Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 25, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

“Songs in the key of life” (SW)


“Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates,

You got a brand new key.”

Brand New Key – Melanie

The four keys to a happy and fruitful life, according to my mom are as follows:

  1. Say please and thank you.
  2. Show up on time.
  3. Finish what you start.
  4. Do what you say you are going to do.

I would like to add a fifth: Keep track of your keys.

There are no easy jobs in any school and the one in which I work is no different.

When I decided to return to the north for one more year, I wasn’t totally delusional. I had indicated to my principal last spring, that I didn’t want a full-time teaching position. The offer I received this summer was for a 50/50 position which would include administrative duties along with some classroom help. On the surface, it seemed like just about the perfect job. I could maintain contact with the students and help out in the office without the pressures of a classroom teacher. No more standing out in the playground at -30 holding the end of a skipping rope!

Upon my arrival, I started to work in the office. With no full-time secretary for well over a year, I was asked to take on this role. You school secretaries know how busy things are at the main office. It is relentless. Along with my regular duties, I was asked to organize the order books. Every spring, teachers and administration order supplies for the following school year. This includes everything from paper to office supplies, furniture, janitorial and maintenance supplies and the like. Work orders are sent in and when parcels arrive in the office, everything in the boxes needs to be checked, itemized and put in its rightful place. Then the packing slips need to be matched up to the order form to ensure that everything arrived. Ninety-nine percent of the time, orders are incomplete. The packing slips are kept in big binders. I decided that the binders needed to be better organized. It was a big job but satisfying. Anyone could come to the office and check the order books and see in an instant, the status of their order. This was the first of Len’s Labours, as I will call them.

I was then asked to reorganize every student file. I won’t bore you with the details, but this took the better part of a month and a half. Put a check mark by Len’s Labours #2.

Over the past 18 months, like every other school in Canada, we have been receiving shipments of Covid supplies. Who ever thought that a safe and secure Covid room would become the mainstay in a school? Our Covid material happened to get stored in a number of closets, so my next task was to consolidate and have everything in one spot that didn’t require a step ladder to get to. (ed. note. I often use a preposition at the end of a sentence. Tut. Tut. After exhaustive research (thanks MG!), I discovered that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this practice.)

Len’s Labour #3 ratcheted up the degree of difficulty. I wasn’t a gymnast. Len in tights? (cue Men in Tights from Robin Hood) Nor was I a figure skater so you’re probably wondering what I could possibly know about “degree of difficulty”. I was asked to tackle one of the resource rooms. When I opened the door to this closet, I realized quickly the meaning of degree of difficulty. I wrote about this task last week.

Last week, the principal gave me a task that can only be described as Herculean. The problem is that, unlike the real Hercules, I am not a demigod, nor do I have superhuman strength. However, I do possess a streak of determination (stubbornness) derived from my Irish/Scottish ancestry.

The school and the teachers’ apartments have doors. Doors have locks. Locks need keys. Now, over a period of years (decades), door locks are changed, teachers come and go and what results is a collection of keys. A very large collection, all stuffed into supersized zip lock bags. From time to time, keys go missing and finding a replacement key becomes, well, problematic. I am being kind here. I am in mixed company. On more than one occasion, I have witnessed someone on staff going through literally hundreds of keys, weeping at the seemingly impossible task. Last week, the principal, dropped all of these keys on my desk and asked me to sort them. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t smiling.

I smiled and thought to myself:” She’s trying to break me”, and just like Hercules and his 12 labours, I just added this to Len’s Labours.

Where to begin? I’ll let you mull this over for a few seconds. I decided that this needed decisive action, so I grabbed a coffee and ignored the 8,431 keys in front of me for 24 hours. Sounds a bit like procrastination, don’t you think?! No, you sickos, I didn’t count them. Trust me, there were hundreds and hundreds, some of them on key chains, some on lanyards, and many just loose.

