognizes, comparing prices and quality of items, appreciating the colours of the blooms in the floral department and maybe taking in the scent of the fresh bread coming out of the oven in the bakery.

Another thing we talked about was letting go a little of the need to accomplish set goals. One woman described how hard she had worked to get her PHD before she retired. But she has it now. Why does she need to keep pushing herself so hard professionally?

I talked about achieving a life-long dream to publish a book. I’ve done that. So why do I feel pressure to publish another one and feel badly when I don’t find time to pursue that goal?

I spend an endless amount of time watching my granddaughter walking up and down these steps in a nearby park and counting to ten as she does so

Several of us were grandparents and we talked about how our grandchildren are a gift when it comes to rethinking time priorities. When you are with them you are forced to abandon all thoughts of having a goal-orientated day or doing any kind of meaningful work other than caring for them and being involved with them.

Managing our time in all the different stages of life has its challenges. Doing a jigsaw puzzle that focused on marking the passage of time with such a variety of timepieces got me thinking about how I might keep working towards seeing time as a gift to savour and not a challenger to beat.

Other posts………..

The Passing of Time

Ageing

Light a Multitude of Candles

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Fueling Friendship

Julie Beck has been writing a series in The Atlantic about friends for three years. She’s interviewed more than a hundred groups of friends and shared those interviews with the magazine’s readers. The series is wrapping up now and Julie has used her experience to make a list of six characteristics that help friendships last and make them meaningful.

Lunch at a tea room with the women I work with at an MCC Thrift Store

Accumulation- by this Julie means the accumulated hours spent together. She thinks people need to invest time in a friendship and that between 60 -100 hours must be spent with another person to build a true friendship. This is why we often make friends with people we work with, go to church with, study with or do a leisure activity with on a regular basis. The friends in the photo above are other volunteers I work with at a Thrift Store for about four hours once a week. We also go to the same church so we have accumulated lots of hours together.

Chatting with members of my writing group during a meeting we held at my house

Attention- Julie says you have to pay attention to the people around you because you can find a friend in all kinds of places and situations. She encourages us to put ourselves out there and try something new and in the process make new friends. I was very nervous when I went to the first meeting of a children’s writing group almost a decade ago. Now the authors in the group have become good friends.

With my friends at an escape room

Intention- Julie says friendships take energy and thought, in other words, friendships take work. This makes me think of a group of former teaching colleagues I get together with regularly. We put work into planning special outings and get-togethers and buying meaningful gifts for one another.

I think this is 2007. We have been getting together with this group of friends for a long time.

Ritual- Making a point of getting together regularly. Although things have changed because of the pandemic we are part of a group of five couples who used to get together regularly- each couple taking a turn to plan our next adventure or outing.

One of my good friends just moved far away

Imagination- Sometimes maintaining a friendship takes imagination- thinking outside the box. Someone who has been a good friend of mine for several decades just moved to Newfoundland. We will have to use our imaginations to think of creative ways we can maintain that friendship despite the distance between us.

Grace- Julie says the final quality you need to maintain a friendship is grace. You have to forgive yourself when you fall short of being the kind of friend you should be and you have to forgive your friends when they fall short.

Other posts………..

At The Gates Again

We Never Stop Talking

Carrying on a Family Tradition With Friends

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