Life’s Simple Pleasures Are The Best


Way back in the 1970s, my favorite TV commercial was one featuring the jingle that began, “Simple pleasures are the best….”

Do you remember the product being sold? Nah, me neither.

That was ages ago when everything was so much different from now. Back then, we had Nixon, Watergate and the war in Vietnam. The Soviet Union was our enemy. And we lived under the threat of nuclear war. Sounds like the Dark Ages, huh?

So in the spirit of modern times, I’m typing this column with my thumbs, one eye on my phone’s battery level. Why so careful? Because I intend to type more than 280 characters, and I don’t want my phone to launch or flush my thoughts unilaterally. It has an evil mind of its own sometimes.

I’m on both Twitter and Facebook, and I considered posting this as a series of tweets and as a longer-than-usual status update for my nine followers and 293 friends to scroll past. But that would be disingenuous since I also intend to limit my use of both social media platforms for the foreseeable future.

As I did a few years ago, I’ve decided to go “old school” again by dusting off the trusty Smith-Corona to correspond with friends who want to relive the tactile joys of using our oldest text-based social medium, the U.S. Postal Service. It ain’t free like Facebook, but it’s dirt cheap, less habit forming, and harder for Russians to hack. And I’ll include a stamped, self-addressed postcard for you to write me back. What a deal!

At my age, few simple pleasures surpass opening my mailbox — the metal one mounted outside our front door, not all the flashy “You’ve got mail!” ones online — and finding there an envelope bearing a card or letter from a flesh-and-blood friend, not from a soulless bot or troll. Even a postcard is better than an email or text message.

I prefer letters, though, writing them and receiving them. Most of the time, a letter — especially one composed on a typewriter — is more deliberate than any other written communication. I have to think about what I want to say and how best to say it when I’m seated at my typewriter. Having to use Wite-Out is messy.

If you’ll allow me this one political comment, that’s the main problem with our president’s unsupervised use of Twitter: he’s able to shoot off his unadvised thoughts to millions of followers without really thinking, as if his off-the-cuff spoken words and never-ending campaign speeches aren’t bad enough.

Meanwhile, his correspondence office still hasn’t answered the letter I mailed him a full year ago on Inauguration Day (attached below). That pretty much sums up this administration’s arrogance toward the least, the last and the lost in America and the world at large.

So while I’m waiting, I’ll check back here at Half Fast Living every week or two to share friendly updates on Timberley and me. As usual, you’re welcome to comment or ask questions below — even about ongoing medical issues — and we’ll try to respond without too much delay.

Or, if you’d like to receive a real letter, send your address to or post it below with your comment.

As the old advertising jingle went, life’s simple pleasures are the best. And the simpler, the better.

Update: Thursday, June 22, 2017


Timberley sports her new hospital band she now must wear until surgery next week.
Timberley sports her new hospital band that she now must wear until surgery next week.

As I write this column, we’re getting ready for the start—the real start—of a challenging summer, one that will require courage, patience and, above all, love.

Yesterday, the first day of summer, we touched all the bases—Boone, Morganton and Charlotte—on our own personal Field of Dreams in hopes of finally being safe at home when this is over. Yesterday it was mainly prep work looking toward Timberley’s surgery next week, not just medical stuff like having blood typed and matched, but also getting various things in order in Boone and Morganton. Continue reading Update: Thursday, June 22, 2017

Update: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Timberley (pre-haircut) poses with our van, Nola the Gray Goose.
Timberley, before her haircut, poses with our new van, Nola, also known as the Gray Goose.


This morning after arriving at Carolinas Medical Center
Early this morning at Carolinas Medical Center

As Timberley posted earlier today on Facebook, the past week has been difficult for her family. Her uncle Larry Brittian and her stepfather Vernon McKee both passed away after long bouts with cancer.

We extend our condolences to Larry’s and Vernon’s families; and our love especially to Timberley’s aunt Brenda and cousins Chris and Leslie, and, above all, to Timberley’s mother, Ruth. Continue reading Update: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weekend Update: Sunday, May 20, 2017


Timberley before her appointment last week in Charlotte
Timberley before our appointment last week in Charlotte

What you’re about to read certainly wasn’t what Timberley and I had envisioned for this column last September when I started writing it. We wanted it to be about the ordinary lives of two recent retirees from public education—our own attempt at “half-fast living” after years of watching our working lives fly by largely out of our control.

That was our intent. Instead, there is nothing half-fast about what’s been happening to us for the past eight weeks. For the foreseeable future, this space will be used hopefully—and I use that adverb there deliberately—to keep our friends and extended family members as informed as they wish to be about a serious situation involving Timberley’s health. Continue reading Weekend Update: Sunday, May 20, 2017

Observe Earth Day with an Exclamation Point!

Another return letter from Sen. Tillis -- more proof that either he or his staff can't read
Another return letter from Sen. Tillis — ironically, more proof that he isn’t responsive to his constituents


Maybe you’ve noticed, maybe you haven’t, that I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks. Timberley and I have been busy with some other pursuits and, frankly, I’m also reassessing my own personal use of the Internet in general and social media in particular.

Maybe a better way of expressing my dilemma is, just how much information of any kind do we really need, whether we’re consuming it or producing it? And if we can live happily and safely without all that is the Internet, good and bad, then why do we as a society continue to use and abuse it?

Before out-patient surgery and after two failed attempts to start her IV
Before out-patient surgery and after two failed attempts to start her IV

I’m certainly not a Luddite opposed to all technology. Thanks to technological advances in medicine, for example, Timberley’s recent out-patient surgery to remove a large kidney stone from her bladder was successful, safer and much less complicated than it might have been even 10 years ago. For that, we are thankful.

Continue reading Observe Earth Day with an Exclamation Point!

Half Fast Shorts

Even a pansy can look scary.
Even a pansy can be scary depending upon how one looks at it.


Life has been anything but “half fast” over the past couple of weeks. Since it hasn’t slowed down yet, I’ll try to catch you up in short order on what’s happening with us these days.

In addition to helping extended family members with their medical situations, we’ve been dealing with one of our own. Last week we were less than thrilled to view the ultrasound image of the Baby Huey of kidney stones. He wasn’t bouncing, either, which could make his birth somewhat difficult. Please keep Timberley in mind this week as she undergoes whatever procedure is necessary to remove the stone and relieve the pain she has been experiencing.

My two-page response from Rep. Foxx
My two-page response from Rep. Foxx

I finally received U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx’s response to the letter I mailed to her on January 23rd, the Monday after President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. Though her letter was dated March 8th, I didn’t receive it until the last week of the month. I had expressed concern over growing support for charter schools at the expense of public schools since Mrs. Foxx is, in fact, chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. I had also stated my concern about Mr. Trump’s ill treatment of the news media and about his dishonesty, as I encouraged Mrs. Foxx to support our First Amendment freedom of the press, and “to hold Mr. Trump and his staff to the truth, and to demand that he stop lying to the American people.”

Continue reading Half Fast Shorts

Faith or Good Works?

IMG_20170318_234705Read James 2:14-26

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works also is dead.”

—James 2:26 (KJV)

As part of our Lenten observance, my wife and I decided to bolster our faith by studying devotionals from The Upper Room each day. I’m used to daily devotions because I grew up as the son of a Southern Baptist minister, and my family used Our Daily Bread religiously between breakfast and whatever else we did every day of the week. Timberley and her parents were United Methodists but infrequently sat down together at home to read the Bible and a brief devotional. At my house, the readings were followed by a familiar hymn and then a closing prayer, with each family member taking his or her turn praying out loud. In Timberley’s family, talks with God were private, as they should be.

Continue reading Faith or Good Works?

Weekend Update: Tales of Life in Two Cities


With a nod to Charles Dickens, the past week held the best of times and came close to including the worst of times for Timberley and me as we managed to keep living in two western North Carolina towns at once—one, our hometown; the other, the college town where we worked for two decades before retiring as public school teachers last summer.

