Reconnecting with my Garden

It’s hard to believe that I graduated 20 years ago with my diploma in horticultural technology. I did work in a greenhouse for over two years after graduating, but life had other plans for me. Instead of continuing in the industry, I got married, relocated, did some teaching for a while, then some writing, had a baby, became the primary caregiver of my father…After my father passed away, we decided to buy out the rest of my siblings and settle down more permanently in my parents’ house. Along with the house we inherited my parents’ garden.
Although I had been trying to gradually revamp the garden over the years, it’s become somewhat overgrown. OK, in some areas it could be considered to be jungle like. I have told people that the chaos of our property reflected the chaotic nature of my life over the years of caregiving.
But there’s also something else going on. My thesis in college was on xeriscaping, also called water wise gardening. I am not too fond of plants that are big water suckers. I’m not talking about the plants you grow for food. I mean other culprits like some grasses and many flowering annuals. So I always took a hands off approach: whatever wanted to establish itself naturally on my property, I figured was what was most suited for my property. I didn’t have to invest a lot of time and energy and especially water in their care.
Though this might be true, there is a challenge with this philosophy. There are many plants that will take advantage of this way of thinking. Those are generally the invasive and non native plants that reproduce quickly and tend to overtake those that are less aggressive. So, if I want my wild strawberries to thrive, much as I love my forget-me-nots, I realize that I will have to cull some of the flowers and let them flourish in non wild strawberry plant areas instead.
I will never get rid of the wildness of my property totally. But I don’t want to become overwhelmed with it either. Balance is key.
My teachers at college always told us that we need to “use it or lose it”. That is, if we didn’t use the knowledge we learned we wouldn’t remember it. I can confirm that this is very true. In many respects, I feel that I am starting from the beginning again. But beginner’s mind isn’t always a bad thing.
My current jam is the app called Seek by iNaturalist. (I like it better than iNaturalist itself.) You can take a picture and fairly soon it will identify what plant you have in your garden. It will also identify animals and even insect damage. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but no technology is perfect. Still, I have made so many fascinating discoveries. This morning, for example, I discovered I have something called “enchanted nightshade” behind my shed. It’s probably not the sort of nightshade you know, but a rather more innocent variety.
I was always interested in the healing nature of plants, which is something that I never studied at college, so I am learning about that aspect. I have discovered that I do have healing plants like motherwort in my garden.
I am also striving to be more conscious of what is native to my area. I was gifted some perennials that are native, which I have planted. My foamflower has already bloomed!


One of the books I am learning from is “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I love this philosophy: “…in Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as ‘the younger brothers of Creation.’ We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn—we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance…They’ve been on the earth far longer than we have been, and have had time to figure things out.”
A garden—like life—is always a work in progress. It’s a great place to learn not only about nature, but also about yourself.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

May 2020 Bookish Resolutions Wrapup

Mount TBR challenge

I did read one book this month, but that puts me behind in the challenge. I have found that although I am writing a lot, I am not reading very much. I do have several books that I am near completing, so hopefully I will finish one or more soon. Plus I am now in a book club, which will help motivate me to read more. Click here to see what books for the challenge I have read so far this year.

-I read one memoir from the library this month:

“The Gratitude Diaries” by Janice Kaplan

Kaplan decides to spend a year embracing an attitude of gratitude, and seeks advice about gratitude from psychologists, academics, and philosophers. The book is divided into four seasons: winter (marriage, love, and family), spring (money, career, and the stuff we own), summer (gratitude and health), and autumn (coping, caring, and connecting). My favourite section is summer, the gratitude and health one, because I believe embracing gratitude has a significant impact on health.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book:

“It now turns out that the immune system may respond to emotions. Worry, anger, or fear send those same white blood cells out on patrol, and even though they don’t have anything specific to attack, they leave a trail of dangerous inflammation. Feeling gratitude could actually counter the effect…”


“The whole happiness movement drives me crazy because it’s so binary. Are you happy or not?” Linda <Stone> complained…”The real question should be—how can I appreciate this moment more? What feels good right now? There is always some positive in the moment that we can notice and appreciate.”


