Category Archives: Reflections

Just A Tiny Thing Makes All the Difference

I am at the gym doing my stretches. There’s one where I stand like a crane on one foot holding the other up to my rear and trying to balance on just one leg. At my age, it’s not always easy. But………if I put even a fingertip against a wall or some other support I can keep my balance for as long as I like. Just a tiny fingertip makes all the difference.

 

When I used to present peacemaking workshops I often told the parable of the snowflake. Snowflakes were falling on a pine branch and even as the 999,999th flake landed the branch still remained on the tree. However, when the one-millionth snowflake was added the branch broke and fell to the ground.  Just one tiny snowflake that weighed practically nothing made all the difference. 

I recently read an article that said taking a single deep breath can improve your overall well being in five different ways! It increases awareness of your surroundings, reduces anxiety, gives your mind focus, relieves pain and provides healing. Just one tiny breath makes all the difference. 

The Dalai Lama once reminded us that if we think tiny things don’t make a difference we should remember what a difference it makes to try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.  

Other posts……….

A Smile Makes A Difference

What A Difference

 

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Another Friend For the Moment

I made another friend for the moment on Tuesday.  I was standing at the bus stop near one of the elementary schools in Winnipeg’s inner city where I supervise student teachers.  It was cold and snowy and the bus was late. There was one other woman waiting with me and she asked if I could look and see if the bus was coming since her eyesight wasn’t great. I peered down the street but told her I couldn’t see the bus yet. 

The woman said, “I don’t recognize you.  You musn’t be from this neighborhood.”  I explained what I was doing there and she said she was taking the bus to pick up her great grandson from kindergarten.  I told her I had two grandchildren and another one arriving soon.  We kept on chatting about our kids and grandkids and by the time the bus arrived I had found out she was providing full time care for her great grandson because his mother was trying to get her life turned around and the boy’s grandmother, the daughter of the woman I was talking to,  had been beaten to death by her abusive boyfriend.

I discovered the woman and I were the same age. She told me she found it pretty tough caring for her active great grandson but she had no choice.  She was glad next year he would be in grade one all day and was very happy he had been accepted into a school where he would be taught Ojibwe/Cree. 

She told me how scary her neighborhood had become with so many needles lying around.  She makes it a personal mission to look for discarded needles on the street and takes them to the neighborhood pharmacy where they can be disposed of safely.  She’d found three needles that day just walking from her home to the bus stop where we were standing. 

Our bus arrived and my new friend sat across from me after we’d boarded. She told me she was teaching her great grandson some traditional dances.  She had been a dancer performing at pow wows and other events for many years.  I told her about the dresses for the Jingle Dance made by Anishinaabe artist Barry Ace that we’d had on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I work part time.  She told me she’d made herself six different jingle dresses and then we talked about the different kinds of jingles you can sew onto the dresses and where you could get them and how some women make their own jingles. 

The bus pulled up to her great grandson’s daycare just then.  I told her it had been nice talking to her and wished her well.  She waved to me from the sidewalk after she’d exited the bus. I really haven’t stopped thinking about the women and her story since. 

I’ve written before about how interesting it is to make what I call friends for the moment.  I learn so much from them. My friend for the moment on Tuesday was no exception. 

Other posts………

She’s Making Jingles

My Mother’s Friends

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Who Would You Invite to A Feast?

During Lent our church is having services centered on the theme The Hunger and the Feast. Last Sunday our pastor asked us to think about who we would invite to enjoy a feast with us if we could invite anyone living or dead.  I have been thinking about that a fair bit this week and I would agree with our pastor who said he would invite his own family-his wife and children and grandchildren.  

Sketch I did of our family at the Forks this last Christmas

Our whole family is only together once or twice a year for a couple of days since our older son lives in Saskatoon with his partner and our grandchildren. Our other son and his partner live here in Winnipeg but they are both busy professional musicians whose work often involves travel.  To coordinate our schedules more than once a year is difficult.  I would love to sit down at a feast with all of them and just visit and catch up on our lives.   I am never happier than when we are all together.  

With my Mom at Christmas a year and a half before she died

At first I thought I might want to have a feast with beloved members of my family who have died.  My amazing and supportive mother, my kind and caring mother-in-law, my two grandmothers- talented, funny and intelligent women.  But I think that would just make me way too sad.  I miss them as it is and getting a chance to see them again might only make my grief over losing them more intense. 

Posing with my daughter-in-law and her sister and the statues of The Famous Five in Ottawa

Then I wondered if I might want to feast with a famous writer like Jane Austen or a poet like Mary Oliver.  Perhaps a brilliant artist like Emily Carr or a singer like Carol King. Maybe a world leader like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern or one of Canada’s Famous Five who convinced the courts to acknowledge that women were people in the eyes of the law. Should I invite a new Testament character like Jesus’ mother or an Old Testament character like Queen Esther? Although I would love to chat with legendary folks like the outstanding ones I’ve mentioned we don’t really have a personal connection and I might feel nervous in their presence. 

