Category: 2010

Memories are like money in a bank

“The man and woman of character must possess a well-furnished mind. You may be a salesman or a farmer or a housewife, but you have a responsibility to be familiar with the best that has been thought and said”….David Brooks (columnist).  I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Brooks, we all need exposure to the good deeds, thoughts, and writings of others.  I believe we learn as much from the experiences of others as, perhaps, of our own.  As a young lad, I paid close attention to the adults in my life so when adulthood finally arrived, I had a pretty good idea of the man I wanted to be.  It turned out to be a combination of things I learned from many people, but they shaped my life in ways that would later only become apparent to me as my core values revealed themselves.  I have been an avid reader all my adult life, and I attribute that to those people in my life of long ago.  I can travel to almost any place in the world by reading.   I have been to the moon with the astronauts, witnessed courtroom dramas thru the novels of John Grisham, and climbed the world’s tallest mountains by reading the stories written by people that live to do that very thing.  I stumbled across a quote from American novelist, Helen Yglesias, that caught my attention; “I need to tell stories. I find new friends, new listeners, refine my lies”.  Myself, I hope I have never written a lie.  After all, Thomas Jefferson said it best; “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”.

I read something recently that goes like this:  Memories are like money in a bank.  If you make no deposits, you cannot withdraw anything.  So, to create a memory bank, you have to constantly do things and store those memories in the bank to be withdrawn later in life and enjoyed all over again.  I find that I do that a lot as I’ve grown older.  The other day a thought drifted lazily across my mind about a clear, sunny day when I was in the 7th grade (13 years old).  Our class was in a little red building just a few hundred feet from the high school (you got into the big building in the 8th grade), and our teacher (Bert Addison) had us outside for PE.  He measured off one hundred yards and lined us up (with stopwatch in hand) to see how fast we could dash across the finish line.  He timed me at 10 seconds, which in retrospect couldn’t possibly be, because the high school world record in 1954 was 9.4 seconds. The official world record set this year by Asafa Powell is 9.07.  Anyway, back to my story, the strange thing about my story is that I can remember it so vividly.  I can see old Bert standing at the start line, left foot exactly on the starting line, right hand in the air, dropping quickly to signal us to start, and then shouting our time as we crossed the finish line. None of us kids had tennis shoes so our efforts were hindered by wearing street shoes.  Only the boys on the basketball team had tennis shoes (Converse High Tops), and they weren’t allowed to wear them off the basketball court.  Bert transitioned to the other side many years ago, but he still bangs around in that memory bank of mine.  I’ve had a few complaints about the overcrowded situation,  but I haven’t been able to find the door that would let some of those old memories out to pasture. The real problem is that more people and experiences keep shuffling in. As Cyril Connolly so eloquently said; “Our memories are card indexes, consulted, and then put back in disorder by authorities whom we do not control”.

A while back Jerilyn and I attended a CPR course at our church, and we are now certified to administer that procedure.  During the class, I asked the young man teaching us what good it did to blow carbon dioxide down someone’s throat and into their lungs?  He was unable to answer which was, I thought, a little disturbing.  Well, I ran across the answer as given by Marilyn Vos Savant of “Ask Marilyn” fame (in Parade Magazine):  “The air we inhale is mostly nitrogen, with only 21% being oxygen, and the air we exhale is still 15% oxygen and 4% carbon dioxide.  That’s plenty of oxygen to assist a person who isn’t breathing”.  Of course, the new way to do CPR is to eliminate the blowing part and just do 100 compressions a minute until help arrives.  Reminds me of a quote by Henri Amiel; “Man becomes man only by his intelligence, but he is man only by his heart”. 

I recently needed to replace the rechargeable battery in my portable Garmin GPS.  Garmin says there are no serviceable parts in the thing and to send it to them and they will fix it for $400.  Well, I paid $175 for it 8 years ago, and I certainly am not paying $400 to get it fixed.  I eventually located some instruction on the internet, ordered the battery ($20) and set down, instructions in hand, to take the thing apart.  Some little voice in the back of my head whispered that I was heading down a fools path, but I ignored it and continued on, determined to fix that darn thing or else!  Everything was going along fine, I was down to the final step, which required me to loosen a screw on the motherboard (the brain of the thing), to get to the battery.  They must have inserted that screw using Gorilla Glue!  As you probably guessed, I stripped the head and had to resort to breaking the head off the screw to remove the motherboard.  Throw in a couple of other problems (broken wires, cable, etc.) caused by my lack of finesse and  you can see that, even though I am qualified in CPR, I was not going to breathe life back into that darn thing.  As I write this, the poor thing sits out on the workbench in the garage beckoning me to come back and give it another try.  What it doesn’t know is I have a spankin’ new one in the mail headed my way.  Yeah, I’ll probably give it another try, but it isn’t as imperative as it was a few days ago. There’s an old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness, but somehow, it’s more comfortable to cry in a Corvette than in a Yugo”.

