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Where You’ll Find Me… by JoAnn

When I die, I believe I will go to Heaven. I hope that all the people I have loved on earth will follow me there when it’s their time. I have daydreamed about this quite a bit. It’s something that gives me a warm, peaceful feeling in my soul. I am not afraid or anxious in any way.

I firmly believe in the afterlife as described to us in the Holy Bible. I chose the path to follow Jesus Christ as a young girl. He has never left my side, even when there were times I tried to leave His. Throughout my life, he has been my shelter, rescuer, guide, and best friend. He is my Heavenly Father, and I look forward to meeting Him.

I want to share with my loved ones what I believe I will be doing when I get to Heaven. I imagine it to be a vast place, and I want them to be able to find me when they get there. These are the things I dream I will be doing the most in my Father’s home.

You will find me walking among the great and small animals—a majestic Lion by my side. We will walk through meadows of wildflowers and golden wheat. The sun shone down on us, making a kaleidoscope of colors.

You will find me walking along the sandy shores of Heaven’s ocean, watching all who never saw its magnitude on earth enjoying the sight for the first time. Adults will be playing along with the children and building castles in the sand.

You will find me swimming in the ocean. I will be riding on a Whale’s back, and Dolphin’s schools will race beside us. We will dive to the sea’s magical depths and greet every creature that lives there.

You will find me having a reunion with my loved ones who are there too. We will spend time together doing all the things we have always dreamed of doing. We will be laughing and enjoying each other’s stories.

You will find me walking hand in hand with Jesus. We will be deep in conversation as He answers all the questions I have waited so long to ask.

You may find me in a Heavenly classroom where I and others will learn what could not be told on earth. This will be a school like no other imagined.

You will find me sleeping on a cloud. The most beautiful rest I have ever known. My painful body now gone. I am light as air and at perfect peace.

You will find me dancing with the angels, waiting for my wings to be made. I once told the Lord all I wanted was to be an angel for Him.

I know this may not be biblically correct, but it is a dream I have held close to my heart. Perhaps its only purpose has been to help me through this world for another season. I’m okay with that. For I know my Lord promises to build a glorious home for me. A home waiting through Heaven’s gate. I know that whatever awaits me there, I will be eternally happy.

Can’t Take It With You… by JoAnn

It appears that I am still in the downsizing phase of my life. Just as I think I’m nearing the end, it becomes clear that I still have plenty to go. I have written about this before, and with each missive, I have thought it would be my last. But here I sit, mulling over how to lessen my load yet again.

Since this task seems to be never-ending, I decided to get some help. I reached out to a Facebook group whose members are going through the same thing I am. Many of them have it a lot worse than me. They are in the phase I was in many years ago. This group helped me to know that I am not a bad person for having too much stuff! Just about everyone on this earth has too much stuff. The members encourage others to vent about their stress, ask for and give tips on how to handle the problems in downsizing, etc. It is sad to hear of someone struggling to rid their home of items they have had for many years. Even more tragic is the mental hold these objects have over them.

Old folks used to call it “breaking up housekeeping .”Since I’m an old folk myself, I finally realized what they were talking about. It’s getting rid of all the things you used when raising a family and now no longer need. You no longer need the boxes upon boxes of items that you mentally labeled “just in case .”No one but you is in your home to use them. So the chance that they are still needed is zero. And as far as someone else in your family wanting the items, that is at zero too.

It was a hard pill to swallow that one of my three daughters or two granddaughters would probably not want any of my collectibles after I’m gone. But I had to face the truth. When my own mother passed, she had hundreds of collectibles accumulated over the last 20 years of her life. I now own 1 of her items. The memories are what I hold dear. I never knew I would feel that way until after she was gone. The things just don’t matter. Oh, I am sure there are others who collect antiques and rare items that are handed down from generation to generation. But usually, that’s not the case.

So I finally realized that when I leave this earth, I cannot take my earthly possessions with me, and no one I leave behind will want them! So I am holding on to items that make me happy NOW. All others are either thrown away or given to Goodwill. My youngest daughter has graciously been helping me sort through and clean as I go. My home will never be the large house where I raised my children. I will likely remain in a small apartment like I am now, and I do not want clutter. Let’s face it, too much stuff is too much.

Through this long process, I learned something vital: to not just “organize” your clutter but get rid of it! That was the most freeing lesson I have learned thus far. I used to think I needed to buy as many plastic totes and bins as I could get my hands on. All I was doing was organizing stuff I would never use again—what a waste of precious time. Getting rid of it is so wonderful. It really takes a load off.

I am happier now than I have been in a very long time because I have finally gained control over this part of my life. It truly does become a burden. If you know someone who is struggling with this problem, do them a favor, and offer your help. Never judge; just lend a helping hand wherever they need it. The more my daughter helped me, the stronger I became, and now I don’t need her help to decide whether I need something or not. I can easily let go and feel happy about it.

First Impressions…by JoAnn

I had always believed that my first impression of someone would tell me all I needed to know about them. I could always tell whether or not I could trust them, and if they were someone I would like to pursue a friendship or professional relationship with. I always trust my instincts, and I have always taken pride in noticing the little things in people and being able to read them. To see deeper than someone may be sharing with the world. After my many years on this sweet earth, I now think I was wrong.

