Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Three very rewarding speaking engagements

I mentioned that I had three speaking engagements about my book. The first was at the University Women’s Club in Winnipeg on April 23th. I invited Sharm as my guest and we had a lovely time. I arrived at 5:00 pm to meet with some of the members and as it turns out, I met a former colleague, Kathleen, hairstyling teacher who is now retired and living in Winnipeg. I had some time to socialize with women like Muriel Smith who is a former cabinet minister under Premier Howard Pauley. I remember hearing and reading about Muriel but never thought I might have the opportunity to have a face to face conversation. She has had a remarkable history of activism in social justice. There were several other women who I had dinner with, many of who also have so much experience in activism, and advancing the status of women.

About my presentation: I provided some background on how/why book came to be written and read a few excerpts from various points in my life. There were about 20-25 members and I was surprised that so many were interested in the reading. Some of the members asked questions, and Linda who invited me on behalf of the club had a few directly related to some of the themes in the book because she had already read it. She suggested that the book should be seriously considered as a book club book. I would feel honoured to be discussing the book with members of this group as I think they are powerhouses in their own way. I received the nicest email from Kathleen the next day telling me that there were some very positive comments about the book and my reading. That’s what I hope for –that the book generates some healthy discussion.

My next speaking engagement was at the Scandinavian Cultural Centre on April 25th. My friend Natalie Denesovych who is the Honorary Consul for Norway invited me to be the guest speaker. This was my first time at the centre and what I really liked was the sense of community. Natalie explained that the centre is run completely by volunteers from all the Scandinavian countries. It’s great to see the countries working together to share a single space where they can meet and socialize as well promote their culture. They have many programs at the centre, especially on that I think is near and dear to Natalie’s heart – a school program called “everyone Wants to be a Viking.” The program is so popular that they are booking for Falll 2014!

About my presentation: If I was surprised that 20-25 people showed up at the UWC event, I was astonished that about 65 people showed up for dinner and my presentation! That was so exciting! It’s hard to know just how my book will be received by an audience, but I was glad to say that it was very well received. I gave some background to the writing of the book and then picked some readings that I thought might resonate with the audience. There were several questions and the one that I get at almost every reading is about the merits of arranged marriages. I think in a Western culture, it’s hard for people to understand the concept but someone at another presentation related it to internet dating. Not sure how that connection was made, but it was. Again, it was a great experience for me and I had a lovely chat with one of Natalie’s friends, Laurel, who recently published a book of poetry from her grandfather who is Swedish. I sometimes wish that I had even a picture of my paternal grandfather, let alone his poetry so she is very fortunate to have his writing and to honour his memory in such a beautiful way.

My next presentation was at Match International on April 28th.  I was invited by Helen Whetter who is one of the main supporters of the Manitoba Chapter and the topic that I was speaking about was Promoting Empowerment in Achieving Full Employment and Decent Work for All. Helen was at the Scandinavian Centre’s dinner last Friday and purchased one of my books. When we met on April 28th, she said that she had not yet read the book but had opened the book and the first page that she opened was the part where I said that I was one of the founding members of the Y-Neighbors in 1978. That first meeting was at my home and that’s where I met my best friend Catherine. In what is definitely serendipity, Helen told me that the woman responsible for starting Y Neighbors was a Winnipegger by the name of Babs Friesen who was also a member of Match International. 

I am so amazed at the connections my book is making in my life. It’s as if I have come full circle. I remember how isolated I felt in 1978 as a young stay-at-home mother with two young children and little to no disposable income. As it turned out, there were at least 12 women in Waverley Heights who were in the same circumstances (stay-at-home) and wanted to connect with other young mothers. It was a great two years for me and probably saved my sanity on many an occasion. I am still friends with Joan and Mike who Robin and I met within a few months. So there I was at Match, talking about something I did to empower myself and other stay-at-home mothers to enrich our lives. I also met Myrna Phillips who is another feminist (yes I am using the F word, even calling myself one on my book’s subtitle) and a former speaker of the assembly in the Pauley Government. These are women who I never thought I would meet, let alone talk to. My book is providing many possibilities for me to meet some amazing people – both personally and professionally. I am thankful for those opportunities.