Why have you started drinking milk in your coffee, Nana?”

My paternal grandmother – we called her “Nana” – died in 1999 at the age of 84. We were fortunate to have her visit us here on Prince Edward Island several times after we moved here, and it was so long ago that her visits serve, among other things, as a reminder of just how many epochs we’ve been here.

I remember visiting Nana at her house in Brantford when she was in her late 70s. We went out to dinner and when she was having her coffee once the meal was finished I watched her put milk in it.

I had never known her to have milk in her coffee; indeed both she and my parents would always order “black coffee,” to the point where I just assumed that’s what “coffee” was called.

Why have you started drinking milk in your coffee?”, I asked.

Well,” she replied, “I decided to try it one day and I liked it, so I started.”

That one incident has served me well in the years since, reminding me that it’s never too late to try new things, even things you never though you’d like.

In that same light, I really enjoyed this advertorial film from Vodafone about the first airplane flight of two Dutch women. Thanks to Neal Gillis for pointing me to it.

21 Years Later: Personal Data Mining via Credit Card Statements

I am a compulsive archiver of personal records: I still have the paper copy of every phone bill, oil bill and credit card bill I’ve ever received. I should stick them all in a digital repository somewhere to reduce clutter, but for now they’re all sitting in the filing cabinet beside the desk where I type these words.

In the file marked “MasterCard” is my Credit Union MasterCard statement from March 25, 1993, the statement that chronicles my journey, 21 years ago this week, from Peterborough, Ontario to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to start my job at the PEI Crafts Council:

I made the journey in my trusty, rusty 1978 Ford F100 pickup truck, accompanied by my friend Simon, who was driving his mother’s old Chevette. In lieu of a diary of the day I’m left to derive the play-by-play from that credit card statement.

I know that we started off by driving from Peterborough down to Napanee where I said my goodbyes to Catherine and her parents – she was to follow along a month later by air.

Our first stop of note on the journey east was at a hotel outside of Rivière-du-Loup – that’s the “Esso 80 Rue Principal” in Saint-Antonin – where I was felled by a 24 hour flu. That’s why we only made it, the next day, as far as Fredericton and the Howard Johnson.

The next day we landed in Charlottetown and set up camp at the Queens Arms Motel – now the Econo Lodge and I set off to find a place for us to live, eventually finding my way to an apartment at 50 Great George Street.

While moving in to that apartment I managed to back my pickup truck into the house next door, cutting off their telephone service and introducing me to my neighbours, all of whom emerged, as if by magic, to help me get un-stuck.

By March 12 there was more than a meter of snow on the ground, the U-Haul trailer I was towing behind my truck was returned and paid for, and I was installed in PEI, hunkered down in our tiny apartment eating potato chips and watching TV on my Great Aunt Lena’s old television set. I started work on March 15th and we’ve been here ever since.

The next time I used my credit card was on June 23, to pay for a subscription to Wired magazine that had started publication that January.

Father and Son Haircuts

There’s nothing like seeing your horrible hair on Compass to inspire an immediate trip to the barber. Oliver, too, had been too long since a trip to Ray’s. So, it being a day off school today, we went along together. Some people say we look alike; frankly, I don’t see it ;-)

Father and Son Haircuts

If I die tomorrow, I would be high-fiving someone and thanking them for giving me these wonderful and precious days…”

I first got to know Karin as a customer of her food stall at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market. From the time Oliver was a year old, every Saturday morning, after having our smoked salmon bagel, we would have our second course from Karin’s ever-changing selection of healthy food. And she made a mean iced tea to boot – also every-changing, and unsweetened the way I like it. Karin was unfailingly kind to both of us, especially to Oliver: she was always tucking a Hallowe’en fridge magnet, or some such thing, into his pocket. Visiting her stall was one of the highlights of our week.

