Friday, 29 April 2016

A Hutterite Woman Inducted into Agricultural Hall of Fame

I believe this is a first for Hutterites.

The late, Selma Maendel, who resided at the Fairholme Hutterite colony is one of the 2016 Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees. Knowing Selma, this recognition would not have been something she was striving for. She was more about working diligently, in her usual quiet, but strong way to make a difference at her own colony, and others as well. Selma's giving and friendly nature reached far beyond her Hutterite community. Remembering how selflessly Selma served others, brings to mind, Romans 12:10: Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. It's heartwarming to see that her services to the agricultural community is being recognized.

Selma passed away April 29, 2014, after a brief battle with brain cancer. During her illness, which she faced with patience, courage and grace, a Facebook was set up in her honour.

Selma was involved in many things. One of her projects was operating their long-arm sewing machine, with which she quilted numerous beautiful quilts. She was a guest blogger right here, back in August 2012. You can read her post, Long-Arm Quilting, here. Some of the others activities she was very good at were knitting, sewing and designing patterns, cooking and catering, writing newspaper articles, writing computer programs, soap making, organizing events like, Farm Safety Day Camps, Fairholme Bake Sale,  Hutterite Track and Field Days and High-school Envirothons; all of this while serving as head cook at Fairholme. Selma was an excellent teacher and passed many of her skills on to family and friends. My sister, Elma has fond memories of the day Selma helped finish her quilt. "The way Selma thoroughly explained every step, felt like I taking a min-workshop on quilting with a long arm machine."

One year we hosted a Farm Safety Day Camp here at my colony. Selma was in charge of all the food and organized how and when it will be served. Our head cook still marvels how effortlessly she organized everything, "She was busy all day long and stayed calm and never seemed to tire. She has quite the gift! I know if she hadn't been here, things would have been a lot more hectic."

Here are some articles that give a glimpse into Selma's very full life:

Western Producer - New Products

Herald Leader - Mountain Poetry and Drama Festival

Research Gate - Low Prevalence of Psychosis Among Hutterites   

"True leaders are selfless. 
They have always been servants of the people first.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Inheritance - Michael Phillips

About the Book

The death of clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whales Reef into turmoil. Everyone assumed Tulloch's heir to be his much-loved grandnephew David. But when no will is discovered, David's calculating cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island's land. And Hardy knows a North Sea oil investor who will pay dearly for that control.

While the competing claims are investigated, the courts have frozen the estate's assets, leaving many of the locals in dire financial straits. The future of the island--and its traditional way of life--hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile, Loni Ford enjoys a rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, D.C. Yet, in spite of outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is, until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . .

Past and present collide in master storyteller Michael Phillips' dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace.

My Review

I always find it takes me a while to get into Michael Phillips’ books, but most of the time I’m rewarded with a complex and captivating story line. In this one, I enjoyed being taken to Whales Reef, and to get a glimpse of this small Scottish island. The author does a superb job of giving you a good feel for this place in his description of the scenery, the culture, sprinkled with the local language. I could almost hear bagpipes in the distance. However, I did sometime struggle with keeping all the characters, and the many generations of Tullochs straight. The way the story goes back and forth from a fast-paced American life to the laid-back old world of Whales Reel, is a fascinating contrast. Once engrossed in the story it didn’t take me long to feel the winds of change with the island people and with them I wondered what that would mean for the only way of life they knew and loved. In the end, I was somewhat disappointed that little had been resolved, other than maybe Loni learning more about her family. But that is typical of the early books in a series.


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

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Sweet Maple Syrup Memories

Every year when my sister, Sonia starts collecting maple sap, I tell myself that I should write about it. And every year the season whizzes by before I can sit down and pen a story, then the urge to write disappears. For some seasons it's not quite the same, writing about them after the fact, like writing a Christmas story in February. I'm sure it can be done, and is being done often by some people, but I find it better to write about seasonal topics, right when I'm experiencing them. Should you want to submit such articles, there's always a better chance when the season, in this case maple sapping, is still going. Beside a few blogpost blurbs, nothing of substance came from my pen...or keyboard. Till this year, where I got on it right away.

I was fortunate enough in that The Manitoba Co-operator accepted my piece and published it this week. You can find it by clicking here. The article is on page 29. The newspaper can also be downloaded so the pages are easier to read. This works best.

Are you, or someone you know involved in maple sapping? I know there are quite a few colonies into it. I'd love to hear about it! How do eat maple syrup, just on pancakes? Or do you have some yummy recipe, like the maple butter I mentioned in the article. My sister sometimes makes maple candy.