When I was in India (“Oh god, Len, don’t go wandering off topic”), I was driving along a road when I encountered two elephants. I wondered to myself, after staring at these massive beasts, how one would go about eating an entire elephant. It’s quite easy actually – one small bite at a time.

With this in mind, I decided to break down the task into bite sized pieces. I removed the keychains and lanyards and put the whole kit and kaboodle in a heap… and silently wept. I started by sorting the keys by shape, size and model. I ended it with about 15 different piles of keys. (This might be the most boring piece that I have ever written but with school closed because of Covid, I have all this time and nothing better to do).

As all you locksmiths know, certain shape keys fit into certain keyholes. I grabbed the first pile which resembled the school’s master key. I placed them in a plastic bowl and then wandered the school looking for every doorknob that would accept this style of key. I should note at this key point in the story that, in addition to school keys, there were bags of keys for the 20 or so teachers’ apartments which also had to be checked. I must confess that this was a stern test of sobriety. Um, in many cases the number of the teacher apartments weren’t on the keys. Can you say, “trial and error”?

The dividends were almost immediate. I was getting near the end and there was still a small pile (maybe 30 keys) sitting on my desk. At the end of the day on Thursday, moments before the shutdown of the school, due to Covid, a slightly panicked teacher came to see me. She had locked her keys inside her classroom. Not only did her key ring have her classroom key but also her 4-wheeler key, house key, post office key etc. Ironically, her classroom had a unique lock. There wasn’t another like it in the school. Go figure. I grabbed the bowl with the remaining keys and went to the second floor. The very last key that I tried worked!

I was also able to get rid of a hundred or more keys that were obsolete.

I am anxiously awaiting my next labour. If it involves polar bears, I will place a call to the Greek gods.

At least I haven’t been asked to clean the stables of King Augeas. There aren’t any cows in Kangiqsujuaq!

Have a great week.

P.S. As reported on my FB page last Friday, we have a case of Covid in the village. I will be extra vigilant to be sure, but I am not too concerned. After all the vaccines I have received over the years including a plethora for India, flu shots, shingles, Covid and most recently a pneumonia shot, I reckon I’m nearly radioactive. No self-respecting Coronavirus would dare come near me!

P.P.S. I am sooooo kicking my ass for not taking a picture of the entire pile of keys but, then again, I didn’t think I would be writing a 1400 word piece about keys!




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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on October 21, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with 3 comments

Old things


“You may delay, but time will not.”

Benjamin Franklin.


I was going to write about this sooner, but I kept putting it off.

Two deaths on Monday got me to thinking a lot about where I’m at,at this point in my life. I knew one of the deceased. Mike was a talented musician. I met him in the early 80s when he was a music student at St.F.X. He hadn’t been well for some time and succumbed to his illness. He was only 61, far, far too young to leave his wife and family. I did not know the second person. He was the brother of talented journalist, Neil MacDonald. Neil spoke glowingly about his brother and ended his tribute with this lovely line: “We started laughing together in grade school and never stopped, until he did.”

I promise that I’m not going to go full maudlin on you, but death is so common these days. I guess it has been forever thus, but it just seems to me that we can barely get through a week, let alone a day, without news of someone we know or love passing on.

My Monday post chronicled my efforts to clean out a very messy resource room at school. I received a lot of response. Some of you are full blown crazy like me and like things looking orderly, every waking minute of the day. A few of you confessed that you are procrastinators and are forever putting things off. I’m sure there’s a happy medium.

For those of you who are habitual procrastinators let me offer you this pearl of wisdom. What in the hell are you waiting for? Maybe it’s time for you to literally and figuratively clean out your closet, (basements, garages etc.). Unless you believe in reincarnation, you only have one life to live. Don’t wait for a crisis to jolt you into action. Lethargy is a friend of the devil. Why not try something new and daring or just make a ‘to do’ list and actually cross a few things off?

Learn how to make bread. Start walking. Find a new love … or lover! When Covid permits, why not travel around your province or state or, gasp travel outside your region. Even if this doesn’t appeal to you, there is nothing stopping you from traveling outside your comfort zone. That takes place in your head.

