Cause of Death


I recently received some sad news that a friend I hadn’t seen in a while had committed suicide by hanging himself. In shock, his stepson posted the news on Facebook, which was how I found out because unfortunately we hadn’t been in touch for over six months. Anyone who knew him well though was not surprised, as he had struggled with his demons for years.

Some people were shocked that the cause of death was publicly posted and that made me wonder about why we shy away from posting the cause of death in suicide situations.

If someone posted that a person had died and did not include the cause of death, many questions would be asked… why? how? If we don’t hesitate to say when someone dies as the result of a car accident, or passed away after succumbing to cancer, why do we hesitate to say the cause of death was suicide?

Causes of Death

We’d better get used to saying it – suicide rates have made it to the top ten causes of death.

Actually, suicide is the method of death, the cause of death is mental illness. Why are we afraid to say that? Diabetes is listed as a cause of death but few people die from diabetes directly – it’s from the effect of diabetes such as heart attack, kidney failure, etc.  My sister died from asphyxiation, caused by lung cancer. My friend died from suicide, caused by mental illness.

Listing suicide as the cause of death makes it sound as if there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it. If we can properly identify the cause of death as mental illness, maybe we, as a society, can start working on a treatment and prevention plan. Like we do for heart disease and cancer.

Some things don’t belong in a top ten list.

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Continuous Learning

Continuous Learning

It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. Whether you just graduated from school or if you’re as old as dirt, it’s important to keep your mental synapses firing and keep learning. Besides improving your employment possibilities, studies have shown that continuous learning can also slow down or prevent dementia. Continue reading

Where Did Everyone Go?


I think it started with Automated Teller Machines (ATM). TD Bank introduced us to the Green Machine and we fell in love. No longer did we have to wait in line to deposit our pay-cheques or withdraw money. Convenience was king. Soon all the other banks followed suit.

Then came the self-checkouts, also known as SACAT machines (semi-attended customer-activated terminals). They started popping up everywhere – Walmart, Home Depot, even our local libraries. They said it was for convenience. A lot of people hate the ones in the stores because they replace people’s jobs. I get it – we all need to save money and keep the cost of goods low, right? Besides they’re just minimum wage unimportant jobs, right?


Then McDonald’s, which is almost the last bastion of part-time jobs for students, put in self-service kiosks. No longer can we complain about order takers not being able to do the math and give us the right change, or forgetting to mention we don’t want pickles on our big Mac sandwich. Technology rules supreme and our orders are now perfect and everybody’s happy, right?

Have we been lulled into complacency? Into accepting a fairy tale ending to automation?

Let’s examine the dark side.

With every new technology comes an opportunity for less than honourable people to find a way to try new scams.

ATMs? We’ve all heard about the skimmers on a lot of the machines, just waiting for us to use them so they can steal our bank card information and ultimately our money.

Self-checkouts? Store thefts (aka shoplifting) have increased over 4% because of self-checkouts. According to Business Insider, it’s actually encouraging honest people to steal, sometimes intentionally (not scanning all items) or unintentionally (buying organic produce but entering the code for the non-organic one). They’re harder thefts to prosecute as well because it’s difficult to prove intent and customers can plead ignorance or blame it on an equipment malfunction. And, as fate would have it, thieves have found a way to put skimmers on the debit machines.

Here’s a funny story about the founder of self-checkouts, Howard Schneider, actually trying to buy some peppers using a self-checkout at Wal-Mart:

It’s hard for me to argue against the self-service kiosks at McDonald’s for a few reasons. First, it actually gets the order right. Second, because I’m forced to pay with my debit/credit card, I no longer have to worry about incorrect change or the pickles on my big Mac sandwich. Finally, it’s all irrelevant to me because I never go to McDonald’s. Not my circus, not my monkey, but gosh! what about those high school students and their part-time jobs?

