Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

It often astounds me that I have now lived in my current city longer than in my “hometown”. It is getting close to twice the number of years! Although I only lived in my “birth town” for the first two years of my life, I often feel like I have two “hometowns” with the history and family stories associated with both. I have raised my children in the city I live in now and at times it can feel odd that it is their hometown, but not mine. I often wonder about moving back to my hometown for retirement years, but I know it would not be as I left it and I need to keep a perspective on that. I recognize that not everyone will have fond memories of their hometown, but I think we preserve a piece of ourselves in the places we grow up. It can mean so many things and involve many emotions. Maybe this is a needed thing. I have had a few very emotional reactions when I have returned to visit places that connect my past (self).

There is no shortage of songs about hometowns, returning home, a love left behind, etc., and I have a number of favourites that I wanted to round up for my blog.

I really like the messages and lyrics in a recent new song and nostalgic video created by this musician:

I still love this music video about Thunder Bay:

I love this sentimental one by Snow Patrol:

I thought this video was cool too — not a song about a hometown, but an animation:

Do you have a favourite “hometown” song to share? Do you have a song about your own hometown or another place you like to visit? What hometowns might mean to each of us can be complex and personal but the frequent question often is, “Where are you from?”

My North, Your North


“The north”, “up north”, “the far north”, “from the north” — All can have different meanings to different people.

When I lived in Southern Ontario during my post-secondary education years, a frequent question on campus was, “Where are you from?”  When I said the name of my northwestern Ontario town, I was often asked if it was near North Bay. My response, “No, it is about a 12 hour drive west from there”.  If I stated that it was 2 or so hour drive east from Winnipeg, I often got puzzled looks or, “But that’s out west…”  If I said I was from up north, sometimes the response was, “My family has a cottage up north.”  A few times I was asked if I had TV “up there” (okay, that was about 30 years ago, but still!).  I hoped people were joking when they asked if I rode on a dog sled.

I was quite naive when I arrived in Southern Ontario (I suppose it really was Southwest Ont.) and it wasn’t without a bit of culture shock as well.  I had been in large cities before, but it was a very different network of cities and transportation options within the region.  So many fellow students would often pop home for the weekend with just a few hours of driving to do.  It was out of the question for me.  Flights were expensive then and that meant only a trip home at Christmas and for the summer.

As many know, Ontario is a very large province and it wraps around most of Great Lakes from the northwest, to the east side, and in between to the south, with the southern region of the province situated further south than the rest of Canada.  I remember many people from “my north” referring to the region as “down east”.  This region seemed so hot and humid to me back in those years.  While it felt “south” somewhat, I never really felt that I was “from the north”.  I was often reluctant to try and explain the real north that my family settled in after their parents came to Canada.  The remoteness of Northern Manitoba comes with many different stories and experiences compared to Northwestern Ontario.  Now that was north!  (And my dad did have a dog sled team.)

More recently, I have been reading about the birthplaces of my parents and ancestors in even farther northern locations.  My idea of “up north” is easily diminished as I become more familiar with the northerly most regions of Norway where my dad and his family came from, including, “the northerly most town in the northern hemisphere”, as it is claimed.  Now that is really north!  Pandemic isolation led me to some online exploring — It’s beautiful even in the winter.

In summers past (before Trump and now the Covid-19 pandemic), my family often traveled “south” over the US border to explore northern Minnesota.  It became quickly clear that other travelers to the area were enjoying a northern trip or maybe their “up north”.  I always thought that was an interesting mix of perspectives in a shared experience.

So now I guess that saying I am “from the north” comes with much meaning and history for me.

Do you have a “north story” to share? Where is “your north?”  Will you be able to visit your “up north” this summer?

Here I Am Again


I have had mixed feelings about posting on this blog during a pandemic.  I no longer post regularly, so I wasn’t sure what would be appropriate.  I have done some personal writing as I often do to process events and clarify emotions, but nothing I would post online at this point.  Writing is important to me, but I think I will always remain shy about it — posted publicly or not.