“I can’t tell you if there’s anything after this life, but I can give you a tip. Live as if there is not. As if this is your only chance to enjoy, to love, to exist.” Baruch de Spinoza – Dutch philosopher

I watched Lady Chatterly’s Lover on the weekend. I had forgotten (wink, wink) that this was a pretty racy piece that D.H. Lawrence penned in 1928. Here’s a quote from the movie that caught my eye: “I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets.”

Enough pontificating, but you get my drift.

Now for something pretty ridiculous. I’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately. No alcohol and very modest amounts of sweets. I still walk a lot and lately have been working with a personal trainer trying to loosen some very tight muscles. So far so good. My diet still leaves a lot to be desired. A friend loaned me a book about nutrition. Superlife by Darin Olien purports to provide the reader with “five simple fixes that will make you healthy, fit and eternally awesome.” I doubt if I will ever achieve those lofty heights but I’m always ready to try something new. It so happened that I started reading this book on Saturday, the day after one of the most physically demanding weeks of my life, my tank was empty. I had zero energy. It was cold and rainy, the perfect weather to be a total slug. As I read more and more of the book I kept saying “Yes, yes, Len, you can do this. Be bold. Try something new.” From what I could glean from the book, my best bet was alfalfa sprouts and water. It seemed like most foods harbored some evil chemicals.

As the day wore on, I felt that I had to get off the couch and walk 500 yards to the nearest grocery store. It also houses the post office so, at a bare minimum, I could check my mail and get a breath of fresh air. It was getting close to supper, and I had zero interest in cooking. I was also hungry. We all know that the 11th commandment goes something like this: “Thou shalt not go into a grocery store when ravenous.”

Dear reader, I am ashamed and a bit embarrassed to tell you that I made two purchases and neither of them was sprouts. The first was a bag of Old Dutch ripple potato chips. I hadn’t had a single potato chip since August and the craving was overwhelming. The second was a frozen, packaged dinner. It wasn’t quite a TV dinner but pretty damn close. Instead of a robust and healthy supper according to Mr. Olien, I had an appetizer of potato chips followed be a microwave dinner. And you know what? I didn’t feel even a tinge of guilt and loathing about my shitty choices for supper. Had I died that night, it would have been without regret… and with a touch of salt on my lips!

Now that I have crossed procrastination off my list, what’s next?

Have a great weekend.

P.S. The most wonderful thing happened in the wee hours yesterday morning. I opened the curtains in my living room. The moon was full and was casting a magnificent shadow on the bay. A huge cargo ship was in the bay with lights on. Sadly, the version of my iPhone couldn’t capture the beauty. As I was staring in awe, I flicked on Sirius radio. I kid you not, but Moonlight Sonata was playing. Sometimes the stars line up perfectly.



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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 18, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment


Out of the closet


“Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Who is the fairest one of all?”

The Evil Queen

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Why would I be thinking about Snow White? Stay tuned dear reader for its not what you might think. We have already had a few light dustings of snow, but this piece has nothing to do with snow, or winter, for that matter.

I’m a closet junkie. “OMG, Len. We knew there had to be a rational explanation for your irrational act to go and teach in the north at the age of 68.”

No, no, no. I haven’t turned to hard drugs late in life.

It started innocently enough. In our school, we have a large room which was once a computer lab. It gradually turned into an electronics graveyard. Someone decided that the back of this room (it’s actually a separate room) would become our Covid room. The problem is that there was Covid material in several rooms in the school. I decided, once and for all, to consolidate all the masks, hand sanitizers, wipes, thermometers and gowns into one tidy space. I’m a bit of a neat freak. Just ask my children. After big family dinners, I could often be found cleaning off plates and organizing the dishes before the meal was over.

It took me a few days and the help of my colleague, Audrey, to get the room ship shape. This got me to thinking, which is dangerous. I knew that there were several other rooms in the school that needed a major housecleaning and reorganization.

