Always Experiencing Something New – Through the Smoke in Kelowna and Kaslo BC


Other than having my carry-on bag inspected because I’d inadvertently packed one tube of facial cleanser that was a little over the size limit, my flight to Kelowna was very pleasant. The plane was newer, but had more leg room than usual. It wasn’t full, so the friendly woman in the outside seat and I shared the empty space between us. And we arrived twenty minutes early!

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Somewhere over the Prairies?

It was hot, dry and smoky when my friend, Judy, picked me up at Kelowna Airport, but that didn’t stop us from chatting all the way to her home in Vernon, as long-time friends tend to do. I stayed with Judy and her husband until the next leg of my trip by bus began the next afternoon.

During a trip to the Vernon Library, we came across this lovely little park and caught the last beautiful song from a young woman performing with her friend or husband, who accompanied her on guitar. We were sorry we arrived too late to catch more and to get a better picture, maybe even a video clip.

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Music in the Park

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Next to the Vernon Court House

While Judy and I waited at the station for my bus the next morning, a police officer came in looking for someone named Ernie. He approached an elderly man who was sitting behind me and asked if he could speak to him. We heard the officer say that someone was worried about him. The man was tall and frail-looking. He carried with him only a small shaving kit and a brown manila envelope. Neither the pockets of his plaid cargo shorts, nor those on his shirt showed any sign of a wallet. They took their conversation outside and then eventually left together.

“I hope he can get a refund,” said a man sitting two seats over from me. “He bought a ticket to Swift Current (a destination hundreds of miles away). I thought that to be doubtful, but it reminded me of the man who was reluctantly about to celebrate his 100th birthday at an Old Age Home, in the book The-100-Year- Old- Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. I recommend it for a fun read.

Soon, I was riding the Greyhound Bus to Nelson, where my daughter Sarah picked me up, while observing the clouds of smoke and areas of blackened forest that had succumbed to the fires last year. We arrived in Kaslo just in time to say good night to my two grandchildren.

Like last year, large portions of the days in Kaslo were spent at the beach. The cool breeze off the lake made the temperature bearable, but the other shore of the lake was obscured by the smoke, even that far away from the nearest wildfire.

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Smoke across Kootenay Lake

The next morning I was introduced to a sweet dog named Leté. Sarah had gotten a call telling her that one of her friends, who had recently been acting very strangely and who Sarah suspected was having some sort of mental breakdown, had been admitted to hospital. The neighbour who was calling was looking after the woman’s dog, but because of some physical restrictions she was unable to take her for long walks. She asked if Sarah could do that. So she and I and my granddaughter, Skylet walked down the hill and took Leté out. She enjoyed running along the beach.

Long story short, Leté ended up living with us for the next two weeks until her owner returned home. We all grew very much attached to her.

On Saturday morning I went to the diverse Kaslo Outdoor Market, where Sarah did quite well selling her popular pottery.

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My Daughter the Potter

Other vendors

By mid-afternoon, when we returned all of Sarah’s market equipment and unsold pottery back to her studio, the temperature was very hot. We drove back down to spend the rest of the day at the beach with the rest of the family. I was hot enough to actually venture into the lake for the first time, but it was cold. I got only to my waist!

Sunday there was a celebration at the lower bridge along the River Trail. It was there that I pulled out my camera for the first time, only to discover that I’d apparently left the memory card at home in my computer! Thank goodness for my smart phone, which provided pictures for the rest of my visit, but I hadn’t taken it with me to the trail either!

That evening the males of the house went fishing and my grandson, Callum, came home very excited about the Rainbow Trout he’d caught – big enough to feed us dinner the next night. That boy loves to fish!

The rest of the week went quickly with several trips to the beach and a trip to the Riding Stables to watch Skylet taking her horseback riding lesson.

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Skylet on her Horse

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Annual Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival

During my second weekend in Kaslo the population of the small town, about the size of my home town of Hastings (pop. 1200), swelled to probably triple that as people came from all around the Kootenays and beyond for the Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival.

Sarah and I spent Friday at the Market again. There was a different crowd and some different vendors, and it was another successful day. Ten-year-old Callum took his un-tuned violin to the main street and, despite not having practised in several months, managed to earn $25 for himself to spend at the Festival. I was wishing I’d taken my ukulele!

Saturday and Sunday Sarah and I joined the others for some great concerts and a variety of food at Kaslo Bay Park.

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The top Headliner of the event was Buffy Sainte-Marie. She was amazing! Unfortunately the heavy bass prevented me from witnessing her from close to the stage, as it did unpleasant things to my heart rhythm.

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The day closed with the sun reflecting off the mountain tip.

By 9:00 Sunday night we were all exhausted. For me, Monday was a bit of a lazy day, doing my laundry and helping with a few household chores while Sarah prepared her Studio for the kids Clay Camp she was putting on for the next four days. I had agreed to be her assistant for that. I had to rest up!

Tuesday and Wednesday there were both morning and afternoon classes, two different groups doing two half-days each. The kids were young and excited and needed some guidance, which, after listening carefully to Sarah’s instructions, I was able to provide. I enjoyed it.

The pre-teen/teen class was on Thursday and Friday mornings. I listened and observed and made a pinch pot on Thursday morning, but my assistance wasn’t really needed, other than to help clean up at the end of the day. I took the whole family out to the little (and unusually crowded) Front Street Pizzeria for dinner, thanks to a donation from Jim. The food was great, but because of the extra tourists in town and some restaurants chose to close early, the wait time very long.

On Friday I opted to do some laundry, both mine and family, and get organized for my departure the next morning. We drove to Duncan Lake in the afternoon. Despite there being so much smoke that we could see only half-way across the lake, and at some point we noticed ash falling onto our clothes, it was a fun family time on another beach, and the water was warm enough for me to get in and swim!

Smoke across Duncan Lake

Smoke across Duncan Lake

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When Sarah took me to catch my bus in Nelson the next day, we discovered that the shut-down of the Greyhound service was already in progress. The terminal was no longer open on the weekends. I had to stand outside under whatever shade I could find to wait for my bus. Next time I go, there will be no Greyhound bus at all.

I spent Sunday and Monday with Judy. Sunday we drove to Salmon Arm to visit my cousin George, after the smoke cleared a little. The sun never made it through the haze that day. Shortly after noon on Tuesday, after another bag search that didn’t pass inspection this time (more on that later) I was flying high above the smoky clouds, looking forward to home and a break from the smoke.

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Memoir Monday – Remembering My Dad


In the photo album there is a picture of my mom and dad and me standing on a hill in front of the cottage.  I was probably about two years old.  I look at the picture and feel Dad’s hand holding mine, yet I don’t really remember much from when I was that young.

Dad, Mom & Me

I remember going with him on insurance calls.  One recollection was of a boy/man who I think was celebrating his 21st birthday.  He had a very large head and a body so tiny that he lay on a pillow on the kitchen table. Today I’m still not sure if this is true or it was a dream.

I remember sitting on Dad’s knee in the big overstuffed chair in the living room while he read to me from my storybooks or a “comic” book.

When I was a little older Dad would come home from a week of deer hunting sporting a rough unshaven face and playfully give me a whisker rub.  One time that I remember, he brought a deer home and had it hanging in the garage.  I remember scolding him about that.

I remember having lipped him one morning before going to school and receiving a spanking that left me sobbing. Only once.

I remember laughter.

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I remember him driving me to parties and always being available to pick me up after if I needed a ride home.

I remember him giving me my first driving lesson and afterwards suggesting that I take Driver’s Ed at school.  I remember him being proud of me when I passed and the examiner told him I was a “good little driver”.

I remember going fishing with him for rock bass and perch at our cottage on the St. Lawrence River; and waking up to the smell of  fish frying for breakfast, Dad having been out early to catch pike.

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I remember boat trips to Alexandria Bay to buy Tootsie Rolls and Poppycock. I remember him teaching how to drive and dock our boat, and later allowed me to take my friends out myself.

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I remember how he came to my rescue when a friend and I were stranded with a broken down car in Belleville; and when I’d had enough of Toronto and wanted to move back home; and when the wedding rings didn’t fit and he took me to the Consumers Distributors store to exchange them, only to learn it was too late to get them resized in time for the wedding. The next evening he took me to his favourite jewellery store to buy replacements. I wonder what he would have thought when Brian and I broke up.