“Gratitude had changed me, and I suddenly had an image that gratitude could also transform the whole world. However dismal global events may be, looking for the bright spots allows us to survive and move on. Gratitude spreads quickly to other people. Charles Darwin believed that the societies with the most compassion are the best able to flourish. Acts of kindness are noticed, reciprocated, passed forward. If we put good into the world, maybe, just maybe, it starts to be returned.”

-I wrote more than 250 words five days a week.

I am writing a lot, though not as much about the pandemic like last month. 

-I am successfully limiting my social media. I no longer go on Sundays and sometimes even not on Saturdays.

-I read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week.

Here are my favourites:

I’d be rather amiss if I didn’t mention my own essay called “Chain Reaction”. Click here to read it. 

Pandemic Journal: an Entry on Rejoicing at the Grocery Store” by Glynn Young

In this essay, a senior writes humorously about a trip to the grocery store during the pandemic.

This quote made me think:

“I wonder why the news media focus on the 1918 influenza epidemic but say nothing about 1957 or 1968.”

When your ‘to-do’ list is taking over your life, try a ‘to-don’t’ list” by Emelia Symington Fedy

The author tries to find out who she is if she doesn’t keep doing. 

Favourite quote: “I made a direct connection between my output and my right to be happy. That’s a lot of pressure.”

How my husband and I spent our final hours together” by Judith Pettersen 

The author writes a very touching essay about the final hours of her husband’s life.

Favourite quote:

“They gave my husband what he desperately wanted: the gift of a conscious parting, something not many terminal patients experience. They gave him dignity.”

Working in Long Term Care These Days is Breaking my Heart” by Monica Catto

One of the essays that adds to the conversation about the long term care situation in Ontario right now.

“Separation during Isolation” by Marcello di Cintio

The author separated from his wife in the beginning stages of Covid-19, when he anticipated a new life, but he is still waiting for it

Favourite quotes:

“There was something poetic, we agreed, about drinking our wedding champagne on the last day of our marriage. But once we took a sip we realized the champagne had soured. Too much time had passed. There was something poetic about this, too.”


“Ironies abound. One of the main reasons our marriage ended is because M and I stopped spending time together. Now, due to social distancing rules and the fact that our son is splitting time between our two houses, M is the only other person I can responsibly spend time with. Suddenly all we have is each other.”

“I’m giving MS the finger, but I admit, this disease has taught me resilience” by Sheri Astorino

The author writes about her life with MS.

-I read 5 picture books per week.

These are some of my favourites:

“Usha and the Stolen Sun” by Bree Galbraith; illustrated by Jose Bisaillon

The sun hadn’t shone for such a long time that only Usha’s grandmother remembers it. A big wall to block it out had been made by the people who made the rules. Usha sets off on a journey to find the wall herself and destroy it.

I Want to Be: A Gutsy Girl’s ABC by Farida Zaman

An ABC book with unusual, nontraditional occupations and their descriptions including ice sculptor, kite designer, quarry worker, ufologist, and zipline operator

“Double Bass Blues” by Andrea J. Loney; illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez

This is a 2020 Caldecott Honor Book.

This book has very few words but amazing pictures. The book chronicles the Nic’s journey home with the double bass and the obstacles he meets on the way. He takes those incidents and puts them into his music with his granddaddy’s band.

Going Down Home With Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons; illustrated by Daniel Minter 

This is a 2020 Caldecott Honor Book. 

Lil Alan goes with his family to a reunion at his grandmother’s farm to celebrate their roots, but he doesn’t have anything to pay tribute. Ghanan symbols (Adrinka) are scattered throughout the book.

“Bear Came Along” Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

This is a 2020 Caldecott Honor Book. 

In this book about friendship, several animals have an adventure on the river together.

“From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea” by Kai Cheng Thom; illustrated by Ching and Li 

In this book the main character, Miu Lan, questions why they have to be just one thing.

You can listen to the book on Julie’s Library.

“The Wise Owls” written by the Senate of Canada

This book is about how the senate came to be. Click here to read the full text. 

Bonus children’s book: “Can you hear the trees talking?” by Peter Wohlleben (ages 8-12), which is the young reader’s version of “The Hidden Life of Trees” 

I love how he makes tree life understandable for children, and I especially love the chapters like “What do tree children learn at school?”, “Do some trees prefer to be alone?” and “Are some trees brave?”. Wohlleben writes about fascinating concepts such as how forests make rain and how ants collect honeydew from aphids.

