Over the past 10 years I have done a lot of “downsizing”. When my youngest daughter graduated high school, this mama bird’s nest was soon to be empty. And thus, the packing began.
I downsized while my daughter was in her senior year of high school. I knew I would move on to a new chapter of my life, just as she would be. I must have packed up a hundred boxes within those last months. There were more boxes to be donated to charity than there were for my new destination. I had accumulated belongings, both personal and household, for 29 years. What my 3 daughters did not want, either needed to be sent to charity, sold in a yard sale, or given away. I would estimate that 60% went to charity.
It took some time for me to accept the downsizing. To be in a home raising children for almost 30 years, items become memories. It’s difficult to let go. But the more I let go, the better it seemed to feel. It felt good to get rid of the clutter, and even better to release the hold material items had on me.
I come from an upbringing where holding onto material things is the norm. My mother was an avid collector of anything she felt precious. She had many, many collections. Mostly of glassware, and antiques, just to name a couple. She and my dad even did the flea market scene in their retirement years, selling everything from antiques and imported novelties to homemade fudge.
My mother thoroughly enjoyed collecting! The collector’s bug bit me also around age 12. It was something my mother and I enjoyed together for many years. Collecting was something that neither of us did halfway. It was all in or nothing. That means you collect everything you can get your hands on in the subject you are interested until you can find no more! It’s a thrill and a lot of fun for people who enjoy that type of thing. But once your home is filled with your collection, gone is the joy for many of us. And we are ready to move on to the next collection. Which means the old collection needs to go.
So, with downsizing, there is no room for collections. I needed to let go of that collector’s mindset in order to move on with my new life. So, packing we did, until my daughters and I could pack no more! It was a daunting task the first time I moved alone in 2011. They left me with just enough items to pack my large Ford Crown Victoria to its maximum capacity! I consider myself an excellent car packer due to all the years of road trips with my 3 girls. So, believe me when I say I took advantage of every inch.
Fast forward 6 months later and I am packing again. Off to charity went more items, either from my past life or newly purchased. I again packed my car like a can of sardines, and off I go. This routine of packing, moving to a new place, and unpacking would be repeated 4 more times. Each of the times I packed, there would be more downsizing accomplished. Finally, when I moved once again in 2015, I only had about 10 small boxes that I could handle myself and my clothes. I had gone from an enormous home that was once filled with a family of 5 and all their belongings, to 10 small boxes.
I would be lying if I said that looking at those 10 boxes and knowing they held all I had left in the world didn’t bother me. It saddened me immensely. I didn’t even have a car. I had no furniture, not even a bed. But I took it all in stride. I looked at where I had started and how far I had gone. I may not of had the many material possessions anymore, but I had traveled through life in directions I had never thought possible. And by literally having a lighter load to carry, I could accomplish many new things. I had been married 20 years, divorced, raised 3 daughters as a stay-at-home mom, and now I am doing things “alone” I would have never thought I could do it. It seemed to be my time to live life and have experiences to make me grow. It took a lot of packing and unpacking, but I made it, and with no regrets. Not a single one.
I used to have a dog named Cupcake. She was a shih-tzu. She was absolutely adorable, but she could be troublesome. Cupcake was white with big black spots. I was just a baby when I got her from an elderly woman that had a shih-tzu of her own with about 3 puppies. Cupcake was the runt of the litter and I fell in love with her. I would take naps with her, eat with her, and play with her. I even remember sharing my food with her like you see on television shows.
I literally remember sitting in my highchair and taking a bite of an apple and then leaning over to give her a bite. She loved it when I did that. Then I would take a bite again. I know that’s gross, but that was just her and I doing our thing.
We were inseparable. I used to walk around the house at 3-5 years old and carry her in a Walmart sack. She would just stick her head out and let me. I liked to play with her. She wasn’t rough with me and let me do whatever. When I got older, I would tease her and mess with her so that she would chase me around the room. It was so fun. She would run really fast. I would start running in circles, then jump on the couch. She would jump up with me and get over it.
One of her favorite things to do was sun- bathe. She will do that all day, every day. If I wasn’t playing with her, then she would lie on the floor, or her favorite spot, on top of the back of the couch, basking in the sun. That was her thing to do when she wanted alone time. She looked so cute and calm just lying there. She also loved to lie down inside our old futon. There was a hole in the back underneath it, and she would just climb right in it.
