We have a cherry tree in our front yard that’s about 15 feet high and each year we decorate it with very large & colorful Christmas balls. After- Christmas sales always yield good buys on more of them, and currently we are up to around 150. This is a gaudy display of Christmas cheer and is done solely for the benefit of people to enjoy. It takes me two days to complete that task. A lady drove up and stopped in front of our yard the other day and just sat there, looking at that darn tree. I have perfected a way to get some of those balls all the way to the top branches, and I think that is what amazes most people, especially kids. A few years ago, a youthful 9- year-old girl, seriously ill with cancer, had her grandmother always drive by our house so she could see that tree, decorated in all its Christmas splendor. Sadly, that young girl passed away a while back, but we continue to decorate it, hoping it will bring cheer to someone who might be in need of it. I have included a picture for you to see. I hope it brings a smile to your face also.
I went over to visit my sister-in-law Patty (my brother’s wife) a few days ago, and it was a wonderful reunion. I took with me, another sister-in-law (Mary) and the chatter was non-stop and fun. Both have their health challenges, but they refused to let that dampen their enthusiasm. As we get older, these get-togethers seem to be more meaningful because we never know when they will stop. I can easily remember my last visit with my brother in November of 2008 (he passed away a month later). As a matter of fact, I recently watched a video I made of him in June of that year about his life. It was fun to watch him struggle to answer some of the question I asked. He was always smart, but he struggled mightily with the question: “What are some of the things you did in your life you wished you hadn’t?” With his wife sitting across from him, he wasn’t about to answer. I should have known better, but that was just me being playful with my brother. He finally answered, “Nothing. I’ve never done anything that I’m sorry for.” I saw the twinkle in his eyes and knew not to pursue the subject any further. Jerry passed away 9 years ago this month, and I still miss him.
A few weeks ago, I bought a spanking-new cellphone. It has all the bell’s & whistles that any modern cell phone has plus a few extra. I was so excited that as I left the local Verizon store and was waiting at the stoplight of a major intersection, I decided to take a look at it. I fully expected to be there at that particular light for a least 5 minutes, so there I sit, absorbed in my new toy, when I hear the car horn directly behind me. I look up, and the light is green but quickly turns red. I get ready to open my door and go back and apologize to the lady, but she jerks the steering wheel, goes into the lane on my right, stops briefly at the light and then speeds down the road, making a hasty getaway! The guilt I felt was overwhelming. The reason for that guilt is that I often criticize young people for fiddling with their gadgets and not paying attention to what’s going on around them. I wish she had tapped on her horn earlier, but I guess she was trying to be polite. Her patience gave out, and she needed to demonstrate her frustration and succeeded. I made a silent promise to her as she sped away that I would never do that again. I fully intend to keep that pledge. Andre’ Gide said it so well; “Giving yourself your word to do something ought to be no less sacred than giving your word to others.”
"Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." – Voltaire
I ran across that quote the other day and sat down quickly to give it some thought. I tend to do that often these days as I get older. To see, or do something many times and not clearly understand the real meaning is something I do sometimes. I would be at a loss to tell you how much I’ve used the word “appreciate” with the explicit meaning of being thankful for whatever the other person did for me or someone else. Then Voltaire has the insight to explain exactly what “appreciation” is: It makes what’s excellent in others belong to us as well. What a wonderful concept.
My wife and I went to a Christmas Party given by a company that helps us decide what investments to make and guides us through the maze that is the USA financial system. There was a lot of delicious food, but the employees made the desserts (their spouse wasn’t allowed to help). The guests were asked to cast a ballot to determine which dessert was best, and the winner got to wear a crown for the remainder of the evening with bragging rights until Christmas. What was really unique in this situation was I needed to make several trips to the dessert table in order to narrow the selection down to three and then eventually pick the winner. I’m thinking this is the first time I have ever made that many trips to a sugar-laden oasis without experiencing a gluttony of guilt. However, I knew that I needed to keep my focus on picking the winner, and I succeeded. I just gotta remember not to weigh myself for a month. Oprah Winfrey said: "I trust that everything happens for a reason, even when we're not wise enough to see it." I’m running with that explanation.
