Category Archives: Family

Chris must really hate me




I think Chris hates me! Recently, Chris gave me a haircut with our new barber’s hair trimmer. When she was done I looked like Hitler without the moustache. When I complained she offered to fix it. When she was done the second time I looked like a Concentration Camp survivor! What will she cut next?

Travels with Charli (and Stef)



One of my favorite books, and one of the first travel books I ever read, was John Steinbeck’s Travel’s with Charley.  I loved that book. Now we had our own version of that.

When we talked about visiting Stef in B.C. we hoped he could spend a day or two with us. Much to our surprise he was enthusiastic about our visit and suggested that we could go on a short road trip with him and his girl friend Charli. No doubt the possibility of our paying for much of it helped whet his appetite. We ended up going on a 5-day road trip to Vancouver Island and Saltspring Island. And we learned a lot about our son Stef.

It was great to fun travel with Stef and Charli. Stef is a great traveller. He comes from a family of travellers. His grand parents (my parents) were great travellers and I really believe their descendant’s have inherited the travel bug. We all love to travel.

My parents did not even have a car for many years. I remember when they finally bought one and we were able to go on road trips. Our first trip, that I can recall, was one to my aunt and uncle and cousins in St. Catherines Ontario. I was unbelievably excited. I was bit with the travel bug and it has lasted forever. I think all of my children inherited that gene, though one of them, Patrick, who was adopted, earned it by nurture rather than nature. We all love to travel.

But no one in our family loves to travel more than Stef. I know a couple of years ago when as far as I knew he had no money, he somehow managed to make a trip to Belgium to see a big international music festival. I don’t know how he did that, but he did.

As a result of his travels he seems to have friends around the world. Partly that is because he is  a social animal. I don’t know where he inherited that gene. As soon as we got into the car to travel from Whistler, where we picked them up,  to Vancouver Island Stef was bouncing with excitement. His enthusiasm was infectious. Our ears were sore from his enthusiastic tirades. That made it fun for everyone. Poor Charli did her best to hang on. The rest of us tried from time to time, without much success to temper his exuberance. He filled the days with joy.

Stef had researched where we could go and what we should see. Yet , we found out, he was a meanderer like us. We could change course at any time. He just liked to travel. it didn’t matter too much where we went. His grand parents would be proud. His parents were proud. We were amazed at how well he had researched and organized where we could go. Stef and Charli were both very easy to get along with. Both were quite willing to try something new. They were kind and considerate to the old folks, even when they got cranky.

Chris and I were astonished and we loved coming along for the ride. It was great fun. Yet, even though he made many suggestions where we could go, Stef was always happy to take suggestions from others, and change course. A real meanderer. Stef: thanks for the ride! When do we go again?

Breakfast with Stef


Stef and his friend Charli. This photo has nothing to do with the post below.

I had an interesting experience when I woke up our first morning in Sooke B.C. where we stayed for 5 days—I had breakfast with my son Stef.   Get this, for breakfast Stef ate a Long John pastry, very gooey, a heated up wiener left over from last night, and Ketchup chips! About as nutritious as last week’s laundry.

One of the most fantastic hours of my 70 year old life



On Easter day I spent one of the most wonderful hours of my 70 year old life!  I was holding my 3 & 1/2 month old granddaughter Stella in my arms and she does not like to be held unless the holder is moving. She demands movement and soon lets the holder know that slacking off will not be acceptable. Well today after walking around the cottage a number of times I wanted to sip my  coffee. I asked Stella to consent to “one sip”. At first Stella grumbled, as expected, but then she settled down. She acquiesced and I had a fine sip of coffee. Then I sneaked one more. And a third and a fourth. Stella was falling asleep in my arms.

I got to hold Stella for nearly an hour as she slept quietly in my arms. As I sat there staring at this beautiful girl only 3&1/2 months old I thought back to an event almost exactly 49 years ago. It happened in Ste. Anne Manitoba at the wedding social of my friends Chris and Laverne Duguay at the Au’ble Dor Hotel. A lot of wedding socials were held there. After all Steinbach was a dry community back then. Well not really dry. Lots of people drank alcohol, especially bad Mennonites like me. Dancing was also a sin. But in Ste. Anne all was permitted.

At this event I met for the first time a lovely young girl—Christiane Calvez. We chatted for a quite awhile before I got up enough nerve to ask her to dance. The dance was a “Butterfly.”  That meant 2 young men would fling a young woman around between them. I was unaware that  Christiane was wearing a cast that stretched from ankle to thigh. She had broken her leg a few weeks ago at another dance and guess what? It was also the butterfly that caused her to sail  into trouble. That day a butterfly was impossible.