  Jerilyn and I recently attended a Christmas party given by our good friend, Joann.  We arrived around 7:30 pm and walked into a room full of people, most of whom we haven’t seen since her Christmas party last year.  Everybody brought something to snack on, and our host had a lot of food that she prepared (she always does such a good job).  There’s Christmas music playing quietly in the background and friends setting around talking, catching up on each other’s lives since the last complete rotation of our planet around the sun.  One of the ladies is British and is fun and interesting (I’m always fascinated by her brogue).  A lot of teasing, a ton of laughing, and stories of days long gone (if you haven’t guessed yet, we were all kinda old).  And before we knew it, the clocked belched out 11 pm.  No TV, no telephone, just 3½ hours of good fun with old friends.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a TV show as entertaining as that evening.  Jerilyn and I donned our coats, along with the others, collected our dishes, and headed home.  That evening took me back to my youth, before TV, when the only nightly entertainment was conversation.  I remembered that after our families had supper, my dad gathered with the other miners at the bridge in the middle of our coal camp, setting there for 2-3 hours, talking about things that happened during their shift. That happened every evening, excluding weekends, from Spring until Winter. We kids didn’t hang around much, they seemed to be always mining coal, that’s what they knew, and that’s what they talked about.  I can see each one of the miners as clearly as if it happened yesterday.  Wonder what it would be like to slip back in time and set at the foot of that old bridge with all of them?  None, were nearly as old as I am now (matter of fact, I’m probably their father’s age at the time).  As Kahlil Gibran says so eloquently; “They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold, and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price”.

It’s the time of year when leaves fall in our yard like snow falls in Alaska. For the last two weeks, I have dutifully pulled out our lawn vacuum and attempted to keep the grass we planted in the fall visible.  When the temperature drops into the teens at night, it is refreshing the next day to see green grass spread out like a beautiful tablecloth ready for a picnic.  Winter can be depressing if I fail to maintain a constant vigil on my thoughts.  The heart can only hold a certain amount of despair, it then passes by, and cannot enter (what a blessing).  I am a firm believer that the time we spend suffering is deducted from our time in purgatory.  Jerilyn and I visited a fellow a few days ago that had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer.  He was in a room two doors up from her mother, so we decided to stop in for a visit when we left her room. I may have passed him in the hall a time or two, I don’t remember.  He appeared to be in his late 80’s, with a very pleasant personality.  He said the doctor told him he had 6 months to a year to live, and that he was ready.  He said he had lived a good life and had no regrets.  He seemed, to me, to be comfortable with his situation and neither expected, nor wanted, pity.  His wife, suffering from Alzheimer’s, is brought in several times a day to visit with him.  I left there that day so very depressed.  What would I do if my life turned that disastrous?  Could I face each day with the resolve he displayed to us?  Somehow, I think I would fail that test of my religious faith.  The problems I have in my life pale in comparison, and I feel ashamed to regard them with such high esteem.  I believe that before death, the lines in our face trace the triumphs and tragedies of our life. Cicero said it so well; “As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age; first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death”.  

This is a very special time of year for all Christians.  We celebrate the birth of Christ, and the life he lived.  We know we are not promised a life filled with happiness, but we also know that the possibility of happiness is always nearby because of his love for us.  Jerilyn and I wish for all of you a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.  We look forward to the New Year and the promise it holds for many wonderful experiences.  We are hopeful we can visit many of you in person, as we did this year, and if not, we plan on staying in touch.  May the Lord touch your heart in ways never before attempted.

I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed this view from, “My Window on The World”.  If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you. ………………………Tommy



