Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Short Post

We're blogging short tonight. Jilda and I have a gig Thursday night and although we've practiced a good bit, we have some new material that we haven't performed in front of anyone yet, and we're a little anxious.
OK, I'm wound tighter than a Banjo string (wow, the movie Deliverance just flashed through my mind).
At any rate, this is been a very busy week with deadlines knocking at my door. I'll have a little breathing room after tomorrow, and I'll be able to take a full breath by the weekend.
Take care and do something remarkable.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Time Moves On - Column from Sunday's Paper

When you’re young you think you’ll live forever and age is such a foreign and distant concept. I can remember when I was 20, trying to imagine myself at 60 and I simply could not conjure up an image.

Never would I have believed that my hair would have gone south, and to be frank, I’m still a little peeved about that. But all in all, life has been good to Jilda and me. 

Through the years, we busied ourselves with our daily routines — working, studying, writing songs, and playing music; and time moved on.

Things weren’t always easy, and money was often tight in the early years, but we managed. We both worked two jobs at times, and found a way to make ends meet.

Later we went to night school and got some degrees. Gradually our job situations began to improve. We built a new house and moved out of our cozy little mobile home ... actually, snug might be a better way of describing the trailer.

We planted flowers and fruit trees, and turned the new house into a home; and time moved on.

I think Jilda and I got along better than most. That’s not to say there weren’t times she got so angry with me, that she could have carved me up with a butcher knife and left me twitching in the laundry hamper with the wet towels and dirty sox. 

There were times I fantasized about a similar fate for her, but those times were few. We learned to say “I’m sorry” and time moved on.

We were fortunate because my job with MaBell gave us an opportunity to travel all over the country on business. Jilda often traveled with me to San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Mobile, New Orleans and Arizona as well as other places.

We continued doing the things we loved. We made new friends, played music and grew up together. I’m not sure we expressed enough gratitude, but time moved on.

Then a few weeks ago a doctor’s visit fired a shot across our bow. Jilda was sick with all kinds of bugs and infections for most of 2011. She’d gone in for yet another lung infection, and the pulmonary doctor found something abnormal in her blood work that hadn’t shown up before. 

He was a little vague about what it meant, instead he referred her to another doctor. 

When we looked up the new doc, it turns out she is an oncologist/hematology specialist. WHAT?

You would not believe the kinds of things your mind can conjure up when it’s not sure what you’re up against. It took a few long days to get an appointment. 

I went in for the visit too, and as we sat in the examining room there were those medical posters hanging around that explained about lung cancer and its implications. 

When the doctor came in and began talking about her findings, I blurted out — does she have cancer? I breathed a sigh of relief when she said no, but there is still a problem with Jilda’s immune system they have yet to pinpoint, but it sounds like it’s treatable. We’ll know more in the coming week after more tests.

The lesson that we’ve both learned is that it’s too easy to let days, weeks, months and years slip by unnoticed — uncelebrated. 

Time moves like a leaf on a slow moving river and it’s our intention to never forget this fact.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Sunset

One of our friends needed computer help today. Jilda had originally intended to go, but she ran out of steam today so I went alone.
I helped our friend solve a few problems that had been plaguing her for some time. 
I headed out after sunset and a few miles from our house, I saw a couple of photo ops I couldn't pass up, even though there were impatient drivers behind me. I simply pulled to the side of the road and waved them by.
The first picture is of a pond that looks almost like an infinity pool. 
The silhouette of trees against the evening sky, with reflections on the water is the stuff of impressionist paintings. 
Then a few miles down the road, I came across another vista that had my truck on the shoulder of the road.
Again someone was on my bumper and was frustrated with me.
I made a gesture to say I'm sorry, but I think the driver thought I was being obtuse.
I sat for a few moments before I shot this photograph with my iPhone, and I sat for a long while after I captured the image.
I was awestruck with the simple beauty of the evening sky. I also wondered if the drivers following me noticed the ever changing scene unfolding before our eyes.
I wondered what could be so important to miss something that literally took my breath away.
In the grand scheme of things, what could be more important than a gift of a winter sunset?
  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Party Time

I'm having fishing withdrawals. With all the rain we've had in the last few months, the level of water in the lake is high so the power company is running the turbines day and night.
That's good for generating power, but it's not good for fishing because I fish for trout below the dam and it's difficult to wade in 15 feet of icy water.
My boss at the paper wanted to go fishing today in Tennessee, but today was our great-nephew Jordan, and our great-niece Breeze's birthday parties and I would not have missed the party unless I had blood spraying from one of my orifices.
We showed up at the party place after 2 p.m. and it's a huge building with blowup slides, jumps, bouncy things, and other stuff for kids.
I menaced the kids for a while but Jordan kept chiding me. He wanted me to get on one of the big slides and chase him.
I pulled my shoes off and jumped on that big old honkin' slide. You climb up one side and slide down the other. Climbing up was a cinch, but sliding down was more of a challenge that I anticipated.
I wound up in a kind of a slide/roll/tumble maneuver. The kids thought it was hilarious. I acted as if I meant to descend that way.
Everyone had a good laugh including me, but I might be a little sore in the morning. Oh yes, Jilda might be a little sore too.