Even libraries have embraced self-checkouts, but in their situation, it really is about improving the customer experience and not about reducing staff or saving money – because they don’t really save money. To prevent the library’s collection materials from “walking” out the door, they use RFID (radio frequency identification). Now libraries are discussing opening staff-less branches, primarily to extend the number of hours they can afford to be open to the public.

Where will all this automation take us?

Many of us are doing most, if not all, of our banking online. Our pay-cheques are deposited automatically to our accounts, our bills are either set up to automatically be paid, or we go online and pay them. We move money around our accounts and send money wirelessly to our children for their allowances. We use online shopping sites and have our products delivered to our door, all paid for online. Yes, there are thieves hiding around every URL it seems, but we protect ourselves with complicated passwords, two-factor authentication, fingerprint identification, and bio-metric facial recognition. I only go into the bank to discuss or renew my mortgage, exchange currencies, or get a very rare bank draft when needed.

Now, Alterna Bank has announced that, as part of the digital banking revolution, they have launched Canada’s first and only end-to-end digital mortgage. It’s supposed to make it easier for us when seeking financing to purchase a new home. This new portal walks home buyers through pre-approval, decisioning, funding, even remote income verification. Supposedly it goes beyond basic credit scores and uses multiple data sources and advanced business intelligence to match up the right mortgage for each client. They’re calling it the “touch-less” experience for their consumers.

What’s missing from all of this is the human touch. The one-on-one, face-to-face experience. But is it even wanted? I want it. When supermarkets started switching to bag your own, I sought out stores that still bagged. I’m a busy person and though it sound trivial, I’m not an expert at bagging. I will gladly pay more for someone who knows how to optimize bag space and has the experience to understand what weight a bag can carry, or even how many bags I will need. It takes me 3 times as long to bag up a week’s groceries, and the entire time I feel guilty because I’m holding up other customers because my stuff is still on the belt. Let someone with experience do it please so I can be in and out as quickly as possible, so I get back to doing what I’m good at. Which is not bagging groceries; like these self-checkouts expect me to do.

Okay, that was a bit of a rant, but I feel much better now!

I don’t want a society where I don’t talk to anyone, where I don’t see anyone.  We all want and need that human interaction.  There seems to be a presumption that the answer to slow or poor customer service is to provide no customer service – automate everything. Is anyone researching the societal effects of an automated world? Not just the lack of part-time jobs for students (and often full-time workers) but also the psychological effects of not having the face-to-face interaction with another human being, which Psychology Today says reduces the risk of depression.

It’s predicted that by 2020 we’ll even have driverless cars, so our next Uber may not even have someone sitting behind the wheel.  Elon Musk, founder of the electric car (which I so badly want) and SpaceX has his own concerns about the future of AI.

I’ve embraced technology all of my life, but I think sometimes we need to stop for a bit and figure out the consequences of what we’re doing and where we’re going. Before we find ourselves in a place we never wanted to be.

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2016 – The Year That Was


What an interesting year 2016 was! I’m hoping I can keep the momentum going in 2017.  One of the promises I made for 2016 was to try something new at least once a month. I wanted to get out of my box, and learn to enjoy life more.


That decision led me to re-discover community theatre. I’ve been to small theatres from Newmarket to Whitby and witnessed an amazing amount of talent. This is definitely something I’m going to continue doing. Two coworkers of mine have been involved in community theatre – acting and directing – and I’ve enjoyed watching them perform and supporting their efforts. To anyone who has not been to a community theatre lately, check it out. Here are some of the community theatres I attended:

I also had the privilege of taking my daughter to see the musical Kinky Boots at the Royal Alex theatre in Toronto. The evening was made more magical because I got to spend time with my beautiful daughter!

Local Events

I went to a wine tasting this year put on by Fellini Fine Wines ( and joined in with Music Bingo and trivia nights at our local Boston Pizza. I also attended a butter tart festival in Midland, Ontario with a couple of other ladies. What a fun day that was! Ribfest and the Tragically Hip concert at the ROC (, a new farmer’s market at the Link in Sutton, and the Sutton Fair, helped to keep my weekends busy. I even attended a drumming circle at De LaSalle Hall which was an amazing way to spend a relaxing afternoon, drumming while looking out at beautiful Lake Simcoe. I found out about that through Meetup. And who can forget the Grate Groan Up Spelling Bee that our library puts on!