-Attend 12 writer’s events over the year, whether these are workshops or writing circles or talks.

This month I attended a lot online, as the literature community has been very generous.

-Lana Button’s Facebook Live supported by #canadaperforms. Button read her book “What if Bunny’s not a Bully”, but also discussed her own background, as well as her belief that bullying is a delicate topic. She discussed how children should not be labelled at such a young age and that they should be allowed to make mistakes.

-“Poetry and Porridge: Breakfast with “A Likkle Miss Lou” author Nadia L. Hohn, in celebration of April 2020 Poetry Month”. 

This talk was presented by A Different Booklist Cultural Centre

Hohn read the book, but also introduced us to Jamaican culture, including songs, food, and clothes.

-L. E. Carmichael, a former scientist, read part of her book “The Boreal Forest”. She also discussed the boreal forest, especially the animals in it and also her writing process. Fun fact: Carmichael’s favourite boreal forest animal, the star-nosed mole, is the only land based animal that can breathe underwater.

Virtual Book Launch of “Two Bicycles in Beijing” and “For Spacious Skies”

done through the Writing Barn along with Book People

“Two Bicycles in Beijing” introduced by author Teresa Robeson

I really enjoyed this talk, as the book is set in Beijing. Robeson talked about the book, as well as her family trip to China in 2013. She even showed slides!

Robeson mentioned that she is unsure how people will receive this book given today’s conditions, but hopes it helps with understanding and fostering unity.

“For Spacious Skies” introduced by author Nancy Churnin

This nonfiction book is written about Katharine Lee Bates, author of the “America the Beautiful” poem, who was born in 1859. Churnin has a related project for kids called “For Spacious Lines”.

Fold Poetry Webinar

This year the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) was free online.

I loved this seminar, hosted by Canisia Lubrint and Billy-Ray Belcourt, as I was

exposed to a lot of poetry I would not normally have been, eg., Caribbean and Rwandan poems.

Another excellent Fold webinar was on Fractured Fairy Tales.

I particularly enjoyed the interesting discussion, moderated by Thea Lim, about fairy tales and whether they equip us for pandemics.

-Spend one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

I’ve been working a lot on a journal I intend to give to my daughter.

-Blog one time a week except if I am on holidays. 

Feel free to read my previous blog posts.

-Write about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary per month.

I always leave this to last, but I learn so much in the process.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

5 Things to Try if You are Stuck in a Creativity Rut

This past week I read this great article about writing in difficult times. This is my favourite part: “So resist the urge to judge yourself harshly for however you’re handling these days. Give yourself credit for any small, positive steps. And give yourself permission to try something new, even if it seems silly and pointless.”

People are reacting very differently to this pandemic. Some writers are saying they’ve never been writing more while others are saying they cannot write a word. Personally, I am writing a lot. However, what I am struggling with is reading as many books as I used to. Perhaps I’ve exchanged my reading time for my writing time?

Whatever boat you are in, these are some of the things I am doing to motivate myself creatively.

I am writing a story with someone else.

This was not my idea. It was suggested by another student in my creative writing class, but I jumped at the idea. One of us starts a story, writes for 15-20 minutes, and then the other continues the story. We work on the story until we decide that it has run its course.

It’s challenging to continue to write a story someone else has written, and I have learned so much. Also, I am writing stories in genres I would not normally do, which is a lot of fun. I highly recommend this activity.

I am watching baking shows.

I don’t do a lot of baking anymore, but I have started to watch baking shows with my daughter. Right now we are on season 2 of “The Great Canadian Baking Show”, but we have also watched a couple of seasons of “The Great British Baking Show”. I am amazed at the creativity of the bakers! If you get 10 writers in a room with one prompt, you’ll get 10 different stories, and it’s the same with bakers: if you get 10 bakers in the room with the same instructions, they will come up with 10 different baked goods. 

Watch this great interview of the hosts and judges of season 2 to give you a taste of the series.

I have joined a book club.

OK, it’s only a book club of two, but it’s with one of my writing partners who also happens to be a prolific book reader. We are meeting online once a week after we read a couple of chapters to discuss the book. Our first book is “Open Heart, Open Mind” by Clara Hughes.

I make sure I move my body.