Friday, January 27, 2012

Gray Skies

The rain this past week made the rivers around here wash high spots on the banks that have been "unwashed" for years.
I know I've written time and again how great it is to hear rain on a tin roof, but I'm here to tell you that you can have too much of a good thing.
I mean, if you slammed down a couple gallons of ice cream in an afternoon, or listened to Dark Side of the Moon 380 times in two days, or had sex............well, you get the idea. Enough is enough.
We've had a lot of rain this last week and I was about to get snippy about it, but our great nephew Jordan needed some Aunt Jilda and Aunt Rick time so he stayed with us yesterday. 
When the rain slacked off or a few minutes, we bundled up and took him out for a walk to the barn. It's coded in his DNA. Whenever he comes over here, he has to go to the barn.
As we walked we came up on a mud puddle and he asked if he could run through it. I looked and Jilda and she looked at me and we said -- why not, your mama's not here! 
video
He ran through the puddle and you could hear the pure joy he experienced.
It turn my gray skies blue.   

Thursday, January 26, 2012

World Song

Jilda and I wrote a song several years ago, but I've never really been happy with its arrangement. We've played it fast and played it slow, but it never felt right.
For one thing, Jilda sings the song and the arrangements we'd played in the past never took advantage of what I call the sweet spot in her range.
Last night when we practiced, my fingers found those chords, and this time it worked. Even the first time we went through the arrangement, it was obvious that it's right.
It's kind of a world song. Some of our songs are inspirational, some are love songs, but some are what I call world songs. They tackle tougher subjects. This ones entitled The World Keeps Spinning.
It's my intention for us to record it over the weekend. I'd like to put some pictures with it and make a video.  When I put it all together, I'll post it. 
I have appointments all day tomorrow, so I'll spend a lot of time on the road. I hope you all have remarkable weekends.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clouds

It was warm enough to swim today. Well, not really, but it was much too warm for January.
I worked in town today and walked when I got home. I checked the blueberries and several of the bushes are blooming.....not good. I shot this photo with my phone as I walked.
I read that during WWII, the Germans could always spot American spies because they always talked about the weather.
I guess it's a good thing I wasn't a spy during the war, because looking back over my blogs, it seems I often write about the weather.
But that's because of the extremes. Several years ago we woke up to a dusting of snow on the deck. We suited up and frolicked in the white stuff all morning, and by mid afternoon, a warm front moved in out of the Gulf of Mexico and I put on my shorts and a tee shirt and worked in the back yard.
A few weeks ago, we had an earthquake. In 1995, Hurricane Opal made landfall in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida and roared through Alabama. 
It was still considered a hurricane (winds of 75 MPH) when the eye came over our house in Empire. The wind howled and it felt as if someone were sitting on our chests......and we're 250 miles from the beach.
I cleared downed trees for weeks, and our power was off for ten days. 
I haven't seen any locusts, or other pestilence yet, but I'm sure they'd feel right at home here in Empire, Alabama.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Missing My Brother

My younger brother died in 2000. He was only 35 at the time. He'd made some bad life choices, but then who hasn't. His choices came back to bite him.
He was living at the Omega House in Houston at the time. It's a hospice place where people go to die.
I'm not sure why he didn't come home. He'd caused my mom to add a few wrinkles, and maybe he didn't want to add any more. 
Jilda and I flew out to see him a few times, and I took mom out once. He died peacefully in his sleep.
It was a week of funerals. One of my best friends died unexpectedly of a blood clot. I did the his Eulogy. It's one of the hardest things I ever did.
The next day we got a call that another dear friend's mother was in grave condition. We arrived at the hospital moments before she died. 
We were heading to her funeral when my cellphone rang. It was the Omega House.
It was not my intention, to make this a downer, but my brother would have been 46 years old on February 15 and I woke up thinking about him this morning.
He loved nice things. He had a great car, his clothes were designer and tailored. He owned the best things he could afford.
Last year as we were cleaning out my mom's house before we had to sell it, I found a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses.
I knew they weren't my mom's, unless she had a rich boyfriend she'd neglected to tell us about.
I then realized these were my brother's sunglasses. I guess the reason they were at my mom's house was because one of the arms (?) was broken, otherwise the glasses looked new.
I brought them home and put them in the drawer where I keep my special things. I wasn't sure what I'd do with a pair of broken Ray Ban's but it seemed like the thing to do. I'd looked online for Ray Ban repair and it looked like it would be anywhere from $40 to $80 do get the arm replaced.
Today I got up on a mission. I rifled through all my junk drawers looking for an old pair of cheap sunglasses. I found a pair that had lenses so scratched it was like looking through a kaleidoscope, when you wore them in the sun. But the arms were in perfect condition.
I got my jeweler kit and removed the arm from the scratched glasses and it fit perfectly on the Ray Bans. 
I had to smile when I finished. Jilda snapped a photo tonight for the blog. Somehow putting the Ray Ban's back in service made me feel a little closer to my brother. I'm sure he'd be happy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Magical Time of Day ~ Column from the Sunday Paper

I love the time between dusk and nightfall. The other day I’d finished my writing and walked down to the barn to check on things.

