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Appointment in Samarra


⚽ A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterwards, the servant came home white and trembling and told him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman whom he recognized as Death. and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing his master’s horse, he fled at great speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km).  There, he believed, Death would not find him. The servant’s master went to the marketplace and found Death and asked why she made the threatening gesture to his servant. She replied, “That was not a threatening gesture, it was only the stare of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”  So, the phrase, “Appointment in Samarra” has come to mean that we may be trying to avoid death, but it will find us.

I have traveled thru life these 79 years not trying to avoid death but ignoring it.  I am guilty of doing many foolish things during my younger years that could have brought instant death; driving recklessly, jumping off high places into the water, and mining coal with my dad in a mine whose roof was only 27 inches high.  I’ve had 500 lbs of rock fall from that roof within 10-15 feet of me several times.  Never once was I scared, fearing that I barely escaped the grasp of the old man.  I never gave death a second thought, but little did I know he wasn’t done with me yet.  Yes, we all have an “appointment in Samarra”, we just don’t know when that will be.  I read once of a man who placed the following epitaph on his tombstone: “Remember friends as you pass by, where you are now, so once was I.  As I am now, so you must be, prepare yourself to follow me.”  

 I’m inclined to believe Friedrich Nietzsche when he said, “The dying man has probably lost, during the course of life, things more important than what he is about to lose by dying.”

⚽ Well, we have switched over to Daylight Savings Time (DST) here on the east coast of Virginia, and I have to say that I’m glad to see it.  Darkness has been blanketing our area around 6pm here of late, but now it will stay away until 7pm, giving me more opportunities to do chores you see😊.  As we move closer to mid-June, darkness avoids us until 9pm and the day seems endless.  I have plenty of time to do necessary things and time left over to do some very enjoyable things as well.  One of my most enjoyable activities is to plop down in my favorite chair in front of my workshop after a day of chores and call someone I enjoy talking to, and whom I know will be home at that time of the day.  I will normally be drinking a non-alcoholic beer or smoking a cigar.  The beer and cigar alternate days because I know the beer is less harmful 😊.  It’s surprising how uplifting a good conversation is to one’s spirit.  In a time when entertainment is just a moment away, on a device that can transport you to any place on earth via video, talking to others seems to be a lost pleasure.  Sure, contact is much easier via text & Skype, but to have a casual 20-minute conversation on the phone with someone you care about is incredibly enjoyable.  I try to limit my calls to that amount of time unless the conversation is of a serious nature.  I had two close friends pass away last year (Mary Ann & Patty), but I have many of their phone conversation tucked away in memories.  I always called Mary and began the conversation with, “Mary, this is the fun police and your neighbor called and said you were having too much fun, and it has to stop”.  I could feel her smile drifting thru the line and from there our conversation started.  She was suffering from dementia, and my calls always raised her spirit.

To Mary I would like to say, “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world which I find myself constantly walking around in during the daytime and falling into at night. I miss you like hell…….Edna St. Vincent Millay.  She and Patty were wonderful sister-in laws.

⚽ My wife and I were preparing to attend the wedding of two of our church friends (Dana & Carey) at 11 am on a Saturday. We started getting ready around 9:30am, changing our clothes, combing our hair and trying to look good for the new bride & groom as they said their wedding vows.  I walked down the hall to our bedroom and my wife had two dresses out, debating on which to wear.  I asked her which one she had selected, and she responded that she didn’t know yet.  That amused me, and as I turned to walk away, I thought about how long it took me to make up my mind on what to wear.  Probably less than a minute, and that would apply to any occasion I would be attending.  I believe that is one of the many differences between men and women.  For the most part, we men pay scant attention to what we wear.  When I go into our closet to get a shirt, I normally grab the first one I come to and then quickly find the pants, belt and socks that I feel would come close to matching.  Sometimes, my wife takes me back to that closet and picks out what she believes looks better.  Am I offended when she does that?  No, most of the time I’m amused and am prone to tease her about it.  I started dating her in 1992, and after about six months into our relationship, she headed upstairs to my closet and removed everything I had in there that smelled of polyester.  I kinda liked polyester because it never wrinkled, but to her they needed to go because no one wore it anymore.  Needless to say, I complied and before long everything was replaced with more modern clothing.  I only control what I wear around the house and in the yard.  If I’m going out the driveway, then I’m wearing what she thinks looks good 😊.  You might be inclined to think that she’s bossy, just the opposite, she wants me to keep my “Tom Cruise” look.  If ever an angel came down to earth, it was my loving, caring wife.  I am so lucky to have her in my life.     

