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How do you explain a Canadian winter to your Nigerian friend?

 

Uzo and I discuss the flood that forced him out of his house. I sympathize with his predicament and comment that I have some understanding of living in rough conditions.

When I was a child we lived on a farm in Saskatchewan—no electricity and no running water. In the warm weather my dad lowered pails with butter and cream and milk down the well to just above water level and that acted as a fridge, but no freezer of course so vegetables, fruits, meat and chicken had to be canned.

Our house was very small – 2 rooms and we had to fight the cold in winter. Water came from a well and my mother melted snow in big pots on the stove to do laundry and wash dishes and bath us. If she hung clothes on the line to dry on a not quite so cold day, she warned us not to go near them as they could freeze and would break if we touched them.

How do you explain a Canadian winter to your Nigerian friend?

I send him a couple of pictures explaining that in the first picture you see my sister and me. The building behind us is the barn. It was much bigger than our house. In the second picture you can see the ice that has formed on the horses’ nose. His breath has frozen from the cold. My dad pumped water from the well for the horses into a big water trough. In the winter the water in the trough froze and he had to chop a hole in it so that the horses and cattle could drink.

I comment that when our Malian friend came to visit one winter, he spent the whole time on the floor in front of our fireplace.

Uzo replies,

LOL! I probably would have done the same thing—add as much logs as I can to the fire. And yes, I think I remember Raymond. You mentioned him in your book, Mali to Mexico and Points in Between, right?  So, do you guys drink more tea/coffee (depending on the consumer’s preference) during winter?

I tell him that I don’t drink either and I don’t think people drink more, but they do add hot chocolate when it’s cold.

You gave a vivid description of what winter feels like. I used to think it’s a little easier for white people to move about during this time of the year considering the texture of their hair, but it appears I am wrong. 

Our hair does nothing to protect us from the cold and we need to wear many layers of clothing in the worst of winter. We live in Victoria now and don’t usually get any snow at all and it’s not very cold here especially compared to the prairies where we used to live.

Is it okay to skate on the ice?

Yes. In fact we did that with our children when they were little and we went to the Rocky Mountains. The ice was several feet thick and clear so we could see through it to the water below. Also there was a stream near our house and one winter it froze before the snow started so we could skate on it. Sometimes people go out on thin ice and do fall through.

 Is there any place in Canada that is mostly cold like Alaska? 

Up north for sure – don’t forget Canada extends to the Arctic.

Now I’m having second thoughts about walking on snow, LOL.

I think you would enjoy the experience—once!!

 

 

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The things we take for granted

“I can relate with your excitement as a child when you and the rest of your family moved to Edmonton—and my goodness, your story gave me a good laugh,” Uzo writes. (I was 9 when we moved and I had told Uzo that I was so fascinated with the flush toilet that I got up several times to use it until my mother finally told me to get back to bed and stay there.)

“The day I left Mambilla plateau,” he adds, “I was so eager to browse the Internet, to watch TV, and to enjoy other modern conveniences. That night in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba, I couldn’t sleep; even as an adult, I was so excited about just everything. Everything looked new. I remember I did stare at the bulb in my room from time to time, praying it stayed that way—that it continued to shine its yellow light (the country’s electricity generation has barely improved since then).”

How lucky we are to have power we can count on.

Who knew the munchkin’s field trip to the dump would be so interesting?

I’m the designated driver for the munchkin’s school field trips. Some are more interesting than others, but who knew the trip to Hartland Landfill would be so fascinating?

Who knew the munchkin's field trip to the dump would be so interesting?

The site is huge with a gas-to-electricity plant, a recycling and salvage area, a yard waste area….

We tour the 400 acre site by bus and our guide explains that there are 82 categories for recycling – bikes are sent to be refurbished and given to charity – that the solar panels spotted by the kids are used to create electricity to run the water testing stations.

When we reach the “garbage” area, the kids (grades 3 and 4) are most impressed with the piles of mattresses and the huge compactor and the fact that 3 hawks help to keep birds away so that they don’t get sick from picking at the garbage.

Who knew the munchkin's field trip to the dump would be so interesting?

Google satellite view

The technology of the “dump,” as we called it when we were kids, is impressive. Significant measures are in place to reduce the impact of waste on the environment and the site creates enough electricity to power 1,200 houses.

Eventually, likely by 2049, this landfill will have reached it’s limit and will be re-purposed.

