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.
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.
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.
֎ “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” …Collette
I used that quote in a “WoW” that I wrote way back in August of 2007 entitled, “A Place to Be Alone”. That was true then, and it remains true to this very day. I am guilty of not recognizing the wonderful life I enjoy, or if I do so in prayer, as soon as I’m finished, I immediately sweep it from my mind and move on to other matters. I am reminded of an interview a TV reporter had with Senator John McCain about his terminal brain cancer. I surmised from Senator McCain’s interview that he had experienced a wonderful life, had no regrets, and was ready to accept death and meet his maker in the afterlife. I sorta assume that most of us expect life will be filled with fun things to do, especially after working hard on a daily basis and missing very few days at work. Sadly, as we grow older we find that life is full of highs and lows and that sometimes the lows can be life threatening. And, as we all have experienced, it doesn’t have to be something that happens to us, but to those we love deeply. Watching all the tragedy that the evening news produces on a daily basis makes me sad, but when tragedy strikes home, the sadness transitions to heartbreak. Like you, when tragedy strikes, I constantly strive to keep a positive outlook. That fails me when I fall asleep at night, when all my worst fears run rampant like a spooked herd of cattle in the 50’s westerns of long ago. I am relieved to get out of bed the next morning so I can put those fears behind and start a, new, positive day. That’s when I want the tranquility of heart that resides there when I am awake. Hank Green said, “I deal with stress in two ways because there are two kinds of stress. There’s stress that you can take care of, and there’s stress that you can’t. The first one, I take care of it as fast as possible, because putting it off always makes it worse. Things that I can’t fix? I think about the fact that I can’t fix them. I think about why I can’t fix them and I come to terms with the fact that this is a problem that I’m not going to overcome and that the world is not a wish granting factory.” I agree with old Hank, and I want to thank him for clarifying how stress should be handled.
֎ Recently, my wife and I took my oldest granddaughter (Robin) and her family out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants (Piccadilly’s), a cafeteria we frequent often. We enjoy the vast selection of food they offer and the fact that all their food is made onsite, including their delicious selection of desserts. Robin was in from Tennessee to visit her dad (my son Rusty) and enjoy the many local entertainment venues in our area (Bush Gardens, Water Country, Harbor Fest, etc.). I have 3 adorable Great Grandchildren by Robin and David (ages 14, 12 & 3), and it’s always a pleasure to be around them. As I sat at the table, chewing away on my delicious food, listening to the chatter of a vibrant, energetic young family, a wonderful wave of contentment swept over me. I would like to think that when I was a young man with a young family, I had the same effect on my grandparents. I spent many hours in my grandparent’s presence as a youngster, and always visited them when I became an adult. I returned home each year from hundreds of miles away just to accomplish that task. They always seemed delighted to see us, but I never sensed that they enjoyed the energy we brought. When my granddaughter and her family headed back home, after a week or so, the energy they left behind stayed with us for a while and we rode that wave as long as possible. “Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over.” ………F. Scott Fitzgerald
֎ As most of you know, my son passed away on June 16th and then my brother’s wife (Patty) passed away on Monday, July 2nd. Somehow, I still get out of bed each morning, raise the window shade, and watch the sunlight bounce off the floor and surround the many teddy bears in our bedroom, seemingly, bringing them all to life. I slowly shuffle down the hallway to the coffee pot and push the button that starts my daily brew. I continue to do the things that I have done every day for years, but they don’t seem to bring the excitement that each new day brought before. I live with the hope that as time passes the sorrow will become less and that one day, when I think of them, the hurt will be gone and all the good memories will come flooding back. There are times when I think that God has taken a wrecking ball to my life. Lately, for every minute I’ve laughed, I’ve cried a dozen or more. A storm seems to be following me searching for thunder. Until a lot of time passes, I will be plodding along, looking for the gems of happiness that each day usually presents to us all. A lot of good, caring people still surround me and will insure that I don’t go too far down the “black hole” of depression. I always thought that “black holes” were things way out in space. What I have discovered is that they exist right here on earth and any of us can get sucked in if we’re not careful.
֎ “Goodnight Miss Calabash, wherever you are” …. Jimmy Durante
I used to watch the Jimmy Durante Show back in the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s and he always signed off wishing Miss Calabash a goodnight. To the best of my knowledge he never told his viewers who she was and why she was important to him. I think all of us have a Miss Calabash in our lives, someone that’s important to us, and no one else knows why. I believe, that for Jimmy, it was someone that was special when he was a young man and they had grown apart and lost tract of each other, or maybe she passed over to the other side and he was letting her know that he was thinking of her. Yes, I’m guessing we all have a Miss Calabash in our history, maybe more than one.
֎ I was listening to an audiobook a while back by Julie Andrews (Home: A Memoir of My Early Years), and she was describing being taught to sing as a young girl. Her mother listened to Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and many other classical composers. I listen to Jackson, Paisley and Jones (Alan, Brad & George) and that doesn’t seem nearly as impressive. There are times that I believe that I have missed out on so much by not listening to the music of great composers and reading books written by world renown authors. But, then again, I am a man of simple taste, feasting on fried chicken, hamburgers and French fries. That spills over into my taste for music and books- John Grisham & Nicholas Sparks come to mind. I do admire people that read the finest of books and listen to classical music, and I consider them to be more intellectual. But I somehow doubt they read more than I do or listen to more music. I guess it’s sorta like comparing a high school athlete to a professional athlete. They’re playing the same game but the pro plays at a much higher level. I’m of the opinion that it matters little what songs bounce around in your head, or what books you read, as long as they satisfy that inner need to be entertained or learn something new. Andre’ Gide said, “I am no good except when alone. In a group it’s not so much the others that bore and annoy me; it’s myself.”
֎ My wife and I took her oldest son and his wife out to dinner the other day to celebrate his 50th birthday. The meal was delicious (steak for me) and the conversation abundantly fun. It is always entertaining to watch the interaction of my wife with her two sons. They are decidedly different personalities and you would never guess they were raised by the same parents. The oldest son is more outgoing and easily engaged in conversation, while the youngest is quiet and reserved. I have found that I always enjoy the company of both. It has always been clear to me that good conversation is better than any movie I’ll ever watch, or any show that’s playing on the TV. I spend time on the phone and texting, but I much prefer sitting down next to someone and having a face-to-face conversation. As we travel thru life and get older, we lose people we love for many reasons. We should never regret that we didn’t spend enough time in their presence. J.K. Rowling’s said it very plainly, “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Let’s all pledge to start making better choices 😊.