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

29 January, 2011


Here's a good one for you.  A fellow by the name Stewart was waiting for a train. He was a bit early and had some time to spare.  Knowing that he would be a while, he purchased a newspaper so he could do the crossword puzzle while he waited.  He slso picked up a cup of coffee, and a packet of cookies.   He found a spot on a bench next to a chap in a business suit and craddling a leather briefcase in his lap. After a few moments of settling in his seat and arranging his coat between the two of them, the other fellow suddenly leaned over, picked up the pack of cookies, tore it open and took one.  The cookie was gone in two bites.  Stewart didn't know how to react.  He had never had anything like this happen before, so he did nothing and just ignored it.  He buried his nose in the newspaper, took a sip of coffee and pretended to be oblivious to what had just happened.Since the packet of cookies was already open, Stewart could not resist the temptation.  As casual as possible, he he took out a cookie and ate it, thinking that that would settle the matter.  A moment or two later the other guy reached across and took another cookie.  Stewart thought that this time it would be just too awkward to say anything since he had ignored it the first time.  For the next few silent and rather awkward minutes they would take turns picking up the packet and eating a cookie before putting it down again.  They went through the entire pack of cookies this way. When the cookies were gone, Stewart's friend simply stood up and walked away.  Stewart's train pulled into the station shortly thereafter and he hurringly got to his feet and picked up the newspaper, unexpectantly and unbelievingly exposing his unopened pack of cookies.  Talk about being embarrased, Stewart could not believe his eyes.  The funny thing about the unusual situation was that there was another guy out there somewhere who had the same story, but did not know the punch line.  The lesson that can be learned from the story is to never assume you know the whole story.  It is good to get all the facts before jumping to conclusions. As we said in the previous post (below) "things are not always what they seem"...Even a packet of cookies shared by two strangers in a train station.

25 January, 2011


This is an actual untouched photo (we have the photographer's word for it?), albeit misleading.  The stork is not leaving a vapor trail across the sky, it is actually soaring gracefully miles lower than several jetliners flying overhead in the distance.

Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream;
Highlows pass as patent leathers;
Jackdaws strut in peacock's feathers.

Captain (puzzled):
Very true,
So they do.

Black sheep dwell in every fold;
All that glitters is not gold;
Storks turn out to be but logs;
Bulls are but inflated frogs.

Captain (puzzled):
So they be,
(Dialogue between characters Buttercup and The Captain from Gilbert and Sullivan's musical, HMCS Pinafore.)
I have written before about an old baseball mentor who drilled into me the saying: "Things are not always what they seem."  For the life of me, I cannot remember now why he uttered the expression so frequently but I recognized then, as I do now, the wisdom in those words.

The accompanying photograph of a stork seemingly leaving behind a vapor trail and the wry, humorous observations of Little Buttercup in her exchange with the Captain in Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore are fun illustrations of the fact that things are not always what they seem.  William Shakespeare was another who  cleverly incorporated similar scenarios into several of his famous works.

Something I read last week introduced a different twist to the expression that I had never properly considered.  When we meet someone for the first time, it is only natural that we wonder whether they remind us of someone we already know.  Something about their appearance, the way they talk, or their mannerisms leads us to make comparisons.  Our subsequent inclination to either like or dislike the individual is influenced to some extent, by how much we like or dislike the person we have been reminded of.

This type of reaction is ingrained in us but in truth it is not always the best basis on which to form a lasting opinion.  Given time, that initial reaction or unfounded judgement may well prove to be totally wrong.  And, if that is true of people, it is even more true of circumstances that we encounter on a daily basis.

Snap judgements have potential to lead to false comparisons that can be quite unfair and damaging.  We would do well to remind ourselves that things are not always what they seem...Or, to put it another way, you can't judge a book by its cover.   

23 January, 2011


Still feeling the sting of the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, I am once again reminded of the amazing loyalty of blue-and-white fans over the course of the past couple of decades.  Despite the fact that you can actually count on one hand the number of times the Leafs have made the playoffs in recent years, Toronto fans continue to sell out the massive complex for every game. 

Hope seems to spring eternal for hockey fans in Toronto.  They love the game and they love their Leafs, all the while knowing down deep when they look at things in the cold light of logic before the season is half over, that they have little chance of seeing a miraculous playoff run again this year.  When you stop to think about it, loyalty to a sports team, a particular person or cause, does not come from the head; it comes from the heart.

Someone said recently that loyalty is really an emotion, not a notion, and that has impacted me.  Loyalty has its own rewards and it does not deserve to be measured against petty scales or shallow standards.  What we feel about the object of our loyalty is what is important.  Success is a happy heart, not a seemingly perfect situation or seeing your team hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of the season.

Loyalty is all about a short memory and love for love's sake.  It's a matter of the heart and what you get out of playing, or watching, the game.

Loyalty makes you want to keep coming back -- to stay the course.

22 January, 2011


Yes, there is a whole truck under there, but I'll wait 'til spring to dig it out!

19 January, 2011


I have often wondered when someone dies, why we are inclined to say to ourselves "may they rest in peace (RIP)".  As we are standing over a casket, often lost for words of condolence for a grieving family member, we weakly offer the words "they are now in a better place" or "they are at rest now" or "he/she looks so at rest." 

We have all said those words countless times.  In truth, we may have said them because we were at a loss for something more meaningful to say, but we mean well and the expression is accepted with grace and appreciation.

Here is an analogy, however, that I recently came across that has helped give significance to those expressions for me.  If you have ever visited one of the great theme parks like Canada's Wonderland on a summer holiday weekend, you’ll know that the journey to get there is the worst part—crowded 401 and 400 highways, hot car, fraying nerves. But finally, you get to the massive parking area.

The parking lot is in some cases at least a mile from the theme park, but you do feel you have arrived. There is upbeat music coming from speakers, and helpful attendants to guide you to a parking space and the transportation to the main gate. In the mid-distance you can see the tops of some of the rides, the Disney mountain, and hear the sounds of people enjoying themselves. It is a foretaste of what you too will soon be experiencing.

You have not yet arrived at the final destination, but you are no longer outside. The hardest part of the journey is over. Perhaps you are eager to get started, and the kids are tugging at you, asking, like those souls under the altar John saw in Revelation, “Can we go in now?” And the answer is “All in God’s good time.”

In God’s good time, the new heavens and the new earth will be revealed to us all. There may be some surprises, but surely no disappointments for those who have eagerly and bravely awaited the fulfillment of destiny.

This is what now goes through my mind when I hear of some one's passing or I attend a funeral service. We are saying goodbye to a loved one, a close acquaintance.  But could it be that somewhere in a place beyond our reach, our experience and imagination, God is saying “Hello. Welcome -- not to your eternal rest -- but to the rest of eternity”?

Something to think about.  Just a slightly diferent twist. 

May God welcome us all to the rest of eternity when we exit this world and enter the wondrous new one in the great and unknown beyond.

17 January, 2011


For some time I have been wanting to publish a story about a remarkable lady, the mother of an old Dresden chum and baseball teammate, who was approaching her 100th birthday.  This is not the story I had hoped for.

Mrs. Mary Peters, celebrating her 100th
birthday.  Bright and cheery as always.

Mary Francis Peters, of Chatham and formerly of nearby Dresden, 
celebrated her 100th birthday with a party Saturday, January 15.  She passed away in hospital scant hours later after suffering a fainting spell. 

Typically, Mrs. Peters was in good spirits as she welcomed friends and family from as far away as Vancouver and California to the party at her Caleb Village home in Chatham.  Having reached the centurion milestone surrounded by joy and love, she slipped away quietly on Sunday to join two other loved ones who were not present for her celebration -- late husband Carmen and cherished daughter Margaret.

The last time I saw Mrs. Peters (I never called her by any other name) was at the Dresden Sports Hall of Fame dinner two years ago.  At 98 years of age she was the picture of health and very proud of her son Jim who as a member of the celebrated Dresden Junior Kings Hockey Club back in the 1960s, was inducted into the local sports shrine. Eldest son Bob was the recipient of the same honor several years earlier as a member of the 1953 Ontario champion Dresden Legionnaires Juveniles Baseball Club.    

"I've tried to live a good life and a clean life," she told a newspaper reporter Saturday afternoon before her party, adding she also lived with a lot of love in her life.  She said her two sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren kept her going.  "I've just lived my own life," she said in reflection.

And what a wonderful life it was.  She was a breath of fresh air for all who new her, and as she will continue to be in her new home, surrounded still by those who love her and have been waiting for her to join them.  Together, they will rest in eternal peace.

Our thoughts will be with Bob, Jim and their families over the course of the next few days as they continue the celebration of Mrs. Peters' long life.  The funeral service will be held on Thursday at St.Paul's Congregational Church, 11:00 a.m.  Visitation at McKinlay Funeral Home, 459 St. Clair Street, Chatham, Wednesday 3:00-5:00 and 7:00-9:00 p.m. 


You have to be careful of what you say to friends these days  -- you might lose them.  Sensitivities come to the fore in particular on the popular social network, Facebook.  Trust me, I've learned the hard way to avoid getting too personal with Facebook "friends" and, above all, to stay away from humor like it was a plague.

A few months ago for instance, a "friend" who was very much into Internet marketing and advertising, ran a promotional item on his Facebook page extolling the virtues of a particular body rejuvenation course and product. He had the nerve (I thought) to include a 40-year-old head and shoulders photograph of himself when he was in his 20s.  I could not resist dashing off a tongue-in-cheek reply to him questioning the use of a misleading fountain-of-youth photo (it actually was quite complimentary) and suggesting that people might think that he had actually taken the course he was advertising, "and had failed".  He was not at all pleased and removed my comment from his site because among other things, I was giving his client a "bloody nose."  Not true at all, but that was his perception.  I was hitting a little too close to home for his liking.

Another time I had an exchange with the same guy over an offensive, poor-taste reference by another individual on his site.  My then friend, defended the uncalled-for comment contending that it was harmless and reflective of the other friend's "unique wit".  I shot back with my impression of the unique wit suggestion: " me it was a demonstration of a half-wit."

My friend promptly deleted me from his list of friends and followed up cutting off his nose to spite his face by removing himself from Facebook altogether.  I got even by removing him from my email contacts.  That ought to show him!...How childish.  Right?  Sadly, we started out our Facebook relationship as members of a mutual admiration society and look what happened.

Several others on Facebook made it a practise of running famous unattributed quotes on their sites to the point that I couldn't take it any more.  In what I felt was a tactful and sensitive approach, I requested that in the future they properly attribute the sayings, maybe adding a brief explanation in their own words if they wanted to share in the credit of those utterances of wisdom.  Obviously lacking originality and perhaps embarrassed by the exposure, neither party has been seen or heard from on Facebook since. 

Likewise, one chap who I ill-advisedly added to my friends list (at his request) became so annoyed by me that he finally suggested that if I didn't like what he was doing, I knew what I could do.  By means of quick explanation, within a two-month period this guy had gone from a couple dozen Facebook friends to over 600 and counting, including a few ladies of obviously questionable business intentions.  I asked him where he was getting all the friends and he responded that he would be retiring soon and that he wanted to have as many Internet friends as possible by then.  I suggested by return that he must be planning a heck of a retirement party and that at the rate he was going he'd better reserve the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to accommodate us all.  "There's got to be something in this for your friends," I joked..."I anxiously await your invitation!", to which he responded: "You're starting to piss me off!" 

Now, I ask you, is that any way to talk to a friend?

A week later, Mr. Ulterior Motive's Facebook friends list exceeded the 800 mark and it was now obvious that he was aggressively amassing names and email addresses for future marketing purposes.  Like so many others, he was using the social network for none other than personal gain.  Genuine friendship was the furthest from his mind.  I acted on his off-handed recommendation and removed him from my list of friends.

There have been other examples too where my good intentions were misinterpreted by suspecting minds.  Take one middle-aged woman for instance who originally accepted my friendship due to a mutual interest.  We also happened to share the same place of birth.  For weeks she had constantly complained about the work she was doing and how much she looked forward to Fridays of each week.  On Mondays and Tuesdays she was already wishing that Friday would "hurry up and come".  Several of her friends were supportively "liking" her posts.

I decided to play the wise counsellor role by commenting:  "You guys are wishing your lives away.  Surely I don't have to remind you that every minute of every day is precious -- cling to it and make the most of it."  My lady friend removed my comment from her site but posted a follow up message saying that she might accept my sentiment after she retired, and reminded me of how difficult it was to keep your "nose to the grindstone" when doing a job that you really do not enjoy.  The next day she posted another comment:  "Regardless of what some people may say, Friday still looks pretty good!"

I was instantly lured by the bait in those few words. "At least you've given it a new twist," I told her, adding that I hoped she would enjoy her weekend after five days of "grinding" at her job.  

Once again, she replaced my comment on her site with one of her own.  "I find it odd, Dick, that you feel compelled to continually comment when I really do not know you.  I will have a good weekend, not because of what you say but because of what I go through each week, none of which you know about." 

At that point I realized the futility of dragging out the exchange.  She neither wanted nor deserved my friendly concern.  She was suspicious, I think, of my motives.  I, in turn, was disappointed and offended by her terse reaction.  My immediate impulse was to click the delete icon next to her name in my computer, but not before I announced my intention to "unfriend" her with an explanation and offer of regrets.  As easy as that, another Internet friendship was dashed with the click of a keyboard button.

The reality of my Facebook experiences?  You win some and you lose some.  It's much like real life in that respect.

When you lose a friend over a minor disagreement, misunderstanding or heaven help us -- a joke -- the message is clear.  That person was never a true friend in the first place.

Life goes on, but I reiterate:  You've got to watch what you say -- and how you say it.  They're touchy, touchy out there!

14 January, 2011


One of the newest forms of healing is not really new at all. The merits of writing therapy have been espoused for quite some time.  Most people are simply not aware of the therapeutic value of writing or “journaling” which is really the sophisticated equivalent of keeping a diary.

It may sound crazy but it works! Through writing therapy a person can relive and relieve some of the rough patches they have experienced in life.  The trick (as with physical therapy) is to do it as consistently as possible.

With writing therapy you are your own remedy. It is strictly personal and there isn’t a right or wrong way to express yourself. You can do it just about anywhere and it only requires a small amount of time each day. But be forewarned: When you are engrossed in creative thought or letting your inner self pour out on paper or through your fingers on a keyboard, time can pass very quickly. And another thing, you don't have to be an Ernest Hemingway. For goodness sake, look at me...anyone can do it.

When writing, you might find that you prefer poetry over storytelling, or humor over memoir. Maybe narrative will appeal to you in journaling thoughts,  ideas and experiences. Maybe you will turn your writing into a story and who knows where that may lead.  Regardless, writing has been proven to relieve abuse, disease, asthma, depression, arthritis, disorders and even trauma. It has also been known to bring a positive change in heart rate, the immune system, blood pressure, stress and infection.  Simply stated, it allows the author to gain control and at the same time vent emotions and convictions that otherwise would remain bottled up for ever.

And, here's a thought...If you produce something that you think others may enjoy or relate to.  Submit it for publication somewhere (keep Wrights Lane in mind for that matter -- I'm always open to guest items).  You'll be amazed at the satisfying rush you will get out of seeing your work in print.   

If you are reading this, you have a computer -- so get busy.  Paper and pencil will do too.

Write, feel good, stay healthy my friends!

12 January, 2011


So what else is new?...Quite a bit really!
Two of my grandchildren are currently attending colleges while living at home and two others are a year away from entering similar hallowed halls of learning, no doubt under the same circumstances.  And you know what?...I'm so glad that I am not their parents.  I simply do not think that I could cope in today's rapidly changing educational environment.

A half century ago the school of hard knocks worked well because economic opportunity was plentiful.  On the job training was common, as was a natural evolution for young people in furthering education and in chosen trades and careers.  The path was slow, but steady.  Today, however, and staggering cost implications aside, we find ourselves in a society where it is generally taking young adults a lot longer to complete their formal education, find jobs that allow them to live independently, eventually marry, buy homes and have families. 

At a time when, out of necessity, young adults are required to stay longer in the parental home while finishing education and securing suitable employment with a future, parents are finding themselves in a very real bind.  Many moms and dads, I know, are keeping fingers crossed as they cling to their own jobs, contribute to offsprings' education, save for retirement if they are lucky, pay mortgages and inevitably care for their own elderly or sick parents.

There's another problem too for parents having to cope with the stress associated with young adults living under the same roof at a time when they are often painfully developing their own personalities, trying to figure out relationships and developing what may well be lifetime likes, dislikes and habits.  There is also the sowing of wild oats factor that is quite natural but not always meeting parental approval and resulting in some exceedingly uncomfortable and damaging confrontational disputes in the wee small hours of the morning or at next day's breakfast table.

Of course there is the all-to-frequent issue of parental divorce and/or remarriage in some cases and, trust me, no young person readily accepts such conditions.  Family breakup just adds to the number of things that an emerging young adult has to deal with and it only compounds matters for them as they live with one parent or the other.

It should be reinforced, however, that what I have just described is temporary and eventually sorts itself out by the age of 30 but, heaven help parents today, it takes a lot of patience, understanding, turning of the other cheek, support and yes -- love that only mother and father can give.

Richard Settersten, author of Not Quite Adults says parental involvement is in fact the key to kids' success today.  "The trouble is that we are trapped in a model from the middle of the last century when economic opportunity was quite different," he stated in a recent interview.  "Those benchmarks do young people a disservice today."

"Everyone is up in arms about the young-adults-living-at-home problem, but the evidence is clear.  It keeps a whole lot of young people out of poverty," adds the professor of Human Development and Family Sciences.  "It is a smart economic decision that allows a young person to be in school or to be in a low-income job that is giving them some life skills.  Spells at home that allow young people to amass resources really helps over the long haul."

I know from personal experience with my grand kids that they have difficulty matching skills and abilities.  They are exposed to multiple majors and even switch institutions and still face precarious futures. I get the feeling that young people are being forced too quickly into adult roles and responsibilities before they are fully prepared.  Granted, I accepted adult responsibilities and was on my own at 18 years of age and married with our first child at 23.  The same with the majority of young people growing up in that era, but times were different then.

Emerging adulthood is, in my mind, an issue that requires closer study today.  Given the evaporation of good paying manufacturing jobs, the central challenge for society is exploring and creating alternative routes to successful adulthood and careers.  Speaking from an educator's standpoint, Stetterten suggests: "We have to find ways to prop them up so they can do better at jobs when they do get them.  They need a realistic sense of capabilities."

Meantime, it is imperative for young parents today to be prepared for the long haul and to invest not just money in  education, but emotional support and counselling which is probably the single most important factor in determining which young people do well and which don't.  There are bound to be family disagreements and opposition along the extended co-habitation route.  That's only to be expected.  It goes with parental territory and we've all be there and experienced that to varying degrees.

But, oh my gawd, I would not be up to the challenge today...I had enough trouble with it 25 years ago and it was a virtual breeze then compared to today.  Better my daughters than me now.  My hat is off to them.  They'll survive...And so will their kids -- I hope! 

10 January, 2011


My favorite astrologer Justin Cainer makes a good point when he cautions Pisceans against the hurry-up-and-wait syndrome.              

We spend a lot of our lives rushing from one place to another.  We also spend a lot of our lives waiting.  We stand in lines, we wait in doctors offices, we wait in traffic, we wait for things to happen.  We set slow processes in motion and then fill in time while they complete themselves.  We would do well to ask ourselves just how much of what seems urgent really is urgent.  By all means, we should move at speed when absolutely necessary, but only at a speed that feels comfortable because generally we are not in a race.   Or rather, we are, but it is called "the human race" and we win it by moving steadily, purposely and happily  -- none of which we do when we are in a hurry.  When you feel compelled to rush, step back for a moment and consider the tortoise...BUT NEVER TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE FINISH LINE.

06 January, 2011


JIMMY VALVANO, doing what he did best.
I am constantly reminded of Jimmy Valvano, the legendary basketball coach who is well known for his inspiring speech at the 1993 ESPY awards event created by the American cable television network ESPN. Diagnosed with bone cancer in June, 1992, Coach Jimmy is a great example of never giving up, even if the odds are against you.

While accepting the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, he announced the creation of the "Jimmy V Foundation", an organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. He revealed that the foundation's motto would be "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."  His speech became legendary, and he closed the speech by saying, "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. I thank you and God bless you all." One particularly poignant section of Valvano's speech is as follows:

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

He naturally received a rousing standing ovation from the ESPY crowd. Sadly, Jim Valvano died less than two months after his famous speech. He was only 47 years of age.  More than anything else, his inspiring words are his legacy.  His tombstone reads: "Take time every day to laugh, to think, to cry."

I do all three things at least once a day.  So does Rosanne, only a lot more, God bless her.

If you have 10 minutes to spare it would be worth the time to listen to this video.  You will be moved.


05 January, 2011


Hyperbole:  "An exaggerated statement that is not meant to be taken literally."  The Oxford Dictionary

I just realized today that I use "hyperbole" quite frequently in the things I say and write.  I think I get it from my mother who was a hyperbolist of the highest order.

It has been my experience that hyperbole is almost a lost art and is certainly not understood or appreciated by the upcoming generation who, regretfully in my opinion, are far too literal minded and uncolourful in their self expression.

In all honesty, my ability to communicate would suffer greatly were it not for a liberal application of hyperbole.  For instance, I just came in from an hour of blowing snow in my driveway and announced to my wife that a snow plow had just deposited "Mount Everest" in our driveway.  I followed that up by remarking that I had neglected a "ton of work" and that paper on my desk was "piled a mile high". 

I am reminded of something that Stephen Leacock, the dean of Canadian humorists, once wrote.  "An English reviewer writing in a literary journal, the very name of which is enough to put contradiction to sleep, has said of my writing, 'What is there, after all, in Professor Leacock's humour but a rather ingenious mixture of hyperbole and myosis?'

"The man was right.  How he stumbled upon this trade secret, I do not know.  But I am willing to admit, since the truth is out, that it has long been my custom in preparing an article of a humorous nature to go down to the cellar and mix up half a gallon of myosis with a pint of hyperbole.  If I want to give the article a decidedly literary character, I find it well to put in about half a pint of paresis.  The whole thing is amazingly simple."

Stephen was at his humorist best in this short response piece.  For some of us old timers, however, the storage cellar is in our minds and a river of hyperbole just naturally flows from us.

01 January, 2011


Well, here we go again...Another new year with eternal potential for new beginnings and optimism.

Rosanne and I brought in 2011 last night in front of the TV watching the ball drop at Times Square in New York (typical Canadians, aye!).  We toasted Baby '11 with a cup of hot chocolate spiked with Bailey's Irish Cream and a liberal dollop of whipped cream.  We did a midnight group hug with our gal Lucy in the middle, mentally embracing a few loved ones past and present and called it a night, or should I say a year.  

I awoke this morning after a relatively sound seven-and-a-bit hours of sleep, which is better than average for me.  After a shower, I unconsciously deposited myself in an easy chair en route to the kitchen, still clutching an armful of towels and clothing destined for the laundry.  I had been on cruise control with a mind that was completely in neutral.  I momentarily drifted. 

"Dick, I'm hungry!" came the voice from a blanket-wrapped body in a living room recliner opposite me.  "I need to eat something!"  It was Rosanne and her tone of voice suggested that I'd better get a move on -- pronto.  I had just been jolted back to the reality of daily routine and responsibility.

As I poured water into the coffee maker I began to realize that I was almost magically experiencing a physical and mental metamorphose whereby I was being relieved of recent cares, stresses and frustrations.  I suddenly felt awakened with a sense of renewal and hope in the dawning of a new year.  My God, I needed that!

As I write this now, I'm feeling pretty good about the prospects of the next 12 months.  Certainly there is a rush of rejuvenation and I can't wait for what is around the corner.  I'm also kind of glad for what I've left behind, but ever mindful of blessings. 

New beginnings are wonderful, aren't they?  Here's to yours in 2011, dear friends!