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Battling e-mails . . .

Battling e-mails . . .

For some time I have considered posting this series of e-mails but I have held the posting in abeyance until now. I doubt that many viewers will hang on long enough to finish reading it, but that will be their loss. It seemed to me in the past that a rift had been created between me and the finest neighbor and friend one could ever wish for, and through no fault of either of us. Nevertheless, it appeared to exist—now it seems to have gone away, or perhaps never was.

These are the e-mails that passed between me and my neighbor lady to the west, posted as transmitted and as received. My e-mails are in standard type and hers are in italics.

Feb 3, 2010:

Good morning, Sherlock Holmes here:

I’m currently conducting an investigation to determine why and how my daily copy of the Express-News is mysteriously appearing on my front step, neatly placed there by someone or something to be determined. It was there this morning at an early hour. Today is the second time the phenomenon has occurred in as many weeks, and we had rain on both days.

My first thought was that the paper carrier wanted to ensure that the paper stayed dry, but it was double-bagged and would have to be submerged before it could suffer any damage. Besides, I have not remitted a gratuity to the carrier since 2007 and cannot reasonably expect her to be so obliging. Unless, of course, she is buttering me up for the coming Christmas season. I suppose that could be it, but I have serious doubts.

I next considered the possibility that Rudy, the cat that lives with the family across the street, is picking the paper up with his teeth and placing it in a dry spot, hoping for a continuation of the chicken and salmon handouts.

That is not likely, because he was nowhere in sight when I picked up the paper either time. He did not show at all on the first day, and as of the time of this writing I have not seen him today. That reduces the probability that he is doing the good deed. I suppose Ralph, the cat that resides with my neighbor to the west, could harbor the same thoughts, but I would think that Rudy would be more likely.

There is a third possibility, one a teeny bit more plausible than the first two. Two weeks ago I stepped out on my stoop, looked very carefully in all directions, except to the rear because no danger lurked in that direction. The coast was clear (so to speak), so I ambled out toward the mailbox (the paper was in proximity to said letter receptacle). Wearing a bright green fuzzy housecoat and brown house shoes, I arrived at my destination and bent over to pick up my paper, and at that instant I heard someone say, very audibly and gleefully, “I wish I had a camera!”

As to whether my ensemble included pajamas, it did not. A pair of skinny white legs were in full view. Well, not in full view, just up to mid-tibia. Said legs were supported by a matching pair of skinny white feet, ensconced in brown leather house shoes.

So the third possibility is that the person that voiced that wish, not wishing to be faced with that apparition again, is defending himself by placing the paper on my stoop, thereby keeping me out of sight in the process of retrieving my paper.

This is a very serious investigation, and I would be grateful for any and all assistance.

Feb 3, 2010

WHAT???? Your paper doesn’t get wet??? Our paper gets soaked. Now that I think about it, the water probably runs down the driveway right into the bag. Well, I don’t think you need to worry about your paper phenomenon any longer. Do let me know if the culprit starts hiding the paper, though. That would definitely require a more thorough investigation.

Kathy

At this point a three-day quiet ensues with no e-mails between me and my neighbor. I was very busy running between home and the hospital and I neglected to read and respond to my e-mails.

Feb 6, 2010

It has been eerily quiet over there. Did my response offend you? You are very funny and clever in your writings. When I try that tactic, it usually backfires, since I am neither funny nor clever. I did put your paper on your porch because I thought it was getting soaked like ours often does. Your white legs had nothing to do with it! Now that I know your paper does not get wet, I’ll leave it there. You are free to retrieve it in whatever attire you choose. I often retrieve our paper in my robe. So, let’s just agree to leave our cameras out of this.

Kathy

P.S. You are a very good writer, a trait that obviously not everyone has. I hope you decide to continue writing your memoirs for a potential book. I’d definitely buy one, but I would want it autographed.

Feb 7, 2010

Hi, Kathy,

I read your e-mail at 2:30 this morning (I had a brief sleep last night —up at 2:01). Nothing new there, of course—my sleep is brief on most nights.

