Category: 2017

I Think Old George Was Right About Honesty

I Think Old George Was Right About Honesty

"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man." - George Washington.​​ 

Smileycons!I think old George was right, honesty in all things should be at the top of our list on how to conduct our daily life. Without that characteristic, all the others (kindness, generosity, caring, forgiveness, etc.) will suffer. After all, honor begins with honesty but does not necessarily begat the other traits described above. Like George, I believe it is the linchpin for the person we strive to be. Sometimes honesty is a difficult quality to maintain. If the checkout woman at the grocery store makes a $20 mistake in your favor, it isn’t too hard a call and sure gives you a good feeling. But what if you had to lie to get your auto insurance to pay $10,000 in damages? Now, suddenly, the honorable thing to do just become a whole lot harder. I have a GPS system in our car that records, on video, every mile we travel and all conversations we have. The intention, of course, is to use it if we’re involved in an accident to prove I am not responsible for it. The rub comes when​​ I am​​ liable for the accident, and I don’t divulge the existence of the recordings. That’s when honor & honesty has to kick in. That’s when I truly get to wear the mantle of an “honest man." There is an old saying that every man has his price, meaning he will sell his soul if the price is right. I doubt that is true, but I have seen that sellout many times. Just as the disciples abandoned Jesus in his time of need, we often see our morals abandon us during our time of need. I​​ know what I need to do if the time comes. I have to believe that I will do the right thing.  


Smileycons!My wife loves to attend our small town "Retired Teacher’s Yard Sale” held in April of each year. Sometime I go with her, other times I don't. It all depends on what I have planned for​​ the day. This month I elected to go with her, and that was probably a bad decision. I left there with a bicycle, a small drill press, a wooden shelf, some tent stakes, a few CD’s, and who knows what else. For a guy who's supposed to be downsizing, I am a dismal failure. All the items in the sale were donated, and the profits were used for student scholarships. That is an excellent excuse, but not really the reason I bought all those things. Soon I plan to take everything out of my workshop, put each item in​​ one of three piles: "Keep, "Maybe?", "Gone." After cleaning the workshop thoroughly, I will return the 'Keep' pile and then determine what I really want from the 'Maybe?' pile. What’s left will be what I invite my neighbor (Cal) to pick from. He normally​​ takes everything in the “Maybe?” pile and some of the things in the “Gone” pile. What’s left goes to the city dump the following Saturday. I’m of the opinion that I probably go through a similar process among the people in my life, although I don’t call Cal over to take those, I’m doubtful about​​ 😊. People shuffle through our lives constantly, and we subconsciously choose which ones we want to continue to interact with and those we don’t. There’s an old proverb that says, “Do​​ not protect yourself with a fence, but rather by your friends." It is important that we choose our friends judiciously.  

Smileycons!A recent trip to attend my granddaughter Christine’s college graduation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, also included stops in North Carolina to visit an uncle (Stewart)​​ and close friend (Millie) and niece (Jessica & family). On our way home, we traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, and visited with an old high school classmate (Hubert). Some of these fine people struggle with health issues and I am amazed at their ability to deal with the daily routine that is necessary to help them return to, if not good health, better health.  

Smileycons!The other morning, I attended a retiree breakfast for employees of my former workplace. Later that day, I realized that I had left my jacket on the chair after breakfast ended, and that started to worry me. At some point in the “worrying” process it became apparent to me that being concerned about something so trivial was not a good thing. After all, there were people in my life struggling with life-and-death decisions, and here I was fretting over a missing jacket. I find it a constant struggle to keep things in my life in perspective. As a younger man, I doubt that “perspective” was something I pondered, but looking back I know that it should have been. Visiting family & friends is a valuable way to maintain that important outlook. Alexis Carrel said it so eloquently “Every “Every man needs to attend to the sides of his personality which he has neglected."  

I recently attended my high school reunion, and it was quite enjoyable. It gave me a chance to visit my life as a teenager in the 1950s. The people that were part of my life then have changed, just as I have, but when we’re together, they are still the same: 18 years old with gray hair. Some, in my cast of wonderful characters are ill, or have family members with health problems. I could visit some of them, but not all, regrettably. I left the reunion with two distinct emotions: the joy of seeing family & friends and the sadness of seeing their struggles. As my wife and I made the nine-hour trek home, we stopped to get gas, and I noticed a “Sonic” fast-food chain across the street. I know they sell soft-serve ice cream so, after filling the car with gas, we dashed across the road and bought a vanilla cone. Now, the joy of eating an ice cream cone in hot weather is trying to lick fast enough to keep it from streaming down your arm. That takes some careful planning and precise licking. Alas, when I finished, it was all over my hand, but the joy of trying​​ to keep up with the melting process was worth the hassle of having to clean up afterwards. As you can tell, it doesn’t take much to entertain me. I look for happiness wherever I think that little guy is hidden. As someone once said, “Two happy days are seldom brothers."  


