Big Al and The Power of Disability

Our friend Al Etmanski is a proverbial gentle giant, both in stature, big of heart and presence of mind. He’s changed the landscape for people with disabilities and their families by action and by listening. If it wasn’t for Al, our son would not have a Registered Disability Savings Plan. A godsend for some many with disabilities who can feel more secure about their future because of the RDSP. I was trying to think of an appropriate way to describe The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving, and Changing the World. In true Al fashion, the stories of others are shared along with how they have changed his actions and perceptions. This collection is like a really good bag of trail mix; it works together well and yet each individual piece is delicious, healthy and good for you! Ten valuable lessons in humanity, decency, love, living a good life, and belonging from each featured person abound in this book. You can finish the whole bag of trail mix for an immersive buffet, or you can snack your way through it, pausing to reflect and digest the thoughtful meals over time. However you choose to consume the insights in this book, you will finish up feeling nourished and replenished.

Al is a community organizer and author. He is an Ashoka Fellow and member of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. He has received distinguished awards for his activism, including the Order of Canada. And he’s an old friend. We attended The Power of Disability Concert, a live-streamed celebration showcasing the release of Al’s new book and the power of disability through music, storytelling, and humour. Whenever Al came on the screen, Jim toasted him (we soon switched to club soda).

Published by Berrett-Kiehler Publishers, Oakland, California, 2020

Jessica, at it again

My friend Jessica Rotolo lives in Toronto and lives her life–and dances–like everybody’s watching! She hones her acting, singing and dancing chops at DramaWay. Jessica, along with two other DramaWay performers, just appeared in a music video by Noah Reid (for Schitt’s Creek fans, Noah’s character Patrick married Dan Levy’s David Rose.) For her part, Jessica says her life “is fabulous! When I met Noah, he was really nice to me. I liked his longer hair. It was great when he told me that my dress was really great.”


Noah Reid and Jessica Rotolo do the social distance thing high on a rooftop in Toronto.

HOME alone, summer issue

Look what’s out! The summer issue of Saskatoon HOME. Some summer reading you can enjoy at home. This is a fun issue filled with great inspiration, DIY projects like building with pallets, composting, and identifying birds in the neighbourhood. Meet a family who has built their own lake-like living in their Confederaton backyard, and a woman who bought her own childhood home and modernized her nostalgia. Learn about the Barr Colonists, that plucky bunch who arrived here as Saskatoon’s first tourists. And lust after the gorgeous pergola and gardens a young Rosewood couple have created to look spectacular by day and night. Get your copy at one of several racks throughout the city, or never miss an issue and subscribe for only $20 a year.


Putting the pain in pandemic

Get it? French for bread – pain. Rick’s been making loaves in the bread machine (finally using that flour in the pantry). Jim and I have been following our friend Pauline’s recipe for easy bagel knock-offs with lots of coarse salt on top. Turns them into a big pretzel-bagel cross. Then there was that jar of old bran buds, so yesterday we made muffins. We’ve been delivering to my parents. But nothing compares with the sourdough our friends Leon and Darlene just gifted us. This was almost too pretty to eat…but trust me, we did. There must be some psychological study underway about baking during a crisis. Maybe it’s all about the family and friends who give it to one another. That’s comfort food.

Small Reckonings review

It’s been a little nerve wracking to have worked with my story for so long, holding all my characters close, and then, as my friend Anne Simpson (who graciously blurbed the cover of my book) explains, it suddenly it gets dressed up and goes out into the world where people READ it! But when this review by wonderful writer Shelley Leedahl appeared on the SaskBooks site, I stopped holding my breath for a bit. Check out her impressive resume and you’ll see why I’m a little gobsmacked. Thank you, Shelley.

Shelley Author Photo 2020 colour

Shelley Leedahl


COVID cuts

Rhonda, my hair stylist, should be worried. We’re getting the hang of this. Rick cuts Jim’s, I cut Rick’s, Rick cuts mine (except for the front which I carefully craft myself and only have two big whoops chunks missing this last time). Gramma Doris gave us the garbage bag hack. Jim is the official photographer when his is done.

Round 2!

My first novel, Small Reckonings, came out in late March, released by Burton House Books. It’s mid-May and look what happened! We’re doing the second printing already. Very exciting and I’m so pleased with the reader reviews. The great people at Friesens in Winnipeg are running the second round at their plant right now and we should have it in a week or so. So if I haven’t emailed you yet, I will! To order, contact me directly at, or click on the link to the publisher.

I want to point out that not only did the story win the John V. Hicks Fiction award from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, my books are also very socially responsible and practice safe physical distancing on the conveyor belt.