A hundred mea culpas!

No, make that a thousand mea culpas because there is nothing you, Kevin or Ralph could do to offend me, and had you and Kevin and Ralph not banished the girls to another exotic location, there is nothing they could do to offend me. Even if you, Kevin, Ralph, the banished iguanas and your extended family banded together in a concerted effort to offend me, I would not be offended. The only way you could possibly come close to offending me would be to take me and my babbling seriously—life is simply too short for me to be serious—besides, it’s not in my nature!

I had the best of intentions to answer your previous two e-mails, the one on Victor Borge’s video that Cindy posted, and the one in which you asked me to let you know “if the culprit starts hiding the paper.” Of course, as the saying goes, “The road to (fill in the blank) is paved with good intentions.”

Unfortunately, recent events got in the way and I delayed my responses (actually, that means I forgot to respond). We’ve had an unusually busy week, and things are not going as well as we would like. Yesterday especially was not a good day, but things seem to have leveled off. I believe—I hope and I pray—that the worst is over.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I found that phrase on Wikipedia— I am greviously at fault, and as an apology Wikipedia said it far better than I could.

I have no knowledge of how or why or when your Sunday paper was placed neatly just outside your door this morning, placed at a right angle to the street (I just pray that the picker-upper doesn’t trip over it). Also if I were forced to guess, I would guess that it was placed by some nut wearing a bright green robe, etc., etc. I would also hazard a guess that the deed was accomplished somewhere around 6:00 AM (Central Time).

March 2, 2010:

A card from Kathy, delivered by the US Postal Service although our mailboxes are approximately sixty feet apart:

Dear green-robed phantom and your pink-robed wife:

Thank you so much for the delicious edible arrangement! That was quite a surprise. The other big surprise is that you used 4 exclamation points after “Happy Birthday.” I was so perplexed that I questioned Kevin, “Do we know any other green and pink-robed couples?”

I hope you know that your presence as our neighbors is truly a real gift. Any more than that is really not necessary. Thank you, though. That was very kind!

Your (one year older) neighbor,

Kathy

March 3, 2010

Dear One Year Older Neighbor,

Thanks for the card and for the kind thoughts, especially the thought that you consider our presence as your neighbors to be a real gift. I wish I had said it first but I didn’t, so I’ll just bounce it right back at you. Regarding our presence as neighbors, As ours is to you, so yours is to us.

On the subject of exclamation points, I have given up. You know that in a dog fight the vanquished dog, rather than running, may simply end the fight by lying on his back, thereby giving the victor access to his underbelly, his most vulnerable area—it is a sign of surrender.

I’m not going to that extreme, but I have surrendered. I have given up on my quest to eliminate, or even to reduce, exclamation points. I realize that the practice is too well entrenched, so I’ve decided that if I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll join ‘em! And I enjoy it—it’s fun!

I just took a closer look at the sentence that says “As ours is to you, so yours is to us.” When viewed out of context it seems to take on some profound meaning, similar to a Tibetan monk’s summary of life or some other chant.

Try it. Read it aloud several times. Look real solemn and speak in a deep tone. You’ll find that it takes on mystic properties. I think I may have created something. I should probably copyright it!

March 4, 2010:

You are so funny!! I wish the Express-News would replace that Marcie Meffert (Elders Express) in the S.A. Life with your writing. I’m not sure what the “elders” is for, and I’m not implying anything concerning your age here. I think she writes for the group of readers who would also qualify for AARP membership, older folks fifty-ish plus. I have only read her articles a few times, but I have yet to read one that I like. She tries to tell stories about her life, and I think she is trying to be humorous. She seems to be lacking the charm that you seem to have captured. You are a far superior writer, and way funnier! This “Dear Neighbor” writing had me LOL today! I agree on the mystic properties—copyright it!

