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

29 December, 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011:  The Saturday Star this morning carried a front page headline:  "My father taught us that it's never too late to change for the better."  I could not help but think that the coincidental statement by a woman reflecting on the life of her late father, would have been a fitting lead for this untitled post on the subject of resolutions written by me several days ago.

Maybe it's still not too late!

One of the strangest things about the holiday season, is the way that it mixes the old with the new.  First we have the traditional celebration full of ritual, habit, convention and faith.  Then we get the great New Year celebration which is supposed to be followed by revelations and resolutions.

Ideally, from the start of January, everything must be new and different.  It is no wonder that we have difficultly with some of it.  Where do we start?  How do we start?

On the 30th of December we are now peeping nervously over the wall that divides us from our future.  We know what changes we would like to see but if you are like me there is always a question.  Can this be possible?  Is it realistic to think about change at this late stage of life?

The answer, of course, is that anything is possible at any time.  It is never too late to entertain change and to make a firm resolve.  The secret is to want something bad enough that you keep your resolutions for as long as necessary.  Be strong and patient, my friends!

24 December, 2011


It was 2:30 p.m. when I heard Rosanne dialing the telephone.

"Hello, Merry Christmas," she said pleasantly.  "Can you tell me what time you close today?"  After a pause of several seconds she said "thank you" and hung up the phone. 

"Who was that you were talking to?" I asked.

"Walmart," she replied.  "They're closing at 6 o'clock."

"That's good information, but what does it have to do with you?  You have no reason to be doing any more shopping, particularly at this late date," I simply could not help adding.

"Oh, I know," she said.  "But, now I don't have to worry about it!" 

All I could say, under my breath, was "Why me Lord?" 

23 December, 2011

When people say that Christmas is about helping the poor, the underprivileged, the lonely and the forgotten, they are absolutely correct.  This does not include, however, stressing over buying expensive presents for family and friends and eating far too much of everything in sight.

Just think about it...You can spend as much as you like on presents, yet it will only make you poorer.  You can eat (and drink) as much as you like, yet it will only make you fatter.  But no matter how many times you go out of your way to show kindness, sensitivity and love, you can only grow more fulfilled.

Be as wonderfully "fulfilled" as you know how to be this Christmas.  It'll be like a gift that you give to yourself as well as to others.

22 December, 2011


...May the joy of Christmas fill your heart and home with happiness

ABOUT THE ARTIST:  Thomas Kincade is one of the world's most collected living artists, a painter-communicator whose tranquil light-infused paintings bring hope and joy to millions each year.  Each of his paintings is a quiet messenger affirming the basic values of family, health, faith in God, and the luminous beauty of nature.

20 December, 2011


When you stop to think about it, English is one of the more difficult languages to learn.  There are so many nuances.

Rosanne loves to tell a story about her Ukrainian-born step father who immigrated to Canada in 1950.  John was a trained cook and all-round handyman who spent several years in a German concentration camp during World War II and looked to Canada as an opportunity to start a new life.  After meeting and marrying Rosanne's divorced mother in Toronto, John found employment as a plumber's assistant.
John the Plumber and daughter Rosanne

He saw merit in studying for his Canadian plumbing papers and eventually going into business for himself, but there was one problem -- mastering the English language.  A mere teenager, Rosanne became John's English tutor, sitting with him for hours reading instructional materials, explaining the meaning of technical words and correcting his spelling on written assignments as he made his way through the plumbing course of study.  Eventually, John overcame the language barrier sufficiently enough to earn his plumbing licence and he once told me that he gave a lot of the credit to Rosanne.  "With my limited English, I would never have passed the tests without her help.  I always said that she knew enough to become a plumber herself," he added.

As Rosanne recounts her story, one day her mother sent John out with a grocery shopping list which included "Five Roses Flour".  John, a do-or-die, not-to-reason-why sort of guy, burst into the kitchen an hour later with a wide grin on his face and carrying several bags of groceries and, you guessed it -- five beautiful red roses which he gently placed on the counter.

