Happy New Year!

May 2018 be filled with the good things of life.

Happy New Year


Once again we’re at the Christmas Tree Festival in Victoria, BC and we say:

Merry Christmas !

from the book club.

Merry Christmas - Feliz Navidad


Feliz Navidad !

from Mexico.

Merry Christmas - Feliz Navidad

Wishing everyone a wonderful Holiday Season.


I’ve been through this before. The flurry of publishing a novel, announcing the launch, marketing….

It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s blackout.It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s blackout.














And then? The crash. You’re done, burned out, ready for a break. This stage lasts about two days and you’re antsy to start on another story. But what if you have no ideas at the moment? You fret and worry and the more you reach for an idea, the more elusive it becomes.

That’s when you launch into major cleaning, declutter the house, become obsessed with social media and spend many too many hours on the Internet.

And suddenly, when you least expect it your brain clicks on “an old lady in a nursing home and a young girl just out of high school, who desperately wants to go to university, but can’t afford it. What if the two…?”

Where did that germ of an idea come from?

For the life of me, I can’t remember, but it grew into a two-novel-set of mystery, adventure, and romance—Alzheimer’s, a reporter fleeing across the Sahara, a son and daughter-in-law trying to decode a mother’s notes, a man waiting  to be caught and tried, and the young girl trying to save him….

I’m ready to write, but again I’m wallowing in writer blackout—no ideas, none, zilch.  What to do? Clean, declutter the house, spend many too many hours on the Internet, go to Mexico for Christmas and wait. Something will pop up. Of that I am certain. Meanwhile, I have time to relax and read, read, read.

P.S. Currently I’m reading the amazing, brilliantly written Welcome to Lagos by Chibunda Onuzo.

It’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s blackout.



























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!!




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.




We need a temperature test before marriage


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.


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.


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.