The 5 Secrets of Long Life

You just don’t know when big things are going to come from seemingly inconsequential things. There I was shopping at “The Great Wall” when I learned the 5 Secrets of Long Life. Who would have thought?!

Oh, “The Great Wall,” do you know what that is? That’s what we always called it in Georgia. Here, it is called “Wal-Mart’s,” with an “s” on the end. I’m not sure if it’s plural or possessive.

I haven’t made the change of nicknames yet, but am realizing that I need to. Folks around here don’t know what “The Great Wall” is. I told my elderly neighbor that I was headed to The Great Wall and asked if I could pick up anything for her.  She replied that she didn’t like Chinese food. And then she proceeded to share graphic details on how Chinese food negatively and violently impacts her digestive system. Please, My Sweet Friends, do me a favor. When I’m old and have the “urge” to share such intimate details, remind me about the TMI (too much information) rule we all learned in kindergarten. I’ll do the same for you.

But let me take you back to the evening of my enlightenment, when I discovered the 5 Secrets of Long Life at my local Wal-Mart’s/Wal-Marts/The Great Wall.

Wait. First, just in case you’re a new reader, I should really bring you up to date. I already know the secret of life, thanks to James Taylor. He has an old song that I heard for the first time several years ago.

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”

P1170912 (640x480)

Look up the song sometime and listen to the words. The title of the song is actually “The Secret O’ Life” rather than “The Secret of Life.” He said he named it that because he thought it was pretentious and presumptuous of him to declare that he knew the secret of life. He tried to lighten it up some by copying the name of Life Savers candy, how they use Os. Pep O Mint and Wint O Green and many more. Life. Saver. See? That James.

Anyway, on this particular evening, I would discover the Secret of LONG life. Very different from the Secret of Life.

So I’m there, shopping for all kinds of things. Okay, I’ll admit it: I was shopping for groceries at The Great Wall. I live in a small town now. Sometimes this is my best choice.

To be more specific, I was shopping for produce.

I mention this because, well, not only is it relevant to the story (kinda), but eons ago I was part of a Wal-Mart market survey in Atlanta. Wal-Mart was considering expanding their stores to include groceries. They wanted my opinion because I was a “busy professional female.” I thought expanding their market to include groceries was a horrible idea. I told them that there was NO WAY I would ever purchase food in their store. Milk? Never. Meat? Gross. Ice cream? Nope. Produce? Never in a million years. Coffee? I said I’d buy coffee filters, but not coffee. I told them that in my mind, their store was the place to buy brooms and seeds and paper towels and hammers and CDs and bags of dirt and maybe a bicycle for my daughter. Not food. And definitely not perishable food.

Boy was I wrong about my shopping future! And good for them that they didn’t listen to me. Our local store is incredibly busy. And my favorite department? Produce. Because they are so bustling with grocery business, the produce turns over quickly. As a result, they have just about the freshest produce in town, with lots of organic choices. On the particular evening when I learned the Secrets of a Long Life, the banana shelves were empty. Empty! Not a single banana in the entire store. Have you known a store to sell out of bananas? Me either.

Anyway. The other thing you need to know about me is that I don’t like to use cell phones in public. Maybe it’s my profession, maybe it’s my southern upbringing. But you will never see me walking around a store talking on the phone. Look, we’re all busy, right? I have heard TMI being shared in public on cell phones. Business matters, personal matters, family matters, you name it. TMI. Plus, I grew up in a time in the south when we were taught to look at people and greet them. We’d wave to cars we meet. We’d pull over for funeral processions. We’d make conversation with the cashier. Talking on a cell phone interferes with all of that.

But please don’t fret. My teen-age daughter more than makes up for my lack of public cell-phone use. Ha!

Okay, so you get the picture. I’m in the produce department with my cell phone in my pocketbook. I’m saying “Hi” and smiling at fellow shoppers. I’m looking at lettuce and mushrooms and leeks and fennel. I notice another smile-er in produce, a pleasant looking older man picking out tomatoes.

I push my buggy (that’s a shopping cart) over to the tomatoes. We exchange smiles. He says, “Can you believe what they want for these things they call tomatoes?”

“No,” I say, “They’re a terrible excuse for a tomato, aren’t they?“

And then he told me that he liked the small ones in winter. “Have you tried the little Cherub ones?”

“I sure have,” I said, “They’re fine in a salad. But what I wouldn’t give for a big, juicy homegrown beefsteak tomato.”

I love to visit and wasn’t in any particular hurry, so we stood there and chatted in the produce department about tomatoes.