One problem we had with her though was potty training. If we did not let her out when she had to go, then she would just go wherever. We would lay peepee pads down in multiple rooms before we left to go somewhere and come back to see that she only peed partially on the pad and some on the floor. It was so embarrassing one time she literally peed on a table when we had a guest over. I mean, I was just standing there in such awe and embarrassment.
Besides that, when we let her outside, she had to have a leash on or else she would run off. She would also just run out the door if she had the chance when it was open. I would get so scared sometimes. Most of the time she only went to the neighbor’s house and I would go get her. I will say I loved walking back with her to the house because I would hold her belly up like a baby. But as she got older, she ran further than just the neighbor’s house. She started running a couple miles to find a male dog she liked.
He was black and white also, but too big for her to be with. If she got pregnant because of him, then her puppies could have ended up too big, and that would have ended badly. One time she was gone, like half a day, and I almost lost it. One day we left for Church, around 5 or 5:30pm, and as we were backing out of the driveway she showed up. I felt so much relief. Cupcake also ran off one time and came back with that male dog. I was happy she found another dog, but I was not happy that it was causing her to run away. That eventually came to a stop.
She stopped running off one day, and I remember we looked at her and thought she was pregnant. Her belly was enormous. So that was the first thing we thought. I was ecstatic at first, but then we all thought about how dangerous that could be for her. Also, mama and daddy did not want any puppies. They took her to the vet and came home with bad news. She had diabetes. I was very upset when I found out. I hoped she would be okay, and she was a fighter. We had to give her one shot every day. She would get bloated, but the shots helped with that.
Then the hits just kept on coming. She went blind. It hurt me to find out that she also was turning blind. One day I was playing or something with her and noticed her eye looked different. She had some weird bump on it. I took a good look at it and went to get my mom. She looked at it and took her to the vet. The vet told her she had an ulcer on her eye. The diabetes caused her to go blind. On top of that, she always rubbed her eye on the carpet floor. There is no doubt that made it worse. Once she couldn’t really see anymore, she had some trouble getting around the house. She might run into something every once in a while. She got the hang of it, though.
Now outside was a different story. She would go outside and use the bathroom like normal, but had trouble finding the door to get back in. I felt so bad for her. Cupcake would get goopy stuff around her eyes all the time. I wanted to start help to clean her eyes, so my parents showed me how to wipe her eyes with a baby wipe. I did not feel comfortable giving her shots on my own, so I left that to them.
One day, the worse happened. I left for school one morning and did not know what news was coming ahead of me. Cupcake was gone. My dad was off at work, and my mom told me she must have run away when she opened the door. She didn’t know at the time because she was busy with my little brother, trying to get him out the door. It devastated me! It really hurt me deep down inside. I didn’t know I could become so attached to an animal until I met her. Especially at that moment, I didn’t know how to handle the situation in my head.
My mind was going a million miles an hour, thinking about finding her. I had nothing but her on my mind. We started off just shouting for her outside. Then my mom drove off to look for her. Then I really started thinking about her not coming back. I vividly remember standing in the middle of the road yelling my heart out for her. I was sobbing. My voice cracking as I yelled. I felt like the world stopped and I couldn’t do anything. All I wanted was for her to come back to me. My mom came back home and saw me and helped calm me down. I never stopped thinking about her. How could I? She was like my own child. I didn’t want to give up. We looked around in the nearby field and yelled and shouted for her. Our neighbors saw us and wanted to help. We still didn’t find her, though.
My mom told me something that her mother told her: Sometimes when a dog knows their journey on earth is ending, they run away so their owner won’t see them. It helped me feel better knowing that. It’s hard to explain how. I like to think she died a peaceful death. I love her so much. I know she is waiting in Heaven for me though.
I ran across this quote by Mark Twain the other day: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
It takes most of us a long time to “find out why.” Unfortunately, I was in my early 50s before I finally figured it out. I always assumed that my goal was to advance as far up the ladder with my company as I could and to provide an enjoyable life for my family. That was the goal of my parents and of our extended family, thus it became my goal as well. Only in my 50s did I realize that my life on this beautiful planet went beyond that simple goal.
