Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, July 10, 2020

How [NOT] to Launch a Book During a Pandemic

What’s that old saying? “Kick-in-the-behind-sight is 2020?” Something like that.

I thought it would be a cool idea to put several of my newspaper columns from the last ten years into a book, organized by themes and topics. It was my first attempt at self-publishing, and it was going swimmingly. I called the book Out of My Mind: A Decade of Faith and Humour.

I ordered my first proof copy in February. It came in record time, slick as anything. I went through it, marked the needed changes, and revised it. By the time I ordered a second proof copy, the pandemic had hit. Amazon was not shipping proof copies into Canada. I had one sent to my mother-in-law in South Dakota, who mailed it to me.  It arrived three and a half weeks after the day she mailed it and I owed her 21 U.S. dollars for the postage.

Now I was freaking out. If it took that long to receive my author copies, how could I be sure I’d have books to sell at the event I’d booked at my local library—assuming that event could even happen as scheduled? Since I couldn’t order any copies until the book officially released, I bumped up my release day. The book went live on June 7.

I attempted to order my first shipment of author copies only to discover they were not being shipped to Canada, either. Which is weird because Amazon now prints books in Canada and you as a customer can order one—the exact product. My only option was to order mine the same as any other customer, at customer prices. So I ordered 25, but by the time they arrived, they were all spoken for. So I ordered another 25 and by the time they arrived, they were all spoken for.

This should be a good problem to have, but frankly, I can’t afford it. Yes, I could have jacked up my price but that just seemed unfair. Besides, if I keep selling them out of my house, neighbours will think I’m dealing drugs.

So I’ve decided not to order more until I can acquire them at my usual author’s price. Our library has tentatively re-scheduled a book-signing party for me on September 26. If we’re able to go ahead with that plan, you’ll be able to purchase a book or bring the one you already have for signing. Technically, the actual ten-year anniversary of my column isn’t until September anyway, so it’s all good.

But, who knows whether it will happen then or not?

Actually, I do know who knows. It’s not me or you or Amazon or the library or the government. The only one who knows is the same one who’s got us in his hands, come what may. The same one who made us, loves us, and is still sovereign. The one who is never taken by surprise, who never rings his hands or feels defeated.

While my little inconvenience is minor compared to what others suffer, 2020 is kicking all of our butts in some way. But it’s helping me learn to depend on God and trust him for all of it. It’s serving as a good reminder that I am not in control, not even a little bit. It’s teaching me yet again that God can use whatever means he chooses to get this book into the hands of whomever he decides needs one. It helps me remember who my provider is. How about you?

Meanwhile, you can order the book in paperback or Kindle form HERE if youre in Canada and HERE if youre in the States. I hope you do. It could solve your gift-giving dilemmas for months—especially if the people on your gift list are fans of my column. Or would be fans if they knew about it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Public Speaking During a Pandemic

While the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of large public gatherings and put most professional speakers out of work, our local Portage Chamber Toastmasters club found a way to continue meeting and growing our skills. Virtual meetings via Zoom started almost immediately after self-isolation began. Instead of meeting around a board table at the Community Futures Heartland office like usual, we were each in our own homes or offices. We still met at the same time, each Monday at 11:45 for one fast-paced hour. We simply clicked on the link emailed to members, sat in front of our computers or phones until all attendees faces popped up on the screen, and conducted the meeting almost as if we were together.

Since I would normally walk to the meetings, these virtual ones saved me a half hour of travel time. In seconds, I could transition from whatever I was working on in my home office to join the meeting—possibly with a quick check in the mirror first. Of course, that also meant finding another time for a daily walk, lest my Covid-19 weight gain grows into Covid-119.

When called upon to speak, whether it’s an off-the-cuff answer to a question or a longer prepared speech, it felt a little weird to not receive simultaneous feedback from your audience. Because everyone mutes their microphone until it’s their turn to speak (to minimize distracting noises), the person speaking couldn’t hear laughter or other immediate responses. While it may have felt like you were making eye contact with others, it only seemed like eye contact to others if you were looking directly into your computer’s tiny camera lens. You could say these sessions helped prepare us should we ever do television broadcasting or posting videos of our own—something more people are taking up.