Trying her best to suppress laughter, Rosanne's mother Micki lovingly gave her dutiful husband a big hug before tactfully explaining the difference between "Red Roses Flour" and the "red rose flower".  After all, it was an innocent and understandable mistake, albeit very comical to everyone but John at the time.

With another lesson in English learned the hard way, John rather sheepishly returned to the grocery store for the much-needed bag of Five Roses Flour.  The five beautiful red roses were prominently displayed in a vase on the kitchen table with a note reading "thank you John".

In time "John the Plumber", as he became known to countless households throughout Etobicoke and Toronto West over the years, learned to appreciate the humor of it all.  He passed away in 2003.

He did pretty well for himself in this country...He'd be the first to tell you that.  In his words: "Thanks God!"

18 December, 2011


Are you fighting a battle?  Are you taking a stand?  Are you proving a point?  Or are you simply getting too tired, very tired.

It may be the Christmas/New Years season, but it is very easy to find ourselves in a state of turmoil.  With everything that we have on our plates, there is a tendency to feel like we are caught in a drama that we can't control.  It is bigger than us yet somehow we have to play our part as best we can regardless of what it takes out of us.

That may be how we feel, but is it true?  Must we really worry so much, try so hard and dedicate so much energy?

We answer those very personal questions only through an honest to goodness soul-searching.  Despite fears and concerns, however, life does have potential to get a lot lighter. This special time of year has rewards and blessings for those who participate in the spirit of the celebration.

Consider too, that in the end we will all have an eternity to rest.  Much better that we give freely of ourselves, while we can.

17 December, 2011


The reason for the season...
One day about 2,000 years ago an angel named Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish woman named Mary. Gabriel told Mary she would have a son, Jesus, who would be the Son of God! Mary was confused and worried about this sudden news, but she had faith in God and said, "I am the Lord's servant; let it be as you say."

Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, lived in a town called Nazareth. But they had to travel to the city of Bethlehem to register for a census ordered by the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem are in the country now called Israel. It is about 65 miles (105 km) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the trip probably took them several days.

When Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay because the inn was already full. They ended up spending the night in a stable, a place where animals were kept. There was probably fresh hay on the floor that they used for beds.

That night, Jesus was born. There was no crib, so they laid baby Jesus in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. The manger probably had fresh hay in it and made a nice soft bed for the baby.

Meanwhile, some shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep when an angel appeared to them and gave them the good news that a Savior, the Messiah, had been born. The angel told the shepherds they could find Jesus lying in a manger. Suddenly a whole group of angels appeared saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

The shepherds hurried into Bethlehem and found Jesus in the manger, just as the angel had told them. After they had seen Jesus, they spread the news, and everyone who heard was in awe.

We all know the The Christmas Story but like all stories, the details have a way of fading and losing significance.  Stories as vital as this one, however, warrant revisiting more than just once a year-- lest we forget and lose perspective.  

Was Jesus born on Christmas day? We celebrate Jesus' birth on Christmas, but no one really knows what day Jesus was born, or even exactly what year. In 336 A.D., the Western Church, based in Rome, chose December 25 to celebrate as Christmas, meaning "Christ's Mass." The Eastern Church chose January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning "appearance." Eventually the period from December 25 to January 6 became known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
1) The stories of Jesus' birth link to both the past and the future. The circumstances of Jesus' birth show He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah, i.e. He was born in Bethlehem and He was called out of Egypt.

2) Jesus was born in a stable - the most humble of circumstances. Similarly, Jesus showed us how God's favor rests with the poor and downtrodden. Gentile* wise men also came to worship Jesus along with the shepherds. Later, the Gentiles* would make up most of the Christian world. King Herod's attempt to kill this "newborn king" and savior, foreshadows His crucifixion about 33 years later...and that is another story about how Jesus died for the sins of the world.  
(*) In New Testament times anyone who was not a Jew was considered a Greek, a Barbarian or a Gentile.

Through Jesus, all things can be forgiven.  "Just ask and ye shall receive."  That is THE message, if you want to accept it!

15 December, 2011


I was extremely appreciative of a telephone message this morning from Dan Russell, principal of G. C. Huston Public School in Southampton.