We have all heard many times that money cannot buy happiness, but a recent study contradicts that emphatically. It shows that over the last few decades people are more inclined to say that having sufficient money in their savings account relieves a lot of financial pressure and makes life easier. That has been the case in my life, and I don’t know anyone with sufficient financial resources who is unhappy unless they have health problems. On the other hand, I know several who lack those resources and struggle daily as a result.
The only bone of contention I have with the study is that it cannot acknowledge the degree of happiness that financial independence brings. Personally, I believe it only gets you on the first rung of the ladder. Other things allow you to advance upward, such as sustained health for yourself and for your loved ones; having a significant person in your life to share your life with; and having an extended group of family and friends that are involved in helping you live a robust, yet relaxing lifestyle.
Some say that as we grow older we gain a “crystalized intelligence” that will continue to get better as we age, and that we will often become more agreeable and less prone to anger. Scientists haven’t been able to pin this down but they think that older people are able to control their emotions better and focus on how to make life happier.
Now we get to the “find out why” in Twain’s quote. When we eventually get past the desire to collect as many “things” as we can to prop up our feeling of self-worth, and after we have travelled to the many places we thought would add adventure to our mostly dull existence, we come to realize that something is missing. It took me a long time to think outside the bubble of my life where the question was always, “What’s best for me?” As I got older, I thought about what I could do for others. My wife and I live a comfortable life and can help. We have decided that we want to help those people in our lives who need a helping hand. We have all heard the old axiom, “It is better to give than to receive,” but I doubt many of us felt that to be true, especially if your life has been a series of financial struggles.
As a younger man, I could donate to charity by having my employer withhold a generous amount from my bi-monthly paycheck and each year I could look with satisfaction at the amount. After I retired, that option wasn’t available, so I had to figure out another plan. Now when December rolls around, we sit down and write checks to our favorite charities. The satisfaction derived from this effort definitely lowers my stress levels because we know that we are helping people who are, perhaps, unable to help themselves.
Yup, it took me a long time to find out why I have been placed on this earth. I am confident that a lot of us never figure that out. If I had asked my parents that question, they would have responded, “to raise you two boys,” and they would have been content with that answer. I remember my mother calling me about a year after my father passed away in 1986 and saying, “Tommy Joe (she never called me Tommy), I want to let you know that I have $50,000 in the bank.” This was Dad’s goal in life—plus a Lincoln Continental sitting in the driveway😊. That was it, no higher motivation, no helping the sick or poor, no helping the sad looking Vietnam veteran sitting at the stoplight with a cardboard sign pleading for money to buy food. This is the way it was back in my hometown all those many years ago. There was no safety net if your life took a rapid turn for the worse, so people weren’t inclined to help.
But in my many yearly trips back home, I have seen that change, not because the people there are now wealthier, but because they have become more enlightened. They too, have come to realized why they have been placed on this planet, and they know it’s not just to accumulate $50,000 in the bank. You may think I’m being critical of my parents and the people in my hometown during that time, but you would be wrong! I’m proud of my hillbilly heritage, and my core values came from those fine people, but it’s difficult to visualize a higher purpose in life when you’re struggling to put food on the dinner table. I probably have an ulterior motive in my enlightened attitude: “I’m not looking for a hole in the ground, I’m looking for one in the sky.” —Keen Mountain Boys.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I were walking one of our favorite trails and came upon a fellow standing by his bicycle taking a break. As we approached him, he started a conversation, so we paused to talk with him for a while. He informed us that he rode this trail on his bike every day and wanted to know how often we walked it. I informed him that we walked it every Wednesday, and then I pointed out in a friendly manner that the trail was three miles long, but for him to get the same cardiovascular benefits as us he would have to bike 21 miles. A one-mile walk was equal to seven miles of biking. In retrospect, it was probably impolite for me to make that point, but I did, and he didn’t seem offended. During our conversation, I also glibly told him about the monthly walking challenges I have with my three granddaughters. He responded that at his age (he appeared younger than me), he no longer wanted to create challenges in his life. That caught me by surprise because challenges to me are part of what makes life interesting. Reminds me of a quote often attributed to Glenn Campbell (the singer): “I can still jump as high, I just can’t stay up as long.”
