Family Lines

stories for you

Month: January 2014

Never too young

Kid writing.

Kids like writing their memories too. Photo source:×480/cute-kid-writing_18063.html

“You don’t have to be famous or old to write a memoir. We all have life stories to share at any age.”

This is what I told Grade 5 students in Calgary last Wednesday.  I was giving a memoir presentation to five Grade 5 classes thanks to the 2014 Writers In Schools Program (WISP). It’s an initiative by the Canadian Authors Association – Alberta Branch that connects authors with young writers in schools across the province. I filled out an application in the fall and was chosen to go to Chris Akkerman School and talk about memoir writing.

Giving memoir writing workshops are no big deal for me – when I’m talking to adults. The adults who attend my classes are there because they want to write their life stories. They have paid for the course and are interested in learning the tools in which to write their personal tales. Kids are another matter.

Since I don’t have children I was a bit nervous about what to share and what to say. It’s been a long time since I was in elementary school and the world has changed a lot. Students these days live in a wired world. They’re plugged into computers, mobile phones and games. They’re constantly in touch with friends through a variety of social media and always looking for the next greatest thing online. They don’t want to a miss a thing. How do I connect to them and have them think about forming a relationship with the past?

Easy – through their memories.

Asking a simple question made the kids’ hands shoot up into the air.

“Who remembers one of their best days ever so far?”

Of course I couldn’t call on every student to describe their fun-filled moments but the ones I did point to had lots to tell me. And the stories weren’t about TV or the latest game. The anecdotes were about when their baby sister was born or when they travelled to a different country, the country where their parents had been born and raised.

All these experiences and memories were bursting to come out. The energy from the kids was positive and they were excited and bouncing around. But when it came to the last writing exercise — write their own memoir — they became so quiet and reflective. Some children took a minute or two to think about what they were going to write before putting pencil to paper.

It’s too bad I didn’t have time to hear all the stories but the ones I did hear were well-written and interesting. There was a happy story about going to Calaway Park on a summer day; there was a sad story about being sick on Halloween and almost missing trick-or-treating; and there was a scary story about a possible ghost sighting.

The students had such diverse experiences and everyone wanted to share their accounts of life from the perspective of a 10 or 11-year-old. I don’t think we need to worry too much about these students losing sight of history. They’re going to be a strong voice in the future with a definite connection to the past.

A trip down memory lane

Most couples after their wedding usually go on a honeymoon. My husband and I decided to delay our special trip a year and a half and go when we had saved up some money. This past Christmas holiday we took off for Switzerland and Norway, both snowy places, or so we thought.  I’ll share some memories with you along with photos.

Spengler Cup game.

Final Spengler Cup game saw CSKA Moscow take on Genève-Servette. Genève won 5 to 3.

We enjoy winter and like to watch hockey so our first stop was the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. I had been to Switzerland before and was happy to return with someone who had never been. We were headed for the Spengler Cup, the oldest invitational hockey tournament in the world. It’s been taking place in Davos since 1923. Canada won the cup last year in 2012 and we were hoping Canada would win it again with us watching in the stands. They did win the game against the Rochester Americans (the AHL team for the Buffalo Sabres, which has a roster full of Canadians) but Canada lost to Genève-Servette in the semi-finals.


Canada Corner at the Spengler Cup.

The fans in the Vaillant Arena are fantastic – much better than NHL fans. The Davos arena is a small venue but the spectators make it seem large. They sing along to the pre-puck drop music, they do the wave around and around again, they whistle (instead of boo) when they don’t like a ref’s call. In short – the fans made a good experience – great.




If you look closely in this photo you can see a red sail in the top middle of the photo.

Our home in Switzerland belonged to friends who were away. They live in the most unbelievable beautiful village called Fanas. The houses are built right into the mountain and when the bus dropped us off in the main square I thought I was going to fall off the side of the town. There was no snow in Fanas and it felt like spring most days. The birds sang their Swiss songs and there were goats bleating “guten tag” (hello) and the earth smelled so rich. Some people take a tram even higher up the mountain to paraglide and fly by the house. One guy was metres away and waved hello to us on the balcony.



Yikes! Not much room to pass. The other view from the bus window was the side of the mountain - no guardrails.

Yikes! Not much room to pass. The other view from the bus window was the side of the mountain – no guardrails.

The bus trip from Fanas to either the town of Grusch on one side, or Schiers on the other, was a bit scary. The roads are narrow and winding and there’s not a lot of room for both a car and the bus. There aren’t many guard rails either but after a couple of trips we got used to it.






Just a nice photo of a swan (are European swans bigger than Canadian swans?) on Lake Zürich (Zürichsee).

Lake Zürich (Zürichsee).


I tried new food every day in Norway.

Off to Norway where I tried a new food every day. As a Maritimer it was my duty to check out the fish – for breakfast. Not bad, very salty just like the blueberry milk I also tasted another day.




Many afternoons were spent by the fire in Norway.

Many afternoons were spent by the fire in Norway.

Many afternoons were spent by the fire in Norway. A British senior talked with us one day and told us we made a great memory for her – the Canadian honeymooners sitting in the warm glow of the flames while the sky outside darkened. (It was dark a lot in Norway and only light from 9 a.m. to just after 3 p.m. Even in daylight the sky was dingy.) The funny thing was, the hotel put us in a room with twin beds.


Here I am at Karl Johans Gate, Oslo.

Olso is a nice city and people are friendly. There was no snow here and it was an anomaly for Norway. We were told it’s been the warmest winter in over a century. Olso is on the same latitude as Yellowknife and yet, Oslo was above freezing when we were there. Unlike the Northwest Territories (and the rest of Canada) that was experiencing the “polar vortex”.

Found the harbour! I always gravitate towards water being a true Bluenoser (Nova Scotian).

Harbour in Oslo.

Harbour in Oslo.

Akershus Fortress.

Akershus Fortress, Olso.

Speaking of Nova Scotia, Akershus Fortress reminded me a little of the Halifax Citadel. The medieval Olso castle is near the harbour and was first used in battle in 1308 when besieged by  a Swedish duke. (I was besieged by my stupid boots that I had to wear all the time since I didn’t bring any other pairs of shoes. Alas, who knew Norway wouldn’t have snow?)





Akershus fortress is still a working military area.

Akershus Fortress is still a working military area.

Akershus Fortress is still a working military area and there is a changing of the guard that we managed to catch one afternoon. The procession moves to Kirkegaten to Karl Johans Gate and on to the Royal Palace. Click here for a poor video I shot of the changing.



Viking Ship Museum.

Viking Ship Museum.

We checked out the Viking Ship Museum. Wow, incredible. This is the Oseberg ship that was excavated in 1904. There are three ships that were found in burial mounds around Norway. Two are complete and look to be in fantastic shape. However, some of the wood is degrading from the inside out and the Norwegians are researching how to stop this from happening. Human bones are also on display and I wonder what kind of stories their souls would tell. If they could…



Glass of wine on table near fire place.

Tusen takk (thank you in Norwegian) for the great memories.


One afternoon we took the Oslo Tunnelbane (T-banen, the metro) to the outskirts of the city. A friend of a friend who lives in Olso said we must go for lunch at the Frognerseteren Restaurant. It’s a popular place to end a good day of cross-country skiing, when there is snow. We enjoyed our last meal out in the charming rustic Norwegian place. Tusen takk (thank you) for the great memories.

“[O]ur honeymoon will shine our life long: its beams will only fade over your grave or mine.”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Acadia: not only about book learning

Seminary House.

Seminary House residence on the Acadia University campus – where I lived for three years.

Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia is celebrating 175 years of education and innovation. It asked for alumnus to share stories from their Acadia days to mark the anniversary. Here is my contribution that was recently published in the Acadia Bulletin (on page 48:

I don’t remember many of my classroom lessons at Acadia. Of course, the knowledge my professors imparted during my four years shaped my mind and gave me intellectual instruction for the future. However, most of my education at Acadia was the life experience kind of learning: the stuff that takes place outside the lecture hall.

My first week at Acadia is a memory that has stayed with me over the past 20 years. Moving my things into Seminary House alongside my high school friend and about-to-be roommate, I was taking a big step. Leaving my parents’ home for a co-ed dorm where I could start being independent – along with about 90 others. As a Sem frosh I was put right into the mix of silly activities and a getting-to-know-you game where I met a lifelong friend. (I was in his wedding party this September.) From that beginning I felt like I was part of something bigger than just going to school.

Classes are small at Acadia, which makes it easy to spot those sharing your schedule. After a couple of days of lectures, one woman introduced herself to me. She said we had three classes in common, intro to political science, English and one more that I can’t remember now. Ah si, it was Spanish.

We became instant friends and joined with four more girls to become the Posse (yes, we named ourselves). We talked, danced, laughed and cried over lots of boys. As frosh we felt so grown-up. But as each year passed we realized we had been so young.

Beveridge Arts Centre.

The Beveridge Arts Centre (BAC), the largest academic building on the Acadia campus.

At the end of our fourth year we knew the lay of the land – the campus from the Beveridge Arts Centre (BAC) to Eaton House. We knew 8:30 a.m. classes were hard to attend but so were 1:30 p.m. classes on Fridays. We knew which meals at McConnell Hall were the tastiest and which were not. We knew if your crush wasn’t at the Anvil, he’d be at the Axe. We knew university was hard work but reality was going to be harder. We knew that from that first day we had built a strong base of support through friendships and knowledge. Acadia taught us that we could do anything.

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