Gradually, Saturday by Saturday, I got to know Karin a little more. After learning of my trips to southern Sweden, she would lend me Wallander-series books, knowing that I knew the terrain. She would always tell us tales of her travels, or of her family, during those few minutes while we were waiting for something to cook or warm or cool.

After she received a diagnosis of terminal cancer in 2008, Karin asked me if I could help set her up with a blog so that she could write about her experiences, and the result was Mastering the Art of Living while Dying. There are only 34 posts there, covering the period from the spring of 2010 to the summer of 2012. But in those posts you’ll learn a lot about Karin, and a lot about her take on, well, living while dying. Two years ago she wrote Would She Just Die Already?, one of my favourite of her posts because it captures the humour and joy that Karin brought to everything she did:

It has been more than 3 years since the doctors have told me that there is no story. No cure, no treatment, Nothing, Nada!. That was pretty harsh news. So my friends and I gathered around and comforted one another and decided we should all live our days like they are our last days. So here I am three years later, doing just that. I’m living my life like it is my last days. Now my friends are like…o.k. it’s been three years, would she just die already. I’m no longer on  their “pitiful friends” list.

This Karin person is having way too much fun living her last days. I’m a pain in the butt! Sure we need to live our lives like it our last but you can only do that so long. Especially if you have a family to raise and bills to pay. But here is Karin, having lots of fun, going on trips while my friends are trying to pay the mortgage and raise their children.  Most of my friends have forgotten that I have cancer. They have moved on to their sicker and needier friends.

But seriously, I am so blessed to still be here after 3 years of getting a terrible diagnosis and I am enjoying my life. Every day of it. If I die tomorrow, I would be high-fiving someone and thanking them for giving me these wonderful and precious days. And… just for the record, it’s kind of cool that my friends and I have forgotten I’m dying. Better run and pack my suitcase for my next adventure! Blessings!

Somehow, amidst treatment and recovery and despite myriad challenges of world-travel-health-insurance – the kind of thing you never think about until you need it – Karin and her intrepid partner Mike saw a lot of the world in the last few years. She published a cook book. She met a grandson. She did live while she was dying. She would probably say that she didn’t master it; but she sure gave it a good chance.

Karin died this weekend. I hadn’t seen her in a few months, and she had been not dying for so long that it came right out of the blue for me. She was a good person, someone who we were all the better for knowing, and she will be missed.

The Guardian, Feb. 11, 1914

As part of the launch of the IslandNewspapers.ca project today, we arranged to have Transcontinental Printing in Borden – the branch of TC that prints The Guardian and the Journal-Pioneer – produce a facsimile of the February 11, 1914 newspaper, printed first 100 years ago today.

The process turned out to be rather simple: I grabbed high-resolution TIFF files from the IslandNewspapers.ca page for this date, uploaded them to Dropbox where the composing room in Borden could grab them, they sent along a proof press to the Guardian office in Charlottetown the next day, we agreed on a price and 500 copies showed up in Charlottetown this morning. Magic.

I’m very, very happy with the result: they were able to recreate the historical wide-broadsheet size of the 1914 paper, and while the source material – scans of microfilm of originals – wasn’t perfect, the paper is eminently readable and, for most intents and purposes, just like reading The Guardian 100 years ago.

Knowing we’d have more than enough copies to meet the demand at our launch event, I spent the late morning walking all over downtown Charlottetown delivering copies: the Coles Building, City Hall, coffee shops, the public library. My favourite stop was Hyndman & Company on Queen Street, my own car insurance broker and a company that was already established – and a regular Guardian advertiser – by 1914.

A Bundle of the 100 Year Old Guardian

1914 vs. 2014 Guardian in Beanz

When I was done making my rounds, I sat down for an early lunch at Casa Mia Café and enjoyed the experience of reading the paper, 100 years on, as if it was today.

Reading the 1914 Guardian over Coffee

You can pick up a copy of the 1914 Guardian at the The Guild box office, at Confederation Centre Public Library or at ROW142 coffee on Richmond Street while supplies last.