Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

16 June, 2018


Roots of Empathy infant "teachers" in Grey Bruce
Empathy: n. the ability to identify oneself mentally with a person or thing and so understand his or her feelings or its meaning.

Every once in a while a program comes along to give me a new lease on life and to reinforce the fact that the world is not such a bad place after all...and there is hope for future generations.

Such a program, "Roots of Empathy", recently caught my attention when it celebrated a dozen one-year-old babies for their part in teaching some very important life lessons to nearly 400 students from across Grey Bruce region over the past school year.  Quite an incredible accomplishment, when you stop to think about it.

Participating with their parents in the Roots of Empathy program, these babies, dubbed ‘tiny teachers’, helped children from Kindergarten to Grade 8 in 13 schools across Grey Bruce learn about expressing feelings, respect, inclusion, infant development and safety and the power of a loving bond between parent and child. A total of 17 infants and their parents took part in the pilot program.

Roots of Empathy is an international, evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. The program is designed for children ages 5 to 13. In Canada, the program is delivered in English and French and reaches rural, urban, and remote communities including Indigenous communities. The program is also in New Zealand, the United States, the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, Germany, Switzerland and Costa Rica.

At the heart of the program are a neighborhood infants and parents who visit the classroom every three weeks over the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor coaches students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a lever, which the instructor uses to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.

This “emotional literacy” taught in the program lays the foundation for safer and more caring classrooms, where children are the “Changers”. They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties.

In the Roots of Empathy program children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice. Messages of social inclusion and activities that are consensus building contribute to a culture of caring that changes the tone of the classroom. The Instructor also visits before and after each family visit to prepare and reinforce teachings using a specialized lesson plan for each visit.

Research results from national and international evaluations of Roots of Empathy indicate significant reductions in aggression and increases in pro-social behaviour.

The cognitive aspect of empathy is perspective taking and the affective aspect is emotion. Roots of Empathy educates both the mind and the heart.

Empathy is a key ingredient to responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. Information on infant safety and development helps children to be more aware of issues of infant vulnerability such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Shaken Baby Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and second hand smoke. Observations of a loving parent-child relationship give children a model of responsible parenting.

The goals of the initiative are:

To foster the development of empathy
To develop emotional literacy
To reduce levels of bullying, aggression and violence, and promote children’s pro-social behaviours
To increase knowledge of human development, learning, and infant safety
To prepare students for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting

Catherine Talbot, International Liaison for Roots of Empathy acknowledged the efforts made by families, instructors and schools to make the program in Grey Bruce such a success locally including Bluewater District School Board, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, and Bruce Grey Catholic District School Boards as well as community partners Keystone Child, Youth and Family Services and Kids & Us.

15 June, 2018


Historical societies and genealogists are increasingly disturbed over the loss of newspaper records and the difficulty of accessing what is left of them.

As local community and daily newspapers close across the country, their archives – and their stories of local politics, controversy and culture – are at risk. Community newspapers tell us a story of time and experience. They’ve got everything from the way we advertise products and services to editorials on timely social, political and economic issues. They really are an important commentary on life…But because a lot of newspapers are run as businesses, they don’t always reach out to an archive or a community group to take their records. 

The Local News Map, an online crowd-sourced map tracking changes in the availability of local news in communities across Canada, has documented about 207 local community and daily newspapers that have closed in 160 communities since 2008. "Community newspapers are an invaluable tool for the public, for academics and for journalists, as are their archives,” said April Lindgren, the map’s co-creator and principal investigator for the Local News Research Project at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism.

“We often go back and look at, for instance, what politicians said in the past and what was said during a debate in order to hold power accountable in the future or to understand why the present is the way it is.” Once a newspaper folds, its online presence usually follows suit.

Such was the case for What’s Up Muskoka, a community newspaper published in Ontario’s Muskoka region that was closed in January 2016 by its owner Postmedia Network Inc. The websites of both the newspaper and its sister news publication, Muskoka Magazine, have since been shuttered. And while physical print copies of What’s Up Muskoka can be found in the Bracebridge Public Library, its lack of online archive makes it difficult for anyone who does not live in the area to access.

The Moose Jaw Times-Herald, a 128-year-old Saskatchewan newspaper owned by Star News Publishing Inc., published its final print edition Dec. 7 and shuttered its website shortly after. The Moose Jaw Public library has expressed interest in preserving the paper’s archives, the paper’s publisher told a CBC reporter. These archives include paper and microfiche copies dating back to the Second World War.

If (a newspaper archive) is in the form of a physically printed and purchased paper that is on newsprint, then you have the long-term consideration that it is on very acidic, brittle paper. The original newsprint is very fragile for long-term storage. Preserving newspapers on microfilm is best, and digitizing the microfilm can make it easily accessible to researchers.

Unfortunately, these methods of preservation can prove too costly for many small-town libraries and museums. I don’t think there’s any archive or library in Canada that would refuse (physical copies of a newspaper), but the considerations, of course, are the costs associated. Cultural institutions and libraries do not necessarily have the budgets to be able to do this for every newspaper.

Concerns over the preservation of closed newspapers’ archives came to light most recently after a publication swap between media companies Postmedia and Torstar Corp. in late November. The transaction led to the closure of over 30 community and daily newspapers, mostly in Ontario. The folded papers’ websites began to disappear a few hours after their closures were announced, most redirecting readers to the site of the closest newspaper owned by the purchasing company.

For example, readers searching for an old story on the websites of the Kingston Heritage or the Frontenac Gazette, two Ontario community newspapers bought and subsequently closed by Postmedia, are now rerouted to The Kingston Whig-Standard, which is also owned by Postmedia.

When Postmedia and Torstar bought each other’s newspapers, they also acquired the archives. A spokesperson for Torstar said that the media company plans to import articles from the newspapers it bought and closed and place them on their other publications websites. A spokesperson for Postmedia said the company won’t import the online archives of the newspapers it bought and closed onto its news sites, although some articles from the defunct papers will still be available for purchase online through companies like Infomart and ProQuest.

For the public, they have to know very precisely what they are looking for in order to find them. The average person looking for context surrounding an issue is now not going to come across those articles. They’re too deeply buried.

Both Torstar and Postmedia say they are open to donating the physical print copies of the papers they bought and closed to libraries, universities, museums and other organizations, but neither company give a firm plan on how they’re going to do this.

11 June, 2018


My Facebook friend Jann Arden (I'm old enough to be her father, but I lover her) posted the following on her timeline this past weekend and I was moved enough to share it with my Wrights Lane followers.  Jann has come a long way since learning of her mother's Alzheimers two years ago.
    WHEN I went to see my mother yesterday, I found her in the dining area with her new friends. She was having some soup and laughing about something one of the other ladies had said. She saw Midi first- and lit up, and then she saw me.
    "Well for God's sake", she said as she always does. "It's you!"
    "Ya, it's me!"