I asked some of the members to name the pros and cons of these virtual meetings. Vicki Hooke said, “I am so grateful that our Toastmasters was able to continue because this gave me purpose. I volunteered to do a speech right at the beginning of the quarantine because that inspired me and kept me going for a few days. It’s also quite relaxing to have a meeting from home.”

Betty-Jean Checkley mentioned that the main thing lacking was human connection. “Without all the nuances of body language, it can be quite sterile. Initially it gave us the security that we, like children, crave with structure and routine. In the uncharted waters of the pandemic, the familiarity of gathering together was like a buoy in the water.”

Nettie Neudorf added, “For those that are nervous in front of people, I have seen them be more relaxed in a virtual meeting. Each user’s level of understanding of the technology affects the overall meeting experience. There are more distractions in a virtual meeting than in person. I have got to see some members’ personal space in the background. That helps me see their world (literally) and learn more about their personality than I do in a professional setting.”

All agreed that we’re grateful for the technology that allowed us to finish our season strong and for this opportunity to become more comfortable with that technology. Despite the unique chance to see into others’ homes and in some cases meet their pets and puppets, the overall consensus seems that “in person” will always be best. We look forward to the day we can speak face to face again. Either way, we’ll reconvene in the fall.

Local friends, if you want to improve your public speaking skills in a safe and supportive environment, Toastmasters always has room for you. Call Cindy at (204) 857-7778 for more information.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Canada Day Quiz

Awhile ago, I saw a video of this four-year-old wiz kid reciting the names all the presidents of the United States from George Washington to Donald Trump—45 in all. I began wondering how I’d do with the prime ministers of Canada. I began with only the ones since my birth and I couldn’t even name those! I left three of them out completely. In my defense, one of them only served for three months. Plus, I was raising kids during the service of the others and a little distracted.

Here’s a challenge for you. Take my little ten-question quiz WITHOUT looking anything up and without looking at the answers at the end of this post. Total possible points is 45.

#1. List all the prime ministers of Canada since the first. (Hint: there are 29. Three of them appear on the list twice and one of them appears three times.)

#2. Who was Canada’s only female prime minister?

#3. Who served only three months?

#4. Who was the youngest when first elected?

#5. Which former prime ministers are still alive? (Hint: there are seven)

#6. Which prime minister was born the same year as this columnist? (Hint: I’m older than the current one. Shocker, I know.)

#7. Which prime ministers died while in office? (Hint: there were two.)

#8. Which prime minister was elected under two different political parties?

#9. Which prime minister lived in Portage la Prairie? (Hint: we named a school for him.)

#10. Which prime minister won a Nobel Peace prize? (Hint: the year was 1957)


#1. (one point for each name)
Sir John A. Macdonald
Alexander Mackenzie
Sir John A. Macdonald
Sir John Abbott
Sir John Thompson
Sir Mackenzie Bowell
Sir Charles Tupper
Sir Wilfred Laurier
Sir Robert Borden
Sir Robert Borden
Arthur Meighen
William Lyon Mackenzie King
Arthur Meighen
William Lyon Mackenzie King
R.B. Bennett
William Lyon Mackenzie King
Louis St. Laurent
John George Diefenbaker
Lester B. Pearson
Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Joe Clark
Pierre Elliott Trudeau
John Turner
Brian Mulroney
Kim Campbell
Jean Chretien
Paul Martin
Stephen Harper
Justin Trudeau

#2. Kim Campbell (June – November 1993)

#3. John Turner (July – September 1984)

#4. Joe Clark (age 40)

#5. (One point for each name) Joe Clark, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Stephen Harper

#6. Stephen Harper (1959)

#7. (One point for each name) Sir John A. Macdonald (of a stroke on June 6, 1891) and Sir John Thompson (heart attack in 1894)

#8. Sir Robert Borden (Conservative Party 1911/Unionist party 1917)

#9. Arthur Meighen

#10. Lester B. Pearson (for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis.)

How’d you do? Add up your score and let me know in the comments below. But only if you didn’t cheat.

Here’s a bonus question. Whether you agree with their politics or not, what does the Bible say about how we should behave toward our country’s leaders?

ANSWER: I Timothy 2:1-3 says, “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” (The Message)

I won’t ask you to share your score on that one. Happy Canada Day.