To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux



What makes people happy

A short while back Jerilyn and I went to breakfast with Kathy (daughter-in-law),her husband, Dean and grandson (Brandon).  Brandon (16) has his Virginia driver’s license and drove his family to the gathering.  We waited outside the restaurant for them to arrive, and when they did, she noticed that he failed to signal his turn into the parking lot.  She took him aside and whispered to him about his violation of standard driving practice.  The thought came to me that none of my four grandparents owned a car during my lifetime.  I wondered how many people today know someone old enough to drive that has never driven?   My grandparents never gave me advice on driving, though they probably were plenty scared of my teenage antics.  I remember a neighbor that lived down the road from us telling my mother about me flying by her house on the way home from a date.  When approached by mom, I, of course, denied it was true and my blessed mother believed everything I told her.  She never caught me in a lie, my theory being that I should only deceive her when the stakes were plenty high.  My brother (Jerry), although much smarter than I was academically, lied to her indiscriminately and often suffered from her disbelief of him.  That boy stayed in so much trouble during his adolescence I often felt sorry for him.  I’ll give him credit, it didn’t seem to bother him very much.  He was a good kid, never doing anything mean, just mischievous.  Anyway, getting back to Brandon, I would venture a guess that a young person learning to drive today comes under so much scrutiny from parents and relatives, the only way to handle it is to tune some of it out.  I am reminded of the quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, “You have your way. I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist”.  Good luck BrandonJ.

Sometimes, who we are, is not necessarily whom we want to be.  I am many things to many people, husband, father, brother, uncle, friend, etc., but sometimes, and just for a short span of time, I need to be anonymous, be someone without connections to other people so I can do things without  worrying  what those closest to me may think of my actions.  Many times during my work life, I was in a room full of people that didn’t know my name and couldn’t really have cared less.  There is a certain freedom that comes with anonymity.  You can express ideas that may be against the norm without fear that someone will be offended or hurt.  I believe we are more likely to be who we really are when the fear of being judged by those that know us is removed.  I am more likely to give an unguarded opinion when asked by a stranger rather than by someone I know.   The ech0 of my mother’s voice from long ago still rings in my head; “Tommy Joe, did you really mean to hurt your brother by pushing him off the top step of the porch?”  “Naw, Mom, I just barely nudged him and he fell off accidentally”, I said.  The boy was weeping as if he had fallen off the Peaks of Otter (Skyline Drive).  You see, I knew there was a heavy price to pay for an intentional nudge.   So, as this story shows, most of us grow up knowing how to survive.  This carries into adulthood and applies to most areas of our life.  We go thru life trying not to offend people we know by diluting our thoughts and actions.   Let me think now, where can I find a room full of strangers?   Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) said it best; “Image is like a long shadow.  Even when the sun goes down, you can see it”. 

I recently saw a picture of a neglected, deserted home, setting next to the bottom of a huge mountain.  The roof was covered with moss, all the window panes were missing, and it looked weather beaten and lonely.  Looking at that old house, I knew it was once spanking new and the families that occupied it, during its long life, must have shared a lot of wonderful memories.  That encouraged me to recall how many homes I’ve had in my 69 years, and the total comes to 20.  The longest time in one home was 17 years, and the shortest time was 5 months.  I had good memories in all 20 places.  Unfortunately, some of those wonderful homes have been demolished and exist only in my mind.  I have travelled long distances to visit some of those places again.  I have visited former homes in Dallas, Texas, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.   I drive by former homes in this area about once a year, and they all bring back good memories.  If we live long enough, all we will have is memories and a few people to share them with.  Cicero said it best: “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues”.  How very true.

Our nation’s time is kept by the current international standard for defining a second. That is based on the measurements of some 250 atomic clocks calibrated to the cesium atom which oscillates at slightly more than nine billion times a second.  Someone, with nothing else to do I suppose, came up with the dimwitted idea that we needed to be even more precise and suggests that we replace the cesium atoms with the strontium atoms, which oscillates at 430 trillion times a second.  I’m guessing that if we go from 9 billion times a second to 430 trillion times a second, I will never be late for another appointment.  I’m left wondering why 9 billion oscillations per second aren’t good enough.  The shortest interval of time ever measured is 20 attoseconds.  An attosecond is one billionth of one billionth of a second. Now, the reason for the new measurement seems to be that the cesium clock loses one second every 100 million years and the strontium clock loses one second every 300 million years.  We all agree the cesium clock needs to be replaced, don’t we?  Personally, I think our next step should be the quantum logic clock which loses a second every 3.7 billion years.  I know that cellphones are synchronized to a variation of no more than one millionth of a second per day, and GPS systems are more accurate with precise time, but I’m absolutely overwhelmed with the need for so much precision in time.  For 43 years I started work on the sound of the shipyard whistle.  It would always be within 5 seconds of our shift start time.  To me, that seems precise enough.  Charles Darwin said; “A man who dares to waste on hour of time has not discovered the value of life”.  Boy, I for one, am certainly glad he didn’t say not to waste one second of time.  Sometimes, it feels like we are trying to swallow the sun.

