Category: 2009

falling short in the expectations we have for ourselves

I believe there are times when all of us fall short in the expectations we have for ourselves.  The current brouhaha about Tiger Woods comes to mind.   I have fallen short on several occasions, most of them are on a deeply personal level and involved the way I treated, or mistreated, someone I cared about.   An example would be that many years ago, when my two children were under 5 years old, my ex-wife and I asked our next door neighbors to look after them while we went  shopping.  They agreed, but insisted that we return early because they wanted to go to Easter Sunday Sunrise Service the next morning.   For whatever reason, we picked our children up after midnight.  I remember being so ashamed as I knocked on their door.  My friend and his wife were justifiably angry and told me so.  I remember making myself a promise to never allow  something like that to happen again.  I was 22 years old then and in all the years since that time, to my knowledge, I have never broken a promise.  So, I do not assume that Tiger Woods cannot change his behavior.  That change will happen, in my opinion, not because he let someone else down, it will be because he let himself down. 


Jerilyn’s mother, Gladys, recently underwent back surgery.  It seems, at her age (91), the vertebrae keep fracturing, requiring the doctor to make 2 small holes in her back, inject some type of glue, and then send her home to recover.   It is fast becoming apparent to us that her days of visiting on Sunday are over.  She seems determined on staying in the Health Care section of her retirement community and not going back to her apartment in the Independent Living section, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


I recently discovered that Jerilyn’s oldest son, Dean, was in need of a pair of car ramps.   I did the necessary research online and in the local paper and soon realized the price for that item really increased from way back when I bought mine.  Craigslist online revealed that a fellow in a town close to us (Smithfield) had a pair he wanted to sell cheaply.  So within a few days, his old rusty ramps were setting in my shed, awaiting the necessary sanding and painting.  It is never a good thing for me to get involved in a project like this.   Seems like it takes forever for me to finish it.  The sanding wasn’t a problem, but the weather failed to cooperate temperature wise.   All spray paint cans will tell you not to paint unless the temp is at least 60°.   I don’t worry about it very much if I can get temps close to that and the sun is shining.  I finally got tired of waiting and waded into the painting thing, ignoring the temp.  What I found out was the paint would appear dry after several hours, but would not harden.  Even the slightest trauma to its surface would result in missing paint.  The project is on hold until the weather changes.  It may be spring before Dean gets his ramps.  Hopefully, he will not need them until then.


I have been searching for a way to transmit the music from my PC to my stero system.  I found a unit that does that, made in China.  They have several models, ranging from .5 watts to 10 watts.  A lot of AM stations used to transmit at 50 watts, so 10 watts was out of the question.  The .5 watts had a range of 1600 feet, which was more than I needed, but the specs said the power could be reduced.  The FCC gets upset when your signal reaches other homes, so I knew I had to be careful.  Well, in about 10 days the unit arrives to a tickled-to-death guy at 49 Carriage Hill Drive.  I open it up and the package contains absolutely no instructions.  “Well”, says I, “it doesn’t seem to have that many buttons and places to plug things in, I should be able to figure this thing out”.   So off I go, merrily plugging things in and getting ready to go on “The Air”.  Aaah! The sweet sound of music coming out of my stero was great, and clear as a bell, no hum, or crackling at all.   I go out, get in the car and tune it to 87.5 on the FM dial (the transmitting frequency I set my unit to).   I commence driving around the area to see how far the signal is traveling.  A half mile away and the signal is still strong.   “Man”, says I, “this could land me in jail.  I gotta do something about this”.  I get back home, examine my transmitter closely and there is no way to reduce the signal strength.  Finally, it comes to me, remove part of the antenna.  It comes in 3 sections, currently I am down to 1 section and the signal stops at our front yard.  Prison time avoided yet again!