My brother in law told me about a concert series called Classic Albums Live ( – this is so much more than just tribute bands, it’s the world’s greatest classic rock albums live on state. Note for note. Cut for cut. All I can say is it’s absolutely amazing. I listened to The Band’s Last Waltz at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts in October, and I’ll be going to watch a rendition of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, in February.


I also took up colouring in 2016. I now have many adult colouring books and a few sets of pencils/markers and it’s so Zen-like to just chill and colour – on planes, on my deck, with a group of friends.

Something Completely Different

I started doing some reviews of products on Amazon and that’s been really cool. I now have some really cool tech things and a bunch of junk I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for. Many of my friends benefitted from my free products as well, and I’ll be looking to get rid of more stuff as I “ease” myself out of this type of activity. Let’s face it; after awhile it starts to seem a lot like work with stress and deadlines, etc. The only really good thing that came out of this was my introduction to Android boxes. Because I was able to get some at a discount, I was motivated to become a bit of an expert in configuring these boxes, and loading them. When I realized what was involved, I also realized that many local sellers are taking advantage of people by charging $150+ for these boxes. Many of my friends have been able to get a much more affordable streaming TV box and I’ve helped some of them to become more knowledgeable and self-sufficient.

Not everything in 2016 was great though.


My daughter moved away to British Columbia. She found love with an amazing guy and while my heart breaks with the loss, I am comforted by the fact that she is happy and working towards building a future and a family with Mike. I got to know him a bit more over Christmas, and he’s really nice. We had a going away party for her, and we were so blessed by family who cared enough to come and send her off with their best wishes.


One of the volunteer boards I was on actually voted me off. Yeah I know, it’s kind of hard to believe. I won’t name them, but their reason for voting me off (officially anyway) was that I was disrespectful to other board members. I guess that’s how they interpreted my requests to see their bylaws, to expect transparency and professionalism. I pointed out where they had deviated from standard board governance, and even found a couple of experts in board governance who would have volunteered their time to help them become a better board. Suffice to say there was some stuff going on that I didn’t think was very kosher, but they obviously didn’t care. So, after advocating publicly for this organization for almost two years, and raising money for them, etc. I was summarily dismissed for being disrespectful by asking too many questions. Questions such as “could I see the motion that approved that expenditure?” or “can you show me the bylaw that says you can do that without board approval?” I’m well out of there (obviously) and moving on.

My involvement with our local library board has been so fulfilling. It was the reality check I needed this year – a very professional, well-run board led by the Chair, Paul Nicholls. I’ve learned so much from his example and will even repeat a quote from him – good governance and inclusion are like tattoos – they get under your skin and last a lifetime. On the Library Board, I’ve attended SOLS (Southern Ontario Library Service) meetings and shared ideas with other library board members from other libraries. I’ve learned more about fundraising, advocacy, and grants. Through the Ontario Library Association (OLA) website, I’ve been able to take their course Leadership by Design on board governance and succession planning. Because that’s how good boards do things; they educate their board members to be better.


Continuing education is always a good thing, and I’ve taken courses in other areas as well. I’ve become a huge fan of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) and over the past year I took courses on Linux through EdX ( and Teaching Adult Learners through Open2Study ( The latter one was a bit of a refresher as some of my friends will remember when I was a systems trainer in the past. For fun, I took a course wine making at Udemy ( which was interesting, but no wine at the end (insert disappointed face here).


On the travel front, I went to Cuba in October with a couple of ladies and learned a few things – travelling in groups of three never works unless you’ve all known each other a long time. Cuba was nice though and just the break I needed.

I spent Christmas in Langley, British Columbia, where my daughter and her beau played tour guide and showed me around Stanley Park, the helicopter hanger where Mike worked, and a bit of the surrounding area in the lower mainland. I am already planning to go back when the weather is nicer and I will split my time between the mainland and Victoria, where I can visit my sister Catherine. It’s been too long.


