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

31 December, 2009

AN EFFORT FOR ME TO MAKE AN EFFORT

I would never have thought that as I got older I would have to find ways to manage my energy.  Up to a year or so ago, I honestly believed that I had boundless energy but as time wore on I found that energy noticeably lacking when I actually tried to do something.
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Now, with increasing frequency, I have to really push myself to do menial tasks that a few years ago I would have polished off without even thinking twice.  Sometimes, too, I simply put off a task until I am able to muster up the necessary energy -- like tomorrow, maybe.  I fear this malady has gone beyond my normal tendency to procrastinate.

Virtually everything, and I mean everything, is becoming an effort for me.  Oh sure, I still do some things intuitively, but others require serious thinking and planning.

Perhaps I am going through a period of fatigue, then again and more honestly it may be that old age is is creeping up on me as it is wont to do.

Experts will tell you that regardless of age, to stop the cycle of fatigue or prevent it from happening, you need to manage your energy.  This involves developing an energy "budget", saving as much energy as possbile, and spending energy on meaningful and important things first.  They even suggest going so far as making out a daily energy-saving priority budget, to which I say: "Okay, I'm going to save my energy today for getting meals, doing laundry, vacuuming and going to the post office."  But what about things like brushing the few teeth that I have left and getting dressed in the morning, taking out the garbage, feeding the dog, putting on my boots, changing a light bulb, wiping down that blasted cobweb and (heaven help me) responding to Rosanne's numerous requests to turn up/down the heat in the house or get her a drink of water just when I've settled comfortably in my easy chair?...All small tasks to be sure, but they require an effort that I find lacking.

Hell, sometimes I find that even getting a drink of water for myself requires a reluctant effort on my part...Do I really need it, or not?  And to make matters worse, by the time I finally get to the kitchen, I've forgotten what I went there for in the first place; but that's another story altogether.

They also say that "resting" is one of the best ways to save energy.  Now that's where I shine.

Since it is important to rest before becoming fatigued, alternating rest and activity is advocated.  This is called "pacing" in order to accomplish more during the day.  Only trouble is, when I sit down for a "rest" I wake up three hours later.  Do this two or three times a day and you've "paced" yourself right out of all the things you originally "budgeted" to do.

Personally, I'm going to give up on this idea of trying to manage my energy.  It just takes too much effort. I'm getting too old for this nonsense anyway.  I've decided that I am still going to think more about the things that I need to do each day, however, and if I don't have the energy to make an effort at any given moment it will mean only one thing -- I need to take a nap.  Not to worry, maybe I'll find the energy later.  Status quo.

And I'm the guy who's been thinking about making an "effort" to get more exercise in the New Year.  Give me a break...What a dreamer!

If only I could find a way, though, to get around this putting my clothes on in the morning bugaboo...

*Note from Dick, 11:30 a.m. Thursday:  Rosanne just read this post and didn't find it a damn bit funny. 

29 December, 2009

A LAKE HURON KIND OF WINTER


From Southampton with (brrrrr) love
Photo #1:  Shoreline ice beginning to form north of the Southampton Harbour.  Not a sunbather in sight.
Photo #2:  Fishing tugs are high and dry for the winter at the oldest harbour on the Bruce Penninsula.
*(Click photos to enlarge)

28 December, 2009

VOLITION AND SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about a closed mind as opposed to an open mind and how we are inviolably self-regulators of thought in a social environment.  My take is that it is all about the kind of thinking we do, or fail to do.

The social environment of which I speak consists only of facts; the meaning of those facts -- the conclusions and convictions to be drawn from them -- can be identified only by our minds.

We certainly do not have the answers to all of life's complex problems and we are by no means perfect human beings.  At any step along the way, we can make honest mistakes of knowledge or judgment.  We are not infallible.  We may identify incorrectly the meaning or the significance of the events we observe.
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Our power of volition does not guarantee us protection against errors; but it does guarantee that we need not be left helplessly at the mercy of our errors for the rest of our life.  We are able to leave our minds open to new evidence that can inform us that our conclusions are wrong and must be revised. 
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Our character, the degree of our rationality, independence, honesty, is determined not by the things we perceive, but by the thinking we do (or fail to do) about them. We do not have to be victims of our environment or always swim with the current.  We can choose our own course of action in life by choosing our own values and goals  We are free to think, to question and to judge the true nature of things.

