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

30 April, 2016

THE REALITY OF DEALING WITH SADNESS BY TAKING CONTROL

I get the impression that I may have laid an egg with my latest review of the TV program "Heart of a Dog" which emphasized the need to effectively deal with sadness. Not to worry though...I am used to being taken with a grain of salt.

Writers and commentators measure reception of their work through feedback from readers. My audience (on average 150-200 readers per Wrights Lane and Facebook post) is relatively limited and I have chosen to keep it that way. I find it curious and slightly humorous, however, that I can garner several dozen likes and comments on posts about my granddaughter's artwork, self-confessed senior citizen moments, photos and videos of flowers, animals and kids, and sundry trivial subjects, but carefully crafted dissertations on some of my more serious topics appear to be totally ignored or dismissed as if not striking a chord or a nerve.

As a case in point, "Heart of a Dog" was by no means entertaining viewing but it demanded my attention because I could relate at many levels...My description of the production for the benefit of those who did not view it, may have been every bit as complicated as Laurie Anderson's unusual, yet creative, thought process in presenting 75-minutes of television antidotes, film flashbacks and voice-over commentary.

Two things about "Heart of a Dog" that struck me were: 1) It was about a blind dog like mine and 2) the suggestion that "we can be sad without really being sad".  I know something about dogs and possibly ever more about sadness and mood-swings, but I will not dwell on that personal frailty in this post.  I am motivated, however, to take a deeper look at sadness in general -- at the risk of losing more readers with this one -- simply because I feel the need.

Ever since he burst onto the world scene some 20-25 years ago, I have followed the work of Deepak Chopra, an Indian American author, public speaker, alternative medicine advocate, and a prominent figure in the New Age movement. Deepak says that we live in a society where a high value is placed on being positive. Yet sometimes this simply isn't possible, and people find themselves facing temporary or long-term sadness. "Just telling yourself to 'be positive' isn't much help, because moods can have a life of their own. One of the pitfalls of positivity is that people tend to fantasize about a perfect life instead of realistically facing the fact that no life is perfect," he adds.

Everyone's existence contains challenges, disappointments, frustration and failed expectations. Further, what usually happens is that most of us become passive. We distract ourselves by watching more television or spending more hours on the computer. We wait for sadness to pass and we behave as if nothing bad is going on. Keeping up a good front is important in most people's lives, yet behind the facade can lurk a good deal of fear. 

Deepak Chopra:"Well-being is a journey."

Instead of positivity, Deepak suggests that what's needed is reality. Being realistic means that you drop the main defense that all of us are tempted to employ: denial. The only reason to deny your sadness is if you feel that you can't do anything about it. But there are concrete ways to cope with sadness and gain control over it.  Here are three ways to attain the control as put forward by the brilliant New Age thinker.

Step 1: Identifying Your Kind of Sadness 


It's perfectly normal to have sadness in your life. Some kinds, however, can be a cause for concern. If you are feeling sad at this moment—or have been experiencing a down mood for a while—look honestly at your situation. There are three types of sadness most of us fall into: Short-term sadness: This is a passing mood, lasting a few days or, at most, a week. It sometimes has a cause and sometimes not. The best remedy—as we all know but, sadly, often fail to remember—is to lower your stress, go to bed early and get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, make sure you exercise and break up your normal routine a bit. Boredom, lack of sleep, being too sedentary and excess stress are all associated with a sad mood.

Triggered sadness: This includes a downturn in mood because something undeniably bad has happened to you, such as losing your job or the death of someone close to you. In such a situation, you will generally know what the trigger is. The problem is that most people feel helpless when they enter extended sadness, even when they know there is a good reason for it. In this case, you need to process your sadness, let nature take its course and share your feelings with someone who can counsel and console you. Bottling up your feelings and feeling victimized are never helpful. Triggered sadness lasts an unpredictable length of time, yet in an emotionally healthy adult, within six months there is a return to the level of emotions that existed before the trigger was set off.

Depression:
If you feel sad, exhausted, helpless, hopeless and unable to sleep, eat or enjoy sex for a period of time lasting more than a few weeks, you should suspect that you are depressed. There is often a trigger for this condition, but it is usually something that you could normally cope with. When coping breaks down, depression takes over. So if you feel that you can't cope, even with minor stress and ordinary setbacks, mild to moderate depression may be indicated. This is a complicated mood disorder that varies from person to person. If you suspect that you or someone close to you is depressed, a doctor's care is needed.

Step 2: Banishing the Enemies of Happiness


Let's say that you fall into the first two categories of short-term and triggered sadness (we won't discuss depression here; that must be handled by a health professional). If so, there are things you can do to change the situation.

It surprises people, but, in fact, the best cure for sadness is happiness. Anything that diminishes your ability to build your own happiness must be avoided or eliminated. For example, don't hitch your happiness to external rewards or postpone being happy until sometime in the future. Don't expect someone else to make you happy. Don't allow your emotions to become habitual and stuck or close yourself off from new experiences. Don't ignore the signals of inner tension and conflict, dwell on the past or live in fear of the future. Most of all: don't equate happiness with momentary pleasure.

In a consumer-driven society, it's all too easy to fall into all the don'ts on this list, because they share the same element: linking happiness with temporary pleasure and external rewards. Of course, we all live for the pleasure that life brings. No one is saying that you must deny yourself. But the most satisfying project you will ever undertake -- and a mark of a complete human being -- is to discover how to build a sense of happiness that no one can take away from you, because you have taken total responsibility for it. The journey to such happiness takes a long time, yet every step is one of fulfillment.

Step 3: Building Well-Being

Passively accepting your sadness is the same as forgetting to build your own happiness. Happiness is more than a mood. It's a long-lasting state that is more accurately called well-being. Well-being is a balanced state of mind and body that you feel subjectively as contentment, peace of mind and emotional freedom. Well-being opens the door to joy and deep satisfaction with your life. There are practical things you can do to help cultivate it such as: give of yourself (in other words, take care of others, and care for them); work at something you love; set worthy long-range goals that will take years to achieve; be open-minded; learn from the past and then put it behind you; plan for the future without anxiety, fear or dread; nurture close, warm social bonds; and develop emotional resilience.

Developing emotional resilience is perhaps the most important, because that's the ability to bounce back from bad things in your life. How do you encourage it? By being present with your feelings instead of fearing them, by getting past victimization or "poor me" thinking, by making a plan of action when things go wrong and sticking with it, by associating with people who are emotionally mature and seeking counsel from someone who has managed the same kind of crisis that you now face, by focusing on the times you have survived and thrived in the face of tough circumstances, and by appreciating and rewarding yourself for dealing with your difficulties.

Deepak concludes his wonderful summary with the observation that "Working on long-term, emotionally mature happiness is the best way to insulate yourself from downswings in your mood. Sadness comes and goes. Well-being can be made to last a lifetime. It doesn't matter how close you feel to this highly desirable state or how far. For everyone, well-being is a journey. All it requires is the right vision and devotion to personal growth. You have the inner guidance to support you. The secret is committing to that journey and taking those first steps with hope and belief in yourself." 

I don't know about you, dear reader, but I needed to take all of that under advisement.  Granted, this was a lot to absorb in one reading, but if you are as needy and as stubborn as me, maybe together we have gained something of benefit by staying the course.

