Two things happened recently, one good, and the other… also ultimately good.
The first is that the winter weather finally left, and it’s spring! That is definitely a good thing.
The second is that I was recently laid off from my teaching job. It felt bad at first. But if you believe as I do that God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him, it will turn out for the better. It will be exciting to see how things go!
Anyway, it certainly has its advantages in the short term:
The combination of these two things has brought about a wonderful change to my schedule. Now that I don’t have to rush around weekday mornings to prepare for–and drive to–work, I can go on early morning walks to the park!
Ahhh. When the sky is clear, I love to grab my camera, and walk a block to the urban park near my home, Fish Creek Park. It is referred to as one of the largest urban parks in all of Canada, and here it is considered one of the BEST.
First, let me share with you some of the sweet messages of encouragement some very talented artists have created and shared since mid-March. These adorn one of the paths I take when I want the best chance of seeing wild animals.
Notice that not all of these have written messages, word messages. Some are merely pictures. Yet those still convey a message, don’t they?
And I think we’d agree that all give a message of hope and happiness, a warm feeling that yes, “every little thing gonna be alright”.
I hope these made you feel that way, too!
Next, let me share with you a few of the other joys of the morning walks from the past few weeks, mostly birds. More good vibes!
It is my sincere hope that all of you are well and safe, and that you were able to take a few deep breaths of peace, joy and nature from these photos and messages. God bless!
I hope all of you authors and aspiring authors out there will get a chuckle from this 1958 film. I did, and as a writer I also found it encouraging.
While researching video viewing options online, I ran across many sources of entertainment and education (see below), including the National Film Board of Canada. I decided to check out this vintage work because it was about the writing life.
This 30-minute film, “First Novel“, dramatizes the struggles of a novelist. In spite of the excitement of finding a publisher for his book, he gets a reality check from the editor, a visit from a college buddy who wants help to write his own story, and neighbors gossiping about the faithful wife who goes off to work everyday while her bum of a husband “doesn’t work”. And of course he battles self-doubt, and the ever-present worry about the lack of money coming in (look Ma, no pension!).
It has the feel of a 1950s film or television show, wholesome and rather endearing. The author and his wife are being pulled by the typical dilemma of a writer, or any other artist: practicality, or “writing what you want to write and letting the money take care of itself”.
While I watched it, I tried to figure out the purpose of the film. Was it to encourage Canadian authors? (Or discourage them?) I kept waiting for someone to break into the story and say something profound to the would-be-authors in the viewing audience.
The script was co-written by the well-known award-winning Canadian author Mordecai Richler, no doubt inspired by some of his own experiences. “First Novel” also stars Len Birman as the author in one of his first screen appearances.
…And about those other online viewing options, here are a few gems that caught my eye:
PBS: News Hour, and Exploring Antarctica’s Threatened Glaciers.
Open Culture – “The best free cultural and educational media on the web” : watch Cary Grant in the classic comedy “His Girl Friday“, or listen to Albert Einstein read The Common Language of Science .
Internet Archive – “A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more”: a weather report from 1974, “The Day of the Killer Tornadoes” (not Tomatoes)
…and speaking of weather, I love the Weather Channel videos, like Let the Weather Come to You, or Rescuing a Moose. Or not so weather-related videos, like Chris Hadfield’s Guide to Self-Isolation.
Pluto TV: All Aboard (train trips in Norway, Spain, wherever–I can’t take my eyes off the screen)
I grew up in the U.S. in a predominantly white neighborhood during the sixties and seventies. My city’s school system began forced busing when I was eleven years old, just as I was leaving elementary school and preparing to start junior high. It was a controversy that sparked violence and unrest.
From a social media group established for our 40 year high school reunion, I know that many people of all races suffered from this mandatory integration. Personally, aside from a couple minor incidents, my memories of that time are good.
I enjoyed meeting new friends of all races, and grew in my respect toward my non-white classmates. I am sure that the forced busing policy accomplished some of its goals to intermix blacks and whites successfully.
(If you’re interested, here are two articles I saved from the city newspaper in the early 1970s. One covers a sit-in protest by students, and another shows a more peaceful option for trying to find common ground among different races.)