I looked off to the west and caught the last glimmer of sunlight as it dipped below the horizon. The limbs of the bare oak and hickory looked like intricate webs against the dissolving light of the evening sky. 

I sat down on a bale of hay tried to take a mental snapshot so that I could pull it up later. It was like looking at one of the great Old Masters’ paintings – so stunning, and yet so easy to dismiss without a second glance.

As I sat there, I could see a flurry of activity in the underbrush. Small birds and chipmunks scurrying around to find their place for the night. 

I didn’t hear it, but when I looked up in the sky, I could see a jet that was so high, it looked as tiny a mosquito. The sun highlighted the contrail making it look like a trail of rose colored cotton yarn stretching across the sky.

That time of day seems almost magical. Carlos Castaneda talked about this in one of his books. I don’t recall the quote and I don’t want to butcher his words, but I always feel strangely energized during the time between daylight and nightfall.

For some reason, it reminds me of a feeling I got when I was much younger, when I was getting ready to go out on a date. Even if I’d busted it all day long at work, I’d be excited about seeing my girlfriend and going OUT.

The first date I ever had with Jilda was in 1968. I picked her up at dusk and when we walked out, she was wearing a really short peach-colored skirt. I can remember thinking, “I can’t believe your mama and daddy let you out of the house in that skirt. It seemed to me that her hands hung down below her hemline. Talk about a magical time.

A few years ago, our good friend Wes invited us to celebrate his 40th birthday with him in Las Vegas. You only turn 40 once and we wanted to share the moment with our friend, so we booked the flight and headed west.

We stayed at Bally’s and down at ground level there was a concourse that connected Bally’s with the Paris Hotel and the concourse was painted to look like that magical hour between daylight and nightfall. As it turns out, that time of day seems to have an energizing effect on a lot of people.

I’m sure that was no accident. They make money in Las Vegas and one reason is that they put a great deal of thought into ambience.

I know it was a circuitous path that led this entry from a small farm in Empire, Alabama to Las Vegas, but as I said — that time of day is magical.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Faux Emergencies

I got up early this morning, put on soft music, rolled out my yoga mat and started with some deep breathing.
My joints protested, but I eased on. When I do yoga, I don't do any type of routine. I simply do every pose I can remember and I hold them for five breaths. 
I'm not sure why I don't do yoga every day because I always feel great afterwards, but it seems life is always scheming against me to rob me of my time.
Here's the thing -- we all know that we should eat well and steer clear of fast foods, we should exercise daily, we should avoid people who vex our spirits, and people who are a constant drain on our souls, we should call our mothers, visit our friends, and move constantly toward our dreams.
So what is so important that keeps us from doing what we know is good for us? I know there are life emergencies that happen from time to time, but not everything is a life emergency.
Here's what I believe -- I think it's just too darn easy not do do the right things. There! I've said it.
Jim Rohn who is a motivational speaker and writer did an audio program that I listened to twenty years ago called The Art of Exceptional Living
He said some profound things in that presentation that have stuck with me all these years. One of the quotes is: A few errors in judgement, repeated daily can spell disaster.
He also said: If you work hard on your job you can make a living, but if you work hard on yourself, you can make a fortune.
I'm not sure if old Jim did yoga, but I bet if he did, he wouldn't let faux life emergencies keep him from practicing every day.



Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Rain

I have several deadlines looming so I put on the coffee and since the temps last night and early this morning were dancing with 70 degrees, I headed to the screen porch for some early morning writing.
I think I'm closer to the creative vortex out there. I can hear birds, see squirrels, and mother nature plays a symphony on the wind chimes.
The atmosphere felt a little unstable. One may ask how you tell when the atmosphere is unstable, but anyone living in Mississippi, Louisiana, or Alabama can name that tune in one note.
The sky turns an erie shade of gray-green, and the upper level winds sound like the surf of an angry sea.
After an hour on the porch, I began to hear thunder in the distance, so I quickly found a stopping place, packed up the laptop and headed inside.
Jilda had just begun to yawn when I poured her a cup of coffe and called up the weather radar on her iPad.
Fortunately, we were at the tail end of the storms so all we got was a drenching winter rain. A while later, the sun was out and it looked like springtime in the south.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rhythm of the Sea