    She turned to her pals and introduced me with an enthusiasm that was utterly heartwarming.
    "This is my mom!", she said pointing at me. I didn't correct her. I just smiled and gave her a kiss.
    "You're my mom too." She threw her head back and really thought that was something to celebrate.
    "I am?"
    "Yes, you're my mom too."
    "Well, that's hard to believe!"
    She was genuinely filled with the joy of a new discovery. It resonated with me like some kind of delicate song. I marveled at how happy she was over something so simple.
    It's so easy to lose sight of what really, truly makes us happy. What gives us serenity and satisfaction and an over all sense of well being. We all just want to feel secure and comfortable.
    It doesn't matter how much money you have or what dream job you have or how other people perceive your life to be. Things don't matter-stuff is just that, temporary and disposable,- but the way your brain works and how that delicate balance of chemicals makes you FEEL- is pretty much everything.
    I am learning from my mother that I have to keep moving. That my life is not static and that sadness and anxiety and worry and doubt are not static things either. They change and morph into glad things and easy things and happy things JUST as easily as they seem to turn into negative things. Emotions are kind of like the weather- it always changes. Storms can't go on forever. Optimism is mighty.
    Mom once told me that the best thing about Alzheimers was that you forget to be afraid. I will never forget those words, ironically, for as long as I live. At least I don't think I will.
    We all seem to live so far into the future, planning and configuring and sorting and filling our calendars- that we've forgotten where we are and somehow managed- to also forget who we are. I don't live in the future. My mother has taught me to be where I am. I'm happier. I'm more content. I feel a sense of ease I didn't have two years ago when I was so worried about things that hadn't even happened yet.
    Small things.
    Bring huge victories.

08 June, 2018


The Bible for all Canadian journalists
There is an over-riding tendency in today's society to cast aspersions on anything that is heard or read, simply because it does not conform to personal understanding or belief.  You know, "that is not true", "it is a lie", "it is biased", "it is false news".

Where did all this blatant cynicism and distrust come from?

We have nowhere to look other than to our media and politicians of today.

The relationship among media, politicians and the public has been studied a lot, especially a close look at how the media’s portrayal of politics affects people’s (cynical) attitudes. Scholars know little about the antecedent of this assumed spiral of cynicism.

How cynical are politicians and journalists about each other and about politics, you might well ask?

A recent Dutch survey showed that politicians are particularly cynical about media and journalists, especially when they feel media are out to set the political agenda. Journalists were found to be equally cynical about politicians as the latter are about themselves, but it is a relative cynicism since it is lower than that of the general public. Journalists are, however, convinced that most politicians are driven by what we call “media salacity,” a drive to get journalists’ attention and coverage, a conviction shared, surprisingly, by the politicians themselves.

There is nothing new in the aforementioned. Governments and powerful individuals have used information as a weapon for millennia, to boost their support and quash dissidence. As an editor going back 60 years I have been offered bribes, threatened with law suits and various other appeals from private citizens attempting to influence my news judgement  -- all to no avail.  Some people have a strange (ignorant) concept of how news is gathered and facilitated.

Simply stated, the "fake news" bugaboo is destroying confidence in the mind of the public.

False/fake news was not a term many people used 18 months ago, but it is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy, free debate and the Western order. As well as being a favorite term of  Donald Trump, it was also named 2017's word of the year, raising tensions between nations, and may lead to regulation of social media.

But as I see it, the most urgent problem is therefore not fake news itself, but the way society deals with it. The solution to these challenges is not technical, as many people think.

I believe the solution has to be cultural and social. The concept of fake news is largely shaped by the value our society gives it. We use it as an excuse, a weapon or as an enemy, without really understanding what fake news is and what it does. All the technical and political solutions that we devise are therefore ineffective and we’re fighting something we have yet to clearly define.

It is crucial to keep contesting the concept of fake news, and not just fake news itself. It’s time to focus more on the debate of what fake news actually is about and what it means to us as a society.

I have written on this subject before, but I need to get something off my chest once and for all because fake news is totally foreign to me.  In fact, I have difficulty believing that it actually does exist in the proportions currently imagined.

Off the top, there is no denying that there are some journalists, or should I say "opinion writers", who do have agendas and they are labelled by their publications for what they are, or at least they should be.  But that is a stereotype and not to be confused with hard and fast news reporting of events of the day and reasoned editorial page positions.

Media outlets exist to report what is happening, even if it goes against what individual reporters and editors stand for.  It is also very possible that a reporter can actually be in disagreement, but much like a football quarterback who has to run a play drawn up by a coach, dutifully writes the story regardless of personal beliefs.

News does not have a side. It has facts that can be measured, verified and vetted through multiple sources.

Should journalists generally do better?  Absolutely. A lot of criticism is warranted, but there is also something to be said for consumers not being so eager for what they want to hear at the risk of missing what is really going on in the world.

In an age where anyone with a laptop and internet connection can publish anything they want and call it news, it is paramount that we all hold everything we read to a certain measure of expectation.

If it isn't sourced, if there are no quotes from multiple people connected to the situation, if there are no links to the sources cited in the article, it is probably bogus.

There are hundreds of codes of conduct, charters and statements made by media and professional groups outlining the principles, values and obligations of the craft of journalism.
Most focus on five common themes:

1. Truth and Accuracy
Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.
2. Independence
Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.
3. Fairness and Impartiality
Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.
4. Humanity
Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.
5. Accountability
A sure sign of
professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical. We listen to the concerns of our audience. We may not change what readers write or say but we will always provide remedies when we are unfair.

04 June, 2018


Edgar "Beaver" Laprade gets my vote for being one of the best senior hockey players in Canada during the first half of the 20th Century. Born Oct. 10, 1919 in Mine Centre, ON. he played half of his 26-year hockey career as a member of a Senior "A" team in Port Arthur before moving on to the National Hockey League with New York Rangers.

He also gets my outstanding citizen nod for his contribution to the community of Port Arthur over the course of his impeccable 94-year lifetime.

Edgar came to Port Arthur at age four with his family and grew up and was educated in the city. He first laced up his skates as a child and his natural talent for the game shone through as he and one year older brother Bert came up through the minor leagues to become stars on the Port Arthur Bearcats 1939 Allan Cup championship team. Bert was a defenseman.

"Beaver" (nickname given him by teammates because of his busy, all over the ice skating style) played with the Bearcats and led the Thunder Bay Senior League in scoring in 1941 and 1942. In 1939 and 1941 the popular star was presented with the Gerry Trophy as the league's top performer. In 1941 the city of Port Arthur held a special night in honour of the Laprade brothers. Following the Bearcats' season in 1943, Edgar joined the Canadian Forces and suited up for the Montreal RCAF team. After a transfer to Winnipeg in 1944, he played for the army club in that city's services hockey league.
When World War 2 broke out, duty called and Edgar served two years in the army, missing out on an opportunity to play in the 1940 Olympic Games. When he completed his service and returned home, he was quickly recruited to join the Rangers. Edgar's hockey career spanned what many consider to be the glory days of hockey and he played against many hockey legends, including Maurice "the Rocket" Richard and Gordie Howe. He played for the Rangers from 1945-1955, taking the number 10, the same number he wore in Port Arthur Senior hockey.

"My first game was on October 31 (1945) in Chicago against the Black Hawks. I can remember it like it was yesterday," Edgar once told a reporter. At the conclusion of the 1945-46 season, the NHL presented him with the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. That season, he scored 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points, which placed him third on the team behind Ab DeMarco (47 points) and Grant Warwick (37 points). "I was so thrilled to win the Calder Trophy," beamed Edgar. "Lakehead boys had had a good string of wins at that time." Gaye Stewart of the Maple Leafs won the Calder in 1943, Gus Bodnar, also with Toronto, in 1944 and Edgar in 1946. In 1949, Pentti Lund took the honours. All were natives of either Fort William or Port Arthur.

But maybe even more impressive than his rookie scoring was the fact that the gentlemanly Port Arthur native served no penalty minutes that season. The trait served Edgar well during his career. Three times during his 10-season NHL career, Laprade finished with no penalties, and through his career, earned just 42 penalty minutes. "I was taught early on that you can't score from the penalty box," laughed Edgar.

A tremendous play making center and smooth skater, Edgar was also one of the NHL's best forwards during the late 1940s. Blessed with exceptional lateral mobility and an effortless skating style, he was a brilliant penalty killer and determined checker. He could also score and was one of the league's most dangerous skaters on the counterattack. Unfortunately, many of his exploits took place when he played for a New York Rangers franchise that as on a decline.

The Rangers struggled badly during Laprade's career, only reaching post-season twice in the period from 1945-46 to 1954-55. Yet, Edgar continued to contribute. In 1946-47 he collected 40 points, second on the Rangers to Tony Leswick, led the Rangers with 25 assists, and was chosen to play in the NHL All-Star Game. In 1947-48, Edgar was behind only Buddy O'Connor in team scoring, adding 47 points. The Rangers made the playoffs but were eliminated quickly. Again, Edgar was selected to play in the All-Star Game along with goal-tending teammate Charlie Rayner, a future Hall of Famer.

During his 10 years with the NHL, Edgar combined his skill with his characteristic gentlemanly conduct to amass many awards and honors, including the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, the Lady Byng Trophy as well as four consecutive all star appearances. He was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Hall of fame in 1982 and the Hockey Hall of fame in Toronto in 1993 and was honored to have his star included in the local "Walk of Fame" in Victoriaville Centre in 1998.

Hockey was a rewarding career for the strikingly handsome Edgar in many ways, not the least of which was an introduction to his coach's niece, Arline Whear, who would become the love of his life. Edgar and Arline married in 1939 and raised three daughters, Bonnie, Judi and Marcia . A devoted family man, his wife and daughters were always his priority and greatest joy. 

After retiring from the NHL and returning to Port Arthur, Edgar and business associate, Guy Perciante owned and managed the Port Arthur Arena on Court Street. Edgar was also a partner in the popular sporting goods store, Perciante and Laprade on Cumberland Street, which he operated from 1953 until his retirement in 1975.
Edgar Laprade (centre, 3rd row)  a member of the
Allan Cup-winning Port Arthur Bearcats, indicative
of Senior "A" hockey supremacy in Canada.  Big

brother Bert can be seen, second from the left, in
the second row. 
But it was his accomplishments in municipal politics and civic affairs that were the most fulfilling for Edgar. Always passionately interested in his community, he began his long career in the service of the public when he first served on the Recreation Committee for the City of Port Arthur before becoming Alderman in 1959. He held many chair and board positions during those years, including chairing the Finance Committee and Social Services Committees. He was active in the community as member of the Lakehead Baseball Association, Thunder Bay Amateur Hockey Association , as well as serving on the Boards of Dawson Court, the 3C Reintroduction Centre, the Board of Community projects, the Board of Governors of both Confederation College and Lakehead University and the Thunder Bay District Health Council.

Edgar was also very involved with the Parking Authority, serving as a member for 30 years. During his years of municipal service, he was also closely associated with the Waverly Park project and the development of Centennial Park, the Marina and Keskus, through his work with the City Property Committee.

In 1989, Edgar received a Volunteer Service Award from the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture and in 1992 a commemorative medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation awarded to Northwestern Ontario residents who have made a significant contribution to Canada. A man of great faith, Edgar's volunteer work extended to his church where he served as a member of the Parish Council of St. Andrew's parish.

Edgar's sanctuary was his camp at Hawkeye Lake where he enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. Always devoted to his family, he took great pleasure in the company of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and was often a source of wisdom and inspiration for family members. He was an avid reader and always interested in keeping up to date on current affairs, both locally and globally. Ever the athlete, he remained physically active and especially enjoyed walking around the Port Arthur that he loved.

Edgar Louis Laprade truly lived a full life of service and accomplishment. At 94 years of age, he passed away peacefully at his home on April 28, 2014, fifteen months following the death of brother Bert.

I saw him in action only once, at Maple Leafs Gardens in 1954...The Leafs won but Edgar scored a goal for the Rangers, one of his last as it would turn out! *A young Brent Linton (see tribute below) may have been in the stands for that game too.

Click video to view Edgar Laprade in action, Stanley Cup playoffs 1950, Rangers vs. Detroit Red Wings.

Edgar Laprade was the reason I became a lifelong New York Rangers fan. I grew up at a gold mine townsite on the outskirts of Geraldton, Ont., some 260 kilometres northeast of Mr. Laprade's hometown of Port Arthur, which is now part of Thunder Bay. When I began to get interested in hockey in the late 1940s, my parents told me about the 1939 Geraldton Gold Miners amateur team, which had taken Mr. Laprade's Port Arthur Bearcats to a final and deciding playoff game on the Bearcats' way to winning the Allan Cup as the best Canadian senior hockey team.
Edgar Laprade was well into his professional career with the Rangers and as far as I was concerned, this was the closest I was going to get in having a "hometown" hockey hero. When my family moved to Toronto several years later I was able to attend most of the Rangers-Leafs games during the last two years of Mr. Laprade's career. In those days, hockey games at Maple Leaf Gardens were relatively affordable. A few dollars would buy a standing-room ticket just above the uppermost seating area, and after securing a good vantage point and coercing someone to save your spot it was possible to go down to ice level during the pregame team warmups. Mr. Laprade was very accommodating in providing autographs (as were many other players on both teams) and once he became aware of where I came from he would invariably skate over to where I was standing rinkside during subsequent pregame warmups to indulge in a bit of conversation.

02 June, 2018


The late Christopher Hitchens (controversial author, columnist, essayist, orator, religious and literary critic, social critic and journalist) is included in a Flavorwire collection of “Helpful Advice from History’s Fastest and Most Prolific Writers,” where he gave the advice: “Write more the way you talk.”

Those words reminded me of advice an editor gave me back in 1962 when I was a newspaper cub reporter painfully struggling to come up with leads for stories that would allow me to transition to a natural fleshing out of the body of the text. Actually, my editor gave his advice to me with a slightly different twist -- "write as if you were having a conversation with someone." To this day, I automatically use that approach with everything I write.

What Hitchens was saying was essentially this: Yes, everyone who can verbally communicate can also communicate in written words. But it is not everyone who can verbally communicate effectively.

Most of the time, we’re not terribly aware of how we sound when we communicate, either in writing or in spoken conversation. I can’t tell you how many incidents of miscommunication occurred because I thought an email was written tersely or someone I was speaking with misinterpreted what I was saying.

We have spats all the time over miscommunication. And yet very few of us are actually aware that we are miscommunicating until someone draws our attention to it by being offended. We get so used to being able to speak easily that we treat it like walking – it just happens, naturally, and we don’t need to think about it anymore. Except we do. When we stop paying attention, we’re more likely to stumble.

Stumbling happens in writing too, particularly on social media.  I do it all the time due primarily to my weird sense of humor which is not always understood when seen in print. I really do need to keep that fact foremost in my mind.

So in reality, there is a difference between "writing the way you talk" and "writing as if you were having a conversation with someone."

That being said, I began thinking the other day about things I write on my Wrights Lane blog, subsequently linked to Facebook, and a recent experiment with creating short A/V clips that I entitled "Passing Thoughts."  Long story made short...I hated the sound of my voice in the half dozen audio videos that I produced.  "No wonder no one liked, or commented, on my efforts," I rationalized.