After the tour the kids participate in an activity bound to capture their attention. The guide dumps a garbage can of party left-overs on the table. Soiled paper napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, juice boxes, etc. She challenges the kids to work in groups to find ways to plan a party reducing the garbage and keeping the budget under $40.

Armed with a grocery store flyer and the list of items for a party of 10 kids they set to work. The groups list the things they can use from home: cloth napkins, metal forks and spoons, glasses and a cloth tablecloth and then “buy” the food.

Every group comes in under budget (the highest at $30.20) and with 11 to 12 garbage points. The original party left-overs clocked in at $64 and 49 garbage points.

On the way home, Grandpa, who didn’t bring his water bottle along, says he wants to stop and buy a bottle of water.

The munchkin reacts: “Seriously! After what you just saw?”

Grandpa waits until we get home to have a drink.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

 

We need a temperature test before marriage

heat

He owns dozens of heavy sweaters and jackets. I have one that hangs in the closet.

He wears jeans, long johns, boots, a sweater, a jacket, a hat, and gloves. I wear jeans, a t-shirt, and runners. We look unbelievably incongruous walking side by side.

He turns the heat up. I turn it down.

He turns on the gas fireplace. I turn it off.

He piles on extra blankets. I drag in the fan and set it up on my side of the bed.

He wants to cuddle. I can’t take the heat.

We knew none of this before we got married. Really, there has to be a better way.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

Do we really need k?

Do we really need k?

Playing word games in my head trying to combat insomnia brought me to the realization that “k” is a pretty useless letter.

I mean, how many 2 letter words can you make with it? Kf isn’t a word. Kh isn’t a word. Kn isn’t a word. I get nowhere trying to sleep with k. M on the other hand? Ma, me, my and assorted abbreviations—ml, mc, md, MP, Mr., MS, m…zzzzzzzzz.

This observation got me to thinking about k words. We can neel on our nees without the k. We can nit without the k. We can cut with a nife just as well as a knife.

And then there’s the question of words like cat. Why not kat (after all it’s kitten not citten)? Or why circus and not cirkus? Try explaining those anomalies to an English as a Second Language learner.

What about the ck blend, you ask. Let’s go for the soft and hard c instead. French has delightful little accent marks to guide pronunciation. We could adopt some for ourselves. Quick becomes quiç or qui¢ or quiċ. Knack becomes naċ. The possibilities are endless.

As for my cousin Kirk … I’m sure he has a middle name.

 

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Halloween update - a new tradition

Our munchkin goes to a Montessori school which holds a special event on October 31 each year called

“Historical Halloween.”

Each child chooses to play a character and prepares a report to be presented to the class. The characters range from Henry Ford, to Jimi Hendrix, to one of the Brothers Grimm, to the first Canadian  woman, Agnes Macphail , elected to The House of Commons in 1921.

In grade 1 the munchkin was Frida Kahlo, grade 2 Jane Goodall, and this year Juana Ines de la Cruz.

Here’s her report:

Hi, my name is Juana Ines de la Cruz. I was born in 1651 and lived during Mexico’s colonial period. My family was poor but well educated.

I was very curious child and taught myself to read by age 3. I read all 3000 of the books in my grandfather’s library. I loved poetry and languages. I learned to speak Latin fluently in just 20 lessons.

I left home to live with my aunt in Mexico City at a young age. There I became famous in the royal court because of my wit, my intelligence and beauty.

Because I was so popular, everyone expected me to marry, but I chose to become a nun. When people asked me why, I said, it was the only place where I could continue my studies. Once safely in the convent I immersed myself in the study of theology, science, history, music, and literature. I wrote to poets and scholars of the time and began to write my own poetry.

My writing is still studied and continues to inspire others and I am on the 200 peso bill.

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

 

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The Travelling Wedding Dress

 

A while back I wrote about sorting through my photos. Of course I found wedding pictures and seeing them brought this to mind.

Mom: When do you want to go shopping for your wedding dress?

Me: I’m going to wear yours.

Mom: You’ve been saying that since you were a little girl, but are you sure you really want to?

We dig the dress out from the back of the closet. Ivory satin with a row of tiny buttons down that back that I love now as much as I did when I was a kid. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see that none of the buttons are missing. As the satin was never pure white, the slightly yellowed look is not a deterrent to wearing the dress.

I try it on. The hem needs to be straightened, but otherwise it feels fine. We shop for shoes and a veil to go with the dress and find both easily enough.

