If You Want to Live A Happy Life

A man kneeling down on the road in front of a city.

I read an article recently that said it takes 30 days to create a new habit. If you want to always get up at 5 a.m., do it for 30 days and it will become a habit. What a revelation! I never really gave much thought about how long it took to create a habit but it is good to know that in 30 days I’m “hookedâ€. I wonder if you can “unhook†in 30 days? Nah! I quit smoking a pipe in 1979 and it took me two years to get over it. I quite chewing tobacco in 1990 and it took me 5 years, so I think it takes longer than 30 days to get “unhookedâ€.   Sadly, it seems, when you quit one habit another springs up and takes its place.   My monthly trip to DQ for a Blizzard has become habit-forming, as well as my love for cookies and all things sweet. My morning cup of Joe has been a habit for a long time and I’m sure it would take months to overcome. I think we have a tendency, as a society, to look at those with addictions and be critical, ignoring our own shortcomings. Come to think of it, I don’t know too many skinny people, and overeating certainly is an addiction. There is an old saying that “You should eat a little of everything and a lot of nothingâ€. Unfortunately, that “lot of nothing†thing is hard for me to do. Old Andy Rooney has one of my best quotes: “Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.”

Pack your bags and come along with me on a trip back to May, 1959. Don’t worry, we won’t be there long, you’ll enjoy the trip and hopefully come away with a little insight into something you never thought about. Spring has arrived, graduation is a few days away and my ex-wife and I are getting married a few days before graduation so our high school friends can attend. She is a member of the Church of Christ and I a member of the United Methodist Church. We are in the process of determining which church to get married in and which one to attend. I came up with the brilliant idea of getting our two ministers together at the home of the Methodist minister and listen to their reason as to why we should be a member of their congregation. She agreed, we set it up and in a few days we arrive at my preacher’s home. The Church of Christ minister shows up a few minutes later and before we could get inside the parsonage both ministers started shouting at each other. To our amazement, they got within inches of each other’s face and, menacingly, offered to punch each other out. Being an idealistic, out of touch with reality 18-year old, I was devastated by their actions! The meeting was cancelled when my preacher’s wife came to the door and shouted vehemently at both men “Idiots, do you have any idea what message you’re sending to these two young people?†. The fighting stopped, both men lowered their heads, as if in shame, and apologized to us. We left my minister and his wife standing on their porch waving goodbye, or good riddance, whichever the case may be. The lesson I learned that day is that when religion is involved, few people show tolerance to a belief other than their own. Most of us think there is only one way into heaven and that train only leaves the station we are standing on. Our wedding took place on May 22nd, 1959 in the Methodist church. My ex-wife and I, sadly, failed to attend any church during our marriage of 32 years. I think the situation I just described was a contributor, but perhaps not the only reason. Happily, my marriage to Jerilyn has helped me find my way back to church. We don’t attend as often as we should but we are faithful followers of Christ. What about the insight I promised you if you joined me on this trip? Never get ministers from other churches together hoping they will discuss religion in a thoughtful and helpful way. I hope you enjoyed this brief journey back to a time when I was 18 and life looked so sweet and innocent.  

The other day I ordered a device called “Fake-TVâ€.   It is a small device about the size of a fist and plugs into the wall. It’s made with LED lights (like the ones on your microwave or alarm clock). Anyway, it has several settings. One has it come on when it’s pitch black in the room and stays on for 4 hours, or the other has it come on and stay on for 7 hours. A simple switch sets it to what you want. You can also set the switch to have it stay on 24 hours a day (if you are away on vacation).   The brochure says it uses about as much energy as a nightlight. We have it in the same room as my PC and it comes on for 7 hours after I turn off all the lights and go to bed (around mid-night).   It really does look like your TV is on as it brightens the room and then lowers the lights the same way your real TV does. The price wasn’t bad ($35 w/ship). Seems like a cheap way to fool a burglar. Being that it’s LED it should last forever (J). If you are interested in one just go online to fake-TV.com. Mine showed up in 2 days. Guess they wanted to make sure I didn’t change my mind.   Oh, by the way, I haven’t been paid for this endorsement.