I absolutely refuse to be sad, however, for those who left me after the first half-dozen paragraphs.  That only means that dealing with sadness is not an issue for them ... and that in itself makes me happy!

26 April, 2016

IT IS POSSIBLE TO FEEL SAD WITHOUT ACTUALLY BEING SAD

I watched "Heart of a Dog" on TV last night, mainly because it was about a Rat Terrier like my girl Lucy. This unusual film was not what I expected and I got more than I bargained for.

"You should learn how to feel sad without actually being sad," Laurie Anderson's Buddhist teacher told the performance artist after the loss of her beloved Rat Terrier, Lolabelle. That statement really got my attention!

Laurie Anderson and Lolabelle
Anderson's new film, Heart of a Dog, is in part a personal essay that tries to figure out what that injunction means, and how to live up to it in the wake of multiple losses. You don't have to be a Tibetan Buddhist or a pet lover, though, to spend 75 enthralling minutes with the endlessly associative contents of Anderson's head and heart.

And she's wise to the potential for sentimental self-indulgence in making a feature-length film about either her departed pooch or her guru, though the former has a starring role and the latter an advisory one. An odd, animated prologue in which Anderson dreams she has sewn Lolabelle into her abdomen so that she can be born like a human child clued me in to how far she will go toward whimsy before backing up into something at once more rigorous and soulful in the artful stream of consciousness that is Heart of a Dog.

We learn that Anderson loved Lolabelle to distraction, as she did her husband, rocker Lou Reed, who died of liver disease in 2013 and to whom she dedicates the film. She loved her late mother no less intensely, though with a haunting ambivalence that's just one of the painful threads she follows, in this case to a new appreciation of her mother's backhanded way of loving her back. 

Perhaps, too, mortality is on Anderson's mind because she's 68 years old, an age when even the healthy must confront the urgency of living life forward and cameo understanding it backward.

If that makes Heart of a Dog sound abstract, it's anything but. Along with the common hurts and losses that accrue to all of us with time, a couple of vivid childhood traumas pop up in Anderson's film that make you skip a breath, though not because she's out to ratchet up the drama. These formative events receive equal weight with Lolabelle's painting and piano lessons (yes, Lolabelle actually painted and played with keys on the piano) and Anderson's thoughts on how and when life really ends, all guided by a matter-of-fact voice over in her Midwestern, musical alto.

Heart of a Dog is the kind of film that attracts labels like "experimental," and I suppose it is, in its mixed-media collage of home movies, newsreel and CCTV footage, re-enactments and inter titles, backed by a lyrical score Anderson composed herself. Her sense of time, space, theme and reality is non-linear and digressive. But she also knows how to connect the dots into stories that don't feel in the least inaccessible or choppy, except perhaps in repeated segues to reveries about the post-Sept. 11 surveillance society that feel jarringly inorganic and nowhere as fresh or lively as her musings on Lolabelle's death or on how to properly mourn someone you've lost. (Crying is not allowed; giving stuff away is encouraged.)

Radical or not, Heart of a Dog is the ultimate realist narrative. It flows along, mimicking the continuous, fleeting, fragmentary flow of consciousness, the haze that lies between sleeping and waking, even between death and whatever lies behind it. And you don't have to follow Anderson into Buddhism to admire the common touch of the questions she poses. "What are the last things you say in your life, before you turn into dirt?" she asks, and lets that bracing question hang in the air for a bit before taking it in a direction you don't expect. There's more than one answer, by way of her dog and her mother, and she's as funny as she is bereft by the loss of both.

I was completely undone by a moment in which an otherwise withholding mother chose exactly the right moment to tell her small daughter what an excellent swimmer she was. In a movie that's often heartbreaking but never long-faced, you too might find yourself feeling sad without being sad.


Trying to practice how to feel sad without being sad, is of course very hard to do. But the point is: not to push away painful things, but also not to have them drag you down. You don't have to be a suffering, fearful, sad person. "I don't want to suffer! I want to be happy. But I know that pushing suffering away from me, and not feeling it as much as I can, makes me feel rotten," explained Anderson in a recent interview.

If you started out watching Heart of a Dog but gave up on it half way through because you had trouble following the author's unusual script presentation, I hope that this helps fill you in on what you missed. Rosanne taped it so that I could later go over the parts that I initially did not fully understand. 

As I now think about it, I feel sad about my Lucy's blindness without actually feeling sad...She still has the unconditional Heart of a Dog that I love so much. And I know that she "sees" me when she "hears" my voice or footsteps. She has made a remarkable adjustment and is still my full-of-life dog.

I too have made an adjustment...I feel sad on one hand but happy on the other, if you know what I mean.

Oh, I almost forget -- Laurie's Lolabelle was blind too.

25 April, 2016

A FLASHBACK: WHEN WRIGHTS LANE WAS CALLED "THE WRIGHT SLANT"

I began publishing this blog site some nine years ago under the "The Wright Slant" heading. Little did I know then that I would still be plugging away almost 800 entries and two dozen individual blog sites later. Just for the fun of it, I revisit here one of the very first posts after I had decided to keep on keeping on back in 2008.

From the other side of the keyboard
...Overcoming small obstacles to bring you my Slant

I absolutely have no idea where I am headed with this post, nor where it will end. But after 21 entries to The Wright Slant in roughly 30 days, can we talk?

To date, reaction to my ramblings has been minimal although the number of hits on this site have increased in the past couple of weeks. My experience was similar when writing six editorials a week in the newspaper business. It was like taking a handful of puff balls and throwing them to the wind each day...The only time that I knew one of them had landed was when I heard from a reader who did not agree with something I had written. So I go into this project with humble expectations and a special appreciation for those few who have provided welcomed encouragement.

The upside to all of this is the fact that I am doing something I enjoy. I honestly feel that The Wright Slant has given back at least 10 years of my life. Regardless of frequent warts and wrinkles, I derive great satisfaction from each piece that I produce and I am now able to approach my daily routine with renewed mental and physical energy. My general outlook on life has improved immensely. I am seeing and thinking with refreshing clarity. There is definite truth to the saying: If you do not use it, you loose it!

One great regret coming from my newspaper career was the fact that I never broke publisher ranks. Well, I am technically a publisher now, even if it is in twilight years and only a web site. My astute granddaughter, Alyssa, hit the nail on the head when she said that this site is a perfect release for me.

It is absolutely true that I now have an outlet for my thoughts and experiences and there is great satisfaction in sharing them. As I have said before, this is a labor of love. While I have communication limitations, it is somewhat comforting to know that I am at least able to express myself more effectively, freely and creatively though the written word. I did not always have this feeling after delivering one of my lay sermons. When speaking I am halting and slow, even deliberate, almost as though I am editing in my mind what I am going to say before I say it. At times of spontaneity, I am quite proud of myself and wish I could be that way more often.

When writing these days, however, I have to be very careful and go over each sentence after I have written it. I have never officially been diagnosed as dyslectic but I am sure that I am and for this reason my work has to be checked and double-checked. Still, I can review something a dozen times and overlook an obvious transposition of letters or word repetition each time. I am also notorious for letting my mind get ahead of my typing fingers. This is where my wife, Rosanne, can be of great assistance in the role of proof reader. She has a sharp eye for errors and I find myself calling on her services more frequently as time passes. With experience, I just do not trust myself all that much any more. So when errors appear in my text you can depend that it is because I have slipped something past Rosanne and I apologize.

