We Are Vaccinated But…….

Sporting my vaccination sticker just outside the vaccination clinic

We are now among the vaccinated. My husband Dave and I got our Pfizer vaccines yesterday at the RBC Convention Centre. I admit I got a little teary when they were giving Dave the vaccine. I hadn’t expected that. There is definitely a sense of relief that within two weeks we will be protected from the worst effects of COVID-19.

Dave chose to change his Winnipeg Jets hat into a I’m Vaccinated hat

Everything at the Convention Centre was very organized and each person who directed us professional. We were back on the street 20 minutes after our scheduled appointment time and that included waiting the mandatory 15 minutes after our injections to be sure we were okay. I know there have been many glitches reported at the mass vaccination site downtown but we experienced a smoothly run operation.

I am very glad to have been vaccinated but my anxiety has not really been diminished by much. With the variants on the rise and those variants hitting much younger people I now worry about my sons who have jobs where they interact with the public. My older son is a school vice principal in Saskatchewan where a third wave of COVID-19 has already hit. Yesterday nearly 300 doctors in the province, including my daughter-in-law, signed a letter to Premier Scott Moe asking him to start vaccinating essential workers like teachers. Mr. Moe is taking their recommendation under advisement. I would gladly have given my son my spot in the vaccination line if I could have.

Dr. Joss Reimer who is coordinating the vaccine effort here in Manitoba warned us yesterday that the third wave is upon us in our province and we need to be extremely vigilant about not spreading COVID-19. She suggested wearing masks even when we are together with others outdoors. Talking on Face Time with friends last night who have also been vaccinated, Dave and I realized we are not being as vigilant as they are, since we still go into stores with masks and take our masks off when we are outdoors. Perhaps at least till this third wave abates we need to go back to curb side pick up only, and wear our masks for outdoor activities with others. Dr. Reimer implied that if people don’t show more caution, the government will have to implement stricter regulations.

Last April I posted a picture on my blog of me ready for a bike ride on a chilly April morning. It seems like things haven’t changed much since then.

I am happy to be vaccinated, but even after two weeks from now when our dose will reach full effect, I think we will need to continue to be very careful as long is there is a chance we could still spread COVID-19. For over a year now I’ve kept thinking that a more normal life is just around the corner. But probably till many more people are vaccinated that corner is still down the road.

Other posts……….

Why People Don’t Trust Scientists

Family Pandemic Firsts That Make Me Proud and Happy

My Polio Vaccines

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary

Another Modelling Gig

Last week I wrote about how I had once served as a model for an art class. I had another modelling experience when Dave and I took a cruise down the Yangtze River on the ship The Eastern King. There were about two hundred people on board. There were ten American and Canadian school teachers in our group but the other travellers were all Asian. Our party was in great demand as photography models.

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

Our cruise mates all seemed anxious to return home with a picture of themselves in the company of one of us North Americans. Except for our party none of the passengers on board spoke English and so when our tour group arrived at a scenic site we were repeatedly asked via lots of gestures to pose with our fellow travellers. It seemed the ‘thing to do’ was to be photographed with your arm around a North American against the backdrop of China’s stunningly beautiful river gorges.

This woman found it very amusing when I asked her to pose with me

Once with the help of an English speaking member of the crew I asked a woman to stand beside me while my husband Dave took our photo. She laughed for a long time but finally obliged. It was interesting how it seemed perfectly natural for our cruise companions to ask me to pose, so their husbands or friends could snap our picture but when I requested the same thing they were surprised.

Other posts………

Wrestling Farmers

How Do You Like Living in Japan?

Bamboo Boat Trackers

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From Brewery Flour to Millineries

I learned lots of interesting things while researching and writing my novel Lost on the Prairie.

In one scene in my book two train passengers are playing the game Toboggans and Stairs. My hero Peter who is from the United States has played Snakes and Ladders but has never heard of this Canadian version of the game which was popular at the turn of the century. I found images of some of the old Toboggans and Stairs games so I would know what it looked like.

Another scene in my novel takes place in millinery shop. At the turn of the century millinery shops not only sold hats they designed and made them as well. To find out how a shop in the early 1900s might have looked I studied two paintings done by famous artists around that time.

In one chapter of Lost on the Prairie my hero Peter helps out for a day at a mill. I needed to know how a mill works for this scene and so I watched a video featuring an old friend of mine Al Hamm. The video is made by Farmery Brewery and in it Al explains how barley from the brewery is ground into flour which the company uses for a line of products that includes pancake mix and fish batter.

