Category: 2018


“Daddy, is Santa Real?”


👀 My wife and I have attended the Christmas party of a good friend for many years and it’s always an enjoyable evening. Her home and yard are always abundantly decorated and a warm feeling always surrounds you when you enter.  This year many of her friends did not attend because of sickness, travel, etc., but we had a great time nevertheless.  We left her home around 10 pm with our stomachs full of food/cookies and our minds filled with lots of good conversation.  As we drove home, my wife and I were surrounded with the feeling of good cheer that only a Christmas Party at Joann’s can provide.  Hopefully,all the people that missed it this year will be there next year.  I miss our yearly visit with all of them.  To this day, I still remember my best Christmas as a young boy and the sacrifice my mother and father made to ensure that I got what I wanted.  As a father, I remember the Christmas that I was able to convince my two small children that there was a Santa Claus.  I also remember the one when my 9-year-old daughter asked me if there was a Santa and I assured her there was.  “Daddy, my friends at school are making fun of me for believing in Santa, so tell me the truth!”  I looked at her perfectly formed face, long blonde hair, and gently said, “No, there isn’t a Santa”.  A look of total shock covered her face, and it felt like I had totally destroyed the truth in her world.  If there was not a Santa, was there a Fairy Godmother?  As tears welled up in her eyes, I knew I had made a serious mistake. Her older brother had been telling her for several years that Santa didn’t exist, but because her mother and I kept reinforcing his existence, she believed us.  I remember exactly where we were and what time it was when I uttered those dastardly words.  I remember getting down on my knees and pulling her close to me as she cried, and trying desperately to comfort her.  But there was no comfort for her on that day, and I suspect Christmas was never the same afterwards. There have been many special Christmas’ for me during my 77 spins around the sun and lately they have become special just because I’m still here to celebrate each one.

 👀     A few days ago, I had my annual physical, and as I sat in the chair beside my doctor, he counseled me on fitness. “You need to lose some weight, stop smoking those awful cigars, and keep doing your daily exercises”, he said patiently.  Then he asked, “How many alcoholic drinks do you have weekly?”  I replied that, “Dr Mom (my wife) says I must drink 4 ounces of red wine each day, eat some peanuts,and I will live to be 100”, and so, that’s exactly what I do.  “That’s an old wives’ tale, so stop doing it”, he responded.  I sat silently and listened without responding, knowing Dr. Mom rules my universe.  Then he gave me a bunch of papers to read that would insure I live a happy, healthy life. As I prepared to leave his office he said, “You are the healthiest patient I have, I think you are probably a health nut.”  I smiled, wondering how that could be possible when I’m 15 lbs overweight.  A few days later, as I was reading thru the handouts, he gave me, one of the articles informed me that 80% of all Americans do not live a life that provides optimum health.  That statement left me a little confused, and I’m left wondering, ok, how many of us live a little less than optimum health but still live well enough to have a happy, healthy life?  A little farther on in the article it says health authorities have determined that 5 ounces of red wine each day helps promote good health. Whaaat!  Does he read the stuff he passes out to his patients? Don’t get me wrong, I like my family health care physician, I’m just a little disappointed in him.  Dr. Mom keeps telling me to follow her advice.  Maybe I should, but I’m still trying to figure out which medical school she attended 😊.  Sam Coleridge said, “Advice is like snow; the softer it falls the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” I kinda like that idea.

👀 I read the following in a magazine: “It began three and a half billion years ago in a pool of muck, when a molecule made a copy of itself and so became the ultimate ancestor of all earthly life.  It began four million years ago when brain volumes climbed rapidly in the hominid line.  Fifty thousand years ago with the rise of homo sapiens.  Ten thousand years ago with the invention of civilization. Five hundred years ago with the invention of the printing press.  Fifty years ago, with the invention of the computer.  In less than thirty years, it will end”.  The author of that proclamation is suggesting that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will end human existence within the next 30 years.  I will not be here to find out if that statement is true, but I strongly disagree with it.  Let’s see, if I train my dog to attack other people, then it stands to reason that somewhere in the process he will turn on me?  I don’t think so!  I believe the people developing AI will never allow that to happen.  Why would they?   The people writing the code for AI are very smart, don’t ya think they know in the back of their minds that if their gadget ever becomes smarter than they are it could spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E?  I think it’s a little far-fetched to believe something like that could happen.  It’s far likelier that the world, as we know it, will cease to exist because we ignored climate change.  Nicholas Berdyaev said, “Fear is never a good counselor and victory over fear is the first spiritual duty of man.”