Of any assertion offered us, we are always free to ask: Why?  That question alone is the threshold that the beliefs of others cannot cross without our consent.

When we do not think for ourselves our minds become lazy and the tendency is to follow any course of action ready-made for us by others.  This is a mistake frequently made by young people who just want to fit in or belong.  No doubt most of us have ill-advisedly gone down that road a time or two in our lifetime.

What Dr. Phil really means when he asks: "What were you thinking?" is "Were you thinking?"  The answer in both cases, however, generally amounts to the same thing -- "Nothing" and "No".

Thinking about the consequences of any action we take or conclusion we arrive at, coupled with the aforementioned values and goals we establish for ourselves, is a beneficial exercise.  It keeps us in shape mentally, even spiritually, and sets us on a healthy course in life...We just have to be open to it.

27 December, 2009


Lucy made good use of "Boxing" Day.
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BONDS THAT MATTER
"Faith of our fathers, living still
We will be true to thee to death."
I am all in favour of change for the better,
Knowing the merit of well-conceived reform 
But by nature I resist fixing what is not broken,
I confess to favouring old-fashioned love,
Faith and duty, and cling to cherished comforts
Like relaxing firesides, old homes and gardens,
Books and photographs from years gone by,
I believe love abides, honour the old credence
That God has to be the nurturer of the soul,
That He will give his ear to our prayers
And that He watches as we move forward.
I see regenerate restlessness in society today  
And a tendancy to shun tradition and values 
Yet I cling reverently to the bonds of my faith
Trusting the world will be better when I leave.

24 December, 2009


Wishing all Wrights Lane readers a "Christ blessed" December 25th.
Due to Rosanne's health issues we will be spending Christmas at home this year.  This will be the first time since my daughters were born (47 and 45 years ago) that I will not be with the girls and their families at Christmas.  It will be different.

22 December, 2009

BE GOOD TO YOURSELF IN NEW YEAR


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Only three two one  zero (0, zilch, nil) shopping days  before Christmas?...Awe come on!  It's here already?

As hard as it is to believe, we have almost exhausted this old year.  Where did the time go?
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Better get busy thinking about what we are going to do in the New Year.  Make some resolutions, right!

But wait a minute...Why do we set ourselves up for failure like that?  Who among us ever kept a New Years resolution for more than three weeks anyway.  And another thing too, why do we beat ourselves up thinking about the fact that in the past 12 months we did not get to do all the things that we set out to do.  Why do we tend to dwell too much on things that did not work out to our expectations instead of the things that exceeded our expectations.  We're funny creatures in that way, aren't we.
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I fully agree with the old Pennsylvania Dutch proverb that "we get too soon old and too late smart", but thank goodness we are never too old to  learn something.  One of the things that I have learned is that it is in our best interest at this time of year to look forward, not back. We should remember that this is a time to relax and to enjoy ourselves and we do that by not over-analysing the past year and not placing too many resolutionary demands on ourselves for the year ahead.

The promise of a New Year is an exciting one.  Let's resolve simply to be good to ourselves in 2010 and to take time each day to do exactly that.  Everything else in our life will surely fall into place.  There is absolutely nothing wrong in indulging ourselves for a few precious minutes on a regular basis, i.e. reading a book, exercising our bodies, engaging in a hobby or special interest and, if nothing else, just sitting with our eyes shut, listening to soothing music and letting our minds drift.  For those so inclined, we can also spend more time in prayer.

...And, as we resolve to be good to ourselves in the coming year, let's be good to each other at the same time -- and that includes our dogs and cats.

Have a very Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year
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-- Dick, Rosanne & Lucy

21 December, 2009

WHAT A SURPRISE...THAT SANTA IS ME!


I was having my usual coffee over The Toronto Star this morning.  Flipping through the pages of the Entertainment/Living Section, a strangely familiar face starred back at me from Page E6.