⚽ I have made an important decision on how to live the remainder of my life.  I don’t know why I didn’t decide to do it years ago.  It’s such a simple decision and oh so easy to do.  I have decided not to postpone any task that takes less than one minute to do.  I started it today, and I already feel better because I don’t have to worry about forgetting whatever task needed doing.  As I sat down to write this article on my computer, I realized I had left a note in my work pants, so I immediately got up, walked to the garage, and retrieved it.  I can see this having quite an impact on me.  As time goes by, I may change the time limit to two minutes and see how that goes, then maybe three?  I doubt doing three would work because it needs to be a task that can be done quickly, and three minutes is stretching it a little for me. Sometimes I wonder why I care about such trivial things, but I read something a long time ago that went like this, “All things are interesting to a wise man”. I think we all strive to be wise, but only a few attain that lofty goal.

⚽ I read the other day that the average American consumes 12 pounds of chocolate a year, thanks to Mexico.  Mexicans have been cultivating cacao plants since 1900 BC, and the Spanish transformed it to the delicious treat we know today.  Later, Hernan Cortes introduced it to Europe, and they are the leading producers of chocolate. 

Somehow, as much as I love chocolate, I doubt that I eat 12 lbs a year, or one pound each month.  Some of you people must be eating way too much of that scrumptious stuff 😊.  I remember that as a young boy of 8-9 years old, my mother took me to the doctor because I had a rash on my right forearm.  He looked at it closely, then leaned back in his chair and stared at me for a few minutes.  “Mrs. Hale, does Tommy eat a lot of chocolate?”  Mom responded that I loved it and ate it almost daily.  He politely informed her to stop all my consumption of it and the rash would rapidly depart.  Much to my consternation, my mother followed his instructions, and it went away.  Since then, I have always tried to moderate my consumption of that wonderfully tasty bit of happiness.  I firmly believe the reason it tastes so good is that I know I shouldn’t be eating it.  I read an article a while back that said chocolate had ingredients that helped fight certain types of cancer.  That was the only excuse I needed to get back on the wagon.  About the only thing that keeps me in check now is my wife.  If not for her, I would have a rash all over my body 😊.


Watching TV

⚽  We Americans, according to research studies, are more likely to watch television than engage in any activity other than sleeping and working.  Studies show that what we watch can shape our thinking, political preferences, and even our cognitive ability.  

Now, I agree with most of that statement, but I’m a bit surprised that it affects us cognitively.  The study goes on to say the evidence suggests that time spent in front of the screen can have negative consequences, particularly when the shows are mostly entertainment. The harm seems to come from the fact that it replaces more enlightening ways of spending time.  I think most of us will agree that we spend too much time watching that darn TV.  A daily average for my wife and I would be about 3 hours, and truth be known, that’s probably excessive. 

My first wife and I got married right after high school in 1959.  I went into the US Air Force shortly thereafter and she joined me in 3 months at Lackland AFB, TX.  Four months later I transferred to an air base outside Dallas (Perrin,) and we lived there for almost 2 years.  During those two years, we were without a TV for almost a year.  An Airman I worked with was buying a new TV and offered to sell me his old one on the cheap.  It was a black & white with a 12” screen and stood off the floor on thin legs that were about 2 feet long.  A small 45 RPM record player came with it and plugged into the back of the TV so you could listen to music thru the speakers.  I can clearly remember the first day I came home from work and after eating supper, sitting down with my wife to watch TV.  It was like having a movie theater in our home!  Every evening we were being entertained, and that felt so good!  But, eventually, we became accustomed to being entertained and the smile gradually left our faces.  And here I am 60 years later, watching TV without even a hint of a smile.  The one thing I know for certain is that TV will dumb-you-down faster than anything else in your life.  It requires nothing from you, and in return, never gives you anything substantial in return.  So, that begs the question, why don’t I go on a “No TV” sabbatical.  I think it is because TV has become ingrained as part of my being, becoming like an extra organ, and we all know you can’t live absent an organ.  Maybe I should concentrate on trimming back the amount of time I watch the blasted thing, or better still, apply the routine I use in smoking cigars:  watch TV every other day for a few hours.  Clearly, as confused as I am, I need to give this some more thought 😊.     

