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

01 December, 2016

Learn to discern. Don’t take things at face value.

I've always believed that there are three sides to every story -- the two opposing sides...and the truth. The Greek word discern is anakrino meaning “to distinguish, or separate out so as to investigate by looking throughout.” Discerning isn’t just knowing the difference between good and bad. Discernment is the ability to distinguish good from the truth. Both sides of a story may present compelling views, but if you are really concerned, take time to research the issue.

View with wisdom and compassion all sides to the story. Chances are both sides contain truth behind their intentions. Opposing opinions don’t need to be enemies.  Chance are God is on both sides...Did you ever stop to think of that?

23 October, 2016


Internet fraud is not something that only happens to other people...If own own a computer for any purpose, there is no doubt that you have been victimized -- many times.

I found the following information released by the Ontario Provincial Police, to be most informative.

Reading the contents of an email should be safe if you have the latest security patches, but email attachments can be harmful. Email phishing scams can trick you into opening attachments or giving up personal information. They appear to be emails from people, organizations or companies you know or trust, but they're often the gateway to identity theft by automatically installing malware, viruses, worms, and trojans.

In some instances, email attachments are disguised as letters of reference, resumes or information requests and can infiltrate and affect businesses that are involved in legitimate hiring processes. Also known as “spearphishing campaigns”, high-value corporate and governments have been targeted through email attachments to take advantage of previously-unknown security vulnerabilities.

Many email servers will perform virus scanning and remove potentially dangerous attachments, but you can’t rely on this. The easiest way to identify whether a file is dangerous is by its file extension, which tells you the type of file it is. For example, a file with the “.exe” file extension is a Windows program and should NOT be opened. Many email services will block such attachments.

Other file extensions that can run potentially harmful code include “.msi”, “.bat”, “.com”, “.cmd”, “.hta”, “.scr”, “.pif”, “.reg”, “.js”, “.vbs”, “.wsf”, “.cpl”, “.jar” and more. In general, you should only open files with commonly-used attachments that you know are safe.

For example, “.jpg” and “.png” are image files and should be safe. Document file extensions such as “.pdf”, “.docx”, “.xlsx”, and “.pptx” should also be safe — although it’s important to have the latest security patches so malicious types of these files can’t infect systems via security holes in Adobe Reader or Microsoft Office.

If you or a business suspects they’ve been a victim of ‘spearfishing’, contact your local police service, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, report it to the OPP online at or through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) at

For helpful tips and links during Cyber Security Awareness Month, follow the OPP on Twitter (@OPP_News), Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtags #CyberSecurity, #CyberAware and #OPPTips.

Insecure, infected or unencrypted email attachments can risk injecting a number of information and data security threats to your home or workplace environments. Your personal information and business systems need to be safeguarded and it starts right at your inbox.

"When it comes to email attachments, even those from innocent friends and family members, you should exercise extreme caution and assume the worst. Do NOT actually download or run an attachment unless you have a good reason to do so. If you’re not expecting an attachment, treat it with healthy suspicion,” says Superintendent Paul Beesley, Director of OPP Behavioural, Forensic and Electronic Services.

08 October, 2016


Thanksgiving is an opportune time to consider whether we see our glass being half full or half empty. Why do we tend to focus on what is going wrong in our lives but ignore what is going right? Why do I take for granted the faithful rhythm of my heart or the continued function of my limbs, as painful and slow as they may be most of the time? Do I remember with gratitude that I had the good fortune to be born in Canada and not hurricane-battered Haiti, that I have a roof over my head and food on the table or that my wife, while now invalided, still thinks that I am the greatest guy in the world despite the fact that I am often frustrated and feel that we have been deprived by the way our life has "unfairly" unfolded in recent years? 

In spite of trials and tribulations, my “glass” is far more than half-full, when I just take time to rationally assess it.

Each of us can always find some ailment or problem to complain about. Yet, even in these late-life years, chances are that we have much more for which to be thankful. On this weekend of Thanksgiving, let us raise that overflowing glass of blessings and propose a toast, giving thanks for our good fortune.

