Tag: Travel

A Love Song

💫 I’m a country music fan. Being raised in the mountains of southwest Virginia, I would easily be called a hillbilly. I wear that label with pride 😊. I listen to SiriusXM radio (Willie’s Roadhouse) daily, and the other day they played a song I had long ago forgotten. It is a simple little song by Hank Thompson (1978), titled, “Who Left the Door to Heaven Open.”   It is a beautiful love story, and the lyrics go like this: “Who left the door to Heaven open, who turned their head for just a moment, who told you that my heart was broken, who left the door to Heaven open?” It continues with, “Heaven can’t be the same without you, but they know exactly where you are. Who left the door to Heaven open.”

I wish I could express my love for my wife so exquisitely, and I have tried, but I always fail. That requires me to show my love by my actions. Maybe, that’s the best way, but I think it’s important that all of us be able to tell those we love, how meaningful they are in our lives, and how grateful we are for their existence. Surely the time will come when it will no longer be possible.

Marilynne Robinson said, “There is so much to be grateful for, words are poor things.” Naw, I want to say it like Hank Thompson 😊! You can listen to the song here.

💫 I read an article recently in which the author (Gregory Scott Brown, MD) said that “seeking happiness as the ultimate goal is like running after a moving target. The problem is that happiness is an emotion and not a state of being. Happiness and sadness aren’t supposed to last.”

 I have given that opinion a lot of thought. I have always believed that happiness was a goal we should strive for, not something that randomly occurs. The author of the quote believes that what we should strive for is fulfillment. Unlike happiness (emotion), fulfillment is a state of being and is achieved when we accept who we are, make the most of what we have, and are optimistic about the future. 

Personally, I think fulfillment is also an emotion, short-lived, and often gone in a flash. I believe the only emotion that is durable is satisfaction. Not the short- term kind, the kind that says, I’m living a good life, helping my family and friends achieve the same, and enjoying each day God gives me.

Unfortunately, many of us, as we approach our 7th, 8th and 9th decade of roaming this wonderful planet, find it nearly impossible to experience happiness, fulfillment, or satisfaction. I have several good friends that are just trying to squeeze one good day out of a week. Some of whose world revolves around their doctor’s latest cancer report, or the progression of their spouse’s Alzheimer’s disease. I’m sure they’re puzzled by the way we fret over being despondent about temporary things in our lives. When I look at the hard lives my friends have, and then at what blessing I enjoy, I know that I have arrived at the intersection of greed and stupidity. Greedy for wanting more blessings, and stupid for thinking I deserve more. I am guilty of letting both the beautiful and banal go unnoticed. I have concluded that what I need the most is perspective; look at my many blessings, observe how others are suffering through no fault of their own, and find the peace that goes with being thankful.

The Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” I’m still working on the true wisdom part.   

💫 I read an article recently about a wife complaining because when they fly somewhere her husband flies First Class and she and their two children fly Economy. It leaves me wondering what makes the husband think, on any level, that’s fair. I believe that most men would insist their wife be in First Class. He probably doesn’t open doors for her, nor hold her hand when needed, to insure she is safe. When we travel, be it on a tour bus or plane, my wife prefers to be next to the window, and I always ensure that she sits there. At a minimum, you would assume the jerk would offer to alternate First Class with his wife when they fly.

But even that is a horrible idea. The family should be seated together. What message does it send to your children when the family is not flying together as a unit? A great test would be, where do you want to be seated if the plane encounters in-flight trouble? I’m guessing it’s not you in First Class and your family somewhere back in Economy.

Michael Liebowitz said it well, “In secular America, the last sacred cow is the self.”

💫A few evenings ago, we joined eight other residents on the small bus our retirement community owns and travelled over to Norfolk to watch the Tidewater Tides (AAA) play the Syracuse Mets in baseball. The temp was around 72° as we headed for the bus, with my wife insisting that I take a jacket. I thought I didn’t need one, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I retrieved one from our hall closet and we headed out the door.  Enduring a bumpy ride over to the baseball park, we quickly exited the bus and headed for our assigned seats. After being seated, the first thing I did was ask my wife what she wanted and headed for the concession stand.