Kathy

March 5, 2010:

Those are some really kind words. Ain’t nobody that good, but you finally convinced me! Normally I would be delighted to replace the Meffert lady, but I have such distaste for the Express-News that I would be unwilling to have my name associated with it. I fought a running battle last year with Bob Richter, the editor for Letters to the Editor—dueling e-mails, if you will, and I won—he apologized for his lapse in judgment. He had asked for permission to print my letter, saying that he liked it but would omit my “whining” about the paper. I refused to authorize its publication.

I no longer strive to have my thoughts printed in Your Turn of the Metro section of the Express-News—my gain, the public’s loss. However, I sometimes throw rocks at the paper by posting items that I did not submit for publication, then I bad-mouth the Express-News on Word Press by claiming that my submission was rejected. Sneaky, huh?

Kathy, it really is a small world—we were neighbors to the Meffert family for several years in the latter part of the 1960s, with only one house between us, in what was then a decent lower-middle-class neighborhood near Lackland Air Force Base. It’s now a shambles, a nightmare with gang activity everywhere, gunshots frequently heard both day and night, lots of graffiti, chain-link-fenced front yards and junked cars behind them. The fences are not to keep the kids in—they’re there to keep the dogs out and to slow down burglars laden with items purloined from the houses.

Marcie had five children, two girls and three boys, their ages ranging from one year up to nine years—a very fertile lady, that one! Her husband was a surgical dentist in Lackland’s dental service, and attended me through a long series of dental procedures required by my failure to pay proper attention to dental matters. I was a smoker at the time—he said he did not smoke, and frequently lectured me on the evils of tobacco, then on almost every visit apologetically bummed a cigarette from me.

We were never close friends with the parents. We waved at them when appropriate, and Marcie and Janie often stood outside to discuss whatever women discuss—their children, I would suspect—Marcie was usually out looking for her children. As best as I can remember, neither family ever entered the other family’s house, probably because neither family ever invited the other family in. However, we came to know her children well. She put them out to graze each morning and called them back in for lunch and dinner, leaving the neighbors to look out for the kids. They were well behaved—the older girl was Cindy’s best friend, and she spent lots of time in our home.

All five children received good educations and seemed to fare well following graduation. Cindy’s best friend Lisa died several months ago—her obituary in the Express-News said only that she died suddenly. The obituary included her siblings’ names, marital status and their whereabouts. Their various professions were impressive—two colonels in the military, two doctors and one biology professor. I am of the opinion that their early association with our girls gave them the necessary head start to put them on the way to success—then again, maybe not.

When we returned to San Antonio in 1987, Marcie was the mayor of Leon Valley and wrote a column on city activities. I believe the Elders Express gig came after she was no longer the mayor. We have never made any effort to contact her to talk about old times. Lacking any strong desire to relive history with Marcie, we have been content to read her columns. Those columns, along with her daughter’s obituary, comprise our knowledge of her and her family.

But it is a small world, wouldn’t you agree?

March 5, 2010:

Agreed—a very small world sometimes! I hope that my observations of her writings weren’t too unkind. I just think that you would be a much better writer for that spot in the paper. Well, as long as I’m wishing, you’d make a far better editor to the Letters to the Editor too, but let’s not even go there!

I see that you and Kevin must have talked. He didn’t know that I would be home for a short time this afternoon and I didn’t know either. One of my tutoring students canceled out, so they may make the delivery while I’m here. If they do I’ll call and let you know. Thanks!

Kathy

March 5, 2010

Your observations of her writings were not unkind at all, and your analysis of her work is right on. Writing with a restricted amount of space is more difficult than the writing I do. I have unlimited space and therefore just keep writing until I everything I want to say has been said, and is available somewhere among the verbiage. The reader just needs to keep sifting through the chaff in order to find the kernels of wheat.

At various duty stations during my military career, I wrote performance reports for a whole gaggle of people, officers as well as enlisted people, and that included writing my own performance reports. My superior only needed to sign them. The writing wasn’t part of my job. People heard about the guy that could get a person promoted and came to me with the details. I fashioned them into a performance report. The narrative had to be fitted into a limited space, and I soon learned that 250 words wrested from my vocabulary filled that space nicely. When I reached the magic number, I stopped writing.