No I really think if I could share a feast with anyone it would be my family. Who would you invite to your feast? 

Other posts……….

Seeing the Great Wall With My Family

Leise Reiselt Der Schnee

I Held You Before Your Mother Did

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What Should You Give Up For Lent?

The movie Chocolat tells the story of a  young woman and her daughter who move to a small French village just before Easter and set up a new chocolate shop directly across the street from the church. 

The mayor of the village, a very pious man, is appalled that a single mother would want to entice the community’s fine Catholic citizens with so pleasurable a thing as chocolate during Lent– a time of year when they should be denying themselves pleasure. 

In an attempt to reconcile the two,  the young priest from the village church delivers a Sunday message in which he suggests to his congregation that rather than give something up for Lent they embrace something new. They might befriend a new person or be open-minded enough to accept a new idea. 

I wonder if we couldn’t benefit the most by combining the ‘giving up’ and ’embracing something new’ aspects of Lent.

What if we……..

Gave up jealousy and joyfully celebrated the success of others

Gave up holding grudges and forgave those who have wronged us

Gave up worrying about our health and started doing something to improve it

Gave up gossiping and looked for positive things to say about people

Gave up losing our temper so quickly and tried to practice more patience even with the most frustrating people in our lives

Gave up being self-centered and thought about what we could do to help someone else

Gave up expecting the worst and hoped for the best

Gave up wishing our lives could be different or better and took steps to make that happen

Gave up__________ and ___________

This approach could have consequences. Researchers have found it only takes six weeks to establish a new habit. Lent, which lasts for forty days is just about that long. Who knows? If we do give up some negatives and embrace more positive alternatives for Lent we might just change our lives forever. 

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What Are People Saying?

I just checked and it has been a whole year since I shared comments people have made about my blog posts.  I LOVE comments. So here are some I’ve received in the last year. 

women firefightersMy post called Include Me Please talked about the need to use inclusive language when we are referring to people and also to animals.  A blog reader named Katie wrote that when she worked as a naturalist intern at a National Park, her supervisor called all animals “she” unless they were known to be male. Then Katie adds……”In our church the pastors never refer to God as “he,” which I appreciate, though it does lead to contrived-sounding language sometimes. Also on Mother’s Day a church choral ensemble sang “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and throughout the entire song referred to the Lord as “she.” It was very moving.”

door to jacob hamblin home

In the doorway of the Jacob Hamblin House in St. George Utah

My post It’s the Women Who Impress Me was about the wives of Mormon pioneer Jacob Hamblin. It received a comment from  a great great-grandson of Jacob Hamlin’s who shares his famous ancestor’s name.  He said that the more he learns about his great great-grandmother Rachel the more impressed he has become. She was a true inspiration.  

A blog reader named Robert commented on the post I did about seeing Galileo’s shopping list in Florence Italy.  Robert provided a link to a website that talks about other famous shopping lists.  

After seeing my post about Sacagawea the Shoshone women who was a guide for Lewis and Clark I received a message from the relatives of George Drouillard.  They say he was the official guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition and they aren’t happy Sacagawea gets all the publicity. 

Photo by Joe Bryska/Winnipeg Free Press

My friend Hans responded when I wrote about the death of Roland Penner.  Hans said Mr. Penner had been instrumental in his own decision to become a lawyer after he heard Mr. Penner speak in 1967. Later it had been Hans’ privilege to be a fellow law instructor of Mr. Penner’s at the University of Manitoba. Hans recalled a time when Mr. Penner won a case by quoting a Bible verse, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

When I posted about fond memories of visiting my grandparents’ farm readers responded differently.  Some had similar positive and endearing experiences with their grandparents but others sadly had grandparents who were distant figures they actually feared. 

Lot treats us to a night out at the gala movie premiere of Bruce Lee My Brother

When I did a post about a friend Lot Sze from Hong Kong who had died, Peter another blog reader who knew Lot wrote about the wonderful host Lot had been to him and his wife when they visited Hong Kong. 

Illustration from blog post called Youth Perspectives on Racism by Tom Yoder

When I wrote about an American businessman I visited with in Portugal who is disgusted with Christians that voted for a racist like Donald Trump an American blog reader named Bill talked about the students in the college course he teaches who expressed similar sentiments in a class discussion. I was excited in February when  the Musée de la civilisation, in Quebec City asked to use a photograph of a grandfather rock from one of my posts in an online virtual exhibition. After I wrote the post Can Your Marriage Survive Lollygagging Perry one of my blog readers suggested it provided the perfect material for a children’s book and Gabe another reader introduced me to a new word coddiwomple which means…… to travel purposefully to a vague destination.