Our friends Wes and Deidra who live on the other end of the state were in town tonight so we met them in Birmingham for dinner.
Both of them are going through difficult times with their parents. They know they can talk to us, because we've been there too.
It's been too long since we've seen them, and the piece of time we had with them tonight was much too short. We're getting our calendars together to plan a week at their place in Destin, on the Gulf of Mexico.
We'll build a bonfire in the sand and play music to the rhythm of the sea....and watch the sun rise over the water.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Before It's Too Late

I didn't get a nap today. I'm sure it's somewhere in the retiree handbook, and if I weren't so snippy just now, I'd look it up, but I know naps are mandatory.
On the upside I did get to interview a 90 year old WWII veteran. He stood straight and tall as he greeted me.
He had piercing grey-blue eyes and his handshake was as firm as that of a young ambitions banker. I didn't have to ask a lot of questions, I just turned the recorder on and asked him to tell me his story.
There was no boasting or bravado in his voice, but he wove a compelling story of a young boy born in Bessemer, Alabama who joined the Air Force shortly after Pearl Harbor. 
He was trained as a pilot by the Royal Air Force  (British), because America didn't have enough qualified instructors.
He flew missions throughout the war and was shot down over France in the summer of 1944. 
Seven of the 10 crewman died but by some strange twist of fate, he survived.
After the war, he looked up the families of six of the crewmen who perished in the crash.
When he told me that part of the story he choked up and tears filled his eyes, and so did mine. "War is bad," he said "but the loss of freedom is much worse."
The two hours I spent with him passed with a blink of an eye. And when I left, he shook my hand and told me how much he appreciated me stopping by to hear his story. I told him it was an honor.
I've said this before, but each time I talk to one of the older folks I'm reminded that with each passing day, stories are lost to the grave.
I think we can all do something remarkable if we can somehow capture some of these stories before it's too late.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hometown High School

I do the website for my hometown high school alumni. It was the first website I ever did. Late in 2001, not long after 9/11, my spirits were sagging.
I needed something to occupy my time so I decided to do a website. I learned enough to register the domain name www.dorahighschool.com and I bought some web software that I really didn't know how to use.
The site was up for a few weeks and I tried to get all my friends to visit the site, but no one came.
Not to be deterred, I kept writing stories about my memories of Dora High and I posted them on the site.
A month or so into the project, I began to question the wisdom of my decision but then out of no where, people started coming. Word spread, and the number of visitors grew dramatically.
The stories I wrote on the website, became my first blog entries in 2005. These blog entries became my first columns in the newspaper. And these columns in the newspaper became my first book.
I have sponsors who pay a small fees to put ads on the website, but I've never really made any money. The thing is, that doesn't matter because it's a labor of love.
Back several years ago when Jilda's mom got sick and she spent a tremendous amount of time caring for her, I was left to my own devices. So I started scanning yearbooks. I found someone who had a 1939 yearbook so I scanned it and put it online.
I put the word out and found people who had yearbooks for other years....I scanned them too. To date, I have every known yearbook online from 1939 to the current date.
I just got the ok from the school librarian to put last years annual online, which I started scanning today.
Even if your not from Dora High School, it's kind of fun flipping through these yearbooks. I'm betting the pictures you see won't be that different from the pictures from the same time period at your high school.
Maybe I'm wrong.
Anyhow, a few years ago, I did a slideshow put to the music of Sting "Field of Gold" (The high school colors are blue and gold.)
I think it's kid of fun. Let me know what you think. The link below takes you to the Dora High School site.
http://www.dorahighschool.com/SlideShows/SlideShow2.html

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

These Days

I started listening to Jackson Browne when his first album, came out in 1972. I had songs like Rock me on the water
Doctor my eyes
Jamaica say you will
A song for Adam (which I've written about before)


I've listened to those songs hundreds of times. Browne has written so many great songs that if pressed to name a favorite, I'd have to think long and hard. In the end, I think this one would win out over all the rest. 
It's called These Days, and what follows are the lyrics.


These Days
Well I've been out walkin'
I don't do that much talkin' these days
These days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do...for you
And all the times I had the chance to

And I had a lover
And it's so hard to risk another these days
These days
Now if I seem to be afraid ... to live the life I have made in song
Well it's just that I've been losin' ... for so long

Well I'll keep on movin' ... movin' on
Things are bound to be improvin' these days
One of these days
These days I'll sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten ... my friend
Don't confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them

Monday, January 16, 2012

WANTED

I'm late posting tonight so as I often do -- I grasp at straws trying to find a decent topic to write about.
I have a little icon on my browser toolbar that has the latest 1000 stories from CNN, The Independent, Mashable, and Wired magazines.
I had nothing to lose so I clicked on CNN. The first thing that grabbed my eye was Finding a Job after 50.
Hmmm. I thought. If I were to look for a "Job" right now what would it be?
I can tell you now, if I took a job, it would have to have some pretty darn good perks.
- Noontime naps would be huge
- No ties or sports coats would be a given
- Working with turds would be out of the question
- I would also have to have a very hard look at healthcare deductibles
But other than that I'd be fairly open. Well, the job would need to be interesting, and at the end of the day, I'd need to feel like I'd accomplished something that would benefit mankind.
I haven't looked at classified ads in years, but I have to wonder how a potential employer would describe such an opportunity.
WANTED: An old fart to help actualize world peace and true happiness. Turds need not apply.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Life is Tricky

