Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 20, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

How the cookie crumbles


I grew up in a large Catholic family in small town Nova Scotia. As youngsters, we feared God, but we feared the nuns who taught us far more than the Creator. Not only did they try and pound some knowledge into our questionable malleable brains with the three R’s, but they also provided spiritual guidance. We attended a Catholic school and religion was a core subject. The Sisters prepared us for the sacraments. If our attention wandered even a little bit, we might get a short, sharp rap on the knuckles with a ruler.

Why, in the dead of a northern winter, where the temperature rarely dips below -35 (maybe I’ve finally found the spot where “hell freezes over”!) would I be pondering the sacraments?

This is complex so bear with me. The sacrament of confession is a complicated piece of work especially when you are a youngster. Rather than try and explain it, for your reading pleasure, here is a story I wrote in 2013 about preparing for my first confession. Obviously, some of the material is dated. There is a reference to Lance Armstrong .Cheating in sports has always been in vogue.

I was standing in the kitchen of my apartment here in Kangiqsujuaq the other day staring aimlessly at the cupboards. I’m not sure if I would consider this a spiritual moment or not but I was having an “examination of conscience” of sorts. In the Catholic tradition, before confessing your sins to a priest inside a dark confessional box, you were expected to examine your conscience and ask yourself some heavy- duty questions about how you may have offended God since your last confession. Now, truth be told, I wasn’t thinking about going to confession. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how I could be a better teacher.

I won’t lie. Lying is a sin and I would have to confess this. I’m finding teaching very difficult especially after a 40-year hiatus. As I stood there, I thought of all the ways I could improve the classroom experience for my students. My mind suddenly cleared. I opened the cupboard and pulled a bag of Oreo cookies off the shelf. I quickly polished off a row (only one row?) washed down with a glass of ice-cold milk. It suddenly dawned on me that this was the answer to my question. I can be a better teacher by eating Oreo cookies. You won’t find this in any pedagogical journal.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was given a photograph by someone who was a school principal here up north 50 years ago. Three teenage boys from Kangiqsujuaq were attending his school. I vowed to try and track them down. One of them is alive and well. His house is a stone’s throw away from the school. Last Saturday was bitterly cold as I made my way to Charlie’s home. I made some cookies to bring to his family. Regrettably, Charlie was far off in the wilderness at his fishing camp and wouldn’t be returning for a few days. I did, however, have a wonderful chat with his wife who got a great kick out of the picture. She suggested that I call to arrange a visit with Charlie.

You know how shy I am. I asked Charlie’s wife if Charlie might consider taking me ice fishing sometime. “Yes, but you’ll have to dress warmer than that.” At first, I thought she was joking but when she explained that the camp was 80 miles away by skidoo, I started taking her very seriously.

I already look like the Michelin man as I waddle to and from school every day with my new winter wear. Throw in my new goggles and I look like some space alien. How is it possible to dress warmer? “You need another jacket and pants and warmer boots.” I’m standing in front of her. Fully clad, I just about fill the doorway. I ask her about the parka. “Just go and find someone bigger and borrow theirs to go over the top of yours.” Northern logic 101. I’ll let you know how this goes.

Jordan Tootoo, the retired hockey player from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, is coming to our community this week to speak to our students and people from the village. Jordan’s story is well-known to hockey fans. He was the first Inuit to play in the N.H.L. He was an alcoholic and his brother committed suicide. I am certain that he will deliver a powerful message.

This past week, we had two young women educators from Quebec City visit our school to talk about “project daily active”. This program fosters the notion of getting students and teachers to incorporate more activity into their daily routines for better physical and mental health. I first found this notion amusing and a bit counterintuitive. In the north, students are already very active. I would be interested in a program to try and slow them down. All kidding aside, this was very instructive and helpful. The two women (who had never been north before) commented that the children in our school are far more active than their counterparts down south. This probably has something to do with the absence of cell phones in the school. There is no cell service up here.

If you missed this last Thursday, here’s a true story about a colleague who got locked out of her apartment late at night when the temperature was -50. She wasn’t wearing any winter clothing at the time.

Have a great week.

P.S. I’ll be hearing confessions when I come home for Spring break in April!!!

Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
Tri Mac Toyota!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Posted on January 19, 2020 under Storytelling with one comment



The “Comeback Kid”? Nope


“Hurry don’t be late, I can hardly wait,
I said to myself when we’re old,
We’ll go dancing in the dark, walking through the park,
And reminiscing.”
Reminiscing – Little River Band

Skates, a stick and a puck and a sheet of ice.

Forty years ago, almost to the day, I blew my knee out in a hockey game, ending my illustrious (?) hockey career. It is the only thing I have in common with the greatest player of all time, Bobby Orr. Gretzky fans might dispute this last assertion. I went skating a few times in the ensuing decades but never picked up a hockey stick since then. Until yesterday.

I had been led to believe that a few of my students were to play a hockey game at the local arena here in Kangiqsujuaq at 1:00. I wandered over to the arena, a short 5-minute jaunt from my apartment, to watch them play. I arrived to find the place empty except for the custodian. The ice surface was in darkness.

“Would you like to go for a skate?” he queried. I almost said no but figured that a short skate might work off the cookies I had just eaten at home. I told him that I didn’t have skates. “You can use mine.” He escorted me to the office/equipment room. The skates were almost a perfect fit. He then produced hockey gloves, a stick and the mandatory helmet. I walked down the hallway, made a sharp left turn to the players bench and gingerly stepped onto the ice. The arena lights came on.