That’s just a very small sample of the many comments I received on my blog posts in this last year. Did I mention already that  I LOVE to get comments!

Other posts……….

What Are People Saying 2017

What Are People Saying 2016

What Are People Saying 2015

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2018 Retrospective

broken arm (2)“Your wrist is broken.” A slip on the ice sent me to the Pan Am Clinic in January of 2018.  I emerged with a lovely lavender cast.chapel of bones“Consider one day you will reach this state too.” Those words were over the doorway of the Chapel of Bones in the city of Faro. Inside were a thousand monks’ skeletons. It was certainly the most macabre place we visited during our February sojourn in Portugal. mcdonalds in porto“This is the most beautiful McDonalds in the world.” We were in Porto Portugal in March and our guide showed us the stunning art deco architecture in the city’s downtown McDonalds.  It featured a stained glass window behind the counter, an elegant chandelier and a huge bronze eagle over the doorway.

salvation army“Can you help me?” In April while walking down Winnipeg’s Main Street I encountered a young woman from my home town who had just been released from prison. She needed directions to a thrift store where she could buy clothes. She was staying at the Salvation Army hostel temporarily.  I listened to her troubling family story. I learned about the violent encounter that had landed her in prison. She hadn’t graduated from highschool. I gave her some money but couldn’t stop thinking about her. What chance did she have alone in the city and without any financial or family support? my amazing mom chicken soup“I had an amazing Mom.”  In May a story of mine was published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book called My Amazing Mom.  I wrote about how fortunate I was in the 1960s to have a mother who talked to me honestly about sex and human reproduction.


“I’m married to a guerrilla gardener.”  In June my husband Dave planted tomatoes in one of the raised flowerbeds in our downtown Winnipeg neighborhood.  Guerrilla gardeners work in areas they don’t have a legal right to use.  No one seemed to mind Dave’s tomatoes.  Folks usually picked them as soon as they ripened. “We’re going to make some memories.” That’s what we decided to do when my husband’s older brother John who lives in Ontario received a terminal cancer diagnosis in July.  We flew there and had a good time visiting, eating, going on outings, reminiscing, shedding some tears and celebrating John and his wife Linda’s wedding anniversary. “Was it ever hot!”  In August we joined our friends Ed and Millie on a canoe trip down the Assiniboine River all the way from Ed and Millie’s home on the river’s banks in St. James to our home near its banks in the Exchange District of Winnipeg.  It was 36 degrees the day of our twenty-kilometer paddle, but we made it! “He’s ninety years old! In September we celebrated my father’s 90th birthday. I created a slide show of several hundred photos illustrating Dad’s rich life as a family man, physician, community volunteer and traveler. 

Anna by Rembrandt

“I want to be like Anna.” In October I spoke at a women’s retreat and explored stories of Biblical women. My favourite was the hundred- year old New Testament prophetess Anna.  She was a little wild, fit, active, a life long learner, interested in the world, creative, articulate and passionate about her beliefs. I wanted to be like her. 

Newly published authors talk about how they broke into the industry at the Packaging Your Imagination conference in Toronto

“Take chances and care deeply.”  That’s just a sample of the many inspiring words of advice I received from the excellent speakers at a conference for children’s writers I attended in Toronto in November. 

“Take a deep breath.” I think we set a record in December of 2018 for social holiday functions attended. I told myself to take a deep breath and just enjoy it all remembering how blessed I am to have so many people to care about and who care about me.

Wishing all my faithful blog readers the best of everything in 2019!

 Other posts……….

Casted

Canoeing Adventure

Porto With Pedro

A Professional Driver

What Persistence

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On A Boat

On a fishing boat in Fiji

With the cruise ship that took us down the Main River in Germany

On a snorkeling boat in Jamaica

Setting off on a cruise through the city of Bangkok 

With my husband Dave’s family on a ferry on Lake Erie heading to Boblo Island to cycle

Canoeing down the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg 

On a boat after swimming with the manatees in Florida

Sailing on Lake Taupo in New Zealand

On a gourmet sailing trip in Costa Rica with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law

On a boat on the Sea of Galilee in Israel

With my husband on a boat in Barcelona

With my sister on a boat in Halong Bay Vietnam

With my friend Sue and our sailboat captain in Florida

With Hong Kong friends on a boat in the South China Sea

With my brother on a boat ride at Moose Lake Manitoba

Drinking snake wine with my sister-in-law on a boat in the Li River in China

With a woman who asked me to pose with her on a boat on the Yangtze River

Other posts……..

A Gourmet Sail

Modeling on the Yangtze

Sailing on Errol Flynn’s Boat

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