Thursday Tidbits

Posted on February 27, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Learning new lessons every day


“The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry.”
To a Mouse. Robert Burns

I would respectfully like to add children to that short list.

Speaking of creatures, I am a creature of habit. I am a big fan of order, structure, and routine. At least I used to be. After a few days of teaching up north, I packed these notions away along with my summer clothing.

This is not to suggest that order does not exist at my current place of work. It’s just defined differently.

When I look back, my working life has been spent almost entirely in meetings. My jobs all involved meetings. Ditto for my years as a town councilor, school board member and the countless non-profit Boards that I sat on. I won’t count the thousands of hours at various choir practices, masses and funerals. All of these things had a defined start and finish time. Some weddings didn’t start on time but I found funerals pretty reliable.

My school runs by a schedule but within these boundaries, each teacher must figure out the internal rhythm of their class depending on class size and composition. As the newest (and oldest!) teacher in the school, I did a lot of observing trying to find the right balance between compassion and strictness. I figured that the compassionate route suited my status as an elder but lately I realized that it was time to tighten the reins a wee bit. After a lot of trial and error (more errors than trials) I decided that a new set of rules need to be implemented.

I met with a young teacher in the school. She is one of those people who have “it”, that elusive quality that makes some people especially suited to their craft. I asked her for suggestions on classroom management. The topics were cereal, water and bathroom breaks.

Armed with fresh strategies and renewed vigor, I addressed the class, clearly articulating the new rules. I was firm but fair. One of these new rules was about trips to the washroom. These have become almost as common as trips to Costco at Christmas time. Now, if this was a class full of senior citizens, I might buy the notion of frequent pit stops to the can. If a septuagenarian put up his hand and asked, “Can I go to the bathroom?”, I might be inclined to answer, “Depends.”

I told my young charges that there would be no bathroom breaks while I was teaching. The instructional parts of my class typically last 20-25 minutes. I went so far as to suggest that I wouldn’t entertain a request let alone grant one during this short window of time.

I started teaching my lesson.

The oxygen had barely been expelled from my lungs when one of my bathroom “regulars” put up her hand. “Can I go to the bathroom?’ I was slightly dumbfounded with the timing of the request. The request was quickly denied. I didn’t even have to utter the word “no”, such was the scowl on my face.

I turned to face the Smart Board to continue teaching when I heard this deafening bang which almost caused me to wet my trousers. The student hadn’t taken kindly to my rejection and unceremoniously tipped over her desk, including a fresh bowl of cereal, a bottle of water, and the contents of the desk.

My capable and ever reliable classroom aide was able to take the student to the office.

As I was leaving the school, I was stopped in the hallway by the teacher who had given me the sage advice earlier in the day. “Well Len, how did the new rules work out this afternoon?”

I just grinned and slipped quietly out of the school.

As Staples would say, “That was easy”!

Have a great weekend.

P.S Please put your hand up if you need to go to the bathroom.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on February 24, 2020 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Fawlty Showers?


“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Quote attributed to the ancient Hebrews and Babylonians.

Shower versus bath? It is the question for the ages, right up there with the toilet paper roll. Should it be facing up or down?

I obviously have a fair bit of time on my hands when I can ponder such weighty matters. Maybe this is what isolation does to someone from “the south”.

Last week, I moved into my new apartment. Well, it’s new to me but by the looks of it, it may have been constructed around the time I was born. You’re right. I was supposed to move into the brand new fourplex built by the School Board, but I ended up in one of their other buildings. You have far better things to do with your life than hear about the machinations that led to my change of address.
I am not unhappy with the move.

Someone who walked through the apartment at the time of the move said that it needed some love. I was thinking that a Caterpillar D8 dozer, a lightning strike or a tsunami sweeping up Wakem Bay might be more appropriate. The apartment is dated but so am I so we’re a perfect fit. The floors need to be levelled and replaced. (The D8?) So do the windows and many appliances. But there is one gem – the bathroom. It is fairly modern. This is a relative term.

When I think of the great joys in life, I imagine a fantastic meal, a good night’s sleep, true love, or a Wheel Pizza. I’ll add one more to the list: a hot shower with good water pressure. One would think with evolution and natural selection that we would have perfected this creature comfort but “we haven’t come a long way, baby”, as finding a great shower can be elusive.