I’ve kept busy in Toastmasters as well. I’m currently the President of my local community club Simcoe Shores Toastmasters ( and I`m honoured to be working with a group of fantastic people on the executive. We’ve moved the club out of the church basement into a brighter, cleaner location which, although not very large, is a lovely place to meet. My corporate club, PoSITively Speaking Toastmasters ( has opened up to outside members and also has an amazing executive. The highlight this year has been the chartering of an online advanced club, Great White North Online toastmasters ( under the leadership of our visionary leader, Susan Ellsworth.


I was honoured to have a childhood friend, Sue Holbrow, visit and stay a couple of days with me during the summer. Thank you to those who kept me healthy and relatively happy – a fantastic Naturopath, Ashleigh Higgins (, a great dentist and staff at Cook’s Bay Dental (, and my physiotherapy ( I’m a tough client and hard to please, but you’ve all impressed me and I recommend each of you often. It’s been a whirlwind of a year but I feel like I’m forgetting something. If you remember sharing an activity with me, leave a comment and jog my memory.

Thank you to everyone who added to the rich fabric of my life in 2016, family as well as old friends and new friends. I treasure each and every one of you and look forward to making more memories and having more adventures and new experiences in 2017.

Be Healthy… Stay Well



In this post, I’m going to share with you a story and tell you about a series of events to led me to discover a health professional who has helped me to find my way to a healthier self.

First the story.

A couple of years ago, I started experiencing some disturbing symptoms. My blood pressure would occasionally spike and my heart would start racing. A couple of people I work with have had heart attacks, and two actually passed away. Since I have a lot of problems with stress, (and people my age can start to have problems with hypertension), I went to see my family doctor. In his usual dismissive way, he simply said “It’s all in your head.”

I did a bit of research and came to the conclusion that I was probably having anxiety attacks. So I went back to my doctor and shared my suspicions with him. He agreed and said that was what he meant when he said it was “all in my head”. His solution was to take antidepressant medication. Really? They prescribe that shit for everything, don’t they?

I  believe in dealing with health problems in a more natural manner. If I need to change something in my life – diet, exercise, whatever – I’d like to try that first. So I decided it was time for me to give naturopathic / homeopathic medicine a try. And that’s how I met Ashleigh Higgins, ND.

What follows is an unsolicited recommendation. She doesn’t even know I’m writing this.

Right away I liked her. She has a warm, inviting personality, making it very easy to share my fear, doubts, insecurities, etc. In other words, I opened up! One of the biggest things that impressed me about Ashleigh was she didn’t try to sell me any supplements. She made recommendations, and told me I could find them at most health food stores, such as Nature’s Emporium in Newmarket.

Ashleigh suggested I try two things: a St. Francis herb called Strest and a homeopathic medicine called Calcarea Carbonica; both were inexpensive. We also talked about some digestive problems I have (IBS and diverticulitis) and she suggested I stay away from all dairy to see if that would help and she suggested I rub some warm castor oil on my stomach and relax and let it soak in.

Fast forward 6 months. I’m calm, not having major anxiety attacks, and able to control the minor ones. I’m sleeping very well, and able to plan and put things in perspective. I still have digestive issues, but I’ve seen some improvement and she’s made other suggestions for me to try. It’s a journey.

I have a different health philosophy now. If I break a bone or contract some terrible disease, I’ll see my family doctor, because traditional “healthcare” is really “sick care”. It’s reactive, not proactive. For almost everything else, I will seek the guidance and advice of a “wellness” professional like Ashleigh Higgins.


Ms. Higgins has an office in Keswick, Ontario, as well as in Cannington, Ontario. Here’s her website:

She can bill your insurance company directly and you can book appointments online. I’m so grateful I met her, and I highly recommend her. What do you have to lose? (except whatever is making you sick).

Life’s short – be healthy – stay well


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