Prince clomps right up to the lake and sinks his muzzle into its blue depths sucking up the water and swallowing it in huge gusty gulps. After a bit he rears his head up and swooshes it around in his mouth streams pouring down from his tongue and teeth.”

Illustration by Victorian artist Randolph Caldecott

I learned about so many fascinating things in the process of writing my book. I am anxious to share my knowledge with classes of students who will read my book, with book clubs and with any interested readers.

All the posts about Lost on the Prairie can be read here.

Check out my Lost on the Prairie website.

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He Looks Kind

When I take my granddaughter for walks in her stroller we often make our way through Vimy Ridge Park near her home. There is a statue of a young man there that always attracts my attention. He is crouched down, his hand stretched out and he looks so concerned and kind.

Portrait of Andrew Mynarski by Paul Goronson

I found out the man is Andrew Mynarski the son of Polish immigrants to Canada. He grew up in Winnipeg and attended elementary school and high school here. Andrew joined the Canadian Airforce when he was 25. He had been working as a leather cutter since age 16 when his father died and he needed to help support his family- his mother and five siblings. He is described as a quiet man with a good sense of humour who enjoyed woodworking. He liked to design and build furniture.

Artist Charlie Johnston created the sculpture of Andrew Mynarski

On June 12 his airforce crew was setting out on their 13th mission over France when Andrew found a four leaf clover in the grass by their plane. He insisted on giving it to his good buddy Pat Brophy who was a rear gunner on his crew.

On the mission their plane was hit and the pilot ordered everyone to bail out. Andrew was just about to jump with his parachute when he noticed that his friend Pat was trapped in the back of the plane. Instantly he turned away from the plane door and crawled on his hands and knees through blazing hydraulic oil to help Pat. By the time he reached his friend his parachute and uniform were on fire.

Andrew grabbed an axe and tried to smash Pat free but it was hopeless. Pat kept telling him he should just jump and get out. Finally Andrew did. French villagers found Andrew but he was so badly burned from trying to save his friend Pat he died a few hours later.

Pat however survived. The explosion caused when the plane hit the ground blew Pat safely away from the wreckage and he was rescued. Later he told the story of how his friend Andrew had tried to save him and Andrew was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage and kindness.

Andrew’s statue makes me think about what a horrible thing war is. That a caring brave young person like Andrew had to die is such a tragic loss. I think about the contributions a man of Andrew’s character could have made to his family and community had he lived. It makes me so sad.

When I push my granddaughter’s stroller by Andrew’s statue I always say a little prayer that she will never experience the tragedy and sorrow of a war.

Other posts……….

James Bond is From Winnipeg

Canada’s Women Soldiers

Wars Dread of Mothers

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Filed under Art, Canada, History, Winnipeg

A Television Series Senator Plett Should Watch

I just finished watching the television series Unbelievable. It isn’t an easy drama to view but it is an important one. It tells a true story about a serial rapist who attacks a young girl in Washington and then a string of women in Colorado. He meets his match when two dogged female detectives literally work night and day and leave no stone unturned to try and find him and convict him.

Toni Collette and Merritt Wever are brilliant in their roles as two female detectives pursuing a serial rapist. – Photo from Netflix

Unbelievable teaches you a great deal about rape.

Police can interview victims in a way that makes them feel like their story isn’t believable or they can interview them in sensitive and respectful ways.

Although it shouldn’t make a difference, a woman’s past, her race, her age or even her occupation can have an impact on how seriously her rape claims are taken.

Men with military backgrounds and police backgrounds are checked first as possible suspects because they have a much higher rate of violent behaviour.

Police in one district don’t routinely share information about rapes with police in other districts. In Unbelievable the fact that detectives from two different districts work on finding a rapist together happens just as a matter of chance.

Rape changes a woman’s life forever. As the victims shared their stories in the trial during this series it didn’t matter whether they were box store workers or college students or grandmothers or career women the rapes devastated them, totally turned their lives upside down and left them vulnerable and afraid.

I kept thinking as I watched Unbelievable that a series like this should be mandatory viewing for judges and politicians. In 2017 former Conservative party leader Rona Ambrose introduced a bill in Parliament ensuring judges in Canada were trained in sexual-assault law. The bill required judges to learn about rape myths and stereotypes and how biases of race, gender and other social factors could influence their decisions.