“Mark my words, there’s trouble a brewin.”


When I first came up north to teach two years ago, I went to the school’s resource room looking for material. In large schools, there is one large resource room and a resource room teacher. Our school doesn’t have this luxury, so teaching aides and resources are stuffed into three oversized closets. The first time I went looking for something, I realized that these rooms had also become storage rooms for everything imaginable in the school. Things piled up over time and the rooms had become virtually unusable.

In a fit of insanity, I decided to tackle the largest of these rooms on the secondary side of the school.

“Sink’s empty. Hey, someone stole our dishes.”


No, Sneezy. No one in recent memory had gone into the resource room and magically tidied it up. I waded into a jungle and five days later I emerged unscathed other than a few serious paper cuts. (For something so innocuous, paper cuts hurt like hell. ed) Day one was spent clearing out all kinds of electronics, mostly old computer parts, keyboards, and a million miles of wires impossibly tangled. Houdini couldn’t have unraveled them. Of course, there was only one place to take them- to the computer graveyard once serving as a lab.

I am not going to waste your time describing every item I stumbled across once I had cleared a path and was able to tiptoe through (the tulips) the room. A few things stood out. Some of the textbooks were over thirty years old indicating the last time that this room may have had a serious inventory check. There were boxes and boxes of old slides, 8-tracks, VCR tapes, cassette tapes, DVD’s, an old overhead projector (and the plastic sheets that went with some of the lessons) and a few tape recorders. I was staring at the technology revolution of the past half century right in front of me.  I caressed one of the old cassette tapes and thought about the days when we used a pencil to rewind a tape when it got discombobulated. I know many of you did this. Or thinking about the 8-track playing in your car until a zombie attacked your prized Everly Brothers tape, ate it up and spit it out.

But the piece de resistance was an ancient reel to reel machine. Cue “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. I was immediately transported back more than 50 years when I remember, with absolute clarity, watching Snow White in the music room at our old high school.

“When hearts are high, the time will fly, so whistle while you work.”

Snow White

Several of the secondary students were following my progress and, from time to time, popped in to help me lift heavy boxes off high shelves. They had never seen a reel to reel before and were mesmerized by my accounts of ancient history. “Len, those movies were probably in black and white,” they said jokingly. You betcha. I’m not about to suggest that I started to whistle but this wave of nostalgia made the work a bit less cumbersome.

There were all sorts of old things that took me down memory lane but one box in particular, left me scratching my head. I had finally whittled down dozens of boxes so that I could actually catch a glimpse of the floor. And there, sitting in an oversized carboard box, was an engine. Now it should be made clear that we do not have an auto mechanics course at the school. After several inquiries, no one knew how this engine had come to occupy space in the resource room.

Besides getting the room organized, I was getting one hell of a workout with all the lifting, and moving things around, including relocating items to their rightful place in the school. By Friday, I discovered that there was an actual floor in the room and every single item was now either trashed or sitting on a shelf. We all know that feeling of satisfaction when you tackle a seemingly impossible task but, by just staying with it, the job eventually gets done. There’s nothing like a good purge.

“Look, our house! The lit’s light. The light’s lit.”


After a week of toil, the job was done.

I was feeling proud of myself, but I had another feeling that trumped everything. When I stared at the finished product, I realized, with the deepest of humility, that it would take me the rest of my life to read everything in that small room. Knowledge is so powerful and there’s just so damn much to learn.

The secondary math teacher is our “go to” guy in the school when it comes to technology. We are threatening to take the reel-to-reel machine down from the top shelf during our next professional development day and see if we can get it to work.

Maybe I’ll contact Disney and see if they can provide me with a copy of the original Snow White movie… in black and white, of course!

Have a great week.

P.S. At the end of each day, I went home dusty, dirty and smelly. I give the last word to Grumpy:

“I’d like to see anybody make me wash if I didn’t want to.”

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