So did that experience influence the writing of my third book? You decide.
Last year I was pleased to write another educational book intended for the Canadian school curriculum. It turned out to be my favorite so far!
This is the first biographical work I’ve done, and I so enjoyed discovering many unsung heroes! It was nearly impossible to choose which to include in the book, but I am so happy with how the book turned out. I especially love the many full-sized photos.
Some of the heroes included are:
Rose Fortune, Viola Desmond, Addie Aylestock,
Oscar Peterson, Willie O’Ree, Portia White,
Drake, Phylicia George, and Eugenia Duodo.
I hope you’ll be curious enough to look up these great Canadians!
Black History in Canada is a series of educational books published by Beech Street books. My book is entitled Famous Black Canadians and intended for students in grades 4 through 6.
For any teachers out there, you can find the series at Beech Street Books‘ website and order from there, or from Amazon .
Today my post is by a guest author, sharing first-hand memories of what Christmas was like for the children of Germany two generations ago.
* * * * * * *
One of us always wanted to be the first to pull the 30th of November off the calendar, because Dec. 1 marked the beginning of the Christmas season.
The Advent calendar was taped on the window pane, the Advent wreath was hung around the kitchen lamp, the stores were suddenly full of wonder and magic and angel hair, and children began to write their Christmas lists.
Mama would say, “Remember, Sankt Nikolaus is keeping books on everything.” Every time she reminded me I tried very hard not to commit the slightest infraction of the rules and never say, or even think an unkind word. To my sister, the angel, that came natural, and the baby had no rules and couldn’t talk. To be quite honest though, I was always tempted to test Sankt Nikolaus’ omniscience – (or mother’s memory, which I suspected of being an able and willing informer). The only thing which kept me from being tagged incorrigible was the thought of Sankt Nikolaus’ fearsome companion, Krampus, who was known to lack understanding for temperaments such as mine.
I suppose the underlying idea which was being instilled in us was that “You can’t have what you wish for unless you earn it with virtue.”
On the evening of Dec. 6, (Sankt Nikolaus Day), the children in Germany eagerly await, or dread, the “hour of judgment.” Mothers prepare a festive table with Spekulatius and Pfeffernuesse (the traditional Christmas cookies) and lighted candles as a welcome for the honored visitors. Father is, for different reasons, always out until after “it’s over,” and wide eyed, fidgety children sit humbly on the living room floor. (But no matter how hard you try to look humble, you appear to be holding your breath and jump at the sound of the doorbell.)
Our Sankt Nikolaus was a tall, slender, awe inspiring, yet gentle, figure dressed in a white robe trimmed with gold braid. He wore a tall, pointed bishop’s hat set above kindly eyes and a resolute mouth made softer by the white, wavy beard. With a faint smile and soothing voice, he read from the list of nice and naughty things we had done, and he was surprisingly accurate.
“Well, I will see you all again next year, and I trust I will have nothing but good things to say. God bless.” He patted us gently on the head, winked at Mother and slowly disappeared into the hall.
Then suddenly Krampus appeared in the door. My little sister’s eyes widened, and she gripped my arm. And Krampus did look fearsome! Dressed in black from hood to boot, he carried a switch torn from a tree and a rope in one hand, and a sack flung over his shoulder in the other.
Without saying a word…his kind doesn’t talk…they just get physical…Krampus struck the floor with his switch as he aimed for my legs. At that point I thought I would faint. But then he turned on his heels and quickly left the room. How I wished Papa had been there to see such cruelty to helpless children! But fathers are always out of the room then because they have such important things to do.
Mother, who always had that twinkle in her eyes (a mixture of understanding and gentle reproach) looked at us and said, “Now, remember, you have time to make amends; so be good and keep praying for Christkindl to come.”
Every day until Christmas Eve was a new delight. Every morning we would politely take turns at opening a new window in the Advent calendar, would listen with both ears when Mama or Papa spoke, and were grateful for every encouraging note contained in the 24 little drawers of the Christmas House.
Frau Holly, the fairytale lady in the sky, was shaking her featherbeds and pillows just at a time when the layer of snow wore thin under the sleds, or the frozen leaves clung to the boots when we played in the nearby woods.