My wedding day is on what would have been my parents’ 25th anniversary if my father hadn’t died the year before. A tough day for us—especially for my mother; but we get through it and I hope that the hugs and good cheer can lighten, for a while at least, my mother’s load of grief.

The Travelling Wedding Dress

 

A number of years later I’m asked to model “our” wedding dress in a charity fashion show. As we gather backstage, I find a woman about my mother’s age wearing her dress which is identical to mine.

“My mother bought her dress in Yorkton, Saskatchewan,” I tell her, “just after the war. She said she had two choices and said that neither fit properly, but she liked this one best.”

The lady nods knowingly. “I bought mine in Calgary, Alberta in 1945 and this was the only choice. Luckily it fit me reasonably well.”

I feel a kinship to this stranger as we model on the catwalk together and marvel at circumstances that brought us together.

The dress still hangs in the back of my closet with all our memories firmly attached. My daughter didn’t wear it, but perhaps one day my granddaughter will and my and my mother’s spirits will walk down the aisle with her.

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I haven’t heard from my friend Uzo in a long while and then I get this message.

“I am currently writing you from a low-cost hotel. I lost “everything” in my apartment to a flood which devastated many homes in my vicinity (it rained heavily for six hours). Ah! It was really bad. In one case, neighbours had to break into a man’s fortress-like house (he wasn’t present at the time) to carry off his bedridden wife.

I think I can now relate on a deeper level with victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.”

I Google his city (in Nigeria) and find pictures like this.

Uzo survives

Yes, I think, he can relate.

I write back and comment that a “low-cost” hotel can’t be very nice. (I’ve seen enough in many parts of the world to know what they are like.)

Uzo writes back.

“Well, the hotel room is better when compared to other places I lived in—a two-bedroom apartment with a leaky roof, and then a mud house in the northern part of the country (in this case, I had to fetch water each day and there was no power throughout my one-year-and-a-half stay).

“I’ve to reprioritize my spending from now on, bearing in mind I have to replace (buy) some essentials at least, like settee and chair cushions, electronics. You may be wondering, but most of us (if not all) do not have insurance (schemes). I don’t trust the state government to help; they put us in this mess with their shitty road constructions. They’ve seen the extent of damage caused by the disaster and are saying help is not for everyone. Can you imagine that?”

I ask if he’ll be able to move back to his home.

“Yes, I intend to go back home. In the meantime, I’ve invited some friends to help me clear, reorganize, and wash the things I can still use.”

I admire Uzo’s strength and resiliency. And I bitterly resent those who could, but don’t help—the wealthy elite of the world.

 

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com

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Proofreading is an art

From the first draft to the second last, my writing partner and I send chapters back and forth. We ask questions, make suggestions, point out errors in time lines, holes in plot lines, identify discrepancies in character development, and highlight the great bits.

Finally, we come to the second last draft—the one that requires the scrutiny for details. Our goal is always to have a “clean” manuscript.

My writing partner puts the chapters into one document, sends it to me, and I send it to my Kindle.

Why?

I’ve learned that reading on the Kindle puts me in “book” mode and I see the things I miss on the big screen. Note that this draft is already formatted for ereaders so I’m seeing what the buyer will see. Periods in the wrong place, a word that just doesn’t work, “is” when it should be “it,” and a couple of times I spot a missing word that needs to be added, or an extra word to be deleted.

I find a few “that” where I think it should be “who.” I make note of them and my writing partner emails back.

Just now I was looking up when to use who and that. It’s okay to use that for a person, animal, or thing. The criterion has more to do with whether it’s a restrictive clause or not (whether the antecedent is named and whether the sentence can stand without the whole clause). 

As far as I can tell from that, it’s okay to use “that” in those cases where I have used it. It’s a complicated thing though.

I see this sentence, Dad had moved to Regina to teach high school there. I comment,

I think at some other point, her dad was teaching in a college not high school.

I bookmark each page that needs attention on my Kindle and then go back to the computer copy to add my notes with Track Changes. No, I don’t scroll through pages and pages to find the one I need. I pick an unusual word on the page I’ve bookmarked and then use Find to get to the right page on the computer.  

I send the file back to my writing partner. She writes, I went through your suggestions. I had found some of them but missed others, so thank you!” 

I offer to read it one more time, but she declines. I know she’ll go through it one or two more times. Our goal is to have an error free document and we get it right most of the time. After all, two heads are better than one.

 

http://www.darlenejonesauthor.com