Even Marie Curie needed to have a network!

Almost twenty years ago I was invited to a women’s networking event. I had just started a small business and was excited to share its possibilities and benefits with others. The experience was a colossal failure for me because I just didn’t get it. Everyone was selling. Like a cocktail party on hard drive, women circulated the room giving their forceful sales pitches. I listened politely but couldn’t think of what to do about their sales or service. I must admit I’m rather sales resistant. They too seemed to turn a deaf ear to my products.

Now I am reminded of Marie Curie’s hatred of reporters who intruded on her life when she and Pierre won the Nobel Prize for physics. She said that she didn’t need fame. Her sister Bronya chided her by saying that someday she might be grateful for it. Sure enough years later when Missy Meloney, an American magazine reporter approached her for an interview, Marie was about to refuse when her daughter echoed her aunt’s advice. Marie changed her mind and granted the interview. Missy listened, helped and changed Marie’s life. Missy’s help brought Marie the much needed radium and financial support for both Curie institutes (Paris and Poland) for scientific research into cancer.


Like Marie, I’ve changed my mind about networking events. In my experience some are quite helpful. Check out the Diamond Dolls in Vancouver, BC!

Read more about Marie Curie in my new book Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I.


Winnie the Pooh – banned!

pooh“Winnie the Pooh” has been banned in a community in Poland! Why? Because he wears a shirt but no pants. This was on the radio this morning. Winnie the Pooh is a teddy-bear, owned by Christopher Robin in the book “Winnie the Pooh”. Winnie the Pooh’s image is commonly used, so have you been offended? To carry on with the ban that those sensors have imposed on their community, I ask what are they going to do about the pets that are walked in bad weather wearing pet sweaters and rain coats covering only their tops for practical purposes?


I wonder if that same council is banning the book “Hunger Games”? It is read by third graders, I’m informed. Are they only concerned about the sexual innuendoes in their own minds? Why are they not concerned about things that depict and inspire violent behaviour? Why, I want to know, are people so convoluted? Where did common sense go? I want to know.


Where are the Real Heroes?

Why are we all chasing excitement? It is so temporary. And yet we want our children to get excited about anything. So they are exposed to inner-earth people flying on giant birds, battling monsters… at least that’s what the ad promotes. Or young people taking to the woods to murder each other. I’m told Grade 3 children are reading Hunger Games. That’s not excitement, that’s horror!

So it has become the trend to promote fantasy and violence. In real life, fantasy is in the mind and violence is abhorred. At least people still react with horror to it.

Children of today begin life innocently. They are not looking for monsters. They’re not inviting violence. Why do authors think those ingredients are required in order to sell books?

All I see are anti-heroes. Where are stories about real heroes? Where are there plots about people who strive to accomplish something to benefit humanity? Where are there stories about love for family and kindness and understanding for those in need? Where is humour?

Stories about real heroes like Marie Curie, who put her research to cure cancer on hold in order to save lives in World War I; or Hippocrates, who taught the ethics of medical practice and became known as the “Father of Medicine”; or Joseph Lister, who taught the medical community about the concept of antiseptic surgery; these are real heroes, and children love to hear about them and are inspired by their work.

I know, because I’ve been reading stories about these real heroes to children in their classrooms and they love them!





The August Guns – 1914

Death is cruel when it’s so unexpected.

When thoughts of defense are neglected.

Is it too much to ask

When viewing one’s past

To live life in peace as expected?


People think being neutral protects

Like a coat – or a moat – or a vest.

But they discard denial

When faced with the trial

Of destruction and murder grotesque.


A farmer tends fields for the fall crop’s yields;

He stops – disbelief in his ears.

Dropping his plow

He whispers, “What now?”

August guns make him run from his fears.


A grocer stocks jars to make wealth

As he hums an old tune to himself.

When the jars start to shake

He thinks it’s a quake

Until bullets put holes in his shelf.


A house wife is mopping her floor

Annoyed that her back is so sore.

A “boom” stuns her brain

She forgets her back pain

When explosions destroy her front door.


The summer guns wipe out the quiet.

The people no longer deny it.

The August guns roar

Pulling all into war.

And folks take up arms to defy it.


When noisy invaders pass through

Leaving nothin but ruins to view

Sickened at heart

Folks sadly start

To put life together like new.


As friend joins with friend – together to mend

Some far-away folk come to aid.

It takes many years

And millions of tears

Before bells can announce peace is made.


by Marian Keen


War Cake

wartubecakeWe all look to sweets when we’re stressed. A common motif on television depicts a dumped girlfriend with a spoon and a carton of ice cream. How many crying children have been bribed with a cookie? In World War II the G.I.’s gave children on the streets chocolate bars.

And during World War II my mother baked cakes after cakes with apple sauce, raisins and walnuts. I helped wrap them up into packages along with warm socks for my uncles fighting in Europe.

But in World War I the United States didn’t enter the conflict until the last year of the war. The people had to rely on what they had. Their crops included wheat, beets, and grapes and so they made cakes from flour, raw sugar, and raisins. It was called “war cake” and it was a real treat to those afflicted by the war.

I found the recipe in the newspaper one day and was delighted to also find it in my mother-in-law’s recipe collection. You can find it in “Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I” in the pawscript. Available now.


Dear Friend

enhanced-buzz-15942-1388704257-14He was a soldier and a dear friend.

He was sent to the front which was ugly, muddy, and noisy. There were no leaves on the few branches left. His transport was frequently stuck in a muddy pothole and he thought he’d never get to his destination, but finally he arrived. He was assigned to the officers tent and fed his ration, but the explosions and gunfire made him so nervous, he could hardly eat.

The battle grew more fierce and the situation became desperate. He was finally given his assignment. Take this message back to headquarters. We need help.

It was exhilerating to be on the move! He felt pride to be the only hope, and his personal hope was to get away from the fire of canons and guns.

But then a piercing pain in his chest made him falter. He then felt more pain and became aware he had only one leg left. Again another pain took half of his sight away. He fell to the ground and whimpered in his plight.

How he did it, no one knows. But he made it back to headquarters and delivered the precious message and so saved many lives.

He was sent to recooperate far, far away from the sounds of war and many people came to see him and marvel at his heroic exploit. But at length, he died. The medical team checked out this amazing soldier and discovered… that he was a she. An amazing courageous heroic female soldier.

Cher AmieShe was a homing pidgeon, so they stuffed her and placed her in a museum in Washington DC where you can see her even now, 100 years later. Her name was Cher Ami.



Read more tales of World War I in Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I.



The War to End All Wars – Not!

TheProvince-20140807-Kent-Spencer-300To prepare for my book, Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I, I discovered Marie’s role as a war heroine. It was necessary therefore to know more about the war in order to paint the background in detail. In the research the First World War was called “the war to end all wars.” Of course, it didn’t end wars; but it did change how they are fought.

After I wrote the following post on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, I was amazed to read Kent Spencer’s article in the August 7, 2014 issue of the Province. Mr. Spencer’s article supported the points I was making in my post so beautifully that I altered my post to include quotes from Mr. Spencer’s article. In recognition of the Centenary of World War I, please consider the following thoughts.

Since time began, men have settled differences by fighting. Fighting began hand to hand. Soon stones and blades became weapons. Men next made swords and spears – ever seeking to distance themselves from the killing.

The bow and arrow increased the distance, and then guns and canons increased the distance even more. But accuracy became a concern so leaders lined up their bowmen and later riflemen to increase the number of enemy destroyed. This was accepted practice until the American Revolutionary War, when the colonists took cover and shot at the British soldiers all lined up. (The British didn’t think that practice was fair at all!)

One hundred forty years later, French soldiers and soldiers from Newfoundland were ordered to march – not charge – into enemy fire. They were slain by machine gun fire. Thus trench warfare evolved as the soldiers on both sides hid. Always inventing more lethal means, gas warfare and long distance canons were added to the mix. These weapons, with more range, grew more lethal, more accurate, and even rained down from the skies.

The Province newspaper’s Kent Spencer wrote about Corporal Filip Konowal, a Ukranian Canadian and WWI war hero, on August 7, 2014

Corporal Konowal was awarded the Victoria Cross for single-handedly destroying nests of enemy troops and their machine guns with his bare hands and bayonet. Spencer’s article includes a quote from Konowal, “I was so fed up standing in the trench with water to my waist, that I said the hell with it and started after the German army. My captain tried to shoot (me) because he figured I was deserting.”

In Spencer’s article, Professor Lubomyr Luciuk of Kingston’s Royal Military College commented, “The bayonet was up close and personal,” referring to the corporal’s actions.

In my opinion, the soldiers who take personal action, these are the men who are often labelled ‘heroes’.

Today, Man has invented weapons that do his dirty work for him and keep him so far from the killing that he doesn’t even admit responsibility for it. Today, men sit in computer rooms controlling flying, robotic drones, and kill people continents away.

Yes, man is very clever, very inventive, and more distant from the killing, but he hasn’t worked out how to avoid wars in the first place …

… yet.

The men who figure out how to end wars altogether will be the heroes of the future.


Lest we Forget

poppyEvery November the poppy reminds us … of what?

What does the phrase “lest we forget” and the little red flower remind you of?

Of war? More than that. Of veterans? More than them. Of bravery? More than that. We are reminded of our culture and what it stands for, because that is exactly what the brave soldiers fought for.

Around the globe people are observing the 100th anniversary of the start of the “War to end all wars,” World War I. There was a ceremony in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, on August 4th. Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid a wreath at the National War Memorial, and, recounting how 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders* fought in WWI he said, “Canada is still today loyal to our friends, unyielding to our foes, honourable in our dealings, and courageous in our undertakings. This remains the character of our country.”

There is a series on CBC TV on Sunday nights called The Doc Zone, and their recent series entitled THE GREAT WAR re-enacts scenes of WWI in England, France, and Belgium. http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episodes/the-great-war-part-1

The producers of THE GREAT WAR explain, “In 2005, CBC-TV and Galafilm put out a call to descendants of Canadian First World War soldiers to participate in the living history component of the Great War project. Over 6,500 Canadians applied and 150 made the final cut to take part in vivid battle recreations, and to experience what their ancestors went through in the killing grounds of Europe. Of the 150, 14 descendants were chosen for a special mission – to travel to the battlefields of England, France and Belgium where their ancestors fought and sometimes gave their lives.

“In documentary style, THE GREAT WAR follows the 14 young men and women – representing a cross-section of Canada – as they voyage through time to understand their ancestors’ experience as soldiers and nurses at the front. Viewers will watch as the great-grandchildren relive the horror of that time and how they are transformed by it.”

It is so important to pass on our cultural stories and through them, our principles and ideals to our children. Let truth, justice, steadfast courage, and freedom from tyranny, pass on to our children and keep us strong.

*Newfoundland was a colony and dominion of the United Kingdom until March 1949, when it became the 10th province of Canada.


Marie Curie – the Woman I Most Admire

Marie-CurieThe woman I most admire was shy and suffered from depression. However, she was so determined and so full of empathy for the human race that she spent three entire years of her life shovelling heavy dirt to find an elusive element that she thought might benefit human kind. Marie never faultered in the face of hard work; In fact, she drove herself sometimes to complete breakdown. She never faultered in the face of danger either, as she spent another four years of her life in proximity to bombs and bullets to rescue soldiers from loss of limbs and even lives.

That woman was Marie Curie. She suffered the loss of a sister when she herself was seven, followed by the loss of her mother when she was eleven. The loss of her loving husband by a traumatic accident triggered profound depression, but she found the courage from within to continue with her life during which she founded atomic physics, promoted new ways to fight cancers, and personally took medical technology to the dangerous warfront of WWI to save soldiers from amputation and death.

The fact that Marie Curie overcame personal woes and personal danger to help others speaks to her inner morality. Even Albert Einstein, who sometimes found her irritating in her lack of flexibility, admired her when he said, “I have always admired Marie Curie. Not only did she do outstanding work in her lifetime … and help humanity greatly … she invested all her work with the highest moral quality.” Marie was a stubborn woman who insisted on what was right in every detail. For example, she imposed her conviction that the American check for gift money raised for her Radium Institute be made out to the institute, and not inaccurately to her. She kept her promises, such as the promise to her husband by personally taking her radium to safety when the German’s invaded France in WWI.

Intelligence, perseverance, integrity, and courage all combined in one feisty little woman. What a role model!


Read more about Marie Curie’s accomplishments in Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I.

Publishing 1

As a child, I played “library” and “school” with my dolls. Gramma read to me, and as soon as I could lift a book, I read the pictures to myself.

Pretend playing was complicated, as I made up stories and acted them out. Playing with friends was based on “let’s pretend.” Writing stories was thwarted in school because there was never enough time devoted to the activity, so I gravitated to writing poetry. It’s shorter.

Musical pursuits were satisfying to a point, as I accompanied other musicians and singers, and eventually became a church organist. However, my small hands deterred me from the guitar and pianos and organs were too tough to carry around.


Painting and the arts were also satisfying for a long time. I painted bigger and better and sold a number of paintings, but carrying around easels, canvases, toolboxes full of acrylics (my preferred media) and frames was too much. Studio space and shows and time volunteering in art organizations – all of it was more discouraging than sales could make up for. So I quit that.

And then I started to write those stories that I wanted to write as a kid. All I needed was pen and paper. Bliss!