My friends can now rest easy...No more A/Vs from me!


It turns out that there's a reason why hearing your own voice in a video (or in any recording) feels so strange. It all comes down to a simple fact of physics, but our brains don't let us see it this way. Instead, our brains perceive our recorded voices differently, and for us folks who aren't accustomed to hearing ourselves in videos, it's easy to believe we'd be better off behind the camera than in front of it.

Sound, we are told, comes into your ear canal, vibrates your tympanic membrane (eardrum), which in turn moves the tiniest bones in your body—the malleus, incus, and stapes. These are connected to your cochlea, which is a fluid-filled sac with small "hair cells" inside.

As the bones vibrate, the fluid moves inside the cochlea, moving the hair cells. These cells convert this movement into electrical activity, which your brain perceives as different sounds—barking, laughing, beeping, giraffe greetings.

When you're speaking, you hear some of the sounds the same way. Your voice comes out of your mouth, travels round to your ear, and down your ear canal. But there is another way for the sound of your own voice to reach the cochlea and for you to hear it -- through the bones in your head.

As you speak, your vocal chords are vibrating, which in turn vibrates your entire skull. But different frequencies are transmitted better through dense material such as bone. Higher frequencies are weaker, whereas the lower frequencies in your voice can travel all the way to your temporal bone in which your ear sits.

This is called bone conduction, or otoacoustics. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt and Imperial College London have recently shown that these temporal bone vibrations can then act on the cochlea directly, not even vibrating the eardrum, increasing the bass component as you speak.

Your skull is effectively a subwoofer for your voice, turning your David Beckham into the low James Earl Jones you know and love. When we first encounter something new, such as our disembodied voice for the first time, the immediate response is one of aversion. It sounds so weird.

It is the familiarity principle at play. Just as you're used to looking at yourself in the mirror, and as a result don't like the way you look un-mirrored, you are used to your otoacoustic voice, so you don't like the un-bassed version. The unfamiliarity is what makes you dislike it, not the voice itself.

Okay.  So now I understand why I do not like the sound of my recorded voice playing back to me.  As far as I know, there is nothing I can do about it, leaving me to wonder if I sound that bad to other people too.

And, if that is the case, where does that leave the sound of the writing that I try so hard to give a voice to?  How am I being heard, or does no one care to listen to what I am saying in print anyway?

If, like with my A/V experiment, I decide to quit writing too, how would I fill the creative void in my life?  What would I do with the hundreds of hours of newfound free time?

I guess that I could just start talking to myself...But come to think of it, that's what I've probably been doing all along.

I tell you, if it isn't one thing, it's another!

13 May, 2018


Saugeen Times Photo

Margaret Joan Sinclair Trudeau Kemper was a surprise visitor to a public school in Southampton on Thursday.  "So what's the big deal?", you may well ask.

If I just said "Margaret Trudeau", however, your reaction would more than likely be quite different, particularly if you are in my age group.

Quite by accident, I happened to drive past G. C. Huston Public School where a large group of students on the sidewalk engulfed the strikingly attractive figure of a woman carrying a bouquet of flowers and gesturing enthusiastically.

I couldn't believe it...I immediately recognized Margaret Trudeau, a woman who I secretly admired when she was the child bride of a much older Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Come to find out, she was in the area as a guest of Bruce Power in her role of advocate for mental health during Mental Health Awareness Week and was staying in Southampton at the B&B, 'Watch Hill'.

At the school, she was presented with flowers and a special school 'Hawks' T-shirt with the Indigenous seven grandfather teachings inscribed on the back. Trudeau read out the teachings of honesty, bravery, respect, truth, humility, love and wisdom and said "These are words to live by!"

Margaret Trudeau receiving flowers from
school principal Dan Russell.
Principal Dan Russell asked Trudeau to pass on to her son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that everyone at the school is proud to be Canadian and appreciative of the work that he is doing. He also told her of the upcoming dedication celebration of the bridge spanning the Saugeen River. "This bridge joins the two communities of Saugeen First Nation and Saugeen Shores, and we will be renaming it this summer 'Zgaa-biig-ni-gan', which means 'we are connected'.

Trudeau in turn presented an autographed copy of her recent book, 'Changing My Mind' to Russell.

Now 70, Margaret remains unabashedly and organically herself. She was a Flower Child and Earth Mother before they were trendy. She once cavorted with the Rolling Stones.  Ever since she hauled a jug across Vancouver's Jericho Beach during the Habitat Forum in 1976, she’s been raising awareness about the need for clean water.  She opened dialogue about mental health issues when others only whispered about them. Her four books were instant bestsellers. She delivers 20 to 30 speeches a year on clean water, mental health and women’s issues, and she always kills.

After visiting the Southampton school Thursday afternoon, she spoke in the evening at the Pavilion in Kincarden to a full-house event sponsored by Bruce Power.

A long-time outspoken mental health advocate, Trudeau has struggled in the past with depression and bipolar disorders. She travels extensively telling her own life story of how postpartum depression developed into an extensive and intensive bout of deep depression.

She told her Kincarden audience of feeling overwhelmed, while at the same time having no practical role to play, as the wife of the Prime Minister. Growing up in Vancouver, B.C., she was one of five daughters and says that bipolar should not be identified in a child too early as it tends to manifest itself in teenage years. She said she had a healthy childhood with a strict mother who believed in three things - getting enough sleep, eating nutritional food and being active out-of-doors for at least 40 minutes a day.

"Mother was ahead of her time with her idea of no sugar and playing outside no matter the weather, which was good parenting," she said, "it's a good footstool for a health body and healthy mind."

As a child of the 1960s, she honestly admitted to using marijuana. "I had a racing mind and found that marijuana slowed me down and, honestly, it was the thing to do in those days as a teen. Finally, the medical community realized that mental health and addiction are the same thing. Drugs and alcohol changes your mind, changes you perception, changes relationships and changes everything."

She and Pierre Trudeau eventually divorced and she married real-estate developer Fried Kemper. When the Trudeaus' youngest son, Michel, was killed in a Rocky Mountains avalanche, Margaret again fell into a deep depression that led to her second divorce.

She was at Pierre Trudeau's bedside when he died of cancer in 2000.

Now the grandmother of eight, Trudeau is Honourary Patron of the Canadian Mental Health Association. She is also the honorary President of WaterAid Canada, a company dedicated to helping developing countries build sustainable water supplies and sanitation services. She also holds an honourary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Western Ontario.

"When does a speaker get the most applause?” asks Martin Perelmuter, president of Speakers Spotlight, Trudeau’s agency of nearly two decades. “Margaret gets a standing ovation when she arrives, but she gets a bigger one when she finishes.”

The folks who were introduced to Margret Trudeau in our community this past week are still applauding her. I'm glad that I got to see her too, albeit quite by accident!

30 April, 2018


Gary McLaughlin and his Toronto Maple Leafs 100th anniversary portrait on display in his Neustadt, ON gallery.
The hockey season may be over for our Toronto Maple Leafs, but not for Gary McLaughlin of nearby Neustadt, ON.  He has a year 'round passion for the NHL hockey team.

In 2007 the commercial illustrator created a "masterpiece" to commemorate the Maple Leafs 100th anniversary.  Remarkably, he has since redone the painting to immortalize every player to don the Toronto Arena, St. Patricks and Maple Leafs jersey from 1917 to 2017.