⚽  The young people amongst us are less likely to suffer in silence, but almost all of us are social creatures.  A lot of us hate to be alone, believing that if we are, we’re anti-social.  Solitude is not always good for us, but it can be, and should be, judiciously pursued.  Choosing to do things alone can have mental and emotional benefits.  Being alone with our thoughts and giving our mind free rein to wander can be exhilarating. It can be simple things, for example, I have an umbrella that I use when I go down the driveway to get the mail when it’s raining.  One of its rods had a broken string that kept the fabric tight, and it has been that way for several years.  I have often given thought to throwing it away and buying a new one, but I hated to do that just because of one broken string.  So, the other day, I sat down with that “broken” umbrella and started thinking of how I could repair it.  Sure ‘nuff, during that time of solitude, the answer came to me and now I have a perfectly fine umbrella.  Kinda leads me to believe I should do that more often😊. If you want to know my umbrella solution, let me know.  It was fairly simple.

⚽ Amish men take about 18,425 steps per day. Amish women take about 14,196. The average American adult takes about 4,000 steps per day. Only 4% of Amish are obese, compared to 31% of the general population.  

We have made several trips to the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and, I must admit, we have seen very few overweight Amish people.  It is amazing to witness how simple their life seems to be.  It reminds me so much of my life as a young boy at 5 years old.  We didn’t have electricity, running water, or even a bathroom.  I carried drinking water in a bucket from a well about a quarter mile from our house.  I lived with my Grandpa and Grandma McCoy, and neither of them had a paying job.  Grandma did housework for families located up and down the valley, and Grandpa mostly piddled around the house.  I’ll betcha if I had a Fitbit back then I would’ve averaged 20,000 steps a day.  On one of our trips to Amish Country, we took a ride in a horse-drawn wagon with an old Amish guy as the guide.  We took a tour thru a typical Amish home and in so many ways, with the simplicity I observed inside the home, it reminded me of my childhood.  They seem to take pride in the simplicity of their lives but, to me, it’s like having a wealthy family located in a poor neighborhood and the poor people not wanting to be like them. I could see the look of drudgery on the faces of the women & children whose entire day was filled with chores.  The only ones that appeared to be content with their lot was the men and boys.  I couldn’t quite put it all together, but I suspect that the boys were always up to some sort of mischief and the men probably had a hobby of sorts.  I observed that the men interacted with the public more so than the women. 

I want to think that it’s admirable for a group of people to elect to live such a simple life, however, I find it hard to accept because they expect their children to live the same way and if they choose a more modern path, they are banned for life.  I have a hard time understanding how you abandon a child you love under any circumstances.  Why not allow them to live their life and come home to visit when they want?  That’s always been the proper way to raise children. I’ll have to give it some more thought.  Maybe one day I’ll figure out their logic.  

“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.”  — Helen Keller

I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well….Tommy.