Here's wishing you a super sweet spring, even if it doesn't include maple syrup!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Learning from History

Since October 2015 I've been part of a fascinating Western Civilization course, taught by Adrian Hofer of Silverwinds Colony. The course is delivered over the Hutterian Broadband Network Interface and Interactive TeleVision system that is used for teaching our High-school students. Teachers and students are from many different colonies and can teach/take the courses right on their colony, providing their school has the necessary equipment. I really appreciated the fact that this was an evening course and I only had to walk to our school to take part, and that it has left me with a deep appreciation for world history. We started with the Ancient World and will end with The Late Middle Ages; a span of approximately 5000 years (3500 in detail), crammed into five months!!
One of our first assignments was: Choose one or more quotes from a list of Quotes on History and Civilization and write a 250 word reflective response. Here's the quote I chose along with my reflection:

“We can learn from history how past generations thought and acted, how they responded to the demands of their time and how they solved their problems. We can learn by analogy, not by example, our circumstances will always be different than theirs were. The main thing history can teach us is that human actions have consequences and that certain choices, once made, cannot be undone. They foreclose the possibility of making other choices and thus they determine future events.” - Gerda Lerne

Reflecting on how we differ from our Hutterite forebears, I sometimes wonder if we as individuals, communities or even as a church learn enough from our own history. Reading our Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren one never gets the impression that the communities back then stored up ‘treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy’. True, they lived in a different era, where things were not so readily available, and were often persecuted, so the few possessions they owned were not so important. Still, it’s painfully obvious that our priorities have shifted as a people. 

Where our forefathers were more concerned about the spiritual aspect of communal life, we in contrast seem to be focusing more on the temporal; we invest in the latest farm or kitchen equipment, beautiful spacious homes with modern conveniences like dishwashers. I often wonder, why aren’t we content with a sink and running water anymore? We have an over-abundance of everything: clothes, food, furniture, home d├ęcor accessories and a long list of personal items, such as cameras, cell phones, CD players, to name a few. It’s like we’re caught in a vicious materialism cycle; often buying needlessly from stores, garage sales, online and some of it ends up being sold on our own garage sales, online or taken to a thrift shops. Even going back about thirty years, Hutterites were the epitome of this motto: “Wear it out, make it do or do without.” Those days are all but gone.

We can argue, we owe this shift to living in a land where ‘milk and honey flows’. Which, in part, is true. However, does that mean we have to be caught up in this cycle? Can we even imagine living with less? If we believe our forefathers led exemplary lives, why then are we not following in their footsteps? They always looked to the early church for guidance, which obviously served them well. We have the Hutterites of the sixteenth century and the early church to learn from, both of which didn’t encourage materialism. 

Sadly, it seems we’ve somewhat lost our vision of true Christian community where “gathering treasures of eternal value” take priority. Our forefathers left us a rich and lasting legacy. What kind of legacy are we leaving for future generations? Will the choices we make, leave beautiful imprints or permanent scars?

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A Spring the form of a letter

When spring break rolls around students and teachers welcome the chance to get away from the everyday grind for a bit, relax and maybe read those books that have been waiting on our shelf for too long. Some fly to various destinations to visit family and friends. One teacher-friend took Hutterite Diaries along for en route reading material. And she was kind enough to take time to jot down her thoughts.

Ashley Tully teaches at a Hutterite colony in our School Division, and she kindly granted me permission to share her letter, which has a beautiful poetic ring to it, and bubbles with joy and gratitude. Joy and gratitude that goes far beyond reading my book. But if reading my book, in some small way, reminds people that their 'cup is full and running over', it's one more reason to celebrate the wonder of story. It's magical how the stories we write, mingle with the stories in the hearts of the readers, sometimes inspiring them to write beautiful pieces themselves.

Dear Linda,

I'm just writing to you.... well because I suspect you're similar to me.... & I would want to know these thoughts if you were reading a book about my life & community. I hope I am right. I will take a chance & tell you my thoughts. They may be a bit mixed up, so my apologies ahead of time.

As I read Hutterite Diaries, I am smiling & laughing - thinking of your voice. Then laughing some more thinking of Elma.

Then I stop...
((Side note: I'm flying to Thompson to my "colony" to see my friends I consider family.))
 & look out the window thinking. How lucky am I to know these ladies? Maybe not personally, but know of them through people. How lucky am I to work on a colony?

I keep reading & I cry.
Now knowing a small snippet of the fire story; I think- how sad to lose their brothers- but in those sad tears - there's a mix, tears of pride also... Proud of how strong these two women that I know are.

I didn't know what Hutterites were before I moved to Portage/Oakville. Then when I moved & began to see them In Walmart, "the" Dollarama & in the vans.... I would wonder "what is it like?"
Never assuming, always wondering, too shy to ask.

Your book helps me. It helps me understand what I already know - we both know it is not the exact same on Grand Colony. Of course it can't be. BUT I'm still proud to work there & be their English teacher. Even on the most tiring days, I drive away in my Ford... (Cause as the Grand men say - it's the best & they know "Tully"  just wants to be like them. Ha ha!)

And I'm smiling . Smiling because I love my students - so much so I sometimes forget they aren't my children. Ha ha. You know what I mean. Watching "MY" students grow up & having the same kids every year is very special & I can say with a full heart of appreciation & gratefulness, a gift from God, I didn't know I needed.

As a young girl I remember getting angry at my mother who is now a retired teacher...
Stomping the floor I would say vehemently "why do you call THEM your kids, I'M your kid."

I see now, I see why she did....

I understand more AND I brag to other teachers - yeah they see their students grow... BUT not like I will get to... I will be around to see my "kids" marry, have babies of their own, work & become leaders in their community. I hope before all the adult stuff I see a few graduates along the way... But if not I will still smile every day, because of the students I am lucky to teach - I'm lucky enough to see grow into fine young men & women. Mothers & Fathers.

I will continue reading on my holiday to my "colony", my home away from home. I will cherish the time I FINALLY have to read your book, which so far is beautiful. It warms my heart --- & as I tell my students... fills my bucket.

Part 2:

I'm reading after 3 hours of visiting my friends. Tea, cookies, chatting & of course laughter. Knowing I should go to bed, I still wanted to read a bit. I was just getting to the history - the stuff I need to know.

That's where I stopped writing, because I couldn't put your book down.

I can say this though....

It brought joy to me, Linda.
Soooo much joy.
Thank you for that.

I will treasure your book always. It was bought for Ingleside (the school where she teaches) when I was on maternity leave... & I just got to read it at Spring Break.
I question many things, spiritually, & scientifically... I don't question fate, &  the plan.. I don't question that. Even something as simple as reading your book at the time that I did... I needed to.
Not knowing it... But I did...

And I say I will treasure the book always because it may not be "mine" but Ingleside
(the colony school where she teaches) is my "home" even on the bad days... I still want to get up & go "home" every day. See my "kids". I want to teach them... Give them learning experiences, be there for them & fill their buckets.
Because they do all of that for me.

So once again... My apologies if this letter didn't make sense... & thank you. Thank you for writing your book.

Yours Truly,
Ashley Tully

Thank you so much, Ashley, for this insightful, reflective and heartwarming letter! This must be the most poetic response I've received thus far. I appreciate you taking some time during spring break to read my book, record down and send me your thoughts! Your letter is like receiving a fresh bouquet of spring flowers.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Writing Inspiration from a Photo #1

Occasionally I draw writing inspiration from photos. I don't take a whole lot of pictures, and am thinking I should take more, because some images end up being precious, and yes, inspire some writing - which is always a good thing. As we all know, when it comes to writing, the well sometimes seems strangely dry. Which is where I'm at these days, so I turned to my photos to see if anything will ignite some creative thought, or a blog post. And wouldn't you know...

This is my five-year-old nephew, Jakobi. He was playing with some trucks on our living room floor. Lately it seems he's fascinated with having his trucks hit ice and end up in the ditch. Then the tow truck has to come to the rescue. Does this type of play come from something he's watched or just the fact that he lives in Manitoba, where winters make for some treacherous driving conditions. Sometimes I tell him, "I'm tired of watching all those accidents. You need to teach those drivers how to be more careful." 

"But it's icy, Linda," he states matter-of-factly;  as if to say, it doesn't have anything to do with the drivers being careless. I should have known that.

In this photo, Jakobi had just come from playing outside, hence the cute rosy cheeks. He usually wears glasses, but they were fogged up. I love his intent look -- he must be in the process of getting that semi trailer upright. He's facing the living room window, and his face is angled perfectly for the light to fall on just part of his face.

The button he's wearing is something he got in school during I-Love-To-Read month. It reads, 'I'm a brand new reader.' He's been wearing it since I first put it on his suspenders back in February.  I think he loves that silly monkey as much as the slogan, if not more.

Does a picture ever prompt you to write? Or do you have other sources of great writing inspiration? I'd love to hear about it. I've started a 'Writing Inspiration' list. (It really helps to sometimes go to it to get some creative ideas flowing. Like today.) I'd be delighted to be able to add some new ideas to it.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Upcoming Literacy Workshop

Annual In-service

for Librarians, Literacy Leaders, Educators

and anyone who is passionate about literacy!

It’s All About the Books!

 Keynote Speaker: Sally Bender from Brandon, MB, will discuss trends and share new offerings in children’s and young adult literature.
Staff from Elm Creek School will share “I Love to Read Month” ideas.
Table Group Discussions with fellow educators/librarians/passionate literacy people! PERC members will be generating a list of questions, but if you have any burning question suggestions, please suggest in your registration email.
Where:         Carman United Church

When:          May 5, 2016

Time:            8:30 a.m. registration/refreshments to 3:15 p.m. Lunch is provided.

Please send your $75 registration/cheques payable to PERC to:
Barb Lepp Box 58, Carman, MB ROG OJO
or register by email to:

I don't know all the details about this workshop yet, but I do know my sister, Elma and I will be there introducing books written by Hutterites. I will be talking about my own book, Hutterite Diaries. We'll have copies of a number of Hutterite books on hand, should anyone be interested in buying some.