You'd think at 61 I'd have something profound to say. Something about my life's journey and then have loads of helpful advice for younger folk.
Whenever I go to a birthday party, or have an opportunity to talk to someone on their birthday, I always ask:
What have you learned?
Looking back, it's amazing to think of all I've seen. I was born in the rural south on January 15, 1951 in a small four-room camp house with no plumbing.
I'd be willing to bet my family was well below the poverty line in the early years, but I never knew it. We always had food to eat, and clothes on our backs.
I got through school, got a little college under my belt, got drafted, saw the world, got married, got a decent job, got more college, got promoted, saw more of the world, worked hard, saved money, retired, and here I am -- at 61.
I'd like to be able to give some good advice to those younger folks, but all I can say with certainty is that life is tricky, change is inevitable, and you should take care of your knees.
So there. That's my advice on my 61st birthday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm listening to Nightwoods by Charles Fraiser. He's written three books so far, all of which I have read and loved.
Nightwoods is his latest book and I was sucked in from page one. I'm hoping it doesn't end badly. I don't think it will. He doesn't seem to write like Nicholas Sparks who always kills somebody off in the end.
Nightwoods is narrated by Will Patton. Patton is a movie star that's been around for years. He was the bad guy in Desperately Seeking Susan which starred Madonna.
He's a good actor but he is gifted when it comes to reading books. He's read all of James Lee Burke's books I've listened to, and he's read the two Charles Fraiser books as well.
Fraiser has a way of describing simple things that brings a picture to mind so clear it makes you feel you are there, witnessing the scene first hand.
I'd love to spend some time talking to Fraiser. I'd like to know what authors he reads. When you read his bio, he has a Phd in English from the University of South Carolina. The closest I have is a Bgb in English (barely got by).
After his first book Cold Mountain, he was offered an $8 million dollar advance for he second book. I can tell you, I'd be really encouraged with an $8 million advance. Well to be totally honest, I'd be happy with an $8 hundred dollar advance, but that's beside the point.
I love it when I'm drawn in by a good book....when the story speaks to me and makes me feel as though I'm a character watching the plot unfold before my eyes.
I will be through with the book within a few days and I'll decide then whether to give the book a resounding endorsement or not.
Based on what I've heard so far, I'm betting it will be a go.



Friday, January 13, 2012

For the first time since Tuesday, my lovely spouse is sitting in the office tapping away on her keyboard. There were times in the past that I've found that little tap, tap, tap annoying; especially when I couldn't buy an idea for a blog entry. 
I'd be sitting here looking at the screen until I burned spots on my retinas and not come up with a single idea and she'd be giggling and tapping like a woodhen pecking on a hemp bush. But tonight, I find the taps comforting. 
We are funny creatures. We fall into routines and we're tooling down the happy highway with the windows rolled down on our vintage Chevy's with the Doobie Brothers Listen to the Music blasting out of our speakers, and then some unknown factor comes into our life and the cosmic jukebox inexplicably changes the song on your radio to Stairway to Rocky Top.
What DO you do? 
Right now, I'm enjoying the annoying sound of my wife updating her blog for the first time in several days.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Windy

I noticed a weather advisory pop up on my laptop as I worked this morning. Hmmm, I thought. When I checked the weather, it was a wind advisory.
When I looked out the window, the trees were as still as a Cezanne painting. The weather app said the wind would move in around noon and cold weather would follow.
The last several days have been overcast, but fairly warm for this time of year. On Tuesday we took our indoor plants out on the deck to give them a few days of light and rain.
But this morning, the forecast sent me scurrying to the deck to bring in all the plants before the temps began to drop like a stone.
I had a meeting in Birmingham today. I decided to enter some of my stories in the Alabama Media Professionals contest and the meeting today was to wrap that up. Winners will be announced in the Spring.
On the way home, the front moved through and wind rocked my truck on the Interstate. When I pulled into our yard, parked, and headed inside to check on Jilda, the chimes on the porch sounded like Sunday in a small community with a lot of church bells.
I ran out for a while this evening to see my mom and tiny flecks of snow peppered the windshield of my truck. The clouds were moving off to the east and the sun looked like a giant lemon drop, just before it dipped below the horizon.
The weatherman says the sun will be back tomorrow, and that is good news, as far as I'm concerned.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Letting Go