I ran across a discussion a few days ago on what makes people happy. When asked to rate their feelings on a scale of one to 100, with 100 being “very good,” the people having sex gave an average rating of 90. That was a good 15 points higher than the next-best activity, exercising, which was followed closely by conversation, listening to music, taking a walk, eating, praying and meditating, cooking, shopping, taking care of one’s children, and reading. Near the bottom of the list were personal grooming, commuting, and working.   As we grow older, the possibility of losing the number one thing that makes us happy is a real possibility, so that moves exercising to the top.  That seems so sad to me.  I exercise an hour a day, six days a week and have done so for many years.  I can tell you that any happiness it brings is a byproduct and not the source of my happiness.  Here’s my list of things that make me happy with my favorites listed first to last:

  1. Being a Christian.
  2. Loving, caring, easy going wife.
  3. Health and welfare of the people I love and care about
  4. Good conversation 
  5. Travel
  6. Reading

I intentionally kept this list brief.  Of course, there are many things that go in to making us happy, and no list could ever be complete. As Mark Twain so aptly said; “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning”.  I would enjoy hearing about your list if you have the time to write.

Did you know there are 195 countries in the world today (if you count Taiwan-some consider it part of China).  I must say that I didn’t know we had that many.  I doubt that I could name 50 of them in less than an hour, and I would be hard pressed to name 100 if given a week (at some point, exhaustion would set-in, and I would give up).  I wonder if anyone has traveled to all of them?  Myself, I have only been to Bermuda and Canada, so I’m not a well-traveled guy.  Someday, I would like to go to England & France, but the real possibility is that I will never make it there.  Even though there are places I would like to visit, I don’t have a list of famous people I would like to meet.  I do have a list of people I plan on visiting, but none of them are famous (except to me).  The trip we took back in August had us visiting over 30 people and that was so much fun.  I hope this coming year to visit just as many, including some faces I haven’t seen in ages.  Maybe, I should count each person I visit as a country because we do, after all, have our own little world we live in.   I am president of my world (when Jerilyn goes somewhereJ).  I wake up each morning with a song in my head and try to synchronize it with the singing birds just outside our window.  I spend a few minutes deciding what this small country of mine is going to do today, and then I start the routine maintenance of my government (coffee, reading emails, breakfast, etc.).  Every once in a while I must say I am guilty of doing a little whining, and I keep expecting Jerilyn to ask me, “Do you want some cheese with that whine”?  The one thing I always try to do is make my personal government humble.  I think the preacher, Timothy Keller, said it best; “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” 

 I have a 1st cousin that lives near Beckley, WVA, and he recently had his left leg removed just above the knee.  A prayer in his behalf, or just toss out a shout; “Get well soon, Jesse”, would be appreciated.  He is now in rehab and hopes to be home the day before Thanksgiving.          

   I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed this view from, “My Window on The World”.  If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you.  Remember, if you are rich, your name is on a building; if you are middle class, your name is on your desk; if you are poor, your name is on your shirt ………………………Tommy


To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux



Jumping the shark

I have always wanted to play the guitar.  I remember as a young boy getting a small one for Christmas and strumming away, thinking I was making wonderful music.  It came with a Roy Rogers guitar book that promised to have me playing with the best of them in no time at all.   I dunno whatever happened to that guitar.  It probably got stuck in the closet like so many of my dreams.   I started guitar lessons in 1993 which lasted only 4 months  because a big change at the shipyard forced me to change my schedule and my instructor couldn’t fit me into another slot.  Occasionally, I would pull it out, try to play it for a few weeks, and then I would get distracted with something else.  Well, ever since I watched the movie, “The Bucket List”, with Morgan Freeman & Jack Nicholson, I have been constructing my “bucket list’.  As we all know, a bucket list is a list of the things you want to do before you die, and you probably guessed it already, playing the guitar is on my list.   Vince Lombardi said, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have”, and I firmly believe it.  As a matter of fact, learning to play that magnificent instrument will allow me to strike another item off my list: performing in front of an audience.  A place of entertainment we attend quite often has several nights a year for a talent show.   I will be 70 years old when that frightening event occurs next year, but I am determined to make it happen.  As I write this, the fingertips on my left hand are swollen and tender.  I have been assured they will recover.    I guess the next big decision I have to make is deciding when to go on tour J.

I read an article online the other day and the author referred to “jumping the shark” with no explanation as to what it meant.  So off I go to Wikipedia to find out.  Turns out, back in 1977 during the heyday of “Happy Days”, the show’s ratings started to decline and in one episode the writers had “The Fonz” , while water skiing, jump over a shark.  So the term, “jumping the shark” came to mean doing cheesy, weird things to maintain interest.  I probably do a lot of “jumpin’ the shark”.  I tease Jerilyn constantly, a lot of times using the same tired old things to amuse her.  I often wonder if she gets weary of the repetition.  I hope not, I plan on holding her hand for the rest of my life.   I tease friends and family a lot, they seem to enjoy it, but sometimes it doesn’t turn out exactly the way I want it to.  I remember once, taking my car to the insurance company, the young blond girl came out to inspect it and noticed my personalized Virginia license plate that said, “Test Car”.  Curious, she asked what I was testing and I replied, “Well, I’m testing a new type of gasoline!”   “Wow”, says she, “what type of gasoline are you testing?”  I thought for a moment and said, “It’s a combination of nicotine, caffeine, vinegar, honey and 120 octane fuel”.   She looked a little puzzled but said nothing as she walked around the car, looking for scratches, dents, rust, etc.  Suddenly she stopped at the driver side headlight, turned and looked at me and said rather seriously, “How many miles per gallon do you get?”   “Uh, well it’s pretty good”, said I, unable to fathom why this young lady didn’t discern that was teasing her.  At this point I knew I couldn’t tell her this is all a ruse, that it was said in fun.  “How many?” she asked?   Then the thought comes charging into my underused brain like the bulls running the streets in Pamplona, Spain, “last time I checked I got 120”, figuring surely she would discover it was all nonsense.    She finished her checklist, gave me a copy, and headed back inside, telling me she had everything she needed and for me to, “have a good day”.   I opened the car door, crawled inside and sat there for a few minutes trying to understand what just happened.   I finally drove away, with a sadness that comes when you realize that what you tried to do failed miserably.   I think essayist, Agnes Repplier, said it correctly, “It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.”   If only I could learn that lesson.

Jerilyn and I watched the movie “Up In The Air” starring George Clooney the other night and his character made the statement, “Never quit moving, when you do, you grow old”.  I’m inclined to agree and believe lack of movement creates much of the malaise associated with old age.  It is so much easier to sit around doing nothing than getting off my butt and getting the exercise needed to maintain good health.  On our recent vacation in Pennsylvania we stayed at Woodloch Pines, which is a resort that feeds you until you go blind, or at least until you cannot see out of one eye.  We were fed three huge meals each day, and by the time we departed on the 3rd day, the food I ate only went down as far as my Adams Apple.  I calculated that if all the food I ingested during the 8 days away from home was put in one place, it would easily fill a 5 gallon bucket.  I was so ashamed and angry at myself.  Evan Esar said that, “Anger is the feeling that makes your mouth work faster than your mind”.  Well, I must have been an angry guy, because my mouth was certainly working faster than my mind as I stuffed down every imaginable thing you could possibly eat.  That reminds me of a quote by Maya Angeleou: “It’s hard to make the prettiest clothes fit a miserable man”.  I have promised myself that I will do better on our next trip.  Maybe I can fit into the prettiest clothesJ.

On our 8 day vacation to NY we watched as the 33 Chilean miners were rescued from 2300 feet below the earth’s surface.  They were down there for 70 days and it made me pause to wonder what I would do if in the same situation.  It took 17 days to make contact with the surface so I imagine that would have been the hardest part.  I probably would have made a lot of promises to God if only he would save us.  Then, I would probably have relived my life in its entirety, trying to identify my mistakes and determining what I should have done differently.  One of my concerns would be that once rescued I would fail to follow up on my promises to God and, over a period of time, revert back to the person I was before the tragedy happened.    We were relieved they were extracted safely from that horrible place.  I hope they are able to keep their promises to their God. .  I know that I would ask The Lord why I was put in that situation, and why I deserved to die in such a manner. I am reminded that, “Where God puts a period, you should never put a question mark”.

On our trip home from up north, I was sitting in our car in the small town of Millsboro, Delaware, while Jerilyn visited an antique store.  Many large semi-trucks, loaded with live chickens, rolled by headed for the nearby slaughter house.  On each truck, there were many cages with 4 or 5 chickens in each cage.  One of the trucks stopped beside our car, pausing for a stop light, and I noticed the birds seemed miserably unaware of their upcoming fate.   As I looked closely at them, I knew that within a few days they, and many others, would be food on a lot of plates. In a typical processing plant, birds are unloaded in what is known as the “live hang area.” Workers hang the chickens upside down from metal shackles connected to a mechanical rail that conveys them into the plant. They go first into a unit that uses a mild electric shock to make them unconscious, and then they are brought to the “kill machine,” where a blade cuts their throat and they bleed to death. We don’t have to worry about being food on someone’s plate, but we are just as unaware of potential tragedies that may await us.  As a young boy living with my grandparents, I often had the job of killing and cleaning a chicken for supper and that never bothered me much; however, the thought of killing thousands at a time is depressing.  Maybe next time I sit down to eat a chicken, I’ll remember those trucks with their cargo of living things……then again, maybe not L.  As I ponder over those poor chickens, I’m reminded of a quote by Jackie Levin, “My boat is so small and your sea is so immense, why is it filled with so many sharks? “.