Christiane has always falsely accused me of being under the influence of strong drink as a result of not noticing her cast.  Not true. Her leg was under the table and I had no way of seeing her predicament. She could not dance.

After the social was over many people including Christiane and I drove by car to a private house a few miles out of town where the party continued. Christiane and I never got to the house. We sat in the car until it was over chatting about everything. At one point we drove back to the hotel because I had left my bag of dirty laundry there. This was laundry I was delivering home to my mother who had the “privilege” of doing my laundry when I came home from University on the weekends. Lucky her.

Christiane was spending the weekend at the home of her cousin Suzanne in Ste. Anne. So my friends and I dropped her off at this house. Christiane had to sneak into the house as her cousin was nowhere to be seen. So she sat in the living room of her uncle’s house waiting for her to show up while she hoped no one would notice her. Her uncle was very strict  and would have been furious that they were not together.

Christiane had given her phone number to me as I was driving my friend’s car. I had been voted most sober by my friends so I had to drive. She was far from convinced that I would remember the phone number.  But I did! Proving that I was of sober  mind.  I remembered it and the next week called her for a date and she accepted. And the  rest is history.

Well that history—49 years ago—had resulted in 4 beautiful grandchildren. Nasya, Emma, Nolan and now the youngest, Stella. I kept staring at her asleep in my arms thinking about 49 years and how it could produce such a profoundly beautiful child as the girl in my arms. She looked a lot like the beautiful woman who was not in my arms 49 years ago. But eventually she was. What a splendid journey—meandering as it was—that brought us from then to here.

Reflecting on this was one fantastic hour.

Sedona: The Most Beautiful Place in the USA

Stef and his friend Charli

After our short visit to Montezuma Castle, wwe continued our journey to Sedona. In 2002 USA Today Weekendmagazine officially declared Sedona “the most beautiful place in the country.” I used to think this was mere boasting by local tourist shills, but when a national magazine crowns you the most beautiful place you have a right to be proud. And this pride is far from misplaced. Sedona is gorgeous. It is as simple as that.

I was really pleased that Stef and Charli chose to visit Sedona. Any excuse to come here is all right with me. I love Sedona. Sedona is a special place. Maybe there is truth to the claims that there are spiritual vortexes here. And not just for charlatans either. Why not?

Our first stop was at the Visitor Centre where they also have some outstanding rock formations. We saw Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Cathedral Rock. The latter we saw again later from the west side.

I will never forget the first time I came here after a partners meeting in Phoenix. I drove in with one of the partners while everyone else drove back home. We were both stunned by the beauty of the place. I remember phoning Chris and saying to her, ‘we have to come back here next year, for you have to see it.’ It really is that beautiful. And today was on exception.

Today, the skies were brilliant blue. The air was clean. The temperature was cool but pleasant for walking around. And the red rocks for which the area is famous  were spectacular. It was a great day!

Later we drove into town and took some photographs, including a team picture, from the airport. They now charge a $3 fee, which we thought was quite reasonable. The light for all our photos was wonderful, though a few happy little clouds would have been nice. The airport has a great overview of the city nestled into the valley between stunning red rocks. It was a great place for a team photo.

We also stopped to see and photograph the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Few churches have a more spectacular setting.



I am a very stupid and very happy guy!

Believe it or not, I am actually getting tired of telling people how stupid I am. But I can’t stop.

We woke up early and looked out our hotel window in Watertown South Dakota. We immediately knew we had a problem. It was white outside. Very white. Everywhere white. We listened to the television weather/travel station and went on line. The message was clear. This was not a good day for driving. There was a small snow belt across South Dakota and we were right in the middle of it. We could have driven out of it in about an hour or two, but it was wicked outside.  I-29, was extremely slippery, visibility was near zero, and it was bitterly cold. Travel was not recommended. We decided to heed that advice. The wind chill was about -50 degrees Fahrenheit.  We hunkered down for an exciting day in the Days Inn in Watertown. We had a large breakfast. Of course, any breakfast was better than what was being served in the ditches off I-29.  We had good books, a warm room, excellent liquor and we were not in the ditch. Life was good. So we thought.