I did appreciate Doug Peterson’s approach and nudge in his post, 10 Things I’ve learned.  Soon into this alarming COVID-19 situation, I said to my family, “We will probably learn a lot about ourselves and others, and the world.”  But then, this is all new territory to navigate and our emotions and behaviours will be confusing.  I shared a quote on Facebook recently (via @thereisgoodinstore) that resonated,

There is no right way to feel right now.”

I am trying to take one day at a time, one feeling at a time, and trying to reserve judgement of others in their own struggles.  The focus is often in the short term, as with many emergencies.  I still have moments that I wonder what we will learn about the virus, our communities, and our world.  Will we learn more compared to past pandemics?  What will change?  Will there be a lasting imprint?  Yet, preoccupation with my own life and health quickly takes over, as well as worry about family members.  This pandemic has overshadowed everything.

There will definitely be much learning.  There will also be mistakes — mistakes made because of fear and also out of love for our family.  This is only human, I believe.

I have been finding comfort in music a lot lately.  The title of this post is taken from the title of my first post to this blog, Here I Am.  I didn’t give proper mention/credit of that title at the time — it is also a title of a Melanie song.  The lyrics came to mind and really hit me this time:

Here I am, standin’ still
Knowin’ I’m not goin’ nowhere today
And maybe not tomorrow
No no, maybe not tomorrow
Maybe not tomorrow
But that’s okay …

Here I am, dear I am, standing still
With a lot of time to make a rhyme
And a lot of time to kill …

If you want to hear her sing the whole song:


Take care, everyone!


The 16mm film archive project


I recently became the keeper of our family’s collection of 16mm films (aka home movies).  Also, 2 working projectors and the original camera!  My dad and grandpa likely filmed most of the footage, but the collection might have gained a few donations from other individuals over the years.

It was a long winter, so my husband and I dug into the large box of reels to review, repair (even bought a splice kit!), weed out duds, and find the gems.  It quickly become apparent that there were indeed some gems!  Many are the more personal family ones to be cherished, but there was also some amazing footage of life and culture in the 1950s.  These ones took us to the landscapes of Norway, Scotland, Ontario (Thunder Bay, Niagara Falls, Kenora), and Northern Manitoba, including remote Inuit settlements.  Many are filmed in Churchill where my parents and their parents lived for many years.  They got around in different ways for work and play, including bush and float planes, as well as dog sled.  This certainly contributes to the uniqueness of these “home movies”!

With so many of the films getting brittle, we decided it was time to preserve these memories and history.  We figured out the best way to digitize them ourselves “in-house”.  We only had to replace the projector bulb once, after we finally tracked down someone selling one online!  I feel like I am spamming the internet lately, but I am very excited to share the outcome of this project!  Our “16mm film archive project” led to a YouTube channel to help preserve, archive, and share the history captured in these films.  We even have footage of Royal visits in the 50s!  We have already posted a number of appropriate ones for public viewing here.  The quality varies, but some rare footage, nonetheless.

Note: We haven’t posted footage of Niagara Falls yet.  The film is currently backwards, so once we flip it around and get the falls on the right side…! 🙂


Who Knows…?

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Where does the time go? Who knows where the time goes.. ?

Who hasn’t expressed a similar statement like that?  I recall adults saying it when I was younger and now I catch myself saying and wondering it.

Where does a decade go?!  Two decades? I often tell my adult children to enjoy and cherish their 20s, as each decade seems to go faster after that.  Why is that?  Is it a thing?  (Check out this interesting post by Matthew Oldridge that helps answer that).  We can take the time as young adults for granted — I know I am guilty.  But maybe it is supposed to be that way — why worry about life going too fast when you have youth and time on your side?  Just live it, as one never knows…

It was by chance and curiosity that I discovered the music of Sandy Denny recently.  She had been a lead singer in a few early British folk bands.  One of her songs really stuck with me for some reason:  Who Knows Where The Time Goes?  Maybe it was the title…  maybe it was because the singer also died young (at 31, I learned).  Or maybe because my daughter’s best friend since high school died unexpectedly this past summer at the age of 22.  Although quite melancholy, the music and lyrics were comforting when I had a listen.  I read that it was one of her “signature” songs.  I think Judy Collins is also known for her cover of it, but I prefer Sandy Denny’s original.