Rona Ambrose the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Rona Ambrose worked in a rape crisis centre in university and that experience made her realize the need for such a bill. She found support across the political parties for her legislation. Her efforts were definitely seen as necessary after an Alberta judge told a sexual assault victim she should have” just kept her knees together” and after a Halifax judge said a woman can give consent even when she is drunk. Ms. Ambrose said responses like those discourage women from reporting rapes and laying charges.

Rona Ambrose’s bill was passed unanimously in the House of Commons but Senator Don Plett from Manitoba and some of his Conservative colleagues decided to stall it in the Senate for over 700 days so it didn’t pass before the last federal election call. Ms Ambrose expressed her disdain that those “old boys” in the Senate had failed to protect Canadian women. She specifically called out Senator Plett for procedural stalling. A CBC article stated that “because of political procedural moves by the Conservative whip, Manitoba Sen. Don Plett, private member’s bills like Ms. Ambrose’s haven’t made it onto the Senate agenda.”

Such a response was hardly surprising since Senator Plett was a vocal supporter of President Trump who has faced some twenty-six charges of sexual misconduct, including rape, and brags about his skill at grabbing women’s genitalia. Senator Plett has referred to Mr Trump as his good friend.

Unbelievable makes you very aware that many things need to change if we want to adequately protect women from sexual assault and rape. I wonder if Senator Plett has watched Unbelievable? Maybe someone should suggest he do so.

Note: Something I found very interesting about the series is that one of the detectives on the case is a woman with a strong Christian faith and it helps her deal with the disturbing things she witnesses as she investigates rape incidents. Her partner on the case is an atheist because she can’t believe that if there was a God that God would allow such horrible things to happen to women. It is interesting to see how the two detectives influence one another in matters of faith as they pursue their case.

Note: The current Liberal government introduced a bill very similar to Ms. Ambrose’s and it passed in November. Because it is not a private member’s bill there is a much better chance it will make it through the Senate as well.

Note: The thing that makes Unbelievable so chilling is that it is almost 100% accurate in depicting a true story reported on the podcast This American Life and in a print story by Ken Armstrong and Christian Miller.

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Filed under Movies, Politics

A Unique Meeting Place in A Winnipeg Park

“Would you mind if my wife took your photo?” I was too shy to ask but my husband wasn’t and that’s why I got this photo of some Winnipeg women enjoying a beautiful sunny Easter Sunday afternoon, visiting together.

They laughed and smiled when Dave said I wanted to take their photo and readily agreed.

Photo from the Winnipeg Arts Council

Dave and I went for a long cycle yesterday that took us to Maples Collegiate. Just behind the school is Adsum Park and a piece of public art called Close Commons. I had read about it and had been wanting to see it.

Artist Gurpreet Sehra with Close Commons- photo from the Winnipeg Free Press

Artist Gurpreet Sehra who designed and created Close Commons said she wanted it to be a place for dialogue and that is just what it was being used for when I saw it.

The art piece has large oak leaves made from aluminum. Gurpreet chose them because the bur oak is indigenous to Manitoba.

The bottom part of the piece is made from granite and is etched with floral motifs inspired by Islamic and Indian architecture and textiles.

Before she made the piece, Gurpreet took a survey of local residents using the three languages most commonly spoken in the area, English, Punjabi and Tagalog. Many people in the neighbourhood are immigrants from the Philippines or the Punjab area of India.

Gurpreet wanted the artwork to represent Manitoba so she chose the oak leaves and…………..

Photo from the Winnipeg Arts Council website

to represent the diverse immigrant communities in the province she did the granite etching with motifs from other countries and cultures. In Gurpreet’s piece the two come together beautifully.

When Gurpreet did her initial survey some of the women in the neighbourhood told her the wooden benches in the park at the time, were being used predominantly by men and they didn’t feel welcome there. The women wanted a beautiful and functional place where they could meet to talk. And as I saw yesterday that is exactly what they got!

