Monday, 18 September 2017

Good Mail Day

I love the changing seasons - each one brings it's own beauty. Right now autumn is colouring the trees in bright orange, yellow and red hues. 

Another sure sign of fall, we've started digging potatoes. If the weather stays nice, it takes about three weeks to harvest them all. We have about 500 acres.

As the days turn cooler and the evenings longer, I think about getting more writing done. Right now I'm working on an article in support of organ donations. You're probably wondering what prompted that; I had a corneal transplant over the summer which opened my eyes to this topic, including the loooong wait lists. Stay tuned, the article will be posted here hopefully in the not so distant future.

Speaking of writing, today I got email from Latvia. I don't know anybody there. But it's always fun to get email from people in faraway places, who are interested in the Hutterite way of life. Today was no exception. She wrote me through the Contact Me form right here on my blog. It's obvious she's still learning the English language. And I was impressed that she only started learning it at age 47! Should I ever be this ambitious, I'd probably learn Spanish. I fell in love with that language at an in-service a few few years back. A teacher demonstrated a new language learning program and the attendees got an intro Spanish lesson, and were able to speak a few phrases after an hour. But, I'm straying from my topic...  

You probably know where Latvia is. I wasn't sure, so ended up getting a quick geography lesson via Google. Latvia is in Northern Europe and is part of the three Baltic States, all part of the European Union. The other two Baltic States are Lithuania and Estonia. It seems to me the only time I hear anything about these countries is during the Olympics. 

First she asked if I know anything about the Herrnhutians, who apparently originated in Moravia. The Hutterites have roots there as well. This Latvian lady seems to think the Herrnhutians are similar to the Hutterites in other ways as well, because they, "desire pure and honest living and working. They didn't live communally, but goods were shared, if needed, nobody had been left hungry."  

I've never heard of the Herrnhutians, and a few Google clicks didn't bring me any closer to learning more. Do you know anything about these people? I'd love to know more about them.

Then this lady from Latvia surprised me by saying she has my book. As much as I'd like to say, Hutterite Diaries has been translated into other languages, including Latvian, I can't.
I thought it's rather sweet, though, how she got my book. Her son gave her an Amazon gift card for her birthday. And of all the books on Amazon, she chose mine! It makes me want to meet these people.

Yes, today was Good Mail Day. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Anything But Simple - Lucinda J. Miller

About the Book:

Like her grandmother, Lucinda J. Miller wears long dresses and a prayer covering. But she uses a cellphone and posts status updates on Facebook, too. Anything but Simple is the riveting memoir of a young woman’s rich church tradition, lively family life, and longings for a meaningful future within her Mennonite faith. With a roving curiosity and a sometimes saucy tongue, Miller ushers us into her busy life as a young schoolteacher.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes after finishing a book, you'd like to meet the author, especially if it's a memoir. That's how I'm feeling right now. I looked forward to reading Anything But Simple because it's part of the Plainspoken series, like my own book, Hutterite Diaries and was not disappointed.

Lucinda is a great storyteller, and her descriptive language had me chuckling a number of times; like the time she described a bishops wife, "She had a face as round and wrinkled as a warm oatmeal cookie fresh from the oven and fallen in on itself." There are a few people in my life I could describe like that, but would have never thought to use an oatmeal cookie analogy to paint the picture. It works rather well; wrinkled but sweet. I also appreciated her candid, refreshing and oft amusing accounts of her life as a conservative Mennonite. Lucinda seems to use her writing skills to explore her Mennonite world; her inquisitive nature is always trying to make sense of it all, by questioning and analyzing everything: 
Hidden in me there is a curiosity, a drive and a hunger to know, a need to think much larger than the four small walls of Mennonite. Sometimes I look at my people as though they are foreign people. And yet I am always a part of them. I want what I see in them, the simplicity, the cleanliness... Can a person tarnish themselves so with questions and explorations that they never again regain what is simple and good and pure?
But, at the same time, it's obvious that she's deeply rooted in her faith, appreciates her way of life and dearly loves her family and her Mennonite people. 

My thanks to Herald Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Summer Surprises

Like every other summer our colony is decorated with splashes of colour. There are multi-coloured flowerbeds and a variety of pots on the lawns around the homes; each one showcasing the creativity and green thumb of the people who plant and tend them. Strolling around our colony, with so many gorgeous plants everywhere is like visiting a park. It makes me want to sing this beautiful Paul Gerhardt song:
Geh' aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud'
In dieser lieben Sommerzeit
An deines Gottes Gaben;
Schau an die schoenen Gaerten Zier
Und siehe wie sie mir und dir
Sich ausgeschuecket haben. 

Here's a very rough translation, (and of course not as poetic as the original), for those of you who don't know German:

Go out, my heart, and seek your joy
In this so beautiful summertime,
filled with gifts from God. 
Look at the beautiful garden  splendor
and see how they show their grander
just for you and me.  


Earlier this summer, I wrote about our first summer surprise: finding lady's slippers in our area. In connection with that, I bought a book, Wildflowers of Manitoba, and have enjoyed going for long walks and discovering some of these beauties in ditches and in wooded areas. My fascination with wildflowers started a few years ago, when I visited another colony and learned that my friend, Jennifer was a wildflower enthusiast. Apparently, it's catching, for I caught the bug, too. Read more about that summer, here

The most recent surprise has to do with an amaryllis. Yes, the plant you can buy around Christmas time. I had one in my classroom last Christmas. My students loved watching it grow, and especially once it started blooming. This picture was taken at that time. It had eight flowers when it was in full bloom. After it stopped blooming, I decided I wanted to keep it and see if I could get it to bloom again, next Christmas. I did a bit of research and learned how I could make that happen. I planted it in a shady spot in my flower bed, where I would be leaving it till fall. Then I'd bring it in, let the leaves dry back, place it in a dark cool place for a rest. Before Christmas, take it out, place it near a window and start watering it, in the hopes that it'll bloom at Christmas. 

As the shrubs and flowers in my garden grew and spread out over summer, the amaryllis was concealed, and I didn't check on it as often as I should have. I actually almost forgot about it.  A few weeks ago as I doing some much needed trimming and weeding, and was delighted to find that one of m flowers on my amaryllis was partially open already, as if to say, "Surprise! And here you thought you would not see me until Christmas". I took this picture yesterday; it seems the blooms are bigger than they were last December and the red is more striking. Or perhaps it's the sun that causes that. In any case, spending a few months outside obviously agreed with it. It has a few more buds, which will make it even more showy. Who says you can't have Christmas in August?
I'm wondering though, will keep it from blooming later on this year? I hope not. However, I will enjoy this spectacle as long as it lasts, and worry about what will happen later. If you've had an amaryllis blooming in mid summer, I'd love to hear from you.


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?