 👀 Recently I decided the windshield wipers on our truck needed to be replaced.  They were a year old and made annoying noises as they moved back and forth.  Also, they weren’t cleaning all the rain off as they should in order for me to see clearly where I was headed.  I walked into the auto parts store, told them what I wanted, paid $50, and headed home in the rain.  The one thing I know is that replacing windshield wipers is a difficult task.  I have witnessed the auto parts employees having a difficult time doing that task for their customers.  As I was driving home and thinking about the task ahead of me, I wondered why someone hasn’t devised a simpler way?  I pulled into the driveway, got a small ladder (our truck is very high off the ground), and stared at the blades on the truck, trying to figure out how the darn things come off.  I looked at the new package of wipers and there was a note that said, “Scan this bar code to get a video on how to install these wipers”.  Hot diggity dog! I immediately got my cellphone, scanned the bar code and a video popped up showing me how to remove the old blades and install the new ones. I struggled to get the old ones off, but after a lot of effort I finally got them removed.  I then popped open the new ones and voila!  There in my crusty old hands are two new blades with a new way to install them!  Just unsnap the enclosure flap on the new wiper, slide it on the control wiper control arm, snap the enclosure closed,and everything is operational and ready to wipe away.  When those wipers need replacing, the job is just a snap away (pun intended).  In case you’re wondering about the brand name of the new wipers, it’s Rain-X.  Thomas Merton said, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”  I’m not so sure I agree with him.   

👀 The dreaded day finally arrived, I needed to replace my computer chair and I had become very attached to it.  I say that literally because I spend a lot of time in it each day.  It’s sorta like dreading to get a new pair of shoes, they take a while to break in, and you have aching feet for a period of time.  Well, the same thing applies to anew chair, but it was time for a replacement. A lot of the bonded leather was flaking off and falling to the floor and the chair looked miserable.  I went to my workshop, brought back some clear packing tape and stopped the flaking, but the chair looked like it was a homeless guy’s prized possession.  So, my wife told me one morning that it was time to go to OfficeMax and select a new chair.   Boy, do they have a lot of office chairs to choose from.  Nothing to do but sit in each chair and ponder if it’s the one I want? I was more inclined to be affected by price ($450+ for some) and leaned more towards the $135 range.  My wife kept encouraging me to ignore the price and select the one that was most comfortable. Finally, I pointed a crooked finger at my selection and told her,with firmness in my voice, “that’s the one I want”.  I looked at the price tag ($338) and flinched.  I immediately reached for my cellphone, scanned the bar code and observed that I could get it for $238 at the same store if I ordered it online and could pick it up in an hour.  A lot of things can bring a smile to my face,but saving $100 can slide one on there just about as quick as sliding a spoonful of pecan pie into my pie hole. I had the chair home (in a box) within a few hours and started assembling it.  An hour later it was sitting behind my desk, inviting me to give it a spin.  I am slowly coming around to liking the chair, but it will take time.  I took the old one to the city dump a few days ago, and as I tossed it into the garbage heap,I waved a sad goodbye.  Lots of my DNA on that old chair.  Ellen Glasgow said, “The hardest thing for me is the sense of impermanence.  All passes; nothing returns.”  I kinda think that is true.

   I hope that wherever you are on this wonderful planet, you are enjoying the ride. May those that love you show up at your door for a long visit during this wonderful month of celebration.  I am eager to greet the New Year and continue my journey.  If you have access to the internet, please visit my website:  www.tommyhale.net 


The Christmas Spirit


 👀 Our local thrift store had its “Christmas Open House” on Friday evening at 6:00pm a couple of weeks ago.  Many of our 12,000 residents look forward to that event.  We arrived one hour before the doors opened and there were, perhaps, 15 people already in line.  By the time the doors finally allowed entry, there we at least 75 people behind us.  Keep in mind that all of their merchandise has been donated by someone who used it before, potentially for many years. Nevertheless, year after year several hundred people show up to buy Christmas toys, decorations, and gifts. My wife and I devised a plan that had her going to the right after we entered and myself to the left.  We were to put into our basket anything we thought we might want, since it could always be returned to the shelf later if we decided we (my wife) didn’t want it.  The items were priced anywhere from $2 to $30 and, for the latter, you were getting a pretty good item for your money.  We left an hour and a half later and the bill came to $60.  Yeah, we got some good Christmas stuff, i.e., a bear that sings “Jingle Bells” and waves lighted batons when you push his button 😊.  but the most pleasure was derived from being around a lot of enthusiastic people whose eyes were wide, and their spirit filled with the expectation of finding that perfect gift, or decoration, at a ridiculously low price.  In addition, they had a snack table filled with delicious cookies, candies, etc., plus coffee and bottled water to wash it down.  I think the reason I enjoy it so much is that it gives me the opportunity to see the“Christmas Spirit” at least a month before it descends upon us like a cloak, and make us feel warm and comfortable deep down inside.  When I was a young boy in the coal mining camps of Virginia, that cloak always descended in early December.  When my two children were young, the cloak returned again every December.  Now? Not so much, except when we head off to the thrift store Christmas sale! I surely hope that you have something like that to tug you into the Christmas season, whether you are a Christian or not. I think I am never so peaceful as when the cloak arrives and peace is the angel resting on my shoulder.

