Unsung heroes in Canadian History

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 .

 

A German Christmas

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.”

Advent Calendar “Im Lande des Christkinds” (In the Land of the Christ Child)

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.

Lit candles and Wunderkerzen (sparklers) on the Christmas tree

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!

 

 Last summer, visiting my mother’s home town of Bayerisch Eisenstein, Germany, for the first time

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.

 

 

Photo credits:  The photo of St. Nikolaus and Krampus is courtesy of Terrie Schweitzer at Flickr, “St. Nicholas and Krampus”, https://www.flickr.com/photos/terriem/11285200115/.    The gorgeous advent calendar is courtesy of Richard Ernst Kepler [Public domain], https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richard_Ernst_Kepler_-_Im_Lande_des_Christkinds.jpg.    The lovely winter scene is courtesy of MaxPixel CC0 Public Domain “Snow, Snowfall, Lantern, Lights, Light, Christmas, Mood” https://www.maxpixel.net/Christmas-Snow-Lights-Lantern-Light-Mood-Snowfall-1782614 .  The above black and white photos are from my mom’s scrapbook, and the last color photo is from my camera.

Banff Bison – Sustainability in Canada’s Ecosystems

Ever since I learned about Canada’s ecosystems while researching my book Respect Our World-SustainabilityI 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!

 

 

Making it Merry Again

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 information on 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:

    MakeItMerry
    P.O. Box 96107 West Springs
    Calgary, AB
    T3H 0L3

 

If you pass this along, even more joy can be spread!

Thanks everybody!

Culture, geography, history and inspiration – Chinese Immigrants in Canada

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!

 

 

The History of Immigration to Canada

The History of Immigration to the United States

The History of Immigration to Britain

And here is a link showing another children’s educational book I wrote for Beech Street Books about sustainability.

If you or someone you know is a teacher or librarian, and are interested in these books, you can purchase them at the publisher’s website, or on Amazon.

What Did Lucy Read?

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 Aeneid

The Bible

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

Midshipman Easy

More Tramps Abroad (also called “Following the Equator”)

Paradise Lost

Quo Vadis

Rip Van Winkle

The Scarlet Letter

To Have and To Hold

Vanity Fair

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:

Mark Twain’s Exerpts from Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary

The Diary of Anna Green Winslow

The Real Diary of a Real Boy

Illustration from a 1908 publication of Anne of Green Gables

 

 

Just As I Am – words of hope and life

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.

Happy Easter everybody!

Sustainability Alberta Style

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

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.

Innovation

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.

The Book

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!

August 1st publishing date for my book Respect Our World: Sustainabililty!

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

What a surprise I had yesterday, when I noticed stores are posting my children’s educational book for pre-order!

It all started last summer…

  • I received my usual copy of the Children’s Writer newsletter, produced by the Institute of Children’s Literature (see my post about ICL here)
  • The newsletter mentioned a book producer looking for authors to work on projects.
  • Since I’d been planning to check out non-traditional publishing opportunities, I looked into it.
  • I sent my writing resume to Red Line Editorial.
  • In early December I received an email from Red Line, inviting me to work on a project, their series of books called To Be Canadian.
  • I accepted, and said I’d like to work on the one about Sustainability.
  • I spent most of my school’s Christmas holiday researching and contacting experts.
  • It was a VERY tight schedule, rather exhausting, but I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having!
  • I wrote evenings and weekends during January, and edited and rewrote during February.
  • They accepted my manuscript, noting that they planned to publish the series in the fall.
  • I proceeded to wonder for the next few months if they were really going to publish it the way I wrote it, if it will say my name anywhere, what it will look like.
  • I couldn’t really believe I’d be the author of a children’s book.

But it’s true!

Here are a couple websites that show the series, Beech Street Books (the publisher), and McNalley-Robinson.

And yes, my name is on the cover. Whew.

If you have an inkling to pursue this kind of work-for-hire educational writing opportunity, I recommend checking out Red Line’s website , and Evelyn Christenson’s website, which lists many other educational publishers.

YA-HOO!

 

Thank you publicdomainpictures.net for the HAPPY image!

Oceanside Poetry

Art begets art.

I usually try to escape the long, cold Calgary winter when I have time off for spring break, and if I’m not exploring I like to write. The warm relaxing climate and the inspiration of the ocean brings out the creativity in me, and judging from the freely-offered art and writing that I see around beach towns, it’s clear I’m not the only one inspired.

I’m so glad the locals in some places consider this form of art worthy of permanent all-weather plaques.  Here are several I’ve run across in my past few trips.

Shell Beach Symphony

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is Pismo Beach, California. I’d heard of Pismo Beach (most recently on an episode of I Love Lucy!), but never been there, so I skipped my usual southern California spots in favor of this more central area. I stayed in a residential neighborhood called Shell Beach.

Wandering around the small neighborhood and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I discovered a little park. Running around the park’s perimeter alongside the cliffs is a sidewalk that passes a plaque on the ground. The lovely words on it share sentiments that perfectly describe my feelings toward the ocean.

 

The symphonic

Ever rising ever falling

Sound of surf

Sings its song to the eternal

Winds and man they come and go

But the rising falling crawling sea

Always was always is

Always free   B.B.

Bayard Bloom

December 12, 1974

 

Nearby on the sandy beach, I enjoyed warm-hearted greetings written daily in the sand by some unknown but obviously beautiful people. The longer I stayed there, the more I found the neighbors to be friendly and welcoming. Thank you Shell Beach!

 

“Don’t worry ‘bout a thing”

“Warm and fuzzy”

 

Pelican Pete

I lived in San Diego for a while and my favorite place there is Pacific Beach near the Crystal Pier.

This past April I noticed a large statue named “Pelican Pete” near the PB lifeguard station. On a plaque is the story of Pelican Pete in rhyme.

“The Ballad of P.B.

Pelican Brown was in search of a home
where he could have fun and relax
he looked for a beach that was pretty
and a sea that was swimming with snacks.

He flew up and down the long coastline
looking both far and quite near
then one day he knew he had found it
when his eyes saw the great Crystal Pier.

On the end was a big crystal ballroom
dancers came from all over the west
and since Pelican Brown loved to tango
he dressed up in his best velvet vest.

He fit right in with the others
tangoed many a night until dawn
Pelican Brown loved the beat of the music
and danced until the others were gone.

Then he’d fly out and find him some breakfast
the happiest bird all around
and everyone loved when they looked up
and caught sight of Pelican Brown.

The dancing bird soon became famous
people came from all over to see
the great crystal ballroom and dance hall
and the pelican known as P.B.

(Poem by Jan Phillips copyright Jan Phillips, Concept and sculpture by T.J. Dixon & James Nelson)

 

And here is one of many San Diego murals I ran across, on the outside wall of a business:

 

La Jolla Lifeguard Box

There is a pathway that goes along the shore in La Jolla, not too far north of Pacific Beach. If you take it past the sea lions and seals at Children’s Pool Beach (Casa Beach) and keep walking along the shore pathway, just before you get to La Jolla Cove you will see a lifeguard box which has a phone in it for emergencies (unlocked during the summer).

 

Lifeguard box and La Jolla Cove

Engraved on the box is this text:

TRANQUILITY

BOOMER

FRESH DEEP SOUL PURITY

SPRAY GENTLE BREEZE

WAVES BREEZE REEFS

SPIRITUAL HEALING

BODY SURF RESPECT ROCK

WORMS FINS ENDLESS

PELICANS UNPREDICTABLE

FRIENDS RIPTIDE

A FREE SPIRIT PALM TREE

ADRENALINE RUSH

FUN EEL GRASS MAGIC

ETERNAL CALM PICNIC

BOOMER CAMARADERIE

BUNGALOWS YIN YANG

CHANGES COMMUNITY

I searched around for the story of this lifeguard box with all the interesting words, and found this account    :

High on a craggy bluff overlooking the churning surf in La Jolla stands this weathered sea-green box, a proud, life-affirming icon dedicated to lifeguards everywhere, embossed with transcendent words and phrases that evoke the heart and soul of the brave men and women who save lives on this rugged coast. Take a closer look, and you’ll see how beautifully these words connect us with the creed that draws lifeguards and surfers to the Pacific: “spray, waves, eel grass, tranquility, spirit, adrenaline.” The box demonstrates the power of primal engagement with the forces of nature in all sorts of fields and pursuits, in taking the time and effort to carve out our unique and vital code.

…The long summer days remind us to pause and reflect and experience life anew. This box is more than just a box. It’s about life and death, a memorial to a legendary body surfer and lifeguard who drowned here at Boomer Beach. During the summer the box is unlocked and contains a phone to contact the lifeguards during an emergency. Read downwards starting under the “E” of LIFEGUARD, and you will find his name spelled out in an acrostic puzzle: DAVID C FREEMAN.

What a lovely surprise to discover Beach Literature, and the fond memories of those who live there, adding to the enjoyment of already idyllic spots!  I hope you enjoyed these gems, and you’ll share similar discoveries of your own!