Whether it’s taking a walk everyday or getting out in the garden, this is very important. Plus I get some of my best ideas at these times. I am also trying new forms of exercise like qoya. Give it a try! You never know what you like.

I am trying new recipes.

This week was the first time we ate garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is an invasive weed, but it’s also edible, and so since I was already pulling the plants out of my garden, I decided to see how they tasted. Yes, they are bitter, but you can boil it for about 7-10 minutes if you want to cut down the bitterness. We don’t though. So far I have found the tastiest way is to put the greens in an omelette. We have tried many different (non garlic mustard) recipes recently—I am trying to get my daughter involved as much as possible—including oat bread, sloppy joes, and this yummy and healthy version of date squares.

Garlic mustard and dandelion omelette with back bacon and garlic

Tip: The Brian Henry course I am currently taking is the most fun course I have had in a long time. I’ve made some connections while also learning a lot.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Kindness Jar (Isolation Version)

I have read about kindness jars, and last week I decided to try using one. There were several reasons for this including the fact that when you are isolating with people you often take them for granted, and you can sometimes forget to be kind to each other. Another reason is that you often forget to be kind to yourself.

I made several slips that we draw after lunch. So far it’s been a hit!

The only rules I made is that you cannot do the same thing two days in a row, and if you don’t want to do one, then you may put it back, but then you have to draw two more. We also have been a bit flexible, eg., on the days it was raining no one had to go birdwatching. The task was completed on a sunny day instead.

Below are the ones I put in my jar. Feel free to use any or make up whatever suits you and your current companions instead.

Suggestions for a Kindness Jar

Do a chore.

Give a member of your family a 5 minute massage.  

Ask someone to share an uplifting 5-15 minute video with you.

Send someone a picture of an animal.

Compliment someone.

Tell someone that you are proud of them for something.

Make someone a card.

Tell someone that you appreciate them and what for.

Draw or colour something for someone.

Make someone a healthy snack you think that they will like.

Ask someone to share part of their current favourite book with you.

Be kind to an animal.

Tell someone a joke.

Be kind to some plants; spend 15 minutes working in the garden.

Ask someone to share a current favourite song with you.

Ask someone what small kind thing you can do for them today.

Stretch for 10-15 minutes.

Spend 10-15 minutes birdwatching.

Spend 15 minutes in the backyard.

Spend 5-10 minutes meditating with someone else.

Ask someone about what they enjoying right now. Listen.

Make someone a cup of tea.

Spend 10-15 minutes writing a poem.

Be like my forget me nots.

I’d love to hear if you decide to do one yourself and what the results are. Or if you have already used a kindness jar, what other tasks did you put in there.

Bonus: My creative writing teacher posted my creative nonfiction essay on his blog. Yay! Click here to read it.

Another bonus: I am hoping that I can participate in all 7 weeks of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Eenie Meenie Miney Mini Writing Challenge. My first story is called “The Knight’s Princess”. 

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Journalling Techniques: List Poems

Are you tired of journalling, but you still want to keep a record of everyday events? I find that list poems are an effective break. They’re fun, they’re easy, they’re flexible.
What are list poems? A list poem is simply a list written after a prompt.
I first learned about list poems from Karen Benke’s fantastic book called “Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing”.

Here is one that I wrote this week:

Things I never thought I’d do
Accidentally buy five kilograms of bananas instead of five bananas through online ordering
Take up sewing again and actually enjoy it, especially because it used to make me cry
Become hooked on TV baking shows
Play more than one round of “Plants vs. Zombies”
Do a happy dance when I discovered a source of parchment paper

Now that I have written the list down, I can either leave it as it is or go into greater detail at a later time or even right after. I might write about the banana incident: how it happened and the fact that I wondered if the staff at the supermarket I ordered it from thought I was hoarding bananas. Did they start buying more bananas themselves? Also, what did we do with so many bananas? We did make a lot of oat bread (with banana in it) and pancakes. (For the pancakes, combine 2 beaten eggs with one mashed banana and fry. Yum!)

Here is another recent list poem:

Five ways my life has changed during Covid-19
The only time I go out is to take a walk or sit in my yard
I only shop one time a week, and this is done online
I spend much more time with my daughter, who is schooling at home
I give people a wide berth when I meet them during my walk
My vocabulary has changed to include such terms as “social isolation”

Even though you may not feel it, being grateful is important at this time. My family has developed the habit of saying what we are grateful for before we eat, but sometimes I also write list poems about gratitude, such as the following one.

