Government efficiency an oxymoron?

cordless-phone

She decides that she must make a call to the federal government. She grits her teeth and dials. Because she knows the call won’t be quick, she’s already been to the bathroom. Much like our mothers used to admonish before a car trip, “Just try.” She tried.

“Hello, my name is X. My agent ID number is xxxxx.”

“Hi, X. I need help please. I’ve received a letter from your department saying that I owe $3,000 in overpaid benefits.”

“What is your social insurance number?”

Several identification questions later and she has a chance to explain her situation.

“When I didn’t receive my benefit last month, I phoned and an agent told me I would receive a double payment this month, but today this letter came saying I owe.”

The agent asks a couple more questions and puts her  on hold for ten minutes. When he comes back on line he thanks her for waiting and tells her she needs to send certain tax information for 2013.

Fortunately, she has copies of the letters she’s sent and tells the agent that she sent that information on May 14, 2014.

Ten more minutes on hold and  she’s told that, yes, they do have that information. Then he says they need information for 2012.

She explains that she sent that information in a letter dated February 22, 2014 and that she sent another letter summarizing the satiation on January 5, 2015.

On hold again. Twenty seven minutes later the agent comes back and tells her that the information wasn’t sent to the right department and he has now taken steps to do so, but he can’t tell her when she might receive the benefit as the file has to be reassessed. She protests and is put on hold for another twenty minutes.

The final result: She’s told her benefit is going to be processed in time for this month’s payment. She’s also told to send a letter repeating all of the information they already have. This last scares her. If she sends the letter, will it help or will it serve to confuse the situation further? Perhaps it would be best to wait and see what happens with this month’s benefit payment before making such a momentous decision. And good thing she went to the bathroom before all this started.

 

 

Adventures in Victoria #1

 

water taxi

It’s Saturday. What to do? What to do?

A question easily answered if you live in Victoria. You get to play tourist every weekend.

We live by the water close to downtown so the logical thing to do is to buy annual passes for the water taxi which stops just steps from our building.

Saturday, we hop on and 10 minutes later we’re stepping off at the Canoe Club stop. We walk through Chinatown, always an aromatic and colorful stroll, and one block further down we come to Victoria Public Market—the main floor of the old Hudson’s Bay building transformed into a delightful array of shops, restaurants, and farmer’s stalls.

market

 

We sample cheeses, buy new dishtowels,

whixk

chocolate and fruit from the farmer’s stalls, and savor a Mexican lunch of tacos and jamaica water, a drink we love, made from hibiscus flower petals, at La Cocina de Mama Oli.

mama oli

A quick water taxi ride and we’re home in plenty of time to enjoy another adventure in this beautiful city. Did I mention we love it here?

Making space

AgfaPhoto

 

The exit from our parking garage is blocked by the construction hoist you see in the picture above. The workmen are repairing the pedway above.

We’ve been advised in advance that this would be happening and that, if we had to exit in our vehicles it would take a little longer while the workers moved the hoist.

We pull out of the garage slowly and see that we could almost make it between the hoist and the box of a small truck that is parked to the left of the driveway. The workmen see us. The one on the ground has a lengthy discussion with the four perched on the top of the hoist. The men lower the hoist and hop off.

We expect them to maneuver the  hoist slightly to the right. Instead all five men go over to the half-ton truck, lift up the back end, and shift it over about eight inches. I scramble for my phone to take a picture, but I’m too late.

We laugh and wave as all five stand in front of us and gesture for us to move forward. We crawl through with an inch or two to spare on each side, wave a cheery goodbye and we’re on our way.

Once a writer …

images (4) I’ve been challenged by Linn B. Halton, author and managing editor of the online Love a Happy Ending Lifestyle Magazine, (http://www.loveahappyending.com/) to join the Lovely Blog Hop to share some of the things that have helped shape my writing and my life. Thank you, Linn.

First Fond Memory

Riding on the sleigh under the moonlight with my father, the bells on the harnesses tinkling harmoniously along with the squeaking of the horses’ hooves on the hard packed snow—a romantic memory of a harsh life on the lonely prairie.

Books

No electricity, no radio, no TV. What’s a kid to do? Read and read and read. Anything I could get my hands on. Books from the storage area in the little one room school house, Little Lulu comics when my dad could afford to buy me one.

Libraries

A bit of magic come to Earth laced with the frustration of only being able to take out three books at a time. Only three? How to choose? Back then, at least one had to involve horses.