On Wednesday, I informed the school's secretary about my post on Wrights Lane (see "Hope for the Future Comes Across the Lake", below) and subsequently published by the Saugeen Times the same day.  Mr. Russell said that he wanted to thank me for article(s) and to explain that the morning announcements at G. C. Huston are the responsibility of a group of students working under the banner "Hawks Radio".

He said that he met this morning with members of the Hawks Radio Club and read my story to them.  "I wanted them to know that they are not only having an impact on children at the school, but even our neighbors are aware of the good things that they are doing and the kind of messages that they are communicating to our whole school community," he added.

It's a small thing really, but I am pleased to know that I was part of a lesson in communications.  It all begins with communications, doesn't it!  We need more of it in our lives.

13 December, 2011


The world is going to hell in a handbasket, you say?

It is so easy for we seniors to be skeptical in this day and age.  It seems to go with the over-70 territory.  Every now and then, however, I have little nudges that draw me out of my advanced cynicism with resultant emotions of hope and faith in the current and future generations.

It has become a regular morning ritual with me, when I am up in time, to listen to the 9:00 a.m. opening exercises at the G. C. Huston Public School, which is directly across Fairy Lake from my home in Southampton.  The school's public address system comes loud and clear across the lake and generally coincides with letting Lucy out the back door for her first you-know-what of the day.

I always find the five minutes that I share across the water with the students and teachers, uplifting and not beyond transporting me back in time some 65 years.  I never cease to be impressed with the quality of the opening exercises -- the appropriately-taped music (Christmas carols at present time) which precedes the announcements, the singing of O' Canada (generally by a musically-gifted student, or group of students) and a theme for the day.

The school's theme for this month is "generosity" and giving freely of one's time and resources.  This morning, for instance, a student spoke about the role of the local food bank and the need for donations in the form of non-perishable items such as canned goods, cereal and macaroni.  From where I stand on my back porch, pretty commendable.

What schools like G. C. Huston in Southampton are doing on a daily basis is not only teaching the ABC's but subtly molding the character and sensitivity of our next generation.  So, don't be so quick with that handbasket my senior friends,  we're going to be in good hands -- a certain public address system gives every indication of that.  

The playground at the back of G. C. Huston Public School, as seen from my back yard.

11 December, 2011


"The vision will be fulfilled in its own time.  If it seems slow in coming, wait for it, for it will surely come."
I dare say that the current Season of Advent goes unobserved by the majority in today's society, yet it is as significant and as old as the Christmas day that we celebrate on the 25th of December.

The general topic of Advent in our churches today is the coming of Jesus, both in the manger in Bethlehem and in the clouds of glory.  Roughly speaking, the Western Church celebrating Advent, consists of Protestants, Catholics and Anglicans.

Advent candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus.  The candles are lit in churches every Sunday during the Advent period so that the last week before Christmas all four candles are lit. The remaining central candle, representing Christ, is then lit on Christmas day.

Advent originated as a period during which Christian converts prepared themselves for baptism through instruction, prayer, fasting and, much like Lent.  The length of Advent varied from three days to six weeks, or approximately the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry.

In the west during the Middle Ages, Advent became a time to prepare for the Second Coming, because in those days many people were convinced that all signs pointed to the imminent return of Christ.  In time, Advent spread throughout the western world and became fixed at its present length.  Over the last 50 years, Advent has come to anticipate the Nativity as well.  For many people today however, especially those in the commercial world, Advent is simply a ramp-up to Christmas.

I think is is fair to say that almost everyone in our society experiences the weeks leading up to Christmas as a time of waiting.  Waiting for a parking space.  Waiting for a bargain. Waiting for a visiting relative.  Waiting for a treasured Christmas greeting.  Waiting for a quiet evening.  Waiting for the holidays.  Waiting for social gatherings. It is little wonder that waiting for the birth of Jesus has lost its impact.  It has been lost in the hustle and bustle of the shuffle.  After the turkey has been cleared away and gifts exchanged on Christmas day, most experience a letdown feeling like "after all  that preparation and it is over in a flash!"

A minister shares a recent experience when she gathered with the young folk of her congregation for the children's time a the front of the church.  She asked the intent little ones:  "Who here likes to wait?"  One innovative and confident young fellow put up his hand, and, when acknowledged, replied: "I like to wait when I am facing something I don't like."

How profound.  Out of the mouths of youngsters often come the most insightful truths we will ever learn.

If you are not eager to experience the "waiting season' of Advent, maybe there is something in your life that you simply do not want to face.  Is it the end of a school semester and the uncertainty about what comes next?  Is it the struggles around  health, or the interminable wait for results from recent medical tests?  Do you fear a performance evaluation at work, or a retirement that looms on the horizon?  Do you fear getting a job at all?  Do you fear the future with a partner who has been abusive and mean, or the future of your child who seems too timid and shy to make it in the world?

Often, how we act in the face of our fears determines how we can cope with the challenges of life. It is no wonder that the angel's message whispered in Mary's ear was a simple one: "Don't be afraid." Even our joys are made more real when we know what it is like to face and conquer adversity without fear and loathing.

Advent, the waiting and hoping time leading up to Christmas, is a time when various stories of the birth of Jesus get retold and relived. Jesus' birth was hardly an easy one. The experience of the main characters within that story, whichever biblical verses are deemed closest to the reality of the times, understandably was filled with anxiety and fear. Through it all, however, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the other main characters managed to find their way through it. They often waited -- waited for a clear message that would remove their doubts and fears.

As a culture, we seek instant answers. We might be better off waiting every now and then: looking for new insights, prepared to listen to wise counsel from mentors and elders, eager to accept the fact that there may be, indeed, a new and better way to proceed.

Can we wait for those peace-filled, quiet moments where truth will be revealed, and a still, small voice will speak to us in profound ways? If we can, then we have figured out at least part of the message of Advent. At the very least, the journey to Christmas should be more hopeful and less stressful when we can find moments for renewal and rest within this time of year.

10 December, 2011


A group of seniors discussing ailments over their morning coffee:
"My arms have gotten so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee," said one.
"Yes, I know," said another. "My cataracts are so bad; I can't even see my coffee."
"I couldn't even mark an "X" at election time, my hands are so crippled," volunteered a third.
"What? Speak up! What? I can't hear you!" interjected a man cupping his ear with one hand.
"I can't turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck," said a fourth, to which several nodded weakly in agreement.
"My blood pressure pills make me so dizzy!" exclaimed another.
"I forget where I am, and where I'm going," said another.
"I guess that's the price we pay for getting old," winced an old man as he slowly shook his head.
The others again nodded in agreement.
"Well, count your blessings," added a woman cheerfully - - "thank God we can all still drive a car."

09 December, 2011


I heard an interesting comment the other day to the effect 
that you can't live your life on the expectations of others.  
That had a certain resonance for me.

From the moment we are born, we are shaped by the expectations of others.  It is a fact of life that our parents, bless their hearts, are the first to want nothing but the very best for us and it manifests in the form of expectations.  This is only natural, but again, expectations are expectations and as such not always in keeping with our true interests and abilities, who and what we really are as an individual about to find a comfortable fit in the world.

The expectations, or assumptions, of others can weigh a young person down and sit like a backpack, heavy on their shoulders -- sometimes invisible to them.

As we progress in life, expectations of others threaten to influence us even more -- other family members, our teachers, our friends and last but not least, our sweethearts.  Unfortunately, in cases similar to mine, we spend a large portion of our time half apologizing for the direction our lives have taken.  Those ideas about us are not ours, but we tend to hold on to them as though they are.

To young people today, I say "be conscious of what others ask of you, but follow your instincts (your heart) and your dreams."  Others' lack of approval can condition passion and impede ultimate accomplishment.

We must understand too, that those who celebrate only fractions of us do not really have our best interests at heart.  Those who ask us to take on their needs are not our allies and in meeting their demands and repressing our own, we are misplacing our own values.

With life and human nature structured the way they are, we are bound to make mistakes and to have disappointments along the way.  The key is the ability to rationalize and to learn from experiences and to minimize regrets.

In the end, we are alone to answer to and for ourselves.  Leave no dream unfulfilled, face challenges head on, give freely when you see a need and never give up on yourself. When all is said and done, take pride in having done it in the way that was best for you.

08 December, 2011


Jonathan Cainer reminded me yesterday of a quote attributed to the great poet Kahil Gibran:  "Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking."

Explain yourself Jonathan.  How can this be true?

"Our minds can take us anywhere, can't they?  Our thoughts can invent and imagine any situation.  They can even lead us into a convincing deep experience.  The fact is though, that Gibran is right -- thoughts cannot conjure true faith that only ever comes from the heart.  And the heart can only ever be heard when the head is silent."

Good old Jonathan was absolutely correct in his explanation.  We can learn a lot by listening to our hearts.

It works for me. I have detoured a lot of trouble in my life by listening to the vital organ that beats within my chest.

Maybe it's been a while, but listen to yours today!

07 December, 2011


There's a familiar refrain from George and Ira Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, "Summertime and the livin' is easy".  Leave it to someone, however, to ask if the living is really that much harder in the middle of the winter.  Personally, I do think that summertime living is a lot easier, because I am not all that fond of winter and all that the season entails, but I do understand the question.

What are these great seasonal extremes if not opposite sides of the same coin?  Much like joy and depression being more closely linked than many people think.  Success and failure have a similarly symbiotic relationship.

When you are down, the only place you can go is up.  And when you are up...Well, let's worry about that when you are up.

I don't know about you, but I am subject to short periods of sadness and melancholy always followed by a burst of happiness and optimism.  I do not know how to attribute either one of those feelings that come over me.  Maybe it is just the way that I am wired, but I have come to accept sad times with the rationalization that "this too shall pass".  Looking at it from a positive standpoint, sadness has often resulted in some of my most serious and creative moments.

Health specialists often refer to these opposite sides of the emotional spectrum as a mood disorder, but I think that it amounts to a matter of degree and how we learn to control or balance all of our emotions.  The reality of either a heads or a tails coming up when we flip the coin of life, has to be realized, accepted and dealt with from a rational perspective.  

We should grasp the fact that sadness has the unexplained potential to make us very happy.  Strange, isn't it?  But we would do well to always remember that.  

Without fail, winter turns into summer when the livin' is a lot easier.

05 December, 2011


First, Rosanne is not going to do anything for the unforeseen future, now she's going on a speaking strike.

"O  come on Dick, don't you know what I'm saying to you?" she commented out of frustration during a husband and wife discourse last night.

"Not half the time," was my brutally honest replay.

"That does it," she shot back at me.  "I'm not speaking to you anymore!"

"That'll be the day," I said with tongue in cheek as I hurried into the kitchen to turn down the heat under a boiling pot of perogies.  "Promises, promises!"

Silence!  End of conversation -- for the time being at least.


Rosanne this morning after an hour's wait in hospital for a blood test:

"That's it!  I'm not going to do anything else for the rest of the day.  In fact the rest of the week is going to be my day off.  It may even render(?) into the rest of the month."

(Latest in a continuing series of Rosanneisms.)

04 December, 2011


Two men meeting on a street corner.

Man #1:  How're you doing?  Say, do you hear that voice in the wilderness?

Man #2:  What voice is that?  All I hear are cars passing by and Christmas carols playing in all of the stores that I've been in today.

Man #1:  The voice I'm talking about is coming from the prophet in the Bible and it calls on us to start preparing for the ultimate.

Man #2:  Oh, I see!  But how can we prepare for anything that serious this time of year when we are so busy getting ready for Christmas?

Man #1:  The prophet is not telling us to frantically go shopping, wrap presents, bake cookies and Christmas cake or attend parties.  He is calling us to peace; the peace that faith can bring to our hearts, to our lives and to our world.

Man #2:  Well, that kind of peace is a good thing, but how do we come by it?

Man #1:  When you get home, sit down quietly.  Stay there in stillness and silence for a few moments and give the spirit of God and His peace a chance to enter in.  The message will come to you, loud and clear.

Man #2:  I hear you, friend!  Have a good one!

02 December, 2011


The subject of "bullying" is currently a very hot news item.  As if this unthinking act of adolescent meanness is something new.  Bullying is an age-old act of insecurity compounded by the need to impose power over others who are not in a position to defend themselves, and unfortunately it does not necessarily end with childhood.

I was particularly interested in a story by Catherine Porter in this morning's Toronto Star.  It was a revealing piece about how Catherine, as a grade-schooler, was taunted and made to feel ugly and unwanted by a group of her peers, one of which apologized to her after a chance meeting 30 years later.

School bullying was once considered a character-building rite of passage for children, but now it is seen for what it is -- a form of victimization and abuse.  The results of bullying can be devastating, frequently leaving lasting psychological scars, even resulting in recent cases of "bullycides" (suicide).

Back in the day, I experienced bullying of the worst kind  -- physical abuse by a group of "toughs" in my hometown.  These guys were two or three years older than me and a couple of grades ahead in school.  I really do not know why I was singled out, but they just seemed to get a kick out of intimidating me and seeing me quake and cower in their presence.  I do not recall words ever being spoken, just blows to my torso, torn clothing, and me running from their gauntlet.  For several years, between Grades 3 and 6,  I had eyes on the back of my head while walking home from school and sought cover whenever I saw them approaching.  I became quite adept at finding hiding places on the spur of the moment.

The great bullying equalizer came with a spurt of growth and some self-defense training by my father.  After a few incidents of responding in kind, the bullies suddenly lost interest in me.  Life took on new perspective...I was free!  No more fear as I walked home from school.  I survived the rite-of-passage, 1940s style.

If they were still alive today (they are not), I doubt that those bullies would remember giving Dick Wright a hard time all those years ago. In fact they probably would not remember me at all.  But believe me, they left a lasting impression on me and it was not necessarily a positive one.

I have often wondered too, if I myself may have been guilty of a type of bullying.  Oddly enough, I tease people that I like but through one incident about 60 years ago, I learned to curb the impulse because it is not always appreciated.  Most people have been teased about something -- wearing glasses, or the style of their clothing, but in all honesty I think that is is a form of bullying too, albeit more subtle.  I have come to understand that, like bullying, teasing can undermine a young person's self-confidence and cause feelings of sadness or embarrassment.

There was a point in high school where I fear that I allowed myself to be carried away with the impulse to tease.   I teased one classmate in particular, often without knowing it.  I just thought it was funny and that he knew that I did not mean anything bad by it because, as I say, I really liked him and felt sorry that he was being raised by a single mother of limited resources during a difficult time in our history.  I don't recall him having many close friends and I was under the mistaken impression that he appreciated my paying attention to him, as ignorantly mean-spirited as it may have been.

My last memory of (we'll call him) Donald, was struggling to control him in a shop class after I had "poked fun" at him for some unknown reason.  He just snapped and lunged at me, wielding a drafting compass in one hand.  Being considerably bigger, I was able to fend off his attack by wrapping my arms around him as he kicked and flayed his arms wildly.  I released him at one point and he came back at me again, even more frenzied.  It took a good five minutes in a bear hug for Donald to cool down sufficiently for me to finally let go of him.

I remember the encounter like it was yesterday, and still feel badly that I had incensed Donald to such a degree.  After reflecting on the incident for a few days, I did not have an opportunity to apologize for my insensitive teasing and the hurt that it had obviously caused him.  In several weeks the school term of 1954-55 was over and we went our separate ways in life.

In a perfect world, I would hope that Donald forgot all about that shop class incident soon after it happened, but reality suggests to me that he did not.  He no doubt thinks unkindly of me for my incessant teasing and that is a shame because as I said before, I always liked him.  That's why I naively teased him.

I pray that by some strange quirk of fate, Donald will ultimately be able to read this post and accept my apology.  I'm sure he will know who the real Donald was and is. I hope he has had a good life!

Like most bullies, I had no idea...