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

21 August, 2016

AUGUST 16, 1972: THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED

August is a significant month for fans of Elvis Presley. In August, 1953, a young man nervously entered the office of Sun Records in Memphis. His only ambition was to record a song for his mother. In August 1972, at age 42, that same man died, but far too soon.

Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Aaron Presley came from very humble beginnings and grew up to become one of the biggest names in the history of rock 'n' roll.  His early years have been widely documented -- his family’s financial struggles, his unpopularity at high school where he was considered to be “strange”, his belonging to a Pentecostal Church where he was first exposed to lively Gospel music. Like many of us in the 1950s, he slicked back his thick black hair with Vaseline. He loved playing his child-sized guitar.
An original photograph of Elvis Presley autographed
 and inscribed to songwriter and composer Irving
Berlin on auction in 2012 in New York City. 

I can easily recall that hot, afternoon in July, 1954, when I was in my bedroom listening to CJBC Radio 1010 in Toronto on my Northern Electric box radio. Around 4:30, the deep-voiced announcer introduced a recording by some new singer who was beginning to make a name for himself south of the border. "I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more from this new artist,” he advised his audience.

The song was "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", a bluegrass standard which Elvis sang with his own unique styling. (Wikipedia notes an earlier encounter where the youthful, would-be singer was confronted by a receptionist during his initial foray into Sun Studios. She asked him who he sounded like. His laconic reply? “I don’t sound like nobody.”)

My next vivid memory of  hearing an Elvis song comes from the summer of 1956 when "Blue Suede Shoes" was a popular juke box selection in a restaurant I frequented in St.Thomas, ON. I remember thinking how different the lyrics and music were, not to mention the then unconventional, warbling voice of the young man singing it.   Blue Suede Shoes remains one of my favorites to this day.

"Well
it's, one for the money Two
for the show Three
to get ready Now
go cat, go, But

don't you step on My
blue suede shoes You
can do anything But
lay off of my blue suede shoes..."



Blue Suede Shoes was written by Carl Perkins in late 1955. There are two versions of how Perkins came to write the song. Perkins had said that he played for a high school dance in Jackson, Tennessee, on December 4, 1955. During the dance, he spotted a boy with blue suede shoes dancing with a gorgeous girl. The boy told her, "Uh-uh! Don't step on my blue suede shoes!" Perkins couldn't get the image out of his mind. He awoke at three o'clock the next morning with the lyrics to Blue Suede Shoes and wrote them down on a brown paper potato sack. Originally, the first line was "One for the money, two for the show, three get ready, and go, man, go". But while recording the song at Sun Records, Perkins substituted the word cat for man. That opening phrase was borrowed from Bill Haley's 1953 recording What 'Cha Gonna Do (Essex 321).

Interestingly, Johnny Cash told a different story about the origin of Blue Suede Shoes. While Perkins, Elvis, and Cash were performing in Amory, Mississippi, one night in 1955, Cash told Perkins about a black sergeant he had in the Air Force by the name of C.V. White. Sgt. White would frequently step into Cash's room and ask him how he (White) looked and then say, "Just don't step on my blue suede shoes!" (Never mind that Sgt. White was wearing regulation Air Force shoes). Perkins thought that Cash's story was a good idea for a song. While Elvis was performing on stage one night Perkins, his close pal and frequent member of the Presley band, is said to have written Blue Suede Shoes.

Whatever the true story, Perkins's Blue Suede Shoes (Sun 234) was released on January 1, 1956. By March it was #4 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, #2 on the country chart (Heartbreak Hotel kept it from being number one), and #2 on the rhythm and blues chart, the first song in music history to reach all three charts. Needless to say, the first true rock-a-billy hit, Blue Suede Shoes was a million-seller.

I followed The Pelvis' early TV appearances on then-popular programs the Dorsey Brothers, Steve Allen and Milton Berle. Yet, it was his infamous performance during the Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956, which provoked a controversy which has now become a legend of pop culture. Naturally, I am referring to his “obscene” gyrations which Sullivan insisted not be shown to the watching audience. To my deep disappointment, I saw only Elvis’s top half! On that historic night, an unheard-of 82 per cent of all American television sets were tuned in to that show.

One of my few regrets in life was missing Elvis’s only Toronto appearance when he performed in Maple Leaf Gardens on April 2, 1957. Local conservative music critics and church leaders were appalled by the adulation he received from hysterically-screaming and crying young female fans.

Elvis’s army induction, his movie career and turbulent marriage are too well-known to need any review here. I would sooner focus on his tragic final years. My memory this time is that of a morbidly overweight, sequined, drugged, sweating, tragic figure performing in a gospel concert. As he sang the old Thomas Dorsey hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” I had the distinctly-sad impression that he had at that moment returned to his childhood faith. He was asking God, through this song, to deliver him from the pain and emptiness of his life.

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light: take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.


Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. A candlelight vigil was held at his Graceland home earlier this month. If he were still living, The King would be 81 years old.  It hardly seems possible.

With his innovative and flamboyant piano playing style, the unforgettable Jerry Lee Lewis (left) also emerged as one of rock music’s early showmen in the 1950s, along with Elvis Presley. Lewis eventually ended up in Memphis, Tennessee, where he found work as a studio musician for Sun Studios. In 1956, he recorded his first single, a cover of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms”. Lewis also worked on some recording sessions with Carl Perkins at the time. While at Sun Studios, he and Perkins jammed with Elvis and Johnny Cash, as seen in this historic, collector's-item photo. The impromptu session by the “Million Dollar Quartet” was recorded at the time, but it was not released until much later. Lewis is the only member of the famous chance collaboration still living. He too remains one of my all-time favorite and controversial raw-talent music personalities...To me "The Killer" represents the epitome of rollicking, infectious, toe-tapping fun music. He still maintains that there was no rock n' roll before he came on the scene and that Elvis was just a country boy by comparison.  Far be it from me to enter that debate.

15 August, 2016

THERE'S A "DASH" IN EVERYONE'S LIFE SPAN

I frequently incorporate a "dash" in things that I write...While dashes are almost never required by the laws of grammar and punctuation, the use of a "--" has become part of my writing style and a convenient way of placing emphasis and combining follow-up thoughts.

However, after reading Robert (Uncle Bob)  William Caster's self-composed obituary in The Toronto Star last week, I will never think of a dash in the same way again.  In fact, I will hereafter remember the late Bob Caster every time I type a dash in any of my text.