Ten things I am grateful for today (May 6, 2020)
The group of yellow tulips I saw on my walk this morning
The now once a week groceries we got yesterday, filling our fridge up again
The consideration of people on my walks who always make sure we are far enough apart
Thoughtful and thought provoking personal essays
That my garden continues to bloom with spring flowers
That birds are building a nest in the backyard box that my husband repaired
The beef and tomato soup that my husband made for lunch, and especially the coloured carrots
That I worked on a story today that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time
That the writing world is so generous at this time with freebies
An honest discussion with my daughter

A feast for the eyes: my grape hyacinths

Tip: If you are looking for a great book about gratitude, read “The Gratitude Diaries” by Janice Kaplan.

I’d love to hear one thing you are grateful for. Please leave me a comment below.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Signs of the Time, Pandemic Edition

So are you journalling during these “unprecedented times”? If so, there are places that are interested in what you have to say and that are collecting different viewpoints about the pandemic. For example, the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum has launched the “Help Us Make History” project. For more information, click here.

There are many ways to document what’s happening right now, including saving such items as shopping lists and receipts. Click here to read an article for other suggestions.

Lately I have started to take more pictures to help me remember what’s been happening. Today I am going to share with you some of the “signs of the time” in Cambridge, Ontario along with some of my observations.

March 20, 2020

Different walks for the kids have popped up everywhere. The idea is that kids can walk around counting pictures in neighbourhood windows. The first walk I heard about was for St. Patrick’s Day, which I missed putting up pictures for, but when I saw one little girl and her grandma excitedly counting all the clovers, it made me smile. So I decided to participate in other walks. We posted hearts on March 20 for the following weekend’s heart walk. 

I have trouble taking clear pictures of my front door, but on the other hand, I think it’s kind of cool to get shadows of my front yard, the neighbourhood and sometimes even me in the picture.

Hearts posted on door for Heart Walk Weekend

Later I took a picture from the inside for a Toronto Star “View from your Window” contest, but I missed the deadline. Click here and here to see the results of that contest.

April 13-View from my window

March 26

My daughter and I made our own schooling schedule before the Ontario educational system stepped in and created a more formal set-up. She wanted to have art every day, and the art project on this day—as suggested by my daughter—was funny and inspirational signs. My daughter made the funny ones, and I made the inspirational ones. I think that #cocoontodaybutterflytomorrow should be a slogan we use, but so far it has not caught on.

April 20

Here’s an excerpt from my journal from that day: “It’s hard to think that I won’t be able to visit my beloved library until June 30 at the earliest! That will be about 2.5 months without visiting my library…Who would have ever thought that? Sure, I have more than enough books to last, including a bunch I got from my library before, but still, it’s the atmosphere I am missing.”

Sign (with a shadowy me) on Idea Exchange’s door—Taken May 1

April 25 

Excerpt from my post that day: 

“One change I saw yesterday is that the parking lot by the arena and park is closed. I read that it is because people are using parking lots to do things like gather and play. I think it is worse in other parks than here. I do see people who sit in their cars to talk to each other…”

April 24—Sign on closed Hespeler Arena parking lot

April 26

My daughter and I made this sign after reading about the suggestion to “Be Olympic”. Read about the motivational message movement here.

“We are all Team Canada” sign

April 28

I noticed a new sign at the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried.

April 28-Cemetery Sign 

This is a sample of the many new signs around my area.

How about you? What changes are you seeing?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

April 2020 Wrapup

I am so glad that I put myself on a schedule at the beginning of the year, especially after listening to this podcast, which—amongst other things—talks about how putting ourselves on a schedule helps in a pandemic. Listen to the podcast for that information and also for a fascinating look at several topics including hoarding, xenophobia, different attitudes to social isolation, and mental health.

I didn’t complete any books for the Mount TBR challenge, but I am in the midst of reading several books at once, which I expect to complete over the next couple of months.

I read two memoirs this month, both of which I highly recommend. I consider myself lucky that I had taken a bunch of books out of the library before it closed, as now the earliest it will reopen is June 30.

