Tag: Travel

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! 


⚽  In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” (1869) Prince Myshkin, thought it was 10 times as hard to die when death was certain: Put a soldier in front of a cannon, and he could still hope for the best; give him a definite sentence of death, and he’d fall apart. Sure enough, when another character, young Ippolit, learns that he’s dying of consumption (TB), he falls into mortal despair and seeks to hurry his end.  Eventually, he recognizes that a life shortened is not a life without meaning.

How hard it is to know you only have a limited time to live.  We tend to think that life is endless until we are told that it is not. My son had pancreatic cancer and was told he had 8-9 months left and lived only 5 more weeks.  I can recite many more end-of-life situations for people I cared about.  None of those people were in a condition to live a meaningful life after their diagnosis.  I guess, if you have many years to live, that possibility exists.  But, if the time is short, you mostly try to figure out how to say “Goodbye”.  If you are religious, you resign yourself humbly to “If it’s God’s will”, but if you’re not, I don’t know how that gets handled.  

Then, there are us older folks who know the end isn’t too far away yet have the possibility of living longer.  I think we are the ones in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” that seek the “life with meaning”.  We try to be more understanding of faults we perceive in others, to be more financially supportive and to “lend a hand” when needed.  But I must admit I see that in the younger folks as well.  My oldest granddaughter has three children at home, a husband that’s gone for long periods of time on his job, and yet, finds it within her heart to take in two small children that needs a family.  How wonderful is that!  I have a friend down the lane from us that, during summer, takes his riding mower up and down the street cutting the grass for anyone unable to do so.  You don’t have to look far to discover acts of pure, sweet kindness from people of all ages.  And really, in the end, we should ask ourselves; have we lived a kind and generous life, have we helped others while attempting to better ourselves? Katherine Mansfield (British writer) said, ‘If you wish to live, first you have to attend your own funeral”.  My interpretation of that quote is that I need to understand that someday my life will end, and only then can I live a fruitful and interesting life.  I wish that I’d realized that much, much sooner!

⚽ During a Sunday morning service a few weeks ago, our pastor told us that during the time of Jesus, salt was a highly valued trade item, and was considered a form of currency by many people.  I recall my mother saying that someone we knew was “the salt of the earth”.  I knew it was a term of respect but had absolutely no idea of why salt was used in that context.  One of the many reasons I enjoy going to church on Sunday is because Pastor Jeff always ensures that we leave church service a little smarter than when we got up that morning. 

Salt has come a long way since then and we use it in a lot of different ways, but not as currency.  As a matter of fact, doctors today encourage us to avoid the ingestion of salt because of its ill effects on our body.  As we all know, it is almost impossible to avoid salt (sodium) in our food since it is included in just about all of it. 

I remember as an 18-year-old in 1959, going thru basic training at Lackland AFB, in San Antonio, during July & August.  Our uniforms were designed for winter and summer and all buttons had to be closed.  The temps ranged from 99° to 103° during the day, dropping into the 80s at night.  Since we sweated a lot, we were required to take a salt pill before each meal to replace the salt lost during the day. Turned out to be a very bad idea and I’m confident they no longer follow that practice.  Most of us also thought they included something to diminish our sex drive but could never prove it.  If they were, it never worked on me😊.

⚽  Tracy Lawrence, one of my favorite country music artists, has a song that includes the lyrics, “Every time I make my mark someone paints the wall”.  Probably, we all have experienced that problem.  My wife and I booked a cruise to Cuba last October and within a few months our President canceled all travel to Cuba.  We re-booked for a cruise to Mexico with my granddaughter and her husband and my wife’s colonoscopy revealed she had colon cancer.  So again, we canceled.  I could cite numerous examples of making “marks on the wall” and them getting painted over.  I guess it’s mostly my age, but I seem to complain a lot lately.  I try not to, but if I’m not careful, I slip back into that well-worn groove.  If someone were to ask me what a typical day is for this old codger, it would go something like this:

Each morning I arise at 7am, put on my clothes, including my Fitbit, and head down the hall to turn on my computer.  I walk into the kitchen and turn on my coffee pot, drink a tablespoon of Extra Light Olive Oil (morning & evening), and return to my desk.  I do my daily eye exercises (2 minutes) and within an hour eat breakfast, normally a bowl of mixed cereal.  Around 9am my wife and I do our daily exercise routine (15 minutes) standing in the kitchen.  On Mon/Wed/Fri we walk 3 miles on 3 possible trails near us.  Our goal is to walk 10,000 steps daily and we exceed that often.  My Fitbit tells me that in the last 12 months I have taken 2.3 million steps.  One day each week I do weight-resistant exercises on a machine I have upstairs. After lunch I go outside for 3-4 hours of yardwork and repairing/cleaning things.  My only vice is smoking a cigar every other day.  I asked my doc about it and he said, “At your age I’m not gonna worry about it”.  That made my wife furious.  I normally smoke it sitting in my favorite chair in front of my workshop, while listening to an audiobook, or talking to someone on the phone.  At 7:30pm my wife and I have dinner in front of the TV while watching Jeopardy and the evening news(recorded).  The TV is off at 10:30pm and we head to the kitchen to do dishes and then to bed by midnight.  The only drug I take is a weak “statin” for my cholesterol.  I spend a fair amount of time each week maintaining my website (www.tommyhale.net) and writing the missives that I post on it.  I can cite from memory the 50 US states by population, the 25 largest cities by population, the 25 largest countries by population and all 45 US presidents.  I do this twice weekly and the reasoning behind it is that it’s my test to determine if my memory is deteriorating.  I know so many people with dementia.  I try to learn something new every day.  I do believe the adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”.  I guess I could also add, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

I am always grateful that you take the time to read my missives.  Until next time, be well…. Tommy.

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