In his unusual obituary which took up more than 16 double-column inches in The Star (must have cost a small fortune), Bob talked about the uncomfortable reality of the subject of death.  He recalled listening to a minister speaking at the funeral of his aunt and referring to the dates appearing in her obituary and no doubt eventually on her grave marker.

The minister noted that first came the date of the aunt's birth followed by a "dash" and the date of the her death. Bob went on to elaborate: "The dates told us how many years she lived on earth, but what mattered most of all was the dash between those years because it represented the passing of time she spent on this earth and only those who knew and loved her know what that little dash contained."

This all started our Bob thinking about his own dash -- who he was and what were the highlights of his life -- so he decided to write a brief summary to fill his dash and to represent the passing of time he spent on earth.  That carefully crafted summary, "The Dash in my life", formed the basis of the obituary that stood out so prominently from all the stereotypical others published in the newspaper that day.

Strongly resembling TV producer and host Elwy Yost, Bob's was a simple but busy life, outliving two wives, always surrounded by loving family and good friends.  A committed Christian, he was very active in his church and community.  He received "an average education" and worked by his admission at many different and interesting jobs.

"I never became President or CEO but I experience(d) and enjoy(ed) great wealth -- not in a monetary sense but in the sense that I was able to see, feel, hear, talk, walk and taste.  I never went naked, cold, hungry or without love.  I never experienced war or hatred.  I had freedom of speech, expression, religion and travel, the opportunity to make a living and to enjoy my 20-year retirement," he empathized.

I can totally relate to Bob Caster's "dash."  He lived life to the fullest.  He lived and let live.  He was fair, honest and accepted others as he wanted others to accept him. I never met Bob but he sure sounded like my kind of guy!

At his request, cremation took place before his obituary actually ran for two days in The Star.  He insisted on no floral or monetary tributes.  "If for some reason you wish to remember me, please do it with a kind smile, deed, word, a simple phone call or by a visit to someone who needs you..." were the heartfelt, concluding words in Bob's obituary.

A Memorial Service and Celebration of Bob Caster's Life, more correctly his "dash" (June 4, 1937 - July 27, 2016), was held on Thursday evening, August 11, 2016, at the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia.

As I put together this item for Wrights Lane, I realized that while all dashes are identical in appearance, everyone ends up with one that is completely unique.  I wondered too what my own dash would eventually look like...Quite frankly, I have a feeling that it would not be worth a dash, but that's another story and we won't go there!

I hope that you derive a degree of satisfaction from your own dash, dear reader...After all, it will someday represent your life -- start to finish.  It is never too late to add a small legacy to it!

10 August, 2016

SEX THE SECRET TO A STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM; GO FOR IT IF YOU CAN

If you are reading this and you are 15-20 years younger than me, there is a possibility that you are someone who is committed to a healthy, spiritual lifestyle of meditating, yoga, exercise, practicing loving kindness and eating organic non-GMO foods. Chances are you are focused on supplying your life and your body with things that have the highest-level of nourishment. What you probably don't know is that there is something that quickly wipes out the benefits of all of this.... Having toxic and judgmental thoughts about your spouse!

Research shows that these negative emotions and thoughts actually suppress your immune system.

The latest science also shows that the #1 thing that will extend your life and contribute to the quality of your life, for many years, is a happy marriage!

Known as "the marriage effect" it is now proven that happily married couples are:
-- More likely to live longer.
-- More likely to be physically and mentally healthier and happier.
-- More likely to recover from illness quicker and with greater success.

And for men, this is really important to know: A 2007 study found that the rate of death of single men over age 40 was twice as high than that of married men. Marriage for men it would seem, is a lifesaver.

And for those of you of the generation that would prefer to shack up over getting legally married, you need to know that living together is not the same as being married to each other. It was found that happy couples who are living together in a committed, unmarried relationship don't receive the benefit of The Marriage Effect.

When Harville Hendrix (love expert extraordinaire, whom Oprah calls The Marriage Whisperer) was asked about it, he explained that it has to do with safety and security. On the unconscious level, those committed but unmarried couples do not experience the same level of safety that married couples do. Safety is one of our most profound human needs.

What about those couples who lived together for years very successfully but then got married and ruined a perfectly good relationship? Harville says the reason stems from the emergence of the real work of marriage only after we take those sacred vows. It seems that we have to work for our security, but the pay-off is longevity and a more stable lifestyle.

More good news: Sex can save your life! Just as you commit to eating right and exercising for your well being and health, it's important to make sure you are having sex.... the more the better. According to leading sex expert and researcher, Dr. Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington, studies shows that for women, sex provides lower anxiety, more vitality, a higher quality of life all while building immunity.

For men, sex one time a month of more will reduce his risk of dying by 60%. The men who had sex twice a week (or more) were least likely to die and sex provides protection for men against cancer and heart disease.

So go for it you youngins!  Love your way to good health -- and a long life!!

I'm assuming that the aforementioned studies and (s)experts are all addressing people who have yet to reach the ripe old 70s and 80s when the mind may sometimes be willing but the body, not to mention the significant other, may not always share the same inclinations.  Perhaps when it all starts to go down hill sexually, we've lived long enough anyway. 

Heck, I don't even worry about meditation, yoga, exercise and non-toxic foods anymore -- what's the use?  It's like putting fuel in a vehicle with a battery that has worn out and no longer capable of holding a charge.

29 July, 2016

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN WANTS AND NEEDS

It has been said that the most basic concept of economics is want vs. need. 

Just to be clear:  A need is something you have to have -- something you cannot do without in order to survive.  On the other hand, a want is something you would like to have but it is not necessary for survival.

One day, some time ago, a husband and wife were shopping in a department store, simply browsing and admiring all the pretty, shiny and sparkling things on display. As they looked through the glass cabinet at a diamond bracelet, a very elegant man behind the counter, asked if the woman would like to try it on. She immediately said to him: "Oh no thanks, I certainly don't need anything like this."

The man's instant reply came as a surprise to the couple: "Madam, this is not about 'need,' this is all about 'want'."

He was right, and in that moment the salesman gave her a distinction she had never thought about -- the difference between "need" and "want."

Our basic needs: air, food, water, shelter, security are obviously the most important human requirements and essential to life. But, what about everything else?