 I ordered two hotdogs, a beer, and a bag of peanuts and thought I was going to have to take out a loan to pay the bill 😊. Quickly returning to my seat, I gave my wife her hotdog, and started munching on mine, washing it down with some good Coors Light. After finishing that delightful dog, I started with the unshelled peanuts. They lasted most of the game as the pile of shells under my feet got bigger and bigger. Now that’s how you watch a baseball game! And I continue to wonder why I can’t lose weight.

The new rules pertaining to time were in place, and the game moved right along. When the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher, he has 15 seconds to throw his next pitch, or the batter’s “Ball” count increases by one. By the 7th inning, the temp dropped precipitously, and our jackets felt very good. I was thankful my wife insisted I wear one. As we shivered in the wind, the young people around us barely noticed the change, and they were in tank tops and tee shirts. Old people don’t like to be cold, so all of us agreed to leave in the 7th inning with the home team ahead 3-0. Back on the bus, I brought in the radio station broadcasting the game on my phone and all of us listened as we drove home. What a great evening! I hope we go back as soon as summer temps move in.   

💫 My wife and I performed an experiment with ice. I filled my tall glass with ice, then added water and set it on the table. I assured her the water level would be lower once the ice melted. Four hours later, the ice had disappeared, and the water level was still at the top of the glass, with some having spilled over the edge. I was puzzled. Ice definitely takes up more space than water, so when it melted, the water level should have dropped. I did some research and found that for the water level not to drop very much, the water and the ice had to be close to the same temperature. That wasn’t the case. The water came out of the faucet, thus only being moderately cool. My wife insists she didn’t tamper with our experiment, and I believe her. I am confident that someone who reads this will write and tell me what happened. If I get a resolution, I will update this missive, so you’ll know also 😊.

Season of Fertilization… by JoAnn

I live in a farming community. Summer is jam-packed for all. This week seems to be the “Season of Fertilization.” Every farmer within sniffing distance of my nose is fertilizing their fields.

I had been out of town for nine whole days. I had access to a lovely backyard with tons of birds singing and playing. I even had several days when the temperatures were like Spring. It was a wonderful little retreat. But when I returned home to my rural county, P U, it stank!

The first town I entered in my county, the stink was so overpowering. I kept asking myself the million-dollar question, “What is that?!” I kid you not, it smelled like a cross between road kill and a busted sewer line. Both of which had been simmering in the 90+ degree weather all day. It literally made me gag a few times. Needless to say, I couldn’t get through that town fast enough.

Did I mention that I currently do not have a working AC in my car? So all my windows were down due to what is playing out to be a never-ending heatwave. Here I travel, windows down, a stinky wind blowing through my hair as the humidity makes me feel like a hot, damp sponge. I must have been a sight. By this time, I couldn’t have cared less about my appearance. I just wanted to get out of this smelly sogginess and get to my hometown.

The next town I had to travel through before my own had no smell. If it did, it was so much of an improvement over the last one that my nose gave it a pass. But when I hit my sweet little town, my nose hairs fainted. “What in the world is that smell?” were the only words that could make it through my brain. It was even more overpowering than the first round of stench. And this smell, I could not figure out anything to compare it to. I was praying for God to get me home by this time. Surely the smell would stay out in the fields and not invade my apartment. I was right. The horrid stench was gone as soon as I got closer to my home and away from the farming areas.

The next day, my daughter stopped by to return something she had borrowed. Somehow in our conversation, she mentioned that they had noticed a horrendous smell on their way home the day before. They had their Great Dane in the car, so they thought it might be him. They all laughed when they realized the poor dog wasn’t to blame. Apparently, someone told her the smell that is going around is that of the fertilizer that farmers have sprayed on their fields, which is made from chicken droppings and byproducts. And with that, the mystery of the awful smell was solved.

