How the Shaman came to live at our house



A couple of months after we move to Comox, Heather arrives. No, she’s not the Shaman, she’s my friend. I’m thrilled that she could come for a visit and we trot about town, checking out the stores and the markets, the marina, and the beaches.

On her last evening with us, we take her out for dinner at one of the many great restaurants to be found in the area. Martine’s is just a few blocks from our place and known for fine dining. We settle at our table, Heather sitting across from us. I look up and behind her is the most amazing painting. It’s full of color and cave like paintings with outlines of horses and snakes and fish—and yes, the shadowy figure of a shaman or two or three. It’s a semi-abstract that draws us in. We know it’s the right piece for our new home.

We’ve fallen in love with it and, luckily for us, there is a tag with the artist’s name—Wesley Clark—and a phone number.

We call Mr. Clark, negotiate a price and after dinner, pay the restaurant owner for the painting and the food—easily making this the most expensive meal we’ve ever had.

The restaurateur has nothing to wrap the painting with so we lift it off the wall, and to the apparent astonishment of fellow diners, walk out the door.

We carry it home and a few minutes later it is hanging in its honored spot—a painting that we will love and admire for many many years. A painting that will be handed down to our granddaughter.

To see more of Wesley Clark’s work go to:

Male vs Female



Cummins_EngineSitting on the front porch sipping a glass of wine.

A half ton truck goes by.

“Cummins diesel,” he says.

“How do you know?” she asks.

“By the sound.”

She shakes her head. “How can you men know stuff like that?”

He shrugs. “We just do.”

“All men?”


She turns to the neighbor sitting on his porch. He’s a cancer research doctor. He won’t know. She’ll prove her husband wrong.

“Say, M, what kind of engine was that in the half ton that just went by?”

“Cummins diesel.”

She sighs in defeat. She’s a feminist and hates to admit it, but some things are gender specific.








Howling winter winds pounding the snow into hard packed drifts. Howling summer winds snatching the precious top soil from the fields. Isolated. Lonely. No electricity. No radio. No television. What was a child to do?

Read. No matter that there were less than half a dozen books in the house. They could always be read and reread.


The fuzzy wuzzy Santa lost much of his fuzz from all the touches. The pop-up book barely escaped tears from all the pulling to see what treasures were in those pictures.

And what did that child do when she was an adult? Bought books of course—and to replace the pop-up books of childhood, she bought Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series with their letters to be pulled out, unfolded, read, and tucked back into their envelopes.

And what did that child do when she had children of her own? Bought them books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That mother marveled with her children at the magic of the books with their pullout bits, their wheels to turn, their pages that magically grew as they were opened and the school house with all the windows to peer into.


And what did that child do when she had a granddaughter? Bought her books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That grandmother marveled with her munchkin at the magic of the intricate designs–whole playgrounds that popped up to surprise and delight them.


We’ve come a long way, baby. A long way.

Santa Claus and the Little Lost Kitten by Louise W. Meyers 1952

Santa’s Christmas Party by Helen Sterling 1951

Mother Goose – Hallmark (no date)

School Bugs by David A. Carter 2000



Raymond takes care of the Canadians


I lived in Mali some years ago. My husband and I have been here before for an extended visit and now we’re here again.

Despite our experiences in Mali, our host Raymond seems to feel a need to be “poule mère” or mother hen.

First it’s at the airport in Bamako and in the crowds his help is much appreciated. We whizz through customs as he seems to know all of the officers. Makes sense since he’s probably the one who taught them their self-defense courses.

Visiting the doctor, we once again appreciate his presence as he helps translate for us. Mind you, I could have done that myself. But the best part is his and the doctor’s glee in meeting a real “Bill Jones.” It seems that a certain Bill Jones figured largely in their English language lessons.

Then it’s off to the market to buy souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home. Raymond takes us to his preferred vendors and shakes a finger warningly as he admonishes them to not over charge us. He leaves us then to meander.

I’ve not forgotten how to bargain, and though it’s been many years since I lived in Mali, I know that 12,000 francs is way too much for the item in question. We bargain back and forth until we’re coming close to an agreement at 3,000 francs. Just then, Raymond walks up. The vendor takes one look at him and says, “1.000 francs, Madame.”

I stifle a giggle and hand the man a wad of francs that he will later discover to be 1,500 for I’ve tried, seemingly in vain, to explain to Raymond that a couple of dollars isn’t a big deal to us, but could be  and likely is a big deal to the vendor and his or her family.

Note: Currently the Internet tells me that 10 Malian francs (CFA) equal about 10 cents.

Government efficiency an oxymoron?


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.



We sample cheeses, buy new dishtowels,


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



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, ( 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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.

And now I nominate Anneli Purchase.

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.