Author: JoAnn


Today I unplugged. Unplugged from the world of social media by staying off Facebook and Instagram. Refusing to watch any news on the television, both local and worldwide. I also put down my cell phone and did not pick it up for about 16 hours. All in hopes it would help relieve the feelings of anxiety and depression that I have had this week because of the catastrophic happenings all around me. Both around the world and closer to my backyard. And it helped!

Many people find the need to “unplug” to spend more quality time with their loved ones. I feel unplugging gives me a mental break from all the chaos and negativity in our world right now. It’s like taking a mental health day for myself.  

I have always been a rather empathetic soul. Seeing others in pain of any kind is difficult for me to handle. If I allow myself to dwell, it can quickly become overwhelming for me mentally. I used to react personally by crying and being an anxious mess. As I’ve gotten older, I disengage. Taking myself away from the situation and choosing solitude as to avoid anything negative. That is not the best for me or the people who are hurting. Other than praying for them, I’m not really helping anyone. But this practice has become my norm. I feel more in control of my emotions, but I do not feel better. I would rather be more constructive in ways of helping. It is a battle I will continue to fight.

As if all that is happening around the world right now with Covid and Afghanistan weren’t enough, this week we had a disaster hit a town here in Tennessee. Seventeen inches of rain fell within 24 hours onto an already saturated area. The horrific flood in Waverly quickly took the lives of 20 people, many of which were children. Houses were lifted off their foundations and moved for blocks down the road. Homes are completely lost, and it left many homeless with only the clothes on their back. The waters quickly receded, but the damage was complete and permanent. The town will never be the same, nor will its people.  

I can no longer look at another picture of this flood or hear another story of a precious life lost. It was literally making me physically sick. Waverly was a town much like all the surrounding towns near me. Why were they not spared from such a horrific scene? It could just as easily be my very own hometown, and me and my neighbors suffering. The sad stories played repeatedly in my head. And my soul. Praying was the only way that I could help anyone hurt. But as a Christian, I believe prayer is the most important thing to do. So that is what I will continue to do.  

I guess I will continue to unplug to keep my sanity in check. I know many people who watch no type of news, and do not use social media of any kind. I don’t believe I would be happy to go that far, as I get much enjoyment out of social media, and it is beneficial to someone who lives alone like I do. I also like to keep up with what is going on in our world. I think it’s important. Maybe it’s just that there is too much going on right now for anyone to handle! Maybe I am not alone in my desire to withdraw and avoid the negativity at the risk of being selfish. I guess only time will tell. My prayers are we all have that time given to us.

Wherever you are in your world, I hope you are doing well with all life is handing you right now. I hope you can enjoy something every single day and are surrounded by good people.  

Pen Pals

Have you ever had a pen pal? I am sure many people, especially the younger generation, do not know what a pen pal is. I doubt my own granddaughters have ever heard the term before. But having a pen pal is something that I know very well. 

Back in the 1970s, when I was a pre-teen and teenager, I had several pen pals. One was my first cousin Jerry, one my favorite aunt Rena, three friends from my old hometown, and a brief one named John who lived in another state.

I had written my aunt Rena and cousin Jerry simply to stay in touch with family after we moved from Tennessee to Virginia. Same with the old friends that I left behind. It was a lot of fun for me. I enjoyed writing letters, and even more so receiving letters in the mail. Back in those days, we taught children the proper way to write a letter in school. My mom and dad were big on writing letters to family as well and also taught me it was a loving and polite way to stay in touch. In fact, after I was married, and even though I called my parents often, we also wrote letters to each other regularly. 

Before computers and cell phones, writing a letter was the only way, other than a phone call, to stay in touch with loved ones that didn’t live close by. Everyone seemed to know how to write a letter. Not everyone enjoyed writing letters, but at least it taught them the art.  

Good letter writing is indeed an art. Over the years, I have had pen pals tell me when they read my letters that it feels like I am sitting right there with them. That is a genuine compliment. The receiver should feel as though they are having an actual conversation with you when they read your words.  

Pen pals were so popular back in the good old days that you could find advertisements in the back of magazines, newspapers, and other publications, of people who wanted pen pals. They would actually give their name, age, and address to anyone who wanted to correspond. That would be absolutely ludicrous today! How unsafe that would be in so many ways. Never did it enter our minds back then that someone would lie about their age or have anything else on their mind other than letter writing.  

But it was a thrill to write to someone new and make a new friend with pen pal letters. As a teenager, me and my girlfriends would get so excited to find a boy of our age advertising for a pen pal. We would write a letter, asking the boy to send a photo of himself back to us. We would be giddy waiting for his reply and to see his picture. We would be so happy if he was “cute”! That’s how I became pen pals with John from New Jersey. It gave us many hours of conversation and plenty of giggling. I also remember well how it made us feel when we sent our own photo to a boy, and we did not get a positive response. They stopped writing, leaving us to feel completely rejected. Or they actually wrote to say we weren’t their type. We would feel crushed! So silly to think of it now, but back then, girls were so innocent and naïve. We didn’t seem to have the weight of the world on our shoulders as it seems teens do today. That makes me very sad. 