No, writing such reports was not my job. I was a maintenance analysis superintendent, whatever that was, and I dealt more with numbers than with words. I hated numbers and loved words. Go figure!

While at Kelly Air Force Base in the late 1960s, I wrote performance reports for my commanding officer. In our association over a period of five years, he was promoted twice, from lieutenant colonel to full colonel and then to brigadier general. Coincidentally, I was promoted twice during the same period. My pay raises were not quite as generous as his, of course, and shortly after the second promotion, both his and mine, I was unceremoniously shipped off to Vietnam. I guess the general figured that one star was all he was going to get. Bummer!

November 16, 2010:

That concludes the exchange of e-mails between me and my neighbor. I trust that some of my viewers made it this far in this posting. I realize it’s lengthy, but I also realize that it contains some interesting neighborly communications, perhaps with comical, even historical value that may appeal to my family and to my neighbor and her family, and perhaps to some of my viewers—I hope, I hope!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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Revisit: To comment or not to comment, that is the question . . .

On August 21, 2010 I compiled an analysis of my postings on WordPress, including total postings, categories, tags, visits by viewers and comments. I then published the analysis and expressed a desire for more comments and criticisms, with the request for visitors to comment either negative or positive. Click the following URL to read the original posting:

https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/pearls-of-wisdom-or-pearls-before-swine/

I trust that you will find humor in the analysis. My intent was to entertain, hence such descriptions as fingers worn to the bone, nails bitten too short for nose picking, a threat to include naughty images in my posting, etc.

I also trust that you will detect self-deprecation and pathos in the thoughts I expressed in the original posting. No, I do not suffer from low self-esteem, nor am I depressed, and my appeal to pathos was an attempt to get viewers to respond emotionally and identify—just to identify, not to agree with—my point of view and perhaps to feel what I feel when I write.

Very soon after I published the analysis I received two comments that warrant a separate posting. Both are cogent, very convincing and relevant and obviously heartfelt. Both comments deserve wider and better exposure than being hidden in the shadows of the world of comments, and I believe others will appreciate reading them.

That is the purpose of this posting—to make the comments available to a wider audience.

The first comment is from a highly successful architect that specializes in churches, and has provided architectural services for more than one hundred churches and church–related projects. Click on the following URL for a tour of his website, and when you visit, be sure to take in the slide shows:

http://sones-churcharchitect.com/Curriculum_Vitae.html

This is his comment, posted as received.

You’ve reminded me of a recent meeting with a church building committee. The purpose of the meeting was to interview building contractors and to try and make a decision about which of three contractors would be chosen to build the new church building. One of the three building contractors had submitted a lower price than the other two, but there was still some doubt in the committee member’s minds about whom to select. That doubt was the reason for the meeting.

After the contractors had left the meeting, the committee discussed their feelings about how the interviews went and, generally, how they felt about the contractor’s responses to questions and comments made by various committee members. One of the committee members made the observation that a couple of the contractors didn’t seem very interested in what they had to say. When asked why he felt that, he responded by saying that he, at one time, was an insurance salesman and that he always looked for some kind of response from prospective clients when he did his sales pitch. “At least a nod,” he said. At least that let him know that they were listening.

I’ve enjoyed, in one way or the other, all of your postings. Happy. Sad. Contemplative. They’ve evoked a wide range of emotions. I haven’t commented often, but if you could see me, you would know that I am nodding. I’ll try to do better.

The second comment is from a lady in the United Kingdom, specifically in Wales, an accomplished writer, an anthropomorphistic naturalist and a brilliant artist, specializing in computer generated art. I am delighted with her analysis of my writing, and the insight she displays reflects a high degree of intelligence and a very probing and inquisitive mind—I am in complete agreement with her thoughts on my postings. You’ll find her postings and her art at the following URL:

http://absurdoldbird.wordpress.com/

This is her comment, posted as received.