Smileycons!I read recently that humans began their love affair with dogs 15,000 years ago and that 44% of all families in America have a dog. That means we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 million dogs. Wow! A lot of people that I love, have a dog,​​ sometimes more than one. It reminds me of a joke that goes;​​ If you lock your dog and your wife in the trunk of your car for two hours, and then you pop that trunk lid open, which one will be glad to see ya? People talk to their dogs as if they can understand every word, and I do believe they know key words and react accordingly. Mention the word “treat” to almost any dog and they practically go berserk. I have always suspected that if you want to know what’s important to someone, look in their checkbook. My son takes his dog (Grace, a Pomeranian) to get groomed every couple of months, and it cost $200. I’m guessing here, but I’ll bet he spends $2000 a year on her and never regrets a penny of it. Why do we love our pets that much and spend so much of our time and resources on them? It’s not what we give them, it’s what they give to us - complete and total devotion. Watching that wagging tail of theirs when we come home from work, or from a trip to the store, lets us know that we are loved, maybe by the only living thing on earth. I think Marie Bashkirtseff said it best,​​ “In regard to the transference of love, all I possess at present is concentrated on Victor, one of my dogs. I breakfast with him sitting opposite to me, his fine, large head resting on the table. Let us love dogs; let us love only dogs! Men and cats are​​ unworthy creatures."​​ Hmmm, I think a lot of cat people will not be happy with that quote. I do not have a pet, but I do enjoy the pets of others.  

I hope this missive finds you enjoying life, wherever in this marvelous world you are, and that your summer​​ is a wonderful experience. ....Tommy ​​ 












Music & Memories

I was listening to my favorite radio station the other day (XM Radio, channel 59-country classics), and they played a song by Slim Willet recorded in 1952 titled, “Don’t Let the Stars​​ Get in Your Eyes” (for you know you are the only one I’ll ever love). ​​ I remembered that song so distinctly that I could recall where I was the first time I heard it. ​​ I was only 11 years old, summer was over and fall was on its way, Mom was cookin’ supper and had the radio playing on the only station we could get (WNRZ-Grundy, VA), Dad was due home from working in the coal mine around 4pm, and my brother Jerry and I were eager to sit down with our parents for a delicious dinner. ​​ At the table, we never talked about Dad’s work, things that went on deep inside those Virginia mountains stayed inside those mountains. ​​ The coal miners in our camp, after supper, would gather daily at the foot of the bridge located in the camp’s center and talk coal mining until​​ it was dark, then they slowly walked the short distance to their homes and prepared for bed. ​​ There were no female miners back then, it was perceived as bad luck for a woman to enter the coal mines. ​​ That is no longer true as I have a female cousin that was a coal miner for years. ​​ Anyway, getting back to the song by Slim, I can remember how the song made me feel and trying to piece together how grownups felt about the opposite sex. ​​ I had a very vague idea of what romantic love entailed and that song seemed to give me some idea of how a man could love a woman and miss her terribly if she were away, how he could be concerned that she would find someone else and forget about him. ​​ It took me a few years to figure out how complex love could be, and yet, how simple falling in love is. ​​ I think the person we choose to fall in love with, and it is a choice, is the most important choice we make in our life. ​​ Some of us make that choice more than once, but the importance is never less. ​​ I have a picture of myself as​​ a 9-year-old on my desk to remind me of the kid I was and the contrast to the person I am now. ​​ An old Malayan Proverb says, “One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind”.  ​​​​ A lot of kind people have contributed to the person I am today. ​​ As a side note, Perry Como also recorded that song.  ​​ ​​​​ 

I’ll bet that you are as unaware as I was, that over half of Americans are unmarried at age 29. ​​ In comparison, I was married at age 18 in 1959. ​​ The 1959 average for men was age 22 and for women age 20. ​​ I have had the opinion for a long time that you should wait until you were somewhere around age 25 before getting married. ​​ Of course, a lot of couples never marry, they just live together. ​​ The only criticism I have of such​​ an arrangement is it doesn’t require a true commitment by either person. ​​ They may think they are in love, but true love without a legal, binding commitment is a rose whose bloom isn’t as robust and fragrant, a graceful Cheetah running at half speed, or a​​ beautiful picture without a frame. ​​ A union of trust between a couple requires a spiritual or public commitment and without it, you lack the framework that is the glue of a relationship.  ​​​​ These are the things I have learned after 76 rotations around the​​ Sun. ​​ I’m giving this valuable information to all young people for free, put it to good use!​​ 😊 ​​ ​​​​ 

We had three trees removed from our yard a few weeks ago, and it really changed the way things look to us now as far as the yard we used to know. ​​ They were​​ close to our property line so we decided we needed to run a string down the line so we could determine where we needed to put two fairly large rocks. ​​ They were going to be delivered and put in place by a dump truck, so there would be no moving them after​​ they slid down the truck bed. ​​ I tied the piece of string to one of our markers and walked it down the line to the one next to our curb (175 feet).  ​​​​ I asked my wife to pick the string up around the half-way mark and move towards the house slowly so I could get it straight. ​​ She moved backwards so I shouted for her to move towards the​​ house. ​​ She insisted that from where she was standing the line looked straight. ​​ Agitated, I dropped my end of the line and strode quickly to her and angrily said, “You can’t​​ possibly tell if the line is straight from where you are. ​​ Move in the direction I tell you, or you need to go to the other end and I will stand here and do exactly as you tell me”. ​​ She dropped the line and walked away with her head hung down and a desolate look on her face. ​​ For a brief moment, looking at the way she walked away and the expression on her face, I could tell what it must be like to live with me. ​​ Up until that time, I thought I had been knighted by The Queen to only bring her happiness. ​​ Since then I have given a lot of thought on how to sail this ship in the channel, where the water is deep but narrow. ​​ I am aware my heart doesn’t know for whose life it’s beating, it could, after all, be placed in another human and continue to work as hard​​ as it does for me. ​​ But I know I have made a commitment to love her eternally and to bring as much happiness into her life as I’m capable of doing. ​​ The one thing I know for sure is that I never want to bring that abundance of sadness to her kind and gentle face again.  ​​​​ Brendan Francis said, “The saddest moment in a person’s life comes only once”.  ​​​​ I’m think he was referring to the end of one’s life, but I know there are other times that finish only a step or two behind.  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

I seem to have most of my​​ “good ideas” sitting in my favorite chair out by my shed (workshop) and smoking a cigar. ​​ Yes, I know, smoking a cigar couldn’t be one of those good ideas, but that’s not the point. ​​ Anyway, while sitting there, slouched in my chair, puffing away, the thought entered my mind that I should make a commitment to start a conversation with a complete stranger at least once each week. ​​ I felt it would add more color to my life and, hopefully, to theirs. ​​ I know several people that can talk to a complete stranger​​ like they were long lost friends, and I’m betting you have people in your life like that. ​​ For me, those friends are mostly female, and I am aware that women are​​ more sociable then us guys, but I decided that I wanted to test this theory of talking to strangers and so the quest began. ​​ It has been several weeks now since it began, and I must say I have had some interesting conversations. ​​ Some of the attempts failed miserably because the other person had absolutely no interest in talking with me, but others were delightful. ​​ There were all sorts of opportunities; people I met while doing my daily walk, people at a baseball game, restaurant, hardware store, and any of a thousand places.  ​​​​ And the really nice thing is that it was so easy to do. ​​ I wish I had​​ known this fifty years ago; that people add more fragrance to your life than a rose, and that an interesting conversation will leave you feeling better than a good TV show or movie. ​​ 

Some of my conversations started by asking a simple question: “Pardon me, can you tell me where I can find the gorilla glue”?  ​​​​ The conversation then centered on what I needed it for and what the cheapest and best alternatives are. ​​ See how easy that was? ​​ Next day, we’re walking our neighborhood trail and stop to talk to someone about the cute dog that’s pulling on the end of their leash trying to get them to walk faster. ​​ I’m convinced there is nothing else I do that is so effective, with such little effort, at adding pleasure to my life. ​​ In all my conversations, I try to use this rule and it has served me welll “The time to stop talking is when the other person nods his head affirmatively but says nothing” …Anonymous

​​ I ran across this article weeks ago and wanted to pass it on to you:

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

Looking Death in the Face

A couple of weeks ago, I was given a surprise birthday party. My wife & I expected to be eating at a local restaurant with my son & daughter and when we arrived, there were about 12-15 people looking to celebrate the fact that I was born & the role I played in their life. It was impossible that evening for me to forget the role a young woman, named Cindy, played in my life. The date was October 26, 2014 and I was on the Princess Emerald cruise ship leaving London for a 17-day cruise. We had just left port a couple of hours earlier and had gone down to eat dinner with several other people assigned to our table. About half way thru the meal, a piece of unchewed steak, somehow, lodged in my throat and would not budge. Unable to breath, I tapped my wife on the shoulder and pointed toward my throat. She yelled loudly, “Tommy’s choking”! Cindy, who was sitting beside me, jumped up, came around behind me, and started performing the Heimlich maneuver. Of course she was successful or I wouldn’t be writing this article. I guess the point I’m making in all of this is that people weave in and out of our life, some play an important role, others not so much, and them some can be the reason you continue to exist. That is the role Cindy played in my life. Thanks to her, I belong to an exclusive club, a group of people that have looked death squarely in the face and then someone, or something, interceded and allowed them to continue to exist. As I write this article, I have been on this planet for 27, 769 days. If it weren’t for Cindy, it would have stopped at 26, 903 days. You probably know that, given the circumstances, I really do enjoy my birthday. Ella Maillart said it best: ‘It is always our own self that we find at the end of the journey. The sooner we face that self, the better”.

I received a letter the other day that informed me that a “Hale Family Reunion” was being planned and wanted to know if I was interested. I can’t recall ever missing one of those wonderful events. Our last one was, perhaps, ten years ago, and a lot has happened since then. A lot of the Hale family has crossed over to the other side but there are hundreds of us still alive and we always have one heckuva time when we get together back in them-thar mountains. Yup, you guessed it, I was born and raised a hillbilly and darn proud of it. I’ve been gone from there nearly 60 years but that place is always going to be home to me. When I go there, I step back into a time that was simple, where people honk their horns if they see you standing out in the yard, or stop to talk to you while you’re sitting in a restaurant having a meal. People that will ask “how ya doing?” and really want to know. When I’m home, I can’t use my cellphone because they have no signal, but I don’t really need a signal because the people that want to talk to me come by for a visit, or I go visit them. Now tell me, isn’t that much better than any conversation you’ve ever had on a phone? There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Teach a child to choose the right path and when he is older he will remain upon it”. The Hale family taught me to choose the right path and I believe I am still on it.