Over the years, I have gained and lost many pen pals for various reasons. Some relationships simply ended. Soon, we found the new technology of emails or texts fits our lifestyles better. Unfortunately, a couple of them passed away. I still have one pen pal left named Jenny. She is an extended family member who does not use a smart phone or computer. And she is not a fan of talking on the phone. But she enjoys writing letters and seems to appreciate mine. In fact, the last letter I received from her, she told me that she felt like she had just sat down to talk with me after reading it. I hope that means I haven’t lost my touch.

If I ever lose this last pen pal, I doubt there will be another one in my lifetime. But who knows, maybe God has someone else waiting in the wings. My pen is always ready.  

The Shutterbug

Where would we be without photographs? Today, as I was searching my phone for the perfect picture to add to the missive I was writing, I asked that question.  

As I scrolled through hundreds of saved images, many caught my eye and immediately brought back the memory of when they were taken. Photos of my grandchildren, pets, friends, and family. Photos of beautiful outdoor scenery that I saved because simply looking at them gave me such peace; the last photo I took of my mother as she prepared her famous dressing for Thanksgiving, and the one of my dad with all three of his granddaughters when they were small. One picture can speak a thousand words!  

When I was a teenager, I became very interested in photography. I bought my first camera and thus began my lifelong hobby of taking photographs. I must have taken thousands by the time my kids were all grown. I literally have boxes stuffed to capacity with photos, stored away like relics from the past. I was a true Shutterbug.

I always felt that photography was a true Art form. But since they included the camera in every cell phone, I have wondered if the art of photography was dead. I recently read an article from a professional photographer on his website, The Phoblographer, that begged to differ. It seems professionals are using the latest technology to only up their game to new heights. It thrilled me to read that. He wrote, “Anyone with a camera can take a picture, but not just anyone can create an image that makes people stop, think, and feel”. Spoken truth from a photographer’s heart. So, it appears the wonderful ART of photography is far from dead.

Ten years ago, I turned over my 1980s Canon to my youngest daughter, Chelsea, when she was 18 years old, and I never picked up a camera again. She too has what I call “the eye”. That would be an Artist’s eye that can see images through a camera lens that others cannot. It fills me with pride to see the pictures she posts on social media. I selfishly find joy because she has a talent that she just may have gotten from me. Maybe! And adding to my swollen heart, my granddaughter, Randi, seems to be cut from the same Shutterbug cloth. I am excited to see where each of them goes with their photography adventures.  

Maybe I too will pick up a new camera someday and give the latest technology a try. I will most likely need a few lessons from my daughter, but the photographer’s heart is still in me, and it makes me sad to see a beautiful sunset, or a smile on my grandson’s face, and not have my trusty camera beside me to take that precious shot. A cell phone is just not the same. Not to a true Shutterbug!

“The ability to convey a story, or message, with an image cannot be taught, it comes from within, and that is why professional photography will never die.”  ~The Phoblographer 

Cuts Like a Knife


I have often been told many times that I’m a sensitive person. That my feelings are easily hurt. That I carry my heart on my sleeve, as my mother used to say. I cannot recall being any other way. As hard as I may try, I never seem to change. I have naturally toughened up because of all my experiences, but my sensitivity never goes away completely. And I’m not so sure I want it to. After all, don’t we need a certain amount of sensitivity in order to be sensitive to others? I’m sure there’s a fine line there.

When someone wrongs me, it can take me a long time to recover. If a loved one has wronged me, I will always choose forgiveness for peace of mind and soul. When a stranger does anything unsavory, it’s a whole other ball game. When I realize I’ve been taken advantage of, I’m likely to become enraged.  

Recently, I went to the little post office here in my small town. As a matter of convenience, I frequently choose to purchase a $1.25 money order from them to pay a bill. I needed a $300 money order on this particular day. I had $100 in cash, and I planned on paying the remaining $200 with my Paypal debit card. I gave the attendant my request, and she printed my money order. I swiped my card and entered my pin. Only once.

I quickly filled out the money order and promptly sealed it inside the addressed and stamped envelope. Then placed it in the mailbox. All was done, and I checked another errand off my to-do list.

I got home a few minutes later, and as I usually do, I checked my Paypal account to see my balance. To my surprise, I see they charged me an additional $200 from the post office. It wasn’t added to the one and only payment for which I had swiped my card and entered my pin; it was an entirely different transaction, all on its own! How could that have happened? I only swiped my card one time and entered my pin number one time! I was quickly becoming angry, but calmed myself down, grabbed my keys, and went immediately back to the post office.

I stayed calm, went inside, and the same young lady was still there. I showed her my phone and say “You charged me $200 twice! My account is now in over-draft!” With a strange look on her face, she mumbled something that I could not understand and rushed to the back of the post office. A few minutes later, an older man appeared. He told me that he can do nothing on his end to return my money, that he will have to call Nashville to figure it out. This made absolutely NO sense to me. So, I waited while he returned to his office.  