A few days ago I exchanged letters with a lady that, unknowingly, had a big impact on my life.  It was the summer of 1951 and I was 10 years old.  The Page coal camp was home to about 20 families, whose fathers worked for the Page Coal company.  None of the families owned a TV and the only telephone was a company system that identified you by the number of rings (to the best of my knowledge only the important people-bosses- had telephones).  There was very little contact with the world outside that small coal camp.  That summer, Gwen Mullins began reading a novel to her 5 children on her front porch.  The reading session lasted an hour and took place every day, except Sunday, rain or shine.  She was kind enough to let other children become fascinated listeners.   It was amazing to me how she could change her voice to become the character speaking and draw me into the world of that story.  To this very day, I do most of my traveling through books and I know that my fondness of them stems from the delight derived from listening to Gwen Mullins read.  She is probably close to 90 years old now, but, I’ll bet good money she still reads and I hope her grandchildren/great-grandchildren had the opportunity to enjoy novels read by such a wonderful person.


As most of you know, each year I give you a chance to opt out of receiving this missive.  To continue receiving it just click on the reply button and send this back to me.  I will make note of your name and include you on next year’s distribution list.  By not replying, I will assume that you really do not have the time to read it and your name will be removed.   If you receive this via regular mail, you can call me (757-868-4369) or send me a note (49 Carriage Hill Drive, Poquoson, VA 23662).   Please know that I will not be disappointed if you chose not to continue receiving it. 


I hope you’re enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world.  Thanks for reading my monthly missive.


You can find my blog at:

  or my pictures at:



Setting Down To Dinner

I recently received a letter from a lady that I have not seen in a very long time (probably 50 years).  Mrs. Hinkle is ninety and doing fine.  She writes a wonderful letter and expresses herself so eloquently.   I had written her the week before and she was kind enough to respond with some information of her own.  How good it makes you feel when you hear from someone that was part of your life so long ago.  Her youngest son (Hubert) and I were good friends in high school and I see him at our reunion every 5 years.   I have made a commitment to keep in touch and I fully intend to do that.  Maybe, one day I will be able to visit her and her son.


t has been said that one of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.  Probably, all of us suffer from that delusion, whether retired, or not.  I have come to the conclusion that what I do is important to me, but matters little to others and that is as it should be.  I ramble on about my daily life in this missive, but I know that it is of little importance to others.  As an example, I normally prepare my coffee pot at night so that the next morning I can stumble, bleary eyed, into the kitchen, flip the switch and my precisely measured 2½ cups of coffee will drip slowly into the container, ready to jolt me to life. Well, the other night around 11:30pm I walked over to the cabinet to retrieve my coffee container and filter for the 15,000th time and the thought struck me, “This won’t go on forever.  There will come a time when I will not be able to perform this simple task”.  Ah, to be young and not worry about the approaching demise of life as we now enjoy it. 


he other night Jerilyn and I sat down to eat dinner around 7:30pm, watched the evening news (Katie Couric-recorded) and started watching the movie, “A Dog Named Christmas” that we recorded the night before so we could skip thru the commercials.  Somewhere, around 9pm, she suggested we pause the show so she could clean up the dishes and prepare dessert.  We picked up our plates and headed for the kitchen.  I sat down at the PC to check my email and she took something into the laundry room next to the bathroom at the far end of the house.  She came back to the kitchen and said, “Dessert is ready”.  I met her at the kitchen door and all of a sudden she says, “I hear water running someplace”.  Both of us walked toward the sound of the water (the far bathroom).   Jerilyn turns on the lights, steps into the bathroom and immediately  got both feet wet.   The bathroom floor was covered with about an 1/8” of water and it is madly spraying out from underneath the toilet tank.  It is quickly determined to be coming from the water line feeding the water tank.  She turns off the water and start mopping up.  Fortunately, there was only about ½ gallon of water on the floor and no damage.  It did not take long for us to realize how fortunate we were.  Had we sat in front of the TV another ½ hour, or, been away from home, the damage could have been catastrophic.  Turns out the plastic nut that holds the waterline securely to the bottom of the tank had cracked, allowing the water to spew out.  The thought of how much damage could’ve been done overwhelmed both of us.  To be home and to notice the problem within minutes is indeed a blessing from on high.   The Lord does, occasionally, remind us that he is in charge and is indeed a major player in our lives. 


 have reached the age in my life when I can look back and see what I have done and I cannot imagine ever doing that much again.  Age can, and should, give you a perspective that you will not have as a younger person.  Recently I was thinking about how far I have driven an automobile in my lifetime.  My best guess is around 650,000 miles.  This figure was derived by estimating the number of miles driven by me on all the vehicles I have owned.  I have not included any other form of travel (i.e.: bus, train, airplane).   Within that 650,000 miles, lies my memories of learning to drive by standing up in the backseat behind Dad and, with an arm over each shoulder, steering the car while he operated the foot controls.  I also remember how patient he was with me as I steered around potholes and ruts in the road.  Each Sunday we drove up to Grandpa/Grandma Hale’s for dinner  and the trip was 10 miles up a dirt road hollow.  It was quite a perilous drive for the creek bed below was a good distance down and entrusting a nine year old boy to safely navigate those roads required a lot of confidence.  Mom was the worry-wart, but Dad would just smile, determined to let me get us safely to Grandma’s.  My younger brother, Jerry,  just sat quietly in the back seat not really caring that he wasn’t getting to drive any.  I guess he knew that eventually his time would come.  I didn’t realize it at the time but he was such a good kid.    On the 16th of this month he will be gone a year.  All of us who knew him up close and personal miss him so very much.


ow many of us spend time thinking about the meaning of Christmas?  We all know what the celebration is about, but what, really, is the “Christmas Spirit”?   Each and every Christmas I try to get that spirit and, I have to admit, I’m not always successful in acquiring it.  You see, I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but I know the feeling.   When it comes, there is a warmth that surrounds my heart and a peacefulness that engulfs my entire being.  That feeling is so addictive that you feel as though you never want to let it go.  The problem is I don’t know how to insure that I get it each year.  I strive to acquire it but it remains elusive and hard to find.  I never know whether the “Spirit” will come this year or wait until the next.  Believe me, I actually try to acquire it!  I listen to a lot of Christmas music, go to Christmas events at church and attend Christmas concerts at various places in our area.  Still, none of this insures me that the “Spirit” will arrive and enter within me.   I think that it came much easier when I was young.  As I get older, it seems my heart is not as receptive and I have to really try harder.   Maybe, there are too many things that cloud my mind and, if that is true, it would seem to be impossible to find that almost magical feeling.    I have often heard it said that “Christmas is for children”.   I don’t really believe that.  I think Christmas is for all of us.  A time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the closeness of family and friends and to remember those we love that have passed over to the other side.  I see more kindness at Christmas than at any other time.  Complete strangers that would otherwise ignore me, will shout “Merry Christmas”!   So, if you see me this Christmas season how will you know whether I have that wonderful “Christmas Spirit”?   Just look me in the eyes and if you see a special twinkle you will know I have it.  Otherwise, you will know I’m still trying. 


I hope you’re enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world.  Thanks for reading my monthly missive.


You can find my blog at:

  or my pictures at:


To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux

There is prosperity in hope

 I think we all worry and I believe it is an internal wiring thing that requires us to do so.  Myself, if I have nothing to worry about, my mind begins to conjure-up things to worry about, things that will in all probability, never happen.   When that happens I know it is time to get involved in something quickly.  Normally, I plug in my mp3 player and continue listening to an audiobook and then head outside to do some physical labor that doesn’t require much in the way of concentration.  And that works for me.  By the time I have finished the project the need to worry about something has vanished and I can move on to other things unhindered by the built-in need to ponder over that which I have absolutely no control.  I just try to remember that I have the people on my prayer list that need God’s help and that I need to trust in him to take care of their needs.  That’s what he does and he’s good at it!  There is an old saying that goes something like this: “Don’t feel totally, irreconcilably, responsible for everything, that’s God’s job”.


 Awhile back I read something, I don’t remember what, and it included a line that said “There is prosperity in hope”.   I jotted the line down because it caught my attention.  Normally we think of prosperity as being in a good position financially. So, what was the meaning in that statement?   I have often heard “Hope and prosperity”, but never before “There is prosperity in hope”.   Could it mean that we are capable of transcending our present state of being and be emotionally prosperous if we have hope in our lives?   I have gone through periods in my life where hope was not present, where hope was so far away it seemed non-existent.  When it re-entered,  emotional prosperity returned also.  I think it is utterly impossible to enjoy life without the presence of hope.   Hope is in my life every single day, therefore, I am a prosperous guy.       


The leaves have started their descent  from our trees to our yard.  The other day I pulled out our yard vacuum and started sucking them up.  Halfway across the yard I look back and I can barely tell that I have done anything.  They are coming down so fast that my efforts appear to do little good.  I continue on knowing that it will be several weeks before the last leaf falls.  To complicate my efforts even more, the pine needles have begun to compete with the leaves for a place to nest in our yard.  I put out some new grass seed the other day to fill in the areas that did not grow from my seeding efforts back in September and all the covering material coming from our trees will definitely impact the growth of the new seeds.   All I can do is keep up the fight and see what happens.


I read an article the other day in which the author tried to describe the single greatest thing he had ever done.  I have been pondering that question the past few days and, it seems, I’m at a loss to come up with anything.  At first, I thought it might be the single thing that gave me the most safisfaction, something I had done that made me happy, but I think it means the single thing that I have done that did the most good for others.   I have done a lot of good things for others in my life, but nothing singular stands out.  If it pertained to courage, the single most courageous (stupid) thing I have done is jump off a 25 foot diving platform, at age 21, head first and almost drowning in the process.  If it had to do with happiness, it would be coaching a Colt League baseball team in the regional’s final game (albeit losing 7-6).    I’m sure somewhere in there should be the birth of my two children, my 1st & 2nd marriage, or the birth of my grand-children.  Maybe, it would include making the “All County” football team during my senior year of high school.  I must give this idea so more thought.


We attended several “Estate Sales” in the past few weeks .  The first one was across the creek from us and started at 8:00 am.  We roll out of bed  early, eager, and excited about the potential “something for nothing” buys we were going to make.   Alas, we don’t find much there, but I picked up two small figurines and took them over to Jerilyn and ask her if they would be good for her Christmas manger scene.  “Nope”, says she, so I take them back and placed them in the small basket they were in before I took them out.    I notice as I walked around inspecting the items for sale that a couple is looking at me and whispering and I wonder to myself “What are they are saying!”.   I remembered once a few years ago a fellow ran up to me at the Virginia State Fair and asked me if I was Bill Clinton.   Another time, a lady in Bermuda asked me if I was a tennis star.  Now, I wondering who this couple thinks I am.  They watch, curiously, as we leave and walk to the truck.  I start the truck and begin to pull away when the guy comes over to my door and indicates that he wants me to roll the window down.   I do so and he ask me “What did you do with the two figurines you had in your hand?”.    I explained to him where I put them, he looks doubtful, but walks back to his yard.  I did not pull away until he located the items and waved his hand indicating that he had found them.  No longer do I look like Bill, or a tennis star, now I look like a thief.  Aging sure changes things doesn’t it?


Most medium sized towns have a freecycle place on the ‘net.  Ours, here in Poquoson, is freecyclepoquoson at Yahoo Groups.  You can check to see if your town has one at .  The purpose of the group is to give things away to others that you plan on sending to the landfill.  I have been a member of our group for 2-3 years now and, although I get a lot of emails from the website that I’m not interested in, a lot of the times there are interesting things you can pick up.  The other day a lady had a grass Thatcher, that you pull behind a lawn tractor, up for grabs.  I responded right away and being the first in line, was given the Thatcher.  The next day Jerilyn and I are at her house, load it in the back of the truck and head home.  I must say that it suffered from a lot of neglect, but underneath the rust and dirt was the makings of something that was going to keep a lot of sweat off my brow come next fall.  Over the next several days I take it apart, sand, wire brush and paint.  I am now a proud owner of a new-to-me sparkling black Thatcher.  My next assignment will be to find a place to store it in the shed.  Speaking of sheds, author Gordon Thorburn examined the shed proclivity in his book “Men and Sheds”, in which he argues that a shed is a place of retreat and is a male necessity which provides men with solace, especially during their retirement.  Amen!           


I hope you’re enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world.  Thanks for reading my monthly missive.


You can find my blog at:

  or my pictures at:



To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux



As A Child Did You Judge Your Parents?