You would think that with me being retired, I would have plenty of time to set around, read, watch TV and take naps. That was kinda what I was expecting when I retired 3½ years ago. Most days I roll out of bed at 7 am, get dressed, head down the hall, turn on my PC, start my morning Joe and do about 15 minutes of exercise. These mostly involve the neck, back and eyes and are beneficial in keeping me from walking sideways, and the eye exercises help me with my Vertigo. After breakfast at 9:00 am, I either go running or lift weights. After that we have lunch around 1 pm and I head outside to do some chores that will last me until around 6pm. A shower, a quick check on my email, a few glances at the paper and then time for supper (around 8pm). This is pretty much my routine Monday – Friday, unless something special comes up. Sometimes, I need to work on my daughter’s car, or my daughter-in-law in TN will need me to work on her PC remotely, or a friend will need help. I try to stay flexible and help when I can. I guess the point I’m making here is that I seem to be busier than when I held down a full-time job. The only discernible difference is that I can switch my priorities, because, with my old job, someone else set my schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, just wondering where that rosy dream came from that had me thinking retirement was just a few steps below the gates of heaven. I agree with General Omar Bradley when he said, “I am convinced that the best service a retired general can perform is to turn in his tongue along with his suit, and to mothball his opinions.” I’m not a retired general and, unfortunately, I haven’t mothballed my tongue, as you can tell from a constant barrage of my thoughts in your email inbox.

As a young boy my brother and I often went to the movies in Grundy on Saturdays (25¢). Our favorite of the three theaters in that small coal town was the “Morgan Theater†(they only showed westerns). Jerry’s favorite cowboy star was Rocky Lane and mine was “The Durango Kid†(Charles Starrett). My favorite actress’s in those movies were Linda Darnell & Jane Russell. To me as a young lad of 12, these two women were to die for, and I guess I never missed a movie they were in. In one scene, Linda is in a swing out under an old oak tree and the leading man comes up behind her and starts pushing the swing. As the scene progresses, he winds up in the swing beside her and there is a smoldering kiss as the screen fades to black. I left the theater that day with the idea lurking deep in the recess of a brain cell (I only had 2 or 3) that if I wanted to impress a girl all I had to do was push her in a swing. There were several good lookin’ girls in our coal camp (Patty, Prissy, Peggy, Betsy) close to my age and I was determined to see if my luck with them would change if I did that swing thingy. We didn’t have many swings in the camp so I knew it would be a difficult task. However, we did have an old tire attached to a rope tied to a limb on an old walnut tree. For weeks I tried to maneuver one of the camp “beauties†into that tired old tire swing. Needless to say, they weren’t falling for my ruse.   I finally gave up, blaming my bad luck on my inability to get them to a swing. I have had the opportunity to push a few pretty women in swings in the many years since then and I gotta say it doesn’t work. But it does sound like the makings of a country song: “If I could get her in a swing this could go faster, or take her for a ride on my big red tractorâ€.   Ah, if only life could be so simple.

As I’ve mentioned before in this missive I belong to an online group called PoquosonFreeCycle on Yahoo.com. This group post things they want to give away and it is sent via email to all its members. As a matter of fact, the monitor I use on this PC was recently obtained from that group. A few weeks ago I picked up a John Deer self-propelled pushmower that refused to start for its owner. This is one strong-looking lawnmower and I was pleased to get it, though fixin’ it wasn’t as easy as I supposed. After replacing the spark plug and pulling on that darn cord for an hour I decided to take the carburetor off and see what I could do with it. As I dismantled it I used my trusty digital camera to takes pictures of each step to insure that I could reinstall it correctly. After its removal I decided to order a new one online, figuring that would be an easy solution. But life is never simple. Nowhere online was there a carburetor for this machine (1992). I did find a suggestion that it would probably work if I soaked it in a vat of “cold parts†cleaner. So off I go to our local hardware store and purchased same for $22. I soaked it for 2 days, took it out, dried it off and then used my air pressure hose to blow out the jets. A couple of hours later it was reinstalled and that pull cord was patiently waiting for me to give it a jerk. Before doing that, I decided to set down in my “pondering†chair and figure out if I left anything undone. After about 15 minutes of thought, I walked over to JD (John Deere), took a deep breath, bent over and grabbed the cord and gave it a mighty yank. Now, I’m of the opinion that 99% of all women will find it hard to understand how good an engine sounds when its humming away. All men understand. I think it is built into our DNA. I’m getting to old to dance a jig but I can do a good simulation and that’s just what I did.   That sweet running thing set’s in my shed awaiting my command to fire up. It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy. Reminds me of a quote by Albert Einstein: “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or thingsâ€.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux