Born 100 years ago today

She would be 100 years old today.  March 18th is our mother’s birthdate.  She was never much interested in disclosing the year of her birth.  I do think though, if she’d been granted more than 52 years of life and she had lived to 100 years, she’d crow about it.  

Mom was born in a section house (a company house for railroad workers-usually section foreman) in McLean, SK on March 18, 1922.  I wish I’d asked her more questions about her life, or maybe it’s more accurate to say wish I’d listened more when she told stories of her life.  

Her given name was Clarice Marie Mish and she never much cared for her first name.  She signed her name as Claire instead.  Her childhood was spent in Wolseley, SK and much of it during the depression when money was scarce.  Add to that her father was very seriously injured in a freak accident leaving her mother, a Polish immigrant, to raise 6 children by cleaning homes, working in the laundry at the “old folks” home and squeezing every dollar until it cried out for mercy.  

She was the best of moms to three daughters, a hard working wife and partner on a small mixed farm in southern Saskatchewan and someone who found joy in the everyday of life.  She had so many sayings that we carried with us into adulthood and now our children carry into theirs and so it goes.  

Happy Birthday Mom

Claire Marie Mish




The Magnetic Shopping List

Have you also heard historians and genealogy people say we should be writing up accounts of our experience of living through (or so far at least) the COVID 19 pandemic?  If we’d kept a record from the early days depending on where you live and the luck of your draw  it might start out with bewilderment, disbelief, and a range of thought that would vacillate between “we are all going to die” to “it’s not that bad” to “maybe it will magically disappear” to “life as we knew it will never be again”.   Now, for us at least, its acceptance, not planning much beyond the end of the current week, being some numbed by all the news from local to worldwide and an appreciation of the months we’ve had where we could get outside easily.

One thing that takes time is laying in supplies.  Where it used to be a matter of getting in the car and going to the store with some online buying, now we have stopped going to most stores, we use online shopping and like so many others, the delivery services are often at our door.

Even with this narrowed alley of life experiences these days, we find things to do.  We keep a grocery list on the fridge and we were down to its last page.  A few days ago I sat down to buy a magnetic shopping list. I should have set a timer to see how long the whole thing took, but let’s say 90 minutes+.

It went like this:

  • Decide to shop local-Staples (at least local people work there) has a list that will do
  • Sign up for an account
  • Select my favourite store but every time I go to order my favourite store reverts to one 400 km away
  • Website keeps asking me to turn on location services, I try to get around that but finally throw the damn thing a bone and turn on location services for this purchase
  • Same bloody thing, can’t order locally
  • Try a different device-no luck
  • Call the store to see if they have the product (the store 400km away does) and yes they do.  May I order on the phone from you?  No.  Staffer says, try refreshing the screen, there’s trouble with the website.  
  • Back to try it all over again.  No go.  I try the online chat with Staples-quick response-the service agent, says Safari doesn’t work well with their website, try Chrome.  Arrggghh, I don’t use Chrome, I use Safari.  Another option is to phone a 1-800 number. 
  • Now I am tired of the whole thing and think, why don’t I just remove the magnetic back from our current almost depleted list and glue it on to a pad of paper and bingo, we will have a new shopping list for the fridge.

I rifle around in a draw that holds pads of paper and what do I find at the bottom? A magnetic shopping list.




 A small example of where times goes during a pandemic.

Florence Thomas

Florence Alice Thomas, 90

Born July 21, 1927 McLean, SK., died May 3, 2018 Edmonton, AB of natural causes.

Wife, mother, family connector, unabashed inquisitor, good soul

Florence Mish was so small when she was born she slept in a shoe box. While she remained small in stature throughout her life, her persona was loomed large.

Florence and her siblings were raised in Wolseley, SK. Their father was injured in his prime and her mother Mary, a Polish immigrant was left to support a family of 7 with no assistance. Florence’s childhood was shaped by the responsibilities of pulling weeds, washing clothes, tending animals, cooking supper and a fair amount of ‘make your own fun’. With her brother Ed, they got up to all manner of rascal-type activity during their early years. They would remove a lightbulb from its socket in their bedroom and see who could stick their finger up highest without getting a shock. Florence regaled us all with stories of their childhoods.

