Tag: family


One-on-One Time


I am a huge advocate that parents need to spend occasional one-on-one time with each of their children. From the time they are young, during their teen years, and after they are adults.

I have three grown daughters. This year, their ages will be 39, 37, and 30. I love my daughters more than life itself. Being their mother has been an essential part of my life and has been the reason for the most joyful times I have known.

With everyone having their own life to live, it becomes a real challenge to have one-on-one time with an adult child. A genuine effort has to be made by both parties. It was easy to keep up with each other’s daily routines, good days, and bad days while living under the same roof. But when the chicks begin to fly and leave the nest for their own, the busyness of life and the world’s stresses have a way of pulling loved ones apart. We have to try harder!

Lately, I have felt an authentic, heartfelt need to connect with each of my girls. They each seem so busy with meaningful projects in their lives that I have not had the heart to ask for their time. One of the worst feelings in the world for a parent is to feel like a burden on our children. I felt as if it would be very selfish of me to do so.

Sometimes life just has a way of working things out for us. I have been in desperate need of help with cleaning and organizing my apartment. It was built in 1970 and requires some major repairs. Repairs that will require me to move out for at least a whole week. I will also have to take my belongings with me so the floors can be replaced entirely.

I can no longer do things, like cleaning fast and furious, as I did in my younger years. Much less move furniture around. I knew I needed help, but I became silent in asking, hoping, and praying it would somehow all workout.

And it did. My beautiful Chelsea, my sweet baby girl, saw I needed help and came to my rescue. Like a little angel with the power of a tornado, she came into my home and got more done in a matter of days than I could have done in one year! She amazed me, and she also took a burden from me that was so heavy.

I never asked Chelsea for her help. She offered. Somehow, someway, my youngest daughter grew into a kind, loving, generous, and empathetic adult. I couldn’t be more proud of her. I doubt she realizes just how much her help means to me. She probably won’t be able to until someday, when she is older and in the same need for help. That is how life lessons work.

But that was not the only blessing to come out of this story. My daughter and I ended up spending much-needed and valuable one-on-one time. It had been way too long. Yes, we were sweating, and yes, we were doing not-so-pleasant chores, but the magic happened anyway. We laughed, cried, hugged, and were able to catch up on each other’s lives.

When Chelsea walked away, I was left with a clean apartment, organized rooms, and a heart full of love for my youngest. I felt revived, renewed, and ready to face Spring with a happy attitude.

Chelsea plans to return this weekend and help me finish a few loose ends. I can’t wait to see her. Not just for the help, which I am very grateful for, but for the one-on-one time we will be spending with each other again.

Now to find a way to spend some overdue one-on-one time with my other two daughters. It will be a challenge, but no doubt it will be worth it.


Will You Remember Me?


🎡 “Have I done anything to make people remember that I ever lived?” Old Able uttered that line to a lawyer friend upon his inquiry on whether Abe intended to commit suicide. He intended to convey to his friend that he did not want to leave this world without having done something to be remembered by. Of course, we know how that turned out. I would guess that many of us consider George Washington the best president we’ve had, and Abe would be number two. Perhaps some people in the deep south would disagree, but historians in 2021 ranked the top three presidents: 1. Abraham Lincoln (897 points), 2. George Washington (851), and 3. Franklin Roosevelt (841). The bottom four: Donald Trump, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and last was James Buchanan. The only president with his coffin draped with a Confederate flag was John Tyler.

Sorry, I veered off course, but the idea I was exploring is that most of us want to be remembered for something meaningful instead of only being memories in the minds of those who loved us. In my defense, I spent a lot of time earning a living, raising two kids, and ensuring the people I loved had what they needed and some of what they wanted. I wonder if Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, and all the other great people in our past could become famous now? Of course, they could! There will be things that need to be invented or accomplished until the end of time. Most of us have done unique things in our lifetime, just not anything that would make us famous. 

During our time on this precious planet, I think our goal should always be to strive to do what is right, be generous and kind to others, and see the joys often hidden away in small pockets.

 A few days ago, my daughter fell down the stairs of her townhouse and broke several bones, including her pelvis. As she and I discussed her injuries in the hospital, she said to me, “Daddy, you know I have been blessed in this tragedy!” The blank look on my face revealed that I didn’t understand what she meant. She continued, “You realize that I could have broken my neck and been paralyzed from the neck down to my toes?” She had seen what I had failed to see: she was suffering from wounds that would heal, but it could have been from injuries that remain forever, like paralysis. 

Most of us will indeed cross “The Bridge of Tears” without accomplishing anything that will make people remember we ever lived. Scientists have discovered that our minds are active for about four minutes after we stop breathing. They think we will remember our lives and reconcile whether we did anything worth remembering during that time. I’m more inclined to believe that I’ll be thinking about the loved ones I’m leaving behind, especially the ones that need me. I believe in what Robert A. Heinlein said, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” I have found that to be profoundly true.

🎡 Many of us know aggressively friendly people. Some say the average person can have about 150 friends at once (I don’t 😊), and friends are defined as people you are comfortable around. My wife is one of those people. Several of our friends (Mary Webb, Mary Beth, & Jane S) are also. 

In her book “Aggressively Friendly,” Robin Dunbar says we have around fifteen close friends, people you go out to dinner with or are everyday social companions. Within that group, five are your most intimate friends. These are people who will give you emotional, physical, and financial help in your time of need. These friends typically share many traits you have in common, i.e., musical taste, love of sports, political opinions, worldviews, and a sense of humor.

When you meet new people, you get to know them, and then you figure out which circle they belong in or decide if you want them as a friend at all. Some say that it takes about 45 hours of being present in another person’s company to move from acquaintance to friend. To move from casual friend to meaningful friend takes another 50 hours, and then to an intimate friend takes another one hundred hours. 

We devote 8 ½ hours per month to our five closest friends and about 2 hours to the next ten in our fifteen-person circle. We give less than twenty minutes each month to the rest of our 135 friends. 

Since moving into our retirement community, my wife and I have made many friends, but I seriously doubt we have 150. And I was unaware of the process quoted above. It all makes sense, but do we really go through something similar when choosing our friends? We all know, of course, that none of that applies to family. The family has a “free pass” in being part of our life. I do have family members that I’m closer to than others. Still, they are all welcomed as members of my family circle. 

Zelda Fitzgerald said, “Nobody has measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” I have room for 150 friends in my heart, but I doubt anywhere close to that many people want me as a friend 😊.

🎡 At the top of the list, the most commonly used word is “the.” Others like “and,” “that,” and “but” are scattered thru the rest of the list. The most written noun is “time,” verb,” be,” and the adjective is “good.” 

I seldom think of how much I use those words. Each day, as I prepare to scribble my thoughts, I try carefully to articulate them in a fashion that chases boredom into another room, afraid to emerge until I’m finished. To aid me in that endeavor, I use several pieces of software, and my most trusted proofreader is my wife. As she and I were exiting the side garage door, headed to the dining room in our retirement village, our next-door neighbor (Jack) stopped me and said that he enjoyed my missives and wondered how I took the mundane and made it enjoyable. He remarked that I was a talented writer. My good friend is unaware that I get a lot of help. I wrote my first thoughts on a blog website way back in 1998. I am not sure what it was about, but I have written for 24 years. My website (www.tommyhale.com) has my missives back to 2007. My original intent was to write for my family. Still, it has grown into much more than that, and I have readers scattered worldwide. For an old hillbilly from Grundy (VA), that makes me feel good. As a high school literature student in Ms. Simpson’s class, I remember trying to express my thoughts on paper. The best grade I could get was a “B.” She was always trying to motivate me to do better. She and my mother were good friends, so I knew she was sincere in her attempts to get me to do better. Several of her students are published, authors. She loved Shakespeare and insisted that we all take turns reading a page from his plays. I distinctly remember my fears growing as the reading responsibility moved student by student in my direction. My fear of speaking in public chased me for many years until my position in the company I worked for forced me to teach a class every week for several months. Slowly, I came to realize that overcoming that fear only required repetition. I later learned that the fear would return if you go a long period without doing it. Like anything else you do well, you have to do it often. 

Mary Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” That is what we all should strive to be….Tommy


Good Neighbors


One of the greatest blessings in life, in my opinion, is good neighbors. I know this because, from experience, a bad neighbor is one of the worst things you can encounter in life!

Good neighbors are something to be appreciated, and we should show said appreciation any time an opportunity arises. Helping start a car on a cold morning, taking their trash can to the curb when they are injured, or mowing their yard with your own just to save them time or money.

Sometimes it means just leaving them alone if they are the type of person I am. I am happiest when I feel no pressure to be friends with a neighbor. When I know they won’t be knocking on my door at random times. If I had my choice, I would live with the nearest neighbor at least one mile away. I love being secluded, and I value my privacy and space. I inherited this personality trait from my mother, as did my older brother. I used to think I was weird for it, but after meeting many people along my journey that feel the same way, I have embraced it.

Growing up, until the age of 11, we lived on top of a mountain with over ten acres of thick woods surrounding us. I only began to learn who our neighbors were when I started attending school. My older sister and I would walk down our long driveway and then continue on to the neighborhood school bus stop. There I met the children that lived within walking distance of the bus stop. I only remember a couple of the kids being friendly to us. We didn’t quite fit into their circle because we lived on the mountain top, and they rarely saw us. I remember feeling disappointed because they were so cold to me and didn’t seem interested in becoming friends. But the few that were friendly were enough for me, and I cherished whatever friendship they wanted to offer. To this day, 54 years later, I am still friends with Emma, my best friend from back then. Thanks to social media, we were reunited online around 1993 and now stay in touch regularly.