Teachers Make Excellent Friends

⚽ I read recently that forty of the fifty tallest mountains on earth are in Pakistan.  I had absolutely no idea of that fact, showing just how little, I know about our planet’s geography.  But, thinking back to my childhood, I can easily understand why I’m so clueless in that area.  I was in the fourth grade, Ms. Nichols was my teacher, the Geography book was large with pictures, and I would prop it up on my desk, lay my head down on my hands and go to sleep.  Don’t get me wrong, she was a wonderful teacher, caring deeply about her students, but she couldn’t watch everyone all the time and I knew that.  I got a lot of sleep in class that year and I’m guessing that’s why my geographical knowledge is deficient.  Ms. Nichols was the first person to tell me that I was a good athlete and that I would do well in high school athletics.  She was the first adult to be interested in teaching me about things I knew nothing about.  I believe most adults are unaware that children want to be taught, to be made aware of things they have no idea even exist.  And I’ll bet that all of you had that special teacher that was interested in teaching so that you could absorb what they wanted you to know.  Just think of how hard it must be to teach a fifth grader mathematics, or history, and keep their attention.  She taught me in grades 4 -6 in our little country 2-room school.  Upon completion of the 6th grade I left for our local high school (grades 7–12), about 4 miles away and lost track of her, only seeing her occasionally.  Looking back on how special she was, I hope she had a good, fruitful life.  Within the last few years I have contacted her daughter, and we have become good friends.  I doubt that she knows how many lives her mom touched in positive ways.  Her many students owe her a debt of gratitude. Sadly, we only become aware of that as we grow older.  I wonder if teachers can intuit a student’s appreciation.  After all, it is the teachers we remember when we recall our educational experiences.  Quite a few of my high school classmates went on to become teachers and I must admit, teachers make very good friends.  I remember being on a cruise ship leaving Alaska and in the dining room, next to our table, was a table of perhaps 20 teachers on vacation.  That was the happiest table in the room with laughter emanating constantly.  What great fun it was to be close enough to enjoy their enthusiasm for life.  So, my suggestion is, if you’re looking for a friend, go out and find a teacher, you won’t regret it.

⚽About six weeks ago I had some “floaters” appear in my right eye so off I go to see my optometrist.  He splatters a few eyedrops into it and, using his complex equipment, tells me he thinks they will go away, but I should come back to see him before the end of the year.  So, just a few days before the end of 2019 I walked into his office for my appointment, he plops a few more eyedrops in the offending eye, makes his exam and says everything looked great and that he will see me at my scheduled appointment next October.  As I prepared to depart, he inquired as to what I was doing to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.  “Well doc”, says I, “At my age, my wife and I don’t celebrate the coming of the new year as much as we celebrate being here to see it happen”.  

Probably, regardless of our age, we should celebrate in that manner.  Instead of writing down a list of 5 or 10 things we want to accomplish in the new year, we should just be thankful we are here to juggle the things life throws at us for another year. I must admit that I enjoy looking back over the past year at the twist and turns my life took.  Invariably, there are moments of sheer joy but there are also times of incredible stress and sadness.

My Mother was, perhaps, the best person I knew that handled stress easily.  If the problem was money, she would calmly say, “Tommy Joe, it’s only money, we still have our health to be thankful for.  God will provide for us”.   I was a teenager at the time, and I quite clearly remember thinking, “Mom, we’re almost destitute, are you sure God has the time to worry about us?”   If the sadness was because someone dear to us had passed away, her response was always, “they’re in a better place”.  That response never helped me much, but she was put to the test when Dad passed away.  During that time, she seemed more worried about my brother and I than herself.  She passed away 18 months later, leaving my brother, and I devastated. 

I know that the arrival of a new year is celebrated around the world, and I want to be part of that if possible. 

⚽ I have spent a lot of time recently, collecting the many leaves that fall from our trees and it is a worrisome job.  I use my blower to dislodge the ones hiding behind the many shrubs that surround our home, and then I use my Craftsman yard vac to shred then into a thousand pieces before dumping them in a large compost pile my neighbor, Cal, uses for his garden in the Spring.  As I have gotten older, the effort has become greater, but I keep doing it because I know the activity it requires is good for me.  I think it is important, as we age, to maintain a certain amount of physical activity and gathering up those errant leaves provides me that opportunity. 

I have often wondered if I didn’t have that activity, would I remember Fall?  Yes, just like you, I enjoy the wonderful kaleidoscopes of colors it presents each year.  Spring brings us colors also, but it’s not the trees so much as the flowers.  Although, I must admit I enjoy seeing the verdant greens that come forth each time Winter fades, and warmer weather arrives.  It has been said that, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”.  Well, sometimes I feel like I don’t know where I’m going and I’m willing to take just about any road that will get me to that place in life where I don’t have to rake leaves, cut grass, repair everything that breaks down and feel completely exhausted when the sun descends below the horizon.  Some may think that only happens after you transition to the other side, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want it to happen while I’m on the green side of the grass.  David Thoreau said, “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it, and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.   I kinda think that’s not entirely true.