Just me, a pair of skates, a stick and a puck.

And then the memories flooded back.

Like most Canadians living in small towns, we learned how to skate on outdoor ponds where we swooped and soared believing that we were the embodiment of Rocket Richard, Bobby Hull or Gordie Howe. We skated until it was pitch dark and longer on moonlit nights. Our mothers might have had trouble getting us to come home to do our homework, but they didn’t have to coax us into going to bed, our energy completely depleted.

I played in the minor hockey system and progressed to playing Junior hockey for our hometown Bulldogs. My talents were modest. My coach in minor hockey, the late and wonderful Frank McGibbon once told me that my shot couldn’t break an egg. I could skate fast and pass the puck to those with gifted hands.

I suited up for the Fairview Elks senior hockey team in Fairview, Alberta for three years in the late 70s. This was during my first foray into teaching. Every home game, the rink was packed, and I felt like I was playing in the big leagues. Our team sponsor owned a fried chicken restaurant and after every game, we were treated to Ed’s finest along with a cold beer. Sometimes we ate more than one piece of chicken!

The accident happened in 1980 and my hockey days came to a screeching halt.

I noticed a few things as I made my first lap around the rink. I could blame it on the new skate technology, but it is more likely age and infirmity, but it certainly didn’t feel like hopping back on a bicycle after a lengthy hiatus. I felt awkward and unsure. We were so cocky and sure-footed in everything we did in our youth. The aging process tests our humility.

I was alone with my thoughts. As I picked up confidence, I was aware of the sound of my skates biting into the ice, that familiar sound from yesteryear. Other than that recognizable soundtrack, the arena was completely silent. “How good is this?” I thought as I tried to make a few manouevers with stick and puck. I prayed that no one was secretly videotaping this exhibition of gracelessness.

I was almost giddy with excitement, reliving my youth in a place I never dreamed of being. It was “Hockey Night in Kangiqsujuaq”.

I profusely thanked the custodian for his kindness and headed directly for the Coop store to see about buying a pair of skates.

Is a comeback in store? Not likely.

I lay on the couch reading for a few hours after supper. When I tried to get up, my body vehemently protested. Every muscle, joint, bone and organ in my body screamed at me. What they were saying isn’t fit to print. After a few feeble attempts, I made it to the bathroom and grabbed an extra strength Tylenol.

“He sleeps. He snores.”


Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
Highland Hearing Clinic

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 16, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Locked Out


Darlene’s Dilemma

Weather forecast: Hypothermia likely without protective clothing this evening through late Sunday night.

It has been another long, harrowing day at work. The teacher in this school in Northern Quebec was exhausted both physically and mentally. And why wouldn’t she be? Teaching in the north is not for the faint of heart. Double that if you happen to be an administrator. Most of these people would cite “educational leader” as a top of list job description. Crisis manager might be more appropriate.

The first week back to school or work for most Canadians after the Christmas holidays is a shock to the system. In schools, students and teachers are sleep deprived. It takes awhile to get back in the groove. In addition to all the other issues demanding her attention, the school vehicle fleet had Darlene at her wits end. The school had three trucks which were used by all the staff to go for groceries, water and to do runs to the airport. All of them had issues.

The trucks seemed as tired and cranky as everyone else after the break. Frequent breakdowns and failure to start in the cold weather were giving the staff fits. After work, Darlene parked the one working vehicle behind her apartment building to keep it sheltered from the wind.
Late in the evening after dinner and a hot shower, she decided to go out and start the truck just to keep the engine warm. She went out the rarely used back door (a fire exit). The truck was only a dozen or so feet from the door, so she didn’t bother throwing on a coat, hat or gloves.

The truck roared to life, which was one piece of good news, possibly the only one of the day. She made a dash for the back door and discovered to her chagrin that it was locked and couldn’t be opened from the outside. Her hair stiffened in the bitter arctic air as she pondered her dilemma. She knew that the front door of her apartment was also locked. At least the cab of the truck was warm.
She had a young boarder living with her, but he wasn’t home. It was 10:00 p.m. There was no cell service in this community so calling the maintenance crew for a spare key wasn’t an option. The temperature was hovering close to -50. She had to find the boarder, so she drove over to the boarder’s family home.

Just walking from the truck to the front door in these temperatures caused her wet head of hair to go off in all directions. She looked like an abandoned cat. Several raps on the door got the desired results. There was one small problem. In her consternation and being somewhat flustered by the whole affair, she had gone to the wrong house. Everybody in the community knew Darlene so one could only imagine what these folks were thinking when she showed up dressed in casual night wear.

She eventually made it to the boarder’s family home and found out his whereabouts. This required a drive across town. She eased out of the driveway and headed off in search of the house key. This required a trip down towards the water. The road down to the bay was very steep. A recent snowfall followed by frigid temperatures had left all the town streets resembling skating rinks. She inched down the hill. The truck had a mind of its own and started to slide out on control. She gingerly applied pressure to the brakes but this only made matters worse as the truck picked up speed as it careened towards the bay. A few snowbanks near the bottom of the hill saved her from an “excursion around the bay”.

She arrived home, cold and disheveled. This had been a hair-raising experience by any measure.

To calm down, she made herself a nice cup of hot chocolate and thought she would unwind with a movie: “Frozen”



Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
Highland Hearing Clinic

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.