Saturday, April 22, 2017

Built to last

A few days ago I posted a note about our air conditioner and that it seems the newer things weren't built. One of my blog buddies termed it "Planned obsolesce."  I thought to myself, that's a perfect description to some of the things manufactured today.

On the other hand, some things were built to last. For example, the old Ford Tractor pictured below belonged to my father-in-law. He bought it in the early 80s. Even then it was an antique.  The old workhorse was built just after World War II in 1949.

With a fresh battery, a tank of gas, a little air in the tires, and a squirt of starter fluid in the carburetor, to have this baby fired up and ready to roll. It doesn't have all the new fangled gadgets that today's tractors have, but it has a bush hog, a cultivator, and a turning plow.

Our nephew leaves his tractor parked in our barn so I haven't had to use the old tractor in years, but today as I walked, I saw it sitting patiently in the barn awaiting my call to duty.

What would the world be like today, it things were built to last?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Feet don't fail me

I've never given much thought to feet and knees. When I was younger and long before bicycles, cars, trains and airplanes they were my mode of transportation. 

After I was drafted, the Army took feet seriously. I read in one of the manuals that a soldier could be court-martialed for neglecting his feet. Apparently, they knew something I didn't understand – which was that your feet and knees are important.

One of my duties while in the Army in Panama was walking through swamps in the jungle to ensure thieves didn't dig up the communication cables, cut them into small lengths, and sell them for the copper. Apparently copper brought a big price even then.

So three days a week, I caught a train that wound through the jungle next to the canal, and I got off in no-mans land. I then had to walk what seemed like 20 miles to ensure there was no one out there digging up cable.

The duty didn't bother me because I loved the outdoors. During my walks, I saw exotic birds, monkeys, and gator sized Iguanas. 

During those walks, my feet got wet and stayed wet for hours until I reached the end of my tour. Once I got on the train and headed for home, I always pulled my boots off. The Panamanian passengers gave me a lot of room. I didn't think my feet stank, but I'm sure they did. Rather that be a rude American soldier, I made my way to the platform on the back of the train, removed my boots, and dangled my feet off the back.  By the time I made it to my station, my boots and feet were dry. 

I did get some kind of fungus and ridding my feet of that was not easy.

This is probably way more information that you needed on this Friday night, but I have a point I promise.

A few years ago, my knees began to give me problems. They are OK most of the time, but when I spend too much time on concrete, they hurt. So these days, I finally understand what Uncle Sam was saying back in 1971. Take care of your feet and legs.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Diversity Day

The college celebrated Diversity Day today. The coordinator asked me last week if I'd consider manning the Non-Traditional student booth. When I asked what non-traditional meant, she cleared her throat and said "older students."

Now there was something I could wrap my head around. This picture doesn't show it but I decorated my booth like a front porch. There's a rocking chair just to the right, I have a wooden screen behind me, and a bucket of candy in a blue speckled roasting pan. I covered the quilt with a quilt. All the things decorating my booth were antiques. The rocking chair was over a hundred years old. The cooker was probably that old as well. We've had the quilt forever, and of course, I'm 66 :)

My pitch for visitors is that just because we're older (non-traditional) students doesn't mean we plan to spend our lives on the front porch. We're going back to school, learning new things, and getting great jobs.

It was fun spending lunch hour out in the fresh air in the college courtyard. It did get toasty toward the end but I passed out a ton of posters, notebooks, and candy.

Maybe we'll get a few older students come into the program. Who knows.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Water problems

Last night I heard the sound of water dripping. I opened my eyes and listened. Hoping the sound was dream related, I opened my eyes and focused on the dark ceiling of the bedroom as if the focus would improve my hearing. A moment later, I heard the sound again.

Slipping out of bed, I heading the closet where the inside part of the AC is housed and opened the door. Water was pouring from the bottom of the unit. OH CRAP! Grabbing beach towels from the laundry room I threw them down onto the closet floor to keep the water from spreading.

After a few moments diagnosing, I realized the drain pipe on the unit had stopped up and the excess water overflowed.

I clicked the AC off and made a mental note to check it in the a.m.