Hotels are notorious for faulty showers. Hey, maybe I’ll approach the BBC and start a new comedy series with this catchy title. Not that I frequent fancy hotels very often unless there is no choice, but keyless entries, remote controls, and mysterious shower fixtures keep staff busy running back and forth to my room.

I also found some interesting configurations during my time in India. I could eventually get them to work but was never certain on any given day whether I would be taking a hot shower or a cold one.

During my walk across Spain, I encountered some of the tiniest shower facilities on the planet. I have come to realize that the Conquistadors did not come to the New World seeking gold but rather bigger showers.

Forty years ago, I had my first knee operation. Back then they immobilized you, keeping you in a cast for 3-6 months. Taking a shower was a tricky endeavor, wrapping the leg and cast in green garbage bags. After a month of sponge baths, having a shower was pure ecstasy. I also remember clearly my first shower after having the cast removed. My leg looked like a toothpick on the Scarsdale diet!

So many shower heads just don’t work well. Add to this, shitty water pressure and you get an intermittent stream of water that couldn’t satify a squirrel.

My “new” old apartment has an awesome shower. I don’t care if they renovate my place (which they are threatening to do) and install crystal chandeliers along with a Dolby sound system playing Charley Pride. I will give them strict instructions to keep their hands off the shower.

Some of the new shower heads are bigger than the one sitting on my shoulders… and just as inefficient.

A great shower washes away one’s worries, cures aches and pains, soothes the spirit, and provides inspiration for writing stories and songs.

It also improves a person’s attitude and makes them smell better!

Before you shower your friends with praise, have a hot shower first.

Have a great week.

P.S. Don’t forget. It’s a leap year. This Saturday is February 29th. I have pledged not to drink any red wine on February 30th or 31st!

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on February 20, 2020 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

St.Ninian Street School


“Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated.” Jean Vanier

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Sermon on the Mount. The Bible

I come from a small town in rural Nova Scotia. Every village, town, or city anywhere in this country or indeed the world has something to boast about. It is called community pride and while you can’t always see it in some tangible landmark, it is there with its own heartbeat. Antigonish is known as the home of the Antigonish Movement, the Highland Games, and the Coady Institute. A university and a regional hospital endow the community with talented people. We treat newcomers as family and friend

My lifelong friend and buddy, Mary O’Connell died earlier this week. Mary grew up on West Street, the daughter of Brian and Jean. She was part of a large family of very well educated and well -spoken people.

There was a time not all that long ago, that being born with a mental handicap was a source of shame. It was common for people with intellectual disabilities to be kept at home and away from the public. Some might say that Mary was unlucky, but I think that if you were to ask her to sum up her life, she would say that it was a very special journey. She might even say that she was lucky.

Mary was fortunate to be born in Antigonish and to be the daughter of Brian and Jean O’Connell. Nearly 50 years ago, the O’Connell’s, the MacIntosh’s and several other families started to make waves. These waves turned into a tsunami and today, the fruits of their labour are obvious in every nook and cranny of Antigonish.

One of the first initiatives of the then Canadian Association for Mentally Retarded (Sorry. But that’s what it was called back then) was the provision of a day program at the Antigonish Activity Centre, housed in the old St. Ninian Street School. The program grew and prospered as did the number of individuals taking advantage of this service as more and more families realized the enormous potential of their children.

Mary was one of the early attendees and when the new CACL Workshop opened in the early 1980s, Mary became a stalwart in the bakery. I had known Mary previously through family connections but as Administrator of the Workshop, I got to know Mary very well. I saw her daily as she marched purposely through the hallway, past my office and downstairs to the bakery. Mary wasn’t shy. I always knew what was on her mind!

Running the Workshop required a lot of money and while provincial funding was adequate, there was a perpetual shortfall. The organization decided to start fundraising in a serious way. I spent countless hours at Brian O’Connell’s kitchen table mapping out the public relations strategy. In the initial campaign, $40,000 was raised, a very sizeable figure back then. Brian was a PR wizard and we were able to get our message out clearly and affectively. Mary was one of those chosen to do a radio spot. The voice of the handicapped was literally and figuratively being heard.

Today, those with intellectual challenges are a part of the fabric of the community. They are full citizens, making a significant contribution. We continue to benefit from their wisdom.

Mary was particularly lucky to be surrounded by siblings who were very fond of her. Mary was their equal. She was their shining star.

May her star shine bright in the heavens.

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