I don’t really know how to comment on this without it sounding like a criticism, Mike—and I really don’t want to upset you. So—I hope you’ll just regard this as my personal thoughts (which is all they can be anyway).

Personally speaking, you lost me a little way back. Reasons? A few. One is that you keep reposting old posts in the hope (as I understand it) that the reposting will garner comments where the original posting didn’t. The thing about the blogging world is that it thrives on freshness—readers rarely enjoy seeing the same old stuff, they just move on to pastures new. A lot of your posts are ones that were not posted all that far back and anyway, there is an archive here if people want to see what you’ve posted before.

There are a lot of reasons people don’t comment on a post, some of it to do with the content, some to do with that person’s mood at the time of reading it. Some people intend to post a comment and then get distracted. Some leave it so that they can think about what to say and then decide that they can’t put into words what they want to express, or decide that they don’t really know what they think about the content anyway. Some don’t feel sufficiently tuned in to the blog author’s train of thought or way of saying what they’ve written.

You mention the number of people who have come to your blog compared to the number who have commented. 27 visits per posting…and few comments? That’s either not enough people visiting to make many comments. The reason being that this world is made up of more people who follow than people who lead, and the ones who comment tend to be those who lead and not those who like to be led. You need to attract the right sort of people, in other words the sort of people who are like yourself, possibly with a similar type of history or background or perhaps coming from a similar philosophical or political background. Does that make sense? It’s fine to have people who disagree with you, but only if you find something to agree on too and I get the impression from reading a lot of your posts that you feel more comfortable with people who don’t provoke you too much (or at all!) And how to do that? How to find those people? Only by spending time finding them, via their own blogs. Find blogs that you like yourself, find bloggers with whom you have something in common, whatever that is—whatever is important to you. It’s a strange world, the world of blogging, in many ways it’s not like ‘real life’, and in many ways it’s exactly like it—but it takes a lot of effort.

Another reason for my absence is that I feel your blog is mostly for your family, it’s full of reminiscences, which is nice, but I feel a lot of the time that I’m just intruding on someone else’s life rather than being included in any of it. A family blog is fine, but then you need to draw in your family to read it and, as I don’t personally know your family, I can offer no advice as to how you could do that. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are settings in WordPress in which, should you want, you could invite certain readers in, give them a password, and let only those people read your posts. Perhaps this might be something to consider, if you are mostly writing a memoir (which is what it seems to be). On the other hand, as your blog is (mostly) searchable via Google, you’ve obviously opened it out to be search engine friendly—so I’m rather confused about the intent of the blog!

The main reason, though that I’ve been absent, is our politics and viewpoints about things are very different and I feel quite alienated at times by the content of some of your posts. I’m not, by nature, a confrontational sort of person so I don’t comment on things that I strongly disagree with. I prefer, usually, to remain silent. However, that said—why am I responding to this post? Because I think it would be a shame if you were to stop writing your blog. You do need to attract more people to read it, and yes, you do need more comments from people, but I do understand how upsetting it can be to have no response. I hope things improve for you, I really do.


 
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Posted by on August 21, 2010 in Humor, Writing

 

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Cohan, A Declaration of Independence and a wild coaster ride . . .

I began this posting as a comment to a blog posting by another Word Press writer, one that promises—and delivers—a funny every day, but somewhere along the way my comment took on a different character, that of a new posting on my blog. I believe that any visitor to that funny every day blog will be entertained and enlightened.  When you have finished my posting, you’ll find a link at the end for the funny every day blogger. I believe you’ll enjoy both.

The funny ever day posting is a blistering examination and a repudiation, more or less, of everything intended by one of our founding fathers—Thomas Jefferson, the well meaning—perhaps—author of A DECLARATION by the REPRESENTATIVES of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS Assembled—our Declaration of Independence dated July 4, 1776. The posting is hilarious from start to finish, a classic work that deserves to be housed with the original document at the National Archives or perhaps with Jefferson’s original draft housed at the Library of Congress—both are repositories located in Washington, DC, that sinkhole on the east coast surrounded by the states of Virginia and Maryland.

