Thursday Tidbits

Posted on October 28, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Blurring the lines


“I fall to pieces, each time I see you again,

I fall to pieces; how can I be just your friend.”

I Fall to Pieces – Patsy Kline

Of course, Patsy is singing about love. It’s hard falling in and out of love. Relationships are hard. I don’t think romance writing, or romance for that matter, is my strong suit. I’ll stick to the mundane.

Sometimes I wonder if my body is my friend. My back hurts. My knee hurts. My neck hurts. Actually, a number of people have said that I’m a pain in the neck… and other body parts too.  My eyesight isn’t what it used to be. I wear progressive lenses. It’s the only thing progressive about Len. I have been told that my hearing is poor, but I think that’s more about the absence of active listening than hearing loss. My cholesterol is elevated. My muscles suffer from atrophy… mostly my brain. Ok, so the brain is not technically a muscle but an organ. It does however play a huge role in controlling muscles throughout your body. I think this particular organ needs a good tuning.

I am often chided for dwelling on growing old. I’m happy to be aging. It’s much better than the alternative. But most of us realize that the warranty on our bodies is finite.

On Friday night last week, I woke up and the bedroom was spinning. The last time that I had even remotely had this sensation was after a nasty encounter with a bottle of tequila back in my university days. I knew that the cause of my distress was definitely not alcohol. I wondered if the large piece of Betty Crocker French Vanilla cake with chocolate icing that I had consumed right before bed, could have possibly been my downfall. If that had been the case, I would have been suffering from vertigo for most of my life.

I don’t alarm easily but I must admit that my first reaction was that I was having a life changing event. I wasn’t in any pain, so I quickly ruled out a heart attack. Ditto for stroke. The episode lasted about 20 seconds followed by nausea. I put two and two together and reckoned that I had just experienced vertigo for the first time.

I lay very still for several minutes trying to decide what to do. Mother nature solved the conundrum quite nicely by advising that I go for my nightly pee. I cautiously put my feet on the floor, and I am happy to report that I made it to the bathroom without any accidents. I crawled back into bed, but sleep would not come easily. It was the nausea as much as anything. I normally toss and turn in my sleep. “Well I was tossin’ and turnin’, turnin’ and tossin’; A tossin’ and turnin’ all night.” (Bobby Lewis). I lay on my back perfectly still for what seemed an eternity. I even turned on my cell phone as a distraction. If you’re used to sleeping on your side, you know that you will never fall asleep lying flat on your back. Eventually, I rolled over to my right. Mercifully, the room didn’t change positions with me.

But I am a creature of habit and an imperfect human specimen. (“No shit”, I can hear you saying!) I eventually rolled over to my left and once again the room started to pirouette. The only real good news here is that this was a Friday night, and I didn’t have to be concerned about going to work the next day.

I have a brother who is a retired lawyer. Over the years, I leaned on him for sage advice… pro bono, of course! As I lay in bed pondering the current state of affairs, I knew that my first call the next morning would be to my brother, an ENT physician (Ears, Nose, Throat).

He listened attentively to my symptoms and concluded that I likely had BPV, a very common malady, as it turns out. Knowing that I was definitely a glass half full kind of guy, I immediately understood the acronym: Bring Positive Vibes. No. BPV stands for Benign Positional Vertigo. It happens to a lot of people and not just old retreads like me. He asked if I had suffered any acute hearing loss. I told them that this had happened a few times during my marriage. (I’m going to get in big trouble for that quip). He recommended exercise to cure this problem with the crystals in my ear. Crystals are like tiny rocks. He likened it to a rock rolling around inside your car tire. Of course, if your symptoms are worse, seek medical attention. Not only do I give lousy advice on love, but I will refrain in future from discussing serious medical issues.

Exercise? I wondered if he wanted me to stand on my head or try yogic flying. Like most mere mortals, I was expecting a quick fix with drugs but apparently one of the best remedies is doing Brandt-Daroff Habituation exercises or going to see your family doctor to confirm the diagnosis and have them perform an Epley Maneuver.  He went on to explain to me that many people in my situation would immediately run to an emergency department at the hospital. They would likely get an expensive scan and possibly receive a prescription. There would be an excellent chance that the problem would not be resolved. Now, of course, I had the luxury of getting advice from a family member who happens to be an ENT, but I guess the lesson is for all of us to try and avoid emergency rooms where possible. In this era of telemedicine (especially during Covid), many medical issues can be managed without clogging up an already fragile medical system.

I tried the exercise for a few days- a nauseating experience. You’re basically asking your body to create vertigo. A few days later I went to the nursing station and had the Epley Maneuver. I’m happy to report that I am on the mend.

A few years ago, while doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, I noticed a blurring of vison, with little dots passing back and forth across my eyes. I scheduled an appointment with my excellent optometrist, Jolene (not THAT Jolene of Dolly Parton fame) and she assured me that these “floaters” were common and not to worry.

One other thing. My brother advised me to avoid craning my neck. I guess that rules out visiting Old Montreal on a warm summer’s evening. Some of you know what I mean.

Now I can attest that I have stars in my eyes and rocks in my head.

“Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.” Janis Joplin

…and my knees, and my back, and my eyes and my ears….

Have a great weekend.

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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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