I remember him always being there for me if I asked, but not interfering if I didn’t.

I remember his confusion, the sadness of moving him into a nursing home; stopping in on my way home from work to see how he was and finding that he didn’t speak but took hold of my hand and walked me through the halls.  I remember his no longer having control over his bodily functions or understanding of social ones.  I remember taking him to the doctor when he broke his finger, and visiting him in the hospital when he broke his hip, and crying at his bedside because I knew from his vacant stare that he didn’t know who I was or why he was there.

And finally I remember getting the call when we were in Vancouver for my niece’s wedding, the call that informed us that the father who had mentally left us five years earlier had now left us physically as well. He was 82.

I don’t go to the cemetery to pay my respects; I don’t put memorials in the newspaper.  But I do remember and miss him.

 

I don’t remember saying “I love you, Dad” nor do I remember him telling me that he loved me, but I knew that he did and I hope he knew that I did.

An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom


As you might have guessed, one of the things happening that has caused me many tears is the treatment of the immigrant children arriving in the United States. I’m not going to get into the politics of this, but yesterday it made me remember a story that I’d written eight years ago about a local family’s journey as immigrants to Canada. I wrote it for submission to a magazine that had previously published my immigrant stories, but the editor felt this one wasn’t what he wanted. I’ve never found another fit for it, so I thought I’d share it with my readers here. This is a longer version. Let me know what you think.

An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom

On a cold Saturday morning in January the little restaurant is full except for a few vacant seats at the lunch bar. We wait just a few minutes while a woman occupying one of the booths prepares to leave, rather like waiting for a parking spot at the bank, watching for signs that one will become open soon.  We are greeted with the warm welcome by Remzi as if we were part of the family.

 “Good morning.  How are you today?’ he asks with his heavy accent.  By the time we’ve sat down he’s out from behind the bar and standing at our table.  “Two coffees to start?” he asks. 

His wife, Fejzie, passes by on her way to serve plates of the house special.  She smiles too. “How are you today?”

 I sip my coffee and listen to the conversations around us.   It’s as if we’re all seated at the table in a big family home.  Conversations are shared with everyone.  Fejzie & Remzi quip with their customers as if with their children. They remember everyone who has been there before. 

“Did you bring me picture of torch?” says Remzi as he places our plates before us.  At first we don’t catch what he’s saying. Then we remember that the last time we’d been in was the day the Olympic torch was leaving town.  We’d taken some pictures and had shown them to him on the camera screen when we’d gone in for breakfast after the event.  “I want to see the real pictures, not on camera.” We promise that we will print some up for him.

Remzi greets a newcomer at the end of the bar.  Did you know that Pete died? He asks her.  “Who’s Pete?”  “The old man who used to come in and sit right there,” he replies.  “He dropped dead on Wednesday.”

The place is small, maybe a dozen full-sized booths along the wall and one small one.  The tables are arborite, the seats fake leather.  A half dozen round stools, chrome with brown vinyl seats line the white arborite lunch bar, behind which is the grill, toaster, sinks, etc., all within view.  A cook works at the grill and Fejzie & Remzi make toast, pour coffee and tell him the orders.  There is a group too large for a booth.  Fejzie brings out a folding chair from the back and they put it at the end of the table.  Orders are taken with personal questions.  No one is offended.

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

Fejzie and Remzi run the East City Coffee Shop now, although it’s owned by Fejzie and her son Alban. Soup and sandwiches are available, but the specialty is the All Day Breakfast, which begins at 7 am and ends at 3 pm, when the doors are closed. They work hard, but their roots began in a very different world, one much harder. They both grew up in Albania during the Communist era. When asked about their previous lives in Albania, Fejzie dries her hands on her smudged apron and says, “I could write book! People would be surprised.”

Remzi Sina was born in November of 1945. On February 6th, 1950 Fejzie Talo was born. Before communism took control of Albania, both families were wealthy landowners, but under the Communist Party leader, Enver Hoxha, the rich and powerful in the country were considered enemies of the state. They were stripped of their land, bullied and in many cases beaten or thrown into jail. When Remzi was just six months old, his father was imprisoned and his family was moved into a government controlled house.

Fejzie’s fate was more traumatic.

On September 2nd   1950, soon after he’d been beaten nearly to death, her grandpa, with her father (John Talo) and two uncles, fled the country with the intention of joining western forces to return and overthrow the communist government. Three days after their flight, the police arrived at the door of their home. Seven- month- old Fejzie, her mother Fise, and her grandmother were loaded onto the back of a truck and taken to a concentration camp many miles from their home in Korce. They were crowded into what amounted to a bunk house shared with many other detainees.  Pasta, water and occasionally a few beans were rationed to young and old alike. There wasn’t even any milk for the baby. . Often they got no drinking water because the pro-Communists were given as much as they wanted first, and it was often wasted as wash water.

“If there was any left behind, we got it,” said Fejzie.

Meals were prepared at one central cooking area. At night they huddled together in their allotted one and a half metres square wooden bed.

“Three times a day the police have to check me, my mom and my grandma to see if we’re all there,” Fejzie tells me in her broken English. “There were so many people there.”

The government took all of their land, and possessions. They weren’t permitted to go anywhere without a stamp.  Fejzie says she doesn’t remember much before she was about two or three years old so relies on her mother’s stories up to that time.

Fejzie’s earliest memory was when she was a toddler.

“I remember very good. I go a little bit outside the camp and police see me and throw bomb and I escaped bomb, honest to God!”

Each day Fejzie’s mom tramped through fields to get wood for the police. The rest of her time was spent taking care of her young daughter, and nursing her own ill mother with what resources she could find. Grandma survived. Many others died.

They lived in these concentration camp conditions from 1950 to 1955. Fejzie thinks that her younger uncle, who had been sent to jail for seven years, was better off.

“After five years, things got a little bit better. You were allowed to work to make living, but still under police surveillance. Permission was needed to go outside the work area, which was small. You had to tell police ‘I’m going to see doctor, or wherever’.”

In 1957 they were moved into a small house with one bedroom and a kitchen, no longer in a concentration camp, but they still were not free. They still lined up for their rations of some foods and water, but things such as bread could be bought in a store. Government soldiers watched every move of any anti-communists. If they went to buy bread and it was perceived that they looked at it in a strange way, they were questioned as to why. Food was still rationed, and they had to line up for food, milk and water.  They were allowed 10 eggs/week per family, whether a family of 3 or 10 people.

After another ten years they were allowed a little bit more freedom of movement, but restrictions still applied to them. Fejzie loved school but was allowed only to complete grade seven. No one was allowed to go to high school. When boys turned nineteen, they had to spend two years in the army. An exception was made for anti-Communist families; they had to work the land on the government farms, using only a shovel.

In the meantime, when Remzi’s dad was released from jail after many years, his family moved to an area near the capital city of Tiranë. Theirs was not as bad a situation as Fejzie’s family, but high school was still not an option. After public school Remzi worked as a construction labourer. More people were working for the government and people were more educated. However, their movements were still restricted and permission had to be sought days in advance if they wanted to make a trip out of the area. Pro-Communists and anti-Communists were not permitted to associate.

There was no romantic courting for Fejzie and Remzi. They first met on the day they were married, on August 13th, 1972. Typically their marriage was arranged by their families, who’d lived in the same area before Communism separated them.

After they married, Remzi continued to work as a construction labourer. Fejzie was overjoyed to finally be able to return to school at night. She earned a diploma in agriculture.

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Fejzie and Remzi Remembering Their Past

For the next 18 years she worked on a government farm. They lived on government owned land in a ramshackle house that had neither wiring nor indoor plumbing. It was there that their two boys, Alban and Gerti were born.

Her mother and grandmother lived with her younger uncle, after he got out of jail and had a family. Fejzie remembers that when her Grandma died, it was a tradition to have a last dinner, with good meat, for people to say goodbye, but the government would not allow them any meat. Fejzie’s mother went to live with Fejzie and Remzi after her mother died.

The boys went to elementary school, but, being descendants of affluent families, they weren’t permitted to pursue academic education. They could, however, attend trade school. Alban became a tool-and-die machinist and started working at age sixteen.