Lyrics: Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it’s time to go
So come the storms of winter and then
The birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?

I enjoy the version she sang while a member of the band called Fairport Convention:

Although Sandy Denny died 40 years ago, there have been a few recent articles written that speak well of her musical talents and contributions during her short life.

The Delicate Artistry Of Sandy Denny

Sandy Denny was the most outstanding female singer that Britain has produced

She also did a number of Bob Dylan covers, if you wish to have a listen to:  Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

My perspective about time has shifted over the years and decades, but also recently again.  How I look at the past and present and the future has changed, but in a good way.

All in a day’s drive in NW Ontario

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I get asked from time to time, “What’s the drive like from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg?”.  Often my first thought is, “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”  But then I do try to give the best advice and safety tips, especially for those about to take the trip for the first time.  Many people have to drive it — for work, medical treatment, family support, etc.  And soon there might be no another choice with cuts to the Greyhound bus service and routes.  Sometimes I get a surprised look when I mention that it will take about 8 hours.  One could drive from Thunder Bay to Minneapolis in about the same time.  Or one could head south from Thunder Bay and be in the beautiful area of Grand Marais, MN, within an hour and a half.  But that means crossing the border….

After a recent road trip this past summer, I thought it might be fun to write a blog post about this familiar (to me) stretch of Highway 17 — maybe it will also be useful to someone. (a link/pdf of a map of this part of NWO here via Ministry of Transportation)  It is not a trip I like to take very often, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without some positives.  Our family avoids driving it in the winter, but each summer we usually take at least one vacation trip as far as Kenora, ON — that 6 hour drive (approx.) is close to my limit in a car for one day.  We might take the trip into Winnipeg from Kenora on a separate day, as one could do the 2 hour drive there and back to Kenora on the same day.

When we head west out of Thunder Bay, we don’t usually stop at Kakabeka Falls (about a half hour out), but other first time travellers on this stretch might wish to do so.

There aren’t many rest stops between Thunder Bay and Kenora that are reliable and always open for gas and washroom breaks.  However, I would recommend stopping at a few no matter what.  You will be thankful if you get held up by road construction or an accident that shuts down the highway for an indefinite time.

After we enter the Central Time Zone, we make our first “pit stop” about 1 1/2 hours out at a little town called Upsula.  We stop at “Xtra” (not much else open anymore).  Although the signs inside remind that the washrooms are for their “valued customers”, I doubt anyone would be denied.  We still feel obliged to purchase something, and one can’t go wrong choosing from the bakery there (I suggest a slice of pie, or the whole pie, made on site with various flavours/fruits).  The stop also has every candy or chocolate bar you could want.  It is the only place I can find licorice “Nibs” in black.  Yum!  Some chewy candy can be a good thing for the long drive.

I always have a chuckle at the well-supported/reinforced hydro poles along this stretch:

Next stop/town is another hour and a bit — Ignace.  There are a few more choices of rest stops and stores there.  We usually choose the tourist centre, as by that time, we don’t need any more coffee or food and we can use the facilities guilt-free and stretch our legs by a nice water fountain and picnic/playground area.  It is our “half-way” mark if we are going to Kenora.

With a sense of good progress, we head onward for Dryden, which also means another hour and a bit to the first Tim Horton’s since Thunder Bay.  There are plenty of more options for food and shopping there and I would highly recommend a driving break in Dryden — the highway changes dramatically shortly past there and the next small town, Vermillion Bay.  The winding, hilly, and narrow single lane highway needs fresh eyes for both safety and the beauty as one heads on towards Kenora.  The high rock cuts close to the highway will always intimidate me.  Don’t get too distracted by the beautiful lakes and views!  Try to avoid this stretch at night and as the sun is going down.  The semi-trailers need to be contended with always, but there are plenty of passing lanes.  Be patient!