⚽I ran across this quote the other day and thought it interesting, “We are rarely proud when we are alone”.  I’m inclined to agree with that thought, by whoever wrote it.  I have been alone at times in my life, and I believe you can have someone around, but if they are disinterested in you, then you are alone.  I remember playing four years of high school football, and doing quite well in that endeavor, but the person I wanted to impress the most was my mother, and she only attended one game.  Dad was always there, but he would be drinking and embarrassed my brother and I in front of our classmates.  I loved him dearly, but I hated for my friends to see him “high”.  Anyway, no matter the success I had as an athlete, my mother wasn’t there to enjoy it with me, so I had a hard time being proud.  I remember being single after my ex-wife and I divorced and doing things without someone with me.  I would go to a movie without someone there to enjoy it with and I felt the emptiness that comes with being alone in this world with no one to share life’s adventures.  Make no mistake, life is filled with wonderful moments if we choose to acknowledge them, but when we are alone, the colors of life are not quite so deep, the air is not quite as refreshing, and our accomplishments not quite as joyous. Some wise person once said, “When we want to ignore something, we don’t look too hard into the sunlight”.  I avoided looking into the sunlight a lot as a younger person, but I find myself gazing into it often as I have gotten older 😊. 

Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me.  I know you will return their love abundantly.  That is my intent as well.

Goodbye Old Friend!

On March 31st, one of my very best friends passed over to the other side, twenty-six days before she turned 80.  I first met Mary Ann when she was 18, and I was 16 and dating her younger sister.  Her sister and I married two years later and my lifelong relationship with Mary Ann ensued.  She was more like a sister than a sister-in-law, and it was even more special because she was married to my best friend KD (my mother’s brother, only two years older than me).  KD passed away in 2007 after a struggle with cancer and before he died, he asked me to look after Mary Ann when he passed, and I assured him I would.  She was very independent until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013.  She won that battle by 2016, but started suffering with mild dementia and could no longer drive, nor pay her bills.  Her son and his children looked after her, and I took over her finances.  This team worked well and Mary Ann was living a comfortable but restricted life.  She really disliked the fact that she couldn’t drive, but her family and friends made sure she was able to get out of the house often.  She lived about 25 minutes away from me and I visited her often, but I talked to her twice a week on the phone.  That happened every week for four years, unless I was out of town.  I have known three very smart people in my lifetime and Mary Ann was the first.  Probably, all of us have encountered a few people that just seem to have an abundance of brain cells.  It is easily detected.  She home-schooled her two grandchildren and ran the local Little League organization for 36 years as their president.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that she has touched thousands of lives.  But the lives she touched the most, her family and close friends, will mourn her passing for a long time.  My opening line to Mary Ann when I called her was, “Mary, this is the fun police and I’ve been called several times about the racket coming from your house.  That needs to stop! You’re having way too much fun!”  She would always smile and tell me she wasn’t having any fun at all.  We would then move on to something else and before you knew it, an hour had passed, and it was time to hang up.  She leaves a big hole in my life.  I hope she misses me just a little.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has lost by death a dear friend.  The sky is less grand as it sets down over less worth in the population.”  That’s how I feel about losing Mary Ann.

As a lot of you know from my previous missives, I enjoy playing acoustic guitar and my playlist currently has 57 songs.  I lean strongly towards “Country”, but I do have some “Country Rock” scattered thru the list.  Throw in a dash of “Bluegrass” and you pretty much have me nailed.  I try to practice daily and that does happen most days.  Last summer when my son passed away, I refused to practice for months, and I lost the callous on each of the fingers on my left hand.  They are back now, but it was a painful process.  My wife occasionally suggests that I sing along with the music, but I very seldom do.   As Bill Anderson says in one of his songs, “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket”.  I am not a very good guitarist, and I attribute that mostly to the fact that I started playing at age 53 (1994) and didn’t get really serious (I use that term loosely) until I was 70.  I am content to allow the original artists to sing their songs as I strum along, struggling with that darn “F” chord.  I am guilty of trying to sing occasionally, but not too often, frightened that someone will overhear and then the ridicule commences.  Henry Van Dyke said it very well,

“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

Early last month (March) my wife and I visited some old high school friends of mine that live about three hours away.  It was a wonderful reunion.  We spent two nights with Elsie Dee and husband Rene in their attractive home where they made us feel comfortable and welcome.  The four of us enjoyed brunch with two other classmates (Roger/Delores) on the 2nd day of our trip, and we met another classmate (Janet/Lennie) at a dinner theater, had a delicious meal accompanied with good conversation and an entertaining play.  The evening covered me with a warmth that only comes when you reunite with old friends. 

Janet and I had not seen each other in sixty years.  Yes, she and I have changed a lot in all those years, but I could easily have identified her if I had bumped into her on any city street.  Unlike me, she has aged well, and it is difficult for a stranger to imagine we are so close in age.  On our trip home, I lamented the end of being so close to old friends from long, long ago.  The good news is that I have it on our calendar for next year.  An old Czech Proverb says, “Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends”.  Now that’s a bell I can ring.

Spring is just around the corner for my little corner of the world.  We have already had a few days in the 60s and expect some more of the same this week.  Some unattractive weeds poked their ugly heads high above the grass so I headed to the shed and retrieved my Husqvarna weed eater, intending to cut them off at ground level.  The darn thing would start and run a few seconds and then stop.  I struggled with it for about 30 minutes then decided to take the carburetor apart, clean it, and see if that would resolve the problem.  But first, I came inside to my computer, headed for YouTube and located a video on how to take it apart and put it back together.  A big smile spread rapidly across my face as the thought raced thru my mind, “I got this, it’s gonna be a piece of cake”.  Well, as usual, the “piece of cake” thing didn’t work out.  After working on it a few hours over a couple of day, I decided to take it to the local small engine repair shop, figuring he would charge around $75.  I don’t like the fellow very much, seems obstinate, but he’s the only game in town, so I tolerate him.  Suddenly, the thought occurred that I could go online and order the part I need for less than I would pay the grinch to fix it.  Sure ‘nuff, I found a new carburetor for $45 (shipping included) and it is on the way to my home as I write this.  There are times when I think I’m just too smart for my own good!  My children’s mother used to say to me, “I would like to buy you for what you’re worth and sell you for what you think you’re worth!”  The way I’m feeling, I’m thinking she could have made a lot of money.

Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me.  I know you will return their love abundantly.  That is my intent as well.

Be Still When You Have Nothing To Say….

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” 

– D. H. Lawrence

That is an excellent suggestion, but that “Be still” thing plague’s many of us and especially me 😊.   Oftentimes, I find myself rambling on about things that are not important, or, the person I’m talking to is not very interested.  I have to pay close attention to my involvement in conversations and “throttle back” the inclination to express my thoughts on subjects on which I am an expert.  Admittedly, I use “expert” loosely.  My deceased ex-wife used to tell me, “I’d like to buy you for what you’re worth and sell you for what you think you’re worth”.  That always made me grin, but I knew she was serious.  I am a firm believer that when we are passionate over something, we should pursue it with vigor.  It is important that we are selective with our passionate choices, else, you spread yourself too thin and it becomes harder to be successful.  I try to pick one project and then only focus on it, to the exclusion of everything not pertinent.  That works very well for me.  As I’ve grown older, I have found my “passion” to get things accomplished has waned somewhat.  I didn’t expect that to happen, it just did.  I do see that passion in young people, and I must say I enjoy watching them pursue it.  I think the day passion leaves my life is key for me to get ready for the endgame.  I try to keep the “old guy” out of my life but he is a persistent fellow.  Someone once said, “It is better to be a live donkey than a dead lion”.  I think that’s probably true.

Recently, I decided I wanted to replace my Nexus Notepad.  It’s ten years old, and I needed something faster and had a keyboard.  I cranked-up an app on my phone called, “Offer Up” and began to see what was for sale in my local area by individuals (not stores).  Well, I found what I wanted, and it was brand new!  Trouble was, he was asking more than I was willing to pay.  I made him an offer that was half of his asking price.  Immediate reply: “No”.  So, I made a final offer, increasing it by a third.  Answer back: “No”.  Well, hecky darn, guess I needed to make another “Final Offer”?  I was determined that I wasn’t going to pay this fellow his “asking price”.  Somehow, that felt unconstitutional!  True, his asking price was considerably lower than what it cost on Amazon, but I’m a man of principle and that means that I will absolutely not pay his price.  Buy this time my wife got involved, and she was making suggestions. So, now we are colluding on what to offer that persuades him to accept.  Ultimately, we issued another “Final Offer” and he made a counter-offer that was very near what I wanted to pay.  I   accepted.  Now, I didn’t get him to come down a lot but it was enough to make me happy.  The whole thing turned out to be a fun experience.  The one thing I learned is that I’m a much better negotiator anonymously than face-to-face.  I don’t think it’s because I dislike confrontation, it’s because it makes it much less personal.  Hilaire Belloc said, “All men have in them an instinct for conflict: at least, all healthy men.”  My sentiments precisely!

Update:  The deal didn’t happen.  The fellow got “cold feet” about the transaction so we canceled it.  I did find the exact item on eBay for $50 more and it’s on the way to our house now!

My wife and I are members of the Ruby Tuesday (restaurant club.  It’s free, all you have to do is sign up, giving them your email address so they can send you a daily email for the rest of your life.  Occasionally, you’ll get a BOGO (buy one, get one free) offer, with time restrictions (i.e. tomorrow only) and then you get a free hamburger, or salad bar, the month of your birthday.  Well, that fine establishment made an unforgivable mistake: they failed to notify my wife about her free hamburger (her birthday is in January & so is mine).  She got on the phone and called the local Ruby Tuesday and informed them of the situation.  The manager calmly tells her to come on in and thy will give her the birthday burger, no questions asked.  Needless to say, that night we are on our way to retrieve the free food.  As we entered the restaurant, my wife asked to speak to the manager on duty and reminded him of what transpired earlier.  We were escorted to a table, our burgers show up in about 30 minutes, and we chewed on those things as tho we hadn’t eaten in a week.  Free food has that effect on you. Somehow, it seems to be more delicious than what you pay for it.  After completing our meal, we were given a delicious Strawberry Sundae to complete our gluttony.   We left the restaurant on that bitterly cold night with our stomachs full of good food and a look on our face that told the world that free stuff can make you happy.  An old Czech Proverb says, “When we are at our merriest, it is best to leave and drive home”.  That’s exactly what we did!

The word “loneliness” was created to express the pain of being alone, and the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone”….Paul Tillich.

I think that quote aptly describes the two states of being alone.  Unfortunately, we experience “loneliness” most often.  I remember as a young boy our coal camp was shutting down and how lonely I felt as my playmates packed-up and moved away.  My next bout with that condition happened after losing my son last year.  The only thing that can overcome such loneliness is a positive attitude about what the future holds, believing that your situation will improve.  It was harder as a young kid for me to see it from that perspective, but as an adult I have always tried to keep a positive outlook. 

Solitude is something you seek when life becomes hectic and you need a break. I cannot remember the last time I actively sought it.  It seems to surround me when I’m sitting in my favorite chair in front of my workshop listening to classic country music and smoking my favorite cigar. 
George Jones is wailing about, “He stopped loving her today”, or Waylon Jennings is pining over “Luckenbach Texas”.  During that time my worries drift off down the creek and land in someone else’s yard, waiting for the right time to float back in my direction.  I’m sitting there thinking about my friend, Dale, soaking up the Florida sun, or my friend David walking around in Texas wondering if the “Cowboys” will ever win another Super Bowl.  But, for that one hour, my burdens are lifted and I don’t have a care in the world.  Now that’s my definition of solitude.  I’m sure there’s a better definition out there somewhere, but this one suits me fine.

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