During these years, the four men who’d escaped Albania had spent five years in a Greek refugee camp before the UN stepped up to help disperse people. Their hopes of returning to Albania were dashed, so they chose to come to Canada. Together they opened a restaurant in Toronto, but eventually bought The Tops Motel/Restaurant in Peterborough. In time, two brothers each opened their own coffee shops, leaving John with Tops until he sold it in 1978.

In 1990, when the grip of Communism was loosening in Albania, the Sina family were able to obtain visas to Hungary. It happened that John Talo (Fejzie’s dad) was in Hungary at the time, to renew his visa, and he somehow learned of his family’s whereabouts. He helped them start the process to bring them to Canada.  It was easy for Fejzie’s mother to get a visa because she and John were still married, but it was harder for Fejzie and her family. While in Hungary they spent five weeks making daily visits to the Canadian Embassy before they were granted visas to Canada. They arrived in Canada with John on September 2, 1990. After 40 years the family was reunited. Once in Canada they could go to Oshawa to apply for permanent visas. They all lived with John in his house. Life was much better; however, new challenges awaited them.

Gerti and Alban were both enrolled in Grade 9 at the local high school, but Alban found it frustrating not knowing the language and being older than his classmates. He quit after just six months and began working as a dishwasher at the Carousel Restaurant. With his hard work and keenness to learn, he was soon doing the cooking.

Because of the language barrier, finding work was more difficult for their parents. Remzi found construction work in the spring. He knew no English.

“I work on scaffold and Foreman said ‘Go down there and take shovel.’  I go, not take shovel, I take pick,” he recalls with a laugh.

In September Fejzie began working as a housekeeper at The Tops Motel, by then under new ownership. Her years as a housekeeper there and later at The Best Western Hotel didn’t help her much with learning English since she had little contact with other people. A decade later she and Remzi got their start in the restaurant business, when they went to work at The Piccadilly Restaurant as dishwashers.

Gerti finished high school and went to work at Jim’s Pizzeria. Both he and Alban dreamed of one day owning their own restaurant. With that in mind, Gerti later enrolled at Fleming College in Business Administration, but when Alban and Fejzie bought the restaurant on Hunter Street in East City, Gerti gave up on college to join the family business.

“My mom, me, Remzi, Alban and Gerti became Canadian Citizens in 1994,” says Fejzie.

In 2001 Remzi, Fejzie and their two sons, Alban and Gerti bought their own house.

The boys ultimately followed their dreams and opened their European-style restaurant, Gerti’s, in 2005. Alban joined him as the cook, and Fejzie took over East City Coffee Shop. Remzi left The Piccadilly to help her. Immersed in the language of their patrons, they were soon conversing well in English.

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Fejzie and Remzi, happy to be Canadians

Despite their occasional grumbling about being still a long way from retirement, there is always a twinkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces. They are thankful that they were able to come to Canada.

“For Albanians who go to other countries like Greece, Italy, anywhere in Europe, it’s hard to make a living because they won’t give citizenship and they can’t travel to other countries with Albanian passport.”

The last time we stopped into East City Coffee Shop, we were disappointed to find that Remzi and Fejzie were no longer working there. We were concerned until Alban told us that they were retired and caring for Fejzie’s mother. We’re happy for them, but the Coffee Shop just isn’t the same without them.

Taking a Break


Thank you to all of my new and older followers. I appreciate you taking the journey with me.

Due to all the sadness that has been happening around the world, especially those that have personal connection to us through our friends and family, I’ve been struggling to focus on writing for the past week. I find that doing physical things, like playing Pickleball, are the only things that help me get through the day. So I’m going to take a break from writing for a few days. Hope to see you again soon.❤️

Memoir Monday – The Princess


I was dragging along the aisles of the grocery store, holding Daddy’s hand while my mother consulted her shopping list and piled items from the shelves into the metal shopping cart. As any ten-year-old girl would be, I was bored and anxious to get home to dinner. Then the line of items along a shelf high above the groceries caught my attention. There sat toys! There were big trucks and toy drums, building blocks and dolls. Dolls! That’s when I saw her and my eyes popped! There she stood, taller than all of the others, that princess doll.  Her shoulder-length hair was a dark blond and set in a Paige-boy style. The sparkling “silver” tiara on her head completed the royal look presented by the dark blue satin gown, trimmed with white lace. Her blue eyes shone from her perfect rosy face. All I could do was stop and stare. I knew I had to have her.

