Thursday Tidbits

Posted on July 29, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with 3 comments


Our mom’s 80th


“It’s a long, long road, from which there is no return,

While we’re on the way to there, why not share?

And the load, doesn’t weigh me down at all,

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

He Ain’t Heavy. He’s My Brother – The Hollies

Sibling rivalry.

Have you ever had an argument or disagreement with one of your brothers or sisters? (Does a bear shit in the woods?)

That might be one of the most asinine questions that I have ever posed in this space. The only possible reason for not having a fight with a sibling is the fact that you were an only child.

Many of my readers are seasoned veterans. Translation – We’re receiving our Canada Pension and Old Age Security. As such, many of us are products of the Baby Boom when children were being conceived at an unprecedented rate. Large families were commonplace especially here in The Little Vatican. Families of 6-10 were the norm.

I don’t care who you are but put any ten people in a small three- bedroom house for an extended period of time, with one bathroom, and you are inviting hostile, internecine warfare.

In a big family, you compete for love and affection but mostly for food. The greatest battleground in our house was the kitchen table. The big table in the dining room was reserved for civilized company, like priests or out of town guests. I didn’t know what leftovers were until I spread my wings and lived on my own. Leftovers? Are you kidding me? Chipper, our dog may have been one of the most undernourished canines on the planet. The only time he ever received a table scrap is when mom served liver. If you want to know what WW111 might have looked like, look no further than the last piece of dessert. Mom was judicious in handing out dessert but from time to time (usually when a sibling was sick), there might be one piece of cake or pie remaining. This is where we had our first taste of hand to hand (hand to mouth) combat.

The second major battleground was the kitchen sink. We all had to take turns doing the dishes and, of course, there was always a mountain of them. With eight of us, the division of labour was easy to mete out. We worked in pairs. At least that was the theory. Occasionally the dish washer and dish dryer were on speaking terms but that was an anomaly. Invariably, one of the combatants was having a bad day. Pity help the dish washer if the dinner plate wasn’t cleaned to within an inch of its life for it would swiftly and unceremoniously be tossed back into the soapy water. This might be met with a flick of this same water back into the eyes of the dryer.

My siblings were all good students so there was the ever-present pressure of good marks in school.

When it came to clothing, there wasn’t much discussion. The older ones got the new duds while the rest of us got hand me downs. Flaunting new clothing was a sure-fire way to piss off the rest of us. “Don’t give me no hand me down shoes, don’t give me no hand me down love; don’t give me no hand me down world, I got one already.” Hand Me Down World – The Guess Who

While we all had our differences and idiosyncrasies (except me, of course!), our love of music was universal and undeniable. When we weren’t at war, which was a constant (just imagine the hormones percolating under the roof of that small house), we shared one passion, one we carry with us to this day. Music was the thread that prevented a reincarnation of the massacre of Glencoe. If any of my siblings read this, they might have a different point of view. Some of our musical gatherings (especially when we were in bands together) might have resulted in global destruction.

The years dispersed us to the far reaches of Canada. A few of my brothers moved to B.C. and my sister taught school in Newfoundland. We all had busy lives and managed to keep in touch. We had a few memorable family reunions.

The years passed and in retirement many of my siblings made their way back to Antigonish. We see each other frequently and have the luxury of time to enjoy meals and walks together. Our appetites have waned considerably and these days, there are always leftovers, even dessert, a blasphemy 50 years ago.

Time marches on and the death of siblings becomes an unpleasant and unwanted reality. In large families, grief can be shared among those left behind.

While sibling rivalry is real and often painful, you can’t rival having lots of brothers and sisters.

They will stick with you to the bitter end.

And gladly eat the last piece of apple pie!

Have a great weekend.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on July 26, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Still crazy after all these years


“And we talked about some old times,

And we drank ourselves some beers,

Still crazy after all these years,

Still crazy after all these years.”

Still Crazy After all These Years – Paul Simon



“Ooh, Len. Too heavy a topic for Monday.”

I’m always curious why otherwise sensible people (you know who you are) continue to read my posts. I asked an old friend this very question last week. She and her husband taught at the same school as I did some 45 years ago. She might well remember the staff Halloween party at the STM gym when a half dozen teachers from the Maritimes, affectionately known as “The Wise Men From the East” paraded through the streets of Fairview, Alberta as a six pack of Schooner beer. Crazy then and still crazy after all these years.

There are well known addictions such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and Boston cream donuts from Tim’s. With the exception of the last one, all of the above wreak havoc with one’s health and family life and are a terrible scourge.

There are other addictions that are a bit more subtle like salt and sugar, which, used to excess, can cause multiple health problems.

There is another long list of food products and activities which can seem excessive, but really, is it possible to eat too much chocolate or play too many games of cribbage?

So, why does my friend read my posts?

The answer to the above question to my friend stopped me in my tracks. “I’m addicted to your humour.”

Long pause. Let that one sink in.

When one considers all the vices that the world can dish up, I don’t think an excessive amount of humour could possibly cause a person any harm. Laughter IS the best medicine or possibly a glass of merlot. I have done my best throughout my life to surround myself with people smarter than myself (that was an easy one) and people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Serious people are a drag and will drag you down with them. This quote pretty well sums it up: “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” Being in good cheer is a choice. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, might I suggest you move over to the other side and go back to sleep.

Let’s face it. It’s not possible to be in good cheer all the time. Poor health, tragedies and the like will quickly wipe the smile off even the most upbeat person, but that is life as we know it. Rudyard Kipling said it best. “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” Easy to say. Hard to do.