I immediately remembered a local news story a little while back about a commercial chicken farm being built in a neighboring county. They would be supplying chickens to the Tyson plant that is nearby. I remember the news story was about how the property owners near where the chicken farm was being built did not want the farm near their homes because of the, you guessed it, smell!

So this experience answered two questions I had previously. Whatever happened to that chicken farm people were protesting? Well, it obviously got built. And the second question, would it really smell all that bad? Unfortunately, I know the correct answer for that one too! P U.

Change of Scenery… by JoAnn

I consider myself a homebody. I believe it is due to my upbringing. My parents were 40 years old when they had me. By the time I came along, they no longer had the energy to take their three children on vacation. Not that often anyway. We would visit family that lived up in the mountains once or twice a year, but only for a day and only when the weather was nice. My parents didn’t want to take the chance of getting stuck in snow/ice or getting flooded in.

We never stayed overnight. To my knowledge, my parents never stayed in a motel or hotel for the remainder of their lives after I was born. My first time staying in a motel was when I was 18 and staying with a friend. It felt rather strange, but I also enjoyed it due to the nice change of scenery.

We not only never stayed in a motel, but we also never went to a restaurant where we sat down and were waited on. We did go too fast food places, and I always enjoyed that immensely because it was fun as a kid. We didn’t go but maybe a couple of times a month, but it was a nice change of pace. My mama’s food was much better, but the fast-food was different. I think we all just crave different sometimes.

After I was married and had my own family, I tried to do more traveling than my parents had done with me. I miss the summers when I would take my three daughters for their summer vacation to my parents. We would spend a couple of months at their beautiful Tennessee mountain property. My dad would grow his beautiful vegetable gardens, and we would reap the benefits. My children could play on the exact property that I had played on as a little girl. Everywhere we went, there were beautiful mountains in our view. The air was cleaner, and the sky seemed bluer. Maybe they were bored at times, but I tried to keep them entertained. I hope those memories are as good for my kids, all now grown, as they are for me.

The most crucial part of going to my parents every summer was that it was a much-needed change of scenery. We couldn’t afford a traditional vacation like many people take every year. So there were no motel stays, swimming in a hotel pool, or eating out. But I loved being in my old home again, being around my parents, and I loved the fact that my children were also spending time with them.

As I’m getting older, I have spent more time remembering the good times of the past than I have making new memories. I crave a vacation! I “need” one every year but certainly don’t get it. I miss my visits to my parents, as they have been gone for many years. I still can’t afford the luxury of flying off to somewhere beautiful or driving to somewhere I’ve never seen before. But I am hoping that will change soon, and I will be able to get in the car and just go!

One thing is for sure, when I can take a trip, I will make many stops along the way. I will stay in hotels, be waited on in restaurants, and take my time thoroughly enjoying the change of scenery! There will be no time restrictions, no rushing, and nothing will be off-limits. I will go with the flow of life wherever it leads me.

I wonder if everyone craves a change of scenery like I do. I don’t believe my parents did. If so, they never spoke of it. I am glad that they seemed content with being at home. They appeared happy. Maybe they weren’t, though. Perhaps they had dreams just like I do of seeing someplace new. That thought saddens me.

Wherever you are, I hope that you get the opportunity to have a change of scenery if you crave it. Perhaps I’ll see you someday in my own travels.

My Fave Gadget…by JoAnn

When cell phones first hit the market, I had no intention of purchasing one. I was pleased with my “home phone.” But being a mother of three growing daughters, it made sense that having one could be pretty convenient.

My husband had bought me a “bag phone” first. I’ll try to do it justice for any of you who have no idea what that is. It looked exactly like a house phone; only it came in what looked like a handbag, complete with a shoulder strap. This was in the early 1990s when I was traveling long distances with my three children to visit family. My husband worried about a mother and three little girls traveling and felt it was excellent protection. He was right. It gave me a lot of confidence when traveling. Not to mention that goofy-looking bag phone could pick up reception even in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee with crystal clarity. I have never had a cellphone with such good reception since.

