Soldiers, rifles, and ice cream


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.



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,


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.




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.


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

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:



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?”

Robin Winter – multi-talented writer and artist


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   and )

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.


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


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.



7 things about me



Beryl Belsky of was kind enough to nominate me for a One Lovely Blog Award. There is no winner; the nomination is the prize, so to speak. I am honored to join the ranks of others who have also been nominated. Thank you, Beryl.

A requirement of accepting the award is to tell you 7 things about myself so here goes.

  1. I have seen the Sahara from both sides—Mali and Egypt.
  1. I’m a non-athlete who loves body boarding.
  1. I went to a country school with 8 grades and one teacher.
  1. I have the best job in the world—grandma to a precocious and delightful little munchkin.
  1. I lived in Mali and traveled by taxi-brousse through several West African countries. Something I wouldn’t do now, but was entirely safe at the time.
  1. I can’t imagine a life without reading.
  1. I hate winter, but one of my favorite memories is of the horses’ hooves squeaking on the hard packed snow that sparkled in the moonlight.

Note to any bloggers out there: It’s your turn. Here are the rules should you accept one, all, or none of them.

1.     Thank the person who nominated you for the award.

2.     Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.

3.     Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.

4.  Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blogs.







So, here’s the thing. Grandma goes to Australia to spend the summer with her sister.

Our summer. Their winter. No central heating. Damp and cold. Of course her thoughts turn to knitting and knit she does. Mitts for her grandson from special wool she bought in Tasmania.

A couple of months later grandson heads off to school, happy and proud to be in grade one. Then it’s winter. Mom takes the special mitts, sews a bit of elastic to each one and attaches the other end of the elastic to the sleeves of his parka.

She sends him off to school content in the thought that he can’t possibly lose his mitts and he’ll always have warm hands.

To her horror, he arrives home that first day with elastics dangling from his sleeves. Elastics only—no mitts.

“Where are you mitts?” she asks.

He looks up at her with a puzzled frown. “What mitts?”

The mitts are never found, not even after several searches in the school lost and found box. Mom is more upset than Grandma, who quickly knits him another pair—but not with special wool from Tasmania.

The things you don’t expect



You set out on your travels with images in your head. You’ve read about the place. You’ve seen the documentaries. You’ve held tight to your childhood imaginations.

It’s what you didn’t expect that hits hardest. Would you ever have imagined that stepping off the plane in Bamako, the heat would press you into the tarmac with a force so strong that your legs wobbled a little as you made your way to the terminal?

Would you ever have imagined the power of scent; the fact that 25 years after having lived in Bamako a whiff of myrrh could transport you instantly from your living room in Canada to the market in Bamako?

You stand under the Eiffel Tower looking up. You take the elevator to the top. You’ve seen this iconic land mark on dozens of documentaries and travel shows, but did you ever expect to be so awed in its presence?

You studied Egypt in grade 5, fascinated, as all kids seem to be, with the pyramids, the Sphinx, and the stories your teacher tells of the flooding of the Nile. But never, in all your imagining, did you expect the demarcation between lush green and barren desert to be so abrupt as when you saw it with your own eyes.

And your dream trip—a safari in Kenya. You knew you’d marvel at the animals, big and small, meandering in their natural environment, but did you know the greatest impact on your psyche would be the utter silence in the vast expanses of the Serengeti?

The unexpected—that’s what travels are made of.





Snowstorm in New York

car ny


They’re on holidays in New York for Christmas and to see in the New Year. They’re lucky enough to be staying with friends in Brooklyn and even luckier to have a hostess who is a travel writer.

Each morning she asks, “Where would you like to go today?”

“The Lower East Side.”

“Perfect. Be sure to see the Tenement Museum now that you’ve already been to Ellis Island, and then go to …”

And then the snow comes—the worst storm in fifty years. They’re from Edmonton, one of Canada’s northern cities. A little snow isn’t going to stop them.

They head to the subway, step off the curb and are instantly ankle deep in the water that’s hidden under the snow, feet soaked and cold. Not to worry. They have extra socks in their bag having followed the advice of their hostess.

They help push cars out of snowbanks. They help little old ladies clamber over the huge piles of snow deposited by the plows at the side of the road. At home this would be frustrating, but on holiday in New York it’s an adventure.

They wait at the bus stop to go to their next destination. He looks pointedly at his watch as the bus pulls up. The door opens. “Aren’t you late?” he asks.

The driver, a huge imposing black man, scowls as he rises from his seat. He is not amused.

“Hey,” he says. “I drive in northern Canada.”

The driver’s ire melts away. He grins and offers a high five as they board.