Other posts…………

Indian Dinner

Warli Art- Kids Love It and You Will Too

Fifty Years of Folklorama

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Images of Easter

Coloring Easter eggs with my mom. The curlers in my sisters’ hair and mine would insure a beautiful head of ringlets for church on Easter Sunday morning. 
Cherry Blossoms Along Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto, Japan
With my sister in Easter bonnets and dresses sewn by our mother
Eggs I photographed in Odessa Ukraine
Our son age 4 at his grandparents with a new baby chick
Easter lilies in the lobby of our condo in Winnipeg
Easter 1956- My sister and I in our Easter bonnets
Jesus on the Cross- I photographed this at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Our son with a personalized Easter egg on his first Easter
Easter breakfast with my daughter-in-law
Easter Morning by Mary Riter Hamilton- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
Some sketches I did of my childhood Easters
With my friends in Assiniboine Park
Holding bunnies with my sister

Other posts……………..

A Serendipitous Coincidence

A Life That Adds Up to Something

Easter- A Time of New Beginnings

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A Heartfelt Book That Started On Instagram and Sold Two Million Copies

I was introduced to Charlie Mackesy on the CBS Sunday Morning show. Mackesy is an artist with a studio in a quaint old barn in the English countryside. In 2018 he started doing sketches about a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse that were meant to encourage people and give them hope. He posted his daily sketches on his Instagram page.

Mackesy’s Instagram account became a huge hit with hundreds of thousands of followers and then Harper Collins offered him a book deal. The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse has sold 2 million copies, been translated into 17 languages and spent more than 15 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Published in the fall of 2019 the book is targeted at audiences of any age. It is not so much a story as it is a collection of illustrations about a lonely boy who makes his way through the countryside, finding friendship with the mole, fox and horse. He talks with them, sharing his hopes and fears and asking important questions like.…....What do you think success is? What is the bravest thing you ever said? What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you think is the biggest waste of time?

The book also contains words of encouragement and hope. Like…………. Everyone is a bit scared, but we are less scared together. Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent. When the big things feel out of control focus on what you love right under your nose.

There is a lot of wisdom in this little book. I have it on my nightstand and like to dip into a page or two before I got to sleep. The very last page in the book is one we would all do well to remember. It says…………

Sometimes all you hear about is the hate, but there is more love in this world than you could possibly imagine.

Other posts………..

And that Led Me

Mending What We Can

I‘m Possible

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Thinking About Mary On Good Friday

 Perhaps because I am a mother myself, on Good Friday I am often preoccupied with thinking about Mary, Jesus’ mother. 

How must she have felt as they nailed her son’s hands and feet to the cross and she watched him slowly die? How would a mother feel watching that happen to her child?

Former Toronto Star columnist Michelle Landsberg writes in her book Women and Children First, “It is at the very moment we give birth, that we first begin to truly understand and fear death. ” Mary must certainly have experienced such fear for her child right from the beginning of her motherhood journey.

Rest on the Flight to Egypt- Francisco de Zubaran – 1659

She was just a young girl when she delivered her first baby after enduring the comments of those who thought it was scandalous she got pregnant before she was married. She takes her son to the temple when he is eight days old.  There a man named Simeon tells her the tribulations of her child will be “ like a sword that will pierce your soul.”  Later when Jesus is a toddler, Mary becomes a refugee because powerful people want to kill her son. To save him she flees to a place where the culture, language, and religion are completely foreign to her.

Jesus in the Temple by Heinrich Hofmann- 1881

Jesus is twelve when he is separated from his parents in the large city of Jerusalem.  Any mother who has ever lost a child in a crowd can empathize with the heart-stopping fear Mary surely experienced at that point.

Jesus Summons Matthew to Leave the Tax Office -Jan van Hemessen – 1536

Once Jesus began his ministry Mary must have lived in constant anxiety. Her thirty-year-old son does not marry or have steady employment. He wanders around with a member of a violent guerilla warfare organization. His other followers are men who have abandoned their careers and families. He travels with a tax collector and with Mary Magdalene, whose virtue is questionable. He is often seen with Joanna, a woman who has left her politically important husband, and a rich young lady named Susanna who is rumored to be squandering her fortune on Jesus.

Mary watches her son spend time with lepers, prostitutes, adulterers, dishonest government officials and those who are thought to be demon-possessed. People gossip about Jesus. Mary overhears her neighbors whisper “he has gone out of his mind.” She knows the church leaders hate her son.

Jesus Rejected in Nazareth by Jeff Watkins

Once when she goes to see him Jesus says, “Who is my mother?” as she approaches. Mary must have been hurt. Another time he is visiting at home and makes some radical and inflammatory statements in the synagogue in Nazareth . The congregation gets so mad they drive him out of the city. He narrowly escapes being pushed off a cliff. How Mary must have worried!