​​ My Window on The World, September 28, 2009


I​​ ran across this quote recently​​ and was sorta taken aback by what it said:  

"Children begin by loving their​​ parents. After a​​ time,​​ they judge them. Rarely,

​​ if ever, do they forgive​​ them."- Oscar Wilde
I tried to relate this quote to my parents and then to my two children.  I

cannot, ever, remember judging my parents, but after reading the quote and

thinking about it for a bit I suppose I did (without expounding on the

reasons).  I also think it would be fair to say that my children have judged

their parents.  Since we are divorced their judgment, in all probability, is

that we failed as husband & wife (a given) and, maybe, even as parents (I

hope they don't).   I must say that I do believe there is a lot of truth in

the quote and that when the child's forgiveness comes I suspect it would be

after their parents passing.  True forgiveness for the intentional

infliction of distress is hard to accomplish.  There is only one person in

my life that I have been unable to forgive.   It was business related and

the intention was deliberate and prolonged.  Somehow, I know that when I

arrive at the entrance to Heaven, Saint Peter's first question will be:

"Why did you not forgive XXXXX".   My only hope is that I will be judged by

the entirety of my life and not the inability to forgive one person for

their transgressions.

Age robs us of height.  I have a good​​ friend who complains that when he goes for his yearly physical he always​​ loses some height.  Myself, I have gone from 5'10.5" to 5'10".   I assume as​​ we age our spine starts to collapse and as we approach 70 the effect is
pronounced.  I saw a fellow on the news the other night that is the oldest

man in the world at 113 (I think he lives in Montana).  He must have been a

giant of a man because he still looked fairly tall.  He was in a wheelchair

so it was fairly difficult to tell.  As things go, the oldest person in the

world is a woman age 114 and she lives in Okinawa, Japan.  Fred H. Hale was

the oldest living man in 2004.  He died in November of that year.  If I live

that long they will be able to bury me in a shoebox.  I dunno if we are

related, but I'm hoping we are!  The longest unambiguously documented

lifespan is that of Jeanne
​​ Calment of France (1875-1997), who died at​​ the​​ age​​ of​​ 122 years,​​ 164 days.  Ithink it is a long held scientific belief that it is impossible to live past​​ 122.
One of my grandparents owned a car​​ during my lifetime.  I can remember catching the bus with Grandpa & Grandma​​ McCoy and going to Grundy (5 miles away) the only town I knew as a 4 year-old boy.   I do not know how Grandpa & Grandma Hale traveled.  I never saw
them in a car.  None of my grandparents ever took a vacation, nor, am I
​​ aware that they​​ traveled very far from their home.    None of them seemed,​​ to me, to be unhappy.  What wonderful people they were.  They never​​ complained about other people, nor, what they didn't have.  Grandma McCoy​​ used to chastise me (age 5) for yelling at the pretty little girl that
walked by on the road below, on her way to the grocery store, and calling

her sweetheart.  "Tommy Joe", says she, " don't be calling to that ol'
​​ Hatfield girl!" (we were​​ supposed to hate all Hatfields).  I guess the point​​ I'm making is that my grandparents never traveled much, heck, my parents​​ didn't travel all that much either.  Jerilyn and I have been home 3 months​​ and we are itching to take off again.  How much better our life is than the
previous two generations in my life.  As I set here, staring at a picture of
​​ my mom & dad when they were 20, I find it impossible to be thankful enough​​ for the many blessing in my life.​​ 
Have you ever tried to sharpen a knife​​ on a whetstone?   I have never had much luck sharpening knives.  As a matter​​ of fact, I think they always come out duller than when I started.   Well,​​ the other day, as I was listening to an audio book that takes place in the
1930's, this guy says to his son, "Jack, let me show you how to sharpen your

pocket knife. Here's how:  place your knife on the stone, angle it the

height of your thumb and then only go in one direction.  Do both sides 10

strokes each, checking the sharpness each time a cycle is completed".