Frau Holly, you see, would shake the bedding so hard that the seams popped and all the feathers and down spilled out and made the sky white. We would catch the gaily dancing feathers and watch them melt in our hands.
And our little Bavarian town, surrounded by dark, dense, whispering pines, was the loveliest place on earth.
A day or two before Christmas, Papa would cut a fresh tree in the woods so tall that the star which adorned its tip would touch the ceiling. No one was allowed in the living room; all the hoping, the wondering, the preparing, was done in the family kitchen. At 6 o’clock on the dot, the traditional Christmas Eve dinner of baked fish was served. The magic hour of 7 o’clock seemed an eternity away.
With pounding hearts and flushed faces and deep faith in Christkindl, we’d wait for Papa to ring the bell from the living room. Then we would all rush to the door at once, and there, in the opposite corner of the room, stood the Christmas tree, decorated with white and silvery balls and angel hair, white candles lit to bathe the room in shimmering light, and Wunderkerzen throwing off sparks reflected in children’s eyes.
As Papa passed out the presents, the excitement melted into a warm and sublime feeling of happiness and love.
And I quietly vowed, from that day forward, to always be good and kind and forgiving … just like Christkindl.
* * * * * * *
Thanks Mom! I can never hear this story too many times. I love you!
For a first-hand telling of my own–rather humorous–childhood Christmases, showing the strong German traditions even while growing up in the U.S., you can read my article here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoy hearing it. Merry Christmas! And may the Christ child, the Savior, Emmanuel, be with you always.
Ever since I learned about Canada’s ecosystems while researching my book Respect Our World-Sustainability, I have had the topic on my radar. I am very thrilled about Parks Canada’s announcement that after 140 years of absence, bison have been reintroduced to Banff National Park! Right in my backyard!
This is not only an ecological triumph, it is also a move to show respect and a spirit of reconciliation with our First Nations people throughout the country, who are very near and dear to my heart.
Treat yourselves to an inspiring story, and some gorgeous scenery in this video!
The simple act of receiving a Christmas card means someone remembered you,
that you are cared for, and that you are not invisible.
When my friend Barb initiated a wonderful tradition in sharing the joy of Christmas cards with homeless individuals, the initial goal was to collect 80 cards. As it turned out, 80 was “a drop in the merry bucket” as over 1200 cards came in from all across Canada, UK and the USA in a little over three weeks!
I’m joining in the merriment again this year, and hope you’ll been inspired to snail-mail a card! And you could have the children in your life send a card (here are Samples of Cards sent by children).
Here is some more informationon the website, and I appreciate Barb’s Resources page for help in composing messages. Here is a link especially for teachers.
How to send a card:
Purchase a Christmas card or hand-make one (see FAQs for suggestions) .
Include a simple handwritten Christmas message, inspirational thought or note to let the receiver know they are cared for
Signing the card with your first name is essential to provide a personal connection
Mail your Christmas card by December 10th (or November 30th if you are outside Canada) to:
P.O. Box 96107 West Springs
If you pass this along, even more joy can be spread!
From as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by other cultures and eager to know about countries around the world.
This fascination has led to traveling, learning about global holidays, attending pow-wows…
…writing to overseas pen pals, learning Scottish Highland dancing, volunteering at a First Nations wilderness camp…
…AND writing about other cultures!
Immigration to Canada – Then and Now is a new series of educational books published by Beech Street books. I was thrilled last winter when Red Line Editorial invited me to write one of these books, and am celebrating receiving my author copy of Chinese Immigrants in Canada!
An Educational Experience
What an educational experience it was for me to learn about this strong, determined, resourceful, industrious ethnic group in Canada. I have enormous respect for the Chinese immigrants and Canadian-born Chinese people who battled hardships with dignity.
I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Canada and immigration, until I began gathering information. What a valuable experience!
Let me encourage you to “go back to school” and have a look at some of the fascinating people groups in your country. I’m sure you will be as inspired as I am at their journey and accomplishments. Here are some links to whet your interest!
What literary works have had an effect on you? Who are your favorite writers, and how have they influenced your perspectives or improved your life?