"Good God almighty...That's me!" I shouted out loud.  I really could not believe my eyes, but "the eyes" behind a billowy white beard were the coincidental giveaway.

The photo (above) of two children, one visibly upset, sitting on Santa Claus' lap, was included in a Star feature this week entitled "Holiday Histrionics:  The Santa Sessions".

Clutching the newspaper page, I ran to my computer to bring up an almost identical photo of me as a Brampton City Centre Mall Santa in 1990 with my granddaughter Alyssa sitting rather pensively on my lap (see photo below).  No question about it -- a match!  How unbelievable.  How absolutely magical.  What are the chances? 

The caption accompanying the 19-year-old photo, told the story:  Heading: "In the twinkling of an eye, a Christmas photo shot can turn upside down as Star readers prove -- and generously share with their pictures..." 

"Little Adriana Lawrence was calm until she turned to look at Santa.  'You might as well take the picture, whether she screams or not,' said grandmother Maureen Lawrence of Brampton, who took the baby with her brother Peter, 3, to meet the mall Santa in 1990.  Dressed in Christmas outfits, the kids were quiet until Adriana turned to see St. Nick, 'and that was it -- she just bawled and bawled.'  (Believe it or not, I remember the scene and the little girl's big brown eyes looking up at me before she broke out in screams of terror.  I tend to have that affect on women, even when I'm not wearing a beard.)  Mrs. Lawrence, a retired nurse, describes it as "a treasure picture." Adriana, now 20, and brother Peter, now 21, are in college."

Nineteen Christmases later, my granddaughter Alyssa, 21, is also a college student.

Oh yes...About the eyes:  As a Santa, I tried to be as authentic as possible and always painted my eyebrows white to match the beard.  My special eyebrow makeup?  I used Whiteout correctional fluid which was unmistakable in the Star photo, as it was in my scrapbook photo with Alyssa.

I just have to attempt to contact Mrs. Lawrence to let her know how much she has made this a very special Christmas for one old pretend Santa.  HO, HO, HO!


Photo of Lyssie and Santa appears in my new book Wrights Lane: Come On In, accompanying a story "The Magic of Playing Santa Claus."

19 December, 2009

RED KELLY STILL HOCKEY'S CLASS GUY


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I was pleased this evening to see the Toronto Maple Leafs honouring good old Red Kelly, along with relative youngsters Bob Nevin and Mike Walton, in a pre-game opening ceremony.  All three were prominent members of  Stanley Cup winners in Toronto during the 1960s.
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What surprised me most was that Red did not appear to have aged any more than Nevin, 11 years his junior, and Walton, a whopping 18 years younger than the 81-year-old former National Hockey League veteran player and manager-coach of three NHL teams.
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Leonard Patrick "Red" Kelly was and is an amazing guy.  In spite of his success as a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and winner of eight Stanley Cups equally divided between stints as a standout member of the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, he remained low-key and humble.  He epitomized the clean-cut athlete of the l950s and '60s.  Of Christian heritage, he has yet to utter his first swear word.
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Growing up I idolized Kelly, then a solid defenseman with Red Wings teams that boasted the likes of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Terry Sawchuck.  After being traded to Toronto in 1960 and moving up to the forward line as a centre, he became a premier play maker and was largely responsible for Frank Mahovlich's success as a prolific goal scorer. You can imagine how completely overwhelmed I was in 1952 to be called up to play with Dresden Juniors in the Ontario Baseball Association championship finals against a Port Dover team coached by none other than the 25-year-old redhead himself.  He, of course, is Norfolk Country born and bred and calls both Port Dover and Simcoe his home.

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Some 14 years later, I was sports editor at the Simcoe Reformer when I received a telephone call.  The rather high-pitched voice on the other end of the line announced:  "Hi Dick...This is Red Kelly calling."  You could have knocked me over with a feather.
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He went on the say that the NHL expansion Los Angeles Kings would be announcing later that day that he had signed on as the team's inaugural manager-coach.  "I just felt that I owed it to my hometown newspaper to let them know in advance of the announcement," he explained.  So typical of Red.  Always thoughtful and loyal...They just do not make 'em like that any more!
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It was an excellent scoop for me because even though Red had announced his retirement as an active player with the Maple Leafs several weeks earlier, Toronto coach Punch Imlach dragged things out by refusing in the end to release Red's rights until LA traded a minor league defenseman to the Leafs in exchange.

Never flamboyant or overly-vocal behind the player's bench, Red went on to prove himself to be an effective, inspirational leader of not only the fledgling Kings, but the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs in subsequent years.

During his heyday as a player with the Maple Leafs, quite remarkably he even found time to serve as Liberal Member of Parliament for the Toronto riding of York West...A super-human feat, to say the least.

Red remains my idol, especially after seeing him at centre ice in the Air Canada Centre tonight dropping the puck for a ceremonial faceoff between the Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. 
...Ten years from now when I'm his age, I want to look as good as him!

17 December, 2009

KEN WROTE FROM HARD EXPERIENCE

Buying her a present?...Be careful!

I'm giving this post over to my late father, Ken Wright (1899-1952).  As a frequent contributor to The Chatham Daily News in the 1940s, Ken had some sage advice for newly-wed male Christmas shoppers in 1945.  It is another one of those things from the past that I recall with fondness every year at this time.  It is typical of my father, fun to read, and as humourously applicable today as it was when he wrote it 65 years ago.

By KEN WRIGHT

This is in intended for men only.  You ladies be good sports and don't read any further.  What follows is for Hubby's eyes only.

What are you getting the little lady for Christmas fellows?  You older chaps need no advice.  You've learned the hard way and know the ropes.  But you lads who during the course of the past year took on the status of "married man" , take a tip from me:  Don't under any circumstances get the "better half" a cook book.  No matter how beautiful the binding or how many recipes it contains, don't buy that for your wife for Christmas.  I made that mistake a few years ago.

A pressure cooker or a nice lamp make lovely birthday gifts but I tell you, definitely do not give her a household item like that for Christmas and expect her to do back flips or even feign any degree of surprise or pleasure.  I've made those errors in the past as well and have the scars to prove it.  Items like that are about as risky as buying her a frying pan or a rolling pin for Christmas.

You cannot go wrong with any pretty little trinket, some inexpensive little thing for around, well, say, not too much and by all means not too little.  Remember it is the spirit of the thing that counts -- as long as you don't buy the wrong thing.  Buy the wrong thing and she will "box" it back up and you can just return it to the store the next day.  That's what Boxing Day is for you know, and you do not want to fight the crowds to go there and do that. 

Just keep your ears open.   She may drop some little tidbit  between now and then and that will be your tip.  Don't expect her to hint, however, because women are not made that way.

You can come through this gift thing safely by exercising a little care, forethought  and patience.

Merry Christmas fellows!  And good luck!

Note:  Ken took his own advice after he wrote this piece and a couple of days before Christmas  he wisely returned a super-dooper orange juice squeezer he had purchased as a gift for my mother.  We all had a Merry Christmas that year thanks to a quickly-substituted pair of nylons and a bottle of my mother's favourite perfume. 


13 December, 2009

YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS, AND INCIDENTALLY DO YOU KNOW THE REAL REASON FOR THE SEASON?


Nativity scene from my Christmas collection.


Virginia O'Hanlon

I'm giving in to an impulse to write about Christmas -- Santa Claus, the-kid-in-me and Jesus.  Kind of makes sense, doesn't it?  After all, that's what this time of year is all about.
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I love everything about the celebration of Christmas, especially the fellowship, the stories handed down from generations past and the wonderfully moving carols.  I look forward to the smells and tastes of the season too.  Who doesn't?
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It is traditional for me at this time of year to blow the dust off Clement C. Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas (commonly known as 'Twas The Night Before Christmas) written in 1822.  I absorb each line of the poem with the enthusiasm and imagination of a child hearing the story for the first time.  Many common Christmas traditions that we encorporate into our current-day celebrations have been derived from the magic of the 'Twas the Night Before tale.
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When I was cast in the role of Santa Claus a lifetime ago, I memorized the name of all his reindeer and it came in handy on several ocasions when challenging young minds put me to the test.
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Equally fascinating to me is A Christmas Carol written by the famous Charles Dickens in 1843.  Who can forget Ebeneezer Scrooge's "Bah Humbug" and the meaningful closing line uttered by Tiny Tim: "God bless us, everyone!?"  Each year as I assemble my Heritage Village Collection (see Wrights Lane above) I re-live every scene created by Dickens in his masterpiece more than 150 years ago.
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Another must-visit literary gem for me is the now famous Yes Virginia... editorial published in the New York Sun newspaper in 1897.  The the editorial response to a letter written by eight-year-old Virginia O`Hanlon has become history`s most reprinted newspaper editorial.
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Young Virginia took great pains with her childish scrawl to write a brief letter to the popular newspaper, explaining that her friends had been telling her that there was no Santa.  Francis Pharcellus Church (photo, right), a prominent editor and Civil War correspondent, answered the little girl in an editorial, telling her that her friends were wrong.  "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy," Church wrote.  "No Santa!  Thank God he lives and lives forever!  A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of children."
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It is interesting to note that Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate with a masters degree from Columbia University and in 1921 began a teaching career, later becoming a principal in the New York City school system and eventually retiring after 47 years as an educator.  Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial.  Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died at the age of 81 in 1971.
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I often wonder how Church, the son of a Baptist minister, would have responded if Virginia had asked "Why do we celebrate Christmas?"  Perhaps he would have written:
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"Christmas, Virginia, is a very significant celebration of joy.  It is not necessarily about fairy lights and Santa Claus, although this is part of the celebration.  It is also not about who can spend the most on gifts, or who gets what.  It is, however, about a very special birthday.
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"About three thousand years ago, God decided that he loved us so much that He wanted to be with us on earth, so He came to us through the person of a baby that was born in a town called Bethlehem.  That baby was named Jesus and in his short 33 years on earth he would significantly change the way people viewed life.  
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"Jesus Christ, as he was to become known, was God's wonderful gift to us.  Jesus' love for us was so great that He too wanted us to know that we can be forgiven for our sins and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  In order to make that happen, He gave Himself to us on a cross.
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"So because He loved us so much, and because He gave his life for us, we owe it to Him to celebrate the day of His birth and that is what Christmas is all about.  Take away all the tinsel, the turkey and the presents.  Take way the tree, your parents' credit cards and the shopping malls, and what you have left is worth more than all of those combined...You have the real reason for the birthday celebration which cannot be changed or replaced by our many man made traditions.  We honour Jesus by being good, honest, kind and faithful in our own lives just like Him.
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"Now, Virginia, you know the real reason for us to celebrate every year on the 25th day of December."
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At least that is the way in which I hope Church would have responded, only better.  Regardless, I feel that Virginia died knowing that Jesus loved her, just as He does you and I.  We have a lot to celebrate again this year!

11 December, 2009

WHEN YOU CAN'T HAVE WHAT YOU WANT, YOU MIGHT JUST FIND WHAT YOU NEED!

This morning I heard from a friend who was deeply disappointed, even disillusioned, that something she really had her heart set on was not going to happen.  I think we've all found ourselves in that unfortunate position at different intervals in our life, but the good news is that we eventually rid ourselves of the blues over the matter by hopeful rationalizing "I guess it wasn't meant to happen" or "maybe I'll be better off in the long run."

I was reminded of the decades old universal truth expressed by The Rolling Stones in the refrain  "You can't always get what you want..."  There is more to this haunting song, but we'll get to that in a moment.

One of the dangers in the wanting something but not getting it issue is that the scenarios can range from trivial to life-changing, but they all have one thing in common -- the possibility that when you don't get what you want, you desire it even more than before.  There is also another consideration  and it is that psychologically, people do not like to be told they can't have or can't do something.  It's related to not wanting to be controlled by others, especially if the situation feels unfair or arbitrary.

To anyone facing the "wanting something but not getting it" problem, I would caution against the rebellious reaction of a teenager:  "Oh yeah?  Just try and stop me!"  Better that you just let the matter go and accept the message contained in the rest of the Rolling Stones song:

"You can't always get what you want...
But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need."

During this Christmas season and as we head into a new year, I pray dear friends that you all find what you "need."