Oh, I still believe we can catch most of a person’s true self by using our instincts and observations. And our past experiences with others make us wiser. But I must admit, quite a few people I thought I had pegged and they boldly proved me wrong. Leaving me to question myself.

I’ll admit my ego is a little bruised when I realize I misjudged someone off a first impression. And I don’t quite know how to feel about it. I guess I should be happy if the person ended up being a much better individual than I had first thought. That’s a good mistake to make. But, of course, it is unfortunate to realize the opposite. When someone you thought was good turned out to be a bad person. No one likes that.

So I’m left asking myself, should I still put as much merit into a first impression? Probably not. It seems only logical that we should at least give someone a second chance before we decide to let them into our life, whether personally or professionally. I like to think I can read someone with 100% accuracy upon a first impression, but that is purely my ego talking. I have no magical powers. Ouch.

So I humbly concede that I may have misjudged others on a first impression. Have you ever noticed that there’s a chance for upheaval anytime the word judge is in the mix? Yet another thing to prove that we are not to judge others.

Today, I passed a property where one family has a house, two mobile homes, and a vast assortment of junk. The property is an eyesore. Every time I drive by, I am annoyed. Today I stopped myself. I was judging that family. Who am I to do so? I don’t even know their names! And why do I even care? I don’t have to live there. So what if their property needs a good clean up. They are trying every day just as hard as I am in my own life for all I know. I don’t know their story. Maybe there is a legit reason their property ended up in such bad shape.

I drove on toward my home, full of repentance, feeling ashamed of myself for all the times over the years that I had judged a family I didn’t even know. I am thankful that I finally recognized what I was doing today and can now change my bad attitude.

My hope is the next time I drive past that property, I will have a prayer in my heart for that family. If they are overwhelmed, like I have been myself many times, they will receive a helping hand, just like I have, many, many times over. Just more proof of how impressions can be gravely misunderstood.

Now I ask myself, what kind of impression do I give? Now that is something to ponder.

Good Neighbors… by JoAnn

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.

Under The Walnut Trees …By JoAnn

I can describe summers in the South in one word…hot!  

Back in the 1960s, air conditioning was only a dream to rural families, so it was usually a little cooler outdoors on a front porch, or especially under the shade of a nice old tree.

Growing up in Tennessee, playing outside from dawn to dusk was a daily routine in the summer months.  My sister and I spent many hours playing in the shade generously offered from the woods that surrounded our mountain top home.  The only breaks taken were for a much-welcomed meal, or a trip to the little red outhouse.  

There were a vast variety of trees on our 11-acre property.  My favorites were beautiful Pines, Dogwoods, Apple, Peach, and Mimosa.  There was even a Persimmon tree that my mama loved.  I adored sitting under my favorite pine tree in the front yard, reading many a book from cover to cover.  

Most of these trees were ancient.  Two of the oldest were two Black Walnut trees, growing side by side, near our backdoor.  They were huge!  And gave us a delicious supply of meaty Black Walnuts every year.  They were a treasure to my dad, and Black Walnuts were his favorite nut.

Those Black Walnut trees offered shade for a lot of activities.  My mama had a clothesline there, just for clothes she wanted to shield from the sun.  My mama sat under those trees to snap fresh green beans from her garden, that she would later freeze or can for us to eat on all winter.  My sister and I often helped, along with shucking many ears of corn.  My least favorite of the two.  Still is.  My daddy loved to stretch out on his aluminum, webbed chaise lounge, after a long day of working in the garden, or weeding the property with a sickle.  No such thing as a weed eater back then. 

One of the most memorable activities that went on under those Black Walnut trees has to be my mama killing chickens.  I know that sounds violent, but on a farm, chickens aren’t just for eggs.  They are also for fried chicken dinners!  I have a vivid memory of being around age 4 and seeing Mama wringing a chicken’s neck, chopping the head off with an ax, and then plucking it of all its feathers.  I was afraid of chickens because they always seemed to chase me.  So, I guess this gruesome scene wasn’t so bad to me.  But that changed when Mama cut one of the chicken’s head off and the chicken got away from her.  It went running around the yard…well…like a chicken with its head cut off!  And you guessed correct; it ran straight for me!  To say it terrified me to my core would be an understatement.  I imagine it took quite some time for Mama to calm me down.  From then on, she somehow kept chicken day a very private activity.  

Unfortunately, times got tough financially for my parents one year, and my daddy had to make a tough decision.  He called a local furniture company and asked if it would interest them in his old Black Walnut trees.  They came out and jumped at the chance to purchase the tall beauties.  I remember the day they were cut down.  It was one of the rare times growing up that I saw my Daddy cry.  My dad was a big, brawny man, but he loved dearly every little thing on our homestead and took great pride in it all.

On a brighter note, fried chicken remains one of my favorite foods. As a child I just never connected the chickens my mama killed with the ones in the freezer, or the fried pieces on my plate.  Lol.   

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