Record-breaking weather brings out signs of early spring

swifties three (1)

Over the last few days when London has hit record temperatures, I’ve noticed moths and other insects emerging.

Will we continue to have warm weather right through till March? It looks that way. But the long-range outlook shows two weeks from now returning to highs of 0 degrees.

The mild weather has all kinds of people outdoors enjoying nature so we’ll take it while it lasts.

Wanted to share a poem about the inspiration of nature as an example for humans to follow:

The awareness of the bees and insects

Inspires me to a higher

Intelligence of life unfolding

Intricately, beautifully, mystically,


I am of nature, but I fight

It.  Thinking too much when bee-ing

Is simply the highest form of intelligence.

What you may not know about Sir Frederick Banting


As people around the globe celebrate the 125th anniversary of Sir Frederick Banting’s birth on World Diabetes Day, his famous discovery often overshadows his service to country and his other talents.

It was here in London, Ont. where Banting had his medical breakthrough that led to millions of lives being saved around the world.

At his home at 442 Adelaide St. N. – site of what is now the museum Banting House – the doctor scrawled a note to himself in the middle of the night about his theory on insulin.

It was 2 a.m. on Halloween 1920, a Banting House article notes, when “Banting woke up and wrote down the 25 word hypothesis that would permanently cement him in the minds of people everywhere as the man who discovered insulin.”

As London is the birthplace of insulin, I’ve had the opportunity to write about Banting in the past.

Did you know Banting served in both World Wars?

Banting served in the Great War as a doctor, and during the Second World War, Banting used his medical knowledge to assist air crews. In 1941, he was heading to England on a mission when the plane he was in crashed in Newfoundland. Injured in the crash, Banting attended to the pilot before he died. Banting was 49.

That age is significant because Banting had planned to make a significant change in his life.

Banting was a talented artist, some say one of the best amateur painters in Canada. He planned to devote himself to his art once he turned 50. Unfortunately he never made it to that age.

Banting was friends with Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson and the pair would take painting excursions to places such as the Arctic, Georgian Bay and Quebec. It was likely on a trip to Quebec that he painted the above artwork, Village in Winter, which was purchased by Banting House for nearly $24,000 in 2010 from an auction.

On his painting trips, Banting would sometimes register under a different name because he had become so famous. To learn more about Banting as an artist, see my story about him published in the London Free Press at the link below.

A good read about Banting is Breakthrough: Banting, Best and the Race to Save Millions of Diabetics. It’s a narrative about his life based on historical facts.


My uncle’s sense of humour endured despite his silenced voice




“Indestructible” – that’s how my brother described our Uncle Bud  (Bronice Sylvester Rumleski) when we found out he had developed pneumonia following cancer surgery and was in the critical care unit.

After all, he had already beaten cancer once and following his surgery last week, doctors said the second tumour had been successfully removed. He had suffered a stroke 15 years ago and lived independently despite a paralyzed right side. And with a heart rate of 188 beats a minute when he was rushed into ICU following his pneumonia diagnosis, he somehow survived that too.

But despite his sharp mind and a fight in him that was unparalleled, his body finally gave out. A massive stroke left him unconscious. We prayed and cried and then said good-bye when there was nothing that could be done for him.

But such a force of life was Uncle Bud – Bunny we called him when we were kids – that even though he could no longer talk when the breathing and feeding tubes were inserted, his nurse said to me, “He has a great sense of humour.” That was Uncle Bud – always laughing, joking, a quick wit. It was remarkable to me that she picked up on his humour despite a silenced voice.

Bud was the second oldest of eight children who grew up with little on a farm outside of Matheson in Northern Ontario. While they all worked hard on the farm and struggled to make ends meet, there was an enduring love and a love of music. All of the kids were musical and Bud played guitar and sang. It was music that sustained them.


Here is Bud, right, with my father and my grandmother.

As he grew up and ventured out on his own, Bud worked hard at different jobs, including in a mine. Working all week below the earth, he would come out on weekends and spend his paycheque on others. His generosity was a lifelong trait. If he was down to his last nickle, he would give it to you. He loved giving to others and never cared how much he had.

Uncle Bud married and he and his wife had a baby named Eddie. Baby Eddie died before I was born in a car crash that also claimed the lives of Bud’s father- and mother-in-law on Highway 11 near Kirkland Lake. On trips up north to visit our extended family, my mother and father would point out the rock on the highway where Bud’s family was killed. It stayed with me my whole life and I thought about the pain he must have endured.

Before he had his cancer surgery, Bud asked that his ashes be spread at the farm near Matheson, at the graves of my grandparents and in Kirkland Lake, where little Eddie’s body was laid to rest. Decades later, Bud still wanted to be close to his baby.

Along with his humour and generosity, I will remember the patience Bud developed later in life. Because his right side was immobile, he was taken to a retirement home. But he wasn’t content there. He moved several times until his sister found him a perfect little apartment on his own in Brantford. Bud was determined to live independently and that he did.

We all worried about him being on his own. There were limitations to what he could do. It once took him two hours to get his suit coat off after a formal outing.