    • Last summer I posted bond for a neighbor’s son so he wouldn’t have to spend the summer in jail. RW is one brick shy of a load, but he’s a good friend. He was arrested for shoplifting and denies that he intended to leave the store with the items in his cart. His trial had been postponed many times and each time he has a court date I show up to give him much needed support. Unfortunately, I am the only one there to do so. RW is a simple man in his mid-fifties that roams the streets during the day smoking cigarettes and looking for work. He spends a lot of time in our local library while charging a cellphone that he purchased at Walmart. As he tells me, “My phone is how I keep in contact with my clients”. It always brings a smile to my face when he says “clients”. I use RW around the house to cut our grass and do odd jobs and though he only charges $5/hour I pay him $10, and sometimes more, depending on his needs. My son does the same when RW works for him on Sunday’s during my visit. For all practical purposes RW is homeless and he alone is responsible for that, but again, he is mildly mentally challenged. He knows right from wrong but just makes bad decisions. I am reminded of Matthew 25:43 – “When homeless, you gave me no welcome; ill-clad, you clothed me not; sick or in prison, you visited me not”. I try to keep that verse in mind in my relationship with RW and know that God sees, not the face I present to my earthly family, but what is inside me.
    • I decided last week that I wanted to make some changes to my website ( It was exactly one year ago this month that I hired a guy in Micronesia (somewhere in the Pacific Ocean) to build that site for me. It took a couple of months to construct and, I must say, it has been a pleasure to have. I decided I wanted to learn how to change things on the site to include new ideas so I decided to take an online class. I finally found a free class that I thought would “fit the bill” and signed up. I am a little more than half-way thru the classes and I have learned a lot, but there is a deep-seated fear I have that I’m going to mess things up really bad when I start making the changes. What I’m attempting to do emotionally is change the fear to enthusiasm (joy). After all, what is the worst thing that could happen: I cripple it to the extent that it is no longer operational. And how does that affect my life? In the scheme of things, very little. I doubt some close relatives would even be aware it no longer exists and very few of my friends, excluding you of course, would necessarily care. I think that as we travel thru life it is important to put things in perspective by trying to determine how the event we dread will clearly impact us. I suspect that most of the time we will only be a little sad and most of us can handle that very well. Ray Mungo said it best; “The experiences you have had are your own greatest treasure, well worth the remembering and retelling”. I’m hoping this experience turns out to be that way.
    • I am currently listening to a book on tape by Amy Poeler titled, “Yes Please”, and thus far I have enjoyed it greatly. She has a unique ability to make me feel as if she is talking directly to me and no one else. It seems like she has invited me into her home, put me in a comfortable chair, gave me something good to drink as I snacked on finger food, and started telling me about her life. Granted, this is a one-sided conversation, with me nodding here & there as needed, but what a wonderful way to spend part of your day. The other great thing is, I can turn it off when I tire of our one- sided conversation, and then pick up where I left off on another day. True, this is a view of life from a woman’s perspective, but as a husband, and father of a daughter, I want to know life as a woman sees it. I guess my first glimpse of seeing life thru a woman’s eyes was looking at life thru my mother’s eyes. I remember seeing the sadness that pervaded her being as she lost the love of her life, my father, to alcoholism. She always tried to protect my brother and I from his addiction but it was too immense to be hidden. Some things we can tuck away and kept out of sight, but somethings are too overpowering to be concealed. If you know of Amy Poeler (SNL/Parks & Recreation) and think you would enjoy her book, you can get it on Amazon for $10. She does curse in it but I wasn’t much offended. Oh, by the way, I have a joke to tell you about good intentions: At a dinner party a shy young man had been trying to think of something nice to say to his hostess. At last he saw his chance when she turned to him and remarked, “What a small appetite you have tonight, Mr. Jones”. “To sit next to you,” he replied gallantly, “would cause any man to lose his appetite”. I must say that I have had those moments a time or two.
    • My wife and I have two wonderful next door neighbors (John & Mary Beth). Occasionally we go out to eat and the time we spend together is always cheerful and filled with good conversation. All four of us are septuagenarian (of the number 70) and have accepted our declining health during our 70+ years on this wonderful planet. I really hate the word that describes people in their 70’s. I easily remember being a “teenager”, a “thirty-something”, a “senior citizen”, but I profoundly dislike being a septuagenarian. Within a few years, if I’m lucky, I will be an octogenarian. That sounds a lot better to me. That other word makes me feel as old as Methuselah. Back to our neighbors, Mary Beth is a retired school teacher and all around wonderful human being. She loves communicating with friends and family via her iPad and occasionally it, her printer, or TV will give her & John a problem they cannot resolve. She has nicknamed me her “guru” and proudly tells her friends about me. I think what she isn’t aware of is that, secretly, I enjoy the praise she gives me. It certainly makes me feel good that I can help those wonderful people solve some of the minor problems they encounter. Reminds me of something I heard a long time ago, “God picks your family but you pick your neighbors”. We did a great job!

Are You A Reader?



C:\Users\Tommy\Desktop\WoW.jpg​​ I have quite a few friends that love to read, some more avidly than others, but all readers nonetheless. ​​ I also have friends that read very little and have no inclination to ever​​ start doing so. ​​ Each member of those two groups bring something special to the table. ​​ I find the non-readers to be more effective about discussing interpersonal relationships and things happening in their life. ​​ The readers seem to have a more varied list of things to discuss and often an anecdote to clarify their thoughts. ​​ I think it is important to have both groups in your life and that each be given the attention they deserve. ​​ I have known illiterate people that had a lot of common sense, and extremely smart people that lacked common sense. ​​ Somewhere in there is common ground that allows all of us to pitch our tent. ​​ Years ago​​ I had a close family member that was illiterate and, tho I offered to​​ tutor​​ her, she was content to remain so. ​​ She was an excellent cook, using recipes stored somewhere in the far corners of her brain, and was a kind and generous person to all. ​​ I was always intrigued by the fact that she couldn’t travel to faraway places in her mind, or read wonderful novels, or even read the​​ local newspaper. ​​ She did, however, seem to be happy and, in the scheme of things, that really seems to be​​ what we all strive for. ​​ Maybe​​ happiness lives where things are as simple as a drop of honey on the tip of a tongue, a joke told to old friends​​ as a friendly effort​​ to make them laugh, a donut eaten without anyone noticing, or even a hug that lets someone know you cherish their presence. ​​ So, why do a lot of us read so much? ​​ I think T.S. Eliot had it right;​​ “We read many books, because we cannot know enough people.” ​​ 

