Category: 2017

A Gaudy Display of Christmas Cheer!

We have a cherry tree in our front yard that’s about 15 feet high, and each year we decorate it with huge & colorful Christmas balls. After- Christmas sales always yield good buys on more of them, and currently, we are up to around 150. This is an elaborate 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 need 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 another sister-in-law (Mary) with me, and the chatter was non-stop and fun. Both have their health challenges, but they refuse to dampen their enthusiasm.
These get-togethers seem more meaningful as we never know when they will stop as we get older. I can easily remember my last visit with my brother in November of 2008 (he passed away in December). 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 my questions. He was always bright, 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 bells & 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. Still, 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 was successful. 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 sometimes do. I would be at a loss to tell you how much I’ve used the word “appreciate” with the explicit purpose of being thankful for whatever the other person did for me or someone else. Then Voltaire has the insight to explain precisely what “appreciation” is: It makes what’s excellent in others belong to us as well. What an excellent 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 USA financial system maze. 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. The winner got to wear a crown for the remainder of the evening with bragging rights until Christmas. What was unique in this situation was that I needed to make several trips to the dessert table to narrow the selection down to three and 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 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.

Chair Sittin’

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.

Family Tree

As some of you know, The Hale Family Reunion happened this past weekend at The Breaks Interstate Park in Southwest Virginia.  I don’t know the official count, but I would guess 150 -200 people attended.  We get together every two years and it is always a pleasure to see family member that I have not seen in years.  One member of our family  came all the way from Australia.   It always amazes me to see how far our family tree branches out.  There are two family members that put the reunion  together (thanks Sue & Ilene) and do all the work to see that it comes off smoothly.  Come to think of it, isn’t that the way life works?  A few people do most of the hard work and everyone else sets back and enjoys the fruits of their labor.  I have got to do something about this attitude.

There were quite a few family member birthdays in June.  My son, my granddaughter, my great-granddaughter and my brother all celebrated birthdays.  Unfortunately, they all live a good distance from me, so I was unable to be with them.  It is always sad when someone close to you celebrates something special in their lives and you are not present.   Sometimes, a gift and a card seem so inadequate.  Next year I vow to do better.

I had an opportunity to visit with a friend from high school this past weekend.  We communicate often via e-mail, but seldom have the opportunity to converse face to face.  I had forgotten how easy it is to hold a conversation with her.  Some people have a nice and easy manner and an innate ability to guide a conversation so smoothly from one topic to another.  Elsie Dee is this person.  I think she should have been a talk show host.  I believe we all have friends like this.  I wish I were like that, but, the Lord did not pass that natural ability down to me.  Hmmm, I’m trying to think, what natural ability did he pass on to me?  If I think of it I will let you know.  Right now, I’m drawing blanks.

Last Friday, when Jerilyn and I left to go back home for the reunion on Saturday, we knew we needed to be there between 5 – 6pm.  You see, the evening before the reunion, my Aunt Helen has a big cookout and about 30 family members show up.  Aunt Helen assured me that she would delay supper until 6pm, but after that it would be kinda iffy as to what would be left for us to eat.  Because we needed to talk to the fellow putting a new roof on our home, we got a late start.  Our trip started at 9:30am.  It normally takes us 9-10 hours to get there, stopping to eat, hit the rest stops, etc.  This time we had to make it in 8 hours.  Needless to say, the Riviera was placed at the maximum safe speed above the speed limit.  If the limit is 55, I set the cruise control on 62.  I have been thru many police radars doing 7 mph over the speed limit and I have never been pulled.  This time I set it at 9mph.  We stopped at a Hardy’s and got a Thick Burger and I ate that messy thing while I was driving.  Thanks to Jerilyn, none of it dripped on me and thanks to the Lord I was able to keep the car on the road and in its proper place while I ate my food.  This act of stupidity is not recommended for anyone and I doubt that I will ever attempt it again.  We arrived at 5:30pm, participated in a wonderful dinner with great fellowship and went to sleep that night content in the knowledge that we had consumed more food on that day then in the previous 3 combined.  I hate that thing called gluttony.

Hope you’re enjoying your summer, or whatever season it is in your part of the world…. Tommy

“”There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness.” ….Franz Kafka

I Don’t Want To, I Don’t have To, You Can’t Make Me!

I have been seen wearing a T-shirt lately that I received from my Granddaughter Robin and her husband David.  It says proudly in bold print:  I don’t want to; I don’t have to; you can’t make me; I’M RETIRED.  It took me a while to warm up to the idea of wearing it.  I have seen other people wearing those shirts with similar messages and I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to do that.  Anyway, one day, I put it on because Jerilyn had placed it conveniently on the top of the other shirts in my drawer.  It didn’t take long for me to overdo it and Jerilyn had to literally rip the shirt from my back.  Sometimes, I long to be normal.

have been trying for a while to get my cholesterol within the limits set by our family doctor.  I have been drinking a mixture, prepared by Jerilyn, called “Jogging in a Jug”.  Just what she puts in that awful tasting drink is beyond me.  It taste like something akin to battery acid.  I let out the most animalistic sounds after swallowing the two ounces after breakfast and dinner.   She has assured me that it will improve my cholesterol readings.  My last test showed 175, but my good was low (33) and so almost all of it was made up of the bad stuff.  I am getting another test this month and I will keep you posted on the results.  I am tempted to rename the concoction “Dying in a Jug”.

My truck has become sickly lately.  Saturday, I decided to replace the valve cover gaskets, thinking it was perhaps a 3-4 hour job.  Turned out to be much more than that.  About 6 hours later I was desperately trying to get everything back together the way it came off, get a bunch of grease off my hands and arms and get ready for dinner at a local restaurant and some country music entertainment afterwards.  I still have traces of grease around my fingernails much to Jerilyn’s dismay.  Somehow, she doesn’t seem to understand that grease and dirt don’’t bother us guys as much as it does the female population.

My daughter, Debby, came over Sunday and she and I went for a 2 mile stroll (40 minutes).  It is always good to spend time with her.   It seems like we don’t spend as much time with each other as we should.  She has her own circle of friends, all about her age, and she just has a hard time fitting her dad into her busy schedule.

Jerilyn’s mother (Gladys) normally comes over on Sunday around 1:30 pm  and I take her home around 6:30 pm.  This has been going on for several years now.  She is 88 years old and her health seems to be failing her somewhat.  As I was driving home from her retirement community the other day, the thought crossed my mind that it was quite possible that this weekly routine would be coming to an end before too long.  The thought made me sad.

How many things do we do over and over, feeling that we will be able to do them indefinitely and then one day realize that an end may be near.   We all, probably, have people in our lives who are approaching the end of their life.  Our recognition of this is important because it allows us to make sure the time we spend with them is more intimate.  I have been able to do this with the last two deaths in our family and it gives me a warm feeling to know that I was able to spend some quality time with each of them before they died.

Well, guess it is time to close and get ready for the NCAA Championship game.  I’m pulling for Ohio State.  Hope all is well in your corner of the world….    Tommy

              “Chance is the pseudonym of God when he did not want to sign.”… Theophile Gautier


Cherished Friendships

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.








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