Here's to your full glass, dear reader!

Can you smell the turkey in the oven?

22 September, 2016


I believe: “The writing of the Bible was conditioned by the language, thought and setting of its time. The Bible must be read in its historical context.”

We cannot hold on to the past. We know that traditional structures disappear; however, these disappearances have cost dearly. We have responses in ourselves to which we must attend, if we want to appropriately encounter the new world that is bearing us into rapidly changing times.

As a reforming Christian who has withdrawn (temporarily?) from active church participation, I do not believe in scripture as the literal and inerrant word of God. I have come to understand that scripture was inspired by God, but written by human beings who were, just as much as we all are, limited by psychological, sociological, cultural and historical circumstances.

I was recently taken with the words of old friend Wes Denyer: "Scripture is the best ‘word’ we have in trying to understand the will of God for us, but it is not inerrant, and we should not limit God to the words of scripture."

In other words, is it possible, as we gain knowledge and insight, as our vision of humanity is expanded and as the circumstances of the world change, that we may be able to see more clearly the nature of the God who called us into existence?

I believe God is the same yesterday, today and forever, but is it possible our ability to understand who God is, and what God requires of us, may change, develop and grow? For example, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Joshua, after the fall of the city of Jericho, by order of the Lord (the will of God) “they devoted to destruction by the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old.”

I do not believe for one minute that God ever commanded the slaughter of babies and old people! However, what I can understand is that people who lived in a time of continual fear and danger of violent death, and where life was “poor, nasty, brutish, and short” – would would be consistent with the nature of their own lives. They could imagine a God who called upon them to kill every man, woman and child, because that was the kind of world in which they lived.

To say that our understanding of who God was in the darkness of those times should continue to be the God we worship in 2016 is to limit God. We cannot continue to impose those cultural, historical and physical circumstances of the past on our understanding of God today.

As a for-instance and as society has advanced, in the past century our North American churches (to their credit) have moved away from gender bias and male-only leadership, racial bigotry and anti-gay positioning. Apologies have been made and reconciliation, in a number of instances, is ongoing.  

So, still staying within the Old Testament, we find the same Hebrew people who believed God told them to commit genocide, developing and growing into a new understanding of God.  We read things like:

• “They will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3).

• “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

• When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. Love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:34).

We learn and we grow, albeit slowly and often reluctantly.  We have a way to go...We should all attempt to understand our world and its people in new ways, allowing us to live with greater compassion and justice, with more freedom and opportunities for all. In so doing, we set God free from our old and limited (religious) prejudices, narrow-minded thinking, intolerance, racism and hatred.

God doesn’t change…but we can!  So must our churches, if they wish to remain relevant.

Sadly, however, I have to concede that we'll never completely catch up to the speed of change in our brief lifetimes.  We're only human, limited by circumstances that are not necessarily of our own making.

We tend to blindly cling to, even fight for, centuries-old traditions and belief systems because we think that archaic biblical scriptures still apply to us in the 21st Century.

Give the God of today more credit than that!  Look at the reality of the world freely and without prejudice.  The wise individual is the one who sees reality as it really is and who looks into the depths of things. We are not taken out of the world but thrust into the midst of the fray for that is the place that, in Christ, God has made his own.

Dream the impossible dream...We need to continually pray individually and corporately for an understanding that has universal acceptance.  

08 September, 2016


I find it difficult to have anything resembling a real conversation with younger people today...Two or three-word utterances at best.  Equally unsettling is the reality that, for the most part, anything I write is taken with a grain of salt as coming from an old man who espouses old-fashioned ideas and values and is, at best, tolerated and given quick dismissal.

This morning I happened to eaves-drop on a conversation between a couple of folks in my age category. They mutually agreed in lamenting that "minding their own business" had become a reality in their lives and besides, "no one really listens anymore."  I could not help but think "Welcome to the club!"

For some time now I have struggled with the thought, or intuition, that I am wasting my time (countless hours of mind-rendering preparation) in writing pieces that in reality go absolutely nowhere.  The gratification in pride of authorship wanes in the isolation of advanced age and the realization that more and more as life progresses, one tends to talk primarily to oneself.