I hope this missive finds your world spinning as fast as mine and that, like me, you’re enjoying every minute.
- I drove our new truck to the nearest supplier of masonry sand and had them dump a large scoop of the stuff into the back of that glistening beautiful hunk of molded steel. Its bed is not quite as large as that of the one it replaced so the sand spilled over on the tailgate and then some fell to the ground. The scoop fellow loaned me a shovel, and I started rearranging the sand to get it off the tailgate. Twenty minutes later all the sand was in the truck and I’m headed home. The guy that loaned me the shovel sat in his shed all that time and watched me struggle with that sand and never once offered a hand. I probably would have turned him down, thanking him for offering, and continuing my effort. Maybe, when you deal with the public, you become immune to doing anything other than your job. Once the scoop is dumped, your obligation has ended. I’m left wondering if that fellow comes to work each day planning how much of his eight-hour day can be spent sitting in that chair? I know criticizing others is not a useful thing to do, but it is if I use it to analyze my actions. I think it could be said that to criticize is neither to praise, nor denounce, but to try to get closer to the truth within yourself. I can only hope that I’m not like that man, sitting dolefully, waiting for his next customer and hoping he can finish the job in 5 minutes and get back in his chair.
- I had some old financial documents to shred, so my wife and I loaded them into the back of the truck (6 boxes), and I headed off to our local AAA (American Auto Assoc) location that offered the service for free. I wanted to get there early (0815) so I wouldn’t have to wait in line very long, but upon arriving, I could see at least 15 vehicles in front of me. If you are like me, you dislike waiting, but when it comes to getting something for free, well that’s another story. I don’t think I realized that about myself until the ordeal was over and I’m on my way home listening to somebody singing about time slipping away on the radio. Saint Francis De Sales said it so eloquently; “Patience is needed with everyone, but first of all with ourselves.”
- I watch a TV show titled, “Better Things”, and I enjoy it, but my wife, not so much. That’s really part of what love requires, doing things for someone that you don’t really enjoy. If I were to guess who does the most of that, I would have to say that my wife does. That’s probably true in most marriages, doesn’t make it right, it’s just the way it is. Anyway, back to the “Better Things” episode. Pamela Adlon, the co-creator and lead actress, is a single Mom raising three daughters. She grows weary that her children do not recognize how hard she works to give them everything they take for granted. Now, I’m just guessing here, but isn’t that the plight of all parents with children? Well, she demands they perform a eulogy, pretending she had died. She wanted to hear what they would say about her. At first, they resisted and then consented to doing it. It was a moving experience and I think that more shows should strive to do that very thing. It begs the question, how many of us would like to peak around the corner and see what our loved ones had to say about us after we migrated to the other side? I read once that the thing people dread the most is speaking in public. I am a member of that group, but I do speak at funerals. Somewhere, spinning around in the back of my head, is the suspicion; that person is hovering overhead watching the proceedings. There have been funerals I couldn’t speak at; Mom, Dad, Brother, Uncle KD, strictly because my heart was shattered and I’m not someone you want to see crying. Yes, I think we all should strive to overcome our fear of speaking in front of others when the occasion demands it. It can be done, I am living proof. “The dying man has probably lost, during the course of his life, things more important than what he is about to lose by dying” … Friedrich Nietzsche
- I recently completed a 10-day trip to visit with friends and relatives that live pretty far away. Just like me, they have problems in their life and are dealing with them the best way they know how. One person I visited who is 93, lost her eyesight. I do not know how well I would handle losing my sight, but I know it would be a terrible thing to lose. Another person was no longer able to drive his car due to health problems. I have two remaining aunts (sisters, ages 88 & 93) and they are struggling with health problems also. Visiting with those fine people and seeing them struggle took some of the twinkle out of my eyes. Somehow, with all the blessing I have, I feel guilty. Maybe, that’s what encourages me to make those long-distance treks? To, somehow, bring some cheer into their lives. I can only hope that when the time comes that my life isn’t so great, someone will try to spread some cheer my way. John Keats said it so well; “Thank heaven for what happiness you have, and after thinking a moment or two that you suffer in common with all mankind, hold it not a sin to regain your cheerfulness”.
