Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on February 21, 2024 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 4 comments

King of the castle


“I’m on the top of the world,

Looking down on creation”.

Top of the World – The Carpenters

If you had the choice, would you rather own a Rolls-Royce and a villa in France, unlimited financial resources and a trip around the world or a good night’s sleep? It seems like a no brainer unless you happen to be in your “golden years”. You see, the definition of luxuries changes with age.

When a golfer hits a ball perfectly, it’s referred to “hitting it on the sweet spot.” Throwing a perfect game in baseball, scoring 300 points in bowling or getting the elusive 29 hand in crib, are all examples of perfection but normal mortals rarely reach these lofty heights. I have always felt that striving for excellence was far more important than striving for perfection. Perfectionists are often terrible bores.

Recently, I have been feeling on top of the world. No, I didn’t win the 50/50 draw. I do, however, feel like I’ve won a lottery of sorts because I have come to the realization that I am blessed with so many luxuries. At the top of the list is good health followed closely by having so many good friends. One could argue that the two go hand in hand and that friendships are a key determinant of good health.


At seventy-two, I don’t have a lot of pressure anymore. Our children are launched, and my “official” work career is behind me, although I still manage to crawl out of bed three days a week to substitute teach. No more mortgage. No more car. I live a very simple existence.

As a result, my worry meter is very low and as a result, I sleep well. The value of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated in my humble opinion. It may be the greatest luxury of all because when a person is well rested, just about anything is possible.

Slow mornings. When I’m not schlepping my backpack to school, I have the luxury of being a slug. I watch the morning sports recap with a nice cup of coffee and then settle in for an hour of reading. When you’re younger, there’s always somewhere to go and something to do. I believe it’s called responsibility.

Long walks. I walk every day of my life, and nothing gives me more pleasure than a long walk. I’m not necessarily talking about a Camino walk of 800 kilometers. Having the time to walk for an hour or two is a gift. Many years ago when I was a marathon runner, I would often listen to music or a podcast to alleviate boredom. These days, I’m far more interested in listening to the sound of birds even if it’s a murder of crows.

A good book. Retirement has given me the luxury of time and every day, I read for at least two hours. It’s a form of escapism especially when reading fiction but who cares. It is a delicious way to pass the time.

Home cooked meals. I love nothing more than going out for pad Thai or a juicy steak but there is great pleasure in having the time to prepare home cooked meals and to share them with good friends or family.

Power snoozes. Actually, a short midday nap might be closer to the top of my luxury list. It is “the pause that refreshes”. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have the capacity to fall asleep, on demand, in the middle of the day. This is one of the many byproducts of having a low worry meter. When a person is in the trenches of midlife, raising a family and working, there’s just too much going on in your head to be able to hit the snooze button. As shocking as it may seem, I can consume a cup of coffee at lunch time and a mere thirty minutes later, crash on the couch. One thing I’ve noticed is that these short bursts of rest are not accompanied by dreams. I fall asleep quickly and am shocked to wake just as quickly as if nothing had happened.

Time for fun and play. Many retirees have discovered pickleball. Others curl, golf, quilt or play bridge. Add travel to this list. My guitar is always close at hand, and it is indeed a luxury to have the time to learn new (old!) songs. Learning new things is fun and stimulates the brain. At least that’s what I’m hoping. And writing, of course.

Sunrises and sunsets. No explanation required. I never take my sight for granted.

A good conversation. It’s a wonderful thing to sit and chat with a dear friend one on one or gather with a group for a fulsome discussion on something that matters… or merely shooting the breeze. I love being in the presence of people who are smarter than me. I don’t have to work at that!

The freedom to choose. So many people do not have the privilege of choice. I know how fortunate I am. One of my most recent choices is to drastically reduce my intake of news. So much of it is depressing. I don’t mind being accused of being an ostrich but not obsessing about things over which I have no control allows me to have power snoozes and a good night’s sleep. By the way, ostriches, contrary to popular belief, do not bury their heads in the sand when scared or frightened. When an ostrich senses danger and cannot run away, it will flop to the ground and remain still, attempting to blend in with the terrain. Now aren’t you glad you read all the way down the page?! I simply flop on the couch and close my eyes!

I have an abundance of luxuries.