Come to think of it, my life is full of challenges: writing this weekly missive, getting 10,000 steps daily, getting 7 hours of sleep each night 😊, lifting weights—I could go on, but the list would be way too long. I can only imagine how boring my life would be if I didn’t have daily challenges. Some are a lot tougher than others, but they all dance to a tune that make my life taste like a piece of pecan pie with a big ole slab of vanilla ice cream on the top. 😊 “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” —Joshua J. Marine
New Word for the Day:
Philomath: a lover of learning, a student or scholar. One of my granddaughters is a philomath. I just love learning unfamiliar words. I hope wherever you are on this wonderful planet that the people you love return that wonderful feeling in abundance. —Tommy
On my top five list of all-time favorite television shows, The Andy Griffith Show remains in the #1 spot! No matter how many times I watch any one of the 249 half-hour episodes, they never fail to give me a lingering smile and a few belly laughs. I never tire of watching the old show. It is my “go to” TV time when I need to just clear my mind, cheer myself up, or just relax.
It first aired in 1960, two years before I was born. The last episode aired in 1968. As a child, I was not allowed to watch much television. So, I wasn’t exposed to my all-time favorite show until my adult years. I am very thankful for syndication. I cannot imagine my life without having enjoyed the wonderment of such talents as Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, and countless others who graced the world-famous Mayberry stage.
The Andy Griffith Show has stood the test of time and continues to be one of the most watched and enjoyed shows in television history. I believe what makes the show so timeless is its humble and pure, all American roots, it’s strong family and community values that always tug at your heart strings. And it is always served with a side order of comedy and a Southern twang.
There is a lot to be learned from watching The Andy Griffith Show. The “lessons” as I like to call them, are woven throughout the episodes. Placed in true to life situations that anyone can relate to. Strong morals are sprinkled throughout almost every story line. Some episodes are just pure comedy of course, with the expected silliness and slapstick humor. But more than not, there is a good ole fashioned lesson to be learned in there.
My point being made by the fact that many Christian churches have chosen to use some Andy Griffith Show episodes to teach their youth life lessons. Ones that can help them become more well-rounded individuals. When I first heard of this being done in my own neck of the woods, I thought, “Wow, what an awesome idea!” If more children watched The Andy Griffith Show instead of playing violent video games, I believe we’d have happier kids and parents. Maybe I’m just dreaming, but the positivity offered abundantly in these episodes certainly can’t hurt.
Most of Andy’s lessons on the show are given to his young son Opie. The on-screen chemistry between these two can have you believing they are actual father and son. Every given chance, Andy is offering his boy words of wisdom and insight, that if collected and stored, will help Opie throughout his entire life. Just like a loving dad should do. But too many times in real life, that ball is dropped by a parent. I think there are lessons for the adults in these episodes as well.
Over the years I have met many people who share my sentiments. I no longer feel weird, or silly that I get so much joy from an old TV show. I’ve concluded that if a person is also an Andy Griffith fan, then they are a person I want to get to know.
So, if you have never watched The Andy Griffith Show, or it’s been a while, may I suggest that you catch an episode now and then. And if you fall in love with the show like I did, you can binge watch on Netflix, or find the entire 249-episode collection on DVD. You might want to check out the episode titled “Fun Girls” for your PG-13 entertainment. And if you want to sit down and enjoy a good family episode with your children, I suggest the title “Mr. McBeeVee”. These are two of my all-time faves! Happy watching.
I recently finished reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande and found it quite interesting. The book’s main theme was how we deal with our own dying. He thinks that most of us never think about our death until we feel it is about 10 years away. I often joked that I thought “being old” was always ten years older than I was. George Burns, who lived to the ripe old age of 100, said that he never bought bananas that were not ripe, nor ordered a 3-minute boiled egg.