But, although Mom and Dad looked toward where I was pointing, they didn’t seem to share my excitement and my pleas to buy her went unheeded. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and Mom’s thoughts were on getting the Christmas baking ingredients and the week’s meal supplies. They may have told me too that they couldn’t afford to buy her then. Or possibly they’d suggested I put her on my list to Santa. I’m sure I dreamed about her that night.

The weeks passed and soon it was Christmas morning.  I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs until the rest of my family was up. Since my three siblings were teenagers who’d rather sleep longer, I had to be content with dumping out the contents of my stocking that hung on my bedroom door knob. When I was finally allowed to creep down the steep stairs to the living room, my eyes lit up in disbelief. There in front of the Christmas tree stood my princess! That was all I needed. I ran to examine her. She was even more beautiful up close than she’d been up on that shelf.  I looked at the little pearl earrings on her earlobes, and the triple strand pearl choker necklace around her neck. Her nicely shaped feet fit perfectly into the silver plastic high-heeled slippers. That was the best Christmas ever!

I didn’t play much with that doll. I was almost getting to an age that I was more interested in playing games and reading books and playing outdoors than playing with dolls.  But I loved to look at her where she sat on my bed. She held that spot as I grew up, married and had daughters of my own. My father-in-law, an antique dealer, once offered me $100 for her, but I turned him down. A number of years later, when her dress had faded to a dull purple and the elastic of her necklace had rotted and broken, like my marriage, and I needed the cash, I made her a new dress and regretfully sold her on eBay for far less.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of her.

Memoir Monday – Remembering Days of Lily-of-the-Valley, Pea Pods and Coal


If, like many bloggers, you have been journaling for a very long time, do you ever wish you could have started much earlier? Like when you were a child?

I’ve been trying to work on my Memoirs. I’d like to start at the beginning, but all I have are old, black and white photographs to spur my memory of those times. Sometimes it’s a long reach back. It’s hard to remember the details, and the pictures often don’t show what I need.

This week two things have brought back some memories of my childhood home – the Lily-of-the-Valley that are coming up nicely in our flower beds here at the condo, and the news from the US that the President is determined to bring back coal production.

A very young me in front of our family home

A very young me in front of our family home

This is the only picture I can find that shows anything of the two-story white clapboard,  house with  black trim, where I grew up. In the background behind me, you can see part of a long verandah. It stretched across three-quarters of one side of the house and around the corner to the front door.

The verandah brought a few memories together.

The Lily-of-the-Valley

In a flower bed that bordered the side length of the verandah, my mother had planted Lily-of-the-Valley. One summer day when they were in full bloom, a bored young me thought it would be fun to climb up onto the verandah railing and jump off to the ground. I don’t know if I was unaware of the work Mom had put into planting the garden, or if I thought I could jump over it.

Lily-of-the-Valley

Lily-of-the-Valley

As I climbed up for the second time, my mother tore through the side door.

“Judy! Get down off of there!”

“But I just want to jump!” I replied.

Needless to say, she was not impressed, especially when she saw the flatten patch of  the green and white perennials.

Pea Pods

Mom picked up a large wooden basket full of green peas still in the pods, and a bowl of from the cupboard.

“Come with me. You can help me shell these peas,” she said, as she nudged me out to the verandah.

We sat side-by-side in the wooden porch chairs, the basket between us, the bowl in her lap and she showed me how to snap open the pod and carefully scrape the peas into the bowl. I don’t remember how long we sat there; I don’t remember any conversation, although being an inquisitive child I’m sure I had lots of questions for her.

Funny, I never liked cooked peas when I was a kid, but I swear I can hear her scolding me for eating more of these peas than I was putting into the bowl!

The Coal

At the front of the house, a heavy trap door in the wooden verandah floor provided access into the basement. I remember a day when a big truck arrived, and a man removed a section of the verandah railing, opened the trap door and set up a chute from the back of the truck to inside the door. I saw him shoveling chunks of black coal onto the chute. I watched it slide down through a cloud of black dust, and disappear below the floor, until my mother hauled me back indoors, out of harms way.

When the delivery man had finished his job, replacing the verandah panel and closing the trap door, I was outside again, watching my mother scrubbing the blackened walls and floor of the verandah with a mop and large bucket of soapy water.

Once winter winds began to howl, my dad would shovel the coal from the basement bin into the coal-fired furnace to provide his family with warmth through the long, cold winter.

Let’s Start a Productive Conversation


Before we can have a productive conversation, we have to acknowledge that both talking and listening to understand are necessary.

Today I’m doing some mind traveling.  I have a need to write about something that causes pain to my heart, and my body.

Each day, I log onto Facebook knowing that my feed is going to be loaded down with the troubling stories of things going on in the world. Someone told me that they just have happy postings on their feed, things that lift them up. It’s true. I could change my settings, block posts from news outlets and people who repost such things. I could at the very least stop reading the comments. Would that make my heart lighter and my body less tense? For me, the answer is no.

So today I’m speaking out from my heart. I’m not going to tell people they are wrong, or make accusations, or call anyone names, or call for rioting. I’m just going to explain my sadness, frustration and incredulity, and maybe offer a step toward solving at least one problem.

There are many, many things happening around the world that cause these feelings – floods, hurricanes, fires, threats of war. But the most incredible thing in the news this past week is not about these disasters or what can be done to prevent more and what can be done to help all those suffering. No. What is making the biggest headlines, and causing the biggest division among people is an event that took place a year ago. This is the one that I’m going to address now.

A black football player chose to protest the most recent (at the time)unwarranted treatment/death of some other black men, with no consequences to the perpetrators, by quietly kneeling during the opening ceremonies of the football game. Did he choose that moment because he wanted to be noticed? Yes! Did he do it to show disrespect toward the soldiers that fought for his right to free speech; to show that he hated his country? No! My understanding is that he did it in the hope of starting a conversation about the racial discrimination that was putting constant fear into the lives of his fellow man, conversation that could bring people together with a better understanding of each other. His choice of time and venue was to get the attention of many. It did. But instead of the conversation he’d hoped for, it became a conversation about patriotism, the national flag and anthem, ego and hate. This week it was brought into the foreground again in a political speech.

What I find sad, frustrating and completely incredible is the number of people who choose to believe the politician’s reasoning rather than that of the football player. There are some who think that because a black man or woman has the “privilege” of earning a good salary, they forfeit their right to freedom. Some say they are  alright with the protest, but not the time or place. There are even those who declare that “there is no racism in the United States.”

To them I ask, “How many black people have you sat down with and asked to hear their stories? How many have you really listened to, with the objective to understand? How many times have you imagined yourself in their shoes?

I’m a privileged white person, living in a community where there is little cultural diversity, but I’ve listened to some of the history of a black man who was brought to Canada from Africa and adopted by my uncle, who recognized his potential and wanted to give him a chance at a better life. He was a teenager when he arrived. He’d had a good education while in Africa, with the help of my uncle, and despite the prejudice and poor treatment by some, he managed to get a University degree and become successful in his life. His younger adopted brother, who was only five years old, had a much harder time of it.

Quite recently, I’ve heard enough of the story of the only black family who lived in our community when my children were in school, to learn that despite them being an educated, well liked, upstanding family of the community, they too often experienced the discrimination of being suspect because of the colour of their skin. I was surprised.

These stories got me paying attention! Now when I read about the fears of black people, I understand, and my heart aches.

Sure there are many black people who have fought their way through life with violence and crime; who have joined gangs just to belong. But there are just as many, or more, white people in the same situation. They should be afraid of the law.

Then there are the black families who mind their own business, have jobs, take care of their families and friends, and yet live in fear for their lives every day. They know that at any time, for any reason, they could be stopped by the police because they look like someone (black/brown skin, dread locks) who just robbed a bank in the neighbourhood they are driving through, or because they supposedly have a light out on their car, or they are driving an expensive looking car, or a neighbour told the police that a crime suspect had gone into their house. And they know that no matter how they respond, they could end up dead.

How many law-abiding white people, living in the US or Canada, live with these same fears?

Let’s start the conversation right here, right now! Tell your story; explain your fears; ask questions; listen to understand; practice respect; share this post. This is the conversation that needs to go viral!