I'm not sure if Jilda has a stomach bug, or if we had tainted fast food. My stomach felt iffy, but her's rebelled.
She spent the night on the couch closest to the bathroom. I was afraid she'd fall if she got up in the night, so I slept on the other couch. At one point she wanted to sleep on the bathroom floor, but I convinced her the sofa was a much better choice.
I didn't get a lot of sleep. A few hours after midnight I could hear thunder in the distance and the rain pounding the roof sounded like applause at the symphony.
Our dogs normally get unsettled when the weather gets bad, but they all hunkered down on the rug between the couches and rode out the storm.
My brother-in-law who lives next door called to say that he dumped 3 inches of rain out of his rain gauge this morning.
I knew it had rained a great deal because when I looked out the back garden door, I saw that our chickens were wearing their water wings.
I had some appointments in town today but I managed to reschedule everything except one interview that I did that over the phone.
Neither of us are used to having health issues. Jilda has had lung problems for 30 years but she's managed to keep it mostly under control thanks to great doctors.
But this past year, we both have had our share of problems and it's been interesting. When we get together with friends we tend to talk about doctors and medicine as well as aches and pains.
I realized during a recent conversation -- we sounded like our parents.  We used to have fun at their expense whenever they veered off onto the healthcare highway while talking to their friends.  Those light hearted moments don't seem nearly as funny now.
We've always been health conscience. We try to eat as much fresh fruit and as many vegetables as possible. We've never smoked cigarettes, we wear seat belts, and we exercise daily.
But these bodies weren't designed to last forever and no matter how much you fight the aging process, the river of life keeps flowing.
I think the lesson for both Jilda and I is that we need to focus on the things in our lives that are really important and start letting go of the things that don't matter so much.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Digital Trail

Have you ever wondered where we'd be if computers hadn't been invented. I know a lot of people would say that we'd be much better off.
I know we'd have more privacy. Have you ever Googled your name? I just Googled Rick and Jilda Watson and I got 27 million hits. I know that not all those entries are about us, but a bunch of them are.
We've been writing, playing, doing volunteer work, and....living in a small town all of our lives. We've left a digital trail. I can tell you it's a bit unsettling.
It would be easy to say, computers are bad. But when you look on the flip side, you can check the spelling of a word with a few clicks. You can look at some of the most incredible works of art that's ever been created. You can hear a piece of music in a move and within a matter of minutes, have the entire library of the artist you heard on your iPhone.
Without computers, I would never have become acquainted with most of the people who read these words.
So, as is the case with most of life, there is a tradeoff. You must try to be mindful of what you share.
I'm amazed by what people put up on Facebook and their blogs. Everyone has things in their life that would be better left private.
But no matter how vigilant, things will be written, said, or otherwise appear on your permanent record.
My hope is that my digital trail be one that I wouldn't be embarrassed for my mama to read.

P.S. For those of you who read my wife Jilda's blog, I doubt she will have an entry tonight. We had lunch at a fast food place today and I think we had something tainted. I feel puny, but with her weakened system, she's having a rough time. I'm keeping fluids down her but she is not in a good place right now.
More later.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Daddy Loved Cars, But Hated Working on Them

My daddy, rest his soul, HATED working on cars. He loved driving, but every time one of his old cars broke down, he’d cuss.

When I was about 12, we had a 1957 Plymouth with tail-fins that made the old sedan look like some kind of futuristic boat. It was black with a shiny chrome strip that ran from headlight to tail fin. The chrome grill made the old Plymouth look like it was smiling when you looked at it from the front. 

It had a motor as big as Texas and when you gave her the gas out on the highway, that baby would make the tires sing like a boy’s choir.

One Friday in mid January, it was warmer in the refrigerator than it was outside. Dad was on his way home from work when a dog ran out in front of him. He swerved to dodge the critter, got off the edge of the road, and hit a rock as big as a football.

He kept control, but he ruined a tire, and broke the torsion bar on the right front of the car. A torsion bar is part of the suspension, and even after dad changed the tire, the right front of the car drooped down like a dog that had been scolded.

That was on Friday afternoon and he managed to get the car home somehow but it had to be fixed before Monday morning because it was the only car we had and he depended it to get to work.

We borrowed Uncle Pete’s truck early the next morning and made the rounds at local junk yards. We found the part at Northcutt’s in West Jefferson and we were home before lunch. 

The wind was out of the north and tiny flecks of ice ticked on the windshield.

Daddy put on his coveralls and started collecting the tools. He didn’t ask, but my brother Neil and I bundled up in some old clothes and went out to help him work on the old Plymouth.

Getting the old part off was easy, but putting the new one on was a bear. You had to jack the car up to exactly the right spot, and twist the hardened steel torsion bar to make it fit back into the assembly. Dad said some unkind words about the folks that designed that piece of engineering.

The first couple times we tried and failed, he simply blew like an old bull. The third time with no success, I learned a few words I’d never heard before. The longer we were out there, the colder it seemed to get. My fingers felt like Popsicles. About the fifth time we failed, he was cussing so fast it sounded like he was speaking in tongues.