Road conditions were  horrible. Even big rigs pulled in to our hotel lot.  It was extremely slippery (that we already knew) almost zero visibility and extremely cold.  So I smartly, decided to go and see if the doors to our care could be opened. As I feared they were iced shut. What to do?  The hotel had no de-icer.  I did not know who the truck drivers were in our hotel. Surely they would carry some. The clerk at the hotel suggested Walmart, not far away. That seemed like good advice. So I trudged over thanking my Peltz Metz (fur cap for the non-Germans) wishing Chris had not persuaded me to leave my parka at home. Bad Advice. It was expected to get cold tonight but it was already incredibly cold.

When I got to Wal-Mart I checked the auto department and found only windshield wiper fluid. I picked it up, thinking if all else failed this might work. Then I found a helpful employee and he found the lock de-icer. When I told him about the doors also being frozen shut with thick ice he suggested a spray on windshield de-icer. That would do the trick he thought. At least he had some optimism. He said I should have applied it last night to prevent icing. Now he tells me. Warily, I trudged back to the hotel facing the wind and froze again.

After a short stop in the hotel room I went back to the cold to see if my implements would work. I diligently applied the windshield spray de-icer to the car and it seemed to work. I could see the ice melting! Then I heard my wife shouting “Hans, Hans.” What now, I thought. Why should she bug me I was obviously busy? Well…she had good reason I must sadly report. She had a vision, what else can we call it, that for some reason I would be de-icing the wrong car and that is exactly what I was doing. I was busily de-icing the wrong car in the middle of a blizzard! Sheepishly I moved over to our car. Chris had saved the day. Very happily, the de-icer worked on my car too! After all that I got the car doors open and the car started. I also got the cord to plug in the car on account of extreme temperatures expected tonight.  I wonder how long I would have worked on the wrong car had Chris not seen me and came to my rescue? I don’t want to think about that. I wondered what the owner of the car I had de-iced thought. Did he think an angel had done it?

I returned to the hotel room stupid, incredibly stupid, but incredibly happy too.  So I spent 24 hours in Watertown South Dakota deliriously happy, but realizing again, how stupid I am.

Travel Sluts

There is little doubt that Chris and I are travel sluts. We have already traveled this year from Arizona to Manitoba by way of Utah, Iceland, and now to Ottawa. After the last trip, we were so tired we thought we would not travel again for quite a while. Well, it is less than 3 months since we got home and we are off again. Yes, we are travel sluts.

So what is a travel slut? It is a person who is promiscuous about his or her travel desires and is willing to travel without a lot of courtship or foreplay. We took this trip without much forethought. The opportunity arose and we took. Surely that is a travel slut.

I had a narrow 2-week window of opportunity between teaching engagements with the Manitoba Real Estate Association. That was a window that had to be filled. Hence here we are meandering toward the nation’s capital in the autumn. Ready for the best and the worst.




Time spent with grand daughters is surprisingly valuable


I knew it would be fun to spend a week with my grand daughters, I just never realized how much smarter I would be after a week with them. I learned a lot.         I mentioned in my last posting, how  they expanded my horizons about music. I also learned a lot about bugs. Yes bugs. We took them to the zoo and there we visited the bug exhibit.  the girls participated in a scavenger hunt and they learned a lot on the way. So did I.

Did you know:


All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. “Bug” is  a word we usually use for the creepy crawly creatures. Actually scientists use a specific term to refer to bugs–arthropods. True bugs have a specialized mouth part called the  proboscis, which squirts digestive enzymes into their prey to turn them into a liquid so they are easier to digest. The bug juice is then slurped up through their proboscis like a Slurpee straw.

Bugs are more formally called arthropods and they include 80% of the species in the animal kingdom and are found nearly everywhere on earth. They can be found on land, sea, and air. They can be found on the highest mountains and the deepest oceans. Bugs include ants, bees, wasps, spiders, centipedes, cockroaches, grasshoppers and especially beetles. Beetles are the most successful animal group on the planet. There are about 350,000 different species of beetles.  In California one special type of beetle—ladybugs–, gather in groups of up to 40 million on the same mountains each year. They practice communal hibernation to keep warm. They can live up to 9 months in logs or trees.

Another type of arthropod, Dragon flies have compound eyes with up to 50,000 lenses! This gives them extremely sharp eyes that allow them to see in everydirection at the same time! That helps them catch prey instead of becoming prey. I wish they would catch even more mosquitoes than they do.

When moths leave their cocoons they no longer eat or drink. They spend their entire adult lives looking for mates to produce offspring. They have no time to eat or drink because they only live for about 14 days. Of course, how long would you live without food or water?

Bugs sometimes gather in extreme numbers and that can disconcert us. Swarms of bugs are very scary.  But bugs live in a world of giants—like us.  Gathering in extreme numbers gives bugs a chance to defend themselves from enemies like us. Extreme numbers also allows them to function like a super-organism. I learned that from E.O Wilson, one of my favorite scientists. Large numbers of bugs sometimes give them a better chance to find and kill prey. Swarms of bugs can appear out of thin air. Messages in chemicals, sounds or even colour changes can indicate to their friends to head somewhere else. I know we had an amazing swarm one night at the lake this summer. I estimated there were billions of mosquito-like bugs that normally hover far above us, but this year for one night, came down to visit. Thank goodness they did not bite. They were just annoying. Bugs in such large numbers are very disconcerting. It felt like armageddon. I thought it might have been the smoke in the air from BC forest fires more than a thousands of miles away that drove them down. I don’t need to have that many visitors again.

By now the migration of monarch butterflies is well known. It is one of the wonders of nature how it can take 3 or more generations to return to Canada from Mexico and then one super generation, goes all the way back in one migration even though they have never been there. Somehow, they follow the flight patterns of their ancestors. Most monarch butterflies fly up to 2,500 miles away to Mexico for the winter, though some migrate to Florida or California. They are not the only butterflies and moths to migrate however. Some moths hitch on to jet streams and have reached speeds of 90 km (56 mph). Last year at this park I saw painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) that had come from the north. They can migrate as much as 15,000 km (9,000 mi). They like to fly high where they catch favorable winds.

Ants are particularly interesting. I knew that because of what I learned from E.O Wilson. Ants have about 10-20 “words.” At least that is all we have discovered so far. They communicate by sending out chemical instructions that can summon a few mates from their colony or thousands to help them out. Cockroaches also communicate by sending out chemical signals. They can tell others where the dining is good, or when its time to mate. They can send signals through saliva, feces, or airborne pheromones.

Ants, bees, and wasps can act jointly like a team that enables to achieve a “win” for their team, which is the entire colony. When they perform as a collective they act like a single or super organism and achieve things cooperatively that would be impossible any other way. Humans, in some sense, also cooperate this way, though they also compete with each other. Acting together they can achieve enormous successes.   Siafu ants  work together in colonies with 20 million members in which they knit themselves together to form ladders  and bridges out of their bodies so that they can move safely in a march. Leaf-cutter ants, which we saw in Costa Rica a few years ago can live in colonies of up to 5 million members. That is a pretty big city! The ants are incredibly strong. A leaf-cutter ant can carry up to 50 times its own weight.

In a honey bee colony the bees get together to survive a winter. They use honey that they produced in summer and which oxidizes in winter giving off heat energy. In an amazing demonstration of teamwork 60,000 pairs of wings then vibrate to circulate the heat through the colony. Honeybees contribute between 3.1 and $ 4.4 billion to the Canadian economy in 2013. Without honey bees there would be no apple, blueberry, cherry or canola harvests. Life would be a lot more boring without honeybees.

Amur tigers unlike most other cats, love water.

Stellar sea eagles, like bald eagles and brown bears, depend on salmon runs for their survival.

If it had not been for my grand daughters I probably would not have gone to this exhibit and I would be even more ignorant than I am. There is an important lesson here, I must go out with my grand daughters more often!

Grand Daughters: A Week with Oma and Opa

This summer we had an amazing week with our grand daughters Nasya and Emma. When we picked up the girls up at Pat’s house they were jumping up and down with excitement. That made us feel real good. They were looking forward to it. We soon piled the girls with all their stuff into the car. They had enough dolls and clothes for them to last for 15 years.


On the way in Nasya played her music that she had recorded on her iPhone she had recently received.  Much to my surprise, I had to admit the tunes were not bad. I even liked some of the songs. I particularly liked “Fight Song” performed by Rachel Platten


Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me


A lot of fight left in me…


Nasya and Emma

 We spent the first few days at the Lakeview Inn and Suite in Gimli. As soon as we arrived the girls headed for the pool. I gave both of them swimming lessons last year and I was very proud of my students.

Chris and Emma

         In the evening, I and the girls went to the finale of the Gimli Film Festival. I have always wanted to do that. The film was The Great Outdoors starring John Candy and Dan Akroyd. I was surprised at how lame it was, but it was fun to watch outside in the evening on the beach. It was a warm night and there are no mosquitoes this year on account of the dry conditions. The girls did not know if they should watch the film or play on the play structures. So they did both. It was a great start to our holiday!

The next day we went for a walk and stopped at my favorite book store–Tergesen’s. Now the store was a little more precious as we had met Lorna Tergesen, who owned the store with her son, on our trip to Iceland this summer just a couple of weeks ago. We enjoyed a short talk with her and of course, I bought a book that I really did not need. It was a photo book on Iceland.

Later in the week we watched the mega (well by Steinbach standards) parade. Each of the girls left with a HUGE bag of candies (by world standards). Then we went to the museum for lunch and a visit at the petting zoo and ride on a pony and horse and wagon ride and a ride on a oil barrel train. The girls also enjoyed getting their faces painted.

We finished the week at our cottage at Buffalo Point where the girls spent a few days swimming, enjoying wiener roasts and walking their babies (dolls). By the last day Emma was getting anxious to get home and did not want to eat. So she “enjoyed” a “prisoner’s diet” as Chris called it. Bread and water. That is absolutely true. Bread and water! That was all she wanted, so we obliged.  When she was done she said, “This was a great breakfast.” Go figure. The girls found a friend in Aria from the neighbour’s cottage and they explored the beach together. They were mesmerized by a dead fish.  Later Aria said this was the best part of the day. A dead fish!  I have concluded that young girls are very, very, strange. The girls also enjoyed skipping rocks on the surface of the lake and chasing gulls and getting rides on the  ‘side-by-side’ owned by our neighbour Mike.  This is a small All Terrain Vehicle with a box like a truck. When I pressed the accelerator and sharply increased my speed the girls squealed with delight. Basically they screamed the entire trip. Again that was fun! Next they went swimming in the lake with their various flotation devices. They used our tube and Mike’s big swan. The girls had a ball in the water.  It was a gorgeous bugless afternoon. Life is good.   At the girl’s request, Chris made her famous Beer Butt chicken and they loved that too.

It was a great week with 2 beautiful girls.

Old Man nearly Dies of Heat Exhaustion but survives to celebrate whats right with the world



I took this photograph of an orchid yesterday and it is already one my favourite orchid images  ever. It is Dragon’s Mouth (Arethusa bulbosa) the star of the Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve.        

Yesterday, after I found the Moccasin-flower, that I blogged about, I moved to the Brokenhead Wetlands Ecological Reserve, one of my favorite places in the world. Today it was resplendent.

I met people in the parking lot who assured me there were not mosquitoes in the bog. That was a relief for it allowed me to remove my leggings. It was 31ºC and humid (as bogs always are) so I did not relish continuing in the heat with long pants.  Had I not removed them I feared that tomorrow there might be a headline in the Winnipeg Free Press“Old man dies of heat exhaustion in bog.” Or perhaps “Crazy old man…”

At the edge of the fen I spotted a wonderful Dragon’s Mouth(Arethusa bulbosa) orchid, the star of the show. This was the headliner and for good reason. It is a wonderful flower clad in magnificent pink. This is certainly one of my favorite orchids.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot and number of people I met along the trail. The trail is obviously being well used and everyone I talked to loved the area.   Even the children were interested in the bog. I noticed they spent a lot of time there, often lying on the boardwalk peering down into the bog.


I was surprised to see Small Round-leaved Orchid (Galearis rotundifolia) as it is now called. It looked like the flowers had just recently emerged. I tried to get a photograph but it was very difficult to do that from the boardwalk. What a pity. My photographs were not very good, but it was the best I could do.


This is the smallest of Manitoba’s Lady’s-slippers. A mosquito looks like a giant on it. This is the very rare Ram’s head Lady’s-slipper .  Last year members of the North American Orchid Conference group of which I am a member came here for their annual conference and seeing this was high on the agenda of most attendees.

Today was a strange day. It was extremely hot. So hot I actually stopped photographing Arethusa bulbosa before I really exhausted the Stead site. That is a sin. But I was just plain tired. Added to that, it was windy and I had a lot of trouble getting the right focus.  My recent cataract surgery did not help. Partly that is because my “improved” eye is so much better that my glasses subscription is wrong and that eye is still blurry.  So I had to reject a lot of images. Yet I also captured some  images that pleased me a lot! I am confused, but very happy with the “keepers” I got. It was a great day in the hot bog.

Thus ended one of my finest days in the bog ever. Despite my cataracts, the wind, and excess sun I did my best to capture some images. Today I was able to celebrate what’s right with the world as the photographer DeWitt Jones always recommends. It was all good.