In the spring of 1950 Florence and a few girlfriends were traveling by car along the TransCanada highway east of Wolseley. They noticed the railway tracks had been washed out by high spring run-off. They ran along the tracks, flagged down an approaching train and prevented a derailment. After working as an early telephone operator, Florence married Jack Thomas. He was a carpenter who built many residences and commercial buildings in Wolseley. Jack joined Beaver Lumber and with their sons Brian and Larry in tow, they traveled to locations throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta building Beaver Lumber stores. They eventually settled in Edmonton. Jack died in 1985Florence’s love and generosity were ever present. Her home was filled with warmth, good natured conversation and good humour. Florence served delicious meals, often with a nod to her Polish heritage. We hoped her cabbage rolls and perogies would appear at the table. She found joy in everyday life, in visits with family and friends, growing a garden, canning produce, cooking and sewing. And could she sew. Once when complimented on the lovely tailored garments she made, she responded with characteristic humour and self-deprecation “Every time I take on a project I think of something new and stupid to do.”

Florence worked for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 955 in Edmonton for over 20 years and once retired she volunteered for the West Division of Edmonton Police Service. She was never a timid person and always spoke her mind. Florence wouldn’t shy away from asking the awkward social or personal questions many of us think of but never voice. And when she asked one of those questions of others, we might squirm slightly but then we’d lean in to hear the response. You knew though, if she asked those questions of you, you were sunk.  

Florence was a great family connector, keeping in touch far and wide. Florence remembered birthdays and anniversaries and whenever she could she’d travel to join in the gathering. She liked a party and was everyone’s favorite aunt.

In her memory we will strive to carry some of her spirit, vitality, directness and love of a good time in all of us.

Written by Holly Day and Barb Shea, Florence’s nieces










Today We Celebrate 15,695 Days

Today we celebrate 15,695 days together, or another way of looking at it is to divide the days by 365 (yes I know I didn’t factor in leap years but hopefully you’ll cut me some slack) and that is 43 years.  It was November 9, 1974, a Saturday 43 years ago we were married.  We were reminiscing a bit today about our wedding.  What time exactly did we get married?  Neither of us can remember off the top of our heads.  I could go look at our wedding book but that would mean stirring from this chair.

We talked about how many people who were at the wedding have since died and how many people in our lives now were not born 43 years ago.  It’s time like these I reflect on all the wonderful people we know and have known.  People who have sat around our dining table or we have sat around theirs.  We are rich in family and in friends.  We have, together, lived through experiences that have brought joy to our hearts and some that have broken our hearts.  Our wedding day was filled with joy and sorrow.  The joy of a wedding, the sorrow of a visit to the hospital where my mother was dying.  We had moved our wedding day ahead hoping she might attend but that was not to be.  When I think of it now I wonder how my Dad coped that day.  His sense of humour never left him though.  After the ceremony he accompanied us to the hospital to visit Mom and as we all passed the admitting desk, he looked at the clerk and at me in my wedding dress and said “Would you please give us directions to the maternity ward?”

We have lived through a lot together, the two of us and we are blessed in so many ways. We give thanks for our family, our friends and our good fortune, probably not as often as we should.  There’s not a joke or story that we can tell each other that we likely have told one another before.  Some stories and opinions or theories are repeated over and over (mostly in his case of course).  In conversation with others one of us can start a story and turn to the other who will finish it.  

And to those who say ‘there is nothing new under the sun’, well that’s just wrong.  Something new happened today, some 15,695 days after our wedding.  We traditionally buy anniversary cards for each other.  Today would be our 83rd and 84th card purchase (starting with our first anniversary). And something new happened today.  Below are the cards we bought each other.   If we’d known, we could have saved some money and both signed the same card.




The Blogger Who Went Missing and Can’t Stay On Topic

Tomorrow I am going to meet with friends to talk about blogging.  It is not easy to keep writing blogs over time.  Some of it might be the knowledge that if you slow down and then stop blogging you may find out no one really cares.  I recall a segment in one of Garrison Keillor’s CD’s (it was a tape when I first heard it), The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra.   He talks about hosting a university radio program on classical music.  He took it on mostly to impress a girl he admired but had never spoken to.  He screwed up his courage and asked her, one day, if she listened to the program and she said “All the time”.  The next day the sound engineer told him there had been a transmitter problem and the show had basically not gone out over the waves for several months. And no listener had called in to ask why.  In other words, no one missed him.

Blogging, is sort of like that.  It might be fun while you do it but when you quit, well, unless you’ve got a special talent or topic or you’re a celebrity, no one misses you.  That said, I am happy to share the little I know about blogging with others who plan to use the platform for good things.  Their interest has piqued mine.  I went so far as to change the picture from a winter scene (it hasn’t been winter for months) to one that looks like Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland at this time of year.

Since I haven’t blogged for so long I need to refresh my memory of how to do things and so will end with a totally unrelated (to the topic above) series of photos.   We were on a road trip to Eastern Canada earlier this month.  We logged 5700 km in two weeks traveling and sightseeing in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Not long into the trip I started to take pictures of the salt and pepper shakers. Don’t ask me why.  I wish I’d thought of it one day earlier as I missed the little white Eiffel Tower set in Edmundston, NB. And so, to the seasonings of the Maritime provinces. 

And if there is anyone out there reading this, let me know.  


A Woman Walks Into A Room-Health Information Part I

There are those time-tested and quite hilarious jokes about a man or a dog walking into a bar.  It’s a pretty bad segue but this blog thought started by a woman walking into a room.  It was a waiting room in a doctor’s office and there was a cartoon poking fun at fishing through the world-wide web for health advice.

Looking for good health information???
Looking for good health information???

For those of us privileged to have ready access to the internet, we go there for all sorts of information and advice.  When it comes to our health though it is a quagmire of information and websites.  You can find someone who states they cured themselves by using a coffee enema or swears by a drug or swears the drug doesn’t work but chiropractic treatments are the answer.  And it goes on and on.  

Healthy Aging

Throughout our lives it’s important to stay active, engaged and to take care of ourselves.  As we age, the odds are our health will change and there will be limitations and medical conditions that come with the territory.  Yes there are credible websites and organizations you would tend to trust.   But perhaps not as many as you might think.   I have worked in health my entire career and for the better part of 20 years I worked in areas related to drug reviews and health technology assessment.  While not a content expert I’ve worked with many who are and I have an understanding of the how/what/who of evidence based health information.  I was very happy to see that McMaster University in London, Ontario launched an Optimal Aging portal recently.  This short video tell you what you can expect if you access the portal.

Experts have reviewed information on a multitude of topics and they give you the straight goods on what the best available evidence spells out.  

You can sign up for weekly email alerts or simply visit the portal and type in a topic.  There are Recent Evidence Summaries that provide “Key messages from scientific research that’s ready to be acted on” and Recent Web Resource Ratings that are  “Evaluations that tell you whether free health resources on the internet are based on scientific research”.

There is transparency on how they rate the web resources used. A five-star rating system gives you a perspective of how much evidence exists to support advice or recommendations. You’ll see if there is only one star beside the article, it means it is not an evidence based recommendation.  They have listed a number of websites they have excluded (and why) in the their review of what’s available.  

The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal focuses on the “older adult” and that may or may not be you….yet.  If it isn’t you at this point, I’d suggest you tuck away the website information for the day it might come in handy. As my dear Aunt Edy said once “We all age at the same rate.  One day at a time.”  



The Ups and Downs of Travel

It is a privilege, to travel for pleasure.  It’s not for everyone and not everyone can consider packing up and getting away for a while.  We travel from time to time and these are some observations about before, during and after being away:

  • Before we go away I do all manner of things unrelated to preparing to go away.  It seems I want to run myself short of packing time…and I usually do.   I do it every time we go away and cannot seem to help myself.  Any suggestions to break this very inefficient behaviour?
  • While getting ready to go I think of all the things I’d do if I stayed home.  I would clean and purge those basement shelves that have set there un-purged for a long time.    I would organize that stationery drawer and the linen closet if I stayed home.
  • If you order a salad in a restaurant and two bites in you discover a long hair is part of the repast, two things happen.  First your appetite diminishes substantially and second your meal becomes more economical as the manager “comps” it.  I’d prefer really to just pay for it and not find the hair.  
  • Audiobooks are a very good way to pass time in the car.  Providing the subject is of interest to everyone in the car.
  • When arriving in new city on a happening Friday, don’t wait till 7pm to try to find a place to eat.  It is the time when everyone else is looking to do the same thing.  Driving around from place to place doesn’t work.  