I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed this view from “My Window on The World”.  If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you.  Remember, if you are rich, your name is on a building; if you are middle class, your name is on your desk; if you are poor, your name is on your shirt ………………………Tommy



To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux



Bridge of Sighs

I recently read “The Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo.  The original “Bridge of Sighs” is a stone bridge in  Venice that connects the old prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace in Saint Mark’s Square.  It is the last view of Venice the convicts see before their imprisonment.  Crossing this bridge, the convicts, at least the ones without money or influence, believed all hope was lost.  According to legend, their despairing sighs could be heard echoing in the canal.  Reading this book made me wonder if I had my own personal “Bridge of Sighs”.  I certainly can remember a time in my life when I thought all hope was lost, that things had gone irretrievably bad, and there was little hope it would ever change.  I think perhaps my friends could hear my sighs as they echoed off whatever walls were around me.   I still sigh a lot!  They are not because of my situation but for those around me whom I love.  As an example, my daughter called me the other day (a Saturday) and said the brakes on her car were gone and she was stranded.  She hitched a ride home with a friend and I went to her stranded car and quickly determined she needed a new master cylinder.  Several hours later, I had the new part, but was unable to remove the old one (sigh!).  I don’t give up easily; however, I continued the effort with no success.  Later, I decided to call it a day, went home and sent an email to my friend (Rick), an expert auto mechanic, asking him for advice.  “I will go with you tomorrow”, he cheerfully responded.  The next morning I picked him up and we headed up to repair the car.  Five minutes after popping the hood, my friend had the offended part off, and an hour later the car was delivered to my daughter’s front door (sigh!).  You have a really good friend when he drops everything to give you a hand.  Thank goodness I was spared a trip across the “Bridge of Sighs” once again!

On our recent vacation of 1800 miles I had a dramatic learning experience.  We were traveling on I65 after having stopped for a big lunch.  We were, perhaps, 50 miles from where we ate and I started getting sleepy.  Jerilyn was sitting next to me reading something or the other, and I was fighting off the need to take a nap.  Determined to overcome my sleepiness (I have done that many, many times), I soldiered on, but noticing the car was drifting toward the side of the road on occasion.  The next thing I know the car is making a severe thumping sound (the sound of tires running over the grooved edges made on the side of the road just for people like me).  Finally I gave up, turning the driving chores over to Jerilyn and moving to the passenger seat for a quick nap.  An hour later, I was back in the captain’s seat, alert, slightly shaken, and ready to assume command of the road.  I want to pass on to you what I learned from that situation:

  1. Never eat a large meal if you have a lot of driving left after the meal. 
  2. Never try to fight through sleepiness when you are at the wheel of an automobile (which I have done successfully before, giving me a false sense of confidence). 
  3. If you are the least bit sleepy never use the “Speed Control” (the car will not slow down as you begin to doze off).   

I applied those three lessons and had no further problems during the rest of our vacation.  I’m just thankful that God doesn’t sleep on the job!

I am aware there is no law that says good people live longer than bad people and I wonder why?  It seems to me that if you do the right thing all of your life, there should be some reward, and part of that reward should be an extended, healthy life.  There are so many people I’m close to that live a good, decent life, and yet they are involved in a tremendous struggle to regain their health.  I have always known there were things in life that could not be explained, but I am guilty of thinking as I get older that some of the explanations should appear.  That has not happened; the complexities of life in my opinion will never be revealed to anyone.  I remember being around 9 years old, sitting in my small bedroom at Page Coal Camp, and marveling at the new things that were being revealed to me on a daily basis.  I just knew that in time, everything would be explained and my book of knowledge would become huge as I aged.  It might as well have been a book of dreams.  The Lord reveals very little to us, and yet he expects so very much L.  Ernest Dimnet said: “The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive things.”  Sadly, that is not what happened to most of the people in my life that are struggling to regain their health.