I tender my abject apologies to James M. Cohan for my corruption of his classic song, You’re a grand old flag, but I have retained the lyrical cadence of his original work.

Note that I have replaced flag with the word document, referring to the Declaration of Independence but shortened to doc for artistic rhythm and poetical purposes. Also please note that the phrase for me and for you is not specific to, nor is it directed at, any particular person, gender, age group, profession, political party, sexual preference, nationality, race, ethnicity or religion or to any specific school of thought except for two exceptions and those are purely accidental—I refer to the terms Dems and Repubs, terms that may or may not be specific in nature, a matter left for readers to define for themselves.

Now for a title of my take on James M. Cohan’s You’re a grand old flag—there is a word that rhymes perfectly with flag, but in deference to various members of Congress, whether young or not so young, and to a significant group of citizens that dislike the term, either for personal or non-personal reasons, I choose not to use it. It’s use obviously would dramatically change the content and tone of the parody and would not suit my purpose. It could, I suppose, be useful in a personal tribute to some individual, whether in or out of public service—perhaps on retirement or resignation. My title and my version of Cohan’s immortal ditty follows:

YOU’RE A GRAND OLD DOC

You’re a grand old doc,
A well-written doc,
A doc for the home of the knaves,
A doc subject to
Some rants from the Dems
And rebuts from the Repubs that fave.

Every heart beats true
‘cept for me and for you,
‘cause we both do believe that it’s true,
That the grand old doc
Is pure poppycock
And is upheld by only a few.

For the edification of the few unaware of the meaning of poppycock—a group probably comprised of the same remaining few that uphold the grand old doc—the following definition from Wikipedia is provided:

Poppycock—anglicized form of the Dutch pappekak, which literally means soft dung or diarrhea, an interjection meaning nonsense or balderdash.

I believe that any visitor to this blog will be entertained and enlightened—click here for a wild ride that outclasses, in every way, every rollercoaster ride on the planet!

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Ann Landers—The station . . .

This posting is a letter to Ann Landers and her response to the letter writer.  Robert J. Hastings’ The Station may be found on the internet with some variations, but the story and its message are always the same. The date it was published in Newsday is unknown, but I’ve had my typewritten copy (remember typewriters?) for twenty years or more—it’s pretty faded and smudged now, but its pertinence and its heartfelt pathos are still there, and it still tugs at my heartstrings when I read it. I’m posting it here for those that may have missed the publication at the time, and for the multitudes that have come along since it was published. There is a lesson to be learned here, if one will only take the time time to read it and digest its message—and then, perhaps, to apply the message to one’s own life.

The Newsday header for Ann Landers reply was:

Life must be lived one day at a time

Dear Ann Landers,

In July of 1985, my wife was diagnosed as having terminal cancer. Shortly afterward, your column on The Station by R. J. Hastings appeared in Newsday. For years, we had talked of some day going to Paris, a city I fell in love with as a GI. The day after I read the poem, I realized that it was time to pull into the station.

As soon as the doctor ok’d the trip, we went to Paris and had the most beautiful vacation of our 43 years. My lovely wife passed away a year and a half after the diagnosis.

I have since taken the liberty of passing copies of that column to friends. One purchased his some day car. Another went on a long-delayed trip. But the station also can mean visiting a sick friend, and that some day should be now. There is so much hurt in looking back and remembering those things we intended to do and didn’t.

Thank you, Ann Landers, for Paris.

Irv Gaiptman, Plainview, NY.

Dear Irv:

You were dear to let me know what The Station meant to your life. Here it is for all the others who haven’t as yet learned that lesson:

The Station

Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we bring in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a complete jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering—waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

When we reach the station, that will be it, we cry. When I’m 18. When I buy a new 450SL Mercedes Benz. When I put the last kid through college. When I have paid off the mortgage. When I get a promotion. When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after.

Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

Relish the moment is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

By Robert J. Hastings

 

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