Do you have gems of travel wisdom to share with someone (me) who obviously could use them?


Poor Economics-Would Someone Please Read This Book

I read but don’t buy books generally speaking.  The Ottawa Public Library is my main go to place for books.  Thankfully there is no limit to the number of times you can borrow a book but after a while guilt has kicked in with this book and I will not borrow it again. 

Would someone please read “Poor Economics”and give me a report.

This all started when we were given a gift certificate to KIVA a micro-loan organization. From their website “Kiva Microfunds is a 501 non-profit organization that allows people to lend money via the Internet to low-income / underserved entrepreneurs and students in 82 countries. Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.””.   You are able to read the profiles those who are requesting loans and you pledge your donation to that loan.  Once repaid you receive an email and are able to re-loan to another entrepreneur/student.  This sounds very good, the concept of micro-loans and it led to me to read reviews about KIVA, where most but not all are positive. 

My Mom used to say “Stop pulling on that thread or the whole thing will unravel.”  

 I started pulling on the thread.  The question for me was if you have the means and the will to donate to help those in need, what’s the best use of your donation?  Do you rely on the Moneysense review of charities?  Their report ends by saying the information they have gathered shouldn’t be the only thing you use in deciding where to donate.  Do you poor through publicly available information on each charity?  Mind boggling.

What about the book “Poor Economics”

Somewhere in my research the book Poor Economics was recommended.  I have tried to read it.  Many times I have tried to read it but I find it a tough slog and the library loan period runs out and I take it back only to re-borrow it later.   One of the comments on the book cover is “A marvellously insightful book by two outstanding researchers on the real nature of poverty”.  And well it may be but for me the insights are buried within the text.  Highlights of key points in chapters would help me.  Formatting that makes the book look more approachable would help me. 

What does the book say?

I made it halfway through the book finally.  There are some very interesting findings.  Now that I’m returning to the library AGAIN I flipped to the back of the book to see if there’s a summary.  They say there are five key lessons,  First “The poor lack critical pieces of information and believe things that are not true.”  Second “The poor bear responsibility for too many aspects of their lives.  The richer you are, the move the “right decisions are made for you”.

There are three more lessons but if I quoted them here then why would you read the book?

When it comes to donating I think I’ll go with an excerpt of Abraham Lincoln’s quote “When I do good, I feel good.”  I’ll do some research into organizations but not get into a knot about the whole thing.  How do you go about deciding where to donate?

A Short History of Progress

A Short History of Progress wass written by Ronald Wright in 2004.  The book comprises the 2004 Massey Lectures.  You can listen to the series on-line as well.    While the the book was published over a decade ago, the messages within could have published this morning for they apply, perhaps even more so, today.   The lessons Wright draws from history are very relevant as the Paris climate summit begins this week.  

The book isn’t about climate change per se.  The author is a “historical philosopher” shows how our modern predicaments are as old as civilizations.  He traces our species from our beginnings to the present.   We read about the successes and failures of civilizations throughout our history.  He asks and analyzes why many (most?) civilizations in the past became extinct and he draws a picture of where we are today and the need to pay heed to the past in our actions today and in the future.

One phrase he uses more than once is “every time history repeats itself, the price goes up”.   As you read you wonder why mankind continues to act in certain ways, much of which would make you want to belong to kinder species.  In asking why we continue to do some things, Wright uses computers as an analogy.  He says if man were a computer then we would be hardware running on software that hasn’t had an upgrade in 25,000 years.  Wright notes if you don’t believe that, just listen to the news.  

It’s not possible to make light of Wright’s take on things.  For the ordinary citizen we can urge leaders  to make a difference (as we hope the world leaders in Paris will do this week) and we can take action in ways to make the world a better place.  

To use the analogy that mankind is akin to computer technology.  I would hope that despite mankind’s ancient hardware we can find a workaround that keeps us from repeating history and helps sustain our future.  What are your thoughts?  

Yesterday there were marches all over the globe in support of the Paris climate summit.  Here are some pictures of the 100% Possible march in Ottawa.  And a few more:


Protest sign using recycled Green Party sign. Fitting.
Protest sign using recycled Green Party sign. Seems apt.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream getting involved
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream getting involved