Monday, 21 August 2017

Dip, Dip and Swing her Back

“Sunglasses, sunscreen, sunhats, sunflower seeds…” A seasoned outdoorsman rattled off items we were to take on our canoe trip. Sunflower seeds? I wondered with which hand he planned to eat them. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to let go of the side of the canoe to hold a paddle.    
One day last summer a group of colleagues and I had the chance to see the rugged beauty of the Souris River up close. When Paul, our host announced that he’d arranged a canoe trip, unlike everybody else, I felt no excitement about stepping foot into a wobbly boat.

 I am not taking part in this.’ I thought to myself. Floating down a river on a wonky piece of fiberglass meant venturing too far from my comfort zone. Besides, just thinking about being in any body of water bigger than a bathtub makes me nervous. From all I’ve heard about canoeing, being tossed into the water is often part of the adventure. ‘No dip, dip and swing her back for me.’ 

“Linda,” the voice of my friend, Dora cut through my muse. “Let’s you and I go too.” My eyes turned into saucers ready to leave their socket. I looked at her, hoping to see that she was joking, to no avail. She really wanted me to go. Not wanting to dash Dora’s hopes, I agreed to go, despite a boatload of apprehension. 

A few hours after agreeing to this crazy idea, we were getting ready for our excursion. “Better leave your phones behind.” Someone warned. “Too risky.” By that time I had told myself repeatedly, ‘I’ll sit very still, right in the middle of the canoe, so I should be ok’. Hearing the word ‘risky’ was unsettling, but I didn’t ask what the risk was. Reluctantly I left my phone behind. As nervous as I was about this, I’m not sure how I planned to take pictures anyway.

With a trailer full of canoes in tow, we headed to the Souris River, in my home province, Manitoba, Canada. As we donned life jackets and lugged canoes down the steep bank, I still had some misgivings. Climbing into the canoe, as it rocked crazily, didn’t wash them away either. 

Nevertheless, a few minutes later I felt relatively comfortable as we paddled down the river. Paul, the experienced canoer was our stern paddler. In the middle, Marcus, the young son of another teacher, entertained us with his childish chatter, while I ended up as the bow paddler. I soon found myself humming Margaret Embers McGee’s Canadian folk song.
My paddles keen and bright. Flashing like silver.
Follow the wild goose flight. Dip, dip and swing.

“Rapids up ahead, but we’ll be okay, they’re not very fast.” Paul announced, drowning my urge to sing. “Don’t paddle when we come to them. Let the current take us through.” The first part of the order seemed logical enough, as I knew I’ll need my hands to hold on, but handing my life over to strong currents and huge rocks seemed insane. 

As we approached the rapids I felt my sit-still-and-you’ll-be-fine theory along with the few ounces of bravery I’d mustered, drift down river. However, with no other option, I placed my paddle across my lap, clamped my hands to the side of the canoe, squeezed my eyes shut and prayed we wouldn’t capsize. In mere minutes we were on the other side of ‘the risk’ that was mentioned before we left and I didn’t even scream.

Reaching calmer waters, I slowly pried my hands from the canoe, grabbed my paddle, looked over my shoulder, and found Paul casually eating sunflower seeds. “Those rapids were not very strong; some are worse,” he stated in the same tone he’d say, “These sunflowers are too salty.”

“Very comforting.” I mumbled. But it did bring me a measure of comfort to have a laid back captain on-board, one who obviously was able to read the river well.

At one point we got hung up between two rocks. I tried to push, since I was in front, but couldn’t dislodge the canoe. Rocking the boat didn’t help either. Then Paul moved towards the middle to help push away from the rocks. We finally got free, struggled to paddle away from the rocks and ended up being taken through the rapids backwards.

In the wake of each rapid, along with utter relieve, I felt a bit braver. After an hour or so I was even beginning to enjoy the rush of dodging rocks while being pushed by the force of the river. However that didn’t hinder me from leaving my fingerprints on the side of the canoe.

Between rapids there was ample opportunity to paddle along leisurely and enjoy this scenic river. Lush forests, in multi-shades of green, hugged this waterway. Oak, poplar and Manitoba maple trees tower from high banks. In some places majestic cliffs jutted straight up towards a cloudless azure sky.  Paddling along this picturesque river was like stepping into a remote wilderness. I regretted not bringing my phone to capture some of this rugged beauty. (The pictures featured here were sent to me by a friend, long after our trip.)

Soon Paul’s voice broke into my reverie. “Keep to the right. Seems like the best way to get through these rapids.” From where I sat there was no best way. All I saw were the wildest rapids yet. The rush of turbulent water and being jostled from rock to rock were a strong reminder that nature can also be terrifying. My brain was painting vivid pictures, I prayed would not become reality.  I was thankful that wet clothes and an elevated heart rate were all I had to deal with. As we settled into calmer water, I felt like kissing at least one of the rocks we dodged.