Finally, I’m fed up with waiting. I returned to my car and called Paypal to explain my plight. Just as my call was going through, the gentleman appeared at my window. Again, he tells me he cannot refund my money, that I need to get with Paypal and tell them to cancel the transaction. 

I returned home with that all too familiar feeling of my heart dropping into my stomach. I had just been duped. I couldn’t prove it, but my gut feeling is always correct. After everything that I have been through in my life, there’s no doubt in my mind that the young woman and the older man were both in on what had happened to me. That extra $200 transaction was no mistake. They knew exactly what they were doing, and my guess is they have done it before. Perhaps to a friendly older lady, who isn’t paying attention to their every move. I was furious at this point.

I called Paypal customer service, and a very kind young man answered my call. I told him the entire story and he validated my own thoughts. He too said the whole scenario sounded quite “fishy”. He felt I had been robbed. He immediately filed for an investigation.

I have had my Paypal account for about 10 years and I have to say they have never, not once, disappointed me. Any issue I have ever had, whether my fault or not, they have been there to help, not only in a professional manner, but a very kind manner as well. The young man working there on this day was so very caring about the way I was feeling and gave me solid advice on how to get through my ordeal. I was expecting it to take days for my account to be cleared, but they did it in less than 24 hours. I am sure I have that nice young man to thank for that.  

What happened to me that day at the post office hit me hard. The last thing in the world I needed was for someone to take advantage of me. I count pennies to make it through every month, and I thank God for every penny. I do not have extra money in my account for emergencies. When I felt robbed, it cut me like a knife! I cried, I was angry, and I prayed through it all.  

Why do things like what happened to me affect me so deeply? I know I am not alone in the way I feel. Surely there are other people out there that are just as sensitive. My daughter Chelsea once told me that I am too trusting for my own good. Perhaps I am, but to be non-trusting, and miss the chance of meeting a wonderful human being, would be such a tragedy. 

Pack & Unpack

Over the past 10 years I have done a lot of “downsizing”. When my youngest daughter graduated high school, this mama bird’s nest was soon to be empty. And thus, the packing began.

I downsized while my daughter was in her senior year of high school. I knew I would move on to a new chapter of my life, just as she would be. I must have packed up a hundred boxes within those last months. There were more boxes to be donated to charity than there were for my new destination. I had accumulated belongings, both personal and household, for 29 years. What my 3 daughters did not want, either needed to be sent to charity, sold in a yard sale, or given away. I would estimate that 60% went to charity. 

It took some time for me to accept the downsizing. To be in a home raising children for almost 30 years, items become memories. It’s difficult to let go. But the more I let go, the better it seemed to feel. It felt good to get rid of the clutter, and even better to release the hold material items had on me.

I come from an upbringing where holding onto material things is the norm. My mother was an avid collector of anything she felt precious. She had many, many collections. Mostly of glassware, and antiques, just to name a couple. She and my dad even did the flea market scene in their retirement years, selling everything from antiques and imported novelties to homemade fudge. 

My mother thoroughly enjoyed collecting! The collector’s bug bit me also around age 12. It was something my mother and I enjoyed together for many years. Collecting was something that neither of us did halfway. It was all in or nothing. That means you collect everything you can get your hands on in the subject you are interested until you can find no more! It’s a thrill and a lot of fun for people who enjoy that type of thing. But once your home is filled with your collection, gone is the joy for many of us. And we are ready to move on to the next collection. Which means the old collection needs to go.      

So, with downsizing, there is no room for collections. I needed to let go of that collector’s mindset in order to move on with my new life. So, packing we did, until my daughters and I could pack no more! It was a daunting task the first time I moved alone in 2011. They left me with just enough items to pack my large Ford Crown Victoria to its maximum capacity! I consider myself an excellent car packer due to all the years of road trips with my 3 girls. So, believe me when I say I took advantage of every inch.   

Fast forward 6 months later and I am packing again. Off to charity went more items, either from my past life or newly purchased. I again packed my car like a can of sardines, and off I go. This routine of packing, moving to a new place, and unpacking would be repeated 4 more times. Each of the times I packed, there would be more downsizing accomplished. Finally, when I moved once again in 2015, I only had about 10 small boxes that I could handle myself and my clothes. I had gone from an enormous home that was once filled with a family of 5 and all their belongings, to 10 small boxes.  

I would be lying if I said that looking at those 10 boxes and knowing they held all I had left in the world didn’t bother me. It saddened me immensely. I didn’t even have a car. I had no furniture, not even a bed. But I took it all in stride. I looked at where I had started and how far I had gone. I may not of had the many material possessions anymore, but I had traveled through life in directions I had never thought possible. And by literally having a lighter load to carry, I could accomplish many new things. I had been married 20 years, divorced, raised 3 daughters as a stay-at-home mom, and now I am doing things “alone” I would have never thought I could do it. It seemed to be my time to live life and have experiences to make me grow. It took a lot of packing and unpacking, but I made it, and with no regrets. Not a single one.