Some examples:

-- You want to eat cheesecake, red velvet cupcakes, macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies and gobs of pasta. Unfortunately, you may be gluten and sugar sensitive, so you need to eat healthy foods. The choice is up to you. Your "wants" can hurt you.

-- You want to drive the big, expensive Tesla sedan, but you work from home and only need a very small car with which to get around town.

-- You enjoy a good bottle of wine but you don't need to have one every day, nor to drink all of it in one sitting...Re-cork the bottle and finish it up another day when you may want/enjoy it more. 

Now, does that mean you can't ever have your "wants?"

No, of course not, but knowing the difference is very useful when making decisions (and, you can indulge that sweet tooth every now and then, but limit your treat to a few small bites).  It is not a matter of depriving yourself of the pleasures of life, it is more a matter of recognizing when the choice is necessary to your survival and having the wisdom to govern yourself accordingly.

It's often hard to discern between a want and a need. One way to do it is to ask yourself the following question: "Will this want/need contribute to my long-term well being?" If this answer is yes, then you would do well to put it in the "need" category.

Quite honestly, I think that if you were to ask both my wife and I what we wanted most in life, we would simultaneously and impulsively answer: "To win a million dollars!"  But in retrospect, what good would that amount of money do us if we did not have the physical health sufficient to enjoy it?  We'll go on living without it anyway! Truth be known, we can't afford to gamble.

I have spent at lot of time recently contemplating the way in which my life has unfolded in the twilight years. It has not been an altogether happy exercise because certain present conditions are not what I would have wanted in a perfect world.

I have learned over the years, however, that the more I let go of my "wants" and get comfortable and committed to handling my "needs" knowing that I always have sufficient to get by, makes my life easier, more acceptable and certainly more peaceful.

We would all do ourselves a favor in making a distinction between what we need, what we need in certain conditions, and what we want.

25 July, 2016

A FARM BOY REMEMBERS MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHONE

I enjoy people who can tell a good story, particularly if the tale is about a subject I am not all that familiar with or on an aspect of life that, due to circumstances, I have not experienced.  Bob Johnston is one of those people.  In many respects our lives have paralleled, but with one major exception -- Bob grew up on a farm.

He was talking the other day about the old expression "making hay".

That oft-repeated proverb reminds us to “make hay while the sun shines.” Of course, as Bob pointed out, "on the farm, we also made hay on cloudy days. And while those heavy gray clouds graciously offered some relief from the oppressive July heat, darkened skies made tanning efforts less successful."
"Muffets" of  hay.

As an insecure, shy, high school boy, young Bob counted on those summers in the hay fields as an opportunity to remold his scrawny six-foot-plus (to this day) frame. "I was hoping to create a more appealing physique to attract any one of those good-looking girls who, up to that point, had been ignoring me. The first goal was to cover my sun-starved, pasty, winter-white skin with a deep golden-brown tone. Dangers of excessive UV rays were not widely-known. We simply took off our shirts and waited, sans sunscreen lotion, for the inevitable painful sunburn. Once the skin had blistered and peeled we knew that further sun exposure would turn us brown, not red," he explains. Short term pain...

A second goal for Bob was to gain muscle. Daily rides to the boss’s farm and back on his old, battered, one speed CCM bike did produce strongly-sculpted, buff legs. Unfortunately, in that era no young fella would wear shorts to school. "My curvy, bulgy calves remained unnoticed by the world. Efforts at remaking my upper body failed miserably. ‘Nuff said!," he adds with a laugh.

Bob also recalls the pleasant interlude of bodily rest on top of a swaying wagon load of bales moving slowly between the hay field and the barn. "Once on site, we reluctantly sprang into action. I’ve never resolved which task was more challenging---the elevator or the mow. Each load of a hundred or so sixty-pound bales had to be placed one by one and end-to-end onto a moving elevator track which carried them up into the hay mow.  The sun beat down relentlessly, an overworked back grew stiff and the bales grew heavier as the day wore on,"

Life in the hay mow was apparently no picnic either. He continues, "Here, the farmhand stacked bales in neat rows as each one tumbled off the top of the elevator. Often, when I wasn’t paying attention, an errant bale would land on my head. Standing on each layer of piled bales brought me closer to the barn’s sun-scorched, galvanized tin roof, where stifling heat quickly became the enemy. No cooling breeze penetrated the windowless space. Did I mention the swirling clouds of chaff (hay dust) which stung my eyes and lungs?"

Yet, long after he exchanged adolescent summer work on a farm for the adult world of white collar desk jobs, he still yearned to be back on that hay wagon. "Every year from mid-June to Mid-July, I would plan a day or two away from the desk. We had family friends who farmed and always welcomed an extra pair of willing hands and a strong back."

Years ago, when he wrote for the Peterborough Examiner, he once penned a column entitled “Farmer for a Day” in which he encouraged city folks to offer volunteer help with hay crops in nearby fields. "I doubt if anyone took up my challenge, given the issues of legal liability and possible unwanted intrusion into a farmer’s routine and privacy," he readily acknowledges.

"Just as my sweet-smelling crop of loose hay gradually gave way to tightly-packed bales, so did those small, manageable bales eventually make room for the latest innovation -- giant bales which look so much like huge breakfast cereal "Muffets". Now, instead of hired hands, the farmer calls upon his front-end loader which never needs mid-afternoon lemonade breaks or complains about chaff in its eyes. Just as I could never comprehend how the baler ties knots, I have no idea how a baling machine can wrap each mega-Muffet in white plastic to be safely stored outside even in rainy weather. Farming technology has surely passed me by," says Bob with a degree of resolve.

His last memory of haying season is a bitter one. It was 1959 and the family farm was about to be sold for developers to erect three high-rise apartment towers. "The old, now-rusting rake and cutter sat silently and forgotten in the pasture. a remnant of hay in the barn lay moldy and encrusted in pigeon poop. Where I once biked to be a summer farmhand was now transformed into a CPR terminus for freight cars."

Yet, every June when Bob smells the sweet fragrance of newly-cut hay, it seems he can once again hear the sound of children playing in the family barn and feel the heat of summer sun on his bare back. He was young and life was simple then.


Life back then was simple for us town-slicker-kids too.  We didn't know any different.  We "made hay" in our own way!

22 July, 2016

WHETHER IT'S 4+5 OR 5+4 THE ANSWER IS STILL 9...I THINK

Writing in the Quora Digest to which I subscribe, William La Chenal poses an interesting question: "Is there any difference between 4+5 and 5+4?" La Chenal then proceeds to answer his own question in an uniquely interesting way that only a fellow mathematician could fully appreciate or understand...I think.

He sets the stage for his rather convoluted explanation with the following story. "It's 9:51 a.m., and a mathematician has a train to catch, and an important phone call to make at 10:00. The train leaves in four minutes 35 seconds. That's four minutes to get to the train and board, t..hen five minutes to find a seat and get comfortable before reaching for his cell phone and making the important call."

"Or, it's five minutes to get to the platform in time see the the train vanishing in the distance, and four minutes to find a bench to make the phone call whilst waiting for the next train." It took a while for me to wrap my brain around that one.

In abstract algebra an Abelian group (after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, 1802-1829), also called a commutative group where the operation is invariant to the order in which the operands are written (commutative). Abelian groups generalize the arithmetic of addition of integers so the operation is commonly denoted by (+) plus.

If like me you are not a mathematician, it should be explained that integers are like whole numbers, including (0) zero, but they also include negative numbers -- but no fractions.

The Albelian group satisfies five axioms: closure, associativity, existence of an identity element, existence of an inverse element for each element of the group (the negative, or additive inverse), and of course commutativity -- that is, A+B=B+A for any A,B in the group.

In this context, which includes integer arithmetic,
5+4 has the same result as 4+5. Mathematicians are very keen on precise definition and context. Often altering conditions makes a big difference.

Meanwhile, a teacher in one of our North American schools is marking tests for common core maths. "The answer book says 4+5," our friend La Chenal astutely points out.

By the same token then, perhaps that is why they call a piece of lumber a two-by-four instead of a four-by-two?  Then again, I may digress.

I don't know...Like I say, I'm not a mathematician! I still have trouble with grade school multiplication and fractions. Niels Henrik Abel may well have been my kind of guy.


My next assignment is to examine the conceptual integration process with respect to arithmetic word problems and how it compares to conceptual integration for sentences and other meaningful sequences. Arithmetic word problems are unique in that they combine elements of language and math and provide the opportunity for analogical alignment or misalignment between the semantic relations and the arithmetic relations in the problem.  Know what I mean?

Bet you can't wait for another definitive explanatory expose in the down-to-earth, every day language for which I have gained a reputation.

16 July, 2016

Look at the cute little old lady in this photo as stars arrive for a movie premier. While others rush to post photos, she was able to soak up and enjoy the entire experience. It’s the best reminder I’ve seen to log off Facebook and occasionally put down the cell phone.
This lady may or may not have a Facebook account but as a former frequent user myself, the popularity contest of trying to get the most “likes” just isn’t that appealing when compared to other productive things a person can do with their time.
Oddly enough, this touching picture of a pensioner living for the moment was re-tweeted more than 1,200 times so maybe I’m not the only one ready to log off social media a bit more often.
Image courtesy of Google

COMING TO THE AID OF OTHERS WHO NEED HELP, ANY KIND OF HELP

The last time I told the following story in a social media forum it generated considerable reaction.  I re-visit it this week for the edification of TidBits of Moose Jaw readers because I am sure they know whereof I speak, maybe even having experienced something similar.

One hot summer evening a number of years years ago I was parked in front of a shopping mall wiping off my car with a chamois.  I had just come from a car wash and was putting in time waiting for my banker wife to get out of work.

Coming my way from across the parking lot was what society would consider a bum. From his appearance one could readily conclude that he was homeless. There are times when you feel tolerant and receptive but there are other times when you just don't want to be bothered. This was one of the "don't want to be bothered" times.

"I hope he doesn't ask me for money," I thought.  He didn't.  He instead sat on the curb in front of a bus stop some 100 feet away .  After a few minutes he spoke.  "That's a very nice car," he said, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead.  Looks can sometimes be misleading, I thought to myself.

I nodded "thanks," and continued busily wiping off my car.

The man sat quietly watching me as I worked. The expected plea for money never came. As the silence between us widened something inside me said, "Ask him if he needs help."  I was sure that he would say yes, but I gave in to my inner voice anyway.

"Do you need any help?" I asked.  He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget.  We often look for wisdom in great men and women.  We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments.  On this occasion I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. The three words coming from between blistered lips and brown broken teeth, however, shook me.

"Don't we all?" he said.

Certainly, I've needed help in my life, maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I've needed help. I related totally to those three words, "Don't we all?"

Without hesitation and asking no further questions, I reached in my wallet and gave the guy not only enough money for bus fare but enough to get a warm meal too.  (My wife wanted a bite to eat before we went home a few minutes later.  I didn't have enough cash, so I put the food tab on a credit card.)

Those three little words still ring true for me all these year later. No matter how much we have, no matter what we have accomplished in life, we all need help at various times in our lives.  Then again, we may well be strapped for money and have more than our share of problems in life, but we can still give help -- even if it's just a compliment or a word of encouragement to someone who needs it.

There are certain to be times when you come in contact with someone that appears to have it all but chances are they are waiting on you to give them what they don't have -- a different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos, that only you through a torn world and an open heart can see and give.

Unlike the man in the mall parking lot, a person does not necessarily have to be materially destitute to need our help. Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to the hidden needs of others.  As I say, personal needs go hand-in-hand with life...Don't we all welcome a kind word or a helping hand at one time or another?

It feels good to both give and to receive!  That's the nice part of it.

12 July, 2016

Noah's Ark Comes to Life in Kentucky

I find this to be an interesting and fascinating undertaking.  Couldn't resist the impulse to share it with readers of Wright Lane.  I'm putting this one on my "to visit" bucket list.

10 July, 2016

DUSTIN MOLLEKEN: LET'S HEAR IT FOR A SASKATCHEWAN BOY!

Saskatchewan sports fans have a new home-grown hero to cheer for and not before it was deserved.

After toiling in the minor leagues of professional baseball for 13 long seasons, 31-year-old pitcher Dustin Molleken of Regina finally made it to the Major Leagues two weeks ago and gave a pretty good account of himself in two relief appearances with the Detroit Tigers. He made his Major League debut on Monday, July 4, at Cleveland and threw two innings, allowing a run on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts. His first Major League strikeout was at the expense of the Indians' 
Mike Napoli.


Then six days later he made his second appearance in the fifth inning of a game in Toronto against the Blue Jays. This time, showing unexpected poise and with his family in the stands (including his wife and baby daughter), he worked two scoreless innings and struck out four of the seven batters he faced, the final out coming when Troy Tulowitzky was retired on a grounder with two runners on base. 

Unfortunately for the Tigers, and in spite of the good relief work by the Regina native, they lost both games.

Dustin had pitched at Rogers Centre in Toronto before, nearly half a lifetime ago. He was a 17-year-old on the Canadian junior national team, pitching against Team USA. At that point, he dreamed of some day coming back to Toronto as a Major Leaguer. (He also competed for his country during the 2011 Baseball World Cup and Pan Am Games.)

Fourteen years later, Molleken walked into Rogers Centre on Thursday afternoon as a member of the Detroit Tigers' bullpen, readying for a four-game series against the Blue Jays' formidable offense. And the Rogers Centre crew was ready for him, posting his picture and stats profile on the scoreboard, complete with a Canadian Maple Leaf to denote his heritage.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," he said, "especially being at home here in Toronto. It means so much to me to be at home and throw."

It's a feeling Molleken wasn't sure he'd ever get as he waited for a call from the big leagues. He has spent 13 years and 349 appearances in the Minors, including parts of six years at Triple-A across four different organizations. He went to Japan to pitch for the Nippon Ham Fighters a few years ago, but came back. He nearly quit, but his agent told him not to give up. Far from growing bitter, Molleken picked up a reputation for his kindness, even helping out clubhouse kids doing laundry after a game on occasion.

"You have to pay your dues," he said with a smile.

A 6'4" righty, Molleken worked as a starter and a reliever in his 629.1 career minor league innings. His minor league numbers are not all that impressive, but his career longevity is what stands out. He features a fastball that sits between 92-94 mph as well as a slider. He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2003 MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent his first seven seasons in that organization before becoming a minor league free agent.

He made his way to the Tigers' system last fall with help from an old scout. Joe Ferrone originally signed him with the Pirates in 2003, and he remembered Molleken when he joined the Tigers for a second stint as a Major League scout this past fall. When the Tigers were looking for Minor League free agents to stock the system, Ferrone put in a good word for Molleken.

When depth issues challenged the Tigers to look for fresh arms at Triple-A Toledo, the word from manager Lloyd McClendon and the coaching staff was Molleken. He was called up on Father's Day last month for a brief stint but didn't pitch, essentially serving as an extra arm.

The Tigers called him back up from Toledo on the 4th of July with 
Jordan Zimmermann going on the disabled list, and this time Molleken did not have to linger long. He made his Major League debut that same night. "My legs felt like jelly," Molleken said. "My heart rate was going, but when I threw my first pitch, I felt normal." 

In a television interview prior to his Sunday relief appearance on the mound at Rogers Centre, he spoke matter-of-factly about a speech disorder he has fought since he was four-years-of -age.  "It's who I am," he explained..."and I want kids out there who stutter to know that they can get over it too."
  
Dustin attended Cochrane High School in Regina and Lethbridge Community College before launching his baseball career.  He comes from a sports family, his dad Doug was active in Regina fastball circles for a number of years and his uncle Lorne is a well known former hockey player and coach.

Like Andrew Albers, Dave Pagan, Terry Puhl and Reggie Cleveland -- all Saskatchewan products who have played in the big leagues -- it was either hockey or baseball for this impressive and determined young man -- he chose baseball and the rest is history.


Needless to say, all those years of riding the bus and playing in minor league cities he had never heard of, has finally payed off.  It remains to be seen how long the dream will last but one thing is for sure, he will make the best of the opportunity to prove what he has known all along -- he is a "major leaguer".

09 July, 2016

REFLECTIONS: ANOTHER "DOOR" TO THE PAST

MY FAMILY HOME in Dresden from a water colour painting done by me (1998).  Note the two front door entrances.  Also one of the original front door keys, inserted. 
I have been looking at some old photos of homes built in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Many of them bear remarkable similarity to the Dresden, ON home that I grew up in (built by my grandfather Wesley Wright in 1879).

The homes had one particular, striking thing in common -- two front entrances.  I have always wondered about the practicality of dual entrances, but given the formality and conditions of the era, it does make some sense.

The one front door, usually slightly recessed, opened into the "keeping room", where the family
kept house.  The area usually contained a large fireplace or wood-burning stove for cooking, a pantry, and of course table and chairs for regular family meals and relaxing.  At the turn of the century, fire-burning fixtures were slowly replaced by gas-burning stoves in pantry areas that were expanded into full-fledged kitchens, completed by the advent of electrical refrigerators to replace the former ice boxes.

Family members and close friends were generally the only ones to use the keeping entrance.  The other front door would lead into the living room or front parlor, which were generally used for special occasions.  Our formal front entrance in Dresden opened into a small vestibule which led to a second floor stairway and the front parlor.  Special guests and strangers just naturally gravitated to this door.

It was not uncommon too in those days that deceased family members would lay at rest in front parlors for visitors to pay their respects before removal for the actual funeral service itself and interment.  The formal front entrance allowed for easy casket negotiation and placement with minimal disturbance for the family.  In my case, two sets of grandparents and my father lay at rest in what we called our "front room".  My mother was the last to pass away and in that very same front room which had been converted to a bedroom in the last few years of her life.  I always had an uncomfortable feeling about that and one of the reasons that I eventually sold the home -- too many memories, adolescent impressions, and ghosts from the past.

There was normally a wall between the two front doors which could, if necessary, be converted into two separate family living quarters.  In our case, after my father passed away, the formal front door conveniently served as a natural private entrance for second-floor apartment renters.

It is interesting to note, too, that some churches of the era also had two front entrances, one for men and the other for women.  It may just be my imagination, but it seems to me that a lot of the older Presbyterian churches were built that way (i.e. churches that I have belonged to in St. Thomas, Simcoe, Prince Albert (Sask.), Brampton and Southampton).  Men and women even sat on opposite sides of the sanctuary in earlier days.  Schools were also built with separate front entrances, one for boys and one for girls.  In the old Dresden Continuation School that I attended, separate entrances and playgrounds for grade school kids were at the back of the building.  The one front main entrance was for high school students with the other for the exclusive use of teachers.

At one time. even hotels and so-called beverage rooms had separate entrances and accommodations for male and female patrons, but I am straying a bit off topic.

During and following the Great Depression, the location of our home on Sydenham Street seemed to attract the attention of transients (tamps, hobos, beggars) of the day.  I remember in particular, one handout solicitation at our "keeping" door.  It just happened to be at supper time on a hot summer evening and my mother, who always prepared more than enough food for one sitting, invited the bedraggled stranger to have a seat on our front porch.  Within a few minutes she returned with a plate of roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots and gravy with a slice of apple pie on the side and a glass of lemon aid with which to wash it all down.

In no time at all, our unexpected visitor was knocking on the door with the empty plates and utensils in hand.  "Thank you very much Misses," he said.  "That was as good as if I'd had a full course meal!"

From that time on, I never finished one of my mother's meals without repeating the hobo's left-handed compliment.

Awe me -- the past...the thing of which memories are made.

08 July, 2016

A REVEALING COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATION WITH WENDY

I have written before about my penchant for engaging strangers and distant acquaintances in conversation.  I especially delight in favorable reactions to my inquisitiveness and sense of humor.

My targets are very often individuals who appear withdrawn, troubled or to be struggling with a handicap of some kind.  Elderly folks, of course, are some of my favorites.  It is my premise that people are often lonely or worse yet, ignored in life, and that they welcome someone caring enough to pass the time of day with them.  If I can prompt a chuckle, even better.

Wendy is a high-functioning challenged young woman in her late 30's or early 40's. She works four-hour shifts cleaning tables at our local Tim Hortons.  She is shy and reserved and very difficult to strike up a conversation with.  I have been working on her for the better part of two years.  She now asks "how are you?" without me taking the initiative to acknowledge her as she rushes past me with a floor mop or her hands full of used cups and plates.

Sitting at one of her tables, I have learned the hard way not to take my hand off a coffee cup until I have savored that good to the last drop, otherwise eagle-eyed Wendy will scoop it up right from under you.  I've teased her about her efficiency and she is quick to remind me that it is her job to keep the tables clean.  She rarely looks you in the eye or stops at your table for more than a couple of seconds.

On a catch-as-catch-can basis, I have learned about her mother and the self-contained subsidized apartment that she now lives in.  I have discovered that she has a sweet tooth and sometimes leave a tip for her to buy her favorite double chocolate donut when she gets off work.  Not long ago, I asked her what she did with her time after she got off work and without hesitation she replied..."take it easy!"

I picked Wendy out of a church group photograph in the newspaper recently and that prompted me to talk about it with her yesterday when I dropped in for a morning coffee.  "Do you go to church regularly?" I asked as she hurried past where I was sitting.  "Yes" she said without looking back.

It was a good five minutes before she came my way again and I positioned my chair so that she would have to at least slow down and side-step me.  It just so happened that my coffee cup was empty by then and I held it out for her, giving me a chance to ask a strategic question: "Why do you go to church Wendy?"

I craned my neck to look up at her standing just behind my left shoulder.  My eyes came directly in contact with hers for perhaps the first time.  There was a pause and I could almost hear the wheels turning in Wendy's mind.  With a hint of a smile as she studiously looked down at me, the soft-spoken words "because I believe in God" slowly came out of her mouth.

"Good for you Wendy.  That is exactly the answer I was looking for!" I enthusiastically responded as she busily dumped a tray of paper cups and food wraps into a nearby trash bin. "And you know what?...God believes in you too!"

I was never more proud of anyone.  There was still a lump in my throat as I pulled my truck out of the parking lot minutes later.

Wendy was not on duty when I went back to Tim's this morning.  Maybe I'll see her tomorrow.  I've got more questions to ask her.

07 July, 2016

NEW SPECIAL MEANING FOR MY "WRIGHTS LANE" SIGN

Sometimes it is the small things in life that do your heart the most good.

I was working in my front terrace the other evening when two women riding bicycles passed by.  We exchanged "hi's". It was one of those lazy, hazy summer nights when people were out and about for casual strolls and exchanging friendly greetings and nods with others they met along the way...It's a small town thing!

Continuing up the street for a short distance, I noticed the cyclists do an abrupt U-turn and head back in my direction.  Stopping curbside, one of the women said: "Pardon me, but I have to tell you about your Wrights Lane sign". I thought for a brief second that she was going to make a negative comment about it.

Much to my surprise, however, she went on to explain that she was originally from Burlington and that she had coincidentally lived in a home on a Wrights Lane there.  "When my parents retired, they moved to Southampton and I used to visit them.  The first time that I drove past your house and saw your Wrights Lane sign, I couldn't believe the warm feeling that it gave me," she explained.

"Both parents are gone now of course and I have since moved here myself. Every time I see your sign it reminds me of my childhood home and assures me that I am now in the right place.  I just thought that you should know..." she added.

I thanked her for sharing her story with me and in turn explained to her the history of Wrights Lane in my hometown of Dresden and how I have adopted it not only for my home in Southampton but for one of my web sites and a book that I published some time ago.

Admittedly, not an earth-shattering story, but one that holds special gratification for me.

I had been procrastinating on giving the sign a spruce up this summer, but I will need to get busy now...I have to do it for that lady from Burlington, if for no other reason.

06 July, 2016

NECROMANYCY...AND OTHER MYSTICAL THINGS: READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Casey Chaplin is married to my granddaughter Alyssa. They are newly-weds and currently live in Brampton, ON. Casey displays a uniquely creative mind in all of his written work and in a venue that is extremely rare in the literary world today. The following is a five-star review of author Casey's newest book "Necromancy...and Other Mystical Things". We are very proud to be able to add this new book to the family library.




Book Review

Reviewed by Tracy A. Fischer for Readers' Favorite

In a fun and funny new read by author Casey Chaplin, "Necromancy and Other Mystical Things" is a story that will have readers laughing and obsessively turning pages from the start all the way through until the final page. Follow the story of protagonist Chip as he discovers, with the help of his roommate Mort, that he just might be a necromancer, one who has the ability to not only raise the dead, but also control them. He's not quite sure why he's developed this power, but the overwhelming smell of death that starts to emanate from his body is a sure sign. And when Chip's beloved girlfriend, Ellie, goes missing, and he finds that she's been kidnapped by a former general of Hell's Army, he realizes that his new found ability might just be necessary. With Mort's voodoo witch doctoring skills and the help of a local shop keeper who's also a secret djinn, Chip's prepared to do anything, even go to war with Hell's former minions, to get Ellie back. Will he succeed? You'll need to read the book to find out!

I very much enjoyed Necromancy...And Other Mystical Things. Author Casey Chaplin has a humorous and unique voice that lends itself easily to this genre. Readers will be able to relate to protagonist Chip, even with his supernatural powers and unusual circumstances, and will find the fast pacing and excellent scene setting of the work completely fantastic! I highly recommend this book to any reader looking for a funny book with a supernatural twist, or to anyone looking for a unique and creative new read in general. I look forward to reading more from the promising author, Casey Chaplin, in the very near future, and hope that he's already hard at work on his next book!

04 July, 2016

YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF TO BE A BELIEVABLE WRITER

Self confession time.

In the eight years that I served as a newspaper sports editor, I figure that I produced at least 600 "Time Out for Sports" columns. As a managing editor and sole contributor to the editorial pages of two daily newspapers over another seven-year period, I wrote in the neighborhood of 1,500 lead editorials.  I have written three books and at last count have published more than 800 personal and human interest items on my "Wrights Lane" blog sites. I have lost count of the free-lance articles I have written for sundry periodical publications.

And do you know what?  To this day I do not consider myself to be a writer!

Upon retirement, as forced and premature as it was, I succumbed to a higher call to become a certified lay minister in the Presbyterian Church of Canada. During two separate pulpit-fill stints in the Presbytery of Grey-Bruce-Maitland, I delivered in excess of 100 sermons, performed several memorial services and marriage vow renewal ceremonies, individually requiring untold hours of thoughtful preparation.

And do you know what?  To this day I never considered myself to be a preacher either!

The problem, I guess, is that I have always struggled to overcome deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy. That coupled with the fact that, with the rare exception, I have sensed that people by and large do not really listen to (take seriously) my written and spoken words.  In many respects I remain that day-dreaming kid who always found himself in the bottom third of his class at school.  In all honesty, what happened in the ensuing 60 years to make me an authority on any subject? I ask myself.  Have I been fraudulent in pretending otherwise?

Someone who writes understands writing in terms of something he/she does, not in terms of something they are. A writer is aware of the singular stuff of which the soul is composed, but will never shake that gnawing feeling of inadequacy. They will be at once inspired and made to feel inferior by other writers’ words. They respect criticism while never fully accepting it.  But they will never let any of that stop them. 

A writer continues to see the poetry in a broken watch, or a dog with one blue eye and one brown. They will give you their heart on a Saturday night for the story they get to tell on a Sunday afternoon. They will give you their soul always. And will give it to you in writing.

By my rough calculations I spent some 14,000 hours with the seat of my pants in a chair in front of a typewriter or computer keyboard, methodically creating epistles and pouring out my soul for the edification of an audience of readers or listeners. That's a big chunk of my life to have invested in something that has not brought about the desired sense of fulfillment.  I am left asking myself: "Have those 14,000 hours and countless sleepless nights been enough?  Should I have done more to consider myself a writer or a speaker of the word?"  Has there been something amiss in my attitude?  Is there something in my demeanor or delivery carrying through to what I write and say that is not conducive to believability?

My late wife, who in 40 years of marriage knew me better than anyone, said more than once: "I cannot believe Dick that you honestly believe some of the things that you say and write." If that doesn't give you pause, nothing will.

Great writing is not done in sporadic bursts of activity. It’s a slow, day-to-day discipline. You have to write despite all distractions. You have to make uncomfortable sacrifices. And worst of all, you do not have a cheering section. There’s no one to tell you that what you’re doing is worthwhile. No one to tell you you’re on the right track.

There is this romantic idea that writers have to write. That they have no choice. That there is this overpowering identity of “the writer” that has to be catered to. But being a writer or an artist isn’t a preexisting condition. You can have an aptitude for writing, but the bottom line is: Writers write. If you don’t write, you’re not a writer.

I have learned the hard way that you have to be true to yourself in all aspects of life.  You have to be motivated and, for that reason, over the past 10 years I have written only when inspiration has moved me, but generally with the perhaps misguided hope that my work will be believable and have some meaningful impact.  I left lay ministry when I felt myself becoming a false profit. By the same token, I have threatened, but have been unable to completely give up writing.

The words of a former insensitive Facebook friend still ring in my ears..."For Heaven's sake, make up your mind!"

The need to write remains ever-present in my existence today, but other priorities are increasingly limiting my time and creative impulses.  It is the disappointing reality of the aging process.

It is unlikely that I will ever completely rid myself of nagging inhibitions.  In my mind I will, likewise, never be "a writer" any more than I was a preacher in the true sense.

It has taken me a lifetime to understand that in order to be believable you have to believe in yourself.  For me there is just too much history in that regard to bring about a reversal and therein exists the rub.

Someone once said: "We get too soon old and too late smart!

For the duration, whenever the spirit moves me and circumstances permit, I'll just continue to be an impulsive occasional pretend writer...Believe me or not!

29 June, 2016

MY LORD SIMCOE "SARAH SIDDONS CUP AND SAUCER" ARE KEEPERS

For the better part of a year I have been sorting through a lifetime of personal possessions, reluctantly yet ruthlessly opening boxes and storage containers, condensing and giving away dusty and forgotten keepsake items that have not been touched by human hands for ages.  It has been a painful exercise, especially for someone who comes from a long line of sentimental collectors with a strong sense of attachment.

For the past month I have literally lived in my garage with the faint hope of making an end-of-June, 2016, deadline for a yard sale that promises to be the granddaddy of them all.  The reason it has taken so long is that I diligently weigh the value of each and every item, often taking long pauses to consider relative merits -- and relish the associated memory.

Deeply engrossed in the "do I or don't I" undertaking, it has not been unheard of for me to fall asleep as my mind drifts through days of yore -- my youth, marriage, two daughters, grandchildren, special occasions, work I've done, the lives and deaths of immediate family members.  Tonight, for instance, I was in the garage and sitting in an old arm chair that once belonged to my late wife's parents.  As I contemplated all the work that was still ahead of me before the target weekend, I dozed off and woke up an hour later with a stiff neck and nothing accomplished...Story of my life!

One thing I did accomplish tonight, however, was the decision not to dispense with a cup and saucer that I purchased (along with several other incidental items) at the time of the closing of the fabled post war Lord Simcoe Hotel in Toronto in 1979.  I have a thing for old hotels and have always prized the Lord Simcoe cup and saucer, with its LS logo, as a memento of an era past.  I call it my "Sarah Siddons cup and saucer" because it is a souvenir tribute in high grade china to "the incomparable English actress" of the 18th century. The inscription on the saucer further reads: "Sarah Siddons...fused stage and society, frequented the Pump Room and hobnobbed with aristocracy while playing stock in Bath." 

The "Duraline" cup and saucer is super vitrified and made for the Grindley Hotelware Co. in England.  Just because I can, I'll be drinking my coffee out of it in the morning, just as I did in the Lord Simcoe's Pump Room on numerous occasions some 38 years ago.  The hotel actually had three restaurants -- The Pump Room, The Captain’s Table and The Country Fare -- all decorated in historical styles. The luxurious Pump Room was reportedly inspired by its 1795 neoclassical namesake in Bath, England; accordingly, waiters wore long red tailcoats and served prime rib skewered on swords.
Sarah Siddons as painted by
Thomas Gainsborough.

In case anyone has further interest, Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was the renowned tragic actress who dominated British theater during the late Georgian era. She was most famous for her portrayal of the Shakespearean character: Lady Macbeth, a role she made her own. The Sarah Siddons Society continues to present the Sarah Siddons Award in Chicago every year to a prominent actress.

Sarah was born July 5, 1755 into the family of strolling actors Roger Kemble and Sarah Ward Kemble. She began to perform with her parents rather early, the first documented stage appearance of Sarah Kemble, aged 11, is dated December 22, 1766; she played Ariel in the Tempest with her father’s company at Coventry. Four of Sarah’s siblings -- out of 11 total -- were to become actors; besides Sarah the most famous was John Philip Kemble (1757-1823), but also Stephen Kemble (1758-1822), Charles Kemble (1775-1854) and Elizabeth Whitlock (1761-1836).

In 1767 William Siddons, a handsome 22-year-old actor, was accepted into the Kemble company. To stop the relationship between their daughter and William Siddons, the Kembles sent Sarah away to serve as maid to Lady Mary Greatheed. However, the feelings between the two young people were stronger than her parents realized and in 1773, aged 19, Sarah married William Siddons and returned to the stage as Mrs Siddons, continuing to perform with her father’s company.

In 1775 the famous Garrick, then manager of Drury Lane Theatre in London, invited her to perform with his company, but she failed to produce a favorable impression on the public and was dismissed within several months. She spent the next two years working with various touring companies, until 1778, when she was engaged at the Theatre Royal in Bath. She was an astonishing success with the Bath public (as referenced on the cup saucer inscription) and in 1782 the new manager of Drury Lane Theatre, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, invited her back to London. 


She appeared in the title role of the tragedy Isabella. Her performance moved the public to tears and critics to enthusiastic praise. A string of very successful roles followed. The actress was even popular with the royal couple, George III and Queen Charlotte, known for their antipathy to theater. They appointed Mrs. Siddons “Reader in English” to the royal children.

In May 1784, Reynolds exhibited Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse at the Royal Academy. The picture was instantly proclaimed a masterpiece, increasing the popularity of both its creator and the model. The actress spent that summer touring Scotland and Ireland. Scotland greeted the actress enthusiastically, but in Ireland, she refused to participate in a benefit performance and the irritated Dublin public assaulted her with apples and potatoes during the show. The reason for the refusal was not the selfishness of the actress, but exhaustion and poor health – her constant pregnancies, childbirth, miscarriages, anxiety to secure the future of her growing family and financial problems could not but tell on her health.

Unfortunately, rumors of her “selfishness” reached London and she was booed on her opening night as Mrs. Beverley in Edward Moore’s tragedy The Gamester. The uproar lasted for 40 minutes, during which the actress fainted. After recovering she addressed the public with explanations and apologies. Tempted to abandon her profession by this incident, she decided to continue for her children’s sake.

Siddons’s brilliant career lasted till 1812, when she made her official farewell performance at Covent Garden in her signature role of Lady Macbeth. Impatient with retirement, Siddons made several benefit appearances, among them 10 performances in Edinburgh for the benefit of her son Henry’s widow and their children after his death in 1815.

Sarah Siddons died on May 31, 1831, aged seventy-six, in her house on Upper Baker Street, London. She outlived five of her seven children, her husband, her brother John Philip Kemble, and the painters Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Lawrence (1768-1830) on whose remarkable portraits she appears. She was buried at St. Mary’s, Paddington, on 15 June. Five thousand people attended her funeral.


My coffee in the morning will also serve as a toast to Sarah.  Haven't decided yet where I'm once again going to display the cup and saucer in my house.  I'm just glad that I decided to save it from the cut.  I'll probably leave it on the kitchen table for now.

27 June, 2016

WE SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE OUR BLESSINGS

Dream inspired version of what happens in Heaven

A man dreamt that he went to Heaven and an angel was showing him around. They walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels. The angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, "This is the Receiving Section.  Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received."

The visitor looked around the area, and it was terribly busy with so many angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from people all over the world.

Then the pair moved on down a long corridor until they reached the second section. The angel then explained "This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here, graces and blessings requested through prayers are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them."  The man again noticed how busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally at the farthest end of the long corridor they stopped at the door of a very small station. To the man's great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing. "This is the Acknowledgment Section," the angel guide quietly admitted. He seemed embarrassed.  "How is it that there is no work going on here?" the man asked.

"So sad," the angel sighed. "After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgments."

"How does one acknowledge God's blessings?" the man asked.

"Simple," the angel answered. "Just say: Thank you, Lord."

"What blessings should they acknowledge?" was the next obvious question.

The angel was quick with one last answer before disappearing down the corridor:  "If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75 per cent of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top eight per cent of the world's wealthy.  That is a good place to begin with an acknowledgement of your blessings."

So dear reader, if you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.  If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation...you are ahead of 700 million people in the world.  Be a thankful acknowledger!

If you can attend a place of worship without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world.  If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you are unique to all those in doubt and despair.  Be a thankful acknowledger!

If you can actually read this Wrights Lane post, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you as very special and you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.  Be a thankful acknowledger!

Have a good day, count your blessings, and if you want, pass this along to remind everyone else of how blessed we all are to be living in this great country of ours.  Help give that solitary acknowledgment angel something to do!