Igor Stoyanov’s Icon of the Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee

Yet Mary supports her son whole-heartedly. At the Cana wedding, Jesus is hesitant to perform a miracle. “Mom why should we worry about this,” he says in John 2:4. “Do whatever my son tells you”, Mary confidently assures the servants ignoring her son’s misgivings. Jesus lives up to his mother’s absolute faith in him. He turns the water into wine. Many people’s hearts are changed as a result.

Mary and John at the Cross by Ralph Pallen Coleman

And Mary demonstrates her unconditional love for her son at the end of Jesus’ life. People are making a circus of his death. They are spitting on him, jeering and gambling with his belongings. He is hanging between two common criminals. Most of his followers have fled, denying they know him, but not his mom. She is standing right at his cross. Jesus is so moved by his mother’s loyalty that one of the last things he does before he dies is ask his best friend to look after her.

The Bible makes it clear Mary never gave up on her son. Time and time again she extended her support and care. No doubt her faith in God sustained her through the most difficult trials of motherhood.

So give a thought to Mary on this Good Friday, because sadly there are still mothers everywhere in our world who are grieving for their children’s hurt and pain. Remember too that there are also mothers everywhere who are continuing to live in hope, who like Mary, never stop loving their children unconditionally.

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First Officially Affirming Church in Steinbach

The Steinbach United Church

“I am honored to be here today to celebrate this special moment in your church’s history.” Steinbach mayor Earl Funk spoke those words on March 14 during a Sunday morning service at the Steinbach United Church. The congregation was marking an historic occasion as they became the first church in Steinbach to formally declare themselves an affirming congregation, one that is open to inclusion of 2SLGBTQ+ people in every aspect of their church’s work and ministry. The church was making a public, intentional and explicit declaration of their decision.

I know at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg where I am currently a member, our journey to formally become an affirming congregation was a process that went on for many years after being initiated by church members who were the parents of 2SLGBTQ+ children.  

As I listened to the Steinbach United Church affirmation worship service, I realized the journey had also been a long and thoughtful one for them.  They processed the idea of becoming an affirming church with Sunday morning messages from special speakers, Bible studies, workshops, conversation circles, movie and discussion nights and tapping into the expertise of the Winnipeg Rainbow Resource Center and the Steinbach Neighbours for Community organizations. This culminated in a drive-by vote during the pandemic in the fall of 2020 when congregation members came to the church in their vehicles and marked ballots extended into their cars with a hockey stick in order to maintain social distance. The church members voted overwhelmingly to become an affirming congregation. 

During the service on March 14th pastor Deborah Vitt spoke on the passage from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 which talks about how the church, just like our bodies, is made up of many different parts and each deserves recognition for the contribution they make to the whole. This idea was incorporated into the statement of affirmation recited by church members declaring every aspect of their church life open to people of all ages, colors, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, marital status, and social or economic circumstances. 

Affirming Church symbol on the Steinbach United Church website

The music for the service was aptly chosen. One hymn suggested “draw your circle wider so no one stands alone” and another provided this encouragement. “Empowered by faith, reach out far and wide, as you journey through life filled with hope”.

In his remarks during the service Mayor Earl Funk said his parents had taught him the Biblical mandate to love your neighbour and he felt that was the mission of the church as well, to love everyone, in every circumstance, and in every time of their life. He concluded, “I am so excited to be here today and want to give words of encouragement to the United Church to continue the good work that they do.”   

The Steinbach United Church was instrumental in starting the Steinbach Food Bank which sits on land just adjacent to the church.

A visual presentation during the worship service outlined some of the good work Mayor Funk was referring to.  I learned it was members of the United Church who provided the impetus to start local charities like The Steinbach Helping Hands food bank and the Agape House shelter for women and children escaping abusive home situations. The church has contributed to the work of Envision, Eden East, Anna’s House, Steinbach Neighbours for Community and many other charitable organizations. 

As I watched the March 14 service, I could only hope that just as the Steinbach United Church has been a role model in the past, supporting so many life- giving ministries in their community, they will be seen as a role model now once again, leading the way for other Steinbach churches to make their own public declarations of acceptance for all of God’s children. 

You can watch the service on the Steinbach United Church website.

Other posts………

Letter From the Mother of a Gay Son

Pride in Steinbach Isn’t Something New

Growing Up Inclusive

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