“Heart Berries” by Terese Marie Mailhot is a book that I have been wanting to read for a long time. This award winning book is a series of letters written to her husband Casey. The indigenous author writes about her relationship with him, motherhood, her relationships to her mother and estranged father, and her mental illness.

Watch the video for an excerpt.

There is an interview at the back of the book, and this quote comes from it: “I was abused, and brilliant women are abused, often, and we write about it. People seem so resistant to let women write about these experiences, and they sometimes resent when the narrative sounds familiar.”

Also this interview sheds a little more light on the book.

“The Art of Vanishing” by Laura Smith

Smith investigates the disappearance of child novelist Barbara Newhall Follett while at the same time writing about modern marriage and its constraints. The author delves deeply into her own relationship and an experiment of open marriage.

A lot of this book resonated with me—being restless and a wanderer myself. For example, this quote really made me think: 

“This is one of the dilemmas of marriage: how can you stoke desire for the things that you already have? Domesticated love borne out over the years can disappoint with its myriad banalities. The once-prized person fades into the scenery of your life just as a new piece of furniture becomes another object in your living room.”

In this interview with Smith, the author admits that she is still looking for Barbara Newhall Follett, and she is looking forward to the time when her social security records will be make public, which is in about 15 years. 

I wrote well over 250 words five days a week, much of it, but certainly not all, pandemic related.

I continue to limit my time on social media. I also take a complete break from it on Sundays.

Here are my favourite creative nonfiction essays: 

“What the Gulf War taught me about Coronavirus” by Ayelet Tsabari

I attended a workshop that Tsabari held last year at Wild Writers, and her book is one that I am slowly working my way through.

In this personal essay, Tsabari writes about how during this pandemic she is trying to be like how her mom was during the Gulf War (her mother must have been afraid, but she never let it show). Consider this quote: “Parenting in a pandemic, it turns out, is very much like parenting in wartime: an exercise in not falling apart, feigning strength with the hope that it sticks. But instead, it is my daughter who unknowingly offers me solace. When I’m with her, dancing and making art, everything is well in the world—I’m the one who forgets.”

There are so many parts that resonated with me, such as: “What I learned from the Gulf War is that the only way to cope with the uncertainty is to accept it, to root ourselves firmly in the present, to live small. This also helps calm my anxiety…”

“From a social distance, there is comedy” by Tabatha Southey

Favourite quote: “A side effect of quarantine is the distortion of time. Time spent at home, unbroken by even a trip to grab that little finishing touch for dinner, moves slowly. Each day bleeds—no, bleeds is too violent for this kind of temporal acquiescence—cedes to the next, and yet as the occurrences around which many of us form our lives have been cancelled, one by one, events, those larger markers of time, have moved at a breakneck pace.” 

“Talk about the Curse” by Caroline Tanner

Tanner writes about her experience of her period growing up and of how women in other countries deal with their periods.

“Law & Yoga” by Jennifer Lauren

Lauren writes about how so many women after 40 are unhappy. She uses her own life as an example; I can relate to much of what she says in this article.

“Tongue-Tied: The Silent Struggle of Losing Your Native Language” by Kamal Al-Solayee 

Al-Solayee writes about language attrition and his own experience of it. He rejected his language and religion and purposely forgot it, but now he wishes to regain what he lost.

Right now with the library being closed, I am listening to picture books on Tumblebooks, which is currently free, but also some that are being offered on YouTube by various authors, such as by the Forest of Reading Blue Spruce nominees.

Here are my favourites:

“Clarence’s Big Secret” by Roy MacGregor and Christine MacGregor Cation; illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars

This is a very inspirational nonfiction book.

Despite all the things he did, Clarence never learned how to read until just about the age of 100. He only told his wife, and she did everything until she passed away, and then he taught himself to read using junk mail. Eventually his daughter Doris discovered his secret and taught him more.

“Florence and Leon” by Simon Boulerice; illustrated by Delphie Côté-Lacroix

This book explores disabilities in a very unique way. The author illustrates Florence’s lung problems and Leon’s eye problems through the use of straws. It’s a good example of successfully using adult characters in a picture book. 

“Golden Threads” by Suzanne del Rizzo; illustrated by Miki Sato

This book is written from the perspective of a stuffed fox.