If you are continuing on to Winnipeg, you could easily take the “Kenora By-pass”, but then you would miss one of the prettiest small cities (especially in the summer) that you will see before crossing the Ontario-Manitoba border.  Kenora is situated on the north side of the Lake of the Woods area in “Sunset Country” and it has got to be one of NW Ontario’s best kept secrets.  But it is not a secret to camping enthusiasts and cottage owners from Manitoba and the U.S.  Pull into any parking lot in the summer and you will question if you are still in Ontario as you spot the many (if not the majority) of license plates from Manitoba and various northern and southern states.  If you are into fishing, boating, camping, etc, there may not be a need to continue to Winnipeg.  But if you want to explore a large city (the only big city in MB) with many attractions and shopping options, you won’t be disappointed!  West of Kenora, the mostly flat, straight drive with a divided highway most of the way to Winnipeg is a breeze!

I have taken the Greyhound Bus service fairly often in the past between Thunder Bay and Kenora or Winnipeg.  There are certainly pros and cons, but it concerns me that the option may not be available anymore come this fall.

Greyhound axes Northwestern Ontario bus service

Greyhound cancels most of its routes in Western Canada

It has been many decades since there has been railway service direct to Kenora or Winnipeg from Thunder Bay, but that interest has come up again.

Pressure grows for Via Rail return to Thunder Bay, Ont.

It is funny what we come to expect from modes of travel.  My father-in-law often told the story about dirt roads and the slow cars back in his day, not to mention clearing brush out of the way.  A trip between Kenora and Winnipeg would take a full day.  The story certainly stopped any complaining about getting somewhere faster (or nowhere fast).

Do you have a story about this stretch of Highway 17?  Have you vacationed near the Lake of the Woods?  Will you be affected by the cancellation of the Greyhound bus service?  Please share!

More silly photos from a recent stay in Kenora:

A storm had just passed through, so no boats docked for grocery shopping in Kenora just yet:


The “round hotel” will always be “The Inn” to me:

I thought the beach sand around Kenora’s sidewalks and street edges had a quaintness to it.  Leftover from winter sanding?:


Cookbook Attachment

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I saw a post from Gastro Obscura calling out for submissions:  “Tell us about your most unusual cookbook”.  I didn’t plan to submit one, but I remained somewhat curious.  It prompted me to see if Doug Peterson wanted the topic of cookbooks for his “Whatever Happened to…?” series on his blog.  His readers had some fun interacting with Doug’s take on the topic and his questions here.  Nothing like food and cooking to start up a conversation and spark some memories!

Eventually I returned to the Gastro Obscura website to check out what came together.  There are some interesting and unusual cookbook examples featured for sure in that follow-up post.

In my (long) comment on Doug’s post, I mentioned that I should probably write my own post on the topic.  I have noticed that the topic of cookbooks often brings up stories of “first cookbooks” and stories about when cooking becomes cooking for two (remember the old saying, “The best way to a man’s heart…”, but let’s move on…).  I enjoy stories about favourite go-to cookbooks and recipes that get passed down and shared amongst family members.  It can be a such a strong connection to our past and our loved ones.

I have a very old cookbook meant for kids called Kitchen Fun.  It was my mother’s.  I am not sure how long she had it, but she still used it at times when she cooked for our family.  Most of our suppers would include a meat dish, but sometimes she would pull out that cookbook and make “Yummy Eggs”.  I found it to be a great treat.  Those beaten eggs (with butter) cooked in a “double boiler” were so tasty and fluffy!  I had forgotten that the recipe was from that kids’ cookbook until I received it after my mom’s passing.  The hard cover is worn and stained, as are many of the pages.  I was thrilled to find information about it online since — it was published in 1932 and one can still get a copy or a revised edition through Amazon or eBay (at the time I searched for it).  I also found some blog posts about it!

This blog post has a few good pictures and some interesting details about it.  I had a good giggle at this part,

I have a friend who was a pioneering food writer, and she told me she made the recipe for “Yummy Eggs” from Kitchen Fun on her honeymoon.”

Another blog post shows a few of the vintage cookbook’s pages — I always loved the graphic symbols of ingredients and the measurements required to help young cooks.  This post also mentions “Yummy Eggs”!  Both posts claim that it is a great cookbook for children to use.  (Is it “cookbook” or “cook book”?)

If you were to ask my adult children about “Yummy Eggs”, they would likely tell you that it is a dish their mom made for a quick supper on Halloween night to make sure they had some protein before going out… 😀

I am pleased to see that my adult daughters are developing skills and a good interest in cooking.  I would hope that I would have the same expectations if I had sons.  At times I hear that young adults are not interested in cooking and it gives me some concern.  I hope that is not the general case!  I know it can get very boring and tedious at times, but don’t complain to me unless you have been cooking for over 20 years 🙂

Is there a good “recipe” to keep children and young adults interested in cooking?  Is it still important?  Share your thoughts, or a good story!

And if you wish to try Yummy Eggs… I also have the easy recipe written out on a recipe card:





45 — As in vinyl… rpm.

World news is distressing lately… I thought I would write a geeky, fun nostalgic post!  Or maybe Doug Peterson’s fun and informative Sunday series of “Whatever Happened to… ” blog posts have rubbed off on me.  I don’t see “45s” in his list of topics here 🙂

I still have a collection of “45s” that I can’t seem to toss.  Besides, they are still in this cute “denim” box that I stored them in since I was a tween 🙂

I was probably 10 when I started buying 45s.  It was a big deal to use my allowance to buy one.  I still have memories of the rows in the record store and trying to make a decision.

I must have been proud of my growing collection.  Each purchase was “catalogued” on the index card that came with the storage box and each vinyl was labelled with the corresponding numbered sticker.  I got all the way to 43 on the index card that went up to 50. 🙂  Must have been a sappy stage…

While my last purchase was a song by Squeeze (loved that one!), my first purchase was Brand New Key by Melanie Safka.  Although this is the hit song that many people associate with Melanie, I preferred the song on the “B side” — Some Say.

The rest of my collection is really quite an eclectic sample of the 70s.  I was likely influenced by the tastes of my older siblings as well.

I still have one of those plastic yellow centre/insert thingys, but I doubt I will ever play a 45 even though we have a turntable.  I have looked up a few of the tunes on Youtube just for fun.  Yes, I even found the De Franco Family one! (Oh my… wow, haha!)

In my curiosity, I came across this interesting blog post about the history of 45s.  It is from a few years back but I enjoyed it and I think I will trust the author’s facts and trivia!  If you would like a test or to research for yourself first before finding the answers in the post:

When was the world’s first commercial 45 released? Can you guess the song/artist?  What colour was it?

Longest playing song on a side of a 45?  (There seems to be a debate…)

How many different sizes of the hole in the middle?

How long did the “45” era last?

Does anyone still have a “78”?  (I recall a few of those around in my childhood home.)

A cool bit mentioned about Elton John’s 45s on the post,

Most of the B-sides of Elton John’s 45s had songs recorded just for them, as Elton John felt it gave his fans better value for their money. And they did. Most of them are collector’s items and many were never released to CD.”

So what do I do with this little box of memories and a piece of my past?  Does anyone else have a collection or a single 45 they can’t part with?

Never mind my LP collection… but I have started weeding some of those out.  Cassettes were much easier to deal with and toss!  Yesterday I saw a local antique store announcing they had a case of “vintage” 8-tracks available!  No thanks!

The School Down The Road

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A friend of mine does some excellent writing on her personal blog about life and growing up in Northwestern Ontario. A few years ago, I confirmed her approval to feature a couple of her initial posts on my blog. I am finally getting around to it! I grew up in the same township as “Little Monik”. It was a “township” at the time, but the area eventually became a part of the new boundaries of Kenora when it became an official city instead of a town. I still think of the area as the small town I grew up in.

This area of Kenora has been mentioned in the news more lately since Gord Downie’s Secret Path advocacy project. I got thinking again about Monik’s posts about living near “CJ School”, which we called it back then. She wrote about some of her memories and reflections in two parts:

CJ School Part I

CJ School Part II

My family also lived within walking distance of “CJ”. The children in our area attended elementary school for several years in the building adjacent to Cecilia Jeffrey Residence. I attended for Grades 1 through 5 together with a number of children who were living in the CJ residence during that time (late 60s/early 70s). I also had friendships with a few of the girls that Monik had mentioned. We played at school and occasionally in the community in the evenings. I remember a few of my classmates being invited into the residence to see their rooms. I am not sure why a number of children still lived at the residence during that time. I think they returned to live with their families on the reserve in the summertime, but I am not really sure. Through researching and reading a few documents online, I found closure dates for the residence ranging from 1960 through 1976. Monik mentioned the closure date as 1974 in her post. Maybe there were different dates for the residence and the school building itself and also a transition period. CJ residence was run by the Presbyterian Church. My report cards from the time have “The Kenora Board of Education” listed.