- A few weeks ago, I decided I needed to find someone to help me complete a project I started back in April 2017. It involved laying interlocking pavers on a trail from my backyard to a point that leads to our front yard. I traverse this path many times with lawn equipment and it seemed like a project well worth doing. I prepared a sign “Back Breaking Work/ $10 per hour” and included my phone number. I posted the sign down near our street and left it a couple of days. Not one person called. My son suggested I put it down at the major road that runs thru our small town, and I did, with the same results. Finally, I brought that sad sign home and placed it in our garage and I look at it occasionally, wondering why no one called? I know that as a teenager I would’ve made that call quickly, hoping I was the first one, and that job would be mine. I finished it myself and am somewhat satisfied with the results. I know that trail will still be here long after I’ve left this old world. I just hope that whoever uses it will know who made it. I often visit a set of concrete steps my Grandpa McCoy made when I was 5 years old and can still hear his refrain, “Boy, don’t you step on these until they dry, or you’ll be sorry!” William Feather said it so eloquently; “Next to doing a good job yourself, the greatest joy is having someone else do a first-class job under your direction”. I kinda agree with that.
I called an old high school classmate (Hubert) the other day to find out how his battle with cancer was progressing. We ended our conversation with him telling me that he prayed for me every day. I was somewhat taken aback. My prayers always include those I care about that are sick, or, are in need of other blessings. I was praying for my friend to be healed from his cancer and he was praying that I never have to go through what he currently experiences every day of his life. The one thing I have learned during my 28,000 spins on the wonderful planet is that it is possible to learn something new every single day. Kahlil Gibran said it so wisely; “You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might also pray in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance”. Thank you, Hubert, for a lesson well learned.
“Heirlooms we don’t have in our family, but stories we’ve got.” …Rose Cherin.
I ran across this quote the other day and it brought a big smile to my face. I thought it probably applied to my family as well. The Hale Family tree is quite large and as you would suspect, a lot happened. I can easily remember the stories told to me about our family as I was growing up. The one thing I knew as a kid was that the women in our family held it together. My great-grandfather (Pap) was born in 1868 and was 73 when I was born. Grandpa (1892) was 49 when I was born, so they were well past their heyday. My dad and his brothers were right in the middle of theirs while I was an adolescent. Ah, the family secrets I still carry around, tucked away inside, waiting to blast their way out into fresh air. They were all good, hard-working men that just loved having fun. All three were coal miners, so when the weekend came, it was time to do some fun stuff! During that time frame, few had a TV (1940’s – 1950’s), most had a radio, few had a refrigerator, and some had a telephone. Could you imagine taking a young person from our society today and placing them in that environment? They would be bored to death, and I think a lot of society’s sins are committed because of boredom. I grew up loving my dad and his brothers but they were not role models, and I suspect they never wanted to be one. As with anyone important in your life, you select the traits they have you think are good and disregard those unwanted. My father had the most influence on me and I owe him a lot. It was from him that I learned what it meant o be a man. If I distilled it down to one thing, it would be that you own your life and no one else decides what you do with it. If you make bad decisions, others may determine your punishment, but you are the one that placed yourself in that situation. Dad passed away in 1988 and I still miss him. I never recall him blaming someone else for his bad luck. I wonder how many of us can say that?
Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Lancaster, Pa. We attended two very good shows (“Pippin” at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater, & “Jonah” at the Sight and Sound Theater).
My wife loves to visit antique shops, so she had a good time looking over the items they had for sale in that area. We did, in fact, return home with a few interesting items. As I was driving through a rural area on our return home, with my wife napping as we cruised along, I spotted an old, rusty, pickup truck head of us. There were two people in it, and I noticed the woman was setting next to her husband with a lot of space between her and the passenger door. I’m thinking it has to be a young couple because they are sitting so close together. As we approached, I could tell they were in their mid-70’s. I couldn’t help but smile, what a wonderful thing to see, love still evident in a couple married, perhaps, 50+ years. I have witnessed many beautiful things in my life, but none as wondrous as seeing two people truly in love, long after passion has fluttered out the door, looking for someone else to drive crazy.