Have you ever wondered what literary works influenced your favorite writers?
I recently read The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889-1899, about the woman considered Canada’s most widely read author, who wrote the Anne of Green Gables series and many other books.
I picked it up because I love to read journals in general, and also because I know that the author took great enjoyment from spending time outdoors, enjoying the natural environment on Prince Edward Island, Canada.
This photo of L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site
of Canada is courtesy of TripAdvisor
I wanted to read about her experiences there, and was curious to know what influences and lifestyle produced such a successful author. Was it the solitude of living in a remote area? Did she have siblings, or did she enjoy a quiet household? (Yes, no, and yes.)
This large book seemed daunting, and I didn’t think I’d read the whole thing, but I couldn’t put it down until I’d read the last page. Her style of writing is so engaging —even in her journals.
Throughout her journal entries, she mentions books that she is reading. I was excited to find that I have read a few of the books she read! Here is a partial list of the most well-known titles, about a third of the complete list. (And by the way, as she was born in 1874, she would have read these books between the ages of 14 and 24!)
The Ascent of Man
The Diary of Virginia Woolf
(Ralph Waldo) Emerson’s Essays,
George Eliot’s Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals
King Solomon’s Mines
Last Days of Pompeii
The Last of the Mohicans
More Tramps Abroad (also called “Following the Equator”)
Rip Van Winkle
The Scarlet Letter
To Have and To Hold
With classics such as these under her belt as such a young age, it’s no wonder she produced such quality writing of her own.
Which ones have you read? If you are interested in reading some of these books on the list for free, electronically or online, you very well might find them at Gutenberg.org or Archives.org.
And if you like reading journals and diaries, here are some of my previous posts about some interesting ones:
My thanksgiving that I am accepted above, just the way I am, prompted by the beloved hymn…
J ust as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidd’st me come to Thee
E ternal Lord, everlasting Father, O Lamb of God, I come
S inful, powerless, weak, foolish, confused, tired, I come to Thee.
U nless you fill me with your Spirit,
S adly silenced I will stay.
I nstead, however, your life flows into me,
S o pristine, pure, so new every morning.
A t your unspoken bidding, your beckon
L ifts me, laughing, above dreary clouds
I nto the sun-filled blue above:
V isions of heaven, of truth, unweighing my heavy heart, inspiring deep breaths of pure Spirit life,
E ndless hope, everlasting life.
My acrostic poem, written many years ago, where the Pacific Ocean brought inspiration, worship and gratitude.
Alberta was formally declared a province of Canada on September 1, 1905. To celebrate the 112th birthday tomorrow of my province, and to celebrate the publication this month of my book, Respect Our World: Sustainability, I thought I’d share some of the ways that Albertans work toward sustainability. I admire the leadership Alberta has taken with innovative steps to a better environment for Canada.
Micro-generation is the production of electricity on a small scale by individual home owners and small businesses, using renewable and alternative energy sources. They typically use solar and wind energy, but may use other sources of energy including biomass, microcogeneration, geothermal sources, and fuel cells.
The microgeneration regulation was recently revised to make it easier for Albertans to generate electricity for their own electricity needs.
The Climate Leadership Plan
The Climate Leadership Plan is a made-in-Alberta strategy to reduce carbon emissions while diversifying the economy and creating jobs. The Canadian government announced that provinces must enact an emissions reduction plan or pay a carbon tax in 2018, and this is a launch of a strategy designed specifically for Alberta’s own unique economy.
Alberta is taking a leading role in promoting energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental measures through the growth of Alberta Green Building Technologies and Products industry, with the hope that one day many of these green technologies and products will be mandatory in the construction of new buildings.
Four corporations—Bio Solutions, Energy and Environment Solutions, Health Solutions and Technology Futures – were consolidated into one innovation powerhouse, Alberta Innovates. Through it, ideas and technologies created by Albertans receive support, and innovators, businesses and researchers can now easily tap into their collective assets – cross sectoral knowledge and expertise, funding, networks and research facilities.
I found a lot of inspiration in these initiatives and many more that I ran across while writing the book. If you have kids or are a teacher, I hope you’ll check out Respect Our World: Sustainability!