I don’t recall questioning much about why the children had to live at the residence and attend school there. As a child, I was only aware of this one residential school in our small world that was Kenora. I think I understood that their parents lived far away on reserves – but I didn’t know very much about reserves. As a child, I think I just accepted this as the way their children would be able to attend school. This would have been the time during the final years of First Nations children living in these residences in Canada. I don’t recall being aware of the previous history of residential schools at the time. I don’t think I was told much about it at age 6 or 10 during those years at “CJ School Block”.

In the summers, I remember attending large pow-wows hosted on the residential site. The experience was rich for the senses for sure. I still remember much about the site back then – the playground, the field, the baseball diamond and the forested area that separated it from Round Lake.  I visited the site just over a year ago.  An office building sits where the school had been – I think it is the same building. I took this picture of the monument that is now on the site where the residence building used to be:

I also located it on Google Maps as, “Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School Memorial Park”.

I just wanted to write down a bit about this time during my childhood – a statement that Monik wrote in a reply on her second post prompted me:

 Thanks, that was a tough one to write. Strange how my memory seems to get better when I write it out and then think about it more… I think it’s because at first I’m just remembering what the “little me” could process, but then on reflection I can understand more of what else was happening. Hindsight is a new perspective.”

I am still learning, listening, reflecting, questioning, and filling in the gaps too.  It is like we lived so close, and yet so far away…

Paths and Gaps: Part 3


I have written about about “gap” years a couple of times — in both the general and personal sense:

Graduation Caps and Gaps

Paths and Gaps: Part 2

My daughter who took a “gap year” before going away to another city for university was recently home on her study break or “reading week”.  It is also now that time of year in Ontario when many Grade 12 students are starting to receive and consider their acceptances to university and/or college.  My daughter is now in Year 2 at university and I asked her again if she was still glad she took a gap year.  She gave me permission to document her answers and thoughts on my blog:

I benefitted by the exposure to the “work world” that year.  It gave me a new perspective on ways to live life and be successful in different ways.  It helped me improve other qualities and skills other than just “book smartness”.”

I had time to find out a bunch of things I wasn’t … in order to be able to start finding out who I am.  This happened in both my gap year and also during my first year at university.”

I thought the gap year would give me time to figure out what I really wanted to study at the post-secondary level, but it was really about learning other things instead of discovering what I wanted to study.”

In the end, I realized I just needed to try something at university in order to find what I wanted to do.”

My daughter included the subjects she was passionate about in her first year of university.  I think that this is one advantage of a first year at university — she was expected to take courses in different faculties.  This worked well for her as she could include her love of science, math, art and women’s studies.  It was through this “sampling” that she was able to decide what she didn’t want to study in depth while also leading her to what she did want to focus on.  It was something she hadn’t thought of initially at all.

My other daughter didn’t take a gap year after high school.  We had discussed the option with her, but it just wasn’t something she found comfort in doing.  As it turned out, a gap year after university before a college program was more beneficial to her.  We are happy with their paths and choices and I am sure other decisions would have worked out fine too.  There will be bumps regardless of the path!

Given all my thinking and reflecting on this, People for Education’s report released this week about career and life planning in schools caught my attention.

The press release here.

Career and Life Planning in Schools full report here.

I still need to spend some more time with the report, but they have made some recommendations for improving student portfolios for career/pathway support, the community involvement requirements, guidance counselling, and more (for a quick look start at page 14).  “Multiple paths, multiple policies, multiple challenges” indeed.  I don’t recall the mandatory “career/life planning portfolios” that my daughters brought home here and there as being very useful at all, but their community volunteer hours proved quite valuable in different ways.  I will be curious about what changes ahead.  What do others think?  What are the areas that need to change the most… and when?

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