08 December, 2009

HOW SMART IS OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM?

I have been reading in recent days about how our high schools are turning out students who are ill-prepared for many university programs.  It seems that not only do teens today have trouble with writing, but they are also lacking in numeracy skills (math).  Universities in Ontario are now scrambling to shore up skills of students who, without the advantage of Grade 13, bring less maturity and knowledge to the post-secondary table.


Far be it from someone like me to point a finger, but there is obviously a great leap in what is expected of high school graduates moving into the university system and it is not fair for those who have worked so hard to reach that point in their education.  I know for a fact that many first and second-year sudents are becoming so discouraged in attempting to bridge the gap that they simply chose to drop out -- and that's a crying shame.  They are not failing, they are being "failed".


Our politicians are paying lip service to a concentrated collaboration between colleges, universities and school boards, but that is exactly what is needed.  The curriculum, starting in elementary school, should be closely reviewed as well as all-important supports for teachers.


Personally, I have reservations too about the kind of history that is being taught in our schools today.  That point was driven home to me as recent as last week when I was doing some research on Ontario settlement in the 1800s.  At almost 72 years of age I was learning for the first time about the history of an area in which I was born and raised and I began to ask myself why I was not taught about this in school.


I'll be the first to admit that as a high school student I was bored out of my mind by history class and at least one teacher who had absolutely no enthusiasm for the subject.  When not half asleep or day-dreaming, I listened reluctantly to the uninspiring monotony of tales about "colony to nation" read to us directly from a text book.


Why did my generation, and subsequent generations, not hear about the trials of immigrant slaves from the United States settling in our very community; why did we not learn about what immigration has meant to our country (i.e. our forefathers); what about aboriginal peoples (first Canadians), the struggle of women to win equal rights, regional development, and what about the political, diplomatic and military history of post-Confederation Canada?


Educator and author Jack Granatstein hit the nail on the head the other day when he said that balance in the teaching of Canadian history "demands that differing interpretations be presented to students for them to argue about." That is how we learn and that is how we strive to uncover the truth.  History is indeed the story of our arguments, and the difficulty of discovering the truth about those arguments.  Students need to be encouraged, stimulated and involved by teachers who can bring history to life in the classroom.


"We study history to learn how our predecessors lived and erred and, if we can, to learn from their mistakes in the hope we will not repeat them," Granatstein added. 


The real mystery in all of this is why Canadian schools do not teach history this way.  Surely there is nothing to hide. Heaven forbid if political indoctrination has created an unbalance in our education system...That would be totally unCanadian, wouldn't it? 



AN AFTERTHOUGHT:
Good God almighty!  In talking about young people who cannot write, are weak in math and have an unbalanced appreciation of history, I've been talking about myself.  Canada does not need another generation of under-achievers like me.  We'd better smarten up!

05 December, 2009

Direction? What direction?...I'm back!

Sometimes you have to distance yourself

I could not stay away.  The "new direction" in which I was heading has led me back to Wrights Lane.
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Priorities aside, this is where I need to be when I am feeling an emotion or when I am moved to express myself in the one way that I know how.  As in a recurring dream, I have been lost and it is good to have found my way home again, where I belong.
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It is easy to become negatively overwhelmed by life experiences.  I have thrown in the towel numerous times before and walked away from the things that I know, but strangely there has always been an emptiness inside of me that keeps me coming back with the fervent hope that "those who seek shall find."
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We have to keep swimming when we are in turbulent waters, otherwise we will drown.  By being true to ourselves and giving in to our heart's true desires we are kept afloat.  We are our own best rescuers.
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Yes, it is true that it is easy to become overwhelmed by negativity; but it is just as easy to be overwhelmed by the peace and love of something greater than ourselves.  There is something to be said for retrospection.  We gain by learning from our experiences.  Hopefully at the end of each journey and at the beginning of every new one, we are better people.
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I've missed Wrights Lane and it will take a little time to get settled in to a routine that is comfortable for me at this juncture in my life.  But settle in, I will. 
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Meantime, as before, come back and visit when you have a minute.  I've missed you too!

Yours truly,
Dick