Fast forward to when my oldest daughter turned 16 and became a licensed driver. Not only was she stuck driving her Mama’s big old Ford Grand Marquise, but she was also stuck with the goofy bag phone as well. She can share stories of the embarrassment she endured when she and her friends would be hanging out in the parking lot where it was cool to congregate, and out of nowhere, a very loud telephone would begin to ring. I can see her face now! I am sure it could be heard from all over that parking lot. Everyone would ask where in the world that loud phone ringing was coming from. And of course, she had to be the one to answer said phone. And nine times out of ten, the person on the other end was me! I know she hated that at the time, but I will always appreciate how safe I knew she was with a phone that she could get clear reception no matter where she may be. That was priceless given the fact we live in a very rural area.

Fast forward to everyone having a cute little flip phone that fits neatly in their pocket. I resisted again, at first. Then I realized my teenage daughters needed one for their safety and my ability to track them and know they were safe. And since they had one, I needed one since I was the mom. Pretty soon, everyone in the family had the latest and best phone.

The cell phone is, without a doubt, the most convenient gadget I have ever owned. It has gotten better and better over the years as well as more and more expensive. But it’s funny to think back at how it all started. From desktop computers to laptops, tiny flip cell phones, large “smart” phones that now do everything your big clunky computer once did! It truly is impressive.

I realized just how addicted I was to the convenience a smartphone gave when mine began to act up after almost five years of use. It began to cut off on me and no longer hold a charge. It had gotten to the point that it could no longer keep up.

I panicked! What would I do without my smartphone? I had no way to communicate with anyone! What if I needed my daughters? What if they needed me? I can’t even use my laptop now without driving to McDonald’s. Ha, ha, ha! I was pretty bent out of shape for several days.

I had to calm myself down and remind myself that it was not the end of the world as it felt. I was simply being inconvenienced, not attacked. I could get some kind of phone that I would at least be able to make calls or texts from, and I would save up my money for a new phone. I was not above visiting a place such as McDonald’s to use free WiFi so I could do my writing on my laptop. I had done that very thing for several years, and I could do it again.

Just as I had my plan in order, a special angel in my life gifted me a brand new smartphone. Maybe I should call him my smartphone angel because he also gifted me my very first smartphone. The one that just died. Ha, ha.

So I sit here happy as a fat cat who just finished a plate of tuna. Glad I have a new smartphone and no worries about being inconvenienced. Oh, that sounds just horrible. We are spoiled, folks! Something else to ponder.

Our Day Trip

⌘ My wife and I haven’t been out of town for almost 15 months and we have been planning a day trip somewhere for quite a while. Of course, I know I can come up with the plan, but she determines when it will happen. 😊  Her schedule is a lot more complicated than mine, so I always to defer to her and that works fine.

Well, to my surprise, she informed me we would take our trip in a few days, so we made plans and waited. It arrived with abundant sunshine and, as I rolled out of bed, there was an illegal smile pasted boldly on my face. I put on my robe and trotted quickly down the hall to start my coffee and turn on Einstein (my PC). 

I immediately went to Google Maps and searched for a destination on the DelMarVA peninsula (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia). Our plan was to drive 90 miles, visit several interesting places, then find a place to eat a takeout lunch (Hardee’s/McDonalds) in the truck. 

We planned on visiting Smith Beach and Silver Beach, both of them near Exmore, Virginia (my wife likes to walk on the beach and find shark teeth). With my cup full of coffee and a thermos lying in wait with more of it, we climbed aboard our truck and headed off, looking forward to our trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. This engineering phenomenon is 15 miles long and takes us out into the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and allows us to ride across the water alongside tankers of all sizes headed out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s like taking a boat ride with no boat. During the 15-mile ride we went through two underwater tunnels and encountered very little traffic. I set my speed control to 55 mph and leaned back, with our radio blaring out Hank Williams, Charlie Pride, and other well-known country artists, and just watched the beautiful scenery in front of us. Within a couple of years, I expect we will have an autonomous vehicle (self-driving), and that trip will be even more amazing. 

The two beaches (Smith & Silver) turned out to be a disappointment. Neither had a beach you could walk on and cottages on the waterfront blocked visitor entry to any portion of the beach. We had our takeout lunch in our truck at the Hardee’s in Exmore, Virginia, watching the traffic swishing by on Route 13 as we talked about nondescript things. 

After finishing what turned out to be a pretty decent lunch, I started up Blue Bullet (my name for our truck) and we headed home. As we traveled across the bay, a feeling of contentment spread across my thoughts. The expected excitement of “getting out of town” delivered the serenity I was hoping for. I looked over at the woman I love to see if she had arrived at that place, but sadly I could not discern if that happened. I believe she enjoyed the trip but being unable to walk the beaches disappointed her and took some fun away. 

We have made plans for another trip next month, as we try to enrich our life by visiting places we enjoyed before this dreadful pandemic entered our lives. Our state (Virginia) has moved on to vaccinate everyone in the “1b” classification, which includes us (age 75+). With some luck, I’m hoping we can get it by the end of this month, or early February. 

Thomas Jefferson said it well: “I find the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” I’m gonna be working the phone to make it happen. 😊

⌘ A few days ago I noticed that both headlight lenses on our 2013 Prius were cloudy, which made driving at night extremely difficult, so I headed off to the auto parts store to buy something to remove it. I read an advertisement online about a special pad you could buy for $40 that, upon rubbing the headlight lens several times, would magically make the cloudiness disappear. I kinda felt uncomfortable with that, so there I was, standing in the auto parts store asking the attendant to tell me what to get to accomplish the task. A very personable young man led me over to the location and selected the one he uses for such a task. There were perhaps seven items that promised to be exemplary in doing what I needed, ranging in price from $5 to $25. The one he recommended (Raintree) was $7.75, so I followed him back to the register, paid for the item, and headed home. 

After getting back to the house, I sat in the truck and read the instructions, which were pretty simple: 

1. Make sure both lenses are clean.

2. Dampen a cloth, squirt some of the creamy liquid in the bottle onto the cloth and apply in a circular motion.

3. Wash clean.

Boy, was I surprised!  90% of the cloudiness disappeared. I dried them and repeated the process to see if I could get to 100%. After looking closely, I decided it was 95% effective. Now, the plan is to see how long it stays away before returning. I know it will return, but now I know an easier way to remove it. And now so do you, but I want you to keep it a secret. Benjamin Franklin said that “three men can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Naw, I don’t believe that,… you and I can keep this secret. 😊 

⌘ I recently purchased a Kardia Personal EKG device for $85, which is about as big as your index finger. It is powered by a coin size battery and gives you an EKG reading any time you want it. All you have to do is download the app to your phone, connect it via Bluetooth, and it’s ready to take a reading. Mine sits beside my blood pressure monitor and now, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I take my blood pressure, then place two fingers on each pad of the EKG device and in 30 seconds it has a reading, showing the graph as it progresses. It then quickly analyzes the results and tells you if there is a problem. It also gives you the option of sending it to one of their doctors for a detailed report (for a fee of course 😊). You also can key in your blood pressure to enhance the results. 

I’m not sure how reliable this device is, and I certainly wouldn’t use it to replace anything my doctor wanted to do, but I think its primary purpose is to alert you when something isn’t right and needs to be looked at by your family physician or a specialist, and keeping a history of your readings, which could be very helpful. 

One morning it told me I had an-Fib (arterial fibrillation), which was discerning. I looked at the chart and I couldn’t tell anything (because of my lack of medical training), and I didn’t feel any different, so I waited until the next day to take another reading and it was back to normal. But I suspect it is a good thing to have that in the device’s history file. 

As I have gotten older, I have included things I believe will help me keep track of my health better than just asking myself how I feel. We all have often heard the phrase “silent killer” used for blood pressure and other maladies. I’m thinking the thrice-weekly BP & EKG thingy will pay dividends. It only takes a few minutes to accomplish those tasks. 

An old Spanish Proverb says, “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” My thoughts exactly! 

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