After I wrote my weekly column, I put on my work clothes and went to work. After a few hours, I'd unstopped the drain and serviced the unit. I'm hoping it will last a few more years. But it will celebrate its 15th birthday this summer. I'm not sure what the life expectancy is, but today's components don't seem to last as long as the ones built back in the day.

On my walked this evening, I snapped a photo of some yellow wildflowers that are growing by the path. Jilda beat me to the punch and posted a similar picture earlier in the week but this one will have to do for today.

Hope you all have a great Thursday.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


We thought our old apple tree had given up the ghost after the drought last summer and fall. Normally, it blooms early. Sometimes during the first week or so of March. But this year, the skeleton of branches stood in contrast against the trees around it.

The last few days have been in the upper 80s and low 90s and as I stood sipping coffee and gazing through the garden door this morning, I saw some white at the top and on the tips of the lower limbs.

This evening when I stepped down after work, I saw that the blossoms sprang out almost overnight.

I pulled the camera from my pocket and snapped a few frames. The sun had dipped behind the horizon and the light was waning, but there was enough ambient light to have a decent picture.

I thought as I walked back toward the house, that tree is a survivor. And it makes me happy that it decided to stick around at least another year.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fleeting beauty of life ~ my column from Sunday's paper

This is what I believe: No matter how long we live, life is short. This idea of impermanence has been on my mind lately.

Last weekend, Jilda and I went to the Birmingham Art Museum to watch a Buddhist monk work on a sand mandala. This sand mandala comes to life when the monk pours colored sand on a piece of board. It is temporary art. The piece takes two weeks to complete, and the result is beautiful. Once finished, the monk sweeps it away.

I’m not a Buddhist, but I’ve read about it. Impermanence is one of the three marks of existence for Buddhists. The older I get, the more I realize just how impermanent life is. Nothing here on earth lasts forever. Well, the only exception is when one misbehaves in grammar school. That information, as we all know, goes on your permanent record.

Last Saturday, Jilda called our niece, Samantha, to see if she and her son, Jordan, would like to go to the art museum and see the monk in action. Afterward, we told them we’d go to Niki’s. That was the hook because Niki’s is one of their favorite places to eat in Birmingham. They were excited.

We left at 10 a.m. and drove into town. After walking through several of the exhibits, the monk came in to continue work on the mandala.  At 11:30 a.m. the monk planned a meditation. Anyone interested in taking part was welcome to join in the exercise. The meditation was for anyone regardless of religious beliefs. Jordan came to the museum to explore and wasn’t excited about sitting around silently with people he didn’t know. He and his mom headed off to the kid’s area where he could explore and do creative things. Jilda and I did the meditation. There were about 30 others there as well. It was a peaceful experience.

Afterward, we had a chance to get a close look at the piece of art the monk was making. It was a thought-provoking piece of temporary art. It was a good day for us all.

Fast forward to this morning. Jilda smiled as she walked through the door after fetching the mail. She said, “the John Rose is blooming.” The news made me smile too. I think Jilda’s grandmother called these climbing roses The Seven Sisters.

Jilda named ours the John Rose because it was a gift from our good friend John Elliott around 1990. We think of him often, but especially at this time of year. He died not long after he gave us the rose cutting. He had a rare form of aggressive cancer and died during the blizzard of 1993. He left us too soon, but his passing reminds us that life is short. Impermanent.

When Jilda and I were younger, we got with our circle of friends almost every weekend. We had parties at the drop of a hat.

Someone would say, we can do it at our house, and everything came together organically. Someone would bring the meat, someone else brought the buns, everyone brought cold beer, and at the end of the day, we all went home smiling.

These days, it seems the only time we all get together is at funerals. I would like to change that because life is impermanent — all we have is this moment. The old saying, “Live each day as if it were your last,” is a wise approach to life.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter fun

Today was stunning. With temps in the low 80s, blue skies, and cotton clouds that looked low enough to touch, it was perfect for family gatherings.

We lunched with Jilda's sister, then ran by my sister's house to howdy up with her family before heading home for more kinfolk fun.

We grilled brats and dogs. Jilda made sweet tea and lemonade. The kids played soccer in the field while the adults watched from the porch.

I hope your Easter was as much fun.

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