Smileycons!I realized the other day that I hadn’t made any New Year’s​​ Resolutions for 2017,​​ and I started to wonder why. ​​ I think it is an​​ age-related thing. ​​ At 76,​​ I’m thankful for each and every day,​​ and I don’t seem to worry a lot about reaching goals. ​​​​ I believe the penchant to set goals belongs​​ to those much younger and have so much life to look forward to. ​​ Goals for older people are much more modest than those for the younger group. ​​ Heck, some days I get up with absolutely no goal in mind​​ and yet,​​ the day goes by smoothly. ​​ I guess if I had a goal (a goal without a plan is just a wish),​​ it would be to continue aging without some dreaded disease. ​​ We know that is not entirely up to us! ​​​​ Research shows that the chances of acquiring one of three diseases (cancer, heart disease, dementia) simultaneously rises ten-fold between the ages of​​ 70 and 80, then ten-fold again during the following decade of life. ​​ We can help avoid that, I’m told, by eating properly, exercising, not smoking, not drinking,​​ and getting plenty of sleep. ​​ We also know that 85% of all people that attain the age of 100 are female. ​​ I have a theory on why that happens, but that’s a thought for another time. ​​ Anyway, I do not have​​ any​​ ​​ New Year’s​​ resolutions and am perfectly happy to wander aimlessly thru life wondering what’s going to happen next. “There is one who remembers the way to your door: Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.​​ ―​​ T.S. Eliot

Smileycons!My wife & I were taking our daily walk the other day and after walking 1 mile out and​​ returning to the car, she departed for the grocery​​ store​​ and I continued on for 3 more miles. ​​ I had planned on listening to an audiobook that was on my iPod (Valiant Ambition by Nat Philbrick)​​ but alas, its battery was low and it refused to entertain me as I confidently marched towards my goal of 10,000 steps daily. ​​ I have known for a long time that if I occupy my mind​​ with something the time goes by quickly. ​​ Lo​​ and behold, using that strategy, before I knew it my hourly walk was over and​​ I​​ had mentally written this entry as part of my next missive. ​​ I​​ was hoping I would remember it when I got home. ​​ So, here it is:

 ​​​​ It’s 1945-46, WWII is winding down and I’m four or five years old. ​​ I’m sitting down at the edge of the yard at my maternal grandparent’s home, watching cars whiz by on their way to the only town in our county (Grundy, VA). ​​ The day is bright and sunny and all the cars have their windows down (no A/C during those days) so fresh air can keep the occupants cool. ​​ As one of the cars​​ went​​ by,​​ a fellow in the back seat stuck​​ his head out the window,​​ for some unknow reason, and his nice Stetson felt hat blew​​ off his head. ​​ Before they could​​ turn around and return, that hat​​ was​​ firmly in my hand and I​​ was​​ standing inside the house handing it to Grandpa.  ​​​​ He had​​ a big smile on his face and remarked​​ that a Stetson is one of the finest hats on earth (founded in 1865). ​​ A few days later Grandma sent​​ me to the Stanley’s local store with a dime to get​​ a loaf of bread. ​​ It was a very small family store the locals used to buy needed items before their next visit to a much larger store in Grundy. ​​ I noticed a shiny new Ford sitting out front as I entered. ​​ The driver was sitting on the bench against the wall waiting his turn. ​​ The counter was kinda tall and hard for a small kid to see over and as the driver of the new car stepped forward to make his purchase he pulled change from his pocket and a $20 bill floated to the floor right in front of me.  ​​​​ Surely, but calmly, I place my foot over it and​​ waited his departure. ​​ My foot stayed planted​​ until he was in his car and I then informed Mrs. Stanley the reason for my visit. ​​ She turned​​ to get the loaf of bread and I quickly reach down and grabbed​​ the bill, placing it in my pocket before she saw​​ what happened. ​​ When you are so poor that food is problematic, you do things that, in retrospect, you’re not proud of.  ​​​​ I never started my day​​ wondering what I could steal, but wondering what I would find to eat. ​​ Is that an excuse to steal? Probably not a good one, but when you are so desperate for food that you snatch orange peelings from the side of the road to eat, it may justify taking advantage of opportunities. ​​ My grandparents never encouraged me to do those things,​​ but I was never criticized for my larceny.  ​​​​ Anyway, back to my story. ​​ As I returned home with that $20 firmly tucked in my pocket ($265 in today’s currency),​​ a smile as wide as all outdoors was plastered on my face. ​​ I handed Grandma the loaf of bread and as she turned​​ to place it on the table, I pulled out the $20 bill and placed it in her hand. ​​ Now, all of a sudden, her smile was as big as mine and happiness bounced​​ off the walls, out the open windows,​​ and down the hollow. ​​ Visions of Grandma’s good cooking​​ were​​ bouncing around in my head and I​​ was​​ a happy kid. ​​ To my horror, she yelled​​ for Grandpa, “Lonnie, come see what Tommy Joe brought home!”. ​​ Just​​ as I suspected, Grandpa snatched​​ the money from her hand,​​ went​​ down to the road, waited on the next bus, and headed​​ off to the beer-joint he likes in Grundy called the “Wigwam”.  ​​​​ It’s hard to describe the sadness that was deep within me as that bus stopped, opened up its door,​​ and Grandpa stepped in. He didn’t​​ return until all that money​​ was​​ gone,​​ and I’m guessing I was being taught that ill-gotten gains seldom result in happy outcomes. ​​ Oh​​ yes, Grandpa sold the hat before the week was over. ​​ "A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, then a germ".​​ - John Steinbeck