And then we move on to the bananas.

He asked me if I had noticed that they were out of bananas.

“Yes, they have no bananas,” I replied. (You know. That song.)

He tells me that I’m too young to know that song and that he’s not because he’s 85 years old.

“No way,” I say. He pulls out his wallet and hands me his driver’s license. For real. He hands me his driver’s license. “Born in 1931,” he pointed to the date on his driver’s license.

Yep, he’d be 86 in a few months. I would have thought he was closer to 70 than to 90. It gives me hope when I see active, coherent, healthy older people. I want to be that.

So I made a big deal out of his age. Because he looked super. So I asked him, “How do you do it? What is your secret?”

He was apparently ready for that line of inquiry. I had a feeling he’s been asked many times.

And now you’ll know them too.

The 5 Secrets of Long Life.

By: The Smiling Man in The Great Wall’s Produce Department

  1. Eat three square meals a day.
  2. Drink buttermilk with supper. (fyi: dinner is called supper here; lunch is called dinner.)
  3. Work outside every day.
  4. Don’t work with wet feet.
  5. Don’t argue with your neighbors.

Pretty awesome, aren’t they?

I told him about James Taylor, whom he had heard of because this is North Carolina and everybody here has heard of James Taylor. You know, Carolina in My Mind and all. Anyway, I showed him my bracelet.

He laughed, “You need somebody to tell you that? To enjoy time? That’s pitiful. You youngsters are a lost cause.”




He didn’t say it that many times. I’m just repeating it because I like to hear it. Been awhile since someone called me that.

We laughed some more and then went separate ways to finish our shopping.

While I shopped, I thought more about his 5 secrets. I liked how he just whipped those out of his back pocket, ready to share anytime someone asked.

Let’s consider them for a minute. I don’t know a single person in my generation who eats three square meals a day. Do you? I don’t even know anyone who uses that term “square” any more. We have coffee and a bagel or muffin for breakfast. We grab fast food for lunch. And dinner is what it is, sometimes square. Right? I make a vow to myself to do better.

Buttermilk? I remember as a kid I tasted a spoonful of my father’s buttermilk with cornbread crumbled up in it. It didn’t taste like anything I wanted in my mouth. I’ve never tasted it again and don’t plan to, even on the off chance that it’s a life lengthen-er. I.Just.Can’t. But I can try to drink more water. I keep forgetting to do that.

Work outside? Okay, I’m totally DOWN with that. We’ve all seen the research that proves people who get outside are happier.  I have no doubt that I am healthiest and happiest when I spend time outside. It might not always be work for me. I like to play outside too. Sometimes I’m by the bonfire or cleaning out the barn or star gazing or planting flowers, but outside is my favorite place to be.

Work with wet feet? Hmmmm. I guess I’m lucky. This has never been a problem in my life. My feet are always dry. Maybe it’s my awesome boots?

Don’t argue with your neighbors. Living in the country, I’ve come to understand that neighbors rely on each other. When you need something or have an emergency, you are going to call your closest neighbor. So with that being the case, what’s worth arguing about?

That man had a lot of wisdom to share. And he had the most pleasant smile. I’d go visit him if I knew where he lived.

As I continued to shop, for meat and milk and ice cream and coffee, I thought about what my 5 Secrets to a Long Life would be if anyone ever asked. Actually, a long life doesn’t particularly interest me. I’m interested in a long life filled with joy and adventure. So my 5?

5 Secrets of a Long, Happy Life:

By: Rebekah, the youngster, who may or may not know anything about living

  1. Get a cat. Or twenty.
  2. Learn something new every day. Never think you know enough.
  3. Don’t get stuck into thinking you’re always right. Open your mind. Your brains won’t fall out.
  4. Forgive everybody. Let the water flow under the bridge and on into oblivion until it’s finally irrelevant to you.
  5. Feed and nurture your soul. Mine likes chocolate and peace and fun.

My question for you is this: What are YOUR secrets for a long life? Or a long and happy life? Will you share and add to the list?

Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!
Lots of love, The City Farmgirl in the Country, Rebekah


Since my blog post is photo shy, here’s a few from March in years gone by.


Here’s the day I saved #101, Mr. Mustache. Poor angel. He had been trapped in a feral cat “trap and kill” program. This wild boy attacked everyone who tried to touch him at animal control. He was headed to the chamber. Now he lives happily and peacefully in my home. March 2014.

And, this one is also in March 2014. My Honey Bunny, My Soul Horse, My Barn Entertainment, My Merlin. Showing off one of his funny faces. What a clown.



Here, I’m headed to girl scout camp. I notice now that packing light might not be my strength. March 2015.



Yep, they’re singing their little hearts out in our pond this year too. In fact, it’s been rather warlike out there lately. I told them that peace was required in my pond. March 2016.muletrain8 (640x480)


  1. Misty Everett says:


  2. Sherri hamilton says:

    1. Garden. Digging in any kind of dirt even in pots will relax your mind from worry.
    2. Pray. Talk to the one who created you. Great peace is found there, and you can talk to Him about anything.
    3. Get a pet. Dog cat chicken….Doesn’t matter. I’m convinced they will extend your life
    4. Love people…Even the unloveable…Find something good in everyone you meet. Even if it’s small.
    5. Laugh out loud and be silly sometimes. Laughter will definitely lengthen your life

    • Deanne says:

      Love these!

    • Judy from Maine says:

      Those all sound great to me…especially get a dog. Aren’t they the best?

    • Sandi King says:

      Sheri, I agree. I put #2 in #1 spot. #5 in #2 spot and then #4, #3, #1. Pray, Laugh, Love, Pets, Garden. I have all three, dogs, cats, and chickens, Love them all. I laugh a lot; my son is a joker, can come up with sayings to make you laugh out loud and long. I pray daily. I garden but it doesn’t always look like it or that I do a good job; love people. I am an Introvert by nature but I do love people and have friends but even strangers are good to talk to. My son doesn’t and has never known a stranger from the time he was little. So I get to meet many, even if I am not inclined to. I think I would add #6 helping as many as you can, which I try to do. #7 be kind to yourself, you are unique and you are worthy because God created you for a purpose.

  3. Jan Sturgill says:

    Discover the ‘why’ in your life. Discovering your true purpose (or purposes) in life is so important. It creates harmony in your soul and being…It my constant quest!

  4. Sharon Elaine says:

    Live a simple, uncomplicated, authentic life. Love God. Love people. Forgive. Be thankful. Be busy doing what you love but also have quiet time to make lists like this. Thank you for reminding us to reflect on what a happy life looks like and how we’re doing.

  5. Loreta says:

    That was a wonderful blog, although , I had never heard of Walmart as the great Wall but sounds pretty accurate cause that’s where we shop the most. Thank you

  6. Rebecca M. says:

    What a great post. Around here, Wal-Mart is Wally-World. And Kroger is Krogers. I’ve met some interesting people at both places when I’ve taken the time to slow down and pay attention. My secrets for a long, happy life: 1. Trust God. 2. Love completely. 3. Don’t be afraid to try new things. 4. Enjoy the moment you’re in. 5. Never hold a grudge.

  7. Deb Mucklow says:


  8. Brenda Towsley says:

    Hello Rebekah, requirements for long life: have a lot of grand children and enjoy then, raise chickens and eat the eggs they lay, walk as often as possible especially with the on line spring walking group, go to church and join a study group and participate in the outings they have, have a best friend for 37 years, have a lot of hobbies and enjoy every moment you have with your spouse, love a cuter than cute Scottie dog. Oh I think my list is longer than you asked for. I heard the frogs in our pond last night and our mallard couple showed up on the pond this past weekend. Spring has sprung! Enjoyed you post as always.

  9. Mary Jo Baird says:

    Love your blog post!! My thing that keeps me going every day is that I set aside one hour every day to do something I LOVE! That may be working in my flowers, sewing or quilting, playing with my Yorkies, but I spend an hour EVERY day doing something I LOVE! I am a 911 Dispatcher and that job can be very stressful at times! When I get off work I turn on my music (classic rock) and crank it up for the drive home! The day melts behind me so when I get home I am the Farm Girl. We live on a farm in East Tennessee and have cows, chickens, sheep, goats, donkeys, dogs and cats! They keep me going, too! I guess I have six secrets to a long life:

    1. Have a purpose in life and contribute to society every day
    2. Do something YOU love every single day
    3. Listen to music! It’s good for the soul
    4. Don’t sweat the small stuff
    5. A day spent doing something you enjoy wasn’t wasted
    6. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

    Great blog question!! Made me think!!

  10. Lisa Whitfield says:

    Love your blog! Keeping a positive attitude is my #1 rule for happiness. It helps to have positive people around and sometimes that’s hard. Meditation has been a new influence for me.

  11. Diane Van Horn says:

    My top five steps to a long and fulfilling life:
    1. Slow down-we seem to be rushing to get nowhere fast.
    2. Eat Food with one ingredient. Grow and raise it if you can.
    3. Be outdoors as much as possible. Unplug from the electronic world.
    4. Live with less stuff. Only keep things that are useful or beautiful.
    5. Be fearless. Try new things and don’t be afraid of failure.

    If I could add one more, it would be: Get a dog, or twenty! (I am allergic to cats)

  12. Wendy Curling says:

    Love, Love, Love ❤️ this post!

    I’ll share my five,
    To stay happy
    And alive!
    From: The Poetic Farmgirl

    1- Meditate and Pray at the start of each day
    2- Love ’till all hate has faded away
    3- Nuture all things assigned to your care
    4- Take only what’s needed, be sure to share
    5- Always follow your heart, be creative and bold! And you will find that age need’nt start with old!

  13. Arlene Hiatt says:

    Great food for thought. I, too, do not talk on my cellphone in the store or when I drive. I drive a stick shift, so not enough hands to drive, shift, and hold my phone.

    My list of 5 . . .
    1. Start my day with my Heavenly Father
    2. Extend grace, forgive freely
    3. Talk less, love more (a directive from above)
    4. I started watercolor classes 3+ years ago
    5. Do dirty therapy daily (gardening)

    Ok . . . my list of 6
    6. I would love to learn to do pottery

  14. Deborah McClure says:

    What a great artical!!! I have a special place for older people. They have wisdom we all should hear. Their slower pace in life! My list of five:
    1. Choose to be kind. Many need kindness.
    2. Play every day!! In the dirt if you can.
    3. Surround yourself with what makes you happy!!! My farm and my animals, and my garden!
    4. Always , always thank the Lord for all you have!
    5. Never , never take a day for granted. Deb

  15. Alice says:

    I love this, Rebekah! What a wonderful encounter. Both of your lists are excellent; I would add The time to be happy is now. I have a saying posted on my board at work – it’s a quote from Buddha: “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

  16. Peggy says:

    I love this story!!!

  17. Luanne Taylor says:

    Know contentment.
    Rescue animals, all sorts! They will keep you moving, make your heart smile and your soul fed.

  18. I am so okay with your list of 5, especially the first one (I only have 2 cats at present but I recently moved into a smaller apartment). I would add reminding yourself every day that “I am enough,” whether you’re a CEO, a Mom, an artist, or just someone who loves their family, loves to garden, and has learned to make the best vegan food ever! Just be you. Just be. Peace and blessings, you youngster you (said the 67 year old grandma)!

  19. Dolly says:

    This post was very interesting! I like it! I never knew of the Great Wall and I am in SC…I can relate to all of the other…Once I took 1 cat home ended up with 28 loved cats over time..My secret to long life: Love that is the secret. Love everyone and everything that is good. I’ve been told many many times that I am so naive and live in a make believe world. Actually I don’t I’m a realist and do know things but I choose to live life as if everyone is at heart good and enjoy the most simple of things God has given us to enjoy.
    A walk, a sunrise, a sunset, nature all around us, a smile, a good deed, helping others. As for ones self I have a motto:
    Be who you were meant to be no other. Don’t worry about the things you can not change. Be the same always so people will know who you are. Make the world a better place where you stand. It will make a difference!

  20. Raynita says:

    I never like going to Wally World/Wal-Mart Fall Apart/Wal-Marts…but the produce department now that they have more organic items to choose from is my highlight of the store also.
    5 things, I’ve got to think on this. I know one of them is watch chickens scratch and do their thing as often as possible. It soothes the soul. Great read as always, Rebekah. One can never listen to too much JT either….

  21. Jo Gill says:

    I have never been asked this question before.
    I would say praying, and having faith in God would be the Foundation to build your life on.
    For me, being Outside is important. Gardening, bonfires, stargazing, pets, and playing.
    Learning and trying new things is important to me.
    Food! Growing, preserving, sharing, and eating that healthy homegrown fare.
    Kindness and sharing of your time and talent.
    Having that special someone to share it with, is priceless for me.

  22. Jane Gurley says:

    1) Find reasons to be thankful…for family, for bright blue skies, tufts of new grass, an unexpected note from a friend.
    2) Music: listen to it, play it, sing it, share has healing properties
    3)Love long and deeply…your spouse, family, friends, and your unconditionally loving pets
    4) Play: explore something new…keep exploring
    5) Find places and times of peace and quiet

  23. Mary Rauch says:

    I don’t believe in downgrading myself in front of other people.
    I try to do my best in the first place, and I figure there are plenty of people in the world who might say something about me that is not 4-star. So be it.
    I’m going out to spread some smiles and cheer. See ya’ later.

    • Mary Rauch says:

      I wrote this answer in the first place. Now that I re-read it, it does not make ANY sense to me??? Must have had jungle fever in my brain that day???…sorry about that.

  24. Debbie shue says:

    Love your 5.

  25. Karen Lineberger says:

    Friends, laughter & wine. Lots of wine.

  26. Nan Roberts says:

    I love that bracelet. How nice to see Mr. Mustache. Last I heard, he had made actual friends with you, and wasn’t so scaredy cat. I’d love to see pics of him now. I’ll use your secrets of a long, happy life, and that of the smiling man.

    Re buttermilk, I used to drink something called lassi. It’s buttermilk mixed with a juice, say orange juice. It’s quite nice, and you don’t get that, um, buttermilkness in your mouth.

  27. Krista says:

    I love chatting with older individuals about how life should be lived! They always get my mind thinking. Both his and your list are a wonderful way to love a long happy life. Except I would change mine to dogs instead of cats! I would add to the list…
    1. Live life like a toddler ( explore everything and at a slow enjoyable pace)
    2. Always forgive
    3. Be kind and share
    4. Never give up
    5. Always strive to be your best

  28. Carol Denton says:

    Great list, except substitute dog for cat on #1, ha. Love my Newfies! Here’s my addition to this running list and my and my husband’s number one marriage rule:

    #1 Never go for the jugular. It’s ok to disagree, even argue, but NEVER go for the jugular. Stop yourself before you say something that can’t be retracted, that thing you know will really hurt. It’s worked for us for 33 years!

  29. Denise Ross says:

    Brilliant post, Rebekah. Loved your five.
    Mine are
    1) begin my day with God, value time with family and do things on my bucket list, being content with life where I am now
    2) respond in love and do kindness to others in every opportunity
    3) listen more, talk less and pray for others, be adaptable
    4)exercise a few times a week, have time outside, doing something, or doing nothing, lay on ground and look at the clouds, just like we all did as kids
    5)notice the beauty around me – it’s everywhere in the shape of a petal, a rain droplet on a blade of grass, the early morning birdsong, a smile, a sunrise and sunset, the shape of the clouds – always changing
    It’s funny how our notions about things change as time goes by isn’t it.

  30. Linda says:

    Gratitude- count your blessings.
    Grace-give as much as you get.
    Be a good steward of all you’re given- your home, the earth, your body, your gifts/talents, time.
    Be still & know.
    Trust God & your instincts.

  31. Meredith Williams says:

    Love God
    Love your family
    Love your animals
    Love your friends
    Love your life.

  32. Always pray.
    Surround yourself with everything that you love.
    Adopt/rescue a pet.
    Be alone at least one hour a day.
    Be outside as much as possible.

    And all of our Wal Mart’s here in the Ozarks have groceries!!

  33. Alexandra Wilson says:

    Oh My goodness, I love that toad photo!

  34. Nicole says:

    Rebeka- thanks so much. I love your blog posts. I too chat with strangers. It’s such a great way to learn something new, help one’s mind be open, and it love others.

  35. Vivian Monroe says:

    1.Love the Lord and start your day in His word.
    2.Love others as yourself
    3.Declutter your surroundings
    4.Spend long periods outside, (my 97 yr old aunt who doesnt take any type meds says never sit down)
    5.Grow as much of what you eat as you can

  36. Rebekah, this is my favorite of all your writings. I have added your 5 Secrets to my little notebook of inspirational things that I collect from anywhere and everywhere. I especially love No. 3 – open your mind, your brains won’t fall out. That’s lovely.
    Politically, we probably disagree on many things (i.e., I call Walmart the Evil Empire and won’t shop there) but I wouldn’t let that obscure the beauty of your heart, which comes through in every blog post.

  37. Arlene Glavas says:

    5 Secrets to a Happy Life
    1. Keep balance in how you spend your time.
    2. Be responsible for your own happiness
    3. Enjoy what you have
    4. Accept who and what others are able to give, everyone has limitations.
    5. Find joy in simple things

  38. Cindy says:

    1-Get some sunshine
    2-Eat your berries
    3-Keep moving
    4-keep your mind active
    5-Grow something!

  39. Meesha Mckie says:

    Abiding… in joy, in beauty, in kindness , graciousness and simplicity.

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