But Bud proved he could do just about anything an able-bodied person could. He took up arts and crafts. It amazed me that his good hand, which had a tremor, could delicately glue tiny beads on his artwork or paint or use a screwdriver to assemble things. He once constructed a tiny boat inside a glass jar.

Of course, everything he made, he gave to others. This rough-and-tumble guy, who used to be strong as an ox, developed a serenity and spiritual side through his art that was beautiful to behold.

And when I reflect on my uncle’s life, I will never forget that day he came to my rescue when I was stuck in a creek on the back of our property. I was about 13 and my brother and I were exploring.  As we waded into the stream, I became stuck in the mud and couldn’t move. I started to panic because there was water all around me and I couldn’t get out. My brother went running up the hill to get help.

I will never forget the next scene for as long as I live.

We had a fence at the back of the house, before the property sloped down to the creek. I looked up to see Uncle Bud hurdle that fence like a track athlete. He came sprinting down the hill full tilt. He waded into that creek and he grabbed me in his strong arms and pulled me free.

Thank you Uncle Bud. My hero. RIP.


Writing the ending for classic summer song


We often get songs in our heads that stay stuck, sometimes for days.

For me, it’s been Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. It started last week as the kids went back to school and the replay button in my mind is still on. It has made me ponder the song. And it certainly brings back memories for me.

I love the phrase, “Sun goes down alone” on the empty beach. It captures the melancholy so well of the carefree summer days that inevitably give way to  fall and the return to routine jobs and school.

I also  wonder about the outcome of characters in certain songs. What happened? Did they live or die? Did true love last?

I’ve decided to write the ending for Henley’s Boys of Summer.

As you may recall in the song, the singer is longing to get back together with his brown-skinned girl with her hair pulled back and her Wayfarers (sunglasses) on.

He sees a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac while he’s driving, referencing the Grateful Dead, and it reminds him of his love.

A favourite band when he and his girl were a couple.

He tells her he will love her after the boys of summer are gone.

So this is what happened.

Some college boys arrive in a resort town for summer jobs on a construction crew. They spend their off hours at the beach, playing volleyball, watching the sun set each night, throwing footballs around in the water, chasing girls.

Wayfarers woman gets a crush on a particularly amiable guy. She decides to act on her infatuation. She dumps the singer and hangs out with crew guy and his pals. It’s fun, intoxicating. There are lots of parties, romance, steamy summer nights. Feelings are intensified as only happens in the summer season with its easy-going feel and weather made for creating memories.

Singer is crushed. He spends his summer lamenting the lost love and as it draws to a close, he pens this hit tune.

He’s willing to take her back, no matter what. He promises he’ll still love her after the boys of summer are gone. He sings that he’ll show her what he’s made of.

He drives by the empty beach. He drives by the girl’s house – home of her parents – but knows she’s not there. She has gone back to school with plans of getting together with her new boyfriend every weekend. He’s at a different school but promises they can make it work.

They stay together through to Thanksgiving but the distance is too much. Brown-skinned girl is dumped.

She doesn’t go running back to her singer though, who continues to write other songs but never hits the same groove he had with Boys of Summer. He does well but this song is what defines him.

A couple of years go by and they meet up in the same resort town. He has become a banker and she sees him when she goes in to pay down her student loan.

There’s something about the suit, the business manner, that really appeals to her. She’s learned that boys of summer do come and go. She’s grown up. She longs for stability.

He invites her to see a Grateful Dead concert. She hesitates but decides to go.

It’s the first of many dates for them again. They re-kindle their romance. She can’t understand why she ever left him.

He can’t believe he actually got her back.




Lessons learned from one of the best sportswriters in the country


When Jim Kernaghan left the Toronto Star for the London Free Press in the early 1980s, it was the Big Smokes’ loss and the Forest City’s gain.

He was arguably the best sports writer this city has seen and one of the best in the country.

Personally, some 15 years after his arrival, it also became my great benefit.

When I joined the Free Press sports department, I was stationed next to Kernie, as we all called him.

A gentleman, mentor, leader, who became a friend.

This preeminent sportswriter passed away Sunday, his family gathered around him.

It was just last month that I received a call from Kernie asking for a small favour. For the many times he helped me out – including walking me to my car when I was pregnant and giving me a night mask for my eyes, that was soothing and kept out the light because I had insomnia  – I was glad to be able to assist him.

Kernie had a 3/4 tape he wanted converted so that his grandchildren could see a 1980 commercial produced for The Star that featured him. So good was he at what he did, The Star focussed its ad campaign on him.  By then he had written many times about Muhammad Ali and interviewed the likes of Pele, Rocky Marciano, Bobby Orr, Rocket Richard.

Since I work for CTV London now, he wondered if I could help with the tape. I think he knew then that he wouldn’t be around too much longer.

We have a 3/4 player that sits idle and has for some time. But it wasn’t hooked up to any other player. A co-worker suggested Producers Post on Wharncliffe Road might be able to help. I took the tape there and for a small fee, they converted it to digital for him.

Here is the 30-second commercial:

Kernie and I had daily talks over the better part of a decade while working side by side.

We’d talk about everything from cold remedies to our families to the ups and downs of life. And of course, sports.

He told me about picking up Ali and the other boxers that came to Toronto at the airport. Sometimes he drove them from their matches to their hotel rooms. That gave him a great opportunity to talk to them alone. He was crafty that way and it was what needed to be done to get a better story than everyone else.

I loved reading Kernie’s columns, because you always learned  something – including new words. He would challenge his readers and that included in the words he chose.

He knew human nature well and understood what made people tick. That insight helped him pen columns that were written with clarity, humour and compassion.

That compassion extended to everyone else around him. He had time for everybody. One of the last assignments we were on together was covering a basketball game at Western. An old friend was there and talked to Kernie at length after the game. Kernie missed his first deadline because he thought it more important to talk to the man than be rude and tell him he was busy.

Kernie’s son Terence, the youngest of his four children, told me that what he will treasure most about his father is that he saw the humanity in everyone.

“One of the things he says a lot (is) that the world is not a matter of black and white. That’s where the humanity is. It used to drive him bonkers when people would write, ‘A person that” instead of “A person who.’ When people say ‘A person who,’ they are removing the humanity from that person.”

One of his father’s favourite sayings was: “No problems, only solutions.” Terence says that bit of wisdom is life changing.

Kernie survived an abdominal aortic aneurysm a couple of years ago that almost took his life and it led to a renewed spiritualism.

While in the hospital, struggling to survive he had strange dreams, including one in which he was in a competition with another dying man and they were battling to see who could live the longest. The man he was up against was a South American boxer.

Terence says he still gets chills just thinking about that.

That health fight a couple of years ago took its toll. Kernie hadn’t been feeling well recently and had been at the hospital last week. He found out he had cancer.

He went into the hospital Friday and his condition deteriorated quickly. Terence says he told his father then that the family wanted him to get better, but it was also OK to let go. “It’s probably some of the hardest things you ever have to say.”

Terence says he fights against canonizing people after they die. “I wouldn’t say that he was perfect, he was just a decent, decent man.”

Rest in peace, my friend. Godspeed until we meet again.


Irate father calls his child names for getting a white shirt dirty

A recent study in Quebec showed up to 30 per cent of children are neglected.

While some may question the findings of the study, it’s notable in several ways.

Many children are afraid to be left alone. While you can distract them for a little while by playing a movie, soon they want mommy or daddy.

Children who don’t feel secure, turn into adults with issues.

Our society needs to realize that children deserve our unconditional love and support. They need to feel safe and secure. They need to have their needs met.

When they aren’t loved unconditionally, the world becomes a scary place for them and that can lead to all kinds of problems for the child that linger well into adulthood and may never go away.

The reason I mention this study is because being neglectful can be just as traumatic to a child as yelling at them or abusing them emotionally or physically.

While at a soccer tournament recently, I was in a car parked beside a man and his son. The son had on a white uniform and he spilled something on it.

The father’s reaction was absolutely appalling. He called his son a putz several times. “Why do you have to be such a putz?” He let the F-bomb fly over and over as he tried to clean the uniform.  He asked the boy what was wrong with him. The child looked down to the ground and placed his head against the back of the front car seat as he sat in the back.

I rolled down my window to let the father know that his cursing and name calling could be heard.

The mother then walked over and was herself astounded by her husband’s reaction.

It’s a white uniform, she told him, and it was adults who gave him the food. What do you expect?

At that point, I offered my Clorox wipes to see if they could get the uniform clean. I told them that my son’s uniform was also white and getting stains out was a constant.

The father settled down and the mother was embarrassed and asked me if I had heard “the domestic.”

The child looked at me with a smile and said thank you.

We cannot treat our children this way. Children are going to spill things. They are going to cry. They will throw temper tantrums but we are adults. We can deal with this. We need to tell our children that we love them and treasure them.

It’s the first step to solving some of the problems that plague our world.


Arms deal versus right livelihood

Much has been written and stated about the controversial arms deal between the Saudi Arabian government and General Dynamics Land Systems in London.

While the Saudis have an abysmal record on human rights, the federal government claims to be keeping an eye on how that country will be using the combat vehicles.

But more and more people are questioning the morality of the deal and Canada’s decision to proceed.

Sweden cancelled a defence deal with the Saudis last year and endured much criticism. So does that mean the decision wasn’t the correct one?

Jobs are at stake, reputations and there could be lawsuits.

Still, when we think about how those vehicles could be used, it’s chilling.

Should we not care about our fellow man living under an oppressive regime? What about children?

Human Rights Watch writes: “Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment in detention. Saudi judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.

“Judges can order arrest and detention, including of children, at their discretion. Children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced as adults if physical signs of puberty exist.”

As well, “Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system remains intact despite government pledges to abolish it. Under this system, ministerial policies and practices forbid women from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son.”

There is a Buddhist tenet that speaks to making a living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.

It’s called Right Livelihood and it suggest we find a way to earn a paycheque that does not cause harm and ideally that is ethically positive.

Now things can get really complicated when you think about Right Livelihood. Does the way I earn a living hurt others? Not easy to answer, but worth reflecting upon.