👀 My blood pressure has been giving me “fits” lately.  Back in May when my son told me that he had pancreatic cancer, my pressure shot up to“Hypertension Stage2: 140+/ 90+”.  I normally take my pressure readings on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and each month I key the data into the software that I have on my PC.  Then in November when I go for my annual physical, I give the report to my doctor. After my son passed away in June, I expected my readings to start heading towards “normal” as I worked my way thru grieving over his death.  That happened when other family members passed away, and I expected it to happen this time also.  But, alas, here I am six months later and my readings are still disastrous.  I know my body is saying there is a lot of grief still within me and there is still along way to go to get over his absence in my life.  I am expecting my doctor to put me on medication, and I am willing to do that if he deems it so.  I have been very proud that at my age I do not take any prescription medication, but I fully expect that to change soon. 

“I do not know why it is, but everything penetrates more deeply within me, and no longer stops at the place, where until now, it always used to finish”.  …Rainer Maria Rilke  

👀 My wife and I normally walk the Kiln Creek Trail on Fridays and then she does her grocery shopping in then nearby Kroger grocery store while I head to the Starbucks coffee shop in that very place.  Well, on this particular Friday, I’m standing in line to order my steaming hot cup of coffee, slowly working my way to the front of the line, when I noticed there was only one barista (Emme) and she was working mighty hard. She appeared to be of Asian heritage and in her mid-thirties, and she was working as quickly as humanly possible, trying to please the customers waiting on their order.  I worked for 50 years, and I can tell you that I never worked as hard as that woman at that particular time.  I finally arrived at the front of the line and she came over to take my order when the woman she had just waited on came back and informed her that what she had in her hand was not what she ordered.  The barista looked as though someone had poured too much cinnamon on her oatmeal.  But she was pleasant to the lady and courteously said, “No problem, I’ll get you what you wanted’.  She turned to me and said that she would return soon.  I encouraged her to take her time, that I was not in a hurry, but off she went, twisting and turning like a tornado.  Within a few minutes she was back, asked about my order again (Grande, black) and quickly started making it.  She returned with my dangerously hot cup of “Pike’s Place”, apologized for the delay, and placed it on the counter in front of me.  I always pay for my Starbucks coffee with an app on my phone, so I pulled it up, turned the phone towards her so she could scan the barcode, and remarked that Starbucks surely doesn’t pay her enough and to please add a $5 tip to my order ($2).  She smiled appreciatively and informed me that she couldn’t do that (add a tip on the phone app).  Unfortunately, I seldom carry my wallet and was unable to reward her hard work with a little extra pocket change.  I’m gonna try to remember to take her tip on my next visit.  It is a great joy to do a good job yourself, but it is also pretty great to watch someone else do a great job.  Emme did a great job that day!

John Wayne said, “”Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes to us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”  I’m learning that a great many of our young people are hard workers.

 👀 A few weeks ago we took a week long trip to North Carolina and Tennessee to visit family members that we don’t get to see all that often.  I have three great-grandchildren by my oldest granddaughter Robin & husband David.  I try to find ways to give my two great-granddaughters (12 & 14 years old) some money they can use at school (their brother is only 4).  I refrain from giving them money outright by giving them the opportunity to earn it.  I said to the 12-year-old 7thgrader, “Taylor, tell me the names of 15 US Presidents and I’ll give you $20”.  Surprisingly, she wrote down the names of twelve very quickly.  Struggling for the final three, her dad & I gave a few hints and she won the money.  Her older sister, Randi, was showing me her poker card magic tricks, which she performs at school to impress her friends.  She promised to tell me the identity of the single card I had in my hand, but I noticed that she made a counting mistake when placing the cards in different piles on the kitchen table, and I suspected that mistake would make her calculations incorrect. “Grandio, are you ready for me to identify the card in your hand?”  “Yes”, says I, “and I will give you $20 if you are correct!”  A big smile spread rapidly across her face as she spoke confidently of her guess.  As I slowly turned the card around for her to see, a look of bewilderment took up residency in her eyes.  She had done this trick many times before and had never failed to reveal the correct identity of the card.  I could see the wheels turning as she tried desperately to identify what had gone wrong. Seeing her confusion, I pegged the source of the problem, she tried it again and was successful.  I was happy that she succeeded and willingly gave her the reward I had promised. She also did several other card tricks which we haven’t quite figured out yet.  I have no idea what they will use the money for, I hope it is on a school trip of some kind.  Taylor went to the State Science Fair in Nashville the week after we left and finished 4th for all 7thGraders in the state.  Oh, how we brag about those we love. 

Nikki Giovanni said, “Some say we are responsible for those we love.  Others know we are responsible for those who love us.”  Now that’s a pony I can ride!

  I hope that wherever you are on this wonderful planet you are enjoying the ride. May those that love you show up at your door for a long visit during this wonderful month of celebration.  I am anxious to greet the New Year and begin my 78th trip around the Sun.


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