Passion

Travel has been paramount and I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen much of the world. My lifelong dream was to go on safari. That trip met every expectation and more. There’s no describing the silence, the vast spaces unmarred by civilization, the animals in their natural habitat—it’s a beautiful sort of time travel to another world.

Learning

Learning never stops. From the one room school house to university, from formal education to daily life, we always learn. Through my writing I’ve learned to be a more discriminating reader. I’ve also become an excellent proof reader and substantive editor. Two ways I can help other authors.

Writing

Joyful, frustrating, easy, painful—all of those and more, but never ever dull and never ever something I would give up. Once a writer, always a writer.

www.emandyves.com

And now I nominate Anneli Purchase.

https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/

https://wordsfromanneli.wordpress.com/

Soldiers, rifles, and ice cream

soldier

The year is 1972. We’ve spent a week in Morocco and now we’re in Mali to visit our friends. Their house is too small to accommodate us, but we’ve been offered the apartment belonging to a young couple from France who are away for a few weeks in Europe.

We also have a mobylette to scoot around town, so we’re set for the trip of a lifetime. We visit the zoo, swim in the Olympic sized pool built by the Russians, drive up to the hospital to see our friend and her brand new baby.

We also stop off to see the doctor and feel terribly embarrassed when we are escorted to the front of the long line. People have been waiting for hours, but we’re first—a courtesy to the guests. In answer to our protests, the doctor says, “You have left the comfort and safety of your home to visit a Malian friend. You do us the honor.”

“I think I’ll go get an ice cream,” my husband says one afternoon. “Want to come?”

“No thanks.”

The ice cream shop is just a couple of blocks away. He can manage on his own even though he doesn’t speak French. He leaves and a few seconds later I hear him calling my name. I step out and look over the balcony.

My husband is facing a soldier who has a very large gun pointed at his chest. Our apartment is opposite the court house which has been heavily guarded for several days as there is a trial on for the men who attempted coup a few months back.

I call out an explanation. It doesn’t get me very far as the soldier apparently has no concept of what ice cream is. I try again with a more general message that le monsieur is going to the store. The soldier nods and waves his gun indicating my husband can leave.

Later I look over the balcony again to see my husband handing a cone to the soldier and then demonstrating with his own how to eat it. They both look mighty pleased with themselves and I breathe a sigh of relief.

 

 

 

Chinese New Year Celebration in Victoria, BC

Always something interesting to see and do in Victoria. Of course we went to Chinatown for the Chinese New Year Celebration.

 

IMG_20150222_130858324_HDR

Chinatown in Victoria, is the oldest in Canada and, in North America, second in age only to San Francisco’s, with its beginnings in the 1858 influx of miners from California to what is now British Columbia.

Initially a collection of crude wooden huts,

oldtown-

Victoria’s Chinatown rapidly evolved into a dense neighborhood of businesses, theaters, schools, churches, temples and a hospital. It did gain a dark, seedy reputation however, because of opium factories, gambling dens and brothels. Chinatown grew steadily over the years until its peak in 1911, at which time it occupied an area of about six city blocks.

IMG_20150222_132543610_HDR

 

 

Victoria’s revitalized Chinatown is a popular area for tourists as well as for the artistic community. The focus is the 500-600 block of Fisgard Street, including famously narrow Fan Tan Alley. The area includes many shops, one with historic displays, the old Chinese School and a small selection of historic buildings and Chinese businesses. The district was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995.

Chinatown-gate

The Gate of Harmonious Interest, which was built in Suzhou, one of Victoria’s sister cities.

 

 

Work In Progress

Anneli Purchase has tagged me to participate in a “Work in Progress” blog tour. Anneli is almost finished writing the sequel to The Wind Weeps which had me on the edge of my chair as I read. Check it out at http://ow.ly/K3i7w

The “Work in Progress” blog tour rules:

Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.

Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work-in-progress. Some writers give more than the first sentences, and I like that idea, too.

Nominate some other writers to do the same.

My nominations are:

 

ImageProxy

P.C. Zick who says, “I write contemporary fiction, romance, and nonfiction. In everything I do, I seek a challenge. One day I might even write a Gothic thriller, so stay tuned.

I am a storyteller. Any time I use language, either in speaking or writing, I tell a story. I can’t help it. Someone once asked me if I could ever turn it off. I responded, “Why would I ever want to do that?”  http://pczick.com/

Robin Winter – multi-talented writer and artist http://www.robinwinter.net/

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Robin first wrote and illustrated a manuscript on ‘Chickens and their Diseases‘ in second grade. Born in Nebraska, she’s lived in a variety of places, Nigeria, New Hampshire, upper New York state and California. She pursues a career in oil painting under the name of Robin Gowen, specializing in landscape. Her work can be viewed at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara. (Past YouTube videos of two shows can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51nlFnJ71vU   and   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wGxdFFobJA )

I was thrilled that these accomplished writers have agreed to take part in this work-in-progress blog tour. Please stop by their sites and get to know them and their work

And here’s me. http://emandyves.com/

 100-0059_IMG

In my Em and Yves series the heroine’s life is hijacked by beings from “up there.” Heaven and Earth, gods and aliens, reincarnation, and of course a love story holding it all together.

 

My work in progress stays on Earth this time. Teens play a role in an old woman’s life. Given that I worked with teens as an educator for over 30 years, having kids involved again is a natural for me. In this novel old age clashes with youth. Brittany has just begun working in a nursing home after graduation because she can’t afford college when she encounters crusty Flo who speaks to no one, but spends hourss tapping on her laptop. Can one help the other? Or will their interference in each other’s lives make things worse?

Chapter 1 – Flo

“Don’t look so shocked, Missy. I’ve still got a brain and a clit.”

The girl caught me red-handed so to speak, the fingers of my right hand in my crotch working the oil, the other on my right breast tweaking my nipple.

Chapter 2 – Brittany

I leaned against the door, my heart pounding. I couldn’t believe what I’d seen. I could never have imagined such a thing. Lying there naked, her hand running along the inside of her thigh. Caressing herself like that.

Chapter 3 – Flo

Brittany Wright. Brittany Wrong. Right. Wrong. Right. Wrong. I grabbed my laptop and peered out the door. Hallway empty. Good. I snuck past the nurses’ desk. Needn’t have worried. It was vacant. I could hear talking and laughter coming from the staffroom. Yep, that’s the way we work at Happy Hearts.

 

 

 

Hotel Living

1atravelodge_front1 (1)

“We’re living in a hotel.” A statement that seems to horrify friends and family.

Yes, we are living in a hotel for a few months until our new place, currently under construction, is completed.

“Why didn’t you rent an apartment?”

We did look, but apartments or condo rent was pricey and would entail a year’s lease and we only needed a place for six months. If we rented, not only would we be obligated to pay the rent for the full year, we’d also be responsible for the apartment for the time it sat empty. So living in a hotel seemed the perfect solution.

“But, a hotel? Isn’t that…?”

What it is, is wonderful. The hotel we are in is old, clean, and well maintained. It’s not fancy. We don’t need fancy. We have a suite—a living room with two sofas and flat screen TV, a tiny kitchen with a full fridge and stove (we even entertained friends and served a full turkey dinner for Thanksgiving), and a full bathroom. Cable and Internet connections are included and parking right out our door is free. There’s a laundry room down the hall for our convenience, a fitness room and a pool. Maid service twice a week with fresh sheets and towels is spoiling us.  The suite is small which equals cozy, and we’re finding that we really don’t need more space.

Best of all? The staff. From the front desk manager, to the maintenance man, to the maids, all are friendly and helpful and fun. We feel cocooned in a new family. Of course we’ll be thrilled to move to our new home next weekend, but we’ll miss everyone here too.

The “what” goes by

Church

The congregation listens attentively as the minister preaches his sermon. They rise and sing along with the hymns. The purity of the soloist’s voice soars high to the peaked ceiling and seeps into the parishioners’ souls.

Throughout the service little ones shuffle and chatter, but their small noises barely register with the congregation.

Then it’s time for the silent prayer. Parent’s pick up their children, cuddle with them, and distract them with small toys—all to encourage silence during for the next two minutes.

The father holds his son and hands him his toy truck. The boy is obsessed with trucks. This should keep him occupied and quiet.

For several seconds, one can hear the proverbial pin drop as heads are bowed and quiet reigns.

Suddenly a truck rumbles by. “F**k, Daddy, f**k!” the little boy says using his very best pronunciation.

The father shushes the boy and looks over the congregation. Heads are still bowed, but shoulders are rising and falling with what can only be stifled laughter.

What does the father do then? He rises quietly and carries the little boy out of the church, his wife following close behind.

Do they return next Sunday or search out a new church? We may never know.