As I slowly drove past them, it appeared as if no one else was in their world, and I was like a piece of space debris, unnoticed, zipping past earth at a blinding speed. Somehow, I hope my marriage is like that, and I truly believe it is. John Hobbes said it best; “A woman would no doubt need a great deal of imagination to love a man for his virtue.” I’m glad my wife has a good imagination!.
A friend sent this to me and I couldn’t resist passing it on:
Start with a cage containing five monkeys and inside the cage hang a banana on a string. Place a set of stairs under it and before long, one of the monkeys will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, all the monkeys are sprayed with very cold water.
After a while, another monkey attempts to get the banana with the same results– all the monkeys are sprayed with the very cold water again. Pretty soon, none of the monkeys will try to climb the stairs. Now, take away the cold water and remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs and to his surprise, all the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked and the previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm!
Likewise, replace the third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth and finally the fifth.
Every time the newest monkey goes to the stairs, he is attacked! None of the monkeys that are beating him have any idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. None of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water, but none of them ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know, that’s the way it’s always been done around here! And that, my friends, is how company policy begins.
I hope that story made you laugh out loud, I know I did.
Wherever you are on this wonderful planet, may your life be as good, and your friends and family, be as kind as mine.
Write Drunk, Edit Sober
” Write drunk and edit sober” …Ernest Hemmingway
😊I ran across that quote in a book by Ann Handley titled: “Everybody Writes." I believe we have become a society of writers, sometimes unaware that we are communicating by the written word. Many of us write blogs, more use Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, text messaging and on and on. A few of us still write letters to those we love that are not privy to all the modern ways we have of communicating. Sure, there are those among us that abuse this wonderful form of communication by bullying, insulting, and demeaning others, but they are such a small part of our society. After all, this writing thing is the way we inform, invite, cajole, express affection, plead for forgiveness, and other reasons that are too numerous to list. So yes, I do believe Ann Handley is absolutely correct, everybody writes! I’m having trouble swallowing the “Write drunk and edit sober” cocktail. I started writing these missives ten years ago (2007), and I must say that I get a lot of pleasure out of looking back at the older ones to see what was happening in my life during that time. They have become a journal of my life and my thoughts. I am hopeful that my descendants will continue this form of communication.
😊My wife convinced me that I needed to “power wash” our rain gutters and all the painted surface above the brick exterior of our home. This is a messy job because you’re standing underneath the spray from the nozzle, and you just get absolutely soaked. The process includes gently spraying a mixture of water and biodegradable bleach on the surface, letting it set for a while, and then using a power nozzle to blast the accumulated grime & mildew into outer space. This task requires some planning and very often the plan gets changed. It sometimes happens that I see some other objects that need a good bath, for example, our brick on the porch was covered with mildew from years of neglect, and so I stopped my gutter/trim spraying to work on the porch. Then I noticed the two stands supporting our A/C Heat Pump units were in dire need of the same treatment, so they got added to the list. I guess the point I’m making here is that we can plan our day down to the intricate details but more than likely, something will appear to change those plans ever so slightly. And before you know it, a simple daily plan has turned into much more than you bargained for. I have always thought I had somewhat of a talent for being organized. I’m beginning to wonder if that is really true. To quote Erica Jong, “Everyone has a talent, what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads”. I agree. Talent can sometimes lead you down a path filled with problems.
😊I think the hardest trait to practice daily is humility. There are many times during a normal day that I find myself thinking that I know the answer to this or that problem. We know, of course, humility is a lack of false pride. As it turns out, a lot of times I do not have the solution, and I’m left to devise another option. Often times, others (my wife) will suggest a solution, and I’m guilty of making snide remarks. My favorite is, “when I take our car to the mechanic I don’t tell him how to fix it". After I have had time to think about what I said to her, I feel terrible but alas, the damage has been done. Somehow, I have to tone down the feeling that I have the answer to all my problems and that others can’t have valuable input. A good example of this involves my plan to power wash the eves of our home which are about 20 feet high. Since I battle Vertigo, looking up at a steep angle makes me dizzy. I fostered a plan to strap myself to our 20-foot extension ladder so if I fell off, the safety strap would keep me from hitting the ground. I thought that was an excellent plan until my wife’s oldest son (an engineer) informed me that the plan was not very practical, and that he would come to our house and do it for me. On second thought, that was a pretty lame plan and, fortunately, someone stepped in and corrected my thinking. Simone Weil said, “We do not acquire humility, there is humility in us". I have to keep trying to remember that quote.