Whether a player made one shift or had a long career with the Toronto franchise, the six-foot by 12-foot portrait dubbed "Blue Sky, White Snow" depicts the faces of all 973 players to wear the jersey in the first 100 years.

With the help of friends, McLaughlin started with a tremendous amount of research to find names and faces of the players.  In the fall of 2005 he began work on the massive canvas while also working on other commercial projects.  He started with the Maple Leafs symbol in the middle and added all of the team's Hall of Fame players onto it.

McLaughlin completed the work of art three years later and it was sold to a Toronto man in 2011.  The work was appraised at $143,000.  The original was subsequently displayed in Queens Park, including a few other places, before finding a home in the old Maple Leaf Gardens facing the ice rink where the Ryerson University athletic department is now located.

Unfortunately the canvas was damaged by vandals a couple of years ago and returned to Neustadt for repair. Insurance covered the damage and the artist started the meticulous refurbishing process.  He used a palm sander on the damaged areas of the canvas and then decided to redo the piece to incorporate all the players for the Maple Leafs in time for the club's 100th anniversary.

"At first I thought it was gone for good but if it hadn't been damaged it would not have been expanded and updated," he said in a recent interview.  The top of the portrait now features all three arenas the franchise has played in as well as the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The title "Blue Sky, White Snow" was derived from a reference of former Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe when he changed the team colors to blue and white, representing the Canadian skies and snow.

To keep the canvas from being vandalized again, it is now housed at McLaughlin's Riversong Gallery in Neustadt, but McLaughlin says he would like to have it displayed in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, or a museum. "I think it should be in a public place," McLaughlin said.  "It would be a shame if someone bought it only to put in a basement rec room."

He explained that since it has been back in Neustadt a lot of people have come through the door of his gallery especially to see the portrait, including family members of a few ex-Maple Leafs players.  "Many of the visitors from across the province have wanted their picture taken with it," he adds proudly.

The gallery does not have regular hours and it is suggested that if people are interested in seeing the work of art, it is best to email McLaughlin at to set up a time and date.

Meantime, the owner of the work is in the process of setting up a website to sell replica copies.

23 April, 2018


I’ve often heard the expression “Anything worth doing is worth failing at.” How very true. So whatever you choose to do in life on your quest for success — go for it! Fail well and fail often… only then will you become master of your own life.

By the time I was 19, I had experienced more than my fair share of failure. Let me count some of the ways...
  1. I dropped out of high school on the eve of Grade 12 final exams, because I knew that I was destined to fail and why put myself through the agony.
  2. I didn't make the grade in not one but two attempts at professional baseball.
  3. My first bonafide love affair ended in rejection (her mother didn't want her daughter involved with a ball player).
  4. I was turned down by a Canadian Army recruiting officer and told to go back to school.
The above occurring all within a period of 14 months.  Really, a heck of a way for a young man to begin life in the real world. The pattern of one failure after another would follow me the rest of my life and I will admit to resultant periodic bouts of melancholy and wishing "if I could only do it all over again.".

In simple terms, however, I am the sum total of all my failures. My failures have defined who I am. I've had many a friend throw me a surprised look when I tell them that I own all my failures, that I don't look back at them with feelings of remorse or guilt, that it doesn't make me cringe when I think about them. Because I believed every failure opened new doors and presented opportunities for personal growth. 

Failure has made me more humble; it has taught me how wrong I can be in some instances. Failure has also helped me realize how resilient I am. Bouncing back after a setback is something I had great difficulty in doing initially. But, over repeated and prolonged experiences of setbacks and failures, I don't find it that much of a challenge anymore.

Failure, above everything else, has made me trust my abilities and skills. The moment I started believing in my abilities to ride out the storm, the foundations of the storm itself weakened to a considerable degree.

Every failure made me want to try something new and boy, have I tried a lot of things -- with varying degrees of success, or failure, depending how I wanted to look at it.

Therefore, failure has made me more adventurous and human than I ever thought I would be. It made me see the world in a whole new light and appreciate and recognize the value of everything I have, by God's good grace, even more.

Bottom line, I have become pretty good a failure and that makes me feel damn proud. I can fail with the best of 'em!

22 April, 2018


I have had some experience lately with giving out what presumably was the wrong impressions. That is easy to do, particularly when it comes to Facebook dialogue that can easily be misinterpreted because it hides true inner character.  Generally speaking, the written word more often than not has to be patronizing in order to be accepted, or liked by people who you have never met in person.

Quite frankly, there have been times when I got the feeling that I was giving off a "stinking" impression, particularly with my penchant for getting under the skin of self-absorbed people.

It is quite different with personal contact where words are not necessarily required to give out influences -- or vibes.  We do this in the same way that each flower emits its particular odor.  The rose breathes out its fragrance upon the air and all who come near it are pleasantly impacted.

A poisonous weed, however, sends out an obnoxious odor and if one remains near it for long they may be so unpleasantly affected as to be made ill by it.

Interestingly, we are told that the mariners who sailed on the Indian Seas, many times were able to tell their approach to certain islands long before they saw them by the sweet fragrance of sandalwood that wafted far out onto the deep.

Such are the subtle powers of the human soul when it makes itself translucent to the Devine Order. There is a message for us in all of this. Each one of us is continually radiating an atmosphere, or vibe of one kind or another, that people pick up on. Ideally, and in a perfect world, we cultivate and radiate positive soulful impressions that are conducive to love, peace and joy all around us. It is a worthy intention.

I just find it difficult to go around smelling nice all the time just so that I can be readily accepted by all and sundry.  Maybe I'm more like the deceptive Hollyhock, virtually odorless and just a little prickly if rubbed the wrong way.

21 April, 2018


In a Wrights Lane video I vented about government debt that will most certainly end up being nothing but a tax on future generations. I purposely stayed away from any references to particular federal or provincial leaders.

History, however, is replete with examples of good and bad leaders...Nothing new there.

Queen Elizabeth 1, for instance, was a much respected monarch who said: "It is not given to man to tax and be loved."  One would presume that what she meant was that a ruler cannot tax excessively and be respected by his or her subjects.  She practiced what she preached, taxed modestly and was adored by her nation.

Peter the Great was a Russian Czar who followed a long line of incompetent leaders. He abolished the plow tax and the household tax which together had been crippling the economy and replaced them with a simple and single poll tax on all males.  Peasants who worked hard and purchased new equipment and lands could keep the extra revenues generated.  He at least temporarily reversed the declining Russian economy by remaking the tax system, stimulating economic growth and decentralizing the state.

William Tell is famed in Switzerland not for shooting an apple off his son's head, but for inciting a successful tax revolt against Austria's King Rudolph. In 1315, Rudolph's troops descended on the Swiss infantry outnumbering them almost 10-1 and were still defeated...Apparently the Swiss were stronger when mad than the Austrians were greedy.

Sticking to the good, the bad and the ugly in leadership throughout history, modern Canadiana has had its share of the bad.  In the 1970s the Liberals gave us such an enormous per capita bureaucracy it was laughable on the world stage, and Pierre Trudeau himself will forever be remembered as the godfather of deficit financing.

Despite PC leader Brian Mulroney's '84 campaign promise to give civil servants "pink slips and running shoes," like a good liberal he hired a whole bunch more when he became PM and gave us the GST.  As England's Margaret Thatcher noted in her memoirs, he was a Progressive Conservative who placed far too much emphasis on the adjective.

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh!  It beats crying.


*Click on the arrow and be sure to enlarge the screen for better viewing.

18 April, 2018


It is with a great deal of relief that I herewith announce that I successfully passed my first over 80 driving test yesterday in Owen Sound and for you youngens whose time has yet to come, don't worry -- it is a piece of cake.

It is interesting to note that Ontario has the highest concentration of seniors in Canada and it is the only province to to test drivers over 80 years of age, which in retrospect seems quite logical.

Naturally, it is a shock when you receive that first notice announcing that you will be required to take a compulsory driving test before your license can be renewed, especially when you are still feeling kind of good about yourself because you have just reached that 80 years milestone. I found my initial shock turning to resentment, discrimination and anger, then finally anxiety.  Everyone in my test class expressed experiencing similar emotions, all so unnecessary as it turned out.

It’s a touchy subject. As our population ages, our idea of what constitutes “old” shifts accordingly. “Old” is always someone who is … older than me. Is it discriminatory to obligate someone who has been driving for 60 years to undergo retesting? No. Just like it’s not discriminatory to not allow 15-year-olds to drive, or 18-year-olds to drink, or 54-year-olds to get a deal at Shoppers Drug Mart on senior’s day. We put barriers in place all the time for many reasons.

Driving barriers are usually there for safety reasons. When you’re piloting a tonne of killing machine, there should be barriers. If you’re a lousy driver and rack up demerit points, you can lose your licence at any age. But the same way most places have adopted a graduated licence for people learning to drive, it makes sense to acknowledge the very act of aging can have an impact on those same skills.

That said, and in all fairness, seniors continue to have the best driving record of all driving groups in Ontario, so good on us!

Currently, if you’re 70 and over and have an at-fault collision, you could be required to take the G2 exit road test at a Drive Test facility. This is a strict component of our law. Admittedly, years of driving ingrain some bad habits, and the test forces an individual all the way back to basics.  And there is nothing wrong with a refresher.

When you hit 80 in Ontario, you are required to take part in the aforementioned retesting. In a conference room setting, you’ll be with about 15 other people. Your driving record will have already been reviewed. You will do a vision test, in a machine like the one you’ve seen in an optician's office. You will also view a 45-minute video that presents some scenarios to start discussion. It talks about new laws and road signs along with tips for older drivers. You’ll explore strengths that senior drivers have, from experience and judgment and their sense of responsibility, and limitations including changes in vision, loss of flexibility and compromised reaction times.

Finally, a newly implemented test addresses cognitive impairment. You will be shown a clock face with a time indicated, which is then taken down. You have five minutes to draw a circle, put in the clock numbers, and have the hands indicate the time. This tests visuospatial ability, how you recognize and organize information.

Next, you are  given a sheet of paper containing a block of letters. You have five minutes to cross out all the Hs. This tests psychomotor speed – how fast you can interpret and co-ordinate information.
Cognitive skills aren’t tested by memorizing information, which is why these tests are so important. Deceptively simple to those with no cognitive impairment, they are instantly revealing of those who are cognitively impaired.

After age 65, 10 per cent of the population will have mild dementia, which can increase the chance of a crash by 4.7 per cent. Adjusted for miles driven, Statistics Canada reveals that drivers over 70 are the second highest group to be involved in a collision, behind only teen males. An even bigger danger? It’s those older drivers who are less likely to have good outcomes. With age comes fragility, and fatality rates are higher than for those males. You may not be involved in a high-speed crash, but your ability to recover even from the small ones is compromised.

Years of research apparently went into the new test, spearheaded by CANDRIVE, an international association that combines the work of researchers in many disciplines. Their aim is to keep older drivers driving, safely. The cognitive tests have been used for some time in other settings and they present no language barrier.

Both the Ontario Ministry of Transport and researchers stress this exercise is not about yanking licences, but about keeping seniors driving safely for as long as they can. You could be required to take a road test based on the outcome of this classroom session, or be required to follow-up with your doctor for further medical information.

In my group of 16 testers, one man was not granted a licence renewal due to peripheral vision problems and was referred for further optical tests while a woman was deferred pending a subsequent road test at a later date.  Otherwise 14 of us walked away feeling very much like we did some 65-70 years ago when we received a passing grade from a school teacher.

After all, it isn't every day you get to correctly draw a clock and pick the "H" out of a mass of letters.

The over 80 test is done every two years voluntarily resolve to quit driving or you pass on to your Heavenly reward.  Which ever comes first.

15 April, 2018


WHERE ROSANNE LIVES 24/7:  My wife would shoot me if she knew I snapped this photo.  She has not allowed her photo to be taken since we were married, September, 2002.

There is no end of supportive advice for individuals who find themselves in the unfortunate position of  being a primary care giver for a family loved one.  The only problem is that very little, if anything, has been written by those who actually have lived the life of a care giver.

None of us, young or old, ever dream of living out our twilight years sentenced to a primary care giving role. That is just not the way the cookie is supposed to crumble.

You know, "the plan was idealistically to grow old together – holding hands, in rocking chairs on the porch and enjoying the grand-kids."  For many couples, this part of the dream has not quite come true. For those who have found themselves in the all too common position of being a caregiver to their spouse – the story has changed drastically.

Not too surprisingly, over 56% of the 50 million family caregivers are solely responsible for a spouse, according to the National Family Caregivers Association. I am a member of that not-too-exclusive club, not once but twice during the last 23 years of my life (10 years caring for a terminally ill first wife and 11 with second wife Rosanne.)  It is not fair, but what are you going to do?

Suffice to say, I am a battle-scarred veteran of the caregiver war -- twice over.  Thank God that I will never come this way again.

There is no escape valve for a care giver. Unless you are heartless, there is no alternative but to make the best of a very bad situation: 1) Because you love the other half in your relationship and 2) you are committed to an "in sickness and health" nuptial vow.  Bottom line, you find strength and staying power you never knew you had.

But, make no mistake, it can be frustrating, depressing, exhausting -- and lonely.

It is not my intention to cry on your shoulder with this post, dear friend.  I merely want to tell it like it is in the hope that there will be a few who can relate to my experience and a few more who will understand. Still others, yet to walk in my shoes, can also tuck what I say in their memory bank for, God help them, future reference.

When you become a primary caregiver, for all intents and purposes you give up your previous life. There is no time for hobbies, special interests and previous socializing.  Out of necessity, you prioritize and acquire skills previously foreign to you, like shopping for all household necessities (grocery stores, drug stores, banking) cooking, house keeping, laundry. You literally learn the hard way to become the equivalent of a practical nurse.
RosanneNme, September 14, 2002
Little did we know then...

In my case, Rosanne has become increasingly limited in the things she can do for herself, including toiletry, bathing and personal hygiene in general. She is confined 24/7 to her lift chair in our living room cum hospital room, dependent on me for absolutely everything.  Cancer, colitis, CO PD, gross obesity, fibromyalgia, onslaught of dementia and psychological issues all contribute to her current delicate condition.  I am interrupted countless times a day to attend to particular needs. For instance, I started writing an hour ago and have been called away from the computer three times, first to empty the commode and to attend to her after a bowel movement, then to get a glass of ice water followed by a request to pick up a TV converter that had been dropped...Story of my life!.

Untold times a day I hear "Oh Dick, oh Dick!"  When I ask, "What is it Rosanne?" invariably she replies "Oh nothing...Just Oh Dick." I have come to fully understand the meaning behind those words of exasperation, discomfort and helplessness.

The poor dear girl tries hard not to be overly demanding and needy, but there are frequent times when she cannot help herself.  A disabled person requires a lot of attention and that goes with the territory.

After supper at night I begin to run out of steam, patience and tolerance.  With any luck Rosanne will dose off to sleep and that is my opportunity to escape to my office and trusty computer where I derive therapy through genealogy research, writing and plain and simple mind wandering.  Many mornings I am still at it when the sun comes up and I hear Rosanne asking "Is breakfast ready*?"

Thankfully Rosanne sleeps a lot through the day too and I take advantage of the lull for those blessed cat naps that are such a salvation for any primary care giver. Regardless, I am constantly fatigued.

I find that communication is vital in situations like ours.  I try to keep Rosanne apprised of what is going on in the outside world.  I frequently ask her how she is feeling...and more often than not get a vague answer. When I can draw her away from the television soap operas, game shows and old movies that have become her life, we engage in small talk and -- yes, arguments over silly, small matters that are the result of mutual frustrations and frayed emotions.

Rosanne is a second-guesser by nature, especially when it comes to money management, my shopping choices, meal menus and my frequent lapses of memory.  I have never been a woulda, shoulda, coulda sort of guy and frequently find myself in the position of being damned if I do and damned if I don't....That's when I find it better to turn the other cheek and to develop selective hearing.

One of my major challenges is to keep a sufficient variety of food on hand to meet Rosanne's fluctuating tastes. I insist, however, on not becoming a sort-order chef capable of producing on demand.  Hardly a day goes by when I do not have to run to the grocery store to pick up something I had inadvertently forgotten in the previous day's shopping trip.

I often feel guilty and hate myself when through my anxiety I have been insensitive and said things that I wish I hadn't. I try not to let those types of situations pass without an apology and a gentle hug or a consoling stroke on the arm.  There is something to be said about skin-on-skin contact.

On the upside, Rosanne has a short memory. She does not hold a grudge and frequently tells me how grateful she is a and how much she loves me.  She has a soft heart and is extremely emotional, crying one minute and laughing the next. I make light of situations and tease her a lot.  She, in return, threatens me with physical harm.  We share a unique brand of joviality.

I should probably explain here what I meant when I mentioned being lonely in the introduction to this piece. There is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. Many spouse caregivers talk about the loneliness of being a caregiver – even, or perhaps especially, when their spouse is right there with them. When the person you married is no longer able to be as present in the relationship – the loneliness can feel worse than if they were not there at all. Often there is a sense of resentment and anger that they did not hold up their end of the bargain...that fate has dealt you a cruel blow. We continually make allowances and avoid speaking about what once was. The past becomes but a distant memory.

A long time ago I stopped attending church and other public gatherings because I got tired of well-meaning people asking "how's your wife?"  I simply ran out of answers and meaningful explanations when people, in the end, do not understand the circumstances anyway. Generally, I believe, there is a perception that a gravely ill person either gets better -- or dies.

I see other couples our age enjoying a pleasant repast in a local coffee shop or restaurant, taking vacations together, attending social activities, walking hand-in-hand past our house on warm summer evenings...and I am envious.  My heart aches. If only we could do those things once again. We had so little time after marrying. I had hoped for more.

The stock suggestion for people in my situation is: "Consider giving up the tasks that are the most taxing or perhaps cause the most stress on your relationship. Having a paid caregiver do the bathing, incontinence care and feeding for example, can allow you to get back to being in a marriage with your partner – focusing on sharing, visiting or just being together. Try to allow yourself the time to just 'be' with your partner – not always focusing on what you need to 'do'."

To which I say "very ideal, but in reality much easier said that done."

Allow me to explain.

In the past 10 years, Rosanne has been hospitalized for extended intensive-care stays on three different occasions, the most recent being last spring and summer when she was a month-long respite care patient in Southampton before being transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Wiarton for another three-month period.  She was deemed well enough to return home in August, although I think that more honestly they needed her bed.  If I was not prepared to resume primary care responsibilities at home, officials confided that they did not know what they would do with her, nor where they could send her next. 

As before, we were again provided with home care services that included regular visits by nurses and personal aid attendants, physio and occupational therapists and case mangers. This on top of technicians calling regularly to monitor Rosanne's oxygen equipment. Our home became a glorified Grand Central Station. We are very private people and the constant "invasion" caused us undue stress. 

In time Care Partner visits became redundant and when it was obvious that I was more than capable of taking care of Rosanne on my own, our case was terminated pending future need.  We rejoiced...our home was our own again. Outside help may be the answer in some instances, but not ours. Ultimately I will know when enough is enough.

So we carry on, taking one day at at time.  A few weeks ago we had to cancel Rosanne's final chemotherapy appointment in Owen Sound because she was simply not travel worthy. I do not know what will become of that development.  Meantime we mark time.

I struggle with the thought of what would become of Rosanne if my health started to decline.  I'm 10 years older than her and you never know. In the past 10 years I have had major foot and ankle surgery and a total hip replacement.  Shoulder surgery has been put on hold for obvious reasons and out of necessity I continue to grin and bear it, like I do so many other things in our life.

We soldier on, the two of us.  We'll do this our way because we would not have it any other way.

I'm in for the long haul, come what may.  I'm kind of stubborn that way.

"Oh Dick, oh Dick!"

*NOTE FROM DICK:  If still interested, you are invited to read about my first stint as a caregiver for the first Mrs. Wright, Anne (1940-2000).  See "One Couple's Struggle With Cancer"

12 April, 2018


Kerry Leitch is shown on the left in this 1959 photo with other London Majors teammates, Crawford Douglas, Stan "Gabby" Anderson and Roy McKay.

I am fascinated by people of contrasts, especially those who have the aptitude and motivation to live their contrasts to the fullest.
I don't often write about guys I played sports against but Woodstock's Kerry Leitch is an exception, not only because he was a good all 'round athlete but because of the unusual mix of the two main sports he was involved in -- baseball and figure skating.

I first learned about Kerry Leitch when reading The London Free Press sports pages in 1954 and '55. His name cropped up frequently in connection with the London Majors of the Senior Intercounty Baseball League.  I came across him in person in the summer of  '55 when teams from Wallaceburg and Strathroy met in a neutral grounds OBA playoff final in my hometown of Dresden, ON.  Kerry was a catcher and his battery mate in that game was Paul Langlois of River Canard (Windsor) who would later become a member of the Intercounty's St. Thomas Elgins and a life-long personal friend.

In those days, as I recall, London Majors had a working arrangement with nearby Strathroy, where younger players would spend a season developing their skill before moving up to the big team.

Kerry was an excellent defensive catcher with a better-than-average bat and good enough to earn tryouts with the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. He became a full-fledged member of the Majors in 1956 and played with the team well into the 1960s, winning several Sr. I-C titles along the way.  In fact during his time the London team would go through three names -- Majors, Diamonds and Pontiacs. (Strange that he had a habit of being absent for a number of the team's official photos.) The thing I remember most about him was that he was the first catcher I ever saw wear a peakless helmet under his mask when behind the plate.  Always kind of an innovator.
Kerry, circa 1960

But that is only half of the Kerry Leitch story.

Growing up in Woodstock, he also wanted to play hockey and this desire led to lessons in figure skating to improve his skating ability. At the age of 10 his parents enrolled him in the Woodstock Figure Skating Club so he could learn to skate properly for hockey. As a youngster he had always wanted to be a professional baseball player. He idolized Major League players like Yogi Berra, Mike Hegan, Mickey Mantle, Bob Feller, and in hockey, he looked up to Teeder Kennedy, Max Bentley, Gordie Howe and Turk Broda.

“I found I really enjoyed figure skating and consequently played hockey and figure skated throughout my youth,” he once explained.

At the age of 17 he began coaching part-time to help pay for college. He wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, and attended the University of Detroit in pursuit of that dream. But it was expensive and proved too costly for him to continue, so he returned to semi-pro baseball and coaching figure skating since he enjoyed working with young people.

He couldn’t have known then that his decision to enter the coaching ranks while still playing baseball would transform the world of Canadian figure skating for decades to come.

Many of his skaters would go on to compete at the World Championships and Olympic Games, and he became one of the most highly touted figure skating coaches on the planet and virtually a household name in the sport.

Based in Cambridge at the Preston Figure Skating Club, his first students of note would be pairs skaters Paul Mills and Josie France-Jamieson. Other Preston Figure Skating Club athletes to win  awards in subsequent years included Lloyd Eisler and Katherine Matousek – they were two-time winners, in 1984 and 1985 – Cindy Landry and Lyndon Johnston (1989), and Doug Ladret and Christine “Tuffy” Hough (1992).

Kerry was the consummate coach. His job didn’t stop with the end of the workday. Typically, he would work 12-15 hour days, though often it was -even more than that. An extremely driven and motivated person, he always had a passion for his work, something that separated him from many others. His challenge? To develop world-class athletes.

Along the way he has been an innovator, pioneering the concept of Team Coaching, where he would surround himself with talented coaches. Together they built nothing less than a skating empire in what was then the small town of Preston. For two decades, from 1975 to 1995, no skating club in Canada produced as many Canadian champions as the Preston Figure Skating Club.

The club’s success bred more success, with skaters coming from far and wide to study their sport under an acknowledged master.

By the mid-70’s, the now retired baseball catcher had carved out a niche as a world-class skating coach. He knew that coaches play a far larger role in the development of a young athlete than most people realize. “I always believed it was very important to work diligently to develop each athlete’s skills in life,” he was once quoted as saying.

Which is why he emphasized things like sportsmanship, manners, and public speaking. “I always wanted the athlete to leave the sport of figure skating as a well-rounded and good person. The medals and championships won on their path to success as a person were just a bonus.”

“The sport is a beautiful sport and the only tarnish is the bureaucratic political influence of the officials who have sacrificed their once good intentions for self-gain.” This political dishonesty in some quarters somewhat spoiled the latter years of his coaching career, “but the memories of the wonderful athletes I have been fortunate enough to train, will always be with me,” he emphasized.

And he pointed to the Kurt Brownings, the Scott Hamiltons, and the Barbara Ann Scotts as representing the “true meaning of the sport.”
Kerry, today

As a former Figure Skating Coaches of Canada President and board member of the Canadian Figure Skating Association (now Skate Canada), Leitch helped to push the sport forward through his roles as a coach and sport administrator. He authored figure skating coach certification courses in both Canada and the USA, and was a featured presenter at many Canadian, US and ISU seminars for coaches, skaters and judges.

Actually, his list of credits would run on for a couple of pages. He was chief referee at the Goodwill games in Lake Placid in February, 2000, and was a multiple winner of the Longines-Wittnauer Coaching Excellence Award presented by the Coaching Association of Canada. He is a also a Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame inductee and a member of the Skate Canada Hall of Fame...Not bad for an old baseball catcher!

Kerry's coaching career eventually took him to Florida in the 1990s where he eventually retired in Bradenton with his wife Kathy.  The Leitchs of course are grandparents, a number of times over.

I'm kind of glad that I knew Kerry Leitch when...

10 April, 2018


"Personally, I am going to miss these boys. My boys. I’ll miss seeing them on the couch chilling with our kids or having a Nerf gun battle. I’ll miss watching them play ridiculous games like trying to throw chocolate-covered almonds into each other’s mouths at the same time. I’ll miss hearing Cavin sing every song off the radio and I’ll miss watching Kolten shaking his head while Cavin sings. I’ll miss chatting with them after their games while we make a plate of nachos. I know they’ll miss my famous smoothies in the morning. Most of all, I’ll miss watching these fantastic hockey players hit the ice to play a sport they love. I’m so glad we chose to billet and I feel fortunate to have played a role in Kolten and Cavin’s lives. They are and always will be part of my family by choice."  -- Recently spoken by a hockey "billet Mom".

I posted an item on my Facebook timeline about a wonderful woman from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, who was the "billet mom" for three of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey players who died in a horrendous bus crash last weekend.  "Goodbye my sweet sons!" she said in the caption accompanying a heart-wrenching photo showing the three smiling young hockey players sitting around her kitchen table.

Not only did that image tug at my heart strings, but it reminded me of my youth when five dear women opened their doors to me in a period between 1955 and 1960.  Two were baseball billet moms and three were more in keeping with traditional room-and-board land ladies.  Four of the five were definitely second mothers to me.

The fifth, I don't know...She was very regimental and had a strange way of showing her motherly love, chastising me for taking too much time in the bathroom, being late for breakfast and making too much noise chewing my food once I got there. Oddly enough, however, I was her favorite go-to-guy for household chores and driving her to weekend visits with relatives.  Maybe she felt she could pick on me because I was the youngest of her four boarders.  As I say, I don't know...

What I remember most about my billet moms and landladies in Florida, St. Thomas and Toronto is that they all took a personal interest in me, like they would do with their own sons. Their homes were my home.  At no time did I feel confined to my bedroom.  They were all excellent cooks, providing breakfasts and nourishing evening meals along with brown bags lunches.  Laundry was always part of the package arrangement, $15.00-$17.00 a week inclusive.

I was even included in special family functions, including holiday weekend activities. Hot chocolate and other snacks were often delivered unannounced by Rita Tunstead for me and a roommate in her East Toronto home.  I kept in touch with Rita and her husband Ernie for years.

Mrs. Gladys Reid of St. Thomas still holds a special place in my heart.  We sat in evenings sharing personal stories, frequently laughing and sometimes crying. She rejoiced in my achievements and consoled me when I did not do well in baseball or broke up with a particular girlfriend of the day. I can't remember what we had discussed one evening, but not too long after retiring she slipped into my bedroom and gave me a kiss on the cheek. (It should be explained that Mrs.Reid was at least 70 years of age. She had facial paralysis and I still feel that quick hen peck with misshapened lips sweeping past my cheek.)  She exited as swiftly as she had entered.  No words were spoken. A boy never forgets something like that.

The remarkable thing about Mrs. Reid was that she regularly accommodated three and four young men at a time in her small two-bedroom bungalow -- two beds were in her enclosed front porch.  For years she slept on a pull-out couch in her living room. I am convinced that she did not do it for the few dollars that would be left over from her grocery bill each week.  She did it because she wanted to.

I was a pall bearer at Mrs. Reid's funeral not too long after that.

Another land lady, Mrs. Velma Neil, was also so special that she was an invited guest at my wedding in 1960, sitting along with my mother and other family members.

I conclude by thanking all those remarkable women everywhere, then and now, who give impressionable young men a home away from home as they find their way in the world, sports or otherwise.  God bless their souls!