Blowing Rock VFD at the Green Mountain Overlook on Friday
Blowing Rock VFD at the Green Mountain Overlook on Friday

This arrangement makes our answers to the questions “Where do you live?” and “What’s your home address?” difficult to answer, especially when they’re being asked by 9-1-1 operators, firemen, tow-truck drivers and auto dealership service managers. Thank goodness for cell phones and one number that fits all situations (I mean that in a couple of respects)—unless you’re on a mountain in one county and the nearest cell tower that your emergency call can hit is off the mountain in the next county.

Yes, it was an eventful week—so much to share, so little time to share it. So, with another nod, this time to Saturday Night Live’s team of crack newscasters, here’s our Weekend Update:

RAHN – Good evening, everyone. This is Weekend Update for Saturday, March 11, 2017, the end of yet another week in the Post-Truth Era of modern American life. Here’s Timberley with our lead story.

TIMBERLEY – Thanks, Rahn. A carefree drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost ended in disaster Friday afternoon for two, uh, Burke, no, two Watauga—yeah, we’ll go with that—two, Watauga County residents, as the gas tank of their 2004 Jeep Liberty broke loose and spilled its contents at an overlook halfway up the Grandfather Mountain escarpment. No one was injured, and no fire resulted. Blowing Rock volunteer firemen answered the call to spread oil-drying compound on the spill. Back to you, Rahn.

Continue reading Weekend Update: Tales of Life in Two Cities

Grave Thoughts on a Dreary Monday

A late winter day at Forest Hill Cemetery in Morganton
A late winter day at Forest Hill Cemetery in Morganton


For various reasons I’ve been thinking about mortality lately—you know, about life and death.

FUMC of Morganton
FUMC of Morganton

Maybe it was from sitting in the sound booth last week during my church’s Ash Wednesday service and listening to our minister murmur, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” time after time after time through my headphones as he marked gray X’s on congregants’ foreheads. Each of them heard that mantra only once; I heard it about a hundred times—over and over and over. But I’m OK.

Ash Wednesday—or, more popularly in some circles, the day after Mardi Gras—is the start of Lent, the 40 days not counting Sundays when many Christians including us Methodists observe the last days of Jesus’ life before his death and resurrection on the first Easter Sunday morning 2,000 years ago. What Did Jesus Do? He lived. He died. He lives again. It’s a good story, maybe even the greatest ever told.

Yes, yes. I see your hand raised and hear your, “But … but …,” and I know that everything is debatable nowadays, that we even argue about the price of butter in Japan, and that now we have to worry about fake news and alternative facts, and about what he tweeted and what she said and what they posted, and about who really believes anything anymore. And then there’s Hollywood. Don’t get me started.

Continue reading Grave Thoughts on a Dreary Monday

Part One: Proud To Be Called An ‘Enemy Of The People’


Until President Donald J. Trump called journalists “the enemy of the American people” earlier this week, I had forgotten just how adversarial the news media, the press, could—and should—be.

'Standing head' of my Brunswick Beacon column in the late 1980s
‘Standing head’ of my Brunswick Beacon column in the late 1980s

Well, no, I hadn’t really forgotten. It’s been around 27 years since I was last paid to report the news, and as time has passed I’ve tended to mentally downplay the more stressful aspects of being a small-town newsman and have focused on mainly the more enjoyable duties, the more fun or more adventurous assignments, and the many positive relationships I experienced as a newspaper sports stringer, staff writer and photographer, and as a radio reporter and news director—a career that encompassed most of the 1980s, basically Ronald Reagan’s two terms and George H.W. Bush’s first couple of years. But I remember those days well.

It was one thing to hear Trump’s self-serving and unconstitutional indictment of the press reported on TV; it was something else to then be attacked on Facebook by an ignorant Trump troll simply because I had posted a comment supporting the Federal Communication Commission’s now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, a policy that Reagan ended in 1987 around the time that I transitioned, shall we say, from radio news back to newspapers. (If you’ve worked in radio and haven’t been fired at least once, then you really didn’t work in radio—or didn’t get the full monty, at least. But that’s another column for another week.)

Continue reading Part One: Proud To Be Called An ‘Enemy Of The People’