😊My wife and I are thinking about buying a 2018 pickup truck (Toyota Tundra, Ford F150, GMC). I have been doing some research on the Internet, trying to remain anonymous, and have failed miserably. I made the mistake of completing a questionnaire and within minutes my phone was ringing off the hook and text messages were coming from every place imaginable. I have valiantly attempted to be non-abusive in my responses to their inquiries, but I sense that my patience is sliding down the rabbit hole of irritability. I know those fine people are just trying to make a living, but they are so persistent. What I feared would happen is indeed happening. The 2018 Toyota Tundra appears on the market next month (September), and we will not decide until then but that doesn’t deter them. It reminds me of turkey vultures picking the carcass of road kill and they wait until the last minute to fly out of your path so they aren’t hit by your car. I plan to continue with my research but resist the urge to fill out online questionnaires. Chang Ch’ao said; “It is easy to stand a pain, but difficult to stand an itch; it is easy to bear the bitter taste, but difficult to bear the sour taste". I believe I’m getting close to the “sour taste” part.
😊Confucius has been quoted as saying; 'To be resolute and firm, simple and slow in speech, is to approach true goodness". I believe I possess the first three (resolute/ firm/simple) but doubt that my speech is slow. Many times, my wife implores me to speak slower and a bit louder. She frequently tries to look at me directly in the face to watch my lips move as well as listen. As we have aged, she has lost some hearing ability, as most of us do, and it has become important for me to speak slower and more deliberately. She sometimes accuses me of mumbling, and I think she is probably right, but I can hear myself perfectly well. My favorite reply is that; “I’m not talking fast. you just listen slow”! As you can probably tell, I haven’t gotten that “humility” thing to work for me yet.
😊Back in January, I took my 2-cycle tiller (Mantis “Mighty Mite”) to be repaired by our small town’s local repairman. He’s somewhat of a grumpy fellow in his mid-50's, but he’s the only game in town. He repaired the tiller, replacing the carburetor & spark plug. Recently I walked into his shop lugging the 10-pound bright-red little machine and told him it wouldn’t start and about the prior repair and that I had not used it since he fixed it. He and his buddy, a grizzled old man about my age, start the process of trying to get it to start. Repairmen, it seems, curse a lot and I have to admit, as a young man in my 20s so did I. As an employee in the local shipyard, I worked around a bunch of other men, and they were as foul mouthed as any sailor. Of course, wanting to fit in, I picked up the habit, intending never to use those words around my wife and two small children. As you might suspect, it was impossible for me to refrain once the habit became ingrained. What convinced me to stop was when my four-year-old daughter repeated one of my offensive remarks. After all these years, an occasional curse word will pop out of my mouth, much to my chagrin. It only happens when something unexpected happens and my favorite expression seems to be, “OH, Sh**”. However, back to the repairmen, these guys were using words I had never heard, and I was amused by their expressions of frustration as they worked on fixing the problem. Finally, it came down to have to replace the spark plug, without being charged again, and as I walked away with my tiny machine in hand, the owner couldn’t resist hurling one last expletive in my direction. I loaded “Mighty Mite” into the truck and drove away with a grin on my face, knowing that as much as I disliked that guy I would be back. Somehow, I always forgave him even though he never asked, nor as far as I can tell, wanted forgiveness. “Beware of the man who does not return your blow; he neither forgives you nor allows you to forgive yourself” …. George Bernard Shaw. I kind of like that quote 😊.
I hope that wherever you are on this wonderful planet, life is good, and your friends and family are as kind as mine….Tommy