Most of them don’t come with an expensive price tag.

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,

Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,

So, oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.”

Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin

Have a great weekend… and sleep in, if you have the luxury of doing so!


What goes up, must come down

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on February 14, 2024 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 2 comments


Bar none


“Sugar in the mornin’,

Sugar in the evenin’,

Sugar at suppertime,

Be my little sugar,

And love me all the time.”

Sugartime – The McGuire Sisters

My addiction to sugar started in utero.

We’re all familiar with the expression about something leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Most often the expression is not literal. Yes, biting into a lemon wedge is cringe worthy and may leave you with a sour expression, unless this action is followed by a shot of tequila. More often than not, it is a life experience that leaves you wanting. A loss to a lesser opponent in a sporting event, a failed promotion at work, or the end of a relationship may have you running for Listerine. Listerine may kill 99.9% of germs that cause bad breath, but it won’t ameliorate hurt feelings.

My mother had a notorious sweet tooth. And she loved to bake. This is a devastating combination. Growing up as children, we had sweets at every dinner. In addition to doing multiple loads of laundry, baking bread, shopping, and house cleaning, she found time to make a homemade dessert. With ten of us, this was no mean feat. It must have been disheartening for her to slave away making two homemade apple pies and to see them evaporate at the hands of vultures.

Serious sugar cravings began when we started going to the Saturday matinees at the Capitol theatre. Armed with .50, our allowance for doing dishes and polishing our shoes before going to Sunday mass, we would march down to Main Street to catch the latest Western movie. The movie cost .37 which left us with .13. Across the street from the theatre was a small shop. Dot’s Confectionary was the Holy Grail for candy and, trust me, you could get a lot of candy for .13. It was normal to be able to get 5 candies for a penny. Licorice pipes were a tad more expensive. We would leave Dot’s with a small brown bag loaded to the gills with 65 candies – good news for the family dentist.

As a teenager, the most popular hangout was the bowling alley, simply referred to as The Alleys. There was a long railing in front of the building where we spent hours perched there, watching the world go by, listening to the gentle gurgling of the Brierly Brook just a few feet away. The Alleys boasted ten lanes and later on, a new vice was added to remove money from our meagre savings. A snooker/pool room became another place to hang out. However, the centerpiece of the bowling alley was the snack bar where they served the best milkshakes in the world, made from Eastern Dairyfoods ice cream and milk. They also had a candy counter, and you could purchase a Jos Louis (or a Caramel Cake) and a Coke for .25. For the uninitiated, a Jos Louis was a chocolatey cake with a creamy filling wrapped in a decadent chocolate coating.

For me, it has been a downward spiral ever since. I have kicked most vices including cigarettes but to this day, my addiction to sugar rages on.

Where do I start? How many of these do you remember? Oh Henry (a good way to lose a filling), Crispy Crunch, Coffee Crisp, Cherry Blossom, coconut bars, Bridge Mixture and caramel bars. How do they get the caramel inside those bars? The list is endless. There are days I wonder why I’m not 300 pounds. And don’t even get me going on chocolate. I have been known to decimate more than one row from a box of Pot of Gold at Christmas. Recently, our community was blessed with the arrival of a family from Syria. Their chocolate enterprise, Peace by Chocolate, has become an international sensation.

I was parked in front of the television recently, whilst in a sugar coma, after ingesting two, sickeningly sweet store-bought donuts. The usual ads rolled across the screen but one in particular caught my attention. This product is gaining in popularity as the newest weight reduction strategy. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to apple cider vegan gummies.“ Lean, green, and as far away as you can go from mean, our organic lean gummies harness all the healthy, digestion-boosting power of apple cider vinegar without any of the unpleasant, wince inducing sour taste.” Go figure.

Somewhere the proprietress of Dot’s Confectionary is rolling over in her grave.

I may have finally found a way to kick my sugar habit once and for all and lose a few pounds in the process. Probably not.

My lifelong love affair with sugar rages on.

Sugar. The sweet seductress.

“Sweet, sweet surrender,

Live, live without care.”

Sweet Surrender – John Denver

Happy Valentine’s Day.


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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on February 7, 2024 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”


“I’m not scared of dying,

And I don’t really care,

 If it’s peace you find in dying,

Well, then let the time be near.”

And When I Die – Blood, Sweat and Tears


For many of us, the runway is getting shorter. We have lived long, productive lives. We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve enjoyed pleasure and endured pain. We’ve won some and lost some. We’ve had periods of elation and times of profound sadness. We’ve taken “the good with the bad”. And now, with every passing obituary, we are staring at our own mortality.

On my recent Camino walk in Spain, I spent a few hours on the trail with a young woman from Australia. She had just quit her job and wondered what her future would hold. I suggested that she still had plenty of runway left and that mine was much shorter. She turned to me and said, “Len. Just take a smaller plane.”

Climb aboard as I explore death in the late innings.

Death has never been an easy discussion to have. As a good friend of mine said, “I’m not a big fan of death.”

Before lifting off, let me make it clear. When I address this topic, I’m not talking about tragic, unexpected death. It would be insensitive of me to treat this serious subject in a cavalier manner.

Also, I claim no expertise on the subject. And don’t want to become one.

Recently, I was stopped at the Farmer’s Market where I was approached by two friends who asked me if I might be interested in taking part in a “death café”. I was certain that I heard the words “debt café”.  My initial reaction was that I would probably rather spend 10 hours at Outpatients than sit around having coffee and discussing debt. Then again, I’m sure there are others who would rather hang out at Emerg rather than talk about death.

As a society, we’re not great at discussing anything remotely affiliated with death. I admit to thinking about it a lot more than I did when I was in my 50s. For the longest time, my ideas about death were formulated from a very young age growing up in a large Catholic family. There were the twin towers of the Bible and the Baltimore Catechism. Heaven and hell.

So, what is a death café? I looked it up and here’s one definition: “A death café is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.”

Fifteen of us met a week ago. I only knew a handful of people in the room. We introduced ourselves and were asked why we had decided to come. The backgrounds of those in attendance were quite diverse. Different careers, different cultures and different religious beliefs. I said that I was there because of curiosity. I wanted to hear what other people had to say on the topic. The introductions took about an hour. We used a talking stick, perhaps one of the greatest inventions of mankind! Prior to breaking for tea and cake, I was asked to play a few tunes that might be appropriate for the occasion. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few songs about death from which to choose, but I settled on Eric Clapton’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and John Prine’s slightly irreverent “Please Don’t Bury Me”. One of my more interesting gigs!

Rather than delve too deeply into the discussion, here is a brief summary of some of the talking points:

. The miracle of dying

. Death on your shoulder.

. Fearful of the unknown at death

. Will I have a good death?

. Fear of dying in pain

. While we may not fear death now on a philosophical level, how will we actually feel when the time comes?

. Death doulas

. Being prepared – having the proper documents in place

. Instead of using the acronym DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), some people use AND (Allow Natural Death)

. Reincarnation

Much of the discussion was about the lead up to death. At a subsequent meeting, we hope to discuss what our thoughts might be “after the last dance”.

As we were getting to go our separate ways, one of the younger participants offered the chorus of this lovely song, a Capella. It was lovely.

“Trees grow slow and trees grow strong.

And trees sway with the wind their whole lives long,

And trees hold the ground as they reach for the sky,

And fallen trees still feed the seeds they cast before they die.”

Trees Grow Slow – Laurence Cole

Thanks, N.

Here’s a website that might be helpful for anyone who might be thinking about doing some advanced planning:

I was quite interested to learn that there were “death doulas”. According to the literature, “A death doula is a person who assists in the dying process, much like a midwife or doula does with the birthing process. It is often a community-based role, aiming to help families cope with death through recognizing it as a natural and important part of life”. Many people are not equipped to deal with the death of a loved one. A doula may be one answer in finding someone to help you.

When I returned home, I did a brief Facebook post to alert my loyal readers that I would be writing about this subject today. A friend sent me a private message indicating that three different friends had recently transitioned using MAID. I suspect that our group will hear lots more on this topic, especially as we have a physician in our group.

I’ll keep you posted.

“When the light goes dark,

With the forces of creation,

Across a stormy sky,

We look to reincarnation,

To explain our lives.”

We Rise Again – Leon Dubinsky

Have a great weekend.

Live it up!




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