At age 11, we moved to the great state of Virginia and the busy city of Newport News. It was indeed a culture shock for all of us! Maybe not so much for my dad due to his service in WWII, which allowed him to see much more of the world. For my mom, sister, and myself, it was as if we had landed on Mars. We had never lived on streets lined with sidewalks, much less played on sidewalks. We were used to fresh air and rich dirt to play in. The dirt in Newport News was sandy. Black soot seemed to settle on everything. That soot came from the Newport News Shipyard, which was a very short walking distance from our front door. The neighbor’s house to our right was so close that we could stick our arms out of our kitchen window and touch their window. Most of the homes in our neighborhood were also close together. I went from listening to children playing down the hill and wishing I could play with them, to listening to children playing on the sidewalks and the road all day. So many “city” kids, I was suddenly shy and afraid of befriending them.

This neighborhood was where we learned what it was like to have bad neighbors. But all in all, the good neighbors outnumbered the bad, and I am happy to say that I am left with more good memories of the remainder of my childhood. I made some great friends as I grew into a young adult. I cherish the time we lived there and the great adventure it turned out to be.

Now fast forward to 2022, and I am once again learning to live in a new way. Four years ago, I moved into a duplex apartment, all alone this time, for the first time. Fifty-six years old and moving into my first apartment alone. I would have never imagined that this is where I would be at this stage of my life.

One thing I can say about it is that I am incredibly thankful for the good neighbor I now have! He is a 70-year-old truck driver named Tom. He spends most of his days on the road. This means it is very quiet around here for me! I can turn my tv or radio up as loud as I like. I feel like I won the lottery by having Tom as my neighbor. He makes sure our yard stays mowed and is quick to bring my trash can back from the street whenever it needs to be. I am very quiet when he is home, hoping that I never disturb him, as I am so grateful for the time he is gone. He seems to be a lovely person the few times we have talked. And yes, I did take the opportunity to express how much I appreciate him being a good neighbor! I do not plan to remain in this duplex for much longer, as I dream of a newer, more updated apartment. But I have to say, having a good neighbor like Tom has me taking my time moving on. I know just how lucky I am.

There have been many neighbors throughout my life that left a positive influence on me. Whether it was them being respectful of my privacy, lending a helping hand, or a few who became my friend. I have been very blessed with good neighbors, and in turn, I have always strived to be a good neighbor myself. As much as I can be a hermit, I enjoy living by the golden rule.


The Hug


The last two years have certainly been different. It seems masks, vaccines, boosters, opinions on whether or not to get the vaccine, and distancing ourselves from one another have become our new norm. Or at least it has for my family and me. I for one, HATE IT!

I was feeling quite lonely the other day and thought to myself how nice it would be to have a big hug from someone I love at that moment. I live alone and do not have a significant other. All three of my daughters are grown and living with their spouses and children. Since the pandemic began, I have seen them less and less.

I tried to remember the last hug that I had shared. It had been when I hugged my oldest granddaughter Randi when she came by to drop off something for her mom. It was a quick hug initiated by me. My granddaughters have been warned not to hug me, as I am considered “high risk” due to several ailments that weaken my immune system. I find it very difficult, or downright impossible, to be around one of my granddaughters and not hug them. That’s one of the main reasons why I stay away. I know I will not be able to control myself. It’s the same with my grown daughters. They will forever be my “little girls .”I see them, and it’s impossible for me not to hug them.

I very rarely go out into public settings. But my children and grandkids are out in the world daily. I especially worry about my grandchildren as they are in the public school system. I imagine that to be a virtual cesspool of germs. Most assuredly, Covid germs.

I sometimes wonder if the danger is all in my mind. I see people going about their week like everything is normal. No Covid, no precautions, not seeming to have heard there is still a pandemic. Just as I begin to let my guard down and join them, I read another story or hear of another neighbor or friend of a friend who has become very ill from Covid or its variant. And worse than that, I hear of another death from the monster in this chaos.

I’m tired of not seeing my family as much as I want to and feeling guilty when I do. I’m tired of not having a hug when I need it or offering one. I’m tired of trying to protect my physical body at the cost of my mental health. Am I the only one who feels this way? It seems most days like I am on the outside looking in as everyone else is living their lives as usual. Or are they?

If there ever was a time in my life to say I’m living in “The Twilight Zone,” it is undoubtedly now. And I am beyond ready to change the channel. And if there ever was a time in my life I needed a hug, it is NOW.

…JoAnn


Pack & Unpack


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.   


Guest Blog

    No posts found in this category