Mr. Gawande says our goal should be to have a good life and not worry about death. He believes that life is a series of peaks and valleys and studies have shown that we remember only the peaks and whatever happens at the end. The valleys? Not so much! He talks about watching a football game (60 minutes) and your team dominates up until the last three minutes and then they lose the game. Their fans leave the stadium disgusted, even though for 57 of those minutes their team dominated, and they were extremely happy. They only remembered the last 3 minutes. He goes on to say that life is not the average of our life experiences but the feelings of our experiences. As we all know, story endings matter and we always want a happy ending. We want our pain to be brief and our pleasure long lasting. He believes that we have two parts within us: The “Remembering Self” and the “Experiencing Self”. the “Remembering Self” recalls the peaks and some valleys while the “Experiencing Self” is totally involved in the moment.
As we grow older, I believe we become more of the “Remembering Self” and less of the “Experiencing Self”. I find myself in that mode a lot at my age, and I am completely unaware when it started. I realize it takes a lot of courage to stare down the muzzle of a gun, and it takes an equal amount of courage to face your eventual demise. Courage is showing strength and resolve, knowing you are in imminent danger.
Socrates said, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
About 24 million children in America, or 1 out of every 3, live in homes without a father. That is disturbing. As a young boy growing up in the “40’s & 50s, every family I knew had both parents. Of course, there were a lot fewer people and the divorce rate was very small.
I ran across the following article in a email I received from the “Morning Brew”:
- 50,000 B.C.E (before the common era for non-Christians): 2
- 8,000 B.C.E., the dawn of agriculture: 5 million
- 1 C.E (common era).: 300 million
- 1850: 1.3 billion
- Today: 7.7 billion
- 2050: 9.7 billion projected
Bottom line: More than 108 billion people have ever been born on this planet. The number of people alive right now represents roughly 7% of the total number of humans who have ever lived.
As we see, there are currently 7.7 billion of us and a lot has changed since those two people walked around at the beginning. A lot of it was good and some of it not-so-much. Especially, as it pertains to families. A simple Google search reveals that in the USA at least 50% of families get divorced. That is a staggering number! Of course, I stand firmly in that statistic, having divorced after 32 years of marriage. Fortunately, our two children were adults, but that still doesn’t eliminate the damage a divorce does to everyone involved. Mom & Dad being together seems to be the glue that holds the universe together, and when their relationship crashes and burns, their children are left with a big hole in their heart that seems to never close. I think that is true no matter their age.
So, how can we improve that situation? I believe that the reason marriages lasted longer 75 years ago is that more people belonged to a religion. They concentrated more on obeying the laws of their religion and, as we all know, most religions specify fidelity in a marriage. I do believe that if I had been more religious, I would have tried harder to make my marriage work.
I also believe religion requires you to treat your spouse with kindness and respect, something that is missing in a lot of relationships. Do I think that being religious would drop the 50% divorce rate to 25% or less? It worked back then and there is no reason it cannot happen now.
When it comes to your children, parents mostly feel as Elizabeth Stone does: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body,”.
Therein lies the reason to make your marriage work.
I was watching the Chernobyl mini-series on HBO last week and was moved by it. At the end someone said, “Every time you lie you incur a debt to the truth and sooner or later that debt has to be paid”. I gave that some thought, and I completely agree with that idea. It’s a perspective that we should adopt and instill in our children. We were all raised to understand that lying was wrong, and we know that if we lie in court, we can be incarcerated, but we never assumed that lies accumulated and at some time in the future we had to suffer in some way for those lies. We can all find situations where a “little white lie” seems to be necessary. It may be that we do it to spare hurting someone’s feelings, or, we do it because we were asked a question that we did not want to answer truthfully and felt it necessary to tell a falsehood. There are times when we “stretch” the truth in order to make the situation seem better than it was. My ex-wife used to say that, “to deceive is worse than lying” whenever she detected that I wasn’t being completely honest with her. My reasoning was that she couldn’t handle the truth and would become very upset. Our two children always avoided telling her bad new because of her inability to handle it. Maybe, we should have been truthful and accepted the consequences but all three of us chose to avoid that at all costs. I think at some point, deceiving (lying) takes its toll on you and starts to chip away at your self-respect. After we divorced, I vowed to never again be caught in that situation and my life has been much happier. I also think God is much happier with me 😊.
Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind… Austin O’Malley
I hope that wherever you are on this wonderful planet of ours that you are loved by your friends and family as much as I am loved by mine. May you always be treated with kindness and respond with humility…..Tommy