🎡 I have always been slow to anger, and that is a trait we should all aspire to have. I have concluded that anger is addictive, and the more we allow it to the surface, the more addictive it becomes. Some refuse to express disagreement unless angered, and then it spills out like dirty water from a stopped-up rain drain. I’m probably one of those people, and I dislike myself. My new friend (Jerry) has the unique ability to express disagreement without being angry. It stays inside and, like water, with me, slowly raises to a boil. Then, the dam bursts, and everything gets swept away by the steam roiling from my nose and ears. Usually, when that happens, my wife has a shocked look and heads to the room farthest from where I am. Eventually, I realize how badly I’ve behaved and try to calm down. My goal is to be the person who can manage anger, refuse to let it damage relationships, and realize that, even though anger can be a great motivator, it can be very destructive. I am reminded of this quote by John Lennon: “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” That probably applies to me when I’m in a state of anger 😊.
🎡 A few weeks ago, my wife and I drove out to western Tennessee to attend my oldest great-granddaughter’s high school graduation ceremonies. It had been three years since our last visit because of Covid-19, and I was concerned that my driving skills had eroded (I was 78 years old on our last trip). Fortunately, as we drove almost 2,200 miles, I noticed no decline. As I continue my progression towards ninety, that will certainly occur. I hope my wife, or I notice the decline before it compromises our safety. My plan is to buy a vehicle that drives itself within a few years, removing the possibility of me making a crucial mistake that could harm us or someone else. My wife is reluctant to take the chance, but tests show they are much safer (7 times) than cars driven by humans, and that should be even more true as time progresses. I remember driving down one of our local streets back when I was in my thirties, and the car in front of me was just creeping along. And as I passed him, I could tell he was in his eighties, just tall enough to see the road through the steering wheel. I remember thinking that he was too old to be driving. Now, I’m getting close to being that guy 😊. Of course, all of us don’t age at the same rate. Many of us are fortunate enough to keep our sight, hearing, and flexibility; others are not so fortunate. I am blessed by not spending one night in a hospital. I know that can change, but I also need to be aware of it as a blessing. Socrates said so eloquently, “The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.” I do not want to be evil.
🎡 Our friends (Richard & Nancy) recently gave us a box full of CDs. There are approximately one hundred of them, and I have been slowly going through the box, listening to each CD, and then copying it to my music library if it was one that I enjoyed. They recently needed to downsize their collection of “stuff” because they moved into our retirement center, hence my reason for having their music collection. I predict I will keep about a third of their collection and give the rest to our local thrift store for someone else to enjoy. I entertained the thought of how many of my CDs they would keep if I put them all in a box? The vast majority of my music is Country, and I have yet to find a single Country album in their collection, so I’m guessing they would not keep many. This confirms my conclusion that none of us pick our friends based on musical taste. I have a few friends that enjoy Country music, and we often attend concerts together.
Back in the nineties, someone gave my wife and me free tickets to a “Soul” concert at the local Coliseum. I was miserable for the entire show, not seeing one act that I enjoyed. People that like that type of music would probably avoid hillbilly music. I do not want to be critical of “Soul” music; it’s just not something I enjoy. I enjoy many types of music, but Soul and Rap have failed to capture my attention. I’m inclined to think it’s a generational thing. “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ~ William Shakespeare. Yeah, that’s probably me 😊.
🎡 I have a new friend in our retirement community (Mary/Mike) that recently celebrated her birthday with her twin brother. They were born and raised in Canada. Her brother is wealthy, so he had a private plane fly down from Canada to Virginia, get her and her husband, and fly them back to Canada for a big celebration. A chauffeured car picked them up at the airport and whisked them off to a hotel. They stayed in the hotel’s best room and had plenty of fun. As Mary told us her story, I could sense the pride she had in her brother, that he had succeeded far past their expectations. Our H.S. class of 1959 had a member that far exceeded our expectations. Jimmy is living the good life, and not one member of our class begrudges his success. He has been kind to us, his classmates, by hosting our reunions at his home and in the pavilion on his golf course, never charging us a cent. The odd thing is that we have classmates who became doctors, teachers, and school principals, and yet, Jimmy is perhaps the most revered among us. He was a good friend in high school, and I remember taking him to pick up a brand-new school bus when he became a school bus driver. I think he was making about $250/month, which was a lot back then. I should not have been surprised by his success; he was always looking for ways to make money as a youngster.
I believe the point I’m trying to make is that people that have reached the top tier in society still care about others, still want to be treated as ordinary people, and are willing to go out of their way to be kind to others, especially those they care about. We all have seen influential people in the media being obstinate. Here, we have an example of two powerful people that are kind and generous to a fault. I believe this is true: “If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.” …Shane Koyczan
I believe both Jimmy, & Mary’s brother, do not need a better mirror.
🎡 “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
This story is from the Spring of 1961 at Hiwassee Junior College in Madisonville, Tennessee.
“Some memories just won’t let go at all. Every time I hear or see a chicken, I think not necessarily of eggs, even though I am pretty fond of them: fried, boiled, poached, scrambled, deviled, pickled, dyed – it doesn’t make any difference.” Grundy Coach Frank Spraker said this as well, so I’m in good company.
Also, I have several dozen egg and chicken jokes that I’ve gathered from the barnyard of my life if you’ll eggscuse the eggsaggeration.
Of course, everyone has an answer for why the chicken crossed the road – to get to the other side or to prove to the possum that it can be done (probably the most popular).
But why did the chicken cross the playground…? To get to the other slide…! You knew this, I bet!
Or why did the chicken only go halfway across the road? She wanted to lay it on the line.
He-he-he. Cluck! Cluck!
If you’re not eggsasperated yet, let me cut to the chase and tell you about an incident during the Spring Quarter at Hiwassee in 1961. One of the guys (John was his first name, and I think his last name was Townsend…no way of checking since I’m sure that John dropped out of school to get a job).
John lived in the room right next to Willard Owens and myself, and he was BIG on breakfast. Nearly every morning, he would knock on our door shortly after daylight and say:
“Let’s go get an egg boys! Let’s go get an egg!”
For at least a month or two, both Willard and myself were awakened at the crack of dawn by Rooster John with about three lusty crows of, “Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg!”
And really, it was starting to get a little tiresome. Especially those nights when we’d played Rook or Hearts ’til after midnight, or even those rare occasions we studied ’til midnight or later.
So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Willard told me what he’d done one night after John had left our room about midnight to go to his room next door. Willard told me he had conspired with John’s roommate to change his alarm clock setting from seven o’clock to one o’clock. John’s roommate told Willard that John always just pushed the “set” button before getting in bed since he “always” got up at the same time…. seven o’clock…
“And he’s always wanting breakfast at the ‘Crack of dawn’!” Denny, his roommate, said.
Willard and I were dozing off with our clothes on when we heard the faint sound of John’s alarm clock coming through the concrete walls. A short while later, we were ready (but made a show of primping) when John and his roommate came by, and John cackled…
“Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg boys!”
And across the Hiwassee campus we went.
Rooster John is in search of an egg & all the fixins. Meanwhile, the three others were intent on pulling off a prank.
Out the back door . . . across the parking lot . . . past the Library . . . past the old gym . . . and right up to the front door of the dining hall . . . and not a soul in sight!
But that didn’t stop Rooster John from placing his face against the glass when we arrived at the silent and closed Dining Hall shortly after 1:00 in the coolish March air.
John was searching up and down the dining hall for any kind of movement.
“Hey, John! What does that clock on the wall say?” Willard asked with a muffled chuckle.
“Dang boys!” John said, “Somebody’s clock is lyin’…
And there ain’t no sausage fryin’. Let’s go back to bed!”
So, back across the still silent campus we went – kind of afraid to mention to John that it was all a joke. (Perhaps on us more than John.)
All of us slept in that morning, and several weeks passed before Rooster John knocked on our door with:
“Let’s Go Get An Egg Boys!”
John dropped out of school after that semester, and rumor had it that he returned home to Townsend, Tennessee, to take a full-time job serving breakfast all day long at a Waffle House. Shucks! He may have even been the originator of that chain of my eateries… Waffle & Egg.
O, what I wouldn’t give to go back and make that walk and hear those six words just one more time:
“Let’s Go Get An Egg Boys!”
And hear Willard say one more time:
“Good night Roomy!”
But Hiwassee has closed its doors. Hard to believe with all of the new buildings and modernization. Just thinking that we only had one phone in Bruner Hall at the time & it was a Rotary on the wall on the 2nd Floor. It was rarely used, for we were too busy playing games and pranks.
And the roads are paved now also, but no school at the road’s end.
Back then, it was two miles from town along a dusty dirt road & when we got to school, we took a winding path up through a cemetery.
I know several Harman boys that really enjoyed our time there. We thought those days would never end.
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 difference between misery and happiness depends on what we do with our attention.” ~Sharon Salzberg
I ran across that quote, and it allowed me to pause and think about its meaning. That thought has never crossed my mind, and I’m not sure I agree with it, but then again, there’s a nugget of truth therein. I’m aware I can avoid some misery by concentrating on something else, but there are some you cannot avoid. My son was suffering from pancreatic cancer in 2018 and passed away shortly after the diagnosis. That misery was unavoidable. We moved from a spacious home into a cottage half its size and had to give away or sell many of the things we treasured. That misery was avoided by changing our attention to adapting to our unfamiliar environment, making new friends, and creating new routines in our life.
Happiness is not something you want to avoid. The effort is to keep it around as long as possible. I believe two of the key ingredients for happiness are your positive thoughts and your wiliness to make those thoughts part of every day.
My mother was a good example of that very concept. Dad drank often and as young boys, my brother and I worried about him. My mother refused to be depressed, at least around us, and always had a cheerful attitude. It’s incalculable how much that meant to us. We all have read that a child of an alcoholic, even as an adult, is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I find myself, at my advanced age, falling into that pattern. And, per Ms. Salzburg, I know I can evade that misery by changing my attention to something else. I kinda think I’ve always done that. I just never realized it.
❤️Recently, my friend (Jerry) asked me if I would follow him to the nearby Buick dealership the next morning. His car needed attention, and he needed a ride back to his apartment in our retirement village. We made plans to stop off for breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel restaurant on our return. That sounded like fun to me, so I assured him I would be happy to do it. I am seldom around men only. There always seems to be a woman present, and men talk about different things when they aren’t near. Mostly, it’s about sports, cars, finance, fixing something, etc., but we don’t talk about that around female company because we suspect they aren’t interested in it. Do I enjoy female company, definitely, but I think it’s important for each sex to reserve time to enjoy each other’s company.
Anyway, Jerry dropped his car off at the dealership, and we headed around the corner to the restaurant and ordered our food. Cracker Barrel makes a darn good breakfast, and as we sat there bantering back and forth, I realized I was really enjoying myself. Sometimes, I’m amazed at how little it takes to make me happy. Of course, friends of excellent character (like Jerry), and excellent food, have always done that for me.
Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” I Couldn’t agree more 😊.
❤️ I devised what I think is an ingenious plan that will encourage me to get up from my desk and go outside for a walk. My original title was, “Pay to Watch”, but my wife convinced me to change it to, “Walk to Watch” and that’s a better title. It specifies that I have to walk one mile (2,000 steps) for each hour of television I watch (Mon-Fri). I may revise it later to include Saturday, but for now, I’m leaving it at 5 days per week.
Normally, we sit down nightly at around 7:30 to gaze at the “tube” interminably (3 hours). “Walk to Watch” requires me to take at least 6,000 steps if this old man wants to squander that much time. Considering how much of that precious commodity I have left to wander around on this beautiful planet, it causes me to consider whether that’s an effective use of my limited resources. Of course, I have always known that my existence on earth wasn’t unlimited. I just never considered that I would use so much of it so quickly.
The goal of this well-thought-out plan is to allow me to prolong the date and time of the endgame and be fairly healthy when it happens (although the Holy Bible tells us it is set in stone). If the date and time can’t be changed, then at least I may affect the health thing?
I won’t have trouble meeting the challenge on Mon, Wed, & Fri, but Tuesdays & Thursdays will require a major change in my daily activities.
It has been in place for a week and has been successful thus far, but the rub comes when I’m weeks into the change and my body is trying to convince my brain to forget about it. I discovered long ago that my body was pretty good at doing that very thing.
I figure that if I can stay with it for a couple of months, it’ll become a habit, and then my body sees it as a hopeless situation and gives in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Only time will tell 😊.
I kinda like this quote by Aristotle: “Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.”
❤️ We have two new friends (Nancy & Richard) and, as it happens, they are members of our church, and our paths crossed occasionally. We go to the 0845 services and they to the 11 am, so we saw each other infrequently. They moved into our retirement community a couple of months ago and we have been enjoying Sunday brunch with them weekly.
Nancy has impressed me with her knowledge of sports. Yeah, I know, I said women weren’t interested in sports, but she’s the exception.
I have known very few women that are interested in watching testosterone-driven male athletes perform. My wife will watch Sunday NFL games with me, but she soon drops off to sleep and awakes occasionally to look at the score and then returns to her slumber.
My son was an avid sports enthusiast, and he could talk for hours about the current state of affairs in all the sports. He knew the names of the players, what college they attended, and there were times I thought he was going to tell me the names of their parents 😊.
Well, I think Nancy can do the same thing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost interest in sports, but I enjoy watching a game here and there. I’m betting that when Nancy opens the paper, she heads straight for the sports section and reads everything in it, and her weekends probably include watching her favorite teams play. I would be surprised if she doesn’t have ESPN “SportsCenter” on speed dial😁.
We could say that thinking only men care deeply about sports is sexist. All I can say in response is that in my 80 years on this planet I have only known three women that were deeply interested in sports and Nancy ranks either 1st or 2nd in that group. I can also say that when men talk about sports and women are around, their eyes glaze over and they appear to be wishing to be anyplace other than being stuck in a conversation about sports.
I have to say that I’m always impressed when I’m around someone that’s well versed in any subject. I quickly discovered after moving here that there are many people with a lot of knowledge in this community. Regrettably, I should have known that to be true. I often read reports created by a “Think Tank.” I’ll bet there’s enough knowledge to start one here. I’m contemplating calling it, “The Senior Thinkers,” or perhaps, “The Elder Brain Trust”? Although, I doubt that anyone on our campus thinks of themselves as elderly. 😊
Marcel Proust said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”