Is it healthy to listen to, and act upon, intuition?  I truly think so!

I read recently that "Intuition tells us intimate and important things nobody else will—and it will also tell you things your own mind will argue with." As a culture, we have learned to believe that being rational is what should prevail when making decisions. But what about our “inner voice,” our gut feeling -- that “little something” instinctual from within, which tells us how we feel beneath those layers of logic?

Intuition can be either a moment where you instinctively know if something IS right—or isn’t right. It’s our inner voice that “that just knows,” and it does understand what uniquely, sometimes seemingly illogically, will make you happy. It bridges the gap between between instinct and reason, between the conscious and unconscious mind.

Science tells us that only 20 percent of the brain’s gray matter is used for conscious thoughts, while 80 percent is dedicated to non-conscious thoughts.

What is Intuition?  Albert Einstein once said that it is our most valuable asset, and one of our most unused senses. He described it as “a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance of something.” Sometimes it is referred to as gut feeling, sixth sense, innate wisdom, inner sense, instinct, inner voice, or spiritual guide.

Many people will have an intuitive flash as they’re falling asleep or just waking up. It’s often described as a flash of understanding that can cut through our defense systems and allow a deep truth to be revealed.

Commonly, one's real life experience is that we walk into a house for rent or sale, and instantly know it’s the right place to live. For some married couples, it took just one look to recognize their partner in life. Dogs are known to howl at the moment of their master’s death, even if they’re separated by thousands of miles. And time after time, women will say that they had ‘a funny feeling’ about something or someone dangerous. Throughout history and in every culture, the communication of our intuition happens repeatedly in ways that current science can’t explain.

When you talk in depth to people about how they made their important life choices, the story often includes plot twists due to unplanned serendipitous coincidences, magic happening, and “going with their gut.” At some point in life, the journey gets kind of loose, and it is at that moment that the intuition is the right navigating tool -- it is alert to signs of change and opportunity.

We read the signs and omens of what life is saying to us through our intuition. Just as a movie director hints early in a film about a future plot development, hooking us into the story with a glimpse of how things might turn out—the intuition hooks us into our own journey in life. It’s a point at which we understand something new, or know something to be true.

Usually, the intuition comes and goes, informing abruptly, but it can also be called up at will. Whether out-of-the-blue or consciously conjured, it can be instantly there for you once you begin to exercise it.

The intuition’s most important role is that it alerts us to the path, people, and circumstances that we will uniquely find fulfilling. Using intuition or sixth sense is just like working a muscle. It will get stronger the more you use it. We often hesitate to follow our intuition out of fear. Usually, we are afraid of the changes in our own life that our actions will bring.

Let's face it...The inescapable realities of aging are no laughing matter. Even worse, there are a host of environmental and lifestyle factors that are constantly preying on the youth of every cell of our body. Things that turned my crank even five, 10 or 15 years ago ultimately lose their appeal and take effort to sustain, particularly in regards to relationships and communications.  The all-too-noble impulse to motivate and impart reasoned thinking on the outside chance that at least "someone out there will relate" suddenly becomes an idealistic expectation that cannot be justified.

Don't get me wrong, however.  Writing has been a passion for me...It filled a need.  For the most part, it was a labor of love that allowed me to express otherwise suppressed emotions and to share bits of human interest that held special meaning for me.  Every one of the now more than 800 posts on Wrights Lane in the past nine years was a sincere expression of myself. I am grateful for the modest following of readers that stayed with me and, I think, understood where I was coming from most of the time.

This is all by way of saying that my intuition is telling me that, while there is certain gratification in written pontification, a price is being paid -- a price that I can no longer afford.  I have no reason to fear necessary change because it is in my best interest.  It is now time for me to, as much as possible, eliminate stress-inflicted physical and mental clutter and part of the solution is to cease trying to influence the thinking of others who I barely know (or do not know at all) and to stop worrying about resultant perceptions.

I have very little left to offer these days and when I do, the over-riding impression is that no one listens anyway and very few really genuinely care about the message(s) I try to impart.

Why waste time that is better expended closer to home...Like keeping sane at a time in life when new focus is required, when personal needs and responsibilities increase in concert with diminishing coping mechanisms.  Sought-after gratification is better derived from kindly and thoughtful first-person intercourse with those I encounter on a daily basis, fully prepared still to win some and to occasionally lose some.

Intuition can be life-preserving, if only we listen to it and ultimately accept change when warranted.

If my posts on Wrights Lane are increasingly few and far between in the future, you will now know the reason why.

I am bowing to age-acquired intuition and the associated reality that comes along with it!

05 September, 2016


Anyone who has followed my "Dresden: Father and Son Turn Back the Clock" musings may be interested in checking out recent changes I have made to the web site.  Just click
The downtown Dresden that I remember.

30 August, 2016


She lived on an island which, over time, had been formed between two rivers. This island was named “Safety” because it provided sanctuary for those seeking its shelter. One river was called “Hurt” because its bubbling rock-laden rapids and swirling whirlpools had inflicted long-lasting injury on anyone whose boat had capsized during a past voyage. The second river, a wider one, was known as “Fear” because its deep, uncharted waters evoked anxiety in any would-be traveler thinking of crossing it to reach the unexplored far shore.

She had systematically built a strong buttress, a stone block wall around her island to prevent the river waters from touching her. Unintentionally, but unfortunately, this defense also resulted in keeping herself isolated from the outside world. Daily life on her island passed uneventfully as she kept busy fulfilling her responsibilities and duties.

Yet, despite her security and hours-filling activities, she yearned for something more, something intimate, a deeper closeness to another human being with whom she could finally be real and transparent. This dream could only be realized on the mainland. There was certainly nothing to be gained by seeking to cross the River Hurt. That would only take her back in a wrong direction and reawaken old pain.

She resolved to attempt a crossing of the River Fear. Several times she approached its shores, only to turn back in understandable panic. What if I drown? What if I get injured in my voyage? I have no map to guide me around any hidden shoals. Several times she convinced herself to stay put, to continue to live on Safety Island. In doing so, she would never have to risk disappointment or worse, if the crossing failed.

Half asleep, but on her knees in prayer, in the middle of a cloudless, moon-brightened night, she at last found the answer. Rather than attempt a dangerous crossing alone by boat, she would build a bridge across the Fear River. But what materials could she find to construct this span?

All the while, an answer had literally been all around her; she would take down the protective stone wall, block by block and use those sturdy rocks to build her bridge. She would name it “Trust Bridge” because she would need to rely on its strength to carry her across to the far shore. This new challenge would now have to be given its rightful priority. She resolved to set aside some routine daily tasks and hurried through other distracting demands on her time. The real work could then begin, albeit not without residual anxiety and doubt.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, another human being, admiring her effort and feeling compassion, began to work on the far end of that bridge, resolving to help by meeting her half-way. In time and with much expended energy and emotion, their work was nearly completed.

As she began to set the last stone in place to close the span, she looked down at the River Fear rushing by far below. She hesitated and might have turned around to regain that familiar sanctuary now behind. But the helper reached out a hand which she grasped and held tightly. Together they carefully laid the last rock in place and rested side by side, being present for each other.

Once the Trust Bridge had been completed, she returned to Safety Island, not to stay, but to retrieve her belongings. In one suitcase she carried her negative baggage: her anger, her fears, her guilt and her sadness, emotions which she had kept locked away on the island. Crossing the Trust Bridge, she now opened her suitcase and unpacked these feelings in the presence of her friend. The friend quietly listened, tried to understand and then accepted these difficult emotions without judgment, condemnation nor rejection.

In her other suitcase, a lighter one, she brought her unmet needs for affirmation, recognition, companionship and love. Her friend again listened, then responded with empathy, reassurance and unconditional love. Together they had discovered intimacy.

As their eyes were drawn to Safety Island, they saw the river waters slowly encroaching on the now-defenseless land until, at last, it disappeared beneath the waves. She watched without concern. She no longer needed its protection. The Catholic theologian, Henri Nouwen, would have understood this allegory: He stated:

"If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its greatest friend."

The “She” in this story is any of us who hides behind protective walls of a self-constructed sanctuary to avoid the pain of past and future hurt. In doing so we also deny ourselves the hope of future love and intimacy.

“Other person” is the helper: maybe a spouse, a friend, a therapist or for some religious others, the Christ figure. To risk intimacy -- to risk being real in relationship, to become transparent -- we must first build that bridge we call trust. We always need someone at the other end, someone who will invite us into intimacy. To walk across that bridge can be scary but almost always well worth the risk.

We are about to move into a new Fall season. May we also, as opportunities arise, be able and willing to enter a new season in our life journey -- a period of time in the calendar year that offers hope and potential for the intimacy we all crave, if only we have trust in building a bridge that will enable us to reach out and grasp a receptive hand...A hand that may well have been there all along.

28 August, 2016


Letter writing is truly a lost art -- a vintage skill, if you will. The flow of the pen gracefully etching out your thoughts to someone…

The mere idea of letter writing gives me cause to pause. I fully acknowledge how crazy it is today to think about letter writing in this text-crazed society where attention spans are about five minutes long and where we can’t be bothered typing full words, using proper grammar or punctuation.

Letters used to be a staple of communication. Sending news, keeping war-separated lovers connected, sharing a tasty bit of gossip or a way to make a friend half way around the world. Letters record our thoughts, our history. Letters, in the day, helped maintain life-long friendships and nurture family connections.

There is nothing quite like the personal touch of a handwritten letter -- the paper filled with the ink of someone’s pen; and the handwriting that is unmistakably their own. Handwriting takes effort and a degree of practice (or lack of it).  It is not a font downloaded from a computer program. There is simply nothing quite as personal as someone’s handwriting.

A text or an e-mail is not usually well thought out. It is merely a convenient way to send a hasty greeting, a few thoughts or a list of details of some kind in a business sense. But letter writing takes time, effort and reflection to convey thoughts, emotions, expressions of love and news of importance.

Long after we are gone, no one will care about the million electronic texts we may have generated. But a letter will last like a saved treasure. It can even be passed down to future generations. Can you think of a single email that would be worth printing out and storing away for posterity? Letters are legacy!

I have several letters written almost 100 years ago by a grandparent and an aunt and uncle, all of whom passed away before I was born, but I cherish them as a link to the past and an otherwise missed family connection.  I know them through their written words.
Gladys (left) and Jeannie, life-time pen pals.

I came across a story earlier this week that exemplifies the impact that letters can have in people's lives.

There was a time when people became what was known as 'pen pals' and wrote letters back and forth. In the back of magazines, there were classified ads that also had a category 'Pen Pal Wanted'. You could have the magazine post your name and age and a postal box to which replies could be made.

When Gladys Diacur placed an ad in 1943, little did she know that it would result in a life-long friendship.  "I must have had 100 responses," says Diacur, "and I met approximately 11 of them but we never hit it off. Then I met Jeannie O'Reilly and 73 years later we are still the best of friends."

For 73 years, from the time they were 12 and 13, the two women corresponded almost weekly, although one lived in Hamilton and the other in nearby St. Catherines.

O'Reilly now lives in a Southampton home for seniors and, when she had her own home, Diacur drove from the city almost every summer to visit. A stroke resulted in her not being able to drive her car any longer but, on Tuesday, August 23rd, she was driven by a friend and the two pen pals got together once again to reminisce over old times.

They laughed and talked about all the boys they had written about in their teens ... things that only teenage girls share with each other.  They kept all their letters over the years but, unfortunately, a fire destroyed O'Reilly's copies some time ago.

For Jeannie O'Reilly and Gladys Diacur, now both in their eighties, those good-time days are gone but they remember writing the letters as though it were yesterday and, for them, they've had a friendship to treasure and one that very few people today will ever know.  Good for them!...Too bad for most others who live in today's cold world of electronic technology and abbreviated, impersonal communications.

21 August, 2016


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 1977, 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.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.