Smileycons!Richard Nixon famously said;​​ “People react to fear not love”.  ​​​​ Somehow,​​ I think he is right, tho I wish he wasn’t. ​​ Most of us react to things we are fearful of and try to prevent them from happening. ​​ That’s when we find out how little power we really possess.  ​​​​ So many of the​​ people I care about are facing medical, financial,​​ and personal difficulties and, mostly, I can only offer emotional support. ​​ They are on my “Prayer List” and are included every day as I ask​​ God​​ to help them with their particular problem. ​​ This brings to mind something I remember happening when I was around 8 years old: ​​ I was up in the “holler” visiting with my paternal grandparents and we were sitting out on the front porch. ​​ They were concerned about a distant relative that was recently put in a wheelchair with no hope of ever walking again. ​​ They had heard of a traveling preacher that was capable of placing his hands on you, and thru some powerful praying, convince God to heal your infirmity. ​​ I remember listening to them intently and having a wonderful feeling sweep over me. ​​ My grandparents did not know for sure that it could be done but felt it was worth a try. ​​ The minister was several counties over, neither of them drove a car (none of my grandparents had a vehicle), but they had children that did, so the plan was made to get our relative to the next service. ​​ As anticipated, the minister placed his hand on our relative and prayed with all his might, and then asked him to try and get up. ​​ He was unable to, so the minister assured him that it could happen within the next few days​​ and to go home and pray continually. ​​ To my knowledge, he was never able to get up out of his wheelchair and walk. ​​ Grandma & Grandpa never brought it up again,​​ but I knew they were disappointed. ​​ As for me, I’ll never forget that exquisite feeling of discovering that wonderful things outside our control are possible. ​​ I still believe that today, I have seen it so many times.​​ 

​​ I hope you have enjoyed this missive, I certainly have enjoyed writing it.​​ 

Want To see What I’m Dreaming?


C:\Users\Tommy\Desktop\WoW.jpg​​ Christian Wiman wrote; “As a​​ small child I would​​ sneak into​​ my​​ parents’ room in the middle of the night and peel open their eyelids in the hopes that​​ I​​ could see what they were dreaming”. ​​ As an adolescent, I would sneak into my parent’s room and listen to them breathing. ​​ Dad had​​ sleep apnea​​ and would stop breathing, for what seemed like 10 minutes or more. ​​ I was afraid to awake him because he would growl at me, so I just stood there, silently waiting for him to take his next breath, not knowing when to sound the alarm if he failed to do so.  ​​​​ Consequently, I grew up with the fear that my father would die and leave mom, my brother Jerry and me, to fend for ourselves. ​​ But my father always took that next breath like a bolt of lightning from the sky, surprising and totally unexpected. ​​ I would be hard put to guess the number of times I stood by his side of the bed waiting for the noise his next breath would bring. ​​ I was probably 13-14 years old before I stopped doing that, but needless to say, my​​ anxiety​​ over Dad’s well-being stayed with me into adulthood. ​​ I seriously doubt that Mom & Dad knew of my frequent visits to their bedside. ​​ If they did, it was never mentioned. ​​ Dad took his final breath in October 1986 (Mom in March 1988) and not too many days go by that I fail to think of them. ​​ I am aware that a lot of my core values come from my childhood, but I also believe a fear of the unknown can have it roots in adolescence. ​​ “I asked for wonders instead of happiness, Lord, and you gave them to me.”…..​​ Abraham Heschel

Smileycons!I read recently that adults blink at a rate of about 20 per minute and babies only do it about twice per minute. ​​ The blink rate for babies increased if they were focused on something. ​​ I​​ have never checked​​ my blink rate and cannot possibly think of a reason to do so, but​​ ​​ I’m confident that when​​ Our Maker​​ sat down to design humans,​​ he had a logical reason for doing so. ​​ There are so many things about us,​​ as humans, we take for granted​​ without ever giving it any thought whatsoever. ​​ I am guilty of taking so many things in my relationships with others for granted as well. ​​ All of us have been given an infinite ability to develop our skill at communicating with others, but few of us do. ​​ I have several friends that love to write​​ (Frank, Vic, Reese)​​ and they do it without any thought of being paid. ​​ On occasion​​ they write books​​ to sell, but they are always sold for a modest sum. ​​ I have pondered the question of why people spend many hours at their desk writing about things for someone’s enjoyment/gratification​​ and​​ getting very few responses. ​​ I send​​ this missive out to about 60 friends via email (plus​​ 12​​ via USPS) and, on average,​​ I’ll get less than five comments. ​​ So​​ why do we do it? ​​ In my humble opinion, it’s an attempt to reach out​​ to​​ our friends that are far away and whom we seldom come in contact with. ​​ It’s a​​ desire​​ to focus on friendships and relationships that matter to us. ​​ For me, when I get a response from a reader,​​ my heart kinda gets a glow of satisfaction, knowing that what I have written something that touched someone. ​​​​ T.S. Eliot said ;​​ “We must remember that what a writer does to people is not necessarily what he intends to do. It may be only what people are capable of having done to them. ​​​​ But,​​ Jorge Luis Borges, wrote;​​ “You are not what you write, but what you have read”. ​​​​ Hmmm, I think I have succeeded in confusing myself​​ Smileycons!.

Smileycons!My wife bought me a Davis Weather Station (Vantage Pro2) for Christmas,​​ and​​ she​​ gave it to me early so I could replace my old one. ​​ The old one​​ chose to start transmitting incorrect information after many years of reliable service.  ​​ ​​​​ Needless to say, the new one has​​ all the bells & whistles and required reading a lot of instructions to install it​​ correctly. ​​ It took me three days to finish the installation, get it to communicate with my desktop console,​​ and then connect to the Weather Underground online ( ​​ If you want to see the weather at our house just insert the following station ID into “Search Locations” on that website: ​​ KVAPOQUO11.  ​​​​ It will show “Westover Shores” and then our station ID. Click on that link and it magically appears.  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

Smileycons!I decided recently to install a floor in the​​ Lean-To​​ on our shed. ​​ I sat down, planned how I would construct it, the materials I would need, and determine if I had the necessary skill level to accomplish such a task. ​​ It took me three days to do what a decent carpenter could​​ probably​​ do in three hours, but it looked good after I finished,​​ and I was sorta proud of it. ​​ A couple of days later I decided I wanted to screens on​​ both​​ ends​​ of the lean-to leaving the front open. ​​ So,​​ I ordered​​ the necessary screens and installed​​ them​​ but it​​ wasn’t as easily done as I​​ had​​ anticipated. ​​ I have come to the conclusion, after 27,725​​ spins on this planet we call earth, that most worthy things are, by nature, hard​​ to accomplish. ​​ That not only applies to tasks we want to get done,​​ but to friendships we want to maintain, hearts we want to touch, and a Savior we strive to convince that we are worthy of his blessings. ​​ I work to keep my life simple,​​ putting​​ things that happen in perspective as to their real importance in my life. ​​ I find that to be a balancing act that can be extremely hard to do. ​​ I try to look at finding joy in my life as an Easter Egg Hunt. ​​ Joy is tucked in small cramped places as well as sitting on the balcony of a cruise ship. ​​ It’s sitting at your granddaughter’s table eating with your great-grandchildren and bathing in the love and laughter that surrounds you. ​​​​ It can be me talking to you on the phone , each of us sharing a part of our life with each other.​​  ​​​​ And, yes, it can be installing a floor on​​ my​​ Lean-To and adding side screens. ​​ 

Smileycons!I ran across this quote the other day;​​ "Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon".​​ ---​​ Susan Ertz. ​​​​ I have given some thought as to what that could possibly mean. ​​ Immortality means perpetual life after death. ​​ I think that, perhaps, what we want is to be remembered after​​ we​​ die;​​ at least, by those we count as friends & family.  ​​​​ Yeah, on a rainy Sunday afternoon I may rummage around trying to find something useful to do,​​ but I cannot equate that with an inability to​​ want to be remembered long after I have transitioned to the other side.​​  ​​ ​​ ​​​​