I have always felt there was more going on inside me than what others see, and I’m willing to bet that most of you feel the same way.  I’m confident that most of my friends see me as a “happy go lucky” type of guy when in fact, I don’t see myself as that at all.   Internally I seem to worry a lot, mostly about people, and seldom about external things like malfunctioning cars, broken lawnmowers, and leaky water faucets.  I worry about relationships, people’s health and finances, and their inability to deal with those problems.  I have tried to work on my inner turmoil by changing something small, and then waiting to see how it feels.  Often, the change will feel good, and I am encouraged to make other changes, but when do, I realize that I have what I want from life.  I pray a lot, and often feel the Lord is not talking to me, but I’ve come to the realization that he doesn’t whisper in my ear, he talks to my spirit, and that is where I have to focus my attention.  At night, when the sun has gone to sleep and the moon has taken command of the sky, I think about the day just completed, and hope I have made Him proud of me.  If I have done that, it has been a good day!

When, as a small boy of 8, one of our neighbors in our coal camp had a dog that would bite.  One day as I walked past, as it lay asleep in the noonday sun, it jumped up and bit me just below my ribcage.  I was rushed to the only doctor in our area (Dr. Moore), and he immediately sewed me up, bandaged the wound, and I was back home in a matter of hours.  My folks, with the backing of other neighbors, pursued the matter in court and since the dog was known to bite, the owner was ordered to dispose of the dog.  It was rumored the dog wasn’t destroyed, just moved to a faraway place.  I had the scars from that bite for many years but as time passed, they disappeared and my memory of being bitten left also.  We receive many wounds during a lifetime, many scars are created, and in time we forget about them and forgive those responsible.  I believe if you cannot move past the tribulations of the past, you will lose the ability to enjoy the many things that make life wonderful.  If my heart is filled with resentment, how could I possibly enjoy watching a squirrel in our backyard trying to get to a birdfeeder filled with peanuts by climbing a pole I greased with Vaseline?  Oh, how did I move past being bitten by that mean dog?  I believe it was the support I received from our little community that helped heal those terrible wounds.   We should never forget to show support for members of our community that have been wronged!  The healing process is greatly affected by that. I am reminded of a quote by Voltaire: “The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease.”

     I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed this view from “My Window on The World”.  If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you.  Remember, if you are rich, your name is on a building; if you are middle class, your name is on your desk; if you are poor, your name is on your shirt ………………………Tommy




To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux


No man is happy without a delusion of some kind

The workers of my youth (coalminers) wore their work on their skin and clothes.  They left home with skin and clothes well-scrubbed and returned with coal dust covering everything.  Today, most of the people I know return home from work as clean as when they left.  My father, grandfathers, uncles and cousins were all proud coal miners.  My father had his own coal mine and during the summer of 1957 (I was 16), my uncle KD (who was 17) and I worked in that mine loading coal.  My brother, Jerry, was 15 and wasn’t allowed (by Mom) to go into the mines.    Dad’s best loader could load 22 tons a day and KD & I could load 18 tons each.  The pay was $1 per ton, unfortunately, my pay was room, boardJ, and allowed to use our car on Sunday nights to take my girlfriend to the movies at Grundy (VA).  The coal dust was fairly easy to remove from most of my body, but was almost impossible to scrub from around my eyes and from under my fingernails.  Nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to pick up their girlfriend for a date looking like a raccoon!  I would spend hours trying to get ready for those dates.  Oh, and by the way, the cost of a date including gas, 2 movie tickets, popcorn, and coke for both of us was $4 (gas was 32¢ gal).  I remember getting in the car at our small coal camp (Page) and driving about 6 miles to pick up my date (my ex-wife Mae) and then to Grundy to watch the movie.  As we sat watching, the rest of the world made its appearance in our small community (the movie was always preceded by news from around the world).   It was in that small movie house that I fell in love with actresses Jane Russell, Linda Darnell, and every other female beauty that floated across the screen.  I have since stumbled across the meaning of true love (according to Mohandas Gandhi):  Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable”.    I am unable to convince myself I wasn’t in love with Jane Russell during those hormone driven years.

I read the other day that “It can be safely concluded that siblings are not just inherent rivals, but the greatest source of stress between human beings”, and I wondered, “How can that possibly be true”?  My brother and I were rivals as youngsters, but as adults we were the best of friends.  My own two children barely speak (civilly) to each other, but I know numerous other siblings that get along fine.  I believe that sometimes, it has to do with their parents, that one sibling doesn’t like the way the other(s) treat mom or dad.   And, I guess, sometimes, they just don’t like each other as adults.  Whatever the reason for their animosity, it would seem impossible to hold a grudge for a very long time against someone that you spent so many years with as a youngster and is a direct connection to your childhood.   I loved my brother for many reasons and one of them was he knew me as few others could, and he loved me in spite of my short-comings (and the many beatings I gave him as a youngsterJ).   I strongly suspect that if my two children do not resolve their differences, there will come a time when they will regret their anger.    There are several people in my life fighting to stay alive, so grudges seems pointless and should be moved past as quickly as possible.  Although I pray for my children’s reconciliation every day, I am reminded of the old saying, “Sometimes, the Lord doesn’t give you a full bucket, he only gives you half a bucket.”  Since they aren’t actively plotting against each other, that must be the half a bucket that I’m getting.

I’ve been mulling over this quote by Christian Bovee: “No man is happy without a delusion of some kind.  Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities.”   I wonder how that could be true.  Are we constantly in a state of delusion, and therefore, unaware of the realities in our life?  I know that I constantly try to put a positive spin on negative things, but I’ve never felt that I was deluding myself.  A good example would be when my daughter’s car started running badly last week (it has little age on it). I took it to the garage for her and got it repaired.  Now, she is determined that she needs a new car and I keep repeating the old adage that it is “cheaper to make repairs than make car payments”, putting a positive spin on owning an older vehicle.  I do not think I have convinced her, but I hope she realizes a new car will seriously drain her bank account.  Come to think of it, the delusion that a new car will make her happy probably reinvigorates the quote above.  J

This thought crossed my mind the other day: how far back in history can I go with someone I actually knew?  The answer to that was my Great Grandpa Hale (Dec 1868 – May 4, 1961).   He was born 4 years after President Lincoln’s assassination (April 14, 1865) and a mere 92 years after the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pa.  How cool is that! (my favorite expressionJ).   If anyone could go back farther, I suspected it would be Jerilyn’s mother (Gladys) who is soon to be 92 years old (8/27).  During my last visit with her, I asked her and she said she remembered three of her grandparents, none of her great-grandparents, and had no idea when they were born.  So, here I sit, wondering who I know that can reach farther back in history than December, 1868.  I’m betting there is someone that receives this missive that can reach back in history farther than I and will let me know.

There’s a character in the August Wilson play “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” who says everyone has a song inside of him, or her, and that you lose sight of that song at your peril. If you get out of touch with your song and forget how to sing it, you’re bound to end up frustrated and dissatisfied. As this character says, recalling a time when he was out of touch with his own song, “Something wasn’t making my heart smooth and easy.”  I read this recently and thought, “Maybe, I’ve lost sight of that song in me.”  You would think that as a retired guy, I would have plenty of time to keep in touch with my song, but alas, that is not true.  My philosophy in life has been to stay active, with something to do, something to look forward to, and life would be interesting and fun.  Problem is, I have made my life to0 busy, and I sing that internal song less and less as time goes by.  It only re-appears when I have conversations with those I enjoy, we leave town on vacation, or Jerilyn and I are lying in bed talking just before we drop off to sleep.  Somehow, I have to get back to where I can appreciate and enjoy silence.  I believe that is the key to “making my heart smooth and easy.”   If, as many say, by and large life is mostly dull and without meaning, we have to work hard at making it more than that.  The trick is not to go too far the other way.

How many of you have participated in the Nielsen TV ratings?  We were recently asked (by phone) and I agreed.  A few days later we received a “TV Viewing Diary” for each of the TV’s (2) in our home.  Inside the envelope was a note thanking us for participating and giving us $1 to pay for taking the time to do it.  Without demeaning the dollar, I wondered why someone in that organization thought $1 was a sufficient amount to reward someone for taking so much time to help them with their survey, which takes a lot of time to complete, and is certainly worth more than $1!   I would tend to think there should at least be enough to buy a dinner at their expense.  If they can only afford $1, why not just express their appreciation and let it go at that?   There is a point where an act of appreciation can become offensive.  In other words, you under-valued the request you made and your thanks fell short of the mark.   I hope I have never done that!  I hope that all the help I have received in my lifetime has been appropriately noted to the person responsible and gracious thanks extended by me.  I believe it is true that proper “thanks” opens many doors and creates lasting relationships.  Now would be a good time for me to convey to you my heartfelt thanks for taking the time to read my missives.  I sometimes wonder why you  sift through the offbeat thoughts that bang around in my head, and I’m always amazed at the comments I receive from you on some of the things I write.   My good friend Dale wrote me a while back saying: “I look forward to reading your WOW’s (Window Ontha World).  It’s like long ago when we got letters from home, but now the cell phone has taken that away from us.”  I remember getting letters from home many years ago while going through basic training in the Air Force.  I kept those letters for years before I finally let them go.  I’m glad all of you like my musings.

I hope that wherever you live on this wonderful planet, you are safe from harm, secure in a happy life, and that you have enjoyed this view from “My Window on The World”.  If you get a chance, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you…….Tommy


To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux

Guest Blog

    No posts found in this category