One of the last rapids we faced proved to be too much for some of our friends; their canoe was immersed to the point where it seemed the stern paddler was sitting in water. This is not good. I worried knowing we still had to get through these same rapids. But we got through without incident. As we came alongside our sinking friends, the sight resembled a comic strip. The bow paddler was paddling furiously, while the stern paddler was bailing water with his shoe. Having forgotten to bring bailing buckets, they ended up paddling to shore to get rid of water.

Later, stiff, wet and hungry, I gingerly made my way out of the canoe after three hours on the river. Had I known about the rapids beforehand, I would not have been brave enough to set foot in a canoe. Going into something blindly, I concluded, has its rewards – terrifying or not, I would go again.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

'Spirit of Canada' Update

Lutz and Antje Beranek with their gift.
As I've said a  few times now, one of my stories made it into the newly released Chicken Soup for the Soul, Spirit of Canada book.

My story, A Father's Stories Come to Life, is the one that made the cut. It was inspired, when Lutz Beranek, his son, Marcel and sister, Marianne came to Manitoba a few years ago. Lutz and Marianne's dad, Richard Beranek was a prisoner of war in the 1940's and they wanted to see some of the places he saw. Because their dad always spoke fondly of Canada and told them many interesting stories of his time here, they became fascinated with our country as well, and dreamed about visiting one day. (I wrote about that visit here.)

"Footprints in Canada!"
Their dream came true when they got the chance to walk where their dad walked, and my came true when Chicken Soup for the Soul published my story. Spirit of Canada relates that story, one of this family's many exciting experiences near Riding Mountain National Park. As soon as I learned that my story will be published, I knew one of my author copies will be heading to Germany to these dear friends. They proudly sent me this picture, when they received my very Canadian gift to them. Lutz even made sure he was appropriately dressed for the occasion.

I loved Lutz' thoughts on this: "We too left footprints in Canada, for our stories were published in the Parkland Newspaper, twice in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in two of your books." I mentioned Richard Beranek in my story about German POW in Hutterite Diaries, of which he got a copy as well.

Vielen Dank, Lutz und Antje! Viel Spass beim Lesen!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

One Dominion - Bob Beasley and Paul Richardson

 About the Book:
 One Dominion: Celebrating Canada, Prepared for a Purpose invites readers into an exploratory journey through Canada’s history, highlighting key moments of faith and Christian influence, from the founding of educational institutions and hospitals, to the creation of countless charitable organizations and architectural masterpieces. With inspiring accounts of individuals who founded our country upon the Living Word of God, One Dominion helps readers uncover a deeper understanding of Canada’s foundations and futures, through Scripture and the tests of faith passed by those who have gone before.
My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this beautiful book. Celebrating Canada's 150th, it gives a brief history of Canada and is full of stunning photos. Also included in this edition are accounts of our Christian heritage. How many Canadians even know that we were called the Dominion of Canada based on Psalm 72:8, "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." I sure didn't. This book highlights many things that make Canada a great place to call home: our healthcare and education systems, ranked among the best in the world, the military, known as peacekeepers, environmentally, Canadians enjoy some of the cleanest air on the planet... This book would make a great gift for any Canadian and a wonderful addition for schools and public libraries across the country.


Book has been provided courtesy of Bible League Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Lady's Slipper - an exquisite prairie gem

About two years ago, I was at another colony and a friend and I went for a ride on a Kubota. This friend is like a wild flower encyclopedia, and along the way she kept pointing out various beautiful plants growing wild. There were more than I ever saw in our area, or maybe I just didn't notice them. (Read more about this here.) After that ride I became fascinated with wild flowers myself. Now I need to get a book so I can identify these prairie gems.

A few days ago, one of our students told me he saw lady's slippers growing along the road near our colony. I couldn't believe it, for I've never seen any in our area. I thought he must be mistaken. Yesterday two of my sisters found the place and low and behold, they really are lady's slippers. Just a few small patches of them, but hopefully they will continue to grow and multiply. I always feel too many wild flowers are killed with all the crop spraying going on, for years ago there were more around.

 I just had to go and see these rare beauties for myself, and take some pictures to share. They are so exquisite! So far, the most beautiful wild flower I've seen. Lady's slippers are in the orchid family. No wonder I love them, for orchids are my favourite house plant. I have two and one is about ready to bloom right now. (More on one of them here.) Lady's slippers are apparently endangered, so when we spot them, it's best that we enjoy them where they are, take pictures, but NEVER pick them.

I'll keep my eyes open and try to capture more of the wild flowers in our area. I know there are wild roses around and lots of meadow anemone this year as well.

What's your favourite wildflower?

Monday, 5 June 2017

Watertown, South Dakota - Writing and Art

Watertown, South Dakota, where I recently attended a teachers conference, was the childhood home of the late Terry Redlin, a renowned artist. As I walked down the hall of the Ramkota Hotel and Watertown Event Centre on my last day and looked at the gorgeous Terry Redlin paintings lining the walls, I regretted not taking time to visit the Redlin Art Centre. By clicking on the link, you can view his paintings. Many of them are scenes of nature, farm and family. Autumn Evening. depicting a family raking fall leaves around their home, is one of my favourites. Sadly, Terry Redlin's interesting life story ended in 2016 after a nine-year struggle with Alzheimer.  

Art work and products courtesy of LLC, Lake City MN and the Redlin Art Centre, Watertown SD.

The event my sister-in-law, Karen and I attended was the Colony Teachers Mini Conference, and the main focus was Teaching Informational Writing to PreK-12 students. The speaker for the first day was Jill Jackson from Los Angelos. Her book, How to Teach Students to Write Informational Text, which I'm happy to say we got to take home, offers a structured and simple way to teaching this type of writing. I'm looking forward to using it, come September. 

I don't usually attend conferences towards the end of a school year, but this one was well worth the trip, especially since I came away with lesson plan inspiration and a valuable resource - a good start for planning the writing aspect of the upcoming school year!

I was also delighted to get the chance to share my book with the attendees. One of the organizers invited me to do that and had a table set up for me, where teachers (all of them teach at South and North Dakota colonies) could buy Hutterite Diaries during breaks. It was great to chat with these teachers; they got really excited when I was able to tell them that I have relatives at "their colonies". One of them told me she has a book club with the colony ladies, so she bought multiple copies of my book. It would be fun to Skype with this group, or with any of the schools that bought my book, for that matter. I did that with a Manitoba school when my book first came out, and it worked quite well. 

I brought along some Hutterite-written children's books from HB Book Centre to show these colony teachers and they were happy to learn that there are books available with "Hutterite characters". I just wish we had more! If you have any budding writers on your colony, encourage them to write children's books. I'm sure there are many beautiful stories begging to be published.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Heading to Watertown, SD to share Hutterite-Written Books with Colony Teachers

I'm always excited when an opportunity comes up for me to get my books into the hands of students, especially those in Hutterite schools, for I know we don't have many Hutterite-written books on our shelves. I've said it numerous times, and will repeat it again, it's important for our children to have books where they can identify with the culture, beliefs and values. One Hutterite teacher summed it up rather nicely, "I love the rich Hutterian culture just oozing out of every single sentence. I think my students immediately recognized and connected with the 'Hutterite-ism' as soon as I started reading it to them." 

On June the 1st and 2nd I'll be at the annual Colony Teachers Conference in Watertown, South Dakota, hosted by the South East Education Cooperative out of Fargo, North Dakota. This year's conference theme is writing and I've been invited to come share Hutterite Diaries with the attendees. I'm grateful for this opportunity and am really looking forward to not only share my book, but also take in some sessions, and meet colony teachers. 

My sincere thanks to the organizers, especially Gwyneth and Erika, for telling me about this conference, helping me get registered, and allowing me to set up an author table. Besides my own book, I'll also tell teachers about other beautiful Hutterite-written books. 

Here are some other books written and illustrated by Hutterites, available at HB Book Centre and/or Amazon:
  • Marty’s Adventure – Elma Maendel and Cynthia Stahl
  • Marty’s Colour Adventure – Elma Maendel and Cynthia Stahl
  • Playing Like Timothy – Johannes Waldner and Victor Kleinsasser
  • Jewell Adventure – Gilbert Hofer and Victor Kleinsasser
  • Es Lauft e Meisl – Karis Hofer
  • Flowing Through the Seasons – Herman and Cynthia Stahl
  • Hutterischa Bibl Tschichtlen – Linda Maendel
  • My Hutterite Life – Lisa Marie Stahl
  • Sarah’s Journey: the Story of a Hutterite Woman – Debbie P. Stahl 
  • Lindas Gluecklicher Tag - Linda Maendel                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
If you're a colony teacher, do your students a huge favour; introduce them to books written by Hutterites. You'll never regret it. These books also make meaningful gifts for Hutterites who've never heard about them. And yes, I'm sure there are many who haven't.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Ebb Tide - Beverly Lewis

About the Book

Oh, to see the ocean, Sallie thought. And to spend the summer as a nanny. She shook her head in amazement. This seemed too good to be true, but she really must talk it over with Dat and Mamm, especially since she'd be gone so long. And after I promised Mamm I'd take baptism classes this summer . . .
Sallie Riehl has dreamed of traveling at least once before settling down to join church, so she is thrilled at an unexpected summer opportunity to nanny in Cape May for a well-to-do family. However, saying even a temporary good-bye to Paradise Township means forgoing baptism another year, as well as leaving behind a would-be beau. Yet the weeks in Cape May soon prove unforgettable as Sallie meets a Mennonite young man whose friendship she quickly begins to cherish. Has she been too hasty with her promises, or will she only find what her heart is longing for back home?

My Thoughts:

Although this story holds some intrigue about what Sallie's summer away from home would be like, especially with her growing sense of unrest, it didn't really hold my interest well. Another disappointing aspect is that I felt I never got to know the family she stayed with very well, especially the father. The story is just too focussed on Sallie. This one wouldn't fall under 'page-turner' for sure. It sort of strays from this author's usual story lines where you see more of the Amish lifestyle. This one is more about one Amish girl tentatively stepping away from the world she knows well, into the less familiar. The end of the book was not really a surprise; I would have been surprised had it gone the other way.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc