Monday, January 22, 2018

Habits ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Habits are interesting. The dictionary defines a habit as a settled or regular tendency or practice. That’s fine if the habit is exercising, reading, or getting enough sleep. But bad habits are problematic. Research shows that it takes more than two months to form a good habit. But a bad habit takes less time. Bad habits are like kudzu, drop one seed on Monday, and you can’t see your backyard by the following weekend. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to work on my habits. So, I’ve spent the first part of January weeding out some bad habits and starting some new ones.

One of the new habits is reading at least 30 minutes a day. I’m not talking about Facebook here, but good books. I’m reading On Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau. It is full of gems of wisdom.  When I finish it, I’ll start a new one. 

Daily guitar practice is another routine I’ve started. I played every day for years but took a day off. The day off stretched into weeks and then months. I’m not sure why I stopped, but my guitar got dusty and my fingers got rusty during the holidays. Since the first of the year, I’ve played daily and worn new callouses on my fingers. It hurts so good.

Another new habit that I captured on my list of “Good Habits” list was to write daily in my journal. I did updates every day for years. There’s a shelf of old journals in my office library dating back to the 1980s. My journals are private. The scribbled ink on these pages describes what I thought and felt at the time about the events. Sometimes the words were things I would never have said out loud. Somehow committing my thoughts to paper helped me make sense of the world at a time when my life seemed complicated. It might not have helped, but I felt that it did.

I got out of the habit of writing daily journal updates when I began blogging in 2005. After all, I was writing a blog entry each day too. But blogging is different because it’s not private. In fact, there are hundreds of people who follow my blog. The blog sometimes gives me ideas for these weekly columns. That reason alone makes blogging worthwhile. But my blog entries rarely touch on my innermost dreams, thoughts, and fears. 

During the last few weeks of 2017, I spent time pouring through my old journals. In looking back, I got a sense of how I spent the past 30 years. I saw habits come and go. It was easy to see where I spent my money and more importantly, where I spent my time. It was interesting to learn that I’d squandered more than I realized. 

I read once that bad habits are like a comfortable bed. I thought that was an appropriate analogy. We all sleep in every now and then, bad habits will keep you there. But investing the time to form new habits is time well spent. 

This has nothing to do with habits, but I did shoot the picture in January.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Everything will be alright

Today was more laid back. It was also much warmer. Last Tuesday it snowed and that night the temp dropped to 8 degrees.  That's rare here. But today, it was 70. It felt warm enough to swim.

We did fun family stuff today which gave a little balance to our lives. I think balance is important.

When things get too far out of whack, it feels as if I'm coming off the rails. Today we watched our great nephew Jordan and his friends swimming at the University of Alabama Birmingham Recreational Center.  There's something about the sound of children laughing that makes me feel that everything will be alright.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Winter sky

Today was visitation day. Jilda's brother has some health issues and we ran by this morning to check on him. He was sitting up in his bed and looking through the windows at the winter sky. The light made him look stronger. The sky has been remarkable today.

After lunch, we headed to the river to visit one of our oldest and dearest friends who is gravely ill. It was difficult seeing him so weak but we put on our happy faces. 

After a while, we joined his wife on their screen porch. She was out there with several other friends who'd dropped by to check on them. I sat with my back to the screen. The sun felt good on my shoulders. 

Jilda and I both promised her we would not overstay our welcome so after about an hour, we said our goodbyes.  We were both glad to see them but the visit made us both sad.

Just out of their driveway I noticed grass by the roadside with the winter sky as the backdrop. I pulled to the edge of the next to their pasture fence and sat for a moment with the engine idling. 

There were so many emotions running through my head. I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a picture. The winter sky almost made me smile.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fun Friday

We talked to a local coffee house today to set up a series of singer/songwriter events for this coming spring and summer. We'll do one event a month and have our songwriter friends join us.

Jasper is the county seat. Over the years, businesses in the downtown area fled to be closer to the the mall.

But the downtown merchants who stayed have worked for years to revitalize the area. Those efforts were in vain...until a few years ago. The city put a lot of focus on main street and all of a sudden those efforts are paying off. Seventeen businesses opened downtown this past year. Microbreweries, restaurants, retail and a coffee house all opened for business.

Now when you go downtown it's harder to find a parking place. You can sit in the courthouse square and hear music on Friday and Saturday evenings. You can hear the clatter of dishes and silverware and smell pizza and fresh seafood. It's an exciting time here. And believe me, we are way overdue.

We'll start our events in April and they'll run through August. We are cranked.

After we talked to the owner of the coffee house, we headed over to the Bankhead House for the opening reception for the Smithsonian  Waterways exhibit.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had some pictures taken of the Sipsey Forks that they wanted to use in the displays.

When we got there at 2 p.m. the place was packed. We'll have to go back at a later time to have a chance to look at all the interactive elements of the display.

I was flattered they asked me to be a part of this event. Jilda snapped a picture of me by one of my photographs.

I hope your Friday has been a good one. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Moving on

Things are winding down at work. I spent much of today boxing up loaner laptops, books, and other things I've used in the last few years. 

I took a load to the Dean's office around lunch today. I have more to take in the coming days. And even more to toss before I start hauling my personal things home. 

I'll miss the view from my office window and the sound of rain on the cobblestone in the courtyard – and the way sunlight slashes through my blinds and crawls across my office floor.  I'll also miss the ornamental cherry trees that bloom early in spring. 

But it's time to move on and I'm excited about the next phase of my life adventure. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Change of venue

This morning when I checked the weather, the temperature in Empire was 8 degrees F with a wind out of the north that sent the "Feels Like" temp below zero. That's chilly for Alabama. It's been several years since it's been this cold. The last time it happened, we had a standpipe in the backyard that we used to water the birds. When I tried to turn it on, the faucet broke off.  I had to hustle to the water meter and turn the water off while I capped the standpipe. When the weather warmed, I removed that standpipe.

These days, I wrap all the outside faucets and if something outside needs water, we haul it in cans from inside.

I write my Sunday column on Wednesday, so I spent most of the morning tapping keys. After a late breakfast, we decided to take the dogs for a walk. There was still a little snow on the ground in the shade. When we walked the long path across the new property, I saw color out of the corner of my eye. A patch of snow-moss next to the path. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a photo. I love the contrast of white on green.

Jilda had to work this afternoon and I wasn't sure about the roads so I decided to take her to work. There's a Starbucks not far from the facility, so I went there to write. I bought a mocha and New York Times. There was an empty table in the corner, so I spread my things out there and wrote my column in about 20 minutes. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of venue.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Second snow

The college sent out an emergency alert yesterday afternoon saying the college would be closed today due to the potential for hazardous weather. In the past, I would have whined about this because I'd have to make up the time. That's no longer true.

So this morning we slept until almost 7 a.m. We kept our eyes on the sky but the snow didn't come. The weather radar showed the clouds lifting just before the snow reached us. But there was more snow to the south in Mississippi. Around noon we began to see if fall outside our window. A flock of Orioles swooped in from the south to feast on the birdseed and suet we'd put out this morning. The flakes were slow to fall at first, but it got steady over time. It wasn't wet snow like the one we had in December. It was dry snow and not good for making snowballs.

The temps are dropping. It will be in the single digits by morning. I had to go out this evening and put long johns on our chicken.

The reason for the weather alerts is that the roadbed is still wet from the melting snow. By morning, it will be a solid sheet of ice. Schools will be closed tomorrow too.

Tonight, Jilda made chicken and dumplings with collards.  It was the perfect cold-weather dish.

I hope your Tuesday has been special.

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