The stuffed fox’s home is in Japan with Emi and a gingko tree, but one day the fox is blown away in a storm. Kiko, who repairs the fox with golden thread, becomes the fox’s new playmate. 

“What Matters” by Alison Hughes; illustrated by Holly Hatam

A boy picks up a can on his walk and doesn’t realize the ripple effect he has made, making it better for so many animals and plants and the world in general.

“That’s Not Hockey” by Andrée Poulin; illustrated by Félix Girard 

This is a Forest of Reading Blue Spruce readaloud.

Who remembers the Heritage Minute about Jacques Plante, the unorthodox Montreal Canadiens goalie who was the first to wear a mask? Watch an extended version of the story below.

“Earthrise” by James Gladstone; illustrated by Christy Lundy

This nonfiction book, which was written for the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, is the story behind the picture of the earth with a part of the moon. The creation of Earth Day was inspired by the photo.

“Emma’s Gems” by Anne Renaud; illustrated by Leanna Franson

This is another Forest of Reading Blue Spruce readaloud.

I absolutely love the concept of generosity gems, and I think it’s is something all ages can do. Watch the video to hear this lovely story.


If you are looking for a stunning novel for ages 11+, try “Refugee” by Alan Gratz.

I listened along with my daughter to the novel that her English teacher selected for their read this year. The story of three refugees from three different time periods (1938 Germany,1994 Cuba, 2015 Syria) are intertwined. Click here if you want to see if it is appropriate for your child.

Right now SCBWI is holding free webinars for its members, and I attended one this month. I sat in on the one with Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler called “How We Write Children’s Books and Why”. Who knew that the man who used to play “The Fonz” is now a prolific children’s book writer (partnered with Oliver) and a proud member of SCBWI?

I spent more than one hour a week writing in my guided journals.

I have blogged every Sunday.

I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.

When my daughter and I were sewing, and in need of red thread, we pulled out my grandmother’s sewing box–which is now one of the objects in my diary–and it’s hard to believe that my daughter used her great grandmother’s thread for a sewing project.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Five Favourites (List 4)

These are all things that are bringing me joy these days.

1. Poem

April is poetry month, and I would be rather amiss if I didn’t include one of my favourite poems. This visual poem is absolutely stunning, and it gave me a well needed break as I immersed myself in it.

2. TV Shows

“Back in Time for Dinner” (Canada, 1940s-1990s)

The idea is that the food we ate and the way we ate it helped change the course of history. 

The series really is a fascinating examination of food history, but it also sheds light on fashion, leisure time, gender roles, etc. 

There also is a very fun Christmas episode. 

Were you a teen in the 1980s like me? If so what is familiar to you from this video? 

The big hair, Walkmans, those beads that you would put on safety pins and then the pins would go on your shoes…Do you remember? It’s neat that Hal and Joanne from “Body Break” show up in this episode to lead the family through exercise classes, which are aerobics for the girls (I did that a lot!) and weight lifting for the boys. 

There are many of the “Back in Time” series, and we also watched “Further Back in Time for Dinner”, this time with a British family. See how they cope during the WWI in this episode. It includes using a hay oven!

Now we are watching “Back in Time for Winter”, set in northern Ontario. I must say that I like watching the Canadian versions more, probably just because I can relate better to the culture.

3. Movie/Documentary

“Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power” 

I really admire Margaret Atwood. I have seen her lecture and have also taken her “Masterclass”. I watched this gem of a documentary about Atwood’s life and her books on CBC Gems. The documentary includes a lot about her most famous book, “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

I was particularly touched about how well she took care of her husband, Graeme Gibson, who had dementia at the end of his life.

(As an aside, Atwood has the most fantastic scarfs!)

4. Article

This article gives great journaling tips about journaling in the time of upheavals.

For example:

“Remember that a journal or diary can look like anything.

Photos, texts, receipts, calendar invites, memes, tweets, articles, playlists, emails…these are all excellent records of what is happening in your life right now.”

5. Children’s Book Readaloud

“Storytime with Dr. Jane”

One of the people I most admire is Jane Goodall, whom I have seen lecture more than once, and here she reads her book “Chimpanzee Family”. She even demonstrates how the chimps communicate in this video!

She adds book readings periodically, and her latest read is “Elephant Family”.

You can also download a free copy of one of the books.