Both Neil and I thought it was funny, but we didn’t dare laugh so daddy could hear us.

Then, good fortune smiled on us. The sun peeked from behind the clouds and the bar snapped into the assembly. A few minutes later, the old Plymouth was as good a new.

We hustled inside and gathered around the Stokermatic heater to thaw our hands and feet. 

Soon after that, daddy traded the old Plymouth for a 1957 Buick Roadmaster. That baby guzzled gas, but it ran like a champ and never broke down and that made daddy a happy man.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Practice

I think practice is highly underrated. Practice is not something that receives a lot of press. When you see actors and actresses at the Golden Globes, they don't mention practice. And when you see artists and performers at the hight of their success, few talk about what it took to get there....which is practice. It's not glamorous. 
I read once that the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd practiced 17 hours a day for well over a year to perfect their performance.
I know talent gets all the press. "Oh, she is soooo talented."  Or, "He is a gifted musician."
But to me, the talent card is misused. "Oh, I could never write, sing, paint, dance, or perform like him/her, because they are so talented."
I know, without a doubt, that there are very talented people in this world. But I also know that study, hard work, and PRACTICE are the stepping stones to accomplishment.
I've heard people say, "oh, he just picked up the guitar and started playing." I can tell you without doubt or hesitation, that is not true.  Yes, someone might have picked up a guitar and plunked out a simple melody on one of the strings. Actually, I did that when I first started playing guitar.
But what people don't see, is that the simple act of playing a melody on those strings gave someone the confidence to say -- hey, I can play this thing. 
They then spend countless hours for the next three months (or years) going through the minutia of learning chords, learning what chords fit together, how to strum, how to hold a pick, building callouses on their fingers so they don't bleed when they play, and all the other things that can only be learned from practice.
Of course no one sees all that stuff. All they see is someone who plays an instrument flawlessly and they lament -- oh, I wish I could do that.
Well here's a newsflash for you -- you can do that....if you're willing to pay the price. Because to have anything worthwhile, you must pay a price.
Practice can be painful. Jilda and I are working on a new set of songs and there are times I'm thankful we aren't into guns. 
"I'm not sure what happened officer, he wanted me to do a harmony part that I didn't like, so I accidentally cut off his head and all his limbs with a chainsaw."
Now where was I -- Oh yes, practice. Most of us harbor hopes and dreams. Here's my advice, if you want to do something, then study, do your homework, associate with people who do what you want to do, and practice. 
Yes there are a lot of talented people in the world, but you can bet those people have learned the value of practice.
(The graphic above was borrowed from http://www.pontydysgu.org/)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Just Breathe

I spent much of yesterday working on getting the software upgraded on my computer. Like the day before, it was hellish. But I vowed when I updated my blog last night that I wouldn't whine.
So I came up with another topic.
When I went to bed, something interesting happened. I couldn't sleep. I fretted for about an hour re-running the video of the day -- all the things I'd tried, and all the things that didn't work.
One of the reasons I'd upgraded to start with was to upgrade our recording software so that we can move forward with our music projects for the coming year, but the recording software upgrade was not going well.
So last night after I got tired of watching the re-runs, I quieted my mind, stilled my thoughts and simply breathed.
Each time my mind reached for the rewind button, I stopped it and continued to breathe. After about an hour, of mental stillness, I made up my mind to get up this morning and solve the problems I'd been having. I then promptly fell asleep.
While the coffee pot gurgled, I downloaded reference manuals. As most of you probably know,  I'd rather have a pencil jammed into my eye than read a reference manual.
I scanned the pages as I sipped my coffee. All of a sudden, my eyes latched onto a paragraph. I put the coffee down, walked into my office launched the software and with a few clicks, I solved the problems I'd been having. The problems that has eaten at least six hours of my life force. I laughed out loud.
It seems I do the shoddiest work when I get frustrated. I know that, but it's the first thing I seem to forget. Perhaps I should get a tattoo on my hand that says -- Just Breathe. 

Friday, January 06, 2012

Class ring

I saw a blurb on the news today where a diver found a class ring that had been lost in 1930. The story said the diver reunited the ring with the owner's grandson.
As I read the piece, I remembered the day in 1972 when I lost my high school class ring. It was in Panama when I was in the Army. I didn't weigh much to start with, but the Army grub, as well as the heat and humidity were brutal.
When I deplaned on that first day down there I thought to myself, this jet wash feels like an oven. I came to understand, it wasn't the heat from the jet engines, it was the normal temperature for mid afternoon in the tropics. ....but I digress.
When I got to Panama, I lost weight. I looked like a scarecrow in my jungle fatigues. One weekend several of us went out to Tobago, which is a small island in the Pacific off the coast of the Isthmus. The water was as clear as an aquarium.
We lunched on fresh mangos, coconut, and shrimp. Of course we had a couple buckets of rum to wash all that down and afterwards we headed for the beach to snorkel, and hang out.
We decided to play football in the surf. I was the quarterback and my friend Dave went long for a pass. I had to step into the throw to get the distance I needed. And it was at that moment I saw the golden glint of my class ring arcing long and high above the football.
OHHHH SH*********** I said.  All guys came over and we spent hours looking without success for the ring. For all I know, the current could have taken it to Hawaii.
Even though I don't know where it is now, I'll aways remember where I put it.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Day of Frustration

Today was a day of frustration. A day to come to terms with just how much there is to know in these fast moving times.
As I mentioned a month or so ago, I bought a MacBook Pro which had the latest software on it. The desktop iMac had the previous version of software. Normally that's OK, especially with Apple products, but the newer PC utilized a new feature called iCloud which allows you to sync up the calendars and contacts of all your devices but there was one hitch. All the devices has to have the latest software.
The last month has been a little aggravating because I'd make a calendar entry or add a contact on my desktop but when I was on the road and needed the updates, they weren't there.
So today was the day I decided to fix that. I won't make you suffer through all the mis-steps that I made, but suffice it to say, I felt like a novice user, when in fact, I'm quite handy with computers.
I pretty much lost a day, but on the upside, all my devices are synced up now which should make life a little easier.
Today also drove home the notion that no matter how much you think you know, there's still a lot to learn. I also realized at the end of the day that if I'd taken advantage of the computer skills I've accumulated over the past 30 years, that I would have saved myself about 6 hours of frustration, and in the end, maybe that's the lesson I should take to heart.
Y'all have a great Friday.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Light Show

I set the clock last night for 2 a.m. When the alarm went off, we put warm clothes on and stepped out on the deck.
The sky was cloudless and the stars looked like diamonds scattered on blue velvet. We stood looking up for several minutes allowing our eyes to adjust.
I could hear Jilda's teeth chattering like an old IBM Selectric typewriter and we were about to call it a bust when ZIP a meteor shot across the sky. We both blurted out -- did you see that. Then an instant later, another meteor shot across the sky in the opposite direction.
That was a first for me. Normally when you see meteor showers they seem to shoot in the same general direction, but these were shooting in all directions. After about 15 minutes we'd seen enough so we headed back to bed.
I'd like to go to the desert, lie on the sand and watch a meteor shower. I'm not sure why, but that's always appealed to me. Maybe 2012 will be the year I get my chance.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Mother Nature's light show

I stepped outside just after sunset this evening to take some corn down for the deer. We haven't seen as many of our four-legged friends in our yard as in the past.  It seems they are being more stealthy during hunting season.
I'd stopped taking corn down in the fall because they naturally feed on acorns and the oaks dropped an abundance of their favorite food  this past fall.
But a few nights ago I took a scoop of corn down to the apple tree and this morning it was gone so I know they are still around.......but I digress.
As I stepped out the gate Caillou darted out for a few minutes of freedom.
I looked off to the west and the sky was stunning. Although the sun had already ducked behind the horizon, a jet flying five miles high caught the  rays. 
It left a contrail the color of peach sherbet trailing behind. I snapped a quick picture with my iPhone, but it doesn't do the scene justice.
I poured the corn out of the plastic container and headed toward the house. Caillou blew by me at warp speed and then turned around on a dime and headed back toward me. 
I tossed the plastic cup and he yipped with delight. He scooped it up on a run and brought it back to me. 
I threw the cup until my arm got tired, but I think the young collie would have played all night.
On another note, I read that tonight at 2 a.m. Central time that shooting stars will be buzzing across the sky at the rate of over 200 an hour. 
I think we'll make an early night of it tonight, set the clock and get up to have a look. I try to never pass up a chance to see one of Mother Nature's light shows.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Eye on the prize

I came across an old resolution list today as I cleaned out my filing cabinet. When I read down the list, I had to smile. 
Everything I had listed had been accomplished. Being debt free was the biggie. It took a lot of years, but we managed.
Also on the list was a wish list of home repairs, travel goals, and health goals. I know at the time I wrote those goals, they seemed almost unreachable.
But here's the thing -- I think you have to aim high. You also can't lose sight of the things you really, really want. Jilda and I wrote a song with our friend Tracy Reynolds, and one verse seems appropriate here:


Keep your feet on the ground 
As you reach for the sky
It's no sin to fail
Unless you fail to try
When bad seeds are planted
The harvest is thin
You can't fly like an eagle
On the wings of a wren.


There are those who poo-poo goals. That's OK if it works for them, but we're living proof, that if you keep your eye on the prize, you can do things you didn't realize you could do.



Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 The Year In Pictures

I tried to post this last night, but I had a few glitches. One of the main things was that I used a copyrighted song initially. When I went to post it, I realized I didn't have permission to use the song, so recorded my on version of Auld Lang Syne, which is a traditional.

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