Well, nothing to do, but me to go out into the garage, pull out my whetstone

and Git R Dun.  I took Jerilyn's handy/dandy kitchen knife (the one she uses

for everything) and after two complete cycles that knife would cut a sheet

of paper like it was a stick of hot butter.  I have only known one person

that could sharpen a knife like that.  Now, I know two, and one of them is


I hope you have enjoyed this missive and, wherever you are on this beautiful planet, that your life is as you want it to be.​​ 


Sure as Shootin’

I am always aware of the day within each week because I do certain things on each day, i.e. run on Monday, Wednesday & Friday; lift weights on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday.  I always have trouble with holidays.  I guess it’s because I’m retired.  I know the significance of each holiday, but somehow, the importance of each are forgotten in the minutiae of daily life.  I think that is so sad.  This past Labor Day is an excellent example.  The people that labor each day are responsible for the things I enjoy and, yes, even for my monthly income.  If not for them I would not receive my monthly checks, or be able to take my wife out to dinner, or purchase new tires for my car.  I know it is very irresponsible for me to overlook the value of those fine people in my life.    I have pondered over what I can do to overcome my indifference and I have decided that several days before each holiday I will go to Wikipedia and research their origin  and the impact of each one.  For example: “The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing a ‘Labor Day’ on one day or another, and Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.”   I have come to the conclusion that if I want something to be important I have to motivate myself.  I think I have found a way to do that.


On a conversation with my daughter last week she mentioned that she hasn’t taken a vacation in several years.  It seems her time off is usually because she is sick (flu, cold, bronchitis) or having to take care of business.  The time she has to relax is normally spent at home.  “Dad”, says she, “Next year I’m going on a cruise somewhere!”.   I agree with her.  I think we all should look forward to something special each year.  When Jerilyn and I plan a trip I always enjoy the weeks before, anticipating the escape from daily life.   I remember as a young man in my 30’s, my ex-wife and I went to a lot of NASCAR races (Charlotte, Talladega, Daytona, etc).  About a week before we were to leave my left jaw would swell.  This happened about three times before I noticed it.  The next time it happened I went to the dentist.  Turns out, I had an low grade infection under one tooth and the excitement of the upcoming adventure aggravated it.  I took the prescribed antibiotics, had the tooth extracted and the problem went away.  I was always intrigued that looking forward to something could be so important to me.  It still does to this very day.  If you have nothing to look forward to, you will have nothing to look back on.


Sure as shootin’ is a phrase I used as a young boy.  Its meaning was that something definitely was going to happen.  I am, what was called years ago, a “Shade Tree Mechanic”.   I will work on practically anything, whether I know anything about it or not.  I guess I think I can apply common sense and figure out ‘most anything.  That usually works….up to a point.  That’s where the “Sure as shootin’ ” thing works its way into my life.  The faucet on our kitchen sink was leaking and had been leaking for awhile.  I forewarned Jerilyn that I was not a plumber and I could possibly make the situation worse, as well as improve it.   Well, sure as shootin’ I made it worse.  I may as well have placed a grenade inside it (the faucet) and dove for cover.   Off we trek to Home Depot/Lowe’s to purchase a sparkling new one.  Fortunately, I installed it fairly quickly and in a couple of hours it was working, but with one minor leak. I tightened it a couple of times in the coming days and it still leaks.  I expect that when I am standing in front of Saint Peter that darn thing will still be leaking.


his is a touchy subject, but, the other day I read an article in a magazine that said the average person uses 57 sheets of toilet tissue paper per day.  That equates, according to the article, to 16 million trees per year.  Being the type of guy I am, I decided to check my usage over several days and, lo and behold, I averaged 17 tissues per day!   That’s 40 less per day than the average person uses.   What on earth could you guys/gals be doing  that require you to use that many tissues?    


ell, it’s the time of year when the lawnmower is lowered to the lowest setting  and the grass is cut almost even with the ground.  We then pull out our thatching rakes and begin the laborious task of scratching every inch of our yard that contains grass.  Normally, by the time we finished this project I have lost 10 pounds.  Next comes the chemical to kill the wiregrass, then the fertilizer and grass seed.  After that comes the watering that is necessary to get the grass started.   I have been watering the grass for several days now and noticed that some new sprouts are peeping up.  Now, if only we could get some rain.


I hope you’re enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world.  Thanks for reading my monthly missive.


You can find my blog at:

  or my pictures at:



To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux