1960s, Winnipeg, Immigrant Family

Inspiration behind Waltraut

So this is me and my little brother, circa 1965, dressed up for photos or for church … maybe both. Lord knows I didn’t dress up for anything else. My parents worked hard for every penny and our clothes were often homemade.  

I had an aunt in BC who could sew whatever I’d point to in a fashion magazine. Summer holiday visits with her always resulted in an improved wardrobe. She tried to teach me and I did manage to make myself some  clothes back in my teens. That was the only way I could afford to be ‘in style’… even sewed my fancy grad dress. Sadly, I’ve not kept up my sewing skills. They seem as foreign to me now as my lapsed accordion skills.

Truth be told, even at 10 or 11 that girl in the photo would much rather have been reading a book than learning how to stitch a hem.  Now she’s much older and living her dream … reading and writing to her heart’s content. She’s the inspiration behind my newest book, Waltraut, coming out in early September. Now what will she wear?

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Ah, the scent of sun-dried sheets!

It’s my first summer with air conditioning. How did I ever allow myself such an indulgence? Not sure I deserve it. I’ve managed quite nicely, all these years, without. But when I had to replace the furnace this winter … something I can’t live without here on the Canadian prairies, I had the opportunity to upgrade to AC and thought it might help in selling sometime in the future. 

Before this, I relied on shade trees, closed curtains and fans to get me through the most extreme heat.  I'd reflect that human beings have survived centuries of heat while doing strenuous physical labour … surely I can sweat it out for a few hot days. But here I am … one of the privileged ones … using up more energy while expending less of my own. However, I still hang my sheets outside. That remains from my childhood and I'll continue to indulge in this privilege. The scent of sunshine-dried pillow cases has yet to be imitated.

Star Weekly, August, 1945

Meanwhile … war rages throughout summer in other parts of the world. How can this be? How can humans destroy blue summer skies with dark smoke and missiles? How can this be happening now …in 2024? Haven’t we learned anything from our violent past? I re-read a Star Weekly from the summer of 1945 … the first summer of European peace … even while the grueling Pacific war continued.  

In North America, people were heading to lakes, while in ruined Europe, women, who became known as 'trümmerfrauen' were cleaning up the rubbled cities. Meanwhile, both my parents, still unknown to each other, were helping re-build the Soviet Union as POWs  - one in above open pit mine, the other in an underground coal mine. 

Star Weekly, August, 1945

I sit and read in air-conditioned comfort, flicking through news reports of more bombings, more casualties. 

Yes, these are the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer for some ... I wish it were for all!

Time on the Beach

Lake Manitoba beach
I’ve spent some of the best moments of my life on shorelines … whether as a kid going to summer camp and singing around a sunset beach fire … as a young person soaking up some sun on a beach towel surrounded by the smell of sunscreen … as a mom, building sandcastles with her kids … or as a ‘mature’ beachcomber hunting for garden driftwood. 

Sandcastle construction beside Lake Winnipeg

Even my 2019 research trip to Kaliningrad and Schleswig Holstein involved the beach. If ever there was an edge to sit on, the beach has promised me the best view … of waves, of clouds, of sunsets, of endless storied stones and, equally, of endless storied people. 

Baltic at Svetlogorsk (former Rauschen)

Summers are so short here in Manitoba and we’ve had our share of rainy days this year … so yesterday’s shoreline trip was a treat. Exploring with a couple of kids in tow reminded me of past beach magic. We returned to the city with pet rocks and some caged fish-flies. Great adventure! 

The fact that these kids, who’d spent years in a refugee camp, got to toast their first marshmallows, ended a rather perfect beach day.

Camp Morton shore


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1960s, Winnipeg, Immigrant Family

Inspiration behind Waltraut So this is me and my little brother, circa 1965, dressed up for photos or for church … maybe both. Lord knows I ...