What are some recent favourites bringing you joy?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Family Movie Night

We’re currently making family movie night every night. Now on our movie nights, we do one of two things. We either watch an actual movie, and lately they’ve been themed. So we watched all nine of the Star Wars movies and then the four movies in the Hunger Games series. Lately we’ve been watching marital arts related movies, which include the 1984 and 2010 versions of Karate Kid. On Friday night we watched the 1992 movie “Sidekicks”, which I read is underrated and which I agree is a lot of fun.

The other thing we do on family night instead of watching a movie is show half an hour of a video or videos that we would like each other to watch. My husband usually shows us a Ted Talk, such as this one done by the 13 year old who built a nuclear reactor. My daughter will usually show us something done by a YouTuber, such as this video where Michelle Khare is challenged to carry 5 gallons of water for two miles, like they do in Mozambique. 

Personally, I try to find something that is educational, and so that means more often than not I am looking for something on, which many people can access through their library, and which has currently expanded its free offerings.

Here are a few videos we have watched in the last little while:

World School

This 46 minute video is about an Alaskan mother and her ten year old son who spend a year travelling the world. Mary and Corin Katzke visited 28 countries in three continents. Interestingly, although the son said he loved Dubai the most, his mother said he was most engaged in China.

Forever, Chinatown

This 31 minute documentary is about an 81 year old artist, Frank Wong, who makes miniature dioramas of his memories of San Francisco Chinatown. The miniatures are exquisite, but alas he wishes to have them cremated with him, so here’s your chance to see them—and to learn something about the Chinatown history.


This 1 hour and 20 minutes video is about the 2 year solo sailing trip around the world a 14 year old Dutch girl made. Laura Dekker was the youngest person to sail around the world, and she had to go to court first to be allowed to do so. The only warning I would give is that she swears a lot; however, it is a very inspirational and thought provoking movie.

The movies and videos I have written about are all appropriate for those who are at least 13 years old; however, some may be OK for those who are younger. If you are unsure, you can consult the parent guide on or also has age guides, such as this one for Star Wars movies.

What about you? Do you have any videos or films for families you would like to recommend?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

5 Changes

So during these “unprecedented times”, what changes—besides social distancing and washing your hands more, way more—have you seen in your life? I mean personal changes. 

Have you started doing things that you have always wanted to do? Are you taking care of yourself differently?

Here’s some of the changes in my life:

  1. I started to sew with my daughter. Sewing is one of my least favourite things to do—it can make me cry with frustration—and other than sewing on buttons or doing minor repairs, I avoided it after grade 8 home economics. However, sewing is one of my daughter’s passions, and I needed to find something to keep her busy besides using a device. She, though, wanted me to sew with her. So we started sewing mini animals and pieces of food from a couple of her sewing kits. The first couple I sewed—a rabbit and a whale—didn’t turn out very well, but I realized that I had actually learned something when I finished my third project, a small seal. And…it looked good! Huh! Who’d have thought with a little maturity and persistence I could overcome my fear and loathing of sewing? A big pat on my back for that.
  2. I had been wanting to fix my clotheslines in my backyard for a long time, but due to a crippling fear of mistakes related to home maintenance—my dad would freak out if I made any—I had been putting it off. So only 3 out of the 5 lines still were up, but somehow over the winter another line fell down, which is not enough room for my clothes to dry. I decided now is the time to finally tackle it, and after one false start, I creatively came up with an idea to put it back up. Success! I am so proud of myself, and I am excited to tackle the other lines a bit later. Bit by bit I gain confidence to do these things. Another big pat on my back.
  3. I have broken myself of my rather expensive smoothie habit that I started when my father was in a senior’s home. Buying a smoothie was something I started to do in order to make myself feel better after going to see him, because it was a really difficult time for me. Soon I became addicted though, and although he has passed away, I still buy a smoothie once or twice a week. But now I have not had one for at least a month. I wonder if I will be able to keep it up after social distancing is not as stringent.
  4. I am learning to take care of myself every day instead of relying on my naturopath to keep me going every two weeks with acupuncture. That means really taking care of myself on a daily basis and making sure that I keep my immune system strong whether through meditation, acupressure or yoga.
  5. I finally signed up for a writing class after taking a very long break. This online class starts next week. I am very nervous, but I believe that I am ready again.

These changes are all unexpected.

What about you?