Another one of my faithful readers opined that I perhaps dwell a little too much on my advancing age. I do mention it frequently but most times it’s tongue in cheek. In my head, I feel much like I did 50 years ago. My body tells a different story. A few of you are lucky. You are not deranged, going on 40km walks just for shits and giggles. You have treated your bodies as temples and are finely tuned machines, well into your 70s and 80s with nary an ache or pain. We hate you. Not really. The rest of us are a bag of creaking bones and joints.

Unless you have conveniently skipped my last three or four posts, the rest of you know that I am going to do two of those deranged walks on August 9/10 to mark my 70th birthday. In conjunction with the walk, I’m hoping to raise some money for a Youth Day to be held in my northern community of Kangiqsujuaq. You can send me an e-transfer at or stop by the Bergengren Credit Union and tell them you want to contribute to Len’s Walk.

Besides my long walk around the Cape, how do I plan to acknowledge this milestone (millstone!)? Among the possibilities are a nose job, a second tattoo or perhaps a piercing. All three might evoke some strange looks and a call to my doctor.

There are many things that I will probably have to give up in the years to come but I hope to never relinquish my sense of humour.

“He who laughs last, laughs best”. Nietzche.

Have a great week.

P.S. I want to welcome two colleagues from Montreal, Chad and Emma. Hope you enjoy your stay in “Canada’s Ocean Playground”.


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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on July 22, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Shelley Carroll

From time to time, I like to share other people’s stories. My friend, Shelley (I met her once for 5 minutes!) is a writer. I loved this piece she wrote recently. I think most of us can put check marks by many of her observations about this journey we call life. Enjoy!


I’ve been 48 years old for the past 24 hours…and here’s what I know so far…

There’s no shame in admitting one’s age. As the saying goes, growing older is a privilege denied to many, so I don’t dare complain or deny. I’ve earned every one of these grey hairs, crow’s feet, stretch marks, and scars. I may not have them all proudly on display, but I acknowledge they are a part of me and every one tells a story. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Because here’s the thing:

You don’t get where you’re going without the occasional traffic delay, bumpy road, accident or detour. Sometimes your course gets changed up altogether. Dead ends and wrong turns can be absolutely pivotal. Factor in the pee breaks, lunch stops, time to refuel, wonky GPS, and changes in travel mates, well, let’s just say it makes for an interesting journey.

My life thus far is no exception.

It’s been an experience being me – and I hope the same can be said for those who have been along for the ride – whether for the entire route or just for certain portions of the trail.

At the ripe “old” age of 48 years – and again, it’s still new to me; I’m still trying it on for size – I have the time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I still want to go.

I remember being 16 and having “a plan”. And if I sit quietly, I can almost hear the echo of God laughing.

Oh, I had big plans.

If my dream of being a world famous author/psychologist/singer-songwriter/Catholic Church deacon didn’t quite pan out, my back-up plan included the fervent hope that I’d be independently wealthy by virtue of magic and wishful thinking.

The fact of the matter is that while I didn’t end up becoming any of those things – and thank goodness for that! – I still can’t complain about my lot in life.

Instead, and perhaps in spite of my initial plan, so many more rewarding experiences and roles have graced my life.

That’s not to say that my heart and spirit weren’t broken a few times in the process, but it has all culminated in where and who I am today.

And I’m not done yet!

I’ve been a babysitter, a fast food server, a chambermaid, an admin at a newspaper, an advertising sales rep, a correctional officer, a parole officer, a project officer, a labour relations advisor.

But more than that – I’ve been a student, a mother, a partner (er, more than once!), an ex-wife (more than once!), a daughter, a sister, a friend, a runner, a whiner, a survivor, a thinker, a feeler, a loser, an arsehole, a winner, a start-all-over-again’er, and a stock-taker.

That first group of “things I’ve been” has provided me with money to pay the bills and care for my children, the chance to meet people, learning opportunities, and a tremendous amount of growth opportunities.

The second group of “things I’ve been”, however, has been the most rewarding, traumatic, personal, validating, life-changing, and defining.

And the latter group consists of all of the things I didn’t necessarily learn in school. Even if I’d been warned ahead of time, I know in my heart of hearts and deep in my ovaries that I wouldn’t have listened anyway.

These are the lessons learned on the road.

They hurt.

But pain gives direction. And in spite of the pain I felt, I truly believe that luck (and perhaps a very battle-weary guardian angel) has always been on my side.

I have been so incredibly fortunate. Because through it all, I’m still here. I’m not the me I might have otherwise been, but I’m still me… bigger, stronger, and not as fast as before.

And for all the bumps and bruises I’ve sustained (and maybe even inflicted), I wouldn’t change a thing.

Through it all, I’ve been loved. And I cannot ask for more than that.

So because I’m curious and nosy and ready for more, I can’t WAIT to see what happens next.

I’ll continue to make my plans. But I will also have to be willing to roll with the punches, bob and weave, get knocked down, but then get up again.

I’ll keep moving forward, breathe with the diversions, take in the scenery, laugh, cry, swear, read, write, run and squint to see the sunshine.

But I’ll also bring along a snack and a note book – I don’t want to miss anything. Tomorrow is not promised. But I’ve got to admit that today is looking pretty darn alright.

So take stock, my friends. Embrace your hardships as well as your accomplishments. They all shape you.

And if I can say that, so can you.

But with an abundance of caution, of course.

I’m not in my twenties anymore, for chrissakes.


Shelley Carroll



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