Today I am facing a new problem that has me really scratching my head in wonder. My computer is not accepting question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, apostrophes or brackets and I have to admit to a degree of frustration. I am getting weird typographical characters instead that make no sense at all.

There is always something to overcome in my world.

21 April, 2016

TRY INCULDING YOURSELF IN SPRING IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS

Pick up any newspaper or magazine during the month of April and you will see a story about "spring cleanup."  A heading in today's Toronto Star particularly got my attention: "Spring is nature's way of telling us to tidy up."

The long-awaited return of warm, sunny weather has enticed eager gardeners and amateur landscapers out of hibernation. A winter's worth of accumulated sand and road dust is being swept from garage floors and driveways. That long list of home improvement projects---outdoor painting, cleaning out the shed, fixing a saggy fence, preparing flower beds --- can be tackled at last.


But know what?...Spring is also a good time for a self-improvement project, if we are so motivated by the annual urge for renewal. A question one can be encouraged to ask occasionally is: “How can I improve?” Better still, why not direct this question to someone close to us? A good relationship is defined by honesty. Are there people in our lives who care enough about us to not always say what we want to hear, but what we need to know?

Most of us can learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. With every success, we are tempted to continue doing the same thing because it seems to work and is comfortably familiar. But, after making a mistake, we can be motivated to try a different approach, one which may result in better success.

Admittedly, it does require some courage to ask: "How can I improve?" What would happen if we asked our spouse or children: "How can I be a better partner or parent?" You might risk being taken advantage of: "Dad, you could let me drive the car to school every day." You might risk sarcasm: "Dear, how could someone as perfect a husband as you are possibly need to improve?" Most importantly, it helps if you can muster up a thick skin…You do risk hearing a painful truth, but that honesty, if well-intended, could make a good relationship even better. 

The same openness to helpful criticism can apply to work situations, either as boss or employee. Too many trainees, those on internships, apprenticeships or practicums focus on demonstrating their mastery of a task rather than on their eagerness to learn do it better.

As a newspaper editor, I once had the bright idea of conducting occasional meetings with reportorial staff to review and discuss the handling of specific stories in a selected day’s edition, i.e. was an item balanced in structure and content, was it positioned to best advantage, could it be improved in any way? 

I have never forgotten one local news story in particular that had been written by a reporter who had a tendency toward awkward phraseology at times and in editing his copy I condensed several paragraphs so as to improve the flow of the story.

One eagle-eyed reporter at a meeting questioned the explanation of a fact in the portion of the story that I had rewritten, prompting the author to quickly reply “I didn’t write it that way…It was edited!”

“Oh,” the other chimed in…”I didn’t think that you would ever express it that poorly.”

I cannot recall ever again holding one of those types of meetings with my staff. But I did indeed learn something.

Years ago, when he taught college students, a friend recalls developing a simple end-of-semester evaluation questionnaire. He elicited their thoughts on the course and also on himself as a teacher.

These days many professors use more sophisticated tools to measure these same factors. A problem they sometimes encounter is that a successful course might be defined by the popularity of the instructor, rather than the effectiveness of his or her teaching methodology. The professor who is flexible with due dates, tells great jokes and marks essays gently can be evaluated higher than a more brilliant counterpart who is hard nosed with assignments and strict with grades. Asking for honest criticism works best when the one providing feedback does so objectively, without some axe to grind or favours to seek.

How do we receive honest feedback?  Ideally, it can be accepted without being defensive, threatened or angry. An ancient Biblical proverb sums it up nicely:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Just some food for thought in the weeks ahead as we tackle annual Spring “tidying up” projects around our homes – and maybe even on ourselves if we are broadminded enough to listen to an honest assessment delivered with love(?).

20 April, 2016

ADAM LAROCHE IS TRULY ONE IN A MILLION: More to his life than earning millions$$$ playing baseball...

Hollywood could not write a more compelling story than that of a Major League ballplayer becoming an undercover agent. Heck, with all the sequels, and reboots being made today it’s safe to say movie-makers lack the creativity to come up with a story like this.

For those of you who don’t follow baseball, allow me to fill you in on the excellent career of southeast Kansas’ own Adam LaRoche.
Adam LaRoche: About to connect.

Born to former big-leaguer Dave LaRoche, Adam (along with his brother, Andy) was destined to play in ‘The Show.’ After being an All-American in high school, the Fort Scott native was drafted in 1998 (and again in 1999) by the Florida Marlins, but refused to sign. Adam decided to go to college, and went on to win MVP of the Junior College World Series in 2000.

Adam was drafted in 2000 by the Atlanta Braves, where he would spend the next six years playing. After a few years in the minors, Adam was called up by the Braves in 2004. Over the course of the next 12 years Adam would go on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves (again), Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, and Chicago White Sox.

Over the course of his career the first-baseman hit 255 home runs, won a gold glove, a Silver Slugger Award, and a National League Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Aside from being a great ballplayer, LaRoche is also a devout Christian. While playing for the Washington Nationals, Adam helped to promote “Faith Day” at Nationals Park along with several of his teammates. He would continue to promote “Faith Day” on other teams later in his career, as well. In fact, his faith may have played a huge part as to why he walked away from the game he loves.

Before the White Sox 2015 “Faith Day” game, LaRoche spoke briefly on the day’s importance:

“As a believer, it is and should be the most important thing in our lives, so to be able to get up briefly and share that is an honor. And the fact that the White Sox allow it is great because some teams try to shy away from things like that and any type of (potential) controversy.



Before the 2016 season started, Laroche was making headlines for causing some controversy that would lead to his departure from the White Sox organization, and Major League Baseball itself. For years Laroche had brought his son into the clubhouse every day, and had never had any problems.

“I never took it for granted. You could have a manager who just flat doesn’t like it. You can have players complain — ‘Hey, we’re tired of having a kid around.’ There’s a chance we could have other guys see Drake and think, ‘I’ll bring my kid too.’ Obviously we can’t turn this into a day care. I get it.”

After 12 years, someone on LaRoche’s team told management they no longer wanted the slugger to bring his son to work. Prior to the 2016 season, the White Sox informed Adam that his son would no longer be welcome in the clubhouse on a day-to-day basis.

Here is what White Sox president Ken Williams told baseball expert Ken Rosenthal:



The argument could be made (for good reason) that a locker room is no place to bring a child. Adam even says as much, but explains why he wants his son around:

“There’s no other workplace where you walk in and guys are slapping each other in the nuts and saying the stuff they do. You can say, ‘That’s no place for a kid to be. The way I see it, he’s going to be around that regardless, unless you homeschool and raise them in a bubble. I can’t think of a better place for him to be when he gets a taste of that than with me.”



Adam, who has a very close relationship with his 14-year-old son, Drake, saw only one option: walk away from his $13 million deal with the White Sox, and retire from Major League Baseball. That was the story the White Sox were told, and for the most part, everyone believed it.

LaRoche made the following announcement to his team after being informed of the club’s new policy in regards to children being around the locker room:

“I am choosing my son over you guys. I cannot tell you how much I hate that I’m even having to make this decision, and how much it crushes me to feel like I could be leaving you guys hanging.”

That seems pretty straightforward, until you take a deeper look at Adam LaRoche’s life. He has never been one to conform to societal norms. For better, or worse (probably worse) Adam says he isn’t as concerned with his kids’ grades, choosing to focus on “How are they treating their classmates, and how are they treating [the teacher]?” That’s just a glimpse into what Adam values as important. Over the years, many things have come in and taken priority over baseball, including family, and faith.

Many aren’t aware, but Laroche has a lot going on outside of baseball. He’s one of the co-owners of Outdoor Network’s Buck Commander, along with former teammate Chipper Jones (and Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty), and a host of other ballplayers/celebrities, but that’s not even close to the most interesting thing Laroche does in his free time (he also runs a cattle ranch).

This was recently reported by ESPN’s Tim Keown, and it might give some insight into the real reason for Laroche’s retirement:

LaRoche, along with Brewers pitcher Blaine Boyer, spent 10 days in November in Southeast Asian brothels, wearing a hidden camera and doing undercover work to help rescue underage sex slaves. All of which raises a question: After 12 years in the big leagues, the endless days and nights in dugouts and clubhouses, how did LaRoche’s nearly cinematic level of nonconformity escape detection?

… Working through a nonprofit called the Exodus Road, LaRoche and Boyer conducted surveillance in brothels and tried to determine the age of the girls — known only by numbers pinned to bikinis — and identify their bosses.

“Something huge happened there for us,” Boyer says. “You can’t explain it. Can’t put your finger on it. If you make a wrong move, you’re getting tossed off a building. We were in deep, man, but that’s the way it needed to be done. Adam and I truly believe God brought us there and said, ‘This is what I have for you boys.’”

That’s right, last fall LaRoche, along with fellow big-leaguer Blaine Boyer, went undercover in Southeast Asia to rescue underage sex slaves from local brothels. Let that sink in for a minute. A pair of white professional athletes went undercover in an effort to rescue children from sex slavery.

How many of you would step away from $13 million dollars? Most people would have a difficult time doing that, but Adam Laroche isn’t like most people. While it was assumed that he retired because of reasons stemming from his son not being allowed in the clubhouse, this new information throws a wrinkle into that theory.

When asked if he would attempt to recoup the $13 million he was set to make in 2016, Adam stated plainly, “No. I did it. I made the final decision.” Clearly, money isn’t the motivating factor for LaRoche.

“I can understand how people look at the $13 million. One, how stupid does somebody have to be? Or, how selfish? Suck it up for six months, right?”

Stupid might not be the right word, but that is an awful lot of money to walk away from, over something as small as not being able to bring your kid to work.

Did the trip to the brothels have that much of an impact on LaRoche? Perhaps the former big-leaguer has his sights set on new horizons. Maybe he feels as though God is calling him to something different. Maybe we are overanalyzing, and he simply wants to hang out with his kid more, and spend his free time hunting, and fishing with his buddies.



Maybe all of those factors played a part in LaRoche’s decision to hang it up. I simply refuse to believe the “Rich Man Quits Over Son” narrative because that’s not the type of guy LaRoche seems to be.

In regards to bringing his kid to work, Adam says he was always upfront with his employers:

“I would go to those managers every year. I would tell them, ‘Listen, if there’s ever an issue, specifically if a player comes up to you, you’ve got to let me know.'”

LaRoche isn’t an unreasonable man. Perhaps, for the first time, he saw the difference he could make in the world WITHOUT having to hit a ball. Maybe God has enormous plans for this small-town slugger, turned sex-slave recovery operative.

Whatever his plans for the future, we wish Adam LaRoche good luck! With all the athletes that attract negative headlines, it’s refreshing to be reminded that excellent role-models still exist in American sports. God bless you, Adam LaRoche!

13 April, 2016

THE KEY IS KNOWING WHEN YOU ARE ENOUGH

It seems like almost everyone I know is in the midst of a physical and emotional transformation of some kind, myself included. Symptoms range from serious challenges (cancer, Lyme disease, etc.) to very annoying (but not life-threatening) things like chronic headaches, arthritis, vertigo, reflux, food sensitivities, parasites, blood flow, sleeplessness -- you add to the list.

An acquaintance has spent thousands of dollars during the past five years on western, eastern medical treatments, woo-woo energetic healings, medical intuitives, EFT release techniques, herbs, aromatherapy, homeopathic remedies, flower remedies, cleanses, acupuncture, vitamins, consultants and just about anything else you can think of, but her chronic conditions are still there. Every treatment helps a little, but is not a cure.

A little closer to home, my wife and I spend hundreds of dollars a month on vitamins and remedies which in retrospect I am not convinced are helping much.

Looking into my own psyche and observing my friends in the same boat, I see a pattern: We are all very driven creatures who enjoy producing results, making a difference in the world. That is the "outer" part of it.

Going deeper, it's clear that we are also trying, sometimes desperately, to fill up parts of our soul. Seeking respect and attention in the form of our success. The way we fill these holes is different with each of us. Certainly ego plays a big role. Identity is commonly tied to outer abilities.

Busyness is also a big piece of this. Writer friend Arielle Ford recently diagnosed herself with what she calls "chronic shpilkes." Shpilkes is a Yiddish word that means having "ants in your pants." It also means impatience and agitation. You might also call it an "adrenalin addiction."

While the soul is clearly screaming for a kinder, gentler, more peaceful day-to-day existence, and while the mind knows, believes, and understands that we can "do less and accomplish more," the reality is that we are often still in an overdoing mode.

Here's what I know for sure about this:

It's not about having "more."

It's not about having more organic juices, more yoga classes, more money, more results, more success, more books, more sex, more this or more that.

It's about really, truly getting to enough.

I am enough.

You are enough.


I'm resolved to the fact that I do not need "more".  I can't get any better and some days I think that I can't get any worse.

I now see that nobody out there has the "cure" to my particular issue(s) because nothing is wrong --
really. Nature is taking its course.  This is my journey to figure out and I'd better catch up with myself while I still have a few more miles left in the old engine -- and to enjoy being just as I am and as imperfect as I may be.

The nice part of it is...I do not have to be in a hurry anymore.  It has always been against my nature.

11 April, 2016

"YOU CAN'T EXPECT A MIRACLE IF YOU DON'T ASK FOR ONE"

I rarely post on Wrights Lane unless I have something of interest to share with readers, preferably a subject that is relateable and has a positive message of some kind.  I believe strongly in reinforcement through the experience of others.  What follows here is a first-person account of how miracles are possible if you only believe strongly enough.

Back in October of last year it was discovered that my wife Rosanne had developed Mantel Cell Lymphoma, possibly as a result of drugs she had been taking to counteract Inflammatory Colitis.  "What else can go wrong for this poor girl?" I remember thinking at the time.  We were devastated but I was bolstered by the degree of acceptance and determination in Rosanne's demeanor.  Cancer in the form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, it seemed, was just one more health setback for someone already so sick yet characteristically optimistic and full of life.
ROSANNE

Her case was referred to Oncologist Dr. Selay Lam, at the London Region Cancer Centre.  Dr. Lam, who has a reputation for thinking "outside the box," pinpointed a 25-centimeter tumor on the left side of Rosanne's bowel and was quick to prescribe chemotherapy treatment consisting of seven-hour drips of Bendamustine once a month, followed by two hours of the drug riTUimab within 24 hours the next day.  We were told that while Mantel Cell Lymphoma was treatable, it could not be cured.

A second full-body cat scan was ordered recently for Rosanne following her fourth two-day chemo treatment and a smiling Dr. Lam broke the news to us two weeks ago that the tumor in her bowel had completely disappeared and her latest blood test was clear of any signs of lymphoma.  Stopping short of the word "miracle", Dr. Lam said: "The tumor is gone and Bendamustine obviously did its job.  I am so pleased with how well you have responded."

"I prayed every day for a miracle!" Rosanne exclaimed, adding "You can't expect a miracle if you don't ask for one!  Thank you doctor for the role you have played in all of this!"

As ordered by Dr.Lam, Rosanne had her fifth series of chemo treatments on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and she has a sixth scheduled for the month of May... After that she will have a different type of chemo administered once every three months for the next two years as maintenance to make sure the lymphoma stays away.  In recent days she has been extremely tired and relies totally on oxygen for her COPD affliction.  When the lymphoma reared its ugly head Rosanne was summarily dismissed by her Gastroenterologist and Colitis has flared up again but she is buoyed by the knowledge that her cancer is gone and that she has one less thing to worry about.

I have delayed in writing about Rosanne's remarkable story, almost like I could not believe it myself -- had I not lived it with her.  Many of our friends and family have prayed along with Rosanne and there is no doubt in my mind that that too has helped.

Curious, I asked Rosanne what she had been repeatedly saying to God in her prayers.  She explained that she always begins her prayers by expressing love of God and being thankful for the blessings in her life, especially the members of her family. She mentions, in particular, those who are in poor health or in need comforting in any way...It is then customary for her to end her prayer by saying:  "Dear God, the last prayer is for me.  I am asking for a miracle in curing the tumor in my bowel.  Please help me God...I need you.  I need a miracle.  I love you. Thank you Lord.  --Amen."  

Just a simple prayer by a woman who heretofore has asked for very little in life outside of love -- for herself and others.  On this occasion she got a miracle and it was deserved. For that, I too thank God.

As Rosanne has said more than once, "You can't expect a miracle if you don't ask for one!"

08 April, 2016

OH COME ON DICK, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE!

The coffee that went for a ride...On the roof of my car.
If it was not for having fun at my own expense, I would have very little fun at all.  In fact some of my fun experiences are actually amazingly unbelievable.

Today, for instance, I made my routine early evening trip to Tim Horton's to pick up a small coffee, large ice cap and 12-grain bagel for Rosanne (what the heck, I have to pamper her), a medium coffee for me -- and an old-fashioned plain Timbit for my dog Lucy (I pamper her too).

As is my practise, I placed the beverage carrying tray on the roof of my car in order to open the door.
The bagged bagel and Timbit was habitually tossed on the passenger's seat.

On the six-block drive home a guy, walking a dog at the side of the road, gave me what I considered a dirty look.  "What's his problem?" I wondered.

Pulling into my driveway and slowly coming to a halt (didn't want to spill my coffee, been there and done that) I came to a startling revelation.  Something was missing -- the coffee.  "Where's the coffee?...Oh no, don't tell me..." was my instant reaction.  "Surely not!"

I could not remember bringing the tray of coffee into the car.  I was afraid to get out and look...Another $6.35 down the drain, I thought.  As I opened the door expecting the worst, I sheepishly glanced up at the roof.

...And what to my wondering eyes should appear -- the coffee, fully intact in the tray, exactly where I had absent mindedly left it.  Miraculously, after six blocks, two stop signs and three corners turned, it hadn't moved an inch.  No wonder the guy walking his dog gave me that strange look.

Boy, did I ever have a story to tell Rosanne!

The coffee tasted particularly good that evening.

26 March, 2016

PREPARING A SPECIAL UKRAINIAN EASTER MEAL FOR ROSANNE AND I

The makings for our special Easter treat.
I went grocery shopping for our Easter dinner Friday afternoon.  Some of the items on my list included lean Kolbassa sausage, sauaerkraut, havarti cheese, cabbage, onions, egg bread, horse raddish, beets and eggs,

"...Not ingredients for your traditional Easter dinner," you might well exclaim with a degree of shock.

Well, I've got news for you!  Those items are very traditional if you are of Ukrainian or Polish heritage as is my wife Rosanne.

Because she is not well and as a special treat for her this Easter, in a weak moment I promised to prepare a full Ukrainian Easter meal, duplicating as much as possible the menu she remembers sitting down to as a child.  It will be no small undertaking for a Canadian kid who grew up on baked ham and scalloped potatoes for Easter, but I like to live dangerously and I'm always up for a challenge.

To better prepare myself for this culinary adventure, I determined that it was in the best interests of the two of us to do a little research and what better source for information than good old Ukrainian cook books, one in particular having been published by ladies from St. Demetrius parish in Toronto.

Ukrainians approach the celebration of their religious feast days with spiritual devotion as well as traditional rituals.  Present day Ukrainian Easter traditions are a rich blend of ancient pagan rituals and Christian idealogy and practises.

Much to my interest, I found that with the arrival of Christianity to Kyivan Rus in 988, many of the pagan spring rituals were incorporated into the Christian celebration of Easter.  The Christian church added a new perspective to these seasonal celebrations.  In addition to physical preparation, the six-week period of "Pyist" (Lent) became a time for spiritual renewal, fasting, forgiveness and meditation.  It was also a time for the writing of "pysansky".  In pagan times pysansky were considered magical talismans.  Today's pysansky in the form of Easter eggs, incorporate not only ancient geometrical designs and colours, but also Christian symbols in beautiful vibrant colours, and are given as tokens of love and affection.

As with the traditions of Christmas Eve and the food associated with them, the Easter foods, especially those placed in baskets for blessing by a priest at Easter worship services, have special meaning.

Paska, the Easter bread, symbolizes the joy of new life through Christ.

Eggs are symbolic of Christ's death and resurrection.

Salt is essential to our bodies as Christ is to our souls.

Horseradish is blessed as a reminder that even though there is bitterness in life, all pain and suffering can be overcome through Christ.

Dairy and meat products (butter, cheese, ham and kolbassa) are a reminder of the goodness of God's creation.

A candle is always present as a reminder that Christ is the light of the world.

Taking all of the forgoing into consideration, the meal that I will be preparing for Rosanne will consist of "favourite" foods that stand out in her memory of family Easter dinners when she was a little girl i.e. paska (egg bread), hard-boiled eggs, kolbassa, ham, horseradish/beets combination as a garnish, Havarti cheese, kapusta (a boiled side dish consisting of cabbage, sauerkraut and onions with thyme seasoning) and potato salad.  Of course desert will consist of nothing else but cherry cheesecake.

All in all, a pretty simple meal to put together, but wish me luck anyway.  I can always use it!

"Smacnoho!" as they say in the Ukraine, or "Bon appetit!" in French.

24 March, 2016

KIDS TODAY WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH...TELL THEM ABOUT IT

The following is a sermon I prepared several years ago when I was still an active lay preacher and before experiencing a spiritual turnaround, maybe I should say “a downturn”.  I never got to deliver the message.  It has been gathering dust in a computer file, but as a life-long youth leader and coach I continue to believe strongly in its premise.

Make no assumptions about biblical literacy. Kids today are very open spiritually, but religion does not imply Christianity. Even church kids are adopting the notion that there are many valid expressions of faith and roads to God. As parents and youth leaders today it is imperative that we know what we believe, and through relationships and open ears, earn the right to challenge the thinking of young minds.

Trust me, teens want to know who God is and what He says about himself.

Technological advances, geopolitical changes and shifting relationships have caused young people to expect change -- even to become comfortable with it. As a result, leaders have more freedom than ever to make immediate, effective changes in programs and processes to discover what works with their group. The drawback is an unusually high standard of what is worth their attention, so programs must keep moving with little dead space or predictability.

Today’s student, very literal and visually oriented, responds well to plain talk about personal, practical issues and experiences, especially when learning is hands-on and incorporates contemporary media and technologies. Although the speed and accessibility of information has conditioned students to make decisions with less thought and reflection

This means that teens are often intolerant of anyone who draws a line in opposition to anything culturally acceptable. While God’s unchanging truth is always relevant, it’s vital that approaches to students be blended and balanced with grace. Since they want to reach out to a broader spectrum of people, they will be more likely to embrace ministry that demonstrates real, active compassion. This must mark an unwavering stance on biblical principle, or even sincerely searching students will tune out.

Immorality at least acknowledges a standard of deviant behavior -- amorality often concedes no standards at all. Over 60% believe that you cannot know absolute truth. One third say that something is morally/ethically right if it works and is perceived as good. Different people, in the same situation, can define truth in totally conflicting ways—and both still be considered right.

The principles behind the precepts, with God’s loving care and unchanging character as the basis of right and wrong, need to be emphasized along with reasoned discussions on choices, consequences, and spiritual cures. Dare to ask the tough questions the world will confront them with, and help them develop a faith that is not deterred by deviant standards. Training that equips young people to share absolutes in a morally and spiritually pluralistic society is essential.

Think about it -- we (families and churches) have been given the awesome privilege of leading, training, and equipping what may be the final generation. That is the responsibility that lies before us now that we are well into a new millennium. It is most certainly a disciple-making challenge to be taken very seriously.

Young people do not learn through the process of osmosis…It takes strong, committed and principled adults to knowingly mold their minds and to lead them to the truth that they are more than receptive to. 

Surely I am not talking to myself, as I so often do!?

With more faith in the youth of today than I confess to having in most fellow adults, I remain guardedly optimistic.

13 March, 2016

I LITERALLY GET LOST IN MY DREAMS

I regularly have a number of recurring dreams, some take place on the baseball diamond or a golf course while others involve struggling to meet a newspaper press deadline. More often than not, however, my nocturnal wanderings are the result of being hopelessly lost and never finding my way to a destination. Sometimes too, I lose my car in a parking lot and the fact that I cannot find the parking lot only serves to compound the problem.

I generally wake up in the morning feeling very much like I have been dragged through a knot hole. I have the “getting lost” dreams so often, and vividly, that I recently took it upon myself to do some research on the subject.
No, I'm not dead, just lost in one of my dreams.


To a degree, I have been somewhat relieved to learn that lost dreams and dreams about searching for lost objects or not being able to find your way back, are common in all age groups. These dreams have much to do with insecurities, frustrations or losses in your waking life. Dream therapists say that this type of dream may also be an indication that you are fearful of being unable to attain set goals for the future. It could also mean that you do not have any defined goals and have been procrastinating on them. Feelings of anxiety about a new situation, a move to another location and fitting in socially or an impending deadline set either by someone else or yourself may trigger these dreams.

Dreaming of lost objects, I find, usually is an indication that there is something in an individual’s waking life that has in fact been lost. It may even represent a part of oneself that has disappeared due to unwanted concessions in personal or business affairs.

So far so good…Most of the forgoing certainly can, and does apply to me.

Some psychologists equate these types of dreams with new beginnings and change, and the fear of letting go of the familiar in certain areas of your life.

When evaluating these dreams, it is suggested that the dreamer determine any losses that may be felt or experienced in waking life. From those situations, you may discover that you have some buried feelings that have resurfaced. This might be the time to face them, and if you do, these dreams will ideally begin to fade.

So does this all mean that at my advanced age I should start setting goals again, when in fact I ran out of defined goals about 15 years ago? My biggest goal nowadays is waking up in the morning.

What can I do about feelings of insecurity, frustration and losses in my life that I long ago put behind me? I try to suppress such negative feelings whenever they resurface to haunt me.  Could be that certain negative experience lingers in the back of my mind in spite of my best efforts to dispense with it.

Admittedly, I am a procrastinator…Have been most of my life. In fact I have become pretty efficient at putting things off.

On that note, I think I will give this subject more thought after a good(?) night’s sleep. Maybe, just for once, I will find out where I am going -- and actually get there.

Once a dreamer, always a dreamer!

10 March, 2016

Bruce Power continues to make improvements to emergency preparedness

From time to time I pass on information about the Bruce Power Nuclear Site (located on Lake Huron at Tiverton, between Kincarden and Saugeen Shores) because of its massiveness and importance to the economy and safety of the community in which I live.

Today, March 11th (2016) marks the fifth anniversary of the unprecedented earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan and damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility.  Although the facility withstood the 9.0 magnitude earthquake as per its design, a tsunami washed out the back-up generators at the facility, challenging the facility and leading to a nuclear event that was widely publicized.

It is estimated that 20,000 people died as a result of this natural disaster while the nuclear event, to this day, has not resulted in a single death due to radiation exposure. The world’s nuclear industry took this event extremely seriously, however, consistent with the industry’s commitment to Safety First through continuous improvement.

Though the CANDU reactors used on the Bruce site are a fundamentally different design than those in Japan, the Canadian nuclear industry immediately began reviewing its emergency protocols, availability and robustness of equipment back-ups and abilities of its emergency services organizations.  Canada’s nuclear operators recognized the importance of building on lessons from this event, despite the significant differences within the Canadian context to make nuclear facilities safer and strong.

In addition, it was important to reassure the public about the high levels of safety at Canada’s nuclear plants.  In the five years since Fukushima, Bruce Power has made continuous improvements on its site, making it safer and stronger in the process. A few of the improvements include:
  • Acquiring five new fire trucks that are stored off site and on high, dry ground. They’re specially designed to pump cooling water directly from Lake Huron into our reactors and fuel bays in the unlikely event we lose all emergency back-up generators and cooling systems.
  • Purchasing nine back-up generators that are stored off site, on high, dry ground. They can be deployed to either station and can be operational within 30 minutes, in the unlikely situation that the two layers of safety systems built into the station design were to fail.
  • Building a state-of-the-art Emergency Management Centre at the Bruce Power Visitors’ Centre. This facility will act as the control room for any emergency situation and allows for a clear and efficient chain of command. We have also implemented the Incident Management System for emergency response, bringing us in line with emergency response organizations.
  • Increasing off-site radiological monitoring equipment so it now provides real-time data.
  • Providing potassium iodine tablets to all residents within a 10 km radius in the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency.
  • Receiving Canada’s first emergency test broadcasting license for portable AM units, which will make communicating during an emergency more effective than ever before. We have also collaborated with the Municipality of Kincardine to deploy ALERT FM radios in all homes within a 10 kilometre radius of the site. The ALERT FM receiver is linked to the Emergency Alert Ready System and will broadcast all Threat to Life Alerts with an audible alert and text message within seconds.
  • Continuously training to ensure our emergency response organization is prepared for a crisis caused by a natural disaster or nuclear emergency. This includes training on payloaders and tractors, which may be required to move debris from roads or deploy back-up generators across site.


For more information on Bruce Power’s emergency response improvements since the nuclear event at Fukushima, watch the video above.

More About Bruce Power

Bruce Power operates the world’s largest operating nuclear generating facility and is the source of roughly 30 per cent of Ontario’s electricity. The company's site in Tiverton, Ontario is home to eight CANDU reactors, each one capable of generating enough low-cost, reliable, safe and clean electricity to meet the annual needs of a city the size of Hamilton. 

Formed in 2001, Bruce Power is an all-Canadian partnership among Borealis Infrastructure Trust Management (a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System), TransCanada, the Power Workers’ Union and the Society of Energy Professionals. A majority of Bruce Power's employees are also owners in the business. 

07 March, 2016

NO ENERGY?...WHAT'S THE MATTER?

We have been conditioned to think of energy as a force that either exists or does not exist...As humans, we think that we either have it or we lack it.

The new science, however, accepts that the universe (including we ourselves) is made up of energy, not matter. This is not actually anything new -- it was posited by Socrates in Europe way back when, and by the ancient rishis in India thousands of years before that.  Socrates said that energy, or soul, is separate from matter, and that the universe is made of energy, pure energy which was there before man and other material things like the earth came along.

However at the end of the 17th century Newtonian physics became the corner-stone of science, and it was based on the theory that there is only matter and nothing else -- the whole universe is a machine, made of matter, and so are we. Medical science is still stuck in the Newtonian concept, even though the rest of science has now moved on to quantum physics.

Interestingly, Quantum physics says that as you go deeper and deeper into the workings of the atom, you see that there is nothing there, just energy waves. It says an atom is actually an invisible force field, a kind of miniature tornado, which emits waves of electrical energy.  Those energy waves can be measured and their effects seen, but they are not a material reality, they have no substance because they are...well, just electricity. So science now embraces the idea that the universe is made of energy.

It should be stated here that Quantum mechanics allows for a type of divine action that does not violate the laws of physics and yet accords with scriptural accounts of God’s providence and miracles. It is our belief that God operates within the laws of nature, or, as Robert Russell refers to it, “noninterventionist divine action." This piece does not seek to prove definitively that such action occurs or that it is the only way in which God operates; rather, scientifically speaking, the door is open for its possibility. In our previous Wrights Lane post we addressed a "divine energy" that is at our disposal and how we can become a conduit for that energy by sharing it with others.

We are of course made up of atoms. And atoms are continuously giving off, and absorbing, light and energy, all the time. It doesn’t stop even when we sleep. Every cell in the body has its atoms lined up in such a way that it has a negative and a positive voltage, inside and outside. So every cell in our body is a miniature battery. Each cell has 1.4 volts of energy – not much, but when you multiply by the number of cells in your body (50 trillion) you get a total voltage of 700 trillion volts of electricity in your body. Pretty strong stuff! This is what the Chinese call ‘chi’, and is also the energy used in hands on healing. It can even be measured outside the body for a certain radius, depending on the sophistication of the instrument. And guess which has the stronger electro-magnetic energy field – your head or your heart?

Now here is another interesting fact which relates to our lives:  Each atom has its own distinct frequency, or vibration. And quantum physicists study the energetic effect when atoms collide, not their ‘matter’. What they see is that when two atomic waves meet, they either meet in sync, creating a constructive or harmonious effect, or they meet out of sync, creating a destructive effect in which they annul each other.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, a former professor of medicine at Harvard University and author of the best-selling "Your mind is greater than your genes", explains that if you drop two equal pebbles at exactly the same time into water, from the same height, they will both produce the same wave ripples, i.e. their waves will be in harmony with each other, and when their ripples meet the combined effect will be an amplification of the wavelength.  In other words the merged waves become more powerful. But if you drop the pebbles from different heights or a millisecond apart, then when the resultant waves meet they will not be in harmony and will cancel each other out.

Exactly the same thing happens when atomic energy waves meet – they either have a constructive effect (become more powerful) or a destructive effect. Because we are all created of atomic energy waves, and because it is impossible to separate waves, the new science says what Osho was saying over 40 years ago: we are all connected - our waves are always meeting and getting entangled in each other. Dr Lipton says the result of such invisible meetings we call ‘good vibes’ and ‘bad vibes’, depending on whether the other waves we meet are in sync with us or out of sync. No wonder so many people were ‘magnetically attracted’ to Osho and felt peaceful and harmonious in his presence.

This means it is important to be aware of whether you are in an environment where you are getting entangled in destructive energy waves or constructive energy waves. The cells that make up our bodies know instinctively what is nourishing and what is toxic (Lipton demonstrates this with cells in petri dishes which move away from toxic stuff and towards nourishing stuff). And in fact all animals and plants communicate through vibrations, i.e. by sensing whether the energy is good for them or not. But we have been taught not to listen to our feelings but instead to what people say, and have said over the centuries. So we are not trained to use our ability to sense energy, even though we have it just as all plants and animals have it.

Because I am of simple mind, I used to rigidly contend that I did not want to entertain anything that confused or complicated "the faith (teachings) of our fathers", but today I find myself increasingly fascinated with new age science and philosophy -- in fact, I find it mind-broadening.

Only problem is, I'm not sure what to believe...Know what I mean?

04 March, 2016

LORIE BROUGHT HER DIVINE ENERGY INTO ROSANNE'S LIFE



The following is a rather involved story with multiple aspects to it.  It will take a few paragraphs for me to zero in on the ultimate moral behind it all but stay with me, I will get to it -- I promise.

Rosanne and I had been through a very tiring and trying day yesterday at the London Region Cancer Centre.  Coupled with everything else going on in our life at present time, we remained physically exhausted and emotionally drained this morning.  Things did not auger well for the balance of our day.

For the first time since her Mantel Cell Lymphoma diagnosis back in November, Rosanne was uncharacteristically distraught.  Completely overwhelmed and giving in to debilitating fatigue, she cried out of frustration in admitting to uncertainty about her ability to cope much further with the rigors and challenges of life in general. With a lump in my throat, I empathized and knew exactly where she was coming from...I shared much of those same feelings.  But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself.

Habitually, before preparing breakfast and getting Rosanne ready for her day in ways known only to primary caregivers, I retire to my study for a quick check of emails and any interesting overnight social media activity.  This morning in firing up my trusty "ThinkPad" I accidentally disturbed a pile of papers on my desk, exposing notes I had made some time ago.  (I am always jotting down notes for future reference, and more often than not end up forgetting about them.)

I cannot readily recall what motivated me at the time but in bold letters at the top of this piece of wrinkled copy paper I had highlighted the words "There is a Divine energy at our disposal, Christians call it God."  My notes went on to ask a question: "How do we use that energy?" which I seemed to answer with the notation: "Share it with others, become a conduit with the energy flowing through you.  Do unto others..."

Those random notes would prove to have particular relevance for me as the day progressed and it took the form of an out-of-the-blue telephone call.  By means of backgrounding, it is pertinent to explain that in December, Rosanne was experiencing problems reading print of any kind and distinguishing faces on TV.  We subsequently scheduled an eye examination for her that resulted in a prescription for reading glasses. Nothing immediate could be done for her distance vision because she had cataracts removed several years ago and lenses implanted.

Optician Lorie Carey, who with her husband co-owns Carey Optical of Port Elgin, is a very professional young woman with a special infectious demeanor about her.  She took great pains to advise Rosanne and to measure her for a suitable style of frames taking into consideration her concern about affordability.

Using a selfie stick, Lorie Cary (right) has a little
 fun with a favorite customer.
Worried not only about the cost implications but also concerned over the potential for her eyesight to change even more drastically with ongoing chemotherapy treatments, Rosanne reluctantly re-considered and apologetically cancelled the glasses order by telephone the following day.  Since then, Rosanne expressed on several occasions how badly she felt about cancelling the order because she had been so taken by the care and attention afforded her by Lorie.

Now, back to this morning and the aforementioned surprise telephone call.

"Hello Dick...This is Lorie Carey from Carey Optical," announced the clear, cheerful voice on the other end of the telephone line.  "You were in to see us a few months ago and I felt immediate affinity for Rosanne and something touched me about the way in which the two of you struggled to get her wheelchair through our front door.  I was impressed by Rosanne's cheerfulness in spite of what she was going through but in the end I understood her reservations about new glasses."

Then came a shocking revelation..."I went ahead and had glasses made up for her anyway, because I knew she needed them.  I want Rosanne to have the the glasses at no charge."

Completely taking the wind out of my sails, Lorie explained that she intended to deliver the glasses to Rosanne as a special long-overdue Christmas gift but that she had been so busy and shorthanded at the store that she did not get around to it.  The purpose of the call was to say that after her next appointment she would be on her way to "turn the glasses over (to me)" at our front door.  In spite of my gratitude and appreciative counter offer, she refused any form of reimbursement.

Still stunned, I hung up the phone and announced to Rosanne that I had news that I thought would brighten her day.  How right I was!

Unfortunately, I was out on an errand when Lorie delivered the glasses. Rosanne heard her at the front door and with a loud yell from her lift chair in the living room invited her to come on in.  What ensued was an exchange of "divine energy" between two kindred spirits -- one a conduit and the other a grateful  receiver, both opening their hearts to each other in a rare display of raw affection and energy.

Rosanne is of a soft, sensitive nature and wears her heart on her sleeve. She is an extremely open, expressive woman who demonstrates an unusual compassion for everyone and every thing.  She dispenses the word "love" frequently and freely.  She is demonstrative and highly emotional with the least provocation. To some, I know, she is almost too good to be true with the result she is often not taken as seriously as she deserves to be.  This morning, however, when she told Lorie with tears flowing down her cheeks that she "loved" her and that God would bless her for what she had done, Rosanne truly meant it and I am sure that her heartfelt reaction was taken as intended.

As we discussed the day's events in retrospect, I told Rosanne about the coincidence of notes that I accidentally uncovered earlier that morning and we marveled at how much our dear Lorie had epitomized the "Divine energy" words that I had highlighted.  "She took the ache out of my heart and replaced it with a calm, peaceful feeling," Rosanne added with a palpable renewed energy.

Thank God for the Lorie Careys that present themselves in our lives at times of great need!

POST NOTE: "Divine energy" is described by new age theological thinkers as a healing force that can be developed in all of us. It has been my experience that people like Lorie Carey come by it quite naturally and unknowingly to the benefit of those of us fortunate enough to be blessed by them.  My belief in earthly angels has been substantiated!

02 March, 2016

SPORTS VS. CHURCH IN BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER

When I was a young fellow I found myself in a real bind. I had started to play organized baseball and games were played on virtually every Sunday, May to September. The problem was that in those days recreational activities of any kind on The Lord's Day were very much frowned on, in fact if you were a practicing Christian it was considered a sin.

The Lord's Day Alliance, formed by Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists in 1888 to protect the sacredness of Sunday in Canada, was still a force to be reckoned with in the 1940s and '50s. I well remember that there was a 12-midnight curfew for Saturday dances and that in some communities no inning of a baseball game could start 10 minutes before the bewitching hour of 12:00 a.m.

My mother and father were staunch Presbyterians and it was only because of illness that I would miss attending Sunday School and the worship services that followed. At 16 years of age I even became a Sunday School teacher, so my formative years were firmly entrenched in Church and Christian beliefs and practices.

So it was without the blessing of my mother (my father had passed away) and struggling with pangs of guilt on one hand and a burning passion for the game of baseball on the other, that I began to venture onto the playing field with mixed emotions on Sabbath afternoons. Looking back, I always felt that I did not play my best on Sundays and if I had a bad game, or committed an error, I was convinced that God was penalizing me for playing baseball on His day of rest.

Boy, have times changed in the intervening 60 years. What pained and compromised me as a young athlete, families do not give a second thought today.  When you think of Sunday today, one of two things likely come to mind. Perhaps you think of going to church with your family, like you may do every Sunday. However, there are other activities that take place approximately five months out of the year that captivate a huge percentage of North Americans -- golf, football, fishing and baseball, to name only a few of the weekend distractions. In fact, there is a real argument to be made that sports in general are better at bringing people together than church ever was.


It is really not surprising people feel this way. When you go to a football or baseball game, for instance, suddenly you are best friends with tens of thousands of other people in the stadium. These people don’t care about your gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion. All they care about is that you are supporting the same team. It is a bond that can last for life. It sounds silly, but it’s amazing the extent to which mutual support for a team can draw people together.

Today, more people than ever before are choosing not to attend church. Maybe they simply don’t enjoy it, or maybe they haven’t been accepted into a church because of their lifestyle. There are a lot of different lifestyles that certain denominations have trouble with. One of the most common is the refusal to accept members of the Gay community or views on contraception and abortion. Many religions teach that homosexuality, condoms, and abortions are sins, and that can be ostracizing to some. Thankfully, there are plenty of churches who accept people for who they are.

Watching and playing games on Sunday afternoons can be a great escape. Whether you are watching from home, physically at the game or participating in a recreational activity, it is a wonderful way to forget about the everyday stresses of life, including work, health, and personal relationships. Going to church does not necessarily do that for people. While some might find comfort in going to church and having people pray over them, it can also be a great source of anxiety.
One of the most widely watched television events is the Super Bowl. Even those who do not care about sports attend Super Bowl parties, even if it’s just an excuse to get together with friends. Companies spend millions of dollars just to get a 30 second commercial that will air during the Super Bowl. In fact, it is now expected that the commercials you see during the game will be the best you see all year. Why do advertisers put so much money and energy into these commercials? Because they know they have a larger audience now than they will at any other point in the year. The Super Bowl and Grey Cup bring the American and Canadian people together for one Sunday every year – it is a massive cultural event comparable only to the World Cup in terms of popularity.

While I can take or leave football, some people really do enjoy the game that much. However, some may do it because it is a distraction from everything else they are dealing with. They might feel the most accepted when they are supporting their team on Sunday afternoons, so they have thrown themselves into it completely. In the past, this was a central function of church services. In some ways, sports have supplanted that.

Even though churches are left competing with sports for attention on Sundays, church still does have its place. There are many people who are committed to their faith and those who will put their beloved sport on hold to attend a church service. Still, it’s interesting to think about how much more accepted people might feel watching or playing a game.

Personally, I do not attend church services anymore, but it has nothing to do with acceptance or a preference for sports...It goes much deeper than that and I might write about it some day, when I'm ready.

In retrospect, I am still in that moral bind of my youth.  It has just taken on a different perspective.